Meaningful dialogue more feasible if President Salva steps down and releases political prisoners says Mabior Garang
December 25, 2013 | 6 Comments
By Ajong Mbapndah L
In a tale that leaves many heads wagging with incomprehension, the promised ushered in by independence for South Sudan three years ago may have been a mirage as a combination of inept leadership and power struggle have brought the country into what many fear could be a civil war. There are many who have pointed accusing fingers at President Salva Kiir for fomenting a crisis when there ought to be none. The loss of life has been senseless says Mabior Garang son of the late venerable South Sudanese leader Dr John Garang.Mabior who has been consistently critical of the present leadership in South Sudan for derailing the original vision of Dr Garang and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-SPLM says what is been described as a coup was nothing but a botched attempt by President Salva to purge political rivals. With the events which triggered the current crisis, President Salva squandered the authority he had to play a decisive role in putting the country back on the rails and the best option for him now is to step aside, and release political prisons for meaningful dialogue to have a chance.
Mr Mabior Garang, thanks for accepting to offer your perspectives on developments in Southern Sudan, what exactly is going on, was it a coup, and if it was why?
The events that took place in Juba on 15/12/2013 were not an attempted coup as was alleged by Gen. Salva Kiir and his government. I would instead call it an assassination attempt, designed to get rid of those that pose the greatest threat to the Chairman of the SPLM through the democratic process.
Opinion is divided now between President Salva’s camp that it was a coup and those who say there was no coup, but there was fighting, and there was blood shed, who was responsible for this?
I think it is important first, to pause and recognize that this was a senseless loss of life and that there are many families that have lost loved ones; my heart goes to them.
It is important to have a background of the events leading up to the violence that erupted on the 15/12, because people always see events at their precipice. In order to understand what led to the violence we must understand what happened on the 06/12/2013. This was the day that the current SPLM political prisoners held a press conference at SPLM House in Juba to inform the public about the stagnation in their Movement and the reason for the leadership crisis that had lingered for many months. The press conference ended with the Secretary General of the SPLM announcing that on Saturday the press conference would be followed with a rally by the SPLM to give further details to the public about how the Chairman had frustrated development programs within the movement.
I shall not go into the details of the press conference as it was made available to the press on that day; however, the main points that angered the President of the Republic (who is also the Chairman of the SPLM) was the charge by the 13 political Prisoners that the president had neglected the National Army and that he was building his own private militia. The other point that displeased the Chairman of the SPLM was the charge that his office had borrowed 4.5 Billion USD, yet neither the ministry of finance the Parliament or the public for that matter where aware of this loan; no one knew from whom it was borrowed, nor for what it was used.
The 13 Political Prisoners held this press conference after they had exhausted efforts to resolve the leadership crisis internally within the party, without going public. They had sent countless letters to the office of the Chairman via the office of the Secretary General, this is on record. These requests by the majority of the members of the SPLM Political Bureau where repeatedly ignored by the Chairman, leading them to go public on the 06/12/2013.
The leadership crisis within the SPLM was prompted by the fact that there were some senior members of the SPLM that had made their intentions known of their desire to contest for the Chair during primaries. This was in full exercise of their civil rights and liberties guaranteed to them by the constitution of the Republic and the SPLM constitution. It is also worthy to note that the Chairman had announced to members that he would not contest the 2015 elections, and he even confided this matter to President Thabo Mbeki when he was mediating during the Higlig crisis.
The Chairman then convened a meeting of the National Liberation Council (NLC) on the same day that the 13 Political Prisoners had scheduled their rally. Having been informed that the Chairman had convened a meeting of the NLC, the group of 13 was hopeful that it would be an opportunity for them to resolve their differences in a cordial manner. However, this was not to be. The meeting allegedly broke down to name calling which continued for two sessions over a period of two days, which prompted the group to boycott the meeting on the third day. This deeply angered the Chairman, and this is what he has labeled as a coup.
The truth; however, is that the president in his capacity as the Commander in Chief of the SPLA ordered that the Tigers should be disarmed by their junior colleagues within the same unit. This problem was compounded by the fact that a rumor started circulating that an arrest warrant had been issued for the former Vice President. This series of events led to an argument, a gunfight ensued that rapidly spread to other units and has continued to cause massive desertions.
The President then quickly moved to call this mutiny a coup d’état, and arrest his comrades that had challenged him within the party without evidence. The government moved to bomb two of its own properties using T-72 Tanks, Mortar fire and RPG rocket launchers. These where the (government) houses in which Dr. Riek Machar resided and Hon. Gier Chuang, they were looted and destroyed; indicating that they were out to murder their victims.
These Political Prisoners have now been in government police custody since the 16/12/2013 without charge, they have not been provided with legal counsel, and have faced the police brutality that most of our citizens are so familiar with. I don’t believe that it was a coup d’état because there are no military commanders that have been arrested to link the coup plotters with the coup. There were some political prisoners that were at home sleeping when they were arrested; who mounts a coup and then goes to their home to sleep.
I would not say that what is happening in South Sudan was a coup d’état, I would say that it was an assassination attempt, the Chairman wanted to kill his political opponents by framing them.
It looks like this did not just come out of the blues, as people were forced out of government and the SPLM’s executive dissolved, why is these crisis?
The reason for the crisis apart from what I have explained above, is an accumulation of the dissatisfaction of the members of the SPLM with the slow pace of progress in the Movement. The signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement ushered in a period of great hope for the people of South Sudan in particular and to everyone in the region and the world. The people expected to get their peace dividends and payback form government for their unwavering material and moral support.
The SPLM however, after the death of Chairman John Garang the new Chairman immediately began to undermine the CPA by abandoning some of the positions that had been so painstakingly reached during negotiations. The Chairman (on the political side) began to sanction the use of divisive terms such as “Garang Boys”, “Salva Kiir Boys”, “our government” etc. The system that had been evolved by the Movement in the liberated territories that it administered during the bush war (larger than the current RSS) was abandoned for a kitchen cabinet that has been directing the affairs of the SPLM ever since; a kitchen cabinet with alleged links to the National Islamic Front of Khartoum. The subsequent governments that have come and gone in Juba, every reshuffle of Ministers is done by this kitchen cabinet and is not done within the party.
These are other issues that led to the press conference on the 06/12…
We also get reports that much of the fighting or killings were along ethnic lines, is it true and why is the ethnic factor getting stronger when during the struggle, it was rare to hear about tribes?
It is true that the killings were along ethnic lines; however, it was the government that targeted its own citizens along ethnic lines. It started within the army, the Presidential Guards to be specific started the targeted killing when they tried to disarm their colleagues within the same unit. This violence ended up spreading to other units where the ethnic lines became clear; so, it must have started that way from the source (the President’s Guards).
The office of the President instead of exercising responsible leadership had decided to purge his force and the SPLA of supporters of the former Vice President and those of 91. It was a planned massacre by the Tigers (President’s Guards) and the National Security, the reprisals that followed where of those that had lost their relatives in the Juba Massacre. The Commander of the 8th SPLA Division lost many of his relatives in the Juba Massacre, which prompted his defection; as opposed to the propaganda being spread by the regime that they are loyal to Dr. Riek Machar.
I would say that those that are deserting from Salva’s army share a common interest with Dr. Machar, and so it is only natural that people with coinciding interests should work together. The mass desertions from the SPLA are another indication of the great dissatisfaction that the people of South Sudan have with their government. The regime has labeled any person that is against the government’s divisive policies as a supporter of Dr. Riek Machar, whom they have branded as the “prophet of doom”. I believe the crisis could have been worse had the opposition preached the same rhetoric as the government; however, the opposition has shown responsible leadership for the most part, and this has made the reprisals small in proportion to the Juba Massacre conducted by Salva Kiir’s Tigers (a private tribal militia).
How do you see this eventually playing out, what needs to be done for an end to the political crisis and a return to normalcy?
I believe in the people of South Sudan, we are a resilient and determined people that can do anything that we put our mind to; there is proof of this in our history. The SPLA/SPLM had been split in 1991 a dark period of our history when our people where divided giving our enemy the upper hand. The people of South Sudan managed to survive this crisis, and with no outside mediation where able to come together and put the past behind them; I believe that we still have this spirit and we can resolve our problems ourselves.
The SPLM under Comrade Salva needs to do what it should have done in 2005 after we lost our beloved Chairman Dr. John Garang, follow in the footsteps of the previous Chairman. The SPLM should have: “buried the man and continued the plan” – to paraphrase Dr. John Henrick Clark. This however did not take place; instead the Movement was abandoned and neglected.
The SPLM was at the time (before 2005) conducting several programs including the South – South Dialogue, Peace Through Development and SPLM Strategic Framework for War to Peace Transition. These programs spelled out what we needed to do to transition effectively into our new geopolitical and social realities. The South – South Dialogue would have gone a long way to heal wounds over the past eight to nine years.
It is to revisit some of the programs that we abandoned that we will be able to get out of this current crisis, and there will be no shortcuts, no easy fixes. The hard and tedious work of reconciliation must begin sooner rather than later and we must be serious about it, and with time we shall achieve the objective of “unity through struggle”. The Chairman should go ahead with the SPLM National Convention and allow free and fair competition so that the people choose their leader; it is the rejection of this democratic principle that led to the leadership crisis in the SPLM.
The SPLM should do what it should have done in 2005 and been the spearhead of nation building in the Republic of South Sudan. There are countries that we can use as examples for us to follow, countries that share a common historical reality as South Sudan. In this, South Africa comes to mid; what are some of the things that were done in South Africa that started the healing process.
The SPLM should hold its own convention, and also spearhead the calling of a national convention for the Republic. A national convention involving all political forces (political parties and interests groups) and social forces (religious, farming, sports, women, youth groups etc.) to determine the future of the Republic of South Sudan. The Chairman alone can’t determine the future of our country, the SPLM alone can’t determine the future of our Country. If the SPLM in 2005 had spearheaded such a process I believe the past eight to nine years would have been very constructive, instead the Chairman has been promoting division.
The fact that the Republic of South Sudan is so new dictates that such a convention should take place, so as to harmonize the structures evolved in the liberated territories during the bush war. These institutions were created under tuff conditions and only need to be reviewed to harmonize them with the current realities. The failure to do this has led to the country being defined in the image of those closest to the center of power, and this is a recipe for conflict. This is why my call has been for a national dialogue in the form of a National Convention of all the political and social forces in the country.
Is President Salva the right person to resolve these crises, if he had to regain the trust of the people or rekindle the kind of passion and excite Southern Sudanese had at the dawn of independence what does he need to do?
The answer to this would have been yes prior to the 15/12/2013; however, after this date it becomes very difficult for President Salva to be the right person to resolve the crisis. How do you regain the trust of the people when you have committed what history will later label as genocide in the Republic of South Sudan. The number of dead is still being compiled but so far the number is at 500-600 in Juba alone, with reports of death squads moving from home to home murdering innocent civilians in Juba.
This situation makes it very difficult for the President to be able to rekindle the kind of passion and excitement South Sudanese had at the dawn of independence. The best thing for him to do is step down and release the political prisoners held falsely by his authorities. This would create a conducive atmosphere within which meaningful dialogue can take place; this could arrest the situation as people would be able to see a way out. The convention should go ahead and members should not be intimidated for their wish to seek the nomination for the Chair of the SPLM and the people’s delegates should be allowed to choose.
In seeking the solution to any problem the solution must be provided in the context of what started the problem. The problem started when the president equated democratic pluralism with treason, when he frustrated the convening of the national conference were a new Chair for the party was to be elected; that convention should be allowed to go ahead. In addition to this, all the people of South Sudan must be engaged in a dialogue through a National Convention of all the political and social forces in the country so that we can determine the future of our nation. The alternative to this, God forbid, is total destruction.
South Sudan is young, it emerged from decades of war, could part of the problem be that people are expecting too much so soon, and are personal ambitions both on the camp of President Salva and his opponents taking precedence over national interests?
There is a degree of truth in the assertion that South Sudan is a new country and it would naturally face challenges; however, the seriousness of the Government of South Sudan and their determination to be successful is also another more important factor. The Republic of South Sudan did not fall from the sky, it has a history as the question suggest of decades of war.
The war created conditions for the people of the New Sudan, were they now controlled great swaths of ‘liberated’ territories greater than the area currently controlled as the Republic of South Sudan. These liberated areas had an administration and was recognized when it came to providing relief to those displaced by the conflict. This was the recognition by Operation Lifeline Sudan; this was the birth of the one country two systems idea and of the Sudan Relief and Rehabilitation Association (SRRA). If the Movement during the bush war days had an administration more effective than the current one, I believe it is an indication of how far we have strayed from our objective.
The incidences of crime (cattle rustling), inter communal violence was much reduce than the current situation being faced by our civil population. The health care and education in the liberated territories was better than what our masses have now been subjected to; our people have been betrayed by their government.
The current crisis is being described by the regime’s media as a power struggle, and personal ambitions of rival camps. The blunt truth; however, is different. The crisis arose due to the President of South Sudan and Chairman of SPLM began to make increasingly unconstitutional decrees starting with the sacking of some democratically elected governors. This was followed by other incidents that although where constitutional where bad political decisions, like sacking the Vice President and the entire cabinet.
This was crowned by the dissolution of structures of the SPLM by the Chairman, when the only body that could make such a decision is the National Convention (the supreme body of the Movement). The 13 political prisoners where calling for a national dialogue to resolve a crisis in the leadership when the Chairman decided that contesting against him at the primaries was tantamount to treason. The former Vice President declared his intention, as did Mama Rebecca (Widow of late Chairman) and the Secretary General of the Party Pagan Amum Oketch to contest during SPLM primaries.
This declaration to contest by these three senior members of the SPLM was not in violation of the constitution of the SPLM, they are fully within their legal rights. It is the Chairman that is violating the SPLM constitution by dissolving the structures of the SPLM which he has no power to do, and he is violating the national constitution by holding the 13 political prisoners without charge, or access to legal counsel. It is the President that has violated the constitution by imposing unpopular governors in place of the sacked elected governors, who should have been replaced within 60 days of their dismissal.
In light of all this it becomes clear that it is the President that is putting his personal ambitions over that of the nation because he is the one in violation of all the constitutions, the national and that of the SPLM. It is the President that accused the political prisoners without evidence, not a single army commander has been arrested in connection to the alleged coup plot; and it is the president that is using inflammatory language that borders on hate speech. The president is the one that holds the monopoly on violence and the propaganda machine; therefore, he is the one in the position to reach out to his rivals. The course that the President has chosen is to deal with his adversaries militarily, and this is being resisted by those that feel victimized.
Does the present situation reflect anything that SPLM Founding President Dr John Garang ever envisaged?
This is not what was envisaged by Chairman Dr. John Garang; Comrade Salva could not have made a more complete change. The late Chairman was labeled by many as a ‘unionist’ and they believe that if he was alive that the country would not have broken up. This is not accurate; Chairman Dr. John was fighting for Self Determination. This as the word suggest is done by ‘self’, it is you that determines your destiny. The Republic of South Sudan has hardly determined anything for itself over the past decade; we have been and are still heavily dependent on the NIF regime.
The idea espoused by the late John Garang was that in order for the exercise and achievement of Self-determination to be complete in South Sudan, Khartoum should fall. It is only after this that the people of the New Sudan would exercise the right to self-determination, this did not happen. The late Chairman gave examples of Eastern European self-determination, achieved only after the collapse of the Soviet Union; the case of Eritrean self-determination, achieved only after the fall of Addis Ababa; and the case of Northern Somaliland self-determination, achieved only after the fall of Mogadishu.
The late Chairman explained that the independence of the South would not be complete without the demise of the NIF regime in Khartoum. The objective of the SPLM was the destruction of the old Sudan represented by the NIF regime, and we would dismantle it through war and/or through the peace process. The marginalized people after taking Khartoum could then freely and safely determine whether to remain as one country or to secede. The aspiration of the people of Southern Sudan to have their own state has never been in question; it was always known they would vote 99% for secession.
The regime of Salva Kiir has instead cooperated with the NIF regime, betraying the other marginalized Sudanese People who continue to suffer in abject poverty.
The people of Southern Kordofan, Southern Blue Nile and Abyei have participated fully in the liberation of the Republic of South Sudan from Arab Islamist Imperial domination. The SPLM war time diplomacy reached out to the People’s Governments of East, Central and Southern Africa for support in this cause of their liberation. In this spirit, the SPLM Government in Juba could have championed the cause of the Africans of Sudan in the AU.
The President by cooperating with the NIF regime has jeopardized the independence of the Republic of South Sudan; and squandered the hard won freedom that our people paid blood, sweat and tears to achieve. The Independence of South Sudan was a shared victory of the marginalized people of the old Sudan (including the South), of Pan Africanism and Humanity.
A word of advice to the people of South Sudan at home and abroad, how can there be of help or contribute in bringing the country back on the rails?
I would advise my country men and women not to fall for the propaganda machine of the Salva-cratic state that is promoting ethnic divisions. The war machine of the regime is directed inwardly towards its own citizens and it is his regime that is promoting the violence. The people must unite and put pressure on the regime to go ahead with the SPLM convention, and in addition to this hold a national convention of all the political and social forces in the country so that the people determine their own destiny. It cannot be done by Salva Kiir alone or Dr. Riek Machar, or Mama Rebecca for that matter; it is the people of South Sudan that will collectively determine for themselves the destiny of their Republic. I would call (if they will listen) to all vigilante youth groups not to fall for the propaganda machine of the Salva-tocracy, unite and show Comrade Salva that he must step down before he does more damage to his legacy through this divisive politics coming from the supreme office in the land. The time for a National Dialogue is nearly a decade overdue but it is not too late.
“Mandela’s guiding Light will be missed but South African will not perish”
December 17, 2013 | 0 Comments
-Gen Bantu Holomisa
By Ajong Mbapndah L
The larger than life image of Mandela with his legendary spirit of reconciliation and strong moral credentials makes his absence a source of concern on the future of South Africa. The concerns are even more founded with the inequalities that abound and growing frustration from the majority whose economic fortunes have not changed much since apartheid ended. Lending his voice to those offering reassurances on South Africa surviving the absence of Madiba is Gen Bantu Holomisa, President of the United Democratic Movement. Holomisa , one of the last people to see Mandela in his last days was entrusted with the responsibility of giving a vote of thanks to all those who worked to give the celebration of Mandela’s life the grandeur it deserve.
“His guiding light will be missed but South Africa will not perish,” says Holomisa who heads the United Democratic Movement. General Holomisa once a very popular figure with the ruling ANC before his expulsion , thinks it is time for South Africans to cast votes based on whether services were delivered or not and not just from historical perspectives. Interviewed by Ajong Mbapndah L, Bantu Holomisa shares his personal experiences with Nelson Mandela, his party-the UDM and other political developments in South Africa.
General Holomisa as the world mourns the passing of President Mandela what is your reaction?
I mourn as the people of South Africa, and indeed the world, mourn. But, I also grieve for the loss of a man who I considered a personal role model and father figure.
You probably met with Nelson Mandela several times, what recollections do you have about the man, what were some of the things that struck you about him when you two met?
I met Mr Nelson Mandela for the first time at his old four-roomed house in Soweto five days after his release from prison. When one considers where he had been (just a few days before) it was quite extraordinary that he made everyone feel welcome in his home in such a jovial and energetic manner – a style he maintained whilst he was president and even in the years after his retirement from public life.
I fondly remember times during our travels over the world, when he teasingly introduced me by saying: “Here, accompanying me is Bantu Holomisa… a dictator from the Transkei”.
