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Can Trump Save Africa and the African Diaspora After the Mixed Legacy of Obama?
January 9, 2017 | 0 Comments

By Dr. Roland Holou*

President Obama shakes hands with President-elect Trump

President Obama shakes hands with President-elect Trump

It is hard to address the perspectives on Africa at the beginning of 2017 without mentioning the Chinese influence in Africa and the impact of the election of President Donald Trump on the legacy of President Barack Obama, the first African American to be elected as President of the USA. When President Obama was elected in 2008, several people thought he would be the savior of Africa and its Diaspora. However, the feelings towards his legacy are diverse.

President Obama might have done what he could to strengthen democracy and boost economic growth in Africa for instance by extending the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) and the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) while investing in the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI). By organizing the very first U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit, he helped the US to revisit its strategy for Africa. Soon after Obama leaves office, some of his legacies in the USA (e.g. Obamacare, “immigration reform”, Medicaid expansion, minimum wage increase, overtime benefits, paid pregnancy and sick leave, civil rights enforcement, criminal justice reforms, progressive tax reforms, tax credits for low-income people, etc.), may be brought down or replaced by something else.

Although several people of African descent including some top civil rights movement leaders are disappointed by the legacy of Mr. Obama, it is worth noticing that he was sandwiched not only between some spiritual and racial strongholds, but also between the strategic forces that brought him to power and the tactical opposition he had to deal with once he managed to enter the White House, which was built by enslaved Africans whose descendants are still struggling in the Americas.

The Africans and their stakeholders must reflect on Mr. Obama’s “inability” to do the things that they once thought he could. Unfortunately, many people cannot or do not want to understand that, to some extent, the power of an American President like Mr. Obama is not as strong as that of some Presidents who can even choose to stay in power even if the result of the presidential vote says otherwise. The timing of the presidency of Obama might have also affected his performance as he inherited the worst economic crisis in the USA since the Great Depression of the 1930s. Yet, as he was preparing to leave office, the statistics showed that the US economy is stronger than when he took office. We need to acknowledge Obama for his efforts regardless of his weaknesses, and also thank God for having allowed an African descent to lead the “world’s #1 nation” for 8 years.

Many Africans would have loved that Mrs. Hillary Clinton be elected as the President of the USA in 2016. However, although she won the popular vote by nearly 3 million ballots, the Electoral College favored Mr. Trump. Several people of African descent did not come out to vote for Hillary as they did for Obama, therefore playing a role in the election of Trump who, during his “thank you tour”, acknowledged the African Americans for staying home during the election! The election of Mr. Trump could also be a divine set up that fits the end time as it was prophesied by the renowned Malawian Prophet Shepherd Bushiri (Major1), one of the most successful businessmen and ministers in the world.

Unlike Mr. Obama whose election brought hope to Africa and its Diaspora before they realized 8 years later that, one man at the White House cannot save them, the election of Mr. Trump seems to bring fear on some people as if Trump can sink Africa while trying to “Make America Great Again” as emphasized during his revolutionary campaign. Analyzing Mr. Trump’s campaign and the people he is choosing to fill his cabinet positions, it may sound at first glimpse that his policies may not favor the people of African descent. For instance, some people think that Mr. Trump may reduce or redesign US aid towards Africa. However, this should not scare anyone. For example, although not a descendant of Africa, President George W. Bush did a lot of great things for Africa and some well-known African leaders still believe that he  helped Africa more than Mr. Obama whose father was from Kenya.

Moreover, although foreign aid benefits some Africans, Africa is not supposed to be living on certain foreign “aid” which usually are strategic loans with high interest that are typically undetectable by the profane. Instead of counting on these “aids”, Africa should be seeking better opportunities that can allow it to put its own people to work and better manage its priceless human and natural resources that some people are still poaching for free. Therefore, let’s hope that, as a businessman who can negotiate deals, Mr. Trump ends up crafting some great agreements that can contribute to the ongoing efforts to advance Africa and its Diaspora.

Roland Holou

Roland Holou

Despite these controversial realities, there is hope for Africa and the African Diaspora if they can understand that their “salvation” will not come from any government in the East or West, but from themselves with the help of God Almighty, who did not predestinate Africa to be the headquarter of poverty despite its rich lands and smart intellectuals. That is why I still believe that the Africans must better partner with each other without forgetting the huge untapped potential of the African Diaspora that some leaders unfortunately refuse to realistically incorporate into their strategic agendas. Instead of putting their hope on people who usually disillusion them, the Africans need to keep up all good fights while counting on God to develop themselves and the motherland. As for the unspoken racial discrimination and the other forms of injustice, let’s not forget that, there is a God who will judge very soon!

*Dr. Roland Holou is a scientist, a businessman, an international consultant and expert in agribusiness, agriculture, agronomy, biotechnology, Diaspora engagement, Africa’s development, international trade and development. To learn more about his work or contact him, please visit www.DiasporaEngager.com, www.AfricanDiasporaLeaders.com and www.RolandHolou.com

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ECOWAS holds off on troop deployment to The Gambia
January 8, 2017 | 0 Comments

West Africa leaders not ready to send soldiers as they negotiate with outgoing President Jammeh to relinquish power.

Yahya Jammeh holds a copy of the Quran while speaking to a poll worker at a voting station [Thierry Gouegnon/Reuters]

Yahya Jammeh holds a copy of the Quran while speaking to a poll worker at a voting station [Thierry Gouegnon/Reuters]

West African leaders are still pursuing mediation to ensure a peaceful transfer of power in The Gambia where President Yahya Jammeh refused to accept defeat in an election last month.

Liberia’s President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf told reporters on Saturday after a meeting among regional leaders in Ghana’s capital Accra that regional bloc ECOWAS did not yet intend to deploy its standby military force in the country.

“We are committed to a peaceful mediation and a peaceful transfer of power in The Gambia. We will continue to pursue that for now,” said Sirleaf who chairs the 15-member body.

Asked if the regional group would deploy a standby force soon, she said “no”, adding that ECOWAS was closely monitoring proceedings in The Gambia’s Supreme Court where Jammeh is challenging the poll result.

Nigerian Foreign Minister Geoffrey Onyeama said ECOWAS would hold a meeting on Monday in Abuja to discuss further steps.

“There are some disturbing information the [Nigerian] president [Muhammadu Buhari] is hearing which he needs to verify and the Abuja meeting will take a final decision,” he said, without elaborating.

Buhari has been appointed by ECOWAS as a mediator.

Jammeh, a former coup leader who has ruled the country for 22 years, initially accepted his defeat by opposition figure Adama Barrow in the December 1 election. But a week later he reversed his position, vowing to hang onto power despite a wave of regional and international condemnation.

Diplomats are concerned the impasse over the poll could escalate quickly into violence.

*Reuters/Al Jazeera

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Africa: International Media and Human Rights Organisations Stole the Gambia Election
January 2, 2017 | 0 Comments

Photo: U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Jeremy T. Lock. Yahya Jammeh initially conceded defeat in the elections before rejecting them in a dramatic U-turn. COLUMN By Lonzen Rugira President Yahya Jammeh, in his New Year's message to the Gambian people, persisted in his rejection of last month's election outcome, which he

Photo: U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Jeremy T. Lock.
Yahya Jammeh initially conceded defeat in the elections before rejecting them in a dramatic U-turn.
COLUMN
By Lonzen Rugira
President Yahya Jammeh, in his New Year’s message to the Gambian people, persisted in his rejection of last month’s election outcome, which he

President Yahya Jammeh, in his New Year’s message to the Gambian people, persisted in his rejection of last month’s election outcome, which he says was tampered with.

On this basis, he quickly rescinded his concession to Adama Barrow, the coalition candidate. He has petitioned the Supreme Court to declare the election null and to demand for a fresh vote; meanwhile, he has declared that he will stay in office in order to ‘defend the constitution.’

But was it the election that was tampered with or was it Jammeh himself? Jammeh’s mistake thus far is to pretend that the reason for his rescission is the former.

He ought to have come clean that it was the latter that had forced his change of heart.

It was all perplexing. For some reason, folks in the leadership of the political opposition thought it was wise to bloviate to the international media about their plans for the president, a man who had just conceded defeat: there would be no immunity; they’d return to the ICC; they’d seize Jammeh’s assets and prevent him from traveling abroad; and they’d prosecute him in less than a year and possibly within the next three months because they wanted to “move fast,” a senior official was quoted saying.

They’d even go as far as bragging that Jammeh had tried to reach out to Barrow but the latter had denied him access. They feared that Jammeh was too cunning that if given an audience he would manage to win himself a deal that would exchange immunity for leaving power: “The President-Elect has refused because his predecessor is so unpredictable,” a senior member of the opposition coalition is quoted telling the Guardian news organisation, before boasting, “There’s no question of immunity.”

Similar stories were published in the aftermath of the election. There were all kinds of “inside reporting” that painted a picture of a besieged Jammeh. In one of the stories, the reporter was certain about the events that transpired on election night.

