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Trump’s America First Budget Puts Africa Last
March 27, 2017 | 0 Comments

By Ty McCormick*

Slash-and-burn cuts to the State Department and USAID would deepen the worst humanitarian crisis since World War II.

Slash-and-burn cuts to the State Department and USAID would deepen the worst humanitarian crisis since World War II.

NAIROBI — It gets more U.S. foreign aid than any other continent, the largest share of U.S. global health and disaster relief spending, and it hosts nine out of the world’s 16 U.N. peacekeeping operations — and four out of the five most expensive ones.

Sub-Saharan Africa is grappling with record levels of displacement and hunger due to conflict and drought, but President Donald Trump is proposing “deep cuts to foreign aid” that would hit this continent the hardest. According to the U.N., more than 20 million people are on the edge of starvation in just four countries, three of which are in Africa: South Sudan, Somalia, and Nigeria.

Trump’s “skinny” budget blueprint, released by the White House last week, aims to slash the State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) budgets by close to 30 percent, while eliminating several executive agencies, including the U.S. African Development Foundation, which funds grassroots development projects in 30 African countries. The cuts are supposed to partially offset a $54 billion increase in defense spending.

On the humanitarian side, the demand is as great as it has ever been, including in Africa,” Gayle Smith, who ran USAID under President Barack Obama, told Foreign Policy. “This in essence calls on us to tie one hand behind our back, if not both, at a time when we are confronting huge challenges as well as huge opportunities.”

In addition to gutting America’s most important diplomatic and humanitarian organs, Trump aims to cut funding for the U.N. and affiliated agencies. State Department officials have reportedly been instructed to eliminate more than half of the United States’ annual $10 billion contribution to the U.N., cuts that would drastically reduce the world body’s ability to fight hunger, disease, and war.

“If implemented, President Trump’s ‘skinny’ budget would have a serious impact on Africa,” John Campbell, a former U.S. ambassador to Nigeria, told FP. “Most forms of foreign assistance would be eliminated. Contributions to the U.N. system, including peacekeeping, would be much reduced if not eliminated altogether.”

The blueprint leaves intact funding for HIV/AIDS and malaria treatment, both of which are critically important for Africa. But it hints at deep cuts elsewhere in the aid budget, including to initiatives aimed at countering the effects of climate change, which is already affecting parts of the continent through coastal erosion and desertification.

Until the Trump administration submits a more detailed budget proposal in May, it’s impossible to say which programs will be hit the hardest. Given that much of the State Department and USAID budget is fixed, however, it’s their discretionary spending on development and humanitarian relief that’s likely to get the chop, according to former USAID officials.

“Because they’re not going to close down embassies and lay people off, I don’t think, the cuts could be more draconian than 28 percent,” Andrew Natsios, who served as USAID administrator under President George W. Bush, told FP. “If you take it out of the foreign aid budget, which is discretionary, it would be more like a 50 percent cut. We don’t yet know how [Secretary of State Rex] Tillerson will allocate that, but I think it’s worse than it appears.”

Trump’s blueprint is just the opening salvo in what will be a months-long negotiation with Congress over the spending bill. Already, it has encountered stiff opposition, with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell calling the “diplomatic portion” of the federal budget “very important” and Sen. Lindsey Graham, chairman of the subcommittee on state and foreign appropriations, saying the budget proposal is “dead on arrival.”

Although the budget is unlikely to pass in its current form, it sends a powerful message to one of the world’s most aid-dependent regions that the Trump era will be anything but business as usual. “We are entering a new territory here,” said a senior Kenyan diplomat who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “We don’t know yet what will happen, but we are fearing that it will leave a big hole in terms of the aid people are getting.”

The State Department and USAID together spent more than $8 billion on foreign assistance to sub-Saharan African countries in 2015, the last year for which there are data. (By comparison, Britain, the world’s second-largest bilateral donor, shelled out a little more than $3 billion.) Of that, they spent more than $1.13 billion on foreign disaster relief, including $717 million on Ebola response and hundreds of millions feeding and securing people in conflict zones like South Sudan, Central African Republic, and northern Mali.

Since then, things have only gotten worse. This month, the U.N. warned that the world is facing the worst humanitarian disaster since World War II, citing crises in Yemen, Somalia, South Sudan, and northern Nigeria. “The administration doesn’t realize it yet, but they are going to call up AID when there is a major disaster that threatens the U.S., like Ebola, and say, ‘What can you do about this?’” Natsios said.

It’s not just disaster relief that is threatened by Trump’s budget. The cuts would wipe out much of the development funding that, at least in theory, should create sustainable economies that are less susceptible to future crises. At $28.2 million, the 2017 budget request for the U.S. African Development Foundation (USADF) is less than the cost of an Apache helicopter. But its provision of small, direct grants to grassroots organizations means that its programs benefit 1.5 million people, mainly in impoverished trouble spots in Africa’s Horn, Sahel, and Great Lakes regions.

Trump’s blueprint eliminates USADF, meaning that dozens of development programs run by its African partners would come to a halt overnight. In South Sudan, where the U.N. recently declared a famine, that would mean terminating four sustainable agriculture programs that are worth a combined $670,000.

“The situation now is very critical, with many people depending on these funds,” said Albino Gaw Dar, director of the Foundation for Youth Initiative, the USADF’s partner organization in South Sudan. “The communities we are supporting will be devastated [by the cuts.] Their livelihoods will be devastated.”

More than 1,000 direct beneficiaries and between 5,000 and 10,000 indirect beneficiaries — mainly family members of those working on the projects — would be affected if USADF is forced to end its operations in South Sudan, according to Dar.

Peacekeeping is another area that could suffer in the Trump era. The budget blueprint caps U.S. spending on blue helmet operations at 25 percent of the peacekeeping budget, which in 2016 was $7.9 billion. (This year, the U.S. contribution amounts to almost 30 percent.) Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, has indicated that her office will undertake a mission-by-mission review of peacekeeping operations, suggesting that those in Africa are especially deserving of scrutiny.

“If you look at the peace missions in Africa, it has been devastating to see the sexual exploitation, the fraud, the abuse that’s happening,” she said during her Senate confirmation hearing. Speaking generally about U.N. peacekeeping, she asked, “Do we need to shift and do things differently, or do we need to pull out?”

The missions in South Sudan, Central African Republic, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo have been roundly criticized for their failure to protect civilians and for the criminal conduct of their peacekeepers. Last year, at least 311 people were allegedly abused by U.N. peacekeepers, the largest number by blue helmets in Congo. In July, peacekeepers in South Sudan reportedly stood by as civilians were raped in full view of their compound. But part of the reason these missions have performed so poorly is that they’ve been deployed to places where there is no peace to keep.

“It’s more expensive to deploy missions into zones of active conflict and into remote regions which lack even basic infrastructure,” said Paul D. Williams, an expert on peacekeeping at George Washington University. “Yet it is in precisely such areas where most of the large U.N. missions have been sent by the Security Council.”

