Africa Has Not Been A Priority Region For The Trump Administration-CFA President Mel Foote
August 13, 2020 | 0 Comments
By Ajong Mbapndah L
Very little has been done by President Trump in articulating and fostering a concise African policy, says Mel Foote, President of the Washington DC, based Constituency for Africa. In addition to not paying a visit to Africa in his first term, the President’s utterances and actions have not been helpful in forging stronger ties with Africa, says Mr. Foote, a highly respected veteran of African Affairs in the Washington, DC circuit.
Fielding questions from PAV, Mr. Foote says the upcoming Presidential elections will have profound implications on how the U.S interacts with Africa and the rest of the world.
“Should Trump win re-election, we certainly should not expect anything of significance for Africa, and certainly no new initiatives. On the other hand, should Vice-President Biden win, we can certainly expect a stronger hand of friendship coming from the U.S., although the attention of President Biden will most certainly be on responding to the COVID-19 impact in the U.S,” says Mr. Foote.
“While clearly President Trump has not engaged much with African-Americans during these four years , African-Americans have not done well with the Democratic Party either as both sides routinely promise things in exchange for votes, but deliver little,” Mel Foote charged.
Still, the CFA leader believes that the African American vote could be decisive in swaying the election either way and for this to happen, their turnout must mirror 2008 levels when President Obama won the elections, Mr. Foote says.
Thanks for accepting to grant this interview, can we start with your assessment of the state of US-African relations?
Since assuming the Presidency of the United States, President Donald Trump has done very little to advance any significant U.S. – Africa policy agenda. He started off on the wrong foot, by insulting African countries, calling them “shithole countries”, and followed this up by putting African countries, including Nigeria on a list to restrict U.S. visas! The first lady Melania Trump visited Africa last year, but did not focus on any real substantive agenda, and there has been little or no follow-up.
What was the Trump agenda for Africa and what impact did it have on the traditional ties that the US has had with Africa?
President Trump really does not have any discernable agenda for Africa. The U.S. is only peripherally involved in major movements on the continent, i.e., the Continental Free Trade Agreement; efforts to respond to climate change on the continent; and efforts to respond to COVID-19. Having said that, the U.S. State Department has been helpful in the peaceful transition to democracy in Sudan. The US played a role in the peaceful elections in the DRC. The US seems to be on the right side in pressing for democratic reform and leadership change in Cameroon.
President Trump is wrapping up his first term of office with Africa been the only region he has not visited, what message does it send to the seriousness with which the US takes its ties with Africa?
Given all of the challenges the Trump administration is facing as it wraps up its first term, including the global COVID-19 pandemic, no one can expect President Trump to make a trip to Africa any time soon. In fact, for security reasons, the President is not able to travel to Europe, Canada, Asia or anywhere else, until such a time that a vaccine would be available! Most of the Africa-watchers in Washington, would have questioned his motives for making a trip to Africa anyways, given some of his rhetoric, and his abhorrent disregard and treatment of black people in Africa and here in the United States.
Elections are around the corner, what could be at stake for US-Africa relations come November?
The US Presidential Elections in November will certainly be important for Americans and for the entire world! Should Trump win re-election, we certainly should not expect anything of significance for Africa, and certainly no new initiatives. On the other hand, should Vice-President Biden win, we can certainly expect a stronger hand of friendship coming from the U.S., although the attention of President Biden will most certainly be on responding to the COVID-19 impact in the U.S.; putting Americans back to work; and getting the U.S. economy going again.
What guarding principles or recommendations do you have for African Americans in making their choice of who to vote in November?
African-Americans certainly are in position to determine the outcome of the elections, if we turn out to vote at the level of 2008, when Barack Obama won the election. The Trump re-election team is working hard to make it difficult for Black people to vote, and clearly want to limit the potential! While clearly President Trump has not engaged much with African Americans during these four years — African Americans have not done well with the Democratic Party either! Both sides routinely promise things in exchange for votes, but deliver little! Unfortunately, we can expect little to achieve for Africa and for African people, regardless of who is elected!
What do you make of the way Africa reacted to the recent murder of George Floyd?
With the advent of social media, the entire world witnessed to murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis, Minnesota police! While thousands of blacks have been systematically murdered by police across the United States, it has always been covered up, with police claiming that they were defending themselves and had to use lethal force! African immigrants have generally stayed out of the issue of police brutality, but increasingly are being caught up as the police are only seeing them as black people, and not as Ethiopians, Guineans, Nigerians, etc. The George Floyd murder reverberated across the world including across Africa! The African immigrant community also has been caught up in the global protest, and the Black Lives Matter movement.
The emotional responses from Africa during the George Floyd included calls from the Minister of Culture for aggrieved African Americans to come back “home,” what is it that African countries could do to build bridges to its diaspora?
Africa and African people are certainly coming to realize the potential of the African Diaspora, for remittances, for trade promotion, for tourism, etc.
Thus, the African Union’s launching of the Diaspora as the “Sixth Region”, in 2012! However, much work remains to be done in Africa and here in the Diaspora, to make this Sixth Region a functional reality. The biggest challenge is to how we can develop an “operational concept of unification”, that allows African-Americans, African immigrants, Afro-Latinos, Afro-Europeans, etc., to cooperate!
