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ECOWAS endorses Adesina for second term as President of the African Development Bank
December 24, 2019 | 0 Comments

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has endorsed the candidacy of African Development Bank President Akinwumi Adesina for a second term at the helm of the institution.

The decision was announced at the end of the fifty-sixth ordinary session of the Authority of Heads of State and Government of ECOWAS, held on Saturday in Abuja, Nigeria.

“In recognition of the sterling performance of Dr. Akinwumi Adesina during his first term of office as President of the African Development Bank, the Authority endorses his candidacy for a second term as the President of the bank,” ECOWAS said in a communique issued after the meeting.

Adesina is the eighth elected President of the African Development Bank Group. He was elected to the five-year term on 28 May 2015 by the Bank’s Board of Governors at its Annual Meetings in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, where the same electoral process will play out next year.

Adesina is a renowned development economist and the first Nigerian to serve as President of the Bank Group. He has served in a number of high-profile positions internationally, including with the Rockefeller Foundation, and was Nigeria’s Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development from 2011 to 2015, a career stint that was widely praised for his reforms in the agricultural sector. The former minister brought the same drive to the Bank, making agriculture one of the organization’s priority areas.

Speaking earlier at the opening ceremony, Adesina reminded the group of the African Development Bank’s investments in the region.

“You can always count on the African Development Bank – your Bank,” Adesina told delegates.

ECOWAS President Jean-Claude Kassi Brou commended the Bank’s involvement in West Africa and said it had provided “invaluable technical and financial interventions…in the implementation of numerous projects and programmes”.

The ECOWAS summit included a progress report on the region’s economic performance. It noted the role of the African Development Bank in the continent’s transformation and called for greater cooperation in order to fund projects in West Africa.

“The Authority takes note of the region’s improved economic performance, with ECOWAS real GDP growing by 3.3% in 2019 against 3.0% in 2018, in a context characterised by a decline in inflationary pressures and sound public finances,” the statement said.

“It urges the Member States to continue economic reforms and ensure a sound macroeconomic environment in Member States, with a view to accelerating the structural transformation of ECOWAS economies and facilitating the achievement of the monetary union by 2020.”

The Authority commended efforts made on currency and monetary policy convergence in ECOWAS and laid out plans to advance the movement. These efforts are a key part of the regional integration agenda championed by the African Development Bank, as exemplified by the African Continental Free Trade Area, which aims to become the world’s largest free trade zone.


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On Southern Cameroons The United Nations Continues to Get It Wrong-Barrister Ajong Stanislaus
December 21, 2019 | 0 Comments

By Ajong Mbapndah L and Amos Fofung

Barrister Ajong at The International Criminal Court, The Hague
Barrister Ajong at The International Criminal Court, The Hague. The Trusteeship Council, failed to lead the people of Southern Cameroons to self-government or independence as ordained by the Charter, his research concludes

In a new book titled Southern Cameroons and the United Nations Organization from Trusteeship to Independence. A Success Story?, Barrister Ajong Stanislaus makes a scathing indictment of the world body for its role in the ongoing crisis in Cameroon.

“It is our considered opinion from the conclusion of the work that the United Nations Organization through its organ, The Trusteeship Council, failed to lead the people of Southern Cameroons to self-government or independence as ordained by the Charter,” the erudite Lawyer says in the book.

It is the responsibility of the World body to foresee, preempt, and prevent situations that will potentially lead to the disruption of global peace, but Barrister Ajong, who heads the Tiko based Security Law Firm, says the Organization has woefully failed to do so with regards to the situation in the present day Southern Cameroons. The signs and red flag for this impulsion have been there since 1961 when the Southern Cameroons are said to have joined the Cameroon Republic, says Barrister Ajong as he calls for reforms and restructuring that will make UN policy making more proactive than reactionary.

“There is an absolute need for the UN to stamp its feet and play the role for which it was created before the situation gets worse. They need to send an independent team to inquire about the allegations of genocide and war crimes being committed in the territory, and as an interim measure send a reduced peacekeeping force to protect the armless civilians,” Barrister Ajong says.

“The world body should know that it is people who make the State. Once the people feel abandoned and unprotected, they take to self-defence which is what is happening in the territory at this material time,” says the legal luminary who has held brief for the Southern Cameroons case on the international scene and defended the leaders and activists in cases across the Southern Cameroons.

What the Lawyers succeeded in doing is making the problem known to all and sundry and That is an immeasurable achievement on their part says Barrister Ajong .

Opining on other controversial developments like the bilingualism bill and the special status for English speaking regions of Cameroon, Barrister Ajong says there are largely inadequate measures to address the current Southern Cameroons problem.

You have a new book out titled Southern Cameroons and the United Nations Organization from Trusteeship to Independence. A Success Story? What is the book about?

Barrister Ajong Stanislaus: As the title depicts, the book, which is a research work of 2015, seeks to find an answer to the question – whether the UN managed decolonization process of the Southern Cameroons was a success. The research which was sponsored by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) of the British Government Chevening Scholarship, gave me the opportunity to have unbridled access to world-class libraries. These included records from the colonial office in London, UN achieves on the decolonization process, and an enlarged pool of electronic sites provided by my University- The University of Aberdeen, Scotland. The in-depth research came out with the findings that the decolonization of the Former Trust Territory of Southern Cameroons was highly flawed. This finding is based on the tenure of Article 76 b of the United Nations Charter which states

“to promote the political, economic, social, and educational advancement of the inhabitants of the trust territories, and their progressive development towards self-government or independence as may be appropriate to the particular circumstances of each territory and its peoples and the freely expressed wishes of the peoples concerned, and as may be provided by the terms of each trusteeship agreement”

It should be noted that the British held the territory in trust for the United Nations Organization. It was, therefore, incumbent on the world body to oversee a smooth transition from the British trust to independence for the people of the territory.

Rhona K. M. Smith – a renowned international human rights author – summarizes the situation of the transition of the Southern Cameroons to self-government or independence under the auspices of the United Nations in these words;

“It has been argued that the United Nations has compromised the doctrine of self-determination…the former Trust Territories of the North and South Cameroons were given only two choices: independence as part of Nigeria; or independence as part of the former French Cameroons. Becoming an independent State was not one of the proffered options. Consequently, the people of the North and South Cameroons once again found themselves under “foreign” rule. Recolonization rather than Decolonisation was the result”. International Human Rights, 6th Edition, p 295.

It is our considered opinion from the conclusion of the work that the United Nations Organization through its organ, The Trusteeship Council, failed to lead the people of Southern Cameroons to self-government or independence as ordained by the Charter.

 If you get a copy of the book, you will find the reasons advanced for these findings.

The book comes at a time of great chaos in what used to be the Southern Cameroons, what responsibility does the UN bear on the current conflict?

Barrister Ajong Stanislaus: In order to give an appropriate and comprehensive answer to this question, it will be incumbent on us to know the purpose and or principle for which the United Nations Organization was created.

For this objective, Article 1 of the Charter will be quite instructive. It states;

“To maintain international peace and security, and to that end: to take effective collective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to the peace, and for the suppression of acts of aggression or other breaches of the peace, and to bring about by peaceful means, and in conformity with the principles of justice and international law, adjustment or settlement of international disputes or situations which might lead to a breach of the peace…”

What this implies is that, where there is a breach of international peace, the UN a priori and automatically bears responsibility! It is the responsibility of the World body to foresee, preempt and prevent situations that will potentially lead to the disruption of global peace.

This Organization failed to do as far as the situation in present-day Southern Cameroons is concerned. The UN must restructure and reformat its organigram and policymaking to be more proactive than reactionary. The signs and red flag for this impulsion have been there since 1961 when the Southern Cameroons are said to have joined the Cameroon Republic.

When one of the affiliate organs of the world body – The African Commission ruled in 2009 in Communication 266/2003 in Dr. Kevin Gumne & Others V La Republique du Cameroon it authoritatively made some salient points. The Commission ruled that the people of Southern Cameroons were a people under international law and ordered the Cameroon Republic to go into negotiations with them. The UN ought to have seized the opportunity to push for a negotiated settlement of the problem from that moment. By staying quiet, the weaker party in the litigation rightly or wrongly feels abandoned by the UN. Also, by not taking any initiative at that time, the UN was in dereliction of its duties imposed by Article 1 of the Charter.

Once the people feel abandoned and unprotected, they take to self-defence which is what is happening in the territory at this material time, says Barrister Ajong pictured here during a visit to   the Canadian Museum For Human Rights
Once the people feel abandoned and unprotected, they take to self-defence which is what is happening in the territory at this material time, says Barrister Ajong pictured here during a visit to the Canadian Museum For Human Rights

What is your take on the way the United Nations has so far responded to the current crisis in Cameroon, any recommendations for them?

Barrister Ajong Stanislaus: The UN has been slow in reacting to the situation that is ongoing in the Southern Cameroons. When they have reacted, it has been lukewarm without steel. So far, the body has acted like sacrificing the lives of the people of Southern Cameroons and by extension international peace on the principle of sovereignty of State Party to the Charter.

My recommendations; that the world body should know that it is people who make the State. Once the people feel abandoned and unprotected, they take to self-defence which is what is happening in the territory at this material time.

There is an absolute need for the UN to stamp its feet and play the role for which it was created before the situation gets worse. They need to send an independent team to inquire about the allegations of genocide and war crimes being committed in the territory and as an interim measure send a reduced peacekeeping force to protect the armless civilians. After the fact-finding mission, a decision could then be taken either to withdraw the force or strengthen it with the possibility of creating a buffer zone.

At the same time, the body should go to the field and create a corridor for the supply of humanitarian assistance to the internally displaced persons (IDP) found in the bushes as well as in the cities.

Looking at the situation in Southern Cameroons today and the clamor for independence, how strong is this case from a legal standpoint, what are some of the pros and cons of the case from a legal perspective?

Barrister Ajong Stanislaus: I have had the privilege of working in the legal team for the cause in the international arena since 2005 when my services were retained by the Southern Cameroons Peoples’ Organization (SCAPO). Dr. Kevin Gumne (RIP) then based in London sent Mr. Ndangam Augustin a veteran of the struggle to meet me in my Tiko office and I readily accepted to place my expertise to the cause. I have handled a number of Communications before the African Commission and also defended the leaders and activists in cases across the Southern Cameroons.

Part of my brief includes confidentiality. It will not be fair for me to seek to do the case on the media. Any attempt by me to state the legal pros and cons of the case will not only be doing a disservice to the case, but also to my clients who have not instructed me to disclose parts of the case in my outings.

One of the problems holding back this struggle to me, seems to be over communication.

However, as a fact, I know that the Southern Cameroons has a watertight legal case.

The current phase of the struggle was engineered in part by Lawyers fighting for the respect of Common Law values, but we do not hear so much about Lawyers again, have their own grievances been addressed?

Barrister Ajong Stanislaus: What Lawyers presented were grievances of the people. Lawyers do not have any grievances to themselves as Lawyers. Lawyers are saying that Litigants will be better served in their own legal system and not by an imported notion.

Lawyers are still at the forefront of what they started. The difference is that you might not be seeing them on the streets. They are constantly holding meetings and sending out memoranda to the appropriate quarters. Some are reported by some papers, others go unnoticed.

If the legal system in operation in the territory is not purely common law and the educational system is adulterated, the grievances cannot be said to been addressed.

What the Lawyers succeeded in doing is making the problem known to all and sundry. That is an immeasurable achievement on their part.

At one point, you were part of a group of Lawyers in Fako working with Agbor Balla and others to secure the release of people detained as a result of the crisis, may we know how this initiative worked out and what was achieved?

Barrister Ajong Stanislaus: At the time, Agbor Balla was the President of the Fako Lawyers Association (FAKLA). His executive created the Taskforce and he appointed me to head it. The team was made up of young enthusiastic human rights lawyers ready to give their all to make sure that state power is not used to crush the people.