Cutting funding to these missions, nearly all of which are in Africa, will only make them less effective, Williams said. “Trump’s budget proposal reveals this administration’s slash-and-burn approach to the U.N. is ideological. It is not the product of a thoughtful review process carried out and then implemented to find sensible reforms. This is an attack on an institution based on prejudice and ignorance,” he said.

The mission in Congo, which at $1.2 billion is the U.N.’s largest and most expensive, will be the first to come up for review during Trump’s presidency. Since American interests in Congo are less clear than in a place like Mali, where blue helmets have been drawn into a conflict with al Qaeda-linked militants, it will be something of a bellwether for peacekeeping in the era of Trump.

If the budget proposal is likely to be watered down substantially before it is signed into law, there are more subtle ways in which Trump’s administration is already leaving its mark on humanitarian operations in Africa. The president’s temporary travel ban, which caps the number of refugees entering the United States at 50,000, has brought refugee resettlement operations on the continent to a sudden halt. Church World Service, which is contracted by the State Department to run the only resettlement support center in sub-Saharan Africa, laid off more than 500 employees in the wake of Trump’s executive order. The organization had set its targets based on Obama’s pledge to resettle 110,000 refugees; overnight it found itself with virtually nothing to do.

Others in Nairobi’s massive aid worker community — the city serves as a hub for operations across East Africa — are feeling jittery about their jobs. Some, USAID contractors especially, are brushing up their résumés.

“Trump was supposed be the jobs president,” one contractor who works on a USAID-funded project said only half in jest. “Looks like he’ll be the biggest job killer Nairobi has ever seen.”

*FP/Yahoo

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ICC orders first monetary awards to war crime victims
March 25, 2017 | 0 Comments

Court in The Hague makes first compensation award to victims of war crimes, relating to an attack in the DRC.

The ICC was set up in 2002 to prosecute the world's worst crimes where national courts are reluctant or unable to act [Jerry Lampen/Reuters]

The ICC was set up in 2002 to prosecute the world’s worst crimes where national courts are reluctant or unable to act [Jerry Lampen/Reuters]

Judges at the International Criminal Court (ICC) on Friday awarded individual and collective reparations to victims of war crimes committed by former Congolese militia leader Germain Katanga.

The court awarded 297 victims of a 2003 attack on a Congolese village with “symbolic” compensation of $250 per victim, as well as collective reparations to help the community in the form of housing, income generating activities, education, and psychological support.

As the first ruling to award compensation to victims of war crimes, the order was a landmark step for the tribunal – set up in 2002 to prosecute the world’s worst crimes.

Katanga was accused of supplying weapons to his militia in the February 2003 ethnic attack on Bogoro village in Ituri province, in which some 200 people were shot or hacked to death with machetes.

The court estimated that the “extent of the physical, material and psychological harm suffered by the victims” amounted to more than $3.7m and said Katanga was responsible for $1m. But it added that he is considered “indigent” and unlikely to be able to pay.

The ICC said it was asking the Trust Fund for Victims (TFV) to consider using its resources for the reparations. The TFV is an independent body set up under the ICC’s founding guidelines, to support and implement programmes to help victims.

The TFV could decide to dip into its funds, gathered from voluntary contributions from member states.

But it only has $5m available, of which $1m has been set aside for the case of Thomas Lubanga – another Congolese former rebel leader sentenced in 2012 to 14 years imprisonment for conscripting child soldiers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). And under TFV guidelines it can only help pay collective reparations, not any individual claims.

‘Without real precedent’

“It may bring the prospect of some redress for the victims,” said Pieter de Baan, director of the Trust Fund for Victims, speaking about the ruling before the verdict. He argued it was important to show justice “doesn’t stop in the courtroom”.

Katanga was sentenced by the ICC to 12 years in jail in 2014, after being convicted on five charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity for the attack on Bogoro village.

Lawyers for the victims had estimated that a minimum of $16.4m in damages was caused, although they claim it could have been as high as $24.7m, even if the “victims are not demanding this sum”.

Katanga, 38, now on trial in the DRC on other charges of war crimes and insurrection in the mineral-rich Ituri region, was liable to pay any compensation.

Lawyers for the victims had set out a detailed list of the possible reparations due, pricing everything from the loss of a cow or a hen to the cost of rebuilding mud or brick homes or how much a life is worth, or how much suffering being raped caused.

“The reparations regime of the court is without real precedent,” said De Baan. “It’s not science. It’s basically trying to reach an estimation of what the harm has been in relation to the crimes.”

Reconciliation

Regarding Lubanga’s case, in October ICC judges approved “symbolic reparations” to create a “living memorial” to remember and raise awareness about child soldiers.

It was the first case to see some kind of ICC compensation awarded, but a final decision on collective reparations for Lubanga’s victims is still awaited.

The Ituri region where the Bogoro massacre occurred has been riven by violence since 1999, when clashes broke out that killed at least 60,000 people, according to rights groups.

Aid workers say they hope any reparations will go towards long-term projects such as building roads, health centres and schools.

“Given that today the victims and the executioners are living together, we must help people reach a real reconciliation,” said Jean Bosco Lalo, coordinator for the local group, the Ituri Civil Society.

Bribing witnesses

In a separate case, judges on Wednesday sentenced former Congolese vice president Jean-Pierre Bemba to a year in jail and fined him 300,000 euros ($324,000) for bribing witnesses during his war crimes trial in another unprecedented case before the ICC.

Prosecutors had asked for eight years for Bemba, who is already serving 18 years after being convicted of war crimes by his marauding troops who he sent into the Central African Republic in 2002 to 2003 to put down a coup against the then president.

In a separate trial, Bemba was found guilty in October of masterminding a network to bribe and manipulate at least 14 key witnesses, and had “planned, authorised, and approved the illicit coaching” of the witnesses to get them to lie at his main trial.

The year-long sentence will run consecutively to his 18-year jail time.

Set up in 2002 to prosecute the world’s worst crimes where national courts are reluctant or unable to act, the ICC goes to great lengths to try to protect witnesses and its trials from any interference.

Speaking to AFP after Wednesday’s sentences were handed down to Bemba and four of his associates, ICC chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda these were “very serious crimes”.

“My own motivation was to show and send a strong and loud message that these kind of crimes … will be taken seriously by my office and something will be done about it,” she said.

*Al Jazeera

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France’s Le Pen calls for end to ‘Francafrique’ relations, CFA franc currency
March 24, 2017 | 0 Comments

N’DJAMENA French far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen pledged on Wednesday to break with her country’s decades-old relationship with Africa known as “Francafrique” and abolish the CFA franc currency policy that binds Paris and its former colonies.

Francafrique describes an informal web of relationships Paris has maintained with its former African colonies and its support, sometimes in the form of military backing, for politicians who favor French business interests.

Le Pen, one of the frontrunners in the presidential election, spoke at the end of a two-day visit to Chad where she sought to outline her policies regarding the continent, which has long held an important place in French foreign policy.

“It was only in coming here and explaining that I am able to get around the lies of my political adversaries who don’t want Africa to hear me,” the National Front (FN) party candidate said at a news conference in the capital N’Djamena.

