MonitorsPublished on Mar 21, 2018
Africa Monitor | Vol VII Issue XLXIII

The Continent

African Union rallies members ahead of landmark trade deal

African Union Commission chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat has urged African countries to ratify and implement the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement, saying it will fast-track the continent's much-desired economic growth. Mahamat made the call during the opening of the 18th Extraordinary Session of the Council of Ministers of the African Union in Kigali on March 19. "The Agreement will be a historic pact, which has been nearly 40 years in the making and represents a major advance for African integration and unity. The African Continental Free Trade Area will also strengthen Africa's position in global trade," he said. Mahamat further urged African countries to overcome fears and self-interests as these continue to be barriers to regional trade and growth. Member countries and other continental trade bodies ought to look at the collective benefits as they outweigh the concerns, the AU official said. Foreign Affairs Minister, Louise Mushikiwabo, who also doubles as the Chairperson of the Council of Ministers, emphasised that the agreement is good for Africa and should enter into force as soon as possible. "By signing and ratifying it, we would signal that we are determined to play our part as a global player while promoting the continent's economic interests as one, through a single African market," she said. Mushikiwabo observed that the negotiations and implementation of previous agreements have given African countries capacity to implement the AfCFTA. "With the AfCTA-related agreements before us, we are now well armed to improve our social structures, improve the livelihoods of even our poorest communities, and develop regional and continental value chains to ensure prosperity and well-being for our people," she said. Beyond the signing of the agreement, Minister Mushikiwabo said that countries ought to also address other trade concerns such as burdensome regulations, access to finance by the private sector, infrastructure networks, and simplification of customs processes to significantly increase intra-Africa trade. Vera Songwe, the Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission, for Africa observed that the agreement comes at a time when there are instances of anti-globalisation and protectionism. For instance, she observed, the American government last month announced increased tariffs for steel and aluminum imports. African steel and aluminum exports are valued at about $800 million. "We are currently witnessing some new and quite extraordinary developments in the global economy. In the developed world there is a rising tide of protectionism and anti-globalization. Although we are not the focus, Africa will not remain untouched," Songwe said. Source: The New Times, March 20 2018

Central Africa

Over 2 million malnourished children at risk in the DRC, says UN

The United Nations warns more than two million severely acutely malnourished children in Democratic Republic of Congo are at risk of dying unless they receive urgently needed therapeutic aid. Years of violence and unrest in Democratic Republic of Congo have displaced more than 4.5 million people, creating widespread poverty and hunger. The United Nations refers to DRC as one of the world's most complex humanitarian crises. Internally displaced Congolese children sleep in a boat on the shore line of Lake Albert on March 05, 2018 in Tchomia. It says this catastrophic situation has worsened in recent months because of an uptick in fighting in many parts of the country, causing more people to flee their homes and more people to sell everything they own to feed themselves. U.N. aid agencies are on the ground ready to aid millions of people in desperate need of humanitarian assistance. But, they say they lack the funds to help them. For instance, the U.N. migration agency says its $75 million appeal for DRC has received only $4.7 million. Spokeswoman Olivia Headon said if IOM had more money, it could provide many of the internally displaced with emergency shelters. "We would be able to help people build homes, to be able to live in them and be safe from the elements," she told VOA. "We also are doing a lot of work with women in the DRC.I think, in the last couple of months, we have helped about 70 women, we currently have 70 women who are survivors of sexual assaults and have fistulas as a result. So, we do medical support as well." The United Nations reports children are suffering most from the fighting, instability, lack of food, medical care and other support.Earlier this year, the United Nations launched its largest appeal ever for the DRC. It asked for $1.68 billion to assist 10.5 million people. So far, it only has received about five percent of that amount. Aid officials say generous contributions from donors could save the lives of more than two million children who are at risk of dying because they are unable to get the treatment they need. Source: Voice of America, March 10 2018

Women arrested for asking Cameroon President Biya to negotiate a peaceful transition

