Africa Monitor | Vol VII Issue XLXII

     Africa Monitor,March

    FMSC in Rwanda

    The Continent

    Rwanda ranked again among Africa's three least corrupt nations

    For the second year in running, Rwanda has been ranked third least corrupt country in Africa, according to the latest Corruption Perception Index, 2017, released on February 22. Globally, Rwanda is ranked 48th least corrupt nation, improving two places from 2016. In Africa, Rwanda is ranked behind Botswana, which was yet again named as the least corrupt country on the continent (and ranked 34th globally), and Seychelles, which came in second in Africa 36th in the world.

    Tied with Rwanda in third in Africa is Cape Verde, according to the report. In terms of percentages, Botswana scored 61, Seychelles 60, while Rwanda and Cape Verde scored 55 per cent - well above the global average of 43 per cent. Briefing journalists about the report in Kigali on February 22, Kavatiri Rwego Albert, the programme manager at Transparency International-Rwanda Chapter, said that strong and effective institutions, such as government, civil society, and media are the key factors behind Rwanda's sustained fight against corruption.

    The index found that, globally, more than two-thirds of countries scored below 50 per cent. To produce the index, the global anti-corruption watchdog analyses public sector corruption and ranks 180 countries and territories drawing on 13 surveys of businesspeople and expert assessments. The index uses a scale of zero to 100, with zero representing highly corrupt, while 100 is for no corruption. New Zealand and Denmark ranked highest in the new index, scoring 89 per cent and 88 per cent, respectively. Syria, South Sudan and Somalia rank lowest with 14.1 per cent and 9 per cent respectively.

    In East Africa, Burundi ranked lowest, in 157th position having improved by two places compared to the previous year, while Uganda remained unmoved the 151th. Kenya regressed by two places, ranking 143th globally, though it improved by two points, from 26 per cent in 2016 to the 28 score in 2017, while Tanzania moved up by 4 percentage points, from 106 in 2016 to 103 in 2017. The best performing region is Western Europe with an average score of 66, while the worst performing regions are Sub-Saharan Africa - with an average score of 32 per cent - and Eastern Europe and Central Asia (average score 34). Rwego said that corruption was more prevalent in countries ravaged by conflict and unrest, citing Somalia, Afghanistan, South Soudan, Libya, and North Korea.

    "When there is no peace, you cannot build governance systems," he said, underscoring the importance of good leadership in combating corruption. Analysis shows that countries with weak media and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) also tend to have high corruption rates.

    Rwego pointed out that Bertelsmann Foundation Sustainable Governance Indicators, used by Transparency International, showed that corruption in Rwanda National Police significantly reduced from 15 per cent in 2016 to 8 per cent in 2017, while graft went down from 5.4 per cent to 4.9 per cent in local government. These findings, he said, match the World Internal Security and Police Index of 2016, which ranked Rwanda National Police second in assuming its responsibilities, after Botswana.

    ACP Jean Nepo Mbonyumuvunyi, the Commissioner of Inspectorate of Services and Ethics at RNP, said the police had initiated electronic systems through which contact between a service seeker and provider was reduced. He cited traffic and vehicle inspection services, as well as filing of cases. He pointed out that any police officer convicted of corruption is dismissed.

    To sustain the fight against corruption, Rwego said that corruption cases should be followed up, and the offenders should be duly punished. "If the legal framework and law enforcement measures are strengthened and public funds well managed, we would register even more progress in the campaign against corruption."

    Clément Musangabatware, the deputy Ombudsman in charge of preventing and fighting corruption and related offences , said that one of the factors that impede efforts against graft in the country is the fact about 85 per cent of Rwandans are reluctant to report corruption. "We should sensitise Rwandans that when there is corruption, they are the ones to suffer its consequences," Musangabatware said.

    Musangabatware acknowledged recent gains in the fight against corruption, including offering public tenders online and digitising many government services, which reduces chances of corruption as it significantly eliminates human interactions.

    Source: The New Times

    Khartoum, Juba near bottom of 2017 corruption perceptions index

    In this year's Corruption Perceptions Index released on February 22 by Transparency International, New Zealand and Denmark rank highest with scores of 89 and 88 respectively. Sudan scored 16, up from 14 the previous year, but is still rated 175th out of 180 countries. Only Yemen, Afghanistan, Syria, South Sudan, and Somalia rank lowest with scores of 16, 15, 14, 12, and 9 respectively. The best performing region is Western Europe with an average score of 66. The worst performing regions are Sub-Saharan Africa (average score 32) and Eastern Europe and Central Asia (average score 34).

    The index highlights that the majority of countries are making little or no progress in ending corruption, while further analysis shows journalists and activists in corrupt countries risking their lives every day in an effort to speak out. The index, which ranks 180 countries and territories by their perceived levels of public sector corruption according to experts and businesspeople, uses a scale of 0 to 100, where 0 is highly corrupt and 100 is very clean. This year, the index found that more than two-thirds of countries score below 50, with an average score of 43. Unfortunately, compared to recent years, this poor performance is nothing new.

    In presenting the results, Transparency International says that since 2012, several countries significantly improved their index score, including Côte d'Ivoire, Senegal and the United Kingdom, while several countries declined, including Syria, Yemen and Australia.

