Meditation Focus #31

The Forgotten Human Tragedies of Africa

Web posted on January 19, 2001 for the 2 consecutive weeks
beginning Sunday, January 21, 2001


What follows is the 31st Meditation Focus suggested by the Global Meditation Focus Group for the two consecutive weeks beginning Sunday, January 21, 2001.


1. Summary
2. Meditation times
3. Update on the Middle East Peace Process
4. More information on this week's Focus


From the perspective of the affluent Western world, it is hard to grasp or even imagine the depth of human suffering and psychological trauma that millions of people are forced to endure in Africa as a result of war, disease, hunger and the prevalent dysfunction of so many national governments on this continent. Even slavery, a scourge thought to be eradicated from the face of this world, has been making a swift comeback in some parts of Africa - chiefly in South Sudan - over the course of the last decade. AIDS, malaria and several other endemic diseases are taking an ever greater toll on Africa's long-suffering populations, especially in its central and southern parts, while human-induced deforestation and desertification are increasing the number of hunger spells that tens of millions of people must go through, mainly in the Sahel region and in the Horn of Africa. The political landscape of Africa, largely shaped by the former colonial powers, is going through frequent bouts of turmoil and instability and millions of people then have no choice but to take refuge elsewhere from the civil wars and conflicts unleashed by self-serving and corrupted political or military elites and the dictators they serve.

Yet amidst these most difficult circumstances, the dedication of thousands of NGOs workers and countless acts of courage by African activists for greater democracy, accountability and much needed positive changes are shining like rays of hope in a tormented land. Not only is the world community keeping a close eye and increasingly exerting its influence to help the African people set their house in order so as to create the conditions for peace, social justice and a fair sharing of resources, but greater cooperation between African governments and a growing sense of responsibility and solidarity within Africa and around the world are also helping to set this mosaic of cultural, religious and ethnic diversity on a path towards a much better future for everyone.

Please dedicate your prayers and meditations, as guided by Spirit, in the next two weeks to foster social harmony and peace in all 53 African countries. May the healing power of Love atone for the sufferings and traumas of all people living in Africa and may the world community increase its assistance to help alleviate all forms of hunger, disease and poverty wherever it is needed.
May peace prevail in the Africa, for the Highest Good of All.


i) Global Meditation Day: Sunday at 16:00 Universal Time (GMT) or at noon local time. Suggested duration: 30 minutes.

ii) Golden Moment of At-Onement: Daily, at the top of any hour, or whenever it better suits you.

These times below are currently corresponding to 16:00 Universal Time/GMT:

Honolulu 6:00 AM -- Anchorage 7:00 AM -- Los Angeles 8:00 AM -- Denver 9:00 AM -- San Salvador, Mexico City, Houston & Chicago 10:00 AM -- New York, Toronto & Montreal 11:00 AM -- Halifax, Santo Domingo, La Paz & Caracas 12:00 PM -- Montevideo, Asuncion * & Santiago * 1:00 PM -- Rio de Janeiro * 2:00 PM -- London, Dublin, Lisbon, Reykjavik & Casablanca 4:00 PM -- Lagos, Algiers, Geneva, Rome, Berlin, Paris & Madrid 5:00 PM -- Ankara, Jerusalem, Johannesburg, Athens, Helsinki & Istanbul 6:00 PM -- Baghdad, Moscow & Nairobi 7:00 PM -- Tehran 7:30 PM -- Islamabad 9:00 PM -- Calcutta & New Delhi 9:30 PM -- Dhaka 10:00 PM -- Rangoon 10:30 PM -- Hanoi, Bangkok & Jakarta 11:00 PM -- Hong Kong, Perth, Beijing & Kuala Lumpur +12:00 AM -- Seoul & Tokyo +1:00 AM -- Brisbane, Canberra & Melbourne +2:00 AM -- Wellington * +5:00 AM

+ means the place is one day ahead of Universal Time/Greenwich Mean Time.
* means the place is observing daylight saving time(DST) at the moment.



