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Africa needs the space to learn (and make mistakes) on its own terms
May 2, 2016 | 0 Comments

As Africa finds its voice after centuries of being silenced, well-intentioned outsiders must be careful to help and not hijack this moment.

by *

South Africans march for action against climate change in Durban. Credit: Ainhoa Goma/Oxfam.

South Africans march for action against climate change in Durban. Credit: Ainhoa Goma/Oxfam.

Just back from the Tana Forum on Peace and Security, held in the sleepy town of Bahir Dar on the shores of Ethiopia’s Lake Tana, my head churns with questions about how African debates like this should be organised.

Should they be held under a Baobab tree or in international hotels? Should they be formal or informal? Should they emulate Western or Asian styles or ignore them altogether? And ultimately, after centuries in which African voices have rarely been heard – from slavery, through colonialism, and up to the present day – who should now talk for Africa about Africa?

In a way these questions have never been more salient. After all, even looking back at the continent’s recent history, there is no shortage of examples of Africa suffering from the sharp end of foreign countries’ self-interest or misguided decisions while its own voice has been silenced.

This is true even after most countries gained independence, as the ideological rivalries of the Cold War turned Africa into a battleground for proxy wars coordinated in distant capitals, giving no room for Africa’s own interests; when structural adjustment in 1980s and 1990s was imposed heavy-handedly from the offices of the IMF and World Bank, their prescriptions ignoring the realities and resistances on the ground; and still today, as the continent is defined in the international media as Hopeless, Rising or anything in between while Africa’s own perspectives remain marginalised.

This is where the Tana Forum comes in, a rare event that is genuinely Africa-led and organised. Established to provide a space for debate about peace and security, it was set up five years ago by the late Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi in conjunction other African leaders such as former presidents Olusegun Obasanjo and Thabo Mbeki.

It has been held annually since and the topic of this year’s edition was ‘Africa in the global security agenda’. Among the many speakers were the former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan, former president of Timor-Leste Ramon Horta who had just completed a report on peace operations around the world, and Somalia’s President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud. Also there was Wolfgang Ischinger, Chair of the Munich Security Conference, the world’s leading think tank on peace and security issues. Ischinger took to the floor to re-emphasise the strong partnership between his institution and the Tana Forum which is modelled on the Munich Security Council.

To be frank, not everyone was happy about this year’s Forum. For instance, political analyst Alex de Waal, writing here on African Arguments, expressed his view that the event has become “dull, repetitive and formal”, adding that in contrast to the first edition which was “devoted to intense, informal and candid discussion”, the 2016 event was mostly “taken up by entirely predictable speeches”.

Frank criticisms such as these are all well and good, and all new endeavours will inevitably fall short and fail to please everyone. But as we think ahead to the next conference, and in the context of Africa’s history of being marginalised in its own affairs, the important thing going forwards is that regardless of any limitations, the Tana Forum and projects like it are given the breathing space to learn on their own terms.

After centuries of being lectured, reprimanded and pressured to do things differently, it is crucial that African initiatives are able to correct their own weaknesses and learn by doing. It may take time, but patience is needed if genuinely African perspectives and models are to be built up – ones that is of Africa, by Africa and for Africa.

Across the continent, there are hopeful signs of a new and louder voice emerging as more African research institutes, think tanks and media houses provide increasingly candid reports from African viewpoints. But this newly assertive Africa, admittedly still coming of age, needs to be listened to and nurtured, even when it makes missteps and blunders.

As the continent’s economies develop, its political influence increases, and its population grows, Africa and African initiatives need to be given the breathing space to take charge of their own destinies on their own terms. This should be the new normal, the new name of the game. After over 50 years of independence, the continent is mature enough to discuss its challenges in a robust and rigorous way, and while their views are welcome, well-intentioned outsiders must be careful to help and not hijack this moment of exploration, renewal and growth.

We all, in humility, will gain by listening to what others bring to the table. As Leopold Senghor, the late poet-President of Senegal, said, we must have a “seat at the give and take table as equals”.

*Source African Arguments.Adama Gaye is a Senegalese Author, former editor of London-based West Africa Magazine. and a Tana Regional Fellow. The views expressed here are his own.

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May 2, 2016 | 0 Comments

Enganamouit270416-400Cameroon’s forward, Gaelle Enganamouit of FC Rosengard has been nominated among five other players for the BBC Women’s Player of the Year Award. The other nominees are: Amandine Henry (France, Midfielder, 26), Kim Little (Scotland, Midfielder, 25) Carli Lloyd (United States, Midfielder, 33), Becky Sauerbrunn (United States, Defender, 30)

The 23 year Cameroonian is the only African enlisted and her performance in 2015 speaks for itself. She finished the Swedish championship as top scorer with 18 goals to her credit earning the golden boot with Eskilstuna United DFF.

Exiting the 2015 World Cup at the knock-out stage, Gaelle Enganamouit had left her foot prints with a hat-trick, in Cameroon’s 6-0 defeat against Ecuador, the first for an African at the highest football level.

She was crowned African Player in 2015 and won the 2016 Swedish Super League with Rosengard prior to her nomination.

Her international debut started in 2012 with Spartak Subotica in the Serbian league where she is said to have scored the fastest goal in three seconds.

The shooting queen with 43 caps and ten goals for the national team who was part of the Olympic squad in 2012 played for Tonnere Kalara club before moving to Lorema in 2004.

*Camer be

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How Election Monitors Are Failing
April 29, 2016 | 0 Comments

Uganda’s recent election showed, once again, that international election observers aren’t calling it like they see it.


In the photo, Ugandan police officers stand guard outside the house of the country’s main opposition leader, Kizza Besigye, in a suburb of Kampala on February 22. Photo credit: ISAAC KASAMANI/AFP/Getty Images

In the photo, Ugandan police officers stand guard outside the house of the country’s main opposition leader, Kizza Besigye, in a suburb of Kampala on February 22.
Photo credit: ISAAC KASAMANI/AFP/Getty Images

Uganda, heated controversy still surrounds President Museveni’s re-election with just over 60 percent of the vote two months ago. At a press conference on February 20, the European Union election observation mission presented its preliminary report on how the election had been conducted. The controversy surrounding the race, and the claim by the opposition Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) that the polls had been rigged, ensured a charged atmosphere. But despite finding that the number of votes it counted did not correspond to the official results in 20 percent of observed polling stations, the mission refused to answer a question about whether the elections were “free and fair.” Instead, they pulled their punches, directing the audience to read the report “and draw their own conclusions.” 