At another occasion, in December 2007 during our annual Christmas lunch, Madiba received a phone call from President Jacob Zuma wishing him a Merry Christmas. Madiba said, with a deadpan face, “Nxamalala, ndinoBantu apha ndimgadile angasibhukuqi, ngoba ungumbhukuqi”. Roughly translated: “Nxamalala [Mr Zuma’s clan name], I am here with Bantu, we are enjoying lunch, but I’m keeping an eye on him so that he does not execute a coup d’état because, remember, he’s a specialist.”
What in your opinion is the biggest legacy he leaves in South Africa and on the world stage?
The spirit of reconciliation – a lesson he taught by example. How to listen; to acknowledge the dignity and views of the person on the other side of an argument. He also taught us to find common cause in spite of our differences.
Madiba was extremely concerned about poverty and education. He saw education has one of the tools to fight poverty. Every step he made was made with the view to free South Africans from the scourge of poverty and to ensure that each child receives a quality education.
Clearly Mandela’s passing has left a huge void, how does the present generation of leadership in South Africa managed the country in a way that the ideals he sacrificed his life for are preserved?
Madiba handed over the baton many years ago and had not for some years influenced decisions on daily basis. The doom prophets said South Africa would go to the dogs after he stepped down and it did not happen. Yes, we will miss his guiding light, but it is wrong to suggest that South Africa would somehow perish in his absence.
We are still grappling with the Apartheid legacy and to think that the damage and hurt will disappear over night is foolish. However, our Constitution is the contract that South Africans have with each other and we should at all time strive to live by those standards. Then there is the collective consciousness of our Nation and this includes the current day leaders of this country and those of the future. Nelson Mandela’s teachings and example form a part of this consciousness; we are accountable to ourselves and to each other.
I also think that there is an element of thinking: “What would Madiba do?” – just like that little voice of your elders in your mind, he now forms part of that choir that “regulates” our behaviour.
Still on leadership, how would you size the current leadership under President Zuma, where has he failed, where has he succeeded?
While there are many challenges facing the Country, the ruling party has also taken significant steps to improve the lives of the poor and President Zuma must be given credit for the things his government has done right.
Unfortunately he has made a number of critical mistakes, the Nkandla saga being the worst – it boggles the mind how this mess was denied, covered up and justifications conjured from thin air.
He was also shortsighted in the appointment of his cabinet. Aside from the obvious bias towards persons from his home province, he was also let down by the people in whom he placed trust. Names that come to mind are Ms Dina Pule and the USAASA debacle as well as the Chairperson of the Independent Electoral Commission, Advocate Pansy Tlakula, and the Public Protector’s findings on the lease agreement of their head offices in Centurion.
Obviously he will be in the race for a second term, what are some of the serious issues South Africans should consider in picking their next President?
Each South African has to make up his or her own mind based on the ruling party’s performance, and this includes President Zuma’s term, over the past two decades years.
There is still an element of people who will vote for the ANC because of the Struggle history, but I think voters are more-and-more casting their vote based on service delivery, or rather the lack thereof.
Institutionalised corruption should make voters think twice, in other words, do they want another five years of the unapologetic looting of state resources? The reality is that South Africa has been on a slippery slope for the past 19 years. Some of the most devastating corruption scandals go as far back as Sarafina-2, the Arms Deal, Oilgate, Travelgate, as well as the Chancellor House/Hitachi and Eskom Deal.
What is however disconcerting is that, instead of decreasing, corruption flourished under President Zuma’s watch and he himself was caught with his hands in the cookie jar.
In addition, our people have been disappointed with the poor quality of the infrastructure that the ruling party provided over the years. Electricity is not reliable; water projects are launched only to break down after a few months and the RDP houses are worse than those built for blacks by the Apartheid government.
Where President Zuma and his government failed completely was on the question of employment.
What is your reaction to the criticism that while apartheid may be gone, the ANC leadership has succeeded in empowering a few people at the top with a majority still languishing in poverty?
I think the criticism is justified and to compound matters Government shows a fondness of engaging in ‘elite projects’ such as building soccer stadiums, the Gautrain, the much hated e-tolling system, etc.
Whilst some of these serve a good cause, we are doubtful of others. Government has its priorities all wrong! How can these elite projects be a priority whilst millions of South Africans still need access to a basic thing as clean water? The priority must be to use the resources of state to deliver basic services.
May we know what vision your party has for South Africa, and how different it is from what the ANC represents today?
§ For many years, the South African economy relied on labour intensive sectors like mining, agriculture and the textile industry to provide employment opportunities for the poor.
In 1994, the ruling party inherited an economy in which the previous regime was not reluctant to intervene, albeit under separate developments. However, due to the ruling party’s misplaced confidence in globalisation and the free market system, incentives to these strategic sectors were hastily withdrawn, resulting in millions of jobs being lost.
The UDM has since its formation said that for GOVERNMENT TO DO MORE! Government has a responsibility to intervene and protect the South African economy and South African jobs when necessary. Whilst Free Market Capitalism is the best economic system developed by humanity, it is still fraught with weaknesses and failures that must be actively managed.
§ The United Democratic Movement has a consistent track-record in fighting issues on principle. An example of this courage of conviction is that the UDM took the ruling party to the Constitutional Court to challenge the floor-crossing legislation.
We bat from the anti-corruption wicket, consistently promote clean governance and respect for rule of law. The ANC does not seem to understand that by tolerating corruption and allowing its members to act as though they are above the law undermines the most fundamental promise of government: earning and keeping the trust of the people.
§ Also, the UDM is of the view that South Africa needs to move towards a mixed electoral system, that draws from the strengths of both the proportional and constituency-based electoral systems. Our people should be allowed to directly elect their president. In addition, the cabinet appointed by that president should be subjected to the scrutiny of the Parliament’s Ethics Committee before they are sworn in – this kind of vetting would have allowed President Zuma to avoid a number of potholes.
How do you market that vision to South Africans and are you considering running for the elections?
Yes the UDM will be participating in these elections and it will be for the fourth time since 1999, in fact, the seventh if you also count our municipal election campaigns across the country.
Marketing our vision is a difficult question to answer without sounding self-pitying. The UDM has from its inception expressed strong views on the need to level the political playing field, because there are certain inherent disadvantaged for opposition parties.
The current system for the funding of political parties only serves to make the heavy weights stronger and those who box in the middleweights are eventually forced to fight as featherweights.
Proportional funding does not provide for the growth of all political parties but benefits only one party and this is therefore does not foster a healthy democracy. Unfortunately the big corporates, that have democracy development programmes, apply this same model when they spend their budgets.
Other factors that contribute to this skewed landscape is the bias of the so-called “public broadcaster” and the use of the state machinery with their “communication budgets” to conveniently (on the eve of elections) remind South Africans of the “wonderful things” “they” (in other words the ANC) have done for our people. .
A party can have the best policies in the world, but if you are unable to market those, it becomes demotivating. The UDM has however never given up the good fight and every election we find the energy and courage from somewhere to hit the campaign trail hard.
It is a fact that the UDM has never had the resources to use fancy spin-doctors and launch sophisticated nationwide advertising campaigns – the party has always grown through mere word of mouth.
The advent of social media has made it easier for us to communicate with South Africans, especially the youth. Widely accessible cellphone technology makes it easier for people to access the internet and social media, but the UDM will not have the funds to drive SMS and/or email campaigns as some of the political parties are already doing.
There seems to be quite some dissentions within the ANC, the widow of Steve Biko has a party, Julius Malema has a party, is this a healthy development for democracy in South Africa?
I start off by welcoming the new kids on the block and wish Dr Ramphele and Mr Malema the best of luck; they have the same rights as any political organisation to battle this out with the rest of us.
This is an interesting dynamic in South Africa, but the proliferation of political parties is hardly a new phenomenon. It has been a common, in many democracies across the world, for aspiring politicians to establish “new political parties” on the eve of the elections – each believing they have the magic recipe to fix all.
As the Congress of the People discovered the hard way, it is not very easy to retain the imagination of voters and the jockeying for positions inside a party sometimes does more damage than good.
The UDM is on record saying that the results of the 2009 National and Provincial Elections showed that the South African electorate wants a system where two large parties, of similar strength and size, compete for the mandate to govern.
A number of political parties have been talking along those lines, but one cannot realign the South African political landscape merely for the sake of opposing the ruling party – any such “marriages of convenience” has a slight chance of succeeding.
We however have a wonderful example on home soil of such strange partnerships that works i.e. the Tripartite Alliance. Where else in the world do communists and capitalists, labour and big business, sit around the same fire? As a testimony of how difficult it is to manage such relationships, I think it has recently become a little more difficult to manage them with the labour organisations flexing their muscles.
Last question Mr Holomisa, what future do you envision for South Africa in the post Mandela era?
It seems too obvious to actually say this, be we have to constantly have to remind ourselves to stay on course.
I join all South Africans in hoping for the best and doing my part to ensure that we fulfil the original agenda – which is to improve the lives of all South Africans; to ensure that our Rainbow Nation becomes a Winning Nation where all prosper and live in dignity.
When presidents visit me, I get queried by God -Prophet TB Joshua
December 14, 2013 | 0 Comments
BY BOSEDE OLUSOLA-OBASA*
Prophet Temitope Balogun Joshua of the Synagogue Church of all Nations spoke with Bosede Olusola-Obasa on myriads of controversies surrounding his person and ministry
People say that you are very humble despite your popularity, how do you achieve this?
If you have passed through what I have passed through, you will even be more humble than I am.
Things that can make people to be humble. You just think of it. I have good health and God shows me what I would have been in terms of sickness and death; it humbles me and I want to use my good health for him. At times, God shows me how people are suffering and the thought that it could have been me keeps me humble. For instance, if I did anything wrong during this interview, when you may have left, God will caution me. If I am not humble, I will be out of track. If I was not in the house of God, I would be one of the touts in the motor parks (the Agberos)
Why is it that your ministry seems to be more popular outside Nigeria than in Nigeria?
I want to offer the same prayer for you: that God should make you more popular outside your country than in your country. Let other countries introduce you to your country. I think that is better. As it is written in the Bible, a prophet has no honour in his country. I am not an evangelist or a pastor, I am a prophet. It is the word prophet that was used in that scriptural passage, not evangelist or so. If my people had understood the work from the beginning, it could have affected the glory of God in my life today. If people understand your vision from the beginning, you may not go far. It is better they don’t, they will understand later and by then, you would have been very strong and God would have strengthened your desire. Praises and adoration can make you a local champion. Where are the people that Nigerians praised from the beginning? I can mention some – even men of God, who are no longer living today, so many founders – CAC, Cherubim and Seraphim, Church of the Lord and so on. We should get this understanding that those who were local champions in the past did not reach international recognition. Look beyond the ministry job to the secular world, was it Nigeria that introduced Prof. Wole Soyinka to the world? But when he became a Nobel Laureate, he became more powerful; when he talks, everyone wants to listen. Whereas there were some other local champions that even when they were dying, nobody took their news to CNN. They don’t know them. God has a way of raising people by throwing the image to the international community. Even the footballers that are notable became acceptable to Nigerians when they belong to international clubs. I may not be accepted by some people in Nigeria but my acceptance in the world has been announcing me to my world. When you look at the people working with me, you see that the ratio of Nigerians working with me are not more than 10 per cent.
What is the special attraction that brings heads of government to synagogue?
You have said it all, where there is demand, there is supply and in that place, there would be enough anointing to do the work. God will not allow people to go to a place where there is no supply. It is not possible. I observe that if three chairs are added to this church today, you suddenly find people filling it and if four are removed, it is just the number of people that will fill the chairs that will come. I have studied that from the beginning. Sometimes when I see some ministries printing handbills, using signboards to advertise the church, I say those things are not necessary. God is the one inviting people, if you allow him to do it, the solution to their problems will be waiting for them. But if you take it upon yourself to do the advertisement, people that God is not expecting will come along with them and there will be crisis and trouble. You just continue doing your work and leave the advert for God, then those that God didn’t invite will not come and there will be peace and tranquillity. You should not go out to start saying ‘I can heal, I can deliver.’ At synagogue, our critics are our advertisement. They are people that don’t want to hear about us. They tell other people that ‘that church is devilish;’ unknowingly, some of the people they tell get inquisitive and they will want to come here and see what a devil looks like since they haven’t seen one before. God has been using this as advertisement for us. Ninety per cent of people who come here do so in the bid to come and verify what they had heard about this church. When some of them get here, they will sit at the back, fearing that they could be hurt. Some put on dark glasses or disguise in a way that will not allow people that know them to recognise them. But before the service is over, some of them will pick up their bags and move to the front seats. They eventually become my prayer warriors. Let me tell you something that amazes me and that I always thank God for – those who are with me are more than those that are against me. They keep supporting me all over the world. I have more, more, more people around the world. Whenever I say this, tears flow from my eyes (sobs for a while). These are tears of joy. I get so sad when I hear people’s confession when their eyes become open to what God is doing here. Some say, ‘I wish I had known this, my mum would not have died. She asked me to bring her here but because of what I was hearing about this place, I refused until she died. I hope that she will forgive me.”’
Is President Goodluck Jonathan on the list of heads of government that patronise your services?
When it comes to relationship, I think he would be in the best position to answer that question. Since what we are doing is creating impact around the world, you should expect Nigeria’s president to also be part of it. We are praying for the nation and being a Christian acknowledges it. If Jonathan had been here, it would have been shown on our Emmanuel Television network. No president has ever visited this place in secret. The Bible says that if you confess me before men, I will confess you before my father in heaven. I am not a witch doctor; we have nothing to hide. If you have not read in the newspapers that your president came here, then that is that. Anytime presidents of other countries come here, Jonathan is usually aware. If he doesn’t believe in what we are doing, he would have told them that we constitute security risks.
What is your relationship with President Jonathan, Does he speak with you on phone?
Don’t rush me. Let me finish answering the last question. Now, you would answer the question yourself; have you read that he came here, have you? My sister, you have said it all. What phone call are we talking about?
How do you tell the president when you have an instruction for the nation?
I say it on the television and all over the world. I accept that is not enough; it is better to see him one on one.
But what is the essence of a president’s visit if he won’t follow what I will tell him? This kind of trend keeps staining my name. I will not mention anybody, when they leave here; they do not obey the instructions.
But what are these presidents looking for in your church?
The reason why people visit a man of God is to receive instructions, his opinion about them or their country. But if they don’t follow it, yet the whole world knows that they are close to TB Joshua, it has no benefit.
Are you saying it’s no big deal that presidents visit you?
It is no big deal. Except they obey the counsel given to them, it has no benefit. It is not something to be proud of. At least, seven presidents have visited this place since inception. But each time presidents come to this place, I get query from God. When they come around, you won’t have time to attend to other people. They will block the road with their security and at the end of the day, they won’t do what you advise them to do.
People say that your generosity is used to woo people to your church. How do you react to this?
How much will I give to the president of a nation to come here? Even when they come, I don’t get any financial gain but I incur cost because I want to ensure that they are well cared for. That is all; I even prefer to spend my time with the poor than to be with the presidents. If a president visits this place today, the whole of the day will be devoted to that visit, I would have lesser time for the poor people, who need my attention. God has been warning me over this trend so much that when some presidents said that they wanted to visit me, I said no. I said it would be better for me to visit them in their countries. Each time they visit this place, I receive query from God because of my time that should have been used to attend to the poor and the needy that are waiting for me. One soul is not superior to the other, why should I continue to receive query? Really out of three presidents that may visit, there will hardly be one that will show good example of the counsel that they received from me. If the needy are more receptive to God, it is better to give them more of my time.
Still on generosity, why do you ask people to display the items given to them live on camera, is it proper?
We do so to encourage other people to do likewise. Some of them are physically-challenged or indigent people who do not even have bank accounts, so we have to give them cash. We don’t want them to be duped, but we don’t do that often anymore.
Isn’t it a deliberate way of advertising what you are doing?
It is not so.
But we don’t see such things in other churches?
Every man of God has his own habit. Habit is a gift from God. Like Daniel, whenever he wants to pray, he will open his window, that is his habit. The disciples of Jesus prayed six times a day; that is their habit. It is not that we are showing off. When people see what we are doing, they learn how to be good givers. If you do everything privately, what will people write about? Jesus fed the 5,000 people in the open, not in secret. That is why it could be written. When the tax collectors came to him, he did not hide to say, ‘I don’t want them to see that they want to collect money from me.’ Even when he healed a man and they asked him how he did it, he asked them to go and ask the healed man.
You said God speaks to you, how does he speak to you?
Faith must first be in the heart before there could be an accepted confession. That means faith must first be in the heart before there could be an acceptance of prayer, request, talk from God. Faith is of man’s heart, which is spirit. Heart literarily means a different thing from the spirit. You use your faith to put a demand.
So, how do you get those prophecies – picture or voice?
I use my faith to place a demand. You don’t understand what I am saying. Let me put it this way, faith is a channel through which the anointing flows. That means you use your faith to put a demand and ask for whatever you want. If there is faith in your heart, you can close your eyes and make a demand that you want to know what is happening around the world and before you know it, you will see the vision. There is what you call a measure of faith – deep, deeper, deepest faith. I don’t know which level you belong. Faith grows as we hear the word and obey it. We are not all at the same level, but all things are possible to him that believes. What is possible for you may not be possible for me.
But many people see you as mystical, they think you are not a believer in Jesus Christ; that you belong to some other sect. What is the source of your power?
Your question is funny. We don’t get power, it is faith we have. The power in our life is released by faith through our mouth. The issue of getting power is wrong. We don’t talk about getting power here. If you don’t have faith, power will remain dormant. In Mark, Jesus said this kind won’t be possible but by prayer and fasting. The disciples had power but lacked faith to release it.
Coming from you directly, who are you?
Nigerians cannot tell me who I am. The percentage of my people around the world is more than those in Nigeria. I am celebrated around the world. Go on the internet, Emmanuel TV is the most watched. Forget about anybody, I don’t need to promote myself. Even Jesus could not win everybody’s soul.
Are you a Christian, do you believe in Jesus Christ?
The word Christian is a title. How do you know that those people talking believe in Jesus Christ when Christianity is a matter of the heart?
But are you a child of God…
That is what I am correcting you about; that someone said he is a Christian doesn’t mean he is. If somebody says he belongs to this or that fellowship, only God knows. It is not about confessing that I am a prophet, a pastor, only God knows who is serving him. A mango tree cannot bear coconut. What you believe radiates around you. I’m more than that kind of confession. If anyone doesn’t believe me, they would when the time comes.
But why don’t you belong to a Christian body?
Christianity is not an association. Let us talk about Christianity. I don’t celebrate religion. I am a follower of Jesus; I am a Christian, that is all I know. I will invite you to come and worship here this Sunday. I am known by my love, not by my association, so whether Pentecostal, Catholic, Charismatic, Methodist, who is serving God? I don’t judge people but people can judge me. All I know is that my persecution has been a blessing; I have been tamed by it. It has strengthened me. I am a Charismatic.
So, who anointed you into the ministry?
I have told you about faith. You know that Elijah anointed Elisha, but can you tell me who anointed Elijah? So you see God can choose to do it the way He wants. Because I don’t want to hurt you, I don’t know which circle you belong to, maybe your own pastor was anointed by a man.
Are you still very close to Pastor Chris Oyakhilome?
Please, don’t drag me into all that. I beg you.
What about the issue of Jim Iyke?
Oh please, don’t drag me into that. All I can say is that if a person needs to see a doctor, he should be free to do so. I like the young man. He has been defending himself on the internet. Is he not enjoying a better life now? Are things not working for him?
Why are all these stars always coming to your church?
Please I don’t want to talk about that.
What about your alleged link with the release of Major Al-Mustapha?
