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When presidents visit me, I get queried by God -Prophet TB Joshua
December 14, 2013 | 0 Comments

BY BOSEDE OLUSOLA-OBASA*

Prophet Temitope Balogun Joshua of the Synagogue Church of all Nations spoke with Bosede Olusola-Obasa on myriads of controversies surrounding his person and ministry

People say that you are very humble despite your popularity, how do you achieve this?

If you have passed through what I have passed through, you will even be more humble than I am.

Like what?

Prophet-TB-Joshua-360x225Things that can make people to be humble. You just think of it. I have good health and God shows me what I would have been in terms of sickness and death; it humbles me and I want to use my good health for him. At times, God shows me how people are suffering and the thought that it could have been me keeps me humble. For instance, if I did anything wrong during this interview, when you may have left, God will caution me. If I am not humble, I will be out of track. If I was not in the house of God, I would be one of the touts in the motor parks (the Agberos)

Why is it that your ministry seems to be more popular outside Nigeria than in Nigeria?

I want to offer the same prayer for you: that God should make you more popular outside your country than in your country. Let other countries introduce you to your country. I think that is better. As it is written in the Bible, a prophet has no honour in his country. I am not an evangelist or a pastor, I am a prophet. It is the word prophet that was used in that scriptural passage, not evangelist or so. If my people had understood the work from the beginning, it could have affected the glory of God in my life today. If people understand your vision from the beginning, you may not go far. It is better they don’t, they will understand later and by then, you would have been very strong and God would have strengthened your desire. Praises and adoration can make you a local champion. Where are the people that Nigerians praised from the beginning? I can mention some – even men of God, who are no longer living today, so many founders – CAC, Cherubim and Seraphim, Church of the Lord and so on. We should get this understanding that those who were local champions in the past did not reach international recognition. Look beyond the ministry job to the secular world, was it Nigeria that introduced Prof. Wole Soyinka to the world? But when he became a Nobel Laureate, he became more powerful; when he talks, everyone wants to listen. Whereas there were some other local champions that even when they were dying, nobody took their news to CNN. They don’t know them. God has a way of raising people by throwing the image to the international community. Even the footballers that are notable became acceptable to Nigerians when they belong to international clubs. I may not be accepted by some people in Nigeria but my acceptance in the world has been announcing me to my world. When you look at the people working with me, you see that the ratio of Nigerians working with me are not more than 10 per cent.

What is the special attraction that brings heads of government to synagogue?

You have said it all, where there is demand, there is supply and in that place, there would be enough anointing to do the work. God will not allow people to go to a place where there is no supply. It is not possible. I observe that if three chairs are added to this church today, you suddenly find people filling it and if four are removed, it is just the number of people that will fill the chairs that will come. I have studied that from the beginning. Sometimes when I see some ministries printing handbills, using signboards to advertise the church, I say those things are not necessary. God is the one inviting people, if you allow him to do it, the solution to their problems will be waiting for them. But if you take it upon yourself to do the advertisement, people that God is not expecting will come along with them and there will be crisis and trouble. You just continue doing your work and leave the advert for God, then those that God didn’t invite will not come and there will be peace and tranquillity. You should not go out to start saying ‘I can heal, I can deliver.’ At synagogue, our critics are our advertisement. They are people that don’t want to hear about us. They tell other people that ‘that church is devilish;’ unknowingly, some of the people they tell get inquisitive and they will want to come here and see what a devil looks like since they haven’t seen one before. God has been using this as advertisement for us. Ninety per cent of people who come here do so in the bid to come and verify what they had heard about this church. When some of them get here, they will sit at the back, fearing that they could be hurt. Some put on dark glasses or disguise in a way that will not allow people that know them to recognise them. But before the service is over, some of them will pick up their bags and move to the front seats. They eventually become my prayer warriors. Let me tell you something that amazes me and that I always thank God for – those who are with me are more than those that are against me. They keep supporting me all over the world. I have more, more, more people around the world. Whenever I say this, tears flow from my eyes (sobs for a while). These are tears of joy. I get so sad when I hear people’s confession when their eyes become open to what God is doing here. Some say, ‘I wish I had known this, my mum would not have died. She asked me to bring her here but because of what I was hearing about this place, I refused until she died. I hope that she will forgive me.”’

Is President Goodluck Jonathan on the list of heads of government that patronise your services?

When it comes to relationship, I think he would be in the best position to answer that question. Since what we are doing is creating impact around the world, you should expect Nigeria’s president to also be part of it. We are praying for the nation and being a Christian acknowledges it. If Jonathan had been here, it would have been shown on our Emmanuel Television network. No president has ever visited this place in secret. The Bible says that if you confess me before men, I will confess you before my father in heaven. I am not a witch doctor; we have nothing to hide. If you have not read in the newspapers that your president came here, then that is that. Anytime presidents of other countries come here, Jonathan is usually aware. If he doesn’t believe in what we are doing, he would have told them that we constitute security risks.

What is your relationship with President Jonathan, Does he speak with you on phone?

Don’t rush me. Let me finish answering the last question. Now, you would answer the question yourself; have you read that he came here, have you? My sister, you have said it all. What phone call are we talking about?

How do you tell the president when you have an instruction for the nation?

I say it on the television and all over the world. I accept that is not enough; it is better to see him one on one.

But what is the essence of a president’s visit if he won’t follow what I will tell him? This kind of trend keeps staining my name. I will not mention anybody, when they leave here; they do not obey the instructions.

But what are these presidents looking for in your church?

The reason why people visit a man of God is to receive instructions, his opinion about them or their country. But if they don’t follow it, yet the whole world knows that they are close to TB Joshua, it has no benefit.

Are you saying it’s no big deal that presidents visit you?

It is no big deal. Except they obey the counsel given to them, it has no benefit. It is not something to be proud of. At least, seven presidents have visited this place since inception. But each time presidents come to this place, I get query from God. When they come around, you won’t have time to attend to other people. They will block the road with their security and at the end of the day, they won’t do what you advise them to do.

People say that your generosity is used to woo people to your church. How do you react to this?

How much will I give to the president of a nation to come here? Even when they come, I don’t get any financial gain but I incur cost because I want to ensure that they are well cared for. That is all; I even prefer to spend my time with the poor than to be with the presidents. If a president visits this place today, the whole of the day will be devoted to that visit, I would have lesser time for the poor people, who need my attention. God has been warning me over this trend so much that when some presidents said that they wanted to visit me, I said no. I said it would be better for me to visit them in their countries. Each time they visit this place, I receive query from God because of my time that should have been used to attend to the poor and the needy that are waiting for me. One soul is not superior to the other, why should I continue to receive query? Really out of three presidents that may visit, there will hardly be one that will show good example of the counsel that they received from me. If the needy are more receptive to God, it is better to give them more of my time.

Still on generosity, why do you ask people to display the items given to them live on camera, is it proper?

We do so to encourage other people to do likewise. Some of them are physically-challenged or indigent people who do not even have bank accounts, so we have to give them cash. We don’t want them to be duped, but we don’t do that often anymore.

Isn’t it a deliberate way of advertising what you are doing?

It is not so.

But we don’t see such things in other churches?

Every man of God has his own habit. Habit is a gift from God. Like Daniel, whenever he wants to pray, he will open his window, that is his habit. The disciples of Jesus prayed six times a day; that is their habit. It is not that we are showing off. When people see what we are doing, they learn how to be good givers. If you do everything privately, what will people write about? Jesus fed the 5,000 people in the open, not in secret. That is why it could be written. When the tax collectors came to him, he did not hide to say, ‘I don’t want them to see that they want to collect money from me.’ Even when he healed a man and they asked him how he did it, he asked them to go and ask the healed man.

You said God speaks to you, how does he speak to you?

Faith must first be in the heart before there could be an accepted confession. That means faith must first be in the heart before there could be an acceptance of prayer, request, talk from God. Faith is of man’s heart, which is spirit. Heart literarily means a different thing from the spirit. You use your faith to put a demand.

So, how do you get those prophecies – picture or voice?

I use my faith to place a demand. You don’t understand what I am saying. Let me put it this way, faith is a channel through which the anointing flows. That means you use your faith to put a demand and ask for whatever you want. If there is faith in your heart, you can close your eyes and make a demand that you want to know what is happening around the world and before you know it, you will see the vision. There is what you call a measure of faith – deep, deeper, deepest faith. I don’t know which level you belong. Faith grows as we hear the word and obey it. We are not all at the same level, but all things are possible to him that believes. What is possible for you may not be possible for me.

But many people see you as mystical, they think you are not a believer in Jesus Christ; that you belong to some other sect. What is the source of your power?

Your question is funny. We don’t get power, it is faith we have. The power in our life is released by faith through our mouth. The issue of getting power is wrong. We don’t talk about getting power here. If you don’t have faith, power will remain dormant. In Mark, Jesus said this kind won’t be possible but by prayer and fasting. The disciples had power but lacked faith to release it.

Coming from you directly, who are you?

Nigerians cannot tell me who I am. The percentage of my people around the world is more than those in Nigeria. I am celebrated around the world. Go on the internet, Emmanuel TV is the most watched. Forget about anybody, I don’t need to promote myself. Even Jesus could not win everybody’s soul.

Are you a Christian, do you believe in Jesus Christ?

The word Christian is a title. How do you know that those people talking believe in Jesus Christ when Christianity is a matter of the heart?

But are you a child of God…

That is what I am correcting you about; that someone said he is a Christian doesn’t mean he is. If somebody says he belongs to this or that fellowship, only God knows. It is not about confessing that I am a prophet, a pastor, only God knows who is serving him. A mango tree cannot bear coconut. What you believe radiates around you. I’m more than that kind of confession. If anyone doesn’t believe me, they would when the time comes.

But why don’t you belong to a Christian body?

Christianity is not an association. Let us talk about Christianity. I don’t celebrate religion. I am a follower of Jesus; I am a Christian, that is all I know. I will invite you to come and worship here this Sunday. I am known by my love, not by my association, so whether Pentecostal, Catholic, Charismatic, Methodist, who is serving God? I don’t judge people but people can judge me. All I know is that my persecution has been a blessing; I have been tamed by it. It has strengthened me. I am a Charismatic.

So, who anointed you into the ministry?

I have told you about faith. You know that Elijah anointed Elisha, but can you tell me who anointed Elijah? So you see God can choose to do it the way He wants. Because I don’t want to hurt you, I don’t know which circle you belong to, maybe your own pastor was anointed by a man.

Are you still very close to Pastor Chris Oyakhilome?

Please, don’t drag me into all that. I beg you.

What about the issue of Jim Iyke?

Oh please, don’t drag me into that. All I can say is that if a person needs to see a doctor, he should be free to do so. I like the young man. He has been defending himself on the internet. Is he not enjoying a better life now? Are things not working for him?

Why are all these stars always coming to your church?

Please I don’t want to talk about that.

What about your alleged link with the release of Major Al-Mustapha?

Which one are you saying again? Please spare me that. I will give you time to come back and talk on that.

You are reputed for predicting football matches correctly, how far will Nigeria go in the World Cup?

I can’t say that now. I will give PUNCH the privilege of getting my prophetic messages once they come out.

Why is it that people don’t know your family members?

I don’t expose my family. I hear people saying that I don’t have a wife and that I have no child. That is the news everywhere. You have seen my wife and this is a photograph of my daughter.

Why is it that your wife does not preach like other pastors’ wives?

My wife is a very wonderful woman. She believes in receiving her own call. She does not just want to hold microphone because her husband is a pastor.

Men of God need to take care of their children. My daughter studied Law she is doing her PhD in Harvard and she is coming back home to preach the gospel. She loves to preach.

Is your wife the one responsible for your looks?

I love to look good too; it is 50-50 anyway. She has been a great woman to me. She has been a great source of encouragement in the midst of my challenges. She is different in the sense that she said I was the one God called, so she is waiting until she is called by God to be a pastor. That is unlike what most men of God do, they believe that once they are called, their wives must be pastors too.

When are you buying your own private jet?

Late Ghanaian President Attah Mills with TB Joshua

Late Ghanaian President Attah Mills with TB Joshua

When one is at the airport to catch a flight, you see that many have become like Molue. They could disappoint you by saying the flight has been cancelled. Even when you eventually get on board, people keep thronging you for one reason or the other. The person serving you the meal may be someone that needs deliverance, by giving you food, she will deliver you. There was an experience I had when travelling by air for a trip of about nine hours. I was pressed but couldn’t go and ease myself because I had to queue like other people before I could use the restroom. Besides, I thought that some of those people could go to the toilet immediately after I had used it in expression of faith, so I remained glued to my seat all through the journey. That would not have been if I was flying a private jet. Or if you are a man of God that snores and they see the pastor sleeping and snoring, they will think he shouldn’t snore. Meanwhile, he is human. So a man of God should have a private jet if the situation demands it.

Who should pay for it?

If the use is for the church, the church should buy it, own it and manage it. It should not be bought in the pastor’s name. When he is no longer there, the jet remains the church’s.

Big organisations have a need for crowd management, how did you handle the stampede case in Ghana over holy water?

I know where you are going, don’t go there. Why don’t you let’s leave that please.

What inspired you to owning a football club?

It is the desire to help people realise their dreams. There are other social platforms that we use to help people.

Still on prediction of football matches, is God not too busy to talk to you about that?

The same God speaks about everything. God is aware of everything. It is all about the faith that you have; it manifests even in small things. We need to know how much we need God.

But people said you see a crystal ball that aids your predictions?

Don’t you wonder why I am the only one saying it and it is coming to pass?

What about your influence on the stool in your village in Ondo State?

Don’t drag me into that, I will not go there, maybe next time.

*Source Punch Newspaper Nigeria

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Tony Elumelu: The ‘Africapitalist’ who wants to power Africa
November 17, 2013 | 4 Comments

By Earl Nurse and Jill Dougherty*

Nigerian businessman Tony Elumelu is the founder and chairman of Nigeria-based investment company Heirs Holdings. You’ve probably heard by now about the Afropolitans and the Afropreneurs — but what about the Africapitalists?

It’s the term created by Nigerian entrepreneur Tony Elumelu, one of Africa’s most successful businessmen, to describe what he believes holds the key to the continent’s future well-being.

According to Elumelu, Africapitalism is the economic philosophy “that the African private sector has the power to transform the continent through long-term investments, creating both economic prosperity and social wealth.”

Elumelu champions the idea that long-term focus on key sectors such as infrastructure and power does not only offer high returns but, in the process, can also help Africa deal with pressing problems such as unemployment and food security.

“The information people have about Africa in America and the western world is one of aid, one of squalor, one of poverty, one of religious crisis,” says Elumelu, who first found success after turning a struggling Nigerian bank into a global financial institution. “They need to begin to see that Africa is a continent of economic opportunities — a lot of potential and the returns on investment in Africa is huge.”

Backing his words with actions, Elumelu, the former chief executive of the United Bank for Africa, who went on to create investment company Heirs Holdings in 2010, has pledged $2.5 billion to U.S. President Barack Obama’s“Power Africa” initiative — a campaign aiming to double access to electricity in sub-Saharan Africa.

CNN’s African Voices spoke to Elumelu about Africapitalism, doing business in Africa and his goals for the future. An excerpt of the interview follows.

CNN: What is Africapitalism and how does it work?

Tony Elumelu: From interacting with customers, with communities, with local governments, state governments and national governments, I started to see a pattern that indeed we can as a private sector help to develop Africa in a manner that’s truly sustainable. I also, as a good student of economic history, have observed the development of the African continent and come to realize that despite all the aid inflows into Africa and despite our sovereign government commitment to develop in the continent, not much was achieved.

But … if we can mobilize the African private sector and non-African private sector operating in Africa to think long-term, to invest long-term in Africa in key sectors, then we might end up creating economic wealth, economic prosperity and social wealth. That is Africapitalism.

CNN: Which areas does the private sector in Africa focus on?

TE: The private sector in Africa was largely dependent on government patronage, government contracts. But today, it has changed significantly. You have the private sector in Africa today that is adding real value to the economy through engagements in payment systems; through engagement in key infrastructure projects; through engagement in manufacturing and processing of raw materials in Africa and exporting this within the continent.

So it’s a significant shift from where the private sector was before to where it is today and we’re beginning to see a new crop of private sector people in Africa who believe under the sun that they have a role to play in the development of the continent.

CNN: Why did Heirs Holding decided to commit $2.5 billion to the “Power Africa” initiative?

TE: Because we understand as Africapitalists the importance of power, access to electricity, in unleashing the economic potential of Africa. Because of that, we felt since we preach that the private sector should do long-term investment in Africa in key sectors, there is no sector at this point in time to us that is as strategic as power sector in dealing with the issue of economic empowerment, democratization of economic prosperity across the continent than power.

CNN: Looking ahead, what do you think is going to be the most important source of power?

Earlier this year, Heirs Holdings backed U.S. President Barack Obama's "Power Africa" plan -- an initiative aiming to double access to electricity in sub-Saharan Africa.TE: Africa is coming from a deficit position — only 20% of 1.2 billion people have access to electricity. So we need to think of the kind of projects that will help us create the quantum leap we need in power. And I think that that is what should guide the options that we take.

So for me, I believe that we need five years of sustained, massive billion dollar investments (in the) power sector in Africa before we come to the level where we need to discriminate, is it this kind of power or that type of power? But let there be light first in Africa.

CNN: What are your goals for the future?

TE: My goals for the future are twofold — one is personal and two is about the continent. For my personal goal I would like to continue to impact my team. Because you get to a certain level where you wake up in the morning not necessarily because you want to earn a living — you wake up in the morning I think about impact, about legacies, what impact am I going to leave behind?

And so I decide to look at the African continent and I tell myself this is a continent that is about to explode but lacks certain vital ingredients. And so what role can I play in making sure that some of those challenges are addressed in my lifetime, so that my children will not as a kind of question I asked of my parents and grandparents, where were they when the war started?

So that’s important to me. And that is why we invest in power. Not just because I want to make more money, which is good, but because we touch lives significantly making that money.

*Source CNN

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Africa: Madjer – Algeria, Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana and Nigeria Will Qualify
November 13, 2013 | 0 Comments
Rabah Madjer

Rabah Madjer

At age 54, Rabah Madjer has not changed much physically and his enthusiasm remains same. His goal against Germany at the 1982 FIFA World Cup in Spain and his decisive back-heel in the European Champion Clubs’ Cup (now UEFA Champions League) in 1987 with FC Porto against Bayern Munich has earned him legendary status. He made 87 appearances with the Algeria national teams.

Ahead of the return matches of the 2014 FIFA World Cup playoffs, Madjer talks to Cafonline.com about the chances of the contenders. Below are excerpts;

You are now a consultant for the gulf-based television channel, Al Jazeera, but that has still not prevented you from following football?

I played with the Algeria national team for over 10-years, appeared in two World Cups (1982 and 1986), won the Africa Cup of Nations in 1990 and the UEFA Champions League (formerly European Champion Clubs’ Cup) in 1987. I also had stints as a coach. In all these, the virus never leaves you. I continue to monitor the game including those of the Algeria national team and other leagues. I’m always connected to the world of football.

Have you been following the World Cup playoffs?

Yes, especially the Burkina Faso and Algeria game because it involves the national team of my country. From the bottom of my heart, it is my wish to see Algeria at next year’s World Cup, but there’s still 90 minutes to play for.

From a technical point, what do you make of the first leg which ended 2-2?

I have always refrained from passing comments on technical aspects. The Algerians had the kind of game they wanted and have to prepare psychologically for the return leg.

Do you think the two away goals is an advantage for Algeria?

I think Algeria has the means to score, not one but more. The attack of the Algerian team has been effective recently, which is evident in the team scoring away from home. This is the most important aspect in my opinion about the team.

Away from Algeria, what of the Tunisia and Cameroon game after the first leg ended 0-0?

Madjer cannot hide that as my wish is to see neighbours Tunisia qualifying for the World Cup. But the return leg in Yaounde will be very difficult. Cameroon are very strong at home and with Tunisia failing to win at home, the mission looks tough.

Many are of the opinion that the draw is a fair result for either side, Tunisia or Cameroon?

Cameroon is a great team and to achieve a draw outside, I think that’s half a victory for the Indomitable Lions. It is always positive to get a draw especially when it comes to a double confrontation. The Tunisians will find it difficult to adapt to the climatic conditions in Cameroon. It will be a benefit for the Indomitable Lions.

Another North African team, Egypt lost 6-1 to Ghana. Do you foresee a miracle in Cairo?

We can talk about a surprise but by the magnitude of the score seems unthinkable. Egypt though remains one of the great football teams on the continent. They have a good team but the mission is almost impossible. Beating Ghana, currently the best team on the continent 5-0 is not obvious. Even if they score two or three goals, it will be a big performance.

African champions, Nigeria won 2-1 against Ethiopia in Addis Ababa. Are the Super Eagles already in Brazil?

In view of its success in Ethiopia, the second leg will be a mere formality for Nigeria, also one of the greatest football nations on the continent. This is a team that has always been a danger to opponents. Ethiopia has made tremendous progress in recent years, but in my opinion it is not enough. Nigerian players are superior and Stephen Keshi has done a great job to bring his team to the top.

Cote d’Ivoire beat Senegal 3-1 in Abidjan. Are the Elephants through?

This is no longer the Senegal we know. The mission of the Teranga Lions is extremely complicated. I see very little of Senegal beating Cote d’Ivoire 2-0 with all the Ivorian armada.

What do you make of the recent call by FIFA President Sepp Blatter for an increase in African slots at the World Cup?

It would be a very good thing for our football. In Africa, football has grown and you can see that every day. This is also the case for Asian football. The World Cup is a prestigious platform featuring the best teams in the world and it is always a pleasure for me to see African nations there.

What are your five African teams to go through to the 2014 FIFA World Cup?

I hope Algeria will and it has the potential to do so. Though it is my wish to see Tunisia through, I believe Cameroon will eventually snatch the ticket to Brazil. In principle Ghana, Nigeria and Cote d’Ivoire should have no problem confirming their tickets.

*Source CAF Online
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Is Africa About To Get It Right on Infrastructure?
November 5, 2013 | 0 Comments

ADB targets USD 500 million for Project Development vehicle of Africa50

By Ajong Mbapndah L

AfDB and Made in Africa Foundation Launch Fundraising for Africa50 Infrastructure Fun

AfDB and Made in Africa Foundation Launch Fundraising for Africa50 Infrastructure Fund

Africa5o the continents newest and most innovative infrastructure delivery vehicle is off to a promising start following the recent launch of its fundraising drive at NASDAQ. USD 5oo million is the amount on target by the African Development Bank, ADB, for the project development of Africa50 which will focus on regional and national projects of strategic importance to Africa. Sponsored by the Made in Africa Foundation (MIAF) of Ozwald Boateng, the choice of NASDAQ was to attract interest from investors says Neside Tas Anvaripour, Director of Business Development at the ADB and Team Leader for Africa50. “Africa50 embodies Africa’s promise for sustained growth and prosperity,” said Tas of the project which will be Africa’s largest infrastructure delivery vehicle created so far. The alliance between MIAF and AfDB aims to raise up to USD 500 million for Africa50’s project development arm by the first half of 2014.In an interview with Ajong Mbapndah L, Tas Anvaripour sheds more light on Africa50, the attractive returns it will provide to investors .

The African Development Bank and Made in Africa Foundation officially launched the fundraising for Africa50’s Project Development Vehicle at the Nasdaq headquarters, how did this go and why the choice of Nasdaq and New York?

The event was a positive development in our establishment efforts, as it promoted Africa50’s Project Development Vehicle. The Bank is targeting to raise  up to USD 500 million for the Project Development vehicle of Africa50, Africa’s newest and most innovative infrastructure delivery vehicle, to develop regional and national projects of strategic importance for Africa. For us, it was important to launch these efforts in a location that could attract significant interest from investors.  As for NASDAQ, we opted for this choice because Africa50 is  a commercial vehicle offering attractive returns to investors. NASDAQ conveys this message like few other places.

 Who were those who took part at the Fundraiser and what did it come up with, any positive signs?

The event was sponsored by Made in Africa Foundation. We welcome the increasing interest to fuel Africa’s growth. In addition, the event received interest and support from globally recognized names such as: Capri Capital, Huffington Post, Double Click, Heirs Holdings, Tony Elumelu Foundation, and Gilt Group, through a working luncheon hosted immediately after our appearance at NASDAQ by Arthur Sulzberger, Publisher of the New York Times. Personally, I think that attracting mainstream interest into Africa50 is the real sign of success for the events in New York

 

Tas Anvaripour

Tas Anvaripour

It certainly should not come to you as a surprise that many people may have heard about the Africa 50 project for the first time because of that launching and many others may not never have heard about it at all, what is the Africa 50 Project?

Africa50 embodies Africa’s promise for sustained growth and prosperity. Through Africa50, we will be developing and financing the infrastructure backbone that is needed in the continent. Through better infrastructure, African countries will increase their global competitiveness, reducing the costs of doing business and accelerating the speed of delivery for goods and services. But, perhaps most notable is the fact that through better infrastructure, which includes power, transport, ICT, as well as water and sanitation projects, Africa can achieve regional integration, thereby growing the size of its internal market at the same time as the current historical expansion of the continent’s middle class. Africa50 is an independent structured credit vehicle able to deliver innovative financing to support transformational infrastructure.

If we understand well, it is a partnership between some private sector groups and the AFDB, who does what, who is responsible for what and what criteria, is going to be used in identifying priority projects?

African Development Bank is the sponsor and seed investor of Africa50. We are currently discussing the participation of several different governments, institutional investors, private companies, and impact investors into Africa50’s founder’s equity base. However, we cannot yet announce specifically who else is part of this initiative. What we can say is that African Development Bank is receiving overwhelming support from Africa, as well as from the rest of the world to set-up Africa50.

 The goal is to raise $ 500 million for Africa50’s project development arm by the first half of 2014, how is this amount going to be raised?

Africa50’s $500 million for Project Development is being raised through a combination of commercial investors, impact investors, and bilateral donors. African Development Bank will provide seed capital. At the moment, we are finalizing the specific structure that would maximize the investment level.

At what point should people expect to see the first project accruing from this initiative?

Although we are being described as overly ambitious, my experience in the market reveals that we will have a minimum of two critical investments – be that through Africa50’s Project Development or Project Finance Vehicles – in the first half of  2014. In essence, the market should expect a fast turnaround between establishment and project delivery because speed and efficiency are paramount to Africa50.

To skeptics who will complain that there have heard about lofty promises from the trans-continental road projects, to the huge expectations from NEPAD etc, how do you reassure them that the Africa 50 Project is different?

NASDAQ We have done this before. Between 2009 and 2011, African Development Bank delivered four large infrastructure projects in Senegal that were unthinkable until we came into reality. By investing EUR 185 million, African Development Bank catalyzed over EUR 1.3 billion in total investment in the country, in two years, thereby giving rise to an integrated approach that solidified one of Africa’s most important infrastructure backbones. Through Dakar Airport, Senegal is opening new doors for global investment into the country. The Sendou Power Plant is providing the electricity needed for the airport, as well as for about additional 40% of the country’s population. By investing in the Dakar Toll Road, the airport and the power plant are efficiently connected to the City of Dakar. But, of course, all this wouldn’t be possible without the raw materials –including the coal supplies for the power plant—arriving into Senegal through the expansion of the Dakar Port. Simply put, we have the experience, track-record, and stakeholder’s trust and confidence to enable the successful roll-out of Africa50 into Africa’s infrastructure market.

Everyone will agree infrastructure is an issue, what are some of the other areas that the African Development is putting its focus on?

Agriculture, health and education are also critically important for Africa’s development. By investing in infrastructure, we seek to support other institutional efforts in these key areas. By leveling the playing field by which farmers can bring their products to markets, by shortening distances between health centers and health consumers, and by developing the jobs and industry demanded by graduates, infrastructure holds the promise to continued growth and stability in Africa.

From a personal perspective, there seems to be growing attention from the rest of the world on Africa and its opportunities, what does Africa need to do to reap premium dividends from the attention ?

To translate this interest into higher levels of investment, Africa ought to design and establish the missing investment products and services (i.e. tenor extension, first loss guarantees, credit enhancement, exit options, etc.) while, at the same time, ring-fencing the prospects for healthy returns. This is achieved through an improved enabling environment, a sustained reform effort, and innovative vehicles such as Africa50.

 

 

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EXPLOSIVE: What Obasanjo Told Me About Third Term — Atiku
November 3, 2013 | 0 Comments

Sani Tukur*

 Atiku Abubakar can conveniently be regarded as the proverbial cat with nine lives because the story of his life offers a lot of lessons; starting from a humble background to becoming the Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Atiku was the only child of his parents; he neither had a brother nor sister. His father died when he was still in primary school, after he was imprisoned for not allowing his son to go back to school after he visited them. Atiku began feeding his mother since he was a primary school pupil out of his proceeds from cattle rearing. That was how he started his life. He joined the Customs service, was made the Turaki of Adamawa, and was also elected the Governor of Adamawa state.

He could not however assume the mantle of leadership as governor because he was eventually chosen to be the running mate to Olusegun Obasanjo in the 1999 election. He later had a serious political fight with Obasanjo, ran for the office of the president twice and is also a prolific businessman.

In this interview held in his Abuja home with a team of journalists from RARIYA, a Hausa newspaper based in Abuja, Turaki, as he is fondly called, revealed a lot about himself, including his widely publicised ‘feud’ with Obasanjo and the situation of things in the ‘new PDP’. 

Excerpts of the interview was translated by PREMIUM TIMES‘ Sani Tukur, with permission from RARIYA.

Q. Can you give us a brief history of your life?

A. Let me first begin by welcoming you all. And secondly, since this is the first time we are sitting together, let me use this opportunity to commend you for setting upRARIYA Hausa newspaper which will enable a lot of our people especially in the north to know what is going on in the land and our relationships with the outside world. We commend you very well, and pray that God grant you success. I know about media business very well, it is not a business in which you even make even, not to talk of making profits. So, only God can reward those of you that have decided to put in your time and resources in this venture. May God reward you abundantly.

My history is well known by most people, but briefly speaking; I am from Adamawa state. I was born in Jada about sixty-six years ago. I started my primary education in Jada before I proceeded to Yola Province College. From there, I went to the School for Hygiene Kano and then finally to the Ahmadu Bello university Zaria, where I studied law. I then joined the Customs in 1969.

I held several positions in the Customs. In fact, at a point I was the youngest Customs Comptroller for the Southwest including Ibadan and Kwara. I gained lot of promotions within a short space of time until I attained the highest rank. I left the customs service on 20th April, 1989. From there I ventured into business where I later on met with General Shehu Musa Yar’adua, and we went into politics and set up a political organisation known as the PFM with a view to getting registration as a political party.

But as you all know, no political party or organisation was registered at the time. Instead, two parties; namely; SDP and NRC were registered. Those of us with General Yar’Adua joined the SDP. We struggled very well in the party where I had wanted to become the governor of Gongola state then. I won the election, but the government of Babangida cancelled the elections. Nine of us were eventually banned from participating in the subsequent election.

Former Vice President Atiku

Former Vice President Atiku

We did not stop politicking up till the time Babangida left power. Our first major political battle with the late Gen. Yar’adua was fighting the military to leave power and restore democracy to Nigeria. That was the reason we were in politics. We did not get into politics to get into positions of power.

Honestly, we really suffered in the course of the struggles. Late Yar’Adua once called us together and informed us that ‘what you people are doing is not a minor thing; it may take us up to ten, thirty or forty years without success. So any of us that was in hurry was advised to stay aside. Incidentally, we succeeded in sending the military away, but God did not allow him to see democracy take root in the land.

After that came the government of General Abacha. He invited our organisation to join his government, I remember we met with them at Ikoyi in Lagos at the time; we told them we would only join the government if they showed us the plans put in place to return the country to democratic rule. They did not like it.

Q. Was General Shehu Yar’Adua alive then?

A. Yes, he was alive. That was why no one from our organisation joined the government. He subsequently said there would be a constitutional conference for Nigeria. We also met over that and debated whether to join or stay away. We eventually resolved to participate, because we can use that to force him out of power. About 70% of members of the conference which held here in Abuja, were our people.

The conference thereafter gave Abacha up to January 1st 1996, to leave office. He was so angry with that decision and that was the reason why Yar’adua was arrested and jailed. As for me, they followed me to my house in Kaduna and tried to kill me, but they were unsuccessful. They however killed eight people, six of them policemen, while the other two were security guards. I eventually escaped to the USA.

I don’t know what happened afterwards, and Abacha suddenly asked me to come back to Nigeria. He was planning to run for election at the time. But I asked him to give me the guarantee that I would not be killed or arrested. When I returned, I went to see him and he asked me to work for him because he said he understood I had acceptance in both the North and Southern part of the country. He therefore wanted me to help him campaign to win election.

I told him that I needed to go back to my state and consult with my people. He then asked me what I wanted; minister or governor; but I insisted that I needed to go and consult with my supporters. He told me that he had already discussed with my father-in-law, the Lamido Adamawa, and the Lamido really wanted me to go back and be the governor.  But, I told him that there was no way for me to go and become the governor because primaries had already been held and they have even started campaigning.

They told me not to worry about that; all they needed was for me to go back to my state. Upon my return, I saw that all the party’s executive were sacked, that’s for UNCP, the governorship candidate was also sacked, and an interim chairman of the party was already appointed. I met him at the airport waiting for me, and I told him ‘Yes I am the candidate’. I then immediately went into consultations; my supporters said ‘this government attempted to kill you in the past, and it is the same government that is now inviting you to run for office, we your supporters have agreed’. As God would have it, Abacha died the very day we started our campaigns. Abdulsalami became the head of state and when he announced the time table for return to democratic rule; we set up the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. I was one of the few people from my state who set up the party.

I again ran for governor and won the primaries, and then the general election followed. Later on, General Obasanjo asked me to come and run with his as his running mate. That was how I became the Vice president and worked with Obasanjo up to the time God said we should go our separate ways.

After that, sometime in the past, I was forcefully kicked out of the PDP, and we went to set up the AC. After that, I went back to the PDP, before we are now engaged in fresh controversy of the new and old PDP

Q. What is going on now?

A. You know the PDP is not being run on its initial philosophy. There is no internal democracy in the party at the moment. Secondly, since the time of Obasanjo, the party has been used dictatorially; no rules, no truth, no righteousness. What we have now is just selfishness. That is the situation we are in now.

Q. Many people view you as someone born with a silver spoon, or did you also face challenges growing up in the village?

A. The truth is, I was an only child. I had no sibling. My father died even before I completed primary school, and I was raised by my mother; and you know women were not engaged in any serious commercial venture at the time. I was therefore responsible for fending for her, at a very young age..

Q. How old were you?

A. I was around 9 or 10 years then. We had a very wealthy neighbour. At times, I take his cattle for grazing when I return from school. He then used to pay me with either wheat or something and that was what I would take to my mother and grand mother for them to cook for us. We sometimes eat twice or once a day. This started even before I enrolled into school. At the time, they used to go round and pick children and enroll them by force. When they came for me, my father took me and ran away with me up to Cameroun republic. They hid me in a particular village, but we also met the same situation there; children were being forced to school by the government.

So he took me back to my grandmother. I was concealed behind a door the day the people came back for me, but my mother’s younger brother brought me out, and took me to the residence of the village head where I was registered. That was how I got enrolled into formal education. After I started schooling and I was even in class three, I decided to visit my father and see how he was doing. However, immediately I arrived, he told me that I was not going back because he never wanted me to enroll. He said he preferred that I commence Quoranic school and there was cattle rearing and farming to do.

Our headmaster in Jada then reported my father to the Judge. A police guard was then given a summons for my father. They used to come along with a particular stick, which was serving as the writ of summons at the time. He took it to the ward head that also promptly summoned my father. My father was informed that we were being arrested. The guard took us to Jada; we were taken to the court, and the judge told my father you have broken the law by refusing to allow your son go back to school. He therefore sentenced him to either go to prison or pay a fine of ten shillings. My father said he had no ten shillings, and he was taken to prison. My grandmother eventually hustled and got the ten shillings and paid the fine. My father was eventually released and he went back to the village. Unfortunately, I did not get to see him again until I received the sad news of his death.

That was how I continued with my studies and completed primary school. At the time, there was only one examination, that’s common entrance exams that was written; those who came first, second or third are taken to either Zaria or Keffi colleges. The rest up to 10th position went to Provincial College. The others are then taken to various vocational schools. After graduating, they were then given a start up capital. Honestly, I prefer this method of education, not what we have now.

Q. You have set up a form of reunion with your children, why did you adopt this measure?

A. Honestly, there were many reasons why I started the reunion. It is not popular in this part of the world. God has blessed me with wealth and many children; more than twenty, including those I adopted. And as you know, as Islam permits, I have more than one wife, so my children have different mothers. So the essence of the reunion is to entrench unity in the family. Secondly, it affords them to know and understand each other, and thirdly to pity each other. Fourthly not to tarnish the image of the descendants of the family, and fifthly, I am engaged in a lot of commercial activities. So I take the time to explain the details of my business engagements to them.

And I always advised them not to look at what I have, but each of them should go and fend for himself. I also advise them to pay attention to their studies.

I have companies in countries such as Turkey and many others, so I don’t want these companies to fold up after I am dead. I wanted these companies to continue to exist, until their children also take over from them. I also tell them to know that most global companies were started by one person, but those who came after them such as their wives and children did not allow them to die. That is why things are still developing.

In fact, I even brought in a professor from Europe who specialised in family matters to come in and deliver lecture for us.

I also let them know that I am a Muslim, so after my death, they will have to share inheritance based on Islamic injunction. However, I advised them that everyone must allow whatever they are given in a company to continue to exist. They should just get whatever is due to them at the end of each year. I don’t want what I build to be destroyed. That is the reason for our meeting, and it is very important. Now we have a family assembly and rules and regulations for my whole family. We set up the Assembly by picking one male and one female from each ‘room’.

Q. In spite of the fact that the Lamido Adamawa was just your father-in-law; you appeared to be much closer. Since when did he start treating you like his own son?

A. Our relationship started a long time ago, I think around 1980. But you know I was made Turaki of Adamawa in 1982, and my marriage to his daughter also took place on the same day.

Q. Adamawa state has a lot of educated people; but God has elevated you from that state, how did you survive the struggles in the state?

A. Honestly, these struggles are not good; because many felt why should it be me, who is far younger than them that will overtake them and be elevated. You know relationships among the Fulani is difficult. Honestly, they struggle against almost every prominent person in the state. As for me I never harbour any ill feeling towards anyone; I believe that is why God protected me and gave me victory; that is why up to now, no one has succeeded against me.

Q. You are indeed successful in politics and commerce; how did you venture into business?

A. When I joined the Customs Service, I spent most of my time in the South, and if you look critically, you will realise that Customs work is just like business. The European that thought us the job did not teach us how to arrest people; they told us that the duty of the Customs is promote economic development of the country. So if one is found to illegally import materials into the country; you are to be fined either once or twice or even three times, but not to confiscate the goods.

That was why I was getting a lot of revenue for the government wherever I worked. I never regard Customs work as that of confiscating people’s goods or mistreating them. You know whoever pays a heavy fine would not want to import goods illegally again. That was actually how I cut my teeth in business.

Q. you have set up many companies. Which of them do you like the most and is also benefitting you most?

A There is a company called Intels; which we set up with a European partner of mine when we realised that oil and gas business is the main economic activity in Nigeria for a long time. We actually started the company from a container, but it is over 25 years old now. We just celebrated our Silver jubilee anniversary. It has expanded very well. We now have branches in Angola and Mozambique, and we will soon get into South Africa. We are also going to build the biggest port in Nigeria, Badagry, Lagos state, very soon.

Q. You are the first northerner to set up a university, can you briefly tell us some of the challenges you are facing?

A. Well as you know, education is the most important thing in the life of any individual. I attended the meeting of former students of Unity Colleges two days ago, and I told them education is the most important sector in our life today. Whoever thinks that he has arrived simply because he has oil or gold and other mineral resources, should realize those resources will finish one day. In fact, even farming, if we are not careful, in twenty or thirty years, one can look for a land to farm and would not get. Nothing will get us out of poverty and the rest other than education.

I even gave example of many countries that have no farmlands, no oil, and no any form of natural resources, yet they are ahead in terms of development. Look at Japan, look at Singapore; they just concentrated on education. Imagine if my father had succeeded in stopping me from going to school, I would still have been engaged in cattle rearing or still at the village; but look at what education has done for me.

Q. Like how many people are working in your companies?

A. Actually they are many, because even between Port Harcourt, Warri and Lagos, we have over fifty thousand employees. Not to talk of those in Faro, University and Gotel Communications. In fact we are the only producers of recharge cards in the north. Very soon, we are going to commission a company that will produce animal feeds, the first in the north. We will build three in different parts of the north.

Q. Considering the number of companies you own, how comes your name was never mention in the list of richest Africans?

A. It is because I am not among the richest people in Africa and my companies are not quoted on the stock exchange, like the way Aliko did. That is why not many people know what I have.

Q. Can you tell us the estimate of how much you spend to run the University each month?

A. I have already mentioned it; I said around four hundred million each month

Q. Is it profitable?

A. It is not, may be after until after ten or fifteen years, then one can sit down and cross check. Yet, people are still criticizing us saying the tuition fee is high. But if you look at the students there and the vehicles their parents bought for them; you realise that it is ten times higher than the tuition fee.

Q. Why do you allow them to buy the cars for them?

A. What can we do to them? It’s a university, most of them are grown ups; between 18 to 20 years. His father bought a car for him and we say he cannot drive? You know it is an American School, and they have their own ways of doing things.

Q. You have earlier explained that you got into politics not necessarily to get into positions of authority, and you said late Shehu Yar’adua drafted you into politics, or did you already have plans to be a politician?

A. I think both because, when I was at ABU, I was into student politics. I stood for election and even won. I started work and he saw how I was relating with the people and the rest; that was why he called me one day and said ‘I see that you relate well with people, can we do politics together’?

Q. What did you run for at ABU?

A. Deputy Secretary General. Late Dahiru Mohammed Deba, the former governor of Bauchi state was the secretary general, and I was his vice.

Q. We would like to know how former President Obasanjo asked you to be his running mate, seeing that there were many prominent persons angling for the slot.

A. After the primary in Jos, and I was preparing to go back to Adamawa and run for governor, I was told that he wanted to see me in Abuja. So instead of going back to Yola, I went back to Abuja, and on reaching Abuja, he told me he wanted me to be his running mate, and asked if I was willing to? I thought over it and said ‘I am willing’. He then said we should go back to Jos, and inform Solomon Lar. But I said we should go with some other persons, otherwise Solomon Lar would think that I asked to be nominated. At the time, he wanted late Abubakar Rimi to be the running mate. At the same time, Mallam Adamu Ciroma, Ango Abdullahi and Bamanga Tukur and Professor Jibril Aminu, all wanted to be the running mate. Obasanjo then asked some people to follow me to Jos to inform Solomon Lar, and that was what we did.

Q. You said, you thought a little over it, why did you chose to be VP instead of governor?

A. I was convinced because he showed me that he was not a politician and I was a politician and he needed my help. That was what convinced me. Even now people keep telling me you have done this and that, what did you regret being unable to do, and my response is always that I regret not being the governor of Adamawa state.

Q. Have you ever regretted being Vice President?

A. No. I never regretted being vice president

Q. In other climes, one can become a Vice president and still go back and be a governor. What were those things you had wanted to achieve in Adamawa that has not been achieved up to now?

A. Honestly, if I had served as a governor in Adamawa, I would have used it as a model for development. Many states would have come to us and learn how to achieve what we have done. Even as a private citizen my investments in the state is drawing people from South Africa, Cameroun and Rwanda, their students are in Adamawa.

Q. But it can be argued that you were like a governor since Boni was the governor?

A. You know the Fulani tradition when it comes to governance is such that when you get your son into position of authority, you are not expected to interfere in his affairs. If he looked for you, you can come, but if he doesn’t; you just have to keep your distance. Boni has never aksed me to nominate even a Commissioner; He is alive; and I have never opened my mouth to ask him to give me a commissioner slot.  In fact there was a time my party wrote a letter to him and copied me, in which they were requesting for a slot for a sole administrator for my local government.  I called him and told him that my party had written to him and copied me requesting for a nomination for my local government; and he reacted angrily asking what my business was with local government that I would even talk to him. I begged for his forgiveness. So in terms of governance, one cannot be confident of getting his way simply because he had helped a person to office.

Q. And your younger brother became the President, that’s Umaru Yar’adua, was it also like that with him?

A. It was like that. After he was confirmed as the presidential candidate, he came to my house and saw me. I was the vice president, and he told me that now that I have been nominated, I need your help sir. I told him that we came from the same house, but in terms of running for office of the president, we can all run, whoever is successful among us, glory be to Allah. But I told him to know that if not because I fought Obasanjo’s third term ambition, he (Umaru) would not have been a presidential candidate. He acknowledged that, and I said best of luck to us all.

