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 Nigeria has become another theater to be fought over -Prof Bolaji Akinyemi
August 26, 2019 | 0 Comments

Says:

 ‘There are two files in the British secret archives affecting Nigeria

*Government does not do what is right unless it is pushed

20 thousand people can paralyze the work of the national Assembly

* Those afraid are those benefiting from the overwhelming power attached to the centre

* There is need to criminalize acts that demonized any religion in the country

 Nigeria has become another theater to be fought over 

By Olumide Samuel

 

Prof Bolaji Akinyemi

Prof Bolaji Akinyemi

Professor Akinwande Bolaji Akinyemi’s involvement in Nigeria’s statecraft spans over 43 years. The former Minister of External Affairs in a chat with newsmen, maintained issues he believes are affecting the Nation which he said is in the British secret archive in two files re-embargoed by the British government for another 50 years and other issues that resulted to religious and ethnic intolerance, Youths unemployment, banditry, kidnapping, killings among others. Excerpts:

What in your estimation is state of insecurity in Nigeria?

There is very little I can add to what everyone has been saying. The likes of Sheikh Gunmi, the Sultan, Prof. Wole Soyinka, Baba Ayo Adebanjo and General Obasanjo (Rtd), even the President himself and the governors. I can’t add to their list of dissatisfaction on the state of the nation. So insecurity, Youths unemployment, hate and unguarded speech by people who should know better. 

What now looks like religious conflicts, when I was growing up, there was religious tolerance. At least I come from a culture where you could hardly have a family that does not have Christians, Muslims and Traditional worshipers among them and they coexist happily. All of a sudden to be confronted  by intolerance, murder, mayhem targeting people of other religion. I find it very very disturbing indeed. My grandfather once told me a story to illustrate the tolerance towards various religious groups in ancient times. He said an Oba of a neighbouring town sent a delegation to the Oba of our town, asked the Oba of our town to send a delegation to join them in a celebration. So the Oba of our town then asked the delegation what they wanted celebrate, and they said they want to welcome one of theirs whom had gone on a pilgrimage. So the Oba of our town sent a delegation to rejoice with them and take part in their celebration. When the delegation came back and they briefed our Oba the story of the celebration. He called a meeting of the heads of the quarters in the town and to them, that the other town now has an Alhaji, while our town don’t. What he did was to levy every quarters, every religious institutions in the town including Anglican, Methodist and Aladura. So that we can send somebody from our town to Mecca the following year and we also can claim we have an Alhaji. And that was what happened. How did we come to a situation where even among Yoruba we are starting to talk about religious intolerance? You have governors in the South-west who for political reasons are exhibiting religious intolerance not to talk about the whole country. It’s very disturbing and very unnerving. 

But some are of the view that religious intolerance had been before independence….

We had four sources through which religion penetrated into Nigeria before the Europeans came. The first was through traders from Mali. Then, we had Islamic religion that came through Turkey to the Southern part of Nigeria. That’s why you have titles like Shita Bay in Lagos and then you also have Christian missionary who came into the Southern part of Nigeria. The last was the Jihad which came from the Futa Jalon that led to the establishment of the Sokoto caliphate. However, the penetration of Islam from Mali, Turkey and the Christian missionaries were peaceful but the Jihad was not. So that was where problems of intolerance started. The moment you decide to establish a religion by force then you talk about intolerance. Intolerance was evident when the British came but they were able to sustained it but it has never left. It’s just that organization and movements respond to external factors. For instance; what is going on in other part of the world in term of conflicts: ISIS, the Taliban ,the problem between the Shiites and the Sunnis Muslim. All these are world phenomenon and Nigeria is not immune to these phenomenal. Nigeria has just become another  Futa Jalon.  be fought over by all these phenomenon. 

The Northern Christian Elders Forum recently argued that the nation’s democracy battles with Islamism as a form of government, what your thought on this?

They made a good point and I think we shouldn’t loose sight of that point. And that is the point I also try to make. They said the problem is not with Islam as a religion, this is what I meant when I said we had Islam from Mali, from Turkey there was no problem. They said the problem started when those advocating that Islam should not be more than a religion but a political religion. It meant that you put your religion in competition with other religions. There is a problem with Islamic Jihad and Christianity. The Jihad embodies competition, conflicts, imposition and violence. The way forward is to separate Islam as religion from Islam as a political weapon.

So how do we separate Islam as a religion while some forces within the system are using it as political weapon?

Laws should be enforced to protect each religion from intolerant acts by another religion. We all have to be accept that Nigeria is a multi religious nation. Both Muslims and Christians have a right to exist in Nigeria. And to also there is need to criminalised speeches and acts that demonized any religion in the country.

What is your thought on ‘REVOLUTION’ that have been misconstrued by some quarters? 

The Constitution provide as a right for peaceful protest. The moment you go beyond the margin of a peaceful protest, then you are asking for a push-back by the institutions of governance. You could see it in Hong Kong, when the protest by the activists are peaceful, the push-back by the police is peaceful. When the the protest by the activists crossed the red line into violence, then the push-back by the police is violent. People who are dissatisfied with the way things are in Nigeria are entitle to a peaceful advocacy. What they are not entitled to is violent advocacy because the push-back from the system is then likely to be violent.

But we observed the push by DSS even before the protest commenced ….

Peaceful protest is a right and entitlement by people who are dissatisfied with what is happening. What is not an entitlement is violent protest. Whether that violent is by language or activities. Language could be violent. If I am planning a Revolution, I will not go on the pages of News paper or radio to argue and advocate for a Revolution. I will plan under ground. That is the way you do it if you are planning a Revolution. You do it underground, hold secret meetings because the moment you broadcast that you are planning a revolution, the push-back by the system is also likely to be revolutionary in terms of being violent and that what you got in this case you’re referring to. However, to have progress in any country, it is either the government itself takes care of the interest of the people or there would always be elements within the country that would always fight for the people. Anthropologist will tell you that that is how progress comes about. Progress doesn’t come from people laying back hoping that government would do something that is right. Yes, there may be times when government do what is right but most often than not, government does not do what is right unless it is pushed. Look at the United States, in the 60s. How many times did Martin Luther King go to jail? he kept protesting and kept pricking the conscience of the American people until it became a movement for change that could not be ignored by the government. But they paid dearly. He was eventually assassinated. I was in the United States at that time, the brutality of the police towards civil rights activists was severe, they killed a lots of them. Secondly, look at what is happening globally on the environment, demonstration are being held, things are being paralyze because people feel they are fighting for the future of the planet. There are government who are in self denial about environmental degradation in the world. So there are demonstration going on and people haven’t gone to sleep. If there is dissatisfaction with what is going on in Nigeria, expect the youth to rise up and say this is our future we are fighting for. Because unless things change, Nigeria is in trouble. The economy is not growing, Youths unemployment have been described as a time bomb. Elections were rigged mercilessly. Elections have always been rigged in Nigeria, but I don’t even see a mass movements for electoral change . I served on Justice Muhammed Uwias committee for electoral reform, we wrote a report that we felt addressed the issue but that report was buried by the government of the day. No reaction but the law of karma had actually set in that the government of the day is now the opposition, they’re now screaming their head of about how elections were rigged. When we submitted the report to them, they did nothing about it. Now they are screaming.

Former Governor of old Kaduna state, Alhaji Balarabe Musa once referred to the calling for restructuring as a Separatists agenda, what is your thought on this?

I am always scared to react to statement by people because sometimes you always confer too much weights on what is been said especially when it doesn’t make sense. How can the call for restructuring be equated to separatism? People who are calling for restructuring say look at the the Constitution at Independence or if you like look at the Constitution of 1963 compare it the Constitution we have now and you will see that there is too much power vested in the centre and very little power at the State and local government level. It was not like this at independence, at the eve of the coup. It was the military that changed it. Now that the civilian are in charge let us go back to 1963 so that local government can manage affairs at the local government level, State government can manage affairs within the State environment and that the Federal government would then manage very limited issues like foreign affairs, defense among others. Bring out the 1963 Constitution, bring out the 1999 Constitution and look at the subject listed under State government and look at what is listed out for the Federal government, you will see, the blind will see the deaf will hear the difference. Let us go back to what functioned for Nigeria. That is all restructuring is all about. So what has it got to do with separatism? I was the deputy chairman of the national conference, all these issues came up with 600 recommendations. And each recommendation was adopted unanimously. The report is there, if you don’t like the report, set up a committee to take a look at all the reports on structural changes in the country that have been advocated and take the one addressing the problem of the day. I don’t see how that amount to separatism unless you want to give a dog a bad name in order to hang it. In any case has the El-Rufai committee not also called for restructuring?

Who then is afraid of Restructuring?

I don’t know. Maybe Balarabe Musa. People who don’t like restructuring, are the people benefiting from the overwhelming power attached to the centre. 

What is your take on the call by Professor Wole Soyinka for State of emergency on security in South-west?

What would be achieved by the call because all the element on security are under the control of the Federal government . Without changing the Constitution, you cannot transfer some of those powers to the States. You cannot transfer by just declaring a state of security emergency. Declaring a state of emergency will not give governors power over the Nigerian army within the South-west region . Prof. Soyinka means well as himself is fed up with the state of insecurity. He’s angry about it and he came up with what he think is solution to it but if we think is not going to yield the desired result, let us think about other alternatives. 

Government does not do what is right unless it is pushed ,says Prof Akinyemi

Government does not do what is right unless it is pushed ,says Prof Akinyemi

How can Nigeria live in peace and unity?

The totality of what we desire is to allow local government to handle what should be handled at the local government level, State government to handle what needs to be handled at the State level. That’s the sum total of what will work. At the local government level they know the criminals among them. If there is synergy between the authorities at the local government and the local government police, if there is trust, people themselves will inform the local police where bad group hang out and the local police will investigate because they know the nooks and cranny of the village. But when the security in the village is depended on decisions taken in Abuja, it won’t work. Secondly, the decision that affect unemployment cannot be taken in Abuja for the whole country. Panadol doesn’t cure every headache. But, the State government has the power and the resources to fix the roads under there jurisdiction, that would provide employment if the state have control over whatever it is that is localized in there area, they can address a lot of these issues. Finally, policies that are then made by the local government or the State government cannot violet the custom and culture of that particular area . It cannot because they are aware of the peculiarity culture over land. I cannot go to my village and want to build on a plot of land. But if I come from an area where the policies are different. In other words, let the local government do what can efficiently be done by them rather than some colossus called federal government. Restructuring was advocated even when Obasanjo was President, it was advocated when Jonathan was President. After-all Jonathan was in power when the 2014 national Conference was flagged off and we created the blue print for decentralization of the country. All I am saying is not targeting Buhari but targeting a bad constitution which need to be rewritten.

But its the responsibility of the National Assembly to determine better constitution?

The National Assembly will not do it if the NGOs and civil society groups seat on their behind and not put pressure on the nation’s Assembly.

Is the 9th Assembly a rubber-stamp?

I don’t know if they are rubber-stamped or Guguru stamped or Epa stamped. All I am saying is it has to be a synergy between the people. It’s easy to blame the the government but what are the NGOs and the civil society organisations doing? There are so many case that should go to court. You know the Court can amend the constitution through interpretation. But if you don’t take a case to court, how can the court help to amend the constitution. If cases are not taken to court? Unfortunately civil society organisations, NGOs are busy fighting other big battles maybe because where they get their money from they have their own agenda different from the agenda at home. How will the national assembly feel the heat from the people if there are no demonstration. When I say demonstration, I don’t mean a one million match. 20 thousand people can paralyse the work of the national Assembly. Demonstrations everyday with focus on what they want. When the National Assembly feels the heat, they will start to respond but if they don’t feel the heat from the people, they feel the people are not ready for change. But in fairness there have been silent changes in the nation’s Asssembly from 1979 up till now. Not enough changes but they have amended the constitution not enough but they have made changes.

What is your thought on the issue of presidential zoning ?

That is not the major problem facing Nigeria. There are many more critical issues affecting the existence of Nigeria than talking about zoning ahead of 2023.

What is more existential in Nigeria than the controversial Presidential zoning ahead of 2023?

We have the issue of Ruga. We have youth unemployment. We have the issue of an over burdened federal government as against decentralization we have been talking about. We have the issue of State police, local government police, are these not issues that have an immediate impact on the existence of Nigeria? After all from 1979 up till now, we have rotated offices, what good has it done this generation in providing employment for the youths? What good has it done the standard of education in our universities? It hasn’t raise the status of our universities to being among the first 100 in the world. Instead we clap for being among 20 in Africa. In the 60s, I grew up at a time when Nigerian university is rated among the best in the world. We keep going down. There was a time a coup took place and they announced that one of the reasons was because our University teaching hospitals are mere consulting clinics, has it gotten any better since then? And we are talking about zoning presidency. Please!

How did we get here ?

We got here because we have never been allowed to have free, fair and transparent election in Nigeria. Even the British rigged elections in Nigeria. I was reading how the British rigged election in Nigeria. There are two Nigerian files in the British secret archives affecting Nigeria history. These files are suppose to have been declassified so scholars could have access to it. The British two years ago re-embargoed it for another 50 years. What is in those two files that the British don’t want us to know? What exactly are there? They want this present generation to die off before the declassify those files. We have never been allowed to choose our leaders, maybe that’s how we got to where we are. Because they are going to rig elections, do programmes matter, do party manifestos matter, even if they allow you to vote, they won’t count your vote. This means you cannot pick your leader and you cannot punish leader who don’t deliver, you can not show preference of leaders with better appreciation of the problems and you cannot change leaders when they are failures. That how we got to where we are.

Is there light at the end of the tunnel?

It maybe the light of the train that is going to crush all of us. But I don’t see any light at the end of any tunnel. I don’t even see the end of the tunnel not to talk about seeing a light.

Do you agree with Prof. Soyinka that Nigeria is heading toward extinction?

It heading that way but It doesn’t mean it will get there because of that indomitable spirit in people to fight back. Maybe when we actually see the edge, all of us would say no, we are not going to allow this. Never give up hope. Keep hope alive. Human history is not made by people giving up hope. It has never been and it will never be. We just haven’t got to our own stage of fighting back. We will get there. We will eventually fight back.

