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The International Criminal Court’s Failure Against ISIS:ICC Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda Must Go
February 2, 2016 | 0 Comments

Jonathan Levy, PhD*

Dr Jonathan Levy

Dr Jonathan Levy

I accuse the International Criminal Court (ICC) and its Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda of gross negligence in the global struggle against ISIS and its affiliates.

The purpose of this allegation against the International Criminal Court (ICC) Chief Prosecutor is twofold. First to expose the International Criminal Court’s Chief Prosecutor Mrs. Fatou Bensouda as being in breach of her duties and to explain the reason a career ICC prosecutor would so badly fail in her responsibilities. Secondly, it has finally come to pass that the ICC through its long term fecklessness has at last become an unwitting tool of Sunni Muslim extremism in a world ravaged by the Daesh (ISIS) and its affiliates.

The International Criminal Court’s original purpose was to investigate and prosecute war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide and to aid victims of these crimes. This court’s record undeniably is poor and shabby, two convictions of minor sub Saharan war lords in 13 years of existence. All of its current pending cases are against Africans all but one black. And this after the expenditure of well over $1 billion. The current ICC budget for 2015 is over $150 million. These figures alone and lack of convictions qualify the ICC as one of the most wasteful international government organizations in history.

The first ten years of the ICC’s existence under Chief Prosecutor Ocampo were an example of extreme incompetency. With all the resources of the UN behind him Ocampo managed all of one conviction, a minor Congolese warlord. He handed off faltering cases against the rulers of Kenya and Sudan to his deputy and successor Fatou Bensouda. While Ocampo’s tenure can at best be called a joke; Bensouda has shown herself to be far more dangerous to human rights and international law.

Ocampo earned the distinction of being labeled a persecutor of Africans while ignoring war crimes in other parts of the world. Under Ocampo thousands of communications to the ICC sat for years before being rejected. The only cases opened were in Africa. Therefore, when ICC Deputy Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, the former Justice Minister of Gambia and former UN Rwanda Tribunal prosecutor was elected to succeed Ocampo a collective sign of relief was in heard in Africa and beyond. Bensouda while not a stellar legal mind was at least thought to be competent and evenhanded towards Africans. Upon accepting her post, Bensouda touted her Islamic principles which did not raise any alarm bells at the time. Swept under the prayer rug of peace was the fact that Bensouda started her legal career as the Justice Minister for the dictatorial regime of Gambia strongman Yahya Jammeh.

Bensouda is a Sunni Muslim from Gambia and is married to a Moroccan businessman. Gambia was a small secular state in west Africa, whose overwhelming majority is Muslim. In December 2015, Gambia’s long time ruler Yahya Jammeh declared Gambia an Islamic republic. Bensouda obtained her law degree from Nigeria Law School.

However, it is the lack of action by Prosecutor Bensouda against the Islamic State or Daesh and its affiliates Al Shabaab and Boko Haram which elevates this deliberate nonfeasance to an entirely new level – intentional breach of duty by a truly flawed ICC Chief prosecutor who is blinded by her Sunni Muslim faith.

The Islamic State or “Daesh” is the single greatest threat of the 21st Century. The Daesh and its affiliates Boko Haram, Al Shabaab and others have claimed the lives of tens of thousands in Africa, Europe and the Middle East through numerous well documented crimes against humanity, genocide and war crimes. If one logically adds the Al Qaeda network to the mix, since Daesh began life as Al Qaeda in Iraq, the tactical reach of the organization is truly staggering. Since December 1, 2015 the Daesh has struck in such varied places as California, Chad, Aden, Nigeria, Dagestan, Philadelphia, Marseilles, Paris, Istanbul and Jakarta. This of course is in addition to more conventional Daesh ground forces in Somalia, Libya, Syria and Iraq. The list is incomplete but Daesh has the demonstrated ability to simultaneously undermine security in Africa, Asia, North America and Europe and challenge conventional forces on the ground. Not since World War Two has such a threat to stability and peace arisen. Today’s Daesh are as infamous as yesteryear’s Nazis for their cruelty and barbaric crimes.

Fatou Bensouda, the ICC has been accused of targeting African leaders

Fatou Bensouda, the ICC has been accused of targeting African leaders

Daesh is a global organization with cells and caliphates in countries that are firmly under the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court including France, Kenya, Mali, Chad, Nigeria and the United Kingdom. It is undisputed that the Daesh modus operandi includes genocide against Shia, Christians, and Yazidis; and related war crimes and crimes against humanity. Verified video evidence exists of ISIS war crimes, genocide, and crimes against humanity committed in Africa, Europe, and the Middle East. There is uncontroverted evidence and admissions that IS has committed beheadings, suicide bombings, mass executions, enslavement, mass rape, looting, and destruction of cultural heritage. Thus even a newly minted prosecutor could find ample material upon which to build a case against the Daesh leadership and its henchmen.

Prosecutor Bensouda however has found no ICC jurisdiction exists because: “I have come to the conclusion that the jurisdictional basis for opening a preliminary examination into this situation is too narrow at this stage.”

Such a finding is not only an insult to the victims and their families but to the intelligence of the public and ICC member states. Prosecutor Bensouda has refused to act against the transnational Daesh network on the flimsiest of excuses. By refusing to act for justice and truth in the face of the worst threat to human dignity since Nazi Germany, Prosecutor Bensouda has joined the ranks of those Muslims who tacitly support Daesh through their silence except that Bensouda need not be silent. The world would applaud her even in a vain attempt to expose the criminality of the Daesh. What then ails Bensouda?