There were incongruous violations during that period; pregnant women, children and vulnerable persons were arrested in thousands around the South West and transferred to Buea.

These young lawyers crisscrossed the courts of Fako; in Buea, Tiko, Limbe and Muyuka and the Taskforce had more than 800 persons released during the mandate.

I seize the moment to thank the former President and his executive for haven given us the opportunity to serve. For my colleagues of the team who did the real work on the field, I pray the Good God to continue to guide and protect them.

A controversial bilingualism bill recently sailed through parliament without any votes from MPs from the English speaking regions, and some of your colleagues in the Law profession have vowed to fight against it, what is the issue with the bill and do you support the stance of your colleagues in fighting against it?

Barrister Ajong Stanislaus: What we have in Cameroon is a strange version of what is known as Parliament the world over. It is the antithesis of a conventional Parliament. This one is by miles an anti-people institution.

It is an extension of the executive. They do not have any time to reflect and deliberate on the wishes of the people. Anything brought by the executive is passed into law!

The timing of the Bill clearly demonstrates the mindset of the people running the country. They are preparing the grounds for some chaos so that they can disappear in the confusion trading blames as to who was wrong.

Lawyers have promised to fight to the last blood. I hope the United Nations is reading.

The common law lawyers can always count on my support.

File Picture .After a Court session with SCNC activists in Tiko including late Chief Ayamba and Nfor Ngala Nfor .What the Lawyers succeeded in doing was  making the problem known to all and sundry and that was  an immeasurable achievement on their part, says Barrister Ajong
File Picture .After a Court session with SCNC activists in Tiko including late Chief Ayamba and Nfor Ngala Nfor .What the Lawyers succeeded in doing was making the problem known to all and sundry, and that was an immeasurable achievement on their part, says Barrister Ajong

At the time we are doing this interview, you are in Canada and there has been talk about Cameroon learning from the Canadian example, what have you observed or seen in the Canadian example that Cameroon could use as a means to help  in solving its own crisis?

Barrister Ajong Stanislaus: I doubt if Cameroon has the will to learn from Canada. The former Prime Minister was Ambassador to Canada for more than 2 decades. If there was any desire to learn and implement what obtains in Canada, it would have been executed then.

Canada is truly a bilingual country where the French Language is highly protected in the Province of Quebec and the English Language in the other Provinces.

In the case of Cameroon, the English language ought to be protected in the Former UN Trust Territory of Southern Cameroons aka South West and North West Regions.

Being served in your first language and or the language of understanding does not mean that you enter form 1 in Sasse and ask the teacher to teach you geography in French!

The same goes for the Courts. You will not expect a litigant to appear in a Court in Buea and request that the civil law be applied to his matter!

Barrister Ajong with Dr. Kevin Gumne and Mola Njoh Litumbe at the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights- Banjul, The Gambia
File picture.The Southern Cameroons has a watertight case says Barrister Ajong with Dr. Kevin Gumne and Mola Njoh Litumbe at the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights- Banjul, The Gambia

As we do this interview as well, there is an ongoing debate on  Special status for the South West and North West Regions of Cameroon, what is your take on the bill and how do you think this could help in resolving the Southern Cameroons problem?

Barrister Ajong Stanislaus: Let me straight on say that I do not think the Bill will resolve the problem of the Southern Cameroons now plaguing the Cameroon Republic.

To solve the problem of the application of Bilingualism in Cameroon, we not only need legislative inputs but also of utmost importance a broad-based institutional overhaul. There will be no change with the same people who have never accepted that there is a problem. Remember this issue of special status is contained in the 1996 Constitution and its application is sought to come into play in 2019 as it was voted in the National Assembly yesterday.

To give you an idea of how long this law could take to be implemented, I will refer you to Section 498;

“Section 498: Before the effective transfer of services and the establishment of the local civil service, the conditions for the use of each State service by local authorities and the procedures for managing staff shall be governed by the regulations currently in force”.

Do you read me? It is not for immediate application! No definite timetable for implementation.That is law-making à là Camerounaise!

We end with your book, for those interested in getting copies, where can they get it?

Barrister Ajong Stanislaus: Presently, the book can be obtained online directly from the Publishers who are in Germany.In the meantime, some interested persons contacted me and we are in negotiation to do a launch in major cities in Canada and the USA

Thanks for granting this interview

Honestly, I am the one to thank you for thinking me worthy of the readership of your highly appraised News organ and magazine. I am at your disposal any time.

*Copies of Barrister Ajong’s books can be obtained here

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December 21, 2019 | 0 Comments

In the build up to the 2020 elections that may make or mar Guinea especially with the desire of President Alpha Conde to change the constitution so as to seek a third term, we publish below the assessment of the National Democratic Institute-NDI and the Kofi Annan Foundation.

Besides seasoned professionals on elections in Africa like Dr Christopher Fomunyoh, the delegation also had former President Goodluck Jonathan of Nigeria and former President Nicephore Soglo of Benin . Both men were voted out of power but have remained actively involved in diverse activities at in Africa and beyond.

On the NDI delegation were former Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan  and former President Nicephore Soglo. President Could learn from them that there is life after power
On the NDI delegation were former Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan and former President Nicephore Soglo. President Could learn from them that there is life after power

I. Introduction

From December 9-13, the National Democratic Institute (NDI) and the Kofi Annan Foundation (KAF) conducted a pre-election assessment mission ahead of legislative elections scheduled for February 16, 2020. The delegation comprised H.E. Nicéphore Soglo, former President of Benin; H. E. Goodluck Jonathan, former President of Nigeria; Ambassador Medina Wesseh, Secretary General of the Mano River Union; Dr. Christopher Fomunyoh, Senior Associate and Regional Director for Central and West Africa at NDI; Mr. Sébastien F. W. Brack, Head of the Elections and Democracy Programme at the Kofi Annan Foundation; Dr. Sophia Moestrup, Deputy Director for Central and West Africa at NDI; and Mr. Paul Komivi Sémeko Amegakpo, NDI’s Resident Director in Guinea.

The delegation’s goals were to:

● Demonstrate international support for Guinea’s democracy and electoral process;

● Assess the political and electoral environment in the lead-up to the 2020 legislative elections; and

● Assess electoral preparations and offer recommendations to enhance citizen confidence in the process and mitigate the risk of violence.

The delegation met with H.E. President Alpha Condé, National Assembly Speaker Claude Kory Kondiano and members of the legislative leadership, Prime Minister Ibrahima Kassory Fofana, the Chairman and members of the Independent National Electoral Commission (Commission Electorale Nationale Indépendante – CENI), leaders of majority and opposition political parties, leaders of civil society organizations, media representatives, the National Contact Group (Groupe National de Contact), the imam of Conakry’s Grand Mosque and the special adviser of the Archbishop of Conakry, and representatives of the diplomatic community and international partners based in Conakry.

The delegation expresses its deep appreciation to everyone with whom it met for welcoming the mission and for sharing freely their views on the political context and electoral process. The delegation conducted its activities in accordance with the laws of Guinea and the Declaration of Principles for International Election Observation, which was launched in 2005 at 1 the United Nations. It also considered international and regional electoral standards, including the African Union (AU) African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance, as well as the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Protocol on Democracy and Good Governance.

Summary of key findings.

The delegation noted that all Guineans with whom it met expressed a strong desire for peaceful, inclusive and credible legislative elections in 2020. They underscored the significance of those elections in deepening the country’s democracy and ending the extension of the current legislature whose term expired in January 2019.

Many Guineans expressed concerns over speculations about changes to the country’s constitutional framework and electoral timeline undermine preparations for the February 2020 polls. They decried the violence that has marred political demonstrations since October and that resulted in the loss of lives. Most of the victims of the violence have been youth aged 20 or younger.

The delegation also noted a level of polarization and mistrust amongst Guinean political actors and civil society organizations. The team observed that while the election commission (CENI) is confident about its preparedness to conduct the polls, political leaders from the majority and opposition parties expressed concerns about the ongoing voter registration process. The CENI must make extraordinary efforts to share information about its work and timeline. Guinean leaders must enhance dialogue amongst political parties and foster more regular communications and interactions between parties and the election management body.

President Alpha Conde in discussion with former President of Benin Nicephore Soglo under the watchful eyes of NDI’s Dr Chris Fomunyoh ,is under immense pressure from the opposition and civil society groups to respect constitutional term limits

II. Political environment

Many Guineans are apprehensive that preparations for the upcoming legislative elections are being overshadowed by an ongoing debate over a possible new constitution. The delegates noted several challenges in the current political landscape that could impact election preparations.

Polarization around the possibility of a constitutional referendum. Over the past year, Guinea has been polarized by a heated debate over whether the country needs a new constitution, and if a referendum to adopt such a new constitution should be held prior to the October 2020 presidential election. Under the current constitution adopted in 2010, President Alpha Condé is currently serving his last mandate that is due to end in December 2020. However, should a new constitution be adopted, some Guineans argue that would reset the term anew, in which case the incumbent president could seek another term of office. Proponents of a new constitution and those opposed to the idea have staged massive demonstrations in Conakry and other parts of the country.

A coalition of opposition parties and some civil society organizations formed a National Front for the Defense of the Constitution (Front National pour la Défense de la Constitution – FNDC), and have staged weekly protests since October. In response, promoters of a constitutional change created the Democratic Coalition for the New Constitution (Coalition démocratique pour la nouvelle Constitution – CODENOC). The delegation heard concerns that, given Guinea’s history of election-related 2 violence, adopting a new constitution without arriving at a national consensus on the matter could result in renewed and large-scale violence.

The incumbent president is yet to state publicly how he plans to proceed on any constitutional issues at the center of national debate. Recurrent violence around elections and political participation. Guinean society is still grappling with a lingering sense of justice denied and resentment over past violence, notably the September 2009 massacre of more than 150 unarmed demonstrators by security forces during a political rally in Conakry. Families of the dead and other victims still await justice 10 years later.

Since Guinea’s transition elections in 2010, each electoral contest has experienced election-related violence. For instance, following the February 2018 local elections, supporters of various political parties disputed the declaration of results in 12 of the country’s 342 electoral districts because of concerns that the vote tabulation process was manipulated.

Those demonstrations degenerated into substantial post-election violence, and the Guinean government imposing a ban on public protests. Recently enacted legislation in June 2019 strengthened the power of the police and gendarmerie in maintaining public order. The delegation heard reports that, in three months of demonstrations against a new constitution, close to 20 demonstrators, mostly very young people, have been killed in violent interventions by security forces.

By some accounts, 126 persons have been killed in political protests since the democratic transition of 2010. Many interlocutors with whom the team met regret that no one has been prosecuted for these killings and expressed concerns over a sense of impunity that can only foster the use of excessive force by security forces against civilian political activists.

Intermittent political dialogue. Mistrust runs deep among Guinea’s political leaders, fueled in large part by the absence of sustained dialogue and unmet commitments, which is detrimental to national unity. Opposition parties accuse the government and the ruling party, the Rally of the Guinean People (Rassemblement du Peuple de Guinée – RPG), of manipulating elections, violating human rights, and restricting civil liberties, whereas the government and majority party accuse the opposition of obstructing progress and sponsoring violent demonstrations that result in loss of life and the destruction of public and private property. Since 2010, the opposition has at various times boycotted the National Assembly and other institutions such as the CENI. Although the RPG and major opposition parties have had to resort to several negotiated agreements to resolve contentious issues related to the electoral cycle, following the disputed outcome of the February 2018 local elections, opposition parties suspended their participation in the dialogue framework created to oversee the implementation of the October 12, 2016 political agreement (the 2016 Guinean Political Accord). The delegation noted with appreciation that 1 one week prior to the delegation’s arrival, the Guinean Prime Minister rekindled dialogue efforts. The delegation noted that discussions are underway to adopt an operational plan to meet an outstanding opposition demand from the local polls regarding the installation of district and neighborhood councilors. If rapidly enforced, the installation of these neighborhood and district 1 The October 12 political agreement included provisions for a voter registry audit prior to the legislative elections, as a basis for revising the voter roll. 3 heads could begin to counter the expressed skepticism by several interlocutors and rebuild mutual trust and respect between the government and political opposition.

