MonitorsPublished on Feb 21, 2018
Africa Monitor | Vol VII Issue XLXI

The Continent

World Economic Forum ranks Namibia's roads best in Africa

The Roads Authority (RA) has confirmed that Namibia was once again accorded the top position of having the best roads in Africa by the World Economic Forum (WEF). The results were released via the WEF's Global Competitiveness Report for 2017/18, which tracks the performance of approximately 140 countries on 12 pillars of competitiveness, including the quality of road infrastructure development. The development of road infrastructure has been identified as one of the main catalysts for economic development. Namibia tops the list of African countries in the category of road infrastructure development with an impressive score of 5.2 out of 7, above Ecuador, Bahrain, Qatar and Great Britain which all scored 5.1. The only other African countries to make it to the top 50 list were South Africa and Rwanda with a score of 5.0 each followed by Mauritius with a 4.7 score. The United Arab Emirates took the overall top position with a remarkable 6.5 score. Since the establishment of the Roads Authority in April 2000, the organization has continued to play a vital role in the socio-economic development of Namibia, and in particular the advancement of previously neglected areas in the country. The expansion of the road network has already started to bear fruit as many of the communities in Namibia have access to the main centres of the country. Also, Namibia's road network continues to contribute to the economic growth of other SADC countries. Namibia is the only country in SADC that has well-developed and functioning corridors such as the Trans-Caprivi Corridor that links Namibia with Zambia, Zimbabwe and DRC, the Trans-Kalahari Highway that links Botswana and South Africa's industrial hub (Gauteng) to Namibia and the Trans-Kunene Corridor that links Namibia with Angola and the DRC via the port of Walvis Bay. All these corridors continue to play a pivotal role in the economic development of SADC. "This accolade is a re-affirmation of the efforts made by the RA to continue to develop our road infrastructure and to ensure that it is on par with global standards. I would, therefore, like to express our sincere gratitude to our government for the visionary leadership and for continuously availing funds for road infrastructure development," Conrad Mutonga Lutombi, RA CEO noted. Lutombi also expressed his gratitude to stakeholders such as the Road Fund Administration, the municipalities and all road users for their contribution towards this praiseworthy achievement. "We pride ourselves on this important recognition and see it as a measure of not only how far we have come and achieved but also as a re-assurance that we are on the right path in our mission to manage a safe and efficient national road network to support economic growth in line with the National Development Plans (NDP), Harambee Prosperity Plan (HPP) and Vision 2030," he said. The World Economic Forum is a Swiss non-profit foundation based in Geneva. The forum is recognized by the Swiss authorities as the international institution for public-private cooperation and its mission is cited as "committed to improving the state of the world by engaging business, political, academic, and other leaders of society to shape global, regional, and industry agendas". Source: New Era

Central Africa

Don't scapegoat Oxfam over sex abuse scandal in Haiti, agencies say

British charity Oxfam, rocked by a sex scandal in Haiti, should not be made a scapegoat for a problem that can occur anywhere among humanitarian groups working in the island nation, charity officials said on 14 February. Oxfam aid workers are accused of paying for sex, a crime in Haiti, leaving the charity at risk of losing its right to operate in the disaster-stricken country. The accusations also put the charity in danger of losing its British government funding. Haitian refugee advocate Colette Lespinasse said she blamed "a lack of vigilance" by the organization. But she warned against singling out one among the thousands of humanitarian groups whose workers flocked to Haiti after its devastating earthquake in 2010. "We shouldn't turn Oxfam into a scapegoat," Lespinasse told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by telephone. "Oxfam isn't the only organization. No one is shielded from this type of situation," said Lespinasse, the former coordinator for the Support Group for Refugees and Repatriated Persons (GARR). "These are problems that we encounter in private institutions, in public institutions and in humanitarian circles," she said. The scandal over Oxfam, one of the best-known international charities with aid programs around the globe, erupted following sexual misconduct allegations first reported by the Times newspaper last week. The Times said some Oxfam staff in Haiti after the earthquake had paid for sex with prostitutes. Oxfam has not confirmed nor denied the specific account but has said an internal investigation in 2011 confirmed sexual misconduct occurred. Women's rights group Solidarité Fanm Ayisyen, based in Port-au-Prince, in the past cut ties with groups when it disapproved of their handling of sexual misconduct rumors, said its head Sabine Lamour. Among them was MINUSTAH, a United Nations-backed mission that left Haiti last year dogged by controversies, including allegations of sexual abuse, she said. "In the humanitarian world, this (behavior) happens," she said. This focus should prompt aid groups to look at their hiring practices and weed out workers with records of misconduct, said Nene Mathurin, spokesman for the Research and Support Group to the Rural Environment, a Haitian anti-poverty nonprofit. "It is a great injustice when people, Haitians or foreigners, use their position of power to sexual harass or assault someone," Mathurin told the Foundation. "Relations between nonprofits and Haiti must change." Britain will stop funding overseas aid agencies if they fail to learn the lessons from Oxfam's scandal, and the government will discuss possible prosecutions with law enforcement, the British development minister said on February 14. Oxfam receives around 32 million pounds ($44 million) of British government funding a year.  The deputy head of Oxfam resigned on February 12, saying it had failed to respond adequately to past allegations of sexual misconduct by some staff in Haiti and in Chad. Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation

