In a continent facing acute power problems, Solar energy could be a potent solution says Kevin Smith CEO of the USA based company Solar Reserve.Speaking on the sidelines of the recent 2nd Annual Power Africa Summit in Washington,DC, Mr Smith said opportunities for the expansion of solar energy are enormous and could be a major boaster to economic development in the continent. Solar Reserves currently has operations in South Africa and is looking at expansion into other countries of the continent.
Ambassador Diabate with some of the guests at the Power Africa Dinner hosted by TAGA
Daouda Diabate, Ambassador for Ivory Coast to Washington, DC has made a strong pitch to foreign investors to take advantage of the opportunities in his country.
Speaking at the Power Africa Dinner hosted by the Africa Gas Association, TAGA, Ambassador Diabate painted a rosy picture of the myriad of investment opportunities available in the West African Country. Ivory Coast remains the undisputed leader in the world when it comes to the production of Cocoa and other agricultural products that are used the world over said Ambassador Diabate.
His country is also working hard to remain the bread basket of the sub region, Ambassador Diabate said. With a sustained high growth rate for the last couple of years and a more stable political climate, Ambassador Diabate said the current government of President Ouattara has also worked hard to make the investment climate more friendly in the country. Within 24 hours , it is possible to open up a business in Ivory Coast. Though not yet a power house in Africa when it comes to oil and gas, Ambassador Diabate said prospects were looking good with American companies like Anadarko running operations in the country.
Hosted by TAGA, the Power Africa Dinner which took place on 5 March 2016 in Silver Spring was a crowd puller with corporate personalities, civil society leaders, media personalities and high profile actors in the sector in attendance.
Mel Foote of the Constituency for Africa called for greater synergy between Africans and its partners in the diaspora as the continent seeks to change its fortunes. With the dip in the price of oil, there was need to focus on alternatives like gas and Africa has no shortage of this he said.
With Corporate Social Responsibility as one of the themes of the event, Ayodele Emmanuel, Chairman of Tenis Shipping Services who flew in from Nigeria said it was very important for companies to give back to the communities where business is been done. Using the example of his company, Ayodele said, Tenis Shipping has built and equipped a hospital to boast the health needs of citizens in a local community in Nigeria.
If Africa has to continue making progress, women have to play a leading role said Angelle Kwemo of Believe Africa Foundation to rousing applause. According to Kwemo, while the potentials of Africa are real, there is nothing that can be achieved without peace.
Visibly satisfied, Anne Etoke, CEO of TAGA expressed the hope that the networks cultivated by participants during the event will be sustained for mutually beneficial purposes.TAGA will continue to play a leadership role, share opportunities and facilitate dialogue and networking opportunities between stake holders and was open to working with even more partners in future she said. The event was emceed by Award Winning International Fashion Designer Uche IbezueI and Emmy Awards Winner & News Anchor of ABC 7 Channel 8 News., Jummy Olabanji.
CAC ‘s Sylvie Bello at a White House Event on Innovation in Transportation
As part of events to celebrate the Black History month, the Cameroon American Council (CAC) is beaming the spotlight on the transport sector in Cameroon with a Hackathon at Howard University in Washington, DC. The event which is also been used by the CAC to celebrate the Cameroon Youth Day and the 50th anniversary of the US.Dept of Transportation will have as theme “Hacking The Future of the Cameroon Transportation Sector.
According to the CAC, in addition to raising awareness on of Cameroon and its transport sector, the event will include a business idea competition on a multi-disciplinary approach to problem solving within Cameroon’s Transportation industry .Attendees will include students, technology, business, and transportation professionals.
The transportation sector is very vital for sustainable economic development, says Sylvie Bello of the CAC. With the US.Department of Transportation clocking fifty, on the Black History Month, and the month that the Cameroon Youth Day takes place, the CAC thought it will be a noble idea to shine some light on the transportation sector in Cameroon with its challenges, and potentials, said Bello.
Bello with Stephen Arhin, Ph.D Howard University Assistant Professor, Civil Engineering Department Director, Transportation Research Center
Partners for the hackathon include the African Women in Transportation Association, Howard University’s Transportation Institute, and African Student Associations from various colleges, and Transportation Agencies. Participating teams will articulate Aviation, Maritime, and Women in Transportation, Road /Rail and disability access in transportation.
Located in Central Africa, transportation problems have dented prospects for faster economic development for Cameroon. The efforts of Bello and the CAC are in line with growing efforts from dynamic young Cameroonians to be part of the solution. Amongst the finalists for Best Social Apps in an ongoing MTN sponsored innovation challenge are two transportation focused apps. Mboa Taxi (Android) a Taxi reservation app(uber for Cameroon) developed by Ndanga Brice Arsene and Sampa Pierre. There is also Tika (Android) a bus or train reservation app developed by Bassama Paul Herve.
In 2014, the CAC facilitated the placement of the Owona brothers into the Howard University Summer Transportation Institute.
-Corporate Social Responsibility among issues in focus
By Ajong Mbapndah L
TAGA CEO Anne Etoke
This year’s Exclusive Power Africa Dinner will assess the tremendous growth of the gas and energy industry in Africa says Anne Etoke, CEO of The Africa Gas Association (TAGA). Taking place in Silver Spring, MD, Etoke says the event will be attended by members of the African Diplomatic Corps and movers and shakers in the industry from the USA, Africa and several other continents. According to the TAGA CEO, the event will offer ample opportunities for networking .In addition, Industry Experts will dwell on financing, environmental concerns and corporate social responsibility.
The exclusive power Africa Dinner is coming up soon, can you introduce or tell us more about the event and its highlights?
Yes let me start by thanking you for the opportunity to share our activities and events with your readers. The Africa Gas Association (TAGA) will host the Power Africa Dinner on March 5th 2016 at the Hilton Hotel Downtown Silver Spring, with organizational support from Falcon Oil & Gas Inc. Nigeria and Tennis Shipping Inc Nigeria. The event falls in line with TAGA’s core mission of serving as the voice of Africa’s natural gas, oil and energy industry.