Cameroon police have freed 40 of the more than 100 women arrested while trying to ask President Paul Biya, who has been in power for 36-years, to negotiate a peaceful political transition and solve the crisis caused by separatists groups demanding the independence of the English speaking from the French speaking regions of the central African state. National coordinator of the opposition Cameroon Peoples Party (CPP) and former presidential aspirant, Edith Kahbang Walla, said she led the women in the protest march on March 8 to commemorate Women's Day. She said Cameroon women could not celebrate the day against the backdrop of human rights abuses and conflicts that have left of hundreds civilians, separatists fighters, and soldiers dead in the English speaking regions of the central African state. She said Cameroon has been sailing from one crisis to another because of President Paul Biya's poor leadership. "As mothers of the nation, we feel it is our responsibility to stand up and to take the necessary steps to bring back harmony and peace. How do we facilitate a non-violent political transition for Cameroon. So this is a tremendous moment for the fight for respect of human rights, democracy, political transition in Cameroon." Edith, who is popularly known in Cameroon as Kah Walla, said some of the protesters were unlawfully arrested, tortured psychologically by Biyas police, and detained in the capital Yaounde for several hours. "The women were amazing through out. They were feareless, they were determined, they were kept for about six hours ... without any charge and without any apologies nor explainations from the government of Cameroon." said Edith. During the protest, the women demanded a meeting with Biya to discuss the failure of his government to provide basic services and facilities like water and electricity to a majority of the Cameroon population, despite the country's natural and financial resources. Hundreds of supporters of the women, including 31-year old Yaounde based teacher Rene Ahanda marched to the police charge office when the women were arrested to ask for their release. Ahanda said he does not understand why the women were arrested. He said he totally supports Kah Walla for exercising her democratic rights and her freedom to express herself. He said Kah Walla is a big and educated political figure who understands her rights and assumes responsibility for what she does. Since November 2016, Biya has been battling with the unrest in the English-speaking Northwest and Southwest regions regions that started with teachers and lawyers, frustrated with having to work in French, took to the streets calling for reforms and greater autonomy. It degenerated with separatists' calls for independence. Last October secessionist groups declared the independence of an area in southwest Cameroon they call Ambazonia, declaring Ayuk Tabe Julius who was in exile in Nigeria as their president. Armed conflicts erupted prompting a crackdown of the military. Biya has ruled Cameroon since November 1982. His party supporters have ben calling on him to run for president again in elections expected by September this year. Source: Voice of America, March 12 2018

In Burundi, ruling party gives President new title of 'Supreme Eternal Leader'

The ruling party CNDD-FDD has elevated President Pierre Nkurunziza to the rank of "supreme eternal leader". Top party officials who met on March 10 in Buye, Ngozi province in northern Burundi, said. Nkurunziza was already the "Chairman of the Council of Wise", so it's still unclear whether the new title confers more powers on him. His second-in-command, General Evariste Ndayishimiye, said Pierre Nkurunziza is their "elder, father of all" and "no one in the CNDD- FDD can compare himself to his excellence President Nkurunziza". This immediately sparked a fierce social media debate with mockery from critics, describing the regime as a cult of the personality gathered around "His majesty King Nkurunziza 1st".  Social media photos showed him dressed like Emperor Bokassa of Central African Republic. His supporters, meanwhile, have jumped to his defence, portraying him as a great African leader who is standing up against the West and upholding Burundi's values. A senior party official has explained that it is not a drift towards the leadership style  of Kim II Sung in North Korea, as opponents want to believe. But critics are no buying this... Source: allafrica, March 12 2018

Armed Anglophone separatists kidnap 40 in Cameroon

Armed separatists in Cameroon have abducted 40 people, including a government official. The abductions occurred as President Paul Biya dispatched a minister to the troubled English speaking regions on a peace building mission. Cameroon businessman Angelbert Etoga has returned to his home town, Yaounde, 24 hours after he was abducted and released by armed separatist groups. He says he and about 36 others were on a bus traveling to Lebialem in southwestern Cameroon to attend a political rally when armed men attacked and seized the vehicle. Etoga says they were detained for several hours and some were asked to leave after being told they had to respect the territorial integrity of the English speaking regions of Cameroon, which the kidnappers said was now a state called Ambazonia. Etoga says it is very possible there is some cooperation among some of the population, traditional rulers, and separatist groups. He says he is very certain that many people are adhering to separatist ideologies. Etoga says he does not know how many people were freed or held back, but he found his way out of the bush and returned to Yaounde. The most senior government official in Lebialem, Zachary Ugitoh, says Professor Ivo Leke Tambo, a former secretary general of Cameroon's Secondary Education Ministry and now chair of the Cameroon General Certificate of Education Board, was also abducted. "I call first and foremost the population of Lewo, the traditional rulers of Lewo to, in fact, put in place whatever means to ensure that Professor Leke Tambo is safe," he said. "They should go out and look for him, he is a venerated elite of that village and if they open their hands together, I think we can be able to get those who have taken him hostage. In the meantime, security here is not going to sleep while waiting for reinforcement from hierarchy." Ugitoh called for the traditional rulers of Lewo to ensure Professor Tambo's safety and work to ensure his release. He said security measures would be increased in the meantime. In a video circulated by suspected armed separatists on social media Tambo is seen stripped almost naked in the presence of disguised gunmen. Two other government officials were abducted last month and have not been found. The abductions took place the day the first English speaking Cameroonian to be appointed minister of territorial administration, Paul Atanga Nji, was visiting English speaking towns in northwestern Cameroon in an effort to find solutions to the separatist crisis. Source: Voice of America, March 20 2018