Probe into DR Congo soldiers attack on Rwandan territory

Military experts from the DR Congo-based Joint Verification Mechanism on 16 February launched an investigation into circumstances under which Congolese armed forces (FARDC) violated Rwanda's territorial integrity by launching an attack on a Rwanda Defence Force base inside Rwanda. The probe by the mechanism, that is composed of officers from different countries in the region, was requested by RDF to establish the motive of the attack on their base in the Volcanoes area in Mugari Cell, Shingiro Sector in Musanze district. The incident occurred on 13 February morning, at around 7am, according to the RDF commander in the area, who says their Congolese counterparts attacked and started shooting at them before they returned fire. Brig. Gen. Eugene Nkubito, the Commander of RDF Second Division, who on 15 February  evening met the EJVM officers at his offices in Musanze District, said it was unfortunate that FARDC attacked them despite the prevailing cordial ties between the two countries. He called upon the verification mechanism to immediately launch an investigation and come up with concrete findings about the attack as well as establish the motive behind it and propose recommendations on the way forward. He said RDF officers on the ground had provided enough evidence to confirm the attack was carried out on Rwandan territory discrediting claims that the attack was masterminded by the Rwandan soldiers, adding that the mechanism should also provide the clear facts on who attacked who. "We have had a meeting with EJVM and made a presentation about the incident, how it started and how the attack happened on the Rwandan territory. We showed them all the coordinates and told them our military base is there to protect the country because of FDLR soldiers who may invade from DR Congo," Nkubito said after the meeting. FDLR is an outfit based in DR Congo that is mainly made up of elements that masterminded the Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda. Nkubito added that much as Rwanda was committed to enhance the existing cooperation with her neighbours, it would not allow such provocative military incursions on its territory. He said that the region should work together to neutralise the different armed groups such as FDLR, CNRD and RUD. The team of experts agreed to launch investigations to verify what happened on the ground. Col Theophile Maviondo, from Congo Brazzaville, who headed the EJVM team, said they would start on February 16 by visiting the scene of crime to get first-hand information before they can come up with a report. Source: The New Times

RDF hands over bodies of Congolese soldiers

Rwanda Defense Force (RDF) on February 17 handed over bodies of three Congolese soldiers who were killed during a recent attack on Rwandan territory. The soldiers were killed when Congolese forces (FARDC) attacked RDF base in Shingiro sector, Musanze District on February 13. Lt Col. Innocent Munyengango, the Military and Defense spokesperson said the RDF handed over the bodies and military ammunition left behind to FARDC, at the Rwanda-DR Congo border in Rubavu District. "We successfully handed over to FARDC the bodies of their soldiers killed during the incident. Before handing them over, we held talks and agreed that both parties should share information to avoid similar incidents," he said. RDF said their Congolese counterparts attacked their base and started shooting at them before they returned fire. Following the incident, the Expanded Joint Verification Mechanism (EJVM),a DR Congo based team of military experts from different countries in the region, launched investigations to establish the aggressors and motive behind their attack. RDF argues that FARDC had violated Rwanda's territorial integrity and attacked its base despite the existing cordial relationship between the two neighbouring countries. Lt Col. Munyengango said EJVM team has visited the scene of fighting. "We showed them evidence that FARDC attacked our base and the country, we used GPS to prove that our base is close to 1.5km from the Rwanda-DR Congo border. We assure the general public of security as the incident occurred in a remote and uninhabited area. The country's security won't be compromised in any way," he added. RDF officials also called for joint efforts to neutralise armed groups based in DR Congo such as FDLR, saying they remain a threat to regional security. FDLR is mainly made up of elements that masterminded the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda. Source: The New Times

