Talking Trump and War Crimes With South Sudan’s Rebel Leader
May 25, 2016 | 0 Comments
In an exclusive interview at his armed camp, Riek Machar accuses his rival of war crimes and blames the U.S. for prolonging the carnage.
Juba, South Sudan — Since he returned to Juba late last month, South Sudanese rebel leader Riek Machar has been living in a makeshift camp made up of little more than a smattering of tents and a few air-conditioned pop-up offices.
The day I visited, rebel soldiers dressed in worn-out army fatigues roamed the property in flip-flops, dark circles under their eyes and AK-47 assault rifles slung across their shoulders. One stood next to a piece of string intended to act as a security checkpoint, holding a notebook where visitors were supposed to sign in. He didn’t have a pen.
Other armed men, many with the traditional Nuer ethnic group scarring on their foreheads, lay in the dirt under mango trees, strings of bullet casings hanging from the branches above them. A group of men and women wearing suits and dresses sat on chairs under one of those trees, looking blankly into the distance as though they were waiting for a speech to begin.
It took more than three hours to get face to face with Machar, one of the men at the center of a fragile U.S.-backed effort to end his country’s bloody civil war. While I was waiting, one young advisor wearing a navy blue suit sat with me and spoke at length about Donald Trump, the front-runner for the Republican Party nomination in the United States’ presidential election. At one point, he suggested that a leader like Trump could solve South Sudan’s ongoing debate over an attempt by Machar’s rival, President Salva Kiir, to change the country from 10 states to 28. The opposition claims it is a clear violation of the shaky August peace deal designed to end a conflict that has killed more than 50,000 people since December 2013. “We need Donald Trump to solve that problem,” the staffer said with a laugh.
When I finally reached Machar, he sat at the head of a large conference table, surrounded by piles of papers, folders, and three-ring binders. “I’m trying to get organized,” he said, pointing to the mess and apologizing for the delay.
Dressed in a traditional white robe and matching hat, Machar, who is now serving as the country’s first vice president, struck a surprisingly relaxed and optimistic tone for most of the hour-long conversation. When questioned about his current stance on the 28-state issue — a contentious dispute with the potential to plunge the country back into war — Machar said he and Kiir still had not directly talked about the proposal. Machar opposes the move in large part because it is seen as undermining the two leaders’ power-sharing agreement to put more territory in Kiir’s control.
“Our position is still the same. The act is a violation of the peace agreement,” he said. “It’s in the agenda. We hope to discuss it.”
Machar pulled no punches in the interview about what he derided as Washington’s hands-off approach to the conflict in South Sudan, which broke out after rumors swirled in 2013 that Machar planned to overthrow Kiir in a coup. Repeating a charge made to me in October, he angrily claimed that the United States is now delaying his country’s already fragile peace process by refusing to provide tents and food to his forces to encourage them to come home from the bush.
Instead, he said American officials want him to fund it himself, claiming that if he could pay to supply weapons throughout the war, he can pay to clean it up. He repeated their suggestion and scoffed at it, telling me it would be impossible because he doesn’t even have money to rebuild his own house which was destroyed by a government attack early in the war.
When I asked who was funding the comfortable, air conditioned office we were sitting in, he smiled.
When I asked who was funding the comfortable, air conditioned office we were sitting in, he smiled.
“Friends. Let’s say friends, that’s all,” he said. “One of them could be you. If you have money, you will contribute a little here.”
Machar told me he is disappointed that since finally returning to the capital on April 26, he has not heard from any of the American officials who spent months calling for him to go home. “No John Kerry, no Susan Rice, no Donald Booth,” he said, naming the American envoy to South Sudan and adding that he has not spoken to Rice, who was at the forefront of South Sudan’s push for independence, since before she canceled a meeting with him when he was in Washington last October.
During our October conversation in Washington the day the meeting was scrapped, Machar said that Booth delivered the news, then suggested the rebel leader return to Juba. At the time, Machar referred to the capital as a “killing ground.”
“You know we were friends? We know one another well,” Machar said about Rice during our May meeting, recalling how “furious” he was the last time he was in Washington. “So I was disappointed. You see how friends can get disappointed.”
A State Department official speaking on condition of anonymity told Foreign Policy that since returning to Juba, Machar has met with Molly Phee, the American ambassador to South Sudan, and that moving forward, she will be his primary point of contact within the United States government. He also said that organizing for troops to return from the bush is primarily the responsibility of the warring South Sudanese parties.
Machar is now closely following the upcoming presidential election in the United States and wondering what it will mean for his own country’s future. Many of his followers believe Machar to be the descendant of an ancient Nuer prophet, so maybe it shouldn’t come as a surprise that he claims to have predicted months ago that Trump would take an easy lead in the Republican primary.
“Somebody that free discusses anything. People like it. The American people like it!” he said between laughs, telling me he is angry he can’t get CNN in his new camp in Juba and that his advisers didn’t initially believe him when he said Trump would likely be the Republican nominee.
“Now I’m telling them ‘Prepare yourselves! Trump might win!’”
“Now I’m telling them ‘Prepare yourselves! Trump might win!’”
But whether Trump is prepared to help South Sudan? Well, that’s another question.
“We are a small country in Africa,” Machar said. “I don’t know whether somebody who came out of business has taken interest in South Sudan, although we would want him to take interest in us.”