She wrote how the chiefs of police and army had gone to meet with Jammeh and that they had urged him to ‘prepare for defeat.’ They told him, she said, that he was on his own because ‘the people had spoken.’

He could not count on their support henceforth. Whether such reporting intends to convince that one, Jammeh in this case, is at once a brutal dictator as well as someone who welcomes threats from his subordinates is left hanging.

In her reportage, she even managed to solicit quotes from senior opposition politicians – the government in waiting – who were eager to play along. They are caricatured and they caricature themselves along the way.

I, like most people observing the train-wreck, waited for the voice of reason from the opposition to deny any association with such ‘inside reporting’ and to provide the requisite reassurance.

 Nothing. And so, a crisis was birthed. Political immaturity in the form of the strategic inability to manage victory was manifest through a series of tactical blunders. But a different path was possible.

Political maturity would have dictated that if, indeed, there’s reason to ‘move fast’ the rhetoric ought to have quickly shifted to reconciliation programmes and calls to all forces to join the new government in forging a united path in efforts geared towards building a country were all Gambians would be proud to all home.

Such a message would have resonated well to both the outgoing government as well as to the thousands of exiles who were driven out of the county over the years.

Or simply promise to ‘move fast’ against poverty. But beyond the tactical errors is a more profound problem. The unforced errors of the political opposition in the Gambia that made them fumble away victory is borne of the inconvenient truth faced by most opposition political parties in Africa: that the people inside their respective countries are not the primary constituency of interest.

This is otherwise known as democracy for the gallery. It is a serious problem facing Africa in its efforts to democratise. As is often the case, the primary constituency is the Western gallery. And so, the opposition in the Gambia was eager to bear fruit to its benefactors, their partners in the fight against “autocratic rule.”

In this haste, the opposition exposed itself to a display in the Internationalmould of youthful exuberance.

But they were not alone. Even their patrons in the West are often rushed to demonstrate to their local constituencies that their work to spread democracy in foreign lands is paying off: government agencies in a rush for vindication that their civic education programmes work; NGOs positioning themselves to to raise more funds, etc.

In this haste, the opposition often loses most. In the Gambia, they sacrificed the movement. For Jammeh, this was proof that the country was under siege and that the opposition were fifth columnists, stooges of foreign forces. Handing over power to them would be irresponsible. And so, he usurped the responsibility to ‘defend the constitution.’

Who could blame him? This is the signal the opposition was sending out. Now they are rescinding their threats saying that they will not prosecute him. But the adage goes that once the genie is out of the bottle it cannot be put back inside.

It was a political own goal. External tampering helped usurp the democratic process from the Gambian people, inadvertently retrenched the ‘dictatorship” they claim intent on fighting, and in so doing usurped power from Adama Barrow.

It also gave rise to a conflictual political environment that could lead to serious violence.

*The New Times/AllAfrica

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Where are African scholars in African studies?
December 26, 2016 | 0 Comments

By Yusuf Serunkuma*

Prof Ali Mazrui

Prof Ali Mazrui

Many postcolonial regimes are still mired in protracted civil wars and violence, struggling economies, corruption, bad leadership, broken social and economic infrastructure and famine.  It is rather dishonest for a country whose main university could be closed for months by presidential decree, whose professors strike year in year out over emoluments, to complain about an overwhelming European or American presence in their studies.

A white European friend tells a story of a panel on ‘African sexuality’ he attended in London sometime in 2005.  Among other things, the panel discussed intimacy, sexual pleasure, anal sex, marital rape and genital beautification or mutilation—all from what was considered the vantage point of the African. Not only was the panel exclusively white, a large section of the audience was also white. With whiteness symbolically read as being European or North American, it translated not only into foreignness to the topics being discussed, but also privileged grandchildren of colonial masters gazing at Africans.  Where were the African academics, at least, marked by their shiny dark or brown skins? Were they invited but failed to get transport? Did these European and North Americans really understand, and accurately and objectively bring out the intricate and many secret details of ‘African sexuality’? These questions sparked off a long-winded conversation, which, despite its liveliness, left one key question unanswered: Where were the African scholars?

With the exception of a few celebrity names—who actually make quite a list—African studies remain dominated, discursively and institutionally, by non-African scholars: African studies associations are not only headquartered in European and North American universities, but also hold their annual conferences in Europe and North America. During these conferences, it is very common to find specific country caucuses (Ugandan, Kenyan, Nigerian or Somali) with majority scholars of European and North American descent.  Part of the explanation for this is that African scholars cannot afford to travel to Europe and North America for these sessions.  Location may not necessarily be the issue, but the numerical superiority of whiteness in these plenaries (and in publications) has been concern for many non-white academics and their students as they grumble under their breath bemoaning the continued colonization, marginalization and scholarly misrepresentation.

It is also true that ‘leading journals’ in African studies are not only headquartered in Europe and North America, but many are mostly edited by European and American academics. Many times, the contributions to these journals reproduce similar patterns.  On the other hand, there are only a few African studies associations or journals on Africa, based on the African continent, managed, contributed to and edited by African hands.  The problem is then framed with whiteness being not just a timeless symbolism of continued colonial domination and marginalization of Africans, but also of biased, unrepresentative, inaccurate, and epistemologically flawed scholarship.

Our conversation unfolded against the above backdrop, with the bells of decolonization and the rise of the “African intellectual” ringing nearby.  As a self-reflective white male, he was visibly guilty of their continued ‘crimes’ to African studies but did not see a clear exit.  Should he back off and let African studies to Africans, or start co-authoring all his pieces with ‘African’ co-authors?  Exactly, in the age of decolonization and the rise of the African university, why do white people, these grandchildren of colonial masters, continue to speak for, write about formerly colonized peoples to the point of dominating disciplines? This often translates into defining the terms of the discipline, which are often, the charge goes, Eurocentric.  Why don’t they let the Africans write, represent and speak for and about themselves especially on ‘inner’ subjects such as sexuality? Why don’t white folks sit back and listen and learn? How accurate is this knowledge produced by foreigners about people they barely know? In other words, why don’t they heed Spivak?

There are three assumptions behind these charges:  First, there exists a world stage of ‘competitive scholarship’ where continents, countries, nationalities, special groups such as women and ‘minorities’ seek not only accurate representation, but also equal participation.  Accurate representation and active participation are taken as not only signifying but also granting access to power (respect, resources, pride etc.), which is the envy of the world.  It then follows that inaccurate representation, and the absence of participation translates into, symbolically and practically, denial of power and substantive existence, as colonialism defined.

Secondly, presence and participation guarantees not just a leveled playing field, but also objective scholarship, that is, neutral, representative or even accurate.  The ‘native’ has to be listened to, since nobody understands them like themselves.  Without seeming to essentialize nativity or indigeneity, it is agreeable that there is a certain sensibility, an awareness that comes with belonging, and inhabiting the particular space under study.

The third assumption is that white scholars have actively sidelined African scholars just the way their grandparents who colonized the continent did. In other words, just like their grandparents, white scholars still patronize the native to speak about themselves.  An equal presence of Africans in intellectual spaces, with perhaps equal power and learning, will not only point in the direction of complete liberation but also acknowledgement of the African as a free and thinking subject.

Although we should be sympathetic to this tone of conversation, it is my contention that it is improperly framed in ways that are not only ahistorical and essentialist, but also dishonest to current social-political conditions of the African peoples.  The invisibility of the ‘African academic’ in African studies is undeniable.  However, to demand grandchildren of former colonial masters to leave African studies to African academics—as a way of decolonizing African studies, or ensuring accurate and objective representation is misleading.

Secondly, even to demand equal participation, say through ‘affirmative inclusion’ does not sound like decolonizing the academy.  It is actually one way of re-affirming an insubordinate position.  The one with the power to invite and recruit does have power to define the terrain of the debate.  Instead of asking how to decolonize the academy through more ‘African participation,’ my argument seeks to point to the challenges of representation, and the problem with seeking presence of ‘African scholars in African studies.’ This is not to argue that the concern over the absence is completely misplaced, rather my intention is to reframe the ways in which we approach and think about scholars, and their subjects in our so-called ‘African studies.’ My overall aim is to draw our attention to the history of the present, and how our intellectual history cannot be divorced from the political and economic histories of the present.

***

Let’s start from the beginning: The category, ‘African’ often remains problematic. Despite the attractiveness of claiming and theorizing the ‘African worldview,’ and ‘African identity,’ (Soyinka 1975, Mbembe 2002) African, as an analytical category (besides its political—as used in international relations—and geographical reference), is vague and difficult. I have never understood ‘African’ in African studies, African literature, African philosophy or African culture.  It is not just that African cannot be homogenous, but also ‘African’ cannot be exclusive of other traditions—new and old.  Indeed, one of the most eloquent critiques against Mazrui’s (2005) notion of Africa having triple heritage is that he reduced the African heritage to just three (perhaps painfully closing out Chinese and Indian influences whose presence remains most visible in our times).  By being open to other traditions and changing in time and space, often in individually stylized forms (Mbembe 2002) sufficiently denies it conceptual and analytical crust. In the age of capitalist expansion, Ahmed Aijaz (1992) argues, the world has become more connected through production and consumption and the opposition of the 99% to the excesses of capital.  What then constitutes ‘African’ both as an identity and an analytical category? What are these identities outside geography and the politics of international relations?  What is the ‘first intelligibility’ of Africanness? Even in its smaller denominations—Ugandan, Nigerian or Kenyan—it does not make conceptual sense.

