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African Youth to African Leaders: “You Must Do More to End Conflicts in Africa”
June 17, 2016 | 0 Comments
Dlamini Zuma

Dlamini Zuma

AFRICAN leaders are not doing enough to stop conflicts in Africa, said two-thirds of the nearly 86,000 youth surveyed in a recent mobile-based poll conducted in nine African countries.

Using a messaging tool called U-Report, the short survey was sent to 1.4 million mobile users in Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Mali, Central African Republic, Senegal, Liberia, Zimbabwe, Cameroon and Guinea, from 18 May to 1 June 2016.

The U-Report users surveyed, who are typically between 15 and 30 years of age, were asked to provide their opinion on conflicts and crises in Africa through short multiple choice questions on their mobile phones.

The findings of the survey will be shared with African leaders on the Day of the African Child, which is marked every year on June 16 by the African Union.

“It is so crucial, and even urgent for the leaders to heed the voices of the youth, if we must silence the guns by 2020, as set in our Agenda 2063. This is flagship project to which the youth must also recognize their role and take their responsibility,” said the African Union Commission Chairperson, Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma.

Key findings:

  • Asked whether African leaders are doing enough to stop conflicts and crises in Africa, two out of three respondents (70 per cent) believe that African leaders are not doing enough.
  • When asked why Africa is more prone to conflict than other regions, 56 per cent of respondents believe that ‘politicians fighting for power’ is the main reason while 19 per cent said ‘inequality’, 17 per cent said ‘poverty’ and 4 per cent said ‘access to food and water’.
  • What can leaders do to stop conflicts? Nearly a quarter of respondents (24 per cent) said a ‘strong economy’ while 20 per cent believe African countries needs to be more independent in their ‘foreign policy’, 19 per cent said investing in ‘good education’, 14 per cent said ‘talk to each other’, 10 per cent said ‘talk to other country’ and 9 per cent said ‘security’.

Humanitarian crises in Africa continue to spill over borders in recent years, with children and families increasingly on the move. More than 1.2 million people face insecurity in the Central African Republic due to a complex humanitarian and protection crisis that has spread to neighbouring countries. Nearly 1.3 million children have been displaced by violence linked to the Boko Haram insurgency across Cameroon, Chad, the Niger and Nigeria. Two years into the conflict in South Sudan, nearly 2.4 million people have fled their homes, including 721,000 living as refugees. Burundi is facing a protection crisis that has driven some 265,000 people to flee across borders.

“The lives of millions of children and their families are disrupted, upended or destroyed by conflict every year in Africa,” said Manuel Fontaine, UNICEF’s Regional Director for West and Central Africa. “This survey speaks to every child’s right to be heard and gives African youth an opportunity to express their hopes for the future of their continent.”

U-Report is a social messaging tool available in 23 countries, including 15 African countries, allowing users to respond to polls, report issues and work as positive agents of change on behalf of people in their country. Once someone has joined U-Report, polls and alerts are sent via Direct Message and real-time responses are collected and mapped on a website, where results and ideas are shared back with the community.

*Real Magazine

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PEACEKEEPING IN MALI: THE U.N.’S MOST DANGEROUS MISSION
June 15, 2016 | 0 Comments

Commander of the United Nations’ most dangerous peacekeeping mission is not a title that Major General Michael Lollesgaard relishes.

U.N. peacekeepers stand in front of a camp used by Chinese peacekeepers in Gao, Mali, June 1. The camp was attacked by Al-Qaeda militants on May 31, killing one Chinese soldier. STR/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

U.N. peacekeepers stand in front of a camp used by Chinese peacekeepers in Gao, Mali, June 1. The camp was attacked by Al-Qaeda militants on May 31, killing one Chinese soldier.
STR/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

The Danish commander heads up the U.N.’s peacekeeping mission in Mali—known as MINUSMA—which is seeking to stabilize the vast Sahelian country amid ongoing threats from militant groups, including Al-Qaeda’s North African wing. In the process of doing so, the mission has suffered 101 casualties since it was established in 2013, 68 of which were due to “malicious acts”—i.e. attacks from militants or opposition groups—making it the deadliest deployment for blue helmets in recent years.

The mission has again come under siege in recent weeks after a series of attacks perpetrated by militants of a variety of stripes. Five Togolese peacekeepers were killed in May in Mopti, central Mali, after their vehicle came under fire and then hit a landmine. The attack was not claimed by any group, though a Malian militant group known as the Macina Liberation Front is believed to operate in the region. Days later, a base used by Chinese peacekeepers was besieged by mortar or rocket fire, resulting in the death of one U.N. soldier (three other non-U.N. personnel were also killed in a separate attack in Gao.) The attacks were claimed by Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb(AQIM), which said that a branch of its group known as Al-Mourabitoun led by veteran Algerian jihadi Mokhtar Belmokhtar was behind the incident.

“I’m very sad about that fact,” says Lollesgaard from Bamako, referring to the MINUSMA casualty count. “It’s my responsibility, it’s my task to set up the troops in the best possible way, to make sure that the soldiers are as safe as possible.”

The recent attacks have led U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to recommend that an extra 2,500 uniformed personnel be added to the ranks of MINUSMA, which currently has around 12,000 peacekeepers in the field. Lollesgaard says that the extra troops are required to upgrade the mission’s capacities in key areas—including countering improvised explosive devices (IEDs), which are increasingly used by militants in northern Mali—but that more boots on the ground will not provide a panacea to Mali’s problems.

“The only way to improve the situation here in the long term is to get the political process running,” says Lollesgaard. “You can add 5,000, you can add 10,000 [peacekeepers], but if we’re not getting progress in the implementation of the peace agreement, it will never be enough.”

The agreement referred to by Lollesgaard is a momentous peace deal signed by the Malian government and an alliance of rebels from the Tuareg ethnic group, who inhabit Mali’s vast and arid northern deserts, in June 2015. The deal was hammered out in light of the latest rebellion to seize northern Mali, a restive region that has seen four major uprisings since independence from France in 1960.

The most recent Tuareg rebellion occurred in 2012, when an organization called the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) began campaigning violently for greater autonomy for the ethnic group in northern Mali.

In March 2012, Malian President Amadou Toumani Touré was overthrown in the capital Bamako by mutinying soldiers dissatisfied with his handling of the Tuareg rebellion. In the midst of the chaos, the MNLA seized control of northern Mali’s three major cities—Kidal, Gao and Timbuktu—initially with the backing of Islamist militant groups including Ansar Dine. Once they had seized control and declared Azawad’s independence, however, the MNLA was overthrown by Ansar Dine and an AQIM splinter group, leaving the extremist militants in control of northern Mali from July 2012 until the start of 2013. At this point, and following a plea for foreign intervention by the Malian government, the French military launched a counter-operation—known as Operation Serval—to overthrow the militants, backed by African Union forces. The overthrow of the militants was swift, with most of northern Mali being returned to government control by February 2013. France still deploys more than 3,000 troops across five countries in the Sahel—a vast belt across Africa, separating the Saharan Desert from the savannas of central Africa—including in Mali, as part of Operation Barkhane, the successor mission to Operation Serval.

