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Ghana:Cedi to depreciate further – ISSER hints
October 4, 2018 | 0 Comments

By Papisdaff Abdullah

Vice President Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia

Vice President Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia

The Institute of Statistical, Social and Economic Research (ISSER) has predicted the Cedi to further depreciate against the US dollar in 2018.

“It’s expected that the Cedi will depreciate slightly more than the 2017 levels because of the current rise in interest rate in the US market and the gradual increase in the proportion of foreigners holding Ghana’s domestic bonds,” the Institute’s Director Professor Felix Ankomah Asante said at a press conference to announce their findings.

The Cedi in May this year, according to the Central Bank governor, gained 0.02percet against the dollar then, compared to a depreciation of 0.97 per cent in the same period in 2017.

Since then, however, the cedi has recorded massive losses against the dollar, the latest being last week where it hit GH¢4.97 to the dollar.

It followed a July fall where it traded at GH¢4.8250 to the dollar depreciating cumulatively, by 5.3 per cent in the first six months, compared to 3.3 per cent in the first half of 2017 despite significant increments of weekly dollar sales to local banks in the country.

Critics have blamed government’s policies for the weakening of the cedi against the U.S. Dollar and other major currencies – a stance Vice President Dr Bawumia Bawumia rejected.

Cedi depreciated only 7% because of strong fundamentals

Dr Bawumia defended the Akufo-Addo government’s management of the economy in the wake of the depreciation of the Cedi against the United States dollar.

According to him, the depreciation of the Cedi against the dollar has been only seven per cent an indication of relatively stronger fundamentals of the economy.

He said the percentage depreciation of the Cedi which is only been seven per cent is because “over the last few months the US dollar internationally has strengthened against all the major currencies in the world” because the US federal reserve has increased its interest rate.

“So, you have been seeing over the last few months that many currencies in the world have been depreciating against the US dollar,” said Dr Bawumia. “For example, the Argentina peso has depreciated by 50.2percent this year against US dollar, the Turkish Lira has depreciated by 42percent against the US dollar, and the South African rand has depreciated by 19.2percent against the US dollar. In India, another strong market economy rupee has depreciated by 11 per cent against the US dollar, in the UK, the British pound has depreciated by 4.29percent against the US dollar and in this context, and so far this year the Ghana cedi has depreciated by just 7percent against the US dollar.”

That, according to him, meant that the exchange rate of the cedi to the dollar has remained “relatively stable when compared to the movements in other currencies against the US dollar. The reason for this is because of the relatively stronger fundamentals that we have in our economy.”

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Ghana:Govt blows $6m on private probes to nail Mahama appointees – NDC
October 4, 2018 | 0 Comments

By Papisdaff Abdullah

Johnson Asiedu Nketiah with John Mahama (right)

Johnson Asiedu Nketiah with John Mahama (right)

Ghana’s largest opposition party, the National Democratic Congress (NDC) has accused the Akufo-Addo administration of squandering over $6million on private investigations aimed at nailing appointees in the erstwhile Mahama government.

According to the NDC, the investigations being done by private investigators at a staggering cost to the state, are being done simultaneously with other state agencies like the Economic and Organized Crimes Office (EOCO).

“The NDC has credible information that an amount of at least $6.8million has so far being paid by the NPP government under President Akufo-Addo’s watch to these private firms to carry out work that’s already being done or has been completed by state agencies,” said the General Secretary of the NDC Johnson Asiedu Nketia at a news conference.

“Meanwhile,” he added, “the taxpayers’ money is being spent on state agencies like the Bureau of National Investigations (BNI), the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) of  the Ghana Police Service, the Economic and Organized Crimes Office (EOCO), the Special Prosecutor’s Office, the Auditor General’s Department and  the Attorney General’s. Any of these [institutions] could have carried out these audits.”

He said the party has evidence from some former appointees that while they have been or are being subjected to EOCO’s investigations and while they have submitted themselves to regularly reporting to EOCO, they have also received letters from some of these private firms to answer the same questions they have already answered at EOCO.

The NDC’s accusation follows the uncovering of some procurement irregularities amounting to a whopping US$137,861,127.15 at Ghana National Gas Company during the erstwhile administration of John Mahama by a private firm Morrison and Associates.

Nketia

Nketia

Commissioned by the government, Morrison and Associates’ forensic audit of Ghana Gas further detected that helicopters purchased from China National Aero-Technology Import and Export Corporation (CATIC) by Ghana Gas “have never been used for purpose of its purchase.”

According to the audit report in possession of panafricanvisions.com, as a result of the situation, a whopping amount of $54,800,000 has gone down the drain as “financial loss to the state.”

It added: “Abnitio training cost not fully utilized for its intended purpose” amounts to US$300,000, making a total of US$61,058,366.756.

The report which has been submitted to President Akufo-Addo and his cabinet also detected procurement breaches worth US$34,451,650.22 and US$42,351,110.17 in contracts with Memphis Metropolitan Limited and Kingspok Company Limited respectively.

The report which covered the board chairmanship tenure of Dr Kwesi Botchwey also has it that equipment for the helicopters worth $5,958,366.76 “were not delivered even though it was part of the contract price.”

A former member of the Ghana National Gas Company board Dr Valerie Sawyerr has since challenged report of the forensic audit describing it as shoddy.

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Hilton on track to more than double its Footprint in Africa as it opens Legend Hotel Lagos Airport, Curio Collection by Hilton
October 2, 2018 | 0 Comments
Legend Hotel Lagos Airport sees the introduction of Hilton’s Curio Collection to Africa and marks the milestone of 500 operating hotels across EMEA
NAIROBI, Kenya, October 1, 2018/ — As it continues to grow its presence in Africa by introducing new brands and entering new countries, Hilton (NYSE:HLT) (http://newsroom.Hilton.com/) today announced it is on track to more than double in size in the next five years with the opening of Legend Hotel Lagos Airport, Curio Collection by Hilton (http://bit.ly/2IuCN4S) – the company’s first Curio Collection by Hilton hotel in Africa.

