A True Natural Postcard, Despite All Its Political And Economic Troubles-Insight into Guinea-Bissau with Umaro Djau
April 17, 2018 | 0 Comments
By Ajong Mbapndah L
For all its political, and economic troubles, Guinea -Bissau is one of the world’s true natural postcards, says Strategic Communications Specialist,and Journalist Umaro Djau. While the chequered political past has had a toll on the development of the country, Umaro Djau thinks that there is every reason to be hopeful for the future of Guinea- Bissau. The economic potential is there, and with the right leadership to tap into the development zest of the youthful, and dynamic population, he believes that Guinea -Bissau will become the envy of many. From its history, to political, to social, and to economic perspectives, Umaro Djau took time off to share insights on his country, Guinea- Bissau with PAV.
Mr. Umaro Djau, thanks so much for accepting to share perspectives on Guinea-Bissau for us. Very little is known or heard about Guinea Bissau, can you introduce the country for us?
Umaro Djau: I’ll start by giving you the practical answer that I usually give to people that I would occasionally meet – whether they’re co-workers, neighbors, or total strangers. Guinea-Bissau is located near Senegal, in West Africa. It shares borders with Senegal (to the North) and Guinea, commonly known as Guinea-Conakry (to the South). It’s a small Portuguese-speaking country with less than 2 million people. By comparison, it is always said that Guinea-Bissau is the size of Connecticut. If you want to be more specific, by size, Guinea-Bissau is the 13th smallest country in Africa, with little bit over 36 thousand square kilometers or almost 14 thousand square miles. We’re a low-lying country located on the North Atlantic coast, with more than 80 islands, not to mention our rain forests, swamps, and wetlands. Those natural fixtures and wonders make Guinea-Bissau an amazingly beautiful country to live and visit. A beautiful tropical postcard, if you wish.
We will get into more specifics later, but how is life like in the country and what are some of the things that are peculiar to the people of Guinea-Bissau?
Umaro Djau: Like many other West African countries, people in Guinea-Bissau have coexisted for many centuries, sharing common ancestry, history, struggles, but also being able to live side by side, despite many ethnic, cultural and linguistic differences. I told you about the small size of the country a short while, but the most amazing thing is that, in that small territory there are over 20 ethnic groups, practicing different religions or other traditional beliefs. Guinea-Bissau is a country where there is no hegemony when it comes to its national identity, despite five centuries of European presence and influence. So, socio-culturally and linguistically speaking, it’s a nation in construction with Muslims, Christians, and people of other beliefs, beautifully coexisting and living side by side in peace.
Countries like Cape Verde, which are similar to Guinea-Bissau in many respects, are doing relatively well economically. What is the situation in your country and how is the economy doing ?
Umaro Djau: I’m glad you mentioned Cape Verde, which shares a common history with my home country. Cape Verdeans and Bissau-Guineans are brothers and sisters with common history and ancestry. Politically speaking, there are very few examples in the world where one political figure is a national hero for two independent and separate nations. Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde share our beloved Amílcar Lopes Cabral, the figure that led their struggle and fight for independence from Portugal. But today, unfortunately, we fail by comparison in so many aspects, particularly in the economy and in politics. Cape Verde has been a viable country – politically and economically — even within the broader African context.
If you were to ask almost anyone in Guinea-Bissau, they would tell you that our economy has been negatively impacted by the never-ending political and military crises since the beginning of the 1980s, when the first coup d’état took place, just seven years after the country’s unilateral independence from Portugal. Here and there, Guinea-Bissau has known some periods of economic growth, but these bright and brief phases have been often overtaken by one crisis after another.As the economists would tell you, political and military stability are the currencies for any economic growth. As a result, Guinea-Bissau has lacked an environment conducive to foreign and private investments due to constant fear of a potential military and political outburst. This lack of foreign and good private investments is probably the reason why agriculture still accounts for over 50 percent of the national’s GDP. And cashew exports have been leading the chart. But, if you want to put it into a greater context, it is believed that two out of three Bissau-Guineans find themselves below the absolute poverty line. According to World Bank, the current international poverty line, is about $1.90 per day. In the case of Guinea-Bissau, I’m quite sure that a clear majority of its population live with under one dollar per day. So, no matter what current national statistics tell you about the annual national growth, it’s obvious that people in Guinea-Bissau are living under extreme poverty. Thankfully though, Bissau-Guineans are very resilient people.
In follow up to what you have just described, are there opportunities for foreign investors, and how is the investment climate in the country?
Umaro Djau: Absolutely. There are plenty of opportunities not only for potential foreign investors, but also from those within the country. Look, Guinea-Bissau is a raw country. Raw in the sense that we have so many areas in need of some economic input; areas that – should I say – are screaming for investments. Agriculture, health, education, fishery, infrastructure, energy, electricity, tourism, etc. I do recognize however, that for us to attract any small or big investor, the country needs to be seen as a viable place to invest. But, it is going to take more than improving the perception itself. It is of utmost importance to create conditions and guarantees that investors will have a just return for their initial or consequent investments. Thus, there is a great need to improve and strengthen the country’s policies and institutional support for those who are seriously considering investing in Guinea-Bissau. Unfortunately, when I look around the country, I see a lot of foreign and regional companies trying to sell their products, but rarely do I see long-term investors. I also see a lot of seasonal traders, whether they are buyers of raw cashews or timber, flocking the country for their short-term business goals. Guinea-Bissau needs to change all that by coming up with better policies and institutional frameworks that would attract and retain quality-investors, which in turn, would benefit the country through capital gains and jobs creation.
You briefly spoke about tourism. For those who have never visited the country, how much of a tourist destination is Guinea Bissau? What’s there to see and are there guarantees for the safety and security of people who visit?
Umaro Djau: Guinea-Bissau can become a major tourism destination in West Africa, particularly for those traveling from Europe. Its proximity, climate, coastal areas, natural wonders, sandy beaches and its overall weather conditions constitute the country’s strengths when it comes to attracting those seeking a place to enjoy their personal or family vacations. I remember mentioning the country’s landscape beautifully sprinkled with over 80 islands. That’s in the Bijagos, the heartland of Guinea-Bissau’s touristic paradise. Not only does the archipelago offer its sandy beaches, but also a great diversity of fauna and some rare and protected sea species, something that would certainly attract many ecological tourists.
Everywhere you go, the country would give you something to enjoy. For instance, there are many beautiful natural parks (Lagoon of Cufada, Cantanhez Forest National Park), among other national wonders, some fortresses, old colonial cities and monuments. So, whether you’re attracted to urban settings or rural ones, you’ll certainly find something exciting to do in Guinea-Bissau. And here’s something many don’t mention, people in Guinea-Bissau are very kind and nice. They’re welcoming. They’re friendly. I know that I’m sounding like a TV commercial, Guinea-Bissau is a true, natural postcard, despite all its political and economic troubles.
Obviously, the tourism sector is often vulnerable in a developing country due to lack of infrastructures and other key public services. In that front, Guinea-Bissau needs to improve things like roads, hospitals and the health system in general. Add to that reliable transportation between the main city and other cities and/or regions. The biggest challenge is traveling to and from all those islands. They ought to be serious government and private investments to facilitate those connections. As for communication, it’s widely recognized that the country has made important gains, most specifically in the telephone through two private phone carriers. However, the Internet is still at its infancy but it’s enough to get by.
You mentioned the issue of security. Yes, security is a major concern for any country, particularly considering the concerns about international terrorism and other forms of violence. What I can tell you is that crime level is substantially low in Guinea-Bissau. And there haven’t been any reported cases of violence against foreign tourists as far as I know. That’s very encouraging to me and many Bissau-Guineans.
For a country of about two million, how can you explain the complex political history that it has had?
Umaro Djau: I don’t think the country’s historical complexities are really the issue here. Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde fought a heroic war for independence, something that is widely and internationally recognized as a triumph against their common colonial power, Portugal. Many historian and political analysts would agree that the way Guinea-Bissau was ruled following its independence dictated the paths that followed. In a way, I think you’re also correct because many African countries, Guinea-Bissau included, have been ruled in accordance with the political ideologies of their freedom political parties. Having been through an armed-conflict, the country could not easily distant itself from a military-type of rule, following its independence. That historical reality clouded every political decision afterwards and led to many internal conflicts. All that said, I also believe that Guinea-Bissau is going through a profound period of social adjustment. But the risk is that – intentionally or not — this “social adjustment” is being rushed by the political atmosphere, instead of a normal socioeconomic evolution, coupled with one’s educational and professional accomplishments. However, in Guinea-Bissau, people are trying to gain their “status” through reliance solely on politics.
What impact has this checkered political past had on the development of the country?
Umaro Djau: The impact of that political past is beyond what people outside the country would imagine. Just think about it: for almost two decades, Guinea-Bissau was ruled by a single-party system. A single-party system that controlled everything – the presidency, the government, the national assembly, the military, the police, the security agencies, the court system and so on. Everything was embedded on that single-party system and dictated by it. Without the proper accountability and rule of law, public servants were forced to embrace a culture of blind loyalty to the ruling elite, whose political party became the most important leverage for anyone to survive. This political culture became the foundation of the country and hindered any hope for development – as corruption and lack of transparency became the new norm.
How has the current leader fared so far, where has he done well and where has he had shortcomings?
Umaro Djau: Note that Guinea-Bissau is technically a democratic country since 1991 and our political system encourages a separation of power between many branches of the state, government, and the head of state. So, we do not have a single “leader” per say. According to our Constitution, we have what’s known as a semi-presidential system. We have the president, the head of government and the legislative branch, locally-known as the National Assembly.
However, today the biggest political (and intellectual) debate revolves around what can be the best system of government for Guinea-Bissau. For instance, President Jose Mario Vaz is being accused of usurpation of power, extending his political powers beyond his constitutional boundaries. There is also a fair criticism of the current President of the National Assembly, Cipriano Cassama, who is accused of blocking the normal functioning of that institution.
In the mix of all of that, the major political parties are playing their cards to defend or protect their interests. As expected in situations like these, each party is offering their own arguments. And all this against a backdrop of more than three years of political crisis, despite all the actions of many international and regional organizations – the UN, the ECOWAS, and the African Union – which have tried to bring about common understanding among the major political players.
In my humble opinion, the head of state has had so many political shortcomings. Mr. Jose Mario Vaz has not been the problem-solver and has not offered the required leadership that the country had hoped for from him. Just think about it, the country has had 6 heads of government since mid-2014. The president has just announced the 7th prime-minister in less than 4 years, as a result of the latest political agreement in Lome, Togo, under the sponsorship of the regional organization, the ECOWAS. That’s a lot to comprehend and digest! But, more than ascertaining his constitutional powers, I think that this shows his inability to lead and exert his influence in a positive manner. As US President Truman’s desk sign would remind his fellow Americans and visitors, “The Buck Stops” with the president. It means basically that one, particularly a head of state, cannot refrain from their constitutional responsibilities and obligations.
How accurate are reports that the country has been a major transit road for drugs, anything the authorities are doing change this perception?
Umaro Djau: These reports go as far back as the year of 2005, having reached its climax around 2012, when the last coup d’état took place. It is generally believed that the situation has improved thanks partially to pressure and pragmatic actions from outside countries, including the United States, as well as other international organizations. It’s hard to keep up with reports on drug trafficking, but now that the Guinea-Bissau’s military and the security forces seem to be exerting less political power and less influence, drug traffickers may be challenged as they attempt to find traffic routes and protection in the country. Geographically – particularly for those coming from South and Central America — it’s almost impossible to prevent local, regional and international traffickers to pass through the national territory. It’s my hope that the country has learned its lesson from the past. Most importantly, it’s a matter of national security. With that in mind, we have an obligation to take this issue seriously. After all, being called a narco-state is a hard pill to swallow for many Bissau-Guineans, and also as a matter of national proudness and moral imperative, there has been a great deal of self-awareness to unlink the country from that term, at least at the state level.
On the other hand, as you may be aware, drug trafficking is not always directly correlated to levels of development of a country or the existing legal systems; So, this is not only a Guinea-Bissau’s problem. It’s a world problem. Guinea-Bissau will just need to do its part and remain cautious and firm in combating any illicit drug trafficking within its borders.
When you look at the country, what makes you hopeful for its future, and what are your fears, and if we may add, what kind of leadership does the country need to catch up countries like Cape Verde which are making faster progress?
Umaro Djau: There are so many aspects of Guinea-Bissau that make me very hopeful. Starting with our people, the most important resource for any country – rich or poor. When compared to other countries, Guinea-Bissau has a very young population, most of it ranging from 25 to 45 years of age. So, we have the human energy. Now, we have to make sure that we’re able to educate our youth and equip them with knowledge, academic, professional and technical training, so that they’re able to be an integral part in today’s workforce.
My biggest fear is that the current unemployment rate may trigger other problems such as delinquency and crime. But again, if we seriously invest in educating and training our youth, they’ll find their right place in our society. For that to happen, Bissau-Guineans must have the courage to choose the right leaders, leaders who can transform the current challenges into new and bright opportunities for all.
When I look through Guinea-Bissau’s political spectrum, I see a lot of political players who really have no clue about what their functions and responsibilities are. Political players who do not seem to care about the people and the country. The only thing that moves them is their personal interests. We must change that. When we’re finally able to put the right people in the right places, Guinea-Bissau will find its deserving place in Africa and in the world.
My hope is that the youth will be able to fight the fears of the unknown and really embrace the need for profound changes, starting with the country’s political situation. After that, I strongly believe that everything else will fall into place. The country will be able to takeoff. And the resources are there to sustain that political and economic environment when it finally arrives. Yes, I’m hopeful.
I want to leave a legacy and a foundation for the rise of the “New Nigeria”-2019 Presidential Hopeful Sam Okey Mbonu
April 6, 2018 | 0 Comments
By Ajong Mbapndah L
“If the corrupt politicians will set aside their greed, the people will drive Nigeria into the 21st-century,” says Sam Okey Mbonu as he touts his credentials in warm up to the 2019 presidential elections in Nigeria. The Nigerian born, Washington, DC, trained head of the Nigerian –American Council says doing nothing is not an option when inept leadership continues to plunge Nigeria into a spiral of economic stagnation, religious intolerance, and militancy. Interviewed in Washington, DC, by PAV, Sam Mbonu says the old Nigeria where nothing gets done will be history under his administration.
Who is Sam Okey Mbonu and why is he in the race to be the next President of Nigeria?