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Cameroon: Serious Fair Trial Violations In Such A Rushed Process- ICC’s Charles Taku on Life Sentence for Ayuk Tabe & Others
August 21, 2019 | 1 Comments

By Ajong Mbapndah L

The trial, conviction and sentencing to life imprisonment of Sisiku Ayuk Tabe and others may complicate the much sought after but so far elusive dialogue, says Chief Taku

The trial, conviction and sentencing to life imprisonment of Sisiku Ayuk Tabe and others may complicate the much sought after but so far elusive dialogue, says Chief Taku

 

Chief Charles Taku, immediate past President of the International Criminal Court Bar Association- ICCBA, says the trial and life sentence slammed on Julius Ayuk Tabe and others does little to foster the peaceful settlement of the current dispute as articulated by the international community. In an interview with Pan African Visions, the legal luminary says there were serious fair trial violations in the rushed process that culminated in the sentence for Ayuk and others arrested in Nigeria and brought to Cameroon .

To Chief Taku, the prompt condemnation of the sentences is a clear indication that the leadership of the struggle will unite no matter what to confront this and other challenges on the way towards attaining their defined objectives

“International justice may never entirely look  away from impunity and atrocity crimes;” Chief Taku said in warning to those excelling in gross human rights abuses.  

Chief Taku, what is your reaction to the jail sentences to Julius Ayuk Tabe and his co-detainees abducted from Nigeria?

The trial and its outcome do not advance the objectives of a peaceful settlement of the dispute favoured by the International Community.

From what you have learned, on what grounds did the court based its arguments in giving its verdict?

The information that I have about the judgment is incomplete. However, I have learnt that the trial, conviction and judgment took place in one day, underscoring the fact that the trial might have been rushed. I cannot second guess the reasons for the rush to convict and sentence them to life imprisonment.  There must be serious fair trial violations in such a rushed process.

Is there any legal precedent for this kind of cases in Cameroon?

Precedents exist within the legal framework that existed in the past. Since the enactment of a new Criminal Procedure Code a few years back, it is no longer possible to conduct a trial of this magnitude in a single day, deliberate, convict and enter judgment.  Each process in a trial requires procedural fair trial imperatives that may give rise to interlocutory appeals. Without a copy of the judgment before me, I am unable to ascertain the fair trial hurdles the tribunal panel surmounted to attain this feat.

What options are available for Ayuk and others, could the judgement be appealed?

This is one case where the integrity of the trial will be tested on appeal.  Fair trials and the due process of the law has taken central stage in the international human rights regime.  This appellate outcome of this trial and judgment will surely define the extent to which Cameroun is compliant with international human rights treaty obligations.

Looking at the whole conduct of the case, what does this tell the world about justice in Cameroon?

The world will surely not make an informed determination about the quality of justice in Cameroon and Cameroon’s commitment to its international human rights multilateral treaty obligations based on an informed evaluation of this and other judgments.  What I am certain is that, international human rights bodies have expressed strong reservations about submitting civilians to court-martials and military justice.  This type of justice is unconstitutional even under the operating Cameroun’s constitutional arrangement.

Just a hypothetical question Chief Taku, if this case was on trial in the kind of common law system that Anglophones Cameroonians clamor for, how different would the process have been?

A fundamental attribute of justice is fundamental fairness.  Through fair trials, the standards and precedents for future trials are established, including trials in which the judges themselves may be defendants some time along the line. This is the threshold on which the common law system that Southern Cameroonians once upon a time enjoyed and are clamoring for.  To underscore the rationale for this quest for a credible system of justice where rule of law and fair trials are well-founded, permit me to quote the memorable submissions of the Hon. Justice Robert H. Jackson of Counsel for the United States before the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg established to hold Nazi war criminals accountable for the crimes that shocked the conscience humanity on November 21, 1945, reminded the Military Tribunal and the world at large that: “Fairness is not a weakness but an attribute of our strength. We must never forget that the record on which we judge these defendants today is the record on which history will judge us tomorrow. To pass these defendants a poisoned chalice is to put it to our own lips as well. We must summon such detachment and intellectual integrity to task that this trial will commend itself to posterity as fulfilling humanity’s aspirations to do justice”

At a time when people are calling for dialogue, what impact do you think the sentencing of Ayuk, and others could have on the present crisis?

The trial, conviction and sentencing to life imprisonment of Sisiku Ayuk Tabe and others may complicate the much sought after but so far elusive dialogue to examine the root causes of the crisis.  I strongly call for the vacation of these sentences and their release to facilitate the dialogue and the peace process.

Some people have mooted the idea of a Presidential pardon or the kind of amnesty that was granted to people like Issa Tchiroma, and others accused of plotting the 1984 coup d’état, do you see this as an option?

I cannot second-guess the political calculations of the government of Cameroon in pursuing this route when the international community is insistently calling for an all-inclusive dialogue with no preconditions to tackle the root causes of the conflict.  Most people believe that these sentences and others before and perhaps after, will not bring about an acceptable solution to the crisis that is claiming the lives and property of millions of civilians.  The sentences will complicate and aggravate the peace and security situation.  Will an amnesty or pardon attenuate the situation? I sincerely cannot tell.  What I believe is that a prompt vacation of the sentences no matter how, may be a palliative to calming the storm in attempts to averting an escalation in times when the mode of the international community is for a negotiated settlement.

The prompt condemnation of the sentences is a clear indication that the leadership of the struggle will unite , says Chief Taku

The prompt condemnation of the sentences is a clear indication that the leadership of the struggle will unite , says Chief Taku

There has been near unanimity from all segments of the fractured leadership in condemning the verdict, could this move have the unwitting effect of uniting the various leadership factions of the Southern Cameroons struggle?

Indeed, there were clear indications that the various components of the leadership were pussyfooting towards some form of unity towards the prosecution of the struggle and the proposed peace process.  This move towards unity might have been fast tracked had some activists not kept the fuel of disunity, needless rancor and misdirected antagonism alive.  Activists have played a critical role in this struggle and may continue to do so. However, they must be alive to the fact that their intended audience is more sophisticated that some of them can image.  They must finetune their language of delivery of their ideas or commentary to meet acceptable degrees of decency, respect and humility.  The prompt condemnation of the sentences is a clear indication that the leadership of the struggle will unite no matter what to confront this and other challenges on the way towards attaining their defined objectives.

And for all those perpetrating gross human rights abuses, could the ICC that you are part of hold them accountable someday?

I am just a lawyer at the international criminal court and other international criminal tribunals but I may venture to state that International justice may never entirely look  away from impunity and atrocity crimes.  

 

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The AFCFTA Will Have A Game Changing Impact On The Whole Continent-Dr. Joy Kategekwa Head, UNCTAD Regional Office for Africa
June 30, 2019 | 0 Comments

By Ajong Mbapndah L

“I am optimistic, that we are on to a game changing page in the prospects of trade improving the lives of ordinary Africans and achieving progress on meeting Africa’s Agenda 2063 and the UN Sustainable Development Goals,” says Dr Joy Kategekwa , Head of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development Regional Office for Africa in Addis Ababa .

Responding to questions from Pan African Visions on the AFCFTA, Dr Kategekwa says its impact on the continent could be profound.  Dr Kategekwa pointed to projections from the UNCTAD which indicated that should the  AfCFTA lead to 100 per cent tariff liberalisation in trade in goods (alone), the continent would realise USD 16.1 billion in welfare gains, a 1 to 3 per cent growth in GDP, a 1.2 per cent increase in employment, a 33 per cent increase in intra-African exports and a 50 per cent reduction in trade deficit.

“An agreement that has, from commencement of negotiations (February 2016) to adoption (March 2018) taken a little over two years is demonstration of strong political will,” says Dr Kategekwa whose office has been a fulcrum of UNCTAD’s support to the AfCFTA

The African Continental Free Trade Agreement is now set to go into effect after ratification by the requisite number of countries, what is your take on this?

My take is one of optimism – about the game changing impact of a whole continent that dismantles barriers to intra-African trade.  For way too long have analysts decried the low levels of intra-African trade.  These low levels are worrisome especially from the perspective of Africa losing out on the benefits of international trade changing ordinary lives through economic empowerment.  The AfCFTA promises to set in motion the application of a new body of law that will require States Parties to eliminate restrictions – laws, regulations, administrative processes, that discriminate against the products originating from other AfCFTA States Parties.  This will make African products more competitive in African markets – once the hoop of high tariffs has been jumped through the AfCFTA.

The AfCFTA will also open markets for intra-African trade in services, a sector that plays a leading role in all African economies – evidenced in gross domestic product contributions, as well as the growing amount of services exports from Africa.

The AfCFTA has teeth – a regime on dispute resolution – which will strengthen trade governance and accountability in Africa.    The AfCFTA will be overseen by a secretariat dedicated to it, which should help keep an eye on effective implementation.

More so, the AfCFTA is not only about goods and services.  It foresees a second phase of negotiations to tackle regulatory barriers that are key determinants to how markets can effectively function. These include competition, investment and intellectual property rights.  The sum total is a scope that is comprehensive and suitable to the quest for boosting intra-African trade and strengthening African integration.

Overall, I am optimistic, that we are on to a game changing page in the prospects of trade improving the lives of ordinary Africans and achieving progress on meeting Africa’s Agenda 2063 and the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

With the ratification, what next, and in concrete terms, what is expected to change for Trade in the continent with the AFCFTA?

What next is that countries will complete the unfinished business of market access negotiations on trade in goods and services according to the agreed AfCFTA negotiating modalities in order to come up with each country’s respective schedule of tariff concessions and specific commitments on trade in services.  Such schedules of commitments, as well as finalization of the rules of origin, are indispensable for operationalizing trade liberalization processes under the AfCFTA.

In terms of what is expected to change for trade in Africa, once AfCFTA liberalization has become operational, it is a matter of volumes, value, and diversity in the export basket – which translate into diversity in production.

The AfCFTA is the world’s largest free trade area of our time.  It brings together 55 African countries with a market of more than 1.2 billion people and a combined GDP of more than US$3.4 trillion. It is expected that the AfCFTA will increase intra-African trade by 52.3 per cent through the elimination of tariff and non-tariff barriers.   These numbers are results of simulations by senior experts at the United Nations – both at UNCTAD and at the UN Regional Economic Commission for Africa.  At UNCTAD, we have estimated that if the AfCFTA leads to 100 per cent tariff liberalisation in trade in goods (alone), the continent would realise USD 16.1 billion in welfare gains, a 1 to 3 per cent growth in GDP, a 1.2 per cent increase in employment, a 33 per cent increase in intra-African exports and a 50 per cent reduction in trade deficit.[1]  This is the scenario for goods trade.

But as we know – the level of trade in services in Africa is growing. According to UNCTADstat, Africa’s services exports grew by up to 14% in 2017, with figures ranging from South Africa’s almost 16 billion US dollars to Lesotho’s 2 million US dollars. The services sector plays a critical role in strengthening the continent’s leapfrogging potential to attain the objectives of structural transformation.  Services sector growth is inescapable in raising productivity and value addition in agriculture (a mainstay of the African economy) and industry.  A trade agreement that creates new opportunities by removing discriminatory regulations and operational conditions for market access is an urgent intervention that will set the continent on a better path to diversification and sustainable development.

What this translates to – is bigger volumes of trade – a first generation spill over of reduced tariffs/discriminatory regulations.

But there is also the value proposition.  Colleagues at the UNECA have consistently tracked the level of intra-African trade.  In the period prior to 2012 (when African presidents took the decision to fast track the continental free trade area and adopted the Action Plan for Boosting Intra-African Trade); numbers floated at about 10-12 percent.  In more recent studies, they range from about 16 (UNECA) even going up to about 18% (UNCTAD).  And so, there is already an important improvement – on which the AfCFTA is expected to at least double.  In this trade is an even more interesting trend.  That in these higher levels of intra-African trade, the largest composition therein is of trade in manufactures – going as high as 46% (UNECA).  This tells us two important points:  One that intra-African trade is already happening at encouraging levels (vis a vis the base period of 2012) and two: that within intra-African trade is the first evidence of Africa’s diversification.  Evidence of breaking away from the age-old pattern of low value, low volume products – mostly agricultural commodities of little, if any, value addition – as the proposition that Africa consistently brings to the global stage.  This is very important, because a 46% intra-African trade in manufactures tells us that manufacturing is happening (albeit at the lower end); and that the promise of the AfCFTA can be a reality – if there is attendant investment in the enabling environment side of issues.  Further, UNCTAD has indicated that intra-African trade has a higher technological content than extra-African trade. The share of products traded among African countries with medium and high technological content is about 27% as compared to a share of 15% for Africa’s exports to the rest of the world.

Finally, there is a question of a diversified intra-African trade export basket – with the inclusion of services – which can only strengthen Africa’s economy, and in that, its women, men, youth, SMEs, etc.

Building on advances in the Regional Economic Communities (RECs) – the AfCFTA will deepen economic integration in Africa, creating a deeper integrated African market.  This is particularly important when we bear in mind the fact that much of the existing intra-African trade takes place within these RECs.  A new legal order that locks this in, not only vis a vis regional groupings but between and amongst them, is exactly where the first dividends of the AfCFTA may be visible – in creating opportunities for countries in Africa that currently do not have any arrangements, outside of the multilateral framework, to grant each other preferential tariff and regulatory treatment for goods and services.

Dr Kategewa believes that the level o commitment from African leaders has so far been strong

Dr Kategewa believes that the level o commitment from African leaders has so far been strong

Countries of the continent are in all shapes and sizes from population, to economic potential, infrastructure development, and so on, what mechanisms does the Agreement have to ensure a level playing field for all countries?

The AfCFTA is designed in what we, at UNCTAD and within the UN system – call “developmental regionalism”.  Simplified – it is an approach to designing regional trade integration agreements in a manner that meets the twin objective of opening markets while ensuring industrialization, more jobs, incomes and the attainment of sustainable development.  In a continent of Africa’s realities, there is no shortcut to adapting what is known as global good practices to a workable outcome in context.  And so, in the case of the AfCFTA Protocol on Trade in Services for example, the calculus was less about how to liberalize trade in services for the sake of opening markets alone, but more about creating a pro-development loop in which the opening of services sectors was done in a manner that would provide real valuable and utilizable opportunities to SMEs, women and youth.  It was about allowing countries to exercise their right to regulate and introduce new regulations (a right that often deals with seemingly conflicting objectives such as business opportunities on the one hand and consumer protection on the other).  It was about a choice of initial priority sectors that can unlock bottlenecks related to connectivity and infrastructure readiness – so that the nexus between agriculture and industry can be fully harnessed.  And yet it is also about allowing AfCFTA states parties to pace their contributions; within those selected sectors – to determine how, when and on what conditions, such access is granted.  It is about creating a one Africa by seeking to frontload some of the political momentum around mobility for Africans within Africa – it being well understood that there is no regional integration without effective free movement of Africans – traders, investors, service suppliers, industrialists.