As we speak, the African Union Mission in Washington DC has gone without an Ambassador since October 2019 when Ambassador Arikana was recalled, what do you make of this?
We all applaud the tremendous effort of Ambassador Arikana Chihombori to engage the Diaspora, during her three years as the Permanent Representative to Washington. She was tireless in her approach, and did much to wake the Diaspora up to the possibilities in Africa! On the other hand, Ambassador Chihombori was clearly functioning as a part of the African Union Commission and operated under their organizational policies and procedures! She served at the pleasure of the AU Chairperson, and like all Ambassadors, was subject to recall for any reason as determined by the Chairperson. The African Union has an “Acting” Representative in place here in Washington, and given the COVID-19 pandemic, the AU is certainly suspending efforts for the time being, to formally fill Ambassadorships around the world! I do expect that the way Ambassador Chihombori departed the position, unfortunately will hurt efforts in the future for the AU to focus on African Diaspora issues and engagement. They will likely focus on bilateral issues with the U.S. government, and with institutions like the World Bank and IMF!
What plans does the Constituency For Africa that you lead have for the 2020 annual Ron Brown African Affairs Series?
The CFA 2020 Ronald H. Brown African Affairs Series will take place virtually, between September 12 – 19. The theme for the Series this year is, “Advocating for Africa in the Mist of the Pandemic”! While most of the Africa-focused organizations in the U.S. have disappeared, or have severely reduced their programming during the Coronavirus pandemic, CFA has clearly adjusted, and continues to respond to the call of Africa, albeit with minimum resources. In some respect the programming is even better today in that we have much better access with the use of ZOOM and other information technologies, to reach leaders across Africa, and throughout the Diaspora around the world! We are planning to release the agenda for the 2020 RHB Series next week.
Mel, we like to end with a last question on what is been done by you and other veterans of African advocacy in Washington ,DC, to ensure that there is continuity in the great work you have done for decades?
I am pleased to say that CFA has always prioritized preparing the next generation of leadership to support Africa. I recall my own experience in coming up, how the Black leaders at that time were not attuned to helping me or any of the up and coming folks, to prepare for leadership. One of my bosses told once told me when I went to him about career advice, “You must pull yourself up by your own bootstraps”! In other words, he was not going to do anything to help me to advance my career! I decided then and there that if I am ever in the position, I would take a much different approach to the next generation!
I am extremely proud of my role in the formulation of the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI), that was launched by President Barack Obama, after he became President. President Obama sent an aide to see me late in 2008, and asked me to offer my thoughts on what approach the President could take in regards to Africa, in that when he arrived in office, the U.S. economy was in total freefall, we were fully engaged in fighting two wars (Iraq and Afghanistan), and he needed to spend his first year or so in fixing the economy and getting Americans back to work! He also followed George W. Bush in office. President Bush, despite his limited knowledge and interest in Africa, ended up being perhaps the most successful U.S. President in history in relationship to Africa, allocating $15 billion to respond to the HIV/AIDS pandemic, and $5 billion to launch the Millennium Challenge Corporation, which provided new development support for Africa.
President Obama wanted to show Africa that he, as a son of the continent, was indeed very much interested in the affairs of Africa, but he needed to spend his first year or so, fixing the monumental problems in the U.S. I wrote a paper for the President Obama, and suggested that he not spend his political capital trying to get African old tyrants to do the right thing, but focus his attention on the young, the up and coming generation, and preparing them for leadership! President Obama loved the idea, and went on to structure YALI!
Kenya:Raila responds to Ruto’s ‘deep state’ claims, says he is unaware of the outfit
August 13, 2020 | 0 Comments
By Samuel Ouma
Kenya’s chief opposition leader Raila Odinga has once again maintained his stand saying Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) party is not in the government.
In a press briefing on Thursday, August 13, 2020, Raila said he holds no position in the government indicating that ODM is in opposition.
The former Prime Minister was responding to claims by the Deputy President William Ruto over the existence of a ‘deep state’ that is working tirelessly to block him from ascending to the presidency.
The ODM party leader distanced himself from the alleged outfit saying he is unaware of its existence.
“As you know, where I am I hold no position in the government of the Republic of Kenya. Kenya is led by the President whose name you know and his deputy whose name you also know. So if you are talking about the deep state, who is there? It’s the president and his deputy,” Raila said.
“Go and ask the Deputy President which deep State he is talking about… we are not in government as ODM. So we don’t know about this deep State,” he said.
The second in command on Tuesday, August 11, 2020, accused unnamed individuals whom he referred to as a system of devising schemes to rig him out during 2022 polls. Ruto stated that he is not afraid of anything.
“I just want to tell them: ‘We’re waiting for you’. This system, this deep state we are being told about, we are waiting for it,” he said.
In rejoinder, Central Organization of Trade Unions (Cotu) Secretary-General Francis dismissed the claims adding that the ‘deep state’ he is referring to secured him from the International Criminal Court (ICC).
“Ruto is a daytime dreamer. He is dreaming. He will never be the president of this great country. No one will stand in his way to stop him. We will see where he will get votes,” Atwoli told the Star.
