Nigeria: State Sponsored Terrorism Against The Yoruba People Must Stop- -Attorney Ade Omojola On ICC Case Against President Buhari .
July 28, 2021 | 0 Comments
By Ajong Mbapndah L
State sponsored terrorism against the Yoruba people in Nigeria has reached alarming levels and must be stopped at all costs, says Aderemilekun “Ade” Omojola, ., a U.S based Attorney in New Jersey who recently filed a complaint at the International Criminal Court ,ICC against Nigerian officials.
The complaint accuses multiple members of the Nigerian government of genocide, torture, and crimes against humanity amongst other charges. Officials listed in the complaint include Muhammadu Buhari, President; Hameed Ibrahim Ali, Comptroller-General, Customs; Ibrahim Kpotun Idris, Police, Former Inspector General; Mohammed Adamu, Police, Former Inspector General; Usman Alkali Baba, Police, Current Inspector General; Tukur Yusuf Burutai, Former Chief of Army Staff; Farouk Yahaha, current Chief of Army Staff; Sadik Abubakar, Air Force, Former Chief of Air Staff; Ahmed Abubakar Audi, Former Commandant General, Security & Civil Defense Corps; Abdullahi Gana Muhammadu, current Commandant General, Security & Civil Defense Corps; Muhammed Babandede, Comptroller General, Immigration Service; Abubakar Malami, Lawyer,
Minister of Justice, Attorney General.
“We filed the Submission at the ICC, because we cannot secure justice for the Yoruba people within Nigeria, due to the hijacking of the federal government, by agents of Fulani identity, who are promoting the Fulani agenda,” says Ade Omojola in an exclusive interview with Pan African Visions.
To Omojola, a reasonable outcome from the ICC, would be to launch a thorough investigation, and to ultimately prosecute and punish as many individuals as are found to have been complicit or active in facilitating the evil that is befalling the Yoruba people.
Could you start by giving us some background and context into the case you have filed against Nigerian leaders at the ICC?
Nigeria’s federal government is now dominated by the Fulani, along with the security agencies; we allege that they are complicit and actively supporting Fulani terrorism against the Yoruba People, in an attempt to take the land, and subjugate them into a political minority and permanent underclass.
What are the issues between the Yoruba tribes and the Federal government?
The federal government, or I should say, the Fulani government, has become a lever in the hands of the Fulani, who have hijacked it, and are using its powers and resources to crack open the society, for Fulani from across Africa, who aren’t even Nigerian, to dominate Yoruba ancestral lands, and to subjugate the Yoruba People as a permanent underclass. Violence and terrorism are their principal tools, for which Fulani terrorists have been imported; the federal government is allegedly complicit and actively facilitating through a supply chain, this the violent terrorism of the Yoruba People. They are doing the same to our brothers in the Middle-Belt and the South East.
The crimes took place in Nigeria, why are you suing at the ICC and what competence or jurisdiction does it have over crimes of that nature perpetrated in Nigeria?
We filed the Submission at the ICC, because we cannot secure justice for the Yoruba people within Nigeria, due to the hijacking of the federal government, by agents of Fulani identity, who are promoting the Fulani agenda. Those facilitating this evil are the ones running the Nigerian government. Abubakar Malami, for example, is the supposedly the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, but he has become a minister of injustice, in purposefully failing to protect the Yoruba People, by refusing to enforce the law via prosecution of government officials, who are complicit or actively facilitating these crimes.
Whereas, under the Rome Statute, to which Nigeria became a state party on June 1, 2000, the International Criminal Court has jurisdiction over acts of genocide and crimes against humanity, in cases where the government refuses to do anything meaningful about the situation.
Is there any precedence for the kind of justice or case you have lodged against Nigerian authorities?
- On November 22, 2017 the ICC, through the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia convicted Ratko Mladic of the former Yugoslavia, of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide; the court went on to sentence him to life imprisonment.
- In April 2012, the ICC, through the Special Court for Sierra Leone, convicted Charles Taylor, the former president of Liberia of Liberia of terror, murder, and rape; the Court went on to sentence him to 50 years in prison.
The images are pretty shocking and traumatizing for the human conscience, how were this obtained?
We issued a call for our People to send to us evidence of the atrocities, and we received hundreds of still and motion images, some of which were included in the Submission.
Nigeria is a deeply polarized country, we see a so many high profile authorities listed, what about the local authorities in whose jurisdictions the atrocities took place?
It is impractical to list local government officials, because the incidents occur across several local government jurisdictions throughout Yoruba land. Whereas the purpose of the Submission is to trigger an initial review by the ICC prosecutor, and a subsequent investigation by the ICC. We have every confidence that when the ICC launches a full-scale investigation, many other individuals who are not listed in the submission will also be brought before the Court.
With many of the accused persons from the Northern part of the country, are you concerned your team may be criticized for wading into the sectarian political fights of Nigeria?
The very essence, the foundation, and the roots of what the Yoruba are facing is ethnic, or as you put it, “sectarian” in nature, in that the Fulani seek to dominate Yoruba ancestral lands and subjugate the Yoruba as a permanent underclass. As the fruit is subject to the roots, the claims, and most likely the ultimate solutions will, by nature, have a heavy ethnic or “sectarian” element.
Do you intend to use just the documents you have available or are there plans to have some of the victims testify in person?
We will follow the lead of the ICC, cooperate with them in the investigation, and facilitate whatever is necessary to secure justice for the victims.
What kind of reaction have you received from the public and the Nigerian government on the case?
News of the filing went viral, particularly in Nigeria and among Yoruba Civic Organizations, who ensured that the Nigerian news media gave it due attention. Yoruba People have been elated about the Submission; someone even wondered why it took so long for someone to file such a submission with the ICC, while another person contacted me to confirm if the Submission were real or a rumor circulating on social media.
With regard to the Nigerian government, shortly after the Nigerian news media broke the news of the filing, the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) ordered television and radio stations not to disclose “details” of the activities of bandits, terrorists and kidnappers in daily Newspaper Reviews” as reported by the Daily Trust and several other news outlets. We believe news of the ICC filing caused the government to target the media houses with this order, because when the ICC decides to investigate, they could likely begin their investigation with information documented in the archives of the news organizations, who report these stories.
From gathering evidence, and hiring lawyers , running such a case should require considerable resources, where are the funds coming from or everything is pro bono?
The greatest expense thus far, has been the time spent in producing the Submission to the ICC, which I have offered pro bono to our beloved Yoruba People, as a sacrifice, in our pursuit of justice for the unfortunate victims, many of whom have perished, thereby paying a much greater price.
What will be considered a reasonable outcome for you and the victims you represent in this case?
A reasonable outcome from the ICC, would be for the for the ICC to launch a thorough investigation, and to ultimately prosecute and punish as many individuals as are found to have been complicit or active in facilitating the evil that is befalling our People.
If the case does not go in your favor, how far are you willing to go to get justice?
We have filed our Submission, at the appropriate venue, in accordance with the rule of law, and we have every confidence that justice will be served.
An Epic Failure and Betrayal of the Liberation Struggle-Mabior Garang On South Sudan At 10.
July 19, 2021 | 0 Comments
By Ajong Mbapndah L
The last ten years of independence in South Sudan have been an epic failure and a betrayal not only of the liberation struggle, but of shared cultural values as South Sudanese and Africans, says Mabior Garang.
In an interview with Pan African Visions, Mabior says the leadership in the country has failed to deliver the promise of the liberation struggle as the population that bore the brunt of the war effort have been deprived the dividends of peace.
The fact that we have a country is worth celebrating, says Mabior, the son of the country’s iconic revolutionary leader Dr John Garang. As a country, the years ahead are more than the last 10 years of disappointment Mabior Garang says in the exclusive interview to discuss decade of independence in South Sudan.
How do you sum up ten years of Independence for South Sudan?
The independence of South Sudan is incomplete. We have gone through the procedures of establishing a modern country. We are internationally recognised by the global family of nations at the United Nations. We have a flag and a national anthem. It is a great achievement. Many generations of South Sudanese sacrificed over generations for this noble cause. I do not want to belittle the struggles of our ancestors,
but the job is incomplete.
We have failed to deliver the promise of the liberation struggle. The civil population who bore the brunt of the war effort have not received their peace dividends. Our civil population continues to suffer in abject poverty. The material conditions of our civil population could be said to have been better in the old Sudan than in our nascent Republic. We were more independent in the liberated areas of the new Sudan. Today we use oil dollars to import simple things like tomatoes.
In summary, the last ten years of South Sudan’s independence have been an epic failure. A betrayal not only of the liberation struggle, but of our shared cultural values as South Sudanese and Africans. It would take volumes to explain this failure and the way forward. I write about these topics extensively in my blog MGS www.mabiorgarangspeaks.com .
Where were you on Independence Day in 2011, and was the present scenario or shape of South Sudan something you envisaged?
I was at the Independence Day ceremony. It was a joke at best. While most independence ceremonies in Africa occurred at the stroke of midnight, ours happened hours after midnight. This was the day countless generations fought and died for over the years. For our leaders not to be prepared for this day, was a bad omen. President Salva Kiir even apologized for the embarrassment and stated we would do it better next time. There is no next time for the independence of a country.
This has been the mischief of the first Republic of South Sudan.
It was the most disorganized event in the history of our country and a sign of things to come – a culture of disorganisation. Simply put, it was an embarrassment. The security of President Zuma had a scuffle with President Salva Kiir’s security. The President of Togo left in protest. I saw current President Uhuru Kenyatta share a plastic chair with the late Hon. George Saitoti. Princes came from Europe and could be seen wandering around. I saw Amb. Susan Rice stand on a crate of beer to deliver her speech.
I have been writing about this for over a decade. Some of my articles about this topic have been published in this gazette over the years.
A curious thing about the 10th anniversary is how little we hear about Dr John Garang, the historic leader of the struggle. How different is South Sudan from the vision he had?
The vision was of the SPLA/SPLM, perhaps because the brand Garang is associated with the vision, some leaders have rejected the vision. The vision of new Sudan was cognate to the vision of the new society expounded by the liberation Movements of the 1960s – which gave us independence through the principle of self-determination. It was not a vision of a new land, but of a new man and a new woman. It was a vision based on a concrete analysis of our objective realities and a resolution to the contradictions we identified in our land.
There are traditional elite in the country with vested interests who are the beneficiaries of the power relations established during the slave trade and colonialism. These power elites are an anti-people clique who have no interest in the triumph of the people’s revolution. They have used their intellectual mercenaries and hired keyboards to engage in a serious propaganda campaign to discredit the revolutionary theory which guided us during the Bush war days.
The vision of new Sudan has been erroneously portrayed as John Garang being against the independence of South Sudan. Whether this is deliberate or genuine confusion, is a different question altogether.
Coincidentally, the government has shelved celebrations or festivities because of COVID 19. Still, is it possible to pick some positives for us, what would have been some of those developments’ worth celebrating?
The fact that we have a country is worth celebrating. It is our right to rule or misrule ourselves. As long as we live, we can always correct the situation and hopefully learn from the mistakes. As a country, the years ahead are more than the last 10 years of disappointment. I am hopeful that through ‘political education’, we can transform the situation in the next decade.
What is your take on the revitalized peace agreement and the efforts by President Kiir and Vice President Machar to put the country back on the rails?
I will not make the answer about these two leaders. I prefer to look at them as a generation. As a generation of leaders, they have failed the future generations. However, mother nature is on our side, and we shall correct these mistakes in due time. The peace process has been turned into a zero-sum game. It is impossible to find peace with such attitudes.
As a generation, they sacrificed to give us this day and we give them full credit. That being said, I believe the lion’s share of this credit goes to those who never made it to see the Independence Day. Those who saw the day and inherited the new Republic, instead of paying back our civil population for their invaluable contribution to the war effort, plunged us back into a tribal war of attrition. This generation will be divided in two. Those who died before independence and those who lived to see the glorious day our country was born. The legacy of independence will be the credit of those who died during the struggle. The rest of their generation of so-called liberators will take the legacy of the failure of our first Republic to their graves. It will be their legacy, unless they come to their senses now and unite for the sake of future generations. It is not too late as long as they are still alive. But they are running out of time. To use the words of Jr. Gong, I am confident my generation will make a change.
The oil seems to be flowing again, what role did oil play in the crisis and any advice to the present government on efficient management of proceeds?
Oil played a big role. It was when the Governor of the oil producing region – H.E. Gen. Taban Deng – was sacked and no longer had control of the 2% oil, that the low intensity conflict started. The main role played by oil, however, has been in fueling the war as the revenues are used to invest in their war economy. The infamous oil curse is definitely at work in South Sudan.
What is your appraisal of the role played by the international community in helping South Sudan navigate these challenging first ten years?
The international community is a community of the various nations of the human family. It is not some tangible thing you can sit down and have a conversation with. By becoming an independent country, we joined this community of nations, and we are part of it. The international community did all they could, even from the days we were negotiating the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA). The international community was the midwife to our newborn country – as it were. The world has a stake in our independence, and we have enjoyed tremendous good will. The leaders have squandered this good will and the world is tired of leaders who do not care about their own people.
We the leaders of South Sudan are solely to blame for the mess we are in today. It will be difficult for readers to understand this, and I shall expound on it in future writings. South Sudan’s slave trade history has influenced our constitution as a modern country. We are only a Republic by name, but we are closer to state Slavery than any other political philosophy out there. I remember Kenya even opened a whole office dedicated to helping South Sudan, so I cannot fault the international community for our country becoming a failed state.
It is shameful for our civil population to get food, clothing and shelter from taxpayers in other countries when our country is rich with oil, gold and vast arable land for agribusiness.
Looking at the future, what makes you hopeful for South Sudan and what are your fears?
I am hopeful because we have mother nature on our side. This generation will go with this mischief, and we shall continue to wage the struggle for fundamental change in our society. We have registered a local NGO in South Sudan and we have identified ‘political education’ as our method of struggle. Our aim is to have a politically empowered civil population which can build a free society to reflect its values. Through political education, we aim to demystify politics in the psyche of our peoples, who think politics is supposed to be a dirty game. Our basic documents can be found online on www.nationalconversationssd.com.
And about this future, what role for Mabior Garang, what will it take for you to join the government in Juba and contribute your quota in moving the country forward?
I am the Chairman of the board of trustees of the National Conversation South Sudan (NCSS) a.k.a. The Tomato Renaissance. Our organisation’s history is rooted in the history of the SPLA/SPLM Civil Authorities for New Sudan (CANS). As the country went through political changes leading to independence, the organization has undergone several incarnations as the objective realities have changed in turn. We have had to change our registration severally; from CANS to instructions of Legal Affairs-SSRRC Office, and finally Ministry of Justice.
Civility was lost in December 2013 and so the civil society had to either flee or go underground. Many of our members joined the SPLM-IO and we contributed our faculties to finding peace in Addis Ababa. We are using the opportunity of the current peace process to continue with our projects. We have no interest in power struggles in Juba. It is the contention of the NCSS that independence ended the political struggle in Africa. There is less need for the power struggles at the center, which are usually characterized by tribalism – a legacy of colonial politics.
The struggle we shall wage in the NCSS is not for political power of individuals or tribes, our struggle is for political empowerment, for our civil population to become bona fide citizens who understand their relationship to their government. It is only when the society is composed of empowered individuals that they can build a democratic society. Independence alone is meaningless without political education. Those fighting for independence in Biafra, Southern Cameroons, Tigray, Western Sahara and anywhere on the continent, should take the independence of South Sudan as a case study. There are many lessons to be learned. In conclusion, the NCSS is non-governmental, but we are most definitely political. We deal with macro politics as opposed to micro politics. Amandla!
A Touch of Israeli Technology For Development In Rural Areas With Innovation Africa.
July 14, 2021 | 0 Comments
–-Q & A with Innovation Africa CEO Sivan Ya’ari
By Ajong Mbapndah L
For the past 13 years, Innovation Africa has been working across the African continent providing rural communities with access to clean water and solar power using Israeli technology. To date, Innovation Africa has completed over 500 solar and water projects and aims to complete an additional 2,000 projects over the coming 5 years. Innovation Africa CEO Sivan Ya’ari sheds light on the work and vision of the non -profit organization in a Q & A with PAV.
What is Innovation Africa, for how long has it been in existence and what was the vision or logic behind its creation?
Sivan Ya’ari: Innovation Africa Is a non-profit organisation that brings Israeli solar, water and agricultural technologies to rural African villages. Access to solar energy can transform a community and since its establishment in 2008, Innovation Africa has brought light to schools and medical centers and provided access to clean water to nearly 3 million people across 10 African countries.