Similarly in the case of the AfCFTA Protocol on Trade in Goods, it was about shooting for as high an ambition of liberalization  as possible (90% in this case) – going zero for zero as soon as possible from the start of implementation such as in 5 years while accepting that there are sensitive sectors in which certain countries/regions require flexibility (allowing them to phase in their commitments slower).  The so-called sensitive products – will have a slower pace of liberalization (or a longer transition period).  The additional category of “the exclusion list products” (3% of tariff lines) is one in which countries cannot accept to liberalize at this stage.

Also within the Agreements consisting of the overarching umbrella treaty, the protocol on trade in goods and the Protocol on trade in services – is a variation of special and differential treatment – ranging from longer transition periods, provisions for capacity development for the least developed among the states parties, provisions leaving room for African governments to support industrial development (part of the rationale for the sensitive and excluded products list).

This menu of options is the AfCFTA’s approach to meeting each country, or group thereof, where it is –in terms of its development concerns.  Naturally, the benefits of this approach, itself not novel in trade agreements that respond to development challenges, will go to those countries that get themselves ready –  utilizing the space granted to create and strengthen productive capacities for utilization.

For the trade professional that you are, how much of a game changer could this be for the continent?

This is a dream come true for all trade and development professionals.  Having spent all of my career seeking trade deals for Africa, supporting Africa to shape strategies and policies for utilization and building capacities for knowledge and sector development – I am honored to have been part of the process of shaping the AfCFTA.  For us as African professionals in trade, it is greatly symbolic to see that Africa has attained that which continues to elude the world: a large scale trade agreement that aims for deep liberalization – one which will call for important domestic reforms. One which will have costs in transition and implementation – yet one which enjoys the highest level political support across Africa.  Its’ timeframe for entry into force is, arguably a world record, judged by the pace of ratifications, for an agreement of this scale.  This speaks to Africa’s determination to get the promise of trade for its people.

It could be the start of creation of industries of all sizes, a rising and conscious African market that gets confidence in continental products and one that gets an empowered and independent path to development.  The benefits will out pass economic gain.  We are on the edge of a social and cultural transformation that will promote brands such as make in Africa (for investment attraction); made in Africa (for origin qualification) pride in African products; and ultimately, what, in the words of the AU’s own development blueprint, is aptly termed: “The Africa We Want”.  A final point on my assessment as a professional in the field is that implementing the AfCFTA will create a new market for African Think Tanks – to support evidence-based policies and strategies for implementation.  It will create a new generation of African trade law specialists – who can support treaty implementation proper as well as the resolution of disputes.  Linked to the latter is the need for a crop of jurists who will need to support the resolution process.  It will have also created and strengthened the cadre of trade negotiators, skilled in the arcane field of negotiating tariffs, non-tariff measures and trade regulations, and being prepared for continued negotiations in the continent or outside in the international trade arena.  Finally on the knowledge point, there will be need for more teachers to share knowledge in our institutions on the opportunities created in the AfCFTA and raise awareness.  Curriculum development, training and capacity building on trade law, economics and development is now to be a hot career choice for professionals in Africa.  This makes me particularly proud to see.

We noticed that there are a still a number of countries notable Nigeria that have not yet signed it, considered that this is the economic powerhouse of Africa, how does the absence of Nigeria impact the enforcement and effectiveness of the agreement?

Nigeria is yet to sign onto the AfCFTA and deposit its instrument of ratification.  For reasons of effectiveness, it is desirable that Nigeria joins the AfCFTA – still hopefully as a Founding Member, not least because it is the economic powerhouse in Africa.   This would allow it to take advantage of the large opportunities to be created, yet also provide a market for African exports.   The domestic consultations, we are informed, are ongoing and there have been pronouncements, including at the highest level, of support for the AfCFTA.  After 16 years in the business of trade negotiations, I am more convinced than ever – that strong preparatory work determines a steady and effective path to implementation.   In this line of argumentation, the delay of Nigeria, if hinged on getting the domestic consultations finalized as well as the reform agenda needed to faithfully implement the Agreement, is positive.  It is true though that there has to be a price for accession – which will be difficult to avoid when countries are not ‘Founding Members”.  Like others, the call from UNCTAD, is for all African countries to take the opportunity of the AfCFTA by joining – and use all of the available tools to support implementation.

There has been no shortage of lofty agreements in Africa, but a missing ingredient has been the political will, how committed do you think African countries are to the effective implementation of the AFCFTA?

An agreement that has, from commencement of negotiations (February 2016) to adoption (March 2018) – taken a little over two years – is demonstration of strong political will. The fact that the approaches adopted for the design of the AfCFTA relied heavily on REC developments and dynamics is a vote of confidence (read political will) in integration in Africa.  The pace at which ratifications have trickled in – is also unprecedented. Moreover, an extraordinary Summit of African Union Heads of States and Governments is scheduled for July 2019 to officially launch the operational phase of the AfCFTA with key support initiatives to be unveiled during the event.

The commitment of African leaders – from the top through to technocrats that shape the day to day work on the AfCFTA, is strong.  Business and Civil Society have also been engaged.  Across the board, you do get a sense of a great dose of political will – which will be central to ensuring that needed reforms are prioritized at country and regional level – for effective implementation.

Dr Kategewa says the level of trade in services in Africa is growing

Dr Kategewa says the level of trade in services in Africa is growing

Still on the level of implementation, let’s take the example of Rwanda where its border with Uganda has been shut with unfortunate economic consequences for months now, how could situations like this impact the implementation of the AFCFTA?

The AfCFTA will create the needed momentum to remove obstacles to trade across Africa.  At the forthcoming AU Summit, the AU will launch an Online Platform to report non-tariff barriers in the AfCFTA, that it has developed with the support of UNCTAD.  This will allow private sector and policy makers to identify and resolve such barriers in the implementation structures of the AfCFTA. The online tool will be accompanied by national institutions that would be geared to address the complaints raised and remove them, so trade is not unnecessarily hinder or obstructed by non-tariff barriers.

What impact do you think the agreement could have on trade with countries like China, Europe, the USA and other foreign countries seeking to bolster trade ties with Africa?

The purpose of the AfCFTA is to increase intra-African trade. New opportunities in intra-African trade will do for Africa what closer regional integration did for Europe and other large powers.  African producers will establish channels of production to utilize these opportunities.  These products will be of higher value, more diversified and in bigger volumes.  Naturally, the focus on intra-African trade may be seen as an inward strategy.  But the fundamentals of this being the approach that will support industrial development and structural transformation, are solid.

The AfCFTA gives countries like China, Europe, the US what they have asked for a while – clear, rules based environments of policy and legal predictability in Africa.  Their support will be important in getting the capacity development agenda off the ground – to build productive capacity for intra-African trade in Africa. It is important to note though, that it is not only countries but also global firms, that could be attracted to Africa.

Africa will be better positioned to engage with “third countries” – thanks to the AfCFTA – whose rules have particular provisions on how to manage such relations.    In the case of the multilateral trading system embodied in the WTO, it is unquestionable that all of the important successes that have been registered for Africa within the work of the WTO have been achieved thanks to a united Africa – the so called WTO Africa Group.  The AfCFTA stands to build on that progress by creating clarity to the African position on complex issues across trade and development.  And this is important especially because much of the engagement of Africa in the MTS has been positioned around the call for flexibility, special and differential treatment.  In the period of WTO reform, having a unified African position on tariffs and industry, on services regulation, on non-tariff barriers – (the core of trade policy etc.) will allow for the articulation of a stronger voice from Africa to the world.  This will play a positive role in the beneficial integration of Africa into the multilateral trading system.

There seems to be a lot of optimism about the AFCTA, at what point should everyday ordinary Africans expect to feel its impact in their lives?

The Agreement has entered into force and in the coming weeks, the African Union Heads of State will launch its operational phase.  Ordinary Africans should not wait to feel the impact on their lines – rather, they should create this impact– by engaging in production for export.  Once the tariff books (or services sectoral regulations) are changed to reflect AfCFTA preferential treatment for its states parties – it will be visible.  And yet it can only be visible for those who are ready to utilize.  So, there will be no manna from heaven.  For those that engage in production or have services to export, the treatment received thanks to the AfCFTA – will be the occasion to feel the impact.  And one can imagine that such an impact would cascade down to communities, families, people – improving their lives with the dividend of new markets.

There will be revenue losses from implementing the AfCFTA.  These, according to UNCTAD studies, will be in the short term.  However, the long-term gains outweigh the losses. Moreover, there are in-built flexibilities to deal with tariff revenue and welfare losses. Some of these include compensatory measures, flanking policies and adjustment measures.[2] It is also worth recalling that the loss of revenue and its magnitude would need to be calibrated to the reality of the still low levels of intra-Africa trade.

Is there any role your agency played in the build up to the treaty or a support role that you will be playing in its implementation?

UNCTAD’s relationship of support for trade capacity development predates the AfCFTA.  We have been involved, from the times of translating the political decision into modalities for negotiations.  We have provided technical studies and options for negotiations, working with the technical teams in the AU to prepare data, analysis and propose options for outcomes that support developmental regionalism.  The Secretary General of UNCTAD took a decision to establish the UNCTAD Regional Office for Africa – which I have the privilege to head.  The Office has been a fulcrum of UNCTAD’s support to the AfCFTA –bringing some of the world’s best minds on various complex trade topics, from headquarters, to advise the AUC Department on Trade and Industry – and to be available in negotiating institutions to provide study findings, data and analysis and overall technical support to AU Members.  The AU designated UNCTAD a Technical Partner to the negotiations – and this has allowed for a seamless flow of support – much to the appreciation of African Union Member States – who are on record in awarding UNCTAD a certificate of appreciation for the technical support in the AfCFTA negotiations.

As we move to Niamey, the Secretary General of UNCTAD and the President of Niger are poised to launch the continental non-tariff barrier reporting and eliminating online mechanism before Heads of State.  For as any trade negotiations professional will tell you – there is one thing that is for sure – as tariffs go down, non-tariff barriers rise…

Looking ahead towards implementation, UNCTAD as the lead agency within the United Nations supporting countries in developing policies for trade-led growth, will continue to support the African Union Commission, and the institutional structures in place for implementation.  UNCTAD’s Divisions – all of which have played a key role in supporting the negotiations – in particular the Division on Trade in Goods and Commodities, the Investment Division, the Statistics Branch, and the Africa and Least Developed Countries Division – will continue to support implementation – particularly as we get not only into phase II of the negotiations on which we are already working with the AU – but also as we shift focus to the pressing question of building productive capacities…In a sense therefore, we are very much at the early stages of a long road ahead…

[1] The African Continental Free Trade Area: The day after the Kigali Summit. UNCTAD Policy Brief No. 67 of May 2018

[2] The African Continental Free Trade Area: The day after the Kigali Summit. UNCTAD Policy Brief No. 67 of May 2018

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In AGOA Forum Cote d’Ivoire Seeks To Cement Role As Regional Economic Hub
June 26, 2019 | 0 Comments

By Ajong Mbapndah L

Cote d'Ivoire has experienced tremendous progress in the last ten years says Ambassador Haidara Mamadou. Photo Ben Bangoura AlloAfrica News

Cote d’Ivoire has experienced tremendous progress in the last ten years says Ambassador Haidara Mamadou. Photo Ben Bangoura AlloAfrica News

Delegates and visitors to Cote d’Ivoire for the AGOA Forum will be pleasantly surprised at the progress his country has made under President Ouattara says Ambassador Haidara Mamadou. Speaking in an interview with Pan African Visions, the Ivorian Ambassador to Washington DC said there was a general air of excitement and positive energy in his country in the build up to the AGOA Forum coming up soon.

In addition to the vast tourism potentials of his country, Ambassador Haidara touted the enormous opportunities opened to investors. Located at the heart of West Africa, with easy access to neighboring countries, Ambassador Haidara said, the positive economic indicators, infrastructure, enormous potentials are an open invitation for investors to consider Cote d’Ivoire as a priority destination.

 Pan African Visions: Ambassador Haidara Mamadou good afternoon sir and thank you for receiving us at the Ivory Coast Embassy.

Ambassador Haidara: Good afternoon and you are welcome.

Pan African Visions: First, we would like to start by getting the developments in your country, Cote d’Ivoire. How is the country doing economically, politically and socially?

Ambassador Haidara: I will say the country is doing well. Economically, you know the president elected in 2010, has instituted an economic policy that is working well. Since then we have been experiencing growth and this is an indicator of the country. If we want to appreciate the economy, we have to take the growth rate which  is around 8 or 9 per cent. One can say growth rate is in the average of 7 per cent per year for the past eight years. It is a tremendous achievement for the country because we are in the top five of growth rate worldwide. This has been consistent and stable.

Socially, the President has put a lot in improving our social environment as more than one hundred schools have been built, 200 high schools built by the state, infrastructure, healthcare has been taken care of, roads and port development has all been taken care of under this new economic era. This is why some people are trying to tag it as the second miracle of Ivory Coast. The government is also taking care of some disparities, cost of living. From this indicator of growth, we did not experience any inflation; the rate of inflation in Cote d’Ivoire has been around 1 per cent per year. This means that we are handling the pricing and the cost of living well, and it has been stable, and affordable for people.

Politically I think the different political parties are doing their own businesses. I think there is a long way to go with reconciliation, but we are very optimistic about the direction of the country.

 Cote d'Ivoire  has undergone an economic miracle under President Ouattara, says Ambassador Haidara pictured here with Ajong Mbapndah L of PAV. Photo Ben Bangoura AlloAfrica News

Cote d’Ivoire has undergone an economic miracle under President Ouattara, says Ambassador Haidara pictured here with Ajong Mbapndah L of PAV. Photo Ben Bangoura AlloAfrica News

Pan African Visions: Currently, the country is led by Alassane Ouattara, how has he fared as president; if you were to cite some of the achievements he has recorded, what will some of them be?