Legend Hotel Lagos Airport is located at Murtala Muhammed International Airport, which serves more than eight million passengers each year [1]. The stylish hotel is adjacent to the airport’s private jet terminal and has an exclusive immigrations and customs desk in the hotel for private jet passengers. Handpicked to be part of the exclusive collection of one-of-a-kind hotels and resorts celebrated for their individuality, the hotel joins more than 60 Curio Collection hotels around the world. This is Hilton’s first hotel in Lagos and its second in Nigeria, with an additional seven hotels in its development pipeline for the country.

Speaking ahead of the Africa Hotel Investment Forum (AHIF) in Nairobi, Hilton’s President and CEO, Chris Nassetta, said: “We continue to innovate in Africa with new brands and products, and we are pleased to introduce our Curio Collection brand here with the opening of Legend Hotel Lagos Airport. As the continent continues to undergo rapid urbanization, with the UN forecasting that the world’s 10 fastest-growing cities will all be in Africa by 2035, this hotel is a part of our strategy to connect guests to key cities and airport locations across the region.”

Hilton is seeing strong demand for its brands across the continent and expects to open eight hotels in total across Africa this year, three of which will fly under the Hilton Garden Inn flag. This brand appeals to the rising tide of middle class travelers into and across Africa and the company expects to open at least 16 Hilton Garden Inn hotels in the coming five years, including brand entries in Kampala, Ghana, Malawi, eSwatini (formerly Swaziland) and many other strategic locations across sub-Saharan Africa.

Last year, Hilton launched the Hilton Africa Growth Initiative, which will support the conversion of existing hotels to Hilton brands with an investment of US$50 million over five years. During that period, Hilton expects to secure 100 conversion opportunities with some 15-20,000 rooms added to its portfolio to meet the growing need for quality branded hotels across the continent.

Hilton is committed to growth and opportunity across Africa and has been a continuous presence on the continent since 1959. With 41 open hotels and 53 in its development pipeline in Africa, Hilton expects to double its footprint across the continent in the next five years. This includes market entries in 13 countries where it does not currently operate including Botswana, Ghana, eSwatini (formerly Swaziland), Uganda, Malawi and Rwanda.

About Curio Collection by Hilton:

Curio Collection by Hilton (https://CurioCollection3.Hilton.com) is an upper upscale, global portfolio of more than 60 one-of-a-kind hotels and resorts handpicked for their unique character. Curio Collection properties appeal to travelers seeking unexpected and authentic experiences, and the benefits of Hilton’s award-winning guest loyalty program, Hilton Honors (https://HiltonHonors3.Hilton.com/). Read the latest brand and property stories at news-room.Hilton.com/Curio; discover Curio Collection destinations through the eyes of locals with 48-hour itineraries at CitiesByCurio.com; and connect with Curio Collection on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/CurioCollection/), Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/curiocollection/?hl=en) and Twitter (https://twitter.com/CurioCollection).

 

About Hilton:

Hilton (NYSE: HLT) (newsroom.Hilton.com)  is a leading global hospitality company, with a portfolio of 14 world-class brands comprising more than 5,400 properties with nearly 880,000 rooms, in 106 countries and territo-ries. Hilton is dedicated to fulfilling its mission to be the world’s most hospitable company by deliver-ing exceptional experiences – every hotel, every guest, every time. The company’s portfolio in-cludes Hilton Hotels & Resorts, Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts, Conrad Hotels & Resorts, Cano-py by Hilton, Curio Collection by Hilton, DoubleTree by Hilton, Tapestry Collection by Hilton, Em-bassy Suites by Hilton, Hilton Garden Inn, Hampton by Hilton, Tru by Hilton, Homewood Suites by Hilton, Home2 Suites by Hilton and Hilton Grand Vacations. The company also manages an award-winning customer loyalty program, Hilton Honors. Hilton Honors members who book directly through preferred Hilton channels have access to instant benefits, including a flexible payment slid-er that allows members to choose exactly how many Points to combine with money, an exclusive member discount that can’t be found anywhere else, and free standard Wi-Fi. Visit newsroom.Hilton.com for more information, and connect with Hilton on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/hiltonnewsroom), Twitter (https://twitter.com/hiltonnewsroom), LinkedIn (https://www.linkedin.com/company/hilton), Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/hiltonnewsroom/) and YouTube (https://www.youtube.com/hiltonnewsroom).

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Statement of the Second Joint NDI/IRI Pre-Election Assessment Mission to Nigeria
October 2, 2018 | 0 Comments

I. INTRODUCTION

From September 19-28, 2018, the International Republican Institute (IRI) and the National Democratic Institute (NDI) conducted a second joint pre-election assessment mission to Nigeria. The first assessmentmission visited Nigeria in July 2018 and issued a statement on July 20, 2018, with recommendations on steps that would enhance citizen confidence in the credibility of the elections. This second mission builds on the first and captures progress achieved thus far and remaining challenges that need to be addressed. The purpose of conducting two pre-election assessment missions in Nigeria is to:

  • Assess the current political and electoral environment in the lead-up to the 2019 general elections;
  • Assess preparations for the general elections and offer recommendations to enhance citizen confidence in the process and mitigate violence; and
  • Demonstrate international support for Nigeria’s democratization process.

The second assessment delegation was comprised of: Robert Benjamin, Senior Associate & Regional Director for Central and East Europe, NDI (USA); Mvemba Dizolele, Professorial Lecturer at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies (Democratic Republic of the Congo); Sarah Jegede-Toe, Co-Chair, Liberia National Elections Commission (Liberia); Anna Jones, National Network Coordinator, WANEP-The Gambia (The Gambia); and John Tomaszewski, Africa Director, IRI (USA).