The vocal Cotu boss accused the Deputy President of undermining the president calling him to resign.
“Ruto is interested in politics instead of serving Kenyans. He is number two and if he is not comfortable he should resign. This young man should not be rude to his bosses who are the taxpayers. He needs to understand that he is using the taxpayers’ funds for security, transport, and hosting delegations and must respect them,” Atwoli added.
US calls on S. Sudanese leaders to end communal violence, unify nation
August 5, 2020 | 0 Comments
By Deng Machol
Juba – The Trump’s administration has called on South Sudanese parties to end communal conflicts in the restive country.In a statement seen by Pan African Visions, the Embassy of the United States to Juba also called on the leaders to start unifying the nation and bringing well-deserved peace to the vulnerable people of the world youngest nation.
The Embassy expresses deep concern with continued communal conflict in parts of the country and calls for all parties to deescalate tensions.
The US described it as “unacceptable the forced displacement, disruption to livelihoods, diversion and looting of humanitarian aid, and the killing of aid workers in some states.”
“Fighting in different parts of South Sudan in recent weeks has reflected different causes and involved different parties but the impact is all similarly unacceptable; the people of South Sudan, your friends, your neighbors and communities are all suffering abuses against civilian populations. Forced displacement, disruption to livelihoods, diversion and looting of humanitarian aid, and the killing of aid workers are all unacceptable. It is time for local and regional leaders and the government of South Sudan to put an end to these conflicts and start unifying the country and bringing well-deserved peace to the people of South Sudan,” said the US in the statement.
The US also pointed out an uptick in clashes between the government forces (SSPDF) and the National Salvation Front, accompanied by “displacement of civilians and civilian abductions in parts of Central Equatoria state.”
It also raised the alarm over the reports of large-scale mobilization of armed groups and fighting on inter – communal basis in Jonglei region, which remained a deeply concerned.
“Now is the time for all the people who took or accepted the responsibility to lead this country, to work towards a nation of unity where everybody has a right to speak in public without fear of repercussion, where every has a right to education, where everybody has a right to live in their home of choice without fear of violence. The leaders of South Sudan cannot sit back and wait for things to happen; they need to make them happen,” the statement said, urging on leaders to take decisive actions to end the hostilities.
The embassy further noted with concerns tensions between SPLA-IO and SSPDF units in Western Bahr el Ghazal.There have been reports of arbitrary detention of civilians and attacks on civilian vehicles along the Wau – Tonj road.The statement urges all parties to immediately adhere to the Agreement on the Cessation of Hostilities, comply with their Rome Resolution obligations, and resume dialogue on a political solution to the conflict.
“We welcome the establishment of a delegation with leaders from both sides and urge immediate dialogue to reduce tensions, forestall further clashes, and prevent a broader threat to the peace agreement ceasefire,” said in part of the statement.This is a second such statement issued by the Embassy of the US in South Sudan within a week.
Last week, it expressed concerns over the continued delay in the implementation of some provisions in the revitalized peace agreement, pointed out the impediments in the establishment of a transitional national legislative assembly, and the continued dispute over the governorship of Upper Nile.
On the same development, Ambassador Lt. Gen. Njoroge, the Interim Chairperson of the Reconstituted Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (RJMEC), echoed by saying that the intercommunal violence is a ‘great concern’ toward the fragile peace deal.
In the statement, Amb. Lt. Gen. Njoroge, said: “The intercommunal violence in various parts of the country over the past few months continues to be of great concern. I hope that recent activities on the issue of responsibility sharing at the state level will help to address the power vacuum in which these intercommunal clashes take place.”
South Sudan was emerging from the country’s five year conflict which has killed nearly 400,000 people and uprooted four million people from their homes, before devestasted the country’s economy but the effort to implement the peace deal was blighted by lack of political will, mistrust, inter-communal violence and plus the COVID 19 pandemic.
Arrests galore in Malawi as former President Mutharika is probed
August 1, 2020 | 0 Comments
By James Mwala
There have been key arrests of senior government officials in the Peter Mutharika administration, most of which however hovering on corrupt practices.
The arrests come as the incumbent leader Lazarus Chakwera announced a heft plan to deal with corruption and accused the Mutharika administration of swindling about MK1 Trillion in various dubious deals.
However, the former ruling Democratic Progressive Party has described the accusations as political.
So far, Mutharika’s former aide Norman Chisale has been netted for about four charges, one of which is an attempted murder of a woman in Blantyre while on the high profile is the reported dubious purchase of cement by Mutharika, in which it is believed the bodyguard played the biggest role.
Asian trader Ahmed Chunara was also arrested over same matter, according to police records.
Mutharika has also been reportedly interrogated over the matter. The interrogation came days after he denied any wrong doing as it is alleged.
Mutharika, who is currently at his residence in the lakeshore district of Mangochi has distanced himself from the allegations, his privileges were used to import the said valued at about MK 5 Billion.
In a statement, the 80 year old said during his reign, he has neither bought nor instructed any person to purchase cement on his behalf.
He also says he has never undertaken any construction work that would require such an amount of cement while also stating that he does not trade in any cement deals.
