- Africa Weekly
- Sep 04 2017
Ethiopia's Tigray Region bags Gold Award for greening its Drylands
A major project to restore land in Ethiopia's Tigray Region to boost millions of people's ability to grow food won gold on August 22 in a U.N.-backed award for the world's best policies to combat desertification and improve fertility of drylands. Tigray's drylands, home to more than 4.3 million people, are being restored on a massive scale, said the World Future Council, a foundation which organised the award together with the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD).
The Tigray government has mobilised villagers to volunteer 20 days a year to build terraces, irrigation projects, build stone walls on mountains and hillsides, and other projects. As a result, groundwater levels have risen, soil erosion has reduced, and people's ability to grow food and gain an income has improved, the council said. "Ethiopia's Tigray region shows that restoration of degraded land can be a reality ... The model provides hope for other African countries to follow suit," Alexandra Wandel, director of the World Future Council, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Drylands, which cover nearly 40 percent of the Earth's land, are particularly vulnerable to losing fertility through changes in climate and poor land use such as deforestation or overgrazing, the UNCCD said. "Hundreds of millions of people are directly threatened by land degradation, and climate change is only going to intensify the problem," Monique Barbut, under-secretary-general of the United Nations and UNCCD executive secretary said in a statement. "So far, this underestimated environmental disaster has received far too little attention."
Ethiopia's Tigray region has, however, since 1991 managed to improve soil and water conservation, and closed off 1.2 million hectares of land to allow plants to regrow. "The Tigray region of Ethiopia is now greener than it has ever been during the last 145 years," said Chris Reij, desertification expert at the World Resources Institute. "This is not due to an increase in rainfall, but due to human investment in restoring degraded land to productivity." Over about 15 years, men, women and children moved at least 90 million tonnes of soil and rock by hand to restore their landscapes on about 1 million hectares, Reij said. "In the process many communities have overcome the impacts of climate change," he said.
Each year the Future Policy Award focuses on one world threat that will impact future generations. Past awards have been for policies covering children's rights, ending violence against women and girls, disarmament, and protecting oceans. This year's silver award went to Brazil's programme to build 1.2 million cisterns, helping millions of the country's poorest people get water for drinking and for crops and livestock. China's 2002 law to prevent and control desertification - the world's first such law - also won silver.
Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation
Former Leaders blame endless conflicts in Africa on egotism
Selfishness is an outdated attitude that all African leaders should get rid of and respect their countries' constitutions on term limits, former President Benjamin Mkapa has said. Addressing reporters ahead of the official opening of the African Leadership Forum 2017 here on August 24, Mr Mkapa said regional bodies -- the African Union (AU) and Southern African Development Community (SADC) have a role to play in seeking amicable solutions in areas of conflicts. "We need readiness to take measures. We also need brave African leaders to address issues of marginalised democracies that subject Africans to deaths and turmoil. Leaders should consult different cadres before coming to a certain decision," he said.
Mr Mkapa warned that unless African leaders speak with one voice and take bold decisions to solve conflicts in countries like South Sudan and Libya, instability would continue affecting the continent, sometimes creating rooms to loot resources from the affected countries. The former president said some conflicts have remained unsolved for years due to African leaders being disorganised and lacking coordination among themselves. Former President Jakaya Kikwete urged the AU to boldly continue addressing the Libyan conflicts, which have so far claimed many lives.
Nigerian former leader Olusegun Obasanjo said that unless African leaders took the bull by its horns, more conflicts might continue emerging in the continent, citing efforts by African leaders to contain Charles Taylor in Liberia for reference. His argument was supported by former President of Tunisia Mohamed Marzouki who insisted that countries facing conflict in Africa should always resolve to hold national dialogue meetings, which bring together all cadres, including the opposition and other parties to the conflicts. "If convened before eruption of catastrophes, national dialogues put conflicting parties at mutual understanding. The meetings should not wait for issues to get out of control," he warned.
Namibia's Deputy Prime Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah remained optimistic that Africa was leading towards the direct direction, when former leaders meet and commend ways of creating peace and stability in Africa. She insisted on the AU to work on the sources of conflicts in search of permanent solutions to problems facing Africa, the view that was supported by Professor Funmi Olonisakin, the Director of the African Leadership Centre, King's College London, saying that regional cooperation was vital in bringing about implementable democratic process.
The African Leadership Forum has brought together former Heads of State as well as leaders from all sectors across Africa to discuss pressing issues affecting Africa's sustainable development. The African Leadership Forum 2017 aims at building on three previously successful dialogues convened by President Mkapa. The meetings focused on Africa's transformation, integration in Africa and African business. Mr Mkapa and his South African counterpart Thabo Mbeki co-chair this year's forum. The dialogue focuses on the complex dynamics that have caused continuous conflicts and deliberate on how to practically and realistically navigate through them for lasting peace.
According to the Uongozi Institute, Peace and security in Africa is of great concern not only because of the fatal consequences that result from its absence but because much of Africa shall continue to be very poor without sustained peace and security. Further, to achieve the goals of effective integration, unity and sustainable development within and amongst African nations, it is fundamental that there is peace and security.
U.S. to stop issuing visas to citizens from 3 African countries
The United States plans to stop issuing visas to citizens from four countries that it says aren’t accepting deported citizens. The list includes three African countries — Eritrea, Guinea and Sierra Leone — as well as Cambodia. The U.S. has suspended visas twice before under previous administrations in efforts to push deportations forward. Last week, the Department of Homeland Security notified the Department of State that the four countries are refusing to accept or are unreasonably delaying the acceptance of nationals deemed to be in the United States illegally, a violation of section 243(d) of the Immigration and Nationality Act. Now, the State Department is evaluating how to implement the order.
In the past, visa suspensions have targeted diplomats and government officials. How many people this suspension will affect has not yet been determined. “We follow a standard process to implement a visa suspension as expeditiously as possible in the manner the secretary determines most appropriate under the circumstances to achieve the desired goal. That process includes internal discussions with, and official notification to, affected countries,” a State Department official said in an email to VOA.