During this event, the tremendous growth of Africa’s burgeoning natural gas & energy industry will be explored and assessed through the prism of Industry Experts and African Diplomats. The program will future three leading speakers in the global Energy and Finance industry with a strong focus on Corporate Social Responsibility, Infrastructure expansion, finance and environmental concerns.
How have the previous dinners gone and what achievements have you registered with them?
Thanks for that question; The Africa Gas Association has registered great successes during past Exclusive dinners, Luncheons, Forums and summits. We are pleased to announced that some of our member companies achieved their goals in operating businesses in some African Countries. We have also created an opportunity for high level networking between the stakeholders and decision makers.
Who are some of the people expected to be there this year?
In attendance will be the cream of the African Diplomatic Corps in Washington ,DC, US State Department Representatives, , Representatives of major US organizations, CEOs of Energy, Oil, Gas and Shipping Companies from Africa, Business Investors from Thailand and other invited Guests. It will be a full house of important actors in the industry with great opportunities for business networking.
The dinner will be hosted by the Africa Gas Association that you run; can you shed more light on the Association?
Thanks very much for that question. The Africa Gas Association is a leading voice in the natural gas, oil and energy industry in Africa. It creates and promotes awareness about the African Gas, Oil and Energy industry through seminars, conferences, dinners, network sessions and more.
TAGA engages in legislative and regulatory advocacy that is based on field research, technical, and economic analysis, and also provides an industry forum for collective action on issues impacting member companies. There is also a strong advocacy for Corporate Social Responsibility so that companies can give back to the community.
Finally, The Africa Gas Association creates opportunities for technical cooperation and other activities to improve the competitiveness of the African Oil, Gas and Energy industry. We sponsor and participate in a number of forums, partnerships and coalitions to foster dialogue on energy policy to achieve a better understanding of the energy industry in Africa.
After the Power Africa Dinner, what will TAGA be working on for the rest of the year?
It is a full schedule for us throughout the year. The Africa Gas association has partnered with majors in the Industry, for example in April 2016; we will be very involved in Ivory Coast for the West Africa Upstream Summit where one of our Advisory Board Directors Mr. Jeff Shelton will be speaking. In June 2016, TAGA will be in Abuja, Nigeria for the Nigeria oil and gas week. This is huge one for us as it is a three year successful partnership with CWC oil and gas group from UK. One of our member companies AITEO Oil and Gas Inc.is a major sponsor for the NOG 2016.
In September 2016, TAGA will be hosting a Private Presidential Dinner during the UN General Assembly.
A word about your recent induction into the women of fortune hall of fame in Nigeria, what did this mean to you?
It was a very humbling and touching moment for me.I do work hard but the recognition was not something I was really looking forward to.
The MMS Plus in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Women’s Affairs Nigeria inducted me into the Hall of Fame for Women of Fortune. I was inducted into the Class of 2015. The recognition was based on positive contributions in the development of the oil and gas sector in Africa amongst other qualities. Such recognition only calls for more hard work on my part to contribute in a more forceful way towards positive development across the continent.
With the multitude of events that you are involved in or working on, what keeps Anne Etoke going?
My Faith in God and the desire to be part of positive change and developments especially in Africa. I am a Christian and I believe that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. I am also privileged to work with a superb team with solid experience at TAGA. The Board of Directors is made of seasoned individuals working relentlessly to make TAGA the voice of the energy Industry in Africa.
With my strong believe in Teamwork, humility, focus, persistence and continuous education, I think there is still a whole lot that can be achieved.
Thanks for the interview
The pleasure is mine and I should thank your publication for the great work it does in sharing positive African perspectives. We hope you join us at the dinner in March and provide more coverage for our activities.
The Cameroonian Youth remains a source of hope says Fomunyoh
For a country with the kind of potential and human resources that Cameroon has, calls for President Paul Biya to seek another term of office will be a setback for the democratization process says Dr Chris Fomunyoh, Senior Associate and Regional Director for Central and West Africa at the National Democratic Institute-NDI.
In an Interview at his Washington,DC,Office after his most recent trip to Cameroon, Fomunyoh said after over thirty years in power and in his 80s, it will not serve the best interest of Cameroon if Biya bows in to the drum beats of partisan chorus for another term of office.
“In times of attacks from Boko Haram, at a time when the President has not set foot in the Grand North where the bulk of attacks are taking place, and at a time when there is no thought of making the next elections credible, soviet era calls for President Biya to run are spiteful of Cameroonians,” says Fomunyoh.
Lauding the Cameroonian military for the gallantry in the fight against Boko Haram, Fomunyoh was apprehensive of the effects that the war will have on people in the Grand North Region in the long term. The region was already underdeveloped and the impact of the war will linger around for a while,he said. Dwelling on the myriad of challenges facing Cameroon, Fomunyoh said the country needs the freest and most inclusive elections possible to avoid calamities that have befallen other African countries.
Paying a courtesy call to President Roch Marc Kabore of Burkina Faso, Dr Fomunyoh and the NDI have been very active in facilitating democratic change across Africa
The constitutional foundation of Cameroon is very fragile says Dr Fomunyoh, whose regular visits and engagement with people across the country continue to fuel speculations that he may be in for a Presidential run. Though he did not confirm his Presidential ambitions, Dr Fomunyoh signaled his intent to remain actively engaged in the the quest for solutions to shape a better way forward for Cameroon.
In the interview which started with questions on developments in Burkina Faso and Nigeria, Dr Fomunyoh also discussed the growing terror threats across Africa and the role that former leaders can play after leaving office.
“We can help turn soldiers into teachers, doctors, and leaders.”
By Charlotte Alfred*
Forest Whitaker Peace and Developpement workshop at Hope North, june 20, 2014, Uganda.
Forest Whitaker is known to many as a gifted actor who brought poise and gravitas to hit Hollywood movies like “The Great Debaters” and “The Butler.”
His Oscar-winning role in “The Last King of Scotland” inspired him to become a passionate campaigner against the use of child soldiers around the world, joining with the U.N. in the campaign Children Not Soldiers.
The United Nations’ Children Fund said this week that tens of thousands of children continued to be recruited and used in conflict around the world. Some 16,000 children in South Sudan have been forced to the front lines since December 2013, when conflict broke out in the world’s newest country, according to UNICEF.
