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Cameroon Strike Leaders Plead Not Guilty
February 14, 2017 | 0 Comments

By Moki Edwin Kindzeka*

Tensions continue in Cameroon as the strike in English-speaking regions nears the end of its third month.

Felix Agbor-Balla and Dr. Fontem Aforteka'a Neba

Felix Agbor-Balla and Dr. Fontem Aforteka’a Neba

Three strike leaders pleaded not guilty Monday to charges of terrorism and insurrection before a military tribunal. They are accused of calling for the English-speaking parts of the country to secede and they could face the death penalty if convicted.

Nkongho Felix Agbor-Balla, Fontem Aforteka’a Neba and Bibixy Mancho are accused of organizing demonstrations in December that turned violent. The government says national flags were burned and the flag of a supposedly new independent nation was lifted. The government deployed the military, and at least seven people were killed in the unrest.

The three men entered the courtroom Monday joined by more than 100 lawyers working on their defense. Defense counsel Ben Muna says his clients were arrested illegally.

“The preliminary objection which we raised had to do with how the case was investigated which is the proof that the prosecution said they were not ready,” Muna said. “They don’t have witnesses.”

The case has been adjourned until March 23rd.

Strike started in November

English-speaking lawyers and teachers have been on strike since November. They are protesting what they say is the overwhelming use of French in their sectors. But the strike has drawn other activists who accuse the state of marginalizing English speakers living primarily in the southwest and the northwest.

Some strikers are calling for a return to federalism, while other leaders want secession. The government says neither are options. Negotiations broke down over the issue earlier this year.

The strikers are also demanding the unconditional release of everyone arrested in connection with the strike. The government says 70 people are detained. Activists say the number is higher. More arrests happened this past weekend during unrest in the northwestern town of Ndop.

Meeting with President Biya

Main opposition party leader Ni John Fru Ndi says he raised concerns about the military’s response in a recent meeting with President Paul Biya.

“I told Mr. Biya that please can you step in and take a position yourself on what is happening,” Fru Ndi said. “They are still shooting and killing. Teachers are locked up, and they are going around arresting people. Anybody who talks about federation will be arrested and locked up. I mean, all these things should be discussed.”

President Biya issued a statement Friday. He is open to dialogue but the president said national unity is not up for negotiation and all detainees must face justice.

The government has made some changes to address strikers’ grievances.

Judges transferred

President Biya has transferred non-English speaking judges out of the striking zones and announced plans to recruit 1,000 bilingual teachers.

Students at a public school in Yaounde performed a sketch encouraging people to use both languages.

Teachers like Bibian Ayuk said they have received instructions to promote bilingualism.

Cameroon's President Paul Biya addresses the 71st session of the United Nations General Assembly, in New York, Sept. 22, 2016

Cameroon’s President Paul Biya addresses the 71st session of the United Nations General Assembly, in New York, Sept. 22, 2016

“When they have activities in schools, it is carried out in both languages and we encourage teachers when they go to school to carry out what they call jeux bilingue,” Ayuk said. “That is a five-minute talk in your second language while teaching.”

Both languages are used

English speakers constitute just 20 percent of the population but the constitution said English and French should be equally important.

Since the strike began, some official documents can now be found in English. English has also been added to signs for state radio and television and various government ministries. High-ranking government officials have begun giving public remarks in both languages.

Despite the changes, the government has drawn a hard line on the strike. In January, authorities banned public gatherings in the two affected regions and cut all internet access.

*VOA

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New-look Champions League set to begin
February 11, 2017 | 0 Comments
Mamelodi Sundowns won the Champions League in 2016

Mamelodi Sundowns won the Champions League in 2016

Up to 18 players who competed at the Africa Cup of Nations could be involved in the new-look Champions League when it kicks off this weekend.

Among them is Georges Bokwe, one of two unused goalkeepers in the Cameroon squad that defeated Egypt in the final last Sunday in Gabon.

Bokwe was kept out of the starting line-up by the consistent brilliance of Spain-based Fabrice Ondoa, who was included in the team of the tournament.

But Bokwe is the first choice for regular Champions League entrants Coton Sport from northern Cameroon cotton town Garoua.

Coton qualified for the 2008 final, losing to Al Ahly of Egypt, but have fared poorly recently with first round exits in the past two seasons.

Drawn against Atlabara of South Sudan in the two-leg preliminary round this year, the Cameroon outfit are favoured to secure a last-32 place.

While Coton have the experience of 15 previous Champions League campaigns behind them, Atlabara suffered a preliminary-round loss in a lone previous challenge.

Coton and Atlabara are among 46 clubs in action this weekend as an exciting new chapter in the Champions League unfolds.

Total prize money has soared from $5.7m (£4.6m) to $10m, a 119.30% increase.

Significant prize fund

The group phase – where the cash kicks in – has been expanded from eight to 16 clubs with participants guaranteed at least $550,000 (£440,000) each.

For clubs dreaming of going all the way and succeeding where Mamelodi Sundowns of South Africa did last year, the “carrot” is a $2.5m (£2m) first prize.

Sundowns are among nine clubs given byes on merit into the round of 32, with record eight-time champions Al Ahly another.

Georges Bokwe was one of two unused goalkeepers in the Cameroon squad that defeated Egypt in the final of the recent African Nations Cup

Georges Bokwe was one of two unused goalkeepers in the Cameroon squad that defeated Egypt in the final of the recent African Nations Cup

Preliminary participants include V Club of the Democratic Republic of Congo, 1973 winners of the African Cup of Champions Clubs, forerunner to the Champions League.

The Kinshasa outfit face Royal Leopard of Swaziland and can call on Joyce Lomalisa Mutambala, a defender with unhappy memories of the 2017 Cup of Nations.

He was the only player sent off in the 32-match tournament, having come off the bench in a win over Morocco and been yellow-carded twice within 17 minutes.

Former title-holders in the second-tier Confederation Cup, Stade Malien of Mali, FUS Rabat of Morocco and AC Leopards of Congo Brazzaville, play this weekend.

Stade face Barrack Young Controllers II of Liberia, FUS meet Johansen of Sierra Leone and Leopards play UMS Loum of Cameroon.

Others in action include three clubs who won the now defunct African Cup Winners Cup, Enugu Rangers of Nigeria, Horoya of Guinea and Al Merrikh of Sudan.

Enugu tackle JS Saoura of Algeria, Horoya confront Goree of Senegal and Merrikh challenge Sony Ela Nguema of Equatorial Guinea.

*BBC

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Cameroon Government Warns Parents to Stop Using Children for Politics
February 10, 2017 | 1 Comments

By Peter Clottey*

Parents in the English-speaking parts of bilingual Cameroon who are preventing their children from going to school are sacrificing the youths’ education to score political points, the nation’s information minister says.

“We condemn the fact they prevent tomorrow’s leaders of our nation” from acquiring the knowledge they need, Information Minister Issa Tchiroma Bakary said in an interview with VOA. “It is wrong to do it.”

Tchiroma’s criticism followed weeks of protests by English-speaking teachers and lawyers who contend that the Yaounde government, dominated by the French-speaking majority, slights their interests and does not give them adequate resources. The protests have forced the closure of some schools in English-speaking areas.

Tensions were so high that 10 people were killed in demonstrations over language discrimination in Bamenda in December, according to human rights groups there. The government sent in 5,000 troops to stabilize the city.

Civil society groups and political leaders from the English-speaking parts of Cameroon also have said that the government has a plan to force institutions, including schools and the legal system, to use French. This, they said, would undermine the constitution. They have demanded negotiations with the government as part of an effort to ensure the administration respects their rights.

Tchiroma said the government in Yaounde needed time to resolve the concerns of the English-speaking regions, but that it was ready to hold talks.

Despite receiving such assurances, English-speaking activists say they have been arbitrarily arrested by the country’s security agencies, detained without charges and beaten. They also said students from the English-speaking areas who were in schools in Yaounde were being arrested and detained without charges — part of a government campaign to harass opponents and stall talks on resolving concerns.

Tchiroma sharply denied such accusations.

“When they claim they are being harassed or intimidated, it is completely wrong,” he said. Those detained “were arrested red-handed, burning, inciting and doing this and that.”

Tchiroma also said assertions that the administration plans to force French on the English parts of the country was a calculated attempt to make President Paul Biya and his administration unpopular. He warned that the government was displeased with politicians who fan untruths, which he said could dangerously undermine the country’s stability.

*Culled from VOA Some information for this report came from AP

PAV Editor’s Note: Indeed arbitrary arrests are ongoing.  Amos Fofung  of Concord newspaper and Atia Azohnwi of the Sun Newspaper were reportedly arrested on the same day Tchiroma granted the VOA interview.Contrary to claims from Tchiroma, Consortium leaders Agbor Balla and Fontem Niba consistently advocated and led the struggle in a non violent manner prior to their arrest. The same goes for Supreme Court Judge Ayah Paul whisked off from his residence.The North West and South West Regions remain heavily militarized with no access to internet. Tchiroma’s claims are not accurate at all .Even leading CPDM militants like Protais  Ayangma have criticized the government for the arbitrary arrest and detention of Consortium leaders. Many are of the view that the government shoulders the bulk of the blame for  the degenerating state of affairs.

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The AFRICA CEO FORUM puts female leadership in Africa at the heart of the debate
February 9, 2017 | 0 Comments

The AFRICA CEO FORUM and McKinsey & Company are pooling their expertise to launch the African Women in Business initiative at the 2017 AFRICA CEO FORUM on 20 and 21 March in Geneva. McKinsey & Company will participate as a knowledge partner.

Four businesswomen at the AFRICA CEO FORUM. From left to right: Tigui Camara, Diane Chenal, Ghislaine Ketcha Tessa, Neila Benzina. Credits: Jacques Torregano

Four businesswomen at the AFRICA CEO FORUM. From left to right: Tigui Camara, Diane Chenal, Ghislaine Ketcha Tessa, Neila Benzina. Credits: Jacques Torregano

PARIS, France, 8 February 2017 – The 2017 AFRICA CEO FORUM, the biggest international African private sector gathering, will host over 1,000 African and international personalities and key African industrial, financial and political decision-makers, including around 200 female business leaders from 43 African countries.

An essential platform for dialogue and networking, the AFRICA CEO FORUM is devoting this year’s edition to the role of women in African enterprise. As part of the African Women in Business initiative, a high-level panel will bring together the most influential women in the African private sector and the CEOs most active in promoting gender diversity. The goal is twofold: to identify the best strategies for increased female representation in business and to highlight the career paths of the women who have shaped the African private sector.

“A greater representation of women in companies is crucial to the prosperity of the African private sector”, said Amir Ben Yahmed, President of AFRICA CEO FORUM.
“By creating the 

African Women in Business initiative, we have decided to put female leadership at the heart of our discussions.”

The African Women in Business initiative will also present the findings of the McKinsey & Company Women Matter Africa report. This report sets out the progress made by the African private and public sectors in terms of women’s representation. While Africa equals – and even exceeds – international standards, there is still a long way to go to achieve true gender equality.

By launching the African Women in Business initiative, the AFRICA CEO FORUM is contributing to the implementation of concrete solutions for the improvement of gender diversity. It aims, as in all matters to the life of African companies, to shake things up and push boundaries.

About the Women Matter Africa Report

Among the conclusions:

* Companies with greater gender diversity within their boards tend to perform better financially.
* The same applies to African companies; the top 25% most diverse companies have a 20% higher earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT) than their industry average.
* Those with boards made up of at least 25% women have a 20% EBIT above their industry average.
* In the private sector, Africa has more women board members, CEOs and managers than the world average. However, there is an under-representation of women at other hierarchical levels.
* In the public sector, Africa has more women in parliament than the world average, but this rate has to double to achieve gender equality.
* Although the number of women leaders has increased in the private as well as the public sector, they do not necessarily have more power or influence.

About the AFRICA CEO FORUM

Developed in partnership with the African Development Bank, the AFRICA CEO FORUM is an event organised by Groupe Jeune Afrique, publisher of Jeune Afrique and The Africa Report, and Rainbow Unlimited, a Swiss company that specialises in organising events promoting and facilitating business.

Launched in 2012, the AFRICA CEO FORUM has become the leading international meeting on the development of Africa and its companies, in a high-level professional setting. The 2016 edition hosted over 1,000 African and international personalities, including 600 business leaders from 43 African countries and 100 high-level speakers.

*AMA

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Afcon 2017: Cameroon players received by President Biya
February 9, 2017 | 0 Comments
Cameroon's players were welcomed by fans at the airport on their return from Gabon on Monday

Cameroon’s players were welcomed by fans at the airport on their return from Gabon on Monday

Cameroon’s Africa Cup of Nations-winning squad have been given a special state reception by the country’s president Paul Biya.

The Indomitable Lions, who lifted the trophy on Sunday after beating Egypt 2-1 in the final in Gabon, attended a ceremony in Yaounde on Wednesday.

They presented the Nations Cup trophy to President Biya at Unity Palace.

Later, they travelled in open-top vehicles through the streets of the capital to parade the trophy to fans.

Cameroon’s players were given medals by the president, who said their victory should be celebrated by Cameroonians as one nation.

At the end of the ceremony Cameroon First Lady Chantal Biya posed for a series of photos with the players – at one point she used Fabrice Ondoa’s phone to take a ‘selfie’ with them.

Cameroon’s success in Gabon ended a 15-year wait to win the tournament again and gave them their fifth title.

The country will host the next edition of the Nations Cup in 2019.

*BBC

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The best way to honour Tshisekedi is to take on the fight for democracy in DR Congo
February 7, 2017 | 0 Comments

Now more than ever, we must heed the late politician’s declaration that, ultimately, the people must take responsibility for themselves.

With the veteran opposition figure out of the picture, the government may feel less pressure to implement the recent agreement. Credit: VoteTshisekedi.

With the veteran opposition figure out of the picture, the government may feel less pressure to implement the recent agreement. Credit: VoteTshisekedi.

Etienne Tshisekedi wa Mulumba, the historic leader in the struggle for democracy in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), died at a hospital in Brussels, Belgium, on 1 February, reportedly of pulmonary embolism. He was 84 years old.

