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Africa: Madjer – Algeria, Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana and Nigeria Will Qualify
November 13, 2013 | 0 Comments
Rabah Madjer

Rabah Madjer

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?

Madjer 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.

*Source CAF Online
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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

AfDB and Made in Africa Foundation Launch Fundraising for Africa50 Infrastructure Fun

AfDB and Made in Africa Foundation Launch Fundraising for Africa50 Infrastructure Fund

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

 

Tas Anvaripour

Tas Anvaripour

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?

NASDAQ 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.

 

 

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EXPLOSIVE: What Obasanjo Told Me About Third Term — Atiku
November 3, 2013 | 0 Comments

Sani Tukur*

 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.

Former Vice President Atiku

Former Vice President Atiku

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.

Atiku-AbubakarWe 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

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Africa Can Be a Strategic Partner in the Global Market of Natural Gas
November 3, 2013 | 1 Comments

By Ajong Mbapndah L

Anne Etoke, Managing Director West Africa,TAGA

Anne Etoke, Managing Director West Africa,TAGA

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 (info@theafricagas.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.

 

 

 

 

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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

 

U.S. Army Gen. David Rodriguez, front row, center, the commander of U.S. Africa Command, poses for a photo with military leaders participating in exercise Western Accord 2013 in Accra, Ghana, June 26, 2013

U.S. Army Gen. David Rodriguez, front row, center, the commander of U.S. Africa Command, poses for a photo with military leaders participating in exercise Western Accord 2013 in Accra, Ghana, June 26, 2013

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

Washington, D.C.

 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.

President Obama and General Rodriguez

President Obama and General Rodriguez

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?”

Ambassador Greenfield

Ambassador Greenfield

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.

 

Twitter @StateAfrica or you can follow the State Department @StateDept.

 

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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 Thomas-Greenfield

Assistant Secretary Thomas-Greenfield

-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.

With Liberian President Ellen Johnson

With Liberian President Ellen Johnson

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?

President Obama with African at the White HouseASSISTANT 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 2ASSISTANT 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

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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

 

Hafis Ruelfi,count on the CCC  for the 2018 elections

Hafis Ruelfi,count on the CCC for the 2018 elections

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?

 

Posters of Hafis Ruelfi in Cameroon

Posters of Hafis Ruelfi in Cameroon

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.

It is time for the remains of late President Ahidjo to be brought back home says Hafis Ruelfi

It is time for the remains of late President Ahidjo to be brought back home says Hafis Ruelfi

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.

 

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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

Ashish J Thakkar"For me and Mara, it’s just the beginning"

Ashish J Thakkar”For me and Mara, it’s just the beginning”

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.

Africa really is the next big thing, and the place to invest

Africa really is the next big thing, and the place to invest

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!

 

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“Southern Sudanese Did Not Count On The Emergence of An Indigenous Oppressor When Opting For Secession”
August 22, 2013 | 15 Comments

-Mabior Garang on Political Developments in Southern Sudan.

By Ajong Mbapndah L

In the midst of a political crisis between President Salva Kiir and some senior members of his government and the ruling Sudanese Peoples Liberation Movement, there is every indication that all is not well in Southern Sudan. Africa’s newest nation seems to have learned little from the  experiences that other African countries had at independence and the result is that Southern Sudan has so far failed to live up to the  aspirations of its people. This is a view shared by Mabior Garang the son of the historic liberation hero the lated Dr John Garang. Southern Sudanese “did not count on the emergence of an indigenous oppressor that would continue the program of marginalization and exploitation,” says Mabior in his take on the current crisis and how the country has been managed since independence in 2011.In an interview which revisits the liberation struggles of the Southern Sudanese, Mabior lashes out at corruption, and the SPLM government for deviating from its founding mission and principles. Politics has serious challenges but in the face of human suffering empathy dictates that something should be done says Mabior in justification of what he is doing  at his level to help.

Mr. Garang, thanks so much for accepting to grant us this interview, South Sudan has been in the news and it appears for the wrong reasons, a power struggle between President Salvir Kiir and his Team, what is going on and how serious is this struggle to peace and unity in your country?

It is always an honor to have dialogue with Pan African Visions; I appreciate the opportunity to reach Comrades that want to know what’s happening in our corner of Africa.

Indeed South Sudan has been in the news and for the wrong reasons; it would appear that there is a power struggle between President Salva Kiir and his team. However, the problem goes deeper than this; in my humble analysis it is a crisis of ideology (as I have mentioned in my previous interview with Pan African Visions), it is a loss of direction that is not only a South Sudanese tragedy but an African one.

In brief the movement is in crisis because it has not addressed several questions that have divided it since its inception. One of these had to do with organizational structure; while the other had to do with the unity of our people. There was the dominant camp in the movement that contended that a political movement (representative of the people) could not be formed in Ethiopia in 1983, because the basis for forming democratic institutions did not exist. They suggested that the military element should take primacy over the political, and through the course of the struggle the armed element would create the necessary conditions for the coming into being of the political element. They argued that the relationship was a dialectical one.

These cadres believed that the military element would provide discipline as the movement was trying to bring together people from various walks of life to work together. There was amongst those that found themselves as refugees in Ethiopia (in 1983) engineers, doctors, peasants (farmers and cattle keepers) even former criminals; how do you unite such a mass of people with different interest and make them work towards the same objective? The solution was a politico military organization that would stress military discipline. They argued that if the political element took precedence too early then they would be transferring the parliament to the bush, and it would be a never ending argument. They would end up like the Lumumbaist in Zaire, with the leadership in hotels in Tanzania and China, while the combatants suffer in the bush (this problem is explained better by Che in his “Diary of the Revolutionary War in the Congo”).

The other divisive issue was the question of the unity of our people vs. the secession of Southern Sudan.; the two ideas where taken by some to be mutually exclusive. The question of unity was expounded through the vision of the new Sudan; according to this philosophy the problem in the country (Sudan) was not an issue of the South seceding but one of the imposition of one culture to define the Sudan (a nation rich in diversity). This; they explained, was the fundamental problem in the country. This imposition of one culture to the exclusion of the others is what has caused marginalization and this in turn causes rebellion, the secession of the South would not address the problem concretely (it would be a temporary solution and this is today apparent).

In order to understand the vision of the new Sudan, it is essential to understand the history the inception of the liberation movements in Africa. The quest for a new society!

The founding fathers and mothers of the African liberation struggle realized that the old African society had been destroyed by the Arab and European slave trade and the colonization that followed. In addition, the nascent society that was being evolved was not one that could possibly serve the interests of the masses of the African people. The junior staff of the colonist where being trained to serve the interest of the respective European powers and not the interest of the masses of African people; therefore, the logical solution was a new society that would take the good from the old (pre-colonial Africa) and the contemporary (colonial Africa) and leave the bad to form a new society. A modern and new African society, one that best serves the interests of the masses of the African people; and makes them take their rightful place in the world.

The idea of the new society lost out over the new colonial society and over the years it has become entrenched in the process of classical neo colonialism. It is deplorable that today the economic indicators in most African countries are far worse than the period immediately following African independence (in the 1960), as if to suggest that the African masses where better off under the yoke of foreign oppressors. The failure across Africa to implement the vision of a new society has left the masses of African people trapped in humiliating poverty.

