MonitorsPublished on Jul 21, 2017
Africa Monitor | Vol Vi Issue Xli

The Continent

Macron did not slur against Africans, says France

France has refuted recent media allegations that President Emmanuel Macron made a controversial and racist remark regarding Africa and African women at the G20 summit in Hamburg, German. In an interview with News24, the French embassy in South Africa maintained that Macron's comment was not racist. "Macron's comment did not carry any racial connotations. The president was answering to a question about the need for a 'Marshal Plan' for Africa. He said that he the challenges faced by the African continent needed a more complex solution than only a 'Marshal plan', aimed at reconstruction of previous stable countries," the embassy said. Reports early this month claimed that Macron told a press conference during the G20 summit that "civilisation" problems and women having "seven or eight children" were hampering development on the continent. Macron, according to the reports, said this as he responded to a question pertaining to why there was no concerted effort to help the continent economically. A 28 second edited video clip of Macron's response was shared on social media and it provoked outrage, with some accusing him of racism and of blaming women for poverty. But the embassy maintained that the context in which Macron was quoted by the media was wrong. "He named three types of problems: 1) Problems of security, that have their origin in economic underdevelopment and religious fundamentalism; 2) Problems of state capacity, with failed states, complicated democratic transitions, and bad governance; "3) Demographic problems, with high fertility rates that tend to fuel misery and war. This is particularly true in the Sahel region. That is why President Macron wants the 'Alliance to the Sahel', recently launched by France and Germany, to support the strengthening of women rights, the interdiction of forced marriages, together with a strong educational policy as well as family planning systems," said the embassy. According to the embassy, the following were Macron's exact words: "The Marshall plan was a plan for the material reconstruction of countries (... ). Africa's challenges are now completely different, more profound, more civilisation. What are the problems faced by Africa? Failed states, complex democratic transitions, demographic transition which is one of the biggest challenges of Africa <... > It is through rigorous governance, the fight against corruption, the fight for good governance and a successful demographic transition . "When some countries still have seven to eight children per women, you can spend millions of euros, and you will not manage to stabilise the country. So the transformation plan that we must implement together, taking into account the specificities of African countries and together with African heads of states, it's a plan that takes into account our own commitments on all the fields that I mentioned, and associate better public and private actions <... >." The embassy said that the president was talking about problems faced by Africa. "As you can see, President Macron was listing the structural problems faced by the continent. Talking openly about these problems is the only way to deal with them," the embassy said. The embassy said that Africa was a priority for France's foreign policy.  "We have a comprehensive and mutually beneficial relationship in many fields: on the economic side, on political and security issues, and on development aid. We also support the African governments' efforts to tackle the demographic challenges through the Ouagadougou partnership, which aims to foster family planning in West Africa. "Recently, President Macron announced the launch of an Alliance for the Sahel, through which we will increase our aid to this region by €200 million. Our policy on Africa is intimately linked to our European commitment. We associate closely the European Union and its Member States to our actions." The embassy said that Africa was for Africans first and that France would only intervene when it was asked to. "Africa is for Africans first. African solutions to African problems must be prioritised. Should we be asked to intervene militarily, we do it in last resort, upon the request of local authorities, with the backing of the UN, and in partnership with African stakeholders. This is what France did in 2013 in Mali and in the Central African Republic," it said. Source: news24WIRE

UN tasks Nigeria on investment in women, peace

The United Nations (UN) has called on the federal government to double it's investment on the development of women on promotion of peace in the country. Deputy secretary general of the UN, Amina Mohammed made the call on July 19 when she met with Acting President Yemi Osinbajo at the presidential villa, Abuja. She said, the UN team led by herself was at the villa to discuss the implementation of the agenda 2030 but also 2063 and see how Nigeria could be supported especially in regards to development of women. The UN deputy scribe who served as minister of Environment before her current position to the world organization explained that in achieving the desire of promoting women development, the Federal Government needs to begin to put women at the center of it affairs. She said "I am honoured to be leading a delegation with the focus on peace and development of women. "With me we the chief executive of the UN women, we also have our special representative on women and conflict, we also have with us, our partner the AU, the special adviser also on peace, women and development. "All our regional heads partnering together with the ministry of women affairs and the support of the minister of for national planning," It's an exciting time to be here because really we are talking about the implementation of the agenda 2030 but also 2063 and for us, it's about how do we support Nigeria and it's a very difficult context to do more and to do scale so every body feels it. Continuing she said "We know that there many lessons that have learnt and there challenges that we have but we have some successes from the North East all the way to the South. "We want to make sure that we do more so that we can see the scale of this, particularly from the women at the centre. Source: Leadership (Abuja)

