Une histoire de lenseignement au Mali: Entre réforme et réticences (La Sahélienne) (French Edition)
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The following day, at a mass rally, Sekou Toure proclaimed Nkrumah head of state of Guinea. At the time, Nkrumah did not realize what Sekou Toure, speaking in French, had said. When later he learned the truth he was very moved but agreed only to become co-president of Guinea.
For the first few weeks, Nkrumah and his entourage were housed in Belle-Vue, a government guest compound situated on the coast a short distance from the centre of Conakry. It was a long, low white concrete building constructed on two levels, the lower part of which jutted out on to the beach. At high tide, the sea lapped against three sides of it.
The upper part of the villa became the office area, while the lower level contained private and domestic quarters.
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To the rear was a secluded area shaded by mango and flamboyant trees. But for the most part he spent his time in the office, a recessed room open at the front to the long verandah and the sea. Within days of moving in, Nkrumah was at his desk establishing an office routine, and dealing with the flood of letters, cables and messages which poured into the Conakry post office for him from all parts of the world.
He was of great assistance to Nkrumah during the whole of the time he spent in Guinea. He supervised the administration of the villa, acted as liaison officer between Ghanaian and Guinean security personnel and undertook many other duties. Some of these were of a very confidential nature, concerned with attempts to restore Nkrumah to Accra. I never knew him to have a holiday or even to take a day off. He would arrive early from his home some miles away and seldom return home before 10 or 11 p. During the early months of it was Camara who arranged for an electric generator to be installed in the compound so that the life of the villa could proceed despite the almost daily electricity cuts which the people of Conakry suffered.
Another priority which Nkrumah required was the setting up of an efficient radio station at the villa, and again it was Camara who arranged for the work to be done. Throughout the years which Nkrumah spent in Guinea he was able to be kept informed of broadcasts from Ghana, and of confidential army and police messages. Each day, reports of these broadcasts and messages were placed on his desk by members of his entourage whose job it was to monitor them.
In this way, Nkrumah was able to obtain insight into what was happening in Ghana, and did not have to rely solely on reports of Ghanaians and others who either travelled to Conakry to see him, or who wrote or sent messages. Right from the start of his stay in Guinea, Ghanaians loyal to his government got in touch with him. For a time, one of them openly cabled news from the Foreign Affairs Department in Accra.
While much of the information they sent was not of great significance, it was nevertheless a useful supplement to information from other sources. The idea for such a conference had first been mooted by Sekou Toure in a message to Nkrumah shortly after the coup, when Nkrumah was still in Peking. We think that the time factor is vital here, since it is important to make a riposte without further delay, by every means.
The invitations, dated 25 April , were to be sent first to Modibo Keita requesting him to sign them and to return them to Conakry for the signatures of Nkrumah and Sekou Toure. There is no evidence among the files and papers which Nkrumah kept in Villa Syli that the conference ever took place. Such a conference so soon after the Ghana coup would surely have attracted media attention. There were no reports of it. A move to Bamako would make such a possibility easier to accomplish, Mali and Burkina Faso sharing a common frontier. The coup of 19 November which overthrew the government of Modibo Keita ended any chance of such a move.
For the first six months or so, Nkrumah was content to monitor events in Ghana without too much concern about the effect the coup in Ghana would have on the African revolutionary struggle. It was not that he wanted a restoration of his pre political position, but that he found he could not pursue his Pan African objectives adequately from Guinea. He had to return to Ghana because the infrastructure was there. On his return, others could direct the domestic administration of the country, leaving him free to devote his whole attention to organizing the Pan African struggle for the total liberation and unification of the Continent.
This was not a new idea he had dreamed up in Conakry. Some time before the coup Nkrumah was thinking along these lines, as Erica Powell , his private secretary from to has confirmed in her book. After the coup, as he was no longer president of Ghana, the idea seemed possible to realize once he had returned and could make a fresh start. He intended to establish a freedom fighter headquarters, similar to something he had seen in China when visiting Chairman Mao Tse-Tung. It would be situated not far from Accra, hidden from aerial attack in the hilly forested area of Aburi.
From there he would develop the military and political structures outlined in his book Handbook of Revolutionary Warfare: During one of my visits to Guinea, Nkrumah sketched in pencil a rough plan of the small building he would require. It consisted of two bedrooms with bathrooms, and a central room for meetings.
He marked the position of doors, and the driveways leading to the entrance of the cave-like building, remembering to make a circular part where vehicles could turn. An indication of the extent and variety of these communications can be gathered from the files of correspondence and cables which he left behind in Villa Syli.