As if this is not enough, the Malawi Revenue Authority has also pounced on Mutharika’s ex-Chief of Staff, Peter Mukhito subsequently impounding his 7 posh vehicles for what is believed as tax evasion.
The latest arrests have sparkled growing debate on whether really Mutharika might have known of the alleged illicit deals by his right hand men or that he was hoodwinked into believing the deals were not of that extent.
Meanwhile, law scholar Professor Danwood Chirwa posting on his Facebook, argues that there is need for law enforcers to trade carefully on such arrests as there would be legal complications.
He was directly reacting to incidents involving Chisale who has had to be re-arrested just minutes after been granted bail over other two counts.
‘’Even the most devious suspect or accused has due process rights must be respected. The police cannot render court orders worthless by endlessly re-arresting suspects or accused persons.
At the moment, Chakwera has warned his leadership will not spare any people who might have been involved in corruption including those that are part of his regime.
The incidents have also come as hearing of the case involving business tycoon Thom Mpinganjira is slated to start.
Mpinganjira, is accused of attempting to bribe judges that heard the historical presidential case, whose ruling was the nullification of the results and the eventual triumph of Chakwera in the fresh poll.
He has since the charges. He heads one of Malawi’s elite banks, the FDH.
Namibia: President Geingob foregoes birthday wishes in favour of national COVID-19 effort
July 30, 2020 | 0 Comments
By Andreas Thomas
Windhoek – President Hage Geingob has declined complimentary adverts for his 79th birthday, calling on well-wishers to instead make donations to the national effort against the COVID-19 crisis.
It has become a custom for government institutions and businesses to fork out thousands of dollars buying advertisements space in newspapers to wish the head of state good health on his birthday.
The president will celebrate his birthday on Monday, 3 August.
But in light of the accelerated the response of the government to fight the coronavirus crisis, President Geingob has urged businesses and individuals to donate to the COVID-19 National Disaster Fund.
“In the form of COVID-19, we are faced with a deadly and invisible enemy. During this period, the health of Namibians remains the biggest priority. The Government alone cannot defeat the virus and needs everyone to play a role in arresting the spread and assisting the vulnerable among us.
For the occasion of my 79th birthday on 3 August 2020, I encourage corporates and individuals not to place adverts in newspapers and other publications. Instead, and in light of the gravity of COVID-19, I urge corporates and individuals to contribute monetary resources or in kind-donations to the national response.
I wish to thank corporates and individuals who have so far demonstrated care to fellow citizens by contributing to our national response. For those of you who are planning to contribute to mark my birthday, I wish to thank you in advance for your generosity. Yes, together we can defeat COVID-19,” Geingob said in a media statement on Thursday.
A surge in COVID-19 cases over the past weeks has put tremendous pressure on the public health facilities, mostly in the hard-hit Erongo region. The situation has forced health authorities to let go of people that have been in quarantine for more than three weeks.
Deputy Health and Social Services Minister Dr. Esther Muinjangue said most people including those in quarantine camp at Henties Bay have been waiting for the test results.
She explained that have been in quarantine as contacts of people that tested positive for COVID-19, though they did not show any symptoms related to the illness.
“Their test results have not been forthcoming and it was decided that they are allowed to return home,” Muinjangue said.
Dr. Kaveto Sikuvi, the deputy chairperson of the National COVID-19 Case Management Team told media that people that have been in quarantine for longer than three weeks do not pose any threat to the public when they return home.
As of Wednesday, Namibia has recorded 1986 positive cases of coronavirus, with nine deaths. The majority of cases have been recorded at the harbour town of Walvis Bay, in west-central Namibia.
Road to Annual Meetings: South African villagers find fresh water in ancient mountain springs
July 29, 2020 | 0 Comments
The village of Tsakhuma in the Vhembe district of South Africa’s Limpopo region is proof positive that communities can find solutions to their problems. Like many rural areas in South Africa, Tsakhuma lacked access to water for bathing, cooking, washing and chores, and the burden of fetching water fell on its girls and women.
“There was a general water shortage all over Tsakhuma,” says villager Florence Negondeni. “We would sometimes go for weeks without access to water.”
The problem arose, in Negondeni’s view, when district municipal authorities installed a new water scheme in Tsakhuma without consulting community members. The new system lacked a maintenance plan, and breakdowns contributed to water scarcity. Fed up with the situation, Negondeni began to study the history of the community and region for clues that might improve its water security. Shortages “made me think about ancient areas in the mountains, where our people used to get water,” she says.
Villagers discovered a number of springs in the mountains nearby. After undertaking a cost analysis of equipment to supply water from the springs to the village, the community members pooled funds to buy it, and set up their water scheme.
The African Water Facility, hosted and managed by the African Development Bank, supported the establishment of the community scheme, which has water reserves for more than a year, at a cost of about $7,850. The sum was raised from the 113 village households. “On a monthly basis, the community members contribute R20 (approximately $1.50) each to maintain and service the pipeline,” Florence added.
South Africa’s Water Research Commission (WRC), which funds, facilitates and disseminates research on water-related innovation, invited Florence to present her project. The Commission has since begun mobilizing financing to roll out similar initiatives. As a result, Tsakhuma now has 11 communal groups, led by women, that supply 4,000 people with water for multiples uses.