Central Africa

Rwandan presidential campaigns kick off

The country's three presidential candidates vying for President begin the campaign trail on July 14. The incumbent Paul Kagame, of the RPF Inkotanyi; Frank Habineza, of the Democratic Green Party of Rwanda; and Philippe Mpayimana, an , all chose to begin their campaign rallies at sites out of the capital Kigali. The candidates will spend the next 19 days travelling to the different parts of the country, holding rallies and searching for votes. The candidates will unveil their political programmes, essentially asking citizens to vote them for the next seven-year presidential term. President Kagame, the flag bearer for the ruling RPF-Inkotanyi, will launch his campaign in Southern Province's Ruhango District on July 14. RPF's manifesto mainly focuses on further strengthening the economy, boosting social welfare, and good governance as well as justice. RPF Secretary-General François Ngarambe told journalists in a news briefing on July 12 that, while the party has achieved a lot over the last seven years, the people want more and the progress maintained. "What we will tell Rwandans is mostly about how we will sustain the achievements made so far in the areas of the economy, wellbeing, good governance and justice," he said, explaining that the party knows what it did to promote those crucial areas and what it wants to do next once it's back in the top office. Habineza will launch his campaign in Western Province's Rusizi District with a manifesto that pledges to re-enforce the rule of law in the country, promote food security, reduce taxes, and grow an economy that is more environment-friendly. The presidential hopeful is pitching tax and land reforms in an effort to win votes. Mpayimana will launch his campaign in Eastern Province's Bugesera District on July 14 with a pledge to strengthen democracy, promote trade and agriculture, foster more unity among Rwandans and empower the Rwandan youth, including those in the Diaspora. "The most important thing is to give farmers the freedom to sell what they grow to markets and control prices for them. So far, they sell their produce through cooperatives, which work as intermediaries and farmers need to be better entrepreneurs, who are strong enough to influence prices on the market," he told The New Times on July 13. Mpayimana says he also wants to promote unity and reconciliation in Rwanda by sensitising more Rwandans to move on from their tragic past and embrace unity and a peaceful life in their communities across the country. The presidential campaigns will end on August 3, a day before Rwandans in the country go to the polls. Diaspora community vote on August 3. Source: The New Times

Angola, Cuba sign trade agreement

Angola and Cuba signed on July 6, in Havana, a co-operation protocol in the domain of academic training, technical assistance and commercial exchanges. On the part of Angola the agreement was signed by the Trade minister, Fiel Constantino, while on the side of Cuba the document was signed by Rodrigo Malmierca Diaz. According to a press note from the Angolan Trade Ministry, which has reached ANGOP, the ceremony of formalising the agreement was witnessed by the Angolan ambassador to Cuba, José César Augusto, and staffs from both countries' ministries of trade. The signing of the document was preceded by technical works carried out by the technical teams of both countries, having culminated in the drafting of an Action Plan that outlines the modules to implement the referred agreement. This co-operation protocol happens in the ambit of the Taskforces created by Intergovernmental Commission of Economic and Technical/Scientific Co-operation between Angola and Cuba, as agreed at its 13th session held last February, in Cuba. Trade minister Fiel Constantino is on an official visit to Cuba since July 5. Among other activities, he is scheduled to be received in an audience by the Cuban Vice President, Ricardo Cabrizas, in his capacity as co-chair of the Intergovernmental Commission of Economic and Technical/Scientific Co-operation. Source: Angola Press

North Africa

US laptop ban lifted in Egypt, Morocco

Egypt and Morocco's airlines have said a ban against carry-on laptops on US-bound flights has been lifted, leaving only two Saudi airports under the restrictions put in place in March. Morocco's Royal Air Maroc said in a statement on July 12 that the ban, imposed amid fears the Islamic State group was developing a bomb concealed in electronics, would be lifted as of July 13. EgyptAir said late July 11 that the United States had also lifted the ban for the carrier's flights to New York from July 12. The ban remains in place for Saudi Arabia's two main international airports in Riyadh and Jeddah. The original ban affected airports in Morocco, Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates, as well as Turkey. But last month, the US Department of Homeland Security issued directives to 180 carriers around the world flying into the United States to improve security procedures, especially in screening baggage and electronics. The directives included pressure to install explosive-detecting scanners within weeks, as well as adding more bomb-sniffing dogs. Source: The Monitor

China agrees to import grapes from Egypt after 2 years negotiations

The Egyptian authorities said on July 13 that China has agreed to import grapes from Egypt after two years of intense negotiations. The announcement was made by the Egyptian Agriculture Export Council in a press release. Citrus is also among the fruits being exported to China, it added. Negotiations are underway to allow more Egyptian agricultural products to be exported to China, according to the press release. Source: Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (Beijing)