In what parts of Africa does Innovation Africa has operations in and how is the choice of countries made?
Sivan Ya’ari: Innovation Africa has projects across 10 African countries: South Africa, eSwatini, Uganda, Malawi, Tanzania, Zambia, Cameroon, DRC, Senegal and Ethiopia. Tanzania was where the first Innovation Africa project was completed and from there, my team and I progressed village by village, identifying communities without access to energy and/or clean water. Innovation Africa has expanded to new countries, based on the needs of the populations and where the organization can establish local teams of engineers, field officers and managers.
May we know the kind of reception Innovation Africa has received across the continent and may we have specific examples of projects that have been carried out across the continent?
Sivan Ya’ari: Innovation Africa has been warmly welcomed in the countries where we operate. We establish relationships with relevant ministers, ambassadors, regional commissioners, and other such representatives to help identify communities in critical need of our assistance and those which are not currently supported by the local governments. In schools and health centers, Innovation: Africa provides solar energy to provide light to the classrooms, clinics, and staff homes as well as to power laptops, projectors, solar vaccine refrigerators and other essential medical devices. Children are now able to study at night, have access to quality education and succeed academically. With access to light, doctors and nurses are able to provide improved medical treatment, deliver babies and perform operations safely at night. Access to clean water transforms a village and we see the community thrive, with improved health, elimination of waterborne diseases, improved food security, and establish income-generating opportunities. To date, Innovation Africa has completed over 500 solar and water projects and aims to complete an additional 2,000 projects over the coming 5 years.
Could you tell us what impact projects of Innovation Africa have hard on the lives of people in countries you have operations in?
Sivan Ya’ari: Without access to energy and water, there is no access to quality education, safe medical treatment and, most critically, clean water. At Innovation Africa, throughout the 500 villages we have worked in, we have seen the impact that access to light and water has on communities and individual. In schools, solar energy Increases the level of education students receive as they can study under the light and learn on laptops for the first time. In health centers, doctors are able to operate safely at night and use medical equipment including solar refrigerators to securely store vaccines and medicines. Most importantly, in villages, access to clean water transforms communities by improving their health and hygiene. Children no longer need to search for water, enabling them to return to school. Access to clean water creates food security, empowers women, and develops economic independence. In turn, this is helping to break the cycle of poverty and reduces inequalities.
You are of Israeli descent; may we know what triggered your interest in Africa?
Sivan Ya’ari: The first time I visited Africa; I was only 20 years old. I was working in a factory for Jordache Jeans in Madagascar, and this was the first time I saw real poverty. I grew up poor, but the poverty I witness there was on a different level. While in Madagascar, I had the chance to spend time with women and children from a nearby village. One night, they took me to a medical center. Here, I saw women waiting to give birth in complete darkness. Doctors could not treat their patients. The only light was a candle and a small kerosene lamp. I then understood that without energy, medical centers can’t store vaccines and medications, people can’t access the water that exists just meters beneath their feet, and without water, people cannot drink, they cannot grow food, children are unable to attend school as they spend their days searching for water. By simply harnessing the energy of the sun, we can make a real and immediate change.
What impact has the COVID -19 had on the activities of Innovation Africa?
Sivan Ya’ari: In light of COVID-19, we understood now, more than ever, the need and urgency to power medical centers and provide clean water to as many communities as possible. After all, how can we ask communities to clean their hands without access to clean water? Despite the challenges posed by the pandemic, Innovation: Africa continued its work and secured essential worker permits for our local employees to ensure that we are able to continue with our projects and help combat the spread of the virus. In 2020 alone, Innovation Africa doubled its impact and completed 206 projects, impacting the lives of over 1 million people.
What are some other challenges that Innovation Africa has faced in the course of its mission?
Sivan Ya’ari: Naturally, my team and I have learnt a lot and faced manage challenges over the years. At the beginning, one challenge we faced was that after installing solar energy at a school, the community refused to use it, as they believed in the practices of witchcraft and feared that this system would be detrimental to them. From this we learnt how crucial it is to engage with a community, to truly understand the cultural needs and practices.
Yet, as opposed to challenges that we have faced, Innovation: Africa focuses on the lessons we have learnt. It is important to always be innovative and open to new technologies that are always developing. The lesson to take away, is to never stop growing. We must work in a fast-paced environment and be creative problem solvers. For example, thanks to our Chief Engineer, Meir Yaacoby, we have developed the “Energy Box” which has the capacity to light an entire school and medical center from one streamlined system. We use lithium-ion batteries and special LED light bulbs that are made in Israel and can last 50,000 hours. This creates sustainability and efficiency while being cost effective. We are now beginning to install all our solar projects with this new technology we developed in-house. We have to constantly innovate.
May we know the nature of relations between Innovation Africa and governments in countries that you operate, how helpful have governments been in helping Innovation Africa carry out its mission?
Sivan Ya’ari: Whilst we are a non-governmental organization, in all the countries we operate, Innovation: Africa has established strong and positive relationships within the governments. On a local level, our local Innovation Africa teams meet regularly with the district and regional ministers to discuss government plans and share the projects that Innovation: Africa is carrying out so as not to duplicate our efforts and provide energy and/or clean water to communities which the government already plans to assist. On a regional level, Innovation Africa works closely with the country’s ambassadors to help establish positive relations and share the work we are doing across our countries of operation.
Could you shed some light on your upcoming tour to Africa, why the tour at this point and what countries do you plan to visit?
Sivan Ya’ari: I am currently in Tanzania for a field visit and a donor trip and plan to visit Zambia, Malawi, and Cameroon over the coming months.
What next after the tour and the rest of the year, any big announcements, or projects in gestation that you would like to make public through Pan African Visions?
Sivan Ya’ari: In 2021, Innovation: Africa is working hard to complete over 200 solar and water projects and we have set the ambitious goal of bringing clean water and light to an additional 2,000 villages over the next 5 years, impacting the lives of 10 million people.
APO Group Remains The Largest & Most Trusted Provider Of Corporate News Content In Africa- Founder and Chairman Nicolas Pompigne-Mognard
July 5, 2021 | 0 Comments
By Ajong Mbapndah L
Despite the challenges and chaos created by COVID-19, the African Press Organization -APO is waxing strong and remains the largest and most trusted provider of corporate news in Africa, says its Founder and Chairman Nicolas Pompigne-Mognard.
“We have actually grown significantly since the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Both our Public Relations and press release distribution business units have seen higher demand, with a 30% increase in the volume of press releases distributed by APO Group in 2020,” Nicolas Pompigne-Mognard affirms in an interview with PAV.
Beyond the growing volume of its press releases distributed, the vitality of the APO is also seen in the high-profile partnerships it continues to sign with corporate entities and sporting establishments and institutions of global repute. Under the astute leadership and strategic vision of Nicolas Pompigne-Mognard, the APO has continued to ink partnerships, with Getty Images, and European and French football giants Olympic Marseille been the latest .
“For us, sports represents one of the best ways of supporting development in Africa, so our interest in working with major African sporting organizations and federations is not a new thing,” says Nicolas Pompigne-Mognard in the interview which also covered current challenges and media trends across Africa.
Thanks for accepting to grant this interview, the APO under your leadership just signed a partnership with Olympic Marseille, could you shed some light on this new partnership for us?
Nicolas Pompigne-Mognard : Olympique de Marseille (OM) has the strongest links to Africa of any elite football club in Europe. They are also one of the most iconic clubs for Africa’s millions of passionate football fans. The work OM does for grass roots sport in Africa is fantastic and APO Group shares OM’s vision for using sports to promote development across the continent – particularly when it comes to young people. Partnering with Olympique de Marseille is a great way to showcase some of the positive stories that are coming out of Africa every day.
Olympique Marseille is household name in French and European football, may we know how this partnership was conceived and what does it mean for African football?
Nicolas Pompigne-Mognard : It is hard to over-estimate the role OM has played in African football over the years. You only need to look at some of the African players that have played for the club: Global stars like Abedi Pelé, Didier Drogba and Mamadou Niang have blazed a trail, and now dozens of African players compete in Europe’s top leagues. This, in turn, makes African national teams more prominent and competitive on the world stage. We want to help OM continue this positive trajectory. Our network is at their disposal, and this means stories about their initiatives will reach new audiences in Africa and beyond. News of training camps, schools, academies and fan zones are helping to demonstrate OM’s commitment to Africa. Other European clubs might be reaching out to the lucrative Asian and American markets, but OM is the only elite club that is making Africa a priority. It is their -only- area of focus.
In additional to the partnership with Marseille, the APO has a stake in Rugby, it has a partnership with Basketball Africa, what is the logic behind this pivot towards sports for the APO?
Nicolas Pompigne-Mognard : For us, sports represents one of the best ways of supporting development in Africa, so our interest in working with major African sporting organizations and federations is not a new thing. We have been the Main Official Sponsor of World Rugby’s African association, Rugby Africa, since 2017, and have seen a huge rise in the popularity of the sport right across the continent. More people in Africa are playing rugby than ever before, and that is only going to grow as a result of the international exposure we are helping to generate. We are also the exclusive Pan African communications consultancy for the NBA in Africa and the Basketball Africa League – and we are a sponsor of Team Qhubeka NextHash, the only professional African cycling team on the UCI World Tour. These relationships enable us to promote health, education, peace, violence prevention, and gender equality for every African, particularly youngsters and people from deprived areas. Sport has a unique power to bring people together, so clearly it is a major priority for us.
The APO was also in the news for a partnership with Getty images, may we get more insights on this as well and what impact it could have on the media landscape in Africa?
Nicolas Pompigne-Mognard: Our partnership with Getty Images has been important on a number of levels. It has been a real game-changer in press release distribution, in that we are now able to deliver not just images, but text content too through one of the biggest and most renowned media organizations in the world. Getty Images has more than a million global subscribers, so our content about Africa has the potential to reach further than ever before. That is crucial in our mission to change international perceptions about Africa.
How important is the partnership with Getty Images in fostering the overall vision that the APO has?
Nicolas Pompigne-Mognard: It is hugely important. Our overall mission is to change the narrative about Africa, and show people around the world what a fantastic, richly diverse continent it is. For too long, Africa has been synonymous with negativity. The only stories being told were about conflict and poverty. Since we started out in 2007, we have been trying to turn those perceptions around. We have built up a network of hundreds of clients, many of whom are multinational organizations operating in Africa. The stories they have to tell – along with news about African business, and the sporting endeavours I have already mentioned – are showing the world that we have a continent we can all be proud of. Getty Images is carrying that message far and wide, giving their subscribers in newsrooms all over the world a clearer picture of the ‘real’ Africa.
In terms of business, how did the APO navigate the challenges posed by COVID 19, what impact did it have for the APO as a business entity?
Nicolas Pompigne-Mognard : We have actually grown significantly since the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Both our Public Relations and press release distribution business units have seen higher demand, with a 30% increase in the volume of press releases distributed by APO Group in 2020. The pandemic has changed the way companies and institutions communicate. Even before COVID, we were seeing a shift in the mix of communications spend, with businesses allocating less budget to advertising, and more to Public Relations. COVID has simply accelerated that. APO Group is the largest and most trusted provider of corporate news content in Africa. The media knows us, and that gives our clients a big boost when we distribute news on their behalf. Let’s not forget that the APO acronym stands for ‘African Press Organization’. We are the credible channel they need to attract media coverage and get their message out during these unprecedented times.
Could you sum up the engagement that the APO had with diverse stakeholders in supporting and strengthening the African response to COVID 19?
Nicolas Pompigne-Mognard : At the beginning of the pandemic, we set up our APO Group Coronavirus Initiative for Africa. We are in the privileged position of being able to facilitate many aspects of the African response to the crisis, as we have access to a vast network of African and international media, and are also a trusted partner for hundreds of multinational organizations operating in Africa. One of the first things we did was to offer pro bono press release distribution for governments and health agencies looking to reach the public with vital information about the pandemic. To date we have distributed more than 12.000 announcements from authorities all over Africa. We have worked closely with the World Health Organization (WHO) in Africa and the African Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), coordinating regular online press conferences and making introductions to some of our prominent clients. We also joined the UNESCO Global Coalition for Education where our job is to help UNESCO in making sure that children in Africa are able to return to school, and given opportunities to access remote learning. Above all, we have seen it as our responsibility to deliver critical – and sometimes life-saving – information to people in all 54 African countries.
From the vantage position you have, what do you make of the role played by the media in the African response to COVID 19, what was done right and what could have been done better in the challenging circumstances?
Nicolas Pompigne-Mognard : I think the pandemic has provided the media with an opportunity to reclaim some of the trust that has been lost in recent times. The value of real, impactful journalism has been diminished, and people have lost their trust in traditional news values. But in times of crisis, people need reassurance, and a strong, reliable line of communication that has both credibility and authority. That’s when they turn back to national newspapers and broadcasters – and away from the chatter and noise of social media. The pandemic has reminded us all that responsible journalism is a vital tool in fighting misinformation and division.
In the face of the hardship that most media networks are going through, any recommendations or survival tips from the seasoned professional you are?
Nicolas Pompigne-Mognard : Media in Africa face many challenges, not least from the competition provided by multinational counterparts taking up audience share and advertising revenue. If major international news outlets are operating alongside local publications and broadcasters, they struggle to compete for the best talent. It is not really a fair competition. Of course, you want to encourage young journalists to go out and get the best deal and work at the top publications – but in the end that is detrimental to the local African media that was here first. My hope is that the two can coexist – but for that to happen, local media needs to be supported, invested in and protected.
What next for the APO in the months and years to come, any other big projects or partnerships in view?
Nicolas Pompigne-Mognard : We have another big announcement coming soon relating to sport in Africa, and we are currently working on several new media relations services that are specific to broadcasting in Africa. At the same time, we continue to build and innovate when it comes to technology. By June 2022 we will look to unveil a revamped fully digital press release distribution platform, which makes the user experience rewarding and insightful for both our clients using the platform, and the media who receive the content.
Environmental Concerns Must Be Part of Africa’s Development Agenda- Landry Ninteretse, Africa Managing Director 350.0rg
July 5, 2021 | 0 Comments
By Ajong Mbapndah L
The development agenda of Africa should not take place at the expense of environmental concerns, but rather in a way that is truly sustainable, inclusive and puts the interest of ordinary people at the centre, and not those of the multinationals and political elites, says Landry Ninteretse, Africa Managing Director 350.0rg.
Speaking in an interview with PAV Ninteretse says rich countries that have contributed disproportionately to global warming have the responsibility to remedy the situation by not only phasing out all their fossil fuels projects and reducing their emissions, but also to offer technical and financial support to African nations in their efforts to implement effective adaptation and mitigation strategies that allow real sustainable development.
From the recent documentary on the Virunga National Park in the D.R. Congo, to the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) and the Mozambique Liquified Natural Gas , and more, Landry Ninteretse discusses major environmental concerns and challenges facing Africa and opines that it is critical to have sustained pressure from the civil society and campaign organizations for meaningful reforms to take place.
For those who may not be familiar with 350.org, could we start with an introduction and the scope of your operations in Africa?
Landry Ninteretse: 350 Africa.org, part of the global organisation 350.org has been supporting campaigns against fossil fuels on the continent since 2011 and advocating for an inclusive transition to renewable energy & social justice for all. We support in various ways local struggles to confront climate injustices and amplify a narrative on the necessity for climate-smart development that is rooted in justice and equity across Africa.
We use various and tailored tactics to achieve the goals and plans – from regional and global mobilisations to campaigning, from movement building and support to media amplification to ensure the voices and demands of the grassroots communities are raised and heard.
We run and support various campaigns and projects in South Africa, Kenya, Uganda, DRC, Senegal, Ivory Coast, Nigeria and Ghana aimed at fighting climate injustices and building low carbon societies and economies.
What prompted you to join 350.org and how relevant are its activities to present day Africa?
Landry Ninteretse : I joined 350.org after a training on climate leadership activism back in September 2009. At that time, I was an environmental activist advocating for sustainable use of natural resources and an accelerated uptake of renewable energy to combat deforestation and energy poverty. At that training, the 40 volunteers from Eastern and Southern Africa were tasked to start popular climate movements back home in the lead up to COP 15 in Copenhagen to demand a fair and ambitious treaty aligned with science and urgency to bring back the levels of carbon dioxide from 390 to 350 ppm.