His death was announced the same day by a spokesperson for his party, the Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS), founded by Tshisekedi and other political leaders in 1982.

Born on 14 December 14, 1932, in Kananga (then Luluabourg) in Kasai province of the Belgian Congo, Tshisekedi began his political career by working closely with the Congo’s notorious leader Mobutu Sese Seko for nearly 20 years. This relationship began in 1960 when Mobutu, who had recently become army chief-of-staff and led a coup against Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba, nominated Tshisekedi to the Council of General Commissioners. Still a law student at Lovanium University in Kinshasa (then Léopoldville), Tshisekedi was named Deputy Commissioner for Justice.

In 1961, Tshisekedi became the first Congolese to obtain the doctorate in law. He left politics for a few years to serve as Rector of the National School of Law and Administration (ENDA) in Kinshasa. But in 1965, he returned to politics as Interior Minister following Mobutu’s second coup d’état in which he seized the presidency, an office he would hold until 1997.

As a key minister, Tshisekedi played a crucial role in the process of consolidating Mobutu’s personal rule. He helped draft the 1967 constitution, which outlawed multi-partyism, and create the single-party regime under the People’s Revolutionary Movement (MPR).

In the second half of the 1970s, however, relations between the hitherto close friends deteriorated as Mobutu became increasingly corrupt and notorious for gross violations of human rights. This rift came to a head in December 1980 as Tshisekedi, along with twelve other MPs, sent a 52-page letter to the president demanding the restoration of multiparty democracy. The dissenters were arrested, tortured, and sent to remote detention centres in the bush.

It was this episode in which Tshisekedi earned the respect of the Congolese people as he remained the one person to endure the suffering without giving in to either fear or bribery. A man of extreme courage and strong moral and political principles, he showed that he would put the country’s interests above personal ambitions, living by his motto le peuple d’abord. The people first.

Fighting authoritarianism

In July 1991, a year after Mobutu had ended his ban on other political parties amidst internal and external pressure, the dictator offered Tshisekedi the role of prime minister. Demonstrators descended on the opposition leader’s residence in Kinshasa to dissuade him from collaborating with “the devil”.

Tshisekedi refused the nomination. But he did later go on to become prime minister on three separate occasions under Mobutu, all for short periods of time that ended in disagreements between the two men.

The one stint as PM that stands out most for Congolese was Tshisekedi’s election to the position in August 1992 at the Sovereign National Conference. At this forum, established to interrogate the past and chart a new course for the country, 2,842 delegates representing all strata of Congolese society overwhelmingly voted in favour of Tshisekedi becoming prime minster over Mobutu’s favoured candidate. This national forum remains a central reference point for Congolese aspirations for democracy and rule of law.

As arguably the single most important political leader in the DRC since Patrice Lumumba, Tshisekedi embodied these aspirations in his opposition to the authoritarian regimes of not just Mobutu, but his successors.

His political activities under President Laurent-Désiré Kabila (1997-2001), who overthrew Mobutu, resulted in Tshisekedi being relegated to his village of origin in Eastern Kasai. And under Joseph Kabila, who took power after his father’s death in 2001, Tshisekedi was the Congo’s most prominent opposition leader .

Tshisekedi boycotted the 2006 elections, but when he ran for president in 2011, the man by now known as the Vieux (Old Man) drew enormous crowds across the country’s provinces. When the official results declared the Kabila the winner therefore, the overriding response was of disbelief.

National and international observers said the elections had been marred by serious irregularities and a lack of transparency, while the Bishops’ Conference, which had observers across the country, said the results did not reflect the will of the people. Tshisekedi rejected the results and held a parallel inauguration ceremony.

Taking responsibility

The next elections were constitutionally required to be held in 2016, but Kabila’s government employed a variety of tactics to delay them, meaning he is now still in office despite his official mandate ending on 19 December.

As this crisis has unfolded, Tshisekedi returned to the fore and became one of the leaders of the opposition coalition known as the Rassemblement, which organised huge protests. At the end of 2016, the Rassemblement engaged in negotiations with Kabila’s camp, leading to an agreement on 31 December that called for power-sharing and a one-year transition to elections in 2017.

In the month that has gone by since that accord, however, little progress has been made. And with the death of Tshisekedi, the main opposition figurehead whose ability to mobilise huge street protests was unparalleled in the Congo, the Kabila regime is likely to feel less pressure to implement the agreement.

Such a temptation from the regime would be misguided. The Congolese people’s desire for democracy and willingness to exert their popular power is not to be underestimated.

We saw this in independence uprisings of January 1959; in the mass “second independence” movement of 1963-68; in the huge demonstrations of 16 February 1992; in the three-day protests of January 2015, when at least 50 people were killed demonstrating against a bill requiring a national census before elections; and we saw this in massive protests around the country in September and December 2016 against Kabila’s determination to stay in office beyond his mandate.

Tshisekedi embodied this spirit and was central in mobilising many of these demonstrations. But Congolese patriots will continue to fight for democracy and social progress with or without iconic opposition leaders like him.

Indeed, as we mourn the loss of the Vieux, the best way to honour his selfless, incorruptible and patriotic service over several decades is to take it upon ourselves to restore democracy in the DRC. The Congolese people have a duty to remove Kabila and his cronies from power and end a regime that is more interested in looting the country than in building institutions, protecting citizens, and ensuring peace and development.

Tshisekedi will be deeply missed, but as he reminded us following the 2011 elections, le people doit se prendre en charge. Now more than ever, the people must take responsibility for themselves.

*African Arguments.Georges Nzongola-Ntalaja is professor of African and global studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (USA).

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Trump’s Africa policy: Unclear and uncertain
February 7, 2017 | 0 Comments
 From trade to human rights, what will Trump’s policies towards Africa look like? Obama’s former US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs highlights some likely changes.

Africa is not likely to emerge as one of US President Donald Trump’s  foreign policy priorities. But the continent is almost certain to be affected by the fallout from his hardline foreign policy views, his strong anti-Muslim pronouncements, his vow to eliminate Islamic terrorism, and his “America First” economic policies.  And the prospects are probably bleak for any bold new development initiatives targeted at Africa like those rolled by his predecessors Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

Over the past two decades, US  Africa policy has enjoyed strong bipartisan congressional support from both Democrats and Republicans working together. But without a strong commitment to Africa in the White House or Executive Branch under Trump, the major programmes that have defined US policy in Africa for the past two decades will probably struggle to sustain the previous funding levels and state support.

Trump has exhibited no interest in Africa.  Nor have any of his closest White House advisors. Except for some campaign comments about Libya and Benghazi, the new president has made very few remarks about the continent. And despite his global network of hotel, golf and tourist holdings, he appears to have no investments or business relationships in sub-Saharan Africa.

The one member of Trump’s inner circle that may have an interest in Africa is Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. He has some experience of Africa because of his many years in the oil industry with ExxonMobil, most of whose successful dealings on the continent were with largely corrupt and authoritarian leaders.

If Tillerson appoints a moderate and experienced Africa expert to run the Africa Bureau – and there are a dozen Republicans who meet that definition – and if he is able to keep policy in the control of the State Department, African issues may not be pushed aside completely.  But irrespective of who manages Trump’s Africa policy, there will be a major change from recent previous administrations.

President Obama pushed a strong democratic agenda and launched half a dozen new development programmes including Power Africa, Feed the Future and the Global Health Initiative. Before him, Bush’s “compassionate” approach led to the establishment of the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), two of America’s most widely-praised programmes on the continent.

But Trump’s world view is more myopic. He believes in “America First” and questions the value of the United Nations, NATO and the European Union. He is strongly opposed to nation-building and large overseas assistance programmes. He looks suspiciously at trade agreements. And he has railed against Muslims and other foreigners, while he has publically praised dictators and tyrants.

Under Trump, any focus on Africa will likely be on military and security issues, not democracy, good governance or human rights.  These policies are likely to find greater favour with Africa’s autocrats than civil society or local business leaders.

What can we expect in the different areas of US engagement?

Security and counterterrorism

We should expect an uptick in military and security cooperation with a number of African nations, especially those facing terrorist threats given Trump’s promise to wage an all-out war on Islamist militancy. The US role in the battle against al-Shabaab, Boko Haram and armed groups in the Sahel region will probably be expanded, and African support for US actions may become a new litmus test for closer relations.

Democracy and governance

We should probably expect a sharp drop off in White House support for democracy and governance programmes. Trump has denounced nation-building abroad and said during his inaugural address that he will “not seek to impose” America’s “way of life on anyone”.  His policies will almost certainly result in less spending on the promotion of political reforms, democracy and the conduct of free and fair elections in Africa.

Human rights

The Obama administration routinely spoke out against torture, detention and extrajudicial killings, and pushed for greater gender equality and LGBTI rights. This will not happen under a Trump administration which has praised some authoritarian leaders, asserted the value of torture, and already curbed funding for women’s health programmes. The recent executive order excluding citizens from seven majority Muslim countries, including three in Africa, is an indication that respect for human rights and civil liberties will take a back seat to notions of security.

Business relations

Trump’s “America First” stance will probably lead to the collapse of Obama’s major economic initiatives in Africa. Trade Africa, a regional effort to boost trade among five East African nations; Doing Business in the Africa, designed to encourage American businesses to trade with the continent; and the high-level US-Africa business summits Obama hosted are all in jeopardy. With Trump complaining about American companies moving jobs overseas and touting a new form of economic nationalism, dealing with Africa economically will not be a priority.

Trade

The strongly bipartisan African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) has been the centrepiece of American trade policy in Africa, but its non-reciprocal concessionary treatment runs counter to Trump’s trade doctrine. Trump’s administration has focused on TPP (the Asia free trade deal) and NAFTA (the North American free trade agreement) so far, but at some point AGOA, which was recently renewed until 2025, will inevitably come to the attention of someone in the White House. Despite bipartisan support, the best hope for AGOA is that it will be allowed to remain in place with declining support until it expires. If there is an effort to reframe it, the US will probably demand African nations open their markets to American goods on a reciprocal basis.

Exchange programmes 

One of Obama’s most successful programmes was the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI), which brings several hundred young African professionals and entrepreneurs to the US for six weeks each summer. Although it has the potential to be as significant to Africa as the Fulbright Programme was to Europe, YALI could be an early casualty. YALI is not covered by any congressional legislation and is not funded beyond 2017. Previous Republican administrations have cut back exchange programmes and YALI has no natural constituency in the Trump administration.

Climate change

Climate change is a major problem for Africa, but many in the Trump administration have denied or downplayed its importance, threatening to pull out of the 2015 Paris climate change agreement. UN and US studies have shown that Africa will be impacted by climate change more than any other region of the world and that African nations are the least prepared to deal with it. A shift on the global agreement will have damaging ripple effects across the continent.

USAID

Trump has said that rebuilding America’s deteriorating infrastructure would be one of his domestic priorities, and as he sets about this, USAID’s overseas programmes could become an easy target to be cut. Trump has already criticised them as wasteful and corrupt, and his administration might easily align itself with Republicans who fought to reduce development spending and eliminate the Export-Import Bank and the Overseas Private Investment Corporation – two organisations that have supported America’s trade, aid and development projects in Africa and around the world.   

Benign neglect

It is possible that Trump’s term in office will surprise us on Africa. Republican administrations have outperformed on this front before. President Bush certainly did, and his two landmark development  initiatives – PEPFAR and MCC – remain extremely popular.

But given the absence of any serious White House interest in Africa, Secretary Tillerson may become the key American player on Africa. He could put Africa policy on a solid footing by appointing an experienced Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs; supporting key Bush- and Obama-era food, health and power development initiatives; and maintaining the business-focused policies of Obama. He could also throw his support behind USAID, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation and EXIM Bank, all of which strengthen US economic and development objectives in Africa.

Congressional leaders could also play an important role by maintaining their strong two-decade-long bipartisan support for Africa and encouraging the administration to prioritise and not to marginalise Africa.

But realistically, perhaps the most the continent can really hope for under Trump is “benign neglect”.

*African Arguments.Johnnie Carson was US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs from 2009 to 2012. He is currently a Senior Advisor at the United States Institute of Peace and a Senior Fellow at the Jackson Institute at Yale University.

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Late winner gives Cameroon Afcon title
February 6, 2017 | 0 Comments

By Stephen Fottrell*

Cameroon's last-gasp win ends a 15-year wait for another continental crown

Cameroon’s last-gasp win ends a 15-year wait for another continental crown

Cameroon came from behind to beat Egypt 2-1 and seal a fifth Africa Cup of Nations in a thrilling, edgy final.

Substitute Vincent Aboubakar swept in the winner two minutes from time, flicking the ball over defender Ali Gabr and thumping it home.

Nicolas Nkoulou had earlier equalised for Cameroon, rising highest to power in a header on the hour mark.

 The equaliser cancelled out Mohamed Elneny’s opener on 22 minutes with a beautifully taken near-post strike.

The wild celebrations for Aboubakar’s winner announced Cameroon’s return to the continental summit, after a wait of 15 years.

It also makes them the second most successful nation in the competition’s history – behind Egypt – and marks the first time they have beaten the Pharoahs in the final in three attempts.

Besiktas striker Aboubakar ran towards the triumphant Cameroon fans in the Stade de l’Amitie stands in Libreville to celebrate, pursued by delirious teammates and coaching staff.

Underdogs Cameroon had already upset the odds to reach the final and stunned the much-fancied Egyptians with the late dramatic strike, after fellow substitute Nkoulou had drawn them level.

Cameroon players celebrate Vincent Aboubakar's winner
Cameroon players – and staff – run for the stands to celebrate Vincent Aboubakar’s winner

Despite being beset by pre-tournament problems, including the withdrawal of key players such as Joel Matip and Eric Chuopo-Moting, coach Hugo Broos managed to assemble a squad that got their reward for being strong, adaptable and resilient in equal measure throughout.

The Pharaohs – bidding for an eighth title after seven years in the international wilderness – started comfortably and Elneny’s opening strike capped a wonderful fluent move down the right.

The Gunners midfielder started the move and finished it, after receiving the ball from Mohamed Salah in the box and sweeping it past Fabrice Ondoa into the roof of the net at the near post.