Prosecutor Bensouda is guilty of a serious breach of duty. Further, her refusal to open investigations of Daesh suggests a bias in favor of radical Islam given the credible allegations of Daesh funding and material assistance from NATO member Turkey and Saudi Arabia. Prosecutor Bensouda has effectively granted Daesh impunity from prosecution and has sent a message of non-accountability to the war criminals in the Daesh. This is inconsistent with the Rome Statute and the dignity of the ICC Prosecutor’s office. Bensouda like many Sunni Muslims somehow does not see the Daesh as the big problem facing the world today.

Legal argument – The International Criminal Court only has jurisdiction in the countries which have ratified the Rome Statute. This includes many countries where Daesh and its affiliates including Boko Haram and Al Shabaab operate and have committed numerous atrocities: Afghanistan, Nigeria, Kenya, Chad, Mali, Tunisia and Niger. In Nigeria alone Boko Haram claimed over 6000 victims in 2014.

Since Daesh operates as a unified organization, even though the ICC cannot indict them for crimes committed in Syria, Iraq, Somalia, and Libya, it surely may indict the Daesh for crimes committed within ICC jurisdiction. The question is why has the ICC not done so?

Fatou Bensouda has offered this mind boggling rationale to justify a hands off policy towards Islamic terror. According to Bensouda, she can do nothing because Daesh seems to be mainly based in Syria and Iraq and therefore these countries are not ICC members. She stated, “In this context, I have come to the conclusion that the jurisdictional basis for opening a preliminary examination into this situation is too narrow at this stage.”

Perhaps to someone ignorant that Boko Haram has joined Daesh or that Daesh is active in Afghanistan, Bensouda’s excuse may sound vaguely plausible. However, it is not plausible but disingenuous. Fatou Bensouda not only has forsaken the best chance for the ICC to be seen as something more than a persecutor of Africans but to actually be relevant in international law. This is all bad enough but something even more sinister lurks in Bensouda’s flawed logic.

Fatou Bensouda is a Sunni Muslim. When asked by Al Arabiya if her religion influenced her, she answered it definitely did, “Islam, as you know, is a religion of peace, and it gives you this inner strength, this inner ability and a sense of justice. Together with my experience, this will help a lot.”

Bensouda’s failure to act against the Daesh, Boko Haram, Al Qaeda, and Al Shabaab becomes even more flagrant when viewed in terms of the cases upon which she is currently squandering ICC resources.

The ICC has been chasing the Sudanese president Al Bashir for years. Surely, he is no poster child for human rights yet an agreement was made with Southern Sudan that has saved the lives of millions. More tellingly, Sudan is on the front line struggle against Daesh, at least one Daesh affiliate operates in Sudan. Arresting Al Bashir would likely throw the entire Sudan region into chaos much like Libya.

Speaking of Libya, the ICC instead of chasing the head chopping Daesh that have set themselves in Libya, has concerned itself with the hapless Saif Al-Islam Gaddafi as an indirect co-perpetrator of crimes against humanity: a man whose father for all his faults kept the extremists out of Libya. Saif Gaddafi is a proxy for his murdered father.

Yet another very important front line state in the struggle against Daesh is under ICC attack. The president and vice president of Kenya have been charged by the ICC with crimes against humanity. Kenya furnishes the bulk of troops in the war against Daesh affiliate Al Shabaab in Somalia and the Kenyans have paid a heavy price in blood for their willingness to guard east Africa from extremism. Prosecuting the brave foes of the Daesh seems weirdly flawed.

Finally, we have the ultimate proof of Bensouda’s insularity. While Daesh has destroyed and looted priceless ancient Roman and pre Roman sites in Syria, Iraq and Libya, the ICC has concerned itself with vandalism of Muslim mausoleums in Timbuktu, Mali. On 18 September 2015 the ICC issued an arrest warrant for Ahmad al-Faqi, who is accused of the war crime of intentionally directing attacks against buildings dedicated to religion, specifically the mausoleums and mosques located in Timbuktu. Thus the Daesh may pillage and destroy classical archaeological sites but the ICC somehow sees the damaging of Muslim sites in Mali as the greater crime and evil. Meanwhile the antiquities market in Europe and Turkey are glutted with the fruits of Daesh looting.

Selective justice? Former Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo is standing trial at the Hague, but what about the other well known culprits of the Ivory Coast crisis?

Selective justice? Former Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo is standing trial at the Hague, but what about the other well known culprits of the Ivory Coast crisis?

The ICC has recognized Palestine and has called the Turkish Gaza flotilla incident a minor war crime. This does not bode well for Israel another bulwark nation against Daesh. However, given the glacial approach favored by ICC nothing substantive will likely occur regarding Palestine this decade. Other ICC failing under Bensouda can be evidenced by lack of action in Ukraine where ICC foot dragging has permitted the Ukrainian government a free hand.

Nuremburg this is not – we don’t know if Bensouda studied the Nuremburg War Crimes Trial at Nigeria Law School but they are the standard for swift and efficient justice. Unlike UN Tribunals in which trials can drag out for ten years or more, Nuremburg disposed of Nazi Germany’s major war criminals in 11 months. This was done without information technology, the Internet and a $150 million annual budget.

The crimes of the Daesh are well documented in video, admissions, and written statements. There is no lack of evidence. Being a criminal defense attorney it seems odd to me to be castigating a prosecutor for not doing their job but in this case Bensouda is undermining the promises of international law. A prosecutor who won’t do her job must be removed from her position. A Muslim prosecutor who does not deem the Daesh worthy of pursuing is blinded by the religion of peace and is impeding justice. She is a menace who must be sacked.

The bottom line is that Fatou Bensouda by invoking a legally flawed jurisdictional argument to avoid the Daesh has presented the Daesh with the greatest gift of all – impunity for genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. Fatou Bensouda must be removed from her post for the sake of the victims of the Daesh.

