Benin President Patrice Talon’s Visit To Washington, DC: An Opportunity for a Teaching Moment on Core Democratic Values and Basic Human Rights
January 27, 2020 | 0 Comments
By Omar Arouna*
According to news report from Mediapart Benin, President Patrice Talon started a 4-day visit to Washington, DC (Sunday January 26th to Thursday January 30th 2020), as part of an “economic and strategic mission”.
In the U.S, the Benin Head of State will meet the officials of the International Finance Corporation (IFC) including the Director General, Mr. Phillipe LEHOUEROU; the Vice-President of the World Bank, Mr. Hafez GHANEM; the President of the World Bank, Mr. David MALPASS; the Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, Mrs. Kristalina GEORGIEVA; the Chairman and CEO of Millennium Challenge Corporation, Mr. Sean CAIRNCROSS; the Secretary of State, Mr. Mike POMPEO; and Beninese working at the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank in Washington DC.
It would be remiss of me if I did not remind my American sisters, brothers, friends, the Africanist community in Washington DC, as well as the president’s official hosts that Benin Republic, a country once dubbed the cradle of Democracy in Africa, is now an autocracy under the dictatorship of Patrice Talon. Benin is now:
- a country where basic human rights no longer exist and terror subsists;
- a country where dissenting voices are systematically tracked, repressed, jailed and/or exiled;
- a country where the last elections were non-inclusive and repressed in blood;
- a country where all 83 People’s Representatives in Parliament were appointed by the president;
- a country where the Army is ordered to shoot with live bullets at peaceful demonstrators;
- a country where journalists are silenced and jailed for practicing their craft;
- a country where privately owned or independent media, television and radio stations, newspapers critical to the government are outlawed and systematically shut down;
- a country where internet is systematically shut down during elections;
- a country where social media users and web activists are systematically tracked and jailed;
- a country where the constitution was changed on Halloween night without due process;
- a country where the separation of powers no longer exists and all three branches of government are under the sole control of the president;
- a country no longer investing in its people, no longer ruled justly and lacking economic and democratic freedom.
To simply quote the January 24th 2020 tweet from Ambassador Herman “Hank” Cohen a former U.S Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs in the President George W. H Bush Administration, “This marks the official end of Africa’s first Multiparty democracy and the Beginning of the Talon’s fascist regime.”
We hope and strongly believe that the visit could serve as a teaching moment in educating president Patrice Talon on core democratic values of sanctity of life, freedom of speech, truth in governance, justice, liberty, diversity, pursuit of happiness, common good, popular sovereignty and patriotism.
We would like to call upon Secretary Pompeo, the U.S Administration, U.S Congress and selected hosts, to challenge their visitor on the urgency of restoring democracy in Benin by organizing inclusive legislative elections with the participation of all political parties as well as bringing swiftly to justice sponsors and authors of the April, May and June, 2019 post electoral killing by the country’s armed forces.
*Former Benin Ambassador to the U.S
Opinion: Extreme events are reversing development goals
January 10, 2020 | 0 Comments
By Patricia Scotland*
Cyclones in the Caribbean and Pacific, devastating bushfires in Australia, recurrent floods and droughts in Asia and Africa, increasingly bring tragic loss of life to our nations and communities, inflicting physical and mental trauma on survivors, and causing irreparable damage to centuries old ways of life and undermining prospects for future prosperity and growth.
The current bushfires in Australia have been among the most distressing manifestations, leading the government to declare a state of emergency. The total cost to the economy of the bushfires with which Australia is grappling seems likely to run into billions of dollars. Continuous drying of undergrowth creates optimal conditions for bushfires, leading to tragic loss of human lives and destruction of infrastructure. There is devastating impact on the precious biodiversity of flora and fauna, threatening drastically to affect the ecology of the region. Heightened levels of air pollution in the affected and adjoining regions are having adverse impacts on the respiratory health of scores of people.
Such extreme events are occurring with rising frequency, destroying the means of livelihood for millions people in Commonwealth countries, increasing vulnerability and reducing resilience. The Commonwealth collectively recognises that without well-planned and integrated national and international action, natural disasters and extreme events will continue to challenge the resilience of affected communities and smaller countries. The Commonwealth Secretariat is working alongside member nations to protect the environmental health of fragile and susceptible ecosystems, including through increased national preparedness for tackling natural disasters and mobilising resources.
For the arid and drought-prone member countries, which are highly vulnerable to dryness and bushfires, the Commonwealth provides support for governments to develop projects on sustainable and resilient landscape management, with the Commonwealth Climate Finance Access Hub (CCFAH) helping to unlock necessary financial resources. Similarly, by pooling information into a streamlined platform for better and more convenient access to information, the Commonwealth Disaster Risk Finance Portal currently in development will help countries find suitable sources of finance and support to deal with disasters.
On behalf of citizens of all Commonwealth countries, I express my heartfelt condolences to all families and communities who have lost loved ones in the tragic events of recent days. I commend the courage and commitment of firefighters, emergency service personnel and all others who are battling to rescue and protect people and property, wildlife and natural resources, or human infrastructure. In these testing times, the wider Commonwealth family stands in solidarity alongside the Government and people of Australia.
* The Rht Hon Patricia Scotland is the Commonwealth Secretary-General
Rays of Hope From Guinea Bissau
January 6, 2020 | 0 Comments
By Scott Morgan*
It has been easy to overlook the recent election cycle in Guinea-Bissau. The initial round occurred on November 24th 2019. The results determined that a runoff would be needed and then incumbent President Jose Mario Vaz who finished in fourth would not participate.
This meant that the potential of a peaceful transition would take place in a country where most transfers were the results of coups. The runoff on December 29th 2019 would be a contest among the opposition parties. The contenders for the second round were former prime ministers as well. One was Umaro Sissoco Embalo of the Madem G15 party and Domingos Simoes Pereira of PAIGC (African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde).
The results from the runoff would show that the next President of Guinea-Bissau will be Umaro Sissoco Embalo. Although it appears that the results may be contested the fact remains that Jose Mario Vaz will be the first President of the West African Nation to fully complete a full term of office and transfer the position to a successor without involving Bloodshed. This is a feat in the history of the country which gained Independence from Portugal in 1974.
Some of the comments made by voters stated that it was time to “move the country forward”. This is a term that has been used often in elections where there has been change that one segment of the population has sought.
The Country has had its down points. A former head of the Military was indicted by the United States for Drug Trafficking, Several Cartels from South America used the country as a transit point in shipping narcotics to Europe and other parts of Africa and at one point was seen as being under the thumb of former Gambian President Yaya Jammeh.
The UN Representative for West Africa also commended the people of Guinea-Bissau for the role in the voting but also took the time to highlight the activities of the Political Candidates for their rhetoric and allowing for the process at play to move forward in a positive manner.
Having both candidates with experience as Prime Minister did help some (even though both were fired by the outgoing President.) One can wonder just how much of a role the tug of war between President and Prime Minister had in this election as a whole and is the potential power struggle between these two positions could lead to future crisis situations within the
* *The Author is President Red Eagle Enterprises, a firm with the dual Mission of Supporting African Business Development, and also Providing Analysis of African Intelligence, and assistance in relations with the United States Government .He sits on the Round tables for the Advocacy Network for Africa, and the International Religious Freedom Caucus in Washington ,DC.The views are his.
Staying Off Social Media Will Not Kill You
January 4, 2020 | 0 Comments
By Jojo Amiegbe *
Ever find yourself constantly scrolling through Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, purely out of boredom?
If you took the time to analyze the situation, you realize you spend a ‘good chunk’ of your day scrolling past feeds that you honestly could have gone about your day not knowing or seeing. I’m not here to judge anyone who is very active or interactive on social media.
Granted, it’s a place to stay engaged with people, catch up on what’s trending, even see first hand what your favorite celebrity/public figure said, wore, bought, went, ate, and so on. But there’s a reason why the saying goes, ‘too much of a good thing, ain’t good’
Social media (depending on how you use it) can make one feel insecure and unaccomplished. You see your peers, or just any random famous face put up a post of an expensive ride they got, a new house they just acquired, maybe your friend from school got engaged, or they’re letting you in on how they’re spending their vacation. And you’re there with your phone, sipping on your pure water, fanning yourself because ‘down NEPA’, thinking ‘ah, these people are living the life o, chai…’, but deep down, you wish your life was half as glamorous as they have depicted theirs to be, maybe you end up dealing with a pang of envy, ready to say something spiteful when you come across someone with whom you can gossip with about what you read/saw.
