A Free and Fair Election is the Solution to South Sudan’s Woes
October 21, 2020 | 0 Comments
By Ezekiel Lol Gatkuoth
|In this election, and in true democratic fashion, the losers must congratulate the winners.|
The Republic of South Sudan was born – literally out of the ashes – on 9 July 2011 after decades of a debilitating and costly war. The people of South Sudan must be appreciated for their sustained commitment to sovereign independence, and to finally win their freedom, despite the grave costs that we paid in both life and treasure.
Since 2011, our nascent nation of 10 million people has continued to face strife and human misery. Indeed, with the republic secured, internal wars started again in December 2013. This conflict devastated the country and pushed many of our citizens to become internally displaced as well as refugees in neighboring countries.
Another peace agreement was reached in 2015, but the wars continued to flare – even before, it seems, the ink was dry upon the very papers our leaders signed.
Of course, those who have followed the fate of our country are likely familiar with The Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM/SPLA – IO) the main political group that has long opposed our central government. However, the SPLM is one of only a number of disparate and armed rebel movements that have sought to destabilize our country – and in turn, an already ravaged region that yearns for peace and stability.
Some of these groups, together with the SPLM, actually signed an historic 2018 peace agreement with the government – one that we all sides had hoped would finally bring this spiraling conflict to its ultimate conclusion. However, instead of working towards a lasting peace, once again opposition leaders thereafter rejected the agreement and formed yet another platform: the South Sudan Opposition Movements Alliance (SSOMA). Today, SSOMA – while already split into several factions – is negotiating in Rome with official government representatives to sign yet another peace agreement.
To be sure, the lack of a unified opposition voice – one that is collectively lifted in good faith – has made the work of the mediators increasingly difficult. Nevertheless, the government stands ready to make peace and to negotiate with any rebel faction to achieve it. Our country and our people have suffered for too long. Our salvation lies in looking ahead to the future, not picking fights with the ghosts of an ugly past.
His Excellency General Salva Kiir Mayardit, the President of the Republic of South Sudan, and his government is committed to bring peace to the country at all costs.
When and how is this rebellion going to end? Today, this is the central question we must answer – we must answer it together, as one unified people.
In my estimation, a democratic election is the solution that will forge our fate. The last election South Sudan sought to hold took place in 2010, back when Sudan was one.
For the purposes of securing the peace in South Sudan, now that we have secured our republic, we must have an election that is free and fair and in line with both our regional and international conventions, including the African Charter on Democracy and Elections. For this to happen, we must first agree on a process to disarm and rehabilitate armed combatants; for they too have a right to participate in South Sudan’s future, so long as they commit to peace and to a democratic future. Second, we must complete a credible population census to ensure that every eligible voter is accounted for and duly given the right to cast their ballot. Third, we must undertake a comprehensive voter registration drive so that our voting population is properly accounted for. Only after these steps have been completed can we then organize a truly free and fair election – one that will make both our country and the world proud.
In this election, and in true democratic fashion, the losers must congratulate the winners. And the winners – thus equipped with a national mandate that is underwritten by the genuine will of the people – must begin the work of nation-building and uniting the people of South Sudan. Indeed, the winners of this election, regardless of who it may ultimately be, will lead and represent all of the people, not just those that voted for them.
It is in this spirit that I call upon the African Union, United Nations, Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), and the broader international community to help South Sudan to make sure that this election is free and fair – that it is transparent and accountable to our people. Our people rightly deserve an election in which nobody feels cheated, and in which all factions prove their commitment to ending war and prospering in peace.
Put simply, this is the only viable path forward way to end the rebellion and truly win our freedom in South Sudan.
*Ezekiel Lol Gatkuoth is Former Minister of Petroleum, South Sudan
Justice: Answers and Actions for Lasting Positive Change
August 25, 2020 | 0 Comments
By Brian Nkemnji*
I hope to uplift the lives of all who read this article.
Nowadays, technology exposes social injustices in previously impossible ways. Information in the form of videos, photos, and messages instantaneously disseminates worldwide. Ongoing and recent injustices are reminders of the mistreatment people face. Pain and struggle are heavy in society, especially for those who identify as Black, Indigenous, and/or People of Color (BIPOC).
Society is in turmoil. The health and safety of marginalized people are at risk as abuse of power and coronavirus (COVID-19) deaths disproportionately affect BIPOC. Social disparities, police brutality, and COVID-19 case management reveal the systemic inequities and privileges granted to certain groups. As a nation, we should protect everyone’s human rights and ensure social justice and dignity.
The anguish and frustration manifesting in society emanate from centuries of race-based oppression. Disparities in policing, criminal justice, housing, employment, healthcare, and education, illustrate society’s institutionalized inequities. During the United States of America’s inception, people in power instilled and ingrained racism into the nation’s culture and systems. This plight is America’s past and present. Until society dismantles systemic oppression, it will be America’s future. Oppression destroys people and the nation. Humanity deserves better; let us create solutions.
As human beings, we owe one another humane interactions. The torment and systemic racism people endure is a relentless reality. People of goodwill, especially those in power, should denounce and act against injustice. However, words alone will not ensure social justice.
Education – in households, classrooms, and workplaces should confront systemic oppression. Everyone has a moral obligation to check their behavior and the behaviors of their relations. People can unlearn toxic mentalities and pass on humane ideologies. However, education alone will not ensure social justice.
Legislation at the Local, State, and Federal levels should diminish institutionalized oppression. The nation must enact and enforce laws that quell systemic injustice. Abuse of power plagues society. Perpetrators should face significant judicial and financial consequences. However, legislation alone will not ensure social justice.
Society needs fair play, oversight, and accountability to ensure social justice. The current systems allow perpetrators to cause injury and death and evade responsibility. Systems must remove perpetrators from authority, levy financial penalties, and pursue justice using special prosecutors.
People give life to nations, systems, and cultures; people also give life to injustices. Just as individuals created these ongoing systemic injustices, so can individuals stop them. The nation needs widespread, groundbreaking reflection, involvement, and action to dismantle unjust and oppressive systems.
I ask everyone reading this article to act against injustice and press those in power (elected officials, lawmakers, law enforcers, judicial authorities, and leaders in business, education, healthcare, and more) to help end systemic oppression and bring forth a more just society. Sustained collective action can end systemic oppression. Together, we can defeat the injustices entrenched in society.
*Brian Nkemnji is a social justice advocate who strives to uplift the lives of those in need.
Economic War: Understanding the Black Wall Street and Redirect Mall
August 25, 2020 | 0 Comments
|The Economic War is focused on fighting for Africa’s Economic Independence, Economic Emancipation.|
The leader of Africa’s first Economic War, Charles N Lambert, in a video released on Sunday, gave a detailed explanation of what the Black Wall Street and Redirect mall is all about.
In the video, Lambert gave a historical insight into the Black Wall Street and Redirect Mall as Economic Revolution.
And I must tell you that the video is a must watch for any African seeking understanding regarding the pursuit of Africa’s economic independence as it provides the very first ideological transfer from African Americans to Africans.
Lambert explains the opportunities that come from the Economic War for an African who will apply to Work as an Internal Army in the Economic War. This provides an opportunity for you to have a full-time job and this earns you $ 5,000 per month upon confirmation by the organization.
The Economic War is focused on fighting for Africa’s Economic Independence, Economic Emancipation and as its first kind, Lambert refers to it as Africa’s first economic revolution.
He explains revolution as an attempt to try and change the status quo.
Lambert further stated that if Africa can change its political status quo, gain political independence, we can also gain Economic independence, save the continent from being economically extremely poor and stop being dependent on foreign nations.
An Economic War, is a commerce-driven, orchestrated attempt, to balance altered trade deficit for a region. According to Lambert, this is done by simply ensuring that money leaving the continent is controlled, to avoid the haemorrhage of funds and capital flight.
Some African leaders have in the past attempted to save Africa from the haemorrhage of funds but failed due to the influence of the economic invaders that dominated African trade structure.