MINUSMA was established in the wake of this complex recent history in April 2013 with the mandate of overseeing a ceasefire, supporting peace and reconciliation and, significantly, protecting civilians. This last clause means that, according to Lollesgaard, peacekeepers are permitted to conduct “pre-emptive strikes” if they find militants whom they deem to be an immediate threat to the mission or civilians. But there is little support from Malian security forces in the north of the country, according to Marie Rodet, Mali expert and senior lecturer in the history of Africa at SOAS, University of London. “The state institutions haven’t been redeployed in northern Mali. The only security forces you have are [MINUSMA] and the French mission Barkhane,” says Rodet.

The U.N. mission draws its military personnel from some 48 countries—from near neighbors Niger and Burkina Faso to distant countries such as Bangladesh—and the varying levels of training that each troop-contributing country provides serves to complicate matters, according to Lollesgaard. He highlights a lack of counter-IED training as particularly significant—Al-Qaeda-affiliated militants regularly use landmines and roadside bombs to attack, such as when five Chadian peacekeepers were killed in Kidal, northeastern Mali, in May. “This [IED use] is a threat that is growing and growing and we need to adapt here, and it takes a lot of training. We would prefer that most of that training was done in the country before they arrive, but currently that’s not the case,” says Lollesgaard.

As well as within northern Mali, Al-Qaeda has been stepping up its attacks across West Africa. AQIM or its affiliates have claimed responsibility for at least three major attacks in the past eight months. One of these took place in the Malian capital Bamako, when gunmen raided the Radisson Blu hotel, killing some 20 people. The others occurred in the capital of Burkina Faso, Ouagadougou, where militants took control of a hotel and fired on a nearby cafe, killing 30 people; and in the coastal town of Grand Bassam in Ivory Coast, where 19 people were killed in an attack on a beach resort. The U.N. commander says he is concerned by the ability of militant groups to seep across the region’s borders, which he describes as “close to non-existent.” “They can operate within a number of countries without being attacked or influenced in any way. This is, of course, an issue,” says Lollesgaard.

As Lollesgaard indicates, the state of affairs in northern Mali has not progressed much since the peace deal was signed in June 2015. Both sides have criticized each other for stalling on the terms—which include the disarmament of militias and the integration of Tuareg groups into joint military patrols in the region—and, despite the U.N.’s pleading, not a huge amount seems to have changed on the ground. “The implementation of the agreement is at a very low point at the moment,” says Rodet.

Despite the manifold challenges facing MINUSMA and northern Mali as a whole, Lollesgaard is optimistic. He says that, should the political process pick up pace, he could envisage MINUSMA winding down within the next three to four years. Lollesgaard says the fact that Mali’s Foreign Minister Abdoulaye Diop spoke of an exit strategy for MINUSMA when addressing the U.N. in January was a good sign—“it’s always good to have an exit strategy.”

The force commander himself could be out of Mali by then—unit commanders usually rotate on a two-year cycle, and Lollesgaard is already 15 months into his term—but Lollesgaard says that, despite the high casualty count, there is no other mission he’d rather be working on. “It’s very challenging but I hope that people feel that we’re trying the best we can,” he says. “If somebody feels they can do it better or if the U.N. feels they can find someone to do it better then I’m happy to go home, but I’m not going to ask to do that.”

*Source Newsweek

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This is what the conviction of Chad’s former dictator means for African human rights
June 10, 2016 | 0 Comments

By Elise Keppler*

Chad’s former dictator Hissène Habré raises his hands after sentencing during court proceedings on May 30 in Dakar, Senegal. Judge Gberdao Gustave Kam declared him guilty and sentenced him to life in prison for crimes against humanity, war crimes and torture. (Carley Petesch/AP)

Chad’s former dictator Hissène Habré raises his hands after sentencing during court proceedings on May 30 in Dakar, Senegal. Judge Gberdao Gustave Kam declared him guilty and sentenced him to life in prison for crimes against humanity, war crimes and torture. (Carley Petesch/AP)

The breakthrough for many victims of atrocities committed under the former Chadian dictator Hissène Habré came on May 30 in Dakar, Senegal. After nearly two decades of effort by activists, the Extraordinary African Chambers in the courts of Senegal convicted Habré of torture, war crimes and crimes against humanity and handed down a life sentence. For those of us in the courtroom, the cries of joy from the victims after the judges’ ruling underscored its immense importance.

Habré was the first African suspect prosecuted under ‘universal jurisdiction’

The Habré trial was the first in which a court in Africa prosecuted a suspect under “universal jurisdiction”— which allows states to prosecute certain heinous crimes even if they were committed abroad, by foreigners and against foreigners. While many countries have universal jurisdiction laws, few have used them. European countries have launched most such cases. South Africahas begun to investigate crimes on the basis of universal jurisdiction but has yet to bring any prosecutions.

One hopes that the Habré case is a harbinger of more prosecutions of atrocities in African courts, whether based on universal jurisdiction or in the courts of the countries where the alleged crimes were committed. Such cases could involve regional or other forms of international support. For instance, the chamber that tried Habré was led by a judge from Burkina Faso, and thecourt’s statute — developed by the African Union (AU) — provided for a select number of African judges and staff from outside Senegal. The Central African Republic and South Sudan already are anticipating some similar mechanisms.

But the jury is out on what lies ahead.

Several African countries recently created the mechanisms to call human rights violators to account

In the Central African Republic last year, the government passed a law establishing a special judicial chamber within the national court system to prosecute serious crimes committed during the nation’s deadly 2012 violence. The CAR’s new court will include both domestic and international judges and staff.

Last year, South Sudan adopted a peace agreement that authorizes the African Union to establish a hybrid court with South Sudanese and other African judges and staff. Ivory Coast,  Congo and Guinea have also increased their domestic criminal investigation and sometimes prosecution of atrocities.

But we don’t yet know what will result. The Central African Republic and South Sudan initiatives aren’t yet operating, and the other countries’ domestic cases have run into serious difficulties.

The Habré conviction offers a case study in how just hard it can be to bring powerful officials to justice.

