U.S. Military Builds Up Its Presence In Africa
December 27, 2012 | 0 Comments
by Tom Bowman*
The American troops will head over in small teams over the course of the next year. The Dagger Brigade returned to Kansas last year from a deployment to Iraq, where it trained and advised that country’s security forces.
Now unit commander Col. Jeff Broadwater is preparing to do the same kind of mission but in a different place. So Broadwater is scouring his brigade for unique skills.
“We’re fortunate enough to have some African speakers, Swahili,” Broadwater says.
Swahili is spoken in much of East Africa. And the colonel says he’s also happy to have a handful of soldiers with first-hand experience on the continent.
“We do have some soldiers who either came over from Africa and went to school here and then joined the military or came over with their families,” Broadwater says.
The brigade is expected to deploy in small teams beginning next spring throughout Africa. The soldiers will take part in military exercises and train African troops on everything from logistics and marksmanship to medical care.
Meanwhile, the Defense Intelligence Agency is already placing more of its military spies in Africa.
The top American commander for Africa, Gen. Carter Ham, says this is all new. He spoke recently at an appearance in Washington: “Africa has not been a part of the world in which we have focused a lot of attention, certainly not during the majority of my career.”
American Green Berets have trained African troops in the past. But Gen. Ham says this new effort is more comprehensive, and necessary given emerging security threats on the continent.
“There are a lot of issues in Africa that are causing concern for the United States,” says Richard Downie, an Africa expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
He points in particular to the West African nation of Mali.
“Particularly the spread of terrorism you have al-Qaida’s local franchise in Africa controlling two thirds of that country right now,” he says.
Al-Qaida and its affiliates are operating in a wide arc from Nigeria through Mali, Libya and into Somalia. Gen. Ham says there are indications the groups are starting to work together.
“What I worry about more than anything is a growing linkage which I think poses the greatest threat to regional stability across Africa, certainly into Europe and to the United States as well,” Ham says.
And to counter that terrorist threat, the Obama administration wants to rely on African forces. That means giving them proper equipment and training, and that’s where the troops from Fort Riley come in.
“We’ve been really just basically trying to understand you know, a little bit more about Africa,” Broadwater says. “The history of those areas, the culture so when we do deploy to those countries we have a little bit better idea of what’s going on.”
But what’s going on in the continent, says Africa expert Richard Downie, cannot be addressed by just providing military training and equipment. There are underlying causes of unrest and extremism: poverty, lack of health care and education, and predatory governments. Downie says those are the challenges the U.S. and other countries must tackle.
“Terrorism is really a symptom of a lot of other problems that really the military is not the best organization to solve,” he says.
Better organizations, says Downie, would be the State Department and the Agency for International Development.
But the military is the organization with the biggest budget. That is why the Dagger Brigade will be able to take part in nearly 100 separate training and military exercises next year, in nearly three dozen African countries. Some of those efforts by the Army teams will last a few days, others a month or more.
These soldiers will not be allowed to take part in combat missions with African forces. That would require high-level Pentagon approval.
But after ten years of war, the American military is not eager for any new combat operations.
Komla Dumor: The Boss Player
November 2, 2012 | 0 Comments
By Obed Boafo*
Six years after joining the British state broadcaster BBC, Ghanaian broadcast journalist Komla Dumor’s career trajectory is an example to Africa’s youth.
Dumor continues a tradition of extraordinary journalists at the BBC, journalists who have seen the limitless opportunities available at the institution and are making good use of them.
In pursuing that dream, Dumor and company have brought to themselves and the regions they represent fame and honour in addition to building, a rich curriculum vitae that should stand the test of time.
In 2006, when it became all too clear that he was joining the BBC, after several years of being at the forefront of journalism in Ghana, it was to mark the beginning of a journey to greatness.
Affectionately called the “Boss Player”, the story about his entry into broadcasting is in itself, a case study for most of Africa’s youth.
After studying Medicine at the University of Jos in Nigeria, he found himself dropping out of school, just two years shy of becoming a medical doctor, much to the disappointment of his parents.
He started off as a traffic reporter and gradually rose through the ranks to become Ghana’s voice on morning radio. For years, the morning show he hosted on Joy FM, a private local radio station in Ghana, was the most-listened-to
“I actually got into radio on the back of a scooter! I use to ride around Accra telling people where the traffic was – basically being the traffic news man. I guess I gave traffic news so well that the management for Joy FM decided to give me the opportunity to do regular programmes,” he told the BBC.
“The short version goes… During a strike by University of Ghana lecturers I saw an ad for a traffic news reporter at local Accra radio station, Joy FM.
“So I began my career riding a motor scooter through the city and telling people how to beat the traffic.
“Later I became the station’s morning show host and in 2003, I was named Journalist of the Year by the Ghana Journalist Association”.
Those who knew how adroitly Dumor managed his days on radio in Ghana were quick to jump to conclusion that the BBC hurdle wasn’t going to be too hard to surmount. It turns out they were correct as he rose through various phases at the British broadcaster quickly, moving from one flagship programme to another.
In the course of his career at the BBC so far, Dumor has hosted and co-hosted flagship programmes such as Network Africa, Africa Business Report, World Today, and News Hour. Presently, he co-hosts the BBC’s Focus on Africa television news programme with Sophie Ikenye.
He has interviewed some of the world’s leading newsmakers in the Middle East, Asia, Africa, South America, the United States of America and Europe among other territories.
His early days at the BBC saw him became the favourite voice global listeners and viewers would want to listen to, and watch.
The 42 year-old, Ghana Journalist of the Year 2003, is a product of the University of Ghana, and the Harvard University MPA-John F Kennedy School of Government.
Gradually becoming a global brand, Dumor finds himself in a working environment that also houses seasoned journalists from across the world including Max Pearson, Russell Fuller, Peter Okwoche, Vera Kwakofi, David Amanor, Julian Marshall, Farayi Mungazi, Gareth Mitchell, Robin Francis Lustig, Owen Bennet-Jones, Alan Johnston, Lyse Doucet, Peter Day, Claire Bolderson, and Ros Atkins among others.
With these great personalities around him, he can only grow better.
South Africa’s President Expresses Confidence Amid Setbacks
October 29, 2012 | 0 Comments
By Anita Powell*
JOHANNESBURG— South Africa’s president says the nation is doing well despite having one of the world’s largest income gaps and after suffering a series of violent, illegal strikes. Jacob Zuma says positive developments are slowly improving the plight of millions of impoverished South Africans and says he is optimistic about the nation’s future.
Zuma emanated confidence Monday as he spoke of his nation’s progress despite major setbacks — including months of violent, illegal strikes.
A major ruling party conference takes place later this year, and Zuma is busy campaigning to hold on to his seat. Whoever is chosen in December to lead the African National Congress will be heir apparent to the presidency in the 2014 election.
Zuma touted developments almost across the board.
“Over the past 18 years, we have consolidated democracy and have built strong state institutions in the executive, judiciary and the legislature to take forward the transformation,” Zuma said. “We have extended water, electricity, sanitation, roads, health care and other services to millions who did not have access to these services before.”
He also touted what is one of the bigger successes of his presidency: his administration’s broad and far-reaching campaign against HIV. That science-based policy is a complete reversal of former President Thabo Mbeki’s approach. A health minister under Mbeki advocated that AIDS patients take garlic and beetroot instead of antiretroviral drugs.
But Zuma lamented the recent violent strikes as a major setback. In August, miners at the Lonmin platinum mine in Marikana launched a wildcat strike that left at least 46 people dead. In the main incident of violence, police shot dead 34 protesting miners. Police say they fired in self-defense. Zuma has ordered an investigation.
The events scared investors after mining companies lost millions of dollars.
President Zuma said the events were a shock, but will not shake the nation’s foundation.
“South Africa is not at a tipping point. I think that’s a total misunderstanding of where South Africa is. I think South Africa is on the move, moving forward,” Zuma said. “We have had particularly the mishap of Marikana. Marikana has been a mishap and everybody has accepted that reality. It was a shock, it was a surprise to everyone, we did not expect that to happen.”
Zuma also believes his own tenure is not at a tipping point, despite a hefty share of personal and political setbacks and increasing political competition.
In previous years he has been tried, separately, for rape and corruption. He was acquitted of rape and the corruption charges were dropped.
But the shadow of corruption allegations has never really faded. Local media have reported a recent dustup over his alleged plan to use $24 million (250 million rand) in taxpayer funds to upgrade his rural mansion. He could face an official investigation into the affair.
He has also been plagued by highly publicized legal battles over artistic satire using his image to convey messages about government corruption, leading to questions about freedom of expression under his ANC leadership.
As of Monday, the president formally dropped a $600,000 (5-million rand) lawsuit against a political cartoonist known as Zapiro for a 2008 cartoon depicting Zuma preparing to rape Lady Justice.
Cartoonist Jonathan Shapiro responded to the case’s end with — naturally — a cartoon. The caption reads, “Are we done here?”
That’s a question many of Zuma’s critics are also surely asking as the ANC political conference looms.
My father disowned me for marrying a Nigerian, says American woman
October 27, 2012 | 0 Comments
Crystal Ellis Owonubi lives in Jos with her family. She has been sharing her story with other Americans and people from other parts of the world via a popular Facebook page which has more than 23,000 likes, ‘Mixed and Happy: I support mixed-raced families!” Here’s something she wrote.
“I am a white American that married a Nigerian
I grew up in Bauxite,Arkansas. I have lived inNigeriafor the past 7 years with my husband. We have two children together. We have been married for 12 years now. My father has never met my husband and has refused to accept my children also.
When I had my first baby, a little girl that is now 12 years old. I called my father and said that I wanted to come and see him for Christmas with my baby. He said, “I don’t want any black people in my home!” and hung up the phone!
I grew up in an all white school with only one mixed girl in the school. I was treated horribly in school because I dated a black boy that lived in the next town at the age of 16. My father told me that he would disown me and to this day, I have never received a phone call from him
I was called nigger lover in school and nobody wanted to sit by me. I knew what it felt like to be rejected. I was sent away to several different homes for troubled children because my mother did not want me to be with a black person. She would lock the phone up in her room. But, today I live in the blackest nation, Nigeria. And today I am happy that I did not end up racist like them or should I say ignorant.”I am holding back my tears.
“I thank God that he gave me a family of my own! He has blessed me with a wonderful man that understands me and loves me for who I am. He has blessed me with a wonderfulfamily that accepts me regardless of my skin color and regardless of where I come from. Even though my mother and father in law are both deceased now, I thank God for their lives and how they were able to show me love before they went on to be with the Lord.
“Many people have been amazed that I am been able to stay in Nigeriafor this long, but now I am ready to share my story. This is not the full story nor is it the ending of the story, so watch out for my book… coming soon! God wrote my story, but I wrote the book. I pray that many people’s lives will be touched by my story and that lives will be changed.”
Source: People’s Daily
Private equity: new cash for expanding businesses
October 27, 2012 | 0 Comments
Funds target capital-hungry companies inAfrica
By: Bill Hinchberger*
Africais growing, and African companies need cash to expand. Investors want in on the action, especially given low returns in many other parts of the world these days. But with few stocks and bonds, and scant liquidity for those out there, how do investors get a foothold? And how do African firms access much-needed cash?
Enter private equity — the purchase by a private investor of a share of a company that is not listed on a stock market. The company can take the money from the sale and use it for expansion or other investments. In exchange, the owner gives up some control, as the new partner gets a seat on the board or, in smaller companies, plays an advisory role. Eventually investors make money by selling their shares or receiving dividends.
InAfrica, private equity is all the rage. “If you look at all the opportunities,” says David Jeromin, managing partner of the US-based Golden Mean Capital, it is like the “nightmare” of someone with attention deficit disorder. “There is just so much stuff.”
Announcements of new African private equity funds come regularly. In February the African Development Bank (AfDB) announced that it would chip in US$50 million towards a fund of the US-based Carlyle Group, which plans to invest at least $500 million in sub-SaharanAfrica. In May, the Brazilian investment bank BTG Pactual launched a $1 billion Africa-focused private equity fund. In the 15 months from January 2011 to March 2012, eight new funds focusing on East andSouthern Africawere launched.
East Africaalone has 16 dedicated funds, out of 53 active in that region. Officials of nearly three dozen funds responded to a survey, released in March by Deloitte, a global consultancy, and Africa Assets, a private research and consulting firm, showing that nearly four-fifths planned to increase outlays in the next year.
The overall numbers are impressive, although a bit volatile. Private equity investment in sub-SaharanAfricajumped from $741 million in 2003 to $1.3 billion last year, with ups and downs in between, according to the Emerging Markets Private Equity Association.
Private equity placements come in all sizes. The biggest in East Africa last year was a $287 million deal byEgypt’s Citadel Capital to invest in Rift Valley Railways, which operates the railroad fromKenya’sMombasaseaport toUganda. The AfDB, whose private equity portfolio stands at $1.1 billion, regularly invests in independent funds that make equity placements inAfrica. These funds have invested in 294 companies, of which 54 topped $15 million and 163 were under $1 million.
Infrastructure, banking, mining, oil and gas, and other commodities generally attract the heavy hitters. At the other end of the spectrum, venture capital focuses on less mature companies, which are generally small and often headed by a charismatic entrepreneur.
One such company is Cheetah Palm Oil, a start-up inGhanafounded by the well-known economist George Ayittey. Cheetah has backing from Golden Mean Capital. Instead of buying land and growing crops, it will work with a producers’ cooperative to help market products internationally and to ensure that farmers get fair prices, microcredit and agricultural extension services. The project has the potential to encompass 50,000 small growers with farms covering 75,000 hectares of land.
This is not your genteel, Silicon Valley–style venture capital. “You have to rally resources around the entrepreneur and build infrastructure,” says Mr. Jeromin, whose firm is solidly in the venture capital realm. “It takes a heck of a lot of time.”
Venture capital remains a small subset of all private equity operations inAfrica, partly because it is so labour-intensive. “There are a lot of people who do not want to get their hands dirty,” Mr. Jeromin complains.
A rutted road
Even for larger investors, the path to profitability can seem more like a rutted dirt road than like a freshly paved expressway. “Private equity is not challenging in terms of finding investment opportunities,” says Larry Seruma, chief investment officer and managing principal of Nile Capital Management, based in theUSstate ofNew Jersey. “It is like fishing in a barrel. The problem is with managing the business. Often there is not enough talent to take it to the next level. If you are a minority shareholder, you might not find the right people to represent you on the board, for example.”