*Dr. Jonathan Levy is a member of the International Criminal Court Bar and is an adjunct member of the Political Science faculty at Norwich University and Southern New Hampshire University. As Chief Administrative Officer of the Organization of Emerging African States OEAS, he has called for ICC member states to remove Fatou Bensouda from her position as ICC prosecutor. Paper prepared  for the John Naisbitt University, National and International Security Conference on Contemporary Global Challenges, 3-4 February 2016 Belgrade, Serbia

 

 

 

 

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I. Coast Ex-Leader, on Trial at ICC, Retains Support at Home
January 29, 2016 | 0 Comments

By Robbie Corey-Boulet*

Former Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo attends a confirmation of charges hearing in his pre-trial at the International Criminal Court in The Hague

Former Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo attends a confirmation of charges hearing in his pre-trial at the International Criminal Court in The Hague

Dozens of Ivory Coast politicians, including ex-ministers and diplomats, gathered in a hotel conference room here this week to honor a man widely blamed for his country’s descent into months of grisly killings and sexual violence five years ago.

The event organized by supporters of ex-President Laurent Gbagbo was intended to burnish his image before his trial on crimes against humanity charges opens Thursday at the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

The first former head of state to be tried by the court, Gbagbo lost Ivory Coast’s 2010 presidential runoff to Alassane Ouattara but refused to step down, sparking violence that killed more than 3,000 people. Prosecutors say he bears responsibility for murder, rape and other crimes carried out by those fighting to keep him in office. He is standing trial alongside Charles Ble Goude, Gbagbo’s former youth minister accused of inciting violence against Ouattara supporters.

Despite the charges against him, Gbagbo’s followers hail him as a Nelson Mandela-like hero persecuted for his struggle to make Ivory Coast truly democratic and sovereign.

At Tuesday’s round table — where attendees heard speeches extolling his virtues and perused pro-Gbagbo literature, including a book based on interviews conducted with a French journalist from his Hague cell — the Gbagbo faithful expressed optimism that the case against him would fall apart. Just as he survived a stint behind bars during his days as an opposition leader, they said, so would he emerge from the ICC unscathed.

“In his life, he has really suffered, but each time he got back on his feet,” said Aboudramane Sangare, a Gbagbo-era foreign minister. “I’m sure this time he will be able to rebound again.”

A former university professor who founded an opposition party well before Ivory Coast embraced multiparty democracy, Gbagbo spent much of the 1980s in exile in France. After returning, he lost the 1990 presidential vote and spent six months in jail in 1992 for his role in student protests. He came to power in 2000 in a flawed vote he himself described as “calamitous,” though he put off holding another one for a decade. In the 2010 race, Gbagbo placed first in the first round with 38 percent of the vote before losing to Ouattara in the runoff.

These days, it is difficult to quantify Gbagbo’s support. In last October’s presidential vote, with Gbagbo in custody and a hard-line faction of his party calling for a boycott, Ouattara cruised to a second five-year term.

But Gbagbo clearly retains a following. His more fervent backers maintain that he won the 2010 runoff, that there is no evidence linking him to the violence that followed and that, if anything, he was merely defending himself against pro-Ouattara fighters.

Agenor Youan Bi, president of a pro-Gbagbo organization in Abidjan’s sprawling, working-class Yopougon district, said he expects hundreds if not thousands of supporters to show up at an events hall Thursday for a screening of the trial’s first day.

He doubts, though, that the ICC will give Gbagbo a fair hearing, accusing it of victor’s justice. Rights groups documented abuses on both sides of the post-election conflict, but so far the ICC has only pursued Gbagbo, Ble Goude and Gbagbo’s wife Simone. Within Ivory Coast, too, justice for post-election violence crimes has been one-sided against Gbagbo’s allies.

Even those who deplore the decisions that led Ivory Coast into conflict find something to admire. Karamoko Issif, a 22-year-old accounting intern in Abidjan, said he became a Gbagbo fan by watching clips of his speeches on his mobile phone and reading pro-Gbagbo newspapers. Though he believes all politicians — including Gbagbo — share blame for the post-election crisis, he said he respects Gbagbo’s reputation for standing up to colonial power France.

Issif said justice should be administered more fairly, starting with charges for crimes committed by pro-Ouattara fighters.

“If Gbagbo is guilty,” he said, “everyone is guilty.”

*AP/ABC

 

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African leaders urge passage of Electrify Africa Act
January 28, 2016 | 0 Comments

By Tony Elumelu and Aliko Dangote*

Dangote, Elumelu at World Economic Forum Davos

Dangote, Elumelu at World Economic Forum Davos

In the next week, the U.S. House of Representatives is expected to vote on the Electrify Africa Act, passed by the Senate under unanimous consent late last year. This bill directs the President to establish a multiyear strategy to assist countries in sub-Saharan Africa implement national power strategies and develop an appropriate mix of power solutions, including renewable energy, to provide access to reliable, affordable, and sustainable power in order to reduce poverty and drive economic growth.

On behalf of the African Energy Leaders Group (AELG), a high-level public-private partnership launched last year, we welcome the leadership of the U.S. Congress on this issue. It is our view that the Electrify Africa Act will provide a durable strategic framework to address the challenges of energy poverty on the continent by leveraging a private sector-led, market-based approach which is essential to the sustainability of this effort over time. If passed, Electrify Africa will be the most significant legislation to advance U.S. commercial relations with the continent of Africa since the initial passage of AGOA, 15 years ago.

