- Africa Weekly
- Jan 25 2016
Africans report decline in poverty
A decade of growth in Africa finally seems to have delivered "broad-based reductions in poverty", with Africans in 22 of 33 countries reporting an improvement in their access to basic necessities over the last three years, say the authors of a new report. In the report, published in Addis Ababa last week, Afrobarometer, the continent-wide public opinion research group, says fewer people are going without enough food, clean water, medical care, fuel for cooking and cash income.
The report makes clear that poverty levels are still high. Afrobarometer's latest survey in 35 countries shows that three in four people went without a cash income at least once or twice in the year prior to being questioned. Nearly half said the same about medical care, clean water, food and cooking fuel.
The new survey says consistent declines in poverty have occurred in Zambia and Ghana, and also in Cape Verde, which with Egypt has seen "very substantial reductions." But it reports "sustained increases" in poverty in Madagascar and Liberia, with the steepest increases being in Mozambique, Benin and Liberia.
Afrobarometer surveys what it calls "lived poverty," reflecting answers to questions posed to a representative sample of people to measure how often they suffer shortages of basic necessities. Despite an average reduction in poverty having occurred during an era of economic growth, Afrobarometer researchers say there is no strong correlation between the two.
Introducing their report, researchers Robert Mattes, Boniface Dulani and E. Gyimah-Boadi write: "On the one hand, countries with both high (Sierra Leone) and low (Swaziland) levels of recent economic growth managed to reduce poverty. On the other hand, in some cases poverty has increased even in countries with very high levels of economic growth (Liberia, Mozambique, and Malawi).
"While growing economies are undoubtedly important, what appears to be more important in improving the lives of ordinary people is the extent to which national governments and their donor partners put in place the type of development infrastructure that enables people to build better lives...
"For example, countries that had increased the number of local communities with paved roads and sewage systems by 15 percent or more were far more likely to exhibit sharp reductions in lived poverty." Across regions, the report says respondents in Central and West Africa experience the most frequent shortages of necessities, while North Africans experience the lowest levels of deprivation.
The latest survey is based on interviews in 2014 and 2015 with more than 52,700 citizens across Africa. Afrobarometer reports that the survey is based on "nationally representative samples that yield country-level results with margins of error of +/-2 percent (for samples of 2,400) or +/3 percent (for samples of 1,200) at a 95 percent confidence level."
Source(s): All Africa, 21 January, 2016
Viber spreads good vibes in Africa & the Middle East with the introduction of public chats
Viber announces first Public Chats launched in the African continent. Brands, celebrities and public figures from Africa & the Middle East are invited to join Viber's social channel, Public Chats, to experience live conversations. Viber, one of the leading messaging and calling apps with more than 664 million unique users worldwide, announced today that it has opened its latest social channel 'Public Chats' to partners in Africa and the Middle East. Brands, organizations, celebrities, public figures and social influencers from these countries can now join Viber's global platform to reach a local and regional audience.
Public Chats are live discussions that Viber users can follow, like and share with their community. Released in beta version in November 2014 with select global partners, this feature offers a new kind of social experience – tapping into live conversations from celebrities, personalities, brands and organizations. Mobile users can discover new communities, follow interactive chats in real-time and share original pieces of content with friends and contacts.
"The Middle East and Africa are important markets for Viber, and we are pleased to welcome local influencers and brands to our Public Chats platform," said Mark Hardy, CMO, Viber. "We are sure they will enjoy chatting, commenting and debating live on this active social channel whilst sharing tips, news, and local content to our constantly connected mobile audience across the region."
Source(s): Viber (London), 19 January, 2016
A new deal on energy for Africa - Power, Potential and Partnership
Africa needs a new deal on energy, and now it has one. US President Roosevelt's post-Depression New Deal of the 1930s focused on 'Relief, Recovery and Reform'. For Africa's New Deal on Energy, in the spotlight at the World Economic Forum in Davos this week, the focus is on Power, Potential and Partnership.
'Power' - because the New Deal aims to light up and power Africa by 2025. Energy is the lifeblood of any society. It is the passport to economic transformation, and it is one of the foundations for any society in the provision of education and health. And yet as we begin 2016 over 645 million Africans - some two-thirds of the people on the continent - have no access to energy.
Africans are tired of being in the dark: children suffer, because 90% of the continent's primary schools have no electricity. Women suffer: 600,000 people, largely women, die each year from cooking with unclean energy like wood or baked earth. Hospitals and their patients suffer when equipment simply doesn't work. Small and even large businesses suffer - Africa loses an estimated 4% of its annual GDP for the lack of energy. The unavailability of energy in Africa is unacceptable, and so is its cost. A woman living in a village in northern Nigeria spends around 60 to 80 times per unit more for her energy than a resident of New York City or London.
'Potential' - because Africa is aching to release its full economic potential, and to turn strong but uneven economic growth into deep-rooted and universally shared economic transformation. Energy is the secret to that. With a strong and secure energy supply we can unleash the skills of a young and dynamic population. We can continue the process of turning agriculture into agro-industry, and partial diversification into full-scale industrialisation. The raw materials that will provide our energy await us - unused or as yet untapped. As well as 300 gigawatts of coal potential and 400 gigawatts of gas, the continent is waiting to get its hands on 10 terawatts of solar energy potential, 350 gigawatts of hydroelectric, 110 gigawatts of wind, and a further 15 gigawatts of geothermal.
