COVID-19 DRIVES THE IMPLEMENTATION OF TECHNOLOGY IN K-12 SCHOOLS
May 6, 2020 | 0 Comments
By John Nkemnji, Ph.D.*
COVID-19 has forced the implementation of technology and virtual-learning in schools. It has also encouraged creativity and permitted parents to work closely with teachers to support student learning. Life for teachers, students, and parents may never be the same. COVID-19 led to the suspension of classes, the closing of facilities, and converting schools from the preferred method of instruction (face-to-face format) to virtual teaching and learning. Compared to other institutions like transportation, communication, medicine, and entertainment, schools lagged behind when it came to adopting the digital revolution. The main mode of content delivery in schools was to lecture students (seated attentively behind desks,) what they needed to memorize for various tests – weekly, unit, or quarterly. These tests were mostly “paper-and-pencil multiple- choice type” and measured rote memorization (Knowledge) or recall.
In the Bloom’s taxonomy of learning hierarchy, knowledge is the most basic skill as it is the easiest to teach and test. Other skills on the hierarchy, in ascending order, include: Comprehension, Application, Analysis, Synthesis, and Evaluation. Essential skills like critical thinking, clear communication, and application are more advanced stages of the learning scale. Proper use of technology in schools fosters the acquisition of important life skills. Although the first cases of COVID-19 occurred at the end of 2019, the severity of the pandemic was not globally felt until a couple of months later. Once government officials began to understand how deadly COVID-19 could be and how the illness is transmitted, mandated online teaching became instituted to comply with social distancing.
Many schools in the USA as well as in Africa were ill-prepared for genuine change in the implementation of virtual teaching. In some schools, the use of Chromebooks and tablets was not common. The jump in price by “Microsoft and laptops” drove K-12 schools to adopt the less expensive “G-Suite and Chromebooks.” G Suite for Education comes with free Google tools and services. The suite has similar tools to MS Office – Google Docs for word processing, Gmail for communication, Google Slides for presentation, and Google Classroom for content management. These tools are web-based and reside in the Cloud on Google Drive. Google Classroom simplifies creating, distributing, collecting, and grading assignments electronically without the use of paper and pen.
Teachers are doing their best to help students learn with the help of parents working with students in their homes despite different technology skill levels and connectivity capabilities. The bulk of the school activities are pushed to students and their parents. One is reminded of the African saying that “It takes a village to raise a child,” giving this new collaboration in education. It is unfortunate that the federal government has not provided national policies for social distancing. Every state is left to design its own policies. A shout out to teachers who in a matter of days, recalibrated their instruction. They are working tirelessly to stay connected to students and provide instruction. Teachers are among the heroes emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic. Over the last two months, I have consulted and worked with some teachers in the Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD). One of the teachers I worked with, learned and introduced the educational app, Flipgrid, in a creative way and students were able to use Flipgrid to create and post digital videos to the class grip. They collaborate virtually by watching and commenting on the posted videos. They learned the content collaboratively and assessed each-other with beautiful, inciteful comments.
Ideally, teaching with technology would have been part and parcel of the school system where administrators, teachers, and students are adequately trained and equipped in the use of 21st-century learning with technology. In special instances, to satisfy this mandate, a specialized teacher is trained and charged with helping other teachers on technology matters. Few K-12 schools and classrooms have transformed into digital learning environments despite the many advantages of such a transformation. The hope is that this pandemic is an eye-opener and what is hastily launched (alternative teaching with technology) will not perish but flourish when classes return to normal.
Proper administrative role in alternative delivery starts with a clear vision in the district-wide implementation of technology, with professional development release-time, funds, and support for the tools and infrastructure for connectivity and accessibility. Some administrators are requiring teachers to assign schoolwork to students with the expectation that parents will help the students complete the assignments. Teachers are asked to make calls to the students and parents to find out how they are coping with “stay-at-home studies”. Some teachers assign movies either on YouTube channels or through Google Classroom for students to watch. Some teachers carry out organized teleconferences with students. The fact that students are not in school with their classmates can be socially and emotionally difficult. Some stress is to be expected for the rest of the Spring school term. Teachers and parents must practice ongoing empathy, caring, humility, and respect for the young ones whose lives are disrupted by the pandemic.
Some teachers are forced to use low-end technology or no technology at all since about 40 million homes in the USA lack broadband access. If developed countries like the United States are struggling with issues of virtual learning in the wake of a pandemic, one cannot even begin to imagine the challenges that the developing (African) nations are experiencing as they try to implement virtual teaching and learning. As the coronavirus crisis forces schools to grapple with the challenges of virtual learning, many schools are getting creative with traditional forms of instruction that don’t require a fast internet connection or expensive digital devices. The hope is that schools in Africa will follow suit. In a virtual learning environment, TV and radio can be used to disseminate instruction in places with no access or poor internet connectivity.
In today’s digital world, technology is an integral part of students’ daily lives. Whether we refer to them as digital kids, the millennials, or the android generation, today’s students at various levels use assorted gadgets (tablets, cell phones, gaming consoles, iPods, MP3 players, digital Cameras) as tools to make their lives easier, and strengthen their social networks.
As an educator, and especially as an educational technologist, I stand in solidarity with educators struggling to fulfill their duties to the youths in these difficult times. May is Teacher Appreciation Month. My wish is that after a plunge into the beauty of “alternative content delivery with technology” educators with the lead and support from administrators will continue the effective transition into the daily use of appropriate technology to communicate, solve problems, access, manage, integrate, evaluate, and create information. This in turn will improve learning in all subject areas and will lead to lifelong learning and skills for the 21st-century graduate.
- *Dr. John Nkemnji is Professor Emeritus, Educational Technology. He is an educational consultant and a proponent for life-long learning. Prof. Nkemnji is a board member on a number of corporations.
IMF should issue special drawing rights as grants to Africa
May 4, 2020 | 0 Comments
By Thomas Boni Yayi*
Since the start of the Covid-19 health crisis, the global economy has been grounded in one quarter with a likely annual growth forecast of -3% in 2020, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
In Europe, taboos are falling. On March 20, 2020, the European Commission announced an unprecedented suspension of budgetary discipline rules. Ongoing negotiations between heads of state and government over a new stimulus package to prevent economic disaster is estimated to be around €$1 trillion. The European Central Bank (ECB), for its part, in its will to do “everything necessary within the framework of its mandate to help the eurozone to overcome this crisis”, announced €$1 billion in massive assets buyouts in the financial markets throughout 2020.
The United States has responded to the economic devastation caused by the coronavirus with the largest economic relief programme in its history, at $3 trillion. At the same time, the US Federal Reserve (The Fed) has indicated its willingness to buy an essentially unlimited amount of public debt – a very aggressive programme of financial instruments buybacks by the end of 2020 of nearly $3 billion.
With regards to economic solutions adapted to Africa, I think there are essentially two challenges which need to be separated: first, that of mobilizing new resources to finance the response to the virus crisis; then the cancellation of Africa’s debt as part of a strategic partnership without undermining the attractiveness of the continent.
Consequently, I suggest that the IMF, in addition to the first aid package already distributed to some African states, should issue Special Drawing Rights (SDRs), to the tune of €114 billion, which corresponds to the needs of the African continent according to indications provided by the Managing Director of the IMF, Kristalina Georgieva, to enable Africa – whose central banks do not have the same capacity to respond as those of China, the United States or the euro zone – address the negative impact of this health crisis as quickly as possible.
We will either triumph, or perish, together. Therefore, Africa cannot and should not be left on the margins of the various measures supported by central banks in Europe, the Americas or Asia. This IMF assistance, through the issuance of SDRs will be convertible with central banks such as the Fed, the ECB, the Central Bank of Japan and the Central Bank of China, determined to support African states to tackle this COVID-19 crisis. This support will allow the strengthening of the external assets of African central banks whose capacity in relation to their long-term commitment does not cover more than 4 to 5 months of imports.
The overall needs of the African continent can be assessed on the basis of regional economic communities and the use of resources must be done in strict compliance with the good governance prescribed by the African Peer Review Mechanism (MAEP).
These investment requirements relate to the modernisation of hospital infrastructure, precautionary measures, treatment, education and skills’ training of hospital staff, not to mention social protection for citizens, economic recovery, price stability and the reduction of unemployment.
With regards to the cancellation of Africa’s debt, the speed required to manage the economic crisis caused by the coronavirus cannot be hampered by issues that have always aroused the hesitation of the creditor states. While recognizing the correctness of this request and referring to the reluctance of the G20 to stick to the one-year moratoriums on the payment of debt service, I welcome the initiative of the African Union to set up a committee which, in addition to the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, would give impetus to Africa’s request for debt cancellation.
In the 1990s, Africa already benefited from the HIPC (Heavily Indebted Poor Countries) initiative with the cancellation of bilateral and multilateral debt. This initiative cast doubt on the solvency of the continent. This second request for cancellation would probably merit negotiations at three levels: at the level of multilateral institutions, at the level of States and at the level of the private sector.
If this request were to be taken into account, would it not raise some questions at the level of multilateral banks? A cancellation of their receivables will have an impact on their creditworthiness. At the state level, negotiations are possible but it is the same creditors who feed multilateral institutions. The question is whether a country like China, a member of the G20, is prepared to cancel its debt on the continent, which is 40% of Africa’s debt – and about $360 billion. Finally, in the private sector, there is the question of who will reimburse them?
These are obstacles that will take a long time while the treatment of this virus requires speedy action to be taken to contain the human and economic devastation. We will certainly end up with treatment on a case-by-case basis.
In conclusion, I suggest an emergency issuance of Special Drawing Rights for Africa by the IMF, which already involves the main contributors to IMF resources. Only genuinely united and globally coordinated management of this health crisis can save humanity. We are no longer at the stage of making promises. We must stop the mass deaths we witness on a daily basis and revive economic activities.
*Courtesy of Daily Trust.Dr Yayi is former President of the Republic of Benin, former Chairman in Office of West African Economic and Monetary Union, and former President of the African Union-AU
THE VACCINE OF PEACE; RETHINKING THE PANDEMIC OF VIOLENT CONFLICT
April 11, 2020 | 0 Comments
By Rev. Fr. Canice Chinyeaka Enyiaka, Ph.D*
Without any military power, lobbying strategy, international diplomacy, disobedience to border crossing rules, or any form of coercion, COVID-19 has taken over the world stage in the last three months. From the local communities to the international stage, individuals, families, state and non-state actors are scrambling to contain, mitigate and confront a virus that disregards socioeconomic status, atomic and nuclear weapons of war as well as racial differential.
From Wuhan to Berlin, Washington DC to Paris, from Dublin to Abuja, Madrid to Soul, and from Rome to Cape Town, it is a similar story of deafening silence, pain, and confusion. We see a puzzling world that is now frozen and standstill because of a blind virus that doesn’t see the social status of who it visits. We must acknowledge that this invisible enemy has demonstrated that territorial and national borders are critical but cannot exclusively protect us. It has pressed on us that the logic of exclusion and disregard for human dignity as most proponents of nationalism and populism argue cannot secure the future we desire. It has shown us that guns and bombs are not able to protect as we have always thought.
COVID-19 has pushed peoples and nations to the edge, instilled fear, shaken the core of our position of strength. It has exposed our vulnerabilities and the emptiness of the powers we arrogate to ourselves as individuals, peoples, and nations. The virus calls us to rethink global peace and to flatten the curve of violent conflict that plagues the human family. The heroic action of healthcare workers, first responders, and others on the frontline who put their lives on the line across the World to save lives invite us to the basics of “humanity” and “humanness” as we face the present challenges. Without the grocery-store stockers, the healthcare workers, the farmworkers, the first responders, we would be in a more precarious situation by now. The virus has shredded what we call power and might literarily as kings and princes struggle for ventilators with the common man as 1, 475, 676 people are fighting for their lives today with 87, 469 recorded deaths globally.. The mighty now depend on poor farmworkers to have food on their table. We see nature’s comedy play out before us.
The impact of COVID-19 on the collective life of the global community without respecting the territorial integrity of sovereignties and total disregard of border closures remind us of our shared humanity. It reminds us in an unusual way though, that we are ‘one family under God’ irrespective of socially constructed notions of human differential which individuals and groups have used to perpetuate oppression, exploitation and divide over the centuries. The virus is challenging the ideologies of extremism, xenophobia, Islamophobia, and anti-Semitism as it crosses all the lines they drew and have tenaciously protected.
The global pain of the moment is a clarion call to act in solidarity and return to the power of the common good. It calls for the promotion of the underlying human security for all, and to eschew outright reductionist approach to national security to achieve real goals of solidarity and the common good. These times call for the application of the basic human security and solidarity that recognizes that the life of the child in the slums of Yemen is as important as that of the every other person across the globe. The lives of the persecuted Rohingya minority cannot be treated as tools for diplomatic gain.
Mahbub ul Haq (1995) once said that the primary concern of human security is not to stockpile weapons. Instead, it is concerned with human dignity and how it is safeguarded and promoted. In the final analysis, it is about the child who did not die, diseases that did not go around, a strained ethnic relationship that did not erupt, another revolutionary and agitator who was not stopped, a human spirit that was not silenced. Provoked by the ethical concern for the use of resources in development, Mahbub ul Haq questioned governments giving priority of place to armament above the provision of milk for children. He points to the fact that human security issues in a most comprehensive manner are vital to achieving peace and human development as these issues fundamentally pose threats to the dignity of millions of people across the globe. Taylor notes that the above position has put human security at the center of the global discourse on peace. Safeguarding human dignity through solidarity and social security has become more imperative than ever. The global relationship should be guided by human dignity principles as dignity is the bright reflection and expression of every person.
Last month, the UN Secretary-General said, “The fury of the virus illustrates the folly of war”(Guterres, 2020) as he called for a ceasefire in the face of the pandemic. Many member states member states, as well as non-state actors and individuals, including Pope Francis, have endorsed his call for a cease-fire within this period. Parties to the conflict in Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Colombia, Libya, Myanmar, the Philippines, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, Ukraine, and Yemen have all accepted his appeal.
The cease-fire ought to continue beyond the pandemic, and a new paradigm of the ‘vaccine of peace’ should be applied to deal with the epidemic of ‘violent conflict’ across the globe going forward. The desire to amass weapons of war and the investment of commonwealth on military capabilities has grown among the governments of the global community. Military expenditure is given priority over fundamental human security issues in many countries of the world today. We seem to be more prepared for war than for peace, more willing to destroy life than to protect as many countries show a chaotic posture of unpreparedness in the face of coronavirus with stockpiled arms and weapons of war in place.
After World War 1(1914-1918), the global community lost more than 18 million lives. At least about 56 million people died during and immediately after World War 11(1939-1945). The theatrical flexing of muscle and senseless power-rivalry at the inter and intra-state levels has led to millions of deaths in post-World War 11 regions of the globe even after the Nuremberg Tribunal with the concept of ‘never again.’ We continue to see the monstrous genocide and brutal destruction of human life ravaging communities of the World with the superpowers who championed never again supplying the arms and weapons of human destruction for economic gain. We destroy what we ought to protect, and we all become losers.
The folly, agony, and trauma of war extend to women and girls who are raped and sexually violated during conflicts. These women live with the emotional pain of sexual violation for the rest of their lives. Displacements, as we see across the globe today, come with the folly of war. Many children across the world have never experienced a peaceful childhood because every day, the noise of guns and bombs feel their ears, and some have been forced to be child soldiers with adverse effects that will stay very long with them. In different regions of the globe, people are maimed for life as a result of wars while others live in fear and insecurity with attendant hunger and starvation. Different countries are struggling to take care of individuals with post-traumatic stress disorder from war experiences. The folly of war is shown at the level of infrastructural destructions that will take decades to rebuild in many communities across the globe.
All our attention is on the common enemy “COVID-19” .It is the common enemy for Israeli and Palestinian; for Moslems and Christians in Nigeria; for the Buddhists and Muslims in India, etc. and I agree but are we able to learn the lessons the moment is offering us. I argue that a look at the human, economic, social, and environmental destruction caused by the act of war in the last two centuries will show that we are more dangerous enemies to ourselves than COVID-19.
Across the globe, healthcare workers and scientists are working hard to save lives and to find the vaccine for the cure of COVID-19. They are living and renewing the globalization of compassion and seeing everyone in the World as our brothers and sisters. It is the soul of solidarity and commitment to the common good. We have seen a great show of social solidarity and connection in our different communities across the world. COVID-19 which I think is an invitation to use the vaccine of peace to remedy the pandemic of violent conflict in our communities. It invites us to dialogue and proper allocation of resources.
We must remember that, “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, and the hopes of its children. The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities. It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000 population. It is two fine, fully equipped hospitals. It is some fifty miles of concrete pavement. We pay for a single fighter plane with a half million bushels of wheat. We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than 8,000 people”(Eisenhower, 1953). The above words speak us in these times and call for reexamination the use of global resources and the way we manage conflicts. Those words call for a change of paradigm. The paradigm shift ought to focus on engaging the human spirit and time honored values that can secure a peaceful and sustainable human family. It challenges us to properly place our priorities as a global community.
War is the defeat of humanity and it degrades all of us. The vaccine of peace returns us to the infinite dignity of each human person and the recognition that we are embedded in webs of mutual obligation. It is time for world leaders to channel just a fraction of the resources spent on war and military arms towards peacebuilding. Guns and bombs have always failed humanity. It is contradictory and I should say not acceptable that we put all our resources to fight COVID-19 from killing people only to turn around tomorrow and kill ourselves at the battle field. The act of war is the real pandemic and it makes man wolf to man. It is time to commit to applying the ‘vaccine of peace’ to cure the pandemics of violent conflict because “Peace is the only true direction of human progress – and not the tensions caused by ambitious nationalisms, nor conquests by violence, nor repressions which serve as the mainstay for a false civil order” (Paul VI, 1968).we are ‘one family under God’ and the path of peace is not impossible.
*Rev. Fr. Canice Chinyeaka Enyiaka, Ph.D. is Program Development Specialist, Interfaith/Community Outreach at the Global Peace Foundation
Africa’s COVID-19 solution lies in information and not isolation-A look at Hubei vs New York
March 31, 2020 | 0 Comments
By Ben Kazora*
- The black death pandemic is estimated to have killed up to 60% of Europe which was an estimate of 450 million people in the 14th century.
- Today a virus can travel first class on KLM to Africa and infect millions
- In Taiwan, when an infected person leaves their home or turns the phone off the police and local authority will be alerted and the person will be visited within 15 minutes
- The Co-100 app shares when the person tested positive, their nationality, gender and age.
Africa’s Advantage in the war with COVID-19
Interesting to note how the richer nations have been first to succumb to COVID-19 scourge. I believe this is primarily owed to the business and tourism between China and the west. Africa is benefited from late infections and has the advantage of lessons learned from the earlier victims and how the nations have dealt with it. Examining the Asian and European reactions to this pandemic Africa is primed to implement the best of both worlds. To this end, I firmly believe the critical soldiers in this unique battle against the pathogens, are the data scientists in concert with the healthcare workers armed with data. This approach in my view will save the continent millions of lives, jobs and the continents vulnerable economy.
Tale of two localities: Hubei & New York
With only 404 COVID-19 (0.07% of the population) cases Singapore has proven more adept at handling this pandemic than New York. Despite a greater distance from the epicenter (Hubei Province), New York has 2.3 times more cases compared to Singapore, relative to the population. With 81,281 cases out of 1.4 billion people it’s hard to deny that China got it right.
Hubei province with 60M people had 67,801 cases. This infection rate of 0.1% remain less than New York. Wuhan, the COVID-19 epicenter had about two-thirds of all China’s cases is about to lift the lead and resume life as normal. While the western world is grappling with this pandemic, it seems there are many lessons to learn from the east. Given the technological advancements of the west and advances in medicine I couldn’t help but wonder. First off let’s examine previous pandemics.
We have been down this road before
During the 14th to 19th century the world was dealt with the Black Death. This disease that was spread by body lice started in Italy and spread across Europe to France, Spain, Portugal, Scotland, and Scandinavia among others. This pandemic is estimated to have killed up to 60% of Europe which was an estimate of 450 million people in the 14th century.
Like COVID-19 today, the smallpox pandemic was equally class-blind killing the rich and poor alike. This plague is estimated to have decimated close to 30 million Mexicans by 1568 which was way before the arrival of Hernan Cortes. Despite the Spaniards having a superior army, the microscopic ally (smallpox) that Cortes army unwillingly brought from Europe helped take down the Aztec empire. This disease spread along trade routes in Asia, Africa, and Europe, eventually reaching the Americas. Smallpox is estimated to have killed 300 million people in the 20th century alone. It’s also estimate that fatality rate was 30% of those infected.
Wherever it began, the 1918 flu pandemic lasted just 15 months but was the deadliest disease outbreak in human history, killing between 50 million and 100 million people worldwide, according to the most widely cited analysis. The effect of the flu pandemic was so severe that the average life span in the US was depressed by 10 years.
It’s information not isolation
Clearly, without airplanes or cruise ships we have seen diseases spreading from east to west Europe and across continents. This means that closing our boarders isn’t the permanent solution. Germany took in about 50 Italian COVID-19 patients to help with the treatment. German’s gesture speaks to the power of collaboration and sharing of information that has proven to be the best weapon against these pathogen. Sweden has not closed its borders or its schools. Neither has it closed non-essential businesses or banned gatherings of more than two people, like the U.K. and Germany. Sweden has taken the unorthodox approach of simply informing and trusting the citizens.
Sweden’s 10 million strong population has reported 3,700 cases and only 110 deaths, while New York reports about ten times the rates of death and infections while population difference is only double. This phenomenon further shows that isolation isn’t the true solution.
Over the years we have seen doctors win the battle against the pathogens one time too many. The secret lies in the fact that while pathogens rely on blind mutations, the doctors have been armed with the powerful scientific analysis born of information. Third world countries have always struggled to deal with the likes of Ebola due to the non-data driven approach. This present danger posed by COVID-19 presents the third world a chance to examine novel ways of fighting pandemics and epidemics. I will term the information driven approach as the Asia approach.
We have seen time and again that the Asian nations of China, Singapore and Taiwan and others have proven more efficient at handling the pandemic. Africa political philosophies happen to be more aligned with those of Asia than those of the west. In a world where a virus can travel first class on KLM to Africa and infect millions, information becomes the only tool available to combat this. The US strongly adheres to privacy laws and that makes collection of pertinent data much more difficult. Perhaps, it’s time to examine the modification of these laws during such gruesome times. I imagine people are willing to temporarily trade privacy for life.
Data is the most lethal ammunition in this war
In Beijing, “Beijing Cares” app has been integrated into the permeating WeChat app. People under quarantine are made to input their daily temperature and health status into the app. When the isolation period is over, a “healthy status” page is generated, which users can flash at buildings and malls to gain entry. The Chinese government also releases details about patients’ travel history – via text messages on the mobile phone and state-managed websites – so the public can avoid places where the virus was once active.
South Korea took more aggressive steps by deploying a innovative system using data such as surveillance camera footage and credit card transactions of confirmed COVID-19 patients to recreate their movements. Max Kim of the MIT Technology review reported that the Ministry of the Interior and Safety using their Corona-100m (Co100) app, that allows those who have been ordered not to leave home to stay in contact with case workers and report on their progress. The app will also use GPS to keep track of their location to make sure they are not breaking their quarantine. Additionally, the app allows users to see how close they are to places that COVID-19 patients have visited before testing positive. As if that’s not enough, the app also shares when the person tested positive, their nationality, gender and age.
Taiwan went further to implement mobile phone electronic fencing. This location tracking platform ensures that those quarantined remain at home. The primary intent here is to ensure those infected aren’t running around spreading the virus. When one leaves their home or turns the phone off the police and local authority will be alerted and the person will be visited within 15 minutes. Officials also call twice a day to ensure the phone isn’t left at home by the infected person. Fact remains that the virus doesn’t travel from place to place but humans take the virus from one place to another.