    "Further analysis of the results indicates that countries with the least protection for press and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) also tend to have the worst rates of corruption. Every week at least one journalist is killed in a country that is highly corrupt. "The analysis, which incorporates data from the Committee to Protect Journalists, shows that in the last six years, more than 9 out of 10 journalists were killed in countries that score 45 or less on the index," Transparency International points out.

    As reported by Radio Dabanga, the Sudanese security service confiscated the print-runs of three newspapers, El Jareeda, El Midan and El Tayyar for unknown reasons in Khartoum on February 8. The confiscation of El Midan, a newspaper by the Communist Party, is the third one this month. El Jareeda and El Tayyar independent newspapers have also been confiscated before. In January, the Sudanese authorities started confiscating newspapers which covered the price hike protests that broke out across the country as a result of the devaluation of the currency and resulting soaring prices coupled with goods, fuel, and bread shortages.

    Source: Radio Dabanga (Amsterdam)

    US adds several Islamic State affiliates to terror list

    The U.S. State Department on February 27 branded seven Islamic State groups from around the world and two of its leaders as terrorists in an effort to cut off any financial support they may have been getting from within the United States. The top U.S. diplomatic agency blacklisted ISIS-West Africa, ISIS-Philippines and ISIS-Bangladesh, along with four other ISIS-affiliated groups — ISIS-Somalia, Jund al-Khilafah-Tunisia, ISIS-Egypt and the Maute Group. The State Department said it also has sanctioned two ISIS leaders, Mahad Moalim and Abu Musab al-Barnawi.

    Nathan Sales, the State Department's counterterrorism coordinator, said in a statement that the designations "target key ISIS-affiliated groups and leaders outside its fallen caliphate in Iraq and Syria. The actions are a critical step in degrading ISIS's global network and denying its affiliates the resources they need to plan and carry out terrorist attacks.” The law under which the sanctions were imposed blocks the IS groups from conducting any business transactions linked to any properties they may have in the U.S. and prohibits Americans from doing business with them.

    The State Department said the sanctions send a message globally that "these groups and individuals have committed or pose a significant risk of committing acts of terrorism. Terrorist designations expose and isolate entities and individuals, and deny them access to the U.S. financial system. Moreover, designations can assist the law enforcement activities of U.S. agencies and other governments." It said the terrorist designations are part of the U.S. plan to defeat IS insurgents.

    "This whole-of-government effort is destroying ISIS in its safe havens, denying its ability to recruit foreign terrorist fighters, stifling its financial resources, countering the false propaganda it disseminates over the internet and social media, and helping to stabilize liberated areas in Iraq and Syria so the displaced can return to their homes and begin to rebuild their lives," the State Department said.

    Source: Voice of America

    Central Africa

    Violent protests by  Congolese refugees

    The UN refugee agency, UNHCR, has called for calm and restraint following the violent protests on February 20 by Congolese refugees at Kiziba refugee camp in Karongi district. The refugees took to the street reportedly to voice their anger over reduction in food assistance. In a statement released on February 22, the UNHCR explained that humanitarian operations in Rwanda remain severely underfunded, which forced the World Food Programme (WFP) to cut food rations by 10 per cent in November 2017 and by 25 per cent in January 2018. "Refugee protection and safety is our top priority," Ahmed Baba Fall, UNHCR Representative in Rwanda said in the statement.

    The agency urged the refugees to respect local laws and express grievances through dialogue, while calling on authorities to handle the situation with calm and restraint. It acknowledged that some refugees have also indicated their desire to return to their country, out of desperation. "Refugees have the right to return to their country whenever they wish. But we urge refugees to make an informed decision and not to listen to misinformation or rumours," added Baba Fall.

    According to the statement, UNHCR is advocating with donors to address the gaps in humanitarian funding and urgent needs of refugees. To date, it said, UNHCR's 2018 appeal for US$98.8 million to support refugees in Rwanda is only 2 per cent funded. The WFP also warned about potential larger ration cuts if monthly requirements of US$2.5 million are not met. Prolonged ration cuts put at serious risk food security and nutritional needs of refugees, who are dependent on assistance, it warned.

    The UNHCR spoke out a day after the Ministry of Disaster Management and Refugees said that Rwanda National Police is to investigate the cause of the protests. Rwanda hosts over 173,000 refugees in six camps, including Kiziba, where Congolese refugees have lived for over 20 years. The Kiziba refugee camp hosts over 17,000 refugees, 77 per cent of whom are women and children.

    Source: The New Times

    Cameroon troops kill 35 Boko Haram terrorists in combined operations

    In furtherance of Operation Deep Punch to smoke out remnants of Boko Haram Terrorists in the Northern fringes of Lake Chad and Sambisa Forest, a joint operation involving Nigerian and Cameroonian Troops have resulted in the killing of 35 Boko Haram terrorists. According to authorities of Operation Lafiya Dole, troops took the battle to the terrorists in their enclaves at Kusha-Kucha, Surdewala, Alkanerik, Magdewerne and Mayen villages, all situated along the Nigerian - Cameroonian border.

    "In the fierce offensives, the gallant troops killed 33 Boko Haram insurgents and destroyed 15 locally fabricated rifles captured from them. "The troops also destroyed 4 Improvised Explosive Devices (IED), several motorcycles and bicycles belonging to the insurgents. "603 civilians held hostage by the insurgents were also rescued and conveyed to Bäma and Pulka towns, where they are currently being profiled before subsequent handover to IDP camp officials". "603 civilians held hostage by the insurgents were also rescued and conveyed to Bäma and Pulka towns, where they are currently being profiled before subsequent handover to IDP camp officials.