International election observation missions — when small teams of foreign nationals are sent to watch over elections under the auspices of groups such as the European Union, African Union and the Carter Center — are intended to deter foul play and ensure free and fair polls.

In practice, these monitors are not generally known for toughness or frank criticism.

In practice, these monitors are not generally known for toughness or frank criticism. But even by their notoriously cautious standards, the verdict in Uganda was strikingly tentative and evasive. The EU monitors had heard human rights groups’ complaints about intimidation by security forces and pro-government “volunteers,” witnessed voting materials turn up late to many polling stations located in opposition strongholds, and seen the main opposition candidate, Kizza Bessigye, arrested multiple times. The chair of Uganda’s Electoral Commission, Badru Kiggundu, evenbroke the most basic rule of official neutrality when he declared that Besigye was not “presidential material.”

The refusal of the European observers to make a strong and clear statement about these abuses frustrated Uganda’s opposition and civil society, but it was not surprising. Across Africa, international observers have frequently refused to give elections the evaluations they deserve for fear of offending incumbent governments and triggering political instability — and, also, it would seem, because they apply lower standards on the continent. Research by Brian Klaas of the London School of Economics has found that elections in Africa are significantly less likely to be branded “unfree and unfair” than elections held elsewhere in the world when they suffer the same manipulations. As a result, incumbents typically get away with a wide range of abuses, including such major offenses as the exclusion of rival candidates.

Although the problem is worse in Africa than elsewhere, this is a global phenomenon. Problematic elections have been given the “green light” in places such as Afghanistan, Azerbaijan and Iraq, as international leaders place security and stability — and their own relationships with established governments — ahead of democracy. This has led to many situations in which the content and the conclusion of election observation reports are out of sync. While the small print often lists pages of significant failings, the summary invariably concludes that the elections were “good enough.” The implications for democracy are dire: it’s not just B+ polls that are being allowed to “pass” international scrutiny — even “incompletes” are being allowed through.

The challenges facing election monitors are both political and technical. One of the reasons demonstrating electoral manipulation is particularly difficult in places like Uganda is that the size of most monitoring missions is pitifully small. The EU mission in Uganda, for example, was only 130 strong. Since observers must go around in pairs, in practice, about 45 “teams” were responsible for covering something like 28,000 polling stations. It is simply not practical to detect subtle electoral fraud on this basis. Moreover, therandom sampling technique that the EU uses to select polling stations for its teams to cover — on the basis that such sampling is more likely to ensure a representative sample of the national picture — means that observers have polling stations selected for them in advance and cannot target areas that are known to be problematic.

The technical limitations are exacerbated by political realities. In many of the world’s semi-democratic states, the combination of repression by government forces and the failure of electoral commissions to quickly release a full set of results make it all but impossible for observers or the opposition to provide incontrovertible evidence of fraud. In Uganda, the law sets a 10-day deadline for the submission of evidence of rigging. But during this period, opposition offices were raided by police or mysteriously “burgled,” and the main opposition leader was placed under house arrest. This alone should be sufficient for international observers to declare the process flawed — but the appeals process is rarely given much weight in election observers’ reports, which focus heavily on the period leading up to polling day.

This is not just an African phenomenon. In the 2013 election in Azerbaijan, a set of “results” was accidentally released the day before the election on an iPhone app. Officially, this was explained away as a simple technical mistake, and a different set of figures were announced after voting had taken place. But many suspected that President Ilham Aliyev had intended to release a set of pre-fabricated results, and had only been prevented from doing so because they had been accidentally circulated too early. Subsequent evidence of “widespread irregularities, including ballot-box stuffing and what appeared to be fraudulent counting” was reported by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. Yet international observers that focused only on the act of voting, like those from the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe’s short-term delegation, missed the bigger story, concluding that they had witnessed a “free, fair and transparent electoral process.” Few observers who were able to take a longer-term view concurred with that judgment.

Clearly, the idea that international election observers are a neutral, independent force is a myth.

Clearly, the idea that international election observers are a neutral, independent force is a myth. In reality, they are every bit as subject to political pressures as the parties they observe. In the early 1990s, observersturned a blind eye to deeply flawed elections in Kenya because they were worried that speaking out would trigger civil war and regional instability. In so doing, however, they became complicit in the attempts of a brutal authoritarian regime to hold onto power and undermined their own reputations. In the run-up to the 1992 election, President Daniel arap Moi’s regime instigated ethnic clashes designed to displace, and hence disenfranchise, opposition voters. In total, over 1,500 people died and 300,000 more were forced to flee their homes. The government also engaged in a wide range of other dubious measures, from censoring the press to stuffing ballot boxes. The international community’s failure to speak out against these developments motivated the respected Kenyanist Stephen Brown to write a scathing article with the eloquent subtitle, “How Foreign Donors to Keep Kenya’s Daniel arap Moi in Power.”

Similar tensions are at play in Uganda today. President Museveni’s decision to send Ugandan troops to form the bulk of the African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM) has made his government central to Western anti-terror efforts in the Horn of Africa. As a result, the EU and U.S. can ill afford to lose Museveni as an ally — even if harsh words are often exchanged in public. Like their counterparts in Kenya and Iraq, Western representatives in Uganda are also concerned about what would happen if they called for the results to be recounted or the election to be re-run. Would the country implode under the pressure? Could a Besigye presidency be relied upon to deliver stability and to be as enthusiastic about sending Ugandans to fight in a foreign country?

The uncertainty around these questions has left western election observers in a familiar dilemma. They cannot endorse the results of elections that have been so evidently uneven, but they cannot condemn the process entirely, for that would both imply that Uganda’s government has no legitimacy (an awkward implication for a regional ally) and suggest that elections can never bring political change. 