Secondly, indigeneity never translates into ‘authentic’ scholarship. Although it is true that inhabiting and belonging accords a certain awareness and sensitivity, it does not follow that to be is to know.  Neither does it follow that the outsider is infinitely locked out of these locational and membership acquired knowledge systems and experiences.  Claims that Ugandans, Kenyans or women are the best suited to write about their realities have only gained currency with the rise of “bad scholarship,” especially with the decline of philological engagement (Said, 2003). Said’s critique in Orientalism was meant to question bad scholarship, unmasking both the eyes with which (especially European) scholars read the Other, and the politico-economic projects that, sometimes inadvertently, informed their scholarship.  Re-introducing his project in 2003, Said advocated a robust process of academic inquiry, which required ‘a profound humanistic spirit deployed with generosity and…hospitality’ where ‘the interpreter’s mind actively makes a place in it for a foreign Other’ (Said, 2003: xix). Said stressed the idea of making space for the foreign other as the most important process of good scholarship.  This process, he argued, entailed ‘knowledge of other peoples and other times that is the result of understanding, compassion, careful study, and analysis for their own sakes’ (ibid).  Here, scholarship becomes an entire body and soul immersion of the scholar. The scholar seeks to become like the community they study. They “deeply” live with, and learn the language and “cultures” of the people under study. Put differently, they become “naturalized” members.  The scholar tries as they possibly could to understand the community on its internal logics.  Following this schema, knowledge, with all its trappings of power, remains an active process of cultivation and learning, not just experience and belonging.  Even language, which is believed to come more naturally to man, comes with conscious learning, not simply birth or location.

Third, the notion of ‘objectivity’ often pitched in this context to mean truthful, accurate, neutral, representative scholarship is one claim that is good for absolutely nothing. Without mixing this up with demands for rigor, all scholarship is biased depending on the questions and vantage point of the author (Foucault 1975, Usman 2006; Khaldun 1967). This is not to argue that the search for facts is a meaningless exercise. Instead, this suggests that facts do not interpret themselves. Indeed, there is neither a singular interpretation nor a singular internal logic. The exercise of interpretation is nothing but a subjective engagement—wound around questions, politics, and different forms of violence.  It is the moment.  Indeed, all sources, disciplines and the conclusions reached are often political in the sense that they are intended to respond to the present.

If the above grounds are agreeable, that is, abundance or demand for philological scholarship on African subjects by non-African scholars, and the absolute unimportance of any quests for objectivity, why then does the question of ‘African scholars in the African studies’ persist?  Without seeking to dismiss the question entirely, we need to establish the intellectual project behind it. Is it objective scholarship? Total liberation? Equality? Despite being widely articulated as a concern for total liberation and breaking with the yoke of domination and marginalization, my contention is that neither of the above explains the persistence of this question, except the “catharsis of visibility:” A symbolism of access to power (resources, pride and respect) on the global academic stage, Africans long numerical presence to be seen as owning their scholarship.  However, we can define “African” only in geographic and diplomatic terms (citizenship), which also do not allow us analytical and conceptual depth in the context of the present. If defined as men and women born, raised and educated on the African continent or with African ancestry and with visible identifiable features especially black or brown skin, this will be good but for absolutely nothing. Firstly, it is half analysis since it does not contextualize the general absence of Africans (scholars, power centers, footballers, technicians, inventors, medicine) in all “competitive” global spaces.  Secondly, it is not interested in assessing the quality of production focusing entirely on who produces what.  Third, it seeks to treat scholarship as an exclusive terrain operating outside politics and economics.

Besides any racist undertones it mobilizes on the part of the African, whiteness remains a symbolically powerful synecdoche for colonial marginalization and domination in all things African. My point is that we need to frame our reflex to this history differently, in ways that seek to appreciate and embrace it rather than angrily bash it to the point of asking present European and American scholars to apologize for it.  The critique against the absence of African scholars is often pitched in the language of complete decolonization of the academy, as a search for African knowledge traditions, and full (sometimes, exclusive) participation of African peoples.  This is a vanity endeavor.  This approach actually dissociates scholarship from the politics of the present—the present inherited from different moments in history.  To put it differently, claims for ‘total liberation’ of formerly colonized places remain only but essentialist.  David Scott insightfully reminds us that the language of total liberation problematically suggests a story of romantic overcoming where ‘our pasts can be left behind and new futures leapt into (Scott, 2004: 135).’  Scott urges that formerly colonized peoples ought to see their history as a story of tragedy which demands ‘a more respectful attitude to the past, to the often-cruel permanence of its impress (ibid).’ Rather than angry resentment, this history ought to be respected acknowledging that the terrain in which scholarship (and many other fields) is engaged on the world stage was radically reordered by history (colonialism, structural adjustment etc.) both epistemologically and numerically.

At the same time, it is helpful to be mindful of the present challenges of the postcolonial state and how these do not only affect scholarship in formerly colonized places, but other aspects of life. Many postcolonial regimes are still mired in protracted civil wars and violence, struggling economies, corruption, bad leadership, broken social and economic infrastructure and famine.  It is rather dishonest for a country whose main university could be closed for months by presidential decree, whose professors strike year in year out over emoluments, to complain of an overwhelming European or American presence in their studies.  Such countries produce more raw materials for scholarship (for foreign scholars) than scholars.  It does not matter whether these conditions are a legacy of colonialism (Mamdani 1996; Rodney 1972, dependency theorists) or the present political elite is responsible for them (Cooper 2007).  As long as this remains the condition on the continent, in addition to an irredeemably reordered scholarly terrain, ‘African’ scholars, at the level of numbers, will remain invisible in African studies.

* Pambazuka.Yusuf Serunkuma Kajura is a PhD Fellow, Makerere Institute of Social Research (MISR), Makerere University.

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West African States Threaten Military Action in Gambia
December 24, 2016 | 0 Comments
FILE - Gambian President Yahya Jammeh arrives at a polling station with his wife Zineb during the presidential election in Banjul, Gambia, Dec. 1, 2016.

FILE – Gambian President Yahya Jammeh arrives at a polling station with his wife Zineb during the presidential election in Banjul, Gambia, Dec. 1, 2016.

West Africa’s regional bloc has threatened to use force in Gambia if the country’s longtime leader does not step down in January as scheduled, following his loss in presidential elections.

The chairman of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Marcel de Souza, told reporters Friday that the bloc has a standby force.

“The deadline is January 19, when the mandate of [President Yahya] Jammeh expires,” de Souza said. “If he doesn’t go, we have a standby force, which is already on alert.” He said the force should be able to intervene “to restore the will of the people.”

De Souza said ECOWAS had chosen Senegal to lead any military operation. Senegal, which geographically surrounds Gambia on three sides, had previously said that military action would be a last resort.

The regional group has been leading diplomatic efforts to try to persuade Jammeh to step down.

Jammeh, who has ruled Gambia for 22 years, initially accepted defeat after December’s presidential election, but a week later he changed his mind. He said voting irregularities made him question the win by opposition candidate Adama Barrow.

The president has said ECOWAS has no authority to meddle in Gambia’s internal affairs.

Took power in coup

Jammeh, 51, has ruled the tiny West African nation since taking power in a military coup in 1994. He won four subsequent elections that critics said were neither free nor fair and supported a 2002 constitutional amendment that removed presidential term limits. He once said he could rule Gambia for “a billion years.”

Rights groups have often accused Jammeh of having political opponents and journalists either arrested or killed.

Barrow, also 51, represented a coalition of seven opposition parties that challenged Jammeh in December’s election. Gambia’s Independent Electoral Commission said that Barrow won 263,000 votes, or 45 percent of the total, while Jammeh took 212,000 votes, about 36 percent. A third candidate, Mama Kandeh, won 17 percent.

Gambia’s Supreme Court will hear a case next month, brought by Jammeh, that seeks to cancel results of the December election.

Gambia, a former British colony, occupies a narrow sliver of land surrounded by French-speaking Senegal. About 880,000 Gambians were eligible to vote in the December 1 poll, which took place under a complete communications blackout, including social media platforms.