Furthermore, throughout the Conakry years, there were numerous visits from Ghanaians and others who claimed to be organizing a counter-coup to restore him to Accra. Nkrumah suspected that some of those who claimed to be working for his return were dishonest opportunists. If it had not been for his determination to get back to the country in order to carry out his Pan African objectives, he would, I believe, have shown no interest in any scheme to accomplish his return by force.
But as time passed, and the infrastructure in Ghana deteriorated, he became more vulnerable to those who approached him with so-called plans for his return. Several times he was told of an actual day when he could expect to hear good news. At other times he would be informed to expect action between certain dates.
Always, when the expected dates passed and nothing happened, excuses would be made that something or other had unexpectedly happened to necessitate a postponement. Camara became increasingly cynical. By the time Nkrumah had eventually to leave Conakry for medical treatment in , Camara was prepared to believe that no Ghanaian could be trusted, except for those of the entourage whom he had come to know well.
Most of these braggarts were only briefly there. Others not at all. One of the worst aspects of the dreary process of deception and disappointment was financial. For, so often, those who visited Nkrumah claiming to be working for his reinstatement in Ghana asked for cash, ostensibly to buy arms and support. The limited funds supplied initially by friendly Eastern bloc and African governments were soon exhausted.
Much against his inclination, Nkrumah had to seek further financial help.
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He loathed the very notion of asking for support, and found it extremely distasteful to hand out cash to dubious characters whom he would not have tolerated for a moment in his presence had he not been in such a critical position, with, as he thought, the future of the African Revolution at stake. He was not prepared to let slip any opportunity which might have resulted in a return to Accra. Each time he was approached he faced the dilemma of wondering whether, if he failed to give help, he might be jeopardizing the one real chance of success.
He said that all would be thoroughly investigated when he got back to Ghana. Those who had deliberately deceived him would have to explain themselves to the people, because it was the people, and not him personally, they had betrayed. Doubtless, some of those who sought to take advantage of him in this situation had been taken in by Western media reports at the time of the coup that Nkrumah had vast sums of money deposited in Swiss banks. Even those who were skeptical about this knew that Sekou Toure strongly supported Nkrumah and was anxious to see him return to Ghana.
The Guinea government could be expected to provide funds if need be. The fact is that, apart from the small royalty account in London and the funds supplied occasionally by friendly governments, Nkrumah had no money on which he could draw He used to keep a certain amount of cash, mainly dollars and pounds, in a suitcase in his bedroom, some of this having been brought into Guinea in diplomatic bags.
It was probably reports of the availability of cash from this supply which encouraged unscrupulous individuals to dream up ways to obtain some of it. This is not to suggest that all those who got in touch with Nkrumah in Conakry with plans to organise his return to Ghana were self-seekers, though many undoubtedly were. Within weeks of his arrival in Guinea, Nkrumah was hearing from men and women, some of whom had worked in Ghana before the coup, who had either chosen to leave or been forced to go. Among them were people he knew. Others he had never met or heard of. There was also mail from acquaintances and from organizations whose connections with Nkrumah dated back to his student days in America.
Often pseudonyms were agreed between Nkrumah and those with whom he kept in touch. All mail and cables had to be sent through the main Conakry post office which, in spite of precautions, was not proof against security risks. Several times during the early days of the Conakry period, the envelopes of letters exchanged between him and myself bore unmistakable signs of having been opened and clumsily resealed. Time and again, Camara was sent to try to find out whether the mail was being interfered with in Conakry. It was impossible to discover.
On each of my visits to Guinea we used to decide new code names and phrases, in what must have seemed to any professional intelligence organization a very amateurish attempt to establish some degree of confidentiality in our letters and cables. Though there was nothing secret about what we said, we usually sealed our letters with red or green wax. I possessed two silver rings, decoratively engraved. We used one each to stamp the wax.
In this way we thought we would know if the seal had been broken. Sometimes in cables he would use printing or publishing terms. He was addressed usually as Osagyefo 12 or Dr Nkrumah, and on rare occasions, Francis Nkrumah usually in his replies signed himself Osagyefo or Kwame Nkrumah. A prolific writer was Julie Medlock. She was one of those who had been compelled to leave Ghana after the coup.
For a time after the coup, Shirley lived in Cairo, where her son David worked as a journalist and radio commentator. She visited Conakry on more than one occasion. Another who wrote at length to Nkrumah during the first few years of exile was Pat Sloan. He had been in Ghana at the time of the coup and had had to leave soon after. He wrote a detailed account of what happened at the Winneba Ideological Institute, where he had worked as senior lecturer in the Political Science faculty.