Which one are you saying again? Please spare me that. I will give you time to come back and talk on that.
You are reputed for predicting football matches correctly, how far will Nigeria go in the World Cup?
I can’t say that now. I will give PUNCH the privilege of getting my prophetic messages once they come out.
Why is it that people don’t know your family members?
I don’t expose my family. I hear people saying that I don’t have a wife and that I have no child. That is the news everywhere. You have seen my wife and this is a photograph of my daughter.
Why is it that your wife does not preach like other pastors’ wives?
My wife is a very wonderful woman. She believes in receiving her own call. She does not just want to hold microphone because her husband is a pastor.
Men of God need to take care of their children. My daughter studied Law she is doing her PhD in Harvard and she is coming back home to preach the gospel. She loves to preach.
Is your wife the one responsible for your looks?
I love to look good too; it is 50-50 anyway. She has been a great woman to me. She has been a great source of encouragement in the midst of my challenges. She is different in the sense that she said I was the one God called, so she is waiting until she is called by God to be a pastor. That is unlike what most men of God do, they believe that once they are called, their wives must be pastors too.
When are you buying your own private jet?
When one is at the airport to catch a flight, you see that many have become like Molue. They could disappoint you by saying the flight has been cancelled. Even when you eventually get on board, people keep thronging you for one reason or the other. The person serving you the meal may be someone that needs deliverance, by giving you food, she will deliver you. There was an experience I had when travelling by air for a trip of about nine hours. I was pressed but couldn’t go and ease myself because I had to queue like other people before I could use the restroom. Besides, I thought that some of those people could go to the toilet immediately after I had used it in expression of faith, so I remained glued to my seat all through the journey. That would not have been if I was flying a private jet. Or if you are a man of God that snores and they see the pastor sleeping and snoring, they will think he shouldn’t snore. Meanwhile, he is human. So a man of God should have a private jet if the situation demands it.
Who should pay for it?
If the use is for the church, the church should buy it, own it and manage it. It should not be bought in the pastor’s name. When he is no longer there, the jet remains the church’s.
Big organisations have a need for crowd management, how did you handle the stampede case in Ghana over holy water?
I know where you are going, don’t go there. Why don’t you let’s leave that please.
What inspired you to owning a football club?
It is the desire to help people realise their dreams. There are other social platforms that we use to help people.
Still on prediction of football matches, is God not too busy to talk to you about that?
The same God speaks about everything. God is aware of everything. It is all about the faith that you have; it manifests even in small things. We need to know how much we need God.
But people said you see a crystal ball that aids your predictions?
Don’t you wonder why I am the only one saying it and it is coming to pass?
What about your influence on the stool in your village in Ondo State?
Don’t drag me into that, I will not go there, maybe next time.
*Source Punch Newspaper Nigeria
Tony Elumelu: The ‘Africapitalist’ who wants to power Africa
November 17, 2013 | 4 Comments
By Earl Nurse and Jill Dougherty*
It’s the term created by Nigerian entrepreneur Tony Elumelu, one of Africa’s most successful businessmen, to describe what he believes holds the key to the continent’s future well-being.
According to Elumelu, Africapitalism is the economic philosophy “that the African private sector has the power to transform the continent through long-term investments, creating both economic prosperity and social wealth.”
Elumelu champions the idea that long-term focus on key sectors such as infrastructure and power does not only offer high returns but, in the process, can also help Africa deal with pressing problems such as unemployment and food security.
“The information people have about Africa in America and the western world is one of aid, one of squalor, one of poverty, one of religious crisis,” says Elumelu, who first found success after turning a struggling Nigerian bank into a global financial institution. “They need to begin to see that Africa is a continent of economic opportunities — a lot of potential and the returns on investment in Africa is huge.”
Backing his words with actions, Elumelu, the former chief executive of the United Bank for Africa, who went on to create investment company Heirs Holdings in 2010, has pledged $2.5 billion to U.S. President Barack Obama’s“Power Africa” initiative — a campaign aiming to double access to electricity in sub-Saharan Africa.
CNN’s African Voices spoke to Elumelu about Africapitalism, doing business in Africa and his goals for the future. An excerpt of the interview follows.
CNN: What is Africapitalism and how does it work?
Tony Elumelu: From interacting with customers, with communities, with local governments, state governments and national governments, I started to see a pattern that indeed we can as a private sector help to develop Africa in a manner that’s truly sustainable. I also, as a good student of economic history, have observed the development of the African continent and come to realize that despite all the aid inflows into Africa and despite our sovereign government commitment to develop in the continent, not much was achieved.
But … if we can mobilize the African private sector and non-African private sector operating in Africa to think long-term, to invest long-term in Africa in key sectors, then we might end up creating economic wealth, economic prosperity and social wealth. That is Africapitalism.
CNN: Which areas does the private sector in Africa focus on?
TE: The private sector in Africa was largely dependent on government patronage, government contracts. But today, it has changed significantly. You have the private sector in Africa today that is adding real value to the economy through engagements in payment systems; through engagement in key infrastructure projects; through engagement in manufacturing and processing of raw materials in Africa and exporting this within the continent.
So it’s a significant shift from where the private sector was before to where it is today and we’re beginning to see a new crop of private sector people in Africa who believe under the sun that they have a role to play in the development of the continent.
CNN: Why did Heirs Holding decided to commit $2.5 billion to the “Power Africa” initiative?
TE: Because we understand as Africapitalists the importance of power, access to electricity, in unleashing the economic potential of Africa. Because of that, we felt since we preach that the private sector should do long-term investment in Africa in key sectors, there is no sector at this point in time to us that is as strategic as power sector in dealing with the issue of economic empowerment, democratization of economic prosperity across the continent than power.
CNN: Looking ahead, what do you think is going to be the most important source of power?
TE: Africa is coming from a deficit position — only 20% of 1.2 billion people have access to electricity. So we need to think of the kind of projects that will help us create the quantum leap we need in power. And I think that that is what should guide the options that we take.
So for me, I believe that we need five years of sustained, massive billion dollar investments (in the) power sector in Africa before we come to the level where we need to discriminate, is it this kind of power or that type of power? But let there be light first in Africa.
CNN: What are your goals for the future?
TE: My goals for the future are twofold — one is personal and two is about the continent. For my personal goal I would like to continue to impact my team. Because you get to a certain level where you wake up in the morning not necessarily because you want to earn a living — you wake up in the morning I think about impact, about legacies, what impact am I going to leave behind?
And so I decide to look at the African continent and I tell myself this is a continent that is about to explode but lacks certain vital ingredients. And so what role can I play in making sure that some of those challenges are addressed in my lifetime, so that my children will not as a kind of question I asked of my parents and grandparents, where were they when the war started?
So that’s important to me. And that is why we invest in power. Not just because I want to make more money, which is good, but because we touch lives significantly making that money.
Africa: Madjer – Algeria, Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana and Nigeria Will Qualify
November 13, 2013 | 0 Comments
At age 54, Rabah Madjer has not changed much physically and his enthusiasm remains same. His goal against Germany at the 1982 FIFA World Cup in Spain and his decisive back-heel in the European Champion Clubs’ Cup (now UEFA Champions League) in 1987 with FC Porto against Bayern Munich has earned him legendary status. He made 87 appearances with the Algeria national teams.
Ahead of the return matches of the 2014 FIFA World Cup playoffs, Madjer talks to Cafonline.com about the chances of the contenders. Below are excerpts;
You are now a consultant for the gulf-based television channel, Al Jazeera, but that has still not prevented you from following football?
I played with the Algeria national team for over 10-years, appeared in two World Cups (1982 and 1986), won the Africa Cup of Nations in 1990 and the UEFA Champions League (formerly European Champion Clubs’ Cup) in 1987. I also had stints as a coach. In all these, the virus never leaves you. I continue to monitor the game including those of the Algeria national team and other leagues. I’m always connected to the world of football.
Have you been following the World Cup playoffs?
Yes, especially the Burkina Faso and Algeria game because it involves the national team of my country. From the bottom of my heart, it is my wish to see Algeria at next year’s World Cup, but there’s still 90 minutes to play for.
From a technical point, what do you make of the first leg which ended 2-2?
I have always refrained from passing comments on technical aspects. The Algerians had the kind of game they wanted and have to prepare psychologically for the return leg.
Do you think the two away goals is an advantage for Algeria?
I think Algeria has the means to score, not one but more. The attack of the Algerian team has been effective recently, which is evident in the team scoring away from home. This is the most important aspect in my opinion about the team.
Away from Algeria, what of the Tunisia and Cameroon game after the first leg ended 0-0?
cannot hide that as my wish is to see neighbours Tunisia qualifying for the World Cup. But the return leg in Yaounde will be very difficult. Cameroon are very strong at home and with Tunisia failing to win at home, the mission looks tough.
Many are of the opinion that the draw is a fair result for either side, Tunisia or Cameroon?
Cameroon is a great team and to achieve a draw outside, I think that’s half a victory for the Indomitable Lions. It is always positive to get a draw especially when it comes to a double confrontation. The Tunisians will find it difficult to adapt to the climatic conditions in Cameroon. It will be a benefit for the Indomitable Lions.
Another North African team, Egypt lost 6-1 to Ghana. Do you foresee a miracle in Cairo?
We can talk about a surprise but by the magnitude of the score seems unthinkable. Egypt though remains one of the great football teams on the continent. They have a good team but the mission is almost impossible. Beating Ghana, currently the best team on the continent 5-0 is not obvious. Even if they score two or three goals, it will be a big performance.
African champions, Nigeria won 2-1 against Ethiopia in Addis Ababa. Are the Super Eagles already in Brazil?
In view of its success in Ethiopia, the second leg will be a mere formality for Nigeria, also one of the greatest football nations on the continent. This is a team that has always been a danger to opponents. Ethiopia has made tremendous progress in recent years, but in my opinion it is not enough. Nigerian players are superior and Stephen Keshi has done a great job to bring his team to the top.
Cote d’Ivoire beat Senegal 3-1 in Abidjan. Are the Elephants through?
This is no longer the Senegal we know. The mission of the Teranga Lions is extremely complicated. I see very little of Senegal beating Cote d’Ivoire 2-0 with all the Ivorian armada.
What do you make of the recent call by FIFA President Sepp Blatter for an increase in African slots at the World Cup?
It would be a very good thing for our football. In Africa, football has grown and you can see that every day. This is also the case for Asian football. The World Cup is a prestigious platform featuring the best teams in the world and it is always a pleasure for me to see African nations there.
What are your five African teams to go through to the 2014 FIFA World Cup?
I hope Algeria will and it has the potential to do so. Though it is my wish to see Tunisia through, I believe Cameroon will eventually snatch the ticket to Brazil. In principle Ghana, Nigeria and Cote d’Ivoire should have no problem confirming their tickets.
Is Africa About To Get It Right on Infrastructure?
November 5, 2013 | 0 Comments
ADB targets USD 500 million for Project Development vehicle of Africa50
By Ajong Mbapndah L
Africa5o the continents newest and most innovative infrastructure delivery vehicle is off to a promising start following the recent launch of its fundraising drive at NASDAQ. USD 5oo million is the amount on target by the African Development Bank, ADB, for the project development of Africa50 which will focus on regional and national projects of strategic importance to Africa. Sponsored by the Made in Africa Foundation (MIAF) of Ozwald Boateng, the choice of NASDAQ was to attract interest from investors says Neside Tas Anvaripour, Director of Business Development at the ADB and Team Leader for Africa50. “Africa50 embodies Africa’s promise for sustained growth and prosperity,” said Tas of the project which will be Africa’s largest infrastructure delivery vehicle created so far. The alliance between MIAF and AfDB aims to raise up to USD 500 million for Africa50’s project development arm by the first half of 2014.In an interview with Ajong Mbapndah L, Tas Anvaripour sheds more light on Africa50, the attractive returns it will provide to investors .
The African Development Bank and Made in Africa Foundation officially launched the fundraising for Africa50’s Project Development Vehicle at the Nasdaq headquarters, how did this go and why the choice of Nasdaq and New York?
The event was a positive development in our establishment efforts, as it promoted Africa50’s Project Development Vehicle. The Bank is targeting to raise up to USD 500 million for the Project Development vehicle of Africa50, Africa’s newest and most innovative infrastructure delivery vehicle, to develop regional and national projects of strategic importance for Africa. For us, it was important to launch these efforts in a location that could attract significant interest from investors. As for NASDAQ, we opted for this choice because Africa50 is a commercial vehicle offering attractive returns to investors. NASDAQ conveys this message like few other places.
Who were those who took part at the Fundraiser and what did it come up with, any positive signs?
The event was sponsored by Made in Africa Foundation. We welcome the increasing interest to fuel Africa’s growth. In addition, the event received interest and support from globally recognized names such as: Capri Capital, Huffington Post, Double Click, Heirs Holdings, Tony Elumelu Foundation, and Gilt Group, through a working luncheon hosted immediately after our appearance at NASDAQ by Arthur Sulzberger, Publisher of the New York Times. Personally, I think that attracting mainstream interest into Africa50 is the real sign of success for the events in New York
It certainly should not come to you as a surprise that many people may have heard about the Africa 50 project for the first time because of that launching and many others may not never have heard about it at all, what is the Africa 50 Project?
Africa50 embodies Africa’s promise for sustained growth and prosperity. Through Africa50, we will be developing and financing the infrastructure backbone that is needed in the continent. Through better infrastructure, African countries will increase their global competitiveness, reducing the costs of doing business and accelerating the speed of delivery for goods and services. But, perhaps most notable is the fact that through better infrastructure, which includes power, transport, ICT, as well as water and sanitation projects, Africa can achieve regional integration, thereby growing the size of its internal market at the same time as the current historical expansion of the continent’s middle class. Africa50 is an independent structured credit vehicle able to deliver innovative financing to support transformational infrastructure.
If we understand well, it is a partnership between some private sector groups and the AFDB, who does what, who is responsible for what and what criteria, is going to be used in identifying priority projects?
African Development Bank is the sponsor and seed investor of Africa50. We are currently discussing the participation of several different governments, institutional investors, private companies, and impact investors into Africa50’s founder’s equity base. However, we cannot yet announce specifically who else is part of this initiative. What we can say is that African Development Bank is receiving overwhelming support from Africa, as well as from the rest of the world to set-up Africa50.
The goal is to raise $ 500 million for Africa50’s project development arm by the first half of 2014, how is this amount going to be raised?
Africa50’s $500 million for Project Development is being raised through a combination of commercial investors, impact investors, and bilateral donors. African Development Bank will provide seed capital. At the moment, we are finalizing the specific structure that would maximize the investment level.
At what point should people expect to see the first project accruing from this initiative?
Although we are being described as overly ambitious, my experience in the market reveals that we will have a minimum of two critical investments – be that through Africa50’s Project Development or Project Finance Vehicles – in the first half of 2014. In essence, the market should expect a fast turnaround between establishment and project delivery because speed and efficiency are paramount to Africa50.
To skeptics who will complain that there have heard about lofty promises from the trans-continental road projects, to the huge expectations from NEPAD etc, how do you reassure them that the Africa 50 Project is different?
We have done this before. Between 2009 and 2011, African Development Bank delivered four large infrastructure projects in Senegal that were unthinkable until we came into reality. By investing EUR 185 million, African Development Bank catalyzed over EUR 1.3 billion in total investment in the country, in two years, thereby giving rise to an integrated approach that solidified one of Africa’s most important infrastructure backbones. Through Dakar Airport, Senegal is opening new doors for global investment into the country. The Sendou Power Plant is providing the electricity needed for the airport, as well as for about additional 40% of the country’s population. By investing in the Dakar Toll Road, the airport and the power plant are efficiently connected to the City of Dakar. But, of course, all this wouldn’t be possible without the raw materials –including the coal supplies for the power plant—arriving into Senegal through the expansion of the Dakar Port. Simply put, we have the experience, track-record, and stakeholder’s trust and confidence to enable the successful roll-out of Africa50 into Africa’s infrastructure market.
Everyone will agree infrastructure is an issue, what are some of the other areas that the African Development is putting its focus on?
Agriculture, health and education are also critically important for Africa’s development. By investing in infrastructure, we seek to support other institutional efforts in these key areas. By leveling the playing field by which farmers can bring their products to markets, by shortening distances between health centers and health consumers, and by developing the jobs and industry demanded by graduates, infrastructure holds the promise to continued growth and stability in Africa.
From a personal perspective, there seems to be growing attention from the rest of the world on Africa and its opportunities, what does Africa need to do to reap premium dividends from the attention ?
To translate this interest into higher levels of investment, Africa ought to design and establish the missing investment products and services (i.e. tenor extension, first loss guarantees, credit enhancement, exit options, etc.) while, at the same time, ring-fencing the prospects for healthy returns. This is achieved through an improved enabling environment, a sustained reform effort, and innovative vehicles such as Africa50.
EXPLOSIVE: What Obasanjo Told Me About Third Term — Atiku
November 3, 2013 | 0 Comments
Atiku Abubakar can conveniently be regarded as the proverbial cat with nine lives because the story of his life offers a lot of lessons; starting from a humble background to becoming the Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Atiku was the only child of his parents; he neither had a brother nor sister. His father died when he was still in primary school, after he was imprisoned for not allowing his son to go back to school after he visited them. Atiku began feeding his mother since he was a primary school pupil out of his proceeds from cattle rearing. That was how he started his life. He joined the Customs service, was made the Turaki of Adamawa, and was also elected the Governor of Adamawa state.
He could not however assume the mantle of leadership as governor because he was eventually chosen to be the running mate to Olusegun Obasanjo in the 1999 election. He later had a serious political fight with Obasanjo, ran for the office of the president twice and is also a prolific businessman.
In this interview held in his Abuja home with a team of journalists from RARIYA, a Hausa newspaper based in Abuja, Turaki, as he is fondly called, revealed a lot about himself, including his widely publicised ‘feud’ with Obasanjo and the situation of things in the ‘new PDP’.
Excerpts of the interview was translated by PREMIUM TIMES‘ Sani Tukur, with permission from RARIYA.
Q. Can you give us a brief history of your life?
A. Let me first begin by welcoming you all. And secondly, since this is the first time we are sitting together, let me use this opportunity to commend you for setting upRARIYA Hausa newspaper which will enable a lot of our people especially in the north to know what is going on in the land and our relationships with the outside world. We commend you very well, and pray that God grant you success. I know about media business very well, it is not a business in which you even make even, not to talk of making profits. So, only God can reward those of you that have decided to put in your time and resources in this venture. May God reward you abundantly.
My history is well known by most people, but briefly speaking; I am from Adamawa state. I was born in Jada about sixty-six years ago. I started my primary education in Jada before I proceeded to Yola Province College. From there, I went to the School for Hygiene Kano and then finally to the Ahmadu Bello university Zaria, where I studied law. I then joined the Customs in 1969.
I held several positions in the Customs. In fact, at a point I was the youngest Customs Comptroller for the Southwest including Ibadan and Kwara. I gained lot of promotions within a short space of time until I attained the highest rank. I left the customs service on 20th April, 1989. From there I ventured into business where I later on met with General Shehu Musa Yar’adua, and we went into politics and set up a political organisation known as the PFM with a view to getting registration as a political party.
But as you all know, no political party or organisation was registered at the time. Instead, two parties; namely; SDP and NRC were registered. Those of us with General Yar’Adua joined the SDP. We struggled very well in the party where I had wanted to become the governor of Gongola state then. I won the election, but the government of Babangida cancelled the elections. Nine of us were eventually banned from participating in the subsequent election.
We did not stop politicking up till the time Babangida left power. Our first major political battle with the late Gen. Yar’adua was fighting the military to leave power and restore democracy to Nigeria. That was the reason we were in politics. We did not get into politics to get into positions of power.