A wide range of energy sources exist on the continent. Yet, more than 600 million Africans lack access to affordable, reliable and modern energy services. Hundreds of millions are also denied access to basic nutrition, quality education, medical services and sanitation due to lack of adequate energy supply. Recent surveys of African businesses reveal that energy costs account for 40-60 percent of operating expenditure (more than 10 times what it is in the United States), dramatically increasing the cost of doing business in Africa. The effect of the power deficit on our economies is damaging and tangibly constrains development.

Africa has the largest rates of extreme poverty and the fastest population growth of any region. The rapid industrialization and sustained economic development necessary to provide jobs for this growing population simply cannot be achieved on a weak power base

We have been encouraged by the increasing awareness among both African and U.S. political leaders on these issues, and by the willingness of the private sector to invest alongside governments in meeting the growing demand for power on the continent. Through the much-lauded Power Africa Initiative, the United States is helping to provide assistance for policy reforms and transactions which expand infrastructure and strengthen regulations in the power sector. This is not only good for Africa, as these initiatives benefit U.S. companies seeking access to new and rapidly expanding markets for their equipment, expertise and products.

The Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) is another critical development instrument which supports U.S. investments in Africa’s energy sector. However, it is hampered by well-intentioned yet counterproductive restrictions on carbon emissions for projects financed even in the lowest emitting countries of the world.  In order to better leverage U.S. resources towards implementing the objectives of the Electrify Africa Act, we encourage Congress to follow this legislation with a strong reauthorization of OPIC that includes the flexibility to align with the national realities and priorities of the countries you wish to help and considers the full range of energy options available to them. In this regard, we must work together to identify an appropriate balance between poverty alleviation and environmental protection.

We applaud the efforts of all those who have championed the Electrify Africa Act, and urge the House of Representatives to pass this legislation without delay. From our perspective, this bill would codify access to electricity in Africa as a long-term U.S. foreign policy priority, for the benefit of millions of Africans and for U.S. companies doing business on the continent.

*The Hill.Dangote is president of the Dangote Group. Elumelu is chairman of Heirs Holdings and founder of the Tony Elumelu Foundation. Both are co-founders of the African Energy Leaders Group.

The African Energy Leaders Group, launched at the World Economic Forum in January 2015, is a working group of high-level African business leaders and heads of state. In line with the targets of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Sustainable Energy for All initiative (SE4All), one of the group’s primary goals is guaranteeing access to reliable, affordable energy services for all Africans by 2030, through regional power pools and innovative public-private partnerships

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Ivorian Leader, Opposition Delegation Discuss Reconciliation, Political Prisoners Print Comment Share:
January 22, 2016 | 0 Comments

By Emilie Iob*

FILE - FPI leader Pascal Affi Nguessan, shown campaigning last October in Gagnoa, Ivory Coast, says his delegation's meeting with President Alassane Ouattara on Jan. 21, 2016, produced "real progress" toward resolving differences with the government.

FILE – FPI leader Pascal Affi Nguessan, shown campaigning last October in Gagnoa, Ivory Coast, says his delegation’s meeting with President Alassane Ouattara on Jan. 21, 2016, produced “real progress” toward resolving differences with the government.

The leader of the opposition Ivorian Popular Front said he saw “real progress” in his meeting of more than three hours Thursday with Ivory Coast’s president.

Pascal Affi Nguessan, who spoke to reporters after his delegation’s session with Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara, said he saw “a political will to settle all problems related to the post-electoral crisis” in Ivory Coast.

In 2010 and 2011, the results of the presidential elections were disputed and supporters of Ouattara clashed with those of the Ivorian Popular Front, or FPI, which was then led by the president at the time, Laurent Gbagbo. At least 3,000 people died in five months of violence, which ended when Gbagbo was arrested and put in jail. He is currently awaiting trial at the International Criminal Court.

Thursday’s meeting was requested by the FPI, mainly to discuss the release of the remaining political prisoners taken during that post-electoral crisis.

On that, too, Affi Nguessan said progress was made. “The principle of their release was agreed on,” he said.

FPI spokeswoman Agnes Monnet said such issues were key to establishing a sustainable peace in Ivory Coast.

“When it comes to national reconciliation, it has always been linked to the problems of the post-electoral crisis,” she said.

Other subjects discussed included the return of the remaining refugees and the unfreezing of the assets of some of FPI’s executives.

But not all FPI views were represented at this meeting. Since last year, the party has been experiencing a deep internal crisis, which led a section of Gbagbo supporters to break away from the party and boycott the elections. To them, no talks are possible prior to the release of Gbagbo, whereas the section of the FPI led by Affi Nguessan has been willing to enter political discussions.

Monnet said another meeting between government and opposition officials might happen in the next few weeks.

 

*VOA

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Burkina Faso issues arrest warrant for Ivory Coast speaker
January 16, 2016 | 0 Comments
Guillaume Soro is a key ally of President Alassane Ouattara

Guillaume Soro is a key ally of President Alassane Ouattara

Burkina Faso has issued an international arrest warrant for Guillaume Soro, Ivory Coast’s speaker of parliament.

The warrant concerns his alleged role in a coup attempt in Burkina Faso in September, which sparked deadly street protests.

Authorities listened to phone recordings linking Mr Soro to the coup, Reuters news agency says.

Mr Soro has always denied that his was the voice on the tape.

The speaker is an ally of Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara.

Mr Soro and the armed rebel group he led – the New Forces – played a key role in Ivory Coast’s 2011 civil war.

“I confirm that the warrant was issued at the beginning of the week,” a military source told Reuters.

Former Burkina Faso Prime Minister Isaac Zida previously confirmed that Mr Soro’s voice was heard in a recording advising former Burkinabe foreign affairs minister Djibril Bassole on how to be successful in a coup.

In September, presidential guard officers seized power in a coup, overthrowing Burkina Faso’s interim government.