They say ‘eyes are the windows to the soul’, and instead of spending most of my time looking down at my phone every 5 seconds to catch just about everything that’s going on on social media, I’d rather ‘face my front’ and set my sights on achieving the goals I have set for myself while watching/reading content online that brings me closer to greatness.
Do you spend your time trolling or responding in just about every comment section available, how much you hate what someone said/did, wishing them the worst thing imaginable? Are you one of those who have social media accounts, just so you can stalk and troll (maybe anonymously), or write the most hurtful things to a person, forgetting they are people too, with actual feelings?
Someone once said, ‘social media is where we put up the best version of ourselves’
Let’s say you have specific skills you want the world to know. Do your accounts show off your work, how have you used Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and the other platforms to ‘sell yourself’?
Basically, what exactly are you gaining from social media? Are you better or worse off because of it? Why are you there in the 1st place?
That FOMO (‘Fear Of Missing Out’) mentality can keep one glued to the computer/phone screen for hours when that time could be allocated to more meaningful and productive work away from the refresh button.
Social media does not have to be the 1st thing you see when you wake up in the morning, or last thing before you go to bed.
I would honestly recommend you consider logging out if you can afford to, or at least take a critical look at how you engage on social media and see if it has affected your time management towards the productive pursuit of other endeavors, as well as overall peace of mind.
*Josephine Odion Amiegbe or Jojo as she is simply called by everyone is from Esan South East local government area Edo State but was born and bred in Lagos State.Currently a radio personality at The Beat 97.9 FM Ibadan, hosting the Morning Rush weekdays from 6 am to 11 am. Josephine loves to write and her work as a contributive writer has been featured in the Dining Out section of Ibadan City Info magazine. She also has several articles published in some online blogs and presently contributes to Opera News Hub as a Health & Fitness writer.
CONNECT WITH JOJO:TWITTER/INSTAGRAM: @jojoamiegbe, email: email@example.com
Gambia: NPP Manifests Betrayal of the Republic by Both Barrow and Coalition Leaders!
January 3, 2020 | 0 Comments
By Madi Jobarteh*
The Gambia is a Republic hence it must be clear to all and sundry that each and every citizen is equal in sovereignty, rights and dignity. There are no first and second class citizens or majority and minority citizens. All are equal before the law. Hence no single individual should be allowed to toy with the Republic just to suit one’s whims and caprices.
The creation of the National Peoples Party (NPP) by Pres. Adama Barrow cannot and must not be taken as the formation of any political party in this country. This is because the circumstances of the Republic since 2016 leading to his presidency were not ordinary. It was the creation of a Grand Coalition of all seven political parties and an Independent Presidential Candidate in response to a generation of dictatorship that brought Adama Barrow as President. In fact, in the December 1 polls the electorates did not primarily vote for Candidate Adama Barrow. His election was a response to oust the Tyrant Yaya Jammeh such that anyone in Barrow’s position would have won that election.
The striking objectives of that Coalition was to end self-perpetuating rule, reform the State and transform the polity into a true democracy that will usher in an era of good governance in the country. Hence the Coalition Agreement was to institute a transitional government of three years to do a set of constitutional, legal and institutional reforms. The president of that transitional government was to conduct elections in which he or she will not seek re-election but to ensure there is a level playing field. In fact, that candidate was to resign from his or her party just to stand as an independent presidential candidate. This is why and how Adama Barrow became the third president of the Republic of the Gambia.
The mandate and the position that Adama Barrow acquires is the property of the people. In other words, the Presidency belongs to the Republic, i.e. the People of the Gambia who are the only legitimate power and source to deliver that Presidency to whoever they so wish. Therefore, whosoever intends to acquire that Presidency must do so through means that are both legitimate and legal.
Hence by creating the NPP it means Adama Barrow intends to flout the Coalition Agreement by holding onto power beyond three years. NPP means Mr. Barrow is usurping the 2016 mandate of the people to use as a means to further stay onto to power beyond five years. This further means that Barrow was not honest to Gambians when he claimed to accept the terms of the Coalition and to serve as their presidential candidate in 2016. Now that he won that election and assumed the presidency only to abandon that Agreement therefore means Adama Barrow wishes to acquire and keep people’s mandate through illegitimate means. Indeed, if Gambians had known that this would be the outcome of electing Adama Barrow as President there would have been lot of apprehension to vote for him back then.
The creation of NPP therefore is the final thread on the cloak of betrayal with which Mr. Barrow has wrapped himself since he took public office. Yes, Adama Barrow like any other citizen has a right to seek election into public office. But no Gambian has a right to use subterfuge to acquire and stay on in public office. That will tantamount to theft which is inimical to the norms of democracy. As a Republic, citizens must not allow any individual to toy with the mandate of the people expressed in elections.
What the creation of the NPP also demonstrates is the disgraceful failure of leadership of the parties and their leaders who created the Coalition. Political parties are primary governance structures whose mandate is to hold the Government and each other accountable. Hence the political parties must not stay as bystanders or flip-flopping on issues that carry the destiny of the country. Unfortunately, this is what the Coalition parties did exactly.
For example, just as Adama Barrow reneged on his own word we saw how UDPs’ Ousainou Darboe and his entire party also flip-flopped on the Agreement by standing with Barrow for five years until they fell out. It was utterly wrong for Mr. Darboe to dismiss that Agreement on the basis that it was not signed when in fact he knows that it was on the basis of that Coalition Agreement that Adama Barrow campaigned and got elected. As the largest party in the Coalition as well as the biggest beneficiary of the regime change brought about by the Coalition UDP had both moral and political obligation to ensure that the Coalition Agreement stands to the letter!
Similarly, we also saw how PPP’s OJ Jallow jumped back and forth between the three and five years’ agenda only for his entire party to finally side with Barrow in disregard of the Coalition Agreement. As a leading senior political figure who had earned the respect and admiration of many Gambians for his consistent and brave stance against tyranny, OJ should have remained as that voice of conscience to defend the Coalition Agreement and not to betray it. The rest of the Coalition members – GPDP, NRP and NCP – remained indifferent therefore betraying the Coalition Agreement just because they hold positions in the Government. Meantime GMC only came to reject Barrow because their party leader ‘left’ the Government. Until then they knew very well that Barrow has already betrayed the Agreement but never said anything. While PDOIS leaders spared no opportunity to eloquently explain the rationale and processes of the Coalition yet they also washed off their hands thus leaving Adama to decide as he wishes. For Mrs. Fatoumatta Tambajang and Dr. Isatou Touray, one wonders whether they ever knew if there exists something called ‘Conscience’?
The Coalition MoU and Manifesto have clear objectives and actions to execute. These are mainly constitutional and legal reforms. Yet since assuming power at both the Executive and Legislature, neither Barrow nor the Coalition parties embarked on these necessary reforms. The only time Barrow proposed constitutional changes was to enable him to appoint Tambajang the Vice President. The other constitutional reform was to protect NAMs from losing their seat through a private member’s bill put forward by NRP’s Samba Jallow. The only legal reform was the Elections Act to reduce nomination costs. Why did they fail to amend the Public Order Act and many others which were stated in the MoU and the Manifesto?
Why should these parties and leaders behave this way? Why is it that none of them stood up vigorously from the very beginning to demand that the President honours the Agreement in practice? Why is it that none of them stood up to loudly put it to Adama Barrow that he was diverting from the Coalition Agreement from the first day he took office? The way and manner Barrow formed his Cabinet was against the terms of the MoU yet no party or leader came out publicly to put it to him that he was betraying the MoU? Even when Darboe said the Agreement or MoU was not signed how come no other Coalition leader produced the signed copy to provide him wrong? Who is keeping the signed copy and refusing to show it to the people? Indeed, these parties have more than enough means and resources to make sure that Pres. Barrow respect the Agreement.
In the first place these parties are in control of the National Assembly where they could have passed various laws or amend the Constitution to ensure that system change indeed takes place that will make Barrow honour his word. But none ever put up a proposal to that effect before the parliament! Secondly these parties could ask their supporters and citizens in general to get ready to demonstrate against any illegitimate aims of the President. They failed to do that too. They could as well go back to the international community to re-engage given the role ECOWAS, AU and UN played in the change we have now. They failed on that score as well. Rather all of the parties said either of two things; first, at best they can only remind the President to honour his word and leave it there or second, at worst to prepare for 2021 elections to challenge him at the polls. That is indeed a very unfortunate positon for political parties to take in the circumstances.