*VOA

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Female Parliamentarians from across Africa meet in Nairobi to discuss new policies on property rights
December 22, 2016 | 0 Comments

The African Development Bank (AfDB) and the Women in Parliaments Global Forum (WIP) hosting the first meeting of the WIP Council on Economic Empowerment in Kenya

 

Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi

Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi

Nairobi, Kenya 20 December 2016 – The African Development Bank (AfDB) and the Women in Parliaments Global Forum (WIP) convened female Parliamentarians from 12 African countries in Nairobi, Kenya, to share perspectives on strategies for female MPs to promote legal reforms which ensure that women’s property rights are included in all African legal frameworks. The meeting provided an occasion to discuss and address the current African property rights landscape with special attention given to the role of MPs in advancing property and inheritance laws for women across Africa.

The major recommendations from the meeting were, among others:

 

–              Ensuring the Harmonization of laws and reviewing and repealing discriminatory laws, by working on amending, passing or repealing necessary laws. Lack of staffing was identified as a major constraints and MPs requested the support of the Bank to develop capacity building program on research; analysis and training on the content of current laws and the types of reforms that would be considered best practices;

 

–              Funding legislation on women and agriculture at the regional and national level;

–              Promotion of better data collection through relevant ministries and ensure that Governments collect systemic sex-disaggregated data, particularly related to land and property rights. The meeting underscored the need for the African Development Bank to support collection of gender specific data;

–              Highlighting specific gender targets in Ministry of agriculture strategy;

–              Financing entrepreneurship in Agriculture;

–              Zimbabwe is establishing a women’s bank and wants AfDB’s support in making sure it is a success;

–              MPs identified the need to mechanize agriculture so that women can do a better job of feeding their families and realizing better yields;

–              Information sharing and sensitization;

–              Access to Justice/Legal aid: When women’s rights are violated, they are too poor and don’t have the means to go through extended litigation. MPs should fight for legal aid provisions through the parliament.  Other support networks of women lawyers should be explored and capacitated.

The Bank and WIP will carefully consider the points raised and identify that will inform an action plan that will be ready by January 2017. The outcome of the meeting in Nairobi will lead up to the discussion during the WIP Global Summit 2017. Members of the WIP Council on Economic Empowerment from all regions of the world are expected to attend this high-level Summit.

This event was the first meeting of the WIP Council on Economic Empowerment and brought together active female Parliamentarians from the WIP network in Africa, academia and other research institutions, government officials, business leaders and members of CSOs to discuss and provide innovative solutions to the challenges related to women’s property rights, in order to achieve women’s economic development. The purpose of the WIP Council is to address issues (legal and institutional), share best practices, stimulate dialogue, shape agendas, advocate and drive legislative reforms at the national and regional level. Council Members will meet annually at WIP Summits, targeted African Development Bank Annual Meetings as well as during targeted regional meetings.

Gabriel Negatu, Director General of the AfDB’s Eastern Africa Regional Center (EARC) provided welcoming remarks, highlighting that “Africa has witnessed significant progress on gender equality. Despite this progress, there are still areas such as the legal status and land and property rights, where more is yet to be done”. The AfDB believes that the continent’s long-term competitiveness depends on how well Africa empowers its women. In many African countries, however, unequal access to property, discriminatory laws including land and tenure rights, and discrimination in the labor market, and business-related obstacles hinder women from contributing even more to their countries’ growth and well-being. According to the Social Institutions and Gender Index (SIGI) of the OECD, which classifies countries around the world according to their level of discrimination, only 20% of all countries in the low discrimination category are African; while an overwhelming 82% are found in the very high discrimination category. We should also recognize that Africa is doing better in using the potential of women in politics with 16 of the 46 countries with 30 or more women in parliament being African, including apart from the world champion Rwanda, countries like Sudan (30%), Tunisia and Algeria (31%); Ethiopia (39%); Mozambique (40%) and Senegal (43%). The Bank is very active in moving the agenda of women’s economic empowerment and today, we will speak about some of the initiatives we have put in place to advance this agenda. We must take advantage of partnerships to ensure we remove these obstacles and invest in gender equality, hence the critical importance of partnering with MPs given their unique role in passing/advancing laws that ensure gender equality and women’s economic empowerment.

 

Florence Mutua, member of the Kenyan parliament pointed out that: ”We cannot talk about creating the necessary legislations and policies to grant women their rights without also discussing structures that empower women access to resources and more importantly, property. The unequal ratio of ownership between men and women contributes substantially to this condition. Lack of rights to tenure or ownership render many women unable to protect themselves, and this in turn prevent access to credit through lack of collateral, thus reinforcing the control that men traditionally have over the household and its dependents. These underlying issues are the main reason that we need laws that specifically speak to access to and ownership of property.  In Africa, only a handful of countries including Burkina Faso, Malawi, Mozambique, Niger, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zimbabwe and more recently Kenya have laws that speak to women’s access to property. It took Kenya more than 50 years to come up with the Matrimonial Property law that gives women rights to property ownership in marriage, this even against the backdrop of one of the most progressive Constitutions in the world with regards to gender equality”.

 

The Special Envoy on Gender and Vice-President of the African Development Bank, Geraldine J Fraser Moleketi, explained that: It is widely acknowledged that property rights and inheritance laws directly impact women’s economic livelihoods. This is particularly true for women in agriculture, where land is a central asset for crop production, animal rearing, and other income generating activities. Secure land rights allow women to realize food security for themselves and their families, to leverage land assets as capital for forward looking investments, and to generate wealth. Strengthening women’s property and inheritance rights is critical to empowering their full economic and social potential.  Lack of property ownership and asset control prevents women from realizing their full potential in the agricultural sector. Studies have shown that women’s rights over land are inferior to those of men. The strength of one’s property rights defines the incentives to invest time, energy, and other resources into any business venture. Absent land title or other assets, banks will not lend to female famers who seek to grow their agricultural business. As indicated in a study conducted by the Bank entitled: ‘Legal Frameworks and Women’s Voice and Agency in Africa’. The study suggests that 16 countries still create barriers to women’s access to financial services, be it in opening bank accounts, or applying for national identity cards; 17 countries still do not have legislation to protect women from domestic violence, leaving them vulnerable and restricting their voice and agency.

The Special Envoy incites Parliamentarians to be bolder as they have the responsibility and the ability to accomplish much for women in economic sectors (i.e. agriculture), through a variety of mechanisms. These mechanisms include: (1) review and repeal of discriminatory laws; (2) promotion of better data collection through relevant ministries; (3) insistence on specific gender targets; (4) financing entrepreneurship in agriculture; (5) information dissemination and legal aid.

The AfDB strongly believes in the critical role of Members of Parliament particularly in advocating for the legal reforms that will benefit women, including in their quest to access finance. The Bank is also working with a number of parliamentary networks such as WIP to ensure MPs receive the support required to tackle some of the identified challenges. The Special Envoy concludes by appealing to all the legislator to help Governments to push to push and reform discriminatory legislations and help effect legal and policy reforms for gender equality. Only when women are able to follow their dreams freely, Africa reach its full potential.

 

 

 

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Gambia: Buhari, other West African leaders cannot intimidate me – Jammeh
December 22, 2016 | 0 Comments

By *

The Gambian President, Yahya Jammeh, has hit out at regional mediators urging him to step down, saying he will not be intimidated.

President Jammeh had earlier conceded defeat in the election, after a 22-year-rule, but recanted a week later, asking for fresh polls to be conducted by a “god-fearing and independent electoral commission.”

His decision not to accept the result has drawn condemnation worldwide including from the UN, ECOWAS, and the U.S.

Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari and Presidents Ernest Koroma, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and John Mahama of Sierra Leone, Liberia and Ghana respectively led an ECOWAS delegation to visit Mr. Jammeh last week Tuesday.

The West African regional bloc, ECOWAS, had called on him to honour his initial pledge to accept electoral defeat.

The leaders are not expected to reveal the details of the of the mediation until all talks are concluded. However, observers believe apart from asking Mr. Jammeh to leave office, the West African leaders are also trying to save him and his loyalists from prosecution after leaving office.

ECOWAS had said military intervention might be a possibility if diplomatic efforts failed to persuade Mr. Jammeh to leave office.

Mr. Jammeh has launched a court action to annul the vote after the electoral commission changed some results.

In a 45-minute speech at the African Bar Association on Tuesday night, Mr. Jammeh defended his position, saying West African leaders had violated the ECOWAS principle of non-interference.

“Who are they to tell me to leave my country?” he said during his televised speech.

“I will not be intimidated by any power in this world. I want to make sure justice is done.

“I’m a man of peace, but I cannot also be a coward. I am a man of peace but that does not also mean that I will not defend myself and defend my country and defend my country courageously, patriotically and win.”

The BBC’s Umaru Fofana in Gambia’s capital, Banjul, says it was Mr. Jammeh’s first public reaction to last week’s intervention by ECOWAS leaders. The Gambian leader used the opportunity to reiterate his call for fresh elections as the only way to resolve the impasse.

West African leaders met President Jammeh (C) in Banjul last week

West African leaders met President Jammeh (C) in Banjul last week

Some analysts have suggested that reports that Mr. Jammeh could face prosecution were behind his refusal to leave office

Human rights groups have accused the Gambian leader of committing serious abuses against opponents during his 22-year rule.

