MonitorsPublished on Feb 24, 2016
Africa Monitor | Volume V; Issue IV

The Continent

African experts in talks for a continental free trade agreement

A group of experts from seven African regional economic commissions (RECs), AUC, ADB, ECA, UNCTAD, academia, research institutions and civil society have met in Abidjan to discuss the possible structure and content of a Continental Free Trade Area agreement (CFTA).

Hosted by the African Development Bank, the meeting reviewed the RECs' experience of trade liberalization and potential lessons for the CFTA; the Abuja Treaty and AU treaty-making process; the scope, negotiating principles, objectives and institutional framework of the CFTA negotiations; a proposed outline of the CFTA agreement; liberalization of trade in goods including modalities for eliminating import duties, non-tariff barriers, quantitative restrictions and rules of origin; trade remedies; customs cooperation and trade facilitation; trade related areas, including technical barriers to trade, sanitary and phytosanitary measures; dispute settlement; and modalities for negotiations in services, agriculture and the industrial pillar.

In their opening statements, representatives from the AUC, NEPAD, ADB and ECA all emphasized the importance of the meeting in relation to the technical preparations for the CFTA negotiations. It was noted, particularly, that the CFTA is a huge and complex institutional and legal structure, which is expected to include all the 54 AU member states. For the CFTA to be established by the target date of 2017, negotiations will need to be conducted effectively and concluded expeditiously. It was within the framework of providing technical support to the CFTA Negotiating Forum and facilitating the process of the CFTA negotiations, therefore, that the CFTA Task Force requested input from the expert group.

 The group agreed on a proposed outline of the CFTA agreement and follow-up work to prepare a working draft for an initial exchange of views ahead of the first substantive CFTA trade-negotiating forum in April 2016.

Source(s): United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (Addis Ababa), 10 February 2016

Former UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali passes away

The United Nations Security Council announced this morning that Boutros Boutros-Ghali, UN Secretary-General from 1992 to 1996, has died at the age of 93. A veteran Egyptian diplomat and the first UN chief from Africa, Mr. Boutros-Ghali, at the time of his appointment, had been Deputy Prime Minister for Foreign Affairs of Egypt since May 1991 and had served as Minister of State for Foreign Affairs from October 1977 until 1991.

The sixth United Nations Secretary-General, his term was marked by brutal conflicts in Haiti, Somalia, Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia, among others. Soon after his inauguration, the Security Council met in its first-ever summit of Heads of State. At their request, Boutros-Ghali authored the report called 'An Agenda for Peace,' an analysis on ways to strengthen UN capacity for preventive diplomacy, peacemaking and peacekeeping.

Also during his tenure, he spearheaded UN structural and management reform. Shown, the Secretary-General visits Sarajevo (Bosnia and Herzegovina) in late 1992, accompanied by peacekeepers from the UN Protection Force (UNPROFOR). The war in the Balkans, accentuated by widespread "ethnic cleansing," lasted 42 months, ending in 1995.

At UN Headquarters in New York, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon hailed his predecessor as a respected statesman who brought "formidable experience and intellectual power to the task of piloting the United Nations through one of the most tumultuous and challenging periods in its history, and guiding the Organization of the Francophonie in subsequent years." "As Secretary-General, he presided over a dramatic rise in UN peacekeeping. He also presided over a time when the world increasingly turned to the United Nations for solutions to its problems, in the immediate aftermath of the cold war," Mr. Ban told reporters.

"He showed courage in posing difficult questions to the Member States, and rightly insisted on the independence of his office and of the Secretariat as a whole. His commitment to the United Nations - its mission and its staff - was unmistakable, and the mark he has left on the Organization is indelible," Mr. Ban stressed. He extended his deepest condolences to Mrs. Boutros-Ghali, as well as to the rest of the family, to the Egyptian people, and to the late Secretary-General's many friends and admirers around the world. "The United Nations community will mourn a memorable leader who rendered invaluable services to world peace and international order," he concluded.