Members of the presidential guard – set up by ex-President Blaise Compaore – said they were unhappy with the new electoral law banning candidates linked to a bid to extend the president’s time in office. The attempt triggered his overthrow in October 2014.

But the coup ended just over a week later, and the reinstated interim government disbanded the presidential guard.

*BBC

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Africa: Hope As African Leaders Reduce Terms
January 12, 2016 | 0 Comments

By Ciugu Mwagiru*

As some African leaders are going all out to increase their terms in office, it is gratifying that several are calling for reduced ones.

Macky Sall of Senegal

Macky Sall of Senegal

Manoeuvres to prolong presidential terms have included holding referendums aimed at changing constitutions to legalise incumbents’ bids to hold onto power, as happened Congo and Rwanda.

Ironically, Rwanda’s constitutional change that allows President Paul Kagame to stand again next year also shortens the presidential term from seven to five years from 2024.

It also allows Kagame two more terms, extending his rule to 2034.

Gratefully, leaders like Liberia’s President Ellen Sirleaf Johnson have come out strongly calling for laws to cut presidential terms. She wants the term reduced from six to four years, with the presidential terms limited to two.

The call by President Sirleaf did not surprise Liberians.

In 2014, delegates of the country’s national constitution conference voted in favour of the reduction of the presidential term limit from six to four years, while also reducing the terms for senators from nine to six years and those of MPs from six to four.

Ironically, the new presidential terms are the same ones the country had before 1986, when a Constitution Review Committee headed by Dr Amos Sawyer increased it from two four-year terms to two six-year ones.

In the meantime, Senegal President Macky Sall last week honoured a promise he made on his election in 2012 by unilaterally announcing the reduction of his term from seven years to five.

The statement said the reduction would take effect immediately, meaning the next presidential election will be in 2017.

The seven-year term that Senegal inherited at independence from France in 1960 has been controversial.

There were hopes of its reduction in 2000, when incoming president Abdoulaye Wade promised to make it five years.

He, however, did not do so throughout his 12-year-rule, which ended in 2012 after he failed to win a third term.

The announcement by President Sall came just months before an April referendum that was expected to resolve the issue.

A statement from the presidency said the announcement was expected to end the confusion among politicians over holding of the referendum.

Benin's Yayi Boni

Benin’s Yayi Boni

The developments in Liberia and Senegal came months after Benin’s President Thomas Boni Yayi announced in November that he would step down after two terms.

He said his decision came out of respect for his country’s constitution, which barred him from seeking re-election during the country’s polls next month.

The 63-year-old Beninois leader was elected in 2006 and voted in again five years later.

He has been hailed by his French counterpart François Hollande as a paragon of democracy in Africa, and his announcement came at a time when there were mounting concerns about leaders like Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe, Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni and the Republic of Congo’s Denis Sassou-Nguesso, all of who have been in power for decades and have shown no signs of stepping down.

Towards the end of last year, President Sassou-Nguesso, who has been in power since 1979 provoked opposition protests when he pushed through a new constitution allowing him seek a controversial third term this year.

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Toure lambasts ‘indecent’ CAF awards vote
January 9, 2016 | 0 Comments

By Dom Farrell*

Yaya Toure

Yaya Toure

Yaya Toure says the decision to name Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang as CAF player of the year ahead of him “brings shame to Africa.”

Manchester City midfielder Yaya Toure has given a scathing assessment of the CAF player of the year awards after Borussia Dortmund forward Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang kept him from scooping the continental prize for a record fifth time.

Toure has been handed the award for the past four years and was tipped to continue this streak, having captained the Ivory Coast to Africa Cup of Nations glory at the start of 2015, while continuing to be an influential presence in the Premier League for City.

But the 32-year-old was beaten by 143 points to 136 in the final vote by Gabon international Aubameyang, who finished as runner-up to Toure in the 2014 poll.

Aubameyang has been in sensational form for Dortmund during 2015-16, scoring 27 times in as many club appearances, but Toure felt it was regrettable that these achievements were preferred to his feat of leading the Ivory Coast to a first AFCON crown since 1992.

The former Barcelona star then remarkably likened the perceived injustice of him missing out on the award — which would have taken him above Cameroon great Samuel Eto’o on the list of all-time winners — to the corruption scandals that have engulfed football’s global governing body FIFA over recent months.

“I am very, very disappointed,” he told Afrique Foot. “It’s sad to see Africa react this way, that they don’t think African achievements are important. I think this is what brings shame to Africa, because to act in that way is indecent. But what can we do about it?

“Us Africans, we don’t show that Africa is important in our eyes. We favor more what’s abroad than our own continent. That is pathetic. Even FIFA, with all its history of corruption, wouldn’t do this.”

Toure has not featured for the Ivory Coast since March, and the player’s long-term international future could be in doubt after he said he will look out for himself after being “let down” by Africa.

“Yaya will take care of Yaya and let Africa take care of itself,” he said. “As I’ve been told many times, you can’t take care of Africa too much because Africa will be the first to let you down. When I return to Europe, a lot of questions will be asked. I think I’m going to have to answer them. As I’m someone who’s honest, I will always tell the truth.”

Toure did take time to praise Aubameyang’s achievements, adding: “You were brilliant this year.”

*Goal.com

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‘The Looting Machine’ explains why Africa isn’t rising
January 4, 2016 | 0 Comments

By JAMES GIBNEY*

dt.common.streams.StreamServerIn one of Africa’s most celebrated surprises of 2015, Nigerian voters unseated President Goodluck Jonathan. The election of Muhammadu Buhari defied expectations of electoral fraud and violence, and his anticorruption platform sparked hopes for reform and economic growth.