“Tsakhuma is a model for community-based solutions to water supply in rural and peri-urban areas,” says Omari Mwinjaka, coordinator of the African Water Facility. “We are working with partners to implement, up-scale and replicate this model to other areas in Africa.”
The African Water Facility provided $1.45 million in grant funding to The Water Research Commission to assess the benefits of community-driven water planning. Funds will also go to implementing multiple use water systems in six villages in Limpopo’s Vhembe and Sekhukhune districts, which are among the country’s poorest.
The African Water Facility, founded in 2004, is wholly Africa-owned and managed, and is the only Project Preparation Facility operating in Africa that focuses exclusively on the water and sanitation sector. Since 2006, AWF has funded 119 projects at a cost of €167 million across the continent and mobilized over €1.5 billion in downstream investment.
“One of the African Water Facility’s objectives is to deploy small but catalytic investments, or provide seed funding to projects that can be replicated or piloted using innovative or alternative business models and technologies aimed at helping communities – especially women and children – improve their quality of life, create employment, and reduce stunting in children,” said Wambui Gichuri, the Bank’s Acting Vice President Agriculture, Human and Social Development, African Development Bank Group.
Namibia under COVID-19 strain, as businesses and institutions forced close
July 28, 2020 | 0 Comments
By Andreas Thomas
Windhoek – The Namibian parliament on Tuesday closed its door to the public for 14 days as a precautionary measure after a staff member at the National Council tested positive for Covid-19.
In a public notice, national assembly public relations officer David Nahogandja sad staff members have been asked to stay home, and will only resume on 10 August 2020.
“The temporal closure came as a precautionary measure after one of the staff members of the National Council tested positive for Covid-19. The parliament building is a common area used by members and staff of houses of parliament, therefore, members and staff of the national assembly will for the above-mentioned period be working from home,” Nehogandja explained.
The Khomas region council has also closed its head office in Windhoek on Tuesday after a staff member tested positive for coronavirus. Staff members will be working from until 12 August, the Council said in a statement.
The Namibia Water Corporation has also announced the closure of its head office after one of the staff member tested positive of the coronavirus. The company said the office will remain close for 14 days as of Tuesday.
With cases on the rise across the country, several businesses and institutions in Windhoek have sent their staff over the coronavirus disease.
The country’s main mobile operator, Mobile Telecommunications Limited was forced to shut down its main call centre after a staff member contracted the virus. Bank Windhoek, the Namibian Broadcasting Corporation head office, Windhoek City Police department and the Business and Intellectual Property Authority have also experienced similar incidents.
Health and Social Services Minister Dr Kalumbi Shangula on Tuesday announced 74 new COVID-19 positive cases across the country. The majority of the cases, 57 in total were recorded in Walvis Bay, the epicentre of the virus, while Windhoek recorded four cases. As of Tuesday, 28 July, Namibian has 1 917 confirmed cases, with 104 recoveries, 1805 active cases and eight fatalities.
Shangula has expressed his worry about the increasing cases of COVID-19 and called on Namibians to adhere to preventive measures like wearing of face masks and observing social distancing protocols.
“In recent weeks, we have observed a worrying upsurge in the number of cases reported. Although the town of Walvis Bay remains the epicentre of the pandemic at present, cases are increasing in other parts of the country.
This is and must be a source of concern for all Namibians. It calls for greater vigilance and personal responsibility of every Namibian to do our part to stop the spread of this disease in its tracts. And it can be done,” said the health minister.
“In the past few weeks, we have seen new cases in Khomas and other Regions. Many of these cases are not connected to other known cases, and they are in individuals who have not travelled. This means that people are becoming infected in their localities, during their everyday activities. It is time for all Namibians to change our behaviours and do everything we can to reduce our risk.”
Construction of Mozambique-Malawi power line to start in March 2021
July 28, 2020 | 0 Comments
By Jorge Joaquim
The Mozambican government has launched an international public tender to select the contractor who will build the 400 kV electricity transmission line linking Mozambique and Malawi,
The 220 km line has guarantees of funding of 127 million US dollars from the World Bank, the Norwegian government, and German Cooperation (through the German Development Bank. KfW).
For his part, Joao Catine, the official of the Mozambican publicly owned electricity company, EDM, responsible for the transmission line project, said that another international public tender will be launched “within days” to choose a contractor to build a brand new electricity sub-station to raise the voltage in the centre-north power system to 400 kV, and with a capacity of 500 MVA (megavolt amperes).
“This is enough power to satisfy the short and medium term demand in Malawi”, said Catine. “The conclusion of all the procedures for selecting the two contractors is envisaged for December”.
Work on the power line should begin in March 2021, and the conclusion is scheduled for March 2023. Catine added that KfW will also support EDM in installing fibre-optic cables along the regional inter-connection line, and along two other high voltage transmission lines in central Mozambique.
The German government is providing 30 million euros (about 35 million US dollars) for the regional interconnection project and to strengthen internal communications along the EDM transmission lines. The World Bank has provided 42 million dollars, and the contribution from the Norwegian government is 24 million dollars, channelled via the World Bank. These three financing agreements became effective as from this month.