From left to right: Former President Nicephore Soglo of Benin Republic, former President Goodluck Jonathan of Nigeria, current Prime Minister Kassoury of Guinea and Dr Chris Fomunyoh of the NDI after a meeting on the upcoming elections in Guinea
From left to right: Former President Nicephore Soglo of Benin Republic, former President Goodluck Jonathan of Nigeria, current Prime Minister Kassoury of Guinea and Dr Chris Fomunyoh of the NDI after a meeting on the upcoming elections in Guinea

Undertone of ethnic cleavages defining political affiliation.

Historically, Guinea has four geographical regions, each of which identifies with specific ethnic and cultural affinities. There are currently more than 150 registered parties in the country, 15 of which are represented in the National Assembly. Parties have organized themselves by affiliation in seven blocs, three of which belong to the ruling majority and four to the opposition. Interlocutors with whom the delegation met, expressed concern that major parties have resorted to ethnic or regional appeals to garner electoral support. Under such circumstances, political polarization tends to fuel ethnic tensions around the country. These overlapping cleavages are a matter of serious concern, and if left unchecked would exacerbate tension and risk stirring violence and conflict during highly competitive elections. This is all the more worrying given the security situation in the subregion.

III. Findings specific to the 2020 legislative elections

The delegation observed that there is no national consensus on the electoral timeline and the ability of the election commission to conduct credible voter registration in time for the 2020 legislative polls. Since 2010, Guinea’s electoral timeline and its voter registry have been a constant source of contention between the government and the opposition. While interlocutors expressed low confidence in the CENI’s technical capacity and effective independence, the CENI assured the delegation that election preparations are on track. Others expressed fears that political parties will be unable to incorporate into the candidate nomination process gender parity provisions as provided for in progressive gender legislation adopted in May 2019 to increase women’s political representation.

Timeline. Since the 2010 transition to democracy, elections have not been held on time as stipulated in the country’s constitution. Notably, legislative elections planned for 2011 were only held in 2013, and local elections, supposed to be held in 2015, were only conducted in 2018. Following local elections in February 2018, delays in the resolution of electoral complaints in 12 disputed districts negatively impacted the installation of elected local councilors and the subsequent holding of indirect elections to select mayors until February 2019. To date, the nomination of neighborhood and district councilors and the election of regional councilors is yet to be concluded. Recurring political crises and disagreements over the voter registry have delayed the legislative polls, which means that current members of the National Assembly elected in 2013 would have served for nearly seven years instead of five as stipulated by the constitution. Their mandate was extended indefinitely by presidential decree in January 2019.

In consultations with the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie (OIF), the CENI announced in November that legislative elections will be held on February 16, 2020. Ruling and opposition parties have encouraged their supporters to register to vote. The revision of the voter roll began in November for a period of 25 days and is scheduled to end on December 16, 2019. 4 However, both opposition and majority party representatives expressed concerns that the process would not be completed by the stipulated end date. Distribution of voter cards is expected to begin on January 16, 2020 and coincide with the election campaign period, which begins 30 days prior to election day.

Voter registry. A credible voter registry is a precondition for credible elections. By common agreement among all political parties following the Oct. 12, 2016 political accord, a voter registry audit took place in September 2018. Experts from the OIF, the European Union (EU), and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) worked with the CENI, representatives of civil society, and parliamentary groups to complete the audit. The audit revealed that data for more than half of the 6 million voters in the registry had not been cleaned to avoid potential double registrations, and 1.6 million voters lacked biometric information.

The audit concluded that, given these concerns, all voters would have to present themselves before the CENI to have their information confirmed. For voters missing biometric data, such data would be added, and citizens who have come of age since 2015 will also have to be registered. Given the massive scale of this operation, some opposition leaders have raised the issue that the CENI should have used the three months ordinary registration period from October-December for voter registration, as opposed to shortening the duration to 25 days, as stipulated for exceptional registration.

With the voter registration period nearing its close, both the RPG and opposition parties raised concerns to the mission of cases of minors being included in the registry, in both opposition and ruling party strongholds. Also, manpower and logistical challenges such as missing materials and faulty registration kits, insufficient or poorly trained staff, and a delayed start in certain localities have slowed the process.

Furthermore, the Guinean diaspora in several countries with high numbers of potential voters, such as Senegal, Morocco and Indonesia, are facing difficulties being registered. Several interlocutors expressed concern to the delegation about inadequate public information and voter education with regards to voter registration and the electoral process in general. In some cases, voters already on the registry are unaware that they need to present themselves to confirm their biometric data to be able to vote in 2020.

The CENI told the delegation that the Inter-Party Working Group in which all political parties are represented will have to decide on the appropriate procedures to be adopted to allow voters who did not present themselves to confirm their information to exercise their franchise.

Despite these challenges, the CENI expects to complete the voter registration process on time or only with a slight delay. Reportedly, a significant number of new voters has already been registered while 200,000 deceased have been removed from the registry.

The CENI has still to issue any official statistics on progress to date in the voter registration process. According to the CENI president, 55-65 percent of the audit recommendations have been implemented, and many remaining recommendations such as revisions to the electoral code depend on actions by other institutions.

CENI officials expressed surprise at claims by both opposition and majority parties of minors registering, given that representatives of both parties are included in 5 Administrative Commissions for Revision of the Voter Lists (Commissions administratives de révision des listes électorales – CARLE). The CENI president observed that images of minors at registration centers date from earlier years and do not reflect what is currently happening in Guinea.

The CENI president stated that the commission will apply software programs to weed out from the voter registry database any minors, double registrations and other anomalies on a weekly basis. Though not yet fully funded, the CENI indicated the commission has received a significant share of its budget and assurances from the government that voting materials, such as ballot boxes and ballot papers, to be procured by the Ministry of Territorial Administration (MATD), will be delivered on time. CENI reassurances notwithstanding, lingering doubts remain and suspicions persist among some Guineans in the voter registry revision process.

Representatives from both ruling and opposition parties expressed concerns about the capacity of the CENI to effectively manage the voter registration process in a timely and transparent manner. Some opposition parties also question the independence of the CENI vis-a-vis the executive branch of government, for example in setting a technically viable electoral calendar. If poorly managed, the updating of the voter registry could become a source of conflict among Guinean political parties and their supporters, and undermine the legitimacy of the electoral outcome. The CENI will have to be more proactive and effective in its communication in order to build greater confidence in the electoral process.

Election administration. The CENI has established an Inter-Party Working Group (Comité Interpartis – IPWG) as a platform for dialogue on the electoral process. IPWG meetings are open to political party representatives, journalists, civil society leaders, and representatives of government institutions and international organizations. It is intended as a framework to share information about the CENI’s preparations for the upcoming elections, on important topics such as the revision of the voter registry. Despite the existence of this forum aimed at building confidence in the process, some stakeholders expressed concerns about the CENI’s ability to deliver credible elections. In addition to voter registration, the results management process was identified by several interlocutors as particularly vulnerable, having suffered critical lapses in the past – including incomplete electronic transmission of results and the absence of publicly released data by polling station, insufficient or poor quality copies of results sheets, issues with the paper-based results chain-of-custody, and the arbitrary cancelation or altering of polling station results by certain magistrates at the level of vote centralization centers. Specific procedures and guidelines to ensure effective results management would have to be defined in advance by the CENI and shared widely with political parties and polling officers to ensure effective compliance.

Electoral dispute resolution. International implementers such as the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) and the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA) are partnering with civil society organizations, including women’s networks, to establish alternative dispute resolution mechanisms that can prevent or mitigate violence and conflict nationally and at the grassroots level. OSIWA is also assisting the Constitutional Court to strengthen capacities 6 to manage disputes in a timely and impartial manner. In the past, perceived bias in the enforcement of procedures for the resolution of electoral disputes has contributed to tensions and violence. The delegation heard concerns that magistrates and courts are not sufficiently equipped to deal with election disputes and, in some cases, apply opaque adjudication processes. For example, after the 2018 local elections, some judges declared themselves incompetent to rule on certain disputes, others summarily dismissed candidates’ petitions for minor technicalities in the form and timing of their submission. Some Guineans are concerned about how strongly, faced with significant pressure from the administration, the Constitutional Court could assert its independence as a neutral arbiter of disputes emanating from the legislative elections for which it has exclusive jurisdiction.

Gender representation. In May, the National Assembly adopted landmark legislation requiring gender parity for all candidate lists for elective office which the president has signed into law. Amendments to the electoral code, including to conform to this law, have been drafted, but the 2 National Assembly has not yet taken up debate or voted on the reforms. Debate was held up by ongoing disputes over the outcome of the local elections. With candidate registration starting on December 18, it will not be possible to ensure application of the law for these upcoming polls. This represents a missed opportunity for greater representation of women candidates in the upcoming elections and hence more women members in the next legislature. In the last legislative elections in 2013, only 25 women won seats in the National Assembly, representing 21 percent of MPs. For the February 2018 local elections, 23 percent of registered candidates were women. While the Consultation Framework of Women of Girls of Political Parties of Guinea (Cadre de Concertation des Filles et Femmes des Partis Politiques de la Guinée – CCFPPG) and other groups have engaged in advocacy efforts to call on parties to use “zebra” or “zipper” systems to draw up electoral lists alternating between men and women in the spirit of the law, no Guinean political parties have committed to using this practice for the upcoming elections .

IV. Guinean-led initiatives to support peaceful and credible legislative polls A number of initiatives are underway to support peaceful and credible polls in February 2020. Many Guinean civil society organizations engaged in democracy and governance issues are preparing to become involved in the 2020 electoral process. Some are community based, while others have partnered with international organizations such as IFES, OSIWA and Search for Common Ground (SFCG). Also, party activists are monitoring the implementation of a party code of conduct. The 2020 polls provide an opportunity for greater citizen engagement to ensure peaceful, inclusive and credible elections

Citizen monitoring of electoral processes. Nonpartisan citizen observers play an important role during elections by raising public confidence in the election process if warranted, deterring electoral malfeasance, exposing irregularities and providing citizens with important information about the integrity of the elections. The delegation heard that a coalition of eight organizations, the Citizen Coalition for Elections and Governance (Coalition Citoyenne pour les Élections et la Gouvernance – CoCEG), some of which have previous experience with election monitoring, is currently preparing to monitor the 2020 legislative elections, as are other civil society groups. The delegation sees the need for the establishment of a broad-based election observation coalition that could address issues of perceived political bias and partisanship by some civil society groups. As a first step, civil society organizations should use the February 2020 polls as an opportunity that allows for coordination of observation of the pre-election period. By issuing frequent reports and publicizing their findings, civil society groups or citizen observers would encourage the various election stakeholders to play their respective roles.

Inclusive citizen participation in the electoral process. In May 2019, the National Assembly adopted gender-parity legislation thanks in large part to extensive advocacy by CSOs in favor of gender parity. Members of civil society organizations and women political leaders continue to advocate for the provisions of the law to be integrated into amendments to the electoral code. For example, the cross-party Working Group of Women and Girls of Guinean Political Parties (Cadre de Concertation des Filles/Femmes des Partis Politiques de Guinée-CCFPPG) has lobbied political parties represented in the National Assembly and parliamentary caucuses for action on the matter. Other groups are actively engaged in getting women to register to vote and to turn out to vote on election day. In the lead-up to the legislative elections, the National Council of Guinean Civil Society Organizations (Conseil National des Organisations de la Société Civile Guinéenne – CNOSCG) and other groups are conducting awareness-raising campaigns to encourage Guinean citizens, and youth in particular, to register to vote. Also, various media organizations are preparing to undertake media monitoring initiatives. Electronic media and radio are among the more prevalent means of citizen mobilisation and information sharing in Guinea.

