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‘Let West Africa’s success echo throughout the world.’ ECOWAS hails the success of African Development Bank investments in the region
December 24, 2019 | 0 Comments

The African Development Bank’s investments in West Africa are yielding remarkable results, the President of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Jean-Claude Kassi Brou, said in Abuja on Saturday.

He was speaking at the bloc’s fifty-sixth ordinary session, attended by regional heads of state and government.

Brou said the Bank had provided “invaluable technical and financial interventions…in the implementation of numerous projects and programmes”.

The region’s economy is showing positive achievements, reaching 3.3 percent growth in 2019, he said, “despite facing significant challenges, particularly with regards to security. ECOWAS member states have demonstrated remarkable resilience.”

In a speech, Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari assured ECOWAS that his country was committed to regional integration, requesting members to channel collective energies towards accelerating sustainable peace, security, stability and inclusive economic growth.

“It is always gratifying when our regional bloc comes together to advance our agenda for regional integration and promote the socioeconomic development of our subregion,” he told the high-level meeting.

For his part, the President of the African Development Bank Akinwunmi Adesina put the Bank’s current portfolio of investments in West Africa at $20 billion, with a strong focus on critical sectors.

“The African Development Bank has always been there at the right time, with the right product, for the right needs of countries,” Adesina told delegates.

“Such was the case in Nigeria, where the Bank helped to provide $600 million of budget support that helped it get out of recession, a tough time for Nigeria. The Bank also provided $500 million to establish the Development Bank of Nigeria. Last week, we provided $280 million to support social investments in Côte d’Ivoire,” he added.

“You can always count on the African Development Bank – your Bank,” Adesina assured delegates.

The Bank’s support in the region includes  525 million for the construction of the Blaise Diagne international airport in Senegal and $120 million for the new Terminal 3 for Kotoka international airport in Ghana

The African Development Bank also provided $30 million for the construction of the Mandela Praia airport in Cabo Verde, and $130 million for Air Côte d’Ivoire to acquire a new aircraft fleet.

Other investments include € 60 million for the Lomé Container Terminal port and another $96 million for the new landmark Senegambia Bridge that now links the Gambia and Senegal. A € 183 million facility was critical for Senegal’s Regional Express Train.

During the Bank’s second Africa Investment Forum held in November 2019, the institution and its partners mobilized investments of $2.6 billion for the development of the Accra Sky Train and $251 million towards the Lagos Cable Car Transit System projects.

Adesina also highlighted the Bank’s $1.5 billion financing for the development of major transport corridors to improve connectivity in the ECOWAS region. This includes the construction and rehabilitation of 4,000 kilometers of main corridor roads.

The Lagos-Abidjan Highway will become a reality., the Bank’s President told the regional leaders.

The African Development Bank is providing $11.1 million to the ECOWAS Commission to develop the Master Plan for the Lagos-Abidjan highway corridor and will be providing an additional $13.5 million for feasibility studies to be completed next year. It expects construction to start in 2022.

Current initiatives include a $25 billion investment to turn Africa into a global powerhouse in food and agriculture. This includes financing special agro-industrial processing zones in northern Togo, Côte d’Ivoire and Senegal.

During the one-day meeting, ECOWAS leaders deliberated on critical issues affecting the region, including the  proposed ECO single currency regime for the sub-region and the Action Plan for Regional Security.

Adesina summed up the Bank’s vision for ECOWAS: “An integrated monetary zone and financial markets; a free zone for trade, with free movement of people, capital, goods and services; an ECOWAS region whose new currency would be ECO; and the echoes of that will reverberate across the world.”

*AFDB

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ECOWAS endorses Adesina for second term as President of the African Development Bank
December 24, 2019 | 0 Comments

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has endorsed the candidacy of African Development Bank President Akinwumi Adesina for a second term at the helm of the institution.

The decision was announced at the end of the fifty-sixth ordinary session of the Authority of Heads of State and Government of ECOWAS, held on Saturday in Abuja, Nigeria.

“In recognition of the sterling performance of Dr. Akinwumi Adesina during his first term of office as President of the African Development Bank, the Authority endorses his candidacy for a second term as the President of the bank,” ECOWAS said in a communique issued after the meeting.

Adesina is the eighth elected President of the African Development Bank Group. He was elected to the five-year term on 28 May 2015 by the Bank’s Board of Governors at its Annual Meetings in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, where the same electoral process will play out next year.

Adesina is a renowned development economist and the first Nigerian to serve as President of the Bank Group. He has served in a number of high-profile positions internationally, including with the Rockefeller Foundation, and was Nigeria’s Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development from 2011 to 2015, a career stint that was widely praised for his reforms in the agricultural sector. The former minister brought the same drive to the Bank, making agriculture one of the organization’s priority areas.

Speaking earlier at the opening ceremony, Adesina reminded the group of the African Development Bank’s investments in the region.

“You can always count on the African Development Bank – your Bank,” Adesina told delegates.

ECOWAS President Jean-Claude Kassi Brou commended the Bank’s involvement in West Africa and said it had provided “invaluable technical and financial interventions…in the implementation of numerous projects and programmes”.

The ECOWAS summit included a progress report on the region’s economic performance. It noted the role of the African Development Bank in the continent’s transformation and called for greater cooperation in order to fund projects in West Africa.

“The Authority takes note of the region’s improved economic performance, with ECOWAS real GDP growing by 3.3% in 2019 against 3.0% in 2018, in a context characterised by a decline in inflationary pressures and sound public finances,” the statement said.

“It urges the Member States to continue economic reforms and ensure a sound macroeconomic environment in Member States, with a view to accelerating the structural transformation of ECOWAS economies and facilitating the achievement of the monetary union by 2020.”

The Authority commended efforts made on currency and monetary policy convergence in ECOWAS and laid out plans to advance the movement. These efforts are a key part of the regional integration agenda championed by the African Development Bank, as exemplified by the African Continental Free Trade Area, which aims to become the world’s largest free trade zone.

*AFDB

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Arab Petroleum Investments Corporation (APICORP) supports development of Algeria’s energy sector through two loan facilities to Sonatrach Petroleum Investment Corporation worth USD 250 million
December 23, 2019 | 0 Comments
Dr. Ahmed Ali Attiga, CEO, APICORP
Dr. Ahmed Ali Attiga, CEO, APICORP

Loans to support Sonatrach’s efforts to diversify energy assets, ensure steady crude oil supplies and increase geographic footprint

DAMMAM, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, December 23, 2019/ — Loans to be used to carry out maintenance works on Sonatrach’s refinery in Italy, its first overseas investment in Europe, and purchase of Aramco crude; Loans to support Sonatrach’s efforts to diversify energy assets, ensure steady crude oil supplies and increase geographic footprint.

The Arab Petroleum Investments Corporation (APICORP) (http://www.APICORP.org/), a multilateral development financial institution, agreed to two loan facilities worth a combined USD 250 million with Sonatrach Petroleum Investment Corporation (SPIC), a subsidiary of Sonatrach International Holding Corporation owned by Sonatrach, the Algerian state-owned national oil company.

The first loan, a USD 100 million bilateral pre-financing facility, will be used to fund the maintenance of the Sonatrach Raffineria Italiana complex in Sicily, Italy, which Sonatrach acquired from ExxonMobil in December 2018. The second loan, a USD 150 million unfunded and syndicated letter of credit, is for the purchase Saudi Aramco crude oil by Sonatrach Raffineria Italiana.

Dr. Ahmed Ali Attiga, CEO of APICORP, said: “APICORP is committed to supporting and financing Sonatrach in its first overseas acquisition. This is part of our mission to continue playing an active role in the development of our member countries’ broader energy sector and contribute to diversification and geographic expansion. As a trusted financial partner to the region’s energy sector, we remain steadfast in our mission to continue exploring opportunities in Algeria and other member states and provide solutions that drive innovation and bolster the sustainability of this vital industry.”

Nordine Bouteldja, Managing Director of SPIC commented, “Our strategic investment in international refining through Sonatrach Raffinera Italiana will contribute to meeting local energy demand and address imbalances in petroleum supplies. This is of key importance to our efforts to diversify our energy assets and secure reliable supplies of crude oil, as part of our drive to meet local energy demand and address imbalances in petroleum supplies to the domestic market.”

Located in Augusta, Sicily, Sonatrach Raffineria Italiana is Sonatrach’s first overseas acquisition. The integrated refinery complex, which has access to the major global shipping routes through the Mediterranean Sea, boasts a conversion rate of 200,000 bpd and can produce a wide range of downstream products, including gasoline, distillates, fuel oils, lubricants, asphalts and chemicals.

Earlier this year, Sonatrach designated APICORP as one of a select group of financial institutions to provide advisory on project management and financing-related matters.

International legal firm Allen & Ovary’s Paris office was the legal advisor to APICORP on the transactions. 

The Arab Petroleum Investments Corporation (APICORP) (http://www.APICORP.org/) is a multilateral development financial institution established in 1974 by an international treaty between the ten Arab oil exporting countries. It aims to support and foster the development of the Arab world’s energy sector and petroleum industries. APICORP makes equity investments and provides project finance, trade finance, advisory and research. APICORP is rated ‘Aa2 with a stable outlook’ by Moody’s, and is headquartered in Dammam, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

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Q & A with Twiga Foods Co-founder & CEO, Peter Njonjo
December 23, 2019 | 0 Comments

By Ajong Mbapndah L

Twiga Foods Co Founder Peter Njonjo is leading innovation in food distribution across the continent
Twiga Foods Co Founder Peter Njonjo is leading innovation in food distribution across the continent

AsTwiga Foods Takes Lead in Setting Standards for production and distribution in Sub-Saharan Africa, PAV caught with its Co-Founder and CEO Peter Njonjo for a Q&A on important developments, and way forward for the Kenyan company.

Could we start by getting an introduction of Twiga Foods, and how its creation came about?