North Africa

Robbers shoot at former Gaddafi banker

Slain Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi's banker, linked by the United Nations to the payment of $800m (about R9.3bn at the current rand/dollar exchange rate) into a bank account in Kenya from one in South Africa, was wounded in a shooting in Atholl Oaklands, northern Johannesburg, police confirmed on February 28. Some international media outlets had initially reported that Bashir Saleh had been in South Africa for about six years and was wanted by France. It was reported he was wounded on February 23 evening - some media reports said he was shot while at home, while others said he was shot while being driven near OR Tambo International Airport. The French publication Le Monde reported that he was wounded after arriving from a trip to Zimbabwe. On February 28, national police spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Katlego Mogale confirmed in a statement that the man was attacked on the evening of February 23 by a group of armed suspects on the Atholl Oakland off-ramp. "Using a hammer one of the suspects broke the window of the vehicle, opened the door and pulled the victim out of the vehicle," she said. "The suspects allegedly shot the victim before fleeing with his laptop. The victim was taken to hospital for medical attention." She said a case of armed robbery and attempted murder had been opened for investigation by the national investigating unit. The suspects were believed to be aged between 30 and 35. South African police had been aware of Saleh's presence in South Africa since at least 2013. Former president Jacob Zuma had also apparently been aware that he was in the country. Source: news24WIRE, February 28 2018

In Kenya, Egypt seeks President Kenyatta's support for AU chairmanship in 2019

Egypt is seeking Kenya's support for the chairmanship of the African Union (AU) after President Paul Kagame's term comes to an end next year. Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi called for President Uhuru Kenyatta's support to secure the AU top position in a special message delivered on March 13 at State House, Nairobi. The message of goodwill was delivered to President Kenyatta by Egypt's Foreign Affairs Minister Sameh Shoukry who is President El-Sisi's special envoy. The term of President Kagame, who took over from Guinea's President Alpha Conde as chair of AU in January, will end in 2019. Egypt affirmed its commitment to deepen cooperation with Kenya on bilateral and regional issues as the two countries look to explore new areas to enhance their relations. In February last year, President El-Sisi made a State Visit to Kenya where he agreed with his host President Kenyatta to fast-track bilateral agreements as part of the efforts to strengthen their economic ties. Through the Kenya-Egypt Joint Commission for Corporation currently in its seventh cycle, the two countries have laid down a series of strategic interventions to boost trade ties. These include reviewing the bilateral agreements by expanding them to include various players drawn from both governments. The two leaders met again in May last year at Cairo International Airport when the plane carrying President Kenyatta, who was en-route to the United Kingdom for the 3rd London Conference on Somalia, made a refueling stop-over. At the Cairo meeting, President Kenyatta and President El-Sisi reviewed progress in implementing a host of measures they agreed on -- including fighting terrorism, security cooperation, and expanding Kenyan exports to Egypt, especially for tea and flowers. Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua and Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Monica Juma attended the meeting on March 13 at State House, Nairobi. Source: Kenya Presidency (Nairobi), March 13 2018