Read Forest Whitaker’s blog about his experiences with child soldiers here.
What sparked your interest in stopping recruitment of child soldiers around the world?
I first became really passionate about this issue a little over 10 years ago when I was in Uganda shooting “The Last King of Scotland”. One day on set, one of the performers — a dancer and a musician named Okello Sam — asked me if I would come with him to a school he had built called Hope North. This place was a home and a sanctuary for former child soldiers and orphans of Uganda’s civil war, which was ending around this time. As a father, I was horrified to hear the stories of what these children had to endure. But I was also moved beyond words to see their resilience and witness what Sam and his team at Hope North were doing to help make them whole again. I knew that I wanted to do my part to help these children and other boys and girls whose lives are impacted by violence.
I became very involved with Hope North and I’ve been back many times over the years. When I told my daughters about these children, they wanted to help, and they donated their laptops to the school. About four years ago, inspired by Sam’s work at Hope North, I launched my own foundation, the Whitaker Peace & Development Initiative, which works to empower young women and men impacted by conflict to rise above these challenges and become leaders and community builders.
Did meeting former child soldiers influence your understanding of the problem of their recruitment and potential solutions?
One of the things I quickly came to understand after meeting former child soldiers was the importance of the work being done at Hope North to educate and rehabilitate these young people. When we talk about the issue of child soldiers, it can be easy to focus just on ending recruitment and liberating those boys and girls who are currently being held in military camps. Obviously, both of these are incredibly important goals, but it’s also essential that we not forget about former child soldiers once they are liberated. These children have all suffered truly unimaginable traumas. In some sense, when you take a child soldier out of an armed group, you’ve taken away the identity he or she has had for years, and you can’t assume life is just going to return to normal. Many of them were forced to commit acts of violence against family members or would be ostracized from their communities if they tried to go back. It can be a very difficult and lengthy process, but it’s so important that we are there for these children to help them find their true identities and rediscover that feeling of being part of a community. Rehabilitation programs have to play an important role in this solution.
The Whitaker Peace & Development Initiative trains youth, including ex-child soldiers, in Uganda and South Sudan in conflict resolution and other life skills. Why are rehabilitation programs like this so important to the future peace in those countries?
These rehabilitation and peace education programs for former child soldiers and other young people impacted by violence are some of the most effective forms of preventative peacekeeping that exist. For many child soldiers, war and violence are all they have ever known. If we don’t take it upon ourselves to show them an alternative, then they’re going to be soldiers forever, and they’ll continue to be recruited and to participate in violence if another conflict starts five or 10 years down the road. This is a cycle that has the potential to repeat their whole lives. By intervening with rehabilitation and education programs, we can break these cycles. This makes a huge difference not only in the lives of these former child soldiers, but also in the societies around them. With these programs, we can help turn soldiers into teachers, doctors, and leaders.
There was one former child soldier we worked with at Hope North named Simon. When I first met him, he was a shell of his previous self. There was this emptiness in his eyes. But over time, as he went through our program and became part of a community again, you could see a transformation occur. The light is back in his eyes, and he’s started his own business — an electronics store that he’s opened with some other students from Hope North. He’s reaching out to other youth whose lives have been impacted by conflict, and he’s becoming a role model in his community. This is an outcome that’s possible for former child soldiers. We need to work to make these stories more common.
The initiative has peace-building projects in Mexico and the U.S. What parallels have you found between children living in violence-afflicted areas in the U.S. and Africa?
One of the reasons I became so involved in this cause was that, when I first started working with child soldiers 10 years ago, I couldn’t help but notice the similarities between them and a lot of the kids I knew growing up in South Los Angeles. I was in middle school right around the time the Bloods and the Crips started taking root in Compton and a lot of the other neighborhoods around me. I saw way too many of my peers — smart, kind, good kids — who got drawn into gangs and violence, and their futures were going to be forever scarred by that.
I think this is a common feature wherever there is conflict, whether in East Africa, Mexico, or right here in the United States: when young people feel like they don’t have any real pathways to a successful livelihood and future, that’s when they turn to violence. Building peace requires that we resolve the underlying root causes of conflict, and in almost all cases, that means working in communities to develop real opportunities for youths to learn, work, and succeed.
What results have you seen from your wellness programs, such as yoga and meditation, for violence-affected children in Africa and North America?
The yoga, meditation, and life-skills components that you mentioned are really important in the work that WPDI does. The model that we follow for many of our programs is to work with a core group of young women and men in vulnerable communities and develop their skills as leaders and conflict mediators. Then we support these youths as they go back to their homes and start their own peace-building initiatives and recruit other young people to join them. As you alluded to, many of our participants have been victims of violence — some are former child soldiers, some have been displaced by conflict, some have lost family members. It’s very difficult to build outer-peace in the world around you if you are struggling to find your own inner-peace. We want to help our youth peacemakers overcome the traumas and hardships they’ve faced. Teaching them yoga and meditation techniques and helping them live balanced, healthy lives is really important in enabling them to go out and create change in their communities.
So far, our youths have responded really positively to these wellness aspects of our program. There was one former child soldier we work with — who is now in his mid-20s — who told me that, before he learned to meditate, the only way he could calm his nerves was with alcohol. Some of our peacemakers have started practicing yoga every day to find a sense of calm and stability. For people who have endured some terrible hardships, these things can make a real difference in how they perceive themselves and relate to the world.
Which achievements of the U.N. campaign Children, Not Soldiers — launched in 2014 and aimed to end and prevent nations’ use of child soldiers by 2016 — that you advocated for have been most encouraging?
The Children, Not Soldier campaign is currently working with governments in seven countries that have historically recruited child soldiers. What we’ve seen over the past two years is that, for the first time, some of these nations are showing a true willingness to reform and protect children. Of these seven countries, six have signed action plans with the United Nations. I think the fact that Children, Not Soldiers has been able to make the seriousness of this problem known — especially to leaders in countries that have been among the worst violators — is an important achievement in and of itself.
We are also seeing more than just commitments to change, but also tangible reforms as well. For example, a few years ago, Chad worked with the United Nations to create an action plan for ending the recruitment and use of child soldiers. Recently, it completed every step on that plan, and Chad has now been removed from the Secretary-General’s list of parties that use child soldiers. This shows that real progress and meaningful reform are possible.