Besides his repeated complaints about the United States, Machar stayed surprisingly even-keeled during the conversation, even when discussing his shaky relationship with Kiir. When I asked about the government’s purchase of amphibious tanks, which were reportedly used by Kiir’s forces to hunt down civilians and armed rebels in the country’s massive and treacherous swamplands, Machar said he believes buying and using them amounts to war crimes as well as crimes against humanity.
“You use proportional power,” he said. “When you fight your enemy you’re restraining because you don’t want to eliminate, you want to disable. But when you use amphibious tanks against the civilian population, that’s a serious matter.”
The African Union, the United Nations, Human Rights Watch, and Amnesty International have accused both sides of committing atrocities, ranging from ethnically targeted murders to mass rape. Machar said that the last time he was aware of any human rights violations carried out by troops loyal to him was in early 2014, before they had an organized central command, but that if he was called to appear before the International Criminal Court, he would show up. “I’m not intimidated by the ICC,” he said. A spokesman for Kiir’s government did not respond to any of my phone calls or emails.
The rebel leader, who spent decades leading the push for South Sudan’s independence from Sudan, was born in Unity State, where some of the conflict’s worst violence took place. The night the most recent conflict broke out more than two years ago, Machar said government forces killed 34 people in his house alone, and claimed in our conversation that the conflict took him by such surprise that he ran away in his pajamas. “If it was a planned war I would have been in military fatigues,” he said.
Much of Machar’s refusal to return for Juba for so many months after the signing of the peace deal last August had to do with his fear he would risk his own life if he went back to where the conflict began. But when I asked whether he felt safe in Juba, he hesitated. “I’m here,” he said, adding that while the capital is still “not fully demilitarized,” he himself feels safe.
And as for what’s next? Machar already has his eyes set on South Sudan’s 2018 presidential election, when citizens are slated to go to the polls in a national vote for their leaders for the first time since independence. He said he will run for president only if his party “says so,” and that the priority for now is making sure conflict doesn’t break out again. He is convinced that in addition to improving security, getting displaced people back home, and beginning the process of reconciliation, the world’s youngest country needs to build roads and improve the economy, which has been in free-fall throughout the conflict, in order to ensure peace.
One of the only other ingredients is making things work with Kiir — at least until 2018 when they won’t have to sit side-by-side anymore.
“We must forget about personal animosity if we’re going to implement the agreement,” he said. “Or else you would condemn the country to perpetual war.”
Nigeria: Okonjo-Iweala Finally Speaks On Court Ruling Over ‘Missing’ N30 Trillion
May 24, 2016 | 0 Comments
Nigeria’s former Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, has finally reacted to the High Court ruling ordering the Federal Government and her to provide information relating to N30 trillion allegedly unaccounted for during the administration of ex-President Goodluck Jonathan.
The court judgment followed the legal action entered against the Federal Government of Nigeria and Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala by the Socio-Economic Rights Agenda (SERAP) pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act.
A statement in Abuja, on Monday, by her media aide, Paul Nwabuikwu, said Dr. Okonjo-Iweala has though not read the judgment and would therefore defer any comments on the matter.
The former minister said by the date the court papers by SERAP were purportedly served, she was no longer a public officer, and therefore could not be subject of a request for production of any documents or information under the Freedom of information Act.
Okonjo-Iweala said the case premised on a baseless and unsubstantiated allegation by former CBN governor, Professor Charles Soludo that N30 trillion – about seven times the total annual budget during the Jonathan administration – went missing, confirms SERAP’s dubious motives and its role as a tool for politically motivated actors.
The statement read: “Our attention has been drawn to media reports regarding a court judgment alleged to have been entered against the Federal Government of Nigeria and Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala in respect of an action by the Socio-Economic Rights Agenda (SERAP) pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act.
“Dr Okonjo-Iweala hastens to state that she was never served with any court processes in relation to the said matter. She has not read the judgment and would therefore defer any comments on the matter.
“However from the media reports, the case was instituted in February 2015 but was not served until July 2015 after Dr Okonjo-Iweala had already ceased to be the Minister of Finance.
“By the date the said papers were purportedly served Dr Okonjo-Iweala was no longer a public officer and could therefore not be the subject of a request for production of any documents or information under the Freedom of information Act.
“The Court processes must have been served on others because the attention of Dr Okonjo-Iweala was never drawn to the matter in which she appears to have been sued personally. She therefore did not engage any lawyer to act for her in the matter.
“The decision of SERAP to anchor its case on a baseless and unsubstantiated allegation by former CBN governor, Professor Charles Soludo that N30 trillion – about seven times the total annual budget during the Jonathan administration – is missing confirms SERAP’s dubious motives and its role as a tool for politically motivated actors.
“It is curious that the first time Dr Okonjo-Iweala is being made aware of a matter filed against her in court is in news reports reporting the delivery of judgment. She has instructed her lawyers to take steps to set aside the judgment as it affects her.”
Why Nigeria was quick to trumpet the Chibok rescue
May 23, 2016 | 0 Comments
By Tomi Oladipo*
After two years of near silence, it was big news this week when the first of the missing Chibok schoolgirls was rescued by army-backed vigilantes.
In the past, the Nigerian military has claimed to have found some of the girls, before backtracking.