Outrage at death sentence against Egyptian photographer

Human rights experts have condemned the decision by Egyptian courts to seek a death sentence against acclaimed photojournalist Mahmoud Abou Zeid, who was arrested while covering anti-government protests. Zeid was arrested in August 2013 while covering clashes between Egyptian security forces and supporters of ousted President Mohamed Morsi. He has been charged with weapons possession and murder, among others and remains in detention. United Nation rights experts criticized the call by a prosecutor for capital punishment against Zeid. "Calling for the death penalty after unfair procedures is unacceptable," the experts jointly stated. The experts include David Kaye, Agnes Callamard, Michel Forst and José Antonio Guevara Bermúdez. They said the call for the death sentence was an abuse of legal duties as well as a violation of international law. "The imposition of the death penalty under such conditions will amount to an arbitrary deprivation of life," said the experts. In 2016, the UN recommended that Zeid be released and awarded the right to seek compensation. Egyptian authorities defied the recommendation. In January, UN experts called on Egypt to halt all pending executions following repeated allegations of unfair trials. "Journalists and media workers covering protests should not be criminalised for their professional duties and they certainly should not be facing the death penalty for doing so," said the experts. A crackdown on media has intensified in recent weeks ahead of general elections set for the end of March. Source: cajnews, March 15 2018

Southern Africa

Guptas ordered to return controversial aircraft within 15 days

The Gupta family was ordered by the South Gauteng High Court on March 19 to deliver a Bombadier aircraft to Lanseria International Airport within 15 calendar days. Export Development Canada (EDC) and Stoneriver approached the court earlier this month in an urgent application to ask the court to ground the aircraft. The Guptas had a lease agreement with EDC and Stoneriver for the Bombadier Global 6000 aircraft, but are currently engaged in a legal dispute in the courts in the UK over the lease agreement. The applicants asked the court in South Africa to ground the plane until a final order was made and to prevent its movement while the tracking system was switched off. High Court Judge Fayeeza Kathree-Setiloane ordered the plane to be delivered to Lanseria airport along with all appliances, components and necessary equipment within 15 days. Kathree-Setiloane also interdicted and restrained the Guptas and their businesses from possessing, disposing of or using the plane except for the purposes of delivering it to Lanseria. She said should the Guptas fail to comply with the court order and not return the aircraft, its registration could be cancelled with immediate effect. They were also ordered to pay the costs of the application and the costs of attorneys. Kathree-Setiloane said there was a risk that the Canadian bank could suffer a loss if the aircraft was not grounded. "This begs the question: Why would the Gupta respondents not want anyone to track the whereabouts of the aircraft? This makes for the pungent possibility that this was done so that the aircraft can be used for unlawful purposes," she said. "Although the Gupta respondents dismiss this as 'baseless speculation that not warrant a response' they conspicuously do not say that the aircraft is not being used for unlawful purposes and they do not give an undertaking that the aircraft will not be used for unlawful purposes in the future." She found there was "a clear risk" of the aircraft being seized by the National Prosecuting Authority's Asset Forfeiture Unit to recover money from the Guptas. "Significantly, in their answering affidavit, the Gupta respondents say that "the fact that the facility and lease agreements may have been concluded at the same time and that monies may have been paid to the applicants thereafter is not itself proof that the respondents were paid using the proceeds of crime," Kathree-Setiloane said. "However, the Gupta respondents do not make a positive allegation that the payments made to Stoneriver under the lease agreement did not derive from the proceeds of crime." Kathree-Setiloane said there was a risk that EDC and Stoneriver could suffer reputational harm should they remain linked with the Guptas. "If interim relief is not granted, the applicants will suffer reputational harm by virtue of being associated with the Gupta respondents through their continued use of the aircraft." "Since the Gupta respondents are all incolae (parties) of this Court, contempt of court proceedings could be instituted if any of them fail to adhere to the order. Such proceedings could be launched against the directors of Westdawn and Oakbay and against Mr and Mrs Gupta personally," Kathree-Setiloane said. Source: news24WIRE, March 19 2018