    "Relatedly, as the clearance operations progressed, the combined troops tracked the insurgents to Bokko, Daushe and Gava villages, where they unleashed another attack on the fleeing insurgents, killing 2 of them in the fire fight and recovering one AK 47 rifle, a magazine, a trolley and unspecified quantity of premium motor spirit in Jerry cans. "The troops also extricated 194 civilians held captive by the insurgents and destroyed makeshift accommodations erected by the insurgents. "Additionally, the combined troops successfully cleared Miyanti and Wudila villages, where they rescued 3 men, 121 women and 209 children. The rescued persons are undergoing profiling, preparatory to their handover to appropriate IDP camps.

    "Meanwhile, troops carrying out clearance operations from the Sabil Huda axis of the Sambisa forest have recovered a cache of arms and tools from Boko Haram insurgents' enclave in the Sabil Huda area of the Sambisa. "The munitions recovered include 3 Browny Machine Guns, two 81mm Mortar tubes, one 81mm Mortar tripod, one 60 mm Commando Mortar tube, twelve 40mm AGL cartridge , 5 AK 47 rifles ,1 sniper rifle, 3 Pistols with one magazine loaded with four 9mm rounds, one damaged pump action rifle.

    Others are 2 damaged G3 rifles, 1 Tear gas riflel, 2 Sub Machine Guns, 5 xG3 Magazines, 4 locally made rockets, 28 working parts of various weapons, 28 barrels of various weapons, 3 Browny Machine Gun bipods , 2 Anti Aircraft Gun Barrels, 12 Anti Aircraft Gun tripods, 8 Tool boxes, one welding machine, one Hayab crane, Assorted ammunition links, one packet of electrode and one power generator. "Troops remain highly motivated in continuing with the operations to locate and clear Boko Haram insurgents from their hideouts.

    Source: VANGUARD

    North Africa

    Egypt expresses concern over humanitarian situation in eastern Ghouta

    In a statement issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on February 21, 2018, the Arab Republic of Egypt expressed deep concern over the recent developments in the Eastern Ghouta in Syria with its grave repercussions on the humanitarian situation and the conditions of the civilians residing there. The statement stressed that there is an immediate and urgent need for a humanitarian truce to bring in humanitarian assistance, and evacuate the wounded in order to avoid an actual humanitarian disaster, pointing to Egypt's condemnation of any bombardment of the civilian areas in Al-Ghouta, Damascus, and across Syria. The statement added that Egypt continues its efforts and contacts with all stakeholders to find a way out of the humanitarian crisis in Al-Ghouta.

    The Foreign Ministry reiterated that Egypt's efforts regarding the humanitarian dimension come within the framework of the Egyptian vision on seeking a ceasefire that will help resume political negotiations to achieve a solution that will end the seven-year-long political and humanitarian crisis, preserve the unity and territorial integrity of the Syrian state, and clear Syria from terrorism. It also noted that the political resolution remains the sole option that guarantees putting an end to the crisis and achieving peace and stability in Syria, so as to fulfill the aspirations of the brotherly Syrian people.

    Source: Egypt State Information Service (Cairo)

    Egypt briefs UN about developments of Sinai military operation

    Egypt's Permanent Representative to the United Nations (UN) in New York Mohamed Edris held on 25/2/2018 a meeting with Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations Counter-Terrorism Office Vladimir Voronkov. During the meeting, Edris reviewed the targets and developments of the comprehensive military operation in Sinai, saying it comes in conjunction with the implementation of an overall developmental plan in Sinai by the government.

    The representative stressed the importance of boosting cooperation and coordination between Egypt and the UN, including taking advantage of the available abilities of the Egyptian Agency of Partnership for Development and the Cairo International Center for Conflict Resolution, Peacekeeping and Peace building. He also accentuated the importance of the role of the UN Counter-Terrorism Office particularly in helping the states implement the UN global strategy for fighting terrorism, expressing Egypt's full support to the office.

    Edris welcomed Voronkov's visit to Egypt next month, which will include a number of meetings with senior officials in the country and the Arab League. Meanwhile, Voronkov expressed his desire to visit Egypt, lauding its leading role in fighting terrorism on all levels.

    Source: Egypt State Information Service (Cairo)

    Southern Africa

    Striking Gupta mineworkers demand answers about their future

    Striking mineworkers at the Gupta-owned Optimum Coal Mine have demanded to know the "truth of the sale" of the mine. Workers downed tools on the morning of February 21, saying there was uncertainty over their jobs and the future of the mine. A large group of mineworkers gathered at the main gate of the mine early on the morning of February 22, insisting that management briefs them.

    Optimum Coal CEO George van der Merwe received a memorandum from them. In the memorandum, they demanded to know if they would be paid and asked to be informed of plans to pay outstanding debt to creditors. Van der Merwe said he and his management team would go over the memorandum before they respond. "The truth that we will give you won't always be what you wanted to hear, but it will be the truth. The situation that we are in today is not as a result of only our own making, but the result of external forces," Van der Merwe said.

