Ghana has been ranked as the 108th happiest country in the World, according to the 2018 World Happiness Report.
Ghana ranked lower than African countries such as Nigeria (91), Cameroon (99), Gabon (103), South Africa (105) and Ivory Coast (107).
Somalia which has long been plagued by suicide bombing and constant attacks by terrorist group Al-Shabab ranked 98 on the report, much higher than Ghana.
The report comes at a time the government claims that the living conditions of most Ghanaians have improved.
Burundi in East Africa, scarred by bouts of ethnic cleansing, civil wars and coup attempts, is the unhappiest place in the world. Strikingly, there are five other nations – Rwanda, Yemen, Tanzania, South Sudan and the Central African Republic – which report happiness levels below that of even Syria.
The 2018 World Happiness Report also charts the steady decline of the US as the world’s largest economy grapples with a crisis of obesity, substance abuse and depression.
The study reveals the US has slipped to 18th place, five places down on 2016. The top four places are taken by Nordic nations, with Finland followed by Norway, Denmark and Iceland.Finland overtook Norway to become the happiest nation on earth, according to a UN report.
“Finland has vaulted from fifth place to the top of the rankings this year,” said the report’s authors, although they noted that the other three Nordic countries (plus Switzerland) have almost interchangeable scores.
The report, an annual publication from the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network, said all the Nordic countries scored highly on income, healthy life expectancy, social support, freedom, trust and generosity. The rankings are based on Gallup polls of self-reported wellbeing, as well as perceptions of corruption, generosity and freedom.
In Britain, figures from the Office for National Statistics suggest people have become happier in recent years. But the UN ranking places the UK in a lowly 19th place, the same as last year but behind Germany, Canada and Australia, although ahead of France and Spain.
The UN report devotes a special chapter to why the US, once towards the top of happiness table, has slipped down the league despite having among the highest income per capita.
“America’s subjective wellbeing is being systematically undermined by three interrelated epidemic diseases, notably obesity, substance abuse (especially opioid addiction) and depression,” said Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Center for Sustainable Development at Columbia University in New York, and one of the report’s authors.
Despite African countries getting the worst happiness scores, one West African nation has bucked the trend. Togo came bottom in 2015 but was the biggest improver in the 2018 report, rising 18 places. Latvians and Bulgarians are also reporting higher levels of happiness.
Venezuela recorded the biggest fall in happiness, outstripping even Syria, although in absolute terms it remains a mid-ranking country. The report notes that Latin American countries generally scored more highly than their GDP per capita suggests, especially in contrast to fast-growing East Asian countries.
Latin America is renowned for corruption, high violence and crime rates, unequal distribution of income and widespread poverty, yet has consistently scored relatively highly in the happiness report.
The authors attributed this to “the abundance of family warmth and other supportive social relationships frequently sidelined in favour of an emphasis on income measures in the development discourse”.
SACKED: Former South Sudan Finance minister Stephen Dhieu Dau.
Juba – South Sudanese President Salva Kiir has fired the Country’s Minister for Finance and Economic Planning and the Army Assistant Deputy Chief of Operations, Training and Intelligence amid alarming economics’ inflation blighted by the ongoing civil war.
In the presidential degree read on the state-owned television on Monday evening, President Kiir fired Finance Minister Stephen Dau and army senior commander Marial Chanuong Yol, without giving reasons for President Kiir’s decisions.
Minister Dau was replaced with former technical advisor at the Ministry of Trade and Industry Salvatore Garang Mabiordit.
Finance Minister Dau was appointed Finance minister in 2016, with the hope of improving South Sudan’s straining economy. However, the economy of the East Africa’s young nation has never been stable since the civil war erupted in 2013, and more especially after the 2015 devaluation of the South Sudanese Pound (SSP).
Meanwhile, Gen Yol, was then commander of the presidential guard, nicked as “Tiger” before he was promoted as Lieutenant General and appointed as the army chief of operations, training and intelligence last year. A person to replace Gen Yol is not yet named.
Gen Yol was blacklisted by the UN Security Council in 2015 for alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity committed during the onset of war in December 2013 against members of the the Nuer ethnic group.
President Kiir has also appointed Major General Erjok Bullen as the Deputy Commissioner General of the National Revenue Authority.