Clearly the response from the Coalition parties is nothing but an abdication of duty, i.e. to merely claim that the choice is with Barrow to respect the Agreement or go along with the Constitution. Indeed, these parties including Adama Barrow were well aware of the presidential term in the Constitution but they opted for three years. Therefore, they bear responsibility for the election of Adama Barrow and therefore they cannot just wash off their hands at the very end by claiming it is a matter of choice for the President to take. No. Rather the political parties have a duty to defend their Agreement to ensure that it stands. By so doing they would have been defending the sanctity and the dignity of the Republic that no one will assume people’s power through illegitimate means by subverting the mandate of the people.
The parties should have stayed resolved that they will not allow any betrayal of the people. We saw in 1996 how Yaya Jammeh also reneged on the agreement to serve only two years and then go back to the barracks. But just like Yaya back then, Barrow also claims today that he would rather stay on in response to popular demand! I wish to put it to the Coalition leaders that the issue of the Coalition Agreement is not an individual matter that could be left with only the President or any single party leader. Rather it is the individual and collective responsibility of each and every political party to make sure that this Agreement stands. Otherwise what the formation of NPP manifests is the gross failure of leadership by the political parties as they stand by to allow the bastardization of the Republic by one person just because that person is the President. Public office must not be left in the hands of one person to play with anyhow.
For the Gambia Our Homeland
* Madi Jobarteh, is a human rights actvist and outspoken political commentator former program manager of Gambia’s Association of Non Governmental Organisations. He is currently the country Representative of Westminster Foundation for Democracy in Gambia. The views are his.
Djibouti:The Republic is still waiting for its prodigal sons and daughters
December 29, 2019 | 0 Comments
By Kadar Abdi Ibrahim
“Nothing is more dangerous than authority in the hands of those who don’t know how to use it.” Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Thoughts of a right mind.
One could not talk politics without understanding it. Practicing it has never been easy. Even less so in a country where an iron-fisted dictator reigns. Because, simply put, politics is contingent. Ever changing. Because leaders, whether real or fake, perpetually find themselves facing new situations that are, at least partly, unpredictable. Who would have imagined that Djibouti would find itself isolated in the Horn of Africa, amidst this upheaval where deep forces are at play? Clearly, it is unstable. Manifestly, cruel. Assuredly, incredulous.
Within this context, Djibouti cannot be run by men who lack strong convictions and who, from the outset, don’t have the stature of charismatic leaders, men who have been driven, in the “statepartisan-clan-like” structurization of current political life, to make arcane decisions for the nation. This is what the German Sociologist, Max Weber, described perfectly, using a German expression that has since become famous, “the rise of the BERUFSPOLITIKER OHNE BERUF”, illustrating the arrival of “professional politicians, with neither vocation, nor conviction,” in his founding work of modern sociology, “The Protestant Work Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism.”
This, in large part, explains the composition of Djibouti’s current government, in which it has become possible for people to take advantage of their situation, by virtue of their political control and impunity, each in their own way, with their own 15 minutes of fame. This also explains the composition of the National Assembly, where people are chosen based on their servility and obedience, in sum, their ability to not rankle the volition of those above. Finally, this explains that, for some, pedigree alone is enough to take on senior roles that are far above their level of competence.
This is why this country needs men that will take it out of its conventional paths, who are capable of shaking up established order to understand the reality of the conditions that surround them and to feel the corresponding impulses in a great moment of unity. In other words, men of character, instinct and unity.
All politicians provoke controversies. The demands on them are heterogenous. Some, tribal. Or communitarian. Others national or financial. The charismatic leader must incorporate them and transform them into a collective demand – a shared passion – embodying this as his identity. He will be, in empirical terms, the representation. Starting from there, a double vertical movement begins, which he must make endure: “From the represented to representation and from representation to the represented”. Unifying is he.
The little dictator entertains. He upholds splits and divisions. He ensures instability. His irresponsibility is too often glaring. Blocking anything time sensitive, he can’t stop wavering between projects, constantly being tugged this way or that. His signature, changing sides. The little dictator rules by tricks and by force. By lying and by falsehoods. Lacking a homogeneous perception of the population, he cannot reign over a population that grows larger and more diverse. Sectarian is he.
Effusion, the true leader doesn’t know it. Nor narcissistic fever. The same with ostentatious rewards. Controversy and its hype, he confronts them: “Difficulty attracts the man of character, because it is through his embrace of it that he fulfills his true potential,” Charles de Gaulle taught us in “War Memoirs.” In the face of events, the man of character leaves his trace. The leader navigates between dreams and reality. Between meticulous logic and sheer madness. Obeyed and followed is he.
The little dictator, lacking confidence, needs to surround himself by a press and a group of people who laud him, who devote themselves to his personality cult and who build his hagiography. With a desire to please, he grants them everything they want. His integrity. His honor. Unable to answer to his responsibilities, more often than not, he runs off. Taking risks is never his business. Nor taking initiatives. In the little that he undertakes, he mixes indecency and buffoonery. Through restlessness, he makes it appear to himself and to others that he has influence on events. Without prestige and without resiliency is he.
Instinct, a natural strength in a true leader, gives him illuminated judgements, the logical series of next steps to be taken. It precedes, as part of its conception, each decision. It is thanks to instinct that he firmly grasps the deep reality surrounding him. He senses everything. This intuition, which bestows command upon the leader, is it not what Gustave Flaubert talk about in “Salammbô,” when he described Hannibal as a teenager, already carrying the traces of “the indefinable splendour of those who are destined to great enterprises”? All the great men who have marked history are endowed with this. Is it not what Alexander the Great called, more commonly, “his hope”? Caesar, “his fortune”? Napoleon, “his star”?
The leader who is thus carried by these three (3) personal qualities: character, instinct and the ability to unify, has in his possession a certain voice quality. Words that are capable of moving, of carrying, of galvanizing and of convincing, not simply with rhetorical and communicational methods, as we often see on Facebook, but because through it we hear a voice lifted by the spirit, something that one can barely make out, only through the eyes of authenticity and the angle of conviction. Thus, does this voice not phenomenalize these three ferments and does it not produce persuasion ?
Until today, this country has only had little dictators, not applying themselves to prescribe what has not been prescribed by higher authority. As much in the majority, as in the opposition. With the exception of the rare personalities who never had the opportunity to do their work. Namely, the regrettable Ahmed Dini. In this vein, Raymond Aron, in his “Introduction to Weber,” summarizes in a striking formula the great distinctive traits of a leader in writing: “Man obeys leaders that custom sanctions, that reason shows, that enthusiasm lifts above all others.” In other words: tradition, rationality and charisma.
Over 41 years after our independence, the Republic is still waiting for its prodigal sons and daughters!
* Kadar Abdi Ibrahim is a freelance Journalist, former University Professor, human rights defender and currently Secretary General of the MoDeL party.
Africa: Addressing the Soaring Refugee Crisis
December 27, 2019 | 0 Comments
By Jude Mutah *
Over the years, Africa has witnessed a surge in refugees, and internally displaced persons (IDPs) caused primarily by increased conflicts and persecution by dictatorial regimes. According to UNHCR, over 18 million people on the African continent have vacated their homes either due to conflict or persecution by brutal governments. This is exclusive of the about 50% that seek refuge with family members in the communities. In recent times, the number of fleeing Africans have soared in part because of the crisis in Nigeria, Central African Republic, South Sudan, Burundi, and DR Congo. It is also crucial to mention the ongoing armed separatist conflict in Cameroon that has displaced millions and exiled hundreds of thousands across the continent and beyond. The refugee crisis in Africa is critical, and warranted the African Union to designate 2019 as the year of the refugee, IDP, and returnees with the ultimate goal to encourage durable solutions to involuntary displacement in Africa.