Habré was overthrown in 1990 and fled to Senegal. A Chadian truth commission found that more than 40,000 people died and torture was systematic during his eight-year regime. After an indictment from Belgium and a ruling by the International Court of Justice, the African Union recommendedthat Senegal should try him. But Abdoulaye Wade, then the Senegalese president, stonewalled. Not until President Macky Sall took office in 2012 did the case become viable.

Human Rights Watch, my employer, and many other human rights groups and individuals pressed for decades to ensure that the case was not forgotten. Desmond Tutu once called the case a “judicial soap opera.” Sixteen years after he was first indicted in Senegal, Habré went to trial last year.

Lack of justice remains pervasive. In recent years, political abuse and deadly conflicts have left victims across Burundi, the Central African Republic, Congo,Kenya, South Sudan and Sudan — with those responsible enjoying almost total impunity at home.

Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch has observed in places such as Sierra Leone, Congo and Afghanistan that when no one is held accountable for mass crimes and human rights abuses, they — and others — tend to commit more such crimes. But when perpetrators are brought to justice, it strengthens both the rule of law and long-term stability.

That’s why it’s important for Africa to continue to support the International Criminal Court (ICC).

The ICC — the first permanent international criminal court — is relatively young and far from perfect. Since being established in 2002, it has suffered from performance problems and needs to expand its reach to many more places across the globe. But the ICC is the only institution that can potentially intervene anywhere in the world, as crimes are unfolding, and bring cases against the highest level offenders, who use their powerful positions as a shield.

Until recently, all ICC cases involved African countries. For the most part, these countries had asked the ICC to get involved or given the ICC the authority. But the focus hit a raw nerve with a vocal minority of African leaders — especially because of the court’s arrest warrants for President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan for alleged crimes committed in Darfur and its cases against President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto of Kenya for crimes allegedly committed during Kenya’s 2007-2008 post-election violence. The Kenyan cases have since been dropped.

Kenya, in particular, has made a concerted assault on the ICC. It recentlyproposed that an AU committee discuss calling for the ICC’s 34 African members to withdraw from the court. In April, the AU committee resolved to insist on immunity for heads of state and senior government officials before the ICC. In 2015, the AU adopted a protocol to give its regional court authority to prosecute grave crimes, also while granting immunity for sitting heads of state and other senior government officials. That protocol has yet to be ratified by any nation; it won’t come into force unless it is ratified by 15.

AU efforts to withdraw from the ICC conflict with the AU’s own founding document, which clearly rejects impunity. The worrying trend of African leaders defying constitutional term limits only reinforces the importance of the ICC’s mandate to prosecute currently seated officials implicated in serious crimes.

The Habré case is an important reminder that justice matters. More than two decades after the crimes, victims relentlessly pressed to bring Habré to trial. If there are genuine trials before African courts, the ICC won’t need to intervenein cases. African governments may wish to consider responding to the Habré conviction by prosecuting more grave crimes at home, and by supporting ICC prosecutions when such cases are not possible.

*Source Washington Post.Elise Keppler is the associate director of the International Justice Program at Human Rights Watch.

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RANDGOLD’S BRISTOW SETS OFF ON ANOTHER EPIC BIKE RIDE FOR AFRICA’S POOR
June 1, 2016 | 0 Comments

6014_RRL_BoB_Newslett#97AFERandgold Resources chief executive Mark Bristow and a small group of friends and colleagues left here today on a fund-raising motorbike safari which will take them from east to west across mid-Africa through dense equatorial jungle.  It is believed to be the first time this challenging route has been attempted by motorbike.

Dubbed Safari Kwa Afrika Bora – Swahili for Riding for a Better Africa – the journey’s aim is to raise a further $3 million for some of the continent’s most needy people, notably the women and children deprived of a decent life by strife and poverty.  The money will go to Nos Vies en Partage (French for Sharing Prosperity) the independent charitable foundation established by Randgold in 2014.

This is the fourth trans-Africa motorbike safari Bristow has undertaken and to date the rides have raised
$2.5 million distributed to 55 entities in 15 countries.  The foundation is already planning donations to some of the DRC’s post-conflict reparation programmes, particularly those aimed at supporting abused women and rehabilitating child soldiers.

The 2016 ride will take 30 days, going from Kenya through Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo before ending in Muanda on the west coast at the end of June, passing the sources of both the Nile and Congo rivers en route.  In terms of terrain, says Bristow, this will be their toughest ride yet.  Because of the need to circumnavigate the worst parts, they will actually be covering well over 7 000 kilometres, more than double the 3 500 kilometre direct distance.  Their progress can be followed at www.boyzonbikes.com.

The safaris had their origin in a Cape-to-Cairo motorbike ride Bristow and his two then-teenaged sons undertook in 2009 under the light-hearted banner 3BoyzonBikes.

“As an old Africa hand I was aware of the difficulties endured by many of its people but as we travelled through small villages in remote regions I saw at first hand the extent of their plight and resolved to do something about it,” Bristow says.

BoB_routes_2009-2016_-_small“The following year I combined my annual exploration review with a fund-raising ride and, accompanied by a team of Randgold geologists, we traversed Senegal, Mali, Burkina Faso and Côte d’Ivoire, having named our project Nos Vies en Partage.  Thanks to the generous support of a wide range of donors, we were able to provide some relief to the people in those countries.  Then in 2012 we travelled from Budapest to Bamako via Morocco, western Sahara, Mauritania and Senegal and then on through Côte d’Ivoire to Abidjan.  In 2014, we completed the trip around Africa, riding from Abidjan in Côte d’Ivoire via Benin, Togo, Nigeria, Cameroon, Gabon, the Congo, the DRC, Angola, Namibia back to Cape town.  That year we also converted the Nos Vies en Partage initiative into a charitable foundation, headed by Philippe Liétard, a former Randgold chairman.”

Bristow says that past sponsors as well as new donors have already pledged more than half of the
$3 million target Safari Kwa Afrika Bora has set itself.

Bristow, who will use satellite and other hi-tech equipment including a communications-wired helmet to continue running the company during the ride, also noted that as the Nos Vies en Partage riders paid their own way, all the money raised by the ride would go to the foundation beneficiaries.  Priority will be given to people and causes falling outside the mainstream of Randgold’s sustainability efforts.