Israel delays peace talks decision
(Friday, 19 January, 2001)

Israel has delayed a decision on whether to accept Palestinian proposals for further peace talks after the death of an Israeli teenager. CLIP The Palestinians had proposed holding a series of intensive meetings in Egypt up to the Israeli election on 6 February in an effort to end the deadlock in the peace process. CLIP

Peace 'closer than ever'

Despite the postponement, Israeli Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben-Ami said on Friday that the two sides were closer to peace than ever. His words were echoed in separate letters sent to both sides by US President Bill Clinton, who has spent the last few weeks of his presidency making a final attempt to broker a peace deal. "Never before have you been as close to achieving your goals, regaining your land, building a prosperous future for your children," read Mr Clinton's letter to the Palestinians. He urged the Israelis: "Don't give up on the pursuit of peace. Not now when it is almost within reach." A peace deal before the Israeli election in February would offer Ehud Barak his best chance of defeating his right-wing opponent Ariel Sharon. Opinion polls in Israel have consistently given the leader of the opposition Likud party a big lead over the prime minister.


This section is for those who wish to understand in more detail the situation of this week's Meditation Focus. For those who wish to read on, we would encourage you to view the following information from a positive perspective, and not allow the details to tinge the positive vision you wish to hold in meditation. Since what we focus on grows, the more positive our mindset, the more successful we will be in manifesting a vision of healing. We provide the details below because we recognise that the knowledge of what needs healing can assist us to structure our awareness to maximise our healing effect.

Suggested material and resources for further research on the forgotten human tragedies of Africa:


Focus on Africa (BBC website) has all the latest news on Africa plus lots of resources.
Check also the most comprehensive countries profile on all 53 African countries at this URL above by using their pull-down menu under "Countries Profile"

Human Rights Watch World Report 2000 - Africa Overview
Very comprehensive. Covers these 13 African countries: Angola, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Federal Republic of Ethiopia, Kenya, Liberia, Mozambique, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Sudan, Zambia.


Africa Overview

Reassuring Omens, Bold Visions

On May 13, 2000, the Economist, the venerable and influential magazine of the global English-speaking political classes, dubbed the continent "Hopeless Africa." Yet beyond the ubiquitous images of mayhem, positive, though less "newsworthy," changes were evolving at the societal level. Thanks to discernible changes in public attitudes and less willingness to accept the inevitability of authoritarian rule, it was at the grassroots that the most promising battles were being waged for a more humane Africa. Human rights groups, churches, academics, and other civil society activists demonstrated an uncommon resolve, courage and willingness to put their lives on the line to resist repression and lead the push among nongovernmental actors for transparency, participation, and accountability.

The indignant demand for more democracy came against a backdrop of deterioration and decay in the quality and performance of public institutions, in their ability to produce the results that people demanded and would respect. Demands for change resonated with the public at large, including sectors of society that were only tenuously tied to the system, with little access to employment, food, health care, education, or other benefits that government was supposed to bring. But their aspirations bumped up against governments that had been unable to provide political and social progress. As the pressure built up during the year, governments in a number of countries began to pay more attention as concepts of transparency and accountability took hold.

The phenomenal transition in Zimbabwe was the most dramatic illustration of a yearning for democracy and human rights, and of the dogged determination of civil society actors to engineer and orchestrate reform. Not so long ago the prospect of Zimbabwe's ruling party losing a referendum vote and coming close to losing control of parliament would have bordered on the surreal. But that was precisely what happened. First, the Zimbabwean electorate voted down a government-sponsored constitution at a referendum in April, and two months later the ruling party-that had been thought unassailable-came close to losing its parliamentary majority.


Equally undaunted were civil society and human rights groups in the rebel-held eastern provinces of North and South Kivu in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Although the Congolese Rally for Democracy (RCD) authorities sought to limit the many and vigorous actors, civil society groups struggled to maintain their rights to free expression and association, serving as a channel for criticizing the RCD and its Rwandan allies.


War-torn Angola also showed signs of pressure for change. With an eye to forthcoming elections, seventeen minor opposition parties met in May to fashion an alliance to foster opposition to the war, and advocate free and fair elections. Concurrently, Angola's churches-known to command the largest base of support in the country-formed a joint body to champion peace and national reconciliation.