As a result, the EU report on Uganda’s recent elections is a classic of a genre that has emerged over the recent decades of electoral observation in Africa. The report captures a whole catalog of dubious electoral practices, including local-level intimidation of opposition, obstructions placed in the way of opposition presidential campaigns by the police, and the wide gap between a ruling party that draws freely on state resources for its campaign and an opposition that relies on donations from supporters. At the same time, in a strenuous effort to put a good face on the proceedings, the report commends the public for their “remarkable determination on election day [while] waiting for long hours to cast their ballots,” implicitly offering “voter enthusiasm for the democratic process” as a form of endorsement of the elections (if not explicitly for their result).

This is all eminently understandable. Serving as an election observer is a great responsibility and concerns of political stability are legitimate in countries with a history of conflict. It is also true that, for all the faults of the elections, Museveni may well have won the most votes.

Even so, observers who pull their punches may end up causing considerable damage.

Even so, observers who pull their punches may end up causing considerable damage. Excessive tact in assessing election results can set back the cause of democracy and undermine the confidence of opposition parties and their supporters that Western governments will play fair. Governments in places such as theDemocratic Republic of Congo and Zambia — both of which are due to have elections this year — will be watching events in Uganda closely. In both countries, the contests are expected to be particularly tight, and leaders there will be looking for every advantage they can get. The failure of election observers to take a stand in Uganda will encourage other dictators to rig their own elections, safe in the knowledge that they are unlikely to be held to account. In the long run, this is likely to erode public support for the political process and to breed political grievances that all too often spill over into conflict.

Maybe it’s time to take a more hard-headed approach to elections in authoritarian states. If the circumstances are simply too uneven to provide genuine competition, and if observers know that they will not be in a position to call out fraud if they see it, then might it be better for international monitors to stay at home? At least this way the international community will avoid legitimating — and hence becoming complicit in — deeply flawed polls that make a mockery of democracy.

*Source FP

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Drogba begins legal proceedings over charity allegations
April 29, 2016 | 0 Comments

By Tom Beck*

1438022_heroaThe former Chelsea player has denied reports that just one percent of money donated to The Didier Drogba Foundation has been spent on good causes.

Didier Drogba has announced he has begun legal proceedings against the Daily Mail after the newspaper published figures stating just 14,115 pounds ($19,964) of donations to his foundation appear in the accounts.

The English media outlet reported that just one percent all of the £1.7 million of UK contributions to The Didier Drogba Foundation in the past five years has been spent on good causes.

However, Drogba has forcefully denied the incriminating accusations, labeling the report as “factually incorrect and libelous” in a statement released on social media.

 A statement read: “Despite sending legal letters and 67 pages worth of documents advising theDaily Mail that their information was factually incorrect and libelous, they have decided to ignore the facts so I am issuing legal proceedings against them today.
“The Daily Mail by such irresponsible journalism are jeopardizing the lives of many thousands of African children. The effect on these kids in need of healthcare and education is unimaginable.

“They have already caused an untold amount of damage by contacting all of my sponsors, my colleagues, and many of my friends who generously helped the Foundation with donations, and put doubts in their mind about whether to continue to support us in the future.

“I come from a poor family and I had to work hard to get where I am today but this would mean nothing to me if I wasn’t able to give back to my country, my continent and my community.

“I want to help children from the Ivory Coast become leaders of the next generation, actors, politicians, scientists, doctors, teachers and sportspeople, but you can only get there with education and healthcare. By printing these lies, The Daily Mail is trying to stop Africa’s development.

“Despite their claims, there is no fraud, no corruption, no mismanagement, no lies, no impropriety.”

*The Hill

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Riding High: From Naomi Achu comes “Long Live the Queen.”
April 28, 2016 | 0 Comments

By Destiny Kwenchia*

NaomiAchuAlbumCover“There is definitely something in this album for everybody,”says Naomi Achu as she calls on fans to join her on April 30 for the launching of her latest musical production. Dubbed “Long Live the Queen,” the album brings out the creative genius of the hard working star who has succeeded to carve a niche for herself. In the midst if a hectic schedule preparing the album launch, Naomi Achu found time to respond to questions from PAV.

Can you introduce the new album for us?

It’s called “Long Live the Queen”. And it’s a combination of world music, afro-pop, hip-hop and a little bit of reggae; many songs for dancing as well as many songs for reflection.

What makes this album different from the previous ones that have been produced?

 There is definitely something in this album for everybody; Even if it’s just one song. It stretches though different age groups, colors and cultures. It has some very relatable tunes and concepts.

12115825_10154160889471591_7184672948709815363_nYou have been in the music scene for a while now, what makes Naomi Achu tick and how to do you juggle additional responsibilities that have come along like been a wife and a mother?

Music to me is a form of expression. So I’ve been able to incorporate music into every aspect of my life. I write songs as I go. As I see or experience different things.

What appraisal do you make of the African music scene generally; any suggestions that could help make it better?
The Africa music scene is doing amazing things. It’s getting more and recognition outside of the continent with crossover artists bringing African flare into the pop music scene. I think if we keep promoting our culture, it will trend and make an international statement.

To the younger people who look up to you as a model, and who want to embrace the music industry, any words of wisdom for them?

Always be open to learn new things. Stay true to who you are and remain humble.

The album will launch on April 30, can you share some information on the event, venue, cost, and other side treats your fans may get?

The event will take place at the Friendship Center in Laurel, MD. General admission is $20. And VIP admission is $50.

13083190_1056219694423822_338598395867581897_nWhat’s next for Naomi Achu after the album launch?

I’ll be on a promotional tour, taking the album across Africa and USA alike. Maybe Europe; we shall see. And after that I hope to start working on the next project.

 Thanks for talking to Pan African Visions

Thanks for having me, once again

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$80 billion, not $50 billion: loss of African funds even worse than thought – Mbeki
April 27, 2016 | 0 Comments


Panel revises figures upwards, and the money is not leaving continent in plastic bags: Kinshasa, we have a problem

Obiang Mangue: Was linked to the export of hundreds of millions of dollars to the US where he bought property and fancy cars. (Photo/TNOM/Flickr).

Obiang Mangue: Was linked to the export of hundreds of millions of dollars to the US where he bought property and fancy cars. (Photo/TNOM/Flickr).

IN 2005, US lawyer George Nagler was contacted by Rosalina Romo, the executive assistant of Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue, son of Africa’s longest serving president and who is on course to extend his 37-year rule over oil-rich Equatorial Guinea.