“I’ve come to condemn the policy of Francafrique that they’ve carried out. I have come to say I will break with this policy,” she said.

Former President Nicolas Sarkozy and incumbent Francois Hollande also vowed to end the Francafrique policy, but both kept France deeply involved in African politics and security matters.

Le Pen, a nationalist and vocal critic of the European Union, has spoken of her desire for France to abandon the euro currency.

In N’Djamena, she also called for an end to the CFA franc, a currency used in 14 west and central African nations, which is tied to the euro at a fixed exchange rate – with the peg guaranteed by the French Treasury.

“I understand the complaints of African states which consider as a matter of principle that they must have their own currency and that the CFA franc is a hindrance to their economic development. I completely agree with this vision,” she said.

In building the FN into a viable mainstream party, Le Pen has worked to shake off the baggage of its historical anti-semitism and deflect current accusations of racism and Islamophobia.

And while she sought to highlight that French citizens of African origin have the same rights and duties as any other citizens, she maintained the hard line on immigration that has solidified her support among many voters.

“Because France is sovereign, because it has its laws, because everyone who enters a country must respect these laws, foreigners living illegally in France will be sent home and French borders will be restored,” she said.

*REUTERS

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Challenges of the WHO Must be Turned to Opportunities-Ethiopia’s Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyus
March 23, 2017 | 1 Comments

By Ajong Mbapndah L

If elected,Dr Tedros will be the first African to head the WHO

If elected,Dr Tedros will be the first African to head the WHO

Mounting a strong bid to be the next Director General of the World Health Organization, shortcomings must be turned to lessons and new challenges into opportunity, says Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyus of Ethiopia.

Currently serving as Minister, Special Advisor to the Prime Minister of Ethiopia, and backed by the African  Union, Dr Tedros says a fresh view is needed to efficiently tackle the global health challenges of today. The upcoming elections present an opportunity for WHO to be led by someone who has lived and worked through some of the most pressing health challenges facing our world today, said Tedros a Former Minister of Health in his country.

Dr Tedros is no stranger to facing challenges. With a Ph.D. in Community Health, and a Master of Science in Immunology of Infectious Diseases, Tedros is a globally recognized expert and author on health issues. With stints as Chair for the Global Fund to fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria Board, Chair Roll Back Malaria Partnership Board, Co-Chair, Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health Board, Dr Tedros is supremely confident of his ability to help the WHO reach its potential and create a healthier world.

A few weeks back, Dr Tedros presented his vision and candidacy to the 34 Member States of the Executive Board of the WHO. In the voting to shortlist candidates, Tedros received the highest number of votes in both rounds. Buoyed with such a strong showing and with growing support and endorsements across the globe, Dr Tedros found time off his hectic schedule to discuss his vision, campaign, and more on the WHO and global health issues. Together we can create a healthier world, and every country has a stake in that vision says Tedros.

DR. TEDROS ADHANOM you are running for the office of Director-General for the World Health Organization (WHO), how are things shaping up with that?

I am honoured by the African Union’s endorsement for my candidacy last year and re-affirmation this year. I am motivated by the enthusiastic encouragement I have received from many other governments and global health leaders around the world.  I am humbled by their confidence in me.

Since I launched my campaign over a year ago, I have met with Ministers, Heads of Delegations, and some Heads of States of over 180 of the 194 WHO Member States. These discussions have significantly shaped the priorities that I will pursue if I am elected Director-General. They have enriched my understanding of global health priorities and how these needs manifest themselves differently around the world. I am encouraged by the overwhelming alignment across Member States regarding most of WHO’s priorities, opportunities, and risks. I have also noted some areas of diverse interests and positions.

Several weeks ago, I presented my vision and candidacy to the 34 Member States of the Executive Board of WHO. I was honoured to receive the highest number of votes in both rounds of the short-listing of candidates from six down to three. I am encouraged by this early success and re-energised heading into the final stage of the election.

What is your motivation in seeking the WHO Director-General position and what makes you stand out as the best candidate for the job?

My motivation to become DG boils down to three main themes:

1) My passion for health

2) My belief in the power and potential of WHO; and

3) I have the skills and track record that can help realize WHO’s potential.

My passion for health starts from a personal level, growing up in a poor family in Ethiopia. I saw my own and countless other families in our community suffering because of poor access to health, unsafe drinking water, and food insecurity. My passion is rooted in a refusal to accept that people should live or die because of these things.

I believe in the power of WHO. I have personally seen the impact, WHO can have, as a partner to countries’ health programmes, to support and challenge us so that we can have more impact, on more people’s lives. We must turn WHO’s past shortcomings into lessons, and new challenges into an opportunity to evolve and adapt.

Tedros is a globally recognised expert and author on health issues

Tedros is a globally recognised expert and author on health issues

I believe what I have accomplished can help WHO reach its potential and create a healthier world. I have spent 3 decades learning, planning, innovating, building national capacity, coordinating partners, increasing domestic health spending, implementing comprehensive health sector reform, and managing our programs with accountability. I have remained committed and focused, translating reform into results. My vision for the WHO draws on lessons learned throughout my career: the health successes achieved here in Ethiopia, building international partnerships as Foreign Minister, and the intricacies of global health diplomacy and financing that I learned to navigate through international roles. I have chaired the Boards of the major global health institutions, overseeing their strategies and reforms, and helping to rebuild donor confidence.

A fresh view is needed to efficiently tackle today’s global health challenges. The upcoming election presents an opportunity for WHO to be led by someone who has lived and worked through some of the most pressing health challenges facing our world today.

What assessment do you make of the way the WHO has fared in the last few years and its response when the Ebola crisis struck parts of West Africa?

The Ebola crises shocked WHO to its core. However, it also offered an opportunity that

WHO launch serious reforms aimed at improving its ability to respond more rapidly and effectively to public health emergencies. Those reforms must be implemented with a sense of urgency to yield results and rebuild the confidence.

Though there have been challenges, WHO has been working to address them to be better prepared for the global health issues of today and tomorrow.

Tedros says that his background and experiences transforming the health sector in Ethiopia puts him in unique perspective to help the WHO turn challenges to opportunity

Tedros says that his background and experiences transforming the health sector in Ethiopia puts him in unique perspective to help the WHO turn challenges to opportunity

If elected to serve as DG, a top priority will be strengthening emergency preparedness, particularly in provision of increased support at country level to prevent, detect, and swiftly respond to disease outbreaks.  Going back to your question about Ebola, Nigeria and Senegal were able to contain the outbreak rapidly. This was due to better coordination, incident management systems, robust surveillance platforms and community engagement. This is why country capacity is so important. The relay of information from countries to regions and then to the headquarters is very important for an outbreak to not spread globally. But if there is weak capacity and if International Health Regulations are not fully implemented at the country level, then you cannot get the information flow and rapid response needed. That is why we need, as a global community, to work together to build capacity collaboratively – whether it is through South-South partnerships, gaining access to essential vaccines, and committing to fully implement International Health Regulations.