'Partnership' - because no country, no organization, no initiative can do it alone. The Africa Progress Panel has already done the research to show that Africa can power itself - if it and others work together. There are already key players in the field, like the Africa Renewable Energy Initiative supported by the G7, the UN's Sustainable Energy for All Initiative, and the US Power Africa Program. The private sector is a source of leadership as well as funding, for instance through the Africa Energy Leaders Group. The task is to point them all in the same direction. So the New Deal is an African-led initiative to mobilize political will and financial support to solve Africa's energy challenges.
It has four - huge - targets. To increase on-grid generation by adding 160 GW of new capacity by 2025, nearly doubling what we have today. To increase on-grid transmission and grid connections that will create 130 million new connections by 2025, 160 per cent more than today. To increase off-grid generation to add 75 million connections by 2025, nearly 20 times what we have today. To increase access to clean cooking energy for around 130 million households.
First and foremost, it will raise money, from Africa and beyond, and from the public and the private sectors. We need a total of $60-90 billion a year, compared with the $22 billion invested in the sector in 2014. This money will come from a variety of sources. First, we will work with other multi-lateral and bilateral financial institutions to see if we can get investment into the power sector to triple on an annual basis. Second, governments themselves need to play a role. If Africa were to increase its annual spending on energy from 0.4% of GDP to 3.4%, this would solve the problem completely. This could also be done by putting an end to subsidies for products such as kerosene and diesel. Finally, the private sector is very willing to play a significant role. This will require changes in regulation to make the sector more attractive for private capital, but we have seen many examples of significant capital flow where regulations are appropriately structured.
The New Deal is also practical: it will set up the right energy policy environment: laws, regulation, governance; it will build the capacity of national energy utility companies; it will dramatically increase the number of bankable energy projects and the funding pool to deliver them; it will roll out waves of country-wide energy 'turnarounds'. It will be energy resource neutral, using renewables and non-renewables alike, and technology neutral.
The African Development Bank will manage the New Deal, as well as investing US $12 billion in energy funding over the next five years, attracting up to four times as much from other financiers in the process.
'I pledge you, I pledge myself to a New Deal for the American people', said FDR in July 1932. The pledges - financial and political - are being made again on a different continent, over 80 years later. Meeting Africa's energy challenge is both a moral and an economic imperative. 'A flick of a switch' can't be delivered in an instant, but a flick of a switch is what it will take.
Source(s): African Development Bank Group, 21 January, 2016
Demining plays key role in fostering agriculture
The head of the National Demining Institute (INAD) in Cunene, Pedro Severino Seteco, considered on Monday in Ondjiva very important the demining exercise for the promotion of agriculture in the country.
Speaking to Angop on the contribution of demining in the development of farming, the official stressed that agriculture becomes a lever to diversify the economy, so demining has been crucial for ensuring the safety of agricultural fields.
The country experienced a long period of armed conflict, so that demining is one of the priority steps for the development of agriculture, through the extraction of explosive devices that are still in the country underground, particularly in southern Cunene province, he said.
Source(s): Angola Press, 19 January, 2016
Amavubi storm CHAN 2016 Quarter-Finals
A brace from AS Kigali striker Ernest Sugira was enough to send Rwanda through to the quarter-finals of the 2016 African Nations Championship (CHAN), which the country is hosting. Amavubi's 2-1 victory over Gabon this evening at the Amahoro National Stadium in Kigali makes Rwanda the first country to reach the knockout stages of the biennial tournament that attracts 16 teams.
The hosts took the lead in the 42nd minute after Amavubi skipper Jacques Tuyisenge took on two Gabonese defenders inside the area only to see his effort blocked. But the ball fell on to Sugira who calmly beat goalkeeper Yves Bitseki Moto.
Johnny McKinstry's boys returned for the second half showing more intent, with Sugira doubling their lead in the 47th minute after cleverly eliminating a charging Gabonese defender. By then it looked like it was going to rain goals at a fully packed Amahoro National Stadium but Amavubi continued to squander chance after another.
In the 55th minute, Gabon pulled one back through Aaron Boupedza but just as they looked keen on leveling matters, defender Tchen Kabi was red-carded for a second bookable offence.
The evening's biggest scare for the Amavubi fans came in the 86nd minute when a free-kick from Gabon striker Stevy Guevane Nzambe hit the woodwork. When referee Janny Sikazwe (Zambia) blew the final whistle, it was a moment of relief and jubilation for the Rwandan players and fans alike.
Sugira, who was named the Orange Man of the Match, took the place of Danny Usengimana in the squad, with the latter having failed to impress in Rwanda's first match - against Ivory Coast. And with Rwanda through to the quarter-finals, their fans settled down to watch the day's next game; Ivory Coast Vs Morrocco, with the former needing at least a point to remain in the tournament having lost their opening match on Saturday 1-0 against hosts Rwanda. Gabon and Morrocco have a point each having shared the spoils in their first game.
Source(s): The News Times, 20 January, 2016
Factions announce unity government
A United Nations peace deal has resulted in a unity government for Libya, hoping to resolve years of bloodshed. Many members of both parliaments have expressed their doubts about the plan. The UN-backed unity government of Libya was announced on Tuesday, aimed at bringing the country's warring factions together under one umbrella. The Tunisia-based Presidential Council named 32 ministers, though reports of disputes over the distribution of posts cast a dampener on the list's release.