Despite Yemen and South Sudan’s commitments to end child recruitment, the ongoing wars in those countries appear to have set back progress, with more children on the battle lines. What has been your biggest disappointment of the campaign?
The lack of progress in recent months in South Sudan is an enormous disappointment and an international tragedy. My foundation has been involved in South Sudan since 2012, and it’s been heartbreaking to see the conditions that so many children in that nation have had to endure. In 2014, during one of my trips to South Sudan, I and Leila Zerrougui, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, met with President [Salva] Kiir, who had committed to work with the United Nations to end the use of child soldiers in South Sudan’s army. As part of the peace agreement signed last August between the government and rebel forces, both sides reaffirmed this commitment. The fact that both parties have been violating the ceasefire agreement and continuing to recruit and use child soldiers is unacceptable. I continue to join the international community in calling on South Sudan’s leaders to honor the ceasefire and protect all children impacted by this conflict.
How can ordinary people contribute to the campaign to end child recruitment in conflict?
First of all, anyone who wants to learn more about Children, Not Soldiers can visit their website. I also think one of the powerful things about social media is that it gives people a megaphone to come together and advocate for the causes they care about. If you look throughout history, every significant social movement has had thousands or millions of ordinary people behind it, standing up for what is right. So if you want to help raise awareness of this campaign and show your support, tell your friends and followers about it and use the hashtag #ChildrenNotSoldiers.
If you can afford it and want to help WPDI empower children and youths in regions of the world impacted by violence, we would be grateful for your donation.
Finally, something everyone can do is to take a moment right now and don’t think of child soldiers as just statistics on a piece of paper or a problem that affects some far-away country. Imagine that your children were taken from you and forced to live in military camps and commit unspeakable acts of violence. Imagine you spent your childhood with a gun in your hands fighting a war, instead of going to school and playing with your friends. That scenario is a reality for hundreds of thousands of children and families throughout the world. I hope you’ll join me in showing your support for these children and telling leaders around the world that we won’t stand for it.
Cameroon star Samuel Eto’o on Thursday succeeded in having a tell-all book written by his former girlfriend banned by the High Court of Paris, but the editor confirmed they have appealed the decision. Nathalie Koah’s ‘Revenge Porn – Football, sex, money: the testimony of Samuel Eto’o’s ex’, tells the story of a woman who considers herself “humiliated and betrayed”.
In the book, which was due to go on sale Thursday, the 29-year-old Koah tells of the affair she had with the married footballer between 2007 and 2014 when he played for Barcelona, Inter Milan and Chelsea. But lawyers for the former Cameroon international argued successfully that the book contravened France’s strict privacy laws. Lawyer Olivier Pardo for Paris-based publishers ‘Editions du Moment’ immediately lodged an appeal which will be heard before a court in the French capital on Monday.
“I’m extremely shocked and flabbergasted,” Pardo told AFP of a “totally unjustified” decision. “The book does not only lay bare the life of Mr. Eto’o but also that of Nathalie Koah,” he added. The 34-year-old Eto’o and Koah have been at loggerheads since their stormy break-up in mid-2014. The Cameroonian woman claimed Eto’o published intimate photos of her on the internet, while the former Real Madrid player accused her of “fraud and breach of trust”.
“I regret the decision but I won’t let myself be knocked down,” said Koah in a video posted on her Facebook account. “I’m a victim in this story. I’m not being allowed to tell the truth as it is.”
The banning of a book, even temporarily, is rare in France.
The African immigrant community recently registered another mile stone with the appointment of Dr Peter.M. Keke as Area Engineer and Assistant District Engineer for District 5 in Md. Originally from Cameroon, Dr Keke is the first American of African descent to hold these positions. From 1990 when he got to the USA, it has been a very eventful journey for Dr Keke whose experiences mirror those of most other successful African immigrants. “Never let people define your destiny and do not allow yourself be cut in myths,” says Dr Keke as he settles into his new job.
Dr Keke, you recently became the first American of African descent to hold the Office of Area Engineer and Assistant District Engineer for Construction in the State of Maryland, how did your recent appointment come about?
The Assistant District Engineer for Construction position in District- 5 was opened to those who had the qualification to interview during the month of May 2015. I was one of the interviewees out of 5 people. The interview panel was made up of 4 people and each of us was drilled with 9 questions. The selected candidate was screened and interviewed by the Governors appointment secretary for final approval. Accordingly, I emerged successful and was appointed on December 7, 2015 based on my ability to meet all the requirements, demonstration of an efficient and effective understanding of construction and managerial principles throughout the interview and screening process.
May we know what exactly your new duties entail and what jurisdiction you cover?
In a nutshell, my new duties are administrative and engineering construction management. I represent the District on all matters relating to Highway and Bridge construction within my area. Some of the responsibilities are; management of a $356 million construction program annually, attend legislative meetings to advice and report on construction projects, challenges, and needs. Attend town hall public meetings. Represent and advice the District Engineer, Administrator, MDOT Secretary on construction related matters. Inspect and coordinate construction activities of contractors, hire construction inspections, and coordinate with upper management on how to attain the District’s strategic and construction goals. My jurisdiction covers four counties: Anne Arundel, Calvert, Charles, and St. Mary’s Counties.
Prior to this new appointment, what functions did Dr Keke have within the MD Government?
I was a construction inspector from 1998 to 2000 in District-5. Then from 2000 I was a Project Engineer in the District up to 2004. I continued as a Project Engineer in District-3 from 2004 to 2006. In 2006 I became the first black Area Engineer in District-3 up to 2013 (District-3 covers Montgomery and Prince Georges Counties). In 2013,
I moved to District- 4 (that is Baltimore and Harford Counties) in the same capacity as the Area Engineer. And in December 7, 2015 I was appointed the Assistant District Engineer for Constriction in Disrtict-5.
What experiences and academic background does Dr Keke bring to his new job?