Romo and Nagler together set up Sweet Pink Inc, which named Romo as its CEO, secretary and chief financial officer. Mangue was listed only as “assistant treasurer”, but under questioning in a US Senate investigation, the lawyer said it was his understanding the younger Nguema was the sole owner and source of funding.

A few days later, Mangue’s then girlfriend, well-known US rapper Eve Jeffers was appointed the firm’s president.  The company was among those known to have been used by Mangue to between 2005 and 2007 move more than $110 million into the US and buy property.

Under pressure from authorities, his US banker eventually closed the accounts, according to the resulting Senate report that was captured in a 2011 World Bank report on stolen assets, The Puppet Masters, and which also in part spotlights how public officials including presidents and state governors from Nigeria and Zambia to Kenya used corporate and financial structures to obscure money trails.

The big people eat it all

Equatorial Guinea has a population of about 760,000  people and on paper a GDP per capita of $20,500—the highest in Africa. Yet three quarters remain mired in poverty, despite its natural-resource riches, with oil exports constituting 80% of its GDP.

The stashing away of such funds in tax havens and global financial centres and which would otherwise build schools, hospitals and infrastructure, costs Africa heavily.

But it was only last year that the continent put a figure to the haemorrhage, when a joint panel headed by former South Africa president Thabo Mbeki in a much-anticipated report (pdf) showed that between 2000 and 2008, Africa lost at least $50 billion annually to illicit outflows.

On the back of the resulting uproar, the continent’s policy community set to work to show just how much of a difference such amounts would make to the region’s development.

The money was enough to simultaneously cut poverty and inequality on the continent by half, organisations from the African Union to the UN’s Economic Commission for Africa, which both backed the report, said.

It is also regularly highlighted that the total outflows from the continent every year were more than the amount of official foreign aid into the continent, which in 2012 was set at $46.1 billion.

But at the release of the findings from its two-year investigation, the Mbeki panel had a caveat: the amount fell “well short of reality”—an acknowledgment of the continent’s well known data problem, but also of just how difficult it is to track flows that by their nature are intended to be hidden from view.

The leak of the so-called Panama Papers has reinvigorated the debate and delighted many leading African names, giving a coveted glimpse into the secretive world of offshore structures. The leaked data from the legal firm Mossack Fonseca featured many African names, even as the distinction is strenuously made that they are not inherently illegal and some have their legitimate uses.

Could be worse

Now the panel says the problem could be worse than previously thought. The continent is losing at least $80 billion, Mbeki said Monday at a press briefing in Johannesburg, as the panel continues to burrow into newer numbers.

Mbeki said that after looking closer at the figures, the number had increased to an estimate of between $80 billion and $90 billion dollars—or nearly the amount the World Bank in 2009 said the continent would need to spend annually for 10 years to narrow the gap with the rest of the world.

“This could either be because more thorough work has been done or in fact there is in actual increase in the activity,” Mbeki said.

While the focus tends to be on the criminal activities such as tax evasion, corruption and trafficking, legally allowed tactics actually account for the bulk of outflows.

Mbeki said the commercial sector is responsible for handling two thirds of capital illicit outflows from the African continent.

Measures to clamp down on funds lost illicitly are being rolled out, but as the former president pointed out, the majority of such flows pass through the systems of banks, as he urged central banks to help track the money.

“This money is not leaving the continent in plastic bags, it goes through financial systems.”

One study showed that African countries lost up to $407 billion between 2001 and 2010 from trade misplacing alone—the misrepresenting of data about imports or exports.

The UN’s trade and development body UNCTAD says profit shifting costs poorer countries—the majority of which are in Africa— up to $100 billion a year.

In one famous case, an American construction conglomerate had almost 30% of its employees in Asia and Africa, made 30% of its sales in Asia and Africa—but recorded only one percent of its profit in Asia and Africa. Eighty percent of its profit went to a tax haven.

In July, a proposal by the continent for multinationals to be more transparent on tax avoidance was heavily watered down by wealth nations.

Mbeki also called for efforts to strengthen the ability of tax authorities on the African continent to keep up with the ever-adapting nature of such outflows, as there were institutional weaknesses.

Without understanding the nature of methods and structures used, it is very much shooting in the dark.

“We need to find a way of tracking these outflows so that we are able to measure whether the measures are working, leading to a reduction of the outflows,” Mbeki said.

Mbeki said the panel is consulting with countries and financial institutions such as the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the European Central Bank.

He said the OECD has agreed to work with the panel in tracking and reducing the illicit outflows, and to develop measures of whether progress has been made.

With wealthy nations under pressure following the Panama leak, the outcome of a landmark anti-corruption summit in London next month will be closely watched by the continent, where leaders are turning up the campaign to have those funds found to be illicit to be repatriated to finance development.

*Source MGA Africa

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April 25, 2016 | 0 Comments

Banner_Newsletter__gold_pour_stepsKorhogo, northern Côte d’Ivoire, Sunday 24 April 2016  –  Côte d’Ivoire’s first golf academy for children has been launched here at a golf day attended by the prefect of the Korhogo region, the town’s mayor and other dignitaries.  The academy is a joint initiative between the Ivorian sport promotion company Team STL and Randgold, which owns and operates the Tongon gold mine in the country.

The aim is to provide underprivileged children with potential the opportunity to acquire a first-rate academic education combined with their development as golfers.  Initially, bursaries will be offered to 100 pupils selected from all over the country.  A number of children from the area around Tongon participated in today’s event.

Speaking at the golf day, Randgold chief executive Mark Bristow said the sport academy initiative would complement the company’s wide-ranging social responsibility portfolio of education, health, infrastructure and economic development projects.

“We are committed to discovering and nurturing talent in our host countries, and by giving youngsters the opportunity to develop their athletic as well as their academic potential, the academy will add an extra dimension to this drive,” he said.

Randgold will contribute $50 000 per year for three years to the realisation of the project.


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Slave states: a story of survival in the Gulf
April 23, 2016 | 0 Comments

By *

African migrants are increasingly moving to rich Gulf States in search of opportunity. More often than not they find exploitation. This is Harriet’s story.

Sunset over Dubai, UAE. Credit: Paolo Margari.