Libya has become one of the most fractured nations in the region since a rebellion against Moammar Gadhafi in 2011 saw the ouster and death of the dictator but not the creation of a stable new regime. Beginning in summer 2014, competing governments set up two different legislatures - the Islamists calling themselves Libya Dawn in Tripoli, and the vestiges of the democratically elected administration operating out of the eastern city of Tobruk.
Both groups are back by entangled alliances of former anti-Gadhafi rebels who have formed new paramilitaries. The West has hoped that the new government, the result of a UN-brokered peace process, would bring much-needed stability in the face of the encroaching presence of "Islamic State" (IS) terrorism , which has been benefiting from the chaos to gain a foothold in the country.
Members of the rival regimes have expressed their doubts on the efficacy of the new plan, however. Not only does it not fairly represent all of the feuding parties at play, there is no clear path to establishing the new government peacefully. Libya Dawn has even argued that the Presidential Council has already broken their military law during preparations to secure the capital last week.
Source(s): DW, Reuters, 19 January, 2016
Death toll in Giza apartment blast rises to 10
An explosion occurred in an apartment in Giza's al-Haram district Thursday, killing ten individuals, according to Giza's Emergency Prosecution Director Mohamed al-Tamawy. Al-Tamawy told Aswat Masriya that the deaths included seven police personnel and three civilians.
Security forces raided an apartment reported to have been harbouring criminals in the Maryouteya area in Giza when an improvised explosive device detonated, a security source told MENA news agency. The source added that several explosives were found in the apartment during the inspection before one of them exploded.
An Interior Ministry statement on Thursday accused members of the banned Muslim Brotherhood of planning attacks using the explosives found in the raided apartment.
Bomb squads were instructed to handle the remaining explosives found at the apartment, while the building was cordoned by the police. Explosions have been a frequent occurrence across the nation, with the Sinai Peninsula being the most targeted area by militants. However, several explosions have also taken place in Greater Cairo. Security personnel and vital facilities are increasingly targeted in the attacks.
Source(s): Aswat Masriya, 21 January, 2016
Egypt's cassation court postpones Mubarak's re-trial to April 7
Egypt's Cassation Court postponed another re-trial session of ousted President Hosni Mubarak last week to April 7, because the defendant was not present in court. The court ordered the retrial session to be moved from its current location at the High Court building in downtown to a more "suitable" location.
The last retrial session was postponed for the same reasons. The reason for Mubarak's absence was his health conditions which made it difficult for him to be transported to the High Court by regular means in which case aerial transportation is required. Mubarak is being tried for his complicity in killing protesters during the January 25, 2011 uprising.
A court ruling in November 2014 had dropped the case against Mubarak and acquitted his Interior Minister Habib al-Adly and four of his aides on charges of inciting and aiding the killing of protesters. The verdict was appealed in December 2014. In June 2015, then the Court of Cassation ordered a retrial of Mubarak to be held in November.
The former president was ousted after a popular uprising against his rule in Jan.25, 2011.
Source(s): Aswat Masriya, 21 January, 2016
Fires erupt at oil facilities after 'Islamic State' attack
Four storage tanks at Libya's Ras Lanuf terminal have been set ablaze following an attack by "Islamic State" ("IS") militants. Libya's National Oil Corporation said the situation was "catastrophic for the environment."
Libya's National Oil Corporation said in a statement on Thursday that fighting in the Ras Lanuf region had resumed around dawn. Along with the nearby Al-Sidra facility, Ras Lanuf's terminal is one of Libya's main oil export hubs. The storage tankers belonged to the Harouge Oil Operations company.
"Storage tanks filled with crude have caught fire," the statement read, adding that nearby high-voltage power lines and electrical towers had also been downed.
"The situation in Ras Lanouf is catastrophic for the environment," the Oil Corporation said.
National Oil Corporation Chairman, Mustafa Sanalla, said the terminal, which has been shut since December 2014, would remain closed for "a long time" due to damage from Thursday's fire and earlier attacks. State news agency LANA reported that IS militants were behind the attack launched as they continued their attempts to seize key export terminals.
In a separate blaze earlier in January, around 1 million barrels of oil were lost due to fires caused by fighting, also near Ras Lanuf. IS has launched several attacks, aimed specifically at facilities in the "oil crescent" along Libya's northern coast, from its base in the city of Sirte in recent weeks.
The north African country sits on an estimated 48 billion barrels in oil reserves, the largest on the continent. Since Moammar Gadhafi was ousted in 2011, production has drastically deteriorated, however, as political and armed factions fight for power and Libya's oil wealth.
The attack on Thursday came just days after Libya's UN-backed unity government announced plans to bring the country's warring factions together under one umbrella. The Tunisia-based Presidential Council named 32 ministers, although reports of disputes over the distribution of posts have put a damper on the list's release.
Source(s): DW, Reuters, 21 January, 2016
South African police need more than social media savvy to polish their image
The South African Police Service (SAPS) is increasingly using social media to bolster its public image. With around a dozen image-laden tweets and posts each day, the SAPS has used its Twitter and Facebook accounts to bombard its many thousands of followers with images of officers hard at work.
This comes in the face of a common public perception that police are corrupt and brutal. It is hard not to be impressed by the SAPS' tweets and posts. Smiling officers pose with piles of recovered loot and narcotics, while serious-looking officers comb through crime scenes, attend roadblocks, and saturate public spaces in blue.
While these images should be celebrated, they should also be questioned. Their manufacture and publication are no accident. Rather, they are part of a carefully scripted performance in which the SAPS is heavily invested.