In Sudan too, in the face of overwhelming security obstacles, the New Sudan Council of Churches' "People-to-People" reconciliation process held a meeting in May in conflict-ridden southern Sudan, of people on the east bank of the Nile, despite overwhelming ethnic and military impediments. The May meeting sought to build upon the positive results of the west bank March 1999 meeting. There were other interesting trends in Senegal, Eritrea, and Somalia.


In Eritrea, although decision-making remained tightly controlled within the governing People's Front for Democracy and Justice (PFDJ), the sole party operating in the country since the country became formally independent in 1993, there were signs of possible openings. CLIP Probably in a concession to the mounting tide for change, the Eritrean National Assembly concluded its thirteenth session on October 2 by announcing that multiparty elections would be held in December 2001.


Even the sickest man of Africa, Somalia, showed prospects of renewal. After descending into a maelstrom of warring regions and factions since the 1991 ouster of the late ex-President Barre, Somalia had been without a national government. But following the Intergovernmental Authority (IGAD)-backed national reconciliation conference in August to discuss a peace plan put forward by Djibouti's President Ismael Omar Guelleh, a new transitional government was put in place. Shedding past fears, tens of thousands of Somalis staged demonstrations in the capital, Mogadishu, and other cities in support of President Guellah's peace proposals. President Salad Hassan subsequently reclaimed Somalia's U.N. seat and addressed the U.N. Millennium Conference in New York.

The most important question for Zimbabwe, Angola, Zambia, or Somalia-and by association, for Africa-was whether the changes would prove more than cyclical upturns. To the degree that developments mirrored a change in the public's state of mind, and a perception that they could influence the composition of a government and its policies, it appeared that the human rights advances would endure. These developments were driven by a combination of greater pressures on government and the gathering force of globalization, with Internet communications playing a growing role. As communications became close to instantaneous across international boundaries, African electorates, with nongovernmental forces at the vanguard as in Zimbabwe, became increasingly well informed and able to demand higher standards of governance. These developments would hardly change the face of Africa overnight. But they showed what could be done by ordinary people despite massive repression. The information revolution could in time accelerate political transformation and alter the political and human rights landscape in Africa and beyond.


Emblems of Bad Old Habits

While democracy was strengthened in select African countries, parts of the continent remained mired in authoritarianism, brutalizing politics, and violent conflicts. At least thirteen nations in the region were engaged either in open conflict or heated disputes, some with internal groups and some with neighboring states, spawning large-scale forced migration and abuses of civilians either directly targeted or caught in crossfire. Ethnically inspired violence spread in Senegal's Casamance, the Great Lakes, the Horn of Africa, Guinea, Ivory Coast, and other regions, proving that self-serving political elites continued to play the ethnic or nationalist card in an effort to consolidate their power at the expense of civilian casualties. Even in countries such as Nigeria, where the government has worked to counter the negative use of ethnicity and religion by forces outside of the government, ethnic strife remained a concern. Several countries that had benefited from the wave of democratization with the promise of more participation, transparence, and accountability in the early 1990s saw tightening control and shrinking political space.

One electoral process after another stumbled into difficulty. Electoral manipulation, government spending to support its own candidates, and the pervasive pro-government bias of most local media left electoral landscapes badly tilted in favor of incumbents-despite the now ubiquitous presence of election observers and their ritualized post-election reports. Angola, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Uganda, and Zambia saw stagnation or regression.

In Ivory Coast, sub-Saharan Africa's third-largest economy, soldiers launched a coup that brought to power a strongman, General Robert Guei, on December 24, 1999, and clobbered Ivory Coast's standing as a stable financial and political power. The new military regime was expected to come under pressure to make good on its pledge to move quickly toward democracy and demonstrate more openness than the previously entrenched regime of ex-President Henri Konan Bedie. But such expectations were quickly dashed as General Guei deliberately sought to disqualify his key rivals for the presidency in the October 22 elections. As widely expected, President of the Supreme Court Tia Kone announced on October 6 the disqualification of twelve presidential hopefuls-including Alassane Dramane Ouattara, leader of the Rassemblement des Republicains (RDR), the main opposition party-and the approval of only five-including Guei himself-ahead of the vote.


