Gambia: Barrow Leaves for France
March 14, 2017 | 0 Comments
President Adama Barrow, accompanied by a high-powered delegation, this morning left for Paris, France, on a state visit upon the invitation of his French counterpart, President Franchois Hollande, the Office of the President has announced.
During the two-day visit, the Gambian leader is expected to discuss with his French counterpart areas of cooperation such as in the field of telecommunications, trade, energy and education.
With the new Gambia, the government can seek support and financial assistance to promote human rights and good governance in The Gambia.
From Paris, President Barrow will be going to Belgium, on 16 March, for a daylong visit, where he will discuss with members of the European Union financial support to boost The Gambia’s economy since he inherited “empty government coffers”.
New State House
Meanwhile, before travelling to France, yesterday he moved from Kairaba Hotel to the vice president’s residence in Fajara which he would be using as an office.
His Excellency the President and delegation departed Banjul International Airport at 3:00a.m in the early hours of today Tuesday, 14 March 2017, and those invited to see him off were requested to be at the airport half an hour before departure for the usual ceremonies.
Africa gets its own web address with launch of .africa
March 10, 2017 | 0 Comments
Africa now has the unique web address .africa, equivalent to the more familiar .com, following its official launch by the African Union.
AU commission chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma hailed its creation as the moment when Africa “got [its] own digital identity”.
The AU says the .africa domain name will “bring the continent together as an internet community”.
Addresses can now reflect a company’s interest in the whole of Africa.
For example, a mobile phone company could create mobile.africa to show its Africa-wide presence, or a travel company could set up travel.africa.
Icann, the body that establishes these addresses known as generic Top-Level Domains, approved the move, after lobbying by the AU.
The campaign was spearheaded by a South African company ZA Central Registry (ZACR), which will now be responsible for registering .africa names.
ZACR’s boss Lucky Masilela said that .africa addresses could cost as little as $18 (£15), AFP news agency quotes him as saying, and registration will start in July.
Other domain names recently created by Icann, include .fun, .phone and .hair.
Nigeria signals normality by putting Buhari’s deputy in charge
February 21, 2017 | 0 Comments
Uncertainty over health of President Buhari
* Vice President Osinbajo running the country
* Investors hope he will enforce economic reforms
By Ulf Laessing*
LAGOS, Feb 20 (Reuters) – Nigeria’s deputy leader is making wide use of powers granted by President Muhammadu Buhari, who is on extended sick leave abroad, as the country seeks to avoid a debilitating power vacuum while it confronts its first recession in 25 years.
The West African oil-producing nation was gripped by instability in 2010 when then President Umaru Yar’Adua spent three months in a Saudi hospital while his aides shrouded his illness in secrecy. His deputy Goodluck Jonathan only took over after he died in the midst of a constitutional crisis.
The Nigerian stock exchange, already hit by recession, has fallen to a nine-month low on the uncertainty over Buhari. But officials are keen to avoid the mistakes of the past and drive home the message that government work will continue whatever happens.
Before Buhari left home almost a month ago to be treated in Britain for an undisclosed illness, the 74-year-old appointed his deputy, Yemi Osinbajo, as Acting President.
“The nation came to a political standstill because of the failure of Yar’Adua to submit a letter transferring power to Vice President Jonathan,” a government official said, asking not to be named.
“In this present scenario this is not the case. No vacuum was left because President Buhari sent a letter to the National Assembly,” he said.
Osinbajo has thrown himself into his work, holding cabinet meetings and travelling to the Niger Delta in an attempt to end militant attacks on oil facilities which cost up to $100 billion in lost revenues in 2016.
Investors welcome the fact that the government will not postpone a long-awaited reform plan intended to stimulate an economy hit by low oil prices.
“Obviously the fact that the president is away creates uncertainty, but we believe Vice President Osinbajo is capable of running things in the meantime,” said Cobus de Hart, senior economist at South Africa’s NKC African Economics.
Officials refuse to disclose what is ailing Buhari, saying only that he has been having tests and is not in a serious condition.
Diplomats say Buhari has made several visits to Britain to see his doctor, routing official trips even to destinations as far afield as Asia via London so as not to have to declare medical leave all the time.
In contrast to Yar’Adua, whom officials cut off from the world on his sickbed in Saudi Arabia, the presidency publishes almost daily pictures of Buhari receiving visitors in his London drawing room. He took a phone call from U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday, both administrations say.
In an indication that his British stay might drag on, the speakers of both of Nigeria’s chambers of parliament flew to meet Buhari at Abuja House, a Nigerian government residence in west London, according to an official picture.
“I thanked them for visiting. I am also grateful to Nigerians, Christians and Muslims alike, for their prayers and kind wishes for my health,” a smiling but thinner-looking Buhari said, according to an official tweet late on Wednesday.
Some Nigerians have been getting worried.
“Nigerians are supposed to know the health condition of the president, just like the head of the family is sick and the doctor is holding back the health condition from his family,” said Olugbolahan, an engineer from Lagos.
The arrangement with Osinbajo ensures the day-to-day running of government business. But the long-term risk is that the Muslim north, where Buhari hails from, might not accept Osinbajo as a permanent solution if the president became incapacitated at some point.
Osinbajo is a Christian lawyer from the commercial capital Lagos in the south. He has shown conspicuous loyalty to Buhari and given no sign that he plans to run for president himself.
Traditionally in Nigeria, the leadership rotates between north and south to ensure a balance in a country evenly split between Muslims and Christians. The capital, Abuja, is placed right in the centre as symbol of unity.
Jonathan, a Christian from the south, upset many northerners by refusing to give way to a northern candidate. Northerners felt there should have been another northern presidential term after Yar’Adua’s death. Hundreds were killed in riots after Jonathan’s election in 2011.
For now investors and Nigerian firms hope Osinbajo will enforce reforms to drum up badly needed investment.
He took advantage of Buhari’s absence abroad last year to float the idea of a more flexible foreign exchange policy, which paved the way for an overdue devaluation of the naira.
Osinbajo has been always been in charge of the economy but Buhari has left him little space, subscribing to the view that a strong country needs a strong currency.
Keeping the naira artificially high has deterred investors, who assume Nigeria will have to devalue again. This week, the naira hit a new low at 516 to the dollar on the black market, where importing firms need to go for their dollars, in contrast to the official rate of around 305.
“Some of his (Osinbajo’s) statements have conveyed a more liberal approach to economic policy, which is a good sign,” said de Hart.
Over the past few weeks, Osinbajo, 59, has been pursuing the economic recovery plan required if Nigeria is to obtain a World Bank loan to fund its record deficit.
“We are doing some fine-tuning and during this period we also do some final consultation before the president launches the plan,” budget minister Udoma Udo Udoma said after a cabinet meeting chaired by Osinbajo on Wednesday.
Osinbajo this week also proposed legalizing illicit oil refineries in the Delta, where an army campaign against them has been fuelling tensions. Makeshift facilities refining stolen crude oil are often the only places young men can find work in the impoverished region.
“Within that week he (Buhari) left, there have been a lot of meetings, a lot of committees were being formed by the vice president,” said Oloyede Kamoru, a Lagos businessman. “So why are we complaining that we want to see the man (Buhari)? His absence is not having any impact on the economic issue.”
Gambia First:On the promises and dangers of the New Gambia’s new and improved relationships with donors.
February 17, 2017 | 0 Comments
By Marika Tsolakis*
On the promises and dangers of the New Gambia’s new and improved relationships with donors.
Yesterday, UK foreign minister Boris Johnson visited The Gambia, marking another example of the country’s improved relationships with international partners under the new administration of President Adama Barrow.
Johnson’s visit follows that of EU commissioner Neven Mimica last week, who announced a €225 million ($237 million) aid package for the West African country with a population of just 2 million.
High-profile visits like these signal that democratic transitions in West Africa are rewarded quickly and generously. And after years of external isolation and internal mismanagement, The Gambia requires strong partnerships to find its footing as West Africa’s newest democracy.
Nonetheless, discourses and motives of renewed partnerships should be subject to scrutiny by The Gambia’s new leadership. For the good of the country, it is imperative that equality and respect are at the heart of these aid deals and cooperation agreements.
For example, in 2016, The Gambia received €14.9 million ($15.7 million) from the EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa, a resource set up to curb “ongoing unprecedented levels of irregular migration” into Europe.
Of this package, €11 million ($11.6 million) went to a youth employment project and €3.9 million ($4.1 million) towards the “return and reintegration” of Gambian migrants to the EU.
Funding from the Emergency Trust Fund primarily intends to halt the influx of Gambians crossing into Europe, and such a partnership is potentially marred by an exclusionary undertone – namely that Gambian migrants are undesirable within Europe’s borders and that pumping money to keep them at home is the solution.
Though Gambia’s new EU aid package will not necessarily be drawn from the same migration trust fund, similar ideological underpinnings could exist in future projects and should be scrutinised by Gambian counterparts.
Who holds the power?
In terms of the UK, Johnson’s pronouncement of re-entry into the Commonwealth of Nations is well received by the local population, many of whom still mourn the country’s exit in 2013. “Without the Commonwealth, who else do we have?” asked an administrator at a British school in Fajara.
During his visit, Johnson also confirmed that the UK Department for International Development (DFID) funds, whose bilateral aid programme has been halted since 2011, would soon restart. He suggested that education would be key point of focus.
However, echoing the EU Trust Fund’s mandate, Johnson also underscored the importance of security for UK-Gambia relations, noting that “tackling the migration crisis is absolutely vital for Europe as well as for Africa”.
While Johnson’s press conference had a light-hearted tone, at one point referring to the former president as a “Jammeh Dodger”, the underlying messages regarding security and migration should be taken seriously.
A broad swath of the Gambian population embraces Commonwealth membership and foreign partnerships as a symbolic undoing of damage accrued during Yahya Jammeh’s rule. However, taking a careful and critical stance on membership in what Jammeh once called a “neo-colonial” institution may not be entirely misguided.
Such partnerships are almost always accompanied by politics, pressures and strings attached. And in a very small and very poor country like The Gambia, power imbalances have the potential to become magnified. As such, the new government must ensure that the nation’s trajectory follows its own vision and objectives, and not those of international donors.
As a new democracy, such independence is even more important in establishing a homegrown national agenda. Furthermore, it will ensure candidates of the new ruling coalition remain legitimate and avoid accusations of serving as a puppet of international interests. In Côte d’Ivoire, President Alassane Ouattara still grapples with accusations of illegitimacy due to his relationship with France before and after the 2010 elections and his continuation of neoliberal policies that benefit the country’s former colonial power.
Aid and development work can improve the lives of people in The Gambia. The danger, however, is in viewing this cash influx as a magic bullet. The reality is that The Gambia has its work set out and it will take years to rebuild and create new institutions and capacities. No amount of money or memberships in international organisations will accomplish this.
Johnson’s visit to The Gambia marks the end of a long period of economic stagnation and seclusion and the beginning of what locals are calling “The New Gambia”. As these streams of money flow in, international partners should carefully consider the underlying aims of their agendas and avenues of their enactment.
But more importantly, the Gambian government and local organisations that receive international aid must remain strong and predefine where, how and to what ends they require support for the country’s own vision and agenda.
Dr Marika Tsolakis is a Postdoctoral Fellow at UCL Institute of Education and SOAS, funded through the ESRC Global Challenges Research Fund. Her research focuses on youth, non-formal learning and political discussion in West Africa. She is currently based in Fajara, The Gambia.
Ramaphosa Makes His Play in South Africa’s Succession Race
February 1, 2017 | 0 Comments
Deputy President say ruling ANC under ‘severe strain’
Dlamini-Zuma seen as Ramaphosa’s main challenger to lead party
South African Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa appears to have hit the campaign trail for the leadership of the ruling African National Congress, criticizing the way it’s being run.
“Our movement is currently under severe strain,” Ramaphosa, 64, said in a speech Monday in the southern coast town of George. “Disunity, mistrust and organizational weakness is undermining our ability to address the challenges that confront our people.”
While the ANC prevents contenders from declaring their candidacy now for the new leadership that will be elected at a Dec. 16-20 conference, lobbying is already under way. The winner of the contest will take a lead role in directing government policy and will likely become the nation’s president in 2019.
President Jacob Zuma’s ex-wife, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, the 68-year-old former chairwoman of the African Union Commission, has received the public support of the ANC’s Women’s League. Ramaphosa is backed by the main labor federation.
“Ramaphosa seems to be making his play,” Zwelethu Jolobe, a politics lecturer at the University of Cape Town, said by phone. “There is a general consensus that the Zuma legacy is not a good one. Ramaphosa is presenting himself as an alternative.”
Zuma, 74, has been embroiled in a succession of scandals since he took office in May 2009, including a finding by the nation’s top court that he violated his oath of office when he failed to repay taxpayer money spent on his private home. The nation’s graft ombudsman implied in a report last year that Zuma allowed the Gupta family, who are in business with his son, to influence cabinet appointments and the awarding of state contracts. Zuma and the Guptas deny any wrongdoing.
In his Monday speech, Ramaphosa said the ANC had at times been “infiltrated by individuals and companies seeking preferential access to state business.” Earlier this month, he said that “much of the factionalism in our movement is rooted in a competition for access to resources.”
Zuma’s travails have helped loosen the stranglehold the ANC had held over South African politics since it took power under Nelson Mandela in the nation’s first multiracial elections almost 23 years ago. In a municipal vote last year, it lost control of Pretoria, the capital, and the economic hub of Johannesburg to opposition-party alliances.
A lawyer who co-founded the National Union of Mineworkers, Ramaphosa helped negotiate a peaceful end to apartheid and draft South Africa’s first democratic constitution. He lost out to Thabo Mbeki in the contest to succeed Nelson Mandela as president in 1999 and went into business, securing control of the McDonald’s franchise in South Africa and amassing a fortune before returning to full-time politics in 2012 as the ANC’s deputy president.
While Zuma hasn’t publicly supported Dlamini-Zuma, he told state-owned Motsweding FM radio on Jan. 12 the ANC is ready for a female leader and the job won’t automatically go to Ramaphosa. Zuma may be considering appointing Dlamini-Zuma to his cabinet to ease her path to succeed him, government officials have said.
“Everybody is looking toward the post-Zuma era,” Jolobe said. “Either you are in the camp that seeks to affirm his legacy or you are distancing yourself from it. That is what Ramaphosa appears to be doing.”
UN Security Council Rejects Arms Embargo on South Sudan
December 24, 2016 | 0 Comments
The United Nations Security Council has rejected a U.S.-drafted resolution to impose sanctions and an arms embargo on South Sudan.
The measure received seven votes in favor, while eight countries abstained. The resolution needed nine votes to pass, as well as no vetoes by permanent council members.
Russia, China, Japan, Malaysia, Venezuela and three African council members — Angola, Egypt and Senegal — all abstained.
The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, said the United States is “extremely disappointed” by the outcome of the vote, but not surprised.
“We are very, very worried about what lies ahead and we think it’s very important that peoples’ votes are now on the record. When the U.N. is warning genocide, eight countries chose not to be counted when it mattered for the people of South Sudan,” she said.
The United States, backed by Britain and France, had argued that the resolution would have helped to cut arms sales to South Sudan and was a necessary step to take in light of U.N. warnings of mass atrocities.
The U.N. says Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who has warned that South Sudan is on the verge of genocide, was “deeply disappointed” in the vote. A U.N. spokesman said the secretary-general was disappointed that “the council would not take this obvious and necessary step to help avert such a situation.”
Opponents of the sanctions said the United States was ignoring South Sudan President Salva Kiir’s recent speech to parliament calling for a national dialogue to restore peace, and said his initiative should be given a chance.
Japan, which has 350 troops serving in the U.N. mission in South Sudan, also argued that the resolution would have antagonized Kiir’s administration and could have put peacekeepers at risk.
Human Rights Watch criticized the move to defeat the resolution. “The Security Council had an opportunity to show that it stands with the civilian victims of this conflict,” said Akshaya Kumar, deputy United Nations director at Human Rights Watch. “Instead, this failure gives the warring parties in South Sudan a green light to buy more weapons and material that will end up being used against civilians.”
The Security Council unanimously extended its peacekeeping mission in South Sudan for another year a few days ago. The mission covers a new regional force of 4,000 troops, which the council approved in August but have yet to be deployed, in addition to the approximately 13,000 peacekeepers already there.
The relationship between South Sudan’s government and the U.N. mission has been tense. South Sudan initially rejected a U.S. proposal to deploy an additional 4,000 peacekeepers in the wake of the fighting in July, but now has agreed to allow them, even though the technicalities are still being worked out.
South Sudan became the world’s youngest nation in 2011 when it gained independence from Sudan. Hopes were high that South Sudan could leave behind decades of civil war with Sudan. In 2013, however, South Sudan descended into a new war stemming from political rivalry between Kiir, an ethnic Dinka, and his former deputy, Riek Machar, an ethnic Nuer.
Carlos Lopes to Step Down from ECA End of October
September 30, 2016 | 0 Comments
Executive Secretary, Carlos Lopes, of the Economic Commission for Africa officially told ECA staff Thursday that he was stepping down from the organization he has led for the past four years.
Speaking at a town hall meeting, Mr. Lopes, who joined the ECA as its eighth Executive Secretary in September 2012, said he was proud of what the ECA had collectively achieved during the last four years, in particular the production of quality and credible products like the Economic Report on Africa, Country Profiles and others, that are increasingly being used by Member States in policy formulation, among other things.
He commended the ECA staff for what he said were their tremendous efforts in supporting and working with him in his vision to make sure the ECA became a think tank of repute on the continent, making a difference in the lives of Africans through various products that are and will continue to make a positive impact long after his departure.
“ECA has gone up quite considerably in terms of image and credibility in terms of its work and I’m sure people feel it in their interactions everyday with our interlocutors,” Mr. Lopes said, adding the ECA did indeed live by the model of Africa First in all its work in pushing for the development of the continent through structural transformation, industrialization and regional integration, among others.
“We have done it because of Africa. There’s a lot to be proud of and I’m very proud of what we have been able to achieve together and this is the reason why I have confidence that the ECA will continue to shine. My wish, hope and conviction is that the ECA will continue to shine,” he told the ECA employees.
Mr. Lopes, who was flanked by his two deputies, Abdalla Hamdok, Chief Economist and Deputy Executive Secretary, Knowledge Generation Pillar, and Giovanie Biha Deputy Executive Secretary for Knowledge Delivery, said he had no doubt that from what the ECA has been able to deliver during his tenure, the organization will collectively continue to work together with its strategic partners like the African Union and the African Development Bank to promote Africa’s economic development.
Speaker after speaker praised Mr. Lopes for, among other things, the role he played in reforming the ECA and taking the relationship between the organization, its partners and member states to a higher level, beautifying the ECA compound, leading the organization to host big conferences impacting on Africa’s development and empowering employees across the shop floor, mostly ensuring there was gender parity in the organization.
He leaves the organization on the 30 th of October.
Economic Commission for Africa
PO Box 3001
Tel: +251 11 551 5826
Buhari to Militants: Nigeria’s Unity Not Negotiable –
July 6, 2016 | 0 Comments
AGAINST the background of incessant bombings of oil and gas installations in the Niger Delta by the Niger Delta Avengers, NDA, which apparently threaten the peace and unity of the country, President Mohammadu Buhari has stated that Nigeria’s unity is not negotiable.
He also warned looters of the public treasures to return their loots as a condition for their personal peace.
The President gave the warning while receiving a cross section of Nigerians most whom were Muslims who were in his residence within the precinct of the presidential villa to pay him sallah homage on Wednesday.