Peter Njonjo: Twiga Foods was created to address issues around food production and distribution in Sub-Saharan Africa. When you consider that a disproportionately high percentage of disposable income is spent on food – 55 percent in Kenya and 60 percent in Nigeria. Compared to 8 percent in the UK – it made sense to explore ways to bring costs down.

Since we started Twiga in 2014, we have also come to realise that Africa’s food production challenges actually begin with fragmented consumer retail. The Continent is dependent on small farmers because the Continent’s retail is dependent on small informal vendors. 

With current fragmentation, it makes no sense for a farmer to plant 50 acres of potatoes, or 30 acres of bananas, because they’d have no route to sell those volumes into a fragmented marketplace. However, staying small is extremely inefficient: a farmer with less than 3 acres achieves only 14 percent of the yield/acre of a farmer with more than 20 acres, ensuring the cost of food remains far too high. 

Our approach is to “re-engineer” the agricultural value chain as an end to end tech-enabled market, rather than seeking to optimise existing fragmentation. By aggregating a fragmented retail space, we aim to enable the creation of an efficient domestic agricultural production industry, when before there was none, while generating incremental value for all market participants.

How are your services provided and how much of Kenya does it cover?

Peter Njonjo: Twiga’s m-commerce platform enables vendors to order fresh produce, as and when needed, from farmers across Kenya. As a result, farmers have guaranteed access to a fairly priced, transparent, mobile marketplace and vendors can consistently source high-quality produce, which is conveniently delivered for free to their doorstep within 18 hours of ordering.

At the moment, we are mainly working with vendors in Nairobi and farmers on the outskirts, but we are hoping to expand into Mombasa and Nakuru in the coming months

Twiga Foods was recently in the news for Securing $30M to digitize food distribution, can you shed some light on this?

Peter Njonjo : Our latest funding round was led by Goldman Sachs, with participation from existing investors including the International Finance Corporation, TLcom Capital and Creadev. An additional $6 million in debt was raised from OPIC and Alpha Mundi.

This new investment will fund the continued development of our proprietary technology and logistics assets to support the roll-out of its distribution system and lay the foundations for expansion into other cities on the continent. 

Our aim is to bridge gaps in food and market security, and this funding will also help us to do that. Since launching in 2014, Twiga Foods has transformed the lives and businesses of more than 17,000 farmers and more than 8,000 vendors but there is still a long way to go.

With the financing, where does this lead Twiga Foods, any projections for the next five years for instance?

Peter Njonjo: We plan to expand into Mombasa, and possibly Nakuru, within the next year. After that, the next step would be to expand across the continent, starting with French-speaking West African countries (Côte d’Ivoire, Mali, Burkina Faso, Togo, Senegal etc) and then Nigeria. 

We are also building a new distribution centre that will have state-of-the-art cold rooms, conveyors and sorting equipment, which will enable Twiga to offer supply chain services for both agricultural and FMCG products. The distribution centre should be ready by February 2020.

To other young aspiring entrepreneurs who will want to emulate the success of Peter Njonjo, what words of wisdom can you share with them based on your experiences?

Peter Njonjo: The first piece of advice I would offer aspiring entrepreneurs is that they should always seek to be part of the solution. In the early days of my career, I was so keen to identify problematic situations and things that didn’t work but didn’t always prioritise finding a solution to these problems I’d identified. On one occasion, my boss actually told me he would fire me if I brought him one more problem. Thankfully, that did not kill my curiosity. It was the trigger I needed to think differently which has been a great asset for me in my career.

The second thing would be to always stay curious. Curiosity is a state of mind that allows you to discover so many things. It will also lead you to ideas that will differentiate you from everyone else. As an entrepreneur, this differentiation is an invaluable asset to have. One that will be very useful for helping your consumers and customers see value in the product or service you have to offer

.Founders Grant Brooke and Peter Njonjo at work .Photo Credit Jeff Angote .NMG
.Founders Grant Brooke and Peter Njonjo at work .Photo Credit Jeff Angote .NMG

The African Continental Free Trade Agreement is expected to go into effect next year, any strategy in the works for Twiga foods to benefit from the changes it will bring?

Peter Njonjo: One of our main objectives is to solve the problem of reliable access to food across Sub-Saharan Africa and the AfCFTA provides an effective framework for achieving that. At the moment, we are focusing on Kenya because it is the market we know. However, when the time is right for us to expand outside Kenya, we will be doing so with a nuanced approach that factors in all the peculiarities of each market. The AfCFTA makes it easier for African countries to trade goods and we are looking forward to exploring the opportunities that come with it. 

*Published December issue of Pan African Visions Magazine

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Africa Needs Servant -Leaders- Ugandan Opposition figure Bobi Wine
December 23, 2019 | 0 Comments

By Ajong Mbapndah L

Bobi Wine says the movement he leads will usher in a new dawn for Uganda
Bobi Wine says the movement he leads will usher in a new dawn for Uganda

Boston, Washington,DC, New York, Canada and others, it was a super hectic schedule for Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu better known as Bobi Wine on his recent North American Tour.

Town Hall Forums with his Ugandan compatriots were full to capacity, prestigious institutions and prestigious Institutions and media organs are increasingly opening their doors to the 37 old musician turned politician.

Serving as Member of Parliament for the  Kyaddondo East constituency in  the Wakiso District, of Uganda’s Central Region, the political stock of Bobi Wine has sowed to the point where his eyes are firmly set on unseating and replacing  President Yoweri Museveni. In power since 1986, Museveni, aged in 75, has dominated Ugandan politics and literally controls everything, but it is time for him to go, says Bobi Wine. 

Interviewed in a car in between his hectic schedule on the Washington, DC, lap of his recent North American Tour, Bobi says he considers himself more of a revolutionary than a politician.

“I am representing an idea, a revolutionary movement called People Power which believes in returning power back to the people,” he says.

On what makes him think he is the one to unseat President Museveni, when so many others have tried and failed, Bobi says it is not about him as an individual but rather the movement he leads. Museveni has never faced the kind of threat he sees

“Bobi Wine is leading a mass of Ugandans, and we as Ugandans are going to get Museveni out of power, and not me,” he says.

Charting a new path forward for the continent requires servant-leaders Bobi said as he fielded questions on some key developments that defined the year in Africa from Ethiopia to Cameroon, Guinea, South Africa, and more.

 You just spoke to a group of Ugandan compatriots and reiterated that you will be running for the 2021 elections. Under what platform will you be running, and what political program will you be presenting to your compatriots?

Bobi Wine: I am running on behalf of the people of Uganda, all the marginalized people of Uganda. I am not representing any political party, but I am representing an idea, a revolutionary movement called People Power which believes in returning power back to the people. Our program is a huge one but I could only name about five programs we are focusing on amongst them is the return of the rule of law and respect for human rights, changing our educational system, revamping our healthcare system which is sick, revisiting our land policies, and making sure our people are re-empowered to re-embark on agriculture — it is the backbone of the country, and Uganda is the food basket of the region. Finally, we want to have our nation living together as we are in a country deeply divided along ethnicity, along class, and all the vices. We hope to heal our nation, and that is what we are focusing on doing, at least as soon as we get into power.

What pushed you into politics, considering that you were a household name in music and doing relatively well?

Bobi Wine: I am not in politics. Whereas it is reality, because when I was not in what you want to call politics, I was paying taxes, and I was oppressed. The local businesses are oppressed, the local woman who sells charcoal is oppressed and for her to stand, and defend her rights and stand, and represent her people, I do not call that politics. The level that it is, is responsibility, activism, it is everybody’s social responsibility. So, I look at myself as a revolutionary and not as a politician.

 Barring last minute changes, you will be running against President Museveni. Others have tried to get him out of power without success, so what makes Bobby Wine think that he is that person who can get him out of power?

Bobi Wine: First of all, I am not him, I am Bobi Wine. Secondly it is not Bobi Wine that is going to get Museveni out of power. Bobi Wine is leading a mass of Ugandans, and we as Ugandans are going to get Museveni out of power, and not me. Of course many have tried unsuccessfully and it offers very valuable lessons. It is a person that has failed that knows how to fail. And if you know how to fail you can avoid it. Museveni has never faced a threat like when he faces us — we are young people and constitute more than 85% of the population.

The  Growing international profile of Bobi Wine adds credibility to his Presidential ambitions
The Growing international profile of Bobi Wine adds credibility to his Presidential ambitions

You have been a member of parliament since 2017, what has the experience been like, and what are some of the changes you have brought to your constituency, and the country?

Bobi Wine: It has been a horrible experience in parliament. It has been brutalization, there has been violence. As we speak now, I am a member of parliament who cannot have a gathering in my constituency. As we speak now I am a musician who cannot perform in my country, so that is what it has been. One thing we can say is that we have succeeded in exposing the regime for what it is. We have left it naked for everybody to see and now our next step is an attack on the regime — to crush it once and for all.

In Africa, age is supposed to go with wisdom. You are in your late 30s, and President Museveni is officially in his late 70s is age a liability or an asset when it comes to getting power?

Bobi Wine: Looking at things, our history, age is proving to be a liability. Age will be a resource if it is dignified. Museveni’s age is a sign of indignity because he was once a revolutionary in his younger ages, but the older he gets the worse he becomes. So in the case of Museveni, age has been disgraced. If I were his age mate, I would be really mad at him for disrespecting our age.

 On this current tour you were in Massachusetts, Maryland, you have met people in DC, you were in Canada, what is it that your compatriots in the Diaspora are telling you?

Bobi Wine: All Ugandans from different locations have different roles, and I have had different contributions. For example, the Ugandans here in DC have done a great job pushing back against the regime, pushing back against sanctions. Ugandans in Canada and others are pushing their leaders to speak out, and hold the regime accountable. They have been able to do fundraising, support events and activities back home. So, the Diaspora has different roles, and they are playing it very well.