Nicolas Nkoulou celebrates with teammate Benjamin Moukandjo
Goalscorer Nicolas Nkoulou celebrates with winning teammate Benjamin Moukandjo

But Egypt invited the Indomitable Lions to come at them in the second half and they paid a heavy price.

The excellent Cameroon forward Benjamin Moukandjo whipped in an excellent, menacing cross and substitute Nkoulou muscled his way through the Egyptian defence to beat Ahmed Hegazy to the ball and bury it past 44-year-old Essam El Hadary in the Egyptian goal.

The contest developed into a fascinating cagey final, with Cameroon, inspired by the excellent Christian Bassogog and Jacques Zoua up front, pinning Egypt back and limiting them to long balls to Salah and substitute Ramadan Sobhi.

Fatigue soon set in in the Egyptian ranks and Cameroon got their ultimate reward for increasing the pressure on the experienced Egyptian defence.

Egypt's veteran keeper Essam El Hadary
Egypt’s veteran keeper Essam El Hadary was denied a fifth Africa Cup of Nations title

Aboubakar controlled a long ball forward with his chest at the edge of the box, flicked it over the stranded Gabr, before gathering, taking a step and smashing home off his right foot for a fitting winner.

The Egyptians – featuring the tournament’s oldest and most experienced player – El Hadary, were left stunned after looking comfortable for much of the first half.

As they had done for much of the tournament, Egypt relied on a well-marshalled defence, led by Ahmed Hegazy, Gabr and Hull City’s Ahmed Elmohamady. They also had the formidable Elneny and Salah leading the line.

The Pharaohs more than played their part in an entertaining final, but it was Cameroon’s energy that would light up the occasion and provide a thrilling end to a thoroughly entertaining tournament for the near-capacity crowd of more than 38,000 in the Gabonese capital.

Belgian coach Hugo Broos celebrates with his Cameroon players
Belgian coach Hugo Broos celebrates his first African title with Cameroon

Belgian coach Broos reflected the unity in his squad’s ranks, as he celebrated the first Nations Cup title of his career.

“I am happy for the players,” he said. “This is not a group of football players, they are a group of friends.”

Egypt coach Hector Cuper was left to dwell on another defeat in a major final, having lost two European Champions League finals with Spanish club Valencia.

“The sadness I have is not because I lost another final,” he said.

“It’s because there was so much hope especially among the people in Egypt and I am sorry for the players who put in so much effort.”

*BBC

 

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JOSE EDUARDO DOS SANTOS, AFRICA’S SECOND-LONGEST SERVING PRESIDENT TO STEP DOWN IN 2017
February 4, 2017 | 0 Comments

BY *

Eduardo Dos Santos

Eduardo Dos Santos

Angola’s President Jose Eduardo dos Santos, the second-longest serving head of state in Africa, has confirmed that he will not be running in the country’s August elections.

Dos Santos, 74, came to power in the oil-rich country in September 1979 after the death of Agostinho Neto, Angola’s first post-independence leader. His tenure is one month short of Equatorial Guinea’s President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, the continent’s longest-serving president.

The Angolan president said at a party meeting on Friday that the country’s defense minister, Joao Lourenco, would be the presidential candidate of the governing People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) in legislative elections scheduled for August, Reuters reported.

Dos Santos indicated in 2016 that he would not be running for re-election, but has made similar statements before only to go back on them.

He led the MPLA throughout the majority of a civil war that broke out in the 1970s and lasted almost three decades. The MPLA, which was backed by Cuba and other African liberation movements, signed a ceasefire with rebels backed by South Africa and Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo) in 2002.

Jose Eduardo dos-Santos

Jose Eduardo dos-Santos

The dos Santos family controls some of Angola’s most powerful institutions. The president designated his daughter Isabel dos Santos —listed by Forbes as Africa’s richest woman with a net worth of $3.2 billion—as head of the state oil firm Sonangol in 2016. Oil production constitutes almost half of Angola’s GDP, according to OPEC.

The president’s son, Jose Filomeno dos Santos, is the chairman of Angola’s sovereign wealth fund.

*Newsweek

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The real dictators of Potomac, Maryland
February 3, 2017 | 0 Comments

By Max Bearak*

LEFT: Former Gambian president Yahya Jammeh. (John Marshall Mantel/Associated Press) RIGHT: Teodoro Obiang Nguema, president of Equatorial Guinea. (Richard Drew/Associated Press)

LEFT: Former Gambian president Yahya Jammeh. (John Marshall Mantel/Associated Press) RIGHT: Teodoro Obiang Nguema, president of Equatorial Guinea. (Richard Drew/Associated Press)

The 22-year reign of one of Africa’s most eccentric and self-serving dictatorships came to an end last month when the president of Gambia — whose full title was His Excellency Sheikh Professor Alhaji Dr. Yahya A.J.J. Jammeh Babili Mansa — finally ceded power to his democratically elected rival and fled to a similarly tiny fiefdom farther south along the continent’s western coast.

Teodoro Obiang Nguema, now his host, has led Equatorial Guinea for 37 years, making him the world’s longest-serving head of state. Both men came to power decades ago in coups, and brutally quashed dissent while enriching themselves and their families. Investigations by activist groups and Western governments have found evidence that both siphoned off vast quantities of money from state coffers. With that money, they lived lavish lives, amassing dozens of expensive cars and houses around the world while the majority of the people in their countries continue to live in poverty.

If their proclivities weren’t already similar enough, it so happens that both men own palatial multimillion-dollar houses right next door to each other, at 9908 and 9909 Bentcross Dr., in a luxurious subdivision of Potomac, Maryland, about 20 miles from downtown Washington.

Bentcross Drive is a ribbon of mansions. Their looping driveways, manicured lawns, tennis courts and swimming pools are guarded almost universally by iron gates with passcodes and security cameras. Prominent signs warn against trespassing.

The subdivision, Falconhurst, is home to doctors, lawyers, business executives and even professional basketball players. Calbert Cheaney, whom the Washington Bullets (now Wizards) picked sixth overall in the 1993 NBA draft, sold 9908 Bentcross to Jammeh’s family trust for $3.5 million in September 2010, according to public property records. A 2013 CNNMoney.com article titled “Where the money makers live,” listed Potomac as the most affluent town of more than 25,000 people in the United States — and Falconhurst is a warren of its richest.

The World Bank’s latest figures indicate the average Gambian earns $460 a year. Equatorial Guinea has the highest per-capita income of any sub-Saharan country, but is so unequal that two-thirds of the population lives in extreme poverty and infant mortality rates are some of the worst in the world.

Falconhurst, as fate would have it, is wedged between two major thoroughfares: River Road and Democracy Boulevard.

Neither Jammeh’s nor Obiang’s house had cars in the driveway last week, and D.C.-based activists from Gambia and Equatorial Guinea said that both residences usually remain unoccupied. Sohna Sallah, vice chairwoman of the Democratic Union of Gambian Activists, said that as far as she knows, Jammeh has been to the Potomac house twice since it was purchased, while his wife uses it on a monthly basis for shopping excursions and to see their daughter, who attends boarding school in McLean, Virginia.

The listing for Jammeh’s house on Maryland’s property records portal says it has 11 bathrooms. The house is 8,818 square feet and sits on 2.3 acres of land. Obiang’s house on Bentcross is bigger, at 9,261 square feet, and was bought for $2.6 million in 2000. The Obiangs also own a second house in Potomac that is, relatively speaking, more modest.

A frontal view of 9908 Bentcross Dr., which is owned by Yahya Jammeh’s family trust. The house has eleven bathrooms. (Max Bearak/The Washington Post)

A frontal view of 9908 Bentcross Dr., which is owned by Yahya Jammeh’s family trust. The house has eleven bathrooms. (Max Bearak/The Washington Post)

In fact, none of the houses is exorbitantly expensive by U.S. standards. But they are only three out of a constellation of villas owned by the two men’s families in locales stretching from Morocco to Malibu, California.

Repeated requests for comment to the ambassadors of both Gambia and Equatorial Guinea on their states’ roles in purchasing or using these houses went unanswered.

Tutu Alicante, a U.S.-based Equatorial Guinean human rights activist, explained why leaders like Obiang and Jammeh would want to buy houses in Potomac in the first place.

“There are big public relations firms in Washington that specialize in catering to dictators, if you can believe it,” he said. “Someone like Obiang comes to the U.S. maybe twice a year, say, for a checkup at the Mayo Clinic and an appearance at the U.N. General Assembly meeting. After the General Assembly meetings in New York, the firms bring them down to D.C. and connect them with corporate leaders and help them whitewash their image with shiny events.”

“The most disgusting days in this country are the days of the U.N. General Assembly,” echoed Kambale Musavuli, a human rights advocate from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. “Banks, P.R. firms, marketing firms falling over themselves to court them.”

A frontal view of 9909 Bentcross Dr., owned by the president of Equatorial Guinea, Teodoro Obiang Nguema, and his wife. (Max Bearak/The Washington Post)

A frontal view of 9909 Bentcross Dr., owned by the president of Equatorial Guinea, Teodoro Obiang Nguema, and his wife. (Max Bearak/The Washington Post)

One U.S. bank played a key role in helping Obiang launder money from his country’s oil boom into immense privately held wealth. In a 2004 inquiry, the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations found that accounts in Riggs Bank, which closed in 2005, were the destination for Equatorial Guinea’s oil revenue. Senior government officials held more than 60 accounts at the Washington branch of the bank, valued at up to $700 million.

The bank would then transfer massive sums of cash to offshore shell companies it created for Obiang, who could then spend the money on a house in Potomac, for instance. The Senate committee also found that some of Obiang’s money came from oil funds explicitly established to be redistributed among Equatorial Guineans.

Obiang has escaped prosecution in part because going after heads of state presents an array of complications. A Justice Department official who was not authorized to speak with the press and requested anonymity said, “In addition to possible immunity issues, heads of state sometimes have significant control over the degree to which their law enforcement officials can cooperate with U.S. investigators. Moreover, it can be very difficult to convince witnesses and others with evidence of foreign corruption to come forward — they often are worried about their economic well-being, and sometimes even their safety or the safety of their family members.”

On the other hand, Obiang’s son and presumed heir has been the subject of sweeping investigations in the United States, France, Switzerland and the Netherlands regarding his multitudinous assets. In 2014, Teodorín, as he’s known, settled a case brought by U.S. federal prosecutors and agreed to sell a $30 million mansion in Malibu and a Ferrari, but was allowed to keep a Gulfstream jet and $2 million worth of Michael Jackson memorabilia including a diamond-studded glove, a jacket the star wore in “Thriller” and six life-size statues. He also avoided criminal prosecution. In a statement, prosecutors said Teodorín “received an official government salary of less than $100,000 but used his position and influence as a government minister to amass more than $300 million worth of assets through corruption and money laundering.”

The United States doesn’t have an “ill-gotten wealth statute” that would allow investigators to act on the simple suspicion that a government employee couldn’t possibly be earning enough to afford certain assets. So even though Yahya Jammeh isn’t a head of state anymore, it might still be very difficult for U.S. authorities to mount a case for seizing his property.

“To bring a civil forfeiture case, we need evidence of the crime and the link to the asset we seek to forfeit,” said the Justice Department official. Evidence can be hard to come by, but nongovernmental organizations that work in Equatorial Guinea, for instance, have helped U.S. investigators by convincing witnesses of corruption to come forward.

Sallah, the Gambian activist, said she was returning to her country for the first time in eight years to try to collect some of that evidence. She’s hoping that officials from the central bank will be confident enough of Gambia’s weeks-old democracy to help her pinpoint instances of illegal withdrawals Jammeh made from the state treasury.

That would be the first step to challenging Jammeh’s ownership of houses like the one on Bentcross Drive. Jammeh’s house is listed as belonging to “Trustees of the MYJ Family Trust,” which activists like Sallah have long known is tied to Jammeh’s family, but now they can endeavor to make the link tangible. When asked how many other foreign power brokers own property in Falconhurst, Eric Stewart, a real estate broker who has sold houses in Potomac for 25 years, said the common practice of listing caretaker trusts as owners makes it hard to tell.

Stewart is trying to sell the house on the other side of Obiang’s on Bentcross, which currently belongs to Serdal Adali, a Turkish businessman whose company provides “full contingency support to US Military and Coalition forces” in places like Iraq. Adali once served jail time and was barred from Turkish soccer stadiums for match-fixing when he was on the board of the wildly popular Istanbul club Besiktas. Adali bought the house from Ayman Hariri, the billionaire son of Lebanon’s slain former prime minister Rafiq Hariri and heir to his father’s huge construction company.

Falconhurst is flush with money, both ill-gotten and not.

Nixon Clermont, a part-time cabdriver who grew up around Potomac, said he feels a twinge of disgust when he drives around the neighborhood and sees what he takes to be evidence of misused state wealth.

“I’m from Haiti, man. In Haiti, my people can’t find the food to eat,” said Clermont.

“Our ambassador used to live here. Paid for with money that could have saved people. It makes me so angry, man. So sad.”

*Washington Post

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African Union Commission Begins Transition to New Administration
February 2, 2017 | 0 Comments

By Peter Clottey*

FILE - Moussa Faki Mahamat, the newly elected chairman of the African Union Commission, is shown Oct. 21, 2016. (Andre Kodmadjingar/VOA)

FILE – Moussa Faki Mahamat, the newly elected chairman of the African Union Commission, is shown Oct. 21, 2016. (Andre Kodmadjingar/VOA)

The transition process at the African Union Commission has begun, following a meeting between newly elected chairman Moussa Faki Mahamat — Chad’s foreign minister — and outgoing chairperson of the commission, Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma.

In addtion, the outgoing chairman of the African Union, Chadian President Idris Debby, met Guinean President Alpha Conde — the incoming chairman — at the African Union’s headquarters at the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, according to Jacob Enoh Eben, spokesperson for the former chairperson of the African Union Commission.

The new African Union Commission head would have about three months to set up his cabinet.

“In the case of this current transition … the three months would be April, so they can go as fast as they want, but they would have a maximum of three months,” Eben said.

Eben expressed confidence that the newly elected head of the commission would move swiftly to assemble his cabinet.

