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BEYOND THE BIG STICK, CHEQUE BOOK AND GUNBOATS: AN OPEN MEMO TO PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA ON THE EVE OF HIS SECOND VISIT TO AFRICA
June 21, 2013 | 0 Comments

By Theogene Rudasingwa*

 Your Excellency,

By Theogene RudasingwaShortly, you and your family will board Air Force One and head to Africa, on a journey that will take you to Senegal, Tanzania and South Africa. During your first term in the White House you visited Ghana, where you made the famous “Africa does not need strong men, it needs strong institutions” speech, and Egypt, before it became engulfed in the Arab spring revolutionary fervor.

In a sense, you return to the same huge land mass (30.22 sq. km) comprising of 54 countries and a combined diverse population of 1.033 billion. It is the same Africa considered by many as the cradle of humankind, and one that has lured fortune hunters, be they slave traders, colonialists, vicious spies during the Cold War, or modern day states and corporate types in search of business and natural resources.

Being a good student of history, you are familiar with Africa’s contending narratives. Our continent falls perfectly within the “glass half-full or half-empty” analogy. Of late, many among Africa’s ruling elite and the international community have amplified their voices; selling the idea that Africa is on the ascendancy, destined to become a powerhouse within the next few decades. To them, the glass is half-full. On the other hand, there are those who point to Africa’s sore spots and open wounds: poverty, HIV/AIDS, illiteracy, poor infrastructure, poor governance, human rights abuses, violent conflicts and terrorism, failed or failing states, and environmental degradation. To these folks, Africa is your typical half-empty glass.

Between these two extremes of optimism and pessimism lies the true condition of the African people, which you are invited to seek to learn about, first and foremost. This is the world that, on behalf of the most powerful nation on planet earth, you can help overcome human suffering and shape the hopeful place of peace and prosperity that Africa desires to become. History will, unfortunately, remind you that Africa is not particularly a place to secure a permanent positive legacy among great American Presidents.

Yet, for you, Mr. President, the stakes could not be higher, simply because of the initial high expectations that greeted your Presidency. Africans then expected, and remain hopeful, albeit with reduced expectation, that the first African-American U.S. President with a very recent African ancestry will do much more than his predecessors.

I am convinced beyond doubt that you have pondered this matter over and over again. How will you be remembered by Africans? How can this Africa visit create value for Africans and the American people?

Here is some open advice, assuming it gets past the gatekeepers at the White House and State Department to get to you:

imagesFirst, be aware that the United States carries historical and current negative baggage in Africa in terms of its allies in Africa. Even as the Cold War recedes in the minds of the older generation, there is a discrepancy between what successive U.S administrations claim to be a values-driven foreign policy (freedom, democracy, human rights) and guilt by association with some of Africa’s most notorious dictators, as long as they serve “U.S. interests”. Without being contrite, you may need to assure African people that the U.S will do no harm, and slowly disengage from the company of corrupt big men who usurp institutions and abuse people’s fundamental rights.

Second, the U.S should engage pro-democracy and modernizing voices among the political forces, civil society, women and youth organizations, academic institutions and communities. Out of these will emerge the new leaders and managers of Africa, just as an enabling environment allowed you to emerge as the U.S. President in 2008. The U.S. embassies in Africa should take the lead in this engagement. Historically, when these embassies are not compromised by the local ruling elite, or too involved on behalf of narrow U.S. security and economic interests, are often irrelevant because they are far removed from the ordinary lives of Africans. Instead of being a beachhead from which to deploy the whole of U.S. government and international power to make sustainable impact on the lives of Africans, and hence win their hearts and minds, the embassy can become a theater for pitched battles among various departments and agencies. New and innovative marching orders to U.S embassies in Africa are long overdue, in terms who they serve and to what ends.

Third, be aware of revolutionary pressures that are building up within Africa’s youth bulge, the hundreds of millions of unemployed, unemployable, and often uneducated young men and women. Extremist ideologies and religious fanatics find fertile ground among the marginalized. Of late, if your embassies and intelligence analysts are telling you (or know) the truth, there is a growing anti-American, anti-West, sentiment that is both concealed and open. The much publicized economic growth in Africa in recent years, largely from natural resources, hardly reaches the poor. The international community, United States included, does not significantly help willing countries to invest in higher education or small and medium enterprises to create jobs and a motive to hope for the future among the jobless youth. You may wish to announce two bold and inter-related initiatives for higher education (especially in science, technology, innovation and entrepreneurship) and, small and medium enterprises (SMEs), and mobilize the whole international community (UN, World Bank, EU, AU, Regional Trading Blocs, Bilateral organizations and Philanthropy) towards this goal. The resources could be pooled together regionally to motivate cross-border co-operation.

Fourth, invest in holistic women and children health at the community level, with HIV/AIDS, TB and Malaria integrated at this level, with a bias towards prevention. This year alone, over four million under-fives will die in Africa due to preventable conditions. It is estimated that in the same period more than a quarter of a million mothers in Africa will die during delivery. Africa’s future is bleak without putting women and children at the centre of the development and foreign policy agenda. Mrs. Michelle Obama and your daughters will be disheartened to learn about this unacceptable high death toll among Africa’s women and children.

Fifth, to help end and prevent conflicts in Africa, encourage, champion and support negotiations, accommodation and consensus-building, In particular, in the Great Lakes region of Africa, support Tanzania and the SADC initiative which calls on Rwanda, DRC and Uganda to hold talks with their armed and political opposition. Fortunately, your visit takes place a time when the United States is poised to talk to the Taliban. One makes peace with enemies. As the world holds its breath during the recovery of Nelson Mandela, a legendary icon with a large African heart, bring it to the attention of Africa’s big men in the Great Lakes region that Africa is much better off when Africans talk to their fellow Africans, in the interest of African people.

Sixth, reign on your national security team. The hawks among them will insist that there is a red threat (China) looming over Africa, which must be contained or neutralized. Furthermore, these hawks argue, it is U.S. security and economic interests that should take precedence over anything else, even if this means baby-sitting some of Africa’s most dangerous big men. The idealists in your team would love to re-invent Africa in a U.S. image. Both pathways are not only undesirable but also unachievable and dangerous. Africa needs China, the United States and the rest of the world for mutual advantage. U.S, China and the rest of the world need Africa for the same reasons. The premium is on healthy competition and co-operation.

Seventh, be aware of the rising tide of two world religions, Islam and Christianity, on the African continent. From the north to the south, east to the west, the ordinary people in every African country have generally lived together peacefully for centuries, as your 2009 speech in Cairo articulated. Both Islam and Christianity have largely been forces for good, and together they make Africa what it is and stronger. Everything must be done to prevent anything that would put Muslims and Christians on a collision path, re-enacting the jihads and inquisitions of the past. Engagement and accommodation, rather than prejudice and isolation, should be the American way of navigating the ultra-sensitive terrain of faith, in order to harness the most synergies for U.S. and Africa’s interests.

To summarize, Mr. President, as you travel around Africa, use your big stick, cheque book and the threat of America’s gunboats as arrows in your quiver, to be used wisely. If you have to promise a cheque, let it be to support Africa’s youth in education, small and medium enterprises, and women and children health. Disengage the U.S. from the cozy relationship with Africa’s big men, and engage to help create conditions for authentic pro-democracy African leaders to emerge. Tame the ambition and temptation for the U.S. to over-promise and over-reach, in search for enemies to contain or destroy, or in the hope of creating an Africa that is a replica of the United States. Promote negotiated and peaceful settlements, and reach out to the Mosques and Churches to promote inter-faith dialogue and co-operation.

Ultimately, it is out of the challenges and opportunities of today that Africans themselves must curve out the peaceful and prosperous Africa of tomorrow.

I wish you, your family, and the U.S. delegation a safe trip as you rediscover the magic of Africa.

Highest considerations, Your Excellency.

Dr. Theogene Rudasingwa
Washington D.C.
E-mail: ngombwa@gmail.com

6/20/2013

*Dr. Theogene Rudasingwa is a former Ambassador of Rwanda to the United States, and the author of Healing A Nation: A Testimony: Waging and Winning A Peaceful Revolution to Unite and Heal A Broken Rwanda (CreateSpace, April 2013).

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UN Security Council debate on conflict and natural resources: Remarks by Kofi Annan
June 21, 2013 | 0 Comments

Mr President,

Council Members,

AnnanThank you for this opportunity to address you today. The topic of your discussion is extremely important and it is one that is close to my heart. 