Can we sacrifice our privacy to save our lives?
I know the mentioned slants would run afoul of privacy laws in the west. However, this is perhaps the most ideal time for African countries to come up with the Infection Protection Act akin to the German version being modified to deal with COVID-19. MTN group has close to 244 million subscribers while Vodacom has over 110 million. All together close to 750 million people in Africa have cellphones. The solution to the war with COVID-19 and future pandemics hinges on leveraging data and technology to complement the doctor’s efforts. The World Health Organization (WHO), Director-General Tedros Ghebreyesus said “the steps China took to fight the virus at its epicenter were a good way of stopping its spread.” African must act fast and swiftly. This is ultimately a sprint and not a marathon.
Remember that worry is like a rocking chair: It gives you something to do but never gets you anywhere. Instead adhere to the known protocols such as social distancing, washing hands often, cough into your elbows,stay home
There Is No Peace Without Justice, and No Justice Without the Truth
March 24, 2020 | 0 Comments
By Rebecca Tinsley*
Twenty years after her family was murdered in the Rwandan genocide, Claudine (not her real name) faced the killer of her husband and three children in court. She did not expect him to apologize, but she did hope he would reveal where he had buried their bodies. Standing in the dock, his eyes flashing with anger, he exercised his only power: to withhold the truth forever, ensuring Claudine would never get closure.
This week, the United Nations marks the international day for the right to truth concerning gross human rights violations, and the dignity of victims (March 24th). Despite its inelegant name, its purpose is central to the UN’s mandate to promote global peace. History teaches us that conflict is unlikely to end without the acknowledgement that atrocities took place, coupled with the airing of long-lasting grievances. Diplomats might be keen to press on with photo opportunities of handshakes and ceasefire deal signings, but unless the experience of the victims is respected, there is much less chance that peace will last. There is a direct parallel with survivors of sexual abuse: there must be a public recognition that what they were subjected to was wrong.
In January, one of the conditions for restarting the devolved government at Stormont in Northern Ireland, after three years of deadlock, was including a mechanism for truth-telling about crimes that happened during the Troubles, decades ago.
In February, one of the main Sudanese rebel groups refused to support the transitional government of Sudan until the country’s new leaders promised that former president Omar al-Bashir, indicted for genocide, would appear before the International Criminal Court. The rebels maintain that there can be no viable or sustainable peace process without justice, and there can be no justice without the acknowledgement of the atrocities perpetrated against Sudan’s non-Arab ethnic minorities.
As the conflict in the English-speaking regions of Cameroon spirals out of control, its victims are bewildered that the world will not recognize their suffering beyond offering platitudes, or apply concerted pressure on the actors behind the slaughter. More than 3,000 lives have been lost, 656,000 people have fled their homes, and 800,000 children are unable to attend school for nearly four years running. Both the Cameroonian armed forces and the non-state armed separatist groups behave with impunity, posting evidence of their atrocities on social media. In other words, representatives of the international community cannot deny that they know about the disaster unfolding in Cameroon, as they disingenuously claimed during and after the Rwandan genocide.
Both the armed separatist groups and the government vow to keep fighting in Cameroon’s Anglophone regions until they achieve military victory. Anglophone civil society members and moderates, such as the Catholic church, are urging inclusive negotiations to find a sustainable constitutional settlement between the Anglophone minority and the ruling Francophone authorities. Their calls are unheeded, and there is no justice for the villagers whose homes have been destroyed or for the small businesses that have been forced to close.
In five years, will the nations who now stand by as atrocities occur be the ones lecturing Cameroon’s survivors on the need to heal and forgive, as they do in Rwanda? Will they send humanitarian aid, assuming everything can be fixed with food and medical supplies, technology and “trainings”? Will the international community again settle for political stability in the form of a ceasefire, rather than insisting on a genuine and durable peace?
If we wish to avoid the human and financial cost of helping to rebuild another African country suffering from wretched circumstances, then those with influence – the UN, the African Union, the Commonwealth, la Francophonie, and former colonial powers Britain and France – must apply sustained pressure on the Cameroon government to join the separatists at the inclusive talks being hosted by the Swiss-based Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue. Those talks must involve truth-telling about the human rights abuses on all sides to the conflict, and the establishment of justice mechanisms. To move forward and heal the deepening wounds in Cameroonian society, Cameroonians must be able to air and share the pain of this conflict and publicly acknowledge their suffering, and are already discussing the possibility of a future truth, justice and reconciliation commission. To ignore the needs of the victims is to ensure that no peace deal would be worth the paper on which it is printed.
The U.S. is wronging Nigeria and the Energy Industry with Travel Ban
March 11, 2020 | 0 Comments
Tanzania and Nigeria, particularly, are named by Washington as having failed to meet U.S. security and information sharing standards
By NJ Ayuk*
Including Nigeria in the U.S. travel ban is a political and economical mistake for Trump.
It is difficult to come to terms with the United States’ decision to include Nigeria in the extension he made a few weeks ago to the infamous “Muslim Travel Ban”, which already restricted movements of people from Iran, Libya, North Korea, Syria and Yemen. Alongside Nigeria, Tanzania, Myanmar, Eritrea, Sudan and Kyrgyzstan were also added to the list of countries with entry restrictions. Effectively, with the struck of a pen, or a whim, President Trump barred a quarter of the 1.2 billion people living in Africa from applying for residence in the United States.
Officially, the extension made to these nations is based on security concerns. Tanzania and Nigeria, particularly, are named by Washington as having failed to meet U.S. security and information sharing standards. Further, Nigeria is singled out for fears that the country harbors terrorists that could pose risks if they entered the U.S.
Much and more of this is difficult to reconcile with the U.S.-Nigeria long-standing allied relations and particularly with recent programs designed to bring the two nations closer together, but before we go there, let’s look at what the reality shows.
Since 1975, not a single incidence of a Nigerian, or for that case Tanzanian or Eritrean, being involved in a terrorist attack on American soil has been recorded. Boko Haram, the extremist group that has terrorized parts of the North of Nigeria (a region from which few migrants come from) in recent years, has never shown any signs of wanting to expand its territory, much less to open remote branches in North America. In fact, the American and Nigerian forces have worked closely together to address that and other challenges, and the Trump administration itself has recognized Nigeria as an “important strategic partner in the global fight against terrorism.”
Further, while Tanzanians and Eritreans have been excluded from what is known as the green card lottery system, Nigerians have been barred from applying for permanent residence visas in the United States. In 2018, 14 thousand such visas were issued to Nigerians, making it by far the most affected by the ban from all the new entrants to the list.
Beyond the sheer pain that fact must cause to the thousands of Nigerian families that have been waiting for years to be reunited in the U.S., from a security point of view, the decision makes no sense. Only permanent visas have been suspended. Tourist and work visas remain as usual. How does barring access to the most strict and difficult to obtain visas but maintaining the less restrictive short-term ones prevent terrorists from entering the U.S.? It is nonsensical. Even the fact that the announcement of the extension was made by the media before these countries’ authorities were even notified is telling of how lacking in protocol the process seems.
The whole thing is perplexing, but beyond the issues of principle, this decision has the potential to hurt the relations between these countries and the U.S., and when it comes to Nigeria, that risks hurting the U.S. too. Afterall, Nigeria, Africa’s biggest economy, is the U.S.’s second biggest trade partner in sub-Saharan Africa, is Nigeria’s second biggest export destination and is its the biggest source of foreign direct investment. American companies have extensive investments particularly in the energy and mining sectors in Nigeria, which risk being affected by a breakdown in bilateral relations. Some companies, like ExxonMobil, have been operating in the country for nearly 70 years, since even before the country became independent from colonial rule, and Chevron has also been an active and central participant in the country’s oil industry for over forty years. Both these companies are partners in Nigeria’s mid and long-term strategies to curb gas flaring, develop a gas economy, expand oil production, improve its infrastructure network, raise its people out of poverty, etc.
Nigeria and the U.S., under a bilateral trade and investment framework agreement, sustain an annual two-way trade of nearly USD$9 billion. When the president of the U.S. makes a decision like this, it can affect the relations the country and these companies uphold with Nigeria. Further, it directly clashes with the U.S.’s strategy to counter Russia’s and China’s growing influence in Africa by expanding its relations with the continent.
How does closing the door to Africa’s biggest powerhouse accomplish that?
The policy established under the 2019 Prosper Africa initiative, that was designed to double two-way trade between the U.S. and Africa, seems difficult to reconcile with this latest decision. Over the last couple of years, president Trump has made several statements, at varying levels of political correctness, about how he would like to restrict immigration to the U.S. to highly-skilled highly educated-workers. If that is one of the reasons behind the inclusion of Nigeria, again, it fails completely.
Nigerians represent the biggest African community in the U.S., numbering around 350 thousand, and one of the communities with the highest level of education in the US globally. According to the American Migration Policy Institute, 59% of Nigerian immigrants have at least a bachelor’s degree. That is higher than the South Korean community (56%), the Chinese community (51%), the British community (50%) or the German community (38%), and it is tremendously higher than the average for American born citizens (33%).
More than 50% of Nigerians working in the U.S. hold white color management positions, meaning they have access to considerable amounts of disposable income and contribute greatly to the American economy. Those are the immigrants the U.S. wants, the ones that built the American dream! Which only makes this decision ever harder to grasp, unless of course, if we consider that this might have nothing to do with security concerns, and all to do with a populist decision designed to please the president’s most conservative support base as we approach the presidential campaign. If that is the case, then American foreign policy has truly reached a dark age.
From his side, President Buhari’s government has done what is possible to appease the situation, setting up a committee to address the security concerns with U.S. officials and INTERPOL, and restating its commitment to “maintaining productive relations with the United States and its international allies especially on matters of global security”, Femi Adesina the Spokesman for the Nigerian Presidency said.
Last week, the Nigerian government requested the U.S. administration to remove the country from the travel ban, and also announced a reduction in visa application fees for visiting Americans from $180 to $160, in a symbolic gesture meant to reinforce relations between the two nations.
In the meantime, Nigeria’s and other economies risk suffering from this unexplainable decision, and immigrant Nigerians in the U.S. that had been waiting so patiently for the dream of being reunited with their families in the “land of the free” await a resolution for a problem they did not know existed until a month ago.
*NJ Ayuk is Executive Chairman of the African Energy Chamber, CEO of pan-African corporate law conglomerate Centurion Law Group, and the author of several books about the oil and gas industry in Africa, including Billions at Play: The Future of African Energy and Doing Deals.
Benin President Patrice Talon’s Visit To Washington, DC: An Opportunity for a Teaching Moment on Core Democratic Values and Basic Human Rights
January 27, 2020 | 0 Comments
By Omar Arouna*
According to news report from Mediapart Benin, President Patrice Talon started a 4-day visit to Washington, DC (Sunday January 26th to Thursday January 30th 2020), as part of an “economic and strategic mission”.
In the U.S, the Benin Head of State will meet the officials of the International Finance Corporation (IFC) including the Director General, Mr. Phillipe LEHOUEROU; the Vice-President of the World Bank, Mr. Hafez GHANEM; the President of the World Bank, Mr. David MALPASS; the Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, Mrs. Kristalina GEORGIEVA; the Chairman and CEO of Millennium Challenge Corporation, Mr. Sean CAIRNCROSS; the Secretary of State, Mr. Mike POMPEO; and Beninese working at the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank in Washington DC.
It would be remiss of me if I did not remind my American sisters, brothers, friends, the Africanist community in Washington DC, as well as the president’s official hosts that Benin Republic, a country once dubbed the cradle of Democracy in Africa, is now an autocracy under the dictatorship of Patrice Talon. Benin is now:
- a country where basic human rights no longer exist and terror subsists;
- a country where dissenting voices are systematically tracked, repressed, jailed and/or exiled;
- a country where the last elections were non-inclusive and repressed in blood;
- a country where all 83 People’s Representatives in Parliament were appointed by the president;
- a country where the Army is ordered to shoot with live bullets at peaceful demonstrators;
- a country where journalists are silenced and jailed for practicing their craft;
- a country where privately owned or independent media, television and radio stations, newspapers critical to the government are outlawed and systematically shut down;
- a country where internet is systematically shut down during elections;
- a country where social media users and web activists are systematically tracked and jailed;
- a country where the constitution was changed on Halloween night without due process;
- a country where the separation of powers no longer exists and all three branches of government are under the sole control of the president;
- a country no longer investing in its people, no longer ruled justly and lacking economic and democratic freedom.
To simply quote the January 24th 2020 tweet from Ambassador Herman “Hank” Cohen a former U.S Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs in the President George W. H Bush Administration, “This marks the official end of Africa’s first Multiparty democracy and the Beginning of the Talon’s fascist regime.”
We hope and strongly believe that the visit could serve as a teaching moment in educating president Patrice Talon on core democratic values of sanctity of life, freedom of speech, truth in governance, justice, liberty, diversity, pursuit of happiness, common good, popular sovereignty and patriotism.
We would like to call upon Secretary Pompeo, the U.S Administration, U.S Congress and selected hosts, to challenge their visitor on the urgency of restoring democracy in Benin by organizing inclusive legislative elections with the participation of all political parties as well as bringing swiftly to justice sponsors and authors of the April, May and June, 2019 post electoral killing by the country’s armed forces.
*Former Benin Ambassador to the U.S
Of victors and vanquished: Biafra, 50 years after
January 10, 2020 | 0 Comments
By Chido Onumah*
January 15 marks the 50th anniversary of the end of the Nigerian Civil War and the official end of the short-lived Republic of Biafra. It is unlikely there will be any national event to mark the occasion other than the annual Remembrance Day ritual which has become nothing but a cash cow for those involved in organizing the ceremony. But the civil war was not only a defining moment for Nigeria, it has continued to define the country. As Prof. Yakubu Ochefu notes in the introduction to the 2013 book, Nigeria is Negotiable, “The corporate existence of the country has been tested twice. It was formally broken once (1967-70) and pronounced broken once (April 1990). It took a horrible civil war to restore the entity when it was broken and an equally brutal attempted coup when it was pronounced.”
Fifty years after the end of the civil war, what lessons have we learnt as a nation? It appears not much. At the end of the war in January 1970, when the remnants of the Biafra high command signed the article of surrender, the victors, the “Federal forces” proclaimed, “No victors, No vanquished.” Unfortunately, 50 years after, it has become evident that the cheque of “No victors, No vanquished” issued in 1970 is not cashable. The debate is still raging whether the war was necessary and if the region that became known as Biafra had a moral right to secede.
Answers vary depending on who is responding. But one thing is certain. That war was preventable if only the government of the day led by Yakubu Gowon was intent on presiding over a country built on justice and equity. Here is Gowon—quoted in The Man Died, the prison notes of Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka—not only appeasing the génocidaires but proclaiming a divine right to rule—a right that has become the refrain of the relics of the born-to-rule ideologues: “Fellow Northerners, Today, I want to direct this appeal specifically to you all…You all know that since the end of July, God, in his power, has entrusted the responsibility of this great country of ours, Nigeria, to the hands of another Northerner…Since January this year, when some soldiers put our country into confusion by killing our leaders, both political and military, the country has not recovered fully from that confusion. The sadness caused in people’s minds by the January event has led to troubles by civilians in the North in May, causing loss of lives. I receive complaint daily that up to now, Easterners living in the North are being killed and molested, their property looted. I am very unhappy about this. We would put a stop to these. It appears that it is going beyond reason to the point of recklessness and irresponsibility…” That was Gowon as head of state in October 1966, nine months before the civil war began in July 1967.
Fifty years after, those who still live with the victors’ mentality that because a people were “defeated” in a civil war, they should perpetually stay under have remained in control of the country. Looking back, it appears the vanquished have not paid the full price—whatever that is—for daring to test the supposedly divinely ordained and non-negotiable corporate existence of the country. A little example will suffice. On Sunday, September 29, 2019, I arrived the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport wearing a T-shirt with the inscription, “We Are All Biafrans,” the title of my book first published in May 2016, later updated, and republished in November 2018. I was arrested by officers of the State Security Service (SSS) and detained for more than six hours, first at their office at the airport and later at their headquarters in the Aso Drive area of Abuja. The first question I was asked at the airport was, “You are a Biafran, how come you have a Nigerian passport?” I am not aware there is a sovereign nation called Biafra and I made that known to my interrogators.
That question was not altogether surprising but coming from what is supposed to be the nation’s elite intelligence agency, it struck me that we were in a deeper mess than I had imagined. We can play the ostrich as much as we want, but the truth is that the division that precipitated and characterized the civil war looms large. We will be deluding ourselves to think for once that the civil war is over. Everywhere you turn in Nigeria, the angst, fear and loathing that were the hallmark of the civil war impose themselves. Fifty years after the end of the civil war, we have expanded the scope of the vanquished. Our country is as divided, if not more divided, as it was at the beginning of the war in 1967.
Today, the chickens of impunity and injustice have come home to roost. Yesterday’s men who supervised this tragedy in its infancy are today looking for an easy way out. In 1996, exactly three decades after he became head of state, Yakubu Gowon, with the permission of then murderous dictator, Sani Abacha, set up “Nigeria Prays” “to put an end to the various problems plaguing Nigeria.” I am not averse to prayers, but we cannot pray our way out of the current mess whose origin goes back to more than five decades. In what looked like a bitter homecoming, the other retired general, the billionaire businessman, Theophilus Danjuma, who was front and centre in Ibadan in July 1966 when Nigeria’s second coup took place, was in the ancient city again in December 2019. This time, in a sombre mood, he told a bewildered audience: “If I tell you what I know that is happening in Nigeria today, you will no longer sleep.” This catharsis which ought to be a mea culpa came on the heels of his earlier statement describing the Nigerian Army as an army of occupation. All I can say is, speak, general, speak! Say what you know. The country needs to reconcile its past with the present.
As part of the healing, on Monday, January 13, there will be a “Never Again” conference in Lagos to mark the 50th anniversary of the end of the civil war. Organized by Nzuko Umunna, a pan Igbo socio-cultural group comprising Igbo professionals both at home and in the Diaspora and Ndigbo Lagos in collaboration with civil society organizations, the aim of the conference is to address the “seeming lack of political will towards a robust and focused interrogation of the civil war, its causes, and hard lessons.”
The January 13 conference is aptly named “Never Again.” It is going to be a tall order because remembrance entails an appreciation of history, that is, where it exists. Today, there is no official history of the Nigerian Civil War, not even from the “victors.” Last year, I attended the public presentation of the book, Elections in Nigeria: The Long Road to Democracy by Prof Shehu AbdullahiY. Shehu. Both retired generals, Olusegun Obasanjo, a civil war commander, and Yakubu Gowon were at the event. Obasanjo joked about how his boss, Gowon, set up a high-powered committee at the end of the civil war in 1970 to write the history of the war. By the time Gowon was overthrown by Murtala Muhammed and his cohorts, which incidentally included Obasanjo, on July 29, 1975, not a single line had been written. The audience erupted in laughter. That is the tragedy of Nigeria!
Nigeria can still redeem itself. It has been 50 years since we proclaimed, “No Victors, No Vanquished.” It is time to truly end the war; and it is not just the war against Biafra, as Soyinka noted, but that against the millions of duped and dispossessed citizens. That is the only way we can avert another war!
*Onumah is author of We Are All Biafrans, A Participant-Observer’s Interventions in a Country Sleepwalking to Disaster.
Opinion: Extreme events are reversing development goals
January 10, 2020 | 0 Comments
By Patricia Scotland*
Cyclones in the Caribbean and Pacific, devastating bushfires in Australia, recurrent floods and droughts in Asia and Africa, increasingly bring tragic loss of life to our nations and communities, inflicting physical and mental trauma on survivors, and causing irreparable damage to centuries old ways of life and undermining prospects for future prosperity and growth.
The current bushfires in Australia have been among the most distressing manifestations, leading the government to declare a state of emergency. The total cost to the economy of the bushfires with which Australia is grappling seems likely to run into billions of dollars. Continuous drying of undergrowth creates optimal conditions for bushfires, leading to tragic loss of human lives and destruction of infrastructure. There is devastating impact on the precious biodiversity of flora and fauna, threatening drastically to affect the ecology of the region. Heightened levels of air pollution in the affected and adjoining regions are having adverse impacts on the respiratory health of scores of people.
Such extreme events are occurring with rising frequency, destroying the means of livelihood for millions people in Commonwealth countries, increasing vulnerability and reducing resilience. The Commonwealth collectively recognises that without well-planned and integrated national and international action, natural disasters and extreme events will continue to challenge the resilience of affected communities and smaller countries. The Commonwealth Secretariat is working alongside member nations to protect the environmental health of fragile and susceptible ecosystems, including through increased national preparedness for tackling natural disasters and mobilising resources.
For the arid and drought-prone member countries, which are highly vulnerable to dryness and bushfires, the Commonwealth provides support for governments to develop projects on sustainable and resilient landscape management, with the Commonwealth Climate Finance Access Hub (CCFAH) helping to unlock necessary financial resources. Similarly, by pooling information into a streamlined platform for better and more convenient access to information, the Commonwealth Disaster Risk Finance Portal currently in development will help countries find suitable sources of finance and support to deal with disasters.
On behalf of citizens of all Commonwealth countries, I express my heartfelt condolences to all families and communities who have lost loved ones in the tragic events of recent days. I commend the courage and commitment of firefighters, emergency service personnel and all others who are battling to rescue and protect people and property, wildlife and natural resources, or human infrastructure. In these testing times, the wider Commonwealth family stands in solidarity alongside the Government and people of Australia.
* The Rht Hon Patricia Scotland is the Commonwealth Secretary-General
Djibouti:The Republic is still waiting for its prodigal sons and daughters
December 29, 2019 | 0 Comments
By Kadar Abdi Ibrahim
“Nothing is more dangerous than authority in the hands of those who don’t know how to use it.” Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Thoughts of a right mind.
One could not talk politics without understanding it. Practicing it has never been easy. Even less so in a country where an iron-fisted dictator reigns. Because, simply put, politics is contingent. Ever changing. Because leaders, whether real or fake, perpetually find themselves facing new situations that are, at least partly, unpredictable. Who would have imagined that Djibouti would find itself isolated in the Horn of Africa, amidst this upheaval where deep forces are at play? Clearly, it is unstable. Manifestly, cruel. Assuredly, incredulous.
Within this context, Djibouti cannot be run by men who lack strong convictions and who, from the outset, don’t have the stature of charismatic leaders, men who have been driven, in the “statepartisan-clan-like” structurization of current political life, to make arcane decisions for the nation. This is what the German Sociologist, Max Weber, described perfectly, using a German expression that has since become famous, “the rise of the BERUFSPOLITIKER OHNE BERUF”, illustrating the arrival of “professional politicians, with neither vocation, nor conviction,” in his founding work of modern sociology, “The Protestant Work Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism.”
This, in large part, explains the composition of Djibouti’s current government, in which it has become possible for people to take advantage of their situation, by virtue of their political control and impunity, each in their own way, with their own 15 minutes of fame. This also explains the composition of the National Assembly, where people are chosen based on their servility and obedience, in sum, their ability to not rankle the volition of those above. Finally, this explains that, for some, pedigree alone is enough to take on senior roles that are far above their level of competence.
This is why this country needs men that will take it out of its conventional paths, who are capable of shaking up established order to understand the reality of the conditions that surround them and to feel the corresponding impulses in a great moment of unity. In other words, men of character, instinct and unity.
All politicians provoke controversies. The demands on them are heterogenous. Some, tribal. Or communitarian. Others national or financial. The charismatic leader must incorporate them and transform them into a collective demand – a shared passion – embodying this as his identity. He will be, in empirical terms, the representation. Starting from there, a double vertical movement begins, which he must make endure: “From the represented to representation and from representation to the represented”. Unifying is he.