It is only once in a while that a leader comes along like the late John Garang (a selfless leader dedicated to the historical struggle of the people), and we are reminded of the need for a new society. And when they do, the leaders of the liberation movement have throughout time (consistently) been slandered, de-campaigned and outright murdered by those that are more concerned with independence and not necessarily social change. So the struggle rages on with the idea of liberation as the primary objective on one side and the achievement of flag independence as the objective on the other, the confrontation has at times been violent.

In the pre independence period the two camps had a common enemy so they worked together; however, when independence is achieved their interests rapidly deviated. The interest of those in the independence movement became maintaining political power at all costs (to save their privileged positions), while those in the liberation movement continue to have the same objective of social change, the restoration of the greatness of our people and the modernization of our societies (George Orwell described it best in his 1945 book – Animal Farm).

The truth is there need not be a contradiction between the vision of a new Society and African independence, not unless we are condemning our people to abject poverty forever. To get back to the question, what seems like a power struggle between President Salva Kiir and the cadres of the movement is how this struggle (Independence vs. Liberation) is being played out in our corner of Africa. Those that are only concerned with flag independence feel threatened by this vision (of liberating the masses). In an attempt to maintain their privileged positions in Juba, they have set out to misinform the citizens of our Republic that unity and the vision of new Sudan are mutually exclusive, a threat to the territorial integrity of the Republic of South Sudan and that we should abandon the idea because as they like to put it: “…we are now South Sudan…new Sudan is a dead ideology…”

They fear the vision of the new Sudan because it would result in the restructuring of power in Juba, the people would take control and not an oligarchy of oafs and stooges that are loyal to the head of state and who are all loyal to their own greed. This is why there has been no constitutional conference, the constitutional process has been compromised giving the head of state absolute power and “absolute power corrupts absolutely” as the saying goes. The vision of the new Sudan is also not in the interests of the Khartoum regime and so ironically the interests of Juba and Khartoum at the moment coincide.

This is where we are today as a movement!

How has President Kiir managed the country in his first term and why is he nervous about a challenge from his camp?

I say with all due respect to President Salva Kiir that he has completely mismanaged the country in his first term and during the interim period of the CPA. The SPLA – SPLM had clearly defined objectives that where abandoned in 2005 at the moment of victory and labeled as Garang ideas and those that would elucidate these ideas as “Garang boys”. When these are not Garang ideas but correct ideas behind which we have lost very many comrades over the course of the struggle. It is a betrayal to the spirit of these comrades for the objectives to be abandoned in such a whimsical manner. The SPLM had a document “The SPLM Strategic Framework for War to Peace Transition” that spelled out the program of the SPLM in the post war period. The document was abandoned.

It is now common knowledge that over the past eight years $ 4 billion has been embezzled in donor money while over $ 10 billion has been embezzled in oil revenues. There is an ever growing humanitarian crisis in Jong’lei State that if left unchecked could engulf the whole country. There are communities that are still living with (literally) Stone Age technologies in a country with billions ($) in oil revenues, a population of 8 million within an area that is 619,745 km². There are no basic services for the majority of our population, no decent healthcare, no food security, no clean water, no roads, no trade, no security of movement or property it is nothing short of a betrayal of the aspirations of our people.

The people of South Sudan opted for secession because they thought that the reason they were in abject poverty was Arab domination and the independence of the South would automatically solve all their problems. They did not count on the emergence of an indigenous oppressor that would continue the program of marginalization and exploitation. The imposition of one culture to define the nation is still being practiced in South Sudan, with some trying to define a diverse South Sudan through the lens of Nilotic speakers (excluding the other diversities in the Country).

The President has been given absolute power by a transitional constitution that was tailor made to suit his every whim. The President has absolute power as he can dismiss elected Governors and appoint new ones according Article 101 (r) and 101 (s); and if the parliament checks his powers he can adjourn or prorogue the National Legislature according to Article 101 (g). Anyone that criticizes the President also faces dismissal as we have recently seen with the recent sacking of two cabinet ministers, the Secretary General of the SPLM and the Vice President of the Republic.  There are also journalist that have been tortured and murdered by unknown assailants after having criticized the president and/or government.

I don’t understand why the President is nervous?  I believe that is a question best addressed to him. Perhaps he is nervous because as I have mentioned in previous interviews, and I repeat: “a posthumous coup has taken place…and has been made to appear like succession” the coup was carried out on the marginalized people of the old Sudan by the Northern and Southern elite. These elites came to the realization that the Sudanese Revolution was about to triumph and power would be restructured in Khartoum to the advantage of the marginalized communities. The elites would lose their privileged positions they have maintained since independence. It was not to the advantage of the Southern nor the Northern elite, and so they conspired to betray the Sudanese people.

The Southern elite took the aspirations of the people of South Sudan to have their own country where they would not be second class citizens and betrayed those aspirations.  Those that have usurped power from the people in Juba are nervous because they know what they have done, and their intimidation tactics are not working; their propaganda tactics are also not working. They sense that the people are about to take back their movement and so they are desperate. The President has stopped working with the SPLM cadres and is now considering working with the opposition as is reflected by the recent appointment of several leaders of the opposition to the new cabinet (while true members are being dismissed).

What are the options that opponents of President Kiir dismissed from the government or suspended from the party have at their disposal?

The majority of those that were dismissed are still Members of Parliament, and others are respectable people in their communities, and so can still have an impact on the political process in the country. Those that feel victimized can follow the legal processes; they can challenge the decision of the President through the courts (as has been done by the SG of the SPLM through the Supreme Court). They could also opt to engage in national development through other means, as government is not the only institution through which one can contribute to national development.

Given the youthfulness of Southern Sudan, considering that the country is emerging from decades of fighting with Sudan prior to gaining independence, were expectations too high from President Kiir, are people not expecting results a little too soon considering where Southern Sudan came from?

Is too much been expected too soon from President Salva Kiir?

Is too much been expected too soon from President Salva Kiir?

I don’t believe that we are expecting too much too soon, because the struggle was not carried out in a vacuum, the struggle has a history. The SPLA had vast areas under its administration during the bush war (larger than the current area under our administration), these were known as liberated territories, and displaced camps. The services to the people in these areas were much better than the conditions today, the leadership was with the people in the rural areas, and so could quickly address their needs. This is not so today, the leadership has become amputated from the people and so thy make uninformed decisions knowing that they don’t have to live with the consequences.

The experience of the bush war could have been transferred to the new political reality, and we could have learned lessons from other African countries that suffered similar challenges during their independence. The independence of South Sudan is coming at a time of great leaps in technological advancement and so we don’t have to reinvent the wheel. There are very many countries that gave us a helping hand during the struggle that could advise our young government. Instead the President is isolating potential allies in the region (to the extent of telling the SG of the UN: “…I am not under your command”).

There was tremendous outpouring of support from the world to the new nation, but all these opportunities have been squandered, and I believe it was done deliberately. I don’t believe it is due to where South Sudan came from that we are in the mess that we are in, our problems are self-inflicted. It is true that there is the legacy of the Arab and European Slave Trade, Colonialism and neo Colonialism; however, our liberation is our own responsibility. The SPLA guerillas forced the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) and the Government to the negotiating table where SPLM defeated the NIF/NCP Government at the negotiating table. This great victory could not have been achieved except through exceptional organization of the masses of the Sudanese people. That we have failed to organize during peace time is an indication to me of a system overthrow, and a reversal of the victory of our people.

With regards to the security challenges, in addition to the issues that Southern Sudan has with Sudan, it is also disturbing to hear about violence between Southern Sudanese groups, what is the problem?

