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The AFCFTA Will Have A Game Changing Impact On The Whole Continent-Dr. Joy Kategekwa Head, UNCTAD Regional Office for Africa
June 30, 2019 | 0 Comments

By Ajong Mbapndah L

“I am optimistic, that we are on to a game changing page in the prospects of trade improving the lives of ordinary Africans and achieving progress on meeting Africa’s Agenda 2063 and the UN Sustainable Development Goals,” says Dr Joy Kategekwa , Head of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development Regional Office for Africa in Addis Ababa .

Responding to questions from Pan African Visions on the AFCFTA, Dr Kategekwa says its impact on the continent could be profound.  Dr Kategekwa pointed to projections from the UNCTAD which indicated that should the  AfCFTA lead to 100 per cent tariff liberalisation in trade in goods (alone), the continent would realise USD 16.1 billion in welfare gains, a 1 to 3 per cent growth in GDP, a 1.2 per cent increase in employment, a 33 per cent increase in intra-African exports and a 50 per cent reduction in trade deficit.

“An agreement that has, from commencement of negotiations (February 2016) to adoption (March 2018) taken a little over two years is demonstration of strong political will,” says Dr Kategekwa whose office has been a fulcrum of UNCTAD’s support to the AfCFTA

The African Continental Free Trade Agreement is now set to go into effect after ratification by the requisite number of countries, what is your take on this?

My take is one of optimism – about the game changing impact of a whole continent that dismantles barriers to intra-African trade.  For way too long have analysts decried the low levels of intra-African trade.  These low levels are worrisome especially from the perspective of Africa losing out on the benefits of international trade changing ordinary lives through economic empowerment.  The AfCFTA promises to set in motion the application of a new body of law that will require States Parties to eliminate restrictions – laws, regulations, administrative processes, that discriminate against the products originating from other AfCFTA States Parties.  This will make African products more competitive in African markets – once the hoop of high tariffs has been jumped through the AfCFTA.

The AfCFTA will also open markets for intra-African trade in services, a sector that plays a leading role in all African economies – evidenced in gross domestic product contributions, as well as the growing amount of services exports from Africa.

The AfCFTA has teeth – a regime on dispute resolution – which will strengthen trade governance and accountability in Africa.    The AfCFTA will be overseen by a secretariat dedicated to it, which should help keep an eye on effective implementation.

More so, the AfCFTA is not only about goods and services.  It foresees a second phase of negotiations to tackle regulatory barriers that are key determinants to how markets can effectively function. These include competition, investment and intellectual property rights.  The sum total is a scope that is comprehensive and suitable to the quest for boosting intra-African trade and strengthening African integration.

Overall, I am optimistic, that we are on to a game changing page in the prospects of trade improving the lives of ordinary Africans and achieving progress on meeting Africa’s Agenda 2063 and the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

With the ratification, what next, and in concrete terms, what is expected to change for Trade in the continent with the AFCFTA?

What next is that countries will complete the unfinished business of market access negotiations on trade in goods and services according to the agreed AfCFTA negotiating modalities in order to come up with each country’s respective schedule of tariff concessions and specific commitments on trade in services.  Such schedules of commitments, as well as finalization of the rules of origin, are indispensable for operationalizing trade liberalization processes under the AfCFTA.

In terms of what is expected to change for trade in Africa, once AfCFTA liberalization has become operational, it is a matter of volumes, value, and diversity in the export basket – which translate into diversity in production.

The AfCFTA is the world’s largest free trade area of our time.  It brings together 55 African countries with a market of more than 1.2 billion people and a combined GDP of more than US$3.4 trillion. It is expected that the AfCFTA will increase intra-African trade by 52.3 per cent through the elimination of tariff and non-tariff barriers.   These numbers are results of simulations by senior experts at the United Nations – both at UNCTAD and at the UN Regional Economic Commission for Africa.  At UNCTAD, we have estimated that if the AfCFTA leads to 100 per cent tariff liberalisation in trade in goods (alone), the continent would realise USD 16.1 billion in welfare gains, a 1 to 3 per cent growth in GDP, a 1.2 per cent increase in employment, a 33 per cent increase in intra-African exports and a 50 per cent reduction in trade deficit.[1]  This is the scenario for goods trade.

But as we know – the level of trade in services in Africa is growing. According to UNCTADstat, Africa’s services exports grew by up to 14% in 2017, with figures ranging from South Africa’s almost 16 billion US dollars to Lesotho’s 2 million US dollars. The services sector plays a critical role in strengthening the continent’s leapfrogging potential to attain the objectives of structural transformation.  Services sector growth is inescapable in raising productivity and value addition in agriculture (a mainstay of the African economy) and industry.  A trade agreement that creates new opportunities by removing discriminatory regulations and operational conditions for market access is an urgent intervention that will set the continent on a better path to diversification and sustainable development.

What this translates to – is bigger volumes of trade – a first generation spill over of reduced tariffs/discriminatory regulations.

But there is also the value proposition.  Colleagues at the UNECA have consistently tracked the level of intra-African trade.  In the period prior to 2012 (when African presidents took the decision to fast track the continental free trade area and adopted the Action Plan for Boosting Intra-African Trade); numbers floated at about 10-12 percent.  In more recent studies, they range from about 16 (UNECA) even going up to about 18% (UNCTAD).  And so, there is already an important improvement – on which the AfCFTA is expected to at least double.  In this trade is an even more interesting trend.  That in these higher levels of intra-African trade, the largest composition therein is of trade in manufactures – going as high as 46% (UNECA).  This tells us two important points:  One that intra-African trade is already happening at encouraging levels (vis a vis the base period of 2012) and two: that within intra-African trade is the first evidence of Africa’s diversification.  Evidence of breaking away from the age-old pattern of low value, low volume products – mostly agricultural commodities of little, if any, value addition – as the proposition that Africa consistently brings to the global stage.  This is very important, because a 46% intra-African trade in manufactures tells us that manufacturing is happening (albeit at the lower end); and that the promise of the AfCFTA can be a reality – if there is attendant investment in the enabling environment side of issues.  Further, UNCTAD has indicated that intra-African trade has a higher technological content than extra-African trade. The share of products traded among African countries with medium and high technological content is about 27% as compared to a share of 15% for Africa’s exports to the rest of the world.

Finally, there is a question of a diversified intra-African trade export basket – with the inclusion of services – which can only strengthen Africa’s economy, and in that, its women, men, youth, SMEs, etc.

Building on advances in the Regional Economic Communities (RECs) – the AfCFTA will deepen economic integration in Africa, creating a deeper integrated African market.  This is particularly important when we bear in mind the fact that much of the existing intra-African trade takes place within these RECs.  A new legal order that locks this in, not only vis a vis regional groupings but between and amongst them, is exactly where the first dividends of the AfCFTA may be visible – in creating opportunities for countries in Africa that currently do not have any arrangements, outside of the multilateral framework, to grant each other preferential tariff and regulatory treatment for goods and services.

Dr Kategewa believes that the level o commitment from African leaders has so far been strong

Dr Kategewa believes that the level o commitment from African leaders has so far been strong

Countries of the continent are in all shapes and sizes from population, to economic potential, infrastructure development, and so on, what mechanisms does the Agreement have to ensure a level playing field for all countries?