Violence monitoring and electoral dispute resolution. A number of international development partners, including IFES, OSIWA, and SFCG, are supporting violence monitoring and electoral dispute resolution initiatives in Guinea. SFCG focuses specifically on conflict management and promoting social cohesion, and is producing radio and TV programs for civic education and to counter misinformation and curb conflict. In addition to election dispute resolution activities, OSIWA is supporting youth peace initiatives at the local level. This organization is also planning to conduct a baseline study of electoral risks. On the other hand, CNOSCG is implementing activities in collaboration with IFES focused on civil society’s engagement and oversight in resolving disputes that may arise prior to the legislative polls and also identify factors most likely to lead to electoral disputes to better anticipate resolution needs. The European Union is also supporting WANEP in implementing a program to monitor incidents of election-related violence through an early-warning alert and rapid response system.

Code of Conduct. In early December, 34 political parties signed the Code of Conduct, joining 108 other parties that had previously signed the code since it was adopted in 2008. At the 8 signing ceremony, six out of Guinea’s seven party blocs publicly reiterated their adherence and commitment to abide by the Code of Conduct. Since the Code of Conduct’s inception, a national Code of Conduct monitoring committee established in Conakry and in the regions continues to raise awareness about the content of the Code and the need for signatory parties and their supporters and the broader Guinean population to adhere to its principles. Adopted in 2008 by 41 Guinean parties, the Code promotes peaceful and inclusive electoral processes and the respect of standards for appropriate behavior by political party activists, candidates, and their supporters. Although the Code of Conduct applies to political parties’ conduct at all times, it is especially relevant around elections as it promotes peace, non-violence, and fair play. Recently, the Code was updated to include specific provisions on preventing violence against women in politics.

V. Recommendations

The delegation believes that, with political will and through substantive dialogue, many of the challenges in the current political environment leading up to the February 2020 legislative polls can be addressed to enhance citizen confidence and participation in the process and mitigate violence before, during and after the elections. In the spirit of international cooperation, the delegation therefore offers the following recommendations:

To the Government of the Republic of Guinea:

● Provide greater clarity on its stance with regards to speculations around the constitutional framework of the country in order to enhance citizen confidence in its commitment to deepening democracy and fostering peaceful and credible legislative elections.

● Create platforms for regular communication between civilian populations and security services at the national and sub-national levels in order to prevent further clashes between demonstrators and security services and the recurrent violence.

To the Election Commission (CENI):

● Communicate extensively on its activities related to the legislative elections, including through the use of modern communication platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and a regularly updated webpage that are news avenues of choice for youth who comprise the bulk of the electorate.

● Conduct robust voter outreach so voters can be sensitized on the need to verify their registration status and citizens informed of procedures to confirm their registration status after the list is finalized.

● Take reasonable steps to ensure the completeness and accuracy of the voters list, including verification of the eligibility of suspected minors; however, ensure that procedures do not disenfranchise eligible voters.

● In consultation with the Inter-Party Working Group (IPWG), make an early determination on the status of voters with partial information in the final voter registry, including 9 incomplete biometric data, and agree on procedures to facilitate their exercise of the franchise. Publicize such decisions widely.

● Activate a smaller, technical working group (“cellule technique”) with cross party representation to monitor the voter enrollment process and the consolidation of the voter list.

● Proactively and broadly publish critical actions of the CENI, such as the distribution of voter cards, to facilitate the collection of cards by voters and minimize any confusion regarding the process for voting on election day.

● Release timely election results data disaggregated by polling station and in an analyzable format to enhance public confidence in the results.

● Provide clear guidance on the appropriate jurisdiction, processes and timelines for the filing and resolution of electoral disputes, including disputes related to the voter registration process and election results.

To the Constitutional Court:

● Ensure fair, timely and transparent adjudication of electoral disputes, including those related to candidate registration and the election results

To political parties:

● Participate more actively in platforms created to facilitate inter-party dialogue, such as the October 12 “comité de suivi,” and communications with the election commission, such as the IPWG, as a means of mitigating excessive polarization, conflict and violence.

● Take concrete steps to nominate women candidates to conform with the May 2019 law on gender equality for all elective positions.

● Abide by the party Code of Conduct and sensitize their members to do the same, and participate in monitoring, documenting and reporting on all phases of the electoral process.

To civil society and Guinean media:

● Intensify their efforts to monitor and report on all phases of the electoral process in a professional and objective manner.

● Engage in targeted efforts at civic and voter education in favor of women, youth and other historically marginalized groups about the election process.

To the international community:

● Continue its interest in, and support for peaceful, inclusive and credible elections in Guinea.

● Increase its support to Guinean civil society organizations engaged in advocacy and other activities that support credible elections, and complement those efforts with observation missions that would build citizen confidence in the electoral process

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Kenya:Is Ruto the right man to succeed Kenyatta?
December 20, 2019 | 0 Comments

By Samuel Ouma

President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto
President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto

Heated debate on who should succeed Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta when his term expires has caused political jitters in the East African country.

Uhuru Kenyatta, the fourth president of Kenya and the son of the first president of the country, Jomo Kenyatta is expected to  hand over power to the next leader Kenyans will elect through ballot in 2022.  Kenyatta who is serving his second and last term came to power in 2013 and was declared a winner in the 2017 bungled presidential polls.

Though there have been proposals by a section of leaders to extend Kenyatta’s tenure given that he is still young, we are not sure if he will be in power after 2022. There are also rumours in the streets, media, and homes that he might be the third Kenyan Prime Minister in case the constitution amendment spearheaded by Building Bridges Initiatives (BBI), a task force formed as a result of handshake between him and his former political nemesis the opposition leader Raila Odinga sails through.

BBI report was officially released in November one year after a 14-team member moved across the country to collect Kenyan views on how to mitigate animosity and ethnic hatred that emerges especially during the period of elections.

Some of the radical proposed changes by the report are creation of the post of the Prime Minister whose occupant will be picked by the President from the Members of Parliament in the party with majority of elected leaders. The President will remain the head of state, head of government and Commander-in-chief of Defence Forces whereas the Premier will be the leader.

“The nominee of prime minister shall not assume office until his or her appointment is first confirmed by a resolution of the National Assembly supported by an absolute majority vote of MPs,” the report states.

The team also suggested the reintroduction of the office of the official opposition leader among many others. Should the 58-year-old Head of State vacate the office who is suit to replace him? Several leaders have expressed their interest in becoming Kenyan fifth president including Kenyatta’s deputy William Ruto. Others are Governor Alfred Mutua, Senator Moses Wetangula, former legislator and Minister Musalia Mudavadi among others.

However, it is purported the race will be between William Ruto and Raila Odinga should the latter vie. Ruto enjoys enough support in his backyard, Kenya’s Rift Valley while Odinga controls his home turf in Nyanza and major part of western Kenya. The duo are trying to outdo each other in controlling the rich vote Mount Kenya region. Since the political truce in 2018, the region is experiencing a sharp political division with a section throwing their weight behind the former premier and others have vehemently vowed to support Ruto’s candidature.

There is also a split among Kenyans on whether to support Ruto or not. A faction of Kenyans is pretty sure that Ruto’s presidency will be the good thing will ever happen to Kenya. They argue that the deputy president has good development record to revitalize Kenyan dying economy and now working as Kenyatta’s number two, his die-hards claim that he is best suited to fix challenges facing Kenyans.

On the other hand, his critics describe him as a tribal bigot who will further divide Kenyans along tribal lines. Alleged scandals facing Ruto have not remained unturned, they claim cases of corruption will sour should he become the president.

Currently, the deputy president has been touring the various parts of the country to woo support ahead of 2022.

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Rwanda:President Kagame says he is most likely to step down in 2024
December 17, 2019 | 0 Comments

By Maniraguha Ferdinand

President Kagame said that he is most likely to step down in 2024
President Kagame said that he is most likely to step down in 2024

President of Rwanda Paul Kagame said more chances are that he will not be running for another  term after completing his third seven-year mandate in 2024.

He revealed this  during the weekend while in Qatar for Doha Forum.

Bloomberg reported that during the forum, Kagame was asked if he will be seeking another term after expiration of current one.

Kagame replied that it is most likely that he will step down because of the ways things are and the fact that he wants to rest.

“Most likely no. I want to have some breathing space but given how things are and how they have been in the past, I have made up my mind where I am personally concerned, that it is not going to happen next time”  he answered.

Kagame led RPF military wing that stopped genocide against the Tutsi in 1994, and that party ruled the country ever since. He became vice president, the position he held until 2000 when he was elected as an interim president replacing Pasteur  Bizimungu who had resigned early that year.

Kagame got elected in general elections thrice, in 2003, in 2010 and in 2017 after revising constitution where  the article which was barred him from running was amended.

In Doha, Kagame criticized democracy teachers from abroad, who want to determine the future of Africa and what is best for the continent.

“Term limits don’t mean one thing everywhere or every time. However, this doesn’t justify what some African leaders have done. Some people can spend longer time in office and it is justified and others it is not. Some leaders make it look like it’s the choice of the people and it is not and where it happens it should be respected” he added.

President Kagame is praised for having transformed the country after genocide of 1994, building a booming economy and social welfare of the people.

He is however, criticized for ruling the country with iron fist, by pressing hard his opponents and little freedom of speech.

Rwanda’s constitution that was amended in 2015 allows Kagame to run for presidency until  2034.

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From Gabonews to Global Business Mogul: The story of Nicolas Pompigne-Mognard, Founder and Chairman of APO Group
December 16, 2019 | 0 Comments

By Ajong Mbapndah L

Our partnerships with world-leading multinational media platforms ensure our content is delivered to global audiences, says Nicolas Pompigne-Mognard

With a  client list that includes  global giants like Facebook, Uber, Marriott, Hilton, GE, Orange, DHL, Philips, the NBA, Standard Chartered Bank, Siemens, Canon, PwC, EY, McKinsey & Company, AccorHotels, flydubai, DP World, and others, the African Press Organisation Group, is  the indisputable leader when it comes to public relations, media relations, and press release distribution services in the continent.

Building the firm to the iconic status it enjoys today is the handiwork of Franco-Gabonese self-made entrepreneur Nicolas Pompigne-Mognard, the Founder, chairman and 100% owner of APO Group. In 2007, Nicolas was still a Journalist for the online Gabonese news outfit Gabonews when he took the risk of investing his savings of €10.000 into the creation of the APO Group. The investment proved to be a stroke of genius, and today, the Group works with more than 300 clients from government to international institutions, prominent personalities, and a myriad of companies across Africa, and the Middle East.

“Our reach across all 54 countries in Africa is unparalleled, but we also want to raise the profile of African organizations internationally, and our partnerships with world-leading multinational media platforms ensures our content is delivered to global audiences,” says Nicolas Pompigne-Mognard in an interview with Pan African Visions.

Though Pompigne-Mognard stepped down as CEO of the Group and appointed Lionel Reina to take over in December 2018, he remains very active on issues concerning the APO Group in diverse capacities. He sits on the Advisory Board of the Africa Hotel Investment Forum (AHIF), the premier hotel investment conference in Africa, and is also member of the Advisor Board of the EurAfrican Forum, an action-oriented platform that aims to foster stronger collaboration between Europe, and Africa.

While public and media relations  will remain the core business under the leadership of   Lionel Reina as  CEO, the APO Group plans to make acquisitions in the field of digital transformation , and data management, says Pompigne-Mognard .