The delegation met with a wide array of election stakeholders, including the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), political party and religious leaders, civil society representatives, security forces, academics, and representatives of the international community. In addition, the delegation traveled to Osun State to meet with electoral stakeholders ahead of the off-cycle gubernatorial election on September 22, 2018 and visited several polling units in the cities of Osogbo, Ilesa, Ede, and Ofatedo on voting day to witness the conduct of the election within the framework of preparing for the 2019 general elections. The delegation expresses its deep appreciation to everyone with whom it met for sharing insights from which the mission benefited greatly. The delegation conducted its activities in accordance with the laws of Nigeria and the Declarations of Principles for International Election Observations, which was launched in 2005 at the United Nations.

Both IRI and NDI have deployed international election observation missions to all general elections in Nigeria since the 1999 transition from military to civilian democratic rule. IRI and NDI are nonpartisan, nongovernmental organizations that support and strengthen democratic institutions and practices worldwide. The Institutes have observed collectively more than 200 elections in more than 50 countries over the last 30 years. IRI and NDI will deploy a joint international delegation to observe the presidential, National Assembly, gubernatorial and state assembly elections in Nigeria in 2019.

II. SUMMARY

Nigeria’s 2019 elections will be an important step for the country’s democracy. If successful, the elections would consolidate democratic gains achieved in the last two decades since the transition from military to civilian democratic rule. The elections are also expected to be closely competed among the major political parties. President Muhammadu Buhari is seeking reelection after historic elections in 2015 when the country experienced its first transition of presidential power from the People’s Democratic Party (PDP)—which had been in power since the transition from military to civilian democratic rule in 1999—to the All Progressives Congress (APC).

Numerous positive developments have occurred since the 2015 elections that enhance today’s electoral environment in Nigeria. Some of these developments were noted in IRI/NDI’s first pre-election statement. For example, the Independent National Election Commission (INEC) has improved the voting process, notably through the introduction of continuous voter registration, adoption of simultaneous accreditation and voting, improvements to the secrecy of the ballot, and advancement of the smart card reader technology. Young people are also more motivated to participate in politics and hold their representatives accountable through initiatives as the Not Too Young To Run campaign. Citizens are also deeply committed to democracy. Afrobarometer’s 2017 survey found that 72 percent of Nigerians agreed that democratic elections are the best means of choosing their country’s leaders.

Despite the above improvements in the administrative and procedural aspects of the voting process, deficits in the political process could undermine the democratic character of the 2019 elections. Numerous interlocutors commented on the lack of equitable competition within political parties regarding candidate selection, and, relatedly, a penchant among parties to induce voter support through means that run contrary to the spirit of democratic franchise. For many Nigerians, the pervasive role of money in the campaign process lies at the heart of these concerns.

III. NOTABLE IMPROVEMENTS

The IRI/NDI delegation recognizes numerous positive developments initiated by electoral stakeholders—some of which followed the IRI/NDI July 2018 pre-election statement—that are contributing to an enhanced electoral environment:

  • Improvements to election administration – The delegation notes that INEC has initiated several measures to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of voting since the last pre-election assessment mission. Citizen observer group YIAGA Africa stated that the September 22 Osun State poll was an improvement over previous elections in Anambra and Ekiti states in that most sensitive and non-sensitive election materials arrived on time thus facilitating the punctual opening of polling units, poll workers were deployed early, and results were posted in the polling units. The delegation also notes that INEC has improved efforts to recruit staff, particularly women, and provide better training, which can yield more uniform polling unit operations and clear roles and responsibilities among various polling officials.

  • Enhancement of the ballot secrecy – During the Ekiti election, citizen observer groups as well as IRI/NDI’s delegation noted deficiencies in ballot secrecy in some polling units during the process and offered recommendations to address these issues. For the Osun election, INEC instituted measures that enhanced ballot secrecy, including providing additional guidance to poll workers on the configuration of the polling unit and banning the use of cellphones while voting. Higher consistency of polling officials in guiding voters to roll their ballots avoided spoiling the ballot while also obscuring the voter’s choice from view. These changes enhanced the voters’ privacy and reduced the possibility of vote buying and voter intimidation on Election Day.

  • Enhancements to the biometric verification system – Software enhancements to the smart card reader have increased the rate of successful verification of voters’ biometric data and increased the speed of the voting process. This lessens the burden on voters and polling workers. In addition, smart card readers used for voter accreditation are experiencing fewer malfunctions. Reports from citizen observer groups in Osun State indicated that malfunctions were resolved in timely fashion.

  • Strong commitment by civil society to improve the electoral process – As noted in IRI/NDI’s July 2018 statement, civil society is playing a critical role in the areas of conflict mitigation, inclusion, voter and civic education, and citizen-based voter observation. During this assessment, IRI/NDI heard about additional initiatives underway, including the Access Nigeria Campaign and Center for Citizens with Persons with Disabilities’ advocacy for better inclusion of PWDs on Election Day. As a result of these efforts, INEC adopted the Framework on Access and Participation of Persons Living with Disabilities. Some of the measures were implemented during the Osun State election, such as the use of a Braille Ballot Guide and a form that counts voters with disabilities. Efforts by the International Federation of Women Lawyers to mitigate violence against women has the potential to increase women’s participation in the electoral process and deter psychological and physical violence that too often curtails their participation. The Peace and Security Network is coordinating efforts to identify potential risks of electoral violence and mobilize response efforts.

IV. REMAINING CHALLENGES AND CONCERNS

Despite the above improvements, the delegation noted challenges, that if left unaddressed, could limit the ability of Nigerians to experience a fully participatory and credible process. With 140 days left before the elections, there is need to urgently address these issues.

  • Delays in finalizing legal framework for the 2019 elections – The delegation notes consensus among political, civic and governmental stakeholders on proposed amendments to the Electoral Act 2010, which could improve the credibility and transparency of elections in 2019. After weeks of back and forth between the executive and legislative branches, the bill is currently with the National Assembly, which is slated to reconvene on October 9, 2018. However, delays in the amendment’s passage have many Nigerians questioning whether INEC will have enough time to implement these changes for the 2019 elections.

  • Delayed release of funds for the 2019 elections – Nigerian interlocutors expressed concerns regarding timely and sufficient funding for the 2019 elections. INEC leadership has affirmed that it will be prepared for elections if the full budget is released when the National Assembly returns to session. Several electoral stakeholders in Nigeria underscored the need for timely logistical and operational preparations.