In Sierra Leone, despite the Lomé Peace Accord signed on July 7, 1999 that committed the rebels to lay down their arms in exchange for representation in a new government, the war and its associated abuses continued, though at a lower intensity and with a reduction in the rebels' signature abuses, the amputation of limbs, for the first few months of the year. The May collapse of the peace process after the capture of some five hundred United Nations peacekeepers, reversed this trend and ushered in an increase of all classes of human rights abuses by the rebel Revolutionary United Front (RUF) and other militias, including limb amputation, and a disturbing intensification of abuses by pro-government forces, against whom previous allegations had been few. Women were particularly targeted for sexual violence. In thousands of cases, rape and other forms of sexual violence were followed by the abduction of women and girls who were forced into bondage to male combatants in slavery-like conditions. If that was not enough, the war became increasingly regionalized, sucking Guinea and Liberia into a tangled web of cross-border attacks with devastating consequences for noncombatants and refugees living in border areas.


More Human Fallout

The massive numbers of displaced persons in Africa remained a major human rights catastrophe. As of January 2000, there were 6.3 million Africans of concern to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), from an estimated 22.3 million worldwide. Of the top twenty countries from which people fled from around the world, eight were in Africa. Eleven African states hosted refugee populations of 100,000 or more. The figures were equally striking in terms of internally displaced populations (IDPs): eight African countries were among the twenty countries with the largest internally displaced populations. Indeed, in several African countries, as in Sierra Leone, armed groups purposefully uprooted civilians, creating massive populations of refugees and IDPs in order to forward political or military objectives with little or no regard for human suffering.

Sudan alone had approximately four million IDPs-the largest IDP population in the world. Angola's growing IDP population stood at some 2.5 million. The war between Eritrea and Ethiopia resulted in massive internal displacement, particularly in Eritrea where 1.5 million people were uprooted, including 90,000 who sought refuge in neighboring Sudan. Hostilities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo resulted in the displacement of 1.6 million people, one million of whom had little or no access to humanitarian assistance with dire consequences. The U.N. reported that infant mortality among the displaced was the highest in the region, and that maternal mortality was the highest in the world. Some of the longest and most forgotten refugee crises were on the African continent, with recurring refugee movements caused by conflicts spilling over into neighboring countries. Refugee crises in Africa invariably affected a whole subregion-and sometimes beyond.


Book review "Civil Wars in Africa - Roots and Resolution"
A collection of case studies of nine African countries, Civil Wars in Africa provides a comparative perspective on the causes of civil war and the processes by which internal conflict may be resolved or averted. The book focuses on the wars in Ethiopia, Liberia, Mozambique, Rwanda, Somalia, Sudan, and Uganda as well as the experiences of Tanzania and Zimbabwe, where civil war was averted, to underline conditions under which conflict can most successfully be managed.


"Why Are There So Many Civil Wars in Africa? Understanding and Preventing Violent Conflict"


Contrary to popular belief, Africa's civil wars are not due to its ethnic and religious diversity. Using recently developed models of the overall prevalence of civil wars in 161 countries between 1960-1999, we draw lessons with special reference to Africa, showing that the relatively higher prevalence of war in Africa is not due to the ethno-linguistic fragmentation of its countries, but rather to high levels of poverty, failed political institutions, and economic dependence on natural resources. We argue that the best and fastest strategy to reduce the prevalence of civil war in Africa and prevent future civil wars is to institute democratic reforms that effectively manage the challenges facing Africa's diverse societies. To promote inter-group cooperation in Africa, specially tailored political governance and economic management institutions are needed and we advance some hypotheses on the nature of such institutions. We suggest that Africa's ethnic diversity in fact helps --it does not impede -- the emergence of stable development as it necessitates inter-group bargaining processes. These processes can be peaceful if ethnic groups feel adequately represented by their national political institutions and if the economy provides opportunity for productive activity.

For a full PDF version of the paper (revised September 2000) go at:

AIDS The African Holocaust

The scale of the problem
UNAIDS, the United Nations Aids body, estimates that a total of 33.4 million people are living with HIV globally and 95 per cent of them are in the developing world. Sub-Saharan Africa has taken a disproportionate toll, with 67 per cent of the world's AIDS cases estimated to be in this region (a total of 22.5 million cases) at the end of 1998. The World Health Organisation says that the disease is now the leading cause of death in Africa, and the cause of one fifth of all the continent's deaths. The UN estimates that two million Africans died of AIDS in 1998, 80 per cent of the worldwide total of AIDS deaths.