“Our ultimate goal is to become the consulting firm of choice for all companies looking to grow across Africa,” says Pompigne-Mognard in the interview which also discusses the media landscape in Africa, helping the  next generation of African communicators, sponsorship of the World Rugby’s African association, and more.

Thanks for granting us this interview, Nicolas Pompigne-Mognard. As the Founder and Chairman of leading Pan-African communications consultancy ,APO Group, could you start by giving us an overview of the firm, and its standing in the global media landscape today?,

Nicolas Pompigne-Mognard : APO Group is a consulting firm operating across Africa. We provide public relations, media relations and press release distribution services and have developed a growing portfolio of turnkey solutions for the world’s leading brands. Our core business is in the production, distribution and monitoring of text, image and video to online, print, broadcast and social media, but we also provide a bridge between business communicators and the media by helping hundreds of diverse organizations build meaningful relations with journalists and the wider media community.

Our reach across all 54 countries in Africa is unparalleled, but we also want to raise the profile of African organizations internationally. Our partnerships with world-leading multinational media platforms ensure our content is delivered to global audiences. Recently we partnered with Getty Images, meaning our clients’ photos and videos reach their subscribers all over the world.

By opening up new audiences in this way, we can change the narrative around our continent, ensuring uplifting, positive and uniquely African stories reach as many people as possible.

It is our understanding that you started off as a journalist for a Gabonese media. What pushed you into creating the APO Group and how were you able to raise the seed capital?

Nicolas Pompigne-Mognard :I wanted to change the narrative about Africa. At the time, the majority of news being written about the continent was negative. I wanted to find a way of addressing that and ensuring more positive stories were getting out to international audience.

I was a journalist working as European correspondent for Gabonews back in 2007, and I had known for years how difficult it was to get hold of Africa-related press releases.

There simply wasn’t a way for the media to find public relations content all in one place. That connectivity didn’t exist.

So, APO Group was the result of creating a channel that communicators could use to tell their compelling stories to the rest of the world. 12 years later, we are the leading press release distribution firm in Africa and the Middle East.

As we have grown, we have built out our network, creating strategic alliances with internationally renowned organizations, we now have the network and reputation to deliver on that original vision of changing the narrative in Africa – and that’s something I’m really proud of.

APO Group is clearly a powerhouse today. Could you walk us through some of the memorable phases that you went through in growing the firm to where it is today? In other words, what are some of the challenges you faced and how did you overcome them?

Nicolas Pompigne-Mognard :At the beginning there were many challenges.

First up, there were no employees! It was just me. I was the Sales Manager, IT consultant, HR team – everything. I soon realized I needed help, but I was not prepared for how difficult it would be to find the right team to deliver what the company needed. The first hires I made did not work out, and it took a while before I discovered the right fit.

I discovered it was important to hire proven talents. To surround yourself with people who are better than you are at what they do. I began to understand that the true wealth of your company is your employees. Without them you are nothing.

As we have grown, our challenges have changed. I’d known for a long time that I was an ‘accidental’ CEO. If we were going to scale up and take APO Group to the next level, we needed to hire somebody with a proven track record. So, I stepped aside and brought in a new CEO – Lionel Reina – who joined us with a strong background as a former senior executive for Orange Business Services and Accenture. I’m happy to say, it has been a great success and the business continues to go from strength-to-strength.

I remain the owner of APO Group, but I am now Chairman, and am thoroughly enjoying the strategic side of the business, while also working on other projects.

Your growing list of clients includes corporate giants like Facebook, Uber, Marriott, Hilton, GE, Orange, DHL, Philips, the NBA, Standard Chartered Bank, Siemens, Canon, PwC, EY, McKinsey & Company, AccorHotels, flydubai, DP World. Can you shed some light on how you are able to attract such high profile clients? What draws them to APO Group and what is it you do to keep them in the face of competition?

Nicolas Pompigne-Mognard :We attract these clients because we represent their best – and in some cases only – chance of achieving what they need in terms of engagement with African media audiences.

These companies want professional advice and consultation, as well as help in building long-lasting strategies, but they also, fundamentally, need the best network to carry their message.

APO Group’s network covers the whole continent – including Eritrea and Somaliland, where no other distribution agencies can reach. We have dedicated huge time and resources to media research and building relationships and trust both with individual journalists and the titles they work for.

It is not a coincidence that dozens of the region’s most prominent Public Relations Agencies – 57 at the last count – rely on APO Group’s network to target the media they need.

But while clients may initially be drawn to our network, it is our level of experience and expertise that stands us out from the competition. We do not only deliver content to media, we work alongside them on a daily basis, coordinating press conferences, interviews, op-ed publications, speaker opportunities, photo and video production and social media management – so we are able to forge long-lasting relationships.

We now have the network and reputation to deliver on that original vision of changing the narrative in Africa – and that’s something I’m really proud of, says Nicolas Pompigne-Mognard.

In December 2018, you decided to step down as CEO of APO Group, may we know why, and how has the company fared under your successor?

Nicolas Pompigne-Mognard :As I mentioned, Lionel Reina took over as CEO earlier this year. Lionel is a proven success having worked as Vice President of Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Africa for Orange Business Services and Middle East Director for Accenture – and has a fantastic track record in helping companies scale up quickly and break new ground.

Under his stewardship, we have continued our strong growth trajectory and cemented several new strategic alliances that have enabled us to move into new industries – extending our influence into exciting areas like technology.

We have known each other for years and I couldn’t have dreamed of a better CEO.

What is your take on the state of the African media landscape?

Nicolas Pompigne-Mognard Firstly, it’s important to clarify that the media landscape in Africa is extremely diverse. There are 54 distinctly different countries on the continent, each with their own unique cultures and trends.

Generally speaking, there are huge challenges involved in ensuring the press are allowed to do their job without impediment. But they are evolving challenges. Ten years ago, there was genuine threat to life for journalists who dared to step out of line. Last year, out of 58 journalists killed on duty around the world, only six were African – and those were in the conflict zones of Somalia and the Central African Republic.

Now, the challenges are more insidious – and they are more like the ones you see all over the world. As well as arbitrary censorship in some countries, governments are able to infiltrate so-called ‘private’ media. The financial weakness of many media outlets makes them susceptible to political and financial influence that undermines their independence and diminishes their chances of providing fair and accurate reporting to the people they serve.

There has been a growing emphasis on the need for the African media to tell the African story, but you know very well the challenges that African press organs go through. Besides the sharing of press releases, what is it that APO is doing or planning to do to help empower the press in Africa?

Nicolas Pompigne-Mognard :It’s a really big problem. No-one is better equipped to tell African stories than African media, but they have significant challenges around digitalization, monetization and talent management.

But I believe the biggest issue of all is around the arrival of large, multinational media organizations taking market share and advertising revenue away from the local outlets.

Several international media organizations have expanded into Africa in the last few years. The BBC, for example, has opened its biggest office yet outside of the UK – in Kenya; The Washington Post has recently announced it is expanding into Africa, and European TV channel Euronews, has launched Africanews. The Huffington Post and Le Monde have created African subsidiaries, while CNN now has six programmes dedicated to Africa.

Most of these international media houses are investing in Africa because they see the potential for new audiences and new revenue streams – and the local African media are struggling to compete.

APO Group work closely with local press and try to facilitate conversations and relationships with our hugely influential client base. Many of our international clients have a real appetite for authentic African coverage, so our ability to make introductions and drive engagement can be extremely positive for the African media – as well as our clients.

Presenting the APO Group African Women in Media to Ugandan Journalist Nila Yasmin. Nicolas Pompigne-Mognard says It’s been a long ambition of his to help the next generation of African communicators in whatever way he can.

 Since you stepped down as CEO you have done quite some traveling across Africa to live the passion of helping entrepreneurship in Africa. What are some of the most remarkable things you have learned from the travels and interactions with people? And to all aspiring entrepreneurs out there, what is the recipe for success?

Nicolas Pompigne-Mognard :I’ve been lucky enough to visit universities all over Africa this year.

It’s long been an ambition of mine to help the next generation of African communicators in whatever way I can. By running these seminars all over the continent, I’ve seen first-hand the passion and commitment of young journalism and communications students as they complete their studies.

As for a recipe for entrepreneurial success, there is no magic dust, unfortunately! You need to identify an opportunity or make sure you are solving a specific problem in a new and compelling way. Plus, of course, you need a lot of hard work – and a good deal of luck!

 Talking from experience, what recommendations do you have for a more robust relationship between businesses and the media in Africa?

Nicolas Pompigne-Mognard :In the current climate of fake news and misinformation, the most valuable thing you can bring to that relationship is trust and credibility.

Both businesses and the media have a duty of care to their readership to provide accurate information. As soon as original press release content is called into question, that relationship can be irrevocably damaged.

For APO Group, as a news distributor, we have a responsibility to be a credible Primary Information Provider. We are that bridge between business and the media. A such, our reputation is on the line every time a press release goes out. 

It’s why we have always maintained a strong set of checks and balances to ensure the authenticity of the news we publish. Most important of all, we have made it a fundamental rule never to relinquish a human editorial presence. We will always check the validity of our news sources, and if we have any doubt whatsoever, we simply don’t publish.

LONDON, ENGLAND – NOVEMBER 12: Nicolas Pompigne-Mognard, Founder and CEO of APO Group and Abdelaziz Bougja, Chairman of World Rugby’s African association, Rugby Africa during the signing ceremony of the agreement under which APO Group becomes the main Official Sponsor of Rugby Africa, at Royal Garden Hotel on November 12, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Eamonn M. McCormack/Getty Images for APO Group)

 We see the APO building strong partnerships notably in rugby. How is this working out and with the global appeal of sports, any extra dividends you see for Africa through such partnerships?

Nicolas Pompigne-Mognard :Sport has the power to inspire millions of people and help put Africa in the global spotlight.

APO Group’s role in raising the profile of African sport has largely focused on rugby. In November 2017, APO Group became the Main Official Sponsor of World Rugby’s African association, Rugby Africa, the governing body of rugby in Africa. This is the highest level of sponsorship, and the partnership has recently been extended until 2024. Rugby is developing at an unprecedented pace in Africa and is now the fastest growing sport on the continent. The popularity of the game is booming all over Africa. Ten African nations are currently placed in the top-50 of the world rankings and more women and men, girls and boys, are playing than ever before.

The players are inspirational role models for the next generations of young Africans who are discovering the sport. Although few may know this, out of 105 countries playing rugby competitively, one-third are African and there are many talents in Africa who deserve more recognition by the general public. In 2017, growth in player registration in African nations (excluding South Africa) was 66%, against an overall global increase of 27%. In the female game, the number of registered players increased by 50% in 2017 alone. This phenomenal growth at grass roots level is starting to bear fruit on the international scene.

 Any projections for 2020, from where it is at this point? What next for APO Group?

Nicolas Pompigne-Mognard: After delivering 60% growth in 2018, our plan is to maintain a 40% yearly growth until 2024. Our ultimate goal is to become the consulting firm of choice for all companies looking to grow across Africa.

Lionel’s main area of focus for 2020 is to develop new integrated services and turnkey solutions to continue to help corporations to expand across Africa. We are also looking to make an acquisition in the field of Digital Transformation, AI and Data management. But our core business will remain Public Relations and Media Relations.

In my role as Chairman, I will have more time to continue to promote existing projects and new initiatives in several areas, including our rugby in Africa, female entrepreneurship and student conferences and internships.

So, as you can see, we are very optimistic about the future of the continent!

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2020 the year Jacob Zuma ‘will’ have his day in court
December 13, 2019 | 0 Comments

By Prince Kurupati


In one of the longest-running legal saga of recent South Africa, Jacob Zuma, the former president of the country is set to have his day in court in 2020. Jacob Zuma is facing 12 counts of fraud, four counts of corruption, one count of racketeering and one count of money laundering. The charges relate back to the arms deal of the late 1990s.