  • Security threats – Delegates heard continued concerns about persistent insecurity, particularly in the Middle Belt and North East, which may be amplified in the pre-election environment. Insecurity, combined with heightened political tensions, raise the likelihood of political and/or communal violence, which would disproportionately impact vulnerable populations such as internally displaced persons (IDPs). Should existing conflicts remain unresolved and/or the threat of violence intensify, personal insecurity could deter enthusiasm or prevent citizens from participating in the electoral process. In light of these complex and difficult circumstances, it is incumbent on security services in Nigeria to ensure a safe and secure environment for citizens to exercise their right to vote and to contribute to public confidence in the overall electoral process. Some Nigerians are concerned that security efforts could be used for partisan agendas at the expense of their ability to fulfill their mandate as prescribed by law.

  • Vote buying – The delegation heard complaints about the lack of robust investigation and, where merited, prosecution of alleged vote buying, despite numerous instances reported by civil society groups. Improvements to the electoral administration and procedure and a higher number of political parties vying for elected positions have enhanced political competition and narrowed margins of victory. Tighter political competition heightens the risk of political parties relying more intensively on unethical and illegal means to secure victory, including inappropriate voter inducement schemes and vote buying. Political parties are responsible for their campaigns and are obligated to follow the law. The delegation heard from many stakeholders, including those within political parties, that there is neither sufficient will nor incentive to remedy these issues.

  • Barriers to internal party democracy – The delegation recognizes that some political parties have experimented with direct primaries that empower members to select a candidate of their choice, while others rely on indirect measures for candidate selection. In reality, candidates contesting in party primaries are often imposed on members by political elites and so-called “godfathers.” Political parties lack comprehensive membership lists, which does not provide a foundation for a successful direct primary process. There is also a lack of open and advance communication from national party leaders about the composition of delegate lists and the mode and date of voting. These circumstances can heighten intra-party tension and focus party attention inward at a time when their ability to communicate effectively with voters is paramount.

  • Women’s participation in the electoral process – The delegation understand that there are barriers for women, youth, and PWDs to be active participants in the electoral process, including but not limited to attempts to run for elected office. These barriers include the lack of access to party decision-making structures and financial obligations that are impossible to meet without the support of political party elites to whom aspirants can become politically and/or personally beholden. Prevailing social structures and practices limit the ability of women to enter and advance in politics, and often discourages them from engaging in political life in the first place. Women politicians with whom the delegation met referenced numerous instances of discrimination, which led to their dissuasion from and, in some cases, loss of will to participate in politics. The failure to pass the Gender and Equal Opportunities bill last year in the National Assembly and of political parties to establish and implement voluntary electoral party gender quotas are missed opportunities for increasing women’s political participation and enhancing the electoral environment in Nigeria.

  • Incitement to violence and disinformation – The IRI/NDI delegation observed with concern the use of inflammatory language by political parties, particularly through social media. Much of this rhetoric, which at times contains false or unverified information or hate speech, can manipulate public perceptions, heightens tensions, and fuels the possibility of election-related violence. Following the Osun election, the delegation observed on social media the circulation of false results, misleading photos and videos, and inciting statements by political parties, which contributed to heightened tension during and following the results announcement process.

V. RECOMMENDATIONS

The delegation believes that with political will and through coordinated efforts by all stakeholders, many of the above-mentioned challenges can be addressed to enhance citizen confidence and participation in elections and mitigate violence during and after the polls. In the spirit of international cooperation, the delegation therefore offers the following recommendations to electoral stakeholders in Nigeria, which build upon and reinforce the recommendations of the first pre-election assessment mission.

Recommendations for the Federal Government of Nigeria:

  • Provide sufficient and timely funds so that INEC and other electoral bodies can fulfill their responsibilities as prescribed by law.

  • Ensure the timely passage of the amendment to the Electoral Act 2010.

  • Ensure that security services maintain the highest level of professionalism and impartiality in facilitating the electoral process, refrain from actions that could be seen as motivated by partisan interests, enable accredited observers and journalists to perform their work, and protect the right of citizens to exercise their votes freely.

  • Enforce laws against election malfeasance (including vote buying) and ensure equal and robust application through such measures as the establishment of the Electoral Offenses Commission and Tribunal.

  • Respect and uphold press freedom and freedom of information laws in letter and in spirit.

Recommendations for the Independent National Electoral Commission:

  • Take concrete measures to combat vote buying through voter education campaigns, enforcement of laws against voter inducement, and nationwide ban on cellphones in the voting cubicle.

  • Enhance as much as possible the physical space for voting to facilitate the processing of voters on election day. Prioritize training for polling officials on configuring polling units to enhance ballot secrecy while maintaining a transparent voting process.

  • Decentralize the Permanent Voter Card (PVC) collection process from the local government level to the ward and community levels and intensify voter sensitization to increase PVC collection rates.

  • Implement the PWD framework, including operationalizing the Braille Ballot Guide and Form EC30PWD nationwide for Election Day, conducting voter education to increase the participation of PWDs in the voting process, and improving accessibility of polling units.

  • Undertake measures to increase understanding of the vote collation process and ensure access of observers and party agents to collation centers.

  • Publish polling unit-level registration and results data on INEC’s website in a machine-readable format.

  • Release specimen ballots well in advance of Election Day so that civil society and other electoral stakeholders can conduct sufficient voter education to orient voters.

Recommendations for political parties:

  • Engage, at the leadership level, in inter-party dialogue, such as the one facilitated by the National Peace Committee in 2015, and adhere to agreed provisions therein.

  • Proactively investigate and, where substantiated, take punitive action against party members and supporters who use hate speech and violence (including through gangs) or disseminate false information during the election cycle.

  • Demonstrate thorough adherence to campaign finance regulations and commit to the proper use of resources in engaging voters. Provide access to INEC auditors per applicable regulations.