Q. But did he seek for your advice when he became the president?

A. God bless his soul, but when he became the president, I even tried to rejoin the PDP, but I was denied on the assumption that I would clash with him. He was advised to only allow me return if he wins reelection.

Q. You spoke about your disagreement with former President Obasanjo, but at the end of the day, you agreed to support his second term bid, and there were reports he knelt down and begged you. Did he really bend down to beg you or just spoke the words?

A, Honestly, he did not kneel down for me. But he did come to my house and I refused to see him. And he knocked my door continuously and asked me in the name of God to come out, so I came out, and we went downstairs, and he asked me to join him in his car and I said, no, because of security reasons, but he insisted. So when we entered his car, I never knew that he had gone round states pavilions and asking for the support of governors and delegates and they refused to listen to him because they have not seen us together. So that was why he came and picked me up so that we would go round together. There is something that many people did not know before, which I will tell you now.

Atiku-AbubakarWe sat with party elders and discussed the issue of Presidency and there was debate as to whether the South will have 8 or 4 years? If the South had 8 years, so the north too should have 8 years subsequently. After lots of debates, it was finally agreed that the South should have 8 years. And when power returns to the north, they should also have it for 8 years. However, governors objected to this arrangement. I was then in a dilemma; is the governors’ objection genuine or just a political gimmick. What if I followed them to run against the president and they later on turn their back on me and align with the president? At the end of the day, one would neither be a vice president or a president because politics is a slippery game.

Q. During your second term in office, a top government official at the presidency reportedly ‘lock you and president Obasanjo’ in a room and asked you to settle your differences before you come out? Is it true? What did you discuss in the room?

A. At first we started arguing, and then he opened his drawer and brought out a copy of the Quran and asked me to swear that I will not be disloyal to him. There was nothing I did not tell him in that room. The first thing I told him was that I swore with the Quran to defend the Constitution of Nigeria. Why are you now giving me the Quran to swear for you again?  What if I swear for you and you went against the constitution?

Secondly, I looked at him and told him that if I don’t like you or don’t support you, would I have called 19 northern governors to meet for three days in my House in Kaduna only for us to turn our back on you?

Thirdly, I asked him, what are you even doing with the Quran? Are you a Muslim that you would even administer an oath on me with the Quran? I was angry, and I really blasted him. He asked me to forgive him and he returned the Quran back to the drawer, and we came out.  In fact we had the same kind of altercation when he was gunning for third term, he informed me that “ I left power twenty years ago, I left Mubarak in office, I left Mugabe in office, I left Eyadema in office, I left Umar Bongo, and even Paul Biya and I came back and they are still in power; and I just did 8 years and you are asking me to go; why?” And I responded to him by telling him that Nigeria is not Libya, not Egypt, not Cameroun, and not Togo; I said you must leave; even if it means both of us lose out, but you cannot stay.

Q. You were the most powerful Vice president compared to others who held the office in the past, what was responsible for that?

A. He allowed me, and he understood some things because he was not a politician, and he needed the support of politicians.

Q. Are you relating seriously with General Buhari, do you call him on phone?

A. We speak a lot, and whenever the need arises for me to go and see him, I do go and see him. I do go to pay condolences and the like.

Q. And politically?

A. If you have not forgotten, during the 2011 election, after they said me and General Babangida have lost out, myself, Mallam Adamu Ciroma and General Aliyu Gusau, under the leadership of General Babangida, held a special meeting in which we invited General Buhari, Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau and Nuhu Ribadu and advised them to form an alliance so that we would help them win election, but they failed to form the alliance, and after they failed, I sent my contribution to General Buhari. So I don’t have any problem with General Buhari at all.

Q. Something happened recently, which confused a lot of people, in which you led a withdrawal of a number of governors from the venue of the PDP convention, which was live on TV. Was it pre planned? Or it was just arranged at the convention venue?

A. We have been planning for some time because we have spent almost four months planning how to split the PDP.

Q. Who is the arrowhead?

A. At first I don’t know the arrowhead, but they eventually came and met me and I joined them because their reasons are the same with the ones I have been fighting against within the party; lack of fairness, honesty and tyranny. If I can fight the military to restore democracy, why can’t I fight fellow politicians?

Q. But the president did not come out to say he will run.

A. He did since he said he has the right to run. What else is remaining?

Q. On the other hand, Buhari also has supporters just like you do; and he has not come out to say whether he is running or not. Are you planning to run in 2015?

A. Why are you in hurry, don’t worry, now is not yet the time for you to know.

Q. What measures are you planning next, since the courts have declared your faction illegal?

A. We have appealed; and we are planning seriously, you will see what will happen

Q. Is the PDM part of your plans or not

A. I don’t know what the plans of the PDM are because I am not a member.

*Source Premium Times

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Africa Can Be a Strategic Partner in the Global Market of Natural Gas
November 3, 2013 | 1 Comments

By Ajong Mbapndah L

Anne Etoke, Managing Director West Africa,TAGA

Anne Etoke, Managing Director West Africa,TAGA

Launched recently in Nairobi, the Africa Gas Association –TAGA has resuscitated the interest in a resource whose optimal exploitation could have profound changes in the fortunes of the continent. Anne Etoke, Managing Director for West Africa, one of those who worked closely with TAGA CEO Pam Namai towards the launching, says the Association is determined to build on the big success of the conference to market the potential that Africa has and to help draw investors to the continent.  With close to a hundred participants in attendance, the launching provided a platform for networking among Africans and foreign partners. TAGA will join with partners and other stake holders in advocating for natural gas as a resource and making Africa take a strategic role in the global market Etoke said in an interview with PAV.

You were recently in Nairobi for the Africa Gas Association (TAGA) inaugural event how it did and what were some of the highlights?

The inaugural Event of the Africa Gas Association in Nairobi Kenya Oct 14th -15th was a huge success. The CEO of the Africa Gas Association (TAGA) Pam Namai and her team did terrific work to ensure that the event ran smoothly. We were honored to have the presence and participation of government officials like Ms Anna Othoro, Minister of Trade, Industrialization, Co-operative Development and Tourism for Nairobi County and Honorable Dr. Richard Ekai, Principal Secretary Ministry of Mining Kenya whose keynote address opened the plenary session. The two day event provided ample networking and, investment opportunities and more. We also had very insightful presentations and discussions from professionals from Africa and other parts of the world.

How was the turn out, where did participants come from and how representative were there in terms of covering the entire continent?

The event had over 90 participants from the public and private sector. These participants came from more than 10 countries to discuss the importance of natural gas, the opportunities it presents and challenges faced by African countries. In addition to participants from African countries, we also had people from countries like the UK, Norway, and the USA. You can expect that with the kind of ground work and outreach we are doing, subsequent forums will have a bigger audience and broader representation. For a start we can say the launching exceeded expectations.

On the Africa gas Association, what is it all about, what is its mission?

The Africa Gas Association is a Trade Association. It advocates for natural gas as a resource and is leading the way for a clean, secure, and domestic energy future for Africa. With the potential that the continent has, TAGA seeks to place Africa as a strategic player in the global gas market. Though a young Association, TAGA believes in playing a role in using natural gas as a resource to power local communities and improve the lives of millions of Africans. This kind of advocacy we believe will help in addressing problems from infrastructure, to local training, safety, better management and the building of sustainable partnerships in helping Africa make the best from a vital resource for the development and wellbeing of its people.

How is the membership of the organization? Who is eligible to join?

The membership of the Association is open and growing. For interested people or companies, there are several merits that come with joining TAGA. Your membership of TAGA brings you closer to a community of thousands of leaders within the continent and beyond. Our members are provided with opportunities to network at various settings and events, get exposure and benefit from the expertise of real professionals.

.The Africa Gas Association Welcomes International ,exploration and production (E&P) Companies, Distribution Companies, Transmission Companies, Equipment Companies, Natural Oil Companies (NOCs), in Africa and worldwide. TAGA also welcomes banks, Media, Nonprofit Organizations and other service providers. For more information and all inquiries we are always available to address enquiries (info@theafricagas.org).

What is the potential that Africa has when it comes to natural gas and are there some countries using it already?

According to the 2012 BP Statistical Energy Survey; Africa had a proved Reserve of 14.53 trillion cubic meters, or 6.97% of the world total and equivalent to 71.7 years of current production. In 2011 Africa had a Natural Gas Consumption of 109.8 billion cubic meters, or 3.4% of the World’s Total. There are 25 Countries in Africa with the potentials of Natural Gas. However, 15 Countries are currently exploring Natural Gas. With the recent discoveries of massive fields of Natural Gas in East Africa around the Rovuma basin, Mozambique is second to Qatar in the global supply of Natural Gas. A few years ago, Mozambique, Tanzania and Kenya would not have appeared in a list of potential supplies of large volumes of Gas and LNG, and now Companies and Countries are scrambling to be part of the business and to secure investment. The sector has great opportunities for investment, it has amazing potential for employment and development and TAGA believes optimizing the exploration and usage of natural gas could be a potential game changer for our continent.

You are responsible for West Africa with the Association, can you tell us about your responsibilities?

As the Managing Director TAGA West Africa, I am currently responsible for the General Operations and smooth functioning of TAGA’s activities in West, South and East Africa. Working with other members of the TAGA team, we all have the collective responsibility to raise awareness and help market the great potentials and opportunities in a sector whose optimal exploration and proper management of dividends could help surge Africa forward.

Now that the Association has been launched, what next will it be working on, what is the roadmap for the way forward?

The launching was just the beginning and there is definitely more that will come from the Africa Gas Association both in the continent and beyond to help raise awareness and attract investors. TAGA will participate at the World Alliance for Decentralized Energy    Annual Conference and Joint Meeting with Northeast Clean Heat and Power initiative from November 19-21 in Boston, MA, USA. In February of next year, there will be a big TAGA event in Abuja Nigeria, in March 2014 there will be the Power-Gen Africa event in Cape Town South Africa, and there will also be the Annual Conference of TAGA.  The list of events is not exhaustive as more   will be announced as time unfolds.

Despite the recent terrorist attack there has been much talk about the economic development of Kenya, IT start ups etc, what impressions did you have about Kenya after the trip?

Kenya remains a beautiful country, one with big investment opportunities, great people and I do not think the recent attacks take away anything from its potential. The attacks were unfortunate and the loss of life very regrettable. As Africa becomes more and more conscious of its potential and as the world and the investment community shows more interest, it is only in a peaceful environment that our countries including Kenya can thrive. Kenya is a promising country with great potentials and the attack should not stop people who are interested in doing business there, checking out opportunities or just getting a taste of its amazing touristic sites.

 

 

 

 

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Top Officials Discuss Shared Commitment on President Obama’s Partnership with Africa
October 26, 2013 | 0 Comments

-AFRICOM, al-Shabaab, Young African Leaders Initiative, Power Africa etc

AFRICOM’s General Rodriguez and Assistant Secretary of State Greenfield Shed Light on U.S African Policy

 

U.S. Army Gen. David Rodriguez, front row, center, the commander of U.S. Africa Command, poses for a photo with military leaders participating in exercise Western Accord 2013 in Accra, Ghana, June 26, 2013

U.S. Army Gen. David Rodriguez, front row, center, the commander of U.S. Africa Command, poses for a photo with military leaders participating in exercise Western Accord 2013 in Accra, Ghana, June 26, 2013

In a sign that the U.S means business in Africa, Senior Officials have stepped up communication to market President Obama’s vision for Sub Sahara Africa. With the LiveAtState series, Journalists across Africa have gained greater access to interview Senior Obama Administration Officials.. Recently General Rodriguez of AFRICOM and Assistant Secretary for African Affairs Ambassador Greenfield had a very rich exchange with Journalists and Pan African Visions was part of the event. Below is the entire transcript of the event as if you were there.

 LiveAtState Interview with General David M. Rodriguez, Commander, AFRICOM and Assistant Secretary of State Linda Thomas-Greenfield, Bureau of African Affairs, U.S. Department of State

 October 23, 2013

Washington, D.C.

 MS. JENSEN:  Hi, good afternoon, and welcome to LiveAtState, the State Department’s interactive web chat platform for engaging international journalists.  I’m your host Holly Jensen, and I am delighted to welcome our participants from around the world, and would like to give a special shout-out to our watch parties at our embassies in South Africa, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Ethiopia, Malawi, Zambia, Niger, Tanzania, and Nigeria.

Today, we’re going to be speaking with the Commander of AFRICOM General David M. Rodriguez and the Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Linda Thomas-Greenfield about U.S. foreign policy and security cooperation in the sub-Saharan Africa.

Before I turn it over to them, I’d like to just make a couple of housekeeping notes.  You can start to ask your questions now in the lower left-hand portion of your screen titled:  “Questions for State Department official.”  And if at any time you lose connectivity or you drop off, please feel free to email your questions to Live@State.gov and we’ll get them in the queue.

We’ll get to as many questions as we can in the time that we have and with that I’ll turn it over to you, Assistant Secretary.  Thanks for joining us today.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD:  Good.  Thank you very much, Holly.  And let me begin by thanking our LiveAtState colleagues for organizing this opportunity to hold a direct conversation with all of you joining us from across the continent of Africa.  I’m honored to be joined by General Rodriguez, the current Commander of AFRICOM.  We are here together today to discuss our shared commitment to implementing President Obama’s vision for U.S. partnership with sub-Saharan Africa.

In August 2013, I started my new role as Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of African Affairs at the Department of State.  But I’m not new to the continent or new to African issues.  I’ve been around for quite some time, and I’m very proud to say that I lead a team of very committed professionals in the United States and across the continent, some whom you’re sitting in the room with today who are guided by our mission.  And that mission is to build on Africa’s traditions and advance U.S. interests while contributing to an environment of freedom, prosperity, and security in the U.S.-African partnership.

Partnership.  That’s the theme that you will hear throughout our conversation today, and I know very well that now that is – this is a critical time for our partnership with Africa.  President Obama demonstrated the same perspective and commitment during his recent trip to the region, and during that trip he introduced some exciting new initiatives that I know all of you are aware of.  For example, the Young African Leaders Initiative, or YALI, which beginning in 2014, will bring 500 young leaders to U.S. universities and colleges across the United States.  We will be doing this each year to provide them with training and our goal is to reach up to a thousand participants over five years.  The participants will receive world class training in business, entrepreneurship, civic leadership, and public administration.

The President also announced Power Africa and Trade Africa initiatives.  Power Africa aims to increase access to electricity by at least 20 million.  And I will say that again:  20 million households and commercial locations by matching government resources with private sector commitments.  Trade Africa, the goal is to double intra-regional trade in the East African community and increase trade – and also increase trade with the United States.  These initiatives and many others share a common theme – our commitment to partnering with Africa.

Speaking of partnership, I’d like to pass over to my colleague, General Rodriguez.  General.

GENERAL RODRIGUEZ:  Okay, well, good morning and thank you for the opportunity to speak to you today about the United States Africa Command, and how we strengthen U.S. partnerships in Africa.  And as the Under Secretary stated – the Assistant Secretary – “partnership” is the key word.

Our strategy is to develop partner-security capacities, strengthen relationships, and enhance regional cooperation.  We conduct all of our military activities in close coordination with our African partners and our partners in the U.S. Government.  Every team has a leader.  And in the countries where we operate, that leader is the U.S. ambassador.

AFRICOM was established five years ago to improve the coordination and effectiveness of the U.S. military activities in Africa on the premise that a safe and secure Africa is in the best interest of Africans, Americans, and the broader international community.  Today, regional partners are making significant progress in addressing security challenges on the continent.  Partners in East, North, and West Africa have made progress in countering violent extremist organizations such as al-Shabaab and al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, with some U.S. capacity-building and enabling support.

In Central Africa, regional operations against the Lord’s Resistance Army, combined with the activities of civilian agencies and non-governmental organizations, have reduced the threat to civilian populations.  AFRICOM’s defense institution-building activities have supported partner efforts across the region, and this includes our work with the new armed forces of Liberia, where my distinguished friend and colleague, Assistant Secretary Linda Thomas-Greenfield served as the U.S. Ambassador not too long ago.

In East Africa, we’ve seen major progress in maritime security.  Maritime crime continues to be a major challenge though in the Gulf of Guinea, where our programs are helping partners to strengthen maritime security and counter illicit trafficking.  We back American – African peace support operations primarily by helping the State Department train and equip forces from countries in east and northwest Africa that contribute to regional peacekeeping and security mission.

Our humanitarian and disaster response activities have also helped to strengthen relationships and promote inter-operability.  A recent U.S.-South African joint exercise on humanitarian response included both the South African military and the South African Ministry of Health.  This was a great example of both military-to-military and civil-to-military cooperation.  In West Africa and other parts of the continent, we are working closely with partners to help build their capacities to help counter illicit trafficking in all its forms.

AFRICOM will continue to look for opportunities to better coordinate our strategy with multinational and our interagency partners, and we will align our resources with our strategy and do our very best to ensure we are applying our efforts where they are most effective and most needed.  We are committed to being effective members of a team that includes the whole of the U.S. Government.  With shared interests and shared values, we will go forward together with our African partners.

Thank you and I look forward to your questions.

MS. JENSEN:  Great.  Well, they’re already pouring in.  So our first question comes from Golden Matonga from Daily Times, Malawi:  “We would like to find out if the recent events such as the Westgate attack in Kenya have necessitated the change in U.S. strategy across the continent?”  And I’ll send that over to you Assistant Secretary.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD:  Thank you very much for that question, and let me take the opportunity to express our condolences to all people, but particularly to the Kenyans who lost people in Westgate Mall.  We watched that situation on – as it unfolded and we were horrified at what happened.  But I think for us, in terms of our policy related to al-Shabaab, it highlighted to us that we were pursuing the right strategy.  And it just showed us that we need to bolster that strategy.  Al-Shabaab will look for efforts.  They start looking for soft targets because the harder targets – other targets are being made harder for them to go after.  And as we continue to work with our colleagues in AMISOM, in the Kenyan Government and other partners with AMISOM, Ethiopian Government as well, we know that we must continue those efforts to go after al-Shabaab so that we don’t see those kinds of attacks happen again.  Thank you again for that question.

GENERAL RODRIGUEZ:  And we support, as the Ambassador mentioned, we work very hard with all the troop contributing countries to help best prepare them to support their operational efforts in AMISOM, and we also help coordinate activities with AMISOM to make them – and improve and make them as effective as they can be.  We think that many of the successes that AMISOM has had over the last several years have actually led to this response by al-Shabaab.  And as the ambassador has said, this really validates our strategy, and we’re going to continue to work with our partners to strengthen their capabilities to stop al-Shabaab from having the incredibly negative impact on both the people of Somalia as well as the region.  Thank you.

MS. JENSEN:  Our next question comes from Jama Abshir from Radio Daljir, Somalia:  “Now that the world has recognized al-Shabaab as a clear and present danger to the region and to the world, what is the U.S. and the Horn of Africa in particular doing to train and equip the emerging security forces of the federal government and those of the member states, Puntland and Jubaland in particular?”  Sorry.  I’ll send that to you.

President Obama and General Rodriguez

President Obama and General Rodriguez

GENERAL RODRIGUEZ:  Okay.  Well, as was mentioned, the ACOTA training, which is a State Department-led initiative, which trains all the troop contributing nations to the AMISOM, is a long-term effort to prepare those troop-contributing nations to support AMISOM in their objective to defeat al-Shabaab.  And both State, which leads the program, and AFRICOM, which provides mentors and teams with State Department to better prepare those soldiers as they head into the fight in Somalia, is how we best can support our AMISOM partners.  We also work with all our AMISOM partners with intelligence sharing to help improve the effectiveness of their activities.  Thank you.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD:  And if I can just add to that, we’re also working very, very closely with the Government of Somalia, with the President, to help improve the capacity of the Somali national army as well, so that the government can provide the services that its people need so that they can feel secure in Somalia.  This is an ongoing effort.  It’s not something that we can achieve overnight, but we’re committed to continuing to help build Somalia so that the people of Somalia feel confidence in their government.

MS. JENSEN:  Our next question comes from Brooks Tigner from Jane’s Defense Weekly:  “One of the big security risks to the sub-Saharan region is Libya’s wide open southern border across which arms and other illicit traffic easily move.  (A) Given that the international community involved in reforming Libya’s security sector is largely boxed up in Tripoli due to security threats, does the United States Government have a plan for addressing the north-south movement of arms across Libya’s southern frontier?

And (B), the U.S. military has a base for drones in the region.  Is it considering armed ones to discourage arms movements?”

GENERAL RODRIGUEZ:  For the – as you mentioned very clearly the challenge in Libya and the movement of those arms across the northwestern part of Africa is a concern to all the regional partners in Africa.  And they are all working together to help improve their border security capacity, and we are supporting their efforts with training as well as advising to help them stem that flow of arms, ammunition, and explosives, as well as personnel that flow back and forth out of Libya.

As far as the international effort to help build the capacity of the Libyan armed forces and the security forces writ large to address this problem, that multinational community is coming together and will start.  We’re thankful that NATO has just agreed to start building the security sector reform, and then the UK, the Italians, and the French will all help provide some support.  Plus, there’s the UN mission there, and all of us are working together.  Also the European Union to help build the capacity of the Libyan national security forces to properly secure Libya.

MS. JENSEN:  Okay.  Our next question comes from George Sappor from GBC, Accra:  “How will you describe the current state of partnership between the USA and Africa with development in some parts of northern Africa?”  I’ll send that to you.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD:  Wow.  It – that’s a great question because northern Africa is not part of my portfolio.  But I think it’s a question that’s relevant for us in sub-Saharan Africa as well.  I think our partnership on development has been a strong one that has extended over many years.  It is not a new partnership.  We have worked across the continent in helping to build the capacity of African countries to develop its agriculture.  We have worked very closely in our PEPFAR program to provide support to African countries dealing with AIDS and other health issues.  We have worked to build the capacity of countries to work on democracy and governance issues so that elections are free and fair across the continent.  And I think that’s true whether it’s North Africa or it is sub-Saharan Africa.

I think it’s great that your question is coming from Ghana because Ghana is a great example of success – of the success of the people of Ghana, but also the success of our partnership with Ghana to help Ghana advance its own development.

MS. JENSEN:  All right.  Our next question comes from Siaka Momoh, Vanguard Newspaper:  “Boko Haram is Nigeria’s big security headache.  The problem has been established to be externally influenced.  How are you partnering with the Nigerian Government to help stop this problem?”

 ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD:  Thank you for that question.  We are very concerned about the impact of Boko Haram in Nigeria but also outside the border of Nigeria.  We have had a number of conversations and discussions with the Nigerian Government on how to address this issue in terms of addressing the broad development issues in north Nigeria, but also in how the government responds to the threat that Boko Haram is posing in that region.

We are – our suggestion to the government is that they need a broad perspective.  It’s not all about security.  They do have to take into account the impact of their operations on civilian populations, and hopefully as they go after Boko Haram, that they build a partnership with the civilian community.  We are prepared to work with the government on training so that they can deal with human rights concerns as they approach the government – as they approach this issue.  But also, we want to make sure that we help them with their capacity as well to deal with the security threat.

I think, General, you might have some more to say on that.

GENERAL RODRIGUEZ:  That’s a – as you mentioned, that’s a – exactly the route that we’re working with our Nigerian military compatriots and partners with, because it is a whole of government approach that has to be done, how they have to integrate that, and some of the challenging lessons that we’ve learned over the last several years on how we have to do that is critical.  So we are working the military-to-military relationships and advising them in the same manner as the Assistant Secretary mentioned – to do a whole of government approach that includes the people, the security forces and, of course, the government.  And I think that it’s going to be a challenge.  It’s a tough, tough issue up there in that northeast where Boko Haram is, and we’re all working together from many different directions to help move this forward and support the Nigerians in this struggle.

MS. JENSEN:  We’re going to go back to Westgate.  The next question comes from Kevin Kelly from Nation Media Group in Kenya:  “In light of the al-Shabaab – in light of al-Shabaab’s attack on the Westgate Mall, does the United States agree with Kenya’s argument to the UN Security Council that the ICC trials of Kenya’s leader should be deferred on the grounds that the proceedings will distract them from countering a threat to international peace and security?

And will the U.S. support the deferral request made by the African Union to the Security Council?”

ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD:  Thank you, again, for that question.  We are very, very aware of the Kenyans’ concern about having to deal with Westgate and the fact that they have, with the support of the AU, sent this to the Security Council.  And we are reviewing that as others are reviewing that request.  That said, we do want to continue to work with the Kenyan Government to address the situation in Westgate, and we want to continue to have discussions with the Kenyan Government about how they move forward.  We encourage the government to continue to cooperate with the ICC.  We think that is extraordinarily important for the victims of the violence that occurred in Kenya in 2007.  So we will continue to have discussions on this issue.

MS. JENSEN:  The next question is for you, sir.  It comes from SABC News in South Africa:  “Given the increasing security concerns in Africa, what steps is AFRICOM taking to increase cooperation with the AU?”

GENERAL RODRIGUEZ:  We have a great relationship with the African Union.  We have liaison officers there, and are part of the State-led team that has a mission that is partnering with the African Union, and we continue to work with the African Union, the regional economic councils, and all the partner nations who contribute to the peacekeeping operations to advise and assist them and help build their capacity and strengthen their defense capabilities.

MS. JENSEN:  Great.  Our next question is from This Day in Tanzania:  “There are assumptions that terrorism activities are supported financially by money obtained from poaching wildlife, specifically elephant tusks and rhino horns.  What is your comment on this?”

And I’ll send that to you.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD:  Thank you for that question.  We know that terrorist activities are being supported by all kinds of illegal activities.  And I would not be surprised if it’s being supported by illegal poaching of elephant tusk in East Africa.

We have a very, very strong policy to work with our partners in Africa to address wildlife poaching across the continent.  We want to work with the governments in that region to ensure that this wonderful resource that they have continues to be available for their children in the future, but also that it is not used to fund the activities of terrorists or other criminal elements that will bring problems to our partners in Africa.  So it’s something that we’re very concerned about, and again, I appreciate your asking that question.

MS. JENSEN:  Our next question comes from Ethio Channel Newspaper, and this is for you, General:  “In recent weeks, we have heard Navy SEALs are in Libya and Somalia.  Will this continue?”

GENERAL RODRIGUEZ:  The – as you mentioned, the Secretary of Defense has explained what those operations were about and why we will – if required, will continue those operations.  And it’s all about staying after the international terrorists that threaten both the people of the African region as well as others.  And the war against – or the getting after these terrorists is hugely important, because again, we’ve got to understand that terrorism is a common interest to finish that and protecting the people, because the ones who are hurt most from the terrorism are the African people themselves.  So we are supporting the Africans and all countries to ensure that this scourge does not have a negative impact on the world.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD:  And if I can add to that, terrorism anywhere affects people everywhere, and we’re all impacted by terrorist activities wherever they may occur.  If we just look at the situation in Westgate, there were so many people who were killed there.  They were not all Kenyans.  They were people from all over the continent.  On 9/11, there were people killed from many, many different countries.  So it impacts all of us, and our efforts to go after terrorists are – benefit everyone, not just the United States, but everyone who can say that they’ve been victimized by these activities.

MS. JENSEN:  Our next question comes from Raymond Baguma from Vision Group in Uganda:  “Since the deployment of military advisors in 2011, hasn’t the situation on the ground changed for the United States to consider sending in more advisors or reducing their numbers?  This is in light of the success against the LRA, which has accused – or which has caused defections as well as the capture of LRA commanders.  In your view, what more needs to be done?”

GENERAL RODRIGUEZ:  Well, I think that mission from the African Union Regional Task Force has been very effective in moving in the right direction, and all the trend lines are moving forward, as you say.

But it’s been more than just that African Union Regional Task Force.  It’s been a tremendous effort from many nations and many non-governmental organizations, and again, a whole-of-government approach that has had the positive benefits that you speak of.  So I think that the efforts will continue as they are, to continue to decrease that – keep that on the right trajectory as we move forward, to continue to lessen the negative impact that the LRA has on the civilians in the region.

MS. JENSEN:  Great.  “Niger is on the forefront of counterterrorism primarily because of its strategic location.  In February, Niger will host Flintlock 2014.  How we can we ensure that this exercise is a success and supports the role of Nigerians leading the effort?”

GENERAL RODRIGUEZ:  Well, as you said, the Nigerians are at a strategic location and are part of the partnership and the solution to the challenges of what is happening in Libya and the movement of the arms, ammunition, explosives, and personnel across Northwest Africa.  So we are working with our partner nation, and the best thing that we can do, I think, is – during the Flintlock exercise or anything else – is help them where they need it most.  So we are listening to the leaders to ensure that what we help provide them, and the exercise and the training we provide them, is what they most need to help support their security on that northern region.

MS. JENSEN:  Our next question comes from Joanna Biddle from AFP:  “How concerned is the U.S. about the declaration by the former Renamo rebels in Mozambique that they will no longer recognize the peace deal in place for 20 years or so?  And do you fear an eruption of violence in a country which has been reasonably peaceful?”

ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD:  We’re very concerned about that announcement.  I think I may have heard something this morning that they may have recanted that announcement, and I hope that that is true.  Mozambique is a country that has been moving forward in a very positive way, and we hope that that continues.  It benefits all people in Mozambique, not just the government.  Renamo has individuals who are in the government, they are members of the legislature, and we encourage that they continue to work toward peaceful solutions to their concerns with the government.  There is a way of doing that, and we are encouraging the government also to be prepared to work with Renamo.  This is a setback, but it – I believe it’s only a temporary setback, and hopefully we can move forward from here.

MS. JENSEN:  Our next question comes from Guy Martin from DefenceWeb in South Africa:  “To what extent is AFRICOM’s role in Africa changing in light of the increase in terrorisms in places like Nigeria, Somalia, Kenya, and the Sahel region?  Is counterterrorism taking precedence over training and peacekeeper development training?”

GENERAL RODRIGUEZ:  Well, I think when you look at the counterterrorism struggle that’s going on there, it’s not a soda straw look at anything.  So the solution to that is multifaceted, it’s about the whole-of-government approach.  So the capacity-building efforts are just as important as any efforts that are focused purely on counterterrorism.  So I think it’s much broader than that, and I think our focus continues to be on strengthening the African defense capabilities so the Africans can solve this problem themselves.  Thank you.

MS. JENSEN:  Our next question comes from Le Soleil newspaper in Senegal:  “Usually when it concerns the fight against terrorism, the United States is strongly involved, but not in the case in northern Mali.  How come?”

GENERAL RODRIGUEZ:  The United States has supported the efforts in Northern Mali in a very, very positive and effective way, I believe.  First, of course, was the support to AFISMA.  And again, the State Department-led ACOTA training prepared those forces to head in to support that mission in Mali.  And now there are nine nations that are – participate in that.  It was a great regional effort to solve that problem.  And then the United States provided support to the French with both aero-refueling, air mobility, as well as intelligence and surveillance and reconnaissance, and we continue now to work with the UN mission to support them in the same way to help prepare the troop-contributing nations to execute their mission in Mali.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD:  If I can add to that, we’ve also worked very, very closely with other African countries in the region and with the newly elected Government of Mali to address some of the underlying causes of the problems in northern Mali.  We have supported the government’s effort to work toward reconciliation discussions and dialogue.  And we think, again, as the general has said, Mali is a success story, and we were there, but not there alone.  Again, we give tremendous credit to the French, to the Chadians, to ECOWAS, to the neighbors who supported efforts to help Mali get through this difficult time.

MS. JENSEN:  Our next question comes from Lawrence Freeman:  “When I met with the AFRICOM leadership in 2010, I discussed the reality that without massive economic development in regional and transcontinental infrastructure to alleviate abject poverty, insurgency would increase.  Billions of dollars needs to be invested in energy, water, and transportation.  A mere 8,000 megawatts is totally inadequate, for Africa needs thousands of gigawatts of power.  Will the U.S. actually spend the money to develop the continent?”

ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD:  Why don’t I take that question?  (Laughter)  Power Africa addresses just that need.  The President’s initiative is to bring power for the first time to 20 million Africans who have never had power before.  We know that infrastructure development such as power is really the key to Africa’s development.  So that is a very prescient question at U.S. AFRICOM, and we are working to address that.

We can’t do it alone, however.  The U.S. Government doesn’t have that kind of funding resources.  We have to partner with African countries, those that happen to have resources.  We have to partner with the private sector.  And we’re doing just that with Power Africa.

MS. JENSEN:  Our next question comes from Siaka Momoh from Vanguard:  “The Gulf of Guinea has become a hotspot for pirates, and Nigeria is losing millions of naira to hoodlums.  What’s the latest – or what latest strategy do you have to help combat the menace?”

Ambassador Greenfield

Ambassador Greenfield

GENERAL RODRIGUEZ:  We have two major programs that work for that.  We have an African Partnership Station, which is where we work with the partner nations’ navies, and we also have a legal – a partnership legal review for all the maritime legal issues that are part of the solution in the Gulf of Guinea.  We’ve also helped build some capacity for some operation centers for several of the nations around the Gulf of Guinea to coordinate their efforts, and that is a regional problem and a regional challenge that everybody is going to have to work together to solve because of the challenges that occur in the Gulf of Guinea.

So that’s our efforts thus far, and both of those have made some progress, but there’s, as you mentioned, a lot of challenges out there and a long way to go.

MS. JENSEN:  Our next question comes from Mark Simuwe from the University of Zambia Radio:  “Is the United States ready to work with Zimbabwe to fight terrorism owing to sanctions on Zimbabwe?”

ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD:  If I understand your question, it’s are we prepared to work with Zimbabwe to fight terrorism.  And I can say we’re prepared to fight terrorism wherever it is and to work with any country that is prepared to partner with the United States to fight terrorism.

The terrorist fight really has not been related to our sanctions on Zimbabwe.  Those sanctions are a result of violations of human rights and violence and lack of democracy and free and fair elections that have taken place in that country.  We are hoping to continue to work with the people of Zimbabwe and the member-states of SADC to help the people of Zimbabwe move forward.  And if that requires us working on issues related to terrorism, I think that’s a discussion we can have.

MS. JENSEN:  Geoffrey York of the African bureau of the Toronto Globe and Mail wants to know:  “What is your view of the deteriorating humanitarian situation in the Central African Republic, and whether there should be international military intervention?  Should the military intervention be African-led?  And how much of a role should be played by French or other non-African troops?”

GENERAL RODRIGUEZ:  Well, the challenging situation there is very, very detrimental to the people in the entire region, and for the military efforts there, and what we think – we’re absolutely supporting the French efforts to do some in that area and also supporting some of the partner nations and surrounding nations who can help that.  But we believe, in almost every single case we can think of, that it has to be African-led, and that’s why we’re best looking at ways we can help partner with those African nations to help improve their capacities to handle that type of situation.  But it’s a tragic situation in that country, unfortunately.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD:  And let me just add we’re very, very concerned about the situation in CAR.  It’s not just the humanitarian situation; it is what has led to the humanitarian situation that we need to address.  We, of course, are contributing to helping to alleviate some of the suffering that is going on in CAR as a result of what is happening there.  We want to continue to partner with our African partners who are contributing to the effort, providing them with training, with equipment, and whatever they require to address those issues.

But we’re also working on the political front to try to find a political solution to that situation, to disarm the Seleka rebels and also discourage any opportunities that are being taken by negative forces who may try to move into CAR.  We know that an ungoverned space is welcoming to terrorists and it’s welcoming to the LRA, so we need to make sure that the government is prepared to address that with our assistance and the assistance of governments in the region.

MS. JENSEN:  Our next question is from John Vandiver of Stars and Stripes:  “Is there any evidence of AQIM, Al Shabaab, and Boko Haram collaborating?  And if so, what kind of relationship is it?  Each group has separate interests, so what if anything unifies them?”

GENERAL RODRIGUEZ:  I think the unifying thing that gets any of those people working together is the overall ideology and the impact that they want to have to destabilize the countries to provide them more opportunity to spread their challenging ways of life to the region and the people.  They – it’s just like everything else in this terrorist network out there.  They’re loosely affiliated.  They help here and there.  They coordinate movements of people and equipment and arms.  But all of it is – has a negative impact on what the African nations desire and what they deserve and what they’re working to end.

MS. JENSEN:  Our next question comes from Peter Fabricius – and this is for you, General – from Independent Newspaper, South Africa:  “There has been some speculation that AFRICOM might be reabsorbed into the European Command because of budget cuts.  Can you tell us how your future looks?”

GENERAL RODRIGUEZ:  That doesn’t – is not part of the plan right now, and we’ll continue to look at that in the future.  But right now, the United States believes that the focus of having a headquarters focused on Africa to improve the effectiveness of our military support to the State Department and the region is going to remain separate.  And we’ll just see how that goes in the future, but right now there are no plans to consolidate.

MS. JENSEN:  Our next question comes from the U.S. Embassy in Sierra Leone:  “Corruption and bad government have led to conflict in Africa.  How is the U.S. partnership with Africa to help address these issues?”

ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD:  I can start by saying I absolutely agree with you, and I think in most countries you will find that people understand that corruption does not contribute to prosperity.  We are working with all of the countries across Africa to deal with issues related to corruption.  Sierra Leone and other countries know that in order to qualify for MCC consideration that there is an index on corruption, and that is something that we watch very, very closely.  My colleagues and friends in Liberia, where I served for three and a half years, also know that this is an issue that was always on my agenda with the government and with the people of Liberia.

If corruption is not addressed, countries will not prosper.  So we want to continue to work with countries and with governments to address those issues to provide opportunities for people so that they don’t see corruption as the only opportunity that they might have for prosperity.  It’s a challenge, it’s a work in progress, but it’s something that we hope to continue to work.  It’s a message that we want to continue to deliver on the continent.

GENERAL RODRIGUEZ:  And we deliver that every day and we have a role to play in that as we develop the partner security capacities, because unfortunately, sometimes they are part of the challenging situation with corruption.  And we work very, very hard with all our partners to ensure that their defense institutions do not contribute negatively to the corruption challenge, and also play the proper role of a military in a democratic nation.

MS. JENSEN:  We have a question from Ghana:  “How has the 14-day government shutdown affected the U.S. international relations with sub-Saharan countries?  As we wait a total healing of this process, will the U.S. Government back out of on foreign interventions like security and aids to these countries?”

ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD:  Thank you for that question.  I can tell you how it impacted my bureau – significantly – during that 14 days.  We were not able to travel.  We were not able to do the kinds of engagements that we wanted to do on the continent.  So we were very pleased when it ended, and we hope to continue to move forward with our development assistance and our programs in Africa.  We certainly have to look carefully at what we’re doing to ensure that what we’re doing has positive impacts, that we can justify what we’re doing to American taxpayers and to our Congress.  But we are still committed to support Africa development, whether it’s health, whether it’s democracy and governance, and infrastructure.

MS. JENSEN:  Our next question comes from Ajong Mbapndah from Panafricanvisions.com, and this is for you, General: “There has been quite some skepticism among Africans on the mission of AFRICOM.  Can you restate or sum up what AFRICOM represents and reassure Africans that there is nothing to fear or be wary about American military presence in Africa?”

GENERAL RODRIGUEZ:  Yes.  What – again, African Command has always been focused on trying to figure out how to best support the African nations and the African partners, and strengthen their defense capabilities, so that the African solutions are the way of the future.  So I think that there has been a lot of speculation and a lot of news about this since its inception and everything, but I think the track record over the last five years has been that AFRICOM has helped to support the defense institutions in the improving of capacity in AFRICOM so that African solutions are the way of the future all around.

MS. JENSEN:  Ajong has – oh, do you want to add something?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD:  Yeah, let me add something.  As I told the general when we started, I was at AFRICOM at the beginning.  I was the principal deputy assistant secretary in the Africa Bureau when we rolled out AFRICOM.  And I think I can say American military – the American military was working with partners in Africa before AFRICOM.  We have always had an interest in Africa.  What is new with AFRICOM over the past five years is that we’re more engaged, it’s more direct, it’s more coordinated, it’s more strategic than it’s been in the past.  So I see that as a tremendous positive development for African countries.  And I think if you spoke to African military leaders who have worked with AFRICOM, they would also agree that this has been a positive advancement in our relationship.

MS. JENSEN:  Ajong has a follow-up for you:  “In the suspension of military aid to Rwanda, an acknowledgement of its role in the crisis in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and considering the suffering of the Congolese and the length of the crisis, when are we going to see a more robust engagement from the USA in the quest for lasting peace?”

ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD:  I think we’re seeing a robust engagement right now from the United States in dealing with the situation.  As you know, Secretary Kerry appointed former Senator Feingold as our Special Envoy for the Great Lakes.  He has been working very, very closely with the other special envoys – Mary Robinson, the UN Special Envoy – and he’s actually in the region right now working with the countries in the region to help to find the solution.  The Kampala talks over the weekend were extraordinarily intense.  We are still hopeful that those talks will lead to a solution with the M23 and that we will start seeing efforts to address the broader issues that are in Congo so that we can start moving that country forward and building on the resources that they have.

MS. JENSEN:  Our next question comes from Jessica Stone from CCTV:  “To what extent is China being a partner in efforts to secure parts of Kenya, Somalia, and Northern Africa in light of the al-Shabaab threat?  And can you please speak to the question of whether there are any plans to arm the drones in the region to discourage armed movements?”

GENERAL RODRIGUEZ:  I know that the Chinese, I believe, have started to have a couple of contributions to the UN peacekeeping operations in Africa, and I think that’s – so I’m not sure there’s been much in the Eastern part against al-Shabaab, but they’ve volunteered to support the UN efforts in Mali and other places.  And we are welcoming that effort, just like we do with everybody who’s helping to achieve a peaceful solution to the challenges there.

No, there are no plans right now on the drones.  And again, we support a range of security issues on the continent and everything, and we’ll – we work with our – the host nation partners to coordinate all our efforts to support their efforts to solve their problems.

MS. JENSEN:  All right.  We have time for two more questions.  The next one comes from U.S. Embassy Ghana:  “What has been the U.S. contribution to the local integration policy for countries in Africa that accommodate refugees?”

ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD:  That’s a great question for me.  As you know, I’ve spent most of my career working on refugee issues.  As a Foreign Service officer, that’s somewhat unusual.  So I’ve been across the continent and worked in Geneva on refugee issues.  And I am extraordinarily proud of the contributions that are made by the U.S. Government to refugees across the world, not just in Africa.  The refugee bureau, known as the Population, Refugee and Migration Bureau, hit the $1 billion mark for total contributions in the past year, and we are the largest contributor to all of the international organizations, whether it’s UNHCR, the International Organization for Migration, ICRC, the various federations of Red Cross Societies.  The U.S. Government is always there.  It is a mark of our commitment and a mark of the genuine care that the U.S. Government and people feel for people who are in need.

MS. JENSEN:  This is our last question and it comes from Marissa Scott.  She wants to know:  “AFRICOM has been present in West Africa since 2008.  However, there have been terrorist attacks in Mali and Niger.  How can you combat these negative forces and help find a definitive solution to terrorism in the region?”

GENERAL RODRIGUEZ:  Well, the solution to terrorism in the region is a long-term, broad, whole-of-government approach by all our partners as well as all the international community, because it’s not solved just by military operations.  As the Assistant Secretary talked about, it’s about the economic development, it’s about the improvement in governance, it’s about the rule of law and law enforcement.  So I think that we work with our teammates at the country teams and the embassy and across the whole interagency to help build those capacities in the African nations.  Thank you.

MS. JENSEN:  Well, great.  Thank you both for coming today.  That’s all the time we have for today.  I’d like to thank you for all of your really great questions, and I especially want to thank you, General Rodriguez and Assistant Secretary Thomas-Greenfield, for joining us.

 

Twitter @StateAfrica or you can follow the State Department @StateDept.

 

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U.S African Policy is rooted in its people says Senior State Department Official
October 4, 2013 | 0 Comments
Assistant Secretary Thomas-Greenfield

Assistant Secretary Thomas-Greenfield

-Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of African Affairs, Assistant Secretary Linda Thomas-Greenfield sheds light on U.S Foreign policy in African. PAV shares a complete transcript of the event from LiveAtState,the State , the State Department’s online interactive video program for engaging with international media.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Well, thank you very much. I am really excited to be here. I have been in the position of Assistant Secretary for African Affairs all of two months. I’m delighted to be working on Africa issues again, having served for four years as the U.S. Ambassador to Liberia and previously as a Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Africa Bureau. It’s really, really exciting to meet the press in Africa, and I think it says a great deal about our policy on free press and encouraging press freedoms, so I look forward to getting to know all of you, talking about issues in Africa, and at some point, visiting the countries you’re calling in from and meeting you face to face. So again, thank you very much.

MODERATOR: Thank you so much. As we get started, we’ll start pretty broadly. How would you define U.S. interests in Africa, and how are they changing?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: That’s a great question. Let me just start by saying that our interests in Africa are in the people of Africa. Every policy initiative that we have taken over the past few years focused on Africa’s people. And as we look at the four pillars of our U.S. foreign policy, it’s strengthening democratic institutions that, again, focus on people. We want to promote regional peace and security. We want to engage young African leaders like all of you who are sitting in the room. And we want to promote development, trade, and investment.