The little dictator entertains. He upholds splits and divisions. He ensures instability. His irresponsibility is too often glaring. Blocking anything time sensitive, he can’t stop wavering between projects, constantly being tugged this way or that. His signature, changing sides. The little dictator rules by tricks and by force. By lying and by falsehoods. Lacking a homogeneous perception of the population, he cannot reign over a population that grows larger and more diverse. Sectarian is he.
Effusion, the true leader doesn’t know it. Nor narcissistic fever. The same with ostentatious rewards. Controversy and its hype, he confronts them: “Difficulty attracts the man of character, because it is through his embrace of it that he fulfills his true potential,” Charles de Gaulle taught us in “War Memoirs.” In the face of events, the man of character leaves his trace. The leader navigates between dreams and reality. Between meticulous logic and sheer madness. Obeyed and followed is he.
The little dictator, lacking confidence, needs to surround himself by a press and a group of people who laud him, who devote themselves to his personality cult and who build his hagiography. With a desire to please, he grants them everything they want. His integrity. His honor. Unable to answer to his responsibilities, more often than not, he runs off. Taking risks is never his business. Nor taking initiatives. In the little that he undertakes, he mixes indecency and buffoonery. Through restlessness, he makes it appear to himself and to others that he has influence on events. Without prestige and without resiliency is he.
Instinct, a natural strength in a true leader, gives him illuminated judgements, the logical series of next steps to be taken. It precedes, as part of its conception, each decision. It is thanks to instinct that he firmly grasps the deep reality surrounding him. He senses everything. This intuition, which bestows command upon the leader, is it not what Gustave Flaubert talk about in “Salammbô,” when he described Hannibal as a teenager, already carrying the traces of “the indefinable splendour of those who are destined to great enterprises”? All the great men who have marked history are endowed with this. Is it not what Alexander the Great called, more commonly, “his hope”? Caesar, “his fortune”? Napoleon, “his star”?
The leader who is thus carried by these three (3) personal qualities: character, instinct and the ability to unify, has in his possession a certain voice quality. Words that are capable of moving, of carrying, of galvanizing and of convincing, not simply with rhetorical and communicational methods, as we often see on Facebook, but because through it we hear a voice lifted by the spirit, something that one can barely make out, only through the eyes of authenticity and the angle of conviction. Thus, does this voice not phenomenalize these three ferments and does it not produce persuasion ?
Until today, this country has only had little dictators, not applying themselves to prescribe what has not been prescribed by higher authority. As much in the majority, as in the opposition. With the exception of the rare personalities who never had the opportunity to do their work. Namely, the regrettable Ahmed Dini. In this vein, Raymond Aron, in his “Introduction to Weber,” summarizes in a striking formula the great distinctive traits of a leader in writing: “Man obeys leaders that custom sanctions, that reason shows, that enthusiasm lifts above all others.” In other words: tradition, rationality and charisma.
Over 41 years after our independence, the Republic is still waiting for its prodigal sons and daughters!
* Kadar Abdi Ibrahim is a freelance Journalist, former University Professor, human rights defender and currently Secretary General of the MoDeL party.
Africa: Addressing the Soaring Refugee Crisis
December 27, 2019 | 0 Comments
By Jude Mutah *
Over the years, Africa has witnessed a surge in refugees, and internally displaced persons (IDPs) caused primarily by increased conflicts and persecution by dictatorial regimes. According to UNHCR, over 18 million people on the African continent have vacated their homes either due to conflict or persecution by brutal governments. This is exclusive of the about 50% that seek refuge with family members in the communities. In recent times, the number of fleeing Africans have soared in part because of the crisis in Nigeria, Central African Republic, South Sudan, Burundi, and DR Congo. It is also crucial to mention the ongoing armed separatist conflict in Cameroon that has displaced millions and exiled hundreds of thousands across the continent and beyond. The refugee crisis in Africa is critical, and warranted the African Union to designate 2019 as the year of the refugee, IDP, and returnees with the ultimate goal to encourage durable solutions to involuntary displacement in Africa.
The 1951 refugee convention:
The 1951 refugee convention is a revered instrument signed by over 140 countries. Its core principle of non-refoulment proclaims that a refugee should not be returned to a country where they fear severe threats to their life or freedom based on factors such as “race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion.” Except for Libya, all African countries are signatories to the convention and its 1967 protocol. The uniqueness of the 1951 agreement lies in the fact that it guarantees, in principle, that refugees are not repatriated to the countries from which they fled. While this is stupendous, refugees in Africa continually confront daunting challenges in destination countries.
There are well-documented cases or instances in Africa, whereby the terminus countries have repatriated refugees. In cases in which they are not returned, the refugees are either mistreated or face severe reintegration challenges in the destination countries. For example, in January 2019, Cameroonian authorities compulsorily repatriated some 9,000 Nigerian refugees who fled attacks by militants in Nigeria. In the same vein, the Nigerian government, in January 2018, repatriated to Cameroon, ten separatist leaders who had sought asylum in Nigeria. In 2017, CNN released a groundbreaking report of migrant slave auctions in Libya, and according to a 2007 report by the Human Rights Watch, South African officials have not only arrested and deported undocumented migrant workers, but often assaulted and extorted money from them, and commercial agriculturalists, for example, that employs them regularly violated their fundamental work rights. In June 2019, UNHCR secured the release of about 100 refugees held under deplorable human conditions in the Zintan detention center in Tripoli, Libya. Refugees mostly lack access to healthcare, water, food, education, employment, and live in crowded refugee camps. Despite these challenges and with meager resources, a few countries in Africa continue to welcome, accommodate, and reintegrate refugees from across the continent.
Efforts by African countries to support their refugees:
There are a few African countries that have welcomed refugees from across the continent. For example, Ethiopia has an open-door policy that embraces and permits humanitarian admittance and protection for refugees. It is home to nearly 740,000 refugees fleeing crisis primarily from Somalia, Eritrea, Sudan, and South Sudan. That figure is the most massive refugee populace in a single African nation. Uganda, on the other hand, has a generous refugee law that not only welcomes refugees but provides them with opportunities to start anew. Refugees in Uganda and Tanzania enjoy free movement, employment opportunities, and land to build a new home or begin farming activities. Over 500,000 refugees from Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan have happily settled in Uganda. In 2018 alone, about 815,000 Congolese fled the country and some found refuge in these countries. Zambia and Guinea Bissau, offer naturalization status to long-term refugees. However, these countries represent less than 1% of the 54 countries in Africa. To address the refugee crisis on the continent, more must be done.
The way forward:
To adequately address the refugee crisis, more African countries must initiate policies that welcome and reintegrate refugees from across the continent. In conformity with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi, refugees are skillful, with great ideas, aspirations, and dreams for a better future. These fleeing individuals are also resilient and imaginative, with robust energy and drive to shape their destinies. They should be given a chance in terms of education, employment opportunities, and safety, among others. As former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon posits, “Refugees have been deprived of their homes, but they must not be deprived of their futures.” It is incumbent for the African Union to ensure that African refugees don’t get deprived of their future.
Also, there should be adequate coordination between the source and the destination countries. It may be fair to say that policies be initiated and implemented that mandates the source country to contribute to the wellbeing of the refugees in the destination. Perhaps, this will go along way to compel the source countries to address the underlying factors that generate refugees and IDPs such as poor governance, which the Kampala Convention strives to address. It is incumbent on African countries to sign, ratify, and ensure the adequate implementation of the agreement which this far been signed by 40 and approved by only 25 of the 54 member states of the African Union. Echoing former US President Barack Obama, “refugee crisis is a test of our common humanity,” and we must work together to prevent or mitigate its effects on involuntary migrants.
*Jude Mutah works for the United States Institute of Peace’s Africa Program in Washington, DC. He is a Ph.D. student of Global Affairs and Human Security, University of Baltimore. The views expressed are his.
Considerations for School Choice at the K-12 Level
December 3, 2019 | 0 Comments
By John Nkemnji, Ph.D*
At the beginning of each school year, parents and guardians enroll their children in a K-12 school: public, private, religious,magnet, chartered, or online school. K-12 schools can be divided into three levels (elementary, middle and high school). Children under the age of 18 are mandated by the state to enroll and complete high school or obtain a GED. Educational institutions in the USA fall into two general categories: private and public. Private schools are usually for-profit, and public schools are covered by local, state, and federal funds. Regardless of the type of school, each state provides regulations and standards that must be followed. This paper examines why some parents prefer to enroll their children in private institutions (which are typically costly) over neighborhood public schools (which are relatively inexpensive).
It is often assumed that attending private schools leads to better outcomes in comparison to receiving public school education. However, research/available information does not support this claim. Since state assessments are used to measure academic attainment and growth in student proficiency, the curriculum of private schools and public schools are the same. Therefore, any differences in outcomes stem from other variables and not curriculum.
Some reasons why parents may prefer private schools over public schools pertain to school building maintenance, specialized instructional support staff, low student-teacher class size ratio, and religious affiliations. The higher cost of tuition that comes with private schools also entails well-maintained buildings and specialized instructional support staff (e.g. guidance counselors, social workers, school psychologists, school nurses, language and technology experts). If a classroom has a high student-teacher ratio, it results in students receiving less personal attention from teachers. Large class sizes may also present discipline problems and make it difficult to control problems like bullying. The ideal class size for the primary to high school age population is 20 students or less.
Most immigrant parents (especially from developing countries) do everything in their power to give their children a good education in the USA, in an attempt to narrow the achievement gap. Some parents fear that if their children do not go to or succeed in college it may be because of a poor educational foundation. They place a high value on good education and do not want to take chances.
The advantages of enrolling children in public schools are location, cost, and keeping children in a familiar environment. Neighborhood public schools are in closer proximity to a family’s home and result in a shorter commute time to get to school. Given the public schools are funded by the government, the financial burden on parents is minimal. The amount of money that can be saved by choosing public schools may result in parents having the ability to spend more time with their children at home. It is essential to balance the time spent at work with time spent with your child/children at home. Assistance at home with school related activities like reading and writing and quality time with parents and family eliminates the hefty school expenditure in private schools. Children’s academic results are determined by the expectations set by themselves, their parents, and the schools. Children have a better opportunity to achieve their goals if parents are active participants in their lives, school assignments, and their welfare.
Additionally, the student demographics in a neighborhood school will reflect the demographics that students are exposed to within their community. This lessens the chance of being put in an unfamiliar environment and potentially having difficulty integrating into the new environment.
Some schools have a history of crimes related to the use of alcohol, illicit drugs and firearms. Parents strive to avoid such school. One disadvantage that may be associated with public schools is that not all public schools offer specialized programs. Parents may wish to have their children in STEM programs, bilingual emersion programs or other programs like gifted and talented, special education, band, choir, sports, after-school activities, and others.
As discussed, it is not the type of school that determines/dictates better outcomes. All things being equal, there is no significant achievement discrepancy for students in private schools over those who attend public schools. Rather, low student-teacher ratios, available school resources, parental support/involvement, socioeconomic/racial background, and school environments that cater to the needs of the students are the determining factors that impact a student’s performance in school. Schools not only prepare students academically, but the content they learn and how they learn help prepare them for life.
Proper afterschool followup of homework and social activities should be provided by parents and adults whether the children attend public schools or private schools. Children should be monitored and not allowed to use electronic toys, tablets, or computers endlessly. These tools cannot substitute parental or adult supervision. The extra time spent at work (sometimes on two jobs) to raise funds to support an expensive private education could be more useful if such time and effort were spent with the children on after-school educational tasks. It is only for very specialized academic programs that an expensive school choice makes sense. Such a choice will ensure that the school embodies a culturally responsive, inclusive, sound physical, emotional, and social safety of the students. Demographics, class size, teacher preparation, discipline and location, and safety, play a role in school choice. Most schools are accredited and held accountable by the accrediting agency (private or public) for effective learning. This paper does not extend its conclusions to school choice issues beyond the K-12 cycle (college education issues). School choice for a college career requires a different type of analysis, especially given the fact that financial disparity is not usually much.
*John Nkemnji is Professor Emeritus, Educational Technology. He has family both in public and private K-12 schools.
NJ Ayuk: Stop giving us aid, it’s killing us!
November 22, 2019 | 0 Comments
Africa needs long-established support
JOHANNESBURG, South Africa, November 21, 2019/ — Looking at Africa and only pushing for aid is not in the interest of the everyday Africans. It is about the egos of the elites and latte intellectuals who believe they have the solutions to why the continent is still poor.
As Africa’s population and economies surge, greater opportunities for development are presented, societies change, and the aspirations of everyday Africans are increasingly requiring urgent attention.
On the other hand, Germany’s energy transition anticipates a vastly more efficient and interconnected energy system in the future, one that I believe, young African technology entrepreneurs can certainly learn from and accelerate the growth of the energy sector.
With technology start-ups with the intention to build sustainable power solutions emerging across the continent particularly in the power sector, Germany can look to this market on how it can invest in Africa while providing energy and technology solutions and African entrepreneurs can embrace German products in reshaping and restructuring African energy economies.
While the economies of some countries on our continent have grown considerably in recent years, particularly as a result of energy sector developments, economic diversification and sustained foreign investments, there is still no denying that Africa still has a long way to go.
With this comes the question of how will Africa achieve prosperity? The answer – not with monetary aid.
In my book, Billions at Play: The Future of African Energy and Doing Deals, I examine the topic of foreign aid as a solution to Africa’s problems in great detail because for too long, well-meaning foreign entities have stepped in to provide us aid, and in doing so have inadvertently stepped on our toes. This, considering that donor nations and foreign institutions do not sufficiently understand what we need and how we operate.
Aid is not a solution for Africa.
Africa needs long-established support. We need skills development, key infrastructure, sustainable and enabling environments that drive results and, we need to build vibrant energy economies that will bring long-lasting change that is beneficial to the everyday African woman and man.
Determined to promote cooperation with Africa, increase investment on the continent and help improve standards of living, the 2019 G20 Compact with Africa Summit kicked off in Berlin this week. I believe this initiative led by Chancellor Angela Merkel can work and can be beneficial to both Africa and Germany. However, Germany (and other foreign countries looking at the continent) need to understand that Africa is a true partner for development and in addition to relationship-building with governments, African businesses also need to be engaged. They are also key in driving development.
We have to move beyond aid.
As Africa emerges and takes its place on the global stage, it not only stands to benefit from its relationship with Germany but can contribute to Western Europe’s objectives, as presented by the Compact with Africa Summit.
With the continent having nearly 600 million people without access to electricity, Africa’s challenges seem insurmountable – especially given the amount of opportunities and fast-tracked development access to electricity can unlock. But there is hope. With a number of African nations developing and launching large scale renewable energy projects, countries such as Equatorial Guinea, Senegal and Mozambique championing gas developments and launching world-class projects, the continent is resolute on transforming and diversifying its energy mix, proving that it is a worthy partner, particularly for Germany.
Earlier this year, the Germany Africa Business Forum (GABF) announced its multi-million Euro funding commitment to invest in Germany energy start-ups that focus on Africa. This commitment pledged funds to German start-ups with exposure to African energy projects. The role that such German companies from the private sector can play for Africa is increasingly coming to light. German companies ESC Engineers and Noordtec for instance collaborated with Equatorial Guinea’s Elite Construcciones on the Akonikien project – the region’s first liquefied natural gas (LNG) storage and regasification plant.
Forming part of the government-led LNG2Africa initiative, the project advanced the nation’s efforts to monetize gas resources through the creation of domestic gas-to-power infrastructure, a sector which presents major opportunities for the private sector all across Africa. This is a true example of German’s expertise serving Africa’s best interests.
On Tuesday, Chancellor Angela Merkel said she saw the investment in Africa’s growth and development as a “win-win” and encouraged that instead of talking about Africa, “we should do everything we can to cooperate with Africa.”
I agree with this view, the continent has a lot to offer and collaboration is critical for Africa’s future. We do not need quick fixes, we need capital and technology that are supported by hard work, due diligence and solid execution in order to have an impact. We can only achieve this through recognition and collaboration, not with the same old strategies of proving aid that has not been very useful.
*NJ Ayuk is the CEO of Centurion Law Group and the Executive Chairman of the African Energy Chamber. His experience negotiating oil and gas deals has given him an expert’s grasp of Africa’s energy landscape. He is the author of “Billions at Play: The Future of African Energy and doing deals.”
Shifting Battlefronts In Africa
November 16, 2019 | 0 Comments
By Scott Morgan*
The current struggle against the Islamic State (IS) is shifting fronts. No longer will the major campaign take place against the former concentration of power in Syria and Iraq but it will shift to the Sahel.
During a Ministerial Level meeting that took place at the State Department on November 14th, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced to his counterparts that change in strategy would in fact be taking place soon. What would this actually look like is a question that is certain to be bandied around by analysts across the CT spectrum.
If we are to assess what the struggle in the Sahel will look like we should look at the operations in Iraq and Syria for some guidance. We saw a group that took advantage of a vacuum that had a space that needed to be occupied. In the Middle East the voids were provided by a long standing civil war in Syria and poor governance originating from Baghdad. These actions created the situation where IS were able to find willing recruits to join their crusades.
Switching focus to the Sahel we do see several areas where a very similar scenario has been unfolding. One area of concern we should have is this area has had this issue that actually predates the rise of the IS. Weak governments which have porous borders with their neighbors actually provides a context where cross border operations can be conducted with ease by a non-state actor. This is a key fact when the actors are native to the region as well. So should it really be a surprise to learn that some of the routes being used by the terrorists date back to the days of the Mali and Songhai empires?
Another point that is often overlooked is the rise of Al-Aqaeda in the Maghreb. The group rose to prominence after the controversial 1992 elections in Algeria. Back then it was better known as the GPSC (Salfaist Group for Preaching and Combat). It later played a prominent role in the ouster and demise of Qadaffi in Libya and in the collapse of the central Government in Mali before the French led intervention known as Operation Barkhane.
Speaking of Libya one has to consider that the offensive by General Haftar and his international partners have to be considered as a factor in the rise in the spread of Jihadist acts in the region. His drive southward at first then west and finally north towards Tripoli has forced some fighters to seek a new place for sanctuary.
Currently where do we stand regarding the Sahel? Despite the French led intervention and a United Nations Peacekeeping Force which has allowed for both a tentative peace deal and several elections in Mail the situation is still in flux. There are still attacks in the Central part of Mali that have the potential to unravel the work that has been accomplished.
Another country that currently fits the profile of a potential front is Burkina Faso. It was earlier in the year when the late IS leader Al-Baghdadi called upon attacks on French and Crusader interests in the region. After the release of his statement for a month a Catholic Church in the northern part of the country was destroyed per week. Mosques have also been targeted as well as well as the extractive Gold Industry.
Niger which has seen its share of attacks by Boko Haram over the years is now the home base to a US facility that will be flying UAVs. With the presence of US Special Forces in Mali as well indicate that the US is concerned with events in the region and will do what it can to support France.
This action is being taken now so that the West doesn’t wake up one day and realize that the Jihadists have taken over parts of Ghana, Togo, Ivory Coast and Benin. These Governments are already warning that IS is already in their countries.
*The Author is President Red Eagle Enterprises, a firm with the dual Mission of Supporting African Business Development, and also Providing Analysis of African Intelligence, and assistance in relations with the United States Government .He sits on the Round tables for the Advocacy Network for Africa, and the International Religious Freedom Caucus in Washington ,DC.
Demonizing Oil and Gas companies is not a constructive way forward on energy transition. Africa will push for “the Right to Drill”
November 14, 2019 | 0 Comments
By NJ Ayuk *
African nations must and will take advantage of their hydrocarbon resources for economic development. Environmental sustainability is a part of it, not an impediment.
Johannesburg, 14 November 2019: In an article written for the Guardian newspaper this week, Nobel Peace Prize Winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa argued for an Apartheid-style boycott on coal, oil and gas companies as a solution to fight climate change and help ensure global environmental sustainability goals. “We must stop climate change. And we can, if we use the tactics that worked in South Africa against the worst carbon emitters,” the subtitle of the piece reads.
The sentiment expressed by Mr. Tutu is laudable and speaks to many across the world that have become rightfully concerned by the effects of climate change on our environment.
However, it is also a misguided sentiment. Oil and gas companies are not autocratic regimes focused on oppressing the people and steal their resources. They are businesses, which yes, are focused on profit, but they are also focused on the sustainability of the business itself. In practical terms, it means that these companies adapt to the needs of the economies they are integrated in. Boycotting oil and gas companies will not have an impact on carbon emissions, but it might raise the price of fuel in the long run. That is not the goal intended.
While there is demand for hydrocarbons, there will be production. The shift in the dynamic of supply and demand in recent years can already be spotted in the way oil and gas companies have restructured. More and more, these companies are diversifying their portfolios to include renewable energy assets and many of them are at the forefront of research and development of new technologies to help exploit renewable resources. I cover this extensively in my recent book, Billions at Play. Oil and gas companies are shifting into becoming “energy companies”, they are even rebranding, with Equinor (former Statoil) being the most evident example, to showcase that change in corporate paradigm. And in all honesty, who else would be better prepared, better funded and better placed to drive the energy transition that we all seek. Demonizing energy companies is not a constructive way forward, and ignoring the structural role that carbon-based fuels have in today’s society distorts the public debate. Bringing energy companies, governments and civil society groups together to find functional solutions will achieve much more.
This is especially the case in Africa. While the concerted effort amongst all of the world’s nations is fundamental to curb the effects of climate change, it is paramount to have a clear understanding of what efforts will be most decisive, and which regions of the world are in a better position and have the biggest responsibility to tackle these issues.
To be sure, Europe, North America and China, by and large responsible for much of the CO2 emissions that are behind the changes in our climate, have to live up to that responsibility and move towards more sustainable practices.
We can not expect African nations, which put together have polluted 7 times less than China, 13 times less than the United States, and 18 times less than Europe since the beginning of the industrial revolution, according to Carbon brief, to undermine their best opportunities for economic development by simply aligning with the Western view of how to tackle CO2 emissions.
Gabriel Obiang Lima, Minister of Mines and Hydrocarbons of Equatorial Guinea, summed it up quite decisively to the press last week during the Africa Oil Week in Cape Town. “Under no circumstances are we going to be apologising,” he said, “anybody out of the continent saying we should not develop those
[oil and gas]
fields, that is criminal. It is very unfair.”
Minister Lima’s blunt words are an answer to a number of misconstrued views about the African continent, and about the oil and gas industry it is striving to develop. While a few nations across the continent have been producing hydrocarbons for decades, these resources have mostly been exported to fuel industrial development in Europe, the US and Asia. The reasons for this are varied and have as much to do with the European colonial legacy as with the lack of existing financial resources and expertise to develop local economies over the last century.
That, however, is coming to a change. As I have argued and championed for years, African nations are finally starting to make use of these resources to develop their own national economies. We must remember that nearly half of all Africans still don’t have access to electricity and that nearly every company in the continent struggles with the lack of power reliability, which raises operational costs, reduces productivity and hurts their ability to compete in international markets. African leaders are now painfully aware of the damage an unreliable energy network causes on national economies and are moving to change that.
Today, natural gas is by far the most economically sustainable way of producing power in enough quantities to fuel economic development. Petrochemical plants represent a massive economic opportunity to produce byproducts from oil and gas with a higher value within the supply chain, an opportunity to create jobs, develop infrastructure and produce wealth. Refineries too have a dramatically positive impact in curbing the need for fuel imports. All of these are fundamental pieces of the puzzle that will foster Africa’s economic growth and promote the betterment of the lives of its people. I have been saying this for a long time and have helped with that development through the African Energy Chamber, supporting cooperation amongst African nations to promote intra-African trade on energy resources and build synergies, which is the way forward.
The African Development Bank has estimated that between USD$130 and USD$170 billion a year in the run up to 2025 would be needed to close the infrastructure gap across the continent. How are African nations to fund these fundamental developments if they give up on exploring their natural resources? How can the Western world, or anyone for that matter, suggest, or demand, that African nations leave these resources underground when it was these same resources that powered economic development everywhere else?