Sunset over Dubai, UAE. Credit: Paolo Margari.

For the millions of people who flock to rich Gulf States to take up jobs as cleaners or builders, the opportunity to work is typically seen as a rare chance for employment and the empowerment that comes with it. Usually from poor countries where prospects are weak, huge numbers of workers have journeyed to glittering Gulf States in recent years in the hope of making a living.

In fact, the numbers are so high that migrants now make up the majority of many Gulf States’ populations. An estimated 7.8 million of the UAE’s 9.2million population are non-nationals, for example, while 70% of Kuwait’s population and 85% of Qatar’s is made up of foreigners. These countries rely on migrant labour to function, though the relationship between employers and employees is far from equal.

Migrants come for work, but many ultimately find themselves trapped, exploited and abused. The government policy known as kafala requires workers to have a local sponsor to work or stay in many of these countries, and this requirement gives employers enormous power over their employees who are unable to change jobs or leave without their consent.

Under this system then, millions of workers have no means of escape and few rights. They find themselves brutally exploited, their movement controlled, and their wellbeing disregarded. Reports of psychological, physical and sexual abuse, of torture, and of suicides are widespread. And there is often no way out.

The fruits of imported workers can be seen all across the Gulf States, not least in the form of the huge skyscrapers built on migrant labour, but the experiences of these individuals are usually hidden below the shiny surfaces of the cities, and go unreported and unheard. Migrants typically come from South and East Asia, but they are increasingly coming from Africa now too. Below is the story of Harriet, just one such migrant from Uganda.

Harriet’s story

Harriet, a young woman in her mid-20s, was an aircraft cleaner with a large private security company. She had worked with one of my school friends in Kampala before coming to Dubai, UAE.

That’s how we first got in touch, and we met at Al Khail Mall in the Al Qouz Industrial Area 4. This was a short distance from her accommodation, a room she shared with three other women, one also from Uganda and two from the Philippines. Harriet started by showing me a few pictures of functions, mostly weddings, that she had taken while in Uganda and then handed me her CV. I noticed that she had a higher diploma in social sciences from one of Uganda’s largest institutions of learning.

Driven by unemployment for about a year back home, Harriet had decided to seek opportunities in Dubai. A recruitment company had taken her on and charged her $600 for her air ticket, visa and recruitment fees. She had now been in Dubai for about six months and was cleaning aeroplanes at Dubai International Airport. She showed me a rash on her arms and part of her face, explaining that she got them from exposure to a cleaning detergent called Bacoban. She had complained to her supervisors, who took her to a hospital where she received treatment. But she had only recently found out that to cover the cost of the visit, her salary had been slashed from 800 dirhams ($215) a month to just 200 dirhams ($54).

Harriet had intended to return to hospital as the rash had persisted and the constant itching made her sick. But she was forced to cancel these plans. Not only could she not afford another pay cut, but many companies here issue penalties for taking time off, even for illness.

Harriet said she was repeatedly required to work more than the stipulated hours in a day without a single break to even drink water. She told me of a colleague from Kenya who had fainted inside the plane because the air conditioning was not working and she had not eaten or drunk anything since early in the morning. There were some women, Harriet said, who took food or water from inside the plane, but this was a serious risk if caught.

Her work supervisor meanwhile, a man from India who hardly spoke any English, regularly harassed her verbally, physically and sexually. When she was cleaning, he would lean down to touch her buttocks. When she asked what he was doing, he would tell her, “Sorry, banana standing. This banana big problem.”

All of Harriet’s colleagues complained amongst themselves but no one dared report him to their superiors. In the past, one of their co-workers had been dismissed after she reported a similar incident of sexual harassment. “They would twist everything and turn it around accusing you of being a prostitute,” said Harriet.

The only thing Harriet was grateful for was her one day off each week, a privilege considering that few other employees – such as security guards – were afforded the same luxury. Having said that, Harriet would spend her days off staying in bed crying, though she was glad to have this chance to weep in private so she could avoid breaking down in public. Crying was the only way she could reduce the burden of her problems, she said.


Outside work, Harriet’s situation was just as miserable. In her accommodation, all sorts of activities were forbidden. Cooking, for example, was prohibited with workers required to buy food from restaurants despite their meagre salaries. Residents were also banned from washing their clothes; instead, the management insisted they use the coin-operated washing machine which cost four dirhams ($1.20) just to launder work uniforms. For Harriet and others, violating these rules was the only way for them to survive and they would prepare meals using secretly-stashed cooking utensils and did their laundry covertly in bathtubs and sinks. The fear of being caught and punished brought additional stress.

Harriet also felt unsafe about leaving her room and going around the surrounding area. Although her quarters were reserved for women, groups of men gathered around the complex, begging and baiting women to come out. The situation was worst at night. When I dropped her off one evening at around 7:30pm, the premises were very busy and although the space was meant to be for women only, most of the people in the compound were men. Cars, ranging from the latest models of Land Cruisers to older makes of Toyota Corollas, constantly streamed in and out.

Harriet told me that most women complemented their paltry earnings with prostitution and that these cars were not here to pick up or drop off friends and girlfriends but women working as prostitutes. Some women were dropped off down the road at Al Khail Mall and walked the short distance back home to disguise their activities.

I reasoned that most of the men who simply crowded around the compound were only there to look at the female residents, unable to afford paying for their services, but Harriet said it was a matter of price discrimination. She challenged me to walk around the dark corridors of the neighbouring buildings that acted as short-time lodges.

She also told me that were reports of men raping women who happened to pass by at night. This was the one thing worried the female residents the most and stopped them from leaving the premises, especially once night had fallen. They would rather go hungry and sleep without eating anything than walk the short distance to a restaurant or Al Khail mall. They were trapped.


In the ensuing weeks after our first meeting, Harriet checked out jobs in the classifieds and sent emails as per my advice. She received a few responses but was always asked if her sponsor was willing to give a No Objection Consent (NOC) letter to facilitate a change in jobs and sponsors in the UAE.

She had no idea about such a document and when she queried her employer’s human resources office, she was told that they did not give out such letters and was instructed that she’d be banned from working in the UAE if she tried to change jobs.