So those are the core policy pillars, but for those of you who followed the President’s visit to Africa a few months ago, he announced three major initiatives. And again, these are initiatives that focus on people. He announced Power Africa, which will look at the possibility of working with some of our African colleagues to bring electricity to 80 percent of the population who have never had electricity. He announced Trade Africa, which is an initiative that will look at trade in East Africa to start, how African countries can better trade among themselves, but also to encourage the trade with the United States. And then third, and one of the most important initiatives, is YALI, the Young Africa Leaders Initiative, which will have us work with young leaders all over the continent.

As you know, more than 60 percent of Africans, almost in every country – and this figure might be quibbled with a little bit – but about 60 percent are ages 35 and below, and we really want to focus on helping to build the leadership skills of those young people so that they can move into positions of authority in the future.
So I look forward to hearing your questions and having this discussion. Thank you very much.

MODERATOR: Getting us started, we have Bridget Mananavire from the Daily News, Zimbabwe. She starts off with a very current affairs issue. She asks: How will the U.S. Government shutdown affect its policies in Africa, including investment and funding?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: That’s an excellent question, and it’s a question that we’re getting a lot across the world. The State Department and USAID are major, major funders on the continent of Africa, are national security agencies. And because of that, we are able to continue operations, albeit sometimes at lower levels as we move forward. But most of our funding right now is 2013 funding, and that funding will continue. We’re hoping that this is short-lived and we will be able to move forward, but I think most of you will not see any difference in what we’re doing in Africa on the development front or on the investment front.

With Liberian President Ellen Johnson

With Liberian President Ellen Johnson

MODERATOR: Ajong Mbapndah from the Pan African Visions, he asks – or he explains: Terrorist acts seem to be on the rise in Africa with recent attacks in Kenya and the continuing chaos in Nigeria as a result of Boko Haram. In what concrete ways is the U.S. assisting African countries to cope with the threats of terrorism? With all its atrocities, it appears that the U.S. does not consider Boko Haram in Nigeria a terrorist group. It has bombed a United Nations building, killed people in churches and mosques, and most recently, students. What definition of a terrorist group is missing from the activities of Boko Haram, or why is the U.S. reluctant to label it as one?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Let me start with that question. We do consider Boko Haram a terrorist group. We have sanctioned all the top three leaders of Boko Haram. And we are working very, very closely with the Nigerian Government as they address this security threat. We believe that terrorism anywhere affects people everywhere, and we want to be involved in assisting our colleagues, whether it’s in Kenya or Somalia or Nigeria, in addressing this threat.

I want to offer my condolences to the people of Kenya following the Westgate terrorist attack, and I want to announce again that in Nigeria, we are horrified by the attack on young people at this college, and we do see that as a terrorist act. And I offer my condolences to the people of Nigeria as well.

MODERATOR: Speaking of Westgate, Kevin Kelley, the USUN correspondent for the National Media Group in Kenya, asks: How does the Westgate mall attack affect U.S. relations with President Kenyatta, and will there be a modification of your predecessor’s warning of consequences should Kenyatta be elected? And how have those consequences been manifested to date?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Well, we – the Westgate event was an event, again, that affected many, many people, not just the Kenyan people. There were nationals from many other countries who were affected by that. As you know, President Obama called President Kenyatta to express our condolences and offer our assistance to the Kenyan people. So we will continue to support the Kenyan people as they deal with terrorism, as they have dealt with the fire at the airport, and as they move forward to provide security for all of their people. The position of the U.S. Government, as I started out at the beginning, we work with the people of Africa. And the people of Kenya are important to all of our policies.

MODERATOR: Scott Stearns from VOA asks – he has two questions on Mali, and he asks: What is your assessment of the new government’s control over the military? In his speech at the UN last week, President Keita said that there has to be a regional approach to fighting terrorism in the Sahel because it’s bigger than the resources of any one country. And how is that going?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Thank you for that question. One of my first trips as Assistant Secretary was to attend the inauguration of President Keita in Mali, and it was really an amazing event. There were 20 heads of state from around Africa, as well as the President of France and the King of Morocco. All of that says how much we, as an international community, support Mali.
The election, I think, happening 18 months after the coup d’etat sent a strong message to those who would use coups to overturn governments that that is unacceptable. We are looking forward to working with the Government of Mali as the government moves to address many of the issues that resulted from the coup d’etat. And we are very, very – we have made very, very strong statements that the military must be subordinate to civilian leaders. And we will work with the Mali Government to ensure that that’s the case in Mali as well as in other locations where the military might be looking to do the kinds of things that were done in Mali.

MODERATOR: Moving along to Miriam Kaliza of Matindi FM in Malawi, and she asks: In terms of conflicts in Africa, how much is the U.S. doing to ensure that people resolve whatever is wrong – for example, the lake wrangle between Malawi and Tanzania, the conflicts in Madagascar, and others?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: That’s a good question. We are actively involved in Africa. And of course, conflicts in Africa are not beneficial to the people of Africa. One – again, my very first trip as Assistant Secretary was to the Great Lake regions to meet with the Government of Rwanda and the Government of the Democratic Republic of Congo as tensions were rising in that region. We’ve been proactively involved in the situation in CAR to ensure that that conflict does not spread, but also to help that country address the issues that have resulted in the conflict. We’re working very, very closely with the Government of Somalia to ensure that conflict there does not occur again.
So again, I think all of this is to say that we are concerned about conflict. We want to ensure that African countries benefit from prosperity, that they take advantage of the opportunities that are there so that Africa can move smartly into the next century.

MODERATOR: Our next question comes from Rebecca Chimjeka from Joy FM in Malawi. It says: Malawi has not taken a clear position on gay rights and same-sex marriages, which countries like yours have been campaigning a lot for. What is your stance on this and the dilemma that Malawi has found herself in coming from a conservative society background?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: That’s a great question. The United States believe that all people are created equal. I’m an African American. I have gone through the experience of being in a country where there were questions about that. So for us, it is unequivocal that regardless of people’s sexual orientation, regardless of their gender, we want all people to be treated with all the rights and protections of human rights that we expect in all countries. So we are prepared, as the United States with very strong values in this area, to work with countries in Africa to help them develop the legislation that will provide human rights to all of its people.
And in the case of Malawi, we’re prepared to work with that government. We’re prepared to work with other governments that have issues in this area. But I think I can say without any doubt that human rights are a core value of the United States, and that plays into all of our relations with every government we’re involved in.

MODERATOR: Jenny Clover from Reuters Rwanda asks: Are you convinced that Rwanda is no longer supporting the M23 rebels?

President Obama with African at the White HouseASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: We have had meetings in the region with the Government of Rwanda, with the Government of DRC. As you know, Secretary Kerry appointed Senator Feingold to work on conflict in that area. We have made it clear in our discussions that any support of any rebel group, whether it’s M23 or FDLR, any support of those rebel groups is seen as contributing to conflict in the region. So we have expressed our views to the Government of Rwanda, to the Government of DRC, and we’re working closely with partners in the region to ensure that groups like M23 are demobilized, disarmed, and held accountable for all actions that they have taken against the civilian population in DRC.

MODERATOR: As a quick follow-up to that same question, can you confirm reports that the U.S. has stopped military support to Rwanda and some other countries because of their use of child soldiers?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: We – under the Child Soldiers Prevention Act, we have just announced those countries that are being sanctioned under that act, and Rwanda is one of those countries. Our goal is to work with countries that have been listed to ensure that any involvement in child soldiers, any involvement in the recruitment of child soldiers, must stop. In this case, it was related to M23, and we will continue to have discussions with the Rwandan Government on that issue.

MODERATOR: Going back to the Daily News Zimbabwe, Bridget Mananavire asks: What have seen – or we have seen nations that had previously imposed targeted restrictions on officials and companies in Zimbabwe ease them. Recently, the EU lifted sanctions on the government diamond body Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation. What is the U.S. stance on diamond companies, and will it maintain them, and for how long?

Assistant Secretary Thomas-Greenfield 2ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: I’m not sure I know the answer to that question, but I can say to you that, in the case of Zimbabwe, our sanctions continue. We will be reviewing those sanctions on a regular basis, and if there are additional individuals who should be sanctioned, we are prepared to add them to our sanction list. And if there are people who we think can be removed from the sanction list, we will remove them from the list.
I will add that we were disappointed with the election. While it was violent-free, we’re not convinced it provided an opportunity for all Zimbabweans to express their views in the election. And again, we will be reviewing our sanctions in light of that.

MODERATOR: Isaac Ongiri from the national media in Nairobi, Kenya, asks: Kenya is in the process of pulling out of the ICC after parliament passed a motion urging the government to withdraw from the court where the president and his deputy are facing charges. What is the position of the U.S. Government regarding this?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: The decision by the Government of Kenya to pull out of the courts – and we don’t know that they have, in fact, made that decision – doesn’t have an impact on the current cases against the president or the deputy president. As you know, we are not a signator to the Rome Convention, but we work very, very closely with the member states to ensure that the ICC is able to carry out its responsibilities and its duties. We will look forward to continuing to work on those issues and hear what African governments have to say about this. But our efforts are to ensure that the court is able to continue to function in a way that allows it to deal with some of the issues that are before the court.

MODERATOR: We now have a question from our watch party in – at the U.S. Embassy in Ghana. Edmund Smith from Asante Daily Graphic in Ghana asks: What areas of partnership does the U.S. have with Ghana?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: That’s a great question. I just – I was in New York last week, and I met with your president. We have a very, very strong partnership with the Government of Ghana. We are very, very pleased with the results of the Supreme Court decision where Ghana had a free, fair election and it was confirmed by your senate, and it was accepted by the opposition. I think that says a lot about how far Ghana has come as a democracy and how strong Ghana’s democracy is. So again, we look forward to working with Ghana. We have lots of investments in Ghana. Ghana is a recipient of a Millennium Challenge Corporation Compact. We again encourage the people of Ghana to continue to move forward as a strong democracy and as a model in the – on the continent, and particularly in the region of West Africa.

MODERATOR: We’re going to go to another watch party which is in Abuja. They ask: Corruption is the bane of Nigeria’s economic growth. How can the U.S. assist?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: That’s a great question, and corruption, as I’ve been quoted saying many times, is a cancer. Corruption thwarts a country’s ability to prosper, and we are working with the Nigerian Government, with its justice sector, and other elements to ensure that Nigeria builds the infrastructure and the capacity to deal with issues of corruption. I think it goes without saying that Nigeria’s prosperity has been affected by corruption. It’s a reputation that Nigeria will have a hard time living down, and we hope that we’re able over the next few years to work with the government to ensure that those individuals who are involved in corruption are held accountable in the legal system of Nigeria.

MODERATOR: Our next question comes from Manjakahery Tsiresena of the AFP Madagascar: How the U.S. did see the election of October 25th in Madagascar?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: We are hopeful that this election is one that will allow the Madagascar people to move forward, that the election will allow – the next election will allow all candidates who are eligible to run for president, and that there’s a free, fair, transparent election that, again, will get Madagascar off of the list of countries that have been sanctioned by us and others because of the problems that they have had and Madagascar can start moving forward economically, as well as, as a democratic and a politically stable country.

MODERATOR: Soafaniry Rakotondrainy asks: How would you involve young sub-Saharan young people in the resolution of conflicts in sub-Saharan countries, as they are numerous here?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: As I mentioned at the start, the population of youth in Africa is significantly high. I won’t quote the statistic because it changes depending on who’s quoting it, but African youth have been the victims of conflict all over Africa – they have been victims of recruiting, they have been victims of violence – and we want to see young Africans also be beneficiaries of prosperity in Africa. So the Young Africa Leadership Initiative that the President announced in June when he was in Africa is our effort to start addressing the youth bulge and helping develop the capacity of youth to take on leadership roles in the future, whether it’s in politics, the private sector, academics. We are hoping over the next few months to start the recruitment process for a leadership forum for young African leaders that will take place next summer in the United States. They will spend
about three months here where they will get – have courses on leadership. And then we hope they go back and they use what they have learned to help build the – build on the prosperity that is possible in the countries that they’re from. And then on top of that, we hope that they develop relationships across borders so that when there’s conflict, they’re able to talk to each other because they know each other.

MODERATOR: We’ll move along to another watch party in the Republic of Congo. They ask – they state: In 2008, when President Obama visited Africa, he spoke on the importance of strong institutions, not strong men. What is the U.S. doing to help African countries build strong institutions?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: That’s a great question, and I’ll use the example of Liberia, where – I know better than any country; I served there for almost four years – and we work very, very closely with that government to help rebuild their institutions after more than 15 years in conflict. And this is a policy that we have across Africa. So we are working in ministries of health, we’re working in ministries of education, we’re working with the justice sector, with the minister of justice to build the institution of justice, we’re working with court systems. So this is an important contribution that we are making to help countries move forward in the future.

Power Africa is an amazing example where we will be working with institutions in that country to build not only the regulations that allow for power to be developed in Africa, but also working with the private sector to help build up initiatives that will allow us to bring electricity across the continent.

MODERATOR: The next question comes from – BelAfrika Media Belgium asks: What do you think about the rape of women in Congo and in general, and what are your plans?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: What do I think about the – I think it’s horrible. I think women, whether it’s in Congo or any place in the world, women are greater victims of violence and conflict than any other population. And we have worked very, very closely with the UN, with NGOs, using funding from USAID, from our office of Population, Refugees, and Migration, to deal with women who are victims of violence. It is something that we all have to address, and we also have to work to hold those accountable who are involved in raping women in conflict. And in several cases in DRC, some have been held accountable, but I think more needs to be done. We all have to add our voices of horror to the attacks that have taken place on women across the world, not just in Africa.

MODERATOR: Going back to the watch party in our U.S. Embassy in Ghana, we have a question: The U.S. President pledged seven billion to help combat frequent power blackouts in sub-Saharan Africa. Has Power Africa already begun, and how was the selection done?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Power Africa has begun in the sense that the initiative is moving forward. We are working with private companies as well. Six countries were selected; I think they are just a start for what we would want to do. USAID is leading the initiative on Power Africa. We’re working, again, with our energy office in the State Department as well, and our economic office, and we’re hoping that we can work with institutions on the continent of Africa to develop this initiative. I think this is going to be an initiative that will have a widespread impact, because with power, companies are able to invest. With power, children are able to go to school. With power, health and hospitals are able to function. So this is major for Africa. And while we will – it will take some years for the results to be felt, it’s going to take a lot of work and we are – we’ve started.

MODERATOR: Elias Gebreselassie from the News Business Ethiopia, who’s coming to us from the watch party in Addis Ababa, asks: What do you have to say about – say to the charge that the U.S.’s new focus on the African continent is countering the influence of emerging economies like China?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: That’s a great question. I get asked that question everywhere in Africa. And my answer to that question is: we’re not competing with China in Africa. The U.S. has core values that promote the development of Africa, and we have been in Africa since the beginning. And so, our efforts are not in competition with China. Our efforts are in support of the desires of African people. And the needs in Africa are great, so I think African countries can work with the Chinese to work to get what is in their best interest. But they should not see it in their interest a competition between the United States and Africa, because that doesn’t exist.

MODERATOR: Haguma Christine asks a pretty broad question. She says: Do you have some programs in trade and investments in Africa, and how exactly do they work?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Well, let me just talk about AGOA, the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act initiative. Ethiopia hosted a very, very successful AGOA forum a few months ago, and more than a hundred representatives from the U.S. Government participated in that. AGOA provides an opportunity for African countries to bring tariff-free trade into the United States, and I think the figure is around $34 million – $34 billion in trade in the past year. And we’re hoping to continue with efforts like AGOA. We have a very strong investment initiative that is being supported by our U.S. Trade Representative’s office, and we work very, very closely with businesses that are interested in investing in Africa. So we have a lot going on on the investment side, and I think those of you who are on the continent right now probably see evidence of that.

MODERATOR: Going back to the watch party in Ghana, Issac Aidoo asks: With Ghana’s present economic challenges, donor countries have expressed concerns about government’s reckless spending. What is the U.S.’s concern going forward, and are you willing to still offer support?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: We are very supportive of the people of Ghana and the Government of Ghana, as the government moves forward. We are working to help countries have more transparent budgets. We’re working with countries to help them deal with issues of spending. I don’t have the exact information that you’re referring to on Ghana right now, but I can tell you that we will continue to work with Ghana to address their requirements, and we will continue to support the government’s movement to help the investment climate, so that there are more businesses coming to Ghana, creating more jobs, and hopefully, creating more opportunities.

MODERATOR: From our watch party in Zambia, Stuart Lisulo from The Post asks: Does the United Nations take seriously President Sata and other African leaders’ call for more representation in the UN Security Council?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: That’s an interesting question, because, yes, I think the United States – the United Nations does take that seriously, and I know that there are efforts of reform that are – and discussions about reform that are taking place. African countries are members of the General Assembly, and they need to make their views known as we move forward and have those discussions.

MODERATOR: Going back to the watch party in Addis Ababa, Birhanu Fekade, the reporter from the newspaper in Addis Ababa, asks: The recent attack in Kenya by the al-Shabaab and the attack in Nigeria by Boko Haram are taking place in Africa while the U.S. and allies are watching it happen. Could something have been done to stop these events prior to their happening?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: My answer to that question is simple: If something could have been done to stop those events, it would have been done. We, in the United States, have been victims of terrorist acts in the United States. We’re working very, very closely with the security services both in Nigeria and Kenya and across Africa. In Mali, for example, to address terrorism, to work to thwart terrorist efforts to attack countries, and I think, many terrorist acts that might have happened have been stopped. So if we can stop terrorism, we will do it, and we’re putting a lot of energy, a lot of effort, and a lot of resources on the continent of Africa and elsewhere to stop these horrible acts that lead to the deaths of many civilians – innocent civilians, such as those who died in Westgate Mall.

MODERATOR: Staying at U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa, Elias M Eseret from the Associated Press and Afro-FM radio asks: The new U.S. Ambassador to Ethiopia, Patricia Haslach, has set out that one of her priority will be promoting the rights of the LGBT community, which is mostly not approved of by both the government and the society. Does her stance show a change in policy by the government towards the African continent in general and in Ethiopia in particular on that issue?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: This is a U.S. Government policy. It is a U.S. Government’s value that we believe in human rights for all people despite any laws that might exist that would deny people their human rights. We strongly believe in the rights of people to choose their partners, to choose the person – as President Obama has said, to choose the person they want to love, and not have laws that deny them those rights.
So our Ambassador in Ethiopia is following the policies of the U.S. Government. It’s a broad policy; it’s not a change. It is a policy that reflects our values in – across the United States.

MODERATOR: Going back to the U.S. Embassy in Lusaka. Stuart Lisulo, The Post: When will Zambia receive the next U.S. ambassador to replace former Ambassador Storella?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: That’s a great question. We do a have an ambassador in line to come to Zambia, and I hope that he or she will be there soon.

MODERATOR: Okay. Jason Straziuso says: This is Jason Straziuso from AP in Nairobi. FBI agents have been on the scene at Westgate Mall for several days now. What can you tell us about what they have discovered, particularly as it relates to any evidence the hostages were held by the attackers and many have died inside? Also, is there any progress being made on how many, where from, and who these attackers were?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: I can’t answer those specific questions. We do have FBI agents there assisting the Kenyan security authorities in investigating what took place in Westgate mall. They’re providing forensic support. They’re providing other investigative support, and the results of their efforts are being shared with the Government of Kenya. I don’t have access to that information nor do I think it would be appropriate to share it with you here. But I just want to confirm that we’re there to help the Government of Kenya, to help the people of Kenya determine what exactly happened there so that we can find those who were involved and also prevent this from happening in the future.

MODERATOR: Georg Otumu, the NigeriaStandardNewspaper.com, asks: Does the U.S. Government think African Union and ECOWAS leadership – leaders are doing enough to abate the spread of terrorism through various leadership virtues or defects of African leaders in the African continent?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: We have a very strong partnership with the AU and with ECOWAS to deal with terrorism and other security incidents throughout the continent. The AU has been a strong partner in Somalia, in Mali, in other countries in Africa. ECOWAS has been amazingly supportive in Mali. ECOWAS was very much involved in the situation in Liberia. So we think that both of those organizations have been strong partners and have had a tremendous impact on providing a – security for Africa.
There’s a lot more work to be done, but we continue to support their efforts through training and providing equipment and support so that African troops can be deployed throughout the continent.

MODERATOR: Elita Nkalo, Capital Radio Malawi, asks: America has increased its military visibility in Africa, and this is leading to speculation that it intends to establish its U.S.-Africa Command Military Base whose current headquarters are in Stuttgart, Germany. How true is this?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: We have always had a military presence in our embassies and we’ve worked closely with African militaries across the continent. AFRICOM is in Stuttgart, and as far as I know AFRICOM will remain Stuttgart. There are no plans at this time that I’m aware of that would move AFRICOM to the continent of Africa.
That said, we will continue to develop our military-to-military relationships with African countries and continue to help build the capacity of African militaries to address security issues across the continent. We will continue to work on training African troops so that they can participate in peacekeeping operations, and all of this is being done by our military with AFRICOM’s involvement. But as far as I know, they will continue to operate out of Stuttgart, Germany.

MODERATOR: Our next question comes from the watch party at the U.S. Embassy in Brazzaville: Regarding the Central African Republic, it seems as though the United States is absent. What is the United States doing to support a peaceful future in the CAR?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: We’re not absent. We have been very, very actively involved with the neighbors and with our partners to address the very worrisome situation in CAR. We are very concerned that the conflict there has turned this country into a place where terrorists might look to operate, and we want to work closely with the civilian government in CAR to ensure that the Seleka rebels are disarmed and that they are no longer terrorizing the population.
We have a special advisor who has been in the region, has been involved actively in the discussions, and we’re working very, very closely with the AU to support efforts to build up an African force there.
We participated in meetings in New York. I met with your Prime Minister in New York as we looked at ways that we can continue to be actively involved. But we are actively involved, and I want to make sure that that’s understood.

MODERATOR: From the U.S. embassy watch party in Ghana – from Sandra Manu, a student at the Ghana Institute of Journalism asks: How is the U.S. combatting racism against African living – Africans living in the U.S., in other Western countries, in relation to access to equal opportunities? Are there any policies?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: That’s a good question. I think we have strong laws in the United States that provides equal rights to all citizens, whether it’s based – discrimination based on race, sexual orientation, region – I think it goes without saying that those laws are on the books. We are – and we address any complaints in our court system. So I don’t think that there is an issue that the U.S. Government is not supportive of populations that are different.
We are a country that is extraordinarily diverse, and we see diversity as strength. And we have seen many individuals who have come from Africa who are now American citizens who are contributing to the growth of our country but also contributing back to their countries of origin. And this is something that we support as a government, and it is something that we’re proud of as a government. So if individuals are experiencing discrimination, there’s a way to address that in our legal system.

MODERATOR: Okay. We’ve got time for about two more questions. We’re going to take the next one from the U.S. Embassy in Brazzaville, from Eric Goguillot, the TerrAfrica Newspaper: Will the Republic of Congo expect you to visit and meet President Denis Sassou Nguesso?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: I am sure that the Republic of Congo will expect me to visit, and I think all countries in Africa will expect me to visit, and I will do my best to do that. It might take some time: remember how many countries there are in Africa. But as the Assistant Secretary, I represent the President and the Secretary to every country in Africa. We have ambassadors that are there to represent our interests, and as the Assistant Secretary, I would like to, at least once, visit every single country in Africa. So if the Republic of Congo is expecting me to visit, I encourage them in their expectations. I can’t say when it’s going to happen, but I can say that I plan to make that trip.

MODERATOR: And our final question will come from the U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa from the watch party. Birhanu Fikade – for The Reporter newspaper asks: Will AGOA extend for 15 years ahead?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: That’s a good question. I can’t say that AGOA will extend for 15 years, but I think I can say categorically that we are working on the extension of AGOA, and I’m confident that we will get an extension. How long that extension will be will be determined by our Congress. And again, we just know it will be extended. So I think you can feel confidence about that, and we’ll see how it goes over the next few months.

MODERATOR: Well, that looks like that’s all the time that we have for questions. First of all, we’d like to thank you, Assistant Secretary Thomas-Greenfield, for joining us today and taking the time to ask – to answer all these questions.
For our participants, we’d like to let you know that we’re going to send audio and video files to you as soon – and also a transcript – as soon as we can after this program is over so you can go ahead and file your stories.
And again, we’d like to remind you that you can follow us on Twitter @StateDept, you can follow the U.S. Department of State. But you can also follow the Bureau of African Affairs @AfricaState.
Thank you so much for your time, and we hope that you’ll join us again at our next program soon – for another program of LiveAtState. Watch video here

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Cameroon Citizenship Council Urges President Biya to convene Sovereign National Conference
September 13, 2013 | 1 Comments

-Count on us for a new Cameroon in 2018

-Focus more on policies and programmes and not personalities

 -It is time to bring back the remains of President Ahidjo……….

 -Hafis Ruelfi on the way forward for Cameroon

 By Ajong Mbapndah L

 

Hafis Ruelfi,count on the CCC  for the 2018 elections

Hafis Ruelfi,count on the CCC for the 2018 elections

If there is one thing that sums up what Hafis Ruelfi of the Cameroon Citizenship Council will love to see President Biya do before leaving office, it is to convene a sovereign national conference. The conference Hafis says will put Cameroon on the rails towards confronting 21st century challenges. Issues like a new electoral code, a new constitution, the Southern Cameroons problems, reconciliation and more could be debated at such a conference. Although his party is in the process of legalization and will not participate at the upcoming legislative and municipal elections, Hafis Ruelfi says the CCC is aggressively putting in place structures across the country so as to make a strong showing in the 2018 elections. As Aminatou Ahidjo makes news by joining the ruling CPDM, Hafis says like any other Cameroonian, the daughter of late President Ahidjo has the right to militate in a party of her choice. President Ahidjo however deserves a state burial with full honors and his remains need to be brought back to Cameroon Hafis said.

Mr Hafis, it is election time again in Cameroon, how significant or important are the upcoming elections and what role is your movement the Cameroon Citizenship Council playing now in shaping political developments?

Hafis Ruelfi: I remain convinced about the greatness of Cameroon, its potentials, and also convinced that it is only through the political process that you can make the greatest impact in terms of changing the society. It is the political processes under a democracy; there is no other way. I remain convinced that we need to engage, those who believe they have something to offer to a country like Cameroon at its level of development; everybody who has something to offer must get involved from the aspirants to the electorates. As this elections will be a foundation and a hallmark to kick start the political transition and transformation to a true democratic country with the observation of the rule of law come 2018. In other to boost its presence all across the national territory, CCC has put up a formidable structure to mobilize support and convince the electorate on why they believe there must be a change in the leadership of Cameroon come 2018. The electorate has a very big role to play because people must have a change. That is why we said that this change we are talking about in the CCC is not just a change of government, but the change of attitude and people must vote according to their beliefs and consciousness of accepting who will do the right thing. Conscious of the challenges ahead, the CCC has constituted a powerful interim national executive, which compromise representatives from all the ten regions of the country. This interim national executive is presently on the field implanting the party in their respective regions.

A few months ago, Cameroon had Senatorial elections, what reading did you make of those elections and the composition of its leadership considering that in case there is a power vacuum, it is the President of the Senate who runs the country?

Hafis Ruelfi: The creation of the house of senate was a welcome development for our constitutional democracy first on the ground that it lays to rest and answered the questions which Cameroonians have been asking as to the successor of president Paul Biya where there is an unforeseen vacancy at the head of the presidency which our constitution does provides that it’s the president of the senate who will assume the powers of the head of state for three months while he calls a presidential election which the emphasized that he (the interim president) cannot contest in the election.

 A very interesting recent development is the return of the daughter of former President Ahidjo, Aminatou to Cameroon and her strong embrace of the ruling CPDM, what is your take on this? What impact do you think such a move on the part of President Ahidjo’s daughter can have on the politics of the country especially in the Grand North?

Hafis Ruelfi: Well it is true that the return of Aminatou to Cameroon and her embracing the CPDM is seen as a major event in the national political scene, to me these are reasons best known to her. As a Cameroonian who has attained the voting age has the free will to join and militate in any political party of his or her choice. And I think this is not different from Aminatou’s present position.

Secondly being the daughter of the late President Ahidjo to me still doesn’t change the fact, instead of building personality cults as the case with the CPDM most other opposition parties, viable programs should be presented to Cameroonians, viable visions on how candidates and parties will help solve the problems affecting ordinary Cameroonians should be what matters at this point and not just personalities.

 Many people think that it is finally time for the remains of late President Ahidjo should be finally brought home with the honors and respects it deserves; do you share the same view?

 

Posters of Hafis Ruelfi in Cameroon

Posters of Hafis Ruelfi in Cameroon

Hafis Ruelfi: The return of the remains of our late president his Excellency President Ahmadou Ahidjo are long overdue. He was a great president for our dear country who did everything possible to move this country forward by uniting the two Cameroons as a united indivisible nation and he deserves all the state honors as is done in other countries. Cameroon should not be an exception not with a leader like late President Ahidjo who did so much for the country.

The last time we had a chat with you, you said you were working towards implanting the Cameroonian Citizenship Council across the country, how far have you gone with that and may we know some accomplishments of the Council so far?

Hafis Ruelfi:  As I said earlier the interim national executive of our party are currently on the field setting up our party structures in every municipal and city council across the country.

On your own personal ambitions, you were not there for the Senatorial elections, you are not there for the legislatives and municipal elections, when do Cameroonians see Hafis Ruefli in the field?

Hafis Ruelfi: It is my conviction that led me to engage in wide consultations at the beginning of this year to ask our people; to ask wide-ranging questions. Basically, it centered around them. Does it make sense for us to get into the train again to say we are running for public office? Which office? Which level of engagement should we get into? Should we just kiss it goodbye and or should we remain engaged? In what form should we remain engaged? If we have to remain engaged in a political party system, which party? These are questions that formed the wide consultations that I said must have started January intensively. Of course, informally these discussions have been going on for some time. There is also greater demand that I should run for the office of President to help make Cameroon the true fatherland we all desire, building on the foundation that President Paul Biya has laid and his predecessor, to be able to take Cameroon to the next level. This will be a moment of peaceful democratic transition and transformation. That we need democratic transition and transformation, we need to consolidate on the gains of the past 31 years and those of his predecessors His Excellency Late President Ahmadou Ahidjo because he also built on something. That we need to continue to set the pace in leaps and bounds, so we need total transformation of our democracy and our political processes and the economy to consolidate and that can only be achieved by CCC beginning from 2018 when we will take over the presidency of our fatherland Cameroon.

The fight against corruption has led to the imprisonment of several barons of the regime from the Grand North, Marafa Hamidou Yaya, Iya Mohammed, etc., do you consider this a sign of divorce in the North-South alliance?

Hafis Ruelfi: The public institutional system of any nation is its future and hope, while the effective functioning of it is sine qua non for the total growth of our society because no nation can aspire to achieve her full potentials without transparency and accountability. Its potential cannot be realized if the institutions charged to do so are crippled by bad management, unaccountability and  profound corruption. It is, therefore, the aggregate of efforts that we put in to check corruption and other vices in public offices that will ultimately strengthen our institutions and promote transparency and accountability that will translate into a better future for Cameroon. I am happy that the present government is looking in that direction with its commitment to resolving the impasse with the public sector by investigating corrupt public officers. One of our objectives at the CCC is to promote justice and the rule of law in Cameroon. Laws of our country shall be supreme and whosoever contravene them no matter their social ranking must be prosecuted by our courts and if found guilty be punished by the law. There is no legitimacy of any alliance which will promote corruption or mismanagement of our public offices by public officers no matter which region, tribe or party they come from.

It is time for the remains of late President Ahidjo to be brought back home says Hafis Ruelfi

It is time for the remains of late President Ahidjo to be brought back home says Hafis Ruelfi

Even though you are not running, what message do you have for Cameroonians during this electoral period, from the candidates to the parties, is there a party you want your followers to vote for?

 Hafis Ruelfi: That is true and it is  unfortunate that our party the CCC was still under legalization when the electorates were convene to the polls and as such we could not file lists for these upcoming twin elections. We are now targeting but the presidential election in 2018 which Cameroonian will witness the formidable team that will lift this Cameroon to the next level. We the CCC members do not have any particular political party to ask our militants to vote but our message to all progressive Cameroonians to shun belly politics and take this opportunity presented to them by voting credible people who have the common masses at heart and have good manifestos which will bring development to their door step and not the ones to read in speeches.

We end by asking you a question on President Biya, if you were asked to name about five or six specific things that you will like to see him work on before his mandate expires or he leaves office, what will you consider as priority areas?

Hafis Ruelfi:  If I were asked today to name five or six specific things that I will like to see Mr Biya work on before leaving office will be; summed up in one which is  for him to call for a sovereign national conference to address the problems facing our country today. Beyond the facades of peace they say lies a badly fragmented polity which to me has been the reason for our underdevelopment to has led our country to regional interest politics. A national conference will lay a strong foundation for a regionalized country like Cameroon serious on being an emerging economy by 2035. With a national conference issues like separation of powers with check and balances will be looked at which will lay a good environment for the creation of strong institutions, genuine electoral reforms and the fight against corruption, with a national sovereign conference it will likely address and solve once and for all concerns of the Southern Cameroonians issue who feel to have been marginalized and are seeking the restoration of their statehood, with a sovereign national conference people will speak their minds and not hide any secret, people must be ready to listen and as hard as it might be forgive one another for this will bring a true and genuine reconciliation which to me will drive Cameroon to meet the 21st century challenges just like countries like South Africa, Ghana, amongst African nations with strong institutions and a vibrant economy, you can name a lot.

 

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Africa is the next big thing, and the place to invest says young Billionaire Ashish J Thakkar
August 29, 2013 | 12 Comments

By Ajong Mbapndah L

Ashish J Thakkar"For me and Mara, it’s just the beginning"

Ashish J Thakkar”For me and Mara, it’s just the beginning”

Young, intelligent,dashingly handsome, unassuming, media friendly, visionary, fiercely ambitious, and proudly African are some of the attributes that describe Ashish J Thakkar who has emerged as  a leading image of the genius in the African youth. In his early thirties, Ashish J Thakkar is one of the youngest billionaires in the continent with the Mara Group he founded and heads operating in 26 countries, 19 of them in Sub Sahara Africa. Ashish’s fortune comes from solid business insight, hard work and a strong confidence in his potentials. His confidence and daring attitude pushed him to take a loan of $5,500 at the age of 15 to set a small shop in 1996 and today he controls a business empire. In between running his business and answering to multiple solicitations around the world, Ashish J Thakkar remains very open in sharing his experiences and giving back to the community. Interviewed by Ajong Mbapndah L, Ashish J Thakkar shares his business experiences, the Mara Group, the Mara Foundation and more. “Africa really is the next big thing, and the place to invest,” says Ashish and his advice to aspiring entrepreneurs in Africa “dream big, but start small! And never ever give up.”

Mr.  Ashish J Thakkar, thanks so much for accepting this interview, correct us if we are wrong but it is said that you started business at the age of 15, what drove you into business at that early age, how did you get the capital and at what point did you realize this was your calling?

I was always passionate about entrepreneurship and doing business. Basically it all started when my parents bought me a computer. My father’s friend came home for dinner that night. He saw it and he said, “How much did you get it for?” I told him the price but added a hundred dollars more than what we actually bought it for. And he said, “How many do you have?” I said, “I’ve got two.” So I sold it to him and while they were having dinner, I deleting all the files and packing it up. Obviously I didn’t have a second one. I delivered the computer the next day and I made a hundred dollars. And I said to myself, “Wow, this is doable.”

That was when I decided to drop out of school and become a full time entrepreneur. So at the age of 15, in 1996, I took a 5,500 dollar loan to set up a small shop.

Today you have operations in close to what-20 countries, from the early interest in business, how did you achieve the feat of building such a powerful business empire?

Back then I never thought I would today run a Group with operations in 26 countries (19 of them being in Sub Saharan Africa). But I was never afraid to follow my dreams and I worked very hard to get to where I am today.

If you do not mind can you tell us a little more about the Mara Group and what motivates you or what criteria you use in picking your areas of investment?

Mara’s current businesses operate in a broad range of sectors including information technology (IT) services, business process outsourcing (BPO), a multi-faceted mobile-enabled online platform, agriculture, real estate, hospitality, packaging and asset management. We believe in creating value and making a difference by proposing differentiated products and solutions to individuals and companies across the sectors within which we operate.

To achieve these goals and continue building a solid diversified platform for expansion, Mara’s business philosophy consists of creating innovative partnerships with international industry leaders. Our partnership approach allows us to combine skills, knowledge, and operational expertise to support the creation and growth of new and existing companies.

Ultimately, our strategy has four key elements: whatever we do should be Pan- African, game changing, “Mara” branded and have a positive social impact.

Africa really is the next big thing, and the place to invest

Africa really is the next big thing, and the place to invest

In your early thirties, your name is virtually a global brand and you are regularly cited as an example of the potentials that Africa has, do you feel any extra pressure been used as one of the poster figures on the potentials and genius of the African youth?

It’s an honor to be seen as an example of Africa’s potential! But I can’t say I feel any pressure. I am only trying my best to give back to the community though our social enterprise, Mara Foundation. Naturally, I am hoping to give young African entrepreneurs the same opportunities I had. Being truly African, I want to show these aspiring entrepreneurs that anything is possible!

Based on the experience working your way to success, may we know the ingredients it takes to become a successful business man, what role do factors like education or capital play considering the limited availability of both to most people especially from poor backgrounds interested in business?

Education is indeed important, but what is even more important for a young entrepreneur is mentorship and advice from seasoned business owners. Finding the right mentor will help these aspiring entrepreneurs to avoid many mistakes along the journey. Within Mara Foundation, we have launched a mentorship platform called Mara Mentor. It’s an online platform where anyone can sign up as a mentee and it’s completely free of charge. On the platform, the mentees can connect with our mentors (we have a few hundred active mentors today from different nationalities), ask their questions and participate in the debate rooms. Mara Mentor will also be available as a mobile application in a few weeks, making it much easier for the users to stay connected. We are hoping to reach millions of entrepreneurs via Mara Mentor, not only in Africa but also beyond its borders.

Capital is also a very important factor and it’s often hard to for young entrepreneurs to get bank loans. That is why Mara Foundation is launching a new venture capital fund, called Mara Ad-Venture Capital Fund, to offer early stage seed and growth capital to high potential African entrepreneurs across Africa. The entrepreneurs that receive funding will also benefit from coaching from our teams, in order to help them take their companies to the next level.

Your Group also runs the Mara Foundation with a focus on emerging entrepreneurs, may we know how the Foundation functions and the kind of projects it is interested in?

Mara Foundation was established in 2009 and is currently active in Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa. The Foundation works to create sustainable economic and business development opportunities for young business owners via our Mara Launchpad incubation centres and Mara Launch Fund. Our mission is to provide comprehensive support services including mentorship, funding, incubation centre workspace and business training to African entrepreneurs

In 2013, the Foundation has continued its strategic growth in Sub-Saharan Africa while simultaneously expanding to other global markets worldwide. Within the continent, on 12 August this year, we announced our partnership with the President of Nigeria to launch Mara Mentor as the official mentoring tool in Nigeria. And beyond the African continent, through our different partnerships, we will shortly launch our Mara Mentor in India, China, Mexico and Ireland.

What does it take for potential entrepreneurs to benefit from the support offered by the Foundation?

To benefit from capital, entrepreneurs are welcomed to apply on the Foundation’s website: http://www.mara-foundation.org/

Our mentorship programme is free of charge, and anyone can sign up on: mentor.mara.com

If there is one thing that more and more people agree upon it is the potential that Africa has, a huge and growing market, abundant resources etc based on your experience, what does the continent need to do to build a more conduisive business environment that could see the emergence of more successful stories like that of Ashish Thakkar?

The answer for Africa lays in its small- and medium-sized businesses, rather than large domestic businesses, multi-nationals, or government organizations. These SMEs are the ones driving the economies, contributing to national GDPs and creating employment for millions of people. Therefore, the key solution for creating jobs and generating renewed economic growth on the continent is to empower African youth and entrepreneurs.

But most new start-ups struggle to grow and their failure rate is very high. To address this problem, entrepreneur mentorship and comprehensive support services are crucial to bridge the gap between business start-up and continual growth, providing productive and sustainable employment.

Talking about Africa you directed a tweet with a dose of cynicism at Donald Trump for saying that the 7 billion pledged by President Obama to fund power projects in Africa will stolen, with business interests in several countries, what is the image of Africa you want the world to know , despite the corruption we know is still rife in some countries?

I want people to understand that we are a continent and not a country, so you just cannot generalize. But beyond that, I truly believe that Africa has a bright future ahead and that the continent is currently going through an amazing transformation. Africa really is the next big thing, and the place to invest!

With the kind of success you have enjoyed and accumulated what next for Ashish Thakkar and any last word to other young Africans who would love to follow in your footsteps?

The best advice I can give is to dream big, but start small! And never ever give up….

For me and Mara, it’s just the beginning!

 

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“Southern Sudanese Did Not Count On The Emergence of An Indigenous Oppressor When Opting For Secession”
August 22, 2013 | 15 Comments

-Mabior Garang on Political Developments in Southern Sudan.

By Ajong Mbapndah L

In the midst of a political crisis between President Salva Kiir and some senior members of his government and the ruling Sudanese Peoples Liberation Movement, there is every indication that all is not well in Southern Sudan. Africa’s newest nation seems to have learned little from the  experiences that other African countries had at independence and the result is that Southern Sudan has so far failed to live up to the  aspirations of its people. This is a view shared by Mabior Garang the son of the historic liberation hero the lated Dr John Garang. Southern Sudanese “did not count on the emergence of an indigenous oppressor that would continue the program of marginalization and exploitation,” says Mabior in his take on the current crisis and how the country has been managed since independence in 2011.In an interview which revisits the liberation struggles of the Southern Sudanese, Mabior lashes out at corruption, and the SPLM government for deviating from its founding mission and principles. Politics has serious challenges but in the face of human suffering empathy dictates that something should be done says Mabior in justification of what he is doing  at his level to help.

Mr. Garang, thanks so much for accepting to grant us this interview, South Sudan has been in the news and it appears for the wrong reasons, a power struggle between President Salvir Kiir and his Team, what is going on and how serious is this struggle to peace and unity in your country?

It is always an honor to have dialogue with Pan African Visions; I appreciate the opportunity to reach Comrades that want to know what’s happening in our corner of Africa.

Indeed South Sudan has been in the news and for the wrong reasons; it would appear that there is a power struggle between President Salva Kiir and his team. However, the problem goes deeper than this; in my humble analysis it is a crisis of ideology (as I have mentioned in my previous interview with Pan African Visions), it is a loss of direction that is not only a South Sudanese tragedy but an African one.

In brief the movement is in crisis because it has not addressed several questions that have divided it since its inception. One of these had to do with organizational structure; while the other had to do with the unity of our people. There was the dominant camp in the movement that contended that a political movement (representative of the people) could not be formed in Ethiopia in 1983, because the basis for forming democratic institutions did not exist. They suggested that the military element should take primacy over the political, and through the course of the struggle the armed element would create the necessary conditions for the coming into being of the political element. They argued that the relationship was a dialectical one.

These cadres believed that the military element would provide discipline as the movement was trying to bring together people from various walks of life to work together. There was amongst those that found themselves as refugees in Ethiopia (in 1983) engineers, doctors, peasants (farmers and cattle keepers) even former criminals; how do you unite such a mass of people with different interest and make them work towards the same objective? The solution was a politico military organization that would stress military discipline. They argued that if the political element took precedence too early then they would be transferring the parliament to the bush, and it would be a never ending argument. They would end up like the Lumumbaist in Zaire, with the leadership in hotels in Tanzania and China, while the combatants suffer in the bush (this problem is explained better by Che in his “Diary of the Revolutionary War in the Congo”).

The other divisive issue was the question of the unity of our people vs. the secession of Southern Sudan.; the two ideas where taken by some to be mutually exclusive. The question of unity was expounded through the vision of the new Sudan; according to this philosophy the problem in the country (Sudan) was not an issue of the South seceding but one of the imposition of one culture to define the Sudan (a nation rich in diversity). This; they explained, was the fundamental problem in the country. This imposition of one culture to the exclusion of the others is what has caused marginalization and this in turn causes rebellion, the secession of the South would not address the problem concretely (it would be a temporary solution and this is today apparent).

In order to understand the vision of the new Sudan, it is essential to understand the history the inception of the liberation movements in Africa. The quest for a new society!

The founding fathers and mothers of the African liberation struggle realized that the old African society had been destroyed by the Arab and European slave trade and the colonization that followed. In addition, the nascent society that was being evolved was not one that could possibly serve the interests of the masses of the African people. The junior staff of the colonist where being trained to serve the interest of the respective European powers and not the interest of the masses of African people; therefore, the logical solution was a new society that would take the good from the old (pre-colonial Africa) and the contemporary (colonial Africa) and leave the bad to form a new society. A modern and new African society, one that best serves the interests of the masses of the African people; and makes them take their rightful place in the world.

