Cameroon, Guinea, South Africa….NDI’s Dr Chris Fomunyoh On Africa’s Shrinking Democratic Space
September 16, 2019 | 0 Comments
By Ajong Mbapndah L
While it may be heartening to see how much Africa has changed in the past three decades, the rate at which the successes of political transitions of the 90s are been rolled back should be of concern to everyone says Dr Christopher Senior Associate for Africa at the Washington, DC based National Democratic Institute.
A seasoned professional who has played a leading role in some of the most successful stories of democracies in Africa since the early 90s, Dr Fomunyoh says it is disappointing to see the prevalence of armed conflicts, opposition leaders been thrown in jail, elections being stolen, and constitutions amended by leaders who want to perpetuate themselves in power.
African democrats must not relent in their advocacy and must continue to fight for inclusive and accountable government, says Dr Fomunyoh in an interview with Ajong Mbapndah L for Pan African Visions.
Speaking with passion about his native Cameroon, Dr Fomunyoh says the overall situation looks bleak, and the country’s future precarious. Describing the recent trial of Anglophone leaders as a travesty of justice, Fomunyoh says their sentencing further aggravates the Anglophone crisis and deepens the mistrust, and bitterness that exists between Anglophones and the government of President Paul Biya.
“We must maintain the pressure for dialogue because it is the only means through which this conflict could be brought to an end and the legitimate grievances of Anglophones addressed in Cameroon,” Dr Fomunyoh says.
For the dialogue announced by President Biya to be credible, the government must create an enabling environment in which participants feel that the dialogue would be open and broad based, allowing for different viewpoints to be heard, says Dr Fomunyoh.
“The government must also take confidence-building measures to show that the call for dialogue is sincere. Notably, the killings must stop, the arbitrary arrest and detention of young Anglophones must end, and people who are detained unjustly should be released immediately,” Dr Fomunyoh said.
Considering that many Anglophones have lost trust in the Biya government, Dr Domunyoh said the burden will be on the government to show that it will not steamroll participants to obtain a predetermined outcome.
Dr Fomunyoh, you have just returned from Guinea Conakry, an African country that has tremendous resources, but has experienced difficult political transitions in the past. What is your overall assessment of the situation there in the lead-up to national elections scheduled for 2020?
You are so right, Guinea is a country with so much potential given its mineral wealth that includes some of the world’s highest reserves of bauxite and iron ore, and timber and water resources. Unfortunately, the impact of past military and authoritarian rule is still being felt, and citizens still crave an improvement in their well-being in this age of democratic government. The overall political situation in Guinea is tense and polarized, as the country prepares for legislative and presidential elections which have to be conducted between now and December 2020. On top of that, there is speculation that the country could run into a major crisis over whether to adopt a new constitution or not. Political parties, civil society organizations, labor unions, academics and other opinion leaders are already taking sides on the airwaves and various social media platforms. Many Guineans remain hopeful that the day would come when a democratically elected president transfers power through the ballot box to his successor, something that has not happened since the country gained independence in 1958.
Recently in Cape Town, South Africa, as a guest speaker at the joint conference co-organized by the University of Cape Town and the Kofi Annan Foundation, you stated that “political space is shrinking across Africa.” What leads you to that conclusion?
First let me say how uplifting it was to be at the University of Cape Town for a conference in memory of two great sons of Africa — Nelson Mandela and Kofi Annan — who as world leaders epitomized the best of humanity in terms of their vision and commitment to promoting human dignity, development and world peace. I was truly honored to be invited.
In the spirit of Nelson Mandela and Kofi Annan, it is heartening to see how much Africa has changed in the past three decades: political pluralism is now common practice in all African countries, independent media continues to grow, the continent’s youth are becoming politically engaged, and, increasingly, political power is being transferred through the ballot process. Who could have thought that in Sudan, by the sheer determination of citizens engaged in civil protest, a thirty-year autocracy under General Al-Bashir would collapse! At the same time, one must state the disappointment that in too many African countries some of the successes of political transitions of the 1990s are being rolled back. Armed conflicts are still prevalent, opposition leaders are being thrown in jail, injustice is being inflicted on ordinary citizens, elections are being stolen, and constitutions are being amended by leaders who want to perpetuate themselves in power.
So what should Africans do about the democratic backsliding?
African democrats must not relent in their advocacy and fight for inclusive and accountable government. We need more open political space to engage citizens across the board and harness the rich diversity of talent and expertise that our continent possesses. We must find ways to galvanize our human capital to best utilize the countries’ wealth to improve the wellbeing of our fellow citizens. For this to happen, we have to learn to aggregate our efforts as opposed to operating in silos, we have to build alliances across the continent so that the good guys can support each other and draw inspiration from each others’ successes. The next generation of Africans expect from us a better continent than we may have inherited from the generation before us.
You were in South Africa around the week of xenophobic attacks by South Africans against Africans of other nationalities. What do you make of these attacks and how was the mood like while you were there?
It is sad and despicable to watch Africans being killed by other Africans for no other reason than their countries of origin. Nelson Mandela and other founders of today’s democratic and free South Africa would be turning in their graves, because they would remember the contributions by other African countries to the liberation struggle. Without the frontline states that include countries such as Zimbabwe and Zambia, and Nigeria, perhaps we would not have South Africa as we know it today. Even if South African youth are exposed to many challenges such as high levels of unemployment, lack of opportunities and a sense of abandonment by the state, that still cannot explain why they would take out their grievances violently against fellow Africans. It is my hope that the government of South Africa would draw the appropriate lessons from this unfortunate incident and come out with well-crafted programs that can provide a safety net for the less fortunate of South African society, and a sense of safety and security for other Africans that choose to live in this beautiful country. That tragedy also exposes the failures of other governments across the continent whose citizens now feel obliged to flee their homeland to become refugees in foreign lands, because of political repression or because of lack of economic opportunity. What’s happening in South Africa today must prick our collective conscience as Africans.
Coming now to your home country of Cameroon, what is your assessment of the political situation there, in what shape is the country?
Cameroon is in bad shape. Thousands of Anglophones have been killed, others in their thousands are in detention centers spread across the country; members of security forces have lost their lives in hundreds; over two hundred villages have been burned; 40,000 Anglophones now live in refugee camps in Nigeria and 600,000 others are internally displaced, now living in other regions of the country. For three years running, schools have been unable to open in the Anglophone regions of the country. The United Nations estimates that close to 1.4 million Anglophones could be at risk of famine, all because of the ongoing crisis.
At the same time, the runner-up in the last presidential election, Professor Maurice Kamto, and hundreds of his supporters — many of whom are lawyers, economists and other professionals — are being detained in Yaoundé, with some charged to appear before a military tribunal.
The country also continues to battle Boko Haram extremists in its extreme north region that borders north-eastern Nigeria and Chad. The overall situation looks bleak, and the country’s future precarious. There is reason to be alarmed.
Getting into more recent developments, what is your take on the heavy jail sentence slammed on the Anglophone leader Julius Ayuk Tabe and others?
In my opinion, the sentencing of Ayuk Tabe and 9 others to life imprisonment by a military tribunal in Yaoundé is a travesty of justice on multiple fronts, notably the conditions of their arrest and extradition from Nigeria; their detention incommunicado for an extended period of over 9 months; their trial before a military tribunal constituted only of French speaking military judges; and the all-night trial that ended with a ruling at about 5 am in the morning. There is no doubt in my mind that this sentencing further aggravates the Anglophone crisis and deepens the mistrust and bitterness that exists between Anglophones and the government of President Paul Biya.
The heavy sentence came at a time when there are increasing calls for dialogue, what impact do you think this could have on prospects of dialogue?
This life imprisonment goes contrary to the vein of recent pronouncements in favor of dialogue by the government, multiple opinion leaders, the African Union and the international community. We must maintain the pressure for dialogue because it is the only means through which this conflict could be brought to an end and the legitimate grievances of Anglophones addressed in Cameroon.
As a seasoned professional on governance and conflict resolution, what proposals do you have for a way out of the present crisis?
I have been consistent in advocating for dialogue and in putting forward ideas that could help the country resolve this crisis. As recently as November 2018, I presented a 10-point agenda on concrete steps that could have been taken at the time to bring an end to the conflict. Since then, the situation has gotten worse, more lives have been lost, and the increasing number of victims only reinforces the urgency of concrete actions that must be taken to end the massacres and conflict. As I’ve stated over the years, I’m willing to put on the table how that roadmap could be implemented, were there to be an open platform and a genuine effort to end this crisis and get the country out of the mess in which it currently finds itself.
On Tuesday, September 10, President Biya addressed Cameroonians and, for the first time in three years, he discussed the crisis in the North West and South West regions in some detail. What is your reaction to the speech?
Modern day governance and crisis management demand that leaders be more proactive in communicating with citizens when countries face crises of the magnitude of what Cameroon has gone through over the past three years. It is good that President Paul Biya finally spoke directly to this crisis. The promise of a national dialogue is commendable, although I wish that the rest of the speech was less accusatory and provocative, so as to create an environment in which the dialogue could actually begin.
You have always called for dialogue, and now President Biya says there will be one starting by the end of September. What are some of the necessary ingredients for successful dialogue and a lasting solution?
First, for the dialogue to be credible, the government must create an enabling environment in which participants feel that the dialogue would be open and broad based, allowing for different viewpoints to be heard. The government must also take confidence-building measures to show that the call for dialogue is sincere. Notably, the killings must stop, the arbitrary arrest and detention of young Anglophones must end, and people who are detained unjustly should be released immediately. Cameroonians still remember that a similar national dialogue in the early 90s came up with recommendations, most of which were ignored by the government. It is therefore important to send strong signals that the underlying grievances of Anglophones would be addressed, so they feel that the outcome of the dialogue would restore their dignity and what they have lost during this crisis. Given that many Anglophones have lost trust in the Biya government, the burden is on the government to show that it will not steamroll participants to obtain a predetermined outcome.
Given that President Paul Biya is 86 years old and his legitimacy is questioned in some quarters, do you think Biya is in a position to resolve the crisis in Cameroon?
I have serious doubts that a president who is 86 years old, has been in power for 37 years, and has always been aloof and distant from the population can all of a sudden change his governance style and put in the energy and effort required to resolve the crisis. In the past three years, the magnitude of the crisis has grown exponentially, and it now has ramifications both across the country and internationally; I have strong doubts that the Biya government alone can find a way out. Other actors of good will, nationally and internationally, must step in given that trust has been severely broken between the Biya government and a sizeable chunk of the Anglophone population.
What do you think accounts for the levity with which the rest of Africa, and the broader international institutions like the African Union and the UN have treated the crisis in Cameroon?
I agree that the international community has been slow to respond to the crisis, and so far there have been more declarations than concrete actions. At least, some countries and organizations such as the United States, Germany, the European Union and recently the French Foreign Ministry, have been calling on President Biya to change his approach to the crisis and to engage in genuine dialogue. The United Nations recently expressed its support for a Swiss-led effort to mediate between the government and Anglophone secessionist movements, and the Security Council even held an informal debate on Cameroon in May. However, these measures are insufficient as the conflict continues unabated. One would have thought that after the Genocide in Rwanda in 1994, declarations such as “Never again” would prick the conscience of the international community so as not to allow crises like the one in Cameroon to fester. I truly hope that the African Union and the international community can step up their engagement to bring peace to the country.
You are familiar with the way Washington works; can you help us better understand the different Congressional resolutions that have come up of recent on Cameroon?
I am heartened by the interest shown in the Cameroon crisis by the United States Congress, and I urge Cameroonians and friends of Cameroon to continue to educate members of Congress as well as the international community at large on the devastating nature of this crisis and its negative impact on millions of Cameroonians. Recently, Congresswoman Karen Bass, who is the Chairman of the Africa Subcommittee, led a congressional delegation to Cameroon to hear firsthand from Cameroonians and victims of the crisis. Congressional resolutions, especially when passed on a bipartisan basis as we’ve seen in the case of Cameroon, carry a lot of weight. They capture the voice of the US Congress on an issue, and also have the capability of influencing the executive branch of government in its foreign policy approach. The European parliament, the German Bundestag and other important bodies have made similar pronouncements which help raise the level of awareness of the magnitude of the crisis, both within Cameroon and internationally. Hopefully, more concrete actions will follow.
One of the Congressional resolutions called for a return to the Federation that existed between 1961 and 1972. Do you think that could work?
At a minimum, such a concession could create the space for rebuilding trust, given that the government in power was part of the team that dismantled the first Federation in 1972. Moreover, when the current crisis broke in 2016, the Biya government would not entertain proposals for federalism, and even went as far as banning public discussions on the subject. For peace to prevail, Cameroonians will have to sit around the table and agree on a structure that can guarantee for every citizen his or her liberties and the preservation of their culture and dignity. It is inconceivable that Cameroon could rebuild without acknowledging the specificities of its English speaking population.
What is your take on the issue of school resumption?
As you may be aware, The Fomunyoh Foundation which has been active since 1999 has as one of its priorities to promote and support education in Cameroon. The Foundation has over the years distributed books and other school materials and organized public speaking events in academic institutions in all regions of the country. This underscores my personal commitment to the education of the younger generation. In the context of the ongoing crisis, education entails more than just having kids in a classroom. The back-to-school campaign to be successful, has to be part of a comprehensive package that includes among others, overall peace in the Northwest and Southwest regions of the country; reassurances from both the military and armed groups that neither students, nor teachers, nor parents would be shot at or harassed; that the curriculum is relevant; and that the kids can ultimately be guaranteed a future. This requires a deep analysis and proper preparations to make it meaningful. I am saddened that some people are treating this matter as mere sloganeering for political advantage.
If the government calls on the expertise of the seasoned professional that you are, will you be willing to provide it?
For the past two decades, I have been consistent in raising concerns about how the country was being governed. I have been pained and truly aggrieved by what has happened to the Anglophone community in the past three years. It has been disappointing to see how legitimate grievances by lawyers and teachers were summarily dismissed by the authorities, and subsequently how other socio-political grievances that were brought to the fore were violently repressed. Here we are, with thousands of fellow compatriots killed, others in detention, in refugee camps and internally displaced – all of which could have been avoided. Under those circumstances, one has an obligation, if called upon, to contribute ideas and recommendations on how to stop the killings and get out of this mess.
Some people have mooted ideas for a transitional government led by someone neutral that could help the country wade through the myriad of crises it is facing. First, what do you think of the idea and secondly were this to happen and you were asked to preside over a transition, is this something you could consider?
With each passing day, as these multiple — Anglophone, political, and security — crises we just discussed endure, my faith in this government’s ability to resolve all of them diminishes. At the same time, the current constitution of the country doesn’t allow for a transitional government as you allude to, and so I do not see how this could come about.
What lessons will a future Cameroon and the rest of Africa learn from this crisis?
Many. For example, that a people would rise up if their dignity is trampled upon; that truth, honesty and other democratic values matter for people’s trust in their government; that preventive diplomacy would save us and our continent a waste of human capital and human resources; and that it is incumbent on our generation to shape and give meaning to institutions that should improve the wellbeing of our fellow citizens.
So, what’s ahead for you and the National Democratic Institute (NDI) over the next year?
In the coming year we will be paying very close attention to the transition process in Sudan, as well as political developments across the Sahel and in the Horn of Africa, the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Great Lakes region. We will also be paying close attention to upcoming competitive elections in countries such as Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guinea Conakry, Mozambique and Niger Republic. The beauty of this all is the partnerships that NDI has with civic and political organizations across the board in all of the countries in which we work. They are the true champions of democratic development in their respective countries, and our role is to give them the support and solidarity that they need to succeed.
* Full Interview Will feature in September Issue of Pan African Visions Magazine
Nigeria has become another theater to be fought over -Prof Bolaji Akinyemi
August 26, 2019 | 0 Comments
‘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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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. 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.
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.
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. 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.
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…
 The African Continental Free Trade Area: The day after the Kigali Summit. UNCTAD Policy Brief No. 67 of May 2018
In AGOA Forum Cote d’Ivoire Seeks To Cement Role As Regional Economic Hub
June 26, 2019 | 0 Comments
By Ajong Mbapndah L
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.
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.
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.
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
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|
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.”
Third Term Bid will be suicidal for President Alpha Conde and Guinea-Ben Bangoura
May 28, 2019 | 0 Comments
By Ajong Mbapndah L
While he may not have officially made a statement on the third term project, that President Conde or anyone in his entourage should entertain such thoughts does profound damage to iconic portrait of a change agent that brought the current President of Guinea to power, says, Washington DC based journalist and Editor of AlloAfricaNews, Ben Bangoura .
Instead of the Mr. Conde changing the system, it is the system that has changed him, and if the President gets his way with the third term bid, the consequences could be tragic for Guinea, Ben Bangoura says. The expectations of Guinean people under his current tenure have not been met as the country remains amongst the poorest in the world, Bangoura continues.
The International community can be helpful by persuading Mr. Alpha Condé to avoid the third term agenda as this is neither in his personal interest nor in that of people of Guinea, Bangoura says.
President Alpha Condé is in his second and last term, according to Guinea’s constitution. How has he fared as President?
A pertinent question from a genuine journalist you have always been. Thanks again for reaching out. In a previous interview, I remember, we talked about a landmark election that culminated in Prof Alpha Condé, a self-declared reformer, clinching the presidency after a tumultuous transition. It was a moment of hope considered by many as the light at the end of the tunnel for Guinea, after decades of military rule which left the country in shambles.
He fought so much for democratic reforms, human rights and good governance in the country, has he lived up to the promises he made while in the opposition?
I doubt whether he succeeded or not. Key indicators are that he has not lived up to the promises he made while in the opposition. The expectations of Guinean people under his current tenure have not been met. Guinea is still one of the poorest countries in the world. The general population lacks clean water and has a little access to electricity, while the average citizen still lives below $1 a day. That is at odds with the country’s enormous resources. Guinea has the third largest bauxite reserves in the world among its natural wealth. The question is, who or how the local content fits into this?
On political front, things are not going well either. Alpha Condé has tightened his control over all branches of the government. Meanwhile, the country has not conducted any successful elections in recent years. For instance, the term of the current National Assembly expired six months ago. Alpha Condé had to issue a presidential decree to keep it going. At the same time, local elections held in February 2018 were marred by violence and have yet to be settled across the country. The Guinean Constitution guarantees freedom of assembly, but it is currently restricted. The system of governance is highly corrupt, and the rule of law is not respected. And in an apparent attempt to divide and conquer, Alpha Condé, an ethnic malinké, initiated a dangerous policy. Under his regime, one must be an ethnic Soussou to be eligible for the post of Prime minister in Guinea. While the chairmanship of the National Assembly is exclusively reserved for a native of the Forest region, as peulh you belong to the opposition. What kind of policy is this in a country where people, regardless of their background, have generally been living in peace and harmony for centuries like a family? I prefer to see someone holding a high position in the government because of his competence and not because of his ethnic identity.
There are talks of the constitution being changed so that he can have another mandate, where is this coming from? is it feasible and is President Conde in support of this?
Well, Alpha Condé has not made any official declaration in that regard. However, it looks though he is heading in that direction. A source knowledgeable on the matter stated that a new constitution has been drafted with help of experts from foreign countries, including France. This source added that the bill effectively guarantees a third term bid for Alpha Condé and that it has a good chance to pass if introduced this year in the National Assembly controlled by the RPG-Arc-en ciel, a coalition of political parties that back President Condé. But this source conceded that its fate maybe uncertain if submitted to a national referendum.
Where is this idea coming from? Of course, the idea is coming from Alpha Condé himself because of his increasing desire to remain in power until his death. He has a clan around him – arguing that he deserves an extended stay to finish his work as a “Dieu le Père”-. He currently has surrogates deployed in every region of the country, bribing local officials and community leaders to drum up support behind the idea.
To boost his shaky international standing, President Condé has reportedly recruited some prominent French politicians and journalists to shepherd the campaign for a third term. Countries including China and Russia, which have substantial interests in mining sectors in Guinea, have signaled their willingness to back such a move. Alpha Condé has also assigned his Ambassador in Washington, Kerfalla Yansané, to negotiate for him an official visit in the United States that would include a White House photo op with president Trump to be used as a tool for propaganda. Well connected sources indicate that the Embassy of Guinea is currently seeking assistance from a Lobbying Firm in the nation’s capital to assist in the process. But the outcome is far from certain.
Is third term doable? Maybe! Is it feasible? No! The current constitution of Guinea has two important provisions: Article 27 states that the president can only be elected to be president for a total of ten years. No more than that. The other one is article 154 which stipulates that if amendment were to occur, this should not undermine the standing of the latter. Knowing that they lack the constitutional avenue to proceed, President Condé and his cronies have apparently settled on a brand new constitution.
With regards to the opposition parties and civil society groups that could fight such a move, how organized and how serious are they?
The opposition has responded with an outright rejection of any move to change or pass a new constitution. A significant number of civil society organizations are emerging under the umbrella of the FNDC (National Front for the Defense of the Constitution). In recent weeks, high profile community leaders, including the so called Kountigui of Basse Côte Elhadj Sèkhouna Soumah, a key ally of President Condé, have distanced themselves from it. The question now is whether the opposition has a clear strategy and a “war chest” to take on President Condé who is now very rich by all accounts. But I believe that the majority of Guinean people are opposed as well. They have witnessed democratic changes taking place in neighboring countries of Sierra Leone, Liberia, Senegal, Gambia etc.., changes that resulted in a peaceful transfer of power from one government to another. They want to see such a positive change in Guinea in 2020 by electing a new head of state, no matter who that is, to ensure the continuation. They do not want to see another autocratic leader dying in power by not respecting the constitution, something that may yet trigger another painful period of transition.
What is the position of the Army in this unfolding drama?
It is hard to say right now. But in a dramatic move earlier this year, Alpha Conde issued a decree on January 8, 2019, appointing 4 high-ranking officers in the Army as Ambassadors to Angola, Cuba, Guinea Bissau and Mali. In recent weeks, the president also appointed several other army officers to civilian positions within the administration. They were mainly assigned in the remote areas of the country.