South Sudan attained independence in 2011 following a referendum whose outcome favoured the separation from Sudan in 2011 with a 98 per cent approval, but oil – rich country descended into another round of conflict pitting President Kiir’s loyalists and those allied to his former deputy Riek Machar.
However, several ceasefire truce has been signed by the warring parties, but didn’t hold fighting, therefore the current phase of the country’s civil war has claimed more than 100,000 lives, according to the International Crisis Group.
Over 2 million South Sudanese have become refugees in neighbouring countries and another 1.9 million others remain internally displaced, according to the UN.
The war has also caused one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises after the Rwanda 1994 genocide, the UN added. Multiple human rights abuses have also been documented by various groups.
The Egyptian ministry of Civial Aviation will host the third edition of the Aviation Africa 2018 exhibition and summit covering the full aviation and aerospace spectrum across the African continent in Cairo on April 17 to 18 2018, according to the organisers.
It is reported that the summit will be hosted under the theme ‘Securing Strategy for Africa’s Success.’It is also added that the two-day summit will focus on the key drivers to grow business and opportunities across Africa in the aviation sector. Also, alongside the summit will be an exhibition area featuring more than 70 exhibitors.
Topics at the summit will include understanding the framework for aviation across Africa, understanding the threat and the solutions both in the cyber world and the real one,profit, competition, security or passengers? What keeps CEOs awake at night? airline business – challenging the status quo: Bringing low cost,regional and charter operations and new models to market and surviving surviving accidents and incidents with reputations intact, developing infrastructure and support for Africa’s aviation future on the ground and in the air and on human capital, developing and inspiring future generations to solve people shortage.
Fort Lauderdale, FL (March 13, 2018) – South African Airways (SAA), Africa’s most awarded airline, has announced the appointment of Marlene Sanau as the new vice president of sales, North America, based at the airline’s North America Regional Office in Fort Lauderdale.
In this role, she will be responsible for implementing sales strategies to strengthen and grow business relationships with SAA’s travel trade partners, online travel agency distribution channels, corporate customers, and key tourism industry organizations. She will also oversee SAA’s team of sales development directors located throughout North America, along with the Business Development and Inside Sales Departments in Fort Lauderdale.
Marlene joins the South African Airwaysleadership team in North America with an extensive international airline background having spent over 25 years with Lufthansa German Airlines serving in several sales and operational management positions in the U.S., Germany, Australia, and South Africa. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from Central Michigan University.
“We are delighted to have Marlene join South African Airways and lead our sales team with her in-depth knowledge of the airline industry and revenue development strategies,” said Todd Neuman, executive vice president – North America for South African Airways. “Marlene brings a wealth of experience that will be a tremendous benefit to SAA
and our trade partners. She possesses the skills and expertise that will be critical to expanding and enhancing SAA’s presence in the very competitive North America to Africa market.”
South African Airways offers the most daily flights from the U.S. to South Africa with daily nonstop service from New York-JFK Airport and daily nonstop service from Washington, DC-Dulles Airport to Accra, Ghana or Dakar, Senegal, with continuing service to Johannesburg. our Johannesburg hub, SAA links the world to over 75 destinations across the African continent and Africa’s Indian Ocean islands. Onboard, SAA provides an in-flight experience designed for pure comfort for long-haul travel. Our customers enjoy a spacious Economy Class cabin, gourmet cuisine and a selection of complimentary spirits and award-winning South African wines and generous checked baggage allowance. Also included are individual audio /visual entertainment systems that deliver an extensive menu of first-run movies, music choices,and games.
“Our Son, our farms soil fertility have for years been drastically declining and so is our farms yields and thus we are poor and food insecure and unable to feed our families well. We have no collateral to access credit to enable us, purchase fertilizers, inputs, and agricultural equipment like walking tractors for use in tilling our lands. As you can see, most of us are elderly and less energetic and yet the traditional tools we currently use requires energetic and young people, who unfortunately have all run to cities in search of better income generating jobs/businesses” Says, a group of women smallholder farmers, in Karonga district, Malawi, during, our practical on farm training workshop that included training farmers in Karonga district in modern tilling, planting, and fertilizer application techniques.
When asked what makes it difficult for them to access credit, Their Leader responded that, “The patriarch setup of our society and cultural norms here, are too discriminative, as they don’t allow women to own land. She went on to say that: Women here don’t own the lands on which they farm and therefore cannot present land a collateral to seek credit from banks”.