It is a performance which suggests the SAPS is a rational, evidence-based, professional police service that conducts commonsense activities that make South Africa safe. Unfortunately things aren't that simple.
As I scroll through the SAPS' tweets each day I am reminded of various experiences I've had with officers over the past decade, both as a police reservist and through participant observation for my as-yet-unpublished doctorate. One memory is of weekly "outreach" initiatives which I took part in in 2012.
On paper they were excellent initiatives. Each week a dozen or so station employees would hit the streets of the precinct on foot, ostensibly to strengthen police-community relations.
The station's communications officer provided hundreds of copies of information leaflets which patrollers were expected to hand to community members as they chatted with them. A marked police van lead the group, and a colourful SAPS banner was hauled out, but usually only when a camera was present.
Capturing each patrol with pictures - similar to those now tweeted by the SAPS - was central to these events. But the story told by the pictures did not accurately reflect what I witnessed on the ground. At least half the patrollers were administrative staff wearing fluorescent police-branded bibs. They had no police powers, were not trained in intelligence-gathering and were not part of the station's problem-solving apparatus. And yet their presence among the handful of uniformed officers and the police van clearly communicated the message that we were all police officers. In truth, the patrols were a way for administrators to break the monotony of their paper-pushing days.
Very few real conversations between patrollers and the public took place. Rather, patrollers seemed to measure the value of the initiatives on whether they were able to offload the photocopied sheets and pose for a few photographs.
One photograph depicted four administrators with a group of young children and two adults from the community. All were smiling. It was a joyous scene. But what one can't tell from the image is that the adults were hopelessly drunk and could barely stand, despite it being only mid-morning. The children, barely three-years-old, were in the adults' care, and yet patrollers expressed no concern for their well-being. Instead, photos were snapped and the patrol moved on.
The picture captured that day looked great, but the story it told was misleading. Something else which photographs of these patrols did not capture was the way they contributed to disorder. When the allocated hour was up, patrollers worked quickly to offload remaining leaflets. They stuck them through gaps in fences and pressed them into the hands of children too young to read.
Some dropped piles into front yards from where the spring breeze blew them down the street. The resulting litter was both a bylaw offence and a contribution to disorder - in effect a contradiction of the SAPS' constitutional mandate to "maintain public order". Sadly, some members of the public who have tried to document this hidden side of police work have been threatened or arrested.
Having participated in numerous operations over the years, including roadblocks, vehicle check points, stop and searches and building raids, I have come to think of these performances as "public performance lies".
By this, I mean they are rituals through which the SAPS presents itself and the country with a commonsense impression of what good policing looks like. But what remains hidden is sometimes more important than what is recorded, and the police service ends up misleading itself and the public.
Source(s): The Conversation, 19 January, 2016
Wits management, SRC strike deal over fees
No Wits student will be excluded because they cannot make their first fee payment before enrolment or registration, according to an agreement the university has reached with the SRC.
Advanced students would be able to see their progress reports, even if they still owed money, and an agreement for the repayment of outstanding debts had been reached, both parties said on Tuesday.
Arrangements would be made to help those who did not have enough food. Last year's #FeesMustFall protests were revived at some universities at the start of registration. This led to at least four institutions, including the University of the Witwatersrand, obtaining interdicts against protesters.
After Wits closed for on-site registration, Vice Chancellor Professor Adam Habib issued an impassioned plea that registration be allowed to continue, especially for those who had travelled from far. It was further agreed that all students who owed Wits up to R1 000 as at December 31 2015 would be allowed to register in 2016. The outstanding debt for 2015 would be rolled over to 2016. This would benefit around 3 607 students this year. All students who could show that they were fully funded for 2016 would be allowed to register. They would have to sign an acknowledgement of debt for fees owed in 2015.
Wits would work with the SRC to raise funds to clear the debt of approximately 1 284 students who owed between R1 001 and R5 000 as at December 31 2015. If this was successful, these students would be allowed to register in 2016.
The SRC and Wits would approach the Gauteng government to cover the debt of about 1 418 students who owed between R5 001 and R20 000. If successful, these students would be allowed to register for the 2016 academic year.
The children of workers who qualify for university would get a full funding package, including tuition and accommodation. The university would decide on the proposed minimum wage demand of between R4 500 and R5 000 for workers like cleaners and gardeners, and report more frequently on efforts to employ contract workers directly. They agreed that they needed to find non-violent and amicable ways to resolve issues. The outcome of appeals against National Students Financial Aid Scheme decisions would be made known immediately after each meeting of the appeals committee.
Wits would give the SRC data to substantiate the need for state intervention on debt clearance for the "missing middle" - those not rich enough to afford tuition, but not poor enough to qualify for funding. The university said it needed 24 hours to adjust its administrative processes to accommodate the agreement. The University of Pretoria had also closed because of protests. Spokesperson Anna-Retha Bouwer said a meeting was underway on Tuesday to resolve issues which were similar to those at Wits.
Meanwhile, SRC representatives walked out of a meeting arranged by the SA Council of Churches, accusing it of being a government mouthpiece. Earlier in January, Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande said R16bn would be made available to support students and help universities cover their funding shortfalls. This was after President Jacob Zuma announced in October last year that fees for 2016 would not increase.
Source(s): News24Wire, 19 January, 2016
Minister dismisses stories of Renamo recruitment
Mozambique's Minister of the Interior, Basilio Monteiro, has denied that the former rebel movement Renamo is recruiting young Mozambicans into the ranks of its illegal militia.
