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Zimbabwe’s Election And The Path Ahead
August 12, 2018 | 0 Comments

Dr. Gary K. Busch*

FILE - Zimbabwe's President Emmerson Mnangagwa addresses a rally in Bulawayo, June 23, 2018.

FILE – Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa addresses a rally in Bulawayo, June 23, 2018.

The victory of ZANU-PF in the recent Zimbabwe elections over the cobbled-together forces of some of the opposition parties was not a surprise. It was a “harmonised election” in that it combined a vote for a president, a parliamentary seat and officers in local governments on the ballots. Although there are 133 registered political parties in Zimbabwe only 55 of these were registered to take part in the election. These fielded 23 candidates for president in the July 30th election. Four of the presidential candidates were women: Joice Mujuru‚ of the People’s Rainbow Coalition‚ Thokozani Khuphe‚ of the MDC-T‚ Melbah Dzapasi of #1980 Freedom Movement Zimbabwe and Violet Mariyacha of United Democratic Movement. There were 210 seats contested for the House of Assembly by various political parties and independent candidates. The Electoral Commission announced that the final tally of registered voters was 5.6-million.

The principal opposition party which sought to oust the ruling ZANU-PF was the MDC Alliance. It was a coalition made up of seven political parties. These were the MDC-T led by Nelson Chamisa‚ the MDC led by Welshman Ncube‚ the People’s Democratic Party led by Tendai Biti‚ Transform Zimbabwe led by Jacob Ngarivhume‚ Zimbabwe People First led by Agrippa Mutambara‚ Zanu-Ndonga led by Denford Musayarira and Multi-Racial Democratic Christian Party led by Mathias Guchutu. As most of these members of the Alliance have spent the last eight years tearing pieces off each other in an extensive battle of factions for the remnants of Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC, their unity was tissue-thin.

The fact that these seven factions joined together to fight the election did not resolve the fundamental problem that the MDC has faced over the years. In its 20 years of existence, the MDC hasn’t come up with a viable plan for taking power from an entrenched ZANU-PF under Mugabe and later Emmerson Mnangagwa {‘ED’) who were prepared to use force to render the MDC powerless. Voters are all too familiar with a pre-election routine in which MDC leaders prophecy imminent change—and bay at the moon impotently following their loss of another election. In 2008 the MDC refused to participate in the second round of the presidential election even though it had a slight lead over ZANU-PF in the first round. The MDC won control of the legislature and Tsvangirai became prime minister. However, the incompetence of the MDC in power led to wide disillusion by the electorate. The MDC showed itself and its leadership to be grossly incompetent in performing its governmental duties. The apathy of the Zimbabwean electorate towards the MDC as a result has been a major factor in failing to create a party with mass appeal.

In 2008, the first acts in government by Tsvangirai and Tendai Bit (then in charge of the economy) frightened everyone, including the MDC overseas sponsors. Tsvangirai and Biti announced, to the horror of the security chiefs in the Army and the Police, that the MDC would give back the farms which had been taken from their owners by ZANU-PF. Irrespective of the merits and morality of such an action a precipitate dislodging of the current occupiers would have presented the authorities with a security nightmare they knew they couldn’t control. It was a recipe for conflict which no one could control. The security forces were alarmed. Even worse, when the issue of a transition to a possible new MDC government arose at the meeting in Lusaka by African states to promote democracy after the election, the MDC leadership told the African presidents that there were British Special Forces standing by at a ‘secret airbase’ in Botswana run by the Americans who would come in, arrest the Zimbabwe security chiefs, and take over internal security until order was re-established.

The pattern of behaviour by Biti and his supporters was established in the 2008 election and now repeated in the current 2018 election. The MDC decided to lie and exaggerate.

The MDC embarked on a campaign of manipulation through issuing false and misleading statements which were delivered by the MDC secretary-general Biti. His wild claims of a 60% sweep of the election were entirely figures made up for the occasion. Even the others in the MDC did not believe them. His tales of ballot-rigging and violence against voters had no basis in fact. Biti and Chamisa attempted to create an image, primarily designed for the international audience, that somehow the ZANU-PF were rigging the election and that the MDC was their innocent victim.

Lawyer Doug Coltart with Zimbabwe opposition leader Nelson Chamisa's spokesperson Nkululeko Sibanda arrive to file opposing papers at the constitutional court in Harare, Zimbabwe, August 10, 2018. REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo

Lawyer Doug Coltart with Zimbabwe opposition leader Nelson Chamisa’s spokesperson Nkululeko Sibanda arrive to file opposing papers at the constitutional court in Harare, Zimbabwe, August 10, 2018. REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo

A second element of this campaign in 2008 was the rash of emails and SMS messages being sent from Harare full of disinformation. These messages said that Tsvangirai had been killed; that his bodyguards had been massacred; that electoral fraud was widespread. When the source of these emails and SMS messages was traced they were found to have come from within the US Embassy in Harare. These false messages announced fake press conferences; false electoral results and fake meetings. On further investigation it was found that two US nationals, employed by the National Democratic Institute, an NGO sponsored by USAID, were the source of these emails. They were deported at the request of the Zimbabwean Government. Two of the journalists who were disseminating their information were also picked up. Their hearing showed that they had ‘no case to answer’ so they were released, only to be picked up on different charges.

At the same time the Zimbabwe authorities observed clandestine meetings between the MDC officials and some members of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission. The MDC were offering incentives for the ZEC to come up with a low count for Mugabe’s votes. These were taped, and the perpetrators arrested. Seven ZEC people were arrested and were accused of deliberating low-counting Mugabe votes in four provinces.

The MDC went to the High Court for a Writ of Mandamus, charging the ZEC with the urgency of releasing its figures on the Presidential ballot, even though all the ballots had not been fully verified.

There was a nasty backlash from all the above elements. The MDC propaganda was full of Biti’s fantasies; but the rank and file know that most of what had been said was an exaggeration. At the same time the ZANU-PF people felt a sense of outrage at the attempt by the MDC to steal the election and to portray the country internationally as filled with thugs, bandits and plotters.

However, Biti and Chamisa repeated these very same lies and exaggerations in the current 2018 election. They pushed to get bodies in the street to protest and demonstrate. The Army responded with excessive violence and made the MDC case easier to credit

Biti sought asylum in neighbouring Zambia but was deported back to Zimbabwe in a move condemned by the United States. He was also charged with falsely and unlawfully announcing results of the July 30 election, which Chamisa also rejected as fraudulent; they are set to challenge in the Constitutional Court and the inauguration of ED has been postponed. If found guilty, Biti could face up to 10 years in jail, a cash fine or both.

As this election was part of an attempt by ED and ZANU-PF to throw off the perceived mantle of misrule by Mugabe and the ‘Lacoste’ and ‘G40’ factionalism within ZANU-PF these events have made it more difficult to set off on a new path of legitimacy, rule of law, and economic renaissance which Zimbabwe urgently needs.

The information gathered in an evaluation of the Zimbabwe’s electoral predicament is predicated on a much wider range of analysis than the battle for the Presidency.

The Background to Zimbabwean Political Development

Zimbabwe has an unusual political history. The country was invaded by white British mining entrepreneurs in 1889, led by Cecil Rhodes, who set up the British South Africa Company (‘BSAC’)  to exploit the gold mining wealth of Mashonaland. It was granted a Royal Charter in 1889 modelled on that of the British East India Company. As in the Indian subcontinent model, the BSAC became the ruler of the lands in South Africa, Rhodesia, Botswana and Zambia. The BSAC maintained its own mercenary army and enforced its version of the law in the territories it controlled. Its principal source of wealth and power derived from its mining interests in South Africa.

The BSAC control of its South African business was threatened by the Great Trek of Afrikaaners from the Cape to their new homes in the Transvaal and the Orange Free State when 12,000 to 14,000 Boers from Cape Colony in South Africa, between 1835 and the early 1840s, rebelled against the imposition of British rule and searched for fresh pasturelands beyond the reach of the Cape Colony. There was another ‘Voortrekker’ colony established in Natal, but the British took it over but granted recognition to the Transvaal and Orange Free State in 1854.

Rhodes had many supporters in London and plotted with them to create a false “civic uprising” In Johannesburg which could be used to oust the Boers in the Transvaal. Rhodes formed the “Reform Movement” to fight against the new taxes and administration by Kruger over the Johannesburg mining interests. The Reform Movement decided to overthrow the Transvaal government by taking up arms. The uprising was timed to coincide with an invasion of the Transvaal from Bechuanaland (present day Botswana), by Dr Leander Starr Jameson, who commanded the BSAC mercenary army. Rhodes wanted to take over the government of the Transvaal and turn it into a British colony that would join all the other colonies in a federation. Chamberlain helped plan the Jameson Raid.