“Probably, within a month’s period, you would hear them appointing the key staff, the chief of staff, key advisers with whom they would be working with, and even including members of the secretariat,” Eben said.

Africa and the ICC

FILE - African Union Commission Chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma delivers a speech during the opening ceremony of the African Union Summit in Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, Jan. 30, 2016.

FILE – African Union Commission Chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma delivers a speech during the opening ceremony of the African Union Summit in Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, Jan. 30, 2016.

At the just-ended African Union summit of heads of state and government in Ethiopia, the leaders resolved to pull out of the United Nations-backed Hague-based International Criminal Court (ICC) unless the court undergoes some changes.

The African Union previously had urged members not to cooperate with the ICC, after accusing the court of targeting Africans. Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto had cases against them dropped by the ICC, while Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir is under indictment for alleged human rights violations and crimes against humanity.

Botswana is among the few countries in Africa to defy the continental body’s call for member countries not to cooperate with the ICC.

*VOA

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Italy sets up fund to help African countries stop migrants
February 2, 2017 | 0 Comments

Over 5,000 migrants died attempting the Mediterranean crossing last year

Italy adds 200 mln euros to EU efforts

* EU leaders to give political backing on Friday

* Agencies sound alarm over conditions for migrants in Libya

By Steve Scherer and Gabriela Baczynska*

Migration: A boat with African migrants spotted by the Navy at sea near Lampedusa, Italy.Source Daily Mail

Migration: A boat with African migrants spotted by the Navy at sea near Lampedusa, Italy.Source Daily Mail

ROME/BRUSSELS, Feb 1 (Reuters) – Italy launched a new fund on Wednesday to help African countries control their borders, in the latest of a slew of measures pushed by the European Union to stop migrants reaching Europe.

EU leaders meeting in Malta on Friday are expected to give their backing to the new drive to stem African migration to Europe. It includes stepping up training of Libya’s coastguard and financing for the U.N. agencies for refugees (UNHCR) and migration (IOM) to improve dire conditions for migrants there.

“The strategic objective is to help (African countries) control their external borders and to stop departures,” Italy’s Foreign Minister Angelino Alfano said in Rome, announcing the 200 million-euro ($216 million) Italian fund.

African countries can request training and equipment to beef up border controls, with Libya, Tunisia and Niger the three main partners for now, Alfano said.

The voyage from Libya across the Mediterranean to Italy is currently the main route to Europe for migrants. A record 181,000 made the journey last year, most on flimsy boats run by people-smugglers.

More than 5,000 are believed to have died attempting the crossing in 2016.

Smugglers operate with impunity in Libya, which has been in turmoil since the 2011 overthrow of leader Muammar Gaddafi.

RAPE AND TORTURE

On a visit to NATO headquarters in Brussels on Wednesday, Libyan Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj appealed for more international support for his government, which is challenged by various factions.

“One of the challenges we face as the government of national accord is to gain more international support and of course NATO is one of those major international institutions on which we count,” he said.

He asked for NATO’s help in building Libya’s security capacities “in order to fight more effectively against terrorism and … illegal migration”.

The EU’s executive European Commission last week proposed mobilising a further 200 million euros to help countries in Africa prevent the movement of migrants before they even embark across the sea for Europe.

The bloc is looking at providing funding to improve conditions in migrant camps in Libya. The United Nations sounded alarm last year that migrants there suffer arbitrary detention, forced labour, rape and torture.

The EU says most of those coming from Africa are economic migrants and wants to send them back. The UNHCR’s director for Europe, Vincent Cochetel, said however nearly 40 percent of those arriving in Italy had a case for international protection.

“This is not a detail,” he said on Twitter this week, calling on the EU leaders meeting in Malta to “factor in … elementary considerations of humanity”.

*Reuters

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All new Jozi Film Festival Award category, in partnership with Discovery Channel, kicks off 2017 call for submissions
February 1, 2017 | 0 Comments

Submissions for the sixth annual Jozi Film Festival (JFF) open on Monday 6 February 2017. As always, JFF is calling for feature films, short fiction films, documentaries (both short and long) as well as student films, both from South Africa and internationally.

For the first time, the Jozi Film Festival is thrilled to be partnering with Discovery Networks to launch a brand new category to this year’s lineup. The “Discovery Channel Don’t Stop Wondering Award” will call for 2-5 minute documentaries from filmmakers across Africa which showcase and celebrate unique African stories and capture Discovery’s ethos of sparking curiosity. This is an Africa-wide search for filmmaking talent that carries a cash prize from Discovery Channel of $5,000 for the final winner to go towards their next filming project. Entry is free and multiple entries are welcome.

“For over 30 years Discovery has been satisfying curiosity, breaking ground with high-quality factual entertainment programming that inspires and entertains audiences around the world,” said Lee Hobbs, VP of Brand & Content, Discovery Networks CEEMEA. “Discovery Channel’s Don’t Stop Wondering brand positioning is a call to action; a challenge to always remain curious and celebrate the value of treading your own path. Through this new partnership with the Jozi Film Festival, we hope to discover films that showcase what curiosity means to individuals today, all shot within a contemporary African context, and celebrate the continent’s remarkable filmmaking talent.”

The Top 10 films as selected by a JFF and Discovery jury will be broadcast on Discovery Channel in July and August, and later at the sixth annual Jozi Film Festival in September. The winning film will be selected by popular vote via the voting tool on Discovery’s website: www.discoverychannelafrica.com and the winner will be flown to Johannesburg to receive their prize at the Jozi Film Festival awards to be held on 24 September 2017.

Entrants must be 18 years or older and must reside on the African continent. Submissions for this category open at 12:00 on 6 February 2017 and close at 18:00 on 31 May 2017. For more information on how to submit to JFF2017, please visit www.jozifilmfestival.co.za or www.DiscoveryChannelAfrica.com

Discovery Communications (Nasdaq: DISCA, DISCB, DISCK) satisfies curiosity and engages superfans with a portfolio of premium nonfiction, sports and kids programming brands. Reaching 3 billion cumulative viewers across pay-TV and free-to-air platforms in more than 220 countries and territories, Discovery’s portfolio includes the global brands Discovery Channel, TLC, Investigation Discovery, Animal Planet, Science and Turbo/Velocity, as well as OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network in the U.S., Discovery Kids in Latin America, and Eurosport, the leading provider of locally relevant, premium sports content across Europe. Discovery reaches audiences across screens through digital-first programming from Discovery VR, over-the-top offerings Eurosport Player and Dplay, as well as TV Everywhere products comprising the GO portfolio of TVE apps and Discovery K!ds Play.
The Jozi Film Festival was initially created to provide a platform for local filmmakers in Johannesburg, and to develop an audience for South African films. While still prioritizing local film, JFF now accept films from around the world – features, short films, documentaries and student films. We are the longest running multi-genre festival in the City of Gold and our motto remains the same from Day One: We Love Jozi. We Love Film.
The Jozi Film Festival strongly supports independent films.
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Africa: AU Bans Ministers From Nigeria, Other Member Countries From Representing Presidents
February 1, 2017 | 0 Comments
President Idriss Déby of Chad, centre, hands over to President Alpha Condé of Guinea, right, with the former head of the AU, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, left, at the summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Photograph: Courtesy Africa Union

President Idriss Déby of Chad, centre, hands over to President Alpha Condé of Guinea, right, with the former head of the AU, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, left, at the summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Photograph: Courtesy Africa Union

The Chairperson of the African Union, President Alfa Conde of Guinea, has banned ministers from addressing the Assembly of Heads of States and Governments as from next AU Summit.

Conde, told the 28th AU Summit on Tuesday in Addis Ababa that the measure was part of the recommendations made in 2016 at AU summit in Kigali,

He said that a committee headed by President of Rwanda, Paul Kagame, was set up by AU to reform the Summit and how its meeting would be conducted.

“If you call it Assembly of Head of States, it should remain so, there is no need for minister to take the floor.

Ministers should be at the level of their executive meeting and should be limited to that, he said.

 He alleged that most of the president do not spend time at the meeting, adding that after opening ceremony, some of them take their leave.

Conde, who also frowned at attitude of not being punctual by the leaders, which called “African time,” said it was high time such attitude was checked.

According to him, when they go for such meeting outside Africa the leaders always keep to time but it is only in Africa they come to meeting at will and late.

The AU Chairperson, who said the measure would take effect from July, said it was one of the steps to implement the reform on how the business of the Summit should be conducted.

*AllAfrica/Vanaguard

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Guinea’s Conde lays down law with tardy lax presidents
February 1, 2017 | 0 Comments
African Heads of State pose for a group photo ahead of the start of the 28th African Union summit in Addis Ababa on January 30, 2017 (AFP Photo/ZACHARIAS ABUBEKER)

African Heads of State pose for a group photo ahead of the start of the 28th African Union summit in Addis Ababa on January 30, 2017 (AFP Photo/ZACHARIAS ABUBEKER)

Addis Ababa (AFP) – African presidents who wander into meetings hours late, or don’t bother showing up at all, received a slap on the wrists Tuesday from new African Union leader, Guinea’s Alpha Conde.

Addressing the closing of a two-day summit in Ethiopia, a combative Conde railed against presidential tardiness, slow internet, and the media.

“From now on we are going to start on time. If we say 10:00am then we must start at 10:00am,” said Conde.

“How can we explain that when we have meetings with outside countries, we are on time, whether it be in China, Japan or India?

“Why can’t we be on time for our meetings? And why when we go to these meetings we stay until the end but when we come from afar to Addis Ababa, we leave right after the opening ceremony?”

Conde’s remarks received loud applause — from lower level representatives who remained behind to hear them as many heads of state had already left the building.

His comments come as part of an AU effort to reform itself from a lumbering, bureaucratic institution to one that is effective and relevant to Africans.

Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame earlier in the summit delivered a blistering report slamming the AU’s inability to see things through and over-dependence on donor funding.

An irate Conde did not stop at punctuality.

He said heads of state must attend meetings in person, or send their deputy president, and not ministers or ambassadors.

“If we are convinced that we must strengthen our organisation then heads of state must attend big continental meetings in person,” he said.

On a lighter note, he shared his bemusement after learning that the reason interpretation was so bad and choppy at the gleaming new Chinese-built AU headquarters, was because they were working with microphones “from the sixties”.

“How can you imagine that in an era of new technology we are still working with microphones from the sixties?

“How can we explain that the internet connection in our headquarters is very slow when next door, at the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, the internet works better?” he asked.

Later, when Conde appeared in front of journalists for the closing press conference, he began by pointing out that the African Union was considering establishing its own media service to give the “correct version of events”, criticising some media for failing to do so.

Conde, 78, took over the rotating presidency of the African Union from Chad’s Idriss Deby.

He won Guinea’s first democratic election in 2010 after long years as an exiled opposition leader. While praised as a talented orator who can fire up a crowd, critics describe him as authoritarian and impulsive.

*AFP/Yahoo

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Africa: Nigeria Opposes Mass ICC Withdrawal
January 27, 2017 | 0 Comments

ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda

ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda

The plan the African Union (AU) members to collectively withdraw from the International Criminal Court (ICC) may suffer a setback as Nigeria and some other countries are opposed to it.

Foreign minister Geoffrey Onyeama said in a statement in Abuja on Friday that Nigeria did not subscribe to the AU strategy.

The minister said that when the issue came up during a meeting, several countries opposed it.

He said Nigeria and others believed that the court had an important role to play in holding leaders accountable.

The only voice

“Nigeria is not the only voice agitating against it, in fact Senegal is very strongly speaking against it, Cape Verde and other countries are also against it.

“What they (AU) did was to set up a committee to elaborate a strategy for collective withdrawal.

“And after, Senegal took the floor, Nigeria took the floor, Cape Verde and some other countries made it clear that they were not going to subscribe to that decision,” he said.

Mr Onyeama said a number of countries also said that they needed time to study the proposal.

He said that Zambia, Tanzania, Liberia, Botswana and a host of others were not willing to withdraw from the court.

Mr Onyeama stressed that each country willingly acceded to the 1998 Rome Statue on the setting up of the court.

 “Each country freely and willingly acceded to the Treaty, and not all of the members of the AU acceded, each country acceded individually exercising its own sovereign right.

“So, each country, if they want to withdraw, has the right to do that individually.

Publicly declared

Three African states in 2016 publicly declared their intention to withdraw from the court.

Burundi, South Africa and The Gambia applied to withdraw, with reports that Namibia, Kenya and Uganda were also contemplating quitting the ICC.

The court has repeatedly been criticised by African states as an inefficient, neo-colonial institution of the Western powers to try African leaders.

The argument was supported by the fact that nine of the 10 situations under investigation, with three others under preliminary investigations, involved African countries.

However, as noted by the European Centre for Development Policy Management (ECDPM), “the rift is often caused by a neat difference in priorities.

“Where one gives more importance to peace processes, while the other gives more weight to obtaining [international] justice.”

African state parties to the Rome Statute make up the biggest regional membership, comprising 34 of the 124 members.

*Allafrica

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GRANT T. HARRIS: IT’S TIME FOR U.S. COMPANIES TO SEE AFRICA AS AN INVESTMENT DESTINATION
January 27, 2017 | 0 Comments

Former White House Principal Advisor on Sub-Saharan Africa outlines why American companies should invest in Africa

  By Grant T. Harris*

Grant Harris

Grant Harris

Investment attitudes toward sub-Saharan Africa tend to swing wildly between overly optimistic, excessively negative, and everywhere in between – often based on the latest economic outlook and commodity prices. In truth, there are both sizeable risks and opportunities within the continent’s many different markets. Savvy American investors would be wise to recognize the realities behind the hype and misperceptions.

Underlying the range of investment opportunities in Africa are some undeniable demographic and economic trends that will shape markets for decades to come. Africa’s population is young and expanding quickly: in the next 35 years, 1 out of every 4 people in the world will be African. The region is already witnessing rapid urbanization, and a growing middle class and consumer market. Although Africa’s exciting economic growth has slowed dramatically in the last two years due to falling commodity prices, quite a few non-commodity exporters are projected to grow by over 6 percent in 2017.