On the talent front, Seruma, himself a native ofUganda, finds hope in the return of people who were once counted as drops in the brain drain. “The African diaspora is huge,” he says. “Well educated people are going back. Employment in the developed markets is not that good anymore, andAfricais growing. Local talent is moving back.”
Investors are also worried about their “exit strategies,” a euphemism for how they expect to realize returns on their investments. After all, these are profit-seeking capitalists, not philanthropists.
Venture capitalists like Mr. Jeromin sometimes look to larger private equity firms to buy their stakes as their protégés grow. Another option is known as a “trade sale,” selling all or part of a firm to a muscular multinational company looking to expand. Potential buyers could include major players in neighbouring countries seeking cross-border expansion to take advantage of the liberalized flow of goods and services within regional trade blocs.
Recently the Aureos Southern Africa Fund sold its 49 per cent stake inZambia’s foremost producer of table eggs, Golden Lay, to the African Agriculture Fund, a private fund managed by Phatisa, which invests in sustainable food businesses acrossAfrica. “This marks a very successful investment and exit for Aureos,” says Ron den Besten, its managing partner. “Golden Lay has made great strides in the last five years. Production capacity has more than doubled as a result of our strategy of investment in new state-of-the-art laying houses, providing the impetus for exponential financial growth during our investment period.”
One popular exit strategy elsewhere, especially in the US, is the initial public offering (IPO), in which an investor sells at least part of its stake when the company puts its shares up for sale on a stock market. But African stock markets tend to be thin and illiquid (see Harnessing African stock exchanges to promote growth), and so IPOs have been relatively rare, although not unheard-of.
Mr. Jeromin reaches back intoUShistory for another strategy. “If you go back to the 1800s, before there were liquid markets, investors got their money through dividends. You can set up a preferred-share structure,” in which certain shareholders receive privileged pay-outs.
Private equity is not without its drawbacks. Company owners and entrepreneurs will not always be pleased by pressure they might get from their new partners. And investors may lose interest if their exit strategies prove elusive.
But private equity seems to be starting to fill a void that cannot be handled by banks alone. “For most companies in Africa, raising money means going to the bank,” says David Levin, senior managing partner of Nova Capital Global Markets inNew York. “We bring in a different level of financing.”
*Source African Renewal http://www.un.org/africarenewal/
“Africa currently bears 50% of Neglected Tropical Diseases”
October 14, 2012 | 0 Comments
-Dr Neeraj Mistry on the mission of the Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases
By Ajong Mbapndah L
Neglected Tropical Diseases(NTDs) affect some 1.4 million people around the world and Africa currently bears 50% of the burden says Dr Neeraj Mistry Managing Director of the Global Network for Tropical Diseases. Dr Mistry and the Global Network are at the forefront of the crusade to eliminate the seven most common NTDs by 2020. More than 30 African countries have finalized multi-year national plans for NTDs said Dr Mistry in an interview with PAV.Mistry who has served as Managing Director of the Global Network since 2010 has succeeded in rallying global attention on NTDs with the help of celebrity support.
Can you introduce the Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases to us and how it operates?
The Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases is an advocacy and resource mobilization initiative of the Sabin Vaccine Institute. We work with international partners, private sector companies, the high levels of government and the ministries of health, as well as local communities to facilitate NTD treatment in endemic and at risk regions. Our role is to serve as the central voice for the NTD movement. The Global Network is the keystone organization that supports the entire NTD community’s progress towards meeting our goal to eliminate the seven most common NTDs by 2020.
The medicine needed to control and eventually eliminate many NTDs already exists. And, because pharmaceutical companies are donating this medicine for free, it only costs approximately 50 cents to treat and protect one person for up to a year. Unfortunately, right now the medicine isn’t getting to communities in need fast enough and that’s where the Global Network comes in! Through our partnerships, we break down the logistical and financial barriers to delivering existing NTD treatments to the people who need them most.
We also raise awareness among the general public about NTDs and the threat that they pose to poor communities. We encourage industrial nations, foundations and individuals to make funding for NTD elimination programs a priority. And we collaborate with a group of world-class partners to help national governments undertake annual, low-cost mass drug administrations (MDAs) to treat and eliminate NTDs as a public health threat in their countries.
Our vision at the Global Network is to see a world free of NTDs, enabling children and families to be happy, healthy, and productive members of their communities.
Before we proceed, can you explain what are considered to be tropical diseases today and how prevalent they are in Africa?
Neglected tropical diseases, or NTDs, are group of 17 parasitic and bacterial infections found in developing countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America. The Global Network focuses on the seven most common NTDs that create 90 percent of the total disease burden—hookworm, roundworm, whipworm, schistosomiasis, onchocerciasis, trachoma and lymphatic filariasis. These seven diseases are also what we call “tool-ready” meaning that we have drugs and other methods to treat them available today.
In total, NTDs infect 1.4 billion people around the world and Africa currently bears around 50% of that global NTD burden. The Global Network supports governments in their efforts to define their own NTD priorities and develop their own policies to take ownership of their NTD control programs.
Considering you are based in the USA and a lot of these diseases are in Africa, how strong is your presence in the continent and how do you measure the success of your mission?
The Global Network is not an implementing entity however we are entrenched in Africa (as well as Latin America and Asia) via our partnerships with the World Health Organization Regional Office for Africa as well as implementing partners such as Helen Keller International, Deworm the World, the Schistosomiasis Control Initiative and several others with whom we mobilize resources for mass drug administrations (MDAs) and other NTD treatment programs.
Through our END7 campaign, the Global Network was able to raise $25,000 to give to Helen Keller International to support an MDA program to treat schistosomiasis. Our team even travelled to Sierra Leone to capture the event on video to share with our donors.
We raise the consciousness for NTDs to our audiences in the global north to garner philanthropic support and public goodwill for our cause. In the global south, we work to ensure that NTDs are not forgotten on the national policy agenda
As a leading global health care professional, can you help us understand why there seems to be greater focus and resources towards HIV/Aids for instance as opposed to the tropical diseases that the global network seeks to eradicate?
Even though NTDs infect more than a billion people worldwide, the issue has often fallen off the radar in comparison to the “big three” diseases, HIV/AIDs, TB and malaria. A major reason for that is that NTDs have a very high morbidity rate, but a low mortality rate, meaning that unlike AIDS or TB, they don’t kill very many people. Instead, people infected with NTDs suffer from a lifetime of problems such as malnutrition, fatigue, disabilities and even severe disfigurement that make it impossible for them to attend school, work or care for their families. Often people with NTDs like onchocerciasis or lymphatic filariasis are seen as outcasts in their communities due to the severe disfigurements associated with the diseases.
The key to reducing morbidity to emphasize its greater benefits. By prioritizing morbidity reduction, we can offer one of the best options for sustainability and self-sufficiency –if the people are healthy, they will be empowered to take charge of the health and well-being of their own communities.
Based on the results achieved so far and the projections you have, is there a time frame within which these diseases will be a thing of the past?
Along with the World Health Organization (WHO) and other partners, we aim to control and eliminate the seven most common NTDs by 2020. The good thing about NTDs is the drugs that treat them already exist. We just need to get them to the endemic communities. With mass drug administration (MDA) of these treatments, we are already starting to see the control and elimination of several of these diseases in many countries. The key is to make sure these treatments are consistent and continue for at least 5 years to stop the disease transmission cycle.
A few months back Former Ghanaian President John Kufuour was introduced as one of the Global Ambassadors of the Network , and we also noticed that there were a number of tweets from celebrities supporting the mission of the network, how effective have this been in raising awareness?
President Kufuour has been a very beneficial advocate. This past month, he traveled to Europe to bring awareness and support for NTDs, most recently speaking with the Norwegian Parliament, the French Ministry of Foreign affairs and the former President of Germany, Horst Köhler. He also co-hosted an event with the Global Network and vfa, the German trade organization for research-based pharmaceutical companies in Berlin, where we discussed the future of NTD control, particularly in Africa. You can read about Mr. Kufour’s Europe advocacy trip on our blog, End the Neglect.
Our celebrity support has also been overwhelming. It really makes a difference in our public visibility. On July 31, more than 40 celebrities, including Katy Perry, Ewan McGregor, Stella McCartney, Paula Abdul and MC Hammer tweeted their support for the END7 campaign and shared our video with their followers—reaching almost 50 million people!
The tweets and messages of support from celebrities had to do with the End 7 Campaign, could you shed more light on the campaign for us?
END7 is the Global Network’s grassroots advocacy campaign. We have almost 20,000 fans on Facebook. Our following is growing strong largely in part of our celebrity ambassadors, like Harry Potter’s Tom Felton. The message is also simple and powerful, for just 50 cents you can keep one person safe for an entire year from NTDs. That resonates with a lot of people.
May we know the level of cooperation and support you have received from African governments as well as the international community?
Right now, more than 30 African countries have finalized multi-year national plans for NTD control. Last November, the Kenyan government officially launched their five-year national plan to control and eliminate NTDs and in March of 2012, Burundi became the first francophone country to launch a five-year national plan to control and eliminate NTDs. We support the launch of these plans through in collaboration with the World Health Organization as they are critical documents to advocate to African governments and development partners to allocate funds to support NTD treatment and control efforts.
Through our Global NTD Envoy, Former President of Ghana John Kufuor, we also pursue the engagement of regional and international bodies such as the Africa Union, the G8 and others.
And what will you consider some of the biggest challenges you and the Global Network face, what can take to make the Network achieve its goals?
Our biggest challenge today is raising the awareness and funds necessary to meet our 2020 elimination goal. The global health community has taken significant steps to fight NTDs, such as the January 30, 2012 London Declaration, but what we really need is the public awareness and political will to make NTDs the next major issue in global health. We want to involve people living in Europe and in North America, but we also want to make sure the people who directly impacted by these diseases are also joining the fight—by becoming more educated on how NTDs are transmitted (improved water and sanitation program, for example), encouraging their governments to prioritize MDAs and other NTD treatment programs into the public health budget and even by becoming advocates themselves as community health workers. We hope to achieve this goal by working with our partners and through our END7 campaign.
Is there anything that Africans could do to help, from the governments, to health care groups and professionals etc, anything there could to help the Global Network succeed?
The African community needs to vocal about their desire for improved NTD treatment programs. This includes parliamentarians and ministries of health prioritizing budgets for NTDs as well as the people living in the community letting the government know this is an important issue to them.
Africans living in major cities can be the greatest voice for their brothers and sisters living in rural areas who most impacted by NTDs.
For more on the Global Network, visit http://www.sabin.org/global-network
Mo Ibrahim Foundation: Desmond Tutu Awarded $1m
October 5, 2012 | 0 Comments
Veteran peace campaigner Archbishop Desmond Tutu has been awarded $1m (£620,000) by the Mo Ibrahim Foundation for “speaking truth to power”.
The London-based Foundation called the cleric “one of Africa’s great voices for justice, freedom, democracy and responsible, responsive government”.
THe won the Nobel Peace Prize – and 10m Swedish Krona (£935,000) – in 1984 for his campaign against apartheid.
Archbishop Tutu responded by thanking his wife, Leah, for her guidance.
“I have been very fortunate throughout my life to be surrounded by people of the highest caliber, beginning with my extraordinary wife,” said the archbishop in a statement.
“It is these generous people who have guided, prodded, assisted, cajoled – and ultimately allowed me to take the credit.”
The statement said the retired archbishop of Capetown was celebrating his and his wife’s birthdays with family and staff – he turns 81 on Sunday, while Mrs Tutu’s birthday is a week later.
The South African cleric remains outspoken on international affairs, and has been a fierce critic of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians as well as China’s treatment of Tibetans.
In August, he pulled out of a leadership summit in Johannesburg because he refused to share a platform with former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair.
Archbishop Tutu said Mr Blair and former US President George W Bush should be tried at the International Criminal Court in The Hague for lying about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction in order to justify invading the country.
Mr Blair issued a strongly worded defence of his decisions, rejecting the archbishop’s allegations as “completely wrong as every single independent analysis of the evidence has shown”.
The Mo Ibrahim Foundation also offers an annual $5m prize to a former African head of state for good governance.
The most recent recipient of that award was Cape Verde’s former President Pedro Verona Rodrigues Pires in 2011.
Winners must have been democratically elected and agreed to leave office.
In some years the prize has not been awarded because no-one has been deemed a worthy enough winner. The winner of the 2012 prize, if it is awarded, would be announced later this month.
Mo Ibrahim was born in 1946 and is a British-Sudanese mobile communications entrepreneur and philanthropist who made billions from investing in Africa.
He argues that his foundation’s $5m prize – the world’s most valuable individual prize – is needed because many leaders of sub-Saharan African countries come from poor backgrounds and are tempted to hang on to power for fear that poverty is what awaits them when they give up the levers of power.
The inaugural prize was awarded in 2007 to Joaquim Chissano, Mozambique’s former president, who has since acted as a mediator in several African disputes.
After announcing the award for Archbishop Tutu, Mr Ibrahim launched a scathing attack on South Africa’s governing African National Congress.
He told the BBC that the party which led the fight to end white minority rule should “go back to its roots” and needed some “soul-searching”.
He also said he was “less enthusiastic” about investing in South Africa than he was five or 10 years ago – but said he was still sure the country had a great future.
Source: BBC News
Job and wealth creation in Africa (1)
September 22, 2012 | 0 Comments
By President Olusegun Obasanjo*
I was privileged, as the Patron of the Africa Governance, Leadership and Management Convention jointly organized by Kenya Institute of Management (KIM) and Africa Leadership Forum (ALF) and strongly supported by the UNDP, to preside and deliver an Opening Remark recently in Mombasa, Kenya. I feel constrained to share the view I expressed at that Convention and the conclusion of the Convention with the readers of this column. But first my remarks: “We have gathered this year to follow up our previous engagements in the last three years on the need to match growth with development and improved standard of living in Africa. Last year, at this same venue, myself and other leaders of the public and private sector in Africa spent an interesting and quite engaging two days on the issues of leadership development in Africa.
One of the major outcomes of that engagement was the reiteration of the fact that in spite of the good news in terms of economic growth, the challenges confronting Africa remain daunting.
This is because the acclaimed growth has been accompanied by increased poverty and more joblessness. For us to address this concern more appropriately there is a need for a resurgence of dialogue on African Renaissance in content and context, anchored on the principle of public-private partnership and driven by the spirit Q u o t e o f t h e d a y of enterprise and entrepreneurship.