Ambassador Haidara: I think there are a lot of achievements that one can talk about. In terms of infrastructure, I can say Cote d’Ivoire is one of the most powerful energy producers of the continent, and we are efficient in energy in terms of power. We supply energy to Ghana, Togo, Mali, Nigeria and we are helping these surrounding countries with our surplus. This is one of the biggest achievements.

For roads, we have been putting almost 600 km in terms of new paved roads, 2000 roads have been rehabilitated and this programme is going on and people are surprised how the infrastructure network has been developed.

Investment has been done in the domain of education. Each major district of Ivory Coast now has a state university. From 5 state universities we are now heading to 10 state universities. It is a big achievement. Also in terms of health, each major district also has a major health infrastructure. These, and many others are some of the big achievements of the country with the president.

U.S presidential Adviser Ivanka Trump (R) unveiled financial aid for woman cocoa farmers ahead of a recent West African summit on women entrepreneurs in Ivory Coast. AFP ISSOUF SANOGO

U.S presidential Adviser Ivanka Trump (R) unveiled financial aid for woman cocoa farmers ahead of a recent West African summit on women entrepreneurs in Ivory Coast. AFP ISSOUF SANOGO

Pan African Visions: You have been Ambassador to Washington for a while now, how will you describe the state of relations between Ivory Coast and United States?

Ambassador Haidara: Not for a while, I was appointed in March 2018 for almost one year now. From that point to now, I can say we have been experiencing a very good bilateral relationship. First of all, we began by signing an MoU with the U.S. Under this MoU, Ivory Coast has put on the table of U.S investors a four billion dollars project that the U.S investors are very excited about this offer and they are doing their best to take advantage of this offer. It was signed by our Minister of foreign affairs and secretary of commerce of the USA in December 2018. We have been beneficiary of the MCC; almost 524.7 million dollars have been granted to Ivory Coast to recognize its big political, social and economic achievements. MCC is not granted but come like an award to recognize your achievement.

We have also a good political relationship with the U.S. we are working together on the Security council; as we are one of the non-permanent members of the security council. We are very happy about the state of our relationship with the U.S.

Pan African Visions: As you rightly pointed out, the AGOA forum is coming up in Ivory Coast. What does this event mean for your country and how is Ivory Coast preparing for the forum?

Ambassador Haidara: This event means a lot for our country because this is an opportunity for our country to introduce itself to the world. This is because in the AGOA forum you have many African countries coming to Ivory Coast, and you have the leading country in the world, USA also coming. Ivory Coast will highlight its achievements, and it is a also big opportunity for Ivory Coast to promote itself as a big destination for tourism, economy, social matters and others. We are going to take advantage of this to attract more visitors, tourists and investments.

Pan African Visions: Talking about preparations, what is the mood like in Ivory Coast? Are the people very excited about this and if you have to give a word to the people who will be coming to Ivory Coast for the first time, what should they expect?

Ambassador Haidara: They will be very surprised, and I cannot have enough words to talk about what have been done so far. I put some figures in terms of economic indicators. They will see for themselves what has been done in terms of infrastructure, social matters, and political matters. Being far from the country you can hear of different things but being on the ground is a different thing. I had a chance to talk to some investors and what I noticed is that all of them were surprised of what has been achieved. This is a country doing its way and Africa can be proud if you have good governance. It’s is a matter of leadership; responsibility and a lot will be done. This country has come a long way. 10 years ago, everything was almost lost. Coming from that point and what has been achieved in a short time, any African country would be proud of what has been done.

Ambassador Haidara presenting his credentials to President Donald Trump.Relations between Cote d'Ivoire and the US are in good shape.

Ambassador Haidara presenting his credentials to President Donald Trump.Relations between Cote d’Ivoire and the US are in good shape.

Pan African Visions: Let’s talk a little now about investment opportunities in your country. What are some of the exciting sectors that you think investors should take a look at?

Ambassador Haidara: Agriculture is very important. We are a big agribusiness country. We are a big producer and first producer of cocoa beans in the world and we produce almost four per cent of the world supply of cocoa beans. We produce around two million tons, while Ghana is produces one million tons. We are the first producer of the world in cash nuts. We produce more than 750 000 tons per year. 5 to 10 years ago, we were producing almost 100, 000 tons. There are opportunities for investors to come and take advantage of the availability of the processing of the products. In cocoa we are only processing 30 per cent of our output; we need to process more as there are rooms to improve the processing. In cashew, we are only processing 10 per cent of this output. There is room also in terms of investment. There are lots of things that can be done in Ivory Coast.

Ivory Coast wants to be a major player in the world. We have a goal to become an emerging country by 2020 and we are one year from there now. The need for investment is huge and there is also room for investment in terms of infrastructure. Investors do not need to be afraid because our debt to growth ratio is one of the lowest in the continent. We are only 47 per cent of debt to GDP. That’s a very a good figure. In the U.S, they are more than a hundred per cent of debt to ratio.

Pan African Visions: When we talk about investment in Africa, there are a number of complaints we hear from investors. We hear about corruption, administrative bottleneck, insecurity, infrastructure problems and many others. So how is the investment climate like in Ivory Coast?

Ambassador Haidara: We have been tagged to be one of the top 10 reformers of investment climate for two or three previous years now. That’s a lot as work has been done to improve the investment climate. There is no perfect investment climate as you have to work and we are working on it. I think the investors are very comfortable with the investment climate. Good policies attract investors to come to your country and I think we have been lucky to have that.

Pan African Visions: Before Mr. Ouattara became president, he had this image of a good financial reformer with his background in the IMF, how much of credit does he get for the development that has taken place in Ivory Coast in the last ten years?

Ambassador Haidara: I have had a chance to be at the place he came from such as the IMF and the World Bank and they are very respectful of his achievements. I think there was a very big expectation for him to deliver and I think he did that and they way we have had investment opportunities and support from these institutions means a lot. Working with these institutions is an indicator that means you are running your country well. It is not like you have a good relationship or personal relationship with them but it is a matter of judgment of your economic health. That’s important and I think they (World Bank and IMF) are very proud of him and we too are proud of what he has been doing.

Pan African Visions:  Ambassador Haidara thank you very much and as we wrap up this interview, can you make a last speech to investors. Why should they pick Ivory Coast as their investment destination?

Ambassador Haidara: I think Ivory Coast is a hub; the investment climate is very good. The asset of Ivory is located in the regions and Ivory Coast belongs to an economic zone such as WAEMU, ECOWAS. In ECOWAS, Ivory Coast is a leading country in terms of economic structure. So it is easy to do business with Ivory Coast, and it is easy to move in and out to all the surrounding countries. It means you have access to other markets. From Ivory Coast you can have a 2-hour flight to Nigeria, 45 minutes to Ghana, 2 hours to Senegal and 1 hour to Mali. It is easy for investors to come to Ivory Coast and take advantage of the investment climate, take advantage of the good infrastructure, and the good living conditions. It is also an opportunity to expand your business from Ivory Coast to other countries; we are talking about more than 100 million inhabitants in the WAEMU, and 300 million for ECOWAS market. We want to invite the investors to come and see for themselves and especially during the AGOA forum.

Pan African Visions: Ambassador Haidara, thanks for granting this interview.

Ambassador Haidara: Thank you. Merci

*Interview Published in June Issue of PAV Magazine.

 

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Billions at Play: Centurion CEO Agrees Deal to Write New Book about Africa’s Oil and Gas
May 29, 2019 | 0 Comments

 

Billions at Play: Centurion CEO Agrees Deal to Write New Book about Africa’s Oil and Gas
NJ Ayuk

NJ Ayuk

The book, “Billions at Play: The Future of African Energy”, will be packed with captivating, useful ideas, stories, examples and information that Africans can use to take command of their future

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa, May 29, 2019/ — Centurion Law Group  Founder and CEO NJ Ayuk has been saying for years that Africa’s oil and gas resources can fuel socioeconomic revitalization throughout the continent. Now he’s writing a book that explains how it can be done.

The book, “Billions at Play: The Future of African Energy”, which is slated for release in October 2019, will be packed with captivating, useful ideas, stories, examples and information that Africans can use to take command of their future, from new oil revenue management models, gas to power, to the deal-making techniques and behind the scene strategies that Ayuk has successfully employed with multinationals and African governments.

Additional topics covered in the book include the importance of including women in oil and gas leadership, monetizing petroleum resources, American investment in Africa oil and gas in the era of President Trump, local content,  addressing energy security concerns, new African gamechangers, and the value African countries achieve by participating in The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), among others.

“We’ve heard more than enough about the challenges facing Africa,” said Ayuk, who also is the co-author of Big Barrels: African Oil and Gas and the Quest for Prosperity and Executive Chairman of the Africa Energy Chamber. “Instead of dwelling on our problems, we should be working together to reverse Africa’s Resource Curse. Don’t get me wrong, this book will not be an idealistic treatise for a better world. It will have more of a ‘stop complaining, get up and get to work’ kind of message—backed up with practical ideas for strategically harnessing Africa’s petroleum resources.”

Ayuk says that one of his main goals for writing the book is to inspire a healthy dialogue about the future of the African energy industry that is seeing new changes in Nigeria, Senegal, Ghana, Kenya, South Sudan, Algeria, Uganda, Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Cameroon, Gabon, South Africa, Angola, Libya, Niger, Congo, Chad, Mauritania, Tanzania and many other new players. “I know there will be readers who disagree with my points, and I welcome that,” he said. “We can’t make meaningful, positive changes for everyday Africans until we start discussing a way forward. The more we advocate personal responsibility, limited government, free markets, individual liberty, and an enabling environment for investment, Africa’s oil industry and African stand to benefit than relying on foreign aid and assistance.”

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Mnangagwa answers burning questions on Mugabe, spy allegations and elections
August 18, 2018 | 0 Comments

 

By  PETA THORNYCRAFT*

Shortly after results of the presidential poll, Peta Thornycroft interviewed Zimbabwean President-elect Emmerson Mnangagwa at State House in Harare. Picture: Xinhua/Shaun Jusa

Shortly after results of the presidential poll, Peta Thornycroft interviewed Zimbabwean President-elect Emmerson Mnangagwa at State House in Harare. Picture: Xinhua/Shaun Jusa

Shortly after results of the presidential poll, Peta Thornycroft interviewed winning candidate,  Zimbabwean President-elect Emmerson Mnangagwa at State House in Harare. The constitutional court will next week hear argument challenging the result by the opposition candidate, Nelson Chamisa.

PT: Who gave the army the order to go into the city on August 1?

EM: I consulted the commissioner-general of police and he indicated to me that in terms of the law, the commissioner of police can contact his counterpart who commands the local unit to give him immediate support while the process is ongoing.

The entire country was in a jovial mood. No-one expected the violence that happened so suddenly. The police were taken by surprise. They were deployed country-wide, covering the election process, so suddenly the small unit (left in Harare) could not control what was happening: In terms of the law, police are allowed to summon assistance to bring order.

 We regret what happened thereafter and since then. This should not happen again. We are instituting a commission of inquiry and to give it more flavour and transparency we are bringing people in from abroad.

I have one name from SA, one from the UK to consider with three names to join us to look at the matter. The inquiry will begin immediately after the inauguration.

PT: You have made such an effort to rebuild the party and now this tragedy after peaceful elections.

EM: Fortunately I am not doing it alone, I am doing it with my team, we all agree that Zimbabwe must change. We must have a different image from the isolationist posture of the past. Zimbabwe must embrace the international community totally and we are doing everything possible for political reform. For us again to relate and to cooperate with the international community and international business.

PT: There is one photograph shown in the media of a soldier shooting and another soldier stepping forward and stopping him on August 1. What are your views on that?

EM: I have not seen that picture.

PT: It’s a shocking picture. Why hasn’t he been arrested?

EM: Orders have been given about all those people who took the law into their own hands, whether it was police or others who take the law into their own hands. I also don’t want to pre-empt the outcomes of the commission I am instituting.

PT: Human rights groups say there are 150 cases of unconstitutional violence since August 1. Do you agree?

EM: Let me assure you, the best thing to do is get the list of 150 cases and pass it onto us. This is fake news and it’s flying left right and centre.

We were told (of these cases) by Philippe van Damme, the EU ambassador here, and we took him to task and said let’s go around all the hospitals in Harare and see if there is any record of people in hospitals. He had to later apologise as this was not true.

PT: Human rights groups have details of those cases.

EM: Be wary of Zimbabwe human rights groups. They have an agenda. They have always been against the government. They have not changed their minds, they have not shifted their mindset to become democratic but that will take time.

We must deal with facts and not any speculation. Whatever you hear try to check and I think the police will be able to assist you in checking.

PT: Human rights people are desperately looking for the Commissioner of Police.

EM: So why would they come to you – the journalists? Let them go to the commissioner, he is in the country, he is in town…before they make such statements, let them verify these issues with the right authorities. That’s what should be done.

PT: MDC Alliance MP Tendai Biti fled the country and went to Zambia. There was a warrant for his arrest.

EM: What I saw on TV, was that statement issued by the police, that they wanted him to come to Harare Central Police station to clarify certain issues. This has been on the radio. If he was really innocent and had not done anything, he should have quickly gone to Harare police station and stated the issues he wanted to clear. Why did he skip the country?

We’ve also had some discussion with some of the observers. We had set up a call centre where they allegedly received calls from people saying they were threatened here and there. We asked for the addresses of those people threatened in order to investigate.

PT: But many people are fearful nowadays… especially when they see people in uniform.

EM: I have not received information from my party or from the general public or from any citizen saying I am fearful. Never, never.

You will see the police walking in uniform. It is legitimate, it’s allowed by the law.  You will see soldiers in their trucks.  They are not on a mission to intimidate.

Our police and our army they are very friendly,  we have defence forces week, where they go around building clinics. building schools to show the army and the public are in good relations.

So this fake news about our people..that they are afraid of the army.

PT: How will Zimbabwe now move along after these terrible turn of events?

EM: We will continue preaching peace, peace, unity, unity, love, love to our people, it is a culture and we want its roots to go deeper and deeper.