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African Development Bank says continent far from debt crisis
May 31, 2016 | 0 Comments

By Matthew Hill*

Buildings and roads sit on the coast in this aerial view of Ikoyi in Lagos island, a residential area in Lagos, Nigeria, on Monday, Nov. 16, 2015. Nigeria, Africa’s biggest oil producer which derives 90 percent of export earnings from the commodity, is struggling to cope with an almost 60 percent plunge in Brent crude prices since June 2014 to below $45 a barrel. Photographer: George Osodi/Bloomberg

Buildings and roads sit on the coast in this aerial view of Ikoyi in Lagos island, a residential area in Lagos, Nigeria, on Monday, Nov. 16, 2015. Nigeria, Africa’s biggest oil producer which derives 90 percent of export earnings from the commodity, is struggling to cope with an almost 60 percent plunge in Brent crude prices since June 2014 to below $45 a barrel. Photographer: George Osodi/Bloomberg

Africa is a long way from facing a debt crisis even as commercial lending to the continent soars and Mozambique became the first regional country to miss a payment on a dollar loan this year, according to a senior official at the African Development Bank.

Debt levels across the continent’s 54 countries average 17 percent to 18 percent of GDP, which is low, Abebe Shimeles, acting director in the AfDB’s development research department, said Thursday in an interview at the lender’s annual meetings in Lusaka, Zambia’s capital.

“In terms of the continent we are not even close, forget about crisis, we are not even close to a debt burden, especially the external debt,” said Shimeles. “It’s not systemic now. It’s not that all African countries are exposed to a debt crisis. The bad news is sometimes heard faster than the good news.”

Costly Repayments

Countries on the continent raised $26 billion in Eurobonds from 2006 to 2014 and a further $12 billion last year, AfDB President Akinwumi Adesina said on May 24 when he officially opened the meetings, warning a debt crisis must be avoided. While foreign-currency debt has soared, currencies on the continent have weakened, making repayments more costly as economic growth slows.

“Some countries have also experienced a spike in their debt levels that may be worrying in particular cases, unless they take measures to contain it,” Shimeles said. “The AfDB and other multilaterals can learn from previous mistakes and really step in with a solution to manage the debt, restructure it and also undertake some necessary reforms before we reach a level of crisis.”

Dollar debt sold by sub-Saharan African nations have returned 6.3 percent this year, compared with the 7.1 percent average return for emerging markets. Average yields have climbed to 7.63 percent, compared with 5.8 percent a year ago, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Economic Expansion

Adesina

Adesina

The bank would consider assisting countries that ask for it, and could work with other lenders including the International Monetary Fund, he said. Nigeria is already in talks with the AfDB for a $1 billion facility.

Growth on the continent will probably exceed the 4.5 percent the AfDB forecast for 2017 in a report published this week, Shimeles said. Domestic demand in Ethiopia, Nigeria and Sudan will lead to “much higher” economic expansion, he said.

“I believe that Nigeria has now taken the right steps in terms of the macro-economy,” he said.

Africa’s biggest economy this month cut fuel subsidies and signaled a more flexible exchange rate policy for the naira, which has been pegged to the dollar for 15 months.

“We are optimistic,” said Shimeles. “Still, this doesn’t mean we deny the headwinds. They are strong but I think the economies are resilient.”

*Source Bloomberg

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Angelle Kwemo Joins Washington Media Group as International Practice Grows
May 25, 2016 | 0 Comments
African "Olivia Pope", Angelle Kwemo is set for another exciting challenge

African “Olivia Pope”, Angelle Kwemo is set for another exciting challenge

Washington Media Group (WMG) has  announced the appointment of Angelle B. Kwemo as Director of the company’s growing Africa practice.

Ms. Kwemo worked for nearly a decade on Capitol Hill for two members of Congress and was the Founder and President of the Congressional African Staff Association. She went on to create Believe in Africa, aimed at empowering women and youth while engaging the private sector; and the AstrategiK Group, providing international trade and advisory services to corporations and government officials across Europe and Africa.

“I’m thrilled to be joining the Washington Media Group team, and to help the firm continue to expand its international client work,” said Ms. Kwemo. “Washington Media Group’s world-class communications and creative services are relied upon by clients across Washington and the country, and the word is getting out around the world as well. I’m excited to be joining the WMG team,” Ms Kwemo said.

WMG, which began more than 10 years ago as a crisis communications firm, has since grown into a full-service communications and creative services firm serving clients around the world.

“This is an exciting time for WMG as we continue to grow at home and abroad by offering proven strategies and services,” said WMG CEO and President Gregory L. Vistica. “With her deep knowledge of Africa, Angell will be a central part of our efforts throughout the continent in representing governments, corporations, non-profits and high-net worth individuals. I’m thrilled that she is joining our growing team.”

Ms. Kwemo began her career in France, at the Bestaux Law Firm. In her native Cameroon, she served as Chief of the Maritime Claims and Disputes Department, and later as General Counsel for Bollore Technology Group and Geodis Overseas. Named one of the “World’s Most Influential Africans in the Diaspora” by Paris-based Africa 24 Magazine, she earned an International Business Transactions and Human Rights Law degree from Washington College of Law at American University, in Washington, D.C.

About WMG

WMG is a full-services communications firm that has saved its clients tens of millions of dollars. With offices in China, Qatar and Africa, we’ve successfully solved high-profile crises, protected and repaired corporate and executive reputations, improved brand value and growth, and enhanced public recognition for our clients in the U.S. and overseas.

 

 

 

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New Book Highlights “The Most Influential Contemporary African Diaspora Leaders”
May 25, 2016 | 0 Comments

By Dr. Roland Holou*

bookMany books have been written about people of African descent, but so far no single volume has highlighted the lives, visions, achievements, policies, and strategies of exceptional contemporary African Diaspora leaders across the globe. To fill the gap, an International Selection Committee composed of some of the top African diaspora Leaders in the Caribbean, Europe, North America, South America, and West Africa was created to nominate and vet recipients of “The Most Influential Contemporary African Diaspora Leaders Honor.” For the first edition of this book, 30 leaders were featured in detail and out of the 50 chapters of this 336 page book, one was devoted to each. Others chapters were devoted to one hundred other nominees whose contribution warranted their inclusion in this book.

