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Of victors and vanquished: Biafra, 50 years after
January 10, 2020 | 0 Comments

By Chido Onumah*

Gowon and Ojukwu were the main protagonists in the war
Gowon and Ojukwu were the main protagonists in the war

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.

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Opinion: Extreme events are reversing development goals
January 10, 2020 | 0 Comments

By Patricia Scotland*

The Commonwealth has a become a leader in fighting climate change under  Patricia Scotland
The Commonwealth has a become a leader in fighting climate change under 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

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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.

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Africa: Addressing the Soaring Refugee Crisis
December 27, 2019 | 0 Comments

By Jude Mutah *

Introduction:

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.

Challenges:

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.

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Considerations for School Choice at the K-12 Level
December 3, 2019 | 0 Comments

By John Nkemnji, Ph.D*

Prof John Nkemnji
Prof John Nkemnji

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.

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NJ Ayuk: Stop giving us aid, it’s killing us!
November 22, 2019 | 0 Comments

Africa needs long-established support

NJ Ayuk
NJ Ayuk

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.”

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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.

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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”.

Enough said.

*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.”

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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: p_n_simo@yahoo.com.

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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

Ambassador Dr. Arikana Chihombori-Quao

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…[1]

An cnn.com article, authored by Bukola Adebayo, dated October 16th  2019 and titled “AU faces backlash after terminating ambassador’s appointment[2], 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[3]”. 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.

The office of AU Chair Faki issued a statement saying the change was customary diplomatic practice.Photo credit Twitter

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[4]  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[5]”, “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 .

Ambassador Chihombori Arikana with AU Chair Moussa Faki, Dean of Elliot School of International Affairs Reuben Brigety and former Tanzanian Ambassador to the USA Liberata Mulamula . The tenure of Ambassador saw more vibrancy on African issues in Washington. Photo Credit Elliot School

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.


[1] https://www.change.org/p/african-leaders-and-presidents-reinstate-african-union-ambassador-chihombori-quao

[2] https://www.cnn.com/2019/10/16/africa/petition-over-sacking-of-au-ambassador/index.html

[3] https://www.cnn.com/2019/10/16/africa/petition-over-sacking-of-au-ambassador/index.html

[4] AU inter office Memorandum from the Director of Internal Audit to the Chairperson of the Commission

[5] AU inter office Memorandum from the Director of Internal Audit to the Chairperson of the Commission

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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.).*

Cameroon Prime Minister Joseph Dion Ngute chaired the dialogue

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.

Dr Ashu Nyenty

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.

People gather at the Congress Palace during the opening session of the National Dialogue called by President Paul Biya, in Yaounde, Cameroon, Sept. 30, 2019. Photo Credit VOA

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

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Anti-corruption war: A case for whistleblower law in Nigeria
October 5, 2019 | 0 Comments
The corruption fight promised by Buhari has not yielded desired results

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)

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