IMF speaks out on Rwanda's debt levels

The International Monetary Fund has spoken out on Rwanda's debt levels, saying that though they have gone up in the recent past they are still manageable. IMF said that though the debt levels have gone up, the finance authorities have been taking adequate management measures. Speaking to The New Times last week, IMF Head of Mission Laura Redifer said that to some extent, the country needs debt to grow. "Debt levels in Rwanda are manageable. Those numbers have gone up recently but are still manageable. You need debt to grow, the finance ministry is careful on what kind of debt it taking on. It is at a manageable level. One thing we need to be careful with is surprises, things that are not debt but could create fiscal risks," she said. Across the Sub-Saharan region, Redifer noted that debt levels were rising significantly high, due countries approaches in attempts to avoid crisis. "Across Sub-Saharan Africa we are seeing debt levels going up rapidly. It's for different reasons. In some cases, some big oil exporters are avoiding taking measures to avoid a crisis and are taking more debt. That is a bad debt to be accruing. There are other countries, some of them in East Africa that are taking debt for infrastructure but it's too much debt," she said. She said that in Rwanda's case, IMF had established that the government only incurred external debt after ascertaining what the returns are as well as finding ways to ensure the debt doesn't go up unnecessarily. "In the case of Rwanda, they take on debt thinking how it's going to be spent and what the returns are going to be. Debt levels have risen rapidly in the last few years but we are hoping that they pay off. They are being careful like in the instance of the airport to find out ways to raise funds without taking on too much debt," Redifer said. To keep the debts manageable, she said that Rwanda ought to avoid red flags such as unnecessary debts which do not pay off. "The red flags are taking on debt for things that do not have a payoff. If you are going to take on debt make sure it's for a reason that will bring growth in the future," she explained. Regarding domestic debt, she said that there is yet to be a viable market for it and they are relatively expensive due to higher interest rates. "As for domestic debts you need to have the market for it and it's also more expensive because of the interest rates," the IMF official said. According to figures from the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning, Rwanda's external debt level to Gross Domestic Product was at 36.6 per cent which is below the East African threshold of 50 per cent. Domestic debt stood at about 10 per cent at the end of 2017. This is a slight increase compared to end of 2016 whereby external debt to GDP stood at 35.2 per cent while domestic debt was about 9.4 per cent. In January, the Minister for Finance and Economic Planning Claver Gatete downplayed concerns of Rwanda's debt levels, saying the country is still in the Low risk category. Rwanda's debt levels have in recent years been driven by investments in large investment projects for instance expansion of RwandAir, and construction of Kigali Convention Centre. The debt levels have also been influenced by the country's ambition to steer away from development assistance and donations towards dependence and concessional loans. Low income countries often owe private lenders, multilateral institutions (such as World Bank, IMF, African Development Bank) as well as other governments. Growth in 2018 IMF projections for growth in 2018 are at 6.8 per cent with key drivers being good harvests, continued exports performance among others. Redifer said that overall economic performance is also dependent on the region's economic performance due to factors such as demand of Rwanda's exports. "You have to remember that growth in the sub-continent is a fraction of that and that growth in the region is always way less than that. We have to consider that Rwanda can only export if there is demand for those exports," she said. In 2018, she said that the risk factors include growth momentum in the region which is not as strong as hoped for, weather conditions, as well as some of the political developments in the region. Source: The New Times

Angola exempts tourism visas to one Asian and four African countries

Angola has exempted tourism visas to stay up to 30 days per entry and 90 days a year to four African countries and one Asia nation, based on the principle of diplomatic reciprocity, according to a note from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, based on the recent Presidential Decree by the Angolan Head of State. According to the document, which Angop had access to on February 17, in Luanda, they are the Republics of Botswana, Mauritius, Seychelles, Zimbabwe and Singapore. In the same document, there has been established the procedures for simplifying administrative procedures for the granting of a tourist visa to the citizens of 35 countries, respectively, Africa (9), America (8), Asia (7), Europe (8) and Oceania ( 3). The Decree, which is due to enter into force on 30 March this year, directs the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to communicate the countries concerned, on the exemption, and on the mechanism for simplifying tourist visas. Source: Angola Press

North Africa

Tunisia open to Chinese investment, says senior official

"Tunisia is open to Chinese investment," said Mabrouk Korchid, Tunisian Minister of State Domains and Land Affairs, in an exclusive interview with Xinhua recently. "The visit of Chinese businessmen delegation in Tunisia this week was a good opportunity to exchange views on Chinese development and investment potentials on Tunisian territory," said Mabrouk. "Chinese people have built mega-projects benefiting all over the world, more precisely on our African continent," he insisted. Mabrouk said "after about a year, the project of Tunisia Diplomatic Academy will finally see the day with a pure Chinese funding of about 200 million yuan (about 31.8 million dollars)." "We are very aware of the importance of such a project since, on the one hand, it will further strengthen the partnership between Tunisia and China. On the other hand, it will contribute to the training of future African diplomats, which will consolidate the position of Tunisia and its regional influence," said Mabrouk. According to Mabrouk, the southeast and southwest areas in Tunisia are the priority areas for regional development and foreign investment. "For example, the province of Medenine in southeast Tunisia enjoys a wide coastline, an airport and a seaport with strong potentials for foreign investments," said Mabrouk . "Other provinces in central, northwest or east coast Tunisia also present as fertile areas for a partnership investment, especially in agriculture, industry including phosphates, mining and energy products," he continued. "We still have shortcomings in the field of the Tunisian land registry, which continue to be an issue for foreign investors," confessed the Tunisian minister, adding that "cadastre was added to the provisions of bilateral agreement between Tunisia and China, to solve the land problems in Tunisia." Source: Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (Beijing)