The AfCFTA is designed in what we, at UNCTAD and within the UN system – call “developmental regionalism”.  Simplified – it is an approach to designing regional trade integration agreements in a manner that meets the twin objective of opening markets while ensuring industrialization, more jobs, incomes and the attainment of sustainable development.  In a continent of Africa’s realities, there is no shortcut to adapting what is known as global good practices to a workable outcome in context.  And so, in the case of the AfCFTA Protocol on Trade in Services for example, the calculus was less about how to liberalize trade in services for the sake of opening markets alone, but more about creating a pro-development loop in which the opening of services sectors was done in a manner that would provide real valuable and utilizable opportunities to SMEs, women and youth.  It was about allowing countries to exercise their right to regulate and introduce new regulations (a right that often deals with seemingly conflicting objectives such as business opportunities on the one hand and consumer protection on the other).  It was about a choice of initial priority sectors that can unlock bottlenecks related to connectivity and infrastructure readiness – so that the nexus between agriculture and industry can be fully harnessed.  And yet it is also about allowing AfCFTA states parties to pace their contributions; within those selected sectors – to determine how, when and on what conditions, such access is granted.  It is about creating a one Africa by seeking to frontload some of the political momentum around mobility for Africans within Africa – it being well understood that there is no regional integration without effective free movement of Africans – traders, investors, service suppliers, industrialists.

Similarly in the case of the AfCFTA Protocol on Trade in Goods, it was about shooting for as high an ambition of liberalization  as possible (90% in this case) – going zero for zero as soon as possible from the start of implementation such as in 5 years while accepting that there are sensitive sectors in which certain countries/regions require flexibility (allowing them to phase in their commitments slower).  The so-called sensitive products – will have a slower pace of liberalization (or a longer transition period).  The additional category of “the exclusion list products” (3% of tariff lines) is one in which countries cannot accept to liberalize at this stage.

Also within the Agreements consisting of the overarching umbrella treaty, the protocol on trade in goods and the Protocol on trade in services – is a variation of special and differential treatment – ranging from longer transition periods, provisions for capacity development for the least developed among the states parties, provisions leaving room for African governments to support industrial development (part of the rationale for the sensitive and excluded products list).

This menu of options is the AfCFTA’s approach to meeting each country, or group thereof, where it is –in terms of its development concerns.  Naturally, the benefits of this approach, itself not novel in trade agreements that respond to development challenges, will go to those countries that get themselves ready –  utilizing the space granted to create and strengthen productive capacities for utilization.

For the trade professional that you are, how much of a game changer could this be for the continent?

This is a dream come true for all trade and development professionals.  Having spent all of my career seeking trade deals for Africa, supporting Africa to shape strategies and policies for utilization and building capacities for knowledge and sector development – I am honored to have been part of the process of shaping the AfCFTA.  For us as African professionals in trade, it is greatly symbolic to see that Africa has attained that which continues to elude the world: a large scale trade agreement that aims for deep liberalization – one which will call for important domestic reforms. One which will have costs in transition and implementation – yet one which enjoys the highest level political support across Africa.  Its’ timeframe for entry into force is, arguably a world record, judged by the pace of ratifications, for an agreement of this scale.  This speaks to Africa’s determination to get the promise of trade for its people.

It could be the start of creation of industries of all sizes, a rising and conscious African market that gets confidence in continental products and one that gets an empowered and independent path to development.  The benefits will out pass economic gain.  We are on the edge of a social and cultural transformation that will promote brands such as make in Africa (for investment attraction); made in Africa (for origin qualification) pride in African products; and ultimately, what, in the words of the AU’s own development blueprint, is aptly termed: “The Africa We Want”.  A final point on my assessment as a professional in the field is that implementing the AfCFTA will create a new market for African Think Tanks – to support evidence-based policies and strategies for implementation.  It will create a new generation of African trade law specialists – who can support treaty implementation proper as well as the resolution of disputes.  Linked to the latter is the need for a crop of jurists who will need to support the resolution process.  It will have also created and strengthened the cadre of trade negotiators, skilled in the arcane field of negotiating tariffs, non-tariff measures and trade regulations, and being prepared for continued negotiations in the continent or outside in the international trade arena.  Finally on the knowledge point, there will be need for more teachers to share knowledge in our institutions on the opportunities created in the AfCFTA and raise awareness.  Curriculum development, training and capacity building on trade law, economics and development is now to be a hot career choice for professionals in Africa.  This makes me particularly proud to see.

We noticed that there are a still a number of countries notable Nigeria that have not yet signed it, considered that this is the economic powerhouse of Africa, how does the absence of Nigeria impact the enforcement and effectiveness of the agreement?

Nigeria is yet to sign onto the AfCFTA and deposit its instrument of ratification.  For reasons of effectiveness, it is desirable that Nigeria joins the AfCFTA – still hopefully as a Founding Member, not least because it is the economic powerhouse in Africa.   This would allow it to take advantage of the large opportunities to be created, yet also provide a market for African exports.   The domestic consultations, we are informed, are ongoing and there have been pronouncements, including at the highest level, of support for the AfCFTA.  After 16 years in the business of trade negotiations, I am more convinced than ever – that strong preparatory work determines a steady and effective path to implementation.   In this line of argumentation, the delay of Nigeria, if hinged on getting the domestic consultations finalized as well as the reform agenda needed to faithfully implement the Agreement, is positive.  It is true though that there has to be a price for accession – which will be difficult to avoid when countries are not ‘Founding Members”.  Like others, the call from UNCTAD, is for all African countries to take the opportunity of the AfCFTA by joining – and use all of the available tools to support implementation.

There has been no shortage of lofty agreements in Africa, but a missing ingredient has been the political will, how committed do you think African countries are to the effective implementation of the AFCFTA?

An agreement that has, from commencement of negotiations (February 2016) to adoption (March 2018) – taken a little over two years – is demonstration of strong political will. The fact that the approaches adopted for the design of the AfCFTA relied heavily on REC developments and dynamics is a vote of confidence (read political will) in integration in Africa.  The pace at which ratifications have trickled in – is also unprecedented. Moreover, an extraordinary Summit of African Union Heads of States and Governments is scheduled for July 2019 to officially launch the operational phase of the AfCFTA with key support initiatives to be unveiled during the event.

The commitment of African leaders – from the top through to technocrats that shape the day to day work on the AfCFTA, is strong.  Business and Civil Society have also been engaged.  Across the board, you do get a sense of a great dose of political will – which will be central to ensuring that needed reforms are prioritized at country and regional level – for effective implementation.

Dr Kategewa says the level of trade in services in Africa is growing

Dr Kategewa says the level of trade in services in Africa is growing

Still on the level of implementation, let’s take the example of Rwanda where its border with Uganda has been shut with unfortunate economic consequences for months now, how could situations like this impact the implementation of the AFCFTA?

The AfCFTA will create the needed momentum to remove obstacles to trade across Africa.  At the forthcoming AU Summit, the AU will launch an Online Platform to report non-tariff barriers in the AfCFTA, that it has developed with the support of UNCTAD.  This will allow private sector and policy makers to identify and resolve such barriers in the implementation structures of the AfCFTA. The online tool will be accompanied by national institutions that would be geared to address the complaints raised and remove them, so trade is not unnecessarily hinder or obstructed by non-tariff barriers.

What impact do you think the agreement could have on trade with countries like China, Europe, the USA and other foreign countries seeking to bolster trade ties with Africa?

The purpose of the AfCFTA is to increase intra-African trade. New opportunities in intra-African trade will do for Africa what closer regional integration did for Europe and other large powers.  African producers will establish channels of production to utilize these opportunities.  These products will be of higher value, more diversified and in bigger volumes.  Naturally, the focus on intra-African trade may be seen as an inward strategy.  But the fundamentals of this being the approach that will support industrial development and structural transformation, are solid.

The AfCFTA gives countries like China, Europe, the US what they have asked for a while – clear, rules based environments of policy and legal predictability in Africa.  Their support will be important in getting the capacity development agenda off the ground – to build productive capacity for intra-African trade in Africa. It is important to note though, that it is not only countries but also global firms, that could be attracted to Africa.