The stories of these Leaders showcase the diversity, complexity, and richness of the ongoing global African Diaspora engagement efforts. Their experiences of struggle, failure, growth and success will motivate current and future generations of people of African descent to take initiative, provide guidance to those interested in Africa’s development, and promote interest in the growing field of diaspora engagement. The featured leaders are known for their long-lasting achievements. Their bold actions contributed to important historical movements that significantly shaped and transformed the lives and history of people of African descent and removed major roadblocks preventing the prosperity of Africa and its Diaspora. They have brought about enormous and rare progress that would have been impossible without their leadership, including economic and political development of Africa and its Diaspora. To get your copy of the book, please visit www.AfricanDiasporaLeaders.com/order

Dr. Roland Holou

Dr. Roland Holou

Some of the initiatives featured in the book include the African Union African Diaspora Sixth Region Initiative, Healthcare Reform in Africa, Pan-Africanism, Global Anti-Racism Initiatives, International Decade for People of African Descent, Implementation of the UN Durban Declaration and Programme of Action; the Commission on Reparations, the Hebrew Israelites, the Initiatives of the Central American Black Organization; the World Diaspora Fund For Development; the Projects of the Institute of the Black World 21st Century; the Pan-Afrikan Reparations Coalition in Europe, the Pan-African Holiday Kwanzaa; the Educational Initiatives of Steve Biko Cultural Institute in Brazil, the Initiatives of DiasporaEngager concerning the Map of the Diaspora and their Stakeholders, the Diaspora Directory and the Global Diaspora Social Media Platform; the Initiatives of the African Diaspora in Australia and Asia Pacific; the AU Sixth Region Diaspora Caucus Organization in the USA; the “Taubira Law” Voted by the French Republic to Recognize that the Transatlantic Slave Trade and the Slave Trade in the Indian Ocean are a Crime Against Humanity; The Global Movement for Reparatory Justice; the Ratification of the Article 3q of the AU Constitutive Act which “invites and encourages the full participation of the African Diaspora as an important part of Africa; the Economic Development for Black Empowerment in America and Europe; the African Diaspora Contribution to Democracy and Development in Africa, the Caribbean, Central and South America; the Initiatives of the Brazilian Association of Black Researchers; the Oprah Effect; the Promotion of the Black Population in Brazil; the Palmares Cultural Foundation in Brazil; the Celebrations of Zumbi dos Palmares in Brazil; the Caribbean Community [CARICOM] Commission on Reparation and Social Justice; the Initiatives of famous Prophet Shepherd Bushiri (Major1, the World’s Sharpest Major Prophet), and many initiatives in the USA, etc.

Some of the struggles still faced by the African Diaspora and discussed in the book relate to: Afrophobia, civil rights, denial of justice and devaluation of Black lives, education with curricula full of “lies” regarding history and history of scientific discoveries, healthcare problems, high rates of unemployment and imprisonment, housing problems, institutional racism and slavery, lack of access to good education and justice, media which persistently diffuse open racist stereotypes, multiple forms of discrimination, police violence, political and economic marginalization and stigmatization, poverty, racial discrimination, vulnerability to violence, xenophobia and related intolerance and discrimination. The book also addressed some of the strategical mistakes and divisions among the Continental African Diaspora and the Historical African Diaspora.

 

If you are interested in learning the secrets, agendas, strategies and potential of these modern leaders, then this is the book for you. Since influence can at times have negative effects, this book also addresses the destructive actions of certain leaders that are pulling down both Africa and its people. To learn more about the recipients, please visit www.AfricanDiasporaLeaders.com/recipient. Join the International Diaspora Engagement Social Media Platform today by creating a free account .

About the Author

Dr. Roland Holou is a scientist, businessman, and an international consultant in Agriculture/Agribusiness, Biotechnology, Diaspora Engagement, and Africa Development. He is the Founder and CEO of DiasporaEngager, www.DiasporaEngager.com and the architect of the map of Diaspora and their stakeholders . To learn more about him and contact him www.RolandHolou.com.

 

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The Africa We Want -The Leadership We Want! Where are the eagles?
May 25, 2016 | 0 Comments

We should not allow the chickens to lead the eagles even if the chickens convince themselves that they’re actually eagles!

 Yohannes Mezgebe


Yohannes Mezgebe

From 10 – 18 July 2016, African leaders will be meeting in Kigali, the capital of Rwanda for the 27thOrdinary Session of the Assembly of the African Union (AU). A key highlight of the forthcoming summit will be the election of the Chairperson of the African Union Commission (AUC). The winner, he or she, will lead the continental body for the next four years, renewable once.

The AU was founded, as a premier continental institution for the promotion of accelerated socio-economic and political integration of the continent; not just as the level of countries or governments, but also by forging greater bonds amongst citizens of Africa.

To give expression to the above imperatives, the African Union Commission (AUC) of the AU is tasked to serve as the crucial administrative hub for driving and achieving the numerous mandates; including the implementation of Agenda 2063, a strategic framework for the socio-economic transformation of the continent over the next 50 years. The Commission is, in particular, envisaged to be the key organ responsible for the day-to-day management of the affairs of the Union. It represents the Union; the yearnings and aspirations of member states, and also defends the continent’s collective interests. Alongside, it is expected to articulate and give concrete expression to the African common position, determine the strategic vision, plan and future horizons of the Union.

Whatever the AU has become today builds on the pioneering efforts of prominent sons and daughters of the continent; from His Imperial Majesty, Emperor Haile Sellasie to Kwame Nkrumah, Patrice Lumumba, Julius Nyerere, and Seiko Toure, to name a handful. These founding fathers, without an iota of doubts, had a clear vision; they could see far where the continent was heading, almost as if they had the power to look into the future. All of them, without exception, made their mark in the struggle for freedom and liberation. When three years ago, Africans celebrated the 50thAnniversary of the Organization of African Unity/AU, it was a milestone opportunity; both to celebrate but also begin to contemplate how to translate our collective dreams into concrete results to make Africa a better place for the present and future generations. The celebration was the beginning of a new phase in the collective journey, not its end.

Clearly, the AUC has generated considerable amount of momentum around African development and Integration issues. Yet, many of the ‘teething’ challenges the continent faced at inception continue to slow the pace; just as new ones have crept in. Most of today’s problems may be attributed to the slow progress made in the quest for unity and integration. At best, these have remained aspirational despite best of efforts. If 1963 the continent’s leaders were preoccupied with colonial and post-colonial struggles, and the consolidation of independence, nowadays, there are myriad new – no less daunting – realities.

Given the many challenges Africa faces now, the continent needs to have at the helm of the AUC a leaders with proven track records in dealing with Africa’s myriad problems: poverty, resource use, economic development, wealth sharing, peace and security, democracy, human rights, neo-colonialism, environmental protection, climate change and corruption. The list is far from exhaustive. The experience of the new AUC Chair as well as his or her unshakable determination to overcome the challenges – not merely deal with them – would be critical if the continent is to realize the vision of a united, prosperous and peaceful Africa.

 In today’s knowledge-driven world, the clarion call for visionary and committed leadership at the helm of the AUC is far greater than ever. The leader needed must be capable and willing to identify and tap into the pool of amazing talent of African citizens, starting with the team of talented staff of the Union; a growing number of whom risks drudgery and disillusionment with the status quo. The men and women who work at the Commission should be more than satisfied, they should be energized and passionate in what they do not the business-as-usual attitude that is so endemic now. The leader the Commission deserves must be one that leads by example and inspires. The right leader for the AUC must have a clarity of purpose working to achieve results, hand in hand, with broad constituencies of stakeholders: from the civil society to the private sector; from women’s group to youths’ movement.