Sam Mbonu: I’m Nigerian-born, and a Washington DC-trained professional. I attended American University Washington DC, as a Visiting Scholar, and received my JD in Law from the District of Columbia School of law. Post law school, I worked briefly as Senior Advisor for a US Government Contractor, before being appointed “Commissioner, Housing Authority, PG, Maryland”. At the end of my term in government, I leveraged my exposure to Housing policy, to enter the private sector; before shortly co-founding the think-tank NAL Council, whose focus was on US policy toward Sub-Saharan Africa policy. I have since become a highly sought after expert, providing strategic advisory to US public and private institutions regarding Nigeria and Sub-Saharan Africa.
Why are you in the race to be the next President of Nigeria and may we know the thought process that led to your decision?
Sam Mbonu: Firstly, I’ve been preparing for this race for the past 8 years (may be longer). There were times I contemplated just settling into a good life in the US and tuning out all the cacophony of strife in Nigeria; however, the whole world has progressively become one village, and what happens in one region affects other regions, whether it’s insecurity or public health issues.
So I figured since the need for public service that will positively impact a greater number of people is greater in Sub-Saharan Africa and Nigeria. Therefore, I decided that I would follow my passion for human upliftment, and public service, to help lift Nigeria out of the chaos the leaders have foisted on the people.
Secondly, the whole world has watched as Nigeria has descended hopelessly into strife, religious intolerance, militancy, and economic stagnation, which leads to a circle of arrested development; which was caused by recent incompetent leadership.
It is my mission to prove that Nigeria can be salvaged. I will do this by bringing my world-class credentials, experience in US public service, expertise in Sub-Saharan Africa matters and relationships in the US and around the world over the past 3 decades, to run Nigerian competently and move the country into the 21st Century.
What is your assessment of how Nigeria has fared under President Buhari?
Sam Mbonu: Terrible, terrible, terrible! I, like many other people in Nigeria’s 37th state-the Diaspora, had great hopes that President Buhari will not only stem the tide of corruption, which was already running rampant, but would also reposition the country for economic growth, through the roll-out of sufficient infrastructure, especially in Electric Energy among others. However, what we and the world has seen is a nation that has slid so dangerously to the edge, that insecurity has returned to a full-blown nightmare, especially in Northeast, and Northcentral Nigeria.
Economic growth has been stifled by a lack of political will to deliver on the most basic engine of a modern society-Electric Energy! You can imagine how many things grind to a stop when there is a weather related emergency that disrupts electricity in the US; now imagine that as an everyday occurrence in Nigeria. Nigeria currently gets 4-5 hours of electricity every day, 365 days of the year. Imagine how true business productivity is limited to only about 4 hours every day; machines stop running, food cannot be stored, traffic lights go out, heat stroke killing people, industries shutting down, vehicles and machines that cannot be serviced because power tools are down, etc.
My campaign has also determined that because President Buhari is unfortunately begotten by a corrupt process, by way of his close circle, whether he claims that he is not personally corrupt or not; however, being hamstrung by corrupt people makes him a “fruit of the poisonous tree” as it is called it in American jurisprudence. He or she who eats of the “fruit of the poisonous tree” certainly will not be immune from the poison that the tree will offer.
Therefore, the only option is to avoid that tree. That’s why my government will be the government to bring the true change, because we are not tainted by affiliation to the poisonous tree.
Sam Mbonu: We have not seen the progress, and the world has not seen the progress. The 2 big parties in Nigeria have seen an exodus from one party to the other, depending on who’s in power. He’s actually leaving the country worse than he found it. The president is seriously hampered either by poor judgment, or incompetence, and the greatest thing is that he’s not sensitive to the plight of Nigerians, whether they are northerners or southerners. The man does not care at all. If he was a caring president, would he hold a party one day after 72 people were massacred in Benue? Or would he go to a lavish wedding one day after another 100 teenage girls were kidnapped by Boko Haram? Would his police chief attempt to disarm everyone, except the herdsmen of Nigeria who actually carry weapons openly in Nigeria?
For all its potential , endowed with tremendous human and natural resources, Nigeria remains giant with clay feet, how does Sam Mbonu plan to turn things around, tell Nigerians why and how you can turn things around when many other leaders have been unable to do so?
Sam Mbonu: That’s straightforward. In my administration, most critical infrastructure projects, including electric energy, water, and internal security, will be brought into the presidency as special projects. That way, I and my presidency personnel can oversee those projects myself. I will be accountable for those projects if government overseers fall short by compromising at the expense of the people. I will have the political will to do what is right. I just want to leave a legacy and a foundation for the rise of the “New Nigeria”. The old Nigeria where nothing gets done will be history under my administration.
Let’s try to dwell on a few policy perspectives now if you don’t mind, how do you fight corruption differently from the PDP and now the APC has approached it?
Sam Mbonu: That’s straightforward as well. Those parties are hampered by the corruption baggage they already carry, they cannot offload the baggage even if they wanted to; because they are tainted, and tied in intricate ways to again the “poisonous tree”. I am not tied to the poisonous tree, and I can walk past it. I will have the political will to execute projects, without being hampered by ties to the “poisonous tree”.
The power crisis needs no introduction, how does The Mbonu Presidency address this, in case Nigerians were to give you the mandate?
Sam Mbonu: The previous answer addresses this matter in part. I will deliver electric energy via special projects that will be executed by the office of the president. That way, I can be held accountable if I fail.
For all the talk from the APC, when they were in the opposition, and now in power, security remains a serious challenge with Boko Haram still running riot, in what way will you handle the crisis differently from the last two administrations?
Sam Mbonu: There is no real political will to take out Boko Haram, because even the actual official campaign against Boko Haram gets embroiled in corruption. I’m sure you are aware that each time the country is about to engage in election, the government seeks $1 or $2 billion USD in the guise of fighting BH, even though they are planning to use the money for political campaigns. My administration will mop up Boko Haram for good.
Under what platform will you running for the elections and do you think is possible to break the hegemony of the APC and the PDP?
Sam Mbonu: My campaign is in discussion with 5 different political parties at this time. We will ultimately affiliate with the one that best suits our ideological bent. The millions of Nigerian citizenry are so disenchanted with the APC or PDP that they cannot wait to throw them out at the ballot box.
Do you have faith in the capacity of the Independent National Electoral Commission –INEC to organize free and fair elections?
Sam Mbonu: Elections have evolved in Nigeria and so INEC is not as bad as it used to be. However, we have determined that we will deploy human and technological capacity to watch our votes. Every INEC official in the entire 774 Local councils in Nigeria will be watched to a microscopic level, he or she who attempts to compromise our votes will have no place to hide, not under the ground, not in the skies; we will beam the eyes of the world on Nigeria, and there will be hell to pay. A corrupt INEC official might as well commit suicide, because we won’t let them spend any monies or benefits derived from a compromised election.
We are doing this interview from the USA, what structures do you have on the ground in Nigeria as your work on this presidential run?
Sam Mbonu: 37 State offices are being rolled out; sub offices in 774 Local Councils will be rolled-out, in addition to whatever our chosen party has by way of structure.
In terms of cost, Presidential elections are no joke, where will the resources come from to sustain the campaign?
Sam Mbonu: The campaigns will obviously cost in the $100’s of millions USD, we will find the resources, but the campaign will not necessarily be won by the candidate who spent the most money. The richest candidate has never become the president of Nigeria. It almost happened in 1992 when Abiola was running but that got scuttled. The “will of the people” is an equation that is ultimately more fundamental than money. We will win this election, whether we spend in the $100’s of millions USD or not.
Omoyele Sowore of Sahara Reporters who should be of the same generation like you has expressed interest to run as well, could the 2019 elections shape up as the revolt of the younger generation in Nigerian politics?
Sam Mbonu: Maybe; I do not know Sowore personally, I only know of him as an Activist Journalist; his role as an activist has its place in any democracy, I welcome him to the race. However, only one of us has the world-class credentials, to salvage the heart and soul of Africa’s largest democracy; and only one of us has been tested in public service, in the most rigorous democracy in the world, the United States of America. However, Omoyele Sowore has been a voice in rooting out corruption in Nigeria and it would be a shame to lose that independent voice, but, I enjoy competition. I believe, we see the issues in the same manner. I suspect we would agree on more things than we disagree upon.
Mr. Mbonu, one last question on the future of Nigeria as you see it, what gives you hope and what are your fears?
Sam Mbonu: No fears, just the belief that the African giant will emerge under my administration to be a net contributor to the prosperity and security of Africa and the world at large. That vision is as real as day follows night. I have seen the light, and Nigeria is not going back to the darkness under me. If we as Nigerians want to go back to the stone-age, then we will all have a say in the matter. I assure you, we’re not going back to the stone-age.
Thanks for talking to Pan African Visions
Sam Mbonu: You are welcome!!
Across Africa With Don Yamamoto and Stephanie Sullivan
April 2, 2018 | 0 Comments
-US-Africa Relations Bigger than personalities Officials says
By Ajong Mbapndah L
Relations with Africa and the USA go beyond any one leader or official, Senior State Department Officials told Journalists in Washington, DC, recently in a media briefing. Speaking at the State Department to Journalists from Pan African Visions, the Washington Post,Allo Africa News, and Reuters, Ambassador Don Yamamoto, Acting Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, and Ambassador Stephanie Sullivan , Acting Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Bureau of African Affairs ,discussed US-African relations under the Trump Administration, and shared perspectives on a number of developments across the continent.
Giving an over view of the recent African tour of former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Ambassador Sullivan who was part of the delegation, said much of the focus was on strengthening trade and development relationships, strengthening regional security, including counter-terrorism cooperation, a focus on good governance and democratic values, and the relationship on economic developments and building resilience in communities to avoid the extremist ideology.
In Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, which was the first stop of the tour, Secretary Tillerson and AU Chairperson Moussa Faki reaffirmed the commitment to the shared goal of a stable and prosperous Africa. Secretary Tillerson held talks with Ethiopian government officials on human rights, the need to open political space, and the ongoing political transition, Ambassador Sullivan said.
In Djibouti, there were discussion on the situation at the container port, investment climate, and security issues. In Kenya, Secretary Tillerson congratulated President Kenyatta and opposition leader Raila Odinga on the statesmanship on display as they seek to move the country forward. There were discussions on hot spots like South Sudan and Somalia with Kenyan government officials. A highlight of the Kenya lap of the trip was the meeting with survivors of the 1998 Embassy bombing, and laying of a wreath at the site of the former Embassy where the bombing took place, Ambassador Sullivan disclosed. Secretary Tillerson also had meetings with President Buhari in Nigeria, and Idriss Derby in Chad to round up the tour.
On what the trip did in restoring confidence on US-Africa ties after controversial statements attributed to President Trump, a few months before the trip, the State Department Officials said AU Chairperson Moussa Faki summed it best when he said the focus was on the future and not the past. U.S -African relations are very unique in their own way the Officials said. The departure of Secretary Tillerson will be no effect to engagements taken, Ambassador Sullivan added.
Both Officials fielded questions on immigration, China in Africa, engagement with the African diaspora, the political situation in Cameroon, South Sudan, Guinea and Zimbabwe amongst others.
Watch Out For Mali As An Investment Destination-API’s Moussa Toure
March 13, 2018 | 0 Comments
By Ajong Mbapndah L
With the world still looking at Mali from the prism of security, Moussa Toure General Manager of the Mali Investment Promotion Agency (API in French) says it is time for the narrative to reflect the myriad of opportunities waiting with open arms for investors.
Talking to PAV on the side-lines of the recent Power Africa Summit in Washington, DC, Toure said as the security situation gets better by the day, now is the time for investors to take a fresh look at his country.
Mr. Moussa Toure Good afternoon, and welcome to Washington DC.
You are the Managing director of the Malian Investment Promotion Agency. Can you start by introducing the agency for us, what is it that the agency does?
Thank you for this opportunity, our main role is about promoting Mali as a good destination for investment and to do so, we work on the country’s image, especially with challenges the country is facing with political and Security problems, after that we work to identify investment opportunities, I clear them and find the good investors that can take those opportunities and invest in. When we have some investors interested in some sectors or projects, we assist them in all the process; source information, have meetings with key stake holders and help them ease the investment process. We also work to improve the business climate by leading some reforms.
Before we continue with investment, how is the security situation like in Mali today?
The security situation is still challenging, but it’s not only a problem of Mali, security issues are worldwide today, but Mali is part of that and what is also clear is that we are confident that the most difficult part is behind us. The government is really engaged in taking all necessary actions to tackle this issue. For two years now, the government has been investing 15% of the budget into this activity to harmonize security, this is a big effort and it’s now paying off, it has taken time, but we already are beginning to see the fruits of these efforts.
So, if there were investors who are interested in coming to Mali security is not something that they should worry so much about?
I don’t think so.
Okay, how is the investment climate like in Mali?
The Investment climate is improving, we’ve hurdled to many reforms, we have implemented many in a couple of years, but we still have room for improvement. So this is our focus to still work to improve and facilitate business development and everything around that. As one of our last reform, the government has adopted a new PPPO to facilitate project development by private investors, so this is a good step in Mali.
To the investors out there in Europe, in Washington DC, where you currently are, if they were to come to Mali for investment what are some of the sectors that they should be on the lookout?
for, what are some of the investment opportunities that you have in Mali today?
We are currently focusing our strategy on four main sectors, one is Agriculture, the second is livestock, the third sector is energy, and the last one is infrastructure. We also have the new technology as one of the priority investment sector, but we use it as a transversal sector, because for agriculture, for energy, any sector, you need technology. This is why we don’t list is as a specific sector, but among those four priority sectors we have also sectors we’ve used the opportunity like education, we focus our forces on the four sectors we are talking about; it is our proactive promotion activities.
And it understands that your API organized an investment forum in Mali last December.
How did the forum go?
Quiet well, it was a big change we started to work on this project in 2015, because as I said the country faced political and security problems a few years before, and we saw that it was time to start new projects that will be a vehicle to speak on our country in a positive manner; so we started to work on it, and we were able to achieve our project in December. We held a forum on December 7 and 8 2017, and we attained all of our objectives. We were expecting 500 participants but finally got more than 1000, we were able to amass 70 million dollars in investment as a result of this forum. We had hundreds of B2B meetings, and around 50 Business deals self-driven B2B.
But, I will like to say more importantly of those concrete results, is the image we spread over the world, as I use to say during past years Mali use to be on TV, on newspaper for the wrong reasons; for bad news, but maybe for the first time since a long while Mali was the top of the news on good side; investment side. For me this is mainly one of the most important achievement we’ve made this far, so it was a good initiative and we recorded very good results.