I will limit my remarks today to what concerns Africa, although I believe the challenges facing the continent also have relevance for many other parts of the world.

For years, we have seen that natural resources have been a presence in – and at times a driver of – internal or regional conflicts in Africa. Over the past 15 years alone, rivalry for access to natural resources has fuelled wars and rebellions in Sierra Leone, Liberia the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan and South Sudan, and elsewhere. Oil has also played an important role in the recurring violence in the Niger delta. 

This close and recurrent association between natural resources and war has led some people to describe the discovery and exploitation of natural resources in Africa as a curse. 

Such a view is far too simplistic. For every conflict, one can find several contrasting examples of African countries where natural resources are now fuelling sustained high growth and are improving their citizens’ daily lives.

Natural resources are neither a curse nor a blessing. They are simply a source of opportunity. They can be used for tremendous good or they can be wasted.

Over the past decade, Africa’s economies have been riding the crest of a global commodity wave. Surging demand for natural resources in China and other emerging markets has pushed export prices to new highs. Africa’s petroleum, gas and natural resources have become a powerful magnet for foreign investment. With new exploration revealing much larger reserves than were previously known, Africa stands to reap a natural resource windfall.

The challenge facing the region’s governments is to convert the temporary windfall into a permanent breakthrough in human development.

Let us remember: natural resources do not cause war. Violent conflict happens when national institutions are too weak to contain political, ethnic or religious tensions within a peaceful national dialogue. But the competition for natural resources can often amplify and accelerate conflict, tearing apart the already weakened fabric of such fragile states, or raise the stakes in latent conflicts between neighbouring countries.

The discussion therefore needs to focus on how natural resources can contribute towards higher human development outcomes and reduce inequality; the actors involved in their extraction; and the rules that govern international commerce can help prevent such centrifugal forces from occurring. Effective and transparent management of a country’s natural resources is a priority for conflict prevention, fighting corruption and promoting sustainable development.
For societies to function and prosper, we need three inter-related conditions: economic and social development; peace and security; and the rule of law and respect for human rights. If exploited well, natural resources, can contribute to strengthening all three.

The responsibility for ensuring this lies primarily with African governments. The starting point is for all countries to develop national strategies that set up the terms under which their natural resources will be developed, including fiscal policies, contractual arrangements and tax regimes. These strategies should replace short-term calculations with the necessary long-term thinking.

Critically, these national strategies must identify extractive projects that can generate more jobs, by linking effectively to the existing, local economy. Africa cannot build dynamic growth and shared prosperity while extractive projects operate within enclaves or countries export natural resources without value added.

Above all, national strategies have to set out how the extractive sector fits with plans for poverty reduction, inclusive growth and social transformation.

Success will require leadership, transparency, and accountability. Transparency is a powerful tool and there is no substitute for public scrutiny in developing effective and equitable policies.

However, African governments cannot resolve all these governance challenges on their own.The international community must also shoulder responsibility. When foreign investors make extensive use of offshore companies, shell companies and tax havens, they weaken disclosure standards and undermine the efforts of reformers in Africa to promote transparency.

Such practices also facilitate tax evasion and, in some countries, corruption, draining Africa of revenues that should be deployed against poverty and vulnerability. This year’s Africa Progress Report found that anonymous shell companies were used in five deals that cost the Democratic Republic of the Congo nearly US$ 1.4 billion between 2010 and 2012. This sum is equivalent to almost double the country’s combined budget in 2012 for health and education. Indeed, Africa loses more money every year through a tax avoidance technique, known as trade mispricing, than it receives in international development assistance.

Conflicts driven by natural resources can and should be prevented long before they start. Once arms are drawn it is too late.

By securing international rules to close down opportunities for tax avoidance, rules that limit the use of shell companies and other tools that contribute to secret, murky and exploitative deals, the international community may help prevent the conditions that lead to armed competition for the spoils of natural wealth.

Once an armed conflict has already started, natural wealth both drives it by increasing the reward for victory, and fuels it by providing revenue to buy arms and ammunition.

The Council can play an important role in ending the plunder of minerals and other natural resources that perpetuate violent conflict. In West Africa, for example, the Council took vigorous action to ban the traffic in diamonds and timber, the proceeds of which was funding armed groups.  Without those measures, UN efforts to end the wars in that region would have been harder.  The Kimberley Process to prevent “blood diamonds” was not ideal, but it showed that the international community is able to work together to cut off illegal revenue streams that fuel wars.

What we need today is a much more ambitious and comprehensive framework for transparency, fair tax practices and asset pricing so that the conditions that contribute to conflict over natural resources can be eliminated.

The Africa Progress Panel, which I chair, looked in detail at how natural resource wealth best can contribute to improved wellbeing and equitable growth for African nations. Our outlook is optimistic.

For the first time in over a generation, the number of people in poverty in Africa has fallen. Child death rates are declining. There has been progress in combating major infectious diseases. More of Africa’s children are in school. All of this is evidence that a combination of stronger economic growth and strengthened policies can deliver results.

Building on a decade of strong growth, economic governance continues to improve in many countries, providing protection against the boom-bust cycle fuelled by earlier commodity booms. Across the region, democracy is sinking deeper roots – and the accountability that comes with democracy strengthens natural resource management.

Some foreign investors show they can make a healthy return from African  investment while also adhering to the highest international standards of social and environmental protection.
Economic collaboration across borders have shown to be a very strong peace-builder, and such cross-border collaboration should be strongly encouraged by governments with private sector partners when it comes to the exploitation and processing of natural resources, whether it is through multi-country pipelines, iron ore smelters, refineries or other down-stream industries based on extraction.

It is encouraging that today, a shared agenda is emerging.  What is striking is that change is happening, and fast, as the demand for greater transparency and fairness extends globally and accelerates.

For example, for citizens everywhere, in Africa, in G8 countries and across the globe, current tax practices are raising questions about fairness, social justice, and citizenship.

In the past year, the US and European Union have introduced new transparency requirements; we have seen the UK and France sign up to the EITI; now Canada has announced its intention to introduce mandatory transparency requirements for its extractives sector; and Switzerland has just voted to draft a payment disclosure law similar to the ones in the US and the EU.

The international community has a major responsibility in putting in place such an environment. The G8 Summit in Lough Erne earlier this week was a [major] step towards creating such an environment. I hope the United Nations can continue to play its role in helping to make this happen.

Thank you.

Full Video here

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JOINT PRESS RELEASE FROM THE OFFICE OF HIS EXCELLENCY PRESIDENT CONDÉ, RIO TINTO, CHALCO AND IFC CONCERNING THE GUINEA SIMANDOU PROJECT
June 18, 2013 | 0 Comments

President  Alpha CondeLondon, June 17, 2013 – Leaders from the Republic of Guinea, Rio Tinto, and IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, met in London on June 16, 2013 to discuss their project to develop Guinea’s Simandou Blocks 3 and 4 project. The meeting coincided with President Alpha Conde’s participation in the G8 proceedings hosted by Prime Minister David Cameron. Present at the meeting were President Conde, Sam Walsh, CEO of Rio Tinto and Jin-Yong Cai, Executive VP and CEO of IFC. Mr. Walsh and Mr. Cai also spoke for the Aluminium Corporation of China Limited (CHALCO) the project’s fourth partner.

The meeting was hosted by Mr. George Soros as part of his ongoing support to the Government of Guinea.

The partners affirmed their commitment to the Simandou Project and recognized the Project’s importance to Guinea and to the other partners. They emphasised the importance of transparency and good governance in the development and operation of the Project.

Continuing the current focus on developing an investment framework for the financing, construction and operation of the transportation link needed for the Project was emphasised by all partners. The partners agreed on the importance of a transportation link that is open to other users and designed to encourage broad-based economic development in Guinea.

The partners have previously established a working group to design the investment framework which will be the basis for seeking financing for the project. The partners lauded the progress made so far by the working group and agreed to resolve outstanding issues as quickly as possible.

 About the Simandou Project

Simandou is a world-class iron ore mining project located in the south-east of Guinea. Rio Tinto develops the project in partnership with the Government of Guinea, Chalco and IFC, a member of the World Bank Group. The concession licence-holder and project company is Simfer S.A., which is currently owned 50.35% by Rio The Simandou iron ore project in Guinea, a partnership between Rio Tinto, the Government of Guinea, Chalco and the International Finance Corporat... - See more at: http://www.riotinto.com/ourbusiness/simandou-4695.aspx#sthash.P1aPNRsk.dpufTinto, 44.65% by Chalco and 5% by IFC. The Republic of Guinea will have the right to take a stake of up to 35% in Simfer S.A. (the mine) and a 51% stake in a Special Purpose Vehicle to own the Project Infrastructure (rail & port). Simandou will be the largest integrated iron ore mine and infrastructure project ever developed in Africa, with the potential to transform the Guinean economy and transport infrastructure.