Southern Africa

In Zimbabwe, bond notes fuel inflation: IMF

Government's introduction of bond notes last year to address a relentless cash crisis fuelled a currency black market, which had been subdued due to a multiple currency regime, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has indicated. Bond notes, described by government and the central bank as a surrogate of the United States (US) dollar and backed by a $200 million facility from the African Export and Import Bank (Afreximbank), have largely been viewed as a return of the Zimbabwe dollar, abandoned in 2009 after being decimated by hyperinflation. Introduced in November last year, bond notes -- one of several government interventions meant to inject liquidity into the cash-starved economy -- have already seen the return of inflationary pressure in the economy. Year on year inflation rose from -0,7 percent in January 2017 to 0,75 percent in May 2017. The IMF warned that inflation and inflation expectations would rise in line with money creation, with annual average inflation set to reach between two and three percent. "The use of bond notes and RTGS (real time gross settlement) electronic balances, officially at par with the US dollar amid capital flow controls, is giving rise to a parallel market," the IMF said in its Article 1V Consultative report issued last week. The Bretton Woods institution said bond notes had "reduced the pace of economic transactions ... at the cost of driving US dollars out of circulation". "With bond notes and electronic balances utilised for the bulk of payments, and T-bills (Treasury Bills) for a few others, US dollars are used for international operations and hoarded as a store of value outside the formal banking system. The expanding informal sector functions using cash to finance imports that reportedly evade government controls and customs," the IMF noted. The IMF said in the parallel market, bond notes were trading at a five to seven percent discount to the US dollar, and electronic balances reportedly exchange at a 15 to 20 percent discount. The Washington-headquartered lender said combined with the trade controls, the discounts had led to an uptick in inflation, which has increased to a quarterly annualised rate of 3,4 percent in March 2017, compared to 0,7 percent in December 2016. The IMF said government was likely to finance its deficits by expanding the RBZ overdraft, issuing T-bills, and "supplying bond notes at an increasingly high cost". "This would lead to rapidly rising inflation, growing shortages of foreign exchange and imported goods, and increasing discounts of the quasi-currency instruments. The deteriorating situation would exert a heavier toll on the most vulnerable, and the resulting growth slowdown and collapse in confidence could lead to financial sector distress and social tensions," said the IMF. Meanwhile, government's appetite for money creation is increasing, with the latest being the issue of $600 million worth of T-bills to pay debts owed to power utility Zesa by State enterprises. This is despite Finance and Economic Development Minister, Patrick Chinamasa, warning that further injection of T-bills would have dire consequences on the economy. "Government remains fully cognisant of the need to effectively manage risk that is associated with over issuing of T-bills in the market and the implication that it may cause," said Chinamasa in April. Source: Financial Gazette (Harare)

Mugabe’s two sons evicted in Johannesburg

President Robert Mugabe's sons, Robert Junior and Chatunga Bellarmine - notorious for a wild partying lifestyle - were recently evicted from a luxurious apartment in South Africa's most affluent area of Sandton in Johannesburg after a violent brawl that left one security officer with a broken leg and arm, the Zimbabwe Independent can exclusively report. Informed sources in Harare and Johannesburg told the Independent this week Mugabe's boys, known in social circles for hanging out with a harem of trendy young ladies, drinking binges and alleged drug abuse, as well as splurging money like confetti, were last month booted out of The Regent MCC luxury apartments located at Number 21 West Road South, Morningside in Sandton, Johannesburg's wealthiest area. Sandton, which has a deluxe shopping mall which the boys frequent and affluent suburbs, is Africa's richest square mile. Sources said Robert Jr and Chatunga were kicked out of apartment number 601 at the 10-storey block which costs up to R74 000 (US$5 606 at July 14’s exchange rate) per month for a four-edroomed floor. The facility has a five-metre-high perimeter fence, a double gate, 24-hour entrance security, fingerprint-secured elevator entry, a spa, gym and restaurant. This comes after the two boys and their friends recently painted the town red during a birthday party of one of them. A source said they spent money all over Johannesburg, including at a famous Sandton night club Taboo and Sun City, South Africa's premium tourist and weekend destination with a host of hotels, remarkable attractions and entertainment -- famed for golfing, game viewing and water sports. As first reported by the Independent in April, Mugabe's sons relocated from Dubai and Harare to Johannesburg