Now you can see that the Economic War movement is a revolution to lead Africans into economic independence and you must see yourself as a warrior that must win this economic battle for Africa by coming in as an Internal Army.
The Internal Army has five different roles and they involve over 600 people in Africa, and can be called the BWS600.
As an Internal Army, you will use the platforms that the Black Wall Street has put in place to strategize and fight the Economic War to help Africa recover and eradicate the deficit.
The Black Wall Street led by Lambert are a group of people who are dedicated to liberating Africa from poverty, they are the engine of capital generation for the industrialization of the African continent and leverages on capital flight to generate capital for funding of job, creating commercial undertaking for Africa which they’ve tagged ”The Economic War”.
A recipe has been tested and proven to be effective enough to help in the Economic War. This recipe is used to trap wealth inside of the community, you monitor the money, make sure it doesn’t leave the region to avoid capital flight.
The recipe was extracted from the backdrop of Economic Success of a group of people called “The Black Wall Street” who were racially and physically destroyed in the 1921 Tulsa race massacre in America.
In the summer of 1921, these worst episodes of racist violence in American history erupted in the heart of one of the most prosperous Black communities in the nation.
Dubbed “Black Wall Street” due to its affluent black residents, the Greenwood neighborhood of Oklahoma, where the Race Massacre took place, was a hub of Black success featuring Black-owned homes and establishments, including banks, restaurants, and hotels, in a community that included accomplished lawyers, doctors, and dentists. It was one of a few predominantly Black areas that thrived economically after the end of the Civil War and into the 20th century, when racial discrimination was the order of the day.
According to Lambert, this group of Africans who referred to themselves as the Black Wall Street became so prosperous and financially buoyant more than the whites who became upset with the success of the Africans.
History has it that the Black Wall Street community boasted more than 300 black-owned businesses, including two theatres, and even a pilot who owned his own private aeroplane.
The success of this black community, however, caused some white people in Tulsa to become envious and angry, according to Mechelle Brown, director of programs at the Greenwood Cultural Center.
The worst of it happened after an elevator incident between a 17-year-old white girl named Sarah Page and a 19-year-old black man named Dick Rowland.
Page worked as an elevator operator and Rowland would use the elevator almost every day.
On a particular day after the elevator doors closed and Sarah Page and Dick Rowland were alone in the elevator a few moments, there was a scream.
After the elevator doors opened, Roland ran and was later arrested. Page initially claimed that she was assaulted. The encounter sparked widespread outrage among white people, who rioted through Black Wall Street, burnt buildings owned by the blacks and killed over 300 black people.
It is on this backdrop that Charles N Lambert is championing the recipe of the Black Wall Street to be applied in Africa’s first Economic War.
Lambert believes that if these group of people were not killed and their businesses destroyed, they would have come down to Africa to industrialize the continent. And if the recipe they used 99 years ago could be applied in Africa’s first Economic War, Africa will be industrialized and restored economically.
Their desires, goals, objectives, passion, commitment, dedication, zeal, the height of their dreams would have been to implement the principles of the Black Wall Street for the entire Africa.
However, in applying the recipe to win the Economic war, to make sure excess money does not leave Africa, the Black Wall Street led by Lambert designed a platform called the “redirect mall” to sell African products to save the continent from losing over $203 billion on capital flights annually.
The Redirect Mall is an online Mall dedicated to fighting the Economic War. It is a place where Africans can buy African products in bulk as this will help retain the movement of money within Africa.
The Redirect Mall is to make sure Africans have easy access to goods produced by manufacturing companies in the continent. With the redirect mall, Africans can trap the resources and invest in African corporations to create more jobs for the people, thereby bringing industrialization to our doorsteps.
*SOURCE Black Wall Street courtesy of APO
Covid-19, Telecommuting and Africa’s Digital Space
July 24, 2020 | 0 Comments
By Opeoluwa Runsewe
|The workplace and the education sector can now create new, sustainable models which are accessible, inclusive and qualitative|
It is no news that the outbreak and proliferation of Covid-19 have had some of the most acute implications on global economies in recent times; the vast majority of private and public institutions have been put on edge and are being forced to mitigate these unforeseen contingencies by adopting the swiftest and most dynamic mechanisms.
Gradually, the virus has spread to 188 countries, with it’s ramifications cutting across all demographics. According to verified data by John Hopkins University in the United States, as at July 16th 2020, more than 13.5 million cases and 584,000 deaths had been reported; Schools, businesses and airports have been closed, restrictions on movement and large gatherings have been enforced, and one too many businesses have been obligated to urgently close shop regardless of the concerted effort by governments and health care professionals to curtail the rate of infection. However, it remains largely uncertain and highly debatable as to whether the recently imposed restrictive measures will be totally terminated in a bid to ensure that economic activities can imminently reach full potential. According to the IMF, the global economy will shrink by 3% this year; in what is described as the worst decline since the Great Depression of the 1930s.
The effects of restrictions on countries expectedly differ. The availability of universal healthcare, digital devices, access to data, digitalization of systems and processes, good and affordable broadband internet service, financial inclusion, social prosperity and other proactive measures have been consequential in countries that appear to attenuate the enormous economic impact. For instance, the central banks of several countries have successfully slashed interest rates alongside other Fiscal and monetary policies, all in an effort to encourage borrowing and spending. These measures have however proven to be some of the most feasible ways to theoretically boost their respective economies. The UK, Germany, Italy and France are some of the countries that have furloughed government-supported job retention schemes extended to the millions of people that constitute their work-forces.
However, the impacts of Covid-19 join a long list of factors that expose Africa’s perceived economic backwardness; evidently prompted by some of the earlier mentioned infrastructure either lying in poor state, being totally dormant, lagging behind on up-to-date trends or being summarily unavailable to majority of the working population. In turn, this constricts the capacity to remain productive, keep businesses running and ensure optimal revenue generation.
With more than 590,000 confirmed cases in all African countries as at July 17th 2020, the pandemic has undoubtedly caused significant social and economic disruption. African countries have been propelled to impose various preventive and containment measures; South Africa, Rwanda, Tunisia and the Democratic Republic of Congo constitute some of the countries that announced complete lockdowns. Governments, through their machineries and the media, have urged residents to stay home and distant, all in order to limit person-to-person transmission.
Many employers across the continent have therefore transitioned to telecommuting; permitting employees to work from home or outside their traditional workspaces, and using video conferencing platforms to conduct staff and client meetings. These employers are also adopting technological solutions that enable them shift the bulk of their operations online.
With the exemption of a few essential service providers, most organizations swiftly directed members of staff in various locations to work from home. Ringier One Africa Media (ROAM), a media company with operations in eight Sub-Saharan African countries is one of those organizations. On 24th March 2020, it signaled its readiness to adjust by announcing that it required its 400 employees to work remotely, as part of its efforts to protect them from the widespread of the virus.
Organizations are also taking advantage of Africa’s booming digital space to convene virtual management and shareholder meetings, in order to maintain the standard procedures required for effective decision-making and corporate governance. United Bank for Africa Plc (UBA) is a Pan-African financial institution offering bank services to more than twenty million customers, across 1,000 business offices and customer touchpoints, in 20 African countries. On April 29th 2020, UBA held its first virtual Annual General Meeting. In attendance were representatives of relevant regulatory bodies, shareholders, management and staff of the organization. Similar industry leaders like Zenith Bank and Standard Bank Group Plc have since followed suit.
Finally, businesses have adopted strategies that have allowed both staff and customers to smoothly transition from routine cash payments to online transactions. Paga, a mobile money organization with 500 employees and a presence in two African countries is one of such. On 24th March 2020, it announced strategies to reduce cash handling, in order to slow the spread of Covid-19 and adjusted its fees in such a way that merchants can accept payment with its platform without incurring any charges.
Covid-19 has also had its enormous implications in the education sector. UNESCO says that 9.8 million African students are experiencing acute interruptions in their education, and this undoubtedly raises pressing concern.