Targeted countries react
Mamady Condé, Guinea’s ambassador to the United States, told VOA’s French to Africa service by phone that his office has not yet received an official notification, and he learned of the news through the media. He said 75 Guineans have been deported, but he did not specify in what time period. He added that about 2,000 Guineans live in the United States illegally. Bockarie Kortu Stevens, Sierra Leone’s ambassador to the U.S., said his country has cooperated with all deportation orders. Since January, he said, two charter flights operated by the United States have returned 30 to 40 Sierra Leonean nationals. “They put them together with [deportees from] other countries, and then they take them to Sierra Leone, and we have been cooperating with them,” Stevens told VOA.
Sierra Leonean embassy officials said they go to holding cells to interview people slated for deportation to confirm their nationalities. “Once they've been identified as bona fide Sierra Leoneans, we issue the relevant travel documents, and it’s up to the United States authorities to affect the deportations,” Stevens said. He rejected the notion that many or most Sierra Leoneans are in the United States illegally. According to the State Department, 46 Sierra Leoneans have received deportation orders this year, including 22 criminal deportations. Most deportees have committed drug crimes, Stevens said.
“Of course, like with any society, you have people who want to bend the rules. So, those who bend the rules, they face the consequences," he said. "But the majority of Sierra Leoneans are law abiding, and many of them who came here as a result of the war are fully integrated into an American society." According to Census data, about 49,000 Sierra Leoneans live in the United States. Eritrean officials in Washington, D.C., and Asmara did not respond to interview requests from VOA’s Tigrigna service.
Cracking down on violent crime
So far this year, the U.S. has ordered the deportations of 117 Eritreans, 88 Guineans and 27 Cambodians, according to State Department figures. But that’s just a fraction of the total deportation orders issued, including more than 28,000 Mexicans who have received deportation orders. Cracking down on illegal immigration was a signature issue of Donald Trump’s campaign and is now of his administration. By instituting visa suspensions, the United States hopes to deport individuals convicted of violent crimes.
Most foreign nationals designated for deportation or issued a removal order, however, were not convicted of criminal offenses, and most criminal deportees are nonviolent. In 2015, more than 60 percent of foreign nationals removed for criminal offenses committed immigration, dangerous drug or traffic offense crimes, according to Homeland Security figures.
Source: Voice of America
African, EU Leaders meet in Paris for migration summit
Leaders from seven African and European countries meet in Paris on August 28 for a mini-summit to discuss how to ease the EU's migrant crisis. French President Emmanuel Macron has invited his counterparts from Niger and Chad as well as the head of the Libyan unity government Fayez al-Sarraj, whose countries lie on the main transit route for migrants heading to Europe. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Spanish and Italian prime ministers Mariano Rajoy and Paulo Gentiloni, and Europe's top diplomat, Federica Mogherini, will join the talks.
European nations are keen to offer development aid and funding to their African partners in return for help in stemming the flow of economic migrants and asylum seekers. A total of 125,000 migrants have crossed the Mediterranean by boat this year, according to UN figures, with the vast majority arriving in Italy before travelling on to other EU members. An estimated 2,400 have died en route. France is seeking improved border controls and patrolling of the waters around Libya -- complicated by the country's competing governments and state of lawlessness -- as well as development aid to create jobs in Africa. "The fight against illegal migration is being led on two fronts: development and security," said a source in the French presidency, asking not to be named.
In July, Macron also proposed -- without consulting his allies -- the creation of so-called "hotspots" in Africa where asylum seekers fleeing persecution or war could lodge a request to travel to the EU. This would mean they would not need to make the perilous trip across the Mediterranean with the help of people traffickers, who frequently pack too many people onto flimsy boats and often mistreat the migrants. The meeting might also provide information on why arrivals have plummeted in recent weeks from Libya, the main route into Europe since a separate pathway from Turkey into Greece was shut down in 2016.
The numbers arriving in Italy have fallen by around 50 percent in July and August compared with last year, leaving experts scrambling for an answer. Improved action by the Libyan coastguard, tougher border controls in transit countries inland, as well as Libyan militias joining efforts to stop boats leaving have all been touted as possible reasons. The president of Niger, Mahamadou Issoufou, will tell his European counterparts that the number of migrants passing through the transit town of Agadez in his country has fallen by 80 percent thanks to government efforts, a source in his team told AFP.
Libya has also sought to restrict the work of NGOs operating rescue boats in the Mediterranean which pick up migrants stranded on inflatable dinghies or other unseaworthy crafts. Italy has also sought to impose a code of conduct on the NGOs, which face accusations from some critics that their operations have encouraged migrants to attempt the crossing, knowing that they will be picked up in an emergency.
The code has been signed by five out of seven NGOs with rescue ships -- only the French organisation Doctors Without Borders and Germany's Sea-Watch have refused out of principle. The code is set to be approved by all the countries present on August 28, according to the Italian news agency ANSA. After the talks about immigration during the day, the European leaders are set to meet together in the evening to discuss reforming the EU and joint efforts to prevent terror attacks.
U.S. State Department to get experienced diplomat in key Africa post
Donald Yamamoto, who has extensive diplomatic experience in Africa including two tours as a U.S. ambassador, will take office as Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Africa on 5 September. He is the second career official tapped for a senior policy position on Africa in the Trump administration. News of Yamamoto's appointment – first reported by @allAfrica on Twitter – was welcomed by Africa policy watchers. "Having someone with Don Yamamoto's experience in that post is very important," Mel Foote, Constituency for Africa president, told AllAfrica. "As Africa confronts many challenges, we want to see responsible U.S. engagement in partnership with African governments and civil society organizations."
Earlier this month, senior CIA analyst Cyril Sartor was named senior director for Africa at the National Security Council – after two previous attempts to fill the post failed. "With no dyed-in-the-wool Trumpian Africa hands available, the administration appears ready to cede Africa policy making to career civil servants and a few mainstream Republican appointees," Matthew Page wrote earlier this month. "U.S.-Africa policy has been adrift," said Page, formerly the State Department's top Nigeria analyst and author of a forthcoming explanatory book on Nigeria by Oxford University Press.