After their kidnapping by the militant Islamist group Boko Haram in 2014, the then-Chief of Defense Staff, Alex Badeh, famously insisted the army knew where the girls were and would bring them back soon.
That of course did not happen. Western allies also reportedly complained that Nigeria did not act on intelligence they had provided.
All this criticism might explain why the army would want to show how their operations had resulted in the freedom of one of the group.
Official statements said the freed Chibok Girl had been rescued in a military operation.
But a source told the BBC she said she was found by a vigilante group in a village where she had sought refuge from Boko Haram.
It was from there she was taken into army custody, and the Nigerian government sprung into action.
After being reunited with her family, the girl was handed over to the Borno State government and then flown to the capital, Abuja, to meet President Muhammadu Buhari and appear before the world’s media.
By this time, photos were circulating of her with her four-month-old baby and a man who claimed to be her husband.
Some critics were outraged that she could have found love with a man who could have been one of her captors.
She says the man was a captive who was forced to fight for Boko Haram and was made her husband before he absconded and escaped with her.
Others also questioned why the spotlight needed to be shone on her so soon after her ordeal.
The conversations were soon interrupted by a further announcement from the army – that it had found another Chibok girl.
Coming so soon after the news of the first one, there was seemingly little room to doubt the story.
The army named her and released a photo as proof. But questions soon arose.
The army said she was in her first year of secondary school at the time of her abduction, but it was well known that the girls who had inspired the Bring Back Our Girls campaign had all been final year students.
Representatives of the missing girls’ parents said they did not recognise her and that she was not on their missing list.
They said she was indeed a student at the same school, but Boko Haram seized her at a different time and location.
This raised more questions still because. while 97 women and children were also rescued, it was she who immediately shot into the limelight.
She will most likely now fade into obscurity. The others who were saved remain faceless and will possibly end up in a camp for displaced people.
It appears that despite the progress the military has made in fighting Boko Haram, they realised the world was more interested in the Chibok Girls.
The media has made little of army reports that troops had rescued almost 12,000 abductees from Boko Haram between February and April, including a group of 10,000 refugees stranded near the border with Cameroon.
Those people had no-one to campaign for them.
Has Barack Obama Disappointed Africans?
May 19, 2016 | 0 Comments
BY ADEDEJI ADEMOLA*
Under the terms of the 20th Amendment, U.S. President Barack Obama’s second term as president of the most powerful country in the world ends at noon on January 20, 2017. By this time, one of the main challengers to the “throne” (Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump) will be inaugurated as the 45th president of the United States. But the question on the mind of several observers, particularly in Africa, is whether Obama’s presidency as “son of the soil” yielded any fruit for Africans?
It is instructive to note that the whole of Africa was on the edge in 2008, when Obama won the nomination of the Democratic Party. I remember abandoning classes to watch his speeches and campaigns live on DSTV. At the time, his story was a great motivation for a lot of us African youth that whatever you set your mind on, if you continue working consistently at it, you can achieve it.
Not since the times of the legendary Socrates,Cicero, or Abraham Lincoln had the world seen a more charismatic, powerful speaker, and intelligent leader. For me, there’s no one that can be compared with President Obama in local or international politics. And with the fact that he is a Kenyan biologically, I thought, like many others, that Africa will develop dramatically this time round.
But my expectation was dashed.
During his first term in office, Obama’s engagement with Africa was almost zero. To be fair to him, the whole world was undergoing economic depression when he became the president so he concentrated more on strengthening America’s economy and creating jobs. The stimulus package and other policies promoted were pointers to this fact. Although he traveled to some countries in Africa, it was all talk and less action. But during his second term in office, he was able to muster the courage to get some things done.
Some of the accomplishments President Obama achieved, according to the White House, included the strengthening of democratic institutions in Cote d’ Ivoire, Kenya, Sudan, and more. The administration also supported regional efforts to help countries affected by terrorist groups; launched the Feed the Future Initiative to address root causes of hunger and poverty; responded to humanitarian crises and disasters; promoted trade and investment; launched the Global Climate Change Initiative; Power Africa Initiative; Global Health Initiative; strengthened theAfrican Growth and Opportunity Act; introduced new U.S. initiatives to boost trade and investment opportunities for the least developed countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, among others.
The achievement I found very unique, distinguished, and noble is the President’s Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI). Started in 2010, the program seeks to provide tools to support leadership development, promote entrepreneurship, and connect young leaders with one another and the United States.
Since the program started, more than 2,000 young Africans have been trained in these areas. I have argued in other platforms that until the youths in Africa are trained and prepared to take over the reins of government in the next generation, Africa’s future looks not only bleak but also unsustainable.
This is because youths all over Africa are more interested in their survival only, so they continue to struggle for life. They are far removed from their country’s governance, welfare, or well-being due to the socio-political and economic conditions in several countries on the continent. Thus, if the youth get into leadership unprepared, then Africa is done for.
Unfortunately, considering the large population of youth throughout Africa, which is the largest in the world, the number of youth trained so far in the program is negligible.
It has been said that Obama’s African legacy cannot be compared with that of his predecessor or even former President Bill Clinton who remains a popular figure in Africa. Obama’s last trip to Africa (possibly his last) is nothing compared to the warm welcome received by George W. Bush on his final trip to Africa.