The President who recalled the famous quotes of former Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon said that the task of keeping Nigeria as one indivisible entity was a task that must be done. He said: “We have to concentrate on the militants to try to know how many of them in terms of groupings, try to get in touch with their leadership, to try to persuade them to please give Nigeria a chance.
“I assure them that when we were very junior officers, we were told by our leaders, by the Head of State which was Gen. Gowon that to keep Nigeria one is a task that must be done…we never thought of oil. What we were after is one Nigeria. Please, pass the message to the militants that one Nigeria is not negotiable. And I pray they better accept it. The constitution is very clear…I assure them there would be justice.
“And please persuade those who have plenty of money that does not belong to them to try and negotiate, return it in peace so that both them and us will be in peace otherwise we will continue to request”.
African Agriculture Can Help Tackle Refugee Crisis
June 27, 2016 | 0 Comments
As the head of an international agricultural development organisation working in Africa, I am often asked why we don’t work to address the current migrant crisis from Africa that has overwhelmed Europe.
The question directed to me is usually a sincere one, not borne of xenophobia or racism, but rather from a deep frustration that in our advanced and sophisticated 21st century society we should not be witnessing such scenes, night after night on our television screens.
My answer to such questions is a short one. We are.
For it is only by improving the economic circumstances of rural poor people in Africa that we will ultimately provide them with an acceptable alternative to the hugely risky, life-threatening and demeaning choices currently being taken by millions, as they uproot from their communities and take their lives into their own hands in search of ‘a better life’ somewhere else.
Noone who has ever visited a refugee camp, which I have done many times during a 30-years career that included many years in humanitarian relief, would ever describe these places as anything other than a stopgap. As the name itself suggests it is a place of refuge from something terrible that is occurring elsewhere. It is not the ‘better life’ that millions are taking huge risks to seek out.
EU plan, announced this month, sets out a framework that the Union believe can tackle some of the root causes of migration from Africa.
While the ‘carrot and stick’ approach in these proposals – which include a combination of aid and trade incentives – has been criticized by some African countries, and by aid organisations, it should be viewed as a step towards addressing the underlying cause of much of the current crisis, poverty.
Only by boosting growth in economies, creating jobs, and ensuring that countries can provide a future for their populations will the current flood of migration be resolved.
Building walls, Brexit opt-out campaigns or any number of breaches by Euro states of the Schengen freedom of movement charter are reactions, rather than solutions, to a problem that has been with us for generations.
For too long we have failed to properly solve the problem of extreme poverty that continues to cast an enormous shadow across developing countries of the world. That there are almost 800 million people worldwide living in extreme poverty – that’s one in nine of our global population – is proof enough that we are continuing to fail the poorest, and the most vulnerable.
In the current clamour over immigration to Europe it is often overlooked that such mass movement of people is placing a huge burden on the fabric of society across Africa, as well.
Figures released in 2015 showed that the top six destinations for African refugees and migrants were within the continent of Africa itself. The figures were: Ethiopia (659,524), Kenya (551,352), Chad (452,897), Uganda (385,513), Cameroon (264,126) and South Sudan (248,152), who collectively were accommodating 2,561,564 people of foreign origin in camps within their countries.
Interviews that have been given by refugees themselves – whether in Kenya or in Calais – tell us that if given the choice, the vast majority of those who make the perilous journey across the Mediterranean Sea to Europe would not do so, if their futures at home were not so bleak.
People aren’t only moving across international borders in search of a better life either. There is also an accelerating pattern of rural to urban migration taking place in sub-Saharan Africa that is placing a huge burden on national services.
Africa will become the most rapidly urbanized region on the planet in the coming 25 years, as the number of people living in its cities is projected to soar to 56% of the population, according to UN estimates. That means that many more shantytowns like Kiberi, an urban slum of one million people outside Nairobi, Kenya, will spring up across Africa in the years to come.
At Self Help Africa our focus is on supporting rural poor communities to support their populations through an innovative mix of agricultural and enterprise development activities.
By supporting rural poor households to grow more, and access profitable markets for their produce, Africa’s small-scale farming families can realise the better future that they desire for themselves and their communities.
There is no quick fix to the problems of extreme poverty in sub-Saharan Africa, just as there is no quick fix to the current migrant crisis in Europe. But there are many steps that can be taken to move us in the right direction.
Self Help Africa believes that by contributing to the creation of an economically vibrant African agricultural sector, we can play our part in tackling this challenge.
And in the same way, the announcement by the European Union of a combination of new aid and trade deals with Africa to support economic growth, has to be regarded as a positive approach to a crisis that has been going on for too long.
THE SOUL OF THE BLACK RACE: TERRORIST FIGHT THYSELF?
June 26, 2016 | 0 Comments
Chief Charles A. Taku*
Permit me to repost an article I published in the very reputable Pan African Vision sometime late last year. The decision to republish it is informed by the urgency of the message I wish to bring to the attention of the public.
In the reposted article below, I stated that a careful observation of some of the characteristics of Boko Haram pointed to the fact that although undoubtedly a terrorist organization, it seemed also to be a political tool at the service of political interests working independently or in aggregate in or out of Africa.
The politicization of terrorism is not new. It is not an African creation. It is a significant driving force behind the struggle for power and control at national and international levels. For this reason, it should surprise no one that some of those who set out to lead the war against terrorism made the conditions that led to terrorism possible. Also, once engaged in the war against terrorism, they gain politically from their participation in the war. At times it is by political calculation as opposed to pure military and security objectives that these individuals and forces define the enemy; evaluate and allocate the resources required to sustain the war effort, and the ways and means of wining the hearts and minds of the civilian victims of the war against terrorism.
One of the difficulties in conducting the war against terrorism is the paucity of an acceptable definition of terrorism. Terrorism so far eludes a universally acceptable legal definition leading instead to the criminalization of acts of terror. This however has not precluded some countries and organizations from defining terrorism in manners that suit their national, geo-political and hegemonistic interests to justify a declaration of war or participation in it once it is declared.
The world today is confronted with terrorism and terrorist organizations as actors which were not in contemplation in 1946 at the creation of the United Nations. The UN Charter in its article 51 did not contemplate the fact that non state actors will play an important role in international relations. The UN Security Council and state parties, led by the super powers and power blocs under their control have been innovative in pushing the frontiers of international legality to the extent of establishing new legal concepts to justify their military interventions in several armed conflicts worldwide. The use of these new legal concepts as justification for military interventions has impacted the international law environment where diplomacy and the instrument of international rule of law were hitherto the acceptable means of fighting impunity. These traditional means of fighting impunity promoted and encouraged the enthronement universal peace for all nations, big and small. The implementation of these new concepts have created new conflicts and conferred legitimacy on some criminal non-state actors; in the result, contradicting the very rationale for which these policies were conceived.
Through its Responsibility to Protect Mandate for example, the Security Council in contemporary times validated the NATO intervention in the Balkan conflict. This led to the indiscriminate massive bombardment of the territory and civilian population of the former Yugoslavia. These would have been categorized as war crimes and investigated as such had the key to international justice not been in the hands of the super powers members of the Security Council and NATO.
NATO’s unjustified bombardment and near destruction of Libya led to Libya becoming a terrorist haven and the Launchpad for intercontinental terror. Similarly the US intervention in Iraq on the fallacious ground that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction and was non-compliant with a UN Security Council Resolution emboldened the forces of terror worldwide. In particular it emboldened US and its coalition of the willing supposed allied jihadists who unsuccessfully fought for years using terror to overthrow Saddam Hussein. The legitimacy accorded these non-state actors jihadist forces and terrorist organizations contributed to the spread and use of terror as an instrument of political expression and acquisition of power.
Eluding a clear definition and a UN Charter authority, some of the measures undertaken to counter the emerging challenges posed by these non-state actors have in context been interpreted as acts of terror making the prosecution of terrorism as an international crimes hard. Just as terrorism threatens our common humanity, the uncontrolled bombardment of civilian populations and civilian targets violate the Laws and Customs of War and the Geneva Conventions (1949) and constitutes a significant to our common humanity as well. Whereas the civilian population of the world is protected against the perpetration of war crimes, crimes against humanity and other international crimes and the Geneva Conventions (1949) offers a general legal framework for the prosecution of these crimes when they occur, the crime of terrorism still lacks an adequate legal frame work to prosecute. This is slur on the conscience of humanity .
Unfortunately the so-called free world which prides itself as the custodians of civilized human values have contributed to the rise in profile of international criminal gangs and international criminality. The French and UN bombardment of Cote D’Ivoire caused massive civilian casualties and facilitated regime change. In the Libyan situation, NATO intervention and the UN Security Council support for the said intervention accorded a de facto recognition to criminal gangs and terrorist organizations that were classified as allies and provided the training and weapons to fight to overthrow and assassinate Mouamar El Kaddafi. ISIS and other criminal gangs today control Libya, a sovereign African nation thanks to NATO intervention and the UN Security Council support.
Libya today is a symbol of death for the Libyan people. It is a symbol of death for the rest of humanity judging from the hundreds of thousands of Africans immigrants led loose to die in the Mediterranean sea by criminal gangs now occupying and ruling Libya. Facilitating the death of these African immigrants provides these gangs with the resources with which to sustain its hold on the territory of Libya and to further the perpetration of their criminal activities.
The effect and impact of these unprecedented acts of international lawlessness on the African continent and the humanitarian immigration tragedy in the Sahara desert and the Mediterranean as well the rising profile of terrorist groups in the African Sahel is heart wrenching. The massive amount of weaponry that the French army dropped to these criminal supposed allies to fight to topple Kaddafi; allies who were well known terrorists, today accounts for the devastation caused by terrorists in their senseless slaughter of armless men, women and children throughout the African Sahel and beyond.
This is but part of a complex web of criminality on which Western peddlers of supposed democratic values rely on to justify regime change, or encourage and sponsor their stooges and political lackeys to ride on the wave of terror inflicted on the citizenry in their African vassal states to power. A critical review of the manner in which the war against terror has been fought in Nigeria a year after President Buhari came to power; in Cameroon, Chad and Niger establishes a pattern that justifies my opinion in the Pan African Vision that Boko Haram is hated and loved in equal measure by power seekers in the Boko Haram war afflicted countries.
Although a significant ally in the regional war against Boko Haram, Nigeria has so far considered the war against Boko Haram within its national territory as an insurgency. This has implications in international law regarding the character of the conflict. Yet the national and trans border devastation caused by the Boko Haram war against mainly civilians and civilian targets was serious enough for President Buhari to ride on the disaffection with the inability of his predecessor Goodluck Jonathan to end the insurgency among other factors to power. He did so, by promising to end the insurgency within his first hundred days in power. Like most of his election promises, this has proved to be false. It is predictable that by mere political calculations, by the end of his first mandate in three years Boko Haram will still be a stark reality in the lives of Nigerians.
Many observers believe that had President Buhari deployed the same zeal he has deployed to selectively target his PDP political opponents in his war against corruption in identifying and incapacitating the sponsors of Boko Haram, its resources and its elaborate terrorist structure, the Boko Haram insurgency would have ended in his one hundred days in power. That he has not done so and will not predictably do so lest it opens a can of warms that may lead right to the political structures and the resources that brought him to power is becoming a reality by the day. One of the known resources that is close to the Buhari political establishment and which he shares a platform with Boko Haram is political Islam. The elaborate confederate structure of Islamic political power brokers in Northern Nigeria believes in the northernisation of power in Nigeria. It is hard to enquire into and investigate the elaborate network and resources of Boko Haram and other violent political networks in essentially feudal Northern Nigeria without unsettling this powerful Islamic political base. Its influence transcends the entire northern political power establishment.
In Cameroon, the French neo-colonial contraption that took over power after the assassination of the total-independence ideological leaders deployed state terrorism as a tool of political control and economic despoliation. The genocide of the Bamileke’s and the Bassas; the ongoing state terrorism against citizens and the territory of Ambazonia (Southern Cameroons) and the rise of Boko Haram gave the regime of personal power for half a century, a viable reason to justify its eternalization political power supposedly to face the challenges posed by terrorism. This neo-colonial policy, a variant of the so-called the policy of France-Afrique requires the fueling of internecine conflicts and terrorism to justify control by France of its African vassal possessions.
The fact that Cameroon and Nigeria needed the intervention of France to join forces to combat a supposed common enemy despite the fact that the Lake Chad Basin Commission to which both countries belong provided a multilateral regional treaty framework to join forces to confront this challenge, better explains the negative neo-colonial mindset of supposed leaders of independent African countries and the neo-colonial political patronage sustaining the conflicts and their power base.
This painful assessment of the African condition and that of the black race in the fight against terrorism is a powerful indictment of African intellectuals, in particular lawyers, African politicians, and most important African masses. It challenges the black race and Africa to critical soul searching on how to bring peace and development to our troubled continent. Africa and black people the world over must stop portraying ourselves as laughing stocks.
The number of black peoples and Africans in particular dying in painful circumstances fleeing from a continent at a self-destructive wars with itself but which prides itself as the depository of a majority the world’s natural resources must prick our consciences to critically think about how to protect our continent and resources for our common good.
The time to proclaim an end to neo-colonial remote- controlled governance by proxy has come. The time to stop the plunder of the resources of the continent is now. The time to say no to the individual and collective slaughter of our own people is now. The time to say no to diseases that are devastating Africa and the black race is now. The time to put an end to the search of power for the sake of power is now. The time to put an end to massive corruption and abuse of power is now. Africa and the black race must rise again to say no to impunity. Africa must demonstrate that it can stand and survive on its own and provide African solutions to African problems.
To set this agenda rolling, we need to go back to the drawing board and invoke the spirits and seek the inspiration of the pioneers of black emancipation, genuine freedom, and self-preservation like Marcus Garvey, Osageyfo Dr Kwame Nkrumah, George Padmore, C.L.R James, Mwalimu Julius Kambarage Nyerere, Milton Obote, Patrice Lumumba, Ruben Um Nyobe, Ernest Ouandie, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Zik of Great Africa, Anthony Enahoro, Aminu Kano, Augustine Ngom Jua, Nelson Mandela, Amilcar Cabral, Agostino Neto, Samora Machel, Bate Besong, Fontem Asonganyi, Thomas Sankara and many others to recommence a genuine discussion about the issues confronting us to seek genuine solutions.
We must look ourselves in the mirror of history, scrutinize our past to find out what went wrong; the present to seek lasting solutions to enable us confront the future with visionary hope. . The black race in general and Africa in particular can no long accept to be used as guinea pigs on which new concepts in international criminal justice are tested in foreign far away courts while we have the capacity to end impunity and criminality against our people.
Lest we forget the many wars in the continent and the proliferation of weapons and resources used in prosecuting these wars have eluded investigations by the ICC, the UN Security Council and the Ad Hoc Tribunals established to investigate supposed African crimes. These crimes and the distinctive category of perpetrators may never be investigated by the governments of the afflicted African countries either. It is common knowledge that Africa does not manufacture the weapons used to commit these crimes on the African continent. It is also common knowledge that the weapons are supplied to foment the armed conflicts by individuals, countries and forces out of the African continent. We call them arms for minerals merchants. To request and expect investigation of these weapon merchants tantamount to tasking terrorists to investigate themselves. This will be a tough sell to largely external criminal syndicates to whom Africa has sold its soul.
Chief Charles A. Taku
PAN AFRICAN VISION
BOKO HARAM: REDEFINING THE ENEMY
By Chief Charles A. Taku
There is a fundamental obligation in all armed conflicts (internal, international or mixed) for conflicting armies to define the enemy. This definition is often reviewed to take into consideration the complexity of the conflict, the nature of the enemy, and the resources at its disposal, its intelligence gathering capacity, its operational capability and its war efforts. Without this definition, the danger is great, that military operations may be deployed towards the wrong targets, undermining the war effort, security policy and the perpetration of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.
DEFINING THE ENEMY
Although the definition of the enemy is the preserve of every army high command, the responsibility to conduct this highly sensitive assignment is conducted under civilian political supervision. The Head of State, Commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces, is holder of the constitutional mandate to defend the security of the state and its citizens. How this delicate assignment has been conducted in the ongoing war against Boko Haram in the countries engaged in this extremely complicated and unconventional war is hard to say. It will be unusual if anyone outside a Military High Command of any or all armies worldwide will ever know the definition of the enemy. It is the most restricted document ever. In any case, it is the very heart beat of any army; indeed, the lifeline of any country’s security and defense. If the document defining the enemy were to be captured or exposed to public scrutiny, the army involved in armed conflict may well surrender. It will be futile to persist in battle under these circumstances.
REBUST PUBLIC DISCUSSION
This article does not seek a redefinition of the enemy in the ongoing war against Boko Haram out of the context of classical laws and customs of war, military law or humanitarian law, or the national security needs of each participating country. I have relied on certain contextual factual and legal assumptions which make it impracticable for me to address the content or context of a participating army’s definition of the enemy.
However, considering that the war against Boko Haram did not happen in a vacuum, but within socio-cultural, religious and political contexts, it is but reasonable to urge the leaders and citizens of the countries afflicted by this vicious armed conflict to engage in robust public discussions about whom this enemy is and who it is not. Doing so, will enable protected populations, armless civilians and persons not participating in the war to know and appreciate the efforts deployed to protect them from the scourge of the senseless slaughter to which the ravaging criminal gang has subjected them with so far no visible end in sight. The discussion is also required to enable the citizenry and policy makers to identify the indicators, and the enabling environment that prompts the despair which entices our priceless youth to join this and other criminal gangs in the hope that they are a panacea to societal injustices suffered by them.
Citizens of the participating countries in the war against Boko Haram have for long been misinformed that Boko Haram is an organized group of uneducated religious perverts fighting against Western European education and alleged Western European values. This definition of Boko Haram seemed simplistic even at face value. The distain and opposition to Western Education and values presupposed a commanding knowledge of the said education and values. The constituting members of Boko Haram cannot therefore reasonably be said to be uneducated youth at least in the supposedly Western European sense. This is discernible from the manner they operate, their use of social communication, technology and the sophistication of their strategical and tactical military actions.
WHAT THEN IS BOKO HARAM?
The degree of sophistication of the operational capabilities, the organizational structures, the intelligence gathering ability and logistical efficiency of Boko Haram portrays it as a well-organized military organization with reasonable political objectives. Its ability to attack, capture and hold territory and a well-publicized resolve to carve out a caliphate in the territories within which it operates attests to this reality.
The religious motivation for the war is not enough to explain the wider objectives of Boko Haram to establish a caliphate in the territories it is fighting to control. The geo-political, economic, cultural, religious and environmental outlook of the said territories portray its objectives as potentially wider than those portrayed or publicized over time.
Boko Haram overtime is emerging as a confederacy of distinct interests comprising various political actors in search of power and domination in the wider sub-region. Its territorial ambition stretches throughout the Africa Sahel, the Lake Chad Basin, West and Central Africa. As Boko Haram itself has acknowledged, it has a functional and ideological alliance to and subordinated to ISIS and Al Qaeda.
It may also be reasonably speculated that it has a functional alliance with local power seekers and power brokers. These opportunistically function as parts of the puzzle that sustain the campaign of terror that promises to significantly define the politics and future of the afflicted countries and societies within which it operates. Boko Haram was and is a political factor in the local, national and international politics of the participating countries in this war. This may explain the inability of politicians in the respective countries to appropriately or adequately address the underlying motivations and reasons that lead to components of the citizenry in the respective countries to take up arms against their own governments and fellow citizens, many of the victims, Muslims the religions they are alleged to fight to enthrone.