    On February 21, general manager Howard Pyoos said the Department of Mineral Resources was not aware of any possible sale of the mine because they had not filed for its transfer yet. The sale of mining rights requires approval from the minister. Pyoos told the workers that Swiss-based Charles King, which wanted to buy the mine, had already paid a deposit. "A portion of that memorandum... required a deposit and, if the sale does not go through, that deposit must be given back to the buyer," Pyoos said.

    Rapport reported on February 11 that Ajay Gupta was spotted at Optimum on February 6. Ajay landed in a helicopter at the mine with Ronica Ragavan, the chief executive of the Guptas' holding company Oakbay Investments, who was arrested by the Hawks during raids at Gupta properties last week, in relation to a case involving the Estina dairy farm. She was later released on bail. According to the Hawks, Ajay is currently a fugitive from justice in an unrelated case.

    Source: news24WIRE

    In Zimbabwe, Mpofu refuse to answer questions over missing $15 billion

    Chaos reigned in Parliament on February 22 after cabinet minister Obert Mpofu refused to answer questions regarding the claimed theft of $15 billion in revenues due to government from diamond mining at Marange. Mpofu was appearing before the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Mines and Energy. He was mines minister when, according to former president Robert Mugabe, the billions were looted. The minister, however, refused to answer questions over the matter if independent Norton MP Temba Mliswa continued to chair proceedings. He said Mliswa was compromised, claiming that the MP once drove over 600km to his home to discuss "diamonds and other issues", in addition to repeatedly criticising him in the media.

    Mpofu, now home affairs minister, further told MPs that he could not speak on another minister cabinet brief. "I am a former minister, and there is a (new) minister in that ministry; I was the minister between 2008 -2013," he said. "And that there was a committee similar to this one where I was subjected to similar questioning and they were professional. "I am not minister of mines, and I don't know which precedence has been set where former ministers are subjected to operations which they experienced when they were in those ministries." He added, "I have no mandate to speak for the ministry of mines; I cannot speak for a ministry that I was in five years ago and nothing can force me to do that. "I have been abused by you, chairman (Mliswa), in public but I have never said anything."

    When reminded that the committee was not prepared to listen to their personal gripes, Mpofu retorted that he had "vast experience with parliamentary proceedings". "You can say whatever you want, I have been in Parliament since 1987, and I know my obligation. "I have been called names by the chairman but, after that, he nicodemously comes to my house; in the cover of night he drives all the way to my house to talk about these things. "Gentlemen, we are not children here, and I am (also) a Member of Parliament.

    An angry Mliswa said he had only been to Mpofu's house once when he was Zanu PF chairperson for Mashonaland West province. He challenged the minister; "Can you tell the House (parliament) what I came to do and talk to you about at your house? "I drove to your house to talk about the suspension of Didymus Mutasa when I was the Zanu PF Mashonaland west provincial chairperson. Mpofu stood his ground, saying; "... as longs as he (Mliswa) is sitting in front of me presiding over these things, I will not cooperate."

    Mpofu later asked for a two-minute adjournment to go and wash his hands. Returning, he was again emphatic. "I will not speak on deliberations chaired by you," he said. "You (Mliswa) visited my house and even implicated the Speak of Parliament (Jacob Mudenda) and I will not speak." Efforts by other MPs persuade the minister to answer questions proved fruitless. He told them that if they did not understand English he was prepared to speak in vernacular, so they could understand he "was not going to speak".


    East Africa

    Over 46  dead in cattle raids across Sudan-South Sudan border

    More than 46 people, including women from the Misseriya and Dinka tribes, have been killed and 10,850 head of cattle, sheep, and goats have been stolen in three separate clashes between the Misseriya and armed groups from South Sudan at El Darab, Um Geroun, and Um Kadma areas in El Dibab locality in West Kordofan so far this month. On February 21, Ismail Hamdan, the Amir of Awlad Omran tribe, told Radio Dabanga that there have been exchanges of theft of livestock and murder between Misseriya and Dinka. Ismail Hamdan held the Sudanese government responsible for the occurrence of the three incidents which occurred in Sudanese territory and appealed to the governments of the two countries to deploy joint forces on the border to control and prevent crimes.

    'Cautious calm'

    Regarding the latest developments in the area, Hasan Hamidein said that the region is witnessing a cautious calm and a delegation from the federal and the state governments moved to the areas of the incidents on February 21. Hasan Sheikheldin, the head of the National Umma Party (NUP) in the state, attributed the main cause of the conflict in the region to cattle theft and the absence of government and native administrations involvement from the Sudanese and South Sudanese sides. He told Radio Dabanga that the incidents took place 40 kilometres inside Sudanese territory where the assailants used small arms and four-wheel drive vehicles in the face of unarmed citizens.

    He held the government responsible for the incidents, pointing to the government's disarmament of the herders without providing them with protection by securing the border between the two countries. Sheikheldin explained that tribal conflicts in the region are the result of a reflection of the positions of the political heads of state in both countries. He said the tribes on the border could coexist peacefully with each other, but the influence of the politics of the two countries reflects negatively on the components of the border communities of the two countries.

    Seven people were shot dead and eight others were wounded in an armed cattle theft operation allegedly carried out by militiamen from Chad at Mitere administrative unit of Beida locality in West Darfur on Monay. Witnesses and sources from Beida locality told Radio Dabanga that the raiders netted about 500 head of cattle and drove them across the border into Chad.