Yamamoto has a one-year assignment. Naming him as acting Assistant Secretary gives the administration more time to decide who to formally nominate for the position – which requires Senate confirmation – while putting the Africa bureau in knowledgeable hands. He holds the rank of Career Minister. Among his honors is the Presidential Distinguished Service Award. "Don Yamamoto has broad knowledge and experience, both in the field and in Washington," says Ambassador Johnnie Carson, who served as assistant secretary for Africa during President Obama's first term. "He will be able to provide the leadership needed to address the range of issues that the Bureau has to address."
Sparse staffing for Africa decisions
Key Africa jobs at the Defense Department (DOD) and the U.S. Agency for International Development remain vacant. Page cites the recent "unexpected departure" from the Defense Department's top Africa policy post of "seasoned civil servant Amanda Dory." Serving in an acting capacity as principal director for African affairs, is Michelle Lenihan, who joined DOD in 2012. Air Force Major General Curtis L. Williams recently became politico-military advisor on Africa for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the President's senior uniformed advisors, Page says.
Since the departure of Linda Thomas-Greenfield in January, the Africa Bureau has been managed by another career foreign service officer, Peter H. Barlerin, who was nominated last month to be ambassador to Cameroon. The Bureau has five deputy assistant positions. Three are currently filled by 'acting' officers. A former ambassador to the Congo (Brazzaville), Stephanie S. Sullivan, took office in January. A political appointee, Carol Thompson O'Connell, has responsibility for southern Africa and public diplomacy since March. O'Connell, who held a similar position in the Bureau during George Bush's second term, has been slotted into the number two position in the Bureau – principal deputy assistant secretary – known internally as the 'P-Das', in a bureau that has five deputies.
Thin ranks at State extend beyond the Africa bureau. The White House has announced nominations for only four of the 22 assistant secretary positions in the Department – one has been confirmed – and for one of the six undersecretary slots, a position one level higher than assistant secretary.
The slow pace of appointments has been exacerbated by large-scale departures. One of the latest to leave, according to Foreign Policy's Colin Lynch, is the acting director of the Bureau for International Organization Affairs, Tracey Ann Jacobson. She leaves three weeks before Trump is scheduled to address the annual opening of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA). (Foreign Policy and Politico report a down-sizing of the U.S. delegation to UNGA this year.) Yamamoto will inherit an "extremely young" staff, said one official familiar with the Bureau he will lead. "Africa experience will need to be developed."
Yamamoto is currently senior vice president of the National Defense University. He was U.S. ambassador to Djibouti from 2000 to 2003 and to Ethiopia from 2006 to 2009. He served as Acting Assistant Secretary previously, after Carson's 2013 departure, and was Charge d'Affaires in Somalia in 2016. He held senior posts in Afghanistan in 2014 and 2015.
Little-noticed African conflict blocks nomination
The leading candidate for the Assistant Secretary post has been J. Peter Pham, an expert on African security and politics who is currently vice president and director of the Africa Center at the Atlantic Council, a leading Washington, DC think-tank. But he ran into Congressional opposition. According to several knowledgeable sources, Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) put a hold on Pham's nomination, citing lack of government experience and a favorable stance towards Morocco. Inhofe, who has criticized Morocco's human rights record, supports self-determination for the SADR, also known as Western Sahara.
Morocco has occupied the territory since seizing the former Spanish colony in 1975, after Spain withdrew in the face of a Saharan independence campaign, led by the Polisario movement. Morocco continues to claim sovereignty over the phosphate-rich SADR and occupies large portions of it, while stalling a self-determination referendum mandated by the United Nations and backed by most African countries. Morocco quit the Organization of African Unity (OAU) in 1984, when that pan-African body accepted Western Sahara as a member.
This year, in a move welcomed by SADR leaders as a potential path to a peaceful agreement, Morocco joined the OAU's successor, the African Union. In February, Senator Inhofe led a delegation to the Shaheed El-Hafed refugee camps, administered by Polisario, and met with SADR President Brahim Ghali. Inhofe "wants to see the administration take a tougher stance on the status of the disputed territory…", Foreign Policy reported last week.
Next in line for top Africa post?
Pham remains at Atlantic Council, but acquaintances say he been providing policy advice to the administration and could end up with a State Department position that does not require Senate confirmation. Inhofe is said by sources to have suggested Jack Kingston for the Assistant Secretary job. Kingston, a former Republican member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Georgia, makes regular appearances on CNN and frequently posts on Twitter defending President Trump.
Although he has no public record of engagement with Africa issues, Kingston lived in Ethiopia as a child, while his father served as an advisor to the Ministry of Education in Addis Ababa. After an unsuccessful campaign for Senate, Kingston joined the DC law firm Squire Patton Boggs and registered as a lobbyist, which could make confirmation for an administration job more difficult. "Analysts are left to speculate about how much personnel appointments might actually shape Africa decisions on the ground," William Minter wrote in the introduction to his Africa Focus feature on No Policy? Bad Policy? or Both?
The Trump administration's Africa actions so far have focused mostly on security and military matters. Kenya won approval to purchase weaponized helicopters. A $600 million sale of high-technology attack planes and equipment to Nigeria has moved ahead, after a delay during the Obama administration based on human right concerns. In March, the President approved revised combat rules for U.S. forces fighting in Somalia against Al Shabaab, the Al Queada-affiliated militant group. These included reduced protections for civilians and greater control over military operations by U.S. military personnel. In April, several dozen U.S. troops were deployed to train and equip Somali soldiers and those from the African Union Mission in Somalia (Amison).
A few African officials have had high-level contacts with the administration. In May, Trump had a brief encounter with African leaders participating in the G20 summit in Italy, including Ethiopia's Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, Nigeria's then-acting President Yemi Osinbajo, Presidents Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya and Mahamadou Issoufou of Niger, and African Development Bank President Akinwomi Adesina.
Also in May, Angola's Defense Minister João Lourenço paid an official visit to Defense Secretary James Mattis at the Pentagon, where the two signed a Memorandum of Understanding, which Matthis termed "the first steps toward a strategic partnership". In a Council on Foreign Relations blog, Rachel Sullivan wrote that with Lourenço's election as president this month, "it will be interesting to see just how the Trump administration plans to develop this strategic partnership."
Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi was received by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in June.
One significant pending policy decision is whether to maintain sanctions against the government of Sudan. Mark Green, who was sworn in earlier this month to head USAID, visited Sudan this week. visited Sudan this week.