Because the AU represents the hope of Africa and its peoples, it must care about the caliber of leaders who aspire to head the Commission. So, in Kigali this July 2016, when convening to elect the incoming Chair and leadership of the Commission, all eyes will be on the Heads of States and Governments to do what is right. They must put aside petty politics and permutations to decide what is best for the AUC and the continent. We stand at a crossroads: if Africa fails to make the right decision in electing the right leader the AUC deserves, the continent risks taking several fatal steps backwards.

Because it does not pay to allow chickens to lead the eagles even if the chickens convince themselves that they’re actually eagles, African citizens must demand a move from mediocrity to excellence. The incoming chairperson must not be determined by which region the candidate comes from but rather by his or her strength of character to lead.

Africa has had its faire share of failures over the years since 1960’s. It still carries old scars and new bruises, but it must look into the future with hope. In 50 years, the architects of Agenda 2063 and those currently tasked with its implementation might no longer be around given the mean life expectancy on the continent. This means, there will not be a united, prosperous and peaceful Africa unless the youth – the very people who will still be around in 50 years – is actively engaged in the process. The message of African youth calls for a different mindset, a different way of thinking, a different way of making decisions and acting. The choice before the Kigali conclave in July will be a tall one.

As they elect the right leader, they will have no better loyal partner than African citizens. They must deliver by all means; posterity will remember and not forgive them doing otherwise. As Frantz Fanon puts it perceptibly decades ago: “Each generation discovers its mission. It either achieves it or it betrays it”.

*Founder, Ubuntu Leadership Institute

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

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Has Barack Obama Disappointed Africans?
May 19, 2016 | 0 Comments

BY *

President Obama speaking at a YALI event in 2015.

President Obama speaking at a YALI event in 2015.

Under the terms of the 20th Amendment, U.S. President Barack Obama’s second term as president of the most powerful country in the world ends at noon on January 20, 2017. By this time, one of the main challengers to the “throne” (Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump) will be inaugurated as the 45th president of the United States. But the question on the mind of several observers, particularly in Africa, is whether Obama’s presidency as “son of the soil” yielded any fruit for Africans?

It is instructive to note that the whole of Africa was on the edge in 2008, when Obama won the nomination of the Democratic Party. I remember abandoning classes to watch his speeches and campaigns live on DSTV. At the time, his story was a great motivation for a lot of us African youth that whatever you set your mind on, if you continue working consistently at it, you can achieve it.

Not since the times of the legendary Socrates,Cicero, or Abraham Lincoln had the world seen a more charismatic, powerful speaker, and intelligent leader. For me, there’s no one that can be compared with President Obama in local or international politics. And with the fact that he is a Kenyan biologically, I thought, like many others, that Africa will develop dramatically this time round.

But my expectation was dashed.

During his first term in office, Obama’s engagement with Africa was almost zero. To be fair to him, the whole world was undergoing economic depression when he became the president so he concentrated more on strengthening America’s economy and creating jobs. The stimulus package and other policies promoted were pointers to this fact. Although he traveled to some countries in Africa, it was all talk and less action. But during his second term in office, he was able to muster the courage to get some things done.

Some of the accomplishments President Obama achieved, according to the White House, included the strengthening of democratic institutions in Cote d’ Ivoire, Kenya, Sudan, and more. The administration also supported regional efforts to help countries affected by terrorist groups; launched the Feed the Future Initiative to address root causes of hunger and poverty; responded to humanitarian crises and disasters; promoted trade and investment; launched the Global Climate Change Initiative; Power Africa Initiative; Global Health Initiative; strengthened theAfrican Growth and Opportunity Act; introduced new U.S. initiatives to boost trade and investment opportunities for the least developed countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, among others.

The achievement I found very unique, distinguished, and noble is the President’s Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI). Started in 2010, the program seeks to provide tools to support leadership development, promote entrepreneurship, and connect young leaders with one another and the United States.

Since the program started, more than 2,000 young Africans have been trained in these areas. I have argued in other platforms that until the youths in Africa are trained and prepared to take over the reins of government in the next generation, Africa’s future looks not only bleak but also unsustainable.

President Obama Greets Residents of Gorée Island. (Photo credit: whitehouse.gov)

President Obama Greets Residents of Gorée Island. (Photo credit: whitehouse.gov)

This is because youths all over Africa are more interested in their survival only, so they continue to struggle for life. They are far removed from their country’s governance, welfare, or well-being due to the socio-political and economic conditions in several countries on the continent. Thus, if the youth get into leadership unprepared, then Africa is done for.

Unfortunately, considering the large population of youth throughout Africa, which is the largest in the world, the number of youth trained so far in the program is negligible.

It has been said that Obama’s African legacy cannot be compared with that of his predecessor or even former President Bill Clinton who remains a popular figure in Africa. Obama’s last trip to Africa (possibly his last) is nothing compared to the warm welcome received by George W. Bush on his final trip to Africa.

George Bush was treated like a hero. Apart from fighting terrorism across the African region, he fought the HIV/AIDS scourge on the continent like no one, reauthorized the African Growth and Opportunity Act as well as designed the Millennium Challenge Corp. to fight poverty on the continent. As argued by Hussein Hassen in his article “Washington’s Engagement with the Continent Continues To Prioritize Security Over Human Rights and Economic Partnership,” Obama’s two main pet projects (Power Africa and YALI) do not measure up to his predecessor’s bold initiatives. During Obama’s tenure, South Sudan, Libya, and the Central African Republic have become failed states.

What is noticeable is that Obama’s popularity in Africa has diminished. Who talks about him these days?

Still, African leaders as well as her citizens need to realize that no power or force in the world can aid them to development until they themselves show their determination to do so.

Senator Obama, in 2006, visiting his Kenyan family. (Photo credit: Reuters)

Senator Obama, in 2006, visiting his Kenyan family. (Photo credit: Reuters)

African leaders are always looking for some foreign aid, a foreign intervention, or a foreign development model, but the sincerity of the most altruistic foreign leader can never spur any country to development until African leaders themselves drive such vision with ruthless determination.

Whatever Barack Obama has done or not done is left for historians to reconstruct. It is unfair to say he does not cherish Africa or his roots because he does. But it is also unfair to say he helped Africa more than any U.S. president in recent history.

I wish him a wonderful retirement from office in advance.

*Source F2AF

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AGAINST ALL ODDS : HOW TO STAY ON TOP OF THE GAME-Angelle Kwemo shares tips in new book
May 17, 2016 | 0 Comments
Angelle Kwemo

Angelle Kwemo

International Business Strategist, Attorney and Author, Angelle B. Kwemo shares her journey while outlining the steps anyone can take to achieve ultimate success in every area of their lives.