Yet progress on both fronts has been slow and uneven. To understand why, pick up Tom Burgis’s The Looting Machine, a bracing look at why a continent blessed with one-third of the world’s hydrocarbon and mineral wealth remains mired in poverty and dysfunction.

A former Africa correspondent for the Financial Times, Burgis goes beyond the tales of spectacular venality among Africa’s “Big Men” – the world’s four longest-serving rulers are in African countries bursting with oil or minerals – to explain how the continent’s “resource curse” is sapping its development.

Nigeria is a case in point. Africa’s biggest oil producer gets more than 90 percent of its foreign earnings and two-thirds of its tax revenue from oil exports. Yet there are many reasons why that hydrocarbon bounty is a mixed blessing.

For starters, it can drive up the value of a nation’s currency, making other exports less competitive and imports more attractive. As Burgis points out, textiles used to be Nigeria’s most important manufacturing industry. But cheaper Chinese imports smuggled in by Nigerian gangs (an illicit trade worth more than $2 billion a year) have devastated the industry – one example of why Africa produces just 1.5 percent of global manufacturing output, despite its abundance of cheap labor.

Billions of dollars in oil revenues are also a tempting pot of money for bent politicians. One 2012 report said corruption had swallowed up $37 billion worth of Nigeria’s oil money over the last decade. That surpasses the annual economic output of more than half of the nations in Africa as well as Nigeria’s annual federal budget.

Such corruption has other toxic effects. Dirty money from bribes and kickbacks has to be laundered, and because those doing the cleaning don’t care so much about profit or productive investment, their infusions of cash distort the value of assets.

Nigeria’s reliance on oil for tax revenues also creates a perverse political dynamic: As Burgis puts it, “the ability of rulers of Africa’s resource state to govern without recourse to popular consent.” Instead of having to do right by taxpayers to win their votes, politicians focus on controlling and dispensing mineral wealth to bolster their patronage networks.

“Politics becomes a game of mobilizing one’s ethnic brethren,” Burgis notes – a contest with dangerous destabilizing effects in Nigeria’s fractious polity. In fact, as one Nigerian governor explains, if he failed to share the wealth, ill-gotten or otherwise, “I’ve got a big political enemy.”

Nigeria is far from the exception. At least 20 African countries are what the International Monetary Fund calls “resource-rich”: that is, their natural resources account for more than one-quarter of exports. Risking limb if not life, Burgis gamely takes readers around some of them, from the coltan mines of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Guinea’s rich bauxite and iron ore deposits to the diamond fields of Zimbabwe.

Even as the names and histories of the different predatory leaders blur, one thing is clear: Their looting depends on an all-too-willing cast of outside partners, whether Western mining and oil companies that plunked down bribes and abetted massacres, shady Israeli middlemen or shell companies in the British Virgin Islands.

Particularly disquieting is Burgis’s description of the unsavory role played by the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation, which backed visibly corrupt, environmentally destructive, or just plain inequitable oil and mining ventures in Chad, Guinea and Ghana – all countries it was supposed to be helping.

If Burgis’s book were to be made into a movie, though, the star villain would have to be Samuel Pa, the bespectacled, bearded Zelig behind some of the continent’s most dubious recent resource deals. Over the course of several decades, Pa parlayed the connections he made as a Chinese intelligence operative and arms merchant into a sprawling, secretive consortium based in Hong Kong known as the 88 Queensway Group, not to mention a spot on the U.S. Treasury’s sanctions list.

Western criticism of China’s growing presence in Africa, Burgis writes, nonetheless carries a “distinct whiff of hypocrisy” that might make even King Leopold blush. Moreover, ordinary Africans stand to gain much from the $1 trillion or so that Chinese entities will reportedly plow into their continent by 2025.

That said, the tale of Pa and Queensway, which has its tentacles wrapped around oil holdings in Angola and Nigeria, diamond mines in Zimbabwe, and agriculture in Mozambique (to name just a few of its ventures), reeks of sulfur and brimstone. As several seasoned African mining executives told Burgis, the Queensway Group reminded them of Cecil John Rhodes, the forerunner of those who “use the conquest of natural resources to advance political power and vice versa.”

One of the best hopes for curbing this rapacity and corruption may be to impose greater transparency on Africa’s outside business partners. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, for instance, recently proposed a rule requiring U.S.-listed oil, gas and mining companies to publish details of their payments to governments.

Even China may see the writing on the wall. A few months after Burgis’s book came out this year, he reported that Pa had been detained in one of China’s deepening anti-corruption probes. Guess that scotches the prospect of any Pa Scholarships in the future.

*Source Bloomberg/Concord Monitor

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W. African leaders seek ban on full-face veil to prevent attacks
December 19, 2015 | 0 Comments

By Ola Awoniyi in Abuja, Stephanie Findlay in Lagos* [caption id="attachment_23110" align="alignleft" width="300"]Full-face veils including the niqab, worn by the two women at right in this July 23, 2015 photo from Abidjan, capital of the Ivory Coast, would be barred from wearing such veils in member states of ECOWAS if proposed new bans are enacted (AFP Photo/Issouf Sanogo) Full-face veils including the niqab, worn by the two women at right in this July 23, 2015 photo from Abidjan, capital of the Ivory Coast, would be barred from wearing such veils in member states of ECOWAS if proposed new bans are enacted (AFP Photo/Issouf Sanogo)[/caption] Abuja (AFP) – West African leaders said Thursday they were seeking to “forbid” women wearing full-face veils in an effort to curb the growing number of female suicide bombers unleashed by Boko Haram jihadists.

The president of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Commission, Kadre Desire Ouedraogo, told reporters at the close of a two-day summit in Abuja that leaders must take “measures that would forbid this kind of dress that will not allow security personnel to be sure of their identities.”