  • Adhere to and enforce existing codes of conduct that commit parties to democratic electoral standards regarding campaign use of resources, engagement of voters, peaceful resolution of disputes, and acceptance of verified and credible results.

  • Empower the Inter-Party Advisory Committee (IPAC) to perform its coordination and mediation functions effectively with a priority on state level engagement.

  • Upon conclusion of party primaries, promote party cohesion through equitable access to dispute resolution and reconciliation mechanisms.

  • Participate in public debates and otherwise enable candidates to reach out to citizens so that the latter are duly informed of party and candidate platforms and policy positions. Devote time and attention to women and youth candidates in particular.

Recommendations for civil society:

  • Begin voter education as soon as feasible on ballot design, use and secrecy; vote buying and other illegal practices; the role of security forces in the voting process; and vote tabulation and collation procedures.

  • Begin to focus voter education in IDP camps or areas where IDPs have recently returned home so that they are afforded the same opportunities to participate in the voting process.

  • Promote the peaceful participation of citizens in the electoral process and draw on existing inter-religious and peacebuilding bodies to enhance their efforts.

  • Disseminate information about citizen-based observation findings and analysis to increase public knowledge and understanding about the conduct of the elections.

Recommendations for state-owned and private media:

  • Provide balanced coverage of political activities and opinions during primetime television and radio shows, and in the print media.

  • Without infringing on freedoms of the press and expression, refrain from disseminating proven “fake news” or inciting language by electoral stakeholders that could inflame tensions around the elections.

  • Provide political parties with ample opportunities to share information on their policies and manifestos with voters.

  • Disseminate messages on the importance of peaceful participation in the electoral process.

Recommendations for the international community:

  • Support Nigerian civil society at the state level to implement creative and strategic programs around voter and civic education and conflict mitigation that target groups of voters most in need of information, including women, youth, PWDs rural populations, and IDPs.

  • Continue to regularly message to the main political actors and parties on the importance of respecting the rule of law and holding credible, meaningful polls.

IRI and NDI will continue to observe the electoral process and will issue additional statements as appropriate. IRI and NDI will also field joint international election observation missions for the 2019 general elections. IRI and NDI will cooperate with other international observation missions and Nigerian citizen observer efforts in accordance with the Declaration of Principles for International Election Observation and Nigerian law.

The delegation’s work was funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

*Source NDI

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Top UN adviser calls for Cameroon investigation
October 2, 2018 | 0 Comments

By Emmanuel Igunza*

Mr Dieng said there's need for dialogue to resolve the Cameroon civil crisis

Mr Dieng said there’s need for dialogue to resolve the Cameroon civil crisis

The UN special adviser on prevention of genocide has called for immediate investigations into a wave of killings in Cameroon’s English-speaking regions.

Adama Dieng described the atrocities being committed in the country as “concerning” and said both sides of the conflict should “sit around the table and dialogue to end the conflict”.

“The crimes committed by both parties need to be properly and independently investigated and perpetrators of those crimes need to be brought urgently to justice so that people know that no-one is above the law – that all Cameroonians are equal,” he said.

Groups calling for independence of the region they call Ambazonia have been staging attacks against government forces, which have responded with what has been condemned as a brutal crackdown.

The separatists are riding on long-held complaints by residents of the South-West and North-West region over what they see as marginalisation by the French-speaking majority.

They say they are forced to use French in schools and courts.

Both sides have been accused of kidnappings, extra-judicial killings and the burning of villages.

“My worry is that we still have many people being killed, so far more than 400 people. We have seen atrocious crimes being committed. We need to have political dialogue but also demand for justice,” he told me.

Cameroon is to hold presidential elections on 7 October. “It is true that one could not exclude some form of violence [around the polls] but for the time being things seem to be under control,” Mr Dieng said.

Map

Cameroon government forces have also been accused of human rights crimes against civilians in their fight against Islamist militant group Boko Haram in the far north of the country.

Recently, a BBC investigative report analysed a horrifying video that showed two women and children being blindfolded and shot multiple times by Cameroonian soldiers.

The Cameroon government has since arrested some of the soldiers shown in the video despite initially dismissing the footage, which was widely shared on social media.

Mr Dieng also defended the role of the International Criminal Court (ICC) after US President Donald Trump made scathing attacks against the Hague-based court, saying it lacked legitimacy and jurisdiction.

Some African countries have also threatened to withdraw from the Rome Statute that set up the institution.

“It is very unfortunate that there is today this perception that the ICC is selective. That’s not true,” Mr Dieng said.

He said the court was an important deterrent to war crimes being committed in the world.

“History has shown that the ICC is an independent court governed by the law. We saw the case against Kenya’s current President Uhuru Kenyatta being closed, and we also saw what happened with the case of [ex-Democratic Republic of Congo warlord] Jean-Pierre Bemba, who on appeal was also acquitted.”

“I supported African leaders when they said they wanted to have their own court, but since they adopted the protocol to set it up, how many Africa states have ratified the protocol? Not more than five. It’s very unfortunate,” he added.

*BBC

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Forum on Internet Freedom in Africa takes on repressiveness online
October 2, 2018 | 0 Comments

By Hans Ngala

Accra, Ghana.

The fifth edition of the Forum on Internet Freedom in Africa (FIFAfrica) has ended with calls for media professionals to form coalitions to curb the harassment of these professionals by governments across Africa.

Three hundred participants from across Africa, Europe, Asia, North and South America discussed everything from fake news and disinformation to restrictive policies that make the work of journalists difficult and how these restrictions can be bypassed.

“Governments will always use ‘national security’ as an excuse to shut down the internet and repress freedom of expression”, Sulemana Braimah, executive director of the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) told attendees at the opening of the two-day event in Accra, Ghana last week.

“This is the time to hold these stakeholders to account” he added.

Smaller sessions discussed how to stay safe online in a continent where being online and expressing oneself is often equated with “terrorism”.

The topic was handled by the Zone 9 bloggers, a group of Ethiopian bloggers; some of whom were arrested and allegedly jailed for doing their job by the Ethiopian authorities.