Honestly, we really suffered in the course of the struggles. Late Yar’Adua once called us together and informed us that ‘what you people are doing is not a minor thing; it may take us up to ten, thirty or forty years without success. So any of us that was in hurry was advised to stay aside. Incidentally, we succeeded in sending the military away, but God did not allow him to see democracy take root in the land.
After that came the government of General Abacha. He invited our organisation to join his government, I remember we met with them at Ikoyi in Lagos at the time; we told them we would only join the government if they showed us the plans put in place to return the country to democratic rule. They did not like it.
Q. Was General Shehu Yar’Adua alive then?
A. Yes, he was alive. That was why no one from our organisation joined the government. He subsequently said there would be a constitutional conference for Nigeria. We also met over that and debated whether to join or stay away. We eventually resolved to participate, because we can use that to force him out of power. About 70% of members of the conference which held here in Abuja, were our people.
The conference thereafter gave Abacha up to January 1st 1996, to leave office. He was so angry with that decision and that was the reason why Yar’adua was arrested and jailed. As for me, they followed me to my house in Kaduna and tried to kill me, but they were unsuccessful. They however killed eight people, six of them policemen, while the other two were security guards. I eventually escaped to the USA.
I don’t know what happened afterwards, and Abacha suddenly asked me to come back to Nigeria. He was planning to run for election at the time. But I asked him to give me the guarantee that I would not be killed or arrested. When I returned, I went to see him and he asked me to work for him because he said he understood I had acceptance in both the North and Southern part of the country. He therefore wanted me to help him campaign to win election.
I told him that I needed to go back to my state and consult with my people. He then asked me what I wanted; minister or governor; but I insisted that I needed to go and consult with my supporters. He told me that he had already discussed with my father-in-law, the Lamido Adamawa, and the Lamido really wanted me to go back and be the governor. But, I told him that there was no way for me to go and become the governor because primaries had already been held and they have even started campaigning.
They told me not to worry about that; all they needed was for me to go back to my state. Upon my return, I saw that all the party’s executive were sacked, that’s for UNCP, the governorship candidate was also sacked, and an interim chairman of the party was already appointed. I met him at the airport waiting for me, and I told him ‘Yes I am the candidate’. I then immediately went into consultations; my supporters said ‘this government attempted to kill you in the past, and it is the same government that is now inviting you to run for office, we your supporters have agreed’. As God would have it, Abacha died the very day we started our campaigns. Abdulsalami became the head of state and when he announced the time table for return to democratic rule; we set up the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. I was one of the few people from my state who set up the party.
I again ran for governor and won the primaries, and then the general election followed. Later on, General Obasanjo asked me to come and run with his as his running mate. That was how I became the Vice president and worked with Obasanjo up to the time God said we should go our separate ways.
After that, sometime in the past, I was forcefully kicked out of the PDP, and we went to set up the AC. After that, I went back to the PDP, before we are now engaged in fresh controversy of the new and old PDP
Q. What is going on now?
A. You know the PDP is not being run on its initial philosophy. There is no internal democracy in the party at the moment. Secondly, since the time of Obasanjo, the party has been used dictatorially; no rules, no truth, no righteousness. What we have now is just selfishness. That is the situation we are in now.
Q. Many people view you as someone born with a silver spoon, or did you also face challenges growing up in the village?
A. The truth is, I was an only child. I had no sibling. My father died even before I completed primary school, and I was raised by my mother; and you know women were not engaged in any serious commercial venture at the time. I was therefore responsible for fending for her, at a very young age..
Q. How old were you?
A. I was around 9 or 10 years then. We had a very wealthy neighbour. At times, I take his cattle for grazing when I return from school. He then used to pay me with either wheat or something and that was what I would take to my mother and grand mother for them to cook for us. We sometimes eat twice or once a day. This started even before I enrolled into school. At the time, they used to go round and pick children and enroll them by force. When they came for me, my father took me and ran away with me up to Cameroun republic. They hid me in a particular village, but we also met the same situation there; children were being forced to school by the government.
So he took me back to my grandmother. I was concealed behind a door the day the people came back for me, but my mother’s younger brother brought me out, and took me to the residence of the village head where I was registered. That was how I got enrolled into formal education. After I started schooling and I was even in class three, I decided to visit my father and see how he was doing. However, immediately I arrived, he told me that I was not going back because he never wanted me to enroll. He said he preferred that I commence Quoranic school and there was cattle rearing and farming to do.
Our headmaster in Jada then reported my father to the Judge. A police guard was then given a summons for my father. They used to come along with a particular stick, which was serving as the writ of summons at the time. He took it to the ward head that also promptly summoned my father. My father was informed that we were being arrested. The guard took us to Jada; we were taken to the court, and the judge told my father you have broken the law by refusing to allow your son go back to school. He therefore sentenced him to either go to prison or pay a fine of ten shillings. My father said he had no ten shillings, and he was taken to prison. My grandmother eventually hustled and got the ten shillings and paid the fine. My father was eventually released and he went back to the village. Unfortunately, I did not get to see him again until I received the sad news of his death.
That was how I continued with my studies and completed primary school. At the time, there was only one examination, that’s common entrance exams that was written; those who came first, second or third are taken to either Zaria or Keffi colleges. The rest up to 10th position went to Provincial College. The others are then taken to various vocational schools. After graduating, they were then given a start up capital. Honestly, I prefer this method of education, not what we have now.
Q. You have set up a form of reunion with your children, why did you adopt this measure?
A. Honestly, there were many reasons why I started the reunion. It is not popular in this part of the world. God has blessed me with wealth and many children; more than twenty, including those I adopted. And as you know, as Islam permits, I have more than one wife, so my children have different mothers. So the essence of the reunion is to entrench unity in the family. Secondly, it affords them to know and understand each other, and thirdly to pity each other. Fourthly not to tarnish the image of the descendants of the family, and fifthly, I am engaged in a lot of commercial activities. So I take the time to explain the details of my business engagements to them.
And I always advised them not to look at what I have, but each of them should go and fend for himself. I also advise them to pay attention to their studies.
I have companies in countries such as Turkey and many others, so I don’t want these companies to fold up after I am dead. I wanted these companies to continue to exist, until their children also take over from them. I also tell them to know that most global companies were started by one person, but those who came after them such as their wives and children did not allow them to die. That is why things are still developing.
In fact, I even brought in a professor from Europe who specialised in family matters to come in and deliver lecture for us.
I also let them know that I am a Muslim, so after my death, they will have to share inheritance based on Islamic injunction. However, I advised them that everyone must allow whatever they are given in a company to continue to exist. They should just get whatever is due to them at the end of each year. I don’t want what I build to be destroyed. That is the reason for our meeting, and it is very important. Now we have a family assembly and rules and regulations for my whole family. We set up the Assembly by picking one male and one female from each ‘room’.
Q. In spite of the fact that the Lamido Adamawa was just your father-in-law; you appeared to be much closer. Since when did he start treating you like his own son?
A. Our relationship started a long time ago, I think around 1980. But you know I was made Turaki of Adamawa in 1982, and my marriage to his daughter also took place on the same day.
Q. Adamawa state has a lot of educated people; but God has elevated you from that state, how did you survive the struggles in the state?
A. Honestly, these struggles are not good; because many felt why should it be me, who is far younger than them that will overtake them and be elevated. You know relationships among the Fulani is difficult. Honestly, they struggle against almost every prominent person in the state. As for me I never harbour any ill feeling towards anyone; I believe that is why God protected me and gave me victory; that is why up to now, no one has succeeded against me.
Q. You are indeed successful in politics and commerce; how did you venture into business?
A. When I joined the Customs Service, I spent most of my time in the South, and if you look critically, you will realise that Customs work is just like business. The European that thought us the job did not teach us how to arrest people; they told us that the duty of the Customs is promote economic development of the country. So if one is found to illegally import materials into the country; you are to be fined either once or twice or even three times, but not to confiscate the goods.
That was why I was getting a lot of revenue for the government wherever I worked. I never regard Customs work as that of confiscating people’s goods or mistreating them. You know whoever pays a heavy fine would not want to import goods illegally again. That was actually how I cut my teeth in business.
Q. you have set up many companies. Which of them do you like the most and is also benefitting you most?
A There is a company called Intels; which we set up with a European partner of mine when we realised that oil and gas business is the main economic activity in Nigeria for a long time. We actually started the company from a container, but it is over 25 years old now. We just celebrated our Silver jubilee anniversary. It has expanded very well. We now have branches in Angola and Mozambique, and we will soon get into South Africa. We are also going to build the biggest port in Nigeria, Badagry, Lagos state, very soon.
Q. You are the first northerner to set up a university, can you briefly tell us some of the challenges you are facing?
A. Well as you know, education is the most important thing in the life of any individual. I attended the meeting of former students of Unity Colleges two days ago, and I told them education is the most important sector in our life today. Whoever thinks that he has arrived simply because he has oil or gold and other mineral resources, should realize those resources will finish one day. In fact, even farming, if we are not careful, in twenty or thirty years, one can look for a land to farm and would not get. Nothing will get us out of poverty and the rest other than education.
I even gave example of many countries that have no farmlands, no oil, and no any form of natural resources, yet they are ahead in terms of development. Look at Japan, look at Singapore; they just concentrated on education. Imagine if my father had succeeded in stopping me from going to school, I would still have been engaged in cattle rearing or still at the village; but look at what education has done for me.
Q. Like how many people are working in your companies?
A. Actually they are many, because even between Port Harcourt, Warri and Lagos, we have over fifty thousand employees. Not to talk of those in Faro, University and Gotel Communications. In fact we are the only producers of recharge cards in the north. Very soon, we are going to commission a company that will produce animal feeds, the first in the north. We will build three in different parts of the north.
Q. Considering the number of companies you own, how comes your name was never mention in the list of richest Africans?
A. It is because I am not among the richest people in Africa and my companies are not quoted on the stock exchange, like the way Aliko did. That is why not many people know what I have.
Q. Can you tell us the estimate of how much you spend to run the University each month?
A. I have already mentioned it; I said around four hundred million each month
Q. Is it profitable?
A. It is not, may be after until after ten or fifteen years, then one can sit down and cross check. Yet, people are still criticizing us saying the tuition fee is high. But if you look at the students there and the vehicles their parents bought for them; you realise that it is ten times higher than the tuition fee.
Q. Why do you allow them to buy the cars for them?
A. What can we do to them? It’s a university, most of them are grown ups; between 18 to 20 years. His father bought a car for him and we say he cannot drive? You know it is an American School, and they have their own ways of doing things.
Q. You have earlier explained that you got into politics not necessarily to get into positions of authority, and you said late Shehu Yar’adua drafted you into politics, or did you already have plans to be a politician?
A. I think both because, when I was at ABU, I was into student politics. I stood for election and even won. I started work and he saw how I was relating with the people and the rest; that was why he called me one day and said ‘I see that you relate well with people, can we do politics together’?
Q. What did you run for at ABU?
A. Deputy Secretary General. Late Dahiru Mohammed Deba, the former governor of Bauchi state was the secretary general, and I was his vice.
Q. We would like to know how former President Obasanjo asked you to be his running mate, seeing that there were many prominent persons angling for the slot.
A. After the primary in Jos, and I was preparing to go back to Adamawa and run for governor, I was told that he wanted to see me in Abuja. So instead of going back to Yola, I went back to Abuja, and on reaching Abuja, he told me he wanted me to be his running mate, and asked if I was willing to? I thought over it and said ‘I am willing’. He then said we should go back to Jos, and inform Solomon Lar. But I said we should go with some other persons, otherwise Solomon Lar would think that I asked to be nominated. At the time, he wanted late Abubakar Rimi to be the running mate. At the same time, Mallam Adamu Ciroma, Ango Abdullahi and Bamanga Tukur and Professor Jibril Aminu, all wanted to be the running mate. Obasanjo then asked some people to follow me to Jos to inform Solomon Lar, and that was what we did.
Q. You said, you thought a little over it, why did you chose to be VP instead of governor?
A. I was convinced because he showed me that he was not a politician and I was a politician and he needed my help. That was what convinced me. Even now people keep telling me you have done this and that, what did you regret being unable to do, and my response is always that I regret not being the governor of Adamawa state.
Q. Have you ever regretted being Vice President?
A. No. I never regretted being vice president
Q. In other climes, one can become a Vice president and still go back and be a governor. What were those things you had wanted to achieve in Adamawa that has not been achieved up to now?
A. Honestly, if I had served as a governor in Adamawa, I would have used it as a model for development. Many states would have come to us and learn how to achieve what we have done. Even as a private citizen my investments in the state is drawing people from South Africa, Cameroun and Rwanda, their students are in Adamawa.
Q. But it can be argued that you were like a governor since Boni was the governor?
A. You know the Fulani tradition when it comes to governance is such that when you get your son into position of authority, you are not expected to interfere in his affairs. If he looked for you, you can come, but if he doesn’t; you just have to keep your distance. Boni has never aksed me to nominate even a Commissioner; He is alive; and I have never opened my mouth to ask him to give me a commissioner slot. In fact there was a time my party wrote a letter to him and copied me, in which they were requesting for a slot for a sole administrator for my local government. I called him and told him that my party had written to him and copied me requesting for a nomination for my local government; and he reacted angrily asking what my business was with local government that I would even talk to him. I begged for his forgiveness. So in terms of governance, one cannot be confident of getting his way simply because he had helped a person to office.
Q. And your younger brother became the President, that’s Umaru Yar’adua, was it also like that with him?
A. It was like that. After he was confirmed as the presidential candidate, he came to my house and saw me. I was the vice president, and he told me that now that I have been nominated, I need your help sir. I told him that we came from the same house, but in terms of running for office of the president, we can all run, whoever is successful among us, glory be to Allah. But I told him to know that if not because I fought Obasanjo’s third term ambition, he (Umaru) would not have been a presidential candidate. He acknowledged that, and I said best of luck to us all.
Q. But did he seek for your advice when he became the president?
A. God bless his soul, but when he became the president, I even tried to rejoin the PDP, but I was denied on the assumption that I would clash with him. He was advised to only allow me return if he wins reelection.
Q. You spoke about your disagreement with former President Obasanjo, but at the end of the day, you agreed to support his second term bid, and there were reports he knelt down and begged you. Did he really bend down to beg you or just spoke the words?
A, Honestly, he did not kneel down for me. But he did come to my house and I refused to see him. And he knocked my door continuously and asked me in the name of God to come out, so I came out, and we went downstairs, and he asked me to join him in his car and I said, no, because of security reasons, but he insisted. So when we entered his car, I never knew that he had gone round states pavilions and asking for the support of governors and delegates and they refused to listen to him because they have not seen us together. So that was why he came and picked me up so that we would go round together. There is something that many people did not know before, which I will tell you now.
We sat with party elders and discussed the issue of Presidency and there was debate as to whether the South will have 8 or 4 years? If the South had 8 years, so the north too should have 8 years subsequently. After lots of debates, it was finally agreed that the South should have 8 years. And when power returns to the north, they should also have it for 8 years. However, governors objected to this arrangement. I was then in a dilemma; is the governors’ objection genuine or just a political gimmick. What if I followed them to run against the president and they later on turn their back on me and align with the president? At the end of the day, one would neither be a vice president or a president because politics is a slippery game.
Q. During your second term in office, a top government official at the presidency reportedly ‘lock you and president Obasanjo’ in a room and asked you to settle your differences before you come out? Is it true? What did you discuss in the room?
A. At first we started arguing, and then he opened his drawer and brought out a copy of the Quran and asked me to swear that I will not be disloyal to him. There was nothing I did not tell him in that room. The first thing I told him was that I swore with the Quran to defend the Constitution of Nigeria. Why are you now giving me the Quran to swear for you again? What if I swear for you and you went against the constitution?
Secondly, I looked at him and told him that if I don’t like you or don’t support you, would I have called 19 northern governors to meet for three days in my House in Kaduna only for us to turn our back on you?
Thirdly, I asked him, what are you even doing with the Quran? Are you a Muslim that you would even administer an oath on me with the Quran? I was angry, and I really blasted him. He asked me to forgive him and he returned the Quran back to the drawer, and we came out. In fact we had the same kind of altercation when he was gunning for third term, he informed me that “ I left power twenty years ago, I left Mubarak in office, I left Mugabe in office, I left Eyadema in office, I left Umar Bongo, and even Paul Biya and I came back and they are still in power; and I just did 8 years and you are asking me to go; why?” And I responded to him by telling him that Nigeria is not Libya, not Egypt, not Cameroun, and not Togo; I said you must leave; even if it means both of us lose out, but you cannot stay.
Q. You were the most powerful Vice president compared to others who held the office in the past, what was responsible for that?
A. He allowed me, and he understood some things because he was not a politician, and he needed the support of politicians.
Q. Are you relating seriously with General Buhari, do you call him on phone?
A. We speak a lot, and whenever the need arises for me to go and see him, I do go and see him. I do go to pay condolences and the like.
Q. And politically?
A. If you have not forgotten, during the 2011 election, after they said me and General Babangida have lost out, myself, Mallam Adamu Ciroma and General Aliyu Gusau, under the leadership of General Babangida, held a special meeting in which we invited General Buhari, Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau and Nuhu Ribadu and advised them to form an alliance so that we would help them win election, but they failed to form the alliance, and after they failed, I sent my contribution to General Buhari. So I don’t have any problem with General Buhari at all.
Q. Something happened recently, which confused a lot of people, in which you led a withdrawal of a number of governors from the venue of the PDP convention, which was live on TV. Was it pre planned? Or it was just arranged at the convention venue?
A. We have been planning for some time because we have spent almost four months planning how to split the PDP.
Q. Who is the arrowhead?
A. At first I don’t know the arrowhead, but they eventually came and met me and I joined them because their reasons are the same with the ones I have been fighting against within the party; lack of fairness, honesty and tyranny. If I can fight the military to restore democracy, why can’t I fight fellow politicians?
Q. But the president did not come out to say he will run.
A. He did since he said he has the right to run. What else is remaining?
Q. On the other hand, Buhari also has supporters just like you do; and he has not come out to say whether he is running or not. Are you planning to run in 2015?
A. Why are you in hurry, don’t worry, now is not yet the time for you to know.
Q. What measures are you planning next, since the courts have declared your faction illegal?
A. We have appealed; and we are planning seriously, you will see what will happen
Q. Is the PDM part of your plans or not
A. I don’t know what the plans of the PDM are because I am not a member.
*Source Premium Times
Africa Can Be a Strategic Partner in the Global Market of Natural Gas
November 3, 2013 | 1 Comments
By Ajong Mbapndah L
Launched recently in Nairobi, the Africa Gas Association –TAGA has resuscitated the interest in a resource whose optimal exploitation could have profound changes in the fortunes of the continent. Anne Etoke, Managing Director for West Africa, one of those who worked closely with TAGA CEO Pam Namai towards the launching, says the Association is determined to build on the big success of the conference to market the potential that Africa has and to help draw investors to the continent. With close to a hundred participants in attendance, the launching provided a platform for networking among Africans and foreign partners. TAGA will join with partners and other stake holders in advocating for natural gas as a resource and making Africa take a strategic role in the global market Etoke said in an interview with PAV.
You were recently in Nairobi for the Africa Gas Association (TAGA) inaugural event how it did and what were some of the highlights?