The raid was launched on 29 December 1895 but was a failure as none in the Reform Movement could agree on a common plan. Jameson was forced to surrender to the Boers on 2 January 1896 at Doornkop near Krugersdorp. Many were put on trial and the British removed Cecil Rhodes from his post as the premier of the Cape Colony. This defeat of the BSAC forces spurred on the leaders of the African communities in Rhodesia to rise up to drive the company out of its lands. They began a war against the occupying forces. They called this a Chimurenga;  a word in the Shona language, roughly meaning “revolutionary struggle”. This First Chimurenga refers to the Ndebele and Shona insurrections against the BSAC during 1896-1897; also called the Second Matabele War.

The ill-fated Jameson Raid left the company’s Rhodesian forces depleted. The Ndebele began their revolt in March 1896. In June 1896, Mashayamombe led the uprising of the Zezuru Shona people located to the South West of the capital Salisbury. The third phase of the First Chimurenga was joined by the Hwata Dynasty of Mazoe. They succeeded in driving away the British settlers from their lands on 20 June 1896. However, by 1897 the BSAC’s forces, the British South African Police, were able to regain their lost territories. The First Chimurenga ended on October 1897. Matabeleland and Mashonaland were unified under company rule and named Southern Rhodesia; still under the control of the BSAC.

The Rhodesians sent troops and men to fight for the British during the Anglo-Boer War (1899-1902). They were under the general command of Colonel R S S Baden-Powell of the 5th Dragoon Guards (the founder of the Boy Scouts). They restored the BSAC in the Rhodesias. The issue of land tenure was crucial to the development of the region. The Land Tenure Commission reserved all the lands, other than enclosed in “Native Reserves” to the whites. The Committee’s land apportionment was 19 million acres of prime farmland for Europeans and 21.4 million acres for Native Reserves. A further 51.6 million acres was unassigned, but available for future alienation to Europeans.

Supporters of President Emmerson Mnangagwa's ZANU PF party gather to march for non-violent, free and fair general elections in Harare, Zimbabwe, June 6, 2018.

Supporters of President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s ZANU PF party gather to march for non-violent, free and fair general elections in Harare, Zimbabwe, June 6, 2018.

In 1922, the BSAC entered negotiations with the Union government in South Africa for the incorporation of Southern Rhodesia into South Africa. However, as the BSAC charter was due to expire in 1924, a referendum was held in 1922 in which the electorate was given a choice between self-government for the white citizens of Southern Rhodesia or entry into the Union of South Africa. The whites chose self-government. In 1923, the BSAC charter expired and Southern Rhodesia became a self-governing colony. Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia) became a protectorate.

The Ethnic and Political Divisions In Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe has been since its inception a divided country. The first division is the great tribal split in Zimbabwe between the Shonas and the Ndebele – the latter an offshoot of the Zulus of South Africa who moved into Matabeleland under the leadership of Mzilikazi, one of Shaka’s lieutenants. Most of post-independence Zimbabwean politics has been the jockeying for power between the distinct clans that make up the Shona. The Shona, who began arriving from west central Africa more than a thousand years ago, share a mutually intelligible language. But ethnically they are not homogenous. Between the clans there is a diversity of dialects, religious beliefs and customs.

The five principal clans of the Shona are the Karanga, Zezuru, Manyika, Ndau and Korekore. Of these, the biggest and most powerful clans are the Karanga and the Zezuru. From the beginning an almighty struggle has been going on within ZANU-PF between Karangas and Zezurus.

The Karanga are the largest clan, accounting for some 35 per cent of Zimbabwe’s 11.5 million citizens. The Zezuru are the second biggest and comprise around a quarter of the total population. The Karanga provided the bulk of the fighting forces and military leaders who fought the successful 1972-80 Second Chimurenga (struggle) that secured independence and black majority rule. Nevertheless, the ZANU movement – since renamed ZANU PF – was led by a Zezuru intellectual with several degrees – Mugabe.

The Zezuru hegemony has crept up and became a fact of life in Zimbabwean politics, although for many years there was intense debate as to the authenticity of Mugabe’s origins.

What is more certain is that in 1963, when ZANU was formed, Mugabe was appointed to the powerful position of secretary general after being nominated by the late Nolan Makombe, a leading Karanga who had convinced his co-tribesmen in the movement that Mugabe was a fellow Karanga of the influential Mugabe dynasty of chiefs from the area of the Great Zimbabwe ruins near Masvingo. Mugabe cleverly encouraged this belief until he was well entrenched in power.

Although at its inception ZANU was led by Sithole, a Ndau from Manicaland from the far east of Zimbabwe, the party was dominated by the Karangas. Its powerful individuals included Leopold Takawira, Nelson and Michael Mawema, Simon Muzenda and Eddison Zvobgo – all Karangas. The tribal composition replicated itself in the armed wing of ZANU with the Karangas, led by Josiah Tongogara, forming the backbone of the liberation struggle. Other prominent Karangas were Emmerson Mnangagwa; retired Air Marshal Josiah Tungamirai; and Army Commander Vitalis Zvinavashe.

When in 1974 Mugabe was smuggled out of what was then Rhodesia into Mozambique by a Manyika chief, Rekayi Tangwena, to join the Chimurenga, he was not easily accepted by the Karanga and Manyika guerrilla leadership. When he eventually ascended to power, the first thing he did was to neutralise the Karanga element in the movement by imprisoning many of them – most notably Rugare Gumbo who was the original mastermind of the guerrilla war. Gumbo and several fellow Karanga leaders were kept in underground pit dungeons until independence in 1980.

To quell any Karanga suspicions of his tribal manoeuvres, Mugabe kept the respected Simon Muzenda, a Karanga, as his sole vice president until the latter’s death in 2003. Other Karangas, such as the late firebrand lawyer Eddison Zvobgo, long seen as a future leader of the country, were systematically downgraded to provincial leaders. Josiah Tongogara, the military commander of ZANU in exile, was a Karanga who died in Mozambique on the eve of independence in an as yet unexplained car accident. Sheba Gava, a Karanga, was the most powerful woman guerrilla during the Seventies war but when she died in the following decade she was not granted national heroine status.

During the Second Chimurenga (the war of independence) there were two separate parties and two separate armies. The main liberation party, the Zimbabwe African People’s Union (ZAPU), split into two groups in 1963 – the split-away group being named Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU). Though these groups had a common origin they gradually grew apart, with the split away group, ZANU, recruiting mainly from the Shona regions, while ZAPU recruited mainly from Ndebele-speaking regions in the west.

The armies of these two groups, ZAPU’s Zimbabwe People’s Revolutionary Army (ZIPRA), and ZANU’s Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army (ZANLA), developed rivalries for the support of the people and would also fight each other. When Zimbabwe won independence, the two armies so distrusted each other that it was difficult to integrate them both into the National Army. These problems were not only in Matabeleland, but throughout the country. For example: former ZANLA elements attacked civilian areas in Mutoko, Mount Darwin and Gutu. It seemed both sides had hidden weapons. There were major outbreaks of violence between ZIPRA and ZANLA awaiting integration into the National Army. The first of these was in November 1980, followed by a more serious incident in early 1981. This led to the defection of many ZIPRA members. It was thought that ZAPU was supporting a new dissident war to improve its position in Zimbabwe. In the elections held in April 1980, ZANU-PF received 57 out of 100 seats and Robert Mugabe became prime minister.

With the election of Mugabe in 1980 the government was directed to putting Zezurus and their allies the Korekore in most of the positions of power in the new state. Mugabe is a Zezuru,, the head of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces General Constantine Chiwenga (formerly Dominic Chinenge) is a Zezuru and almost half the top commanders with the rank of Colonel in the Zimbabwe Defence Forces  are Zezurus. Until recently the head of the Central Intelligence Organisation Major-General Happyton Bonyongwe was Zezuru and almost half of the intelligence officers with the rank of Provincial Intelligence Officer are Zezurus. The head of the Zimbabwe Republic Police until recently was Commissioner-General Augustine Chihuri (a Zezuru) and half of the police commanders with the rank of Assistant Commissioner are Zezurus. The head of The Air Force of Zimbabwe, Air Marshal Perence Shiri is the first cousin of President Robert Mugabe. Half of the commanders with the rank of Group Captain are Zezurus. The head of the Prisons of Zimbabwe, Major-General Paradzai Zimonde is Zezuru and nearly half of the commanders with the rank of Colonel are Zezuru. The Chief Justice of Zimbabwe is Godfrey Chidyausiku who is a Zezuru and the Judge President George Chiweshe is a Zezuru and half of the judges are Zezuru / Korekore. Nearly half of the cabinet of Zimbabwe since 1980 has been composed of Zezuru/ Korekore and half of Permanent Secretaries are Zezuru and Korekore.