There can be no doubt that some politicians in some of the participating countries love and resent Boko Haram in equal measure. Some have benefited from the war politically and /or economically. Boko Haram has become a factor and fixture of national life in the participating countries. Some politicians actually rode on the back of the frustrations of disaffected Boko Haram youth to power. Having relied on them to wage campaigns of mayhem to undermine their political adversaries’ capacity and ability to end the devastation of the war and its underlying causes, these politicians are incapable of delivering on their campaign promises to end the war once in power. They are even incapable of calling Boko Haram by its real names which are: misery, social exclusion, excruciating poverty, economic alienation and life of hopelessness. They are incapably of doing so, for fear of being challenged to provide solutions to these enabling factors that pushed the youths into the welcoming hands of Boko Haram.
Strategically mischaracterizing a supposed enemy on whose back they rode to power, apart from being hypocritical, it negates the reality that Boko Haram did not just happen; it has been in the soul of our youth for so long. It will remain so, until governments come up with clear attainable programs to tackle this stain on our collective consciences. To attain this objective, the governments must admit that “Bokoharamism” is now a reality and part of the national shame in participating states. This fact must be publicly acknowledged before realistically providing enduring solutions to the war and its underlying causes.
The jobless youths who have fueled the ranks of Boko Haram may not have been driven by ideology when they were sought and accepted to join. They did so due to a desire to seek sad alternatives to social exclusion and hopelessness. Frustration arising from the policies and politics of exclusion that lead to lives without hope, societies without a future, and predatory vampirism of opportunistic selfish politicians are responsible for the revolt of these youths. These factors make them ready raw material for revolution within Boko Haram or other criminal gangs.
In societies where Boko Haram is not yet present, deep resentment of government expressed through the search for revolution resides in many jobless youths. The ongoing campaign against Boko Haram not with-standing, many more youths will readily join armed gangs targeting their governments whom they rightly or wrongly consider to be the enemy. With the promise of a better life fighting to change the institutions and governments that promised them hope and delivered misery and death, many of the youth similarly placed are but time-bombs of potential conflicts. There is an impending need for urgent solutions to the problems that have made placed African youths on the path of revolt spewing devastating wars that have made the continent exclusive focus of humiliating international armed and judicial interventions.
As the battle for the soul of our youth intensifies, the war against Boko Haram is an opportunity for serious reflection on the factors that make these wars and senseless slaughter of Africans by Africans an eyesore of shame and humiliation. There is impending need to rethink the very notion of governance and political power that have led to social exclusion, economic deprivation, joblessness, poverty, graft and corruption. A majority of Africans, in particular the youth have no sense of belonging in the politics and governance of their countries. Participation in the political life of their countries is elusive. The gains that independence promised are shortchanged for the protection of neo-colonial hegemonic economic interests and a guarantee of eternalizing power. This leaves the majority poor, in particular the youth at the mercy of criminal gangs like Boko Haram, ISIS and Al Qaeda with competing ideological, political and economic agendas.
Boko Haram may be defeated at the battlefield but will never be defeated at the battlefields of the souls of our youth and our nations unless the underlying factors which led to the phenomena are identified and comprehensively redressed. Failing this, the ongoing war may merely be scratching the surface of a wound on the collective and individual conscience of our countries and continent. If the youth are the leaders of tomorrow as some of the political leaders in the participating states who are in the very evening of their lives love to say, then the war again Boko Haram will be lost if these countries fail to wage a war to win the heart and mind of these youths.
There must therefore be a well laid out national policies for a grant of amnesty for Boko Haram combatants lay down their arms and be integrated into their respective communities. Additionally and significantly, African governments must establish policies that alleviate poverty, and place a majority of African people at the very center of governmental policies. The ideological and policy motivation for the battle against Boko Haram must be to rescue the souls of our youth from the fangs of Boko Haram and policies that make “Bokoharamism” possible.
*Chief Charles A. Taku, a distinguished author and Pan-Africanist is currently a lead counsel at the ICC at The Hague
Jonathan’s Conceding Defeat Shocked Me – Buhari
May 30, 2016 | 0 Comments
ONE year after the 2015 Presidential elections and assumption in office, President Muhammadu Buhari on Monday declared that he was shocked that former President Goodluck Jonathan conceded defeat to him.
The action, he said, was a great generosity and a great patriotism.
He made the remark during a Presidential Lunch for State House correspondents at the New Banquet Hall of the Presidential Villa.
He said: “I underrated the influence of the PDP for 16 years watching from outside as 8 consecutive governments. The experience of the staff, their commitment and zeal is different from what it is now. 16 years of development in the life of a developing nation is a long time.
“This is where I pay my respect to former President Goodluck Jonathan. This is actually a privileged information for you. He called me at a quarter past five in the evening. He said good evening your Excellency Sir, and I said good evening.
“He said I have called to congratulate you that I have conceded defeat. Of course there was dead silence on my end, because I did not expect it. I was shocked. I did not expect it because after sixteen years the man was a deputy governor, governor, Vice President and was President for six years.
“For him to have conceded defeat even before the result was announced by INEC, I think it was a great generosity, a great patriotism.
“Abdulsalam recognized the generosity of Jonathan to concede defeat and said we should go and thank him immediately and that was the first time I came here,” he added.
According to him, his administration had to trim down the number of ministries from 42 ministries we cut it to 24 and scaling down of the number of permanent secretaries in order to save cost of running government.
He pointed out that most of the permanent secretaries that were there for over five to seven years only knew how things were done in the previous years.
He said that the past one year was a tumultuous year for everyone in the Villa.
Talking about his experience in Aso Villa, he said: “Whatever we did in the campaign, in fact we were saying rubbish and that made it very difficult for us. Things were even more difficult during the budget which you all know about.
“For somebody like me, for the first time I heard what is called padding. I think we will recover by the fourth quarter of the year, what padding means especially for ministers who had implement what padding contains. There were very serious developments which I never knew about.
“So really it was a nasty experience for us. It was also a nasty experience for some of the ministers who were new in government, for them to sit down day and night to work. I saw them some of them literarily lost weight because they were sleeping less and eating less, working on every kobo to be spent.
He said that because Nigeria became a mono-economy based on oil, the past governments relied on oil and forgot about solid minerals, agriculture, and other resources.
The President added: “We recently just found out that we are poor because we don’t have anything to fall back to. This is the condition we found ourselves and this change mantra had to go through hell up till yesterday.
“And for you to talk to whoever came to visit us throughout that year I wonder how each of your diaries would be, because people were expecting this change mantra in their own way.
“How do you define change? Luckily our party identified three major items, security, economy and corruption.
“One of the men I pity is Lai Mohammed everyday he is on TV explaining our performance or lack of it.”
He also wondered how some Nigerians betrayed the trust of the people by diverting $2.1 billion meant for fighting insurgency.
He said: “People were trusted and the most recent one which we haven’t recovered from is the $2.1billion dollars, is was given by the government then to the military to but hardware to fight the insurgency which had taken over part of the country and they just sat just the way you are sitting now and shared the money into their own account.
“They didn’t even bother. So we are still trying to get the cooperation of the international community and so on and we have to do it with a lot of respect to the judiciary.
“We can’t go out and talk too much we have to allow the judiciary to do their work. We gave them the facts, the name, country, bank account. If you talk too much technicalities will come in, them we will realize less than what we want to realize.
“So please when next you want to interrogate out visitors try and do some research so that when they are coming next time, they will do research themselves,” he stated.
For Nigeria, it’s not yet morning on creation day
May 28, 2016 | 0 Comments
By Abdul Mahmud*
The pall of grief that enveloped the two geopolitical regions – south east and south south, the political bases of ex-President Jonathan- had barely lifted when bugles and drums sounded, car horns blared, and machine guns boomed to herald the coming of President Buhari, winner of the 2015 presidential poll.
Supporters of ex-President Jonathan were visibly sad. They chose not to share
the joys of those victorious Nigerians who rooted for President Buhari.
With their candidate losing the keenly contested and divisive presidential poll,
their future in a polity of the winner-takes-all invariably became uncertain.
For them, and understandably so, sadness was a sad place to be.
They learned to carry sadness into their homes, away from streets filled with the cries and chants of “Sai Baba and Sai Buhari”!! President Buhari’s supporters were in charge of the streets. They owned them. They made no pretense about possessing them for good. The Presidential Inauguration Day wasn’t for sadness. Success has many friends.
There were joys etched in the faces of leading opposition figures and their friends who gathered in Abuja to witness that epochal moment never before experienced in the history of Nigeria. For the first time the ruling party in Nigeria was dethroned by the opposition, in spite of the ruling party’s boast of occupying the seat of power for sixty years. As it turned out the ruling party’s hold on power lasted for a little over sixteen years before the impossible happened.
Truly the impossible happened. The mission of the opposition party, All Progressives Congress (APC), to capture power, was accomplished on Inauguration Day. For the APC the journey from the wilderness of opposition wasn’t an easy one, neither was the road to power an easy road to travel, nor were the many battles that raged along the road to power any easier.
The Presidential Inauguration Day met a nation torn by sadness and joy. A strange oxymoron that highlighted the nature of politics in Nigeria: how it gifts joy to those who are victorious at the poll, while losers possess only sadness. Nigeria politics is tribal. The celebrations in the southwest and the entire north showed why tribal ownership of victory was important at the time.
The north and southwest owned the victorious President and Vice President.The northerners and south westerners had every reason to party beyond the Inauguration Day into the morning after the night before, map and renew the boundaries of their geography of joy.
President Buhari understood the tribal nature of Nigeria politics very well. He understood the adverse effect the struggle over possession and ownership of the victors of power has on national unity, so he made that famous remark to counter the claims of possession and ownership: “I belong to everybody and I belong to nobody”.
What a master stroke, what a way of sticking the middle fingers to critics who accused him of being a religious fundamentalist, and what a way to shut ethnic jingoists out of the new power reality, reassert citizens’ belief in his political project, the new reality his presidency enthroned, and reaffirm the change his party promised.
Welcome to the country of everybody and nobody.
For a politician not known for flowery prose, beauty of the art of public speaking
and poetry of language, President Buhari came to his own like a poet possessed by his muse and delivered his memorable address. He didn’t disappoint those who thronged the inauguration venue to witness the historical baton change only prophets would have foretold.
Like the statesman that he is, he delivered his punch lines- each line accompanied by claps- and rounded up on Nigeria’s successor-leaders: “In recent time Nigeria leaders appear to have misread our mission. Our founding fathers…worked to establish certain standards of governance. They might have differed in their methods or tactics or details, but they were united in establishing a viable and progressive country. Some of their successors behaved like spoilt children breaking everything and bringing disorder to the house”.
His mission, no matter how it was misread at the time, was clear. He didn’t fail to unveil his plans to restore order to the Nigerian House; at least, contain the Boko Haram insurgents in the northeast who had for many years attacked the foundation of the Nigerian House and unleashed violence on hundreds of thousands of Nigerians sacked from their homes and villages. As his first major concern, he declared his intention to chase the insurgents into hellholes and promised to address the Nigerian unemployment crisis.
He also promised to take corruption head on. The promise still resonates with Nigerians who consider corruption as the most dangerous condition ailing Nigeria
and who are in a hurry to birth a country of their dreams.
On Inauguration Day President Buhari presented Nigerians the workable agenda for reinventing Nigeria.
How far has Nigeria fared since the Inauguration Day Address?
There were considerable improvements in public services few weeks following the inauguration of President Buhari. Reports of Nigerians who enjoyed unbroken hours of electricity flooded the Nigerian public space. Countless photographs of frozen refrigerators and chilled bottles of beer were produced as evidence.
No fresh investments flowed into the privatized Nigerian power sector during that time, but something jolted the indolent electricity workers into action. “The Buhari Magic is working”, his ardent supporters swore. Many Nigerians put the electricity workers love of work to President Buhari’s body language. His chief spokesperson screamed: a new Sheriff is in town.
Perhaps the image of the Sheriff holding up manacles under the hot Abuja sun overhanging the seat of power- Aso Rock- compelled electricity workers to take their work seriously.
One year after the chickens have come home to roost. Electricity workers have returned to their bad habits. Refrigerators have forgotten their first nature and beers have given up their chilled tastes to time. For six hours on a certain day in March, Nigeria generated zero megawatt.
The opposition mocked the famous body language of President Buhari. The Minister of Power, Raji Fashola, became the butt of public joke. Many called him out on the claim he made when he was in the opposition that a serious government can generate enough megawatts of electricity in six months. They asked: “Mr Minister, Sir, do you consider President Buhari’s government unserious having failed to provide regular electricity for ten months?”.
Meanwhile, small and medium enterprises are still suffering constant blackouts.
Many enterprises have closed shops. Many more are struggling to keep their doors opened to customs. The prospect of keeping them afloat, or as going concerns, is dire. The light up Nigeria project is faltering.
The unemployment rate is at an all-time-high. Banks are shedding staff weights on a daily basis. The manufacturing sector is comatose, and it has been so for many years though. The Nigeria Bureau of Statistics says the national economy contracted in the first quarter of the year, putting the GDP growth rate at -0.36%. Recession is here. Damning.
In January the central oil workers union begged the Nigerian government to stop the global oil giants, Chevron and Shell, from extending the sack of 18,000 workers globally to Nigeria. Here is the worrying claim that illustrates the spot of bother Nigeria finds itself: “The scarcity of foreign exchange for importation of raw materials by local industries is adversely affecting the sector as 50,000 workers have lost their jobs in Abuja in the last two months”.
The claim, made by the Chairman of Abuja Chamber of Commerce and Industry, accentuates what the President of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria expressed: “Over ten companies had notified this association about their intention to shut down operations before the end of February, 2016”.
Nothing highlights Nigeria’s acute unemployment crisis than the figures recently released by the Nigeria Police Force. One million Nigerians have applied to fill ten thousand positions declared vacant by the Commission responsible for police recruitment.
President Buhari’s anti-corruption war is progressing slowly. Several politicians have either been clamped into detention or arraigned before the courts. Many notable opposition figures are also standing trials.
Opposition supporters have accused President Buhari of a political witch-hunt. The international media are on a roll. A few weeks ago the Daily Mail of London accused President Buhari of shielding his political associates from prosecution. The paper suggested that ex-Governor Rotimi Amaechi is “fantastically corrupt”. Here is what appears as President Buhari’s riposte: the President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, a member of President Buhari’s governing party, is fighting false declaration of assets charges.
President Buhari’s supporters readily tell their listeners that fighting corruption is possible under the President’s watch. Believe them.Anti-corruption is one area where President Buhari’s governance imprints have been most noticeable. No corrupt political exposed person of note has been convicted just yet. If Raymond Omatseye, former Maritime Chief, recently convicted by a Lagos High Court for graft, can be taken as a little political fry in the grand scheme of things, then the first big casualty hasn’t been recorded.
Omatseye’s trial it should be stated began under the previous government in 2011.
President Buhari cannot be blamed for the slow turning of the wheel of criminal justice in “the widening gyre” of judicial corruption and incompetence. The notorious slow pace of judicial hearings makes expeditious corruption trials virtually impossible.
Nigerians were promised change last year and so far their groans and pains hint at the reality that the road to change is paved with bumps and torture. The Presidential spokesman, Femi Adesina, says: “It is mendacious to say that in the last one year, what Nigerians have been experiencing is suffering. It is not true”.Femi Adesina is the typical spokesman who sees no suffering, hears no wail and feels no pain of the suffering masses of the people.
Change is torturous, bumpy ride through time and space, yet there is no visible evidence on the ground that suggests that the current managers of change appreciate the pains of transiting between two political epochs and the casualties in-between. There is growing hardship in the land, growing despondency, growing unbelief in the change agenda. Critics and skeptics of the change agenda is doing NTORR – that non-verbal, gestural mockery, a way of pressing the fingers to the lower eyelids- a kind of déjàvu- at the believers of change. They point at the rising cost of living and the depressing value of wages. They point at the removal of oil subsidy. They taunt them with electricity tariff hike.
Nigerians want change NOW. They are impatient. Can anyone blame them? Can anyone blame stand-up comedians who pull jokes out of the bag to ridicule President Buhari and his supporters? Here is one of such jokes: “If the Jonathan years gave Nigerians HALF-CURRENT and all President Buhari can offer with his change is BLACKOUT, please, bring back the Jonathan years, Nigerians go manage am like dat”.
It isn’t all gloom and doom. This government has brought sanity to the way public funds are warehoused through the Treasury Single Account (TSA), a scheme proposed by ex-President Jonathan which President Buhari faithfully implements. Bombs no longer explode in city centers. Boko Haram insurgents have been chased into Sambisa forest. Many territories in the northeast are now under the control of the armed forces and the civil authority. Two girl-abductees from Chibok have found freedom. There is hope that the Chibok girls will return home sooner.
Democracy, for all its promise and beauty, has its challenges. One challenge is how it guarantees prosperity for every citizen. This is true of Nigeria democracy. President Buhari has spent a year in office and it is stupid, if not wishful thinking, to imagine that the social, political and economic problems of Nigeria can be solved in three hundred and sixty five days. But he has to show Nigerians he is dirtying his hands and his agbada for the sake of the change he promised the electorates at the stomp. Bringing that change about is a task that must be done.
The road to change is a bumpy road. But for Nigeria, it is not yet morning on creation day.
*Abdul Mahmud is a Lawyer and Poet. He is also the President of the Public Interest Lawyers League (PILL), and Columnist of the oldest Nigerian newspaper, Daily Times of Nigeria. He was a delegate to the 2014 Nigeria National Conference.
Picture Fashola with Buhari- a serious government can generate enough megawatts of electricity in six months.
NDI’s Chris Fomunyoh to Capitol Hill: Democratic governance is critical to counterterrorism strategy
May 12, 2016 | 0 Comments
By Ajong Mbapndah L.
As African countries battle with the threats of terrorism, the international community should be cautious of giving dictators a free pass just because of their engagement in the fight says Dr Chris Fomunyoh, Senior Associate for Africa at the National Democratic Institute.
On Capitol Hill to discuss Terrorism and Instability in Sub-Saharan Africa, Fomunyoh told a Senate Hearing on May 10, 2016, that democracy and good governance must be a fundamental part of any successful counter terrorism strategy.
“Africans of this generation are jittery and extremely fearful of reliving the experience of the Cold War era during which dictatorships thrived amidst grave human deprivation and gross human rights abuses just because some leaders were allies of the West at the time,” said Fomunyoh, who has used the NDI platform to facilitate the emergence of several democracies in Africa.
“The fight against terrorism should not become a substitute for the Cold War paradigm of this century with regards to sub-Saharan Africa,” Fomunyoh said, as he cautioned the international community against giving autocratic regimes a pass just because there are partners in the fight against terrorism.
In the recommendations made to the U.S Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Fomunyoh said successful counter terrorism strategies must be grounded in the consolidation of democracy and good governance for short term military victories to be sustained in the medium and long term.
“Shrinking political space, frequent and overt violations of citizen rights and freedoms, and the undermining of constitutional rule and meaningful elections breed discontent and disaffection that form the fertile ground for recruiters and perpetrators of violence and extremism,” Fomunyoh told the Committee Chaired by Sen .Bob Corker (R-Tenn.)
Good partners in countering violent extremism and terrorism should match that with good performances in democratic governance, Fomunyoh said, while recommending that governments need encouragement to invest in rehabilitating communities and creating structures that eliminate conditions that breed the rise of terrorism.
“Consolidation of democracy should be approached as a long-term process that requires consistent and continued support with mechanisms to reward or incentivize good behavior and penalize poor performance,” Fomunyoh said in making the case for more assistance towards supporting young democracies with weak political institutions.