Can you explain the vision you have for the World Health Organisation? What will the WHO under the leadership of Dr. Tedros look like?

If elected, I will focus on five priorities:

My top priority is Universal Health Coverage. All roads lead to Universal Health Coverage, from Sustainable Development Goals to gender equality to emergency preparedness.

My second is to strengthen the capacity of national authorities and local communities to detect, prevent and manage health emergencies, including antimicrobial resistance.

My third is to put women, children, and adolescents at the centre of the global health development agenda, and to position health as a more powerful contributor to the gender equality agenda.

My fourth is to address health effects of climate and environmental change.

Lastly, in order to accomplish these, we will need to create a transformed WHO: one that is strong, effectively managed, adequately resourced, results- focused and responsive.

You can find out more about my vision for WHO at www.DrTedros.com.

May we know the support you have from the AU or the African bloc and in what other parts of the world are you hoping to get the necessary support to boost your chances of victory?

I am honoured to have received the endorsement of the African Union for my candidacy, and I am grateful for the support I have received.

I am campaigning on a vision that together we can create a healthier world, and every country has a stake in that vision. So in this campaign, I want to listen to and speak with people from every nation. To be successful, we all have to do this together, all 194 Member States.

If we are to build a healthier world together, we must recognize the unique challenges that each continent and each country has to face and not shirk or ignore any of them. This is, after all, a global effort.

You were Minister of Health in your native Ethiopia from 2005-2012, what did your leadership achieve for the health sector in Ethiopia?

When I began as Ethiopia’s Minister of Heath, our country faced extraordinary challenges. We took an honest look at the state of our health care system and at what would be required to expand health to reach all our fellow citizens in need.

We made a conscious decision to address the essential building blocks for health system-wide reform – investing in critical health infrastructure, expanding the health workforce, creating new financing mechanisms, improving service delivery, strengthening pharmaceutical supply, integrating information management, and investing in epidemiology/outbreak preparedness.

We worked with communities to identify health challenges and obstacles and, together, came up with workable and culturally acceptable solutions for each unique context.

As a result of working with teams across the country at each level, we were able to expand healthcare to tens of millions more Ethiopians. Through these initiatives, we were able to dramatically expand access to health services and meet ambitious health targets, translating reform into results: reducing child mortality by 67%; reducing maternal mortality by 71%; reducing malaria mortality by 75%;reducing mortality from tuberculosis by 64%; and reducing mortality from HIV by 70%.

 If you win the election you will be the first African to head the WHO, what would this mean to you?

Together we can create a healthier world, and every country has a stake in that vision says Tedros pictured here at the TANA Forum former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo

Together we can create a healthier world, and every country has a stake in that vision says Tedros pictured here at the TANA Forum former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo

It is one thing to tell countries what they should do, but it is an entirely different thing to have lived it and done it oneself, as I have. I have the ability to say that I designed the health reform, implemented it, and saw the results.

As someone who comes from a region hardest hit by many of the world’s biggest health challenges, I would bring WHO a fresh perspective about how much can still be done with limited resources. If elected, that will be recognition by our peers around the world that this type of frontline experience is paramount to successfully addressing health challenges not only here but around the world.

 Last May, you were presented with the Award for Perseverance during the Fourth Global Conference of Women Deliver in Copenhagen, Denmark; did you consider this an early endorsement for your bid?

That was a great honor. I would not say it is an endorsement of my candidacy, but I would say it is a recognition of the importance of gender equality to us all. I have long been a champion of empowering women since I have found from experience that inclusiveness and different ways of viewing issues tends to prompt innovative thinking and deliver results.

Leading on gender quality is a core value of mine and among my five leadership priorities for WHO. Investments in girls’ and women’s health and rights are investments in a healthy and more prosperous future. We see over and over again the untapped potential of women, because we disempower them, marginalize them, and undervalue them. When we do this, our societies are poorer today. Likewise, when we neglect the health and development needs of our children, our societies are poorer tomorrow. What a shame to lose both today and tomorrow, by not investing in women and children.

Healthy, empowered girls and women have the potential to build stronger communities, economies, and nations, and ultimately transform entire societies. For example, in Ethiopia, we trained over 38,000 women to be health extension workers, who bring local health services to communities across the country, and we built a Health Development Army, a 3-million strong organized women’s network that communicates directly with families to promote health practices and disease prevention across the country. This led to a major expansion of healthcare access.

I accepted the award on behalf of my colleagues and partners who tirelessly work to improve the lives of the girls and women over the last 30 years, and consider it an acknowledgment that similar efforts need to be replicated on a global scale.

The final elections are in May. What plans do you have to better introduce yourself to the world and reassure skeptics about your abilities to provide leadership for such an important global organization?

In May, all 194 countries that are members of the World Health Organization will each get an equal vote for the next Director-General.

I am speaking to people near and far from all regions of the world. Through these conversations, I am deepening my understanding of the needs and opportunities around the world, as well as demonstrating the successes and the lessons from our experiences in the health sector transformation in Ethiopia and my leadership roles with other international organizations. I am confident and hopeful that I will receive the necessary support to be successful in the final election in May at the World Health Assembly.

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World Bank Group Announces Record $57 Billion for Sub-Saharan Africa
March 20, 2017 | 1 Comments
Funds will scale up investments and de-risk private sector participation for accelerated growth and development

 

File Picture- President Kagame meets with World Bank President Jim Yong Kim in New York

File Picture- President Kagame meets with World Bank President Jim Yong Kim in New York

BADEN BADEN, Germany, March 19, 2017– Following a meeting with G20 finance ministers and central bank governors, World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim today announced a record $57 billion in financing for Sub-Saharan African countries over the next three fiscal years. Kim then left on a trip to Rwanda and Tanzania to emphasize the Bank Group’s support for the entire region. 

The bulk of the financing – $45 billion – will come from the International Development Association (IDA), the World Bank Group’s fund for the poorest countries. The financing for Sub-Saharan Africa also will include an estimated $8 billion in private sector investments from the International Finance Corporation (IFC), a private sector arm of the Bank Group, and $4 billion in financing from International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, its non-concessional public sector arm.

In December, development partners agreed to a record $75 billion for IDA, a dramatic increase based on an innovative move to blend donor contributions to IDA with World Bank Group internal resources, and with funds raised through capital markets.

Sixty percent of the IDA financing is expected to go to Sub-Saharan Africa, home to more than half of the countries eligible for IDA financing. This funding is available for the period known as IDA18, which runs from July 1, 2017, to June 30, 2020.

“This represents an unprecedented opportunity to change the development trajectory of the countries in the region,” World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim said. “With this commitment, we will work with our clients to substantially expand programs in education, basic health services, clean water and sanitation, agriculture, business climate, infrastructure, and institutional reform.

The IDA financing for operations in Africa will be critical to addressing roadblocks that prevent the region from reaching its potential. To support countries’ development priorities, scaled-up investments will focus on tackling conflict, fragility, and violence; building resilience to crises including forced displacement, climate change, and pandemics; and reducing gender inequality. Efforts will also promote governance and institution building, as well as jobs and economic transformation.