China's state construction company works hard to deliver Great Mosque of Algiers

Algeria is going to have one of the largest mosques in the world, as the China's State Construction Engineering Corporation (CSCEC) is doubling efforts to deliver this mega project this year. The 265-meter-high minaret of the Great Mosque of Algiers, or Djamaa El Djazair, could be seen from all places in Algiers. In fact, it is the highest minaret in the world, which is a symbol of Muslim Algeria. Present in Algeria for 30 years, CSCEC has already been proven in the construction of mega projects, including housing, roads, highways, bridges, schools and hospitals. Some 2,300 workers, engineers and construction managers are working hard for the timely delivery of the project amid its complexity, its numerous stakeholders, and the financial crisis that hits Algeria in recent years. "By the end of the year, you will be noticed from the outside that all work will be accomplished," said the project manager Wang Liangxue, adding that "for the sake of meeting deadlines, the workers have been subjected to an accelerated pace." "They are working 24 hour shifts, and only bad weather could prevent them from working outside," he said. On the top of the minaret, and after a climb of 37 floors, the bay of Algiers has been revealed in a breathtaking view, yet dizzying to sensitive souls. On top of this building, located 1 km away from the Sablettes Beach, and halfway between the airport and downtown Algiers, a panoramic view is offered to admire the turquoise waters of the Mediterranean and the ships loaded with goods awaiting for their turn to dock at the port. On the far south side, the fertile Mitidja plain spreads over tens of kilometers before being hampered by the majestic mountain ranges of the Blida Atlas. Despite rapid urbanization experienced by Algeria since independence, particularly in large cities such as Algiers, one still distinguishes the green orchards that are the pride of the country, since fruits are still one of the few products that this oil rich nation does not import. On the west, east and south sides, Algiers neighborhoods offer an alternating show of ancient architecture and modern buildings. Nothing to envy to the best aerial views that a helicopter can offer to a photojournalist, the minaret of Djamaa El Djazair could serve as a platform to enrich the photo-library that tells Algiers in pictures. Everything is within reach of an eye, including famous places and monuments of the capital such as the ancient city of the Casbah, the Cathedral of Notre Damme d'Afrique, and El Aurassi Hotel. The city can really be told from the sky while feet are on the ground. While Xinhua team went from one corner to another to choose the best angles for its shootings, the workers kept concentrated on their work without even looking to us. "They are dedicated to their tasks, they do not have a minute to lose," said Deputy Director of the Planning Department, Cao Qi, adding that currently, a team is finalizing coating work of the dome. This task required the installation of a suspended platform of 33.6 meters high, which is technical prowess in the field of construction and civil engineering, Cao said. On the roof of the prayer hall, 40 m from the ground level, Ali Djema, a young Algerian architect is in charge of monitoring the implementation of the facades of the said prayer room. Djema revealed that it is for him "a dream comes true" to work in such mega, innovative and ingenious project. He showed how it is possible to shed the light of the day on the prayer hall through a system of reflectors installed between the inner and outer part of the dome. Meanwhile, rainwater drainage system is also integrated in this project, as it is due to collect rainwater in a huge tank, and then the water will be used for gardens that adorn the mosque. Once completed, Djamaa El Djazair will be the largest in Africa and the third largest in the world, after the Masjid al-Haram in Makkah and Masjid al-Nabawi in Medina, both in Saudi Arabia. Also, the mosque will include several independent buildings over 20 hectares, with a built-up area of over 400,000 square meters. Djamaa El Djazair will also be equipped with a conference room, a museum for Islamic art and history, a research center on the history of Algeria, the Koran House center, commercial buildings, a restaurant, a library, an amphitheater, a plaza, an underground parking with a capacity of 7,000 cars, and outbuildings dedicated to the security and maintenance of the building and its occupants. Source: Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (Beijing)

19 migrants killed in Libyan truck accident

A Libyan official says at least 19 illegal migrants have been killed in a truck crash near the town of Bani Walid, about 180 kilometers (112 miles) southeast of Tripoli. The chief of Bani Walid hospital, Mohamed el-Mabruk, tells The Associated Press that 60 others were injured when the truck overturned early February 14. He says more than 200 migrants, mostly from Eritrea, Somalia and Sudan, were on board. The cause of the crash wasn't clear. Libya plunged into chaos following a 2011 uprising and is now split between rival governments in the east and west, each backed by a myriad of militias. The chaos has made Libya a major transit point for migrants from across Africa and the Middle East hoping to reach Europe. Source: Shabelle Media Network

Southern Africa

South African police raid properties of President Jacob Zuma's associates, Gupta brothers

Police arrested three people in raids February 14 on various properties of the Gupta brothers, close associates of the embattled South African President Jacob Zuma. Two other suspects are expected to hand themselves in, the police said. The raided properties include the family residence in Johannesburg. The police did not disclose the identities of the detainees. South Africa's state broadcaster, SABC, said a Gupta family member was among those detained. The Indian-born billionaire brothers have been in the spotlight for using their close association with Zuma to wield undue influence over government institutions. The three Gupta brothers are believed to have brokered secret deals to influence Cabinet appointments and to be favored in business deals with guaranteed cuts for the Zuma family. The raid by the Hawks, an elite police investigative unit, comes a day after the ruling African National Congress (ANC) ordered Zuma to step down as head of state. Hawks spokesman Hangwani Mulaudzi said the raid was part of a probe into allegations of influence peddling in the government. "We're viewing this investigation in a very serious light. We're not playing around in terms of making sure that those who are responsible in the so-called state capture, they take responsibility for it," Mulaudzi said. A dozen heavily armed tactical police blocked off streets around the Gupta home in an affluent Johannesburg neighborhood. Source: Deutsche Welle