The good will always prevail over evil. Yes, we have people who peddle evil, but what is correct will prevail.

PT: Were you surprised at the election results only .8 percent above 50 percent. (To avoid a run off the winner must have 50% +1.)

EM: We have 133 political parties. Of the 133, 54 political parties were participating in the elections and  22 were bidding for the office of president…all 22 were fighting me, and I am so proud that I beat not only the 22 but the entire 54.

And I got 2.4 million votes against 2,1 million….. 22 political parties and I beat them all.

PT: The MDC Alliance has gone to court to challenge your victory. What are your views?

EM: I am not privy to their thinking.

As a government we have not interfered with the process of the ZEC (Zimbabwe Electoral Commission), we are staying aloof, we allow the law to take its course. This is my attitude.

And we are already moving the trajectory of growth, so what will happen will be the continuation of the trajectory of growth, we are going to be out there with more focus, more energy, to make sure that in the course of business, Zimbabwe needs to become more competitive, so that we can again catch up with the rest of the developing countries ahead of us.

PT: Will the Mugabe family have some of their many farms taken away?

EM: It’s not a question of voluntary giving up, but about complying with the policy.

I am still receiving evidence of what the (former) first family had. When that process is complete they will select one farm and the rest will be given elsewhere.

We have the land commission, and this is one of the matters they are seized with attending to.

It’s not on the basis of the family, (one family, one farm). It is on the basis of government policy. There are so many others families who have more than one farm. It must all be governed by the size of the farm.

PT: Is there anything you regret in your life?

EM: I don’t think I regret anything. I have no other life I know except politics from when I was 17. I never worked for anyone but the people and the party. I don’t regret I chose that life. At the end of the day, I did what I did for my country.

PT: Will the new truth commission you signed into law, to deal with thousands of murders of opposition supporters from the 80s, get enough money to operate properly?

EM: When they (commission officials) want money, they don’t go to journalists… let them come to me. You must first ask them, did you go to the president?

PT: What do you say about those massacres, known as Gukuruhundi, following independence?

EM: Well, our former President (Mugabe) described it and said it was a ‘moment of madness’.

That’s how he described that event. I have said we can’t live in the past, and that should never again happen in our country. Let us be a family and forge ahead, whatever wrongs we regret and they should never again visit our country. I second the position taken by our former president – a moment of madness.

PT: In Mugabe’s statements to the press before the elections, he said he never trusted you.

EM: I trusted him to the end and it’s only now that I’ve learnt he doesn’t trust me. We shared the deepest issues together.

PT: Mugabe has talked about you and Dan Stannard, the former Rhodesian head of security who later became head of Zimbabwe’s security about some of the activities you got up to. What is your thought on this?

EM: During the era of independence some South Africans and Selous Scouts (Rhodesian soldiers) were going to blow up heads of state and Prince Charles, Indira Gandhi, at Rufaro Stadium.

They brought in some Sam 7 missiles, and the person who alerted us was Dan Stannard. We removed them. Even Claymore Mines were put in Rufaro grounds and this is why Stannard got an award. I think it is his (Mugabe’s) old age, that he has forgotten.

He said I was a Rhodesian spy? Old age is bad if his mind twists that way.

Why would he work with me for 54 years if I was a Rhodesian spy? Rubbish and nonsense this is.

PT: What about the immediate post-independence period of instability in the country.

EM: I should give credit for how we handled matters post-independence. The president, prime minister (Mugabe) back then espoused national reconciliation.

We had some whites who went out to reverse our gains but we were able to outmanoeuvre them and establish peace.

At the time there were a lot of bandits and dissidents killing people in Matabeleland North, the Midlands. I am happy that at the end of the day reconciliation won because it was not an easy task to marry three armies which had different orientations.

PT: What about violence against the MDC post-2000? Many were killed and jailed and none have been prosecuted for those crimes.

EM: You can go back to the police and find out who was not charged. Go to the police and ask what happened to those cases.

Anyone who committed a crime the police would have had a duty to arrest, them.

PT: What about the G40 faction within Zanu PF that has been loyal to Mugabe… what happened to them?

EM: I have never been a member of G40. I don’t know what they are planning or not planning. I hear from security that they continuously tweet. They continuously make statements.

To me. I am looking forward to the future. There is no reason for living in the past. We must all preach peace and unite our people even those who were antagonistic. We are Zimbabweans and come together.

PT: Returning to the shooting in Harare on August 1. Who gave the order to the army because General Valerio Sibanda says he did not give the order?

EM: I have replied to this. You are so repetitive…

This is typical like Mugabe.

We walked together for 54 years and he didn’t trust me.

No one gave orders …there is this perception and it is disjointed. I explained, the army has a strict command structure, I am the commander-in-chief and matters are handled according to the process.

*Courtesy of IOL

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Saraki defender of our democracy – Okupe
August 16, 2018 | 0 Comments

By Olayinka Ajayi

Doyin Okupe

Doyin Okupe

As the cloud towards 2019 elections gets thicker for a heavy and destructive down pour,  events unfolding in  the Nigeria’s political landscape proves that political gladiators are set for the worst come 2019 Presidential election. while pro-Buhari politicians are optimistic that Buhari’s 2019 rerun is a done deal, other political observers refers to the massive defections of Congressmen  from the ruling party APC to the major opposition party PDP and other political parties as a huge blow that distabilized the ruling APC.

Besieged of Nigeria’s Assembly a pure Treason – Dr. Okupe

In a chat with Dr. Doyin Okupe former Special Adviser on information and strategy for two Nigerian Presidents Chief Olusegun Obasanjo and Goodluck Ebele Jonathan describe the recently barricade of the Nigeria National Assembly ‎as ‘treason’.

‘What happen last week Tuesday was an act of treason it was a subordination on democracy, a terrible act of fundamental principle of separation of power which is a pillar of democracy.’

‘Many people may not be aware that what differentiate a military regime from democracy is the congress men that we refer as the national assembly. In a military regime, we have the Executive, we have the Judiciary but we don’t have Congress men. It is sacred that you cannot violate it . It is a rape and its condemnable, absolutely intolerable and should be condemn by all well meaning Nigerians and including the government itself.’

‘ It is a slap on the face of this administration. It is more confounding, first we we’re told that the DSS did not receive any authority from the presidency, so whatever situation would lead us that create the Director General of the DSS authorizes the power of the presidency, the Commander In Chief of the status of the president without the knowledge of anybody in the presidency is catastrophic.’

L‎awal Daura’s moves frightening

Okupe further added that while the immediate sack of the DSS Boss Lawal Daura is commendable, : ‘the underlining cause of that move is frightening because the sacking of Daura was because he committed that treason act without the order of any lawful authority.’

‘What will make the DSS assume that role without fear and execute it, is what we should worry ourselves about.’

‘Also, when something on to the worst happen in the system, those who keep saying the president is not aware, when the killed people in Benue, I mean the managers of information of the Presidency will keep saying the president is unaware are given the president a bad name!’

‘The president Buhari is elected to run the country. When we submit our sovereignty to him, we should be able to go to bed with the believe that he is are in-charge. If anything happen to us and you say that you did not know that means we are in trouble!

‘It is good that the Vice-president immediately intervene but deep thinkers must asked how come it happened, the president is not aware, the vice president is not aware? What kind of government are we ruining, to make matters worst, the Inspector General of Police IGP came up with almost a ridiculous position telling Nigerians that he has investigated and he found out that the DSS boss colluded with certain politicians. That is a shameful statement, it is a statement that should never get to the public domain. It equally means in the future the DG of NIA can also collude with foreigner and subvert Nigeria and the Inspector General of Police can also collude with some other people! This is what sensible patriotic citizen must be asking. It is beyond what we are seeing on the surface. With this you cannot draw a line between the Chairman of APC Adams Oshiohmole, the Inspector General of Police Position and the Presidency. So you begin to wonder what exactly is going on.’

How Nigeria state got to this level

I have been in government twice. This is befouling and I do not understand it, I do not comprehend it and instead of us seriously, critically look into this matter, people must be concerned . Instead of that we are distorting fact that is the leadership of the legislature that created a coup on themselves when we saw it clearly. People that are talking have forgetten that social media is in existence. Gone are the days Nigerians had to wait till 9-10 pm to watch and listen to national events and happening. As it was happening, we saw the event, it is absolutely impossible for the event to have been stage. Many people who are in the possition of authority today maybe because they are not too educated, they assume that most of us they are leading are also not educated as well. Most Nigerians are extremely civilised.

Juxtaposing ‎IGP’s report with eye witness

How do we juxtapose the IGP’s report with what Nigeria saw with there eyes. They are  asking why was all APC senators not seen around? Did they phone each other , ware they gathered somewhere, why? There were video clip that showed they were gathering somewhere in Maitama in Abuja. We cannot have deception as official policy for governance.

On mass Defection

Defection is a political moves that happen everywhere in the world. Government and administration is different. The government is different from political parties. It’s a game political parties play to outsmart each other.So defection is a different ball game. It should not be seen as an enemy moves .It is not an ideology! It’s practiced over the world. In Britain, in the last five years, 60 members of their parliament have crossed from one party to the other. I wonder why in this part of the world we make it look as if it is something strange. In India, parliamentarians recently left one party to cross to the other. The incumbent President of France, Macron, was a member of the ruling party, he was a federal minister, he left the ruling party to form his own party. He contested and he won. So why are we bothered with defections! We have to be cerebral in some of these things because there are too many unpalatable argument you hear from quarters you do not expect and it is extremely embarrassing that the Chairman of APC Adams Oshiohmole said Senator Bukola Saraki should resign and must be removed. Such statement are very unbecoming for a man of his position. It embarrassing that Oshiohmole will consistently hold on to that view. I don’t know what evil befell APC that they brought uncontrollable charlatan to become there chairman! Saying things that cannot be backed by law. The constitution is quite clear on this. For you to remove the Senate President, you require 2/3 majority of the Senators which is sacrosanct, but the argument that he was not elected by the whole house does not hold water. The process of election is different and the process of removal is also different and its clearly spell-tout in the constitution. The chairman of a major ruling party cannot just run his mouth on an unguarded gates! Because you are coming from labour where rascality is the order of the day, governance does not condone rascality. It a game of the noble and not ramble-rousing and filibustering. There should be a spinach , some sense of decency not just verbosity, unruly, unguarded statement coming from the leadership. It’s shameful.

Bukola Saraki’s to vacate his seat on a moral ground

There is no morality in political position. On a moral ground, will you tell the president of the country to resign because he promised so many things and he has not fulfilled it so he should throw-in the towel, its not done anywhere! he can resign his position if for instance you find out that the Senate president was involved in a mafia position that will in a way cast a slur but the erroneous thing that is making people talk about a moral ground is because they feel it is compulsory that the Senate President or the leadership of the National Assembly should come from the majority party. It is a fallacy. We have seen example in the 3rd republic. Ezike was NPP, and the Speaker of the house while the NPN was the majority. Where somebody was the Deputy Senate President and is from the minority party. Ignorance is a major problem in Nigeria because our people fail to read and to study history to know their past and the contemporary development in the world before making any profound pronouncement. So it is pathetic!

What this portray come 2019?

I want to hope there would be an election in 2019, it will be a keenly contested election but my position is I am not APC and definitely I do not wish that APC would win. But I will join forces with other parties that is contesting against the APC . If we loose, the game continues. It is not personal. If I oppose you, it is not because I hate. It’s because I want your seat and I also want to serve. It is a lawful legal competitive exercise. People should not look at it as a personal assault that they want to unseat them. If they do not unseat people, how did they get there? But it cannot be by all means at all cost. Politicians must agree to the minimum standard to which we can behave. In my own understanding, you can campaign, propagate manifestos and give the promises of what you intend to do, the day you go to the poll and people tomb-print ballot paper, that is the end. After that its the will of the people that must prevail.

How do you see Senator Bukola Saraki and his enormous woes?

Bukola Saraki inadvertently has become a symbol for defense of democracy. In recent time he has become the defender of democracy. Because if an attempt is made to subvert democracy instead of keeping quite, the courageous man steps forward all the time to resist the subversion of our democracy. He could have recapitulated, cowardly and allows anything goes, by setting up bad precedent, instead, he steps-out, he stands firm, he resist anti-democratic forces, and by chance he wins. I see him now as the dender of our democry.

My charge for this administration before 2019

The new DG of DSS when he was making his speech said they are going to review many cases of human right abuses, that already tells you that something wrong was going on before. So let us rewrite all these wrongs by restoring human right like the case of Elzaki, Dasuki among others. Let us comply with court orders by being a progressive country. Without disobeying the rule of law. All parties must adhere to the confinement of the law. Let us go back to basis. The fight against corruption must be in adherence to the rule of law. For instance why should I obey a police officer because is wearing a uniform but when the police officer does not operate according to the law, why should I obey him? This government must correct all the wrong doing that are being before now and restore human right and contain all anti-democratic forces within them and that include putting under control the national chairman of the APC Adams Oshiohmole because the man has become a loose cannon that can burst anytime because he is obsessed and seems possess an idea that the Senate President must leave, why? If you want to remove him, go to the law. And the need to strenghten our institution cannot be over emphasized. Man is temporary but institution must be permanent. Let us encourage institution to work properly. Above all, like the Americans said, Security must be neutral in all areas of conflicts and exposure. Its so important because without it we cannot go far as a nation

Tagging mass defections as a battle between the good and the evil

He is correct. The good is everywhere. The bad is also everywhere. I totally agree but the location is where we cannot determine because we have the good and the bad in the presidency, we also have the good and the bad in the opposition. As well as in the APC and the PDP. There are the good and the bad in the legislature as well as in the judiciary . It is a correct statement but it goes beyond that and the only way we can get over it is the upholding of the rule of law. Once we allow the rule of law, is either the bad withdraws their evil, or they get punish for it.

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Insurgents Cleansing:If CAN had a voice like Benson Idahosa, killings won’t have detoriate to this level‎ — PST. Olayemi
July 31, 2018 | 0 Comments

*Says:

‘ Northern Nigeria those days is different from today‎’

‎By Olayinka Ajayi

Taiye Olayemi is the Senior Pastor of Ever Increasing Anointing Ministries INT’L and president of PFN igando chapter. In an Interview with PAV correspondent in Nigeria, the Pastor blames the mass killings of Christians in the North Northern Nigeria to lack of unity among Christian Association of Nigeria CAN among other issues. Excerpts:

 How will you describe your coming into the ministry?So far, my being in ministry is sweet . It’s anybody that is not called by God into the ministry that will be frustrated in life and the frustration will lead to so many things like immorality. So frustration is the major indication that you don’t have God’s backing.