In Nigeria, a few state governments (e.g. Ogun, Kwara and Lagos) have made provisions for continued learning via local television and radio. That is, following the indefinite closure of schools, as declared on 19th March 2020 by the Federal Government of Nigeria. This is also the case in Ivory Coast and Botswana, with both operating similar models all aimed at bridging this threatening gap. In Ghana, the University of Ghana conducts online classes and has since negotiated free internet data with indigenous telecom companies.
In Rwanda, South Africa, and Tunisia, universities have partnered with governments and internet service providers to avail students across the various institutions free access to select educational websites. In March, Eneza education partnered with Safaricom Plc to deliver free revision material to Kenyan students for 60 days; OJAR foundation, an NGO committed to the capacity development of young innovators, and African digital education leaders, Sapphital partnered to deliver an initiative dubbed ‘E-learning4impact’ which provides free access to an impressive catalogue of specially curated courses for young African across different disciplines. Private organizations and NGOs have adopted similar strategies in Egypt, Libya, Liberia, Tunisia, Morocco, Nigeria and South Africa.
While ‘Work From Home’ (WFH) and ‘Learning Never Stops’ strategies are admirable, their plausibility raises important questions. That is, against a backdrop of twin challenges – power supply and internet access. In Africa, these are effectively crippling the digital solutions and other digitalized measures aimed at taking the edge of the effects of the virus.
While the rate of global access to electricity is 87 percent, the rate in Africa is a sultry 43 percent. Residents in African countries like Chad, Mozambique, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda suffer epileptic power supplies. In addition, going online presents complications in an Africa where only 24% of the population have access to internet. Related problems include poor connectivity and exorbitant costs. Getting online is expensive for majority of the populace, reports suggest that purchasing a mobile phone and 500MB worth of internet data cost an average 10 percent of monthly income.
Notably, Transsion Holdings, an Asian company, produces mobile phone brands like Techno, Infinix and Itel, specifically tailored to be hybrid option; providing top-notch features and at the same time, relatively low-cost. Africans also purchase previously owned phones flooding the markets from various parts of the world hence considerably reducing the cost of mobile phone purchase amid the barely existent credit or installment payment options. Yet, a vast majority of African telecom service providers do not offer the high-speed internet access and affordable data packages to facilitate the necessary adoption of telecommuting, easy digital transactions, etc.
In usual African fashion; thriving amid long-existing turbulence, Africa is experiencing fast growth in it’s digital space. There is visible increase in tech-enabled businesses in Africa. Notably, mobile technology in Africa is its fastest growing market. 70% of the world is already connected via mobile with Africa experiencing the fastest growth in this respect. PwC reports that between 2007 – 2016, mobile phone usage in Africa increased by 344%. Mobile broadband is accessible to two-third of the population and has hugely contributed to the continent’s socio-economic development by affording digital and financial inclusion.
Importantly, mobile phones have afforded small businesses the means to participate in e-commerce. Nigeria’s e-commerce sector is Africa’s largest, valued at $13 billion. Meanwhile, WhatsApp is a free mobile app used by millions of Nigerians. Small businesses have become smart; using WhatsApp to build strong consumer relationships, increase market share and, to boost revenue generation.
The challenges in Africa’s digital space, as unveiled by the pandemic, have been percieved to be slowing down the expected utilization of technology on the continent. However, the present awareness of these problems present endless opportunities, and should become an important launch pad for innovation in infrastructure and the digital marketplace. The workplace and the education sector, for instance, can now create new, sustainable models which are accessible, inclusive and qualitative.
Tribalism and the Church in Anglophone Cameroon
June 9, 2020 | 0 Comments
By Rev Fr Joseph Awoh*
A tribe is basically a group of people that includes many families and relatives who have the same language, customs, and beliefs. Cameroon has over two hundred tribes and tribe is one of our strongest markers as Cameroonians. There is nothing wrong with belonging to a tribe and no one chooses the tribe into which they are born. Over time, however, the word has taken on other meanings and, today, can also refer to an interest group united around a leader and an idea. In this way each of us belongs to a number of tribes including – in Cameroon and most of Africa – the one into which we were born. Again, this is good and beneficial. Human beings are not built to survive without group support. For a long time in human history this group support has been crucial for identity, for a sense of belonging and for survival.
It is from the word tribe that tribalism is derived. Up until the mid-20th century, tribalism was exclusively used to describe aspects of living in a traditional tribe. However, like the word tribe, tribalism also evolved and took on a more derogatory meaning. Today, tribalism is often seen as putting one’s own group above every other consideration, including justice. It is used to describe people who are overly loyal to their tribal group and exalt it above all others, whether these are ethnic, religious, professional or just interest groups. It is the behaviour and attitudes that stem from strong loyalty to one’s own tribe or interest group and leads one to support them whatever they do.
In our Cameroonian context, some persons have come to view their own tribe and culture as inherently superior to that of others and this has led to deep distrust between tribes. This distrust manifests itself in relations between Anglophones and Francophones, between north westerners and south westerners, between northerners and southerners, between Bangwa and Bayangi, between Mbessa and Oku, and so on. You only need to look at the political scene in Cameroon to see how we have been splintered along tribal and regional lines. And this is basically why the government has come up with the doctrine of living together. At its very worst, tribalism can lead to ethnic cleansing and genocide as we have seen it happen elsewhere. In fact, those words have been used recently in Cameroon (rightly or wrongly) to describe the socio-political crisis which we are going through in the northwest and southwest regions.
Elizabeth Segal holds that we are built to be tribal but sometimes tribalism goes too far. It becomes “bad tribalism”, a group identity that fosters the bullying and scapegoating of people who are different to us. We see this everyday in sports and social life but, in the last two weeks, the death of George Floyd, a black man choked to death by a white police officer kneeling on his windpipe for close to nine minutes, has shone a light on racism in America like nothing else has since the 1960s. The phenomenon in sports when fans make monkey chants and throw bananas at black players and athletes and the unequal treatment of blacks in the United States of America and elsewhere is called racism. While we all understand that bad tribalism in Cameroon is not the exact equivalent of racism, it is indicative of the way most people feel the effects of tribalism. Victims of tribalism feel the same way black Americans are feeling right now.
And that is why, as a Catholic priest, I feel really sick when bad tribalism rears its ugly head in the Church. For a long time our priests and fellow Christians on the other side of the Moungo did not want bishops appointed to them from other ethnic groups. Recent examples where tribal sentiments have superseded reason and faith and turned the church into the laughing stock of society include the Archdioceses of Yaounde and Douala. As Anglophones we prided ourselves of a different tradition and argued that this should not happen in the Church. But, as most of Anglophone society has swapped Anglo-Saxon traditions for those of our brothers and sisters east of the Moungo, the Anglophone Church has followed suit. Instead of leading society in the spiritual and moral domains, society is leading us. We have begun to agitate for priests and bishops to be appointed along tribal and ethnic lines and for a regional balance in these appointments, even as we witness how regional balance and tribal and ethnic considerations in politics has trumped professionalism and fostered incompetence in high places and wreaked havoc in an otherwise truly blessed country. As north westerners and south westerners what benefit has the appointment of Prime Ministers from our regions brought to us and to our communities? Nothing at all, except to those who belong to the tribe of their families and cronies. How will the appointment of a Bishop from my tribe, my interest group or region benefit me? Will it make me a better Christian, a holier person or will it bring me and the members of my interest group closer to the centre of Church power and give me advantages over others? How will the appointment of a priest to a particular post of responsibility benefit me as a Catholic Christian? Will this benefit be material or spiritual?
In Living the Priesthood, I listed the criteria which the Diocesan Pastoral Council of Portsmouth Diocese produced when they were searching for a replacement for Bishop Crispian Hollis who was retiring. Among these criteria was one that specifically asked that the prospective bishop should not come from Portsmouth Diocese. It said: Not a priest of this diocese, a man new to us all. The good of the diocese and the Church came before their personal interests and tribal considerations, and Rome appointed Bishop Philip Egan, a priest of the Diocese of Shrewsbury. How did we come to this point in this country where appointment committees and placement boards have to look over their shoulders all the time before appointing priests to positions of responsibility in their dioceses and in the Church to ensure that every tribe and ethnic group has a fair share of the ecclesiastical cake?