Supporting the argument of Nicholas Kristof that education can be more effective in combatting militancy than military intervention, Fomunyoh told the Senate Hearing that more investment was needed in education to give young people more opportunities.
“Friends of Africa must make sure that they do not, willingly or inadvertently, allow themselves to become accomplices in denying Africans their basic rights and freedoms and a secure, prosperous future,” he concluded.
Accompanying Dr Fomunyoh on the second panel of the hearing was Mr. Abdoulaye Mar Dieye, Assistant Administrator and Director, Regional Bureau for Africa United Nations Development Program.
The Senate was the first in a two day Capitol Hill blitz for Fomunyoh, who also appeared before a Congressional Hearing to discuss The U.S Role in Helping Nigeria Confront Boko Haram, and other Threats in Northern Nigeria.
Solving Africa’s Security Challenges the Tana Way
April 23, 2016 | 0 Comments
African Leaders discusses and proffer solutions to security challenges facing Africa at the just ended two-day Tana High-Level Forum on Security in Africa in Bahir Dar, Ethiopia.
By Maureen Chigbo*
THE 5th Tana High Level Forum on Security in Africa may have come and gone but its echos will continue to resound in the continent. This must be especially so in the hearts and minds of hundreds of participants who attended the two-day event which ended on April 17, in Bahir Dar, Ethiopia. The forum with the theme: “Africa in the Global Security Agenda” provided the participants opportunity to know the current state of security challenges in countries in Africa, rob minds and proffer solutions to them.
Hailemariam Desalegn, prime minister of the Federal Republic of Ethiopia, set stage for discussion of the security issues in Africa when he gave the background that led to the formation of Tana and what it stands for. According to him, when the idea of Tana Forum was conceived five years ago, the purpose was to provide a unique, neutral and informal setting for serious discussions among African leaders, opinion makers, change agents, academics, practitioners and partners on African security challenges with a view to forge African solutions to African problems. “We are now on our fifth annual event. The growing attendance and diversity of participants demonstrates the growing recognition of the Tana Forum. Thanks to your unwavering support and immense contributions, Tana Forum has become an invaluable platform for the exchange of views, best experiences and innovative approaches to the fast changing security challenges facing our continent and the global community,” Desalegn said.
He is of the view that no single challenge in Africa can be considered an only African one. In its impacts or underlying causes or implementation of proposed solutions, every challenge in Africa, in one way or another, involves, implicates or requires non-African actors. “The truth is that we are living in an increasingly interconnected and complex world, where apparently isolated and small problems will have global and non-linear consequences; where effective solutions require active collaboration of nations and stakeholders.
“What ‘African solutions’ means is two things principally. First, information about problems, causes and solutions ought to be primarily collected and analysed by those who understand the African context. Collection and analysis of information is not necessarily an objective exercise. It is influenced by the particular frame of reference and embodied values of whoever is undertaking this exercise. In addition, intimate and deeper local knowledge is required for effective design of solutions”.
Secondly, he said the quality of delivering institutions is as important as the quality of the diagnosis and prognosis. “African institutions’ have to be the principal ones that should be entrusted with the responsibility to deliver. The colonial powers characterised informal governing institutions in Africa as backward and barbaric. They undertook massive efforts to install formal institutions of governance, informed by their own experience and knowledge. Formal institutions were superimposed on informal institutions, without acknowledging the latter. It later became painfully clear that these exercises were not only ineffective but also counterproductive,” he said.
However, he acknowledged that the good thing is that we have started the complementary design and use of formal and informal institutions in many areas. When it comes to peace and security, the experience is limited at best.
The notion of ‘African solutions’ is not limited to continental and regional processes and institutions. It also includes national institutions. “If we cannot first develop and implement Ethiopian, Nigerian, Egyptian, Kenyan, Rwandese solutions and institutions, how come we expect to develop and deploy African solutions and institutions?” he asked.
Agreeing that it is important to devise African solutions to African security issues, Prof. Andreas Eshete, special advisor to the prime minister of Ethiopia and deputy chairperson of the Tana Forum Board, in his presentation on “The Spirit of Tana” narrated how in 2010, a few African leader came to the not-so surprising realisation to explore alternative — but complementary spaces for frank, relevant, candid, unencumbered and vigorous dialogue devoid of the unwholesome niceties are typically associated with formal gatherings of inter-governmental and multilateral institutions. At the avant garde of this quest was the much younger, but no less determined, Meles Zenawi, late prime minister of Ethiopia. According to him, Meles was cognizant of the popular saying that you can only go far if you go together and recognized that bringing such a grand idea to fruition is bigger than- and should therefore outlive- him. This was perhaps the impetus that led him to turn to someone much older, almost by twice his age, but with uncommon pedigree as well as encyclopedic understanding of Africa: at various times, ex-Nigerian President, Olusegun Obasanjo. “It is gratifying to report that this event has, in total, attracted almost two scores of serving, and former, Heads of States all of whom share the same vision and fervent commitment to the ideals of Tana in its myriad ramifications. In their own unique ways, each of the Heads of States- former and currently serving; especially those that accepted to serve on the Board of the Tana Forum, have demonstrated that they have imbibed the Spirit of Tana. It is my wish that they would continue to pass on the touch to their colleagues, and other illustrious sons and daughters of Africa in due course,” Eshete said. He emphaised the key attributes of Tana Forum of inclusivity, collectivity and ‘collegiacy’, adding that those who nurtured Tana must be hugely proud- perhaps even surprised- that it has now metamorphosed into a vibrant and veritable platform for informal- but no less timely deliberations on the most pressing peace and security challenges we face as a continent.
Giving some insights into how the Tana Forum has become like a baobab tree that cannot be hugged by one person but by a collective, he said no single person has a monopoly of knowledge and that’s why Tana has become THE PLACE to air a wide range of contrasting viewpoints: from the mundane to the mainstream and discordant, and to the sometimes alternative or deviant. The only common denominator is that these viewpoints are genuinely expressed, and within the remit of securing the much-desired unity of purpose to better set the agenda for the socio-economic and political emancipation of Africa and its peoples. Thus, whether in terms of attracting distinguished participants from all walks life; the choice of the nagging issue to be debated in an informal setting; the conscious decisions to accommodate a diversity of voices that would otherwise be excluded, or even the preference for inter-generational conversations, the sole raison d’etre of the Tana Forum is be a place for frank, immersive, real-world and real-time debate placing premium on African-inspired and African-led solutions. Because no one is excluded on the basis of any of those yardsticks typically used to divide us, Tana has become an umbrella under which every participant can enjoy immunity in expressing their opinion or taking a controversial stance, he said.
According to him, “There is no need to belabor the point that Africa urgently needs- and should delineate for itself- a space where it can tell its story; by itself, for itself, but also for others to listen. For too long, the African agency have been muffled, undermined or completely ignored in the international arena; including on those issues with direct and adverse effect the continent and its citizens.
In the past, the otherwise rich historical- and contemporary- experiences of Africa and Africans were told in slanted, jaundiced and decidedly patronizing ways. At the heart of Tana is therefore both the recognition that Africa has come of age, and also that there is now a strong and more compelling basis to revisit, question and change several of the dominant wisdom and narratives on and about the continent. It is directly in response to these self-evident imperatives that Tana has successfully managed to take on themes that otherwise would be considered too hot-to-handle in other spaces within and outside the continent.”
Stating complementary adages which says that When brothers fight to the death, a stranger inherits their father’s estate, and another which acknowledges the strength in diversity as in when spider webs unite they can tie a lion, Eshete said the spirit of Tana that resonates from both idioms follows from the concern that for too long, and even with the best of intentions, Africa’s engagement with the rest of the world have been mostly pedestrian and fragmented simply because African have not managed to unite in pushing their own agenda and concrete goals in their long- and mostly contentious- relationship with the rests of the world. “It is precisely in response to this gap that Tana places itself as an interlocutory platform, even if still a fledgling one, to help Africans rethink their place and relationship with the rest of the world, and to do so on their own terms. Unless we unite, particularly on issues that directly affect us, we might just remain like the proverbial goat with a frown on its face when it is being taken to the market, or the abattoir.” he said.
In Eshete’s futuristic view of Tana, he opines that: “The future, as the popular saying goes, is what we make of today. Our failure to plan well today for tomorrow would, no doubt, question the type, quality and longevity of the legacies that we wish to leave soon after we step out of this hall (or even depart this world). Let us therefore make haste while the sun shines.”
It is in this spirit that Obasanjo, chairman of Tana Forum, gave an account of “The State of Peace and Security in Africa 2016”, stating clearly that old or ‘traditional’ causes of conflict, insecurity and violence still persist and have gained greater currency today. They include inadequate attention to the issue of diversity, leading to marginalisation, exclusions, lack of popular participation; inequity, inequality, uneven development and oppression; inadequate attention to education and unemployment particularly of youth; gender inequality; and of course religious bigotry. The presence of any of these, or more than one, in sufficient magnitude for any length of time, when unattended and unaddressed, according to Obasanjo, will invariably lead to group dissatisfaction, breed grievances and incubate injustice. Together, they allow groups to seek redress through a variety of unwholesome means, including armed insurgencies and terrorism.
For instance, developments in Burundi, the Central African Republic, CAR, Côte d’Ivoire, Darfur, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Libya, South Sudan, Somalia and Tunisia reflect the recurrent volatility that confronts the continent on a daily basis. Such protracted conflicts not only have a debilitating impact on the continent’s pathways to development, but also place huge strain on the peace-making, peacekeeping and peace-building efforts of African States and inter-governmental institutions. “Even if, as some have claimed that the number of conflicts in Africa has decreased in nominal terms since 2014, we are daily reminded about the fragility and susceptibility of the continent to a variety of ominous and vicious conflicts,” Obasanjo said. In reflecting on the state of peace and security in Africa in 2015, and its far-reaching repercussions for Africa, and the world, he also underscored the troubling resurgence of Africa’s long-forgotten conflicts. Notably, one of the worst plagued in this regard is the Great Lakes region. This has recurred time and again, in DRC where the situation has remained volatile; marked by the atrocious activities of various armed groups. That conflict, especially in the Eastern DRC, epitomizes the hybrid nature of conflicts in Africa where armed groups are locked in battles that have turned the region into a gangster’s paradise, with serious regional dimensions and ramifications.
This is why the international community, led by African governments and institutions, must bear this in mind in fashioning such a viable and sustainable solution to one of the continent’s most intractable conflict. “The potentials of DRC are enormous and so are the internal contestations and contradictions. If care is not taken, the forthcoming election in the DRC is likely going to further fuel the existing conflict. How the election is conducted, for good or bad, will not only determine the trajectory of peace in the country but that of the wider Great Lakes region. It will undoubtedly also become the litmus for AU’s pro-active management of potential conflict and the seriousness and ingenuity of the international community,” Tana Chairman said.
Apart from DRC, one country that deserves eternal vigilance and decisive action to pull from the brinks of an unnecessary and full-scale war is Burundi. No one should disbelief how quickly an already tense situation in that country, one of the poorest in the world, according to the UN Human Development Index, has deteriorated- especially following the decision by the incumbent President Pierre Nkuruziza to seek re-election despite the evident constitutional backlashes. To date, the government has not only remained headstrong but also seemed determined to defy wise counsel from the international community; including those from the African Union.
Despite the endorsement by the UN Security Council via statement of December 19, 2015 of the decision of the AU to deploy 5,000-strong troops to maintain law and order, and to protect civilians, the government in Bujumbura vehemently opposes its deployment, and even went as far as threatening to treat it as an army of occupation. “It is not surprising to me, however, shameful, that during the just-concluded AU Assembly in January 2016, the Union quietly stepped back from its earlier proposal by adopting a position virtually encouraging what is going on in Burundi. The on-going situation in Burundi only makes Africa a laughing stock.
“Collectively, African leaders must summon the political will to bring a quick and durable solution to the country. Collectively, African leaders must summon the political will to bring a quick and durable solution to the country. Whatever it takes, a solution must be put in place to move the country towards peace, security and progress; and to stem the tide of flow of refugees that is threatening neighbouring countries. I must express what may be a distasteful personal opinion here: I found it contrary to the Constitutive Act of the AU that Burundi should threaten the AU; and by such threat, abdicate its responsibility. Before it is too late, the AU must therefore live up to its responsibility in such a situation to save the lives of Africans,” Obasanjo said.
However, he is of the view that Africa must not feel shy of demanding and insistently so, for restitution from the US and Europe for unlocking the virus through the action of NATO in Libya. “President Obama’s conscience may be clear by admitting recently that he and his NATO allies created a mess in Libya, but that does not pay for the hardship suffered by our people. They should not look away while we grapple with the consequences of their action. Such strength of AU and regional economic communities to make demands for harm done and to stand firm on our responsibilities must obviate a situation where, like in Mali and Central African Republic, African forces were not able to intervene before troops from outside came in. How do we talk of African solutions for African problems when in the face of problems we are impotent to act promptly and decisively? That was not the situation in Sierra Leone, Liberia, Togo and Darfur. Africa can, if there is political will and leadership,” Obasanjo said.
Another major flashpoint in Africa is Darfur. That conflict alone, long only slightly on the radar, continues to generate unprecedented humanitarian crisis leading to the outflow of tens of thousands of civilians from their homes. According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, OCHA, the humanitarian situation in Darfur continues to deteriorate with the displacement of more than 2.5 million civilians on the last count. In the south of the continent, Mozambique is now grappling with a residue of conflict between two diehard archenemies: the Front for the Liberation of Mozambique, FRELIMO, and the Resistance Movement of Mozambique, RENAMO. With its roots in an earlier civil war which started in 1977, just two years following a devastating spell of independence war, the present conflict flared up in 2013 due to factors not far from festering power contestations, perennial concerns about governance conditions, and of course, the recent discovery of natural resources such as coal and gas.
Whereas many parts of Africa may not necessarily be experiencing overt forms of direct violence, they are nonetheless faced with unprecedented situations of fragility and vulnerability to conflicts. Zimbabwe offers a good example in this regard; but it should not by any means be considered a poster case. More than two years to the next general elections in 2018, tension is already brewing around leadership contestations and factional politics within the ruling and opposition parties, and between them. The dust has not fully settled on the Ugandan post-election situation, and we must not miss the ominous prospects in Zambia.
Of the 10 countries that the International Crisis Group identified as conflicts to watch in 2016, four are in Africa: Libya, Lake Chad Basin with the epicentre in Nigeria, South Sudan and Burundi. Other areas that are low-levelled but are nonetheless smouldering are Mali and Somalia, even as pockets of insurgencies linger in Algeria, Sudan, Kenya, Uganda and Central African Republic. The conflict between Western Sahara and Morocco continues to linger many decades since it first broke out, while ISIS and the Muslim Brotherhood are far from being spent forces in Egypt. In recent times, Cote d’Ivoire and Burkina Faso, like Tunisia, have been hit by a new wave of terrorism which goes for the soft underbelly of seemingly conflict-free countries; killing innocent men and women in international hotels and popular resorts.
“No country in Africa can claim immunity against this new wave, and none of them can claim to be adequately prepared for it. We are all potential victims that we are left with no choice but to share intelligence, plan together and work together. Because terrorists have become creative with the use of modern infrastructures of border communication, transportation and financial transaction, African governments must make these facilities useful and indispensable servants in the fight against new generation terrorists whose objective is to destroy, instill fear, and kill while rendering government impotent to provide adequate security for their citizens, Obasanjo said.
In all these cases, Obasanjo emphasised how decades of missed developmental opportunities have partly played a part in the exclusion and alienation of youth who now form the bulk of those that have found alternative spaces for rebellion and other forms of insurgent and terrorist activities”
This point resonated with Kofi Annan, former secretary general of the United Nations, who in his keynote address entitled: “Africa and the Global Security Architecture” said: “It is no secret that unemployed young men are especially vulnerable to the temptations of violence and easily instrumentalised for that purpose. This is not a specifically Muslim problem: a World Bank survey in 2011 showed that about 40 percent of those who join rebel movements say they are motivated by a lack of jobs.
In Africa, as elsewhere, the answer does not lie in a purely military response that fails to deal with the root causes of disaffection and violence. “As I constantly repeat, you cannot have peace and security without inclusive development, the rule of law and the respect for human rights. These are the three pillars of all successful societies. It is largely because these three pillars are quite fragile in parts of Africa that we are still seeing instability and violence,” Annan said. The truth is that the economic growth in Africa over the last 15 years, though impressive, has been neither sufficient nor inclusive. In fact, Africa has become the world’s second most unequal continent, according to the African Development Bank. Until this situation is reversed true peace and security will continue to be elusive in Africa and discussions on is likely to continue at the next Tana High level Forum on Security in Africa.
*Source Real News
The State of Peace and Security in Africa
April 23, 2016 | 0 Comments
‘Traditional’ causes of conflict, insecurity and violence still persist and have gained greater currency today and when they are unattended and unaddressed, they will invariably lead to group dissatisfaction, breed grievances and incubate injustice.
| By Olusegun Obasanjo*
- When some six years ago, the late Prime Minister, Meles Zenawi, invited and convinced me to take on the task of establishing and managing the Tana High-Level Forum on Security in Africa, little did I realise how African security issues would transform in substantive and radically different ways within half a decade. I shared Meles’ vision and we started to work. In the first year, our topic was diversity and its management as a source of insecurity. In the second year, we moved to organised crime and how to curtail it. In the third year, we dealt with illicit financial flows and its implications on security. Last year, which was the fourth year of the Tana Forum, our topic was Secularism and Politicized Faith in Africa. This year, I am particularly delighted that another timely and appropriate theme has been chosen: on “Africa in the Global Security Agenda.”
- Before giving you a panoramic overview of the African security landscape since we met at this same venue one year ago, let me note-with satisfaction-one key addition we have made to the structure of this event: the institutionalisation of the Meles Zenawi Annual Lecture Series. In this series, we examine in as much detail as possible and within the time available, the leadership qualities, styles, deficiencies and legacies of a particular leader. So far, we have x-rayed Meles Zenawi as a leader; we have followed this with Nelson Mandela; then Kwame Nkurumah; and this year, it is Patrice Lumumba. As a young army officer, on UN peacekeeping duties in 1960 in the then Congo Leopoldville, I had the honour of meeting Patrice Lumumba. He was certainly a leader.
- The informality that has now become the distinguishing hallmark of the multi-stakeholder Tana Forum is testament to our conviction that mobilising diverse views and perspectives on pertinent security problems, even when the go against conventional wisdom, is crucial in our quest for lasting solutions to the seemingly intractable peace and security challenges we face as a continent. The continent’s challenges are not the issues of a few individuals in Africa but affect all Africans and therefore require all voices to be heard and accommodated. After all, the security challenges experienced by Africans are not contained within the continent only. The same can be said for security challenges from outside which Africans have also to contend with almost on daily basis. Indeed, a testimony to the fact that our lives as Africans are closely intertwined with those of other parts of the world is evident in how violence in one part of the world has grave consequences for stability and security on the continent, and vice versa.
- The transnational nature of conflicts today calls for innovative thinking and collaborative action in their resolution. Any sound and long lasting solutions to the myriad of security challenges the continent faces require in-depth analysis of each conflict system inclusive of and led by local actors. Those who breathe and live the disrupting effects of violent conflicts are in a better position to express where the proverbial shoes pinch.
- The complexity of existing conflicts, and newly emerging threats, in Africa means there cannot be a one-size fits all approach to managing and resolving them. We need to vary our approaches to suit the local contexts, and to heed the voices of those caught in the web of prolonged violent conflicts. Since we have two days, with eminently qualified persons leading us through the topic for this year, I will not dwell any further on the theme of this year’s Forum.