This financing will help African countries continue to grow, create opportunities for their citizens, and build resilience to shocks and crises,” Kim said.

While much of the estimated $45 billion in IDA financing will be dedicated to country-specific programs, significant amounts will be available through special “windows” to finance regional initiatives and transformative projects, support refugees and their host communities, and help countries in the aftermath of crises. This will be complemented by a newly established Private Sector Window (PSW)-especially important in Africa, where many sound investments go untapped due to lack of capital and perceived risks. The Private Sector Window will supplement existing instruments of IFC and the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA) – the Bank Group’s arm that offers political risk insurance and credit enhancement – to spur sound investments through de-risking, blended finance, and local currency lending.

This World Bank Group financing will support transformational projects during the FY18-20 period. IBRD priorities will include health, education, and infrastructure projects such as expanding water distribution and access to power. The priorities for the private sector investment will include infrastructure, financial markets, and agribusiness. IFC also will deepen its engagement in fragile and conflict-affected states and increase climate-related investments.

Expected IDA outcomes include essential health and nutrition services for up to 400 million people, access to improved water sources for up to 45 million, and 5 GW of additional generation capacity for renewable energy.

The scaled-up IDA financing will build on a portfolio of 448 ongoing projects in Africa totaling about $50 billion. Of this, a $1.6 billion financing package is being developed to tackle the impending threat of famine in parts of Sub-Saharan Africa and other regions.

*World Bank

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Cameroon says regional forces free 5,000 Boko Haram captives
March 16, 2017 | 0 Comments
By Sylvain Andzongo*
People who were rescued after being held captive by Boko Haram, sit as they wait for medical treatment at a camp near Mubi, northeast Nigeria October 29, 2015. REUTERS/Stringer

People who were rescued after being held captive by Boko Haram, sit as they wait for medical treatment at a camp near Mubi, northeast Nigeria October 29, 2015. REUTERS/Stringer

YAOUNDE (Reuters) – Regional West African forces freed 5,000 captives from a Boko Haram base in a more than week-long operation that also completely destroyed the militants’ hideout in mountains along the Nigeria-Cameroon border, Cameroon said Wednesday.

The “hostages freed consisted mostly of women, children and elderly people,” Communications Minister Issa Tchiroma Bakary told a news conference.

He added that 21 Boko Haram suspects had been arrested in the raid in the Mandara Mountains between Feb. 26 and March 7, which destroyed a fuel depot and recovered weapons, motorcycles, around 50 bicycles and “various propaganda objects”.

Nigerian Islamist group Boko Haram has been fighting since 2009 to try to establish a medieval Islamic caliphate in the Lake Chad region, where Nigeria, Cameroon, Niger and Chad join.A coordinated push by the militaries of these four nations dismantled much of the territory Boko Haram once held, but it remains capable of launching lethal attacks, often targeting the civilian population.

In 2014 Boko Haram gunmen abducted 276 schoolgirls from the Nigerian village of Chibok, to worldwide horror, and some 200 of them are thought to still be in captivity.

The Lake Chad region has witnessed an increase in attacks bearing the hallmarks of Boko Haram in markets and refugee camps since late 2016, and the United Nations says more than seven million people risk starvation owing to insecurity there.

As its fighters have been increasingly been killed or locked up, the militants have sometimes resorted to using female captives as suicide bombers.

Four female teenage suicide bombers killed two people and injured 16 others on Wednesday in the northeast Nigerian city of Maiduguri, where the uprising first began. [nL5N1GS2BE]

Bakary said no Cameroonian soldiers had been killed in the raid, though one had been wounded.

*Reuters/Yahoo

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Africa: New Head of AU Commission
March 14, 2017 | 0 Comments

By Cristina Krippahl*

New African Union Commission chief Moussa Faki Mahamat officially takes up his post on Tuesday. But who is Faki and what does he stand for?

Photo: allafrica.com

Photo: allafrica.com
African Union Commission Chair Moussa Faki Mahamat

A seasoned diplomat and politician, 56-year-old Moussa Faki Mahamat is no stranger to the challenges presented by the top job he was elected to on January 30. He is seen as the architect of Chad’s nomination to the United Nations Security Council as a non-permanent member and also of the country’s presidency of the AU in 2016. He headed the AU Commission on Peace and Security at the Nairobi summit in 2013, which was dedicated to the fight against terrorism. Above all, as a former Chadian prime minister and current foreign minister he has had a decisive say in all the military and strategic operations his country was and is engaged in: Libya, Mali, South Sudan and Central African Republic, the Sahel and the Lake Chad region.

His election as chief executive of the AU thus indicates a very likely reorientation of AU policies towards issues of peace and security on the continent, Liesl Louw-Vaudran of the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) in Pretoria told DW: “His country, Chad, is well known for seeing itself as a sort of champion of military intervention.”

 International approval

His predecessor, South Africa’s Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, was severely criticized for neglecting the pressing issues on the crisis-riven continent, preferring to concentrate on longterm plans of prosperity for Africa, not to mention her own political career at home. Moussa Faki, on the other hand, has already left a mark in the fight against terrorism, most notably as chairman of the council of ministers of the G5Sahel, a military anti-terror alliance made up of Mauritania, Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso and Chad, of which Ndjamena is the driving force.

His election to the AU Commission is likely to please both Europe and the United States of America, who support Chad in the fight against Boko Haram and other jihadist groups. Chad is also the headquarters of the French counterterrorism operation in the Sahel, Operation Barkhane.

Democracy not a priority

But not everybody welcomed the news. Doki Warou Mahamat, a Chadian who coordinated the campaign against Faki’s election, told DW: “Moussa Faki is on the payroll of a dictatorship. The Chadians are in a state of mourning. You have to clean up your own act before starting somewhere else.”

Moussa Faki is reputed to be very close to President Deby who was reelected in April 2016 for a fifth consecutive term. The outcome was widely criticized because of serious irregularities. Deby has ruled the country with an iron fist since 1990. Both are members of the Zaghawa ethnic group. Analysts note that Deby succeeded in placing a man he trusted at the helm of the AU on the same day that he handed over the rotating presidency of the organization to Guinea, showing the extent of Chad’s influence in the AU and on the continent.

Reforms in the offing

Nevertheless, Faki’s election was not a foregone conclusion. Internal rifts in the AU were highlighted in July 2016 when no candidate won the necessary two-thirds majority at a previous attempt to elect a chairperson, forcing Dlamini-Zuma to stay on for an extra six months. And early this year it took seven rounds of voting before Faki emerged as the winner ahead of Kenya’s Amina Mohamed, long considered the favorite.

While campaigning, Faki, who studied law in Brazzaville and Paris, said that as head of the AU Commission he would want a continent where “the sound of guns will be drowned out by cultural songs and rumbling factories.” While he promised to put development and security at the top of the agenda during his four-year term, he might also want to go ahead with at least some of the reforms deemed necessary to make the organization more effective. “The AU chairperson should be able to make a stand and authorize the sending of AU troops in crisis situations. At the moment, the Commission is sort of beholden to the decision of the 55 member states. Basically, the Commission’s hands are tied,” expert Liesl Louw-Vaudran said. Being a man accustomed to power and who expects to be obeyed, it is likely that Faki will want to change that.