George Bush was treated like a hero. Apart from fighting terrorism across the African region, he fought the HIV/AIDS scourge on the continent like no one, reauthorized the African Growth and Opportunity Act as well as designed the Millennium Challenge Corp. to fight poverty on the continent. As argued by Hussein Hassen in his article “Washington’s Engagement with the Continent Continues To Prioritize Security Over Human Rights and Economic Partnership,” Obama’s two main pet projects (Power Africa and YALI) do not measure up to his predecessor’s bold initiatives. During Obama’s tenure, South Sudan, Libya, and the Central African Republic have become failed states.
What is noticeable is that Obama’s popularity in Africa has diminished. Who talks about him these days?
Still, African leaders as well as her citizens need to realize that no power or force in the world can aid them to development until they themselves show their determination to do so.
African leaders are always looking for some foreign aid, a foreign intervention, or a foreign development model, but the sincerity of the most altruistic foreign leader can never spur any country to development until African leaders themselves drive such vision with ruthless determination.
Whatever Barack Obama has done or not done is left for historians to reconstruct. It is unfair to say he does not cherish Africa or his roots because he does. But it is also unfair to say he helped Africa more than any U.S. president in recent history.
I wish him a wonderful retirement from office in advance.
THE RISE OF A PEACEMAKING CAPITAL, IN AFRICA
May 17, 2016 | 0 Comments
BY LAURA SECORUN PALET*
The Arusha airport looks like a huge souvenir shop with an airstrip attached. Thousands of tourists pass through here on their way to Tanzania’s famed national parks and Mount Kilimanjaro. But what those sunburned visitors may not know is that where their safari starts is where civil wars end.
This sleepy city in the north of Tanzania has been a diplomatic hub since the signing of the Arusha Accords in 1993 ended the war in Rwanda. But now, with civil conflict brewing or in full swing in neighboring Burundi and South Sudan, this neutral city may be the region’s best broker for peace agreements. Over 345 new cases of torture and abuse by security forces have been reported in Burundi since the start of 2016 and experts warn of the violence taking an even darker turn. “We are not there now,” says Alexandre Lévêque, Canada’s high commissioner and envoy to the East African community, “but everybody remembers Rwanda.”
The role of peacemaker is one that Tanzania’s recently elected president John Magufuli is taking seriously. He has appointed a seasoned diplomat as minister of foreign affairs and at the top of his agenda is addressing the violence in Burundi, where the election of President Pierre Nkurunziza to an unconstitutional third term has thrown the East African nation into turmoil. If the Tanzanian official manages to convince Nkurunziza to come to the table, that table will be in Arusha.
Home to a number of crucial institutions, including the East African Court of Justice, Arusha is also where the Burundi civil war ended in 2005 after 12 years — and some 300,000 dead. It was there that the National Liberation Forces, Burundi’s last rebel group, finally signed a deal to stop the fighting, demobilize and be integrated into the national army. Today, nestled among rolling green hills, Arusha moves slowly; save for an occasional four-wheel-drive vehicle rushing tourists to view zebras, the city gives the impression that nothing bad could happen here.
Tanzania has more moral authority than all countries in the area combined, so they are best placed to make peace happen.
Paul Nantulya, Pentagon adviser
But can Arusha — “the Geneva of Africa,” as Bill Clinton once called it — live up to its past image as peacemaker? Part of that depends on the rest of Tanzania. Paul Nantulya, a Pentagon adviser who was part of a peace-based negotiating team in Arusha in 1998, says having morally respected arbiters — the late South African leader Nelson Mandela and Julius Nyerere, Tanzania’s founding father — are key to any peace agreement. “Those accords only happened because of Mandela and Neyrere,” Nantulya says. “Tanzania has more moral authority than all countries in the area combined, so they are best placed to make peace happen.”
Given Tanzania’s neighbors, there isn’t much of an alternative. Kenya has a recent history of electoral violence, and Ugandan and Rwandan leaders have both forsaken term limits — the same issue fueling violence in Burundi. Meanwhile, Tanzania just had a peaceful change of government, and in 2003, when violence threatened Zanzibar, the country managed to negotiate the creation of a “unity government.”
But regional unity is lacking from the Burundi negotiations. During the 2005 Burundi accord, neighboring countries agreed to a severe embargo and to put peacekeeping boots on the ground. Today, Tanzania has to be the one to lead the way to a more coordinated effort. “Tanzania is capable of doing that,” says Hassan B. Jallow, chief prosecutor of the United Nations Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals, from his small office in Arusha. Lévêque says it’s urgent for the country to “step up to its reputation.”
There are many obstacles remaining in the way of President Magufuli playing Switzerland’s role in this heated region. For starters, his party has a long-standing relationship with Burundi’s ruling party, so it finds itself torn between its roles as peacekeeper and ally. And Tanzania’s relationship with some of its neighbors is becoming more strained, says Nantulya. Even if it manages to be the peacemaking arbiter it aims to be, there is no guarantee of success — despite Tanzania’s best efforts to help manage violence in South Sudan after the country’s civil war, the peace accord disintegrated only a few months after its signing.
Near the Arusha airport is the almost empty Mount Meru Hotel. Recently, its sad-looking conference rooms and echoing halls were packed with more than 1,000 well-dressed men and women attending an East African summit. At the top of the agenda? Burundi. Welcoming attendees was a massive photo of Nyerere — the man who brokered the Arusha Accords and who warned, more than half a century ago, “We must either unite now or perish.”