Analysts believe that this was done on purpose to weaken the army because these officers are known to be “very experienced” and may also “harbor interest” in staging a coup if the opportunity should arise. In my view, his actions in that regard amount to a preemptive strike.
Prior to this bizarre decision late last year, President Conde removed Mr. Kelefa Sall, the presiding officer of the constitutional court, from his post. He was openly opposed to any modification of the constitution. Indeed in 2015, during the swearing in ceremony for his second and last term, which was attended by a dozen heads of state, including longtime dictators from Chad, Rwanda and Equatorial Guinea, Sall suggested that Condé should avoid any attempt to change the constitution in order to remain in power. He was very upset about that.
You are versed with developments in Africa. In Benin, it was chaotic and sham general elections. In Guinea, should President Conde succeed to change the constitution, what will this mean for democracy in west Africa and the rest of Africa broadly speaking?
It would be a devastating blow to Democracy for the region, particularly for Guinea. It would bring chaos in a country that is already on a political and an economic downward spiral. A third term would be a lack of vision, a leadership failure of historical proportions on the part of the 84-year-old Alpha Condé whom many had once referred to as “opposant historique.”
Remember, this is a guy who once billed himself as a ”reformer” and “unifier”. At one point, he said he was going to be the “Mandela of Guinea”. One who would deliver that change Guineans have been dreaming about for decades. We all know that Mandela was a one term president in post-apartheid South Africa who rejected the call for him to stay in power permanently. We also knew Mandela as a unifier who fought for justice and equal rights for all. Alpha Condé on the other hand seems to want to cling on to power at any cost like Mugabe. In addition, the fact of matter is that Guinea under his leadership, is an autocratic state, a country divided along ethnic and class lines, between those who have and have not. He came in promising to change the system. Instead, it is the system that has now changed him for the worse.
If he succeeds in imposing a new constitution in Guinea, he may not be around for that long. He could be toppled by a popular uprising similar to one we have then seen in Burkina Faso, and most recently in Zimbabwe, Algeria and Sudan. Mr. Condé must understand that there is a life after the presidency, that he is going to die one day -one way or the other-. Therefore, he should focus his efforts crafting a lasting legacy for himself as a leader that has a sense of history and who was able to rebuild his country, leaving it in peace and in economic prosperity.
History tells us that no mankind has ever achieved everything he wanted to do in life. In democratic society such as the United States, each time there is alternance, the outgoing president always says to his successor: “Here is what I have accomplished, here are the works to be done”. The idea that Mr. Alpha Condé started something in Guinea he needs to carry through is foolish.
How can the international community be of help in supporting Africans fighting for democratic reforms?
The International community can be helpful by persuading Mr. Alpha Condé to stay away from such move. This is neither in his personal interest nor in that of people of Guinea. The International community can also support the grass roots organizations in the country to reinforce the institutions that are already there. As former US president Obama rightly said: “Africa doesn’t need strongmen, it needs strong institutions”. We also know that the United States under President Trump is not supportive of those autocratic leaders in Africa who have failed their peoples so miserably. Alpha Condé is certainly one of those leaders today. So, such message is rather encouraging.
How has the media fared under President Conde and how much of a force is it in the political dispensation in Guinea?
Under President Condé, I must say that the media has fared very poorly because of lack of resources. Like any country under dictatorship, the state media, including the National Broadcasting System (RTG), is the mouthpiece of the government. The independent media, specially the media online, tends to do better job though limited in scope. In Guinea, Independent media is under constant attack. In recent years, several journalists were killed in the line of duty while others are arrested, harassed, beaten or jailed.
Mnangagwa answers burning questions on Mugabe, spy allegations and elections
August 18, 2018 | 0 Comments
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.
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
Saraki defender of our democracy – Okupe
August 16, 2018 | 0 Comments
By Olayinka Ajayi
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.
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
‘ 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.
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
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.
It’s obvious President Buhari is overwhelmed with gruesome killings — Balarabe Musa
July 22, 2018 | 0 Comments
“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.
Without Inclusive Dialogue, Cameroon is on the Highway to Civil War- Elie Smith
June 27, 2018 | 0 Comments
By Ajong Mbapndah L
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.
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.
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.
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
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?
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 (!)
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.
The developing world is an easy target for populists – Kofi Annan
May 15, 2018 | 0 Comments
Kofi Annan was secretary-general of the United Nations from 1997 to 2006 and is a co-recipient with the U.N. of the 2001 Nobel Peace Prize. He sat down with The WorldPost editor-in-chief Nathan Gardels for an interview, which has been condensed and edited for clarity. This interview originally appeared in the Washington Post on 10 May 2018.
There has been much debate about democratic dysfunction in the advanced world due to paralyzing polarization exacerbated by fake news and social media manipulation. Isn’t this also an issue in the fledgling democracies of the developing world, from Malaysia to Kenya, Nigeria and elsewhere?
Kofi Annan: Yes. Inequality and the aftermath of the financial crisis, in which many have been left behind, is driving polarization in other parts of the world, including the countries you mention, just as it is in the West.
In both advanced and developing nations, we are threatened by forces exploiting fears and misgivings for political gain, and they are driving communities apart. As long as inequality and other social problems plague us, populists will try to exploit them. A report my foundation just released on Southeast Asia identifies populism, illicit electoral financing and the politics of identity as the biggest threats to democracy locally and regionally. Social media certainly acts as a catalyst and booster for such polarization, but it is often just as present in traditional media.
WorldPost: If even long-standing Western democracies are struggling with their own legitimacy and the appeal of demagogues or authoritarian leaders, aren’t the challenges all the greater in the developing world?
Annan: Developing and newer democracies are much more susceptible to the tactics of populists and demagogues — they often do not have strong institutions, free press or the infrastructure required to defend their nascent democracies.
That is why we need to safeguard the institutions that have been built to prevent blatant twisting of truths that erode trust in our elections and ultimately in democracy itself. My primary focus these days is promoting the legitimacy of democracy by ensuring the integrity of elections, whether from traditional threats, such as too much money in politics, or newer threats arising with the digital age.
If citizens do not believe they can change their leaders through the ballot box, they will find other ways, even at the risk of destabilizing their countries.
WorldPost: You visited Silicon Valley last week to look at how to curb the negative impact of social media on democracy. What was your takeaway?
Annan: No single solution or actor can deal with the complex and interrelated challenges to electoral integrity arising from manipulated data, hate speech and fake news.
These phenomena are not new; they have been part of electoral cycles since the advent of democracy. However, the unique manner in which social media and other technologies are being used to amplify the impact of these tactics in electoral cycles across the globe is a real concern. The speed, reach and volume that social media gives to fake news, disinformation and hate speech erodes trust in institutions and even in the electoral process itself.
It was also clear to me that these developments are challenging the fundamental social contract between voters and those who govern them. We require new mechanisms and frameworks — partly regulatory, partly based on new technologies and partly educational — to restore trust in electoral processes and elected leaders. That trust can only be built if political figures, tech leaders and citizens themselves work together to design these frameworks.
To give just one example, when I spoke before an audience at Facebook, I suggested they should organize a sort of a rapid response team to be called into a situation when it is clear that bots, trolls or fake news are evident. The team could alert electoral commissions or other authorities to offer advice on how to stop the problem before it gets out of control.
The challenge for all of us is to harness the opportunities of the digital age while mitigating the risks. I am encouraged by the people I met in Silicon Valley who were supportive of the idea of creating a commission supporting electoral integrity in the digital age. My foundation will soon launch such a global commission to address these urgent issues in all democracies.
*Source: Kofi Annan Foundation
2019: Defeating Buhari will take exact reversal of Bola Tinubu and others — Dr. Okupe
May 3, 2018 | 0 Comments
* Says: ‘Nigeria is in a state of anomie and there is need to safe our democracy. ’
* ‘Mindless killings in Nigeria are typical of ISIS operations.
By Ajayi Olayinka
Dr. Doyin Okupe is the Nigeria’s South west leader of Accord Party and was a Special Adviser on Media and Publicity to the immediate past president, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan. In an interview with Pan African Visions. Dr. Okupe bore his mind on recent declaration by President Buhari to seek reelection come 2019 and the likely implications of this decision on the existential well-being of Nigerians.
What’s your reason for leaving the PDP to have pitched tent with the Nigeria Coalition Movement led by Olusegun Obasanjo
I left the PDP because I fundamentally disagreed with what was going on in the party. More importantly, the nation is in a state of anomie and there is actually a need for patriots to find a way to safe our democracy. Yes, Obasanjo is like a political godfather to me. I believe in him and I also trust him. If there is a nationalist in Nigeria, Obasanjo is one and I believe that he mean well for Nigeria. You may not like his style, but we need to look beyond the surface. CNM is a brilliant idea and to every discerning mind, it’s absolutely impossible to oppose the incumbent and a towering figure like President Mohammadu Buhari and hope to win. To defeat Buhari will take exact reversal of Bola Tinubu and others were able to do with APC. A broad platform encompassing the political majority in the country must be put together to present a candidate to contest against Buhari with the hope of being able to win. To that extent, the coalition that Obasanjo is leading is what I’m proud to be a part of and I’m part and parcel of it. Even though I’m the South west leader of Accord Party. As a party, we identified with that movement and we hope to come to a working relation in not too distant future.
Chief Rasheed Ladoja a former leader of Accord Party is now back in the PDP, how do you reconcile that?
There is nothing to reconcile really.
The primary motive of Chief Ladoja at his age is to look for way to wrestle power from the ruling party in Oyo state which he had tried so often and has not been able to satisfactory do in recent time. I have held meetings with him and he figures out that unless he is able to put together a Coalition, he may not be able to confront the APC machinery. And in doing so, majority of the tendencies in Oyo state were tilting towards the PDP. I was there in one of the meetings when a delegation from Oyo state came to him to lead them into the PDP. They believe that is the only way to unite and take power from the APC. He conceded and that was why he went to the PDP. But I don’t think he is well treated in the PDP. You really cannot say he is in PDP now. He is more or less in a limbo now. He is not in PDP and not out of of PDP. But I know for a fact that they are looking for ways to achieve their original objective.
What is your take on the spate of killings in the country?
I’m perplexed that something profoundly evil is going on in the country. The frequency and viciousness of the attack is confounding. What is more perplexing is that we cannot really say the same of efforts from the government to counter this evil. I have said it to many people and on my social media platforms that this is beyond Fulani herdsmen and farmers clashes. I may be wrong. It no longer make sense to assume that. I don’t think President Buhari was out of order, perhaps he didn’t put it well when he said these are people trained by Ghadaffi. What he probably had meant to say was that people that were trained in Libya had come down and are wrecking havoc in our system. That would have been more credible. There is also a shade of opinion that what we are seeing is a break away faction of Boko Haram that has actually teamed up with ISIS. The signature we are seeing in these attacks is mindless killings, arson and massive destruction. This is so typical of ISIS operations. It is better for us as Nigerians and those who lead us to term with this reality. They will not want to sound alarmed that we are not through with Boko Haram yet and we now have ISIS which may bring panic. Let us speak the truth and let the devil be ashamed. We have ISIS operating in Nigeria and it is another form of extreme Islamic fundamentalism in a very vicious and dangerous form. If you look at it, Boko Haram is located in the North East and not going beyond the zone. But if you see what is going on now, we have some very serious attacks in Benue, Jos, Kaduna, Zamfara, Kano, Kogi, Edo and Ekiti. That is no longer Fulani herdsmen attack. By my own understanding, the Fulani herdsman is very protective of his herds. He overreaches himself in the provision of food and water for the herds. I don’t see a Fulani man after having fed his cows and burn the farm in which the cows have eaten and go to the villagers that own the farms to kill and burn them. It doesn’t make any sense. That has gone beyond tendering cattle. The herdsmen tendering cattle is something that anti dated time and history. It is something that is beyond 400-500 years. It has been from the time we existed here. These Fulani go around west Africa with their cattle in search of food and water. This metamorphosis into armed militia. If strange, it is not in conformity with what we have. And it is a misnomer to say there is a Fulani /farmers clash. A clash is when one group fights another. No farmer is clashing with herdsmen here. Now it’s the militias that are not just killing farmers, but going to churches to kill priests and worshippers. What has that got to do with Fulani herdsmen? There is more fundamental matter here, and the earlier the government looks into it the better. Unfortunately, the government is headed by a Fulani and tend to protect the image of other Fulanis that they are not killers and get prejudiced in what they do. But there is no need to protect what is not true. If there is anything to protect, it should be the lives and properties of Nigerians. Impression is being given that it’s Fulani people that are involved in the mayhem. So government must try as much as possible to remove this toga, otherwise it will not be in the interest of everybody. In any case, if we are not able to put an end to this murderous activities of the terrorists, it will put an end to our peace (God forbid).
Has the President acted Right in nation’s interest concerning the transfer of unappropriated fund to the United States for the purchase of Tukano helicopters ?
The purchase of the helicopters was something that originated from the National Assembly. It was when a team from the United States visited the National Assembly that this idea was bounced from their discussion. Those who defend the government on account that there is a Supreme Court judgement that declared the Excess Crude Account as an illegal account. Therefore any withdrawal from it should not follow legal process; as far as I’m concerned it doesn’t make sense. Two wrongs does not make a right. If you say it does not need to follow legal process, why then does the President recently write to the National Assembly to put it in the budget? As far as I’m concerned, that’s an admission of guilt. The relationship between the executive and the legislator is always frosty and this is not peculiar to Nigeria. I have served under two presidents and I have gone through this. The executive must go out of their way to court the legislature. It’s got nothing to do with pride. A Yoruba proverb says it is a man that has purpose in life that will work towards the successful implementation of his purpose. “Alatise la mo atise are e “. It is the executive that executes projects, but the power to give approval for execution of the projects resides with the legislative houses. The dexterity of the executive to come to consensus with the legislature is what will show the proficiency of those that head the executive in their jobs. Personally, I’m extremely very proud of this 8th senate. And I believe sincerely that they have done more to protect democracy than their previous counterparts. In the moment of severe stress when the president was ill and even friends of this administration wanted the president removed, the Senate stood their grounds to stabilize the country. They stood as bulwark and did not allow our thinking and frustrations to override them emotionally. I must give a lot of commendation to Dr. Bukola Saraki, the Senate President. In my opinion, he is the most cerebral of all the Senate Presidents we have had. We have in him a quintessentially sane, focused and cerebrally balanced young man that has the control and respect of his colleagues. If not for that fact, we would probably be in much more serious trouble by now. Look at what happened last week when people genuinely raised the expenditure of the executive without consent of the National Assembly. It is an impeachable offence as a matter of fact, sentiment apart. But look at the dexterity and maturity that was applied by the Senate President that was devoid of indecorous behavior because of the confidence that his colleagues repose in him. He was able to manipulate and douse the tension by taking the issue to Judicial Committe. That is the hallmark of a true nationalist and a leader. This is a man that is being vilified by the same executive. I don’t think leadership comes better than that. Having said that, the executive needs to do much more. It has nothing to do with personality clashes. The three arms of government are on equal pedestals. Talking about non passage of budget, I read that heads of the MDP have refused to defend their budgets. Someone should have given them a marching order if they had taken their jobs seriously and that was what the president did. And they are about rounding up the job now. I have implicit faith, confidence and I’m proud of this senate and National Assembly in general. We are in a safe hands with them.
What is your take on the allegation that Saraki is overbearing and always looking for slightest opportunity to take on the presidency
Saraki to me is not overbearing. He is only decisively focused.
How come he now has an opportunity to allow the impeachment process to go ahead but stopped it? How come he did not constitute a medical team to visit the president in London when he was sick to determine if he was fit to continue? What they have done is to ensure that the legislature is not a rubber stamp of the executive. That is not what is intended by the constitution. I see Saraki as an intelligent and patriotic democrat who is firm and focused. Any leadership that is not firm and focused is useless. If you must lead you must show the way and in showing the way you must be firm. This person has shown strength, intellect, capability and popularity amongst his colleagues.
The Omo-Agege saga has been described as an assault on the nation’s democracy, do you agree with this?
The Omo-Agege saga is what any right thinking Nigerian must condemn. It is indecent, indecorous, condemnable and beyond reason. When we continue to compromise our institutions and they become ineffective, we can no longer keep complaining. What happened on that day is a memory that God should blacken out of our minds. It is the height of ignominy and if Omo-Agege is someone that has self respect, he should by himself leave the senate. If I was from his district, the man will not be worth toilet paper in my eyes. Contrary to people’s belief, he was not suspended because of the reordering of elections sequence, he was suspended for taking the senate to court. He came to apologize on the floor of the senate for certain thing he did wrong and went to court on the same matter. There are certain issues that we must not allow partisanship to erode our conscience because those who are there today may not be there tomorrow. But the institutions will remain. What is not good is not good. Omo-Agege’s action and those who backed him did a terrible injustice to the sacredness of the red chamber.
What is your stand on Senator Dino Melaye who jumped out of a moving police vehicle?
I think the police is overreacting on Dino Melaye’s case. Dino is just an individual who has problem with the governor of his state. If the impression is being given that the governor can manipulate the entire police force to humiliate and completely hound down his political enemy, then I’m sorry for this country. Forget about anybody jumping down or not, if you are driving me to place where I am going to be given HIV injection, I will jump through anything. We do not know the circumstances he found himself at the time. Such decision will be taken if he realizes that he would be a dead man in a couple of minutes. What I’m saying is that the machinery that has been assembled to humiliate and dehumanize Dino Melaye is commendable. If we do that for more vicious enemies of democracy, Nigeria will be a better place to live in. Why is it that we always use power of government to hit and demolish opposition of government who do not in any way threatens the existence of government. Militias have killed thousands of people in Zamfara, Benue and Taraba states in the last two year and no record of one of them being apprehended. The police in this matter have overreacted and used excessive force which in itself is almost a crime. We need to hear from Dino Melaye to know his fears and why he jumped out of the vehicle. A man that jumped out of a moving vehicle has a chance to die. He must have weighed the options either to die sitting in the vehicle or to live if he does not die after jumping down. The man had simply chosen a fairer option out of the two.
How will you rate the administration of President Buhari ?
The fact that the administration has not done well is obvious and I am not going to do an overkill. President Buhari came in on a very high ethical standard that he is a man of integrity, he will fight corruption, quench the insurrection in the North East and provide good governance. But the government has failed on all the four pedestals. But I found it a bit difficult to judge him because of my background as a trained medical doctor. I have suffered life threatening illness myself and under the condition, nothing else mattered to me except my survival. When a man that is so sick like Buhari doesn’t do well, I find it extremely difficult to condemn him because of my background as a medical doctor. Perhaps if things were the other way round, he may have performed better. If he spent 150 days out 360 days in the hospital, that is really serious. I will not stand here and condemn a man that went through life threatening illness. We all saw Buhari practically dying and God resuscitated him. On the platform which he came in, he has failed woefully. But my mind is telling me that the man is not that bad and that the problem he has is his ill health. That is why I wrote an article and advised the man being a great man that God has been very kind to not to contest for second term. All his popularity, reputation and cult like followerhip will pale to nonesense if he recontest and his health cannot carry him. I wish him well and I pray that God will give him strength in this remaining period of his tenure to finish well and end well. But he will be stretching his luck too far if he attempts to go beyond that. Age and good health are not on his side. A man should not volunteer to rule or be forced on a nation at the lowest point of his existence in which Buhari is now. I can say this authoritatively because I am a doctor. Buhari should aspire to end as a father figure in this country and I will personally applaud him for that. I will even canvass that everyone should put partisanship aside and support him to finish well and give him a grand exit. We do not have any father figure in this country. All our leaders have either destroyed themselves or we destroyed them. Let us preserve Buhari as historic legacy. But Buhari’s ambition to go for a second term and continue in office will be a threat to the existential wellbeing of Nigerians and corporate existence of the country.
There has been clamour for not too young to rule, do you foresee a young man with integrity taking over from Buhari ?
(Laughed) Youth taking over in 2019 is far fetched and unlikely because our youths are just getting involved in national affairs. Look at Sowore, Fela Durotoye and so many of them that are just coming up. But we must realize that this country is so big and complicated that we need the exuberance of the youths and experience of the old. It is the combination of these two that will augur well for this country. But we must encourage the youths. The only reason why I am in Accord Party is to make it a platform for young people to come and become what they want to be. The party is practically new and the positions are not stratified. Our major job now is not to contest or run for any office. But we want to hold the ladder so that young people can steadily climb. I have got nine children and it will be in my interest that they will find a decent country to live. This can only happen if those of us with knowledge and experience will allow the younger generation to climb on our back and hold the ladder for the youth to climb to the top while we support them.
What should Nigerians expect from the Nigeria Coalition Movement?
This coalition is not against Buhari. If it against the president I’m not interested. This coalition is to promote democracy, good governance and to bring competence and fear of God into administration. It is also to create a space for the younger generation to come up. The coalition is not against APC. Rather it is to broaden the base of participation to allow majority of Nigerians to come in and take part in the destiny of their nation. Nigerians should expect from this coalition a very broad spectrum of political opinions and formations. We are going to bring together a majority of political conclaves in the country. Even though we recognize that the APC has not done well, the fact that Buhari is going to contest again; we fear that it may not auger well for the country. We are creating this coalition since we are relying on votes. We plan to bring more Nigerians together and allow them to participate in moulding the destiny of their nation. To allow APC to win means Buhari will continue and that’s not in the interest of Nigeria.
GECAMINES’ Albert Yuma Sells New Mining Code To Washington
April 17, 2018 | 0 Comments
Albert Yuma Mulumbi says it was about time for Congolese to get a fair deal for its resources. The Board Chairman of the Congolese state mining company Gecamines was speaking in an interview in Washington, DC, where he was on a mission to market the new mining code that is saluted by Congolese, but scorned by foreign mining companies doing business in the country.
For long, foreign companies have exploited resources of the D.RC without the country gaining anything, said Albert Yuma. Gone are the days when the foreign companies will game the system with impunity to the detriment of the D.R.Congo, Albert Yuma said.