Africa will be better positioned to engage with “third countries” – thanks to the AfCFTA – whose rules have particular provisions on how to manage such relations.    In the case of the multilateral trading system embodied in the WTO, it is unquestionable that all of the important successes that have been registered for Africa within the work of the WTO have been achieved thanks to a united Africa – the so called WTO Africa Group.  The AfCFTA stands to build on that progress by creating clarity to the African position on complex issues across trade and development.  And this is important especially because much of the engagement of Africa in the MTS has been positioned around the call for flexibility, special and differential treatment.  In the period of WTO reform, having a unified African position on tariffs and industry, on services regulation, on non-tariff barriers – (the core of trade policy etc.) will allow for the articulation of a stronger voice from Africa to the world.  This will play a positive role in the beneficial integration of Africa into the multilateral trading system.

There seems to be a lot of optimism about the AFCTA, at what point should everyday ordinary Africans expect to feel its impact in their lives?

The Agreement has entered into force and in the coming weeks, the African Union Heads of State will launch its operational phase.  Ordinary Africans should not wait to feel the impact on their lines – rather, they should create this impact– by engaging in production for export.  Once the tariff books (or services sectoral regulations) are changed to reflect AfCFTA preferential treatment for its states parties – it will be visible.  And yet it can only be visible for those who are ready to utilize.  So, there will be no manna from heaven.  For those that engage in production or have services to export, the treatment received thanks to the AfCFTA – will be the occasion to feel the impact.  And one can imagine that such an impact would cascade down to communities, families, people – improving their lives with the dividend of new markets.

There will be revenue losses from implementing the AfCFTA.  These, according to UNCTAD studies, will be in the short term.  However, the long-term gains outweigh the losses. Moreover, there are in-built flexibilities to deal with tariff revenue and welfare losses. Some of these include compensatory measures, flanking policies and adjustment measures.[2] It is also worth recalling that the loss of revenue and its magnitude would need to be calibrated to the reality of the still low levels of intra-Africa trade.

Is there any role your agency played in the build up to the treaty or a support role that you will be playing in its implementation?

UNCTAD’s relationship of support for trade capacity development predates the AfCFTA.  We have been involved, from the times of translating the political decision into modalities for negotiations.  We have provided technical studies and options for negotiations, working with the technical teams in the AU to prepare data, analysis and propose options for outcomes that support developmental regionalism.  The Secretary General of UNCTAD took a decision to establish the UNCTAD Regional Office for Africa – which I have the privilege to head.  The Office has been a fulcrum of UNCTAD’s support to the AfCFTA –bringing some of the world’s best minds on various complex trade topics, from headquarters, to advise the AUC Department on Trade and Industry – and to be available in negotiating institutions to provide study findings, data and analysis and overall technical support to AU Members.  The AU designated UNCTAD a Technical Partner to the negotiations – and this has allowed for a seamless flow of support – much to the appreciation of African Union Member States – who are on record in awarding UNCTAD a certificate of appreciation for the technical support in the AfCFTA negotiations.

As we move to Niamey, the Secretary General of UNCTAD and the President of Niger are poised to launch the continental non-tariff barrier reporting and eliminating online mechanism before Heads of State.  For as any trade negotiations professional will tell you – there is one thing that is for sure – as tariffs go down, non-tariff barriers rise…

Looking ahead towards implementation, UNCTAD as the lead agency within the United Nations supporting countries in developing policies for trade-led growth, will continue to support the African Union Commission, and the institutional structures in place for implementation.  UNCTAD’s Divisions – all of which have played a key role in supporting the negotiations – in particular the Division on Trade in Goods and Commodities, the Investment Division, the Statistics Branch, and the Africa and Least Developed Countries Division – will continue to support implementation – particularly as we get not only into phase II of the negotiations on which we are already working with the AU – but also as we shift focus to the pressing question of building productive capacities…In a sense therefore, we are very much at the early stages of a long road ahead…

[1] The African Continental Free Trade Area: The day after the Kigali Summit. UNCTAD Policy Brief No. 67 of May 2018

[2] The African Continental Free Trade Area: The day after the Kigali Summit. UNCTAD Policy Brief No. 67 of May 2018

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Don’t Expect Justice From the Imperial Criminal Court
June 28, 2019 | 0 Comments

By Justin Podur*

-The ICC provides no legal counterbalance to the arrogance of an empire’s power.

In June, a group of international lawyers sued the European Union for crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court (ICC). The lawyers claim that when the EU switched to a policy of deterring refugees trying to cross the Mediterranean in 2014, in particular trying to prevent Libyan refugees from fleeing their destroyed state, they killed thousands of refugees and sent tens of thousands more back to Libya to be enslaved, tortured, raped, and killed.

As a symbolic gesture, the lawsuit is powerful. But the possibility of getting justice for Libyan refugees from the ICC is practically nonexistent.

In fact, the ICC bears some responsibility for the destruction of the Libyan state that led to the refugee crisis in the first place. When the United States decided to overthrow Gaddafi in 2011, it had the UN Security Council make a “referral” of the Libyan situation to the ICC. There were some peculiarities in the details of the referral as well: the ICC was directed to investigate the situation in Libya, exempting non-state actors, since February 15, 2011. “It would appear,” scholar Mark Kersten writes in a chapter in the 2015 book Contested Justice (pg. 462), “that the restriction to events after 15 February 2011 was included in order to shield key Western states… In the years preceding the intervention, many of the same Western states that ultimately intervened in Libya and helped overturn the regime had maintained close economic, political and intelligence connections with the Libyan government.” The African Union, led by the South African president, tried to broker a peace deal between Gaddafi and the rebels: Gaddafi accepted, but the rebels refused. For them, Gaddafi had to go. And the ICC investigation strengthened their hand. In Libya, the ICC was harmful to a negotiated solution.

In general, the ICC prefers war to negotiated peace. As scholar Phil Clark pointed out in his 2018 book Distant Justice (pg. 91): “… the ICC has expressed immense scepticism toward peace negotiations involving Ugandan and Congolese suspects whom it has charged—especially when those talks involve the offer of amnesty—but has strongly supported militarised responses to these suspects and their respective rebel movements. In short, the ICC has viewed ongoing armed conflict rather than peace talks as more useful for its own purposes.” The president of the DR Congo’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission told Clark in an interview (pg. 223): “The ICC came up forcefully in our discussions with several rebel leaders… We would start talking to them, make good progress, then the conversation would stop. They didn’t want to incriminate themselves, even when we stressed that the amnesty was in place.” In the DR Congo, the ICC made offers of amnesty less credible. Rebel leader Mathieu Ngudjolo was pardoned in 2006, integrated into the army, promoted to the rank of colonel, and then arrested on an ICC warrant 18 months later: the government’s “duplicity toward an amnesty recipient undermined the broader use of amnesty as an incentive for members of rebel groups to disarm” (pg. 203).

The ICC’s careful selection of when it investigates crimes (like limiting its Libya investigation to crimes after February 15, 2011, or its predecessor the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda limiting its investigation to crimes committed after the assassination of the Rwandan president on April 6, 1994) is mirrored in its careful selection of where it investigates and where it ignores. Take the DR Congo again: the ICC limited its mandate to the province of Ituri. Horrific violence took place in Ituri, but there was less violence overall than in the Kivu provinces (especially North Kivu). Why didn’t the ICC investigate in the Kivus? Because in the Kivus, the worst crimes were committed by armed groups supported by Rwanda and Uganda, favored U.S. allies in the region. When Sri Lanka’s government killed tens of thousands of people at the end of its counterinsurgency war against the Tamil Tigers in 2009, the ICC wrung its hands: Sri Lanka wasn’t a signatory to the Rome Statute that empowered the ICC.