Under the kafala system, Harriet was at the mercy of her sponsor, but mercy was not something her employer was willing to extend. She was essentially bound to servitude until her contract was over. Harriet had no choice but to keep her head down, do what she could to ease her pain, and persevere through to the end of her two-year contract.

Fortunately for Harriet, she made it through and was finally able to find a new job after her ordeal. She now works a saleswoman in a cosmetics shop in Dubai. This job brings with it its own difficulties and challenges, but they are small compared to those she faced in her previous employment. “I still consider the two years I worked as a cleaner the worst experience of my life,” she says.

But while Harriet survived and escaped, others have taken her place as a cleaner and many millions more face the same conditions as she did, and worse, across the Gulf States. These countries serve as a portal for hopeful but vulnerable migrants from across Asia and, increasingly, Africa. They come here looking for opportunity, but are more often than not met with exploitation facilitated by hugely unequal and unjust employment laws.

This article is based on an excerpt from Yasin Kakande’s forthcoming book Slave States: The Practice of Kafala in the Gulf Arab Region.

*Source African Arguments.Yasin Kakande is a Ugandan journalist who has reported from the Middle East for over a decade. His first book, The Ambitious Struggle: An African Journalist’s Journey of Hope and Identity in a Land of Migrants, was published in October 2013.

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Liverpool: Kolo Toure still part of Jurgen Klopp’s plans
April 23, 2016 | 0 Comments
Kolo Toure arrived at Liverpool on a free transfer from Manchester City in 2013

Kolo Toure arrived at Liverpool on a free transfer from Manchester City in 2013

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp says Ivory Coast defender Kolo Toure is still part of his plans, but needs to talk to him about his future.

The 35-year-old will be out of contract at the end of this season but is yet to discuss a new deal.

“Kolo is a very, very important player for us, even when he doesn’t play,” said the former Borussia Dortmund boss.

“He’s one of the most impressive people I have met, but now is not the right time to speak about Kolo’s future.”

The former Arsenal and Manchester City centre-back has played 19 of his 21 matches this season since Klopp arrived at Anfield in October to replace Brendan Rodgers.

“When I came here Kolo had a few problems injury wise but now it looks completely different and that’s good,” the German continued.

“How I have heard things is that a big part of Kolo’s future is at Liverpool. So I’d say everything is ok.”


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Scoring for Global Health
April 23, 2016 | 0 Comments
By Samuel Eto’o*

Samuel-EtooGrowing up in the disadvantaged districts of Douala, Cameroon, I learnt to count on my mates to navigate the rugged streets where we played football. Among these friends, I found comradeship and compassion. Among the adults, however, I found guidance, mentorship, support and sometimes some spanking for disobedience. The circumstances of my upbringing give real meaning to the adage “it takes a village.”

This learning made me resilient to challenges, a quality that was invaluable when I arrived to play football in Europe as a lad of 16. In my luggage, I had a dream, a passion, but I also brought with me dribbling skills and the pace to pounce and score – an essential urge for a striker. Those footballing skills learnt in the bumpy surfaces I was used to practice, propelled me fast in the even grounds of Europe and have taken me to top leagues in Spain, Italy, Russia, England and Turkey.

But I almost never made it. As a young boy, I suffered from countless bouts of malaria that could very easily have killed me. It was just that I was one of the lucky ones, as the disease has killed millions of children in my country and across Africa. Additionally, I also came to age in the 90s – those days when AIDs seemed unstoppable. I saw people in my country succumb to the epidemic, and communities waver under the weight of the disease.

I very easily could have been one of those people taken by these diseases in my community. I have learnt to count my blessings and ask how I can give back – how I can play part in fighting these diseases and others. Of course I am a footballer, not a doctor or a public health specialist. But I hope to contribute by joining others to play and to win against these diseases. I am enlisting myself to the battle by working as a champion for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

The world has made progress against these diseases over the last decade. We may have bent the curve of HIV, tuberculosis and malaria yet far too many people continue to die from these diseases. These men, women and children present far too many dreams that will never be realized. It is why we must press on.

I hope to contribute my bit by sharing the story of my life, but more importantly the story of people affected by these diseases. The stories are many and diverse. They are stories of girls who have lived on to become doctors and teachers and farmers, who are building their communities. Stories of boys, like me, who survived these diseases and lived on to play football, basketball and other sports at an international level and have returned to make a difference in their communities and beyond. These men and women have not only conquered disease, they are also agents of change in our countries.

I hope that with these stories, we can galvanize the world to embrace our differences and our diverse strengths, and to press on with the fight against these diseases with a goal of ending them. I have confidence that with determination and working with the Global Fund partnership we can write the last chapter of these diseases.

Courage and determination are essential qualities in football, and in the fight against AIDS, TB and malaria. One of my most memorable moments in football was the African Cup of Nations final between Nigeria and my country, Cameroon. I was a teenager then, but I scored the first goal and created the second. We went on to win that great final through penalties. I have known other exceptional moments in my career.

In all I have done in football, playing for my national team made me most proud. Right from the 1998 world cup, where, at 17, I represented my country as the youngest player in the tournament. Being called to national duty, being part of the “Indomitable Lions”, was always a big honour. A chance to give back to the people who made me. Cameroon is my blood, every time I wore the jersey of my national team, it was a unique opportunity for me and a great pride.

I hope to use the experience I have gained in football to give back to my country and to Africa by supporting the Global Fund partnership, which has contributed to saving more than 17 million lives, in my country and across the world. Football is a powerful tool, a language that permeates borders. It is a language we can use to fight infectious diseases, which also know no borders. Defeating these diseases will need everyone to play together. That is why I am joining global health. I want to play a prominent role in this urgent mission. I see helping save lives as the biggest fight of my life.

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Resolving Conflicts with ‘African Solutions’ –
April 23, 2016 | 0 Comments

By Hailemariam Desalegn*

Hailemariam Desalegn, prime minister of Ethiopia, in his welcome address at the Tana High-Level Forum on Security, on April 16, Bahir Dar, advocates using African solutions to resolve conflict situations in the continent

Hailemariam Desalegn

Hailemariam Desalegn

IT is my pleasure and privilege to warmly welcome you all to the beautiful city of Bahirdar and to this unique gathering, which brings together African Heads of State and Governments, high-level government officials, prominent personalities and critical stakeholders on a most timely topic of common interest: “Africa in the Global Security Agenda”. Allow me, Excellencies, to recognize the magnificent work the Secretariat has carried out in successfully organizing yet another forum on security in Africa. I am very grateful to the people and government of the Amhara Regional State for the generous hospitality that they accord to the participants of this dialogue every year. I would also like to thank all the participants, who have come from far and near, to grace us with their presence.