Breakthrough reported in worst Listeria outbreak in South Africa

The World Health Organization (WHO) reports a major breakthrough in efforts to contain South Africa’s longest and largest recorded listeria outbreak. The current outbreak of listeriosis in South Africa began more than one year ago in January 2017. As of March 12, the WHO has recorded 978 lab-confirmed cases of this foodborne disease, including 183 deaths. WHO food safety expert Peter Ben Embarek says it is very difficult to investigate outbreaks of listeriosis because the disease has a very long incubation period. He says it can take several weeks before people show any symptoms, get sick and are hospitalized. “Two weeks ago, food was identified as the primary source of this large outbreak. It is a meat, ready-to-eat meat product, a type of sausage very commonly consumed in South Africa and in the region - Polony product. Since then, recall of the incriminated product has been initiated both in South Africa, but also in 15 countries that have imported this product from South Africa,” he said. Embarek said the WHO is facilitating the exchange of information between South Africa and countries who have imported this contaminated product. He says it is important to recall the sausage and remove it from the shelves to prevent further cases from occurring. Now that the source of this foodborne disease has been identified, he told VOA he expects the number of new cases to quickly drop. “With regard to the case fatality rate in this outbreak, among the cases where they have been able to follow them and see the outcome of their disease, it is about 27 percent. And it is within the norms. Listeriosis outbreak has a case fatality rate of between 20 and 30 percent. It is a very severe foodborne disease” he said. Embarek said listeriosis can be effectively treated with antibiotics if caught promptly, particularly in the case of high-risk populations, such as newborn babies, pregnant women and the elderly. He says the WHO is not recommending any restrictions on travel or trade. Source: Voice of America, March 20 2018

EU election mission assesses Zimbabwe situation

THE European Union (EU) election exploratory mission is in the country to assess the possibility of deploying an observer mission for the upcoming 2018 polls. The mission, starting March 19, will assess whether an EU election observer mission (EOM) deployed for the 2018 harmonised elections would be useful as a constructive contribution to the electoral process, feasible and advisable. An EU statement released March 19 confirmed that President Emmerson Mnangagwa had invited the EU to observe the elections scheduled for between July and August. The EU last observed elections in the country in 2002 at the height of bad relations with the government of former President Robert Mugabe. An official from the EU observer mission, Pierre Schori, was expelled then for allegedly pre-judging the electoral processes. The EU is among other external election observer missions expected for the 2018 harmonised elections and would join Southern African Development Committee (SADC) and the African Union (AU) among others. The SADC mission last week met government, opposition parties and all other stakeholders involved in the electoral processes to assess whether the country is ready for the polls. "In preparation of a possible EU Election Observation Mission (EU EOM), and upon invitation by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Trade of the Republic of Zimbabwe, the European Union's External Action Service is conducting an Exploratory Mission to Zimbabwe in the week starting today (Monday). The purpose of the Exploratory Mission is to gather factual information on the pre-electoral situation, based on a wide range of meetings with both governmental and non-governmental electoral stakeholders, and in line with the EU election observation methodology to assess whether a possible EU EOM deployed for the 2018 harmonised elections would be useful as a constructive contribution to the electoral process, feasible and advisable," read part of the statement. The technical mission will submit a report to the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy / Vice-President of the European Commission, Federica Mogherini, in view of her decision on deployment of a possible EU EOM. Source:, March 20 2018

East Africa

Kenyan police officers feel pinch after severe salary cuts take effect

Hundreds of police officers who had gone for further studies and were rewarded with better pay have suffered a blow after a plan to reduce their salaries was finally implemented. This follows the decision by the National Police Service to revoke the increases awarded to them, effective this month. It means some of the affected officers, mostly those who had taken loans and mortgages after getting enhanced salaries, have been left with negative balances on their payslips. Others who had purchased properties, taken their children to better schools or even built new houses away from the staff quarters have been devastated by the directive, lamenting it will adversely affect their lifestyles. Some March payslips seen by the Sunday Nation recorded zero, Sh10, Sh100 and negative balances. "How will some of us who had moved to rental houses survive?" one of the affected police officers asked. The NPS, in a letter to Inspector-General of Police Joseph Boinnet, also directed that officers maimed or disabled in the line of duty start paying taxes from this month. Such officers were exempted from taxes. The letter also called for the scrapping of special allowances paid to graduate constables. A letter from the Directorate of Criminal Investigations, seen by the Sunday Nation, also directed regional commanders to effect the changes immediately. It, however, noted that the changes be done after the affected officers have been notified. "Inform officers of other ranks who have developed themselves academically and acquired certificates, which they subsequently used for salary adjustments that they will with immediate effect revert to their original pay and designations," reads the letter signed by Mr Wanderi Mwangi on behalf of the Director of Criminal Investigations. The readjustments in pay, says the letter, would also affect officers whose status changed due to disability and has been enjoying tax exemptions. "You are requested to implement the decision by stopping additional payment and/or re-versing the tax exemption with immediate effect," NPS chief executive Joseph Onyango said in a March 7 letter to Mr Boinnet. The letter added that any variations should be effected procedurally after the cases had been determined by the commission. The move has angered officers who have been struggling to advance their education. "Our employer has been asking us to enroll in universities because of emerging challenges like terrorism and cybercrime. We have done that by taking loans and it would be unfair to harmonise pay," an officer said. Traditionally, police officers injured in the line of duty are retired on medical grounds or assigned lighter duties. Source: Daily Nation, March 17 2018