In remarks after meeting government officials, Green expressed the hope that "the extended sanctions review period will provide an opportunity for further progress" and urged "positive actions by Sudanese authorities. These include, he said, "maintaining a cessation of hostilities in the conflict areas, continuing improvement of humanitarian access throughout Sudan, and maintaining cooperation with the United States on both regional conflicts and regional counter-terrorism threats."
The administration set October 12 as the revised deadline for deciding "whether to end sanctions against Sudan put in place initially over its support for international terrorism and then for the violence it used suppressing rebel groups in the five states that make up the Darfur region," Carol Morello reported this week in the Washington Post.
At the same time, however, the State Department post established to provide coordination on the issue, the Special Envoy for Sudan and South Sudan, is one of some 70 similar positions listed for elimination by Tillerson is a letter to Congress this week.
As important as decisions about Africa are, Minter argues that "fallout effects" from global policy choices may have even more far-reaching consequences for Africa. Among these, he says, are climate change, counter-terrorism, health, corruption, illicit financial flows, human rights and economic and social development goals.
Angolan ruling MPLA party in landslide poll win
Angolan ruling party MPLA has won the August 23 General Election with 64.57 per cent vote, according to the provisional results. The results released by the National Electoral Commission (CNE), also indicated that the main opposition Unita, was a distant second with 24.4 per cent of the votes cast. The the Board of Convergence for Angolan Salvation- Electoral Coalition (Casa-Ce) came in third with 8.56, with the rest of the contending parties garnering less than 1 per cent each.
The provisional results indicated a 63.73 per cent voter turnout, with 95.1 per cent valid votes. Some 9,317,294 voters had been registered to cast their ballots at 12,152 polling stations in a contest that was widely expected to be won by the ruling party. Incumbent President Jose Eduardo dos Santos did not contest the poll and is expected to be succeeded by the MPLA flagbearer, Mr João Lourenço. Angola's new president is expected to be sworn-in on September 21, marking the end of President Dos Santos's 38-year reign.
CNE has up to September 6, to announce the final tally. MPLA has dominated the Angolan politics since independence from the Portuguese in 1975. It won the elections in 1992, 2008 and 2012, with a parliamentary majority. In 2012, MPLA secured 74 per cent of the vote against Unita's 18 per cent.
Source: The East African
In Morocco, sexual assault video of woman on Casablanca bus sparks outrage, arrests
A video of a young woman being sexually assaulted by a gang of teenage boys on a bus in Casablanca has sparked outrage in Morocco, reigniting a bitter debate about violence against women in the Muslim country. The video, which was posted on social media on August 20, shows four boys sexually molesting a woman while laughing, tearing her clothes off and insulting her in Arabic.
The woman - who the authorities said had learning difficulties - is seen in tears, crying for help, while neither the bus driver nor any of the passengers intervene. Sexual harassment and abuse of women is rife in Morocco where a national survey found that nearly two-thirds of women had experienced physical, psychological, sexual or economic abuse. Earlier in August a video showing a mob of men hounding a young woman on a street in Tangier caused uproar in the media.
On August 21 the Moroccan authorities said they had arrested six boys aged 15 to 17 for their "presumed implication in the woman's aggression" and put them under investigation. While the video sparked widespread condemnation on social and local media, some users accused the woman of having "provoked the men with indecent clothing". One man wrote on Facebook that "I condemn the act but cover yourselves up, this one was easy to undress."
Moroccan charity Don't Touch My Child called for any witnesses to come forward "to bring to justice this barbaric horde who shamefully attacked a young women". Public transport company M'Dina Bus condemned the incident and said it was collaborating with authorities in the north African kingdom, which is trying to attract investors and tourists by presenting itself as a safe haven.
Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation
Sudanese Libyan official talks kick off in Khartoum
The official talks between the Sudan and Libya kicked off in Khartoum on August 27, with president of the Republic Omar Bashir heading the Sudanese side and the Libyan head of the presidency council, Fayez Al Sirajj heading the Libyan side. The talks are due to focus on means to boost bilateral relations between the two countries and means of boosting them further in a number of areas, and to discuss questions related to development in the region. The Libya leader arrived to Khartoum on August 27.
Source: Sudan News Agency (Khartoum)
Mozambique condemns Moroccan attack on SADR delegation
The Mozambican government has strongly condemned the attempt by Morocco to prevent a delegation from the Saharan Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) from participating in last week's ministerial meeting in Maputo of TICAD (Tokyo International Conference on African Development). On August 24, the first day of the meeting, the Moroccan delegation, in full sight of journalists, attempted physically to stop the SADR delegation from entering the conference hall. An angry exchange between the two delegations degenerated into shoving and pushing, which was eventually broken up by security guards.
A statement issued on August 28 by the Mozambican Foreign Ministry put the blame for the incident on the shoulders of Morocco. It pointed out that the meeting had been jointly organized by the Japanese and Mozambican authorities who had reached a consensus that all members of the African Union would be invited to take part. That included both Morocco and the SADR.
When the Moroccan delegation tried to control access to the conference centre, “it usurped the powers of the co-organisers and the host country”, said the Ministry statement. Faced with acts of violence by the Moroccans, the Mozambican government “was obliged to maintain order to guarantee the security of the other participants and ensure that the event would be held”. “Since Morocco is a member of the African Union, Mozambique expresses is revulsion at this behavior towards another member of the organization, which is an unacceptable violation of the principles which govern healthy relations between states”, the Ministry added.
The government valued its bilateral relations with Morocco, said the statement, “but condemns this deplorable action of the Moroccan delegation, which reveals a shocking lack of composure and of respect for the President of the Republic (Filipe Nyusi, who opened the meeting), for the nature of TICAD, and for the participants”.
Much of the territory of the SADR is still under illegal Moroccan occupation. The territory was once a Spanish colony, and its liberation movement, the Polisario Front, was founded to fight against Spanish colonial rule. But when the Spaniards pulled out, in 1975, Morocco and Mauretania invaded, dividing the country between them. Mauretania had second thoughts and withdrew in 1976 - Morocco then grabbed those parts of the territory which Mauretania had occupied.