We are walking a very slippery slope as Christians and the option to follow the failed political model of regional and tribal balance is outright wrong and unchristian. And why is this wrong? First, we are all human beings and Christians. We cannot condemn bad tribalism in sports and in political and social life in America and elsewhere and encourage it in the Church of God. St. Paul tells us that in Christ, “there is neither Jew nor Greek, neither slave nor free, nor is there male or female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:28). Second, the mission which Christ gave us before ascending to the Father was to go make disciples (Matt. 28:19-20). The mission of the Church is not to grow our tribes, advance our agendas, increase our platforms and enlarge our visibility. Third, when we are tribal in the Church, we destroy the unity for which Christ himself prayed in John 17:21 – May they all be one! Fourth, we are taking over control of the Church from the Holy Spirit who guides her and enthroning ourselves in His place. In other words, we are saying the Holy Spirit has not been able to do His work and we are replacing Him. This is an abomination. Finally, tribalism as behaviour and attitudes that stem from strong loyalty to one’s own tribe or social group and leads one to support the tribe whatever they do is simply devilish. It chokes its victims in the same way racism is choking our brothers and sisters elsewhere and it chokes the entire Church.
I am not unaware that in the history of the Church, nepotism and similar evils have been practiced, even in the highest of offices, but I do not think that we are here to propagate evils which the Church herself has condemned in the past. To point to those practices as an excuse for our tribal behaviour would be tantamount to justifying the evil which we are doing by showing that others before us had engaged in similar evil behaviour. As Church and as individual members of the Church we must all confront the evil of tribalism and not copy what we know to be wrong, no matter who is doing it. For my part I shall pray that my tribal instincts may not hamper the work of the Holy Spirit who leads the Church (and who is blind to tribe, ethnicity and interest group) and that competence and suitability of candidates will be the only criteria for my recommendations to positions of responsibility in the Church. This is what we learn from the selection of the seven deacons in the Acts of the Apostles: non-tribal criteria were set and the selection was done and then the seven were ‘consecrated’ for service. And what was the result? …and the word of God continued to spread (6:1-7).
 Elizabeth A. Segal, When Tribalism goes Bad, Psychology Today, March 30, 2019 online at https://www.psychologytoday.com/intl/blog/social-empathy/201903/when-tribalism-goes-bad
 Joseph Awoh (2016) Living the Priesthood, page 23
*Rev Fr Joseph Awoh is Vice Chancellor of Catholic University of Cameroon,Bamenda
Opinion: Racism seeks to drive us apart but there are rays of hope
June 9, 2020 | 0 Comments
| By Patricia Scotland*|
Today I received a message from a parent. Her nine-year-old son, Oscar, had been sitting in his living room during the Covid-19 lockdown, watching coverage of protests, sparked by the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis in the United States.
He was perplexed and sat glued to his television as he watched images beamed from America, Canada, Australia and from the United Kingdom of masses of people of all races chanting ‘I can’t breathe’ and demanding an end to racism.
This fiercely intelligent mixed-race child had been raised to be proud of his blended heritage. So he was desperate to understand the circumstances surrounding Floyd’s death, and the raw wounds it had opened up in communities across the world.
Oscar turned to his mother and fired a series of profound and deeply disconcerting questions, which she shared with me. He wanted to know why black people were being treated in this appalling way, and why some people did not understand the concept of equality. As his mother tried to respond to these difficult questions, the discussion led to the institution of the Commonwealth. Oscar wanted to know why countries who were former colonies of the British empire had willingly decided to create a union based on equality and friendship.
His questions deeply affected me, because they were the same questions I had asked my father when I was nine. I had been watching the painful and frightening saga of apartheid play out on TV, and I had already experienced the reality of being a child of the Windrush generation.
So it is deeply distressing to see that after decades of civil rights movements, race riots, powerful ‘I-have-a-dream’ speeches, and the establishment of equality laws, that we have somehow managed to come back full circle.
Here I am in 2020 witnessing the horrific manifestation of this still festering wound – a white policeman, undeterred by onlookers, nonchalantly kneeling on the neck of a black man who is begging for mercy, pleading for his life, until he is forced into permanent silence.
More and more these incidents of savagery, evil and of a lack of humanity are being caught on camera in real time – so there can be no claims of exaggeration or distortion. But it also means that children of all races around our Commonwealth are being exposed to a trauma and their parents are facing difficult questions.
I believe that our young people, like Oscar, who represent 60 per cent of our population in the Commonwealth, deserve to know why they are still having to ask these questions. More importantly, they need to have hope that we can build on the progress we have made and create a future in which their children and grandchildren are not asking the same questions. My response is to point to the model of the Commonwealth.
In 1949, the Prime Minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru, explaining why his country had decided to join the Commonwealth, spoke about its “desirable method” which “brings a touch of healing” to our sick world.
These sentiments were later echoed by Her Majesty The Queen Elizabeth II in 1953 when she described the Commonwealth as, “an entirely new conception, built on the highest qualities of the spirit of man: friendship, loyalty and the desire for freedom and peace”.
It is true that our Commonwealth story is one of a family at times scarred by old hurts and resentments, and of a relationship sometimes strained and afflicted by fissures such as racism. But I point to the Commonwealth because our history also shows that, standing on the strong foundation of our friendship, our shared values, our common aspirations, and our spirit of collaboration, we have always been brave enough to look evil straight in the face and call it for what it is.
Our collective refusal to turn a blind eye to apartheid, and our tireless fight for the small, the vulnerable and the marginalised has made us as an enigma of diversity and equality.
Today, the Commonwealth is 54 countries, small and large, from five different regions representing one third of humanity, of all races, cultures, creeds, religions and economic positions, bound by the same language, the same common law, parliamentary and institutional framework, and values. And their leaders can sit together, all with equal say, making joint decisions on some of the worlds’ greatest challenges.
I am extremely proud of this accomplishment, but Floyd’s final silence was a deafening reminder of the challenges we still face. And Oscar’s questions, posed in the midst of a global pandemic and worsening economic and environmental crisis, presents a new set of challenges.
I am encouraged by the rays of hope I see shining through in the peaceful marches led by people of all races and cultures, and by police joining protests, not to stand against peaceful protesters, but to kneel with them in solidarity.
So I have hope that we are able to beat this, but we can only do so if we can see the bitter racism which has managed to poison minds and institutions and all of us resolve to eradicate it. We must also understand that the only antidote is to contradict this flawed ideology with the strong values of equality.
Often, when people ask me about the Commonwealth’s impact and I tell them about the importance of our Charter of values, they look at me strangely. But recent events and Oscar’s questions have made it clear that we must have solid strategies to integrate these values into every part of our society, including our education systems.
The truth is that we are at a defining moment in our history, and the choices we make matter, perhaps more than at any other time for a generation. We cannot afford to allow racism to divide us and drive us into social unrest. We all inhabit the same planet, together we are all battling the same pandemic. And it is only if we join together, in the face of our competing viewpoints and ambitions, that we can hope to defeat this pandemic, regenerate our communities and take on the economic and environmental challenges that this planet faces and defeat the corrosive stain of racism which would seek to tear us apart.
*This article first appeared on Monday 8 June 2020 on the Thompson Reuters News wire. Patricia Scotland is Commonwealth Secretary-General
IMF should issue special drawing rights as grants to Africa
May 4, 2020 | 0 Comments
By Thomas Boni Yayi*
Since the start of the Covid-19 health crisis, the global economy has been grounded in one quarter with a likely annual growth forecast of -3% in 2020, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
In Europe, taboos are falling. On March 20, 2020, the European Commission announced an unprecedented suspension of budgetary discipline rules. Ongoing negotiations between heads of state and government over a new stimulus package to prevent economic disaster is estimated to be around €$1 trillion. The European Central Bank (ECB), for its part, in its will to do “everything necessary within the framework of its mandate to help the eurozone to overcome this crisis”, announced €$1 billion in massive assets buyouts in the financial markets throughout 2020.