The ICC gets even twistier when it comes time to prevent accountability for Israel. After the Goldstone report on Israel’s massacres in Gaza in 2008/9, Palestinians tried to bring a suit to the ICC against the Israeli generals and politicians who organized them. David Bosco reports in his book Rough Justice (pg. 162) that the Israelis met with Ocampo and “pressed Moreno-Ocampo to determine quickly that Palestine was not a state and that the court could therefore not accept its grant of jurisdiction.” The Americans told Ocampo “that they saw little value in ‘criminalizing the world’s longest running and most intractable regional dispute.’” Moreno saw the light: “The prosecutor’s long-awaited decision on Palestine—released in April 2012… more than three years after Palestine asked the court to investigate, the prosecutor decided that it was not his role to determine Palestine’s legal status.” The massacred Palestinians were colonized, and therefore stateless. Only states can sign the Rome Statute and bring the ICC in. Therefore, the ICC had no jurisdiction over the 2008/9 massacres of the Palestinians.

When the U.S. and UK saw no benefit to having the ICC involved in Afghanistan, the ICC prosecutor (Bosco, pg. 163): “limited himself to occasional private requests and put no pressure on involved states. That approach contrasted sharply with his willingness to sharply chastise states for their failure to enforce existing arrest warrants.”

Given the proclivity of the Western coalition in Afghanistan for bombing weddings and operating death squads (sometimes euphemistically called “kill teams”), their squeamishness in the face of potential legal probes is understandable. The ICC, like its predecessor tribunals on Rwanda and Yugoslavia, fully understands that the U.S. and UK are exempt from its brand of justice. Bosco (pg. 66) quotes British Foreign Minister Robin Cook speaking about the international tribunal after the Kosovo war in 1999: “If I may say so, this is not a court set up to bring to book Prime Ministers of the United Kingdom or Presidents of the United States.” Legal scholar Hans Kochler, writing in 2003 (pg. 178), quoted NATO spokesman Jamie Shea, who responded, when asked if he would accept the International Criminal Tribunal for Yugoslavia (ICTY)’s jurisdiction over NATO officials: “… I think we have to distinguish between the theoretical and the practical. I believe when Justice [Louise] Arbour starts her investigation, she will because we will allow her to. It’s not [Serbian President Slobodan] Milosevic that has allowed Justice Arbour her visa to go to Kosovo to carry out her investigations. If her court, as we want, is to be allowed access, it will be because of NATO… So NATO is the friend of the Tribunal, NATO are the people who have been detaining indicted war criminals for the Tribunal in Bosnia.”

NATO’s spokesman reminded the world that as a “practical” matter, since it was Western militaries and police services that provide the law enforcement services to the ICC, these Western militaries wouldn’t subject themselves to the ICC’s justice. The second ICTY prosecutor, Carla Del Ponte, admitted her dependence on NATO forces and the partiality of justice that ensued (quoted in Bosco pg. 66): “if I went forward with an investigation of NATO, I would not only fail in this investigative effort, I would render my office incapable of continuing to investigate and prosecute the crimes committed by the local forces during the wars of the 1990s.”

Justin Podur

Justin Podur

The ICC’s prosecutors depend on Western forces to make arrests and renditions. The ICC also recycles intelligence material from these Western countries into evidence against ICC suspects. This should be a legal problem: intelligence material is not evidence. There are many people trapped in Kafkaesque situations precisely because courts used intelligence materials—which are best guesses and probabilities used to inform police and military actions usually before events occur—as evidence, which should consist of provable facts intended to hold people accountable after the fact. Canadian academic Hassan Diab—imprisoned in France based on a similar-sounding name in a notebook from an intelligence agency interrogation—is just one example.

There was a time, decades ago, when the ICC was forming, when American and Israeli officials were actually worried about the prospect of a court that had universal jurisdiction. Suddenly, U.S. officials talked about national sovereignty. At that time you could hear John Bolton arguing that it was a bad idea “assert the primacy of international institutions over nation-states.” Bolton was very explicit about his problems with the U.S. being a party to the ICC, as quoted by Mahmood Mamdani in 2008:

“‘Our main concern should be for our country’s top civilian and military leaders, those responsible for our defense and foreign policy.’ Bolton went on to ask ‘whether the United States was guilty of war crimes for its aerial bombing campaigns over Germany and Japan in World War II’ and answered in the affirmative: ‘Indeed, if anything, a straightforward reading of the language probably indicates that the court would find the United States guilty. A fortiori, these provisions seem to imply that the United States would have been guilty of a war crime for dropping atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This is intolerable and unacceptable.’ He also aired the concerns of America’s principal ally in the Middle East, Israel: ‘Thus, Israel justifiably feared in Rome that its pre-emptive strike in the Six-Day War almost certainly would have provoked a proceeding against top Israeli officials. Moreover, there is no doubt that Israel will be the target of a complaint concerning conditions and practices by the Israeli military in the West Bank and Gaza.’”

Near the end of his term, Clinton signed the Rome Statute. At the beginning of his term, George W. Bush had Bolton “unsign” it, and negotiate bilateral agreements with the countries of the world that they would never hand Americans over to any international courts. The U.S. went even further, passing in 2002 the Armed Service-Members Protection Act, which includes the line: “The United States is not a party to the Rome Statute and will not be bound by any of its terms. The United States will not recognize the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court over United States nationals.” Then the U.S. got the Security Council to pass resolutions enshrining U.S. immunity.

Israel also never signed the Rome Statute, which is why its officials are now arguing that the ICC has no jurisdiction in an ICC suit about another massacre it committed, this time on a boat trying to relieve the Gaza siege in 2010.

The powerful are exempt from the ICC’s justice. But the U.S. does believe in a kind of universal jurisdiction: its own. Kochler (2003, pg. 106) cites an internal Department of Justice memorandum from the George H.W. Bush era stating the opinion that the FBI has the power “to apprehend and abduct a fugitive residing in a foreign state when those actions would be contrary to customary international law.” That memo was from 1989, and it was about arresting Manuel Noriega, the president of Panama who fell afoul of the U.S., whose country was bombed and invaded, and who was taken away to jail.

The ICC won’t be doing anything for Libyan refugees or the victims of Israel’s massacres, but it continues to make strong statements about Sudan’s now ousted president Omar al-Bashir, who is wanted for crimes committed as part of a counterinsurgency campaign in Darfur. The trial of an African leader from an enemy state, more than a decade after the crimes took place: now this is where the ICC shines.

In 2008, writing about the ICC’s arrest warrant for al-Bashir, Uganda-based scholar Mahmood Mamdani warned that the ICC was becoming a tool of neocolonial domination. The theory implicit in the ICC’s interventions, he wrote, “…turns citizens into wards. The language of humanitarian intervention has cut its ties with the language of citizen rights. To the extent the global humanitarian order claims to stand for rights, these are residual rights of the human and not the full range of rights of the citizen. If the rights of the citizen are pointedly political, the rights of the human pertain to sheer survival… Humanitarianism does not claim to reinforce agency, only to sustain bare life. If anything, its tendency is to promote dependence. Humanitarianism heralds a system of trusteeship.” And what is an empire if not a system of trusteeship?

The ICC provides no legal counterbalance to the arrogance of an empire’s power. It is the empire’s court.

*Source: Independent Media Institute. This article was produced by Globetrotter, a project of the Independent Media Institute.Justin Podur is a Toronto-based writer and a writing fellow at Globetrotter, a project of the Independent Media Institute. You can find him on his website at podur.org and on Twitter @justinpodur. He teaches at York University in the Faculty of Environmental Studies.