Cyril Ramaphosa sworn in as President of South Africa

Cyril Ramaphosa was sworn in as South Africa's new president on February 15, following the resignation of former incumbent and scandal-ridden Jacob Zuma. Ramaphosa was elected without a vote after being the only candidate nominated in the parliament in Cape Town, Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng said, though opposition parties boycotted the vote. The new president is expected to deliver the postponed state of the nation address on February 16 evening. The South African parliament announced the ceremonial details on Twitter. A number of scandals surrounding Zuma had seriously damaged the ruling party, the African National Congress (ANC). Zuma was removed as president effective immediately after he handed in his resignation letter on February 15. Ramaphosa said tackling corruption and mismanagement in state-owned enterprises would be a priority of his administration. "I will try to work very hard not to disappoint the people of South Africa," he said following his election. "The issues that you have raised, issues that have to do with corruption, issues of how we can straighten out our state-owned enterprises and how we deal with state capture are issues that are on our radar screen," the 65-year-old added. The two main opposition parties, the Democratic Alliance (DA) and the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), both refused to vote for Ramaphosa. As parliament began its sitting, EFF members became disruptive and eventually walked out. The leader of the major opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) party, Mmusi Maimane, noted with skepticism that Ramaphosa also belonged to the scandal-plagued ANC: "We don't have a Jacob Zuma problem, we have an ANC problem." However, he said the DA would cooperate with Ramaphosa if he acted in the interests of the South African people. Ramaphosa was elected leader of the ANC in December 2017, narrowly beating Zuma's chosen successor -- his former wife Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma. Ramaphosa had also been deputy president under Zuma. He is a former union leader-turned-businessman and is one of South Africa's wealthiest people. Ramaphosa played a key role in founding the powerful Congress of South African Trade Unions, and as secretary general of the ANC in the early 1990s, he was part of the team that negotiated the end of apartheid and drafted South Africa's new progressive constitution. In his business ventures, Ramaphosa brought the McDonald's franchise to South Africa. In 2015 Forbes magazine estimated him to be worth more than $450 million (€360.4 million). Ordinary South Africans greeted Zuma's departure and Ramaphosa's swearing-in with optimism. Samushle Mhlongo told DW that, "I think Ramaphosa is going to do an amazing job and I have the confidence that he has the ability to do that and improve the country's economy." Ramaphosa's business background has helped boost people's confidence in his ability to improve the country's economic performance. "I feel it is going to be better, a new change for the country. Our people can get more jobs, creating jobs for the young people," Banjamin Matou told DW. "We think he can do that for us because he is a businessman as well. It's going to be a better future for all of us because he knows the business." Source: Deutsche Welle

South African President Jacob Zuma resigns

South African President Jacob Zuma announced his resignation with immediate effect on February 14 night. In a televised statement he said he was quitting with immediate effect but said he disagreed with his ANC party's decision. The ANC had told him to step down or face a vote of no confidence in parliament. The 75-year-old has been facing calls to give way to Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, the ANC's new leader. "No life should be lost in my name and also the ANC should never be divided in my name. I have therefore come to the decision to resign as president of the republic with immediate effect," he said. Source: Maghreb Arabe Presse (Rabat)

Army takes over former PM Tsvangirai’s body, sparks fury

Former Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai's body arrived in Harare from South Africa on 17 February  afternoon amid chaotic scenes after the government decided to take it to an army mortuary overnight. The MDC-T leader's body arrived aboard a South African airways flight after 4pm accompanied by close family members, who including his elderly mother and Tsvangirai's deputy Thokozani Khupe. Thousands of Zimbabweans brought the airport to a standstill for several hours as they waited for the release of the body. There was pandemonium when Tsvangirai's body was taken to the army's One Commando barracks in Cranborne instead of a Doves funeral parlour as previously announced. A Tsvangirai family member said they were taken by surprise as there was no prior warning about the army's involvement. President Emmerson Mnangagwa's government rejected calls to accord the veteran opposition leader national hero status. Acting Information minister Simon Khaya Moyo said he was instructed by Mnangagwa that the body of Zanu PF's most strident opponent must be taken to the military mortuary. "I have been instructed by the president to have the body taken to One Commando Barracks," Moyo said much to the disapproval of thousands of MDC-T supporters gathered at the Robert Mugabe International Airport. The opposition party youths broke into song and dance accusing Zanu PF of causing Tsvangirai's death. Earlier, Khaya Moyo refused to provide reasons why Tsvangirai was not accorded national hero status. Khaya Moyo said Mnangagwa would pay his respects at the Tsvangirai homestead in Buhera at a later date when asked if the president would attend the funeral. "He will go to the homestead sometime to pay his respects," he told The Standard. At One Commando, MDC-T youths waited outside the entrance singing as they demanded that the army hands over the body to the family. "When he was alive you hated him, mistreated him even to the extent of denying him his victory and now you want to honour him here," shouted some of the youths. "You are hypocrites. You soldiers you refused to salute him when he was alive and now you want to salute him." Tsvangirai will be buried on February 20 at his Buhera home. A church service is scheduled for February 18 in Harare ahead of a send-off rally at Freedom Square. Feuding MDC vice-presidents Nelson Chamisa and Elias Mdzuri were at the airport to receive the body. Source: The Standard