South Sudan wants UN peacekeepers out

South Sudan has protested the renewal of the mandate of the UN peacekeepers in the country. Information minister and government official spokesperson Michael Makuei said the March 15 decision by the Security Council on the United Nations Mission in South Sudan's (UNMISS) mandate was unfair and totally unacceptable. Mr Makuei said Juba was not consulted on the matter. "This renewal is not acceptable. It is unfair decision because the government was not consulted," Mr Makuei said on phone. The UN Security Council on March 15 renewed the peacekeeping mission's mandate until March 15, 2019, with the passing of resolution 2406. The resolution tasked UNMISS to continue its work to protect civilians, through the proactive deployment of its peacekeeping troops across the war-torn country. The new mandate also authorised UNMISS to back the implementation of the 2015 Peace Agreement and current peace processes, including through the High Level Revitalisation Forum led by the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (Igad). It also maintains the overall force levels of UNMISS, with a ceiling of 17,000 troops, including the Regional Protection Force (RPF). However, the Information minister said the renewal of the UNMISS mandate was uncalled for as it raised concerns about the sovereignty of the young nation. "Well, that decision was uncalled for. It was a decision imposed upon the government of the Republic of South Sudan. "We don't know why this automatic renewal without consulting the government of South Sudan," he said. Source: The East African, March 18 2018

President Kenyatta back in Nairobi after state visit to Cuba

President Uhuru Kenyatta jetted back into the country on the morning of March 19 after a landmark State visit to Cuba that steered bilateral relations and cooperation between Kenya and the Caribbean nation to a new level. The visit focused on trade, heritage and, mainly, health which forms one of the key pillars of the Big Four agenda. President Kenyatta particularly used the visit to get back on track a wide range of health agreements signed earlier but never implemented. This has paved the way for Kenya to bring in 100 medical specialists - with each county getting at least two - and dispatch 50 doctors to Cuba for specialised training. The President and his delegation arrived at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport aboard a Kenya Airways commercial scheduled flight shortly before 7am. He was received by Deputy President William Ruto, Chief of Defence of Forces General Samson Mwathethe and Nairobi Governor Mike Mbuvi Sonko among others. Source: Capital FM, March 19 2018

Floods destroy property in Rukiga, Uganda

Property worth millions of shillings were on March 19 destroyed when rain-water flooded Muhanga town council in Rukiga District after a heavy down pour that lasted for about 6-hours. The resident district commissioner for Rukiga, Mr Emmy Ngabirano said that almost all the retail shops and food stores among others were flooded. He was, however, quick to note that no death had been reported. Mr Ngabirano said that he had asked the local leaders to generate a report on the impact of the rain and floods which will in turn be forwarded to the prime minister's office for possible help. "We appeal to the office of the prime minister to send technical staff to come and assess the problem before water borne related diseases break out. We think that the fact that the centre of Muhanga town council is located in the valley, running water from the hill tops gathered and ended up flooding the whole area. We appeal to our people to use better farming methods especially terraces in hilly areas and valleys to check on the speed of the running water. We also appeal to the local leaders in the area to start tree planting campaigns," Mr Ngabirano said. Ms Reginah Kobuganzi, a resident said this was not the first time their area was being flooded with rain water. "It happened some eight years and we suffered a lot," she said. The floods made most roads in Muhanga town council impassable. Source: The Monitor, March 19 2018