    Source: Radio Dabanga (Amsterdam)

    In Sudan, Vice President chairs meeting of Jabal Barkal festival

    The Vice President of the Republic, Hassabou Mohamed Abdurahaman, on February 22 chaired the meeting of the committee set to steer the Jabal Barkal Festival. The meeting reviewed reports and outcome of the previous festival and the outcome on the region. The vice president directed that a comprehensive plan be prepared for the current version taking into consideration all previous experiences in this domain.

    Media and public relations officer at Jabal Barkal festival, Mohamed Khair Awadalla, said the meeting also discussed the performance of the previous gathering in all areas and underlined the huge role played by the Jabal Bakrak on the area and the economic benefits on the whole region and its people.

    Source: Sudan News Agency (Khartoum)

    UN warns of food insecurity in South Sudan

    One year after famine was declared in parts of South Sudan, three United Nations agencies warned on February 26 that without sustained humanitarian assistance and access, more than seven million people in the crisis-torn country- almost two-thirds of the population - could become severely food insecure in the coming months. "The situation is extremely fragile, and we are close to seeing another famine. The projections are stark," said Serge Tissot, the Food and Agriculture Organization's (FAO) Representative in South Sudan. Should this happen, it will be the highest-ever number of food insecure people in South Sudan. "If we ignore them, we'll be faced with a growing tragedy. If farmers receive support to resume their livelihoods, we will see a rapid improvement in the country's food security situation due to increased local production," he added.

    The period of greatest risk will be the lean season, between May and July. FAO, the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the UN World Food Programme (WFP) warned that progress in preventing hunger-related deaths could be undone, and more people than ever could be pushed into severe hunger and famine-like conditions during May-July unless assistance and access are maintained. Particularly at risk are 155,000 people, including 29,000 children, who could suffer from the most extreme levels of hunger. "We are alarmed as the lean season, when the harvest runs out, is expected to start this year much earlier than usual. Unless we can pre-position assistance rather than mount a more costly response during the rains, more families will struggle to survive," said Adnan Khan, WFP Representative and Country Director. "The situation is deteriorating with each year of conflict as more people lose the little they had," he elaborated.

    In January, nearly half the population struggling to find enough food each day were in "crisis" or "emergency" levels of food insecurity - according to an Integrated Food Security Phase Classification report released on February 26. This represents a 40 per cent increase in the number of severely food insecure people compared to January 2017. The report comes one year after famine was declared in parts of South Sudan last February. Despite improved access and a massive humanitarian response in containing and averting famine later last year, the food insecurity outlook has never been as dire as it is now. "We are preparing for rates of severe malnutrition among children never before seen in this country," said Mahimbo Mdoe, UNICEF's Representative in South Sudan. "Without an urgent response and access to those most in need, many children will die. We cannot allow that to happen," he warned.

    Protracted conflict, the result of a political dispute that erupted between South Sudanese leaders and their rival factions in 2013, has led to reduced food production and disrupted livelihoods, has caused hunger levels to rise. This was further exacerbated by and economic collapse that rendered markets and trade unable to compensate for the local food production decrease. Prolonged dry spells, flooding and continued pest infestation also had a damaging impact. In areas like Unity, Jonglei, Upper Nile, and Central Equatoria, riddled by reoccurring outbreaks of violent conflict and displacement, the proportion of people suffering from extreme food insecurity ranges from 52 to 62 per cent - more than half the states' combined population. The number is expected to increase unless people find the means to receive, produce or buy their own food.

    Projections for February-April reveal 6.3 million people in "crisis," "emergency" or "catastrophe" levels of food insecurity, including 50,000 people in the latter. The May-July forecast put 7.1 million in those same levels, including 155,000 people in "catastrophe." Moreover, 1.3 million children under age five risk acute malnutrition.

    Source: UN News Service

    Kenyatta for introducing Golf in public schools

    President Uhuru Kenyatta wants golf introduced in public schools as a way of developing the sport. President Kenyatta said this at State House, Nairobi, on February 27 while presenting the national flag to Kenya's national boys and girls golf team which is due to leave this weekend for Casablanca for the All Africa Junior Golf Championship. He urged the ministries of Sports and Heritage, Education and Interior to finalise the development of a curriculum that will see golf introduced to public schools and also assured skaters -- who attended the flag presentation ceremony -- that they would be provided with space to train and compete at the Moi International Sports Complex, Kasarani. The skaters currently practise their skills at the Aga Khan Walk in Nairobi.

    President Kenyatta congratulated the Casablanca-bound team and wished them success in the tournament which runs from March 3 to 10. "As you go abroad with my blessings and my best wishes, express yourselves. Let your talent shine," the President told the team. Kenya is among 18 countries expected to compete in Morocco. Kenya's team of four boys and three girls will be led to Morocco by Junior Golf Foundation chairman Gitonga Kabera and the legendary Rose Naliaka of Naliaka Golf Academy who is also the coach of the girls' team.

    Source: Daily Nation

    West Africa

    In Nigeria, over 1,000 houses burnt as Kaduna mayhem worsens

    No fewer than 1,000 shops and several vehicles were torched in the violent clash that occurred between Christian and Muslim youths in Kaduna on February 12 over girls, as the death toll rose to 12 on February 17. The large scale destruction that trailed the clash which engulfed Kasuwan Magani town in Kajuru Local Government Area of the state was benumbing. Kaduna State Commissioner of Police, Austin Iwar, who disclosed the new death toll on February 17, said 18 people had also been arrested.