The inaugural Event of the Africa Gas Association in Nairobi Kenya Oct 14th -15th was a huge success. The CEO of the Africa Gas Association (TAGA) Pam Namai and her team did terrific work to ensure that the event ran smoothly. We were honored to have the presence and participation of government officials like Ms Anna Othoro, Minister of Trade, Industrialization, Co-operative Development and Tourism for Nairobi County and Honorable Dr. Richard Ekai, Principal Secretary Ministry of Mining Kenya whose keynote address opened the plenary session. The two day event provided ample networking and, investment opportunities and more. We also had very insightful presentations and discussions from professionals from Africa and other parts of the world.
How was the turn out, where did participants come from and how representative were there in terms of covering the entire continent?
The event had over 90 participants from the public and private sector. These participants came from more than 10 countries to discuss the importance of natural gas, the opportunities it presents and challenges faced by African countries. In addition to participants from African countries, we also had people from countries like the UK, Norway, and the USA. You can expect that with the kind of ground work and outreach we are doing, subsequent forums will have a bigger audience and broader representation. For a start we can say the launching exceeded expectations.
On the Africa gas Association, what is it all about, what is its mission?
The Africa Gas Association is a Trade Association. It advocates for natural gas as a resource and is leading the way for a clean, secure, and domestic energy future for Africa. With the potential that the continent has, TAGA seeks to place Africa as a strategic player in the global gas market. Though a young Association, TAGA believes in playing a role in using natural gas as a resource to power local communities and improve the lives of millions of Africans. This kind of advocacy we believe will help in addressing problems from infrastructure, to local training, safety, better management and the building of sustainable partnerships in helping Africa make the best from a vital resource for the development and wellbeing of its people.
How is the membership of the organization? Who is eligible to join?
The membership of the Association is open and growing. For interested people or companies, there are several merits that come with joining TAGA. Your membership of TAGA brings you closer to a community of thousands of leaders within the continent and beyond. Our members are provided with opportunities to network at various settings and events, get exposure and benefit from the expertise of real professionals.
.The Africa Gas Association Welcomes International ,exploration and production (E&P) Companies, Distribution Companies, Transmission Companies, Equipment Companies, Natural Oil Companies (NOCs), in Africa and worldwide. TAGA also welcomes banks, Media, Nonprofit Organizations and other service providers. For more information and all inquiries we are always available to address enquiries (firstname.lastname@example.org).
What is the potential that Africa has when it comes to natural gas and are there some countries using it already?
According to the 2012 BP Statistical Energy Survey; Africa had a proved Reserve of 14.53 trillion cubic meters, or 6.97% of the world total and equivalent to 71.7 years of current production. In 2011 Africa had a Natural Gas Consumption of 109.8 billion cubic meters, or 3.4% of the World’s Total. There are 25 Countries in Africa with the potentials of Natural Gas. However, 15 Countries are currently exploring Natural Gas. With the recent discoveries of massive fields of Natural Gas in East Africa around the Rovuma basin, Mozambique is second to Qatar in the global supply of Natural Gas. A few years ago, Mozambique, Tanzania and Kenya would not have appeared in a list of potential supplies of large volumes of Gas and LNG, and now Companies and Countries are scrambling to be part of the business and to secure investment. The sector has great opportunities for investment, it has amazing potential for employment and development and TAGA believes optimizing the exploration and usage of natural gas could be a potential game changer for our continent.
You are responsible for West Africa with the Association, can you tell us about your responsibilities?
As the Managing Director TAGA West Africa, I am currently responsible for the General Operations and smooth functioning of TAGA’s activities in West, South and East Africa. Working with other members of the TAGA team, we all have the collective responsibility to raise awareness and help market the great potentials and opportunities in a sector whose optimal exploration and proper management of dividends could help surge Africa forward.
Now that the Association has been launched, what next will it be working on, what is the roadmap for the way forward?
The launching was just the beginning and there is definitely more that will come from the Africa Gas Association both in the continent and beyond to help raise awareness and attract investors. TAGA will participate at the World Alliance for Decentralized Energy Annual Conference and Joint Meeting with Northeast Clean Heat and Power initiative from November 19-21 in Boston, MA, USA. In February of next year, there will be a big TAGA event in Abuja Nigeria, in March 2014 there will be the Power-Gen Africa event in Cape Town South Africa, and there will also be the Annual Conference of TAGA. The list of events is not exhaustive as more will be announced as time unfolds.
Despite the recent terrorist attack there has been much talk about the economic development of Kenya, IT start ups etc, what impressions did you have about Kenya after the trip?
Kenya remains a beautiful country, one with big investment opportunities, great people and I do not think the recent attacks take away anything from its potential. The attacks were unfortunate and the loss of life very regrettable. As Africa becomes more and more conscious of its potential and as the world and the investment community shows more interest, it is only in a peaceful environment that our countries including Kenya can thrive. Kenya is a promising country with great potentials and the attack should not stop people who are interested in doing business there, checking out opportunities or just getting a taste of its amazing touristic sites.
Top Officials Discuss Shared Commitment on President Obama’s Partnership with Africa
October 26, 2013 | 0 Comments
-AFRICOM, al-Shabaab, Young African Leaders Initiative, Power Africa etc
AFRICOM’s General Rodriguez and Assistant Secretary of State Greenfield Shed Light on U.S African Policy
In a sign that the U.S means business in Africa, Senior Officials have stepped up communication to market President Obama’s vision for Sub Sahara Africa. With the LiveAtState series, Journalists across Africa have gained greater access to interview Senior Obama Administration Officials.. Recently General Rodriguez of AFRICOM and Assistant Secretary for African Affairs Ambassador Greenfield had a very rich exchange with Journalists and Pan African Visions was part of the event. Below is the entire transcript of the event as if you were there.
LiveAtState Interview with General David M. Rodriguez, Commander, AFRICOM and Assistant Secretary of State Linda Thomas-Greenfield, Bureau of African Affairs, U.S. Department of State
October 23, 2013
MS. JENSEN: Hi, good afternoon, and welcome to LiveAtState, the State Department’s interactive web chat platform for engaging international journalists. I’m your host Holly Jensen, and I am delighted to welcome our participants from around the world, and would like to give a special shout-out to our watch parties at our embassies in South Africa, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Ethiopia, Malawi, Zambia, Niger, Tanzania, and Nigeria.
Today, we’re going to be speaking with the Commander of AFRICOM General David M. Rodriguez and the Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Linda Thomas-Greenfield about U.S. foreign policy and security cooperation in the sub-Saharan Africa.
Before I turn it over to them, I’d like to just make a couple of housekeeping notes. You can start to ask your questions now in the lower left-hand portion of your screen titled: “Questions for State Department official.” And if at any time you lose connectivity or you drop off, please feel free to email your questions to Live@State.gov and we’ll get them in the queue.
We’ll get to as many questions as we can in the time that we have and with that I’ll turn it over to you, Assistant Secretary. Thanks for joining us today.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Good. Thank you very much, Holly. And let me begin by thanking our LiveAtState colleagues for organizing this opportunity to hold a direct conversation with all of you joining us from across the continent of Africa. I’m honored to be joined by General Rodriguez, the current Commander of AFRICOM. We are here together today to discuss our shared commitment to implementing President Obama’s vision for U.S. partnership with sub-Saharan Africa.
In August 2013, I started my new role as Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of African Affairs at the Department of State. But I’m not new to the continent or new to African issues. I’ve been around for quite some time, and I’m very proud to say that I lead a team of very committed professionals in the United States and across the continent, some whom you’re sitting in the room with today who are guided by our mission. And that mission is to build on Africa’s traditions and advance U.S. interests while contributing to an environment of freedom, prosperity, and security in the U.S.-African partnership.
Partnership. That’s the theme that you will hear throughout our conversation today, and I know very well that now that is – this is a critical time for our partnership with Africa. President Obama demonstrated the same perspective and commitment during his recent trip to the region, and during that trip he introduced some exciting new initiatives that I know all of you are aware of. For example, the Young African Leaders Initiative, or YALI, which beginning in 2014, will bring 500 young leaders to U.S. universities and colleges across the United States. We will be doing this each year to provide them with training and our goal is to reach up to a thousand participants over five years. The participants will receive world class training in business, entrepreneurship, civic leadership, and public administration.
The President also announced Power Africa and Trade Africa initiatives. Power Africa aims to increase access to electricity by at least 20 million. And I will say that again: 20 million households and commercial locations by matching government resources with private sector commitments. Trade Africa, the goal is to double intra-regional trade in the East African community and increase trade – and also increase trade with the United States. These initiatives and many others share a common theme – our commitment to partnering with Africa.
Speaking of partnership, I’d like to pass over to my colleague, General Rodriguez. General.
GENERAL RODRIGUEZ: Okay, well, good morning and thank you for the opportunity to speak to you today about the United States Africa Command, and how we strengthen U.S. partnerships in Africa. And as the Under Secretary stated – the Assistant Secretary – “partnership” is the key word.
Our strategy is to develop partner-security capacities, strengthen relationships, and enhance regional cooperation. We conduct all of our military activities in close coordination with our African partners and our partners in the U.S. Government. Every team has a leader. And in the countries where we operate, that leader is the U.S. ambassador.
AFRICOM was established five years ago to improve the coordination and effectiveness of the U.S. military activities in Africa on the premise that a safe and secure Africa is in the best interest of Africans, Americans, and the broader international community. Today, regional partners are making significant progress in addressing security challenges on the continent. Partners in East, North, and West Africa have made progress in countering violent extremist organizations such as al-Shabaab and al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, with some U.S. capacity-building and enabling support.
In Central Africa, regional operations against the Lord’s Resistance Army, combined with the activities of civilian agencies and non-governmental organizations, have reduced the threat to civilian populations. AFRICOM’s defense institution-building activities have supported partner efforts across the region, and this includes our work with the new armed forces of Liberia, where my distinguished friend and colleague, Assistant Secretary Linda Thomas-Greenfield served as the U.S. Ambassador not too long ago.
In East Africa, we’ve seen major progress in maritime security. Maritime crime continues to be a major challenge though in the Gulf of Guinea, where our programs are helping partners to strengthen maritime security and counter illicit trafficking. We back American – African peace support operations primarily by helping the State Department train and equip forces from countries in east and northwest Africa that contribute to regional peacekeeping and security mission.
Our humanitarian and disaster response activities have also helped to strengthen relationships and promote inter-operability. A recent U.S.-South African joint exercise on humanitarian response included both the South African military and the South African Ministry of Health. This was a great example of both military-to-military and civil-to-military cooperation. In West Africa and other parts of the continent, we are working closely with partners to help build their capacities to help counter illicit trafficking in all its forms.
AFRICOM will continue to look for opportunities to better coordinate our strategy with multinational and our interagency partners, and we will align our resources with our strategy and do our very best to ensure we are applying our efforts where they are most effective and most needed. We are committed to being effective members of a team that includes the whole of the U.S. Government. With shared interests and shared values, we will go forward together with our African partners.
Thank you and I look forward to your questions.
MS. JENSEN: Great. Well, they’re already pouring in. So our first question comes from Golden Matonga from Daily Times, Malawi: “We would like to find out if the recent events such as the Westgate attack in Kenya have necessitated the change in U.S. strategy across the continent?” And I’ll send that over to you Assistant Secretary.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Thank you very much for that question, and let me take the opportunity to express our condolences to all people, but particularly to the Kenyans who lost people in Westgate Mall. We watched that situation on – as it unfolded and we were horrified at what happened. But I think for us, in terms of our policy related to al-Shabaab, it highlighted to us that we were pursuing the right strategy. And it just showed us that we need to bolster that strategy. Al-Shabaab will look for efforts. They start looking for soft targets because the harder targets – other targets are being made harder for them to go after. And as we continue to work with our colleagues in AMISOM, in the Kenyan Government and other partners with AMISOM, Ethiopian Government as well, we know that we must continue those efforts to go after al-Shabaab so that we don’t see those kinds of attacks happen again. Thank you again for that question.
GENERAL RODRIGUEZ: And we support, as the Ambassador mentioned, we work very hard with all the troop contributing countries to help best prepare them to support their operational efforts in AMISOM, and we also help coordinate activities with AMISOM to make them – and improve and make them as effective as they can be. We think that many of the successes that AMISOM has had over the last several years have actually led to this response by al-Shabaab. And as the ambassador has said, this really validates our strategy, and we’re going to continue to work with our partners to strengthen their capabilities to stop al-Shabaab from having the incredibly negative impact on both the people of Somalia as well as the region. Thank you.
MS. JENSEN: Our next question comes from Jama Abshir from Radio Daljir, Somalia: “Now that the world has recognized al-Shabaab as a clear and present danger to the region and to the world, what is the U.S. and the Horn of Africa in particular doing to train and equip the emerging security forces of the federal government and those of the member states, Puntland and Jubaland in particular?” Sorry. I’ll send that to you.
GENERAL RODRIGUEZ: Okay. Well, as was mentioned, the ACOTA training, which is a State Department-led initiative, which trains all the troop contributing nations to the AMISOM, is a long-term effort to prepare those troop-contributing nations to support AMISOM in their objective to defeat al-Shabaab. And both State, which leads the program, and AFRICOM, which provides mentors and teams with State Department to better prepare those soldiers as they head into the fight in Somalia, is how we best can support our AMISOM partners. We also work with all our AMISOM partners with intelligence sharing to help improve the effectiveness of their activities. Thank you.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: And if I can just add to that, we’re also working very, very closely with the Government of Somalia, with the President, to help improve the capacity of the Somali national army as well, so that the government can provide the services that its people need so that they can feel secure in Somalia. This is an ongoing effort. It’s not something that we can achieve overnight, but we’re committed to continuing to help build Somalia so that the people of Somalia feel confidence in their government.
MS. JENSEN: Our next question comes from Brooks Tigner from Jane’s Defense Weekly: “One of the big security risks to the sub-Saharan region is Libya’s wide open southern border across which arms and other illicit traffic easily move. (A) Given that the international community involved in reforming Libya’s security sector is largely boxed up in Tripoli due to security threats, does the United States Government have a plan for addressing the north-south movement of arms across Libya’s southern frontier?
And (B), the U.S. military has a base for drones in the region. Is it considering armed ones to discourage arms movements?”
GENERAL RODRIGUEZ: For the – as you mentioned very clearly the challenge in Libya and the movement of those arms across the northwestern part of Africa is a concern to all the regional partners in Africa. And they are all working together to help improve their border security capacity, and we are supporting their efforts with training as well as advising to help them stem that flow of arms, ammunition, and explosives, as well as personnel that flow back and forth out of Libya.
As far as the international effort to help build the capacity of the Libyan armed forces and the security forces writ large to address this problem, that multinational community is coming together and will start. We’re thankful that NATO has just agreed to start building the security sector reform, and then the UK, the Italians, and the French will all help provide some support. Plus, there’s the UN mission there, and all of us are working together. Also the European Union to help build the capacity of the Libyan national security forces to properly secure Libya.
MS. JENSEN: Okay. Our next question comes from George Sappor from GBC, Accra: “How will you describe the current state of partnership between the USA and Africa with development in some parts of northern Africa?” I’ll send that to you.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Wow. It – that’s a great question because northern Africa is not part of my portfolio. But I think it’s a question that’s relevant for us in sub-Saharan Africa as well. I think our partnership on development has been a strong one that has extended over many years. It is not a new partnership. We have worked across the continent in helping to build the capacity of African countries to develop its agriculture. We have worked very closely in our PEPFAR program to provide support to African countries dealing with AIDS and other health issues. We have worked to build the capacity of countries to work on democracy and governance issues so that elections are free and fair across the continent. And I think that’s true whether it’s North Africa or it is sub-Saharan Africa.
I think it’s great that your question is coming from Ghana because Ghana is a great example of success – of the success of the people of Ghana, but also the success of our partnership with Ghana to help Ghana advance its own development.
MS. JENSEN: All right. Our next question comes from Siaka Momoh, Vanguard Newspaper: “Boko Haram is Nigeria’s big security headache. The problem has been established to be externally influenced. How are you partnering with the Nigerian Government to help stop this problem?”
ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Thank you for that question. We are very concerned about the impact of Boko Haram in Nigeria but also outside the border of Nigeria. We have had a number of conversations and discussions with the Nigerian Government on how to address this issue in terms of addressing the broad development issues in north Nigeria, but also in how the government responds to the threat that Boko Haram is posing in that region.
We are – our suggestion to the government is that they need a broad perspective. It’s not all about security. They do have to take into account the impact of their operations on civilian populations, and hopefully as they go after Boko Haram, that they build a partnership with the civilian community. We are prepared to work with the government on training so that they can deal with human rights concerns as they approach the government – as they approach this issue. But also, we want to make sure that we help them with their capacity as well to deal with the security threat.
I think, General, you might have some more to say on that.
GENERAL RODRIGUEZ: That’s a – as you mentioned, that’s a – exactly the route that we’re working with our Nigerian military compatriots and partners with, because it is a whole of government approach that has to be done, how they have to integrate that, and some of the challenging lessons that we’ve learned over the last several years on how we have to do that is critical. So we are working the military-to-military relationships and advising them in the same manner as the Assistant Secretary mentioned – to do a whole of government approach that includes the people, the security forces and, of course, the government. And I think that it’s going to be a challenge. It’s a tough, tough issue up there in that northeast where Boko Haram is, and we’re all working together from many different directions to help move this forward and support the Nigerians in this struggle.
MS. JENSEN: We’re going to go back to Westgate. The next question comes from Kevin Kelly from Nation Media Group in Kenya: “In light of the al-Shabaab – in light of al-Shabaab’s attack on the Westgate Mall, does the United States agree with Kenya’s argument to the UN Security Council that the ICC trials of Kenya’s leader should be deferred on the grounds that the proceedings will distract them from countering a threat to international peace and security?
And will the U.S. support the deferral request made by the African Union to the Security Council?”
ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Thank you, again, for that question. We are very, very aware of the Kenyans’ concern about having to deal with Westgate and the fact that they have, with the support of the AU, sent this to the Security Council. And we are reviewing that as others are reviewing that request. That said, we do want to continue to work with the Kenyan Government to address the situation in Westgate, and we want to continue to have discussions with the Kenyan Government about how they move forward. We encourage the government to continue to cooperate with the ICC. We think that is extraordinarily important for the victims of the violence that occurred in Kenya in 2007. So we will continue to have discussions on this issue.
MS. JENSEN: The next question is for you, sir. It comes from SABC News in South Africa: “Given the increasing security concerns in Africa, what steps is AFRICOM taking to increase cooperation with the AU?”
GENERAL RODRIGUEZ: We have a great relationship with the African Union. We have liaison officers there, and are part of the State-led team that has a mission that is partnering with the African Union, and we continue to work with the African Union, the regional economic councils, and all the partner nations who contribute to the peacekeeping operations to advise and assist them and help build their capacity and strengthen their defense capabilities.
MS. JENSEN: Great. Our next question is from This Day in Tanzania: “There are assumptions that terrorism activities are supported financially by money obtained from poaching wildlife, specifically elephant tusks and rhino horns. What is your comment on this?”
And I’ll send that to you.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Thank you for that question. We know that terrorist activities are being supported by all kinds of illegal activities. And I would not be surprised if it’s being supported by illegal poaching of elephant tusk in East Africa.
We have a very, very strong policy to work with our partners in Africa to address wildlife poaching across the continent. We want to work with the governments in that region to ensure that this wonderful resource that they have continues to be available for their children in the future, but also that it is not used to fund the activities of terrorists or other criminal elements that will bring problems to our partners in Africa. So it’s something that we’re very concerned about, and again, I appreciate your asking that question.
MS. JENSEN: Our next question comes from Ethio Channel Newspaper, and this is for you, General: “In recent weeks, we have heard Navy SEALs are in Libya and Somalia. Will this continue?”