Tanzania purges 10,000 ‘ghost workers’ in anti-corruption drive
May 17, 2016 | 0 Comments
Tanzania has removed more than 10,000 “ghost workers” from its public sector payroll in a crackdown on corruption.
Payments to the non-existent employees had been costing the government more than $2m (£1.4m) a month, according to the prime minister’s office.
The authorities say they are continuing to audit the public payroll and expect to find more phantom workers.
President John Magufuli, who was elected in October, has promised to cut wasteful public expenditure in office.
He ordered the audit in March, calling for the money saved to be used towards development.
Nicknamed the bulldozer, Mr Magufuli has announced a range of cost-cutting measures since coming to power, including cancelling official celebrations for independence day.
Tanzania spends more than $260 million a month paying the salaries of its estimated 550,000 public workers, Reuters news agency reports.
“We intend to have workers in government who are honest, accountable and hardworking. This is our priority and it is a non-stop initiative,” Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa told Tanzanians living in the UK, according to local newspaper The Guardian.
The prime minster was speaking after attending a major anti-corruption summit in the UK capital, London, last week.
Tanzania is ranked 117 out of 167 nations by Transparency International on its perception of corruption index.
Many countries across the continent have been affected by the scam of so-called ghost workers.
In February, the Nigerian government removed 24,000 workers from its payroll after an audit revealed they did not exist.
In September 2014, Kenya began biometrically registering all civil servants after unearthing 12,000 similar cases.
Kenya Leader Says He’ll Seek Second Term to Finish Graft Fight
May 12, 2016 | 0 Comments
By Sarah McGregor*
Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta said he will “definitely” run for a second term in elections next year, seeking to halt corruption and speed up economic growth.
Kenyatta, in an interview published in the Nairobi-based Star newspaper, said that he wants to continue with his reform agenda. The administration made “big strides in a very short period of time,” although the roll out of a new layer of government — with the creation of 47 counties — slowed progress, the leader said.
Kenyatta, 54, joined forced with his one-time rival, Vice President William Ruto, on a joint ticket for the 2013 elections, narrowly defeating opposition candidate Raila Odinga who disputed the result.
The opposition led by Odinga has said public-sector corruption is siphoning off funds that could be used for the country’s development. It says that the proceeds of a more than $2 billion Eurobond sale haven’t been accounted for. The country’s graft watchdog said in January there’s no evidence that any of the money was stolen and recommended an audit of how it was spent.
WHY SENEGAL IS A FITTING PARTNER FOR THE U.S. IN DEFENDING WEST AFRICA
May 7, 2016 | 0 Comments
Emblematic of the growing U.S. defense presence in West Africa is a new defense cooperation agreement signed on May 2 with Senegal.
According to AP, this new agreement updates another that dates from 2001. It provides U.S. access to certain facilities in Senegal and authorizes U.S. forces to make certain physical improvements, as necessary.
There has long been low-key military cooperation between Senegal and the U.S. With respect to democracy, Senegal is an African success story, with credible elections through which the opposition came to power. An overwhelmingly Muslim nation, Senegal is known for its religious tolerance; its first president, one of the 20thcentury’s most celebrated intellectuals, Leopold Senghor, was a Christian. Senegal also is a center for a network of Muslim Sufi brotherhoods that stretch from Dakar to Khartoum. West African Sufi Islam is known for its mysticism, its cult of the saints and its religious tolerance. It is anathema to the radical, jihadist groups such as Boko Haram in Nigeria. Dakar has shown concern about possible penetration by jihadist Islam. Senegal is one of the majority-Muslim West African countries considering the banning of the burqa, the veiling that hides the face of a Muslim woman, that has been used by suicide bombers to hide in crowds. It has already been banned in Chad and according to London’s Daily Telegraph, there is little opposition to its banning in Senegal.
Defense cooperation agreements between the United States and West African countries are not rare; there are more than 60. In terms of political and social developments, Senegal would appear to be a particularly appropriate partner for Washington in the region.
BUHARI TO THE WORLD: HURRY UP AND RETURN NIGERIA’S STOLEN MONEY
May 6, 2016 | 0 Comments
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari is demanding greater international cooperation in returning hundreds of millions of dollars in Nigerian funds hidden abroad.
Buhari was elected in March 2015 on an anti-corruption ticket and has pledged to reclaim billions of dollars allegedly lost to dodgy dealings and mismanagement. The West African oil giant has endured decades of endemic corruption, with state funds being secreted abroad by public figures including ex-military ruler Sani Abacha. The late general, who led Nigeria between 1993 and his death in 1998, is suspected of looting up to $5 billion in public funds during his reign. Switzerland recently agreed to return $321 million Abacha had hidden there, though the former ruler may have stored up to $2.2 billion in European bank accounts.
Nigerians are “becoming impatient” with the process of repatriating stolen public funds, which has “become tedious,” Buhari said on Thursday at a meeting in Abuja with the executive secretary of the United Nations Office for Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Yury Fedotov. “We are looking for more cooperation from the EU, United States, other countries and international institutions to recover the nation’s stolen assets,” said the Nigerian president, specifically mentioning the stolen proceeds from the sale of crude oil. Nigeria is Africa’s biggest oil producer and the sector accounts for more than 90 percent of the value of the country’s exports.