The idea of the new society lost out over the new colonial society and over the years it has become entrenched in the process of classical neo colonialism. It is deplorable that today the economic indicators in most African countries are far worse than the period immediately following African independence (in the 1960), as if to suggest that the African masses where better off under the yoke of foreign oppressors. The failure across Africa to implement the vision of a new society has left the masses of African people trapped in humiliating poverty.

It is only once in a while that a leader comes along like the late John Garang (a selfless leader dedicated to the historical struggle of the people), and we are reminded of the need for a new society. And when they do, the leaders of the liberation movement have throughout time (consistently) been slandered, de-campaigned and outright murdered by those that are more concerned with independence and not necessarily social change. So the struggle rages on with the idea of liberation as the primary objective on one side and the achievement of flag independence as the objective on the other, the confrontation has at times been violent.

In the pre independence period the two camps had a common enemy so they worked together; however, when independence is achieved their interests rapidly deviated. The interest of those in the independence movement became maintaining political power at all costs (to save their privileged positions), while those in the liberation movement continue to have the same objective of social change, the restoration of the greatness of our people and the modernization of our societies (George Orwell described it best in his 1945 book – Animal Farm).

The truth is there need not be a contradiction between the vision of a new Society and African independence, not unless we are condemning our people to abject poverty forever. To get back to the question, what seems like a power struggle between President Salva Kiir and the cadres of the movement is how this struggle (Independence vs. Liberation) is being played out in our corner of Africa. Those that are only concerned with flag independence feel threatened by this vision (of liberating the masses). In an attempt to maintain their privileged positions in Juba, they have set out to misinform the citizens of our Republic that unity and the vision of new Sudan are mutually exclusive, a threat to the territorial integrity of the Republic of South Sudan and that we should abandon the idea because as they like to put it: “…we are now South Sudan…new Sudan is a dead ideology…”

They fear the vision of the new Sudan because it would result in the restructuring of power in Juba, the people would take control and not an oligarchy of oafs and stooges that are loyal to the head of state and who are all loyal to their own greed. This is why there has been no constitutional conference, the constitutional process has been compromised giving the head of state absolute power and “absolute power corrupts absolutely” as the saying goes. The vision of the new Sudan is also not in the interests of the Khartoum regime and so ironically the interests of Juba and Khartoum at the moment coincide.

This is where we are today as a movement!

How has President Kiir managed the country in his first term and why is he nervous about a challenge from his camp?

I say with all due respect to President Salva Kiir that he has completely mismanaged the country in his first term and during the interim period of the CPA. The SPLA – SPLM had clearly defined objectives that where abandoned in 2005 at the moment of victory and labeled as Garang ideas and those that would elucidate these ideas as “Garang boys”. When these are not Garang ideas but correct ideas behind which we have lost very many comrades over the course of the struggle. It is a betrayal to the spirit of these comrades for the objectives to be abandoned in such a whimsical manner. The SPLM had a document “The SPLM Strategic Framework for War to Peace Transition” that spelled out the program of the SPLM in the post war period. The document was abandoned.

It is now common knowledge that over the past eight years $ 4 billion has been embezzled in donor money while over $ 10 billion has been embezzled in oil revenues. There is an ever growing humanitarian crisis in Jong’lei State that if left unchecked could engulf the whole country. There are communities that are still living with (literally) Stone Age technologies in a country with billions ($) in oil revenues, a population of 8 million within an area that is 619,745 km². There are no basic services for the majority of our population, no decent healthcare, no food security, no clean water, no roads, no trade, no security of movement or property it is nothing short of a betrayal of the aspirations of our people.

The people of South Sudan opted for secession because they thought that the reason they were in abject poverty was Arab domination and the independence of the South would automatically solve all their problems. They did not count on the emergence of an indigenous oppressor that would continue the program of marginalization and exploitation. The imposition of one culture to define the nation is still being practiced in South Sudan, with some trying to define a diverse South Sudan through the lens of Nilotic speakers (excluding the other diversities in the Country).

The President has been given absolute power by a transitional constitution that was tailor made to suit his every whim. The President has absolute power as he can dismiss elected Governors and appoint new ones according Article 101 (r) and 101 (s); and if the parliament checks his powers he can adjourn or prorogue the National Legislature according to Article 101 (g). Anyone that criticizes the President also faces dismissal as we have recently seen with the recent sacking of two cabinet ministers, the Secretary General of the SPLM and the Vice President of the Republic.  There are also journalist that have been tortured and murdered by unknown assailants after having criticized the president and/or government.

I don’t understand why the President is nervous?  I believe that is a question best addressed to him. Perhaps he is nervous because as I have mentioned in previous interviews, and I repeat: “a posthumous coup has taken place…and has been made to appear like succession” the coup was carried out on the marginalized people of the old Sudan by the Northern and Southern elite. These elites came to the realization that the Sudanese Revolution was about to triumph and power would be restructured in Khartoum to the advantage of the marginalized communities. The elites would lose their privileged positions they have maintained since independence. It was not to the advantage of the Southern nor the Northern elite, and so they conspired to betray the Sudanese people.

The Southern elite took the aspirations of the people of South Sudan to have their own country where they would not be second class citizens and betrayed those aspirations.  Those that have usurped power from the people in Juba are nervous because they know what they have done, and their intimidation tactics are not working; their propaganda tactics are also not working. They sense that the people are about to take back their movement and so they are desperate. The President has stopped working with the SPLM cadres and is now considering working with the opposition as is reflected by the recent appointment of several leaders of the opposition to the new cabinet (while true members are being dismissed).

What are the options that opponents of President Kiir dismissed from the government or suspended from the party have at their disposal?

The majority of those that were dismissed are still Members of Parliament, and others are respectable people in their communities, and so can still have an impact on the political process in the country. Those that feel victimized can follow the legal processes; they can challenge the decision of the President through the courts (as has been done by the SG of the SPLM through the Supreme Court). They could also opt to engage in national development through other means, as government is not the only institution through which one can contribute to national development.

Given the youthfulness of Southern Sudan, considering that the country is emerging from decades of fighting with Sudan prior to gaining independence, were expectations too high from President Kiir, are people not expecting results a little too soon considering where Southern Sudan came from?

Is too much been expected too soon from President Salva Kiir?

Is too much been expected too soon from President Salva Kiir?

I don’t believe that we are expecting too much too soon, because the struggle was not carried out in a vacuum, the struggle has a history. The SPLA had vast areas under its administration during the bush war (larger than the current area under our administration), these were known as liberated territories, and displaced camps. The services to the people in these areas were much better than the conditions today, the leadership was with the people in the rural areas, and so could quickly address their needs. This is not so today, the leadership has become amputated from the people and so thy make uninformed decisions knowing that they don’t have to live with the consequences.

The experience of the bush war could have been transferred to the new political reality, and we could have learned lessons from other African countries that suffered similar challenges during their independence. The independence of South Sudan is coming at a time of great leaps in technological advancement and so we don’t have to reinvent the wheel. There are very many countries that gave us a helping hand during the struggle that could advise our young government. Instead the President is isolating potential allies in the region (to the extent of telling the SG of the UN: “…I am not under your command”).

There was tremendous outpouring of support from the world to the new nation, but all these opportunities have been squandered, and I believe it was done deliberately. I don’t believe it is due to where South Sudan came from that we are in the mess that we are in, our problems are self-inflicted. It is true that there is the legacy of the Arab and European Slave Trade, Colonialism and neo Colonialism; however, our liberation is our own responsibility. The SPLA guerillas forced the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) and the Government to the negotiating table where SPLM defeated the NIF/NCP Government at the negotiating table. This great victory could not have been achieved except through exceptional organization of the masses of the Sudanese people. That we have failed to organize during peace time is an indication to me of a system overthrow, and a reversal of the victory of our people.

With regards to the security challenges, in addition to the issues that Southern Sudan has with Sudan, it is also disturbing to hear about violence between Southern Sudanese groups, what is the problem?

The problem (as I have mentioned above) is simple, the imposition of one culture to define the new state. The resulting marginalization is what fuels rebellions of those that feel disenfranchised. The current elites in South Sudan have shelved the CPA and the vision of new Sudan, within which are resolutions to problems of ‘wealth sharing’ and ‘power sharing’, ‘security arrangements’ and so on. The problems that plagued us in the old Sudan are still with us in the Republic of South Sudan, a new oppressor is emerging out of the ashes of the old (like an evil phoenix).

Overall how well would you say the SPLM has lived up to its founding principles and how well is it coping in keeping the legacy of its founding father the late Dr. John Garang?

The SPLM has abandoned its founding principles the corner stone of which was the vision of the new Sudan; we have failed to articulate the vision within the context of the new geopolitical reality. It is true that during the course of the armed struggle the new Sudan vision was articulated within the context of a united, democratic and secular Sudan. However, the failure of the two parties to agree on the nature of the state (secular vs. theocratic state) has led to a two state solution through the Southern Sudanese exercise of their right to self-determination.  The vision of the new Sudan and the independence of the South are not mutually exclusive; the vision of the new Sudan can still be pursued within the territorial boundaries of what is now the Republic of South Sudan. The new Sudan is not a place on the map; it is a vision and political philosophy comparable to the millennium goals, the Magna Carta, or the Declaration on the rights of Man.

In addition the SPLM was fighting against forced Arabisation and forced Islamisation, the struggle was successful because of the overwhelming support of African nations. The movement in its (pre-independence) foreign policy convinced African governments of the danger posed by the threat of Islamic Jihad. The SPLM – North today and other revolutionary forces in North Sudan are still fighting this noble struggle, and it seems Africa has abandoned them. The SPLM in the South should be championing the cause of the SPLM – North not only as a matter of principle, but even as a matter of national security. The SPLM in South Sudan should be supporting the SPLM – North and justifying it to the AU and UN. The independence of South Sudan will be insignificant if the people of Abyei, Southern Khordofan, Southern Blue Nile, Darfur and all other Africans are still threatened by forced Arabisation and Islamisation (in fact no one is safe in Africa as we have seen recently in Mali).

The late Dr. John Garang was a product of the African liberation struggle; he lived in Tanzania and the USA during the 1960’s when he was a university student. Tanzania was supporting the African liberation movements at the time, while the USA was at the height of the Civil Rights Movement.  This is the background from which he drew his inspiration, he was an Agricultural Economist and the leader of a Liberation Movement like Amilcar Cabral was. The SPLM history is not that dissimilar to the history of the PAIGC in Guinea Bissau or that of FRELIMO in Mozambique, and so I would not call it the legacy of the late Dr. John Garang. It is the legacy of the historical struggle of the African people, and it has manifested itself at different times and places in Africa. The struggle continues!

A word on the opposition, the press and the civil society, how effective are there as a tool in checking potential excesses from the President and the SPLM government?

There is no credible opposition that has evolved as of yet, perhaps the unease that we are currently experiencing are the birth pangs of the birth of the opposition. The traditional opposition parties inherited from the old Sudan are subservient to the SPLM; they exist by the good will of the SPLM and so can’t be effective. The press and the civil society face intimidation, arbitrary arrest and extra judicial killing by the security forces if they are critical of the President or his administration. The killing and intimidation of journalist has been widely reported in the media so I will not bore you with a list of names.

There is certainly much to criticize but there should also be reasons to remain optimistic and positive about Sudan, can you tell us some of those developments or things that should make Southern Sudanese remain optimistic about the future?

Mabior Garang thinks it is hard to remain indifferent when things are not going right

Mabior Garang thinks it is hard to remain indifferent when things are not going right .Photo Raphael Land.

Raphael Land

Raphael Land

The People of South Sudan are the greatest hope of South Sudan, our people are a very resolute people that have lived through centuries of foreign domination and are still here (since pharaonic times).  It was the people of South Sudan that mobilized all the resources available to them for their liberation and who achieved the current victory that is being hijacked by an unscrupulous bourgeoisified elite that have no interest in the liberation of our people. They would rather thrive on the ignorance of the masses.

The South Sudan Legislative Assembly, the representatives of the people of South Sudan are also a great hope for our people. They are the ones mandated by the constitution to check any excesses by the executive that may arise; and though they have been silent in the past, recent events show that they may be a force to reckon with. There are also the SPLM delegates of the National Convention, the highest body in the SPLM. There are a lot of challenges, but where there are challenges there are also opportunities.

On a personal note do you have plans to become more actively involved in politics, maybe run for office at the local level or for a parliamentary seat?

It is a catch 22, because who in their rightful mind would want to become actively involved in politics? I would rather get married raise children and take care of my family. There is a bad culture in South Sudan and Africa of entering politics to embezzle public funds. I am; however, not lacking anything and can find work and business anywhere. The problem is when one sees human suffering empathy dictates that I must do something. This is what I am doing within the constraints of the reality of my current situation.

 

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Meeting with the Masters: Ray Lema shares secrets of his Amazing Musical Career
July 12, 2013 | 0 Comments

By Ajong Mbapndah L

Ray Lema Talk about musicians who have with great consistency flown the African flag high through music and Ray Lema will rank among the top. Born in Zaire which is today the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ray Lema has toured the globe with his brand of music which in his own words channels a link between traditional African Music and his modern pianist training. Despite the success and fame that he enjoys, Ray Lema has shunned the trappings of stardom as he seeks to be a better musician every day.     Lema, who has collaborated with some of the biggest names in African music across generations says music is a function of one’s education and for a culture as rich as Africa, the focus should not remain on the showbiz element of music. Despite the challenges, Ray Lema says he is optimistic about the future of Africa especially with the younger generation which has more tools at their disposal to help is seeking solutions.

Ray Lema, we understand in your younger years, your aspiration was to be a Catholic Priest and you actually went to a seminary, what made you change your mind and when did you realize that music was your true calling?

I found my calling at the seminary when I went to be a priest and then I left because I was not quite comfortable with some concepts of the catholic religion.

How challenging was it for you to forge a name for yourself in music and may we know some highlights of your career?

I wasn’t in the challenge of “getting known” I was more in the challenge of being a better musician and I still am. I started as a classical pianist and then I became a rock guitar player, then I became the musical director of the National Ballet of Congo (DRC) and after I left Congo I’ve been on the roads, and if you go check my website, you can read about my biography.

Much of your music is different from the traditional Congolese and African Music, you have made it big with that, but what made you go for a different brand of music other than what most other than what most Africans of your time went for?

I think a matter of training I’ve been trained first as a classical musician and then being the director of a national ballet I had to listen and play with so many traditional musicians that the Congolese rumba didn’t really appeal to me. Today I try to make a direct link between African traditional music and my modern pianist training.

How many albums does Ray Lema have as of this moment and which of them registered the greatest success?

I’ve never been into the “star system” so it’s not a priority for me to go check which album is the most successful. But as I said before, I just feel I’m getting better as a musician. As for the number of albums same, just check on the website.

What is your appraisal of African music today and its younger generation, some have complained that there is too much vulgarity and it is lacking in message, your take on that sir.

Music is a reflection of one’s education and if we invest in educating our people we shouldn’t have that complain. The problem  is actually that in modern African music we have only the show business side, and it’s not enough for  cultures as rich as African cultures to be represented only by showbiz.

Ray LemaThere are others who think too that music from earlier stars like Franco,Tabu Ley, Manu Dibango,Miriam Makeba,Franklin Boukaka , Le Grand Kalle,Fela etc had a patriotic zest and helped in promoting a strong African identity and promoting unity, do you agree?

All the musicians that you named didn’t have to sell an image through musical video clip. They were busy selling just their music, and their music was very close to the people, so it’s true that they had a stronger identity that what I hear today, because when I watch today’s video clips, they don’t really reflect musical careers, they just reflect an obedience to marketing rules.

May we know the relationship you have with some of those artists cited and may also know some of the younger generation of musicians you appreciate and frequently interact with?

I met personally and played with most of the musicians you cited. Most of them are gone, except for Manu Dibango with whom I have played extensively.

Among the younger, I play  mostly  with instrumentalist like Etienne Mbappe, Pépé Feli, Lokua Kanza, Bil Aka Kora, Fredy Massamba, Ballou Canta, les Tambours de Brazza with Emile Biayenda, Francky Moulet … there are a lot …

In terms of money, in terms of income, would you say music pays more today than it was a few decades back? This question is asked with issues of piracy and its negative effects in mind, how do we fight piracy so the artist can enjoy the fruits of his work?

Talking about money first, I should say Yes and no! Some “stars” today make the amount of money that could not have been dreamt of years before. And that’s where you have to make a difference between “stars” and musicians especially in Africa. Those who make money with music are the singers. The instrumentalist playing behind already have a hard time just surviving!

Talking about piracy, the first problem, talking about Africa is the weakness of the distribution system, then still in some countries the copyright is non existent or inefficient.

Piracy, with internet is a worldwide problem. Different solutions are being studied to reward the composers, but still I have to say that no satisfying solution has been found.

The continent recently celebrated fifty years of the African Union, considering that great names like you excelled in the earlier years of independence, what is your view on how the continent is evolving?

You’re misinformed! because in the 60’s I was still a teenager  !!! I’m not that old !!!

In spite of all the problems we are facing in Africa, I deeply believe in my continent and more especially in the new generations coming who have more tools for analyzing our situation.

 

Irving Acao, Etienne Mbappe, Nicolas Viccaro, Ray Lema, Sylvain Gontard

Irving Acao, Etienne Mbappe, Nicolas Viccaro, Ray Lema, Sylvain Gontard

You are originally from the Congo and that country with its amazing resourcing and wonderful culture has not known peace for a long time now, how do you feel about that and in what way can music and famous musicians like you help in making things better?

Those amazing resources are the main Congolese problem because some big corporations from all over the world make their profit by keeping this situation unchanged and as a musician , I still feel very small in front of those corporations who will never give up peacefully their lucrative business.  What has been  happening for years in Congo is intimately linked to the global economic system, which is now  totally  out of control  and you can see that the crisis is worldwide, so I can only hope that there will be a global change before it’s too late.

Any special projects that you are working on right now?

Yes ! my  jazz quintet , with Etienne Mbappe on bass with whom I have a long time complicity.

I’m also working on new compositions to play with a string quartet , a new piano solo … tons of projects !!!

What do you consider as the legacy of Ray Lema, what would you want Africa and the world to always remember you for?

Being a universal musician deeply rooted in his African tradition !

Mr Ray Lema, thanks very much for your availability and for granting this interview, sometimes it is very difficult to get access to stars of your caliber.

Anytime. Now you know the way !Thank you,

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Game Changing Mission? African Americans Could Invest $230 Billion In Africa By 2017
July 12, 2013 | 30 Comments

-Jerome Almon shares his vision  of getting African-Americans to Bank on Africa

By Ajong Mbapndah L

Jerome AlmonU.S Businessman Jerome Almon says it is time for African-Americans to bank more on Africa and matching words with actions, he is launching a venture that will attract hundreds of billions of new investments in the continent. Almon, a veteran who also runs a successful entertainment company says investing in the continent will create wealth and opportunities for Africans and will also be economically beneficial to Africans in the U.S. Countries like India and China have made great progress in part because of strong ties and it is time for African Americans to have the same level of engagement with Africa said Almon in an interview to discuss his initiative with Ajong Mbapndah L

Mr Almon, you have been in the news recently with an ambitious plan to get African Americans invest about $230 billion by 2017, can you break down the vision in very simple terms for us?

It is a simple plan that ask a simple question, “Why should we have to ask others for help when we can help ourselves as Africans. African Americans spend well over a trillion dollars annually, and it does us no good, however investing in Africa through tourism, business ventures, and so on makes Africa financially independent while increasing the wealth and opportunities of Africans on the Continent and in America and it creates a cycle of economic growth for every country and its people in Africa and it makes all Africans everywhere more financially wealthy. It’s just common sense that we do it. We have complete power and control to do as we want with our money and resources-let’s do what’s best for us.

How did you conceive the idea and from the initial reactions you have got, how receptive is the public to your vision?

I looked around and saw nothing but opportunity for the African diaspora to help-especially African Americans with the huge amount of hard currency we spend every year and said to myself it’s time for us to do our share. Africans in every other region of the world were and are doing more than their share. Bottom line it works.  The reaction to the plan at first was shock, but when the information was reviewed the people saw how reasonable and workable the plan was and really liked it. The amount of money is less than 8% of African American’s consumer spending. We were once on top of the world economically from Zimbabwe to Timbuktu to Egypt, let’s get back where we belong.

Definitely much could change in Africa with that kind of money, how do you think the money can be raised especially with the economic challenges that many African Americans are facing now?

It is very important that Africans in America not accept whatever they hear in the corporate media.  African Americans are constantly told they are poor even though we spend more money than the GDP of all the countries on Earth with the exception of 15 (out of 229 ranked). We are as poor as Bill Gates is-which is not at all. If we spent our money among ourselves as Africans the way the Chinese, Europeans, and Indians, we would create more jobs than there are Africans in America. Equally we are not experiencing an economic downturn in the African American community, we are experiencing the lack of basic economic literacy and the lack of maximizing our potential in this area.  For example, my hometown Detroit is bankrupt, but it is not bankrupt due to the lack of money as my website www.detroit1st.com shows. Africans in Detroit spend $30 billion a year, which would make Detroiter’s wealthier than over half the countries on Earth. If you convince someone that they are poor, they will behave as if they are poor. That is why the economic relationship with Africa is so important, think of what would happen if we as Africans followed such a common sense system with all of Africa’s natural resources?! The huge population of young people that can be the next innovators that produce the next Apple or Google, the large amount mineral wealth and natural resources that Africa has puts us as a people in a unique position. It is a matter of just seeing what is right in front of our eyes. The money is there, that cannot be disputed, it is a matter of consolidating it for African advancement.  Through a basic media education program with 10 simple facts will allow us all to have a blue print to work from. The biggest issue is not that people don’t have the money and don’t want to help, they don’t know how to help and where to send the money. African Americans give away $12 billion annually to charities that don’t help Africans-American or otherwise. I say let’s spend and invest that $12 billion amongst Africa and Africans. Once you get the truth it compels you to act, it is impossible not to.  Look at the fact that Africans from the Continent send more money back to Africa than all the foreign aid combined! There is endless potential if the North American, Caribbean, European, Australian, and South American Africans join in. Actually, it is normal for a society to invest 10% of its GDP into the economy, so we can do it-it happens every day. Any economic distress African Americans have is caused by our lack of doing business with Africans and Africa period.  If Africans in America invested in Africa, there would be no poor African Americans-economically this is indisputable.

We have seen a few celebrities with projects in Africa like Oprah Winfrey and a school in South Africa, Isaiah Washington with a foundation in Sierra Leone etc, but many will agree there is still a strong disconnect between African Americans and Africa, why is it that the bonds are not as strong as those between Indian Americans and India or Latinos and South America?

The answer to that question is simple-we haven’t tried.  A simple PR and marketing campaign from the African Union and its 54 members directed to African Americans saying “come back home-see what we can do as a people for ourselves, let’s talk, let’s do some things that benefit us all. African Americans should initiate a similar program of gaining membership in the African Union, adopting an African country to visit and work with, and most importantly right now reaching out to the 54 African embassies in America and finding out what Africa needs from us. We will find out that we can do so much together- we have to think big not small. African Americans should also learn an African language, this is a bond that the Chinese, Indians, and Latinos have-a common language. It is natural that we do this, so let’s do it. Our fate in America is the same as Africans everywhere else. It’s a matter of leadership, we need new leadership to compliment current leadership and move Africa and Africans to the next level.

 We understand this idea is new, so what is the road map, the plan of action, beyond the first step to get word out there when do we see the first concrete steps towards the realization of the vision?

OPERATIONBLAKKOUT (1)We must control our own message, currently most news on Africa is filtered through the non African media.  We have enough money and the human talent to have an African Al Jazeera with branches in Africa and America. This also allows us to educate and end misconceptions we have of Africa and other Africans, which also provides great business opportunities in advertising and business ownership globally. Next we need to set time tables and specific goals in regards to the funds and projects. This can be easily done with a diaspora conference in Africa and in America and making maximum use of the internet and social media.  The most important thing in this area is SHOW the people what great results come from the cooperation.  We need to set a top 10 list of priorities such as education, economic literacy, infrastructure projects, GDP goals, and so on. We have to look at this as a grand project with grand results which requires a grand executable plan.  These simple steps are 90% of the solution. African Americans are spending the money anyway, why not in Africa, why not on African goods and services?  We can all be wealthy together or poor together, I say let’s be wealthy as a people. Let’s help fund projects such as The Great Renaissance  Dam in Ethiopia. The dam cost around $5 billion dollars

Are there partners you have identified besides African Americans especially in the continent?

I have been contacted by the office of the President of Sierra Leone, the South African government, African Canadian groups, Ugandan, Kenyan, the office of the President of Rwanda through a journalist in East Africa, the government of  Tanzania, Nigerian, Angolan, and Namibian businessmen and dozens of other Africans from as far away as Hong Kong.  The key is working with the leadership and people in Africa to partner them with Africans in the West and getting lines of communication open and resources to the needed area as efficiently as possible.

As much as things are changing in the continent, there are still leaders in power for over thirty years and counting, corruption is still too rife for comfort and there are countries where democratic values are not respected, how can such realities affect your project?

Democracy is a powerful thing-it automatically changes a lot of things. And one of things it does is create a middle class by its very nature, and that ends the chance of such prolonged rule. At a certain stage in development it is not viable, nor acceptable. Presidents and Prime Ministers come and go, but the country and the people still need power plants, roads, bridges, and technology. The concentration has to be on improving the average African’s life, and the rest will take care of itself.  The West, China, India all faced the same issue and concentrated on the economic and infrastructure issues at hand and the democracy came along with the progress in these areas. All of my research and experience in this area shows that poverty creates dictators, and prosperity creates transparency and freedom.

Personally are there any countries that you have visited or some you consider as the kind of models of development and progress you will like to see across the continent?

Ironically, it is Germany, Canada, and China.  Germany is a very efficient country. It was the world’s largest exporter up until 5 years ago. When you consider that the country has less than a third of the population of the US and 7% of China’s population, it is amazing.  I always saw this as a model for Africa-especially South Africa.  With Canada you have nearly as much efficiency and you have a very modern country in terms of infrastructure and human rights.  Also with Canada you have a country the size of the US with 1 tenth of the population, which is very similar to most African countries.  Canada is also a great model to borrow from in terms of its modern infrastructure and facilities such as hospitals. The country also mirrors African American economically, with our consumer spending being almost identical to Canada’s GDP. This allows for us to see what we SHOULD have with the amount of money we spend.  Finally, there are more Africans in America than there are Canadians on Earth, look what they do with their resources and look what we Africans in America do with ours. We should have everything Canada has in America, but also each African country. We can easily do this. With China we see where we should be as a whole. China and the Chinese diaspora are moving as one economically and have been really seriously since the 1980’s-look at the result.  If we adopt such a philosophy for Africa with its unmatched mineral and natural wealth we can be where China is in a relatively short period of time.  China went from and agrarian society in the 1950’s to dominating the world economically today through its 5 year plan economic system. In these countries we see our potential and future, the keys are having the right vision, efficient execution of a workable plan, and constant monitoring of the feedback data and progress to make the plan more efficient.

With such a great vision, people will love to know who Jerome Almon, we see there is information about music labels you are, involvement in show biz etc, can you tell us who Jerome Almon is and the kind of experiences he has that should make people believe that this is a serious vision and this is something he can provide the right leadership for?

IMAG0140-1My background is in economics and political science, I have worked on the UN Delphi Project out of Belgium, I have attended America’s best Universities, and I have the real world experience-which is most important. I have managed one of the busiest retailers in the world. I speak working Zulu, German, Arabic, and English.  I am a paratrooper and own a successful entertainment company that produces events that have 1.5-2.5 million fans per event. But what I am most proud of is my studying the history, geography, and culture of Africa. I have spent countless hours talking to Africans from university, African military officers, and African academics about Africa.  My heroes were and are mostly continental Africans such as Jerry Rawlings, Haile Selassie, Thomas Sankara, Jomo Kenyatta, Nelson Mandela, Kwame Nkrumah, Samora Machel, Julius Nyerere, Jose Dos Santos, Kenneth Kaunda,  Anwar Sadat and on and on. I have studied Africa since I was 8 years old.  It is Africa FIRST for me always.

After reading this interview if people got interested what should there do, how can they get involved, support or find out more information?

They can contact me at africafirst@thepowerof1trillion.com and visit the website www.thepowerof1trillion.com for basic information which will contain very specific information on the plan this month.

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I’m not too old to be President -Buhari
June 4, 2013 | 0 Comments

By Mannir Dan Ali, Mahmud Jega & Ismail Mudashir, Kaduna*

BuhariMedia Trust editors had a rare encounter with former Head of State and leader of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) at his Kaduna office. He bares his mind on several issues such as the recent attack in his home town, Daura; Asari Dokubo’s threats; Boko Haram; his calls for President Jonathan’s resignation; his secret deal with Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and why he hasn’t groomed a successor, among others. Excerpts:

Some gunmen recently attacked your home town, Daura. Did the attack affect you personally?
Well, it affected me personally because the way I see it as a former military man, the attack was very efficiently planned and executed. It was the phase one of the agenda to destroy Nigeria. They attacked the security; the police stations in the town were destroyed, and I suspected they must have used incendiary bombs because you cannot repair the police stations. You have to demolish, bulldoze them and rebuild them.
They stationed what in the military we call cut off group; they stationed their men on all roads leading to Daura. People approaching Daura were attacked and the soldiers that were coming from Katsina town to give a helping hand to the police were ambushed and shot. I visited the soldiers that survived the ambush at the Federal Medical Centre, Katsina.
The group of the gunmen who broke into the banks, certainly they were very well trained and they brought enough explosives to blow the banks and remove whatever they wanted. There was another group of them that went around terrorising the people by just throwing bombs all over the place. They did not alienate themselves to the people they came into contact with in the course of their operation; their objectives were to attack the police, rob the banks and scare the people away. They were extremely successful in their operation.

About the same time as the Daura incident, there was an attack on security personnel Nasarawa State where over 60 security personnel lost their lives. The Director General of the SSS recently said they have forgiven the killers but a former director of NSO General Abdullahi Mohammed gave a contrary position. What do you make of this?
Firstly, we have to see the difference between Daura and the Nasarawa attack. The Daura attack has to do with security and economy because right now you cannot send money to Daura. The people there cannot send to you too because the entire senatorial district comprising about 11 local government areas has been financially paralysed.
Workers that normally take their money from these banks have to travel out of the area to get their salaries. However, the Nasarawa attack is a cult that infiltrated the police itself. The latest I learnt from you the press is that the number of security personnel killed is 56. The cult group slaughtered 56 security men. The SSS boss or whoever that said he has left everything to God has no right to do that.
Constitutionally, Nigerians can practice any religion they want or they can be atheists or anything they want to be, that is constitutional. But nobody should hurt a citizen of Nigeria and then get away with it, not to talk of slaughtering 56 law enforcement agents and then somebody coming out from the system to say such a thing. It is either that person doesn’t know what he was talking about or he shouldn’t even be there.

Maybe he is being cautious because of what happened at Baga, because the way security agencies were blamed…
This one is different from Baga and Daura. Nasarawa case is a cult case; they are part of the community that have got their religion. I’m even against the people that are suggesting that the cult’s ritual places should be destroyed. According to the constitution, you must allow them to go about with their activities as long as they don’t go against the constitution. But those that killed the 56 security men must be hunted and prosecuted no matter how long it will take because this is the bottom line about law and order and security in the country. They can’t be forgiven; they can’t override the constitution; Nigerians are being hurt and killed in their duties and those that killed them must be brought before the law.
 
Not long after you came back from Daura, you said President Goodluck Jonathan should resign. Why should he resign just because of an isolated insecurity episode?
No, I think I explained myself as briefly as I could. For the last 14 years there have been extreme security challenges in the country but in the last two years it was even worse.  There are two fundamental things that make a nation state viable— its security and its economy. The two years under this person, the security and the economy of the country have been compromised and this was why I said he should resign.
Unless you are telling me that you don’t know the things that went wrong in the last two years from bombing of 1st October, 2010 to now. MEND said they were the ones that did it and he came out as President and said that MEND members were not the ones. Subsequent investigation and prosecution of those who did it in South Africa proved that they did it. How can a president do that? Then look at Baga, Bama and other cases that are happening daily from Kano to Maiduguri. So what is he still doing there?

This insecurity problem, the President has tried the stick approach and he has also tried the carrot approach. If you are to be in charge, what else will you do differently?
Well, I will really go by what happened which you and I know. Firstly, how did the militancy start? How did Boko Haram start? What actions did the respective administrations at state level where those things started took? The militants, based on reports in the newspapers, were trained and armed by some party heavyweights to get rid of their opponents.
When they succeeded and won the elections, they asked those boys to return the weapons, the boys said no way. The politicians withheld their allowances, and then kidnapping started. So you will get a secondary school dropout with an AK-47 getting about 50,000 dollars per day. If the same person goes to school, he can only earn N100,000 monthly after putting 20 years in his education, so how do you expect him to forget it? It doesn’t make sense to him. This was how militancy started.
And when late Umaru Musa Yar’adua was very generous, he pardoned them, he discussed with them, he gave them money and he arranged training and re-absorption programme for them, the thing went slightly down. Abduction has been institutionalised in the South-South and the South -East and it is coming up all over the country.

How did the Boko Haram crisis start?  The military arrested their leader, Mohammed Yusuf and handed him over to the police. The police killed him and his in-law and levelled their houses. They became mad and the situation deteriorated from then up to now.
You see how the challenges started and how they were initially handled but now look at what happened in Baga and Bama. I tried to draw a parallel with what happened with Margret Thatcher when she was Prime Minister and insisted on having her convention at Brighton. The British security tried to stop her from holding it there, but she insisted. The hotel she put up in was blown up and some people died. Did the British law enforcement agents cordon off the area and shoot everything that moved?  So there is a big question mark about the competence of our law enforcement agents.

You cited a foreign example but we can also cite a local example. Early in your tenure as military head of state, there was a major Maitatsine uprising in Yola and you applied a purely military solution. Or did you think of negotiating with Maitatsine’s men at that time?
You have to frame the question properly, I’m sorry to say. The Maitatsine started from Kano, then it went to Maiduguri and Bulunkutu and then to Yola. Since you limited yourself to Yola, I’m going to limit myself to it too. My number two man, Tunde was not in the country so as the Head of State I flew to Yola and I went to the area where the operation was being carried out by the military. And that was the end of Maitatsine. But go and find out, before the President [Jonathan] was persuaded to go to Maiduguri and when he went, the whole life of Borno State was tensed he couldn’t feel secure until when he left there. I went there of course bearing in mind that I was in the military and it was a military operation, but he is a civilian and the military were conducting the operation. So this is the difference.
When we knew who was Maitatsine, wasn’t he arrested, killed and his corpse shown to everybody?  But this Boko Haram, if you could recall somebody recommended me to represent Boko Haram. I told them the honest truth that I didn’t know who their leadership was and I still don’t know who their leaders are. I don’t know their philosophy because no religion advocates hurting the innocent. So all those people giving it a religious meaning are wrong. You can’t kill a person and say Allahu Akbar (God is great). It is either you don’t know what you are saying or you don’t believe in it. It is one of the two.

It appears that many people around the president seem to think that is because you politicians in the opposition want to spoil the president’s show, that’s why there is this problem of Boko Haram.
You can effectively check this yourself. People are still being abducted and killed in the South-South and South-East. Are they doing it to spite their son of the soil whom they say if he is not voted in 2015, there will be no Nigeria?

Looking at that statement by former militant leader Asari Dokubo, what will happen in 2015?
When was he born? Did he know how many Nigerians died to keep Nigeria one? Maybe he was born after those events. But those who saw the 15th January 1966 murder of political and military leadership of some parts of the country and saw the counter coup of 29th July 1966 and those who participated in the 30 months civil war wouldn’t talk like that. He is just a spoilt child. He didn’t know what he was talking about. We wish God will bring us to 2015 and we wish to defeat Jonathan and we’ll see who can divide this country.

Talking of 2015, is it clear in your mind whether you will contest or not?
I’ve always been a very clear person. I’ve never been a confused man. I made a statement in tears when I saw how insensitive Nigerians are and they didn’t realise it until when my tears were dry. It is now their turn to cry now when there is no security and the economy is comatose. Is now their time to cry.
 
So will you comfort Nigerians now that they are crying?
I put it back to my party. I believe in multiparty democratic system. I sincerely believe in it and this is why I’m in it for the past 10 years. If my party which by God willing is going to APC, in approach to the processes of 2015 general elections give me the ticket, I will favourably consider it.

You were fairly clear in 2011 that you were through with running for elections. Given what you have been saying recently and which you just repeated now, could it be said that you have now become a normal Nigerian politician who says something and later changes his mind?
I expect people to say that but every situation is unique in itself. I have never denied the fact that I said I’ll not present myself but I was also very clear that I’ll remain in partisan politics to the end of my life. I did not say I will not participate again. People came with different convincing reasons that I should reconsider it and I told them that I’m prepared to reconsider it.

Now that ACN, CPC and ANPP held their conventions and have approved their dissolving into APC, where do we go from here?
I think you go back to the Electoral Act of 2010. That is where the answer is. The conventions of the parties you have mentioned is one of the criteria necessary for the formal application of the three parties, having met and  agreed to merge and form one party. They have to take to INEC the resolutions of the conventions. Two, their parties headquarters’ must be at the nation’s capital in Abuja.  Three, the names of the executives of the party as prescribed by the Electoral Act. So, the next move is for us to send the formal application to INEC according to the Electoral Act.

Those are the technicalities but what about the politics? Have you agreed for example on how you are going to merge the various state chapters?
You will not hear this from me now because we have a system. The resolutions of the three merging parties at the end of the conventions is that in the interim, the highest ruling body of the party—in our own case the CPC Board of Trustees—will continue to be the chief executives of respective parties until we formerly receive our certificate as APC. So no vacuum because nature hates vacuum. So we will continue according to the resolutions that we have passed which will entitle us to submit application and become APC. We will continue to work with this until we are registered as APC. We are APC from the date INEC gives us the certificate.

Have you agreed on who the national officers of APC will be?
That too I won’t tell you.

The public wants to know because 2015 is not far away.
This one too I won’t tell you. So, there are two things I won’t tell you.

What about this third one; we hear that the ACN leaders have conceded the presidency to the North while the party chairman will come from the South.
Well, I feel that for the stability of the party, at my own level I wouldn’t encourage rumour and I wouldn’t encourage incitement to make unprepared releases of our confidential discussions within the parties.

Several newspapers reported that there was an agreement between Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and yourself for both of you to renounce your personal aspirations in the interest of the new party.
I’ll resist all temptations to get me roped into making fundamental statements about this merger. When we formally submit our applications then I will answer such questions because then the documents are with INEC and I feel it is safe enough. Now it is not safe for me to confirm or reject your suggestions.

Is it true that when this merger process started personally you wanted it to be between ACN and CPC and you were not keen on allowing ANPP people to come in?
It is incorrect.

You don’t seem to be very comfortable with ANPP people.
You are still incorrect.

nigg-leaders-playing-nigeria1What is your current relationship with the ANPP chieftain Senator Ahmed Sani Yariman Bakura? In 2007 when at one time he was the chairman of your campaign organisation a problem developed at some stage.
Well, he remained in ANPP and we went and floated CPC and we are in it. So we are in different political parties.

But now you are coming to the same party, APC. Given what happened between you and him six years ago, are you comfortable now that you will be in the same party again? 
Yes, I feel comfortable because we have just discussed the legal terms of coming together and we have all accepted it. The three parties that are coming together. We are working towards the final stages of submitting our formal application to the INEC for registration. So, what else do you really want?

What about Ali Modu Sherrif?
He is the chairman of ANPP’s Board of Trustees and I’m the chairman of CPC’s Board of Trustees. Check the constitution of their party and see how much power their BOT has and check our own to see how much power our BOT has. We are trying to be very legal because this is the safest way to arrive at the merger. The legal documents involved are, firstly, the Electoral Act 2010. This is fundamental because it is the constitutional one so to speak. And then followed by the constitutions of respective parties and their manifestos. So we came and arrived at the top of the pyramid.

Are you sticking to the rules like this because you fear that people outside may try to scuttle the merger?
I think I have a different perception of the merger. There is Electoral Act on how to merge or form a new party and we are following the laws.  I’m not too legalistic; I’m just trying to follow the laws.

This merger business is more politics than the law. Are you satisfied with the kind of people that are coming into APC because there are allegations that some of them are PDP moles.
You see, when we get the registration the next thing legally is for us to do our convention whereby the party will choose its political leadership at all levels, from ward upward. Moles or no moles, whoever wants to participate will be given the opportunity. So let all the moles be coming, let them go and register with APC in their ward, get their cards and then let them start, if they want  to be councillors or president. This is what we are going to do.

You are coming together trying to displace the ruling party that is used to the spoils of office for so many years and obviously they won’t sit on their laps and wait for that to happen. Is that why you’re being careful about whole thing?
We are being careful because that is the right thing to do. You can’t ride shoddily on laws. You just interrogated me on what happened in Nasarawa State and I told you what I think is the lawful way to do address it.  We came together to stabilise the system because PDP has compromised the security and the economy of the country. We realised that the only way to stabilise the system is for the opposition parties that have representation in the legislative arm of government at both national and state levels to come together and face PDP. This is the only way to stabilise the system otherwise they will keep on doing what they like.

Are you willing to make some sacrifices because I hear people saying that in the event it is not Buhari, will he back someone else, or must it be you?
I have answered that question. You know when you tell the truth you don’t forget it. It is lies that you forget.  Somebody asked me the same question in Minna and I told him that after consummating the merger under APC, if somebody wants to become a presidential candidate and I agree myself to participate, we can go to the primaries together with that person. Let the party choose who becomes its presidential candidate for the 2015 election. I have answered that question, so please be fair to me.

You recently turned 70 and by 2015 you will about 72. Is it appropriate to run for office at that age?
Why not? I’m not a lawyer but I try to go by the rules. I think participating in voting and looking for political office by our constitution is from the age of 18 and they didn’t say when you reach the age of 100 you shouldn’t participate. So I’m even relatively young to seek for election. So it is up to firstly my party to give me the opportunity to participate and then secondly is for Nigerians to vote me or reject me because of old age.

Given the kind of political estate you built within short period of time with millions of followers, we haven’t seen a conscious effort on your part to groom a successor.
When you are running a system unless you are so primitive, I’m sorry to use that word, you don’t have to choose a leader for your supporters. You should allow the system to identify and pick its leadership. This is the beauty of the system.

Many observers say that CPC was a highly personalised arrangement with only one real political asset, that is you. That is why people say that if some accident were to happen, there won’t be CPC again.
No, no! We have got infrastructure on the ground and in spite of coming into the field relatively late, look at what we did. CPC was registered in December 2009 and look at what it achieved. CPC has done extremely well.  We did our registration, congresses, convention and then the elections all between 2009 and 2011.

People say you mismanaged a golden opportunity to capture many states in 2011 election.
Golden opportunity to go outside the law? You don’t know what happened. You don’t know the way the elections were rigged especially in Kaduna. There was curfew imposed with the military on the streets during elections. Our candidates and our agents in polling units couldn’t move under the curfew but PDP agents and INEC officials can move.

Can that happen again?
But now when we have all the opposition parties together and we go back to our constituencies, empower and train our people, rigging will be extremely difficult. Rigging will be extremely difficult in 2015 with APC around.

You were able to win 12 states the presidential election only to come down to one state in the gubernatorial election a week later. Though the rigging you talked about could be a factor, there were also signs that perhaps you were interested only in the presidency and that you didn’t worry too much about winning governorships.
There was internal party squabble at state level. I will give you an example with my state, Katsina. There was so much infighting among the executives of the party [CPC] from ward upward. Everybody wants to be the governor or anoint the governor and because of the infighting, it was resolved by the state executive that they should all forget about positions but that they should go and campaign for the party.
CPC won all the senatorial seats in the state; it won 12 out of the 16 House of Representatives seats. How then can CPC fail to win the governorship? You see it doesn’t make sense. What makes sense is that greed divided the officials of the party in the state.

Some of those problem festered for a long time, like that of Kano State. How come it wasn’t resolved?
I have given you the breakdown of the time.

What is your take on the current crisis in the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF)?
It annoys me in the sense that we have more serious things for the chief executives of states to occupy themselves with rather than the NGF which is unconstitutional.

Could it be a dress rehearsal for 2015 probably because the Rivers State governor is seen not to be with President Jonathan?
Well, they are from the same political party, the same geo-political zone, so I don’t have the inner intelligence as to why they don’t want Amaechi to continue.

CPC’s governor Umaru Tanko Al-Makura of Nasarawa State appeared to have voted for Amaechi.
Yes, why not? He knows as a person he cannot make much difference. Perhaps PDP is extorting him so much that he better shows them that he is not with them. He supports anybody that will give them a good fight.