“It is, therefore, in this light, that the Secretariat of this Convention has brought us together to take a more critical look at our economic growth indices and its impact on the life of African citizens.
“The need to assess the challenges and highlight the opportunities for Sustainable Wealth and Job Creation in Africa cannot be over-emphasized.
This is because it remains by far the most worrisome challenge of most African countries at the moment. Everywhere we turn to in Africa, the story is the same. Unemployed young people are in huge numbers.
The lack of opportunities for them to unleash their creative energies positively has turned them into desperate young men and women, unfortunately becoming ready-made tools for unwholesome activities.
“The memory of the ‘Arab spring’ is still fresh in our minds and it tells an apt story of what our continued foot-dragging on lifting the critical mass of people above poverty levels can unleash suddenly and destructively.
Dr. Kaberuka has told us an eye-witness story of how it all began in Tunisia. “That Africa generally is experiencing positive growth within its economic frontiers today is no more news.
That we survived the global financial crisis with very little effect is also not in doubt.
What is, however, worrisome is the fact that substantial gains achieved on the economic front and the high economic growth rates in GDP terms have not been matched by corresponding improvement in the living standards of our people. It seems that the richer our countries become in GDP terms, the more our people get enmeshed in poverty.
It is clear that in addition to GDP as a factor of measure of growth, we need another factor of measurement of the well-being and improved living standard of our people.
“This was noted in the recently launched 2012 Annual Report of the Africa Progress Panel of which I am a member.
The report stated that countries across Africa are becoming richer but whole sections of society are being left behind. After a decade of buoyant growth, almost half of Africans still live on less than $1.25 a day.
Wealth disparities are increasingly visible. The current pattern of trickle-down growth is leaving too many people in poverty, too many children hungry and too many people especially young people without jobs. Governments are failing to convert the rising tide of wealth into opportunities for their most marginalised citizens. Unequal access to health, education, adequate food and nutrition, water and sanitation is reinforcing wider inequalities.
Smallholder agriculture has not been part of the growth surge, leaving rural populations trapped in poverty and vulnerability .
*The Author is a former President of Nigeria. Contribution culled from http://nationalmirroronline.net
TO BE CONTINUED
Genevieve Nnaji: Africa’s Screen Idol!
September 21, 2012 | 0 Comments
By Obed Boafo*
Despite Nigeria’s towering, social and economic challenges such as crime and chronic corruption, it has so far done a good job of keeping the continent entertained, in what could have possibly been an African society without fun, and thrill.
“Nigerians know how to throw a good party,” is the usual line you get from some of its people when you attempt a debate on who among Africa’s 54-state, is a grand “party maker”. With time, this assertion has become an established self-belief most hold on to – quite proudly – even though a tiny minority doesn’t want to be tagged, or come across as profligate.
Entertainment, a minor but crucial source of economic livelihood for thousands of Africa’s citizens – is on a grand take off, gradually beating off competition from attractive “professional jobs”
Few years ago, ten out of twelve African graduates settled for “white collar” jobs but that has changed. With time, Africa’s young and creative heads are shifting away from what used to be the conventional order, and challenging themselves with initiatives that had little or no appreciation a decade ago.
In a quick yet steady growth to the top, Nigeria’s entertainment industry has grown into a modern day screamer. The successes chalked over the years are as assuring as the quantum of revenue raked in by its subjects yearly.
Filmmaking, one of the country’s strategic units of economic growth continue to take an upward fine-tuning – putting food on the table of millions of households.
Not only has Nigeria’s entertainment industry fed its own people; across Africa, their homemade movies, is a major source of employment to hundreds of entrepreneurs.
Thanks to an early positioning, it has grown to become a force that cannot be done away with. Today, the Nigerian film industry, widely known as “Nollywood”, is the second largest in the world by volume.
Genevieve Nnaji, one of the early day saints who got this whole craze off to a start, is about the industry’s most respected and appreciated female act. Across Africa and even in more rooted and hard-to-break-through territories like the United States of America and Europe, the level of appreciation that greets her, is refreshingly awesome.
Nnaji, who at an early stage in her acting career defined what would later go on to be accepted as polished drama, took the industry by storm about two decades ago, when nobody really paid attention.
Gradually taking up roles in low and virtually non-existent budget movies, it was just a matter of time that she would explode into the big material that she is made of today. Role after the other, she proved her worth and managed to catch the eye of some notable producers who gave her subsequent roles in Unbreakable, Dangerous Sister, Not Man Enough, and Church Business among other titles.
Still a local idol after few scripts, it was the 2002 movie “Sharon Stone”, which got her a wider appeal – making her an instant hit in countries like Ghana, Cameroon, Liberia, and Kenya among other African countries.
And the widespread recognition came at a time when Nollywood had made a successful crossover into unfamiliar territories and was getting a lot of positive reviews.
Soon, she blew up. She’s been splendid thus far.
Nnaji, 33, (May 3, 1979), who was brought up in a middle-class environment in Lagos, the commercial capital of Nigeria, earned her first screen appearance in the television series “Ripples” as a teen actress.
A few television commercials also followed. She made her debut mainstream screen appearance at the age of 19 in the movie “Most Wanted”.
Her subsequent movies included “Last Party”, “Mark of the Beast”, and “Ijele”, which till date, remains one of her all-time classics
A multiple award winner at home and abroad, Nnaji is one of Nigeria’s most decorated celebrities in terms of brand endorsements, defending and projecting everything from cars, and toiletries. In June this year, she became a Range Rover Evoque Ambassador.
In 2009, she became the first Nigerian actress to be profiled on The Oprah Winfrey Show.
This, together with other achievements, has translated into exciting deals for her, as she continues to act in very challenging and well-packaged movies that has shot her stock up.
Tango with Me, (believed to have been shot on a 326,000-pound budget), is the latest of high quality movies she’s recently starred in.
Directed by Mahmood Ali-Balogun , industry stakeholders expect that the melodrama would achieve commercial success and would go beyond just the usual and conventional VCD and DVD-driven distribution channel, and opt for an aggressive roll out plan that would encourage appearance at film festivals, cinema releases and viewing openings that has the potential of bringing in watchers who aren’t necessarily Nigerians or Africans
Nnaji, a mother of one, also acted and excelled in The Mirror Boy; a film that tells the “uplifting story of a young teenage African British boy who is taken back to the land of his mother’s birth, but then gets mysteriously lost in a foreboding forest; and embarks on a magical journey that teaches him about himself and the mystery of the father he has never seen”.
Shot in The Gambia and England, the well-packaged fantasy adventure drama, written and directed by Obi Emelonye, received three nominations at last year’s African Movie Academy Awards.
It is fair to credit Nnaji for taking Nollywood to greater heights but part of that praise should also go to the industry for creating the platform for young and talented people, to nurture their talents.
But does the Nigerian film industry hold a lot of promise such that the likes of Nnaji can continue to have a cushion they can always lean on for growth and skills enhancement?
Phil Hoad of the Guardian thinks there is hope for the future. In an August 21, 2012, blog he suggested that:
“There’s certainly plenty of other evidence to suggest that it is moving on to a more established, professional footing: more film-makers shooting on film, not video; an increasing degree of international crossovers, like Jeta Amata’s Hollywood star-laden Niger-delta thriller Black November, Holly-Nolly co-production Doctor Bello, and the forthcoming Nigerian-UK adaptation of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s novel Half of a Yellow Sun; the slick looking streaming-video library iROKOtv – supported by US money – giving ready access to Nollywood’s bottomless bargain-bin of titles”.
*Culled from http://african.howzit.msn.com
Meles Zenawi: two-sided man who took the Long March to power
August 24, 2012 | 0 Comments
By Richard Dowden*
Earlier this year I wrote that ‘Meles Zenawi is the cleverest and most engaging Prime Minister in Africa’ but I always felt that when I talked to Ethiopians about him it seemed like I was speaking about a different person. It was as if he had two personalities – one for Ethiopians, the other for Farangis – as westerners are called in Ethiopia. The Ethiopians saw a dour dogmatic man who rarely smiled. We saw a shrewd but diffident, laid-back guy who was always ready for a joke.
There is a basic rule in journalism that you must report what you see and hear if it is important. To leave something important out is as bad as inventing a fact or story. The only occasion on which you may leave something is if you are morally certain that someone will die as a result. I have rarely had to do this. But one occasion was during peace talks in 1999 over the war between Eritrea and Ethiopia. I flew to Asmara and got to see Issias Afkwerke, the Eritrean President. He showed me the GTZ map which had been drawn up by a German NGO wrongly showing a great slice of Eritrea, including the vital town of Badme, to be in Ethiopia. “You see”, said Issias, “this is what Zenawi is trying to steal from us.”
I took the map, flew to Sa’ana and then to Addis, managing to get to Meles only two days later. I told him his brother Issias sent his greetings (which was not quite true, but made Meles laugh) then produced the map and asked him, “Is this what you are claiming?”
Meles studied the map and looked grave. Then he said with an innocent smile. “Oh no. We are claiming much more than that!”
I didn’t report that. Afwerke has no sense of humour and the war probably have restarted.
He was not always the hard disciplined Stalinist he is sometimes made out to be, but he did not like his weaknesses to be known. He used to be a chain smoker and during another interview with him I lit a cigarette and left the packet on the table. After a while he paused and then said quietly. “Could I have one please?” As he lit it he said: “Just don’t’ tell the American Ambassador. He’s my tennis partner and I have promised him I have given up smoking.”
The first and second times I met him were in London. He really had done the Long March – fleeing from Addis Ababa University when Mengistu seized power in 1974 and taking to the mountains in his native Tigray to start the revolution. It took them 15 years to make it back to the Ethiopian capital. While he was up in the mountains the revolutionaries moved around cautiously. A (male) journalist colleague found Meles in a Catholic convent hostel up in the mountains but there were no spare rooms and it was too cold to stay outside. Meles promptly let the journalist share the small room with him.
In 1990 the Soviet Union, Mengistu’s main backer, had collapsed and the rebel armies had reached Dessie in Wollo province. It was clear it was only a matter of time before the regime collapsed. When I found Meles I said, “I think I am shaking hands with the next Emperor of Ethiopia”. When I met him again recently, he reminded me. “Do I look like an emperor?”
“No,” I said, “but we are in one of the imperial palaces.”
*Source African arguments.org
Why Mozambique’s gas discovery is a big deal
August 15, 2012 | 0 Comments
BY Jaco Maritz*
The recent natural gas discoveries off the coast of Mozambique are important because of the size of the reserves as well as the country’s relative proximity to markets in Asia, says Adi Karev, global oil & gas leader at Deloitte Touche Tohmats“This is rather close to the largest potential market for liquefied natural gas (LNG), which is Asia. It is easier to export from offshore Mozambique to Asia than it is from many other places,” Karev told How we made it in Africa in an interview.
US-based Anadarko Petroleum and Italian oil & gas company Eni have both recently announced significant gas discoveries in their respective blocks.
“This could be one of the most important natural gas fields discovered in the last 10 years, with significant long-term benefits for Mozambique,” said Jim Hackett, Anadarko chairman and CEO, in a recent statement. “In parallel, we’ve continued to advance an expandable LNG development that will support this world-class field. This is great news for Mozambique, as our ongoing activities will continue to spur meaningful investment in the region, generate significant revenue for the government and offer a multitude of opportunities for the people of Mozambique.”
According to Karev, there is currently substantial “world attention” on Mozambique’s gas reserves. He said many more companies are likely to join the action. “This is deep water offshore … There aren’t that many players that have the capacity to in fact invest in this by themselves because this is very expensive. Consequently I suspect there will be … a lot more joint ventures.”
Potential economic impact
What will be the impact of the findings on Mozambique’s economy? “That depends very much on how the government is going to in fact set up the framework that allows Mozambicans to be part of what is going on here … and assuming that they will set up the right levies and assuming there will be sufficient financial incentives for other players … the effect can only be positive,” Karev explained.
He said although there are many cases in Africa where significant discoveries of oil & gas led to economic ruin, one has to be optimistic. “You can always find a worst-case scenario, and indeed they exist. We hope this will be a little different. But is it guaranteed that it will be a little different? The world is full of examples of where this was a boom to a country … an incredible push for the growth of an industry, for the growth on an economy, for labour, education, you name it. On the other hand there are examples where it became nothing but a selected few’s … opportunity for enrichment.”
Karev said that the Mozambican government could review its taxation and regulatory policies, possibly delaying large investments until there is more clarity. “One of the things that usually happen is that the government tends to realise that in fact what they have is a gold mine, and that they have to rethink from a regulatory and levies perspective in order to properly participate in the game. I think, if I remember correctly, there have been some publications about the fact that … the [Mozambican] government is now rethinking some of their tax and levies and regulatory environment, in order to make sure there is sufficient participation by the citizens of Mozambique. That would tend to delay major investment decisions …”
New source of energy for South Africa?
There have been calls in South Africa for the country to reconsider its energy policy and to embrace neighbouring Mozambique’s gas reserves. “The significance for South Africa is that these discoveries should wipe the nuclear option off the table. We now have enough gas on our borders to generate all the electricity we could ever use. It will be the easy way to reduce our carbon emissions,” said Michael Bagraim, president of the Cape Chamber of Commerce.
Karev noted that it would make sense for South Africa to at least review its energy policy in light of Mozambique’s gas discoveries, but that “every country should aspire to have some level of energy independence … it wouldn’t be smart to jump the pendulum and swing it all to natural gas just because Mozambique has it.”
Uganda Olympic champion Kiprotich given hero's welcome
August 15, 2012 | 0 Comments
Kiprotich, a prison warden who won the men’s marathon on Sunday, was then presented with a cheque for $80,000 (£51,000) by President Yoweri Museveni.
He was also promoted nine ranks to become an assistant superintendent in the prisons service.
Mr Museveni promised that more would be done to invest in athletes in future.
The BBC’s Catherine Byaruhanga in Entebbe says people lined the street as Kiprotich waved from an open-top car with the personalised number plate “UG GOLD”.
At one stage the convoy was forced to stop by the crowds blocking the road on the way to State House, where Kiprotich had breakfast with the president, she says.
After Kiprotich was presented with the cheque, he asked the president if he would build a house for his parents in north-eastern Kapchorwa district.
Mr Museveni agreed that a three-bedroom house would be constructed.
The president also admitted that funding in sports had suffered as the country had concentrated on development projects such as building schools and roads.