In response, Fedotov said that the UNODC would give Nigeria its support and cooperation in fighting corruption.
As well as the efforts to recoup funds from abroad, the Buhari administration has ordered the country’s anti-corruption agency to investigate scores of retired and serving military officials over alleged arms procurement fraud and has culled thousands of ghost workers from the Nigerian civil service.
A number of high-profile public figures from the previous administration of Goodluck Jonathan have been put on trial, including ex-national security adviser Sambo Dasuki, who is accused of orchestrating the theft of $2 billion in government funds earmarked for fighting Boko Haram. Dasuki denies the charges against him. The opposition People’s Democratic Party has accused Buhari’s government of undertaking a witch hunt against its members.
The grand heist: A perspective from the South on the Panama Papers
May 5, 2016 | 0 Comments
By Sungu Oyoo*
In South Africa, over $60 million was lost through a well-orchestrated fraud from the mineworkers’ death benefits pool. 46,000 widows and orphans lost their benefits in this fraud revealed in the Panama Papers. Can you I imagine the pain of a widow going to claim her husband’s death benefits only to find it all gone? Imagine that this widow has four children and no real source of income. We must resist!
The world woke up to news of the Panama Papers a few weeks ago. The release of the Panama Papers – an information trove comprising about 11.5 million documents leaked from Panamanian law-firm Mossack Fonseca – by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists helped shed light on the shadowy world that is international capital, and cast global attention on underhand financial dealings at international level. These papers have shown us how corporations, governments and individuals in the highest echelons of governments have colluded with their agents who include lawyers, bankers and accountants to create a parallel universe of offshore companies which they use to conceal wealth, evade taxes, perpetuate fraud and hide proceeds of bribery.
Several corporations, global leaders and their associates were adversely mentioned in the Panama Papers. But Panama is just the tip of the iceberg. Imagine the magnitude of financial institutions and governments that would be implicated if humanity knew of happenings in just twenty tax havens in the world.
The media has covered the Panama papers and the 215,000 offshore companies extensively since their emergence into the spotlight. However, most commentaries on the Panama Papers have been focused on financial aspects of the shadowy transactions and the people behind them. But what’s the impact of all this on humanity? Perhaps it’s time you and I had a frank discussion on the impact of these tax havens on our daily lives.
Africa is estimated to lose $50 billion annually to illicit financial flows, according to a 2014 report by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA). This figure is, however, likely to be way higher in actual sense due to a general lack of data and the secretive nature of tax havens. Illicit financial flows are known to inhibit tax collection, and limit the overall ability of governments to provide needs like education, health, housing, and other social services to citizens.
In Uganda, this has happened through evasion of taxes from oil revenue. The Panama Papers reveal how Heritage Oil and Gas Company moved its domicile from Bahamas to Mauritius, which has a double tax treaty with Uganda, so as to evade a tax liability of $400 million. All this happened while hospitals in Uganda were understaffed, faced shortages of medicine and equipment, and had patients sleeping in overcrowded hospital wards. Uganda’s health budget in 2015/2016 stood at 1.2 Trillion shillings – approximately $ 358.2 million – which is less than the $400 million tax evaded by Heritage Oil.
This issue also brings to fore elements of the dependency syndrome. The Ugandan government only financed 45% of its 2015/2016 budget from taxation, and sourced the remaining 55% from foreign aid and loans. This brings to the fore issues of dependency syndrome, the misguided belief that some countries cannot solve their own problems without outside help. Why are some states quick to opt for external financing of their budgets, while allowing multinational corporations to evade taxes?
Perhaps more interesting is the role of these financial institutions in the trade of conflict minerals. What’s the impact of happenings in these tax havens on people who live in regions where conflict has been used to facilitate mineral extraction and plunder? We must not shy away from discussing what the Panama Papers mean for mineral-rich but conflict-ridden countries like Sierra Leonne and the Democratic Republic of Congo. What roles do tax havens, banks and other multinational corporations play in this grand heist? Where do the interests of the state and the interests of capital connect?
International law requires disclosure of origins of gold and other precious minerals by those who trade in them. Rawbank, a commercial bank in the DRC, accepts gold in exchange of services without employing any clear mechanism to verify the source of the gold. 70% of Congo’s gold is alleged to end up in Dubai which refines, then exports it to Switzerland, a tax haven with access to the global market. Switzerland sells gold to the world.
Colonialism robbed Africa of many resources – and acted as one of the main systems on which the growth of capitalism was then anchored. At the end of colonial rule, the empire left a small cabal of petty bourgeoisie who eventually found their way into power or close to power in most African states. This cabal evolved into the political and economic elite of today. This elitist class facilitates the actions of multinational corporations by looking the other way while their states are plundered. In states like the Congo, armed militias have been pitted against one another for decades. Who thrives in this environment of endless wars, and reaps benefits from plunder of minerals? Definitely not the Congolese people.
In South Africa, over $60 million was lost through a well-orchestrated investment fraud from the mineworkers’ death benefits pool. 46,000 South African widows and orphans lost their benefits as a resultant effect of this fraud that was carefully hidden in a plethora of accounts revealed in the Panama Papers. I’m not South African, but I imagine the pain felt by a widow who goes to claim her husband’s death benefits only to find it all gone. Now, imagine this widow has four or more children, and no real source of income. There exists the possibility that she has no rural home to go to because both she and her husband were born into squatter families – dispossessed of land generations ago.