Now, you are currently in Washington DC attending the fourth Annual Powering Africa Summit, how has the summit gone so far you, any interesting contact any good deals in the works for you.
This is my first time of attending this forum, and I was referred by one of my friends who use to attend, and he told me that it’s really interesting, and I came with the curiosity to see. The first day showed me he was right because this forum is a platform where you can meet key actors in the sector which is strategic for all of the continent, and we meet actors who know the continent, they use to operate, they know the challenges and we already have many meetings, B2B meetings and very interesting meetings.
So, any other projects that the API would be working on in the course of the year, any other big project that you have now?
Through the forum, we collected and worked on more than 200 projects, some investment, some technical partners, different needs, and we have all those projects on our website. Some are private and public project or both and we are trying to assist the owners to have finance or technical partners, and we are also assisting the state governors to promote government projects, huge projects like the first bridge in Bamako, the construction of the river bank in Bamako is some interesting project, the roads, rail roads, so many projects currently going on.
Mr. Moussa Toure thank you very much for talking to Pan African visions
African markets sensitive to cost – Ayoola, Tranter IT Boss
February 27, 2018 | 0 Comments
Says: ‘African are weary of applications they can’t afford’
* ‘Companies spend million on bandwidth they don’t need’
By Olayinka Ajayi
Peeved by organisations wasting millions on needless bandwidth, Olarewaju Ayoola, CEO Tranter IT, an African Infotech Technology company based in Nigeria, bare his mind on ways to earn foreign exchange using substantial, user friendly software among other issues.
Rating challenges of InfoTech in Africa
IT in Africa has been very substantial in a way. If you recall, when Micro soft introduced their application into Nigeria, It required very skilled Engineers to make any progress at all. And most African organisation encountered lots of problem. With the amount of money you required to train Micro-Soft certified Engineers to deliver services to the enterprises . It was very substantial , and not easy for many organization to achieve. What Manage Engine did was to develop their application that simplifies the management and the operation of Micro-Soft applications and server. To manage Active Directories AD is a very complicating job. But with ManageEngine software you find managing AD very easy. We realize the need to simplify it so that the effectiveness of Engineers in Nigeria would be higher. With this, the development time of an engineer has been greatly reduced which mean the cost of developing that engineer has also been greatly reduced.
How app addresses challenges
Every organization has a challenge for occasion that comes up. Service Desk plus is a ManageEngine product that solves that problem. It makes it very easy to solve any problem that occur in an organization; either facility management incidence, hospital management, military incidence, government, oil companies, insurance manufacturing, hospitality among others. More efficiently, improve productivity especially from the support aspect of the network management aspect that would result to substantial cost reduction in I.T management that would bring a lot of suffiency to the enterprise. Those who have use the software have found out that 71percent of users can actually resolve issues themselves than relying on a technician. We also found out that 91 percent of I.T Engineers found out that they could do more jobs using Manage Engine softwear than they had done using other software. Manage Engine has over 90 different applications. What we find is that once you are dealing with a company like Trans I.T, the official distributor of ManageEngine in Nigeria, you are dealing with a company that knows the product , there is virtually no problem face an organization we cannot address with manage Engine Applications. Instead of addressing mundane issues such as resetting passwords. With the use of ManageEngine product, users can reset their password without any technician assistance.
Challenges companies encounter in Africa
The Challenge organizations encounter in Africa is negligence. Its needs to be address and nobody want to address challenge and another one comes up and nobody remembers to solve the It, Our software helps organization to manage and remember them. In term of your incident resolution, the Software define time limits in which problem needs to be resolved through defining the service level . Once the service level has been define, the product help you determine if you are doing well or not. Most companies are ignorantly paying for bandwidth they don’t need. Our product has an application that measures supplied bandwidth, what is required, what is needed and the reliability of the supplied bandwidth to your organization. Enabling you to come up with better plan on which service provider you should do business with. Can you imagine that companies are spending N 100,N200 million annually on bandwidth. Some companies are buying 20% more than they need, which is approximately N40million saving. With this analysis it is evident that manageEngine can save Nigerian companies from lose of huge amounts of money because these bandwidth cost is a foreign cost. With Tranter IT partnership with ManageEngine there is assurance of lots of foreign exchange that are cost effective.
Future of commerce and Industry in Africa
With Tranter IT partnership, I see Management Engine to be an house hold name in Africa’s commerce and industry as its addresses variety of challenges encountered running effective and smooth business. Simply because it makes life easier for everybody by reducing cost, increasing productivity and efficiency. In the last one year, the interest in Manage Engine has grown to 200%. We expect it to grow to 1000% in 2018 in Nigeria and the whole of Africa. Reason being that; three out of five companies in Nigeria are using ManageEngine products. So it’s a proven product that is tried and tested. We observed that our clients appreciate the product as it has solved most of their challenge. It like any new product, it takes time before it is generally acceptable. We are very happy to say its acceptance in Nigeria is growing very rapidly. But what we are doing to actualize the 2018 bench mark is by engaging what we called the ‘prove of consent’. We concentrate on delivering cost effective product by partnering with ManageEngine. We also observed Nigerians are tired of having wonderful applications that they can’t afford. We solved the problem by offering application Nigerians can afford.
Dynamism of doing business across Africa
The Nigerian and African market is tough because our environment is changing rapidly. The market is very sensitive to cost which determine what companies can afford . As an organization, if you are not dynamic and determine, you will find the African market very difficult and you could be out of business.
Being dynamic is the major key doing business in Africa. In other words, looking towards solving problems and not towards merely selling products like a traders. There is nothing wrong being a trader. What I meant is, assume the market can no longer absolve your product, your business goes down. So focus at solving problem. If you always solve problem you remain relevant always. That is what Tranter IT does, while we focus on identifying the problems our clients are experiencing, we design and implement solution to their problems. While other companies were retrenching, we have being growing, while others are reducing salaries, we ware increasing salaries .We love our customers and we are always interested in their prosperity. we will always be relevant because we always look for how to solve your problems.
Nigeria as a nation has challenges in different sectors and if your business provide solution to these challeges you cannot be out of work .But if your business is not providing solution then you have a lots of challenge to survive in that business. ManageEngine has solution to challenges . We are hoping that the markets would not shrink because irrespective of we offering solutions to IT related challenges, we are not involve in solving Macro economic challenges like; power and other related problems. As ingenious company, we take pride in what we do. When we do not have engineers with required skills, we send our engineers abroad to acquire skills rather than bring foreigners to be paid as expatriates. Our policy is to train Nigerian Engineers to compete with the rest of the world in Information Technology IT.
Affordable and user friendly of App
It time Nigerian companies start engaging software that do not require spending much time answering questions that are not necessary for business. Our application gives you the opportunity to add necessary customized ones that are unique to your organization. In terms of usability presently ManageEngine software is very easy and in term of the ability to customize applications, it’s very easy and extremely user friendly.
Cameroon: No Solution To Crisis Without Dialogue & Correction of Historic Wrongs-Elie Smith
February 26, 2018 | 1 Comments
By Ajong Mbapndah L
It will be hard to get a solution to the ongoing crisis in Cameroon without dialogue and repairing the historical injustices that Anglophones have suffered for decades, says famed Journalist Elie Smith. In an exclusive interview with PAV to discuss the political situation in Cameroon, Elie Smith says the use of force by the government and flagrant human right violations are pushing the people to embrace the radicalist wing of the Anglophone crisis advocating for independence.
The President is obliged to sue for dialogue as the situation continues to deteriorate at an alarming pace, said Elie Smith. He called out the double standards of the international community which has largely remained indifferent as the North West and South West regions are under siege. Elie Smith urged Journalists to step up reporting on the plight of over 500 Anglophones detained in various prison facilities across the country in the interview which also discusses the presidential ambitions of Joshua Osih and Akere Muna
Elie Smith thanks for accepting to share perspectives on Cameroon with us as things are on the ground, let’s start with the North West and the South West Regions, what is your reading of the situation there?
Elie Smith: The situation in the North West and South west regions of Cameroon is dire. There is great suffering and gross abuse of human rights first by the Cameroonian security forces and also from the various armed groups who are variably known as restorationists and secessionists depending on where one stands ideologically. My view is that, this is the second greatest existential threat to Cameroon in her present dispensation since 1966. This one is much more lethal in that, the protest is not longer verbal or through peaceful marches, it has been weaponised. It will eventually fizzle out but not extinct. The actors will go back and retool their strategy and will come back better organize if the central government doesn’t find lasting solutions to the underlying causes of the current crisis.
Has internet connection been restored in the North West and South West?
Elie Smith: No! Because intermittent supply can’t be pass for full restoration of internet. However, people already know how to circumvent the ban.
Since Communications Minister Tchiroma announced the presence of Sisiku Ayuk Tabe and others in Yaoundé, there have not made any appearance in court, what has the astute Journalist that Elie Smith heard about them, anyone you know who has had any form of communication with them?
Elie Smith: Some of them are here in Yaoundé, in Chief Sisiku Ayuk Tabe. All I know from my sources is that, they are hale and hearty.
From my understanding, the government is carrying out preliminary interrogation and the next stage is that, their lawyers will certainly have access to them soon, but how soon? That I can’t answer. What is important is for his support to keep mobilizing.
It appears in some urban areas, schools have been going on and in the rural areas nothing is going on, any explanations for this dynamic?
Elie Smith: The reason is simple since we have a government that works on Public Relations stunts; they put all in urban areas to show to the western governments who are sadly supporting them that all is well. However in the rural areas the government finds no interest and also because, contrary to what the government may want the world to understand or think, they are losing control in rural areas in West Cameroon and it doesn’t bode well for the future.
British Minister of State Harriett Baldwin was in Cameroon and met with a number of opinion leaders ,some of them well known to you, what were these discussions on and any prospects that anything positive may follow suit?
Elie Smith : The essence as I was told by Agbor Balla was to get the true reality on the ground in terms of human rights violations, and also to source from them ways and means to seek a lasting solution to the current crisis. Well, it is always good when one comes to listen to you. But, I don’t put any hopes in such because, western countries, especially Great Britain and even the United States have not thrown in their weight in compelling our government to seek a negotiated settlement to the current crisis as they have done in other countries. My conclusion is that, they don’t care about us and it is left on us to understand that, we don’t have any other place to go, hence we need to try to sort out things for ourselves. In this crisis, while we are all angry, we must speak the truth. We are all Cameroonians and one part of Cameroon, the people of west Cameroon has been hoodwinked and the historic wrong must be corrected. Britain and the United States or any other country can’t tell us something different.
As the situation continues to grow worse, what role do you see moderate leaders like Agbor Balla and Ayah Paul playing, especially with no one listening to their proposals from the government side?
Elie Smith: Moderates are the ones who end up winning and history is replete with what I have just said. Agbor Balla and Ayah Paul know the dynamics of things. Even if the government is not listening to them, they will end up buying to their positions and propositions. Agbor Balla and Ayah Paul are in my humble opinion the best things in this Anglophone revolution because they are not merchants of illusions. It might be a difficult pill to swallow, but all we can get, is a return to a two states federation which is the foundation of modern Cameroon, that has been abused with impunity by the majority Francophone led government in Yaoundé. The package product of independence marketed by some is a wishful thinking. Why? The geostrategic dynamics of the region is not in our favour today just as it wasn’t in 1961. No major country in the world is supporting the restorationists’ movement. West Cameroon is not in the position of Western Sahara, which is supported by Algeria and other African states. Nigeria, which would have been a natural ally, has absconded. But, make no mistake, what west Cameroonian is clamoring for is just. The only luck which can smile on west Cameroonians and make the dreams of those who want independence to actualize is for a civil war to break out in Cameroon and in that case, West Cameroon will behave like Somaliland and refuse to fight and allow Francophone Cameroon to fight their war. The rallying cry of going to Buea is feasible in that, in a return to two states federation, west Cameroon’s national assembly in Buea will be reactivated, they will have control over their education, judicial system, health and internal affairs while defense and monetary issues goes or remains to the central government or federal government in Yaoundé.
You recently interviewed Mancho Bibixy, in what shape was he when you met him, and generally speaking, how is legal representation for those detained? There was a complain since other high profile detainees like Balla and Fontem were release, there has been a sharp decline in Lawyers defending some of those who are still jail, your take.
Elie Smith: I met them at the Yaoundé military tribunal. As you may know, the day of their trial, they are brought in from 9 am and they spend the whole day there before the trial starts and it is immediately adjourned. Along with others that I also spoke with such as Terrance Penn Khan, I saw a man with a moral of steel. But detention is not an easy affaire and no matter how they brave it all, their unjust detention is having an effect on them and their families. Yes, there was this complain that since the high profile detainees were released, there was a kind of lull from lawyers. I don’t think so, because Agbor Balla and others are there regularly on trial and none trial days. What has ceased or reduced is the media attention that used to exist.
It is therefore an opportunity that you are offering me to call on all press men and women not forget that, there are about 149 Anglophones detained at the Kondengui Maximum security prisons, and about 300 at the Bafia prison in the south west, and similar figures at the Buea prison.
With things rapidly spiraling out of control, the government strategy seems to be the argument of force, with the limits this is showing, how far do you think they can go?
Elie Smith: The government is making a big mistake in thinking that, the use of force is going to solve the problem. It is instead going to drive many people into the waiting arms of those they are referring to as extremists. Already, the increase militarization of the zone has also recorded and increase in abuses perpetuated by Cameroonian security forces, some of them trained by the United States Navy Seals, and Joint Special Operations Forces from Fort Bragg, North Carolina. It is a shame for a world power such as the United States that preaches respect for human rights and democracy to look the other way while forces that she is training and arming are committing human rights abuses in Anglophone Cameroon to go unpunished. I know that, they will hide behind the fact that, the responsibility is that of the Cameroonian government but they are contributing by default in what is going on in west Cameroon in term of abuses. The government of Cameroon must know that, only dialogue will solve the current crisis and more, no country no matter how powerful have been able to win a war against a people who are not supporting them. Currently, Yaoundé has lost the heart and minds of the people of west Cameroon because of the monumental abuses that its forces are committing on the ground, and they go unpunished.
You have the opportunity of interacting with everyday Francophones, what is their thinking on all that is going on, do you think they now have a better understanding of the frustrations of the people of the South West and North West regions?