The Gambia has not had a smooth transfer of power since independence from Britain in 1965.

*Premium Times

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How Cummings will Transform Liberia, Africa If Elected President –
December 5, 2016 | 0 Comments

alex-cummings-450x450ALEXANDER B. Cummings, Jr. is a Liberian politician, philanthropist and a proven business leader. Born at the Liberian Government Hospital in Monrovia, Liberia, Cummings is a man of humble background from Maryland County. He started his elementary education at Monrovia Demonstration Elementary School and attended high school at the College of West Africa, where he participated in various social and intellectual clubs. He served yearly as a class officer including first as class senator, then treasurer and eventually senior class president.

After graduation from high school, Cummings attended the Cuttington University College for two years before leaving for the United States to further his studies at the Northern Illiis University, where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Finance and Economics. Dedicated to his roots, he returned to Liberia and worked at Liberian Bank for Development and Investment, LBDI, as an analyst.

He later returned to the US to further his studies and earned an MBA in Finance from Atlanta University (currently Clark-Atlanta University). After his MBA, he joined The Pillsbury Company in the US where he climbed through the ranks, eventually becoming Vice President of Finance for Pillsbury International. There, he had financial responsibility for a growing $1.2 billion international branded food business with operating companies in 16 countries.

Cummings joined The Coca-Cola Company, the world’s largest beverage manufacturer, in 1997 as region manager, Nigeria. In 2000, he was named president of the company’s North & West Africa Division.

In March 2001, he became president and chief operating officer of the Africa group, responsible for the company’s operations in Africa, encompassing a total of 56 countries and territories across the continent. In 2008, he was appointed executive vice president and chief administrative officer, CAO, of The Coca-Cola Company and has served in that capacity since that time. As CAO, he leads a structure that consolidates key global corporate functions to effectively support the business operations of The Coca-Cola Company’s five operating groups across over 200 countries.

Cummings has a long history of philanthropy and supporting Liberia globally; supporting funding for water projects and providing students scholarships in Liberia, and donating to various causes including the African Methodist Episcopal University’s Innovation Centre named in his honour.

In 2011, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf conferred on Cummings the distinction of Knight Great Band – Humane Order of African Redemption; the medal is one of the highest honours in Liberia and is awarded for humanitarian work in Liberia, for acts supporting and assisting the Liberian nation. He recently launched the Cummings Africa Foundation, and facilitated the construction and dedication of a self-named STEM, Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, academic institution, the first of its kind in Liberia.

Cummings currently serves on the boards of Chevron, C.A.R.E. and Clark Atlanta University. He also is a board member of S.C. Johnson & Son, Inc. and Coca-Cola Bottling Co. Consolidated, a publicly traded bottler of The Coca-Cola Company, NASDAQ. He is a member of the Executive Leadership Council. He has previously served on several international boards. His interest in the Liberian political development has been welcomed and hailed by the generality of the country.

cummings-300x300Cummings is happily married to Teresa Cummings and they have been together for 34 years. Together they have two children – Ayo and Boikai Cummings and a loving granddaughter, Nyah.

Cummings, who is also a presidential aspirant, was inducted into the prestigious Realnews Hall Fame at the Fourth Anniversary Lecture of the organisation, which held in Abuja, November 17, for  being a discussant at the Lecture on “Security and National Development in a Plural Democratic Society” delivered by Mohamed Ibn Chambas, Special Representative of the United Nations’ Secretary General for West Africa and Sahel. In this exclusive interview with Anayo Ezugwu, staff writer, Realnews magazine, Cummings speaks about  his ambition, security and leadership in Africa and why Africa needs open market. Excerpts:

Realnews: Do you think you have the credentials to be the next president of Liberia?

Cummings: I have worked with multi-million dollar company like Coca-Cola and consistently delivering results, and consistently accomplishing goals and objectives. And I have done that very consistently in my career. It is something I’m very proud of and something I can bring to bear to help the people of Liberia. And it’s up to me to convince the Liberia people to give me the opportunity to serve them, work with them for our country.

Realnews: What are the key things you think Liberians need now?

Cummings: Liberia needs quite a few things. One is we need to come together as a people and work together to change the country. That means no Liberian can stay on the sideline. We all need to get engaged in our different ways to transform Liberia. We call it engaging the heart and mind of people in transformation of the country. And it is very important because no one person can build a country. We all have to do it together. There is a saying I always like to use that many Liberians want to move into a finished house and we need Liberians to build the house we all want. Because in Liberia, I don’t know if it happens in Nigeria, we build houses that all the rooms are very small but we need to build a comfortable house together. I think that is the first thing we need.

The second priority is that we need to find the revenue to do all the things we want to do. Without money nothing happens. So we can all have aspirations for Liberia and we all know what needs to be done but unless we can raise funds we will be unable to do those things. So we have specific ideas on what we need to do to raise revenues for the country to do all the things we need to do.

The third priority for us is job creation. You know, today, we are here to discuss national security and I believe the biggest national security risk in the contest of Liberia, and I will suggest Nigeria as well, is high level unemployment of young people. Unemployment is the biggest risk we have to national security because those people have nothing to lose and unless we provide them with economic means of living and supporting their families, support them with ideas, create jobs and provide trainings national security will continue to be a problem to us in Liberia and Nigeria.

Next priority for us is agriculture. These things are related because that would help in job creations as well. We live in a country in Liberia where we don’t feed ourselves. So I will invest in agriculture and prioritise agriculture so that we will create jobs and people will feed themselves. This is a very high priority for us.

Education is also a priority for us and again within all these sectors we have to make successes. But in education we have four priorities, vocational training for the young people, teachers training, adult education – Liberia is a country where a larger percent of her people fall in this category, and child education. These are our priorities in education.

Health, you know you cannot have all the things I mentioned without good health. It’s a problem. We must ensure that our health sector is privatised.

Finally and most important is infrastructure, which underpins everything we need to do. Without electricity you can’t run a hospital, schools, small businesses can’t thrive. Liberians talk about manufacturing with a cheap consistent electricity. We can’t talk of health without portable water to all Liberians. So infrastructure is very important. Without good roads you can’t get goods to the market. So those are the priorities that we have for our country.

Realnews: Looking at the wider West Africa, despite the ECOWAS free movement of goods and persons, integration is still lacking. What are we really missing and what do we need to do to get things right?

Cummings: I think integration is very important and it will help create skills and opportunities for all West Africans. I think the challenge is for us to be willing to team-up because in life you need to make choices and we all have to realise as individuals, as countries that we will not get everything we want. But if we make the right choices in the end we will benefit more than we will lose. And I think the challenge is in getting our leaders to understand that they need to do that and to recognise the benefits of having an open market. ECOWAS is a 320 million population market, which is about the size of United States.

And if we can open our borders and get rid of the official barriers and move goods and services and people freely across we can create a thriving sub-region in Africa. Of course, this is easier said than done but I believe if we understand the true benefits, if we understand the steps we need to take to get from where we are to where we need to be, we can certainly benefit from ECOWAS.

A country like Liberia can benefit more because we are about 4.2 million people and therefore we can benefit from the larger ECOWAS market of 320 million people. The incentives for the bigger countries like Nigeria but I’m not comparing because Nigeria is a larger market on its own. For smaller countries like Liberia would like to see ECOWAS work.

Realnews: Nigeria played a key role in helping Liberia come out of civil war. Nigeria has played this similar role across Africa but what it gets back in return is stab on the back. What do you think Nigeria should do instead of playing this big brother role?

Cummings: Well, I don’t know if Nigerians are regarded as enemies per say. I think Nigerians are being perhaps hard on themselves. But you know sometimes in life you don’t always get acknowledged in a moment for what you do. I think fortunately Nigerian leaders have taken a longer term perspectives and I think history will treat Nigeria well in terms of her role not just in the sub-region but in Africa.

Going back to Nigerian leadership in the fight against Apartheid, Nigeria was in the forefront in that fight in South Africa. And Nigeria continues to lead sub-region and play a leadership role across the continent. And so while the country might be appreciated by many today, I think it is high time Nigeria get recognised for her contributions to the continent.

Unfortunately, as I said Nigerian leaders have had their say for not necessarily being recognised today, I’m sure they will like it but I think they understand that history will treat Nigeria well in the sub-region. And you know in life that happens in families, relationships, organisations. In a moment you may not be recognised for your good deeds but overtime when people look back that acknowledgement will come. And I think Nigerians should understand that the acknowledgement will come overtime.

But there are some of us who recognise the role Nigeria played and will continue to recognise it even today.

Realnews: Today, many political officers in Africa don’t fulfil their manifestos. They promise a lot and the moment they get into office, they start doing the opposite. What will you do differently?