Speaking on Tuesday in the central city of Quelimane, and cited by the electronic paper “Diario de Zambezia”, Monteiro said talk of such recruitment was just “speculation by people of bad faith” who were trying to disturb public order and tranquillity.
“There is no recruitment by Renamo”, the Minister claimed, “the only force carrying out official recruitment is the Mozambican state, which is why registration for military service is taking place right now”.
Nonetheless, Monteiro warned that people should remain vigilant to ensure that illicit recruitment does not take place. Last weekend, he told Radio Mozambique that the government was checking the reports that Renamo is recruiting young people for military training somewhere in Sofala province. For Renamo, its national spokesperson, Antonio Muchanga, also denied the reports. Cited in Wednesday's issue of the Maputo daily “Noticias”, Muchanga said “It's a lie. Renamo isn't recruiting anyone. We don't need to”.
But he immediately contradicted himself by claiming that “in various parts of the country, Renamo is receiving its former guerrillas who were outside its bases, as well as deserters from the Mozambican armed forces (FADM)”.
Putting army deserters and demobilized fighters into the Renamo militia is a form of recruitment, and it is every bit as illegal as recruiting raw youngsters would be. Meanwhile, the Renamo militia is reported to have murdered a traditional chief in the Sofala district of Gorongosa. According to the Gorongosa district administrator, Manuel Jamaca, the chief of Muuzuwangume village was shot dead at about 01.00 on Tuesday morning by three Renamo members armed with an AK-47 assault rifle and two pistols.
Jamaca told reporters that, when the Renamo men knocked on the door, the chief's wife “woke up and went to open the door to find out who the visitors were. The three men shoved her aside violently, so that they could enter the house. The chief got up and tried to react. They shot him in the chest. Without any assistance, he died on the spot”.
Source(s): Mozambique News Agency, 20 January, 2016
Inequality - Bs and the Battle against buffaloes and the Bahamas
The damning statistics in the latest Oxfam global inequality report have many talking. MUSA MANZA explains what it means for South Africa, and what we need to do to change things around.
It's the third week of the new year, and those of us who blew all our leave in January are now back at work, reading news, checking Facebook posts and pretending to work in these scorching summer days, while trying to figure out how to make it to pay-day. But a privileged few still lapping up the sun at Camps Bay, doing lunch at Doppio in Rosebank or skiing in the Alps (when a US dollar costs R16.79!)
Who are these people? Why aren't they at work? They're too young to be retired, too well-dressed to be unemployed and look too classy to be students. They are the "1%". Those folks that have so much that they don't have to sell their labour to pay for taxi fare. Instead, they have wealth and it pays for the Porsche Cayenne and the driver. They have more wealth than the rest of the world combined, and they're getting wealthier.
This week, Oxfam released their briefing paper on inequality "An economy for the 1%: How privilege and power in the economy drive extreme inequality and how this can be stopped". Oxfam presented some damning statistics. For a summary of these, read this. While economic growth has pulled scores of people out of poverty over the last 3 decades, this growth has benefitted the super-rich more than everybody else. Between 1988 and 2011, the top 1% of income earners made 50 times more than the rest of the world. Today, a mere 62 people have more wealth than 3.6 billion people - roughly the populations of Africa, China and India combined!
Increasing inequality matters because economic growth should be shared for everyone's prosperity - not only for a busload of elites worth more than half the world's population. Such high levels of inequality are bad for social stability, growth and shared prosperity. In the case of South Africa, these concerns are even more pressing. Ours is the most unequal society in the world. The World Bank estimates that the top 10% South Africans earn 1000 times more than the bottom 10%. That explains how the CEO of Shoprite, Whitey Basson, earns more than 2000 times the average domestic worker, why Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa can bid R19.5 million for a buffalo, and why Johan Rupert (the country's richest person) paid R40 million for his!
Source(s): The Daily Vox, 21 January, 2016
The refugee camp that became a city
When Halima Abdi fled the civil war in Somalia with her young daughter, she hoped her stay across the border in Kenya's Dadaab refugee camp would be short-lived. Twenty-five years on, her granddaughter, Mihiyo, is breastfeeding her fourth child. Three generations of refugees in one family: just like the other 350,000 Somalis, they are forced to call this barren, dusty settlement some kind of home.
"Even my parents spent most of their lives here. All we know is Dadaab, although we don't belong to Kenya," Mihiyo told IRIN.
Dadaab was initially established as a temporary haven for some 90,000 refugees fleeing the 1991 clan fighting. It is now a sprawling, bustling complex of five camps, boasting makeshift cinemas and soccer leagues - the third largest city in Kenya, after Nairobi and Mombasa.
One reason for Dadaab's growth is the Kenyan government's strict encampment policy, which prevents refugees from settling outside. Most governments have traditionally seen this as convenient logistically, and as a way to reduce potential friction with host communities.
But it's increasingly argued that camps should only be a last resort as they create more problems than they solve. They are not only unsustainable over the long term - damaging to the environment and a turn-off for donors - but in corralling refugees behind their gates, they also deny them basic rights and freedoms.
A study in self-reliance
As the humanitarian system looks to debate how to reshape the way aid is delivered, Dadaab seemingly offers some practical examples of how camp-based communities can play a positive role in the management of their own affairs.
Dadaab is under the overall control of the Kenyan government and UN refugee agency, UNHCR. But its five camps - Dagahaley, Hagadera, Ifo and more recent additions Ifo II and Kambioos - are in practical terms run by democratically-elected community volunteers.