AIDS is now the leading cause of death in the developing world, causing twice as many deaths as malaria. Nine out of ten children infected with HIV are in sub Saharan Africa and by the end of the year 2000 a cumulative total of 13 million children - the majority in Africa, will have lost one or both parents to AIDS. (UNAIDS Satistics)

At the end of 1999 12.2 million women and 10.1 million men were living with HIV in Sub-Saharan Africa. In Ireland the percentage of adults (15-49 year olds) living with AIDS is 0.09 percent. In South Africa this figure is 12.89 per cent and in Zimbabwe it is 25.18 per cent. In Ireland the estimated total number of people living with HIV AIDS at the end of 1997 was 1,700. In South Africa the total was 2,900,000 and in Zimbabwe 1,500,000. CLIP


Malaria: Africa's Silent Killer
(25 Apr 2000)

Long forgotten as AIDS drains the medical funds of poor countries, malaria has taken a quiet but steady toll on the world's most impoverished nations. Every year, the mosquito-born malaria parasite kills up to 2 million people — most of them African children under the age of 5.

Despite malaria's long history of scouring Africa's poorest tropical countries, reports are just now coming out that reveal the scope of the tragedy. Malaria, which is transmitted by the bite of an insect, is blamed for one out of every four childhood deaths in Africa. CLIP

Meanwhile, the virtually malaria-free developed world has failed to commit even close to the amount needed to fight the disease. Today, donor countries spend about $120 million per year to combat malaria. However, it will take an annual investment of $1 billion before the world can even begin to control the bug, the study found. CLIP

Although drugs and insecticides have made malaria rare in developed nations, each year the parasite still sickens 300 million to 500 million people in tropical, developing countries. Sub-Saharan Africa's poorest citizens suffer the brunt of the illness, accounting for 90 percent of all cases and deaths worldwide. CLIP

As part of its anti-malaria initiative, WHO has set a goal to cut malaria cases by half by the year 2010. In an effort to meet its goal, the organization has begun to hand out insecticide-treated bed nets to 60 million families in 30 malaria-prone countries. The treated nets have been proven to decrease malaria deaths by nearly a quarter because most mosquito bites occur between dusk and dawn, according to WHO. CLIP


Drought And War Said Key Causes of Hunger in 2001
(January 8, 2001)

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Wars and drought are expected to be the main causes of hunger that will afflict millions of people around the globe this year, the U.N. World Food Program predicted on Monday. At least 830 million people around the world today are undernourished, most of them in developing countries, said WFP executive director Catherine Bertini in unveiling a global ''hunger map'' indicating where the worst conditions exist.

``We've seen an alarming trend where the poorest nations are hit simultaneously both by natural and man-made emergencies including in Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Indonesia, Afghanistan, Sierra Leone, Guinea and Tajikistan,'' said Bertini, head of the Rome-based agency. WFP provided food to 89 million people in more than 80 nations last year. Some 16 million of them were in the Horn of Africa, where the agency sought to prevent a repeat of the 1983-84 famine. CLIP



Special Report by Doctors Without Borders
"Angola: Behind the Facade of 'Normalization'. Manipulation, Violence, and Abandoned Populations" (posted 11/09/2000)


Angola war 'threatens region' (12 October, 2000)

Angola Peace Monitor at
particularly "Waiting on Empty Promises: The human cost of international inaction on Angolan sanctions" - April 2000 at

Here is an excerpt:

The imperative for action

Angolans are now suffering their fourth war since the struggle to win independence from Portuguese colonial rule in 1975. Two generations of children have known nothing but conflict. Angola is now officially ranked as the worst place in the world to be a child. Nearly one in three die before their fifth birthday because of war and war-induced poverty. A potential economic powerhouse of Southern and Central Africa has been left decimated.

And yet their suffering is largely forgotten by the world. At just the time when the plight of the Kosovan refugees was pressing daily on the global this new war barely caused a murmur. Nor did the international community's betrayal of its undertakings to ensure peace, as the UN allowed UNITA to re-arm right under its nose, impinge on the world's conscience. But - at long last - there are now signs that things are changing and there is the possibility of a more clear-headed and decisive international approach to helping find an end to the Angolan conflict.