What do you think of the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement?

Bobi Wine: I think it is a good thing and Africans should be united by their values, sports, and most importantly by trade.

In Ethiopia there is a Prime Minister almost the same age as you –PM Abby, and he recently won the Nobel Peace Prize, what is your take on his leadership?

Bobi Wine: That is more evidence that young people can be great leaders, especially young people by the verge of their age and are reminded that they are going to still be there either  to benefit from the good works that they have done, or to pay for the evil deeds that they do. Prime Minister Abiy is an inspiration, and every African leader will want to achieve what he has achieved. He inspires me personally.

 In West Africa there is a talk of a common currency — the Echo, what do you think about it and   should Africa be doing more to move towards a common currency or a unified monetary policy of its own?

Bobi Wine: Africa should have united one hundred years ago. Seeing that some countries are moving towards a common currency is very motivating. For nations to reach a level of sharing currencies means they share values such as democracy, respect for human rights. So, it is very encouraging, and I wish the East African community had gotten to that level, but I know by the grace of God we will get there. 

What is your opinion about the situation in Guinea where there is a protest, and counter protest with the President trying to change the constitution to get a third term?

Bobi Wine: President Museveni of Uganda said four years ago, and I agree with him that the problem of Africa and its leaders is that they want to overstay in power. It is shameful that a leader that has led for two terms will want to change the constitution so, he can stay forever. That is dictatorship that must be resisted and shame on those people that are being paid, or manipulated to support a dictatorship, or a life Presidency as if Guinea does not have other leaders or it is a barren state. It is wrong, I disagree with it and I condemn it in the strongest terms possible because that is how it begins.

 On the political crisis in Cameroon, what does Bobby Wine think of the silence of African leaders and the African Union in the face of what many considers being one of the biggest humanitarian disasters in the continent today?

Bobi Wine: Shame on the African leaders for keeping quiet about the crisis in Cameroon. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. Cameroonians are our brothers and sisters, and we need to stand behind them.

It was a ringing endorsement for Bobi Wine in Canada

 Last question on South Africa, in the course of the year we notice a resurgence of xenophobia. What came to your mind when you saw all these images and do you think leaders in that country are doing enough to address it?

Bobi Wine: It is ignorance by the people, and the leaders. I must remind those brothers and sisters in South Africa that the whole of Africa stood with them when they were being oppressed and during the unfortunate period of apartheid. It is very ignorant of them to mistreat fellow Africans. No African is a foreigner on the African continent and in the same spirit, I want to condemn the dissatisfying effort of their leaders because people are a reflection of their leadership. If the leaders wanted to protect Africans that are living in South Africa, they would have done it. They still can do it, and they should do it because Africa is our home.

 On your projections and wishes for 2020, what will Bobi Wine want to see in Uganda and Africa?

Bobi Wine: I want to see in Uganda a leadership that is accountable to the people and you can be sure that we will achieve it. What I want to see in Africa is servant- leadership , – leaders that are serving in the interest of the people. I must remind all African leaders that the Americans, Europeans and all those who came to their continent, they were not planning Africa for their individual gains, but for their people. All the Gold that was stolen in Africa developed countries and not individual wealth. That should be the communication to our fellow Africans. Our continent is rich but poor because we have greedy leaders that do not think beyond their stomach.

*Published in December issue of Pan African Visions Magazine

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On Southern Cameroons The United Nations Continues to Get It Wrong-Barrister Ajong Stanislaus
December 21, 2019 | 0 Comments

By Ajong Mbapndah L and Amos Fofung

Barrister Ajong at The International Criminal Court, The Hague
Barrister Ajong at The International Criminal Court, The Hague. The Trusteeship Council, failed to lead the people of Southern Cameroons to self-government or independence as ordained by the Charter, his research concludes

In a new book titled Southern Cameroons and the United Nations Organization from Trusteeship to Independence. A Success Story?, Barrister Ajong Stanislaus makes a scathing indictment of the world body for its role in the ongoing crisis in Cameroon.

“It is our considered opinion from the conclusion of the work that the United Nations Organization through its organ, The Trusteeship Council, failed to lead the people of Southern Cameroons to self-government or independence as ordained by the Charter,” the erudite Lawyer says in the book.

It is the responsibility of the World body to foresee, preempt, and prevent situations that will potentially lead to the disruption of global peace, but Barrister Ajong, who heads the Tiko based Security Law Firm, says the Organization has woefully failed to do so with regards to the situation in the present day Southern Cameroons. The signs and red flag for this impulsion have been there since 1961 when the Southern Cameroons are said to have joined the Cameroon Republic, says Barrister Ajong as he calls for reforms and restructuring that will make UN policy making more proactive than reactionary.

“There is an absolute need for the UN to stamp its feet and play the role for which it was created before the situation gets worse. They need to send an independent team to inquire about the allegations of genocide and war crimes being committed in the territory, and as an interim measure send a reduced peacekeeping force to protect the armless civilians,” Barrister Ajong says.

“The world body should know that it is people who make the State. Once the people feel abandoned and unprotected, they take to self-defence which is what is happening in the territory at this material time,” says the legal luminary who has held brief for the Southern Cameroons case on the international scene and defended the leaders and activists in cases across the Southern Cameroons.

What the Lawyers succeeded in doing is making the problem known to all and sundry and That is an immeasurable achievement on their part says Barrister Ajong .

Opining on other controversial developments like the bilingualism bill and the special status for English speaking regions of Cameroon, Barrister Ajong says there are largely inadequate measures to address the current Southern Cameroons problem.

You have a new book out titled Southern Cameroons and the United Nations Organization from Trusteeship to Independence. A Success Story? What is the book about?

Barrister Ajong Stanislaus: As the title depicts, the book, which is a research work of 2015, seeks to find an answer to the question – whether the UN managed decolonization process of the Southern Cameroons was a success. The research which was sponsored by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) of the British Government Chevening Scholarship, gave me the opportunity to have unbridled access to world-class libraries. These included records from the colonial office in London, UN achieves on the decolonization process, and an enlarged pool of electronic sites provided by my University- The University of Aberdeen, Scotland. The in-depth research came out with the findings that the decolonization of the Former Trust Territory of Southern Cameroons was highly flawed. This finding is based on the tenure of Article 76 b of the United Nations Charter which states

“to promote the political, economic, social, and educational advancement of the inhabitants of the trust territories, and their progressive development towards self-government or independence as may be appropriate to the particular circumstances of each territory and its peoples and the freely expressed wishes of the peoples concerned, and as may be provided by the terms of each trusteeship agreement”

It should be noted that the British held the territory in trust for the United Nations Organization. It was, therefore, incumbent on the world body to oversee a smooth transition from the British trust to independence for the people of the territory.

Rhona K. M. Smith – a renowned international human rights author – summarizes the situation of the transition of the Southern Cameroons to self-government or independence under the auspices of the United Nations in these words;

“It has been argued that the United Nations has compromised the doctrine of self-determination…the former Trust Territories of the North and South Cameroons were given only two choices: independence as part of Nigeria; or independence as part of the former French Cameroons. Becoming an independent State was not one of the proffered options. Consequently, the people of the North and South Cameroons once again found themselves under “foreign” rule. Recolonization rather than Decolonisation was the result”. International Human Rights, 6th Edition, p 295.

It is our considered opinion from the conclusion of the work that the United Nations Organization through its organ, The Trusteeship Council, failed to lead the people of Southern Cameroons to self-government or independence as ordained by the Charter.

 If you get a copy of the book, you will find the reasons advanced for these findings.

The book comes at a time of great chaos in what used to be the Southern Cameroons, what responsibility does the UN bear on the current conflict?

Barrister Ajong Stanislaus: In order to give an appropriate and comprehensive answer to this question, it will be incumbent on us to know the purpose and or principle for which the United Nations Organization was created.

For this objective, Article 1 of the Charter will be quite instructive. It states;

“To maintain international peace and security, and to that end: to take effective collective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to the peace, and for the suppression of acts of aggression or other breaches of the peace, and to bring about by peaceful means, and in conformity with the principles of justice and international law, adjustment or settlement of international disputes or situations which might lead to a breach of the peace…”

What this implies is that, where there is a breach of international peace, the UN a priori and automatically bears responsibility! It is the responsibility of the World body to foresee, preempt and prevent situations that will potentially lead to the disruption of global peace.

This Organization failed to do as far as the situation in present-day Southern Cameroons is concerned. The UN must restructure and reformat its organigram and policymaking to be more proactive than reactionary. The signs and red flag for this impulsion have been there since 1961 when the Southern Cameroons are said to have joined the Cameroon Republic.

When one of the affiliate organs of the world body – The African Commission ruled in 2009 in Communication 266/2003 in Dr. Kevin Gumne & Others V La Republique du Cameroon it authoritatively made some salient points. The Commission ruled that the people of Southern Cameroons were a people under international law and ordered the Cameroon Republic to go into negotiations with them. The UN ought to have seized the opportunity to push for a negotiated settlement of the problem from that moment. By staying quiet, the weaker party in the litigation rightly or wrongly feels abandoned by the UN. Also, by not taking any initiative at that time, the UN was in dereliction of its duties imposed by Article 1 of the Charter.

Once the people feel abandoned and unprotected, they take to self-defence which is what is happening in the territory at this material time, says Barrister Ajong pictured here during a visit to   the Canadian Museum For Human Rights
Once the people feel abandoned and unprotected, they take to self-defence which is what is happening in the territory at this material time, says Barrister Ajong pictured here during a visit to the Canadian Museum For Human Rights

What is your take on the way the United Nations has so far responded to the current crisis in Cameroon, any recommendations for them?

Barrister Ajong Stanislaus: The UN has been slow in reacting to the situation that is ongoing in the Southern Cameroons. When they have reacted, it has been lukewarm without steel. So far, the body has acted like sacrificing the lives of the people of Southern Cameroons and by extension international peace on the principle of sovereignty of State Party to the Charter.