I saw in 350.org an opportunity for engagement and action offered to people of different backgrounds and experiences to build powerful networks and coalitions for climate justice, be it at the national, regional and global levels.
Our campaigns and projects are so relevant in the current context where Africa is called to address the climate crisis and related disasters while developing low carbon pathways tailored to its unique challenges in terms of economic, energy and social needs of its growing population.
Talking about fossil fuels, may we understand the issues you have and when organisations like yours and others talk of renewable energy, can shed some light on what you are talking about and why this could be ideal for Africa?
Landry Ninteretse : Several scientific and institutional reports, including the latest from the FF treaty have shown that existing coal, oil and gas production puts the world on course to overshoot Paris climate targets. At the same time, the world already has more than enough renewable energy potential to comfortably make the transition away from fossil fuels while also expanding energy access for all.
Renewable energy such as solar, wind, and small hydro produce less, if not zero emissions, and can be implemented without needing connections to the national grid in rural areas where communities badly need the energy.
The shift to renewable energy as an alternative cleaner source of energy is possible for Africa if all countries set it as a priority and come up with rapid and ambitious and clear action plans to make it a reality.
Renewable energy sources of energy abundant on the continent have the potential to unlock great potential in African citizens and their ability to work, deepen livelihood and advance well-being, as well as supporting a home-grown development agenda set on African terms without counting only on polluting fossil fuels whose future is highly uncertain.
How do organizations like you expect Africa to balance its development priorities with the kind of environmental concerns that you have raised?
Landry Ninteretse : As stated above and proved by several scientific reports, Africa – the most vulnerable continent to climate impacts – can achieve real and sustainable development through a sustained uptake of renewables and a just and fair low carbon pathway that gradually phases out fossil fuels. This means prioritizing sources of energy that are clean and innovative and community owned and not necessarily large and centrally controlled energy infrastructures. The development agenda should not take place at the expense of environmental concerns. But rather in a way that is truly sustainable, inclusive and puts the interest of ordinary people at the centre, and not those of the multinationals and political elites.
What is your response to critics who say it is unfair to deprive Africa of prospects of using it for its development when the developed world has used that for its own development?
Landry Ninteretse : That’s correct – though climate change is a global challenge that requires global solutions, not all countries have been having the same responsibility for it. Some countries, especially Western ones, have contributed largely to increased emissions since the 18th century while African’s emissions altogether are less than 5%.
It’s unfair and illogic to request equal efforts from all countries, though everyone has a role to play.
Rich countries that have contributed disproportionately to global warming have a responsibility to remedy the situation by not only phasing out all their fossil fuels projects and drastically reducing their emissions, but also to support technically and financially African nations in their efforts to implement effective adaptation and mitigation strategies that allow real sustainable development.
At the same time, African governments must ensure that their development policies are well aligned with people’s needs, create sustainable opportunities and livelihoods and support a home-grown development agenda based on actual realities and needs.
Let’s use a few concrete examples to understand your concerns beginning with the Virunga National Park, what concerns does 350.org have with that?
Landry Ninteretse: Oil exploration activities within and around Virunga NP threaten the immense and rich diversity of ecosystems, incomparable fauna and flora of the Park on which local communities depend on for their survival.
Oil exploration and extraction pose unacceptable risks to people’s livelihoods, local communities and sensitive ecosystems of Africa’s oldest and most biodiverse park, significantly affecting activities such tourism, farming and fishing.
We understand there is a documentary out to sheds light on the challenges posed by the entry of oil companies into the park after being granted oil concessions by the DRC government, what impact do you think the film could have in making the DRC government and companies have a rethink?
Landry Ninteretse : This documentary is part of our efforts to ensure that grassroots and fossil fuels affected communities’ voices and concerns are raised and heard.
We hope that it will raise awareness of the current threats posed to the Virunga and show the human and ecological violations caused by exploration activities.
This is a new call to the DRC Government and oil companies involved to undertake comprehensive human rights and environmental due diligence and put an end to the licencing process in the Virunga Park. We also call on the government to prevent any foreseeable harm and pursue appropriate remedy for abuses already committed while ensuring that communities rights are fully respected.
You have also been critical of other projects like the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) and the Mozambique Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) which are touted as game changing in terms of development, can you restate your case against these projects?
Landry Ninteretse : The EACOP project is socially catastrophic, economically unviable & ecologically disastrous. A few examples:
-Around 13,000 families are affected by land access and use restrictions by Total and its partners.
-Such restrictions on rural and farmers communities have dire effects on their livelihoods, and consequently, on their right to food, education and health.
-The pipeline poses significant risks to critical water sources, wetlands and several rivers in both countries.
-Approximately 460 km of the pipeline will be within the freshwater basin of Lake Victoria, Africa’s largest lake, which directly supports the livelihoods of more than 40 million people in the region.
-The nearly 1,445 kilometer pipeline would run through numerous important habitats and nature reserves – home to a number of iconic and endangered animals, such as lions, elands, lesser kudu, buffalo, impalas, hippos, giraffes, roan antelopes, sitatungas, sables, zebras, aardvarks, and the red colobus monkey.
-Contrary to what has been announced, EACOP is expected to create only 200 or 300 permanent jobs. How many of these jobs are going to benefit locals?
-Huge debt risks for Uganda and Tanzania
In Mozambique, the country is among the 10 poorest countries in the world. Half of the population lives under the poverty line and the country is currently facing a new wave of violence especially in the areas where gas discoveries were made a few years ago.
Despite promises of jobs and prosperity brought in by the discovery of gas- if the current gas project were to go ahead, only a few hundred Mozambicans will get small or junior jobs.
For countries like Mozambique (and to a certain degree Uganda and Tanzania) to harness Africa’s abundant gas /oil resources, deep structural reforms that address the issues of accountability, transparency, public participation and redistribution of resources MUST take place. This won’t happen overnight, unless there’s a critical pressure from affected countries, civil society and campaigning organizations proactively pushing for such reforms to take place.
It takes two to tango and most of the companies exploiting fossil fuels are foreign based, what is it 350.org doing to send the message to them as opposed to putting the blame on African countries?
Landry Ninteretse : To be clear – 350.org isn’t blaming African countries but rather targeting all decision makers whether they are public or private institutions, banks, corporations and governments to take the necessary steps and courageous measures in shifting their economies away from a dependence on fossil fuels and focus on building resilient and decentralized energy systems based on renewable sources.
We want every decision maker to take its responsibility and ensure that people’s needs and priorities are at the heart of their decisions and actions.
May we know some of the key partners that 350.org works with in pushing for reforms in Africa?
Landry Ninteretse : We work with hundreds of multiple and diverse partners that will be hard to exhaustively list here. They include affected communities, local/national energy rights and environment and climate justice CSOs and NGOs, global INGOs and progressive movements across the continent.
From the hyper activism of 350.Org, what kind of changes are you seeing in Africa, and may we know some countries that are meeting expectations you have?
Landry Ninteretse: In South Africa, 350Africa.org is building and coordinating the work of the Climate Justice Coalition bringing together civil society groups, grassroots, trade union, and community-based organisations advocating for a rapid and just transition to a more socially owned, renewable energy powered economy, providing clean, safe, and affordable energy for all, with no worker and community left behind in the transition.
In Ghana, between 2013 and 2016 civil society groups and local communities challenged the governmental project to build a 700 MW coal-fired power plant that was supposed to be built in partnership with Shenzhen Energy group. The proposed project was postponed and then abandoned through a change of government in December 2016. Our partners in Ghana are now working on a Renewable energy campaign in 5 districts of Accra.
In Kenya, following years of campaigning against the proposed coal-powered plant in Lamu that was reportedly to increase the country’s emission by 700%, the National Environmental Tribunal halted the plans to construct the infrastructure due to failure in conducting a thorough environmental impact assessment. Our partners from Decoalonize have now embarked on a renewable energy strategy to help the country to achieve a low carbon transition plan.
In Zimbabwe, communities, environmental and rights groups are building resistance against the Sengwa coal power project and engaging the Industrial Commercial Bank of China to commit not to fund that project and are confident that they will win the battle.
What other plans does the Organisation have for the rest of the year and any last word as we wrap up this interview?
Landry Ninteretse : Our plans for the rest of 2021 and beyond include:
-Supporting partners working to stop fossil fuel projects across the continent and beyond
-Building an inclusive, diverse and progressive climate movement by getting people involved in the climate movement, deepening the commitment of people already involved and through coalition building, training, research, networking, and inspiration of people to join the movement.
-Pressuring banks that are still funding fossil fuels infrastructures and get them to commit to a fossil fuel exclusion policy
-Initiate and be part of mobilisations and actions that demand climate justice in Africa and beyond.
A Mission To Transform 10 million lives by 2030 For Africa Grain and Seed
May 20, 2021 | 0 Comments
By Ajong Mbapndah L
Africa’s fight against problems faced by rural communities like hunger, poverty, education and others has found a new partner in Africa Grain and Seed-ASG. Working in synergy with other key stakeholders, the ASG is out with an ambitious program to rewrite the future of 10 million lives in Africa by 2030 through education, food security, technology and entrepreneurship.
PAV caught up with the founder Anthony Denga and co-founder Zanile Matiwaza Denga for more insights into the mission and vision of the ASG.
Could we start with an introduction of the Africa Grain and Seed that you lead?
Africa Grain and Seed (AGS) is a multidisciplinary collaboration leading an inclusive economic growth strategy piloted by business partners who have expertise in investments, technology, and supply chain. To ensure the success of our turnaround strategy we have piloted through collaboration, innovation, and smart- agriculture based on long-term, sustainable solutions.
As Africa, grain, and seed we seek to address the current problems faced by Africa’s rural communities such as hunger, poverty, clean water, education, nutrition, energy, education, climate-smart livelihoods. We integrate resources, programs, and research to transform rural communal land into economically vibrant commercial hubs by organizing African unbanked communities with surplus land but not adequate resources and access to the market to become food producers of the world.
May we understand the relevance of the Enterprise and its mission in helping Africa meet some of its present-day challenges?
Africa’s present-day challenges factoring the impact Covid has had on these marginalized communities and Africa as a whole is a mammoth task and we have taken the initiative as the private sector to relieve malnutrition, hunger and poverty – Our role as AGS is to develop and strengthen communities by identifying marginalized rural communities with the potential to become self-sustaining communities that are able to grow sufficient food for the communities and surplus into local and international markets. Our implementation approach is showcased through the donation of seeds, seedlings, books, sanitary pads with intended extensive workshops and training. This ensures that our deliverables are met in sustainable approaches the guarantees that these communities and schools have access to nutritious meals on their tables, and through the surplus, they are able to realise income reviving their economies. The relevance of our programme is the strength of partnership of these communities, private sectors, off-takers, export markets and governments through providing inputs and guaranteeing markets. Our programme is offset in the rural school propagation programmes which are interlinked with our out-growers programmes done through cluster communities. We are making these communities productive (through infrastructure development), production (through secure trade and funding) export development (through the surplus partnering with local and foreign off-takers).
It is imperative that our structures are adopted to build resilient communities that can realise revenue for the unbanked to become banked. The programme will grow the marginalized communities from producing unprocessed seeds and vegetables to producing value-add outputs. Our 2030 vision is to see established green technology commercial hubs with factories, collection, and distribution platforms within the communities through established climate-smart agriculture solutions that teach and mentor the future of Africa which are through the grower’s programmes to grow and produce vegetable, herbs, small grains, and oils through surplus that can be traded on the international markets.
On a brochure of the Enterprise, we came across, there is mention of a plan to transform 10 million lives by 2030, how do you plan on doing this?
At Africa Grain and Seed we have taken a lead in the transformation of 10 million lives by 2030 through hard work, partnering with likeminded investors that are ready to work tirelessly in piloting a viable, scalable, and a secure platform which is centered around education and Agri income-generating programs. Despite all financial and physical limitations brought about prior and during covid, we have been able to initiate the work we are doing in Africa to meet our target of 1,000,000 vegetable seedlings and 10 000 fruit trees for income-generating purposes. We have attracted like partners like Kamari and their lotteries whose funds play a critical role in Africa, which will further our agenda in transforming 10 million lives.
Our plan will be to see direct impact on these communities through our ecosystem, key areas youth and women training, infrastructure established, Agri -entrepreneurs developed, access to education, job creation, increased nutritional meals and meals per household. The unbanked becoming banked.
In what parts of the continent are your operations actually located at the moment?
Our programmes are located and implemented across Africa. In Zimbabwe with a donation of over 700 000 seeds and seedlings, 1000 sanitary pads, 800 reading books and 100 fruits trees. In South Africa we have donated sanitary pads and seeds to the National Traditional House of Leaders and will be increase over role out and partnership with Humble Smile foundation and rolled up programmes in Zimbabwe, South Africa, and people can follow our work in the month of May & June in Malawi, Sierra Leone, South Sudan, and Uganda
How does the Africa Grain and Seed identify partners that it is going to work with?
We look for like-minded partners with the heart to see Africa transformed by investing in the youth to transform their minds and narrative from a dependency standpoint to leaders tomorrow. We look for synergies with partners that see the critical role women will play in this transformation and build trading platforms. We look for innovative ideas focused at resolving Africa’s challenges. One of the biggest challenges was creating a financial structure that can accommodate the current challenges faced. Our partnership with Kamari will be introduce an application called Kampay that is designed for smart, safe, and cheap remittance and it will sit between the communities and the consumer, acting as a transaction facilitator. It will feature near -zero fees for users, and our beneficiaries will enjoy automated settlements via smart contracts. There will also be various efficiency benefits for governments and enterprises.
What mechanism do you have in place to ensure that those who benefit from the seeds you make available actually deliver tangible results to help them meet targeted goals?
Investor, partners, and AGS Steering Committee – that is inclusive of agronomists, the schools, youth leaders, teachers, women lead committees. The AGS team
The relevant partners in countries to monitor, manage and account for the resources deployed are used to derive the best results.
AGS will develop a platform should see ease of access to our communities.
May we know some of the challenges faced so far?
Smallholder and micro-farming communities in Africa are notoriously underserved by banks and traditional financial institutions. Making it difficult for them to access credit and financing to invest in climate-smart agriculture and scalable operations. Through a partnership with Kamari, these challenges will be addressed by bringing in secured-risked adverse solutions like Blockchain technology and our main focus will be on providing financing for Africa’s unbanked. It is critical for us to revisit the majority population in Africa is the Rural communities. These are not backed with critical resources for them to expand and optimize their full potentials blockchain can provide in creating cheaper credit, cross-border trade, and foreign liquidity into markets generally not priced or not supported by local banks or capital markets.
We can expect to see incentivized strategies through Kamari which will be the strengthening factors and key elements of what we look for in partners to solve development issues and bridge the gap.
When you look around Africa, what is it the governments are getting right about food security, and what are there getting wrong?
Right is that they have acknowledged the exorbitant net food import bill realized by Africa to date and how it will fluctuate if we do not take the relevant steps to change the narrative to increase the net export.
They have carried this problem on their shoulders, we would like to see strengthening in partnerships to compliment the private sector through policies to increase Africa GDP by investing in the marginalized. We also look forward to the government structures create an accountable mechanism to protect local and foreign investments across Africa.
For those who read this interview and will like to be part of the or join you towards the fulfillment of the lofty goals you have had, what do they need to do, how can they be a part of this?
Get in touch with us! We will look at likeminded business, philanthropist, and individuals who we have synergies in legacy building. There is no partner or impact that is too small or too big. There are avenues and inputs that can be brought to this table.
For example, we are excited to announce our partnership with Kamari who has come on board as funders. The funds will be dedicated to some of our communities to outgrow commercial produce. These are at building resistant, sustainable communities which are aimed at presenting Africa with the best solutions focusing on education, technology, smart – agri which are key driving factors in developing an African circular economy.
Ali Mazrui Forever: New Book Sheds Light on Life and Times of Great Scholar
May 20, 2021 | 0 Comments
By Ajong Mbapndah L
Ali Mazrui was one of the most under-studied and under-appreciated scholars, says Seifudein Adem, Professor of Global Studies, Doshisha University, Kyoto, Japan in selling the merits of a new book he has put out in honor of one of Africa’s greatest sons.
“Mazrui was the most stimulating thinker I have ever known,” says Seifudein who worked closely with the erudite scholar for more than a decade. Titled “Postcolonial Constructivism: Mazrui’s Theory of Intercultural Relations,” Seifudein says the book is about Mazrui, mostly in his own words and in the words of those who knew him.