GENERAL RODRIGUEZ: The – as you mentioned, the Secretary of Defense has explained what those operations were about and why we will – if required, will continue those operations. And it’s all about staying after the international terrorists that threaten both the people of the African region as well as others. And the war against – or the getting after these terrorists is hugely important, because again, we’ve got to understand that terrorism is a common interest to finish that and protecting the people, because the ones who are hurt most from the terrorism are the African people themselves. So we are supporting the Africans and all countries to ensure that this scourge does not have a negative impact on the world.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: And if I can add to that, terrorism anywhere affects people everywhere, and we’re all impacted by terrorist activities wherever they may occur. If we just look at the situation in Westgate, there were so many people who were killed there. They were not all Kenyans. They were people from all over the continent. On 9/11, there were people killed from many, many different countries. So it impacts all of us, and our efforts to go after terrorists are – benefit everyone, not just the United States, but everyone who can say that they’ve been victimized by these activities.
MS. JENSEN: Our next question comes from Raymond Baguma from Vision Group in Uganda: “Since the deployment of military advisors in 2011, hasn’t the situation on the ground changed for the United States to consider sending in more advisors or reducing their numbers? This is in light of the success against the LRA, which has accused – or which has caused defections as well as the capture of LRA commanders. In your view, what more needs to be done?”
GENERAL RODRIGUEZ: Well, I think that mission from the African Union Regional Task Force has been very effective in moving in the right direction, and all the trend lines are moving forward, as you say.
But it’s been more than just that African Union Regional Task Force. It’s been a tremendous effort from many nations and many non-governmental organizations, and again, a whole-of-government approach that has had the positive benefits that you speak of. So I think that the efforts will continue as they are, to continue to decrease that – keep that on the right trajectory as we move forward, to continue to lessen the negative impact that the LRA has on the civilians in the region.
MS. JENSEN: Great. “Niger is on the forefront of counterterrorism primarily because of its strategic location. In February, Niger will host Flintlock 2014. How we can we ensure that this exercise is a success and supports the role of Nigerians leading the effort?”
GENERAL RODRIGUEZ: Well, as you said, the Nigerians are at a strategic location and are part of the partnership and the solution to the challenges of what is happening in Libya and the movement of the arms, ammunition, explosives, and personnel across Northwest Africa. So we are working with our partner nation, and the best thing that we can do, I think, is – during the Flintlock exercise or anything else – is help them where they need it most. So we are listening to the leaders to ensure that what we help provide them, and the exercise and the training we provide them, is what they most need to help support their security on that northern region.
MS. JENSEN: Our next question comes from Joanna Biddle from AFP: “How concerned is the U.S. about the declaration by the former Renamo rebels in Mozambique that they will no longer recognize the peace deal in place for 20 years or so? And do you fear an eruption of violence in a country which has been reasonably peaceful?”
ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: We’re very concerned about that announcement. I think I may have heard something this morning that they may have recanted that announcement, and I hope that that is true. Mozambique is a country that has been moving forward in a very positive way, and we hope that that continues. It benefits all people in Mozambique, not just the government. Renamo has individuals who are in the government, they are members of the legislature, and we encourage that they continue to work toward peaceful solutions to their concerns with the government. There is a way of doing that, and we are encouraging the government also to be prepared to work with Renamo. This is a setback, but it – I believe it’s only a temporary setback, and hopefully we can move forward from here.
MS. JENSEN: Our next question comes from Guy Martin from DefenceWeb in South Africa: “To what extent is AFRICOM’s role in Africa changing in light of the increase in terrorisms in places like Nigeria, Somalia, Kenya, and the Sahel region? Is counterterrorism taking precedence over training and peacekeeper development training?”
GENERAL RODRIGUEZ: Well, I think when you look at the counterterrorism struggle that’s going on there, it’s not a soda straw look at anything. So the solution to that is multifaceted, it’s about the whole-of-government approach. So the capacity-building efforts are just as important as any efforts that are focused purely on counterterrorism. So I think it’s much broader than that, and I think our focus continues to be on strengthening the African defense capabilities so the Africans can solve this problem themselves. Thank you.
MS. JENSEN: Our next question comes from Le Soleil newspaper in Senegal: “Usually when it concerns the fight against terrorism, the United States is strongly involved, but not in the case in northern Mali. How come?”
GENERAL RODRIGUEZ: The United States has supported the efforts in Northern Mali in a very, very positive and effective way, I believe. First, of course, was the support to AFISMA. And again, the State Department-led ACOTA training prepared those forces to head in to support that mission in Mali. And now there are nine nations that are – participate in that. It was a great regional effort to solve that problem. And then the United States provided support to the French with both aero-refueling, air mobility, as well as intelligence and surveillance and reconnaissance, and we continue now to work with the UN mission to support them in the same way to help prepare the troop-contributing nations to execute their mission in Mali.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: If I can add to that, we’ve also worked very, very closely with other African countries in the region and with the newly elected Government of Mali to address some of the underlying causes of the problems in northern Mali. We have supported the government’s effort to work toward reconciliation discussions and dialogue. And we think, again, as the general has said, Mali is a success story, and we were there, but not there alone. Again, we give tremendous credit to the French, to the Chadians, to ECOWAS, to the neighbors who supported efforts to help Mali get through this difficult time.
MS. JENSEN: Our next question comes from Lawrence Freeman: “When I met with the AFRICOM leadership in 2010, I discussed the reality that without massive economic development in regional and transcontinental infrastructure to alleviate abject poverty, insurgency would increase. Billions of dollars needs to be invested in energy, water, and transportation. A mere 8,000 megawatts is totally inadequate, for Africa needs thousands of gigawatts of power. Will the U.S. actually spend the money to develop the continent?”
ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Why don’t I take that question? (Laughter) Power Africa addresses just that need. The President’s initiative is to bring power for the first time to 20 million Africans who have never had power before. We know that infrastructure development such as power is really the key to Africa’s development. So that is a very prescient question at U.S. AFRICOM, and we are working to address that.
We can’t do it alone, however. The U.S. Government doesn’t have that kind of funding resources. We have to partner with African countries, those that happen to have resources. We have to partner with the private sector. And we’re doing just that with Power Africa.
MS. JENSEN: Our next question comes from Siaka Momoh from Vanguard: “The Gulf of Guinea has become a hotspot for pirates, and Nigeria is losing millions of naira to hoodlums. What’s the latest – or what latest strategy do you have to help combat the menace?”
GENERAL RODRIGUEZ: We have two major programs that work for that. We have an African Partnership Station, which is where we work with the partner nations’ navies, and we also have a legal – a partnership legal review for all the maritime legal issues that are part of the solution in the Gulf of Guinea. We’ve also helped build some capacity for some operation centers for several of the nations around the Gulf of Guinea to coordinate their efforts, and that is a regional problem and a regional challenge that everybody is going to have to work together to solve because of the challenges that occur in the Gulf of Guinea.
So that’s our efforts thus far, and both of those have made some progress, but there’s, as you mentioned, a lot of challenges out there and a long way to go.
MS. JENSEN: Our next question comes from Mark Simuwe from the University of Zambia Radio: “Is the United States ready to work with Zimbabwe to fight terrorism owing to sanctions on Zimbabwe?”
ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: If I understand your question, it’s are we prepared to work with Zimbabwe to fight terrorism. And I can say we’re prepared to fight terrorism wherever it is and to work with any country that is prepared to partner with the United States to fight terrorism.
The terrorist fight really has not been related to our sanctions on Zimbabwe. Those sanctions are a result of violations of human rights and violence and lack of democracy and free and fair elections that have taken place in that country. We are hoping to continue to work with the people of Zimbabwe and the member-states of SADC to help the people of Zimbabwe move forward. And if that requires us working on issues related to terrorism, I think that’s a discussion we can have.
MS. JENSEN: Geoffrey York of the African bureau of the Toronto Globe and Mail wants to know: “What is your view of the deteriorating humanitarian situation in the Central African Republic, and whether there should be international military intervention? Should the military intervention be African-led? And how much of a role should be played by French or other non-African troops?”
GENERAL RODRIGUEZ: Well, the challenging situation there is very, very detrimental to the people in the entire region, and for the military efforts there, and what we think – we’re absolutely supporting the French efforts to do some in that area and also supporting some of the partner nations and surrounding nations who can help that. But we believe, in almost every single case we can think of, that it has to be African-led, and that’s why we’re best looking at ways we can help partner with those African nations to help improve their capacities to handle that type of situation. But it’s a tragic situation in that country, unfortunately.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: And let me just add we’re very, very concerned about the situation in CAR. It’s not just the humanitarian situation; it is what has led to the humanitarian situation that we need to address. We, of course, are contributing to helping to alleviate some of the suffering that is going on in CAR as a result of what is happening there. We want to continue to partner with our African partners who are contributing to the effort, providing them with training, with equipment, and whatever they require to address those issues.
But we’re also working on the political front to try to find a political solution to that situation, to disarm the Seleka rebels and also discourage any opportunities that are being taken by negative forces who may try to move into CAR. We know that an ungoverned space is welcoming to terrorists and it’s welcoming to the LRA, so we need to make sure that the government is prepared to address that with our assistance and the assistance of governments in the region.
MS. JENSEN: Our next question is from John Vandiver of Stars and Stripes: “Is there any evidence of AQIM, Al Shabaab, and Boko Haram collaborating? And if so, what kind of relationship is it? Each group has separate interests, so what if anything unifies them?”
GENERAL RODRIGUEZ: I think the unifying thing that gets any of those people working together is the overall ideology and the impact that they want to have to destabilize the countries to provide them more opportunity to spread their challenging ways of life to the region and the people. They – it’s just like everything else in this terrorist network out there. They’re loosely affiliated. They help here and there. They coordinate movements of people and equipment and arms. But all of it is – has a negative impact on what the African nations desire and what they deserve and what they’re working to end.
MS. JENSEN: Our next question comes from Peter Fabricius – and this is for you, General – from Independent Newspaper, South Africa: “There has been some speculation that AFRICOM might be reabsorbed into the European Command because of budget cuts. Can you tell us how your future looks?”
GENERAL RODRIGUEZ: That doesn’t – is not part of the plan right now, and we’ll continue to look at that in the future. But right now, the United States believes that the focus of having a headquarters focused on Africa to improve the effectiveness of our military support to the State Department and the region is going to remain separate. And we’ll just see how that goes in the future, but right now there are no plans to consolidate.
MS. JENSEN: Our next question comes from the U.S. Embassy in Sierra Leone: “Corruption and bad government have led to conflict in Africa. How is the U.S. partnership with Africa to help address these issues?”
ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: I can start by saying I absolutely agree with you, and I think in most countries you will find that people understand that corruption does not contribute to prosperity. We are working with all of the countries across Africa to deal with issues related to corruption. Sierra Leone and other countries know that in order to qualify for MCC consideration that there is an index on corruption, and that is something that we watch very, very closely. My colleagues and friends in Liberia, where I served for three and a half years, also know that this is an issue that was always on my agenda with the government and with the people of Liberia.
If corruption is not addressed, countries will not prosper. So we want to continue to work with countries and with governments to address those issues to provide opportunities for people so that they don’t see corruption as the only opportunity that they might have for prosperity. It’s a challenge, it’s a work in progress, but it’s something that we hope to continue to work. It’s a message that we want to continue to deliver on the continent.
GENERAL RODRIGUEZ: And we deliver that every day and we have a role to play in that as we develop the partner security capacities, because unfortunately, sometimes they are part of the challenging situation with corruption. And we work very, very hard with all our partners to ensure that their defense institutions do not contribute negatively to the corruption challenge, and also play the proper role of a military in a democratic nation.
MS. JENSEN: We have a question from Ghana: “How has the 14-day government shutdown affected the U.S. international relations with sub-Saharan countries? As we wait a total healing of this process, will the U.S. Government back out of on foreign interventions like security and aids to these countries?”
ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Thank you for that question. I can tell you how it impacted my bureau – significantly – during that 14 days. We were not able to travel. We were not able to do the kinds of engagements that we wanted to do on the continent. So we were very pleased when it ended, and we hope to continue to move forward with our development assistance and our programs in Africa. We certainly have to look carefully at what we’re doing to ensure that what we’re doing has positive impacts, that we can justify what we’re doing to American taxpayers and to our Congress. But we are still committed to support Africa development, whether it’s health, whether it’s democracy and governance, and infrastructure.
MS. JENSEN: Our next question comes from Ajong Mbapndah from Panafricanvisions.com, and this is for you, General: “There has been quite some skepticism among Africans on the mission of AFRICOM. Can you restate or sum up what AFRICOM represents and reassure Africans that there is nothing to fear or be wary about American military presence in Africa?”
GENERAL RODRIGUEZ: Yes. What – again, African Command has always been focused on trying to figure out how to best support the African nations and the African partners, and strengthen their defense capabilities, so that the African solutions are the way of the future. So I think that there has been a lot of speculation and a lot of news about this since its inception and everything, but I think the track record over the last five years has been that AFRICOM has helped to support the defense institutions in the improving of capacity in AFRICOM so that African solutions are the way of the future all around.
MS. JENSEN: Ajong has – oh, do you want to add something?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Yeah, let me add something. As I told the general when we started, I was at AFRICOM at the beginning. I was the principal deputy assistant secretary in the Africa Bureau when we rolled out AFRICOM. And I think I can say American military – the American military was working with partners in Africa before AFRICOM. We have always had an interest in Africa. What is new with AFRICOM over the past five years is that we’re more engaged, it’s more direct, it’s more coordinated, it’s more strategic than it’s been in the past. So I see that as a tremendous positive development for African countries. And I think if you spoke to African military leaders who have worked with AFRICOM, they would also agree that this has been a positive advancement in our relationship.
MS. JENSEN: Ajong has a follow-up for you: “In the suspension of military aid to Rwanda, an acknowledgement of its role in the crisis in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and considering the suffering of the Congolese and the length of the crisis, when are we going to see a more robust engagement from the USA in the quest for lasting peace?”
ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: I think we’re seeing a robust engagement right now from the United States in dealing with the situation. As you know, Secretary Kerry appointed former Senator Feingold as our Special Envoy for the Great Lakes. He has been working very, very closely with the other special envoys – Mary Robinson, the UN Special Envoy – and he’s actually in the region right now working with the countries in the region to help to find the solution. The Kampala talks over the weekend were extraordinarily intense. We are still hopeful that those talks will lead to a solution with the M23 and that we will start seeing efforts to address the broader issues that are in Congo so that we can start moving that country forward and building on the resources that they have.
MS. JENSEN: Our next question comes from Jessica Stone from CCTV: “To what extent is China being a partner in efforts to secure parts of Kenya, Somalia, and Northern Africa in light of the al-Shabaab threat? And can you please speak to the question of whether there are any plans to arm the drones in the region to discourage armed movements?”
GENERAL RODRIGUEZ: I know that the Chinese, I believe, have started to have a couple of contributions to the UN peacekeeping operations in Africa, and I think that’s – so I’m not sure there’s been much in the Eastern part against al-Shabaab, but they’ve volunteered to support the UN efforts in Mali and other places. And we are welcoming that effort, just like we do with everybody who’s helping to achieve a peaceful solution to the challenges there.
No, there are no plans right now on the drones. And again, we support a range of security issues on the continent and everything, and we’ll – we work with our – the host nation partners to coordinate all our efforts to support their efforts to solve their problems.
MS. JENSEN: All right. We have time for two more questions. The next one comes from U.S. Embassy Ghana: “What has been the U.S. contribution to the local integration policy for countries in Africa that accommodate refugees?”
ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: That’s a great question for me. As you know, I’ve spent most of my career working on refugee issues. As a Foreign Service officer, that’s somewhat unusual. So I’ve been across the continent and worked in Geneva on refugee issues. And I am extraordinarily proud of the contributions that are made by the U.S. Government to refugees across the world, not just in Africa. The refugee bureau, known as the Population, Refugee and Migration Bureau, hit the $1 billion mark for total contributions in the past year, and we are the largest contributor to all of the international organizations, whether it’s UNHCR, the International Organization for Migration, ICRC, the various federations of Red Cross Societies. The U.S. Government is always there. It is a mark of our commitment and a mark of the genuine care that the U.S. Government and people feel for people who are in need.
MS. JENSEN: This is our last question and it comes from Marissa Scott. She wants to know: “AFRICOM has been present in West Africa since 2008. However, there have been terrorist attacks in Mali and Niger. How can you combat these negative forces and help find a definitive solution to terrorism in the region?”
GENERAL RODRIGUEZ: Well, the solution to terrorism in the region is a long-term, broad, whole-of-government approach by all our partners as well as all the international community, because it’s not solved just by military operations. As the Assistant Secretary talked about, it’s about the economic development, it’s about the improvement in governance, it’s about the rule of law and law enforcement. So I think that we work with our teammates at the country teams and the embassy and across the whole interagency to help build those capacities in the African nations. Thank you.
MS. JENSEN: Well, great. Thank you both for coming today. That’s all the time we have for today. I’d like to thank you for all of your really great questions, and I especially want to thank you, General Rodriguez and Assistant Secretary Thomas-Greenfield, for joining us.
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U.S African Policy is rooted in its people says Senior State Department Official
October 4, 2013 | 0 Comments
-Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of African Affairs, Assistant Secretary Linda Thomas-Greenfield sheds light on U.S Foreign policy in African. PAV shares a complete transcript of the event from LiveAtState,the State , the State Department’s online interactive video program for engaging with international media.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Well, thank you very much. I am really excited to be here. I have been in the position of Assistant Secretary for African Affairs all of two months. I’m delighted to be working on Africa issues again, having served for four years as the U.S. Ambassador to Liberia and previously as a Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Africa Bureau. It’s really, really exciting to meet the press in Africa, and I think it says a great deal about our policy on free press and encouraging press freedoms, so I look forward to getting to know all of you, talking about issues in Africa, and at some point, visiting the countries you’re calling in from and meeting you face to face. So again, thank you very much.
MODERATOR: Thank you so much. As we get started, we’ll start pretty broadly. How would you define U.S. interests in Africa, and how are they changing?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: That’s a great question. Let me just start by saying that our interests in Africa are in the people of Africa. Every policy initiative that we have taken over the past few years focused on Africa’s people. And as we look at the four pillars of our U.S. foreign policy, it’s strengthening democratic institutions that, again, focus on people. We want to promote regional peace and security. We want to engage young African leaders like all of you who are sitting in the room. And we want to promote development, trade, and investment.
So those are the core policy pillars, but for those of you who followed the President’s visit to Africa a few months ago, he announced three major initiatives. And again, these are initiatives that focus on people. He announced Power Africa, which will look at the possibility of working with some of our African colleagues to bring electricity to 80 percent of the population who have never had electricity. He announced Trade Africa, which is an initiative that will look at trade in East Africa to start, how African countries can better trade among themselves, but also to encourage the trade with the United States. And then third, and one of the most important initiatives, is YALI, the Young Africa Leaders Initiative, which will have us work with young leaders all over the continent.
As you know, more than 60 percent of Africans, almost in every country – and this figure might be quibbled with a little bit – but about 60 percent are ages 35 and below, and we really want to focus on helping to build the leadership skills of those young people so that they can move into positions of authority in the future.
So I look forward to hearing your questions and having this discussion. Thank you very much.
MODERATOR: Getting us started, we have Bridget Mananavire from the Daily News, Zimbabwe. She starts off with a very current affairs issue. She asks: How will the U.S. Government shutdown affect its policies in Africa, including investment and funding?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: That’s an excellent question, and it’s a question that we’re getting a lot across the world. The State Department and USAID are major, major funders on the continent of Africa, are national security agencies. And because of that, we are able to continue operations, albeit sometimes at lower levels as we move forward. But most of our funding right now is 2013 funding, and that funding will continue. We’re hoping that this is short-lived and we will be able to move forward, but I think most of you will not see any difference in what we’re doing in Africa on the development front or on the investment front.