Yuma who had a presentation at the Atlantic Council, and met with Congressmen, and Senators on Capitol Hill, said Congolese were in full support of the mining deal. The civil society has been a leading proponent of reforms in the mining sector. Mining companies crying foul are doing so in bad faith, Albert Yuma said. For years some of them operated without paying taxes, or not paying what was expected of them. Some of them declared losses year in year out, but if business is that bad for them, what is keeping them in the D.R.Congo , Yuma lashed?
On the content of the mining code, Albert Yuma says it plugs in the loopholes in 2002 code that made it so easy for companies to rake in all the profits for themselves while the D.R.Congo got little or nothing. With the new code, Yuma said companies will not be able to skip taxes, the D.R.Congo will have a stake in all super profits, and after about three to five years of business, companies will be expected to build a state of the art office in the locality where they do business, Albert Yuma charged. If the companies can build good office in other parts of the world they do business in, there is no reason why they should not do same in the D.R.Congo, Albert Yuma said.
While the new code has successfully scaled through much of the legislative schedule, efforts are speeding up to have enforcement mechanisms in place, Yuma said. Yuma, a prominent businessman, who heads the Congolese Federation of Employers, said the Mining Code will be respected by all,and defaulters will pay a huge price. Brought in to use his private sector experience to shore up the dwindling fortunes of GECAMINES, Yuma said he has told the existing mining companies that it will no longer be business as usual.
Everything is in the books and no penny is missing Albert Yuma reacted in laughter to reports from the Carter Center last year that GECAMINES could not account for some $740 million in income between 2011-2014.Accusing international NGO’s for sensationalism, Yuma said , there is nothing he and GECAMINES have to hide.
On the other investment opportunities in the D.R.Congo, Yuma said, people make the mistake of thinking that his country was all about mining. Agriculture is huge, with enormous investment potentials, Yuma said. Infrastructure and Energy also have big potentials, he said citing the example of the Inga damn. There is also great potential to invest in the environment especially with the huge rain forest reserves that the D.R.C has, Yuma said ,though he conceded that there is still much work to do on the investment climate.
A True Natural Postcard, Despite All Its Political And Economic Troubles-Insight into Guinea-Bissau with Umaro Djau
April 17, 2018 | 0 Comments
By Ajong Mbapndah L
For all its political, and economic troubles, Guinea -Bissau is one of the world’s true natural postcards, says Strategic Communications Specialist,and Journalist Umaro Djau. While the chequered political past has had a toll on the development of the country, Umaro Djau thinks that there is every reason to be hopeful for the future of Guinea- Bissau. The economic potential is there, and with the right leadership to tap into the development zest of the youthful, and dynamic population, he believes that Guinea -Bissau will become the envy of many. From its history, to political, to social, and to economic perspectives, Umaro Djau took time off to share insights on his country, Guinea- Bissau with PAV.
Mr. Umaro Djau, thanks so much for accepting to share perspectives on Guinea-Bissau for us. Very little is known or heard about Guinea Bissau, can you introduce the country for us?
Umaro Djau: I’ll start by giving you the practical answer that I usually give to people that I would occasionally meet – whether they’re co-workers, neighbors, or total strangers. Guinea-Bissau is located near Senegal, in West Africa. It shares borders with Senegal (to the North) and Guinea, commonly known as Guinea-Conakry (to the South). It’s a small Portuguese-speaking country with less than 2 million people. By comparison, it is always said that Guinea-Bissau is the size of Connecticut. If you want to be more specific, by size, Guinea-Bissau is the 13th smallest country in Africa, with little bit over 36 thousand square kilometers or almost 14 thousand square miles. We’re a low-lying country located on the North Atlantic coast, with more than 80 islands, not to mention our rain forests, swamps, and wetlands. Those natural fixtures and wonders make Guinea-Bissau an amazingly beautiful country to live and visit. A beautiful tropical postcard, if you wish.
We will get into more specifics later, but how is life like in the country and what are some of the things that are peculiar to the people of Guinea-Bissau?
Umaro Djau: Like many other West African countries, people in Guinea-Bissau have coexisted for many centuries, sharing common ancestry, history, struggles, but also being able to live side by side, despite many ethnic, cultural and linguistic differences. I told you about the small size of the country a short while, but the most amazing thing is that, in that small territory there are over 20 ethnic groups, practicing different religions or other traditional beliefs. Guinea-Bissau is a country where there is no hegemony when it comes to its national identity, despite five centuries of European presence and influence. So, socio-culturally and linguistically speaking, it’s a nation in construction with Muslims, Christians, and people of other beliefs, beautifully coexisting and living side by side in peace.
Countries like Cape Verde, which are similar to Guinea-Bissau in many respects, are doing relatively well economically. What is the situation in your country and how is the economy doing ?
Umaro Djau: I’m glad you mentioned Cape Verde, which shares a common history with my home country. Cape Verdeans and Bissau-Guineans are brothers and sisters with common history and ancestry. Politically speaking, there are very few examples in the world where one political figure is a national hero for two independent and separate nations. Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde share our beloved Amílcar Lopes Cabral, the figure that led their struggle and fight for independence from Portugal. But today, unfortunately, we fail by comparison in so many aspects, particularly in the economy and in politics. Cape Verde has been a viable country – politically and economically — even within the broader African context.
If you were to ask almost anyone in Guinea-Bissau, they would tell you that our economy has been negatively impacted by the never-ending political and military crises since the beginning of the 1980s, when the first coup d’état took place, just seven years after the country’s unilateral independence from Portugal. Here and there, Guinea-Bissau has known some periods of economic growth, but these bright and brief phases have been often overtaken by one crisis after another.As the economists would tell you, political and military stability are the currencies for any economic growth. As a result, Guinea-Bissau has lacked an environment conducive to foreign and private investments due to constant fear of a potential military and political outburst. This lack of foreign and good private investments is probably the reason why agriculture still accounts for over 50 percent of the national’s GDP. And cashew exports have been leading the chart. But, if you want to put it into a greater context, it is believed that two out of three Bissau-Guineans find themselves below the absolute poverty line. According to World Bank, the current international poverty line, is about $1.90 per day. In the case of Guinea-Bissau, I’m quite sure that a clear majority of its population live with under one dollar per day. So, no matter what current national statistics tell you about the annual national growth, it’s obvious that people in Guinea-Bissau are living under extreme poverty. Thankfully though, Bissau-Guineans are very resilient people.
In follow up to what you have just described, are there opportunities for foreign investors, and how is the investment climate in the country?
Umaro Djau: Absolutely. There are plenty of opportunities not only for potential foreign investors, but also from those within the country. Look, Guinea-Bissau is a raw country. Raw in the sense that we have so many areas in need of some economic input; areas that – should I say – are screaming for investments. Agriculture, health, education, fishery, infrastructure, energy, electricity, tourism, etc. I do recognize however, that for us to attract any small or big investor, the country needs to be seen as a viable place to invest. But, it is going to take more than improving the perception itself. It is of utmost importance to create conditions and guarantees that investors will have a just return for their initial or consequent investments. Thus, there is a great need to improve and strengthen the country’s policies and institutional support for those who are seriously considering investing in Guinea-Bissau. Unfortunately, when I look around the country, I see a lot of foreign and regional companies trying to sell their products, but rarely do I see long-term investors. I also see a lot of seasonal traders, whether they are buyers of raw cashews or timber, flocking the country for their short-term business goals. Guinea-Bissau needs to change all that by coming up with better policies and institutional frameworks that would attract and retain quality-investors, which in turn, would benefit the country through capital gains and jobs creation.
You briefly spoke about tourism. For those who have never visited the country, how much of a tourist destination is Guinea Bissau? What’s there to see and are there guarantees for the safety and security of people who visit?
Umaro Djau: Guinea-Bissau can become a major tourism destination in West Africa, particularly for those traveling from Europe. Its proximity, climate, coastal areas, natural wonders, sandy beaches and its overall weather conditions constitute the country’s strengths when it comes to attracting those seeking a place to enjoy their personal or family vacations. I remember mentioning the country’s landscape beautifully sprinkled with over 80 islands. That’s in the Bijagos, the heartland of Guinea-Bissau’s touristic paradise. Not only does the archipelago offer its sandy beaches, but also a great diversity of fauna and some rare and protected sea species, something that would certainly attract many ecological tourists.
Everywhere you go, the country would give you something to enjoy. For instance, there are many beautiful natural parks (Lagoon of Cufada, Cantanhez Forest National Park), among other national wonders, some fortresses, old colonial cities and monuments. So, whether you’re attracted to urban settings or rural ones, you’ll certainly find something exciting to do in Guinea-Bissau. And here’s something many don’t mention, people in Guinea-Bissau are very kind and nice. They’re welcoming. They’re friendly. I know that I’m sounding like a TV commercial, Guinea-Bissau is a true, natural postcard, despite all its political and economic troubles.
Obviously, the tourism sector is often vulnerable in a developing country due to lack of infrastructures and other key public services. In that front, Guinea-Bissau needs to improve things like roads, hospitals and the health system in general. Add to that reliable transportation between the main city and other cities and/or regions. The biggest challenge is traveling to and from all those islands. They ought to be serious government and private investments to facilitate those connections. As for communication, it’s widely recognized that the country has made important gains, most specifically in the telephone through two private phone carriers. However, the Internet is still at its infancy but it’s enough to get by.
You mentioned the issue of security. Yes, security is a major concern for any country, particularly considering the concerns about international terrorism and other forms of violence. What I can tell you is that crime level is substantially low in Guinea-Bissau. And there haven’t been any reported cases of violence against foreign tourists as far as I know. That’s very encouraging to me and many Bissau-Guineans.
For a country of about two million, how can you explain the complex political history that it has had?
Umaro Djau: I don’t think the country’s historical complexities are really the issue here. Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde fought a heroic war for independence, something that is widely and internationally recognized as a triumph against their common colonial power, Portugal. Many historian and political analysts would agree that the way Guinea-Bissau was ruled following its independence dictated the paths that followed. In a way, I think you’re also correct because many African countries, Guinea-Bissau included, have been ruled in accordance with the political ideologies of their freedom political parties. Having been through an armed-conflict, the country could not easily distant itself from a military-type of rule, following its independence. That historical reality clouded every political decision afterwards and led to many internal conflicts. All that said, I also believe that Guinea-Bissau is going through a profound period of social adjustment. But the risk is that – intentionally or not — this “social adjustment” is being rushed by the political atmosphere, instead of a normal socioeconomic evolution, coupled with one’s educational and professional accomplishments. However, in Guinea-Bissau, people are trying to gain their “status” through reliance solely on politics.
What impact has this checkered political past had on the development of the country?
Umaro Djau: The impact of that political past is beyond what people outside the country would imagine. Just think about it: for almost two decades, Guinea-Bissau was ruled by a single-party system. A single-party system that controlled everything – the presidency, the government, the national assembly, the military, the police, the security agencies, the court system and so on. Everything was embedded on that single-party system and dictated by it. Without the proper accountability and rule of law, public servants were forced to embrace a culture of blind loyalty to the ruling elite, whose political party became the most important leverage for anyone to survive. This political culture became the foundation of the country and hindered any hope for development – as corruption and lack of transparency became the new norm.
How has the current leader fared so far, where has he done well and where has he had shortcomings?
Umaro Djau: Note that Guinea-Bissau is technically a democratic country since 1991 and our political system encourages a separation of power between many branches of the state, government, and the head of state. So, we do not have a single “leader” per say. According to our Constitution, we have what’s known as a semi-presidential system. We have the president, the head of government and the legislative branch, locally-known as the National Assembly.
However, today the biggest political (and intellectual) debate revolves around what can be the best system of government for Guinea-Bissau. For instance, President Jose Mario Vaz is being accused of usurpation of power, extending his political powers beyond his constitutional boundaries. There is also a fair criticism of the current President of the National Assembly, Cipriano Cassama, who is accused of blocking the normal functioning of that institution.
In the mix of all of that, the major political parties are playing their cards to defend or protect their interests. As expected in situations like these, each party is offering their own arguments. And all this against a backdrop of more than three years of political crisis, despite all the actions of many international and regional organizations – the UN, the ECOWAS, and the African Union – which have tried to bring about common understanding among the major political players.
In my humble opinion, the head of state has had so many political shortcomings. Mr. Jose Mario Vaz has not been the problem-solver and has not offered the required leadership that the country had hoped for from him. Just think about it, the country has had 6 heads of government since mid-2014. The president has just announced the 7th prime-minister in less than 4 years, as a result of the latest political agreement in Lome, Togo, under the sponsorship of the regional organization, the ECOWAS. That’s a lot to comprehend and digest! But, more than ascertaining his constitutional powers, I think that this shows his inability to lead and exert his influence in a positive manner. As US President Truman’s desk sign would remind his fellow Americans and visitors, “The Buck Stops” with the president. It means basically that one, particularly a head of state, cannot refrain from their constitutional responsibilities and obligations.
How accurate are reports that the country has been a major transit road for drugs, anything the authorities are doing change this perception?
Umaro Djau: These reports go as far back as the year of 2005, having reached its climax around 2012, when the last coup d’état took place. It is generally believed that the situation has improved thanks partially to pressure and pragmatic actions from outside countries, including the United States, as well as other international organizations. It’s hard to keep up with reports on drug trafficking, but now that the Guinea-Bissau’s military and the security forces seem to be exerting less political power and less influence, drug traffickers may be challenged as they attempt to find traffic routes and protection in the country. Geographically – particularly for those coming from South and Central America — it’s almost impossible to prevent local, regional and international traffickers to pass through the national territory. It’s my hope that the country has learned its lesson from the past. Most importantly, it’s a matter of national security. With that in mind, we have an obligation to take this issue seriously. After all, being called a narco-state is a hard pill to swallow for many Bissau-Guineans, and also as a matter of national proudness and moral imperative, there has been a great deal of self-awareness to unlink the country from that term, at least at the state level.
On the other hand, as you may be aware, drug trafficking is not always directly correlated to levels of development of a country or the existing legal systems; So, this is not only a Guinea-Bissau’s problem. It’s a world problem. Guinea-Bissau will just need to do its part and remain cautious and firm in combating any illicit drug trafficking within its borders.
When you look at the country, what makes you hopeful for its future, and what are your fears, and if we may add, what kind of leadership does the country need to catch up countries like Cape Verde which are making faster progress?
Umaro Djau: There are so many aspects of Guinea-Bissau that make me very hopeful. Starting with our people, the most important resource for any country – rich or poor. When compared to other countries, Guinea-Bissau has a very young population, most of it ranging from 25 to 45 years of age. So, we have the human energy. Now, we have to make sure that we’re able to educate our youth and equip them with knowledge, academic, professional and technical training, so that they’re able to be an integral part in today’s workforce.
My biggest fear is that the current unemployment rate may trigger other problems such as delinquency and crime. But again, if we seriously invest in educating and training our youth, they’ll find their right place in our society. For that to happen, Bissau-Guineans must have the courage to choose the right leaders, leaders who can transform the current challenges into new and bright opportunities for all.
When I look through Guinea-Bissau’s political spectrum, I see a lot of political players who really have no clue about what their functions and responsibilities are. Political players who do not seem to care about the people and the country. The only thing that moves them is their personal interests. We must change that. When we’re finally able to put the right people in the right places, Guinea-Bissau will find its deserving place in Africa and in the world.
My hope is that the youth will be able to fight the fears of the unknown and really embrace the need for profound changes, starting with the country’s political situation. After that, I strongly believe that everything else will fall into place. The country will be able to takeoff. And the resources are there to sustain that political and economic environment when it finally arrives. Yes, I’m hopeful.
I want to leave a legacy and a foundation for the rise of the “New Nigeria”-2019 Presidential Hopeful Sam Okey Mbonu
April 6, 2018 | 0 Comments
By Ajong Mbapndah L
“If the corrupt politicians will set aside their greed, the people will drive Nigeria into the 21st-century,” says Sam Okey Mbonu as he touts his credentials in warm up to the 2019 presidential elections in Nigeria. The Nigerian born, Washington, DC, trained head of the Nigerian –American Council says doing nothing is not an option when inept leadership continues to plunge Nigeria into a spiral of economic stagnation, religious intolerance, and militancy. Interviewed in Washington, DC, by PAV, Sam Mbonu says the old Nigeria where nothing gets done will be history under his administration.
Who is Sam Okey Mbonu and why is he in the race to be the next President of Nigeria?
Sam Mbonu: I’m Nigerian-born, and a Washington DC-trained professional. I attended American University Washington DC, as a Visiting Scholar, and received my JD in Law from the District of Columbia School of law. Post law school, I worked briefly as Senior Advisor for a US Government Contractor, before being appointed “Commissioner, Housing Authority, PG, Maryland”. At the end of my term in government, I leveraged my exposure to Housing policy, to enter the private sector; before shortly co-founding the think-tank NAL Council, whose focus was on US policy toward Sub-Saharan Africa policy. I have since become a highly sought after expert, providing strategic advisory to US public and private institutions regarding Nigeria and Sub-Saharan Africa.
Why are you in the race to be the next President of Nigeria and may we know the thought process that led to your decision?
Sam Mbonu: Firstly, I’ve been preparing for this race for the past 8 years (may be longer). There were times I contemplated just settling into a good life in the US and tuning out all the cacophony of strife in Nigeria; however, the whole world has progressively become one village, and what happens in one region affects other regions, whether it’s insecurity or public health issues.
So I figured since the need for public service that will positively impact a greater number of people is greater in Sub-Saharan Africa and Nigeria. Therefore, I decided that I would follow my passion for human upliftment, and public service, to help lift Nigeria out of the chaos the leaders have foisted on the people.
Secondly, the whole world has watched as Nigeria has descended hopelessly into strife, religious intolerance, militancy, and economic stagnation, which leads to a circle of arrested development; which was caused by recent incompetent leadership.
It is my mission to prove that Nigeria can be salvaged. I will do this by bringing my world-class credentials, experience in US public service, expertise in Sub-Saharan Africa matters and relationships in the US and around the world over the past 3 decades, to run Nigerian competently and move the country into the 21st Century.
What is your assessment of how Nigeria has fared under President Buhari?
Sam Mbonu: Terrible, terrible, terrible! I, like many other people in Nigeria’s 37th state-the Diaspora, had great hopes that President Buhari will not only stem the tide of corruption, which was already running rampant, but would also reposition the country for economic growth, through the roll-out of sufficient infrastructure, especially in Electric Energy among others. However, what we and the world has seen is a nation that has slid so dangerously to the edge, that insecurity has returned to a full-blown nightmare, especially in Northeast, and Northcentral Nigeria.
Economic growth has been stifled by a lack of political will to deliver on the most basic engine of a modern society-Electric Energy! You can imagine how many things grind to a stop when there is a weather related emergency that disrupts electricity in the US; now imagine that as an everyday occurrence in Nigeria. Nigeria currently gets 4-5 hours of electricity every day, 365 days of the year. Imagine how true business productivity is limited to only about 4 hours every day; machines stop running, food cannot be stored, traffic lights go out, heat stroke killing people, industries shutting down, vehicles and machines that cannot be serviced because power tools are down, etc.
My campaign has also determined that because President Buhari is unfortunately begotten by a corrupt process, by way of his close circle, whether he claims that he is not personally corrupt or not; however, being hamstrung by corrupt people makes him a “fruit of the poisonous tree” as it is called it in American jurisprudence. He or she who eats of the “fruit of the poisonous tree” certainly will not be immune from the poison that the tree will offer.
Therefore, the only option is to avoid that tree. That’s why my government will be the government to bring the true change, because we are not tainted by affiliation to the poisonous tree.
Sam Mbonu: We have not seen the progress, and the world has not seen the progress. The 2 big parties in Nigeria have seen an exodus from one party to the other, depending on who’s in power. He’s actually leaving the country worse than he found it. The president is seriously hampered either by poor judgment, or incompetence, and the greatest thing is that he’s not sensitive to the plight of Nigerians, whether they are northerners or southerners. The man does not care at all. If he was a caring president, would he hold a party one day after 72 people were massacred in Benue? Or would he go to a lavish wedding one day after another 100 teenage girls were kidnapped by Boko Haram? Would his police chief attempt to disarm everyone, except the herdsmen of Nigeria who actually carry weapons openly in Nigeria?
For all its potential , endowed with tremendous human and natural resources, Nigeria remains giant with clay feet, how does Sam Mbonu plan to turn things around, tell Nigerians why and how you can turn things around when many other leaders have been unable to do so?
Sam Mbonu: That’s straightforward. In my administration, most critical infrastructure projects, including electric energy, water, and internal security, will be brought into the presidency as special projects. That way, I and my presidency personnel can oversee those projects myself. I will be accountable for those projects if government overseers fall short by compromising at the expense of the people. I will have the political will to do what is right. I just want to leave a legacy and a foundation for the rise of the “New Nigeria”. The old Nigeria where nothing gets done will be history under my administration.
Let’s try to dwell on a few policy perspectives now if you don’t mind, how do you fight corruption differently from the PDP and now the APC has approached it?
Sam Mbonu: That’s straightforward as well. Those parties are hampered by the corruption baggage they already carry, they cannot offload the baggage even if they wanted to; because they are tainted, and tied in intricate ways to again the “poisonous tree”. I am not tied to the poisonous tree, and I can walk past it. I will have the political will to execute projects, without being hampered by ties to the “poisonous tree”.
The power crisis needs no introduction, how does The Mbonu Presidency address this, in case Nigerians were to give you the mandate?
Sam Mbonu: The previous answer addresses this matter in part. I will deliver electric energy via special projects that will be executed by the office of the president. That way, I can be held accountable if I fail.
For all the talk from the APC, when they were in the opposition, and now in power, security remains a serious challenge with Boko Haram still running riot, in what way will you handle the crisis differently from the last two administrations?