- Now, let us go to the panorama of peace and security challenges on the continent since the last time we all converged at this same venue. It is clear for me that old-or ‘traditional’ causes of conflict, insecurity and violence still persist and have gained greater currency today. They can be one or more of the following: inadequate attention to the issue of diversity, leading to marginalization, exclusions, lack of popular participation; inequity, inequality, uneven development and oppression; inadequate attention to education and unemployment particularly of youth; gender inequality; and of course religious bigotry. The presence of any of these, or more than one, in sufficient magnitude for any length of time, when unattended and unaddressed, invariably lead to group dissatisfaction, breed grievances and incubate injustice. Together, they allow groups to seek redress through a variety of unwholesome means, including armed insurgencies and terrorism.
- Developments in Burundi, the Central African Republic (CAR), Côte d’Ivoire, Darfur, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Libya, South Sudan, Somalia and Tunisia reflect the recurrent volatility that confronts the continent on a daily basis. Such protracted conflicts not only have a debilitating impact on the continent’s pathways to development, but also place huge strain on the peace-making, peacekeeping and peace-building efforts of African States and inter-governmental institutions. Even if, as some have claimed that the number of conflicts in Africa has decreased in nominal terms since 2014, we are daily reminded about the fragility and susceptibility of the continent to a variety of ominous and vicious conflicts.
- In reflecting on the state of peace and security in Africa in 2015, and its far-reaching repercussions for Africa, and the world, let me quickly underscore the troubling resurgence of Africa’s long-forgotten conflicts. Notably, one of the worst plagued in this regard is the Great Lakes region. We see this recurrence, time and again, in DRC where the situation has remained volatile; marked by the atrocious activities of various armed groups. That conflict, especially in the Eastern DRC, epitomizes the hybrid nature of conflicts in Africa where armed groups are locked in battles that have turned the region into a gangster’s paradise, with serious regional dimensions and ramifications. The international community, led by African governments and institutions, must bear this in mind in fashioning such a viable and sustainable solution to one of the continent’s most intractable conflict.
- The potentials of DRC are enormous and so are the internal contestations and contradictions. If care is not taken, the forthcoming election in the DRC is likely going to further fuel the existing conflict. How the election is conducted, for good or bad, will also determine the trajectory of peace in the country, but also across the wider Great Lakes region. It will undoubtedly also become the litmus for AU’s pro-active management of potential conflict and the seriousness and ingenuity of the international community.
- If one country deserves our eternal vigilance and decisive action to pull from the brinks of an unnecessary and full-scale war, Burundi would no doubt qualify. No one should disbelief how quickly an already tense situation in that country, one of the poorest in the world according to the UN Human Development Index, has deteriorated-especially following the decision by the incumbent President Pierre Nkuruziza to seek re-election despite the evident constitutional backlashes. To date, the government has not only remained headstrong but also seemed determined to defy wise counsel from the international community; including those from the African Union.
- Despite the endorsement by the UN Security Council via statement of December 19, 2015 of the decision of the AU to deploy 5,000-strong troops to maintain law and order, and to protect civilians, the government in Bujumbura vehemently opposes its deployment, and even went as far as threatening to treat it as an army of occupation. It is not surprising to me, however, shameful, that during the just-concluded AU Assembly in January 2016, the Union quietly stepped back from its earlier proposal by adopting a position virtually encouraging what is going on in Burundi. The on-going situation in Burundi only makes Africa a laughing stock. Collectively, African leaders must summon the political will to bring a quick and durable solution to the country.
- Collectively, African leaders must summon the political will to bring a quick and durable solution to the country. Whatever it takes, a solution must be put in place to move the country towards peace, security and progress; and to stem the tide of flow of refugees that is threatening neighbouring countries. I must express what may be a distasteful personal opinion here: I found it contrary to the Constitutive Act of the AU that Burundi should threaten the AU; and by such threat, abdicate its responsibility. Before it is too late, the AU must therefore live up to its responsibility in such a situation to save the lives of Africans.
- However, we must not feel shy of demanding and insistently so, for restitution from the US and Europe for unlocking the virus through the action of NATO in Libya. President Obama’s conscience may be clear by admitting recently that he and his NATO allies created a mess in Libya, but that does not pay for the hardship suffered by our people. They should not look away while we grapple with the consequences of their action. Such strength of AU and regional economic communities to make demands for harm done and to stand firm on our responsibilities must obviate a situation where, like in Mali and Central African Republic, African forces were not able to intervene before troops from outside came in. How do we talk of African solutions for African problems when in the face of problems we are impotent to act promptly and decisively? That was not the situation in Sierra Leone, Liberia, Togo and Darfur. Africa can, if there is political will and leadership.
- Another major flashpoint is Darfur. That conflict alone, long only slightly on our radar, continues to generate unprecedented humanitarian crisis leading to the outflow of tens of thousands of civilians from their homes. According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the humanitarian situation in Darfur continues to deteriorate with the displacement of more than 2.5 million civilians on the last count.
- In the south of the continent, Mozambique is now grappling with a residue of conflict between two diehard archenemies: the Front for the Liberation of Mozambique (FRELIMO) and the Resistance Movement of Mozambique (RENAMO). With its roots in an earlier civil war which started in 1977, just two years following a devastating spell of independence war, the present conflict flared up in 2013 due to factors not far from festering power contestations, perennial concerns about governance conditions, and of course, the recent discovery of natural resources such as coal and gas.
- Whereas many parts of Africa may not necessarily be experiencing overt forms of direct violence, they are nonetheless faced with unprecedented situations of fragility and vulnerability to conflicts. Zimbabwe offers a good example in this regard; but it should not by any means be considered a poster case. More than two years to the next general elections in 2018, tension is already brewing around leadership contestations and factional politics within the ruling and opposition parties, and between them. The dust has not fully settled on the Ugandan post-election situation, and we must not miss the ominous prospects in Zambia.
- Of the ten countries that the International Crisis Group identified as conflicts to watch in 2016, four are in Africa: Libya, Lake Chad Basin with the epicentre in Nigeria, South Sudan and Burundi. Other areas that are low-levelled but are nonetheless smouldering are Mali and Somalia, even as pockets of insurgencies linger in Algeria, Sudan, Kenya, Uganda and Central African Republic. The conflict between Western Sahara and Morocco continues to linger many decades since it first broke out, while ISIS and the Muslim Brotherhood are far from being spent forces in Egypt. In recent times, Cote d’Ivoire and Burkina Faso, like Tunisia, have been hit by a new wave of terrorism which goes for the soft underbelly of seemingly conflict-free countries; killing innocent men and women in international hotels and popular resorts.
- No country in Africa can claim immunity against this new wave, and none of them can claim to be adequately prepared for it. We are all potential victims that we are left with no choice but to share intelligence, plan together and work together. Because terrorists have become creative with the use of modern infrastructures of border communication, transportation and financial transaction, African governments must make these facilities useful and indispensable servants in the fight against new generation terrorists whose objective is to destroy, instil fear, and kill while rendering government impotent to provide adequate security for their citizens.
- In all these cases, it is important to flag how decades of missed developmental opportunities have partly played a part in the exclusion and alienation of youth who now form the bulk of those that have found alternative spaces for rebellion and other forms of insurgent and terrorist activities.
- Let me now come to the dangerous and dehumanizing issue of migration from Africa to Europe, which has made the Mediterranean the maritime graveyard for many of our able-bodied brothers and sisters. There are two basic causes; first, physical insecurity due to violence; and second, economic insecurity due to unemployment and poverty. The answer, or antidote, to both is here in Africa, in our different countries, if only we can muster the necessary political will and commitment to act. The only way, in my view, to stem the tide is to embark on policies, programmes and strategies that create jobs and eliminate conditions that impoverishes, dehumanizes and snatches the dignity and self-pride of our people from them. For every African that dies crossing the Mediterranean either trying to escape violence or economic insecurity, our collective conscience as African leaders must be troubled.
- Today, Africans are grappling with the challenges associated with climate change; which, by the way, is no longer esoteric and ‘distant’, but have also become such a difficult burden we have to bear. Climate change not only undermines economic growth and development, but also poses significant threat to the continent’s food security even as it is fuelling other environmental vulnerabilities and conflicts. While climate change is affecting every part of the globe, I would hasten to add that the African continent would likely be more vulnerable to its adverse impacts being already the warmest continent.
- The threat from climate change is compounded by our limited access to requisite adaptation knowledge, technologies and institutions. The African Group of Negotiators tried their best to make Africa’s voice heard during the 2015 UN Climate Change Conference in Paris; making the strong point that Africa only produces 7% of the world’s CO-2 emissions but faces the most threats from global pollution. The adoption of a Common African Position at that meeting, in my view, was an exemplary step to position Africa on the global climate agenda; and, by extension, on the international security agenda.
- Let’s not ignore the myriad other non-conventional threats to security in Africa, but zero in on the one directly linked to the deterioration, or outright collapse, of public health systems in many countries across the continent. Not too long ago, in fact from early 2014 to the end of 2015, Africa grappled with the unprecedented outbreak of Ebola Virus Disease, with countries such as Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea being the most severely affected. Although the frightening phase seems to be over, but it is too early to celebrate that we have put it, or other diseases, behind us. There is no doubt that the impact of this epidemic was monumental on the continent’s fledgling governance and socio-economic landscape. We must learn the right lessons for the future and make adequate preparation. No country is immune.
- The prerequisite to tackle all of the pressing security issues spilling over from 2015 to 2016, and to strengthening Africa’s standing in the international security agenda is leadership. Here, I should emphasize leadership on all levels -local, municipal, national, regional, continental and global. Where and when leadership is asserted, commitment should follow. Commitment means putting our money where our problems are, not expecting others to take the lead on our behalf. Africa needs to start taking responsibility, in concrete terms, by funding its own peace initiatives and developmental priorities.
- To start with, AU member-States must pay their contributions to the general budget, and also those for critical political missions and peace operations. An organization that is still mostly funded by external donors, including for the most basic routine of travels, will only have limited elbowroom, or policy autonomy, when the interests of its key benefactors are at stake.
- I would like to return to my earlier point, by way of conclusion, that the security threats that Africa faces affect the rest of the world; just as those faced by the rest of the world have profound implication for Africa. This means, in my view, that we have no choice than to work together. We therefore need to explore the far-reaching benefits and opportunities of our mutual interdependence to create the kind of partnerships that are crucial to overcoming common security challenges.
- While we are grateful to our technical and financial partners, my take is that Africa has sufficiently come of age to choose its partners wisely if it must secure the common goal of peace and security for itself, and the rest of the world. As a continent, we need to take a serious look our security priorities and infrastructure, and ask a number of overdue questions: what can Africans do themselves to deal with these issues; where does Africa need to partner with international actors; and what should be the continent’s role in formulating security policies globally? Let us try to answer these questions, and more during this year’s Forum.
- Source Real Magazine.Olusegun Obasanjo, former president of Nigeria and chairman of the Tana High Level Forum on Security in Africa delivered this paper entitled: “The State of Peace and Security in Africa 2016″ at the Tana Forum which took place in Bahir Dar, Ethiopia, on Saturday, April 16, 2016
The Spirit of Tana
April 23, 2016 | 0 Comments
The spirit of Tana forum encourages open debate on security issues in Africa uninhibited by secrecy that characterises formal engagements on such matters
By Prof. Andreas Eshete*
At this, the fifth Tana forum, it may well be premature for a full-fledged retrospective. Still, a glance at the past may help to remind us what inspires and animates our annual gathering at Tana.
Tana Forum began as an initiative of the Institute of Peace and Security Studies of Addis Ababa University, Inspired by the exemplary work of the Munich Security Conference. The late Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, the first champion of Tana Forum, was convinced that the Forum would serve to promote two companion aims, aims that he artfully and passionately pursued throughout the course of his public life. First, to enrich reasoned public discussion on the challenges of peace and security facing Africans in ways that extend the reach and depth of the terms of public debate; and; second, to foster a shared understanding of the nature and source of these challenges in order to forge a collective African vision, voice and capability on how best to avoid and overcome African’s troubles in this area. The idea was not, of course, to supplement the valuable work of formal institutions. To the contrary, Meles Zenawi worked tirelessly to strengthen African regional and continental institutions such as IGAD, NEPAD and the African Union as well as to elevate their international standing. The aim instead was to complement the efforts of Africa’s formal institutions by exploring the distinctive possibilities and virtues of alternative public fora for reflection and conversation.
Tana Forum offers a public space for reasoned deliberation unfettered by either the mandate and formalities of official fora or the exigencies in such bodies for reaching decisions and taking actions. The determination to convene an unceremonious assembly was evident from the beginning. I recall our distinguished chair, Chief Obasanjo’s, in a characteristic expression of his wise stewardship, casting aside part of his robe during an early forum to highlight the call for an unbuttoned exchange of ideas. The Forum chose to solicit the hospitality of the city and people of Bahir Dar in order to secure a peaceful and beautiful haven, where the participants can wholeheartedly join public discussions undistracted by official engagements. There are various reasons in favor of an informal African forum on peace and security. For one thing, national discussions on immediate matters of security tend to be inhibited by secrecy and other considerations of state. Second, national and other formal fora are not readily responsive to the fact that many challenges to African security increasingly defy national borders, and that this reach extends beyond the continent. Consider, for instances, the deft deployment of social media for propaganda and recruitment by militant groups. Further, personal and public virtues like toleration, crucial for the fate of peace and security, cannot be engendered or bolstered by formal institutions alone. Finally, the strains and divisions that surfaced in the European Union in the wake of the recent flow of refugees to Europe is a salutary reminder of the risks incurred and frailties exposed by banking on formal arrangements.
Another feature that breathes life into the proceedings of the Forum is the unusually wide range of interlocutors. There are in our midst political leaders, senior officers of intergovernmental institutions and prominent members of civic and business communities. Also present are scholars, seasoned practitioners, youth, and Africa’s committed partners. The robust representation of leaders and citizens from a wide spectrum of African society matters because the cause of peace and security is everyone’s concern and its imperilment is felt more by the many poor and vulnerable. On the latter, think of the truly tragic use of abducted young girls as sexual slaves and suicide bombers by Boko Harem. Tana affords a rare opportunity for us to hear African leaders of state and government speaking in a personal capacity and voice. The presence of former heads of state and government, now released from the responsibilities of public office, enables us to benefit from their practical wisdom and experience. The interaction between incumbent political leaders and individuals with whom they do not normally enjoy direct contact may reveal aspects of the character, values and convictions of Africa’s leaders that go beyond or against the grain of their public self –image? Moreover, the diversity of participants and perspectives contributes to the democratic ethos of the deliberation at Tana. Amartya Sen remarks: “democracy has to be judged…by the extent to which different voices from diverse sections of the people are actually heard.” In this respect Tana Forum modestly carries on a venerable tradition of democratic participation practiced at different times and places much as the early American town-hall meeting, the Paris Commune, and the African village assembly, here symbolized by the tree depicted before you.
The subjects so far selected for attention at the Forum address issues central to the achievement of peace and security in Africa. The significance of diversity and state fragility — the theme of the maiden session — has been vindicated by developments in the aftermath of the Arab Spring and by the spread of militant movements marching under the banner of faith — the latter was the focus of last year’s forum. Another session looked into the illicit flow of funds from Africa. The Panama Papers and the numerous African cases already revealed in the files vividly show that the rich and powerful secretly divert scarce African resources at the expense of the populace’s abiding interest in growth and equality, this year’s them unities us to take a measure of how we are treated in the global security agenda and to explore promising possibilities to enhance Africa’s agency in shaping it in the future.
Beyond the examination of these subjects, the Forum now hosts the annual Meles Zenawi memorial lecture devoted to critical appraisals of political leadership in Africa.
The series opened with a look at Meles Zenawi’s bold experiment with federative arrangements designed to find public room for Ethiopia’s many cultural communities and identities. The inaugural session also addressed Meles Zenawi’s learned advocacy and decisive public action to lay the foundation of an African democratic developmental state. Subsequent lectures attended to the illustrious lives of Nelson Mandela, Kwame Nkrumah and, now, Patrice Lumumba.
Alongside the forum, there are now regular occasions for interaction among participants at the forum and the students and academic staff of Bahir Dar University on issues that bear on the concerns of the Forum.
Yesterday, Her Excellency, Ms. Louise Mushikiwabo, Minister of Foreign Affairs and cooperation of the Republic of Rwanda, spoke on the rationale for an African developmental state, drawing upon the encouraging experience of Rwanda.
In sum, in a short span of time, the Forum has emerged as a vibrant vehicle for public discussion and reflection on how Africa can be free from recurrent and recalcitrant strife, strike which plainly stands in the way of popular yearning for enduring progress in self-government and emancipation from poverty across Africa. This is an auspicious beginning for joining the quest to revisit and to revive a sense a sense of Pan-African solidarity that we, together would the continued support with his Excellency Prime Minister Hailemariam Deslagen and our partners, can now carry forward with confidence.
. Culled from Real Magazine.Prof . Andreas Eshete, special advisor to the prime minister of Ethiopia and deputy chairperson of the Tana Forum Board presented this speech at the Tana High-Level Forum on Security in Africa which held on April 16 – 17, 2016 in Bahir Dar, Ethiopia
AAI Injects Africa Into U.S Presidential Race
April 22, 2016 | 1 Comments
By Ajong Mbapndah L
“Africa has typically not been a partisan issue when it comes to U.S Presidential politics,” said Ambassador Herman Cohen in his opening statement at a Rayburn House Forum on Setting U.S-Africa Policy for the next Administration organized by the Africa-America Institute.
The statement from Cohen, representing the Kasich campaign,summed up the discussions animated by representatives of candidates from both the Democratic and Republican parties still in the race.
“I can be very brief with Senator Cruz’s African Policy,” said his representative Michael Ledeen, before declaring in dramatic fashion that “he doesn’t have one.”
From security challenges , to aid, immigration, trade and investment, lifting sanctions on Zimbabwe, human rights and democracy, the representatives all held views that were similar.
When moderator Carol Pineau asked if the presentations from the representatives had swayed anyone in the huge audience at the Rayburn House, the answer was an emphatic no. When the representatives were asked if their candidates will visit Africa on their first term if elected as next President, they all answered yes. Asked on prospects of continuing with the USA-Africa Leaders Summit initiated by President Obama, all the representatives of the candidates were for a continuation.
Representing the candidates were Wala Blegay for Bernie Sanders, Herman Cohen for John Kasich, Michelle Gavin for Hillary Clinton, J.D,Gordon for Donald Trump and Michael Ledeen for the Ted Cruz Campaign.
The discussions were part of the conversations on Africa series of the AAI under the theme Setting U.S –Africa Policy for the Next Administration.Other topics of discussion at the forum included remaining priorities for Africa in the 114th Congress,the Obama Administration’s Approach to promoting Education in Africa, and a fires side chat on best practices for U.S Engagement in Africa with former U.S Envoy to the African Union Reuben Brigety and Amini Kajunju,President and CEO of the Africa Institute.
Tanzania bridge ‘liberates commuters’ in Dar es Salaam
April 20, 2016 | 0 Comments
A cable-stayed bridge, described as East Africa’s longest, has opened in Tanzania’s main city, Dar es Salaam, to ease over-crowding on ferries.
The 680m (2,230 ft) bridge links the city centre with southern neighbourhoods across the Indian Ocean.
Tanzania’s leader John Magufuli hailed it as a “liberation” for residents in the city of more than four million.
The Chinese firm which built the $140m (£98m) structure says it is East Africa’s longest cable-stayed bridge.