The 1951 refugee convention:
The 1951 refugee convention is a revered instrument signed by over 140 countries. Its core principle of non-refoulment proclaims that a refugee should not be returned to a country where they fear severe threats to their life or freedom based on factors such as “race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion.” Except for Libya, all African countries are signatories to the convention and its 1967 protocol. The uniqueness of the 1951 agreement lies in the fact that it guarantees, in principle, that refugees are not repatriated to the countries from which they fled. While this is stupendous, refugees in Africa continually confront daunting challenges in destination countries.
There are well-documented cases or instances in Africa, whereby the terminus countries have repatriated refugees. In cases in which they are not returned, the refugees are either mistreated or face severe reintegration challenges in the destination countries. For example, in January 2019, Cameroonian authorities compulsorily repatriated some 9,000 Nigerian refugees who fled attacks by militants in Nigeria. In the same vein, the Nigerian government, in January 2018, repatriated to Cameroon, ten separatist leaders who had sought asylum in Nigeria. In 2017, CNN released a groundbreaking report of migrant slave auctions in Libya, and according to a 2007 report by the Human Rights Watch, South African officials have not only arrested and deported undocumented migrant workers, but often assaulted and extorted money from them, and commercial agriculturalists, for example, that employs them regularly violated their fundamental work rights. In June 2019, UNHCR secured the release of about 100 refugees held under deplorable human conditions in the Zintan detention center in Tripoli, Libya. Refugees mostly lack access to healthcare, water, food, education, employment, and live in crowded refugee camps. Despite these challenges and with meager resources, a few countries in Africa continue to welcome, accommodate, and reintegrate refugees from across the continent.
Efforts by African countries to support their refugees:
There are a few African countries that have welcomed refugees from across the continent. For example, Ethiopia has an open-door policy that embraces and permits humanitarian admittance and protection for refugees. It is home to nearly 740,000 refugees fleeing crisis primarily from Somalia, Eritrea, Sudan, and South Sudan. That figure is the most massive refugee populace in a single African nation. Uganda, on the other hand, has a generous refugee law that not only welcomes refugees but provides them with opportunities to start anew. Refugees in Uganda and Tanzania enjoy free movement, employment opportunities, and land to build a new home or begin farming activities. Over 500,000 refugees from Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan have happily settled in Uganda. In 2018 alone, about 815,000 Congolese fled the country and some found refuge in these countries. Zambia and Guinea Bissau, offer naturalization status to long-term refugees. However, these countries represent less than 1% of the 54 countries in Africa. To address the refugee crisis on the continent, more must be done.
The way forward:
To adequately address the refugee crisis, more African countries must initiate policies that welcome and reintegrate refugees from across the continent. In conformity with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi, refugees are skillful, with great ideas, aspirations, and dreams for a better future. These fleeing individuals are also resilient and imaginative, with robust energy and drive to shape their destinies. They should be given a chance in terms of education, employment opportunities, and safety, among others. As former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon posits, “Refugees have been deprived of their homes, but they must not be deprived of their futures.” It is incumbent for the African Union to ensure that African refugees don’t get deprived of their future.
Also, there should be adequate coordination between the source and the destination countries. It may be fair to say that policies be initiated and implemented that mandates the source country to contribute to the wellbeing of the refugees in the destination. Perhaps, this will go along way to compel the source countries to address the underlying factors that generate refugees and IDPs such as poor governance, which the Kampala Convention strives to address. It is incumbent on African countries to sign, ratify, and ensure the adequate implementation of the agreement which this far been signed by 40 and approved by only 25 of the 54 member states of the African Union. Echoing former US President Barack Obama, “refugee crisis is a test of our common humanity,” and we must work together to prevent or mitigate its effects on involuntary migrants.
*Jude Mutah works for the United States Institute of Peace’s Africa Program in Washington, DC. He is a Ph.D. student of Global Affairs and Human Security, University of Baltimore. The views expressed are his.
Shifting Battlefronts In Africa
November 16, 2019 | 0 Comments
By Scott Morgan*
The current struggle against the Islamic State (IS) is shifting fronts. No longer will the major campaign take place against the former concentration of power in Syria and Iraq but it will shift to the Sahel.
During a Ministerial Level meeting that took place at the State Department on November 14th, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced to his counterparts that change in strategy would in fact be taking place soon. What would this actually look like is a question that is certain to be bandied around by analysts across the CT spectrum.
If we are to assess what the struggle in the Sahel will look like we should look at the operations in Iraq and Syria for some guidance. We saw a group that took advantage of a vacuum that had a space that needed to be occupied. In the Middle East the voids were provided by a long standing civil war in Syria and poor governance originating from Baghdad. These actions created the situation where IS were able to find willing recruits to join their crusades.
Switching focus to the Sahel we do see several areas where a very similar scenario has been unfolding. One area of concern we should have is this area has had this issue that actually predates the rise of the IS. Weak governments which have porous borders with their neighbors actually provides a context where cross border operations can be conducted with ease by a non-state actor. This is a key fact when the actors are native to the region as well. So should it really be a surprise to learn that some of the routes being used by the terrorists date back to the days of the Mali and Songhai empires?
Another point that is often overlooked is the rise of Al-Aqaeda in the Maghreb. The group rose to prominence after the controversial 1992 elections in Algeria. Back then it was better known as the GPSC (Salfaist Group for Preaching and Combat). It later played a prominent role in the ouster and demise of Qadaffi in Libya and in the collapse of the central Government in Mali before the French led intervention known as Operation Barkhane.
Speaking of Libya one has to consider that the offensive by General Haftar and his international partners have to be considered as a factor in the rise in the spread of Jihadist acts in the region. His drive southward at first then west and finally north towards Tripoli has forced some fighters to seek a new place for sanctuary.
Currently where do we stand regarding the Sahel? Despite the French led intervention and a United Nations Peacekeeping Force which has allowed for both a tentative peace deal and several elections in Mail the situation is still in flux. There are still attacks in the Central part of Mali that have the potential to unravel the work that has been accomplished.
Another country that currently fits the profile of a potential front is Burkina Faso. It was earlier in the year when the late IS leader Al-Baghdadi called upon attacks on French and Crusader interests in the region. After the release of his statement for a month a Catholic Church in the northern part of the country was destroyed per week. Mosques have also been targeted as well as well as the extractive Gold Industry.
Niger which has seen its share of attacks by Boko Haram over the years is now the home base to a US facility that will be flying UAVs. With the presence of US Special Forces in Mali as well indicate that the US is concerned with events in the region and will do what it can to support France.
This action is being taken now so that the West doesn’t wake up one day and realize that the Jihadists have taken over parts of Ghana, Togo, Ivory Coast and Benin. These Governments are already warning that IS is already in their countries.
*The Author is President Red Eagle Enterprises, a firm with the dual Mission of Supporting African Business Development, and also Providing Analysis of African Intelligence, and assistance in relations with the United States Government .He sits on the Round tables for the Advocacy Network for Africa, and the International Religious Freedom Caucus in Washington ,DC.
When the Anglophone Crisis meets Elections: advice from a Constitutionalist
November 12, 2019 | 0 Comments
By Barrister Paul Simo, Esq*
Cameroon’s political firmament is at present gripped by two major quandaries: that of resolving the first major crisis bordering on armed conflict to have affected the country in close to 50 years (the Anglophone crisis), and renewing the 5-year electoral mandates of the members of its Lower House of Parliament (the National Assembly), as well as elected Municipal Councilors (who in turn vote local government Mayors). The said mandates have already been extended for one (1) year. Both are indisputably national priorities, and both affect the NW/SW Regions in a particular manner. However, as every manager knows, there is a distinction between what is important, and what is urgent. All important tasks are not urgent, but an urgent task (even if unimportant) left unattended to, may dramatically increase its importance.
In the coming days, we will be releasing a major, longitudinal study of Special Status, Special Regional Autonomy, and Special Administrative Regions in countries around the world, informed by the crisis affecting the Northwest and Southwest Regions. The said 40-page study contains proposals for a Legislative Whitepaper on the Special Status framework for Cameroon’s Anglophone regions. One of the fundamental pre-requisites we observe in Special Status regions around the world, is that for them to be created, and for their attributes to be modified, legislation adopted by the national Parliament is not enough. Due to the fact that they create a unique type of relationship between a region of the country and its central State, Special Status arrangements need to be ratified through a democratic vote by a constituent assembly or by the elected representative body (legislature) of the Regions in question.