What are the Challenges you  encountered in your sojourn into ministry

When we came our site, the Yoruba popular deity known as ‘Oro’ comes out during the day and whenever they do, Christian worshipers would be deterred from coming to church. As a result of our prayers, the forces of darkness were forced-out and the rest is history today.

You were schooled in the North, how will you describe Northern Nigeria in 60s compared to  the challenges faced with today?

The North at that time is different from the North today. Probably it was due to lack of education. Then lots of northerners don’t aspire to be learned. They prefer to be subject to those handpicked ones that are educated. So as a result of that they ware accommodating to outsiders. But now, their eyes are open to what the top class has acquired with their position. So they are more aware that if they can be educated, they can get to that position those they are looking up to are. At that point they now became more aggressive unlike before.

How can you explain the gruesome killings taking place in the North lately?

We are all humans. That is where the issue of leadership comes in. Because one life is more valuable than the whole wealth of the world. The Holy Bible affirmed it when its says ‘what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and loose his soul. In other words, the whole world wealth cannot be compared to one life. Most leadership in Africa don’t value life but they value wealth that is the reason we see that some of our policies does not appreciate life. When you look at the western world , they value life. They can because of one life do unimaginable thing. But ours , we prefer to defend material things, rather than defend human beings. That is what we are seeing in insurgence killings from Boko harram and Herdsmen attacks, kidnapping and armed rubbery. These is as a result of the policies in place does not protect human lives. How can we phantom the reports that herdsmen will enter a community and wipe out everybody! Where are the law enforcement agencies? Does it mean that we don’t have the capacity as a nation to handle them ? We do! In the world, Nigeria’s millitary men are classified as the 3rdbest in Africa yet we still have the issue of Bokoharram and herdsmen to battle with. Then something is wrong somewhere! That is why I am of the view that the leaders of this great nation don’t value lives, they even value their cows than humans. There are lots of policies that needs to be in place that will protect lives which cannot be bought anywhere. Such life can become great but we don’t value it. They said they are fighting corruption, and they are the one involved in buying votes in the recent Ekiti guber election. That is not the way to fight corruption. They are only fighting individuals using the might of the Federal government to deploy 30 thousand police men to monitor just one guber election in Ekiti. If they really want to are fight corruption, they should start from the grass root, from the family, from schools not from political angle. You cannot win the fight that way. If the fight against corruption starts from the grassroot those people at the top will be affected.‎

what do you foresee come 2019 general election?

The Ekiti election has open the eyes of the world to see that 2019 should be handle with care. And there is need for us to pray if we really want to remain one as a nation. Nigeria five years ago, is different from Nigeria today. The awareness people have during former President Goodluck Jonathan administration is not what they have now. The awareness of Christians in politics is more than before. Many pastors today are speaking to their members on political issues as its affect Christians nationwide. There are seven areas we need to capture as a christian. Among them is the mass media, economy, education, spiritual lifestyle . If we are practicing Christianity and all the seven aspect that affects human reasoning is under a force that is against what you are practicing such religion will be extincted. If a non Christian own a media house, either knowingly or unknowingly he or she will sensor what goes on air in such media house. Gone are the days when we use to say take the whole world and give me Jesus. Then we were not aware of how important politics, economy, education are on our faith. We were more concerned about heaven, If we die today, we go to heaven but God said the earth is our own. It is high time we let Christians know that Christianity does not end in the Church, its continue wherever you find yourselves. If you are in politics, business , education sector let them see Jesus in your way of life always  .

What measures are Christian Association of Nigeria CAN taking  to defend Christians that are more victims of the onslaught ?

CAN as a body is solely regulated by the government. So they have limits to what they can do. That is why during the late Abachars regime, CAN leaders fell prey to his dictatorial policies. In other words, CAN work within the confinement of the law, government once funded CAN activities and when government begin to fund an organisation, the government dictates the do and don’t . it is recently that individuals began to work towards the functioning and operation of CAN unlike before during the time of Olubunmi Okojie. He use to be a voice of Christians but was later silenced during late Abachar’s regime as a result of there policies. In other words, every organisation that is registered by the government, will work under the confinement of the government.

What then is your view of CAN leadership accused of collecting honorarium amounting to Millions  from the presidency while Christians are being massacre in the North?

We are  yet to have someone that will stand in the gap as a voice in Christiandom in Nigeria. During the lifetime of Benson Idahosa of blessed memory, he was a voice that gave Christians direction but today we don’t have such because everybody is busy building his own empire. If we have a father and a voice like Benson Idahosa, it won’t have detoriated to this level. When Idahosa was alive, he was a voice that the government adhere to. There are people that are more concerned about spirituality than the totality of human being. Politics affect the body, your emotion and your soul. Its makes people to become frustrated like what we are seeing today.

What is your charge for Christians across Nigeria?

There is need to look at the totality of the Bible. We should not in anyway emphasis one aspect of the word of God. Christianity is practiced in an environment that is not Utopianin. God want you to practice Christianity as a way of life wherever you find yourself.

What is PFN and CAN not speaking with one voice in order to achieve their goal in the body of Christ?

Can is made up of five blocks. We have PFN, Baptist, Roman Catholic, The white garment Churches. So to get unity which is one of the prayers that Jesus prayed but its a hard tasked. It is lack of this unity in Christianity that made Turkey a secular state tuned to a Muslim nation today. Sudan used to be a christian country , we had serious revival in Sudan than Nigeria. The issue of unity became paramount . In CAN the challenge we have is that a block always sees itself superior to another block. By so they undermine other blocks as a result of that, unity cannot be achieved. We must get to understand that one colour is not appreciated until its found in a rainbow. In other words, the beauty of Christ can only be seen when these five blocks that made up CAN come together as a body. But to attained this hight is a hard task. It was recently Churches like:Deeper life, Mountain of fire, The Lord Chosen among others are relating with other Christian bodies. Before they are on their own. So when an issue that requires one voice needs to be addressed, everybody stands by its self. For instance pentecostals believes in Tongue Speaking while other blocks don’t. When Dady fraizer raised the issue of Tithe, other blocks that does not believe in paying Tithe raised their own principle against it. So there is no unity in the aspect of Tithing in Nigeria. Also we don’t have unity in the aspect of politics in CAN . To some Christian faithful, when you join politics you become dirty. I told my members that you cannot do without politics. You can cast out devil but you cannot cast out the word of God. Pentecostal believes in Politics, while others don’t. The Bible categorically state that :’When the righteous rule the people rejoice but when the wicked rule, the people suffers.’ we don’t need a prophet to tell us that this scripture is not fulfilled in Nigeria. And somebody will be telling us that we should exercise patient when wickedness is prevailing in the land. There are thing that didn’t happen during former President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration. No human being is perfect and no human being is an angel. Fayose is neither perfect or an angel but is one of the best governor Ekiti ever had. Until Nigerian Christians find a voice, our unity is very crucial, but difficult to attain.

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Cameroon:People Who Think I Can Be Intimidated Are Clueless About Me-Cardinal Christian Tumi on “AAC 3”
July 29, 2018 | 0 Comments

By Elie Smith

His Eminence, Cardinal Christian Tumi

His Eminence, Cardinal Christian Tumi

In the last two years, Cameroon has been facing its worse existential threat since the unification of former British Southern Cameroon’s with the former French administered Republic of Cameroon on the 1st of October 1961. In this exclusive  interview with Pan African Visions, Elie Smith met with the Archbishop Emeritus of the Douala Archdiocese, Cardinal Christian Tumi who on the 25th of July in Douala along with other religious leaders announced the organization of   an All Anglophone General Conference in Buea on the 29th and 30th of August this year.

“In Anglophone Cameroon or Southern Cameroon, there are several opinions on the current crisis and also how to solve it. Anyone who refuses that is not honest but the conference will help to come up with a common ground,” says the Cardinal known for his acerbic critique of the Biya regime.

Fighting off controversy surrounding the AGC , Cardinal Tumi says those who think he is fronting for Biya or Munzu simply do not understand him or his convictions. The Cardinal says he has been thinking about such a forum for a while and took the initiative to reach out to other religious leaders and stakeholders.

PAV: Your Eminence, lots of questions are being raised regarding your planned Anglophone General Council, scheduled for Buea on the 29th and 30th of August 2018. One of such question goes thus: when did the idea for such a conference come up into your mind?

Cardinal Christian Tumi: the idea has been in my mind for quite some time. I listened to the interventions of Anglophones over televisions and radios and I arrived at the conclusion that, we were not saying the same thing and when I say we, I am thinking of myself as an Anglophone and sometimes, I think we don’t really know what we want or perhaps that, our problems are not clearly defined. So, I thought it will be good for the Anglophones of all sheds and opinions to meet and to objectively as possible, say orally and in writing, what their grievances against the central administration are.  This would serve as basis for any future national dialogue between us Anglophones with the central government. In reality, it will be an update form because such a conference has been held some two decades ago. And that is why, when I met Munzu that I have known for quite some time and who has international experience, I called him as I had called others before, but he was most available and we spoke about my project and he accepted to be a sort of secretary of my idea of the proposed 3rd all Anglophone conference albeit with a different appellation.  Dr Munzu quickly caught my attention and approval not because I had known him for long or because he was willing to run errands for me, but mostly because, I think he served in a similar position at the All Anglophone Conference that took place in 1993 from the 2nd to the 3rd of August. So that is how I arrived at what has now become a topic of debates. I called him and he came here and I told him, I will not like to do this alone, especially given my advance age. I also told him, I will like to achieve my idea with experience leaders of major religions in Cameroon. That is also how, the idea of contacting the Presbyterians Church, the Baptise Church and the Muslim community to provide elder persons, came up. In preference, I would have wanted retired pastors and imams.  But as far as the Presbyterians are concerned, it is they who decided that, a synod clerk should represent the Presbyterian Church. And then we also thought that, we should not forget our Muslim brothers, they have something to say. So we contacted therefore, the Imams of Bamenda and Buea and they made sacrifices to be here in Douala. The Imam of Bamenda central Mosque, arrived here at 4 O’clock and left at about 6 or 7 o’clock in the evening back to Bamenda. That is how the idea that was originally mine took shape and we arrived at the communiqué that was made public. For such a meeting, you bring a draft, which serves as a working basis. You don’t come empty handed. We had such, on to which every word was properly studied and collectively adopted as ours. That is how the final communiqué read by Rev Babila George Fochang came out or was made public.

PAV: What do you make of some Southern Cameroonians or Anglophones who think your initiative is remotely controlled by Biya’s regime?

Cardinal Christian Tumi: of course they are sure that, the government has authorized the meeting or may be pulling strings from behind. But I can assure you that, there is no such thing, I am still wondering whether the government will accept us to meet because it is a big meeting which they will need to protect us and make sure that, the meeting takes place calmly because it is our right. It is also our duty as pastors to take the initiative that, I have taken.

So, if anybody within or without the Anglophone community could think that, I can be pushed around; it is certainly because they don’t know me. Cardinal Tumi can’t be push around or forced to do things that he doesn’t believe in. I have my personal conviction.

PAV: Granted that you are the sole initiator of the August 29th and 30th conference, how come that, it is only now when the crisis is in its 2nd year that, you are taking such an enterprise?

Cardinal Christian Tumi: Because, I thought that, the initiative taken by the government then to send some officials to meet with people of the South west and North West regions would help reduce the tension, but I think, all of us will agree that, the tension is getting more and more serious. And we can’t just sit down and watch what is happening in a situation where by many soldiers, many civilians are being killed. So, we as pastors we want to speak and propose to the Anglophone Cameroonians and to all Cameroonians, what we think should be done to cease the violence that is taking place in the country.  It is a proposition, we are not imposing. As Pastors and as religious leaders and for us Catholics, Christ has said: propose in season and out of season, whether they listen to you or not. You have done your work. We don’t have to sit down and see things go wrong and we say nothing. If we say nothing, we will be guilty before God.

PAV: Are you the initiator of the project or it is Dr Simon Munzu who is an avowed federalist or that, you are fronting for Dr Munzu?

Cardinal Christian Tumi: Can you imagine me at my age fronting for a young man such as Munzu? The Anglophone General Conference is my initiative, which coincidentally caught the interest of Munzu that I have known for years. So, is it difficult for me to make proposals such as the current one? Even if  he were the one who proposed it to me or you and I owned it and assume it, it simply becomes my own and it is the same with you, if I make  or bring up an idea, and you assume it and makes it known, it is yours. There is no contradiction here, whether he proposed it to me or I took the initiative and invited him. But it is my idea and I was waiting for the opportune time and that time is now. No one can manipulate me. The Anglophone General Conference is my initiative that I didn’t want to carry out alone and I associated other religious leaders.

PAV: Your communiqué read by the Synod clerk, said it will be an inclusive dialogue and this has equally raised more suspicions and doubts. How do you guarantee that armed militants and Anglophones who are abroad with arrest warrants dangling above their heads will attend without risk of being arrested by the government?

Cardinal Christian Tumi:  Well, your question partly removes the doubts or claims that, it is the government sponsoring the conference. If they were the ones, how come that, you will be asking such questions on those who are fighting in the bushes or those who are abroad? That is why, we are telling the government to please allow everyone to come in freely. And if it is legal, to free those who are in prison, so that, they will participate personally or by delegation in the meeting because it is called inclusive.

PAV: what is going to be new or said at the August 29th and 30th meeting that will be different from the ACC1 &ACC11?

Cardinal Christian Tumi:  The first is that, this initiative is taken by religious leaders. Second, we are going to be updating our grievances and this last point could be what will make August 29th and 30th different from AAC1 and AAC2.  We have a pastoral approach. We have no arms, but we tell love and forgiveness. These are the virtues we will be insisting on: love and forgiveness, objectivity and truth. This is not political language and that makes our approach different. As we take part in that meeting, we the religious leaders, we will invest in all those virtues that make man: truth. If intellectually, you see someone saying something good, by virtue of intellectual honesty, you have to accept it as the truth. When someone else brings up an idea that you accept or disagrees, but you find out that, it might help solve a problem, you need to concede and it  shows that, you have truth in you and also that, if you claim to be an intellectual, then you are an honest intellectual. We must learn to be truthful and honest intellectually. In Anglophone Cameroon or Southern Cameroon, there are several opinions on the current crisis and also how to solve it. Anyone who refuses that is not honest but the conference will help to come up with a common ground.