Elie Smith: Francophones know what is going on and they are sympathetic to the cause of the Anglophones. They know that, what is going on or the cause is first and foremost a problem of gross bad governance. However, the only fears of most Francophones are threats of partition of the country. But they are supporting the resistance put up by Anglophones.
What do you make of the way the media has covered the crisis so far, especially the French speaking press?
Elie Smith: The problem of Cameroon, especially the French language media is that of ownership and control. Most proprietors of media houses in Cameroon are either members of the ruling Cameroon’s People Democratic Movement, CPDM or are sponsored by the regime. The second problem is that of operational license . If am not wrong only two of the existing privately owned electronic broadcasters: Spectrum Television and Canal 2 International have fully paid their license fees to the government while the rest have partly paid or have not paid altogether. As for the print media, the problem is more acute. Most journalists working for major privately owned print media companies go for months or even years without pay. How then do you expect them to report accurately when they have the sledge hammer of an oppressive state hanging over their heads? Having said that, they are nonetheless some Francophone press and journalists who have been honest and report accurately on what is happening in West Cameroon. It will be unfair to lump them in one bag and tag them as enemies of the Anglophones.
In this kind of atmosphere, how does the government hope to hold elections?
Elie Smith: Well, I don’t know how the government plans to hold elections. But I also think some sinister government strategists like the current situation. And as the saying goes: one man’s meat is another’s poison. People are feeding fat on this crisis and sadly not only on the part of the government.
Joshua Osih has been elected as flag bearer of the SDF and John Fru Ndi is not standing for the 2018 presidential election, what are your views on these developments?
Elie Smith: My views are simple, we might like the SDF and its chairman or not, they have once again demonstrated that, they are the pacesetter in terms of democracy in Cameroon. I had always wanted John Fru Ndi not to stand because, it would have been one candidature too many. He has now given the baton to a new generation which is an excellent development. However he is going to remain as the chairman of the party which means that, gradually he is handing over to a new generation which is at the image of the country. As for Joshua Ossih is perhaps the best candidate of the opposition since 1992. He is young. Remember he is 49 and he has politically experience and he appeals to the majority French-speaking Cameroonian and also to young upward mobile and realistic Anglophones. Now I think Joshua has to do is to unite the party behind him. But he must not forget that, one person can scuttle everything or restore the lost credibility of the SDF in her base in Anglophone Cameroon. This person is Joseph Wirba, MP. If I were Osih I will stretch an olive branch to the SDF MP for Jakiri Special constituency, for he holds the key to the future of the SDF in Anglophone Cameroon. He expresses or is an embodiment of the feeling of the majority in west Cameroon. It is now left to be seen whether Joshua Osih will act as the biblical Joshua, that is take his party to the promise land. That depends on endogenous and exogenous forces that he doesn’t control.
Besides Joshua Ossih, the other Anglophone presidential candidate so far is Akere Muna. What is your take on him?
Elie Smith: Contrary to what some people might think, Akere Muna has his chances, and handicaps. As for the first, he could benefit from a global trend noticed in countries such as the United States, Philippines, Hungary and Turkey. In these countries, they have leaders or have opted for changes simply because people are fed up with traditional or professional politicians. So Muna may be basking in that euphoria. He was before Joshua made his entry into the scene as flag bearer of the SDF, the darling of the chattering class in Francophone Cameroon who are worried that, the poor governance of Paul Biya coupled with the catastrophic management of the current crisis in Anglophone Cameroon could lead to the partition of the country along colonially inherited lines. But now, that Francophone base will be divided between him and the candidate of the largest intra and extra parliamentary opposition. Muna has African, and global connections. On the negative sides, Muna is viewed as too close to Paul Biya and also very elitist. He also has a heritage from his father that he needs to clarify. He doesn’t need to disown his father, but must make Anglophone Cameroonians look at him differently from his father who is considered as the one who betrayed Anglophones. My take is that, both candidates have their chances but Joshua has an edge because he has a base whereas Muna as of now, no one knows his base and his programme is still sketchy.
A few weeks back, word was going round that French troops were seen in Cameroon, have you been able to verify this and what would their mission be?
Elie Smith: Pure lies. French troops were not in Cameroon. If they were, they were perhaps on transit for a neighboring country.
How can one understand the general indifference that the international community seems to show on the situation in Cameroon?
Elie Smith: Sadly, we don’t count. And more, the international community has a full hand. In Africa alone, you have the DRC, with more 20 thousand UN forces and there is no end in sight to the atrocities taking place there and some of them caused by the Kabila’s refusal to respect the constitution of his country. There are the cases of Mali, South Sudan, Sudan, Ethiopia, Central Africa Republic Somalia and Congo Brazzaville. You have low intensity crisis in Nigeria or Western Sahara. Beyond Africa, you have the crisis in Yemen, albeit caused by Saudi Arabia, Syria and Burma. So, I can understand why, ours is of little interest to the world, especially that, Yaoundé has the support of Washington DC, Paris and Brussels.
From your perspective Elie, how does this end? Where do you see solutions coming from, and from whom ,since the Head of State people seem to be looking up to has remained tone deaf?
Elie Smith: In my humble opinion, the Anglophone crisis is cyclical. It comes up every 20 years or more and which shows that there is a fundamental problem of discontent transmitted from generation to generation in west Cameroon and it also shows the stupidity, ignorance and arrogance of Yaoundé. It also shows that, for all the propaganda, the country remains divided along colonially inherited lines and it is not going to end soon, especially with the incidences of September 22nd and October 1st 2017 and the current war. It has driven a wedge among the people of West and East Cameroon to a level never reached before. The crisis will die down at some point, but as I said before, the organizers will transfer the baton to a much more sophisticated group and the sad reality is that, having said all what I had at the beginning, the country is going to fall apart if Yaoundé doesn’t have the courage to go back to the basics or foundation of the country. But, I know, the head of state will at the end come to the negotiating table, but I am afraid on a weaker footing than what his strategists may be advising him. The more the crisis prolongs, the moderates are losing grounds to the restorationists. So, strange as would appear, the head of state might end up negotiating with Ayuk Tabe one day or after October presidential election.
And we end with a question on your own career, where your views became uncomfortable for the TV station Canal 2; can you shed light again on how you were forced out and what your next moves are?
Elie Smith: I decided to resign from Canal 2 International because; the situation became untenable for me. I don’t like lies. The last straw took place on the 29th of August 2017, the owner of Canal international, the parent company of Canal 2 English, invited us in Akwa, in the presence of the management staff and told us that, he had been kidnapped from Douala to Yaoundé because of myself and Moses Ejanwie aka Senator Cletus. And wanted us to go and apologize to the minister of Justice Laurent Esso and Prime Minister Philemon Yang, in particular Laurent Esso. Their problem he told us was that, I was very out spoken on the Anglophone crisis. Their problem was that, they never wanted me to talk about the casualties and they also wanted us to lie and label Anglophones wrong names. There are many other things, but in a nutshell that was what made me to leave. But I am proud of what I have done for I know that, in journalism, when it bleeds it must lead. Covering Anglophone Cameroon honestly is something I have always craved because I know that most of the stories like the school burnings were in most cases not carried out by those the government wanted the world to believe. Exposing the abuses carried out by Cameroonian security forces and their propensity to steal was my greatest satisfaction.
Thanks so much for answering our questions
Elie Smith: I am humbled by the opportunity that you have given me to give my perspectives on the current situation in Cameroon.
Entrepreneurship is not a choice but a MUST for all Africans-Badou Kane
February 24, 2018 | 0 Comments
By Ajong Mbapndah L
When dreams for a career in basketball were scuttled by injurious, Badou Kane found a calling in entrepreneurship, mentoring and empowering the next generation of African Youth. From his base in Senegal, Badou Kane is using a variety of programs, and initiatives to instill positive values, and hope in the African youth on how to turn adversity into opportunity. Pained by the travails of those who risk it all to leave Africa in quest of greener pastures; Badou is taking on the onerous task of helping young Africans to understand that with their potential, it is possible to make it big in Africa. Entrepreneurship is not a choice, but a must for all Africans, says Badou in an exclusive interview with PAV to shed light on his vision and projects.
Badou Kane is one of the most inspiring entrepreneurs in Africa, let’s start this interview by paraphrasing a quote we got from a talk you gave at the Cheick Anta Diop University in Senegal in July of 2014, having a positive impact on others is how Africans in all walks of life should measure leadership, in 2018, how much of this are you seeing in the continent?
I would say not much… numbers don’t lie. The fact that we have over 500 million Africans living under $1.50 a day shows that there isn’t enough sharing among us. Two things are to be shared knowledge and money in order to have a positive impact on others.
You equally said Africa is the richest continent with the poorest with the poorest people, not because not because we are poor but because we are poor in minds, in this age and time, what needs to be done to change this mindset?
Wow! A good question with many solutions I will quote a few:
Let s start by stopping lies and getting rid of our complexes of inferiority and superiority. As long as you are on the right path do not worry about what people think of you or what you do. Then:
- We have to regain the control of our education. Our curriculum should be written by Africans that understand the realities of the continent.
- All Africans have to learn how to become entrepreneurs’ whether you went to school or not, whether you went far into your schooling or not. Entrepreneurship is not a choice but a MUST for all Africans.
- We have to all learn how to go from nothing to something. At least be able to earn 4 dollars a day.
- Every one of us has a hidden treasure but to find it we have to be willing to sweat cry and bleed. Through a strong will, endurance, and perseverance we will find our hidden treasures
- We have to all start some type of a business (small, medium. or big). Do not be afraid to start small. If you don t know how to go from nothing contact me I will show you how.
- Last but not least once you achieve success NEVER FORGET WHERE YOU COME FROM and share part of the knowledge and money you earned by teaching others your path to success. Find honest hard working people and show them the way to success that you know.
From your entrepreneurship and the mentorship that you have done, what difference have you succeeded in making, what are some of the positive stories that you can share with us?
Another good question. We have thousands of stories to tell. As a matter of fact we are preparing a book. You will already find lots of the testimonies on my social media pages. We have created multi-millionaires in CFA. We have kept people out of jails. We have saved families that were struggling to eat one decent meal a day today they are eating at least 2 meals a day. We have prevented people from risking their lives and dying at sea or in the desert through illegal migration (a major problem in Africa). I can go on; we have changed or impacted thousands and thousands of lives in Africa. We have saved relationships between fathers and sons, prevented people from blaming governments and environments in general. Some of the people we trained built houses for their mothers. Let me just say that thanks to the Almighty we have done a lot through our training centers, our conferences in schools and different institutions, our interventions on TV s and radios.
You literally grew up in America; you made it there, what motivated you to move back to Senegal and any regrets?
You know that old saying: “there is no place like home”. I had a mother and father that gave a lot to Africa their names were Madeleine Sidibe and Bocar Kane. I wanted to follow on their footsteps. I remember one day we were having lunch at the house; a neighbor walked in and said that he did not have something to feed his family and my mom asked us to stop eating. We were all eating in a big bowl; she took it poured more foods in it and gave it to the man to take to his house. Then she told us to eat ” shaï” (bread and butter + hot tea) I always wanted to help develop a larger middle class in Africa. I love the fact that I was given a chance to be able to change lives and I have zero regrets.
At a time when many young people are risking life crossing the Sahara, ending up as slaves in Libya, dying in overloaded boats that sink in the Mediterranean, just to get to Europe, how challenging is it to make a convincing case to them that in Africa, they can still make it and make it big?
It’s very challenging but with a very good argument they will stay. They just want better alternatives and concrete solutions. The youth of Africa has lost the last piece of hope that they had left in them. They have been betrayed by their respective country leaders. But today we give them hope again by showing them that yes it is possible to make it here in Africa. Once upon a time the Italians and the Irish were fleeing to America; today they are proud to stay in their countries. I have faith that one day the Almighty will give us the leaders that will finally save the Africans. And our people will stay. It’s always been about Africa but not about the Africans but I can feel in the air that it is about to be about the Africans themselves as they will gain a better hold of their environment.
And on the flipside, when you look at the economic and political realities of the continent, the corruption, the leaders in power for over three decades, do you actually fault them and some may even say oh if Badou Kane did not have the opportunities he had out of Senegal, he may not be as successful as he is ,what is your take on this?
Of course our leaders are to be blamed for some of it but not all. A bad head of state can’t stop a Badou Kane from washing cars to feed his family for example. We cannot spend the next 5 decades pointing the finger at them as it is a waste of time. Let us focus on ourselves on how we can do it ourselves. It is possible as I am showing the people in Senegal. Senegal gave me a peaceful environment, and people willing to do it themselves but as far as the rest is concerned we snatch what we want through discipline and hard work. We create opportunities NOTHING is handed to us.
Could you shed more ore light on your company LXG International Inc and your other programs that are used in helping to the build the next generation of entrepreneurs in Senegal, a young Senegalese told us that within five years you have turned atleast ten young Senegalese into millionaires, is this true and if so how have you done this?
The major program is called Risk Innovation Social Entrepreneurship. I started it in Senegal on December 12 2012 to fight unemployment and poverty in Africa. I don t believe in poverty in Africa and we have the solution. Every African should be at least able to cover his basic needs of having a place to live, food to eat, a decent education, and the capability to pay for basic medical bills.
The RISE program is an entrepreneurship and leadership program that teaches any individual how to go from nothing to something. It’s a very tough program and at the end of it the best candidates receive an investment of 4 to 18 thousand dollars. Directly linked to me, 6 have made millions the rest are on the way. Indirectly, meaning those that were trained by us but went on their own, quite a few.
Since 2012 we have trained thousands and thousands of people, hundreds have started their own small businesses and we have invested in at least 15.
Another program is called DSB which stands for ” Demal Suñu Bopp” meaning it lets do it ourselves. It is an economic movement that I created again to fight unemployment and poverty. It is a continuation of RISE, to help us raise awareness with a broader audience to teach them the same thing: how to go from nothing to something. The motto of the movement is “get richer to serve more”. There are thousands of members throughout Senegal with one thing in common, they are doing it themselves, and all we provide is the coaching through a system that allows them to get it done without the help of the government, or any form of entity.
The criteria are quite simple: discipline, a good heart, a willingness to learn and get better, and a capacity to grasp our teachings. The government has supported me by letting me do what I do without bothering me. I couldn’t t tell you what their views are.
One of the latest initiatives you are floating now is an entrepreneurship competition or program with the concept of people starting and growing a business with $3.50, can you shed more light on this?