Presently, the Northwest and Southwest Regions of Cameroon do not have elected Regional Councils (same with the country’s other Regions). Therefore, any crafter of Special Status arrangements for both regions needs to scan keenly for which elected, representative body will stand in their stead, to validate the Special Status law once it is enacted by the National Legislature. It does not take particular constitutional genius to discern that the only democratically-elected alternative in place is to have recourse to a sui generis (specially-constituted) group of elected representatives from both regions, namely their Senators, Members of the Lower House (National Assembly), and Municipal Councilors. The current composition of those representatives from the Northwest and Southwest regions, elected in 2013, hold a popular elected mandate.
If elections were to be held in the Northwest and Southwest regions in February 2020, it must be assumed either that the current group of regional representatives will approve the Special Status content before the election, or that the February 2020 election will produce a democratically representative group of elected officials. And furthermore, that there will prevail a climate of sufficient calm and security in both regions, to allow a meaningful exercise of the most fundamental civic duty. None of the above assumptions sound feasible, let alone likely.
It must also be borne in mind that Special Status or Regional Autonomy arrangements, where undertaken to resolve a political crisis bordering on an armed conflict, must be embedded in a peace agreement which reaches out to, entices, and involves the belligerent armed groups. The August 2005 agreement signed in Helsinki, Finland, and brokered by the renowned Finnish Statesman and Nobel Peace Prize Winner, Martti Ahtisaari, which brought to and end the separatist conflict in the Indonesian Island province of Aceh (fought for three decades between 1976 and 2005) is a shining example in this regard.
That peace agreement contained the prospect of regional autonomy, and succeeded to wean off the Free Aceh Movement (an armed insurrection that had received support for armed struggle from as far away as Muammar Gaddafi’s Libya), to renounce its separatist project and aspire for regional autonomy within a Unitary State of Indonesia. That peace agreement continues to hold to this day, 14 years later. The Peace Agreement (2005) was then reflected in a Special Status Law on the Governance of Aceh (2006). Special Status Legislation and Peace Agreement went hand in hand, whereas in Cameroon’s context, the Special Status process at national level, and the existing and undeniable early-stage peace process with armed groups are operating in silos, heightening the risk that the latter will later fundamentally revise the former.
To return to the timing of elections in the Northwest and Southwest regions, the most likely prospect, given current incidents, is that elections convened in February 2020 (even assuming a Special Status law has been passed) will meet hostile terrain. It is not the civic, traditional, and political Anglophone elites who met in Yaoundé from 30 September to 4 October (and endorsed the regional Special Status proposal) who are wreaking havoc in the two Regions, nor is it they who will disrupt an election therein. There is therefore the risk that an election held in the two Regions will have extraordinarily low levels of voter participation (anywhere from 1 to 2 % of the registered voters), casting a major doubt on the democratic, electoral legitimacy of the resulting Municipal Councilors and elected Lower House Representatives. To give such an unrepresentative group (since Regional Council elections are not also yet foreseen) the onus of endorsing and granting Regional imprimatur to the Special Status arrangements, is a way of killing this important prospect for peace in the two Regions.
It is therefore perennial that no-one who means well for resolution of the crisis should argue for elections to take place within those Regions without considering the dynamics above. Putting in place unrepresentative electoral “representatives” of both Regions, knowing fully well that those Regions’ representatives need to validate and endorse regional Special Status legislation to give it legitimacy, is culpable.
In order to address the counterargument that the entire country’s elected institutions cannot be left indefinitely in a limbo, the best approach for Cameroon will be to proceed with a split election. Hold the Legislative and Municipal elections in the other eight (8) regions of the country and defer the elections in the NW/SW for another year or so, pending the Special Status Legislation and Peace Agreement. (By the way, if deep insecurity blights parts of the Far North and renders elections materially impossible, they can be deferred, and by-elections conducted when security conditions improve). The practice of conducting by-elections is not anathema to democracies around the world – those are also convened when a local or regional election result is overturned in postelectoral litigation.
The argument that Cameroon is one unique national “constituency” and no citizen should be disenfranchised, falls on its face: Article 9 of Cameroon’s Constitution envisages both a State of emergency and a State of war, which can adequately, legally justify deferring elections. And it is questionable what “enfranchisement” of their residents occurs when those Regions have to hold “elections” amidst violence, impracticability of road transport, and massive internal displacement of their citizens across the country.
* The author specializes in the areas of constitutional, public, and international law. For 20 years (1999 to 2018) he worked on countries undergoing peace-processes and political transitions in East, Central, and West Africa. Between 2007 and 2018, he served the United Nations at Headquarters, and in multi-dimensional peace operations in Africa. He advised senior UN diplomats working on the following countries’ peace/reconstruction processes: Uganda (LRA conflict), DR Congo (regional conflagration in the 2000s), Burundi (2000s peace process), Sierra Leone and Liberia (Mano River region conflicts in the early 2000s), and the Central African Republic (escalation of politico-religious violence since 2013). He was Law valedictorian of the first graduating cohort of the University of Buea, Cameroon (LL.B. 1996) and holds a graduate law degree, summa cum laude, from the Catholic University of Notre Dame, Indiana. He is an Attorney at the Bar of New York (2001) and a Barrister in Cameroon (2010). The views expressed herein are solely those of the author. He is based in Douala and Yaoundé, Cameroon. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
How Europe’s Greedy Lending to Africa Is Driving the Migration Wave That Fuels the EU’s Xenophobic Politics
October 23, 2019 | 0 Comments
By Vijay Prashad*
If you ask an African migrant in Europe who came across the Mediterranean Sea in a boat if they would make the journey again, most of them would say “yes.” Many of them had been on vans and trucks that took them across the dangerous Sahara Desert, and many of them had beenon board vessels that struggled to get across the choppy waters. They might have seen their fellow migrants die of thirst or of drowning, but none of that halts their conviction that they’d cross the sands and the seas again.
Harsh treatment by European border guards and an overwhelming experience of racism inside European society do not bring regret or suggest that they would not do it again.
“It was all to earn money,” said Drissa from Mali. “Thinking of my mom and my dad. My big sister. My little sister. To help them. That was my pressure. That’s why Europe.”
Myths About African Migrants
A UN Development Program report, released on October 17, shows that 97 percent of the nearly 2,000 African migrants in Europe interviewed would take the same risks to come to Europe again knowing what they know now about the danger of the journey or what life in Europe would be like. What is powerful about this UN report is that it dispels the many myths about African migration.
There is a terrible view that Africans are somehow “invading” Europe, even worse “swarming” into Europe. Anti-immigration rhetoric speaks of building fences and creating a Fortress Europe. It is as if there is a war, and Europeans must arm themselves against invaders. A year ago, the UN’s Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide Adama Dieng warned that European politicians fan the flames with hateful rhetoric that “is legitimizing hatred, racism and violence. While extremists spread inflammatory language in mainstream political discourse under the guise of ‘populism,’ hate crimes and hate speech continue to rise. Hate crimes constitute one of the clearest early-warning signs for atrocity crimes.” At the UN in Geneva this May, Dieng—a Senegalese lawyer—said, “Big massacres start always with small actions and language.”
The UN report shows that the hatefulness around the African migrant is misplaced. The reasons for major flows of migration to Europe actually come from within Europe itself. Those leaving war zones—Syria and Afghanistan in West Asia, but also Eritrea and Libya—come in expected numbers as they flee bombs that are often produced inside Europe. These numbers are much higher than for those Africans who come to Europe for work.
In fact, more than 80 percent of African migrants stay on the continent. The proportion of African emigration out of the continent compared to Africa’s population “is one of the lowest in the world,” says the United Nations. Most of the migrants who go to Europe, according to European data, come by regular channels—with a visit to the embassy, an application for a visa, the granting of the visa, and then a flight into the country; irregular arrivals, many of whom might come by boat, are far fewer than those who come with a valid visa. It is racism that fails to acknowledge this reality.
If you dig into the numbers from the UNDP report, you find that 58 percent of the African migrants in Europe were either employed at home or in school when they decided to leave; most of the migrants had jobs and earned competitive wages. What drove them is the insecurity in their countries, and the fact that they felt they could earn more elsewhere. More than half of the migrants had been supported financially by their families to make the journey, and 78 percent sent back money to their families.
World Bank statistics show that remittances to African countries are growing. In line with the global trend, sub-Saharan Africa received more foreign exchange from remittances than from foreign direct investment (FDI).