Strongly supported by many African countries, particularly Mozambique, the SADR was admitted to membership of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), the precursor to the AU. Morocco then abandoned the OAU, and for decades has been frustrating United Nations efforts to hold a referendum on the future of the Western Sahara. Morocco rejoined the AU in January this year, and did not make its membership conditional on expelling the SADR. Both countries are now full members of the AU, leading to hopes that there might finally be a negotiated solution that would end the Moroccan occupation.
In Malawi, Mzuzu residents refuse to relocate from disaster areas
Residents in areas that were declared disaster prone last year are refusing to relocate to where Mzuzu City Council (MCC) has offered them plots for free, it has been established. In April 2016, most parts of Malawi's Northern Region especially Mzuzu City and Karonga District experienced persistent heavy rainfall which resulted in floods and landslides that damaged property and killed seven people after walls of their houses fell on them.
The situation prompted the country's President Arthur Peter Mutharika to declare the affected places as disaster areas effective April 12 and asked for humanitarian relief assistance from well-wishers, both local and international. Affected locations in Mzuzu City included parts of Ching'ambo, Masasa, Chibanja and Chiputula. After touring affected households last year, Vice-President Saulos Chilima ordered the city council to find a location where residents from disaster prone areas could be resettled.
MCC's spokesperson, Karen Msiska said in an interview on August 25 that the council identified a location and allocated the affected residents free plots but the people have turned down the offer. "The council identified 180 plots at Area 6 for the people who were affected by the disaster and all who live in the disaster prone areas but they have all decided not to relocate because of various reasons. "For example, some of them are failing to relocate because they have perhaps more than two houses where they are renting out some, and fear to lose out from rentals they get once relocated," Msiska said.
Msiska added that some affected residents are demanding compensation from the city which, he said, is unrealistic. "We have a challenge in that many of these residents demanding compensations are settled in areas where they encroached our plots and built their structures. "So it's unfair for them to start demanding compensations on plots that they for sure know that do not belong to them.
Alick Nyamwera from Masasa location said they are finding it difficult to relocate because they feel the whole relocation process is corrupt.
"Imagine there are some cases where one has a big plot here, but the council is giving him or her very tiny plot while some who have connections at the council but have small plots are given very big plots at the new site. "This is why people are reluctant to move as they fear they might just lose out their otherwise bigger plots in preference to the new site," Nyamwera said.
Another concerned Masasa resident Masida Mkandawire said they cannot relocate to the new plots because of the absence of some amenities like electricity and others. "Imagine I have been staying in my house which is well electrified here in Masasa and to be resettled to another place where I know for sure there are no such necessities. "The council should have provided such facilities so that people do not feel losing out from the whole relocation process," Mkandawire said. However, Msiska pleaded with the residents to reconsider their decision saying the council and Mzuzu University already conducted an assessment which concluded that locations like Masasa are high disaster prone hence the need for people to relocate.
Msiska then said the council has developed a Disaster Strategic Framework which will guide various measures that stakeholders will take in case such tragedies strike again. "Apart from this, we will continue to sensitize people to avoid living in places that we have marked as disaster prone. Despite the slow response from the residents, we will continue to inform them to move to better sites which we have already identified and is free," Msiska said.
Source: Nyasa Times
Mugabe bashes SA, Nigeria over slain Gaddafi
President Mugabe has expressed bitterness over African countries that voted in favour of a decision by western countries to invade Libya resulting in the killing of President Muammar Gaddafi. Officially opening the 67th World Health Organisation (WHO) Regional Committee for Africa Summit in Victoria Falls on August 28, President Mugabe who was the guest of honour, castigated the killing of "innocent" people by "greedy and envious" world leaders.
Mugabe also spoke at length about the killing of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein adding that he (Mugabe) had no respect for former Britain and America leaders Tony Blair and George Bush after they connived to kill him (Hussein) on unfounded claims of Iraq having weapons of mass destruction. "Because of envy that Iraq has huge deposits of oil underground with one man Saddam Hussein sitting on the massive wealth, they decided to attack him. "But they said if we just go and attack him like that the world will be on us. Let's contrive something to attack him with, then they thought of saying we are destroying weapons of mass destruction, Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction," said President Mugabe speaking off the cuff.
Mugabe said it was known that Hussein had no weapons of mass destruction, adding that Zimbabwe also had similar problems with the Blair government. Mugabe said Hussein had managed to usher peace in his country after managing to unite the Suni and Shia muslim groups. "The weakness of our world system is that when innocent countries are attacked, we fold our arms," he said. "The man had managed to unite his country but he is killed. When they discovered that there were no weapons of mass destruction, tonnes of oil had been sucked.
"As if that lesson was not headed in Iraq, they came to Libya, to Gaddafi. Yes he may have been a dictator but he was a friend of his people, a lover of his people, one who desired that his people should develop and not live in poverty and had managed to draw water from underneath our world to create a huge massive dam for the benefit of his country which is semi desert. "He became friends with us, he wanted to democratise the African Union to be better politically and economically united," lamented President Mugabe. He was referring to the 2011 United Nations Security Council Resolution, which authorised the imposition of a no-fly zone on Libya in response to that country's civil war.
The UNSC had initially failed to garner the necessary two-thirds majority, but African countries were later persuaded to vote in favour of the resolution. South Africa, Nigeria and Gabon were among the non-permanent members who voted in support of the resolution. President Mugabe said Africa sought the support of Russia and China. "Yes, the matter came to the UNSC. The whites said he must be attacked and China and Russia said no. The matter could not have proceeded any further because of the necessary two-thirds majority, with Russia and China abstaining.
"Then it came to us the poor Africans. The poor Africans, sometimes not thinking well about the consequences of those attacks. So, what did we have? Quite disgraceful and shameful thing," added the Africa's longest serving President. He said African countries, including Zimbabwe, pleaded with China and Russia to exercise their veto, but the two said the best they could do was to abstain in light of the three African members and the Arab contingent's support of NATO.
President Mugabe, who is a former African Union chair, lamented lack of humanitarianism among some leaders who he said kill their own people for having different religious and political views. He appealed to WHO's new director-general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who is Ethiopian, to represent Africa with African values. "It's the pride that Africa has and we know he will not let us down but will try to make Africa meet giant steps in health because we are dying possibly the most.