The average age of smallholder farmers in Africa is 65 implying that the smallholder farming is dominated by aging, who in most cases, are traditionally oriented and finds it hard to easily grasp and adopt modern farming techniques.
Agricultural policy makers in Africa, must begin addressing questions such as’, Why is it that agricultural sector in Africa is not attractive to the youth and what can be done to make farming enjoyable and profitable to the youth?
This bleak situation is prevailing in all African countries and needs to be resolved, if African countries are to attain rural transformation and sustainable development that is all inclusive factoring in the fact that, agriculture in Africa is dominated by smallholder farmers.
Smallholder farmers in Africa, needs money to acquire suitable new agricultural technologies to boost their farm yields but continues to face huge dilemma, in accessing agricultural credit financing due to lack of collateral and the matter is made worse by traditional norms in some communities, where land is communally owned and one cannot even dare to claim ownership over it and cannot therefore present it anywhere to seek agricultural financing loan.
But let us ask ourselves a question. Why is it that African countries have failed and are still failing to develop an agricultural financing model to replace land as collateral and what needs to be done?
I have extensively traveled in rural communities of several African countries, especially, Eastern, Southern and Western African countries, training smallholder farmers, in new evolving methods of profitable farming, and practically witnessed, the absence of agricultural technologies, knowledge transfer, and lack of access to credit, predicaments which the smallholder farmers are facing. This scenario is making it hard for them to jump out of food insecurity and poverty trap.
What then needs to be done? African governments together with banking institutions operating in African countries, must develop a financing model, that replaces land as collateral, which would be like in form of the governments depositing an evolving agricultural development fund, in selected banking institutions, for disbursement on an interest free basis, to mapped out smallholder farmers, who on after harvesting and selling their produce, must return back, the interest free borrowed funds, to these selected banks, so that the other smallholder farmers can be covered in an evolving scheme.
This must be done hand in hand, with governments organizing smallholder farmers, into cooperatives and giving them a production enhancement morale, initially, for example, by constructing for them postharvest storage and small scale value addition facilities. This will make them not only to avoid postharvest losses, but to also be in better position, to negotiate for better prices for their produce.
African governments, must also seriously persuade global leading manufacturers of agricultural equipment like AGCO, John Deere CLAAS, among others, to massively begin producing products for smallholder farmers too, and not only for large scale farmers, who for decades have been and still are their main target market. African smallholder farmers need suitable equipment such as, A70-100 PS tractors and not A600 PS tractors.
One year back, while on, a practical field learning tour of, CLAAS factory, one of the world’s leading manufacturers of Agricultural machinery, with corporate headquarters in Harsewinkel, Westphalia, Germany, with production facilities worldwide, in countries such as, Hungary, Nebraska, USA, Southern Russia, India, and China, I only witnessed monster agricultural machinery, suitable only for very large scale farming.
However the good news is that, these global agricultural equipment manufacturing brands, have all set foot in African countries, and have appreciated the need to start producing products for smallholder farmers too, and some are in fact, producing walking tractors, which a few small scale farmers are finding it easy in using, in boosting their production. These walking tractors, are still out of reach, for millions of smallholder farmers in Africa, and the onus, is therefore on African governments to develop a funding model that will enable their smallholders farmers to get these much needed suitable equipment.
In sum, the skyrocketing Africa’ population, which is expected to double from current 1.2 to 2.4 billion people by 2050, necessitates, that, the continent, must devise food production strategies, that will, rapidly result into massive production of food, on sustainable basis, in the next 20 years, failure of which, will leave a greater percentage of its people trapped in food insecurity and poverty scenario, with resultant impact of widened unrest, wars, and crime increase, and to avert such catastrophes, African government must do, whatever it takes, to help its smallholders farmers access suitable equipment and inputs, to boost their farm yields.
*Moses Hategeka, is a Ugandan based Independent Governance Researcher, Public Affairs Analyst and Writer.
The African Entrepreneurship Award will fund $1 million USD to African entrepreneurs with scalable and sustainable businesses in 2 new categories: Sports and Innovation
CASABLANCA, Morocco, March 12, 2018/ — BMCE Bank of Africa is proud to announce the March 1st opening of the 4th edition of the African Entrepreneurship Award (www.African-Award.com).
The Award was announced by President Othman Benjelloun in 2014 at the Marrakech Global Entrepreneurship Summit and illustrates BMCE Bank of Africa’s ambition to encourage entrepreneurship across borders in Africa by rewarding talent and technology.