But he promised that in future all athletes who won international medals would receive a 1m Ugandan shillings (about $400) monthly stipend to help them train.
A high-altitude training school would also be built, he promised.
Correspondents say the reaction in Uganda to Kiprotich’s victory has been euphoric.
The state-owned Vision media group set up a fund to raise prize money for the runner after he won on Sunday – and in three hours raised more than $100,000 – it aims to make it to $500,000.
Uganda’s last Olympic champion was 400m hurdler John Akii-Bua, who won gold at Munich in 1972.
France would back African lead intervention in Mali
August 6, 2012 | 0 Comments
France’s Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian has stated that France would back an African lead military intervention in Islamist-held northern Mali.
But even if he believed such an operation was inevitable – and desirable – it was not for France to take the lead, he added.
“It is not for France to take the military initiative in Mali,” he told journalists during a visit to Lorient in northwest France.
France, he said, “wants it to be the African forces, in particular those of the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) and possibly the African Union (AU), that take the initiative,” he said.
He said an African military intervention in northern Mali was “desirable and inevitable.”
“France will support it and, I hope, the European Union also.”
At stake was political stability in the south of the country which was not yet guaranteed, even if interim president Dioncounda Traore had returned to the country from Paris earlier this week, he added.
The situation in the north of the country was “very worrying”, said Le Drian.
The hardline Islamists who occupied the vast north in the chaos following a coup have tightened control over the area, imposing a harsh form of Islamic law.
Among those now in power in the north are the Islamist group Ansar Dine (Defenders of Faith) and Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).
Late last month, members of the new Islamist regime dragged an unmarried couple to the centre of the town of Aguelhok for a public stoning, the first reported execution according to strict Sharia law since the takeover.
“We must … avoid (letting) Mali become a ‘Sahelistan’…,” Le Drian said, drawing a parallel with hardline Islamist forces in Afghanistan.
Source – AFP.
International Community messed up Congo, says Kagame
July 24, 2012 | 0 Comments
President Paul Kagame yesterday lashed out at Western countries and International organisations, saying they are the cause of the ongoing crisis in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
The Head of State was speaking at the inauguration of the Rwanda Defence Force Command and Staff College at Nyakinama, Musaze District.
President Kagame gave a chronology of events that led up to the Congo crisis, saying the two countries (Rwanda and DRC) had made tremendous progress towards pacifying eastern DRC, which has been a haven of various armed groups for the last 18 years.
One of the militias operating in the troubled region is the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), a terrorist group mainly composed of elements responsible for the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda.
“This problem has not been caused by Rwanda and it has not been abetted by Rwanda. On the contrary, in the last four years, nobody in this region, on this continent and beyond, has worked very hard to see peace coming to our country and our neighbouring country than Rwanda,” he said.
Kagame pointed out that as the two countries were close to restoring peace, when the international community intervened and “twisted everything leaving the two countries in extreme misunderstandings and putting all the blame on Rwanda”.
“…Actually the problem of DRC came from outside….it was created by the international community – our partners – because they don’t listen, they are so arrogant to listen and in the end they don’t actually provide a solution they just keep creating problems for us. We know better our problems, we know better about this region’s problems,” the President added.
Over the last few years, officials from both sides of the border have met on several occasions, to come up with ways of eliminating armed groups in Eastern DRC.
In 2009, Rwandan and Congolese armies mounted joint operations which weakened armed groups, especially the FDLR. The Umoja Wetu Operation came just months after Rwanda had helped put down a rebellion in eastern DRC by brokering a deal between Kinshasa and CNDP rebels, and arresting the rebels’ leader Gen. Laurent Nkunda.
“We are genuine about trying to find a solution for this problem, but they (international Community) come and run over everything and when things explode they will come around and blame us for it, even when they are the ones who cause the problems,” Kagame said.
He added that during last year’s presidential elections in the Congo, Rwanda tried to play a positive role with the Kinshasa government, and after that, the two countries kept working together to deal with the problems in the east.
“We worked with them to deal with the challenges they had within their own country and then some people were not happy about that. They came up with the idea of arresting some people in the Congo for justice and accountability – which is good if only it was not selective.
He explained that Rwanda’s response was that it did not see how it must get involved with arresting Congolese soldiers, maintaining that was for the DRC government to decide.
“We asked them that ‘how does that become our problem, why don’t you go and arrest him?” Kagame said in reference to Gen. Bosco Ntaganda, who was then a serving Congolese army officer but indicted by the ICC for crimes he allegedly committed 10 years ago.
Ntaganda was the leader of the CNDP rebels who had been integrated in the Congo army under the March 23, 2009 agreement.
“They insisted that we must have to help, and the pressure turned from Congo to us…this was before this conflict, and this kept going on and on. We appealed to them, we advised them that they were going to mess up the progress that has been made but they couldn’t listen,” said President Kagame.
“After that, members of the international community developed an idea that if Rwanda can’t support them to arrest someone in another country, then they would put us together with those they want to arrest, and this is really how it turned out to be. I am not dramatising anything here, I am telling the real story.”
Kagame added that, after the latest crisis broke out in DRC (in April), he telephoned his Congolese counterpart Joseph Kabila and discussed the matter.
“I asked him (Kabila) if he was aware of what was going on, if he had a hand in it, and if he wasn’t creating problems for himself, and he said no and that he had been approached (by the international community) and added that ‘my approach is different, I want to arrest some people for indiscipline but not handing them over to ICC’,” explained President Kagame, who said that he and President Kabila had all along kept talking over the developments in eastern DRC to help find a lasting solution.
Kagame said he had agreed with Kabila that officials from both countries meet and come up with the most appropriate way of dealing with the unfolding tension within the DRC. A meeting was later convened in the Rwandan border town of Rubavu.
“On the request of the Government of the DRC, Congolese officials called in the representatives of the (M23) rebels, one of them being the current leader of the rebellion.
The group explained their grievances and the officials of the Government of Congo were taking note of the problems that were being raised and saying that they were aware of the problems that were being mentioned; they said they would address the problems when they go back to Kinshasa,” explained Kagame.
However, the Congolese officials went back to Kinshasa and did the contrary, the President pointed out.
“Then the International Community was saying that Rwanda is helping rebels, but helping them with what, and for what reason?
They say we supply them with ammunition, but these people get guns from the Congolese army. The ammunition they have is from their Congolese armouries.
“We are not supplying even one bullet, we have not and we will not. If we had supplied them, by the way, I would be telling you that we have done so because we would have done it for a reason; but we have not even had a reason to have this conflict going on. On the contrary, we tried to prevent it and we advised both Congo and the international community,” said Kagame.
The Head of State added that for some reasons, the west is able to put the mess they have caused on some other people’s shoulders, adding “maybe that’s why they never listen”.
This week, members of the UN Panel of Experts on the Congo, who released the controversial preliminary report in whose addendum they accused Rwanda of supporting the DRC, are expected in the country to hear Rwanda’s side of the story.
“If the world has these kinds of experts on whose account of their report people are going to be penalised and abused, then please if you can’t prevent that, then you need to know how to constantly challenge it,” said the President.
The US government, over the weekend, released a statement saying they are holding a $200,000 pledge to support a Rwandan Military academy.
* Source:www.newtimes.co.rwContact email: sam.nkurunziza[at]newtimes.co.rw & edwin.musoni[at]newtimes.co.rw
Kenya's investment in women pays off
July 21, 2012 | 0 Comments
By Drazen Jorgic | Reuters*
ITEN, Kenya (Reuters) – It has taken Kenya nearly five decades to gain the upper hand over its neighbour and greatest athletics rival Ethiopia, but the winning formula was staring Kenyan track officials in the face all along.
The London Games will be the next battleground between the two giants of middle and long-distance running, who have tussled for east African track dominance since the 1960s.
Kenya finally toppled Ethiopia from its perch in the medals table by going against the grain to focus on female athletes in a male-dominated track team.
It was only then that the number of gold, silver and bronze medals around Kenyan necks went through the roof.
“Kenya was shooting itself in the foot initially by not including women,” said Paul Ereng, Kenya’s 800m Olympic gold medal winner at the 1988 Seoul Games.
Ereng, a cross-country head coach at the University of Texas, said Kenya would often select three male athletes to compete for an Olympic event but only take one woman.
“Our societies are male dominated. It is said women belong to the house and all that but I think we are disturbing those ideals,” Yobes Ondieki, Kenya’s 1991 world champion over 5,000m, told Reuters in Eldoret, a town in western Kenya’s Rift Valley.
“We are giving women a chance and women are proving themselves,” Ondieki said, looking at his old friend Ereng, who nodded. “You can say it’s like an Arab Spring for women.”
After Ethiopia narrowly pipped Kenya in the medals table at the 2004 Athens Games, Kenyan athletics officials realised the majority of Ethiopian medals at Athens were won by women and decided to bring women’s athletics to the high level of men.
“We got more sponsorships (for women), we trained more coaches to focus on the women…,” said Peter Angwenyi, a spokesman for Athletics Kenya.
The new strategy started to pay off when 18-year-old Pamela Jelimo won the 800 metres at the 2008 Beijing Games to become the first Kenyan woman to win an Olympic gold medal.
But Jelimo wants even more financial investment in women, insisting: “We still have a long way to go.”
ETHIOPIA IN DISARRAY
Ethiopia heads to London hoping to improve on the Beijing Games, where Kenya won twice as many medals, eager to prove its athletics factory can still produce great champions.
But its preparations appear to have run into trouble.
Ethiopia experimented with a more conventional training approach after the Beijing Games, allowing athletes to report to camps only ahead of major competitions, but went back to stricter methods after the country’s runners flopped in two subsequent world championships.
Daegu 2011 represented a steep downfall for Ethiopia, a country used to outpacing its rivals in the 5,000m, 10,000m and marathon — it only won a single gold medal and four bronze.
Kenya, on the other hand, scooped seven gold, six silver and four bronze medals.
“What happened in Berlin (in 2009) and Daegu is a reflection of that (conventional training approach),” said Yilma.
“I’m not saying they don’t train at all in those circumstances, but the concentration levels and commitment won’t be the same if they are based on their own.”
At Addis Ababa’s stadium, Ethiopia’s elite athletes scamper in groups in a return to the old Soviet-era boot camps that thrust Ethiopia’s long distance runners to the sport’s pinnacle.
It’s eight months since the Ethiopian Athletics Federation summoned 200 athletes ahead of the world indoor championships in March and the London Olympics in July and August.
“We keep a close eye on our athletes because we want to monitor their forms at close range and to avoid a situation where they would return back burnt out from over-competing,” said national team coach Yilma Berta.
IN SEARCH OF THE MAGIC FORMULA
In contrast, Kenya favours the open-house philosophy and a desire to keep athletes training near their rural homes.
As the dawn sunrise peers over acacia trees and lush green hills in western Kenya’s Rift Valley, it is the sight of slim torsos that catches the eye in Iten, a small Kenyan town some 2,400m above sea level.
The ranks of runners jogging through the maze of trails around Iten’s gentle hills is swelled every year by foreign athletes who visit the ‘Runner’s Mecca’ in hope that the magic formula will rub off on them.
Pieter Langerhorst, Dutch national athletics coach who co-owns the High-Altitude Training Centre in Iten, says athletes from dozens of countries have trained in his camp over the past year, including the likes of Mo Farah and Paula Radcliffe.
“A lot of top Ethiopians are also training here in our place,” Langerhorst explained, pointing out that Kenyans do not go to the main training camp in Ethiopia. “You can’t compare what they have (in Addis) to here.”
But one of the biggest concerns for Ethiopia, according to local commentators, is the lack of talent coming through the ranks to replace the likes of the great Haile Gebrselassie, while Kenya is reporting one of its greatest crops ever.
“Kenya had an absolute and huge reservoir of athletes training so it was only a matter of time before the Kenyans would wear (the Ethiopians) down,” said Brother Colm O’Connell, an Irish missionary who has trained 25 Kenyan world champions and four Olympic gold medal winners in the last 36 years.
“The same as Jamaicans in sprinting — it’s only a matter of time before the cream comes to the top.”
(Additional reporting by Aaron Maasho; Editing by James Macharia)
*Culled from Reuters
Who rules South Africa? The threat from ‘democracy lite’
July 19, 2012 | 0 Comments
By Martin Plaut
The African National Congress (ANC) has just concluded its policy conference. The policy documents were – as ever – massively detailed and of considerable interest. But few delegates seemed much concerned by them. The real attention was focussed on the ANC’s next conference in December, when the party will elect its new leadership. Since open campaigning is frowned upon inside the party, this was one of the few real opportunities to lobby for support. President Jacob Zuma is facing a challenge from his Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe.
So fierce were the clashes between rival factions that fights broke out. President Jacob Zuma had to hurriedly leave the conference hall to get away from the clashes. Pepper spray was used to regain control. Worse was to follow. When one of the delegates, Wandile Mkhize, arrived home in KwaZulu-Natal, he was killed by shots fired from a moving car. Mkhize had led ANC delegates in songs praising President Zuma and was in the forefront when Zuma’s supporters confronted Motlanthe’s faction at the conference.
Commenting on the murder, Zwelinzima Vavi, general secretary of the ANC aligned trade union movement, Cosatu, deplored the factionalism that had led to Mkhize’s death. “The problem is that when we are on public platforms, we speak against factionalism. But as soon as we leave those platforms, we do exactly what we have been saying must not be done. We sing songs praising individuals,” he said. Vavi went on to reject suggestions that this was a killing from outside the ANC. “Political killings are so commonplace in KwaZulu-Natal that we can no longer blame them on the IFP (Inkatha Freedom Party) warlords because it’s an inside job,” Vavi said.
If this had been an isolated phenomenon it would have been serious enough, but it is not. Clashes and killings are now a regular phenomenon inside the ANC, as Vavi suggests. Party meetings have to be abandoned or postponed since it is too unsafe for them to be held.
It is not difficult to see why this is the case. Gaining access to senior ANC positions is one of the few means ordinary South Africans have of escaping poverty. A party position, even in a local council, allows access to state contracts and these can and are routinely used to feather the nests of ANC stalwarts. This phenomenon is recognised and condemned by the party and its allies in the trade unions and the Communist Party, who have attacked what they call the ‘predatory state.’