$2 billion investment projects in offing in Tanzania

The government is in negotiations with Danish and German investors that will culminate into the construction of a $1.9 billion (about Sh4.2 trillion) petrochemical plant in Kilwa, Lindi region, President John Magufuli said on March 18. Speaking during the 11th Tanzania National Business Council (TNBC) meeting in Dar es Salaam on March 18, Dr Magufuli said the investors plan to produce fertilizer by using the available natural gas and is expected to provide over 4000 direct and indirect jobs to Tanzanians. "I want to assure investors that this country is safe for investment," he told over 200 senior government and private sector players who attended the meeting. He said a beer manufacturer was also planning to inject $100 million in setting up a brewing plant in Dodoma. In another development, President Magufuli said domestic financial institutions have started reducing the discount rate to about 6-8 per cent from over 20 per cent. He said the reduction was part of loosening monetary policy, which will in turn stimulate lending to private sector. "Unscrupulous government officials have been depositing funds set aside for development projects at commercial banks where they share interests with banks CEOs something that really delayed the country's development," he said. Source: The Citizen, March 19 2018

Magufuli unveils "dirty game" in industrial sugar imports

President John Magufuli has unveiled the findings of a government's probe team on industrial sugar, saying some unscrupulous traders were indeed diverting the sweetener for domestic consumption. Speaking during the Tanzania National Business Council (TNBC) meeting, he said the report submitted to him on March 15, revealed that while eight companies provided accurate details on the amount of sugar demanded, other 22 companies submitted altered details. He said investigations discovered that some of the importers had brought in the sugar for manufacturers who did not exist while another company was discovered to have imported industrial sugar before completing construction of the manufacturing plant itself. Some of the companies referred by the Head of State as "saints" include SBC Tanzania, Nyanza Bottling Company Limited, Bonite Bottlers Limited and Bakhresa Group Limited, And some of those that provided altered information are the Iringa Food Logistics, Ivory Limited, Iringa Food and Beverage, Jambo Food Limited, Mansoor Daya and Zenufa, saying they applied for large industrial sugar contrary to their actual demands.  President Magufuli said, "Maisha Bottlers claimed to be located in Mbeya applied for 7,000 tonnes of industrial sugar, noting however that when the government traced the company, it was discovered that it was yet another non-existent (phantom) outfit. Source: The Citizen, March 19 2018 West Africa

Shell says Amnesty Intl's claims on 89 oil spills in Nigeria false, without merit

Amnesty International has accused international oil companies, Shell and Eni of negligence when addressing spills in Nigeria, describing their actions as "serious negligence." Amnesty said the companies were "taking weeks to respond to reports of spills and publishing misleading information about the cause and severity of spills, which may result in communities not receiving compensation." Shell had reported 1,010 spills since 2011, and Eni 820 since 2014, according to Amnesty, which said among those 1,830 reports, it found 89 "about which there are reasonable doubts surrounding the cause provided by the oil companies." But in a statement sent to Vanguard, Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Ltd (SPDC) denied the allegations levelled against it at the weekend by Amnesty International, reiterating its commitment to swift response to oil spill incidents as much as access and security conditions permit teams to mobilise and deploy to spill sites to investigate, clean up and remediate such areas. "This is in addition to deploying technology and best practice to make it more difficult for unauthorised persons to break pipelines and steal crude oil from its facilities. "SPDC, in collaboration with government regulators, responds swiftly to spill incidents as quickly as it can and cleans up spills from its facilities regardless of the cause," said General Manager, External Relations, Igo Weli. "We regularly test our emergency spill response procedures and capability to ensure staff and contractors can respond rapidly to an incident. However, response to spills, clean-up and remediation depend on access to the spill site and ultimately, on the security of personnel and equipment while work is ongoing." He said Amnesty International's allegations are false, without merit and fail to recognise the complex environment in which the company operates where security, a sole prerogative of government, remains a major concern with persisting incidents of criminality, kidnapping, vandalism, threats from self-described militant groups, etc. Mr. Weli said the transparency in the online reporting of spill incidents by SPDC in its areas of operation since 2011, which Amnesty International itself acknowledged, demonstrates its commitment to creating awareness and enhancing collaboration with key stakeholders on oil spill response and clean-up processes and deepening understanding of the complex and challenging operating environment. "Similarly, ENI spokeswoman said the rights group's statements "are not correct and, in some cases, not acceptable," adding it had provided a detailed response to Amnesty's allegations." Source: VANGUARD, March 19 2018