at the beginning of the year after some problems involving fights and banned substances, especially in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). This paper also reported that security details feared for their lives due to their indulgent lifestyles and Johannesburg's violent crime wave. Sources said the boys lived large: apart from staying in the luxurious apartment, they were usually chauffeured in Mercedes-Benz and BMW cars, while also enjoying the services of a chef and a dozen security details. "The boys were usually up during the night partying with different ladies, drinking and smoking. There were almost daily complaints by other tenants about the noise coming from apartment 601, the smell of cigarettes and drugs that wafted regularly up and down the elevator shaft or off the spacious terrace that showcased Sandton's beautiful, modern skyline," one penthouse resident at The Regent said. "However, everything came to a crashing head in The Regent's highly secure entrance during a late-night brawl when two rival groups had a dispute over women. The fight which ensued left one member of the security aide with a broken leg and shattered arm. Ambulances and police were called to the scene and witness statements were taken." The boys, another resident said, left The Regent abruptly after they were forced to vacate the property for their unacceptable behaviour and the violent incident. "Cigarette burns, whiskey, champagne and red wine-soiled carpets are all that remain in the floor they once occupied. Sadly perhaps for Zimbabwe's taxpayers, a hefty damage deposit, apparently paid for by the state, will be used to replace and repair the damage. The left no forwarding address, but it is understood that they moved to similar lodgings nearby; there are many such affluent penthouses around," the resident said. One source said Mugabe's boys lived "a carefree life of luxury, partying and over-indulgence". "Their driver would wait dutifully on call in one of the luxury vehicles, often sleeping there, awaiting a command to drive them to wherever they wanted. It was rarely the case that Robert Jr emerged for morning lectures, which he was supposed to attend at the University of Johannesburg," the source said. The First Family, like other well-to-do families in Zimbabwe, are shunning local education and health facilities for better foreign places after Mugabe's government destroyed domestic amenities. Sources said following last month's violent brawl, First Lady Grace Mugabe hurried to Johannesburg to vacate her boys from The Regent and ensure their safety. As a result, she failed to attend Mugabe's youth rally address in Masvingo. The fracas occurred a day before the rally on June 30. When the Independent contacted The Regent front office to enquire on rentals at the luxury penthouses, an official requested to know the identity of person who wanted an apartment. "We usually vet our clients for security reasons, so we may request to know who wants an apartment," the official said. "For August to December we have two and three-bedroomed apartments ranging from R45 000 (US$3 409) to R55 000 (US$4 166) a month." The First Family's spokesperson Olga Bungu could not be reached for comment. Addressing multitudes attending a youth rally in Masvingo recently, Mugabe said his wife had missed the event to attend to an emergency relating to their sons' accommodation in neighbouring South Africa. "Saka vati tine hurombo ndanga ndichida kuti ndive nemi pamusangano uno asi netsaona dzaitika ikoko handingakurumidze kuuya ndisati ndawana patsvene panogara vana, vakachengetedzeka vese, memukuru, vari kuzvikoro (She said she really wanted to be with you today, but there is an emergency relating to our sons' accommodation and security that she had to attend to)," Mugabe said at the rally on June 30. Before relocating to Dubai where he was reportedly forced out due to indulgent behaviour and activities not acceptable in the Moslem UAE, Robert Jr was in China where he apparently dropped out of a military academy as he could not cope with the rigours of training. Mugabe's family and state security services responsible for VIP protection fear South Africa's crime-ridden environment is a security threat to the boys. There are also fears they could also sink into the country's Sodom and Gomorrah. Local prominent people's children have died in mysterious circumstances there. Former finance minister Simba Makoni and Higher and Tertiary Education minister Jonathan Moyo lost their son Tonderai and daughter Zanele Naledi Ntombizodwa in mysterious circumstances in South Africa in 2003 and 2015 respectively. In 2014, Mugabe's nephew, Takudzwa Wesley Goronga, was found dead in a wardrobe at Monash University in Johannesburg after having gone missing for 10 days. Earlier in the same year, a female Zimbabwean student had also been found dead in her room in a hall of residence at a local university. Nozipho Tshuma's body was discovered in her locked room at the Vaal University of Technology in Vanderbijlpark, south of Gauteng province. Another final year student at Rhodes University was burnt to death in his apartment a day before he was scheduled to leave campus. Source: Zimbabwe Independent