East Africa

Ethiopia under state of emergency following Prime Minister's resignation

A state of emergency imposed in Ethiopia on 16 February  after Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn resigned included a ban on protests and publications inciting violence, Ethiopian Defence Minister Siraj Fegessa said on 17 February. "There are still pockets of areas where violence is prevalent. The (ruling EPRDF) coalition's council were unanimous in their decision," he told journalists. He said security forces had been instructed to take "measures" against those who disrupted order and that a new special court had been set up to try them. The state of emergency, which Siraj said would last at least six months, comes amid the worst anti-government protests in 25 years It is the second time since 2016 that the country has issued such an emergency decree. A communique read out on national television justified the move by alluding to "ethnic-based clashes" and "chaos and unruliness." "Because of the dangers the constitution and the constitutional system is facing, <...> it is difficult to keep the law in the usual way. To be able to protect the constitutional system, declaring a state of emergency has become necessary," it said. Announcing his resignation in a televised address on 15 February, Hailemariam Desalegn said he was stepping down to allow the ruling Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) to better implement political reforms. He will remain in office until is resignation is confirmed by the parliament and the EPRDF coalition. A day before his resignation, he presided over a massive prisoner amnesty that saw detained politicians from the Oromo ethnic group freed along with hundreds of other prisoners. The prisoner release came after protests and a strike in Oromia that urged the government to fulfil its pledge in this regard. The last state of emergency in 2016, which lasted for nine months, came after months of deadly protests in Oromia and the neighboring Amhara region. Some 29,000 people were detained under the decree, while rights groups claimed people were beaten and subjected to arbitrary detentions. The government denies the charges. Source: Deutsche Welle

China blackface skit on Kenya railway raises racism storm

Kenyan officials and the Chinese embassy remained tight-lipped on 17 February  as a racism controversy brewed over a skit aired by China's State broadcaster on February 15. The presentation, broadcasted on China Central Television (CCTV) for the Chinese audience as part of a four-hour show to celebrate China's Lunar New Year, had a scene about Kenya's Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) that some observers found racist. It was meant to make people laugh and, in the process, fit into the theme of China's strengthening relationship with Africa. That was the theme CCTV had chosen for this year's Spring Festival Gala -- an event viewed on TV by an estimated 700 million people every year, making it the most watched entertainment programme in the world. However, the presence of a black man dressed as a monkey and a Chinese actress who had painted herself black then stuffed some material to make her behinds look big did not augur well with some viewers. "Blackface" -- the using of make-up to lampoon black people is largely considered offensive and has deep racist roots in America and Europe. Those critical of the show shared their views with mainstream and social media outlets. "Whatever the intention, it's not acceptable," Ms Lina Benabdallah, an Africa specialist at Wake Forest University in North Carolina, told the New York Times. "CCTV's racist show during Spring Gala shook me and made me so ashamed of China and my people," stated one Twitter user. "It was cringe-worthy at best, completely racist at worst. It's Africa, so bring out tribal dancers and animals? And was that a Chinese woman in black face with a fake posterior?" tweeted another. The Sunday Nation contacted the Foreign Affairs ministry for Kenya's response on the matter but none was forthcoming. "Let it wait probably till Monday (February 19)," the ministry's communications facilitator Edwin Limo said. A communications officer at the Chinese Embassy had not responded to our message by the time of going to press. The skit's plot was simple: have a Chinese man to act as if he is somewhere in Kenya with a Kenyan woman. The woman has convinced the Chinese man to pretend to be her boyfriend because she does not want to meet a man her mother wants her to date. The mother soon comes and the Chinese man and the Kenyan woman act as if they are in a relationship until the Chinese girlfriend shows up. The mother, rather than being furious that her daughter is being taken for a ride by this Chinese man, declares that she cannot lose her cool "because China has doneso much for Africa" according to a report on the performance. "I love Chinese people! I love China!" she says. The problem arose mostly from the actress who played the role of a mother of a Kenyan woman in the show that started on February 15 at 8pm Beijing time (3pm Nairobi time). She was a famous Chinese actress called Lou Naiming. She had used black makeup to make herself look like an African and had fixed fake behinds. She entered the stage carrying a basketful of fruits and walking in an exaggerated manner. To make matters worse, she entered the stage with an African man dressed up as a monkey walking beside her. Besides the "Kenyan mother" scene, the skit had more actors mimicking the launch of the Mombasa-Nairobi SGR. In the cast were Africans from Gabon, Kenya, and Ivory Coast, said Some actors dressed up as gazelles, zebras among other animals. Kenyans' reactions to the skit were varied. "I'm waiting for our new Minister for Foreign Affairs to summon the Chinese ambassador," tweeted vocal lawyer Donald Kipkorir. Cartoonist Patrick Gathara tweeted: "Did you know that the Chinese blackface skit was actually portraying you and yours? I'm sure that the same GoK which declared it had no problems with Donald Trump's 's**hole' comment won't be raising a fuss over this." Lawyer Gitobu Imanyara told NYT: "What is disgusting is that we won't hear any official complaint from African governments who are complicit in the recolonisation of Africa by China." The Chinese who watched the show took to social networking platform Weibo to air their concerns. "Is it really hard to find an African actor? I've never been more embarrassed in my life as a Chinese person," one wrote. Another posted: "How narcissistic must they be to think it was a good idea to have an actor in blackface praise China?" But not everyone thought the depiction is stereotypical, if comments on the BBC World Facebook are anything to go by. "What is acceptable to laugh at now? Everything offends somebody, so comedy is no longer funny," wrote Aydi. "Why isn't bleaching hair and wearing coloured contacts to imitate white people a demeaning gesture, but imitating a black curvy woman is considered rude?" posed Nancy. "That is what humans have done for ever and it is not racism unless it is done to degrade or humiliate others. What is wrong with dressing up like others? Is it bad to be 'black'?" Jimmy asked. For a show to be beamed on CCTV, NYT reported, it has to be rehearsed many times before senior propaganda officials. The theme of CCTV's show, which was focusing on the good relations between China and African states and its "One Belt, One Road initiative," can be viewed as part of the Asian country's cultural diplomacy move to depict itself as a friend of African nations. In Kenya, there are four Confucius Institutes in local public universities teaching the Chinese language and culture to students and any willing Kenyans. There is also a sizeable number of Chinese restaurants across Kenyan towns, which could further entrench the Chinese culture among Kenyans. Source: Nairobi News