The inter-connection project will link Malawi to the Southern African Power Pool (SAPP), which coordinates the planning and operation of electrical power systems among its member utilities. It will ensure diversification of Malawi’s electricity supplies, and allow Malawi to participate in the regional electricity market.
The agreements between EDM and the Malawian Electricity Company (Escom) were signed in April 2019 in Blantyre.
Kenya bans alcohol sale for 30 days
July 27, 2020 | 0 Comments
By Samuel Ouma
Kenyan government has banned the sale of alcohol in restaurants and eateries for one month as part of measures to curb the spread of the Coronavirus.
Speaking during the state of the nation address on Monday, the President said the bars remain closed until further notice.
The Head of the State directed the Inspector of General Police (IG) Hillary Mutyambai to revoke permanently licences of bars, restaurants and eateries that will flout the regulations in place.
Kenyatta reiterated that socialising in areas serving alcohol hampers government’s efforts in fighting the disease.
At the same time, he reviewed closing hours for eateries and restaurants to 7pm from 8pm.
“That there shall be no sale of alcoholic beverages in eateries and restaurants across the territory of the republic of Kenya effective midnight today for the next 30 days,” said Kenyatta.
The president further extended the nationwide dusk to dawn curfew by another 30 days. He ordered the IG not to spare any person who will breach safety measures given by the Ministry of Health.
“All measures will be for all Kenyans regardless of an individual’s status,” he directed.
Kenyans have been challenged to hold each other accountable adding that everybody is vulnerable to the disease.
“If someone enters your shop, and you own the business, if he has no mask, insist that they wear one. We are living in abnormal times. Let us not think that we are special. Please, let us not follow examples we have seen across the world,” said the president.
“We need to be realistic. None of us wants to mourn who would have survived if not for our actions. The power is in your hands. We are the ones who have the power to save,” he noted.
Since the president eased the Covid-19 restrictions on July 6, the country has witnessed a surge in the cases. The number of fatalities has also increased.
The President addressed the nation after meeting Governors in the State House in Nairobi.
Between Hushpuppi and Hushpoliticians
July 27, 2020 | 0 Comments
By Chido Onumah*
The last one month has witnessed a celebration of crime and corruption in Nigeria, from Ramoni Olorunwa Abbas, aka Ray Hushpuppi, to the Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, and the management of the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF), to the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) which the president supervises as Minister of Petroleum Resources, to the Minister of Niger Delta, Godswill Akpabio, and the leadership of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), to the Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), and everything in between.
With each revelation, my mind would go to Mc Edo Pikin, the talented and creative comedian who has popularized skits that compare absurd topics and situations. I imagined Mc Edo Pikin working on the difference between Hushpuppi and what we shall call Hushpoliticians—the tribe of political and public officers who have mortgaged the estate called Nigeria. He did not do that. But he did not disappoint when he released the “Difference between NDDC and NCDC.” Nigeria is a nest of political Hushpuppies—from Dino Melaye, an ally of Hushpuppi, to Ayo Fayose, Orji Uzor Kalu and Theodore Orji, to Rochas Okorocha, the list is endless.
Abike Dabiri-Erewa, the Director-General and CEO of the Nigerians in Diaspora Commission was right when she said—in response to the Hushpuppi affair—that the actions of Ramoni Olorunwa Abbas do not reflect who we are as a people. If in defence of our national pride we can afford to “deny” Mr. Abbas, I wonder what Abike Dabiri-Erewa makes of the putrid news of corruption by our Hushpoliticians oozing from every national orifice in the last one month. As a friend remarked when I used the term Hushpoliticians in a WhatsApp group recently, “When you think about it, Hushpuppi is better than these politicians. He is stealing other people’s money while our politicians are robbing our patrimony.”
Of course, there is nothing new about the activities of Hushpuppi and his clan, which includes the likes of Obinwanne George Okeke, aka Invictus Obi, and Olalekan Jacob Ponle, aka Woodberry. The rise of Hushpuppi and others like him must be viewed within the context of the new mode of expropriation and accumulation under capitalism. I am sure there are many young people in Nigeria who want to live the Hushpuppi dream; millions who may never have the benefit of education and opportunity to get a job no matter how hard they try; millions who are daily incubating new schemes while mired in the pain created by Hushpoliticians. Those who do not advance to become Hushpuppi will pray their way to becoming sidekicks and thugs of politicians and ultimately grow into Hushpoliticians.
But this piece is not about Hushpuppi—the young man whose ambition was to own a few commercial motorcycles and marry the daughter of a small-town restaurateur—who has managed to build global notoriety and a rap sheet as long as the Sheikh Zayed Road in Dubai, UAE. There will be another opportunity to explore the different dimensions of the Hushpuppi phenomenon. Just to say that Nigerian Hushpoliticians are enablers of Hushpuppi and company; the Hushpolitician is the father of Hushpuppi.
Stealing from Nigerians has been a favourite pastime of our Hushpoliticians since independence. But it does appear it has been given some veneer of legality in the last two decades. Let us use Mr. Godswill Akpabio, Nigeria’s Minister of Niger Delta, as a case study. Information available on Wikipedia.org notes that Akpabio has held political office since 2002 when he was appointed Commissioner for Petroleum and Natural Resources in Akwa Ibom State. Between 2002 and 2006, he served as a Commissioner in three key ministries: Petroleum and Natural Resources, Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, as well as Lands and Housing. He served as governor of the oil-rich state from 2007 to 2015 and senator from 2015 to 2019 when he was appointed a minister after his “uncommon defection” from the opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP) to the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).