After decades of colonial occupation and subsequent political and military in-fighting, many African regions have now reached the level of stability that will allow them to build working functioning economies. The fuel for that will be these countries’ natural resources, be it oil, gas, coal or diamonds. Boycotting the companies that can help these countries develop these resources would be paramount to economic suicide.
This is not to say that environmental sustainability and climate change should not be at the top of the list of concerns when debating the African energy sector, but it should inform environmental impact assessment policies and foster best practices in the industry, not put a stop to it.
Yes, renewable energy sources can have a role in contributing to expand electrification in Africa, and solar and wind power have become competitive when compared to carbon-based generation, but that will always depend on the resources available in each region and will always have to be supported by other forms of generation capacity that can overcome the issue of intermittency that follows renewable power generation.
This is already happening. Kenya, for instance, is one of the world’s leading nations in terms of the share of its energy matrix coming from renewables, on its way to reach 100% in the coming years, but it also holds some of the world’s largest geothermal energy reserves, and it will continue to develop its oil reserves because it needs the money to fund economic development.
Africa’s time to grow and develop is finally here, and it will be funded by its natural resources. Misguided moral lessons from the West will do little to change that because the financial resources coming from these activities are crucial and irreplaceable. In a somewhat ironic way, even if Africa wanted to stop using fossil fuels and shifted every power station to renewable sources, it would still be forced to develop its oil and gas fields in order to fund that transition.
There is no point in promoting radical approaches to the energy transition, particularly for Africa. A balanced manageable and well-lead approach of progressive transitioning combining hydrocarbons and renewable energy development alongside strong environmental protection policies in the sector is the option that is not only realistic, but that will allow to combine economic growth and environmental sustainability.
The New York Times quoted Mr. Gwede Mantashe, South Africa’s Energy Minister, in an article covering the Africa Oil Week. “Energy is the catalyst for growth,” he said, “they even want to tell us to switch off all the coal-generated power stations,” “until you tell them, “you know we can do that, but you’ll breathe fresh air in the darkness”.
*NJ Ayuk is the CEO of Centurion Law Group and the Executive Chairman of the African Energy Chamber. His experience negotiating oil and gas deals has given him an expert’s grasp of Africa’s energy landscape. He is the author of “Billions at Play: The Future of African Energy and doing deals.”
When the Anglophone Crisis meets Elections: advice from a Constitutionalist
November 12, 2019 | 0 Comments
By Barrister Paul Simo, Esq*
Cameroon’s political firmament is at present gripped by two major quandaries: that of resolving the first major crisis bordering on armed conflict to have affected the country in close to 50 years (the Anglophone crisis), and renewing the 5-year electoral mandates of the members of its Lower House of Parliament (the National Assembly), as well as elected Municipal Councilors (who in turn vote local government Mayors). The said mandates have already been extended for one (1) year. Both are indisputably national priorities, and both affect the NW/SW Regions in a particular manner. However, as every manager knows, there is a distinction between what is important, and what is urgent. All important tasks are not urgent, but an urgent task (even if unimportant) left unattended to, may dramatically increase its importance.
In the coming days, we will be releasing a major, longitudinal study of Special Status, Special Regional Autonomy, and Special Administrative Regions in countries around the world, informed by the crisis affecting the Northwest and Southwest Regions. The said 40-page study contains proposals for a Legislative Whitepaper on the Special Status framework for Cameroon’s Anglophone regions. One of the fundamental pre-requisites we observe in Special Status regions around the world, is that for them to be created, and for their attributes to be modified, legislation adopted by the national Parliament is not enough. Due to the fact that they create a unique type of relationship between a region of the country and its central State, Special Status arrangements need to be ratified through a democratic vote by a constituent assembly or by the elected representative body (legislature) of the Regions in question.
Presently, the Northwest and Southwest Regions of Cameroon do not have elected Regional Councils (same with the country’s other Regions). Therefore, any crafter of Special Status arrangements for both regions needs to scan keenly for which elected, representative body will stand in their stead, to validate the Special Status law once it is enacted by the National Legislature. It does not take particular constitutional genius to discern that the only democratically-elected alternative in place is to have recourse to a sui generis (specially-constituted) group of elected representatives from both regions, namely their Senators, Members of the Lower House (National Assembly), and Municipal Councilors. The current composition of those representatives from the Northwest and Southwest regions, elected in 2013, hold a popular elected mandate.
If elections were to be held in the Northwest and Southwest regions in February 2020, it must be assumed either that the current group of regional representatives will approve the Special Status content before the election, or that the February 2020 election will produce a democratically representative group of elected officials. And furthermore, that there will prevail a climate of sufficient calm and security in both regions, to allow a meaningful exercise of the most fundamental civic duty. None of the above assumptions sound feasible, let alone likely.
It must also be borne in mind that Special Status or Regional Autonomy arrangements, where undertaken to resolve a political crisis bordering on an armed conflict, must be embedded in a peace agreement which reaches out to, entices, and involves the belligerent armed groups. The August 2005 agreement signed in Helsinki, Finland, and brokered by the renowned Finnish Statesman and Nobel Peace Prize Winner, Martti Ahtisaari, which brought to and end the separatist conflict in the Indonesian Island province of Aceh (fought for three decades between 1976 and 2005) is a shining example in this regard.
That peace agreement contained the prospect of regional autonomy, and succeeded to wean off the Free Aceh Movement (an armed insurrection that had received support for armed struggle from as far away as Muammar Gaddafi’s Libya), to renounce its separatist project and aspire for regional autonomy within a Unitary State of Indonesia. That peace agreement continues to hold to this day, 14 years later. The Peace Agreement (2005) was then reflected in a Special Status Law on the Governance of Aceh (2006). Special Status Legislation and Peace Agreement went hand in hand, whereas in Cameroon’s context, the Special Status process at national level, and the existing and undeniable early-stage peace process with armed groups are operating in silos, heightening the risk that the latter will later fundamentally revise the former.
To return to the timing of elections in the Northwest and Southwest regions, the most likely prospect, given current incidents, is that elections convened in February 2020 (even assuming a Special Status law has been passed) will meet hostile terrain. It is not the civic, traditional, and political Anglophone elites who met in Yaoundé from 30 September to 4 October (and endorsed the regional Special Status proposal) who are wreaking havoc in the two Regions, nor is it they who will disrupt an election therein. There is therefore the risk that an election held in the two Regions will have extraordinarily low levels of voter participation (anywhere from 1 to 2 % of the registered voters), casting a major doubt on the democratic, electoral legitimacy of the resulting Municipal Councilors and elected Lower House Representatives. To give such an unrepresentative group (since Regional Council elections are not also yet foreseen) the onus of endorsing and granting Regional imprimatur to the Special Status arrangements, is a way of killing this important prospect for peace in the two Regions.
It is therefore perennial that no-one who means well for resolution of the crisis should argue for elections to take place within those Regions without considering the dynamics above. Putting in place unrepresentative electoral “representatives” of both Regions, knowing fully well that those Regions’ representatives need to validate and endorse regional Special Status legislation to give it legitimacy, is culpable.
In order to address the counterargument that the entire country’s elected institutions cannot be left indefinitely in a limbo, the best approach for Cameroon will be to proceed with a split election. Hold the Legislative and Municipal elections in the other eight (8) regions of the country and defer the elections in the NW/SW for another year or so, pending the Special Status Legislation and Peace Agreement. (By the way, if deep insecurity blights parts of the Far North and renders elections materially impossible, they can be deferred, and by-elections conducted when security conditions improve). The practice of conducting by-elections is not anathema to democracies around the world – those are also convened when a local or regional election result is overturned in postelectoral litigation.
The argument that Cameroon is one unique national “constituency” and no citizen should be disenfranchised, falls on its face: Article 9 of Cameroon’s Constitution envisages both a State of emergency and a State of war, which can adequately, legally justify deferring elections. And it is questionable what “enfranchisement” of their residents occurs when those Regions have to hold “elections” amidst violence, impracticability of road transport, and massive internal displacement of their citizens across the country.
* The author specializes in the areas of constitutional, public, and international law. For 20 years (1999 to 2018) he worked on countries undergoing peace-processes and political transitions in East, Central, and West Africa. Between 2007 and 2018, he served the United Nations at Headquarters, and in multi-dimensional peace operations in Africa. He advised senior UN diplomats working on the following countries’ peace/reconstruction processes: Uganda (LRA conflict), DR Congo (regional conflagration in the 2000s), Burundi (2000s peace process), Sierra Leone and Liberia (Mano River region conflicts in the early 2000s), and the Central African Republic (escalation of politico-religious violence since 2013). He was Law valedictorian of the first graduating cohort of the University of Buea, Cameroon (LL.B. 1996) and holds a graduate law degree, summa cum laude, from the Catholic University of Notre Dame, Indiana. He is an Attorney at the Bar of New York (2001) and a Barrister in Cameroon (2010). The views expressed herein are solely those of the author. He is based in Douala and Yaoundé, Cameroon. Email: email@example.com.
Please Hold Your Horses…A word of caution about the dismissal of the African Union permanent representative to the United States of America.
October 20, 2019 | 0 Comments
By Ed. DUCHE
The African diaspora in the United States of America and around the world is riled up in controversy following the dismissal of the African Union Head of Mission to U.S., Ambassador Dr. Arikana Chihombori-Quao by the African Union Commission Chairman Moussa Farki Mahamat.
A petition on the popular site ww.change.org initiated by Professor Apollos Okwuchi Nwauwa
Secretary of the African Diaspora Congress to “Reinstate African Union Ambassador Chihombori-Quao” on Sunday, October 20, 2019 has garnered approximatively 60,000 signatures in counting. The petition reads as follow:
“…Dr. Arikana has been outspoken about neo-colonial maneuverings and exploitation that still exist today. Her dissemination of the truth has garnered her attention and support around the world… However, not everyone is embracing her bold but honest discourses for effecting change for the betterment of Africa. On October 7th, 2019, Ambassador Quao was relieved of her position as the “Permanent Ambassador” in a unilateral decision made by the African Union Commission Chairman without any hearing or explanation, and yet presented as representing the opinions of all 55 countries. The questions are: why was she dismissed, or better, who benefits from her removal? Were African heads of states and governments consulted? Who called the shot? Or is Africa, and peoples of African descent, still facing the debilitating effects of modern colonialism or neocolonialism? Leadership based on self-interest and preservation that does not benefit the people they serve is no longer acceptable…”
An cnn.com article, authored by Bukola Adebayo, dated October 16th 2019 and titled “AU faces backlash after terminating ambassador’s appointment”, the authorstated that on October 7th, 2019, A.U. Commission Chairman Moussa Faki Mahamat relieved the Ambassador from her position in line with the commission’s rules, and suggested that the dismissal was due to her “strong views on France’s occupation and hold over its former African colonies, which she shared publicly”. The assertion is that the firing occurred under direct pression from the French Government. Apparently this is also Ambassador Dr. Arikana Chihombori-Quao narrative and argument in pushing back on her dismissal and in making a case directly to the diaspora in support of her reinstatement as the continental organization permanent representative to the United States of America.
Believing that Ambassador Dr. Arikanna Chihombori-Quao was fired over her criticism of the French and their colonial practices in Africa, several preeminent members in the African American community, the Diaspora and International leaders, appalled by the A.U. action, are adamantly criticizing the leadership of the African Union and calling in to question the independence of African countries vis-á-vis their former colonial power. The situation is rapidly degrading and becoming another public opinion nightmare for the A.U. commission and its leadership. In the U.S. and especially in Washington DC, Ambassador Dr. Arikana Chihombori-Quao appears to be another “victim” of a stand against colonialism. Many are expressing outrage on her behalf and throwing their support behind her in pressuring the A.U Commissioner to give her the job back.
Looking at the way the situation is unfolding, the mastery in display, the activism deployed and the narrative peddled by the Ambassador’s supporters, It is of a paramount importance to exercise caution in embracing the situation as painted, and restraint from jumping to conclusions. Indeed, a closer look reveals that there may be a lot more to the story than what we have so far read on social media and in news stories.
Curiously, for all the communication that has been selectively leaked both from the AU to Ambassador Chihombori and from her to the AU, there is no mention of the existence of a damning audit report about the Ambassador’s tenure. Is this just an oversight, or a deliberate attempt to peddle a narrative that favors one party as the victim and hero, while labeling the other as the villain? Indeed, on August, 22nd 2019, an investigation into Ambassador Dr. Arikana Chihombori-Quao governance of the A.U., mission in Washington DC for the period of September 2016 to February 2019 was submitted to the chairperson of the Commission.
The subject of the investigation report is “Alleged violation of Procurement Procedures, Abuse of Authority/Misuse of Office and Conflict of interest” and the transmittal letter reads in its entirety as follows:
“The investigation is based on the allegation by a whistleblower that the Head of Mission (HOM) Ambassador Dr. Arikana Chihombori-Quao has been violating AU procurement rules by single sourcing contracts, bid splitting to circumvent procurement procedures, receiving three quotation from the same bidder to create the semblance of legality and also failure to submit bids above the threshold of $50,000 to the headquarter Tender Board for approval. It is also alleged that Ambassador Quao misapplied funds earmarked for other activities to Miss AU Pageant, the AU Diaspora retreat and the African Diaspora Youth League summit without approval from the AUC Chairperson…” the report continues, “…Furthermore, Ambassador Quao is alleged to abuse authority/misused of office and also involved in conflict of interest issues with the African Union-African Diaspora Health Initiative (AU-ADHI) is registered as her private organization and the “Wakanda One” project. The AU-ADHI is registered under her name as a private citizen and currently being funded by AU as political sub division of the African Union approved initiative established for the purpose of galvanizing the African Diaspora to participate in the development of Africa as stated in an Agreement signed by her with a Washington DC based Attorney”.
The investigation report was very damning to Ambassador Dr. Arikana Chihombori-Quao. It described in detail a stream of procurement violations, misuse of public funding as well as instance of conflict of interests in details and concluded by ascertaining the veracity of the whistleblower allegations and recommended sanctions against the Ambassador.
For example the audit reported that “$181,204 Miss AU pageant cost was a misapplied funds earmarked to other activities…” “Ambassador Dr Quao cancelled the MOU with Newdesk Media and single source the contract for the production of the Magazine -invest in Africa- to AMIP family business at the cost of $60,000 USD”, “Dr.Quao single-sourced the production of the 2017 Calendars to 5 Star Eventz for $9,583 meanwhile the 2019 Calendars were printed for $3,600 following a Request for Quotation initiated by the Finance Officer...” Moreover, the Ambassador has “registered associations in her own name that are being funded using AU resources” thereby creating a blatant conflict of interest. Two companies “Homestrings and Global Political Solutions were single-sourced and awarded a contract without the knowledge of the Finance and Administrative Officer…”
As one reads the investigation report, it becomes clear that there is a lot more to the history about why the Ambassador was fired. It is now obvious that one should exercise caution, wonder, ponder, and hold the horse, before jumping too quickly into the bandwagon of an emotionally driven narrative on the news. The anti-colonialist narrative for being the reason for the Ambassador’s dismissal has “muddied” the water. The conclusion that the Ambassador was relieved of her duty due to her stand and denunciation of the French colonial engagement in Africa is questionable in light of the damning audit report.
It is well known that French colonial engagement is an issue, many people have spoken and continue to speak against it both in Africa and in the diaspora. Leaders like President Paul Kagame who have lashed out at the French are some of the most admired, and influential people in Africa and beyond. While we may not completely rule out that veracity of the allegation from Arikana’s partisans on the French influence in forcing her out, we must put everything in context, evaluate all the factors and circumstances before jumping into conclusions .
This opinion piece is essentially a cautionary advice to not let the situation spin out of control and in the process cast a discredit of the AU Commission as well as in damaging the Diaspora judgment. It is understandable and counter intuitive for many not be outraged in light of what appears to be an injustice perpetrated against Dr. Arikana Chihombori-Quao especially when she performed admirably well and above expectation on her duties in Washington DC. However we can’t overlook the facts in the Audit report and if history teaches, let’s then remember lesson learned from high profile cases of rush to judgment, public response that followed suit and ultimately jury conclusion.
As the AU spokesperson Ebba Kalondo said in statement, diplomatic transfers and changes are standard practice. In the USA for instance, it is hard to see an Ambassador spend four years in the same duty post. While emotions may be charged, it would be good if the diaspora could channel this energy into more useful initiatives. It could be to lobby for projects to Africa, raise funds to support development initiatives, use its clout to build useful networks and more. For all she did and that the AU acknowledges , the Mission to the USA did not start with Ambassador, nor will it end with her. The diaspora should build on her successes and ensure that the momentum she has created is built upon or sustained by her successor for the greater good of Africa. After all, not many in the diaspora knew Ambassador Arikana Chihombori prior to her appointment and not many probably knew she would perform well. I am sure she will be the last person interested in seeing the work she did go up in flames or to see the mission she led destroyed because she was relieved as Ambassador.
For Ambassador Arikana Chihombori, there is still more
for her to do out there. It will be good if she can rein in her partisans by
letting them understand that, the services we render to mother Africa are
beyond any one individual. There are people in the diaspora and specifically in
the Washington, DC metro area who have spent a lifetime fighting for African
causes without fuse, and without expectations. Some of them actually worked
with Ambassador Arikana, just as they worked with her predecessor and will
hopefully work with her successor. Just like someone ran and handed the baton
to Ambassador Chihombori, she too has done her own running and should pass the
baton to another person in peace for the task of moving Africa is like a relay
race , where it will take the efforts of many, infact effort from all Africans
and its diaspora for sustained progress to be made.
 AU inter office Memorandum from the Director of Internal Audit to the Chairperson of the Commission
 AU inter office Memorandum from the Director of Internal Audit to the Chairperson of the Commission
How the 1996 Constitution Can Take Care of the NW/SW Exception: A legal Perspective of a ‘third option’.
October 5, 2019 | 0 Comments
BY: ASHU NYENTY (Ph.D.).*
As delegates to the major national dialogue, especially those from the two regions that triggered the dialogue in the first place, converge on the Conference Centre beginning this Monday, and judging from the tenor of proposals in the consultations engineered by Prime Minister, Chief Dr. Joseph Dion Ngute, the debate has largely focused on two potentially rancorous and divisive concepts: Unitarism v Federalism. It is on these two concepts that most of the attention is focused, as if to say it is either one or the other, as a solution to the crisis in the NW and SW regions.
The mistake that may be ineluctable if care is not taking is that delegates get into what I call an ideological blockage and fail to adequately explore an alternative that appears to be at arm’s length, but which seems to have been long forgotten. This is mainly so because of lack of familiarity with the various territorial or regional organization models available to Cameroon.
The purpose of this paper, as my own contribution to the major national dialogue, is therefore, to inform public opinion that these two are not the only alternatives and that they should watch out for the potency of a possible ‘third option’ or model that may send everybody home happy- the NW and SW, the other eight regions and of course the government. The issues discussed here would be more relevant to the commission on decentralization and local development, though they may necessarily have ramifications on the work of other commissions such as education and justice system. The reason is that this is the most politically sensitive area of the discussions that may have legal repercussions after the dialogue.
What is the current status of the issues at stake?
Writing on the issues at stake in the national dialogue, Barrister Paul Simo, who has over 20 years’ experience working on countries undergoing peace-processes and political transitions across the world, opined that the discussion has often been tailored in terms of three options, to wit, “separatism, federalism and unitarism”.
In this analysis, I deliberately leave out separatism, because in the context of a national dialogue, that option is dead on arrival. I will proceed to discuss the other two. Federalism in the present state of discussions has two variables. First, an “arrangement similar to the 1961-1972 federation, or in another, to a new multiple federated-state configuration”. The inconvenience of this is that if either of the two configurations is adopted it would lead to a sudden and drastic transformation of the administrative configuration of the state that may force the other eight regions into an arrangement they never asked for or for which their base did not mobilize for; many in the other regions do not yet understand the contours and ramifications of a federation. If there could be an agreement on that fine, but in my view, still coming out of a three-year gruesome war, be sure this option will be resisted with vigour.
Unitarism on the other hand is considered, even by many in the other regions as largely responsible for the despicable state of affairs in the North West and South West regions. Many in the other regions also feel the pinch of Unitarism even though they have not been as vocal as their counterparts’ from the two regions. It is clear that Unitarism as it is currently perceived and practiced may not satisfy or meet “the high aspirations of the people of the NW and SW” and also “of all the other components of our nation”, who clearly want to have a greater say in the management of their local affairs. If these two concepts, in the current state of affairs may be resisted or rejected, what then is the way out?
What is the ‘third option”?
The crux of the matter is that because of their peculiarities( to be discussed shortly) the NW and SW regions desire an arrangement that would provide them with a greater hand in what goes on in their respective regions. That is what leads us to what I have termed the third option (its political and administrative advantages will also be elucidated shortly). In discussions of this nature and based on our immediate past history, I think it would be counter-productive to appear intransigent or take a zero-sum posture of this or nothing. It seems to me that it is advisable to be flexible, weigh the different options and then give and take. That is the very essence of a dialogue.
In my view, the third option is found in the current Constitution of Cameroon. Since the 1996 Constitution was adopted, one provision that has often been ignored and indeed even overlooked, since the search for solutions to the crisis started, is the last Section of Part X devoted to Regional and Local Authorities. That Section 62(2) stipulates that:
“Without prejudice to the provisions of this Part, the law may take into consideration the specificities of certain Regions with regard to their organization and functioning”.
The underlying notion in that section is what is known in modern constitutional engineering as “territorial asymmetry”, which is consonant in countries that have an entrenched minority factor as is the case of the NW and SW regions. According to Barrister Simo, this is an arrangement “in which some regions…would be granted certain attributes and competences different from those granted to other regions”, because the latter regions do not have the same specificities. This model has been practiced with success in countries such as India and even China over Hong Kong, in what is known as the one country two systems paradigm. Even though not everybody in Cameroon espouses this variable geometry in the treatment of regions, the beauty of this asymmetric treatment is that it also works well in a unitary form of state. The example of China and its asymmetric treatment of Hong Kong, and which is a much more centralized system than Cameroon is necessary to point to again. This means that the present Decentralized Unitary system could be maintained, while at the same time the NW and SW find satisfaction in the management of their local affairs. Besides, given that the present Constitution of Cameroon allows for the continuous application of the Common Law, it is recognition of the exceptions that constitute the NW and SW regions. Apart from the examples already given, two of Cameroon’s colonial masters, whose double heritage the Cameroon of today enjoys, that is, Britain and France are plausible other examples. In the case of the United Kingdom, there is a separate status each for Wales, Scotland and even Northern Ireland within the same unitary state. In France, the Corse has a special status. It must be pointed out that it were calls for greater autonomy and threats of breakaway that among other factors pushed the French authorities to give a separate administrative status to that region.
Furthermore, in the couching of the provisions of Section 62(2), it would appear the drafters were foresighted enough to preempt the possibility of considering variations between the different regions in the extent of the powers they should have, depending on their ability and history. My understanding of that section is that the drafters of the Constitution of Cameroon had already envisaged a situation where some regions could be allowed to sail in different boats within a unitary state framework, based on their linguistic, historical, cultural or even demographic peculiarity. The case of the two regions is a very good example, where these conditions of peculiarity are amply fulfilled.
How are the NW and SW peculiar?
To amply justify the need for a special status each for the North West and South West, it would be necessary, in my view, to demonstrate the peculiarity of these two regions. It is clear to everybody of good faith in Cameroon that there are fundamental differences between the NW and the SW on the one hand, and the other eight regions on the other. However, some detail analysis of a few examples would be necessary to make the point. The fact that francophone parents in their numbers send their children to English speaking schools is an eloquent testimony to the fact that there are differences in the educational systems between the two components. It is not simply the language of instruction, the culture of teaching and learning is also fundamentally different.