We have 500 Million people living under $1.50 a day. To fight this and the illegal migration that you mentioned earlier we launched this challenge. The candidates have to start a business with $3.50 or less and a month later they will have to show their financial results and immediate social impact. There will be 3 rounds. The winner will take home about 2000 dollars and there will also be a special prize for the best female entrepreneur. The objective is to spread the fact it is possible to start with little or no money, and to help people understand that they can do it themselves.
Is this new initiative going to be limited just to Senegal or there are plans to expand the concept to other parts of the continent?
It is opened to all Africans. They can participate in Senegal. And anybody in any given country can run with the concept and we will assist him or her.
Africa has a very strong diaspora, how can this diaspora be turned into a solid force that can participate in a more significant and impactful way in transforming the continent ?
Our leaders have to create a healthy secure welcoming environment that will make them want to come back. In the meantime the diaspora cannot wait for our leaders. They have to at least share their experiences with the people that did not have a chance to leave the continent. For example they can try to at least share their knowledge with someone on the continent. Nowadays through social media “everyone far is close”. We need everyone in order to get this ship moving. Remember there are always two things to share knowledge and money.
You are also author of the book Fortress of a Leader, what is the message that you see to convey with the book?
Some characters that one might need to become a leader. It is more like a handy pocket guide to leadership.
A last question on how you view the future for young Africans and the continent as a whole, what are your hopes and fears?
Hopes: a new generation of very strong leaders with new foundations are on the RISE.
My fears are that our youth gets consumed by sports music dance or politics thinking that those are the only ways to make it in Africa.
Thanks for granting this interview Badou
Thanks for having me. Stay blessed Ajong.
Why I want Buhari Out – Obasanjo
February 16, 2018 | 0 Comments
FORMER President Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria in exclusive interview with German broadcaster February 14, 2018
President Buhari should not run for another term in office, ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo advised in a letter to Nigeria’s head of state in January 2018. In an interview, he told Deutsche Welle, DW, Germany’s international broadcaster on February 14, why he wrote the letter.
Nigerian Former President Olusegun Obasanjo is known for his public letters to sitting presidents. In 2013 he wrote a letter to Goodluck Jonathan condemning the widespread corruption in Nigeria. This was one of the key areas Muhammadu Buhari vowed to address during his time in office. However, the fight against graft seems to have been tougher than Buhari had calculated. According to Nigeria’s Supreme Court 1,124 corruption cases were brought before the country’s courts in 2017.
Obasanjo also addressed President Buhari’s ill health, which had prevented him from attending to state affairs for several months. The letter came at a time when Obasanjo launched his Coalition for Nigeria movement which he claims is not a political, but a socio-economic organization.
DW: In 2015 you decided to endorse the then opposition candidate Muhammadu Buhari. Now you heavily criticized him in a letter and urged him not to run for a second term. When you think back, was it a right decision to endorse Buhari?
Olusegun Obasanjo: Yes, it was the right decision. With the benefit of hindsight, you will agree with me, if you know what has happened and what has been revealed about the government of Jonathan and those who are with him, in terms of sordid corruption and you will agree that this was the right decision. I believe it that was a decision that was good at that time for our country and our democracy. Because we were able to transition from one party to another party. As a result of that we are consolidating democratic process. It is also the right decision now, for us to see that the man who is taking over from Jonathan has not met the expectation of Nigerians, that’s what democracy is all about. Democracy is about change. But if you think that is not the right decision, then you are not a democrat. But I am a democrat and tomorrow if I take a decision and things don’t work out the way we expect them to work out in a democracy, then you make a change.
One of the biggest promises of President Buhari was to fight corruption. That is his flagship topic. You are now saying that he turns a blind eye on corrupt people in his inner circle. Has Buhari’s corruption fight failed already?
I won’t quite put it that way. I would say he was probably looking outside, he wasn’t looking inside, because if you are fighting corruption [and] corruption is becoming rife then you also have to turn your attention inward.
What would you do differently if you were him in fighting corruption?
I would do what I exactly did before. I set up the two major institutions that are being used to fight corruption. I would make sure that the people who are in charge of these two institutions are men or women of integrity and I would look outside and inside because there is no point in fighting corruption beyond you while you have corruption (in front of) your nose.
Would you say is that you were more successful in fighting corruption?
I won’t judge myself. I will leave that to other people.
President Buhari is widely regarded as a man of integrity among most Nigerians. Is he lacking seriousness?
I don’t know which Nigerians you are talking about. Maybe Nigerians of four years ago. Talk to Nigerians today.
In your letter, you wrote that Buhari has a poor understanding of the dynamics of internal politics. You also said that he is weak in understanding and playing in the foreign affairs sector. Your critics are saying that they have the impression that you [feel you] are a moral authority and that you are the only person who understands how to run this country. What do you say to that?
I won’t answer them. I will reserve it as my right as a Nigerian.
You said in the past that you would pull out of politics. How does that go together with the new coalition movement?
A movement is a movement. It’s not a political organisation. It’s a social, economic organisation. And I have said that if that movement turns political, I will withdraw from it.
But you write that the two biggest parties in the country are unfit to run Nigeria. Do you hope to provide an alternative?
No, I would not stand in the way of that movement. If it decides to become a candidate sponsoring organization then it will become political and I will withdraw from it.
It is not yet clear who the members will be. And the names that got a lot of attention were the names people already know former governors, members of the [opposition] PDP (People’s Democratic Party). Some people have the feeling that it is not going to be a new innovative movement but think that it’s old people in new clothes.
If that is what you hear then you are hearing it wrongly. There are thousands of Nigerians inside Nigeria and outside Nigeria who have never been in politics and are members of this movement. It’s not old wine in a new bottle. It’s new wine in a new bottle.
Olusegun Obasanjo served as Nigeria’s president from 1999 to 2007, as well as Nigeria’s military ruler from 1976 to 1979. He has taken on the role of a senior diplomat, which has in the past included negotiating the release of the kidnapped Chibok girls and serving as a special UN envoy to resolve the crisis in eastern DRC. He quit the ruling PDP party in 2015 and recently launched the Coalition for Nigeria movement
The interview was conducted by DW’s Africa correspondent Adrian Kriesch.
*Culled from African Courier/Real News
Femi Falana Tears Into Nigerian Government over Southern Cameroons Crisis
February 10, 2018 | 0 Comments
*Nigeria’s NSA, Babagana Mogono recklessly deported Cameroonians – Falana Nigeria’s Right Activist
*The National Commission for Refugees, the Immigration department and the ministry of foreign affairs were not consulted before the deportation”
* Their deportation was carried out outside the ambit of the Extradition Act.
* Ours has become an unsafe territory for refugees and asylum seekers
*Nigeria can resolve the crisis in Southern Cameroon in the interest of regional stability
*We shall pursue the case until Nigeria returns to the community of civilized nations – Falana Nigeria’s Right Activist
By Olayinka Ajayi
Obviously peeved at the extradition of leaders of the Anglophone movement led by Ayuk Julius Tabe from Nigeria, renown human right activist and Senior Advocate of Nigeria SAN Femi Falana hits hard at the Nigerian government in this exclusive interview with Olayinka Ajayi of PanAfricanVisions. Excerpts:
The Cameroon Government announced recently that leaders of the Anglophone movement led by Mr Julius Ayuk Tabe in Nigeria were handed over to Cameroon,how did this happen?
Femi Falana:It is true that a number of Cameroonian refugees and asylum seekers who were illegally arrested and detained by the federal government were and deported from Nigeria to Cameroon on Friday, January 26, 2018. When we received information of the plan to deport them we rushed to the federal high court to stop the illegal plan. We also reached out to the Comptroller-General of Immigration, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the office of the United Nations Commissioner for Refugees in Nigeria. As soon as the Commission confirmed the information it dispatched a letter to the federal government pointing out that Nigeria has a legal obligation under international law not to deport the detained Cameroonians. But in a demonstration of reckless impunity the National Security Adviser, Major-General Babagana Monguno (rtd) deported our clients in defiance of the intervention of the United Nations and the pending suit in court. Out of shame the National Security Adviser could not disclose the deportation of our clients from Nigeria but the Government of Cameroon decided to celebrate the deportation and threatened to prosecute our clients for terrorism. I have protested the deportation to President Buhari and demanded that our clients be returned to Nigeria without any delay.
You were one the lawyers who was mentioned in the case ,what role did you play?
Femi Falana:My learned colleague, Mr. Abdul Oroh is handling the case with our law firm. Both of us were at the high commission of Cameroon last Tuesday to demand for access to our clients who are currently held incommunicado in Cameroon. We were asked to submit a letter to that effect and we have done so.
Does Nigeria have any extradition treaty with Cameroon, what laws were respected and what laws were violated?
Femi Falana:Nigeria has no extradition treaty with Cameroon. For that reason the federal government could not file extradition proceedings in any local court. Hence, the deportation was carried out outside the ambit of the Extradition Act. No law was respected whatsoever but many laws were breached by the federal government which has continued to exhibit authoritarian tactics and rule of might under a democratic dispensation that is supposed to be anchored on the rule of law. In deporting our clients the federal government violated Section 1 of the National Commission for the Refugees etc Act which has prohibited the expulsion, extradition or deportation of any person who is a refugee to the frontiers of any country where his life or freedom would be threatened on account of his membership of a particular group or political opinion or whose life may be endangered for any reason whatsoever. The federal government also breached the human right of our clients to enter Nigeria, reside, seek and obtain asylum guaranteed by Article 12 (3) of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act. The Act further provides that every individual shall have the right, when persecuted to seek and obtain asylum in other countries in accordance with the laws of those countries and international conventions. Apart the violation of such laws the federal government breached its legal obligations under the 1951 United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and the 1969 Organization of African Unity Convention on Refugees and which have guaranteed the rights of refugees and asylum seekers in Nigeria to protection.
Among those deported were some said to have Nigerian citizenship and working here,and others with refugee status or seeking same,what does the transfer or deportations tell us about the Buhari Administration?
Femi Falana:We have established that three of the deportees are naturalized citizens while others are recognized refugees and political asylum seekers in Nigeria. Twelve of our clients who are the leaders of the people of Southern Cameroon have been living in Nigeria for several years. Some are lecturers at the Ahmadu Bello University and the American University in Yola. Three of them are lawyers. Those who are not refugees among them have been granted permanent resident status in Nigeria. You can only expel a foreigner from your country if he violates the law. Even then an asylum seeker cannot be turned over to the authorities of a country that is likely to persecute him. Under no condition can a Nigerian citizen be deported from the country. The only time that a Nigerian citizen had been deported was in 1980 when the Shehu Shagari regime expelled Mr. Shugaba Abdulraman Darman and dumped him in Chad. The case challenging the deportation was declared illegal by the high court which ordered the federal government to bring him back to the country. The court also awarded damages in favour of the deportee. The illegal deportation of the naturalized Nigerians and the refugees has caused a huge embarrassment to the federal government because there is no legal justification for it. Can you believe that the National Commission for Refugees, the Immigration department and the ministry of foreign affairs were not consulted before the deportation of our clients?
Some people look back from the arrest and transfer of Charles Taylor under Obasanjo,to the inaction of Jonathan when Libya was under attack and now transferring people who fear for their lives to a government they are running away from and question Nigerian leadership in Africa,what do you have to say?
Femi Falana:It is trite that the foreign policies of a government are dictated by its domestic policies. The case of Charles Taylor is totally different from this one. The Special Court for Sierra Leone set up by the Security Council of the United Nations had issued a warrant for the arrest of ex-Liberian president for crimes against humanity. Nigeria was under a duty under international law to turn him over to the court. But unknown to Nigerians and the international community President Obasanjo did not want Mr. Taylor arrested in Nigeria. As President Obasanjo who was then in the United States was under pressure to hand over Mr. Taylor to the court as a precondition for meeting President George Bush, he quickly directed the immigration to allow the fugitive to leave the country. But as Mr. Taylor was rushing out of the country he was arrested at Damboru border in Borno State at about 6 am on March 2009 by Mr. Sylvester Umoh, a customs officer who was committed to his duty. Even though Mr. Taylor offered to bribe him with $500,000 cash Mr. Umoh rejected it and arrested him. That was how Mr. Taylor was handed over to the Special Court to the embarrassment of President Obasanjo. The federal government then descended on Sylvester Umoh. Instead of giving him a national award he was dismissed from the service without ignominy. Although I succeeded in ensuring the conversion of Mr. Umoh’s dismissal to retirement in 2014 we are still battling with the payment of his entitlements. Again, the Libyan case is different from this case but it also demonstrated a failure of leadership.
Both President Goodluck Jonathan and President Jacob Zuma of South Africa did not have the courage to challenge President Barrack Obama over the planned invasion of Libya. In fact, the representatives of both leading African nations voted for the invasion. Both Nigeria and South Africa betrayed Africa by endorsing the invasion of Libya. In particular, the strategic interests of Nigeria were not considered by the Jonathan administration. Hence, we have paid dearly for the barbaric invasion of Libya. Apart from the slave trade that President Gaddafi would not have allowed in Libya the arms and ammunition looted from the armory of Libya were bought by the Boko Haram sect to launch a deadly attack on Nigeria.
Just like the nation is messed up locally by a cabal of primitive power mongers our foreign affairs have been ruined by the same reactionary group. Luckily for the cabal, Nigerians are not aware of the extent of the manipulation of our foreign affairs. Can you believe that the cabal almost smuggled Morocco to the Economic Community of West African States? The other day, Nigeria lost an important position contested at the African Union because the cabal insisted on a candidate that was not qualified for the post? With the controversial appointment of the Director-General of the new National Intelligence Agency it has been proved beyond any shadow of doubt that the cabal will continue to expose the country to ridicule.
As an international lawyer and seasoned human rights activist, what impact do such actions potend on the international standing of Nigeria?
Femi Falana:It is unfortunate that Nigeria has lost her place of pride in the comity of civilized nations. Nigeria has become a butt of jokes in the international community because of the reactionary policies of the federal government. A time it was when Nigeria successfully confronted the West on the decolonisation of the Southern African region. Was it not Nigeria that ensured the restoration of democracy in Liberia and Sierra Leone? In international conferences Nigeria is no longer reckoned with? For instance, it was President Buhari as a military ruler who had convinced the Organisation of African Unity in 1984 to admit the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic as a member state of the continental body. That was what led Morocco to withdraw from the OAU. Can you believe that Nigeria did not kick against the admission of Morocco to the African Union last year when the situation has not changed? How can Nigeria allow Morocco which is occupying the territory of another African Country to be a member of the AU without withdrawing from the occupied territory of Western Sahara? I have just been briefed by the Government of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic to sue the federal government and the Dangote group over the illegal contract to import sulphate for the production of fertilizer in Nigeria because the mineral resource is in the occupied territory. I have requested the federal government to cancel the illegal contract. Otherwise I will challenge the legal validity of the contract.