PAV: Do you think the government will accept or authorised your conference?

Cardinal Christian Tumi:   the Anglophones are not coming together with a fix political or should I say, they don’t have a fix position or one stand on the current crisis rocking their country or region. There are those who are for secession, others are for federation and others are for decentralization that the President of the country is proposing. All we are saying is that, anybody who wants to be part of this dialogue must be objective. That is to say, you must be ready to take and give. I have spoken with some Anglophones who say, especially those in the Diaspora and who claim 90% of Southern Cameroonians are for secession, then I ask them, how do you know? What is your basis for making such claims? I tell them, I can also affirm that, 90% of Southern Cameroonians are for two states federation, but what will be my basis? This come together, I repeat will permit us to know who is who in Anglophone Cameroon.

PAV: finally, I am not in any way putting in doubt your integrity, but can you affirm before God and man here that you not being remotely controlled by the regime or fronting for Dr Munzu?

Cardinal Christian Tumi:   Only God knows. To be frank with you, I was never consulted by anyone or groups of individual not even the government to make any intervention on this crisis. If I am not convinced personally of something, no matter how it is being presented to me or by whom, I don’t accept it. May be because the idea of the conference came from this house, some groups have started thinking that, it will be a start to solving the problem,  hence they think I have been influenced by somebody or an occult group or groups, as claimed by a French-language daily, Info-Martin of today. I repeat, no one has influenced me or is influencing me. All I and other religious leaders are saying is that, peace, love and forgiveness should be given a chance.

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It’s obvious President Buhari is overwhelmed with gruesome killings — Balarabe Musa
July 22, 2018 | 0 Comments

* Says:

“Buhari repeated the 1966 South-west ‘Operation Wettie’  in Ekiti‎

By Olayinka Ajayi

Alhaji Balarabe Musa is the former governor of old Kaduna state, in this interview with PAV bares his mind on the state of killings across Nigeria among other issues. Excerpts:

What is your stand on the spate of killings across Nigeria?

The recent killing in Sokoto proves it’s a nationwide problem. It is not a regional problem, neither is it as a result of the insurgent Boko haram attacks or the herdsmen or ethnic, religious based cleansing. Every reasonable person should know that we have aspects of insecurity in every part of Nigeria. The killing is done in such a sophisticated manner that you cannot trace it to an aggrieved community or group of people. It is well planned, articulated and then executed.

Must we wait till the whole nation is wiped-out?

Certainly we cannot allow it to continue. But unfortunately it will continue because we have a weak government in the centre. In other words the Federal government and the ruling party are so weak and irrelevant. The insecurity has gotten to a level  that it has overwhelmed this administration. The overwhelm is proved by the President Buhari when he said he does not know what to do, asking for prayers ,and requesting that Nigerians be patient with his government. How can we be patient, when lives are lost everywhere in the country!

Do these killing justify the President re-contesting come 2019?

As far as I am concerned having known the dangers we are facing as a nation , that is political and otherwise, it is  left for Nigerians to decide. We will not Tele-guide Nigerians on whom to vote for come 2019. All we can do is to present the facts as they are. But it’s obvious that this administration is overwhelmed with the gruesome killings that they cannot do anything about it. The question is what is responsible for the negative state of the nation? That should be our task as  citizens to find out.

But the Senate President Bukola Saraki, Aminu Tambuwal among others are calling for the sack of all the service Chiefs in order to curb the killings, what do you make of this?

For me, it’s not necessary. What we need do is to change the system controlling all the development in the country. The particular leadership of this administration is based on self-interest first, and public interest second.  And it is characterized by the disabling level of corruption across the board. The system that brought the service chiefs is self-protection, not public protection.

What is your stand on the recent Ekiti governorship election?

We gathered that 30,000 policemen were deployed to ekiti.  This is one out of 37 States in the country, what about the people living in the North- east that require police protection, what about the people in Plateau that require police protection, what about the people in Zamfara that require police protection and people in Kaduna state who require police protection and yet Buhari approved 30,000 police men for just Ekiti election. It’s obvious they were sent there to protect the interest of the All Progressive Congress APC. As a matter of fact why should the President send 30,000 to Ekiti just for election? If you recall, this was what happened in 1966, the money  meant for the protection of lives and property was used to stage a coup in the South-West to favour the ruling party back then  which led to what was referred back then in the South-west as ‘Operation Wettie’  . Buhari repeated  the same thing in Ekiti to allow 30,000 policemen to supervised an election in order  to make sure APC takes over from PDP while the whole nation is crying over lingering killings many still tagged as a religious and tribal cleansing.

With the challenges Nigeria has being going through since Independence, do you foresee an end to it come 2019?

Sincerely, I don’t foresee any light ! The only bright light I foresee before 2019, is if we can bring about a constitutional change through the National Assembly. But unfortunately the National assembly and the presidency have been on each other’s throats from the beginning of this government since 2015. So you can’t expect a good constitutional change when the executive and the legislative have never agreed. The latest is that the government is staging a strategic attack on the nation’s assembly by humiliating the Senate President and the National Assembly is retaliating by threatening to impeach President Buhari. So in a situation like this, how do you expect a peaceful constitutional change to happen, it’s can’t happen! We should be waiting for the worst. A revolution, that is a change brought about by the power of the masses. Whereby citizens take over the responsibility of the affairs of a state themselves.  It has happened in other parts of the world when the executive arm and the judiciary are in disparity. There is no way Nigeria will be different from other countries that have experienced it. It can happen in Nigeria anytime. Europe faced what we are facing now and they solved theirs through constitutional revolution.

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Without Inclusive Dialogue, Cameroon is on the Highway to Civil War- Elie Smith
June 27, 2018 | 0 Comments

By Ajong Mbapndah L

Inclusive dialogue is part of any feasible solution says Elie Smith

Inclusive dialogue is part of any feasible solution says Elie Smith

The crisis in Cameroon are growing from bad to worse with ordinary masses bearing the brunt, says Journalist Elie Smith. Echoing what others like Justice Ayah Paul have said, Elie Smith says without inclusive dialogue, Cameroon is on the highway to civil war. Known for his unbiased perspectives to national issues, Elie Smith says the government must come to terms with the fact that it is dealing with a new generation of Anglophones resolute in righting historic wrongs and injustices suffered for decades. The solution lies in a sincere dialogue with Anglophones of all sheds and stripes with no taboo subjects, says Smith.

PAV: Elie thanks again for accepting to shed light on the ongoing crisis, where do things stand at the moment with the crisis?

Elie Smith:  The crisis is getting from bad to worst. But those who are the victims are first and foremost the ordinary masses in the two Anglophone regions otherwise known as Southern Cameroon’s.  You have thousands internally displaced people, most of them are now living in the bushes and others have relocated to neighbouring Nigeria in camps run by the UNHCR and Nigerian states, while others are in towns and cities in Anglophone Cameroon and beyond that seems to have a semblance of peace and safety from the Cameroonian security forces, hitherto, the main causes of human rights abuses and lately from the jumble of armed Anglophone nationalist movements.  In this crisis, very little is said about the fate of the elderly, women and children. Most girls are now out of schools and have become vulnerable to all kinds of abuses amongst which, rape is a major issue, sadly under reported.

PAV:There was a statement from one of the SDO from the North West and the fall of a locality under his command, though the statement was disputed, are there areas that the government has completely lost control of and if so which ones do you know from your findings?

Elie Smith:  No territory is the under control of the various armed Anglophone nationalist movements. It is not that, they can’t capture and control large chunk of territory, is just that, they are multiple, disorganized and divided. In short, they are still a bunch of amateurs who are quickly honing their trade as we have noticed recently in direct warfare with regular forces.  But what I have noticed is that, the morale of regular or government forces are down and secondly, in spite the divisions within the armed movements,  they still command and lot of support because government forces are still committing  human right abuses. The reality is that, any part of Anglophone Cameroon can be captured.

PAV: The bilingualism commission tabled a number of proposals to President Biya, what do you make of the discussions that took place during their meetings with people in the North West and South West, and how have people reacted to their recommendations in Cameroon?

Elie Smith:  First there is nothing new. The creation of that commission is an admission of failure and given the fact that, it has only a consultative position, her recommendations however brilliant it might have been is a late recommendation to solve an old problem. They should stop wasting tax-payers monies. The government should have the courage to call a Foumban 2 conference to correct the historic wrongs of the first unification constitution and secure the future.  Justice Ayah Paul has been advocating the need for a second Foumban conference as a panacea to solving the current crisis. If there is no “all inclusive dialogue”, we are on the highway to civil war. Even though I said before that the various armed groups are amateurs and under armed and disorganized, it is just a matter of time before they beef up their weaponry and start confronting the national army eyeball to eyeball. And when that, happens, they will control territory and I began to wonder how reconciliation will be possible at that stage. However, there is still time for things to be corrected.

PAV: We now see a growing number of kidnapped Police and military officials calling on the Biya government to rethink its strategy; do you see this having any impact?

Elie Smith:  Of course the recent spats of kidnapping of Police and military men and women are having an impact on the government and also on the majority Francophones.  For they had long been nourished about the invincibility of the Cameroonians army in general and its US trained elite unit, the BIRs or Rapid Intervention Brigade , in particular. They now have to rethink their strategy in Anglophone Cameroon because the current one of scorched earth policy has failed woefully.

PAV: Why was the government so rattled with statements from the American Ambassador Peter Balerin, what was the drama all about?

Elie Smith: I think the government never expected their friend, the United States to speak the way its ambassador spoke. Remember, the United States has always looked the other way while the government commits human rights abuses not only in Anglophone Cameroon, but first, its operations in the Far North. They have been embolden because, while the United States , especially under the  Obama administration refused to cooperate with the Nigerian government by refusing to sell them weapons because of suspicions that, the Nigerian Army was committing human rights abuses, the same US government was training and arming Cameroon’s elite military force, known as the Rapid Intervention Brigades or the BIR. So, Yaoundé was like the spoiled child of Washington DC under Obama. Its security forces could kill and maim under the guise of fighting against terrorism and they received no rebukes.  And since Frances Cook, all or most US ambassadors after her were kind of speaking from both sides of their mouths. Now, Yaoundé is shocked to find an outspoken ambassador and it is coming at a time when the regime is most vulnerable.  Fanatics of the regime want Biya, who is 86, to run again in the upcoming presidential election, that is why, they were not happy with the declarations of Peter Bellerin. Remember, Washington DC was their moral support when the same US ambassador declared that, those fanning the crisis were the Anglophone Diaspora, they was ululation in Yaoundé, but now that, the same ambassador talks only about legacy, there is wailing  in Yaoundé.

Smith shares the believe that Ayuk Tabe and other arrested leaders are alive .

Smith shares the believe that Ayuk Tabe and other arrested leaders are alive .

PAV: If the government could express such outrage on the Ambassador’s statements, why is it so hard for them to invest the same energy in trying to find solutions for the crisis or at least engaged in broad-based dialogue that many have called for?

Elie Smith: It is beyond comprehension why they will release such energy to denounce their erstwhile friend and not put such in seeking lasting solution to the current. But my humble opinion is that, they are not only overwhelmed but they have exhausted all the options that, they had. The only option that, they have now is to use violence and which is only going to fuel more discontent and also drive a wedge between Cameroonians along colonially inherited  cultures.

PAV: The UK government has been conspicuously silent on the crisis, but a company from there recently signed a lucrative contract to process gas, your take on this.

Elie Smith:  The United Kingdom has always stayed quiet. Remember, in 1992 when the US and Germany were banners upper for the stolen victory of John Fru Ndi to be upheld, the UK simply sent their spies here to find out whether the majority Francophones will accept Anglophone as their President. What I have just said is mentioned clearly in the book: “Dossier Noire sur le Cameroun”, written by Pierre Ella.  The UK is still angry that, Southern Cameroon’s opted to join La Republique instead of doing what part of German Togoland did by joining Ghana. Well as for New Age, I don’t think Her Majesty’s government had anything thing to do with the company coming to Cameroon, especially in west Cameroon.

PAV: In the last couple of weeks, we have seen the major international media outlets like the Guardian and Economist in the UK, and the Washington Post in the USA reporting on the crisis, any comments?

Elie Smith: Well, it is normal. When it bleeds, it leads. The killings in Anglophone Cameroon have reached a point that can’t be hidden from the international community in spite all the gymnastics in denial put in place by the government.

PAV: Any word about Sisiku Ayuk Tabe and others arrested in Nigeria are there alive and if so why has the government continued to keep them incommunicado?

Elie Smith:  They are alive. I have heard strange claims recently. It is left to the government to decide when to make them available. But your question is coming at a time when the government has decided that interrogations of 10 of the 47 arrested in Nigeria should start. It began on Monday June 25th. And I hear they all have the right to give the name of a person of their choice to visit them for a period of one month renewable. Now, it is left for the people of the Interim government to decide whether they want to have a formidable legal team that is free from their internal shenanigans, which will lead to the mitigation of their sentences or use them as a bargaining chip for their own political ambitions.

PAV: Taking the killings that took place in Menka as an example , one sees a wide gulf in the way the English media covered it, as opposed to the French media which largely relayed the government side of the story, as a media professional  what do you make of this?

Elie Smith:  Cameroon is officially a bilingual country with English and French, being its official languages, but in reality it is a French-speaking country and there are no other places to prove that, English is not an official language in this country than the judiciary and the Press. The judiciary is pure French-speaking and it will be demonstrated once again as the trial of the 47 starts. The other area is how this crisis is covered by the French language media. They are most supportive of the government partly because most French-speaking journalists and owners of French-language papers are sponsored by the government. And this is where the theory of ownership and control is put into practice. But, it is not a reflection of what most Francophones are thinking.

PAV: As the crisis rage on, so too are the elections approaching, if things continue this way, how will the situation in the North West and South West Regions impact on the elections? Will elections without these two regions be legitimate or will this just cement the broken bonds we see now?