"Mothers and children are dying because of us leaders sometimes, because of our ambition, because of certain concepts we have, maybe religious and because of selfishness, we have the drive to kill. "I am a Catholic and Catholicism is not different form the other religions Methodist, Anglican, the beliefs are the same, commandments are the same. Where is that humanitarianism that we were taught in our religion to love one another?"
Mugabe said Africans should live in harmony and show love to each other. He said he was worried that Nigeria, a great nation with grand status, failed to trace the 200 school children abducted by Boko Haram insurgents.
Judicial strike - Judges abandon Magistrates in Uganda
An ongoing judicial officers' strike over poor pay announced on the evening of August 24 by the Uganda Judicial Officers Association (UJOA) has so far been shunned by High court judges, especially those based in Kampala. Some judges interviewed at the weekend said they are heeding Chief Justice Bart Katureebe's call to ignore the industrial action. The strike is largely supported by magistrates who are among the lowest-paid judicial officers.
When the strike was announced by the president of Uganda Judicial Officers Association (UJOA), Godfrey Kaweesa, on August 24 evening, magisterial courts remained closed on August 25, leaving many litigants stranded. However, judges at different High court divisions in Kampala and the Court of Appeal, which doubles as the Constitutional court, turned up for work. Magistrates at the busy Buganda Road court stayed away but the nearby Commercial court heard cases and some rulings were delivered.
At the Lands division of the High court, Justice Andrew Bashaija, who heads the court, heard cases on August 25. At the adjacent Civil division of the High court, which is in vacation, some of its judges such as Margret Oumo-Oguli and Lydia Mugambe reported for work. Asked if at all he would comply with the UJOA call for strike action, Justice David Wangutusi, the head of the Commercial court, said he knows nothing about the strike.
"I heard that there were messages on WhatsApp calling for industrial action and I don't take such seriously," Justice Wangutusi said, adding, "So, today [Friday], I worked and I will continue working. Even other judges here at the Commercial court have worked." Though he worked on August 25, Justice Wilson Kwesiga, who heads the Criminal division of the High court, declined to discuss the strike in an interview. "I'm not going to talk about that stuff," he said and referred this writer to the judiciary's public relations officer.
UJOA's call for industrial action seemed to defy Chief Justice Bart Katureebe's plea for more time. Katureebe had earlier pleaded with all judicial officers not to lay down their tools. He said he is still engaging government to address their issues. In his three-page letter dated August 22, 2017, Justice Katureebe told UJOA that during several meetings with the association's leadership, he warned them against striking.
"Top management of the judiciary met on Tuesday, August 22, 2017, and considered the matter," Katureebe wrote. "Our advice to you and all judges and judicial officers is that it would be ill-advised at this time to proceed with industrial action." Katureebe further assured UJOA that he was scheduled to meet President Museveni in two weeks. The chief justice said the president is also concerned that judicial officials are paid so little. He said the president plans to meet with judicial officers.
In an interview on August 25, Justice Lawrence Gidudu, the head of the Anti-Corruption court, said he heeded Katureebe's advice to continue working. "The chief justice is the chief justice. He is not like anybody else," said Gidudu, who is currently on his annual leave. "If he says he is working on this issue, you have to give him a benefit of the doubt." "So, I think the Anti-Corruption court will continue working. Even me, if I wasn't on leave, I would be working," he added. Justice Katureebe, in his letter, implored UJOA not to strike, citing a constitutional petition recently filed at the Constitutional court challenging the low pay of judicial officers.
COURT CASE OVER PAY
Indeed, The Observer has seen the petition filed by former Oyam North MP Krispus Ayena Odongo. In the petition, Odongo, a lawyer, says the rights of judicial officers enshrined in the Constitution are being violated by them being paid poorly compared to other government employees. "That whereas the heads of other government organs and agencies for example, the inspector general of government, who was appointed by virtue of being a High court judge, earns Shs 17,875,000; the Principal judge, who heads the High court, justices of the Supreme court, justices of the Court of Appeal, judges of the High court earn Shs 10,532,581, Shs 9,688,506 and Shs 9,358,216, respectively," Odongo says in his petition, in which he has listed the attorney general, who is government's chief legal adviser, and the Parliamentary Commission, as respondents.
In the petition, Odongo accuses the Parliamentary Commission in particular of failing to enact a law for the administration of the judiciary which, according to him, would have gone a long way in enabling the judiciary to be an independent organ of the state, equal in stature to the legislature and the executive. Accordingly, he says leaving the judiciary to fall under the public service as the case is currently, is inconsistent with the Constitution.
To demonstrate the judiciary's marginalization in terms of remuneration, Odongo lists salaries of different public officials. He lists Bank of Uganda governor (Shs 53m), KCCA Executive Director (Shs 43.7), Commissioner General, URA (Shs 40m), managing director, NSSF (Shs 39.7) and executive director, Uganda Communications Commission (36.9m). That, he says, is in sharp contrast to the salary of the chief justice, who is the head of the third arm of the state who earns (Shs 20m), the deputy chief justice (Shs 18m), the principal judge who earns (Shs 10m).
The disparity in the salary scales and other emoluments vis-à-vis the above protocol list, Odongo says, is simply a mockery of judicial officers in the country. On August 25, all suspects that were due for trial or bail applications at all magistrates' courts countrywide were taken back to prison without hearing of their cases. Meanwhile, suspects still in police custody will also remain detained unless police offers them a bond. This is likely to continue until UJOA calls off the strike.
Source: The Observer (Kampala)
Starvation looms large as WFP runs out of stock in Tanzania
UNITED Nations' World Food Programme (WFP) has raised an alarm over funding deficit to feed 320,000 refugees in Kigoma, saying it needs 23.6 million US dollars (about 52bn/-) between now and December to supply food to the immigrants. WFP Tanzania Country Representative Michael Dunford said in a statement in Dar es Salaam on August 27 that the UN agency has reduced food rations for the refugees in Mtendeli, Nduta and Nyarugusu camps in northwest Tanzania due to funding constraints.