For the thousands of refugees flooding in from Cameroon to Nigeria,should this not be a sign that our country, Nigeria is not a safe place for them?
Femi Falana:The implication of the deportation of the Cameroonian refugees is that Nigeria has been discredited once again. Ours has become an unsafe territory for refugees and asylum seekers. Since Nigeria has never violated the provisions of the United Nations Convention Relating to Refugees and the OAU Convention on Refugees by deporting refugees and asylum seekers to any country where they might be persecuted we have requested the federal government to review the illegal deportation and request Cameroon to bring them back to Nigeria. You will agree with me the case of the deportation of the naturalized Nigerians is not negotiable. Because of the desperation of Cameroon to put the deportees on trial and sentence them to death the federal government has to move fast. The United Nations Commissioner for Refugees will have to extract an undertaking from Nigeria that refugees and asylum seekers are safe in Nigeria. More importantly, Nigeria has to demonstrate her readiness to respect the rights of refugees and asylum seekers. Otherwise, the over 20,000 asylum seekers in Nigeria from Cameroon, Burundi, Sudan, Central Africa Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo and other war torn countries and troubled spots may be expelled at any time by the office of the National Security Adviser.
With the international standing and experience you have is there any role you think Nigeria can play in resolving the crisis in Cameroon?
Femi Falana:Frankly speaking, Nigeria can resolve the crisis in Southern Cameroon in the interest of regional stability. Notwithstanding that Nigeria negligently gave out the Bakassi peninsula to Cameroon Nigerians in the island are still been harassed by Cameroonian gendarmes. As far back as 2002 the federal government had opted for a peaceful resolution of the political crisis in Cameroon. When the people of Southern Cameroon filed a suit at the Federal High Court to determine whether the people of Southern Cameroon are not entitled to self-determination within their clearly defined territory separate from the Republic of Cameroun the federal government decided to settle the case out of court. Hence, by a consent judgment delivered by the Court on March 5, 2002, the Federal Government agreed to file a suit at the International Court of Justice to have a judicial confirmation of the human right of the people of Southern Cameroon to self determination. The Federal Government also undertook to take other measures as may be necessary to place the case of the people of Southern Cameroon for self determination before the United Nations General Assembly and other international organizations. On the basis of that judgment which is valid and subsisting Nigeria is estopped from colluding with the fascistic Paul Biya regime to terrorize the people of Southern Cameroon.
Under Nigerian jurisprudence is it possible for people to be held without access to a lawyer?
Femi Falana:Under section 35 of the Constitution and section 6 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act the fundamental right of every suspect or detainee to access their lawyer is guaranteed. With respect to the Cameroonians all efforts made by their lawyers, doctors and family members to visit them in custody were frustrated. Even Mrs. Nalowa Bih who is pregnant was denied medical attention. But due to the intervention of the Minister of Foreign Affairs a representative of the Office of the United Nations Commissioner for Refugees in Nigeria was allowed to visit our clients before they were expelled from Nigeria. During the visit, the United Nations representative found that our clients were held in an underground cell at the headquarters of the Defence Intelligence Agency on the orders of the National Security Adviser.
From your findings who ordered the arrest?Some people say they were arrested and taken to Cameroon long before Nigerian authorities even got wind of it,is this plausible?
Femi Falana:When we were refused access to our clients by the National Security Adviser we filed an application at the Abuja Judicial Division of the Federal High Court on Thursday, January 25, 2018 for the purpose of securing their fundamental rights to personal liberty and freedom of movement. Barely 24 hours later, in utter disdain for due process the National Security Adviser deported our clients from Nigeria to Cameroon. Up till now, the National Security Adviser has not been called to justify his action since the country is run on the basis of official impunity. But as law abiding citizens we have challenged the illegal deportation and we have concluded arrangements to give our clients the best legal defence. We shall pursue the case until Nigeria returns to the community of civilized nations. The federal government has to be compelled to abandon its embrace of the rule of might.
Running or Not, Joseph Kabila deserves credit for making the D.R.Congo a country-Information Minister Lambert Mende Omalanga
February 5, 2018 | 0 Comments
By Ajong Mbapndah L
As international and domestic pressure mounts on President Joseph Kabila to leave power, Information Minister Lambert Mende Omalanga says the embattled leader deserves credit for making the D.R.Congo a country.
Interviewed in Washington, DC, after meetings with Congressional leaders, State Department Officials, and human rights groups, Omalanga said the country that Joseph Kabila inherited in 2001, and what the D.R.Congo looks like today are like day and night. Unifying the D.R.Congo has been no easy feat, and critics should take that into consideration when tearing into President Kabila, Omalanga charged.
With a definite date now in place, continuous political agitations in the D.R.Congo today are uncalled for, said Omalanga. The elections will take place on December 23, 2018. The elections have been budgeted for, and there is an independent electoral commission in place to make sure the polls is credible.
Will President Kabila run in the 2018 elections? People will have to wait till June to find out Minister Omalanga said, though he conceded that after serving his two terms, only a referendum could amend the constitution for him to stand.
Responding to recent criticisms from civil society actors like Cardinal Monsengwo, Omalanga said the Catholic Church was over stepping its role. The date of the elections was done in consultation with church leaders, and their current criticisms of Kabila are baffling, he said.
Minister Omalanga also had harsh words for former colonial Belgium for ingerence in the internal affairs of the D.R.Congo. Belgium must understand that the D.R.Congo is an independent country capable of making its own decisions ,Omalanga said.
Mr Lambert Mende Omalanga, good afternoon sir
You are the minister of information for the Democratic Republic of Congo…
…and currently visiting in Washington DC. Welcome to Washington.
What brings you to Washington this time?
Well, I came for a visit in IOWA state University where I was invited. And before going back I was told by my President to bypass in Washington to speak with our friends in State Department as well in Open Society, who paid a visit to Congo recently ,and I had that meeting there in State Department yesterday and today at the Open Society. So, we spoke about current affairs in Congo, mostly about elections that is on the agenda now in our country.
Talking about elections, we’ll talk about that a lot , but your arrival in Washington DC coincided with a letter from a group of Senators to President Kabila trying to express interest to see him show more commitment towards elections. What is your response to that letter?
We are much surprised by this initiative of pushing a door that is opened already. We are having our already scheduled elections where everybody know that elections will take place on the 23rd of December, we have finalised the census of electors, that is the first stage . We are now going on preparing the polls as such, and I don’t know why they feel so impatient to ask our president to tell them what?
We are just on the planification, we are acting now, going straight to the elections, there is nothing that will prevent the elections from taking place. We have had some security problems, to that note some delays, security problems in Kasai, security problems in the eastern part of the country where we are facing terrorist offensive. We won those terrorist offensive, we had budget problems, and we won them thanks to the fact that our products like cobalt and copper got higher. Now we are surprised, we are more comfortable with budgets. So there is nothing that can prevent elections from taking place.
So Mr.Lambert Mende Omalanga you are reassuring everybody that elections in Congo will take place on the 23 December 2018?
That is our will, I am not here to assure or reassure anybody because we are not organising the elections for American people, we are organising elections for Congolese people. It is in our constitutional provision to organise elections every five years. So, we overpassed five years because of these problems we met, but now we won the problems.
It is only a matter of informing them that things have been now in a right better way, that the elections will be held on the 23rd of December. So somebody should believe, this habit of thinking that we are here to justify before them or what. We are organising elections for Congolese only and it will be organised because it is our will, it is our commitment, and it is our interest as a people.
And with the day now certain, why are Congolese people taking to the streets?They were in the street a few weeks back, and if I could bring up this reaction from Cardinal Monsengwo, he said “leave Congo, it’s becoming like a prison” in reaction to the crackdown that took place during the recent march. Why is all of these going on in Congo?
We think that as a democratic country people are free to express themselves, you know people can feel impatient and then we know that some members of the opposition feel impatient about the elections because we have passed two years before when the election had to be organised.what is surprising for us is that Catholic Church that should be more neutral in the politics, some members of the clergy of the Catholic Churches are mixing themselves in these political disputes. That’s the problem we are having, not all Catholic Church is against the government, it’s a part of Catholic Church, and you cited Cardinal Mosengwo, and not all Bishops are against the way things took place, we went on discussions and the facilitation’s with the Catholic bishops, and we came out with the schedule that postponed the elections to 23 of December, so we are happy with this.
Agreement that is 23 rd, the agreement that is been now implemented, so maybe Bishop Mosengwo has his own friends among us politicians. So, I think maybe politicians, that’s his problem, I can’t criticise him, but I can’t I fall off this idea of him bringing ill comments like that.
Mr Minister, you said Congolese are free to express themselves democratically. Now when they go to the street to protest, why was the response from the military so violent? Because from the response that we got, a number of people were killed. Why were people killed when they were trying to express their democratic rights?
Let me explain to you what happened. We had two protests, two demonstrations, one happened on the 31st of December last year, the second one 21st Of January this year. And in the first demonstration, we didn’t have even a single dead person linked to the demonstration, we had a policeman killed after the demonstration due to a confrontation between the police and a gang of people operating, this was out of the demonstration. We had two people who tried to take advantage of the demonstration to loot a commercial estate where they found death when they were fighting with the security personnel of the estate. And we had also a guy who died while the terrorist group attacked the Kananga airport, this is at 2,000 kilometres from Kinshasa. That amounts to five people, no one linked to the protest. So it is a lie if someone tells you that during the 31st of December protest last year somebody died. But they are saying so because opposition needs to say things that can hamper the government, they can say things that can compromise our chance to have a good image towards our people. I hear them saying so. The second protest that we have had in the country occurred around 21st Of January this year and we had two people dying, one was shot by a policeman who claimed self-defence. We launched an investigation team which said the policeman was saying a lie, we called the martial team, he is now facing his judge. The second one, inquiries are still going on because the medical personnel of the hospital called Kitambo hospital saw people bringing a lady wounded, and when they asked people who brought that lady who they are, and what happened, those people escaped and the lady died after all. So, how can we say it is the police who killed her, so we don’t know exactly what happened with that lady, so we do acknowledge a single wrongdoing with our police, and this policeman was notified, is court martialed and we are awaiting the justice to take a decision about him, that is the rule of law in any state.
Prior to your arrival in Washington, in what shape did you leave Congo? How is Congo doing economically? How is Congo doing politically, besides this protest how is Congo doing politically as a country?
Politically, I can tell you that people are really now totally devoted to wait and prepare for the third election since we have adopted the new constitution. That is the third election we are going to handle and people are of course excited about it. And mostly those who are interested in running for presidency, for parliamentship, for local parliamentship, so that is it. Economically we are doing well, we had what we can say a short budget last year due to the lack of means due to the bad prices of the products we had to sell in the international market, like copper, like cobalt. But lucky enough, we have witnessed the amelioration of these prices, that helped us to finance ourselves, our elections. And those people around the world who promised a lot and didn’t bring anything, we were able to finance our elections by ourselves due to this amelioration of our budget so we are doing great economically.
And your country is so rich when it comes to resources.
How is the investment climate like? Because, when people talk about Congo, the image they have e is still one of instability. What can you tell International investors? Is your country open and ready for investment? And does it have the right climate for these companies to come in and invest?
Well you know that it is not enough to have resources to be developed, you need a framework of security, you need a framework of peace, that is what we need really restored in our country. And you know that since 60’s, since we have gotten independence from Belgium, we have been the target of some new colonial policies mostly from western countries- mostly from Europe, mostly from Belgium. They killed Lumumba three months after independence because he wanted us to enjoy fully our independence, and so they are continuing with our leaders now, they killed Laurent Kabila, they are trying now to threaten Joseph Kabila. The one who will come and let’s say will decide to give them our wealth will be their target also. So we have to fight to maintain our freedom as a people, to maintain our right, our wealth, that is the main challenge we are facing, but we are also fighting to make investment to be more easy- possible. And we have a written code of investment that tries to give confidence to investors and those who are confiding us by coming, because not all the counties need security. We have security in north kivu province, maybe two counties, we have security in Kasai province, maybe two counties out of 150 countries. So the remaining, there is peace, there is calm. And the people who want to come can be aware that there is peace and they will enjoy facilities, the roles of investment provides for them.
Let’s go back to elections, what is it that the government of President Kabila is doing to ensure make sure that this elections are free, fair and with results that all the Congolese people will be able to accept.
The thing is that Congolese have decided to make elections to be organised by an independent body. You know in most countries, you find that elections are being organised by the government- by internal affair ministries, but in our country, we have decided to build up an independent electoral commission that is comprised of opposition members, majority members, civil society, and this commission is headed by a civil society member. So, this is a way we found to neutralise politically the electoral body, and this commission is independent towards the government, towards foreign interest, and towards anybody, be it the Catholic Church or what. Everybody who has private interest cannot give instruction to that commission, that is the first decision, our people took, not the government, it is in the constitution of our country. Secondly, we have decided that now we have to make a schedule, to make a calendar and the calendar was published this year, that is why I can say that we are sure now that on the 23rd of December, we shall have the elections, presidential one, legislative one national and local on the same day that was decided when we discussed majority, opposition and the civil society. In December 2016 we decided so and it is going to happen. That is what I can say and since the schedule are being published and we are following the schedule, and we decide that we have to start by revising the electoral list, and we have finished revising that list. And I think that is a signal that things are following their way to help bring us to elections exactly on a date that is convenient for everybody- on the 23rd of December this year.
There seems to be a lot of mistrust from the opposition when it comes to President Kabila, they both think that he has not been sincere to some of his promises in the past. And when I spoke to one of them about a week ago, his fear was that President Kabila might run again whereas he is not supposed to, he is your president, you are his minister, is he, would he be part of this presidential election, is he going to run?