In South Sudan, rebels to release detained Kenyan pilots

After more than a month in captivity, two Kenyan pilots detained by rebels in South Sudan could finally be heading home. This is after the government and the rebels agreed on the amount of money to be paid as compensation for loss of life and property when the Cessna Caravan registration number 5Y-FDC crashed in Akobo, in the Greater Upper Nile region of South Sudan, on January 7. Following the crash, Captain Pius Frank Njoroge and co-pilot Kennedy Shamalla have been under the custody of Sudan People's Liberation Army-In Opposition (SPLA-IO) rebels who have been demanding Sh20 million compensation for the death of a woman and 11 cows in the accident. The pilots and nine passengers suffered minor injuries. Although it had been announced that the pilots would be back home on February 17, the owner of the aircraft, Capt Godwin Wachira, said the likely date for their return is February 19. "We are going there (on February 17 - Saturday) to pick them and come back on February 19 - Monday," Capt Wachira, who runs Flight Training Centre based at Wilson Airport, Nairobi, said shortly before he left Nairobi for Juba. According to Capt Wachira, the matter is in the hands of the Foreign Affairs Ministry, which has been communicating with him on the arrangements for the safe return of the pilots. Signs that the pilots' ordeal could end became evident when the South Sudan rebels agreed to lower the compensation fee they were demanding. "The demands have been met but not exactly the amount they earlier wanted. They went down a little bit to $107,743 (Sh11 million). "Since the matter is now in the hands of the Foreign Affairs Ministry, they (ministry) will settle that and then bring them back. The ministry has agreed to do that," Capt Wachira said. UAP Old Mutual, the insurance company that covered the aeroplane, on February 14 announced that it would expedite the payment for liability so as to have the two pilots released. "We are aware of the human angle to this claim. Because of that, we have decided to fast track the liability portion of this claim so that it can enable the owner of the aircraft to deal with any liabilities that may have arisen as a result of the incident," the firm's managing director, Mr James Wambugu, said. It has been a torturous period for the pilots and their families as the government negotiated the return of the two Kenyans. There have also been fears that the captives were not receiving treatment for the injuries they suffered in the crash. "We know the pilot is not feeling well. We don't know about the co-pilot because we have not been in contact with him for some time," Capt Wachira said. The Kenya Airline Pilots Association (KALPA) on February 18 had called on the South Sudan rebels to respect the law even as they sought compensation for the damage caused by the crash. Source: Daily Nation

West Africa

Multiple bomb blasts in Borno, Nigeria; 22 killed

No fewer than 22 persons were killed and 28 others injured in a multiple suicide bombing at a market in Konduga Local Government Area of Borno. The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the incident occurred on February 16 at about 9:00 PM, when three suicide bombers detonated explosives at the “Kasuwar Kifi” in the outskirts of Konduga town. A witness, Idrissa Bana, said the three suicide bombers simultaneously detonated the Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) on their bodies in the crowded market. Bana said that the explosives killed 22 persons and 28 others sustained injuries, adding that those injured were evacuated to a hospital in Maiduguri. “There were a lot of people doing last minute shopping when the suicide bombers hit the market,” he said. A competent security source confirmed the incident, adding that at the moment the identity of the suicide bombers and exact number of causalities could not be ascertain for now. (NAN) No fewer than 22 persons were killed and 28 others injured in a multiple suicide bombing at a market in Konduga Local Government Area of Borno. The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the incident occurred on February 16 at about 9:00 PM, when three suicide bombers detonated explosives at the “Kasuwar Kifi” in the outskirts of Konduga town. A witness, Idrissa Bana, said the three suicide bombers simultaneously detonated the Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) on their bodies in the crowded market. Bana said that the explosives killed 22 persons and 28 others sustained injuries, adding that those injured were evacuated to a hospital in Maiduguri. “There were a lot of people doing last minute shopping when the suicide bombers hit the market,” he said. A competent security source confirmed the incident, adding that at the moment the identity of the suicide bombers and exact number of causalities could not be ascertain for now. Source: Leadership (Abuja)