MODERATOR: Ajong Mbapndah from the Pan African Visions, he asks – or he explains: Terrorist acts seem to be on the rise in Africa with recent attacks in Kenya and the continuing chaos in Nigeria as a result of Boko Haram. In what concrete ways is the U.S. assisting African countries to cope with the threats of terrorism? With all its atrocities, it appears that the U.S. does not consider Boko Haram in Nigeria a terrorist group. It has bombed a United Nations building, killed people in churches and mosques, and most recently, students. What definition of a terrorist group is missing from the activities of Boko Haram, or why is the U.S. reluctant to label it as one?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Let me start with that question. We do consider Boko Haram a terrorist group. We have sanctioned all the top three leaders of Boko Haram. And we are working very, very closely with the Nigerian Government as they address this security threat. We believe that terrorism anywhere affects people everywhere, and we want to be involved in assisting our colleagues, whether it’s in Kenya or Somalia or Nigeria, in addressing this threat.
I want to offer my condolences to the people of Kenya following the Westgate terrorist attack, and I want to announce again that in Nigeria, we are horrified by the attack on young people at this college, and we do see that as a terrorist act. And I offer my condolences to the people of Nigeria as well.
MODERATOR: Speaking of Westgate, Kevin Kelley, the USUN correspondent for the National Media Group in Kenya, asks: How does the Westgate mall attack affect U.S. relations with President Kenyatta, and will there be a modification of your predecessor’s warning of consequences should Kenyatta be elected? And how have those consequences been manifested to date?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Well, we – the Westgate event was an event, again, that affected many, many people, not just the Kenyan people. There were nationals from many other countries who were affected by that. As you know, President Obama called President Kenyatta to express our condolences and offer our assistance to the Kenyan people. So we will continue to support the Kenyan people as they deal with terrorism, as they have dealt with the fire at the airport, and as they move forward to provide security for all of their people. The position of the U.S. Government, as I started out at the beginning, we work with the people of Africa. And the people of Kenya are important to all of our policies.
MODERATOR: Scott Stearns from VOA asks – he has two questions on Mali, and he asks: What is your assessment of the new government’s control over the military? In his speech at the UN last week, President Keita said that there has to be a regional approach to fighting terrorism in the Sahel because it’s bigger than the resources of any one country. And how is that going?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Thank you for that question. One of my first trips as Assistant Secretary was to attend the inauguration of President Keita in Mali, and it was really an amazing event. There were 20 heads of state from around Africa, as well as the President of France and the King of Morocco. All of that says how much we, as an international community, support Mali.
The election, I think, happening 18 months after the coup d’etat sent a strong message to those who would use coups to overturn governments that that is unacceptable. We are looking forward to working with the Government of Mali as the government moves to address many of the issues that resulted from the coup d’etat. And we are very, very – we have made very, very strong statements that the military must be subordinate to civilian leaders. And we will work with the Mali Government to ensure that that’s the case in Mali as well as in other locations where the military might be looking to do the kinds of things that were done in Mali.
MODERATOR: Moving along to Miriam Kaliza of Matindi FM in Malawi, and she asks: In terms of conflicts in Africa, how much is the U.S. doing to ensure that people resolve whatever is wrong – for example, the lake wrangle between Malawi and Tanzania, the conflicts in Madagascar, and others?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: That’s a good question. We are actively involved in Africa. And of course, conflicts in Africa are not beneficial to the people of Africa. One – again, my very first trip as Assistant Secretary was to the Great Lake regions to meet with the Government of Rwanda and the Government of the Democratic Republic of Congo as tensions were rising in that region. We’ve been proactively involved in the situation in CAR to ensure that that conflict does not spread, but also to help that country address the issues that have resulted in the conflict. We’re working very, very closely with the Government of Somalia to ensure that conflict there does not occur again.
So again, I think all of this is to say that we are concerned about conflict. We want to ensure that African countries benefit from prosperity, that they take advantage of the opportunities that are there so that Africa can move smartly into the next century.
MODERATOR: Our next question comes from Rebecca Chimjeka from Joy FM in Malawi. It says: Malawi has not taken a clear position on gay rights and same-sex marriages, which countries like yours have been campaigning a lot for. What is your stance on this and the dilemma that Malawi has found herself in coming from a conservative society background?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: That’s a great question. The United States believe that all people are created equal. I’m an African American. I have gone through the experience of being in a country where there were questions about that. So for us, it is unequivocal that regardless of people’s sexual orientation, regardless of their gender, we want all people to be treated with all the rights and protections of human rights that we expect in all countries. So we are prepared, as the United States with very strong values in this area, to work with countries in Africa to help them develop the legislation that will provide human rights to all of its people.
And in the case of Malawi, we’re prepared to work with that government. We’re prepared to work with other governments that have issues in this area. But I think I can say without any doubt that human rights are a core value of the United States, and that plays into all of our relations with every government we’re involved in.
MODERATOR: Jenny Clover from Reuters Rwanda asks: Are you convinced that Rwanda is no longer supporting the M23 rebels?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: We have had meetings in the region with the Government of Rwanda, with the Government of DRC. As you know, Secretary Kerry appointed Senator Feingold to work on conflict in that area. We have made it clear in our discussions that any support of any rebel group, whether it’s M23 or FDLR, any support of those rebel groups is seen as contributing to conflict in the region. So we have expressed our views to the Government of Rwanda, to the Government of DRC, and we’re working closely with partners in the region to ensure that groups like M23 are demobilized, disarmed, and held accountable for all actions that they have taken against the civilian population in DRC.
MODERATOR: As a quick follow-up to that same question, can you confirm reports that the U.S. has stopped military support to Rwanda and some other countries because of their use of child soldiers?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: We – under the Child Soldiers Prevention Act, we have just announced those countries that are being sanctioned under that act, and Rwanda is one of those countries. Our goal is to work with countries that have been listed to ensure that any involvement in child soldiers, any involvement in the recruitment of child soldiers, must stop. In this case, it was related to M23, and we will continue to have discussions with the Rwandan Government on that issue.
MODERATOR: Going back to the Daily News Zimbabwe, Bridget Mananavire asks: What have seen – or we have seen nations that had previously imposed targeted restrictions on officials and companies in Zimbabwe ease them. Recently, the EU lifted sanctions on the government diamond body Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation. What is the U.S. stance on diamond companies, and will it maintain them, and for how long?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: I’m not sure I know the answer to that question, but I can say to you that, in the case of Zimbabwe, our sanctions continue. We will be reviewing those sanctions on a regular basis, and if there are additional individuals who should be sanctioned, we are prepared to add them to our sanction list. And if there are people who we think can be removed from the sanction list, we will remove them from the list.
I will add that we were disappointed with the election. While it was violent-free, we’re not convinced it provided an opportunity for all Zimbabweans to express their views in the election. And again, we will be reviewing our sanctions in light of that.
MODERATOR: Isaac Ongiri from the national media in Nairobi, Kenya, asks: Kenya is in the process of pulling out of the ICC after parliament passed a motion urging the government to withdraw from the court where the president and his deputy are facing charges. What is the position of the U.S. Government regarding this?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: The decision by the Government of Kenya to pull out of the courts – and we don’t know that they have, in fact, made that decision – doesn’t have an impact on the current cases against the president or the deputy president. As you know, we are not a signator to the Rome Convention, but we work very, very closely with the member states to ensure that the ICC is able to carry out its responsibilities and its duties. We will look forward to continuing to work on those issues and hear what African governments have to say about this. But our efforts are to ensure that the court is able to continue to function in a way that allows it to deal with some of the issues that are before the court.
MODERATOR: We now have a question from our watch party in – at the U.S. Embassy in Ghana. Edmund Smith from Asante Daily Graphic in Ghana asks: What areas of partnership does the U.S. have with Ghana?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: That’s a great question. I just – I was in New York last week, and I met with your president. We have a very, very strong partnership with the Government of Ghana. We are very, very pleased with the results of the Supreme Court decision where Ghana had a free, fair election and it was confirmed by your senate, and it was accepted by the opposition. I think that says a lot about how far Ghana has come as a democracy and how strong Ghana’s democracy is. So again, we look forward to working with Ghana. We have lots of investments in Ghana. Ghana is a recipient of a Millennium Challenge Corporation Compact. We again encourage the people of Ghana to continue to move forward as a strong democracy and as a model in the – on the continent, and particularly in the region of West Africa.
MODERATOR: We’re going to go to another watch party which is in Abuja. They ask: Corruption is the bane of Nigeria’s economic growth. How can the U.S. assist?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: That’s a great question, and corruption, as I’ve been quoted saying many times, is a cancer. Corruption thwarts a country’s ability to prosper, and we are working with the Nigerian Government, with its justice sector, and other elements to ensure that Nigeria builds the infrastructure and the capacity to deal with issues of corruption. I think it goes without saying that Nigeria’s prosperity has been affected by corruption. It’s a reputation that Nigeria will have a hard time living down, and we hope that we’re able over the next few years to work with the government to ensure that those individuals who are involved in corruption are held accountable in the legal system of Nigeria.
MODERATOR: Our next question comes from Manjakahery Tsiresena of the AFP Madagascar: How the U.S. did see the election of October 25th in Madagascar?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: We are hopeful that this election is one that will allow the Madagascar people to move forward, that the election will allow – the next election will allow all candidates who are eligible to run for president, and that there’s a free, fair, transparent election that, again, will get Madagascar off of the list of countries that have been sanctioned by us and others because of the problems that they have had and Madagascar can start moving forward economically, as well as, as a democratic and a politically stable country.
MODERATOR: Soafaniry Rakotondrainy asks: How would you involve young sub-Saharan young people in the resolution of conflicts in sub-Saharan countries, as they are numerous here?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: As I mentioned at the start, the population of youth in Africa is significantly high. I won’t quote the statistic because it changes depending on who’s quoting it, but African youth have been the victims of conflict all over Africa – they have been victims of recruiting, they have been victims of violence – and we want to see young Africans also be beneficiaries of prosperity in Africa. So the Young Africa Leadership Initiative that the President announced in June when he was in Africa is our effort to start addressing the youth bulge and helping develop the capacity of youth to take on leadership roles in the future, whether it’s in politics, the private sector, academics. We are hoping over the next few months to start the recruitment process for a leadership forum for young African leaders that will take place next summer in the United States. They will spend
about three months here where they will get – have courses on leadership. And then we hope they go back and they use what they have learned to help build the – build on the prosperity that is possible in the countries that they’re from. And then on top of that, we hope that they develop relationships across borders so that when there’s conflict, they’re able to talk to each other because they know each other.
MODERATOR: We’ll move along to another watch party in the Republic of Congo. They ask – they state: In 2008, when President Obama visited Africa, he spoke on the importance of strong institutions, not strong men. What is the U.S. doing to help African countries build strong institutions?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: That’s a great question, and I’ll use the example of Liberia, where – I know better than any country; I served there for almost four years – and we work very, very closely with that government to help rebuild their institutions after more than 15 years in conflict. And this is a policy that we have across Africa. So we are working in ministries of health, we’re working in ministries of education, we’re working with the justice sector, with the minister of justice to build the institution of justice, we’re working with court systems. So this is an important contribution that we are making to help countries move forward in the future.
Power Africa is an amazing example where we will be working with institutions in that country to build not only the regulations that allow for power to be developed in Africa, but also working with the private sector to help build up initiatives that will allow us to bring electricity across the continent.
MODERATOR: The next question comes from – BelAfrika Media Belgium asks: What do you think about the rape of women in Congo and in general, and what are your plans?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: What do I think about the – I think it’s horrible. I think women, whether it’s in Congo or any place in the world, women are greater victims of violence and conflict than any other population. And we have worked very, very closely with the UN, with NGOs, using funding from USAID, from our office of Population, Refugees, and Migration, to deal with women who are victims of violence. It is something that we all have to address, and we also have to work to hold those accountable who are involved in raping women in conflict. And in several cases in DRC, some have been held accountable, but I think more needs to be done. We all have to add our voices of horror to the attacks that have taken place on women across the world, not just in Africa.
MODERATOR: Going back to the watch party in our U.S. Embassy in Ghana, we have a question: The U.S. President pledged seven billion to help combat frequent power blackouts in sub-Saharan Africa. Has Power Africa already begun, and how was the selection done?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Power Africa has begun in the sense that the initiative is moving forward. We are working with private companies as well. Six countries were selected; I think they are just a start for what we would want to do. USAID is leading the initiative on Power Africa. We’re working, again, with our energy office in the State Department as well, and our economic office, and we’re hoping that we can work with institutions on the continent of Africa to develop this initiative. I think this is going to be an initiative that will have a widespread impact, because with power, companies are able to invest. With power, children are able to go to school. With power, health and hospitals are able to function. So this is major for Africa. And while we will – it will take some years for the results to be felt, it’s going to take a lot of work and we are – we’ve started.
MODERATOR: Elias Gebreselassie from the News Business Ethiopia, who’s coming to us from the watch party in Addis Ababa, asks: What do you have to say about – say to the charge that the U.S.’s new focus on the African continent is countering the influence of emerging economies like China?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: That’s a great question. I get asked that question everywhere in Africa. And my answer to that question is: we’re not competing with China in Africa. The U.S. has core values that promote the development of Africa, and we have been in Africa since the beginning. And so, our efforts are not in competition with China. Our efforts are in support of the desires of African people. And the needs in Africa are great, so I think African countries can work with the Chinese to work to get what is in their best interest. But they should not see it in their interest a competition between the United States and Africa, because that doesn’t exist.
MODERATOR: Haguma Christine asks a pretty broad question. She says: Do you have some programs in trade and investments in Africa, and how exactly do they work?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Well, let me just talk about AGOA, the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act initiative. Ethiopia hosted a very, very successful AGOA forum a few months ago, and more than a hundred representatives from the U.S. Government participated in that. AGOA provides an opportunity for African countries to bring tariff-free trade into the United States, and I think the figure is around $34 million – $34 billion in trade in the past year. And we’re hoping to continue with efforts like AGOA. We have a very strong investment initiative that is being supported by our U.S. Trade Representative’s office, and we work very, very closely with businesses that are interested in investing in Africa. So we have a lot going on on the investment side, and I think those of you who are on the continent right now probably see evidence of that.
MODERATOR: Going back to the watch party in Ghana, Issac Aidoo asks: With Ghana’s present economic challenges, donor countries have expressed concerns about government’s reckless spending. What is the U.S.’s concern going forward, and are you willing to still offer support?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: We are very supportive of the people of Ghana and the Government of Ghana, as the government moves forward. We are working to help countries have more transparent budgets. We’re working with countries to help them deal with issues of spending. I don’t have the exact information that you’re referring to on Ghana right now, but I can tell you that we will continue to work with Ghana to address their requirements, and we will continue to support the government’s movement to help the investment climate, so that there are more businesses coming to Ghana, creating more jobs, and hopefully, creating more opportunities.
MODERATOR: From our watch party in Zambia, Stuart Lisulo from The Post asks: Does the United Nations take seriously President Sata and other African leaders’ call for more representation in the UN Security Council?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: That’s an interesting question, because, yes, I think the United States – the United Nations does take that seriously, and I know that there are efforts of reform that are – and discussions about reform that are taking place. African countries are members of the General Assembly, and they need to make their views known as we move forward and have those discussions.
MODERATOR: Going back to the watch party in Addis Ababa, Birhanu Fekade, the reporter from the newspaper in Addis Ababa, asks: The recent attack in Kenya by the al-Shabaab and the attack in Nigeria by Boko Haram are taking place in Africa while the U.S. and allies are watching it happen. Could something have been done to stop these events prior to their happening?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: My answer to that question is simple: If something could have been done to stop those events, it would have been done. We, in the United States, have been victims of terrorist acts in the United States. We’re working very, very closely with the security services both in Nigeria and Kenya and across Africa. In Mali, for example, to address terrorism, to work to thwart terrorist efforts to attack countries, and I think, many terrorist acts that might have happened have been stopped. So if we can stop terrorism, we will do it, and we’re putting a lot of energy, a lot of effort, and a lot of resources on the continent of Africa and elsewhere to stop these horrible acts that lead to the deaths of many civilians – innocent civilians, such as those who died in Westgate Mall.
MODERATOR: Staying at U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa, Elias M Eseret from the Associated Press and Afro-FM radio asks: The new U.S. Ambassador to Ethiopia, Patricia Haslach, has set out that one of her priority will be promoting the rights of the LGBT community, which is mostly not approved of by both the government and the society. Does her stance show a change in policy by the government towards the African continent in general and in Ethiopia in particular on that issue?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: This is a U.S. Government policy. It is a U.S. Government’s value that we believe in human rights for all people despite any laws that might exist that would deny people their human rights. We strongly believe in the rights of people to choose their partners, to choose the person – as President Obama has said, to choose the person they want to love, and not have laws that deny them those rights.
So our Ambassador in Ethiopia is following the policies of the U.S. Government. It’s a broad policy; it’s not a change. It is a policy that reflects our values in – across the United States.
MODERATOR: Going back to the U.S. Embassy in Lusaka. Stuart Lisulo, The Post: When will Zambia receive the next U.S. ambassador to replace former Ambassador Storella?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: That’s a great question. We do a have an ambassador in line to come to Zambia, and I hope that he or she will be there soon.
MODERATOR: Okay. Jason Straziuso says: This is Jason Straziuso from AP in Nairobi. FBI agents have been on the scene at Westgate Mall for several days now. What can you tell us about what they have discovered, particularly as it relates to any evidence the hostages were held by the attackers and many have died inside? Also, is there any progress being made on how many, where from, and who these attackers were?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: I can’t answer those specific questions. We do have FBI agents there assisting the Kenyan security authorities in investigating what took place in Westgate mall. They’re providing forensic support. They’re providing other investigative support, and the results of their efforts are being shared with the Government of Kenya. I don’t have access to that information nor do I think it would be appropriate to share it with you here. But I just want to confirm that we’re there to help the Government of Kenya, to help the people of Kenya determine what exactly happened there so that we can find those who were involved and also prevent this from happening in the future.
MODERATOR: Georg Otumu, the NigeriaStandardNewspaper.com, asks: Does the U.S. Government think African Union and ECOWAS leadership – leaders are doing enough to abate the spread of terrorism through various leadership virtues or defects of African leaders in the African continent?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: We have a very strong partnership with the AU and with ECOWAS to deal with terrorism and other security incidents throughout the continent. The AU has been a strong partner in Somalia, in Mali, in other countries in Africa. ECOWAS has been amazingly supportive in Mali. ECOWAS was very much involved in the situation in Liberia. So we think that both of those organizations have been strong partners and have had a tremendous impact on providing a – security for Africa.
There’s a lot more work to be done, but we continue to support their efforts through training and providing equipment and support so that African troops can be deployed throughout the continent.
MODERATOR: Elita Nkalo, Capital Radio Malawi, asks: America has increased its military visibility in Africa, and this is leading to speculation that it intends to establish its U.S.-Africa Command Military Base whose current headquarters are in Stuttgart, Germany. How true is this?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: We have always had a military presence in our embassies and we’ve worked closely with African militaries across the continent. AFRICOM is in Stuttgart, and as far as I know AFRICOM will remain Stuttgart. There are no plans at this time that I’m aware of that would move AFRICOM to the continent of Africa.
That said, we will continue to develop our military-to-military relationships with African countries and continue to help build the capacity of African militaries to address security issues across the continent. We will continue to work on training African troops so that they can participate in peacekeeping operations, and all of this is being done by our military with AFRICOM’s involvement. But as far as I know, they will continue to operate out of Stuttgart, Germany.