In 2018, according to the World Bank, remittances to sub-Saharan Africa totaled $46 billion—almost 10 percent more than in 2017. The countries that received high remittances were Comoros, Gambia, Lesotho, Cabo Verde, Liberia, Zimbabwe, Senegal, Togo, Ghana, and Nigeria.
The total FDI flow into sub-Saharan Africa, according to the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), was $32 billion, up by 13 percent from 2017, but a significant amount less than the remittance flows.
Migrants who send money home are more important than the corporations and banks that bring investment dollars into these countries. It’s too bad the bankers are treated better than the migrants.
African Debt Crisis 2.0
Africa is on the threshold of a major debt crisis.
The last debt crisis was in the 1980s, as part of the broader Third World debt crisis. In the decolonization period, Africa—looted of its wealth by colonialism—had to borrow money for development; these funds were large, but worse was the manipulation of dollar-denominated debt by the London Interbank Borrowing Rate (LIBOR) and by the U.S. Treasury’s interest rates. Skyrocketing debt in the 1980s produced a long period of austerity and suffering. That debt simply could not be paid as long as multinational corporations effectively stole Africa’s resources and refused to pay taxes on that drain of wealth. This was the reason why initiatives such as the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) and Multilateral Debt Relief Initiative (MDRI) were created by the World Bank and the IMF in 1996 and 2005, respectively. By 2017, these initiatives provided $99 billion to reduce Africa’s debts from a debt-to-GNI (Gross National Income) ratio of 119 percent to 45 percent.
No change in the structure was made—no assault on transfer mispricing and base erosion and profit shifting (BEPS), mechanisms used by Western-based multinationals to continue their plunder of the African continent. When the 2014 commodity price shock came, many African countries slipped gradually toward a new debt crisis. The new debts are not all government debt, but they include very high proportions of private sector debt, which has tripled from $35 billion (2006) to $110 billion (2017) according to World Bank figures. Debt repayments have risen dramatically, which means that investments in health and education have declined, as has access to capital for small-scale private sector businesses.
Currently, according to World Bank numbers, half of the 54 states in Africa struggle with high debt-to-GDP (Gross Domestic Product)—with many of these over the 60 percent threshold that signals a crisis. The rate of increase of this debt has set off alarms across the continent.
What does this mean?
It means that if there is any financial crisis in the West, it will draw away financing from Africa, plunge the region into another major debt crisis, and set millions of people in search of better earning opportunities. Families and countries in Africa have come to rely upon these remittances. They are part of the structural fabric of finances.
Racism against the migrant is an enormous problem, and it must be tackled in itself.
But deeper than that is another problem that has grown as a result of no effective post-colonial policy—the structural problem of the ongoing theft of resources from Africa, and of the lack of financing for the continent to develop its own potential. Allowing multinational firms to steal African resources, and allowing foreign banks to lend to Africa at virtually usurious conditions, simply creates a cycle of crisis that results in migration and remittances as the band-aids.
Europe does not have a refugee or migration crisis. The real crisis is in Africa, where the thief—often a European firm—continues to undermine the continent’s ability to breathe.
*This article was produced by Globetrotter, a project of the Independent Media Institute.Vijay Prashad is an Indian historian, editor and journalist. He is a writing fellow and chief correspondent at Globetrotter, a project of the Independent Media Institute. He is the chief editor of LeftWord Books and the director of Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research. He has written more than twenty books, including The Darker Nations: A People’s History of the Third World (The New Press, 2007), The Poorer Nations: A Possible History of the Global South (Verso, 2013), The Death of the Nation and the Future of the Arab Revolution (University of California Press, 2016) and Red Star Over the Third World (LeftWord, 2017). He writes regularly for Frontline, the Hindu, Newsclick, AlterNet and BirGün.
Please Hold Your Horses…A word of caution about the dismissal of the African Union permanent representative to the United States of America.
October 20, 2019 | 0 Comments
By Ed. DUCHE
The African diaspora in the United States of America and around the world is riled up in controversy following the dismissal of the African Union Head of Mission to U.S., Ambassador Dr. Arikana Chihombori-Quao by the African Union Commission Chairman Moussa Farki Mahamat.
A petition on the popular site ww.change.org initiated by Professor Apollos Okwuchi Nwauwa
Secretary of the African Diaspora Congress to “Reinstate African Union Ambassador Chihombori-Quao” on Sunday, October 20, 2019 has garnered approximatively 60,000 signatures in counting. The petition reads as follow:
“…Dr. Arikana has been outspoken about neo-colonial maneuverings and exploitation that still exist today. Her dissemination of the truth has garnered her attention and support around the world… However, not everyone is embracing her bold but honest discourses for effecting change for the betterment of Africa. On October 7th, 2019, Ambassador Quao was relieved of her position as the “Permanent Ambassador” in a unilateral decision made by the African Union Commission Chairman without any hearing or explanation, and yet presented as representing the opinions of all 55 countries. The questions are: why was she dismissed, or better, who benefits from her removal? Were African heads of states and governments consulted? Who called the shot? Or is Africa, and peoples of African descent, still facing the debilitating effects of modern colonialism or neocolonialism? Leadership based on self-interest and preservation that does not benefit the people they serve is no longer acceptable…”
An cnn.com article, authored by Bukola Adebayo, dated October 16th 2019 and titled “AU faces backlash after terminating ambassador’s appointment”, the authorstated that on October 7th, 2019, A.U. Commission Chairman Moussa Faki Mahamat relieved the Ambassador from her position in line with the commission’s rules, and suggested that the dismissal was due to her “strong views on France’s occupation and hold over its former African colonies, which she shared publicly”. The assertion is that the firing occurred under direct pression from the French Government. Apparently this is also Ambassador Dr. Arikana Chihombori-Quao narrative and argument in pushing back on her dismissal and in making a case directly to the diaspora in support of her reinstatement as the continental organization permanent representative to the United States of America.
Believing that Ambassador Dr. Arikanna Chihombori-Quao was fired over her criticism of the French and their colonial practices in Africa, several preeminent members in the African American community, the Diaspora and International leaders, appalled by the A.U. action, are adamantly criticizing the leadership of the African Union and calling in to question the independence of African countries vis-á-vis their former colonial power. The situation is rapidly degrading and becoming another public opinion nightmare for the A.U. commission and its leadership. In the U.S. and especially in Washington DC, Ambassador Dr. Arikana Chihombori-Quao appears to be another “victim” of a stand against colonialism. Many are expressing outrage on her behalf and throwing their support behind her in pressuring the A.U Commissioner to give her the job back.
Looking at the way the situation is unfolding, the mastery in display, the activism deployed and the narrative peddled by the Ambassador’s supporters, It is of a paramount importance to exercise caution in embracing the situation as painted, and restraint from jumping to conclusions. Indeed, a closer look reveals that there may be a lot more to the story than what we have so far read on social media and in news stories.
Curiously, for all the communication that has been selectively leaked both from the AU to Ambassador Chihombori and from her to the AU, there is no mention of the existence of a damning audit report about the Ambassador’s tenure. Is this just an oversight, or a deliberate attempt to peddle a narrative that favors one party as the victim and hero, while labeling the other as the villain? Indeed, on August, 22nd 2019, an investigation into Ambassador Dr. Arikana Chihombori-Quao governance of the A.U., mission in Washington DC for the period of September 2016 to February 2019 was submitted to the chairperson of the Commission.
The subject of the investigation report is “Alleged violation of Procurement Procedures, Abuse of Authority/Misuse of Office and Conflict of interest” and the transmittal letter reads in its entirety as follows:
“The investigation is based on the allegation by a whistleblower that the Head of Mission (HOM) Ambassador Dr. Arikana Chihombori-Quao has been violating AU procurement rules by single sourcing contracts, bid splitting to circumvent procurement procedures, receiving three quotation from the same bidder to create the semblance of legality and also failure to submit bids above the threshold of $50,000 to the headquarter Tender Board for approval. It is also alleged that Ambassador Quao misapplied funds earmarked for other activities to Miss AU Pageant, the AU Diaspora retreat and the African Diaspora Youth League summit without approval from the AUC Chairperson…” the report continues, “…Furthermore, Ambassador Quao is alleged to abuse authority/misused of office and also involved in conflict of interest issues with the African Union-African Diaspora Health Initiative (AU-ADHI) is registered as her private organization and the “Wakanda One” project. The AU-ADHI is registered under her name as a private citizen and currently being funded by AU as political sub division of the African Union approved initiative established for the purpose of galvanizing the African Diaspora to participate in the development of Africa as stated in an Agreement signed by her with a Washington DC based Attorney”.