Sam Mbonu: There is no real political will to take out Boko Haram, because even the actual official campaign against Boko Haram gets embroiled in corruption. I’m sure you are aware that each time the country is about to engage in election, the government seeks $1 or $2 billion USD in the guise of fighting BH, even though they are planning to use the money for political campaigns. My administration will mop up Boko Haram for good.
Under what platform will you running for the elections and do you think is possible to break the hegemony of the APC and the PDP?
Sam Mbonu: My campaign is in discussion with 5 different political parties at this time. We will ultimately affiliate with the one that best suits our ideological bent. The millions of Nigerian citizenry are so disenchanted with the APC or PDP that they cannot wait to throw them out at the ballot box.
Do you have faith in the capacity of the Independent National Electoral Commission –INEC to organize free and fair elections?
Sam Mbonu: Elections have evolved in Nigeria and so INEC is not as bad as it used to be. However, we have determined that we will deploy human and technological capacity to watch our votes. Every INEC official in the entire 774 Local councils in Nigeria will be watched to a microscopic level, he or she who attempts to compromise our votes will have no place to hide, not under the ground, not in the skies; we will beam the eyes of the world on Nigeria, and there will be hell to pay. A corrupt INEC official might as well commit suicide, because we won’t let them spend any monies or benefits derived from a compromised election.
We are doing this interview from the USA, what structures do you have on the ground in Nigeria as your work on this presidential run?
Sam Mbonu: 37 State offices are being rolled out; sub offices in 774 Local Councils will be rolled-out, in addition to whatever our chosen party has by way of structure.
In terms of cost, Presidential elections are no joke, where will the resources come from to sustain the campaign?
Sam Mbonu: The campaigns will obviously cost in the $100’s of millions USD, we will find the resources, but the campaign will not necessarily be won by the candidate who spent the most money. The richest candidate has never become the president of Nigeria. It almost happened in 1992 when Abiola was running but that got scuttled. The “will of the people” is an equation that is ultimately more fundamental than money. We will win this election, whether we spend in the $100’s of millions USD or not.
Omoyele Sowore of Sahara Reporters who should be of the same generation like you has expressed interest to run as well, could the 2019 elections shape up as the revolt of the younger generation in Nigerian politics?
Sam Mbonu: Maybe; I do not know Sowore personally, I only know of him as an Activist Journalist; his role as an activist has its place in any democracy, I welcome him to the race. However, only one of us has the world-class credentials, to salvage the heart and soul of Africa’s largest democracy; and only one of us has been tested in public service, in the most rigorous democracy in the world, the United States of America. However, Omoyele Sowore has been a voice in rooting out corruption in Nigeria and it would be a shame to lose that independent voice, but, I enjoy competition. I believe, we see the issues in the same manner. I suspect we would agree on more things than we disagree upon.
Mr. Mbonu, one last question on the future of Nigeria as you see it, what gives you hope and what are your fears?
Sam Mbonu: No fears, just the belief that the African giant will emerge under my administration to be a net contributor to the prosperity and security of Africa and the world at large. That vision is as real as day follows night. I have seen the light, and Nigeria is not going back to the darkness under me. If we as Nigerians want to go back to the stone-age, then we will all have a say in the matter. I assure you, we’re not going back to the stone-age.
Thanks for talking to Pan African Visions
Sam Mbonu: You are welcome!!
Across Africa With Don Yamamoto and Stephanie Sullivan
April 2, 2018 | 0 Comments
-US-Africa Relations Bigger than personalities Officials says
By Ajong Mbapndah L
Relations with Africa and the USA go beyond any one leader or official, Senior State Department Officials told Journalists in Washington, DC, recently in a media briefing. Speaking at the State Department to Journalists from Pan African Visions, the Washington Post,Allo Africa News, and Reuters, Ambassador Don Yamamoto, Acting Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, and Ambassador Stephanie Sullivan , Acting Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Bureau of African Affairs ,discussed US-African relations under the Trump Administration, and shared perspectives on a number of developments across the continent.
Giving an over view of the recent African tour of former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Ambassador Sullivan who was part of the delegation, said much of the focus was on strengthening trade and development relationships, strengthening regional security, including counter-terrorism cooperation, a focus on good governance and democratic values, and the relationship on economic developments and building resilience in communities to avoid the extremist ideology.
In Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, which was the first stop of the tour, Secretary Tillerson and AU Chairperson Moussa Faki reaffirmed the commitment to the shared goal of a stable and prosperous Africa. Secretary Tillerson held talks with Ethiopian government officials on human rights, the need to open political space, and the ongoing political transition, Ambassador Sullivan said.
In Djibouti, there were discussion on the situation at the container port, investment climate, and security issues. In Kenya, Secretary Tillerson congratulated President Kenyatta and opposition leader Raila Odinga on the statesmanship on display as they seek to move the country forward. There were discussions on hot spots like South Sudan and Somalia with Kenyan government officials. A highlight of the Kenya lap of the trip was the meeting with survivors of the 1998 Embassy bombing, and laying of a wreath at the site of the former Embassy where the bombing took place, Ambassador Sullivan disclosed. Secretary Tillerson also had meetings with President Buhari in Nigeria, and Idriss Derby in Chad to round up the tour.
On what the trip did in restoring confidence on US-Africa ties after controversial statements attributed to President Trump, a few months before the trip, the State Department Officials said AU Chairperson Moussa Faki summed it best when he said the focus was on the future and not the past. U.S -African relations are very unique in their own way the Officials said. The departure of Secretary Tillerson will be no effect to engagements taken, Ambassador Sullivan added.
Both Officials fielded questions on immigration, China in Africa, engagement with the African diaspora, the political situation in Cameroon, South Sudan, Guinea and Zimbabwe amongst others.
Watch Out For Mali As An Investment Destination-API’s Moussa Toure
March 13, 2018 | 0 Comments
By Ajong Mbapndah L
With the world still looking at Mali from the prism of security, Moussa Toure General Manager of the Mali Investment Promotion Agency (API in French) says it is time for the narrative to reflect the myriad of opportunities waiting with open arms for investors.
Talking to PAV on the side-lines of the recent Power Africa Summit in Washington, DC, Toure said as the security situation gets better by the day, now is the time for investors to take a fresh look at his country.
Mr. Moussa Toure Good afternoon, and welcome to Washington DC.
You are the Managing director of the Malian Investment Promotion Agency. Can you start by introducing the agency for us, what is it that the agency does?
Thank you for this opportunity, our main role is about promoting Mali as a good destination for investment and to do so, we work on the country’s image, especially with challenges the country is facing with political and Security problems, after that we work to identify investment opportunities, I clear them and find the good investors that can take those opportunities and invest in. When we have some investors interested in some sectors or projects, we assist them in all the process; source information, have meetings with key stake holders and help them ease the investment process. We also work to improve the business climate by leading some reforms.
Before we continue with investment, how is the security situation like in Mali today?
The security situation is still challenging, but it’s not only a problem of Mali, security issues are worldwide today, but Mali is part of that and what is also clear is that we are confident that the most difficult part is behind us. The government is really engaged in taking all necessary actions to tackle this issue. For two years now, the government has been investing 15% of the budget into this activity to harmonize security, this is a big effort and it’s now paying off, it has taken time, but we already are beginning to see the fruits of these efforts.
So, if there were investors who are interested in coming to Mali security is not something that they should worry so much about?
I don’t think so.
Okay, how is the investment climate like in Mali?
The Investment climate is improving, we’ve hurdled to many reforms, we have implemented many in a couple of years, but we still have room for improvement. So this is our focus to still work to improve and facilitate business development and everything around that. As one of our last reform, the government has adopted a new PPPO to facilitate project development by private investors, so this is a good step in Mali.
To the investors out there in Europe, in Washington DC, where you currently are, if they were to come to Mali for investment what are some of the sectors that they should be on the lookout?
for, what are some of the investment opportunities that you have in Mali today?
We are currently focusing our strategy on four main sectors, one is Agriculture, the second is livestock, the third sector is energy, and the last one is infrastructure. We also have the new technology as one of the priority investment sector, but we use it as a transversal sector, because for agriculture, for energy, any sector, you need technology. This is why we don’t list is as a specific sector, but among those four priority sectors we have also sectors we’ve used the opportunity like education, we focus our forces on the four sectors we are talking about; it is our proactive promotion activities.
And it understands that your API organized an investment forum in Mali last December.
How did the forum go?
Quiet well, it was a big change we started to work on this project in 2015, because as I said the country faced political and security problems a few years before, and we saw that it was time to start new projects that will be a vehicle to speak on our country in a positive manner; so we started to work on it, and we were able to achieve our project in December. We held a forum on December 7 and 8 2017, and we attained all of our objectives. We were expecting 500 participants but finally got more than 1000, we were able to amass 70 million dollars in investment as a result of this forum. We had hundreds of B2B meetings, and around 50 Business deals self-driven B2B.
But, I will like to say more importantly of those concrete results, is the image we spread over the world, as I use to say during past years Mali use to be on TV, on newspaper for the wrong reasons; for bad news, but maybe for the first time since a long while Mali was the top of the news on good side; investment side. For me this is mainly one of the most important achievement we’ve made this far, so it was a good initiative and we recorded very good results.
Now, you are currently in Washington DC attending the fourth Annual Powering Africa Summit, how has the summit gone so far you, any interesting contact any good deals in the works for you.
This is my first time of attending this forum, and I was referred by one of my friends who use to attend, and he told me that it’s really interesting, and I came with the curiosity to see. The first day showed me he was right because this forum is a platform where you can meet key actors in the sector which is strategic for all of the continent, and we meet actors who know the continent, they use to operate, they know the challenges and we already have many meetings, B2B meetings and very interesting meetings.
So, any other projects that the API would be working on in the course of the year, any other big project that you have now?
Through the forum, we collected and worked on more than 200 projects, some investment, some technical partners, different needs, and we have all those projects on our website. Some are private and public project or both and we are trying to assist the owners to have finance or technical partners, and we are also assisting the state governors to promote government projects, huge projects like the first bridge in Bamako, the construction of the river bank in Bamako is some interesting project, the roads, rail roads, so many projects currently going on.
Mr. Moussa Toure thank you very much for talking to Pan African visions
African markets sensitive to cost – Ayoola, Tranter IT Boss
February 27, 2018 | 0 Comments
Says: ‘African are weary of applications they can’t afford’
* ‘Companies spend million on bandwidth they don’t need’
By Olayinka Ajayi
Peeved by organisations wasting millions on needless bandwidth, Olarewaju Ayoola, CEO Tranter IT, an African Infotech Technology company based in Nigeria, bare his mind on ways to earn foreign exchange using substantial, user friendly software among other issues.
Rating challenges of InfoTech in Africa
IT in Africa has been very substantial in a way. If you recall, when Micro soft introduced their application into Nigeria, It required very skilled Engineers to make any progress at all. And most African organisation encountered lots of problem. With the amount of money you required to train Micro-Soft certified Engineers to deliver services to the enterprises . It was very substantial , and not easy for many organization to achieve. What Manage Engine did was to develop their application that simplifies the management and the operation of Micro-Soft applications and server. To manage Active Directories AD is a very complicating job. But with ManageEngine software you find managing AD very easy. We realize the need to simplify it so that the effectiveness of Engineers in Nigeria would be higher. With this, the development time of an engineer has been greatly reduced which mean the cost of developing that engineer has also been greatly reduced.
How app addresses challenges
Every organization has a challenge for occasion that comes up. Service Desk plus is a ManageEngine product that solves that problem. It makes it very easy to solve any problem that occur in an organization; either facility management incidence, hospital management, military incidence, government, oil companies, insurance manufacturing, hospitality among others. More efficiently, improve productivity especially from the support aspect of the network management aspect that would result to substantial cost reduction in I.T management that would bring a lot of suffiency to the enterprise. Those who have use the software have found out that 71percent of users can actually resolve issues themselves than relying on a technician. We also found out that 91 percent of I.T Engineers found out that they could do more jobs using Manage Engine softwear than they had done using other software. Manage Engine has over 90 different applications. What we find is that once you are dealing with a company like Trans I.T, the official distributor of ManageEngine in Nigeria, you are dealing with a company that knows the product , there is virtually no problem face an organization we cannot address with manage Engine Applications. Instead of addressing mundane issues such as resetting passwords. With the use of ManageEngine product, users can reset their password without any technician assistance.
Challenges companies encounter in Africa
The Challenge organizations encounter in Africa is negligence. Its needs to be address and nobody want to address challenge and another one comes up and nobody remembers to solve the It, Our software helps organization to manage and remember them. In term of your incident resolution, the Software define time limits in which problem needs to be resolved through defining the service level . Once the service level has been define, the product help you determine if you are doing well or not. Most companies are ignorantly paying for bandwidth they don’t need. Our product has an application that measures supplied bandwidth, what is required, what is needed and the reliability of the supplied bandwidth to your organization. Enabling you to come up with better plan on which service provider you should do business with. Can you imagine that companies are spending N 100,N200 million annually on bandwidth. Some companies are buying 20% more than they need, which is approximately N40million saving. With this analysis it is evident that manageEngine can save Nigerian companies from lose of huge amounts of money because these bandwidth cost is a foreign cost. With Tranter IT partnership with ManageEngine there is assurance of lots of foreign exchange that are cost effective.
Future of commerce and Industry in Africa
With Tranter IT partnership, I see Management Engine to be an house hold name in Africa’s commerce and industry as its addresses variety of challenges encountered running effective and smooth business. Simply because it makes life easier for everybody by reducing cost, increasing productivity and efficiency. In the last one year, the interest in Manage Engine has grown to 200%. We expect it to grow to 1000% in 2018 in Nigeria and the whole of Africa. Reason being that; three out of five companies in Nigeria are using ManageEngine products. So it’s a proven product that is tried and tested. We observed that our clients appreciate the product as it has solved most of their challenge. It like any new product, it takes time before it is generally acceptable. We are very happy to say its acceptance in Nigeria is growing very rapidly. But what we are doing to actualize the 2018 bench mark is by engaging what we called the ‘prove of consent’. We concentrate on delivering cost effective product by partnering with ManageEngine. We also observed Nigerians are tired of having wonderful applications that they can’t afford. We solved the problem by offering application Nigerians can afford.
Dynamism of doing business across Africa
The Nigerian and African market is tough because our environment is changing rapidly. The market is very sensitive to cost which determine what companies can afford . As an organization, if you are not dynamic and determine, you will find the African market very difficult and you could be out of business.
Being dynamic is the major key doing business in Africa. In other words, looking towards solving problems and not towards merely selling products like a traders. There is nothing wrong being a trader. What I meant is, assume the market can no longer absolve your product, your business goes down. So focus at solving problem. If you always solve problem you remain relevant always. That is what Tranter IT does, while we focus on identifying the problems our clients are experiencing, we design and implement solution to their problems. While other companies were retrenching, we have being growing, while others are reducing salaries, we ware increasing salaries .We love our customers and we are always interested in their prosperity. we will always be relevant because we always look for how to solve your problems.
Nigeria as a nation has challenges in different sectors and if your business provide solution to these challeges you cannot be out of work .But if your business is not providing solution then you have a lots of challenge to survive in that business. ManageEngine has solution to challenges . We are hoping that the markets would not shrink because irrespective of we offering solutions to IT related challenges, we are not involve in solving Macro economic challenges like; power and other related problems. As ingenious company, we take pride in what we do. When we do not have engineers with required skills, we send our engineers abroad to acquire skills rather than bring foreigners to be paid as expatriates. Our policy is to train Nigerian Engineers to compete with the rest of the world in Information Technology IT.
Affordable and user friendly of App
It time Nigerian companies start engaging software that do not require spending much time answering questions that are not necessary for business. Our application gives you the opportunity to add necessary customized ones that are unique to your organization. In terms of usability presently ManageEngine software is very easy and in term of the ability to customize applications, it’s very easy and extremely user friendly.
Cameroon: No Solution To Crisis Without Dialogue & Correction of Historic Wrongs-Elie Smith
February 26, 2018 | 1 Comments
By Ajong Mbapndah L
It will be hard to get a solution to the ongoing crisis in Cameroon without dialogue and repairing the historical injustices that Anglophones have suffered for decades, says famed Journalist Elie Smith. In an exclusive interview with PAV to discuss the political situation in Cameroon, Elie Smith says the use of force by the government and flagrant human right violations are pushing the people to embrace the radicalist wing of the Anglophone crisis advocating for independence.
The President is obliged to sue for dialogue as the situation continues to deteriorate at an alarming pace, said Elie Smith. He called out the double standards of the international community which has largely remained indifferent as the North West and South West regions are under siege. Elie Smith urged Journalists to step up reporting on the plight of over 500 Anglophones detained in various prison facilities across the country in the interview which also discusses the presidential ambitions of Joshua Osih and Akere Muna
Elie Smith thanks for accepting to share perspectives on Cameroon with us as things are on the ground, let’s start with the North West and the South West Regions, what is your reading of the situation there?
Elie Smith: The situation in the North West and South west regions of Cameroon is dire. There is great suffering and gross abuse of human rights first by the Cameroonian security forces and also from the various armed groups who are variably known as restorationists and secessionists depending on where one stands ideologically. My view is that, this is the second greatest existential threat to Cameroon in her present dispensation since 1966. This one is much more lethal in that, the protest is not longer verbal or through peaceful marches, it has been weaponised. It will eventually fizzle out but not extinct. The actors will go back and retool their strategy and will come back better organize if the central government doesn’t find lasting solutions to the underlying causes of the current crisis.
Has internet connection been restored in the North West and South West?
Elie Smith: No! Because intermittent supply can’t be pass for full restoration of internet. However, people already know how to circumvent the ban.
Since Communications Minister Tchiroma announced the presence of Sisiku Ayuk Tabe and others in Yaoundé, there have not made any appearance in court, what has the astute Journalist that Elie Smith heard about them, anyone you know who has had any form of communication with them?
Elie Smith: Some of them are here in Yaoundé, in Chief Sisiku Ayuk Tabe. All I know from my sources is that, they are hale and hearty.
From my understanding, the government is carrying out preliminary interrogation and the next stage is that, their lawyers will certainly have access to them soon, but how soon? That I can’t answer. What is important is for his support to keep mobilizing.
It appears in some urban areas, schools have been going on and in the rural areas nothing is going on, any explanations for this dynamic?
Elie Smith: The reason is simple since we have a government that works on Public Relations stunts; they put all in urban areas to show to the western governments who are sadly supporting them that all is well. However in the rural areas the government finds no interest and also because, contrary to what the government may want the world to understand or think, they are losing control in rural areas in West Cameroon and it doesn’t bode well for the future.
British Minister of State Harriett Baldwin was in Cameroon and met with a number of opinion leaders ,some of them well known to you, what were these discussions on and any prospects that anything positive may follow suit?
Elie Smith : The essence as I was told by Agbor Balla was to get the true reality on the ground in terms of human rights violations, and also to source from them ways and means to seek a lasting solution to the current crisis. Well, it is always good when one comes to listen to you. But, I don’t put any hopes in such because, western countries, especially Great Britain and even the United States have not thrown in their weight in compelling our government to seek a negotiated settlement to the current crisis as they have done in other countries. My conclusion is that, they don’t care about us and it is left on us to understand that, we don’t have any other place to go, hence we need to try to sort out things for ourselves. In this crisis, while we are all angry, we must speak the truth. We are all Cameroonians and one part of Cameroon, the people of west Cameroon has been hoodwinked and the historic wrong must be corrected. Britain and the United States or any other country can’t tell us something different.
As the situation continues to grow worse, what role do you see moderate leaders like Agbor Balla and Ayah Paul playing, especially with no one listening to their proposals from the government side?
Elie Smith: Moderates are the ones who end up winning and history is replete with what I have just said. Agbor Balla and Ayah Paul know the dynamics of things. Even if the government is not listening to them, they will end up buying to their positions and propositions. Agbor Balla and Ayah Paul are in my humble opinion the best things in this Anglophone revolution because they are not merchants of illusions. It might be a difficult pill to swallow, but all we can get, is a return to a two states federation which is the foundation of modern Cameroon, that has been abused with impunity by the majority Francophone led government in Yaoundé. The package product of independence marketed by some is a wishful thinking. Why? The geostrategic dynamics of the region is not in our favour today just as it wasn’t in 1961. No major country in the world is supporting the restorationists’ movement. West Cameroon is not in the position of Western Sahara, which is supported by Algeria and other African states. Nigeria, which would have been a natural ally, has absconded. But, make no mistake, what west Cameroonian is clamoring for is just. The only luck which can smile on west Cameroonians and make the dreams of those who want independence to actualize is for a civil war to break out in Cameroon and in that case, West Cameroon will behave like Somaliland and refuse to fight and allow Francophone Cameroon to fight their war. The rallying cry of going to Buea is feasible in that, in a return to two states federation, west Cameroon’s national assembly in Buea will be reactivated, they will have control over their education, judicial system, health and internal affairs while defense and monetary issues goes or remains to the central government or federal government in Yaoundé.
You recently interviewed Mancho Bibixy, in what shape was he when you met him, and generally speaking, how is legal representation for those detained? There was a complain since other high profile detainees like Balla and Fontem were release, there has been a sharp decline in Lawyers defending some of those who are still jail, your take.
Elie Smith: I met them at the Yaoundé military tribunal. As you may know, the day of their trial, they are brought in from 9 am and they spend the whole day there before the trial starts and it is immediately adjourned. Along with others that I also spoke with such as Terrance Penn Khan, I saw a man with a moral of steel. But detention is not an easy affaire and no matter how they brave it all, their unjust detention is having an effect on them and their families. Yes, there was this complain that since the high profile detainees were released, there was a kind of lull from lawyers. I don’t think so, because Agbor Balla and others are there regularly on trial and none trial days. What has ceased or reduced is the media attention that used to exist.
It is therefore an opportunity that you are offering me to call on all press men and women not forget that, there are about 149 Anglophones detained at the Kondengui Maximum security prisons, and about 300 at the Bafia prison in the south west, and similar figures at the Buea prison.