RUNNING FOR COVER: Nelson Chamisa's MDC supporters barricade a road in Harare . Picture: Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters

RUNNING FOR COVER: Nelson Chamisa’s MDC supporters barricade a road in Harare . Picture: Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters

To quell any Karanga suspicions of his tribal manoeuvres, Mugabe kept the respected Simon Muzenda, a Karanga, as his sole vice president until the latter’s death in 2003. Other Karangas, such as the late firebrand lawyer Eddison Zvobgo, long seen as a future leader of the country, were systematically downgraded to provincial leaders. Josiah Tongogara, the military commander of ZANU in exile, was a Karanga who died in Mozambique on the eve of independence in an as yet unexplained car accident. Sheba Gava, a Karanga, was the most powerful woman guerrilla during the Seventies war but when she died in the following decade she was not granted national heroine status.

Throughout the political development of Zimbabwe, the conflict between the Zezuru and the Karanga has been a key factor in the constitution of the state. In reality in Zimbabwe distinctions between these groups are not so straightforward. These differences are linguistic differences and primary identity is by clan or totem. There is also no such thing as an ethnic Zezuru, ethnic Karanga, ethnic Korekore, ethnic Ndau, ethnic Manyika in Zimbabwe. Those are language dialects only. When it comes to ethnicity the Shona today have got clan identities that cut across dialects, geographic regions and even tribes. So, while it is simple to identify Mnangagwa’s Karanga faction, Mujuru’s Zezuru faction and all the other ethnic based factions within ZANU-PF it leaves out the important distinctions of totem and clan.

For example, Mnangagwa is a Madyira and Madyira and Gumbo people are all Mnangagwa’s relatives. In fact, in terms of classical Shona culture, even before you propose to a woman, you are supposed to ask for their totem. “Nhai asikana mutupo wenyu chii?” (Young lady, what is your totem?). That question is considered a traditional introduction of the intention to propose love in Shona culture and to avoid “incest” in marrying “your sister”. What is more noteworthy in assessing affinities of the politicians is their clan; such as Mugabe’s identification with the Gushungo totem of the Zezuru; Grace (although born in Benoni, South Africa) is a Sinyoro like many prominent Zimbabwean political figures; Joice Majuro (though born in Mt. Darwin) is of the Korekore. These are distinctions that tend to matter even more than to which dialect group the politician belongs.

The discussion of ethnicity is not just a cultural construct. It has to do with the most important aspect of life in Zimbabwe, and indeed most of Africa – control and title to land. The question of belonging is not a theoretical exercise. There are rarely any certificates of title or Land Registries for non-white landholdings. The local ethnic group is the attestation and court of reckoning for land title. Outside of the cities, much of the only real title to land and water rights resides in the local community. The question of ethnicity is crucial to economic well-being and status. Projected onto the wider canvas of the political system the question of ethnicity is very important.

The Pernicious Policies of Britain and the U.S. In Zimbabwe Development

 Although it is a simple shorthand to say that the ZIPRA forces were supported by the Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc and the ZANLA forces by China and North Korea, the overweening effect of the Cold War has had a devastating effect on Zimbabwe’s development. Because of the support by independent Zimbabwe of the struggle against apartheid in South Africa, the battle to free Mozambique and Angola from the Portuguese, and, most especially, the military support offered to Kabila in his efforts to create a free and independent Democratic Republic of the Congo, the forces of the West lined up to oppose Mugabe. Added to this, the British policy of refusing to realistically oppose the UDI of the Rhodesian Front as “kith and kin” allowed this rebel group to wage a dirty war against the Zimbabwean liberation movements.

British rule over Zimbabwe ended in 1965 with the Unilateral Declaration of Independence by Ian Smith’s Rhodesian Front. Other than the few months at the end of the Rhodesian War when Abel Muzorewa’s Government reverted to British colonial control to negotiate the Peace Accords establishing Zimbabwe in 1979, Britain’s control over Rhodesia/Zimbabwe effectively ended in 1965. There is, in reality, no one in Zimbabwe under the age of fifty who ever lived under British colonial rule. In fact, the median age in Zimbabwe is less than twenty years. That means that the largest sector of people in Zimbabwe not only never lived under British rule, they also didn’t live under Rhodesian Front rule either. Independence was almost forty years ago, and the bulk of Zimbabweans were not even alive at the time. Theirs is not the politics of colonialism or anti-colonialism; it is the politics of a nation beset by a concerted campaign by the international community against it.

BRITISH RENEGE ON CONSTITUTIONAL PROMISES

In addition, during the post-independence period most of the ‘kith and kin’ that the British saw as a group whose rights they had to defend, have left the country. One would be hard-pressed to find more than a few thousand kith and kin left in Zimbabwe. The British bought some time for these kith and kin by insisting at the Lancaster House talks that the new constitution include several “entrenched clauses” in the Zimbabwe Constitution at independence which protected the land rights and tenure of the white farmers for ten years after independence. The new Zimbabwean government agreed to suspend any expropriation of white farmers’ lands for ten years on the basis that the British gave its solemn guarantee that, at the end of the ten years, Britain would make available one billion pounds to compensate the assist financially with the cost of transition from white-ruled farms to local land ownership. At the end of the ten years the British refused to pay.

When Mugabe moved forward with redistribution he was told by Blair and the Labour Party that they would not compensate the land reform agreements because they had no faith in his government; citing human rights abuses and the lack of democracy. At the root of their argument the Blair Government stated that it was the Conservatives who entered into the agreement for a new Zimbabwe and not Labour. On November 5th, 1997 Clare Short wrote to Kumbirai Kangai, the Minister of Agriculture and Land in which she said “I should make it clear that we do not accept that Britain has a special responsibility to meet the costs of land purchase in Zimbabwe. We are a new Government from diverse backgrounds without links to former colonial interests. My own origins are Irish and as you know we were colonised not colonisers. We do, however, recognise the very real issues you face over land reform. We believe that land reform could be an important component of a Zimbabwean programme designed to eliminate poverty. We would be prepared to support a programme of land reform that was part of a poverty eradication strategy but not on any other basis.”

Mugabe went ahead with the land reform and claimed back the lands held by the white farmers and told the farmers to collect their compensation from the British Government. The conflict this engendered led to the seizure of white farms and the expropriation of some of their lands. The British, whose refusal to conduct its policy towards Zimbabwe according to its obligations, used these seizures as evidence of the supposed failure of ZANU to act fairly.

BRITISH VENEGANCE IN SANCTIONS

In response, the British undertook a policy of almost two decades of political and economic subversion against the Zimbabwe government and encouraged its international partners in Europe and North America to follow its lead in combatting Mugabe and sanctioning the country and its political leadership. It created the MDC political party and promoted its leaders in Parliament, the European Union and NATO in their efforts to oust Mugabe and the ZANU-PF. The efforts of the MDC to take power in the elections precipitated a period of violence and mayhem which led to the doomed coalition of Mugabe, Tsvangirai and Mutambara.

The coalition was doomed because it was accompanied by a unique and epic failure of the Zimbabwe dollar to retain its value. Spiralling inflation finally drove the country to abandon the Zimbabwe dollar (which had traded at one Zimbabwe dollar equalling one US dollar and sixty cents at independence). The US dollar and sterling were accepted as the currencies for Zim. This destruction of the currency and the impact of the international sanctions imposed by Britain, the European Union and the United States had a devastating effect on the Zimbabwe economy and political structures. It has taken over ten years to start recovering from that crisis. The Zimbabwe economy has almost recovered from that crisis despite the sanctions and the imposition of foreign currencies as the reserve currency.

US SUPPORT THEIR BRITISH COUSINS IN DESTABILISING THE REGION

With founding President Robert Mugabe out of the way, many are keen to see what posture the west will take towards Zimbabwe

With founding President Robert Mugabe out of the way, many are keen to see what posture the west will take towards Zimbabwe

The role of the US in undermining Zimbabwe and its economy was no better than the British. The US has always viewed the African nationalists of Southern Africa as their enemy based on the relentless Cold War policies of combatting the Soviet Union in every theatre. The nationalists of the ANC and, PAC in South Africa; ZANU and ZAPU in Rhodesia; MPLA in Angola; FRELIMO and COREMO in Mozambique; and the several governments of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (starting with Lumumba) were all viewed as ‘too close to the Soviet Union’ and thus the enemies of the US. America has been fighting wars in Africa since the 1950s – in Angola, the DRC, Somalia, the Sudan, Ethiopia, Somalia, Morocco, Libya, Djibouti among others. In some countries they used US troops, but in most cases the US financed, armed and supervised the support of indigenous forces. In its support of the anti- MPLA forces in Angola it sent arms and equipment to the UNITA opposition. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Larry Devlin of the CIA was an unofficial branch of Mobutu’s government; the US ran its own air force at WIGMO. US airmen supported the South African forces in the Caprivi from WIGMO. The hostility and opposition of the US to African nationalism took many forms.