The United States has responded to the economic devastation caused by the coronavirus with the largest economic relief programme in its history, at $3 trillion. At the same time, the US Federal Reserve (The Fed) has indicated its willingness to buy an essentially unlimited amount of public debt – a very aggressive programme of financial instruments buybacks by the end of 2020 of nearly $3 billion.
With regards to economic solutions adapted to Africa, I think there are essentially two challenges which need to be separated: first, that of mobilizing new resources to finance the response to the virus crisis; then the cancellation of Africa’s debt as part of a strategic partnership without undermining the attractiveness of the continent.
Consequently, I suggest that the IMF, in addition to the first aid package already distributed to some African states, should issue Special Drawing Rights (SDRs), to the tune of €114 billion, which corresponds to the needs of the African continent according to indications provided by the Managing Director of the IMF, Kristalina Georgieva, to enable Africa – whose central banks do not have the same capacity to respond as those of China, the United States or the euro zone – address the negative impact of this health crisis as quickly as possible.
We will either triumph, or perish, together. Therefore, Africa cannot and should not be left on the margins of the various measures supported by central banks in Europe, the Americas or Asia. This IMF assistance, through the issuance of SDRs will be convertible with central banks such as the Fed, the ECB, the Central Bank of Japan and the Central Bank of China, determined to support African states to tackle this COVID-19 crisis. This support will allow the strengthening of the external assets of African central banks whose capacity in relation to their long-term commitment does not cover more than 4 to 5 months of imports.
The overall needs of the African continent can be assessed on the basis of regional economic communities and the use of resources must be done in strict compliance with the good governance prescribed by the African Peer Review Mechanism (MAEP).
These investment requirements relate to the modernisation of hospital infrastructure, precautionary measures, treatment, education and skills’ training of hospital staff, not to mention social protection for citizens, economic recovery, price stability and the reduction of unemployment.
With regards to the cancellation of Africa’s debt, the speed required to manage the economic crisis caused by the coronavirus cannot be hampered by issues that have always aroused the hesitation of the creditor states. While recognizing the correctness of this request and referring to the reluctance of the G20 to stick to the one-year moratoriums on the payment of debt service, I welcome the initiative of the African Union to set up a committee which, in addition to the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, would give impetus to Africa’s request for debt cancellation.
In the 1990s, Africa already benefited from the HIPC (Heavily Indebted Poor Countries) initiative with the cancellation of bilateral and multilateral debt. This initiative cast doubt on the solvency of the continent. This second request for cancellation would probably merit negotiations at three levels: at the level of multilateral institutions, at the level of States and at the level of the private sector.
If this request were to be taken into account, would it not raise some questions at the level of multilateral banks? A cancellation of their receivables will have an impact on their creditworthiness. At the state level, negotiations are possible but it is the same creditors who feed multilateral institutions. The question is whether a country like China, a member of the G20, is prepared to cancel its debt on the continent, which is 40% of Africa’s debt – and about $360 billion. Finally, in the private sector, there is the question of who will reimburse them?
These are obstacles that will take a long time while the treatment of this virus requires speedy action to be taken to contain the human and economic devastation. We will certainly end up with treatment on a case-by-case basis.
In conclusion, I suggest an emergency issuance of Special Drawing Rights for Africa by the IMF, which already involves the main contributors to IMF resources. Only genuinely united and globally coordinated management of this health crisis can save humanity. We are no longer at the stage of making promises. We must stop the mass deaths we witness on a daily basis and revive economic activities.
*Courtesy of Daily Trust.Dr Yayi is former President of the Republic of Benin, former Chairman in Office of West African Economic and Monetary Union, and former President of the African Union-AU
Opinion: We must leverage the ‘Commonwealth Advantage’ to counter the economic fallout of COVID-19
April 24, 2020 | 0 Comments
By Patricia Scotland*
The world is bracing for a massive hit to the global economy in the wake of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Experts have warned of a US$1-2 trillion shortfall in global income this year, while world trade could contract by between 13 and 32 per cent.
As countries take drastic measures to fight the spread of the disease, we are seeing borders and businesses closed, domestic and international travel scaled back, and a totally transformed way of life due to social distancing. Currently, 2.6 billion people across the world are affected by their workplace closing.
The result is a sweeping drop in economic activity, a much less active workforce, on top of growing global insecurity for the future. Without ample government bailouts, poor developing countries and small states remain the most vulnerable in the face of the pandemic.
However, history has shown that with the right policies and support measures in place, the Commonwealth as a whole will eventually be able to overcome the economic fallout – though extremely bleak times lie ahead.
In particular, gradually reviving trade flows amongst 54 member countries – worth more than an estimated US$700 billion in 2019 – can play a fundamental role in boosting economic recovery, while harnessing the benefits of Commonwealth ties.
Recovering from the crisis
Given the unprecedented nature of current pandemic, I am cautious in comparing economic-induced and biological-induced crises. However, the 2008-2009 global financial crisis can offer some insights about the Commonwealth’s possible performance.
Over the years following the global financial crisis, the Commonwealth’s overall exports of both goods and services grew at a faster rate than the world average.
From 2010 to 2018, the Commonwealth’s exports in goods, which make up 70 per cent of its trade, grew by around 8 per cent, compared to only 5.5 per cent for the world.
In fact, during the global trade slowdown of 2012 to 2016, the Commonwealth’s services exports were especially resilient, expanding by 7 per cent, on average – more than twice the growth rate for the rest of the world.
Rapid population and per capita income growth (especially in Asia) are part of the driving forces behind the Commonwealth’s buoyancy. With 2.4 billion people, 60 per cent of whom are under the age of 30, these drivers are unlikely to slow anytime soon – with or without coronavirus.
Moreover, Commonwealth countries share historical ties, familiar legal and administrative systems, a common language of operation (English) and large dynamic diasporas, which help make trade and investment more convenient and efficient.
While not a formal trading bloc, this ‘Commonwealth Advantage’ enables member states to trade up to 20 per cent more with each other than with non-members, at a 21 per cent lower cost, on average. Our research also shows that these countries invest up to 27 per cent more within the Commonwealth than outside of it – almost tripling investment levels five years ago, which stood at 10 per cent.
The potential benefits have not been lost on countries, even as we prepare to face a severe slowdown of the global economy brought on by COVID-19.
The slowing of the Chinese economy (a major trading partner), the decline in tourism and travel, as well as plunging oil prices will certainly cause economic strain to members. However, investment flows to sectors such as e-commerce, digital technologies, cybersecurity, healthcare and biotechnologies could shore up, as business migrates online, and countries race to find a vaccine and other medical treatments.
Strengthening the connectivity among our countries is therefore critical, so that trade flows remain resilient during times of crisis. Digital connectivity will be especially key, as the need to interact virtually now will transform the way people trade and do business. It is already a major area of focus for the Commonwealth, under its flagship Connectivity Agenda.
While being extremely watchful of the pandemic’s economic impacts, I am cautiously hopeful about the potential for intra-Commonwealth trade to act as a lifeline during the darkest of times. By leveraging the Commonwealth Advantage and robust policy responses, countries can bolster vital trade and investment flows, to eventually emerge at the end of the tunnel.
* Patricia Scotland is Commonwealth Secretary-General
THE VACCINE OF PEACE; RETHINKING THE PANDEMIC OF VIOLENT CONFLICT
April 11, 2020 | 0 Comments
By Rev. Fr. Canice Chinyeaka Enyiaka, Ph.D*
Without any military power, lobbying strategy, international diplomacy, disobedience to border crossing rules, or any form of coercion, COVID-19 has taken over the world stage in the last three months. From the local communities to the international stage, individuals, families, state and non-state actors are scrambling to contain, mitigate and confront a virus that disregards socioeconomic status, atomic and nuclear weapons of war as well as racial differential.