Cummings: The way I answer that question is that you have to look at the history of what the individuals have done in their career. The best predictor of future behaviour, future performance is past behaviour and past performance. This is undoubted facts. If a person is good in their entire life they will likely be good in future. If a person has been bad in his/her past life, it is unlikely he or she will be good in the future. If a person has consistently delivered results in the past it is likely they will do it in the future. If they haven’t done it in the past it’s unlikely they will do it in the future.

So what I say in the case of Liberia and the Liberian people is look at the person’s past, what have they actually and truly done in their lives. Of course, look over their professional lives and if they have been consistently delivering on commitments they will likely deliver for the country. If they haven’t, there is not going to be a miracle that will change them overtime. And so I will say to all voters in Nigeria, Liberia and Ghana, having elections in December to look at past behaviour and they will be the best predictor of future behaviour because anyone of us can run around and win elections but we need sure proofs.

Realnews: With the rising insecurity across West Africa, what would you do if elected the president of Liberia in tackling internal security in Liberia?

Cummings: I think there are several things I need to do to tackle internal security. First, I think the underlining cause of security challenges are economic. When you have a people who are impoverished, people who do not have resources or do not believe they have a bright future or ownership of the government, they are very susceptible to violence, to external influence that may promise them those things either in life today or in the future unless we address the systemic economic issues that will be susceptible to security issues and challenges.

Of course, beyond that, we need to look at the issues of policing and we need collaboration across the sub-region to make sure that our military intelligence agencies are coordinating to provide protection. But I believe the fundamental is to address security true for the sub-region and true for Africa and certainly for Liberia by providing economic security for our people. If they have something to protect, if they believe in their future, they will not be susceptible to outside influence or to violence.

But if they have nothing to lose they will be much more prone to external and internal security threats. The other one which is smaller is that there have to be consequence for big and small misbehaviours and I think in many countries in Africa, certainly in Liberia there are no consequences for breaking the rules. People get away with it and they feel they can and smaller crimes turn to bigger crimes and bigger crimes turn to security issues, so we need to address it. But the economics for sure to me is the final solution.

*Realnews

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Merck partners with UNESCO and African Union to empower Women in Research with the focus on “Infectious Diseases and Women Health”
November 30, 2016 | 0 Comments

UNESCO–MARS 2016 has brought together more than 200 researchers from more than 35 African countries to discuss the generation, sharing and dissemination of research data and to prepare for the road ahead in developing Africa as an international hub for research excellence and scientific innovation

  • Nine researchers from across Africa receive ‘Best Young Researchers Award’ and ‘Best Women Researchers Award.’
  • MARS 2016 contributes to Building Research Capacity in Africa to improve Women Health.
  • MARS 2016 addresses Research in Francophone Africa for the first time.
  • Merck On-line research community  launched to enable young researchers to share experience with their peers in Africa and beyond.
UNESCO-MARS 2016 ‘Best African Woman Researcher Award’ 1st place winner Beatrice Nyagol from Kenya Medical Research Institute, Kenya receives her award from Prof. Yifru Berhane, Minister of Health, Ethiopia as Prof. Afework Kassu Gizaw, Minister of Science and Technology, Ethiopia; Prof. Dr. Frank Stangenberg-Haverkamp, Chairman, Executive Board and Family Board of E.Merck KG; Rasha Kelej, Chief Social Officer, Merck Healthcare and Ahmed Fahmi, Program Director, UNESCO

UNESCO-MARS 2016 ‘Best African Woman Researcher Award’ 1st place winner Beatrice Nyagol from Kenya Medical Research Institute, Kenya receives her award from Prof. Yifru Berhane, Minister of Health, Ethiopia as Prof. Afework Kassu Gizaw, Minister of Science and Technology, Ethiopia; Prof. Dr. Frank Stangenberg-Haverkamp, Chairman, Executive Board and Family Board of E.Merck KG; Rasha Kelej, Chief Social Officer, Merck Healthcare and Ahmed Fahmi, Program Director, UNESCO

Merck , a leading science and technology company in partnership with UNESCO, African Union, Ethiopia Ministry of Health, University of Cambridge and Institute Pasteur International today announced the 2016 UNESCO – Merck Research Award winners. The nine winners under two categories, ‘Best Young African Researchers Award’ and ‘Best African Women Researchers Award’, were announced during the 2nd UNESCO-MARS Summit 2016 being held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

“We are very happy to partner with UNESCO, African Union and Ethiopia Ministry of Health to achieve the important goals of improving women health and empowering women in research, as they are still under-represented in Africa,” Frank Stangenberg-Haverkamp, Chairman of the Executive Board and Family Board of E. Merck KG emphasized at the inauguration of the UNESCO-MARS 2016 Summit.

Yifru Berhane, Minister for Health, Ethiopia, said: “We are very happy to partner with Merck, UNESCO and Africa Union to build research capacity in Africa with the focus on young researchers and women researchers and to define policies to enable high quality research in the continent”.

“This is the first time the UNESCO-MARS is launching the ‘Best African Woman Research Awards’ with the aim of promoting women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) that has seen five women researchers from across Africa being recognised for the quality of their research. The awards are in line with this year’s UNESCO-MARS 2016 theme that supports empowering women in research and building research capacity in Francophone and Anglophone Africa to ultimately improve women health in the continent,” emphasized Rasha Kelej, Chief Social Officer, Merck Healthcare.

Beatrice Nyagol from Kenya Medical Research Institute was awarded the 1st Woman Researcher Award while Rogomenoma Ouedraogo from Laboratory of Biology and Molecular Genetics University, Burkina Faso received the 2nd Woman Researcher Award. The 3rd, 4th and 5th Woman Researcher Awards were granted to Sandrine Liabagui ep Assangaboua from Gabon; Maria Nabaggala from Infectious Diseases Institute, Uganda and Martha Zewdie of Armauer Hansen Research Institute, Ethiopia respectively.

The three categories of the ‘Best Young Researchers Award’ were given to two female and two male researchers with the 1st Award going to Patricia Rantshabeng from University of Botswana and the 2nd Award to Constantine Asahngwa from Cameroon. The 3rd Award were given to both; Tinashe Nyazika of University of Zimbabwe and Lamin Cham from the National Aids Control Program, Gambia.

“The awardees who are final PhD students and young investigators based at African research institutes and universities were selected based on the abstracts they submitted which were very impressive and related to Infectious Diseases with the aim to improve Women Health, which is the focus of UNESCO-MARS 2016,” emphasized Rasha Kelej.

Summit addressing both Francophone and Anglophone Africa

UNESCO–MARS 2016 has brought together more than 200 researchers from more than 35 African countries to discuss the generation, sharing and dissemination of research data and to prepare for the road ahead in developing Africa as an international hub for research excellence and scientific innovation.

Of the 200 researchers attending the Summit, 60% are women. This is contributing to one of the main objectives of UNESCO-MARS, which is empowering women in research.

NESCO-MARS 2016 Ministerial panel on ‘Research and policy making gap in Africa – challenges and opportunities – Africa as a new international hub for research excellence and scientific innovation,’ left to right: Ahmed Fahmi, Program Director, UNESCO; Prof. Afework Kassu Gizaw, Minister of Science and Technology, Ethiopia; Zuliatu Cooper, Deputy Minister of Health and Sanitation, Sierra Leone; Prof. Yifru Berhane, Minister of Health, Ethiopia; Dr. João Sebastião Teta, Secretary of State, Angola; Rasha Kelej, Chief Social Officer, Merck Healthcare and Rashid Aman, Chairman, Kenya National Commission for UNESCO

NESCO-MARS 2016 Ministerial panel on ‘Research and policy making gap in Africa – challenges and opportunities – Africa as a new international hub for research excellence and scientific innovation,’ left to right: Ahmed Fahmi, Program Director, UNESCO; Prof. Afework Kassu Gizaw, Minister of Science and Technology, Ethiopia; Zuliatu Cooper, Deputy Minister of Health and Sanitation, Sierra Leone; Prof. Yifru Berhane, Minister of Health, Ethiopia; Dr. João Sebastião Teta, Secretary of State, Angola; Rasha Kelej, Chief Social Officer, Merck Healthcare and Rashid Aman, Chairman, Kenya National Commission for UNESCO

The Summit for the first time, is also addressing both Francophone and Anglophone Africa and has attracted researchers from 11 French speaking countries of Senegal, Rwanda, Gabon, Benin, Congo, Cameroon, Gambia, Burkina Faso, Morocco, Niger, Burundi. Researchers from English speaking countries are drawn from Namibia, South Africa, Ghana, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Zambia, Tanzania, Uganda, Malawi, Liberia, Botswana and Ethiopia. In addition, researchers from Arab speaking and Portuguese speaking countries such as Egypt, Angola and Mozambique are in attendance.

Researchers benefit from diverse scientific sessions

The 2nd UNESCO MARS Summit is providing a unique opportunity for Africa’s young and talented scientists to share their research output and findings with the top echelon of scientists from Africa and abroad. It is also an opportunity for networking and career development. The Summit is presenting a platform where young scientists are able to discuss the enabling environment for better research among others.