The Simandou Project comprises three principal components:

  • an iron ore mine of 95 million tonnes per year at full production;
  • a Trans-Guinean railway of approximately 670 km to transport the ore from the mining concession to the Guinean coast; and
  • a new deepwater port south of Conakry in the Forécariah prefecture

 

For further information, please contact:


Press Office of the President of Guinea

Bureau de Presse de la Présidence

Office: +224 664 87 96 59

+224 628 18 15 57

Email: moussa.cisse@presidence.gov.gn

aboumaco2000@yahoo.fr

abdoulaye.sankara@presidence.gov.gn

IFC

Desmond Dodd, Head of Communications

Sub-Saharan Africa – IFC Corporate Relations

Office: +27 11 731 3053

Mobile:+2783 448 9873

E-mail: ddodd@ifc.org

Rio Tinto

 Media Relations, EMEA / Americas

David Outhwaite

Office: +44 20 7781 1623

Mobile:           +44 7787 597493

Christina Mills

Office: +20 7781 1154

Mobile; +44 7825 275605

Media Relations, Australia / Asia

David Luff

Office: +61 3 9283 3620

Mobile:           +61 419 850 205

Bruce Tobin

Office: +61 3 9283 3612

Mobile:           +61 419 103 454

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Statement: Major victories for transparency
June 14, 2013 | 0 Comments

GENEVA, June 12, 2013 – The Africa Progress Panel welcomes Canada’s announcement today that it will establish new mandatory reporting standards for Canadian extractive companies.

The APP also applauds today’s plenary vote in the European Parliament approving EU Transparency and Accounting Directives.

Canada, which is home to some of the world’s largest mining companies, has long been seen as reluctant to embrace the trend to improve transparency in extractive industries. Canada’s announcement that it will now establish new mandatory reporting standards brings the country in-line with the direction taken by the US and the EU.

The vote in the European Parliament creates a binding legal requirement for EU-listed and large privately owned oil, gas, mining and logging companies to publish all payments over €100,000 to governments in every country where they operate. This brings the EU in line with similar extractive industry transparency rules in the United States, under the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act, that will take effect this year.

“This is a good day for transparency and is a major step towards a world where developing countries are paid fair prices for their mineral resources,” says Caroline Kende-Robb, Executive Director of the Africa Progress Panel. “These developments, coming only days before the G8 Summit in Lough Erne in Northern Ireland next week, increase the chances that the G8 Summit will provide agreements for strong action to improve rules to fight tax avoidance an evasion, and ensure transparency in extraction deals. It has become increasingly clear that governments and business understand very well the benefits of transparency for political and social stability”.

 

Chaired by Kofi Annan, the former Secretary-General of the United Nations, the Africa Progress Panel (the Panel) includes distinguished individuals from the private and public sectors, who advocate on global issues of importance to Africa and the world.

These complex, high-impact issues include global governance, food security, sustainable economic development, and the Millennium Development Goals, which all require engagement from a wide range of stakeholders within and outside the continent.

For further information, please contact

Edward Harris, Head of Communications
Office: + 41 22 919 75 36
Mobile: +41 79 873 8322

Or

Alinka Brutsch
Bureau: +41 22 919 75 38
Mobile: +41 78 944 71 15

www.africaprogresspanel.org and www.facebook.com/africaprogresspanel
@africaprogress and #APR2013

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$1M Grant to Fund Great Storytelling on Key African Issues
June 5, 2013 | 0 Comments
African farmers at work. Photo credit: International Institute for Communication and Development

African farmers at work. Photo credit: International Institute for Communication and Development

A new $1 million program will offer African journalists reporting grants to support investigative, multimedia and data-driven stories that aim to improve health and prosperity across the continent.

The African Story Challenge will award approximately 100 reporting grants for stories on development issues. Journalists chosen for the grants will come together for intensive sessions to improve their project ideas. Grantees who produce the best stories published or broadcast in media that reach African audiences will win cash prizes or a major international reporting trip.

The Story Challenge is a project of the African Media Initiative (AMI), the continent’s largest association of media owners and operators. AMI Content Development Director and Knight International Journalism Fellow Joseph Warungu is leading the project. The Knight Fellowships are administered by the International Center for Journalists (ICFJ).

“This new challenge will encourage journalists to experiment with new content ideas and find new ways to engage audiences through mobile technology, social media and other digital tools,” said Warungu, a former BBC Africa Editor. “The awards will make a major difference in the number and quality of stories produced on health and development issues in Africa.”

AMI Chief Executive Amadou Mahtar Ba added, “It is essential to encourage and reward African journalists and news organizations that go the extra mile to deliver high-quality digital news and information to promote transparency, accountability and a higher quality of life for our citizens. We can reboot journalism in Africa by incentivizing stories that count.”

The African Story Challenge will run in five themed cycles. Grant requests for stories focusing on agriculture and food security, the first theme, will be accepted from May 26 to June 14, 2013. Other themes will include health, business and technology.

An international panel of editors and media experts will judge the entries. Contest details are available at africanstorychallenge.com.

The African Story Challenge is supported by an $800,000 grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The program also has support from the African Development Bank and the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA).

 


The African Media Initiative is the continent’s primary umbrella association of African media owners, top executives, and other industry stakeholders. AMI represents media across all traditional platforms plus newer digital formats. AMI’s mandate is to serve as a catalyst for strengthening African media, by building the tools, knowledge resources, and technical capacity for African media to overcome key constraints so that they can play an effective public interest role in society. This mandate includes assisting with the development of professional standards, financial sustainability, technological adaptability and civic engagement. AMI seeks to achieve its mandate through partnerships, advocacy and strategic projects. For more information, visitwww.africanmediainitiative.org.

 

The International Center for Journalists advances quality journalism worldwide. Our hands-on programs combine the best professional practices with new technologies. We believe that responsible journalism empowers citizens and holds governments accountable. For more information, go to www.icfj.org.

 

*For more information contact:Moskowitz,Communications,Director,Telephone:202.349.7628, imoskowitz@icfj.org

 

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Obama to take first major Africa trip in late June
May 21, 2013 | 0 Comments

By Stephen Collinson*

PHOTO | MANDEL NGAN US President Barack Obama steps off Air Force One upon arrival at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport in Atlanta, Georgia, on May 19, 2013. Obama will go on his first African tour between June 26 and July 3.  AFPPresident Barack Obama will go on a first African tour next month, visiting Senegal, Tanzania and South Africa, but his itinerary released on Monday bypasses Kenya, an ancestral homeland.

Obama disappointed many Africans by spending only a few hours in sub-Saharan Africa — in Ghana — during his first term, but is keen to implement a sweeping new regional strategy, prioritizing democracy and economic reform.

Speculation will centre on whether America’s first black president will see ailing 94-year-old South African anti-Apartheid icon Nelson Mandela, on a trip on which he will be accompanied by First Lady Michelle Obama.

The White House said the long-awaited visit was intended to underscore Obama’s “commitment to broadening and deepening cooperation between the United States and the people of sub-Saharan Africa” to advance peace and prosperity.

Obama will meet officials, businessmen, and civil society leaders, including young people, on the trip between June 26 and July 3 — an unusually long journey for a president who normally dashes across timezones on trips abroad.

But early scrutiny will concentrate as much on where he will not go in Africa, as his planned stops, with Kenya, the land of Obama’s late father, where he still has living relatives, a glaring omission.

Obama frequently uses his past and background to connect with foreigners, remembering his childhood stays while in Indonesia, his Irish heritage in Ireland, and as a Hawaii native, posing as America’s “first Pacific president.”

But politics appears to have scuppered hopes for Obama to reconnect with his roots in Kenya.

It would likely be seen as unseemly for Obama to appear with Uhuru Kenyatta, elected president in March, who will go on trial in July at the International Criminal Court (ICC) for crimes against humanity in post-election violence in 2007-08.

An administration official said on condition of anonymity that Kenyatta’s election had been a complicating factor in setting Obama’s schedule in Africa.