Of course, it is equally undeniable that Africa faces real economic challenges. Not only is the region insufficiently connected to global markets, but intra-continental trade is also far too low. Poor infrastructure is a significant hurdle: two out of three people lack access to electricity, while inadequate road, rail, and harbor services increase the cost of cross-border trade within Africa by 30-40 percent. These deficiencies can be extremely costly for businesses, but can also present opportunities for investment.

More to the point, American companies are well placed to use their expertise and comparative advantages to fill unmet needs across a range of sectors, including energy, agriculture, and information technology (IT), to highlight just a few. Africa’s massive energy shortfall provides an opening for a wide range of players in electricity production, delivery, and financing, including to harness Africa’s huge renewable energy potential. In agriculture, Africa continues to experience low yields, even though the region contains 60 percent of the world’s uncultivated arable land, and despite the fact that agriculture is at the core of most countries’ economies and livelihoods. U.S. agribusiness companies could be at the forefront of supplying agricultural inputs while helping to improve food security on the continent.

In IT, Africa’s environment is primed to enable and benefit from disruptive innovations. Having bypassed the landline, cell phone usage is increasing exponentially, paving the way for groundbreaking mobile products and services. Facebook and Google have recognized Africa’s promise and are racing to facilitate Internet connectivity in the region – others in Silicon Valley may well find their own niche.

Moreover, investing in these essential sectors could, in turn, spur additional opportunities. For instance, improved energy access and infrastructure could boost untapped possibilities in manufacturing, where output could nearly double to $930 billion by 2025 if governments create the right enabling conditions.

As is true when investing in any emerging market, the challenges can be immense. Above all, investors must keep in mind that markets and business climates vary dramatically across the continent, as do the timeframes for profitable opportunities.

But as McKinsey puts it, Africa has “robust long-term economic fundamentals.” And those who have already invested in the region know it: according to Ernst and Young, investors present in Africa retain a far more positive outlook on the region’s prospects than those who have never done business there.

American companies would be smart to define how Africa can and should relate to their global strategies and growth plans. Over-simplifying the continent could mean misjudging risks, while opting to “wait and see” could lead to missed chances, just as many overly cautious investors now lament their late entry into China. Plenty of opportunities remain in Africa, but only well-informed investors will reap the benefits.

*IGD.Grant T. Harris is CEO of Harris Africa Partners LLC and was President Obama’s principal advisor on sub-Saharan Africa in the White House from 2011-2015.

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President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf confirmed to deliver keynote speech at the 2017 Tana Forum
January 26, 2017 | 0 Comments

Held every year in the northern Ethiopian city of Bahir Dar, the Tana High-Level Forum is an informal gathering of heads of state and government; leaders of regional organisations; civil society; the private sector; and eminent scholars and practitioners.

The Tana High-Level Forum on Security in Africa  Secretariat has today announced that the President of the Republic of Liberia, H.E. President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, will be the keynote speaker at the sixth Tana Forum to be held on 22-23 April 2017.

H.E. President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is the 24th and current President of Liberia. She won the 2005 presidential election taking office on 16 January 2006, and was re-elected in 2011. She is the first elected female head of state in Africa. In June 2016, she was elected as the Chair of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), making her the first woman to occupy the position.

President Sirleaf was jointly awarded the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize with Leymah Gbowee of Liberia and Tawakkol Karman of Yemen. The women were recognized “for their non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s rights to full participation in peace-building work.”

“Having H.E. President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf as the keynote speaker is a great success for the Forum” said Michelle Ndiaye, Tana Forum Secretariat Head. “She can use her leadership to highlight on the role of the state in natural resource governance and to call for a proper inclusion of women in all debates that focus on the utilisation of natural resources in Africa”.

Held every year in the northern Ethiopian city of Bahir Dar, the Tana High-Level Forum is an informal gathering of heads of state and government; leaders of regional organisations; civil society; the private sector; and eminent scholars and practitioners. This year’s theme, “Natural Resource Governance in Africa” , aims to reflect on the centrality of natural resources, both in historical as well as in contemporary times, in understanding the far-reaching implications on state-society relations within the continent, and Africa’s disadvantageous position in global production and exchange.

The Tana Forum  is an annual meeting that brings together African leaders and stakeholders to engage and explore African-led security solutions. The 6th Tana Forum will take place on 22-23 April 2017 in Bahir Dar, Ethiopia.

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Africa Finance Corporation issues US$150 million maiden Sukuk
January 26, 2017 | 0 Comments

Issuance represents the global market’s first USD Sukuk transaction of 2017 and the first Sukuk transaction from an African supranational entity

Africa Finance Corporation (AFC), a leading pan-African multilateral development finance institution and project developer, has issued its maiden Sukuk, the highest-rated ever Sukuk issuance from an African institution.

Andrew Alli, President and CEO of AFC

Andrew Alli, President and CEO of AFC

Following high levels of investor interest, the initial target of US$100 million was more than twice oversubscribed, resulting in the transaction being upsized to US$150 million and a final order book of approximately US$230 million. In addition to being the first Sukuk transaction of 2017, it is also the first Sukuk to be issued by an African supranational entity.

The Sukuk is AFC’s second foray into Islamic finance; the corporation accepted a US$50 million 15 year line of financing from the Islamic Development Bank (IDB) in 2015 to finance Islamic Finance-compliant projects located across the numerous African IDB member countries.

The privately placed 100% Murabaha Sukuk, which has been awarded an A3 senior unsecured rating by Moody’s Investors Service, has a three year tenor and will mature on 24 January 2020. Emirates NBD Capital, MUFG and RMB acted as Joint Bookrunners and Joint Lead Managers with Emirates NBD Capital also acting as the Sole Global Coordinator.

Andrew Alli, President and CEO of AFC, commented on the announcement: “The core values of Islamic finance, the need to invest ethically in assets that have a tangible positive social impact, made a Sukuk issuance a natural choice for us. We offer global investors the chance to be involved in high-impact infrastructure projects that not only promote social and economic development across Africa but also generate economic returns for our investors.

“This Sukuk represents a milestone in our financing activities, a milestone that will enable us to further diversify our funding sources, to build new relationships with key investors in international markets and help us diversify our portfolio of projects to continue delivering real impact across the continent.”

Ahmed Al Qassim, CEO of Emirates NBD Capital, added: “Emirates NBD Capital is delighted to have supported the inaugural US$150 million 3 year Sukuk issuance. The successful completion of the transaction is a testament to AFC’s standing with the international investor community and AFC’s commitment to develop new sources of funding.

“As the Sole Global Coordinator for the Sukuk, Emirates NBD Capital continues to lead the development of international Sukuk as a product and providing our clients with unique solutions to meet their funding requirements.”

AFC has a diverse funding base, with a range of funding from sources across different markets. Last year the corporation issued its debut Swiss Franc denominated long three-year bond, raising CHF 100 million, and accepted a US$150 million 15 year loan facility from KfW Development Bank. In 2015 AFC’s inaugural 144A/Reg S, US$750 million 5-year international bond was more than six times oversubscribed at over US$4.7 billion, attracting institutional investors from across Asia, Europe, Middle East and the United States.

The Corporation will celebrate its 10th anniversary in 2017 at the AFC Live Summit, which will bring together many of the top international players in African infrastructure investment for high level discussions on the industry’s many challenges, and potential solutions.

AFC is a dynamic, international investment grade multilateral finance institution whose mission it is to help bridge Africa’s significant infrastructure gap whilst delivering competitive financial returns, robust economic growth and positive social impact.

 

Established in 2007 to be the catalyst for private sector infrastructure investment across Africa, AFC is now the second highest investment grade rated multilateral financial institution in Africa with an A3/P2 (Stable outlook) rating from Moody’s Investors Service. A successful borrowing programme has raised more than US$3.5 billion for AFC’s activities, including the Corporation’s debut US$750 million Eurobond issue which was over 6 times oversubscribed. In terms of impact, AFC has invested more than US$ 4 billion in projects across 26 African countries to date.

 

AFC’s investment approach combines specialist industry expertise with a focus on financial and technical advisory, project structuring, project development and risk capital tailored to addressing Africa’s unique infrastructure development needs in the core sectors of power, natural resources, heavy industry, transport, and telecommunications.
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Development experts debate Trump’s likely impact on Africa
January 26, 2017 | 2 Comments

By Christin Roby*

A map of Africa. Photo by: Emma Line / CC BY-NC-ND

A map of Africa. Photo by: Emma Line / CC BY-NC-ND

Development experts at the annual Foresight Africa panel hosted by the Brookings Institution believe development and business opportunities for President Trump’s administration in Africa are vast, ranging from technology and infrastructure to road creation and renewable energy.

But they also said it is too early to know exactly what the Trump administration’s priorities are regarding the continent.

Angelle Kwemo said that domestic priorities for Trump and his team will likely take precedence over international ones. “Today we are all speculating,” said the director of Washington Media Group’s Africa practice.

“He [Trump] has not promised anything to the African constituency because we did not support him, so we can’t hold him accountable for anything because he hasn’t given any signals as to what he will do,” Kwemo continued.

But other experts pointed to one prime area of opportunity being mobile telecommunications and the rapid spread of internet connectivity. With an estimated 1 billion cellphone users in Africa, increasing access to 3G/4G networks and stronger internet services, senior international advisor for Africa at Covington & Burling LLP. Dr. Witney Schneidman called the continent an ideal atmosphere for technology adaptation in major African cities.

“There is a tremendous potential to use technology, not only to capture value for filmmakers, designers and other innovators, but in doing so, Africa gets to tell its own story … gets control of the narrative,” Schneidman said.

According to a 2016 smartphone ownership survey conducted by Pew Research Center, Kenya, Ghana and Senegal ranked among emerging countries with the steepest smartphone ownership growth, with Nigeria leading the continent with a 9 percent increase in smartphone ownership since 2013.

Other resources — such as iROKOtv, a Netflix-like service in Nigeria — provide examples of internet capabilities in parts of Africa, Schneidman said. Entrepreneurs across the continent seem to be catching on and have found ways to monopolize on mobile technology with the appearance of Uber in 14 African cities across Egypt, Kenya, Ghana and South Africa and Uber-like taxi hailing mobile apps such as TaxiJet and Africab in French-speaking Ivory Coast.

“Technology can be used as an economic developer and bring people into the mainstream of African economic progress,” Schneidman suggested.

However, the legacies left in Africa by prior administrations gives some experts hope that Trump will support initiatives that are already in place.

The 2000 passing of the African Growth and Opportunity Act by former U.S. President Bill Clinton — which added 300,000 jobs in Africa — forged a bipartisan consensus that the U.S. has interest in Africa worth investing in, explained Schneidman.

George W. Bush’s 2003 President’s Emergency Plan for Aids Relief that has helped lower HIV/AIDS rates across sub-Saharan Africa to their lowest levels, and the bipartisan creation and recent extension of the 2004 Millennium Challenge Corporation, which has applied a revised selection process to dispersing foreign aid, are other examples of bilateral U.S. agreements that have demonstrated U.S. support in Africa.

“We don’t see a lot of controversy when it comes to engaging,” Kwemo said. “The question is what he [Trump] will do and how far he [Trump] will go.”

Schneidman said it’s natural to be concerned about the future of Africa-focused programs during administration changes when the new president has the power to cut budgets and funding to programs such as the Young African Leaders Initiative and PEPFAR.

Fears around Trump’s plans in Africa increased drastically with the recent publication in the New York Times of a four-page questionnaire from his transition team to the State Department that posed questions such as, “Is PEPFAR worth the massive investment when there are so many security concerns in Africa? Is PEPFAR becoming a massive, international entitlement program?”

Some of the questions clearly had a critical and abrasive tone, including “With so much corruption in Africa, how much of our money is stolen? Why should we spend these funds on Africa when we are suffering here in the U.S.?” This has left some observers wondering if Trump will radically reduce American engagement with Africa.

But others struck a less alarmist note, speculating that Trump’s involvement in Africa could take time to develop, just as it took President Barack Obama an entire term before making a visit to Africa and launching the Power Africa Initiative, which happened in 2013.

Dr. Ken Opalo, assistant professor in the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University, suggested that the president’s background in business might be good for Africa.

“Business and jobs are what end poverty,” Opalo said. “And if he [Trump] sticks to a pro-business agenda that might be good, especially to the extent that he brings American companies onto the continent.”

But the overall message emerging from the forum was clear: Don’t get too carried away with asking if Africa is a priority for Trump or not because it’s just too early to know for sure.

Kwemo said that, though a continuity in policy would be ideal, she also urged African leaders to “stop waiting for heaven to come from somewhere else” and instead “take responsibility and think about their own strategies.”

*DEVEX

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The offsprings of Aujooulat and the genocide of the Southern Cameroons
January 23, 2017 | 3 Comments

By Chief Charles A. Taku*

Cameroon's Paul Biya and Francois Hollande of France

Cameroon’s Paul Biya and Francois Hollande of France,

Never again, was the solemn pledge that the civilized world made to humanity after the genocide of the Jews in the Second World War that shocked the conscience of humanity. That pledge did not stop France which was humiliated during the Second World War and the collective madness that confronted and afflicted humanity to perpetrate a genocide that claimed about half a million citizens of its La Republique du Cameroun vassal state ;assassinated its liberation leaders, and imposed a slave-master neo-colonial enclave in its African possessions. France then imposed a system of governance by terror and criminality of which genocide is a critical component.

In this governance in trust for colonial France, overseen by one Jean Forccart, a crime syndicate was put in power with a mandate to terrorize, massacre and suppress the citizens of French vassal states in Africa. France also wedged an ideological and cultural war in which citizens of its vassal states were totally brainwashed to worship their oppressor and willingly accepted slave status in their relationship with France. They accepted and considered an honour to accept this slave status in order to sustain benefit from a war economy imposed by France on its neo-colonies. For this purpose, they mortgaged the exploitation and rape of their natural resources, the sovereignty of the neo-colonies and their very humanity to their slave masters with pride and joy.

This explains why the government of La Republique du Cameroun and some of its citizens, mainly the slave orphans of Aujoulat, are cheering Paul Biya the French neo-colonial puppet on for the ongoing genocide and crimes against humanity against the people of the Southern Cameroons. The total information blackout in the Southern Cameroons to conceal the genocide and crimes against humanity against the Southern Cameroons is evidence of the planned nature of these crimes and provides additional evidence of the specific intent, (dolo specialis) to commit genocide as well as the state policy requirement for crimes against humanity.