It is also the first toll road in Tanzania. The prices have yet to be set – vehicles and motorcycles will have to pay, pedestrians and bicycle will have free passage.
Correspondents say until now commuters’ only option to cross over the creek to the Kigamboni suburbs was in badly maintained ferries. – and they are often held up for hours because of breakdowns.
Motorists also take their cars on to the ferries, and some have fallen into the sea as the vessels leave as they are not always properly loaded.
The bridge links to an area earmarked in 2010 for an ambitious plan to build a satellite city, known as the Kigamboni New City development.
The government also hopes that it will boost tourism, making it easier for people to go to beaches on the other side of the city.
At a ceremony to open the bridge, Mr Magufuli described the seven-lane cable-stayed bridge as the only one of its kind in central and East Africa.
“It has never been built before. Even if you go to Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo [and] Kenya, there is no bridge like this,” he added.
He said it should be named Nyerere Bridge after Tanzania’s first President Julius Nyerere, saying the idea was first mooted by him.
Mr Nyerere led Tanzania, or what was then known as Tanganyika, to independence from the UK in 1960.
He governed the country until his retirement in 1985, and died in 1999.
Somalia is still fragile, but fragile is progress
April 20, 2016 | 0 Comments
Al-Shabaab is still launching attacks, donor fatigue is rising, and countless other challenges remain. But there’s no doubt Somalia is moving in the right direction.
For more than two decades, Somalia was synonymous with a failed state − a country controlled by terrorists and warlords, lacking an effective government and beset by recurring cycles of man-made and natural disasters.
No doubt, Somalia remains a work in progress. But as the world’s attention has shifted to other nations on the brink of collapse such as Yemen, Libya and the Central African Republic, Somalia’s quiet progress has made a return to anarchy increasingly unlikely. Today, Somalia, one of the world’s poorest nations, is rebuilding its economy and re-establishing a functioning government.
The influx of international diplomats augurs well, as does the relocation of more United Nations staff from Nairobi to Mogadishu. The foreign nations who have established strong presence in Mogadishu also provide a sense of optimism and much needed economic revivalism to the capital. Most importantly, the noticeable Turkish and United Arab Emirates compounds provide a necessary public perception of security for Villa Somalia (the president’s compound) and continue to provide optimism for regional and international bodies to stay engaged inside Somalia.
A additional milestone on this journey was passed in January when the Obama administration nominated Stephen Schwartz, a career diplomat and longstanding Africa specialist, to become ambassador to Mogadishu, ending a 23-year lapse. This move highlights how ties between the US and Somalia have strengthened since 2013 when Washington ended two decades without formal bilateral relations.
However, Somalia’s upgrade from failed state to fragile one must be seen for what it is. Somalia remains vulnerable to political, security and economic shocks. There’s a danger that shiny symbols of normalcy like the return of MasterCard Inc. last year − the first by a company that relies on the international payments system − could lead to complacency among donor nations that face other pressing needs. After a quarter-century of conflict, Somalia cannot tackle its reconstruction alone. For progress to continue, it will need sustained assistance −aid that also pushes Somalia’s government and people to assume growing responsibility for their own security and economic development.
Fortunately, that process has begun with a six-year long climb back from the country’s abyss. The successes notched by Somalia offer a glimmer of hope for other nations that today are imploding under the weight of their own violent extremism, sectarianism and factionalism.
What’s behind the turnaround?
A new, indirectly elected and more broadly based government, led by President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud and Prime Minister Omar Abdirashid Sharmarke, has won the confidence of the donor community as well as many of Somalia’s strong-willed and independent clan leaders. Over the past two years, Mohamud’s government has created a viable federal system comprising half a dozen states, pushed forward on development of a new constitution, and worked out initial arrangements for the country’s next elections. (They will be more representative than the previous ones, but fall short of a one-person one-vote standard.)
The new government has also made substantial security gains. Working closely with the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and military advisers from several non-African countries, the Somali government has significantly degraded the Islamist militant group al-Shabaab and pushed its fighters to the nation’s geographic margins. Greater stability in Somalia and the semi-autonomous region of Puntland, its cooperative partner to the north, has also contributed to the sharp decline in Red Sea piracy.
Although al-Shabaab continues lethal hit-and-run operations, the Mogadishu government has expanded security in urban areas and broad swaths of the country, helping rebuild the devastated economy and state institutions. The government has re-established full control over Mogadishu’s port, a lucrative source of tax revenue, while the Turkish government, one of Somalia’s strongest partners, has refurbished and expanded the main airport, boosting revenue there.
The improved fiscal situation in turn has supported restoration of some government services. Schools, health clinics, and regional government offices have reopened in most urban areas. Tens of thousands of Somali children are enrolled in an ambitious government plan to increase classroom participation by a million students.
Business is also improving. Turkish investors are moving beyond speculation and have set up new companies that include homebuilding and commercial real estate ventures. Livestock exports, once the backbone of the Somali economy, have also rebounded. 18 months ago, Somalia exported 5 million goats, sheep, cattle and camels to Saudi Arabia and the Gulf. It’s the highest level in 20 years and reflects a general growth in trade between Mogadishu and Riyadh as relations warm between the two governments.
This year, Somalis will head to the polls to elect a new president and parliament. They will also vote on the proposed new constitution. This electoral trifecta could well put Somalia on the path for a future move from fragility to stability.
However, challenges can be expected and certainly remain. The government of Somalia over the past two years has carried out its most successful campaigns of degrading al-Shabaab and its senior leader’s capabilities, and the terrorist group is on its heels more than ever. Yet the Somali military and security services are still heavily dependent on international and regional expertise and are in no way capable in doing it alone. In addition, donor fatigue and ongoing frustration amongst the international community over what is seen as a culture of corruption remain at their highest levels.
Without organised and structured government institutions that address economic, social and security sector reform to name a few, Somalia will fall back into the same challenges that previous governments faced. In order to put Somalia back on the path to recovery, continued pressure on the Somali government to continue to take ownership of their own state building is necessary.
Somalis will need to be resilient in the face of near certain al-Shabaab attacks aimed at disrupting and terrorising the population. And the armed forces still need to tackle lingering clan and sub-clan rivalries. It will be a long time before Somalia can discard the security umbrella of AMISOM or the large inflows of assistance from the UN and committed donors including the EU, UK, US and Turkey.
But Somalia has changed for the better and its current leaders appear determined to prevent a return to the recent lawless past. With new embassies and business moving into Somalia and continued economic and security advances, Somalia looks like it may be poised to move out of the shadows of war and poverty and into a brighter future.
*Source African Arguments.Muhammad Fraser-Rahim is an Africa programs officer at United States Institute of Peace.
Ethiopian runners sweep Boston Marathon
April 19, 2016 | 0 Comments
By Jill Martin*
Ethiopia had a banner day at the Boston Marathon on Monday, as Lemi Berhanu Hayle and Atsede Baysa won the men’s and women’s titles.
It’s the first time the country has swept the men’s and women’s titles in this historic event, the world’s oldest annual marathon.
Hayle won the elite men’s division in an unofficial time of 2:12:45, completing a podium sweep by three men’s runners from Ethiopia. He pulled away late from the 2015 champion, Lelisa Desisa, with a little more than a mile to go. Desisa finished second in a time of 2:13:32. Yemane Adhane Tsegay finished third in 2:14:02.
“Very difficult,” Hayle said through a translator to CNN affiliate WBZ after he won the race.
Marathon bombing survivors take part
McFadden: ‘I got chills’ from the crowd
Keep the Candle of Freedom Burning in the Congo
April 19, 2016 | 0 Comments
The U.S. should seize the opportunity to help facilitate the peaceful transfer of power in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
By Peter Roff*
The history of postcolonial Africa is brimming with tales of greed, avarice, corruption and thuggery that would produce envy in the heart of even the slickest Chicago pol. If it weren’t for the poverty, disease, bloodshed, war and death accompanying it, it might even be amusing, like something out of a late Graham Greene novel.
The problem is not intractable as it is seems. It’s the lack of resolve among the truly democratic nations of the world that allows it to continue. They pump in billions in aid, the plutocrats steal it, and as long as the special interests on both sides are getting what they want, everyone tries to pretend nothing is going on.
For the world to pay attention, an event typically has to be like the Ethiopian famine, the genocide in Darfur, the Rwandan civil war – extraordinary in its inhumanity and brutality. When the crisis is past, however, we all turn away.
Despite its many democratic successes, Africa is not a continent where people expect to see peaceful transitions of power in countries from one regime to the next. Democratic institutions and constitutions are still undergoing their shakedown cruise in many places, where political successors are trying just as hard to cling to power as their predecessors.
In the Democratic Republic of Congo, President Joseph Kabila is giving every indication he does not plan to leave office at the end of this year but will instead run again for the presidency, in violation of the country’s newest constitution.
“A political crisis is building as [Congo] prepares, or rather fails to prepare, for upcoming historic elections scheduled for this November,” former Rep. Tom Perriello, now the U.S. Special Envoy for the Great Lakes Region of Africa, told a congressional hearing in February.
Such a move, he said, would undermine the political and economic gains the country has experienced over the past decade. “A confrontation between President Kabila and those demanding timely and credible elections in the country is not inevitable, but it is becoming increasingly probable,” he said.
Kabila’s signals that he may resist a peaceful transition is drawing bipartisan attention on Capitol Hill.
In a letter sent Friday to the Congo’s ambassador to Washington, Republican Sen. John McCain wrote of his “deep concern at the increasingly repressive political climate and the deterioration of the human rights situation” in the country, a former Belgian colony once known as Zaire.
McCain went on to criticize what he called “a wide-scale campaign to crack down on political dissent and consolidate power,” including the expulsion of members of the ruling coalition and the arrest and imprisonment of activists calling for a general strike to protest Kabila’s efforts to remain in office. McCain noted “reports from credible rights groups indicate that political opponents are now facing death threats from authorities.”
Alongside McCain in this crusade is Democratic Sen. Ed Markey, who wrote to Secretary of State John Kerry in February about the situation in the Congo, saying, “Continued delay and public perceptions that President Kabila is clinging to power have create a very real risk of violent upheaval.”
The Congo is no stranger to violence. Kabila came to power after his father, Laurent-Desire Kabila, who led the coalition that ousted Mobuto Sese Seko after a 31-year dictatorial reign and then proclaimed himself president, was assassinated in 2001. The prospect of civil unrest, perhaps even another war if Kabila refuses to abide by the constitution, is quite real.
In his letter to Kerry, Markey outlined three points the United States should “clearly and unequivocally” impress upon Kabila:
- Kabila should immediately, clearly and publicly state he will not remain in power once his term ends this year.
- Provided there is verified, on-the-ground progress toward a free and fair national election this year, including an end to the current efforts to close political space and crack down on peaceful dissent, the U.S. and international partners will help fund the electoral process, and encourage increased private investment.
- If he fails to meet clear benchmarks required to hold a free and fair national election this year, then the U.S. and other partners will implement sanctions. Such sanctions should include targeted visa denials and asset freezes under the Executive Order on the DRC of July 8, 2014, review and reduction of bilateral and multilateral security and economic aid going through the government and discouragement of private investment.
In their letters, both McCain and Markey acknowledge that Kabila has, up to now, helped bring “relative stability” to the Congo after a prolonged period of turmoil. The respect he has earned, they caution separately, could be wiped out if he continues the transition from democrat to dictator by blocking or impeding the upcoming election, continuing to crack down on democracy supporters and standing for a third term in office.
“The United States values its good relationship with the [Congo] and is proud to have provided assistance to your government as you continue to confront ongoing challenges,” writes McCain in the penultimate paragraph to his letter. “President Kabila has been instrumental to the [Congo’s] path from conflict to relative stability. He now has the opportunity to cement his legacy by setting the country on the successful path towards democracy and prosperity that future generations of Congolese and the world will long celebrate.”
There are those within the Washington policymaking community who will no doubt say, “It’s Africa – who cares? What is America’s compelling strategic interest in what happens in Congo?” The answer is freedom, for all mankind – an idea that has animated this nation since its founding. We long ago determined that the men and women who inhabit this small planet have an inalienable right to be free that comes to us from the Creator. Our size and economic and cultural power give America a unique opportunity — some would even call it a responsibility — to spread that belief far and wide, not just through Africa but through Asia, Central and South America and the Middle East. It may not be our job to topple every tinhorn dictator who plans his flag on a plot of land. But it is our job to keep freedom’s light burning on the highest hill so that all can see it and embrace its glow.
NIGERIA: MAJOR GAS FACILITY WON’T BE REPAIRED UNTIL MAY
April 19, 2016 | 0 Comments
Power outages in Nigeria are likely to persist until May as oil and gas giant Shell struggles to repair a major facility damaged by militants.
Nigeria’s Vice President Yemi Osinbajo visited the Forcados Export Terminal in the southern Delta state over the weekend. The facility, which is run by a subsidiary of Royal Dutch Shell, known as the Shell Petroleum Development Corporation, was subject to an attack in February when an underwater pipeline was hit by an explosion.
Inflows into the terminal and exports out were halted after the attack, taking one of the country’s energy hubs offline. Forcados has the capacity to export around 400,000 barrels per day, the Financial Times reported.
In a statement released on Sunday , Osinbajo said that the damage to Forcados affected around 40 percent of the West African country’s gas supply and was responsible for ongoing power shortages in Nigeria. Osinbajo urged Shell to do “whatever else can be done and do it as expeditiously as possible,” but the company’s current repair plan envisages that the facility will not be fully repaired until May at the earliest.
Attacks on oil and gas facilities in Nigeria have been increasing in recent months. Two of the four refineries owned by the state-run Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) were temporarily closed in January due to supply problems caused by the attacks, which Nigerian power minister Babatunde Fashola said were costing the country $2.4 million per day at the time. One of the refineries has since reopened but attacks have continued, with three people killed in an explosion at a facility owned by Italian company ENI in March.
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari recently vowed to deal with the “vandals and saboteurs” responsible for hitting oil pipelines “the way we dealt with Boko Haram,” a reference to the Nigerian military’s sustained offensive against the jihadi group.
Osinbajo reiterated the government’s intention to deal with the problem, saying that Buhari’s administration was considering the establishment of a “permanent pipeline security force” that would be “armed with sophisticated weapons to ensure we contain the vandalism and overhaul security.”
The Niger Delta was the site of a sustained militant campaign in the mid-2000s, when groups such as the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) kidnapped workers at oil facilities and destroyed pipelines in protest at what they saw as the unfair distribution of resources. At its peak, the militancy cut Nigeria’s oil production to 800,000 barrels per day—less than a third of the maximum 2.5 million barrels per day.
The recent spate of attacks came in the wake of Nigeria’s anti-corruption agency issuing an arrest warrant for ex-MEND leader Government Ekpemupolo—known as Tompolo—in January on charges of theft and money laundering totaling more than 35 billion naira ($176 million), which he denies. Tompolo has also denied any links to the recent attacks but has yet to hand himself in to the Nigerian authorities.
Moyosore – A journey of discovery, reappraisal, and rededication
April 10, 2016 | 0 Comments
By Chido Onumah
In a country where the value of human life is not worth more than that of a fly at a butcher’s shop; where misery is a constant companion and the candour of our politicians and rulers is the same candour that pimps extend to prostitutes, it is not out of place to celebrate every minute, every hour, every month, and every year. It is certainly not for nothing that “Happy new month” has become a refrain at the beginning of every month for many Nigerians on WhatsApp, Twitter, and Facebook. But I digress!
I was born exactly 50 years ago today (April 10) in a country that, by all indications, had the prospects of being the leader of the Black race. This is my story and in a way the story of Nigeria. The year of my birth, six years after independence, was the year of the first of many military coups, a bloody event – touted by those who engineered it as an attempt to redeem the country – that would spiral out of control and precipitate an internecine civil war.
Memories of that turbulent period still reverberate across the country. Fifty years after, Nigeria remains a dream deferred. And that dream is drying up like a raisin in the sun, to paraphrase Langston Hughes. If we were happy to gain independence in 1960, we failed woefully to build a nation out of what was handed to us by the departing colonialists. If we had three countries, as ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo alluded to on January 15, 2016, at an event to mark the 50th anniversary of the January 15, 1966, coup and the 46th anniversary of the end of the civil war on January 15, 1970, we took it for granted such that today we can’t keep count of the number of “countries” that are tugging at the heart and soul of Nigeria.
It is ironic that the older the country gets the more challenging it is for her people to live in peace and harmony. I remember the Nigeria I grew up in with nostalgia and I wonder always what happened to that country. It was the era of oil boom and the “Cement Armada”, when the problem of the country was not money but what to do with it, as the then Head of State, Gen. Yakubu Gowon, was reported to have said. Maybe the prosperity soothed our differences. Whatever the reasons, the Nigeria I grew up in, the country of my childhood, was one in which the concept of Nigeria was all-embracing; it was one that our rulers should have taken a cue from, but they were too busy sharing and pocketing the money because, “Their nation,” in the eternal words of radical economist, late Prof Eskor Toyo, “is a well of mineral oil and money from the territory called Nigeria.” Building a Nigerian nation was the last thing on their mind!
Growing up in different parts of Lagos, amongst kids and friends from other parts of Nigeria, street football and table tennis were the rallying points. Nigerian Pidgin was the lingua franca. And it was spoken with relish. It was a “crime” to speak your ethnic language, even to your siblings, in the midst of friends. For many – like Nathaniel, the football star with a perpetual runny nose – without an ethnic name, nobody guessed or cared to know where they came from. It just didn’t matter. I remember, in the midst of a “set”, the three or four-a-side football game that was the staple of many streets in Lagos, our Muslim compatriots, Mohammed and his brother, Aminu, would occasionally excuse themselves and go say their prayers and we would stop the game for them to return or defer their “set” until they returned, depending on the number of people available.
Then, gradually things began to change. Because there was nothing to aspire to, the post-civil war generation went the way of their forebears. I remember a discussion I had many years ago with a Ghanaian friend of mine, a lawyer, in London. Every time we meet is an opportunity to dissect the shenanigans of Nigerian and Ghanaian politicians, among the vilest of that species of humans.
On this occasion, my friend wondered what the future held for Nigeria considering the way we treat one another. During a visit to Nigeria, he was stranded at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos. In the midst of the confusion, he saw a uniformed officer who was beseeched by Nigerians seeking help. He noticed the name on the officer’s nametag and asked a question seeking clarification in the language he thought the officer would understand based on his name. To his surprise, the officer abandoned the Nigerians he was attending to and took my Ghanaian friend away to solve his problem.
I have recounted this story to explain just one aspect of the Nigerian tragedy. I am sure many Nigerians have similar experiences to share. What does Nigeria really mean to Nigerians? We treat foreigners better than we treat our countrymen and women because they share our faith or we speak their language. If you go to many government agencies and academic institutions in Nigeria, the lingua franca is usually the language of the head of the agency or institution; and those who do not understand or speak that language soon discover that they are “foreigners” in their own country. How can we build a nation when we look at one another with suspicion and we don’t put Nigeria first?
It is difficult to make sense of Nigeria. Every now and again, l come across Nigerians, some well-educated, who will ask in righteous indignation: “How come your children all have Yoruba names? As if Yoruba were some strange and distant part of the world. My standard answer is usually, “Oh, my spouse is Yoruba.” And the response? “That is not an excuse. Where do you come from?” For those I think can swallow it, my answer, an answer which I am sure will make comedians, Ali Baba, AY, Basketmouth, and Klint da Drunk, green with envy is: “I came from my mother. And I have never been back there.”