From Wuhan to Berlin, Washington DC to Paris, from Dublin to Abuja, Madrid to Soul, and from Rome to Cape Town, it is a similar story of deafening silence, pain, and confusion. We see a puzzling world that is now frozen and standstill because of a blind virus that doesn’t see the social status of who it visits. We must acknowledge that this invisible enemy has demonstrated that territorial and national borders are critical but cannot exclusively protect us. It has pressed on us that the logic of exclusion and disregard for human dignity as most proponents of nationalism and populism argue cannot secure the future we desire. It has shown us that guns and bombs are not able to protect as we have always thought.
COVID-19 has pushed peoples and nations to the edge, instilled fear, shaken the core of our position of strength. It has exposed our vulnerabilities and the emptiness of the powers we arrogate to ourselves as individuals, peoples, and nations. The virus calls us to rethink global peace and to flatten the curve of violent conflict that plagues the human family. The heroic action of healthcare workers, first responders, and others on the frontline who put their lives on the line across the World to save lives invite us to the basics of “humanity” and “humanness” as we face the present challenges. Without the grocery-store stockers, the healthcare workers, the farmworkers, the first responders, we would be in a more precarious situation by now. The virus has shredded what we call power and might literarily as kings and princes struggle for ventilators with the common man as 1, 475, 676 people are fighting for their lives today with 87, 469 recorded deaths globally.. The mighty now depend on poor farmworkers to have food on their table. We see nature’s comedy play out before us.
The impact of COVID-19 on the collective life of the global community without respecting the territorial integrity of sovereignties and total disregard of border closures remind us of our shared humanity. It reminds us in an unusual way though, that we are ‘one family under God’ irrespective of socially constructed notions of human differential which individuals and groups have used to perpetuate oppression, exploitation and divide over the centuries. The virus is challenging the ideologies of extremism, xenophobia, Islamophobia, and anti-Semitism as it crosses all the lines they drew and have tenaciously protected.
The global pain of the moment is a clarion call to act in solidarity and return to the power of the common good. It calls for the promotion of the underlying human security for all, and to eschew outright reductionist approach to national security to achieve real goals of solidarity and the common good. These times call for the application of the basic human security and solidarity that recognizes that the life of the child in the slums of Yemen is as important as that of the every other person across the globe. The lives of the persecuted Rohingya minority cannot be treated as tools for diplomatic gain.
Mahbub ul Haq (1995) once said that the primary concern of human security is not to stockpile weapons. Instead, it is concerned with human dignity and how it is safeguarded and promoted. In the final analysis, it is about the child who did not die, diseases that did not go around, a strained ethnic relationship that did not erupt, another revolutionary and agitator who was not stopped, a human spirit that was not silenced. Provoked by the ethical concern for the use of resources in development, Mahbub ul Haq questioned governments giving priority of place to armament above the provision of milk for children. He points to the fact that human security issues in a most comprehensive manner are vital to achieving peace and human development as these issues fundamentally pose threats to the dignity of millions of people across the globe. Taylor notes that the above position has put human security at the center of the global discourse on peace. Safeguarding human dignity through solidarity and social security has become more imperative than ever. The global relationship should be guided by human dignity principles as dignity is the bright reflection and expression of every person.
Last month, the UN Secretary-General said, “The fury of the virus illustrates the folly of war”(Guterres, 2020) as he called for a ceasefire in the face of the pandemic. Many member states member states, as well as non-state actors and individuals, including Pope Francis, have endorsed his call for a cease-fire within this period. Parties to the conflict in Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Colombia, Libya, Myanmar, the Philippines, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, Ukraine, and Yemen have all accepted his appeal.
The cease-fire ought to continue beyond the pandemic, and a new paradigm of the ‘vaccine of peace’ should be applied to deal with the epidemic of ‘violent conflict’ across the globe going forward. The desire to amass weapons of war and the investment of commonwealth on military capabilities has grown among the governments of the global community. Military expenditure is given priority over fundamental human security issues in many countries of the world today. We seem to be more prepared for war than for peace, more willing to destroy life than to protect as many countries show a chaotic posture of unpreparedness in the face of coronavirus with stockpiled arms and weapons of war in place.
After World War 1(1914-1918), the global community lost more than 18 million lives. At least about 56 million people died during and immediately after World War 11(1939-1945). The theatrical flexing of muscle and senseless power-rivalry at the inter and intra-state levels has led to millions of deaths in post-World War 11 regions of the globe even after the Nuremberg Tribunal with the concept of ‘never again.’ We continue to see the monstrous genocide and brutal destruction of human life ravaging communities of the World with the superpowers who championed never again supplying the arms and weapons of human destruction for economic gain. We destroy what we ought to protect, and we all become losers.
The folly, agony, and trauma of war extend to women and girls who are raped and sexually violated during conflicts. These women live with the emotional pain of sexual violation for the rest of their lives. Displacements, as we see across the globe today, come with the folly of war. Many children across the world have never experienced a peaceful childhood because every day, the noise of guns and bombs feel their ears, and some have been forced to be child soldiers with adverse effects that will stay very long with them. In different regions of the globe, people are maimed for life as a result of wars while others live in fear and insecurity with attendant hunger and starvation. Different countries are struggling to take care of individuals with post-traumatic stress disorder from war experiences. The folly of war is shown at the level of infrastructural destructions that will take decades to rebuild in many communities across the globe.
All our attention is on the common enemy “COVID-19” .It is the common enemy for Israeli and Palestinian; for Moslems and Christians in Nigeria; for the Buddhists and Muslims in India, etc. and I agree but are we able to learn the lessons the moment is offering us. I argue that a look at the human, economic, social, and environmental destruction caused by the act of war in the last two centuries will show that we are more dangerous enemies to ourselves than COVID-19.
Across the globe, healthcare workers and scientists are working hard to save lives and to find the vaccine for the cure of COVID-19. They are living and renewing the globalization of compassion and seeing everyone in the World as our brothers and sisters. It is the soul of solidarity and commitment to the common good. We have seen a great show of social solidarity and connection in our different communities across the world. COVID-19 which I think is an invitation to use the vaccine of peace to remedy the pandemic of violent conflict in our communities. It invites us to dialogue and proper allocation of resources.
We must remember that, “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, and the hopes of its children. The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities. It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000 population. It is two fine, fully equipped hospitals. It is some fifty miles of concrete pavement. We pay for a single fighter plane with a half million bushels of wheat. We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than 8,000 people”(Eisenhower, 1953). The above words speak us in these times and call for reexamination the use of global resources and the way we manage conflicts. Those words call for a change of paradigm. The paradigm shift ought to focus on engaging the human spirit and time honored values that can secure a peaceful and sustainable human family. It challenges us to properly place our priorities as a global community.
War is the defeat of humanity and it degrades all of us. The vaccine of peace returns us to the infinite dignity of each human person and the recognition that we are embedded in webs of mutual obligation. It is time for world leaders to channel just a fraction of the resources spent on war and military arms towards peacebuilding. Guns and bombs have always failed humanity. It is contradictory and I should say not acceptable that we put all our resources to fight COVID-19 from killing people only to turn around tomorrow and kill ourselves at the battle field. The act of war is the real pandemic and it makes man wolf to man. It is time to commit to applying the ‘vaccine of peace’ to cure the pandemics of violent conflict because “Peace is the only true direction of human progress – and not the tensions caused by ambitious nationalisms, nor conquests by violence, nor repressions which serve as the mainstay for a false civil order” (Paul VI, 1968).we are ‘one family under God’ and the path of peace is not impossible.
*Rev. Fr. Canice Chinyeaka Enyiaka, Ph.D. is Program Development Specialist, Interfaith/Community Outreach at the Global Peace Foundation
Africa’s COVID-19 solution lies in information and not isolation-A look at Hubei vs New York
March 31, 2020 | 0 Comments
By Ben Kazora*
- The black death pandemic is estimated to have killed up to 60% of Europe which was an estimate of 450 million people in the 14th century.
- Today a virus can travel first class on KLM to Africa and infect millions
- In Taiwan, when an infected person leaves their home or turns the phone off the police and local authority will be alerted and the person will be visited within 15 minutes
- The Co-100 app shares when the person tested positive, their nationality, gender and age.