Of course, there is nothing progressive about Akpabio and his APC. After leaving office in 2015, Akpabio was the subject of investigation by the Counterterrorism and General Investigation Section of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) over allegations that he misappropriated more than N100bn. The allegations against Akpabio border on the award of bogus contracts to cronies who used the proceeds to buy several properties in Lagos and Abuja.
Three years ago, Mr. Akpabio and his colleagues in the “Former Governors Club” incurred the wrath of Nigerians when their allowances and other perquisites of office became public. In January 2017, a report in Vanguard newspaper noted that 47 former governors from 21 states in the country, drew as much as N37.4 billion from the public treasury. At the time of the report, there were 21 serving senators receiving pensions from government as ex-governors and deputy governors. There were also ministers receiving pensions as ex-governors.
As they prepared to leave office in May 2015, many of these Hushpoliticians hurriedly signed or amended existing laws to give themselves fantastic lifetime “retirement benefits.” This was the subject of a 2017 essay and later the title of a pamphlet—The Politics of State Robbery in Nigeria—published in 2018. I shall quote extensively from that essay to underscore the depth of the current crisis.
Akpabio stood out in this official sleaze. While leaving office as governor of Akwa Ibom State, he passed the Governors and Deputy Governors Pension Law which entitles a former governor and spouse in the state up to N100 million a year, and a former deputy governor and spouse up to N30 million, for medical treatment. Of course, this is pocket money for Akpabio because he will be paid that money whether he and his wife receive medical treatment or not. With this allowance, there was no incentive for Akpabio to worry about the health infrastructure in his state if he could rob the state to take care of himself and his family indefinitely.
Akpabio’s law provides that as ex-governor, he and his deputy will receive pensions equivalent to 100% of annual basic salaries of the incumbent governor and deputy (note: 100% of annual basic salaries of the incumbent governor, emphasis mine), one house not below 5-bed maisonette in either Abuja or Akwa Ibom for the former governor and 500% annual basic for the deputy for accommodation. For transportation, he and his deputy will get one car and one utility car every four years. Add to this, a furniture allowance, every four years, that is 300% of annual basic salary. He will receive N5 million and his deputy gets N2.5 million for domestic staff. Akpabio was not done. He will get a car maintenance allowance that is 300% of annual basic salary, entertainment allowance, 100% of annual basic salary, utility: 100% of annual basic salary, and severance gratuity: 300% annual basic salary.
The Lagos State Governor and Deputy Governor Pensions Law of 2007 endorsed by ex-governor Babatunde Fashola, now Minister of Works and Housing, is even more lucrative. It provides that a former governor is entitled to six new vehicles (three cars, two back-up cars and one pilot car) every three years and a house in Lagos and another in Abuja, the country’s most expensive housing markets. His deputy gets five vehicles every three years. They and their family members—you only need to invoke the governor’s name to qualify as a family member—are entitled to unlimited free medical services. Their pension will be the equivalent of 100% of annual basic salaries of the incumbent governor and deputy. There is a furniture allowance for these former “excellencies” that comes to 300% of their annual basic salary every two years.
We can go on and on. There is no name for this other than robbery. That it is sanctioned by the state makes it no less grievous than armed robbery. I made these arguments three years ago. Since then, nothing has changed—the situation has gotten worse—except the fact that Akpabio has moved from the PDP to the APC. Of course, state robbery—or what the late Afrobeat legend, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti called Authority Stealing—has no party affiliation. This robbery unites our political elite, no matter their party, religious or ethnic affiliations. Once they are in power, they use the instrumentality of the state to rob their people and the country at will, while using laws to cover their crimes.
This is the scenario currently playing out with the corruption scandal at the NDDC. As Minister of Niger Delta, Mr. Akpabio has been accused of sundry acts of corruption by a former acting Managing Director of the NDDC, Joi Nunieh. Mr. Akpabio’s only defence for now is that Joi Nunieh had been married four times. You would think Mr. Akpabio works at a marriage registry not the Ministry of Niger Delta. Meanwhile, the man who ought to sanction Mr. Akpabio and rein in the banditry at the NDDC led by the fainthearted Prof Kemebradikumo Daniel Pondei has gone AWOL. Of course, this Daniel is not likely to come to judgement.
While we criticize Mr. Akpabio, Prof Pondei, and others for their malfeasance, we should not lose sight of the bigger problem: the issue of restructuring Nigeria, as well as the current leadership void in the country. We also have Mr. Akpabio to thank for his uncommon insight on why the problem of corruption in the NDDC—and indeed across the country—persists. In an interview with Arise TV, he said the president was not aware of the situation. That is the gut-wrenching reality. We are saddled with an absentee president. No matter how hard Femi Adesina and Garba Shehu, the president’s myrmidons, try to spin it, Nigeria is a ship without a captain.
To think we must endure another three years of Buhari’s House of Commotion.
Did I hear someone say #RevolutionNow!