My dear let me tell, you that if there’s no mistrust between the opposition and the president then there would not be opposition, they would all be for the government. So, it’s because there is mistrust that there is opposition, they don’t trust us, and so doing we don’t trust them. We think they have sold to foreign interest, we are accusing them, that they have sold to this new colonial. Is it true?, it is not true, but it is our conviction, like its their conviction that we might do some tricks to have President Kabila changing the constitution, but how will he do such without referendum, and there is no referendum ready on the agenda. So, he must wait , we are waiting for polls to take place, from June we shall start having the candidates, they will see if Kabila will be candidate, but I know that the constitution forbids anybody who have had two terms like President Kabila to run again. So, since we have not yet seen Kabila saying that he will run, nobody can say that he is trying to change that, I can say that maybe you’re trying to kill me this evening when you are not trying to kill me. This is what we call in French “proces d’intention” ‘(speaks French) -(witch hunt)I don’t know what you say in English, you think to judge me by intention by what you think I could think, so it is difficult, you better wait. if I do any wrongdoing then you judge me, but you cannot just say that I will do wrong and convince yourself and convince everybody that I will do something wrong, nothing wrong have been done till now, and there is no referendum, no change of constitution and Kabila will not run because you cannot run with this constitution, and you can’t change the constitution without a referendum, that’s all.
One of the leading opposition candidates Moise katumbi, he has been in exile now for a while and he says he is fearful for his life. So, is there anyway that the democratic space can be open in a way that people like him can come in to contest if they want, so that the election can have more credibility
That’s bogus, because one should ask how Mr Katumbi came out of the country, how did he get out, Mr.Katumbi was already a candidate, he announced himself that he was a candidate for the presidency, but Mr Katumbi has problems with the judiciary, he has problems with other Congolese, they know he stole property of other people and they brought him to court, and he was asked to appear before the court, then he said that he is sick and he needs to come abroad for treatment, and the prosecutor said to the government this man is saying he’s sick, I think I’m going to allow him go for treatment. If the government really wanted to kill Mr.Katumbi will the government have allowed Mr.Katumbi to come abroad?
No, we said okay if he is sick, let him go, but nobody is preventing him to come back, it is a lie, he is here because the government accepted the proposal from the prosecutor to send him abroad and he was supposed to come for treatment, and then come back, finalise with the justice and do whatever he wants, so nobody is preventing him. He is using only the fact that he is abroad to make his propaganda out of the tide, that’s wrong, nobody prevented him to leave the country, nobody will prevent him to come back, but nobody will interfere in the course of justice, because this is a problem between him, those who have grievance against him and the justice, not the government because there is a strict separation of power, we are executive, the judiciary is a power that is independent so Katumbi has to finalise his problem with the judiciary, he should leave the executive alone, he has a problem with the judiciary, and we have some people in Nigèr, we have people in Senegal who while having problems with the judiciary they ran for elections. Until the day you are condemned you can run for elections, nobody preventsatumbi to run for elections, this is a lie totally.
Opposition leaders again said that President Kabila has really done nothing of substance to improve Congo or to improve the lives of the Congolese people. Now you have been in power since 2001 and you have served in these government in different capacities for a very long time too, What has his government achieved for the Congolese people since he took over power in 2001
Only someone who was not in Congo in 2001 can say so, only someone who does not know Congo can say so, in which state Kabila found Congo, Congo was divided in three countries, there was a program to balkanise Congo, to separate Congo. We had a Congo that was belonging to Uganda, we had a Congo that was belonging to Rwanda, and that was the exact Congo which the government and Kabila managed to reunite, that’s a big achievement, to make Congo remain United that’s something people of Congo are very grateful to President Kabila for, you don’t really think that a country like Congo in 2001 when Kabila the senior was killed, nobody was thinking that Congo will remain Congo as it is today, but Kabila managed, made his effort to maintain the unity of this country, that is, our first strength to have this country developed, you have to be a country before you can be developed, that’s what he did, that’s the answer I can give. Maybe they found problems of security he built an army, we didn’t have an army by them, now we are 10th along the 54 armies in Africa, it is he who did it. Our first problem was a security problem and he solved it, so you can’t make miracles on every ways, maybe the others will solve other problems but at least he maintained the reunification of Congo, he maintained that Congo United, one should be grateful to him for that. That’s the reality.
With regards to the international community, a lot interest is shown when it come to Congo, what message do you have for them, how do you think they can be of greater help to your country, as you go through this up coming electoral process.
Well, a lot has been promised by our partners of international community, we shall do so, we shall help for the electoral process, so and so, but we didn’t see a single coin given to Congo, lucky enough we have resources we allocated for our elections.
We are the owners of the country, we are the ones to budget, we are the ones to finance, we made sacrifices and we found money. So, if they want to finance let it be, it can help us maybe to take some other money to send for development. If they don’t have money let Congolese alone solve their problems that is our problem. But we are seeing mostly from Europe, exceptionally from Belgium the former colonial power, they are the one who are trying to create problems among Congolese, to oppose Congolese against each another, in order to dissolve the unity of the country, and to try to exploit it for their own benefits, so leave Congolese alone, we are not a paradise maybe, but if we are left alone solving our own problems, following our own will, we are sure that we will solve the problems of development in Congo.
So, the problem is this interference from Western countries, from Belgium, and we are landing now in a very hot dispute with Belgium as we are talking. We do not have an Ambassador from Belgium in Kinshasa, we do not have an Ambassador of Congo in Brussels, we thought that when they killed Lumumba it was enough, that we have paid the cost by the blood of Lumumba, it seems like it is not enough, and for us we feel baffled.
Mr minister, can you shed more light on the problem that Congo has with Belgium, we will like to know a little more of what is the issue?
You have to hear in Belgium a coalition in power who wants to bring us in the Situation we were before independence that Congo should belong to Belgium, we can’t belong to Belgium it’s impossible, we are independent, and we feel really independent, and we are proud of our independence, and we think the death Lumumba paid for our independence, and nobody can take us again as slaves, as a colonised country, that this Belgium they are trying to colonise us again, and we do refuse, and they are helping people like Mr Katumbi and others to bring us back to that situation of 60s, that’s the only problem we are having with them in summary.
A quick question again on the security situation in Congo. How is it, is the country actually secured? are the borders secured? is the military actually in control of all the Congolese country?
We are in full control of all territory except two territory, two counties. I told you that out of 160 in the border of Uganda where we are experiencing very hard offensive of terrorists we call ADF, those are Ugandans rebels they are fighting their own government of Uganda, they went on alliance with al-Shabab from Somalia and they are using these two territories of our country North kivu to fight their government and they are killing our people also, killing our soldiers, killing even the peace keepers of United Nations mostly Tanzanians, South Africans and from Malawi who came to help to secure that part of the country we are having this problem. We had problems last year with a terror offensive that happened in Kasai that’s in the central region, but this we dealt with it ourselves, our own army maintained this, we arrested the terrorist, they are now brought to court, they are responding now to the judges who are judging them, and they are going to be sentenced, but our law is sane and for the rest of the country living in peace and waiting for elections.
So, are there any prospect that your country The DR Congo can work with Uganda to try to resolve the security problems with these two regions that you are talking about ?
No, only one because the other one is in the central we can’t work with any neighbouring countries, but near Uganda we do work with Uganda, but Uganda is not allowed to send in troops because we had bad experience when they came with Rwanda last year to invade our country, so we accepted only exchange of information, exchange of intelligence materials so it is what is been done, and it works we send them some information, they send our military some information and anybody in his territory can cope with his bandit, that’s what we are doing.
I know you are tired, you’ve had a long day, but we will soon wrap this up. When you read human right reports about Congo, from Amnesty International, from Human Rights Watch and from other groups, you see all these stories about rape, you see stories people been arrested. What’s your reaction to that?
I told them when I met them today, and I told them look; it is not good to try to live off other people’s problems. You are trying to make your food on the problems of Congolese, we have problems with two NGOs Human right watch and Fédération Nationale des ligues des droits de l’homme, a French human right group. let me give you two cases Human Rights Watch went on saying that we met security problems some days ago in Goma, Kinshasa or else where, we went to recruit former rebels of M23, those are some of our compatriots, some of them are Tutsi, some are Hutu, because they are the same people in Kivu province and in Rwanda, so they wrote that we went to hire those people, the Tutsi among them to come and help our army to kill other Congolese in Goma, and in Kinshasa. When we have an army of 160,000 military personnel, why should we go and hire 200 poor people who are on exile, we defeated them, they ran away so we go to take them to come and crush our people. But, what happened, those people in Kivu said ooh, look human right have said that you went to hire Tutsi against us, it brought inter ethnic battle between Tutsi, Congolese and other tribes in Congo. So, we said human right watch you are responsible for this renewing of inter ethnic clashes in Congo, this is not good, you can’t do so because you need to have budget, to have so and so you have to say something. It is stupidity .
Secondly, in the Kasai the (French name) said that, the government went on recruiting non Luba people to crush Luba people, and they start fighting in the kasai, those people who were living with good intelligence between them started clashing between them because of this report of NGO from Paris, imagine, and it was false, it was a fake report. Why are you trying to make your food on the suffering of poor Congolese people, that’s the problem we are having with these NGOs, it’s too injurious .
You are visiting in the United States, and when you see the way politics is done here, a few weeks ago there was this reaction from President Trump that created a lot of misinterpretation, how did you people in the Congo Interpret the statement from Donald Trump referring to African countries in a certain way?
I’m not aware that he was referring to African countries, I read a letter he wrote to our heads of states that are gathering in Addis Ababa, it is a good letter, and I’m sure that USA has no colonial experience, it has no colonial past, so we don’t have a problem with the United States till now, when we have a problem we shall say, nobody will prevent us from speaking, until now we leave them in peace
Mr Lambert Mende Omalanga thank you very much. Any last words?
You are welcome, thank you
With Kabila gone, change can be rapid, and great for the people of the D.R.Congo
January 27, 2018 | 1 Comments
-We will not be fooled a third time into believing that Kabila will hold elections.
– Kabila created a country of sadness and death. He created a country where he uses rape as a tool for his power
-Kabila’s evil ways have unified the people against him.
-African leaders have left their people infrastructure and opportunity. Kabila has left nothing but destruction
– Christian Malanga, of United Congolese Party Takes on President Kabila.
By Ajong Mbapndah L
The only solution for the political crisis in the D.R.Congo is for President Joseph Kabila to step down and give way for a new transitional government to hold transparent, and free elections ,says Christian Malanga, President of the United Congolese Party.
Malanga who shuttles between the USA and the D.R.Congo accuses President Kabila of creating a country of sadness and death where rape is used as a tool for his power. Whereas some African leaders have bequeathed a legacy of infrastructure and opportunity their people, Kabila has left nothing but destruction, says Malanga who is nursing Presidential ambitions of his own.
The evil ways of President Kabila have unified the people against him ,and he must be made to answer for all crimes committed by his government against Congolese. Lauding the support of the international community , Malanga believes that it is ultimately up to the people of the D.R.Congo to chart their own future. With Kabila gone, change can be rapid and great for the people of the D.R.Congo, says Malanga.
Mr. Christian Malanga, you are President of the United Congolese Party, can you start by introducing your party and how you became its leader?
Thank you for taking the time to interview me and learn more about my cause. Let me start from the beginning. When I was a teenager my family moved to the United States as political refugees. It was in the US that I had the opportunity to follow my entrepreneurial spirit. As a young entrepreneur, I had a yearning to go home to the DRC and give back and shine a light on my people. Living in America also exposed me to the values of democracy the importance of serving one’s country. When I went to the DRC I decided I should join the military as a DRC patriot. It was my time in the military where I witnessed first hand the systematic corruption Kabila had orchestrated. He was purposely creating the mess in East Congo and the military was not being paid adequately and more importantly was given orders to stand down to Mai Mai rebels.
There was a moment of clarity when I saw a protesting civilian killed and I knew then that I must bring change to the Congo. I decided to run a grassroots political movement with posters, speeches, rallies; using all of the ways I witnessed good democracy in America.
However, I came to find out in order to get a position in office you needed to be a Kabila crony. My strategy scared Kabila and his cronies and he tortured me for two weeks and raped my secretary. The Carter Center rescued me and I then decided to go to the US to form my political party, The United Congolese Party, and lobby in Washington DC.
After lobbying in DC and gaining much support, I decided to campaign to the Congolese diaspora worldwide. I spent time creating my grassroots campaign in USA, Canada, Belgium, France, England, Germany, and South Africa. My vision is for a true democracy based on the principles of the DRC Constitution, grow mass support, and eventually became the voice for all Congolese people being oppressed by the unconstitutional dictatorial regime.
You are based in the USA, how well implanted is the party in Congo and how does it function there with a President who is out of the country?
Although I have a major office in Washington, DC I am currently based and working in Kinshasa. I am in my country because the only way change will happen is if we are organized.
How would you describe the political situation in the country today?
The country is currently a failed state. We have a dictator who will not follow his sworn duty to the Constitution. Although we have the world’s supply of cobalt: the most important resource for the 21st century and beyond and the DRC is sitting on trillions in resources, the DRC cannot thrive in the current conditions. The DRC is the rape capital of the world, we have no infrastructure, no jobs, we are a hungry population with a short life expectancy, diseases such as cholera because we lack clean water and plumbing. We have countless massacres in Kasai and Beni which are for the benefit and at the behest of Kabila. We have systematic corruption from the highest level to the lowest level. Nevertheless, with education and Kabila gone change can be rapid and great for the people.
There have been growing protests and demonstrations against President Kabila recently, how far are Congolese willing to go to get him out of power?
We are going to arrest Kabila and his criminal political cronies. The problem in my country is the political elite who steal from the country. We the people are creating a new government of the people, by the people, and for the people. It is my vision to ensure that democracy and development succeed. I will be the President of the new transitional government. With dedication and hard work democracy and a transitional government will be coming in the very near future.
Kabila may still be there, but elections are coming up, why can the people of the D.RC not be patient and use the election to vote him out?
Elections are coming when the people remove Kabila. Kabila is a pathological liar. There is an old saying: fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me. We will not be fooled a third time into believing that Kabila will hold elections.
Mr Kabila has been there since 2001, if you had to be unbiased in your assessment, what are some of the things he got right for the D.RC, his critics say he united the country, and has greatly improved infrastructure, do you agree with any of these?
Have you been to my country? Infrastructure is the biggest problem for my country. DRC under Kabila has ranked among last in UN Development Programs Human Development Index. The World Economic Forum’s global competitive index continues to rank DRC in the bottom ten countries. We are starving and don’t have access to clean water and reliable electricity and to get around in the country is a complete mess. Kabila created a country of sadness and death. He created a country where he uses rape as a tool for his power. Kabila has not unified the country through government; rather he has caused endless carnage. Kabila instills fear in our people by using psychopaths such as the Spirit of Death whom he commands to go out in the street and ruthlessly kill civilians.