Africa’s Advantage in the war with COVID-19
Interesting to note how the richer nations have been first to succumb to COVID-19 scourge. I believe this is primarily owed to the business and tourism between China and the west. Africa is benefited from late infections and has the advantage of lessons learned from the earlier victims and how the nations have dealt with it. Examining the Asian and European reactions to this pandemic Africa is primed to implement the best of both worlds. To this end, I firmly believe the critical soldiers in this unique battle against the pathogens, are the data scientists in concert with the healthcare workers armed with data. This approach in my view will save the continent millions of lives, jobs and the continents vulnerable economy.
Tale of two localities: Hubei & New York
With only 404 COVID-19 (0.07% of the population) cases Singapore has proven more adept at handling this pandemic than New York. Despite a greater distance from the epicenter (Hubei Province), New York has 2.3 times more cases compared to Singapore, relative to the population. With 81,281 cases out of 1.4 billion people it’s hard to deny that China got it right.
Hubei province with 60M people had 67,801 cases. This infection rate of 0.1% remain less than New York. Wuhan, the COVID-19 epicenter had about two-thirds of all China’s cases is about to lift the lead and resume life as normal. While the western world is grappling with this pandemic, it seems there are many lessons to learn from the east. Given the technological advancements of the west and advances in medicine I couldn’t help but wonder. First off let’s examine previous pandemics.
We have been down this road before
During the 14th to 19th century the world was dealt with the Black Death. This disease that was spread by body lice started in Italy and spread across Europe to France, Spain, Portugal, Scotland, and Scandinavia among others. This pandemic is estimated to have killed up to 60% of Europe which was an estimate of 450 million people in the 14th century.
Like COVID-19 today, the smallpox pandemic was equally class-blind killing the rich and poor alike. This plague is estimated to have decimated close to 30 million Mexicans by 1568 which was way before the arrival of Hernan Cortes. Despite the Spaniards having a superior army, the microscopic ally (smallpox) that Cortes army unwillingly brought from Europe helped take down the Aztec empire. This disease spread along trade routes in Asia, Africa, and Europe, eventually reaching the Americas. Smallpox is estimated to have killed 300 million people in the 20th century alone. It’s also estimate that fatality rate was 30% of those infected.
Wherever it began, the 1918 flu pandemic lasted just 15 months but was the deadliest disease outbreak in human history, killing between 50 million and 100 million people worldwide, according to the most widely cited analysis. The effect of the flu pandemic was so severe that the average life span in the US was depressed by 10 years.
It’s information not isolation
Clearly, without airplanes or cruise ships we have seen diseases spreading from east to west Europe and across continents. This means that closing our boarders isn’t the permanent solution. Germany took in about 50 Italian COVID-19 patients to help with the treatment. German’s gesture speaks to the power of collaboration and sharing of information that has proven to be the best weapon against these pathogen. Sweden has not closed its borders or its schools. Neither has it closed non-essential businesses or banned gatherings of more than two people, like the U.K. and Germany. Sweden has taken the unorthodox approach of simply informing and trusting the citizens.
Sweden’s 10 million strong population has reported 3,700 cases and only 110 deaths, while New York reports about ten times the rates of death and infections while population difference is only double. This phenomenon further shows that isolation isn’t the true solution.
Over the years we have seen doctors win the battle against the pathogens one time too many. The secret lies in the fact that while pathogens rely on blind mutations, the doctors have been armed with the powerful scientific analysis born of information. Third world countries have always struggled to deal with the likes of Ebola due to the non-data driven approach. This present danger posed by COVID-19 presents the third world a chance to examine novel ways of fighting pandemics and epidemics. I will term the information driven approach as the Asia approach.
We have seen time and again that the Asian nations of China, Singapore and Taiwan and others have proven more efficient at handling the pandemic. Africa political philosophies happen to be more aligned with those of Asia than those of the west. In a world where a virus can travel first class on KLM to Africa and infect millions, information becomes the only tool available to combat this. The US strongly adheres to privacy laws and that makes collection of pertinent data much more difficult. Perhaps, it’s time to examine the modification of these laws during such gruesome times. I imagine people are willing to temporarily trade privacy for life.
Data is the most lethal ammunition in this war
In Beijing, “Beijing Cares” app has been integrated into the permeating WeChat app. People under quarantine are made to input their daily temperature and health status into the app. When the isolation period is over, a “healthy status” page is generated, which users can flash at buildings and malls to gain entry. The Chinese government also releases details about patients’ travel history – via text messages on the mobile phone and state-managed websites – so the public can avoid places where the virus was once active.
South Korea took more aggressive steps by deploying a innovative system using data such as surveillance camera footage and credit card transactions of confirmed COVID-19 patients to recreate their movements. Max Kim of the MIT Technology review reported that the Ministry of the Interior and Safety using their Corona-100m (Co100) app, that allows those who have been ordered not to leave home to stay in contact with case workers and report on their progress. The app will also use GPS to keep track of their location to make sure they are not breaking their quarantine. Additionally, the app allows users to see how close they are to places that COVID-19 patients have visited before testing positive. As if that’s not enough, the app also shares when the person tested positive, their nationality, gender and age.
Taiwan went further to implement mobile phone electronic fencing. This location tracking platform ensures that those quarantined remain at home. The primary intent here is to ensure those infected aren’t running around spreading the virus. When one leaves their home or turns the phone off the police and local authority will be alerted and the person will be visited within 15 minutes. Officials also call twice a day to ensure the phone isn’t left at home by the infected person. Fact remains that the virus doesn’t travel from place to place but humans take the virus from one place to another.
Can we sacrifice our privacy to save our lives?
I know the mentioned slants would run afoul of privacy laws in the west. However, this is perhaps the most ideal time for African countries to come up with the Infection Protection Act akin to the German version being modified to deal with COVID-19. MTN group has close to 244 million subscribers while Vodacom has over 110 million. All together close to 750 million people in Africa have cellphones. The solution to the war with COVID-19 and future pandemics hinges on leveraging data and technology to complement the doctor’s efforts. The World Health Organization (WHO), Director-General Tedros Ghebreyesus said “the steps China took to fight the virus at its epicenter were a good way of stopping its spread.” African must act fast and swiftly. This is ultimately a sprint and not a marathon.
Remember that worry is like a rocking chair: It gives you something to do but never gets you anywhere. Instead adhere to the known protocols such as social distancing, washing hands often, cough into your elbows,stay home
Successful global epidemic responses put people at the centre
March 13, 2020 | 0 Comments
By Winnie Byanyima, UNAIDS Executive Director
GENEVA, Switzerland, March 13, 2020,-/African Media Agency (AMA)/- The COVID-19 outbreak is rightly shining a light on international and national responses to health emergencies—exposing gaps in our systems, showing our strengths and drawing on the valuable experience of responding to other health threats, such as HIV. At UNAIDS, we know that people living with HIV will have some anxiety and questions about the emergence of the virus that causes COVID-19. One of the most important lessons to be drawn from the response to the HIV epidemic is to listen and learn from the people most affected. UNAIDS continues to do so.
It’s important to underline that there is currently no strong evidence that people living with HIV are at an especially increased risk of contracting COVID-19 or, that if they do contract it, they will experience a worse outcome. As in the general population, older people living with HIV or people living with HIV with heart or lung problems may be at a higher risk of getting the virus and of suffering more serious symptoms. As for the general population, people living with HIV should take all recommended preventive measures to minimize exposure and prevent infection. As COVID-19 continues to spread around the world, it will be important for ongoing research in settings with a high prevalence of HIV in the general population to shed more light on the biological and immunological interactions between HIV and the new coronavirus.
But legitimate measures to contain the virus may have unintended adverse effects on people living with HIV. When the COVID-19 outbreak began in China, UNAIDS conducted a survey of people living with HIV to listen to their needs. A follow-up study has shown that some people living with HIV are beginning to experience challenges in receiving medicine refills. This is leading to some anxiety. In response, UNAIDS has been working with networks of people living with HIV and government officials to support special deliveries of medicines to designated pick-up points. A hotline has been established in China so that people living with HIV can continue to express their concerns while the outbreak persists. With our partners, we will also be closely monitoring developments in global supply chains to ensure that essential medical supplies continue to reach the people who need them and that disruptions to the manufacture of active pharmaceutical ingredients are kept to a minimum.