    Addressing journalists after a fact-finding and assessment visit to the area, the Police Commissioner vowed that no stone would be left unturned in unravelling the immediate and remote causes of the crisis. The Police Commissioner, in company of the General Officer Commanding I Division of the Nigerian Army, Kaduna, Major-General Mohammed Mohammed and state commandant of the National Security and Civil Defence Corps, Modu Goni, expressed shock at the scale of destruction. He said: "It is unfortunate. As we can see, the level of destruction is very high, some people were killed and properties were destroyed. This is not what we wish for our state, Kaduna.

    Meanwhile, the Senate has cautioned religious, political, community leaders against hate speech to avoid hate actions. It also said any conflict with religious colouration would be the fastest way to liquidate Nigeria as a country.

    Speaking on February 17, in Abuja during plenary when Senator Shehu Sani (APC, Kaduna Central) raised a point of order on the killings, destruction of property in Kasuwan Magani, Kajuru Local Government Area of Kaduna State, Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, who presided over plenary, said if all Nigerians, irrespective of class, religion and status, treat themselves as brothers and sisters, those following them would follow. Ekweremadu, who urged the leaders to try as hard as they can to avoid escalation of religious crisis in Nigeria, said:

    "This is one incident too many. This is becoming very worrisome. What is even more worrisome is the religious colouration to the killings, based on what Senator Shehu Sani has said. This is something we need to avoid. "That is, any conflict that will have religious colouration, that will be the fastest way to liquidate this country. As leaders, we must understand that leadership comes with responsibilities. It is our job to keep preaching to those who are leading through our actions and words that we belong to one God.

    "The fact that somebody is a Christian or Muslim does not mean that he should hate another person. I have not seen any religion that preaches hate killings. It is the way we behave that promotes that. "We are talking about hate speech. The worst of it is hate action. If we treat ourselves as brothers and sisters, those following us will follow us. We must try as hard as we can, not to have any religious escalation in Nigeria."

    Earlier in the presentation of his point of order, Senator Shehu Sani, who came under Order 43 of the Senate Standing Orders 2015 as Amended, said: "I stand to bring the attention of the Senate and the nation to an unfortunate violence we had on February 17 in Kasuwan Magani, Kajuru Local Government Area of Kaduna State. The violence took the lives of over six to seven people. Houses were burnt and it was a season of mayhem.

    "The mayhem was attributed to youths who decided to take laws into their hands. But it had the colouration of religious violence. Everyday, we wake up in this country and we are faced with one form of violence or another. We are now accepting the reality that violence is the way of life. "It is unfortunate that we wake up everyday and we see killings, kidnappings and other things that shake the stability and unity of this country in every respect. I use this opportunity to appeal to all parties involved in all forms of violence to know that we cannot achieve any progress without peace.

    "The unity of Nigeria is not about the flag or the anthem, but the establishment of a system that ensures justice, harmony and love among one another. I want the Senate to identify with us in our time of crisis. "We must live together as Christians and as Muslims in this country. We need to live as people, despite the fact that we are from different parts of the country."

    Source: VANGUARD

    Talks open in Togo between Govt. and Opposition

    Long-awaited talks between Togo's government and the opposition began on February 19 to try to end a six-month political stand-off that has seen thousands take to the streets in almost weekly protests against the ruling party. President Faure Gnassingbe, who has been in power since 2005, has faced calls to quit and instigate constitutional reform since last August. But after a stalemate, the two sides agreed to meet in talks brokered by Ghana's President Nana Akufo-Addo and Guinea's Alpha Conde.

    "The peace, the freedom and the stability of the Togolese people is something which is just not negotiable," said Akufo-Addo at the start of the discussions in the capital, Lome. "I've come here with no solution, prescription or magic wand to impose or prescribe any solution," he told delegates, as well as diplomats from the United States, China and France. "It's important that it is this dialogue that will determine the future of this country and... that it is the Togolese themselves... that will determine the future of your country."

    Akufo-Addo called for the talks to take place in "a spirit of accommodation (and) compromise". The talks are expected to last 10 days and discuss a range of issues, including the reintroduction of the 1992 constitution that placed a limit of two on presidential mandates. It will also look at "political transition" and "electoral reforms". The coalition of 14 opposition parties and Gnassingbe's ruling Union for the Republic (UNIR) party will be represented by seven delegates each. Veteran opposition leader Jean-Pierre Fabre said: "The crisis chipping away at Togo is deep. The spokesman for UNIR, Charles Condi Agba said it was participating "in a sense of openness".

    Source: Togonews (Lome)

    In Nigeria, over 7 million people struggling with food insecurity

    A 2017 report from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), Nigeria, has pointed out that about 7 million people across the Lake Chad basin struggling with food insecurity need assistance. The report also revealed that more than 1.8 million people in the north-east Nigeria are food insecure at emergency levels.

    As humanitarian strategy focused on addressing immediate needs through life-saving assistance, the UN sought for concerted engagement of political, development and security organisations to help stabilize the region and create conducive conditions for people to survive and prosper. The UN stated that farmers were unable to attend to their fields having missed harvests for three consecutive seasons adding that 11 million people are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance within the region. "Across the region, almost a third of the population is struck by food insecurity; malnutrition rates and related mortality are critically high"

    The UN also noted that millions of people have limited or no access to basic services such as water, healthcare and education saying that humanitarian bodies significantly increased their response capacity in 2016. "With constant growing needs, especially in north-eastern Nigeria, further operational scale-up and financial resources are urgently required to ensure adequate response". This is even as the report stated that Boko Haram's attacks and military counter-offensives have displaced 2.3 million people saying that majority of the displaced are sheltered by communities who are among the world's most vulnerable.