In South Africa, Mbeki takes some jabs at Zuma government

Former president Thabo Mbeki has taken some jabs at President Jacob Zuma's government, accusing it of taking incoherent decisions. He also rubbished Zuma's supporters for labelling white monopoly capital as the enemy and for demanding changes to the Constitution to allow for land expropriation without compensation. Mbeki was interviewed on Gauteng radio station Power FM on July 13 night and, for more than two hours, reflected on his term in office, economic challenges facing the country, and problems facing the ANC. He criticised Zuma's management of his Cabinet, when asked what advice he would give the government to tackle the economic crisis. Mbeki said the president, as chair of Cabinet, must understand all the issues discussed in Cabinet, to ensure cohesion and avoid contradictory government department decisions. "Otherwise you don't have a government, you don't have a centre that can hold," Mbeki said. During his time, he said, ministers had to be well prepared for Cabinet meetings, fully aware of what their counterparts were proposing for adoption and ready to defend their own proposals. "What needs to emerge are Cabinet decisions because, if you don't do that, you have individual departmental decisions. Instead of having Cabinet, you have what I call a federation of ministries. Trevor corrected me and said it's a confederation of ministries," Mbeki said. Source: news24WIRE

East Africa

US delay on sanctions decision leaves Sudanese in Limbo

The Sudanese government, businessmen, and banks anxiously awaited a decision on July 11 that they hoped would permanently lift decades-old US trade sanctions against Khartoum and aid in gradually bringing the country back into the international fold. Mohammed Saad, a Sudanese expatriate living in Boston, had all but convinced himself that he would finally be able to send money back home to his family without having to use intermediaries or alternative banking routes. "Nothing is as dependable as banks when you want your family to receive money that you work hard  day and night to collect and send home," he told Al Jazeera. "I waited for this day for six months." But on July 11, the US state department announced it would postpone by three months a final decision on whether to permanently lift its sanctions on Sudan. Some US sanctions on the central African nation - in place since 1997 over accusations of state-sponsored terrorism - were temporarily eased in an executive order signed by former president Barack Obama before he left office. Many hoped that on July 11, new US President Donald Trump would make them disappear for good. "I cannot stay in Saudi Arabia for ever," said Hussam Greishi, a Sudanese expatriate back in Khartoum on annual leave from his work in Saudi Arabia. "I would want to one day soon be able to return to Sudan and invest in a small business or grow a plot of land at my home town. That is why I am watching what will happen with the sanctions. The situation now is just not suitable for business." Obama's executive order temporarily eased restrictions on Sudan's gas and oil industry, unfroze some Sudanese assets in the US, and allowed for the import and export of selected approved goods and services. But Hussam and many Sudanese youth say that despite the temporary order, their ability to send money back home has been hampered by the sanctions because of the isolation of the Sudanese banking system. The massive $8.9bn penalty slapped on BNP Paribas in May 2015 for violating trade sanctions against Sudan, Cuba and Iran still hangs heavy over the international banking sector. Many banks have chosen to steer clear of Sudan despite the temporary sanctions easing. Mohammed Abd Alaziz, a software engineer, says Sudan's isolation has held his professional development hostage. "I cannot purchase original software versions due to the sanctions. I have to find alternatives every time," he told Al Jazeera. Azza Mubarak, a translator, is concerned that if the sanctions are not lifted, she will have to continue to buy references and materials for her work in hard copies, which cost considerably more than versions available for sale online. "Most of the time hard copy versions are not available and when they are; they cost two or three times the regular cost because they are obtained through an intermediary destination, not directly from the US or Europe," she said. July 12’s three-month delay came on the heels of a tense campaign by human rights activists and US congressmen to pressure Trump to maintain sanctions over the country's record of human rights violations. Sudan-based political analyst Mohammed Humma said he had expected the decision on sanctions to be delayed. "I expect the sanctions to be extended for another year or six months to monitor the implementation of the five tracks because this approach began to bear fruit with Sudan," he told Al Jazeera. The areas of concern - or "five tracks" - include giving more access to humanitarian workers in war zones, cooperating on counterterrorism with the US, ending hostilities against armed groups in Sudan, and halting support for rebels in neighbouring South Sudan. Senior US officials told reporters on July 12 the Sudanese government had sizeable progress on all five tracks, but the Trump administration needed more time to fully review the situation. The extension also came with an added emphasis on human rights, religious freedoms and Sudan's support for the UN Security Council's resolutions on North Korea. "The Trump administration has made it really clear that the number-one security issue for them and for the government is North Korea, and that is a global security threat," one US official said during a call on July 12 with reporters. Sudan responded to the US' delay by freezing talks with Washington on sanctions until October, when the three-month extension is set to end. Sudan's foreign minister, Professor Ibrahim Ghandour, called the US' decision "illogical and unacceptable". "Sudan, as has been attested by the US government, has fully met its commitments under the engagement plan with the US," he said. "We look forward to the right decision by lifting the sanctions so Sudan can continue to be an effective partner with the US in safety and security in the region." In a January 2017 report, the US Department of State agreed, saying Sudan had made "significant progress" in each of the five areas in the period leading up to Obama's partial lifting of sanctions. United Nations agencies working in Sudan, which are regularly affected by issues relating to humanitarian aid and access - one of the five areas of review - said in a statement on July 10 that there had been "marked improvement in humanitarian access over the past six months", since Obama's executive order was signed. But despite six months of eased sanctions, shop owners in Khartoum are still hungry for business. "We hope the sanctions will be lifted and tourists will come so we can boost our struggling shops. We barely ever sell anything," said one gift shop owner, who asked to remain anonymous. After six months in limbo, Hadiya Adam, who sells tea in the capital, is not convinced that another three months delay will bring better results. "Will prices go down? What will happen next?" she asked. "Sugar, vegetables and meat - what will happen to these?" Mohammed Amin, a local journalist and commentator, said that while people in Khartoum and around Sudan were eager to see the sanctions finally lifted, they were well aware that it wouldn't be a cure-all. "They are all talking about the imminent lifting of sanctions, but they are not really waiting for it to happen now or after a year because they do not believe it will make for a noticeable change in their everyday lives or an immediate enhancement in living conditions," he told Al Jazeera. "They know part of the problem is the way resources are used and managed locally, not just the sanctions." Source: Al Jazeera (Doha)

In South Sudan, President Kiir fires striking judges

South Sudan's President Salva Kiir has fired a dozen judges who went on strike in May to demand better pay and improved working conditions. Before the firings, only 274 judges had been employed across the entire country. The president’s decree was announced on the government-run television station on the night of July 12. Information Minister Michael Makuei said he could not provide an explanation to South Sudan in Focus on why the judges were fired at a time when the government is preparing to address citizen grievances in a national dialogue. Khalid Abdulla Mohamed, chairman of the Judges and Justices Committee, confirmed that he and several other judges were dismissed, but declined to elaborate. Repeated phone calls to the president's office went unanswered on July 13. South Sudanese legal expert Modi Ezekiel said the move undermines the independence of the judiciary system. “The judges may not feel free to utter out their views because they fear the executives will sack them, so they will be working according to the will of the executive yet an independent judiciary is crucial for any country that wants to build a better future,” said Ezekiel. Ezekiel said the president’s decision surprised him because it only increases the load on the remaining judges, who already are overworked. “The country was faced with a shortage of judges right from its independence up to now. Some judges died, they were never replaced; others ran out of the country due to insecurity,” Ezekiel said. And Ezekiel said the young generation is not willing to join the judiciary “because of the low pay.” He said the president should have first run his plan to fire judges past South Sudan’s Judicial Service Commission. The judges’ strike began May 1 after the government refused to address their grievances. Besides calling for better pay and working conditions, the judges asked President Kiir to fire chief justice Chan Reec Madut, who they said had not responded to their concerns. Source: Voice of America