The ambition of the book is to introduce Mazrui’s vast, multi-faceted and stimulating scholarship to a wider audience and do so as comprehensively as possible, Seifudein says in an interview with PAV.
For readers who do not know Seifudein Adem, could we start with an introduction and your relationship with Prof Ali Mazrui?
Prof Seifudein Adem: I first met Professor Ali Mazrui in July 2002 in Binghamton, New York, after my appointment as a research associate at the Institute of Global Cultural Studies (IGCS), Binghamton University; IGCS was created by Mazrui in 1989. I was at the time teaching political science in Japan. How I felt when I met him for the first time probably came close to what he said he had felt when he met one of his intellectual heroes, American political scientist James Coleman. Mazrui met Coleman in 1964 at the University of Ibadan, Nigeria. Mazrui was intimately familiar with Coleman’s scholarship before he met him. I had also known quite a bit about Mazrui’s scholarship before I met him, as I had just completed a book manuscript on him, subsequently published as Paradigm Lost, Paradigm Regained: The Worldview of Ali A. Mazrui (2002). Mazrui said there was an element of hero-worship in his response when he met Coleman. I can say so also was my own experience when I met Mazrui. In 2003, we met again in Africa, but neither in his country of birth. Kenya, nor in mine, Ethiopia. We met in Durban, South Africa. The occasion was the 19th Congress of the International Political Science Association. When IGCS advertised an opening for a junior faculty in 2005, I applied and was selected for the position. As you know Mazrui died in 2014. Meantime I served as the Associate Director of IGCS from 2006 until 2016.
How did the interaction with Ali Mazrui shape the way Seifudein Adem perceives issues across Africa and the globe?
Prof Seifudein Adem: Almost everything I know about African cultures and civilizations, I learned them from Ali Mazrui or has been influenced by him.
My familiarity with Mazrui’s scholarship predates my arrival in 2005. In fact, it even predates my 1992 travel to Japan, where I was to receive my graduate education, work and live for the next fourteen years. The normative positions he had taken on some of the major global issues as well as the unique style of analysis in his voluminous writings, have, I must admit, mesmerized me since the late 1980s, when I was an undergraduate student at Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia.
It was of course the greatest privilege for any Africanist to be able to work with a scholar of Ali Mazrui’s stature. Mazrui was the most stimulating thinker I have ever known. He has influenced and sharpened my perspectives about Africa and global affairs in general.
You are out with a new book “Postcolonial Constructivism: Mazrui’s Theory of Intercultural Relations,” may we know the message you seek to pass across?
Prof Seifudein Adem: In my view, Ali Mazrui was one of the most under-studied and under-appreciated scholars of our time, and there are many purported reasons for this. The message I wanted to pass across is simple: here is a book, a product of notes taken at different places over a long period of time, more than twenty years depending on how it is counted, about Mazrui, mostly in his own words and in the words of those who knew him. Read the book and judge Mazrui for yourself. It is an invitation.
What motivated you to come up with the book, what relevance do you think it could have on contemporary Africa?
Prof Seifudein Adem: I was preparing for many years to write a book that would serve as a useful source of information about Ali Mazrui and his ideas in a manner that is both scholarly and decidedly of human interest. The ambition of the book is to introduce Mazrui’s vast, multi-faceted and stimulating scholarship to a wider audience and do so as comprehensively as possible. By publishing this book, I believe I have managed to do that.
Just to give some idea to your esteemed readers about what the book contains, let me summarize the three most important chapters. Chapter 8 is a collection of ideas including the large number of paradoxical propositions which Mazrui used for highlighting contradictions in social phenomena. Paradoxes are so central in his critical social analysis that he once described himself as an interpreter of cultures through their tensions, paradoxes and contradictions. This major chapter exclusively focuses on Mazrui’s paradoxes collected from scattered and wide-ranging sources.
In Chapter 9 I assembled in more than 130 pages a large number of concepts Mazrui had invented that are at once colorful and often packed with a complex set of ideas, are systematically assembled in this chapter. Mazrui also combined common concepts in a cleverly uncommon way. Sometimes the originality of the concepts therefore lies in how they are defined or in the distinction being made rather than in the words themselves. Further, many of these concepts served as parts of his perceptive typologies used for classifying complex realities. His conceptual formulations also show his gift for elegantly communicating with a wider intellectual community, and not just with the narrow circle of academics. Apart from the concepts and categories, this chapter presents the context in which they were originally articulated.
Ali Mazrui loved not only to write, and write about fairly everything, he was also good at keeping the written record of what, as he would put it, occurred to his mind, his being. Based mostly on his own writings, both published and unpublished, Chapter 10 describes Mazrui’s interactions with some key individuals, historical figures and dignitaries, ranging from Martin Luther King, Jr. to Nelson Mandela, from Jomo Kenyatta to Cyril Ramaphosa, and from Carl Sagan to Mario Cuomo, and includes what Mazrui had to say about (his interactions with some of) these individuals. It also contains what others have said about him.
Can you give us some snippets, anecdotes or interesting insights from the book, what are some of the things that readers will be edified with in the book?
Prof Seifudein Adem: I will do better than that. I think I can share the opening sentences of each of the chapters in the book, as they were originally prepared, as epigraphs. They were not included in the book. Basically, each epigraph captures the core idea of the chapter.
“…writing in my case is almost like a compulsion. I believe I have inherited this compulsion to write from my father who was a pamphleteer in the Swahili language and Arabic… He used to say that there were two areas of life in which he had not tried to emulate the Prophet Muhammad – my father did not try to marry as many wives as the Prophet had done, nor did my father limit himself to producing only one book as the Prophet had done.” Ali Mazrui (2007)
“…the remarkable story of one African child growing up in a world that was rapidly shrinking around him. The horizons were expanding precisely as the globe was becoming a village in stark cosmic isolation. Politics, culture and the nuclear age were redefining the human condition in terms of its most dangerous contradiction: man, the new master of the universe, was still not master of himself.” Ali Mazrui (1989)
“Both the great achievements and the great cruelties of the West can ultimately be traced to Western culture itself.” Ali Mazrui (1991)
I have based most of my work on the premise that cultural forces are primary. Culture is a causal factor in political behaviour and social change.” Ali Mazrui (2006)
“Marx was right that man had to eat in order to live (the origins of economics). But man had to know what to eat and what to avoid (the origins of culture). So culture is prior to economics. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was culture.” Ali Mazrui (1999)
“The imperial power arrived in Africa, created new political boundaries, planted new seeds of local ethno-cultural rivalries, imported an alien but seductive culture of its own, and then left the new political chemistry to bubble out its own solutions.” Mazrui (1976)
“Paradigmatic changes are caused not merely by great minds like those of Copernicus, Newton, Darwin, and Einstein, nor only by great social movements like Islam and the Protestant Reformation, but also by acculturation and normative diffusion.” Ali Mazrui (1995)
“Consensus behind much-needed world reforms is impossible without substantial cultural convergence on a global scale. And yet the cultural convergence which the world has so far attained carries with it the evil of dependency.” Mazrui (1976)
“Africa is in part the mirror of the human condition. But in a mirror the left hand becomes the right hand and vice versa. The mirror is both a reflection of reality and its distortion. The mirror is a paradox.” (Ali Mazrui 1979)
“Like creative literature, political analysis has to resort at times to the use of analogy, metaphor or comparative imagery.” Mazrui (1972)
“You have had many experience in your life…you met with the founding President of Ghana, Kwame Nkrumah, in New York as well as other places; you were driven out of Uganda by Idi Amin; you met with Jomo Kenyatta and you are the Chancellor of a university by that name in Kenya; you met the Queen of England; you sat in a tent with [Muammer] Qaddafy; and you just had tea with the Indian Prime Minister [Manmohan Singh].” Amy Goodman, Democracy Now, Interview with Ali Mazrui (2009)
“I have critics as well as fans; I have faults as well as talents. But the most compelling lesson which my academic life illustrates is quite simple. It is the old adage ‘If at first you don’t succeed, try and try again!’ I had vindicated it.” Ali Mazrui (2007)
As someone who was very close to Prof Ali Mazrui, how well has Africa honored his memory-are there institutions name after him or events that take place in his honor, is Africa giving him the recognition he deserved?
Prof Seifudein Adem: The recognition paid to Mazrui in Africa is much less than he deserved, but I hope that this situation is likely to be corrected in the future. Otherwise, it would be a great loss for Africa. Thabo Mbeki, the former president of South Africa, said shortly after Mazrui died: “‘When a great mind like Professor Ali Mazrui passed on, we have to stop and ponder over what we shall do together to fill the immeasurable void that inevitably arises. The starting point is that we, especially our youth, must critically read and re-read everything Ali Mazrui wrote.” President Mbeki couldn’t be more correct. Other leaders from other African countries, too, have paid moving tributes after Mazrui’s passing. But there should also be a move from words to deeds. To its credit, South Africa is the only country that has created something tangible, the Ali Mazrui Center for Higher Education Studies at the University of Johannesburg (where I hold the position of a Research Associate). It’s time for other African countries, too, to step up.
For those who are interested in getting the book, what is the cost and how can copies be procured?
Prof Seifudein Adem: The information about the book may be obtained from https://www.springer.com/in/book/978-3-030-60580-3
What next for you after this book, what other projects will you be working on in the next few years?
Prof Seifudein Adem: I am preparing a book-length manuscript on the Afrasian experience. Apart from being about Africa, China and Japan each on its own, this monograph is about China-Africa relations and Japan-Africa relations. While there are books which deal with each of these themes, there are none to my knowledge that address both of these relationships simultaneously and from a comparative perspective. It does so by considering not only the foreign policies of the two Asian powers toward Africa but also by broadening the analysis to include the economic, political and cultural life of these societies. It may therefore be the first, too, to examine the lessons Africa could learn from Southeast Asia’s relations with China in a similarly comparative manner.
Upon publication this book will be a product of my own cross-cultural experience of being an African who received his graduate training in Asia. I was also privileged to teach in the institutions of higher learning in Ethiopia, Japan, China and the United States. Of course, it was my highest honor, as I indicated already, to learn from and work with Ali Mazrui. What all this means is that the perspective reflected in the book will be unique. It will have the richness that comes only from immersing oneself in African, Asian and Western cultures simultaneously as well as from carefully and selectively adapting the original and fresh insights acquired from Ali Mazrui.
A Friend For The Oppressed-Chief Charles Taku Reminisces On A Forty Year Law Career
May 20, 2021 | 0 Comments
By Ajong Mbapndah L
From court rooms in Buea, Cameroon, to the Hague in Holland, Barrister Chief Taku has answered the call of the oppressed with the same verve in a law career that recently clocked 40 years.
From the perilous mission of defending Southern Cameroon’s activists in the 90s, to seeking justice for victims of the Rwandan genocide, and serving as a strong voice at the ICC against scapegoating Africans, Chief Taku has left an indelible mark in the course of his sterling career. In a walk down memory lane, the erudite Lawyer generously shares his experiences and offers his take on seminal developments in across Cameroon, Africa and the world at large.
Thanks for accepting to share with us forty years of legal services, and we would like to start with your career choice, why did Charles Taku decide to become a Barrister?
Barrister Chief Taku: Thanks so much for giving me once more this opportunity to share my experience with your teaming audience on matters about which I have personal knowledge.
My choice to apply to get into legal practice was deliberate and informed by circumstances which may be developed into a book.
A combination of circumstances and experience informed my choice to become a lawyer. Here are some of them.
Like many Southern Cameroonians of my generation, I lived my childhood formative years in systemic injustice. The transfer of the sovereignty of the Southern Cameroons from one colonial contraption to another had profound cultural, social, political and economic impact on me and my generation. My Bangwa ancestral homeland suffered from German devastating campaign and was neglected by the British colonial administration. The area briefly gained some spotlight during Southern Cameroons government and a short lived democratic space preceding and after October, 1, 1961.
The democratic space and the liberties it brought, were recklessly interrupted and eviscerated. Here is how it happened. Empowered by Ordinance no 60-20 of 22 February 1960, regulating the organization, administration and service of the National Gendarmerie and Military structure, Sadou Daoudou Minister of Defence under Ahmadou Ahidjo, signed Order No 65 of 13 February 1963 creating a Gendarmerie Company in West Cameroon. This effectively kick-started a reign of terror which was felt in my homeland. The terror intensified, with President Ahmadou Ahidjo signing Decree no 66-DF-133 on March 17, 1966, “extending the state of emergency in certain areas of the Federated State of West Cameroon”, particularly, Mamfe Division, Kumba Division, Victoria Division and Bamenda Division. My Bangwa homeland fell within the Mamfe Division and therefore, under the state of emergency. During this formative period in my life, I felt the effect of the brutality and abuse of power under the state of emergency.
While in Primary School, I was subjected to political victimization because of the political orientation of my mother. To remedy the situation, my mother withdraw me from that school and sent me to continue my primary education in CDC Laduma Mukonje Rubber Estate near Kumba where my aunt lived. On our way to Kumba, my aunt and I were subjected to harassment and humiliation by fierce looking French speaking Gendarmes in several control posts along the road. This occurred despite the fact that my aunt procured two laisser-passers at an exorbitant cost. The pain and shame of the humiliation we suffered endures in my mind.
While in the CDC plantation, I watched and live the injustices of everyday life. I prayed and asked God to give me an opportunity to come back one day to defend those labourers. The chances for the realization of my prayers occurred when I enrolled in the Faculty of Law in the University of Yaoundé.
I was among a majority of English-Speaking students who were denied scholarship. We decided to organize a strike to press for justice. I found myself leading the strike whose success changed my life. From thence, I convinced myself that I had to apply to do pupillage to enable me to become a lawyer. To answer your question, systemic injustices defined my life, opened my eyes and directed my destiny towards becoming a lawyer.
At the University, who were some of the prominent names you had as mates and lecturers in those days?
Barrister Chief Taku: I hesitate to characterize some of my lecturers and professors as prominent because of their involvement in the politics of deception, violence, injustice, pain and excruciating pain. Some of my professors and lecturers were Peter Yana Ntamark, Professor Joseph Owona, Stanislaus Melone, Nicole-Claire Ndoko, Aletum, Lekene Donfack Charles Etienne, Emile Mbarga, Charly Ndobede, Sanda Oumarou, etc. The most honourable of all was Professor Kisob. Several of my classmates are honourable people. They are too many to name. It saddens me that some of my classmates are active in prosecuting the genocide in my own homeland. However, Dr Christopher Fomunyoh and Hon Justice Nkengla are persons of extraordinary character, distinction and honour.
Coming from the English speaking of Cameroon, what were some of the challenges you faced?
Barrister Chief Taku: The challenges were many. We studied in a hostile environment. French Speaking students subjected us to ridicule by shouting and screaming, “Anglo, Anglo””Biafrais”Biafrais” every day we came to the Amphitheatre or University restaurant; indeed, everywhere in the University campus. We were disproportionately denied scholarship. English speaking lecturers were discriminated against in promotions and humiliated. It was a cultural, linguistic, political and economic warfront for our survival. In short, it was a laboratory for the actualization of the cultural genocide which has manifested itself in its most violent form on the watch of the free world. We struggled for our survival on a daily basis. Unfortunately, some among us became traitors and agents of the oppressor. In that capacity, they betrayed, persecuted and oppressed us. To this day, they have constituted themselves into so- called fringe power elites, elites associations, political party and intelligence spy operatives.
We came across a decree signed by President Ahmadou Ahidjo on April 14, 1981 authorizing you to become a Lawyer with the Chambers of Barrister BTB Foretia, was presidential dispensation needed in those days for you to practice?
Barrister Chief Taku: Yes indeed, a Presidential dispensation was required for an authorization to do pupillage to become a lawyer. Once a person was awarded a government scholarship, there was an inherent obligation to work for the government for ten years upon graduation from the university. That policy was enforced mainly for the private law practice which was tightly controlled by the President of the Republic. The persons I consulted before submitting my application advised me against, stating that earlier applicants had unsuccessfully waited for six years. I had an option to go to ENAM, the School of Magistracy but was apprehensive that the strike I led would stand in my way and I would never have a promotion as a magistrate. Besides the magistracy was very corrupt and used a tool of oppression. I preferred to defend the oppressed rather than become a potential corrupt tool of oppression.
Barrister BTB Foretia was a household name in the world of legal practice, how was the experience like learning and working with him?
Barrister Chief Taku: Hon Foretia was a very brilliant lawyer. People who knew him will testify that he was corruption free. He was disciplined, strategic and deliberate in every action he took.