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A Memo to Paul Biya, President of Cameroon on: The Urgent Need for Public Policy Mediation and Negotiations in the Ongoing Armed Conflict in the Anglophone Regions of Cameroon
June 28, 2019 | 0 Comments

By Rev. Fr.  Wilfred Emeh*

Father Wilfred Epie Emeh

Father Wilfred Epie Emeh

How did we get here?

It has been nearly three years since the unprecedented outbreak of the Anglophone crisis in Cameroon – a crisis that has dealt a heavy blow on the facets of life of our beloved nation. The UN has reported nearly 2,000 deaths, property has been destroyed, schools have been torched, and uncertainty looms as thousands of people continue to live in misery. The devastation on our economy and human resources are inestimable; businesses have been forced to close, and talented citizens continue to flee their homeland. Thousands of families have been displaced, and many others have become refugees in foreign lands.

How did we get here? The escalation of the ongoing conflict is consequent upon grave administrative failures that include mass arrests and brutal force and extrajudicial killings at a time when peaceful civilians merely sought to express their grievances against the ruling government. Over time, insurgent groups emerged, acquired arms, and targeted the military and security officers, in what has become a full-blown armed conflict in the Anglophone regions of Cameroon.

In retrospect, crass failure to implement educational and judicial policies, that are foundational principles of our co-existence, was the main cause of the Anglophone uprising. This was a glaring neglect of pertinent policies on equal partnership, the preservation of cultural heritage and identity of each region as stipulated by the union-agreement between the Francophone and the Anglophone regions. Evidently, this failure of policy implementation was a symptom of more profound ailments within our political institution that favors corruption, marginalization and social injustice. The implementation of policies, especially those that are constitutionally founded, are essential in the democratic decision-making process of every nation.

Despite the current situation, it would be in our national interest if all parties resort to the public policy mediation process which is an inclusive, transparent process of negotiations among government agency officials and diverse stakeholders that often results in consensus agreements rooted in nuanced understandings of a conflict (Potziba, 2019). This memo largely seeks to identify the root causes of the current crisis and propose recommendations for a swift resolution of the ongoing armed conflict.

Where are we?

So far, the government’s approach and tactics have been futile; attempts to set up a bilingualism commission failed no less than the authoritative leadership style. On the other hand, opposition groups have engaged in propaganda and destructive ideologies. Several factions have emerged with multiple pseudo-leaderships, void of any clear sense of direction. Civil rights activists are in jail while young people have been radicalized. The future is bleak as there seems to be no real leadership on either side of the aisle. And, while the government persists in cracking down on political activists and insurgents, the latter seem resolved to resist and fight back to the last ounce of their blood. It is rightly said, “as hunters have learned to shoot without missing, birds will have no choice but learn to fly without perching.”

Consequently, our people are hurting. Worse still, both the government and the separatist forces seem to be on extreme ends of the political spectrum. Clearly without any strategies or plans for a resolution, an already precarious economy is worsening by the day, while armed bandits continue to terrorize and harass hard working civilians.

President Biya and his government are under growing pressure to initiate serious dialogue

President Biya and his government are under growing pressure to initiate serious dialogue

Brief theoretical framework

There is urgent need for public policy mediation, which should include revisiting the political roots of the problem in a spirit of dialogue, conferences and negotiation. “In several Western democracies, attempts have been made to find a way out of these problems by trying out new forms of conflict resolution based upon negotiation and participatory procedures such as policy dialogue, consensus conferences, participatory technology assessment, mediation, or facilitation” (Holzinger, 2001).

The benefits of policy mediation and negotiation are enormous; it brings together policy experts from international platforms who will forge the path to a lasting resolution. Usually policy mediation fosters deliberations among parties that represent every aspect of a situation, supported by expertise as needed, resulting in agreements that avoid unintended consequences (Podziba, 2019).

Another important benefit of policy mediation is face-to-face deliberations that promote civil discourse. This is quite different from the vitriolic attacks and incivility that we have also witnessed on social media platforms, spewed by both the government spokespersons and opposition groups.

Negotiation and policy mediation are bedfellows, encouraging the willingness of both parties to shift positions with a clear focus on a win-win outcome. During successful negotiation, emotions are separated from the factual basis of the problem, shifting the focus to the benefits without the pride of clinging to positions. Lines of communication are opened, paving the way toward rational analysis of arguments, discussion of concessions and pursuit of compromise to the benefit of everyone.

Understandably, the ruling government has an uphill task in initiating dialogue with diverse opposition groups, some of which have been tagged as terrorists. This must be dealt with initially as it is the outcome of the delegitimization of the premier civil rights consortium. A committed public relations bureau of the government with sound knowledge on the issues should identify the main rival groups and extend an invitation to them.

What must we do?

  • Amidst these tumultuous times, political leaders need to rise beyond personal feelings, hurt, and mistakes of the past and look at the bigger picture: the future of our children, peace, and stability are priceless. It is time to demonstrate true leadership by involving the grassroots in a process of dialogue that can bring real change in Cameroon. Richard Box (1998) explains that finding a way to equitably resolve differences is a key interpersonal skill, opening the door to more citizen-oriented governance. For elected leaders and public service practitioners, this means a flexible attitude toward change, shedding of protective feelings of personal turf, and a willingness to engage in open dialogue on issues facing the community (as cited in Denhardt et al., 2014).
  • The time for blame games is over. It is urgent for warring factions to come to the negotiating table in a spirit of sincere dialogue that allows deliberations on all options including federalism. The current efforts being made to host an All-Anglophone Conference (November 21-22) is commendable. These kinds of initiatives – notably dialogues led by civil society, whether secular or religious – should get strong support from governments and international organizations, including the U.S., the European Union, the African Union, and even the Vatican. The International Crisis Group has recommended the Catholic Church as potential mediator of the crisis.
  • There is need for a neutral arbiter in the policy mediation process. This is no longer an internal affair as often claimed by some overzealous political pundits. The constant refrain by Anthony Guiterez, Secretary General of the UN, that Africans should solve their own problems, is unrealistic, perhaps even bizarre. We would be repeating mistakes of the past to the detriment of human life and human dignity.
  • A decentralized form of government should be considered to better serve the needs of the people, which would devolve power and control to the local communities, limiting the concentration of management of the nation’s resources in the hands of a few high-positioned officials. By shifting control rights from the central bureaucrat (who otherwise acts like an unregulated monopolist) to a local government, decentralization typically tends to expand service deliveries as authority goes to those more responsive to user needs (Bardhan, 2002).

 

With serious dialogue, many agree that the peaceful protests at the the onset of the crisis would not have degenerated into the ongoing carnage

With serious dialogue, many agree that the peaceful protests at the the onset of the crisis would not have degenerated into the ongoing carnage

In conclusion, our nation must strive toward good governance. Most armed conflicts in Africa are caused by bad governance. All over the world, people naturally rise against regimes that deprive them of their rights and privileges due to institutional corruption. In retrospect, armed conflicts in Nigeria, Mali, Sudan, Liberia, just to mention a few, were all linked to bad governance. The United Nation Children’s Fund notes, “corruption and bad governance were among the causes of war. The majority of the people had no voice in the government and no opportunities in life and so they were easily provoked to violence” (as cited in Yiew et al., 2016). Good governance is key to mitigating armed conflict. Empirical studies show that countries that uphold democratic principles, where corruption is under control, where law and order is maintained, where the people are served accordingly, are less vulnerable to armed conflicts (Yiew et al., 2016).