With things rapidly spiraling out of control, the government strategy seems to be the argument of force, with the limits this is showing, how far do you think they can go?
Elie Smith: The government is making a big mistake in thinking that, the use of force is going to solve the problem. It is instead going to drive many people into the waiting arms of those they are referring to as extremists. Already, the increase militarization of the zone has also recorded and increase in abuses perpetuated by Cameroonian security forces, some of them trained by the United States Navy Seals, and Joint Special Operations Forces from Fort Bragg, North Carolina. It is a shame for a world power such as the United States that preaches respect for human rights and democracy to look the other way while forces that she is training and arming are committing human rights abuses in Anglophone Cameroon to go unpunished. I know that, they will hide behind the fact that, the responsibility is that of the Cameroonian government but they are contributing by default in what is going on in west Cameroon in term of abuses. The government of Cameroon must know that, only dialogue will solve the current crisis and more, no country no matter how powerful have been able to win a war against a people who are not supporting them. Currently, Yaoundé has lost the heart and minds of the people of west Cameroon because of the monumental abuses that its forces are committing on the ground, and they go unpunished.
You have the opportunity of interacting with everyday Francophones, what is their thinking on all that is going on, do you think they now have a better understanding of the frustrations of the people of the South West and North West regions?
Elie Smith: Francophones know what is going on and they are sympathetic to the cause of the Anglophones. They know that, what is going on or the cause is first and foremost a problem of gross bad governance. However, the only fears of most Francophones are threats of partition of the country. But they are supporting the resistance put up by Anglophones.
What do you make of the way the media has covered the crisis so far, especially the French speaking press?
Elie Smith: The problem of Cameroon, especially the French language media is that of ownership and control. Most proprietors of media houses in Cameroon are either members of the ruling Cameroon’s People Democratic Movement, CPDM or are sponsored by the regime. The second problem is that of operational license . If am not wrong only two of the existing privately owned electronic broadcasters: Spectrum Television and Canal 2 International have fully paid their license fees to the government while the rest have partly paid or have not paid altogether. As for the print media, the problem is more acute. Most journalists working for major privately owned print media companies go for months or even years without pay. How then do you expect them to report accurately when they have the sledge hammer of an oppressive state hanging over their heads? Having said that, they are nonetheless some Francophone press and journalists who have been honest and report accurately on what is happening in West Cameroon. It will be unfair to lump them in one bag and tag them as enemies of the Anglophones.
In this kind of atmosphere, how does the government hope to hold elections?
Elie Smith: Well, I don’t know how the government plans to hold elections. But I also think some sinister government strategists like the current situation. And as the saying goes: one man’s meat is another’s poison. People are feeding fat on this crisis and sadly not only on the part of the government.
Joshua Osih has been elected as flag bearer of the SDF and John Fru Ndi is not standing for the 2018 presidential election, what are your views on these developments?
Elie Smith: My views are simple, we might like the SDF and its chairman or not, they have once again demonstrated that, they are the pacesetter in terms of democracy in Cameroon. I had always wanted John Fru Ndi not to stand because, it would have been one candidature too many. He has now given the baton to a new generation which is an excellent development. However he is going to remain as the chairman of the party which means that, gradually he is handing over to a new generation which is at the image of the country. As for Joshua Ossih is perhaps the best candidate of the opposition since 1992. He is young. Remember he is 49 and he has politically experience and he appeals to the majority French-speaking Cameroonian and also to young upward mobile and realistic Anglophones. Now I think Joshua has to do is to unite the party behind him. But he must not forget that, one person can scuttle everything or restore the lost credibility of the SDF in her base in Anglophone Cameroon. This person is Joseph Wirba, MP. If I were Osih I will stretch an olive branch to the SDF MP for Jakiri Special constituency, for he holds the key to the future of the SDF in Anglophone Cameroon. He expresses or is an embodiment of the feeling of the majority in west Cameroon. It is now left to be seen whether Joshua Osih will act as the biblical Joshua, that is take his party to the promise land. That depends on endogenous and exogenous forces that he doesn’t control.
Besides Joshua Ossih, the other Anglophone presidential candidate so far is Akere Muna. What is your take on him?
Elie Smith: Contrary to what some people might think, Akere Muna has his chances, and handicaps. As for the first, he could benefit from a global trend noticed in countries such as the United States, Philippines, Hungary and Turkey. In these countries, they have leaders or have opted for changes simply because people are fed up with traditional or professional politicians. So Muna may be basking in that euphoria. He was before Joshua made his entry into the scene as flag bearer of the SDF, the darling of the chattering class in Francophone Cameroon who are worried that, the poor governance of Paul Biya coupled with the catastrophic management of the current crisis in Anglophone Cameroon could lead to the partition of the country along colonially inherited lines. But now, that Francophone base will be divided between him and the candidate of the largest intra and extra parliamentary opposition. Muna has African, and global connections. On the negative sides, Muna is viewed as too close to Paul Biya and also very elitist. He also has a heritage from his father that he needs to clarify. He doesn’t need to disown his father, but must make Anglophone Cameroonians look at him differently from his father who is considered as the one who betrayed Anglophones. My take is that, both candidates have their chances but Joshua has an edge because he has a base whereas Muna as of now, no one knows his base and his programme is still sketchy.
A few weeks back, word was going round that French troops were seen in Cameroon, have you been able to verify this and what would their mission be?
Elie Smith: Pure lies. French troops were not in Cameroon. If they were, they were perhaps on transit for a neighboring country.
How can one understand the general indifference that the international community seems to show on the situation in Cameroon?
Elie Smith: Sadly, we don’t count. And more, the international community has a full hand. In Africa alone, you have the DRC, with more 20 thousand UN forces and there is no end in sight to the atrocities taking place there and some of them caused by the Kabila’s refusal to respect the constitution of his country. There are the cases of Mali, South Sudan, Sudan, Ethiopia, Central Africa Republic Somalia and Congo Brazzaville. You have low intensity crisis in Nigeria or Western Sahara. Beyond Africa, you have the crisis in Yemen, albeit caused by Saudi Arabia, Syria and Burma. So, I can understand why, ours is of little interest to the world, especially that, Yaoundé has the support of Washington DC, Paris and Brussels.
From your perspective Elie, how does this end? Where do you see solutions coming from, and from whom ,since the Head of State people seem to be looking up to has remained tone deaf?
Elie Smith: In my humble opinion, the Anglophone crisis is cyclical. It comes up every 20 years or more and which shows that there is a fundamental problem of discontent transmitted from generation to generation in west Cameroon and it also shows the stupidity, ignorance and arrogance of Yaoundé. It also shows that, for all the propaganda, the country remains divided along colonially inherited lines and it is not going to end soon, especially with the incidences of September 22nd and October 1st 2017 and the current war. It has driven a wedge among the people of West and East Cameroon to a level never reached before. The crisis will die down at some point, but as I said before, the organizers will transfer the baton to a much more sophisticated group and the sad reality is that, having said all what I had at the beginning, the country is going to fall apart if Yaoundé doesn’t have the courage to go back to the basics or foundation of the country. But, I know, the head of state will at the end come to the negotiating table, but I am afraid on a weaker footing than what his strategists may be advising him. The more the crisis prolongs, the moderates are losing grounds to the restorationists. So, strange as would appear, the head of state might end up negotiating with Ayuk Tabe one day or after October presidential election.
And we end with a question on your own career, where your views became uncomfortable for the TV station Canal 2; can you shed light again on how you were forced out and what your next moves are?
Elie Smith: I decided to resign from Canal 2 International because; the situation became untenable for me. I don’t like lies. The last straw took place on the 29th of August 2017, the owner of Canal international, the parent company of Canal 2 English, invited us in Akwa, in the presence of the management staff and told us that, he had been kidnapped from Douala to Yaoundé because of myself and Moses Ejanwie aka Senator Cletus. And wanted us to go and apologize to the minister of Justice Laurent Esso and Prime Minister Philemon Yang, in particular Laurent Esso. Their problem he told us was that, I was very out spoken on the Anglophone crisis. Their problem was that, they never wanted me to talk about the casualties and they also wanted us to lie and label Anglophones wrong names. There are many other things, but in a nutshell that was what made me to leave. But I am proud of what I have done for I know that, in journalism, when it bleeds it must lead. Covering Anglophone Cameroon honestly is something I have always craved because I know that most of the stories like the school burnings were in most cases not carried out by those the government wanted the world to believe. Exposing the abuses carried out by Cameroonian security forces and their propensity to steal was my greatest satisfaction.
Thanks so much for answering our questions
Elie Smith: I am humbled by the opportunity that you have given me to give my perspectives on the current situation in Cameroon.
Entrepreneurship is not a choice but a MUST for all Africans-Badou Kane
February 24, 2018 | 0 Comments
By Ajong Mbapndah L
When dreams for a career in basketball were scuttled by injurious, Badou Kane found a calling in entrepreneurship, mentoring and empowering the next generation of African Youth. From his base in Senegal, Badou Kane is using a variety of programs, and initiatives to instill positive values, and hope in the African youth on how to turn adversity into opportunity. Pained by the travails of those who risk it all to leave Africa in quest of greener pastures; Badou is taking on the onerous task of helping young Africans to understand that with their potential, it is possible to make it big in Africa. Entrepreneurship is not a choice, but a must for all Africans, says Badou in an exclusive interview with PAV to shed light on his vision and projects.
Badou Kane is one of the most inspiring entrepreneurs in Africa, let’s start this interview by paraphrasing a quote we got from a talk you gave at the Cheick Anta Diop University in Senegal in July of 2014, having a positive impact on others is how Africans in all walks of life should measure leadership, in 2018, how much of this are you seeing in the continent?
I would say not much… numbers don’t lie. The fact that we have over 500 million Africans living under $1.50 a day shows that there isn’t enough sharing among us. Two things are to be shared knowledge and money in order to have a positive impact on others.
You equally said Africa is the richest continent with the poorest with the poorest people, not because not because we are poor but because we are poor in minds, in this age and time, what needs to be done to change this mindset?
Wow! A good question with many solutions I will quote a few:
Let s start by stopping lies and getting rid of our complexes of inferiority and superiority. As long as you are on the right path do not worry about what people think of you or what you do. Then:
- We have to regain the control of our education. Our curriculum should be written by Africans that understand the realities of the continent.
- All Africans have to learn how to become entrepreneurs’ whether you went to school or not, whether you went far into your schooling or not. Entrepreneurship is not a choice but a MUST for all Africans.
- We have to all learn how to go from nothing to something. At least be able to earn 4 dollars a day.
- Every one of us has a hidden treasure but to find it we have to be willing to sweat cry and bleed. Through a strong will, endurance, and perseverance we will find our hidden treasures
- We have to all start some type of a business (small, medium. or big). Do not be afraid to start small. If you don t know how to go from nothing contact me I will show you how.
- Last but not least once you achieve success NEVER FORGET WHERE YOU COME FROM and share part of the knowledge and money you earned by teaching others your path to success. Find honest hard working people and show them the way to success that you know.
From your entrepreneurship and the mentorship that you have done, what difference have you succeeded in making, what are some of the positive stories that you can share with us?
Another good question. We have thousands of stories to tell. As a matter of fact we are preparing a book. You will already find lots of the testimonies on my social media pages. We have created multi-millionaires in CFA. We have kept people out of jails. We have saved families that were struggling to eat one decent meal a day today they are eating at least 2 meals a day. We have prevented people from risking their lives and dying at sea or in the desert through illegal migration (a major problem in Africa). I can go on; we have changed or impacted thousands and thousands of lives in Africa. We have saved relationships between fathers and sons, prevented people from blaming governments and environments in general. Some of the people we trained built houses for their mothers. Let me just say that thanks to the Almighty we have done a lot through our training centers, our conferences in schools and different institutions, our interventions on TV s and radios.
You literally grew up in America; you made it there, what motivated you to move back to Senegal and any regrets?
You know that old saying: “there is no place like home”. I had a mother and father that gave a lot to Africa their names were Madeleine Sidibe and Bocar Kane. I wanted to follow on their footsteps. I remember one day we were having lunch at the house; a neighbor walked in and said that he did not have something to feed his family and my mom asked us to stop eating. We were all eating in a big bowl; she took it poured more foods in it and gave it to the man to take to his house. Then she told us to eat ” shaï” (bread and butter + hot tea) I always wanted to help develop a larger middle class in Africa. I love the fact that I was given a chance to be able to change lives and I have zero regrets.
At a time when many young people are risking life crossing the Sahara, ending up as slaves in Libya, dying in overloaded boats that sink in the Mediterranean, just to get to Europe, how challenging is it to make a convincing case to them that in Africa, they can still make it and make it big?
It’s very challenging but with a very good argument they will stay. They just want better alternatives and concrete solutions. The youth of Africa has lost the last piece of hope that they had left in them. They have been betrayed by their respective country leaders. But today we give them hope again by showing them that yes it is possible to make it here in Africa. Once upon a time the Italians and the Irish were fleeing to America; today they are proud to stay in their countries. I have faith that one day the Almighty will give us the leaders that will finally save the Africans. And our people will stay. It’s always been about Africa but not about the Africans but I can feel in the air that it is about to be about the Africans themselves as they will gain a better hold of their environment.
And on the flipside, when you look at the economic and political realities of the continent, the corruption, the leaders in power for over three decades, do you actually fault them and some may even say oh if Badou Kane did not have the opportunities he had out of Senegal, he may not be as successful as he is ,what is your take on this?
Of course our leaders are to be blamed for some of it but not all. A bad head of state can’t stop a Badou Kane from washing cars to feed his family for example. We cannot spend the next 5 decades pointing the finger at them as it is a waste of time. Let us focus on ourselves on how we can do it ourselves. It is possible as I am showing the people in Senegal. Senegal gave me a peaceful environment, and people willing to do it themselves but as far as the rest is concerned we snatch what we want through discipline and hard work. We create opportunities NOTHING is handed to us.
Could you shed more ore light on your company LXG International Inc and your other programs that are used in helping to the build the next generation of entrepreneurs in Senegal, a young Senegalese told us that within five years you have turned atleast ten young Senegalese into millionaires, is this true and if so how have you done this?
The major program is called Risk Innovation Social Entrepreneurship. I started it in Senegal on December 12 2012 to fight unemployment and poverty in Africa. I don t believe in poverty in Africa and we have the solution. Every African should be at least able to cover his basic needs of having a place to live, food to eat, a decent education, and the capability to pay for basic medical bills.
The RISE program is an entrepreneurship and leadership program that teaches any individual how to go from nothing to something. It’s a very tough program and at the end of it the best candidates receive an investment of 4 to 18 thousand dollars. Directly linked to me, 6 have made millions the rest are on the way. Indirectly, meaning those that were trained by us but went on their own, quite a few.
Since 2012 we have trained thousands and thousands of people, hundreds have started their own small businesses and we have invested in at least 15.
Another program is called DSB which stands for ” Demal Suñu Bopp” meaning it lets do it ourselves. It is an economic movement that I created again to fight unemployment and poverty. It is a continuation of RISE, to help us raise awareness with a broader audience to teach them the same thing: how to go from nothing to something. The motto of the movement is “get richer to serve more”. There are thousands of members throughout Senegal with one thing in common, they are doing it themselves, and all we provide is the coaching through a system that allows them to get it done without the help of the government, or any form of entity.
The criteria are quite simple: discipline, a good heart, a willingness to learn and get better, and a capacity to grasp our teachings. The government has supported me by letting me do what I do without bothering me. I couldn’t t tell you what their views are.
One of the latest initiatives you are floating now is an entrepreneurship competition or program with the concept of people starting and growing a business with $3.50, can you shed more light on this?
We have 500 Million people living under $1.50 a day. To fight this and the illegal migration that you mentioned earlier we launched this challenge. The candidates have to start a business with $3.50 or less and a month later they will have to show their financial results and immediate social impact. There will be 3 rounds. The winner will take home about 2000 dollars and there will also be a special prize for the best female entrepreneur. The objective is to spread the fact it is possible to start with little or no money, and to help people understand that they can do it themselves.
Is this new initiative going to be limited just to Senegal or there are plans to expand the concept to other parts of the continent?
It is opened to all Africans. They can participate in Senegal. And anybody in any given country can run with the concept and we will assist him or her.
Africa has a very strong diaspora, how can this diaspora be turned into a solid force that can participate in a more significant and impactful way in transforming the continent ?
Our leaders have to create a healthy secure welcoming environment that will make them want to come back. In the meantime the diaspora cannot wait for our leaders. They have to at least share their experiences with the people that did not have a chance to leave the continent. For example they can try to at least share their knowledge with someone on the continent. Nowadays through social media “everyone far is close”. We need everyone in order to get this ship moving. Remember there are always two things to share knowledge and money.
You are also author of the book Fortress of a Leader, what is the message that you see to convey with the book?
Some characters that one might need to become a leader. It is more like a handy pocket guide to leadership.
A last question on how you view the future for young Africans and the continent as a whole, what are your hopes and fears?
Hopes: a new generation of very strong leaders with new foundations are on the RISE.
My fears are that our youth gets consumed by sports music dance or politics thinking that those are the only ways to make it in Africa.
Thanks for granting this interview Badou
Thanks for having me. Stay blessed Ajong.
Why I want Buhari Out – Obasanjo
February 16, 2018 | 0 Comments
FORMER President Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria in exclusive interview with German broadcaster February 14, 2018
President Buhari should not run for another term in office, ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo advised in a letter to Nigeria’s head of state in January 2018. In an interview, he told Deutsche Welle, DW, Germany’s international broadcaster on February 14, why he wrote the letter.
Nigerian Former President Olusegun Obasanjo is known for his public letters to sitting presidents. In 2013 he wrote a letter to Goodluck Jonathan condemning the widespread corruption in Nigeria. This was one of the key areas Muhammadu Buhari vowed to address during his time in office. However, the fight against graft seems to have been tougher than Buhari had calculated. According to Nigeria’s Supreme Court 1,124 corruption cases were brought before the country’s courts in 2017.
Obasanjo also addressed President Buhari’s ill health, which had prevented him from attending to state affairs for several months. The letter came at a time when Obasanjo launched his Coalition for Nigeria movement which he claims is not a political, but a socio-economic organization.
DW: In 2015 you decided to endorse the then opposition candidate Muhammadu Buhari. Now you heavily criticized him in a letter and urged him not to run for a second term. When you think back, was it a right decision to endorse Buhari?
Olusegun Obasanjo: Yes, it was the right decision. With the benefit of hindsight, you will agree with me, if you know what has happened and what has been revealed about the government of Jonathan and those who are with him, in terms of sordid corruption and you will agree that this was the right decision. I believe it that was a decision that was good at that time for our country and our democracy. Because we were able to transition from one party to another party. As a result of that we are consolidating democratic process. It is also the right decision now, for us to see that the man who is taking over from Jonathan has not met the expectation of Nigerians, that’s what democracy is all about. Democracy is about change. But if you think that is not the right decision, then you are not a democrat. But I am a democrat and tomorrow if I take a decision and things don’t work out the way we expect them to work out in a democracy, then you make a change.
One of the biggest promises of President Buhari was to fight corruption. That is his flagship topic. You are now saying that he turns a blind eye on corrupt people in his inner circle. Has Buhari’s corruption fight failed already?
I won’t quite put it that way. I would say he was probably looking outside, he wasn’t looking inside, because if you are fighting corruption [and] corruption is becoming rife then you also have to turn your attention inward.
What would you do differently if you were him in fighting corruption?
I would do what I exactly did before. I set up the two major institutions that are being used to fight corruption. I would make sure that the people who are in charge of these two institutions are men or women of integrity and I would look outside and inside because there is no point in fighting corruption beyond you while you have corruption (in front of) your nose.
Would you say is that you were more successful in fighting corruption?
I won’t judge myself. I will leave that to other people.
President Buhari is widely regarded as a man of integrity among most Nigerians. Is he lacking seriousness?
I don’t know which Nigerians you are talking about. Maybe Nigerians of four years ago. Talk to Nigerians today.
In your letter, you wrote that Buhari has a poor understanding of the dynamics of internal politics. You also said that he is weak in understanding and playing in the foreign affairs sector. Your critics are saying that they have the impression that you [feel you] are a moral authority and that you are the only person who understands how to run this country. What do you say to that?
I won’t answer them. I will reserve it as my right as a Nigerian.
You said in the past that you would pull out of politics. How does that go together with the new coalition movement?
A movement is a movement. It’s not a political organisation. It’s a social, economic organisation. And I have said that if that movement turns political, I will withdraw from it.
But you write that the two biggest parties in the country are unfit to run Nigeria. Do you hope to provide an alternative?
No, I would not stand in the way of that movement. If it decides to become a candidate sponsoring organization then it will become political and I will withdraw from it.
It is not yet clear who the members will be. And the names that got a lot of attention were the names people already know former governors, members of the [opposition] PDP (People’s Democratic Party). Some people have the feeling that it is not going to be a new innovative movement but think that it’s old people in new clothes.
If that is what you hear then you are hearing it wrongly. There are thousands of Nigerians inside Nigeria and outside Nigeria who have never been in politics and are members of this movement. It’s not old wine in a new bottle. It’s new wine in a new bottle.
Olusegun Obasanjo served as Nigeria’s president from 1999 to 2007, as well as Nigeria’s military ruler from 1976 to 1979. He has taken on the role of a senior diplomat, which has in the past included negotiating the release of the kidnapped Chibok girls and serving as a special UN envoy to resolve the crisis in eastern DRC. He quit the ruling PDP party in 2015 and recently launched the Coalition for Nigeria movement
The interview was conducted by DW’s Africa correspondent Adrian Kriesch.
*Culled from African Courier/Real News
Femi Falana Tears Into Nigerian Government over Southern Cameroons Crisis
February 10, 2018 | 0 Comments
*Nigeria’s NSA, Babagana Mogono recklessly deported Cameroonians – Falana Nigeria’s Right Activist
*The National Commission for Refugees, the Immigration department and the ministry of foreign affairs were not consulted before the deportation”
* Their deportation was carried out outside the ambit of the Extradition Act.