My recommendations; that the world body should know that it is people who make the State. Once the people feel abandoned and unprotected, they take to self-defence which is what is happening in the territory at this material time.

There is an absolute need for the UN to stamp its feet and play the role for which it was created before the situation gets worse. They need to send an independent team to inquire about the allegations of genocide and war crimes being committed in the territory and as an interim measure send a reduced peacekeeping force to protect the armless civilians. After the fact-finding mission, a decision could then be taken either to withdraw the force or strengthen it with the possibility of creating a buffer zone.

At the same time, the body should go to the field and create a corridor for the supply of humanitarian assistance to the internally displaced persons (IDP) found in the bushes as well as in the cities.

Looking at the situation in Southern Cameroons today and the clamor for independence, how strong is this case from a legal standpoint, what are some of the pros and cons of the case from a legal perspective?

Barrister Ajong Stanislaus: I have had the privilege of working in the legal team for the cause in the international arena since 2005 when my services were retained by the Southern Cameroons Peoples’ Organization (SCAPO). Dr. Kevin Gumne (RIP) then based in London sent Mr. Ndangam Augustin a veteran of the struggle to meet me in my Tiko office and I readily accepted to place my expertise to the cause. I have handled a number of Communications before the African Commission and also defended the leaders and activists in cases across the Southern Cameroons.

Part of my brief includes confidentiality. It will not be fair for me to seek to do the case on the media. Any attempt by me to state the legal pros and cons of the case will not only be doing a disservice to the case, but also to my clients who have not instructed me to disclose parts of the case in my outings.

One of the problems holding back this struggle to me, seems to be over communication.

However, as a fact, I know that the Southern Cameroons has a watertight legal case.

The current phase of the struggle was engineered in part by Lawyers fighting for the respect of Common Law values, but we do not hear so much about Lawyers again, have their own grievances been addressed?

Barrister Ajong Stanislaus: What Lawyers presented were grievances of the people. Lawyers do not have any grievances to themselves as Lawyers. Lawyers are saying that Litigants will be better served in their own legal system and not by an imported notion.

Lawyers are still at the forefront of what they started. The difference is that you might not be seeing them on the streets. They are constantly holding meetings and sending out memoranda to the appropriate quarters. Some are reported by some papers, others go unnoticed.

If the legal system in operation in the territory is not purely common law and the educational system is adulterated, the grievances cannot be said to been addressed.

What the Lawyers succeeded in doing is making the problem known to all and sundry. That is an immeasurable achievement on their part.

At one point, you were part of a group of Lawyers in Fako working with Agbor Balla and others to secure the release of people detained as a result of the crisis, may we know how this initiative worked out and what was achieved?

Barrister Ajong Stanislaus: At the time, Agbor Balla was the President of the Fako Lawyers Association (FAKLA). His executive created the Taskforce and he appointed me to head it. The team was made up of young enthusiastic human rights lawyers ready to give their all to make sure that state power is not used to crush the people.

There were incongruous violations during that period; pregnant women, children and vulnerable persons were arrested in thousands around the South West and transferred to Buea.

These young lawyers crisscrossed the courts of Fako; in Buea, Tiko, Limbe and Muyuka and the Taskforce had more than 800 persons released during the mandate.

I seize the moment to thank the former President and his executive for haven given us the opportunity to serve. For my colleagues of the team who did the real work on the field, I pray the Good God to continue to guide and protect them.

A controversial bilingualism bill recently sailed through parliament without any votes from MPs from the English speaking regions, and some of your colleagues in the Law profession have vowed to fight against it, what is the issue with the bill and do you support the stance of your colleagues in fighting against it?

Barrister Ajong Stanislaus: What we have in Cameroon is a strange version of what is known as Parliament the world over. It is the antithesis of a conventional Parliament. This one is by miles an anti-people institution.

It is an extension of the executive. They do not have any time to reflect and deliberate on the wishes of the people. Anything brought by the executive is passed into law!

The timing of the Bill clearly demonstrates the mindset of the people running the country. They are preparing the grounds for some chaos so that they can disappear in the confusion trading blames as to who was wrong.

Lawyers have promised to fight to the last blood. I hope the United Nations is reading.

The common law lawyers can always count on my support.

File Picture .After a Court session with SCNC activists in Tiko including late Chief Ayamba and Nfor Ngala Nfor .What the Lawyers succeeded in doing was  making the problem known to all and sundry and that was  an immeasurable achievement on their part, says Barrister Ajong
File Picture .After a Court session with SCNC activists in Tiko including late Chief Ayamba and Nfor Ngala Nfor .What the Lawyers succeeded in doing was making the problem known to all and sundry, and that was an immeasurable achievement on their part, says Barrister Ajong

At the time we are doing this interview, you are in Canada and there has been talk about Cameroon learning from the Canadian example, what have you observed or seen in the Canadian example that Cameroon could use as a means to help  in solving its own crisis?

Barrister Ajong Stanislaus: I doubt if Cameroon has the will to learn from Canada. The former Prime Minister was Ambassador to Canada for more than 2 decades. If there was any desire to learn and implement what obtains in Canada, it would have been executed then.

Canada is truly a bilingual country where the French Language is highly protected in the Province of Quebec and the English Language in the other Provinces.

In the case of Cameroon, the English language ought to be protected in the Former UN Trust Territory of Southern Cameroons aka South West and North West Regions.

Being served in your first language and or the language of understanding does not mean that you enter form 1 in Sasse and ask the teacher to teach you geography in French!

The same goes for the Courts. You will not expect a litigant to appear in a Court in Buea and request that the civil law be applied to his matter!

Barrister Ajong with Dr. Kevin Gumne and Mola Njoh Litumbe at the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights- Banjul, The Gambia
File picture.The Southern Cameroons has a watertight case says Barrister Ajong with Dr. Kevin Gumne and Mola Njoh Litumbe at the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights- Banjul, The Gambia

As we do this interview as well, there is an ongoing debate on  Special status for the South West and North West Regions of Cameroon, what is your take on the bill and how do you think this could help in resolving the Southern Cameroons problem?

Barrister Ajong Stanislaus: Let me straight on say that I do not think the Bill will resolve the problem of the Southern Cameroons now plaguing the Cameroon Republic.

To solve the problem of the application of Bilingualism in Cameroon, we not only need legislative inputs but also of utmost importance a broad-based institutional overhaul. There will be no change with the same people who have never accepted that there is a problem. Remember this issue of special status is contained in the 1996 Constitution and its application is sought to come into play in 2019 as it was voted in the National Assembly yesterday.

To give you an idea of how long this law could take to be implemented, I will refer you to Section 498;

“Section 498: Before the effective transfer of services and the establishment of the local civil service, the conditions for the use of each State service by local authorities and the procedures for managing staff shall be governed by the regulations currently in force”.

Do you read me? It is not for immediate application! No definite timetable for implementation.That is law-making à là Camerounaise!

We end with your book, for those interested in getting copies, where can they get it?

Barrister Ajong Stanislaus: Presently, the book can be obtained online directly from the Publishers who are in Germany.In the meantime, some interested persons contacted me and we are in negotiation to do a launch in major cities in Canada and the USA

Thanks for granting this interview

Honestly, I am the one to thank you for thinking me worthy of the readership of your highly appraised News organ and magazine. I am at your disposal any time.

*Copies of Barrister Ajong’s books can be obtained here

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Belgian court sentences Rwandan Fabien Neretse to 25 years over genocide
December 21, 2019 | 0 Comments

By Jean d’Amour Mugabo

Rwandan Fabien Neretse (left) has been sentenced to 30 years of jail after being convicted of genocide and war crimes by Brussels Assize Court on December 19, 2019. (1)
Rwandan Fabien Neretse (left) has been sentenced to 30 years of jail after being convicted of genocide and war crimes by Brussels Assize Court on December 19, 2019.

Brussels Assize Court in Belgium has sentenced Rwandan national Fabien Neretse to 25 years in jail after convicting of genocide and war crimes committed during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.

Neretse, 71, was convicted of genocide, war crimes and murder in Kigali city and Mataba in the Northern Rwanda.

The court verdict announced on Thursday night in Brussels made Neretse the first Rwandan national to be convicted of genocide by Belgian courts. He was immediately put in jail awaiting the sentence announcement.

Announcing the sentence on Friday evening, Judge Sophie Leclerq said the jury considered the age and disability of Neretse in the sentence he received, according to RBA reporter Latifah Akimana who has been in Brussels for this trial since early November.  Through the partnership of Pax Press and RCN Justice et Démocratie project dubbed “Justice et Mémoire”, two Rwandan reporters Akimana and Jean Baptiste Karegeya were sent to the Brussels Assize Court to report on the case of Fabien Neretse.

Earlier in the day, the prosecution had sought a 30-year jail sentence for Neretse while the defence asked for 15-year sentence, citing the reasons that their client has never tried to escape the justice yet he has been free during the trial. The defence has 15 days for appeal to the cassation court.

Neretse convictions

The accused was found guilty of role in the murder of 9 persons murdered in Kigali on April 9, 1994 including Isaïe Bucyana, his Belgian wife Claire Beckers and their daughter Katia Bucyana. Others are Colette Sisi, Lily Umubyeyi, Grace Tangimpundu, Jean de Dieu Sambili, Julienne Mukayumba and Inès Gakwaya.

In his native place of Mataba in the former Ruhengeri Prefecture, currently in Gakenke District, Neretse played role in the murder of Joseph Mpendwanzi on June 19, 1994 and of  Anastase Nzamwita who was his former workmate at GBK and OCIR Café

He is also guilty of attempted murder of other people including Bucyana’s nephews Régine Bategure and Emmanuel Nkaka, and Marie-Antoinette Umurungi.