Losing swathes of territory to the Nigerian army, Boko Haram jihadists have since July started using young women and girls as suicide bombers by hiding explosives in their loose-fitting clothes.

The radical Sunni group has also used the tactic in Cameroon, Chad and Niger — countries that have already enforced bans on veils this year.

The region is reeling from a spike in female suicide bombings as a weakened Boko Haram shifts its strategy from raiding villages to relying on explosives in its quest to overthrow the government and create a hardline Islamist state in northeast Nigeria.

“Certain dress codes, which make identification of the persons concerned difficult, may considerably hinder actions geared towards protecting people and properties,” said Ouedraogo, who said countries should enforce a ban “in line with their national realities.”

– Forced to become human bombs? –

Almost a third of the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims live in Africa, with the religion predominant in the northern half of the continent.

In May this year, the Republic of Congo became one of the first African countries to issue a ban, followed by Chad and Cameroon after multiple female suicide bombers, wearing full face veils killed and maimed scores of people.

Authorities in Cameroon even went so far as to say it had banned “the manufacturing, sale and wearing of the burqa”.

But despite facing criticism that the bans infringe upon religious freedom, African leaders increasingly say national security trumps personal liberties.

In Gabon, police have received orders to increase surveillance of women wearing the garments. And following the arrest of four imams accused of links to Boko Haram, officials in Senegal announced it too is considering a ban.

The veil now arouses distrust amongst many Africans.

“We have the right to defend ourselves and, if possible, ban the full veil for women,” said Adamou Ide, a writer in Niger.

“Because unfortunately it is through them that the criminals can move around and commit horrible crimes.”

Today, Nigeria sees regular female suicide bombing attacks in the six-year-old Boko Haram insurgency which has claimed more than 17,000 lives.

The young age of many of the bombers indicates that some may be forced into violence.

Other Nigerian girls are unaware they will be blown up with an external remote, according to Leila Zerrougui, the UN secretary-general’s special representative on children and armed conflict.

A vigilante civilian and four female suicide bombers were killed Wednesday at a checkpoint in northeast Nigeria after one of them detonated her explosives.

A local official said that four girls between the ages of nine and 12 were stopped at the checkpoint, but the information was not confirmed by another source.

Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari has vowed to end the Boko Haram insurgency by the end of this month, but the deadline looks likely to be missed as attacks persist.

*AFP/Yahoo]]>

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Ivory Coast anger at French warrant for Guillaume Soro
December 9, 2015 | 0 Comments

Guillaume Soro is in Paris at the UN climate conference Guillaume Soro is in Paris at the UN climate conference[/caption]

Ivory Coast’s government has protested to France after a French judge issued an arrest warrant for the speaker of its parliament, Guillaume Soro.

The warrant stems from a case brought against him in 2012 by ex-Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo’s son. Michel Gbagbo, who has dual French and Ivorian nationality, alleged Mr Soro’s forces kidnapped and tortured him after his father’s capture in 2011. The government says Mr Soro, who denies the accusation, has immunity. Mr Soro commanded a rebel force which fought the ex-president, who has been charged by the International Criminal Court with war crimes – charges he denies. Ivory Coast’s Foreign Minister Charles Koffi Diby said he had written to the French government to protest that the warrant breached international law, and should be annulled. Mr Soro was in France on an official mission, and had “absolute immunity”, he said. [caption id="attachment_22976" align="alignright" width="300"]Ivory Coast former President Laurent Gbagbo (R) speaks with Ivory Coast's Prime Minister Guillaume Soro before a meeting at the presidential palace in Yamoussoukro on February 18, 2010, Photo credit VOA Ivory Coast former President Laurent Gbagbo (R) speaks with Ivory Coast’s Prime Minister Guillaume Soro before a meeting at the presidential palace in Yamoussoukro on February 18, 2010, Photo credit VOA[/caption] Michel Gbagbo’s lawyer Habiba Toure told the BBC that Mr Soro could have avoided an arrest warrant if he had heeded requests to appear before a French court. Some 3,000 people were killed in the five-month conflict in Ivory Coast that ended when Mr Gbagbo, who had refused to accept that he lost elections to current President Alassane Ouattara, was captured in April 2011. Human Rights Watch has said since the end of the crisis, progress toward justice has been largely one-sided. The BBC’s Tamasin Ford in Abidjan says Mr Soro is one of only a handful of people facing investigation from current President Ouattara’s side, compared to hundreds in the opposition camp. *BBC]]>

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Afrique Telecom, Eutelsat and Wikimédia France to offer free access to French-language Wikipedia in Africa
December 2, 2015 | 0 Comments