The problem (as I have mentioned above) is simple, the imposition of one culture to define the new state. The resulting marginalization is what fuels rebellions of those that feel disenfranchised. The current elites in South Sudan have shelved the CPA and the vision of new Sudan, within which are resolutions to problems of ‘wealth sharing’ and ‘power sharing’, ‘security arrangements’ and so on. The problems that plagued us in the old Sudan are still with us in the Republic of South Sudan, a new oppressor is emerging out of the ashes of the old (like an evil phoenix).

Overall how well would you say the SPLM has lived up to its founding principles and how well is it coping in keeping the legacy of its founding father the late Dr. John Garang?

The SPLM has abandoned its founding principles the corner stone of which was the vision of the new Sudan; we have failed to articulate the vision within the context of the new geopolitical reality. It is true that during the course of the armed struggle the new Sudan vision was articulated within the context of a united, democratic and secular Sudan. However, the failure of the two parties to agree on the nature of the state (secular vs. theocratic state) has led to a two state solution through the Southern Sudanese exercise of their right to self-determination.  The vision of the new Sudan and the independence of the South are not mutually exclusive; the vision of the new Sudan can still be pursued within the territorial boundaries of what is now the Republic of South Sudan. The new Sudan is not a place on the map; it is a vision and political philosophy comparable to the millennium goals, the Magna Carta, or the Declaration on the rights of Man.

In addition the SPLM was fighting against forced Arabisation and forced Islamisation, the struggle was successful because of the overwhelming support of African nations. The movement in its (pre-independence) foreign policy convinced African governments of the danger posed by the threat of Islamic Jihad. The SPLM – North today and other revolutionary forces in North Sudan are still fighting this noble struggle, and it seems Africa has abandoned them. The SPLM in the South should be championing the cause of the SPLM – North not only as a matter of principle, but even as a matter of national security. The SPLM in South Sudan should be supporting the SPLM – North and justifying it to the AU and UN. The independence of South Sudan will be insignificant if the people of Abyei, Southern Khordofan, Southern Blue Nile, Darfur and all other Africans are still threatened by forced Arabisation and Islamisation (in fact no one is safe in Africa as we have seen recently in Mali).

The late Dr. John Garang was a product of the African liberation struggle; he lived in Tanzania and the USA during the 1960’s when he was a university student. Tanzania was supporting the African liberation movements at the time, while the USA was at the height of the Civil Rights Movement.  This is the background from which he drew his inspiration, he was an Agricultural Economist and the leader of a Liberation Movement like Amilcar Cabral was. The SPLM history is not that dissimilar to the history of the PAIGC in Guinea Bissau or that of FRELIMO in Mozambique, and so I would not call it the legacy of the late Dr. John Garang. It is the legacy of the historical struggle of the African people, and it has manifested itself at different times and places in Africa. The struggle continues!

A word on the opposition, the press and the civil society, how effective are there as a tool in checking potential excesses from the President and the SPLM government?

There is no credible opposition that has evolved as of yet, perhaps the unease that we are currently experiencing are the birth pangs of the birth of the opposition. The traditional opposition parties inherited from the old Sudan are subservient to the SPLM; they exist by the good will of the SPLM and so can’t be effective. The press and the civil society face intimidation, arbitrary arrest and extra judicial killing by the security forces if they are critical of the President or his administration. The killing and intimidation of journalist has been widely reported in the media so I will not bore you with a list of names.

There is certainly much to criticize but there should also be reasons to remain optimistic and positive about Sudan, can you tell us some of those developments or things that should make Southern Sudanese remain optimistic about the future?

Mabior Garang thinks it is hard to remain indifferent when things are not going right

Mabior Garang thinks it is hard to remain indifferent when things are not going right .Photo Raphael Land.

Raphael Land

Raphael Land

The People of South Sudan are the greatest hope of South Sudan, our people are a very resolute people that have lived through centuries of foreign domination and are still here (since pharaonic times).  It was the people of South Sudan that mobilized all the resources available to them for their liberation and who achieved the current victory that is being hijacked by an unscrupulous bourgeoisified elite that have no interest in the liberation of our people. They would rather thrive on the ignorance of the masses.

The South Sudan Legislative Assembly, the representatives of the people of South Sudan are also a great hope for our people. They are the ones mandated by the constitution to check any excesses by the executive that may arise; and though they have been silent in the past, recent events show that they may be a force to reckon with. There are also the SPLM delegates of the National Convention, the highest body in the SPLM. There are a lot of challenges, but where there are challenges there are also opportunities.

On a personal note do you have plans to become more actively involved in politics, maybe run for office at the local level or for a parliamentary seat?

It is a catch 22, because who in their rightful mind would want to become actively involved in politics? I would rather get married raise children and take care of my family. There is a bad culture in South Sudan and Africa of entering politics to embezzle public funds. I am; however, not lacking anything and can find work and business anywhere. The problem is when one sees human suffering empathy dictates that I must do something. This is what I am doing within the constraints of the reality of my current situation.

 

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Meeting with the Masters: Ray Lema shares secrets of his Amazing Musical Career
July 12, 2013 | 0 Comments

By Ajong Mbapndah L

Ray Lema Talk about musicians who have with great consistency flown the African flag high through music and Ray Lema will rank among the top. Born in Zaire which is today the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ray Lema has toured the globe with his brand of music which in his own words channels a link between traditional African Music and his modern pianist training. Despite the success and fame that he enjoys, Ray Lema has shunned the trappings of stardom as he seeks to be a better musician every day.     Lema, who has collaborated with some of the biggest names in African music across generations says music is a function of one’s education and for a culture as rich as Africa, the focus should not remain on the showbiz element of music. Despite the challenges, Ray Lema says he is optimistic about the future of Africa especially with the younger generation which has more tools at their disposal to help is seeking solutions.

Ray Lema, we understand in your younger years, your aspiration was to be a Catholic Priest and you actually went to a seminary, what made you change your mind and when did you realize that music was your true calling?

I found my calling at the seminary when I went to be a priest and then I left because I was not quite comfortable with some concepts of the catholic religion.

How challenging was it for you to forge a name for yourself in music and may we know some highlights of your career?

I wasn’t in the challenge of “getting known” I was more in the challenge of being a better musician and I still am. I started as a classical pianist and then I became a rock guitar player, then I became the musical director of the National Ballet of Congo (DRC) and after I left Congo I’ve been on the roads, and if you go check my website, you can read about my biography.

Much of your music is different from the traditional Congolese and African Music, you have made it big with that, but what made you go for a different brand of music other than what most other than what most Africans of your time went for?

I think a matter of training I’ve been trained first as a classical musician and then being the director of a national ballet I had to listen and play with so many traditional musicians that the Congolese rumba didn’t really appeal to me. Today I try to make a direct link between African traditional music and my modern pianist training.

How many albums does Ray Lema have as of this moment and which of them registered the greatest success?

I’ve never been into the “star system” so it’s not a priority for me to go check which album is the most successful. But as I said before, I just feel I’m getting better as a musician. As for the number of albums same, just check on the website.

What is your appraisal of African music today and its younger generation, some have complained that there is too much vulgarity and it is lacking in message, your take on that sir.

Music is a reflection of one’s education and if we invest in educating our people we shouldn’t have that complain. The problem  is actually that in modern African music we have only the show business side, and it’s not enough for  cultures as rich as African cultures to be represented only by showbiz.