"We work hand in hand with the aid agencies. We have developed a very smooth system where we coordinate all the activities of the camps ranging from sanitation to security," explained Rukia Ali Rage, the chairwoman of Ifo camp. Dadaab is the world's largest refugee complex. "It would be impossible for UNHCR and its partner agencies to implement their programmes without the support of the community leaders," she told IRIN.
Rage took over the leadership of Ifo in a camp-wide election in 2014, and is due to step down when her term ends later this year. It's a lesson in democracy that the Somali government in Mogadishu, where elections are also due this year, will hopefully emulate.
Source(s): IRIN, 20 January. 2016
Court jails sixteen Muslims to seven years
On January 19th an Ethiopian federal high court 14th criminal bench sentenced 16 Ethiopian Muslims to seven years each.
Prosecutors allege that all the 16 defendants were involved in terrorist activities in the capital Addis Abeba and Wolqite, some 171 km west of the of Addis Abeba. Defendants include 1st defendant Elias Kedir, 2nd and 3rd defendants Tifiq Mohammed and Fayisel Argaw respectively.
The current sentencing of the 16 Muslims followed another sentencing in August last year of eighteen Ethiopian Muslims including four members of the Ethiopian Muslim arbitration committee and a journalist to a lengthy jail term between seven and 22 years. The eighteen Muslims were charged on counts that include attempted terrorism, conspiracy to establish an Islamic state, and public incitement.
Muslims in Ethiopia were protesting since 2011 against what many of them say were uncalled for interference by the government in the affairs of their religion. Ethiopian Muslims in many cities and towns have staged Friday sit-in-protests for nearly two years demanding restoration of the Awoliya College and Secondary School administration sacked by the government in Dec. 2011; a free and fair election without the interference of the government to replace members of the Islamic Supreme Council (Mejlis), again sacked by the government in 2011; and an end to the government's attempt to publish and distribute books which carry new Islamic teaching called Al-Habesh.
The government denies all accusations but claims Awoliya College and Secondary School, a highly regarded Islamic school based in Addis Abeba, has become a breeding ground for radicalism and Wahabism.
The peaceful protests came to a disturbing twist on Monday Oct. 29th 2012 when a federal court in Addis Abeba decided to charge 29 Muslim protesters who were arrested in July of the same year with "plotting acts of terrorism" under the country's infamous anti-terror proclamation.
Many the 18 sentenced in August 2014 were members of the Ethiopian Muslim arbitration committee who volunteered to negotiate with the government in order to seek solutions to narrow the widening gap between Muslims and the government.
According to prosecutors, the 16 defendants who were sentenced today were acting to replace the previously detained members of the arbitration committee that include prominent Muslim scholar Abubakar Ahmed. The prosecutors also allege that the first defendant, Elias Kedir, has organized a terrorist cell called "Cell one B' and was responsible for inciting violence inside mosques during Friday prayers.
All defendants say prosecutors' claims were baseless and maintain their innocence. They have also complained of lack of access to their lawyers and visits from family members during their detention. The Muslim protests that began in Dec. 2011, the subsequent arrest and trial of senior members of the Muslim and community, activists triggered one of the most disciplined and sustained Friday sit-in protests by hundreds of thousands of Muslim protestors here in Addis Abeba and other major towns throughout the country and an online activism on twitter and facebook by an underground group called 'Dimtsachin Yisema' (let our voices be heard).
Source(s): Addis Standard, 21 January, 2016
Seychelles: tensions after neck and neck elections
In presidential elections in December, the incumbent President James Michel won by just 193 votes.
Although everyday life in the Seychelles remains as peaceful as ever - living up to the islands' paradisiacal tourist image - there have been tensions brewing below the surface ever since disputed elections last month.
In the presidential election on 3-5 December, President James Michel was officially re-elected, beating his closest rival by a mere 193 votes - a razor sharp margin even in a country with a population of just 90,000 people. The opposition, led by Wavel Ramkalawan, immediately called for a review, intimating that there had been vote rigging and irregularities.
The Supreme Court is currently scrutinising the electoral process following petitions from the opposition and will eventually decide whether the poll will be re-run later this year.
In the meantime, accusations are being thrown in both directions. There are rumours, gleefully disseminated by the opposition Seychelles Weekly, that poor people were paid up to Rs5,000 ($380) to give up their identity cards until after the election. Meanwhile, the government-friendly Times of Seychelles has reported that attempts to set fire to a local party office and primary school have been discovered, alleging that supporters of the opposition may have been behind them.
The ruling party accuses the opposition of being sore losers, while the latter accuse the president and his supporters of being cheats.
The Seychelles' current tension needs to be understood in the context of the country's recent history. A former British colony, this Indian Ocean archipelago became independent in 1976 led by unelected President James Mancham and Prime Minister Albert René. These two figures represented opposing political views, Mancham being a free-market enthusiast, René a postcolonial socialist.
Just a year later in 1977, this rivalry came to a head and René took power through a coup. The Seychelles became a de facto one-party state ruled by René and his Seychelles People's Progressive Front (SPPF), known in Kreol as Parti Lepep.
For the next 14 years, the SPPF ruled without official opposition, but then, in 1991, President René announced the reintroduction of multiparty democracy. Mancham returned from exile and elections were organised. In 1993 and 1998, René and his party won resoundingly.