President Paul Biya himself set the tone for the perpetration of these crimes in his end of year address. Prior to that, some of his ministers made televised confessions of their involvement in these crimes and provided the systemic and widespread nature of these crimes. A telephone communications provider, MTN has confessed its complicity in the ongoing crimes admitting that it prioritized its business permit and pecuniary interests by shutting down internet services in the entire territory of the Southern Cameroons knowing that doing so served a criminal purpose and facilitated the perpetration of the ongoing genocide in the Southern Cameroons out of the view of the international community and the genocide early warning mechanism of the United Nations. This conduct makes this and other internet providers which manifested the same special intention and criminal economic motivation in these crimes, complicit in these crimes.

The political and criminal deployment of the army, paramilitary and police forces to use lethal weapons to attack maim and massacre armless civilians in cold blood may be construed as an act of cowardice. However, it exposes and confirms what was always known about the politicization and use of the military, the police and paramilitary forces also known as the Gendarmerie for criminal purposes inconsistent with their constitutional mandates and Cameroons international human rights treaty obligations.

Chief Charles Taku

Chief Charles Taku

The Commander of the Army should have for his own interest refused to deploy soldiers to attack and kill armless civilians. He would have refused to convert military and paramilitary camps into Detention and torture Centers. This resulted in the students of the University of Buea and several Southern Cameroons people being abducted and detained at the Secretariat of the Gendarmerie and other military and para-military camps. There is no statute of limitation for the punishment of these well- documented crimes. Let those involved in this joint criminal enterprise beware that power no matter how long it has been held hostage by a few will surely leave them and those who abused the power will be held to account. Differently put, as my dear friend Dr Bate Besong whose life was claimed on the demonic Douala-Yaoundé grave way once said, those who hold the keys to prison for today must be prepared to taste the reality of the prison themselves. For me, it is as obvious as day follow night that the time for the gatekeepers of power and the prisons of Kondengui and human conscience to take their rightful place in these prisons.

The bogus charges brought against Barrister Agbor Nkongho and others at the Military Tribunal in Yaoundé are a violation of international law. International law prohibits the court-martial of civilians. In Gwang Ngume and others v La Republique du Cameroun, ( African Commission for Human and Peoples’ Rights ) Akwanga v Cameroon (United Nations Human Rights Committee Geneva) and Akwanga v. Cameroon ( African Commission for Human and Peoples’ Rights, Cameroun was ordered never to charged civilians in Military Tribunals. La Republique du Cameroun has confirmed its pariah’s status as a country where the rule of law is inexistence by charging Barrister Agbor Nkongho, Dr Neba Fontem and Mancho Bibixy before a Military Tribunal.

It is also obvious that the criminalization of free speech and civil liberties through the law on which our leaders have been charged was enacted when President Biya conceived the plan to order the commission of genocide in the Southern Cameroons. The wicked charges which have been brought against our leaders are politically motivated and intended to scare Southern Cameroons into submission. This criminal policy was tested with success when the assassination of Um Nyobe, Ernest Ouandie and other UPC leaders frightened and sent citizens of La Republique du Cameroun into perennial fear and docility. Their fear reached frenzy when they acquiesced to the raising of monuments and statues to honour war criminals and the naming of their remarkable streets in their towns after these colonial and neocolonial vampires.

Inspired by the atrocities committed by these neocolonial vampires against their own people, the ideological offspring of Au Louis Paul Aujoulat tired of feeding on the blood of its own citizens have now turned their attention towards the extermination of the valiant free spirited people of the Southern Cameroons. Not satisfied with the slaughter of armless people of the Southern Cameroons, this government has reactivated one of its ultimate instruments of oppression which is the judiciary to legitimize the assassination of our heroes. In so doing, the offspring of Aujoulat and its French political hyenas have so soon forgotten the lessons which come from the very conscience of their history. They assassinated Um Nyobe Mpodol and Ernest Ouandie hoping that the liberating ideology they aspired would die with them. Today, that hydra -headed ideology inspired by Um Nyobe and Ernest and others is back haunting them with the revived campaign against La Republique’s colonial military pacts, colonial economic pacts and colonial currency after we roundly rejected colonial rule citing among others French imperial motivation for the annexation and colonization of the Southern Cameroons.

Supreme Court Judge Ayah Paul is the most recent high profile arrest in the ongoing crack down of Southern Cameroons leaders

Supreme Court Judge Ayah Paul is the most recent high profile arrest in the ongoing crack down of Southern Cameroons leaders

If La Republique du Cameroon thinks for a while that they will frighten the Southern Cameroons to submission or that they will quickly organize a masquerade of neo-colonial justice and render a judgment written in France and in French to convict and legitimize its long held plan to assassinate Barrister Agbor Nkongho, Dr Fontem Neba, Mancho Bibixy and many other Southern Cameroonians captives in its concentration camps as it did with its own liberation leaders, then they will be in for a rude shock awakening. If they exterminate all Southern Cameroonians in the ongoing genocide, then our incorruptible ashes of freedom will raise from the graves which already adorn our territory to seek justice. By imprisoning our colleague and leaders, you have opened the gates of prisons worldwide to yourselves. You invited them for dialogue and now want to use the issues which arose from the said dialogue to send them to the gallows. How mean! How base! How mindless!

But I have one message for all the offspring of criminal Aujoulat and all the neocolonial stooges who believe they hold the power of life and death over freedom seeking people in the Southern Cameroons and Africa, you will never ever kill a liberation ideology with your weapons of mass destruction or criminal ventures. You failed to do so in the case of your own liberation heroes. You will never ever succeed in doing that to ours liberation heroes and our people united in seeking freedom.

I wish in this case to again alert the international community to the ongoing genocide in the Southern Cameroons. The Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General against the Crimes of Genocide Mr Adama Dieng should immediately intervene and sound a world-wide alarm on the ongoing genocide in the Southern Cameroons. The Special Representative of the Secretary-General of the United Nations against Gender Crimes Mrs Zainab Bangura should immediately intervene and sound an alarm about the crimes of rape, and indignities committed against Southern Cameroons girls and women by the armed forces of La Republique du Cameroon. The European Union should invoke article 96 of the Cotonou Agreement against La Republique du Cameroun for the well-documented crimes committed against the Southern Cameroons.

Although La Republique du Cameroun is not a party to the Rome Treaty, the complicity of MTN a firm based in South Africa which as of now is still a State Party to the Rome Treaty and that of France , a state party having a colonial military pact with La Republique du Cameroun and known to have supplied weapons to La Republique du Cameroun knowing that those weapons were used in the perpetration of crimes and are presently used in the commission of genocide and crimes against humanity against the Southern Cameroons without taking measures to stop them the ICC may have jurisdiction to intervene and open a preliminary examination.

All the civilized nations of the world, including countries in the European Union and the USA should immediately impose visa restrictions in all the persons participating in the ongoing crimes in the Southern Cameroons and all countries with universal criminal jurisdiction should immediately initiate criminal actions upon the filing of complaints against the perpetrators of these crimes since La Republique du Cameroun instead of investigating and punishing this criminal conduct has instead intensified the impunity with which these crimes are perpetrated. Finally, the Southern Cameroons has always favoured the path of peace and dialogue to resolving the Southern Cameroons case. International law, natural justice and history are on our side. The so-called “one and indivisibility of Cameroon” was never an option imposed on us neither at the UN nor even in the Plebiscite in 1961. It was never ever a provision in the purported Federal Constitution.

Those who are fronting this concept are the ones who require being tried for treasonable felony and not peace advocates.

Chief Charles A. Taku, International Criminal Court The Hague

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Obama’s Legacy to Africa: Electricity
January 21, 2017 | 0 Comments

By Salem Solomon*

FILE - U.S. President Barack Obama bounces a soccer ball with his head at Ubungo Power Plant in Dar es Salaam, July 2, 2013. The ball, called a "soccket ball," has internal electronics that allow it to generate and store electricity that can power small devices.

FILE – U.S. President Barack Obama bounces a soccer ball with his head at Ubungo Power Plant in Dar es Salaam, July 2, 2013. The ball, called a “soccket ball,” has internal electronics that allow it to generate and store electricity that can power small devices.

Recent U.S. presidents have tried to leave a legacy in Africa in the form of a signature policy achievement.

For Bill Clinton it was the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) that opened U.S. markets to certain African exports. For George W. Bush it was the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) that poured billions of dollars into AIDS research and treatment.

Barack Obama decided the thing most holding back African development was access to electricity.

“Access to electricity is fundamental to opportunity in this age,” he said in a speech in Cape Town in 2013. “It’s the light that children study by, the energy that allows an idea to be transformed into a real business. It’s the lifeline for families to meet their most basic needs, and it’s the connection that’s needed to plug Africa into the grid of the global economy.”

Fueled by a $7 billion U.S. investment, the Power Africa initiative aims to add more than 30,000 megawatts of electricity generation capacity and 60 million new electric connections for the continent’s homes and businesses.

The project, which relies heavily on the private sector, is one of several reasons observers believe Obama has helped change the narrative on Africa.

From aid to trade

“His biggest single legacy has been, I think, to move the debate and focus on Africa away from aid to more about trade. That has been particularly his focus during the second term,” said Alex Vines, head of the Africa Program at London-based Chatham House. “Looking at the continent of Africa more as a continent of opportunities rather than of humanitarianism, terrorism and disaster.”

The Obama administration also sought to build relationships with the next generation of African leaders through the Young African Leaders Initiative and with current heads of state by holding the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit in 2014, a first of its kind event that drew 50 African leaders to Washington.

The United States continues to far outpace the rest of the world in terms of traditional aid to Africa. It pays nearly $9 billion per year in development aid to the continent. Britain, the next biggest donor, pays just more than $3 billion per year.

FILE - President Barack Obama looks at a solar power exhibit during a tour of the Power Africa Innovation Fair, Saturday, July 25, 2015, in Nairobi, Kenya. In Nigeria, Lumos Global is among the firms rolling out solar power technology.

FILE – President Barack Obama looks at a solar power exhibit during a tour of the Power Africa Innovation Fair, Saturday, July 25, 2015, in Nairobi, Kenya. In Nigeria, Lumos Global is among the firms rolling out solar power technology.

But even in the arena of traditional aid, Obama took an approach that offered a hand up instead of a hand out. For example, the Feed the Future initiative launched in 2010 veers away from traditional food aid by assisting farmers with locally adapted technologies and helping to avoid price shocks.

“This is a really important dynamic and finally it takes the U.S. away from the more traditional donor-recipient relationship that really defined the post-Cold War era to one where the U.S. is seeking mutual benefit with African governments and others on the continent,” said Witney Schneidman, senior international adviser for Africa at Covington & Burling LLP and nonresident fellow at the Brookings Institution.

Future under Trump

As with many things, President-elect Donald Trump’s views on aid to Africa are complicated. As a candidate in the Republican primaries, one of Trump’s applause lines was a pledge to “stop sending aid money to countries that hate us.”

But during an April 2016 speech on foreign policy he appeared to embrace the U.S. role as a donor saying, “We are a humanitarian nation.”

Observers have speculated that, because of the isolationist thrust of his worldview, Trump is likely to be less interested in aiding Africa than his predecessors.

But others feel that there will not be a major break with Obama’s policies there.

“Some [programs] will fall away, I suppose, under the new incoming Trump administration when it’s in place, others will continue,” Vines said. “My own reading is I don’t think there would be a massive difference between an Obama administration in how it looks at particularly sub-Saharan Africa and the Trump administration and how it looks at sub-Saharan Africa.”

Finally, don’t rule out a major shift in Trump’s perception of Africa. Schneidman pointed out that presidents Clinton and Bush came to the Oval Office with virtually no experience in Africa, but left positive legacies.

“We just don’t know what a president Trump will do on the continent,” Schneidman said. “I think we have to approach it with an open mind, and I think we have to put forward a number of ideas where he could carve out his own legacy.”

*VOA

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Unpredictable Trump could prove a game changer for Africa
January 20, 2017 | 0 Comments

With his win of the White House, president-elect Trump has made no secret that his electoral college mandate to “make America great again” should apply to US foreign policy as well.