Obama did visit Kenya in 2006, shortly after he was elected to the Senate, but before he announced his 2008 run for the White House.

His visit to Africa will follow a similar tour made by his wife Michelle in June 2011, during which she met Mandela.

While the president is yet to mount a full tour of the continent, he did host a meeting at the end of March with recently elected Senegalese counterpart, Macky Sall, along with the leaders of Sierra Leone, Malawi and Cape Verde, lauding them as examples of “the progress that we are seeing in Africa.”

In 2011, Obama received four other African leaders at the White House, the presidents of Benin, Guinea, Niger and Ivory Coast. He had promised them the US would remain a “stalwart partner” to democracies in Africa.

In June 2012, Obama unveiled a sweeping new Africa strategy, with the goal of reinforcing security and democracy on a continent facing the threat of Al-Qaeda and a Chinese economic offensive.

The new US blueprint seeks to boost trade, strengthen peace, security and good governance and bolster democratic institutions, declaring that a continent torn by poverty, corruption and discord could be the world’s next big economic success story.

The administration touted “successes” from helping to restore democracy in Ivory Coast, nurturing the new state of South Sudan, backing stability efforts in Somalia and engaging young African leaders.

In his speech before Ghana’s parliament in 2009, Obama proclaimed that even though the continent now needs international aid, “Africa’s future is up to Africans.”

Obama’s visit will also likely throw a new focus on the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, which was the brainchild of his predecessor George W. Bush and is credited with saving millions of lives.

*Source AFP

 

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United States Announces Additional Humanitarian Assistance to Mali
May 16, 2013 | 0 Comments
Donald Y Yamamoto ,Acting Assistant Secretary for African Affairs

Donald Y Yamamoto ,Acting Assistant Secretary for African Affairs

On May 15, 2013, at the Mali Donors’ Conference in Brussels, USAID Assistant Administrator for the Bureau of Democracy, Conflict, and Humanitarian Assistance Nancy Lindborg and Department of State Acting Assistant Secretary for African Affairs Don Yamamoto reaffirmed the United States’ commitment to Mali as the country returns to democracy, peace, and stability. Assistant Administrator Lindborg also announced that the United States is providing more than $32 million in additional humanitarian assistance to support Malians affected by the crisis.

The new assistance builds on the significant ongoing commitment of the United States to address the crisis in Mali. Although over $188 million in assistance to Mali, mostly to the government, was either terminated or suspended after the coup, the United States has continued to provide over $7 million in democracy assistance programming, $83 million in health support, $4.8 million in peace and security assistance, $33.5 million in economic growth programming, and, with today’s commitment of $32 million, more than $180 million in humanitarian assistance to Mali and Malian refugees.

This additional assistance will support the life-saving humanitarian work of UN agencies and non-governmental organizations in Mali and in neighboring countries. This includes essential protection and assistance through the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, food assistance through the World Food Program, humanitarian logistics through the United Nations Humanitarian Air Service, and shelter, food security, and health through other international organizations and NGOs.

Because the crisis in Mali is closely intertwined with regional dynamics we are also providing significant assistance to key partners in the Sahel region. Since fiscal year 2012, the United States is providing more than $550 million in humanitarian assistance to the Sahel, Mali president in Brusselsincluding this latest contribution. We are bringing our relief and development teams together for joint analysis and joint planning in support of efforts that build resilience to the region’s recurrent shocks.

Since January of this year, conflict and insecurity have generated more than 175,000 Malian refugees and internally displaced more than 300,000 Malians. The United States recognizes the hospitality of all countries hosting Malian refugees, in particular the governments and people of Burkina Faso, Mauritania, and Niger who have continued to keep their borders open to those fleeing the situation in Mali.

For media inquiries or further information, please contact Deborah L. Sisbarro at sisbarrodl@state.gov or (202) 463-9339, or visit www.state.gov/j/prm.

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AMINI KAJUNJU — VISIONARY NEW LEADER OF AFRICA-AMERICA INSTITUTE
May 4, 2013 | 0 Comments

Milton Allimadi*

AMINI KAJUNJU

AMINI KAJUNJU

The Africa-America Institute which celebrates its 60th anniversary this year is in good hands with its new president Amini Kajunju, who seems to have been born for such a post.

Her cultural, academic, and professional background, gives her unique advantages: a daughter of Africa who attended U.S. college and grad school, she is familiar with the American setting while retaining strong family-roots on the continent whose fortunes AAI hopes to help improve.

As a girl in Congo, she recalls listening to her father’s music collection, which included legends and pioneers of modern African music: Franco, Dr. Nico, and Tabu Ley — all of whom are still revered throughout Africa.

The was long before Kajunju came here to attend Brigham Young University, where she studied International Relations. Later, she was off to New York University, for an MPA, with a concentration in finance.

Kajunju worked for Lehman Brothers, in the mergers and acquisitions unit. Later, for more than a decade, she was the executive director of Workshop in Business Opportunities (WIBO), one of the country’s oldest and highly-respected entrepreneurial programs. There she was involved in educating and training hundreds of entrepreneurs each year.

One of her most noted programs at WIBO was a 16-week bootcamp called “How To Build A Growing Profitable Business” which was dubbed a mini MBA program. WIBO workshops trained entrepreneurs to address questions such as: do you know your market?; do you know who your competitors are?; how do you use the Internet to market your goods and services?; and, do you in fact need the Internet to reach your target market if for example they are in rural communities?

Kajunju, a can-do leader, wants to infuse some of the entrepreneurial drive that WIBO fostered, into AAI’s programs. She’s eager to dispel the pervasive image of Africa as a continent of want and charity. Africa, after all, is rich in natural and human resources.

“We’re in a globalized world and Africa can’t be left out of it,” she says, emphatically, when interviewed recently at AAI’s offices near Grand Central Station in Manhattan.

AAI has a storied history; Kajunju, who became president and ceo last October, brims with enthusiasm as she confidently discusses her own vision and plans for the venerable organization.

AAI was founded in 1953. Its early mission was to secure scholarships for post-colonial African leaders. Decolonization was rapidly sweeping across the continent beginning with Ghana in 1957 and followed quickly by a score of African countries in the early 1960s. At the time of “Uhuru,” the popular Kiswahili term for independence, some African countries had less than a half-dozen college graduates.

The challenges were tremendous.

AAI placed many African students on U.S. campuses, some of whom later gained global renown in various fields. The late Wangai Maathari became a celebrated environmental and human rights activist in Kenya and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Nahas Angula became Prime Minister of Namibia. Alasanne Quattara became a top international banker and after working at The World Bank, is today president of the Ivory Coast. Malawi’s President Joyce Banda was an AAI fellow and she credits her U.S. visit for opening her eyes to the possibilities for women in Africa.

Today, AAI sits at a crossroad and is “refocusing” its mission, Kajunju explains.

Yes, the organization continues to secure scholarships for Africans to study in the United States. The quality of a workforce determines a nation’s destiny, beginning at the individual level. “Education is the ultimate liberator,” Kajunju says. “It gives people the tools to change their own circumstances and societal circumstances.”

While retaining its traditional role, Kajunju believes AAI can accomplish even much more by leveraging: its resources; connections; reputation; and, alumni network through social- and new media technologies.

Throughout the interview Kajunju repeats the terms “professional development” in Africa and “capacity building.” One of her chief goals is to match African professionals in the Diaspora with African governments, NGOs working on the continent, and international corporations that are locating in Africa or expanding their business operations there.

This year, on September 21, AAI will host its first Africa-America Career Expo. AAI hopes to attract between 50 to 75 international companies to potentially recruit from a pool of 300 African professionals. “There are companies investing in Africa; they need talent,” Kajunju says. Plans are to develop the career expo into an annual event.

AAI is involved in elevating professional and management skills in Africa. AAI, in partnership with the Coca Cola Africa Foundation launched what’s called the Transformative Leadership Program (TLP) in 2006 to train leaders of non-profit organizations in African countries so they can more efficiently manage staff and resources.

This year’s class, currently in training, includes 120 non-profit leaders who are participating in three partner locations: the University of Stellenbosch Business School in South Africa; the United States International University, in Kenya; and, the Pan-African University, in Nigeria.

The South African program focuses on people management skills while Nigeria’s also teaches fund-raising. Kajunju was impressed after attending a training session at the Stellenbosch program. She will also sit in on a training session in Nigeria, when she visits in May. “These courses will allow them to better manage their non-profits,” Kajunju says, referring to the heads of the non-profits.