*DW/Allafrica

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UN, Regional Forces and the Need to Save Humanity
February 28, 2017 | 0 Comments
By Anthony Kolawole
AMISOM troops serving in Belet Weyne, Somalia. Photo: AU-UN/Stuart Price

AMISOM troops serving in Belet Weyne, Somalia. Photo: AU-UN/Stuart Price

Terrorism is man’s new evil with the capability for self-extinction to mankind. It is crude, barbaric, cruel and inhuman. God Almighty frowns at it. Humanity has cursed it. Nations and countries of the world are fighting it to a standstill. The United Nations (UN), that world assemblage of civilized nations, is bitter and enraged with it.

Except the sadists who perpetrate terrorism, the evil is abhorred and resented everywhere and by every right thinking human. Yet, the mystery is that it has continued to rise and spread its tentacles to cover more grounds and nations.

Nigeria’s experience with Boko Haram terrorism is still fresh in memories, since 2009 when its atrocities on Nigerian people reached the pinnacle. The deaths, the brutal killings, the arsons, the destructions of property, the dislocation of social and communal life, the displacements of people and other mass inconveniences it created are the sad multiple relics of this evil on the land.

Though, Nigerian Military has defeated this obnoxious sect, the unalterable truth is that Boko Haram terrorists have not been completely wiped out from Nigeria, in the sense that the remnants have taken refuge in countries near Nigeria. And from time to time, they recuperate and gather momentum to strike obscure and soft targets in the country.

By this evidence, it is clear; terrorists are funded, trained and supplied with weapons in foreign countries to continue with their atrocities in Nigeria and other neighbouring countries. The unanswered question is; why is the shadows of some countries behind the evil of the festering and flourishing terrorism? And these suspected countries are members of the UN and also, some subscribe to the dozen region bodies in Africa, whose main mandate is to promote unity, peace and security, but none is being rebuked or reprimanded on account of support for terrorists?

Many instances abound which indicate that world and regional bodies are indifferent about the evil of Boko Haram in Nigeria, despite their official aversion to it. In year 2006, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) unanimously adopted a 15-page resolution on UN Global Counter-terrorism Strategy. The document was designed to secure peace and prosperity now and for future generations of the world. It was a landmark proclamation by this exalted world body and for the first time, all member-nations endorsed a resolution of the UN without exemption.

The resolution is reviewed every two years. And for every member state, the United Nations and other appropriate international, regional and sub-regional organizations’ efforts are expected to heighten on implementing it in an “integrated and balanced manner… to enhance national, regional and international efforts to counter terrorism”.

At the last review, the UN urged member-states “To consistently, unequivocally and strongly condemn terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, committed by whomever, wherever and for whatever purposes, as it constitutes one of the most serious threats to international peace and security.”
Also, at its 5th review and 10th anniversary in 2016 at the UN headquarters in New York, Immediate past UN Secretary General, Mr. Ban Ki-Moon said the UN’s “Adoption by consensus of this resolution symbolizes the international community’s strong resolve to act in unison and without delay to address terrorism and violent extremism.”
He was unambiguous that “Terrorism and violent extremism pose a major threat to international peace and security, as well as to sustainable development, human rights and humanitarian action at the global, regional and national levels.”
On measures to prevent and combat terrorism, the UN member-states explicitly resolved “To refrain from organizing, instigating, facilitating, participating in, financing, encouraging or tolerating terrorist activities and to take appropriate practical measures to ensure that our respective territories are not used for terrorist installations or training camps, or for the preparation or organization of terrorist acts intended to be committed against other States or their citizens.”
Apart from the UN, regional bodies like ECOWAS; the East African Community (EAC) and the Horn of Africa (HOA), further categorized as the Inter-governmental Authority and Development (IGAD) and a lot more have failed to exhibit the integration and co-operation needed to stamp out Boko Haram terrorism. The body language of these bodies surprisingly suggests countries facing threats of terrorism like Nigeria are on their own that the problem is exclusively theirs.
A Ghanaian scholar Mr. Nyionkuru Fulgence in an article titled “War on Terrorism in Africa: A Challenge for Regional Integration and Cooperation Organizations in Eastern and Western Africa,” pungently said despite the infiltration and multiplication of terror groups on the continent, regional bodies have remained inactive and docile and at best, churn out verbal policies unsupported by any concrete roadmap of action against terrorism.
He adds that “Intervention may not follow any pre-arrangement agreement and this has caused misunderstanding and little grudges between countries within the same regional organization. A country may be so lenient to deal with terrorism on its soil for some reasons but neighboring countries facing consequences may decide to intervene for the good of its citizens and hence inter-state conflicts arise.”
But ECOWAS alone, where Nigeria belongs, has expanded its scope of vigilance in the sub-region to also include among other matters, the Protocol to Non-Aggression (PNA) and Protocol on Mutual Assistance and Defense (PMAD), which mutated into the protocol for establishing mechanism for conflict prevention, management and resolution, peace and security. But none of these vast tissues or organs of intervention by ECOWAS has been applied in the Nigerian case over Boko Haram terrorism.
Assuming Chad, Niger, Cameroun and Benin Republics are only suspected of harbouring of Boko Haram Terrorists against Nigeria, but could the same tale be extended to Iran? It is unfortunate that the UN has done nothing about the glaring case of Iran’s sponsorship of terrorists and Islamic extremists sects in Nigeria. Boko Haram’s now factional leader, Abubakar Shekau openly confessed, in one of his videos, the sect’s Islamic State (ISIS) links and funding.   But regrettably, no reproach has ever been contemplated for Iran till date by the UN Security Council (UNSC).
But an opportunity has rendered itself by Nigeria’s defeat of Boko Haram insurgents. It is expected that the UNSC and the regional bodies would have stepped up efforts to consolidate on the gains recorded against terrorism by ensuring, terrorists do not find safe havens anywhere among member-states in accordance with the 2006 UN Global Counter-terrorism Strategy, which these countries are joyfully and freely violating with impunity.
Nigerians know in clear terms that whatever trace of Boko Haram terrorism in the country these days are devils, recruited, trained, armed with weapons and harboured to perfect the strategies to attack Nigeria from the deliberately compromised border communities of other countries. It is pertinent to ask, who sells arms and ammunitions to Boko Haram terrorists and how can the sophistry of the weapons be explained? Samples of weapons seized from terrorists by Nigerian soldiers over time bear the trademark of specific countries which are UN member-states.

Nigerians are really worried that the UNSC is failing in its duty to assist nations to overcome terrorism, as in the case of Nigeria, by its somewhat hesitation to invoke the necessary disciplinary measures on erring countries to serve as deterrence. The impression being created is that someone somewhere has suppressed action on the law because Nigeria is involved?