Five years ago when the idea of Tana Forum was conceived, the purpose was to provide a unique , neutral and informal setting for serious discussions among African leaders, opinion makers, change agents, academics, practitioners and partners on African security challenges with a view to forge  African solutions to African problems. We are now on our fifth annual event. The growing attendance and diversity of participants demonstrates the growing recognition of the Tana Forum.

Thanks to your unwavering support and immense contributions, Tana Forum has become an invaluable platform for the exchange of views, best experiences and innovative approaches to the fast changing security challenges facing our continent and the global community.

No single challenge in Africa can be considered an only African one. In its impacts or underlying causes or implementation of proposed solutions, every challenge in Africa, in one way or another, involves, implicates or requires non-African actors.

The truth is that we are living in an increasingly interconnected and complex world, where apparently isolated and small problems will have global and non-linear consequences; where effective solutions require active collaboration of nations and stakeholders.

What ‘African solutions’ means is two things principally. First, information about problems, causes and solutions ought to be primarily collected and analyzed by those who understand the African context. Collection and analysis of information is not necessarily an objective exercise. It is influenced by the particular frame of reference and embodied values of whoever is undertaking this exercise. In addition, intimate and deeper local knowledge is required for effective design of solutions.

Second, the quality of delivering institutions is as important as the quality of the diagnosis and prognosis. ‘African institutions’ have to be the principal ones that should be entrusted with the responsibility to deliver.

The colonial powers characterized informal governing institutions in Africa as backward and barbaric.  They undertook massive efforts to install formal institutions of governance, informed by their own experience and knowledge. Formal institutions were superimposed on informal institutions, without acknowledging the latter. It later became painfully clear that these exercises were not only ineffective but also counterproductive.

The good thing is that we have started the complementary design and use of formal and informal institutions in many areas. When it comes to peace and security, the experience is limited at best.

The notion of ‘African solutions’ is not limited to continental and regional processes and institutions. It also includes national institutions. If we cannot first develop and implement Ethiopian, Nigerian, Egyptian, Kenyan, Rwandese solutions and institutions, how come we expect to develop and deploy African solutions and institutions?

Permit me to briefly illustrate the enormous sacrifices Africa and her peoples’ continue to make in the face of several odds stacked against it; and why the rest of the world should support and partner with us; not deride, mock and leave us to our fate. Many of you might not know this but the truth is that Ethiopia, despite the developmental challenges we face (as almost all African countries do too) is one of the highest contributors to continental- and, by extension- global peace and security. We have not only put our citizens at the forefront of political and diplomatic missions in the Horn, and across Africa, but also contribute the highest number of personnel to United Nations and African Union peacekeeping operations in Africa. As I speak, for instance, our men and women in uniform are solely policing Abyei region, the contested borders between Sudan and South Sudan. I would also like to put on record that Ethiopia currently contributes the largest in terms of female contingents either wearing the UN Blue Helmet or serving under the auspices of the African Union; including several of them in senior command positions.

But, then, also all of these have become great costs; not just in terms of painful loss of lives, but also at a time when Ethiopia; as most other African countries, are grappling with enormous economic, social, political challenges at home. You will agree that even as we take the bold steps to serve as “first responders” wherever we are faced with grave threats to peace and security on the continent, we simply cannot do it all alone. As far as I can see, therefore, Africa needs the rest of the world just as the rest of the world needs Africa. For as long as there is disconnect, even for a short period, in the realisation that we are in this together, the world will not know peace; not the quality of peace that the current and future generations deserve.

We have seen improvements in developing and operationalizing the African architecture for peace and security, including the engagement of elders and women. These institutions must deliver in the areas of early detection of problems and correct analysis, deliberation and generation of solutions.

If we are not quick, effective and credible in these regard, forces outside Africa will be tempted to fill gaps. When they do so, they will be likely guided by their own detached frames of reference and models. The resultant solution will, therefore, be alien and non-effective and sometimes counterproductive. Such forces are motivated to do so not only by the possible and real spillover effects on them of security problems in Africa but also by the opportunity to entrench their interests and positions within Africa.

It is, therefore, fitting that the fifth Tana High-Level Forum on Security in Africa is devoted to the interrogation and generation of strategies for strengthening the role of Africa in the global security agenda.

I look forward to participating in the dialogue. Have a fruitful and enjoyable time on the shores of Lake Tana.

*Culled from Real Magazine.Hailemariam Desalegn, prime minister of Ethiopia, delivered this welcome address at the just-ended two-day Tana High-Level Forum on Security in Africa in Bahir Dar, Ethiopia, on Saturday, April 16, 2016

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Africa and the Global Security Architecture
April 23, 2016 | 0 Comments

Africa must ensure that its positions on international security concerns – and not just African issues – are carefully coordinated and well presented as it seeks to have a permanent position in the international security architecture.

By Kofi Annan*

At the outset of these remarks, allow me to thank our Chairman for inviting me to the Tana Forum. This is the first time I am attending this prestigious event, which brings together many distinguished participants who share a deep, mutual interest in the security and well-being of Africa.

Our topic this afternoon is Africa and the Global Security Architecture.

Kofi Annan

Kofi Annan

During the Cold War years that would have not been a subject for much discussion. In those days, we looked for big-power champions who could provide diplomatic and security cover.

The contemporary world is far more complex.

And, as the awful atrocities that have been perpetrated in West, East and North Africa have shown, the continent is not immune to the security threats that many countries around the world now face.

But I want to start with some good news. Africa is actually doing better than many people may realize in terms of the security of its citizenry.

Today, and despite a few egregious exceptions, armed conflict is actually a smaller risk to most Africans than traffic accidents.

This improvement of the security situation helped set the stage for rapid economic growth of 5-6% per year for the last fifteen years.

As a result of this sustained period of growth, extreme poverty has fallen by 40% since 1990.