This initiative aims to support talented entrepreneurs from Africa or Africans in the diaspora whose ideas create jobs and improve lives on the continent. The competition remains open for entries until April 30th.
During the past 3 years the Award was dedicated to projects in Education, Environment, and Uncharted categories. Over 12,000 entrepreneurs applied from 132 countries. Mentors selected 112 Finalists and the Presidential Jury selected 33 winners to receive funding to launch or scale their business.
Volunteer mentors from all over the world support entrepreneurs with free, online business advice. These mentors are entrepreneurs, academics, and leaders from all continents who assist the applicants throughout each stage of the contest.
This year, the African Entrepreneurship Award will fund $1 million USD to African entrepreneurs with scalable and sustainable businesses in 2 new categories: Sports and Innovation.
The first round is open to all entrepreneurs to apply, from every country in Africa. Rounds two and three question entrepreneurs on the scalability and sustainability of their idea. Applicants are asked to support their project with an uploaded video or document. At the end of the journey, Finalists are flown in to Morocco for a Boot Camp, before they pitch in front of the Presidential Jury for their chance at $ 1 million.
BMCE Bank of Africa operates in nearly 20 countries over the continent. With this fourth edition of the AEA, BMCE Bank of Africa reasserts its commitment to support and encourage young entrepreneurs in their efforts to create jobs and improve lives in Africa.
Applications Open to Find Africa’s Most Innovative Start-ups Meeting the Greatest Financial Inclusion Challenges
CAMBRIDGE, United States, March 12, 2018 -/African Media Agency (AMA)/- The Legatum Center for Development and Entrepreneurship at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), in collaboration with the Mastercard Foundation, today announced the launch of the 2018 edition of the Zambezi Prize for Innovation in Financial Inclusion. The prestigious competition, awarding a total of $200,000 in prizes, was established to discover Africa’s most promising and innovative early-stage start-ups that promote and advance financial inclusion on the continent.
There are multiple awards and opportunities available for finalists. The grand prize winner will be awarded $100,000 and the two runners-up will each receive up to $30,000.The top 10 finalists are guaranteed to each receive up to $5,000 in cash prizes as well as VIP tickets to the Zambezi Award ceremony, cohort-building activities, international media exposure, and personalized introductions to the MIT Legatum network of investors and mentors. Past Zambezi finalists have led projects ranging from agricultural finance for the small dairy farmer to an employee-centric boda boda taxi business model.
The top three winners will also be invited to attend the Zambezi boot camp during the MIT Inclusive Innovation Challenge (IIC) gala on the MIT campus in Boston and fast-tracked to the global grand prize with up to $1 million available. The IIC event is part of the MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy and, along with the MIT Legatum Center’s initiatives, examples of MIT’s global commitment to the future of work.
Munyutu Waigi, Co-Founder and Chief Customer Officer of Umati Capital receives the 2015 Zambezi Prize
This year’s competition will be supported by the MIT Legatum Center’s annual Open Mic Africa tour, a cross-continent tour in search of Africa’s most innovative entrepreneurs that will debut in Spring 2018. The Legatum Center, with support from Techpreneur Africa and the late Bolaji Finnih, hosted the premiere event of the 2017 Open Mic Africa tour in Lagos, Nigeria.
The Zambezi Prize and the Open Mic Africa tour are pillars of the Legatum Center’s Africa Strategy – a global vision to leverage MIT’s ecosystem to improve lives through principled entrepreneurial leadership. The Legatum Center’s Africa strategy is also a core component of MIT-Africa – the initiative that encompasses the Institute’s global priority for collaboration with the continent.
The Zambezi application is now open for early-stage African tech start-ups who are furthering financial inclusion in Africa. Applicants will be judged on their ability to solve one of the financial inclusion challenges put forth by the Prize; their current and potential impact on the local ecosystem; the scale of their innovation; and the feasibility of the solution.
About Legatum Center for Development and Entrepreneurship at MIT
The Legatum Center was founded on the belief that entrepreneurs and their market-driven solutions are critical to tackling the world’s greatest challenges and driving global prosperity. Based at MIT Sloan School of Management, the Center leverages expertise and research across campus to equip future leaders with the skills, values, and critical thinking they need to succeed as entrepreneurial change agents. The Center’s capstone initiative is the Legatum Fellowship Program which provides aspiring entrepreneurs with a world-class education and substantial tuition support. The Legatum Center also conducts a set of global activities to strengthen pathways between MIT and leaders of change in frontier markets.