In the late 1990s, it’s alleged that Jacob Zuma used his government position to lobby on behalf of Thomson CSF, a defence contractor bidding on behalf of Thales a European arms manufacturer that wanted to win the tender to supply arms to the South African national army. It’s alleged that during the arms deal negotiations, Zuma sought to enrich himself by engaging in dodgy deals behind the scenes with the defence contractors Thomson CSF. Thomson CSF is alleged to have won the tender to supply arms owing to corruption from Jacob Zuma who used his power and influence as a cabinet minister to lobby in favour of Thomson CSF. For his part, Zuma pocketed four million rands from Schabir Shaik, his financial adviser on behalf of Thomson CSF.

Soon after Thomson CSF won the tender, reports started to emerge stating that the company had won due to corrupt practices. Jacob Zuma together with Schabir Shaik were fingered as the culprits. It didn’t take long before investigations into the whole arms deal began and it is from these investigations that Zuma was charged with 12 counts of fraud, four counts of corruption, one count of racketeering and one count of money laundering alongside Shaik.

The charges levelled against Zuma and Shaik paved way for legal proceedings which in 2005 led to the imprisonment of Shaik for 15 years. Zuma, however, was lucky as his trial dragged on for long before the prosecuting body, the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) set aside all charges against him allowing him to run for president in 2009. The NPA’s decision to set aside all charges against Jacob Zuma was influenced by the revelations about the spy tapes in which the head of the intelligence and the prosecution body were recorded talking about how they would time Zuma’s indictment to influence the outcome of the Polokwane elective conference that was to take place that same year.

During his presidency, Zuma’s opponents mainly the main opposition the Democratic Alliance (DA) began a lengthy battle with the prosecuting authority with the sole intention of having the charges levelled against him reinstated. In 2016, they finally succeeded in their endeavours.

Zuma’s reply at the time was to counter with his legal challenge which basically sought to exclude him from any wrongdoing. Zuma’s challenge rather blamed the National Prosecuting Authority for unilaterally taking the decision to set aside the charges. For some time, it seemed that Zuma’s challenge was enough to have the case ‘closed’ for good. However, the Zondo Commission of Inquiry on State Capture in which Zuma was one of the interviewees reopened the case.

During questioning by Raymond Zondo, a senior judge mandated to investigate separate allegations of state capture in the country during Zuma’s presidency, stated that the Gupta family comprising three brothers engaged in several corrupt schemes in South Africa owing to their close relationship with the president Jacob Zuma, allegedly stealing hundreds of millions of dollars through illegal deals with the South African government, obfuscated by a shadowy network of shell companies and associates linked to the family.  In response, Zuma acknowledged that the Gupta brothers are his friends but denied any influence-peddling in their relationship.

In the end, the Zondo Commission of Inquiry on State Capture concluded that Zuma stopped short of asserting criminal behaviour. Rather, it called for an investigation into whether Zuma, some of his cabinet members and some state companies had acted improperly. While Zuma was cleared of any criminal wrongdoing, what the Commission of Inquiry did was to give the impetus to Zuma’s opponents to revisit the arms deal corruption scandal.

Faced with a new wave of pressure to stand trial for the arms deal corruption saga, the first step that Zuma did was to file a permanent stay of prosecution. In doing so, he argued that it was no longer making sense for him to stay trial considering the undue delay in prosecuting him. As stated by investigative journalist Karyn Maughan, Zuma “is effectively putting the NPA on trial and he is arguing that there’s been undue delay in prosecuting him and that the delay can’t be solely blamed on him, but is actually the NPA’s fault.”

Zuma’s argument when filing the permanent stay of execution also stated that his inclusion in the arms deal corruption saga as an architect was all part and parcel of a grand political scheme. As supporting evidence, Zuma made reference to the spy tapes. The spy tapes are recordings of phone conversations between former Scorpion’s head Leonard McCarthy and former prosecutions head Bulelani Ngcuka about when to time the indictment of Zuma – in order to influence the outcome of the ANC’s Polokwane elective conference in 2007.

Zuma’s permanent stay of prosecution was however refused by the court.

The court decision did not deter Zuma however as he quickly appealed the court’s decision refusing him permanent stay of prosecution. The court has since replied with Prosecutor Billy Downer saying that the parties have agreed to a hearing of Zuma’s application for leave to appeal…and that, by February (2020), they would have an idea of which way the case was going.

According to Downer, the February date is a ‘holding date’ but the state is hoping that the actual trial will start in April. Downer further went on to state that the state was ready to go on trial.

Concurring with the remarks relayed by Downer, Zuma’s counsel, Thabani Masuku SC, said the former president was also ready to go on trial and had been for the past 14 years.

The next part in the ongoing Jacob Zuma corruption case will not see him stand before the court to answer for his alleged role in the arms deal. Rather, it will simply see Zuma argue with the NPA to have his case closed once and for all for undue delay in prosecuting him. Essentially, this, therefore, means that those who want to see Zuma have his day in court answering to the alleged corruption charges will have to wait a little longer (or for eternity if Zuma wins the case against the NPA).

While the lengthy nature of the Zuma case may have many people disappointed, especially those who are convinced that Zuma is guilty and deserves to serve time for his alleged role in the arms deal, the truth of the matter as stated by Zuma himself is that the blame solely lies with the NPA. It is the NPA which is responsible for prosecuting wrongdoers and if it does not do its job properly, then the accused should not take the blame rather, it is the NPA that should. Setting aside all charges in 2009 was a unilateral decision taken by the NPA, for that, the NPA should accept the blame for causing the case to drag on and on for long. Zuma in arguing that there has been undue delay in prosecuting him is therefore justified.

Moreover, the NPA’s case includes excerpts from Schabir Shaik. As Zuma rightfully argues, it’s unfair for the NPA to use Shaik’s testimony as he should have been given the right to go on trial with him, cross-examine him and dispute what he was saying if there were any lies detected. That was not the case as the NPA did not allow for a joint trial hence the blame is solely to be apportioned to the prosecuting body. It’s probable that Shaik may have added more to his story just to save his skin (and have his sentence reduced) and thus, Zuma should not be punished for that.

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Up to This Generation to Get it Right on Climate Change- Commonwealth SG Patricia Scotland
December 12, 2019 | 0 Comments

By Ajong Mbapndah L

The consequences of inaction on climate change are now really clear and unfolding right before our eyes, says Commonwealth Secretary General Patricia Scotland

There is nowhere that the common wealth will not go, no one to whom the Commonwealth would not speak to, and  no action that we are not prepared to take, if it will faithfully respond to the needs of our countries when it comes to fighting climate change , says Commonwealth Secretary General Patricia Scotland.

In Madrid where she is leading a delegation to the UN Climate Change Conference, COP25, the Right Honorable Patricia Scotland says there is no barrier that the Commonwealth is  not prepared to lawfully cross, in order to help member states, and others navigate the serious challenge that climate change is.

“Our generation is the first generation to really understand the enormity of the challenge that climate poses to us, the tragedy for us is we may be the first to understand it, but we will be, and we are the last generation on this planet who can do something about it,” the Secretary General said in a skype and phone interview with Pan African Visions.

With a membership of 53 independent countries, and home to a population of 2.4 billion people, living in advanced economies, and developing countries, the Commonwealth has taken a leadership role in the fight against climate change. Citing examples of some of the initiatives spearheaded by the Commonwealth, Patricia Scotland spoke at length on the Commonwealth Finance Access Hub, the growing momentum of the Blue charter, and  the CommonSensing project that that adds satellites to the tools available to fight climate change.

At the Commonwealth, it is not just about talk but been proactive in the quest and implementation of innovative solutions that meet specific and shared needs of its member states, said Patricia Scotland in the interview.

You are in Madrid for the 2019 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. How is the forum going?

Rt Hon Patricia Scotland: Well, you know it is an incredibly important moment for the world. Right now, the IPCC responsible for writing the reports have been able to alert us to the emergency right now in our face,and are asking us for greater effort. they believe that we will have to go 5 times faster if we are are going to meet the needs of the world in terms of global warming, and keeping down the emissions to try and avoid some of the disasters that they anticipate would continue to happen if we don’t take collective global action to bring down the heat that is being generated by our planet.

 What message is the Commonwealth bringing to the forum and what proposals are you bringing to the table to fight climate change?

Rt Hon Patricia Scotland: Well, the consequences of inaction on climate change are now really clear, and it is not an issue for the distant future; this is an issue which is unfolding right before our eyes at this very moment. Just weeks ago, we witnessed the fateful disasters that took place in Kenya, when there were landslides. Indeed, in our Commonwealth, India and Bangladesh, there was Cyclone Bulbul and there was traumatic and drastic flooding in the United Kingdom, so this is global. And what we are seeing is the need to take new action, not just a need to take drastic action, on the emissions I spoke about just a moment ago, especially from the industrialized nations, but all Commonwealth countries really need to play their part in delivering the commitments made under the Paris Agreement.

But we in the Commonwealth have been listening really carefully to what our countries need. Many of our small and developing countries say, we have suffered the disasters, we have suffered the consequences of climate change, although we have made virtually no contribution to creating the disaster. And as you will know, the global community have come together to create the Green Climate Fund to enable such countries to make applications but many of them simply have not been able to do so.

And so listening to that need, the Commonwealth in 2015, at the Commonwealth executive meeting in Malta, decided that we would try to improve on more Commonwealth climate finance access help, that would basically [assist]Commonwealth states to device the support they need to make the applications, but also once they shape projects, it will help them to know how they get them delivered too, because change has to happen and it has to happen quickly.

So, this climate finance access hub has already placed advisers in 3 of our African Commonwealth countries, that is, in Eswatini, Mauritius, and Namibia, but we are also looking very shortly to place climate finance advisers in Kenya, Lesotho and Seychelles.

At the moment, with a relatively small amount of money. We have already been able to deliver 28.9 million dollars to our member states, but we have almost 500 million dollars’ worth of projects in the pipeline. Now, these projects aren’t just something which is good to have. These are projects which will materially impact and help our countries to adapt, and to mitigate to the climate change to which they would have been subject to, without having had much opportunity to change what is happening, so it is incredibly important.

And in addition, we have created the Commonwealth Blue Charter to help us better manage, and to respond to the things we need to do to help keep our oceans alive and vibrant. You will know that 46 countries in the Commonwealth are ocean states, and 3 countries are faced with great lakes. Now, this is something which is incredibly important therefore for our Commonwealth, and since 1989, we have been working hard in the Commonwealth, to raise this issue of climate change, because in 1989, in Langkawi, in Malaysia, the Commonwealth 53 countries, there were 2.4 billion people in our Commonwealth, 60% of them are under the age of 30. And in 1989, we said, any delay in addressing this climate crisis would have a deleterious impact on our countries and for the small and many of the developing countries, it is an existential threat.

So many of our countries simply would not survive if it goes much more over the 1.1  that we now have. So, if you look at [the situation], even if we were to hit the global warming to 1.5 that would mean countries in the Caribbean, countries in the Pacific in particular, may no longer be with us. So, this is a real fight for our lives.  The Commonwealth Blue Charter has set out an action plan for what it can do together, and this is already working, and that’s something that we launched at the Commonwealth meeting last year in April 2018. And this year, we are looking at the Commonwealth disaster risk finance portal, what that is all about is that, many of the countries who find themselves responding to disasters, some of which we alluded to earlier, don’t have the money, don’t have the skill and understanding available to them immediately to know where do I go? Where do I get the money? Who do I turn to? So, what we looked at, the need: we are now creating the Commonwealth risk portal, it is like a one-stop shop, many African countries only knew about what they could apply for when a disaster hits them, or when they feel a disaster is about to hit them. And some of our countries who are extremely vulnerable, but may be middle income countries, they may be high income countries, but their vulnerability because of their size, because of their geographical location, is great, and those countries would not be able to get access to ODA, that’s the development assistance that they need because they do not comply with the rules, or they are basically not sufficiently impoverished to take advantage of them. Yet they are so vulnerable, and they have a terrible future.