There was no waiting or learning period under Hon. B.T.B Foretia. He prepared cases with me and provided me crucial advice on how to present cases in court. The first tool of great advocacy he told me, was demeanor towards the court, your colleagues and the participants in the case. He told me that as counsel, I should maintain my composure as natural and as calm as possible and must avoid trying to adopt the composure of someone else. While rendition was important, the organization of the presentation was the driving force for rendition to be effective. He was courteous to all participants in a court process and did not ever take advantage of the inexperience of young counsel to attempt to ridicule them.
My first case with him in the Court of Appeal, was before a panel of judges led by Chief Justice SML Endeley (as he then was). We were counsel for the respondent in a criminal appeals case. When the turn for counsel for the respondent to make submissions, he asked me to rise and respond to the submissions of the Prosecutor. I stood up, summon courage and began making my submissions, using appropriate language, demeanor and composure he has told me. I was calm, deliberate, organized and responded point by point to the Prosecutor, each of my points supported by authorities. Occasionally, I stop to invite questions from the panel. We won the appeal. From that moment when that Hon. B. T. B Foretia put me on feet in the Court of Appeal in Buea, I have never sat down or looked back.
One of the immediate causes of the current phase of the Anglophone crisis was a strike by Lawyers, in what way did the issues raised by Agbor Balla and others mirror the experiences or changes you noticed over your decades of practice in Cameroon?
Barrister Chief Taku:The issues which Barrister Agbor Balla and my English Speaking colleagues raised were not new. Learned senior lawyers from Gorgi Dinka, F.W Atabong, M.N , Weledji, B.T.B Foretia, Luke Sendze, Chief E.E Ebai, Ben Muna, N.T Tabe and thereafter our generation fought the same battle but were ignored. When Cameroon applied to join the Commonwealth, B.T.B Foretia submitted a petition to Chief Emeka Ayaokwu Secretary-General of the Commonwealth on behalf of the South West Lawyers in which the lawyers complained inter alia: “As a matter of government policy, there are persistent attempts to wipe out the common law system. At unification, we envisaged a system where the two legal systems will co-exist side by side……Under this system, there is the independence of the judiciary, guarantee of human rights, the courts play the rule of unbiased umpires between individuals and the state and regulate inter-state relationship especially in matters of international trade.” N.T Tabe writing on behalf of the Common Law Lawyers Association also complained inter alia: “There has been a systematic and deliberate erosion of the Common Law system, its ideals, principles, practices and procedures as obtained and intended to continue in the territory of the former West Cameroon. Agbor Balla and our colleagues were highlighting a systemic injustice which has defined the reckless impunity with which a once free people have been subjected to systemic abuse and persecution despite six decades of protests.
Can you situate the role that Taku chambers played in the first All Anglophone Conference of 1993?
Barrister Chief Taku: The records will show that the idea of AAC1 was first initiated by George Ngwane, Bate Besong, Francis Wache, Vincent Anu, Verwesse and my humble self. I had resources to move the idea ahead in two areas. I had my law office which would be used as the secretariat and the ability to obtain a permit directly from Governor Etame Massoma for the conference to hold. George Ngwane, the ultimate diplomat had the mandate to convince political party representatives for the Tripartite Conference to accept to host the conference as conveners purposively to obtain the collective views of our people for the conference. The AAC1 was a lost opportunity to avert the war several years after and a peaceful solution to the ongoing carnage and genocide.
May we know some of the high-profile cases you handled in Cameroon?
Barrister Chief Taku: I give equal prominence to all my cases. The most prominent cases which I handled are hundreds I did for the poor, the weak and vulnerable such as the pro bono cases I did for exploited CDC cases. CDC General Manager John Ngu preferred out of court settlements rather than face me in court. The CDC knew that, with me the labourers had a strong advocate on whom they could rely on to seek justice for the abuses they were subjected to. I defended Ebenezar Akwanga and about 83 Southern Cameroonians who were abducted from their homes and court-martialed in Yaoundé for alleged attacks against Gendarmerie Camps in parts of the North West. That case was a forewarning of the current crisis in many respects. This was not an isolated case. The Military Tribunal and court-martial of civilians has been around as a tool of oppression since 1962.
At what point and why did you decide to take on international practice?
Barrister Chief Taku: The Court martial of Southern Cameroons civilians in the Military Tribunal in Yaoundé was intermittently reported by VOA with the news of the trials in Arusha. The confrontation between me and the President of the Court-martial Col. Manga who became very partisan was reported on the VOA. Col. Manga attempted to stop me from raising objections to the jurisdiction of the Court-martial over abducted civilian Southern Cameroonians from their homes out of jurisdiction for trial in a language they did not understand and without the possibility of calling witnesses. In error, he thought he could bully me. I reminded him it was not possible. In anger, he suspended the case and gave a long adjournment. The next day, I was at the Supreme Court where I filed a motion for conflict of jurisdiction on December 10, 1997 and left for Tanzania to enroll on the roaster of lawyers at the ICTR. I returned and left for Washington DC where I was interviewed several times over the VOA by Scot Steanne. I exposed the sham to the world. One day, a phone call was received in my Chamber in Buea asking me to report to ICTR, Arusha Tanzania I arrived on October 23, 1999, a week after Mwalimu Julius Kambarage Nyerere on October 14, 1999 to begin my international practice that has continued till date.
You handled cases on the Rwandan genocide in Arusha, what were some of the lessons you came back from that stint with and how useful could there be in contemporary Africa?
Barrister Chief Taku: The lesson from the trials in Arusha and the Special Court for Sierra Leone are that war is bad for everyone and that the sanctity of human life must be the preoccupation for all. Africa must have a robust mechanism for the early detection and prevention of conflicts on the continent. When conflicts occur, it must take prompt and transparent action to address their root causes. Finally, Africa needs to establish a transitional justice mechanism to fight impunity and atrocity crimes in the continent. Such a mechanism must target all perpetrators no matter their status. The sad reality is that the ghost of colonialism very much alive in Africa. Africa is in need of genuine freedom, economic sovereignty, democracy and visionary leadership.
The last few years for you have been at the ICC, is the court a friend or foe for Africa in the face of criticisms Africans are selectively targeted?
Barrister Chief Taku: I am one of the first persons to make the charge that the ICC was selectively targeting Africa. I repeatedly made the charge during international conferences. I was invited by Professor Richard Steinberg of the University of California Los Angeles to write a chapter on this matter in book he edited on the ICC with a forward by Fatou Bensouda the Chief Prosecutor of the ICC. The ICC is not a foe of Africa. There is no doubt that there are atrocity crimes are committed in Africa which warrant ICC intervention. My concern was the politicization of some of the cases such as the interventions in Cote D’Ivoire, Kenya and Libya. I was concerned about foreign influences and the manipulation ICC interventions to target and resolve political problems. When a court targets only the vanquish in a conflict, that becomes victor’s justice. I was also concerned that in its two decades of existence, the Court was still very much an African Court. It did not represent the face of our diverse universe that it was established to serve. I underscored the fact that even in African conflicts, the perpetrators of atrocity crimes are not all Africans. I cited the example of arms for minerals merchants who are the driving forces behind some African conflicts in which atrocity crimes are committed. Many of them are not Africans. They too must be prosecuted.
What is your reading of the current situation of the Anglophone crisis in Cameroon, and what proposals for a lasting solution?
Barrister Chief Taku: I avoided using the name Anglophone since it became a derogatory name used to stigmatize and ridicule us in the University of Yaoundé. My involvement in the search for solutions to the conflict and the genocide is well known. There are no realistic internal solutions to a conflict which is international in nature. The Government of Cameroon should submit to an international conflict resolution mechanism that is consistent with article 33 of the UN Charter for the resolution of this conflict such as the Swiss Mediation or any other credible international mechanism. There is no military solution to this conflict. Cameroon must accept an internationally endorsed mediation to address the root causes of this conflict. The war declared and prosecuted by Cameroon in which atrocity crimes are committed in a large scale shocking the conscience of humanity, is unjustified and unwarranted. Some persons have reduced the debate about the conflict into support of federalism and support of the actualization of the independence of the Southern Cameroons. Whether federalism or independence, the Republic of Cameroon has not accepted any of them. It has not even accepted a peaceful option to war and the ongoing genocide. So far, the historical basis of the case no matter what, is not yet acceptable to the Republic of Cameroon. Cameroon is under the illusion that it can impose a military solution to the conflict. Cameroon cannot and will never win in battle, in a mediation or an international court. Cameroon believes it is playing for time, but time is not on its side. Time will only crystalize and galvanize international opinion to seek accountability for the crimes committed in the war while the territory becomes ungovernable. Only an international mediation process to address the root causes may resolve the crisis and bring about peace.
To sum up the rich career that you have had, what gives you satisfaction and where do you think you fell short?
Barrister Chief Taku: I will first address where I fell short. I have dedicated so much time and energy working for peace in my homeland and in all African conflicts. The slow pace of international intervention in the crisis and genocide in my ancestral home in particular, is disturbing. The devastation of war is unwarranted. The crimes must stop, and perpetrators held accountable. It is disturbing for me to see massacres, genocide, butchery of innocent civilians in my homeland. I see young Africans fleeing Africa and dying in the Sahara, Mediterranean Sea and South America escaping dictatorship, mass murder and harsh economic conditions, in the midst of plenty, while their peers in other continents are being trained to become agents of development for better living conditions for themselves, their communities and their countries. I have spent a considerable amount of time fighting these injustices, but they are persisting.
I was elected by my peers from all parts of the world as President of the International Criminal Court Bar Association. I was also elected as a member for life of the Governing Council of the African Bar Association. I was the vice President when Karim Khan QC, the new Prosecutor of the ICC signed the very first cooperation agreement between the ICCBA and African Bar Association. I presented a historic address to the Assembly of State Parties Conference of the ICC on the 20th anniversary of the Rome Statute and also the Plenary of the opening of the judicial year of the ICC. I was invited by the Foreign Affairs Committee of the House of Commons to make a submission on a discrete issue on the UK multilateral treaty regime. During my eventful professional journey, I was invited to address the annual conference of the Federal Administrative Judges of the United States. I have adviced and represented governments in international and national courts with respectable outcomes. My greatest satisfaction resides with my interaction and assistance to the poor, helpless people whom I found in conflicts in several parts of Africa. In Nyange Parish and Nyangasambu hill in Rwanda, with amputees in Sierra Leone, with refugees, who fled the scourge of war all over Africa and are in Europe, the human condition in Africa is not good at all.
What next for Barrister Chief Taku and to the young Lawyers out there who may want to emulate you, any words of wisdom?
Barrister Chief Taku: I will remind them what B.T.B Foretia told me when I embarked on this journey. I will advise them that honesty and hard work are the keys to success. That corruption kills the spirit and soul of humans. That character matters. And that although justice is administered by humans, true justice belongs to God and that with God, they will succeed. They must know that the frontiers of the world have expanded well beyond their town or country of origin. And that technology has brought the world into their bedrooms, their palms and their suitcases. They need to get out to the world and network with their peers in other continents. They must free themselves from the shackles of ignorance and break the asphyxiating chains of tyranny which have held a majority of people hostage.
Hopes and Fears For A Post Deby Chad
May 20, 2021 | 0 Comments
By Ajong Mbapndah L
For President Idris Deby, his departure from power was eerily familiar with the way he came to power. A rebellion brought him to power, and he left the stage fighting to fend off a rebelling seeking to unseat him after over thirty years in power.
Fresh off a victory in the presidential election which was a little more tricky than usual with emergence of more voices calling for change in Chad, the news of Deby’s death left many stunned and perplexed. Any hopes that his long stay in power had resolved the issue of political stability in Chad were thrown to the wind as the established constitutional order of succession was shelved. The complex arrangement of sorts led to emergence of his 37-year-old son Mahamat Idriss Deby as the new leader.
PAV caught up with seasoned Chadian political analyst Amine Idriss to help dissect developments in the Central African country.
Thanks for accepting to answer our questions Mr. Idriss, could we start with your understanding of what happened to President Deby, while official sources say he was shot at the war front, there are others who say he was killed by those in his inner cycle, what did you hear from your own sources?
The official version is the one I know: President Deby was killed in the battlefield. Personally, I believe this version is plausible since Chad has a tradition of having the generals and heads of armies directly in the battlefield taking an active part in the fights.
Were there any warning signs you saw that could suggest such a fate befalling a leader who was considered as very courageous and had won re-election?
Any warning signs? Not necessarily but I noticed that during the campaign; he became quite frustrated with his opposition, pushing him to violently express his frustrations. He had also been for the first time visiting each and every province of the country, and even going house after house in some places in Ndjamena. Many people were astonished because that was the first time we saw Deby doing that.
On the other hand, the political situation of the country was becoming more and more difficult during the recent campaign, with a new opposition movement led by a youngster, who didn’t necessarily have the power to overthrow Deby through elections but represented a strong part of the public opinion views about the need for change. Succès Masra’s movement introduced a new dimension in Chadian politics, awakening the old political guards, and pushing even Deby and his team to join the internet and to add some more young people in the government. Besides that, the social situation was also more difficult, because of the COVID19 economic impact but also because corruption had never been so high than during the period. Lastly and more important, during the pre-campaign, some armed rebellions clearly declared their intention to stop the elections to happen. We all knew this time would be disturbed and predicted some serious social and political tensions; but nobody could predict that Deby would be killed in a battlefield.
Chad had a constitution with clear cut provisions on succession in case of a presidential vacancy, why was this not respected?
Good question… most Chadian politicians in the opposition were against the Constitution before the election. This constitution which was recently adopted clearly reduced the political space by limiting the youth participation in the electoral process. Most of the actors were then against it.
In addition to that, the parliament that voted the constitution had not been renewed for the last 5 years: MPs were supposed to be gone since 2015 or 2016! But despite that, the provisions of the constitution are clear: the President of the Parliament should have been vested to become the provisional President for 90 days then organize the elections. That was not the case, and the military preferred the option of seizing the power, arguing on the necessity to preserve the country’s security and unity.
Why the choice of Mahamat Idriss Deby to succeed his father when they were more senior military officials?
I have no idea why…
What kind of legacy does President Deby leave behind, he was in power for some thirty years, what changed for Chad under his leadership?
Under Deby’s leadership, what changed? Not many things to tell you the truth. The country followed the course of nature, with more people born (we passed from 5 million in 1990 to 16 million today) and we become poorer. Chad has had an opportunity to transform itself when we stated producing oil, but this was badly managed and became a mess, increasing corruption and bad administration. The country is today amongst the poorest and amongst the most corrupt in the world. So, what have changed? One could say that the biggest win of Deby is the military diplomacy… he has indeed managed to make Chad a kind of policeman for regional security and the world is lauding him for that. This is good for Chad’s image. But Chadians are still poor and have no access to basic amenities such as clean water and electricity, education, health, and others.
For the last thirty years, Chad had a semblance of political stability, void of frequent rebellions and military coups, are you afraid that the death of President Deby makes the country fragile again?
The country has always been fragile and unstable. Deby was indeed a kind of a stabilizer. I am not sure it would become worst. We may have this time the opportunity to discuss differently. The Chadian political space has opened, and this can be good for internal discussions.
What do you make of the way the opposition in Chad has reacted to the recent developments, what tangible alternatives are they proposing as a way forward?
I don’t think the opposition would make a big difference right now. They are too divided and too weak. The civil society also lost its independence aligning itself with the political power. But things could eventually change from all sides if Chad is suspended by the AU… this will push people and specially those controlling power to become more collaborative, and the opposition could start asserting some of her views. However, for the opposition to win anything they must learn to come together. For a country with such a high level of poverty and political instability, I am not sure that would happen anytime soon. But if the civil society receives the appropriate support and guidance, they may help in building an environment in which political parties may come together and discuss.
On the future of Chad, what gives you hope and what are your fears?
My main fear is the ethnic divide, and this has already started especially from some politicians. My hope is the civil society and especially the youth from the civil society. A change is on the way.
A last question on this phenomenon of family successions in Francophone Africa, we saw this in Togo, in D.R. Congo, in Gabon, now Chad and who knows which country will come next, how concerned should Africans be about this trend?
This is just what we called extractive regimes… extractive regimes tend to reproduce themselves…
We Will Be Part Of Africa’s History; This Is Our Legacy-Senator Rasha Kelej on the Merck Foundation Africa Nexus.