The Mastercard Foundation works with visionary organizations to provide greater access to education, skills training and financial services for people living in poverty, primarily in Africa. As one of the largest, private foundations, its work is guided by its mission to advance learning and promote financial inclusion to create an inclusive and equitable world. Based in Toronto, Canada, its independence was established by Mastercard when the Foundation was created in 2006.
Roman Py says that countries that want to grow and rise in the near future need to be able to attract value and create capital as it is the only way forward
On the sidelines of the recent Power Africa Summit in Washington,DC,PAV caught up with recently caught up with Roman Py, Head of Transactions with the African Infrastructure Investment Managers (AIIM),to discuss infrastructure development in Africa .
Introducing AIIM, Romain Py said it was a private equity firm whose interests is in investing capital into development projects mainly targeting infrastructure development. AIIM’s main target areas include telecoms infrastructure, mainstream energy, transport and power i.e. both thermal and renewable.
AIIM was formed 18 years ago and has subsequently grown in leaps and bounds ever since ,Romain Py said. To date AIIM has managed assets worth over 2 billion dollars and is currently managing other million dollar assets and operations in 15 countries mostly in West Africa.
Explaining how they take on projects, My Roman Py stated that AIIM has a two-fold criteria it uses in selecting which projects to pursue and which projects not to pursue. The first criteria AIIM employs covers the country as a whole, AIIM looks at the prevailing socio-economic-political environment to determine the suitability of running projects in a country. As is the case with any other investment, Mr Roman Py said that AIIM assesses whether it’s feasible to invest in a country considering the current investment climate. If the environment is unstable owing to political disturbances and the likes, AIIM takes the decision not to invest in that particular country. The same also applies to the economic aspect, if the economy of the country is fragile, then it’s unfavourable for AIIM to invest in that country.
The second aspect pertains to sector specific investment climate. Mr Roman Py stated that on occasions, the overall socio-economic-political environment maybe stable but when one looks closely, it’s possible to see that in one area for instance energy, the legal framework covering that area maybe vague and ambiguous while the legal framework for investing in telecoms infrastructure maybe clear and favourable for investment. In this instance, AIIM will then make a decision on investing in the one area that is investor friendly and disengage from the other unfavourable investment sectors.
During its 18 years in existence, AIIM has had some big successes according to Mr Roman Py. While AIIM’s operations have seen the company working in various countries around the continent, it is in West Africa that AIIM has managed to record massive success. Mr Roman Py says AIIM’s first big success story came in 2014 when the firm managed to finish a 240 megawatt Independent Power Producer (IPP) plant in Ghana. This was soon followed by a 450 megawatt gas fired plant a year later in Nigeria. In 2017, AIIM also finished another 90 megawatt IPP power plant in Mali, the first of its kind in the country. In the same year, AIIM also won a bid for another IPP power plant in Ghana. AIIM has other IPP power plants still in progress in Kenya and in Cote d’ voire.
As is the norm when running a business, AIIM encounters operational challenges in its line of business. Though there are quite a number of challenges, Mr Roman Py stated that their two biggest challenges include the ever-changing socio-political environment in African countries and power shortages. He said that while AIIM diligently assesses each country before starting projects, there are cases where the environment quickly changes from stable to unstable owing to unforeseen circumstances. Also, AIIM encounters power challenges as most African countries have unreliable power supplies which makes it difficult for AIIM to operate as most its projects require high amounts of power.
Roman Py went on to state that the amount of capital being injected into infrastructure development projects has sharply decreased in recent years .He attributed this to the investment climate which is slowly deteriorating. Roman Py said that Africa saw massive capital injection in the last 10 years, but that has since stagnated in the past two years. To Roman Py, this is as a result of the failure by African governments in particular and also private entities to close projects. He said that there are many ‘ground-breaking’ ceremonies in Africa where Heads of State and Government launch major projects but abandon them soon afterwards leaving a trail of unfulfilled mega-deals.
This problem can be rectified however as Roman Py said African countries need to move away from signing too many deals that ultimately fail, but rather focus on projects that they can fulfill and close. Roman Py said that “success breeds success” and as such once the first project succeeds, then it sets a good precedent for the next project to succeed in the end culminating in a permanent circle of successful projects.