UNAIDS calls upon countries preparing their COVID-19 responses to ensure that people living with HIV have reliable access to their treatment medications. It’s now urgent that countries fully implement current HIV treatment guidelines from the World Health Organization for multimonth dispensing, ensuring that most people living with HIV are given three months or more of their medications. This will help to alleviate the burden on health facilities should COVID-19 arrive and allow people to maintain their treatment regimens uninterrupted without having to risk increased exposure to COVID-19 when retrieving their medicines.
A primary lesson from the AIDS response is that stigma and discrimination is not only wrong but counterproductive, both for an individual’s own health and for public health outcomes in general. That’s why UNAIDS has been supporting campaigns to reduce stigma and discrimination faced by people affected by COVID-19. We have never beaten a health threat through stigma and discrimination and our response to COVID-19 must be guided by lessons learned through the response to HIV. This includes listening to people affected by the outbreak and establishing trust and communication between people affected and health authorities, even before the disease burden rises.
Our biggest gains against HIV have come in countries that have reduced stigma and discrimination, encouraging people to test for the virus and to seek treatment if necessary. Using communication channels recommended by public health experts, let’s listen to people affected by COVID-19 and apply their lived experience so that we can strengthen our response to the virus.
The deaths caused by the COVID-19 outbreak are tragic and my thoughts go out to their families and loved ones. But if we are smart, the international community and individual countries will use this experience to further strengthen monitoring systems and make adequate investments in health infrastructure, both at the global and national levels. UNAIDS urges governments and health officials across the world not to delay in implementing public education programmes for all their citizens about the practical measures that should be taken to curtail the transmission and spread of the virus at the local level.
A people-centred approach is critical. Everyone must have the right to health—it’s our best defence against global epidemics.
Distributed by African Media Agency (AMA) on behalf of the UNAIDS.
The U.S. is wronging Nigeria and the Energy Industry with Travel Ban
March 11, 2020 | 0 Comments
Tanzania and Nigeria, particularly, are named by Washington as having failed to meet U.S. security and information sharing standards
By NJ Ayuk*
Including Nigeria in the U.S. travel ban is a political and economical mistake for Trump.
It is difficult to come to terms with the United States’ decision to include Nigeria in the extension he made a few weeks ago to the infamous “Muslim Travel Ban”, which already restricted movements of people from Iran, Libya, North Korea, Syria and Yemen. Alongside Nigeria, Tanzania, Myanmar, Eritrea, Sudan and Kyrgyzstan were also added to the list of countries with entry restrictions. Effectively, with the struck of a pen, or a whim, President Trump barred a quarter of the 1.2 billion people living in Africa from applying for residence in the United States.
Officially, the extension made to these nations is based on security concerns. Tanzania and Nigeria, particularly, are named by Washington as having failed to meet U.S. security and information sharing standards. Further, Nigeria is singled out for fears that the country harbors terrorists that could pose risks if they entered the U.S.
Much and more of this is difficult to reconcile with the U.S.-Nigeria long-standing allied relations and particularly with recent programs designed to bring the two nations closer together, but before we go there, let’s look at what the reality shows.
Since 1975, not a single incidence of a Nigerian, or for that case Tanzanian or Eritrean, being involved in a terrorist attack on American soil has been recorded. Boko Haram, the extremist group that has terrorized parts of the North of Nigeria (a region from which few migrants come from) in recent years, has never shown any signs of wanting to expand its territory, much less to open remote branches in North America. In fact, the American and Nigerian forces have worked closely together to address that and other challenges, and the Trump administration itself has recognized Nigeria as an “important strategic partner in the global fight against terrorism.”
Further, while Tanzanians and Eritreans have been excluded from what is known as the green card lottery system, Nigerians have been barred from applying for permanent residence visas in the United States. In 2018, 14 thousand such visas were issued to Nigerians, making it by far the most affected by the ban from all the new entrants to the list.
Beyond the sheer pain that fact must cause to the thousands of Nigerian families that have been waiting for years to be reunited in the U.S., from a security point of view, the decision makes no sense. Only permanent visas have been suspended. Tourist and work visas remain as usual. How does barring access to the most strict and difficult to obtain visas but maintaining the less restrictive short-term ones prevent terrorists from entering the U.S.? It is nonsensical. Even the fact that the announcement of the extension was made by the media before these countries’ authorities were even notified is telling of how lacking in protocol the process seems.
The whole thing is perplexing, but beyond the issues of principle, this decision has the potential to hurt the relations between these countries and the U.S., and when it comes to Nigeria, that risks hurting the U.S. too. Afterall, Nigeria, Africa’s biggest economy, is the U.S.’s second biggest trade partner in sub-Saharan Africa, is Nigeria’s second biggest export destination and is its the biggest source of foreign direct investment. American companies have extensive investments particularly in the energy and mining sectors in Nigeria, which risk being affected by a breakdown in bilateral relations. Some companies, like ExxonMobil, have been operating in the country for nearly 70 years, since even before the country became independent from colonial rule, and Chevron has also been an active and central participant in the country’s oil industry for over forty years. Both these companies are partners in Nigeria’s mid and long-term strategies to curb gas flaring, develop a gas economy, expand oil production, improve its infrastructure network, raise its people out of poverty, etc.
Nigeria and the U.S., under a bilateral trade and investment framework agreement, sustain an annual two-way trade of nearly USD$9 billion. When the president of the U.S. makes a decision like this, it can affect the relations the country and these companies uphold with Nigeria. Further, it directly clashes with the U.S.’s strategy to counter Russia’s and China’s growing influence in Africa by expanding its relations with the continent.
How does closing the door to Africa’s biggest powerhouse accomplish that?
The policy established under the 2019 Prosper Africa initiative, that was designed to double two-way trade between the U.S. and Africa, seems difficult to reconcile with this latest decision. Over the last couple of years, president Trump has made several statements, at varying levels of political correctness, about how he would like to restrict immigration to the U.S. to highly-skilled highly educated-workers. If that is one of the reasons behind the inclusion of Nigeria, again, it fails completely.
Nigerians represent the biggest African community in the U.S., numbering around 350 thousand, and one of the communities with the highest level of education in the US globally. According to the American Migration Policy Institute, 59% of Nigerian immigrants have at least a bachelor’s degree. That is higher than the South Korean community (56%), the Chinese community (51%), the British community (50%) or the German community (38%), and it is tremendously higher than the average for American born citizens (33%).
More than 50% of Nigerians working in the U.S. hold white color management positions, meaning they have access to considerable amounts of disposable income and contribute greatly to the American economy. Those are the immigrants the U.S. wants, the ones that built the American dream! Which only makes this decision ever harder to grasp, unless of course, if we consider that this might have nothing to do with security concerns, and all to do with a populist decision designed to please the president’s most conservative support base as we approach the presidential campaign. If that is the case, then American foreign policy has truly reached a dark age.
From his side, President Buhari’s government has done what is possible to appease the situation, setting up a committee to address the security concerns with U.S. officials and INTERPOL, and restating its commitment to “maintaining productive relations with the United States and its international allies especially on matters of global security”, Femi Adesina the Spokesman for the Nigerian Presidency said.
Last week, the Nigerian government requested the U.S. administration to remove the country from the travel ban, and also announced a reduction in visa application fees for visiting Americans from $180 to $160, in a symbolic gesture meant to reinforce relations between the two nations.
In the meantime, Nigeria’s and other economies risk suffering from this unexplainable decision, and immigrant Nigerians in the U.S. that had been waiting so patiently for the dream of being reunited with their families in the “land of the free” await a resolution for a problem they did not know existed until a month ago.
*NJ Ayuk is Executive Chairman of the African Energy Chamber, CEO of pan-African corporate law conglomerate Centurion Law Group, and the author of several books about the oil and gas industry in Africa, including Billions at Play: The Future of African Energy and Doing Deals.