However, the jury acquitted him of the murder of Ildephonse Ngarambe and Sixbert Rutonesha who were mentioned by the Federal Magistrate, Arnaud d’Oultremont, in his indictment.

Defence lawyer Jean Jacques criticised the jury for not considering the defence points in the verdict.

“It is a decision on crimes charged on our client that has been decided by 12 jury members. They did great job in reviewing the testimonies of many witnesses heard in the last six weeks but we don’t see the case the same way. We have our proofs we presented to the court but the jury has ignored them in their explanation on this verdict,” he said.

Neretse has always said in the court that he is an innocent man who loved the Tutsi people, the position he emphasized at the conclusion of the hearings early this week, saying that he is and will always be innocent.

Arrest, trial proceedings

Rwandan prosecution indicted Fabien Neretse on six counts including genocide and criminal conspiracy on August 8, 2007 and the arrest warrant was addressed to France requesting for Neretse extradition. 

On the complaint of Belgian Martine Beckers, sister of Claire Beckers who was murdered with her Rwanda husband Bucyana and daughter Katia in Kigali in 1994, Judge Jean Coumans issued a separate European arrest warrant against Fabien for the death of Claire Beckers and her family on June 24, 2011.

The French authorities arrested Neretse on June 29, 2011 and handed him over two months later to Belgium where the criminal investigations were at a more advanced stage. He was remanded in custody and subsequently released.

Martine Beckers kept pushing for justice and Neretse was summoned to appear before the Belgian Council Chamber on June 29, 2017 and the Federal Prosecutor asked for the correctionalization of Neretse case with cases of other two Rwandan men Ernest Gakwaya and Emmanuel Nkunduwimye who are also accused of genocide. The correctionalization of cases was rejected on October 20, 2017, setting Fabien Neretse on a separate trial.

Neretse trial opened on November 4, 2019 with the vote of 24 jury members including 12 who try the case and their replacements.  The hearings started on November 7 and took six weeks during which over 100 witnesses testified and more testimonies of the people who died after testifying during the 2011 investigations were read in the court.

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STATEMENT OF THE JOINT NDI/KAF PRE-ELECTION ASSESSMENT MISSION TO GUINEA
December 21, 2019 | 0 Comments

In the build up to the 2020 elections that may make or mar Guinea especially with the desire of President Alpha Conde to change the constitution so as to seek a third term, we publish below the assessment of the National Democratic Institute-NDI and the Kofi Annan Foundation.

Besides seasoned professionals on elections in Africa like Dr Christopher Fomunyoh, the delegation also had former President Goodluck Jonathan of Nigeria and former President Nicephore Soglo of Benin . Both men were voted out of power but have remained actively involved in diverse activities at in Africa and beyond.

On the NDI delegation were former Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan  and former President Nicephore Soglo. President Could learn from them that there is life after power
On the NDI delegation were former Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan and former President Nicephore Soglo. President Could learn from them that there is life after power

I. Introduction

From December 9-13, the National Democratic Institute (NDI) and the Kofi Annan Foundation (KAF) conducted a pre-election assessment mission ahead of legislative elections scheduled for February 16, 2020. The delegation comprised H.E. Nicéphore Soglo, former President of Benin; H. E. Goodluck Jonathan, former President of Nigeria; Ambassador Medina Wesseh, Secretary General of the Mano River Union; Dr. Christopher Fomunyoh, Senior Associate and Regional Director for Central and West Africa at NDI; Mr. Sébastien F. W. Brack, Head of the Elections and Democracy Programme at the Kofi Annan Foundation; Dr. Sophia Moestrup, Deputy Director for Central and West Africa at NDI; and Mr. Paul Komivi Sémeko Amegakpo, NDI’s Resident Director in Guinea.

The delegation’s goals were to:

● Demonstrate international support for Guinea’s democracy and electoral process;

● Assess the political and electoral environment in the lead-up to the 2020 legislative elections; and

● Assess electoral preparations and offer recommendations to enhance citizen confidence in the process and mitigate the risk of violence.

The delegation met with H.E. President Alpha Condé, National Assembly Speaker Claude Kory Kondiano and members of the legislative leadership, Prime Minister Ibrahima Kassory Fofana, the Chairman and members of the Independent National Electoral Commission (Commission Electorale Nationale Indépendante – CENI), leaders of majority and opposition political parties, leaders of civil society organizations, media representatives, the National Contact Group (Groupe National de Contact), the imam of Conakry’s Grand Mosque and the special adviser of the Archbishop of Conakry, and representatives of the diplomatic community and international partners based in Conakry.

The delegation expresses its deep appreciation to everyone with whom it met for welcoming the mission and for sharing freely their views on the political context and electoral process. The delegation conducted its activities in accordance with the laws of Guinea and the Declaration of Principles for International Election Observation, which was launched in 2005 at 1 the United Nations. It also considered international and regional electoral standards, including the African Union (AU) African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance, as well as the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Protocol on Democracy and Good Governance.

Summary of key findings.

The delegation noted that all Guineans with whom it met expressed a strong desire for peaceful, inclusive and credible legislative elections in 2020. They underscored the significance of those elections in deepening the country’s democracy and ending the extension of the current legislature whose term expired in January 2019.

Many Guineans expressed concerns over speculations about changes to the country’s constitutional framework and electoral timeline undermine preparations for the February 2020 polls. They decried the violence that has marred political demonstrations since October and that resulted in the loss of lives. Most of the victims of the violence have been youth aged 20 or younger.

The delegation also noted a level of polarization and mistrust amongst Guinean political actors and civil society organizations. The team observed that while the election commission (CENI) is confident about its preparedness to conduct the polls, political leaders from the majority and opposition parties expressed concerns about the ongoing voter registration process. The CENI must make extraordinary efforts to share information about its work and timeline. Guinean leaders must enhance dialogue amongst political parties and foster more regular communications and interactions between parties and the election management body.

President Alpha Conde in discussion with former President of Benin Nicephore Soglo under the watchful eyes of NDI’s Dr Chris Fomunyoh ,is under immense pressure from the opposition and civil society groups to respect constitutional term limits

II. Political environment

Many Guineans are apprehensive that preparations for the upcoming legislative elections are being overshadowed by an ongoing debate over a possible new constitution. The delegates noted several challenges in the current political landscape that could impact election preparations.

Polarization around the possibility of a constitutional referendum. Over the past year, Guinea has been polarized by a heated debate over whether the country needs a new constitution, and if a referendum to adopt such a new constitution should be held prior to the October 2020 presidential election. Under the current constitution adopted in 2010, President Alpha Condé is currently serving his last mandate that is due to end in December 2020. However, should a new constitution be adopted, some Guineans argue that would reset the term anew, in which case the incumbent president could seek another term of office. Proponents of a new constitution and those opposed to the idea have staged massive demonstrations in Conakry and other parts of the country.

A coalition of opposition parties and some civil society organizations formed a National Front for the Defense of the Constitution (Front National pour la Défense de la Constitution – FNDC), and have staged weekly protests since October. In response, promoters of a constitutional change created the Democratic Coalition for the New Constitution (Coalition démocratique pour la nouvelle Constitution – CODENOC). The delegation heard concerns that, given Guinea’s history of election-related 2 violence, adopting a new constitution without arriving at a national consensus on the matter could result in renewed and large-scale violence.

The incumbent president is yet to state publicly how he plans to proceed on any constitutional issues at the center of national debate. Recurrent violence around elections and political participation. Guinean society is still grappling with a lingering sense of justice denied and resentment over past violence, notably the September 2009 massacre of more than 150 unarmed demonstrators by security forces during a political rally in Conakry. Families of the dead and other victims still await justice 10 years later.

Since Guinea’s transition elections in 2010, each electoral contest has experienced election-related violence. For instance, following the February 2018 local elections, supporters of various political parties disputed the declaration of results in 12 of the country’s 342 electoral districts because of concerns that the vote tabulation process was manipulated.

Those demonstrations degenerated into substantial post-election violence, and the Guinean government imposing a ban on public protests. Recently enacted legislation in June 2019 strengthened the power of the police and gendarmerie in maintaining public order. The delegation heard reports that, in three months of demonstrations against a new constitution, close to 20 demonstrators, mostly very young people, have been killed in violent interventions by security forces.

By some accounts, 126 persons have been killed in political protests since the democratic transition of 2010. Many interlocutors with whom the team met regret that no one has been prosecuted for these killings and expressed concerns over a sense of impunity that can only foster the use of excessive force by security forces against civilian political activists.

Intermittent political dialogue. Mistrust runs deep among Guinea’s political leaders, fueled in large part by the absence of sustained dialogue and unmet commitments, which is detrimental to national unity. Opposition parties accuse the government and the ruling party, the Rally of the Guinean People (Rassemblement du Peuple de Guinée – RPG), of manipulating elections, violating human rights, and restricting civil liberties, whereas the government and majority party accuse the opposition of obstructing progress and sponsoring violent demonstrations that result in loss of life and the destruction of public and private property. Since 2010, the opposition has at various times boycotted the National Assembly and other institutions such as the CENI. Although the RPG and major opposition parties have had to resort to several negotiated agreements to resolve contentious issues related to the electoral cycle, following the disputed outcome of the February 2018 local elections, opposition parties suspended their participation in the dialogue framework created to oversee the implementation of the October 12, 2016 political agreement (the 2016 Guinean Political Accord). The delegation noted with appreciation that 1 one week prior to the delegation’s arrival, the Guinean Prime Minister rekindled dialogue efforts. The delegation noted that discussions are underway to adopt an operational plan to meet an outstanding opposition demand from the local polls regarding the installation of district and neighborhood councilors. If rapidly enforced, the installation of these neighborhood and district 1 The October 12 political agreement included provisions for a voter registry audit prior to the legislative elections, as a basis for revising the voter roll. 3 heads could begin to counter the expressed skepticism by several interlocutors and rebuild mutual trust and respect between the government and political opposition.