Ethiopian citizens race to leave Saudi Arabia as mass deportations loom

Thousands of Ethiopians in Saudi Arabia are in a state of limbo as they try to return home after being ordered to leave the Gulf state. On March 29, Saudi Arabia launched a campaign it dubbed "Nation Without Violations," giving all foreign immigrants living there illegally 90 days to leave without incurring a penalty. They were told they could return later after applying and going through the immigration process. As of the beginning of July, 111,000 Ethiopians had agreed to leave Saudi Arabia and 45,000 had successfully returned to Ethiopia, according to Meles Alem, the spokesperson of the Ethiopian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Many remained stranded, however, due to an inability to get a seat on overbooked flights. Saudi government officials believe there are about 400,000 Ethiopians living illegally in the country. Most are employed as maids or other domestic workers; they have few legal rights and endure widespread abuse. In early July, VOA Amharic reported that 110 people were stuck for days in a community center in Riyadh, waiting for open seats on flights back to Addis Ababa. "It is difficult for me to sit or sleep. There is another pregnant woman here and what is going to happen to us?" the woman told Gabina, VOA's Amharic youth program. Another woman said, "We don't have proper sanitation here. About 20 people are jammed in one room." Most of those who were stranded last week have returned to Addis, but many more are trying to get out as soon as possible. It is unclear how many foreign workers will be affected. Middle East Monitor reported there are about 5 million illegal foreign workers living in the country. Saudi Arabia's total population is 32 million, and it relies heavily on imported labor. Government officials have said the move will improve job prospects for Saudis. It will "revive the economies of companies and establishments and protect small businesses and projects from illegal expats, while also reducing unemployment rates and creating a safe economic and social environment," said Turki Al-Manea, general director of the branch of the ministry of labor and social development in Qassim, according to Arab News. The head of the Ethiopian community in Riyadh, Shawel Getahun, warned that people should not try to start the process of traveling now. "People who actually bought tickets should consider going on time. Those who haven't bought tickets should process their papers in due time before it's too late," he said. This is not the first such deportation. In 2013 and 2014, a similar effort led to the deportation of tens of thousands of Ethiopians. Many were detained, beaten and held in squalid conditions prior to deportation, according to a report by Human Rights Watch. Yasin Kakande, a Ugandan journalist who has reported from the Middle East for more than a decade, said a traditional system known as "Kafala sponsorship" exists throughout the Gulf states, leading many African migrants to live in a state of indentured servitude. The system gives Gulf citizens the right to sponsor foreign workers, who often must serve as maids or servants for an indefinite amount of time and for little or no pay. "Most of the workers whom they refer to as illegal actually come to the countries legally," Kakande told VOA. "They have high hopes of working and helping their families at home, but once they get into these countries … they find that there are a lot of abuses, that they cannot get away." In recent years, stories of maids being raped, beaten and starved have generated worldwide outrage. In one case that went viral on YouTube, a maid in Kuwait was left dangling from a seventh story window while her employer filmed it, making no attempt to help before the woman lost her grip and fell. "Most of them, what they try to do, is try to run away from their sponsors to try to find some justice, and in the end they end up becoming illegals because the law doesn't give them a chance to get out of their employer," Kakand Source: Voice of America

Ugandan courts paralysed as prosecutors strike

State prosecutors in Uganda have gone on strike over low pay and poor working conditions leaving courts empty and suspects in prison. Uncertain whether their cases were going to be heard or not, groups of people milled around the compound of the Buganda Road court in the center of Uganda's capital, Kampala. One of them was John Kakembo, who had been called to speak as a witness at the trial of a man who raped his 16-year-old daughter. "We are stranded here," Kakembo said to DW. "We do not know what is going on and we do not know what time we are likely to leave this place. This is very frustrating." Judges adjourned trials across Uganda as prosecutors, who are responsible for representing the state's cases in criminal trials, went on indefinite strike on Wednesday July 12, 2017. The prosecutors had previously given the government two weeks to meet their demands for a pay rise and consider ways to improve the working environment. " have been left with that last resort of exercising industrial action because want to live and make ends meet," the President of the Uganda Association of Prosecutors, David Bakibinga, told DW.  "We go through risks each day. People threaten us," Bakibinga added, pointing to the murder of Joan Kagezi, a state prosecutor who was assassinated in 2015, as an example of the dangers. Speaking to parliament, Ugandan Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda said his cabinet would consider the prosecutors' demands. "Government is in process of establishing a salary review commission to ensure that there is removal of these distortions," Rugunda said. However, he also stressed that many other government departments and institutions needed consideration, too. The prosecutors say they'll stay away from work until their demands are met. There's fear that this strike will further aggravate Uganda's extensive legal backlog and overflowing prisons. A report by the Case Backlog Reduction Committee in March 2017 found that more than a quarter of cases in the country were still awaiting judgment after two years. Source: Deutsche Welle