The US cast its first veto in the United Nations Security Council in 1970 when Ambassador Charles Yost vetoed a resolution on interdicting the international sale of Rhodesian chromite ore. The US argued that the beneficiary of the sanction against Smith’s Rhodesia would be the Soviet Union which was also selling chromite ore. It has been a unique feature of US African diplomacy that the Cold War legacy of opposition to African nationalism continues to shape US policy. The US sanctions against Zimbabwe were established by the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act of 2001 (ZDERA) and continue to today. The US has threatened to continue these sanctions and expand them because of its ‘uncertainty’ about the election of Mnangagwa and ZANU-PF.

One Of The Dirtiest of Dirty Wars

The predominance of youth in the Zimbabwean body politic has meant that they cannot remember or never learned some of the full horrors of the Rhodesian Bush War that preceded independence. For many of today’s aging political and military leaders and war veterans this is still a potent memory; one which shapes the conviction that foreign powers are still trying to manipulate the nation, and that the MDC and its factions are the main vehicles for that continued intervention. A lot of the sworn testimony emerged from the Truth and Reconciliation hearings in South Africa; producing testimony that would have been job for life of the ICC if it existed then.

Even as they knew they were losing the battle in 1978 the Rhodies experimented with the use of weaponised anthrax against the civil population. In 1979, the largest recorded outbreak of anthrax occurred in Rhodesia.  As shown in sworn testimony and repeated in the autobiography of Ken Flower, Chief of Rhodesia’s Central Intelligence Organization(‘CIO’) and CIO Officer, Henrik Ellert, the anthrax outbreak in 1978-80 was anything but benign. The original outbreak was the result of a policy carried out by the Rhodesian Front government with the active participation of South Africa’s ‘Dr. Death’ (Dr Wouter Basson). Together with the South Africans the Rhodesian Front used biological and chemical weapons against the guerrillas, rural blacks to prevent their support of the guerrillas and against cattle to reduce rural food stocks. Much of the detailed background of this program emerged from testimony at the South African Truth and Reconciliation hearings. Dr. Death used Rhodesia as a testing ground for their joint chemical and biological warfare programs. Witnesses at the commission testified to a catalogue of killing methods ranging from the grotesque to the horrific:

  1. “Project Coast” sought to create “smart” poisons, which would only affect black people, and hoarded enough cholera and anthrax to start epidemics
  2. Naked black men were tied to trees, smeared with a poisonous gel and left overnight to see if they would die. When the experiments failed, they were put to death with injections of muscle relaxants.
  3. Weapon ideas included sugar laced with salmonella, cigarettes with anthrax, chocolates with botulism and whisky with herbicide.
  4. Clothes left out to dry were sprayed with cholera germs.
  5. Water holes were doused with poisons to kill the cattle and anyone else who drank from them.

Dr. Wooton Basson was aided by the work of Dr. Robert Symington, professor of Anatomy at the University of Rhodesia. The active work was performed by Inspector Dave Anderton, head of the “Terrorist” desk at the CIO. In 1979-80 there were 10,748 documented cases of anthrax in Rhodesia which involved 182 deaths (all Africans). In contrast, during the previous twenty-nine years there had been only 334 cases with few deaths. This was no accidental outbreak. Some of the weaponised anthrax was delivered to the US by the South Africans where it provided feedstock for the US chemical and biological storage trove.

Pfini Yenyoka Kungoruma Icho Isingadyi

Dr Gary K.Busch

Dr Gary K.Busch

There is an old Shona saying, Pfini Yenyoka Kungoruma Icho Isingadyi, which means “the spite of the snake is just to bite what he cannot eat” or in other words it is wrong to inflict unnecessary pain and anguish in an election which you cannot win. Chamisa, Biti and the others in the MDC Alliance know that they haven’t won the election, but they continue to lie, exaggerate and pretend that they did win to keep the transition from moving forward. There may well have been errors or faults but, according to the international observers, these were not enough to invalidate the elections.

There is no question that the Army used excessive force in blocking the misguided protestors pursuing their chimerical outcome. It is also true that ED is not everyone’s shining image of a democrat; his past is too well known and discussed. However, the election was much more than a beauty contest for ZANU-PF and ED. It was hoped that it would be a positive step in moving away from the legacy of the past and attracting capital investments, a stable currency and hope for the country. Zimbabwe was one of the richest countries in Africa and abounding with enough foodstuffs to feed the whole African continent. Years of domestic bad planning were coupled with a concerted program of destruction and interference by Britain and the West in the Zim finance and banking sectors.

There are no white knights in charge of the country but there is a period of hope and expectation that MDC is trying to destroy which might lead to real development and the spread of social justice. It should not be denied or impeded. The Karangas are finally in charge (except for the Army)  and are unlikely to be pushed out soon. The main worry is that the Karangas have not developed a younger cadre of potential leaders as most of the oxygen of growth has been hoarded by the Zezurus. This will change if it is given a chance.

It would be a real pity if the ‘nay-sayers’ are received as genuine victims. They are what they always have been; a foreign-sponsored band of incompetents whose skills include making semi-plausible lies and distractions. Zimbabwe deserves better.

* The author is the editor and publisher of the web-based news journal of international relations www.ocnus.net and the distance-learning educational website www.worldtrade.ac. He speaks and reads 12 languages and has written six books and published 58 specialist studies. His articles have appeared in the Economist Intelligence Unit, Wall Street Journal, WPROST (a leading Polish weekly news magazine), Pravda and several other major international news journals

 

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DR Congo: International groups laud Kabila’s decision to bow out
August 12, 2018 | 0 Comments

The US, EU, African Union and UN mission to Congo say Kabila’s decision has calmed fears in the country.

Democratic Republic of Congo's President Joseph Kabila addresses a news conference at the State House in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo January 26, 2018. /REUTERS

Democratic Republic of Congo’s President Joseph Kabila addresses a news conference at the State House in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo January 26, 2018. /REUTERS

International groups have commended Democratic Republic of Congo President Joseph Kabila for agreeing not to stand for re-election in December, after 17 years in power.

The US, European Union, African Union and the UN mission to Congo say Kabila’s decision has calmed fears of the country sliding into chaos.

“We applaud the decision by President Joseph Kabila to respect the Congolese constitution,” according to a joint statement, also signed by Canada and Switzerland.

It added that this “constitutes a key stage on the path towards the first peaceful change of power in DRC.”

They called for “transparent, peaceful and inclusive” elections.

French President Emmanuel Macron praised Kabila’s “action for the unity and integrity of the DRC”.

After years of speculation over his intentions, Kabila on Wednesday consented to obey the two-term limit imposed by the country’s constitution, by not entering his name into a poll set for December 23.

Kabila’s ruling coalition nominated former Interior Minister Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, who has been placed under EU sanctions, as its presidential candidate.

Shadary, a close ally of Kabila, used to serve as deputy prime minister.

Several opposition candidates have registered for the poll, including Jean-Pierre Bemba, the former vice president who had convictions for war crimes and crimes against humanity overturned in June.

A group of Roman Catholic lay-movements said it had put on hold rallies planned for August, in another sign of easing tensions.

Kabila’s second term officially ended in 2016. His rivals accused him of wanting to stay in power.

The country’s election was repeatedly delayed, leading to violence and protests in which security forces killed dozens of people.

Kabila has been in power since his father and predecessor, Laurent Kabila, was assassinated in 2001.

 *Al Jazeera
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Nigeria: Growing demand for youth inclusion in politics
August 12, 2018 | 0 Comments

More young people have indicated an interest to contest the presidency after a reduction of the age limit to 35.

 By
President Buhari in May signed the bill  reducing the age limit to seek political office  [Al Jazeera]

President Buhari in May signed the bill reducing the age limit to seek political office [Al Jazeera]

A few years ago, it was almost impossible to talk up the chances of a youthful president in Nigeria.

But now, the clamour for a young leader is gaining momentum with the signing of a bill that reduces the age limit to seek political office in the country.

The limit was lowered from age 40 to 35, giving younger people an opportunity to vie for the coveted position. The original version of the bill proposed reducing the presidential candidacy age to 30. It also reduced age requirements for the Senate and state governor to 30 from 35.

With elections in early 2019, some younger Nigerians have thrown down the gauntlet, hoping to break the deadlock.

 

 Adamu Garba, 36, said he is hoping to become the country’s youngest elected leader – an ambition he claims to have been nursing since 2003.

Garba told Al Jazeera he wants to make a difference in the political space.