Roman Py also took time to comment on AIIM’s relationship with the Chinese. He said the relationship is more of a complementary relationship rather than a competitor relationship. This he explained saying Chinese come to Africa as contractors aiding government development projects and operate as contractors when on the ground. However, AIIM doesn’t operate as a contractor as it mostly conducts its business and operations separate from the government, it is more of a private entity.
Roman Py said that countries that want to grow and rise in the near future need to be able to attract value and create capital as it is the only way forward,citing Ethiopia, Tanzania, and Senegal as encouraging examples.
Both Morocco and the United States/Canada/Mexico must submit their 2026 World Cup bid books by 16 March.
The 2026 finals will be the first to feature 48 teams, 16 more than the tally that will contest both this year’s tournament in Russia and the 2022 event in Qatar.
The North African nation is making a fifth bid to host the World Cup, having failed to land the 1994, 1998, 2006 and 2010 editions.
Since none of the bidding nations are eligible to vote, Morocco will need to win 104 votes when the decision on who will host the 2026 finals is made in Russia on 13 June.
Earlier this week, the joint Canada-Mexico-US bid announced a reshuffle of its leadership, emphasising diversity as its leaders seek to attract voters.
The leaders of the US, Canada and Mexico federations will now serve as co-chairs of the bid, replacing former United States Soccer Federation chief Sunil Gulati, who steps down.
United 2026 said the changes reflect the “unity” at the highest levels of the joint bid, while some have seen the change in leadership as a strategic move to shift the perception of the bid as being a largely American-driven enterprise.
Blatter, who led Fifa for 17 years before being barred for ethics violations (that he is contesting) in 2015, was a central figure in organising the rotation system that eventually took the World Cup to Africa for the first time in 2010.
Ameenah Gurib-Fakim became Mauritius’s first elected female President in 2015
Mauritian President Ameenah Gurib-Fakim, Africa’s only female head of state, is to quit over a financial row.
She has been accused of using a bank card provided by a charity to make personal purchases worth tens of thousands of dollars.
She is to step down after ceremonies to mark the 50th anniversary of the island’s independence next week.
Denying wrongdoing, she said she had refunded all the money, Reuters news agency reports.
Ms Gurib-Fakim is a renowned scientist and in 2015 became the first woman to be appointed to the ceremonial position of president of Mauritius.
“The president of the republic told me that she would resign from office and we agreed on the date of her departure,” Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth told reporters without giving the chosen date.
“The interest of the country comes first, and I am proud of Mauritius’s image as a model of living democracy in the world.”
He added it would take place before parliament returned at the end of the month.
The Mauritian daily L’Express published bank documents purporting to show Ms Gurib-Fakim had used a credit card given to her by the Planet Earth Institute (PEI) in London to buy thousands of dollars worth of clothes, jewellery and other personal items.
According to the paper, the card was given to her as part of her work as an unpaid director for the charity.
One of the organisation’s directors is Angolan businessman Alvaro Sobrinho who, the paper says, secured a permit to found an investment bank in Mauritius, prompting allegations of favouritism.
Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta, left, and opposition leader Raila Odinga of the National Super Alliance (NASA) coalition shake hands after a joint news conference in Nairobi, March 9, 2018.
Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and opposition leader Raila Odinga met Friday in an apparent effort to settle months of violent post-election tensions. The meeting came just hours before a visit by U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.
In the surprise meeting, Kenyatta and Odinga agreed to work toward unifying the country after last year’s divisive presidential election.
The two – who, after their meeting, appeared together to give separate statements to the press – acknowledged the country was heading in the wrong direction.
Odinga, who has refused to recognize Kenyatta as president, paraphrased U.S. president Abraham Lincoln. He said Kenyans needed to know where they are and where they want to go before they can better judge what to do and how to do it.
“Fifty-four years since independence, we are challenged to audit our progress toward the ideals for which our fathers fought to establish a free and independent country and for which many of our compatriots died.”
As leaders, said Odinga, they had a duty to reflect on their performance in reaching Kenya’s goals since independence: justice, unity, peace, liberty and prosperity for all.
Kenyatta said the two men came to a common understanding that for Kenya to come together, its leaders must come together.