In addition, in the legal domain, the common law is practiced in the English speaking regions while the civil law holds sway in the other regions. Though some attempt has been made at harmonizing some aspects of the two, they still remain for all intent and purposes walls apart. The Constitution of Cameroon clearly recognizes this legal disparity. It is instructive that it is the perceived adulteration of the educational and legal systems that is the immediate cause of the current crisis.
Again, the colonial past of the two components is different. While the British practiced indirect rule and the Native authority which gave the people much leverage in the management of local affairs, the French system of assimilation, paternalism and the Jacobin-style strong state authority did not afford much of that. So in matters of governance the colonial experiences of the two components differed and this heritage which has been transferred to younger generation has now met zones of friction and conflict.
Even though there are many other examples, these few, in my view sufficiently make the case for the NW/SW exception, within the bigger Cameroonian picture.
What should be the content of the special status arrangement?
Since the current constitution already mentions that possibility, it sounds reasonable that the main worry now for the delegates, if this third option were to be adopted, is to present a basket of what should go into the special status arrangement. What powers do the two regions want to have for themselves exclusive from the central state authorities? Before I proceed to discuss what this basket could contain, it is germane to point out that the special status arrangement could be applied exclusively to the two regions concerned as a matter of priority. However, in order to allay the fears of geometric treatment of regions, which I mentioned, earlier, these powers could also be extended, of course in relative degrees to the other regions if they find no objection for the time being.
Having said that emphasis should at this juncture be focused on the package deal or what I will call the content of the basket. That is what I think the commission on decentralization and local development should be able to do. This is because as I said earlier this is the most political of all the eight commissions. The other issues to be canvassed by the other commissions could only come to add up to that. The basket would certainly be for the delegates to fill but based on my own experience in the understanding of the conflict, the package deal may include but not limited to the management of the education system, the protection of the common law legal system, the proportion of the use of the two official languages in the regions. That basket will include the powers that the regions want to control and the powers of the local councils as well. The central government should be clear on what it intends to irreversibly relinquish to both the regions and the councils.
In addition to the merit of this model mentioned already, this model is neither to the right nor to the left of the debate spectrum. It is at the Centre. It accommodates the desires of those who are opposed to a change of the form of state and also satisfies those who seek greater autonomy. There is no doubt about it; we have already seen that special status arrangements work perfectly well in a unitary state arrangement. In that way everybody is satisfied and consensus is easy to reach on both sides.
Some of these changes if adopted would obviously necessitate legislative, administrative, policy or even constitutional reform. If the commissions consensually agree on what to do then they can easily propose the kind of reform that may suit their agenda so as to protect what they may have proposed.
I submit that the tenor of section 62 discussed above requiring the law to “take into consideration the specificities of certain Regions” is weak. I would rather propose that based on comparative constitutional law, and even Cameroonian history, such fundamental aspects are better guaranteed in the highest legal norm in the hierarchy. In this case it is the Constitution. If that were the case a constitutional revision could be sought to the extent that those guarantees are entrenched.
Is a constitutional amendment possible?
In the run up to the convening of the dialogue and even after the fundamental question on many lips was whether proposals and or conclusions arrived at may be translated into constitutional reform. To this question and analyzing the tenor of President Paul Biya’s 10 September speech, convening the dialogue, some legal experts have argued that such reform was “neither mandatorily required of, nor specifically excluded from the purview of the Dialogue process”.
But that possibility comes to life when you read other portions of the speech together with legal and constitutional provisions in force. On page 14 of the English language version of the speech, he announced his decision to convene a national dialogue “in line with our Constitution”, to “enable us to seek ways and means of meeting the high aspirations of the people of the North West and South West Regions”. My understanding is that if the high aspirations of the people in those two regions are to take charge of those affairs as we have discussed above, and possibly other arrangements agreed to in other commissions, it means that based on what the President said we have to go into the Constitution to seek to satisfy them. Either the Constitution has the answer directly or it points at the direction we must take.
If the Constitution does not have a direct response then a constitutional revision may be necessary to accommodate the issues at stake. And if a proposal is made in this regard, it seems to me that it does not overstep the confines of the Constitution. Provided the revision is pursued in a procedure that is in line with the Constitution of Cameroon, which the President swore to uphold.
On this score, it should be noted that the ‘Natonal Dialogue’ if it is working within the Constitution, does not have the locus standi or power to deliver “binding resolutions” or seek Constitutional amendments. It may only propose. Based on the President’s speech, which for now is the guiding instrument on the purview of the Dialogue’s powers, it has the power to propose whatever it wants to propose, if these can address the concerns and aspirations of the people in those two regions. But it is not within its powers to insist, to push amendment to Parliament, otherwise it would be acting ultra vires and out of tune with the fundamental law of the land.
Who has the power to seek a constitutional amendment in Cameroon? According to section 63(1), “Amendments to the Constitution may be proposed either by the President of the Republic or by Parliament. These are the only two authorities that are constitutionally empowered to seek an amendment of the Constitution. This may of course be through a government bill from the President of the Republic to Parliament or a Private Members bill in Parliament. However, The President of the Republic may also decide to bypass Parliament and directly “submit any bill to amend the Constitution to a referendum; in which case the amendment shall be adopted by a simple majority of the votes cast” and that will be constitutionally correct. .
While a constitutional amendment is not illegal, there are some amendments that will be inadmissible.
According to section 64 “No procedure for the amendment of the Constitution affecting the republican form, unity and territorial integrity of the State and the democratic principles which govern the Republic shall be accepted”. This means in clear terms that any amendment that seeks to change the state from a Republic to a monarchy, transfer part of our territory to another state or institute a one-party state shall not be accepted.
In fine, given the positions held by the different protagonists in the national dialogue and leveraging on my understanding that more consensual conclusions and recommendations may be viewed in a better light, I submit unequivocally, that a third option as I have discussed should be given a thought and explored, if all the parties must take back something to their bases.
*The author of this article is a Doctor in Law and Political Scientist. (The content are his personal views) .The article was previously published in the Median Newspaper on 30 September before the National Dialogue started in Cameroon
Anti-corruption war: A case for whistleblower law in Nigeria
October 5, 2019 | 0 Comments
By Godwin Onyeacholem
At every given opportunity, President Muhammadu Buhari not only proudly re-affirms his administration’s commitment to mount a vigorous fight against corruption, he also as best as he can often ticks off some of the initiatives laid out for that purpose and the achievements so far. Here is the reason: waging war against corruption was one in the triumvirate of key promises he made to the electorate in the run-up to the 2015 election.
In fact, nothing else could be said to have fetched him the presidency other than the general belief that he would be ruthless in tackling corruption, and also a perception of him as a steadfast symbol of integrity.
Nigeria’s 59th independence anniversary on October 1 was yet one of such familiar opportunities where Buhari once again used his speech to gloat about how the war against corruption under him has been living up to its billing. In that speech he ran through a couple of his administration’s anti-corruption strategies and, as he had done in the past, never failed to mention the whistleblower policy which in many respects remains the flagship of his anti-corruption design.
Recounting the achievements, Buhari said those initiatives had “saved billions of naira over the last four years, and deterred the rampant theft and mismanagement of public funds that have plagued our public service.” That’s not entirely true. Although stealing may not be “rampant,” a somewhat disturbing degree of subtle stealing of public funds, combined with barefaced impunity, is still going on.
He also said, “This administration has fought corruption by investigating and prosecuting those accused of embezzlement and the misuse of public resources.” That is also not completely true. At least there are two personalities under the presidency who were accused of corrupt practices but are still enjoying the protection of Buhari, if nothing else. One is his own chief of staff, Mallam Abba Kyari, whose was never investigated much less prosecuted.
Then there is Dr. Marilyn Amobi, the MD/CEO of Nigerian Bulk Electricity Trading (NBET) Plc. Both Abba Kyari and Amobi cavalierly spurned repeated invitations from the popular Brekete radio to state their side of the story. Although Amobi was investigated and indicted by ICPC, and the report of the investigation submitted to Vice President Yemi Osinbajo in March, up till the time of writing this piece, she has not been suspended, much less prosecuted.
All of this you expect not to witness in a government with Buhari as the head, given the subconscious awe and no-nonsense aura around his reputation prior to 2015. In essence, for the war against corruption to be convincing, Buhari needs to do more than self-laudatory speeches and come down much harder on the perpetrators of corruption in both the public and private sector. And he must do this with as much evenhandedness as can be summoned.
A significant chunk of the billions of naira which he said had been saved since the inception of his administration are most likely looted funds recovered courtesy of the whistleblowing initiative which was introduced just about one and a half years after the government was inaugurated. But this highly commendable initiative is now in grave danger of extinction as nothing is being done by this government to protect those patriots, yes patriots for that is what they truly are, who continuously risk their lives to blow the whistle.
In its operations, the whistleblowing policy is only currently restricted to corrupt practices and other variants of wrongdoings in the public sector. Since it came on stream, huge sums of looted public funds in various denominations as well as property have been recovered through the efforts of whistleblowers, a majority of whom are public servants who are not even induced by the reward attached to successful recoveries.
This administration acknowledges the efficacy of the whistleblowing as a tool for fighting corruption but regrettably closes its eyes to the varying degrees of unwholesome retaliations perpetually meted out by top public officers to courageous subordinates who heed the call to report corruption and wrongdoing. These reprisals range from long-term suspension from work without pay, outright dismissal, denial of salary and other entitlements (annual leave, promotion, etc.), intimidations, threat to life sometimes extending up to family members, undue harassments, physical assault and other kinds of unimaginable inhuman treatment.
Just last week, Murtala Ibrahim, once the deputy head of internal audit at the Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria (FMBN) was fired by the bank’s management after about two years of being subjected to constant maltreatment which culminated in his transfer from the headquarters in Abuja to Jalingo, Taraba State. His boss, Teslim Anibaba, was transferred to the Kaduna office from where he resigned last year out of frustration.
Both were punished for uncovering official alterations of figures of a half-year report and for refusing to co-operate in other corrupt transactions initiated by top officials of the bank. The Nigerian government, which said it could not successfully fight graft on its own, and therefore urged citizens to join in the fight, could not save them from the ruinous excesses of the bank’s management. It is important to point out that whistleblowers who were lucky to be reinstated are still going through some form of victimization in their offices. The envisaged whistleblower law can take care of this.
However, whistleblowers like Sambo Abdullahi of the Nigerian Bulk Electricity Trading Plc and Joseph Akeju of the Yaba College of Technology, to mention just a few, are still wallowing in the misery imposed by the way they have been treated by the heads of their places of work. The main anti-corruption agencies received their petitions, but the petitioners have yet to see any sign of reprieve from their predicament. Sambo has been denied his salary and other entitlements since December 2017, while Akeju was sacked barely two weeks to his retirement from public service. Their offence was nothing more than reporting corruption and abuse of office in their places of work. Buhari needs to investigate these cases and ensure that these whistleblowers get justice.
Continuing, he said in his independence anniversary speech, “We are determined to ensure that transparency and good governance are institutionalized in public service. We must commit to installing the culture of good governance in all we do.” It’s a commendable, lofty aspiration that is unrealizable unless a critical agency of actualization, the whistleblowers, are given effective protection through the provisions of a progressive whistleblower law. US, Britain and our African brothers–South Africa, Ghana and Uganda, already have one as a sign that they are committed to caging the monster of corruption.
As corruption continues to chip away at the development edifice Nigeria has been struggling to construct in the past six decades, Nigeria cannot afford to keep lagging behind. To this end, Buhari should urgently direct conscious efforts towards seeing that a whistleblower bill is submitted to the National Assembly for passage into law and his assent of same in the next 12 months. It must be done within this time frame before activities for 2023 elections begin to gather momentum.
Unless whistleblowers enjoy protection via a firm legal backing, the seed of the whistleblowing tree planted in 2016 will die in no time. It doesn’t seem that is what this government wants. Neither does any stakeholder in transparency, accountability and good governance in Nigeria.
*Godwin Onyeacholem is with the African Centre for Media & Information Literacy (AFRICMIL)
Clear frameworks key to investor interest in Africa’s renewable energy industry
October 4, 2019 | 0 Comments
By Grant Henderson*
With a population of more than 1 billion people and a collective economy of around US$1.5 trillion, Africa is a continent ripe for economic growth. Developing the capacity to satisfy its people’s energy demands is key to unlocking that potential.
We already know that sustainability is a critical component of any real, meaningful development. Increasingly governments are coming to realise what this means; that in order to deliver on their broader economic and socio-political objectives they need to focus their attention on producing more power with renewable energy projects and innovative electricity storage and distribution strategies being a key part of this.
Historically, one of the biggest inhibiting factors associated with renewable energy projects has been the cost, however, the cost of delivering power from renewable energy projects is declining as a result of emerging technologies.
Securing the buy-in of the private sector is key to development in this sector. Incentivizing investment in the industry is at the heart of this, but so too is the establishment of clear, transparent frameworks for procurement and the setting of tariffs. Investors need not only a thorough understanding of the environment in which they are committing, but assurances that these markets will remain predictable and stable. In the absence of these frameworks and the security that they provide investors will simply take their capital to countries to where the environment is perceived as more secure.
The second iteration of DLA Piper’s Renewable Energy in Africa summarises the regulatory environment for renewable energy in twenty African countries, highlights the key policy objectives for national governments and provides insight into the projects which are expected to deliver these goals. In showcasing the diverse approach to renewable energy being adopted across the African continent – and the legal, economic and technological developments being implemented – this report highlights that African governments are, despite the challenges they face, increasingly prioritising the creation of policies and frameworks that allow for the industry to be developed.
Kenya, for example, has since the 1990s allowed for independent power producers to operate in the country. Now with its long-awaited 2019 Energy Act finally having been passed in March of this year – the private sector will also have the opportunity to participate in the industry in a distributive capacity. This is likely to result in a significant increase in competition which, in turn, should see the quality of the service being provided drastically improve. This in the wake of last December’s launch of the Kenya National Electrification Strategy, which provides a roadmap for universal access by 2022.
Uganda, meanwhile, is actively working to promote private sector participation in the renewable energy industry and encouraging partnerships that can effectively harness the potential of the country’s vast untapped natural resources. This as the government moves to reach its target of a rural electrification rate of 22% by 2022. Add to this the legislative changes introduced in 2016 that are serving to open up Botswana’s energy market to independent producers and you can see a positive and progressive picture of the industry’s development on the continent.
If the improvements to the regulatory environment continues, then so too will the accompanying spike in investor interest. Coupled with the wealth of renewable energy resources Africa has to offer – including solar power, wind power, geothermal energy and biomass – this could herald in the start of a whole new era for the continent’s renewable energy industry.
The future could hold some exciting developments, such as the ability to store electricity and a move away from fixed grids to the development of mini or micro grids to power remote communities and businesses.
The direct employment opportunities that emerge during the construction and development of renewable energy projects are, on their own, significant, but so too are the knock-on effects. Put simply, the absence of power is an economic inhibitor and developing and adding power to the grid provides and encourages opportunity in many forms. Ultimately, more power drives stronger economies and that is something that we should all get behind.
*Director at DLA Piper Africa
Robert Gabriel Mugabe And The Battles To Free Southern Africa
September 22, 2019 | 0 Comments
By Gary K. Busch*
It was a shock to hear of the death of former Zimbabwe President Mugabe at his hospital retreat in Singapore. His death was no great surprise as he had been suffering for several years from a recurring complaint which required regular treatment at the Singapore clinic. He was 95 years of age so this, too, was not surprising. The shock was the finality of his passing.
However, what has been more shocking than his death has been the commentary in the world press on his life and efforts which pictures Mugabe as some sort of illegitimate villain who terrorised Zimbabwe for the thirty-seven years of his rule. This is not a truthful picture of his life and works. It demonstrates a serious lack of knowledge of the forces which shaped his policies and a woeful ignorance of the realities of Zimbabwe’s’ place in the Pan-African struggle to free Southern Africa.
Unfortunately, even within Zimbabwe, there are too many young people who don’t know or who never learned the real history of their country and their region or the amazing feat of winning the struggle for the independence of the country from the servitude of colonial and white settler politics.
Zimbabwe is one of a very few African nations which actually won its independence as a result of an armed struggle; as opposed to demonstrations, strikes and boycotts. During that armed struggle (The ‘Second Chimurenga’ the First Chimurenga was the Shona revolt against encroachment upon their lands, by the British South Africa Company and Cecil Rhodes in 1896 and 1897) Zimbabwean men and women took up arms and fought the White settler government of the Rhodesian Front and their “kith and kin” backers in the British Government. They risked their lives, their property and their futures in the battle against the injustice of White supremacy.
However, the struggle for freedom and self-rule in Zimbabwe was much more than a battle against the White settlers or the perfidious British. It was a Pan-African battle, of mighty proportions, which pitted the Frontline States of Africa (a coalition of African countries from the 1960s to the early 1990s committed to ending apartheid and white minority rule in South Africa and Rhodesia) whose membership included, initially Botswana, Tanzania and Zambia and later, as the struggle progressed, Angola (1975), Mozambique (1975) and Zimbabwe (1980). Tanzanian President Julius Nyerere was the chairman until he retired in 1985. His successor was Zambian President Kenneth Kaunda. These Frontline States sheltered, armed and supported the wide variety of national liberation movements which were seeking independence; among them ZAPU, ZANU, ANC, PAC, SWAPO, FRELIMO, COREMO, FLEC, MPLA, and several others as well as the military wings of these movements – among them ZIPRA,ZANLA, Umkonto we Siswe, POQO, PLAN and FAPLA.
Support for the liberation struggles in Southern Africa was not limited to the Frontline States. Ghana, Nigeria, Algeria, Egypt, Libya and others supported these liberation movements with equipment, trainers and officers. When the Southern African Development Coordination Conference was created in Lusaka on 1 April 1980, it dedicated itself to the cause of national political liberation in Southern Africa, and the reduction of these nation’s dependence on apartheid era South Africa for transport and logistics. On August 17, 1992, at a Summit held in Windhoek, Namibia, the Heads of State and Government signed the SADC Declaration and Treaty that effectively transformed the Southern African Development Coordination Conference (SADCC) into the Southern African Development Community, (SADC). Mugabe was the chairman of SADC’s organ on defence and security for the whole region. He was the key co-ordinator for the continuing struggle against apartheid and colonial polices.
What is even more important for the history of the liberation struggle was the financial, military, intelligence and political support ranged against African liberation movements by the United States and its NATO allies who viewed these struggles a part of their Cold War battles against the Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China. Their aim was to support the South Africans in resisting African uprisings and, despite protestations to the contrary, their support for White supremacy rule in the Southern African region. The Soviets (supported by their international allies in East Germany. Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Cuba) played a major role in supporting the African liberation struggles with arms, finance and military assistance. The Chinese, as well as their North Korean allies were also very active in Southern Africa. Looking at a snapshot of the deployment of combatants in the Angolan War in 1986, in addition to the domestic liberation forces, is a good guide.
Opposing them were the armed forces of South Africa, with its own weapons-manufacturing capability (ARMSCOR and DENEL), UNITA (a local ‘liberation movement’ funded by South Africa and the US and reliant on South African logistical supplies), the remains of the White Rhodesian forces which had escaped the formation of Zimbabwe in 1980 with their aircraft, and the support and finance of Zaire (now the DRC) whose President, Mobuto, was a key supporter of Savimbi’s UNITA.
As Mugabe was leading the battle against the White settlers and their South African and international backers his actions were tempered by and his abilities hindered by the Cold War in the African theatre. Throughout this struggle Mugabe concentrated first on creating the independent state of Zimbabwe and returning the control of its land to indigenous farmers. The fact that he was able to do this is a testament to his vision and his ability to function against such powerful enemies; most of whom were outside Zimbabwe.
Rebellion and the Urgent Need for Land Reform
One of the principal causes of the Rhodesian Bush War was the inequitable division of the land in the country. From the earliest days of Cecil Rhodes’ British South Africa Company (‘BSAC’), Whites were encouraged to come to Rhodesia to farm the rich, arable lands in a climate which was “suitable” for Whites. Between 1890 and 1896, the BSAC granted an area encompassing 16 million acres of prime land (about sixth the area of Southern Rhodesia) to White European immigrants. By 1913 this had been extended to 21.5 million acres. Most of the land owned by Africans was used as pastureland where they grazed their herds. As the Whites began to exploit the land they had been given they found themselves in competition with the African herds for pastureland.
In 1900 the colonial government decide to divide sections of Rhodesia’s land. They divided the land into five separate regions, based primarily on the amount of rainfall. “Region I comprised an area in the eastern highlands with markedly higher rainfall best suited to the cultivation of diversified cash crops such as coffee and tea. Region II was highveld, also in the east, where the land could be used intensively for grain cultivation such as maize, tobacco, and wheat. Region III and Region IV endured periodic drought and were regarded as suitable for livestock, in addition to crops which required little rainfall. Region V was lowveld and unsuitable for crop cultivation due to its dry nature; however, limited livestock farming was still viable. Land ownership in these regions was determined by race under the terms of the Southern Rhodesian Land Apportionment Act, passed in 1930, which reserved Regions I, II, and III for white settlement.[i]
Region V and a segment of Region II which possessed greater rainfall variability were organised into the Tribal Trust Lands (TTLs), reserved solely for black African ownership and use. This created two new problems: firstly, in the areas reserved for whites, the ratio of land to population was so high that many farms could not be exploited to their fullest potential, and some prime white-owned farmland was lying idle.
It was difficult for Africans to sustain themselves on the least favourable farmlands and many were compelled to work as labourers om White farms. This inequitable division of the land acquired by the Whites without compensation to the Africans who had toiled on the land for generations caused a great deal of unrest and agitation.
After a long period of protest and opposition, the Southern Rhodesian Government revisited the land tenure issue and passed the Southern Rhodesian Land Apportionment Act which reserved 49 million acres for white ownership and left 17.7 million acres of land unassigned to either the Whites or the Tribal Trusts.
When the Rhodesian Front issued the Universal Declaration of Independence, the Ian Smith Government passed the Rhodesian Land Tenure Act of 1969. This kept the forty-five million acres of prime land in White hands but allowed for the expansion of the African lands in the lower rainfall areas. The White farmers abused these reforms by using them as an excuse to expand the borders of their farms into formerly African areas and in evicting African farmers from their farms. The resentment at the inequitable division of the land was a burning issue in Rhodesian African societies and the main grievance which precipitated the agitation for reform which landed many African leaders, like Mugabe, in detention for ten years.
The Lancaster House Treaty and the Constitution which emerged from it, in addition to the terms of the ceasefire, was principally argued on the urgent need to include in the Constitution the radical reform of land tenure in the new Zimbabwe. The British Government was afraid that turning the land over to Africans immediately would cause unrest and conflict. Carrington proposed constitutional clauses underscoring property ownership as an inalienable right of all Zimbabweans (but not all at once). This was enshrined in Section 16 of the Zimbabwean Constitution, 1980. Lord Carrington announced that the United Kingdom would be prepared to assist land resettlement with technical assistance and financial aid. The Secretary-General of the Commonwealth of Nations, Sir Shridath Ramphal, also received assurances from the American ambassador in London, Kingman Brewster, that the United States would likewise contribute capital for “a substantial amount for a process of land redistribution and they would undertake to encourage the British government to give similar assurances”.[ii]
The Lancaster House Agreement stipulated that farms could only be taken from whites on a “willing buyer, willing seller” principle for at least ten years. White farmers were not to be placed under any pressure or intimidation, and if they decided to sell their farms they could determine their own asking prices. Exceptions could be made if the farm was unoccupied and not being used for agricultural activity. These were “entrenched clause” in the Constitution.