The students, he said, seemed utterly confused. During the course of a protracted correspondence, Pat Sloan suggested changes in the curriculum at Winneba which should be made when Nkrumah returned to Ghana. In England, he kept Nkrumah informed of the activities and opinions of Ghanaians in London, making particular reference to the activities of the CPP Overseas and the Committee for the Defence of the Revolution 16 headed by Ekow Eshun, who before the coup had worked in the Ghana High Commission in London.
Before the coup the magazine, first published in , had been financed primarily by the Ghana Government through the Bureau of African Affairs in Accra, and later by the Publicity Secretariat. Randall played a significant part in the success of Panaf Publications Ltd. On several occasions when a crisis of one kind or another occurred, his expert advice and experience resolved the difficulty. Initially when Panaf Books was formed, I worked at 89 Fleet Street in the room occupied by John Marshment, who allowed me to use part of his desk.
Later, Douglas Rogers arranged for space to be made available for me in the large room at the top of the building where his secretary sat and from where Africa and the World was packaged and despatched. Rogers and Marshment were among the first to visit Nkrumah in Villa Syli. They went there in April to discuss the future of the magazine and to arrange other ways in which they could assist him to get his voice heard in Ghana.
It was during this visit also, that on 12 April Nkrumah gave the one and only press interview of his entire stay in Conakry. There had at this time been rumours that Guinea might intervene militarily to restore Nkrumah to power in Ghana. Rogers put the question: I appreciate the feelings of my brother and Comrade Sekou Toure, and I know the people of Guinea are in a militant mood about the events in Ghana.
They feel, quite rightly, that this is part of a general assault upon the peace, unity and independence of Africa, and that a halt must be called to it. We have had a series of military usurpations of power, and constant international intrigue against governments which are trying to give some real economic meaning to their political independence. Nevertheless the NLC took the possibility of military intervention from Guinea seriously, raising the matter at the United Nations. During the first few years, Nkrumah was constantly being asked to receive newspaper reporters and radio and TV representatives.
He refused all requests from Western media sources. His political record was known. If they wanted to question him about his thinking in Guinea, they could read his books. Apart from the visits of those who had positive, constructive reasons for seeing him, and a few personal friends, no one from outside Guinea had access to Nkrumah. Both Guinean and Ghanaian security screening was very thorough. I recall what happened when a group of Afro-Americans connected with the Black Power movement arrived uninvited from Algiers and without the required entry documents.
The Guinean authorities, who were suspicious of their intentions, refused permission for them to see Nkrumah. They were promptly obliged to leave in the private jet which had brought them. But in April when Flight Captain Hanna Reitsch , the well-known flying ace who had established a flying school in Ghana at Afienya, arrived unexpectedly at Conakry airport she was permitted a short visit.
The Guinean authorities were uneasy about admitting a German who had achieved great distinction as a test pilot in the Second World War, and whom they regarded as a Nazi.
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The hesitation of the Guinean officials was understandable, since Hanna had flown to Conakry in disguise, wearing a wig and using a false name. Hanna had been at Afienya when the coup took place, and she wanted to tell Nkrumah what had happened there, and to offer him any help she could provide. Hanna told me when I first met her in Frankfurt in , that when the coup occurred she feared that Nkrumah might try to return to Ghana immediately. In which case she was convinced he would direct the pilot of his aircraft to land on the airstrip at Afienya, counting on her still being in control there, whereas the coup-makers had in fact compelled her to leave.
She had been horrified at what she regarded as spontaneous demonstrations against Nkrumah and the CPP government. Accounts of what she had seen at Afienya and in Accra before she left Ghana exasperated Nkrumah and members of his entourage, since they seemed to imply that she believed the people of Ghana as a whole supported the coup, whereas in fact the ordinary people took no part in it.
Hanna was no diplomat. Nor did she have a great deal of political knowledge. She did not appear to allow for the external and domestic underlying causes of the coup, and the organizing of it. If she was convinced of anything, however, Hanna would vehemently and repeatedly express her views, which could be tiring as well as irritating. But when she committed herself to any person or to any project, her loyalty and courage were limitless. If Nkrumah had asked her to fly him to Accra when she visited him in Conakry, she would gladly have faced the extreme danger.
As her friend Erica Powell once said to me: She wanted to return, but was told that the Guinean authorities would not readmit her, because of her former association with Nazi Germany. While the Guinean authorities strictly controlled the entry of all visitors to their country and were particularly protective of Nkrumah, it was unlikely they would have refused entry permission to anyone he invited. Throughout the Conakry years, Hanna and Nkrumah wrote to each other.