 

AGAINST ALL ODDS

HOW TO STAY ON TOP OF THE GAME

By Angelle B. Kwemo

On Sale NOW

 “You Must Act As If It Is Impossible To Fail” ~ Ashanti

 The Oracle Group International is thrilled to announce the publication of AGAINST ALL ODDS: How to Stay On Top of The Game (Paperback; On Sale Now; $14.99; ISBN: 9781483441566) by award winning international business, political consultant and entrepreneur Angelle Kwemo, CEO of Astrategik Group and Founder of Believe in Africa. A lifetime in the making, Angelle provides readers with a clear and practical blueprint for personal and professional success, while sharing her amazing journey from childhood in Cameroon to become a globally respected government policy and international trade strategist.

41-KhhxmuRL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_AGAINST ALL ODDS is the captivating story of one woman’s determination to pursue her passion and aspirations while defying self-limitation and status quo. Angelle Kwemo, who is proud to be an African woman, followed her dreams, ignored the ridicule, and fought aggressively to seize every opportunity that presented itself to her.  Today, Angelle is one of the worlds most sought after government relations and international trade advisory strategists. She advises multi dimensional entities on such matters as how to compete globally and build inroads into the United States, Africa, and other emerging markets. Angelle has lectured at Universities and Conferences around the globe, teaching techniques and strategies on how to successfully navigate into the international marketplace along with the art of remaining competitive.

So what does it take to build the courage to follow your vision, overcome challenges and be relentless in the pursuit of your dreams? Angelle will tell you. Presented here is Angelle Kwemo’s unique blueprint on how to become non-negotiable about your goals and eliminate those toxic behaviors that could potentially impede all efforts towards the attainment of success. To assist in the accomplishment of the aforementioned feat, Angelle utilizes AGAINST ALL ODDS to offer provocative lessons, real-life case studies, and proven strategies of risk and reward that are designed to help pave your own-chartered course of success and live a life of richness.

This story is for all people of race, color, and color, but not for the light of heart, I think its important to share how I shaped my vision, developed endurance, over came the challenges, and became relentless in the pursuit of my dreams”, says Ms. Kwemo, “Life is like a game, having different levels of championship to grow and evolve, this manual will help you stay on top of your game and overcome life’s challenges at every stage of your career”. 

   ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Angelle Kwemo in a file picture with Congressman Bobby Rush, John Kufuor former President of Ghana and Olusegun Obasanjo, former President of Nigeria

Angelle Kwemo in a file picture with Congressman Bobby Rush, John Kufuor former President of Ghana and Olusegun Obasanjo, former President of Nigeria

Angelle Kwemo is Founder & Chair of Believe in Africa advocating for empowering the African private sector, women and youth. She is President & CEO of AstrategiKGroup, a firm that provides government relations, international trade advisory and strategic advice to multi-dimensional entities, allowing them to compete globally and build inroads into the United States, Africa and other emerging markets. A native of Cameroon, she started her career in France at Bestaux Law firm.  In Douala, Cameroon, as one of the youngest executives, she served as the Chief of the Maritime Claims and Disputes Department, and later as the General Counsel for Bollore Technology Group and Geodis Overseas, one of the largest French investors in West Africa. She moved to the United States in 2001 where her determination landed her job in U.S. Congress where she worked for 8 years.

AGAINST ALL ODDS BY ANGELLE KWEMO

May 25, 2016; $14.99

Lulu Publishing, Inc.

ISBN #: 9781483441566

eBook ISBN #: 9781483441573

 

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Yahsat and Tele10 Enter MOU to Discuss Opportunities for Yahclick in Rwanda, Burundi and East DRC
May 16, 2016 | 0 Comments

YahClick, the number one satellite broadband service in Africa, to expand to 19 African countries with the launch of Al Yah 3 satellite

image001 (7)UAE-based satellite operator, Yahsat , signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Tele10 Group, the regional broadcast and internet service provider, to discuss collaborations for improving internet connectivity in Rwanda, Burundi and East Democratic Republic of the Congo. The MoU comes ahead of Yahsat taking delivery of its third satellite, Al Yah 3.

The launch of Yahsat’s upcoming satellite will see the roll out of YahClick, the company’s cost-effective satellite broadband service, to 19 new markets in Africa during the first half of 2017. YahClick, delivered through a modem and small satellite dish, is currently the number one satellite broadband service in Africa, providing subscribers access to uninterrupted, high-speed internet anywhere in the coverage area with in-country technical, operational, and customer care services. As Yahsat works towards expanding its coverage area across the African continent, the company is in talks with local service providers to reinforce the presence of YahClick and strengthen its customer care.

Commenting on the MoU, David Murphy, Yahsat’s Chief Commercial Officer, said, “Our cutting edge satellite technology connects individuals and businesses across Africa, regardless of the level of telecommunications infrastructure present in each country. At Yahsat, we are dedicated to serving underserved and remote areas by providing better connectivity to new and existing internet users. To further our commitment to the region, we have entered an MoU with Tele10 to discuss the provision of high-speed connectivity to three of Africa’s fast-emerging markets, Rwanda, Burundi and East Democratic Republic of the Congo. We look forward to working together and providing unparalleled broadband services to our customers across our expanding footprint.”

Tele10 has been serving the East African region for 20 years, by providing diverse solutions including pay-TV, radio broadcasting, and ICT services. In 2017, the company will grow its portfolio to offer the YahClick broadband products, services and value-added solutions to its existing customer base as well as new customers. New markets will be served using the latest Ka-band technology, which is highly reliable in all weather conditions.

Tele10 Group’s CEO said, “In this era of digital migration across the African continent, where several technologies such as 3/4G, hotspots, fibre and others are struggling to win the market, we are confident that YahClick will definitely give us a serious competitive advantage against other players in the region and make us lead the Internet industry.”

Murphy concluded: “Today, internet plays a crucial role in socio-economic development as it facilitates education, trade, commerce, and agricultural activities. By providing the YahClick service to growing economies, we ensure the delivery of unmatched connectivity to support knowledge transfer and consequently, regional development.”