“Governments label those who are brave to fight for justice as terrorists” said Befekadu Hailu, one of the Zone 9 bloggers narrating how he was tortured for simply blogging.

Discussions in other panels addressed the issue ‘fake news’ across social media platforms on the continent.

Journalists and bloggers were called upon to go last with a story and first with the truth to ensure that they don’t fall victim to the dissemination of unverified information. Added to this, they would need to find tools that will help them to verify the authenticity of photos, audio, tweets and other infographics that sometimes pass for ‘news’ on social media when they really are not.

“The internet nowadays is just as important as water or electricity. You simply cannot do without it” Peter Asare from the Pan African University in Cameroon told the audience. “You cannot separate your life online from your life offline’’ and so “we better fight for the right to freedom on the internet” Charles Onyangobo from Africapedia said.

Cameroon, Gabon, Togo and a host of other African countries have shut down internet connectivity within the last two years mainly for reasons to do with politics. A phenomenon which will “continue with impunity unless we rise up to denounce this ill in the strongest possible terms” according to Olumide Babalola, a Nigerian lawyer.

“We, like the proverbial hunter who shoots without missing, must also find ways to circumvent the incessant censorship by governments on cyberspace” stated Dr. Waraigala Wakabi from the Collaboration on International ICT Policy in East and Southern Africa (CIPESA).

It is worth mentioning that the FIFAfrica is a landmark event that convenes various stakeholders from the internet governance and online rights arenas in Africa and abroad to discuss issues relating to internet governance and internet freedom.

This is the first time it was held in West Africa, having been hosted in East and Southern Africa before. This year’s event was jointly hosted by CIPESA and the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) and saw students, academics, journalists, opposition politicians, ICT experts, human rights activists among several others in attendance.

 

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Gunfire Rocks“Ambazonia” Independence Observation
October 2, 2018 | 0 Comments

By Hans Ngala

There have been several deaths and casualties in the restive English-speaking area of Cameroon where separatists are battling soldiers. The clashes follow a ban imposed by authorities restricting movement from one sub division to another and prohibiting the assembling of more than four persons.

“We could not go to church yesterday” said a resident of Ndu, a tea-growing town some 110km from the regional capital of Bamenda. “People were teargassed out of a church yesterday by soldiers”, the woman who opted for anonymity told the American Media Institute.

Most churches remained close Sunday as people feared arrests by soldiers and the few who made it to some churches were asked to return home by gun-wielding soldiers according to sources on the ground.

Monday was characterized by gunshots in towns like Bamenda,Kumbo and Pinyin with reports of unverified fatalities and casualties at this stage given the volatility of the situation.

Sources also said two military helicopters were flying overhead and that “there has been intermittent shooting since morning; probably between the Ambazonia fighters and soldiers. We are all lying on the floor to avoid getting hit by stray bullets.”

“Ambazonia” is a rebrand of the Southern Cameroons which joined French Cameroun in 1961 on the basis of a two-state federation that was discarded in 1972 by then president Ahmadou Ahidjo in favour of a “United Republic of Cameroon.”

Southern Cameroonians say the abolition of the two-state federation went against agreements reached between the two Cameroons at a Conference in Foumban, French Cameroun where it was agreed that the two-state nature of the state shall remain sacred.

Southern Cameroonians who have since been split into the Northwest and Southwest of the country have also long complained of economic and political marginalization and things came to a head in 2016 when lawyers and teachers complained of having French-speaking teachers and judges imposed upon them by the central government and called for a return to the two-state federation.

Government arrested key leaders and later succumbed to international pressure and released them; but continued harassment of activists and journalists, shutting down internet access and a refusal to touch on the political demands made has led to a call for not just a return to the two-state federation but an outright ‘restoration’ of the statehood of the Southern Cameroons.

The International Crisis Group, Amnesty International and other organizations have warned that the situation is likely to escalate further especially with a presidential election scheduled for October 7 with president Paul Biya in power for 36 years seeking re-election.

 

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A new report estimates that more than 380,000 people have died in South Sudan’s civil war
October 2, 2018 | 0 Comments

By Siobhán O’Grady*

South Sudanese demonstrators await the arrival of President Salva Kiir at Juba International Airport on June 22, 2018. (Akuot Chol/AFP/Getty Images)

South Sudanese demonstrators await the arrival of President Salva Kiir at Juba International Airport on June 22, 2018. (Akuot Chol/AFP/Getty Images)

Years of brutal civil war in South Sudan have left at least 382,000 people dead, according to an estimate in a new State Department-funded study that far surpasses an earlier figure issued by the United Nations and points to the horrors of an often-overlooked conflict.

The findings of the study, conducted by a small team at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine but commissioned by the U.S. Institute for Peace in partnership with the State Department, were released Wednesday.The Washington Post obtained an advance copy of the report.

In March 2016, U.N. officials estimated that the conflict had killed about 50,000 people, and for years, a more accurate death count has been missing as a metric to measure the bloodshed, even as the conflict raged on. Experts say an accurate death toll can be a critical tool for policymakers.


Ghanaian peacekeepers with the United Nations Mission in South Sudan patrol in March in Leer, a town in South Sudan where famine has been declared since February 2017. (Stefanie Glinski/AFP/Getty Images)

But counting the dead is a challenge in war zones, where many people are displaced and crucial data is hard to come by.

By comparison, the new estimate puts the death toll from the violence in South Sudan on par with the impact of conflicts such as the war in Syria, where upward of 510,000 people are believed to have died in a significantly larger population.

Gordon Buay, deputy chief of mission at the South Sudanese Embassy in Washington, said he thinks the estimate is “not accurate.” He said he would put the death toll at fewer than 20,000 people.

“If you included disease and everything, it would be less than 20,000,” Buay said.

But Francesco Checchi, the lead epidemiologist who worked on the study, said his team’s estimate is conservative. He and other researchers at the London school statistically analyzed mortality data in the country to estimate conflict-related deaths between December 2013 and April 2018.