During the campaign and after his victory, Trump has unabashedly and unpredictably turned US policy on its head with a cascade of jaw-dropping statements about Mexico, China, Russia and Putin, ISIS, Muslims, NATO, Israel and more.
There is, however, one area of the world Trump seems to have eschewed altogether, an area where his skittishness could prove a boon.
For the past eight years Africa has been relegated to the back burner of US foreign policy. President Obama, whose father hailed from Kenya, elicited high expectations when he came to office and was seen, initially, as a potential champion for African causes. Yet, aside from his struggling “Power Africa,” a $7-billion presidential initiative launched in 2013 and aimed at doubling Africa’s electrical grid by 2030, Obama has little to show for when it comes to Africa.
Unlike his immediate predecessor, who morphed into a staunch Africa supporter with several African programs to boot (including his Presidential Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, PEPFAR), the first black president departed from the White House in January 2017 with a legacy of soaring rhetoric and lofty slogans, but no tangible and successful African signature policies.
Because Trump favors protectionism, the argument goes, he will turn his back on Africa and will happily don Obama’s mantle to continue Washington’s minimalist involvement in African affairs.
Trump, however, might just do the opposite and, just as George W. Bush, surprise many critics by implementing sensible policies vis-à-vis Africa.
One may wonder why. Why would Trump care about Africa? Why should Africa matter to a Trump administration that has pledged to build roads and bridges in North Carolina, not in South Sudan? The answer to these questions is simple: China. If Trump is serious about China, as he has ostensibly touted on the campaign trail and via twitter, if he is determined to flex his muscles against China, he should first challenge the rising power of the Red Dragon in Africa.
That’s because Africa has served as China’s economic launching pad for over two decades. Africa has fueled and will continue to fuel China’s booming industries for several decades to come.
With the US economic presence in Africa receding, China has occupied the void and driven competition out, including many European companies and investors. The Chinese are building infrastructures at a dizzying pace, from Cairo to Cape-town, in exchange for Africa’s rich mineral ores. Buoyed by state subsidies, Chinese companies are outbidding competition with many shoddy, built-on-the-fly construction projects, and take a disproportionate role in Africa’s extractive production and industries.
Thousands of Chinese companies are doing business in 50 African countries, down to some small-scale businesses operating in Africa’s remotest villages. Chinese state-owned companies are buying vast swatches of Africa’s arable land to set up large-scale agricultural projects. Together, they contributed to the estimated $300 billion generated by China-Africa trade in 2015. In addition to trade, China relies on loans to buttress its presence in Africa. In 2015, during the sixth Forum on China-Africa Cooperation held in Johannesburg, Chinese president Xi Jinping pledged a whopping $60 billion loan, aid, and export credit package to Africa.
Then there are America’s national security interests that should also matter as Trump is assembling his team.
Islamic terror groups, including Al-Shabaab and Al Qaeda operate cell groups in Africa’s rogue states. They are after American soft targets and it’s just a matter of time, if the trend is not reversed, until we see the kind of acts that targeted American interests in Nairobi and Benghazi. The Chinese, of course, prefer not to interfere with what they consider to be African states’ internal affairs.
African dictators are leery of a Trump presidency, and for good reason.
A new sheriff is in town, and unlike the one he will replace in January he may not be all talk and no cider. With his penchant for contumely and tit-for-tat escalation, Trump might be the game changer that shakes things up in Africa and disrupts corrupt political regimes that have quietly survived and thrived under Obama’s two terms in office. They have largely ignored Obama’s paper tiger rhetoric, but Trump’s iron fist may well be what will compel them to get in line and relinquish their illegitimate power.
Why? Because dictators and failed states are bad for business. They feed on corruption, serve as breeding ground for terrorism, and have no qualms about letting their nuclear raw materials fall into wrong hands.
Democratically-elected African leaders, on the other hand, may find in President Trump an unlikely ally, a more decisive and unfettered leader to work with to advance an economic and political agenda that could benefit both the US and Africa.
As the global spotlight shines on his presidency, Trump might prove his critics wrong by dealing differently with Africa and restoring America’s clout on a continent that cannot afford to put its eggs in the same basket and should not let China’s monopolistic drive dictate the terms and pace of its development.
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Cameroon: Anglophone activists call for month of “ghost towns” moments before arrests and Internet shutdown
January 20, 2017 | 0 Comments

By *

The latest developments are the culmination of escalating tensions over several months, which have seen widespread strikes, protests, arrests and deaths.

Activists in Cameroon’s English-speaking regions complain of marginalisation. Credit: Mbom Sixtus.

Activists in Cameroon’s English-speaking regions complain of marginalisation. Credit: Mbom Sixtus.

On 17 January, Cameroonian activists on social media struck a tone of both despondency and defiance as news broke of the arrests of two prominent civil society leaders. Felix Agbor Nkongho and Fontem Neba had been at the forefront of the campaign for greater autonomy for the English-speaking regions of Cameroon, and their sudden arrests came as a shock to many.

“We are finished. So this is how it was all going to end,” lamented one campaigner. Another responded more hopefully, commenting that “tears rolled down my cheeks when I got the news… [but] our leaders will find a way”.

Soon this exchange was cut short, however, as the Internet went down across Cameroon, and in particular the English-speaking areas.

This clampdown on communication has spread greater uncertainty over what will come next in these restive regions, which have seen escalating strikes, protests, arrests and fatal violence over the past few months.

Many in Cameroon’s two English-speaking regions – the Northwest and Southwest – claim that they have been discriminated against since reunification in 1961. They say that the central government privileges the majority French-speaking population and eight other regions. Amongst other things, campaigners complain of being treated as second-class citizens, of marginalisation in the education and judicial system, of lack of representation in government, of a perceived lack of returns from oil extracted from the region, and of the erosion of Anglophone identity.

These grievances have been simmering since the 1990s, when the Southern Cameron National Council (SCNC) was established with the aim of “restoring” the independence of West Cameroon. But this discontentment has resurfaced and intensified recently, though the emphasis today has been on demanding a referendum on federalism rather than secession.

Escalation of grievances

In May 2015, the Common Law Lawyers association sent a letter to President Paul Biya, objecting to the appointment of French-educated judges – who they say do not understand English common law which is used in West Cameroon – to their courts. They requested the withdrawal of these magistrates and demanded the restoration of federalism, which had ended with the adoption of a new constitution in 1972.

In October 2016, in the face of the government’s non-response, the lawyers finally decided to make their voices heard by striking and organising marches to the courts. In November, police dispersed demonstrations with tear gas, leading to multiple injuries.

On 21 November, this Anglophone campaign intensified as thousands of teachers joined the lawyer’s sit-down strike, complaining against what they see as the imposition of French in schools. On that same day, activist Mancho Bibixy embarked on a solo protest centred on the poor state of roads in Bamenda, the largest city in West Cameroon. He marched along Commercial Avenue, carrying a coffin and saying he was ready to die for his cause. Along his journey, he picked up support from commercial bike riders and other citizens. Eventually, security forces intervened, leading to bloody clashes and the death of one protester.

In the following days and weeks, tensions mounted as the strikes continued. The police engaged in mass arrests of protesters and there were a number of deaths at the hands of police. On 29 November, when students at the University of Buea embarked on their own related protest, security forces beat students with batons, fired teargas, and allegedly sexually assaulted some protesters.

Another flashpoint in the escalating crisis came shortly after on 8 December, as Paul Atanga Nji, a minister in Biya’s government, who had previously angered activists by dismissing their grievances, organised a ruling party meeting in Bamenda. Angry protesters stormed the premises and attacked the gathering, requiring soldiers to rescue officials. Four protesters were shot dead, many others were injured, and dozens were arrested.

In response to mass arrests and state violence in the face of the mostly peaceful protests over the past few months, international bodies have increasingly raised concerns. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights called on the government to investigate the police’s use of “excessive force”. Amnesty International demanded authorities refrain from “unlawful force” and warned that “excessive force threatens to further enflame an already tense situation”.

Meanwhile, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights issued a highly critical press release, stating: “The Special Rapporteur condemns very strongly the alleged use of disproportionate force against civilians, the violent and deathly suppression of peaceful demonstrators”.

Ghost towns

In mid-January, there were momentarily signs that the long-running impasse may be coming to an end. Members of the Cameroon Anglophone Civil Society Consortium, a grouping of organisations behind the protests, agreed to meet with the government despite earlier reservations.

In a press briefing from the Consortium on 14 January, representatives explained that: “In spite of the non release of those children kidnapped and taken to Yaounde where they have been tortured mercilessly, the Unions still accepted to talk to govenunent [sic] in the hope that reason might prevail.” It claimed that, “The talks were frank, heated and occasionally cordial.”

Yet it continued that after security forces “went on rampage…shooting four unarmed young men and severely wounding them” while the talks were ongoing, the Consortium had no choice but to pull out. Instead, the campaigners declared a “ghost town” on 16 and 17 January and called on supporters to stay at home in peaceful protest.

On both these days, many Cameroonians heeded the call with businesses staying closed and many roads lying largely abandoned. However, some protesters took their anger to the streets, with one group reportedly blocking trucks from transporting petroleum and timber to Francophone Cameroon. Further arrests and violence was witnessed.

This set the stage for 17 January, when the government appears to have lost patience. In the afternoon, it announced the banning of the Consortium along with the secessionist SCNC. Government spokesperson Issa Tchiroma suggested the leaders of the Consortium were in fact working for the SCNC and were hiding their real agendas behind other demands.

Felix Agbor Nkongho and Fontem Neba, respectively the president and secretary-general of the Consortium, were arrested and the government terminated its invitation of dialogue. Soon after, access to the Internet was severely limited.

In a hurried release following its banning yesterday, the Consortium warned supporters: “it is uncertain how things turn out in the hours ahead; things may go so fast and you may be seeing this release when most of us could be under detention”.

The campaigners quickly designated two foreign-based activists – Mark Bara in Belgium and Tapang Ivo Tanku in the US – to take over the leadership of the movement, reassuring supporters that “they have been sufficiently briefed on our non-violent approach to this struggle”.

In a final bid, the Consortium also called for more peaceful ghost towns “from Monday to Wednesday every week…for a period of one month” in order to “tell the world our plight and suffering”.

On 18 January, two former leaders of the Cameroon Bar Association, Barristers Akere Muna and Bernard Muna, led a group of 30 lawyers to Yaoundé to secure the release of the Consortium leaders who had been transferred from the town of Buea overnight. Some of the lawyers took photos with Felix Agbor and shared them on Facebook, reassuring citizens that the strike leaders are in good condition. Tassang Wilfred, who had been speculated to be the next likely leader of the Consortium and targeted for arrest, was reported to have gained asylum in an Embassy in Yaoundé.

The recent arrests of prominent activists, the banning of the Consortium, and the shutdown of the Internet mark the culmination of months of escalating tensions between the government and activists. The government is no doubt hoping this crisis point will force the campaigners to yield, but with so much uncertain and frustrations intensifying, it remains to be seen how the movement will now respond.

*African Arguments.Mbom Sixtus is a freelance journalist based in Yaoundé. 

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Hailemariam Dessalegn, Prime Minister of Ethiopia, guest of honor at the AFRICA CEO FORUM 2017
January 18, 2017 | 1 Comments

Hailemariam Dessalegn, Prime Minister of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia will participate in the 5th edition of the AFRICA CEO FORUM, alongside 1000 international and African economic decision-makers, including 300 top investors.

As the second largest African market, Ethiopia is one of the most robust and best performing economies on the continent, with a two-digit growth rate over the past 10 years (a 10,8% annual average since 2005).

Accompanied by a delegation of Ethiopian CEOs, the Prime Minister will present the strategic orientations of his economic policy as well as several concrete investment projects in high potential sectors. The Ethiopian Government has launched significant programmes in sectors such as transport, telecommunications, energy and industry, especially textile industry, to accelerate the structural transformation of the country’s economy.

The Ethiopian Prime Minister will also participate in the “Head of State panel” where he will discuss Ethiopia’s economic outlook, highlighting the private sector’s role in its growth dynamic. In 2016, the Presidents of Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana participated in this unique panel which has since become a highlight of the
AFRICA CEO FORUM’s programme.
Set up in partnership with the African Development Bank, the AFRICA CEO FORUM is an event organized jointly by Groupe Jeune Afrique, publisher of Jeune Afrique and The Africa Report, and rainbow unlimited, a Swiss company specializing in the organization of economic promotion events.

Launched in 2012, the AFRICA CEO FORUM has established itself as the foremost international event dedicated to the development of the African private sector. In 2016, the AFRICA CEO FORUM hosted nearly 1000 African and international public figures including 600 CEOs from 43 African countries and 100 high-level speakers.

Press contact :
Abdoul Maïga
Tel. +33 1 44 30 18 18
a.maiga@theafricaceoforum.com 
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Washington DC To Host EnergyNet’s 3rd Powering Africa Summit In March
January 18, 2017 | 0 Comments
Amidst the wait for US foreign policy decisions, proactive energy sector leaders from Africa get set to return to Washington DC for EnergyNet’s 3rd Powering Africa Summit this March
The Summit is supported again by Power Africa, the U.S. government interagency created to establish 60 million new household and business connections by 2030

The annual Powering Africa Summit  returns to Washington DC this March providing a platform for Africa’s energy sector stakeholders and developers to engage multilaterals, global investors and technology providers. The meeting will present backbone energy and infrastructure projects to the most proactive partners.

The Summit in 2016 welcomed 620 attendees from 18 countries and whilst 65% of delegates originated from North America, investors from Europe and Asia also participated, seeking partnerships with leading technology companies, governmental agencies, the World Bank, IFC and others to drive forward their African projects already under development.

The Summit is supported again by Power Africa, the U.S. government interagency created to establish 60 million new household and business connections by 2030, aiding the potential to double the size of some African economies and the spending power of the projected 1.5bln people.

Also supporting the meeting is the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), US Africa Development Foundation and the US Africa Business Center (USABC). EnergyNet’s  Managing Director, Simon Gosling, commented; “It’s exciting to be working with the USABC this year. Their members are hugely significant along the energy value chain and clearly doubling efforts to get projects moving, bringing with them much needed bankability for the capitalisation of projects.

Senior decision-makers take part in a panel discussion at the Powering Africa: Summit in 2016

Senior decision-makers take part in a panel discussion at the Powering Africa: Summit in 2016

Equally exciting is the presence and potential of African gas to power projects. This year those attending will be exposed to crucial Gas-to-Power updates including South Africa’s gas procurement programme, which will create massive opportunities for the winning bidders and their technology partners. Additionally, as some countries struggle to stabilise investor confidence [including South Africa itself], their IPP procurement programme in partnership with the Department of Trade and Industry could lead to some 50% of international capital flowing through the country in the coming years. Therefore taking this programme to the home of the World Bank only stresses further the confidence of the Minister, DOE and the procurement team itself – so personally I’m very excited.”

For more information about this meeting:
Meeting dates: 9-10 March 2017
Venue: Marriott Marquis, Washington, D.C., USA
Website: www.PoweringAfrica-Summit.com
Contact: Amy Offord – Marketing Manager
Email: Amy.Offord@EnergyNet.co.UK
Telephone: +44 (0)20 7384 8068

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Africa and the Energy Sector: Perspectives from Simon Gosling
January 16, 2017 | 0 Comments

Simon Gosling is the Managing Director of EnergyNet Ltd, a company which has been producing investment forums and executive dialogues for Africa’s power sector for the last 23 years.  EnergyNet’s meetings take place across the African continent and in Europe, the USA, China and North America.

What significant developments have you witnessed in the industry over the last few years?

Simon Gosling

Simon Gosling

That’s an interesting question because I’ve probably got to look at this from two different industries; conferences and energy.  I’ll start briefly with the conference perspective as I’m far more in control of this.  Firstly, I am exceptionally proud of what the EnergyNet team has achieved over the last five years, which includes investing a percentage of our net profits in African students, off grid energy projects, our ‘Arts:Energy Partnership’ which is set for great things in 2017 and also championing our #responsibleconferencing agenda. I firmly believe that all conference organisers should behave responsibly, giving back to the communities and leading an agenda which draws on our partners experiences as well as our own. Therefore from a conference perspective, I think the significant change I personally have witnessed (because we have led it), is that the companies we work with are starting to engage with us and our network in more productive and meaningful way where we can directly link the success of our conferences to our work in the communities with which we serve.