West Africa

In Liberia, protest greets Boakai in Clara Ttown

A visit by Vice President Joseph Nyumah Boakai and his newly chosen running mate, Speaker James Emmanuel Nuquay to densely populated slum community of Clara Town on Bushrod Island Wednesday, 12 July was greeted with protest by placard carrying youths. The protestors, chanting among others, "Boakai you will pay for what you eat" and "Boakai's U.S. rate 150" approached the Vice President's convoy as it enters the slum community, but were restrained by security forces. The Vice President is vying to succeed incumbent President Sirleaf.It all started when a rival youth group under the banner, "Friends for the Future" invited the 76 years old presidential candidate to endorse his bid for the nation's top office.  The demonstrators in their youthful ages stormed the main street, commencing from Clara Town Store to the Clara Town Hall, barricading the Matthew Sonnie Public School, the venue of the endorsement. Apparently, realizing the potential risk, the organizers with help from the Executive Protection Service invited riot units from the Liberia National Police to provide security for the event. The demonstrators briefly abandoned their quest as though they have forgotten their plans, while the program was hurriedly held with apprehension on the faces of the audience. Clara Town is the birth place and one of the strong holds of presidential hopeful Senator George Manneh Weah, who is Standard Bearer of the Coalition for Democratic Change. The Liberian soccer ambassador began his football career here. As attendees of the program left the town hall, the demonstrators in their numbers stormed the grounds, this time with placards and at the same time throwing plastic missiles at the convoy of the Vice President and his guests. Tensions built up subsequently and things went loose, but quickly, the elite Emergency Response Unit of the Liberia National Police speedily spread in the street, chasing out demonstrators and bystanders in a bid to create safe corridor for Vice President Boakai to leave. The protestors did not only go after Boakai and his team, but members and officials of the "Friends for the Future", launching missiles and anything that their hands could get hold of. Petty traders along the Clara Town Store were forced to abandon their markets, while students took to their heels.Veep Boakai had earlier engaged the street, waving to residents and bystanders before quickly getting onboard his presidential motorcade. The demonstrators alleged that since his ascendency, Vice President Boakai had never visited the community nor shared in their poverty. They argued that the Unity Party-led administration has done nothing for the Liberian populace, but subjecting them to extreme poverty, deaths, poor education and health, among others. One of the protestors, John Wleh, says the visitation and subsequent endorsement of Boakai is a mockery. "Unity Party and Joseph Boakai think we are stupid, after eating our money for the past 12 years, as the second man in command, they are finding another means to continue eating our resources, while we sit, live and eat poverty. This must stop and it will stop today," he expresses in anger. This is the first public protest against the governing UP Standard Bearer in the impending elections, coming within just two days after naming little known Speaker Emmanuel Nuquay as his running mate. Source: The New Dawn

Gambia poised to become 4th country to eliminate malaria

The minister of Health and Social Welfare Saffie Lowe Ceesay has stated that The Gambia is poised to become the fourth country to eliminate malaria within its boarder, adding that more resources and collaboration is required to reach these monumental achievements. The minister of Health made these remarks at the Sheraton Hotel on behalf of President Adama Barrow at the celebration of the Progress Towards Eliminating Malaria in The Gambia. She added that support from the private and institutional donors is critical to win this battle against malaria in The Gambia and West Africa as a whole, saying that malaria has historically being one of the leading causes of mortality among children under-5 in The Gambia. "It is therefore critical that we continue to pay more attention by making services closer to the communities, promote and mobilize communities to utilise the services and also adopt behaviours and practises that prevent infection such as; consistent sleeping under insecticides nets. "My government will continue to create the enabling environment and facilities for Gambia free of malaria scope," she added. Minister Ceesay stated that in 2007, The Gambia has the highest record of ITN used by children under-5 and pregnant women in the whole of Africa. Studies conducted by MRC and NMCP revealed that there is a general decline in malaria incidence in the country by 50%. Admissions due to malaria at the hospitals and health facilities, dropped by 74% and deaths attributed to malaria have dropped by 90%, thus malaria parasite prevalence dropped from 4.0% in 2011 to 0.2% in 2014, according to the Malaria Indicator Survey. Minister Ceesay added that access to laboratory for malaria has also increased through expansion of high quality and consistent availability of laboratory services in the health centres and hospitals. She added that despite successes, there are still challenges facing the Gambia's ability to eliminate malaria. Malaria transmission is still ongoing, more in the eastern than in the western part of The Gambia. For her part, the United State ambassador to The Gambia Patricia Alsup said the U.S. government is committed to supporting the ideals of the New Gambian administration. "We are convinced that in a country like The Gambia, with a government like President Barrow's, and with the right tools and strategies, malaria can be eliminated," she said. Ambassador Alsup added that the war against malaria has been waged for many years now. During the past decade, three major initiatives were launched to help control malaria, The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria in 2002, the World Bank Malaria Booster Programme in 2004, and the U.S. President's Malaria Initiative (PMI) in 2005. According to Ambassador Alsup, malaria prevention and control is a major U.S. foreign assistance objective which fully aligns with the U.S. Government's vision of ending preventable child and maternal deaths and ending extreme poverty. The U.S. Government has taken extraordinary steps to curb the spread of this preventable and curable disease, including partnerships with host country governments, the Global Fund, the World Health Organization (WHO), the World Bank Booster Programme for Malaria Control, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and many others. Ambassador Alsup revealed that the United States is the world's largest donor to malaria control and elimination programmes, contributing over 50 percent of all donor funding. This funding, she said, is channelled through both international organisations such as the Global Fund, and local organisations involved in anti-malaria efforts. Source: The Daily Observer (Banjul)