From left to right: Former President Nicephore Soglo of Benin Republic, former President Goodluck Jonathan of Nigeria, current Prime Minister Kassoury of Guinea and Dr Chris Fomunyoh of the NDI after a meeting on the upcoming elections in Guinea
From left to right: Former President Nicephore Soglo of Benin Republic, former President Goodluck Jonathan of Nigeria, current Prime Minister Kassoury of Guinea and Dr Chris Fomunyoh of the NDI after a meeting on the upcoming elections in Guinea

Undertone of ethnic cleavages defining political affiliation.

Historically, Guinea has four geographical regions, each of which identifies with specific ethnic and cultural affinities. There are currently more than 150 registered parties in the country, 15 of which are represented in the National Assembly. Parties have organized themselves by affiliation in seven blocs, three of which belong to the ruling majority and four to the opposition. Interlocutors with whom the delegation met, expressed concern that major parties have resorted to ethnic or regional appeals to garner electoral support. Under such circumstances, political polarization tends to fuel ethnic tensions around the country. These overlapping cleavages are a matter of serious concern, and if left unchecked would exacerbate tension and risk stirring violence and conflict during highly competitive elections. This is all the more worrying given the security situation in the subregion.

III. Findings specific to the 2020 legislative elections

The delegation observed that there is no national consensus on the electoral timeline and the ability of the election commission to conduct credible voter registration in time for the 2020 legislative polls. Since 2010, Guinea’s electoral timeline and its voter registry have been a constant source of contention between the government and the opposition. While interlocutors expressed low confidence in the CENI’s technical capacity and effective independence, the CENI assured the delegation that election preparations are on track. Others expressed fears that political parties will be unable to incorporate into the candidate nomination process gender parity provisions as provided for in progressive gender legislation adopted in May 2019 to increase women’s political representation.

Timeline. Since the 2010 transition to democracy, elections have not been held on time as stipulated in the country’s constitution. Notably, legislative elections planned for 2011 were only held in 2013, and local elections, supposed to be held in 2015, were only conducted in 2018. Following local elections in February 2018, delays in the resolution of electoral complaints in 12 disputed districts negatively impacted the installation of elected local councilors and the subsequent holding of indirect elections to select mayors until February 2019. To date, the nomination of neighborhood and district councilors and the election of regional councilors is yet to be concluded. Recurring political crises and disagreements over the voter registry have delayed the legislative polls, which means that current members of the National Assembly elected in 2013 would have served for nearly seven years instead of five as stipulated by the constitution. Their mandate was extended indefinitely by presidential decree in January 2019.

In consultations with the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie (OIF), the CENI announced in November that legislative elections will be held on February 16, 2020. Ruling and opposition parties have encouraged their supporters to register to vote. The revision of the voter roll began in November for a period of 25 days and is scheduled to end on December 16, 2019. 4 However, both opposition and majority party representatives expressed concerns that the process would not be completed by the stipulated end date. Distribution of voter cards is expected to begin on January 16, 2020 and coincide with the election campaign period, which begins 30 days prior to election day.

Voter registry. A credible voter registry is a precondition for credible elections. By common agreement among all political parties following the Oct. 12, 2016 political accord, a voter registry audit took place in September 2018. Experts from the OIF, the European Union (EU), and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) worked with the CENI, representatives of civil society, and parliamentary groups to complete the audit. The audit revealed that data for more than half of the 6 million voters in the registry had not been cleaned to avoid potential double registrations, and 1.6 million voters lacked biometric information.

The audit concluded that, given these concerns, all voters would have to present themselves before the CENI to have their information confirmed. For voters missing biometric data, such data would be added, and citizens who have come of age since 2015 will also have to be registered. Given the massive scale of this operation, some opposition leaders have raised the issue that the CENI should have used the three months ordinary registration period from October-December for voter registration, as opposed to shortening the duration to 25 days, as stipulated for exceptional registration.

With the voter registration period nearing its close, both the RPG and opposition parties raised concerns to the mission of cases of minors being included in the registry, in both opposition and ruling party strongholds. Also, manpower and logistical challenges such as missing materials and faulty registration kits, insufficient or poorly trained staff, and a delayed start in certain localities have slowed the process.

Furthermore, the Guinean diaspora in several countries with high numbers of potential voters, such as Senegal, Morocco and Indonesia, are facing difficulties being registered. Several interlocutors expressed concern to the delegation about inadequate public information and voter education with regards to voter registration and the electoral process in general. In some cases, voters already on the registry are unaware that they need to present themselves to confirm their biometric data to be able to vote in 2020.

The CENI told the delegation that the Inter-Party Working Group in which all political parties are represented will have to decide on the appropriate procedures to be adopted to allow voters who did not present themselves to confirm their information to exercise their franchise.

Despite these challenges, the CENI expects to complete the voter registration process on time or only with a slight delay. Reportedly, a significant number of new voters has already been registered while 200,000 deceased have been removed from the registry.

The CENI has still to issue any official statistics on progress to date in the voter registration process. According to the CENI president, 55-65 percent of the audit recommendations have been implemented, and many remaining recommendations such as revisions to the electoral code depend on actions by other institutions.

CENI officials expressed surprise at claims by both opposition and majority parties of minors registering, given that representatives of both parties are included in 5 Administrative Commissions for Revision of the Voter Lists (Commissions administratives de révision des listes électorales – CARLE). The CENI president observed that images of minors at registration centers date from earlier years and do not reflect what is currently happening in Guinea.

The CENI president stated that the commission will apply software programs to weed out from the voter registry database any minors, double registrations and other anomalies on a weekly basis. Though not yet fully funded, the CENI indicated the commission has received a significant share of its budget and assurances from the government that voting materials, such as ballot boxes and ballot papers, to be procured by the Ministry of Territorial Administration (MATD), will be delivered on time. CENI reassurances notwithstanding, lingering doubts remain and suspicions persist among some Guineans in the voter registry revision process.

Representatives from both ruling and opposition parties expressed concerns about the capacity of the CENI to effectively manage the voter registration process in a timely and transparent manner. Some opposition parties also question the independence of the CENI vis-a-vis the executive branch of government, for example in setting a technically viable electoral calendar. If poorly managed, the updating of the voter registry could become a source of conflict among Guinean political parties and their supporters, and undermine the legitimacy of the electoral outcome. The CENI will have to be more proactive and effective in its communication in order to build greater confidence in the electoral process.

Election administration. The CENI has established an Inter-Party Working Group (Comité Interpartis – IPWG) as a platform for dialogue on the electoral process. IPWG meetings are open to political party representatives, journalists, civil society leaders, and representatives of government institutions and international organizations. It is intended as a framework to share information about the CENI’s preparations for the upcoming elections, on important topics such as the revision of the voter registry. Despite the existence of this forum aimed at building confidence in the process, some stakeholders expressed concerns about the CENI’s ability to deliver credible elections. In addition to voter registration, the results management process was identified by several interlocutors as particularly vulnerable, having suffered critical lapses in the past – including incomplete electronic transmission of results and the absence of publicly released data by polling station, insufficient or poor quality copies of results sheets, issues with the paper-based results chain-of-custody, and the arbitrary cancelation or altering of polling station results by certain magistrates at the level of vote centralization centers. Specific procedures and guidelines to ensure effective results management would have to be defined in advance by the CENI and shared widely with political parties and polling officers to ensure effective compliance.

Electoral dispute resolution. International implementers such as the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) and the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA) are partnering with civil society organizations, including women’s networks, to establish alternative dispute resolution mechanisms that can prevent or mitigate violence and conflict nationally and at the grassroots level. OSIWA is also assisting the Constitutional Court to strengthen capacities 6 to manage disputes in a timely and impartial manner. In the past, perceived bias in the enforcement of procedures for the resolution of electoral disputes has contributed to tensions and violence. The delegation heard concerns that magistrates and courts are not sufficiently equipped to deal with election disputes and, in some cases, apply opaque adjudication processes. For example, after the 2018 local elections, some judges declared themselves incompetent to rule on certain disputes, others summarily dismissed candidates’ petitions for minor technicalities in the form and timing of their submission. Some Guineans are concerned about how strongly, faced with significant pressure from the administration, the Constitutional Court could assert its independence as a neutral arbiter of disputes emanating from the legislative elections for which it has exclusive jurisdiction.

Gender representation. In May, the National Assembly adopted landmark legislation requiring gender parity for all candidate lists for elective office which the president has signed into law. Amendments to the electoral code, including to conform to this law, have been drafted, but the 2 National Assembly has not yet taken up debate or voted on the reforms. Debate was held up by ongoing disputes over the outcome of the local elections. With candidate registration starting on December 18, it will not be possible to ensure application of the law for these upcoming polls. This represents a missed opportunity for greater representation of women candidates in the upcoming elections and hence more women members in the next legislature. In the last legislative elections in 2013, only 25 women won seats in the National Assembly, representing 21 percent of MPs. For the February 2018 local elections, 23 percent of registered candidates were women. While the Consultation Framework of Women of Girls of Political Parties of Guinea (Cadre de Concertation des Filles et Femmes des Partis Politiques de la Guinée – CCFPPG) and other groups have engaged in advocacy efforts to call on parties to use “zebra” or “zipper” systems to draw up electoral lists alternating between men and women in the spirit of the law, no Guinean political parties have committed to using this practice for the upcoming elections .