*Onumah’s latest work, When is a Nation: Remaking Nigeria at 60 is due October 1, 2020. He can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org or @conumah
S. Sudan: 6,000 Locals Flee Fresh Clashes, Seek Sanctuary at UN Base in Pibor
July 24, 2020 | 0 Comments
By Deng Machol
Juba – On Thursday, the UN mission in South Sudan has said 6,000 of families flee their homes and sanctuary in its base in Pibor due to a fresh outbreak of fighting in the troubled Jonglei region.
The locals came after the village of Likuangole, about 30 kilometers north of Pibor town, was attacked by armed groups last (Wednesday) night, according to UN.
Tensions remain high in Pibor today [Thursday] with the prospect of many more families seeking protection from the violence.
“We are deeply concerned by these continued attacks and the impact on civilians who are being forced to flee their homes in fear for their lives and to seek sanctuary beside our base where conditions are dire because of recent flooding,” said the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, David Shearer in the statement.
Of recently, there was a report of inter – communal conflict in Jonglei region, hundreds were reported killed. However, the analysts say this will threats the peace process if the government can’t intervene on time.
A week ago, President Salva Kiir formed the committee, head by his Vice President James Wani Igga to investigate the cause of fighting in the region.
“Parties must immediately stop fighting, pull back and return to their home areas. Buffer zones need to be established to protect people and enable reconciliation to safely take place,” said Shearer.
Jonglei region has been blighted by inter – tribal conflict, cattle raiding, child abduction, include militias activities before 2013 civil war.
“This conflict is not simply intercommunal between ethnic groups. Other political figures are at work. External actors need to stop deliberately stoking the conflict for the sake of local communities,” the UN Chief added.
Unless the fighting stops, the cost will be even higher for those who are affected, said Shearer.
“This area has already been badly hit by displacement, flooding, hunger, and COVID-19. Humanitarian agencies are stretched and working at their maximum limit to support vulnerable people. There are simply no reserves to meet the needs of thousands of civilians suffering further harm as a direct result of this violence,” he said. “Too often, it is expected that humanitarians will pick up the pieces but, in this case, resources are so thinly stretched.”
The UN has been engaging with community leaders on the ground as well as at the national level to stop the violence since the attacks began in December 2019.
It also recently transported members of the Government’s High-Level Committee, including Vice President Wani Igga, to meet with the groups in Bor to find a solution.
“We welcome the efforts of the Government committee to mediate and urge it to ensure the process is inclusive and representative of all those involved, including Nuer, Murle and Dinka,” he said.
“All of these groups are directly responsible for the violence. The solution lies with them. There are no innocent parties here except for the civilians affected,” said Shearer.
More so, the observers fear that this recurring violence in eastern South Sudan will amounted to any militias if not handle well by the government.
South Sudan just turns nine years, was just emerged from the county’s five year conflict, ended by 2018 peace deal. A partial governments were installed but the implementation of peace process is moving in slow pace.
Fitch Rating Agency Affirms Triple A (AAA) Rating of the African Development Bank, with Stable Outlook
July 21, 2020 | 0 Comments
Fitch Ratings, the global credit rating agency, has affirmed the African Development Bank’s (AfDB) Long-Term Issuer Default Rating (IDR) at ‘AAA’, with stable outlook.
According to the agency, “the ‘AAA’ rating of the AfDB is driven by extraordinary support it receives from its shareholders, which Fitch Ratings assesses at ‘aaa’”. It judged the Bank’s risk management policies as conservative and excellent in line with ‘AAA’ rated regional peers.
Fitch Ratings assessed “the Bank’s liquidity profile at ‘aaa’, reflecting an ‘excellent’ liquidity buffer and quality of liquid assets”, while “the bank’s capitalization is judged strong reflecting strong equity-to-assets ratio”.
The rating agency “assumes a 125% in subscribed capital from 2021 as per the Bank’s 7th General Capital Increase plan approved in October 2019”, noting that it “expects all non-regional shareholders will make their first payments before October 2021”.
In April 2020, the Bank’s Board of Directors approved a group-wide up to $10 billion COVID-19 Response Facility to be made available to current borrowers to ease the economic impact of the COVID-19 crisis.
Commenting on the development, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, President of the African Development Bank said, “We are delighted with the affirmation of the ‘AAA’ rating of the Bank, with a stable outlook, by Fitch Ratings, despite the global and regional economic challenges from the COVID-19 pandemic. We will continue to strengthen our policy relevance to support regional member countries, especially during and after the period of COVID-19, while ensuring that we maintain our prudential ratios with adequate buffers”.
“The Bank will continue to apply strong risk management. We are positive that African countries’ economies will recover as the pandemic subsides and Africa returns to a positive GDP growth trajectory,” Adesina added.
“The strong support of our shareholders will continue to be critical to allow the Bank to continue to play its leading role in supporting development in Africa,” said Swazi Tshabalala, the Vice President for Finance and Chief Finance Officer at the African Development Bank.
The ‘AAA’ rating with a stable outlook of the African Development Bank by Fitch Ratings follows an earlier affirmation of the ‘AAA’ rating of the Bank, with stable outlook, by Standard and Poor’s Global Ratings.