What has all this reduced her to? Probably another statistic to be discussed at international conferences on poverty. Violence comes in many forms – and poverty is one of the greatest forms of violence that can be meted out on a human being. I relate to her situation because the situation of the African person is the same throughout the continent. Individual circumstances in South Africa and in my native Kenya may be different, but the grand structure that facilitates exploitation of people and demeans their being is of one shape – a capitalistic shape.
Having sincere discussions will make us alive to the harsh reality that today’s world is. Many corporations and individuals operate with a brazen sense of impunity because they know they are powerful enough to get away with almost anything. State capture is real. Many states in the global south have been enslaved by the owners of capital, the so-called one-percenters, who place profits before people. People in the global south have, on the other hand, been reduced to mere factors of production.
The level of interaction between the economic elite and the political class has never been more frightening, and paints to a worrying future for us all. Banks are big drivers in all this. Bankers finance the politicians. Politicians help preserve the status quo, and tax havens live on. International criminals will keep doing business until we confront these systems head-on. We must resist!
* Source Pambazuka.Sungu Oyoo is an advocate for economic and social justice in Kenya. Follow him on twitter: @Sungu_Oyoo.
President Kaunda, where is the book?
May 5, 2016 | 0 Comments
Current leaders and the citizens can learn a lot from books authored by previous presidents. Zambia would benefit tremendously from hearing from President Kenneth Kaunda, the founding president who was in power for 27 years. How and why did he make the many momentous and not-so-momentous decisions during his time in office? He owes Zambians explanations.
It is my submission that presidents owe us good governance when they are in office and owe us another obligation when they retire – and that is to explain to the nation the reasons they made certain choices of crucial importance when they were in power. Even if some explanations may be informed by post-facto justifications and not afore-thought decisional predilections, they are still worth more than nothing at all. There are so many questions that require answers concerning the governorship of the most consequential president in Zambian history. This is the president who delivered us from colonialism, the president who stitched the nation together when it could have torn itself into tribal and regional fiefdoms; the Barotse region wanted independence, Nkumbula after being the second leader of the independence party after Lewanika, was sidelined to heading a party centred in Southern Province.
The president put together the most tribally-representative cabinet to date, including well-educated and technocratic ministers; the president built the first university; the first president decided that aiding the liberation movement at great economic and political and other costs to the nation was a worthy goal; the president determined that social spending in health and education was the way to go; he decided that it was a great call to encourage diversification into agriculture by giving cheap loans for fertilizers and agricultural equipment and to build farrows (migelos) to stem soil erosion; that national military service for students built national character; that ‘one Zambia one nation’ should be pursued; that non-alignment in international politics was a safer foreign policy method; that the Tazara Railway line be built by the Chinese and that Zambia become a one-party state; and more than a million other decisions. A lot of questions have been raised. We need answers.
What influenced Dr. Kaunda to make all the crucial decisions indicated above? Why and by what processes? How? Does he regret any one of them? Could he have appointed another minister and not the other one? How and why did he ignore tribal sentiments and how did he handle tribal sentiments? If he were to govern now, what would he do the same or differently?
A lot of former presidents have written books after leaving office. I like the books written by Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton. Ian Smith’s book is a dynamite. De Clerk has written a book. Mandela wrote several books after leaving office. Tony Blair has explained why he did what he did. Fidel Castro’s book is second to none. Obasanjo of Nigeria has several books written by him with the assistance of my former colleague from Canada. Nkrumah is my hero in writing books. And so on.
Current leaders can learn a lot from books authored by previous presidents. The nation of Zambia would benefit tremendously from hearing from President Kaunda. Maybe some of the criticisms about his governorship would be tempered if we heard directly as to why he made certain policies and decisions.
One of the easiest books to write is a presidential memoir. Presidents have daily memo and appointment books. There are minutes written of most things they do. The people they meet, like other presidents, also keep daily official minutes. The president’s life is regimented so it is easy to obtain the information from the diaries which are official and from other official documents. The books of Mandela, Clinton, Carter, Blair and so on clearly indicate that they are derived from official diaries. A president can fill in the gaps. So why not write now, Dr. Kaunda? This is not for personal gratification. It is for the benefit of Zambia. Presidential immunities continue after leaving office, so should the obligation to impart knowledge and experience to Zambia through a book or books.
I also know how easy it is to write from dairies and documents. I penned my book ‘Thoughts Are Free: Prison Experience and Reflections on Law and Politics in General’ (1992) from the existing raw materials and recollections and talking to friends who experienced some events at the same time. A president can have a team of authors or ghost-writers. It is permitted. It is not a secret.
I am reliably informed that President Kaunda has a book but that one of his children is said to have spirited it away and it has not been released. That book if it exists is not a family book. It is a common heritage to Zambia and humankind for their benefit.
President Kaunda will forever remain the most important and consequential leader Zambia ever had, thus he owes us as Zambians, the benefit of the gravitas that enabled him to steer the Zambian ship safe to harbour for 27 years.
West Africans have a saying that when an old man dies, a library burns to the ground. Can you imagine how many millions of libraries burn when a President dies? President Kaunda, where is the book?