Kajunju even sees an eventual role for AAI in partnering with programs that offer technician skills such as air-conditioning system repair work. She wonders: why build a multi-million dollar hospital with an efficient cooling system, only to come back a year later to find it in disrepair because no one was taught how to fix it?

Kajunju believes Africa’s future is in the hands of its youth and entrepreneurs. Where most people see bottlenecks, she sees opportunities. She dismisses the notion that the critical constraint to business development in Africa, and even right here in America, is lack of start-up capital.

Many would-be entrepreneurs place the cart before the horse, focusing on searching for financing, before developing  solid business plans, she explains. “You don’t want to throw good money into a bad idea,” Kajunju warns. “Good money is always looking for good projects.”

“I don’t believe businesses that go into Africa should come with a charity approach,” Kajunju continues.

Ultimately, Africa’s transformation will be led by people such as Mo Ibrahim the founder of Celtel International, the giant multi-billion dollar mobile communications company. Ibrahim, who sold Celtel for $3.4 billion in 2005, now heads a philanthropist organization that annually awards a $5 million cash prize and a $200,000 annual payment for life to African heads of state “who deliver security, health, education and economic development to their constituents and democratically transfer power to their successors.”

Kajunju believes that 3,000 Mo Ibrahims spread throughout Africa would accomplish for the continent 10 times more than what’s been done with all the foreign aid sent there. “I would love for him to be a friend and advocate for AAI,” Kajunju adds, of Ibrahim.

There are many other people whom she’d like to be “friends” of AAI.

Kajunju recalls a chance encounter with Peggy Kerry, Secretary of State John Kerry’s sister, whom she now hopes to get involved in AAI’s work — perhaps even a “best friend” to the organization.

AAI’s annual signature event is its Gala, its biggest fundraising event, which this year is on September 25. This year’s honorees include Dr. Kandeh K. Yumkella, Director-General of the United Nations Industrialization Development Organization (UNIDO), who gets the nod for “2013 Distinguished Alumnus Award.” The 2013 Corporate Award goes to Chevron. Additional awardees haven’t been announced yet.

AAI has also used the Gala to highlight history. Last year’s Gala honored Liberian President Ellen Sirleaf Johnson and Malawi’s Joyce Banda. While the continent still faces “challenges” when it comes to gender issues, Kajunju notes, the Gala was a unique opportunity to honor Africa’s only two female presidents.

Kajunju hopes AAI will repeat last year’s “standing room only” turnout, especially an increased show from the younger supporters; the under-40 years old.  “We want to let them know that the Gala is an important networking opportunity,” she explains.

Kajunju wants to develop stronger ties with past AAI Annual Gala Awards Honorees, such as President Bill Clinton and to reach out to Hillary Clinton, whom she hopes could be a future honoree.

AI wants to reach out to President Barack Obama, whom Kajunju admires, as many Africans do, not only for his intellect and achievements but for his African heritage as well — with his Kenyan father, who came to study in the U.S. where he met the future president’s mother. “I think a relationship with president Obama would be apropos,” Kajunju says. “I’d love for him to be our best friend.”

With all these plans, AAI has enhanced its information delivery and outreach. “When I was being interviewed and asked ‘what do you want to accomplish in the first six months, I said ‘website, website, website,'” Kajunju recalls, with a laugh, and explains her desire for a revamped and interactive site.

A good website gives AAI “an opportunity to tell our story,” Kajunju says. “And when you miss the opportunity, you miss potential donors and potential stakeholders.”

To update AAI’s followers and to draw new supporters, especially younger ones, Kajunju and her staff also produce: a weekly column; a monthly column; and, a quarterly newsletter.

One of Kajunju’s priorities is to encourage many of AII’s alumni, including those who went to Ivy League universities, to play a more active role. “Can you imagine if some of them could create a scholarship fund, say with $200,000?” Kajunju says. AAI “could then go to a Bill Gates for example, and get him to match that amount and then we would manage that fund.”

AAI’s annual budget is $1.4 million and the organization, including consultants, has a staff of seven. Some of AAI’s biggest supporters have been The Ford Foundation and The Coca Cola Africa Foundation.

With such a full plate does Kajunju have time for anything else? Yes — even she seems to marvel that she’s working through David Maraniss’s 641-page “Obama: The Story.

While not yet done with the book she says it’s “simply brilliant!”

*Source Black Star News

 To find out more about AAI’s plans for 2013

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The Africa Union Joins the Global Fight to End Neglected Tropical Diseases by 2020
May 4, 2013 | 0 Comments

Africa Union Health Ministers Call for Increased Investments to Rid Africa of Neglected Tropical Diseases

 

Dr. Neeraj MistryManaging Director of the Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases,

Dr. Neeraj MistryManaging Director of the Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases,

ADDIS ABABA, ETHIOPIA, April 29, 2013— The Sixth Conference of African Union Ministers of Health (CAMH6) concluded on April 26, 2013 with a strong call for African countries and development partners to increase support for neglected tropical disease (NTD) control and elimination programs. This call for action supports the World Health Organization’s (WHO) goal to control or eliminate ten of the most common NTDs by 2020.

 NTDs were prominently featured at this year’s CAMH6 which took place in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia from April 22-26, 2013. The African Ministers of Health acknowledged the tremendous work done by country governments, the WHO Regional Office for Africa, and development partners, highlighting the development of 36 multi-year, national NTD control and elimination plans, the WHO Roadmap for Implementation titled, Accelerating Work to Overcome the Global Impact of Neglected Tropical Diseases, and the January 2012 London Declaration on NTDs. The Ministers called on African governments and partners to build on this momentum by making financial commitments towards the implementation of the national NTD control and elimination plans.

NTDs are a group of parasitic and bacterial diseases that infect more than one billion people around the world, most of whom live below the poverty line. These diseases cause malnutrition and anemia, pregnancy complications, blindness, disfigurement and delays to physical and cognitive growth among children, often perpetuating the poverty of those they infect.

During the conference, the Africa Union Commission (AUC) and the Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases, an initiative of the Sabin Vaccine Institute, co-hosted a high-level breakfast discussion to showcase the current challenges and available solutions to combat NTDs in Africa. The meeting outlined clear actions for African governments and development partners to ensure NTD control and elimination by 2020.

This breakfast discussion, which included remarks by His Excellency Dr. Mustapha Kaloko, AUC Commissioner for Social Affairs; Ambassador Michael Marine, chief executive officer of the Sabin Vaccine Institute; the Honorable Dr. Sabine Ntakarutimana, Minister of Health for the Republic of Burundi; and Dr. Luis Gomes Sambo, regional director of the WHO Regional Office for Africa.

“Africa has the highest burden of NTDs in the world, with just under 50 percent of the global NTD burden. NTDs pose a threat to healthcare, economic development and the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals,” said His Excellency Dr. Mustapha Sidiki Kaloko, Commissioner of Social Affairs at the African Union. “CAMH6 is reigniting this issue with the hope of triggering strong action against these diseases.”

“This week’s focus on NTDs confirmed African leaders’ commitment to advancing the region’s health and development,” said Ambassador Michael W. Marine, chief executive officer of the Sabin Vaccine Institute. “This strong commitment will be a clear signal of increased ownership of this issue by African governments and will catalyze greater financial contributions from development partners.”

Burundi became the first francophone country in the region to officially launch an integrated national plan to combat NTDs in February 2012. Dr. Sabine Ntakarutimana, the Honorable Minister of Health for the Republic of Burundi, encouraged other African nations to adopt a similar commitment to eliminate NTDs by 2020.

Dr. Luis Gomes Sambo, regional director of the WHO Regional Office for Africa, highlighted the new and growing momentum to eliminate NTDs. Dr. Sambo added that, “government leadership and commitment remains critical to accelerating the control and elimination of NTDs and enhancing development in Africa.”

 To learn more about NTDs in Africa, visit www.globalnetwork.org

Media Contacts:

Amber Cashwell

Policy Officer, Sabin Vaccine Institute

Tel: +1 202-621-1695 or Mobile: +1 (864) 978-9335

amber.cashwell@sabin.org

 Wynne Musabayana

Deputy Head of Information and Communication

African Union Commission

Email: MusabayanaW@africa-union.org

 About NTDs

NTDs are a group of 17 parasitic and bacterial infections that are the most common afflictions of the world’s poorest people. They blind, disable and disfigure their victims, trapping them in a cycle of poverty and disease. Research shows that treating NTDs lifts millions out of poverty by ensuring that children stay in school to learn and prosper; by strengthening worker productivity; and by improving maternal and child health.