I bring lots of construction experiences in this position. First I worked in Ministry of Public work and Transport Cameroon, Highway Department Limbe after graduating from National School of Technology (Survey School Buea) as Chief or Technical Officer from 1982 to 1998. Then I became the Chief of Subdivision Highways Department Kumba from 1998 to 1990. I moved to the United States in May 1990 were I worked (from 1990 to 1996) at a gas station as security guard, and later served as a housekeeper, a nursing assistant, and a medicine aid, while at the same time going to school. From 1994 to 1997 I also served as the first Mathematical Student President of Bowie State University. In addition I served as a student tutor in both Mathematics (calculus 1, 2, and 3) and Engineering (Engineering mechanics and differential equations) in Bowie State University and University of Maryland College Park respectively. I also worked as a student mathematical intern with the National Air space Museum in Washington D.C for 3 months in 1997. During the same period from 1996 to 1998 I worked with the Driggs Construction Company as Quantity Engineer and Project Engineer before joining the Maryland State Highway in 1998.
Academically; I hold a diploma in Surveying, BS in Mathematics, BS in Civil Engineering, MS in Project Management/Engineering, and a PhD in Project Management.
For the immigrant that you are, how challenging has it been for you to get to where you are?
As an immigrant it has been very challenging with varied experiences from rejection, to temptations, oppositions, and a different culture. In short, the journey demands great patience, hard work, endurance, and tenacity. Another interesting challenge is language/accent. Despite the fact that I studied in the US, each time I talk people still see me as a foreigner because of my accent. Sometimes, you face rejection because of the accent and skin color. However, my focus is to not allow such distractions became obstacles; therefore, I have always been hard working, willing to learn at all times, and to take advantage of situations. My goal has always been to be the best at all times.
To the young ones who see in you a role model and will love to emulate your example and career trajectory, what message do you have for them?
Never let people define your destiny and do not allow yourself be cut in myths. For example, I was told a black foreign person cannot graduate from University of Maryland College Park. This is a myth since I graduated from the school with honors. Another, advice is to be patient with your plan, work hard on it and it will all pay off at the end. An important point to note is that transforming from a Cameroon society to US society is challenging. You must accept and be willing to make the change needed for assimilation. You will have to start with small or odd jobs, but do not allow the jobs to define you; rather use these small or odd jobs as a means to an end. Finally, things can be made much easier if you have a mentor. Though I had none, I find that a mentor to rely on can help understand, and guide you towards success.
Boko Haram and its regional impact was the topic of the February 2016 African Policy Breakfast Series in Washington D.C. Hosted by US Congresswoman Karen Bass the aim of the event was to “provide a setting for members of Congress and representatives from diverse sectors and backgrounds to discuss critical and timely issues specific to U.S.-Africa policy.”
Addressing over 200 policy makers, civil society actors and about seven Ambassadors, Keynote Speaker Linda Thomas-Greenfield, Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of African Affairs, Department of State, started the dialogue with an over view of U.S efforts to help in the fight against Boko Haram . From sharing intelligence, assisting with equipment and deploying troops as is the case with Cameroon; Assistant Secretary Greenfield called for greater outrage in the face of continuous atrocities from the Islamic sect.
“We can no longer accept these monstrosities… it is important that we all stand up and say African Lives Matter,” Ambassador Greenfield said to rousing applause from the audience.
During the panel discussion, the issue of Nigerian corruption was brought up with force, however; it was reiterated by many including Moderator Mr. Nii Akuetteh, Executive Director of the African Immigrant Caucus, that “before starting to discuss this, let’s not forget that when approaching the issue of corruption, we must note that the issue is not something new or isolated to President Jonathan’s term but has been a continuous problem in Nigeria for decades.” This is not a Jonathan issue Nii Akuetteh said.
During the question and answer section of the breakfast, much was said about the US position on the matter of corruption. A breakfast patron openly said that, “the US government is afraid and is prioritizing security over actual governance reform,” in Nigeria.
In reference to comments attributed to U.S Secretary of State John Kerry lauding Nigeria for the sacking of 50 government officials over some 9 billion dollars, a question was asked whether the Buhari Administration was actually taking anti-corruption measures or settling scores with real and perceived enemies.
In response, Ambassador Reuben E. Brigety II, who is currently Dean, Elliott School of International Affairs George Washington university and former US Ambassador to the African Union confidently stated, “The answer probably is yes, which is to say that it may very well be some of both, they are not mutually exclusive propositions.” He went on to mention how in diplomacy, unfortunately there are tradeoffs that have to be made regarding how far one can push on certain issues or how one works on a core interest.
Dr. Raymond Gilpin, Dean, Africa Center for Strategic Studies, National Defense University followed up by mentioning that regarding the resources on the continent of Africa, they are either wasted or squandering generally. The challenge for the Buhari’s administration is to put systems in place that identify and prevent future mistakes from happening, instead of just apportioning blame.
Also on the panel was Sam Okey Mbonu of the Nigerian –American Leadership Council who offered insight on what the civil society could do to play a more constructive role in developments affecting Africa.
Speaking earlier, Rep Frederica Wilson (D-FL), who has worked tireless to seek clarity on the whereabouts of the Chibok girls, challenged participants at the breakfast to keep up the pressure on the Nigerian government until satisfactory answers are provided. Rep Wilson distributed fliers, shared pictures of some Boko Haram atrocities and called on concerned activists to use protests, and all social media tools available until the girls are brought back.
It is worth mentioning that the attacks from Boko Haram and the missing Chibok girls were a big campaign issue with the opposition APC using it with great effect to discredit the government of President Goodluck Jonathan, though his government with insignificant US government support , had almost rolled back Boko Haram gains from almost every part of Nigeria.
Now in power, Nigerians are still expecting the APC to deliver on its promises. Though the Nigerian Government claims that the war against Boko Haram has been won, attacks from the sect continue to ravage and instill fear in several communities. The Administration has also been sending nuanced messages when it comes to the Chibok girls. Even out of power, Jonathan continues to be the subject of barbs from APC Chieftains which have so far failed to ruffle him. The former President was recently quoted as saying he will continue to refrain from criticizing or commenting on the actions of his successor as there will be an unnecessary distraction.