IV. Guinean-led initiatives to support peaceful and credible legislative polls A number of initiatives are underway to support peaceful and credible polls in February 2020. Many Guinean civil society organizations engaged in democracy and governance issues are preparing to become involved in the 2020 electoral process. Some are community based, while others have partnered with international organizations such as IFES, OSIWA and Search for Common Ground (SFCG). Also, party activists are monitoring the implementation of a party code of conduct. The 2020 polls provide an opportunity for greater citizen engagement to ensure peaceful, inclusive and credible elections

Citizen monitoring of electoral processes. Nonpartisan citizen observers play an important role during elections by raising public confidence in the election process if warranted, deterring electoral malfeasance, exposing irregularities and providing citizens with important information about the integrity of the elections. The delegation heard that a coalition of eight organizations, the Citizen Coalition for Elections and Governance (Coalition Citoyenne pour les Élections et la Gouvernance – CoCEG), some of which have previous experience with election monitoring, is currently preparing to monitor the 2020 legislative elections, as are other civil society groups. The delegation sees the need for the establishment of a broad-based election observation coalition that could address issues of perceived political bias and partisanship by some civil society groups. As a first step, civil society organizations should use the February 2020 polls as an opportunity that allows for coordination of observation of the pre-election period. By issuing frequent reports and publicizing their findings, civil society groups or citizen observers would encourage the various election stakeholders to play their respective roles.

Inclusive citizen participation in the electoral process. In May 2019, the National Assembly adopted gender-parity legislation thanks in large part to extensive advocacy by CSOs in favor of gender parity. Members of civil society organizations and women political leaders continue to advocate for the provisions of the law to be integrated into amendments to the electoral code. For example, the cross-party Working Group of Women and Girls of Guinean Political Parties (Cadre de Concertation des Filles/Femmes des Partis Politiques de Guinée-CCFPPG) has lobbied political parties represented in the National Assembly and parliamentary caucuses for action on the matter. Other groups are actively engaged in getting women to register to vote and to turn out to vote on election day. In the lead-up to the legislative elections, the National Council of Guinean Civil Society Organizations (Conseil National des Organisations de la Société Civile Guinéenne – CNOSCG) and other groups are conducting awareness-raising campaigns to encourage Guinean citizens, and youth in particular, to register to vote. Also, various media organizations are preparing to undertake media monitoring initiatives. Electronic media and radio are among the more prevalent means of citizen mobilisation and information sharing in Guinea.

Violence monitoring and electoral dispute resolution. A number of international development partners, including IFES, OSIWA, and SFCG, are supporting violence monitoring and electoral dispute resolution initiatives in Guinea. SFCG focuses specifically on conflict management and promoting social cohesion, and is producing radio and TV programs for civic education and to counter misinformation and curb conflict. In addition to election dispute resolution activities, OSIWA is supporting youth peace initiatives at the local level. This organization is also planning to conduct a baseline study of electoral risks. On the other hand, CNOSCG is implementing activities in collaboration with IFES focused on civil society’s engagement and oversight in resolving disputes that may arise prior to the legislative polls and also identify factors most likely to lead to electoral disputes to better anticipate resolution needs. The European Union is also supporting WANEP in implementing a program to monitor incidents of election-related violence through an early-warning alert and rapid response system.

Code of Conduct. In early December, 34 political parties signed the Code of Conduct, joining 108 other parties that had previously signed the code since it was adopted in 2008. At the 8 signing ceremony, six out of Guinea’s seven party blocs publicly reiterated their adherence and commitment to abide by the Code of Conduct. Since the Code of Conduct’s inception, a national Code of Conduct monitoring committee established in Conakry and in the regions continues to raise awareness about the content of the Code and the need for signatory parties and their supporters and the broader Guinean population to adhere to its principles. Adopted in 2008 by 41 Guinean parties, the Code promotes peaceful and inclusive electoral processes and the respect of standards for appropriate behavior by political party activists, candidates, and their supporters. Although the Code of Conduct applies to political parties’ conduct at all times, it is especially relevant around elections as it promotes peace, non-violence, and fair play. Recently, the Code was updated to include specific provisions on preventing violence against women in politics.

V. Recommendations

The delegation believes that, with political will and through substantive dialogue, many of the challenges in the current political environment leading up to the February 2020 legislative polls can be addressed to enhance citizen confidence and participation in the process and mitigate violence before, during and after the elections. In the spirit of international cooperation, the delegation therefore offers the following recommendations:

To the Government of the Republic of Guinea:

● Provide greater clarity on its stance with regards to speculations around the constitutional framework of the country in order to enhance citizen confidence in its commitment to deepening democracy and fostering peaceful and credible legislative elections.

● Create platforms for regular communication between civilian populations and security services at the national and sub-national levels in order to prevent further clashes between demonstrators and security services and the recurrent violence.

To the Election Commission (CENI):

● Communicate extensively on its activities related to the legislative elections, including through the use of modern communication platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and a regularly updated webpage that are news avenues of choice for youth who comprise the bulk of the electorate.

● Conduct robust voter outreach so voters can be sensitized on the need to verify their registration status and citizens informed of procedures to confirm their registration status after the list is finalized.

● Take reasonable steps to ensure the completeness and accuracy of the voters list, including verification of the eligibility of suspected minors; however, ensure that procedures do not disenfranchise eligible voters.

● In consultation with the Inter-Party Working Group (IPWG), make an early determination on the status of voters with partial information in the final voter registry, including 9 incomplete biometric data, and agree on procedures to facilitate their exercise of the franchise. Publicize such decisions widely.

● Activate a smaller, technical working group (“cellule technique”) with cross party representation to monitor the voter enrollment process and the consolidation of the voter list.

● Proactively and broadly publish critical actions of the CENI, such as the distribution of voter cards, to facilitate the collection of cards by voters and minimize any confusion regarding the process for voting on election day.

● Release timely election results data disaggregated by polling station and in an analyzable format to enhance public confidence in the results.

● Provide clear guidance on the appropriate jurisdiction, processes and timelines for the filing and resolution of electoral disputes, including disputes related to the voter registration process and election results.

To the Constitutional Court:

● Ensure fair, timely and transparent adjudication of electoral disputes, including those related to candidate registration and the election results

To political parties:

● Participate more actively in platforms created to facilitate inter-party dialogue, such as the October 12 “comité de suivi,” and communications with the election commission, such as the IPWG, as a means of mitigating excessive polarization, conflict and violence.

● Take concrete steps to nominate women candidates to conform with the May 2019 law on gender equality for all elective positions.

● Abide by the party Code of Conduct and sensitize their members to do the same, and participate in monitoring, documenting and reporting on all phases of the electoral process.

To civil society and Guinean media:

● Intensify their efforts to monitor and report on all phases of the electoral process in a professional and objective manner.

● Engage in targeted efforts at civic and voter education in favor of women, youth and other historically marginalized groups about the election process.

To the international community:

● Continue its interest in, and support for peaceful, inclusive and credible elections in Guinea.

● Increase its support to Guinean civil society organizations engaged in advocacy and other activities that support credible elections, and complement those efforts with observation missions that would build citizen confidence in the electoral process

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Mnangagwa and Chamisa Settle for Mbeki facilitated Talks to Salvage Zimbabwe
December 20, 2019 | 0 Comments

By Nevson Munhumutapa

President Mnangagwa welcomes former South African President Thabo Mbeki at State House in Harare .-Picture credit : Tawanda Mudimu
President Mnangagwa welcomes former South African President Thabo Mbeki at State House in Harare .-Picture credit : Tawanda Mudimu

Harare –Three days ago Former South African President Thabo Mbeki paid a visit to Zimbabwe courtesy of South African President who had earlier on been asked by churches to interview in facilitating a political dialogue between President Mnangagwa of ZANU PF and Nelson Chamisa of MDC.

The meeting yielded results of success. SADC on the other hand is on the side of positive discussions support between the two political party Leaders who are said to be in the right direction. The talks come at a time Nelson Chamisa had uttered threatening political sentiments that Mnangagwa’s Government would only last for 5 months.

A Source from the Zimbabwe Council of Churches caught for comment said the two Leaders must sit down and solve issues of concern rather than look at the deteriorating situation at the expense of the people.

‘’It is the Zimbabwe Council of Churches initiative to see peace prevail. We want the two to sit down and make a straight successful dialogue. This is for the benefit of the people as a whole.’’

‘’Opposition Leader, Nelson Chamisa is threatening Mnangagwa’s Government. He has made such sentiments which lasted badly with examples of stay-away, chaos and crisis. We as churches we pray for peace as we say let us talk and solve problems.’’

The two are anticipated to agree and make things better according to the feeling of the majority of Zimbabweans. On the other hand Mbeki’s stir is expected to bring change like what happened in 2008. In 2008 Mbeki facilitated a dialogue that culminated in the 2009 Government of National Unity under the Global Political Agreement.

 Political Analyst Eldred Masunungure said the talks are political way-forward to a slight change. People must not just expect the best and the end of all problems. We as a country, we need to solve the core root of the problems at hand.

Former President Mbeki also met with Nelson Chamisa
Former President Mbeki also met with Nelson Chamisa

‘’ We appreciate the good idea of Unity. People must not just expect the best and end of all problems. We have to look at the core issues of concern on the ground. There are issues to look at that are the root of our problems ‘’.

Another Political Commentator Alson Manenji said the country must look in the past in Reflective Practice so that they solve problems of the past Government of National Unity. There are certain issues hanging in air that may be detrimental to the whole story. There must be solutions at last.

‘’ We need to look backwards in Reflective Practice as we move forward. There are past problems at hand that remained un-addressed in the previous Government of National Unity.  This is just a unity meant to bring a slight change sometimes nothing at all. What remains crucial is to visit core root areas of our social, political and economic problems’’.

The talks in place are following a discourse from political parties which are on the move for a Government of Unity to restore the status of the Economy. Secondly, it is meant to look at several challenges which have remained un-solved since the time Mnangagwa entered into a new Government following Robert Mugabe’s oust from office .