 

About Sabin Vaccine Institute 

Sabin Vaccine Institute is a non-profit, 501(c)(3) organization of scientists, researchers, and advocates dedicated to reducing needless human suffering caused by vaccine preventable and neglected tropical diseases. Sabin works with governments, leading public and private organizations, and academic institutions to provide solutions for some of the world’s most pervasive health challenges. Since its founding in 1993 in honor of the oral polio vaccine developer, Dr. Albert B. Sabin, the Institute has been at the forefront of efforts to control, treat, and eliminate these diseases by developing new vaccines, advocating use of existing vaccines, and promoting increased access to affordable medical treatments. For more information please visit www.sabin.org.

 

About the African Union

The African Union Commission is the Secretariat of the African Union whose vision is that of “An integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force in global arena.” The mission of the Commission is to become “An efficient and value-adding institution driving the African integration and development process in close collaboration with African Union Member States, the Regional Economic Communities and African citizens.” Guided by its values and principles, the Commission will endeavour to achieve its mission through implementation of clear goals and strategies and by committing the requisite resources for effective discharge of its mandate. This would require the AUC presenting specific proposals to give full effect to its texts, and bring new possibilities and benefits to the citizens of Africa.

 

 

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OIC International enlists support of government of Ghana for Youth Investment Summit: The road to economic growth, Accra, Ghana, May 16, 2013
April 21, 2013 | 0 Comments

WASHINGON, DC, USA (MARCH 19, 2013)— Recently, Crispian Kirk, President and CEO of Opportunities Industrialization Centers press2International (OIC International) met with His Excellency Mr. Daniel O. Agyekum, Ghana’s Ambassador to the United States. The purpose of the meeting was to brief Ambassador Agyekum on OIC International’s Youth Investment Summit: The Road to Economic Growth. This one-day Summit will take place at the La-Palm Royal Beach Hotel in Accra, Ghana, on May 16, 2013.  Government and business leaders as well as entrepreneurs, donors and community leaders will gather to examine the “how” for unlocking human potential in unemployed and underemployed youth throughout Africa. The Summit will also focus on the importance of training and investing in Africa’s youth to help the continent strengthen its local communities and reach its economic growth goals.

OIC International has had a presence in Ghana since 1971 through affiliate OIC Ghana. Through this affiliate, OIC provides training in vocational skills and offers counseling, job-placement, and follow-up services to disadvantaged, unskilled, and unemployed Ghanaian youth. Youth constitute approximately 37 percent of the total labor force, but make up approximately 60 percent of total unemployment. Youth in Africa hold great potential as drivers for economic growth through participation in labor markets. However, a large youth population that is not gainfully employed can also be a liability, further undermining growth prospects. This Summit will be an opportunity to discuss ways to strengthen youth and community empowerment, one of the 21st century challenges confronting the continent.

His Excellency Mr. Daniel O. Agyekum, Ghana’s Ambassador to the United States and Crispian Kirk, President and CEO of Opportunities Industrialization Centers International (OIC International)Stated Crispian Kirk, “Technical and vocational training of Africa’s youth will equip the private and public sectors with the skilled workforce needed to support their investments and enhance their operations. Training today’s youth in Africa is a key strategic component of development and economic growth policy. I am looking forward to working not only with Ambassador Agyekum and the Government of Ghana to ensure a successful and productive Summit” For more information on and to register for the Youth Investment Summit: The Road to Economic Growth, visit www.oici.org

OIC International is a non-profit organization headquartered in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  Since 1970, OIC International has differentiated itself by creating indigenous NGOs in developing and transitional countries. OIC International’s locally registered affiliates embody the philosophy of self-reliance and operate with an independent local board and staff. This unique affiliate model was born out of the belief that the best way to foster economic change is through the empowerment of the local community. Today OIC International is building capacity of communities through technical and vocational training in agriculture livelihoods, health and nutrition.

Contact: Rashida Petersen, (202) 499-2380 ext. 288 or rpetersen@oici.org

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Equatorial Guinea Moves Towards Partnership with GB Group Global To Improve Health Standards
April 10, 2013 | 0 Comments

Equatorial Guinea  (EG) Ministry of Health meets in Washington,DC with GB Group Global andTNI Biotech (OTCBB:TNIB) to launch major innovative health solutions and improve pharmaceutical quality for its citizens.

 

 

 GB Energy Washington, D.C. The EG Ministry of Health met with Dr. Gloria B. Herndon of GB Group Global in the nation’s capital recently as part of Equitorial Guinea’s efforts to dramatically raise its standards of health care. These endeavors include building a pharmaceutical manufacturing facility in EG, implementing pharmaceutical quality control and policies,  and exploring the release of a new treatment (Low Dose Naltrexone LDN) against cancer and HIV/AIDS.

 The purpose of the visit of Dr. Diosdado-Vicente Milang Nsue, the Delegate Minister of Health & Social Services and Dr. Consuelo Ondo Efua the D i r e c t o r  G e n e r a l  o f Drug Supply and Medical Equipment, was to engage with organizations who through assistance, partnership and the sharing of best practices could close knowledge gaps and help bring improved health care to Equatorial Guineans. The visitors’ meetings with members of the medical community were facilitated by Dr. Herndon, President and Managing Member of GB Group Global andits wide ranging auxiliary companies, GB Energie, GB Pharma and GB Oncology and Imaging Group.

 Presiding over their near week-long stay, Dr. Herndon said the government of EG had included the improvement of health care as a facet of the “Industrialization Plan-2020”, which was defined by the government and stretches across all sectors of the country to focus on raising the economic level and quality of life of the country’s citizens by year 2020.

Among issues discussed, Minister Dr. Milang Nsue raised a problem rampant overseas: The need for affordable high quality medicines. “The devastating effects of substandard and counterfeit medicines in circulation lead to treatment failure, increased mortality; and the development of drug resistance.” Dr. Milang Nsue also stressed that “…establishing in Equatorial Africa a pharmaceutical manufacturing facility with an analytical laboratory would be of paramount importance.” The proposed facility was part of conversations with TNI Bio Tech Inc., GB Pharma, Gb Oncology & Imaging Group,  Howard University and the United States Pharmacopeia (USP) representatives, with whom partnerships were discussed.

The Director of Pharmacology, Dr. Ondo Efua said “With the availability of a drug manufacturing facility to treat the most current pathologies, we could secure the safety and high quality of medicines either produced in EG or imported. We would have taken an important step to halt the traffic and commercialization of the counterfeit medicines that undermine the quality of the health services delivered to our population” Further, as EG is concerned with the global struggle to combat the scourge of diseases such as HIV/AIDS and cancer, new developments regarding the therapy known asIRT-103 Low Dose Naltrexone* (LDN) were explained during the sessions with TNI Bio Tech Inc. (OTCBB:TNIB) IRT-103 is an active immunotherapy for patients with deficient functioning of the immune system. It works within the body by activating the patient’s immune system to attack and destroy cancer cells and controlling infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS. The therapy  has been hailed in other countries where it will be used as inexpensive and simple to manage, requiring only one dose each day, taken orally.

The process to initiate approval of the treatment of HIV/AIDS and cancer by IRT-103 should begin soon. This step will change the lives of the country’s citizens, by decreasing the sufferings and death of the killer diseases, and will permit Equatorial Guinea to take a leadership position in eliminating these plagues. A meeting will be held in Malabo, the capital of Equatorial Guinea, with the technical team of TNIB, GB Pharma and GB Oncology & Imaging Group in order to present the significance of IRT-103 to the medical and scientific community of EG and acquainting them with IRT-103’s most recent advances and widened scope. Concluding the sessions, Dr. Herndon said she felt the exchanges had been productive, and was pleased that “…we (GB Group Global) were able to demonstrate our commitment to viable and sustainable solutions to the issues of the citizens well being and the growth of the nation.”

 GB Group Global’s entrepreneurial founder, Dr. Gloria B. Herndon, has more than 35 years of successfully conducting business internationally. Her social give-back programs in education, healthcare and municipal development are just a few areas the GB Group champions together with its collateral partners. The GB Group currently focuses on innovative and sustainable solutions in the energy, environment and health sectors. 