References

Bardhan P. (2002). Decentralization of governance and development. Journal of Economic Perspectives, 16(4), 185–205. Retrieved from https://pubs.aeaweb.org/doi/pdfplus/10.1257/089533002320951037

Birkland, T. A. (2015). An introduction to the policy process: Theories, concepts, and models of public policy making. Routledge.

Denhardt, R., Denhardt, J., & Blanc, T. (2014). Public administration: An action orientation (7th ed.). Cengage Learning

Holzinger, K. (2001). Negotiations in public-policy making: Exogenous barriers to successful dispute resolution. Journal of Public Policy21(1), 71-96.

Konings, P., & Nyamnjoh, F. B. (1997). The anglophone problem in Cameroon. The Journal of Modern African Studies35(2), 207-229.

Podziba, S. L. (2019). Conflict, Negotiation, and Public Policy Mediation in the Trump Era. Negotiation Journal35(1), 177-181.

Staff, C (2018). Cameroon cardinal helping organize conference to tackle Anglophone crisis. Retrieved from https://cruxnow.com/global-church/2018/08/04/cameroon-cardinal-helping-organize-conference-to-tackle-anglophone-crisis/

Yiew, T. H., Habibullah, M. S., Law, S. H., & Azman-Saini, W. N. W. (2016). Does bad governance cause armed conflict? International Journal of Applied Business and Economic Research14(6), 3741-3755.

*Rev. Wilfred Emeh is a doctoral student in Public Administration at the West Chester University in Pennsylvania. His area of concentration is governance and armed conflict in Africa

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Foreign Minister Tangara Bags UN Award
June 28, 2019 | 0 Comments

By Bakary Ceesay

Dr. Tangara

Dr. Tangara

The Honourable Minister of Foreign Affairs, International Cooperation and Gambians Abroad, Dr Mamadou Tangara, and National Peace Hut Women of Liberia on Thursday June 20th, 2019 received the 2019 United Nations Population Award in a ceremony held at the UN Headquarters in New York.

The Deputy Secretary – General of the United Nations, Amina Mohammed, on behalf of the UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, conferred the award on Dr. Tangara which consists of gold medal, a diploma and a monetary prize.

Deputy – Secretary General Mohammed said the UN recognised Dr. Tangara’s leadership in conflict prevention and his understanding of the importance of the grassroots non-violent youth movement in the political uncertainty in the aftermath of the Gambia’s 2016 presidential election.
She commended Minister Tangara for efforts made in preventing humanitarian catastrophe during the 2016 political crisis.

The citation on the award reads: “In recognition of your courage and your leadership, through the use of diplomacy, both in global and national arenas, which helped prevent conflict in your country, The Gambia.”

She said Foreign Minister Tangara and the National Peace Hut Women of Liberia were selected for their dedication to peace and sustainable development, for providing safe havens in the midst of conflict and for rebuilding societies and communities.

In his acceptance speech, Minister Tangara paid glowing tribute to the entire UN team, his late Father and mother and the people of The Gambia. He took the opportunity to commend H.E President Adama Barrow for giving him another chance to serve The Gambia.

 

He urged individuals, groups and civil society organisations around the world to refocus and redouble their efforts in the face of political uncertainty, prevent conflict through preventive methods of diplomacy.

He emphasised the need for all to adopt preventive diplomacy in a bid to empower the vulnerable and marginalised in societies.

The General Assembly resolution of 1981 of the United Nations established the UN Population Award. The award is presented annually to an individual and an institution in recognition of outstanding contributions to increasing the awareness of population questions or to their solutions.

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Determine to Spread positive across the globe, T. Smallz Starts European Tour
June 28, 2019 | 0 Comments

By Bakary Ceesay

T. Smallz

T. Smallz

T Smallz, one of the finest Gambia’s singer and songwriter is set to embark on a European tour in Germany, Italy, Sweden and Austria on 21st June, 2019.

 The tour is organised by Worriors in a Dance and Katato Entertainment where he will starts the performances in Germany in clubs includes: Pays Club, Wuppertal on 22nd June, on 28 June at Club Casablanca, Karlsruhe, on 20th July at Club Calwer, Stuttgart, on 3rd August at Diamond Dance Café, Halle Saale. On 10th August in Austria Vienna, at Na Nang Club, while in Italy will on 16 August Playa Catania Lido Jolly Club, on 17 August at Replay Club, Bologna, in Sweden he will play at Styrsofestiven   and Switzerland, Belgium are lineup.

Smallz told journalists shortly before he left the Gambia the objective of the tour is meant to reach out to fans across globe, hence his music is not only listen to Gambian only it is prudent to do more show in Europe in building more audiences and contacts.

He explained that he four shows in Germany, two in Italy, one in Austria and one in Sweden which is a Styrsofestiven after the festival I will do a live unplug show which will be film.

“Switzerland and Belgium are line up and we are open to more booking along the line, with a studio session with artistes, video shooting, duplates sessions with deejays, producers and promoters across Europe”

He assured the fans that quality entertainment will be guarantee especially show that he will play live band, adding that this tour will be special as he has new songs video for the fans in all kind of music like reggae dancehall, afro beat and hip-hop.

He pointed out that he has released  new single ‘Problem’ ft Lil Omz and shot the video and video for a song called ‘Elafta Elafta’ is the first single from his album in progress called ‘Level Low’ with different producers both home and abroad.

“This is a big uplifment for my music to representing Gambia across the globe in educating and entertaining the global fan, I am calling on my fans across the globe to get ready for an amazing shows coming at your various cities,” T. Smallz widely called Katato said.

“I am urging Gambian DJ to keep supporting and embracing Gambian music by playing it in their various concerts because a lot of good music coming out from the Gambia. We commend them for promoting Gambian music but it should be more,” 2013 Nominated Male artiste of the year said.

 

 

 

 

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Gambia, Bissau Plays 2nd Draw in International Friendly
June 28, 2019 | 0 Comments

By Bakary Ceesay

Women Scorpions

Women Scorpions

Gambia National Women’s Scorpions came from behind to force another 1-1 draw at home to visiting Guinea Bissau Women National Team at the Independence Stadium on Tuesday night following a similar scoreline stalemate in the first encounter 48 hours earlier.

Gambia started up brightly creating numerous chances through Adama Tamba, Penda Bah and Isatou Jallow but were all denied by either poor finishing or the brilliant Fatubinto Mandjan at goal for Bissau.

The visitors punished the wasteful Scorpions with Adama Mane scoring from a close range following a scramble in the Gambian area to send the Bissau bench into wild celebrations as their side took the lead in the 19th minute. The goal seems to have woken up the Queen Scorpions from their early slumber as they responded within 4 minutes with goal poacher Adama Tamba beating Fatubinto Mandjan from 11 yards for the equaliser after she was brought down in the area.

The Gambian team dominated the second half with Captain Penda Bah playing more as an attacker and thus creating chances but the diminutive Fatubinto Mandjan was determined not to be beaten again as her side sets for not a loose and settles for the 1-1 draw.

Speaking to the press after the game, Gambian Coach Mariama Sowe said, she is not satisfied with the results. She however, noted that the performances were good. “I said at the end of the last game that the performance will be different tonight and that is exactly what happened with the girls performing to expectation. The only thing I am not happy with is the result as we created nine chances in the game but the girls were in a hurry to score and only one chance was taken but I take it in good faith,” she said.

Coach Boom urged The Gambia Football Federation (GFF) to maintain the team and organise more test matches to prepare them for future engagements. She further thanked the Federation for the continues development of Women’s Football in the Gambia.

 

 

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Gambia: CRC Commences External Public Consultations with Gambians in Europe
June 28, 2019 | 0 Comments

By Bakary Ceesay

The Constitutional Review Commission (CRC), as part of its wider public consultations with Gambians, has commenced its external public consultations with Gambians in the Diaspora with successful meetings in London, UK and Paris, France. Gambians in the diaspora have been demonstrating the keen interest they have in the designing and development of the new Constitution for The Gambia.