"WFP urgently requires 23.6 million dollars between now and December to continue meeting the food and nutritional needs of the refugees," reads the statement. Home Affairs Minister Mwigulu Nchemba, addressing refugees over the weekend, warned against the reduced food rations, which he related to increased conflicts pitting the immigrants against residents around the refugees' camps.
"International laws require provision of food to all refugees in camps by 100 per cent of their needs... failure to provide refugees with adequate food is fuelling insecurity since they look for alternative means to fend for themselves," the minister warned. During his visit to the camps, Mr Mwigulu was informed by Muhambwe Member of Parliament, Mr Atashata Nditiye, of increased conflicts in the area, accusing refugees of stealing food from the villagers' farms.
The officer in charge of Mtendeli refugees' camp, Mr Optatus Kazonde, told the minister that the rations for refugees had been reduced to 60 per cent, noting that the reduction was one of the measures to compel immigrants to return to their home countries. The UN agency provides refugees, primarily from Burundi and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), with five food commodities -- maize meal, pulses, super cereal, vegetable oil and salt. Due to funding shortages, all five commodities were reduced for August distribution, reaching only 62 per cent of the 2,100 required kilocalories, the recommended daily calorie intake, the statement said.
"Without an immediate response from donors, further ration cuts will be necessary as food stocks are simply running out. While WFP appreciates the support received so far, we urgently appeal to donors to quickly come to the aid of the refugees and provide additional funding so that we can return to full rations and avoid any prolonged negative impacts," the WFP boss stressed.
Reducing rations result in far-reaching and potentially life-altering consequences for refugees as cutting the intake of kilocalories and nutritional support can lead to acute malnutrition and increased vulnerability to disease. In addition to the five food items, WFP also provides hot meals for refugees upon arrival, supplemental rations for pregnant and nursing women and food assistance to hospital in-patients and people living with HIV/AIDS.
The agency noted however that hot meals for refugees entering the country and supplementary feeding programmes remain unaffected by the current ration reductions. WFP is the world's largest humanitarian agency fighting hunger worldwide, delivering food assistance in emergencies and working with communities to improve nutrition and build resilience. Each year, WFP assists some 80 million people in 80 countries.
Al-Shabaab defectors being rehabilitated to re-enter society
Last June, al-Shabab militants attacked an Ethiopian base in the Somali town of Halgan, one of several raids on African Union military camps. The Ethiopian troops repelled the attack, causing massive casualties. One of the al-Shabab fighters, Mohamed Daud Mohamed, known as Mohamed Dhere, said his unit lost 45 men.
"It was a difficult fight; we left behind the wounded as we didn't have a chance to evacuate them. ... Everyone ran for their lives," he told VOA's Somali service. For Dhere, 20, it was a lesson. He decided to desert al-Shabab, but said his commanders were suspicious. After eight months, he found his opportunity in February when his commander sent him to attend a seminar. Instead, he contacted relatives, who handed him over to the government. He is living at a rehabilitation center for militants in Mogadishu, one of 70 former al-Shabab members recently granted amnesty by the Somali government.
Abdirashid Ibrahim Mohamed directs the program to reintegrate former al-Shabab foot soldiers and low-risk individuals into society. He saod defectors receive food, exercise, health checkups, education and vocational training. They also get religious lessons, aimed at guiding them away from the al-Shabab's radical views of Islam. "There are clerics who give awareness lectures, hold debates about the position of Islam, about extremism," Mohamed said. "Normally when these youngsters defect from al-Shabab, they already know that what they were involved in is wrong, and they came to us to save themselves."
The amnesty and rehabilitation program was launched in 2009. The Somali government says thousands of militants have passed through, although Mohamed says only 800 have come through the Mogadishu center. There are also reintegration programs in Baidoa, Beledweyne, Huddur and Kismayo, each treating 30 to 70 men. Mohamed says those who completed the retraining in the past have moved on to run businesses, pursue education or just return to society. Security sources say others have joined the army or decided to work with the government.
Defector turns rogue
But not all graduates of the program undergo genuine change. Omar Mohamed Abu Ayan, a former al-Shabab member, said the rehabilitation program is not changing the ideology of hard-core militants who claim to have defected but actually have "other agendas" in mind. "For some they use it to continue their acts, such as suicide attacks, and for some others they just want to clean their names," he said. " … Even those with other agendas, if they could get a real doctor who could treat them ideologically from misinterpretation and deviation in their thinking, they would have changed." By "a real doctor" he meant someone who understands the extremism of the defectors and can lead them toward a more moderate position.
One who had another agenda was Abdirahman Mohamed Abdulle, who was welcomed by authorities in Kismayo in 2013. He earned their trust and was assigned to the security detail of Isse Kamboni, Jubbaland region's chief intelligence officer. Abdulle assassinated Kamboni and then escaped back to al-Shabab. He was in communication with the militants all along. Three years later, Abdulle became a suicide bomber in the January attack on Mogadishu's Dayah hotel that killed 28 people. It's not clear whether Abdulle went through a rehabilitation program or authorities simply trusted him too quickly.
Ayan said militants are not going to change their ideology by being in a center, learning vocational techniques, and talking to military or intelligence officials. He said the government needs people "who have direct knowledge of the environment these young men departed from, who discuss and debate them about ideology." "You need people like Robow," he said.
Mukhtar Robow is a founder of al-Shabab and the group's former deputy emir. He defected to the government last month, five years after he became inactive with al-Shabab, because of ideological differences with the group's then-supreme leader, Ahmed Abdi Godane. Robow is too prominent and powerful to go through the regular rehabilitation program, but Ayan said that if Robow is willing to cooperate, he could help change the minds of other hard-core militants. "I believe if Robow accepts to work with the government, they should use him on the ideological approach," he said.
Rashid Abdi, an International Crisis Group analyst, said Robow's defection could "incentivize" more defections, if the government publishes a clear policy on how it will treat defectors. "Many people will abandon al-Shabab if they know they are secure," he said. But Abdi said if the government is too kind to the militant leader, it will send the wrong signal. Critics say the government's stance toward defectors is inconsistent, because low-profile al-Shabab members are usually tried and sometimes executed when they turn themselves in.
Hussein Moallim Mohamud, a former counterterrorism officer and national security adviser, said the amnesty program has led to the defection of up to 30 high-profile al-Shabab members. "When a top official with information defects, that causes a big problem for al-Shabab," he said. "I believe the program is equally as important as military operations against al-Shabab."