Contrary to FM’s position, Nigerean government says it'll continue to borrow

The Federal Government has said it would continue to borrow, contrary to the earlier widely reported position of Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun. She was quoted as saying at the Tuesday Business Forum at the Presidential Villa in Abuja: "We cannot borrow anymore. We just have to generate funds domestically enough to fund our budget; mobilise revenue to fund the necessary budget increase." However, a statement by Director of Information, Federal Ministry of Finance, Mr. Salisu Na'Inna Dambatta, on July 13, said: "Nigeria will continue to borrow. Nothing has changed. The Economic Recovery and Growth Plan, ERGP, provides for an increase in spending over a three-year period, which is reflected in the 2017 budget. "In 2017, the government is committed to spending N7.44 trillion, with a projected fiscal deficit of N2.356 trillion, which will be funded by a combination of domestic and international borrowing. "Nigeria's debt to GDP ratio is low when compared to our contemporaries in Africa, and across most of the developed world. We have headroom to borrow and are doing so aggressively in the short to medium term in order to address our infrastructure deficit and to stimulate growth. "At the same time, it is vital that Nigeria diversifies its revenue base and builds its revenue profile, as is projected in the ERGP, to ensure that we do not continue to overly rely on debt to fund our budget spending over the long term. "To build a sustainable economy, we must replace the debt that we are incurring in the short to medium term, with strong revenue sources. That is why the Ministry of Finance is focused on expanding our tax base, which we are doing with a range of initiatives which include the Voluntary Asset and Income Declaration Scheme (VAIDS) and recruitment of Community Tax Liaison Officers (CTLOS) to improve tax compliance in the long-term, and we are heavily focused on making government spending more productive and efficient. Meanwhile, speaking at an interactive session on VAIDS awareness/Tax on July 13 organised by PwC in Lagos, Adeosun said the scheme was expected to increase Nigeria's tax to GDP ratio from current six per cent to between 10 and 15 percent, broaden the national tax base, curb tax evasion and discourage illicit financial flow. "Most developing countries have tax to GDP ratios at 20 per cent; Nigeria still records a global low of six percent. The Federal Ministry of Finance, in a bid to address this, set up the VAIDS in collaboration with the 36 states of the federation," she said. Adeosun stressed that the country cannot continue to have a situation where Nigerians alone pay £360 million in the United Kingdom for school fees whereas the tax return of many of the people paying these fees have no correlation with their life style and the tax they pay. Adeosun said that the circle of non compliance must be broken because it is a destructive circle that is not allowing Nigeria to grow, adding that tax is an obligation for every citizen and not an option. Source: Vanguard

Cameroon military accused of "horrific use of torture" on Boko Haram suspects

Hundreds of Boko Haram suspects in Cameroon are being brutally tortured by security forces, Amnesty International said in a new report published on July 20. The human rights group alleged "horrific and widespread torture at 20 sites, including four military bases, two facilities run by intelligence services, a private residence and a school." Using dozens of testimonies, corroborated with satellite imagery, photographic and video evidence, the report 'Cameroon's secret torture chambers: human rights violations and war crimes in the fight against Boko Haram' documents 101 cases of incommunicado detention and torture between 2013 and 2017, at over 20 different sites. "We have repeatedly and unequivocally condemned the atrocities and war crimes committed by Boko Haram in Cameroon. But, nothing could justify the callous and widespread practice of torture committed by the security forces against ordinary Cameroonians, who are often arrested without any evidence and forced to endure unimaginable pain," said Alioune Tine, Amnesty International's Regional Director for West and Central Africa. "These horrific violations amount to war crimes. Given the weight of the evidence we have uncovered, the authorities must initiate independent investigations into these practices of incommunicado detention and torture, including potential individual and command responsibility." In a statement by Isa Sanusi, head of media of Amnesty International's Nigeria office, the organisation said it had written to the Cameroonian authorities in April 2017 to share the report's findings, but no response was provided and all subsequent requests for meetings were refused. Amnesty International estimates that Boko Haram has killed over 1,500 civilians in Cameroon since 2014, and abducted many others. The group has killed more than ten times that number in neighbouring Nigeria where its insurgency began in 2009, according to official figures. Victims described at least 24 torture methods they were subjected to, according to the report. "In one common stress position, described by detainees as 'the goat', their limbs were tied together behind their back before they were beaten. In another technique, described by detainees as 'the swing', victims were suspended in the air with their limbs tied behind their back and beaten. "The overwhelming majority of victims were tortured in two unofficial detention sites; the headquarters of the Rapid Intervention Batallion (BIR) in Salak, near the northern city of Maroua, and a facility in the capital, Yaoundé run by the General Directorate of External Research (DGRE), Cameroon's intelligence services, situated close to the country's Parliament," the report stated. In Salak, there are two main cells measuring approximately 9 by 5 metres, each containing up to 70 people. Detainees were usually tortured in an interrogation room they called "the DGRE Room", which is located near the office of a senior officer, Amnesty said. The officer was described by victims as providing orders to interrogators, and by one victim as being able to "decide the life and death of each detainee". Samou (not his real name), who was arrested in March 2016, told Amnesty International about his interrogation in Salak a few days after his arrest: "They asked me to tell them if I knew members of Boko Haram. That's when the guard tied my hands and feet behind my back and started to beat me with an electric cable, while throwing water on me at the same time. They beat me half to death." Mohamed (not his real name) spent six months in incommunicado detention and was interrogated and tortured several times in Salak. He told Amnesty International: "The soldiers asked us to confess. They told us that if we did not confess, they would bring us to Yaoundé to kill us. We replied that we preferred to be killed rather than to confess something that we didn't know about. They beat us like this for four days." The report said both France and U.S. have military presence in Salak and are likely to be aware of Cameroonian authorities' treatment of detainees. The report therefore called for "US and other international partners to investigate their military personnel's possible knowledge of torture at one base". Source: Premium Times This monitor is prepared by Harish Venugopalan, Research Assistant, Observer Research Foundation, Delhi
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