The external public consultations are meant  to seek the views and aspirations of Gambians living outside of The Gambia ahead of the drafting of a new Constitution for the Gambia as per the mandate of the CRC pursuant to the CRC Act of 2017.

Speaking at the London Meeting, The Gambian High Commissioner in the United Kingdom, H.E. Francis R. Blain, commended CRC for extending its arms to Gambians in the diaspora describing the move as ‘very democratic’.

“As the High Commissioner of the Gambia to the United Kingdom, I am particularly proud and delighted to be part of this historic event”, he said.

The Chairman of the CRC, Hon. Justice Cherno Sulayman Jallow QC (JSC) reminded the London and Paris meetings of the power and mandate of the CRC which he said are clearly outlined in an act of Parliament, namely the CRC Act, 2017. In essence, the mandate of the CRC is to review the current 1997 Constitution and draft a new Constitution for the Gambia. In addition, the CRC is expected to prepare a report in relation to the new Constitution.

Speaking in London on the importance of providing a level playing field to all Gambians during the constitutional review process, Chairman Jallow said “We can’t draw a line between Gambians within The Gambia and Gambians outside of The Gambia; irrespective of where you are residing or where you are resident permanently, you are still a Gambian, so what a Gambian within The Gambia deserves a Gambian outside The Gambia equally deserves.”.

He said: “It is going to be an expensive process and an expensive undertaking, but it is one that is worth it, because Gambians in the diaspora have a right to participate in the same process that Gambians within the country have the opportunity to do,’.

Chairman Jallow further told the gathering that: “We have a huge task collectively as citizens to ensure that the ideas we canvass, the opinions we exchange will be those that will be representative of the interests of The Gambia of today and Gambia in the future, not about our personal interests.”

The deputy Ambassador of The Gambia to France, HE Dr. Mariam John, also encouraged Gambians resident in France to participate and support the constitutional review process.

She emphasized that Gambians deserve a better and prosperous Constitution that will guide the country towards the promised land.

Meanwhile, a similar meeting was held in the French capital of Paris, where Gambians turned out in their large numbers to share their opinions with the CRC on how they wish to have their country governed. Like the London meeting, the Paris engagement was enriching as key issues surrounding citizenship, fundamental human rights, governance, legislature, judiciary, and executive, among others, were discussed. In particular, participants lamented the state of the country’s education and health service delivery systems, including concern regarding the speed at which the national environment is being degraded and depleted and called for strong constitutional provisions to safeguard, protect and strengthen these key areas of national importance.

In both London and Paris, the Gambian diaspora called for unity and national cohesion if the next Constitution is to deliver the wishes and aspirations of the Gambian people. They called for strong State institutions that will deliver good governance and uphold the rule of law, for it is only through such mechanism that The Gambia can avoid a periodic review of its Constitution. They emphasized the importance of crafting a new Constitution that not only reflects the wishes and aspirations of Gambians, but also represents the interests of the future generations of Gambians.

Meanwhile, similar meetings are expected in Stockholm (Sweden) Berlin (Germany) and Gerona (Spain) in the coming days and the week ahead. The CRC’s external consultations in North America commence on Saturday, 22nd June, 2019.

 

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Ghana Seeks Gambia’s Support to Host Africa Free Trade Area Secretariat
June 28, 2019 | 0 Comments

By Bakary Ceesay

President Barrow with the delegation from Ghana

President Barrow with the delegation from Ghana

The Republic of Ghana is seeking the support of The Gambia in its bid to play host to the headquarters of the continental free trade zone in Accra.

Ghanaian President, Nana Akufo-Addo, has sent his Minister of Trade and Industry, Hon. Alan Kyerematen, as a special envoy to President Adama Barrow to deliver a special message in this regard.

52 of the 55 members of the African Union have already signed the Continental Free Trade Agreement, which is geared towards empowering the AU members to take advantage of a single market.  It will bring together 1.2billion people with a combined GDP of $3thrillion. The African leaders are optimistic that this is going to be a very powerful stimulus to attract investment into the continent.

President Barrow with the delegation from Ghana

President Barrow with the delegation from Ghana

“We are here to present a special message to President Adama Barrow requesting his kind support and that of the people of The Gambia towards Ghana’s bid to host the headquarters of this body,” Minister Kyerematen told the waiting press corps after emerging from a closed door meeting with the Gambian leader.

The African Union has asked member states that are interested in hosting the CfTA headquarters to submit their bids. Ghana is one of seven countries that has offered to host it.

President Barrow told the envoy that there could not have been a better time for such a monumental opportunity for the continent than now, when it has overcome most of its challenges in terms of peace and security. “All the leaders in Africa are speaking with one voice. It is about democracy, economic development and growth, reducing poverty… you can only deal with these matters if you are able to support each other,” he said.

The Ghanaian envoy said all major economies of the world have developed because they have come together in their regional blocs. “The market of Africa is where everyone wants to be. The whole world is targeting the African market, so we (within ourselves) have to take advantage of this market first. That’s what this AfCFT is about,” he added.

He said the greatest testimony from the continent in supporting this free trade agenda is the number of countries that have signed the agreement. Beside the 52 member signatories, 24 have also ratified it, meaning the people have supported it through their parliaments.

“In my humble opinion, there can be no better testimony than we all uniting behind this. Let’s remember that the free trade between African countries have been a dream for many years,” he maintained.

 

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Gambia Gov’t says Achieving NDP Goals is on track
June 28, 2019 | 0 Comments

By Bakary Ceesay

Mr. Alhagie Nyangado ,  Director General of the Strategic Policy Delivery and Coordination Unit, Office of the President, has maintained that significant progress are being registered by government in achieving the goals of the National Development Plan (NDP) 2018-2021.

Mr. Nyangado said the retreat was borne out of such a need to convene on regular basis, just as the Cabinet members meet weekly or so. At the retreat, each ministry presented on their work and plans for the next quarter of the year, while allowing feedback from colleague officials.

“How do we know what the others are doing, or someone is not undoing what I am doing? Hence discussions, communications and coordination are fundamental to our collective goals as government,” he asked the gathering, underscoring the importance of the interactive exercise.

On Human Rights and Governance objectives of the NDP, Mr. Nyangado outlined the formulation of a new constitution which is at an advanced stage; the establishment of e Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission, and a National Human Rights Commission as fundamental targets of the NDP 2018-2021.

On Security Sector Reform, he mentioned the reform programmes which include the drafting, validation and launch of the first-ever national security policy. Such a policy will provide framework and form the basis for reform in the security sector. Ongoing drafting of a strategy for each of the security service unit as other important targets of the NDP.

On Tourism, he indicated that the Ministry of Tourism and the National Tourism Board are currently pushing for the rolling out of the community tourism concept. “This will ensure that benefits of tourism is spread across the country and not just confined to the cities, especially in the face of unprecedented, high tourism arrivals,” he said.

On Health, particularly HIV/AIDS, he said the Ministry has succeeded in reducing the ratio of mother-to child infections from over 12 percent down to 3 percent recently. Other efforts are in the areas of upgrading existing health facilities, expanding new ones and continuous training of more Gambians to improve access to quality health services.

The economy is also doing well over the past two years, he said: growth is at 6.5 percent, reserves at the Central bank are building up; tax on citizens are being reduced through expenditure cuts of government and sub-vented institutions; resizing of State owned Enterprises (SOEs) and travels of government officials.