In 2001, the incumbent emerged victorious once again, but this time around, it was much closer. In the absence of Mancham, the main opposition contender was Ramkalawan, a Mauritian-educated priest and the frontman of the Seychelles National Party (SNP), who garnered an impressive 45%. This set the precedent for the elections that followed.
In 2004, René finally stepped down, passing on power to Vice-President James Michel. The man at the top changed for the first time since 1977, but the trend of elections continued in much the same vein. Michel won in 2006, 2011 and now again in 2015, with Ramkalawan running not far behind with over 40% of the vote each time.
Source(s): African Arguments, 21 January, 2016
LRA rebel commander Ongwen faces 70 war crimes charges
The International Criminal Court last week unveiled 70 charges of war crimes against notorious Lord's Resistance Army commander Dominic Ongwen, including keeping sex slaves and recruiting child soldiers. "For well over a decade until his arrest in January 2015, Dominic Ongwen was one of the most senior commanders in the LRA," prosecutor Benjamin Gumpert told the court.
The prosecution alleges that from 2002 to 2005, Ongwen "bears significant responsibility" for "terrifying attacks" in northern Uganda when civilians were treated by the rebel group as "the enemy". "This was not just a civil war between people in uniform," Gumpert said, "the LRA attacked ordinary Ugandan citizens who wanted no more than to live their lives."
Addressing the court, Ongwen insisted reading out the charges was "a waste of time". Known as the "White Ant", Ongwen listened intently as Gumpert showed a video of bodies in a grave, saying the court would also see other evidence of the "ferocity" of the attacks. A former child-soldier-turned-warlord, Ongwen was the one-time deputy of the shadowy group's fugitive rebel leader Joseph Kony, who remains on the run despite a long international manhunt.
The LRA is accused of slaughtering more than 100,000 people and abducting 60,000 children in its bloody rebellion against Kampala that began in 1986. In the five-day confirmation hearing, prosecutors are seeking to convince the three-judge bench that the evidence is solid enough to put Ongwen in the dock. The judges will then have to determine whether Ongwen should stand trial.
The prosecution is focusing in particular on four attacks on camps housing people forced to flee the LRA's violence. More than 130 people -- many of them children and babies -- died in these attacks and dozens of others were abducted, prosecutors said in the court document containing the charges. The LRA first emerged in northern Uganda in 1986, where it claimed to fight in the name of the Acholi ethnic group against the government of Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni.
But over the years the LRA has moved across porous regional borders: it shifted from Uganda to sow terror in southern Sudan before moving into northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo, and finally crossing into southeastern Central African Republic in March 2008.
Combining religious mysticism with an astute guerrilla mind and bloodthirsty ruthlessness, Kony has turned scores of young girls into his personal sex slaves while claiming to be fighting to impose the Bible's Ten Commandments. Born in 1975, Ongwen was transferred to The Hague a year ago shortly after he unexpectedly surrendered to US special forces operating in the Central African Republic.
Source(s): The Monitor, 21 January, 2016
Ivorian President wants Unmil mandate extended
The President of La Côte d'Ivoire, Mr. Alassane Ouattara, has vowed to speak with the United Nations Secretary General, Mr. Ban Ki Moon on extending the mandate of the United Nations Mission in Liberia beyond 2016. President Ouattara stated that when he speaks with the UNSG, he will ask him to extend the presence of UNMIL forces in Liberia until the 2017 elections are over.
In a statement issued earlier this month, UNMIL said that it would proceed with the extraction of troops, but would maintain a contingent, 1500 strong, stationed in La Cote d'Ivoire, to be dispatched to Liberia only in the case of extreme need. However, the Ivorian leader emphasized: "I am sure the UNSG will listen to us."
Mr. Ouattara made the disclosure when he finally closed the three-day Joint Council of Chiefs and Elders Meeting (JCCEM) between the Republics of Liberia and La Côte d'Ivoire. The Meeting was held in Guiglo, Western, La Côte d'Ivoire. Before he started speaking, he recited the traditional battle-cry to welcome his Liberian counterpart, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.
"Aho Dao Dao Dao... ," this means "You are welcome," in the local language spoken by most of the people in the Western region of La Côte d'Ivoire. On the three-day meeting, the Ivorian leader assured that monitoring of recommendations from the Joint Communiqué, will fully be carried out by him and President Sirleaf.
He also disclosed that since the first Meeting in Zwedru, Grand Gedeh in October 2013, security conditions on both sides of the borders have improved considerably. He further disclosed that between now and March more than 15,000 Ivorian refugees residing in Liberia will return home. He urged fellow Ivorians, who are still in Liberia to make the decision to come back home. Speaking earlier, President Sirleaf trusted that delegates at the 3-day Meeting had worked hard to find ways to bring peace and reconciliation in bordering communities between both nations.
President Sirleaf emphasized that it is not an option for both people to work together; adding: "It is a must, necessity and an imperative." She stated that both nations should always find new ways to solve their problems; adding: "Since our last meeting, we have seen improved security in our region." She disclosed that since the last Zwedru Meeting, more than 23,000 Ivorian refugees have voluntarily returned home.
She used the occasion to thank Pres. Ouattara and other Ivorians for accepting Liberians who had fled the civil war in their country and sought refuge in parts of La Côte d'Ivoire. In earlier remarks, the Mayor of Guiglo welcomed President Sirleaf and the Liberian delegates to his city, "the city of forgiveness and peace." Guiglo is the capitol of the Cavally Region. The Mayor told President Sirleaf that that during the civil war in his region, Liberia became a place of refuge for his fellow Ivorians, who fled. "Today our refugee brothers and sisters are coming back with good news of how you people took care of them. Thank you so much, Madam President," he stated.