    "In north-eastern Nigeria alone, 1.8 million people are internally displaced and more than half of them are children". It noted that about 200,000 people have fled across borders and lived as refugees in the neighbouring countries. The report also disclosed that Lake Chad Basin is grappling with complex humanitarian emergency that have affected about 17 million people across North-eastern Nigeria, Cameroon's far North, Western Chad and South-east Niger.

    It further emphasised that the combined impact of deepening insecurity, rapid population growth and severe vulnerability resulting from the effects of climate change, environmental degradation, poverty and underinvestment in social services has translated into recorded numbers of people in need of emergency relief. While noting that over 2.3 million people have fled their homes, UN lamented that the protection strategy highlighted by governments of Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad and Niger in the Abuja Action statement of June 2016 remained an ongoing challenge. "Violence and insecurity have disrupted trade and markets while vital infrastructure such as health centres, schools, water pipelines, bridges and roads have been destroyed".

    At the 22nd edition of Conference of the Parties (COP) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Morocco, President Muhammad Buhari had called for an urgent need to resuscitate Lake Chad saying that the shrinking of the lake is currently affecting the lives and livelihood of more than 5 million people in the region. He added that the shrinking contributed to insecurity in the region, including the emergence of Boko Haram.

    Source: Leadership (Abuja)

    New US sanctions on Boko Haram, leader

    The United States government has imposed new sanctions on the terror group, Boko Haram, and its factional leader, Mus'ab al-Barnawi. The new sanctions by the U.S. Treasury Department targets the Islamic State and its affiliate networks around the world. The U.S. department added Boko Haram, also known as ISIS-West Africa, to the sanction list for global terrorism.

    Al-Barnawi and Mahad Moalim from Somalia and seven organisations in Africa and Asia, linked to Islamic state (ISIS), were added to the list. Al-Barnawi was the spokesperson for Boko Haram before the group pledged allegiance to ISIL. The Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control said the additions include ISIS-Philippines, ISIS-Bangladesh, ISIS-West Africa, ISIS-Egypt, ISIS-Somalia, Jund al-Khilafah-Tunisia, also known as ISIS-Tunisia, and the Philippines-based Maute Group, also known as Islamic State of Lanao.

    Reuters reports that the US State Department, in a separate statement, said that it had designated 40 Islamic State leaders and operatives dating back to 2011 under an order aimed at denying them access to the US financial system, including the latest additions. "These designations are part of a larger comprehensive plan to defeat ISIS that, in coordination with the 75-member Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, has made significant progress toward that goal.

    "This effort is destroying ISIS in its safe havens, denying its ability to recruit foreign terrorist fighters, stifling its financial resources, negating the false propaganda it disseminates over the internet and social media, and helping to stabilise liberated areas in Iraq and Syria so the displaced can return to their homes and begin to rebuild their lives," the statement added.

    Islamic State fighters were driven last year from all the population centres they occupied in both Syria and Iraq, but Washington still considers them a threat, capable of carrying out an insurgency and plotting attacks elsewhere, Reuters reported. In Nigeria Boko Haram has remained a threat despite the government's claim the group has been defeated.

    Boko Haram fighters have continued to carry out deadly attacks and abductions -- although on a reduced scale. The group is believed to be responsible for the latest of such abductions last week, involving 110 secondary schoolgirls kidnapped from their dormitory in Dapchi, Yobe State.

    Source: Premium Times

    UK experts scramble to fight Nigeria Lassa fever outbreak

    A team of experts from United Kingdom is being sent to Nigeria to help the country contain the biggest outbreak of Lassa fever in recent years. According to the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, 90 people are suspected to have died from the virus in the last eight weeks alone, with a further 1,081 suspected cases. The disease, which is spread by rats, causes a high fever and in severe cases, bleeding from the mouth and nose. Local doctors estimate a mortality rate of over 20per cent, significantly higher than normal.

    The UK public health rapid support team, a joint initiative between Public Health England and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) was scrambled into action February 27. The team, according UK-based Telegraph, includes two epidemiologists, an expert in patient management and a logistician. It deployed at the request of the Nigerian government and will also provide research assistance.

    Daniel Bausch, director of the rapid support team, said: "The Lassa fever situation in Nigeria has been worsening and now requires an escalated level of response in order to help the Nigerian government slow transmission and save lives." Public health minister Steve Brine added: "Viruses like Lassa Fever do not respect borders - and it is only right that we share our expertise with countries facing serious outbreaks around the world." Wondimagegnehu Alemu, WHO representative to Nigeria, described the high number of cases as "concerning."

    The outbreak began at the end of last year and the Nigerian government has so far been able to solidly confirm 317 cases and 64 deaths. Among confirmed and probable cases the fatality rate is 22 per cent, the centre said. Lassa fever is endemic in Nigeria and usually occurs between October and March but this year it has been much more virulent than in previous years. It has now spread to 18 out of the country's 36 states but is most prevalent in the southern states of Edo, Ondo and Ebonyi. Among those infected in the current outbreak are 11 health workers, four of whom have died and WHO has been working with the Nigerian government to ensure that workers are adequately protected.