Ray LemaThere are others who think too that music from earlier stars like Franco,Tabu Ley, Manu Dibango,Miriam Makeba,Franklin Boukaka , Le Grand Kalle,Fela etc had a patriotic zest and helped in promoting a strong African identity and promoting unity, do you agree?

All the musicians that you named didn’t have to sell an image through musical video clip. They were busy selling just their music, and their music was very close to the people, so it’s true that they had a stronger identity that what I hear today, because when I watch today’s video clips, they don’t really reflect musical careers, they just reflect an obedience to marketing rules.

May we know the relationship you have with some of those artists cited and may also know some of the younger generation of musicians you appreciate and frequently interact with?

I met personally and played with most of the musicians you cited. Most of them are gone, except for Manu Dibango with whom I have played extensively.

Among the younger, I play  mostly  with instrumentalist like Etienne Mbappe, Pépé Feli, Lokua Kanza, Bil Aka Kora, Fredy Massamba, Ballou Canta, les Tambours de Brazza with Emile Biayenda, Francky Moulet … there are a lot …

In terms of money, in terms of income, would you say music pays more today than it was a few decades back? This question is asked with issues of piracy and its negative effects in mind, how do we fight piracy so the artist can enjoy the fruits of his work?

Talking about money first, I should say Yes and no! Some “stars” today make the amount of money that could not have been dreamt of years before. And that’s where you have to make a difference between “stars” and musicians especially in Africa. Those who make money with music are the singers. The instrumentalist playing behind already have a hard time just surviving!

Talking about piracy, the first problem, talking about Africa is the weakness of the distribution system, then still in some countries the copyright is non existent or inefficient.

Piracy, with internet is a worldwide problem. Different solutions are being studied to reward the composers, but still I have to say that no satisfying solution has been found.

The continent recently celebrated fifty years of the African Union, considering that great names like you excelled in the earlier years of independence, what is your view on how the continent is evolving?

You’re misinformed! because in the 60’s I was still a teenager  !!! I’m not that old !!!

In spite of all the problems we are facing in Africa, I deeply believe in my continent and more especially in the new generations coming who have more tools for analyzing our situation.

 

Irving Acao, Etienne Mbappe, Nicolas Viccaro, Ray Lema, Sylvain Gontard

Irving Acao, Etienne Mbappe, Nicolas Viccaro, Ray Lema, Sylvain Gontard

You are originally from the Congo and that country with its amazing resourcing and wonderful culture has not known peace for a long time now, how do you feel about that and in what way can music and famous musicians like you help in making things better?

Those amazing resources are the main Congolese problem because some big corporations from all over the world make their profit by keeping this situation unchanged and as a musician , I still feel very small in front of those corporations who will never give up peacefully their lucrative business.  What has been  happening for years in Congo is intimately linked to the global economic system, which is now  totally  out of control  and you can see that the crisis is worldwide, so I can only hope that there will be a global change before it’s too late.

Any special projects that you are working on right now?

Yes ! my  jazz quintet , with Etienne Mbappe on bass with whom I have a long time complicity.

I’m also working on new compositions to play with a string quartet , a new piano solo … tons of projects !!!

What do you consider as the legacy of Ray Lema, what would you want Africa and the world to always remember you for?

Being a universal musician deeply rooted in his African tradition !

Mr Ray Lema, thanks very much for your availability and for granting this interview, sometimes it is very difficult to get access to stars of your caliber.

Anytime. Now you know the way !Thank you,

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Game Changing Mission? African Americans Could Invest $230 Billion In Africa By 2017
July 12, 2013 | 30 Comments

-Jerome Almon shares his vision  of getting African-Americans to Bank on Africa

By Ajong Mbapndah L

Jerome AlmonU.S Businessman Jerome Almon says it is time for African-Americans to bank more on Africa and matching words with actions, he is launching a venture that will attract hundreds of billions of new investments in the continent. Almon, a veteran who also runs a successful entertainment company says investing in the continent will create wealth and opportunities for Africans and will also be economically beneficial to Africans in the U.S. Countries like India and China have made great progress in part because of strong ties and it is time for African Americans to have the same level of engagement with Africa said Almon in an interview to discuss his initiative with Ajong Mbapndah L

Mr Almon, you have been in the news recently with an ambitious plan to get African Americans invest about $230 billion by 2017, can you break down the vision in very simple terms for us?

It is a simple plan that ask a simple question, “Why should we have to ask others for help when we can help ourselves as Africans. African Americans spend well over a trillion dollars annually, and it does us no good, however investing in Africa through tourism, business ventures, and so on makes Africa financially independent while increasing the wealth and opportunities of Africans on the Continent and in America and it creates a cycle of economic growth for every country and its people in Africa and it makes all Africans everywhere more financially wealthy. It’s just common sense that we do it. We have complete power and control to do as we want with our money and resources-let’s do what’s best for us.

How did you conceive the idea and from the initial reactions you have got, how receptive is the public to your vision?

I looked around and saw nothing but opportunity for the African diaspora to help-especially African Americans with the huge amount of hard currency we spend every year and said to myself it’s time for us to do our share. Africans in every other region of the world were and are doing more than their share. Bottom line it works.  The reaction to the plan at first was shock, but when the information was reviewed the people saw how reasonable and workable the plan was and really liked it. The amount of money is less than 8% of African American’s consumer spending. We were once on top of the world economically from Zimbabwe to Timbuktu to Egypt, let’s get back where we belong.

Definitely much could change in Africa with that kind of money, how do you think the money can be raised especially with the economic challenges that many African Americans are facing now?

It is very important that Africans in America not accept whatever they hear in the corporate media.  African Americans are constantly told they are poor even though we spend more money than the GDP of all the countries on Earth with the exception of 15 (out of 229 ranked). We are as poor as Bill Gates is-which is not at all. If we spent our money among ourselves as Africans the way the Chinese, Europeans, and Indians, we would create more jobs than there are Africans in America. Equally we are not experiencing an economic downturn in the African American community, we are experiencing the lack of basic economic literacy and the lack of maximizing our potential in this area.  For example, my hometown Detroit is bankrupt, but it is not bankrupt due to the lack of money as my website www.detroit1st.com shows. Africans in Detroit spend $30 billion a year, which would make Detroiter’s wealthier than over half the countries on Earth. If you convince someone that they are poor, they will behave as if they are poor. That is why the economic relationship with Africa is so important, think of what would happen if we as Africans followed such a common sense system with all of Africa’s natural resources?! The huge population of young people that can be the next innovators that produce the next Apple or Google, the large amount mineral wealth and natural resources that Africa has puts us as a people in a unique position. It is a matter of just seeing what is right in front of our eyes. The money is there, that cannot be disputed, it is a matter of consolidating it for African advancement.  Through a basic media education program with 10 simple facts will allow us all to have a blue print to work from. The biggest issue is not that people don’t have the money and don’t want to help, they don’t know how to help and where to send the money. African Americans give away $12 billion annually to charities that don’t help Africans-American or otherwise. I say let’s spend and invest that $12 billion amongst Africa and Africans. Once you get the truth it compels you to act, it is impossible not to.  Look at the fact that Africans from the Continent send more money back to Africa than all the foreign aid combined! There is endless potential if the North American, Caribbean, European, Australian, and South American Africans join in. Actually, it is normal for a society to invest 10% of its GDP into the economy, so we can do it-it happens every day. Any economic distress African Americans have is caused by our lack of doing business with Africans and Africa period.  If Africans in America invested in Africa, there would be no poor African Americans-economically this is indisputable.