Once ensconced in a position, party members can become become ‘tenderpreneurs’, who use their authority to procure state tenders for themselves and their wider client base. This practice has become deeply entrenched. In the ANC heartland of the Eastern Cape, one of the worst affected provinces, the Auditor-General reported that three-quarters of all government contracts were awarded to companies owned by state officials and their families. In 2009-10 the province was unable to account for no less than R5 billion of government expenditure – the result of ‘irregular, unauthorised, fruitless and wasteful expenditure’.
These practices go right to the top, with most of the Cabinet and many senior members of the ANC National Executive now directly involved in businesses which receive state patronage.
It is the poor who suffer most from this systematic looting of state assets, but all South Africans bear the burden of corruption. Nor is there any obvious remedy. It may seem strange to suggest that the country’s democratic processes are weak when elections are regularly held and are – in the main – scrupulously conducted. Yet this is certainly the case, for the institutions that are meant to hold the executive to account hardly function. Parliamentary debate is lacklustre and Ministers treat their colleagues with contempt, regularly refusing to provide the information they request. This is the result of two tendencies that have become clear from our work for “Who rules South Africa?”
The first is a negative consequence of not having constituencies, which allow members of the public to campaign against and vote out of office an individual Member of Parliament. Anyone dissatisfied with the state of their housing, roads or schools has the monumental task of ousting the entire government to get their point home. The proportional representation system means that MPs are answerable only to their parties, which decide where they will be on the all-important, career-defining party lists.
The public can only fume if services are seldom, if ever, delivered. Little wonder that they regularly take to the streets to make their voices heard. Since 2008/2009, by our calculations, as many as 2,872,000 people have taken part in service delivery protests. This equates to roughly 5% of the total population of the country.
Secondly, the 1994 code of conduct for ANC MPs makes it abundantly clear that its MPs are party representatives first and foremost. It specifically states that: ‘All elected members shall be under the constitutional authority of the highest decision-making bodies of the ANC, and decisions and policies of the highest ANC organs shall take precedence over all other structures, including ANC structures in Parliament and government.’ The code of conduct further forbids any ‘attempt to make use of the parliamentary structures to undermine organisational decisions and policies’.
This has further undermined the centrality of Parliament. Hardly surprising then that some MPs play little part in its debates. This left the ANC chief whip bemoaning the ‘empty benches’ and complaining that their absence will ‘erode the image and integrity of this institution and betray the trust that the people placed in us’.
When Parliament has attempted to fulfil its role in holding the executive to account it has been sharply slapped down. The Parliament’s Standing Committee on Public Accounts (Scopa) attempted to scrutinise how the billions of Rands were spent on the 1999 Arms Deal. They were given short shrift. Andrew Feinstein, the ANC MP who had led the enquiry, lost his position for refusing to fall into line.
Tony Yengeni, then Chief Whip of the ANC in Parliament, explained the error of Feinstein’s ways. “Some people have the notion that the public accounts committee members should act in a non-partisan manner,” Yengeni said. “But, in our system, no ANC member has a free vote.” We show how, at every key point in the Arms Deal, Parliament was ignored or actively browbeaten.
If this is the case, then where does power now really reside?
For a start, it is held in the informal councils of the Tripartite Alliance, which brings together the ANC and its allies in the COSATU unions and the Communist Party. The debates inside these caucuses are where issues are thrashed out. This explains, at least in part, why these relationships are frequently so heated. These are not just discussions between friends or colleagues; they are where the real decisions are made that shape the future of the country.
But we need to look further than this, since other centres of power stand behind the Alliance.
- Rival South African intelligence agents and agencies, which have involved themselves in the ANC’s internal political struggles;
- The growing black middle class who have made their way in the world through Black Economic Empowerment policies and state tenders, some of which don’t stand up to scrutiny;
- The rising influence of the funders of the ANC, as the party of government, including the white elite.
Perhaps the most insidious, and least reported, influence is that of organised crime. The rise of criminal networks, whether from Colombia or Nigeria, Thailand or Italy now play an undeniable role in South African life.
Efforts have been made to tackle these networks, but these attempts have been compromised by corruption. A three-year long investigation into organised crime in southern Africa by the Institute for Security Studies was damning in its conclusion. “This research has thus far found that corruption not only facilitates organised crime but is indeed an integral part of it. It plays a role in virtually every type of organised criminal activity surveyed.”
Interviewed as part of the research for our book, a senior government official, who asked not to be named, warned of the real dangers facing the government. He suggested that sections of the ANC leadership are in danger of being ‘captured’ by organised crime.
This does not imply that the country is today in the grip of criminal networks, as some Latin American or West African states are. South Africa still has an independent judiciary and a well-honed Constitution. It has a robust (if sometimes bludgeoned) independent media and it has a well-developed civil society. But the warning signs are there. Unless they are heeded the direction of travel is clear and the outcome would be disastrous for the country and the region.
*Source African Arguments. Martin Plaut is co-author with Paul Holden of: ‘Who rules South Africa?’ published by Biteback Publishing.Who Rules South Africa will be launched by the Royal African Society on Thursday 2nd August 2012 at SOAS. Books will be sold at a discounted price.
S. African School Children Sing Happy Birthday to Mandela
July 18, 2012 | 0 Comments
Twelve million South African schoolchildren sang Happy Birthday to anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela as he turned 94 on Wednesday.
Mandela, who is retired from public life, is spending the day with his family in his southeastern village home of Qunu.
Meanwhile, people around the world are dedicating 67 minutes of the day to volunteer projects for the needy, one minute marking every year of his public service.
Mandela became South Africa’s first black president in 1994 after spending 27 years in prison fighting the racist apartheid government.
*Courtesy of VOA
African Politics, And Afros, In ‘My First Coup D’Etat’
July 17, 2012 | 0 Comments
By NPR Staff*
John Dramani Mahama is the vice president of Ghana and the author of a new memoir with one of the most eye-catching titles you’ll see all year — My First Coup d’Etat: And Other True Stories from the Lost Decades of Africa.
The title refers to the 1966 military coup that overthrew Ghana’s first president. Mahama was 7 years old, and his father, a minister in the government, was imprisoned for more than a year. Mahama tells NPR’s Renee Montagne that Africa’s “lost decades” lasted from the late 1960s to the 1980s, after the initial euphoria of independence passed.
“Africa had become plagued by coups and violence, and dictators were taking over from civilian governments,” he says. “Most African countries went under military regimes. The Cold War was at its height. This is a period that is not well-documented in our literature, and yet that was the period where most of us were growing up … forming our consciousness.”
The book presents both Mahama’s urban life with his father, and his experiences in his mother’s village. Before the coups began, Mahama recalls a happy life picking fruit and climbing trees with his siblings, fishing in the river and hunting in the bush, cooking their catch over a fire — despite the occasional terrifying snake encounter.
And his life as a teenager in the city bore some striking resemblances to the lives of American teenagers. “There’s a very strong Western influence, jazz, rock ‘n’ roll, the various pop singers, James Brown,” Mahama says. “We particularly liked the Jackson Five, you know, because these were brothers from a family, and we kind of cast ourselves in the same mode — we wore big Afros like Michael.”
But in addition to Western bell bottoms and platform shoes, Mahama says, he also had beautifully embroidered African dashikis and attended full moon dances out in the villages. “It was like a mix, a mix, a
melting pot of culture,” he says. “But as the villages got electric power, the culture that had existed disappeared at the flick of the switch. If you live in the city where there’s lights, unless you look up at the sky, you don’t even remember that the moon is full.”
Mahama’s years of listening to James Brown and going to full moon dances ended abruptly with another, much bloodier coup in 1979. “A lot of people were arrested and detained, you know, there were all kinds of incidents involving torture,” he recalls. “There was famine, there was drought, there was a shortage of electricity,” and shortages of all kinds of consumer goods.
But the situation began to improve in the mid-1980s, Mahama says. Now, he says, Ghana has made a lot of progress: “School enrollment is like at about 97 percent, and we’ve been having successful elections, we’re going to hold a state election in December of this year, and the future looks much brighter now than it did in the past.”
*Culled from http://www.npr.org
Africa’s Rising Top Model: Bertini Heumegni Surges on despite the Odds
July 9, 2012 | 0 Comments
By Ajong Mbapndah L
It is very challenging for Africans in the competitive world of modeling but there is no turning back for Bertini Heumegni who has emerged as one of the most familiar faces on
the New York fashion circuit. Cultural differences, rejection at castings, and sometimes racism are some of the odds that weigh against aspiring models from Africa but Bertini has slowly but steadily weathered the storm and ranks about the most promising representation for the continent today.
Born in Cameroon and a father of two, Bertini says his first break came from a chance encounter as he was spotted while serving as a bouncer by an agent of the famous Sharon Mulligan Agency in Cape Town. Not shy about the humble beginnings, Bertini reminisces that one of his first booking jobs was with Sting Sunglasses in from Italy for the face of Africa in 1998.Today Bertini has a very impressive resume with a career that spans from Cameroon ,to South Africa, Italy, France, the USA and counting.
Bertini has featured in commercials and events for Fresca and Pure Smirnoff in South Africa as well as for Guinness, and the telecommunications giants MTN in Cameroon. He has participated at multiple fashion events including the Johannesburg fashion week, American Next Top Model, Cape Town fashion week, New York fashion week, Fashion on the Hudson, New York African fashion week, etc.Agencies which have used his services include Sharon Mulligan, Storm Model, Supermodels, Next Models all in South Africa, Paris Models in France, Ricardo Gay in Milan, Cosmo Models, Boss models, Icon Model in New York and Grace del Marco in Spain.
Upon completing acting and directing classes at the H&B Studios in New York, Bertini chronicled his exciting life adventures into a movie called The American Dream.With himself as the star and Helene Faussart the lead singer of the group Les Nubians as co-star, the movie is a cocktail of drugs, love, sex, and betrayal.
After fifteen years of slow and steady progress in the industry, Bertini has grown in confidence and ambition and a perfect illustration is the recent launching of his own underwear line. Dubbed BH, initials for Bertini Heumegni, the model says the line is a fulfillment of a dream he was inspired with when Italian Associate Catherina Fiorillo suggested at a Milan Men collection event that his name will fit perfectly in the fashion industry. The response to the line has been awesome Bertini says as works towards launching the product across Africa, Europe and the rest of the world.
On what makes his line unique or why people should have a preference for it , Bertini in all confidence cites a number of reasons: The first underwear collection, with a 3 inch band, elastic straps adjusted to fit different categories of men, women could throw on in the night to seduce their husbands or boyfriends or in the morning after a night over and still look sensual, the waistband and leg holes are bonded to resist bunching,BH can be worn also to the beaches as swimwear, provides extra support and Stretching. As a model and fitness consultant Bertini says he has insight on what men like to wear and look good. The BH model he goes on has 90% cotton for comfort and slimming effect on the body, 10% spandex for extra support and stretching and 3 inches waistband and woven logo.
Asked if he had any words for aspiring models, Bertini recommends that they remain natural. What is perceived as a weakness may turn out to be your greatest asset. Who would have thought that my natural green eyes which made me a subject of taunts from bullies when growing up will eventually help elevate me to where I am today, Bertini quips. My cat eyes or hassle green eyes are now my strengths, no more my weakness .A lot of people make the mistake of sacrificing their African culture and roots Bertini says, but aspiring models from the continent should bear in mind that Africans are natural and exotic. The continent is full of talent he affirms and young people just have to believe in themselves, show dedication and patience, remain persistent in the face of unending challenges and success will eventually come.
On future initiatives, the New York based Bertini says besides promoting his BH line across the globe and especially in Africa with its huge market, he needs to honor modeling engagements while polishing up plans for a reality TV show that will be unveiled in the months ahead.
More on Bertini and the BH Line can be found at www.bertinih.com
Cameroon Entertainment Awards will Reflect Culture At Its Best
July 7, 2012 | 0 Comments
-Six questions to Gospel Artist Maybelle Boma on the CEA
PAV: May we know what the Cameroon Entertainment awards are all about and what pushed you into taking the initiative?
Maybelle Boma: Our reason for initiating the very first Cameroon entertainment is because of the love we have for our country and her hyper talented artists but most importantly the richly diverse and enviable culture we have which has always been a reference in Africa. There is no other way to demonstrate that love than by recognizing our own talents and rewarding them. It is not for nothing that Cameroon is referred to as Africa in miniature. The awards will be a reflection of Cameroon and African culture at its best.
PAV: Who are the brains behind the awards and is this onetime event or you have plans to continue with the event in future?
Maybelle Boma: We have a team comprising myself Maybelle Boma an entertainer with a gospel ministry and Anne Etape and other s working behind the scenes to make the event the huge success we expect. CEA will be an annual event. We can only build our own entertainment industry by putting our artist, actors, actresses, producers, designers and many others to work. Once they know including myself that hard work pays, we will start producing quality works which will be highly marketable abroad. Take a look at Nigeria and Ghana. Remember music started in Cameroon
PAV: So what will be on the menu for the public on that day, what should people who decide to come for the event expect to see at the awards?
Maybelle Boma: It will reflect diverse aspects of Cameroonian culture from artists to actors, sports men and what have you. The awards will show what Cameroonians are capable of doing and at our best. We are not in competition with anyone, we are just trying to establish and create room for more advancement in our entertainment industry. There will be lots of performances and the public should expect to get nothing but the absolute best of our beautiful and extremely rich culture.
PAV: May we have an idea of some the high profile guests who have confirmed their participation at the event?
Maybelle Boma: In attendance will be high profile sports men, members of the diplomatic corps who have confirmed their participation, some of the biggest Cameroon names in music. It will be a full house, it will be fun filled, and we look forward to a memorable event.
PAV: How much are the tickets and can people procure them now or they have to wait till the day of the event?
Maybelle Boma: The tickets are going for $50 now but if you wait to buy it on that day, it will be $100. You can buy it from ticket master or call 301-547-1430/240-274-5674.
PAV: You are known to be rising star in gospel music, why did you settle on gospel music and how has your career been so far?
Maybelle: I had a near death experience and during my stay in the ICU, I had a revelation from God about doing ministry work. It was a battle I fought but now, I know why I was called. I just release my second album called “mighty God” and currently working on the third one.
BBC announces major new focus on Africa*
June 13, 2012 | 0 Comments
The BBC has today announced its first-ever dedicated daily TV news programme in English for African audiences. The new programme, BBC Focus On Africa, brings together the expertise of the BBC World Service’s African Service and BBC World News on television. It is the first in a range of new programming for Africa to be launched by the BBC this summer, including a major expansion of its TV offer.