“The researchers attending the two-day Summit are benefiting from diverse and rich scientific sessions that are focusing on the relation between infectious diseases and cancer in women; untreated infectious diseases and the high prevalence of infertility in Africa; and participating in discussions to identify scientific research priorities for evolving health needs to address infectious diseases such as Malaria, Schistosomiasis and Zika in relation to women health,” Rasha Kelej emphasized.

The Summit theme of “Infectious Diseases and Women Health is informed by the fact that for many infectious diseases, women are at higher risk and have a more severe course of illness than men for many reasons including biological differences, social inequities, and restrictive cultural norms. Therefore, efforts to recognize and reduce health disparities among women have particular relevance for global health,” Uganda Minister of State of Health, Sarah Opendi emphasized.

Key African Ministers support building research capacity and policy development in the continent

Up to 15 African ministers of Health; Education; Science and Technology and Gender & Social Development participated in two ministerial high level panels at the UNESCO-MARS 2016. The ministers in discussions committed to support the building of research capacity at country and regional level, and the development and enforcement of policies to guide and promote scientific research for the benefit of Africa. They also pledged to enhance efforts to empower women in research.

The first ministerial high level panel on “Defining interventions to advance research capacity and empower women in research to improve women health in Africa,” involved: Sarah Opendi, Minister of State of Health, Uganda; Idi Illiassou Mainassara, Minister of Public Health, Niger; Julia Cassell, Minister of Gender, Children and Social Development, Liberia; Jesús Engonga Ndong, Minister of Education & Science, Equatorial Guinea and Prof. Frank Stangenberg-Haverkamp, Chairman of Executive Board and Family Board of E.Merck KG.

The second ministerial panel on “Research and policy making gap in Africa – challenges and opportunities – Africa as a new international hub for research excellence and scientific innovation,” included: Prof. Yifru Berhane, Minister of Health, Ethiopia; Prof. Afework Kassu Gizaw, Minister of Science and Technology, Ethiopia; Dr. João Sebastião Teta, Secretary of State, Angola; Zuliatu Cooper, Deputy Minister of Health and Sanitation, Sierra Leone and Rashid Aman, Chairman, Kenya National Commission for UNESCO.

Knowledge exchange platform to boost research capacity launched

During the UNESCO-MARS 2016, the Merck on-line research community blog (www.Merck-CAP.com) was launched to enable young researchers to exchange experience and knowledge with their peers and with established researchers in Africa and beyond.

The first UNESCO-Merck Africa Research Summit 2015 was successfully organized and held in Geneva, Switzerland in October 2015 with the focus on Emergent Infectious Diseases such as Ebola. The third UNESCO- MARS is scheduled to be held in 2017 in Africa.

About 2016 MARS award winners
“Best African Woman Researcher Award”

  • 1st Place: Beatrice Nyagol, Kenya Medical Research Institute, Kenya
  • 2nd Place: Rogomenoma Ouedraogo, Laboratory of Biology and Molecular Genetics University, Burkina Faso
  • 3rd Place: Sandrine Liabagui ep Assangaboua, Ecole Doctorale Regionale d’Afrique Centrale, Franceville, Gabon
  • 4th Place: Maria Nabaggala, Infectious Diseases Institute, Uganda
  • 5th Place: Martha Zewdie, Armauer Hansen Research Institute, Ethiopia

“Best Young African Researcher Award”

  • 1st Place: Patricia Rantshabeng, University of Botswana, Botswana
  • 2nd Place: Constantine Asahngwa, Cameroon Centre for Evidence Based Health Care, Cameroon
  • 3rd Place: Tinashe Nyazika, University of Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe and Lamin Cham, National Aids Control Program, Gambia

 

 

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Liberia’s Opposition Silent on Rumored Meeting With Charles Taylor
November 29, 2016 | 0 Comments

By James Butty*

FILE - Former Liberian President Charles Taylor.

FILE – Former Liberian President Charles Taylor.

A senior member of Liberia’s largest opposition political party, the Congress for Democratic Change (CDC), said the party cannot confirm nor deny an allegation made by Alan White, former chief of investigations for the United Nations Special Court for Sierra Leone, that party leader George Weah has had discussions with former Liberian President Charles Taylor in Britain and that the jailed Taylor may be trying to interfere with the 2017 presidential election in Liberia perhaps by having his former wife run on the opposition ticket.

Taylor is serving a 50-year prison sentence in Britain after having been found guilty by the UN-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone for his role in the Sierra Leone civil war.

In an interview with VOA’s Peter Clottey, White alleged that part of the discussions that Weah supposedly had with Taylor were to ensure that there is “never a war crimes special court for Liberia”.

Opposition party will not confirm meeting took place

Wilson Tarpeh, chief strategist for the CDC, said the party hopes White will provide evidence to substantiate the allegations.

“We cannot confirm nor deny that such a discussion (with Taylor) may have taken place. I’m sure Mr. White will have his evidence to prove that. It still remains an allegation that we cannot confirm nor deny. What we can say is that the Congress for Democratic Change has been in discussion with a number of opposition political parties to form an alliance or a coalition for the purpose of the ensuing 2017 election,” he said.

UN: Taylor is trying to interfere in election

Citing “allegations and the source information,” White told VOA that, “there are allegations that he’s (Taylor) been in discussion with Senator George Weah who has recently signed an agreement to join forces with Jewel Taylor, Taylor’s former wife, to support seeking the presidency and the vice presidency. George will be on top of the ticket…and part of those discussions is to ensure that there is never a war crimes special court for Liberia and Sierra Leone,” White said.

Tarpeh said the Congress for Democratic Change did not sign any agreement per se with Jewel Howard Taylor, a senator for Liberia’s Bong County.

He said his party and two other political parties — the National Patriotic Party and the Liberia People Democratic Party — signed an agreement earlier this month to work together for the 2017 election.

“According to an agreement signed, the Congress for Democratic Change, is supposed to produce the standard bearer and the standard bearer will have to pick his vice vice president standard bearer who will not come from the Congress for Democratic Change. So, there is no agreement we are aware of signed with Senator Jewel Howard Taylor as an individual,” Tarpeh said.

Liberia’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), which looked into the causes of the country’s civil war, wants restorative and retributive justice for those who participated in the war.

For example, the commission recommended President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and 49 other Liberians be subject to public sanctions for their association with perpetrators of war crimes.

But since the publication of the TRC final report in 2008, there have been allegations of a lack of political will to implement the report.

In his interview with VOA, White said he knows of two people who have publicly been supportive of retributive and restorative justice – Vice President Joseph Boakai, who is running in the 2017 election to succeed President Sirleaf and businessman Benoni Urey, also a candidate in the 2017 presidential election.

Tarpeh said White’s comments back up the CDC belief that White is spreading information that is not true. Tarpeh his party has always been in favor of justice in Liberia.

He defended the CDC’s association with the party of former President Charles Taylor and that of former speaker of the House of Representatives, Alex J. Tyler, who has been indicted for corruption.

“My answer to that is that we don’t see anything wrong with it. First the case of Mr. Taylor. Mr. Taylor was charged with a crime for which he is serving time. The institution he belongs to, which is the National Patriotic Party does not necessarily mean the NPP is involved in the criminal act. So you cannot ascribe evil or criminality in dealing with the National Patriotic Party. Again the same analogy. Mr. Alex Tyler is a member of the Liberia People Democratic Party, a former speaker who has been accused of a crime. Under our laws, if you are accused you are presumed innocent until you are proven guilty,” Tarpeh said.

*VOA

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New Strategies for Fighting Corruption in Africa
November 29, 2016 | 0 Comments

By Steve Feldstein*

Steven Feldstein

Steven Feldstein

Corruption violates the dignity of citizens and shatters the social compact between leaders and their populations. Across Africa, corruption is responsible for fueling wars, perpetuating violence, undermining democracies and empowering kleptocrats and dictators. Breaking the cycle of corruption is a long-term struggle that requires sustained political will, substantial political and economic reform, and a significant shift in attitudes. This will not happen quickly or easily. As the Panama Papers demonstrate, however, we are witnessing the emergence of a global grassroots movement focused on transparency and accountability that is constraining the ability of kleptocrats to siphon state assets, solicit large-scale bribes, and stash ill-gotten gains in offshore bank accounts.

I witnessed this firsthand during a trip in April to Burkina Faso. In that country, a movement of young artists, musicians and students fed up with the country’s corrupt autocracy broke the 27-year reign of President Blaise Compaore and forced him and his compatriots into exile. The Burkinabe then held their first democratic elections since 1978 and elected a technocratic government focused on financial transparency, accountability and rule of law. One of its first acts was to pass an anti-corruption law requiring political leaders to publicly declare all of their assets.