With regards to the energy sector itself I’m not sure how relevant my opinion is, however I think there have been some very positive movements overall especially from technologies being utilised across the continent. The surge in interest in gas to power is clearly the biggest change from five years ago, and again we see South Africa leading the field here. However, Morocco and Egypt are making huge strides with their gas IPPs and with such emphasis from both HRH King Mohamed 6 and President El-Sisi to succeed with gas, we may well find that the winners benefit significantly from a lower gas price than those that come in further down the field.

Most exciting for me however is the potential of an ECOWAS-owned regional gas IPP procurement programme. Being an eternal optimist I firmly believe that a regionally owned and centrally operated programme is a possibility for West African states and the potential of a cross border procurement programme would be game changing. Early feedback suggests that if ECOWAS could secure the remit for such a programme, the private sector would be eager to engage, bringing billions of dollars of multilateral backed investment. In the long term this could create a circular economy where West African gas feeds into the gas infrastructure for the whole region.

Other areas of note are obviously the renewables and off grid sectors. In the last 18 months off-grid companies have started to attract significant interest with some traditional energy players finally seeing ‘scalability’ in off grid. Companies like Solektra and Powerhive are changing how we think about unconnected communities and data-tapping into the allusive 600 million people that live without access to basic energy.

However the slowdown of renewable energy IPPs in South Africa, the only country possibly on the continent seeing a slowdown in renewable energy development, is concerning for investors considering how many projects are on hold presently.  Albeit, the uptake of renewables in Nigeria, Morocco, Kenya, Ethiopia, Senegal and others mean that investors’ appetite for the continent is far from waning.

What was your industry highlight of 2016?

There have been two highlights for me; one was our South Africa: Gas Options conference in October and the other was the Africa Renewable Energy Forum in Morocco.  Both these meetings have proved to add real value to investors and the public sector alike. What’s so exciting for me here is that we’re working closely with both countries and that both are meeting and learning from each other about challenges and opportunities which politically for these countries could be game changing for the whole continent.

What projects are you most excited about in 2017?

These are tough questions to respond to briefly – there is so much happening in the energy sector around the world right now that pinpointing one or two projects is impossible. I think one of the more exciting projects is the China State Grid developed Pakistan transmission network.  What’s exciting is that this project reflects conversations I had in Beijing three years ago at our Africa Infrastructure & Power Forum where senior Chinese officials talked about the objectives to develop a high voltage transmission network, crossing borders and linking regions. This recent announcement is a stepping stone towards a broader vision to link Africa to Europe and a more connected world.  It’s this interconnectivity which will enable fast growing economies to surpass economic expectations.

The other [projects] are the Gas IPP programmes in South Africa and Morocco and the reason I’m excited about these programmes is because of the scale of the projects and how the success of them will draw heavily on many international partnerships and interlinked services such as shipping, FSRU, trading, planning and power generation to name a few. Most excitingly though is the peripheral gas utilisation programmes that are being developed around the core projects – for example in South Africa, the Gas IPP anchor programme could transform the county’s economy creating gas based industries that will create hundreds of thousands of jobs and lead to a surge in wealth across the nation.  Adding to that the potential for Mozambique, Namibia, Tanzania and other neighbouring countries that will directly benefit from partnering with the larger economies, this deep-impact level of thinking is, for me, mind-blowing!

What country or region will be the ‘one to watch’ in 2017?

As you know, last year EnergyNet started working closely with the governments of Colombia, Mexico, Argentina, Chile and Peru in LATAM as well as Pakistan, Indonesia and Myanmar in Asia.  The reasons for this is that I believe the companies we see being successful in Africa should be able to replicate that success in these other ‘growing economies’ and therefore EnergyNet has a responsibility to connect these governments with the world’s best developers. I’m therefore more excited about the sector as a global industry driving poverty alleviation through commercial projects than one country or region.

What new perspectives and discussions will come out of bringing AEF to Denmark, do you think? 

It’s funny, when I think back to over the last four years of AEF, 50% of the destinations we took the meeting to were not considered relevant or appealing when we made the announcements. All destinations ended up being huge successes for the governments and private sector organisations which attended, adding significant perspective and building new relationships which we see moving forward at our subsequent meetings. As an organiser that wants to contribute to the furtherment of the sector it’s important that we listen to our partners and learn from them so we can take investors and public sector stakeholders on a journey that opens their eyes to new ideas, technology and investors, and Denmark is by all means one of those destinations that has it all, not because Denmark is doing more than other countries necessarily, but because the Nordic countries as a group are more than likely doing far more projects than governments and investors across Africa probably realise. You only have to research briefly online to get an idea how advanced and efficient Denmark’s own energy mix is want to learn more about how they ‘did it’ and in addition, cooperation across the Nordic states is well crafted and the ‘gold standard’ for regional diplomacy.

Whilst I fully expect AEF:2017 in Denmark to be a much more exclusive, high level forum by comparison to the hugeness of London which saw record breaking levels of attendance, I already know that Copenhagen, specifically for the aforementioned reasons, will be one of the most impactful, exciting and important forums African stakeholders are ever likely to attend.

 What role will LNG-to-power play in driving the growth of the power sector? 

I hear all the time that gas is the enabler of renewables, that coal is bad, that nuclear is the answer and that renewables are too cheap or too expensive; well I agree with a some of these statements and disagree with others.  What I do believe however is that the sector must be commercial and that gas-to-power has the potential to trigger a wave of investment downstream that will dwarf anything we’ve seen to date in Africa; greater than the telecoms and the power sector itself.  The speed of population growth, the changing mix of [low:medium;high] income families, increasing consumer spending power and the ability of manufactures to move goods around the continent will be the enabling factor for real growth and the liberalisation of the energy sector – however, gas-to-power will be the innovation that starts it all.

More information about EnergyNet’s upcoming meetings in 2017 can be found at www.energynet.co.uk

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West African states prepare to invade Gambia to force Yahya Jammeh to hand power to president-elect Adama Barrow
January 16, 2017 | 0 Comments

By 

Adama Barrow greets supporters on the last day of the presidential campaign in Gambia CREDIT: MARCO LONGARI/AFP

Adama Barrow greets supporters on the last day of the presidential campaign in Gambia CREDIT: MARCO LONGARI/AFP

Thousands of people have begun fleeing Gambia amid growing signs that West African states could invade the former British colony within days.

Regional leaders have signalled their determination to mount a rare African defence of democratic principle by using force to ensure that Yahya Jammeh, Gambia’s president of 22 years, gives up power following his defeat in an election last month.

Nigeria has reportedly asked British military advisers to assist in planning a “rapid reaction” military incursion into Gambia in order to install Adama Barrow, the election’s surprise winner, as the country’s new president.

Mr Barrow, a former real estate agent who briefly worked as a security guard at an Argos catalogue store while studying in London, was supposed to have been sworn in on Thursday — but Mr Jammeh, having initially conceded defeat, later reversed course and is refusing to stand down.

Mr Barrow left Gambia for neighbouring Senegal at the weekend at the advice of regional leaders, and will not return home until his inauguration until Thursday – perhaps under the escort of West African troops.

The president-elect’s inauguration plans were struck by tragedy after his son Habibu, who was eight, died on the way to hospital on Sunday after being bitten by a dog the previous evening near the capital Banjul, according to the BBC and postings by Gambians on Twitter.

Mr Barrow was unable to return for his son’s funeral, which took place almost immediately, as required by Islamic rite. Pictures posted on Twitter showed what appeared to be Habibu’s casket, covered in a black cotton shroud, being carried through a grove by mourners.

Habibu Barrow is survived by four siblings.

With time for a diplomatic solution rapidly running out leaders of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), a 15-state regional bloc, have authorised a military response that has the unofficial blessing of the United Nations Security Council.

Although the proposed mission is likely to be headed by Senegal, Nigerian troops are likely to make up the bulk of the force. The Nigerian government last week authorised generals to mobilise an 800-strong battalion to spearhead the mission.

In a sign of its dwindling diplomatic clout among its former African colonies, Britain has played little role so far in the crisis. Instead, Francois Hollande, the French president, took advantage of Britain’s diminished ambitions to meet with Mr Barrow over the weekend.

However, British officers training the Nigerian army in counter-terrorism operations against the Islamist Boko Haram group have been asked to give logistical and planning support to the mission, regional officials say. It is unclear if the request has been granted.

President of Gambia Yahya Jammeh (C) welcoming President of Nigeria Muhammadu Buhari (R) and President of Liberia Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf (L) for talks at the State House in Banjul, Gambia, 13 January 2017 CREDIT: EPA

President of Gambia Yahya Jammeh (C) welcoming President of Nigeria Muhammadu Buhari (R) and President of Liberia Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf (L) for talks at the State House in Banjul, Gambia, 13 January 2017 CREDIT: EPA

It is hoped that a military operation could be fairly swift. Mr Jammeh’s army has just 900 soldiers, some of whom were seen partying in the streets after he lost the election.

Regional presidents continue to urge Mr Jammeh, who ousted his internationally-respected predecessor Sir Dawda Jawara in a coup in 1994, to leave office. 

“I dare to hope that African wisdom will convince our brother [to] understand the greater good for the Gambia, which does not need a bloodbath,” said Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, the president of Mali.

But Mr Jammeh, seen by critics as a serial human-rights abuser who once vowed to “rule for a billion years with the help of Allah”, has shrugged off the calls. He has instead shut independent radio stations, arrested activists and sent soldiers to storm the electoral commission.

Fearing just such a bloodbath, hundreds of people have begun thronging ferry terminals on the River Gambia every day hoping for safe passage into Senegal. The United Nations refugee agency says it is assessing the situation.

*Telegraph

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Idris Elba sells Valentine date for charity
January 13, 2017 | 0 Comments
The winning bidder is promised "delicious conversation and great food"

The winning bidder is promised “delicious conversation and great food”

Luther actor Idris Elba has put himself up for auction as a Valentine’s date to raise money for charity.

In an online video, he offers bidders a “romantic evening” involving cocktails, food and “whatever your heart desires”.

“I’ll let you pound my yams,” the 44-year-old star continues before downing a glass of champagne.

Proceeds will go to WE (Women Everywhere) Can Lead, a charity organisation “working to empower and educate girls throughout Africa”.

Hotel included

The winner will join Elba for “a candlelit meal at one of his favourite restaurants”.

Flights and accommodation at a four-star hotel are included, according to the actor’s page on the Omaze website.

Interested parties have until 14 February to make a bid.

Elba also voiced Shere Khan in last year’s hugely successful Jungle Book film as well as producing and starring in Beasts of No Nation (2015).

He is also set to star in The Dark Tower later this year, a fantasy western horror film based on a series of Stephen King novels.

*BBC

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Commedy Horror:The gay sex assault sketch that divided Nigerians
January 13, 2017 | 0 Comments
Ogusbaba in the controversial skit. The comedian says he has nothing against gay people.

Ogusbaba in the controversial skit. The comedian says he has nothing against gay people.

In a country in which same-sex sexual activity is illegal and LGBT rights do not exist, a sketch by a Nigerian comedian depicting a gay man who is about to be sexually assaulted has sparked a heated debate.

In the video, a gay man, played by well-known actor and comic Ogusbaba, is seen lying in bed at home looking at his mobile phone when a visitor comes to the door. The visitor is enthusiastically welcomed in – but has unexpectedly brought two heavies along with him, who confront Ogusbaba’s character about his sexuality and use threatening language towards him.

As the video draws to a close the gay man is held down on a bed while the other three men threaten to sexually assault him.

The video – which emerged at the end of November last year – was recently reposted on a gossip page on Facebook. There it went viral, and has been viewed more than 390,000 times.

Ogusbaba insists that the skit “is just to make my fans laugh and to promote my tour.”

“I have my own views about LGBT people,” he tells BBC Trending. “It’s strictly personal, I have nothing against them.”

But prominent gay rights activists have condemned the video.

They include Nigeria’s first openly gay pastor, Reverend Jide Macaulay, who was forced to flee the country in 2008 after receiving death threats for his work setting up safe spaces for LGBT Nigerians to worship in.

“The Ogusbaba comedy glorifies and glamorises homophobia. What he is effectively saying to his followers is ‘go out and assault gays and let’s laugh about it’ – this is not funny,” says Macaulay, who has launched an online petition calling on Ogusbaba to stop promoting hate crimes against LGBT Nigerians.

“We have documented many cases of violence against unsuspecting gays who meet people via social media or other means and simply agreed to a date or sexual encounter. Social media is being used to entrap gay men,” he says.

Sexual rights advocate Bisi Alimi – who was the first Nigerian to openly declare his sexuality on national television, which led to death threats and his resulting move to the United Kingdom – believes the motivations behind Ogusbaba’s sketch are clear.

“He [Ogusbaba] wanted it to go viral. He knew the average Nigerian would find it funny and share it,” Alimi says. “He knew it would create controversy and be talked about.”

The video has drawn a very mixed response online. Many Nigerians found it funny. “Can’t stop laughing,” commented one.

But others were outraged.

“I hate this, it is not funny. It is barbaric, totally inhumane and stupid,” one comment said.

Akpobome Ogude, popularly known as Ogusbaba, is a rising star in Nigeria

Akpobome Ogude, popularly known as Ogusbaba, is a rising star in Nigeria

Another Facebook user wrote: “You should be utterly ashamed of yourself for stirring up homophobia in a country that already treats its gay population so terribly. Is the stoning to death of gays in the north not enough for you? Disgusting.”

The comedian himself says he’s surprised by how people have reacted to the sketch.

“I’m amazed by the response to the video,” Ogusbaba says. “But I believe people are entitled to their opinions.”

The Nigerian government tightened its anti-gay laws in 2014, banning same-sex marriages, gay groups and shows of same-sex public affection. Since then activists say there has been extreme violence against LGBT Nigerians, and that they are systematically identified for abuse and persecution.

*BBC

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