* Ours has become an unsafe territory for refugees and asylum seekers
*Nigeria can resolve the crisis in Southern Cameroon in the interest of regional stability
*We shall pursue the case until Nigeria returns to the community of civilized nations – Falana Nigeria’s Right Activist
By Olayinka Ajayi
Obviously peeved at the extradition of leaders of the Anglophone movement led by Ayuk Julius Tabe from Nigeria, renown human right activist and Senior Advocate of Nigeria SAN Femi Falana hits hard at the Nigerian government in this exclusive interview with Olayinka Ajayi of PanAfricanVisions. Excerpts:
The Cameroon Government announced recently that leaders of the Anglophone movement led by Mr Julius Ayuk Tabe in Nigeria were handed over to Cameroon,how did this happen?
Femi Falana:It is true that a number of Cameroonian refugees and asylum seekers who were illegally arrested and detained by the federal government were and deported from Nigeria to Cameroon on Friday, January 26, 2018. When we received information of the plan to deport them we rushed to the federal high court to stop the illegal plan. We also reached out to the Comptroller-General of Immigration, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the office of the United Nations Commissioner for Refugees in Nigeria. As soon as the Commission confirmed the information it dispatched a letter to the federal government pointing out that Nigeria has a legal obligation under international law not to deport the detained Cameroonians. But in a demonstration of reckless impunity the National Security Adviser, Major-General Babagana Monguno (rtd) deported our clients in defiance of the intervention of the United Nations and the pending suit in court. Out of shame the National Security Adviser could not disclose the deportation of our clients from Nigeria but the Government of Cameroon decided to celebrate the deportation and threatened to prosecute our clients for terrorism. I have protested the deportation to President Buhari and demanded that our clients be returned to Nigeria without any delay.
You were one the lawyers who was mentioned in the case ,what role did you play?
Femi Falana:My learned colleague, Mr. Abdul Oroh is handling the case with our law firm. Both of us were at the high commission of Cameroon last Tuesday to demand for access to our clients who are currently held incommunicado in Cameroon. We were asked to submit a letter to that effect and we have done so.
Does Nigeria have any extradition treaty with Cameroon, what laws were respected and what laws were violated?
Femi Falana:Nigeria has no extradition treaty with Cameroon. For that reason the federal government could not file extradition proceedings in any local court. Hence, the deportation was carried out outside the ambit of the Extradition Act. No law was respected whatsoever but many laws were breached by the federal government which has continued to exhibit authoritarian tactics and rule of might under a democratic dispensation that is supposed to be anchored on the rule of law. In deporting our clients the federal government violated Section 1 of the National Commission for the Refugees etc Act which has prohibited the expulsion, extradition or deportation of any person who is a refugee to the frontiers of any country where his life or freedom would be threatened on account of his membership of a particular group or political opinion or whose life may be endangered for any reason whatsoever. The federal government also breached the human right of our clients to enter Nigeria, reside, seek and obtain asylum guaranteed by Article 12 (3) of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act. The Act further provides that every individual shall have the right, when persecuted to seek and obtain asylum in other countries in accordance with the laws of those countries and international conventions. Apart the violation of such laws the federal government breached its legal obligations under the 1951 United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and the 1969 Organization of African Unity Convention on Refugees and which have guaranteed the rights of refugees and asylum seekers in Nigeria to protection.
Among those deported were some said to have Nigerian citizenship and working here,and others with refugee status or seeking same,what does the transfer or deportations tell us about the Buhari Administration?
Femi Falana:We have established that three of the deportees are naturalized citizens while others are recognized refugees and political asylum seekers in Nigeria. Twelve of our clients who are the leaders of the people of Southern Cameroon have been living in Nigeria for several years. Some are lecturers at the Ahmadu Bello University and the American University in Yola. Three of them are lawyers. Those who are not refugees among them have been granted permanent resident status in Nigeria. You can only expel a foreigner from your country if he violates the law. Even then an asylum seeker cannot be turned over to the authorities of a country that is likely to persecute him. Under no condition can a Nigerian citizen be deported from the country. The only time that a Nigerian citizen had been deported was in 1980 when the Shehu Shagari regime expelled Mr. Shugaba Abdulraman Darman and dumped him in Chad. The case challenging the deportation was declared illegal by the high court which ordered the federal government to bring him back to the country. The court also awarded damages in favour of the deportee. The illegal deportation of the naturalized Nigerians and the refugees has caused a huge embarrassment to the federal government because there is no legal justification for it. Can you believe that the National Commission for Refugees, the Immigration department and the ministry of foreign affairs were not consulted before the deportation of our clients?
Some people look back from the arrest and transfer of Charles Taylor under Obasanjo,to the inaction of Jonathan when Libya was under attack and now transferring people who fear for their lives to a government they are running away from and question Nigerian leadership in Africa,what do you have to say?
Femi Falana:It is trite that the foreign policies of a government are dictated by its domestic policies. The case of Charles Taylor is totally different from this one. The Special Court for Sierra Leone set up by the Security Council of the United Nations had issued a warrant for the arrest of ex-Liberian president for crimes against humanity. Nigeria was under a duty under international law to turn him over to the court. But unknown to Nigerians and the international community President Obasanjo did not want Mr. Taylor arrested in Nigeria. As President Obasanjo who was then in the United States was under pressure to hand over Mr. Taylor to the court as a precondition for meeting President George Bush, he quickly directed the immigration to allow the fugitive to leave the country. But as Mr. Taylor was rushing out of the country he was arrested at Damboru border in Borno State at about 6 am on March 2009 by Mr. Sylvester Umoh, a customs officer who was committed to his duty. Even though Mr. Taylor offered to bribe him with $500,000 cash Mr. Umoh rejected it and arrested him. That was how Mr. Taylor was handed over to the Special Court to the embarrassment of President Obasanjo. The federal government then descended on Sylvester Umoh. Instead of giving him a national award he was dismissed from the service without ignominy. Although I succeeded in ensuring the conversion of Mr. Umoh’s dismissal to retirement in 2014 we are still battling with the payment of his entitlements. Again, the Libyan case is different from this case but it also demonstrated a failure of leadership.
Both President Goodluck Jonathan and President Jacob Zuma of South Africa did not have the courage to challenge President Barrack Obama over the planned invasion of Libya. In fact, the representatives of both leading African nations voted for the invasion. Both Nigeria and South Africa betrayed Africa by endorsing the invasion of Libya. In particular, the strategic interests of Nigeria were not considered by the Jonathan administration. Hence, we have paid dearly for the barbaric invasion of Libya. Apart from the slave trade that President Gaddafi would not have allowed in Libya the arms and ammunition looted from the armory of Libya were bought by the Boko Haram sect to launch a deadly attack on Nigeria.
Just like the nation is messed up locally by a cabal of primitive power mongers our foreign affairs have been ruined by the same reactionary group. Luckily for the cabal, Nigerians are not aware of the extent of the manipulation of our foreign affairs. Can you believe that the cabal almost smuggled Morocco to the Economic Community of West African States? The other day, Nigeria lost an important position contested at the African Union because the cabal insisted on a candidate that was not qualified for the post? With the controversial appointment of the Director-General of the new National Intelligence Agency it has been proved beyond any shadow of doubt that the cabal will continue to expose the country to ridicule.
As an international lawyer and seasoned human rights activist, what impact do such actions potend on the international standing of Nigeria?
Femi Falana:It is unfortunate that Nigeria has lost her place of pride in the comity of civilized nations. Nigeria has become a butt of jokes in the international community because of the reactionary policies of the federal government. A time it was when Nigeria successfully confronted the West on the decolonisation of the Southern African region. Was it not Nigeria that ensured the restoration of democracy in Liberia and Sierra Leone? In international conferences Nigeria is no longer reckoned with? For instance, it was President Buhari as a military ruler who had convinced the Organisation of African Unity in 1984 to admit the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic as a member state of the continental body. That was what led Morocco to withdraw from the OAU. Can you believe that Nigeria did not kick against the admission of Morocco to the African Union last year when the situation has not changed? How can Nigeria allow Morocco which is occupying the territory of another African Country to be a member of the AU without withdrawing from the occupied territory of Western Sahara? I have just been briefed by the Government of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic to sue the federal government and the Dangote group over the illegal contract to import sulphate for the production of fertilizer in Nigeria because the mineral resource is in the occupied territory. I have requested the federal government to cancel the illegal contract. Otherwise I will challenge the legal validity of the contract.
For the thousands of refugees flooding in from Cameroon to Nigeria,should this not be a sign that our country, Nigeria is not a safe place for them?
Femi Falana:The implication of the deportation of the Cameroonian refugees is that Nigeria has been discredited once again. Ours has become an unsafe territory for refugees and asylum seekers. Since Nigeria has never violated the provisions of the United Nations Convention Relating to Refugees and the OAU Convention on Refugees by deporting refugees and asylum seekers to any country where they might be persecuted we have requested the federal government to review the illegal deportation and request Cameroon to bring them back to Nigeria. You will agree with me the case of the deportation of the naturalized Nigerians is not negotiable. Because of the desperation of Cameroon to put the deportees on trial and sentence them to death the federal government has to move fast. The United Nations Commissioner for Refugees will have to extract an undertaking from Nigeria that refugees and asylum seekers are safe in Nigeria. More importantly, Nigeria has to demonstrate her readiness to respect the rights of refugees and asylum seekers. Otherwise, the over 20,000 asylum seekers in Nigeria from Cameroon, Burundi, Sudan, Central Africa Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo and other war torn countries and troubled spots may be expelled at any time by the office of the National Security Adviser.
With the international standing and experience you have is there any role you think Nigeria can play in resolving the crisis in Cameroon?
Femi Falana:Frankly speaking, Nigeria can resolve the crisis in Southern Cameroon in the interest of regional stability. Notwithstanding that Nigeria negligently gave out the Bakassi peninsula to Cameroon Nigerians in the island are still been harassed by Cameroonian gendarmes. As far back as 2002 the federal government had opted for a peaceful resolution of the political crisis in Cameroon. When the people of Southern Cameroon filed a suit at the Federal High Court to determine whether the people of Southern Cameroon are not entitled to self-determination within their clearly defined territory separate from the Republic of Cameroun the federal government decided to settle the case out of court. Hence, by a consent judgment delivered by the Court on March 5, 2002, the Federal Government agreed to file a suit at the International Court of Justice to have a judicial confirmation of the human right of the people of Southern Cameroon to self determination. The Federal Government also undertook to take other measures as may be necessary to place the case of the people of Southern Cameroon for self determination before the United Nations General Assembly and other international organizations. On the basis of that judgment which is valid and subsisting Nigeria is estopped from colluding with the fascistic Paul Biya regime to terrorize the people of Southern Cameroon.
Under Nigerian jurisprudence is it possible for people to be held without access to a lawyer?
Femi Falana:Under section 35 of the Constitution and section 6 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act the fundamental right of every suspect or detainee to access their lawyer is guaranteed. With respect to the Cameroonians all efforts made by their lawyers, doctors and family members to visit them in custody were frustrated. Even Mrs. Nalowa Bih who is pregnant was denied medical attention. But due to the intervention of the Minister of Foreign Affairs a representative of the Office of the United Nations Commissioner for Refugees in Nigeria was allowed to visit our clients before they were expelled from Nigeria. During the visit, the United Nations representative found that our clients were held in an underground cell at the headquarters of the Defence Intelligence Agency on the orders of the National Security Adviser.
From your findings who ordered the arrest?Some people say they were arrested and taken to Cameroon long before Nigerian authorities even got wind of it,is this plausible?
Femi Falana:When we were refused access to our clients by the National Security Adviser we filed an application at the Abuja Judicial Division of the Federal High Court on Thursday, January 25, 2018 for the purpose of securing their fundamental rights to personal liberty and freedom of movement. Barely 24 hours later, in utter disdain for due process the National Security Adviser deported our clients from Nigeria to Cameroon. Up till now, the National Security Adviser has not been called to justify his action since the country is run on the basis of official impunity. But as law abiding citizens we have challenged the illegal deportation and we have concluded arrangements to give our clients the best legal defence. We shall pursue the case until Nigeria returns to the community of civilized nations. The federal government has to be compelled to abandon its embrace of the rule of might.
Running or Not, Joseph Kabila deserves credit for making the D.R.Congo a country-Information Minister Lambert Mende Omalanga
February 5, 2018 | 0 Comments
By Ajong Mbapndah L
As international and domestic pressure mounts on President Joseph Kabila to leave power, Information Minister Lambert Mende Omalanga says the embattled leader deserves credit for making the D.R.Congo a country.
Interviewed in Washington, DC, after meetings with Congressional leaders, State Department Officials, and human rights groups, Omalanga said the country that Joseph Kabila inherited in 2001, and what the D.R.Congo looks like today are like day and night. Unifying the D.R.Congo has been no easy feat, and critics should take that into consideration when tearing into President Kabila, Omalanga charged.
With a definite date now in place, continuous political agitations in the D.R.Congo today are uncalled for, said Omalanga. The elections will take place on December 23, 2018. The elections have been budgeted for, and there is an independent electoral commission in place to make sure the polls is credible.
Will President Kabila run in the 2018 elections? People will have to wait till June to find out Minister Omalanga said, though he conceded that after serving his two terms, only a referendum could amend the constitution for him to stand.
Responding to recent criticisms from civil society actors like Cardinal Monsengwo, Omalanga said the Catholic Church was over stepping its role. The date of the elections was done in consultation with church leaders, and their current criticisms of Kabila are baffling, he said.
Minister Omalanga also had harsh words for former colonial Belgium for ingerence in the internal affairs of the D.R.Congo. Belgium must understand that the D.R.Congo is an independent country capable of making its own decisions ,Omalanga said.
Mr Lambert Mende Omalanga, good afternoon sir
You are the minister of information for the Democratic Republic of Congo…
…and currently visiting in Washington DC. Welcome to Washington.
What brings you to Washington this time?
Well, I came for a visit in IOWA state University where I was invited. And before going back I was told by my President to bypass in Washington to speak with our friends in State Department as well in Open Society, who paid a visit to Congo recently ,and I had that meeting there in State Department yesterday and today at the Open Society. So, we spoke about current affairs in Congo, mostly about elections that is on the agenda now in our country.
Talking about elections, we’ll talk about that a lot , but your arrival in Washington DC coincided with a letter from a group of Senators to President Kabila trying to express interest to see him show more commitment towards elections. What is your response to that letter?
We are much surprised by this initiative of pushing a door that is opened already. We are having our already scheduled elections where everybody know that elections will take place on the 23rd of December, we have finalised the census of electors, that is the first stage . We are now going on preparing the polls as such, and I don’t know why they feel so impatient to ask our president to tell them what?
We are just on the planification, we are acting now, going straight to the elections, there is nothing that will prevent the elections from taking place. We have had some security problems, to that note some delays, security problems in Kasai, security problems in the eastern part of the country where we are facing terrorist offensive. We won those terrorist offensive, we had budget problems, and we won them thanks to the fact that our products like cobalt and copper got higher. Now we are surprised, we are more comfortable with budgets. So there is nothing that can prevent elections from taking place.
So Mr.Lambert Mende Omalanga you are reassuring everybody that elections in Congo will take place on the 23 December 2018?
That is our will, I am not here to assure or reassure anybody because we are not organising the elections for American people, we are organising elections for Congolese people. It is in our constitutional provision to organise elections every five years. So, we overpassed five years because of these problems we met, but now we won the problems.
It is only a matter of informing them that things have been now in a right better way, that the elections will be held on the 23rd of December. So somebody should believe, this habit of thinking that we are here to justify before them or what. We are organising elections for Congolese only and it will be organised because it is our will, it is our commitment, and it is our interest as a people.
And with the day now certain, why are Congolese people taking to the streets?They were in the street a few weeks back, and if I could bring up this reaction from Cardinal Monsengwo, he said “leave Congo, it’s becoming like a prison” in reaction to the crackdown that took place during the recent march. Why is all of these going on in Congo?
We think that as a democratic country people are free to express themselves, you know people can feel impatient and then we know that some members of the opposition feel impatient about the elections because we have passed two years before when the election had to be organised.what is surprising for us is that Catholic Church that should be more neutral in the politics, some members of the clergy of the Catholic Churches are mixing themselves in these political disputes. That’s the problem we are having, not all Catholic Church is against the government, it’s a part of Catholic Church, and you cited Cardinal Mosengwo, and not all Bishops are against the way things took place, we went on discussions and the facilitation’s with the Catholic bishops, and we came out with the schedule that postponed the elections to 23 of December, so we are happy with this.
Agreement that is 23 rd, the agreement that is been now implemented, so maybe Bishop Mosengwo has his own friends among us politicians. So, I think maybe politicians, that’s his problem, I can’t criticise him, but I can’t I fall off this idea of him bringing ill comments like that.
Mr Minister, you said Congolese are free to express themselves democratically. Now when they go to the street to protest, why was the response from the military so violent? Because from the response that we got, a number of people were killed. Why were people killed when they were trying to express their democratic rights?
Let me explain to you what happened. We had two protests, two demonstrations, one happened on the 31st of December last year, the second one 21st Of January this year. And in the first demonstration, we didn’t have even a single dead person linked to the demonstration, we had a policeman killed after the demonstration due to a confrontation between the police and a gang of people operating, this was out of the demonstration. We had two people who tried to take advantage of the demonstration to loot a commercial estate where they found death when they were fighting with the security personnel of the estate. And we had also a guy who died while the terrorist group attacked the Kananga airport, this is at 2,000 kilometres from Kinshasa. That amounts to five people, no one linked to the protest. So it is a lie if someone tells you that during the 31st of December protest last year somebody died. But they are saying so because opposition needs to say things that can hamper the government, they can say things that can compromise our chance to have a good image towards our people. I hear them saying so. The second protest that we have had in the country occurred around 21st Of January this year and we had two people dying, one was shot by a policeman who claimed self-defence. We launched an investigation team which said the policeman was saying a lie, we called the martial team, he is now facing his judge. The second one, inquiries are still going on because the medical personnel of the hospital called Kitambo hospital saw people bringing a lady wounded, and when they asked people who brought that lady who they are, and what happened, those people escaped and the lady died after all. So, how can we say it is the police who killed her, so we don’t know exactly what happened with that lady, so we do acknowledge a single wrongdoing with our police, and this policeman was notified, is court martialed and we are awaiting the justice to take a decision about him, that is the rule of law in any state.
Prior to your arrival in Washington, in what shape did you leave Congo? How is Congo doing economically? How is Congo doing politically, besides this protest how is Congo doing politically as a country?
Politically, I can tell you that people are really now totally devoted to wait and prepare for the third election since we have adopted the new constitution. That is the third election we are going to handle and people are of course excited about it. And mostly those who are interested in running for presidency, for parliamentship, for local parliamentship, so that is it. Economically we are doing well, we had what we can say a short budget last year due to the lack of means due to the bad prices of the products we had to sell in the international market, like copper, like cobalt. But lucky enough, we have witnessed the amelioration of these prices, that helped us to finance ourselves, our elections. And those people around the world who promised a lot and didn’t bring anything, we were able to finance our elections by ourselves due to this amelioration of our budget so we are doing great economically.
And your country is so rich when it comes to resources.
How is the investment climate like? Because, when people talk about Congo, the image they have e is still one of instability. What can you tell International investors? Is your country open and ready for investment? And does it have the right climate for these companies to come in and invest?
Well you know that it is not enough to have resources to be developed, you need a framework of security, you need a framework of peace, that is what we need really restored in our country. And you know that since 60’s, since we have gotten independence from Belgium, we have been the target of some new colonial policies mostly from western countries- mostly from Europe, mostly from Belgium. They killed Lumumba three months after independence because he wanted us to enjoy fully our independence, and so they are continuing with our leaders now, they killed Laurent Kabila, they are trying now to threaten Joseph Kabila. The one who will come and let’s say will decide to give them our wealth will be their target also. So we have to fight to maintain our freedom as a people, to maintain our right, our wealth, that is the main challenge we are facing, but we are also fighting to make investment to be more easy- possible. And we have a written code of investment that tries to give confidence to investors and those who are confiding us by coming, because not all the counties need security. We have security in north kivu province, maybe two counties, we have security in Kasai province, maybe two counties out of 150 countries. So the remaining, there is peace, there is calm. And the people who want to come can be aware that there is peace and they will enjoy facilities, the roles of investment provides for them.
Let’s go back to elections, what is it that the government of President Kabila is doing to ensure make sure that this elections are free, fair and with results that all the Congolese people will be able to accept.
The thing is that Congolese have decided to make elections to be organised by an independent body. You know in most countries, you find that elections are being organised by the government- by internal affair ministries, but in our country, we have decided to build up an independent electoral commission that is comprised of opposition members, majority members, civil society, and this commission is headed by a civil society member. So, this is a way we found to neutralise politically the electoral body, and this commission is independent towards the government, towards foreign interest, and towards anybody, be it the Catholic Church or what. Everybody who has private interest cannot give instruction to that commission, that is the first decision, our people took, not the government, it is in the constitution of our country. Secondly, we have decided that now we have to make a schedule, to make a calendar and the calendar was published this year, that is why I can say that we are sure now that on the 23rd of December, we shall have the elections, presidential one, legislative one national and local on the same day that was decided when we discussed majority, opposition and the civil society. In December 2016 we decided so and it is going to happen. That is what I can say and since the schedule are being published and we are following the schedule, and we decide that we have to start by revising the electoral list, and we have finished revising that list. And I think that is a signal that things are following their way to help bring us to elections exactly on a date that is convenient for everybody- on the 23rd of December this year.
There seems to be a lot of mistrust from the opposition when it comes to President Kabila, they both think that he has not been sincere to some of his promises in the past. And when I spoke to one of them about a week ago, his fear was that President Kabila might run again whereas he is not supposed to, he is your president, you are his minister, is he, would he be part of this presidential election, is he going to run?