 

Yahsat  provides multipurpose satellite solutions (government and commercial) for broadband, broadcast, government, and communications use across the Middle East, Africa, and Europe in addition to Central and South West Asia. Based in Abu Dhabi, UAE, and wholly owned by Mubadala Development Company , the investment vehicle of the Government of Abu Dhabi, Yahsat is the first company in the Middle East and Africa to offer multi-purpose ka-band satellite services including:

  • YahClick – offers broadband satellite solutions for home and business
  • YahService – offers managed solutions and government capacity
  • YahLink – offers IP trunking solutions, corporate networking and backhauling capacity
  • Yahlive – a joint venture between Yahsat and SES, offers premium services to broadcasters and a select choice of TV channels

Yahsat’s first satellite Y1A was successfully launched in April 2011, and the company’s second satellite Y1B was successfully launched in April 2012. Yahsat has announced the manufacturing of its third satellite, Al Yah 3, planned for launch in early 2017, extending their commercial Ka-band coverage to an additional 20 markets reaching 60% of Africa’s population and over 95% of Brazil’s population, marking the company’s first entry in to Brazil.
About Tele10

Incorporated in 1993 in Burundi, TELE-10 started as a pay-tv company, transmitting international TV programming in a UHF analog system, through main Burundi city.

TELE-10 Group of companies is principally a pay-tv operator and an ISP company that aims to provide high-level expertise in TV and ISP industries using diversified implementation strategies.

The Company facilitates the acquisition of hardware and software, value addition, consultancy services.

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Moïse Katumbi and the Congo’s race for the presidency
May 12, 2016 | 0 Comments
 The influential businessman and former governor of Katanga has taken an early lead in an aggressive race, but has he made his move too early?
Could this be the DRC’s next president? Credit: Radio Okapi.

Could this be the DRC’s next president? Credit: Radio Okapi.

Moïse Katumbi has had an eventful and emotional few days since he declared his intention to run for president. On 4 May, the former governor of Katanga announced his candidacy on Twitter, and the next day found his house surrounded by police. Katumbi’s arrest seemed imminent, but eventually the police left their positions under pressure from MONUSCO, the UN peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

The presidential elections for which Katumbi intends to run are scheduled for 27 November, but it is doubtful whether they will actually take place. At this point, not many people believe that credible elections can be organised within the constitutional delays.

There are several reasons for this, but the most important is that the government has systematically withheld the funds needed by the electoral commission to organise the various phases of the process. This could be seen as a symptom of the government’s lack of ownership over its own elections, but it is actually closer to a boycott.

Over the last couple of years, the government has attempted several times to create the conditions to prolong the reign of President Joseph Kabila beyond the stipulated constitutional limit. In September 2014, for instance, Speaker of the National Assembly Aubin Minaku tried but proved unable to change the constitution. Then, in January 2015, the government again tried but failed to pass a new electoral law that would have delayed the elections by several years.

The only strategy that has worked so far is le glissement (‘slippage’) – that is to say, delaying the elections due to the government’s position that it is not possible financially or technically to organise them in time. Remaining in power by simply not organising elections.

Crystalising or cracking?

It has become clear since around 2014, however, that Kabila has had difficulties in maintaining the superficial unity among the informal networks and interest groups that make up his regime. And particularly since September 2015, Kabila’s Majorité Présidentielle has been in a state of disarray.

That month, seven senior political figures – known as the G7 – were expelled from the ruling coalition after calling on the president not to cling onto power. Then, shortly after, the influential Katumbi announced his resignation from the ruling PPRD party. Meanwhile, anti-Kabila sentiment continued to grow in Katanga and Kabila’s relationships within his inner circle of power remained poor.

By the end of 2015, the possibility of this growing opposition managing to work together in a solid constellation was looking hopeful.  And different rapprochements between Kabila’s opponents crystalised in mid-December with the creation of the Front Citoyen 2016.

Nevertheless, the opposition is frequently targeted by the regime and subject to attempts to fragment the parties from within.

Amongst the opposition, Moïse Katumbi has increasingly been seen as the best placed challenger to Kabila since around 2014. As governor of Katanga from 2008 until 2015, when the province was dissolved, he was seen as successful and popular; he has built an economic empire as a businessman; and his looks, communication skills and money contribute to his ability to mobilise large crowds in what was formerly Katanga and beyond.

However, not everything is in his favour. It is not obvious that the Congolese electorate will want a third consecutive president whose roots are in Katanga; Katumbi’s wealth and the way he acquired it make him vulnerable to allegations and potential court cases; and the business community in the town of Lubumbashi not only complains that he is greedy but claims he used his political mandate to expand his economic empire.

Furthermore, Katumbi is still somewhat of an outsider when it comes to national politics. He has yet to prove he has the political skills and nerves of steel necessary to set up and lead the broad coalition it would take to really challenge Kabila (or his crown prince if he were to appoint one).

As it stands then, both the current regime and opposition fail to fully convince. Important politicians have left the ruling majority, others are suspected to be preparing their departures, while many of those who remain are competing with each other with impressive zeal.

The hardliners of the regime perhaps have the advantage currently, which is palpable in its public statements, in the media and in the growing repression of opposition leaders, dissidents and other critics, including in civil society and the press.

The opposition meanwhile still has to show it can make a difference and come forward with a coherent political constellation, centred around in a single candidacy. In December 2015, the Front Citoyen 2016 was established as a broad coalition for the respect of the Constitution, but for now the main merit of the group is the fact that it exists.

It does not have much of an active institutional life and strategic thinking is still being done in the headquarters of different opposition parties. Above all though, the opposition has yet to demonstrate a vision – a plan explaining what they will do in power if they obtain it.

Jostling for position

At present, the political scene in Congo resembles a cycling peloton as the racers prepare for the sprint finish: hectic, fast, and with an awful lot of shoving. Everyone wants to position themselves as well as possible for the final straight, though whether the finish line is where it is meant to be – or whether it will be pushed back and back – remains to be seen.

In this jostling for position, Katumbi may find that he has taken the lead of the pack too early. The irritated reactions of fellow opposition leaders Vital Kamerhe and Félix Tshisekedi point in that direction. Meanwhile, taking pole position also means that Katumbi may have to deal with strongest headwinds of repression.

Indeed, on the very day Katumbi announced his candidacy, Congo’s justice minister announced an investigation into allegations that the opposition politician has recruited mercenaries, an accusation many believe is politically motivated. Furthermore, Human Rights Watch has reported that at least 27 of Katumbi’s allies were arrested in and around Lubumbashi between 22 April and 7 May.

“The recent developments in Lubumbashi come in the context of a broader crackdown against activists, opposition party members and others who have urged that presidential elections be organized according to the constitutional timetable”, said the organisation.

What will happen next in this complex competition for power is difficult to predict, but one thing that is certain is that the race is just getting started.

* African Arguments.Kris Berwouts (Gent, 1963) has worked for a number of different Belgian and international NGOs over the past 25 years, focused on building peace, reconciliation, security and democratic processes. Since 2012, he has worked as an independent expert and writer on Central Africa.

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