We have seen a few celebrities with projects in Africa like Oprah Winfrey and a school in South Africa, Isaiah Washington with a foundation in Sierra Leone etc, but many will agree there is still a strong disconnect between African Americans and Africa, why is it that the bonds are not as strong as those between Indian Americans and India or Latinos and South America?

The answer to that question is simple-we haven’t tried.  A simple PR and marketing campaign from the African Union and its 54 members directed to African Americans saying “come back home-see what we can do as a people for ourselves, let’s talk, let’s do some things that benefit us all. African Americans should initiate a similar program of gaining membership in the African Union, adopting an African country to visit and work with, and most importantly right now reaching out to the 54 African embassies in America and finding out what Africa needs from us. We will find out that we can do so much together- we have to think big not small. African Americans should also learn an African language, this is a bond that the Chinese, Indians, and Latinos have-a common language. It is natural that we do this, so let’s do it. Our fate in America is the same as Africans everywhere else. It’s a matter of leadership, we need new leadership to compliment current leadership and move Africa and Africans to the next level.

 We understand this idea is new, so what is the road map, the plan of action, beyond the first step to get word out there when do we see the first concrete steps towards the realization of the vision?

OPERATIONBLAKKOUT (1)We must control our own message, currently most news on Africa is filtered through the non African media.  We have enough money and the human talent to have an African Al Jazeera with branches in Africa and America. This also allows us to educate and end misconceptions we have of Africa and other Africans, which also provides great business opportunities in advertising and business ownership globally. Next we need to set time tables and specific goals in regards to the funds and projects. This can be easily done with a diaspora conference in Africa and in America and making maximum use of the internet and social media.  The most important thing in this area is SHOW the people what great results come from the cooperation.  We need to set a top 10 list of priorities such as education, economic literacy, infrastructure projects, GDP goals, and so on. We have to look at this as a grand project with grand results which requires a grand executable plan.  These simple steps are 90% of the solution. African Americans are spending the money anyway, why not in Africa, why not on African goods and services?  We can all be wealthy together or poor together, I say let’s be wealthy as a people. Let’s help fund projects such as The Great Renaissance  Dam in Ethiopia. The dam cost around $5 billion dollars

Are there partners you have identified besides African Americans especially in the continent?

I have been contacted by the office of the President of Sierra Leone, the South African government, African Canadian groups, Ugandan, Kenyan, the office of the President of Rwanda through a journalist in East Africa, the government of  Tanzania, Nigerian, Angolan, and Namibian businessmen and dozens of other Africans from as far away as Hong Kong.  The key is working with the leadership and people in Africa to partner them with Africans in the West and getting lines of communication open and resources to the needed area as efficiently as possible.

As much as things are changing in the continent, there are still leaders in power for over thirty years and counting, corruption is still too rife for comfort and there are countries where democratic values are not respected, how can such realities affect your project?

Democracy is a powerful thing-it automatically changes a lot of things. And one of things it does is create a middle class by its very nature, and that ends the chance of such prolonged rule. At a certain stage in development it is not viable, nor acceptable. Presidents and Prime Ministers come and go, but the country and the people still need power plants, roads, bridges, and technology. The concentration has to be on improving the average African’s life, and the rest will take care of itself.  The West, China, India all faced the same issue and concentrated on the economic and infrastructure issues at hand and the democracy came along with the progress in these areas. All of my research and experience in this area shows that poverty creates dictators, and prosperity creates transparency and freedom.

Personally are there any countries that you have visited or some you consider as the kind of models of development and progress you will like to see across the continent?

Ironically, it is Germany, Canada, and China.  Germany is a very efficient country. It was the world’s largest exporter up until 5 years ago. When you consider that the country has less than a third of the population of the US and 7% of China’s population, it is amazing.  I always saw this as a model for Africa-especially South Africa.  With Canada you have nearly as much efficiency and you have a very modern country in terms of infrastructure and human rights.  Also with Canada you have a country the size of the US with 1 tenth of the population, which is very similar to most African countries.  Canada is also a great model to borrow from in terms of its modern infrastructure and facilities such as hospitals. The country also mirrors African American economically, with our consumer spending being almost identical to Canada’s GDP. This allows for us to see what we SHOULD have with the amount of money we spend.  Finally, there are more Africans in America than there are Canadians on Earth, look what they do with their resources and look what we Africans in America do with ours. We should have everything Canada has in America, but also each African country. We can easily do this. With China we see where we should be as a whole. China and the Chinese diaspora are moving as one economically and have been really seriously since the 1980’s-look at the result.  If we adopt such a philosophy for Africa with its unmatched mineral and natural wealth we can be where China is in a relatively short period of time.  China went from and agrarian society in the 1950’s to dominating the world economically today through its 5 year plan economic system. In these countries we see our potential and future, the keys are having the right vision, efficient execution of a workable plan, and constant monitoring of the feedback data and progress to make the plan more efficient.

With such a great vision, people will love to know who Jerome Almon, we see there is information about music labels you are, involvement in show biz etc, can you tell us who Jerome Almon is and the kind of experiences he has that should make people believe that this is a serious vision and this is something he can provide the right leadership for?

IMAG0140-1My background is in economics and political science, I have worked on the UN Delphi Project out of Belgium, I have attended America’s best Universities, and I have the real world experience-which is most important. I have managed one of the busiest retailers in the world. I speak working Zulu, German, Arabic, and English.  I am a paratrooper and own a successful entertainment company that produces events that have 1.5-2.5 million fans per event. But what I am most proud of is my studying the history, geography, and culture of Africa. I have spent countless hours talking to Africans from university, African military officers, and African academics about Africa.  My heroes were and are mostly continental Africans such as Jerry Rawlings, Haile Selassie, Thomas Sankara, Jomo Kenyatta, Nelson Mandela, Kwame Nkrumah, Samora Machel, Julius Nyerere, Jose Dos Santos, Kenneth Kaunda,  Anwar Sadat and on and on. I have studied Africa since I was 8 years old.  It is Africa FIRST for me always.

After reading this interview if people got interested what should there do, how can they get involved, support or find out more information?

They can contact me at africafirst@thepowerof1trillion.com and visit the website www.thepowerof1trillion.com for basic information which will contain very specific information on the plan this month.

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I’m not too old to be President -Buhari
June 4, 2013 | 0 Comments

By Mannir Dan Ali, Mahmud Jega & Ismail Mudashir, Kaduna*

BuhariMedia Trust editors had a rare encounter with former Head of State and leader of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) at his Kaduna office. He bares his mind on several issues such as the recent attack in his home town, Daura; Asari Dokubo’s threats; Boko Haram; his calls for President Jonathan’s resignation; his secret deal with Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and why he hasn’t groomed a successor, among others. Excerpts:

Some gunmen recently attacked your home town, Daura. Did the attack affect you personally?
Well, it affected me personally because the way I see it as a former military man, the attack was very efficiently planned and executed. It was the phase one of the agenda to destroy Nigeria. They attacked the security; the police stations in the town were destroyed, and I suspected they must have used incendiary bombs because you cannot repair the police stations. You have to demolish, bulldoze them and rebuild them.
They stationed what in the military we call cut off group; they stationed their men on all roads leading to Daura. People approaching Daura were attacked and the soldiers that were coming from Katsina town to give a helping hand to the police were ambushed and shot. I visited the soldiers that survived the ambush at the Federal Medical Centre, Katsina.
The group of the gunmen who broke into the banks, certainly they were very well trained and they brought enough explosives to blow the banks and remove whatever they wanted. There was another group of them that went around terrorising the people by just throwing bombs all over the place. They did not alienate themselves to the people they came into contact with in the course of their operation; their objectives were to attack the police, rob the banks and scare the people away. They were extremely successful in their operation.