Elie Smith: In my humble opinion elections, can’t take in both North West and south west regions anytime soon. Simply because, the government is not controlling those regions as they would want the world to think. Perhaps they are having control to a certain level of the following areas: Bamenda, Kumba, Buea and Victoria-Limbe. I say perhaps, because, when I am in the latter mentioned localities, you noticed that, there is a kind simmering tension and kind or unofficial cease fear. But if the government goes ahead and oragnises elections, then they will not only disenfranchising the people of both regions, they will be giving a legitimate  arguments to secessionists or restorationists, that, both region variously known as former west Cameroon or former British Southern Cameroon’s is not an integral part of Cameroon. Remember, the argument that the most hardcore Anglophone nationalists have been floating is that, there is no treaty officialising the current Union, which has been trampled upon and strangely the government has never shown any official document that shows that, there was any official union between both Cameroons. Ideally, it would be best for negotiations to start first and concluded before any elections are organized in Cameroon. What I don’t seem understand is why are some candidates eager to run, when they know they won’t be able to campaign in some parts of the country and  will be playing into the hands or to the advantage of the incumbent.

PAV: You have been on TV panels with Messanga  Nyamding , what was he talking when he said Anglophones have a lower intelligence coefficient compared to Francophones, with friends like him and others, many are wondering if President Biya actually needs enemies Elie….

Elie Smith: Sincerely speaking, I don’t know what to say. I think Mr Nyamding can best answer this question. However, my interpretation is this and I have already told him in one of our debates. I think, it is his excessive love or desire to please the President of the Republic and the ruling CPDM that has made him and many other ordinarily brilliant people to ridicule themselves. I once told him in one of our debates on Balafon FM here in Douala, that his behavior was like that of a boy who loves a girl who doesn’t love him. He loves the CPDM, but the CPDM doesn’t love him. Beyond that, Mr Nyamding is a very good man.

U.S Ambassador Peter Balerin in visit to President Biya at the Unity Palace. The ruling seems to be rattled with everything Balerin says

U.S Ambassador Peter Balerin in visit to President Biya at the Unity Palace. The ruling seems to be rattled with everything Balerin says

PAV: Based on the situation on the ground as you see, how does this end, where do the solutions come from and who will the actors be?

Elie Smith:  It will only get worse if the government refuses to see the reality and stop being arrogant and stupid.  The government must understand that, they have for too wrong the Anglophones and now, the new generations who have nothing to lose won’t take what their parents took or accepted from the central government in Yaoundé. The solution lies in a sincere dialogue with Anglophones of all sheds and stripes and all subjects must be put on the table.

PAV:Thanks so much for granting this interview

Elie Smith: It is a pleasure to give me an opportunity to give my humble views on the current political situation prevailing in Cameroon.

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Human Rights In English Speaking Regions:Amnesty Drops The Hammer on Cameroon
June 13, 2018 | 0 Comments

– Report And Recommendations Were Discussed With Senior Officials At The Presidency – Ilaria Allegrozzi Lake Chad Researcher

By Ajong Mbapndah L

Imagery : High resolution imagery captured on 21 January 2018 shows Kwakwa has been almost completely razed. White ash blankets the areas where structures once stood. Again, cloud cover prevents full analysis of the area. ©Amnesty International.

High resolution imagery captured on 21 January 2018 shows Kwakwa has been almost completely razed. White ash blankets the areas where structures once stood. Again, cloud cover prevents full analysis of the area. ©Amnesty International.

While there may be no official reaction yet from the government of Cameroon on the recent Amnesty International report, Ilaria Allegrozzi, Lake Chad Researcher says the human rights group had very open and productive discussions on the findings with Senior Officials at the Presidency last week.

“We hope that our message and recommendations will be taken on board,” says Allegrozzi whose research shows that people have been caught between two fires, victims of gross abuses by the army and acts of violence committed by armed separatists.

In an exclusive interview with Pan African Visions, Ilaria Allegrozzi says the report was based on interviews with over 150 victims and eye witnesses of the flagrant human right violations such as  unlawful killings, arbitrary arrests, torture and destruction of private property.

Rather than resolving the crisis, the heavy handed response by the authorities have only empowered radical violent movements and created a climate of fear, according to the report from Amnesty International. While the report has ample documentation of gross excesses from the military with the burning of whole villages, killings, arbitrary arrest and torture of people in the course of military operations in the Anglophone regions, there are instances where armed separatists are faulted for attacks on security forces, state emblems schools and ordinary people.

“We did not ask the question about conditions for peace but noted that the majority of them said that they won’t return unless there’s an independent state of Ambazonia ,” Allegrozzi said in response to what it will take for normalcy to return. Amnesty will continue to closely monitor developments and  do follow up with  Cameroon and international partners on its recommendations, Allegrozzi  said.

Thanks for accepting to discuss the recent Amnesty Report on Cameroon (A Turn for the worse), can you start with the numbers, those killed, number of refugees and other vital statistics that you found in your research?

Pictures taken at the beginning of March 2018 in Belo, showing a burnt Toyota Picnic. According to evidence collected by Amnesty International, the vehicle was set ablaze by security forces manning a checkpoint at the Belo motor park on 2 February 2018. ©Amnesty International.

We did not compile any statistics  registering  the no of people (general population) killed; we have compiled stats registering the no of security forces (policemen, gendarmes, soldiers) killed by armed separatists since Sept 2017 to day and it is 44. 44 might well be an underestimation and we believe the number is higher. We also came up with stats registering the number of schools attacked by armed separatists. It’s 42 of which 36 burnt, the remaining either partially or totally destroyed. For this figure too, we think we might have underestimated the number of attacks. However, we only wanted to go public with the figures we were sure about 100 per 100. In terms of refugees (Anglophone Cameroonian requesting asylum in Nigeria): the official figures put out by the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) at May 2018 are of 20.400 (note this figure includes only those officially registered by UNHCR; in addition we believe there are at least some other 10.000 scattered around Nigeria in various isolated areas). Most of the refugees settled in cross river state, Nigeria; but some also are found in Benue state, the capital Abuja, Lagos and elsewhere. Note that those who fled (mostly last year and especially after Sept-Oct 2017 and after Dec. 2017) and are settled in cross river state are mostly from the SW region, from villages and cities very near to the border. There are also other people in the North and South West Regions who fled, but internally, within Cameroon. The no of IDPs (internally displaced people) in the North and South West regions is estimated at 160.000 (possibly underestimation). 160.000 is a figure put out by UN humanitarian agencies in Cameroon.

Often times , the government and its supports cast doubts on the work and reports of Amnesty International, how was this research done and what measures did you take to ensure the findings were indisputable on facts and accuracy?

We always stand by our findings. Our methodology is thorough and evidence solid. We have interviewed over 150 victims and eye-witnesses to Human Right  violations by the security forces and acts of violence by the armed separatists, as well as families of victims, and a wide range of key informants from different sectors (lawyers, journalists, religious and traditional leaders, academics, human rights defenders, members of civil society, political leaders and activists within the separatist movement and groups, national and international human rights and security experts, and staff of the United Nations, INGOs). In addition we have collected, analyzed and verified material evidence, including videos, photographs, med records, court docs and sat imagery. 

What are some of the reactions you have received since the report was published, while it heavily indicts the government and its military for its excesses, it equally says armed separatist groups carried out violent attacks on the security forces, your take on reactions.

We are still waiting for the official reaction of the government. We were able to visit Cameroon last week and met with the Director of the Civil Cabinet at the presidency. We shared the findings of the report. The discussion was open and productive. We hope that our messages and recommendations will be taken on board.

When doing your research and producing the report, does Amnesty International take into account the notion of self defence? When you have villages razed down as described by you, people arrested and tortured, how do you expect them to react?

Our research looks at the human rights impact of the crisis. We focused on the violence and human rights violations against the general population. Our research shows that the people have been caught between two fires, victims of the abuses by the army and the acts of violence committed by the armed separatists.

We see instances where you mentioned schools been burnt down by separatist groups, did you not find it curious that even some of the schools heavily guarded by the army were still destroyed? In this case how do you attribute the destruction to separatist groups as you describe them?

The cases we documented have been carefully verified. We have no doubt that all the cases we documented of attacks on schools were carried out by armed separatists. Sometimes it was difficult to attribute responsibility of attacks to specific separatists groups, some individuals acting in support of the general cause (armed struggle + secession) but failing to specifically mention which group they belong to. In our new briefing, we used the phrase “self-proclaimed armed separatists” to describe a spectrum of groups embracing an armed struggle for secession from Cameroon in order to create an independent state of “Ambazonia”. One of the most prominent groups, as you know, is the Ambazonia Defense Forces (ADF), which emerged in early 2017. But there are numerous other groups which also claim to be in active armed struggle in different locations across the North and South West regions, which appear heterogeneous and splintered in nature, often acting at local levels, in the absence of a coordinated, unified structure and political leadership. We have documented violence perpetrated by individuals or groups of individuals, who acted on their own initiative, but having expressed support to or known by their communities as acting in sympathy with a self-proclaimed armed group or the armed struggle for secession.

Under what conditions are refugees both in Nigeria and those spread across the country living?

The humanitarian situation of refugees is of concern but not catastrophic (compared to other humanitarian emergencies). Lots of solidarity from Nigerian families offering shelter, food, water. The question is how long is this sustainable for? Durable solutions need to be found to ensure refugees’ needs are addressed and conditions for their return are met.

For the refugees in Nigeria, what international protections or protocols cover them, was the Nigerian government right in arresting and deporting Ayuk Tabe and others from Southern Cameroons who sought refuge there?

We have called on the government of Nigeria to respect its international obligations with respect to the rights of refugees, as per the 1951 UN refugee convention which Nigeria has duly ratified. We have condemned the extradition of Ayuk Tabe and the other 46 Anglophones. We are calling on the government of Cameroon to reveal their whereabouts, provide them access to lawyers/families/doctors, and stop their illegal-arbitrary-incommunicado detention. As you know the risk of torture is very high when people are detained in secret. We have widely documented the systematic use of torture by Cameroonian security forces and intelligent services in illegal detention facilities, including military bases.(see report Secret torture chamber released last year in July).

A number of people from the North West and South West Regions have been handed lengthy jail sentences, what do you make of the way the judicial process in Cameroon is working in this time of crisis?

We have condemned the arbitrary arrest and detention of hundreds of people arrested since the beginning of last year in the context of peaceful demonstrations, security operations, etc. We have called on authorities to make sure arrests and detentions are conducted in compliance with international human rights and domestic law, and ensure all security forces are trained on and understand these norms.  We also asked them to ensure that there are sufficient, recognizable and precise grounds for arrest and that evidence is appropriately gathered. A suspect must only be arrested if there is a reasonable suspicion that he or she may have committed a crime. If there are insufficient grounds for arrest, the person must be immediately released. Also we have recommended authorities to ensure that detainees are promptly brought before an independent civilian court that upholds international fair-trial standards, are informed of the charges against them, and have knowledge of and access to legal procedures allowing them to challenge the legality of their detention. As we have largely documented in the context of the fight against Boko Haram (we have observed dozens of trial proceedings at the military courts, including the trial of Mr Felix Agbor Balla, Mr Fontem and other Anglophones), we believe that there are several challenges for the Cameroonian justice system.

LACK OF INDEPENDENCE OF MILITARY COURTS – Military trials in Cameroon are heard by three people: the tribunal president, who is a military or civilian judge, and two military officers. While the tribunal president is trained in the law, the two military officers lack legal training. The lack of independence and impartiality of military courts raises serious due process concerns. Because such courts belong to the executive rather than the judicial branch of government, and are generally staffed by military officers subservient to the executive, they typically have an institutional tendency to defer to the executive’s dictates. Recognizing military courts’ inherent bias, the Principles on Fair Trial in Africa state that they “should not in any circumstances whatsoever have jurisdiction over civilians.” In addition, human rights mechanisms such as the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention have stated categorically that military courts should not be authorized to impose the death penalty.183 Amnesty International considers that the jurisdiction of military courts should be limited to trials of military personnel for breaches of military discipline.

THIN AND UNRELIABLE EVIDENCE Perhaps the most serious failing in many of the proceedings we observed is the lack of solid evidence implicating the defendants. For the cases involving Boko Haram suspects, for ex, the evidence presented by the prosecution is in the form of written affidavits included in the case file, frequently from unnamed—and thus, to the defence, unknown—sources. The prosecution often relies heavily on circumstantial evidence that might plausibly raise a suspicion of criminal activity, but which should not be sufficient to support a conviction.

How do you sum up the mindsets of the 150 victims and eye witnesses that you spoke to when it comes to lasting solutions to the crisis? At least to the majority of people you spoke to what are the prerequisites for peace?

We did not ask the question about conditions for peace. We noted that the majority of them said that they won’t return unless there’s an independent state of Ambazonia (!)

Protesters were marching with peace plans at the onset.The heavy handed response by Cameroonian authorities has empowered violent movements and created a climate of fear according to Amnesty International

Protesters were marching with peace plans at the onset.The heavy handed response by Cameroonian authorities has empowered violent movements and created a climate of fear according to Amnesty International

Drawing from lessons from other parts of Africa and the world, why do you think the international has remained largely indifferent to the crisis in Cameroon, how bad does it have to get before more is done on their part to help in finding solutions?

We do not believe the international community has remained indifferent. On the contrary, it did mobilized and was at times vocal. This is definitely thanks also to the powerful diaspora, how it played out its messages and sometimes its propaganda. We think that there was definitely less attention about the Boko haram conflict, despite the scale, amount, gravity of HR violations committed by the security forces in the fight against Boko haram was way bigger than what we have seen in the N and S west.

What were some of the challenges involved in the production of the reports, how risky was it for those providing you information or associates of yours in the country who participated in compiling the report?

Access to the South and North West was limited / restricted and we had to find alternative/creative ways to collect and verify info, using for example satellite imagery to assess the scale of destruction of certain villages, as we were not able to go physically there

What next for Amnesty International in Cameroon after this report?

We’ll continue to monitor the situation on the ground, collect info about human rights violations and violence. We will follow up on the recommendations outlined in the report with both the Cameroonian authorities and the international partners of Cameroon, through advocacy, campaigning and lobbying.

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