“And this is what me and my brother have agreed,” Kenyatta said, referring to Odinga. “That starting today, we will begin a process of bringing our people together. That we will begin a process discussing what ails us and what creates division amongst us.”
Miguna Miguna, a prominent Kenyan opposition lawyer and politician who was deported to Canada in February, denounced the Kenyatta-Odinga reconciliation.
In a statement posted to Facebook on Friday, he called the rapprochement “a fundamental betrayal of the innocent Kenyans who have lost their lives” supporting Odinga in several elections over the last decade.
Miguna, whose deportation was ruled illegal by Kenya’s High Court, said in his statement that he would return to Kenya on March 26 “to continue the struggle for electoral justice….”
Support for collaboration
On the streets of Nairobi, Kenyans also welcomed the leaders’ agreeing to work together.
“It’s a really good step towards harmonizing the country,” said Brian Wanjoki, a pedestrian. “Because the electioneering period has left us divided … supporters of both sides. So, I think it’s a really good idea that they’ve met. And, hopefully we can progress from this.”
Another man, Philip Ndung’u, also seemed encouraged by the leaders’ meeting.
Noting “the economy has been down,” Ndung’u said if the two “resolve their issues, well, at least it will show that we are moving forward and the issue to do with the election is it behind us.”
Devil in the details
Kenya was plunged into political crisis after the Supreme Court annulled the August presidential election, due to irregularities, and Odinga and his supporters boycotted a second round in October.
Odinga refused to recognize Kenyatta’s win; in January, he held a rally where his supporters symbolically inaugurated the opposition leader as president. Observers feared further division would follow the provocative action and the government’s crackdown on independent television and the opposition.
Friday’s breakthrough came just hours before U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s first official visit Kenya.
That’s not a coincidence, said independent political analyst Martin Andati.
“The meeting must have been come out of pressure from the U.S. secretary of state,” Andati said. “… You know the West has been very keen on trying to get Uhuru and Raila to meet. So, it helps ease the political tensions….”
While Andati called the agreement on unification significant for healing Kenyan politics, the devil will be in the details. We need to understand what exactly has been agreed upon, he said, noting the Kenyan leaders’ statements contained only generalities.
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, right, walks with Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta, left, past metal sculptures of animals, inside State House in Nairobi, Kenya, March 9, 2018.
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said on Friday the political reconciliation between Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta and opposition leader Raila Odinga is “a very positive step,” adding the United States supports the country’s political inclusion and democracy.
Kenyatta and Odinga met for the first time since last summer’s contentious presidential elections to start what they called a joint push for national unity.
Tillerson hailed the announcement during a joint news conference with Kenya’s Foreign Minister Monica Juma in Nairobi.
“Both of these men show great leadership, in coming together in the agreement they signed today,” the secretary said Friday. “The United States looks forward to supporting the process that was announced this morning to bring the country together, and to address the various national divisions.”
The top U.S. diplomat went on to stress the importance of an independent media to democracy and said the government should not stifle the media.
“We believe that there are actions that need to be taken in Kenya and that they need to correct certain actions, like shutting down TV stations and threatening the independence of the courts,” Tillerson said. “I know Kenya takes these matters seriously. A free and independent media is essential to safeguarding democracy and giving all Kenyans confidence in their government.”
The Kenyan government shut down three television channels in January on the day that Odinga took a symbolic presidential oath in a mock inauguration. The government defied a court order to allow the stations, which had planned to live-stream the oath, to resume broadcasts.
Foreign Minister Juma said moving forward, the government of Kenya is committed to a genuine political process based on fundamental values.
“I have reaffirmed and the president as well has reaffirmed Kenya’s commitment to the values of democratic governance, constitutionalism, the rule of law, and human rights,” Juma said Friday.
U.S. Institute of Peace senior adviser Johnnie Carson says a free and independent media instills public confidence.
“It is time for the parties to move forward, but it is the government’s responsibility to act responsibly in defense of the rule of law, in defense of the judiciary, in the defense of free speech and defense of protection of the media,” Carson told VOA.
Secretary Tillerson says the U.S. will seek to work with African nations, providing them with incentives to improve governance and meet their long-term security and development goals. He is on a five-nation trip to Africa that began earlier this week.
He arrived in Nairobi Friday from Djibouti. Tillerson kicked off his trip with a visit to Ethiopia on Wednesday, where he met with the country’s prime minister and the African Union Commission chief.