BBC Focus on Africa will be aired by the BBC’s broadcast partners in Africa and will be shown globally on BBC World News. It forms just one part of an expansion of the BBC’s offer on TV, radio and online.
The BBC today named Komla Dumor and Sophie Ikenye as the main presenters of the daily 30-minute news programme.
BBC Focus On Africa will be launched on prime-time TV across the continent from 18 June 2012 at 17.30 GMT. The programme will draw on the pool of BBC African talent on the continent and in London to report on Africa’s rising economies, entrepreneurs, innovators, culture, entertainment and sport.
Focus on Africa will be covering the major news from the continent and asking: is there a way out of the Sudan crisis? What impact will Europe’s economic problems have on Africa’s booming economies? How does Africa deal with its growth in natural resources?
The programme will also challenge African leaders and politicians on tough issues. Focus On Africa will report on the latest developments in business, technology and science and speak to those driving change. It will also look at how Africa is becoming an information technology hotspot. The programme will report, for example, on Kenyan scientists who are at the forefront in discovering cheaper, locally produced medicines to combat malaria.
Focus On Africa reporters across Africa will be giving us a snapshot of the innovation, lifestyle and culture of the country they live in. The programme will feature Africa Beats, looking at the people behind Africa’s varied music scenes. Every step of the way viewers will have their say through social media.
Focus on Africa presenter Komla Dumor says: “After decades of turmoil and uncertainty, a new Africa is emerging. The old stereotypes are being challenged and a new, compelling narrative is being written. I am incredibly excited to be part of a new BBC programme that will provide solid coverage and analysis of Africa’s challenges and prospects.”
Solomon Mugera, the BBC’s Africa Editor, says: “Africa is now one of the fastest developing news markets in the world – this new investment will expand our services for African audiences.
“While radio remains popular in Africa, TV is growing – and our partnerships with leading African broadcasters play a key part in these future plans. Mobile phone ownership is racing towards a billion, internet connectivity is rising and social media is empowering audiences. It’s essential that the kind of independent journalism the BBC does that isn’t slanted to one political or commercial viewpoint remains central to the new media landscape.
“With correspondents in 48 African countries, production centres in Nairobi, Abuja, Johannesburg and Dakar and a weekly audience of 77 million, the BBC already has deep roots in the continent. Our journalists are from the African countries they report on – in English, Swahili, Hausa, Somali, Kinyarwanda/Kirundi and French – living and breathing the big stories and issues facing Africa.”
The BBC also announced that six special episodes from Africa of current affairs interview programme Rendezvous, hosted by Zeinab Badawi, will be broadcast on BBC World News from mid-June with guests including President Kikwete of Tanzania.
The BBC newsgathering resources in Africa are part of a global network of 70 bureaux. The BBC made its first broadcast to Africa more than 80 years ago. The combined audience on radio and television makes the BBC the largest international broadcaster in Africa.
*Courtesy of http://www.bbc.co.uk/mediacentre/worldnews/
SDF AT 22: The Party Infront Of A Mirror
May 29, 2012 | 0 Comments
Launched on May 26 1990 in Bamenda with six innocent souls paying the supreme price, the Social Democratic Front has been in the thick and thin of the democratization process in Cameroon. There is just no way the history of modern day politics in Cameroon can be complete without the role played by the SDF in standing up to President Biya and the CPDM in the early 90s. From the mammoth rallies across the country, to the heroism of John Fru Ndi, the vibrant National Executive Committee meetings, the SDF was a party with a class apart. Real and imagined tales of bravery catapulted its Chairman John Fru Ndi from a bookseller to the defacto President of Cameroon. What he said was the equivalent of law. “Le Chairman a dis que” was the word in Douala, Bafoussam, Mbouda and other major towns in East Cameroon. “Chairman don talk say” to adepts of Pidgin English in Bamenda, Kumba, Limbe etc. Few are those who thought the CPDM will survive the raging momentum of the SDF.Indeed there are many who believe that the SDF leader and Union for Change Candidate John Fru Ndi actually won the elections of 1992. Today that SDF is a very pale shadow of its former self. Gone is the enthusiasm it generated .has tremendously evaporated, the clout and charisma of Chairman Fru Ndi has waned, turn out at rallies is a far cry from what it was in the 90s, emblematic lieutenants of the party have either left or been forced out of the party and many Cameroonians now doubt the potential of the SDF as a credible alternative to the CPDM.
As the party clocks 22 and with the critical nature of the times, the SDF needs to go back to the fundamentals that militated for its creation in the first place. For a party which led the opposition in Cameroon with brio, the party needs to step up its game again. From 47 MPS at the elections of 1997, the SDF has seen its membership drop to 22 in 2004 and even lower today. Scores registered by its candidate in the elections of 2004 and 2011 are a far cry from what the party obtained in 1992. It is common knowledge that the ruling CPDM owes its successive victories to flawed elections but that should not be any reason to underscore the fact there is something profoundly wrong in the SDF.It may be a challenge the CPDM may not risk but are there any certainties that the SDF as it stands now will record significant victories if there was a level playing field?
Despite the fraud that characterizes elections, been in the opposition requires that a serious party makes a credible case against the ruling party. It requires that the opposition draws a sharp contrast from the party in power with its vision, choice of leadership, choice of candidates, modus operandi et al. It is not enough to point to the blatant corruption, the absence of democratic progress, the lack of infrastructure and the endless litany of short comings of the ruling CPDM and imagine that Cameroonians even in free and fair elections will automatically vote you in. The electorate, Cameroonians are more politically educated than there were in the 90s when the SDF was created and will not just vote the party or its candidates just because the CPDM must be replaced. Has the SDF led by example? Has the SDF proven beyond reasonable doubt that in power it will govern better than the CPDM? Has the SDF made a convincing case to Cameroonians that if given power it will be accountable or will be able to hold office holders accountable? The answers to these and many are blowing in the wind.
Since the party was created in 1990, it has been led by Mr John Fru Ndi. The CPDM has been led by Mr Biya, the CDU by Ndam Njoya, the UNDP by Bello Bouba Maigari. If within your own party, you cannot change leadership why should the CPDM be in a haste to change its own leader? As cynical as this may sound, it is actually an argument the CPDM makes. Granted the SDF continues to hold conventions, but should a party leader not think of passing the relay baton for someone else to continue the fight or lead the party in a different way that might produce better results? Can the party not present a different member as a candidate for Presidential elections who is not the Chairman?A few years back, the party was torn apart in a debate on how to invest candidates for future elections. While some influential militants wanted the creation of an independent investiture committee, partisans of the Chairman will not hear anything of it. Their argument been that the independent investiture committee will emasculate the influence the Chair has in the party.
It is important for people to be loyal to a leader but when that loyalty is at odds with the values of the party, it becomes a problem. If the SDF is unwilling to create an independent investiture committee that will serve as a neutral umpire in the selection of potential office holders, why would the CPDM government give in to calls for the creation of a truly independent electoral commission in the country?
Corruption remains rife in the country and many have argued and rightly so that if the implementation of Article 66 which requires Office holders to declare their assets prior to assuming and leaving office is the threshold of any meaningful fight. For obvious reasons, the CPDM government is not hot at all about implementing the clause. On the other hand the SDF could show Cameroonians about its seriousness to govern seriously by requiring its top leadership as well as Mayors and MPs to declare their assets. The party even has a shadow cabinet. The only known SDF MP who declared his assets is Hon Jean Michel Nintcheu. It was exciting when news circulated some time back that the Chairman was going to declare his assets, but disappointing that he backed down saying that he is not a government official and nothing mandates him to declare his assets.Fair enough, but does the symbolic gesture of declaring your assets not draw a contrast in the eyes of Cameroonians between you and the sitting President people are disappointed in?
No organization can thrive in indiscipline. When Ben Muna was axed from NEC in the 90s, it did not bother anyone, then came Siga Assanga, and many others. Far from serving as instrument to maintain discipline in the party, the dreaded Article 8:2 became a weapon to settle scores and purge the party of real and perceived enemies of the leadership. The result is that the party’s NEC is hollow today. No offense to those who constitute its membership today but who can deny the fact that since the departure of cadres like Akonteh, Nyo Wakai, Asonganyi, late Dr Tchenkwo, and others, the party has lost a lot of vibrancy? Where are those strong communiqués that used to come from the Secretariat? Why is the party not taking stronger positions on issues like corruption? It is not enough to make press utterances and throw verbal punches at Biya for arresting state officials. If the SDF was in power, how will it handle issues of corruption? On what basis is the party putting its Lawyers to defend Marafa and for what crimes exactly? So if there is tangible proof that indeed Marafa has tainted hands, will the SDF seek to help him prove the contrary?
It is a good thing to know the party is in dialogue with other opposition parties and has been holding several meetings. It may be no point crying over spilt milk but one cannot help wishing that such dialogue had taken place prior to the 2011 elections. For diverse reasons, there is a lot of mutual distrust amongst the political leaders. The SDF by virtue of its size and historic importance needs to take the lead in bringing together the opposition. The opposition has aided Biya so much with the divisions, suspicions, and the war of egos between its leaders. In 1992, the Union For Change settled on Mr Fru Ndi as a candidate. People may argue that in 2004 and 2011, the SDF leader emerged second in the Presidential elections. You run for elections to win and not to emerge as runners up. In the supreme interest of change in Cameroon, would it be more productive for the Chairman to be the king maker and rally people to stand by someone other than himself who has the potential to win or to run for elections and continue to be placed second?
After 22 years of existence, it is time for the party to do some soul searching. It is time to ask hard questions which will help get the party back on the rails. Of all the Founding fathers, only Mr Fru Ndi and Aloysius Tebo are still actively involved. It does not help the party when grievances aired by other Founding fathers from the late Albert Mukong, to late Dr Ngwasiri, Siga Assanga etc are not taken seriously. It does not help the party when proposals from brilliant minds like Justice Nyo Wakai are not taken seriously. It certainly does not help when committed, effective, and hardworking cadres like Akonteh, Paulinus Jua, and Prof Asonganyi are rewarded with shabby treatment from party hawks.
22 years at the helm of the party is way too long and if he is not thinking about it Chairman Fru Ndi has to start thinking about it. The party needs new blood; it needs people with a fresh perspective. Such people are not lacking in the party, Hon Nintcheu, Tchinda Fobi, Vice Chairman Joshua Osih etc . The party needs to seek reconciliation, genuine reconciliation with disgruntled militants so they can come back to the fold. Fortunately there is a Convention coming up. It will be the ideal opportunity for the SDF to start its reformation. Simple proposals for consideration could be limitations to the mandates of elected party officials and candidates for public office, mandating all elected
officials to declare their assets, publication of party accounts on a yearly basis, creating an independent investiture committee for the vetting and selection of party officials in a way that reflects the equal opportunity that the SDF stands for etc. The SDF remains a source of hope for many. Despite its short comings, it continues to be the leading opposition party in the country. The stumbling blocks have been many, the frustrations have been plenty. From the blood of innocent souls like Evaristus Toje, Juliet Sikod and others killed at the launching of May 26 1990, to the maiming of protesters in Bamenda, the controversial elections of 1992, the victimization of countless militants etc, the adversities have been enormous.
Curiously the dwindling fortunes of the party seem to emanate more from a disappointment in the way the party has been managed and less of the road blocks created by the regime. After all the party braved road blocks to be launched, the party braved road blocks to win elections in major cities in 1996, the party has braved road blocks to win elections over and over in a place like Kumba.Just as Biya is challenged to beef up his legacy, Chairman Fru Ndi must be urged to work on his. After providing courageous leadership in the early 90s, the Chairman must ensure that the party gets back on track with sound democratic principles, and a potential to lead Cameroon better than the CPDM has.
Marafa Sings The Blues
May 22, 2012 | 0 Comments
Belated Resignation Letter and Vision For Cameroon
He was the all powerful Minister of Territorial Administration after a stint in another powerful office as Secretary General of the Presidency. He is still a member of the Political Bureau of the ruling Cameroon Peoples Democratic Movement –CPDM. Such solid credentials and his Peul Aristocratic background made him frequently cited as a potential successor to President Paul Biya. Unlike others who mask their ambitions; Marafa had the tenacity to tell Diplomats as wikileaks capable reveal that indeed he had Presidential ambitions. Cited here and there in the Albatross affair, Marafa had harsh words for operation sparrow hawk which had seen the incarceration of high profile state personalities. The operation he said had political undertones and he himself could be a potential victim. How prophetic those words were as today, Marafa is amongst the latest barons of the regime to be flung behind bars.
Unlike others who have remain mute, barely a few weeks after his arrest, Marafa is firing salvos which put President Biya the man he claims to have served with the greatest devotion in a very uncomfortable posture. First he dismissed the competence of the Judge assigned to his case. Pascal Magnaguemabé the Judge assigned to most of the Sparrow Hawk cases harbours a grudge against him for a refusal to help advance his career Marafa says. Hardly had the dust settled on this when Marafa fired another missive this time an open letter to President Paul Biya which offered insight into the dog eat dog administration he served in for decades. Marafa amongst others reminds Biya of conversations he had with him from the bloated nature of the cabinet to candid advice that the mandate Biya got in 2004 should be his last. All should be done so he can step down in dignity and take a well deserved rest Marafa recalls telling Biya. Tired of the intrigues and back stabbing within government circles, Marafa cited instances where he had expressed the desire to be dropped from government only for Biya to turn down his request.
In the entire letter Marafa comes across as a dedicated statesman while subtly painting a perfect Machiavellian character of President Biya. Obviously questions come to mind. Why is Marafa making his case public now? Is it because he now has more faith in the court of public opinion than a spineless judiciary sustained by the regime he was an integral part of? The letter he wrote to Biya sounds like a belated letter of resignation. Was he really serious at all about resigning or just trying to test the wits of his boss? If Marafa was serious about resigning, why did he not follow the example of Garga Haman Adji? Why did he not do it like Maurice Kamto? These two are amongst the handful of Government Ministers known to have resigned from Office .No matter how hard he tries now; Marafa was part of a system that continues to hold the polity hostage. A prison system that is archaic, a judicial system that refuses to evolve with the times, a President who decides when it rains and when it suns and is worshiped more than a religion by those he considers Ministers and sub Ministers to paraphrase what he told Marafa when he raised concerns about the plethoric nature of the government.