MODERATOR: Our next question comes from the watch party at the U.S. Embassy in Brazzaville: Regarding the Central African Republic, it seems as though the United States is absent. What is the United States doing to support a peaceful future in the CAR?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: We’re not absent. We have been very, very actively involved with the neighbors and with our partners to address the very worrisome situation in CAR. We are very concerned that the conflict there has turned this country into a place where terrorists might look to operate, and we want to work closely with the civilian government in CAR to ensure that the Seleka rebels are disarmed and that they are no longer terrorizing the population.
We have a special advisor who has been in the region, has been involved actively in the discussions, and we’re working very, very closely with the AU to support efforts to build up an African force there.
We participated in meetings in New York. I met with your Prime Minister in New York as we looked at ways that we can continue to be actively involved. But we are actively involved, and I want to make sure that that’s understood.
MODERATOR: From the U.S. embassy watch party in Ghana – from Sandra Manu, a student at the Ghana Institute of Journalism asks: How is the U.S. combatting racism against African living – Africans living in the U.S., in other Western countries, in relation to access to equal opportunities? Are there any policies?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: That’s a good question. I think we have strong laws in the United States that provides equal rights to all citizens, whether it’s based – discrimination based on race, sexual orientation, region – I think it goes without saying that those laws are on the books. We are – and we address any complaints in our court system. So I don’t think that there is an issue that the U.S. Government is not supportive of populations that are different.
We are a country that is extraordinarily diverse, and we see diversity as strength. And we have seen many individuals who have come from Africa who are now American citizens who are contributing to the growth of our country but also contributing back to their countries of origin. And this is something that we support as a government, and it is something that we’re proud of as a government. So if individuals are experiencing discrimination, there’s a way to address that in our legal system.
MODERATOR: Okay. We’ve got time for about two more questions. We’re going to take the next one from the U.S. Embassy in Brazzaville, from Eric Goguillot, the TerrAfrica Newspaper: Will the Republic of Congo expect you to visit and meet President Denis Sassou Nguesso?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: I am sure that the Republic of Congo will expect me to visit, and I think all countries in Africa will expect me to visit, and I will do my best to do that. It might take some time: remember how many countries there are in Africa. But as the Assistant Secretary, I represent the President and the Secretary to every country in Africa. We have ambassadors that are there to represent our interests, and as the Assistant Secretary, I would like to, at least once, visit every single country in Africa. So if the Republic of Congo is expecting me to visit, I encourage them in their expectations. I can’t say when it’s going to happen, but I can say that I plan to make that trip.
MODERATOR: And our final question will come from the U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa from the watch party. Birhanu Fikade – for The Reporter newspaper asks: Will AGOA extend for 15 years ahead?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY THOMAS-GREENFIELD: That’s a good question. I can’t say that AGOA will extend for 15 years, but I think I can say categorically that we are working on the extension of AGOA, and I’m confident that we will get an extension. How long that extension will be will be determined by our Congress. And again, we just know it will be extended. So I think you can feel confidence about that, and we’ll see how it goes over the next few months.
MODERATOR: Well, that looks like that’s all the time that we have for questions. First of all, we’d like to thank you, Assistant Secretary Thomas-Greenfield, for joining us today and taking the time to ask – to answer all these questions.
For our participants, we’d like to let you know that we’re going to send audio and video files to you as soon – and also a transcript – as soon as we can after this program is over so you can go ahead and file your stories.
And again, we’d like to remind you that you can follow us on Twitter @StateDept, you can follow the U.S. Department of State. But you can also follow the Bureau of African Affairs @AfricaState.
Thank you so much for your time, and we hope that you’ll join us again at our next program soon – for another program of LiveAtState. Watch video here
Cameroon Citizenship Council Urges President Biya to convene Sovereign National Conference
September 13, 2013 | 1 Comments
-Count on us for a new Cameroon in 2018
-Focus more on policies and programmes and not personalities
-It is time to bring back the remains of President Ahidjo……….
-Hafis Ruelfi on the way forward for Cameroon
By Ajong Mbapndah L
If there is one thing that sums up what Hafis Ruelfi of the Cameroon Citizenship Council will love to see President Biya do before leaving office, it is to convene a sovereign national conference. The conference Hafis says will put Cameroon on the rails towards confronting 21st century challenges. Issues like a new electoral code, a new constitution, the Southern Cameroons problems, reconciliation and more could be debated at such a conference. Although his party is in the process of legalization and will not participate at the upcoming legislative and municipal elections, Hafis Ruelfi says the CCC is aggressively putting in place structures across the country so as to make a strong showing in the 2018 elections. As Aminatou Ahidjo makes news by joining the ruling CPDM, Hafis says like any other Cameroonian, the daughter of late President Ahidjo has the right to militate in a party of her choice. President Ahidjo however deserves a state burial with full honors and his remains need to be brought back to Cameroon Hafis said.
Mr Hafis, it is election time again in Cameroon, how significant or important are the upcoming elections and what role is your movement the Cameroon Citizenship Council playing now in shaping political developments?
Hafis Ruelfi: I remain convinced about the greatness of Cameroon, its potentials, and also convinced that it is only through the political process that you can make the greatest impact in terms of changing the society. It is the political processes under a democracy; there is no other way. I remain convinced that we need to engage, those who believe they have something to offer to a country like Cameroon at its level of development; everybody who has something to offer must get involved from the aspirants to the electorates. As this elections will be a foundation and a hallmark to kick start the political transition and transformation to a true democratic country with the observation of the rule of law come 2018. In other to boost its presence all across the national territory, CCC has put up a formidable structure to mobilize support and convince the electorate on why they believe there must be a change in the leadership of Cameroon come 2018. The electorate has a very big role to play because people must have a change. That is why we said that this change we are talking about in the CCC is not just a change of government, but the change of attitude and people must vote according to their beliefs and consciousness of accepting who will do the right thing. Conscious of the challenges ahead, the CCC has constituted a powerful interim national executive, which compromise representatives from all the ten regions of the country. This interim national executive is presently on the field implanting the party in their respective regions.
A few months ago, Cameroon had Senatorial elections, what reading did you make of those elections and the composition of its leadership considering that in case there is a power vacuum, it is the President of the Senate who runs the country?
Hafis Ruelfi: The creation of the house of senate was a welcome development for our constitutional democracy first on the ground that it lays to rest and answered the questions which Cameroonians have been asking as to the successor of president Paul Biya where there is an unforeseen vacancy at the head of the presidency which our constitution does provides that it’s the president of the senate who will assume the powers of the head of state for three months while he calls a presidential election which the emphasized that he (the interim president) cannot contest in the election.
A very interesting recent development is the return of the daughter of former President Ahidjo, Aminatou to Cameroon and her strong embrace of the ruling CPDM, what is your take on this? What impact do you think such a move on the part of President Ahidjo’s daughter can have on the politics of the country especially in the Grand North?
Hafis Ruelfi: Well it is true that the return of Aminatou to Cameroon and her embracing the CPDM is seen as a major event in the national political scene, to me these are reasons best known to her. As a Cameroonian who has attained the voting age has the free will to join and militate in any political party of his or her choice. And I think this is not different from Aminatou’s present position.
Secondly being the daughter of the late President Ahidjo to me still doesn’t change the fact, instead of building personality cults as the case with the CPDM most other opposition parties, viable programs should be presented to Cameroonians, viable visions on how candidates and parties will help solve the problems affecting ordinary Cameroonians should be what matters at this point and not just personalities.
Many people think that it is finally time for the remains of late President Ahidjo should be finally brought home with the honors and respects it deserves; do you share the same view?
Hafis Ruelfi: The return of the remains of our late president his Excellency President Ahmadou Ahidjo are long overdue. He was a great president for our dear country who did everything possible to move this country forward by uniting the two Cameroons as a united indivisible nation and he deserves all the state honors as is done in other countries. Cameroon should not be an exception not with a leader like late President Ahidjo who did so much for the country.
The last time we had a chat with you, you said you were working towards implanting the Cameroonian Citizenship Council across the country, how far have you gone with that and may we know some accomplishments of the Council so far?
Hafis Ruelfi: As I said earlier the interim national executive of our party are currently on the field setting up our party structures in every municipal and city council across the country.
On your own personal ambitions, you were not there for the Senatorial elections, you are not there for the legislatives and municipal elections, when do Cameroonians see Hafis Ruefli in the field?
Hafis Ruelfi: It is my conviction that led me to engage in wide consultations at the beginning of this year to ask our people; to ask wide-ranging questions. Basically, it centered around them. Does it make sense for us to get into the train again to say we are running for public office? Which office? Which level of engagement should we get into? Should we just kiss it goodbye and or should we remain engaged? In what form should we remain engaged? If we have to remain engaged in a political party system, which party? These are questions that formed the wide consultations that I said must have started January intensively. Of course, informally these discussions have been going on for some time. There is also greater demand that I should run for the office of President to help make Cameroon the true fatherland we all desire, building on the foundation that President Paul Biya has laid and his predecessor, to be able to take Cameroon to the next level. This will be a moment of peaceful democratic transition and transformation. That we need democratic transition and transformation, we need to consolidate on the gains of the past 31 years and those of his predecessors His Excellency Late President Ahmadou Ahidjo because he also built on something. That we need to continue to set the pace in leaps and bounds, so we need total transformation of our democracy and our political processes and the economy to consolidate and that can only be achieved by CCC beginning from 2018 when we will take over the presidency of our fatherland Cameroon.
The fight against corruption has led to the imprisonment of several barons of the regime from the Grand North, Marafa Hamidou Yaya, Iya Mohammed, etc., do you consider this a sign of divorce in the North-South alliance?
Hafis Ruelfi: The public institutional system of any nation is its future and hope, while the effective functioning of it is sine qua non for the total growth of our society because no nation can aspire to achieve her full potentials without transparency and accountability. Its potential cannot be realized if the institutions charged to do so are crippled by bad management, unaccountability and profound corruption. It is, therefore, the aggregate of efforts that we put in to check corruption and other vices in public offices that will ultimately strengthen our institutions and promote transparency and accountability that will translate into a better future for Cameroon. I am happy that the present government is looking in that direction with its commitment to resolving the impasse with the public sector by investigating corrupt public officers. One of our objectives at the CCC is to promote justice and the rule of law in Cameroon. Laws of our country shall be supreme and whosoever contravene them no matter their social ranking must be prosecuted by our courts and if found guilty be punished by the law. There is no legitimacy of any alliance which will promote corruption or mismanagement of our public offices by public officers no matter which region, tribe or party they come from.
Even though you are not running, what message do you have for Cameroonians during this electoral period, from the candidates to the parties, is there a party you want your followers to vote for?
Hafis Ruelfi: That is true and it is unfortunate that our party the CCC was still under legalization when the electorates were convene to the polls and as such we could not file lists for these upcoming twin elections. We are now targeting but the presidential election in 2018 which Cameroonian will witness the formidable team that will lift this Cameroon to the next level. We the CCC members do not have any particular political party to ask our militants to vote but our message to all progressive Cameroonians to shun belly politics and take this opportunity presented to them by voting credible people who have the common masses at heart and have good manifestos which will bring development to their door step and not the ones to read in speeches.
We end by asking you a question on President Biya, if you were asked to name about five or six specific things that you will like to see him work on before his mandate expires or he leaves office, what will you consider as priority areas?
Hafis Ruelfi: If I were asked today to name five or six specific things that I will like to see Mr Biya work on before leaving office will be; summed up in one which is for him to call for a sovereign national conference to address the problems facing our country today. Beyond the facades of peace they say lies a badly fragmented polity which to me has been the reason for our underdevelopment to has led our country to regional interest politics. A national conference will lay a strong foundation for a regionalized country like Cameroon serious on being an emerging economy by 2035. With a national conference issues like separation of powers with check and balances will be looked at which will lay a good environment for the creation of strong institutions, genuine electoral reforms and the fight against corruption, with a national sovereign conference it will likely address and solve once and for all concerns of the Southern Cameroonians issue who feel to have been marginalized and are seeking the restoration of their statehood, with a sovereign national conference people will speak their minds and not hide any secret, people must be ready to listen and as hard as it might be forgive one another for this will bring a true and genuine reconciliation which to me will drive Cameroon to meet the 21st century challenges just like countries like South Africa, Ghana, amongst African nations with strong institutions and a vibrant economy, you can name a lot.
Africa is the next big thing, and the place to invest says young Billionaire Ashish J Thakkar
August 29, 2013 | 12 Comments
By Ajong Mbapndah L
Young, intelligent,dashingly handsome, unassuming, media friendly, visionary, fiercely ambitious, and proudly African are some of the attributes that describe Ashish J Thakkar who has emerged as a leading image of the genius in the African youth. In his early thirties, Ashish J Thakkar is one of the youngest billionaires in the continent with the Mara Group he founded and heads operating in 26 countries, 19 of them in Sub Sahara Africa. Ashish’s fortune comes from solid business insight, hard work and a strong confidence in his potentials. His confidence and daring attitude pushed him to take a loan of $5,500 at the age of 15 to set a small shop in 1996 and today he controls a business empire. In between running his business and answering to multiple solicitations around the world, Ashish J Thakkar remains very open in sharing his experiences and giving back to the community. Interviewed by Ajong Mbapndah L, Ashish J Thakkar shares his business experiences, the Mara Group, the Mara Foundation and more. “Africa really is the next big thing, and the place to invest,” says Ashish and his advice to aspiring entrepreneurs in Africa “dream big, but start small! And never ever give up.”
Mr. Ashish J Thakkar, thanks so much for accepting this interview, correct us if we are wrong but it is said that you started business at the age of 15, what drove you into business at that early age, how did you get the capital and at what point did you realize this was your calling?
I was always passionate about entrepreneurship and doing business. Basically it all started when my parents bought me a computer. My father’s friend came home for dinner that night. He saw it and he said, “How much did you get it for?” I told him the price but added a hundred dollars more than what we actually bought it for. And he said, “How many do you have?” I said, “I’ve got two.” So I sold it to him and while they were having dinner, I deleting all the files and packing it up. Obviously I didn’t have a second one. I delivered the computer the next day and I made a hundred dollars. And I said to myself, “Wow, this is doable.”
That was when I decided to drop out of school and become a full time entrepreneur. So at the age of 15, in 1996, I took a 5,500 dollar loan to set up a small shop.
Today you have operations in close to what-20 countries, from the early interest in business, how did you achieve the feat of building such a powerful business empire?
Back then I never thought I would today run a Group with operations in 26 countries (19 of them being in Sub Saharan Africa). But I was never afraid to follow my dreams and I worked very hard to get to where I am today.
If you do not mind can you tell us a little more about the Mara Group and what motivates you or what criteria you use in picking your areas of investment?
Mara’s current businesses operate in a broad range of sectors including information technology (IT) services, business process outsourcing (BPO), a multi-faceted mobile-enabled online platform, agriculture, real estate, hospitality, packaging and asset management. We believe in creating value and making a difference by proposing differentiated products and solutions to individuals and companies across the sectors within which we operate.
To achieve these goals and continue building a solid diversified platform for expansion, Mara’s business philosophy consists of creating innovative partnerships with international industry leaders. Our partnership approach allows us to combine skills, knowledge, and operational expertise to support the creation and growth of new and existing companies.
Ultimately, our strategy has four key elements: whatever we do should be Pan- African, game changing, “Mara” branded and have a positive social impact.
In your early thirties, your name is virtually a global brand and you are regularly cited as an example of the potentials that Africa has, do you feel any extra pressure been used as one of the poster figures on the potentials and genius of the African youth?
It’s an honor to be seen as an example of Africa’s potential! But I can’t say I feel any pressure. I am only trying my best to give back to the community though our social enterprise, Mara Foundation. Naturally, I am hoping to give young African entrepreneurs the same opportunities I had. Being truly African, I want to show these aspiring entrepreneurs that anything is possible!
Based on the experience working your way to success, may we know the ingredients it takes to become a successful business man, what role do factors like education or capital play considering the limited availability of both to most people especially from poor backgrounds interested in business?
Education is indeed important, but what is even more important for a young entrepreneur is mentorship and advice from seasoned business owners. Finding the right mentor will help these aspiring entrepreneurs to avoid many mistakes along the journey. Within Mara Foundation, we have launched a mentorship platform called Mara Mentor. It’s an online platform where anyone can sign up as a mentee and it’s completely free of charge. On the platform, the mentees can connect with our mentors (we have a few hundred active mentors today from different nationalities), ask their questions and participate in the debate rooms. Mara Mentor will also be available as a mobile application in a few weeks, making it much easier for the users to stay connected. We are hoping to reach millions of entrepreneurs via Mara Mentor, not only in Africa but also beyond its borders.
Capital is also a very important factor and it’s often hard to for young entrepreneurs to get bank loans. That is why Mara Foundation is launching a new venture capital fund, called Mara Ad-Venture Capital Fund, to offer early stage seed and growth capital to high potential African entrepreneurs across Africa. The entrepreneurs that receive funding will also benefit from coaching from our teams, in order to help them take their companies to the next level.
Your Group also runs the Mara Foundation with a focus on emerging entrepreneurs, may we know how the Foundation functions and the kind of projects it is interested in?
Mara Foundation was established in 2009 and is currently active in Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa. The Foundation works to create sustainable economic and business development opportunities for young business owners via our Mara Launchpad incubation centres and Mara Launch Fund. Our mission is to provide comprehensive support services including mentorship, funding, incubation centre workspace and business training to African entrepreneurs
In 2013, the Foundation has continued its strategic growth in Sub-Saharan Africa while simultaneously expanding to other global markets worldwide. Within the continent, on 12 August this year, we announced our partnership with the President of Nigeria to launch Mara Mentor as the official mentoring tool in Nigeria. And beyond the African continent, through our different partnerships, we will shortly launch our Mara Mentor in India, China, Mexico and Ireland.
What does it take for potential entrepreneurs to benefit from the support offered by the Foundation?
To benefit from capital, entrepreneurs are welcomed to apply on the Foundation’s website: http://www.mara-foundation.org/
Our mentorship programme is free of charge, and anyone can sign up on: mentor.mara.com
If there is one thing that more and more people agree upon it is the potential that Africa has, a huge and growing market, abundant resources etc based on your experience, what does the continent need to do to build a more conduisive business environment that could see the emergence of more successful stories like that of Ashish Thakkar?
The answer for Africa lays in its small- and medium-sized businesses, rather than large domestic businesses, multi-nationals, or government organizations. These SMEs are the ones driving the economies, contributing to national GDPs and creating employment for millions of people. Therefore, the key solution for creating jobs and generating renewed economic growth on the continent is to empower African youth and entrepreneurs.
But most new start-ups struggle to grow and their failure rate is very high. To address this problem, entrepreneur mentorship and comprehensive support services are crucial to bridge the gap between business start-up and continual growth, providing productive and sustainable employment.
Talking about Africa you directed a tweet with a dose of cynicism at Donald Trump for saying that the 7 billion pledged by President Obama to fund power projects in Africa will stolen, with business interests in several countries, what is the image of Africa you want the world to know , despite the corruption we know is still rife in some countries?
I want people to understand that we are a continent and not a country, so you just cannot generalize. But beyond that, I truly believe that Africa has a bright future ahead and that the continent is currently going through an amazing transformation. Africa really is the next big thing, and the place to invest!
With the kind of success you have enjoyed and accumulated what next for Ashish Thakkar and any last word to other young Africans who would love to follow in your footsteps?
The best advice I can give is to dream big, but start small! And never ever give up….
For me and Mara, it’s just the beginning!