* Source Pambazuka. Dr. Munyonzwe Hamalengwa teaches law at Zambian Open University and is the compiler of ‘The Case Against Tribalism in Zambia’. He is also the author of ‘Thoughts Are Free.’
Carlos Lopes: To industrialise, Africa needs strong but smart states
May 2, 2016 | 0 Comments
“Africans have not negotiated well in a number of areas…Who’s fault is it? It’s Africa’s problem and they need to address it.”
African Arguments caught up with the UN Economic Commission for Africa’s Executive Director to talk about economic transformation, what’s holding the continent back, and whether leaders will really take action in the wake of the #PanamaPapers.
In a lot of your work, you emphasise the need for Africa to undergo ‘structural transformation’. What does this mean, and why is industrialisation so important to it?
There is a whole literature about structural transformation, but in practical terms right now in Africa it means moving to higher productivity sectors. We see this happening in three particular areas. Firstly, there’s agricultural productivity, which is at its lowest in Africa yet offers incredible potential for minimising poverty and contributing to industrialisation through agro-processing. Secondly, there’s manufacturing, which requires policies that mimic part of the experience of successful industrialisation processes of the past but are much more adapted to African characteristics. And thirdly, there’s the service sector, which needs to become more integrated into the formal economy.
Industrialisation plays a critical role because it’s more than just the production of processed goods or value addition from natural resources. It’s also an enabler for a rising society and, being a latecomer, Africa can learn from the experiences of others and adjust. For Africa, issues such as the environment, for instance, can be tackled up front.
There are varying verdicts as to how African industrialisation is faring. Some emphasise that manufacturing as a share of Africa’s GDP has almost halved from its 20% level in 1970. But others highlight that manufacturing is increasing at 3.5% a year, faster than the global average. What’s your take?
If you measure it by manufacturing value added, which is the common preferred indicator, then yes it is true that in percentage GDP terms, African manufacturing is stagnating if not falling. But African economies have doubled in the last 15 years, so even if you maintain the same percentage it means a lot more industry has come on board. Moreover, this also doesn’t take into account a number of activities that we can consider industrial but aren’t counted in statistics because of delays in updating national accounts.
Our take is that industrialisation is increasing significantly in some countries, though not across the entire continent, and that we need to accelerate and aggressively.
What’s holding African industrialisation back? Is it insufficient infrastructure? Lack of imagination amongst policymakers? Trade treaties that constrain what governments are able to do?
It’s all of those but the important question is which of those comes first. I think the capacity for comprehensiveness that comes with an industrial policy is what is the most important, because if you tackle the issue from just a specific sector or enabler or dimension, you are never going to get your act together.
The countries that really move and industrialise always have the same recipe: a very strong state hand, but a state that is very smart, a state that is capable of introducing smart protectionism because crude protectionism is no longer available, a state that is capable of identifying the critical enablers like infrastructure, and a state that knows how to fund its policies whether through domestic resource mobilisation or astute borrowing.
In a recent ECA report, the World Trade Organisation (WTO), Bilateral Investment Treaties and Economic Partnership Agreements are painted as significant barriers to African industrialisation. Do these agreements just need tweaking or are they inherently detrimental for Africa?
I think African countries have embarked on signing stuff they shouldn’t sign, but too bad for them. The WTO is a consensus-based mechanism that would allow for stalling, so if Africans don’t get their act together to stall the things that are bad for them, then that’s an African problem not a WTO problem.
I think Africans have not negotiated well in a number of areas. They are not taking advantage of space they already have. And Africans are also distracted by negotiating bilateral trade agreements before they finalise their own. Who’s fault is it? It’s Africa’s problem and they need to address it.
Given enormous global power imbalances, do you think it’s enough for African policymakers to just be slightly smarter and more imaginative under the current system, or do you think there needs to be more fundamental change too?
The moral and political dimension I leave for the media, NGOs, and civil society, though we should certainly give them ammunition so their claims are evidence-based. Where we can really make a difference is in deconstructing some untruths that have long been masquerading as truths. That’s why we’ve been plunging into legislative issues, contract negotiations, and investment and trade treaties to try and have a more informed discussion. We think a lot of space exists in these that Africans are not using. After all, countries that are good negotiators do get a better deal.
In terms of untruths, take this race to the bottom towards zero tax for investors for an example. Does it attract more investors in relation to potential competitors? No. Typically countries that are well organised and structured and that offer investors a package of incentives that are not tax-based are more attractive than ones offering tax incentives.
When it comes to illicit financial flows, through which $50 billion leaves Africa each year according to an ECA report, do you think leaders will seize this moment after the #PanamaPapers to implement real reforms?
There are various dimensions to the debate, but because of Mossack Fonseca we are currently focusing on one dimension: namely tax jurisdictions and how multinationals are taking advantage of different loopholes to move from one jurisdiction to another in order not to pay tax.
Another dimension, however, is the competition amongst financial centres. The City of London, for example, doesn’t want to lose its prominence as one of the leading financial centres of the world. This means that they have to stay ahead of competitors and protect a certain number of very complex legislative dimensions that will appear from a regulatory point of view to be very strong and powerful, but at the same time be lenient where they know competitors could have an edge.
There is certainly now a strong public push for regulators to put a bit of order to things. And I don’t think the rhetoric is hypocritical, but how far they will go and how much political leaders will embrace actual change is another matter.