Scheduled to last for two hours, there were some participants who wanted the issues in discussion to go beyond Boko Haram as there were questions on cyber security, Somalia, Ethiopia and the crisis in the D.R.Congo which according to one visibly angry Congolese was not getting enough attention.
A 500 watt solar system in a rural village in Uganda powers a home, drives a public broadcasting system, a barbershop and a video hall and generates new income for the business owner. Photo by: Sameer Halai / SunFunder / USAID
An ambitious new road map released last week lays out how Power Africa, the United States government initiative to increase power generation capacity and access to electricity in Africa, will achieve its targets by 2030. The report outlines areas of new emphasis for the initiative, including a greater focus on energy access and on renewables.
And the U.S. House of Representatives on Monday unanimously passed the Electrify Africa Act, which codifies the work of the initiative and should ensure its longevity. The U.S. Senate passed the bill, which differs a bit from Power Africa goals — it sets targets at 50 million connections and 20,000 megawatts of generation, on Dec. 18 and it now awaits approval from President Barack Obama, which should be forthcoming.
In 2013 when it announced Power Africa, the U.S. committed $7 billion to tackle the challenge that more than 600 million people in sub-Saharan Africa lack access to electricity. That initial commitment has leveraged about $43 billion dollars in pledges from public and private sector partners, according to the Power Africa Roadmap.
The initial goals were for Power Africa to increase installed power capacity by 30,000 megawatts and create 60 million new connections by 2030. To date, the 13 Power Africa projects that have reached financial close are expected to generate more than 4,300 megawatts of power, according to the road map.
It’s important to note, and Power Africa does so in the road map, that some of those projects were underway before the initiative launched. While they didn’t come about under the auspices of the program, they met other criteria, including U.S. government involvement and meeting environmental and social safeguards.
Power Africa spent its first year focused on grid-scale generation deals, but leaders of the initiative are now looking ahead to ambitious connections targets — Power Africa-supported projects have the potential to lead to more than a million direct connections — and making changes based on lessons already learned.
Generation and access goals, for example, are “actually two totally different things,” Andrew Herscowitz, Power Africa coordinator, told Devex. As a result, the road map lays out specific plans for each goal, and progress will be measured in actual connections.
“We’ve learned a ton,” Herscowitz said. “We don’t just trust everything people say at conferences. We focus on analysis and data.”
The road map
That knowledge has been poured into the road map, which has three main pillars: achieving the goal around generation; increasing the number of people with access; and driving regulatory and policy changes to improve investment opportunities and speed project timelines.
Power Africa is tracking projects in the Power Africa Tracking Tool, an app built for the initiative, that would total about 45,000 megawatts if the projects all came online, though the road map estimates that only between 18,000-21,000 megawatts will reach financial close by 2030.
In order to meet its 30,000 megawatt goal, Power Africa is looking for new deals, which are likely tosupport natural gas and utility-scale solar expansion. It will also work to improve efficiency at existing power plants.
The majority of projects in the pipeline, and certainly those that aren’t yet being tracked, are at an early stage in their development, so it seems natural that one of Power Africa’s focuses will be on early stage transaction support. Many project developers say it’s also where donors and development finance institutions are needed most.
Reaching the goal of extending access to 60 million people will take a mix of relying on old technology — expanding existing grids, and new — developing innovative off-grid solutions.
One interesting prediction in the road map is that 8 million to 10 million of the new connections will come through the currently underdeveloped microgrid segment of the market, though this raises questions about how to build the appropriate structures and frameworks for those projects to succeed.
Work on the third pillar aimed at building capacity and driving regulatory reforms may be able to help some of those issues. A number of Power Africa programs or partner programs are working to help countries create solid, transparent regulatory and policy environments to help them attract investment and structure good projects.
Examples of what’s working are quickly emerging. While in many ways South Africa may not be representative of the rest of the subcontinent, it has risen as an example of a success story, particularly in scaling up grid-connected solar projects.
It’s Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Program developed a clear structure and transparent bid process that has led to more than 2,000 megawatts of solar between 2011 and 2014 and cheaper bids over time.
SolarReserve, global developer of utility-scale solar power projects, has won several bids and built grid-connected solar projects in South Africa. The latest, a 100 megawatt project with 12-hour storage, is set to start construction in the next two months.
The company continue to bid on projects in South Africa because the government built a program that commercially makes sense, has political support at the highest levels and a committed team that carries out the work, is transparent and keeps its word, said Kevin Smith, CEO of SolarReserve.
While South Africa has some advantages — it’s size, local expertise, a strong banking system lower currency risks —other countries can learn from their example, he said. Governments need to put together commercial documentation that makes sense, provide clarity around the offtaker and how it works, needs to abide by international arbitration and devise a transparent and open bidding process that sticks to a set schedule, Smith added.
Coordination amongst the donor and development finance institution community takes long, patient conversations, and some head banging, Ferguson said.
“There’s politics and good intent and different organizations with their own mandates,” he said. “It is not all perfectly coordinated. Lots of sensible people, but still those conversations have to be had.”
Herscowitz said he is proud of the initiative’s efforts, especially in bringing the various actors together. The level of coordination among the donor organizations is “unprecedented,” he said, citing the example of household solar, where Power Africa, the AfDB and the U.K. Department for International Development got together to discuss their work on in the space and decided to have DfID take the lead. That cooperation helped shape what U.K.’s Energy Africa initiative does, Herscowitz said.
There are organizations stepping up to lead on other issues as well, like the World Bank and AfDB on grid rollout, organizations like the U.S. Trade Development Agency on project preparation, and the IFC on grid-level solar.
With so many players, determining how each player slots in and where donor and DFI capital should be used is important.
The IFC’s Scaling Solar initiative, for example, emerged to fill a gap in helping to structure and simplify the process of developing grid-connected solar projects. The program developed a template process and document set to help a government run through a process determining how much solar they want on their grid, where it should go, if appropriate sites can be developed and how it could run a competitive process to identify an independent power producer.
“Scaling Solar is designed with collaboration in that donor and DFI ecosystem in mind,” Ferguson said.
Governments will need help paying for advisory work and in financing the projects themselves, which is where donors can step in. For example, in Zambia, the first country to sign on to Scaling Solar, DfID and Power Africa are helping pay for advisory costs.