And Africa’s growth can no longer be explained just by global demand for its commodities.

Two thirds of Africa’s growth over the last decade has come from increased domestic demand for goods and services in thriving sectors such as telecoms, financial services, manufacturing and construction.

As a result, today, inflows of private investment dwarf international aid.

They have been encouraged by the efforts of governments across Africa to improve their macro-economic environments.

Although there is still some way to go, we have seen encouraging steps towards gender parity, and the continent is moving towards universal primary education.

The spread of HIV/AIDS is in decline, and the number of deaths from tuberculosis and malaria is falling.

Democracy is extending its roots as Burkina Faso, Guinea and Nigeria have recently demonstrated.

Other countries like Cote d’Ivoire, have emerged from the abyss of conflict and are making strides towards a better and more democratic future.

In other words, our continent is generally heading in the right direction.

This encouraging analysis will come, I know, as very cold comfort for those millions of people who are still living every day in the shadow of violent conflict and abject poverty.

Progress remains uneven, and the dangers today are both internal and external.

Rebel groups have flourished in the impoverished parts of weak states that feel hard-done by their governments, where the population is often abused by the security forces, or where they do not trust the courts to deliver justice.

External forces are taking advantage of these shortcomings. We cannot ignore that from Mauritania in the west to Somalia in the east, the flag of Jihad is being raised.

More than a dozen sub-Saharan countries are concerned, and tens of thousands have already died as a result.

Boko Haram actually killed more people last year than the Islamic State. Attacks in many places are a daily or weekly occurrence.

And local extremist groups are now linking up to each other across borders, and even to global franchises like Al Qaeda or Islamic State.

Precisely because of these affiliations, these conflicts are generally seen through a unique prism: the global war on Islamist terrorism.

This neglects what they have in common with other insurgencies on the continent, which have nothing to do with Islam.

It is no secret that unemployed young men are especially vulnerable to the temptations of violence and easily instrumentalised for that purpose.

This is not a specifically Muslim problem: a World Bank survey in 2011 showed that about 40% of those who join rebel movements say they are motivated by a lack of jobs.

In Africa, as elsewhere, the answer does not lie in a purely military response that fails to deal with the root causes of disaffection and violence.

As I constantly repeat, you cannot have peace and security without inclusive development, the rule of law and the respect for human rights. These are the three pillars of all successful societies.

It is largely because these three pillars are quite fragile in parts of Africa that we are still seeing instability and violence.

The truth is that the economic growth in Africa over the last fifteen years, though impressive, has been neither sufficient nor inclusive.

In fact, Africa has become the world’s second most unequal continent, according to the African Development Bank.

Too much of that growth has enriched a narrow elite and not enough was spent on infrastructure, health or education, which would have fostered development.

It is no coincidence that Boko Haram originated in one of the world’s poorest and most deprived areas of the continent.

Not only does wealth not trickle down, but it is barely taxed, depriving the state of resources to provide public services.

It is not just that Africa is unequal: it is also unfair. An African Union report has estimated that up to one quarter of the continent’s GDP is syphoned off every year through corruption.

The trafficking of drugs creates an especially difficult challenge. Drug money is insidious and invasive. It corrodes political institutions.

We must focus on the money trail.  We have been locking up the minor offenders while the big fish swim free.

The fight against violent rebel movements is necessary, and will require enhanced inter-African as well as international cooperation.

But this is not enough because the challenge of security in Africa is often a political challenge revolving around the acquisition and use of power.

As a result, elections are a source of tension and repression rather than an opportunity for the free expression of political will.

Leaders who hang on to power indefinitely by gaming elections and suppressing criticism and opposition are sowing the seeds of violence and instability.

African leaders, like leaders everywhere, must remember that they are at the service of their citizens, and not the other way around.

They have a mandate given to them, in trust, by their people, who can also take it away from them if they are found wanting and to have outstayed their welcome.

So looking forward, I see five critical challenges for Africa as it fashions its role in the global security order.

First, at the global level, Africa must have a strong and consistent voice at the pinnacle of the international security architecture – in the Security Council.

Ideally, this means African permanent seats. But until that can be accomplished, Africa must ensure that its positions on international security concerns – and not just African issues – are carefully coordinated and well presented.

Second, at the regional level, we should recognize and applaud the work of the AU and the sub-regional organisations, which have acquired considerable and commendable experience in mounting peace operations.

This effort must continue. But African states will have to give the AU the means to do so and, in future, rely less on outside funding.

Third, looking to the national level, the most urgent challenge is to create enough jobs for the continent’s youth.

According to the World Bank, eleven million young people are expected to enter Africa’s labour market every year for the next decade.

If these young people cannot find jobs, and do not believe in the future, they may be tempted by rebel movements of all kinds, as well as crime and migration.

Wherever I am in Africa, I am always struck not just by the number of young people, but also by their energy, their creativity and their talent.

We should invest in them, harness their talent and ensure that the next generation of leaders will do better than we have done.

Another major challenge lies in building confidence in the integrity of the electoral process.

Elections should be the vehicle for popular choice in which the winner does not take all and the losers do not lose all.

Those who win must recognize that they do not have a licence to rule without restraint or remain in office in perpetuity.

Let us not confuse legality with legitimacy. Elections that meet legal form but fail the test of integrity are only pyrrhic victories that usually store up trouble for the future.

Finally, I want to mention the quality of national security forces. Madiba once said that “freedom would be meaningless without security in the home and in the streets”.

That security in the home and in the streets depends in good measure on our security forces.

We must invest in them but also make them fully accountable as part of our democratic societies. They must be trained to protect the individual and his or her family and property, to earn their trust and work with the people.

We have come a long way from the Cold War days.

Africa is now part and parcel of the global security architecture.

We can and must step up to that role by investing in our people and by protecting rights and not just regimes.

If we do that, I am convinced that our future will be more peaceful and secure than our recent past and Africa will exert a powerful and constructive influence within the global security architecture.

*Real News. Kofi Annan, President of the Kofi Annan Foundation, former Secretary General of the United Nations and Nobel Prize Laureate, presented this Keynote Address at the Tana High-Level Forum on Security in Africa which Held from April 16 – 17, 2016, in Bahir Dar, Ethiopia.

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