He hoped that from the Meeting in Guiglo, there would be more improvement in the relationship between and among the people living along the borders in Liberia and La Côte d'Ivoire. Earlier, traditional representatives of both nations thanked the leaders of Liberia and La Côte d'Ivoire for bringing them together in Guiglo. Specially, Chief Moses Teah, who spoke on behalf of his Liberian colleagues, said they had come to La Côte d'Ivoire with clear minds. Chief Teah pleaded with the Ivorian authority to reopen their borders with Liberia.
According to him, opening the borders with Liberia will increase economic capability of women and youth. He also stated that it will enable chiefs on both sides of the borders to easily visit and communicate with their colleagues on the other side of the border. He promised that chiefs on the Liberian side of the border won't allow anyone who has committed crime in La Côte d'Ivoire to come to and hide among them. Also speaking, representatives of both UN peacekeeping Missions in Liberia and La Cote d'Ivoire thanked the leaders of the two nations for doing all to maintain peace along their borders and among their people. They commended Presidents Sirleaf and Ouattara for their leadership roles in maintaining peace in the region.
Source(s): Daily Observer, 19 January, 2016
EFCC returns Olisa Metuh to Court, to slam him with fresh charges
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission is set to slam fresh charges on the spokesman of the Peoples Democratic Party, Olisa Metuh, less than 48 hours after the Federal High Court, Abuja, granted him bail over a seven-count charge of corruption.
The EFCC drove the embattled politician into the premises of the FCT High Court on Thursday morning, preparatory to slamming fresh charges on him. Last week, Mr. Metuh was in handcuffs when he was brought into the court. The handcuffs were later removed as he waited to be taken before a judge.
Details of the new charges are unclear at this time, but the anti-graft commission had on January 12 accused Mr. Metuh of shredding a confessional statement he made to its operatives, indicating it would charge him separately for attempting to destroy a major evidence in the case against him.
"The tearing of statement is tantamount to willful destruction of government property and it is a serious offence," the official had told this newspaper at the time. "Also the fact that he obstructed operatives from performing their job is also a criminal offence. We will explore the possibility of filling a separate charge against him at the Federal Capital Territory High Court."
In the original case, Mr. Metuh is facing a seven-count charge of corruption. He is accused of receiving N400 million from former National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki. The amount is part of the allegedly diverted sum of $2.1 billion meant for the purchase of arms. Tuesday, last week, Justice Okon Abang granted him bail.
To regain his freedom, however, Mr. Metuh, Justice Abang said, must deposit N400 million bail bond - same amount he is accused of illegally receiving; two sureties who must have properties in Maitama area of Abuja, and who must also deposit N200 million each. It is unclear whether Mr. Metuh has so far met his bail conditions.
Source(s): Premium Times, 21 January, 2016
Olisa Metuh charged for destroying own confessional statement, sent back to prison
The National Publicity Secretary of PDP, Mr Oilsa Metuh, at the Federal High Court, where he is standing trial over alleged N400m fraud, in Abuja. The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission on Thursday morning slammed a fresh two-count charge on the spokesman of the Peoples Democratic Party, Olisa Metuh, over an alleged attempt by the politician to destroy a confessional statement made to its operatives.
The new charges came less than 48 hours after the Federal High Court, Abuja, granted him bail over a seven-count charge of corruption. The EFCC drove the embattled politician into the premises of the FCT High Court on Thursday morning, preparatory to slamming fresh charges on him. Like on Tuesday, Mr. Metuh was in handcuffs when he was brought into the court. The handcuffs were later removed as he waited to be taken before a judge. He was later brought before Justice Ishaq Bello, and accused of attempting to destroy information provided during his cross examination at the office of the EFCC.
Count one of the charge contains allegation of destruction of a statement he had given at the commission, to prevent it from being produced, while count two of the charge revolves around allegations of mischief, all punishable under section 327 of the Penal Code Act. After pleading not guilty to the said charges, counsel to the EFCC, Sylvanus Tahir, asked for more time to allow his team present witnesses and evidence in support of the allegations against the politician.
Justice Bello, who is the chief judge of the FCT High Court, noted that the EFCC must produce three witnesses during the next sitting, without failing. He noted that it was needless to have the case brought before him if it was already ongoing at a Federal High Court. But EFCC counsel, Mr. Sylvanus, explained that the new charges, filed on January 18, were not the same as those currently being heard at the Federal High Court.
The matter was adjourned till January 25, for hearing of an application for bail, while information would be relayed later on whether or not the substantive suit would be heard Friday. Mr. Metuh was also asked to return to Kuje Prison. The EFCC had on January 12 accused Mr. Metuh of shredding a confessional statement he made to its operatives, indicating it would charge him separately for attempting to destroy a major evidence in the case against him.
"The tearing of statement is tantamount to willful destruction of government property and it is a serious offence," the official had told this newspaper at the time. "Also the fact that he obstructed operatives from performing their job is also a criminal offence. We will explore the possibility of filling a separate charge against him at the Federal Capital Territory High Court." In the original case for which he is standing trial at the Federal High Court, Mr. Metuh is facing a seven-count charge of corruption.
Sources(s): Premium Times, 21 January, 2016
(This monitor is prepared by Urvashi Sudhindra, Research Intern, Observer Research Foundation, Delhi)