The investigation report was very damning to Ambassador Dr. Arikana Chihombori-Quao. It described in detail a stream of procurement violations, misuse of public funding as well as instance of conflict of interests in details and concluded by ascertaining the veracity of the whistleblower allegations and recommended sanctions against the Ambassador.
For example the audit reported that “$181,204 Miss AU pageant cost was a misapplied funds earmarked to other activities…” “Ambassador Dr Quao cancelled the MOU with Newdesk Media and single source the contract for the production of the Magazine -invest in Africa- to AMIP family business at the cost of $60,000 USD”, “Dr.Quao single-sourced the production of the 2017 Calendars to 5 Star Eventz for $9,583 meanwhile the 2019 Calendars were printed for $3,600 following a Request for Quotation initiated by the Finance Officer...” Moreover, the Ambassador has “registered associations in her own name that are being funded using AU resources” thereby creating a blatant conflict of interest. Two companies “Homestrings and Global Political Solutions were single-sourced and awarded a contract without the knowledge of the Finance and Administrative Officer…”
As one reads the investigation report, it becomes clear that there is a lot more to the history about why the Ambassador was fired. It is now obvious that one should exercise caution, wonder, ponder, and hold the horse, before jumping too quickly into the bandwagon of an emotionally driven narrative on the news. The anti-colonialist narrative for being the reason for the Ambassador’s dismissal has “muddied” the water. The conclusion that the Ambassador was relieved of her duty due to her stand and denunciation of the French colonial engagement in Africa is questionable in light of the damning audit report.
It is well known that French colonial engagement is an issue, many people have spoken and continue to speak against it both in Africa and in the diaspora. Leaders like President Paul Kagame who have lashed out at the French are some of the most admired, and influential people in Africa and beyond. While we may not completely rule out that veracity of the allegation from Arikana’s partisans on the French influence in forcing her out, we must put everything in context, evaluate all the factors and circumstances before jumping into conclusions .
This opinion piece is essentially a cautionary advice to not let the situation spin out of control and in the process cast a discredit of the AU Commission as well as in damaging the Diaspora judgment. It is understandable and counter intuitive for many not be outraged in light of what appears to be an injustice perpetrated against Dr. Arikana Chihombori-Quao especially when she performed admirably well and above expectation on her duties in Washington DC. However we can’t overlook the facts in the Audit report and if history teaches, let’s then remember lesson learned from high profile cases of rush to judgment, public response that followed suit and ultimately jury conclusion.
As the AU spokesperson Ebba Kalondo said in statement, diplomatic transfers and changes are standard practice. In the USA for instance, it is hard to see an Ambassador spend four years in the same duty post. While emotions may be charged, it would be good if the diaspora could channel this energy into more useful initiatives. It could be to lobby for projects to Africa, raise funds to support development initiatives, use its clout to build useful networks and more. For all she did and that the AU acknowledges , the Mission to the USA did not start with Ambassador, nor will it end with her. The diaspora should build on her successes and ensure that the momentum she has created is built upon or sustained by her successor for the greater good of Africa. After all, not many in the diaspora knew Ambassador Arikana Chihombori prior to her appointment and not many probably knew she would perform well. I am sure she will be the last person interested in seeing the work she did go up in flames or to see the mission she led destroyed because she was relieved as Ambassador.
For Ambassador Arikana Chihombori, there is still more
for her to do out there. It will be good if she can rein in her partisans by
letting them understand that, the services we render to mother Africa are
beyond any one individual. There are people in the diaspora and specifically in
the Washington, DC metro area who have spent a lifetime fighting for African
causes without fuse, and without expectations. Some of them actually worked
with Ambassador Arikana, just as they worked with her predecessor and will
hopefully work with her successor. Just like someone ran and handed the baton
to Ambassador Chihombori, she too has done her own running and should pass the
baton to another person in peace for the task of moving Africa is like a relay
race , where it will take the efforts of many, infact effort from all Africans
and its diaspora for sustained progress to be made.
 AU inter office Memorandum from the Director of Internal Audit to the Chairperson of the Commission
 AU inter office Memorandum from the Director of Internal Audit to the Chairperson of the Commission
How the 1996 Constitution Can Take Care of the NW/SW Exception: A legal Perspective of a ‘third option’.
October 5, 2019 | 0 Comments
BY: ASHU NYENTY (Ph.D.).*
As delegates to the major national dialogue, especially those from the two regions that triggered the dialogue in the first place, converge on the Conference Centre beginning this Monday, and judging from the tenor of proposals in the consultations engineered by Prime Minister, Chief Dr. Joseph Dion Ngute, the debate has largely focused on two potentially rancorous and divisive concepts: Unitarism v Federalism. It is on these two concepts that most of the attention is focused, as if to say it is either one or the other, as a solution to the crisis in the NW and SW regions.
The mistake that may be ineluctable if care is not taking is that delegates get into what I call an ideological blockage and fail to adequately explore an alternative that appears to be at arm’s length, but which seems to have been long forgotten. This is mainly so because of lack of familiarity with the various territorial or regional organization models available to Cameroon.
The purpose of this paper, as my own contribution to the major national dialogue, is therefore, to inform public opinion that these two are not the only alternatives and that they should watch out for the potency of a possible ‘third option’ or model that may send everybody home happy- the NW and SW, the other eight regions and of course the government. The issues discussed here would be more relevant to the commission on decentralization and local development, though they may necessarily have ramifications on the work of other commissions such as education and justice system. The reason is that this is the most politically sensitive area of the discussions that may have legal repercussions after the dialogue.
What is the current status of the issues at stake?
Writing on the issues at stake in the national dialogue, Barrister Paul Simo, who has over 20 years’ experience working on countries undergoing peace-processes and political transitions across the world, opined that the discussion has often been tailored in terms of three options, to wit, “separatism, federalism and unitarism”.
In this analysis, I deliberately leave out separatism, because in the context of a national dialogue, that option is dead on arrival. I will proceed to discuss the other two. Federalism in the present state of discussions has two variables. First, an “arrangement similar to the 1961-1972 federation, or in another, to a new multiple federated-state configuration”. The inconvenience of this is that if either of the two configurations is adopted it would lead to a sudden and drastic transformation of the administrative configuration of the state that may force the other eight regions into an arrangement they never asked for or for which their base did not mobilize for; many in the other regions do not yet understand the contours and ramifications of a federation. If there could be an agreement on that fine, but in my view, still coming out of a three-year gruesome war, be sure this option will be resisted with vigour.
Unitarism on the other hand is considered, even by many in the other regions as largely responsible for the despicable state of affairs in the North West and South West regions. Many in the other regions also feel the pinch of Unitarism even though they have not been as vocal as their counterparts’ from the two regions. It is clear that Unitarism as it is currently perceived and practiced may not satisfy or meet “the high aspirations of the people of the NW and SW” and also “of all the other components of our nation”, who clearly want to have a greater say in the management of their local affairs. If these two concepts, in the current state of affairs may be resisted or rejected, what then is the way out?
What is the ‘third option”?
The crux of the matter is that because of their peculiarities( to be discussed shortly) the NW and SW regions desire an arrangement that would provide them with a greater hand in what goes on in their respective regions. That is what leads us to what I have termed the third option (its political and administrative advantages will also be elucidated shortly). In discussions of this nature and based on our immediate past history, I think it would be counter-productive to appear intransigent or take a zero-sum posture of this or nothing. It seems to me that it is advisable to be flexible, weigh the different options and then give and take. That is the very essence of a dialogue.
In my view, the third option is found in the current Constitution of Cameroon. Since the 1996 Constitution was adopted, one provision that has often been ignored and indeed even overlooked, since the search for solutions to the crisis started, is the last Section of Part X devoted to Regional and Local Authorities. That Section 62(2) stipulates that:
“Without prejudice to the provisions of this Part, the law may take into consideration the specificities of certain Regions with regard to their organization and functioning”.