Lassa fever in Nigeria, rural dwellers still eat rats

In an effort to prevent further outbreak of Lassa fever, Ebonyi Government is to begin intensive campaigns against rat consumption in rural areas where inhabitants erroneously believe rats have high nutritional value. The state Commissioner for Environment, Chief Donatus Njoku, told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on March 19 in Abakaliki that the government would explore all avenues to dissuade the citizens from consuming rats. NAN reports that Lassa fever outbreak in the state in January resulted in four deaths. Njoku said: "Rats are the primary vectors of the disease, and we are vigorously carrying out enlightenment through mass media, workshops, seminars and various ministries' communication channels. "We will collaborate with traditional rulers and other opinion leaders at the grassroots to educate rural dwellers to shun such a notion and realise that rat is the disease's primary vector. "We have also continued to sensitise the populace to urgently report suspected cases to relevant health agencies. "With the total functionality of the state government-owned South-East Virology Centre, such an occurrence can be expeditiously handled." On sanitation, Njoku said that contrary to insinuations, non-observance of the monthly sanitation in the state did not affect effective sanitation. "State and Federal Government functions sometimes fall on the last Saturday of the month, and when this occurs, we have to comply. "The state government has evolved policies which make the populace to clean their environments on daily basis and not wait for designated days," he said. Njoku told NAN that the state Ministry of Environment ensured that state government ministries and parastatal-agencies cleaned their environments daily as directed by the governor. "We assess their performances to ascertain the level of compliance; to show his seriousness toward the directive, the governor visits the ministries for on-the-spot assessments. "We encourage the people to keep their environments clean to improve their health," he said. (NAN) Source: Daily Trust, March 19 2018

Strange disease kills 8 Katsina students in Nigeria

Katsina — An outbreak of strange disease at Government Science Secondary School,Kurfi has killed about 8 students. Our reporter gathered that authorities of the boarding school have since over the weekend closed down the school and sent students back home. The closure however did not go down well with the state Assembly on the ground that closing and sending students home will further aggravate the situation. To this end, the assembly has directed it's committee on Education and Health to thoroughly investigate the matter and report back as soon as possible. At the house today's sitting the lawmaker representing kurfi constituency at the Assembly, Kabir Lawal had drawn the attention of the house to the outbreak and the deaths before the assembly took the stand. Two other members Garba Hussaini and Bishir Mamman from Kafur and Dutsin-ma respectively said similar issues were recorded at the constituencies as well which need to be looked at accordingly. Source: Daily Trust, March 19 2018

Swiss accounts blocked over suspected Nigerian oil bribery case

The Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland (OAG) has blocked various bank accounts in Switzerland over an alleged oil bribery scheme linked to Nigeria. This came as executives from oil giants Shell and Eni are due to stand trial in Milan, Italy, in May. In a statement from its website, it stated that at the request of the Milan public prosecutor, the Swiss authorities confiscated assets and provided information and assistance to the Italian authorities, the Swiss attorney general's office confirmed on March 19. The Dutch oil giant, Shell and its Italian counterpart, Eni were due to stand trial on March 19 in the Italian city of Milan. However, the trial was postponed until May 14, Reuters reported on March 19. Nigerian and Italian courts have accused officials from both companies of having paid bribes to secure a licence for an oil field off the African country. The case has been billed as one of the biggest ever corruption cases in Europe by anti-corruption campaigners. The exploration permit, which concerns an oil block called OPL-245 in the Gulf of Guinea off Nigeria, was issued in 2011 by the Nigerian government to the two firms for $1.3 billion. Three separate bank accounts in Lugano, Basel and Geneva were blocked, according to a report in German-speaking Tages-Anzeiger newspaper on March 19. The prosecution confirmed this, but declined to comment on the value of the assets which were seized. The Tages-Anzeiger cited "several hundred million francs", while the Nigerian authorities quoted a bribery sum of $801 million. In all, 13 people have been accused, including Eni boss, Claudio Descalzi, and his predecessor Paolo Scaroni, two former top Shell managers, former Nigerian oil minister, Dan Etete and a series of middlemen and advisers. The companies themselves are also corporate defendants. Both oil companies have denied wrongdoing and expressed confidence that the trial would exonerate them and the individuals. Source: VANGUARD, March 20 2018
 This monitor is prepared by Harish Venugopalan, Research Assistant, Observer Research Foundation, Delhi
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