                GB Group Global

                        providing innovative & sustainable solutions while doing good

 

 

MEDIA CONTACT:

Jan Du Plain

jan@duplain.com

202-486-7004

 

 

 

 

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Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Johnnie Carson briefs journalists on the upcoming elections in Kenya.
February 8, 2013 | 0 Comments

Africa Regional Media Hub
Via Teleconference
February 7, 2013

"Since 2010, the United States government has contributed more than $35 million to support electoral reform, voter education, and elections preparation. The United States elections observation effort will complement domestic observation ..."

“Since 2010, the United States government has contributed more than $35 million to support electoral reform, voter education, and elections preparation. The United States elections observation effort will complement domestic observation …”

MODERATOR: Good morning and good afternoon to everyone from Johannesburg, from the Africa Regional Media Hub with the United States Department of State. A warm welcome to our participants calling from across the continent and to the media gathered in the room in Embassy Nairobi. Today, we are joined by Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Johnnie Carson, who is speaking to us from Washington DC. We begin today with remarks from Assistant Secretary Carson and will then open it up to your questions. To ask a question press “star, 1” on your phone to join the queue. Today’s call is on the record and will last approximately 40 minutes. And with that I will turn it over to Ambassador Johnnie Carson.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CARSON: Carrie, thank you very much for the introduction and good afternoon to all the participants in this call. I am extraordinarily pleased to have the opportunity to speak with you today about Kenya’s upcoming elections. These elections are vitally important to that country’s future. Kenya has been a long standing friend and partner of the United States and probably our closest partner in East Africa, in the Horn.

These elections are vitally important. The choices that Kenyans make on March 4 will affect the stability, prosperity and reputation of Kenya for many years to come. As President Obama said earlier this week in his message, Kenya must reject intimidation and violence and allow a free and fair vote. Kenyans must resolve disputes in the courts, not in the streets. Most importantly President Obama urged Kenyans to come together even further towards a true democratic Kenya defined by the rule of law, and strong institutions which respects the rights and dignity of all Kenyans.

President Obama clearly stated that the choice of who will lead Kenya is up to the Kenyan people, but it is also important to note that choices have consequences. We live in an interconnected world and people should be thoughtful about the impact that their choices have on their nation and on the world. All Kenyans, no matter their gender, ethnicity, or geographic affiliation, have the responsibility, through their own actions, to help ensure Kenya’s elections are free, fair and peaceful, and through the election process to select the country’s leaders.

National leaders are responsible for their actions before, during, and after the elections. Accountability for political violence, including that perpetrated during the 2007 / 2008 electoral crisis is an important part of building a peaceful and prosperous country. We know very well the negative economic impact that past violence has caused Kenya. Kenya needs successful elections to ensure a stable and secure environment that will continue to attract foreign investment and to fuel the country’s economic growth and prosperity. The United States support free, fair, and peaceful elections that will help ensure Kenya’s stability and prosperity.

Since 2010, the United States government has contributed more than $35 million to support electoral reform, voter education, and elections preparation. The United States elections observation effort will complement domestic observation and other international observation programs. With this election, Kenyans have a wonderful opportunity, an enormous opportunity to build positively on the recent constitutional reforms and demonstrate to the world the vitality of Kenya’s democracy. As the president said, to all that are willing to walk this path of progress, he will continue to have a strong friend and partner in the United States of America. I am going to stop right there and thank you for listening to my opening remarks. I will take a few questions.

MODERATOR: Thank you Ambassador. We are going to start today with some questions from journalists gathered in the room in Nairobi. A quick reminder to callers to press “star 1” if you have a question and that will put you in the question queue. So I will turn it over to Chris Snipes who is moderating questions in Nairobi. Go ahead, Chris.

MR. SNIPES: Thank you very much Carrie. We do have a few questions, and we will start with a question from The Star.

QUESTION: My name is Nzau Musau, from The Star newspaper. Ambassador, I just want a clarification. The message which came from the President was interpreted in some quarters, some section of the coalition of political players in Kenya, and they say that it is an endorsement from the President that they can actually run and there would be no action later. So you can expand on the fact if there would be sanctions after the election of the ICC suspects? If indeed the President endorsed any side of the coalition? Thank you.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CARSON: Thank you very much. The President was absolutely clear that the choice of who Kenyans select as their leaders is up to the Kenyan people. We as the United States do not have a candidate nor a choice in this election process. But as I just said, choices have consequences. We live in an interconnected world and people should be thoughtful about the impact that their choices have on their nation, on their region, on the economy, on the society, and the world in which they live. Choices have consequences.

MODERATOR: Chris, we can take another one in Nairobi.

MR. SNIPES: Thank you, yes, we do have another one.

 

QUESTION: Mr Ambassador, please clarify what you mean by choices have consequences.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CARSON: Let me say very clearly that individuals have reputations, individuals have images, individuals have histories, individuals are known for who they are, and what they do, what they have said and how they act.

MODERATOR: Chris, do you have another, one more question in Nairobi?

MR. SNIPES: We have one more at this time, yes.

QUESTION: My name is Antony. I am from The People. Mr. Ambassador, I want you to clarify, or to make it straight, what position the U.S. government is going to take if Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto [inaudible] in the ICC.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CARSON: It would be presumptuous of me to engage a hypothetical answer about an outcome about which we are not certain at this point. I don’t know who is going to win the election, and so I am not going to make any judgments about any actions that might be taken about a winner or winners who are not yet known.

MODERATOR: We are going to take a question now from callers. We are going take the first question from Peter Fabricious with Independent Newspapers in South Africa.

QUESTION: Secretary Carson, thanks very much for your briefing. Could you give me some sense of the U.S. assessment of the likelihood of peaceful or violent elections? There is a growing incidence of violence in various parts of the country and concern being expressed about the possibility that this could have an impact on the election.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CARSON: Well, let me say that I think that we in the United States join with many, many across Kenya to do everything that we can to prevent a recurrence of the events that followed the 2007 elections and carried over into 2008. We have worked with groups across Kenya to reduce the prospect of violence in the forthcoming elections. We have worked with Kenyan groups to monitor, reduce, and eliminate hate speech on radio and in the print media. We have encouraged peace and reconciliation committees and communities in and across the nation. We have reached out to religious organizations, to civil society, to youth groups, to professional business groups, to women’s groups, and to local leaders, all encouraging them to discourage violence, to look at this as a peaceful process, and to avoid any kind of acts of intimidation.

There should be no place for violence in the democratic electoral process. And we are also encouraging all political leaders to foreswear violence, to sign pledges that they will not engage in violence, encourage or incite violence from their followers, and they will not tolerate it. The Kenyan justice system should not allow for impunity for those who commit violent acts or who encourage violent acts.

We have seen some local, regionalized incidents of violence in the Tana River area and around Mombasa. We look at these as a result of some longstanding political and land grievances. We hope that these things will not spill over into the political process, but it is incumbent upon all those who are friends and partners of Kenya as well as all of those who are citizens and politicians and civil society and religious and business leaders in Kenya to recognize that violence should be eliminated from the political process.

The violence that occurred after the 2007 elections into 2008 resulted in a significant loss of Kenyan GDP that resulted in a loss of tourism, tourism revenue, a loss of several billion dollars in earnings. And, because Kenya is a gateway, a hub to all of the East Africa region, when the roads between Nairobi and Kisumu were closed, it meant that there was no overland transportation into western Kenya, into Uganda, into Southern Sudan, into Burundi, Rwanda, and into the eastern Congo.

Kenya is a keystone state. It is an economic hub, a financial center, an agriculture giant, a communications node. Kenya is vitally important to every Kenyan, but it is also vitally important to the region and to the global community. Kenya’s politicians must not allow violence to dominate or interfere in this political process. It must be free. It must be fair. It must avoid ‘07 and .08, and I will say again choices have consequences. People should be thoughtful about the impact that their choices will have on the nation, and on the region, on their image, and on the country.

MODERATOR: The next question is from Channels TV in Nigeria, Amarachi Ubani.

QUESTION: Thank you so much Ambassador. You just answered my first question, so I will just go on to the second one. In the meantime, while the U.S. is helping Kenya to prevent electoral violence after the elections in March, what else is the United States doing to help strengthen the country’s democracy.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CARSON: Let me say that we have been a proud participant in efforts to strengthen Kenya’s democratic institutions. Over a number of years we have worked very closely with the Kenyan parliament to help strengthen the committee system in parliament, to strengthen the ability of the parliamentary representatives to investigate and to review legislation, to look at budgets, to develop bills and to undertake their responsibilities as legislators.