“I am inspired to do this by observing … several wrong policy choices of our leaders that affects the general wellbeing of the people. I am driven by empathy and compassion towards humanity,” Garba said.

“I, over the period of 12 years, studied and came up with deliberate policy proposals in the form of manifestos that will address all of Nigeria’s seeming challenges – joblessness, lower skills level, illiteracy, diseases and security issues.”

Young Nigerians are demanding more government representation in the 2019 elections [Courtesy of YIAGA]

Young Nigerians are demanding more government representation in the 2019 elections [Courtesy of YIAGA]

Garba is seeking the nomination of the ruling All Progressives Congress. He will be up against President Muhammadu Buhari, 75, who is seeking re-election.

‘Game of numbers’

More than half of Nigeria’s estimated 182 million population is under 30 years of age. The country’s median age is just 18, according to the United Nations, but politics is dominated by older politicians.

All civilian heads of government were more than 50 years old before they were elected. Nearly two decades after the advent of civilian rule, former military leaders retain a strong influence over politics.

Samson Itodo, leader of youth advocacy group YIAGA – which is pushing for increased participation in politics by younger Nigerians – told Al Jazeera they are not intimidated in their bid to participate in politics.

“Nigeria and Nigerian politics requires fixing and my generation is taking responsibility for fixing Nigeria. The movement is maintaining its identity as a citizen’s movement dedicated to democratic accountability, inclusion, and excellent public leadership,” Itodo said.

“This movement is raising a new cadre of political leadership and redefining civic engagement.”

The campaigners, with the slogan #NotTooYoungToRun, hope to increase the number of younger people in the corridors of power starting next year.

Gender gap

Eunice Atuejide is hoping to be Nigeria's first female president in 2019 [Al Jazeera]

Eunice Atuejide is hoping to be Nigeria’s first female president in 2019 [Al Jazeera]

Nigeria ranks as one of the worst in the world for female representation in politics. Women occupy only 27 of 469 parliamentary seats.

Women have continued to be sidelined in the country’s politics – playing minimal roles, resulting in a shortage of female candidates.

Eunice Atuejide, 39, leader of National Interest Party, told Al Jazeera she’s hoping to make history.

“I am quite certain that I stand a very good chance to wrestle power from the more experienced politicians in 2019, but not because I have more experience than them, or more money than they do,” she said.

There are fears fewer women will participate in the 2019 elections because of increasing political violence that has marred previous votes.

The country’s political campaigns also require a lot of funding that most female politicians can’t muster.

“Funding is an issue, however, I am hopeful that ordinary Nigerians will soon start backing me financially now that they start to see from where I am approaching the 2019 presidency. For now, the competition is badly tilted against me, however, I am very hopeful,” Atuejide said.

Failed promises

Younger people blame older politicians for the country’s woes because of unfulfilled electoral promises.

Political parties in Nigeria must select their candidates for the election between August 18 and October 7. Most political parties have in the past chosen veteran candidates.

“The older politicians keep power because the younger generation refused to rise up and take responsibility. However, it has now become glaringly clear that there is a need for evolution of the new generation to replace the old because their policy proposals are not working,” Adamu said.

Advocacy groups are campaigning to reverse the trend by getting younger people into elected posts.

“We’ve got over 50 million young registered voters behind us. We will mobilise them to vote against any party that doesn’t give tickets to young women and men,” Itodo said.

 *Source Al Jazeera
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Cameroon: New video shows more brutal killings by armed forces
August 12, 2018 | 0 Comments

A horrifying video obtained by Amnesty International shows Cameroonian security forces shooting at least a dozen unarmed people during a military operation in the village of Achigaya in the Far North region of the country, the organization said today.

Using advanced digital analysis tools, Amnesty International experts were able to confirm that the video, shot at an unknown date but prior to May 2016, corroborates previous accounts of extrajudicial executions which the Cameroonian authorities have denied.

“This shocking video shows armed men lining people up face down or sitting against a wall and shooting them with automatic weapons. A second round of shooting ensures no survivors. Here is yet more credible evidence to support the allegations that Cameroon’s armed forces have committed grave crimes against civilians, and we are calling for an immediate, thorough and impartial investigation. Those suspected to be responsible for these abhorrent acts must be brought to justice,” said Ilaria Allegrozzi, Amnesty International’s Lake Chad Researcher.

“Last month we analyzed footage from another location which showed two women and two young children being killed by soldiers who were clearly members of Cameroon’s armed forces. What further evidence do they need before they act on these atrocities?”

Amnesty International has documented multiple extrajudicial killings, as well as the widespread use of torture by Cameroonian security forces who are fighting against the armed group Boko Haram in the Far North region of the country.

Amnesty International researchers analyzed the weapons, dialogue and uniforms visible in the latest video, as well as testimony and satellite imagery, to conclude the approximate timing and exact location of the executions, and determined the suspected perpetrators to be members of the Cameroonian security forces.

The footage shows a group of soldiers in their distinctive “lizard stripe” camouflage uniforms, patrolling the village of Achigachiya. Some are armed with Zastava M21 rifles, and others are mounted on a pick-up truck with a ZPU-2 anti-aircraft gun.

The video, apparently recorded by a member of the security forces, shows soldiers burning structures which are likely to be homes, and then focuses on a group of 12 people lined against a wall, all sitting or lying down. At 01:40 minute into the video, numerous soldiers using automatic weapons fire into the group for an extended period, from several meters away. A soldier then walks forward and fires again at close range at several persons in the group, presumably to ensure there are no survivors.

Speaking in French, the soldiers describe themselves as carrying out a “kamikaze” operation.

The footage supports evidence of extrajudicial executions previously documented by Amnesty International in a July 2016 report. The report documented the unlawful killings and extrajudicial executions of over 30 people, including several elderly, in Achigachiya following an operation by the security forces seeking to recover the bodies of the soldiers killed by Boko Haram on 28 December 2014, which were abandoned in front of the military base destroyed by the insurgents. This operation by the army was also done as a collective punishment against the population perceived as supporting Boko Haram.

The Cameroonian government announced an investigation following the release of the video in July, but their rapid dismissal of the video as “fake news” casts serious doubt on whether this investigation would be genuinely impartial and effective.

“In failing to hold suspected perpetrators to account for the horrific crimes documented by Amnesty International and others, the Cameroonian authorities have created a climate of impunity in which the armed forces have free reign to kill and torture,” said Ilaria Allegrozzi.

“There must be accountability for these brutal killings. In the face of reams of hard evidence, the blanket denials of the Cameroonian authorities amount to complicity and the tacit endorsement of these crimes.”

*Source Amnesty International

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‘Battle for Africa’: Russia Pushes Into ‘Free Country for the Taking’ In Attempt to Rival the West
August 11, 2018 | 0 Comments

There are new guests at the ruined palace where Emperor Jean-Bédel Bokassa once held court. During his rule over the Central African Republic in the 1970s, Bokassa used a year’s worth of development aid to stage an extravagant coronation, and he personally oversaw the torture of prisoners. He fed some to his pet crocodiles and lions.

But the French government that helped install Bokassa in 1966 ousted him in 1979, deploying paratroopers to prevent any countercoup. Now, four decades later, it is Russian soldiers who mill around this crumbling estate in Berengo—and the shifting power dynamic is raising concerns in the West. President Vladimir Putin is pushing into Africa, forging new partnerships and rekindling Cold War–era alliances. “There will be a battle for Africa,” says Evgeny Korendyasov, head of Russian-African studies at the Russian Academy of Sciences, “and it will grow.”

Russia’s economy is in long-term decline, and its reach has diminished since the Soviet era. So the Kremlin is using ­diplomatic, economic and military tools to prospect for political influence and new markets in Africa—signing multibillion-dollar arms deals, bidding for big construction projects, boosting space communications, exploiting hydrocarbon reserves and launching publicized military interventions, alongside more clandestine operations. “The Russians want to implant themselves in the Central African Republic so they have an axis of influence through Sudan in the north and southwards into Angola,” says a senior United Nations security official in Bangui, CAR’s capital, who requested anonymity as he wasn’t authorized to speak with the media. “The French are hated as the old colonial power. American troops have left. It’s a free country for the taking.”

“This fits into the Russian approach of being opportunistic in their attempt to inject themselves into areas of Western interest and project a great power image—but all on the cheap,” says Mark Galeotti, a senior researcher at the Institute of International Relations in Prague of what is an initially low-level intervention.

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African Development Bank President Adesina calls for emerging agriculture technologies to optimize farmers’ output
August 11, 2018 | 0 Comments
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Can sound help save a dwindling elephant population? Scientists using AI think so.
August 11, 2018 | 0 Comments

By Jennifer Langston, Microsoft

Deep in the rainforest in a northern corner of the Republic of Congo, some of the most sophisticated monitoring of animal sounds on earth is taking place. Acoustic sensors are collecting large amounts of data around the clock for the Elephant Listening Project.