About the same time as the Daura incident, there was an attack on security personnel Nasarawa State where over 60 security personnel lost their lives. The Director General of the SSS recently said they have forgiven the killers but a former director of NSO General Abdullahi Mohammed gave a contrary position. What do you make of this?
Firstly, we have to see the difference between Daura and the Nasarawa attack. The Daura attack has to do with security and economy because right now you cannot send money to Daura. The people there cannot send to you too because the entire senatorial district comprising about 11 local government areas has been financially paralysed.
Workers that normally take their money from these banks have to travel out of the area to get their salaries. However, the Nasarawa attack is a cult that infiltrated the police itself. The latest I learnt from you the press is that the number of security personnel killed is 56. The cult group slaughtered 56 security men. The SSS boss or whoever that said he has left everything to God has no right to do that.
Constitutionally, Nigerians can practice any religion they want or they can be atheists or anything they want to be, that is constitutional. But nobody should hurt a citizen of Nigeria and then get away with it, not to talk of slaughtering 56 law enforcement agents and then somebody coming out from the system to say such a thing. It is either that person doesn’t know what he was talking about or he shouldn’t even be there.

Maybe he is being cautious because of what happened at Baga, because the way security agencies were blamed…
This one is different from Baga and Daura. Nasarawa case is a cult case; they are part of the community that have got their religion. I’m even against the people that are suggesting that the cult’s ritual places should be destroyed. According to the constitution, you must allow them to go about with their activities as long as they don’t go against the constitution. But those that killed the 56 security men must be hunted and prosecuted no matter how long it will take because this is the bottom line about law and order and security in the country. They can’t be forgiven; they can’t override the constitution; Nigerians are being hurt and killed in their duties and those that killed them must be brought before the law.
 
Not long after you came back from Daura, you said President Goodluck Jonathan should resign. Why should he resign just because of an isolated insecurity episode?
No, I think I explained myself as briefly as I could. For the last 14 years there have been extreme security challenges in the country but in the last two years it was even worse.  There are two fundamental things that make a nation state viable— its security and its economy. The two years under this person, the security and the economy of the country have been compromised and this was why I said he should resign.
Unless you are telling me that you don’t know the things that went wrong in the last two years from bombing of 1st October, 2010 to now. MEND said they were the ones that did it and he came out as President and said that MEND members were not the ones. Subsequent investigation and prosecution of those who did it in South Africa proved that they did it. How can a president do that? Then look at Baga, Bama and other cases that are happening daily from Kano to Maiduguri. So what is he still doing there?

This insecurity problem, the President has tried the stick approach and he has also tried the carrot approach. If you are to be in charge, what else will you do differently?
Well, I will really go by what happened which you and I know. Firstly, how did the militancy start? How did Boko Haram start? What actions did the respective administrations at state level where those things started took? The militants, based on reports in the newspapers, were trained and armed by some party heavyweights to get rid of their opponents.
When they succeeded and won the elections, they asked those boys to return the weapons, the boys said no way. The politicians withheld their allowances, and then kidnapping started. So you will get a secondary school dropout with an AK-47 getting about 50,000 dollars per day. If the same person goes to school, he can only earn N100,000 monthly after putting 20 years in his education, so how do you expect him to forget it? It doesn’t make sense to him. This was how militancy started.
And when late Umaru Musa Yar’adua was very generous, he pardoned them, he discussed with them, he gave them money and he arranged training and re-absorption programme for them, the thing went slightly down. Abduction has been institutionalised in the South-South and the South -East and it is coming up all over the country.

How did the Boko Haram crisis start?  The military arrested their leader, Mohammed Yusuf and handed him over to the police. The police killed him and his in-law and levelled their houses. They became mad and the situation deteriorated from then up to now.
You see how the challenges started and how they were initially handled but now look at what happened in Baga and Bama. I tried to draw a parallel with what happened with Margret Thatcher when she was Prime Minister and insisted on having her convention at Brighton. The British security tried to stop her from holding it there, but she insisted. The hotel she put up in was blown up and some people died. Did the British law enforcement agents cordon off the area and shoot everything that moved?  So there is a big question mark about the competence of our law enforcement agents.

You cited a foreign example but we can also cite a local example. Early in your tenure as military head of state, there was a major Maitatsine uprising in Yola and you applied a purely military solution. Or did you think of negotiating with Maitatsine’s men at that time?
You have to frame the question properly, I’m sorry to say. The Maitatsine started from Kano, then it went to Maiduguri and Bulunkutu and then to Yola. Since you limited yourself to Yola, I’m going to limit myself to it too. My number two man, Tunde was not in the country so as the Head of State I flew to Yola and I went to the area where the operation was being carried out by the military. And that was the end of Maitatsine. But go and find out, before the President [Jonathan] was persuaded to go to Maiduguri and when he went, the whole life of Borno State was tensed he couldn’t feel secure until when he left there. I went there of course bearing in mind that I was in the military and it was a military operation, but he is a civilian and the military were conducting the operation. So this is the difference.
When we knew who was Maitatsine, wasn’t he arrested, killed and his corpse shown to everybody?  But this Boko Haram, if you could recall somebody recommended me to represent Boko Haram. I told them the honest truth that I didn’t know who their leadership was and I still don’t know who their leaders are. I don’t know their philosophy because no religion advocates hurting the innocent. So all those people giving it a religious meaning are wrong. You can’t kill a person and say Allahu Akbar (God is great). It is either you don’t know what you are saying or you don’t believe in it. It is one of the two.

It appears that many people around the president seem to think that is because you politicians in the opposition want to spoil the president’s show, that’s why there is this problem of Boko Haram.
You can effectively check this yourself. People are still being abducted and killed in the South-South and South-East. Are they doing it to spite their son of the soil whom they say if he is not voted in 2015, there will be no Nigeria?

Looking at that statement by former militant leader Asari Dokubo, what will happen in 2015?
When was he born? Did he know how many Nigerians died to keep Nigeria one? Maybe he was born after those events. But those who saw the 15th January 1966 murder of political and military leadership of some parts of the country and saw the counter coup of 29th July 1966 and those who participated in the 30 months civil war wouldn’t talk like that. He is just a spoilt child. He didn’t know what he was talking about. We wish God will bring us to 2015 and we wish to defeat Jonathan and we’ll see who can divide this country.

Talking of 2015, is it clear in your mind whether you will contest or not?
I’ve always been a very clear person. I’ve never been a confused man. I made a statement in tears when I saw how insensitive Nigerians are and they didn’t realise it until when my tears were dry. It is now their turn to cry now when there is no security and the economy is comatose. Is now their time to cry.
 
So will you comfort Nigerians now that they are crying?
I put it back to my party. I believe in multiparty democratic system. I sincerely believe in it and this is why I’m in it for the past 10 years. If my party which by God willing is going to APC, in approach to the processes of 2015 general elections give me the ticket, I will favourably consider it.

You were fairly clear in 2011 that you were through with running for elections. Given what you have been saying recently and which you just repeated now, could it be said that you have now become a normal Nigerian politician who says something and later changes his mind?
I expect people to say that but every situation is unique in itself. I have never denied the fact that I said I’ll not present myself but I was also very clear that I’ll remain in partisan politics to the end of my life. I did not say I will not participate again. People came with different convincing reasons that I should reconsider it and I told them that I’m prepared to reconsider it.