In addition, Hanna sent many food parcels. It was she who sent the rose bushes which bloomed in the large concrete pots lining the verandah at Villa Syli. It was typical of Hanna to think of sending rose bushes knowing the pleasure Nkrumah had derived from his rose garden at Flagstaff House in Accra. Although to some, Hanna might have seemed a severe woman, obsessed with duty and discipline, she was I believe at heart a romantic. Unfortunately, the Conakry correspondence files contain only one letter and a postcard written by Hanna to Nkrumah during the Conakry period, and no copies of the letters which Nkrumah wrote to her.
Yet less than a year before she died, Hanna had shown me a pile of them, handwritten on the familiar blue airmail paper Nkrumah used in Conakry. I can only surmise that she destroyed the letters herself, or arranged for them to be destroyed after her death, probably by her faithful housekeeper and secretary Fraulein Walter.
For Nkrumah kept personal letters himself, and from time to time burned them. He destroyed all but a few of the hundreds of letters which I wrote to him in Conakry. The few he retained he kept along with other papers in the small steel deed box which he stored, locked, in his bedroom. All my letters to him were handwritten and I did not keep copies. But I retained every one of the hundreds of handwritten ones he wrote to me. He was amused on many occasions at my reluctance to part with anything which might one day be of interest to students of African history.
Sometimes when Nkrumah had been working on a typescript, and his secretary, Sarfo, had typed an amended version, Nkrumah would tear up the original and throw the scraps of paper into the waste paper basket. When I protested and said that the hand-altered original should be preserved because one day students would be interested to see the changes he had made, he explained that he had learned from hard experience not to keep unnecessary papers.
On the occasions when he had been arrested in the years before political success, police had seized all his personal papers. At the time of the coup, his office in Flagstaff House had also been ransacked and some very confidential papers taken. Like a freedom fighter in the forest he had learned to travel light.
The organization and the general atmosphere prevailing at Villa Syli, especially during the first few years, seemed to me to resemble that of a freedom fighter base. It was a spartan, disciplined, all-male environment. Uniformed and armed Guinean soldiers and militiamen guarded the gates of the villa and patrolled the grounds and seashore. The impression given was of great activity and purpose, as though there was an imminent battle to be won. They formed committees to organize and oversee the various activities within the villa.
During the member Political Committee examined the 24 February coup in Ghana and the external and internal factors relating to it. A report was drawn up, typed and bound, and presented to Nkrumah. Soon all, including Nkrumah, had undergone military training with members of the Guinean militia. Throughout his stay in Conakry, Nkrumah kept to an ascetic, strict routine. A typical day in his life is described in the biography Kwame Nkrumah He would rise early and spend an hour or so doing yoga-type exercises in his room.
Breakfast consisted of a grapefruit and perhaps a little cereal and honey, or an egg. There would sometimes follow a game of chess with a member of his entourage… Then would come the main meal of the day, a simple two course meal of meat, chicken or fish followed always by fruit salad. His favourite food was the traditional stew and foufou of Ghana, and in Conakry this was cooked for him on certain days of the week by members of his entourage. After lunch, if there were no more visitors to see, or any more office work to attend to, he would retire to his bedroom for a short rest.
He would read, and sometimes sleep for a little while, but often his rest was interrupted by the arrival of one or other of his staff with a cable, letters or a message. The evening meal was little more than a snack, and afterwards Nkrumah would talk with Sekou Toure or his ministers, or with some other visitor to the villa. Members of the various political organisations of Guinea were frequent visitors, as were the ambassadors of socialist embassies in Conakry.
Then there were the visits from members of the liberation movements … Before retiring for the night Nkrumah would take his final exercise. This was usually a walk round and round the compound, sometimes ten or more times at a blistering speed which often left anyone accompanying him breathless trying to keep up. Cabral made a point of calling to see Nkrumah whenever he was about to leave Conakry for the war zone 22 or for travel to seek support for the PAIGC liberation struggle. On his return to his Conakry headquarters he would promptly visit Nkrumah again.
Nkrumah was particularly interested in what Cabral told him of PAIGC administration of the liberated areas of Guinea-Bissau, since this would form the pattern for the government of the whole country when it had been liberated from Portuguese rule. It would, Nkrumah believed, be the kind of society based on socialist principles and committed to African unification, which he had been working to build in Ghana.
Most probably, Nkrumah discussed with Cabral the Handbook of Revolutionary Warfare on which he was working. Nkrumah, when writing a book, discussed it whenever possible with anyone whose opinion he valued, or whom he thought might be able to provide additional material. He would give them sections of his manuscript to read and comment upon. Knowing his high regard for Cabral as a freedom fighter engaged in precisely the kind of armed liberation struggle about which he was writing, it would have been entirely out of character for Nkrumah not to have discussed the book with him.