May 20, 2021 | 0 Comments
By Ajong Mbapndah L
We envision working closely with our partners that are African First Ladies, Ministries of Health, Education, Information & Communication, Gender, Academia, Research Institutions, Media and Art in building and transforming healthcare capacity, and addressing health, social & economic challenges in our beautiful continent, says Senator Dr Rasha Kelej, CEO of Merck Foundation.
Buoyed by the robust nature of the partnership and the success of the recent Africa -Asia Luminary which held virtually for the first time, Senator Dr Kelej says, the Merck foundation is committed to making history with the transformation of the public healthcare sector in Africa. In sight are training of an army of thousands of well-trained specialized Doctors who will save millions of lives in the continent.
This is my commitment as long as I live, and this is our Merck Foundation vision, says Senator Dr Kelej in an exclusive interview with PAV to review the recent 8th edition of the Africa -Asia Luminary, the depth of Merck Foundation partnerships and operations across Africa and other major projects in the pipeline.
Senator Dr Rasha Kelej what are your impressions after the 8th edition of the Merck Foundation Africa Asia Luminary?
Senator Dr Kelej: Very very proud of our success. Our annual conference for the first time online due to coronavirus pandemic, however it was even more successful than actual conferences. Everyone was extremely engaged and committed. And of course, we had livestream with 100,000 attendees and more from 70 countries, we have more than 300, 000 viewers on our social media channels. The conference as you know was in partnership with the Government of Zambia. And was inaugurated by the President of the Republic of Zambia, H.E. Dr. EDGAR CHAGWA LUNGU and Prof. Dr. Frank Stangenberg-Haverkamp Chairman of both of Executive Board of E. Merck KG and Merck Foundation Board of Trustees; and co-chaired by H.E. Mrs. ESTHER LUNGU, The First Lady of the Republic of Zambia and myself. It is a great honor.
I am very proud to share that 13 African First Ladies participated as guests of honor. The First Ladies of Angola, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, Guinea Conakry, Liberia, Malawi, Mozambique, and Namibia, who are also the Ambassadors of Merck Foundation More Than a Mother.
Over 26 African Ministers of different sectors also joined us on the second day, during the high-level ministry’s panel with African Union. Together, we discussed our strategy to define interventions to break infertility stigma and support girl education; and to build healthcare and research capacity and establish a strong platform of specialized trained medical experts in many critical and underserved fields to be the first in their countries. I am very proud that we have so far provided for more than 1100 Doctors from 42 countries across Africa, Asia, and Latin America with one & two-, three-year specialty training in multiple fields such as Oncology, Diabetes, Preventative Cardiovascular Medicine, Endocrinology, Sexual and Reproductive Medicine, Acute Medicine, Respiratory Medicine, Human Assisted Reproduction and Embryology & Fertility specialty, to be the first in their countries. Moreover, we have now widened our horizons by introducing more scholarships for young doctors in many new underserved specialties across Africa and Asia.
The reach and impact of our 8th edition conference has been great. Even Better than previous editions.
On Day 2 of the conference, MARS- Merck Foundation Africa Research Summit was held where a High-Level Panel Discussion with 26 African Ministers of Health, Science and Technology, Education, Information and Gender and MARS Researchers was held with the objective to empower African young researchers & women researchers, advancing their research capacity and empower them in STEM. Parallel to this we had other three scientific sessions of diabetes, cardiology, oncology.
The High-level Ministerial panel included:
1) Hon. Dr. Jonas Kamima CHANDA, Minister of Health, Zambia
2) Hon. Dr. Dennis WANCHINGA, Minister of General Education, Zambia
3) Hon. Dr. Brian MUSHIMBA, Minister of Higher Education, Zambia
4) Hon. Elizabeth PHIRI, Minister of Gender, Zambia
5) Hon. Dora SILIYA, Minister of Information & Broadcasting Service, Zambia
6) Hon. Silvia Paula Lutucuta, Minister of Health, Angola
7) Hon. Dr. NDIKUMANA Thadée, Minister of Public Health & Fighting against AIDS, Burundi
8) Hon. Dr. François HAVYARIMANA, Ministre de L’Education Nationale et de la Recherche Scientifique, Burundi
9) Hon. Imelde SABUSHIMIKE, Ministre de la Solidarité Nationale, des Affaires Sociales, des Droits de la Personne Humaine et du Genre, Burundi
10) Hon. Marie Chantal NIJIMBERE, Ministre de la Communication, des Technologies de L’Information et des Médias, Republic of Burundi
11) Hon. Jacquiline Lydia Mikolo, Minister of Health & Population, Republic of the Congo
12) Hon. Dr. Ahmadou Lamin Samateh, Minister of Health, The Gambia
13) Hon. Ebrima SILLAH, Minister of Information, The Gambia
14) Hon. Colonel Remy Lama, Minister of Health, Guinea Conakry
15) Hon. Pr. Amadou Bano Barry, Minister of Education, Guinea Conakry
16) Hon. Amara Sompare, Minister of Information & Communication, Guinea Conkary
17) Hon. Khumbize Kandodo Chiponda, Minister of Health & Population, Malawi
18) Hon. Dr. Patricia Kaliati, Minister Of Gender, Community Development & Social Welfare, Republic of Malawi
19) Hon. Agnes Nyalonje, Minister Of Education, Malawi
20) Hon. Ulemu Msungama, Minister Of Youth & Sports, Malawi
21) Hon. Timoth Pagonachi Mtambo, Minister Of Civic Education & National Unity, Malawi
22) Hon. Dr. Kalumbi Shangula, Minister of Health & Social Services, Namibia
23) Hon. Dr. Joyce Moriku Kaducu, State Minister for Health, Uganda
24) Hon. Monica Mutsvangwa, Minister of Information & Broadcasting Publicity, Zimbabwe
25) Hon. Sthembiso Nyoni, Minster of Women Affairs Small & Medium Enterprises, Zimbabwe
26) Hon. Amon Murwira, Minister of Higher & Tertiary Education, Zimbabwe
On the third day, Merck Foundation Health Media Training was organized for the African and Latin American Media fraternity to emphasize the important role that media plays to break the stigma around infertility, in raising awareness about infertility prevention, and empowering girls and women through education. Parallel to this we had Infertility and reproductive care scientific session and respiratory and acute medicines for Covid 19 response session.
How will you define the state of the partnership you have established with African first ladies over the years, what is working well, and what needs to be improved upon?
Senator Dr Kelej: I am proud to have partnered with 20 African First Ladies, who are now the Ambassadors of “Merck Foundation More than a Mother” Campaign. It is an extremely successful partnership; we have achieved a lot together at all levels. Through this partnership, we continue to build healthcare capacity in their countries and empower infertile women and break the stigma around infertility and support girls’ education. Together, we have introduced many initiatives in their respective countries. This certainly speaks volumes about the work we are doing.
With the unprecedented times of COVID-19, I cannot travel and meet the First Ladies of other countries we wish to partner with. I hope the world is free of Coronavirus and the lockdown is lifted soon. However, I have been able to meet the new First Ladies to invite them to be new members of Merck Foundation First Ladies Initiate – MFFLI. And they have gracefully accepted to be our Ambassadors such as New First Lady of Burundi, Malawi and DR Congo.
I have also established a new important partnership with Burkina Faso First Lady in 2020.
Here is the list of our partner African First Ladies, who are also the Ambassadors of Merck Foundation, More Than a Mother:
H.E. NEO JANE MASISI, The First Lady of Botswana
H.E. SIKA KABORE, The First Lady of Burkina Faso
H.E. ANGELINE NDAYISHIMIYE, The First Lady of Burundi
H.E. BRIGITTE TOUADERA, The First Lady of Central African Republic
H.E. ANTOINETTE SASSOU-NGUESSO, The First Lady of Congo Brazzaville
H.E. DENISE NYAKERU TSHISEKEDI, The First Lady of Democratic Republic of Congo
H.E. FATOUMATTA BAH-BARROW, The First Lady of The Gambia
H.E. REBECCA AKUFO-ADDO, The First Lady of Ghana
H.E. CONDÉ DJENE, The First Lady of Guinea Conakry
H.E. CLAR WEAH, The First Lady of Liberia
H.E. MONICA CHAKWERA, The First Lady of Malawi
H.E. MONICA GEINGOS, The First Lady of Namibia
H.E. ISAURA FERRÃO NYUSI, The First Lady of Mozambique
H.E. AISHA BUHARI, The First Lady of Nigeria
H.E FATIMA MAADA BIO, The First Lady of Sierra Leone
H.E. ESTHER LUNGU, The First Lady of Zambia
H.E. AUXILLIA MNANGAGWA, The First Lady of Zimbabwe
The Former First Lady of Burundi, H.E DENISE NKURUNZIZA, The Former First Lady of Chad, H.E. HINDA DÉBY ITNO, The Former First Lady of Malawi, H.E. PROFESSOR GERTRUDE MUTHARIKA and The Former First Lady of Niger, H.E AÏSSATA ISSOUFOU MAHAMADOU have worked successfully with Merck Foundation as Merck Foundation More Than a Mother Ambassadors to break the stigma of infertility and empower infertile women in their countries.
About thirteen African first ladies answered present at the recent Africa-Asia luminary, what are you and the Merck Foundation doing to bring more first ladies to join your initiatives?
Senator Dr Kelej: Honest sincere long-term commitment to the social health and economic development of their country and their people, programs with concrete measurable impact and not only talk. Creativity, smart focused strategy and objectives and also flawless implementation.
Always exceed expectations, all the time we exceed their expectation actually we exceed our own expectation. Therefore, I consider Merck foundation to be the most successful Foundation because we achieve even more than our set goals and exceeds our and our partners expectation and this is how you evaluate success. I consider myself the happiest person in the world because I achieved more than my goals to be part of transforming some people’s lives, but now I am part of transforming millions of people every month. Not only this but together with our partners we transformed the healthcare sector across Africa, revolutionary transformation in few years and still more to come, it is history in the making, as long as I am alive, I will do more and more for Africa. We will create an army of specialized and trained doctors we will save lives together. I want to be one day part of Africa history this will make me proud as an African woman.
I look forward to expanding our footprints and work with more African First Ladies who will help us to realize our vision.
With the challenges from COVID 19, may we know what the Merck Foundation did to help its partner countries in Africa to fight the pandemic?
Senator Dr Kelej: We raced to respond to COVID 19 and came up with many initiatives. One of the most important initiatives which I personally believe in its importance even before Covid 19 times is to continue healthcare capacity building, which has been our strategy since 2012, in partnership with African First Ladies and Ministries of Health, much before the pandemic struck worldwide. Due to travel restrictions, we adopted the online medical speciality education strategy, through providing scholarships for speciality training to doctors in many medical specialties such as Oncology, Diabetes, Preventative Cardiovascular Medicine, Endocrinology, Sexual and Reproductive Medicine, Acute Medicine, Respiratory Medicine, Reproductive and sextual medicines. Moreover, we recently started to provide scholarships in many new underserved specialties including: Emergency and Resuscitation Medicine, Gastroenterology, Laparoscopic Surgical Skills, Mental Health: Psychological Therapies, Orthopedic Trauma Science, Paediatric, Emergency Medicine, Advanced Surgical Practice, Dermatology, Neonatal Medicine, Pain Management, Psychiatry, Clinical Microbiology and infectious diseases, Ophthalmology, Internal Medicine, Neuroimaging for research, Urology, Trauma, and orthopedics. We are very proud to invite applications from African and Asian English-speaking doctors from under-served communities for these scholarships on our mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
We also understand the importance of creating community awareness about Coronavirus, so we launched “Mask up with Care” and “Stay at Home” Recognition Awards for Media across Africa, Asia, and Latin America. And also, “Make you Own Mask” Fashion Awards for the Fashion fraternity across Africa: I strongly believe in the critical role that Media and Art play to be the voice of the voiceless and raise awareness about sensitive topics such as breaking Infertility stigma and Covid 19 health precautions.
Also, the lockdown and restricted movement to fight coronavirus had hit most casual and daily workers very hard. Therefore, we supported the African government’s strategy to save the living and livelihood of 1000’s of families of casual workers and women who were affected the most by the lockdown or restricted movement. We invite applications from media personal and fashion designers to these two awards on email email@example.com
Moreover, we launched an inspiring storybook ‘Make the Right Choice’ in partnership with African First Ladies to sensitize children and youth about Coronavirus. The story aimed to raise awareness about Coronavirus prevention amongst children and youth as it provided facts about the pandemic and how to stay safe and healthy during the outbreak. It also promoted honesty, hard work, and the ability to make the right choices even during the most challenging times. We released the story in three languages: English, French and Portuguese.
Also, as my personal contribution, I have produced and directed an inspiring Pan-African song called ‘My White Army’ to thank the doctors and nurses fighting on the front lines of the coronavirus battle, who are risking exposure to the virus so everyone else can stay home and stay healthy. The song, featuring singers from 11 African countries in three languages Arabic, English, and French, has been well appreciated across the continent.
With regards to the Doctors that you train for infertility specialty and reproductive & sexual health what criteria is used in selection and what feedback are you getting from their in respective countries?
Senator Dr Kelej: Merck Foundation, through its flagship program, ‘Merck Foundation More Than a Mother’ is providing training in Fertility specialty and Reproductive Health at our partner institutes. The scientific committee reviews the applications based on the eligibility criteria, such as Medical graduate/Post Graduates, preferably working in the Government sector, who are recommended by our partners such as the First Ladies Office, or Ministry of Health for African countries, and from the President of respective societies. Through this program, Merck Foundation is making history in many African countries where they never had Fertility specialists or specialized Fertility clinics before ‘Merck Foundation More Than a Mother’ intervention, by training the first Fertility specialists and Embryologists such as; in Sierra Leone, Liberia, The Gambia, Niger, Chad, Guinea, Burundi and Malawi. Merck Foundation is proud to have supported the training of the staff of the first public IVF centers in Ethiopia, Myanmar and Rwanda.
Could you shed light on other initiatives that the Foundation will be working on this year, there is talk of the media awards, fashion awards and others, what is the Merck Foundation seeking to achieve with this?
Senator Dr Kelej:We announced two awards for media fraternity, Merck Foundation Africa Media Recognition Awards “More Than a Mother” 2021 and Merck Foundation “Mask Up With Care” Media Recognition Awards 2021; two awards for fashion fraternity, Merck Foundation Fashion Awards “More Than a Mother” 2021 and Merck Foundation “Make Your Own Mask” Fashion Awards 2021; in addition to Merck Foundation Film Awards “More Than a Mother” 2021 and Merck Foundation Song Awards “More Than a Mother” 2021 during the Merck Foundation Health Media Training that was held as a part of the 8th edition of “MERCK FOUNDATION AFRICA ASIA LUMINARY”. We invite all to apply for these awards on firstname.lastname@example.org
I strongly believe that media, art, and fashion play a significant role in raising awareness about sensitive topics like infertility, hence will contribute significantly to break the stigma around infertile women in Africa, if utilized properly. There are many infertile women out there; we witness their stories of suffering and humiliation every day, it is time to act and make a change. Through the awards under “More Than a Mother”, we would like to join hands with media, art and fashion fraternity to break the silence, be the voice of the voiceless and create a culture shift to Break Infertility Stigma, a message that must reach every door, every community, every mind, and every heart.
1. Merck Foundation More than a Mother Africa Media Recognition Awards 2021: The applications are invited by media professionals to showcase their work to raise awareness about infertility prevention and breaking infertility stigma and empower infertile women and infertile couples in our beautiful continent.
2. Merck Foundation Film Awards “More than a Mother” 2021: All African Film makers and students are invited to create and share a film drama, documentary of docudrama, short or long film to deliver strong and influential message to Break Infertility Stigma and Empowering girls and women through education at all levels. I want them to use their creativity to break the silence. Our soft power is very effective and will educate our community and make a change in short time thanks to social media and new technology of smart phones, everyone can create those own movies
3. Merck Foundation Fashion Awards “More Than a Mother” 2021: All Fashion students and designers are invited to create and share designs that deliver strong and influential messages to raise awareness about infertility prevention, Breaking Infertility Stigma and Empowering girls and women through education.
4. Merck Foundation More Than a Mother – Song Awards 2021- I welcome all African Singers and Musical Artists to create and share a song with the aim to empower Girls and Women through Education at all levels.