But there is need to remind the world like it is acknowledged globally that Nigeria is the giant of Africa and a restive Nigeria would cause spiral disruptions to peace and security on the continent, which will in turn affect the much canvassed global peace and security. No one stands to make any gain from this conspiracy against Nigeria, especially as it concerns terrorism. Besides, what happiness would the world derive from the continued bloodletting and massacre of Nigerians by terrorists? Absolutely none!

Nigerians in diaspora should begin to pay more attention on the issue of terrorism in their country. A peaceful protest to the UN House in New York, and foreign embassies to demand for action and justice would not be a bad idea. It will reawaken the consciousness of the world to the predicament of Nigerians back home.

In conclusion, Fulgence offers a useful advice. He says; “The regional integration organizations and the United Nations’ commitment to counter terrorism have to move from their theoretical framework into real action.”  And the time is now in order to save humanity from total destruction.
Kolawole PhD, a University lecturer writes from Keffi, Nasarawa State.
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Research Calls for New Approach to Youth Employment Training Strategies in Africa
February 17, 2017 | 0 Comments

Youth Livelihood Diaries Shed New Light on Working Lives of African Youth

 

Sarah Bafumba,(right) ,a Youth Researcher in discussion with Hamidah Nyahzi (left), a respondent in Uganda during the study.Photo Jennifer Huxta ,The MasterCard Foundation

Sarah Bafumba,(right) ,a Youth Researcher in discussion with Hamidah Nyahzi (left), a respondent in Uganda during the study.Photo Jennifer Huxta ,The MasterCard Foundation

Kigali, Rwanda, February 17, 2017 Innovative research released today by The MasterCard Foundation is making the case for a new approach to youth employment training strategies in Africa. Invisible Lives: Understanding Youth Livelihoods in Ghana and Uganda, released today at the Young Africa Works Summit in Kigali, Rwanda, sheds light on the working lives of African youth. The report, produced in collaboration with Low-Income Financial Transformation (L-IFT), argues that international development programs favour skills training for formal sector careers over training that can be applied to multiple jobs in the informal sector. The result is that their efforts fall short of reaching the millions of unreached youth on the continent who engage in mixed livelihoods.

“To reach a critical mass of young people, fundamental shifts in our approach to skills-building, access to finance and entrepreneurship support are necessary,” says Lindsay Wallace, Director of Learning and Strategy, The MasterCard Foundation. “Development efforts must strengthen social, education and economic systems, and promote inclusive growth that will provide the most vulnerable and marginalized young people with opportunities to improve their lives.”

Invisible Lives set out to explore how young people integrate mixed livelihoods into their working lives, what challenges this approach poses, and how best to design interventions for young people in the informal sector. The research used a diaries methodology to document the working lives of 246 youth ages 18-24 from Ghana and Uganda over a one-year period, honing in on questions around behaviour, income, economic activities, and time management. While these data speak to the realities of employment in Ghana and Uganda, the research suggests that these also reflect emerging trends across Africa.

 

Invisible Lives highlights the extraordinary lengths that young people go to in order to achieve sustainable livelihoods. Findings of the Invisible Lives research indicate that:

 

  • Young people in Africa diversify their livelihoods, undertaking a mix of informal sector employment, self-employment, and agriculture-related activities to sustain their livelihood.
  • Agricultural production is central to young people’s livelihoods, but agricultural incomes were meagre. Many young people run small enterprises that can be easily started, stopped, and restarted as needed. The most successful young people in both Ghana and Uganda diversified their income and risk by growing multiple crops, raising a variety of livestock, and pursuing a wide range of additional activities.
  • Both formal and informal wage employment is rare and sporadic, or elusive. While the informal sector, which constitutes about 80 percent of Africa’s labour force, provided more wage employment opportunities for young people, they were by no means abundant.
  • Support networks are critical for young people and they play an extensive role in their lives, not only providing support in the form of advice regarding where to look for and how to find employment, skills development, and business guidance, but also proving instrumental in accessing financial resources needed.
Anne Marie van Swinderen

Anne Marie van Swinderen

“Respondents who participated in this study generously shared experiences from their lives over the course of a full year,” explains Anne Marie van Swinderen, lead researcher on Invisible Lives from Low-Income Financial Transformation (L-IFT). “Data from the study shows us that these young people readily take up all opportunities that come their way, with enormous energy and positive spirit. Through the L-IFT diaries methodology, these young respondents and the young researchers who interviewed them, also grew a great deal, simply through the act of asking and answering questions about their diversified livelihoods.”

In addition to providing new information on the employment and risk-mitigation strategies of young working Africans, the research maintains that youth who participated in this study were largely invisible to both development organizations and their own governments, and did not have any access to support services, training or finance capital.

Nakagubo Manjeri(left) participated in the study.Photo Jennifer Huxta ,MasterCard Foundation

Nakagubo Manjeri(left) participated in the study.Photo Jennifer Huxta ,MasterCard Foundation

The MasterCard Foundation works with visionary organizations to provide greater access to education, skills training, and financial services for people living in poverty, primarily in Africa. As one of the largest private foundations, its work is guided by its mission to advance learning and promote financial inclusion to create an inclusive and equitable world. Based in Toronto, Canada, its independence was established by Mastercard when the Foundation was created in 2006.

The Youth Livelihoods Program seeks to improve the capacity of young men and women to transition to jobs or create businesses through a holistic approach which combines market-relevant skills training, mentorship, and appropriate financial services. Through our partnerships, our program is supporting innovative models that help young people transition out of poverty and into stable livelihoods. Since 2010, the Foundation has committed $US402 million to 37 multi-year projects across 19 countries in Africa. More than 1.8 million young people have been reached through the Youth Livelihoods program

 

 

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Nigerian group asks US for $500 million
February 15, 2017 | 0 Comments

By Kieron Monks*

(CNN)The rancorous reign of the 45th US President faces a fresh controversy.

General Sani Abacha seized power in a 1993 coup and reigned for five years.

General Sani Abacha seized power in a 1993 coup and reigned for five years.

A Nigerian economic and social rights group has written to the White House demanding the return of $500 million of stolen funds, which it claims are being held by the US.

“(We urge) the administration to attach and release to Nigeria some $500 million worth of US-based proceeds of corruption traced to former Nigerian dictator General Sani Abacha,” the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) wrote in an open letter.
The letter cites US obligations as a signatory to the UN Convention Against Corruption, and demands that the government “promptly initiate civil asset forfeiture proceedings” to ensure that the funds are swiftly returned to Nigeria.

Following the money

General Sani Abacha was a notorious dictator who led Nigeria for five years after taking power in a 1993 coup. He is alleged to have stolen over $4 billion during his reign, before his death in 1998.
SERAP’s claim is the latest in a series of attempts to recover lost wealth from Abacha and his family, which has been frozen in accounts and assets around the world.
Switzerland has recovered and returned around $700 million to Nigeria to date, with further sums pending. The US Department of Justice had already seized $480 million in 2014, prior to SERAP’s new claim, although this has yet to be returned.
The Nigerian government’s focus is on reclaiming the funds it is due from these latter cases rather than the SERAP claim, says Professor Bolaji Owasanoye, Executive Secretary of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption.
Extracting the money from the US in particular has been a frustrating process for Nigeria.
“President Obama met with our President Buhari and made a commitment to return this sum to the government of Nigeria,” says Owasanoye. “This has been subject to legal challenge, and the bureaucratic system in the US is hindering the return so far.”
“Developed countries are very happy to recover money but very slow to return it,” he adds.
The legal challenge comes from Godson Nnaka, a former attorney for the Nigerian government.
The US Department of Justice (DoJ) says that the appeal must be resolved before the funds can be returned to Nigeria.