They compiled data from humanitarian agencies and media reports, piecing together factors including food security, presence of humanitarian groups and intensity of armed conflict to create a statistical model that predicts mortality by county. At the center of their research were around 200 surveys conducted by humanitarian groups across South Sudan.

Checchi called the process “painstaking.”

In South Sudan, a number of factors, including the dangerous nature of the conflict, have made calculating a death toll through a national survey and interviews with families nearly impossible.

The country broke away from Sudan seven years ago, after decades of deadly conflict that eventually led to shaky independence. But South Sudan soon fell back into war, after a rivalry between President Salva Kiir, from the Dinka ethnic group, and then-Vice President Riek Machar, a Nuer, turned violent.

The conflict started in Juba, the capital, and spread across the country. Journalists, human rights researchers and humanitarian workers have collected evidence of mass atrocities committed by both sides in the conflict, but rights groups say most attacks on civilians have been carried out by government troops. In some areas, entire villages were said to have been razed. Women were allegedly raped and children burned alive, and some families even reported forced cannibalism.

South Sudan’s then-first vice president, Riek Machar, left, and President Salva Kiir sit to be photographed after the first meeting of a new transitional coalition government in the capital, Juba, in April 2016. (Jason Patinkin/AP)

South Sudan’s then-first vice president, Riek Machar, left, and President Salva Kiir sit to be photographed after the first meeting of a new transitional coalition government in the capital, Juba, in April 2016. (Jason Patinkin/AP)

Checchi’s team took into account assumptions about what the death rate would have been without civil war to find how many excess deaths the conflict has caused. The researchers factored in the reality that many people have fled or were killed in circumstances that might have been exacerbated by the conflict, such as outbreak of disease or malnutrition, he said. South Sudan experienced a man-made famine last year.

*Source Washington Post.Siobhán O’Grady writes about foreign affairs for the Washington Post. She previously freelanced across Africa and worked as a staff writer at Foreign Policy magazine. 

 

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Bad News for President Biya As New Poll Shows Consensus Amongst Cameroonians For New Beginning
September 30, 2018 | 0 Comments
"We are not sheep," reads a curious message from militants of the ruling party at a rare campaign event of the 85 year old incumbent President Paul Biya in Maroua

“We are not sheep,” reads a curious message from militants of the ruling party at a rare campaign event of the 85 year old incumbent President Paul Biya in Maroua

In a new opinion poll released by the Nkafu Policy Institute, the favorability rating of incumbent President Paul Biya is less than thirty percent. The bad news comes barely a week to crucial elections where Biya will be seeking to prolong his 36-year-old grip on power.

Aged 85, President has been largely invisible on the campaign trail. While his challengers have been crisscrossing the country, the President has relied heavily on surrogates . At a rare campaign stop in Maroua, the capital of the Far North Region, the President was unable to articulate a compelling case for his re-election.

With less than seven million registered voters for the elections, Biya’s unpopularity is no guarantee for automatic defeat. None of his opposition challengers has a score higher than his. Without a consensus candidate or a coalition of opposition challenges, the one round ballot plays strongly in favour of Mr Biya.

The poll done with the support of the National Endowment For Democracy, also has interesting revelations on how Cameroonians feel about the direction of the country, and the current political crisis amongst others. Below is the press statement from the Nkafu Policy Institute on the release of the poll

“Today, we at the Nkafu Policy Institute, are pleased to release a scientific, nationwide opinion poll of adult Cameroonians on the state of the economy, perceptions on governance and the democratic process, and voter preferences for the 9 presidential candidates.

This survey, conducted with the support of the National Endowment for Democracy, interviewed 2,024 adult Cameroonians in all ten regions. Interviews were conducted in 54 urban centers and 25 rural localities from September 10 to September 20, 2018. All interviews were conducted before the official start of presidential campaigns. This representative sample has a margin of error of +/- 3%.

The findings reveal a country in free fall. 79.1 percent of Cameroonians believe the economy is headed in the wrong direction. The poverty level is alarming. Less than 17.65% percent of Cameroonian adults earn more than 200,000 FCFA (~$400) dollars a month. Cameroonians are mostly concerned about the state of infrastructure in the country: electricity, water, bridges, roads, railways and sea ports. Today, 90 percent of Cameroonians believe the road infrastructure is bad or very bad.

A large majority of Cameroonians (82.17 %) want local administrators such as Governors to be elected by the people. Cameroonians have very little confidence in the legislature (only 16.31 % support the work done at the national assembly and 14.48 at the senate); supreme court (only 18.15 % of support), central government (16.93 % of support); constitutional council (16.40 % of support). The vast majority of Cameroonians (65.04%) believe the Anglophone conflict is the greatest threat to the security of the country and most do not support the government’s war in the Northwest and Southwest regions. Only 7.84 % percent of Cameroonians support the use of force while 85.49 % percent believe dialogue or negotiation should be the way forward.

Not surprising, the incumbent president, Paul Biya, is deeply unpopular after 36 years in power, managing only 29.82% percent of support. Three opposition candidates stand out with the young 38-year Cabral Libii among the group with 11.24 percent. The other top two candidates being Mr. Maurice Kamto (12.65 percent) of the Cameroon Renaissance Movement and Mr.Joshua Osih (13.10 percent) of the Social Democratic Front. The top three candidates were all within the margin of error. Mr. Libii’s is mostly supported among Francophone youths where he commands 19.37 percent support among those less than 35 years old. The biggest surprise is the very poor showing from Mr. Akere Muna, with a support of only 2.12 percent. It is very clear today that if Cameroon’s opposition parties are seriously interested in winning the single-round presidential elections scheduled for October 7, 2018, coalescing between Mr. Libii, Mr. Kamto and Mr. Osih, or only two of the three would greatly increase their chances. One must be worried as 49.65 percent of Cameroonians are concerned of the risk of post-electoral violence.

This survey, in very simplistic terms, shows a society in deep decay, with no sense of direction and very little agreement on the most basic processes. There is great concern that at the current pace the growing tensions between communities and various political actors may degenerate into popular uprisings as societal norms continue to be eroded. There is great need, in the lead up to this presidential election, for a stronger involvement of the international community. It would be deeply unfortunate should the October 7 presidential elections further plunge the country deeper in crises. Strong actions must be taken to avert this real possibility. There is great yearning for a new consensus among Cameroonians, for a new beginning.”