Given the unprecedented times and second wave of coronavirus, it is important to sensitize communities and raise awareness about following best practices like wearing a mask, following social distancing, and the importance of Vaccination. With this intention we have launched two awards:
5. “Mask Up With Care” Media Recognition Award: I’d like to encourage all media representatives across Africa, Asia and Latin America to apply for “Mask up with care” Media Recognition Award. This media recognition award will encourage media to sensitize our communities. Raising awareness about coronavirus in our communities will also contribute to supporting health workers who are at the forefront of COVID-19 response – providing high quality, respectful treatment, and care.
6. The “Make Your Own Mask” Fashion Awards invites African Fashion Designers and students to create and share designs of masks and other clothing items that carry messages to encourage people to wear masks to show they care and at the same time make it creative and fun. This is our way of encouraging people to wear masks during the Coronavirus pandemic.
Be creative vibrant and create new ideas and masks to encourage people to wear those masks and protect themselves and others in style. I personally ally, and have more than 50 different masks to match my outfits, so I do not get boredom’s have sone fun.
Having experimented with virtual events this year, is there hope that when COVID subsides, the 9th edition of Merck Foundation Africa Asia Luminary will be in person?
Senator Dr Kelej: I hope so. However, I feel the 9th edition will still be online, the 10th edition hopefully will be in person although I might apply hybrid method. Online and in person to benefit more and more participants since now we have a great platform, and it will be very difficult to fit all of them on one place specially post Covid.
8.Dr Kelej is now Senator Kelej, what does the new job add to your leadership of the Merck Foundation and how are you able to balance your work and personal life?
I was appointed by The President of The Arab Republic of Egypt in October 2020 as a Senator at The Egyptian Senate. I am currently a member of the Egyptian Senate (2020 – 2025) and serving an important role to advise with regards to African Health, Economic and Social Sustainable Development and collaboration opportunities. Because of the nature of the senate appointment and the rye of experience required, it will add more value if most of my time is spent as the CEO of Merck Foundation and running the programs in Africa. This will create better opportunity to explore new collaboration opportunities to realize better development objectives across Africa which Egypt is part of.
I believe in this concept of Work-Life fusion. I have fused my work life with my personal life to achieve balance. This is very easy to achieve; when you have passion for your work and when you work in healthy environment like Merck Foundation.
Going forward, how do you envisage the future of the partnership between Merck Foundation and Africa?
Senator Dr Kelej: We envision working closely with our partners that are African First Ladies, Ministries of Health, Education, Information & Communication, Gender, Academia, Research Institutions, Media and Art in building and transforming healthcare capacity, and addressing health, social & economic challenges in our beautiful continent. We will together make history and transform public Healthcare sector like never happened before. We will be building a strong army of 1000’s of well-trained specialized doctors who will save millions of lives every month.
This is my commitment as long as I live, and this is our Merck Foundation vision.
We will be part of Africa’s history; this is our legacy.
Challenging for Africa to Unleash Its Potential Without Industrialization-Adam Molai
April 13, 2021 | 0 Comments
By By Ajong Mbapndah L
Unless Africa industrializes, it will fail to unleash the latent potential presented by its abundant resources and youthful population, says Adam Molai, African Industrialist, Founder of the JUA Fund, and Chairman of TRT Investments. Speaking in an exclusive interview with PAV, Adam Molai says the youthful population in Africa can either be its greatest asset if well leveraged, or its biggest threat if allowed to become restive owing to lack of opportunity.
“Africa is in a very poor state in as far as industrialization is concerned. We are still significant importers of finished goods and exporters of raw materials,” Molai says of the crusade on Industrialization that he has championed over the years.
“In 2018, Sub-Saharan Africa raw material exports amounted to $148 billion or 52% of total exports. That is a strong case for industrialization to convert a significant portion of our raw materials into intermediate goods or finished products, creating jobs and increasing the value of our GDP,” Adam Molai said.
On the JUA Fund which is his latest initiative to inspire the Continent’s entrepreneurial generation, Adam Molai expressed the hope that it will start a movement which will sweep across Africa. Describing the Fund as a ripple considering the enormous needs of the continent, Molai says the desire is to have a culture in the continent where entrepreneurs give back through facilitating the creation of more entrepreneurs.
Generous in detail about the building of his companies, Adam Molai says opportunities for the continent are immense, but leaders will need to develop confidence in the ability of African entrepreneurs and stop seeing them as inferior to foreign entrepreneurs.
Could you start by telling us your own interest and journey into entrepreneurship, how did Adam Molai become an industrialist?
So, I am a true-blue entrepreneur; I was never interested in working for anybody else. I have never worked for anybody else.
I often share one of my fondest memories being a 10-year-old selling matches to earn pocket money and thinking – ‘I love this!’. This is when the entrepreneurial bug struck.
I embarked on my first entrepreneurial venture when I was just 10 when I sold boxes of in-demand matches for a profit to make pocket money. While at boarding school, I sold food to fellow pupils for spending money.
In my first summer in university in the UK, I joined a network marketing business which was really an entrepreneurial exploit where I would sell frozen food products in Buckinghamshire. I recruited other students to join and work with me raising significant cash that facilitated my move to Canada.
In Canada, I ran the university consulting service, literally as an entrepreneurial venture, and this, together with other work, helped fund my university studies in Canada. I made so much money that I was able to leave a significant sum which created the Adam Molai Small Business Consulting scholarship where the proceeds from this sum are given as a scholarship annually to a deserving student at my former alma mater.
When I returned to Zimbabwe after completing my studies, I knew I didn’t want to work for anybody else.
My first business, whose infrastructure I had started constructing whilst still in university in Canada, was a chicken business of 7,000 broiler chickens. I brought solar equipment with me from Canada, and this facilitated 24-hour feeding of our chickens facilitating faster development of the chickens. There was no power in the area and thus the utilization of solar power with a storage inverter, in 1997, was quite an evolution.
I then re-opened my late father’s service station and supermarket, whilst at the same time also creating a stationery shop and copy bureau in my home time. So, within my first year of being back in Zimbabwe from the diaspora I was running four businesses.
These businesses spanned a significant distance and so my first two years were highly sleep-deficient. I would start my early Monday morning in my hometown, drive to Harare to order supplies for the retail outlets and chemicals for the chicken business; a 150km return journey to my hometown where the stationery business and supermarket were, ensure the goods were priced and then at the closure of the stationery shop after 5pm start the 140km drive to where my service station was. I would then collect the cash takings, use them to buy more grain from the local farmers and maize grinding mills, which we would use to mix with the stock feed, and then drive another 180km to the farm where we were farming chickens. I would monitor the slaughtering, dressing, and packing of the chickens and by 2am start the drive back to my hometown which from the farm was 230km.
I would sleep on this third journey back to my hometown and get back in time to start another day. Without fail, by 7am I would be back at my stationery store where my main office was. This, routine I continued for a full two years.
I then got the opportunity to acquire the largest service station site in my hometown. I quickly converted what was the office and former car show room into the first 24/7 retail shop in Zimbabwe, taking a cue from the 7/11 concept I had been exposed to in Canada.
The move, which drew criticism from my own family and other businesspeople, led me achieve more than double the shop’s takings, transforming the retail landscape in Zimbabwe. Sixty percent of the retail sales happened in the hours when all the other shops were closed. To crown it off, which irresponsibility I didn’t understand then, we managed to get a liquor license for this shop and used to be the only 24/7 liquor retailer in the country, which resulted in inordinate sales. Within a year a 60 square metre shop was making more than US$1 million! That was the first million I made, at the age of 29.
Another transformation I undertook was transforming the chicken retail sector in Zimbabwe. When I grew up working in my father’s shop, only whole chickens and in some cases half chickens were generally sold in Zimbabwe. You could buy beef and pork in small and as-you-desired and as-you-could-afford portions, but not chicken. I didn’t understand why that was, so I started selling chicken pieces, not just whole chickens. That transformed the chicken retail sector and demand rose beyond our projections.
I also did some dealings in the petroleum sector before turning my attention to the tobacco sector. Zimbabwe experienced significant fuel shortages and I was fortunate to receive permission from Shell, the franchisor, to direct import own fuel. Fuel had always been a controlled product only available from to oil companies through the government monopoly. However, when shortages became severe fuel companies and private individuals could direct import. Through an old high school acquaintance, who was importing fuel, I was able to receive multiple tankers a week of direct import fuel. Our site never ran dry, and we were selling over a million litres of fuel a month and still couldn’t meet demand. Cars would drive from neighboring towns to fill up as we were receiving fuel non-stop!
I had also, with support of very experienced tobacco skills we had on board, pioneered contract growing of tobacco that transformed the tobacco industry from around 4 500 mainly commercial farmers and opened the way for more than 85 000 local small-scale farmers to enter Zimbabwe’s tobacco sector.
In 2002, I co-founded Savanna Tobacco Company, which has now been rebranded as Pacific Cigarette Company, which is acknowledged as one of only two of the world’s most significant African-owned cigarette manufacturers. The company enjoys a significant share of the Southern African cigarette market.
Our business interests cut across several industries – including energy, manufacturing, property development, transport and logistics, air transport, financial services and beverage bottling – and at least seven African countries, including the African economic powerhouses of Nigeria, South Africa and Mauritius. However, we are now streamlining our portfolio to focus only upon manufacturing and distribution, property development and sales, and technology.
Our business now has over US$200 million of assets under control.
In November 2020, we also launched the $2 million JUA Fund, making it the largest venture capital fund by a private African business individual to empower and support African entrepreneurs.
Today you are Chairman of the Pacific Cigarette Company and the TRT Investments, can you tell us a little more about this companies and how they fit in the vision that you have for Africa?
TRT Investments manages a diversified sector portfolio and operations in Nigeria, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Mozambique and Botswana, and our latest interests have seen a foray into the US and European markets.
The aim is really to play our role in moving Africa from being on the menu to sitting at the global economic table. We believe this will only be achieved through production and productivity. So, we are aiming at driving the industrialization agenda for Africa.
TRT recently acquired, which is the largest non-food contract manufacturing business on the continent. It manufactures many leading multinational household FMCG brands. We aim to replicate this model into East and West Africa to create the largest non-food contract manufacturer in the world.
So, our ambitions are big, and we are committed to creating African institutions, with global recognition.
With the AfFCTA, we aim to leverage this opportunity to ensure localization of production on the Continent where currently there is only 18% inter-Africa trade compared to 80% Inter-Europe trade. So, just by trading more with ourselves as Africans we can grow our economies ad create the much-needed employment for our young population.
Our other area of focus is housing.
With the significant housing supply gap on the continent, and the growing population which is urbanizing at a rapid rate, it is imperative that affordable housing is availed to ensure that we help move from the squalid urban living conditions of the past.
Our final area of focus is technology.
Technology offers Africa the opportunity to leapfrog. It facilitates more efficacious and elegant solutions to Africa’s myriad challenges.
Pacific was born out of the industrialization agenda and fits into the TRT agenda. Having always lamented Africa’s over-reliance on agriculture for survival, I felt we needed to walk our talk and beneficiate this agricultural produce into finished goods and thus participate at a higher level of the value chain. Zimbabwe’s main agricultural export has been tobacco for a long time and therefore we took it upon ourselves to add value to this crop. There is a 15 to 20 times value multiplier from raw tobacco to cigarettes and that is what we have achieved in Pacific. So, the jobs and value which we were exporting in exporting raw tobacco, we are now retaining through producing finished goods. If we look at the $600 million of raw tobacco produced in Zimbabwe, if all transformed to cigarettes, Zimbabwe would have a $6-$12 billion tobacco industry.
For the attention of many out there who see in you a success story, what were some of the big challenges you face in building your companies and how did you successfully navigate them?
Success, to me, is a journey rather than a destination. It is a culmination of many failures and continuing to find different paths where one path has failed. Funding is always a challenge. I remember using $75,000 of my university entrepreneurial savings to start a small chicken business after university because I couldn’t get funding from the banks to augment this capital raise.
The challenge of raising money for my first business or to buy factory equipment, the challenges felt the same, and had the same ultimate impact – no funding – no business. We’ve mitigated fund raising challenges through performance. When you perform and develop a track record for performing, paying, and meeting your debt covenants, it becomes a bit easier to raise funding.
Another significant challenge faced was the dearth of African entrepreneurs available and willing to offer mentorship to others on their entrepreneurial journey. I failed to find takers, amongst those I approached, as unfortunately many in our society still see other people’s success as a threat to their success and attention.
So, the only option available became to be an avid reader, always reading both success and failure books as a way to understand.
You have been on a crusade for industrialization and entrepreneurship in what shape is Africa in now, and why do you think it is imperative for the continent to change course?
Africa is in a very poor state in as far as industrialization is concerned. We are still significant importers of finished goods and exporters of raw materials.
In 2018, Sub-Saharan Africa raw material exports amounted to $148 billion or 52% of total exports. That is a strong case for industrialization to convert a significant portion of our raw materials into intermediate goods or finished products, creating jobs and increasing the value of our GDP.
China has become the global behemoth owing to industrialization. Thirty years ago, China was where we are today as a continent but has transformed from a developing nation to being at the cusp of being the largest global economy through a deliberate policy of industrialization.
Unless we industrialize, we will fail to unleash the latent potential presented by our abundant resources and youthful population. This youthful population can either be our greatest asset if we leverage it, or our biggest threat if they become restive owing to lack of opportunity.
Late last year you launched the Jua Kickstarter fund to provide entrepreneurs with capital to kickstart or expand their enterprises, may we know what impact you anticipate for Africa for this initiative?
Lao Tzu is famously credited with the saying that “The journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step”. The launch and subsequent Jua Olympic week are the start of a movement which I hope will sweep Africa. It is only but a ripple, given the enormous needs on the continent, but we are seeing the impact it is having on encouraging other business leaders to also start looking at how they too can assist entrepreneurs on the continent. Our hope is that this becomes a culture on our continent of entrepreneurs giving back through facilitating the creation of more entrepreneurs, creating a snowball effect. The quality of the finalists as well as the solutions being proffered by the businesses we have decided to invest in give us great confidence that there will be significant impact that will emanate from this initiative.
It was always the intention that the fund would go beyond providing money. Entrepreneurs always need money, that is not in question. But they don’t only need money. They also need mentoring, advice, access to networks, access to markets, people to stress test their ideas, advisors and mentors who can help them see the realities and potential of their businesses.
That is what Jua will provide.
Jirogasy and Bryt-Knowledge will be furthering education one through hardware the other through software, Side and Grow Agric, are disrupting the value chain of goods from farm to table, Powerstove Energy is saving the environment by their cooking stove innovation, Whispa Health is taking care of wellbeing, and Xetova is adding African flair to procurement.
Less than a year after it was launched, the first recipients were announced, may we know how the selection was done and your overall impressions on the applications and the eventual winners?
We had over 700 applicants who were shortlisted to 25 finalists, who met the criteria that their ideas had impact and were scalable.
The 25 finalists participated in the “Kickstarter Olympics”, a 5-day pitching session during which they were put through their paces by a high-profile panel of judges.
Eventually, we made offers to 7 recipients who all accepted.
We were immensely impressed by all our finalists, even those to whom offers were not made.
So impressive was the quality of the projects from the entrepreneurs that we felt compelled to increase the fund from the original $1m announced to $2m.
About four of the seven enterprises selected have either female founders or co-founders, what role do you see gender or women playing in the vision that you articulate?
Research is clear that empowering women has more impact on societies and communities than empowering men. I am delighted that the Jua Fund, which is aimed at empowering all entrepreneurs, regardless of gender, has been able to benefit females to the extent that it has.
What metrics and support system does the JUA Fund have in place to monitor the outcomes or progress of recipients?
As I indicated, Jua is not only providing monetary support but non-monetary support in the form of mentoring and advice, introductions to other potential investors and funders. Where applicable, we will sit on the boards.
The phenomenal experience of the JUA judges, who have kindly accepted to offer mentorship and coaching, will serve to really help the entrepreneurs unleash their potential.
Through well-established Key Performance Indicators, designed to facilitate milestone-based release of capital, we hope to see better resource utilization and less of the unintended waste of resources that culminates from non-results-based funding mechanisms.
The Jury had some powerful names in the African corporate world, how challenging was it to get these high profile and busy people to dedicate the required time in the selection process?
It wasn’t challenging at all because all the judges share our vision of the importance of entrepreneurship for ensuring that Africa gets to assume its rightful place at the economic table, and they all wanted to do their bit to pass on the knowledge they have gained as entrepreneurs or in business to these emerging entrepreneurs.
They were so keen that at times we had more judges than we anticipated and needed. We had judges from across the globe, some of whom woke up at 3am daily to listen to the pitches.