Despite progress in places like Burkina Faso and Nigeria, the overall scale of corruption remains staggering. Last month, Transparency International reported that Zimbabwe is losing at least $1 billion a year to corruption, largely through illicit payments to local government officials and the police. After just one year of independence, the Government of South Sudan acknowledged that $4 billion of public funds had been stolen by government officials. Meanwhile in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Global Witness reported earlier this month that the Congolese state mining company had signed over $880 million in royalties from its most lucrative mining project to a close friend of President Kabila’s. These funds could be used to purchase life-saving medicine, prepare for elections, or send kids to school; instead it is lining the pockets of the wealthy few.

Corruption is often endemic in economies dominated by natural resources, where complex extractive industries are often loosely regulated and lack transparency. The extractive industries, such as oil, gas, and mining, dominate many African economies. In 2010 African countries exported $333 billion worth of fuel and minerals, which was seven times greater than the total amount of donor funds that came to the continent. For some countries, the numbers are even more skewed. A staggering 97% of the value of exports from Nigeria – Africa’s largest economy – comes from oil. Many of these countries have struggled to ensure accountability for large-scale extractive projects and institute sufficient transparency measures, providing opportunities for businesses and corrupt officials to skim off the top or engage in wholesale diversion of public resources.

U.S. efforts to combat corrupt practices form a key part of our foreign policy. Under Secretary John Kerry’s leadership, the State Department has elevated fighting corruption as a foreign policy priority and core part of our human rights agenda. In January, Secretary Kerry called for corruption to be treated as a “first order national security priority.” He echoed this message at the Global Anti-corruption Summit hosted by the United Kingdom in May. Our hope is that implementing anti-corruption commitments at the country level and as part of multilateral organizations will continue to be a priority.

Last month, I participated in a panel discussion at SXSW Eco in Austin with Brad Brooks-Rubin from the Enough Project, Varun Vira from C4ADS, and Stephanie Ostfeld from Global Witness to talk about innovative strategies that civil society groups, concerned citizens, the private sector and governments are adopting to fight corruption, enhance transparency, and bring accountability for billions of stolen assets. In the panel, I highlighted three areas that the State Department champions in the fight against corruption.

First is building greater transparency globally, especially within governments, so that spending and procurement decisions, contracting, and public services are easily accessible and can be tracked by citizens. For example, the Open Government Partnership (OGP), launched by President Obama in 2011 with seven other heads of state, is partnering with civil society to help countries advance transparency and accountability through national action plans for reform. Seventy countries, including 10 in Africa – Sierra Leone, Liberia, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Nigeria, Tunisia, Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, and South Africa – currently participate in OGP. Similarly, the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), which the United States has supported since its creation, has set a global standard designed to increase transparency and accountability in the extractives sector. EITI now includes 51 countries, including 27 in Africa, committed to strengthening disclosures of their oil, gas, and mining sector revenues, improving governance of these sectors, and combating corruption so citizens will obtain greater benefits from their country’s natural resources.

Second is supporting civil society-led investigations and strengthening capacity to expose abuses, track financial information across borders, and shed light on illicit activity. At the Global Anti-corruption Summit in May, U.S. government commitments included the establishment of a new global consortium support the critical work of investigative journalists and civil society networks in driving public demand for political will and action by law enforcement.

Third is supporting effective law enforcement. There is a limit to what non-governmental networks can achieve, in and of themselves. Civil society investigations must be accompanied by governments that are willing to prosecute corruption. Nigeria presents an interesting example, where the State Department is providing assistance to the government’s Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and deepening our collaboration to investigate and prosecute corruption. We have many other opportunities to engage governments such as Mozambique and Burkina Faso in the months and years ahead. These are just a few of the many efforts being undertaken across the U.S. government to help African governments and citizens combat corruption.

At the same event, I was also grateful to hear about similar and complementary efforts my fellow panelists’ organizations are taking to fight corruption in Africa.

The Enough Project has released a series of reports describing the confluence of corruption, violence and impunity in the Congo and South Sudan. They have also published a revealing report on new financial tools to counter kleptocracy in war zones in Africa.

Global Witness has run corruption investigations for over 20 years. Its recent reportuncovering mining sector bribes by UK firm Sable to senior officials in Liberia and Guinea has caught the attention of both the Liberia and Guinean governments and hopefully set the stage for legitimate judicial investigations.

C4ADS is a newer NGO that uses data-driven analysis and evidence-based reporting to tackle conflict financing and illicit finance. It is playing a leading role in The Sentry consortium – which has released hard-hitting reports on illicit finance and corruption in Sudan, South Sudan, the Congo, Somalia, and the Central African Republic.

Corruption supports and reinforces authoritarian regimes. Corruption is a disincentive for economies to diversify and is a drag on productivity and growth. Corruption undermines good governance and is linked to conflict, terrorism and extremism. I am convinced that if citizens continue to demand greater transparency and accountability from their governments, and if the United States and other governments continue to play a leadership role in complementing these efforts, the fight to root out corruption will advance in surprising and unexpected ways.

 *Huffington Post. Author is Deputy Assistant Secretary of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor
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Over 1,000 African skulls in Berlin are a reminder of Europe’s dark colonial history
November 25, 2016 | 0 Comments

By Ishaan Tharoor*

Skulls of Ovaherero and Nama people are displayed during a service attended by representatives of the tribes from Namibia in Berlin, Germany, Sept. 29, 2011. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)

Skulls of Ovaherero and Nama people are displayed during a service attended by representatives of the tribes from Namibia in Berlin, Germany, Sept. 29, 2011. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)

This week, the German public broadcaster ARD obtained information regarding the existence of thousands of human skulls and other remains of African people in the possession of the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation, which presides over state museums in Berlin.

According to Deutsche Welle, ARD identified about 1,000 skulls that originated from what is now Rwanda and about 60 from Tanzania. Researchers and state officials will now work toward the repatriation of the remains; they were claimed at a time when both countries were part of the larger German East Africa colony, which existed from 1885 until the end of World War I.

The existence of such a collection in European museums is both disturbing and not at all surprising. In the late 19th century, as various competing colonial powers carved up large swaths of Africa and held sway over the islands of the Pacific Ocean, early anthropologists and Western collectors made a hobby of hoarding the remains of indigenous peoples.

In an era of scientific racism, such artifacts — if they can be considered that — were in high demand. European museums staged “human zoos,” where people from various indigenous communities in far-flung colonies would be put on display in invented habitats, like caged animals.

 

The bones and skulls and even embalmed heads of those from remote tribal cultures were objects of fascination and inquiry. A generation of eugenicist scientists developed theories of racial difference and superiority through the study of these objects. The hideous thinking behind such “scholarship” would find its most gruesome endpoint in the experiments of Nazi scientists during the Holocaust.

Some of the remains detailed in the Berlin collection are believed to belong to insurgents killed by German troops during various colonial wars. Their skulls, like those belonging to other Africans fighting other colonial forces, were sent back to the imperial capital for analysis. In many other incidents, unscrupulous bounty hunters would simply kill or exhume bodies of indigenous people to sell off to eager European collectors.

In recent decades, the discovery and tussle over the repatriation of such remains has led to diplomatic incidents and awkward concessions from Western governments and museums.

In 2000, a museum in Spain finally sent back to Botswana a whole, stuffed African man from the Kalahari Desert whose body had fallen into the hands of French taxidermists in the 1830s. In the past five years alone, according to Deutsche Welle, Germany has returned human remains found in its museums to former colony Namibia, and to Australia and Paraguay. In 2012, France finally sent back to New Zealand 20 mummified tattooed heads of Maori warriors, which European sailors in the 18th and 19th centuries coveted as valuable prizes to sell back home.

“We close a terrible chapter of colonial history and we open a new chapter of friendship and mutual respect,” declared then-French culture minister Frédéric Mitterrand.

A popular arts blog offered a fairly thorough roundup last year, which include numerous American museums as well:

To sum up all the recent returns would be a harrowing litany. To cite a few: last year the Field Museum in Chicago returned the remains of three Tasmanian Aboriginal people; in 2011 the Natural History Museum in London returned the skeletal remains of 138 people to the Torres Strait Islanders in Australia; and in 2008, the remains of 180 people from a bulldozed ancient mound were returned to the Onondaga Nation by the New York State Museum. In 2013, the remains of Julia Pastrana, held at the University of Oslo, were finally buried. Pastrana was exhibited as a human freak in the 19th century due to her hypertrichosis terminalis condition that covered her face in hair; her mummified body was toured after her death and traded hands as an oddity. In 2002, the remains of Sarah Baartman were interred in South Africa after being on display for decades at the Museum of Man in Paris. Like Pastrana, Baatman had been exhibited as a 19th-century spectacle during her lifetime, labeled the “Hottentot Venus” for her reportedly round buttocks and elongated genitalia.

Following the ARD report, Rwanda’s ambassador to Germany called for the swift return of these remains to their country of origin. A Tanzanian commentator on Deutsche Welle’s Kiswahili website, spoke of the larger sense of grievance and outrage felt by many in the former colonial world.

“I am so hurt by what was done to our ancestors,” the commenter said.

*Washington Post

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