So, what we have done is we have worked together with all the international agencies, and we pulled all the resources anyone has available for countries and we put them into a one-stop shop so that when a country is in need, when they are afraid, when they don’t know where to go, when they don’t know whom to ask, they can come to look at the disaster risk finance portal and they will have in one-stop, an understanding of what may be available to them.

And the last thing we are doing is the CommonSensing Project and I say the last because it is the new thing that we are doing.  We are continuing other things that we have done in terms of climate finance and mobilizing the management law, the use of sustainable economic development, renewable energy, alternative development, that’s all the normal things we are doing. But this new thing, is the CommonSensing project, and CommonSensing is an innovative project based on partnership between Fiji, Solomon Islands ,and Vanuatu and a consortium of international partners in the Commonwealth secretariat, and the objective of CommonSensing is to support our countries to build resilience by developing satellite-based information services to enhance climate actions, and we believe that this satellite technologies will save them and are really going to help us to tackle climate and support risk disaster management, especially when it is combined with the applications such as the geographic information system for detailed analysis, for example, we are looking at how we manage land, and you will know that in Africa, one of the really painful issues is desertification, drought and water management.

While many people talk about the storms and cyclones and damage caused by hurricanes, the silent killer, the one that doesn’t get mentioned often, that doesn’t get the headlines is what is happening on drought, what happens to lack of water, and what is happening to desertification. And in relation to that matter, Namibia has agreed to be our standard bearer on desertification. To lead this is something that we have to look at, and right now we will be talking about how we put together something equivalent to that which we put together for oceans in our Blue Charter. Now, we need to do something equivalent for land, for desertification, for water management and for holistic improvement and this CommonSensing is an opportunity to use satellite to see what’s happening globally and to move quickly before disaster strikes is going to be a really creative and important issue for us.

 The project is funded by the UK space agencies, international partnership program and implemented in partnership with United Nations Institute for training and research ,and also ourselves at the Commonwealth secretariat and various other agencies, including the satellite applications catapult, the UK Met office, and some universities.

You can see that it is a consortium of people, institutions, nations that is coming together to see what we can do. So the Commonwealth is important in this area, because we are really listening to what our members are telling us and we are trying to come up with solutions to help us. Human genius got us into this mess and human genius will have to get us out again.

Meeting with Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) Ibrahim Thiaw  on the sidelines of Cop25  The Commonwealth  is taking the threat of  desertification head on with Namibia as the standard bearer .Photo credit twitter
Meeting with Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) Ibrahim Thiaw on the sidelines of Cop25 The Commonwealth is taking the threat of desertification head on with Namibia as the standard bearer .Photo credit twitter

Thank you, Madam Secretary. Now, how do you strike a balance between the expectations, approach or positions of the Commonwealth as a body, and the challenges and priorities of your independent members when it comes to fighting climate change?

Rt Hon Patricia Scotland: Well, I think one of the things that has really been so good about our Commonwealth family is that all of us, all 53 of us, with no exceptions, are committed to climate change. Now, we demonstrated this  at CHOGM in 2015, in Malta, when we, the Commonwealth, were the first to say that we should have an international enforceable agreement. We were the first to say that we should try to keep emissions down to 2 degrees if we can, but that we should have an aspiration or target of at least 1.5 degrees, that we should not allow the Greenhouse emissions to get close to global warming to more than 2 degrees of the pre-industrialized standard.

But that is a challenge and we have been pushing, so the great thing about it is that that’s where we were in 2015, in November, and that’s what the rest of the world agreed to in Paris, in December; that was in 2015, 4 years ago. But what has happened in the last 4 years is we needed to not just talk, we have to act and deliver, we have to do, we have to commit and we have to bring changes, and the thing behind being lighted up are basically put in effort when it matters, and so moving forward, we are moving forward together on this agreement, we are making changes about how we do business, how we live, to make sure that we are moving towards a more sustainable path.

So, this is why as I described to you, we set up Commonwealth climate finance access in 2016 when I became secretary general of the Commonwealth and it is why we put so much energy into creating the hub which is in Mauritius and we are also grateful for the grants we have got from Australia ,the UK now, together they have only 1.5 million, but look at what we have done with 1.5 million to have 28.9 million already delivered, so you got a  30 fold increase as a result of the relatively small investment and the fact that we have got almost 500 million more projects in the pipeline, I think is really impressive.

But we need to do more, we need to do so much more if we are to go as fast as we need to go to meet the new targets, because nature is not waiting for us.

Countries, especially in Africa and some in Asia that you mentioned earlier, the complain is that they don’t have enough resources and they clearly lack the capacity to adequately respond to climate change issues, how far is the Commonwealth willing to go, to support these countries step up the fight?

Rt Hon Patricia Scotland: We are absolutely delighted to help our members, and that is why we have created the Commonwealth climate finance hub, that is why we are developing the disaster portal that I told you about, that is why we are doing the CommonSensing, and that is why we created the Blue Charter for action. And that is why we are now going to be looking at creating something similar to the Blue Charter for land, for land degradation, for desertification, for draught in order to help our countries better manage water, and also therefore, to respond to their needs, because a number of our countries have indicated that they are thrilled by what we have done in relation to the oceans, and how we are responding with the Blue Charter, but you know, quite naturally, they are saying, what about us? What about those of us who are dying? Not because of a side cliff, not because of a hurricane, not because of a tsunami, what about those of us who are dying from desertification? Getting poorer because our land is degenerating and being degraded and because our cattle have nowhere to graze, what about us?

So, we are listening to that, and right now, as we speak, we are putting together something which will respond to those issues in the same way as the Blue Charter is responding to oceans, the oceans are 70% of our whole planet, but land and oceans go together and we have to look at how we manage both if we are to regenerate our world, so there is nowhere that the common wealth will not go, no one to whom the Commonwealth would not speak, no action that we are not prepared to take if it will faithfully respond to the needs of our countries, we know this is urgent, there is no more time to waste, this generation; our generation are the first generation to really understand the enormity of the challenge the climate poses to us, the tragedy for us is we may be the first to understand it, but we will be, and we are the last generation on this planet who can do something about it.

That puts a heavy responsibility on us, and it actually puts a heavy responsibility on the industrialized North to help to make sure that the embattled South who have been the recipients of this trauma, but who have contributed to it least, it is now our time to make sure that all the help and assistance is given to our countries who are in need, and of course, Africa, in the South is suffering greatly and we are determined to respond.

Just to give you some of the data, drought and desertification threatens the livelihood of more than 1.2 billion people in 110 countries, but the problem is particularly acute in Sub-Saharan Africa, and Southern Asia. So, out of the countries substantially affected by land degradation, 36 are situated in Africa and you have to know that there are only 19 African countries in our Commonwealth, maybe soon to be 20. So, this is a big issue for every single African country, so all of our Commonwealth African countries have submitted their national and voluntary land degradation neutrality target, the UNCCD land degradation neutrality are setting targets, setting programs, they have all set those baselines and developing targets, and support could be extended to achieve these targets and this is one of the things that the Commonwealth secretariat is looking at, how can we support member countries, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa, develop the road map for achieving the national target set to the countries, and build institutional capacities and access climate finance through the Commonwealth finance access route.

So, as you can see, there is no barrier that we are not prepared to lawfully cross, if we can, in order to help our members to get to where they need to be.

We have created the Commonwealth Blue Charter to help us better manage ,and to respond to the things we need to do to help keep our oceans alive and vibrant says the Commonwealth SG
We have created the Commonwealth Blue Charter to help us better manage ,and to respond to the things we need to do to help keep our oceans alive and vibrant, says the Commonwealth SG

Madam Secretary, in the course of the year, member countries of the Commonwealth in Africa like Malawi and Mozambique were severely battered by storm, by the cyclones, what specific support did the Commonwealth provide for them to help with recovery?

Rt Hon Patricia Scotland: The Commonwealth as an organization does not have a mandate or capacity to provide humanitarian assistance when such disasters occur. However, we are able to urge and rally support from those who can, and this is what we did. Our interventions happen in the preparedness stage, that is, in building resilience before a disaster strikes. We are working as I mentioned to you, on the disaster risk finance portal which will serve as a one-stop shop for streamlining access to the numerous financing tools already available. It includes guidance on navigating the complex funding processes and broad range providers, each with different eligibility and access criteria and challenging terms and conditions.

But in addition, we reached out to charities and other nations, and other countries. For example, as a result of our efforts, we teamed up with Team Rubicon, who are authorized to go the last mile, and they did an amazing job in Mozambique, rescuing people, helping set up hospitals, helping to change, and they met and managed thousands of people and helped them. So, that’s something that we can do, we are facilitators, we are procurers, we are able to network with our countries, so even if we do not have the resources, we try to find others who have and support them to deliver better support.

Critics say a lot of the large forums are often full of much talk and very little action. How would you define a successful participation for you .and the Commonwealth at the ongoing United Nation Climate Change Conference in Madrid?

Rt Hon Patricia Scotland: Well, as you have seen through  this discussion, we are all action and little talk, so when we come forward, we do a lot of listening to what our members say they need and what they want for themselves, and we then make contact with those who could network with us, to provide the solutions. So the negotiations on Cop25 are very important, they can be very technical where delegates seem to be talking about the same issues, but it is not easy, we have to get an agreement between 190 countries and we have to get them to agree, nobody believed that that was possible, but we did it, in Paris in 2015, and we are trying to do it now, to get to an agreement.

Now, there are few key issues of concern for Commonwealth countries at this Cop 25, and this Cop is the first Blue-Green Cop there has even been.  Article 6 of the Paris agreement that is aimed at voluntary, cooperative approaches between parties in the implementation of their national commitments. This article of the Paris agreement remained a contentious issue at the previous Cop24 in Poland, and countries could not reach an agreement on its implementation. Here, we are going to try really hard this year to try and get to an agreement on article 6.  That’s going to be high on the agenda at Cop25, this Cop, in Madrid. We also want higher climate ambitions, next year is the next round to accept the national determined contributions for climate change. We know that we have to do more. The current national determined contributions as they stand, do not put the world on track to limiting temperature rise to below 1.5 degrees. So, if we stay where we are now, we know we are doomed to failure. However, there is a need to agree on what type of information to be included, how are we going to account? What is the time frame and what are we going to do? So, that is the next issue.

The third issue is climate finance and we have spoken about that already. There have been some new pledges raising the replenishment total beyond 7.4 billion dollars, but there are problems about how that money is going to be distributed. Therefore, that’s why we are promoting our Commonwealth Climate Finance Access Hub as a vehicle for our countries to be able to tap into that money from the climate financing that is being made available.

And the last area is oceans. As I have mentioned, the ocean covers 70% of the earth, and absorbs 90% of the emission, but there is a critical blue gap between climate ambitions and ocean action. Less than 1% of all philanthropic funding goes towards marine conservation and sustainability, while large international funds established for climate action appear reluctant to support work on the ocean. So, the Commonwealth is seeking to address this through the Blue Charter action groups, but also what we are trying to do is to create a Blue Charter action fund to help with the implementation of these matters so that we won’t just be talking and talking, we actually will be doing and doing.

We are really excited about the CHOGM which is going to happen in Rwanda next year ,says  the Secretary General .
We are really excited about the CHOGM which is going to happen in Rwanda next year ,says the Secretary General .Photo credit twitter

 And we end with a  the word on the  Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting coming back to Africa in 2020, and specifically Rwanda, how are the preparations going and what are some of the broad themes expected to be in the discussion?