As you may be aware, most start-ups / SMMES fail within the first two years, for a myriad of reasons. The judges who participated are aware of the challenges and want to do their bit to reduce this number.
The applicants certainly appreciated it; many commented on how the judges’ questions and insight had helped them rethink parts of their business.
What next for the Jua Fund, there are many young entrepreneurs out there who would love to try their hand in the next round, what are the plans going forward?
What’s next is just to keep growing and to support more SMMEs. We will hopefully have more money to avail in the future and we can structure the non-monetary assistance better as well.
We have learned a lot from this inaugural VC round, and we intend to build on that going forward so that it has much greater impact.
Our hope is that the success of the initial projects will, as we exit, create an even larger pool of funds to support even more entrepreneurs, creating a snowball effect. We have invested $2 million, if they perform and this spawns $20 million on exit, as an example, we then invest $20-millionn to spawn $200-million and this multiplier effect is what we seek and what we believe will facilitate our dream of empowering thousands of entrepreneurs.
In terms of recommendations to African governments, what needs to be done by them to create the enabling environment for brilliant ideas and initiatives that millions of Africans have to thrive?
Well, entrepreneurs need the right regulatory environment to grow so all governments need to scrutinize the laws, rules and regulations that they have in place to see whether they help or hinder entrepreneurial activity.
Governments also need to realise that they cannot grow economies and create jobs, that that is the ambit of business and they need to ensure that the business environment is conducive to that. So, the economy and entrepreneurs are not dependent on who is in government, but rather that there is policy certainty and that their markets are open to all. If our governments truly embrace the intentions of the AfFCTA, we will see a significant explosion of economies on the continent.
We also need to relook at our education systems which are largely not suited to nurturing entrepreneurs and entrepreneurial activity.
We also need to encourage local investment. African governments bend over backwards for foreign investors but do not do the same for local investors which means that local investors must deal with an unequal playing field.
What is your take on foreign direct investment and what role do you see the African diaspora playing in the development of the continent?
I think all investment is good. Africa lags in terms of investment so the more people who want to invest, the better.
But I do think that governments elevate foreign investment above that of local investment and I think that this is to the detriment of the continent. The reality is that if locals show confidence and invest, foreigners will invest alongside them. So what we should be doing is giving local investors the same benefits that we give foreign investors, we should be levelling the playing fields for local investors as they have more impact on the lives of Africans. They not only invest their money on the Continent, but they spend their money on the Continent too. This provides jobs for others and opportunities for other Africans.
I think the diaspora can be used more meaningfully than it is now. We know that remittances contribute $48-billion or an average 4.17% of Africa’s GDP but we should be looking at how to make better use of the resources of Africans in the diaspora.
Instead of saving their money in low-interest bearing accounts, we should look at getting them to invest in local start-ups and enterprises. In that way entrepreneurs have access to money and the diasporans get better returns whilst positively impacting their home countries to develop.
Looking at the realities today, the challenges, and the potential, what are your hopes and fears for Africa’s future?
Africa is at a major crossroad. With a growing young population, if Africa continues to grow at its current rate, it is expected to double to 2.5billion people; a quarter of the world’s population; by 2050. All these people need food, clothing, transport, housing and many other goods and services.
China’s growth was driven by a large population, creating significant consumption and ability to grow the economy phenomenally through the goods and services required by such a large population.
We dare not fail to rise to the occasion and create the businesses that will produce and provide all the goods and services that will be required by the continent. We certainly cannot afford to create a market for the rest of the world at our own expense. This is going to require significant unity and coordination across the continent to be realized.
China could easily achieve this growth because it is a unitary state. With 54 states, Africa will need significant regional and continental integration and harmonization to facilitate the remarkable infrastructural projects required to cater for such a huge population which is urbanising significantly.
So, the opportunities for the continent are immense, the challenges will really be from our own belief in ourselves to achieve for ourselves. Our leaders will need to develop confidence in the ability of African entrepreneurs and stop seeing our own entrepreneurs as inferior to foreign entrepreneurs.
Our people will need to also develop an appetite for local goods as opposed to foreign goods and our businesspeople will need to ensure that at all levels, our goods meet the exacting global standards for quality. Changing mindsets is a difficult process, as is establishing regional and continental trust; however, if accomplished, Africa could become the global powerhouse it has the potential to be.
Maximilienne C. Ngo Mbe: A Champion of Human Rights across Central Africa
April 1, 2021 | 0 Comments
By Boris Esono Nwenfor
Maximilienne Ngo Mbe has been with the REDHAC for the past ten years as Executive Director, championing and promoting human rights across the Central African sub-region. Her relentless pursuit of human rights has seen her win multiple awards across the world and with the mantra “NEVER GIVE UP” she has shown no sign of slowing down.
Maximilienne Ngo Mbe has won multiple awards in her fight for Human Rights with the biggest one being the U.S State Department’s 2021 Women of Courage Awards. Before this recent award, Maximilienne was in 2020 awarded “The Prize of Empowerment of African Communities” by the BBF and Heal The World Africa, an organization based in the USA.
In 2019 Maximilienne won the “Defend Defenders: Prize of Resilience and recognition for her exceptional impact for her works on Human Rights in Central Africa.”
Pan African Visions caught up with this vibrant Human Rights defender in her office in Douala this March 31, 2021, and began by asking her what she made of the recent award given to her in her fight for human rights.
Pan African Visions: May we know how Maximilienne Ngo Mbe received news of her selection amongst the 2021 Women of Courage Awards?
Maximilienne Ngo Mbe: It is not possible to know how the selection comes about. I was surprised by the US Embassy who told me that I am one of the Women who have been selected for the award but the first amongst the twelve women that were to be selected. I had the information at the same time as you when the US Government made the selection. I saw the information on Friday after the announcement was made on Thursday in the night that I am one of the Women of Courage 2021.
Pan African Visions: What does this award mean for you and your fight for human rights in Cameroon?
Maximilienne Ngo Mbe: First of all I was very happy when you fight against violations of human rights, fight for peace and reconciliation and when you receive the award you are happy. The award is not only for the work in Cameroon but the work in Central Africa to improve human rights and promote peace and reconciliation in Central Africa. It is a lot of responsibility and what now can I do to ensure that all these people who are suffering can do something? I do not have a lot of power to improve all these charges that have been given to me.
Can I have the power to finish all this work? I am not sure because you need a lot of things; financial (sometimes people do not know that you carry out activities without money); democratically challenged (we do not have democratically institutions. We do not have separation of power in the countries). We have a lot of injustices specifically in Cameroon now and we have a lot of arbitrary arrests. The terrorism law is in place that leads to activists being charged. It is difficult and the situation in North West and South West is not easy. We have a lot of threats and people who do not have security in their life. It is not easy for me; I am happy but afraid.
Pan African Visions: Can you shed light on the Central Africa Human Rights Defenders Network in Central Africa-REDHAC that you lead?
Maximilienne Ngo Mbe: It is difficult to talk about the Human Rights Defenders Network in Central Africa because it is a long road. For ten years now I have been the Executive Director and we make sure to protect, promote and advocate for the human rights defenders status and make sure that the government undertakes their role about the regional and international engagement and to make sure that the fundamental freedoms are respected. We make sure that peace and security can be improved which will lead to people having justice and living a good life.
All these things have been very difficult to achieve because it is the civil and political rights; when you fight for their respect it is not easy especially in countries that have not had democratically institutions. Some of our victims understand nothing that sometimes turns to attack us. But REDHAC status that is out to fight against human rights especially for CSOs turns to create an atmosphere of peace between the victims. For example, every six months, we report on the violation of the human right and also the protection and security of lawyers who defend these victims. This is because if you want CSOs to continue in this light you need to reinforce them with security assistance. For example, we have laws that govern lawyers at the Regional, National and International level. Lawyers who defend victims of human rights violation and fight for peace and reconciliation
We at REDHAC have proposed concrete solutions at the level of Cameroon and Africa in general for the respect of human rights. This is a vast area for us to handle in the protection of human rights. We also have manual functions and challenges like our laws in the country cannot surpass international laws. Analysis and recommendations have been done as well as publications on fundamental liberation and also following up defenders of human rights; aiding them protection and financially. For example, Mancho Bibixy was aided financially (REDHAC supported him by relocating his wife from Bamenda to Yaounde so she can easily pay him visits in prison) and May Ali who was relocated. We also give people the opportunity to air out their problems to the international community especially victims in the North West and South West. We have also produced documentaries on behalf of the victims.
Pan African Visions: What are some of the challenges the REDHAC network has faced in the field while doing its work?
Maximilienne Ngo Mbe: Some of our challenges are infrastructural and financial challenges. This is because sometimes we need to help our victims who are not financially stable to shelter them and also the majority of our financial partners are state-owned that sometimes delay the assistance. Also, the government system is another problem we faced coupled with the fact that in Central Africa all the Presidents are of age weakening the system as they try to maintain their positions leading to poor leadership.
States that do not practice democracy is another problem we faced resulting in poor decision-making. In Cameroon especially in the judiciary decisions cannot influence justice; same with the legislative decisions hindering sanctions on the government for wrong decisions taken. This also goes to the executive. This can be seen especially in the Ngarbuh massacre that to date government decisions have not been implemented on the perpetrators of the act. Meantime, we also have the case of Wazizi where to date his corpse has not been found. Despite our complaints, nothing has been done in all these instances. Sometimes, sanctions are levied on us when publications on such situations are made public. Our challenges to sum up rest on financial, undemocratic institutions, but all these can be solved.
Pan African Visions: Can you give us your perspectives on the situation of human rights in Cameroon, where have you seen progress and where have things been bad?
Maximilienne Ngo Mbe: The fact that REDHAC’s doors have not been shut down despite these challenges shows a level of respect for human rights. People are allowed to talk freely on TV stations without being arrested shows some positivity on the respect of human rights. We also have laws that have been respected in the country and it is good we encourage the government for such a move which will give them the ability to keep respect for human rights.
However, laws that are made by the legislative are not always being respected by the other bodies such as the executive and judiciary. There is some collaboration even though formal such as that of the Ministry of Justice and some human rights organizations including REDHAC. These small collaborations give us a supportive hand to continue our work.
Pan African Visions: Could you share some of the recommendations that REDHAC has in mind to improve human rights in Cameroon?
Maximilienne Ngo Mbe: In Cameroon, we have recommended the revision of so many laws and not its abolition such as the anti-terrorism law of 2014 against Journalists, civilians, politicians, activists and others. For example, the military court is not supposed to judge civilians or journalists and for this reason, we have recommended that the law be revised and we hope one day it will be considering that Cameroon is one of the members of the Commonwealth, Human Rights Commission in Africa and the UN. We are not saying that the law be abolished but revised concerning the rate of terrorism in central Africa.
The second recommendation we have made is that if you observed Western African countries, there is a law to protect the right of journalists especially in Mali, Ivory Coast which was voted for and this law should be adopted in the Cameroon National Assembly and the President signing it into law.
Our recommendations are not only on human rights violations but in a situation that we find ourselves in. Cameroon is facing various challenges, and we have been recommended that no war can be solved with the use of arms but negotiations should be the solution between the two parties. A commission should be created such as the Truth and Justice Reconciliation Commission should be created. With this being our best recommendation as human rights preachers it will be a better means to reconcile ourselves. A proposal for that commission had been written and sent to the appropriate quarters which will only hope for a positive reply.
Also, on the socio-political crisis ongoing in the North West and South West Regions, we have recommended for the liberation of all Anglophone detainees especially those who have not appeared before the court since they were arrested but are in prison. For this reason, if Cameroon wants to portray that she is out to protect the rights of its citizens, then persons like Mancho Bibixy have to be released and stop the arrest of journalists and lawyers who defend human rights violations. The conduction of transparent elections has to be effective which will minimize the rigging of the election, reducing violence and threats during elections in Cameroon.
Pan African Visions: A new leadership and new members were recently appointed by President Biya to the National Human Rights Commission, what is your take on that, and do you think they can make a difference?
Maximilienne Ngo Mbe: Yes I think so.In the past years, we were working with the Commission headed by its former President Chemuta Banda and we did a lot of things, be it in the North West, Central Region and everywhere in Cameroon. We fought for the promotion and protection of Human Rights. On the contrary, since we did the last nomination and with his hatred, he disposes of daily it has nothing to do with human rights. It is feared that this Commission is only an empty vessel. How can you think that Mrs Elangue née Eva Etongue Mayer who has served more than seventeen years in the Commission and a defender of Human Rights was removed at a time when we needed a Commission like never before? For us, there has not been a consensus concerning the National Human Rights Commission today. At the moment, all those present at the Commission represent their head and shadow and so we have nothing to do with the Commission.
Pan African Visions: What do you make of accusations of bias and opposition sympathies that are often linked to groups like REDHAC, Amnesty International, Human Rights Work and others?
Maximilienne Ngo Mbe: All over the world, human rights commissions are usually accused and so there is no exception when it comes to Cameroon especially on those Commissions who do their work effectively. The truth is that they (government) deform and lie against such commissions meanwhile in other countries such a thing cannot happen. In Cameroon, they deform, lie and corrupt and when they get to a level that they cannot corrupt they go to the extent of levying threats. Human Rights organizations are only doing what we are expected to do and nothing else.
During the Ngarbuh massacre, the Minister of Territorial Administration Paul Atangi Nji held a press conference saying that Human rights Commissions had taken five million to destabilize the country which was not true to the point of sending us a warrant of arrest. This went far in tarnishing our image both nationally and internationally and to this day an investigation is still open. This was a strong allegation from such a personality who did not have strong evidence.
This is what I have been talking about in countries that do not practice democracy. Such countries are characterised by deformation and even those who count on human right commissions like REDHAC, Human Rights Watch. REDHAC’s office is in Cameroon and all that the government does is criticise and deform. But this is very different from other Human rights Commissions like Amnesty International that has its Headquarters in Senegal; you can never hear the government criticise to this extent, same as Human Rights Watch in the USA, posing a threat to other human rights organizations coming up. It is a dictatorial system and a system that does not respect human rights.
Pan African Visions: What next for you and REDHAC after this award, what are some of the projects that you have in mind going forward?
Maximilienne Ngo Mbe: What I can say never gives up despite the huge challenge we face in our country. We have to continue to work for peace and protect human rights. We are continuing without any stoppage in preaching and protecting the human rights commission, the implementation of a democratic state with no fear despite all the threats by implementing all the mechanisms to promote peace for all and protect human rights defenders. It should be noted that these are areas giving less concern and our small shoulders are ready for the fight.
Pan African Visions: We understand that you were in Congo during the recent Presidential election, could you share with us what you saw, were there free and fair from your perspective?
Maximilienne Ngo Mbe: The situation in Congo is our preoccupation now but yesterday we were told that some protesters were arrested, showing no difference with Cameroon. You will see that when Sassou Nguesou discovered that his mandate will soon end he amended the constitution, changing it into a referendum favouring him during the election which provided him with a new mandate. Can you imagine that we were in Congo and were denied accreditation to observe how the elections were conducted? This is very dissatisfactory as during the election we carried out some teaching on the protection of human rights.
We were going to look at those rights that were violated and not who won. This same scenario also happened to the Human Rights Commission in Congo. This is just to show you that when a Human Rights Commission works for the people it is very possible to have problems with the government. It will surprise you that the next day ghost town was declared making some voters walk long distances to vote, violating the right of circulation in and out of the country. Even we had to walk from up to 5km just to look for food to eat. When ghost towns are declared, how do you expect people to vote including handicaps?
It should be noted that before the ghost town was declared the forces of law and order had voted two days before and these same military forces already had voting stations, showing some level of fraud. On that same night, the internet was seized even to the 27 that we returned and the internet had still not been regularized. The only excuse given was that the person that was working on it died of COVID-19.
Again, we were told that some of our members were arrested but we are working on it though worried and the only thing we can do is hope for a calm situation considering that Congo had once had a civil war and also pray that the population remain calm because it is a provocation.
Pan African Visions: Thank you for granting this interview, any last word you wish to make?
Maximilienne Ngo Mbe: NEVER GIVE UP. I want to thank everyone that has supported REDHAC and my staff who has been there in our difficult moments and that we have passed through it. I want to thank the American State Department as it is an award that comes to protect REDHAC and myself. I want to assure all Human Rights Organizations, journalists and the African community to continue to strengthen the fight in protecting and promoting Human Rights, and maintaining peace.
(Translation was done with the help of Sonita Ngunyi)