My dear let me tell, you that if there’s no mistrust between the opposition and the president then there would not be opposition, they would all be for the government. So, it’s because there is mistrust that there is opposition, they don’t trust us, and so doing we don’t trust them. We think they have sold to foreign interest, we are accusing them, that they have sold to this new colonial. Is it true?, it is not true, but it is our conviction, like its their conviction that we might do some tricks to have President Kabila changing the constitution, but how will he do such without referendum, and there is no referendum ready on the agenda. So, he must wait , we are waiting for polls to take place, from June we shall start having the candidates, they will see if Kabila will be candidate, but I know that the constitution forbids anybody who have had two terms like President Kabila to run again. So, since we have not yet seen Kabila saying that he will run, nobody can say that he is trying to change that, I can say that maybe you’re trying to kill me this evening when you are not trying to kill me. This is what we call in French “proces d’intention” ‘(speaks French) -(witch hunt)I don’t know what you say in English, you think to judge me by intention by what you think I could think, so it is difficult, you better wait. if I do any wrongdoing then you judge me, but you cannot just say that I will do wrong and convince yourself and convince everybody that I will do something wrong, nothing wrong have been done till now, and there is no referendum, no change of constitution and Kabila will not run because you cannot run with this constitution, and you can’t change the constitution without a referendum, that’s all.
One of the leading opposition candidates Moise katumbi, he has been in exile now for a while and he says he is fearful for his life. So, is there anyway that the democratic space can be open in a way that people like him can come in to contest if they want, so that the election can have more credibility
That’s bogus, because one should ask how Mr Katumbi came out of the country, how did he get out, Mr.Katumbi was already a candidate, he announced himself that he was a candidate for the presidency, but Mr Katumbi has problems with the judiciary, he has problems with other Congolese, they know he stole property of other people and they brought him to court, and he was asked to appear before the court, then he said that he is sick and he needs to come abroad for treatment, and the prosecutor said to the government this man is saying he’s sick, I think I’m going to allow him go for treatment. If the government really wanted to kill Mr.Katumbi will the government have allowed Mr.Katumbi to come abroad?
No, we said okay if he is sick, let him go, but nobody is preventing him to come back, it is a lie, he is here because the government accepted the proposal from the prosecutor to send him abroad and he was supposed to come for treatment, and then come back, finalise with the justice and do whatever he wants, so nobody is preventing him. He is using only the fact that he is abroad to make his propaganda out of the tide, that’s wrong, nobody prevented him to leave the country, nobody will prevent him to come back, but nobody will interfere in the course of justice, because this is a problem between him, those who have grievance against him and the justice, not the government because there is a strict separation of power, we are executive, the judiciary is a power that is independent so Katumbi has to finalise his problem with the judiciary, he should leave the executive alone, he has a problem with the judiciary, and we have some people in Nigèr, we have people in Senegal who while having problems with the judiciary they ran for elections. Until the day you are condemned you can run for elections, nobody preventsatumbi to run for elections, this is a lie totally.
Opposition leaders again said that President Kabila has really done nothing of substance to improve Congo or to improve the lives of the Congolese people. Now you have been in power since 2001 and you have served in these government in different capacities for a very long time too, What has his government achieved for the Congolese people since he took over power in 2001
Only someone who was not in Congo in 2001 can say so, only someone who does not know Congo can say so, in which state Kabila found Congo, Congo was divided in three countries, there was a program to balkanise Congo, to separate Congo. We had a Congo that was belonging to Uganda, we had a Congo that was belonging to Rwanda, and that was the exact Congo which the government and Kabila managed to reunite, that’s a big achievement, to make Congo remain United that’s something people of Congo are very grateful to President Kabila for, you don’t really think that a country like Congo in 2001 when Kabila the senior was killed, nobody was thinking that Congo will remain Congo as it is today, but Kabila managed, made his effort to maintain the unity of this country, that is, our first strength to have this country developed, you have to be a country before you can be developed, that’s what he did, that’s the answer I can give. Maybe they found problems of security he built an army, we didn’t have an army by them, now we are 10th along the 54 armies in Africa, it is he who did it. Our first problem was a security problem and he solved it, so you can’t make miracles on every ways, maybe the others will solve other problems but at least he maintained the reunification of Congo, he maintained that Congo United, one should be grateful to him for that. That’s the reality.
With regards to the international community, a lot interest is shown when it come to Congo, what message do you have for them, how do you think they can be of greater help to your country, as you go through this up coming electoral process.
Well, a lot has been promised by our partners of international community, we shall do so, we shall help for the electoral process, so and so, but we didn’t see a single coin given to Congo, lucky enough we have resources we allocated for our elections.
We are the owners of the country, we are the ones to budget, we are the ones to finance, we made sacrifices and we found money. So, if they want to finance let it be, it can help us maybe to take some other money to send for development. If they don’t have money let Congolese alone solve their problems that is our problem. But we are seeing mostly from Europe, exceptionally from Belgium the former colonial power, they are the one who are trying to create problems among Congolese, to oppose Congolese against each another, in order to dissolve the unity of the country, and to try to exploit it for their own benefits, so leave Congolese alone, we are not a paradise maybe, but if we are left alone solving our own problems, following our own will, we are sure that we will solve the problems of development in Congo.
So, the problem is this interference from Western countries, from Belgium, and we are landing now in a very hot dispute with Belgium as we are talking. We do not have an Ambassador from Belgium in Kinshasa, we do not have an Ambassador of Congo in Brussels, we thought that when they killed Lumumba it was enough, that we have paid the cost by the blood of Lumumba, it seems like it is not enough, and for us we feel baffled.
Mr minister, can you shed more light on the problem that Congo has with Belgium, we will like to know a little more of what is the issue?
You have to hear in Belgium a coalition in power who wants to bring us in the Situation we were before independence that Congo should belong to Belgium, we can’t belong to Belgium it’s impossible, we are independent, and we feel really independent, and we are proud of our independence, and we think the death Lumumba paid for our independence, and nobody can take us again as slaves, as a colonised country, that this Belgium they are trying to colonise us again, and we do refuse, and they are helping people like Mr Katumbi and others to bring us back to that situation of 60s, that’s the only problem we are having with them in summary.
A quick question again on the security situation in Congo. How is it, is the country actually secured? are the borders secured? is the military actually in control of all the Congolese country?
We are in full control of all territory except two territory, two counties. I told you that out of 160 in the border of Uganda where we are experiencing very hard offensive of terrorists we call ADF, those are Ugandans rebels they are fighting their own government of Uganda, they went on alliance with al-Shabab from Somalia and they are using these two territories of our country North kivu to fight their government and they are killing our people also, killing our soldiers, killing even the peace keepers of United Nations mostly Tanzanians, South Africans and from Malawi who came to help to secure that part of the country we are having this problem. We had problems last year with a terror offensive that happened in Kasai that’s in the central region, but this we dealt with it ourselves, our own army maintained this, we arrested the terrorist, they are now brought to court, they are responding now to the judges who are judging them, and they are going to be sentenced, but our law is sane and for the rest of the country living in peace and waiting for elections.
So, are there any prospect that your country The DR Congo can work with Uganda to try to resolve the security problems with these two regions that you are talking about ?
No, only one because the other one is in the central we can’t work with any neighbouring countries, but near Uganda we do work with Uganda, but Uganda is not allowed to send in troops because we had bad experience when they came with Rwanda last year to invade our country, so we accepted only exchange of information, exchange of intelligence materials so it is what is been done, and it works we send them some information, they send our military some information and anybody in his territory can cope with his bandit, that’s what we are doing.
I know you are tired, you’ve had a long day, but we will soon wrap this up. When you read human right reports about Congo, from Amnesty International, from Human Rights Watch and from other groups, you see all these stories about rape, you see stories people been arrested. What’s your reaction to that?
I told them when I met them today, and I told them look; it is not good to try to live off other people’s problems. You are trying to make your food on the problems of Congolese, we have problems with two NGOs Human right watch and Fédération Nationale des ligues des droits de l’homme, a French human right group. let me give you two cases Human Rights Watch went on saying that we met security problems some days ago in Goma, Kinshasa or else where, we went to recruit former rebels of M23, those are some of our compatriots, some of them are Tutsi, some are Hutu, because they are the same people in Kivu province and in Rwanda, so they wrote that we went to hire those people, the Tutsi among them to come and help our army to kill other Congolese in Goma, and in Kinshasa. When we have an army of 160,000 military personnel, why should we go and hire 200 poor people who are on exile, we defeated them, they ran away so we go to take them to come and crush our people. But, what happened, those people in Kivu said ooh, look human right have said that you went to hire Tutsi against us, it brought inter ethnic battle between Tutsi, Congolese and other tribes in Congo. So, we said human right watch you are responsible for this renewing of inter ethnic clashes in Congo, this is not good, you can’t do so because you need to have budget, to have so and so you have to say something. It is stupidity .
Secondly, in the Kasai the (French name) said that, the government went on recruiting non Luba people to crush Luba people, and they start fighting in the kasai, those people who were living with good intelligence between them started clashing between them because of this report of NGO from Paris, imagine, and it was false, it was a fake report. Why are you trying to make your food on the suffering of poor Congolese people, that’s the problem we are having with these NGOs, it’s too injurious .
You are visiting in the United States, and when you see the way politics is done here, a few weeks ago there was this reaction from President Trump that created a lot of misinterpretation, how did you people in the Congo Interpret the statement from Donald Trump referring to African countries in a certain way?
I’m not aware that he was referring to African countries, I read a letter he wrote to our heads of states that are gathering in Addis Ababa, it is a good letter, and I’m sure that USA has no colonial experience, it has no colonial past, so we don’t have a problem with the United States till now, when we have a problem we shall say, nobody will prevent us from speaking, until now we leave them in peace
Mr Lambert Mende Omalanga thank you very much. Any last words?
You are welcome, thank you
With Kabila gone, change can be rapid, and great for the people of the D.R.Congo
January 27, 2018 | 1 Comments
-We will not be fooled a third time into believing that Kabila will hold elections.
– Kabila created a country of sadness and death. He created a country where he uses rape as a tool for his power
-Kabila’s evil ways have unified the people against him.
-African leaders have left their people infrastructure and opportunity. Kabila has left nothing but destruction
– Christian Malanga, of United Congolese Party Takes on President Kabila.
By Ajong Mbapndah L
The only solution for the political crisis in the D.R.Congo is for President Joseph Kabila to step down and give way for a new transitional government to hold transparent, and free elections ,says Christian Malanga, President of the United Congolese Party.
Malanga who shuttles between the USA and the D.R.Congo accuses President Kabila of creating a country of sadness and death where rape is used as a tool for his power. Whereas some African leaders have bequeathed a legacy of infrastructure and opportunity their people, Kabila has left nothing but destruction, says Malanga who is nursing Presidential ambitions of his own.
The evil ways of President Kabila have unified the people against him ,and he must be made to answer for all crimes committed by his government against Congolese. Lauding the support of the international community , Malanga believes that it is ultimately up to the people of the D.R.Congo to chart their own future. With Kabila gone, change can be rapid and great for the people of the D.R.Congo, says Malanga.
Mr. Christian Malanga, you are President of the United Congolese Party, can you start by introducing your party and how you became its leader?
Thank you for taking the time to interview me and learn more about my cause. Let me start from the beginning. When I was a teenager my family moved to the United States as political refugees. It was in the US that I had the opportunity to follow my entrepreneurial spirit. As a young entrepreneur, I had a yearning to go home to the DRC and give back and shine a light on my people. Living in America also exposed me to the values of democracy the importance of serving one’s country. When I went to the DRC I decided I should join the military as a DRC patriot. It was my time in the military where I witnessed first hand the systematic corruption Kabila had orchestrated. He was purposely creating the mess in East Congo and the military was not being paid adequately and more importantly was given orders to stand down to Mai Mai rebels.
There was a moment of clarity when I saw a protesting civilian killed and I knew then that I must bring change to the Congo. I decided to run a grassroots political movement with posters, speeches, rallies; using all of the ways I witnessed good democracy in America.
However, I came to find out in order to get a position in office you needed to be a Kabila crony. My strategy scared Kabila and his cronies and he tortured me for two weeks and raped my secretary. The Carter Center rescued me and I then decided to go to the US to form my political party, The United Congolese Party, and lobby in Washington DC.
After lobbying in DC and gaining much support, I decided to campaign to the Congolese diaspora worldwide. I spent time creating my grassroots campaign in USA, Canada, Belgium, France, England, Germany, and South Africa. My vision is for a true democracy based on the principles of the DRC Constitution, grow mass support, and eventually became the voice for all Congolese people being oppressed by the unconstitutional dictatorial regime.
You are based in the USA, how well implanted is the party in Congo and how does it function there with a President who is out of the country?
Although I have a major office in Washington, DC I am currently based and working in Kinshasa. I am in my country because the only way change will happen is if we are organized.
How would you describe the political situation in the country today?
The country is currently a failed state. We have a dictator who will not follow his sworn duty to the Constitution. Although we have the world’s supply of cobalt: the most important resource for the 21st century and beyond and the DRC is sitting on trillions in resources, the DRC cannot thrive in the current conditions. The DRC is the rape capital of the world, we have no infrastructure, no jobs, we are a hungry population with a short life expectancy, diseases such as cholera because we lack clean water and plumbing. We have countless massacres in Kasai and Beni which are for the benefit and at the behest of Kabila. We have systematic corruption from the highest level to the lowest level. Nevertheless, with education and Kabila gone change can be rapid and great for the people.
There have been growing protests and demonstrations against President Kabila recently, how far are Congolese willing to go to get him out of power?
We are going to arrest Kabila and his criminal political cronies. The problem in my country is the political elite who steal from the country. We the people are creating a new government of the people, by the people, and for the people. It is my vision to ensure that democracy and development succeed. I will be the President of the new transitional government. With dedication and hard work democracy and a transitional government will be coming in the very near future.
Kabila may still be there, but elections are coming up, why can the people of the D.RC not be patient and use the election to vote him out?
Elections are coming when the people remove Kabila. Kabila is a pathological liar. There is an old saying: fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me. We will not be fooled a third time into believing that Kabila will hold elections.
Mr Kabila has been there since 2001, if you had to be unbiased in your assessment, what are some of the things he got right for the D.RC, his critics say he united the country, and has greatly improved infrastructure, do you agree with any of these?
Have you been to my country? Infrastructure is the biggest problem for my country. DRC under Kabila has ranked among last in UN Development Programs Human Development Index. The World Economic Forum’s global competitive index continues to rank DRC in the bottom ten countries. We are starving and don’t have access to clean water and reliable electricity and to get around in the country is a complete mess. Kabila created a country of sadness and death. He created a country where he uses rape as a tool for his power. Kabila has not unified the country through government; rather he has caused endless carnage. Kabila instills fear in our people by using psychopaths such as the Spirit of Death whom he commands to go out in the street and ruthlessly kill civilians.
The only unification that has come out of Kabila’s evil ways is that he has unified the people against him. It has woken up the people how important democracy is and how important it is to hold the government accountable. It has created a young population ready to be on the right side of history working to promote good policies that will benefit the country and our people.
Kabila is relatively young, what role do you see for him when he leaves power, maybe he fears for himself and his family, are there any incentives that the opposition could use to encourage him leave power, even a golden parachute as has been done in some African countries?
Kabila is a criminal on the largest scale. Countless numbers of civilians have been tortured and died because of his actions. Kabila does not discriminate: he has killed many Congolese women and children. Justice is a universal right and he should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. His actions do not warrant clemency. We can’t compare DRC to other African countries; other African leaders have left their people infrastructure and opportunity. Kabila has left nothing but destruction.
Can you paint the profile of the kind of leader you think the D.R.C will need after Kabila leaves power?
We need a leader who will focus on education and empowering the people to be productive members of society. We need a unifier: a person who understands the hurdles facing Congolese people and will work tirelessly and smartly to fix the problems that have been a result of a failed state.
What is your take on the way the international community has handled the political crisis in the D.R.Congo?
The international community has done their best and the Congolese people need to take accountability for our mess. The international community has been a beacon for hope and has held Kabila accountable for his violations of democracy and human rights. Nevertheless, change comes from within and we must as a nation be the change the international community hopes for with true democracy.
There are many who think that if the D.R.C is in chaos, it is because of its resources, what is your take on this?
The resource curse is baloney. As President, I would much rather have a resource rich county to manage than a non- resource rich country. The problem is Kabila has stolen money that could have been spent on developing our nation. With good transparent government in a resource rich country development can happen faster and be more sophisticated in its development.
You seem to be nursing Presidential ambitions yourself, are you running and what do you think your chances will be?
I am organizing under democratic principles. I would love to have real elections where I have a democratic campaign. The reality is Kabila will not step down and elections are impossible as long as Kabila is enforcing his will on the people. My campaign is democratic. It is grassroots by and for the people. My campaign is the only vehicle for democracy. Let me make this clear, Kabila must first be removed and then a new transitional government can hold transparent and free elections. I will lead the transitional government and lead my people to freedom.
A last word on the future of the D.R.C, what makes you hopeful and what are your fears?
I am very hopeful because I see our people are motivated for a better life. The Congolese people understand opportunity is possible and endless when there is good governance and democracy and I am committed to delivering both. Fear is not in my vocabulary. My vision is just, and right ,and my strength comes from my faith in God. Thank you for taking the time to interview me.
Making Accra A Must Visit City in Africa- Metropolitan Chief Executive Adjei Sowah In Action
January 24, 2018 | 0 Comments
By Ajong Mbapndah L
Calm, soft spoken, witty, and confident, Hon Adjei Sowah is the very epitome of the legendary Ghanaian hospitality on full display in the capital city of Accra that he leads. Appointed by President Nana Akuffo Addo, and unanimously endorsed by all Council members as Metropolitan Chief Executive of Ghana’s capital city Accra in March of last year, Hon Adjei Sowah has been a busy man catering to needs of the four million people who live and interact within Accra on a daily basis.
Established in 1898 and referred to at some point as the City Council, the Accra Metropolitan Assembly that Adjei Sowah heads manages the entire city of Accra. While its land size may have shrunk over the years with creation of districts within the Metropolitan Assembly, the city of Accra still has a resident population of about two million people. During the day, the permanent residents of the city are joined by a floating population of another two million who come in for work and diverse commercial activities before returning to their homes outside Accra in the evenings.
The life of the city is on commerce says Adjei Sowah as major markets in Ghana like Makola, Kantamanto, Kaneshie and others are found within Accra. The city is very cosmopolitan in nature with people from diverse backgrounds and regions all cohabiting peacefully. Interviewed by Ajong Mbapndah L for PAV, Hon Adjei Sowah introduces his city ,progress towards making it the cleanest city in Africa as prescribed by President Akufo Addo, and more.
Good afternoon sir and Happy New year, Hon. Adjei Sowah
Hon Adjei Sowah: Many Happy returns and happy new year to all of you too,
And thanks so much for taking time out off your busy schedule to grant this Interview
Hon Adjei Sowah:. Thank you, it’s a pleasure
You are the Metropolitan Chief Executive of Accra, can you start by introducing your city?
Hon Adjei Sowah: The Accra metropolitan assembly used to be called the city council, it was established in 1898 and as an authority that manages the entire city of Accra. The land size of Accra has been shrinking over the years by the creation of districts within the metropolitan assembly largely because of the increase in number of city dwellers. You are also aware of urbanisation; it brings a lot of people into the city. It used to start from somewhere in Nungua to Accra, and now Nungua, Techiman have been taken away. And today we start from the boundaries of Lar, then to the boundaries of Acho, which is ghana east and then to the boundaries of Ga central and then that of Ga south. The city has a resident population of about two million referenced to the population in housing censured figures. But another floating population of two million plus, and that’s because of the influx of people into the city. So during the day, we are working with more than four million people within the city, and then in the evening people go back to their homes, which is outside the city. And all the major markets in Ghana are within Accra and the life of the city is on commerce, and that’s what attracts people into the city, all kind of things are sold within the city. So, all the major markets; Makola, Kantamanto, kaneshie, they are certain unique markets also as well. For instance Kantamanto is like a second hand clothing market, Agbogbloshie is foodstuff market, Makola is hardware market, so all the markets are in Accra. It’s cosmopolitan also in nature despite the fact that the indigenous people are Ga people, that’s fishing but because it is a city, all manner of people are in the city, the Akans, the Ewes, the Nowes, the northerners, are all in the city, so it’s very cosmopolitan in nature.
You were appointed to office around March
Hon Adjei Sowah: Sure, 24th march
What specific assignments did president Akufo task you with?
Hon Adjei Sowah: Well, because you are in charge of the city, there are certain basic things that you need to do right, in the area of social services, education, infrastructure and a couple of things that you do. And the President also indicated that sanitation is high on the agenda, he has stated clearly that it is his wish that by the end of his tenure, Accra will become the cleanest city in Africa. So, we are working hard towards achieving the dreams of the President, in addition to that we are launching the Accra beautification project to ensure that all open spaces and mediums have been greened and landscaped in Accra to beautify the city and to transform and create value for businesses in Accra.
So we’ve also launched the Pedestrian Safety Action Plan because this is a city and the influx of people that come into the city, we are very much concerned about traffic, not only vehicular traffic, but human traffic. If you walk around the city by this time, within the central business district, everywhere is choked, both vehicular and human traffic. So we are working hard to decongest the city, and make sure that markets outside the central business are also functioning. People also don’t sell on the street, in the pedestrian walkway; they get into the markets to sell so that pedestrians can freely walk on the pedestrian walkways. So these are some of the things that we wanted to do, just to make sure that we tackle the issue of traffic situation in Accra.
The second thing is about education, once the number of people are increasing, the population is increasing, it must also correspond with the infrastructure I.e the education, your drainage system and all kind of things that is supposed to dwell them with. Indeed the president’s initiative of ensuring that education is largely free right from the basic level to SHS has also triggered increase in enrolment, and that is also putting pressure on education infrastructure. So, education infrastructure is key that we need to expand the education infrastructure and even improve upon the existing infrastructure to ensure that people get access to the education in order to give full meaning to the free education that the central government is also pushing hard to ensure that it does it.