As part of nation-building, perhaps government could incentivize young Nigerians who marry outside their geo-political zone or ethnic stock. As a people, we must develop a national ethos, something that binds us and which we all aspire to. For example, we could launch a national name project encouraging parents to give their children at least one name from another ethnic group. In another twenty years, we may not be able to tell who comes from where.
On this occasion, in this sometimes tortuous journey in which I found God, socialism, and love, I remember my family, teachers, mentors, friends, and colleagues. I definitely would want to encounter you all if I were to live this life all over again. You have impacted and enriched my life beyond measure. Some have challenged me; others have supported me in unimaginable ways; yet, others have tolerated my “troubles” and importunity with equanimity.
My greatest gratitude, of course, goes to my immediate family, my alluring spouse, Sola, and adorable children: Femi, Mobolaji, Dotun, and Moyosore. In her I found love and with the children, a family to die for. These five persons remain the best thing to have happened to me. We have shared beautiful and unforgettable memories that could last three lifetimes. I couldn’t have done any of the things I have been able to do without their love and understanding. Sola has been an immeasurable and exceptional pillar of support and has kept the children grounded in my, sometimes, long absences from home.
There is my dad, Elder E. E. Onumaegbu, who taught me courage, honour, the virtue of hard work, and the art of cooking. He was a feminist even if that word wouldn’t have meant anything to him. There was an unwritten law in our home that whoever came back first would prepare dinner for the family. Since my dad worked in a government agency, it meant that on many occasions – except when he had to attend political or social meetings – he usually came home first and had the duty to fix dinner. And as the oldest child, I was the assistant cook. Though not an ideologue, an innocuous 14th birthday gift from my dad, a volume of the Collected Works of V.I. Lenin, leader of the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, changed me forever and set me on a political and ideological discovery that would define my life.
My mum, my birthday mate, Comfort Adaku, taught me love, respect, humility and perseverance. Even when she had quarrels or disagreements with other people, she would always remind us that it was her battle and that, as children, we had a duty to respect even those we considered her “enemies”. I never saw my mum get angry. I still regret the one occasion I remember her raise her voice at me.
I was 17, fresh out of high school and enjoying the freedom that came with the transition from high school to university. My dad, always wanting new experience for me, had asked me to go spend my holiday with my uncles and cousins in Owerri, Imo State. Such visits also afforded me the opportunity to visit my maternal grandmother, Janet Ijeoma Durunna. She was the only one, out of my four possible grandparents that I met. She was a beautiful and lovely old woman who enjoyed telling us, her grandchildren, stories and emphasising the moral of each story.
I had hardly arrived Owerri when I came down with severe stomach pain. My aunty took me to her family clinic where the doctor diagnosed appendicitis. He said I had to be operated upon immediately, except that I also had malaria. That meant I had to be treated for malaria before the surgery. That gave my mum, who didn’t want me to travel in the first place, enough time to come to Owerri before the surgery. I had never seen my mum so shaken when she saw me. It was perhaps the first time I remember being hospitalized. The clinic wasn’t busy so my mum would spend time way beyond the visiting hours preparing me psychologically for my surgery.
The surgery went well. Then one day, while I was recuperating, something bizarre happened. That evening, some youth, mostly traders from the main market in the centre of Owerri were brought to the clinic with various degrees of injuries. I would later know that the cause of their injuries was the noise that roused me from sleep a few hours before their arrival. This incident took place a few weeks to one of the most contentious elections in Nigeria’s history, the 1983 general elections, that would be won or stolen (depending on who you asked) by the notorious National Party of Nigeria (NPN), the precursor of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). With that at the back of my mind, when I heard that noise I feared it was a clash of political thugs. But I was wrong. When I looked through the window in my room, I saw a helicopter hovering in the sky and tiny pieces of paper raining down; and hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people following the helicopter and running in different directions trying to grab as many of the falling papers as they could. As I would learn later, the magnanimous occupant of the helicopter was no other than the controversial politician, Francis Arthur Nzeribe, who was running for a seat as a senator. That was his own way of campaigning – showering his constituents with naira. Nzeribe would emerge on the national scene a decade later in 1993 as a foot soldier of Gen. Ibrahim Babangida, the self-proclaimed evil genius, and one of the leaders of the Association for Better a Nigeria (ABN), the amorphous organisation that played an important role in the infamous annulment of the June 12, 1993 presidential election won by M.K.O. Abiola.
Two weeks after I was first hospitalized, I was discharged with the instruction not to do any heavy lifting and to come back a few days later to assess the healing process. That was the beginning of my trouble with my mum. Two days after I returned home, my cousins who had not seen me in years, and wanting to impress me, persuaded me to join them to watch a match at a local football competition. I decided to accompany them without worrying about what my mum would say, partly because I assumed we would be back before dusk. I wasn’t familiar with the terrain and didn’t know how far our destination was. And there were no cell phones those days to call or text that I was safe. By the time we trekked the almost five kilometres back, it was pitch-dark and my mum had gone in search of me.
Knowing the relationship we had, I didn’t anticipate my mum’s reaction. The moment she returned and saw me, she yelled at me, asking if I wanted to kill her by going to play football considering my condition. For the first and only time in my life, I talked back to my mum. I replied that I was 17 and old enough to take care of myself. That further enraged her. I would apologise hours later, after refusing dinner, telling her that I only accompanied my cousins to the game. She said she was informed that I went to play football and wondered why I didn’t tell her I was just a spectator. I replied that she didn’t give me the opportunity to explain myself. We agreed that as soon as I was strong enough to travel, we would return to Lagos.
Lagos holds strong memories for me even though the chaos, noise, heavy traffic and general planlessness combine to fill me with dread each time I have to return there. As a preteen, I would sometimes skip school to tend my mother’s stall each time she had to attend the regular meetings, in central Lagos, called by Abibatu Mogaji, then President-General, Association of Nigerian Market Women and Men. Interestingly I was the only boy among the female preteens who would also stand in for their mothers. As a youngster, I insisted on working for my pocket money. So, during weekends and holidays, I would encourage my mum to buy me things to sell and I would “kiri” (a Yoruba word meaning to carry a tray filled with items on the head and sell in the neighbourhood) different items, mostly fruits – depending on the season. I made enough money to invest on newspapers and books. By the time I left high school in 1983 and had become too big to “kiri”, my mum made sure I never lacked pocket money. Much of that money went to buying The Guardian newspaper which debuted that year and would change the trajectory of Nigerian journalism.
One of the fondest memories about my mum took place in 1995. After graduation, I had moved back to Lagos in search of work as a journalist. I started contributing to The Punch during my National Youth Service and would spend some time at The Guardian as a trainee reporter after service, then Sentinel magazine, before moving to ICNL, the parent company of The News/Tempo magazines which had just started a daily newspaper called AM News. I was reporting education even though my interest was politics. This was at the height of the brutal military dictatorship of the maniacal general, Sani Abacha.
I had done a story on the secret foreign accounts of Abacha’s second-in-command, Gen. Oladipo Diya, way before #PanamaPapers would expose the underbelly of global capitalism and the illicit financial activities of companies and prominent individuals around the world, including past and present public officers in Nigeria, such as Gen. Theophilus Danjuma (retd.), one of the ringleaders of the second military coup in Nigeria on July 29, 1966, a former Chief of Army Staff and later Minister of Defence, Gen. David mark (retd.) ex-Senate President, and Bukola Saraki, former governor of Kwara State and current President of the Nigerian Senate.
Abacha would later fall out with Diya, nicknamed the “Crying General” – after a video emerged showing him on his knees, weeping and pleading for leniency on being accused of conspiring to overthrow the Abacha regime. On this occasion, before the coup allegation that condemned Diya, first to death, and later, to life imprisonment, the story on the cover of AM News had alleged that Gen. Diya maintained foreign accounts which had fallen into the hands of fraudsters. Abacha was aghast. As the mindless looting that took place under his murderous regime came to light, it became clear that his shock had to do with the fact that someone else was beating him to his game. The day after the story was published, about five operatives of the State Security Service (SSS) arrived AM News as I was preparing my story for the following day and arrested me. I was taken to the SSS headquarters at Shangisha on the outskirts of central Lagos and detained for eight days.
While the story of my arrest was widely reported, my dad and siblings made sure they kept it from my mum. I used to visit her once or twice a week, sometimes before work, and at other times after work, depending on my schedule as a reporter. As the days rolled by and I hadn’t visited, she enquired from my siblings if they had heard from me. They were able to convince her that indeed they had heard from me and that I had indicated I would visit. By the end of the week she had become very apprehensive. She had genuine reasons to be concerned. We had endless discussions about the dangers of my job. In his attempt to legitimize his regime, Abacha had declared war on journalists and human rights activists.
I went straight to the office to inform my bosses the evening I was released. I was given the day off and I went immediately to visit my mum. I imagined the different questions and scenarios that would play out the moment I saw her. Even though I had lost a few pounds from not eating the miserable food that was served once or twice a day at the detention centre, I didn’t think I was too disheveled to betray the fact that I was in detention. I barely slept while in detention, partly because there was no bed, and partly because my interrogators kept prodding me, morning, afternoon, and night, to retract my story in order to facilitate my release.
The moment I appeared before my mum, she took one look at me, inquired why I did not visit her the week before and intoned that I looked like someone who had just been released from prison. I smiled and replied in a jocular way that she was right; that I had just been released from detention. I sensed a feeling of betrayal, that my siblings had managed to keep my arrest and detention away from her. Then I complimented her clairvoyance before narrating my experience in detention.
I learnt many life lessons from my mum. If ever there is one disappointment I have in life, it is that she did not live to see my family: her daughter-in-law and grandchildren. I remember on many occasions we would talk about love, family, and relationship. At the end of such discussion, she would say in that tone only a doting mother would use that she would not interfere in my marriage and that she would not visit my home unless she was expressly invited by my spouse and me. She was sincere about it but she would add that she knew, considering my disposition, she could not win that battle even if she wanted to act the proverbial “mother-in-law from hell”.
I remember my sibling with whom I shared laughter, love, affection, and many childhood pranks; my childhood best friends, Ben Ogazi and Kennedy Etoroma were a constant source of inspiration. Kennedy and I would share a flat much later in Festac Town after graduation. Initially called “Festival Town” or “Festac Village”, Festac Town, the magnificent housing estate along the Lagos-Badagry Expressway, was built by the military regime of Olusegun Obasanjo to house participants of the Second World Festival of Black Arts and Culture in 1977. After the festival, the 5000 dwelling units were handed over to Nigerians who participated in a ballot. Festac Town was, as Andrew Apter noted in The Pan-African Nation: Oil and the Spectacle of Culture in Nigeria, “intended to evoke the modern age and the promise of state-sponsored economic development fuelled by oil”.
My high school was just opposite what was known as the 2nd Gate of Festac, and my friends and I enjoyed walking to school because of the scenic view. Sometimes, on our way from school, we would sit and chat on benches with trees along the well-paved streets providing adequate protection from the sun. Anyone who wants to understand the tragic paradox called Nigeria, our knack for abuse of systems and processes need look no further than Festac Town. Today, less than four decades after it was opened, that once serene and picturesque estate has degenerated into a slum.
One of the most interesting people I came across during high school was my principal, late Chief (Mrs.) Bolaji Aduke Awoboh-Pearse. Mrs. Pearse, as we called her, was a mother away from home. She took me and other raw preteen boys who arrived Awori Ajeromi Grammar School in September 1978 under her tutelage and refined us in character and learning. Rather than flog us, she would cry – as a sign of disappointment – each time we pulled a prank deserving of punishment like when a few of my friends and I went to swim in a stream after school.
Late Pa Alfred Poopola Jaiyesimi adopted me as one of his sons and opened a vista of interest in politics, history, and the struggle for independence. Dr. Lambert Onumaegbu, was my earliest encounter with the world of intellectualism. My cousin, Chief Ibem Onumaegbulam, the older brother I never had, saw me through university.
I salute my comrades – the cadres of the Movement for a Progressive Nigeria (MPN) – at the University of Calabar (UNICAL) where I mastered the art of insurrection and agitation. Regrettably, it was not until I arrived UNICAL that I first became aware of the role of ethnic consciousness (even amongst intellectuals) in the stymieing of the Nigerian dream. As part of the rites of passage for fresh students, we were entreated to join, depending on where you claimed to come from, one of the many “Parapo” or ethnic associations on campus that served no meaningful purpose other than to magnify our fault lines as a nation.
We fought many battles against this parochialism. Our other exploits, including the planned takeover of a radio station in Calabar, during the Orkar coup of April 22, 1990, could have cost us our lives. The “canon of the movement”, Austin “Canoways” Emaduku, rallied Malabites (male students of UNICAL) to rescue me when I was abducted by reactionary forces one early morning in those turbulent days. How can I forget my roommate for four years, Victor Oruche? Though we never knew each other before we met at UNICAL on our first day of school and our politics was polar opposite, our bond was beyond that of blood brothers.
I pay respect to Comrade Edwin Madunagu who, through his writings and many interactions, has provided directions and answers to many ideological questions in the last three decades; to the wordsmith, Dapo Olorunyomi, who has opened many doors for me, including the one that led me into professional journalism. I remember Comrade Prof. Bene Madunagu and her colleagues in the Academic Staff Union of universities (ASUU) whose dogged support ensured that I left UNICAL with a degree.
In the radical pan-Africanist and editor of The Insight newspaper, Accra, Ghana, Kwesi Pratt Jnr. and his wife, Marian Baaba, I found a family away from Nigeria during the horrid days of the Abacha dictatorship. Dr. Rosaline Okosun, President of the Association Against Women Export (ASWE) facilitated my relocation to Canada and played the role of a big sister in helping me settle in.
World War II veteran, Roy Taylor, his wife, Mae, Charlene and Clayton Root, and Westview Baptist Church, London, Ontario, Canada, were magnanimous hosts when I arrived Canada in the summer of 2000. Dr. Dascha and Alex Paylor welcomed me warmly into their family without hesitation and supported me through graduate school. I thank my dean at the Faculty of Information & Media Studies at Western University, London, Ontario, Canada, Prof. Majunath Pendakur, who believed in me and gave me career-enhancing opportunities as well as Prof José Manuel Pérez Tornero, Director of the Doctorate in Journalism and Communication Sciences at the Faculty of Communication Sciences, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Spain, who encouraged me three years ago to embark on a doctoral research on the digital transition of the newspaper press in Nigeria and South Africa.
Finally, I would like to acknowledge two individuals, my colleague and friend, Lewis Asubiojo, with whom I set up the African Centre for Media & Information Literacy (AFRICMIL) many years ago, and my friend, and collaborator, Godwin Onyeacholem, who has been my editorial support and guide through three books in the last five years.
Moyosoreoluwa! I thank God for life and His mercies. On this occasion of the golden jubilee of my birth, I rededicate myself to the destruction of that system, no matter what its purveyors call it, that seeks to enslave the workers of the world; to “the categorical imperative to overthrow all circumstances in which the human being is humiliated, enslaved, abandoned, and despised!”
I pledge to Nigeria; however, not Nigeria in its extremely dysfunctional state. I commit to a new, progressive, and egalitarian Nigeria where citizens will be defined not by their name, language, faith, or ethnicity; where citizens will find fulfillment no matter which part of the country they come from; above all, a Nigeria where every Nigerian can live in peace, go to school, work, raise a family and run for office wherever they choose. I believe that Nigeria is possible!
*email@example.com; Twitter: @conumahOnumah is Coordinator of the African Centre for Media & Information Literacy (AFRICMIL). He is the author of two books: Time to Reclaim Nigeria (2011) and Nigeria is Negotiable (2013). His forthcoming book is titled: We are all Biafrans: A Participant-Observer’s Interventions in a Country Sleepwalking to Disas
Alain Ebobissé appointed Chief Executive Officer of Africa50
April 9, 2016 | 0 Comments
Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, April 7, 2016 – The Board of Directors of Africa50 is pleased to announce the appointment of Alain Ebobissé as Chief Executive Officer of Africa50, the Pan-African infrastructure investment platform capitalized by the African Development Bank and, so far, by 22 African countries with an initial capitalization of US $830 million.
The Africa50 fund was created at the initiative of the African Development Bank (AfDB) and officially launched in Morocco in September 2014. Its initial capital of US $830 million was provided by the AfDB and contributions from 22 countries.
“I am delighted to welcome Mr. Ebobissé to Africa50,” said Akinwumi Adesina, President of the African Development Bank and Chairman of the Board of Directors of Africa50. “His extensive experience and recognized global leadership in infrastructure development will be critical as we build Africa50 into an effective and successful infrastructure investment house widely recognized as a leader in infrastructure project development and investment in Africa, with an excellent reputation and credibility within the continent and beyond.”
A citizen of Cameroon, Alain Ebobissé is a renowned specialist in the financing and development of infrastructure and knows the African continent well.
“I am excited about the opportunity to lead Africa50 and serve Africa and to work with Government partners and private investors to develop and fund a large number of bankable infrastructure projects in the continent on the basis of strong commercial discipline and sound investment principles,” stated Ebobissé. “I look forward to working with the Board of Directors and to building a highly skilled and experienced team of infrastructure investment professionals that will enable us to help transform the African infrastructure landscape,” he added.
“Mr. Ebobissé is well recognized global leader in the area of infrastructure finance and development. He has an impressive track record of global leadership in successful development of private, and public-private infrastructure development, structuring, financing and equity investment in emerging markets,” said Adesina.
Prior to joining Africa50, Ebobissé served as the Global Head for the World Bank Group’s Global Infrastructure Project Development Fund (“IFC InfraVentures”) where he oversees a team of highly skilled and experienced infrastructure specialists and leads the development of and investment in several infrastructure projects in Africa, Asia, Europe and Latin America.
Ebobissé has led the design, structuring and implementation of IFC InfraVentures from its inception. Ebobissé also serves as Chief Investment Officer in the Global Infrastructure and Natural Resources Department of the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the private-sector arm of the World Bank Group, based in Washington. Prior to joining the IFC in 1998, held several positions in the financial services industry in France, including as Deputy Head of Project and Structured Finance at Caisse des Depots et Consignations, based in Paris. Ebobissé holds a Master of Business Administration from the International School for Management Development (IMD) in Lausanne, Switzerland.
In order to finance its infrastructure, it is estimated that Africa would need US $95 billion per year. In 2012, African Heads of State therefore issued a joint declaration on the Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA) calling for the creation of innovative solutions to facilitate and accelerate the deployment of infrastructure in Africa. It was this call that led to the launch of Africa50, a corporation operating on commercial terms with the support of the AfDB and several African countries.
Africa50 is a specialized international financial institution established by the African Development Bank and African countries to help accelerate infrastructure development in Africa. Africa50 held its Constitutive General Assembly on the 29th of July 2015 in Casablanca, Morocco. The countries who have so far committed funds to Africa50 are: Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Djibouti, Egypt, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Nigeria, Niger, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Sudan, The Gambia and Togo. While the first closing was available only to African countries, it is anticipated that the second and subsequent closings will be available not only to African countries that are yet to invest in Africa50, but also non-sovereign investors both in Africa and outside Africa with a target to raise US $3 billionover the medium term to invest in commercially viable infrastructure projects across Africa. Africa50 is incorporated in Casablanca, Morocco and enjoys certain privileges and immunities. Africa50 is committed to the highest standards of corporate governance and ethical, environment and social responsibility.