Source: Voice of America
UK's National Crime Agency freezes Alison-Madueke's London properties
The UK's National Crime Agency (NCA) has frozen London properties valued at £10 million allegedly bought for the former Minister of Petroleum Resources Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, as investigations into the case against her unravel by the day. The two properties located at Regents Park in London, along with one in Buckinghamshire, have now been frozen based on the request of Nigerian authorities.
According to online news medium, Premium Times, a London court gave the freeze order in September 2016 but details of the rulings have only recently become public. But the agency was too late in preventing a further two properties worth £8 million from being sold. In July, the U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ) had revealed four properties it alleged were bought for the former petroleum minister by individuals and firms seeking her influence in obtaining lucrative oil assets and crude oil lifting contracts. Some of the oil assets were assigned to people believed to be her cronies through Strategic Alliance Agreements (SAAs).
The DoJ's affidavit stated that businessmen, Jide Omokore and Kola Aluko were involved in the purchase of two of the properties allegedly bought for Alison-Madueke. The UK order obtained by Africa Confidential, a newsletter specialising in politics and business in Africa, has revealed that three of the properties have been frozen under the Proceeds of Crime Act. Apart from Alison-Madueke, Omokore and Aluko, the order also named three other individuals as defendants in the case, all of whom were believed to have received contracts or oil assets from the NNPC during the embattled minister's tenure. The order forbids the defendants from disposing of or dealing in the properties.
Although the NCA has frozen three properties valued at £10 million, the agency was too late to prevent a further two properties worth £8 million from being sold. One of these, a massive nine-bedroom house in London's exclusive Hampstead Garden Suburb, bought by a British Virgin Islands-registered company in January 2011 for £5,850,000, was sold in May 2015. Similarly, the property at 39 Chester Close, one of the properties listed in the DoJ case, which was bought by Aluko's BVI-based Mortlake Investments for £1.73 million, was sold in July 2015, months before the NCA initially arrested the former minister.
UK estate agent, Daniel Ford & Co, assisted in the purchases of three of the properties, and UK solicitors firms, Addie & Co and Gordon's Partnership, were conveyancers of the deals. According to Corruption Watch, a UK NGO, investigators should look carefully at these organisations' due diligence practices. The order signals a step up in the UK's investigation of the former minister, who was first arrested by the NCA in October 2015 when the agency confiscated her passport and £27,000 in cash found in her apartment. However, the extent of the evidence against Alison-Madueke and the other defendants remains unclear.
The September 2016 forfeiture proceeding of the properties was held in private, meaning that the evidence that the NCA presented to support the seizure was not accessible. Although some of the businessmen all had lucrative contracts with the NNPC, and are all accused of lavish spending for Alison-Madueke, this alone might not be enough to secure criminal prosecutions against any of them, analysts have said. "In the U.S. and UK, simply buying luxury items for a government official like Ms. Alison-Madueke isn't against the law," said Aaron Sayne, a financial investigator and Senior Governance Officer at the National Resource Governance Institute.
"Investigators have to link the money involved to a crime that happened in Nigeria. And if the crime is bribery, they must also show that the items purchased rewarded her for helping someone win a government contract. That's not easy to prove, especially well enough to stand up in court," Aaron Sayne pointed out. The DoJ's case included transcripts of conversations in which the minister appeared to admit her role in awarding the SAA contracts to Atlantic Energy - but it is still unclear whether the UK has additional evidence relating to the contracts that others received during Alison-Madueke's tenure.
Source: This Day
Sierra Leone mudslide death toll reaches 1 000
The death toll following devastating mudslides and floods in Sierra Leone has doubled to over 1 000. The tragedy occurred slightly a fortnight ago, coming shortly after the Ebola virus hit the West African country alongside Guinea and Liberia. The disease claimed some 14 000 lives by January last year. Initially, Sierra Leone's government reported over 450 people had died from mudslides and floods, with victims largely those living in informal settlements.
Henry Neondo, spokesperson of the aid group, HelpAge International, said with hundreds of people still uncounted for, the death toll was expected to rise substantially. He said research indicated older persons and those with disabilities were at greater risk of injury and harm due to mobility challenges. "They are less likely to flee due to hardships associated with travel and a reluctance to leave home, land and possessions," Neondo said. The spread of diseases such as cholera, typhoid and diarrhoea following flooding is also a huge concern particularly in the capital Freetown.
"The city's drainage system got badly damaged by the torrential rains, leaving stagnant water in most areas," said Alex Carle, director of international programmes at the Red Cross. President Ernest Bai Koroma said the devastation was overwhelming. He appealed for urgent help to support the thousands of people affected by the mudslide. Humanitarian groups said as the country entered the recovery phase it would need assistance to help affected people back on their feet.
UK halves aid to Nigeria, wants more action against Boko Haram
The British government has halved the amount of humanitarian aid it gives to Nigeria, while calling on its leaders to do more to tackle extremist group Boko Haram. The UK will give the African country £200 million (US$257 million) of aid over four years from 2018 to 2022. That amounts to £50 million a year, half the amount given in 2017, and below the £70 million provided in 2016.
Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and International Development Secretary Priti Patel are in Nigeria to assess the UK's response to the country's humanitarian crisis caused by the Islamist terrorist group Boko Haram's insurgency. Johnson and Patel met on August 31 with Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, Minister of Foreign Affairs Geoffrey Onyeama and Minister of Budget and National Planning Udoma Udo Udoma, among other Nigerian officials. The duo also visited Borno State, which is worst hit by the Boko Haram insurgency.
The British Foreign Secretary was also in Lagos to flag off a joint training exercise between officers of the Nigerian Navy serving onboard NNS Unity and those from the British Royal Navy. Meanwhile, earlier on August 31, the UK's foreign Secretary commissioned the new British High Commission in Abuja. The new office, he said, stands as a symbol of the UK's commitment to Nigeria and will serve as a hub that brings together all UK Government operations in Abuja to one secure location.
Source: Daily Trust
This monitor is prepared by Harish Venugopalan, Research Assistant, Observer Research Foundation, Delhi