See also Piero Gleijeses. They had been working in Ghana when the CPP government was overthrown. This was located in the bungalow which had been the home of Dorothy Padmore, widow of George Padmore. Julia and Henri, after considerable harassment, managed to leave Ghana after the coup and travelled to Conakry where they hoped to be of help to Nkrumah. Julia helped with office work. One of her tasks was to go through Guinean periodicals and newspapers, selecting items which she thought would interest Nkrumah. She translated them from French into English, abridging where necessary, and afterwards presented Nkrumah with a well-ordered set of clippings.
In addition, Julia was sometimes called upon to translate letters and messages sent to Nkrumah in French. However, not long after his arrival in Guinea, Nkrumah arranged to have French lessons from a Conakry teacher. Her instruction, supplemented by a Lingua phone French course, soon resulted in Nkrumah becoming quite proficient in the language, though I never heard him speak French fluently.
Henri for a time had, I believe, connections with those trying to organize a counter-coup in Ghana. During one of my visits to Conakry in he left on what I understood to be a secret mission inside Ghana. Knowing the danger he faced, Julia was proud of him at that time. Nevertheless, some months later, it was clear that Nkrumah had lost confidence in him.
He now incurred the mistrust of Camara. It was decided that Henri should not return to Conakry. Nkrumah was sorry to lose Julia, but as long as Julia remained in Guinea it would have been difficult to deny Henri permission to return to be with his wife. Julia, and occasionally Henri, continued from time to time to communicate with Nkrumah while he was in Conakry.
But they never saw him again, though both attended his funeral in Conakry in May On 10 June I set out on my first visit to Conakry. There were three main reasons for going. He considered a new preface necessary in view of the coup in Ghana. As far as Axioms was concerned, Nkrumah was disappointed at the size and expensive format of the Nelson edition.
He had envisaged a cheaply produced, pocket-sized book. As subsequent editions of the Panaf edition were published, quotations were added from the books Nkrumah wrote in Conakry. The Nelson edition of Axioms, apart from its format, had the disadvantage of only containing quotations from writings and speeches up to Nelson remaindered the book and sold their stock to Panaf Books.
The following morning a car was sent to convey us to Villa Syli. It was almost six months since I had seen Nkrumah, shortly before he left Accra on the peace mission to Hanoi. I noticed no change in him. Wearing a short-sleeved white 25 collarless drill suit, he looked extremely fit and was in his usual high spirits. He told us that arrangements had been made for us to stay in a government guest bungalow in the diplomatic quarter of Conakry, where we would be private and more comfortable.
We worked usually until about 2 p. It was during this visit that I first met President Sekou Toure. It was in the grounds of Belle Vue, where Nkrumah had invited Peter and myself to meet him late one afternoon, the time when Nkrumah sometimes took exercise. On this particular day, he was having a driving lesson in the grounds of Belle Vue. When he drove up to greet us, Nkrumah had only had a few lessons, and did not seem very confident. He quickly alighted from the car and suggested we walk round the extensive grounds of Belle Vue.
We had not gone far when Sekou Toure drove up at the wheel of his black Citroen. He stopped for a few minutes while Peter and I were introduced to him. On this my first visit to Conakry, I made only short entries in the notebook I took with me. These were mainly remarks made by Nkrumah which I wished to remember. I would jot them down as soon as I could, while I remembered the actual words. I also wrote brief impressions of life at the Villa, and noted down items which Nkrumah wished me to send him on my return to London. Later, as time passed and it became clear that Nkrumah might be in Conakry for some years, I felt a responsibility to record in more detail in my notebooks.
Their optimism proved to be well founded. Nkrumah, far from lying low, right from the start of the Conakry period made it clear that he intended to continue the African revolutionary struggle as best he could from Guinea. Between March and December , Nkrumah made fifteen broadcasts to Ghana, his purpose being to expose the true nature of the coup and to encourage resistance.
In addition, he quickly set to work on writing books and pamphlets, all of which were designed to project his African liberation and unification policies. Far from being silenced, he was showing every sign of continuing to be a thorn in the flesh of the same forces, domestic and international, which had combined to overthrow his government.
For them, Nkrumah and Sekou Toure were a formidable combination. In Ghana, the NLC did not underestimate the challenge. The Ghanaian security men at Villa Syli, and Guinean military and security forces, were constantly alert for any attempt to harm Nkrumah, or to kidnap him. Naval patrols guarded the foreshore, stopping and searching any vessel which aroused their suspicion. On more than one occasion, a fishing boat with Ghanaian crew members was escorted into Conakry harbour for thorough investigation.
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