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Gov’t should dialogue with Separatist leaders — Citizens propose as solution to Cameroon’s Anglophone Crisis
December 20, 2019 | 0 Comments

By Boris Esono Nwenfor

Topics examined at the event included the Refugee crisis in the East Region of Cameroon, the Anglophone crisis in the NOSO, and the role of civil society organizations in the promotion of peace.
Topics examined at the event included the Refugee crisis in the East Region of Cameroon, the Anglophone crisis in the NOSO, and the role of civil society organizations in the promotion of peace.

For the past three years the Cameroon’s defense and security forces have been fighting separatist fighters in the North West and South west Regions. The crisis has led to many killed, maimed, kidnapped for ransom, while others have become refugees or internally displaced persons.

As a solution to this crisis, Cameroonians say the government should dialogue with the leaders of this movement to solve the crisis. They equally propose various solutions to the numerous crises that Cameroon is presently going through, such as the Refugee crisis in the East, and the Boko Haram insurgency.

They were speaking in Bamenda, North West Region of Cameroon on December 19, 2019, during the 6th edition of the Common Sense Solution to Promote Peace in Cameroon, organized by the Denis and Lenora Foretia Foundation in partnership with the Canadian fun for Local Development in Cameroon.

The last Major National Dialogue organized in Cameroon’s political capital Yaounde according to many was a non-event taking into consideration the fact that the separatist leaders were absent and still being incarcerated at the Kondengui Maximum prison. Many saw these are the people who can lead any talks with Yaounde to look for lasting solution to the crisis.

Others called for the creation of jobs for the youths. This will make them (youths) to be gainfully employed which will prevent them from associating themselves with bad companies, with majority of the fighters being youths.

The conflict has severely hurt the timber, agro-industry, cocoa, energy, telecommunications, tourism, and transport sectors. Given the failure of various internal initiatives to halt the crisis and bring peace to these regions of Cameroon, the government of Cameroon has been urged by US Congress members to engage in the Swiss-led facilitation process, which could lead to future negotiations between the Cameroonian government, and the opposition in the Northwest and Southwest, as well as the diaspora. 

According to the United Nations, as of November 2019, more than 2,000 people have died, as many as 71 0,000 people have been internally displaced, and 44,000 refugees have fled to neighboring Nigeria due to the ongoing conflict in the Northwest and Southwest. Roughly 2.6 million people in these areas are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance, and more than 855,000 children, the majority of whom are internally displaced, do not have access to education.

During the event, major topics were looked at such as the Refugee crisis in the East Region of Cameroon, the Anglophone crisis in the North West and South West Regions, and the role of civil society organizations in the promotion of peace.

On the refugee crisis in the East Region of Cameroon participants indicated there should be collaboration from all parties involved while also calling for the strengthening of the political and economic ties between the two countries. They also indicated that economic opportunities should be created for the refugees.

“We have decided to embark on a contemporary approach that encourages greater citizen participation in promoting peace in their communities,” Team Lead Barrister Doris Agbor said.

The common sense solution to promote peace in Cameroon was in its sixth edition in Bamenda with similar events organized in Dschang, Yaounde, Douala, Limbe, and Buea.

The common sense solution to promote peace in Cameroon was in its sixth edition in Bamenda with similar events organized in Dschang, Yaounde, Douala, Limbe, and Buea.
The common sense solution to promote peace in Cameroon was in its sixth edition in Bamenda with similar events organized in Dschang, Yaounde, Douala, Limbe, and Buea.

Participants have called on CSOs to avoid misusing money giving to them to assist victims of conflicts. “CSOs should not only focus on giving donations but also should be able to impact directly the lives of those in conflict zones,” a participant said.

To Binsinla Desire, “Organizations should be more involved in providing things that will have more impact to the Displaced persons. Most of them provide bags for rice — which is equally important but how do you impact the lives of these people. CSOs should have more capacity building workshops for these displaced persons which will have more impact to their lives than the food that they get – as they will always demand more but when they know how to work and earn for themselves it will help a lot.”

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Gambia Press Union Mourns Deyda’s Death
December 20, 2019 | 0 Comments

Joint GPU, The Point, Hydara Family and Victims Centre Statement

Mr Deyda Hydara was a prominent Gambian journalist and press freedom advocate.

Banjul – December 16, 2019: Today marks 15 years since a founding member and former president of the Gambia Press Union (GPU) was killed in a drive-by shooting.

Mr Deyda Hydara was a prominent Gambian journalist and press freedom advocate. He was killed on the night of December 16, 2004, while driving home two of his staff Ida Jagne, a typist, and Niansarang Jobe, a layout editor. The incident coincided with the 13th anniversary of The Point, a leading national newspaper he co-established and edited.

The Government of The Gambia, under then president Yahya Jammeh, had denied any involvement in the killing of Deyda. It nonetheless stood in the way of any proper investigation into the killing of the journalist.

This year’s anniversary comes on the heels of voluntary public confessions made by some of his killers. One of them, Malick Jatta, a member of the hit-squat, had told the on-going Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC) that that President Jammeh ordered the assassination of Deyda. The codename of the operation was ‘the Magic Pen’.

Since his forced exit in 2017 after he refused to step down following elections, Yahya Jammeh has been living in exile in Equatorial Guinea. Some of the people that took part in the operation are also in exile while others have been released
after their testimony was heard by the TRRC.

On the occasion of the fifteenth anniversary of the killing of Deyda, the GPU, The Point Newspaper, Hydara family and Victims Centre, wish to call on the government to pursue justice for the murder of Deyda and bring to book perpetrators, including exiled ex-president.

The GPU President, Mr Sheriff Bojang Jr. said: “This year’s commemoration coincides with planned mass protests as a result of which we called off our events, including a photo exhibition and of course the annual Deyda Hydara memorial lectures series.

“The safety of journalists is of paramount concern to us and we wish to remind the government of its duty to protect journalists during these times of political uncertainty.

“Deyda stood and died for press freedom and for the liberty of every citizen. As we as a nation reflect on his legacy, we should renew to commitment to consolidate the democratic gains.”

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Cameroon: CHRDA’s Empowerment Centre Launched, to go Operational in January 2020
December 20, 2019 | 0 Comments

By Boris Esono Nwenfor

Barrister Balla, and other Dignitaries launched CHRDA's Empowerment Centre to train IDPS in tailoring, and others
Barrister Balla, and other Dignitaries launched CHRDA’s Empowerment Centre to train IDPS in tailoring, and others

As results of the current sociopolitical crisis in the North West and South West Region, thousands of people have been displaced either internally displaced or are refugees in neighboring Nigeria and other areas. Many have lost their source of livelihoods as their homes have been burnt, breadwinners of families killed and other atrocities committed.

To support Internally Displaced Persons, IDPs to regain their source of livelihood, the Center for Human Rights and Democracy in Africa, CHRDA and its partners has launched its Empowerment Center on December 18, 2019, with it set to go operational in January 2020.

The Center will begin training IDPs on tailoring with the vision to extend training to other skills like computer designing, farming, and handicraft.

Violet Fokum, Executive Director of CHRDA noted that Internally Displaced Persons need support as most of them have been displaced from their homes. “This center has been put in place to assist women and girls build their capacity,” She said.

“Putting economic resources in girl’s hands increases economic reduces poverty in the society” “This center will help in reducing poverty and other Development goals putting in place by the United Nations,” She added

Barrister Felix Nkongho Agbor Balla, President of CHRDA noted that the Center will pay the transportation of the IDPs during the first year of the training which begins in January. “The crisis has divided us more than bringing us together. We have to open a workshop for them (IDPs) to help boost their Morales, and thought how to live together.”

He added that the training will not only involve tailoring and computer maintenance but the displaced persons will equally be trained on peace building and peacekeeping. “This is not just a Centre but a school to teach the IDPs which will help them be able to contribute to society.” “These IDPs are coming from the South West and North West Regions, and we will ensure that all the Divisions are represented in the Center.”

“After the training we hope to retain some women at the Center to train others, and to ensure that those who have left here we will ensure that we monitor them for at least a year.” “… I am very optimistic that the Center will grow and why not have other Centers in Bamenda, Limbe, and Kumba so, it should not just be Buea….”

Some 43 tailoring machines have been made available to Internally diaplced persons as the Centre opens in January 2020
Some 43 tailoring machines have been made available to Internally displaced persons as the Centre opens in January 2020

He added, “CHRDA is looking at having an Institute of Peace, Conflict, and Human Rights — domains not common in most Universities though some few have just started.” “We are equally looking at doing Birth certificates for those who do not have it. In Mile 16, for example, some 80 requests for Birth Certificates were made especially for children who are involved in the GCE.”

43 sewing machines have been made at the disposal of these displaced persons. At the moment, the Center will receive some thirty displaced persons who will begin training in January with the hope of increasing the number to sixty displaced persons — a group comes in the morning while the others in the afternoon.

Various speakers called on the IDPs to make adequate use of the equipment that has been put at their disposal. The hope is that such training will boost the morale of the displaced persons which will help them to contribute to the development of the nation. 

During the inauguration, CHRDA’s goodwill Ambassador was presented for his support to the foundation. Ibrahim Mohammed Bashir, Consulate General of Nigeria to the North West and South West Region was officially made a goodwill Ambassador to the Center, a role that is not limited just when he is the country, but equally outside.

“People think when they are giving position they turn to look down on others. When you cannot handle a position you just have to relinquish the position. I want to assure you that this authority that has been bestowed on me I will live up to it and more,” His Excellency Ibrahim Mohammed Bashir noted.

Ibrahim Mohammed Bashir, Nigerian Consul General to NOSO tests the machines put at the disposal of displaced persons
Ibrahim Mohammed Bashir, Nigerian Consul General to NOSO tests the machines put at the disposal of displaced persons

“I know what it takes to be an internally displaced person even it is for a day. People in my home town have been displaced with the attacks from Boko Haram. If I see someone who needs help I will always be there, most especially those who have been displaced from the comfort of their homes no matter how small.”

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