    Ian Jones, professor of virology at Reading University, said he did not know why the outbreak, which is transmitted to humans via rats, was particularly virulent this year. "There are classic cases where there's been a particularly good grain harvest so you get an increase in the rodent population. Then the rodent population transmits whatever it happens to carry. Nigeria is a busy place and there's been a general urbanisation in the country. Where people go into areas that they did not previously enter is another classic example of risk," he said.

    Ian Jones added that the disease was not as easily transmittable as other viral diseases such as Ebola but he added, "If someone is very ill with the disease, like any other haemorrhagic fever it can be the case you will get transmission to people who you are in very close contact with such as family members or health care workers."

    Source: This Day

    Ghana backs Germany for UN Security Council seat during Berlin talks

    Germany and Ghana are to work together on issues including economic cooperation and migration. President Nana Akufo-Addo will also back Germany's bid for a permanent place on the UN Security Council.

    Calling for reform of the UN Security Council, Akufo Addo said he supported Germany's claim for a permanent seat, after meeting Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin on February 28.The UN's top council for international peace and security has retained the same form it had after World War Two and does not reflect today's reality, Akufo Addo said at a joint press conference with Merkel."Of course a country like Germany should definitely find its way on to the Council," the president remarked, adding there should also be a place for at least one African country.

    Together with India, Japan and Brazil, Germany has been calling for reform of the council which will hold elections this year for non-permanent seats in 2019 and 2020. Germany last held a Security Council seat from 2011 to 2012.Germany is the third largest contributor to UN regular budgets after Japan and the United Statesand has long argued for a permanent Security Council seat.Merkel said the federal government would back an application from Ghana for one of the non-permanent seats.

    Merkel said the two countries would work together to develop a way for Ghanaians who were not entitled to asylum in Germany to return to their homeland and also to develop economic opportunities in the West African state."We must combat illegal migration, but on the other hand, we must open up legal opportunities, especially for young people," Merkel said. Up to 50,000 people of Ghanaian origin are believed to be living in Germany; the second largest of the country's diaspora populations in Europe, after the UK. The Volta Region of Ghana was part of the German colony of Togo before World War One.

    German and Ghanaian authorities opened a migration center in Accra last December in an effort to facilitate legal migration for study and training in Germany. In Germany, about 4,000 Ghanaians whose applications for asylum have been rejected have been given formal notice to leave the country. Efforts are being made to help those people resettle in Ghana. Akufo-Addo said while Ghana wanted to assist in the repatriations, "we have to be absolutely sure" they really were nationals of Ghana. "We will try to work out a mechanism that answers both your concerns and ours," he told Merkel.

    Ghana is part of the G20 "Compact with Africa" initiative for investment in African countries. Akufo-Addo said his government aimed to avoid dependence on foreign aid. "The era of development aid was not so helpful for the development of our country," he said. Trade and investment were preferable. In December, Berlin announced a further €100 million ($122 million) in funding for Ghana and earlier this week, the German Chamber of Commerce and Industry called for more federal government support for business with Africa. Merkel offered Ghana Germany's help in finding investors, so long as the country created the necessary conditions for it.

    Since coming to power in January 2017, the former Ghanaian attorney general and foreign minister has been trying to focus on economic development and education. This month, Akufo-Addo's government announced tighter controls on gold exports. Last year, the president said about $5 billion worth of revenues from gold exports to the United Arab Emirates were unaccounted for. "We have now begun conversations about the process of making sure every single bar of gold leaving our shores is properly weighed, tested, valued and accounted for," Vice-President Mahamudu Bawumia said. Ghana is Africa's second-largest gold miner after South Africa and earned $5.78 billion from exports in 2017.

    Source: Deutsche Welle

    IMF warns Nigeria over falling real GDP per capita

    The International Monetary Fund is sceptical of the growth being recorded in the Nigerian economy. The IMF believes Nigeria will "muddle through" with its economic policies in the medium term, according to a report seen by Reuters on February 28. The Fund advised that "comprehensive and coherent" economic policies "remain urgent and must not be delayed by approaching elections and recovering oil prices". The IMF added that while the broader economy is slowly exiting recession, real gross domestic product per capita is falling.

    Meanwhile, Nigeria recorded a balanced economic growth in 2017 with encouraging growths seen in oil sector, non-oil sector and the services sector, an expert, Senior Special Assistant Economist at Renaissance Capital, Yvonne Mhango has observed. The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) report for the fourth quarter of 2017 showed that Nigeria recorded 0.82 per cent growth rate in 2017 and 1.92 per cent growth rate in the final quarter of 2017.

    According to Yvonne Mhango, there are three encouraging developments from the latest report, First, in 2017 the oil sector grew for the first time in six years, by 4.3 per cent. Second, the expert explained that in the fourth quarter of 2017, the non-oil sector grew by its fastest rate at 1.5 per cent year-on-year in eight quarters. Third, she expressed belief that the return to growth of the biggest services' subsector, wholesale and retail trade, in the final quarter of 2017, after six quarters in decline, indicates the consumer may be on the cusp of a recovery.

    Source: Daily Trust

    This monitor is prepared by Harish Venugopalan, Research Assistant, Observer Research Foundation, Delhi



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