In Nigeria, court frees 475 Boko Haram suspects, okays their rehabilitation

A total of 475 detained Boko Haram suspects, were on February 16, released by the Federal High Court sitting at Wawa Cantonment in Niger State and sent to their state governments for proper rehabilitation. The Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami, SAN, who made this disclosure via a statement he issued on February 18, said the suspects were freed after the prosecution failed to establish any link between them and the Boko Haram sect. He noted that the suspects were arrested and detained on the basis of information that they either belonged to the proscribed terrorist group, or that they concealed vital information that would have helped  security agencies to prevent the commission of acts of terrorism by members of the sect. He said the prosecution could not charge them with any offence due to lack of sufficient evidence against them. "Therefore, the suspects were released on motion exparte pursuance of section 35 (4) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended)", the AGF added in the statement that was signed by his media aide, Mr. Salihu Isah. Malami further revealed that the freed suspects were arrested at different states and moved to a detention facility at a military base in Kainji, Niger State. Aside ordering the immediate release of the suspects from detention, the high court directed that they should be properly rehabilitated "at any appropriate center" to be provided by their respective states, before being re-united with their families. "Those suspects who are mentally deranged or challenged with their health are to be provided medical attention at any appropriate medical or other mental health facilities. "The states were also to provide appropriate training in the manner and for the period that the state deemed appropriate and reasonable. "Among the list of the group released was a pathetic case of a female suspect, Lubabatu Yakubu who was arrested in 2014 by the officials of the Department of Security Services (DSS) in Numan town, Adamawa state, two days after marriage and divorced by her Boko Haram husband.  "Lubabatu was accused of her affiliation with Boko Haram husband. "Another suspect, a young mother cuddling her three months old baby, Mariam Mohammed, a Shua Arab from Borno State was released. She was lured into the Boko Haram sect and taken to Sambisa forest by her elder brother and married off to his friend at eleven years old. "She was arrested by soldiers of the Joint Task Force (JTF) in 2014 while trying to escape the Boko Haram enclave in the Sambisa Forest. "Taye Hamza and Kehinde Hamza are both identical twins from Oyo State based in Bauchi State. They were amongst the lucky ones released. "The twins who are mechanic by profession were arrested in 2010 by the DSS at their workshop in Bauchi State for servicing a vehicle belonging to the dreaded Boko Haram member. "A 35 year old, Haruna Yahaya who was earlier sentenced to 15 years imprisonment for participating in the abduction of over 200 schoolgirls from Chibok, Borno State on February 12, was on February 16 handed down an additional 15 years jail term. "On Friday (February 16), the court sentenced him to additional 15 years imprisonment for being a mastermind of the said abduction. "The presiding judge ordered that the February 12 and February 14 sentences imposed on Yahaya, who hails from Potiskum in Yobe State, would run consecutively. It implies that the convict will have to spend 30 years in prison", the AGF added. Source: Vanguard

Nigeria sells US $2.5 billion Eurobonds to replace Naira debt

Nigeria sold $2.5 billion of Eurobonds as it sought to lower funding costs by using the notes to refinance higher-yielding naira debt. Africa's biggest economy on February 15 issued $1.25 billion of 12-year securities with a yield of 7.14 percent and a separate 20-year tranche, also $1.25 billion, at 7.7 percent, the finance ministry said on Twitter. Investors placed more than $11.5 billion of orders, according to the ministry. The sale completes a program of increasing foreign debt to help reduce the burden of double-digit yields on local-currency bonds. Nigeria says the extra funds will be used to improve infrastructure and help revive the economy after it contracted in 2016 for the first time in a quarter-century. The level of demand for Nigeria's bonds was "impressive," especially given that global risk appetite is "significantly higher" today than when it last issued dollar debt around three months ago, Neville Mandimika, an analyst at Rand Merchant Bank in Johannesburg, said in a note to clients on February 16. Nigeria sold a record $4.8 billion of Eurobonds last year, most recently in November, when it issued $3 billion of 10- and 30-year debt. Yields on the latter rose six basis points to 7.7 percent by close February 15, the highest they've been. They fell 11 basis points to 7.59 percent by 12:32 p.m. in Lagos on February 16. Nigeria's local bonds have an average yield of 13.7 percent, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Citigroup Inc. and Standard Chartered Plc managed the latest deal, while Standard Bank Group Ltd.'s Nigerian unit was a financial adviser. "Using the new external issuances to reduce domestic financing will certainly lead to lower borrowing costs, as we have already started to see," said Christopher Dielmann, senior economist at Exotix Capital, in a note to clients on February 15. It will also "help reduce roll-over risk associated with shorter-tenured domestic issuance and provide a much-needed degree of fiscal space." Nigeria follows Egypt, which became the first African sovereign to tap the market this year when it sold $4 billion of debt on Feb. 13. It is rated B- by Moody's Investors Service, one level below Nigeria. The most populous Arab nation paid 6.59 percent for 10-year notes and 7.9 percent for 30-year bonds and attracted $12 billion of bids from investors. Source: The Guardian This monitor is prepared by Harish Venugopalan, Research Assistant, Observer Research Foundation, Delhi
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