Donor financing helped many of the rapidly expanding home solar companies get off the ground — one of the most exciting development to Herscowitz personally. Super efficient fans, irons and televisions are allowing off-grid customers to “live an on-grid life,” he said, which can change the market and impact the climate change discussion.
“Donors and public money is limited and precious and, I would argue, should be targeted where you can’t attract private capital — transmission lines, distribution companies, public utilities, all of those things that you can’t attract private capital for,” Ferguson said.
But every market where Power Africa is tracking deals has some role for the public sector to play — it’s role is to “bridge market imperfections,” test new models and get first-of-a-kind deals done, Herscowitz said.
How well Power Africa picks the places or types of projects it invests in and how that translates to achieving its goals will certainly be measured against the road map, which may well serve as a blueprint as the U.S. and it’s big coalition of partners work to push things along.
I accuse the International Criminal Court (ICC) and its Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda of gross negligence in the global struggle against ISIS and its affiliates.
The purpose of this allegation against the International Criminal Court (ICC) Chief Prosecutor is twofold. First to expose the International Criminal Court’s Chief Prosecutor Mrs. Fatou Bensouda as being in breach of her duties and to explain the reason a career ICC prosecutor would so badly fail in her responsibilities. Secondly, it has finally come to pass that the ICC through its long term fecklessness has at last become an unwitting tool of Sunni Muslim extremism in a world ravaged by the Daesh (ISIS) and its affiliates.
The International Criminal Court’s original purpose was to investigate and prosecute war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide and to aid victims of these crimes. This court’s record undeniably is poor and shabby, two convictions of minor sub Saharan war lords in 13 years of existence. All of its current pending cases are against Africans all but one black. And this after the expenditure of well over $1 billion. The current ICC budget for 2015 is over $150 million. These figures alone and lack of convictions qualify the ICC as one of the most wasteful international government organizations in history.
The first ten years of the ICC’s existence under Chief Prosecutor Ocampo were an example of extreme incompetency. With all the resources of the UN behind him Ocampo managed all of one conviction, a minor Congolese warlord. He handed off faltering cases against the rulers of Kenya and Sudan to his deputy and successor Fatou Bensouda. While Ocampo’s tenure can at best be called a joke; Bensouda has shown herself to be far more dangerous to human rights and international law.
Ocampo earned the distinction of being labeled a persecutor of Africans while ignoring war crimes in other parts of the world. Under Ocampo thousands of communications to the ICC sat for years before being rejected. The only cases opened were in Africa. Therefore, when ICC Deputy Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, the former Justice Minister of Gambia and former UN Rwanda Tribunal prosecutor was elected to succeed Ocampo a collective sign of relief was in heard in Africa and beyond. Bensouda while not a stellar legal mind was at least thought to be competent and evenhanded towards Africans. Upon accepting her post, Bensouda touted her Islamic principles which did not raise any alarm bells at the time. Swept under the prayer rug of peace was the fact that Bensouda started her legal career as the Justice Minister for the dictatorial regime of Gambia strongman Yahya Jammeh.
Bensouda is a Sunni Muslim from Gambia and is married to a Moroccan businessman. Gambia was a small secular state in west Africa, whose overwhelming majority is Muslim. In December 2015, Gambia’s long time ruler Yahya Jammeh declared Gambia an Islamic republic. Bensouda obtained her law degree from Nigeria Law School.
However, it is the lack of action by Prosecutor Bensouda against the Islamic State or Daesh and its affiliates Al Shabaab and Boko Haram which elevates this deliberate nonfeasance to an entirely new level – intentional breach of duty by a truly flawed ICC Chief prosecutor who is blinded by her Sunni Muslim faith.
The Islamic State or “Daesh” is the single greatest threat of the 21st Century. The Daesh and its affiliates Boko Haram, Al Shabaab and others have claimed the lives of tens of thousands in Africa, Europe and the Middle East through numerous well documented crimes against humanity, genocide and war crimes. If one logically adds the Al Qaeda network to the mix, since Daesh began life as Al Qaeda in Iraq, the tactical reach of the organization is truly staggering. Since December 1, 2015 the Daesh has struck in such varied places as California, Chad, Aden, Nigeria, Dagestan, Philadelphia, Marseilles, Paris, Istanbul and Jakarta. This of course is in addition to more conventional Daesh ground forces in Somalia, Libya, Syria and Iraq. The list is incomplete but Daesh has the demonstrated ability to simultaneously undermine security in Africa, Asia, North America and Europe and challenge conventional forces on the ground. Not since World War Two has such a threat to stability and peace arisen. Today’s Daesh are as infamous as yesteryear’s Nazis for their cruelty and barbaric crimes.
Fatou Bensouda, the ICC has been accused of targeting African leaders
Daesh is a global organization with cells and caliphates in countries that are firmly under the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court including France, Kenya, Mali, Chad, Nigeria and the United Kingdom. It is undisputed that the Daesh modus operandi includes genocide against Shia, Christians, and Yazidis; and related war crimes and crimes against humanity. Verified video evidence exists of ISIS war crimes, genocide, and crimes against humanity committed in Africa, Europe, and the Middle East. There is uncontroverted evidence and admissions that IS has committed beheadings, suicide bombings, mass executions, enslavement, mass rape, looting, and destruction of cultural heritage. Thus even a newly minted prosecutor could find ample material upon which to build a case against the Daesh leadership and its henchmen.
Prosecutor Bensouda however has found no ICC jurisdiction exists because: “I have come to the conclusion that the jurisdictional basis for opening a preliminary examination into this situation is too narrow at this stage.”
Such a finding is not only an insult to the victims and their families but to the intelligence of the public and ICC member states. Prosecutor Bensouda has refused to act against the transnational Daesh network on the flimsiest of excuses. By refusing to act for justice and truth in the face of the worst threat to human dignity since Nazi Germany, Prosecutor Bensouda has joined the ranks of those Muslims who tacitly support Daesh through their silence except that Bensouda need not be silent. The world would applaud her even in a vain attempt to expose the criminality of the Daesh. What then ails Bensouda?