This week we marked the 14th anniversary of Nigeria’s return to civilian rule. Do we have anything to celebrate?
I congratulate Nigerians. They have the patience to tolerate misgovernance. The government has failed in its fundamental duties of protecting lives and properties. They have woefully failed in providing jobs and in getting the infrastructure that will make the economy to pick up and to bring back manufacturing, employment and goods and services. I cannot congratulate failure. To me, our democracy is a total failure. Go to your local government and do some exercise.
Get the amount that accrued to it from 1999 to date and then check what was the state and number of schools; health centres; roads and water supply before 1999 and now. At any level, from local government upward to states and Federal Government, the money gotten from 1999 to date does not correspond with what is on the ground.

What you just said now about the record of 14 years of civilian rule sounds like your speech of December 31, 1983 when you overthrew a civilian government.
No, what I’m saying is that at any level from the local government upward to states and Federal level check what was the situation of infrastructure an  before 1999 and now. Let me give you example, which is based on facts and not hearsay. There was hearing at the National Assembly on them.
The money spent on National Electric Power Authority (NEPA) now Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) from 1999 to date was between 11 to 16 billion dollars, not naira because they have turned our naira into paper. Look at the state of power now, after 16 billion dollars. In my town Daura about two weeks ago, there was no power for three consecutive weeks. If you go to parts of Abuja, sometime for a week there wouldn’t be light. This is after 16 billion dollars was invested in the sector.

They are now privatising the sector. Do you support that?
Who am I to support or reject it? It doesn’t make any difference.

It is good to know where you stand on major economic or social issues as major contender for the presidency.
But that’s just a stand. It was said that we have 8000 megawatts then, what do we have now and what have they put in infrastructure with the 16 billion dollars? You have to know where you are and where you are heading to.

What else will you do apart from probing?
I didn’t say I’m going to probe because if you say so the country will be at a standstill. We have to find out what happened between the periods; the amount that was actually realised; what is the level of infrastructure; where are the agreements and with which companies? Have they brought the equipment they promised in the agreement? Have they used technically competent people or firms to do the transmission or generation of power?  All these vital questions must be answered by those who are responsible for keeping the country where it is.

Will you continue with the privatisation program if you eventually become the president?
You see, governance is not a question of whims and caprices of individuals, it is a system. You don’t sell a country’s asset by saying just go and take it. There is a process. Does the firm or individual have the capacity to run the firm? This question must be answered, not just because somebody is a former Head of State, therefore he is infallible. He went and floated companies and then he lobbied for the business and afterwards he will go and keep the money in Switzerland or invest in a developing country and allow his country to be going down. There is a system.

That sounds like you are going to stop the power sector privatisation.
How can I stop it when I haven’t even studied how it came about? I’m not an impulsive person. You can tell me that I’m rigid and this and that but I personally believe that I’m not an impulsive person. I’m a systematic person and a law abiding Nigerian.

People say that in your career you tend to over trust some people and they abuse power in your name. When you were Head of State, you over trusted Idiagbon; when you were in PTF you over trusted the consultants and now in politics you over trusted TBO.
I did not go to the university to study management or whatever. I learnt management of people in the field, especially people under fear, in war and in the battlefield. This is where you understand the strength and weakness of individuals. But when it comes to the management of people and materials you look for the clever ones, the armchair professor of everything.  How can you have a structure without trusting people? No matter how greedy you are as a leader at every level you have to delegate to people. Even in your house, you have to assign some responsibilities to your wife. You can’t say you‘re going to the market, buy vegetables, cook the soup and count the meat. From the management of your house to wherever you find yourself, you have to trust people. There are things you can’t put in writing or talk about when you trust people because you’re not perfect and you don’t expect perfection from anybody. Only God is perfect.
I’m happy that the people I mentored, the people I’ve been accused of trusting have kept the trust. Nobody can blame Idiagbon of laziness; of lack of courage or of incompetence. Nobody can blame Afri-projects for short-changing PTF and the government. There is no type of inquiry that Obasanjo’s government didn’t put in place to get something against PTF. Not a kobo was found against us. Nobody can say Idiagbon has floated a company and gave himself licenses, so Alhamdulillah.
In politics, I have attempted and I was given presidential ticket by ANPP twice and by CPC. Yes, I have a team that is supposed to run the party but we were not successful. In each case we went to court, in 2003, 2007 and in 2011.
The Supreme Court judgement favoured PDP. Get the judgement, you can buy it, it is now a public document and study it in detail. You will find out that my team of lawyers and those around me did all that is humanly possible. Under our political development, they have done their best and I’m very proud that we have not been caught or disgraced in the system for dishonesty.

Do you have any regrets for something you didn’t do or you could have done differently as military Head of State?
It was a long time when I was Head of State and under the circumstance that I came in, I think we tried to do our best. When we came in, we did four things. One, we refused to devalue the naira. Secondly we refused to remove petroleum subsidy.
Thirdly, there were states that owed their workers up to nine months salaries; we got money from the federation account and paid them all. And subsequently we removed it from their allocations and we returned same to the federation account. Fourthly, we refused to remove subsidy on flour. I couldn’t regret doing any of these four things and making sure they all worked.
We also refused to take loans and we were servicing effectively both medium and long term debts according to the agreement entered into by previous governments. We were not a perfect regime but these are what we did in 20 months.

You don’t regret that you didn’t shoot some politicians Rawlings style?
No, we didn’t shoot anyone! It was deliberate; all those we arrested we said they should be kept in detention—president, vice president, ministers and some governors. We said they should be treated with respect until various tribunals successfully prosecuted them with documents presented against them and not by hearsay. There were people that were released because nothing was found against them. People like Adamu Ciroma, late Biliyaminu Usman who was junior minister of education and some were from the south. They were released and allowed to go because nothing was found against them. Of course they were embarrassed that they were detained.

Did you say sorry to them?
Yes, we said sorry officially.

How do you remember your daughter who died recently?
Zulaiha was my first daughter; she was to be 40 a week to the time she died. She had three children including the [one she got by] Caesarean section. She was a sickler but she was an extremely hardworking person. She went to the university and she was working with a Federal Ministry until she died.

Apart from politicking, what do you do in the form of exercise?
I think prayer is a good exercise especially when you are getting old, if you do it properly. I complement it with walking within my compound. I’m a lucky person and I thank God I’m a healthy person.

What is your favourite meal?
I think because of my military training and during the war, I virtually eat everything but I like kunu da kosai in the morning. In the afternoon I eat tuwon alkama da miyan kuka. I hardly eat rice and I eat a lot of vegetables.

*Source Sunday Trust

 

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Pan-Africanism is more important than ever – Dlamini-Zuma
May 20, 2013 | 0 Comments

By Elissa Jobson and Parselelo Kantai in addis ababa*

Dlamini Zuma-I am quite sure that by 2063 there should be free movement of people within our continent

Dlamini Zuma-I am quite sure that by 2063 there should be free movement of people within our continent

The continent cannot wait until the African standby force becomes operational in 2015 to be able to resolve conflicts like Mali, says the AU Commission chair. Inequality – at the root of these crises – must also be addressed.

The three issues – pan-Africanism, sustainable development and the empowerment of women – loom the largest in Nokosazana Dlamini-Zuma plans for the African Union.
Like many South African activists, Nokosazana Dlamini-Zuma’s attachment to pan-Africanism is more practical than ideological.
It was the African National Congress’s ability to mobilize diplomatic and military support across the continent that enabled it to pressure the nationalist government in south Africa.

The pan-African spirit, says Dlamini-Zuma, started as a means to define Africa’s identity and fight against racial oppression.
It then assumed a vital organisational function. It got Africans to speak with one voice during the anti-colonial struggle and in subsequent diplomatic and economic negotiations.
“Now pan-Africanism is even more important, we’ve got a huge population, over a billion.

But if you divide us into individual countries, we are not significant,” Dlamini-Zuma argues. “You can’t ignore a billion plus people, but you can ignore five million people.”
For her, the founding vision of a borderless Africa with a single market, freedom of movement for labour and capital must underpin the continent’s development strategy.
The struggle has now moved on, she says, to organising the ports, the continental highways and power plants that will change people’s lives but require unprecedented cooperation.

In all this, it is Dlamini-Zuma’s determination that women should play a leading role in the African Union’s development, diplomacy and security work.
It was the women’s rights activists that pressured the authors of the AU’s constitutive act to include “the effective participation of women in decision-making” as one of the central objectives of the AU.
Now at least 50 percent of the AU commissioners must be women.
Those provisions helped women’s organisations such as Binta Diop’s Femmes Africa Solidarité to lobby more effectively for Dlamini-Zuma’s election as chair of the AU Commission last July.

The Africa Report: Is pan-Africanism relevant in the 21st century?

Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma: Pan-Africanism is still very relevant and even more important in a way. We have reserves of arable land. We have natural resources that – if we are able to turn them into wealth – can make a very prosperous continent. But if you divide us into individual countries, we are not significant. So it’s very important that we integrate, and integration is an expression of pan-Africanism.

Will Africa have abolished all national borders within 50 years?

I am quite sure that by 2063 there should be free movement of people within our continent. The free movement of people plus goods and capital is critical.
We should be able to drive from Cape to Cairo, go by train from Djibouti to Dakar. Even if you’re borderless, if you can’t drive from one place to another it means nothing.

How can the African union (AU) help make the current economic upturn into sustained development?

I think the AU should be a catalyst. The AU should work with member states, finding partnerships within the continent and externally.
We should be able to mobilise resources within the continent and diversify our partnerships. We’ve had partnerships with Europe and that should continue, but there are other partners in the Americas and Asia.
With the African Development Bank and with the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa we should look at an audit of the continent to see which skills are critical to implement the priorities.
We should look at [African renaissance] as a process not as an event. It had to start with liberation because you can’t have a renaissance of people who are repressed. Now it has to be liberation in terms of human development, sustainable development and modernisation.
What about liberation from aid dependency?

This is very important. If you look at the important documents like the Lagos Plan of Action, part of the reason we’ve not been able to implement all these great initiatives was because we thought we could implement them through aid.
No country can have donor aid as the mainstay of its development. Donor aid is welcome, but it should be contributing to what we are already doing. We cannot wait for the first dollar to come from outside. Our mindset needs to change.

How can Africa tackle its own security crises without the need for foreign interventions in places such as mali and libya?

We should first be looking at why are these crises taking place. If we were to address truly the issue of inclusive development and participative democracy, we will get fewer of these crises. The equitable distribution of wealth, participative democracy and inclusive economic development are going to be key to sustaining peace and stability.
We also have to look at what can we do in the short term as Africans to be able to have a rapid response to these crises.
If you recall in my opening [statement] at the [January] summit, I did say that we need to look at that because this issue of the standby force – which is going to be operationalised in 2015 – does not help [in the] problems [we are having] now.
As we celebrate the 50th anniversary [of the Organisation of African Unity/AU], we should be reflecting on that●

*Source African Report.Follow Africa Report @theafricareport on Twitter | theafricareport on Facebook

 

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Wole Soyinka on Chinua Achebe:
May 20, 2013 | 1 Comments

-Achebe A Celebrated Storyteller, But No Father Of African Literature, Says Soyinka

-Also: Why He Wished Achebe Had Not Written His Last Book; What He Told Ojukwu Before The War; Genocide, And Other Issues

.Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka has described Africa’s most well known novelist, Chinua Achebe, as a storyteller who earned global celebration, adding, however, that those describing Achebe as “the father of African literature” were ignorant.
In a wide-ranging interview with SaharaReporters, Soyinka paid tribute to the late novelist who died on March 21, 2013 at 82. Soyinka, who won the 1986 Nobel Prize for literature, also spoke on his personal relationship with Achebe and other Nigerian writers; his regrets about Achebe’s last book, There Was A Country: A Personal History of Biafra; and his attempt to talk the late Biafran leader, Emeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, out of fighting a war. Soyinka also answered questions about Heinemann’s African Writers Series and scolded “clannish” and “opportunistic hagiographers” fixated on the fact that Achebe never won the Nobel Prize.
Below is the full text of the interview.

Question: Do you recall where or how you first learned about the death of Professor Chinua Achebe? And what was your first reaction?

Soyinka: Where I heard the news? I was on the road between Abeokuta and Lagos. Who called first – BBC or a Nigerian journalist? Can’t recall now, since other calls followed fast and furious, while I was still trying to digest the news. My first reaction? Well, you know the boa constrictor – when it has just swallowed an abnormal morsel, it goes comatose, takes time off to digest. Today’s global media appears indifferent to such a natural entitlement. You are expected to supply that instant response. So, if – as was the case – my first response was to be stunned, that swiftly changed to anger.
Now, why was I stunned? I suspect, mostly because I was to have been present at his last Chinua Achebe symposium just a few months earlier – together with Governor Fashola of Lagos. Something intervened and I was marooned in New York. When your last contact with someone, quite recent, is an event that centrally involves that person, you don’t expect him to embark on a permanent absence. Also, Chinua and I had been collaborating lately on one or two home crises. So, it was all supposed to be ‘business as usual’.  Most irrational expectations at one’s age but, that’s human presumptuousness for you. So, stunned I was, primarily, then media enraged!

Question: Achebe was both a writer as well as editor for Heinemann’s African Writers Series. How would you evaluate his role in the popularization of African literature?
Soyinka: I must tell you that, at the beginning, I was very skeptical of the Heinemann’s African Series. As a literary practitioner, my instinct tends towards a suspicion of “ghetto” classifications – which I did feel this was bound to be. When you run a regional venture, it becomes a junior relation to what exists. Sri Lankan literature should evolve and be recognized as literature of Sri Lanka, release after release, not entered as a series. You place the books on the market and let them take off from there. Otherwise there is the danger that you start hedging on standards. You feel compelled to bring out quantity, which might compromise on quality.
I refused to permit my works to appear in the series – to begin with. My debut took place while I was Gowon’s guest in Kaduna prisons and permission to publish The Interpreters was granted in my absence. Exposure itself is not a bad thing, mind you. Accessibility. Making works available – that’s not altogether negative. Today, several scholars write their PhD theses on Onitsha Market literature. Both Chinua and Cyprian Ekwensi – not forgetting Henshaw and others – published with those enterprising houses. It was outside interests that classified them Onitsha Market Literature, not the publishers. They simply published.
All in all, the odds come down in favour of the series – which, by the way, did go through the primary phase of sloppy inclusiveness, then became more discriminating. Aig Higo – who presided some time after Chinua – himself admitted it.

Question: For any major writer, there’s the inevitable question of influence. In your view, what’s the nature of Achebe’s enduring influence and impact in African literature? And what do you foresee as his place in the canon of world literature?

Soyinka: Chinua’s place in the canon of world literature? Wherever the art of the story-teller is celebrated, definitely assured.

Question: In interviews as well as in writing, Achebe brushed off the title of “father of African literature.” Yet, on his death, numerous media accounts, in Nigeria as well as elsewhere, described him as the father – even grandfather – of African literature. What do you think of that tag?

Soyinka: As you yourself have observed, Chinua himself repudiated such a tag – he did study literature after all, bagged a degree in the subject. So, it is a tag of either literary ignorance or “momentary exuberance” – ala [Nadine] Gordimer – to which we are all sometimes prone. Those who seriously believe or promote this must be asked: have you the sheerest acquaintance with the literatures of other African nations, in both indigenous and adopted colonial languages? What must the francophone, lusophone, Zulu, Xhosa, Ewe etc. etc. literary scholars and consumers think of those who persist in such a historic absurdity? It’s as ridiculous as calling WS father of contemporary African drama! Or Mazisi Kunene father of African epic poetry. Or Kofi Awoonor father of African poetry. Education is lacking in most of those who pontificate.
As a short cut to such corrective, I recommend Tunde Okanlawon’s scholarly tribute to Chinua in The Sun (Nigeria) of May 4th. After that, I hope those of us in the serious business of literature will be spared further embarrassment.
Let me just add that a number of foreign “African experts” have seized on this silliness with glee. It legitimizes their ignorance, their parlous knowledge, enables them to circumscribe, then adopt a patronizing approach to African literatures and creativity. Backed by centuries of their own recorded literary history, they assume the condescending posture of midwiving an infant entity. It is all rather depressing.

Question: Following Achebe’s death, you and J.P. Clarke released a joint statement. In it, you both wrote: “Of the ‘pioneer quartet’ of contemporary Nigerian literature, two voices have been silenced – one, of the poet Christopher Okigbo, and now, the novelist Chinua Achebe.” In your younger days as writers, would you say there was a sense among your circle of contemporaries – say, Okigbo, Achebe, Clarke, Flora Nwapa – of being engaged in a healthy rivalry for literary dominance? By the way, on the Internet, your joint statement was criticized for neglecting to mention any female writers – say, Flora Nwapa – as part of that pioneering group.  Was that an oversight?

Soyinka: This question – the omission of Flora Nwapa, Mabel Segun (nee Imoukhuede) – and do include D.O. Fagunwa, Amos Tutuola, Cyprian Ekwensi, so it is not just a gender affair – is related to the foregoing, and is basically legitimate. JP and I were however paying a tribute to a colleague within a rather closed circle of interaction, of which these others were not members. Finally, and most relevantly, we are language users – this means we routinely apply its techniques. We knew what we were communicating when we placed “pioneer quartet” in – yes! – inverted commas. Some of the media may have removed them; others understood their significance and left them where they belonged.

Question: Did you and Achebe have the opportunity to discuss his last book, There Was a Country: A Personal History of Biafra, and its critical reception? What’s your own assessment of There Was a Country? Some critics charged that the book was unduly divisive and diminished Achebe’s image as a nationally beloved writer and intellectual. Should a writer suborn his witness to considerations of fame?

Soyinka: No, Chinua and I never discussed There was a Country.  Matter of fact, that aborted visit I mentioned earlier would have been my opportunity to take him on with some friendly fire at that open forum, continuing at his home over a bottle or two, aided and abetted by Christie’s [editor’s note: Achebe’s wife, Professor Christie Achebe] cooking. A stupendous life companion by the way – Christie – deserves a statue erected to her for fortitude and care – on behalf of us all. More of that will emerge, I am sure, as the tributes pour in.
Unfortunately, that chance of a last encounter was missed, so I don’t really wish to comment on the work at this point. It is however a book I wish he had never written – that is, not in the way it was. There are statements in that work that I wish he had never made.
The saddest part for me was that this work was bound to give joy to sterile literary aspirants like Adewale Maja-Pearce, whose self-published book – self-respecting publishers having rejected his trash – sought to create a “tragedy” out of the relationships among the earlier named “pioneer quartet” and, with meanness aforethought, rubbish them all – WS especially. Chinua got off the lightest. A compendium of outright impudent lies, fish market gossip, unanchored attributions, trendy drivel and name dropping, this is a ghetto tract that tries to pass itself up as a product of research, and has actually succeeded in fooling at least one respectable scholar. For this reason alone, there will be more said, in another place, on that hatchet mission of an inept hustler.

Question: One of the specific issues raised constantly in recent Nigerian public “debate” has to do with whether the Igbo were indeed victims of genocide. What are your thoughts on the question?

Soyinka: The reading of most Igbo over what happened before the Civil War was indeed accurate – yes, there was only one word for it – genocide. Once the war began however, atrocities were committed by both sides, and the records are clear on that. The Igbo got the worst of it, however. That fact is indisputable. The Asaba massacre is well documented, name by victim name, and General Gowon visited personally to apologize to the leaders. The Igbo must remember, however, that they were not militarily prepared for that war. I told Ojukwu this, point blank, when I visited Biafra. Sam Aluko also revealed that he did. A number of leaders outside Biafra warned the leadership of this plain fact. Bluff is no substitute for bullets.

Question: Your joint statement with Clarke balances the “sense of depletion” you felt over Achebe’s death with “consolation in the young generation of writers to whom the baton has been passed, those who have already creatively ensured that there is no break in the continuum of the literary vocation.” How much of the young Nigerian and African writers do you find the time to read?

Soyinka: Yes, I do read much of Nigerian/African literature – as much as my time permits. My motor vehicle in Nigeria is a mobile library of Nigerian publications – you know those horrendous traffic holdups – that’s where I go through some of the latest. The temptation to toss some out of the car window after the first few pages or chapter is sometimes overwhelming. That sour note conceded – and as I have repeatedly crowed – that nation of ours can boast of that one virtue – it’s bursting with literary talent! And the women seem to be at the forefront.

Question: In the joint statement issued by J. P. Clarke and you following Achebe’s death,  you stated: “For us, the loss of Chinua Achebe is, above all else, intensely personal. We have lost a brother, a colleague, a trailblazer and a doughty fighter.” There’s the impression in some quarters that Achebe, Clarke and you were virtual personal enemies. In the specific case of Achebe and you, there’s the misperception that your 1986 Nobel Prize in literature poisoned your personal relationship with a supposedly resentful Achebe. How would you describe your relationship with Achebe from the early days when you were both young writers in a world that was becoming aware of the fecund, protean phenomenon called African literature?

Soyinka: Now – all right – I feel a need to return to that question of yours – I have a feeling that I won’t be at ease with myself for having dodged it earlier – which was deliberate. If I don’t answer it, we shall all continue to be drenched in misdirected spittle. I’m referring to your question on the relationship between myself and other members of the “pioneer quartet” – JP Clark and Chinua specifically.  At this stage in our lives, the surviving have a duty to smash the mouths of liars to begin with, then move to explain to those who have genuinely misread, who have failed to place incidents in their true perspective, or who simply forget that life is sometimes strange – rich but strange, and inundated with flux.

My first comment is that outsiders to literary life should be more humble and modest. They should begin by accepting that they were strangers to the ferment of the earlier sixties and seventies. It would be stupid to claim that it was all constantly harmonious, but outsiders should at least learn some humility and learn to deal with facts. Where, in any corner of the globe, do you find perfect models of creative harmony, completely devoid of friction? We all have our individual artistic temperaments as well as partisanships in creative directions. And we have strong opinions on the merits of the products of our occupation. But – “rivalry for domination,” to quote you – healthy or unhealthy? Now that is something that has been cooked up, ironically, by camp followers, the most recent of which is that ignoble character I’ve just mentioned, who was so desperate to prove the existence of such a thing that he even tried to rope JP’s wife into it, citing her as source for something I never uttered in my entire existence. I cannot think of a more unprincipled, despicable conduct.

These empty, notoriety-hungry hangers-on and upstarts need to find relevance, so they concoct. No, I believe we were all too busy and Soyinkaself-centred – that is, focused on our individual creative grooves – to think ‘dominance’!
Writers are human. I shudder to think how I must sometimes appear to others. JP remains as irrepressible, contumacious and irascible as he was during that creative ferment of the early sixties. Christopher was ebullient. Chinua mostly hid himself away in Lagos, intervening robustly in MBARI affairs with deceptive disinclination. Perception of Chinua, JP and I as ‘personal enemies’?  The word “enemy” is strong and wrong. The Civil War split up a close-knit literary coterie, of which “the quartet” formed a self-conscious core. That war engendered a number of misapprehensions. Choices were made, some regrettable, and even thus admitted by those who made them. Look, I never considered General Gowon who put me in detention my enemy, even though at the time, I was undeniably bitter at the experience, the circumstances, at the man who authorized it, and contributing individuals – including Chief Tony Enahoro who read out a fabricated confession to a gathering of national and international media.
But the war did end. New wars (some undeclared) commenced. Chief Enahoro and I would later collaborate in a political initiative – though I never warmed up to him personally, I must confess. Gowon and I, by contrast, became good friends. He attended my birthday celebrations, presided at my most recent Nigerian award – the Obafemi Awolowo Leadership Prize. JP was present, with his wife, Ebun.

What does that tell you? Before that, I had hosted them in my Abeokuta den on a near full-day visit. Would Achebe, if he had been able, and was in Nigeria, have joined us? Perhaps. But he certainly wouldn’t have been present at the Awolowo Award event. That is a different kettle of fish, a matter between him and Awolowo – which, however, Chinua did let degenerate into tribal charges.
Well then, this prospect that “my 1986 Nobel Prize in literature poisoned my personal relationship with a supposedly resentful Achebe” – I think I shouldn’t dodge that either. Even if that was true – which I do not accept – it surely has dissipated over time. For heaven’s sake, over twenty-five people have taken the prize since then! The problem remains with those vicarious laureates who feel personally deprived, and thus refuse to let go. Chinua’s death was an opportunity to prise open that scab all over again. But they’ve now gone too far with certain posturings and should be firmly called to order, and silenced – in the name of decency.

I refer to that incorrigible sect – no other word for it – some leaders of which threatened Buchi Emecheta early in her career – that she had no business engaging in the novel, since this was Chinua’s special preserve! Incredible? Buchi virtually flew to me for protection – read her own account of that traumatizing experience. It is a Nigerian disease. Nigerians need to be purged of a certain kind of arrogance of expectations, of demand, of self-attribution, of a spurious sense and assertion of entitlement. It goes beyond art and literature. It covers all aspects of interaction with others. Wherever you witness a case of ‘It’s MINE, and no other’s’, ‘it’s OURS, not theirs’, at various levels of vicarious ownership, such aggressive voices, ninety percent of the time, are bound to be Nigerians. This is a syndrome I have had cause to confront defensively with hundreds of Africans and non-Africans. It is what plagues Nigeria at the moment – it’s MY/OUR turn to rule, and if I/WE cannot, we shall lay waste the terrain. Truth is, predictably, part of the collateral damage on that terrain.

Yes, these are the ones who, to co-opt your phrasing, “diminished (and still diminish) Chinua’s image”. In the main, they are, ironically, his assiduous – but basically opportunistic – hagiographers – especially of a clannish, cabalistic temperament. Chinua – we have to be frank here – also did not help matters. He did make one rather unfortunate statement that brought down the hornet’s nest on his head, something like:  “The fact that Wole Soyinka was awarded the Nobel Prize does not make him the Asiwaju (Leader) of African literature”. I forget now what provoked that statement. Certainly it could not be traced to any such pretensions on my part. I only recollect that it was in the heat of some controversy – on a national issue, I think.

But let us place this in context. Spats between writers, artists, musicians, scientists, even architects and scientific innovators etc. are notorious. They are usually short-lived – though some have been known to last a life-time. This particular episode was at least twenty years ago. Unfortunately some of Chinua’s cohorts decided that they had a mission to prosecute a matter regarding which they lacked any vestige of understanding or competence or indeed any real interest. It is however a life crutch for them and they cannot let go.
What they are doing now – and I urge them to end it shame-facedly – is to confine Chinua’s achievement space into a bunker over which hangs an unlit lamp labeled “Nobel”. Is this what the literary enterprise is about? Was it the Nobel that spurred a young writer, stung by Eurocentric portrayal of African reality, to put pen to paper and produce Things Fall Apart? This conduct is gross disservice to Chinua Achebe and disrespectful of the life-engrossing occupation known as literature. How did creative valuation descend to such banality? Do these people know what they’re doing – they are inscribing Chinua’s epitaph in the negative mode of thwarted expectations. I find that disgusting.

China, with her vast population, history, culture – arts and literature – celebrated her first Nobel Prize in Literature only last year. Yet I have been teaching Chinese literature on and off – within Comparative literary studies – for over forty years. Am I being instructed now that those writers needed recognition by the Nobel for me to open such literary windows to my students? Do these strident, cacophonous Nigerians know how much literature – and of durable quality – radiates the world?

Let me add this teacher complaint: far too many Nigerians – students of literature most perniciously – are being programmed to have no other comparative literary structure lodged in their mental scope than WS vs. CA. Such crass limitation is being pitted against the knowledgeable who, often wearily, but obedient to sheer intellectual doggedness, feel that they owe a duty to stop the march of confident ignorance. For me personally, it is galling to have everything reduced to the Nigerian enclave where, to make matters even more acute, there are supposedly only those two. It makes me squirm. I teach the damned subject – literature – after all. I do know something about it.
So let me now speak as a teacher. It is high time these illiterates were openly instructed that Achebe and Soyinka inhabit different literary planets, each in its own orbit. If you really seek to encounter – and dialogue with – Chinua Achebe in his rightful orbit, then move out of the Nigerian entrapment and explore those circuits coursed by the likes of Hemingway. Or Maryse Conde. Or Salman Rushdie. Think Edouard Glissant. Think Ngugi wa Thiong’o. Think Earl Lovelace. Think Jose Saramago. Think Bessie Head. Think Syl Cheney-Coker, Yambo Ouologuem, Nadine Gordimer. Think Patrick Chamoiseau. Think Toni Morrison. Think Hamidou Kane. Think Shahrnush Parsipur. Think Tahar Ben Jelloun. Think Naguib Mahfouz – and so on and on along those orbits in the galaxy of fiction writers. In the meantime, let us quit this indecent exercise of fatuous plaints, including raising hopes, even now, with talk of “posthumous” conferment, when you know damned well that the Nobel committee does not indulge in such tradition. It has gone beyond ‘sickening’. It is obscene and irreverent. It desecrates memory. The nation can do without these hyper-active jingoists. Can you believe the kind of letters I receive? Here is one beauty – let me quote:

“I told these people, leave it to Wole Soyinka – he will do what is right. We hear Ben Okri, Nuruddin Farah, even Chimamanda Adichie are being nominated. This is mind-boggling. Who are they? Chinua can still be awarded the prize, even posthumously. We know you will intervene to put those upstarts in their place. I’ve assured people you will do what is right.”
Alfred Nobel regretted that his invention, dynamite, was converted to degrading use, hence his creation of the Nobel Prize, as the humanist counter to the destructive power of his genius. If he thought that dynamite was eviscerating in its effects, he should try some of the gut-wrenching concoctions of Nigerian pontificators. Please, let these people know that I am not even a member of Alfred’s Academy that decides such matters. As a ‘club member,’ however, I can nominate, and it is no business of literary ignoramuses whom, if any, I do nominate. My literary tastes are eclectic, sustainable, and unapologetic. Fortunately, thousands of such nominations – from simply partisan to impeccably informed – pour in annually from all corners of the globe to that cold corner of the world called Sweden.

Humiliating as this must be for many who carry that disfiguring hunch, the national ego, on their backs, Nigeria is not the centre of the Swedish electors’ world, nor of the African continent, nor of the black world, nor of the rest of the world for that matter. In fact, right now, Nigeria is not the centre of anything but global chagrin.
Chinua is entitled to better than being escorted to his grave with that monotonous, hypocritical aria of deprivation’s lament, orchestrated by those who, as we say in my part of the world, “dye their mourning weeds a deeper indigo than those of the bereaved”. He deserves his peace. Me too! And right now, not posthumously.

It is not all bleakness and aggravation however – I have probably given that impression, but the stridency of cluelessness, sometimes willful, has reached the heights of impiety. Vicarious appropriation is undignified, and it runs counter to the national pride it ostensibly promotes. Other voices are being drowned, or placed in a false position, who value and express the sensibilities between, respect the subtle threads that sustain, writers, even in their different orbits. My parting tribute to Chinua will therefore take the form of the long poem I wrote to him when he turned seventy, after my participation in the celebrations at Bard College. I plan for it to be published on the day of his funeral – my way of taunting death, by pursuing that cultural, creative, even political communion that unites all writers with a decided vision of the possible – and even beyond the grave.

*Source Sahara Reports

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‘Appoint all 100 Senators Now and Save State Coffers’– Chris Fomunyoh to Biya
March 27, 2013 | 0 Comments

By Innocent Chia*

Other than the silly rumor of the improbable escape of First Lady Chantal Biya,  allegedly and  uncharacteristically disappearing from the national spotlight for a jiffy last year, little else has in recent times, sparked as much conversation as Biya’s precipitated Senatorial Elections in April. Without any rhyme or rhythm for such a short calendar, the President Decreed an election less than 60 days from his announcement. Whilst most observers are still scratching their heads over this decision, there are those who see no value in the exercise and are making calls for any legitimate opposition to refrain from it.
But there are those who say not-participating is not an option because the Biya regime has never lacked takers (fake “Opposition” that it creates) to fill up seats in the Parliament when the “real” opposition seats out.  The problem for proponents of participating is that the record of achievements for the “real” opposition over the last two decades has been abysmal.  Their greatest failure was strategic foresight because they underestimated the resilience of the CPDM; did not factor the capacity of their own leadership to withstand corruption; and overestimated the tenacity of the general population. In this exclusive interview with The Chia Report, Chris Fomunyoh, Ph.D – Senior Associate for Africa at the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (NDI) in Washington DC  and Cameroonian –  delves into the why’s and why not’s of this charade. 

Chia Report (CR) – Dr. Chris Fomunyoh – For those that have little familiarity with Cameroon’s political landscape, President Paul Biya recently announced on February 27th that there will be Senatorial Elections this coming April 14th, 2013.  You care to contextualize the decision?

Dr. Chris Fomunyoh: Article 14 of the constitution of our country as adopted in 1996 provides that Cameroon shall have a bi-cameral legislature or parliament made up of the National Assembly and the Senate.  Article 20 stipulates that that second body or upper chamber will have 100 Senators, 10 from each region of the country, seven of whom would be elected and three others appointed by the Head of State.  The same constitution and subsequent laws stipulate that the seven Senators shall be elected by indirect balloting through regional electoral colleges constituted of local councilors and regional councilors.  These instruments also lay out that regional councilors derive from divisional councilors who are designated to represent administrative divisions (or prefectures) in their respective regional councils.

The outcry that you hear today across the country arises from questions about the legality of today’s  electoral  college and the fact that the legitimacy of Senators elected under these circumstances may be tarnished beyond repair:  regional councils have not yet been created, and current local councilors are serving on bonus time as their fixed five year term mandates expired last year.  Moreover, the electorate of 2013 is definitely different from that which participated in the local elections of 2007, and there are legitimate reasons to question the representative mandate of the councilors that will cast ballots on April 14.

CR: Presidential Decree N° 2013/056 is some 17 odd years late in application of the 1996 Constitutional provision that created an Upper House Chamber in Cameroon. From the date of his announcement to the date of elections there are 45- 46 days. Is there an urgency, you think, that has caused the convening of the Electoral College and almost immediate application of Decree?

Dr. Chris Fomunyoh: It is a shame that in our country, the population is ambushed at every election, including that for the Senate which under normal circumstances should be a very easy exercise given the small size of those called upon to vote.  First, ELECAM (the lection administration body) was conducting voter registration outside of the January to August period stipulated in the election law, and Cameroonians were told that this was in anticipation of the election of local councilors and members of the National Assembly whose extended mandate would be ending soon. 

Then comes the decree on Senatorial elections which forces political parties to scramble to meet deadlines for identification of candidates and submission of lists.  This limited time frame does not allow any of the political parties, including the CPDM, enough time to organize public and transparent candidate selection activities with grassroots input, which means that this decree, like many others signed by President Biya, inflicts collateral damage on internal democracy within Cameroonian political parties.  I do not see the urgency that a tainted Senate would address in the immediate term.

CR:  Biya supporters are praising this initiative as another example of his stewardship and leadership as far as strengthening democracy in Cameroon. You care to say why they may be wrong or right?

Dr. Chris Fomunyoh: Unfortunately, over the past 30 years we have seen and heard the most unimaginable declarations from supporters of this regime.  Cameroonians have become accustomed to such praise singers by day and critics by night.  To extrapolate somewhat, the emperor could be standing naked in the street and his supporters would sing his praises for his new dress code, even as the rest of the world sees clearly that the emperor has no clothes. 

Lest we forget, in the early 1990s, as other African countries were opening up their political systems and Cameroonian democrats were advocating for more freedoms and liberty, some of these same individuals marched in the streets of the capital saying “no to democracy and political pluralism.”  The Cameroonian people will remember.

CR: Talk to the concerns that about 90 percent of the Electoral College of Municipal Councilors – 9032 of 10636 – are from Paul Biya’s ruling CPDM.  Will this have an impact on the quality and quantity of representation in the Senate and how?

Dr. Chris Fomunyoh: The concerns are more serious than just a number’s game.  The issue is that the demographics of the country and the electorate have shifted between 2007 and 2013, so much so that one couldn’t tell in advance whether credible local elections in 2013 would give the CPDM more or less local councilors.  What about new political parties that have emerged or gained strength and increased membership since 2007?  The main question is:  if the country is this close to holding new local elections, why not hold those elections first in order to have councilors of irrefutable legitimacy and more equitable representation who would then be called upon to participate in the election of Senators?

CR: According to the same Decree of application, President Biya will be appointing 30 of the 100 Senators. What effect does this have on the national polity?

Dr. Chris Fomunyoh: The provision that allows the president to appoint 30 Senators is in the constitution, although many Cameroonians disagree with the concept of the head of the executive branch hand picking members of the legislative branch that are supposed to exercise oversight over his performance, as in every democratic society.  With already so much power centralized in the hands of one individual in the Cameroonian context, giving that individual even more powers entrenches patronage and cronyism, and simply makes a mockery of the institutions and systems of checks and balances that every democratic society has, and that we as Cameroonians deserve.

CR: It has been said that the idea of a Senate was to mimic the US system. Why is this not a moment when the US is flattered that it is getting copied by Cameroon?

Dr. Chris Fomunyoh: Well, the United States can speak for itself, but for me as a Cameroonian who loves his country and cares about the future we need to build for our youth and future generations, this whole exercise about a Senate is a very bad joke at many levels.  The United States has 100 Senators for a population of 300 million inhabitants and a GDP (gros domestic product) 600 times that of Cameroon; so our leaders hand pick their own 100 Senators for 20 million people, and we call that mimicking the US?  

Perhaps some of our leaders think that by creating a Senate, they can brag about the democracy they practice just as they say unashamedly these days that Cameroon has more than 200 registered political parties, and therefore is freer and more democratic than countries such as the United States, France, Great Britain, Ghana, South Africa and Senegal that have less.

Many Cameroonians even question why have a Senate when the current National Assembly is understaffed and under-resourced to carry out fully its legislative and representative functions, and when we have other institutions such as the Economic and Social Council in existence for decades with no visible impact on governance and, worse still, no accountability for the annual budgets allocated to such institutions. 

There is reason to be anxious about the future of our beloved country.  We still have a long way to go and greater commitment needed to attain the appropriate democratic institutions and processes that many Africans now take for granted.

CR: The Law and Decree of Application both address Regional Representation. But they are both silent about demographic representation, including youth and women.

Dr. Chris Fomunyoh: To be honest with you, my feeling is that the current regime uses the words ‘women and youth’ as mere slogans.  Besides getting women to wear party uniforms and dance at public events glorifying ‘the great leader’, I am still to identify specific government policies and actions that benefit the Cameroonian woman.  Look at the placards carried by some women during the last March 8 ceremonies marking international women’s day. 

We deny many young Cameroonians even the right to vote by crafting an artificial voting age at 20 years old whereas the age of maturity is 18 years; we create artificial statistics to hock wink young people into believing the government has their interest at heart:  in 2011, Cameroonian youth were promised 25,000 jobs and for a long time it was unclear whether or how those jobs were all filled; then at year end 2012, youth were promised 300,000 jobs without stating clearly how that would be done in an economy that is stagnating and for which the regime itself promises economic emergence only in 2035, more than 22 years from now.

CR: Let’s talk some about the opposition in this process. What are the chances that the opposition stuns Biya and his cohorts and wins a majority?

Dr. Chris Fomunyoh: No chances for opposition parties at all!  Zip!  Zero!  Left to its own devises, the regime that governs our country today seems intent on driving us back into the dark days of one party rule.

CR: Why do Fru Ndi and his nominal opposition not bear the credibility of yesteryears to pull it off?

Dr. Chris Fomunyoh: The deck is stacked against opposition parties in our country.  The playing field is so tilted in many areas.  Even then, and as I said during a public conference in Yaounde in November 2012, the opposition also needs to take stock of itself, recognize its strengths and weaknesses, size up its assets and liabilities, review its accomplishments and failures, in order to redefine the role its wants to play in shaping the country’s future. 

The population has become disenchanted, apathetic and disrespectful of some of the opposition leaders and parties for good reason.  In fact the frequent inconsistencies of some leaders deprive the people of the right to hope for change and a different and better tomorrow.

CR: Is it an accurate assessment that this Senatorial Body, if Cameroonians let the charade continue, is nothing but another rubber stamp masquerade for the Executive Branch, without a mandate to change the course of history for the development and prosperity of Cameroonians, and another foundation for the thriving plague of corruption?

Dr. Chris Fomunyoh: You captured it very well.  I have even said, in dismay and disbelieve at the frivolous manner in which democratic institution building is handled in our country, that if the regime already has its list of 100 Senators, it should name them now and save us all the unnecessary expenditure from state coffers and further embarrassment before other Africans and the rest of the world.  Thank goodness there’s precedence that in a country such as Senegal, President Macky Sall upon getting into office saw the futility of a Senate created under similar circumstances and scrapped it completely.  Senegal’s democracy hasn’t lost a dent of its credibility.

CR: At the last Presidential Elections in 2011 there are many Cameroonians who strongly believed that your town hall meetings across North America were to explore the chances of running against Paul Biya. You care to explain why it was a no-go at the end?

Dr. Chris Fomunyoh: As I stated during a press conference in Douala on September 13, 2011, the town hall meetings across North America and Europe and the extensive consultations across the country were aimed at hearing from my fellow compatriots about their hopes and aspirations with regards to the political leadership of our country and the role we could play in bringing these expectations to fruition going forward.  While some felt that one needed to take the bull by the hones, many others worried about being compromised by a flawed process that seemed pre-arranged for a predetermined outcome. 

We therefore determined that we could not, in good conscience, become accomplices in the charade of an electoral process.  Developments since then continue to prove us right; and when President Biya stated in Paris recently that his legitimacy could not be questioned because he won a competitive presidential election against more than 20 other candidates, whom by the way he treated with disdain as if they were stooges, many of our fellow compatriots were relieved that I was not one of them.

CR: Can you tell the disillusioned Cameroonian youth what, if anything, they can and should be doing to fend off this onslaught by the current generation of leaders?

Dr. Chris Fomunyoh: My piece of advice to the Cameroonian youth is ‘do not despair’!  Leaders come and go, but countries leave on.  So, the opportunity will come for our country to bounce back and regain its rightful place among the community of truly democratic nations.  The clock turns in only one direction and, despite the challenges of the moment, that one direction keeps me hopeful for our youth and optimistic for the future of our resource-rich country.  So, working with the youth, we must keep expanding and strengthening the networks of like-minded, committed and patriotic Cameroonians, so that once the opportunity arises and the stars align themselves, the youth will rise up and make their voices heard loud and clear, once and for all.

*Source Chia Report

 

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Ayittey Unplugged
January 28, 2013 | 0 Comments

-Elections in Ghana, chaos in Francophone Africa, misguided praise for Rawlings, the African Union, Obama and Africa et al

 -Ghanaian Professor George Ayittey shares perspectives on challenging times in the continent

 By Ajong Mbapndah L

An interview with Professor George Ayittey is always exciting. He has a mastery of facts, broad knowledge of the continent and major events. A prolific writer, Prof Ayittey who heads the Free Africa Foundation is one of those uncompromising critics of poor leadership in Africa. Ayittey expresses regret that the Arab Spring did not extend to Sub Saharan Africa but remains optimistic with the emergence of a more critical and dynamic younger generation. Unlike the last couple of elections which have made Ghana a reference in the continent, results of the 2011 elections were contested by the opposition but Prof Ayittey believes that the elections were free and fair. Ayittey also cautions Africans to lower their expectations of President Obama in a broad interview which also discusses the African Union, crisis in Francophone Africa, controversies on the Rawlings legacy in Ghana and more.

 Prof Ayittey, looking back at 2012, what worked and what did not, in what areas or sectors did you see encouraging developments for the continent?

The year 2012 provided a sobering reality check into the Arab Spring. The euphoria that greeted the initial ouster of Ben Ali and Hosni Mubarak had subsided somewhat and terms such as Arab Autumn were being used instead. The revolutions, started by the youth in Tunisia and Egypt had been hijacked by senile clerics – some in exile for decades. Rival militias occasionally battled each other in Libya. And Bashar al-Assad continues to slaughter his people with impunity. Over 60,000 so far have been killed. Was the euphoria and bubbling optimism justified?

Rather disappointingly, the Arab Spring did not spread down to Sub-Saharan Africa and dictators, such as Paul Biya of Cameroon and Isaiah Afewerki of Eritrea continue to hold sway. There were even set-backs in Mali, where a democratically elected government was overthrown in a military coup in April, 2012 and another coup in Guinea-Bissau a month later. The coup in Mali sparked a rebellion by the Tuaregs and, in alliance with the terrorist group, Ansar Dine, declared the northern part of Mali as independent state of Azawad. This of course has created a major international crisis that has led the French to intervene in Mali.

2012 offers some poignant lessons to democracy activists. Topping a dictator is only the first step in establishing a free society. The next step is dismantling the dictatorship itself. It is analogous to having a bad driver with a defective vehicle. After sacking the driver, the vehicle itself must be fixed or else the new driver will quickly land in a ditch.