When Mugabe took office as Prime Minister, his government created the Ministry of Lands, Resettlement, and Redevelopment to assist in the acquisition of land from the White farmers under the terms of the Constitution. Not surprisingly the White farmers were not interested in selling their land, except perhaps their second or third farms. They raised the prices well above what was the fair market price for farmland, so the reform of land tenure was stuck in the aspic of the entrenched clauses for the full ten-year period. During that period the Ministry recovered only 7.41 million acres of farmland. The Zimbabwe population was furious as they thought that when they won the war they would get their land back. Mugabe and Nkomo said that the constitution had to be obeyed, even though it was inequitable. There were many Zimbabweans, mainly veterans of the war, who did not want to wait. Mugabe and ZANU-PF kept up with their side of the bargain.
At the end of the ten-year restraint of the entrenched clause (1990) Mugabe and his government announced to the British that the time of restraint was over. Lord Carrington had promised up to a billion pounds for compensation to the White farmers whose lands were being purchased. Mugabe asked how they should proceed.
The British made some small token payments to the White farmers, but the main expense was laid at the Zimbabwean government’s feet. Land Reform was going slowly as the Zimbabwe Government found it could not pay for the purchases. Another problem was that many leading African politicians used their positions to acquire farms without compensating the owners. The Land Reform, such as it was, was benefitting the politicians more than the populace. There was a great deal of unease among the White farmers and they conveyed this to the rest of the world.
In June 1996, Lynda Chalker, British secretary of state for international development, told Parliament that she could not endorse the new compulsory acquisition policy in Zimbabwe. She urged Mugabe to return to the principles of “willing buyer, willing seller” which was the term used in the “entrenched clauses”. Worse news came on 5 November 1997, when Tony Blair’s International Development Secretary, Clare Short, sent a letter describing the new Labour government’s refusal to honour the financial commitments made by the Conservative Government in the Lancaster House talks to compensate White farmers for the loss of their lands in land reform.
She said that the UK did not accept that Britain had a special responsibility to meet the costs of land purchase in Zimbabwe. Notwithstanding the Lancaster House commitments, Short stated that her government was only prepared to support a programme of land reform that was part of a poverty eradication strategy. She had other questions regarding the way in which land would be acquired and compensation paid, and the transparency of the process. Her government’s position was spelled out in a letter to Zimbabwe’s Agriculture Minister, Kumbirai Kangai. The Short letter wasn’t widely circulated internationally but was, effectively, a total abandonment of the British Government’s commitment to comply with the system they compelled the Patriotic Front to agree to at Lancaster House. Since Labour had replaced the Conservatives in the British Parliament the Labour Government washed its hands of any commitments made by the previous Foreign Office. The actual letter states
This was, effectively, a declaration of economic war against Zimbabwe. ZANU-PF politely explained to the British that they were removing the entrenched clauses in the Constitution as the ten years had passed. They were now going to acquire the farms from the White farmers and pay them what they had originally paid for them – zero. If the White farmers wanted compensation they should make their claims to the British Government out of the billion pounds they had been promised at Lancaster House.
This development was broadcast across the media internationally as horror stories about the occupation of White farms; without any reference to the role of the British in delaying and then denying their contribution for the return of land to Zimbabweans. The hostility of the West to Zimbabwe escalated and the vilification of Mugabe, in particular, grew. The White farmers were portrayed as victims. They could promote themselves as victims because the actions of the Rhodesian Front Government against Africans had been overlooked and buried out of reporting and analysis by the Western media.
The Rhodesian Front Policies Against the Africans
The injustices of the Rhodesian Government of Ian Smith and the Rhodesian Front have been airbrushed over in the last forty years and the crimes of the oppressors have been relegated to a foot note as has the active involvement of the Western Powers in covertly supporting Rhodesia and South Africa despite this knowledge. What they did, and later admitted to, would have kept the ICC judges in The Hague busy for a generation had the court been formed at that time. Even as they knew they were losing the battle in 1978 they experimented with the use of weaponised anthrax against the Black population in Rhodesia. In 1979, the largest recorded outbreak of anthrax occurred in Rhodesia. As shown in sworn testimony and repeated in the autobiography of Ken Flower, Chief of Rhodesia’s Central Intelligence Organization(‘CIO’) and CIO Officer, Henrik Ellert, the anthrax outbreak in 1978-80 was anything but benign. The original outbreak was the result of a policy carried out by the Rhodesian Front government with the active participation of South Africa’s ‘Dr. Death’ (Dr Wouter Basson) and, together with the South Africans, the Rhodesian Front used biological and chemical weapons against the African liberation forces and the rural Blacks to prevent their support of the civil war and against their cattle to reduce rural food stocks.
Much of the detailed background of this program emerged from testimony at the South African Truth and Reconciliation hearings. Dr. Death used Rhodesia as a testing ground for their joint chemical and biological warfare programs. Witnesses at the commission testified to a catalogue of killing methods ranging from the grotesque to the horrific:
1. “Project Coast” sought to create “smart” poisons, which would only affect blacks’ people, and hoarded enough cholera and anthrax to start epidemics
2. Naked black men were tied to trees, smeared with a poisonous gel and left overnight to see if they would die. When the experiments failed, they were put to death with injections of muscle relaxants.
3. Weapon ideas included sugar laced with salmonella, cigarettes with anthrax, chocolates with botulism and whisky with herbicide.
4. Clothes left out to dry were sprayed with cholera germs.
5. Water holes were doused with poisons to kill the cattle and anyone else who drank from them.
Dr. Wooton Basson was aided by the work of Dr. Robert Symington, professor of Anatomy at the University of Rhodesia. The active work was performed by Inspector Dave Anderton, head of the “Terrorist” desk at the CIO. In 1979-80 there were 10,748 documented cases of anthrax in Rhodesia which involved 182 deaths (all Africans). In contrast, during the previous twenty-nine years there had been only 334 cases with few deaths. This was no accidental outbreak. Some of the weaponised anthrax was delivered to the US by the South Africans where it provided feedstock for the US chemical and biological feedstock; later stored on Johnson Island.
Despite these ongoing horrors and atrocities, the Rhodies continued to receive open support from South Africa and covert support from the U.S. and its Cold War allies who feared the influence of the Soviet Union and “Red” China on the continent.
Zimbabwe’s Initial Challenges
The newly independent Zimbabwe faced many challenges beyond the problems of Land Reform. The Rhodesian Bush War was not the only war of liberation in Africa at the time. It overlapped several Cold War conflicts in its neighbouring countries, including Angola’s war of independence (1961-1975) and civil war (1975-2002), Mozambique’s war of independence (1964-1974) and Civil War (1977 to 1992), and Shaba I (1977) and Shaba II (1978) in the DRC These conflicts, which often pitted Soviet or Chinese military trainers and equipment against NATO members and their allies, made any coherent response to the demands for liberation, pan-African solidarity and justice a pale vision of what was demanded.
Initially the Afro-Asian Bloc in the UN had greater power over its ability to determine policy and raise support from the international community. Each year at the General Assembly the delegates had to vote over the application of the People’s Republic of China to substitute itself for the Republic of China (Taiwan) which was a member of the UN and had a Permanent Seat on the Security Council. Each year, before the vote on admitting Red China to the UN, the Afro-Asians were able to get political concessions and foreign aid projects arranged with the West in exchange for a “No” vote on China. On Oct. 25, 1971, the United Nations General Assembly voted to admit the People’s Republic of China (mainland China) and to expel the Republic of China (Taiwan). Once the PRC was voted into the UN the Afro-Asian Bloc lost much of its power and influence. The admission of Red China to the UN was one of the most important changes in how the world viewed Africa. It became safe to ignore Africa and its demands for liberation and development. On the other hand, it also gave China’s African associates a new clout in their dealings with the UN and the international organisations by being able to mount support from China in the Security Council.
One of Zimbabwe’s main problems was that it is a landlocked country, so its trade had to pass through other countries, by rail or road. A map shows why Zimbabwe relied on its neighbours for safe passage of its imports and exports.
That situation meant that most of the goods going in and out of Zimbabwe had to go through either Mozambique or South Africa. This was also a problem for the Rhodies in the later stages of Rhodesian Front rule. In response to a program of international sanctions against Rhodesia the Rhodesian Front was able to create a relatively sophisticated system of sanctions-busting commerce. Part of its ability was the use of transport links through the Mozambican ports of Beira and Laurenço Marques (later Maputo). This was facilitated by the Portuguese colonial authorities which controlled Mozambique at the time. This co-operation lasted until the Carnation Revolution in Portugal on 25 April 1974 when a military coup in Lisbon overthrew the authoritarian Estado Novo Regime in Portugal by dissident soldiers who were committed to ending Portuguese overseas colonial rule; especially because the colonial budget was eating up over 40% of the national budget. This was partially derived from the fact that the Portuguese were fighting colonial battles with African insurgent movements.
The U.S. and NATO had reluctantly supported the Estado Novo government in Portugal because it was virulently anti-communist. However, this did not stop the creation and financing of anti-colonial forces in Portuguese African colonies by both the West and the Communist Bloc. In the Portuguese African colonies, there were multiple liberation movements. Some were supported by the Soviet Union; some by China; some by the U.S. and Britain; and others by South Africa. In many countries the French supported both or all sides.
When the Portuguese abandoned their African colonies in 1974/1975 this caused a severe problem for the Rhodesian Front as easy movement of goods from Rhodesia through Mozambican ports was restricted by a FRELIMO Government which was financed by the Soviet Bloc and a RENAMO military force supported by South Africa; both of whom contested transport on the road and rail links. As a result, almost 90% of Rhodesia’s trade became dependent on South African road and rail connections as the Mozambican routes were more difficult and unsafe; even the oil pipeline built by Lonrho from Beira to Rhodesia which supplied most of the energy needs of Rhodesia was threatened. This dependence on South Africa for its commercial trade with the world was a very heavy burden for the new Patriotic Front Government as it took office. The South African Government, with whom ZAPU and ZANU had been fighting for years as a result of the South African support for the Rhodesian Front had a very effective grip over the Zimbabwe economy.
In fact, the problems Mugabe faced with the Land Question and competing ethnic strife between Shona and Ndebele, and internal Zezuru/Karanga Shona rivalries, were important to Zimbabwean unity and growth, but the strategic problems of logistics were a far more pressing and difficult problem. Its solution lay, not in economics or discussion of political or ethnic abstractions but in manoeuvring through the minefield of the impact of the Cold War battles in Southern Africa on free transport. The success in addressing that is Mugabe’s greatest legacy to the Zimbabwean people.
This delicate balance between Zimbabwe’s economic and trading programs and the Pan-African programs of liberation was well recognised by the US and its allies. In a paper prepared for the US Deputy Director of Central Intelligence on 9 July 1986, this dependence was illustrated. It concluded that “A review of trade and financial statistics shows that all neighbouring states, except Angola, are vulnerable to South African economic retaliation.”[iii]
This expanded on a Research Paper on the transport system “Transport Routes in Southern Africa”[iv]
The findings of that study did not favour the African states. It found, “Much of the region’s trade moves along the “Southern Route” of north-south rail lines running from the Zairian Copper Belt to South African ports.
The transportation dependence of the black states of the region also includes their use of South African equipment. South African freight cars are used in nearly all the black states, as are South African locomotives in several-states. An equipment recall by Pretoria would, in our view, strangle the economies of the landlocked states.
In our view, the short-term prospects for implementing this strategy are gloomy. The insurgencies in Mozambique and Angola would have to end, and massive investment in equipment and training of personnel would be required. The SADCC has had difficulty raising transportation development funds, and the transportation systems of several of the member states—particularly the coastal ones—have deteriorated further since initial cost estimates were made…
Even if the insurgencies in Mozambique and Angola end, which would open vital east-west routes, we believe that South Africa would still maintain considerable leverage over the transport and more general economic options available to the black states.”
In response, the SADC states drew up a plan for a “Beira Corridor” which would channel Southern African trade through Mozambique. Although progress began on expanding and protecting the rail line to Beira and the oil pipeline from Beira to Umtali in Zimbabwe, progress was slow and risky as South Africa sponsored the RENAMO forces in Mozambique who opposed the FRELIMO government which took over from Portuguese rule and from attacks by South African commandos. This opposition to free trade through Beira led to Mugabe ordering the creation of the 5th Brigade under Gen. Shiri, trained by North Koreans, to fight against the RENAMO and South Africans to keep transport moving.
In July 1986, the Directorate of Intelligence at the CIA produced a research study “Beira Corridor Vulnerability” in response to a request from SADC for U.S. support of the project. The study found “The history of sabotage and attacks in the Beira transportation corridor, and our analysis of the military capabilities of government and insurgent forces that operate there, indicate that the road, railway, pipeline, and port cannot be effectively protected against attacks carried out by either the Mozambican National Resistance (RENAMO) or South Africa. In our judgment, Mozambican and Zimbabwean troops may be able to provide reasonable security for the corridor’s limited number of bridges, oil pumping stations, and other key targets, but are unable to prevent insurgent ambushes, landmines, and sabotage along this route through RENAMO’s heartland. Furthermore, the corridor also is vulnerable to attack by South African commandos, aircraft, or naval forces.
In our judgment, development of the corridor, as an alternative to dependence on South African facilities, probably would result in greater South African confrontation with its neighbours. Moreover, Zimbabwe’s military requirements to protect the Beira corridor may create an opportunity for Moscow to initiate a major arms supply relationship with Harare.”[v]
The Cold War in Southern Africa
When Mugabe and his colleagues emerged from the British detention centres in 1974/1975 they found an Africa which was far different than that of the Africa of the mid-1960s when they were jailed. The aborted independence of the Belgian Congo had been a testament to the willingness of the U.S., Belgians, and French and South African mercenaries to openly intervene in the national liberation struggle by assassinating Patrice Lumumba and installing Moise Tshombe and Joseph Mobutu as tame leaders under their control. The US set up its own airbase in the Congo, WIGMO, guided by Larry Devlin of the CIA who became a “superminister” in the Mobutu Government. The French thwarted true independence in its colonies after Guinea choose direct independence over a “flag independence” under continued French rule and did not submit to the Pacte Coloniale which tethered the other francophone African nations to the political, economic and military control of France. An imprisoned Mugabe missed the Biafran War, where the French oil interests funded the breakaway state of Biafra with the support of South Africa and the Air Trans Africa pilots from Rhodesia. On the Federal side Russian, Ukrainian and Egyptian pilots supported the federal government.
The war for independence for Southwest Africa had begun while they were in prison and there was a Cold War struggle for control of the insurgents by the Soviets and their allies supporting the MPLA of Angola and SWAPO of Namibia. The Soviets sent down Vasily Grigoryevich Solodovnikov, the former head of the Institute for African Affairs in Moscow, to co-ordinate Soviet assistance from a base in Lusaka, Zambia. There were around twenty-one KGB officers in charge of planning, logistics and training in Lusaka. They arranged for African volunteers (cleared by their local parties) to travel to Odessa and other training bases in the Soviet Union for the military struggle. Mischa Wolf, the head of the East German STASI, sent down key officers to offer intelligence support and training (mainly in Angola). In fact, there were many “translators” from Moscow who served in Africa, including the Russian Igor Sechin (the current head of Rosneft and a key associate of Putin) and Viktor Bout. They all represented an important Soviet presence in Southern Africa. Many of the current Southern African military and intelligence officers (like Emmerson Mnangagwa) were graduates of this training program, as were the key leaders of the ANC in South Africa; both political and military.
The Chinese, too, had an extensive presence in Africa based in Tanzania. They even had their own arms factory in Pemba. They offered their support for training at their academy in Wuhan, China for African volunteers and spread military officers across Southern Africa offering support to the liberation movements.
The U.S. was active in restraining African liberation. In 1964, President Lyndon Johnson sent Averell Harriman to the Congolese capital, Leopoldville to assess the growing power of the insurgents after Christphe Gbenye, Gaston Soumialot and Lawrence Kabila had taken over much of the Eastern Congo. Harriman and Cyrus Vance the Deputy Defense Secretary, drew up plans for an American airlift, carrying Belgian and South African soldiers, to install Tshombe as head of Katanga. They succeeded in installing Tshombe but created a much more serious problem for the West.
The U.S. flew in Belgian soldiers from the U.S. airbase in the Azores to Stanleyville. It had the approval of the Unite Nations and the support of Harold Wilson’s UK. One result of this open foray into interventionism was the growing involvement of the Cubans in the politics of the region. Che Guevara had gone to the UN and spoken against the Western action. He flew to China to meet with Chou En Lai, who had just been in Africa and then with Nasser in Egypt. They all pressed Che for a greater involvement in Africa and the need to express Cuba’s opposition to the U.S. after the Cuban missile crisis and the invasion of the Bay of Pigs. Che went back to Fidel and got permission to send a delegation of Cuban fighters to the Congo.
Che disappeared. His sudden disappearance was a subject for conjecture all over the world. He eventually surfaced in the Congo where, with 100 Cuban guerrilla fighters to assist him, he put into action his theories of how to help the oppressed peoples of Africa throw off the yoke of colonial imperialism. His first task was to help the young Laurent Kabila in his struggle against the dictator Mobutu, who had seized power in the newly independent Congo following the assassination of Patrice Lumumba. The diaries that Guevara kept during his months in Africa record a political, strategic and ideological failure.[vi] He wrote,” We went to Africa to Cubanise the African fighters. Instead they Africanised the Cubans.” Despite this, Fidel sent thousands of troops to Africa to fight on the side of African insurgents. They played an important role in the Angolan War and were, in the minds of the Western planners, an example of the clear and present danger of allowing the Soviets and their allies to grow too strong in the region.
The US Military in Africa
The U.S. is no stranger to military invasions in many countries, including a large number on the African continent. The United States engaged in forty-six military interventions from 1948–1991, from 1992–2017 that number increased fourfold to 188.The latest statistics are produced by the Congressional Research[vii] who show several more.
Between the mid 1950’s to the end of the 1970’s, only four overt U.S. military operations in Africa were recorded, though large-scale proxy and clandestine military operations were pervasive. Under the administrations of US Presidents Ronald Reagan and George Bush Sr. (1981–1993) military intervention accelerated, rising to eight, not counting the large scale clandestine ‘special forces’ and proxy wars in Southern Africa. Under the Clinton regime, US militarised intervention in Africa took off. Between 1992 and 2000, 17 armed incursions took place, including a large-scale invasion of Somalia and military backing for the Rwandan genocidal regime. Clinton intervened in Liberia, Gabon, Congo and Sierra Leone to prop up a long-standing troubled regime. He bombed the Sudan and dispatched military personnel to Kenya and Ethiopia to back proxy clients assaulting Somalia. Under George W. Bush, 15 US military interventions took place, mainly in Central and East Africa.
The Pentagon has military ties with 53 African countries (including Libya prior to the recent war). Washington’s efforts to militarise Africa and turn its armies into proxy forces for the War on Terrorism got a boost in 9/11/2001. The Bush Administration announced in 2002 that Africa was a “strategic priority in fighting terrorism” Henceforth, US foreign policy strategists, with the backing of both liberal and neoconservative congress-people, moved to centralise and coordinate a military policy on a continent-wide basis forming AFRICOM. AFRICOM organises African armies, euphemistically called “co-operative partnerships,” to conduct anti-terrorist wars based on bilateral agreements (Uganda, Burundi, etc.) as well as under ‘multi-lateral’ links with the Organization of African Unity (OAU). The bulk of the U.S African interventions before 1995 were concerned, directly or indirectly, with the preservation of South Africa in its struggles against African liberation movements. The interventions after that were largely about fighting terrorists.
Why Was African Liberation Delayed by The Cold War?
The principal problems which African liberation leaders had to face in the period from 1960 to 1995 derived from the fact that the international community viewed their struggles as part of their worldwide struggle between NATO, the forces of the Warsaw Pact and the emerging Chinese efforts to expand their influence globally. However, Africa was not always a priority in these Cold War conflicts.
The problem for most journalistic and academic studies of these struggles is that they do not start from an appreciation that, in real life, almost everything is “joined-up”. As the U.S. was approaching the problems of Southern Africa and its covert support for the South African government it was also struggling with the demands of the Vietnam War (militarily, financial and political) and its battles in Iran and the Middle East. The Soviets were facing dramatic internal changes after their invasions of Hungary and Czechoslovakia; the growing dissidence in Poland and East Germany and costly wars in Chechnya and Afghanistan. China was suffering the chaos of the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution. In all these cases, African demands, while important, were very much on the back burner and well-behind in the queue for focussing national expenditures. Access to Africa’s great mineral resources was the main motivator for Great Power interest in Africa; both in acquiring them and in denying them to their enemies. The activities and interests in Africa by the UK and France, however, were in preserving their traditional colonial advantages and control. South Africa was fighting for its survival against a growing, politicized African majority prepared for armed conflict, especially after Sharpeville.
That meant that the African leaders, like Mugabe, had several separate and competing tasks for their attention. The first was the battle to achieve independence from the British colonial forces and the Rhodesian Front government which had assumed British prerogatives. That meant fighting the Bush War against the Rhodies and then negotiating independence with the British after they had reclaimed Zimbabwe from the Rhodesian Front. In order to achieve the military power to fight the Rhodies a source of weapons, training and support had to be acquired. The primarily Ndebele forces joined together in a political party, ZAPU, under the leadership of Joshua Nkomo. They had their own military force (ZANLA) and were headquartered in Lusaka, Zambia under the control and support of the Soviets and their advisors led by Solodovnikov. Not only did they receive arms and training, they sent hundreds of the ZANLA forces for training inside the Soviet Union. This was mirrored in the Soviet support of Kenneth Kaunda in Zambia.
On the other hand, the primarily Shona political forces united in a political party, ZANU, based in northern Mozambique and led by Robert Mugabe. It too, had a military arm (ZIPRA) and was sustained in its military pursuits by the Peoples’ Republic of China which provided arms, training and guidance to ZIPRA in Africa and in training camps in China. Many of the leaders of ZANU came from among the Zezuru/KoreKore Shona while the bulk of the armed forces of ZIPRA were Karanga. Although the vicissitudes of the negotiations led the leaders of ZAPU and ZANU to join under the rubric Patriotic Front, there was little, if any, co-operation between the ZANLA and the ZIPRA forces. Even when the Patriotic Front won independence in 1980 the two military wings had difficulty joining a united Zimbabwean Army. A British officer was assigned to help them.
The aims and ambitions of the Soviet Union and China were clear. They were able, for very little expense, to engage with the liberation forces in support of their liberation aims and gain untrammelled access to African resources which were very much needed at home. They were able to remove the British and the French from their colonial possessions in Africa and built up solid political and commercial relations with the African leadership which transcended the winning of liberation. They were also able to put pressure on the “glavni vrag” (the main enemy), the US, for appearing to support the forces of apartheid South Africa and White Supremacist Rhodesia. Despite protestations by successive U.S. governments (Republican and Democrat) that they were not racists and didn’t support racism in any form, the policies on the ground gave lie to this assertion as they established a quiet working relationship with the South Africans in their wars against SWAPO, MPLA, FLEC and their efforts to subvert independent African governments in Zimbabwe, Mozambique and the DRC.
The US role in the assassination of Patrice Lumumba left little doubt of the US willingness to actively subvert newly independent African states for its own, perceived, interests. On March 17, 1970 the U.S. cast its first veto ever in the Security Council as it joined with Britain in rejecting an African-Asian resolution that would have condemned Britain for not using force to overthrow the white-minority government of Rhodesia. The U.S. justified its veto because it would block exports of Rhodesian chrome and unjustly enrich the Soviet Union, the second biggest chrome exporter. A CIA Intelligence Assessment at the time, Chromium: Western Vulnerabilities and Options [viii] rationalised support for exempting chromite from the UN sanctions on Rhodesia by pointing out “ Southern Africa’s severe economic, social, and political problems might disrupt mining and transport activities in one or more countries of the region at any time and the USSR could embargo chromite exports to the West as it did during the Korean war…The Soviet Union would benefit from a disruption of chromium supplies from southern Africa. After 1985 it might even be able to expand its own exports to capture disrupted markets. It might do so selectively, however, as a means of nurturing economic and political ties with key Western countries. Large-scale exports during a prolonged disruption would in turn serve to increase Western dependence on the East by discouraging the development of alternative sources”.