Prosecutor Bensouda is guilty of a serious breach of duty. Further, her refusal to open investigations of Daesh suggests a bias in favor of radical Islam given the credible allegations of Daesh funding and material assistance from NATO member Turkey and Saudi Arabia. Prosecutor Bensouda has effectively granted Daesh impunity from prosecution and has sent a message of non-accountability to the war criminals in the Daesh. This is inconsistent with the Rome Statute and the dignity of the ICC Prosecutor’s office. Bensouda like many Sunni Muslims somehow does not see the Daesh as the big problem facing the world today.
Legal argument – The International Criminal Court only has jurisdiction in the countries which have ratified the Rome Statute. This includes many countries where Daesh and its affiliates including Boko Haram and Al Shabaab operate and have committed numerous atrocities: Afghanistan, Nigeria, Kenya, Chad, Mali, Tunisia and Niger. In Nigeria alone Boko Haram claimed over 6000 victims in 2014.
Since Daesh operates as a unified organization, even though the ICC cannot indict them for crimes committed in Syria, Iraq, Somalia, and Libya, it surely may indict the Daesh for crimes committed within ICC jurisdiction. The question is why has the ICC not done so?
Fatou Bensouda has offered this mind boggling rationale to justify a hands off policy towards Islamic terror. According to Bensouda, she can do nothing because Daesh seems to be mainly based in Syria and Iraq and therefore these countries are not ICC members. She stated, “In this context, I have come to the conclusion that the jurisdictional basis for opening a preliminary examination into this situation is too narrow at this stage.”
Perhaps to someone ignorant that Boko Haram has joined Daesh or that Daesh is active in Afghanistan, Bensouda’s excuse may sound vaguely plausible. However, it is not plausible but disingenuous. Fatou Bensouda not only has forsaken the best chance for the ICC to be seen as something more than a persecutor of Africans but to actually be relevant in international law. This is all bad enough but something even more sinister lurks in Bensouda’s flawed logic.
Fatou Bensouda is a Sunni Muslim. When asked by Al Arabiya if her religion influenced her, she answered it definitely did, “Islam, as you know, is a religion of peace, and it gives you this inner strength, this inner ability and a sense of justice. Together with my experience, this will help a lot.”
Bensouda’s failure to act against the Daesh, Boko Haram, Al Qaeda, and Al Shabaab becomes even more flagrant when viewed in terms of the cases upon which she is currently squandering ICC resources.
The ICC has been chasing the Sudanese president Al Bashir for years. Surely, he is no poster child for human rights yet an agreement was made with Southern Sudan that has saved the lives of millions. More tellingly, Sudan is on the front line struggle against Daesh, at least one Daesh affiliate operates in Sudan. Arresting Al Bashir would likely throw the entire Sudan region into chaos much like Libya.
Speaking of Libya, the ICC instead of chasing the head chopping Daesh that have set themselves in Libya, has concerned itself with the hapless Saif Al-Islam Gaddafi as an indirect co-perpetrator of crimes against humanity: a man whose father for all his faults kept the extremists out of Libya. Saif Gaddafi is a proxy for his murdered father.
Yet another very important front line state in the struggle against Daesh is under ICC attack. The president and vice president of Kenya have been charged by the ICC with crimes against humanity. Kenya furnishes the bulk of troops in the war against Daesh affiliate Al Shabaab in Somalia and the Kenyans have paid a heavy price in blood for their willingness to guard east Africa from extremism. Prosecuting the brave foes of the Daesh seems weirdly flawed.
Finally, we have the ultimate proof of Bensouda’s insularity. While Daesh has destroyed and looted priceless ancient Roman and pre Roman sites in Syria, Iraq and Libya, the ICC has concerned itself with vandalism of Muslim mausoleums in Timbuktu, Mali. On 18 September 2015 the ICC issued an arrest warrant for Ahmad al-Faqi, who is accused of the war crime of intentionally directing attacks against buildings dedicated to religion, specifically the mausoleums and mosques located in Timbuktu. Thus the Daesh may pillage and destroy classical archaeological sites but the ICC somehow sees the damaging of Muslim sites in Mali as the greater crime and evil. Meanwhile the antiquities market in Europe and Turkey are glutted with the fruits of Daesh looting.
Selective justice? Former Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo is standing trial at the Hague, but what about the other well known culprits of the Ivory Coast crisis?
The ICC has recognized Palestine and has called the Turkish Gaza flotilla incident a minor war crime. This does not bode well for Israel another bulwark nation against Daesh. However, given the glacial approach favored by ICC nothing substantive will likely occur regarding Palestine this decade. Other ICC failing under Bensouda can be evidenced by lack of action in Ukraine where ICC foot dragging has permitted the Ukrainian government a free hand.
Nuremburg this is not – we don’t know if Bensouda studied the Nuremburg War Crimes Trial at Nigeria Law School but they are the standard for swift and efficient justice. Unlike UN Tribunals in which trials can drag out for ten years or more, Nuremburg disposed of Nazi Germany’s major war criminals in 11 months. This was done without information technology, the Internet and a $150 million annual budget.
The crimes of the Daesh are well documented in video, admissions, and written statements. There is no lack of evidence. Being a criminal defense attorney it seems odd to me to be castigating a prosecutor for not doing their job but in this case Bensouda is undermining the promises of international law. A prosecutor who won’t do her job must be removed from her position. A Muslim prosecutor who does not deem the Daesh worthy of pursuing is blinded by the religion of peace and is impeding justice. She is a menace who must be sacked.
The bottom line is that Fatou Bensouda by invoking a legally flawed jurisdictional argument to avoid the Daesh has presented the Daesh with the greatest gift of all – impunity for genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. Fatou Bensouda must be removed from her post for the sake of the victims of the Daesh.
*Dr. Jonathan Levy is a member of the International Criminal Court Bar and is an adjunct member of the Political Science faculty at Norwich University and Southern New Hampshire University. As Chief Administrative Officer of the Organization of Emerging African States OEAS, he has called for ICC member states to remove Fatou Bensouda from her position as ICC prosecutor. Paper prepared for the John Naisbitt University, National and International Security Conference on Contemporary Global Challenges, 3-4 February 2016 Belgrade, Serbia