Now that ACN, CPC and ANPP held their conventions and have approved their dissolving into APC, where do we go from here?
I think you go back to the Electoral Act of 2010. That is where the answer is. The conventions of the parties you have mentioned is one of the criteria necessary for the formal application of the three parties, having met and  agreed to merge and form one party. They have to take to INEC the resolutions of the conventions. Two, their parties headquarters’ must be at the nation’s capital in Abuja.  Three, the names of the executives of the party as prescribed by the Electoral Act. So, the next move is for us to send the formal application to INEC according to the Electoral Act.

Those are the technicalities but what about the politics? Have you agreed for example on how you are going to merge the various state chapters?
You will not hear this from me now because we have a system. The resolutions of the three merging parties at the end of the conventions is that in the interim, the highest ruling body of the party—in our own case the CPC Board of Trustees—will continue to be the chief executives of respective parties until we formerly receive our certificate as APC. So no vacuum because nature hates vacuum. So we will continue according to the resolutions that we have passed which will entitle us to submit application and become APC. We will continue to work with this until we are registered as APC. We are APC from the date INEC gives us the certificate.

Have you agreed on who the national officers of APC will be?
That too I won’t tell you.

The public wants to know because 2015 is not far away.
This one too I won’t tell you. So, there are two things I won’t tell you.

What about this third one; we hear that the ACN leaders have conceded the presidency to the North while the party chairman will come from the South.
Well, I feel that for the stability of the party, at my own level I wouldn’t encourage rumour and I wouldn’t encourage incitement to make unprepared releases of our confidential discussions within the parties.

Several newspapers reported that there was an agreement between Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and yourself for both of you to renounce your personal aspirations in the interest of the new party.
I’ll resist all temptations to get me roped into making fundamental statements about this merger. When we formally submit our applications then I will answer such questions because then the documents are with INEC and I feel it is safe enough. Now it is not safe for me to confirm or reject your suggestions.

Is it true that when this merger process started personally you wanted it to be between ACN and CPC and you were not keen on allowing ANPP people to come in?
It is incorrect.

You don’t seem to be very comfortable with ANPP people.
You are still incorrect.

nigg-leaders-playing-nigeria1What is your current relationship with the ANPP chieftain Senator Ahmed Sani Yariman Bakura? In 2007 when at one time he was the chairman of your campaign organisation a problem developed at some stage.
Well, he remained in ANPP and we went and floated CPC and we are in it. So we are in different political parties.

But now you are coming to the same party, APC. Given what happened between you and him six years ago, are you comfortable now that you will be in the same party again? 
Yes, I feel comfortable because we have just discussed the legal terms of coming together and we have all accepted it. The three parties that are coming together. We are working towards the final stages of submitting our formal application to the INEC for registration. So, what else do you really want?

What about Ali Modu Sherrif?
He is the chairman of ANPP’s Board of Trustees and I’m the chairman of CPC’s Board of Trustees. Check the constitution of their party and see how much power their BOT has and check our own to see how much power our BOT has. We are trying to be very legal because this is the safest way to arrive at the merger. The legal documents involved are, firstly, the Electoral Act 2010. This is fundamental because it is the constitutional one so to speak. And then followed by the constitutions of respective parties and their manifestos. So we came and arrived at the top of the pyramid.

Are you sticking to the rules like this because you fear that people outside may try to scuttle the merger?
I think I have a different perception of the merger. There is Electoral Act on how to merge or form a new party and we are following the laws.  I’m not too legalistic; I’m just trying to follow the laws.

This merger business is more politics than the law. Are you satisfied with the kind of people that are coming into APC because there are allegations that some of them are PDP moles.
You see, when we get the registration the next thing legally is for us to do our convention whereby the party will choose its political leadership at all levels, from ward upward. Moles or no moles, whoever wants to participate will be given the opportunity. So let all the moles be coming, let them go and register with APC in their ward, get their cards and then let them start, if they want  to be councillors or president. This is what we are going to do.

You are coming together trying to displace the ruling party that is used to the spoils of office for so many years and obviously they won’t sit on their laps and wait for that to happen. Is that why you’re being careful about whole thing?
We are being careful because that is the right thing to do. You can’t ride shoddily on laws. You just interrogated me on what happened in Nasarawa State and I told you what I think is the lawful way to do address it.  We came together to stabilise the system because PDP has compromised the security and the economy of the country. We realised that the only way to stabilise the system is for the opposition parties that have representation in the legislative arm of government at both national and state levels to come together and face PDP. This is the only way to stabilise the system otherwise they will keep on doing what they like.

Are you willing to make some sacrifices because I hear people saying that in the event it is not Buhari, will he back someone else, or must it be you?
I have answered that question. You know when you tell the truth you don’t forget it. It is lies that you forget.  Somebody asked me the same question in Minna and I told him that after consummating the merger under APC, if somebody wants to become a presidential candidate and I agree myself to participate, we can go to the primaries together with that person. Let the party choose who becomes its presidential candidate for the 2015 election. I have answered that question, so please be fair to me.

You recently turned 70 and by 2015 you will about 72. Is it appropriate to run for office at that age?
Why not? I’m not a lawyer but I try to go by the rules. I think participating in voting and looking for political office by our constitution is from the age of 18 and they didn’t say when you reach the age of 100 you shouldn’t participate. So I’m even relatively young to seek for election. So it is up to firstly my party to give me the opportunity to participate and then secondly is for Nigerians to vote me or reject me because of old age.

Given the kind of political estate you built within short period of time with millions of followers, we haven’t seen a conscious effort on your part to groom a successor.
When you are running a system unless you are so primitive, I’m sorry to use that word, you don’t have to choose a leader for your supporters. You should allow the system to identify and pick its leadership. This is the beauty of the system.

Many observers say that CPC was a highly personalised arrangement with only one real political asset, that is you. That is why people say that if some accident were to happen, there won’t be CPC again.
No, no! We have got infrastructure on the ground and in spite of coming into the field relatively late, look at what we did. CPC was registered in December 2009 and look at what it achieved. CPC has done extremely well.  We did our registration, congresses, convention and then the elections all between 2009 and 2011.

People say you mismanaged a golden opportunity to capture many states in 2011 election.
Golden opportunity to go outside the law? You don’t know what happened. You don’t know the way the elections were rigged especially in Kaduna. There was curfew imposed with the military on the streets during elections. Our candidates and our agents in polling units couldn’t move under the curfew but PDP agents and INEC officials can move.

Can that happen again?
But now when we have all the opposition parties together and we go back to our constituencies, empower and train our people, rigging will be extremely difficult. Rigging will be extremely difficult in 2015 with APC around.

You were able to win 12 states the presidential election only to come down to one state in the gubernatorial election a week later. Though the rigging you talked about could be a factor, there were also signs that perhaps you were interested only in the presidency and that you didn’t worry too much about winning governorships.
There was internal party squabble at state level. I will give you an example with my state, Katsina. There was so much infighting among the executives of the party [CPC] from ward upward. Everybody wants to be the governor or anoint the governor and because of the infighting, it was resolved by the state executive that they should all forget about positions but that they should go and campaign for the party.
CPC won all the senatorial seats in the state; it won 12 out of the 16 House of Representatives seats. How then can CPC fail to win the governorship? You see it doesn’t make sense. What makes sense is that greed divided the officials of the party in the state.