Funding Rival Liberation Movements As Surrogate Troops
This Cold War competition in the liberation struggles in Southern Africa led to forming rival liberation movements across the region – some supported by the Soviets and Chinese, and their rivals supported by the US and South Africa; all in the same country or with neighbours.. African liberation became a proxy war for the main protagonists. Africans fought other Africans in the name of liberation, with the US and Soviets watching on and cheering their acolytes.
The rivalries and intense levels of warfare between domestic forces was bitter and bloody. In Angola the Soviets and the Cubans supported Neto’s MPLA – the US and South Africa supported Savimbi’s UNITA. Neto, and then Dos Santos, travelled, with great fanfare to Moscow and Havana, while Savimbi was feted in the US and Switzerland. The liberation forces which had set up headquarters in Luanda actively supported Sam Nujoma of SWAPO for the liberation of Namibia while the US and South Africa supported Dr. Kareina of SWANU and the South African-backed Turnhalle Alliance as an opponent of SWAPO. There were few sights more bewildering than in oil-rich Cabinda, when the South African commandos attacked the Cubans guarding the Gulf Oil installation. In Mozambique the South Africans created RENAMO to fight the FRELIMO government and assisted RENAMO by sending South African commandos to accompany them. In Botswana, Potlako Leballo’s POQO army of the Azanian People Liberation Army was suppressed by the South African military with the quiet support of the ANC; the US posted POQO as a terrorist organisation, advertising its putative Chinese connections.
In South Africa itself, the ANC was divided between the “regular” ANC and the “Vula Boys” of the MK. Far more damaging to the cause of the liberation of South Africa was the creation by the South Africans of a Zulu military force, supported and trained in camps in the Caprivi Strip by the South African Army, engaged to fight against the ANC inside South Africa, “Operation Marion”. The South African Nationalists funded the Inkatha Freedom Party (‘IFP) of Buthulezi and provided the fighters of the IFP with weapons, explosives, communications equipment and training facilities. During November 1985 Buthelezi set out his needs to the then Director of Military Intelligence, Major-General Tienie Groenewald who offered military support, which included both an offensive and an attacking capacity. Buthelezi’s requests were placed before an extra-ordinary meeting of the SSC at Tuynhuis on 20th December 1985; where Minister of Defence, Magnus Malan, Minister of Law and Order, Louis Le Grange and Minister of Constitutional Development and Planning, Chris Heunis were tasked with establishing a “security force” for Buthelezi against the ANC internally.
Two hundred and six Inkatha men were recruited by M Z Khumalo for this. The 206 were taken to the Caprivi Strip in Namibia where they received training at Hippo Camp by the Special Operations component of Military Intelligence and Special Forces. The recruits were divided into operational groups; one of which was an offensive group of some 30 men. The trainees were instructed that their targets would be located within the ANC. They began a campaign of murder, assassination and destruction of the ANC leadership. According to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission over 20,000 died, more than half of whom died after the ANC was unbanned.
On 21 January 1988 Chief Director Intelligence Operations, Major General Neels Van Tonder met with Buthelezi. Van Niekerk, Colonel Mike Van den Berg and M.K. Kumalo and agreed to build more training bases for the Operation Marion IFP Zulus at Port Durnford and a separate base for the rest of the group at Mkhuze. By 1990 there were more than 5,300 IFP “Self-Protection” fighters operating against the ANC in South Africa.[ix]
There were similar bases set up for African military groups, like RENAMO, by the South African “Securocrats” to fight against African liberation groups; the most well-documented of which was the support for Savimbi’s UNITA. In addition,” Lang Hendrick” van den Bergh, the head of the Bureau of State Security (B.O.S.S.), recruited and operated African intelligence officers in many of the Frontline states. This was particularly effective in Zimbabwe when the Central Intelligence Organisation (which took over from the Rhodie Ministry of State Security) could continue after independence under its existing head, Ken Flower, and several of his colleagues.[x] Unfortunately for Mugabe and the CIO they covertly maintained contact with Van den Bergh and assisted in the creation of RENAMO and empowered three BOSS operatives to place arms caches in the farms of ZAPU politicians after the ZANLA riots at Entumbane, Glenville and Connemara in Matabeleland which precipitated the Gukurahundi massacres of Ndebele civilians carried out by the Zimbabwe National Army. Periodically, CIO leaders like Geoffrey Price and three other colleagues would defect to South Africa and worked with BOSS. It wasn’t until Happyton Bonyongwe took effective control of the CIO that there was any trust by Mugabe and ZANU-PF of the role of the CIO. Happyton Bonyongwe was later succeeded in his role by the current Zimbabwe President, Emmerson Mnangagwa.
The Challenges Faced By Mugabe
When Mugabe returned from the Lancaster House talks to become Prime Minister of the new Zimbabwe there was great anticipation of his victory dramatically changing life for Zimbabweans. While most people did not expect an overnight change to their lives they were not expecting the immense challenges and delays faced by the Patriotic Front.
First, it was not possible to redistribute land because of the entrenched clauses of the new Constitution. Many returning soldiers felt that this was the main item they had been fighting for and it was not immediate and was being resisted by the Rhodies and the British. Secondly, the new army could not accept all the returning soldiers. Some would have to leave the military and look for jobs in the civilian economy; trying to find work when there wasn’t a lot of work to be found. Moreover, the ZANLA and ZIPRA forces had to be combined into a single national army; a difficult task for those who military experiences had been so different. Thirdly, and importantly, the disquiet between the Shona and the Ndebele over accepting political appointments and legislative power was viewed by both sides as essentially unfair. The external forces to Zimbabwe, Cold War, British and South African fostered and promoted these divisions and factionalism and made progress slow and hazardous for the government. Fourthly, the liberation struggles in Southern Africa continued and nationalist wars in Angola, Namibia and the DRC continued unabated and required that Mugabe, as head of the Defence Section of SADC, play a role in supporting the anti-colonial forces.
Mugabe was in a difficult position. He was not particularly friendly with the Soviet Union as they had supported his competitors for years. There was very little that the Chinese could do to assist. The U.S. had adopted the Korry Report under President Johnson which effectively reduced the U.S. from a broad engagement in Southern Africa by choosing five nations on which to concentrate its assistance. The rest were consigned to a policy of “benign neglect”. It was only under Nixon that Henry Kissinger changed U.S. policy in Africa after his realisation that there were thirty-seven thousand Cuban troops active in the area. He issued the famous National Security Study Memorandum 39 (NSSM39) which quietly recognised support for the South African Government and channelled covert U.S. policies to them to support the South Africans while making many speeches about the unpleasantness of apartheid.
The limits of US rhetoric were the result of the effective internal opposition to US government policies by opponents of the Vietnam War, by the civil rights activists who were empowered by the civil rights movement and by the rise of the Black Power movement in the US military. Battles between US Black soldiers and the White officers in Vietnam was not uncommon. In the US Navy, the Black Power groups formed the Black Faction group which included the Stop Our Ships (SOS) movement. The SOS supervised confrontation between Black sailors and the Navy which impeded the USS Ranger, the USS Kitty Hawk, the USS Richard B. Anderson, the USS Midway, the USS Constellation and the USS Forrestal from sailing or deploying to and from Vietnam. The fires set by them on the USS Forrestal alone resulted in over $7 million in damage and was the largest single act of sabotage in naval history. They were supported on shore in the US by thousands of anti-war protestors.
The effect of these protests and demonstrations against U.S. racial and civil rights policies of its government tempered the willingness of the Nixon administration to display its NSSM39 policies and, most important of all, made it clear that the use of U.S. military power in Africa would have to be through surrogates. They understood the risk of using the U.S. military, including a large proportion of Black soldiers, to shoot and kill Africans would likely provoke such protests in America that the consequences were too dire to predict.
Mugabe was forced to be patient but kept up a steady pressure on the British to proceed with Land Reform and exposed to the world the background funding and support by the British of a new Ndebele political party, the MDC, which challenged the ZANU-PF electorally. Despite enormous Western pressure against the move, Mugabe and Moven Mahachi, the Defence Minister delivered Zimbabwe’s military support behind the battle for control of the DRC Government of Laurent Kabila by the force of Rwanda and Uganda.
Little by little Mugabe achieved his aims. Zimbabwe remained free and independent. The land issue was resolved. With the assistance of the Zimbabweans, the DRC was saved; Namibia and Angola were liberated, the ANC took power in South Africa. The price paid for this was very high and the greed and avarice of Zimbabwean politicians has made a mockery of the ideals they preached and kept the nation from making an economic success of the great resources of the country. Mugabe made several unfortunate choices but, at the end of the day, his legacy is positive. It is for this that he should be remembered. His enemies were not only in Zimbabwe.
[i] Angus Selby, “White farmers in Zimbabwe 1890-2005.” PhD Thesis, University of Oxford: June 2006
[ii] Martin Plaut, “Africa : US backed Zimbabwe land reform”. BBC News 22 August 2007.
[iii] CIA, Talking Points For DDCI- Southern Africa, , Declassified 2011/09/16 : CIA-RDP91B00874R000100200003
[iv] CIA, Transport Routes in Sothern Africa, , March 1983, CIA-RDP90T01298R000100040001
[v] NSC “MOZAMBIQUE: Vulnerability of the Beira Corridor”, CIA-RDP86T01017R000707340001-9, 1986
[vi] Che Guevara, The African Dream: the Diaries of the Revolutionary War in the Congo. Harvill Panther, 1971
[vii] Barbara Salazar Torreon and Sofia Plagakis, Instances of Use of United States Armed Forces Abroad, 1798-2019, Congressional Record Service, D.C., Updated July 17, 2019. These do not include CIA interventions.
[viii] CIA, “Chromium: Western Vulnerabilities and Options “, CIA-RDP84S00558R000100100002-1
[x] Ken Flower, Serving Secretly: An Intelligence Chief on Record, Rhodesia into Zimbabwe 1964-1981, 1987.
* The author is the editor and publisher of the web-based news journal of international relations www.ocnus.net and the distance-learning educational website www.worldtrade.ac. He speaks and reads 12 languages and has written six books and published 58 specialist studies. His articles have appeared in the Economist Intelligence Unit, Wall Street Journal, WPROST (a leading Polish weekly news magazine), Pravda and several other major international news journals
Schools: Useful in Theory, Useless in Practice?
September 22, 2019 | 0 Comments
By John Nkemnji, Ph.D*
If you could be wealthy without going to school would you spend the time and resources to go to school for education? While formal education (schooling) is critical for national development and stability, the program of studies (curriculum) has barely changed from the days of the “Saber-Tooth Curriculum” (teaching hunting and gathering skills). The school system predominantly lectures to age-determined students and has hardly evolved, despite galloping changes in research, communication, society, technology, and culture. The schools’ lack of adaptation, rising costs, and unrealistic expectations related to immediate gains from schooling cause people today, especially on social media, to wonder if schools are necessary.(https://happinessishereblog.com/)
Students who drop out of primary school and are lucky enough to have lucrative careers often believe there is no need for formal education. Many drop-outs argue that employment and money are the reasons for formal education and that schools exist merely to prepare students for a job or career. Consequently, some people wonder if students are wasting time and resources by sitting in age-determined groups, listening to lectures, and memorizing facts that can easily be looked up from computerized databases.
Critics of formal education usually forget that education is important for reasons beyond career preparation. Formal education develops disciplined minds, transmits the culture and helps students function in society. Enlightened leaders like Mandela alluded to the fact that “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” A UNESCO document “Education transforms lives,” highlights the following:
- Each year of liberal education reduces the risk of conflict in society by 20%.
- Each year of schooling increases a person’s potential income by 10%.
- Increased access to education decreases the gap between the haves and the have-nots.
I agree with critics who believe that formal education needs reform to match our evolving society. Fundamentally, the curriculum of formal education has not kept up with the times. Technology has rapidly evolved, and it is challenging for some teachers and parents. However, I disagree with the assertion that society no longer needs formal education, especially beyond high school. With a well-developed curriculum and an appropriate interactive delivery system, formal education whether private, public, home-school, online, or via apprenticeship is supposed to produce a community builder who actively and positively contributes to the community. It is also designed to pass on culture and produce liberated citizens who are inquisitive, productive and reflective.
We need schools to educate mindful, ethical, compassionate citizens. Imagine what would happen to handicapped individuals if there were no schools to accommodate their needs, advocate for them and educate them to make them more self-reliant and independent? Formal education helps to provide or equalize opportunities for many people regardless of ethnicity, socio-economic status, gender, or age. Societies with inequalities and disparities are not usually stable or peaceful. A good educational system provides individualized learning, authentic problem solving skills, and social development. Education also helps reduce the unemployment rate and the prison population. People learn when they recognize that education will help to give them autonomy, empowerment, and emancipation. Education is good for self-development and social cohesion.
For schools to succeed, a committed partnership between students, teachers, parents, government, and society must exist. Some critics of formal education expect schools to cure all societal ills – environmental destruction, drug abuse, racism, gun violence, teenage pregnancy, obesity, sexual abuse, etc. That is not practical, especially with “hands-off parents” working round the clock. Educators cannot do it all.
In schools where the curriculum is based on local needs and not a foreign system, the learners develop good self-concept, collaboration, integrity, human dignity, patience, empathy, and other important values of the society. That is why nations like the Southern Cameroons and other developing states fight to change the school system to fit local demands. The people put off any form of colonial or foreign design with the belief that “Back to School” at the appropriate time will pay off. For about three years, students in the Southern Cameroons have not been to school. They are hoping for a better tomorrow, so they can be taught using an up-to-date curriculum by teachers who understand their language and culture. Colonial education is set up to make the colonized subservient. The teaching materials and methods lead to minimal gains for the development of society.
Good school systems are not static but keep changing and adapting to the times and the needs of all the citizens. Technology is there to facilitate education in formal settings since most research and development is done in formal institutions of learning. Technology will not replace schools. Formal education is necessary and needed by every citizen. Formal education breeds the love for life-long learning for the good of citizens, nations, and the world at large since there are global problems that need collaborative-solutions from educated minds. Social media critics provide a catalyst for useful school theory and practice in keeping with the changing times.
* The writer is Professor Emeritus, Educational Technology.
My vision for education investments in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)
September 20, 2019 | 0 Comments
By Amini Kajunju*
Early in 2019 during a maiden visit to neighboring countries, a newly-elected President Felix Antoine Tshisekedi announced in Brazzaville that his government will provide free primary education to all Congolese children starting the beginning of the next school. This is great news—in a country with so much untapped wealth, parents should not have to pay for public primary education fees.
The budget allocation would be $2.6B about 40% of the country’s budget of about $7B with 50,000 state primary schools possibly receiving $52,000 per capita. Many schools are in total physical decay and academically inadequate. For President Tshisekedi’s offer to have any real value, his government must further commit to fundamental reforms and pledge a significant financial investment.
The DRC is famous for its vast wealth of natural resources including minerals, timber, and rivers. But the new government has a responsibility to turn its focus to another untapped resource: its human capital.
From the age of three to 30 years of age, young citizens are a captive audience, eager to learn and to innovate. We need to give them a good start for their future so that the country can experience high productivity and wealth creation through massive investment.
If one is looking for an excellent example of how investments in education transformed a poor country into a wealthy one, we need only look to South Korea. In the 50s, South Korea was a poor country. Through visionary leaders and actions, it made education, industrialization, manufacturing, and trade the pillars of their economy. At the height of this investment, the country spent 22% of its budget on education. These investments paid off. Today, South Korea has one of the most educated populaces and the 11th largest economy in the world and currently spends about $20.9B on education about 5% of the country’s budget. DRC’s economy is ranked number 99 today.
Despite DRC’s struggling economy, there is hope. Citizens are ready for a government that is committed to undoing a history of economic disinvestment and mismanagement, to restoring democracy, and to the provision of public goods. To assist with these aspirations, I propose seven fundamental reforms that will create thousands of jobs, accelerate economic development, and meaningfully reduce poverty. It is important to note that these actions will be doubly successful if coupled with substantial investments in energy, water, healthcare, transportation, and agriculture. The following seven reforms are the building blocks of a successful educational system:
DRC’s one number asset is its people and the strong and productive institutions that it creates and sustains
a. Every government has three key jobs: collect enough taxes and fees to fund public goods, protect the citizens from internal and external threats and create an enabling environment for prosperity.
b. Currently, the DRC government collects about $5.6B to $7B per year to fund its operations for a country with a population of 85M people.
c. No real impact can be made from this low tax base to educate millions of youth
d. The individual and collective efforts of Congolese nationals working in the education is important and valuable and must be celebrated.
e. And, we will not be able to educate the masses without government investment and vision.
f. Bring in the private sector as partners and investors in the training and the preparation of the world of work.
g. No country has ever made it into the G20 or the G7 without a productive government and an educated populace.
Train teachers for the 21st-century classroom to increase the quality of learning in elementary and secondary schools.
a. Teachers are the backbone of any educational system. Without adequate training , professional development and pay, teachers will not have the motivation or skills to teach.
b. Build and maintain at least two teacher training colleges in every province of DRC
c. Disseminate these newly trained teachers in all elementary and secondary schools
Implement a 21st-century curriculum from primary to university.
a. A 21st-century curriculum is rooted in the following principles: technology, upgraded learning tools and concepts, a culture of inquiry and research, and the development of problem-solvers and leaders among all participants within the system
b. Set the standards and focus on achieving the required competencies and learning at every grade level
c. Upgrade and increase STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics) education
d. At the university level, fund R&D and entrepreneurial investments with the aim of eradicating tropical diseases such as malaria
e. Increase learning and action around climate change and environmental studies as Congo is known as the 2nd lung of the world
f. Upgrade and increase access to learning materials by securing the latest books, online resources, and other educational tools
g. Increase history, civic education, and social responsibility courses
h. Replace rote learning with dialogue, inquiry, and critical thinking at every grade
i. Introduce key soft skills like teamwork, initiative, and ethical leadership
Infuse technology into every aspect of the education system.
a. Every public school from primary to university should have the most updated computer labs for experimentation and learning
b. Provide free 24-hour internet service to all public schools from primary to university
Require age-appropriate entrepreneurial education for every student.
a. Small businesses are the backbone of a thriving economy and the creators of jobs
b. Providing entrepreneurial education will motivate those who are inclined to use this education to found companies and create jobs
Renovate and expand the physical facilities of all existing public education institutions from primary to university.
a. It is very difficult to learn in classrooms and buildings that are collapsing or destroyed
b. Public educational facilities and buildings must represent the goals and dreams of a nation
c. A 21st-century curriculum requires upgraded and functioning physical facilities
Build 26 technical institutions—one in each province.
a. Manufacturing and industrialization are requirements of a modern economy
b. Technical colleges teach the competencies and skills required for industrialization and manufacturing
c. A modern economy needs electricians, plumbers, and health technicians as well as experts in HVAC, aviation, construction, automation, technology, tourism and much more
For a country to advance and reach its full potential, the education system must aspire to improve and join the 21st century. Congo should use its resource-rich environment to propel its economy forward. However, the most valuable of all of Congo’s resources is its people. Therefore, the single most important area for the country to invest in is education. Free primary education is a great place to start, but now is the time to commit to more.
*Ms. Kajunju, a Congolese national, is the executive director of the IUGB Foundation and formerly the President and CEO of Africa-America Institute.Culled from LinkedIn
Time to Make Energy Work for Africa
September 2, 2019 | 0 Comments
It is past time that Africa’s natural resources benefited Africans
By Prince Arthur Eze*
It is long past time that we made energy work for Africa. It is past time that Africa’s natural resources benefited Africans; that every African had access to electricity; and that the wealth created by oil and gas would lead to the sustainable development of African economies.
Certainly, much needs to be done to make these dreams a reality, and the continent’s top leaders in the energy industry will gather in Cape Town on October 9-11 in Africa Oil & Power 2019 (http://www.AOP2019.com) to drive the conversation forward and #MakeEnergyWork.
Thankfully, success stories and opportunities abound.
The incredible story of Senegal, for example, stands as a roadmap on creating a transparent government; building the needed infrastructure to support future development; creating an attractive regulatory framework to bring in much-needed FID and new investment; and for using the oil and gas sector to spur new growth. The country, led by H.E. Macky Sall, the President of the Republic of Senegal, has seen tremendous growth in the last decade, consistently ranking in the top ten fastest-growing economies in the world. Government reforms, led by Sall, have improved Senegal’s image both domestically and abroad, encouraging a string of new investment in oil and gas, electricity, roads, fisheries and tourism.
The outlook for the country’s oil and gas sector, led by Sall, is bullish, with two of the world’s most-watched projects — SNE oilfield and the Great Tortue/Ahmeyim gas project — moving forward. Both are expected to start producing export revenues in the early 2020s.
H.E. Sall, winner of the prestigious “Africa Oil Man of the Year” award during the 2019 Africa Oil & Power conference, has certainly provided Africans with a strong example of leadership and cooperation. We are honored to recognize and support H.E. Sall’s achievements and continued efforts at Africa Oil & Power (https://AfricaOilandPower.com/).
At Atlas-Oranto, we are proud to be leading pioneers in the sustainable development of Africa’s energy sector, ensuring growth in countries like South Sudan, where we are honored to operate Block B3; in Equatorial Guinea where we operate Block I and in Nigeria, where we operate OML109. In total, Atlas-Oranto is active in 11 countries in Africa and we are committed to working with the governments and communities of these countries to ensure our operations meet the highest standards of energy development. In Equatorial Guinea, for example, we are currently investing $350 million into the country’s gas monetization and backfill project.
At Atlas-Oranto — Africa’s largest privately-held, Africa-focused exploration and production group — we have faith in Africans, and we invest heavily in frontier markets so that the continent as a whole can continue to grow. We know first-hand what it takes to get new investments off the ground and how to grow small-to-medium enterprises. It takes boots on the ground, as well as understanding and coordination with our brothers and sisters around the world.
Indeed, with new investment opportunities on the horizon and a new drive to cooperate across borders, now is the time to spur this sustainable growth in Africa with energy as the catalyst.
At Africa Oil & Power 2019, many of these opportunities will be featured, including the ongoing licensing rounds in Equatorial Guinea and Angola; the launch of the South Sudan licensing round; and more.
For three days, over 1,200 of Africa’s foremost thought leaders, industry experts, private sector executives and government officials will gather together to discuss the incredible role of technology in Africa’s energy sector; the rise of renewables; the incredible upstream opportunities from South Africa to Senegal and the need for cooperation.
Let’s get busy and #MakeEnergyWork.
Between extortion and the sanctity of Petroleum contracts in Nigeria, DRC and Senegal
August 21, 2019 | 0 Comments
Investors need to know that their investments are safe and that they will be protected by the law in case the other parties falter on their obligations
By NJ Ayuk*
Last week, a commercial court in the United Kingdom gave reason to a claim by engineering company Process and Industrial Developments Ltd (P&ID), which demands over USD$9 billion from the Nigerian government over a failed gas deal. The decision follows a 2017 arbitration award and turns it into a legal judgement, which could allow P&ID to seize Nigeria’s international commercial assets.
P&ID’s claim is based on a 2010 contract signed with the government of Nigeria for the construction and operation of a “gas processing plant to refine natural gas (“wet gas”) into lean gas that Nigeria would receive free of charge to power its national electric grid,” the company’s website states. Under the deal, the Nigerian government should have provided the necessary infrastructure and pipelines needed to supply gas to the plant. P&ID would build the plant for free and then operate it and commercialize the output for a period of 20 years.