Now, the previous Metropolitan Chief Executive was from a different political party?
Hon Adjei Sowah: Sure
In what shape did you meet the city when you took office?
Hon Adjei Sowah: Well, I must say that largely they didn’t leave any foundation for you to build upon it. For instance in the area of sanitation, it has always been a fire fighting approach, there is no proper system to deal with the issue of sanitation, that this is where you started from and we are continuing with it. So basically you have to start from ground zero to start everything afresh to ensure that you build a system and the system would be working.
One, in the city you can’t have a land full site in Accra, because land is prime, but we generate over 2,800 tons of waste within the city everyday and it must be disposed off, and disposal takes a lot of time because a round trip of 90 kilometres, when one truck leaves Accra by the time it returns back, the day is already gone, you can’t go twice. And in modern city management, you construct what is called a transfer system where refuse collected within the city are disposed off at a transfer station, and the transfer station’s responsibility is then to carry the refuse to its final disposal site, so there are bigger haulage trucks there that can be able to convey them. We’ve supported a private developer, and we now have one transfer station in Accra, which is located at Achimota and we need to build two more within the city to be able to receive all the waste that we generate in the city. Hopefully by the end of this month, we will cut out to also start constructing one more to receive the waste. So, these are basic things that if we have been able to do, we will be able to collect the waste before you go to the medium term planning of what to use the waste for, for recycling or for waste to energy and these purposes. At the moment you need to occupy your mind on how to collect the waste first, then the second subject is what you use the waste for, that is what we are engaged in.
It’s been about 9 month now since you took office, in addition to what you just said, if you had to draw a balance sheet, what will you cite as some of the things that you have achieved- some of the things that have changed since you took over as the metropolitan chief executive of Accra.
Hon Adjei Sowah: One of the key things that we have done is to first of all change the mind of the people, and let people come to the realisation that we don’t live with filth, that is key. So, we have hightened people’s attention and today even if they see a small refuse anywhere, people start to complain, people start to talk about it. Hitherto, it’s not an issue, heaps of refuse can be found everywhere. In fact when I came to office, they were about forty-two illegal dump sites in Accra, and I have closed down 70% of them and 30%, we are on course trying to close it down. They were created largely because the tricycles that were operating in the system collecting the household waste can not travel at 90 kilometres round trip to go and dump, so they created their own illegal dump site. And this is where the transfer station when they come in, they will be able to receive. So, it is the closure of the illegal dump sites and the coming in of the transfer station which is a major achievement.
We haven’t closed all because it is important for us to give access to the tricycles, If we don’t give them access, then they will be dumping the waste on the streets of Accra and that shouldn’t happen.
Number two, in terms of our revenue mobilisation, it appears that everybody has got his own form of ticket that it issues to city- those who come to do business in the city as a way of collecting money and you are unable to authenticate the receipt that is issued to you to pay. And we’ve changed that system making sure that everybody who is paying for a service has to go use the POS machine which we are able to track how much you have paid, what time you paid. And from where I sit I will know that Koffi had issued a receipt to you for this service and how much you have paid and at what time. So the collector itself is unable to issue a fake ticket. And number two, if he collects the money from you, he does not need to come to me before I know how much he has been able to collect. And these are very simple tools that are available that we are imploring to use over here.
And you are also the former Greater Accra Regional Secretary….
Hon Adjei Sowah: And even before you end, you walked into this office and this happens to be the City Authority’s office.
Look at this place, very small, car parking is an issue, meanwhile you go around and trump people’s car from parking at unauthorised places. This is not something that I’m happy about, this is not something that we should encourage. Relatively, you’re a young person and I think that if we want to leave a legacy, the thing that we need to build a modern office. So when I came to office I builded a new office complex, a three-story with a huge auditorium, and an office which befits the city authority that when you walk in, you’ll know that you are walking into your office. And by February, we’ll commission that office and start using that office so that when you’re coming, you know that you’re coming to do real business and not in this environment. This is not what we should encourage.
So Hon. Adjei is also the former regional Secretary of New Patriotic Party (NPP)
Hon Adjei Sowah: Yeah
So how do you balance your role as a party man and as Chief Executive of the Accra metropolitan?
Hon Adjei Sowah: Well, since I assumed this office, I’ve relinquished that particular position as regional Secretary because there’ll be even a conflict of interest because in this position, you’re supposed to serve the totality of Ghanaians and not necessarily your party faithfuls. So I have relinquished that particular position. It is a position that I duly cherished, I held that position at the interest for the people and I’ve learnt a lot working with people, how to deal with individuals on a political font. I was there for two terms and I really miss that position.
And to those who have not had the privilege of visiting Accra, can you give us a couple of reasons why they should visit your city.
Hon Adjei Sowah: Well, first of all, Accra is a city where life goes on; you need to live it, love it. If you come into Ghana, you are first of all welcomed to Accra. The good thing is that the people are very nice people. There are many cities that you can’t walk in the night. In the city of Accra, you are safe, you can walk around 24 hours and nobody hurts you, there’s no attack on you. The people are also very nice and there are quite an interesting places also to visit for fun and for tourism as well. If you go to the old Accra where we interfaced with the whites during the colonial period of slavery, all these houses are still there and you can see the general post office. The general post office as it is, it’s just been repainted but the structure as it is pre colonial time is the same thing that is and you will marvel when you see those pictures.
So it’s a very interesting city, the people here are also hardworking and everybody is finding some business to do, service you know, very important.
We have 24 hours electricity unlike other cities in Africa where their light can go off every five minutes and come back. We have free flow of water. The basic social amenities are available in Accra. So I think that anytime you come to Accra, you will feel very welcome to the city.
And just as we are about to wrap this up, one of the things I also noticed in the city was Churches everywhere. So when do people have the time to help you keep the city clean, when do people have the time to do other activities when there are Churches Churches Churches everywhere?
Hon Adjei Sowah: I think that is an African phenomenon and I can give you my wide reasons as well to that. Generally, the churches are coming from Europe and America and they have settled here. Those day when Europe and America were going through their struggle, they were also compelled to look up to God for their survival, now that they may be on their feet, people hardly go to Church and think about God in America and Europe and sometimes people also want to compete with God.
This is Africa, we believe in god and we worship god in various forms and shape. We believe in traditional religion and in fact, our lives, our culture in itself tend to appreciate god and we express it in various forms. So it is not only people who go to Church but people who also sit in their quiet corner, they don’t go to Church but they believe in God, we believe in God. I don’t think we can find and atheist in this country but we can find people like that somewhere else.
And your mandate is supposed to last for four years. So when I come back to visit Accra in four years, how different will Accra be from what it is today?
Hon Adjei Sowah: Well I think that you are going to be a very beautiful city, enhanced, you are going to see a clean city, you are going to see a green city, you’re going to see a city that employs ICT tools in working, and you are going to see a very bubbling city, residents are thriving and everybody will be happy and smiling, maybe you are going to see a happy city.
Thank you very much for talking to Pan African visions
Hon Adjei Sowah : Thank you very much, it’s a pleasure
Omar Faye On the New Gambia -There is reason For hope says former Envoy to Washington DC
January 10, 2018 | 0 Comments
By Ajong Mbapndah L
A little over a year ago, Omar Faye was caught in the eye of the storm. Elections had taken place in his native Gambia with the stunning defeat of President Yahya Jammeh who had been in power for 22 years. As the serving Ambassador to the USA, which was Gambia’s most important diplomatic post, he thought his job was made easier when the incumbent stunned the world by accepting the verdict from the polls and congratulating his opponent in a rather warm phone call.
Reverting to his typical unpredictable nature, President Yahya Jammeh questioned the veracity of the election results, indicated unwillingness to hand over power and throw Gambia into a political crisis. Appointed by President Jammeh, but serving the people of Gambia in his mind, Omar Faye had a choice to make. His choice was to put country first and to side with decision of his compatriots to see political change in the country. It was a huge risk, but one he took, with a call for President Jammeh to step aside in respect of the wishes of the people of Gambia.
While Faye’s decision was a super solid boaster to the wind of change blowing in the Gambia, it infuriated Jammeh and no one can tell what would have become of him if the former President had succeeded in his attempt to remain in power.
Back in the Gambia today enjoying the simple things in life, and living the changes taking place, Ambassador Omar Faye expresses no regrets for taking sides with the people at a very crucial moment in the history of his country. Under the leadership of President Adama Barrow, the country is firmly back on the rails. Gambians must put all hands on deck in supporting the efforts of the new administration to write the next glorious chapter of the Gambia.
Speaking of President Adama Barrow, Ambassador Faye said he was catching up on the job at a remarkable pace and has attributes of attention and understanding which remind him of President Obama.
There is hope for the future says Ambassador Omar Faye as he urges Gambians to get to work in building a country that truly meets their potentials and expectations.
Ambassador Omar Faye good afternoon sir
Ambassador Omar Faye: Hey, good afternoon my friend how are you?
I’m doing good sir, and thanks so much for accepting to talk to PAN African Visions again
Ambassador Omar Faye: You bet, it’s my pleasure
Let’s start with a walk down memory lane. About a year ago you became the first sitting diplomat appointed by then President Yahya Jammeh to make a public call for him to step down, can you walk us through your thought process and how you arrived at that decision?
Ambassador Omar Faye: Thank you for having me. Living in the United States for several years and serving as Gambia’s Ambassador to the United States of course had given me a lot of opportunities and access to a lot of information that a regular person may not have. And when Gambia went to the polls and then looking at the world from a different perspective compared to when I used to live in The Gambia, I realized that times had changed, things had changed, the Gambia people had changed, and they had spoken, and we had to respect the will of the people. What I had said a year ago, that’s exactly what I’m going to say today again, nothing’s changed, it’s to respect the will of the people. I had to sit with a team, a few very loyal folks that I had worked with, and I talked to my family, I talked to some people both in The United States and in Gambia, and we realised that the right thing to do is to respect the will of The Gambian people because they had spoken, that’s all what happened. And I had to inform my former Boss- my former President that the best thing for him was to accept the will of the people so that he can bow out honourably.
And when you made this decision known to him, what was his reaction?
Ambassador Omar Faye: I was recalled ,and that means just a nice way of trying get you back home , whatever it was in his thought process I didn’t know, but as soon as he was aware of it, I received instructions to immediately handover and return home to Banjul.
In addition to the public calls for Jammeh to accept the verdict from the polls, what other moves were taken by you towards resolving the crises in a way that the wishes of the Gambian people were respected?
Ambassador Omar Faye: A lot of diplomacy happened behind the scenes. Myself, some very senior State Department officials, a lot of correspondents going in from Washington to Banjul, I facilitated phone calls. As you know, I mean, there are some of those things that are state restricted information that is not always to be talked about on radios or interviews, but a lot happened behind the scenes, the government of The Gambia had communicated with Washington, and Washington had told them their stand, and I was in the middle just trying to make sure that everything worked out peacefully for small Gambia.
You were the Ambassador of Gambia to Washington Dc for close to three (3) years, what will you cite as some of your achievements and what were some of the challenges that you also faced?
Ambassador Omar Faye: Challenges were many but we did our best. We did achieve a lot too and what I will call the pinnacle achievement or number one was buying a chancery, owning our own chancery for the first time. Since The Gambia opened an office in 1979 in Washington, We had always rented, and moved from one street to another, and thank God during my tenure with some good friends and the support of course of the government we were able to acquire a chancery that is now is called the Embassy of The Gambia at 5630, 16th street, where you have The Gambia flag flying. I will be eternally thankful to God and be always grateful to those forces that helped and made it happen. Of course we took diplomacy to the doorsteps of Gambians. The Embassy used to be really isolated most of the time, of course our predecessors did their bit, but they also had to face activists and those not supportive of the government. I was able to do a lot of talking and to convince a lot of them to look at the bigger picture, that former president Jammeh is not Gambia, and the Gambians are bigger than him and let us come together and look for common ground, Let us come together and see what we can do to help our beloved country. So, at least those are two main issues that I consider big achievements, taking diplomacy to the doorstep of Gambians, serving our Gambian people, visiting Gambians in jails, the incarcerated Gambians around and also buying a chancery that now instead of paying lots of money per month with the little resources we have, now we own our property.
Were you surprised when your appointment as Ambassador was terminated by the new government of Adama Barrow when many thought that you will be rewarded for the important contributions you made to usher a in a new Dawn for Gambia?
Ambassador Omar Faye: No, I was not surprised, and that is all I will say
and I will leave it at that.
You are now back in The Gambia, how does a typical day for Ambassador Faye look like, what has he been up to since he left Washington?
Ambassador Omar Faye: All praises are due to Allah, or you will say “to God be the glory”, Trust me, coming back home has no price tag, I have come back to reunite with my family after decades of staying away, I have reunited with my friends, I have visited people that I should have been visiting for years and could not, I am taking walks and saying ‘God thank you’, I’m grateful for Gambia, there is no fighting going on, there are no troops intimidating people.
The Gambia is free and you can feel it in the atmosphere. Everybody is living in peace and we are praying that we maintain that peace. So, the typical day is just to say ‘God thank you’, jump in to the foreign ministry here and there to see what’s going on with regards to some paper work. I have also been invited to contribute in some of the security reforms going on. There was this think tank that was formed, I’ve been invited a few times to go and give my opinion and my contribution. So, I am really deeply calm just taking it easy, slow but sure in the peaceful Gambia.
Let’s talk about President Adama Barrow, first the man, you served Gambia under Jammeh, and not so long ago you had a meeting with President Barrow, what kind of man is he? What impression did you have after the meeting? And how different is he as a leader so far from former President Jammeh?
Ambassador Omar Faye: President Adama Barrow and myself had met before he became President, he is a man of calm, he is very open, he has a lots of leadership qualities and some of those strong qualities are that he will sit down and listen to you, he will ask for opinions, and he’s very accommodating. I have realised that he shares those attributes with the former President of the United States President Obama; who always wanted to make you comfortable when you were with him. I have seen those qualities in President Barrow and I think he’s moving, he is learning fast, and he is understanding the Job. Remember, he has never been in the government setup, and it’s not going to take overnight for him to just come and start making miracles, I think people around him are giving him the advice, he is moving forward, but he is very calm, he’s very open, and I think he listens, those qualities can help him big time.
It is roughly a year now since he got to office, how is Gambia doing under his leadership?
Ambassador Omar Faye: Remember, you are talking about the new government inherited from 22 years of very serious problems that The Gambia had gone through. Of cause, there were some developments that nobody can deny, but then, we had human right issues, we had disappearances, we had serious economic problems, I was just listening to the finance minister saying that we have inherited some 56 billion dalasi worth of debt and at the same time trying to do some debt repayment of some 47 percent of our revenue. 47 percent of revenue debt repayment per month then what is left with us?
So, Gambia is on some very tough footing, but I think with the new policies they are having good political dialogues with the EU, and with lots of organisations all over the world, there is help coming and I think we are trying to get the country back too, but time is not on our side, and I think if every Gambian realises that, it will be very very extremely important that everybody should even work extra, there is no time to waste. We should cut down on the bureaucracy and we should get to work because we are down. We are down economically, the poverty level is high, we have problems in our electricity, we have problems in health, and in agriculture.
All Ministers are trying to move out with policies so that we can revamp those institutions and put them back on track and they need the help of every Gambian to be open minded, focused, and to support the leadership, because now is not the time to point fingers, I think it’s time to go to work.
Ambassador Faye, people will be interested, people who are out of the country, people who are in other parts of Africa and the world would love to know some of the perceptible changes that you’ve seen in the country, and in your daily interactions with Gambians, what is the impression that they have of Adama Barrow and his government.
Ambassador Omar Faye:At the beginning, a lot of people were saying ‘let’s give the government some time’, it’s mixed feelings. I will just tell you what I hear around, I’ve been walking around, I’ve been in public transport, I’ve talked to people, I’ve been in taxis moving around listening to what people are saying, I’m talking to some of my colleagues, they’ve figured they really need things to work faster, they want things to move stronger, they want things to work better.
And the other half are also saying ‘hey, let’s give this government an opportunity; it’s just about a year’. Yes, we’ve figured they should do good, yes, they have started on good, they are now putting their house in order. And this is not only my opinion; this is what the general public say. There is a split, some people are saying that ‘no, we need them to do better’, and some are saying ‘hey hey hey, give them some time, it’s been 22 years of serious issues, and now it’s just about one year, allow the President to get strong people around him so that we can move the country forward’. So, it’s like a balance of mixed feeling.
And to the many Gambians who think that things are not changing fast enough, what message does Ambassador Omar Faye have for them?
Ambassador Omar Faye: All I can tell them my friend, their opinions are respected, they are Gambians, they have right to their opinions, but if I may offer my opinion, let’s try to be part of the solution instead of just sitting down trying to point fingers, Yes, you can call it out, something is not right, you can say it out loud, but then don’t stop at there, what are you doing about it, what are the solutions? So my message to that part of the population is; yes, it’s one Gambia, one destiny, one people, we are together. So, if we highlight a problem let’s also look for solutions, what are we going to do to solve them? And, can we come together to support the government of the day, we voted the government in and we are the ones supposed to support the government because we are the government, so it’s not only enough to go out and say whatever we want to say and move away, no, but then come back and be part of the solution. Trust me, if we come together and work hard, this country will be one of the best in Africa I can tell you. This is what I’m moving at, people should work hard, professionalism should be the order of the day, there are no groups here and there, it’s one Gambia, one people, one destiny, no undermining. Sincerity, professionalism, then support the government of the day, and when we are supporting them and they do something that you figure is not right, put it in the right perspective, tell them the way you feel and also bring suggestions, bring solutions, and bring your contribution in.
With regards to investment opportunities, what opportunities are there and is the investment climate changing under the new administration?
Ambassador Omar Faye: It is changing big time, all I’m telling you is what is on the ground. There are investors coming into the country like never before. The energy sector now is really getting a lot of people interested to come and see what they can do to be part of the investment process, because it’s on the high demand; agriculture is booming, people are investing in the tourism industry; housing industry is doing great, I can tell you every aspect of life here has big potentials, and a lot of people are coming to take charge of it.
Let me give you an example, a lot of hotels are fully booked until March of next year that has never been the case. Remember, last year we had a political crisis ,that was a big failure, the year before we had this ebola crises, big trouble, so for two years in a row our country has suffered big time, the institutions have suffered greatly, and now is an opportunity for Gambia to come back on its feet, and we are on our feet, investors are coming, they are investing in agriculture, in the tourism industry, they are coming in the fishing industry, and lots of things are happening now in Gambia. You can feel the climate of change, you can feel that people are moving all over the place, and you can just get that feeling of freedom in the air. That’s my personal assessment of the situation. That doesn’t mean that we should take things for granted, we should not take chances and we should not be complacent, we should always make sure that we are on the ball and make sure that we are really very very attentive of what’s going around in our backyard, in our environment.
And as we speak Ambassador Faye, the MCC, Millennium Challenge Cooperation recently selected Gambia for its threshold programme, which is a smaller grant programme for policy and institutional reforms. What is your reaction to this, because it appears part of this process started when you were still Ambassador to Washington Dc and what do you think this might mean for Gambia?
Ambassador Omar Faye: Yes, you are right, the millennium challenge cooperation some people call it, well it’s the MCC, it was something that was put in place during the former president Bush I think sometimes in 2004. To cut the long story short, I am as honoured today as a Gambian that I was able to introduce the new government to MCC in Washington, I was recalled in March, they came in April, and I didn’t just stay away, as a Gambian it’s still part of my responsibility so I left my house and went to join the Minister of Finance with his delegation and set up appointments with them– with the MCC folks, and I’m glad I was able to introduce them and link them with the MCC so that we look at the score card again and today you are saying that The Gambia has been shortlisted, normally they start with the threshold of between 20 to 30 million dollars and which we have gone to the compact which should be several other millions, but I will leave the Minister of Finance and the new government to talk about that and blow the information out.I wish we achieved the compact,however being shortlisted for the threshold is a great start.
We end with a word on the way forward for Gambia under the Barrow administration, what are your fears and what are your hopes?
Ambassador Omar Faye: The hopes are high; there are a lot of constitutional and judicial reforms going on. As we speak, The Honourable Justice Minister presented constitution review commission bills to the house, there is the TRRC- Truth Reconciliation and Reparation Commission already in place, there are lots of things going on behind the scene, we are very optimistic, but as I said, with caution. We have to go to work, be professional, sincere, patriotic to our country, and we should not be complacent.
We should be really very active, we should know what is going on in security, we should not take things for granted that now it’s a free Gambia, anybody can jump in and do whatever they like, the security men are alert, and I’ve seen them on the ground and there are security reforms going on as well as reforms in other sectors. So there is cause for hope my friend, but as I said, with caution, and we need to work. We cannot just hang around and expect miracles to happen, we have a lot of work to do, we have to get people out of poverty, we have to take care of our health sector, we have to care of Agriculture, the farmers, education and all these institutions are looking at some face lift. I’m optimistic that we can make it if we come together and take the Gambia as priority and realise that The Gambia is bigger than all of us and if we do that, I think we will be okay Insha Allah, by God’s will, that’s my assessment.
I would not do justice to the interview without making a special mention to the Gambian diaspora from different parts of the world who came home and added big time value to this years holiday season.Some are already involve in investments in different areas as well as reuniting with love after years of being away.
Ambassador Omar Faye thanks so much for talking to us sir.
Ambassador Omar Faye: I appreciate it my friend, thank you, and again I wish all of our people season greetings, complement of the season and a very safe holiday season, and a prosperous and a good luck to 2018.
Thank you, and happy New Year and good luck to you and to all Gambians for 2018 too sir.
Ambassador Omar Faye: Happy New Year to you and yours and your entire team, and all my friends at the nation’s capital and all over the United States, in fact all over the world God bless you, The Gambia, good luck and happy New Year in advance.
Thank you Ambassador
Ambassador Omar Faye: You bet, Thank you. Bye.