We think that we have engaged significant efforts to strengthen the ability of the parliament to hold accountable the executive branch for its actions and responsibilities. We have also worked closely with the Kenyan judiciary. We have an enormous respect for the Chief Justice of the Kenyan court, and we have work with Kenyan jurists to help strengthen the judicial process and judicial procedures. We recently invited a number of Kenyan jurists to the United States to meet with members of our own federal judiciary, and also our Supreme Court. We believe that democratic institutions play a vital part of the democratic process. We have also worked with the media and with other trade associations as well.

MODERATOR: Thank you, we are going to turn it back over to journalists in Nairobi for a few questions, and just a reminder to callers, we will come back to you, but press “star 1” to join the question queue. Go ahead Chris.

MODERATOR: Thanks Carrie, we have a question from Nzau Musau from the Star.

QUESTION: Ambassador, some of the U.S. allies in Nairobi like the British, UK, have already announced they will adopt a policy of no contact with the ICC indictees in case they get elected. So, from the U.S., for example will you consider visa ban? Is there something along that line?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CARSON: Let me just say again choice have consequences. Choices have consequences. Individuals have histories, individuals have images, individuals have reputations. When they are selected to lead their nations, those images, those histories, those reputations go along with them. They are not separated from them. Again, I am not going to speculate on what our actions will be, but we are not signatories to the ICC convention, but I underscore that we recognize and respect what the ICC is trying to do, and we try to adhere to what its main principles and goals are.

MODERATOR: Any more from the room?

MR. SNIPES: Yes, we have another question from the Nation.

QUESTION: Thank you, my name is Aggrey Mutambo from The Daily Nation. I would like to know how significant the U.S. sees Kenya in the region and the whole of Africa?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CARSON: Thank you very much. Kenya is our most important partner in East Africa and the Horn of Africa. Our friendship has been strong and durable since Kenya’s independence in 1963. Today, Kenya houses our largest embassy in Africa, not just in sub-Saharan Africa but all of Africa. Our quarters at Gigiri are the most significant diplomatic establishment that we have in Africa. Full stop. That is in recognition of our longstanding friendship and partnership, but it is also in recognition of Kenya’s overwhelming importance to the region.

As I said before to you, Kenya is the financial and transportation hub of East Africa. It is a major agriculture producer and center. It is a major manufacturing centre. What goes on in Nairobi and in Mombasa not only affects the people of Kenya, it affects all of the surrounding states. What happens on the road from Mombasa to Nairobi and from Nairobi over to Lake Victoria and Kisumu, can have enormous impact on landlocked states in the region, on Uganda, its ability to move cargo in and out, its ability to move agricultural supplies and capital goods. On Burundi. On Rwanda. Mombasa is more important as a city and as a port of entry to Bukavu, to Kisangani, to Goma, than is Kinshasa. The same can be said of Juba. And the same can be said of many places in southern Ethiopia which have better access through Kenya.

Kenya is an important partner. It is an important state, and this is why we are focused on trying to do as much as we can, along with Kenyans, along with Kenya’s friends in the international community. To appeal to all of Kenya’s political class, all of the business and commercial elite, to take seriously the need to ensure that these elections do not turn out the way that the ’07, ’08 elections occurred.

This is not the time for violence. This is the time for reconciliation and for progress. This is the time to build upon Kenya’s constitutional reforms. This is a time to take a step, a positive step forward, to make Kenya an even greater place than it is today. But the decisions are in the hands of Kenya’s voters. In Washington we are looking at Kenya as a partner, as I said before we do not select rulers for other countries, but we do believe in the democratic process, we believe in democratic institutions, and we believe that there is no place for violence or intimidation or harassment in the democratic process. It is unacceptable.

MODERATOR: We are going to turn to our callers, and the next question is from Richard Lough from Reuters, calling from Nairobi. Go ahead, your line is open.

QUESTION: Ambassador, good afternoon. My understanding is that Washington already has an essential contact only stance with ICC indictees in general. I assume that includes Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto. Could you confirm that that is indeed the case, and is it therefore fair to assume that this stance would remain in place if Kenyatta won the election, if it was deemed free and fair. And secondly, if I can ask you a question on Mali. I just wondered if you are using, I understand that you are using drones that are based in Niger, but whether the U.S. is deploying drones that are based elsewhere over the Sahara region, whether these drones are armed and whether you have plans in place for the deployment of Special Forces.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CARSON: Thank you. Let me take the first Kenya-specific question. We have, in respect to President Bashir, in individuals in Sudan who are ICC indictees, taken a position that we will not engage with them, and we have not. And I will not speculate here on what is not yet a fact. But I will say that it is clear that we have taken our distance, our diplomatic distance, certainly in the case of these individuals in Sudan who are ICC indictees, that we have not engaged with them directly. We believe that individuals who are accused of crimes against humanity should go before the courts to prove their innocence or suffer the consequences of the judgment of the courts if they are found guilty.

With respect to Mali and drones, drones are not part of the State Department’s diplomatic arsenal. I will not comment on drones, their use, or where they are located. This is not a question for public discussion by me or my office. I will say this about Mali, that we support the actions of ECOWAS, we support the actions of the French and the non-ECOWAS forces that are operating there. We believe that it is important to do everything that we can to help to eliminate the spread of al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb in Mali and in other parts of West Africa.

But I will also say very clearly that Mali is a very complicated set of issues. It is absolutely imperative that that country move back to democracy through elections. It is important that the electoral roadmap and timetable be adhered to and that we see a return to democracy there. A military solution without a democratic solution is an imperfect solution. We must also seek negotiations with the moderate Tuareg, those who renounce violence. The Tuareg, many have longstanding political grievances, legitimate and longstanding. They must be dealt with, but we also must keep focus on the elimination of AQIM as a threat not only to Mali, but the region as a whole, and we should not forget the humanitarian concerns as well.

MODERATOR: Okay, we are going to take one question from a caller, then we are going to go to Nairobi and take the final question. The next question is from Jason Straziuso with the Associated Press, calling from Nairobi.

QUESTION: Hi Ambassador, you touched on this a little, but I want going to see if you can round it out a little bit. In general, you were just talking about Sudan, not only the reaction to the individuals who might be charged but what is the economic or military, security reaction as a whole, in terms of the U.S. relations to the country if it has a leader in place that is indicted or convicted by the ICC.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CARSON: Jason, thank you for that question. I don’t want to make a comparison with Sudan in its totality because Sudan is a special case in many ways. We have comprehensive economic and commercial sanctions on Sudan. Some of our most rigid and tough sanctions in the world, but those sanctions are there as a result of actions that occurred in Darfur and also because of Sudan’s support in the past for terrorist organizations. Sudan is on our state sponsored terrorism list. It is against U.S. law for us to trade with Sudan, to have any financial transactions with Sudan, to fly any commercial airplanes into Sudan or have any American registered ships go into Sudanese ports. Many of those sanctions deal with the government’s mishandling of the situation in Darfur, and the government’s past support of terrorists and terrorist organizations. None of that, none of that applies to Kenya. Again, it is a different set of circumstances.

Let me just also add here, Jason, if I would, I am going to come back to this point, choices matter. Choices matter and they have consequences. We live in an interconnected world. People should realize that their choices have an impact, and this impact can be in terms of a country’s image, it can be in terms of how leaders and countries are perceived, and people make choices in a global community on the basis of images, and on the basis of past histories, of things that have occurred. These things are not in isolation.

MODERATOR: Thank you. We are going to take the last question from Nairobi. So Chris, I will turn it over to you.

MR. SNIPES: Thank you very much Carrie, we have one more question from The Standard.

QUESTION: Thank you, my name is Moses Njagi from The Standard. Ambassador, you have repeatedly said that choices have consequences. Is that to say that the U.S. for example would have the [inaudible] if they go ahead and elect persons who have tainted images?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CARSON: Again I am not prejudging who Kenyan voters will select. That is a choice for Kenyans to make. It is a choice only for Kenyans to make. But we do live in a broad global interconnected community and as I said, it is difficult to separate a person or persons from their images and from their histories and from their actions. It’s inevitable, it’s around the world, it’s not one place but everywhere and every place.

MODERATOR: Thank you. That concludes today’s call. I would like to thank Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Johnnie Carson, for joining us and thank all of our callers for participating. If you have any questions about today’s call, please contact the Africa Regional Media Hub at afmediahub@state.gov. Thank you so much.

 

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