These sensors capture the soundscape in Nouabalé-Ndoki National Park and adjacent logging areas: chimpanzees, gorillas, forest buffalo, endangered African grey parrots, fruit hitting the ground, blood-sucking insects, chainsaws, engines, human voices, gunshots. But researchers and local land managers who placed them there are listening for one sound in particular — the calls of elusive forest elephants.

Forest elephants are in steep decline; scientists estimate two-thirds of Africa’s population has likely been lost to ivory poaching in recent decades. Africa’s savannah elephants have also declined by 30 percent over a recent seven-year period, primarily because of poaching, according to results released in 2016 from Paul G. Allen’s Great Elephant Census.

But those working to save these species, which are critical to keeping ecosystems in balance and that also draw wildlife tourists, have a powerful new tool at their disposal: artificial intelligence.

Conservation Metrics, a Microsoft AI for Earth grantee based in Santa Cruz, California, uses machine learning to monitor wildlife and evaluate conservation efforts. It is applying its sophisticated algorithms to help the Elephant Listening Project, based at Cornell University’s Lab of Ornithology, distinguish between forest elephant calls and the other sounds in a noisy tropical rainforest. It’s a perfect job for AI — looking for these rare patterns in terabytes of data that would take humans years.

Researchers use the elephant call data to build more accurate and frequent population estimates, track their movements, provide better security and potentially to identify individual animals, which can’t be easily seen from the air.

It is one of many ways biologists, conservation groups and Microsoft data scientists are enlisting artificial intelligence to prevent the illegal killing of elephants across Africa, stop the global trade in their parts and preserve critical habitat. Efforts include using machine learning to detect real-time movement patterns that could alert rangers to poaching and blocking online ads that attempt to sell illegal ivory or elephant parts.

Scientists with the Elephant Listening Project estimate that Africa’s population of forest elephants has dropped from roughly 100,000 animals in 2011 to fewer than 40,000 animals today. But those numbers are largely based on indirect evidence: ivory seizures, signs of poaching and labor-intensive surveys that are too expensive to be done regularly.

The Elephant Listening Project has spent more than three decades researching how elephants use low-frequency rumbling sounds to communicate with one another. More recently, those scientists began to use acoustic sensors at research sites to build population estimates and, ultimately, to track and protect forest elephants across their ranges in Central and West Africa.

If scientists find, for example, that at specific times of year elephants are using clearings in an unprotected logging concession to access scarce minerals or find mates, scientists can work with the loggers to schedule their work to minimize disturbance and reduce conflicts.

But there has been a bottleneck in getting data out of these remote African forests and analyzing information quickly, says Peter Wrege, a senior research associate at Cornell who directs the Elephant Listening Project.

“Right now, when we come out of the field with our data, the managers of these protected areas are asking right away, ‘What have you found? Are there fewer elephants? Is there a crisis we need to address immediately?’ And sometimes it takes me months and months before I can give them an answer,” says Wrege.

Conservation Metrics began collaborating with the Elephant Listening Project in 2017 to help boost that efficiency. Its machine learning algorithms have been able to identify elephant calls more accurately and will hopefully begin to shortcut the need for human review. But the volume of data from the acoustic monitors is taxing the company’s local servers and computational capacity.

Microsoft’s AI for Earth program has given a two-year grant to Conservation Metrics to build a cloud-based workflow in Microsoft Azure for analyzing and processing wildlife metrics. It has also donated Azure computing resources to the Elephant Listening Project to support its data-processing costs for the project. The computational power of Azure will speed processing time dramatically, says Matthew McKown, the CEO of Conservation Metrics. The platform also offers new opportunities for clients to upload and interact with their data directly.

It takes about three weeks for computers to process a few months of sound data from this landscape-scale study, says McKown. Once the Azure migration is complete later this year, that same job may take a single day.

“It’s a huge improvement. We’re really interested in speeding up that loop between having equipment monitoring things out in the field and going through this magic process to convert those signals into information you can send into the field where someone can take action,” says McKown. “Right now, that process can take a really long time.”

‘We’ve only scratched the surface’

Across the continent in East Africa, Jake Wall, a research scientist with Save the Elephants who collaborates with the Mara Elephant Project and other conservation groups, typically has more immediate access to data about the savannah elephants he studies in Kenya and seven other countries. That’s because animals in those populations have been outfitted with GPS tracking collars that transmit location data via satellites and cell networks.

That information is uploaded to the Domain Awareness System (DAS), a real-time data visualization and analysis platform now used in protected areas across Africa. It integrates data from about 15 different sources today, including ranger vehicle and radios, animal trackers, camera traps, drones, weather monitors, field reports, snare locations and satellite imagery. The tool was developed by Paul G. Allen’s Great Elephant Census, another AI for Earth partner that is moving the DAS system and its data onto the Azure cloud, to give managers a real-time dashboard that can inform tactical decisions for interdiction against suspected illegal activity or apparent threats to endangered wildlife.

In some areas, DAS also powers a Save the Elephants tracking app that can alert rangers when an animal has slowed or stopped moving via email or text message. The app can also warn when animals are heading toward human settlements where they might raid a farmer’s crops. Reserve managers or the farmer can then help herd the animals back to safety. From Gabon to Mozambique to the Congo, some 463 animal tracking devices are deployed, of which 358 are on elephants.

In other projects, Microsoft has worked with the Peace Parks Foundation, which combats rhino and other wildlife poaching in South Africa, to create remote sensing systems that can detect and evaluate poaching risks. Microsoft, through a NetHope Azure Showcase grant, is also helping move the open-source SMART (Spatial Monitoring and Reporting Tool) Connect to the Azure cloud. It is used in dozens of conservation sites across Africa to improve the effectiveness of wildlife patrols.

AI for Earth has also provided grants to researchers at the USC Center for AI in Society (CAIS) and Carnegie Mellon University, who have created and are continuing to improve Protection Assistant for Wildlife Security (PAWS). It uses machine learning to create patrol routes based on where poaching activity is most likely to occur. USC CAIS has also created and is continuing to improve the Systematic Poacher Detector, which detects poachers and wildlife in nighttime drone footage, now being used by organizations including Air Shepherd.

Even with advances in radio collar technology, sensors and imagery collection, a lot of additional work is needed to turn that data into scientific insights or actionable intelligence, says Wall.

“I think we’ve only scratched the surface of what’s possible,” says Wall. “We’re really excited because the expertise that Microsoft and AI for Earth can bring to the table includes skillsets that field biologists don’t typically have.”

“Machine learning could be applied to seven or eight immediate things that I would love to know more about, whether it’s recognizing individual elephants or picking up on changes in movement behavior or figuring out what’s happening on a landscape level with human expansion and deforestation,” says Wall.

Wall has been collaborating with Dan Morris, a Microsoft researcher working with AI for Earth, on a half dozen project ideas. One examines how to use machine learning to identify streaking behaviors — when elephants run fast and in an unusually straight line — that can be a sign of poaching or other threats.

Morris has also been working to apply machine learning algorithms to camera traps, which are remote field cameras that are triggered by motion and photograph anything that crosses their path. But finding an animal of interest can be like looking for a needle in a haystack.

“Sometimes no one has time to look through these images and they end up sitting on a grad student’s shelf somewhere,” says Morris. “The potential for machine learning to rapidly accelerate that progress is huge. Right now there is some really solid work being done by computer scientists in this space, and I would guess that we’re less than a year away from having a tool that biologists can actually use.”

Wall and Morris are also beginning to work on using AI to distinguish between elephants and other animals like buffalo or giraffes in aerial photography. Knowing when and where elephants are coming into contact with other wildlife — and particularly domesticated animals like cattle — can help rangers minimize conflicts with humans and help scientists better understand disease vectors.

These insights can also inform land-management decisions, such as where to lobby for protected areas and where to locate human infrastructure like roads and pipelines. That’s one of the most significant yet least understood threats to elephant survival, says Wall. With access to the right imagery data, AI tools could help begin to keep tabs on, and draw useful insights into, human encroachment into their habitat.

“We’re always focused on poaching and these acute problems, but really it’s the expansion of human settlements and the advancements of roads and railways and pipelines that are going to affect African elephant populations going forward,” says Wall.

‘AI is really the key piece’

Saving elephants isn’t just about stopping poachers where they hunt. Disrupting the global marketplace that rewards them economically is equally important.

Microsoft and other tech companies have joined the Global Coalition to End Wildlife Trafficking Online, organized by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and partners TRAFFIC and the International Fund for Animal Welfare. After observing that trafficking in wildlife parts like elephant ivory, animal skins and live pets had largely moved from physical marketplaces to the internet, they convened companies from across the online landscape to combine forces to stop it.