Rt Hon Patricia Scotland: Well, we are really excited about the Commonwealth heads of government meeting, which is going to happen in Rwanda, in Kigali. The theme of the meeting is ‘Delivering a Common Future; Connecting, Innovating, Transforming’. And there are 5 sub-themes which have been identified for discussion, and that is governance and the rule of law, ICT and innovation, youth empowerment and trade. And we are building on the progress that we made in London, in 2018. Leaders are expected to discuss the contemporary Commonwealth and how we can transform our societies in accordance with Commonwealth values of democracy, multilateralism, sustainable development and empowerment of women and our youth.

So, these are very exciting topics, as I mentioned, this is going to be the second time that we are going to be in Africa in the last 10, 15 years. The last time was in Uganda. I think now we are going to go to Rwanda, and Rwanda is the youngest member of our family.  So that is also innovative and new.

Madam Secretary, thank you so much for talking to Pan African Visions.

Rt Hon Patricia Scotland: Thank you very much for speaking with me and I hope you have a good and blessed Christmas.

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New players to even out Africa’s investment battlefield in 2020
December 9, 2019 | 0 Comments

African Leaders attending a G7 Summit at a luncheon hosted by President Sisi of Egypt. Photo Credit Presidency South Africa

London 9 December 2019 – African markets will become increasingly attractive in 2020 at a time when wider global trends are more set against the interests of international businesses than they have been for many years. Fractious geopolitics in a US election year, a rising tide of global activism and a new level of cyber warfare are among the Top 5 risks for business in 2020, published today by Control Risks, the specialist global risk consultancy.

As Control Risks CEO Nick Allan points out, “populism, activism, protectionism, sanctions and political disruption remain the canvas onto which business tries to build global markets and supply chains. It has not been easy in 2019 and it’s going to get harder next year”.

While this outlook is prompting businesses to rethink their global strategies and footprint, across Africa, the continent’s traditional development partners – the EU, China and the US – are facing increasing competition on the ground from new players, such as Russia, the Gulf states and Turkey. Greater regional integration, through the African Continental Free Trade Area and regional blocs like the East African Community, is a welcome counterbalance to growing economic nationalism elsewhere in the world. For African governments and foreign investors able to navigate an increasingly complex and competitive landscape, opportunities are opening up.

“The standard narrative of US-China rivalry in Africa always looked like an over-simplification but is certainly outdated now. China’s engagement with Africa is undergoing a fundamental shift, the US is playing catch-up, and other countries are seeking to expand their influence in an increasingly multipolar landscape,” explains Barnaby Fletcher, Associate Director at Control Risks. “Geopolitical objectives are being supported by a flood of development finance, creating both opportunity and competition for private-sector players, “ added Fletcher.

The global Top 5 Risks for Business in 2020

The Top 5 risks are released as part of Control Risks’ annual RiskMap report, a global risk forecast for business leaders and policy makers across the world, published today.

  1. 1.    Geopolitics and the US campaign trail

The US election campaign will have a palpable impact on geopolitics in 2020. The drama of the campaign trail combined with the disruption of the impeachment process will reverberate through America’s global actions, with the White House using stunt diplomacy to try to distract from impeachment. At the same time US allies and adversaries such as North Korea, Iran or even the Islamic State will hedge against the most ideological election in 40 years and try to add pressure to an already heated electoral campaign. Such posturing will heavily influence the geopolitical risk landscape for business in 2020.

Across the world, social pressures and coordinated activism around issues like environmental protection, political and human rights, inequality and privacy are demanding more and more from businesses, not just governments. In the street, in shareholder meetings and in your company, the activist society will bang ever harder on the boardroom table in 2020. Being ethical is no longer enough. Being compliant is no longer enough. This uncodified morass of social, moral and political accountability will consume business leadership in 2020 and beyond.

Cyber threats in 2020 will align as never before to provoke a high impact, cyber-enabled assault on critical infrastructure. Western deterrence has failed to stem the tide and hostile actors are using ever harder methods. The US will retaliate in ways that show the world it cares. In theatres of strategic conflict, such as the Gulf, unpalatable military measures will give way to cyber-attacks. And so will begin a new cycle of escalation: the west’s cyber-capable rivals and their proxies will raise their game, with unpredictable consequences. If leading companies are attaining credible cyber resilience, national infrastructures across the globe are not and present the main vulnerability in the international cyber conflict.

Even the most optimistic forecasts say global economic growth in 2020 will be dismally low or, as our partners at Oxford Economics put it, “grinding.” This, before any account of an economic shock that could shake an uneasy global economy. If global GDP takes a turn for the worse, we cannot expect a fragmented world to craft a coordinated policy response. Governments facing polarisation domestically and bilateral opportunism internationally will find it difficult to rally in the face of economic hardship. The challenge will be particularly difficult for commodity-dependent economies in the Middle East which have not fully recovered from the oil price crash in 2015 or which are grappling with sanctions, youth unemployment and social unrest. 

At the helm of some of the world’s most important countries is a crop of leaders who can’t see further than the next crisis. For them, tactics will trump strategy. 2020 is shaping up to be a year when the brakes on incident escalation are absent. This is a world where resilience at the state level is weak, and long-term solutions take too much time to find. Whether it’s a global trade war, a cyber attack or a regional border skirmish, things could escalate faster in the absence of any international oversight. Business will need a strategy for an intensely tactical world.

About Control Risks

Control Risks is a specialist global risk consultancy that helps to create secure, compliant and resilient organisations in an age of ever-changing risk. Working across disciplines, technologies and geographies, everything we do is based on our belief that taking risks is essential to our clients’ success. We provide our clients with the insight to focus resources and ensure they are prepared to resolve the issues and crises that occur in any ambitious global organisation. We go beyond problem-solving and provide the insight and intelligence needed to realise opportunities and grow.

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NDI and the Kofi Annan Foundation Deploy Joint International Delegation to Assess the Pre-Election Environment Ahead of Legislative Elections in Guinea
December 9, 2019 | 0 Comments
Dr. Christopher Fomunyoh, Senior Associate for Africa at the NDI, Dr Goodluck Jonathan, former President of Nigeria, and Nicephore Soglo, former President of Benin are part of the delegation.Photo credit twitter GEJ
Dr. Christopher Fomunyoh, Senior Associate for Africa at the NDI, Dr Goodluck Jonathan, former President of Nigeria, and Nicephore Soglo, former President of Benin are part of the delegation.Photo credit twitter GEJ

Conakry, Guinea – The National Democratic Institute (NDI) and Kofi Annan Foundation (KAF) will send a joint international delegation to Guinea to assess preparations for legislative elections currently scheduled for February 2020. The assessment will take place from December 9-13, 2019. 

The high-level delegation consists of the following members: 

  1. H.E.  Nicéphore Soglo, Former President of Benin;
  2. H.E. Goodluck Jonathan, Former President of Nigeria;
  3. Ambassador Medina Wesseh, Secretary General of the Mano River Union;
  4. Dr. Christopher Fomunyoh, Senior Associate and Regional Director for Central and West Africa (NDI);
  5. Mr. Sébastien F. W. Brack, Head of Elections and Democracy Programme (KAF);
  6. Dr. Sophia Moestrup, Deputy Director for Central and West Africa (NDI);
  7. Mr. Paul Komivi Sémeko Amegakpo, Resident Director in Guinea (NDI).

The delegation will meet with the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI), ruling and opposition political parties, civil society organizations, and other stakeholders in Conakry to assess preparations for the legislative elections and explore ways of fostering peaceful and credible polls. 

“Guinea’s February 2020 elections will be an important step in strengthening the country’s democracy and giving voice to citizens through their elected representatives. As Guinean citizens prepare to go to the polls, a peaceful and inclusive electoral process is critically important,” said H.E. Nicéphore Soglo, former President of Benin Republic. 

“Successful elections and democratic progress in Guinea would bode well for West Africa and other parts of the continent as Africans gain more confidence in choosing their political leaders through regularly held and meaningful elections,” said H.E. Goodluck Jonathan, former President of Nigeria. “Our delegation looks forward to meeting with various Guinean electoral stakeholders.”  

Prior to departing Guinea, the mission will present its findings publicly at a press conference in Conakry on December 13, 2019. 

NDI has organized more than 150 international election observation missions around the globe, earning a reputation for impartiality and professionalism. The NDI/KAF mission to Guinea will conduct its activities in accordance with the Declaration of Principles for International Election Observation and Code of Conduct adopted by the United Nations in 2005 and will base its findings and recommendations on Guinean laws and international standards for elections. All activities will be conducted on a strictly nonpartisan basis and without interfering in the election process.

*Source NDI

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Belgium gives Rwanda inventory of artifacts taken during colonialism
December 6, 2019 | 0 Comments

By Maniraguha Ferdinand

King Kigeli's crown is believed to be among rwandan artifacts in beligian museums (Illustration from the, Internt)
King Kigeli’s crown is believed to be among Rwandan artifacts in Belgian museums (Illustration from the, Internet)

Belgium through Royal Museum for Central Africa presented Rwanda with a list of artifacts that were taken by Belgian colonial masters during colonialism period.

The Museum’s director Guido Gryseels handed a USB containing the list to Director General of The institute of Museums of Rwanda, Ambassador Robert Masozera on Thursday in the capital Kigali.

Guido said this move is a first step towards the negotiations of bringing back all Rwandan relics stored in Belgian museums.

“It is common that these African historical heritage be brought in Africa from Europe. Some African countries have set up commissions to assess their artifacts that are kept in European museums”, Guido said during handover ceremony

Among  Rwandan artifacts that are believed to be in Belgian museums include traditional objects like drums, utensils, royal emblems, King Kigeli IV Rwabugili’s crown, colonial archives, images, videos and others.

It is believed that the body of one of the last king of Rwanda, Yuhi V Musinga was taken to Belgium, but neither Rwanda nor Belgium confirmed that.

Ambassador Masozera commended this gesture from Belgian authorities. He said  it will pave a way to negotiations in order to see how to bring back those  artifacts where they belong.

“They have plenty of our archives include those which were used by authorities, geology…they have a map that shows what is inside our land. That map can help us to identify where is diamond, gold etc.”

Belgium colonized Rwanda from the end of first world war up to 1962 when it gained independence.

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Security challenges in Nigeria:Buhari unveils Made-in-Nigeria war vehicles, launch National Security Strategy
December 5, 2019 | 0 Comments

By Amos Fofung

The vehicle first appeared in public this August
The vehicle first appeared in public this August

President Muhammadu Buhari has unveiled the first Made-in-Nigeria fighting vehicle named, Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP). He presented the vehicle prior to the opening ceremony of the 2019 Chief of Army Staff Annual Conference in Kaduna that was proceeded by the launching of the National Security Strategy.

The security roadmap was launched at the State House, Abuja on Wednesday, a day after the President unveiled the first Made-in-Nigeria Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles by the military at the opening ceremony of the 2019 Chief of Army Staff Annual Conference in Kaduna.

He noted that the plethora of security challenges confronting the nation has made it expedient to come up with articulated, comprehensive and coordinated response that involves all segments of the society and all elements of the national power.

“As we continue to work towards completely ending insurgency in the north-east and laying the foundation of sustainable peace and development in the region, we are also addressing conflicts between farmers and herders, banditry and various forms of security challenges. In addition to security, economic diversification and fighting corruptions, our administration priorities for the second term include pursuing improvements in education, healthcare and agriculture.

“These priorities reflect our commitment to enhancing the social security of Nigerians as a means of improving their physical security”, he said adding.

“I’m happy to observe that the National Security Strategy reflects this thinking with emphasis on overall human security. I’m pleased also to know that the strategy emerged after a long time consultative and participatory process that elicited contributions primarily from our security, intelligence, law enforcement agencies and the armed forces.

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