Some of those problem festered for a long time, like that of Kano State. How come it wasn’t resolved?
I have given you the breakdown of the time.

What is your take on the current crisis in the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF)?
It annoys me in the sense that we have more serious things for the chief executives of states to occupy themselves with rather than the NGF which is unconstitutional.

Could it be a dress rehearsal for 2015 probably because the Rivers State governor is seen not to be with President Jonathan?
Well, they are from the same political party, the same geo-political zone, so I don’t have the inner intelligence as to why they don’t want Amaechi to continue.

CPC’s governor Umaru Tanko Al-Makura of Nasarawa State appeared to have voted for Amaechi.
Yes, why not? He knows as a person he cannot make much difference. Perhaps PDP is extorting him so much that he better shows them that he is not with them. He supports anybody that will give them a good fight.

This week we marked the 14th anniversary of Nigeria’s return to civilian rule. Do we have anything to celebrate?
I congratulate Nigerians. They have the patience to tolerate misgovernance. The government has failed in its fundamental duties of protecting lives and properties. They have woefully failed in providing jobs and in getting the infrastructure that will make the economy to pick up and to bring back manufacturing, employment and goods and services. I cannot congratulate failure. To me, our democracy is a total failure. Go to your local government and do some exercise.
Get the amount that accrued to it from 1999 to date and then check what was the state and number of schools; health centres; roads and water supply before 1999 and now. At any level, from local government upward to states and Federal Government, the money gotten from 1999 to date does not correspond with what is on the ground.

What you just said now about the record of 14 years of civilian rule sounds like your speech of December 31, 1983 when you overthrew a civilian government.
No, what I’m saying is that at any level from the local government upward to states and Federal level check what was the situation of infrastructure an  before 1999 and now. Let me give you example, which is based on facts and not hearsay. There was hearing at the National Assembly on them.
The money spent on National Electric Power Authority (NEPA) now Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) from 1999 to date was between 11 to 16 billion dollars, not naira because they have turned our naira into paper. Look at the state of power now, after 16 billion dollars. In my town Daura about two weeks ago, there was no power for three consecutive weeks. If you go to parts of Abuja, sometime for a week there wouldn’t be light. This is after 16 billion dollars was invested in the sector.

They are now privatising the sector. Do you support that?
Who am I to support or reject it? It doesn’t make any difference.

It is good to know where you stand on major economic or social issues as major contender for the presidency.
But that’s just a stand. It was said that we have 8000 megawatts then, what do we have now and what have they put in infrastructure with the 16 billion dollars? You have to know where you are and where you are heading to.

What else will you do apart from probing?
I didn’t say I’m going to probe because if you say so the country will be at a standstill. We have to find out what happened between the periods; the amount that was actually realised; what is the level of infrastructure; where are the agreements and with which companies? Have they brought the equipment they promised in the agreement? Have they used technically competent people or firms to do the transmission or generation of power?  All these vital questions must be answered by those who are responsible for keeping the country where it is.

Will you continue with the privatisation program if you eventually become the president?
You see, governance is not a question of whims and caprices of individuals, it is a system. You don’t sell a country’s asset by saying just go and take it. There is a process. Does the firm or individual have the capacity to run the firm? This question must be answered, not just because somebody is a former Head of State, therefore he is infallible. He went and floated companies and then he lobbied for the business and afterwards he will go and keep the money in Switzerland or invest in a developing country and allow his country to be going down. There is a system.

That sounds like you are going to stop the power sector privatisation.
How can I stop it when I haven’t even studied how it came about? I’m not an impulsive person. You can tell me that I’m rigid and this and that but I personally believe that I’m not an impulsive person. I’m a systematic person and a law abiding Nigerian.

People say that in your career you tend to over trust some people and they abuse power in your name. When you were Head of State, you over trusted Idiagbon; when you were in PTF you over trusted the consultants and now in politics you over trusted TBO.
I did not go to the university to study management or whatever. I learnt management of people in the field, especially people under fear, in war and in the battlefield. This is where you understand the strength and weakness of individuals. But when it comes to the management of people and materials you look for the clever ones, the armchair professor of everything.  How can you have a structure without trusting people? No matter how greedy you are as a leader at every level you have to delegate to people. Even in your house, you have to assign some responsibilities to your wife. You can’t say you‘re going to the market, buy vegetables, cook the soup and count the meat. From the management of your house to wherever you find yourself, you have to trust people. There are things you can’t put in writing or talk about when you trust people because you’re not perfect and you don’t expect perfection from anybody. Only God is perfect.
I’m happy that the people I mentored, the people I’ve been accused of trusting have kept the trust. Nobody can blame Idiagbon of laziness; of lack of courage or of incompetence. Nobody can blame Afri-projects for short-changing PTF and the government. There is no type of inquiry that Obasanjo’s government didn’t put in place to get something against PTF. Not a kobo was found against us. Nobody can say Idiagbon has floated a company and gave himself licenses, so Alhamdulillah.
In politics, I have attempted and I was given presidential ticket by ANPP twice and by CPC. Yes, I have a team that is supposed to run the party but we were not successful. In each case we went to court, in 2003, 2007 and in 2011.
The Supreme Court judgement favoured PDP. Get the judgement, you can buy it, it is now a public document and study it in detail. You will find out that my team of lawyers and those around me did all that is humanly possible. Under our political development, they have done their best and I’m very proud that we have not been caught or disgraced in the system for dishonesty.

Do you have any regrets for something you didn’t do or you could have done differently as military Head of State?
It was a long time when I was Head of State and under the circumstance that I came in, I think we tried to do our best. When we came in, we did four things. One, we refused to devalue the naira. Secondly we refused to remove petroleum subsidy.
Thirdly, there were states that owed their workers up to nine months salaries; we got money from the federation account and paid them all. And subsequently we removed it from their allocations and we returned same to the federation account. Fourthly, we refused to remove subsidy on flour. I couldn’t regret doing any of these four things and making sure they all worked.
We also refused to take loans and we were servicing effectively both medium and long term debts according to the agreement entered into by previous governments. We were not a perfect regime but these are what we did in 20 months.

You don’t regret that you didn’t shoot some politicians Rawlings style?
No, we didn’t shoot anyone! It was deliberate; all those we arrested we said they should be kept in detention—president, vice president, ministers and some governors. We said they should be treated with respect until various tribunals successfully prosecuted them with documents presented against them and not by hearsay. There were people that were released because nothing was found against them. People like Adamu Ciroma, late Biliyaminu Usman who was junior minister of education and some were from the south. They were released and allowed to go because nothing was found against them. Of course they were embarrassed that they were detained.

Did you say sorry to them?
Yes, we said sorry officially.

How do you remember your daughter who died recently?
Zulaiha was my first daughter; she was to be 40 a week to the time she died. She had three children including the [one she got by] Caesarean section. She was a sickler but she was an extremely hardworking person. She went to the university and she was working with a Federal Ministry until she died.

Apart from politicking, what do you do in the form of exercise?
I think prayer is a good exercise especially when you are getting old, if you do it properly. I complement it with walking within my compound. I’m a lucky person and I thank God I’m a healthy person.

What is your favourite meal?
I think because of my military training and during the war, I virtually eat everything but I like kunu da kosai in the morning. In the afternoon I eat tuwon alkama da miyan kuka. I hardly eat rice and I eat a lot of vegetables.

*Source Sunday Trust

 

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