Along with targeting the illegal trade in elephant products, the coalition partners target criminal transactions such as the sale of tiger cubs for pets and the trade in pangolin scales and illegal coral.

“Previously cybercriminals were able to operate pretty freely on the internet because there wasn’t much risk,” says Giavanna Grein, a wildlife crime program officer at WWF. “But now we’re creating deterrents and consistency across all the different platforms — if every time a criminal creates a new account and puts up a new post, it’s taken down immediately, that’s going to be really frustrating for that criminal.”

The coalition has since worked with search engines like Bing, e-commerce sites and social media companies to adopt strong and consistent policies about what products are prohibited on their platforms. WWF also provides training to help companies recognize and shut down advertisements and customer accounts that traffic in illegal wildlife.

That involves some mix of human detective work and algorithms that search for keywords associated with wildlife trafficking. In September, Microsoft’s AI for Earth team will host an AI-focused workshop for tech companies and academics working to enhance automation to detect illegal wildlife and their products online. The goal is to advance technologies to identify and root out endangered species posts before anyone has a chance to see and purchase them.

“AI is really the key piece in combating wildlife trafficking online. While it’s not the only solution needed, automating the review of posts containing illegal wildlife and their products would drastically increase the barrier to entry for wildlife cybercriminals,” says Grein.

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Mines Secures $13M Series A to Grow Digital Credit Platform for Emerging Markets
August 11, 2018 | 0 Comments

The Rise Fund Leads Round As Startup Expands Markets

MINES Executives l-r Adia Sowho, Ekechi Nwokah, Kunle Olukotun

MINES Executives l-r Adia Sowho, Ekechi Nwokah, Kunle Olukotun

10 August, 2018. San Mateo, CA, US. Mines, a fintech startup re-inventing credit in emerging markets, has closed a Series A round of $13M led by The Rise Fund, a global fund managed by TPG Growth. Also participating are Velocity Capital, Western Technology Investments, First Ally Capital, X/Seed Capital, NYCA Partners, Persistent Capital, Singularity Investments, Trans Sahara Investments, and the Bank of Industry. Mines plans to use its investment for talent acquisition, continued growth in Africa, and expansion to South America and South-East Asia.

Mines provides a Credit-as-a-Service digital platform that enables institutions in emerging markets to offer credit products to their customers; no smartphone is required. Leveraging their own data sets, domestic institutions are able to serve loans to customers ignored by available credit systems and open up entirely new revenue opportunities.

“There are more than 3 billion adults globally without access to credit. Our vision is that every one of them will have instant access to credit in the next 10 years.” explains Ekechi Nwokah, Mines CEO. “We believe the best way to realize this vision is to partner with banks, retailers and mobile operators and power digital credit products tailored to their markets so they can create the customers of tomorrow, today.”

By mining high-volume data like phone records, bank records, and payment transactions in real-time, Mines can instantly assess credit risk in markets that lack robust credit bureau infrastructure. It then integrates its risk models with identity, origination, payments, loan lifecycle management, and customer service to form a holistic platform. The net result is a seamless user experience where partners’ customers can apply for and receive a loan in less than 60 seconds or make instant purchases with virtual or physical credit cards.

The company has hardened its proprietary technology in Nigeria where it has been used by over 1 million customers since launching in 2017. It is now the leading provider of consumer credit in the country, counting mobile operators 9mobile and Airtel, payment processors Interswitch and NIBSS, along with several banks amongst its partners. “What we have done differently is take Silicon Valley technology and built it into a product that is robust enough for emerging markets like Nigeria, Brazil, or Indonesia”, says Chief Scientist Kunle Olukotun. “We can extend credit to all types of customers, including customers without smartphones or even bank accounts as these are the people who need credit the most.”

As part of the financing, Yemi Lalude from TPG Growth and Willem Willemstein from Velocity Capital have joined Mines’ Board of Directors. Lalude says, “Mines combines world-class artificial intelligence and extensive use of data with a strong focus on local partnerships to build financial inclusion. We are excited to partner with them to drive financial access across the world.”

Mines started out as a research project on high performance artificial intelligence led by Olukotun, a professor of computer engineering at Stanford University. It came to life after a chance meeting with Nwokah, a computer scientist working on big data projects at Amazon Web Services, after which they teamed up to direct the technology towards solving the grand challenge of financial access. Both founders grew up in Africa and understand the challenges facing technology companies trying to solve problems in emerging markets without a deep respect for the complexities of local culture, knowing they need to take a different approach. They have been joined by VP Commercial Adia Sowho, who has successfully scaled several digital financial services at one of Nigeria’s largest mobile operators, to grow the business.

Sowho says “Scaling a digital product in Africa requires a deep understanding of two things – distribution and partnerships.  In Nigeria, Mines has demonstrated that its platform is flexible enough to enable partners with consumer reach across the income pyramid, activate a wide swath of distribution channels, from rudimentary USSD to more advanced web-based ones. We look forward to building more partnerships in Nigeria and beyond”.

Founded in 2014, Mines is a robust platform used to construct and power consumer-facing digital credit products that engage the world’s population currently underserved by formal financial services. The platform includes components such as APIs, frameworks, consumer insights tools and expertise on best practices that local enterprise partners can use to build transformative credit products for their own markets. Mines has offices in San Mateo, CA and Lagos, Nigeria.

The Rise Fund is the world’s largest global fund committed to achieving measurable, positive social and environmental outcomes alongside competitive financial returns — what we call  “complete returns.” The Rise Fund is managed by TPG Growth, the global growth equity and middle market buyout platform of alternative asset firm TPG. The Rise Fund is led by a group of influential thought leaders with a deep personal and professional commitment to driving social and environmental progress. The Rise Fund invests in education, energy, food and agriculture, financial services,  growth infrastructure, healthcare, and technology, media, and telecommunications companies that deliver complete returns.

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Big Barrels: The New Narrative on Africa’s Oil & Gas that is Captivating Global Markets
August 10, 2018 | 0 Comments
The English version of the book was launched in English in June 2017 at Africa Oil & Power 2017 in Cape Town, and has since become a huge hit in Africa and abroad
 

Author NJ Ayuk, a prominent African energy lawyer

Author NJ Ayuk, a prominent African energy lawyer

LONDON, United Kingdom, August 9, 2018/ — A year after its release, the global momentum created by the bestseller on Africa’s oil and gas industry, “Big Barrels: African Oil and Gas and the Quest for Prosperity”, has led to its re-launching in French, Spanish and German.

“The narrative of the book makes its success,” explains author NJ Ayuk, a prominent African energy lawyer. “Big Barrels tells a hidden story of Africa’s oil & gas industry, one that speaks of positive achievements and lays out the capabilities such an industry has to transform the future of African economies and people.”

The English version of the book was launched in English in June 2017 at Africa Oil & Power 2017 in Cape Town, and has since become a huge hit in Africa and abroad, taking aim at the perception that in Africa oil and gas can do no good, arguing against the perception of a “resource curse.”

The book uses specific case studies from countries like Nigeria, Ghana, Angola, Tanzania and Equatorial Guinea to showcase what African nations have done right with regards to exploiting their oil and gas resources. It notably highlights specific areas of success including good governance in Ghana, environmental stewardship in Gabon and employment and enterprise creation in Nigeria. In doing so, Big Barrels effectively allows Africans to recapture the narrative surrounding their oil & gas industry, and open it up to non-cursing, African voices.

Since its first launch, Big Barrels has received extensive global media attention, being notably repeatedly featured and debated over on BBC Africa, CNBC, Forbes Africa, Bild Zeitung, Financial Afrik, SABC, DW and Voice of America. As Funke Michaels, a Mason Fellow at Harvard University, said in a review, “I see readers coming away encouraged by these cases, and effectively freed from the myth that Africa cannot be cured of the age-old “resource curse.”

The new languages editions of the book will be launched at Africa Oil & Power 2018 in Cape Town from Sept. 5-7.  The book can be ordered from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other retailers.

A leading energy lawyer and a strong advocate for African entrepreneurs, NJ Ayuk is recognized as one of the foremost figures in African business today. A Global Shaper with the World Economic Forum, one of Forbes’ Top 10 Most Influential Men in Africa in 2015, and a well-known dealmaker in the petroleum and power sectors, Ayuk has dedicated his career to helping entrepreneurs find success and to building the careers of young African lawyers. As founder and CEO of Centurion Law Group, a pan-African law firm, Ayuk strives through his work to ensure that business, and especially oil and gas, impacts African societies in a positive way. Ayuk graduated from University of Maryland College Park and earned a Juris Doctor from William Mitchell College of Law and an MBA from the New York Institute of Technology.