To minimse loss to government, Treasury Department is now operating a single government account rather than so many uncoordinated ones. Government revenue increased by 100 percent over the past two years, and 20 per cent over the last quarter, while the Dalasi has been stabilised against major foreign currencies. “These are very important reform objectives of the NDP, he maintained.

On ICT, he said plans are at advanced stage to establish a technology park and national data centre which are geared towards unlocking the potentials of the young people and transforming The Gambia into a digital economy. So many other NDP indicators are already being implemented across the public sector.

Secretary to Cabinet, Mr. Ebrima Ceesay, hailed the concerted efforts of ministries to deliver on government plans. He said the retreat is another exciting avenue for asserting a new culture of coordinated government action.

 

“Our job is to implement the will of Gambian people by faithfully and diligently providing public services,” Ceesay said, noting that he is encouraged by the extra efforts being demonstrated by officials and the citizens’ continuous demand for more services from government.

 

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French Ambassador bids farewell to President Barrow
June 28, 2019 | 0 Comments

By Bakary Ceesay

French Ambassdor

French Ambassdor

 The Dakar-based French Ambassador to The Gambia, His Excellency, Christophe Bigot, has paid farewell to the President, His Excellency, Mr. Adama Barrow at the State House on Monday, June 24, 2019 after a completion of his tour of diplomatic duty.

The President Barrow has nothing but kind words for the “excellent cooperation and friendship between France and The Gambia” over the past two years, thanks to the work of Ambassador Bigot. The President expressed his determination to further strengthen relations between France and the European Union, in the spirit of the new democracy in The Gambia.

Ambassador Bigot, emerging from closed-door meeting with the President, explained that his frequent visits to Banjul were borne out of need to support the new Gambia – a decision that France made as early as December 2016 by welcoming President Adama Barrow at the France-Africa Summit in Bamako, followed by his first State visit to Paris.

Ambassador Bigot resumed from a weekend travel to the Upper River Region in eastern Gambia, where he saw project sites between Basse and Fatoto for Euros 10 million agricultural production with the support of the French Development Agency.

“We have continued our commitment through several dimensions, with the first visit of the French Foreign Minister to Banjul in November 2018. France is also the first development partner to pledge funds at the Brussels conference as grant to The Gambia at a tune of Euros 55 million,” he explained.

In early 2020, France will also fund a Euros 15 million water supply enhancement project for the Greater Banjul Area through the national utility company, NAWEC. In terms of education, French teachers are also getting assistance to enhance their language teaching capabilities as Gambia has made the decision to be part of the French speaking organization now. A new French school will be opened this year at the French cultural centre, Alliance Francais.

French Ambassador's Delegation

French Ambassador’s Delegation

“Gambia’s democracy is very young and it needs to be protected. That is why we have promoted the training of the Police intervention Unit (PIU) through the office of the National Security Adviser, for 40 officers as a first step,” the diplomat said, noting that such trainings need to go forward in other areas of cooperation.

Over the past two years, the French diplomat said he was witnessed a lot of positive changes to the country’s democracy and future. France decided to open a diplomatic antenna in Banjul this year, and appoint a Charge d’Affairs who will represent France in a more active way on the ground.

However, all these work he started with the government of President Adama Barrow will now fall on the shoulders of a successor to be identified by Paris when he returns. Ambassador Bigot described this farewell as a moment that is sad for both him and the President.

“It is dear to me and close to my heart to be a part of Gambia’s transition journey. The next stage for Banjul and Paris is to forge links between companies and universities; NGOs and the people of both countries. These are important steps towards sustaining the gains registered,” he added.

 

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Cameroon: Unidentified gunmen kidnap SDF’s Fru Ndi
June 28, 2019 | 0 Comments

By Boris Esono Nwenfor

SDF National Chairman, Ni John Fru Ndi

SDF National Chairman, Ni John Fru Ndi

The National chairman of the Social Democratic Party, SDF Ni John Fru Ndi has reportedly been kidnapped by unidentified gunmen in Bamenda, North West Region of Cameroon. The incident took place in the early hours of June 28. It is still unclear as to who is behind that latest attack or the motive behind the kidnapped.

His body guard was reportedly shot on the leg by the armed men before making away with the Chairman.

This is the second time the SDF chairman has been reportedly kidnapped. Ni John Fru Ndi’s first kidnapped was on April 27 at Wainama as he was leading a delegation to bury Honourable Joseph Banadzem in Kumbo. He was briefly questioned before he was later released, sources said.

However, party sources had dismissed the notion the Chairman was kidnapped, rather saying it was a ‘misunderstanding’ between the Chairman and the armed men which was immediately sorted out.

In a press release, Jean Robert Wafo Minister of SDF shadow cabinet in charge of information and media said “The national president of Sdf, the chairman Ni John Fru Ndi was the victim of an abduction by unidentified kidnappers this afternoon around 15h30mn. They entered his residence in Ntarikon with Bamenda with guns and fired point-blank at his bodyguard, and then multiplied the shots warning.” “The chairman who was inside the house went out to inquire about the situation and it was then that the attackers removed him to an unknown destination.”

“The SDF will advise as necessary the national and international opinion on this new kidnapping which takes place almost two months to the day after that of April 27th” He added.

The SDF national chairman has been a strong critic of the separatist fighters who are clamoring for separation. The SDF chairman has called on the separatist fighters to go back to their main aim when they stated the fight that they have lost their way. Family members of Ni John Fru Ndi have been kidnapped in the past.

The crisis in the North West and South West Regions of the country has caused many to flee their homes into bushes or neighboring regions. Kidnappings, killings is the other of the day in the regions. More than 200 houses have been partly or completely destroyed, forcing hundreds of thousands of people to flee. The rate of attacks on villages have increased steadily, usually causing significant damage.  Some 450,000 and 550,000 people have been displaced as a result of the crisis, representing about 10 percent of the regions’ population. An additional 30,000 to 35,000 people have sought asylum in neighboring countries.

This is a developing story…..

 

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CEx- Canadian Ambassador Praises Gambia’s Institutional building efforts
June 28, 2019 | 0 Comments

By Bakary Ceesay  

Canada Amb with Barrow

Canada Amb with Barrow

 The outgoing Canadian High Commissioner to the Gambia, Her Excellency, Lise Filiatrault, on Tuesday, June 25, 2019, paid a courtesy farewell on His Excellency, President Adama Barrow at State House.

A key agenda of her meeting with President Barrow was institutional building efforts of The Gambia which she described as “important for democracy”.

The diplomat said the relationship between Canada and The Gambia took a lot of strength in the past two years, when she was privileged to serve her country in The Gambia; and witnessed very important historic moments in the life of this country in its transition to democracy.

“Canada has been working alongside The Gambia to help with building and strengthening democratic institutions. It has been collaborating with the Ministry of Justice on the UN Peace Building Fund that Canada is a strong part of and the TRRC, especially in areas of gender based violence,” she told the State House media Corps after closed-door meeting.

With a relationship that is quite strong and diversified, President Adama Barrow assured that Canada and The Gambia will continue building the relations in a strong way. The two also discussed future collaborations and ongoing activities that will continue to be developed at both bilateral and multilateral levels.

Gender equality and climate change were also part of discussions as other areas of further collaboration. The Canadian diplomat said the world faces challenges that require partnerships and the two countries are better positioned to make a difference.

The enthusiasm of Gambians at the inauguration of President Barrow two years ago, left a lasting memory in her: “There was a natural movement of people welcoming us and at the stadium, the enthusiasm and the level of hope that was there was a memory that I will take with me,” Ambassador Filiatrualt said.

Ms. Filiatrault thinks it is important to go ahead in furtherance of that enthusiasm and hope, to transform it into action and sustained institutions for peace and democracy which she described as the foundation for the development of any country.

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