In far too many countries, the second step is either not attempted or botched, which leads to a reversal or hijacking of the revolution. This happens when a “crocodile liberator,” such as Charles Taylor of Liberia, turns out to be far worse than the dictator he claims to have overthrown. It can also occur when quack revolutionaries flaunting fake democratic credentials hijack revolutions to stay in power and serve their own megalomaniacal agendas. Recall that a reversal of Mali’s 1991 revolution occurred when mutinous soldiers overthrew the democratically elected government. As seemingly stable Mali revealed, hard-won democratic gains in Africa remain fragile.

In addition to the dictator’s willingness to accept change, three factors will determine the success or failure of revolutionary upheavals: the duration of the transition process; who manages the transition; and implementation of constitutional and institutional reforms.

A hasty transition process almost always leads to failure. After all, it took the United States 13 years to transition from independence in 1776 to democratic rule in 1789. South Africa took three. A short transition period — say, six months — does not allow new parties time to organize and gives old opposition parties an edge. This is what happened in Tunisia and Egypt. Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali of Tunisia said in Germany, “We toppled the dictator but the whole system has not been overturned.”

After the transition, a whole battery of reforms must be implemented. For a revolution to be sustained, the constitution must be revamped and institutions cleansed of the “nomenklatura.” Sadly, in many countries, real reforms were not implemented, allowing the return of authoritarianism from Ethiopia to Uganda.

And it is clear that wherever the transition was managed by the military or a rebel group, the outcome has been disastrous. Military dictators simply manipulated the process, created their own parties, shooed in their favorite parties or “civilianized” themselves by shedding military uniforms and donning civilian clothes.

Nigeria’s transition by its military dictators was the most egregious. General Ibrahim Babangida began it in 1985. He created two parties for Nigeria and wrote their manifestoes, too. When the 1993 presidential elections produced a winner he didn’t like, he annulled the elections. Egypt’s transition today is similarly flawed; the Supreme Council of the Armed Forced botched it so badly that protesters are now demanding its resignation.

Hopefully in 2013, we will draw lessons from our mistakes.

Now to specifics and we start with the good ones, another election in Ghana with the success tainted by cries of foul play from the opposition, what happened and did the opposition have any case against the victory of Mr Mahama?

The elections where free and fair and there were few reports of voter intimidation, harassment or stuffed ballots. But it was in the counting of the votes and tallying the results that problems emerged. The main opposition party has mounted a challenge and have amassed what they claim to be “incontrovertible evidence of fraud.” They have filed a petition before Ghana Supreme Court. Since John Mahama has already been sworn in as president, it means the Supreme Court can invalidate his election and install a new president. This is the first time a case like this has come before the Supreme Curt, so everyone is waiting with baited breath.

For someone who hits so hard on leaders and flawed elections in the continent, what does the example of Ghana tell us about the complexities of more democracy with free and fair elections across the continent?

Holding elections should not be that complicated. There are 5 stages of the electoral process:

 

1.     Registering and compiling a list of eligible voters (voter’s registry), identifying polling stations and setting a date for elections.

2.    Transporting ballots, ballot boxes and other materials to the polling stations and allowing people to vote freely without any hindrance or intimidation.

3.    Counting the votes in a transparent manner with representatives of all political parties present. There is a “collation sheet” at each polling station which they must sign to verify that the counting was accurate.

4.    Transmitting the results from the polling stations to the strong room of the Electoral Commission and resolving any discrepancies in the numbers and any other disputes to the satisfaction of all parties.

5.    Announcing the results.

 

Problems can occur at each of these stages:

 

1.     Ineligible voters may be registered – for example, minors or citizens of neighboring countries; some eligible voters – say supporters of a particular party – purged from the voter rolls. Or the register may be inflated with fictitious or ghost names.

2.    On election day, ballot materials may not arrive on time; ballot boxes may arrive already stuffed; voters may be prevented from casting their ballots through intimidation, beatings by hired thugs; indelible ink can easily be washed off, allowing some people to vote multiple times, though this is not possible with the current biometric system but the machines can break down, etc.

3.    In vote counting, the media and election observers – both foreign and domestic – may be debarred from polling stations to witness the actual voting. Not all ballots may be properly marked and must be rejected. There may be a sudden black-out, forcing votes to be counted in the dark or by candles, flashlight and lanterns. A fake tally sheet may be substituted for the real one and polling agents may be bribed to sign off on it. Polling agents of some parties may not even be there.

4.    Transmitting the results from the polling stations and resolving inconsistencies, discrepancies and disputes. This stage may be skipped altogether. The Electoral Commissioner may act arbitrarily, refuse to engage or consult with reps of the political parties, and rush to announce the results. Or he may engage them but intimidate, bludgeon or railroad them into accepting his final results.

5.    The last stage is announcing the results. Obviously, the final results must be certified by all parties BEFORE they are announced. This is to ensure that all issues – inconsistencies, discrepancies, etc. – have been resolved to the satisfaction of all parties before the results are announced. What if voting in some polling station is not complete or votes are still being counted, or some ballot boxes are missing?

Certainly, there were problems during Ghana’s elections: Allegations that the voters’ register had been padded with over 5 million ghost names; ballot papers did not arrive on time, forcing the extension of voting to the next day, instances of voter intimidation, etc. The following incidents were reported on Twitter: #ghanaelections: https://twitter.com/ghanaelections

 

·       Ayigya EC polling officer arrested for not stamping over 200 ballots cast!

·               Snatching of #BallotBoxes here and there… Manhyia, Kentinkrono, Ablekuma,

·               Chaos at Ablekuma North constituency. Voting has been halted.

·               Voting in Mbrom polling centre to be deferred

·               The DCE of Walewale has reportedly been arrested for allegedly snatching a ballot box but was later released.

·               Unconfirmed report says there are still no materials at the Dome Kwabenya constituency

·               The citizens of Nkwanta South in the Volta Region say they are not voting for lack of dev. in the area.

·               Reports that an NDC supporter has just been beaten to death in the Ashanti region?

·               A tear gas shot at the Ablekuma North Constituency to deter people from creating confusion

·               Just heard of a guy who got lynched while running with a ballot box at Ayeduase, Kumasi.

·               Verification machine not recognizing the thumb of Dr Wireko Brobbey

 

Considering the fact that there were over 26,000 polling stations, these incidents were minor. The Coalition of Domestic Election Observers (CODEO), for example, reported incidents of intimidation and harassment at only 13 polling stations – less than 0.01 percent. http://bit.ly/STqAqe. Media access was also generally free. Here are the views of Rebecca, a first time voter on video http://bit.ly/TYtHMo

John Mahama taking oath as President of Ghana.The elections were free and fair says  Ayittey Stages 1, 2, and 3 appeared to have gone smoothly, earning the Electoral Commissioner, Dr. Kwadwo Afari-Gyan, high praise from all quarters – from ECOWAS, AU, both foreign and domestic observers. However, it appears stages 4 and 5 were seriously compromised. I warned about this, referencing Josef Stalin, who once quipped: “It is not those who vote that count (matter) but rather those who count the votes.” Voting can occur smoothly – free and fair without intimidation or violence, as was observed on Dec 7 and 8. But that is not the full story. Counting of the votes and tabulation of the results can be falsified or doctored. Furthermore, fake results can be transmitted to the Electoral Commission. But such errors can be easily detected and rectified.

The main opposition party, the New Patriotic Pary (NPP) claimed that there were 1.5 million invalid votes, coming from three sources: over-voting, where more people voted than registered; people voting without biometric verification, which is illegal; and cases where the collation sheets were not signed by the Returning Officer of the Electoral Commission, thereby invalidating the results.

Ghana’s Constitution allows any citizen to file a petition before the Supreme Court to challenge the validity of a president election. Nana Akufo-Addo, the main opposition challenger, has filed such a petition before the Supreme Court and Ghanaians are anxiously awaiting it ruling.

So even though the elections in Ghana were ostensibly free and fair, it appears fraudulent results were announced and the Supreme Court will decide the issue. Still, Ghanaians must be commended for being patient and following through with the Constitutional challenge. They have refrained from going on to the streets to vent their anger, which could have resulted in violence.

Prior to those elections you penned a very interesting piece on why democracy seems to be working in Ghana, citing amongst others the role of the media, can you use the analysis to sum up a picture of how democracy could thrive more in the continent?

Yes I did but the price of democracy is eternal vigilance. Three factors are needed to make democracy work. The first is the existence of a free media; in particular, print and broadcast media. In Africa, radio is the life and death of information transmission and the proliferation of FM radio stations in Ghana provided an invaluable tool to expose problems, hold government accountable and ensure transparent elections. In the 2000 elections, for example, FM Radio stations sent their reporters to every polling station. Anything suspicious or unseemly was immediately reported on the air, leading electoral officers and observers to rush to the scene and fix the problem on the spot.  They did not have to wait months for a voluminous report to expose the problem, by which time it would have been too late. Thus, the FM Radio stations ensured a level of transparency seldom seen in African elections. So impressed was New York Times columnist, Thomas Friedman that he wrote: “Let’s stop sending Africa lectures on democracy. Let’s instead make all aid, all I.M.F.-World Bank loans, all debt relief conditional on African governments’ permitting free FM radio stations. Africans will do the rest,” he wrote (“Low Tech Democracy,” The New York Times, May 1, 2001; p.A13).

The second is the existence of a vibrant and vigilant civil society groups and NGOs – all made possible by freedom of association, of expression and movement, as well as improvements in communication technology such as cell phones and text messaging. There are hordes of NGOs – promoting a diverse range of issues such as good governance combatting corruption, among others. Some have been formed specifically to oversee the Dec 7 elections. One with impressive credentials is the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA), which organized the presidential debates. The IEA also facilitated the crafting of a “Political Parties Code of Conduct” and the setting up of a National Enforcement Body to enforce the code. Eight parties have signed on. The code ensures that the political parties behave responsibly and can be held liable for any unlawful or unethical acts they commit. Nearly all civil society groups, including religious leaders have been preaching peaceful elections.

To this group may be added Ghanaians in the diaspora, who have a passionate interest in the affairs of their home country. Annually, they send some $2 billion in remittances to their country. They can shape and influence political opinion, as well as support various political candidates. With access to the foreign media, governments and institutions, they can raise a stink over electoral shenanigans in Ghana.

Third, and strong and well-prepared opposition is needed to make democracy work in Africa. In 2012, the opposition seemed better prepared this time around and had done its homework. It mapped out areas where fraud was possible and prepared documents, identifying these areas, as well as crafting procedures to counter fraud at polling stations. These documents were handed over to both domestic and foreign election observers. For example, fraud is likely to take place in the big cities like Tamale, Bolgatanga, Accra, Kumasi, Cape Coast and Sekondi Takoradi.

Certainly, the media has a strong role to play but a strong civil society group is needed as well.

Ivory Coast, then Mali and now Central Africa Republic, what is happening to the Francophone Africa, are we seeing the end of the French empire or what?

The ex-French colonies have been imploding with deafening staccato. Recall that there was Rwanda, then Zaire (nor Congo DR), Tunisia and Libya before Ivory Coast, Mali and Central African Republic. My view is that we should look at French colonial policies. France never prepared its African colonies for real independence.

French colonial policies were highly centralized and authoritarian. The French adopted a policy of deliberate destruction of the great paramount chieftaincies. By 1937 only 50 of them remained, most of which had been deprived of their prestige. French colonial policy had two strands. One was assimilation, the approach taken by Louis Faidherbe in Senegal under which the colony became an integral part of the mother country rather than a separate but protected state. Further, the colonized were expected to assimilate French culture. The rationale for assimilation was based on the belief of French cultural superiority. In fact, French colonialists felt they had a “mission civilisatrice.”

The other strand in French colonial policy was association. This concept was developed and applied by Savorgnan de Brazza in Central Africa. Those advocating association believed that, though assimilation was desirable, it was impracticable because non‑Western people were racially inferior and would never be accepted, even if fully assimilated. Association, on the other hand, would permit the subject people to develop within their own cultures.

Association was akin to the British policy of indirect rule. The French version differed in some fundamental respects, however. The French colony was part of France rather than a separate political entity. The French also had no intention of using Africa’s traditional rulers as intermediaries. They allied themselves with African rulers in order to neutralize them until they could be eliminated or deposed at convenience. Those who remained were put in the position of serving as agents of the colonial state rather than rulers in their own right. For example, when the French conquered Dahomey in 1894, General Dodds dismembered the kingdom. Only the central province, the area around the capital of Abomey, remained; the rest of the provinces were placed under direct French rule or made into new kingdoms. Where there were no central authorities, as in stateless African societies such as the Fulani and Somali, the French created new canton chiefs.

INDEPENDENCE AND AFTERMATH

When Guinea voted “No” to association with France and proclaimed its independence on October 2, 1958, France was miffed. It was not supposed to happen that way, up-setting French scheme of things. Viewed as a defiance, Charles de Gaulle ordered the withdrawal of all French functionaries from Guinea. Two weeks later, only 15 of the 4,000 French officials remained.  The French emptied their cash registers and shipped the weapons of the police, the library of the Ministry of Justice, and the furniture of the governor’s palace back to France. In a burst of vindictiveness, some Frenchmen went so far as to rip out telephone wires and electrical fixtures, cut fruit trees, uproot gardens, tear down walls, scrawl obscene curses on buildings, and reroute a ship carrying 5,000 tons of rice.

The harsh treatment of Guinea was meant to give the other French colonies a warning. They could be next if they contemplated any such moves. When the clamor for independence was becoming insistent in the 1960s,to appease it, token independence was granted the colonies while France controlled everything from behind the scenes.

The French never equated decolonization with retreat. Charles de Gaulle, assisted by a handful of competent and ruthless men, managed an incredible sleight of hand: not a termination of France’s control over its former African colonies, but a transformation of its control into something quite original — a community of nations, sharing one currency, that was tied to France economically, politically, culturally and, of course, militarily. African children were taught that their ancestors were Gaulles and that the deserving among them would gain French citizenship.

Prof Ayittey and Mo-Ibrahim ,united in a common course to improve democracy and leadership in Africa France left hundreds of officials in Africa as “advisers.” Behind the doors of many key ministries in the Ivory Coast and Senegal or Gabon, discreet but powerful French officials kept a close eye on policy. The French also sent teachers to Africa and brought African students and civil servants to France for training. France’s primacy as an external actor in central and western Africa thus continued largely unabated after colonialism. In fact, in 1993, there were more French citizens — about 100,000 — in post-colonial Africa than at independence.

A web of controls was also spun around the economies of its colonies in order to advance French economic interests. Special budgetary arrangements were made with France and the sister franc Communaute Financiere Africain (CFA) was created for the former French colonies in 1948 with its valued pegged at 50 CFA to 1 French franc (FF). France also set up a Department of Cooperation to provide French colonies with financial aid, tariff concessions, and support for their currencies. The department had an African aid budget five times greater than that of Britain. In 1988, for example, France spent $2,591 million in aid to Africa; Britain spent $516 million. More than half of French foreign aid went to Africa, making France the continent’s foremost patron. In 1993, for example, France’s budget for overseas aid was $7.9 billion (The Economist, Aug 12, 1995; p.35). And bailing out Francophone African governments by financing budget deficits was becoming expensive, costing the French treasury $2 to $3 billion annually. But much of that aid was nearly 100 percent tied; it was spent on French contractors, French goods and services. By tying aid to French suppliers, it denied Francophone countries the opportunity to shop around for cheaper bargains. Further, it denied Africans the opportunity to develop their skills as work on projects was contracted out to skilled French workers.

The common currency (CFA) and its link to the FF stabilized prices in Francophone Africa but at a tremendous geopolitical cost. By linking the CFA to the French franc and by insisting that Francophone African countries keep 30 to 35 percent of their deposits with the Bank of France, French banking connections were able to exercise “a far more effective system of control than any form of colonization.” Furthermore, the linkage of the monetary system accelerated flight of capital out of Francophone Africa: “Over $500 million worth of local CFA currency was being illegally shipped out every year, about one-third of all the notes in circulation.” On January 11, 1994, the CFA was devalued from 50 CFA to 100 CFA for a French franc, touching off a wave of demonstrations, labor disputes, prices increases and clashes across West Africa. The devaluation was deemed necessary in order for France to comply with entry requirements in the European Union (EU).

FRENCH INTERESTS PARAMOUNT

In dealing with its colonies, French interests were paramount; the people of the colonies were unimportant. The French did not hesitate to remove African despots who did not serve their interests or install those who would. After 1960, the French intervened on many occasions to prop up unpopular African regimes against internal dissatisfaction and disorders. The most notorious such occasion was in Gabon in 1964, when French troops were used to reinstate President Mba after a coup. Noting that the French did not intervene to save President Youlou in Brazzaville in 1963, critics charged that intervention was predicated on mineral wealth and the fact that Gabon is rich in oil.

When it came to defending its interests in Africa, the French were the most ferocious. In 2002, when Ivorian government planes accidentally dropped bombs on rebel positions, killing three French peacekeepers, France reacted swiftly and viciously. It sent in war planes to destroy Ivory Coast’s entire air force!  Another instance was in May 1991, when 9 million rounds of ammunition arrived in Cameroon on a ship from France, destined for the authoritarian government of President Paul Biya. The ammunition helped Biya brutally suppress political opponents, enabling him to win the October 1992 presidential election in a vote that observers said was fraudulent. As The Economist (29 May, 1993) observed, As The Economist (29 May, 1993) observed,

“Two months later France gave Cameroon FF600 million [$110 million] in new loans. In May 1993, Mr. Biya was welcomed in Paris by both Mr. Mitterand and the new French prime minister, Edouard Balladur. In Rwanda soldiers loyal to President Juvenal Habyarimana have been responsible for atrocities against the Rwanda’s Tutsi minority. Yet Mr. Mitterrand continues to help the regime” (46).

The French would also aggressively defend their language and culture. They were singularly culpable in the 1994 Rwandan genocide. The Hutu-dominated government of Juvenal Habyarimana was French-speaking. Paul Kagame and his Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) trained in Uganda, an English-speaking country, and were closing in. Chafing under the prospect that Rwanda would become an English-speaking country, panicky French officials provided aid and ammunition to the Hutu government. In fact, it was claimed that Habyarimana’s plane was piloted by French officers. And after 800,000 Tutsis were slaughtered, the French provided a “safe passage” to the genocidaires to escape to the then Zaire, another French-speaking country.

The late President Mitterrand was severely rebuked at a French-African summit at Biarritz on 8 November 1994: “Human rights groups said Mitterrand’s decision to invite Mobutu, along with other notorious, long-standing leaders, such as Togo’s Gnassingbe Eyadema, was a betrayal of his promises at the 1990 summit in La Baule, in northwestern France, to terminate the autocratic rule of `Africa’s dinosaurs'” (The Washington Post, 9 November 1994, A41).

During a visit to Yaounde, Paris mayor Jacques Chirac, then campaigning for the presidency of France, declared that “the continent was not yet mature enough for Western-style democracy, which he called a luxury that Africa cannot afford now” (The Washington Times, 20 April, 1995, A13). According to The Washington Times (16 July 1996),

“Paris has tolerated a high level of corruption and economic mismanagement among the pro-French governments in Africa. The French giant Elf-Aquitaine virtually operates Gabon’s oil industry. France is by far Gabon’s biggest trade partner, supplying 44 percent of its imports and 80 percent of its foreign aid. Three-quarters of all foreign investment in the country comes from France. Gabon and Elf’s subsidiary there have long been a source of funding for French political parties, especially Mr. Chirac’s Gaullists. (A11)

So the ex-French colonies were never prepared to serve the people; only France. The Arab Spring caught the French completely by surprise and they will continue to be caught off guard if they continue to cozy up with despicable despots and ignore African people’s demands for change.

“If we are present, it is not to protect a regime, it is to protect our nationals and our interests, and in no way to intervene in the internal affairs of a country, in this case Central Africa,Those days are over,” that was the response of French President Francois Hollande to calls from President Bozize of Central Africa for help to fend off the rebellion, what reading should we make of this statement and how could it affect politics in the continent?

I would like to think that this reflects a new change of attitude of France. Though President Francois Holllande seems to be a new kind of French leader, his rhetoric does not match post-colonial history of Francophone Africa, as explained above. He has already sent French troops into Mali and there are already 500 of them in CAR. But let us give him the benefit of the doubt.

You also do not seem to agree with those who credit former President Rawlings of the turn around in Ghana, in neighboring Nigeria, former President Obasanjo has been at odds with several public criticisms of the current President, what role do you see for former leaders?

I have had several arguments with Nigerians who praise Rawlings to the sky. I can understand their adulation given what the military rulers did in Nigeria. But I tell them that they can’t denounce a military dictator in their country and praise another in a different country. A military coconut is a mili9tary coconut no matter where he serves. No military dictator has brought lasting prosperity to any African nation nation and no educated African with an iota of common sense would support, much less serve in a military dictatorship. If Rawlings was good for Ghana, then General Sani Abacha (“The Butcher of Abuja”) was good for Nigeria. After all, they were pals. But let’s get down to some specifics;

On the economy: When Rawlings seized power in 1981, Ghana’s income per capita was $410 and the cedi was exchanging at 2.45 to the dollar. When Rawling left office in 2000, income per capita was $395 and the cedi was 10,000 to the dollar.

On Human Rights: The Rawlings regime did not believe in freedom of expression and human rights. When his NDC government feared that the outcome of a coming event may not be in its favor, it resorted to sheer terror, brutal tactics and violent intimidation of law-abiding citizens. It also did not hesitate to unleash its savage thugs against perceived critics of the regime. Here is a pattern of brutalities that characterized the regime’s record since 1993. Note that the “Red Terror Days” of the PNDC era (1981-1992) have been excluded, during which more than 200 persons “disappeared,” according to Amnesty International.

On March 22, 1993, Legon university students began a boycott of classes to press their demands for an increase in student loans. They had persistently complained that the 90,000 cedis per head for the year (for books, food, medical expenses, transportation, etc.) was grossly inadequate. The police was called into action and beat the students mercilessly.

The same year, 1993, security agents splattered human excreta all over the offices of the Ghanaian Chronicle. On May 12, 1994, “persons believed to be agents of [ruling] P\NDC sneaked into the premises of The Free Press and littered the whole place with human excrement” (The Free Press, June 10-16, 1994; p.7).

Then on Dec 4, 1994, the police raided the premises of Dr. Charles Wereko-Brobbey and seized the transmission equipment of Radio Eye and arrested 5 persons, including two Britons (Brian Shone and Tim Freeman — note foreign investment implications). The operators of the “illegal” radio station, Dr. Wereko-Brobbey and Victor Newmann, decided to present a petition to parliament. They were joined by supporters numbering about 1,000. But the marchers were attacked by government-hired thugs.

On May 12, 1995, ACDR thugs opened fire on peaceful Kuma Preko demonstrations organized by the AFC, killing four of them. Did that kill the AFC or stop the demonstrations? NOOO! More people turned out in greater numbers for the subsequent demonstrations in Kumasi, Cape Coast, and other cities. They never learn, do they? Did the Police arrest any of the killers? Nope. If a white man had killed four blacks we would have opened our stinking mouths wide open and screamed “Racism!”

Then on Dec 28, 1995, they beat up Vice President Arkaah. That instantly transformed him into a popular hero easily winning the PCP presidential nomination. Recall that in 1988, they made an attempt on Professor Adu Boahene’s life. That too made Prof Adu Boahene a hero and became the NPP presidential candidate.

On June 1, 1996, the NDC regime unleashed thugs on peaceful university students demonstrators — AGAIN!! The vehicle that transported the thugs bore registration number ASA 4733 and was decked with NDC colours. Did the Police apprehend the driver and the vehicle? Nope.

It happened again on Tuesday, 25 August 1998 when unarmed university students marched peacefully to the Ministry of Education to protest exorbitant fees being heaped upon them. They were confronted by hundreds of riot policemen armed to the teeth, who charged with naked violence, simultaneously spraying hot water on the students, mercilessly beating them with truncheons and opening fire on them.

On the Media: Criminal libel suits became a weapon of choice of a brutal and increasingly discredited regime. When newspapers tried to expose corruption and wrongdoing by NDC government officials, they were slapped with criminal libel suits.  By 1998, libel suits filed by government officials had reached 350.

In August 1998, Kwaku Baako Jnr., editor of The Guide newspaper, and Abdul Harruna Atta, editor of the Statesman, were jailed one month each for contempt by the Court of Appeal in criminal libel suits against them. The court also fined their publishers, Western Publications for the Guide and Kinesic Publications for the Statesman, 10 million cedis each for the same offence.

Immediately, a group of journalists, media practitioners, academicians, Members of Parliament and other media sympathizers bearing placards and singing staged a three‑hour march to the Supreme Court buildings in Accra to protest against what they said was growing threats to press freedom in the country. Some of the placards read “Prison or no prison we will write,” “we are not afraid of prison,” “we will not surrender,” and “How fair is press freedom in Ghana.”

Mr. Kwame Karikari, the Acting Director, of the School of Communications Studies, University of Ghana, leader of the demonstrators presented a 5‑page petition to the Deputy Judicial Secretary, Mr. George Afflah Aryeetey. In the petition, the Friends of Freedom of Expression said since the return of constitutional rule, there has been an emerging trend from the decisions and sentences, which show that the courts are using the law to cripple the media.

The petition said the spate of sentences and orders for arrest and detention of journalists increasingly serve to cow courageous journalists and a threat to others. It said the courts are now becoming an institution to subvert press freedom,” adding that the fines being slapped on journalists and publishers over the months point to a weakening of the media. The group said the overwhelming majority of the sentences, decisions, fines and damages are from cases involving high public officials or top functionaries of the ruling government or people very close to them. They pointed out that they are not against the courts performing their normal functions of interpreting the law and upholding justice nor do they intend to defend any act of irresponsibility by any journalist if and when that occur. The group said it is concerned with developments, which are tending to weaken the judicial system and the democratic process. The petition fell on deaf ears.

In June 1999, an Accra High Court ordered The Ghanaian Chronicle to pay an unprecedented fine of 42 million cedis ($16,540) for libel against Mr. Edward Salla, Minister of Roads and Transport. It followed an article in the Chronicle entitled “Vetting begins, Minister in a bribery scandal,” which alleged that Salia had requested $25,000 from Milicom Ghana, a cell phone operator ((Index on Censorship, July/August 1999; p.134).

During the early hours of October 2, 2000, unidentified persons smeared human exrement on the entrance of the officies of the Accra bi-weekly, Crusading Guide. The incident is the third time under the Rawlings regime that human waste has been used as weapon of intimidation against the private press. Other media houses to have suffered the same fate — known as “shit bombing” in the local press — are the Ghanaian Chronicle and the Free Press  (Index on Censorship, Nov/Dec  2000; p.175).

If Nigeria admirers want Rawlings, Ghanaians would be more than happy to ship him to Nigeria pronto – together with his wife, cats, dogs and goats, plus the kitchen sink.

The African Union will also be having its first female Chairperson in Dlamini Zuma, do you expect the change to jolt the continental body out of its lethargy?

The comments she made that were posted at allafrica.com leads me to believe that she is unlikely to shake the AU out of its perennial lethargy but give us more of the same. http://allafrica.com/stories/201301030870.html

Perhaps this criticism is unfair to her because the AU itself needs some structural reform and I don’t think she can bring that about. The AU was hurriedly crafted in 2003 by the late Muammar Khaddafi of Libya – largely to nurse his own inflated ego. It was a copy-cat notion: Europe has the European Union, therefore Africa must have the African Union. Later, Khaddafi tried to change it to the United States of Africa.

Nonetheless, the AU’s record has been appalling. A den of unrepentant despots, it can’t even define “democracy” and there is no election in Africa the AU doesn’t like. It certified all as “free and fair.” In 2011, Teodoro Obiang, the long-serving dictator of Equatorial Guinea was the Chairman of the AU, sent to Libya to mediate the crisis there!

There is not a single conflict the AU has successfully resolved. Each time a conflict erupts in Africa, its instinctive reaction is to appeal, appeal and appeal to the international community for aid. For example, when the Darfur crisis erupted in Sudan, the AU sent troops there. But when the troops came under sustained rebel assault at their camp in Haskanita on Oct 11, 2007, ten were killed and “at least 40 fled into the bush” (The Economist, Oct 11, 2007)

Then the AU unveiled the New Economic Partnership for African Development (NEPAD) in 2004 amid much pomp and pageantry. Nobody has heard of NEPAD since. Even one of its architects, Abdoulaye Wade, the former president of Senegal, dismissed it as a failure.

As the new Chairwoman of the AU Commission, Dr. Zuma has a tall task before her to make the AU, not only relevant to the lives of ordinary Africans but also effective. To start, she must, at the minimum, ensure that members of the AU pay their bills and respect the AU’s own Charter of Human and People’s Rights. Article 9 of that Charter guarantees freedom of expression. Any member who does not respect that Charter should expel from the AU. Even in the European Union, there are eligibility requirements; it is not just any rogue state that can become a member of the EU. But in Africa, a free media exists in only 8 African countries; journalists are hounded, harassed, jailed and even assassinated. Yet, the countries that perpetrate such heinous acts are members of the AU!

Second, the AU must come up with a clear definition of democracy. Not just any rogue country can hold coconut elections and be certified by the AU as “democratic.” Democracy requires more than just holding elections. It also requires a constitution that is freely negotiated, checks and balances, an independent judiciary, an independent central bank, an independent electoral commission, a free and independent media, etc.

These are the tasks the new chairman must accomplish in order to win the hearts and minds of ordinary Africans. Otherwise, she will be dismissed as “all talk, no action.”

President Obama is equally taking up a second term and in the first we know he visited Africa just once, what is it he could do in the second term that will be of benefit to Africa?

I think we need to lower our expectations of what Obama can do for Africa. Africa’s problems are not for Obama to solve but ourselves. I coined the term, “African solutions for African problems” and have always preached that the solutions to the myriad of African problems can be found in Africa itself. They do not lie in the halls of US Congress, the White House, the corridors of the World Bank, the inner sanctum of the Chinese communist politburo or in the steamy sex antics of cockroaches on Jupiter. They lie in Africa itself.

Even then, I doubt if Obama can do much for Africa in his second term because he has become distracted by the events in Mali and Algeria. Focusing more on terrorism in Africa means shifting emphasis from democracy and good governance. Back in Sept 2001 when former president Bush announced the “war on terrorism,” all sorts of scrofulous African dictators also claimed they were fighting against terrorists when they themselves were the real state terrorists. They employed this ruse in order to secure more US aid. For example, Charles Taylor set up an “Anti-terrorism Unit” ran by his son. Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia, Yoweri Museveni of Uganda and Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe all claimed they too were fighting against terrorists when, in fact, they were standing on the necks of their people.

So, in my view, the best Obama can do for Africa is just suspend foreign aid to those African countries that do not have a free media. So impressed was New York Times columnist, Thomas Friedman, about the role of the media in Ghana’s elections in 2000 that he wrote: “Let’s stop sending Africa lectures on democracy. Let’s instead make all aid, all I.M.F.-World Bank loans, all debt relief conditional on African governments’ permitting free FM radio stations. Africans will do the rest,” he wrote (“Low Tech Democracy,” The New York Times, May 1, 2001; p.A13). Sadly, Africans have not been able to do the rest because, currently, only 8 of the 54 African countries have a free media. In Ethiopia, for example, there is only one government-controlled radio station for 83 million people.

The criticisms aside Prof, what is it that makes you hopeful for Africa in 2013 and beyond?

I am hopeful about the Cheetah Generation: The Force for Positive Change in Africa. Watch out for the 2013 Cheetahs. They are a new breed of young and angry Africans, engineering a revolution to take back Africa – one village at a time. They just don’t sit there and whine about Western colonialism, the slave trade and government dysfunction. Mentally agile and tech-savvy, they are taking the destiny of Africa into their own hands – setting up businesses, employing people and creating wealth with the abiding philosophy of poverty alleviation through entrepreneurship. We salute thee.

The list of 10:

1. Africa Straight Up http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=qKUVfcXB14w
2. Camilla Barungi (Ugandan): http://tiny.cc/1e51f,
3. Emeka Okafor, Africa Unchained http://africaunchained.blogspot.com/, Timbuktu Chronicles http://timbuktuchronicles.blogspot.com/
4. Kwame Marfo http://d-cap.org/
5. Nii Simmonds (Nubian Cheetah) http://nubiancheetah.blogspot.com/2007/08/it-is-now-time-for-meso-financing-for.html
6. Oluwaseun Fakuade http://seunfakze.wordpress.com/
7. Uganda Sings http://www.reverbnation.com/UgandaSings
8. Mugure Mugo, a lady entrpreneur based in Nairobi, Kenya. http://www.odesk.com/groups/cheetahs
9. Sam Kodo, Togolese Cheetah builds robots http://bit.ly/KDfC3y
10. The Team at African Liberty http://www.africanliberty.org/content/about

 

 

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The Limits of Jonathan As Nigeria’s Good luck.
January 18, 2013 | 3 Comments

“Confidence Given To President Jonathan Was Misplaced.”

-Journalist Chido Onumah

By Ajong Mbapndah L

Its size, abundant natural and human resources, its huge population and more should make Nigeria the envy of everyone but what the world sees now seems the contrary. Attacks from Boko Haram with surprising ease, corruption that does not seem to be receding and a President who has so far failed to live up to expectations. Offering a lucid appraisal of the situation in Nigeria, Journalist Chido Onumah Coordinator of the African Centre for Media & Information Literacy (AFRICMIL), in Abuja, says the confidence placed on President Jonathan two years ago was misplaced. Onumah, a former Director of Africa programmes at the Panos Institute in Washington, DC, says using the military to fight Boko Haram is not a lasting solution and quotes public officials who see the destructive politics of the ruling PDP as part of the security problem facing the country.

Nigerians need to rise up and take destiny into their own hands says Onumah who has won several Journalism awards and worked in several parts of the world. It is unfortunate that at this age, the North/South cleavage should trump more important criteria like competence and moral rectitude in the discourse among politicians on who leads Nigeria. Onumah who was also the  pioneer coordinator of the crime prevention unit (Fix Nigeria Initiative) of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in Nigeria, has harsh words for President Jonathan who has failed to lead by example in the fight against corruption. “He should not because he has done absolutely nothing to develop the country and improve the quality of lives of its people since he became president,” Onumah says of President Jonathan in response to a question on whether or not he should run for office in 2015.

It has been a year of security challenges with the Boko Haram causing unbridled chaos with what sometimes looks like surprising ease, is that group holding the country hostage?

Of course Boko Haram is holding the country hostage. The Nigerian security forces have not been able to neutralise their capacity to launch attacks at will. As we speak, the man who claims to be the leader, Mallam Abubakar Shekau, who many believe still lives in the country, has not been found and arrested. So, it’s a very very worrying phenomenon especially as the economy of Northern Nigeria has been totally destroyed and Nigeria as a whole is considered a risky destination for business as a result of rising insecurity of lives and property which has been made worse by the activities of the religious group.

The largest country in Africa  in terms of population ,with one of the largest armies, if Nigeria is unable to handle its security challenges how can it address those of other countries in the region or beef up its case for a permanent seat on the UN Security council should Africa ever get one?

The Nigerian army is large for nothing. There is nothing to show in terms of military hardware, capacity, training and discipline. The military is extremely corrupted. A Nigerian Army General once described the Nigerian Army as “an army of anything goes”. That captures the Nigerian military. They may be large in terms of numbers but the fighting capacity is not something to cheer about. Eighty percent or more of the equipment is obsolete. A military whose aircrafts fall from the skies very often cannot be trusted to provide meaningful security for Nigerians or the West African sub-region. To that extent, it’s safe to conclude that Nigeria’s request for a permanent seat in the security council of the UN is nothing but laughable.

Still on the security challenges does the fact that President Jonathan is from the Southern part of the country a factor in the onslaught of the Boko Haram?

Oh yes. The circumstances of Mr. Jonathan’s emergence as the presidential candidate of the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and how he won the 2011 presidential election is a contributory factor to the security challenge facing Nigeria today. Many groups in the North, and even some individuals in the South are of the view that Jonathan should not have contested the election.

Some Northerners, based on an internal PDP arrangement which advocates for rotation of the presidency between the North and the South, believe it was their turn to produce the country’s president in 2011 after the death of President Umaru Yar’Adua, a Northerner, three years into his four-year tenure in 2010. Therefore, they felt betrayed when Jonathan insisted he had a right to be in the race. For them, the only way to register a strong objection to the perceived betrayal is to use the demons created by some Northern governors for the purpose of winning elections to make the country uncomfortable for Jonathan.

Having said that, it is important to emphasize that the Nigerian constitution does not recognize the rotation arrangement. To that extent, it is not justifiable for anybody or group to promote violence based on the fact that the president is from a particular section of the country.

Is using the military to fight the Boko Haram a winning option as opposed to dialogue?

Using the military to fight Boko Haram is definitely not a lasting option. The problem is harder to solve because the military is dealing with people who are in the main “faceless” and ready to die. Therefore, as you apply the stick, you have to find a way to bring them to the table. Boko Haram has divided the country not just along ethnic lines, but also along religious lines. All this is because the country has a president who is not tactful in the way he manages the country’s complex problems. Recall that the late former National Security Adviser, General Owoye Azazi, once said that the insecurity facing Nigeria today was partly as a result of the destructive politics played by the ruling PDP. Many Nigerians agreed with him when he made that statement.

Elections are not due till 2015 and there seems to be debate as to whether  President Goodluck Jonathan should run or not, is the debate worth the trouble with so many pressing problems begging for attention now?

 

Has he failed or where the expectations from Nigerians too high? The challenges for President Jonathan have been many

Has he failed or where the expectations from Nigerians too high? The challenges for President Jonathan have been many

Well, this is typical of the style of the ruling party. The party is not about providing direction and development for Nigeria. It’s about grabbing power. The PDP is now thinking about 2015 in terms of how to rig itself into office again. It is not interested in how to provide quality leadership.

As for the opposition parties, they are justified if they begin now to plan to take over in 2015, given the fact that nothing is happening in terms of governance and the incumbent president is giving out different signals suggesting he would run in 2015.

I think the most pressing problem in Nigeria now is how to get credible people elected into leadership positions. Once we do that, every other thing will fall in place. So, to answer your question, the debate is certainly worth it.

How would you size up the Jonathan Presidency two years to the expiration of his term, what have been some achievements and what would you consider big failures?

There is no doubt that Jonathan is a failure. There is nothing any honest Nigeria or observer of Nigerian political scene will consider as an achievement. For me, it’s not even about the Jonathan administration. It’s about the failure of the ruling PDP, a collection of strange bedfellows, since it took over the reins of governance in 1999. The country has been going down, steadily, since then.

You may not be a politician but in your opinion, should he run for elections in 2015?

No. He should not run. He should not because he has done absolutely nothing to develop the country and improve the quality of lives of its people since he became president. For goodness sake, in a country where corruption is seen by many people, including foreigners, as the major problem, this president says he does not “give a damn” about publicly declaring his assets. So, why should such a man run for election again in this country?

President Jonathan has not justified the confidence Nigerians placed in him. A lot of people gave him the benefit of the doubt two years ago because of his education. He holds a Ph.D. in zoology. It is clear that confidence was misplaced.

Is it just mind boggling to external observers or it bothers Nigerians too that in the 21st century rather than dwelling on competence, patriotism, moral probity  and other positive traits, in the choice of a leader, the focus is whether you hail from the North or the South.

This is the tragedy of the Nigerian condition. There are a good number of Nigerians who worry that the thinking in some circles is that the person who leads the country should be Hausa, Ibo, Yoruba or someone from any of the over 200 ethnic groups in the country. This is unfortunate. It is high time we focused on the quality leadership, not which part of the country or ethnic group the leader comes from.

This is what corruption and many years of bad leadership have reduced us to. Until we imbibe and make competence, patriotism and moral probity a permanent feature of our national life, we would not make any headway as a nation.

The press is full of reports about corruption, is the government of President Jonathan consistent in its fight against this canker worm especially when there are reports that those who have profited from scams in the petroleum sector are either high profile Nigerians or influential members of his party?

I just mentioned earlier that the man says he does not “give a damn” about publicly declaring his assets. What President Jonathan is saying in effect is that he is not ready to lead by example in fighting corruption. And he has further demonstrated this by the lukewarm manner this government is prosecuting the big oil thieves, many of whom are his supporters and friends of politicians in government.

You can see that corruption is part and parcel of this government and President Jonathan only pays lip service to checking it. His appointments, pronouncements, and actions do not show someone interested in fighting corruption. There is a history to this, of course. We shouldn’t forget that in 2006 when he was governor of Bayelsa State in south-south Nigeria, he was indicted for false declaration of assets and for acquiring expensive cars and extensive real estate outside his legitimate income. He was subsequently recommended for prosecution by the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB). A year later, he became vice-president. That is Nigeria for you!

There was this big fight in the course of 2012 about deregulation and the government caved, is that the kind of pressure needed to force through reforms and policies that will make Nigeria live up to its potential and expectations?

I believe so. I think that all kinds of activism have to be energised to fight the injustices in the system. Nigerians must rise and take their destiny in their own hands.

We saw the examples of Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and so on. Nigerians must be ready to toe similar lines for them to experience real transformation.

You are the Coordinator, African Centre for Media & Information, may we know more about the Centre and what is the state of the media in Nigeria today?

The African Centre for Media and Information Literacy was set up based on the conviction that Africa’s children and youth could benefit from a global phenomenon that is creating opportunities for active engagement and participation of children and youth in voicing their views on matters of concern to them. The Centre leads the effort to introduce media and information literacy into the school curriculum across the continent.

 With the support of organizations like UNESCO, UN Alliance of Civilizations and their partners, the Centre works with media and information literacy experts, teachers and researchers to engage students and youth using a “hands on” approach to teaching media, information, and advocacy skills in an engaging way.

Much of this is of course depends on the state of the media in the country. Nigeria has been described as having one of the most robust media in Africa. Since the return of the country to democracy in 1999, quite a lot has changed in terms of freedom for journalists. In the last decade, with the expansion of ICT, the Nigerian media has blossomed. But in terms of safety of journalists, there hasn’t really been any marked departure from the past. The only difference being that journalists are now more prone to die in crisis/conflict zone or killed by what I would describe as “freelance assassins” unlike during the military era when they were directly targeted by the state.

Of course, you can’t talk about the media in Nigeria without talking about corruption. Unfortunately, the media that ought to be in the forefront of the campaign against corruption is mired in corruption. This can be attributed to many reason, ownership and the general climate of corruption in Nigeria. A lot of the media outfits in Nigeria are owned by politicians or those close to them. It is difficult for journalists not to pander to the whims of their employers.

 Pan African Visions is very grateful for the time taken to answer these questions, Sir.

You are most welcome. And congratulations on the great job you are doing.

 

 

 

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Not The Messiah: Ivory Coast Is Not Making Much Progress Under Ouattara
January 18, 2013 | 3 Comments

-Prof Mamadou Koulibaly

By Ajong Mbapndah L

Mamadou Koulibaly has emerged as a leading critic of President Ouattara

Mamadou Koulibaly has emerged as a leading critic of President Ouattara

He fought tooth and nail to be President of Ivory Coast. Created a party, fought with three Presidents, allied himself with an armed rebellion and for two years now he is in power with a score card which impresses neither his opponents, nor some in the international community who were among his ardent supporters. Ivory Coast under President Alassane Ouattara has not made much progress says Former National Assembly President and head of the Lider Political party Prof Mamadou Koulibaly. With his predecessor Laurent Gbagbo facing trial at the ICC, Prof Mamadou Koulibaly  has emerged as the most acerbic critic of Ouattara and spares no efforts in painting him as a leader who is incapable of resolving the complex problems facing Ivory Coast. The security problems are acute, the reconciliation process is stalled, unemployment is high, former elements of the rebellion are holding Ouattara hostage and the human rights situation is not good, says Koulibaly in his assessment of President Ouattara. Koulibaly who was victim of an accident under questionable circumstances in the course of last year, lashes out at Ouattara for double standards with a justice system that turns a blind eye to excesses of his partisans. Coming out of a crisis, the foundation of the Ivorian state is weak and if President Ouattara continues to act as a leader who lives in fear and unable to control his armed militias, the country runs the risk of degenerating into more chaos says Prof Koulibaly.

Prof. Koulibaly, It is two years now with Alassane Ouattara as president of the country, may we have an idea about how Côte d’Ivoire is doing politically, socially and economically?

Almost two years in fact since Ouattara came to power. Confidence is still not restored between him and the opposition, between him and the people who did not vote for him, between him and the army, the gendarmerie, between him and all the components of the FRCI (military) he has put in place and who have not stopped attacking his regime and harassing him to the point of forcing him to be defense minister. There is also a disappointment in him from the international community which has not seen any improvement in the democracy his leadership was expected to bring. So far, he has not yet established reconciliation, which has been shifted to the back burner as he pursues the utopia of the emergent Ivory Coast in 2020.