‘Lawyer’s feast’

The Nigerian government will face further obstacles before recovering the money.
Some of the forfeited $480 million is located in banks outside the US, which will require an even more laborious process to recover.
“The US has to get court orders for those countries to physically move cash back to the US to go in the pot of seized assets,” says Alexander W. Sierck, a Washington-based lawyer who has represented SERAP pro-bono for several years in their efforts to recover Abacha funds.
Teodorin Nguema Obiang, Vice-President of Equatorial Guinea, agreed to a deal that allowed proceeds of corruption from the country to be repatriated through a trust partly overseen by the US.

Teodorin Nguema Obiang, Vice-President of Equatorial Guinea, agreed to a deal that allowed proceeds of corruption from the country to be repatriated through a trust partly overseen by the US.

“It is a lawyer’s feast that that generates a lot of work — but it is a slow process.”

A further complication is the DoJ’s determination to avoid allowing repatriated funds to be lost to corruption a second time, often seeking safeguards.
In the landmark case of Equatorial Guinea, a haul of assets worth $30 million seized from the ruling Obiang family including property and sports cars was repatriated in the form of charitable trusts, partly overseen by the US. A similar deal was reached over proceeds of corruption from Kazakhstan.
The US Congress has discussed a bill that would see the Nigerian funds placed in a charity to support the victims of Boko Haram, but Nigeria is unlikely to accept such an arrangement.
“The US should not impose conditions,” says Owasanoye. “They can monitor to the use of the funds — we are transparent — but we are a sovereign state and the money should be returned to us.
The need is particularly acute as Nigeria struggles through a period of recession, he adds, claiming the money will be used for a range of social welfare projects.

Fractions of fractions

The World Bank estimated in 2007 that developing countries lose up to $40 billion a year through corruption, and little is successfully reclaimed.
“What is being recovered is a fraction of a fraction,” says Emile van der Does de Willebois, the Bank’s global lead for financial market integrity and asset recovery. “Legal procedures take time and an enormous amount of resources.”
“Of any number of corruption cases you can only focus on one or two…(and) it is up to prosecutorial authorities to make a judgement on what is the most important case.”
The process is further complicated by problems with mutual legal assistance and co-ordination, says de Willebois, as “victim” states often lack expertise in how to deal with financial centers such as Switzerland and the US.
But there has been progress, he adds, such as through a legal maneuver that allowed Switzerland to reclaim Abacha assets by classifying his family as a criminal organization, thus lowering the burden of proof required for seizure.
New initiatives such as the US Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative, and European Union-led efforts to establish transparency in offshore holdings, also aid recovery efforts.
But asset recovery experts also say that the attitude of the new US administration will be critical for further progress on the issue, and the Nigerians await their answer from the White House with no little anxiety.
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Corruption Weary Africans Taking Anger To The Polls-TI 2016 CPI Index
February 15, 2017 | 0 Comments

By Ajong Mbapndah L

John Mahama or Ghana (in suit) and Yahya Jammeh of Gambia both lost elections in 2016

John Mahama or Ghana (in suit) and Yahya Jammeh of Gambia both lost elections in 2016

If affable candidates like former President John Mahama of Ghana lost elections last year, it may in part have been due to corruption.The finding is contained in the recently published 2016 corruption perception index of Transparency International.

“In countries like Ghana, which is the second worst decliner in the 2016 Corruption Perceptions Index in the region, the dissatisfaction of citizens with the government’s corruption record was reflected in their voting at the polls,” Transparency International said in a statement that accompanied the release.

Africa did not fare so well said Samuel Kaninda Regional Advisor for Africa at Transparency International. In a skype interview, Kaninda who was on mission in Accra, said  the recently released perception index found a co-relation between democracy and good governance. Countries with a history of free elections and a stable democracy faired comparatively better as compared those where democracy and the rule of law are still struggling to take root.

On the countries that did well, Cape Verde and Sao Tome and Principe emerged as the most improved in Africa. Both countries held elections, which got rave reviews from observers. For his efforts and management style, Jorge Carlos Fonseca was rewarded with another term of office. In Sao Tome and Principe, there was a smooth transition of power, a feat that still eludes many countries in the continent.

For the democratic advances it has made, corruption in Ghana was described as rampant. Corroborating statements in the TI Release, Samuel Kaninda believed that the outcome of the recent election mirrored the anger and disappointment of Ghanaians who voted out a sitting President.

Despite high profile arrests and pompous amounts recouped from corrupt politicians, Nigeria failed to see any significant improvement in the index. The doctrine of change that brought the Buhari APC led government to power has so far been a mirage. Nigerians are increasingly voicing out their frustrations and should things not change before the 2019 elections, the APC may be in for a rude awakening.

 

Africa should seek the partnership of the international community to fight illicit flows of capital from the continent says Samuel Kaninda

Africa should seek the partnership of the international community to fight illicit flows of capital from the continent says Samuel Kaninda

The situation was similar in South Africa, trailed by sleazy tales of corruption with fingers pointing directly at President Jacob Zuma himself. Though serving his second and last term of offices, there have been growing calls for Zuma to step down. Down and bruised, Zuma has so far weathered the storm, but his battered image is taking a toll on ruling ANC. That it took heavy military Presidents to quell a mutiny from the opposition before Zuma could make a recent state of the Union Address speaks volumes on the situation Mandela’s own country.

With elections due later this year, if corruption were to be a decisive factor, President Uhuru may have some blushes as little progress has been made during his first term.

On the category of countries that equally fared poorly are the regulars like Somalia, South Sudan, Guinea Bissau, Central Africa, Chad, Burundi, Zimbabwe, Uganda, Cameroon, DR, Congo and the Republic of Congo.

Fighting corruption should be task for everybody said Samuel Kaninda in response to solutions for the way forward. Besides the framework that countries need to put place, the civil society has to step up its role.

Transparency International is willing to engage with countries in the continent and the wider international community in the quest for lasting solutions, Kaninda said. With growing attention from the international corporate world, Kaninda said corporations coming to Africa need to be clearly identified .Institutions and clear-cut rules need to be put in place to curb incidence of corruption, he said.

Corruption is not an issue of the South or the North, Kaninda said in response to a question on illicit outflows of money from Africa. Without these massive flows, Africa will not be talking about Aid but Trade,  said Kaninda. African governments should engaged in discussions with the rest of the world especially those that provide safe haven for massive loots from Africa so as to curb this trend which saps Africa of resources needed for its own development ,said Kaninda.

 

 

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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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