Imani Launches First Full-Scale Africa Lawyers on Demand Service
April 9, 2016 | 0 Comments
- Imani will offer tailored, world-class legal services across African continent and across all industries on demand basis
- The firm is recruiting 60 lawyers and is projected to grow to 400 lawyers within 16 months
- Imani combines flexibility of an in-house resource with support and quality assurance of a major law firm
- Firm will offer support cost-effective support for any scenario – on site or remote, secondment or rotational work
CAPE TOWN, South Africa, April 7, 2016/ — The future of law is here. Imani , Africa’s first full-scale lawyers on demand service, has launched operations, based out of Johannesburg. Imani will offer tailored legal solutions across the African continent and across economic sectors on a demand basis, tapping into a large pool of skilled and qualified lawyers with experience at big firms. Imani is the first of its kind for Africa in that it combines the flexibility of an in-house resource with the guaranteed support and quality of a major law firm.
African legal clients are demanding a practice model that is cost-effective and transparent. With a cost model that is scaled to the client’s needs and a service model that is tailored to the job, Imani can extend support for any scenario, whether it’s providing experienced contract lawyers, reviewing documents for litigation or due diligence, offering specialized in-country representation or outsourced general counsel.
“Working as a legal advisor across Africa, I have witnessed first hand the need for an agile and flexible offering that is specifically designed for clients and their needs,” said Tiyani Majoko, Executive Director of Imani. “We continue to see a lot of potential and investment in legal representation in Africa. Imani’s outside of the box thinking can seize those opportunities in a way that a one size fits all traditional legal approach cannot.”
Majoko said Imani would first focus on developing relationships with major South African companies and then expand throughout the sub-Saharan region. It will target quickly developing economies such as Ghana, Equatorial Guinea, Angola, Ivory Coast, Nigeria and Kenya. After that it will enter markets with near-term potential like Mozambique, Congo, Botswana, Cameroon, Gabon and Tanzania within the next 12 months.
“The vision of Imani is to transform the African legal landscape the same way that firms like Lawyers on Demand and Axiom pioneered the model in Europe and North America,” Majoko said.
Imani is recruiting 60 lawyers initially and is projecting a talent pool of 400 lawyers within 16 months. Its lawyers have global experience at big law firms and education from top African, European and North American universities.
Imani is a direct response to the changing legal landscape and the tremendous economic growth opportunities present on the African continent. Corporations in Africa face considerable cost pressures and are seeking affordable representation that does not compromise on the quality of legal counsel. Imani provides a flexible set of solutions that respond quickly and cost effectively to mounting workloads and budgetary constraints. Imani’s lawyers can work with clients on site or remotely, on various flexible models such as secondments, special projects, rotational work or flexible support. It’s expertise without the overheads.
“It was time for a firm like Imani to enter the African marketplace and challenge conventional legal methods,” said Gontse Moseneke, Group Executive of Encha Group, an Africa-focused investment house with interests in real estate, oil & gas and technology, of which some are listed on the JSE, Namibian Stock Exchange and London AIM. “When a service combines the highest standards of a major law firm with the flexibility and cost offering of remote representation, that presents a unique value proposition where all sides prevail.”
Imani’s skilled team of specialists will extend support in the following practice areas: Mergers and Acquisitions, Corporate Governance and Compliance, Banking and Finance, Energy, Oil and Gas, Mining, Labour Law, Broad Based Black Economic Empowerment Advisory, Contracts and General Commercial Services.
Nigeria plans cash payments for poor, put graduates on payroll
April 9, 2016 | 0 Comments
ABUJA, April 7 (Reuters) – The Nigerian government plans to make cash payments to poor people of about $25 per month to try to ease poverty and stimulate the economy, the vice-president said on Thursday, a plan that would cost a total of about $300 million per annum.
President Muhammadu Buhari won election in March 2015 on a promise to fight poverty and corruption, which has held most of Nigeria’s 180 million people in poverty despite its oil wealth.
“One million poor and vulnerable Nigerians would receive 5,000 naira ($25) monthly,” Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo said in a statement outlining government priorities for the next 12 months.
Nigeria’s annual per capita income in 2014 was about $3,200 according to the World Bank.
The government will also employ 500,000 graduates as voluntary teachers while they seek jobs in their chosen careers, he said.
The initiatives were part of Buhari’s election campaign. The former military ruler has come under pressure in recent weeks due to fuel shortages. The economy, Africa’s largest, is also suffering from the global slump in oil prices.
Osinbajo did not say how these benefits would be funded, saying only there were part of a 6.06 trillion naira record budget for 2016 which parliament passed last month. Buhari still has to sign the bill.
The government has said it wants to borrow as much as $5 billion abroad but has not detailed how it wants to plug a budget deficit which officials have put in the range of between 2.2 trillion and 3 trillion naira.
Buhari has rejected a devaluation of the naira, which would hit poor people as Nigeria needs to import much of its food needs.
It’s time for the U.S. to rethink its approach to Uganda
April 9, 2016 | 0 Comments
UGANDA IS showing the world what electoral malfeasance can look like, more than a month after voters cast their ballots. Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni won the country’s Feb. 18 elections amid widespread reports of voting irregularities, ballot-box stuffing and intimidation of opposition candidates.
Last Thursday, Uganda’s Supreme Court unsurprisingly rejected third-place finisher Amama Mbabazi’s official petition to challenge the election, claiming that there was insufficient evidence of irregularities that would have swayed the polling result. Opposition leader and second-place finisher Kizza Besigye, who has been under effective house arrest since the vote, was unable to file a formal challenge of the results. On Tuesday, he was once again arrested after leaving his house for the first time since he was forcibly detained.
As Mr. Museveni cruises toward his fifth term in office, marking his 30th year in power, it is time for the United States to seriously revisit its relationship with Uganda. Uganda has been touted as a key ally in Africa in the fight against the al-Shabab terrorist group, and contributed troops to peacekeeping efforts in South Sudan. The United States gives an estimated $750 million in aid to Uganda annually — an estimated $170 million of which goes to military assistance and cooperation. In the past 10 years, the United States has trainedmore troops from Uganda than from any other country in sub-Saharan Africa, with the exception of Burundi.
Mr. Museveni, however, is making a mockery of President Obama’s call for good governance and democracy in Africa, or “strong institutions,” not “strongmen,” as he put it in a 2009 speech in Ghana. As aging autocrats such as Mr. Museveni use U.S.-bankrolled security forces to crack down on opposition candidates, journalists and peaceful protests, lavish security assistance from the United States may be helping to enable an environment of increasing repression in Uganda, and sending the message to other African nations that trampling on rights is permissible so long as the country remains a U.S. counterterrorism ally.
The United States has raised concerns. After the flawed vote, the State Department said that the Ugandan people “deserved better.” After last Thursday’s Supreme Court announcement, the United States called for a peaceful response to the decision, and added that “we hope that the government will now address the grievances voiced by its own people in the wake of these elections and take the necessary steps to enact reforms.”
But hopeful statements are not enough. There are fears that the 71-year-old leader might change the constitution’s presidential age limit of 75 to allow him to run again. Others are concerned that Mr. Museveni’s son, Brig. Muhoozi Kainerugaba, who has rapidly risen through the ranks of Uganda’s military, is being groomed to succeed his father. The United States reallocatedaid and canceled a military exercise with Uganda in the wake of Uganda’s harsh anti-homosexuality bill in 2014 but has not publicly threatened to do the same in response to Uganda’s repression of nongovernmental organizations, crackdowns on journalists, attempted silencing of opposition leaders or tampering with elections. It’s plain for the world to see that democracy is backsliding in Uganda. It’s high time that the United States condition its support on tangible political reforms.
*Source Washington Post.
Africa’s $30 Billion Rail Renaissance Holds Ticket for Trade
April 9, 2016 | 0 Comments
Railway will link Mombasa port to landlocked Uganda, Rwanda
Enough track to connect Cape Town with Copenhagen are planned
By Liezel Hill *
On a sweltering Kenyan morning on the outskirts of a national wildlife park, Chinese and local workers maneuver a massive concrete rail-bridge structure onto towering support piers. In the distance, trucks loaded with shipping containers rumble down a highway.
The bridge at Voi, northwest of the port of Mombasa, is the latest construction frontline for the initial 327 billion-shilling ($3.2 billion) stretch of an ambitious railway project to link the East African country with landlocked neighbors including Rwanda and Uganda. As a faster alternative to the trucks clogging the only road running inland to the capital, the Chinese-built and -financed standard-gauge railway, known as the SGR, has the potential to transform trade in the region.
Kenya’s rail line, the country’s biggest investment since independence in 1963, is among the most advanced of the more than $30 billion of African rail projects planned or under way. Together, they span more than 11,000 kilometers (6,835 miles), enough to connect Cape Town to Copenhagen. It’s one of the bright spots on the world’s least developed continent, where governments are wrestling with drought-induced food shortages, weakened currencies and shrinking budgets following the plunge in commodity prices.
“Infrastructure constraints are one of the major things holding back Africa and this standard-gauge railway will make a big difference,” said Mark Bohlund, an Africa and Middle East economist with Bloomberg Intelligence.
Not all the projects will be built on time, if at all, especially with the commodity-price slump weighing on those designed to move raw materials from mines to ports. And with Chinese growth slowing, the nation’s central role in African infrastructure development may diminish. Countries including Kenya and Ethiopia are also borrowing heavily to fund projects.
Already, though, U.S. and European and companies such as General Electric Co., Alstom SA and LafargeHolcim Ltd. are poised to benefit, along with Chinese builders and African suppliers such as Transnet SOC Ltd. GE is investigating opportunities in countries including Kenya, Ethiopia and Nigeria and will have almost tripled its number of service personnel on the continent from 2015 to the end of this year.
“The overall bed of opportunities around the region remains strong, at least 50 percent higher than it was 10 years ago,” said Thomas Konditi, GE’s head of transportation for Africa. “Those opportunities are still going to be strong for another five to 10 years.”
Besides the East African line, others on the continent include Bollore SA’s plan to develop a 2,700-kilometer West African rail corridor. The project, which has faced legal challenges from rival developers, would link Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso, Niger and Benin.
Also in West Africa, Senegal signed an agreement in December with China Railway Construction for the renovation of 645 kilometers of railroads. Projects are also planned in Tanzania, Mali and Egypt, while Ethiopia recently completed a line connecting Addis Ababa to Djibouti and has another 4,000 kilometers of projects planned.
Rail infrastructure is vital to improve trade between African countries, which stood at just 13 percent of the total last year,according to the African Union.
Kenya, which moves about five percent of freight by rail, predicts the new project will add to economic growth. The government sealed agreements in March with Chinese partners to build the rest of the track up to the border with Uganda, which itself has signed construction agreements for the first phase.
Kenya’s initial stretch, from Mombasa to Nairobi, will be ready to start operating by June 2017, Kenya Railways Corp. Managing Director Atanas Maina said in an interview at the Voi bridge. The line will have daily capacity for eight freight trains in each direction, each with the ability to carry the equivalent of more than 100 containers. It’ll also run as many as two daily passenger trains each way.
Besides the often-clotted Mombasa-Nairobi road, the only other land transportation option is the century-old railway completed by the British colonial authorities in 1901. The line operates at a leisurely pace of about 30 kilometers per hour, compared with 120 kilometers per hour for passengers and 80 kilometers per hour for freight that Kenya Railways is predicting for the SGR.
The railway design also accounts for local wildlife movements, said Kenya Railways social environmentalist James Chimera. Kenya Wildlife Service provided locations of animal-crossing corridors so elevated overpasses could allow elephants and giraffes to pass underneath safely, he said.
The Export-Import Bank of China has agreed to fund 90 percent and 85 percent respectively of the first two phases of Kenya’s project, with the government covering the rest.
China has a history of successful railway projects in Africa. The 1,870-kilometer Tazara railway, which linked landlocked Zambia to Tanzania’s Dar es Salaam port, was funded and built by China in the 1970s. Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari plans to visit China to get funding for railway projects, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo said this week.
Nigeria will struggle to meet its agricultural development targets and improve fuel distribution without “robust” rail infrastructure, Osinbajo said.
Some African mine-related freight rail and port projects have been delayed because of low commodity prices and there has been evidence of a shift towards investing in passenger rail instead, said Maria Leenen, CEO at Hamburg-based transportation consultancy SCI Verkehr. The S&P GSCI index of raw materials has dropped 24 percent in the past year.
Transnet, the South African rail and port operator marketing its train equipment and expertise across the continent as well as investing in rail at home, has seen pressure on its order book from the decline in commodity prices. However, the company continues to see opportunities, according to the head of its engineering and manufacturing unit, Thamsanqa Jiyane. Contracts the company is working on include supplying wagons to Swaziland and passenger coaches to Botswana.
For some African governments, the tougher economic conditions are requiring more imagination for funding rail investments, GE’s Konditi said.
“I’m seeing more interest in creative financing — leasing — and I’ve seen more interest in letting the private sector drive some of the maintenance and service of the rail companies,” he said. “This environment is actually helping people to see things more creatively, in a very modern way.”
Sudan’s Omar al-Bashir ‘to step down in 2020’
April 7, 2016 | 0 Comments
Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir has told the BBC he will step down in 2020 when his current mandate ends.
Mr Bashir also denied allegations of abuses perpetrated by the Sudanese forces in renewed violence against black African villages who took up arms in the country’s western Darfur region.
The president has been indicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) on counts of genocide and war crimes.
Mr Bashir has been in power since 1989. He won elections in April last year.
He told the BBC’s Thomas Fessy that his job was “exhausting” and his current term would be his last.
“In 2020, there will be a new president and I will be an ex-president,” he said.
However, sceptics will say that he had already pledged to step down in the past and later went back on his word, our correspondent says.
‘No aerial bombing’
The UN says more than 2.5 million people have been displaced in Darfur since 2003 – with more than 100,000 this year alone.
President Bashir said that there was no reason for the UN peacekeepers and aid workers to stay in the troubled Darfur region.
He denied reports of recent abuses in the mountains of Jebel Marra where government forces launched an offensive in January.
“All these allegations are baseless, none of these reports is true,” he said.
“We challenge anyone to visit the areas recaptured by the armed forces, and find a single village that has been torched.
“In fact, there hasn’t been any aerial bombing.”
The president said that people who fled the fighting had gone to government-controlled areas which was “proof that the government does not target citizens”.
President Bashir said that UN estimates that more than 100,000 people have been displaced in Darfur since January because of the fighting were “highly inflated and not real”.
“Only a very small number of people have been displaced and they have either reached our positions or [gone to] where the UN peacekeepers [Unamid] are deployed.
The president said that UN forces and Unamid “have no vital role to play” in Darfur, “not even in defending themselves and their units”.
“As peace has returned to Darfur, I think that they have no role to undertake and that’s why we want them to leave.”
Likewise he said there was no role in the region for aid workers because there is no food crisis in Darfur.
He said that estimates that 2.5 million people were living in camps in Darfur were “much too inflated” and the true figure is closer 160,000.
The president dismissed the ICC as a “politicised tribunal” and that evidence of his popularity in Sudan could clearly be seen by the huge crowds that greet him.
“These are the same crowds I’m accused of having committed genocide and ethnic cleansing against. This is why I’ve defied the tribunal, and [why] I’ve been travelling freely around the world.”
Mr Bashir was re-elected last year with about 94% of the vote in an election boycotted by the main opposition parties who said it was not free and fair.
Identity 2016: Why Nigerians melt their gold jewellery in Dubai
April 7, 2016 | 0 Comments
By Elizabeth Hotson*
Dubai likes to describe itself as the city of gold – but many, including Nigerians, don’t just come here to buy new jewellery, they also bring their old necklaces and bracelets to be melted down and restyled.
Rows of 22-carat gold chains and bracelets twinkle in the shops at Dubai’s main airport, one of the busiest in the world. Waiting by the gate for the 14:25 flight to Lagos in Nigeria, is the Esochaghi family, who are returning home after a shopping trip.
“My favourite pieces are these necklaces,” says Ugochi Esochaghi, gesturing towards a small butterfly bobbing on a chain round her neck. “I got one for my daughter too, spelling out her name,” she smiles, as toddler Valeria sucks her thumb.
“For me and my family, gold is a really treasured thing. I was brought up with it, I love it.”
Esochaghi’s gold butterfly sparkles under the bright airport lighting as she describes her latest visit to Dubai’s famous gold souk. “We brought some of our old jewellery and it was weighed. We were then given some designs to choose from and the ones we wanted were created by melting down the gold we already had.
“It took around two days from start to finish. The product is good and it’s also cheaper here than in Nigeria.”
Husband Enyioha, who has been anxiously watching the airport clock, agrees to pose for a photo with a bottle of Johnnie Walker Gold Label whisky he bought in duty free. Esochaghi can’t hide her glee. “You don’t see this everywhere, it’s a special thing so we’re giving it to a good friend as a gift.”
But is it normal for Nigerian families to travel to Dubai to buy gold?”Yes,” says Esochaghi, as she heads for the departure gate. “A lot of my friends come here. It’s a popular thing to do.” One of seven Emirates, for years Dubai has been furiously marketing itself as a tourist hub – last year it attracted more than 14 million visitors who stayed for at least one night. And gold tourism has been carefully cultivated.
Although there are other global centres for the gold trade – India and China being two of the biggest – according to the World Gold Council (WGC) about 30-40% of the world’s gold flows through tiny Dubai.
“Ten to 15 years ago Dubai became famous as a gold souk. Since then it’s developed as a commodities centre, and a trading business has emerged,” says John Mulligan, the WGC’s head of member investor relations.
Not having a sales tax is key, Mulligan says, as is the quality of the gold on sale, which makes it an attractive investment. “It’s generally high caratage, which means it’s relatively pure. If you’re buying jewellery, the gold will have high intrinsic value. Because of this it will be easy to work out how much it’s worth.”
Ugochi Akwiwu, a travel blogger, tells me more about her love of gold from her home in Benin City, Nigeria. “Nigerians in general love gold and in my part of the country it’s a show of wealth,” she says.
“My roots are with the Igbo community in south-east Nigeria and it’s traditional for mothers to hand down their gold to their daughters. Men get property and land, women inherit gold and Hollandais – traditional patterned fabric wraps.”
Ugochi Akwiwu’s tips for budding gold buyers
- Haggle, haggle, haggle – it’s expected and the only way to get the best price
- Take your passport as this will be required by gold merchants and when you’ve bought your jewellery, don’t forget to collect your receipt
- Only buy from a reputable shop – you might be approached in the street by men offering to sell you jewellery but don’t be tempted
- Check the current price of gold on the day of your planned purchase
Akwiwu travels to Dubai once a year, invariably coming back with gold, often in the form of earrings. These are just for herself and her family but others have turned shopping trips into a business. “When I was at school some of my classmates made money by buying gold in Dubai and selling it in Nigeria.
“A few managed to put themselves through university with the profit. Gold is roughly $5 (£3.60; 4.50 euros) a gram cheaper over in Dubai and who doesn’t like a bargain?”
With fluctuating exchange rates, the price disparity can be even greater and there are opportunities for serious buyers. Lagos-based Talutu Ahmed Olulana, for example, is a self-made woman who trades in gold. “We buy around 5kg of gold a year and the source depends of what it’s used for,” she says. “I get raw gold from Africa but for finished gold I’ll go to Italy, India and Dubai.
“Gold is a store of value, it is movable, divisible, it appreciates and it provides a hedge against inflation. It’s really a true measure of wealth.”
Yet, like Akwiwu, she does not only regard gold as a commodity to be bought and sold. “It’s symbol of royalty. Traditionally kings, queens and chiefs would be adorned with what we call the king of metals – gold,” she says.
“I’m from Kogi state in north-central Nigeria and culturally we ascribe a lot of importance to owning it. In most parts of my state owning gold is a prerequisite of marriage.”
Fast cars and flashy jets may come and go, but – for Nigerians in particular – there will always be gold.