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Republic of Congo to vaccinate more than one million people against yellow fever
September 28, 2018 | 0 Comments

By Wallace Mawire

FILE - A World Health Organization (WHO) worker administers a vaccination

FILE – A World Health Organization (WHO) worker administers a vaccination

The Republic of Congo, in collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO) and partners have started a vaccination campaign to control the spread of yellow fever in the port city of Pointe Noire and surrounding areas. More than 1 million people from nine months of age are expected to be vaccinated in this six-day campaign.

The vaccination campaign uses doses from the global emergency Yellow Fever vaccine stockpile managed by the International Coordination Group on Vaccine Provision (ICG) and funded by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance. The ICG coordinates the timely and equitable provision of vaccines during outbreaks and maintains an emergency stockpile of six million doses of yellow fever vaccine, which is continually replenished. Gavi will also cover operational costs for this campaign.

The immunization drive is a response to a laboratory-confirmed yellow fever case, which tested positive on 21 August 2018, after visiting a rural area.

Since then, no other case has been confirmed in the country, but more than 200 suspected cases have been reported since the beginning of the year, with most of these notified by the health authority in Pointe Noire. It’s possible that there are also undetected cases as a large proportion of the Pointe Noire population seeks care in the private
system and the national surveillance system may not be receiving notification.

Yellow fever is an acute viral haemorrhagic disease transmitted by infected mosquitoes, which can be deadly, but is prevented by an extremely effective vaccine. Urban outbreaks are of particular concern and Pointe Noire is the country’s economic capital, with a population of more than 1 million. After declining for many years, yellow fever
outbreaks are on the rise globally. The ease and speed of population movements, rapid urbanization and a resurgence of mosquitoes due to global warming have significantly increased the risk of urban outbreaks with international spread.

“Yellow fever has re-emerged as a public health threat in recent years in the African region,” said Dr Ibrahima Socé Fall, WHO’s Emergencies Director for Africa. “However, the vaccine is safe and provides life-long immunity. This reactive vaccination campaign is focusing on people who are most at risk and will set up a firewall which will
prevent the virus from spreading further.”

The neighbouring Democratic Republic of the Congo has shown solidarity with the Republic of Congo by lending more than 700 000 syringes for the vaccination campaign, while Pointe Noire health authorities wait for syringes to arrive from the international stockpile next month.

The response to this outbreak is part of a comprehensive strategy to eliminate yellow fever epidemics (EYE) globally by 2026. WHO, UNICEF, Gavi, and more than fifty partners are supporting the Government of Congo and 39 other high-risk countries to assess epidemic risk, roll out vaccination campaigns, engage with communities and deliver other response activities, including surveillance and laboratory diagnosis.

Nationwide preventive actions are also needed to ensure the protection of the entire population at risk. Rapid outbreak detection and response and long-term prevention are integral to a sustained control of yellow fever.

As part of the EYE Strategy, more than four million additional people are expected to be vaccinated in preventive mass campaigns in the Republic of Congo over the few next years.

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South Sudanese president orders to release PoWs, political detainees
September 28, 2018 | 0 Comments

By Deng Machol

South Sudan President Salva Kiir

South Sudan President Salva Kiir

Juba – South Sudanese President Salva Kiir Thursday ordered to release all the prisoners of war, and political detainees in line with the revitalized peace agreement signed last month.

President Kiir ordered Chief of Defense Forces, Gen. Gabriel Jok Riak to release all prisoners of War and detainees immediately as part of the implementation of the peace agreement, under the supervision of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

In a republican order read on the state-run TV, SSBC last evening, Kiir instructed the Chief of Defense Forces and the commanders of all the regular forces to register and hand over the PoWs and detainees to any third party (the ICRC).

“The President of the republic and commander-in-chief of the SPLA has issued a Republican Order No. 17 for the implementation of the permanent ceasefire and transitional security arrangements as per the provisions of R-ARCISS,” said part of the decree.

The presidential decision comes in line with Chapter II (Permanent Ceasefire and Transitional Security Arrangements) article 6 of section one dedicated to the permanent ceasefire.

 The President further instructed the Chief of Defense Forces to direct all the SPLA forces to refrain from revenge attack or retaliation as well as stop training of any recruits immediately.

Kiir also directed the Chief of Defense Forces to ensure the orders are implemented with immediate effect. He also directed the army forces to cease the training of any recruits immediately.

The release of PoWs and detainees is one most awaited steps by the opposition groups and analyst saying it is a concrete measure that would help to reassure the full commitment to the signed revitalized peace deal, aims to end nearly five years conflict that has killed tenths thousands of the people and displaced 2.5 million people from their homes.

Of recently, the first Vice President Designate, Dr. Machar appealed to President Kiir to release all political detainees and lift the state of emergency if he is to come to Juba to attend peace celebrations. He also calls on Kiir to allow freedom of expression of the citizens and guarantee their safety.

Among the detainees, James Gadet Dak, former spokesperson of Dr. Riek Machar,  SPLM-IO senior official, Aggrey Idr Ezbon, a well-known activist, Dong Samuel Luak and Opposition appointed Kapoeta governor, Marko Lokidor and plus the young entrepreneur Mr. Kerbino Wol.

In the related development, President Kiir, earlier on Thursday in SPLA headquarters, before republic ordered, directed the South Sudanese army and other regular forces to abide by the revitalized peace agreement, observe the rule of law and to not commit any attacks on civilians in the country. He said military courts would be established to punish the perpetrators of any aggression on civilians during the pre-transitional period.

President Kiir further concluded that he would issue a presidential decree changing the name of the SPLA to South Sudan People Defence Force (SSPDF) soon.

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Six African finalists selected by Arsenal FC and WorldRemit for new “Future Stars” youth coaching programme
September 28, 2018 | 0 Comments
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