Economically, the crisis is only getting worse. Direct foreign investment has reduced and promises of development assistance that were made while he was still secluded at the Golf Hotel have not been met with the arrival of fresh funds. Domestic and foreign private investors are skeptical because of insecurity and corruption in the upper levels of government. The jobs he promised are nowhere. In the face of rising unemployment, Ouattara has resorted to catering more and more to the needs of his ethnic base. It is true that there are a few public projects on infrastructure, but these are at outrageous costs and in scandalous conditions.

Socially, numerous professional bodies are waiting for Ouattara to fulfill his promise of higher wages. Students, who saw the rehabilitation of their universities at exorbitant and outrageous costs, are waiting to see the libraries open and equipped, as well as restaurants and laboratories of science and technology. In the meantime, they just look at the cafeterias and bars mounted by Ouattara’s friends on campus, where sandwiches and lunches are sold at unaffordable prices, which brought about strikes by students, preceded by that of teachers who are still waiting for the payment of their entire overtime. The social atmosphere is especially marked by insecurity brought about by the FRCI, the high cost of living, racketeering and criminalization of the state.

Security remains a big challenge and there are reports of human rights violations, where is the violence coming from and what is the purpose?

Violence today is essentially caused by the FRCI. They are the only ones who carry weapons and occupy the national territory, but normally are in control of the areas of influence. Factions are fighting against each other for control of sinecures, because the state does not pay them salaries. Left to themselves, these fighters must survive by extortion, theft, assault and violence. In order to have them with him during his ascension to power against Gbagbo’s troops, Ouattara promised them jobs in the army, the gendarmerie and the police. However these troops from the same ethnic groups have not been successful, and lest they turn their arms against him, Ouattara asked them, as well as supplementary Dozos (traditional hunters), to redeploy across the country, in all the cities and villages, to ensure security. But instead, we note that with their presence, theft and insecurity are rather on the rise. These militias demand support from the people and are violent when people do not respond favorably to their grievances. Côte d’Ivoire is living in fear.

What about efforts towards reconciliation, there is supposed to be a reconciliation committee headed by Charles Konan Banny, has it served any purpose?

The CDVR of Charles Konan Banny is run by people of good faith, but who alas work under the authority of Ouattara himself. He does not give the financial and political means to the commission to make it effective. He gives the commission a two-year agenda for a reconciliation, which a year and a half after, has not yet begun its work seriously. The CDVR speaks of reconciliation while Ouattara promotes injustice, impunity and the violence by FRCI continues unabated. The reconciliation process is not credible and is thwarted by Ouattara himself who does not seem in any hurry to get there.

We have also heard you decry the corruption that is taking place under the present government, what facts do you have to back your accusations?

Corruption is rampant under Ouattara although it has always existed in the various regimes that preceded his in Côte d’Ivoire. First of all the justice system is totally corrupt while Ouattara has changed all the main leaders of the judiciary and he himself is chairman of the Judiciary. He can in this way pursue his main opponents of yesterday for economic crimes or murder, but condones the crimes committed by his own men and the FAFN which has since become the FRCI.

Ouattara undertakes numerous infrastructure projects, but has never made public tenders for the award of contracts. Projects are announced at an initial cost and then, month after month, we see the costs increase without explanations. The most obvious is the rehabilitation of universities, whose initial cost was about forty billion francs CFA, which then increased to sixty and a hundred billion. At

Now heading his own party Lider,Koulibaly says his mission is not only about winning elections ,but  helping change mentalities in Cote D'Ivoire.

Now heading his own party Lider,Koulibaly says his mission is not only about winning elections ,but helping change mentalities in Cote D’Ivoire.

this stage of a hundred billion, and with his council of ministers, Ouattara discovered that the project had been over priced by at least forty billion. As punishment, he dismissed the Director of Financial Affairs of the Ministry of Higher Education, without touching the minister himself who did not resign either. A few weeks later, the same minister informs us that the actual cost of the project is rather one hundred and seventy-five billion francs CFA and nothing was done to him. There is the case of this other Minister, who is suspected of embezzling more than four billion francs CFA destined to the victims of the toxic waste dumped in Abidjan by the Probo Koala ship Trafigura a few years ago. The minister was ousted from government, but no action taken against him, justice having found nothing to reproach him. They are both members of parliament and want to become mayors of different cities in Côte d’Ivoire. Cases of this kind exist in abundance.

Despite your strong criticisms against President Ouattara, just to be fair to him, are there things you think he has done right to move Côte d’Ivoire forward?

Yes, you are right. Abidjan became a little cleaner than under the previous regime. It is true that the proposed third bridge in Abidjan, which was dragging from the time of Houphouët-Boigny, saw its construction undertaken by Ouattara. It is also true that in the city of Abidjan, holes in the roads were clogged, especially in the upscale neighborhood of Cocody. It is also noteworthy that Ouattara, after having started his reign with forty government ministers, now scaled it down to 28 ministers. You see, he has worked and we do not forget it. But remember anyway, in short, that the contract for the third bridge was concluded in totally obscurity. Nobody knows what the exact cost is, or what financial and economic guarantees the state is committed to for the next forty years. Neither the public nor parliament was informed of these public contracts. In addition, the roads in Abidjan are not the only roads in Côte d’Ivoire. There is the interior of the country, for example the cocoa producing areas that have no roads and yet strongly finance the state budget.

You now head your own party, LIDER which did not do so well in the last elections, how is the party doing and what role do you expect to play in shaping a better future for Côte d’Ivoire?

LIDER went to the parliamentary elections in difficult conditions on which we will not dwell. We left these elections without a single elected candidate, even though we presented twelve candidates and we had just arrived on the political scene for just four months. We saw and warned Ouattara against the violation of Additional Protocol No. 2 of the ECOWAS Treaty prohibiting all member governments of the organization from changing the rules of the electoral process less than 6 months before the election date, no matter the type of election, without a broad consensus with the entire political class. Ouattara has shamelessly violated with impunity this provision of ECOWAS.

LIDER, in a responsible way, continues its ascent through the installation of party bases around the country and without great means for the moment. We aim to build a real opposition to challenge the power of Ouattara. We believe that people must understand that democracy is not multipartism and elections. Democracy is first of all a state of law, not in the sense of a government emerging from elections, a legal government, but a state, a situation in which the law applies to everyone, starting with the state itself and its leaders. We explain to people that multipartism does not mean having parties that act as unions for ethnic groups. We explain to politicians and our activists that democracy is first of all to recognize the inalienable rights of the private ownership of land in their country, and the freedom to exchange these lands. We believe that if LIDER succeeds in being heard on these issues, then we will have achieved our goal of education about democracy, social harmony and peace.

In the course of last year you were a victim of several accidents etc. Were these just routine accidents or you read something behind this since you are a strong opponent of the regime?

He fought tooth and nail to be President, Ivorians are waiting on Ouattara  him to deliver

He fought tooth and nail to be President, Ivorians are waiting on Ouattara him to deliver

I still cannot explain the cause of this accident, but I find it curious that the government of Ouattara, which divided the country into official military zones controlled by the informal com-zones and com-sectors, goes to attack my family, my farm and my workers under the pretext that there was a training camp of anti-Ouattara militias in my village. I find it curious that there has been no serious investigation after these events and that the police and the Chief of General Staff of the armed forces have refused to receive complaints from my parents against the warriors of the pro- Ouattara militia called the FRCI. I find it disturbing that at the same time, the government is trying to portray me as a criminal, when I am the victim.

Former President Laurent Gbagbo is due for trial at the ICC but we have not heard about warrants for those who were in the rebellion, what is your take on this as well as the continuous detention of many high profile activists and government officials?

Ouattara applies a justice of variable geometry. A justice system which imprisons criminals of the defeated side and demands accounts and one that promotes criminals in his own camp and condones their wrongdoing. It is difficult in these conditions to build a nation, to reconcile and to build confidence in Côte d’Ivoire. By this attitude, Ouattara ensures the criminalization of the state. And our eyes are turned towards the ICC, to know whether it will be an accomplice or not in this local justice which is more of revenge than justice.

You have written  in the past about defense accords between African countries and the French, can you talk about this briefly especially in light of the crisis in Mali, and most recently Central Africa? How relevant are these accords?

In modern economies, when states engage in this type of international agreements, people are informed of the content of these treaties and conventions. Civil society and parliamentarians discuss about them, so that people know what their government is engaged in. Sometimes we proceed by referendum to ratify such an agreement. This is the procedure in place in developed societies. But in African societies, only the President of the Republic and sometimes some members of the government are contacted and informed about the content of these agreements. The public remains in ignorance, parliament also, as well as the press. These are societies of distrust, patrimonial societies. And when a shock happens and the agreements must be implemented, the people do not understand it. Mali, like most African states is not viable individually. Our countries would be stronger and more viable if they were integrated into a federal structure. Each country would have a head of state elected according to the parliamentary system, and all states would be subject to a federal government which is also a product of a parliamentary system, following parliamentary elections after a one round majority vote, according to the Westminster model in Great Britain. Without this reform, there is no happy and harmonious future for African countries. Mali is a case study which shows that, despite all our elections, our governments, our armies, our narrow nationalism, all our countries and their institutions can collapse overnight without any internal forces capable of remedying the situation. We also see the same scenario in Côte d’Ivoire, where there is no more a state. It is a potential risk for all African countries. You saw what happened with President Bozizé’s call for help to Paris, and the response of President Hollande. We must become free men and regain confidence in ourselves and our neighbors and proceed with the construction of this African federalism. It is in the interest of our collective security, development, prosperity and peace. These defense agreements are nothing but loosely tied trade agreements. They serve as something else other than the defense of countries and their populations. We can do without them, if we reduce the risk of conflict in our countries. And for that, we have great untapped potentials.

We know it is still very challenging for Côte d’Ivoire, what are some of the reasons that should give people a reason to hope and what is your prediction for the future?

I have no crystal ball to predict the future of Côte d’Ivoire, but if the criminalization of the state remains the trend that we see right now, I fear that the year 2013 is going to be more difficult than 2012. If reconciliation does not make progress, if justice is not restored, if Ouattara continues to take people hostage with his armed tribal factions deployed throughout the country, I fear that economic activity will remain stifled and unemployment and difficulties of all kinds will increase. If the regime’s corruption continues to grow, and if impunity continues to be the norm, I fear that the foundations of our nation which are still fragile will cave to violence and chaos. But at the beginning of 2013, I wish that Ouattara would become aware of his responsibilities and fully assume them ,without presenting himself to us as someone who is unable to control his armed militia and who lives in perpetual fear, even though he is the President of the Republic.

**Translated by Cyprian Chongwain, Msc in Translation, New York University School of Continuing and Professional Studies. nc1217@nyu.edu

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Kenya: Understanding The Dynamics of a High Stakes election
January 18, 2013 | 1 Comments

“Kenyans aware that country must not return to anywhere near 2007 elections aftermath.”

-Samuel Omwenga

By Ajong Mbapndah L

As Kenyans brace up for another high stakes elections, the challenge will be to avoid the violence that erupted in the aftermath of the 2007 elections. “There is a general sense among everyone, especially those in a position to create havoc that we cannot and must not return to anywhere near where we ended up after the 2007 elections,” says Samuel Omwenga  an Attorney and Consultant. Barred for constitutional reasons, President Mwai Kibaki is not in the race. His 2007 challenger Raila Odinga widely believed by many to have won the elections is a front runner so too is Uhuru Kenyatta son of the country’s first President.

Omwenga who is well versed in Kenyan politics and was in the field for the 2007 elections says with free ,fair and transparent elections, Kenyans will elect the right leader who will fully implement the constitution and lead the country to greater prosperity. Approached by PAV for perspectives on what will be a keenly watched elections across the continent, Mr Omwenga also addresses the looming indictment of one of the leading candidates Uhuru Kenyatta, the legacy of President Kibaki, the chances of Raila Odinga and the ethnic equation in the elections amongst others.

Sir, could you sum up the upcoming elections in Kenya for us, the stakes and some of the key actors?

The elections of 2013 in Kenya will be unlike any in the past for several reasons.

First, this is the first election we’ll have after we nearly plunged into a civil war following the last elections held in 2007.

Second, President Kibaki is serving his final weeks in office but the man he faced off with in 2007 and who still believes he won those elections, Prime Minister Raila Odinga is vying in a field of no less than 5 serious contenders.

Third, Uhuru Kenyatta, the son of our first president and presidential candidate in 2002 (but not 2007) is vying again even though facing serious crimes against humanity charges at the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Uhuru’s running mate, William Ruto, also faces serious crimes against humanity charges at the same time and the fact that both are ICC suspects but still vying has been condemned by many, including former UN Secretary General Koffi Annan, who was very instrumental in brokering a deal between Kibaki and Raila during the crisis of 2008.

Other than Uhuru, the other serious presidential contenders are Musalia Mudavadi, who is our other Deputy Prime Minister, Hon. Martha Karua and Hon. Peter Kenneth.

There are several others who claim they are contending by they are either not serious or they cannot be taken seriously.

With the potential that Kenya has and the challenges it faces going forward, can you paint the ideal profile of the leader the country needs at the moment?

The ideal candidate must first be someone who has the ability, skill and desire to unite the country.

He or she must also be reform minded and must have a demonstrable commitment to complete full implementation of our constitution.

It, of course, goes without saying the leader must not only have a vision for moving our country forward economically, but he or she must have a specific plan to tackle the outrageously high unemployment in the country that is hovering near 50%.

How prepared is the country for the elections and does the fact that President Kibaki is not running brighten prospects for a successful election?

You can say we should have been preparing for this elections since the last one but, in reality, we have only had since promulgation of the new Constitution in August 2010 to do so.

Under ordinary circumstances, the time we have had since then is sufficient to have been prepared and ready by now to hold the elections but, we are not quite there yet.

True, significant progress has been made but there still remains loose ends that must be tightened in order to be confident to say we are ready.

One of the outstanding issues that has yet to be resolved is whether or not Uhuru and Ruto, the two ICC suspects, can be allowed to vie.

There is a court case pending challenging their eligibility to vie and a decision is expected any time.

How the court rules may not directly impact election preparation but could have peripheral impact such as delay in ballot ordering and printing.

We have actually already lost time for preparation due to other delays and even the much needed voter verification may not happen now as the body charged with the responsibility to run the elections scrambles to meet the various other deadlines.

The last elections ended in violence that almost degenerated to a civil war, has the country turned a page, have sufficient measures been taken to avert a similar calamity?

One can cautiously say yes we have done just that.

There is a general sense among everyone, especially those in a position to create havoc that we cannot and must not return to anywhere near where we ended up after the 2007 elections.

The police force that was accused of being at best complacent or at worst active participants in the mass killing of innocent Kenyans has been reconstituted with new leadership at the top and ditto for the electoral commission that started it all.

More and more Kenyans are also more informed and are vigilant such that those with ideas to cause electoral problems must think twice before embarking on such ill-advised shenanigans.

The result of the chaos from the last elections was shared government, as a keen political observer how did this work out, would you consider the experiment a success or a failure?

Smiling to the Presidency? Raila Odinga is considered as a front runner in the raceThe Coalition government was overall a success in that we avoided more violence and worse after it was agreed to.

However, in terms of actual accomplishments, the coalition government fell short and what progress or development that came about was directly as a result of Prime Minister Raila Odinga’s ability to leverage his less than half a loaf he got from the deal to do more for the country in terms of initiation and implementation of various development projects.

That is not to say the country would have automatically fared better if either only Kibaki or Raila came to power without the other following the elections.

So, for these reasons and more, the conclusion has to be the results are mixed relative to the success or failure of the coalition government.

It looks like the tribal factor is still very influential in Kenyan politics, the Kikuyus, Luos, Kalanjins etc how decisive is the ethnic factor going to be in deciding who leads Kenya next?

There are two schools of thought on this:

First, there are those who believe tribalism is here to stay and must be exploited to the maximum to deliver votes.

The Jubilee alliance led by the ICC suspects Uhuru and Ruto ascribes to this school of thought and has its entire campaign against Raila based on it.

The second school of thought maintains: yes, tribalism continues to rear its ugly head in Kenya but must be defeated or significantly crushed by reorienting and urging Kenyans to pick their leaders based on leadership ability and qualifications, not tribal affiliation.

The Cord alliance led by Raila Odinga and his running mate Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka ascribes to this school of thought and its campaign is largely predicated on it.

Raila Odinga perceived to have won the contentious 2008 elections is again a front runner, is 2013 finally going to be his moment?

This is what the polling done to date shows and many expect to be the case.

There is no question his opponents are doing everything they can to stop him from being elected but the fundamentals and current circumstances are such that they are unlikely to succeed.

Some of the actors in the race like William Ruto and Uhuru Kenyatta have been indicted by the ICC and waiting trial, how does this specter factor in the elections?

Well, it depends on who you ask; if you ask them, meaning Uhuru and Ruto, or their ardent followers, they will tell you ICC doesn’t matter and that they will be elected notwithstanding the fact they face these serious charges of having been the most responsible for the commission of crimes against humanity in Kenya back in 2007-2008.

If you ask Raila and members of his Cord coalition or followers, they will tell you ICC does matter and the fact that these two, Uhuru and Ruto, face these serious charges should be reason enough for them to be barred from vying for any public office.

The reality is, assuming the court does not bar the two from vying, they will be on the ballot and Kenyans will have to make a choice whether they will have someone like Raila who has for decades fought and sacrificed for the sake of bringing reforms in the country be their president or would they prefer to have these two ICC suspects trying to absentee lead the country while defending their respective cases at the Hague.

That’s the choice Kenyans must make come Election Day.

It remains a milestone in Kenyan and African politics that another leader in President Kibaki is stepping down in respect of constitutional term limits, what you think will be his legacy besides this, what did he achieve for Kenya in his two terms?

On the positive side, Kibaki will be remembered for having teamed with Raila to have our new constitution passed.

He will also be remembered for having presided over a more improved economy than his predecessor Moi who basically drove the country deep under the ground from which we are still trying to emerge.

Kibaki will also be remembered for having helped restore some of the glimmer the country lost following the elections.

On the negative side, Kibaki will be remembered as the worst tribal presidents we have had in that he took the practice of nepotism and tribal appointments to key positions to a level much higher and worse than his two predecessors combined.

A quick prediction on the elections, you think the world will see an image of Kenya different from what we saw after the December 2008 elections?

I am confident we shall have an open, transparent and peaceful election and Kenyans will be wise enough to elect a president who will fully implement our constitution and lead our country in a new direction of greater peace and prosperity.

*To read more of Mr Omwenga’s perspectives on Kenyan politics visit his blog at omwenga.com

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Africa: Q&A – A Portrait of the Superstars of Celebrity Activism
November 16, 2012 | 0 Comments
celebrity map  of africa

celebrity map of africa

United Nations — Start a global debate about the underlying reasons why poverty exists – and do it through cinema.

The ambitious new initiative “Why Poverty” brings together eight award-winning filmmakers and 30 emerging cinema talents to create documentaries touching on different aspects of poverty, such as gender and inequality, residential segregation, aid and trade.

From Nov. 25 to 30, the films will be aired across the globe via 62 national broadcasters, reaching 500 million people. An online conversation about the topic will follow.

Why Poverty was launched at the United Nations on Sep. 27, and is being run by the organisation Steps, based in Denmark and South Africa. The agenda is not to raise money or push for a single solution to global poverty – it is to ignite discussions about as many aspects of poverty as possible.

The Swedish filmmaker Bosse Lindquist takes on the angle of charity in his contribution, a documentary titled “Give Us The Money”. He spoke to IPS correspondent Becky Bergdahl about the film, and its focus on the multimillionaire artists Bob Geldof and Bono, who have spent years advocating on behalf of the world’s poorest.

Excerpts from the interview follow.

How did you come up with the idea for the film?

I was invited by BBC, SVT and the other commissioning editors to have a look at charity and development. After having scouted the world of glitterati, I realised that Bob Geldof, who in many ways started celebrity involvement with the fight against poverty, was one of the few consistent long-term players.

He has been an activist ever since ’84, at first raising money for victims of starvation, then later working for system change. It soon also became clear that Bono joined him in this fight already in the 90s, and that these guys, cooperating with numerous other individuals and organisations, have achieved quite remarkable gains. And still are.

Have the concerts and campaigns initiated by artists like Bono and Geldof managed to help poor people?

Yes. Having said this, it is also important to mention that there are no scientific studies showing exactly what impact they have had. The same goes, unfortunately, for the general impact of development aid on economic development in Africa. These are very complicated issues, depending on a multitude of factors.

Still, it is clear to me that Bono and Geldof played an important part in getting Africa’s outstanding debt to the rich world cancelled in 2005. Also, Bono and Geldof have helped President (George W.) Bush along to set up PEPFAR (the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief), and getting the rich world to fund GAVI (the Global AIDS Vaccine Initiative), two projects that together have funded a big part of the life-saving drugs that today reaches eight million HIV-infected Africans.

Can a wealthy, white superstar really become a spokesperson for Africa’s poor?

Bono and Geldof have become adept advocates and lobbyists working for increased resources for the extremely poor in Africa, as well as for system change globally, to achieve important legislation regarding aid transparency. But spokespersons – no! This job must be done by Africans.

How much of the artist-activists’ work is done for personal branding, and how much is done to help?

Quite a few celebrities engage in charity to enhance their own brands. I have found no proof of Bono or Bob Geldof doing this. But of course, their genuine advocacy surely is of no harm to their brands and record sales.

The richest 20 percent of the world’s states consume 80 percent of the natural resources. Some people live in absolute luxury, others go hungry. Is it possible to achieve global equality – with or without the help of superstars?

We simply must work for a more equal and just world. Anything else would not be fair. Also, this is the only way if we want to make the world more peaceful and safe. I believe this is also is a prerequisite for making everyone team up and fight environmental hazards and global warming.

And how can we achieve this?

The fight has to be carried out on numerous platforms. One very important fight is about enacting legislation that will counteract corruption and theft in transactions between countries with mineral or agricultural resources and buyers in the rich world.

Another huge fight is about giving every child on earth access to education. A third fight obviously is about ensuring that women have the same opportunities as men globally.

What is your opinion on the concept of the “aid trap”, the theory that says that poor countries become dependent on foreign aid?

It is not so much the poorest countries getting dependent, it is more their government officials getting dependent. There is a corruptive element to all big cash transfers, and there is a constant danger that people will get seduced by this.

But the fact that such an “aid trap” certainly exists is no reason to stop all aid. Though it is a very strong reason to demand transparency regarding how aid is given and distributed, with inbuilt means for the recipients themselves to monitor how the money given to a country is disbursed.

*Source .ipsnews.net. Picture illustration PAV

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‘‘Invest in the people,’ says Seychelles president James Alix Michel
October 27, 2012 | 0 Comments

The Seychelles, with its many Indian Oceanislands and beaches, is renowned as a high-end destination for tourists. Besides profiting from its beautiful landscape, it is also known as business-friendly, politically stable and a strong voice in international discussions on climate change. President James Alix Michel, who was previously a teacher, trade unionist, journalist and army colonel, has been elected twice to the country’s highest office, in 2006 and 2011. In this exclusive interview, Africa Renewal’s Wanjohi Kabukuru spoke to President Michel on theSeychelles’ successes and challenges.

Many people saw you as not being your own man in your initial days as president. How did you change those perceptions?

[Former] President [France-Albert] René and I came from the same party. Maybe it was normal for people to be impatient as they expected that radical changes would come rapidly. There were other people who, because of their own political agenda, were propagating these perceptions. The majority of Seychellois saw from the day of my swearing-in that I was pushing for a modern economy and I was for dialogue with representatives of all sections of our population. I was ushering in greater transparency, involving more people in national affairs. It was necessary at the same time to have some continuity, and maintain stability.

You took a gamble when you liberalized the economy in 2008. At the time,Seychelles’ inflation had reached 60 per cent and the International Monetary Fund was giving grim projections on your economy. What did you do to turn the economy around?

Liberalizing the economy and floating the rupee was really a huge political gamble. Our country needed a strong leadership and we had to take bold decisions. We needed to deal a fatal blow to the parallel foreign exchange market. It disappeared in a couple of days after the floatation of the rupee. When owners of foreign exchange found they could get more from the banks, the black market was wiped out.

It was a time of great sacrifice for the Seychellois people. Liberalization also brought some disruption to local production. We are now looking at innovative ways to boost the performance of local production. We now have the basis of a modern economy. Growth last year was 5 per cent. The main success of the reforms was the support of the Seychellois people.

You have been an ardent advocate for international intervention on piracy. How has piracy affectedSeychelles’ economy?

Pirates’ activity is costingSeychellesmillions of dollars in lost revenues from fishing and tourism, in extra transport costs and patrolling of the sea. It is estimated that the costs are equivalent to a 4 per cent loss in GDP. The costs of imports have also increased due to higher insurance for cargo bound forSeychelles. Piracy caused a [total] loss of almost US$17 million in 2011. The losses and extra expenditures are significant for a small nation of 85,000 people.

What measures has your government taken to ward off piracy?

The Seychellois Coast Guard has stepped up its activities to secure national waters. Our naval force has had several notable successes in freeing civilian vessels, including Seychellois fishermen captured by Somali pirates. We are cooperating fully with foreign navies that patrol the waters of the westernIndian Ocean. We have modernized our laws against international piracy to make it easier forSeychellescourts to put on trial pirates captured. Presently over 90 Somali pirates are either serving jail time or awaiting prosecution inSeychelles. Very recently we’ve had to start recruiting military personnel, among them Gurkhas fromNepal, to provide security aboard vessels operating in our waters.

Because we are the country most threatened by piracy in theIndian Ocean, we find ourselves at the forefront in the fight against the scourge. We are also using diplomacy to fight piracy. We use every forum we attend to appeal for concerted international efforts to bring peace toSomalia. Without peace and a strong central government,Somaliawill remain lawless, a breeding ground for pirates.

You have been calling on global leaders to take action on climate change. What are your thoughts on the International Conference on Sustainable Development inRio?

Our focus should not just be on words but on action. It is 20 years since the firstRiosummit. During that time we made a lot of statements. We have spoken about sustainable agriculture, sustainable tourism, sustainable financing and so on. But 20 years later we find that we have many unfulfilled pledges and non-binding agreements to accompany them. The people need to put pressure on their governments to do something about climate change.

Among the leaders of the small island developing states, you stand out as having been very vocal on climate change. Any explanation?

It is a question of survival for us. The relative lack of action of the last 20 years signifies that the cries of those that are the most vulnerable have not been heard. We need a legally binding agreement to limit carbon emissions. The time has come for everybody to develop the political will, a strong political will, for us as humanity to get together and see how we can seriously tackle this problem and save our only home, our planet. We need to do this soon as we are running out of time.

In 2007 you launched the Sea-Level Rise Foundation to draw global attention to the impact of climate change on small island states and other low-lying areas. What prompted this?

The effects of climate change are being felt already in small island states. When you live on an island, climate change is a reality that you wake up to face every day. The fisherman sees it every day as he takes to the sea. Every child sees it when returning to his favourite beach to play. But it is perhaps much harder to see from the aisle of a supermarket in the Western hemisphere.

As low-lying small island developing states, we are not only vulnerable to sea level rise but also aware of the importance of sustainable coastal tourism, responsible management of marine resources and the protection of ecosystems and biodiversity. I am very proud ofSeychelles, as our islands are at the forefront of the fight against climate change, as well as advocates for the development of a sustainable “blue economy.”

Why is your country always ranked high on economic management and good governance?

Just after independence 35 years ago, we started investing in the welfare of our nation. All our money, and assistance we received from partners overseas, was well spent on education, health, decent housing and infrastructure. We were determined to moveSeychellesfrom an economic backwater to a middle-income country. We are a nation of opportunities. We spend on education and learning, giving young people and professionals the chance to develop themselves and increase their knowledge.

With a more educated population, there are greater demands for transparency. There is greater debate and exchange of ideas, and with these there is an increased sense of scrutiny. In a vibrant democracy where government actions are scrutinized by half a dozen political parties and movements, three daily newspapers, three weeklies and other stakeholders, we have to deliver and always look for ways to do better. People have to know where their money is being spent, and see the tangible results of the investments. We are happy we have established the tradition of good economic management and good governance.

What advice would you give to emerging leaders inAfrica?

Invest in the people and have belief in them, especially the young generation. No nation is built in a day. The culture of popular participation, openness and good governance helps a great deal.Africais a huge continent waiting for new things to happen. This is the excitement!

*Source Africa Renewal online http://www.un.org/africarenewal/

 

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Senegal: President Describes ‘Significant’ Reform Agenda, Says Mali Must Be Reunited
October 5, 2012 | 0 Comments

When Macky Sall took office as president of Senegal in April, he promised a ‘rupture’ with many of the policies of his predecessor, Abdoulaye Wade, under whom he served as prime minister from April 2004 to June 2007. This week, while in New York to take part in the United Nations General Assembly, he talked with AllAfrica about his ambitious domestic agenda and reflected on the worsening crisis in Mali, Senegal’s large neighbor to the east. Excerpts from his responses which were delivered in French and translated by AllAfrica:

What have been your top priorities since becoming president

One of my priorities was to improve democratic governance. For that, it was necessary first to settle the crisis between us and the previous president. He wanted to run for a third term but – in a modern democracy, access to power as well as the exit from it should be regulated. It should be compatible to standard democratic rules.

To eliminate any future possibility that a president might stay in power an extended period, I decided to submit a constitutional bill, whether through parliament or a referendum, that reduces the term from seven to five years that would apply to myself as well. I was elected for seven years, but decided I would only stay for five before submitting myself to the voting public once again. That was one major decision. Moreover, the president can only serve two terms. Therefore, no one can serve more than two five year terms.

The second measure relates to the budget. In (many ) African states, the bulk of resources are used to maintain the super structure of the State, that is to say, to propagate the government’s lifestyle. To counter that, I put in place a limited government – a Cabinet with only twenty-five members, compared to thirty-eight (rumored to be as many as forty-five) in the previous administration. At my instruction, we also reduced the number of agencies and embassies around the world so our resources could go directly to the citizens.

To respond to the population’s social needs would mean, in the health sector for example, offering universal health coverage. Because we have very few paid workers, the vast majority of the population doesn’t have health coverage, and there is no medical insurance system.   So one of my priorities was to make universal health care a reality by the end of 2013.

It’s a major reform that I’m in the process of implementing, along with the education sector which needs to be modernized. It’s not only a question of expanding breadth but ensuring the quality of teaching as well.

Agriculture, Infrastructure and Youth Employment

Equally important is the agricultural domain, because for Senegal to develop, agriculture must remain the most important sector. But we have to reform our agricultural practices, to make them more modern and more productive so that farmers and rural areas in general, earn more revenue.

One of the other main points I’m focusing on is youth employment through vocational training. It’s true that higher education is important, but professional training should be available to everyone; professional training that provides young people with a vocation, but also which can be helpful to businesses. I believe that it won’t take long for each region to have its own professional training center that can educate 2000, even 2500 apprentices .

Relating to agriculture, another priority is the country’s infrastructure, the highways and roads. Good roads will help modernize the agricultural sector. It’s necessary for us also to think about energy, one of the main factors preventing development in Senegal.

None of this would be possible if we didn’t have foreign investment. But to facilitate foreign investment, we must uphold the rule of law in which justice functions normally. We have to combat corruption and, to this end, we have instituted serious reforms. We must promote good governance.

Indeed, for all these goals, we have introduced significant reforms. Strong reforms to combat impunity. Today, people realize that legal cases are a judicial matter, to be decided without coercion or interference.

There you have a number of the projects we’re working on. As you can see, there are many.

After visiting Senegal, Melinda Gates said Senegal needs to take serious action to reduce the number of women and babies who die during pregnancy. Do you plan to take measures to prevent early marriages, provide contraceptive methods to families, and help ensure babies receive proper nutrition?

Absolutely. I believe that Melinda Gates saw the efforts Senegal is taking in the field of maternal and infant health. Mother and infant form an inseparable pair. We must take care of the baby even before it’s born. In other words, pregnant women must have medical attention, prenatal care, have regular check-ups to create pre-conditions for a healthy delivery. To do so, we have decided to eliminate the expenses related to the child’s delivery, for both normal and caesarian births. Because in both rural and urban areas, it’s still a problem and the national community has to help women in this area.

In July, we started a campaign to combat certain illnesses that affect women, including chronic illnesses like renal failure. There is dialysis, but unfortunately we don’t have enough dialysis machines in our hospitals, and private sector treatments are prohibitively expensive. Since July we have made an effort to provide free treatment for those with renal failure in public hospitals. Thanks to NGOs and certain partners, we have received several dialysis machines to expand the program.

For women as well as children, we have implemented a policy to improve health by fighting malnutrition, increasing the living conditions to prevent infant mortality rates, and also vaccination programs. I set up what I called the Family Security Fund that will give poor women the opportunity to have their children vaccinated and enroll them in school. We will improve the living standards of the most impoverished populations.

Concerning teenage pregnancies, unwanted pregnancies, we must establish education programs, something we’re in the process of doing now. It’s not easy, but there are always ways to empower women living in rural areas.

We need to launch awareness programs on family planning. This will help improve the health of both mother and child. But it is a long term process in which both Government and Civil Society must play a role.

Some people have criticized your move to eliminate the Senate, while you have said this would free resources to combat the floods that are causing suffering in many areas in your country. Why do you think it’s a good idea to eliminate the Senate and what are you doing about the floods?

First of all, we must make it clear that only 35% of the members of the Senate were elected. The other ones were chosen by the President, so this Senate was not really legitimate. It wasn’t representative of the Senegalese people. In a democratic country there are institutions which have each a particular mission or power attributed by the Constitution. Legislative power in a bicameral system like the U.S. or French one is made of two branches, with members elected directly by universal suffrage. They make laws and control the Government actions. Our Senate was based on a model which is not universal. Many questions were raised about the Senate, about its legitimacy.

I thought that one chamber, the National Assembly, was enough in Senegal. It could create laws, decide whether or not they should be passed and have a veto on government actions as well. Moreover, the 7 billion CFA annual budget allocated to the Senate is a large sum. You could raise 70 billion CFA – which equals 140 million US dollars – if you add up that amount for ten years.

And my plan to fight against floods is supposed to last ten years. We have to build new houses, help people move out of flooded areas and create drainage systems. My vision is to re-allocate all the Senate tasks to the National Assembly so that the money which was supposed to buy cars for the Senators could be used for people living in dire straits in flooded areas and reach my goals with the help of our partners.

I’m open to a national dialog too, for that purpose a national think tank has been created to help run the institutions.

The State must set the example. Show people that they are trying to save money by reducing the government size, the Senegalese diplomatic map, which implies reducing the number of ambassadors and by eliminating the Senate whether it is useful or not.

In the future, if our economical conditions get better, we may consider bringing the Senate back – but this time, its members would be elected. It would be a real legislative chamber. For now, we have other priorities like giving houses to the homeless, creating a welfare system for it  and providing jobs to young people. For all these reasons, it was necessary to get rid of the Senate. I really appreciate that both the Senate and the National Assembly supported my bill and passed it.

What should be done about Mali. What regional response do you favor by Ecowas (by the Economic Community of West African States) and what kind of international action are you hoping to see?

The situation in Mali is worrisome not just to other countries in west Africa in the Ecowas zone but to the whole world, because – for the first time – an international jihadist movement has made a country bend to its will and can shore significant support.

It’s a lawless region where drugs, arms trafficking, and other illegal activities thrive. Therefore if the world does nothing to reclaim Mali as a single united territory, the international terrorist movement could develop there, and that’s something we cannot accept, something we cannot let happen.

Since this conflict began, Ecowas had made enormous efforts to provide solutions. But now, it’s clear that the problem is too complex for Ecowas to manage alone, in part because of the regional implications for non-Ecowas members, like Mauritania, Algeria, and Chad.

A larger forum was needed to discuss these issues, and we have always considered including the African Union. The African Union aids Ecowas and oversees the creation of African Forces as authorized by the UN Security Council. I believe that during this session we will receive a clear and precise resolution from the Security Council permitting the use of armed forces, under chapter 7 of the United Nations Charter, to combat terrorism and work toward a resolution in the region.

*Source Allafrica.com

 

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“Africans have always had enormous potential for freedom, justice and self-determination.”
September 22, 2012 | 0 Comments

-Closure of Pambazuka regrettable

-AU, ICC, Media in Africa et al, FAHAMU Founder and former Editor of Pambazuka Firoze Manji bares his mind

By Ajong Mbapndah L

With over thirty years in international development and human rights, Dr Firoze Manji remains a leading voice for the voiceless in the continent. The Founder of Fahamu and former editor of Pambazuka exhibits unparallel knowledge and brilliance in his analysis of challenges confronting Africa and the way forward. From his departure from Fahamu and the closure of Pambazuka Press, to the scramble for Africa, the African Union, the ICC, and more, Firoze of Kenyan nationality bares it all in an interview with Ajong Mbapndah L for PAV.

PAV: Dr. Firoze, thanks very much Sir for accepting to talk to PAV, we start with the question that intrigues many Africans, why did you decide to part ways with Pambazuka after toiling hard to make it a leading voice for the voiceless in the continent?

Firoze Manji: It is with much regret that I had to part ways with Pambazuka because of irreconcilable differences with the Fahamu board of trustees. Pambazuka News has become one of the principle sites for analysis, discussion, organizing and communication on the struggles for freedom and justice in Africa. It is my sincere hope that it will continue the tradition it has established over the last decade. I have long been committed to the principles of ensuring that Pambazuka News was always freely accessible and considered as part of the Commons. It is important that we always ensure that the Commons are not commodified.  The closure of Pambazuka Press is also regrettable – there remains a vacuum in book-publishing that gives voice to those engaged in emancipatory struggles in Africa and the global South.  Printed books are currently priced outside the reach of the majority of activists in Africa. We have to find a way in which books can be placed in the hands of those who are engaged in transformative struggles across the continent.

PAV: With over thirty years in international development and human rights you certainly have seen it all, in broad terms where you situate Africa today, everyone is talking about potential, but in what areas do you see tangible progress and what areas is more work needed?

Firoze Manji:The people of Africa have always had enormous potential for freedom, justice and self-determination. Our history is littered with crimes that have undermined and prevented us from being able to determine our own future. The Atlantic slave trade decimated the continent of some 20 million of its youngest and finest. Europe’s industrial revolution, the wealth it accumulated over that period was a direct result of the pernicious trade in human beings. The colonization of the continent by European powers destroyed our cultures, our creativity, and resulted in the integration of the entire continent to the needs for European capital. But at the same time there has always been a spirit of resistance that has constantly reasserted our humanity and claims for freedom. In the post Second World War period, that resistance swept the continent, affecting every country from Cape to Cairo, from Djibouti to Dakar. It was that uprising – in the cities, on the farms, in the urban ghettos, in plantations and factories – that swept the nationalist movement into power that led eventually to some degree of political independence. Hundreds of thousands of lives were lost in that struggle – recall the wars of liberation in Algeria, Congo, Kenya, Angola, Mozambique, to name but a few. Empire did not take these defeats lying down. They used assassinations, coups d’état, misinformation, invasion, and all manner of tricks to undermine the move to independence. The roll call of the finest leaders whose lives were cut off is too long to recall, but included people such as Amilcar Cabral, Patrice Lumumba, Augustino Neto, Kwame Nkrumah, Steve Biko, Samora Machel, and so on. And that is to say nothing of the many outstanding women and men who gave up their lives in the struggle to assert their humanity and cry for freedom.  But it is important to note that the betrayals and conspiracies came not just from empire, but included those who from within the movements.

Nevertheless, in the short period after independence, there were some extraordinary achievements. Whatever one might say about the shortcomings of post independence governments, one has to acknowledge that in a very short period of time they transformed their countries: where once there was no health care or education, there was universal access provided; where there were no roads, an extensive communications network was set up. Within a short period of time, parameters such as life expectancy, infant mortality, maternal mortality, child mortality and so on showed dramatic improvements.

Sadly that was not to last long. From the beginnings of the 1980s, we saw the reversal of all the gains of independence across the continent as a result of the willingness of our leaders to collude with the West in implementing the structural adjustment programmes (later called the ‘PRSPs’) by the international finance institutions including the World Bank and IMF. We saw wholesale privatization of what was then part of the commons – land, water, electricity, healthcare, education and so on. And what was not privatized was sold off to the Northern ‘development’ NGOs. Support for farmers, agricultural subsidies, inputs, cooperatives, marketing boards, all these were cut. Instead public funds were used to subsidise the private sector. And the economies were transformed from being net food producers to being net importers of food. The countries were opened to the voracious appetite of the multinational corporations and banks. Currencies were devalued, and debts had to be repaid in dollars. To get dollars meant producing not for the need of the people but for the needs paying the banks and finance houses of the US, Europe and Japan. And in the process, the local elites got rich, while the majority got poorer. Enrichment of the few at the expense of impoverishment of the many.  The last 30 years have been marked by a mass scale dispossession, dispossession of land, dispossession of the commons, of mineral resources, oil, agricultural products and so on. But the worst dispossession of all has been the political dispossession: today our governments are more accountable to the banks, international financial institutions, the multinational corporations than they are to their citizens. That is the tragedy of the last three decades.

We are constantly reminded that many African countries are demonstrating significant growths. But the reality is that only a few have benefited from that growth. Today the majority are poorer today than they were even under colonial rule. This is what Walter Rodney characterized as growth without development. Can we call that progress? And meanwhile, the continent has faced military interventions on a wide scale – Côte d’Ivoire, Libya, Somalia, are just the beginning. The US AFRICOM is now spreading its wings across the continent. Everything is being militarized, with the encouragement and collusion of our ruling elite.

But at the same time, we have witnessed important developments in the last few years. There have been significant popular uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, what the West has come to refer to as the ‘Arab Spring’, that led to the downfall of those close allies of imperialism, Ben Ali and Mubarak. What has inspired these uprisings has not been merely the existence of repressive regimes, but more importantly the growing discontent and anger at the loss of all the gains of independence, the widescale impoverishment that the last 30 years have brought. But these uprisings have not been confined only to North Africa. Today, the gathering momentum of movements for change defines the social and political scene on the continent. We are witnessing not so much an Arab Spring as an African Awakening. There have also been protests, strikes and other actions in Western Sahara, Zimbabwe, Senegal, Gabon, Sudan, Mauritania, Morocco, Madagascar, Mozambique, Algeria, Benin, Cameroon, Djibouti, Cote d’Ivoire, Burkina Faso, Botswana, Namibia, Kenya, Swaziland, South Africa, Malawi, Uganda and more recently in Nigeria and Togo. Indeed, they have much in common with events we have witnessed last year in Wisconsin (USA), Spain, Greece and indeed in the Occupy movement.  The mass uprisings and protests that erupted across the continent and in the Middle East share a similar etiology. Over the last 30 years, countries in the global South, and in particular in Africa, have seen the systematic reversal of the gains of independence.  The net effect was to reduce the state to having a narrowly prescribed role in economic affairs, and precious little authority or resources to devote to the development of social infrastructure, resulting in the erosion of the ability of citizens to control their own destinies. These events have been the topic of a recent book edited by Sokari Ekine and myself: African Awakenings: the emerging revolutions (Pambazuka Press, 2012).

PAV: As mentioned earlier, there is unanimity on the incredible potentials of Africa, and there is these great scramble from foreign powers, the Chinese, Americans, Brazilians, etc, is the continent as it stands today better equipped to face the challenges of a second scramble? Based on your knowledge and rich wealth of experiences can you walk us through a few pros and cons of partnership with some of the leading actors seeking inroads in the continent, the Chinese, Americans, Europeans, Brazilians and Indians

Firoze Manji: I think not. With the growing economic crisis of capitalism, we see the race for accumulation by dispossession taking place at an unprecedented scale. The resources of Africa, its cheap labour, is being eyed by many. The unfortunate fact is that few of our governing elites are willing to challenge this growing urge to exploit the continent – far from it, they know that they have much to gain from filling their pockets and their off-shore bank accounts by colluding with those who what to rob the continent.

While the entry of China, Brazil and other ‘emerging powers’ has provided some level of breathing space in the sense that our governments have alternatives to the hegemony of the US, in practice the policies of these countries in relation to Africa do not necessarily constitute an intervention that favours emancipation. But we cannot leave the task of self-determination and emancipation to either our governments or to external powers. That task is one that we need to build the confidence of African people to achieve.

But it would be a serious mistake to view the entry of the ‘emerging powers’ with those of the US, Europe and Japan. The latter are the dominant exploiters of African labour, extractors of natural resources, and decimation of the environment. China, for example, is certainly becoming as big as the US in terms of trade. But in terms of natural resource extraction and in terms of extraction of wealth through debt financing, they remain a very small player in comparison to the US, Europe and Japan. Remember, the domination of the multinational corporations, banks and international finance institutions is guaranteed not by the ‘emerging powers’ but principally by the US. There is a growing US military presence in Africa in the form of US AFRICOM. We have seen military intervention in Africa from the US and its NATO allies in Somalia, Côte d’Ivoire, Libya. There has been no equivalent military intervention and occupation by the emerging powers.

PAV: The African Union recently elected its first female Chairperson; do you expect the new leadership to finally shake the continental body of its lethargy?