It serves no purpose gloating over the misfortune of others but Marafa just like the other incarcerated barons of the regime are just getting a dose of the poison that average Cameroonians have been systematically fed with by the regime. A regime Marafa was until his arrest one of its pillars. No matter the sympathy anyone may have for Marafa and his unfortunate acolytes especially with the absence of a clear cut case, we must not forget that there are victims of a system perpetrated by them while in government. It is this system they worked for, it is this system they supported zealously when it served their interests. How many opposition rallies were broken? How many Cameroonians have been jailed and tortured for fighting against a system that goes nowhere near the edification of a modern state that meets 21st century challenges? How many elections were blatantly rigged?
No, even in the court of public opinion, Marafa’s case is heavily flawed .If it is equity he seeks by his missives, he may not get because he comes to it with dirty and heavily tainted hands. His latest missive possibly not the last one which talks about suggestions he made on electoral reforms and a vision he had for Cameroon does not get him much sympathy. He was part of the system; he was an architect of some of the most brazen electoral fraud that has taken place in the country. While in government there was nothing he did that remotely suggested that he is the martyr he tries to make himself now. Garga Haman Adji for instance stepped down as a matter of principle to join the Union of Change caravan in 1992. A tangible reason advanced by Garga then was the systematic blockage of corruption cases he had raised. Ayah Paul a CPDM MP raised hell for the party and publicly distanced himself from the ruling party when it forced through the constitutional amendment to decimate term limits in the constitution. In 1993, Justices Fombe, Epie and Fobellah risked the fury of the regime by throwing out a frivolous case initiated by the government against SDF militants after the October 1992 elections in Bamenda.
There is no tangible evidence showing anything Marafa did to stem the excesses of the regime. He was either not as brave as he wants Cameroonians to believe today, or had a self serving agenda to exploit the system in pursuit of his own ambitions.
In a working democracy, Marafa or anyone else will be free to further his ambitions to the highest levels possible, he will live in a country where there is a free and unfettered judiciary, where there is the presumption of innocence, where you do not have to be in jail for four years before a verdict is given on your case as is the case with Mebara. In a democracy power will not be concentrated in the hands of one all powerful person like Biya with impotent institutions like parliament serving as window dressing. It is this kind of society that Marafa and all the other arrested barons and those who are still in government consciously and unconsciously worked to entrench. The irony, is the ones in government do not seem to get the lesson. Yesterday it was former Minister of Environment Elvis Ngolle Ngolle talking about Biya as if he is a deity, today, there are reports he is under investigation. Who will be next?
Like many I hope Marafa keeps sending the letters. More of them especially with even greater revelations may eventually make his case better in the eyes of Cameroonians. As Chairman of the board of Directors of the all power National Hydrocarbon Companies, SNH, he probably has an idea about the way proceeds from country’s petroleum resources are used. How about he continues to set the record straight on how the government works? How about telling Cameroonians more about his role in the fraud? Even if this does not sway opinions, it will be what my catholic friends call confession; it may be a mea culpa of sorts to Cameroonians. For Marafa like most of his unfortunate colleagues owes Cameroonians a big apology for all the pain, the insensitivity, the greed, the misery, the stagnation and ….the list of grievances is endless.
May Coups Be Anathema
May 12, 2012 | 0 Comments
For a while many thought coups especially military types were a thing of the past in Africa. Viewed largely unfavourable with few exceptions (like in Niger where a military coup halted the ambitions of President Mamadou Tandja to extend his rule beyond legal limits), within the last couple of months, the continent has experience coups and attempted coups both civilian and military. In Senegal, what was considered by many as a civilian coup fell flat with presidential elections which saw the defeat of President Abdoulaye Wade .In Mali; it was one of the dumbest coups ever when the military ousted the government of President Amadou Toumani Toure. The ragtag coup leaders could not amply justify their actions especially when elections were on course to take place within a month or so with President Toure not running. As the dust was still to settle on news that the Malian coup leaders had backed down in the face of international pressure, Guinea Bissau made news with a military coup of its own.
Two years into the second decade of the 21st century Africa cannot afford to spend valuable time on the demons of coups. Be there military or civilian with leaders trying to change constitutions to rule beyond term limits, coups must remain anathema. Based on the reactions in the countries involved and across the continent, the above thesis seems validated. In Senegal, Wade’s insistence on seeking another term did not go well with Senegalese. Their anger was not limited to street protest but was manifested at the ballot box with the election of Macky Sall. To his credit Wade conceded with face saving grace. In Mali, the international outrage was unprecedented. ECOWAS the sub regional body was swift in implementing crippling sanctions after the junta initially declined calls to step down.
Africa faces many challenges. The positive news is that there is near unanimity around the world today that the continent has immense potential. It is the same view shared by President John Kufuor, it is the same view shared by Crispian Kirk President and CEO of the Opportunities Industrializations Centers International, one of the oldest development partners for Africa. But how does a continent make the best of its resources and potentials without visionary leadership? How does the continent move ahead when even leaders who are in power through elections and swear by the constitution hold people hostage?
People may see potential in the continent from the prism of resources. Granted but we at PAV see the future of the continent from the prism of its dynamic and hard working youth. It is this youth whose votes are required to win elections, it is this youth that is used as fodder in civil wars across the continent, it is this youth that suffers most from the corruption and nepotism of inept leaders across the continent. Ultimately the change that Africa seeks will come from this youth. If Wade’s third term agenda failed it is thanks to them.The June 23 Movement, or M23 group was instrumental in thwarting that and helping Macky Sall win power. In Nigeria, a combination of civil society pressure and youth pressure has forced the government to open up probes into scandals that would otherwise have remained fallow from the petroleum sector, to the pension fund. It is the activity of this youth that the continent will ultimately regain its bearings.In Senegal, it is refreshing to see Macky Sall start the President by making a public declaration of his assets.There is no better way to start fighting corruption amongst public officials than declaring assets prior to assuming and leaving office.
The Africa of the future has no place for coups and credit goes to Senegalese and ECOWAS for pointing that out. PAV brings you volume 46 with an interview of one of Africa’s most respectable elder Statesman John Kufuor former President of Ghana. Dr. Neeraj Mistry Managing Director, Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases and Chief Charles A. Taku International Lawyer and Lead Counsel at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda are the Guest Columnists with insight into issues of pertinence to the continent. Equally in the issue is a look at the 40 year partnership of the Opportunities Industrialization Centers International in Africa. Stories on the upsurge of FDI into Africa and Brazil stepping up its game in the continent also feature in the issue to highlight the changing fortunes of the continent.Prof Souleymane Diagne assesses the elections in Senegal . A corruption free country in Africa? Read the experiences of a Nigerian National who visited Rwanda. News from the movie industry, a reminisce of the exploits of former African football stars and their lives today and many other interesting stories compliment the issue.
Latest News May 12, 2012
May 12, 2012 | 0 Comments
news From All Africa
- Zimbabwe: Constitution Approaches End-Game
ZIMBABWE’S main political parties are preparing to square-off in what is fast developing into a nail-biting finale as the political parties scramble to have their views adopted in the draft constitution.
- South Africa: Basketball Without Borders Comes to the Country
South Africa will become the first African country to host the coveted Basketball without Borders NBA programme.
- Zimbabwe: VP Mujuru Pushes for Second Post-Mortem
VICE President Joice Mujuru is set to intensify efforts to have her late husband Solomon Mujuru’s remains exhumed to enable a second post-mortem to be carried out as the family seeks to find out what killed the liberation war hero.
- West Africa: West African Cable System Formally Launched
The West African Cable System (WACS), which is geared towards improving bandwidth connectivity and intra-country trade, among other things, was formally launched on Friday.
- South Africa: Task Team Investigating Allegations in Mdluli Letter Named
Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa has revealed the members of the task team who will investigate allegations contained in a letter written by Lieutenant-General Richard Mdluli.
- South Africa: Presidency Addresses ‘Unfounded Allegations’
The Presidency has spoken out on “unfounded allegations about President Jacob Zuma’s so-called relationship with Lt-Gen Richard Mdluli” of the South African Police Service (SAPS).
- Nigeria: Zamfara Lead Poisoning Conference Calls for Action
[Medecins Sans Frontieres]
Friday May 11, 2012 – Abuja, Nigeria –
An International Conference to find solutions to the Zamfara lead poisoning crisis (1), of which Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), was the lead organiser concluded on Thursday. The conference delegates endorsed a clear action plan calling for Nigerian government commitment to resolve the crisis.
- Congo-Kinshasa: UN Official Voices Concern Over Human Rights Situation in East
A senior United Nations official today voiced concern over the human rights situation in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), which has experienced a recent upsurge in violence.
- Angola: ‘Not a Famine, but an Issue of Food Insecurity’
Millions of Angola’s poorest families are facing critical food insecurity as a prolonged dry spell across large parts of the country has destroyed harvests and killed off livestock.
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March 10, 2012 | 0 Comments
.Marrackechgate & The Downward Spiral Of Cameroon Football
February 21, 2012 | 0 Comments
By Zelifac Asong*
Once upon a time football was the pride of Cameroon. It brought solace to the people, the exploits of its clubs in the continent were legion, and the glory brought by its national team was aplenty. The name Indomitable Lions was amply justified and opponents dreaded prospects of playing with Cameroon .Every football loving Cameroonian will honestly admit a love affair with the indomitable lions, the Cameroonian senior national football squad. My love affair with the lions started in 1981, during the African eliminatory rounds of the 1982 world to be held in Spain. It was the first time I remember being aware of our national team, and of the pride and joy the team brought me and many other Cameroonians who love the game of football. Mine began with the qualifying match against morocco.
Like in most, if not, every love relationship, there have been ups and downs. There have been times when the lions have rewarded my loyalty with sweet victories and impressive results. I will never forget Mbida Arantes holding the 1984 African cup of nations high above his head as the lions paraded the streets of Yaoundé on a one sunny March afternoon. Who could forget the repeat of the performance in 1988, together with the memorable semis against Morocco? The long and hard shot from Makanaky? We all still talk about the stellar performance of the lions at mondiale 1990, especially Omam Biyik’s miraculous header against no other than Maradona’s Argentina. Who does not remember the pride he or she felt when the lions made Africa proud by winning the Sydney Olympics in Australia. The Indomitable Lions
Despite all these great moments there have equally been moments of frustration, sadness and almost certain divorce. The abysmal performance in 1996 Nations cup in South Africa, when an emerging South Africa, led by Dr. Khumalo and Mark Fish trounced the lions three goals to zero (3-0). A competition for which there were so ill-prepared that there arrived late in South Africa. Hard as well to forgot the 1994 mondiale in the USA. The coach Henri Michel was punched by Pagal for not including him in the list. There had to be a protest march in Yaoundé for Ndip Akem and Louis-Paul Mfede to be included in the list. At the competition itself, the indomitable lions were flogged six goals to one (6-1) by Russia’s Salenko. To crown it all, moneys collected for the players through so called “Coups des Coeur” got missing between Paris and New York according to then Minister of Communications Kontchou Kogmeni. During world cup organized by Korea and Japan in 2002, the same problems resurfaced. Players arrived in Asia with tired and heavy legs, and not enough time to rest before their opening match. Reason? The players had threatened to forfeit the trip if their match bonuses were not paid. As a result, one of the best teams the lions ever boasted of came out of the competition in the first round. In the South African world cup in 2010, Cameroon had its worst performance ever in its six participations at a world cup event.
The indomitable lions of Cameroon where in invited to four nations tournament in Marrakech, Morocco, from the 13th to the 15th of November 2011. The tournament was organized by South Korean based electronic giant LG Electronics. Equally invited were Sudan, Uganda, and host nation Morocco. The Lions lifted the trophy beating host country Morocco. The victory was tonic for disenchanted fans after the failure of the Lions to qualify for the African Nations Cup hosted by the neighbouring countries of Equatorial Guinea and Gabon. The celebration turned sour with when yet another storm brewing within the team over match bonuses became uncontrollable. The result was a decision by the players to refused traveling to Algeria for a scheduled friendly sparking a row which went beyond the confines of football.
The scandal was a stark portrayal of the poor shape of Cameroon football. Beyond the mere aspect of sports, there were strong indications that diplomatic relations between Cameroon and Algeria could be strained. No amount of damage control could mitigate what became a humiliating moment for Cameroon football. The Cameroon Football Federation –FECAFOOT was forced to part with circa $ 500.000 in settlement of damages to the Algerian Federation.
Meanwhile the captain of the indomitable lions, Samuel Eto’o, was summoned to appear before the arbitration committee of FECAFOOT, alongside vice captain, Eyong Enoh, on charges that they were responsible for Marrakech fiasco. Also summoned was Tottenham based defender gone rogue, Assou-Ekotto for refusing to honor call ups for the national team on various occasions. On the 17th of December 2011, sanctions were handed down to the players. These sanctions were at the same time serious and controversial. Serious because there were heavy, and controversial because there did not go to the root of the problem, but seemed instead to target a particular group of players, and could therefore destroy the unity that was slowly returning to the team after the complete breakdown of team harmony during , and after the South African world cup. Samuel Eto’o was suspended for 15 matches with the national team, vice captain Enoh was sanctioned for 2 matches, while Assou-Ekotto was handed a fine of FCA one million.
FECAFOOT came under severe criticism from virtually all quarters with disgruntled fans threatening to take to the streets of Yaoundé and Douala. There were even fears that these marches, if held, could turn into a Cameroonian Arab spring. Very vocal in their criticism, were former players of the indomitable lions. The outspoken former goalkeeper of the Lions Bell Joseph Antoine condemned the sanctions as misguided, and partial. Said Bell “this is not an Eto’o problem that is why I find the sanctions unjust. The problem does not concern him personally; therefore, there is no reason for him to be singled out.” Bell felt that as captain, Eto’o had acted in the name of the team, and ought not to be singled out for sanctions. The legendary Roger Milla no stranger to controversy himself and not a big fan of FECAFOOT felt the punishment was uncalled for. Milla threatened to march himself if it was the last thing he had to do.
Also adding his voice to chorus of criticism aimed at FECAFOOT was Kalkabar Malboum, chairman of the Cameroon Olympic committee. Mr. Malboum said of the decision “this affect the future career in the national team of one of our greatest footballers of the moment.” He went to say that even on the football pitch, referees always protected the star players. Many agreed with him. Other former star players like, Makanaky , Mayebi, Mvoumin, Massing,Libiih, all agreed that FECAFOOT was hasty in its decision to mete out punishment without due consideration for justice. There was near unanimity that the sanction did nothing to address the endemic problems of match bonuses and the cacophony which have resulted in the National Team losing its fangs.