The underlying notion in that section is what is known in modern constitutional engineering as “territorial asymmetry”, which is consonant in countries that have an entrenched minority factor as is the case of the NW and SW regions. According to Barrister Simo, this is an arrangement “in which some regions…would be granted certain attributes and competences different from those granted to other regions”, because the latter regions do not have the same specificities. This model has been practiced with success in countries such as India and even China over Hong Kong, in what is known as the one country two systems paradigm. Even though not everybody in Cameroon espouses this variable geometry in the treatment of regions, the beauty of this asymmetric treatment is that it also works well in a unitary form of state. The example of China and its asymmetric treatment of Hong Kong, and which is a much more centralized system than Cameroon is necessary to point to again. This means that the present Decentralized Unitary system could be maintained, while at the same time the NW and SW find satisfaction in the management of their local affairs. Besides, given that the present Constitution of Cameroon allows for the continuous application of the Common Law, it is recognition of the exceptions that constitute the NW and SW regions. Apart from the examples already given, two of Cameroon’s colonial masters, whose double heritage the Cameroon of today enjoys, that is, Britain and France are plausible other examples. In the case of the United Kingdom, there is a separate status each for Wales, Scotland and even Northern Ireland within the same unitary state. In France, the Corse has a special status. It must be pointed out that it were calls for greater autonomy and threats of breakaway that among other factors pushed the French authorities to give a separate administrative status to that region.
Furthermore, in the couching of the provisions of Section 62(2), it would appear the drafters were foresighted enough to preempt the possibility of considering variations between the different regions in the extent of the powers they should have, depending on their ability and history. My understanding of that section is that the drafters of the Constitution of Cameroon had already envisaged a situation where some regions could be allowed to sail in different boats within a unitary state framework, based on their linguistic, historical, cultural or even demographic peculiarity. The case of the two regions is a very good example, where these conditions of peculiarity are amply fulfilled.
How are the NW and SW peculiar?
To amply justify the need for a special status each for the North West and South West, it would be necessary, in my view, to demonstrate the peculiarity of these two regions. It is clear to everybody of good faith in Cameroon that there are fundamental differences between the NW and the SW on the one hand, and the other eight regions on the other. However, some detail analysis of a few examples would be necessary to make the point. The fact that francophone parents in their numbers send their children to English speaking schools is an eloquent testimony to the fact that there are differences in the educational systems between the two components. It is not simply the language of instruction, the culture of teaching and learning is also fundamentally different.
In addition, in the legal domain, the common law is practiced in the English speaking regions while the civil law holds sway in the other regions. Though some attempt has been made at harmonizing some aspects of the two, they still remain for all intent and purposes walls apart. The Constitution of Cameroon clearly recognizes this legal disparity. It is instructive that it is the perceived adulteration of the educational and legal systems that is the immediate cause of the current crisis.
Again, the colonial past of the two components is different. While the British practiced indirect rule and the Native authority which gave the people much leverage in the management of local affairs, the French system of assimilation, paternalism and the Jacobin-style strong state authority did not afford much of that. So in matters of governance the colonial experiences of the two components differed and this heritage which has been transferred to younger generation has now met zones of friction and conflict.
Even though there are many other examples, these few, in my view sufficiently make the case for the NW/SW exception, within the bigger Cameroonian picture.
What should be the content of the special status arrangement?
Since the current constitution already mentions that possibility, it sounds reasonable that the main worry now for the delegates, if this third option were to be adopted, is to present a basket of what should go into the special status arrangement. What powers do the two regions want to have for themselves exclusive from the central state authorities? Before I proceed to discuss what this basket could contain, it is germane to point out that the special status arrangement could be applied exclusively to the two regions concerned as a matter of priority. However, in order to allay the fears of geometric treatment of regions, which I mentioned, earlier, these powers could also be extended, of course in relative degrees to the other regions if they find no objection for the time being.
Having said that emphasis should at this juncture be focused on the package deal or what I will call the content of the basket. That is what I think the commission on decentralization and local development should be able to do. This is because as I said earlier this is the most political of all the eight commissions. The other issues to be canvassed by the other commissions could only come to add up to that. The basket would certainly be for the delegates to fill but based on my own experience in the understanding of the conflict, the package deal may include but not limited to the management of the education system, the protection of the common law legal system, the proportion of the use of the two official languages in the regions. That basket will include the powers that the regions want to control and the powers of the local councils as well. The central government should be clear on what it intends to irreversibly relinquish to both the regions and the councils.
In addition to the merit of this model mentioned already, this model is neither to the right nor to the left of the debate spectrum. It is at the Centre. It accommodates the desires of those who are opposed to a change of the form of state and also satisfies those who seek greater autonomy. There is no doubt about it; we have already seen that special status arrangements work perfectly well in a unitary state arrangement. In that way everybody is satisfied and consensus is easy to reach on both sides.
Some of these changes if adopted would obviously necessitate legislative, administrative, policy or even constitutional reform. If the commissions consensually agree on what to do then they can easily propose the kind of reform that may suit their agenda so as to protect what they may have proposed.
I submit that the tenor of section 62 discussed above requiring the law to “take into consideration the specificities of certain Regions” is weak. I would rather propose that based on comparative constitutional law, and even Cameroonian history, such fundamental aspects are better guaranteed in the highest legal norm in the hierarchy. In this case it is the Constitution. If that were the case a constitutional revision could be sought to the extent that those guarantees are entrenched.
Is a constitutional amendment possible?
In the run up to the convening of the dialogue and even after the fundamental question on many lips was whether proposals and or conclusions arrived at may be translated into constitutional reform. To this question and analyzing the tenor of President Paul Biya’s 10 September speech, convening the dialogue, some legal experts have argued that such reform was “neither mandatorily required of, nor specifically excluded from the purview of the Dialogue process”.
But that possibility comes to life when you read other portions of the speech together with legal and constitutional provisions in force. On page 14 of the English language version of the speech, he announced his decision to convene a national dialogue “in line with our Constitution”, to “enable us to seek ways and means of meeting the high aspirations of the people of the North West and South West Regions”. My understanding is that if the high aspirations of the people in those two regions are to take charge of those affairs as we have discussed above, and possibly other arrangements agreed to in other commissions, it means that based on what the President said we have to go into the Constitution to seek to satisfy them. Either the Constitution has the answer directly or it points at the direction we must take.
If the Constitution does not have a direct response then a constitutional revision may be necessary to accommodate the issues at stake. And if a proposal is made in this regard, it seems to me that it does not overstep the confines of the Constitution. Provided the revision is pursued in a procedure that is in line with the Constitution of Cameroon, which the President swore to uphold.
On this score, it should be noted that the ‘Natonal Dialogue’ if it is working within the Constitution, does not have the locus standi or power to deliver “binding resolutions” or seek Constitutional amendments. It may only propose. Based on the President’s speech, which for now is the guiding instrument on the purview of the Dialogue’s powers, it has the power to propose whatever it wants to propose, if these can address the concerns and aspirations of the people in those two regions. But it is not within its powers to insist, to push amendment to Parliament, otherwise it would be acting ultra vires and out of tune with the fundamental law of the land.
Who has the power to seek a constitutional amendment in Cameroon? According to section 63(1), “Amendments to the Constitution may be proposed either by the President of the Republic or by Parliament. These are the only two authorities that are constitutionally empowered to seek an amendment of the Constitution. This may of course be through a government bill from the President of the Republic to Parliament or a Private Members bill in Parliament. However, The President of the Republic may also decide to bypass Parliament and directly “submit any bill to amend the Constitution to a referendum; in which case the amendment shall be adopted by a simple majority of the votes cast” and that will be constitutionally correct. .
While a constitutional amendment is not illegal, there are some amendments that will be inadmissible.
According to section 64 “No procedure for the amendment of the Constitution affecting the republican form, unity and territorial integrity of the State and the democratic principles which govern the Republic shall be accepted”. This means in clear terms that any amendment that seeks to change the state from a Republic to a monarchy, transfer part of our territory to another state or institute a one-party state shall not be accepted.
In fine, given the positions held by the different protagonists in the national dialogue and leveraging on my understanding that more consensual conclusions and recommendations may be viewed in a better light, I submit unequivocally, that a third option as I have discussed should be given a thought and explored, if all the parties must take back something to their bases.
*The author of this article is a Doctor in Law and Political Scientist. (The content are his personal views) .The article was previously published in the Median Newspaper on 30 September before the National Dialogue started in Cameroon