The only unification that has come out of Kabila’s evil ways is that he has unified the people against him. It has woken up the people how important democracy is and how important it is to hold the government accountable. It has created a young population ready to be on the right side of history working to promote good policies that will benefit the country and our people.
Kabila is relatively young, what role do you see for him when he leaves power, maybe he fears for himself and his family, are there any incentives that the opposition could use to encourage him leave power, even a golden parachute as has been done in some African countries?
Kabila is a criminal on the largest scale. Countless numbers of civilians have been tortured and died because of his actions. Kabila does not discriminate: he has killed many Congolese women and children. Justice is a universal right and he should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. His actions do not warrant clemency. We can’t compare DRC to other African countries; other African leaders have left their people infrastructure and opportunity. Kabila has left nothing but destruction.
Can you paint the profile of the kind of leader you think the D.R.C will need after Kabila leaves power?
We need a leader who will focus on education and empowering the people to be productive members of society. We need a unifier: a person who understands the hurdles facing Congolese people and will work tirelessly and smartly to fix the problems that have been a result of a failed state.
What is your take on the way the international community has handled the political crisis in the D.R.Congo?
The international community has done their best and the Congolese people need to take accountability for our mess. The international community has been a beacon for hope and has held Kabila accountable for his violations of democracy and human rights. Nevertheless, change comes from within and we must as a nation be the change the international community hopes for with true democracy.
There are many who think that if the D.R.C is in chaos, it is because of its resources, what is your take on this?
The resource curse is baloney. As President, I would much rather have a resource rich county to manage than a non- resource rich country. The problem is Kabila has stolen money that could have been spent on developing our nation. With good transparent government in a resource rich country development can happen faster and be more sophisticated in its development.
You seem to be nursing Presidential ambitions yourself, are you running and what do you think your chances will be?
I am organizing under democratic principles. I would love to have real elections where I have a democratic campaign. The reality is Kabila will not step down and elections are impossible as long as Kabila is enforcing his will on the people. My campaign is democratic. It is grassroots by and for the people. My campaign is the only vehicle for democracy. Let me make this clear, Kabila must first be removed and then a new transitional government can hold transparent and free elections. I will lead the transitional government and lead my people to freedom.
A last word on the future of the D.R.C, what makes you hopeful and what are your fears?
I am very hopeful because I see our people are motivated for a better life. The Congolese people understand opportunity is possible and endless when there is good governance and democracy and I am committed to delivering both. Fear is not in my vocabulary. My vision is just, and right ,and my strength comes from my faith in God. Thank you for taking the time to interview me.
Making Accra A Must Visit City in Africa- Metropolitan Chief Executive Adjei Sowah In Action
January 24, 2018 | 0 Comments
By Ajong Mbapndah L
Calm, soft spoken, witty, and confident, Hon Adjei Sowah is the very epitome of the legendary Ghanaian hospitality on full display in the capital city of Accra that he leads. Appointed by President Nana Akuffo Addo, and unanimously endorsed by all Council members as Metropolitan Chief Executive of Ghana’s capital city Accra in March of last year, Hon Adjei Sowah has been a busy man catering to needs of the four million people who live and interact within Accra on a daily basis.
Established in 1898 and referred to at some point as the City Council, the Accra Metropolitan Assembly that Adjei Sowah heads manages the entire city of Accra. While its land size may have shrunk over the years with creation of districts within the Metropolitan Assembly, the city of Accra still has a resident population of about two million people. During the day, the permanent residents of the city are joined by a floating population of another two million who come in for work and diverse commercial activities before returning to their homes outside Accra in the evenings.
The life of the city is on commerce says Adjei Sowah as major markets in Ghana like Makola, Kantamanto, Kaneshie and others are found within Accra. The city is very cosmopolitan in nature with people from diverse backgrounds and regions all cohabiting peacefully. Interviewed by Ajong Mbapndah L for PAV, Hon Adjei Sowah introduces his city ,progress towards making it the cleanest city in Africa as prescribed by President Akufo Addo, and more.
Good afternoon sir and Happy New year, Hon. Adjei Sowah
Hon Adjei Sowah: Many Happy returns and happy new year to all of you too,
And thanks so much for taking time out off your busy schedule to grant this Interview
Hon Adjei Sowah:. Thank you, it’s a pleasure
You are the Metropolitan Chief Executive of Accra, can you start by introducing your city?
Hon Adjei Sowah: The Accra metropolitan assembly used to be called the city council, it was established in 1898 and as an authority that manages the entire city of Accra. The land size of Accra has been shrinking over the years by the creation of districts within the metropolitan assembly largely because of the increase in number of city dwellers. You are also aware of urbanisation; it brings a lot of people into the city. It used to start from somewhere in Nungua to Accra, and now Nungua, Techiman have been taken away. And today we start from the boundaries of Lar, then to the boundaries of Acho, which is ghana east and then to the boundaries of Ga central and then that of Ga south. The city has a resident population of about two million referenced to the population in housing censured figures. But another floating population of two million plus, and that’s because of the influx of people into the city. So during the day, we are working with more than four million people within the city, and then in the evening people go back to their homes, which is outside the city. And all the major markets in Ghana are within Accra and the life of the city is on commerce, and that’s what attracts people into the city, all kind of things are sold within the city. So, all the major markets; Makola, Kantamanto, kaneshie, they are certain unique markets also as well. For instance Kantamanto is like a second hand clothing market, Agbogbloshie is foodstuff market, Makola is hardware market, so all the markets are in Accra. It’s cosmopolitan also in nature despite the fact that the indigenous people are Ga people, that’s fishing but because it is a city, all manner of people are in the city, the Akans, the Ewes, the Nowes, the northerners, are all in the city, so it’s very cosmopolitan in nature.
You were appointed to office around March
Hon Adjei Sowah: Sure, 24th march
What specific assignments did president Akufo task you with?
Hon Adjei Sowah: Well, because you are in charge of the city, there are certain basic things that you need to do right, in the area of social services, education, infrastructure and a couple of things that you do. And the President also indicated that sanitation is high on the agenda, he has stated clearly that it is his wish that by the end of his tenure, Accra will become the cleanest city in Africa. So, we are working hard towards achieving the dreams of the President, in addition to that we are launching the Accra beautification project to ensure that all open spaces and mediums have been greened and landscaped in Accra to beautify the city and to transform and create value for businesses in Accra.
So we’ve also launched the Pedestrian Safety Action Plan because this is a city and the influx of people that come into the city, we are very much concerned about traffic, not only vehicular traffic, but human traffic. If you walk around the city by this time, within the central business district, everywhere is choked, both vehicular and human traffic. So we are working hard to decongest the city, and make sure that markets outside the central business are also functioning. People also don’t sell on the street, in the pedestrian walkway; they get into the markets to sell so that pedestrians can freely walk on the pedestrian walkways. So these are some of the things that we wanted to do, just to make sure that we tackle the issue of traffic situation in Accra.
The second thing is about education, once the number of people are increasing, the population is increasing, it must also correspond with the infrastructure I.e the education, your drainage system and all kind of things that is supposed to dwell them with. Indeed the president’s initiative of ensuring that education is largely free right from the basic level to SHS has also triggered increase in enrolment, and that is also putting pressure on education infrastructure. So, education infrastructure is key that we need to expand the education infrastructure and even improve upon the existing infrastructure to ensure that people get access to the education in order to give full meaning to the free education that the central government is also pushing hard to ensure that it does it.
Now, the previous Metropolitan Chief Executive was from a different political party?
Hon Adjei Sowah: Sure
In what shape did you meet the city when you took office?
Hon Adjei Sowah: Well, I must say that largely they didn’t leave any foundation for you to build upon it. For instance in the area of sanitation, it has always been a fire fighting approach, there is no proper system to deal with the issue of sanitation, that this is where you started from and we are continuing with it. So basically you have to start from ground zero to start everything afresh to ensure that you build a system and the system would be working.
One, in the city you can’t have a land full site in Accra, because land is prime, but we generate over 2,800 tons of waste within the city everyday and it must be disposed off, and disposal takes a lot of time because a round trip of 90 kilometres, when one truck leaves Accra by the time it returns back, the day is already gone, you can’t go twice. And in modern city management, you construct what is called a transfer system where refuse collected within the city are disposed off at a transfer station, and the transfer station’s responsibility is then to carry the refuse to its final disposal site, so there are bigger haulage trucks there that can be able to convey them. We’ve supported a private developer, and we now have one transfer station in Accra, which is located at Achimota and we need to build two more within the city to be able to receive all the waste that we generate in the city. Hopefully by the end of this month, we will cut out to also start constructing one more to receive the waste. So, these are basic things that if we have been able to do, we will be able to collect the waste before you go to the medium term planning of what to use the waste for, for recycling or for waste to energy and these purposes. At the moment you need to occupy your mind on how to collect the waste first, then the second subject is what you use the waste for, that is what we are engaged in.
It’s been about 9 month now since you took office, in addition to what you just said, if you had to draw a balance sheet, what will you cite as some of the things that you have achieved- some of the things that have changed since you took over as the metropolitan chief executive of Accra.
Hon Adjei Sowah: One of the key things that we have done is to first of all change the mind of the people, and let people come to the realisation that we don’t live with filth, that is key. So, we have hightened people’s attention and today even if they see a small refuse anywhere, people start to complain, people start to talk about it. Hitherto, it’s not an issue, heaps of refuse can be found everywhere. In fact when I came to office, they were about forty-two illegal dump sites in Accra, and I have closed down 70% of them and 30%, we are on course trying to close it down. They were created largely because the tricycles that were operating in the system collecting the household waste can not travel at 90 kilometres round trip to go and dump, so they created their own illegal dump site. And this is where the transfer station when they come in, they will be able to receive. So, it is the closure of the illegal dump sites and the coming in of the transfer station which is a major achievement.
We haven’t closed all because it is important for us to give access to the tricycles, If we don’t give them access, then they will be dumping the waste on the streets of Accra and that shouldn’t happen.
Number two, in terms of our revenue mobilisation, it appears that everybody has got his own form of ticket that it issues to city- those who come to do business in the city as a way of collecting money and you are unable to authenticate the receipt that is issued to you to pay. And we’ve changed that system making sure that everybody who is paying for a service has to go use the POS machine which we are able to track how much you have paid, what time you paid. And from where I sit I will know that Koffi had issued a receipt to you for this service and how much you have paid and at what time. So the collector itself is unable to issue a fake ticket. And number two, if he collects the money from you, he does not need to come to me before I know how much he has been able to collect. And these are very simple tools that are available that we are imploring to use over here.
And you are also the former Greater Accra Regional Secretary….
Hon Adjei Sowah: And even before you end, you walked into this office and this happens to be the City Authority’s office.
Look at this place, very small, car parking is an issue, meanwhile you go around and trump people’s car from parking at unauthorised places. This is not something that I’m happy about, this is not something that we should encourage. Relatively, you’re a young person and I think that if we want to leave a legacy, the thing that we need to build a modern office. So when I came to office I builded a new office complex, a three-story with a huge auditorium, and an office which befits the city authority that when you walk in, you’ll know that you are walking into your office. And by February, we’ll commission that office and start using that office so that when you’re coming, you know that you’re coming to do real business and not in this environment. This is not what we should encourage.
So Hon. Adjei is also the former regional Secretary of New Patriotic Party (NPP)
Hon Adjei Sowah: Yeah
So how do you balance your role as a party man and as Chief Executive of the Accra metropolitan?
Hon Adjei Sowah: Well, since I assumed this office, I’ve relinquished that particular position as regional Secretary because there’ll be even a conflict of interest because in this position, you’re supposed to serve the totality of Ghanaians and not necessarily your party faithfuls. So I have relinquished that particular position. It is a position that I duly cherished, I held that position at the interest for the people and I’ve learnt a lot working with people, how to deal with individuals on a political font. I was there for two terms and I really miss that position.
And to those who have not had the privilege of visiting Accra, can you give us a couple of reasons why they should visit your city.
Hon Adjei Sowah: Well, first of all, Accra is a city where life goes on; you need to live it, love it. If you come into Ghana, you are first of all welcomed to Accra. The good thing is that the people are very nice people. There are many cities that you can’t walk in the night. In the city of Accra, you are safe, you can walk around 24 hours and nobody hurts you, there’s no attack on you. The people are also very nice and there are quite an interesting places also to visit for fun and for tourism as well. If you go to the old Accra where we interfaced with the whites during the colonial period of slavery, all these houses are still there and you can see the general post office. The general post office as it is, it’s just been repainted but the structure as it is pre colonial time is the same thing that is and you will marvel when you see those pictures.
So it’s a very interesting city, the people here are also hardworking and everybody is finding some business to do, service you know, very important.
We have 24 hours electricity unlike other cities in Africa where their light can go off every five minutes and come back. We have free flow of water. The basic social amenities are available in Accra. So I think that anytime you come to Accra, you will feel very welcome to the city.
And just as we are about to wrap this up, one of the things I also noticed in the city was Churches everywhere. So when do people have the time to help you keep the city clean, when do people have the time to do other activities when there are Churches Churches Churches everywhere?
Hon Adjei Sowah: I think that is an African phenomenon and I can give you my wide reasons as well to that. Generally, the churches are coming from Europe and America and they have settled here. Those day when Europe and America were going through their struggle, they were also compelled to look up to God for their survival, now that they may be on their feet, people hardly go to Church and think about God in America and Europe and sometimes people also want to compete with God.
This is Africa, we believe in god and we worship god in various forms and shape. We believe in traditional religion and in fact, our lives, our culture in itself tend to appreciate god and we express it in various forms. So it is not only people who go to Church but people who also sit in their quiet corner, they don’t go to Church but they believe in God, we believe in God. I don’t think we can find and atheist in this country but we can find people like that somewhere else.
And your mandate is supposed to last for four years. So when I come back to visit Accra in four years, how different will Accra be from what it is today?
Hon Adjei Sowah: Well I think that you are going to be a very beautiful city, enhanced, you are going to see a clean city, you are going to see a green city, you’re going to see a city that employs ICT tools in working, and you are going to see a very bubbling city, residents are thriving and everybody will be happy and smiling, maybe you are going to see a happy city.
Thank you very much for talking to Pan African visions
Hon Adjei Sowah : Thank you very much, it’s a pleasure