No Prophets in Their Homeland
FECAFOOT and the Ministry of Sports which has an over bearing attitude have over the years engaged in a cat and mouse game with the result been the unenviable position that Cameroon football occupies in the world today. The most recent rankings by the world football governing body FIFA place the Lions at the 56th position. A lamentable position for a country which used to compete with the best in the world. Each time there is a crisis; there has always been a scapegoat. At the 1990 world cup in Italy, it was goalkeeper Bell Joseph Antoine who was almost excluded from the Squad by the football authorities but for the solidarity of his team mates. In 2004, it was Coach Henri Michel who bore the brunt. At the 1996 Nations Cup in South Africa, it was Coach Jules Nyonga. At the 1998 Nations Cup in Burkina Faso, it was coach Manga Ougene and Goalkeeper Jacques Songo. After the non qualification for the 2008 world cup the scape goat was Pierre Wome Nlend. In the Ghana 1998 Nations Cup, the culprit was emblematic Captain Song Bahanack. The abysmal performance of the Team at the 2010 Nations Cup was placed on the shoulders of Goalkeeper Kameni, Alex Song and Achille Emana.Today it is Marracketchgate and the blame is dumped on Eto’o.
After the 1990 world cup where the Indomitable Lions became the first African Team to reach the Quarter Finals, Bell Joseph Antoine sensationally opined that what the Lions did to make Cameroon known around the world was a feat decades of diplomacy could not achieve. He probably was very right. For a long time and even today, tell anyone around the world you are from Cameroon and the first response will be Roger Milla or Samuel Eto’0. Milla was voted best African player about twice. Manga Ougene, Thomas Nkono, and Patrick Mboma equally were voted as Africa’s best in the past. Samuel Eto’o holds the record having been voted best footballer in Africa about four times. He is today the most expensive footballer in the world after winning all that Europe has to offer as trophies with elite clubs like Barcelona of Spain and Inter Milan of Italy.
Despite their talent, the players certainly have their fair share of short comings but the management of football in Cameroon has been at best chaotic. How comes that for all its stars, glory and stature, there is no International Stadium worthy of the name? How comes that Cameroon has not been able to host the African Nations cup since 1974? Many find it that the country of origin of Issa Hayatou who heads the Confederation of African Football since 1988 is unable to host the Nations Cup. Even President Biya who has used the glory of lions for political gains does little to encourage the sport. Recently he had to keep finalist of the Cameroon challenge cup waiting for months just to set a date for which he could be present at the final. In 1990 he claimed credit for the inclusion of Roger Milla in the world cup squad. At the 1992 elections which almost flushed him out of power, the Lion was the symbol he used .In 2002, of all the dates available, he timed the Legislative and Municipal elections to coincide with the world cup in Korea and Japan. Some thought the political calculus was to cash in on the anticipated good performance of the Lions. The strategy backfired as against all odds; the Lions could not go pass the first round. Why are FECAFOOT and the Ministry of Sports always at logger heads? Money is the answer. Everyone is fighting to get a chunk off the huge revenue generated by the National Team and putting in place structures that will facilitate the emergence of talent and sustain top notch performance is secondary. FECAFOOT has cover in the autonomy that FIFA accords its member Associations. The skeletons within the closet of Cameroon football are mammoth.
Although the 15 match sanction on Eto’0 was later reduced to an eight month suspension, kicking the can down the road is a stop gap measure which will not provide lasting solutions. Cameroon has produced enough stars whose experience could be used in moving the game to the next level. From the Federation to Coaching Assignments, the former players have at best a peripheral role. A perfect example of what they could bring to the table is the goal medal obtained at the Sydney Olympic Games in 2000 under Coach Jean Paul Akono. Toying with football could have political fallouts. Football has for a long time shielded the regime from its severe short comings. When the Lions, Cameroonians tend to forget that they have problems. When the National Team does not do well, it seems to dawn on many that things are not going right for the country.FECAFOOT President Iya Mohammed and his group may be stirring the hornets’ nest and better be ready for the consequences that may eventually come with that.
In the midst of the ineptitude of Football and sporting authorities, the Lions remain very popular and continue to fly high the flag of Cameroon all over the world. Some of them have football academies in Cameroon to fine tune budding talents. Bertin Ebwelle, Samuel Eto’o just to cite a few run football academies. Eto’o recently launched a telecommunications company in Cameroon. Roger Milla runs a Foundation in Cameroon through which he has sort to dignify former International Stars with activities which stop them from fading into obscurity. Marrackechgate may have been swept under the rug for now but it is safe bet to say beyond the damage it has had on the aura of Cameroon, there likelihood of the same problem or similar ones resurfacing remains pretty high.
Rawlings: Africa Failed Its People
February 21, 2012 | 0 Comments
Ghana’s former President and African Union High Representative for Somalia, Flt Lt Jerry John Rawlings, says Africa failed to prevent excesses sponsored by some members of the international community during political upheavals in countries such as Libya and Cote d’Ivoire.
President Rawlings said the political movements in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia and Cote d’Ivoire challenged the capacity of the African Union as far as conflict resolution was concerned and called for an urgent corrective mechanism so the “blood and toil of those who laid down their lives to seek change do not go to waste”.
In an address as special guest at the Sixth Ordinary Session of the Pan-African Parliament in Addis Ababa on Monday, President Rawlings called on the continental Parliamentary body to take strong positions on African issues and allow itself to be heard.
President Rawlings, who was appointed Ambassador of the Pan-African Parliament in October 2011, lamented a harrowing situation in Egypt where illegal immigrants are abducted, enslaved and some killed through the removal of some of their organs. He said though the report was published by the CNN months ago action it had not been taken up and called on the Pan-African Parliament and other AU organs to thoroughly investigate the report.
The AU High Representative also expressed the world’s disappointment over the renewed violence in Egypt.
He said: “We should be particularly concerned about the situation in Egypt where the pain and agony that the people endured in Tahir Square and other cities, is repeating itself a few months down the line. It is obvious the very oppressive machinery the revolution sought to displace has re-emerged and under the guise of national security, ordinary Egyptians are again facing assault and brutalities reminiscent of what happened in January and February last year in Tahir Square and other cities across the country.”
Ethiopian Prime Minister, Meles Zenawi who was the Guest of Honour commended President Rawlings for his candour and called on the Pan-African Parliament to table the concerns raised in the former Ghanaian President’s address to the Assembly of Heads of State when it meets at the end of January.
Please find attached the full text of President Rawlings’ address.
ADDRESS BY HIS EXCELLENCY JERRY JOHN RAWLINGS, FORMER PRESIDENT OF GHANA AND AFRICAN UNION HIGH REPRESENTATIVE FOR SOMALIA AT THE SIXTH ORDINARY SESSION OF THE PAN-AFRICAN PARLIAMENT – ADDIS ABABA, JANUARY 16, 2012
Your Excellency Meles Zenawi, Prime Minister of Ethiopia and Guest of Honour, Right Honourable Moussa Idriss Ndele, President of the Pan-African Parliament, Excellences, Honourable members of the Pan-African Parliament, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen:
I wish to express my gratitude to the Pan-African Parliament for offering me the opportunity once again, to share my thoughts on an important occasion such as the Sixth Ordinary Session which has been convened on the theme: “Transformation of the Pan-African Parliament into a legislative organ.”
Having taking time to study and examine the overview of the review process of the protocol relating to the Pan-African Parliament and the treaty establishing the African Economic Community, it is obvious a lot of work has gone into reviewing the relevance of the Pan-African Parliament to make it a more recognizable organ of influence on the continent and more relevant to the changing face of politics in Africa and beyond.
The process of transforming the institution into a legislative one, albeit in a progressive manner, faces difficulties because some member states believe the continent is not ready for a Pan-African Parliamentary body with full or even limited legal powers.
Ladies and gentleman, this latest challenge means the Pan-African Parliament has been compelled to adopt lobbying at various levels in its quest to ensure the transformation process is not derailed.
During the last meeting of the Speakers of the Parliament in Midrand, South Africa, I expressed my support for a transformed body with the legal capacity to institute policies that will strengthen Parliaments across the continent and embolden them to play the role of being a common platform for Africa peoples and their grassroots organizations, as enshrined in the Pan-African Parliament charter.
Distinguished Guests, Ladies and gentlemen, while the campaign for the transformation of the Pan-African Parliament into a legislative organ takes steam, it is imperative that the Parliament even in its advisory state enhances its image and reputation by taking strong positions on issues on the continent and allow itself to be heard.
Matters for discussion at the Sixth Ordinary Session include presentations and debate on the state of the African Union as well as Peace and Security.
These two issues I am convinced will dominate discussions during meetings of the Executive Council and the Assembly of Heads of State later this month. It is thus important that deliberations during this session set the stage for discussions during the upcoming summits.
Africa has over the past 12 months experienced political upheavals of a massive nature and the action or inaction of the African Union and its various organs has brought to question the future of this body established with most noble intentions.
From Tunisia through Egypt to Libya and even in Ivory Coast there were political movements of different nature that challenged the institution established to engender African unity, peace and development.
While majority of us were delighted by the will of the people to take their destiny into their own hands, we were taken aback by the failure of the continent to prevent excesses in countries such as Libya andIvory Coast.
Our collective drawback is something that has to be corrected with some sense of urgency and drive so the blood and toil of those who laid down their lives to seek change do not go to waste.
We should be particularly concerned about the situation in Egypt where the pain and agony that the people endured in Tahir Square and other cities, is repeating itself a few months down the line. It is obvious the very oppressive machinery the revolution sought to displace hasre-emerged and under the guise of national security, ordinary Egyptians areagain facing assault and brutalities reminiscent of what happened in January and February last year in Tahir Square and other cities across the country. For how long are we going to be silent observers? And yet the revolutions by the unarmed civilian populations in Tunisia and Egypt gave the world so much hope that freedom and justice was finally going to triumph. How do we then turn around and assault that resolve in the manner currently being observed by all?
A few months ago the CNN Freedom Project published an expose on the cruel abduction and removal of human parts from illegal immigrants trying to pass through Egypt into Israel. Bedouin smugglers trafficking humans reportedly remove the human parts while the immigrants are still alive. Immigrants are enslaved, tortured and those who cannot afford to pay huge sums to these smugglers face the ultimate penalty of a dehumanizing death through organ removal! And Africa is quiet?
Ladies and gentlemen, we cannot allow this level of depravity to continue on our continent without seeking answers and calling for thorough investigations to get to the bottom of the matter. These are the issues that the Pan-African Parliament should be forcefully questioning, to make itself more relevant to the people of the continent and justify its quest to become a legislative organ. It is not too late and I hope and pray that you will look into this matter and call on other organs of the AU to also take a cue.
Parliament as an organ of state or of a continent, as yours is, is primarily an institution that serves not only as a law-making body but which also crystalizes the separation of powers concept that democracy prides itself in. Parliament serves as an anti-corruption organ looking into the activities of other institutions of state such as the Executive, to ensure that it takes actions that protect the rights of the people and the wealth of the state. It is thus important that at all times and purposes you remind your members who are representatives from various national parliaments that they are not an extension of the executive, elected by the people to endorse and rubber stamp every action of the executive, but to properly scrutinize and query actions of the executive and its organs in order to boost the confidence of the ordinary people of our countries in democratic governance.
Similarly the Pan-African Parliament should be empowered legally to have the capacity and responsibility of vetting the finances of the AU as all national parliaments are obligated to. That way we can offer more confidence to the donor community and allow our institutional transparency to trickle down to the rest of the continent.
Development should always be premised on justice, freedom, integrity and transparency. Had these ideals guided the huge economic and infrastructural development in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya their countries would not have endured the eruption in the people’s quest for justice and freedom.
Honourable members of African Parliaments represented here have a huge responsibility to also champion the crusade to make Africa truly African and capable of managing her affairs.
It is simply humiliating that in the 21st century our continent finds some of its leaders hounded to The Hague like lamb to the slaughter, while we are supposed to have the capacity to judge our own. We have to leave The Hague to those who cannot control their destiny. If Libyans were justified to overthrow the Gaddafi regime in their quest for freedom and justice, why then can they not try their own?
If Ivoirians are truly seeking peace and reconciliation, a process agreed by both the Ouattara and Gbagbo factions, why then send a former leader who in spite of his faults has paid his dues to his country, to the ICC?
We have and have had faulty leaders but we have enough good and progressive leaders who can only succeed if institutions such as the Pan-African Parliament and national parliaments offer them the needed sense of direction and support.
The time has come to stop being observers but active participants in the changing scenes of the continent. We stand the danger of allowing a new form of colonialism to engulf our continent enslaving us into puppets of the international community. Let us combine our efforts in taking a strong stance against such a looming threat.
Your Excellences, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen, I cannot conclude my address without mentioning Somalia. As African Union High Representative for Somalia, I must congratulate all stakeholders from across the globe for their tremendous support in seeking peace in Somalia through the pursuit of the transitional roadmap. I am thankful also to all who supported the humanitarian effort and continue to do so. Many are yet to make good on their pledges during the Pledging Conference of last August and I serve a polite reminder to them not to forget the dire situation that millions of our people still face in the Horn of Africa.
I congratulate IGAD and particularly Kenya, Djibouti and Ethiopia for their renewed interest in creating a stable and peaceful Somalia. We cannot forget the pioneering role of Burundi and Uganda in the peace-enforcement process. We are also thankful to United Nations, which has played a crucial role in the progress so far. We expect more commitment in terms of enablers for AMISOM and the TFG so that this time next year we can have a more stable and politically secure Somalia.
Our dear members of Parliament from Somalia, this is a call to you and your colleagues who are not here, to give peace a chance by exploring all avenues to resolve the impasse over the removal of the Parliamentary Speaker. A lot of progress has been made on the political front and its paramount that we do not allow this standoff to sidetrack us from the progress achieved so far.
We should not allow observers to believe that we seek power at the expense of confronting the common enemy. If Al Shabaab were no longer the perceived obstacle could you the major players guarantee peace and stable governance in Somalia?
Right Honourable Idriss Ndele, Honourable members of the Pan-African Parliament, Excellences, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen, I wish you a successful session and offer my unflinching support in your quest to seek a radical review of the protocols governing the Pan-African Parliament. Africa deserves strong and capable institutions and your quest is a noble one that deserves the support of everyone on the continent.
Thank you and Good Luck.