Firoze Manji: I don’t believe so. Having a woman head what is essentially a patriarchal institution does not constitute a transformation of the goals and aims of an institution. The election of Margaret Thatcher in the UK, Indira Ghandi in India, Sirleaf Johnson in Liberia, has not resulted in progressive transformation of those countries. The election of Nkosozana Dlamini Zuma represents a victory not so much for women, but especially for the growing power and influence of South Africa on the continent. Bear in mind that South African capital’s penetration into Africa has grown significantly since 1994.

PAV: Leadership to many remains an issue of concern, not only within individual countries but at the continental level, is it Nigeria with endless tales of corruption and security challenges posed by Boko Haram or is it South Africa which according to many has failed to rise up to the occasion in providing decisive leadership for the continent, how does Africa address the leadership problem? There has been an increasing clamour for democracy across the continent, but sometimes the democracy has not necessary come with development and Mali can be used as an example, in contrast, a country like Ethiopia under the leadership of late President Meles Zenawi made so much progress yet Ethiopia was not viewed as a democracy, what is your take on this?

Firoze Manji: The question I think we need to ask is: to whom are these so-called leaders accountable? As I have commented earlier, our governments have become more accountable to the international corporations, banks, international finance institutions and speculators than they have to the citizens who elected them. There is a democratic deficit. And that is not just a comment about elections, but rather a more profound question about who makes decisions that affect our lives. Who decides what is produced, for whom it is produced, how it is produced, who benefits from the production, who has a say in the distribution of wealth? Why are our farmers condemned to producing crops that feed the North, but leaves them destitute? I think we need to start asking such questions, because it is by doing so that we can begin to think about deciding what kind of ‘leadership’ we want. I think we are living in a period where new forms of collective leadership are emerging: look at how decision making began to develop in Tahrir Square in the rise of the Egyptian revolution and in the Occupy Wall Street movements. These were forms of democratic decision making. The revolution in Tunisia and Egypt were not led by individual leaders, but by collective action. That, I believe, is the future.

The increasing cries for ‘democracy’ cannot be reduced to the holding of elections and the ballot box. The popular cry is for democratization rather than merely voting every few

Dr Firozi remains one of the most articulate voices for the voiceless in Africa

years. Remember, while citizens are allowed to cast their vote once every four or five years, Wall Street and the 1% cast their votes every second of every day, making decisions that have devastating effects on the 99%. Take, for example, the frightening escalating price of food that has lead to more than a billion people starving. This is not because of shortages of food, but rather because the 1% are speculating on food and food production as commodities. The rich get fat on gambling on the price of food, while the rest are forced into hunger.

As for the situation in Ethiopia: we need to ask the activists, political opponents, journalists and many others who are languishing in Ethiopian jails whether they think there has been ‘democracy’ under Meles. As far as I can tell, the situation is not likely to change with the departure of Meles.

PAV: Looking at the continent today, which are some of the leaders who inspire you and which are some of the countries you will consider as models for the rest of the continent to follow?

Firoze Manji:The leaders who inspire me are those whose hard work led eventually to the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions; the young people in the ghettos of our cities who have taken to the streets with great courage to demand a better future; the women who have organized and fought against oppression and violence against women; the women farmers who are ensuring the survival of sustainable and environmentally positive African family farming systems and who are opposing the attempts of Bill Gates and Kofi Annan  to chain them to the agro-industrial corporations through AGRA (Alliance for the Green Revolution in Africa); the communities that have fought to prevent the decimating environmental impact of natural resource exploitation such as in the Niger Delta; the workers who organize to defend their interests against the exploitation of international corporations – such as we have seen recently in the mining industry in South Africa; those brave activists from LBGTI and queer movement in Africa who show immense courage in asserting their humanity against the most terrible threats; those who organize to ensure that the struggle for self-determination is not lost, such as those in Western Sahara, Diego Garcia, etc. These are some of the leaders that inspire me and whom I believe we should consider as models for the rest of the continent to follow.

PAV: In France, the assets of Theodorine Obiang , the son of Equatorial Guinea’s President were recently confiscated, and the French civil society has cases against a number of African leaders for siphoning state funds, considering the pervasive nature of embezzlement and mismanagement of state resources, do you consider this the way forward to punish and dissuade those who loot with impunity?

Firoze Manji: The problem here is who benefits from confiscating the riches stolen by our presidents and dictators? Will the Egyptian people benefit from the return of the millions that Mubarak stole and banked in England? How will citizens of Libya benefit from the appropriation of Gaddafi’s millions? Of course thieves need to be punished: but if justice is to be done, then the loot has to be returned to those who created it.

PAV: On the International Criminal Court, Charles Taylor jailed, Laurent Gbagbo on trial, a warrant on Sudanese President El Bashir, what is your response to critics especially within government circles who think the court is unduly targeting African leaders?

Firoze Manji: The problem we face is three-fold: first, who has the greatest influence on how the ICC decides who is to be prosecuted? The irony is that the primary influence on the ICC comes from the Security Council. And the Security Council is dominated by the US – the state that refuses to sign up to the ICC. So we see that decisions about who to go after by the ICC is politically determined. Which is why – in keeping with the US’s history – it is Africans who are primarily targeted.

And that brings me to the second issue: if the decision to prosecute or arrest is politically determined, then that is an admission that these actions by the ICC are not about justice but rather to serve the political ends of particular powerful states. It makes a mockery of the whole purpose of having an international court. I would be more convinced about the ICC’s role if we were to see people such as Bush and Blair arrested and tried. They are not arrested for political reasons: it has nothing to do with the evidence that is there for all to see that there is just cause to arrest them for crimes against humanity.

Thirdly, by trying people outside the national terrain, you decontextualize the crimes. The whole procedure becomes more about revenge than about justice. By removing the criminals from the national terrain, you deprive citizens of the possibilities of seeing justice done, and to experience the catharsis that is necessary to be able to move on. It is frequently argued that the ICC is necessary because of the weakness and lack of independence of the judiciary in our countries. Sure, that is a short term solution. But it begs the question about what do we do to develop a judiciary that is both competent and independent.

PAV: How do you size up the African media today and its role and contribution in helping the continent meet up its challenges?

Firoze Manji: Over the last 30 years there has been an unprecedented level of centralization and concentration of capital, as well as an unprecedented level of financialisation of capital. This has resulted in almost every aspect of production and almost every aspect of our lives being controlled by some 500-700 international corporations – what Samir Amin calls ‘oligopolies’. That phenomenon has also happened in the media sector. So despite the growth in the number of media institutions in Africa, if you look carefully you will find that the main ones are owned by a handful of corporations. So these institutions are not independent – they represent the interests of the 1%. To attract advertisements and to be profitable, they need to serve those interests faithfully. It puts truly independent media in great difficulty to be able to survive. The pressure on increasing profits means that nowadays newspapers and other media houses employ fewer and fewer journalists. This means that journalists aren’t able often to do the kind of investigative work that is core to their profession. To be able to generate enough stories, they therefore rely on the news services – basically European and US sources of news – that they just recycle. This means that what is generated by corporate media in the North is recycled as ‘news’ in Africa. It also leads to a certain level of laziness, relying on news and information circulating on social media such as Twitter and Face book. Journalists don’t have time to check stories, so this results in stories circulating that have not been checked. I think there is a great deal of demoralization amongst media workers who are capable and smart, but are not able to find an environment that enables them to work as they should. The development and nurturing of an independent media is something that remains a priority on the continent.

Pambazuka News sought to fill the gap only insofar as it provided a platform for analysis from intellectuals, activists, bloggers, social movements etc. It never aspired to be a conventional news service.

PAV: Last question Sir, prior to this interview, we discovered you were a dentist, how did you transition from that to the indefatigable social critic and activist you are and now that you left Pambazuka, what next will you be working on?

Firoze Manji: Well, the transition from dentistry is a long story, but suffice to say that I have long been an activist, even before I qualified, but to support that I needed to earn an income somehow.  I drifted from dentistry to public health research, into international development, human rights, and eventually established Fahamu in 1997, and launched Pambazuka News in December 2000. What one does to earn a living should not prevent you from being politically active in the cause of emancipation. But I also think that while each of us have our own histories and pathways, the past is something we need to learn from but not become imprisoned by. So while I was once a dentist, I don’t need to continue in that pathway unless I have no choice.

I remain committed to the cause of emancipation and justice. There are many ways in which I may be able to contribute to that. For the present, I need to reflect on the possibilities for the future and so I am taking time off to regroup.

 

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Southern Sudan on the wrong course says Mabior Garang
September 22, 2012 | 0 Comments

-Son of emblematic leader lashes out at elite for turning country to worse form of dependent state

By Ajong Mbapndah L

Mabior Garang is not happy with the way things have unfolded since Southern Sudan achieved independence a year ago. The son of the country’s emblematic revolutionary leader Dr John Garang says the new elite have turned the country into the worst version of a dependent state.

Southern Sudan does not reflect the vision of the Sudan Peoples ‘Liberation Movement-SPLM which was led by the late Dr Garang and current President Salva Kiir. The status quo is like a “posthumous coup on the people of Sudan” says Mabior who heads a small youth organization call “The New Society.” Mabior joins the growing chorus of people disappointed at the way thing have evolved so far in Africa’s youngest country. “Nowhere in Africa has a liberation movement, so quickly and so determinedly abandoned its program and its platform,” Mabior says. Interviewed by Ajong Mbapndah L, Mabior who heads the DR. John Garang International School, offers very lucid insight   into the realities of Southern Sudan today.

Mr. Mabior thanks very much for accepting to grant us this interview. What is your assessment of Southern Sudan a year after it attained independence?

Mabior Garang: The new Republic has missed a unique opportunity to birth a qualitatively different type of nation state in Africa, one that is built on different parameters, as articulated severally by our late hero and founder, Dr. John Garang de Mabior. At the heart of the SPLM’s vision of statehood was a qualitative leap from the state building models followed by other post colonial states in Africa. Instead the new Republic, on account of the new elite, has become the worst version of a dependent state – incapable of independence in decision making and beholden to outside powers for everything including basic economic and social policy. It is the very thing the SPLM sought to avoid.

The notion of all power belonging to the people has been completely usurped! Instead of using the goodwill expressed by the people when they affirmed their sovereignty by voting in overwhelming numbers for independence, the new elite has instead focused their efforts on the most crude and grotesque accumulation of wealth. The popular goodwill could have been mobilised again in a popular constitutional referendum, as many people of goodwill had urged the SPLM to do. A great opportunity squandered.

For many of the new elite, the “independence” of South Sudan is the program and an end in and of itself. Indeed, some have even called for the SPLM to change its name since it had “achieved its objective”! They might as well have changed it! The fact is that the struggle for a New Sudan, a country that is fundamentally transformed both in form and content, rages on in other marginalized parts of the country, and those waging that struggle are the ones advancing the SPLM program and vision of change. It is tragic that we have failed to recognize this in South Sudan

In a recent interview you said the leadership of the country had deviated from the vision your late Dad Dr John Garang had, can you shed more light on his vision and how the present leadership is acting contrary to that vision?

Mabior Garang:The objective of the movement (the Vision of the New Sudan) was to end the exploitation of man by man by modernizing our societies.  To sum it up, the leaders of the new Republic have abandoned that vision and program of the peoples movement. Nowhere in Africa has a liberation movement, so quickly and so determinedly abandoned its program and its platform. It has to be a first! And what a tragedy given the promise of change; the expectations of our people and the reverence that the SPLM had among Africans all over the world. Here was a movement that took as its starting point, the enslavement of Africans from the time of the first Persian A rare picture of a younger Mabior and his Dad, late Dr John Garangincursions, to the time Alexander penetrated the Nile Valley, to the present day! Its loss of direction is not only a Sudanese tragedy but an African one as well. The original program was completely abandoned; I describe it as a posthumous coup on the people of Sudan.

President Salva was a long time Aide of Dr Garang, what do you think is making him deviate from the principles of your Dad who remains the most emblematic figure in Southern Sudan

Mabior Garang: I don’t want to speculate too much as that might lead to conspiracy theories; there are probably many factors both internal and external. I shall only shed light on what I do know (which is that) the SPLA was founded as a politico-military organization. This means that the movement’s combatant was primarily a political activist. This form of organizational structure was necessary due to the objective historical realities of the time, there was the field Commander at the front and the Political Commissar in the liberated areas. The SPLA was the primary tool through which the efforts of the Sudanese people were organized and directed to achieve the democratic transformation of the country. The late DR. John taught that the SPLM would be evolved during the course of the struggle, as the SPLA created the necessary conditions. He argued that the people’s movement had to be evolved democratically and not based on a first come first serve basis. The SPLA would fight the war, and with the passage of time as more Sudanese  became convinced about the objectives of the movement, they would join the struggle and form a truly representative movement. This logic was fought by a few sectarian minded elite, who used their local influence to promote tribal divisions to de-campaign less educated members of their communities. The movement in order to survive had a premature birth, and it has suffered from this ever since.

The true cadres of the people’s movement are the armed political activists who fought the war, and they have been excluded from continuing to lead the people’s movement based on a technicality. The transition from a rural based movement, to one exercising power in the urban center has been mismanaged. At the moment of victory rebels that previously were not bound by law suddenly had to contend with international law. The cadres of the movement who where all armed activists becomes part of the national armed forces, while the “political wing” entered the realm of party politics. The SPLM national secretariat (apart from a few at the top) is made up of individuals that have spent over ten years outside of Africa. They are mutated from their villages many having American, Australian and Canadian citizenship. The political commissars who are the true ideologues of the people’s movement and who know the struggle and sacrifice that the people have made, are no longer the ones making the decisions. The decisions are being made by people that don’t have to live far with the consequences of their decisions. I believe this is what has made us deviate as a movement, it is easy to blame one man especially the leader (it comes with the territory). It is; however, our collective failure.

The criticisms against the government of President Salva aside, what are some of the positive things you think he has done and what advice do you have for him?

Mabior Garang: I don’t see many things, but to be fair we have not yet descended into the abyss despite all the forces working against us, internal and external. I suppose he must be doing something right. I think he has done his best to balance the situation, I imagine it must not be easy to please everyone.

There are pictures of sky scrapers and flourishing construction sites in Juba, is this development a reflection of what is going on in other parts of the country?

Mabior Garang: The development that you have mentioned is cosmetic. It is similar to starting a building project from the roof. There is no proper waste management, no power, no water, healthcare is in shambles, the justice system is nonexistent, poor education. I guess it would depend on ones definition of development. The population of South Sudan is predominantly rural based, so any credible development program must also be rural based. The late DR. John taught us that the level of development at which our people shall start is shocking, and only through agriculture can they be committed to development.

How has the government treated your family in general and have you ever been approached to play a leadership role in the country?

Mabior Garang: I am thankful that we have not been specifically targeted; we have been safe for the most part. I don’t believe Comrade Salva would knowingly allow for anything to happen to us. However, there is a group around him that is of the view that: “…it is not your time anymore…” (Whatever that means).

This group has tried their best to drive a wedge between Comrade Salva and our family, and also the peace loving people of South Sudan; but we have tried not to let it affect our relationship. In spite of these people we have been behind Comrade Salva from when he succeeded DR. John to the independence, we have been hoping for a change of heart ( we have gone as far as raising over 2.5 M USD for his campaign). And as long as he stands for the ultimate permanent interests of our people, we shall continue to be behind him.

I have never been officially approached by the government or the SPLM; however, some individuals out of their own initiative have offered to lobby on my behalf, to which I have always declined. I think we have a systemic problem and not one of personalities, I have been able to contribute more to nation building in a private capacity than I ever could being in government.

If we may ask another about Dr Garang, what kind of family man was he, what are some of the fond memories you have about him?

Mabior Garang: I hardly knew my father as a father; I have no memories of that. I knew my father as a revolutionary, and this is how we related to each other. It was a Comradeship that we shared, I feel honored to have been part of that history, I imagine it would be equivalent to living with Amilcar Cabal, Edwardo Mondelane or Samora Machel.

I know he was a great family man because I have pre-revolution photos and we look like a happy family, I also witnessed how much he loved my sisters, and the whole extended family. It was his love for his family that ultimately made him sacrifice everything, so that his children live in a new society where they are not second class citizens.

We also learned that you were a victim of attacks from thugs after making critical posts on face book; can you tell us what happened?

Mabior Garang: I was attacked by unknown assailants two weeks after giving a speech at the 3rd memorial for my father, I think that somebody did not like what I said. I was struck with a blow to the jaw that left it fractured in three places, I currently wear titanium micro plates (there was no investigation by the security).

I was also attacked a year earlier by security forces at my father’s grave, I had gone to mediate as I used to regularly after his tragic demise. I was surrounded, beaten with the butt of an AK 47, and told it was not the right time for me to be there (again no investigation). I have been harassed many more times for different reasons as many of my compatriots do daily.

The international Community has been most supportive of Southern Sudan; in what way do you think it can be of additional help in improving the situation in your country?

Mabior Garang: I think the international community should continue to be with the marginalized people of Sudan (South and North) and work with the people at the grassroots level to strengthen civil society. However, the ultimate reality is that we the people of South Sudan are the primary force that can stop the current failure of state, and bring us back to the promise of a new society, a promise we gave everything for. I don’t think it is too late to set things right.

On a personal note, what are your ambitions? Do you see yourself getting more actively engaged in politics?

Mabior Garang: I don’t wish personally to be in politics (in the traditional sense). I am part of a historical struggle, a people’s movement, and the objectives of this movement have been articulated clearly (in the case of Africa) since the mid 1950’s. The movement’s objective has been to create a new society, to have an African renaissance. The Mabior is not s sure about joining politics yet but it will not be a surprise if he eventual doespre-colonial African society is no longer relevant to our current realities, while the one imposed during colonialism is foreign and also not relevant to our realities. I am committed to this historical struggle of our people (to form a new society) and will, as Comrade Madiba put it: “…do anything that history may call upon me to do…” if that means politics then I guess I will have to roll up my sleeves and get to it.

A last question, based on the volatility of relations with Sudan, and the challenges facing your country now, any prediction for the future?

Mabior Garang :The people of South Sudan and the People of North Sudan share a long history of unity and secession going back to ancient times when Kemet (aka Egypt) Seceded from Nubia in ancient times. The history of the people has been characterized by movements of unity and secession and today the objective realities have led to secession. I don’t know what tomorrow may bring; however, the future of both populations is inextricably linked.

The marginalized people of Sudan (North and South) have been betrayed by the Elites, who are the real enemies of the Sudanese people (north and south). The people of South Sudan and the people of North Sudan are not enemies; it is the Southern Elite and the Northern Elite that have traditionally been enemies. The northern and southern elite have conspired to stop the revolution from reaching its logical conclusion, (which was) the democratic transformation of the country (a Sudanese Renaissance). They are now promoting sectarian politics to ensure their survival. I know that one day the revolution shall achieve its objectives. Whether that will be in my lifetime? I don’t know!

Thanks very much again for granting this interview to Pan African Visions

Mabior Garang: The pleasure is mine

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Interview: The man behind Africa’s answer to the iPad and iPhone
September 15, 2012 | 0 Comments

By Jaco Maritz*

Vérone MankouVérone Mankou is the 26 year old entrepreneur behind the African designed Way-C tablet computer. The tablet was launched earlier this year and attracted significant media attention. Mankou’s company VMK, which is based in the Republic of the Congo, this month also unveiled its first smartphone. How we made it in Africa asked Mankou about the business and how his company competes with the likes of Apple and Samsung.

Why did VMK decide to launch the Way-C tablet?

The project began in 2006. I was working at an internet service provider (ISP) and wanted to design a cheap computer to give access to internet for more people. After one year, when Steve jobs unveiled the first iPhone, I changed my plan and the project became the “big iPhone”, meaning a tablet.

Earlier this month VMK also introduced its first smartphone, just days before the launch of the iPhone 5. Why enter the smartphone market?

You know, when I was working on the tablet, I noticed that the biggest difference between a tablet and a smartphone is the screen size. After we launched the tablet we decided to work on a smartphone project, and now the project is finished. It’s a Android phone called the Elikia (which means “hope”).

Your products are designed in Africa, but assembled in China. Tell us a bit more about the design and manufacturing process.

You know it’s like building a house. Firstly you have an architect who draws the house and after you have the workers who will build that house using the plans of the architect, but the architect need to be there every time to check if everything is okay. And for the designing of a tech product, it’s the same.

You mentioned in a previous interview that you will roll out 3G enabled tablets.

The first version of the tablet was Wi-Fi only, and many people didn’t like this. They asked us to develop a 3G tablet, so now we are working on a 3G tablet that we will launch in the beginning of next year.

How do you compete with multinational tablet manufacturers such as Apple and Samsung?

For me Apple and Samsung are not interesting in Africa, because their cost is so high. My goal is to put a tablet in the hands of all Africans, their goal is just to make money. It’s different.

VMK has also launched a market place for African-focused apps. Tell us more about this.

I noticed that in Android Market, now called Play Store, more than 99% of apps are not developed in Africa and/or are not developed for Africa. When you search African content, it’s hard to find good ones. We decided to launch our own marketplace to help us promote African content. And for the smartphone Elikia we decided to launch a new version of our market, called VMK Market, with the possibility to buy apps via our gift card, called VMK Market Card. So now we are developing a real environment (including devices, content and monetisation) to help developers.

VMK's two flagship products: The Way-C tablet (left) and the Elikia smartphone.Describe some of the greatest challenges you are facing in making the Way-C a success.

Our biggest challenge is just to get funding, because it’s needed to produce more products and for marketing purposes.

What is needed for Africa to become a serious player in the tech industry?

Funding and innovation.

What does the future hold for VMK?

We decided to launch a tablet and smartphone. It’s done. Now I want to give all African households access to technology, and develop a new tablet for education priced at about US$100.

*Source http://www.howwemadeitinafrica.com

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African Ancestry is the world leader in tracing maternal and paternal lineages of African descent
August 15, 2012 | 0 Comments

-Gina Paige On How African Ancestry transforms the way people view themselves and the way they view Africa!

By Ajong Mbapndah L

African Ancestry is the world leader in tracing maternal and paternal lineages of African descent.  With the industry’s largest and most comprehensive database of over 25,000 indigenous African samples, African Ancestry determines specific countries, and more often than not, specific ethnic groups of origin with the highest level of detail, accuracy and confidence. Founded in 2003 by Dr. Rick Kittles and Gina Paige, the Washington D.C. based company has today helped over an estimated 150,000 people re-connect with the roots of their family tree. Gina Paige, President & Co-founder, African Ancestry, Inc says Knowing where you’re from is a vital component of knowing who you are.

PAV: May we know how the idea of African Ancestry was conceived and how it works?

Gina Paige: AfricanAncestry.com was born out of a desire by Dr. Rick Kittles, our Scientific Director, to know where he was from. His work as a geneticist led him to explore how genetics can be used to answer the question of ‘where am I from?’ asked by so many people of African descent. Once the community learned that the technology existed, their demand for the service resulted in the establishment of AfricanAncestry.com.

African Ancestry uses DNA to determine the ancestry of maternal lineages and paternal lineages. If the ancestry is African, we place it in a present-day country in Africa and we identify the ethnic group(s).

PAV: So your results are able to place African Ancestry in a present day country and region, what technology does your company have and is there a margin of error in your findings?

Gina Paige: African Ancestry has the African Lineage Database, the largest database of indigenous African lineages in the industry. With over 33,000 lineages, we are able to pinpoint ancestry to within a 95% confidence level. The vast size of the African Lineage Database allows us to provide a likelihood measure as well.

PAV: How big is your clientele and how excited or motivated are African Americans to find out their Ancestry?

Gina Paige: More than 150,000 people know their roots through the service we provide.

PAV: What typically becomes of folks when they become connected to their Ancestral backgrounds?

Gina Paige: The journey only begins with tracing their roots using DNA.  Every person we test becomes a part of our African Ancestry Family Community, where they have instant access to country-of-origin enrichment materials, other people that share their ancestries and tools and resources for deepening their experience.  Additionally, many people travel to Africa, join extended networks/groups and support causes affiliated with their roots.

PAV: Where do you situate the importance of African Americans knowing their Ancestral origins and any chance that stronger bonds could be forged through the kind of services you offer?

Gina Paige: Knowing where you’re from is a vital component of knowing who you are. The ancestral paper trail can only go but so far for African Americans due to the breakdown of information during the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade and records are unreliable at best.  So we believe it’s of the highest priority for people of African descent in the U.S. and across the world whose ancestries have been displaced. 

PAV: Back to your company, any ties that it has with the continent business, professional or political wise?

AfricanAncestry.com does not have any business, professional, or political ties to the continent. We do partner with some non-profits and embassies here in US to foster an exchange between African Americans and Africa.

PAV: To those who might be interested in using your services, what does it take cost wise and how long does it take to get results?

The current promotional price is $299 to trace a single lineage. There is an additional discount if a person traces more than one lineage at a time. Many people see this as a family investment and members of families go in together to purchase a kit and they all share the same results.

For more on African Ancestry visit www.africanancestry.com

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Rwanda has benefitted tremendously from the instability in the Congo
June 21, 2012 | 0 Comments
Carney-Obama Administration should call Rwanda Government to order

Carney-Obama Administration should call Rwanda Government to order

Rwanda has benefitted tremendously from the instability in the Congo

-Maurice Carney, Executive Director Friends of Congo

By Ajong Mbapndah L

As the D.R.Congo grapples with yet another crisis with fighting in the Eastern part of the country, Rwanda stands accused of playing a leading role in fomenting the crisis. The Friends of Congo a body which gives itself the mission to raise the consciousness of the world community on the challenges of the Congo believes that Rwanda has benefitted and continues to profit from the instability in the Congo.The group recently initiated an online petition urging U.S Government Officials notable President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for action against Rwanda. Maurice Carney, co-founder and Executive Director of Friends of Congo tells PAV that the petition does not target the people of Rwanda but rather against the Rwandan government and its policies. An independent entrepreneur and human rights activist who has fought with Congolese for fifteen years in their struggle for human dignity and control of their country, Carney regrets that it is the USA and Britain that have been the biggest supporters of the Rwandan government on the international scene .The evidence against Rwanda is overwhelming says Carney who backs his assertion with a number of news sources. Interviewed by Ajong Mbapndah L, Carney sheds light on the activities of the friends of Congo, the case against Rwanda, expectations from Obama Administration, and more.

PAV: First, could you introduce Friends of Congo, its membership and mission?

Maurice Carney: First, thank you for providing us with this opportunity to engage you and your readers. We truly appreciate this opportunity. Friends of the Congo (FOTC) was established in 2004 to work in partnership with Congolese to bring about peaceful and lasting change in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), formerly Zaire.  FOTC has two basic aims:
1. Raise global consciousness about the challenges of the Congo
2. Provide support to local institutions striving to fulfill the enormous human and natural potential of the Congo.

PAV: In initiating a petition urging people to call on President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to take action against Rwanda, you accuse that current of playing an active role in the crisis in Eastern Congo, what is the evidence you have to impugn Rwanda?

Maurice Carney: Thank you for the question, the evidence is too many to respond fully to this question.  We have to make one correction however; we are not calling for action against Rwanda and her people but rather calling for action against the Rwandan government and its policies. Remember the Rwanda armed forces have invaded the Congo twice (1996 & 1998), occupied Congo (1996 – 2002) and supported proxy rebel groups inside Congo (1998 – present) and fought a battle against Uganda inside Congo (June 5 – 11, 2000) over diamonds in the home province of Patrice Lumumba. In the Rwandan regime’s second invasion of the Congo in 1998, backed by the United States and United Kingdom, it was the Southern African Development Community (SADC) led by Zimbabwe, Namibia and Angola that had to come to the rescue of the Congolese people and repel Rwanda and Uganda because Congo lacked an army to protect itself against Rwanda’s aggression. However, to respond to your question about the petition, our sources on the ground have confirmed the presence of Rwandan soldiers inside the Congo, Al Jazeera has interviewed some of these soldiers who deserted, The United Nations has produced the same facts in an article published by the BBC, Human Rights Watch has also corroborated the presence of Rwandan soldiers and just recently the Congolese government finally acknowledged what the whole world now knows. The evidence is compelling and overwhelming to the point that some of the staunchest supporters of Rwanda in the human rights community have now switched and are calling for accountability for Paul Kagame and the Rwandan regime.

PAV: On Eastern Congo, you must have more information than we do, what ignited the current crisis there and what does Paul Kagame and Rwanda gain or seek to achieve with his involvement in the crisis?

Maurice Carney: Rwanda has benefitted tremendously from the instability in the Congo.  The main benefit Rwanda gets from destabilizing Congo is financial. According to Dow Jones Newswires, Rwanda benefits to the tune of tens of millions of dollars from Congo’s tin, coltan and tungsten: http://conflictminerals.org/2010/05/ Bloomberg news reports that Rwanda is one of two (The other being Malaysia Smelting) top traders of Congo’s conflict minerals (Coltan, Tungsten, Tin) http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?sid=a1p3C4mCsY2o&pid=newsarchive  The Six-day war is a classic example of Rwanda’s intentions in the Congo. Rwanda fought its ally, Uganda in Kisangani, DRC for six days in 2000 over diamond concessions killing an estimated 1,000 Congolese civilians and wounding scores.


PAV: What is it you expect President Obama and the US Government to do and if the evidence on Rwandan involvement is that strong, why is the International Community not taking stronger action to call that country to order?

Maurice Carney: Our expectations of the Obama administration is simple – implement the very law that President Obama sponsored and passed into law as a senator in 2006. We are asking nothing more and nothing less.  The international community has taken several actions against the Rwandan government (See the UN Mapping Exercise Report of 2010 and the Spanish Court Rulings of 2008 against 40 top officials of the Rwandan government, also see the 2008 Sweden and Netherlands actions against Rwanda that led to Rwanda arresting its proxy inside Congo, Laurent Nkunda). It is mainly the United States and the United Kingdom that have protected Rwanda diplomatically and politically. In addition, like Israel, Rwanda has opted out of many of the international bodies that other governments have subscribed to. For example, Rwanda is not party to the International Court of Justice, which ruled in 2005 that Congo is entitled to $10 billion in reparations from Uganda because of its crimes against humanity and pilfering of the Congo. The court would have likely ruled the same against Rwanda but Rwanda is outside the jurisdiction of the court.
PAV: If we are correct there was a Congressional hearing in the USA not long ago where Friends of Congo talked about the crisis, did you secure any promises and if Congress did not act after the hearing what are the chances that the petition will push them to act now?

Maurice Carney: We are fighting a just cause and not leading a campaign. We are convinced if we continue to apply pressure we will prevail. Remember, the United States was in support of Apartheid South Africa but activists persevered and eventually got the United States Congress to change its policy and laws toward South Africa. Dr Martin Luther King put it best when he said the moral arc of history is long but it bends toward justice. We are in this for the long haul in the spirit of Dr King. There is growing pressure on the Rwandan government and we are confident that if we continue to apply pressure we will prevail.

PAV: Elections that took place a few months back in the DRC did not go so well, how efficient has President Kabila been as a leader and how well is he handling the current crisis?

Maurice Carney: President Kabila is an illegitimate leader of the Congo. He appropriated power through force and not by the will of the people. He is handling the situation better than expected considering his track record in dealing with Rwanda where Rwanda has had its way in the Congo at the behest of Kabila. Let’s make no mistake however, the fact that a weak illegitimate regime is in place in Kinshasa, renders the Congo less effective in dealing with this matter.

PAV: The DR.Congo has not known peace since the late 90s, what in your opinion needs to be done to provide lasting respite for Congolese?

Maurice Carney :Several things need to be done to advance lasting peace in the Congo and the region:
1. The West needs to cease its support (military, financial, training, intelligence) of the strongmen in the region (Museveni of Uganda, Kagame of Rwanda, and Kabila of Congo)
2. Rwanda needs to enter into a dialogue with the FDLR. An inter-Rwandan dialogue is needed.
3. Democratic institutions must be strengthened in the Congo
4. Multinational pillaging of the Congo must cease, the people cannot continue to live in abject poverty while foreign corporations continue to benefit at the expense of the people
5. A Congolese state and military accountable to democratic civilian leadership must exercise authority over the entire Congo

PAV: Do you agree with those who think D.R.Congo is just a victim of its resources, that its vast mineral wealth is the bane of all its problems?

Maurice Carney: No the Congo is not a victim of its resources. The idea of a resource curse is preposterous. Congo is a victim of greedy men (local elites, neighboring leaders, corporate predators the likes of Dan Gertler, George Forrest and the Blattners, etc) who seek to enrich themselves at the expense of the people. Congo is a victim of companies such as Banro, AngolGold Ashanti, Freeport McMoran, ENRC, The Forrest Group, Glencore, OM Group and the nearly hundred companies identified by the United Nations as systematically looting the Congo:  http://conflictminerals.org/us-canadian-companies-involved-in-congo/

PAV: What was the reaction of the public to the documentary “Crisis in Congo, Uncovering the truth” produced by Friends of Congo and any projects in the pipe line?

 

Maurice Carney: Thank you for asking. The response has been remarkable, especially where it counts most, inside the Congo. The film is being screened throughout the Congo. People in China, Japan, Australia, India, Korea, Brazil, Argentina, Kenya, South Africa and many more countries are screening the film. We have translated the film in French, Portuguese, Spanish, Chinese, Italian, Japanese and more language translations are underway. We were not expecting such a strong response to the film. The film is merely an excerpt of a feature length work that we are in the process of completing. We developed the short to put on President Obama’s desk to remind him of the law he got passed as Senator.  Yet, film festivals, libraries, high schools, colleges, universities, conflict resolution organizations and ordinary individuals are screening the film and using it as a teaching tool.

Our main focus right now is the fifth anniversary of Congo Week, which will take place from October 14 – 20, 2012 throughout the globe. Communities across the world organize events (screenings, teach-ins, fundraisers, rallies, etc) in solidarity with the people of the Congo. Since 2008, over 60 countries and 300 communities have participated. We encourage people to join us in transforming the heart of Africa by signing up for Congo Week at congoweek.org

 

 

 

 

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“Parlement” did more than Selfish Politicians in the fight for Change
May 24, 2012 | 0 Comments

-Corantin Talla re-visits the students’ movement in Cameroon

By Ajong Mbapndah L

Created in 1991, the Students Union body at the University of Yaoundé dubbed “Parlement” was a fundamental actor in the early stages of the struggle for democracy in Cameroon. Many believe that the threat posed by the activities of Parlement at the lone State University of the time precipitated the creation of other Universities by the government across the country. Led by Corantin Talla, the Association was a thorn in the flesh of government. Talla says multiple frustrations on the living and studying conditions led to the creation of the Association. Though the government accused the Association of been a fabrication of the opposition, Talla says Parlement was created by Students to cater for their interests. The strategic alliance it formed with the opposition was to sanction a government which had failed to respond to the grievances of the students in particular and Cameroonians in general, he explains. Talla, who graduated in 1992 with a Degree in Biology, says he was perplexed when the former Minister of Higher Education Titus Edzoa expelled him from the University when he was already on exile in Nigeria.

Now in the USA for some 17 years, Talla who says self serving and opportunistic opposition leaders derailed the struggle for change is proud of the contribution that Parlement made to the struggle. The students of Parlement selflessly gave their all to bring about positive political change in Cameroon Talla contends but regrets that the change that Cameroonians yearn for remains elusive. A graduate of Public Administration from the University of Florida, Talla who currently works for a Global Information Technology says it is time for patriotic forces to synergize resources and strategies towards the common objective of building a truly free and democratic country. Talla still believes that the Youth hold the key to the change Cameroon needs and for this to happen, they must break free from the faux mentorship and leadership of politicians who continue to use them in furtherance of selfish designs.

.PAV: Corantin Talla, you were the leader of the students’ movement in Cameroon known as “Parlement” may we know how it was created?

 Corantin Talla: The “parlement” was created as a result of the multiple frustrations of university students about their living and studying conditions.  Moreover, the students were vehemently opposed to the cancelation of the election of their representatives by the then minister of high education, Joseph Owona.  In fact, the university was overcrowded; there was no adequate library and other amenities for students were so lacking.  More importantly, the university administrators as well as the Minister Owona Joseph were trying to impose their handpicked student representatives after unilaterally canceling an ongoing student election.   The above-mentioned reasons led to the creation of ‘Cameroon Students’ Parliament’, dubbed ‘Parlement’, on April 2nd, 1991.  The main leaders at the inception of parlement were Talla Corantin alias General Schwarzkopft, Yimga Yotchou Blaise alias ‘Abu NIDAL’, Waffo Wanto Robert alias General Collin Powell, Chebe Elsie alias Margaret Thatcher and many other less known members of the initial leadership.  As far as the name Parlement is concerned, I personally chose that name for our student movement on April 2nd, 1991 and publicly announced the creation of the Parlement in front of thousands of students that day, in front of the restaurant U.  I chose that name because it was a forum where all the students could utter their grievances so that we could deliberate on the appropriate demands and actions against a government that had failed to resolve our problems.

PAV: Who were some of the people you were associated with in the leadership of the movement and there is this confusion as to who actually was the students leader, was it you or was it Senfo Tokam?

Corantin Talla: The real leaders of parlement included the names I gave you earlier and other students like Chah Orlando, Eyock, Njock, Chebe Pius, Bakeson Rick, and Christopher Atene Acha.  Senfo Tonkam was not a member of the leadership at the inception of that popular students’ movement.  I was the President of Parlement and Senfo Tonkam was the President of ‘la coordination des Etudiants Camerounais -CEC (National Coordination of Cameroon Students).  The CEC was a legalized organization, whereas the ‘Parlement’ was a clandestine but legitimate movement of pro-democratic students.  Senfo Tonkam even granted an interview in Cameroun Tribune in which he denounced the activities of the Parlement.  It is amazing how the CEC later claimed to be the Parlement.  That is the true history of the creation of Parlement.

PAV: We will like you to clarify a few things that were said here and there about the parlement, one it was a tool used by the opposition to fight Biya and the CPDM and secondly its membership was full of Anglophones and Bamileke students.

Corantin Talla: The Parlement was a movement created by the students in the interest of students.  The parlement was never a tool in the hands of opposition. But at one time we formed a strategic alliance with the opposition under the banner of the ‘coordination des parties politiques et associations’, (Coordination of Opposition parties) and later on under the banner of ‘Union for Change’ and ARC-CNS.  We participated in those opposition gatherings because we wanted a change of the regime that failed to solve students’ problems in particular and Cameroonian problems in general.  In short, the parlement was an independent association of grown up students who knew how to think and organize themselves.

PAV: It may have started as a student movement but it aligned itself so strongly with the opposition, why so considering that as students at the time, the CPDM government had you guys on a reasonable monthly allowance, and took care of feeding with a restaurant at your disposal?

Corantin Talla: The monthly allowance and restaurant were just tools used by the government to distract the attention of students from their critical problems, such as the lack of academic infrastructures and the lack of elected student representatives, who could serve the interests of the students instead of promoting the interests of the government on the Campus.  It was okay for students to sing ‘Paul Biya toujours chaud gars” during the national day. But it was not okay for them to have dissenting ideas or to freely choose their leaders.  That is one reason why my comrades and I decided to fight the system from the nation’s capital and later expanded our battle fields in the provinces.

PAV: So what became of your comrades, it appears you guys all faded into obscurity as there is no visible face playing a leadership role in Cameroon politics

Corantin Talla:It is true that many comrades have abandoned the struggle for several reasons.  But there are still many of us who continue to fight for the course of genuine democracy in Cameroon.  I personally continue to fight from my exile in the USA as you can see from the multiple protests we have organized in front the Cameroon embassies on several occasions when there are critical issues that occur in the life of our nation.  For instances, the NGO called Conscience du Cameroun that I head, in conjunction with other associations of the Cameroon Diaspora organized a huge protest against the change of constitution in 2008, campaigned for a  boycott the 2011 election mascarade  in Cameroon.

The change in Cameroon will come from Cameroonian themselves says Talla

The change in Cameroon will come from Cameroonian themselves says Talla

We also engaged in many lobbying actions in the USA and Europe under the Banner of the United Front of the Cameroon Diaspora.  We will continue to fight for the change of the current regime that lacks the political will to facilitate the implementation of political reforms that could bring about genuine democracy and a state of law in Cameroon.

As the president of Conscience du Cameroun, I am tirelessly working to sensitize and mobilize young Cameroonians in particular and Cameroonians in general for the final assault on the system that has pauperized the vast majority of Cameroonians; given up our land and all our natural resources to foreigners; that has perverted the moral values of Cameroonians and transformed our country into an ocean of corruption.

PAV: Parlement was indeed a strong force for change, in retrospect, do you have any regrets or do you think things would have been done differently by your group to help the struggle for change in Cameroon?

Corantin Talla: The students of Parlement selflessly gave their all to bring about positive political change in Cameroon.  They were not, like many opportunistic politicians of that period, interested in holding government or political offices.  They were the true combatants.  But unfortunately, they were betrayed by their own people they helped to  free from prison like Daikole Daissala,  Issa Tchiroma Bakari and the likes of Kodock, Bello Bouba and other power-hungry selfish opportunistic politicians.  Despite all the drawbacks as a result of those multiple acts of treason by senior politicians, the former Parlement leaders, most of whom have been in exile for close to 2 decades, are finalizing plans to return to Cameroon to finish the battle for democracy they started in 1991.

PAV: Looking at the generation of students in Cameroon today, what do you think of their response or involvement in the challenges facing the country?

Corantin Talla: The youth of Cameroon feel betrayed by politicians of both sides of the political spectrum.  Hence, their lack of interest for politics and their distrust of the political system.  The youth of Cameroon should cease to be the followers of discredited politicians and take their destiny into their own hands and demand for democratic reforms in Cameroon. The youth and conscience du Cameroon will work hands in glove to bring about genuine democratic changes in Cameroon without counting on divine intervention or any foreign power. In short, the youth should rise up and create the necessary counter-power needed to force the dictatorial Regime of Biya to leave power and give way to genuine democratic reforms by a transitional leadership chosen by the people.

PAV: You now head an Association known as Conscience du Cameroon; may we know what it does and what bearings it has on the political landscape in Cameroon?

Corantin Talla: Conscience du Cameroun is an American NGO that the government of Cameroon refused to register in Cameroon in 2009.  However, as an organization whose mission is to promote democracy, peace, and development in Cameroun, we have organized many protests in the USA against the Cameroonian dictatorial regime; we have participated in the creation of the United Front of progressive Cameroon movements in the Diaspora. And more importantly, we have help Cameroonians in the Diaspora in terms of academic, legal, and professional integration.

We have also created a synergy between progressive forces of the Diaspora and local progressive movements.  We have helped to strengthen the civil society in Cameroun.   Now, our main goal is to sensitize and mobilize Cameroonians

The students of Parlement selflessly gave their all to bring about positive political change in Cameroon.

The students of Parlement selflessly gave their all to bring about positive political change in Cameroon Talla contends

so that we can bring down the current regime or force them to agree to a consensual implementation of political and electoral reforms that will bring about genuine democracy in Cameroon.  We reject the recently voted electoral code in Cameroon and warn the government about the consequences of their unwillingness to open the political system to genuine democracy for the sustenance of peace and social cohesion in Cameroon.

PAV: You certainly interacted with a lot of political leaders in the 90s and there are all still in place today, which of these leaders impressed you most and what is your take on the democratization process?

Corantin Talla: None of the leaders impressed me the most. But I did recognize the then courage of Fru Ndi, the selfless leadership of Pr. Jean-Michel Tekam, the determination of other leaders of the opposition as well as the students’ members of le Parlement.   I thank all my former comrades of le Parlement wherever they may be today and call upon them to get ready so that we can be back to finish the job of liberating our people from the shackles of neo-colonialism and local dictatorship  of President Biya and his creatures.

PAV: Cameroonians agree the need for change is even more acute today than it was in the early 90s but things are not evolving as fast as many want, where do you think the change Cameroonians want is going to come from and how?

Corantin Talla: The change in Cameroon will come from Cameroonian themselves and not from some hypothetical external or foreign power.  We Cameroonians have to wake up from the Stockholm syndrome and take our destiny in our own hands.  We should not count on any godly help but on our own actions.  The civil society and genuine opposition as well as the progressive movements of Cameroon in the Diaspora should form a united front for political reforms in Cameroun.  And then the front should sensitize and mobilize Cameroonians towards the creation of a powerful counter-force to the entrenched dictatorial regime of Yaoundé.

PAV: Last question Sir, your reaction to the recent arrest of Prime Minister Ephraim Inoni and Minister Marafa and your opinion on the whole operation Sparrow Hawk which has seen the arrest of Government Barons

Corantin Talla: The arrest of anyone deemed corrupt, including Marafa and Inoni is a good thing for the Cameroonian people provided that the judicial system is not used to punish innocent people.  Nevertheless, all the thieves and embezzlers should be arrested without discrimination. More importantly, in the end the man who incarnates the system, President Paul Biya, should be held accountable for his own economic crimes.

PAV: Thanks very much for granting this interview

Corantin Talla: Thanks very much too.

 

 

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