Human cost

By April 1999 hunger stalked the thousands of people increasingly cut off from international food aid in the central cities of Huambo, Malange and Kuito - shelled and besieged by UNITA, in a terrible repetition of their 1993 tactics. And by September 1999, the UN declared that two hundred people were dying a day from a war-induced "forgotten emergency". While one aid worker contrasted how the international community was "moving mountains" in its relief efforts for Kosovan refugees, the UN appeal for Angola - facing Africa's worst food crisis at the time, according to the FAO - was two-thirds undersubscribed.

During the first months of renewed fighting in Angola, nearly two million people fled their homes, half of these children. Many sought refuge in government-held, but besieged, towns where they were shelled daily. In Malange, one of the worst affected towns, malnutrition rates varied between 20 and 30 percent during 1999.

Aid agencies often faced a difficult task trying to reach civilians. Roads were insecure due to UNITA attacks on vehicles and landmines and UNITA attacks on aircraft, even UN planes, increased making at least half of the country inaccessible. At certain times, up to 70 percent of people in need of aid were unreachable. Years of fighting and population displacement have severely disrupted food production in Angola. Support for reconstruction and rehabilitation, as well as emergency aid is still urgently needed.

CLIP - the rest is an excellent and thorough analysis of this conflict and its causes.

The latest updates - 5 January 2001 - on the efforts to stop the war in Angola are available at:

For a Country Map of Angola - U.S. State Department Travel Advisories for Angola - and World Factbook entry for Angola as well as other On-Line Resources Related to Angola, go at:



Thousands Flee Sudan's Mountains
(January 17, 2001)

KHARTOUM, Sudan (AP) - Thousands of civilians have fled rebel-held areas in the remote Nuba mountains and sought sanctuary in government controlled territory, a Sudanese government official said on Wednesday. CLIP The US-based Human Rights Watch in its World Report 2001 accused both the government and the SPLA of ``gross human rights violations''. It accused the government of bombing civilian areas and of ``denying relief food to needy civilians''. It also accused the SPLA of looting relief provisions and recruiting child soldiers. Kafi, the former SPLA rebel, called on international agencies to provide shelter and medical supplies to the Nuba Mountains region, an underdeveloped region inhabited mostly by Sudanese African tribes. Many in the area joined rebel groups shortly after the outbreak of the civil war in 1983.


SUDAN - Human Rights Developments

The government of Sudan remained a gross human rights abuser although it took positive steps to address some abuses. Advances included the admission that abduction and forced labor (although applying the term "slavery" to this was decried) existed and required government action, ratification of the Chemical Warfare Convention, and permission for a U.N. needs assessment in of the Nuba Mountains. The sixteen-year civil war continued in the south, in the Nuba Mountains, and in the east of Africa's largest country between the Islamist government and against the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), a coalition of armed opposition movements. Settlement proved elusive because of difficult issues of religion and the state, economic and political marginalization of minorities, and the diversity of Sudan's Arab and African, Muslim and non-Muslim population of thirty million. CLIP

The resurgence of slavery was an outgrowth of the war and the arming of the muraheleen, who were incorporated into the army in 1989. They were allowed to keep all cattle and people they captured as war booty while guarding the military's supply train to the south or on freelance raids.

The government denied all slavery allegations until May 1999, when it acknowledged the problem of "abduction and forced labor of women and children" and set up a committee to address it, including a Dinka nongovernmental activist experienced in locating and retrieving Dinka children from slavery. CLIP Western anti-slavery groups "redeemed" slaves; one group claimed to have freed a total of 15,400, at a maximum price of $50 per head, with payments made to middlemen. UNICEF denounced buying human beings for any purpose. CLIP

The Sudan-based and -supported Ugandan rebel group, the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), committed gross abuses of human rights in its Sudanese camps and in Uganda against some 10,000 Ugandan children it abducted, including murder, torture, and sexual abuse. Sudan admitted after long denials that it helped the LRA, saying it did so in retaliation for Uganda's support of the SPLA. CLIP

More details at:
Violent Gang Rapes In South Sudan

Anti-Slavery Group

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