The company claims that over this period it would have earned USD$6.6 billion in profit, an incredible figure that becomes ever more fantastic as the company claims that the yearly 7% interest it is supposedly charging on this capital has now accrued to USD$2.4 billion, at the rate of USD$1.2 million a day, which closes the full amount at a perfectly round USD$9 billion. The whole situation is in itself extremely puzzling. Afterall P&ID, a company created specifically for this project, is claiming it is entitled to the full amount of what it would have gained over a period of 20 years of work, even though that period would not be over for another decade and some. Further, it is already charging interests on capital it would, if the project went forward, it would still be a decade away from generating. On top of that, it has chosen to pursue the matter in a British court, and has a separate law suite in an American court, when the contract was signed in Nigeria, under Nigerian law, and should be pursued in a Nigerian court, as the Nigerian legal team has repeatedly stated.
Nigeria is seeking an appeal to the decision, but P&ID is not wasting any time in trying to seize Nigerian assets abroad, and it might well manage to do so, at least in part.
Further, P&ID has never even broken ground on the construction of this power plant, which it claims would have benefitted so many thousands of Nigerians. The company has reportedly spent USD$40 million on preparatory work, although it is impossible to attest what that work has been.
Even just looking to the amount spent, work done and compensation sought, the figures seem simply absurd. USD$9 billion corresponds to 20% of Nigeria’s foreign exchange reserves, it would be unthinkable that a nation state would pay that much capital to a small unknown enterprise that invested not but a small fraction of that amount in the country and done none of the contracted work. Further, it is perplexing that a British court would even consider such a decision.
However, this issue represents an important cautionary tale for African governments everywhere. Very few things matter more in the struggle to attract investment and build a favourable business environment that will push the economy forward than the absolute sanctity of the contracts signed.
Investors need to know that their investments are safe and that they will be protected by the law in case the other parties falter on their obligations, as it seems to have happened with the Nigerian government. It is by no means the first time a situation like this happens. Just in March, an international court ordered the Democratic Republic of Congo to pay South African DIG Oil Ltd USD$617 million for failing to honor two oil contracts. This is an unacceptable and unjustifiable loss of capital for the people of the DRC. Particularly taking into account that the loss is incurred because the country’s leaders failed to comply with a contract that could have brought a considerable amount of wealth for the country for many years to come, in both royalties and taxes, as well as help develop its oil industry.
Senegal’s government under President Macky Sall was very smart to avoid this kind of litigation when it was confronted with the issue of the Timis Corporation and its ownership of acreage that included the Tortue field, which is estimated to contain more than 15 tcf of discovered gas resources. If President Macky Sall would have proceeded with terminating a valid contract for the acreage, the Timis Corporation would have engaged in arbitration and would have probably gotten a favorable judgment against Senegal. In the process, the gas fields would have sat dormant and produced no returns for Senegal and its citizens. Sometimes leaders are confronted with tough choices and it takes a profile in courage to find solutions and still respect the sanctity of contracts.
Even with criticism from civil society groups, Equatorial Guinea has honored contracts with U.S. oil companies that many oil analysts believe are unfavorable to the state. This principle has kept Equatorial Guinea’s oil industry stable and US firms continue to invest in new projects like the EGLNG backfilling project with Noble, Atlas Oranto, Glencore Marathon and the state.
African leaders and African nations can not afford this sort of mistakes anymore. If on the one hand, contracts must be respected, protected and followed through, the people in charge of evaluating and signing those contracts must have the project’s feasibility as the dominant reasoning behind any decision. What is the purpose of signing contracts for fantastic projects where there is neither the capital nor the conditions to pull it through. Our economies live out of their reputation too. No investor wants to work in a system where contracts are not honored and where their investments are not protected.
While P&ID’s request for USD$9 billion in compensations seems absurd, companies that see the contracts they sign with African governments, or any governments, disrespected, must have the right to claim compensation, just in the same way that African leaders must be responsible for the contracts they sign and must make sure that situations like this do not repeat themselves. Enough money has been wasted on lawsuits that could be used to benefit the lives of Africans. This is true for the oil and gas industry and in any other industries.
*NJ Ayuk is the CEO of Centurion Law Group, Executive Chairman of the Africa Energy Chamber, author of the upcoming book, Billions at Play: The Future of African Energy and Doing Deals.
ME, FARAGE AND BREXIT…
August 21, 2019 | 0 Comments
By Omar Arouna*
I was introduced to Nigel Farage in January 2017 by a friend and a business partner shortly after he pulled off the Brexit win. –For those who don’t know him, Nigel Paul Farage is a British politician, broadcaster, and political analyst serving as Leader of the Brexit Party since 2019 and has served as Member of the European Parliament for South East England since 1999— We will connect at events time permitting whenever he is in Washington DC.
At tonight reception honoring him, Nigel directed my attention to the picture below and asked, “Ambassador do you approve?” I guess Nigel wanted me to reach beyond the noise and grasp a deeper meaning of his fight for Brexit. I read the message on the picture and it got me thinking. Think about it as well…
It is well documented that EU policies affect Africa’s ability to address its agricultural and food challenges: Tariff escalation; technological innovation and food export preferences are major challenge that the continent needs to overcome. African shouldn’t be viewed simply as raw material exporters. However, adding value to the exports out of the continent continue to be frustrated by existing EU policies.
According to Calestous Juma a professor of the practice of international development at Harvard Kennedy School “EU charges (a tariff) of 30 per cent for processed cocoa products like chocolate bars or cocoa powder, and 60 per cent for some other refined products containing cocoa.” The impact of such charges goes well beyond lost export opportunities. They suppress technological innovation and industrial development among African countries. The practice denies the continent the ability to acquire, adopt and diffuse technologies used in food processing. It explains to some extent the low level of investment in Africa’s food processing enterprises.
Such High import duties keep products from developing countries out of Europe. Highly processed products are taxed more heavily than raw products. Import tariffs increase the more processed a product becomes. This measure ensures that most imports to the EU are raw products like coffee, cocoa or pineapples which cannot be cultivated in Europe.
MAYBE BREXIT MIGHT NOT BE A BAD THING FOR AFRICA AFTER ALL…just a thought
*Omar Arouna is a Cybersecurity Technologist, Diplomat, International Relations and Africa market entry strategist
You think West Africa’s (liquefied natural gas) LNG-to-power projects are lingering? Zoom in on Benin
August 20, 2019 | 0 Comments
By Mickael Vogel*
With a population of less than 12 million and a GDP of $10.35bn in 2018, Benin is often overshadowed by its massive neighbour, Nigeria. Yet as African countries try to revitalize their energy sector, bring in private capital and develop gas-to-power, it is in West Africa and Benin that observers should look for positive developments. With recent legislative reforms and a strong political will, the small West African nation is strengthening its place as the capital of the West African Power Pool (WAPP) and positioning itself as a big hub for gas and power in the sub-region.
On July 24, French super-major Total signed a Gas Supply Agreement and Host Government Agreement with Benin and its state utility, the Société Béninoise d’Energie Electrique (SBEE). The agreement will see the development of a 0.5 mtpa Floating, Storage and Regasification Unit (FSRU), the first in West Africa. LNG supplies sourced from Total’s global portfolio are set to start in 2021 and last for 15 years.
This is no small move for a region that has repeatedly tried to develop its gas-to-power infrastructure but has remained faced with financing, infrastructure and regulatory challenges. Between Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Nigeria and Senegal, up to 7,750MW of gas-to-power facilities could be installed by 2030 according to Power Africa. In practice however, erratic supplies from the West Africa Gas Pipeline, lack of gas and transmission & distribution infrastructure, unattractive pricing structures and outdated master plans mean that such potential might remain under-exploited.
In this context, the recent signing of agreements with Total brings hope to a region hungry for power. It is first the result of strong political will. Under the leadership of President Patrice Talon, Benin has been implementing a strong Government Action Plan (PAG) since 2016 which places the revitalisation of the country’s energy sector and private sector capital as a pillar of economic development. The formula is working: Benin grew by almost 7% last year and is expected to grow by 6.5% this year (IMF), placing it in the top 15 of the world’s fastest growing economies. And political vision has led a better ease of doing business. Benin has been revising its Electricity Code, and its Council of Ministers approved last month the new framework of intervention for the Independent Power Producers (IPPs), improving investment and operating conditions for private investors in the country’s power industry.
As a result, the agreement with Total will not only see the development of West Africa’s first FSRU, it is also reviving hopes of seeing clean LNG powering future homes and industries across the region. The new gas import project will indeed supply power plants in Benin, such as the new 127 MW power station at Maria Gléta, with regasification infrastructure developed and operated by Total.
Sub-Saharan Africa has a current installed gas-to-power generation capacity of about 18,000MW, 70% of which is in Nigeria. Based on known reserves there is potential for approximately 400GW of gas-fed power generation capacity in sub-Saharan Africa, with potential developments for 16GW by 2030. According to Power Africa, such additional gas-to-power capacity would require an investment of $113bn in infrastructure, $35bn in demand and $28bn in supply. With a dedicated team of lawyers and experts in gas & power, Centurion (CenturionLG.com) stands ready to assist regulators, developers and financiers in making this ambition a reality.
Nigeria:EKWEREMADU’S ASSAULT AND THE DYNAMICS OF REVOLUTION
August 19, 2019 | 0 Comments
By Omoshola Deji*
The assault of Nigeria’s former Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu in Germany is unsurprising, but shocking. Unsurprising because it’s certain Nigerians would revolt against their leaders misrule someday. It is shocking because many never envisaged such could happen now, and in this manner. The popular support, but low turnout at Omoyele Sowore’s Revolution Now protest, and the fading outcry for his release is a pointer that Nigerians want a revolution, but are reluctant to revolt.
Aside shocking the reluctant populace, Ekweremadu’s assault also stunned the revolution vanguards. Most never imagined any tribe could, at this moment in time, revolt against the same leaders they have been programed to exalt and defend irrationally. Is revolution taking a new, unexpected dimension? Departing the long occupied arena of inter-ethnic confrontations for home?
Ekweremadu is the leading political figure of the Igbo ethnic group. He was Nigeria’s Deputy Senate President for three consecutive terms (2007-2019). Ekweremadu comes next to the late Alex Ekwueme, Nigeria’s first elected Vice-President (1979-1983). Ekwueme and ex-President Shehu Shagari’s government was deposed in 1983 by retired Major General Muhammadu Buhari, Nigeria’s incumbent President.
At the invitation of the Igbo community in Germany, Ekweremadu was in Nurnberg to deliver a keynote address at the Ndi Igbo Second Annual Cultural (new yam) Festival. He was denied entry to the event by irate members of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), the Igbo secessionist group led by Nnamdi Kanu, a fugitive wanted for jumping bail to hide abroad after the military unjustly invaded his home. Kanu is undergoing trial for treason at the Federal High Court in Abuja. The Nigerian government proscribed IPOB, declaring it a terrorist organization in 2017.
On the instruction of Kanu, IPOB on 17 August, 2019 attacked and tore Ekweremadu’s cloth for allegedly not advancing the course of Igbo independence and not condemning the killing of his people by Fulani herdsmen. In all fairness, Ekweremadu couldn’t have done much, being an opposition figure. He spoke against the Military’s Operation Python Dance in Igbo land, but apparently not as vehement as IPOB wanted. Ekweremadu was being cautious. Defending IPOB fervently would have set him against the northern senators who are largely in support of the military invasion and IPOB’s proscription. Not playing along could have resulted in his removal as Deputy Senate President.
It would have also put him at loggerheads with the federal government. The President’s intolerance to criticisms would make him unleash his attack dogs against Ekweremadu. He would have been terribly harassed, arraigned on trumped-up charges and incarcerated. Nigerians won’t be surprised if Buhari arraign him for sponsoring treason and a proscribed organization. The circumstance surrounding the condition at the time puts Ekweremadu at a crossroads: to either pick ‘self’ or ‘us’. He settled for ‘self’ as most of the IPOB members that assaulted him would have done.
Kanu also picked ‘self’ over ‘us’ by abandoning the secession struggle at the most crucial time. Many of the hundreds of families who lost lives and properties are still grieving to date. They surely aren’t happy that Kanu brainwashed their loved ones to fight a battle he has no capacity to win. If those affected are Lustitia, their sword won’t spare Kanu for taking cover abroad after destabilizing the polity. He may neither be contacting the bereaved nor providing them support. If that’s the case, then it is unreasonable for IPOB to assault Ekweremadu for a wrong Kanu is also guilty of.
The southeast governors are more deserving of IPOB’s intimidation than Ekweremadu. They were conspiratorially silent when the python was dancing and IPOB was being proscribed. They failed to speak despite being immune from the incarceration and prosecution Buhari is using to silence critics. Be that as it may, the governors’ silence may not be unconnected with Kanu’s personalization of the secession struggle and uncouth utterances. He singlehandedly issued sit-at-home orders and called for the boycott of elections. This didn’t sit well with the politicians and Ohaneze Ndigbo, the leading Igbo socio-cultural group. Ekweremadu is just a lone voice among these persons. He cannot order them to do his bidding.
But then, one cannot exonerate Ekweremadu of blame. Ekweremadu is elected to represent his constituency and region, not himself. If the wish of the Igbo majority, as it seems then, is to secede, it is Ekweremadu’s responsibility to interface with the federal government and find a middle ground. This should have been done with IPOB and other relevant stakeholders in the know, but Ekweremadu acted differently. His action was largely self-serving. Escaping prosecution from alleged corrupt practices was his priority. He chose to favor ‘self’ when he is elected to represent ‘us’. He deserves to be punished, but through the ballot, not assault.
Ekweremadu was punished for the wrongs of his fellow elites ruining Nigeria. He was made to feel the anger of the people. Nigerians across boards believe the assault is a viable way of making leaders accountable. Assault is immoral, but many are willing to get involved, if it would bring good governance. If corrupt politicians are being shamed, there’ll be less misrule as they and their families can’t stay away from schooling, receiving treatment and holidaying abroad. Nigeria would transform when the politicians have no other choice than Nigeria.
Celebrating new yam festival in faraway Germany is a misplacement of priority, at a time when incessant killings is occurring in Igbo land. Who among the organizers of the festival owns a farm or ever planted a yam? The real farmers who should be celebrating their outputs are being killed and losing their loved ones and farms to bandits. Partying under this situation is a mockery of the farmer’s misfortune. Leadership is service. The huge cost of organizing the events and the travel expenses incurred by dignitaries such as Ekweremadu could have been used to assist those who lost persons and properties during the secession struggle and bandits attack. Wealthy Igbos and the foreign branches of Ohaneze Ndigbo needs to be more philanthropic.
IPOB’s assault on Ekweremadu is somewhat unjust and misdirected. Buhari and his appointees who outlawed the organization and apparently failed to address the challenges in the southeast have been left unthreatened. Those at the helm of affairs are ignored for the governors who can neither control the security agencies nor restore Biafra. The unintended consequence of IPOB’s action is that her real ‘oppressors’ chance to win elections is being heightened by her actions. Defaming the People Democratic Party’s government in the southeast would only help the All Progressives Congress have an easy win in 2023. But for one thing, Ekweremadu’s assault is a message to the President’s top aides that it may be their turn next.
Aside the president and vice, Nigerian leaders can’t get the extraordinary protection they enjoy in Nigeria abroad. Unlike in Nigeria, where protesters are being hounded, the western nations allow people to enjoy their right to peaceful protest. Nigerians in the diaspora would be allowed to air their grievances, but assaults won’t be tolerated. That of Ekweremadu sailed through because it was unexpected. The foreign security agencies would be more present in Nigerian high profile gatherings to forestall future occurrence. IPOB has vowed to give Igbo leaders the Ekweremadu treatment wherever they are sighted abroad. This could create a bandwagon effect. Aggrieved persons and groups from other regions of the country may adopt the same strategy.
Ekweremadu’s assault and Sowore’s Revolution Now are well-coordinated moves against government and high-profile politicians. Could this be the manifestation of the decisions reached when Kanu and Sowore met abroad? Or the hounding of unharmed local protesters attracted sympathy abroad? Is the Buhari government’s intolerance making peaceful protesters adopt a violent approach? Has the government’s high handedness created another menace? Do the aggrieved protesters have a more violent approach of driving home their point in the bag? The time is pregnant.
*Omoshola Deji is a political and public affairs analyst. He wrote in via firstname.lastname@example.org
The 50th Anniversary of My First Speech at the United Nations And the Bitter Lesson I Learned
August 19, 2019 | 0 Comments
By Dr. Gary K. Busch*
During the 1960’s, after Sharpeville, the nations who comprised the United Nations embarked on a plan to restrict capital flows to the apartheid government of South Africa. They passed a number of rules and recommendations attempting to restrict the interaction between the South African Government and the major international banks. The UN’s Special Committee on Apartheid, under the chairmanship of Abdulrahim Abby Farah, the UN representative from Somalia, called a meeting of the Special Committee at the UN New York Headquarters, from 17-18 March, 1969, to discuss the role of the international banks in supporting South Africa and to make a plan to expand the campaign to get these banks to boycott capital interactions with the South Africans.
Invitees to the meeting were drawn from several U.S. groups active in the anti-apartheid movement. I was invited as the specialist on Africa from the United Auto Workers (UAW) and as a Board Member of the American Committee on Africa, led by George Hauser. I had been one of the main contacts for the African liberation struggle leaders who visited the U.S. and had taken many to the House and Senate Committees for meetings. I had also arranged their meetings with groups like SNCC, CORE, NAACP, and others. I was very pleased to be invited to the meeting and hoped to contribute my thoughts on the issue.
We convened in a large conference room in the UN where, in addition to the invitees, there was a substantial group of UN delegates from countries which supported the anti-Apartheid movement. The program opened with an introduction by Ambassador Farah and followed by speeches by the Algerian and Nigerian ambassadors. Oliver Tambo was there on behalf of the ANC and he made a speech. After several more speeches we were allowed to speak.
I was more than ready to speak. In fact, I was quite upset. I had just been looking at the day’s New Yok Times newspaper where I saw a quarter-page ad by the Chemical Bank of New York Trust headlined by the line “The American Capitalist”. It descried the role of the Chemical Bank in arranging a large loan and ancillary financing of a Japanese company to buy iron ore from South Africa. This was the very thing we were meeting to discuss and, with good effort, prevent. I rose and asked permission to read the text of the advertisement into the record of the Committee. I did so and then said “Here you have a major American bank financing apartheid. You should realise that this is no rogue bank; this is the official bank of the United Nations. Your salaries and expenses are paid through this bank. It has branches inside UN installations worldwide. If you want the world to support the Banks Campaign of the UN perhaps you can start with your own bank.”
After a moment of silence heated discussions broke out. Mr Reddy, the administrator of the Committee, confirmed that Chemical Bank was the official bank of the UN. Chairman Farah called upon the Algerian delegate and the Indian delegate to speech who pronounced their outrage at what I had discovered. They. believe it or not, agreed to send a telegram to the UN Secretary-General from the floor of the meeting requesting an urgent response and review. I suggested that the UN Secretary-General’s office was only six floors above us and I would volunteer to hand deliver it immediately. I was told this telegram was the normal procedure for UN business. We broke for lunch.
I was having lunch with Oliver Tambo who was quite pleased with the proceedings so far. He did say to me “You may feel that this was an important blow for the Banks Campaign, but don’t be fooled. Nothing will happen but chit-chat and pointing fingers. The banks will go on lending as usual”. He was wise. There were stories in the press; there were earnest discussions with the anti-apartheid groups; there were fiery speeches from the African delegates. What finally happened as the result of my speech was that the copywriter of the article at the newspaper lost his job. Everything else went, as Tambo promised, out of the minds of the Committee.
I was immensely proud that I had used my opportunity to speak at the UN with some effect but, in retrospect, I had learned an important lesson. One cannot move international institutions by speeches or embarrassment. The United Nations is a permanent compromise looking for problems to work on. It was a bitter lesson for me in my youthful naivete but helped to shape my future expectations. I attach the official Committee report on my intervention and a picture of me before my speech, with Ambassador Farah.
“Although sympathetic U.N. delegations were aware of and concerned about the bank campaign, it was again in 1969 that action look concrete form. In 1966, the General Assembly resolution on the policies of apartheid had appealed to all Slates to “discourage loans by banks in their countries to the Government of South Africa or South African companies,” but in March, 1969, during a Special Committee on Apartheid seminar held at U.N. headquarters, the question of Chemical Bank, a consortium member, being the bank located at the U.N., came to a head. By chance. Chemical Bank New York Trust Company had placed an advertisement in the New York Times the same day as the seminar meeting in which it lauded the bank’s role in securing a deal between South Africa and Japan for the sale of iron. This remarkable situation, where U.N. resolutions were in essence being ignored by the United Nations itself, resulted in proposals by the Special Committee to the Secretary General asking an investigation of Chemical Bank’s role at the U.N. This culminated in a General Assembly Resolution passed in November, 1969, which called upon the United Nations and its affiliates “to refrain from extending facilities to banks and other financial institutions which provide assistance to South Africa and firms registered there.”
* Dr. Gary K. Busch is the editor and publisher of the web-based news journal of international relations www.ocnus.net and the distance-learning educational website www.worldtrade.ac. He speaks and reads 12 languages and has written six books and published 58 specialist studies. His articles have appeared in the Economist Intelligence Unit, Wall Street Journal, WPROST (a leading Polish weekly news magazine), Pravda and several other major international news journals
Celebrating Africa’s digital potential on UN Youth Day
August 14, 2019 | 0 Comments
By Ime Archibong*
|Africa’s young population could be its greatest asset in an age where many other regions in the world are aging as a result of declining birth rates|
ACCRA, Ghana, August 12, 2019,Many things have been said about the future Africa and its potential, it has been called the Opportunity Continent, the Next Frontier and Africa rising, with all of these true. For me the excitement comes in how Africa can, and will one day lead in the digital economy, not only creating a better future for its young people, but for people across the entire continents, whether here in Africa or elsewhere like in Europe or the US.
Africa’s young population could be its greatest asset in an age where many other regions in the world are aging as a result of declining birth rates. As the world’s human population grows from 7.4 billion people to 8.2 billion people between now and 2025, 40% of that growth will come from Africa, and with more than 628 million people aged below 24, this young, dynamic and innovative population will become one of the most powerful engines of growth the world has ever seen.
Personally, I’ve always been so inspired by the creativity and talent across my home continent – whether it’s creating mobile phone apps which makes motorcycle taxis safer and more convenient, like in the case of Safe Motos in Rwanda and now DRC, or building technological solutions to solve agricultural challenges, like Plantheus, a recent graduate of Facebook’s (www.Facebook.com) NG_Hub Accelerator Program, we see people, especially youth, building solutions daily to local problems and needs. As eager and early adopters of technology, we’ll likely see the next wave of global digital innovations and apps coming from the continent and taken to the rest of the world.
Adoption of social media, mobile phones and mobile money are enabling Africa and its youth to leapfrog to the next wave of digital technology. This infrastructure is the foundation upon which so much innovation in Africa is built and will be built over the next five years. At Facebook, we’re committed to empowering young people to build their digital skills and harness them for the future – whether they are digital builders, developers or product innovators.
In the month of UN Youth Day, I’m delighted that we will be recognizing just some of these talents from across the region. Bringing together over 40 Facebook Community Leaders, SMBs, Entrepreneurs, Developers and Content Creators from across Sub-Saharan Africa, under the banner of ‘Celebrating Icons of Change and the Future of the Continent’ – celebrating the positive impact they are having in their community, something which is important to us here at Facebook.
Our commitment across the region remains strong, and Africa continues to be important for us, with this building on many partnerships, programs and initiatives already in place to help develop digital and entrepreneurial skills among young people. Whether it’s training SMBs through digital boot camps, helping interested youth to acquire digital marketing skills and placing them in employment, training women in leveraging digital solutions to grow their business, or bringing together 52,000 Developers from across 17 countries through our Developer Circles (http://bit.ly/2MbZe3t) program, we are excited to play a part in supporting the next generation of start-up founders, investors, developers and change makers.
As one of my favourite African proverbs says “For tomorrow belongs to the people who prepare for it today”, and we look forward to that tomorrow in the years to come.