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South Sudan president Kiir grants amnesty to Machar, all rebels
August 10, 2018 | 0 Comments

By Deng Machol

President Kiir and former Vice Presdient Riek Machar. South Sudanese are hopeful the peace accords and amnesty could bring about lasting peace

President Kiir and former Vice Presdient Riek Machar. South Sudanese are hopeful the peace accords and amnesty could bring about lasting peace

Juba – South Sudan President Salva Kiir granted a general amnesty to rebels in South Sudan’s civil war, including his former deputy Riek Machar, days after signing a power-sharing agreement in the latest effort to end a five-year civil war.

This also comes a day a rights organization said authorities in Africa’s youngest country should also free its unarmed critics.

South Sudan’s president has granted amnesty to armed opposition leader Riek Machar and all rebel groups

The amnesty order was read out on state-run television late on Wednesday evening, three days after president Kiir, SPLM-IO leader Machar and the heads of other groups signed a revitalized power-sharing peace agreement in the Sudanese capital Khartoum on August 05, 2018.

I declare republican order number 14 for the year 2018 for the grant of general amnesty to the leader of SPLM-IO Dr Riek Machar and other estranged groups who waged war against the government of the republic of South Sudan,” read the order broadcast by the state media late Wednesday.

South Sudan has descended into another civil war in 2013 after the political row between president Kiir and Dr. Machar that has killed tens of thousands, forced 2.5 million population to flee their homes and created Africa’s largest refugee crisis since the 1994 Rwandan genocide and ruined the country’s oil-dependent economy.

The conflict has often been fought along ethnic lines. This is the second agreement after a similar peace deal signed in 2015 fell apart a year later in deadly clashes that saw Dr Machar flee into exile.

Dr. Machar was freed this year from house arrest in South Africa where he had been held since fleeing South Sudan in 2016.

As part of the power-sharing deal, Kiir will remain president and Machar will return to the country as the first vice president, one of five vice presidents, a similar agreement fell apart in July 2016.

President Kiir also ordered the army to allow unrestricted access to humanitarian agencies to respond to massive humanitarian needs across the country and to respect the ceasefire.

SPLM-IO is the largest of the rebel groups fighting Kiir’s government, and fighters allied to it control several areas in South Sudan. Whereas other anti-government groups have also emerged, some of which have fought against each other.

Despite the agreement that Kiir and Machar signed over the weekend in Sudan, the working relations between the two principals remained fragile.

The SPLM-IO spokesperson Lam Paul quoted said president Kiir was in no position to grant amnesty to anyone after overseeing the atrocities and multiple cease-fire violations committed by his troops.

“Salva should instead seek for forgiveness from Dr. Machar in particular and South Sudanese in general,” Paul told AP.

Paul further added that the amnesty will only be genuine once Kiir observes all the conditions agreed upon in the deal signed on Sunday.

 “Machar can only come to Juba after the pre-interim period when the unified forces are deployed in Juba and other major towns in South Sudan,” Paul said, quoted by Reuter.

However, observers said that this may give Machar much confidence and other rebels a genuine reason to return to the country without the fear of the repetition of the 2016 incident.

Multiples of citizens said a lot still is needed such as the genuine cessation of hostilities and ending the war of words among the warring parties.

The United States last month said it was “skeptical” the two men whose rivalry has been so destructive could lead the way to peace under the new agreement.

South Sudan’s government insists things will be different this time, with government spokesman Michael Makuei saying last week that Machar has “learned the hard way.”

However, the warring parties leaders from the sides of the conflict are seem to end the war because they have run out of money and they need cash to continue hold on power. For instance, if oil flow increases, and more money goes into economic, then they will find a good reason to abandon the war and to enjoy the profits for peace.

Machar’s troops are expected to go to cantonment sites for training to be unified with the government army.

Although, the implementation of peace takes a lot of time than signing a piece of paper, the two principals and other parties’ leaders have committed themselves to implement the peace deal.

The analysts described it as ‘a good gesture toward trust building that will enhance the smooth and genuine implementation of the recently signed power – sharing deal.’

Deng Jacob, resident in Juba, said it demonstrated the ability to forgive and to be forgive and that means, it can forge a room for forgiveness [if president implemented it] amongst the South Sudanese and may paved to the reconciliation process in the country.

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Kenya:Government demolishes sh.1 billion mall
August 8, 2018 | 0 Comments

By Samuel Ouma

South End Mall on Lang'ata Road in Nairobi, during a demolition exercise on August 8, 2018. /COURTESY

South End Mall on Lang’ata Road in Nairobi, during a demolition exercise on August 8, 2018. /COURTESY

A popular mall in Nairobi was demolished on Wednesday morning on ground that it was constructed along riparian reserves.

SouthEnd Mall located along Lang’ata road was brought down by National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) officials, a body which oversees the preservation of the environment, after battling in court with the owner for quite a while. The demolition process was carried out under tight security by policemen.

The building owned by the former legislator Stephen Manoti is claimed to have been the cause of persistent flooding in some parts of the city since it obstructs smooth flow of Nairobi River. In 2016, Manoti was served with a 14 days’ demolition notice which he challenged in court. Court stopped Nairobi County government from destroying the five-storey building.

A senior officer at NEMA has disclosed the mistake that led to devastation of sh.1 billion ($1000000) building. He said the body issued the former Member of Parliament permit to build on a very small area away from wetland but he ended up building beyond the area ratified for construction.

The owner of the building through his lawyer has condemned NEMA’s decision to obliterate his building despite having order. He termed the move as unfair given all the involved parties had been served with stay orders.

The lawyer said, “The licenses were issued by NEMA and Nairobi City Council. Later we enjoined Water Resource Management and the National Construction Authority as defendants. My client has never received a notice that they were coming to destroy the building”.

Traders are counting losses since three hundred businesses in the premise no longer exist. They have claimed no eviction notice was given saying they received shocking phone calls in the morning. They expressed fear of losing customers who were used to the mall due to its strategic location. The traders challenged the government to apply the same move to other buildings erected in the riparian reserves.

The operation to reclaim riparian land is spearheaded by President Uhuru Kenyatta through a committee co-chaired by Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko, Wildlife and Tourism Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala. Officers from the National Environment Management Authority, National Construction Authority, ministries of interior, land and housing, environment and water, National Youth Service and office of the Attorney General are members of the committee.

SouthEnd Mall is among the buildings that have been brought down in the city in a campaign to reclaim wetlands from land grabbers.

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Congo’s Kabila will not stand in presidential election
August 8, 2018 | 0 Comments

By Amedee Mwarabu*

President Kabila

President Kabila

KINSHASA (Reuters) – Democratic Republic of Congo President Joseph Kabila will not stand in December’s presidential election, a spokesman said on Wednesday, announcing that former interior minister Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary would be the ruling coalition’s candidate.

The announcement by spokesman Lambert Mende at a news conference puts an end to years of speculation about whether Kabila would defy term limits to run for a third term.

Kabila was due to step down in 2016 at the end of his constitutional mandate but the election to replace him was repeatedly delayed. That sparked protests in which the military and police killed dozens of people. Militia violence also rose in the country’s volatile eastern borderlands.

Kabila’s political allies had floated various legal arguments they said would justify his running again but he came under strong pressure from regional allies like Angola as well as the United States and EU to stand down.

The selection of Ramazani is, however, a defiant move by Kabila. A former interior minister, he is under European Union sanctions for alleged human rights abuses, including deadly crackdowns by security forces on protesters.

“We are all going to align behind (him),” Mende said. “It is Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, permanent secretary of the (ruling) PPRD.”

His choice of a die hard loyalist suggests that Kabila, who came to power after his father’s assassination in 2001, will remain closely involved in national politics after bowing out.

Kabila will remain at the head of his People’s Party for Reconstruction and Democracy (PPRD) and has installed loyalists across the federal bureaucracy, including in the courts and in the military.

But the announcement that he will not run again will ease fears in the region and beyond that a Kabila candidacy would drag the country back into the civil wars of the turn of the century in which millions died, mostly from hunger and disease.

The Dec. 23 vote should now herald Congo’s first democratic transition of power following decades marked by authoritarian rule, coups and deadly conflict.

Mende said that Ramazani was on his way to the electoral commission headquarters in the capital Kinshasa to file his candidacy.

Several opposition candidates, including former vice president Jean-Pierre Bemba and the president of Congo’s largest opposition party, Felix Tshisekedi, have also registered to run.

They fear that the goodwill Kabila could earn from not seeking a new term could make it easier for his coalition to cheat. They say voter rolls are unreliable and are suspicious of electronic voting machines due to be used for the first time.

A nationwide opinion poll last month showed opposition candidates collecting a significant majority of the vote with potential candidates from the ruling coalition trailing far behind.

 *Reuters
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