Afrique Telecom, Eutelsat and Wikimédia France combine skills in large-scale initiative to extend free access to French-language Wikipedia in Sub-Saharan Africa via Wi-Fi hotspots [caption id="attachment_22790" align="alignleft" width="300"]The partners :From left to right : Michel AZIBERT - Eutelsat, Nathalie MARTIN - Wikimedia Foundation, Philippe TINTIGNAC - Afrique Telecom The partners :From left to right : Michel AZIBERT – Eutelsat, Nathalie MARTIN – Wikimedia Foundation, Philippe TINTIGNAC – Afrique Telecom[/caption] Afrique Telecom  is progressively deploying Internet solutions over Sub-Saharan Africa in combination with Eutelsat’s satellite capacity. Its “TamTam” service extends access to the Internet in rural areas using Wi-Fi hotspots for collective access. In a new step announced today, “TamTam” will be used to offer free access to French-language Wikipedia content for many thousands of users. This initiative, starting in French-speaking Africa, supports Wikimédia France’s strategy to promote free access to educational content, in particular through Wikipedia. In order to offer free, unlimited access, Afrique Telecom has developed a server located at “TamTam” hotspots that will locally host French-language Wikipedia content. The content will be updated regularly via a satellite link provided by Eutelsat. A major pilot project Afrique Telecom’s ambition is to roll-out “TamTam” to between 4000 and 8000 hotspots in the next two years. Eutelsat has agreed to finance servers hosted by the first 1,000 hotspots as a springboard that will also measure the impact of the service. The Wikimedia movement has made a priority of improving accessibility and content creation on Wikipedia for so-called “Southern” countries. There is still a large gap between Northern and Southern countries in terms of the number of readers and contributors to Wikimedia platforms as well as content on Southern countries. French-speaking Africa is a priority action area for the Wikimédia France Foundation, as a complement to its Afripédia project. Wikimédia France, an association for free knowledge-sharing, was founded in 2004 to promote and support all projects hosted by the Wikimedia Foundation in France. Wikimédia France does not produce or host any Wikimedia Foundation projects, but strives to enrich them and raise their profile through its members’ support of its actions. Founded in 2005, Afrique Telecom (NYSE Euronext Paris: MLAFT, ISIN code: FR0011233659)  is an innovative telecommunications service operator offering economic models of satellite-based connectivity solutions that are unique on the market. The expertise of Afrique Telecom’s development teams is acknowledged in Africa for their work to reduce the digital divide on the continent. With more than 4000 stations in operation, Afrique Telecom is one of the leading players in satellite-based connectivity in Sub-Saharan Africa. Established in 1977, Eutelsat Communications (Euronext Paris: ETL, ISIN code: FR0010221234) is one of the world’s leading and most experienced operators of communications satellites. The company provides capacity on 38 satellites to clients that include broadcasters and broadcasting associations, pay-TV operators, video, data and Internet service providers, enterprises and government agencies. Eutelsat’s satellites provide ubiquitous coverage of Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Asia-Pacific and the Americas, enabling video, data, broadband and government communications to be established irrespective of a user’s location. Headquartered in Paris, with offices and teleports around the globe, Eutelsat represents a workforce of 1,000 men and women from 37 countries who are experts in their fields and work with clients to deliver the highest quality of service. *APO]]>

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Corruption on the rise in Africa poll as governments seen failing to stop it
December 2, 2015 | 0 Comments

Transparency International estimates 75 million Africans paid a bribe in the past year Corruption-cartoon-of-a-police-boss-by-Basati-via-SomalilandsunA majority of Africans say corruption has risen in the past 12 months and most governments are seen as failing in their duty to stop the abuse of power, bribery and secret deals, according to a new opinion poll from Transparency International (Transparency.org). In the report People and Corruption: Africa Survey 2015, part of the Global Corruption Barometer, Transparency International partnered with Afrobarometer, which spoke to 43,143 respondents across 28 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa between March 2014 and September 2015 to ask them about their experiences and perceptions of corruption in their country. The majority (58 per cent) of Africans in the surveyed countries, say corruption has increased over the past 12 months. In 18 out of 28 countries surveyed a large majority of people said their government is doing badly at fighting corruption. Despite these disappointing findings, the bright spots across the continent were in Botswana, Burkina Faso, Lesotho and Senegal. Citizens in these countries were some of the most positive in the region when discussing corruption. For the first time, people reported business executives as highly corrupt. Business ranked as having the second highest levels of corruption in the region, just below the police. The police regularly rate as highly corrupt, but the strongly negative assessment of business executives is new compared to previous surveys. Many Africans, particularly the poor, are burdened by corruption when trying to get access to key basic services in their country. 22 per cent of people that have come into contact with a public service in the past 12 months paid a bribe. Of the six key public services that we asked about, people who come into contact with the courts and police are the most likely to have paid a bribe. 28 per cent and 27 per cent respectively of people who had contact with these services paid a bribe. Across the continent, poor people who use public services are twice as likely as rich people to have paid a bribe, and in urban areas they are even more likely to pay bribes. “Corruption creates and increases poverty and exclusion. While corrupt individuals with political power enjoy a lavish life, millions of Africans are deprived of their basic needs like food, health, education, housing, access to clean water and sanitation. We call on governments and judges to stop corruption, eradicate impunity and implement Goal 16 of the Sustainable Development Goals to curb corruption. We also call on the people to demand honesty and transparency, and mobilize against corruption. It is time to say enough and unmask the corrupt,” said Transparency International Chair José Ugaz. pesayachai_bwanamdogoIt is increasingly clear that citizens are a key part of any anti-corruption initiative. However, the survey finds that corruption reporting mechanisms are often seen as too dangerous, ineffective or unclear. More than 1 out of 3 Africans thinks that a whistleblower faces negative consequences for reporting corruption, which is why most people don’t report. “Our work as civil society is clear: we have to spread a message of hope across the continent. Corruption can be tackled. People need to be given the space to stand up against it without fear of retaliation and governments need to get serious about ending the widespread impunity.” Transparency International recommends:

  • Governments strengthen and enforce legislation on corrupt business people and anti-money laundering to curb the high volume of illicit flows from the continent. This could address the negative perception of business if those profiting are held to account.
  • Governments establish right to information and whistle-blower protection legislation to facilitate the role of civil society in making public institutions more transparent, accountable and corruption-free.
  • Governments show a sustained and deep commitment to acting on police corruption at all levels by promoting reforms that combine punitive measures with structural changes over the short- and medium-term. Cracking down on petty bribery has direct impact on the most vulnerable in society.
  • The African Union and its members provide the political will and financing needed to implement the review mechanism established for its anti-corruption convention.
Unless it’s stopped, corruption slows development and economic growth while weakening people’s trust in government and the accountability of public institutions. *APO]]>

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