Source(s): UN News Service, 16 February 2016

Kigali to host inaugural African transformation forum next month

The first African Transformation Forum (ATF) to be held in Kigali next month will focus on how the continent can use agriculture as a base for its economic transformation, the organisers said in a press statement on 15 February. The African Centre for Economic Transformation (ACET) and the Government of Rwanda are organising the event scheduled for March 14-15 in Kigali. According to ACET, the forum seeks to facilitate knowledge sharing and peer learning across global and African luminaries from the public and private sectors. "Participants will contribute their rich insights, and uncover challenges and solutions for galvanising economic transformation in Africa."

The statement added that the discussions will focus on the co-ordinated development and implementation of national development plans, and catalysing transformation within critical sectors, including the extractives industry, light manufacturing, agriculture, skills development, entrepreneurship, financial inclusion, infrastructure, and regional integration. President Paul Kagame is expected to deliver the keynote address at the forum that will attract Africa's top economists, policy-makers, business leaders, and development practitioners.

Speaking about the event, Francis Mulangu, an agricultural economist at ACET, said African needs to increase agriculture production, arguing that "a surplus-generating agricultural sector can provide cheap food, ensuring adequate nutrition for the population, including its workforce, and also increasing the amount of disposable income left for individuals and families." He said this generates demand for other goods and services, creating direct and indirect jobs. "Surplus production is also used to provide raw materials for industry, setting off a positive chain reaction including production, marketing, distribution and all the other value additions involved," he said. Agricultural transformation starts by improving productivity, he added.

Higher productivity implies that households will have enough food for their own consumption and surpluses to sell to the market to get more money to diversify their diets and satisfy their non-food needs. However, agricultural productivity in Africa is about one third that of Asian smallholder farmers. The forum will discuss in detail how the continent can harness agriculture sector to create more jobs for its people.

It will also be used to launch the Coalition for Transformation in Africa, a new leadership network organised in chapters, each addressing a specific thematic area. The chapters will be constituted by policy-makers, business leaders and development partners, and will examine and develop implementable solutions for development.

Source(s): The New Times, 18 February 2016

Central Africa

Nigeria: Cameroonian troops hand over suspected Boko Haram terrorists

The Nigerian Army on 15 February said Cameroonian authorities has handed over to it two suspected Boko Haram terrorists. The spokesperson for the army, Sani Usman, said in a statement that the handing over of the suspected terrorists was indicative that the joint anti-insurgency operation by the nations was yielding fruits. Mr. Usman, a colonel, said, "The cooperation between Nigeria and its neighbors has brought renewed vigour and is yielding fruitful result in the fight against the Boko Haram terrorists.

"For instance, apart from recording tremendous success, troops of 26 Task Force Brigade, cooperated with Cameroonian forces for joint operations in Kirawa junction. Although they have not met any of the terrorists in the axis of advance, they rescued 8 men, 36 women and 68 children in the area. "To further consolidate on the cordial relationship, the Commander of Cameroonian 1st Battalion, paid a courtesy call on his counterpart, the Commanding Officer of 121 Task Force Battalion in Pulka. The visiting unit assisted with the demining of a section of the road between Kirawa Junction to Pulka and handed over 2 suspected Boko Haram terrorists to the Nigerian unit.

"Sadly however, one of the visiting unit's vehicle ran into an Improvised Explosive Device (IED), buried along Pulka-Ngoshe road in which an officer and 8 of their soldiers sustained injuries. Unfortunately, the officer died while being evacuated to Douala by air. We wish to commiserate with the Cameroonian forces for the incident and the demise of the officer. May his soul rest in peace and give his colleagues speedy recovery.

"Similarly, troops of 113 Battalion on patrol to Ngwala cleared Boko Haram terrorists' camps at Ngorta and Aritimie villages. The troops also came across the terrorists market at the area. However, on sighting the troops the suspected Boko Haram terrorists ran and abandoned their supplies. "The patrol also conducted cordon and search operations around Ngwala and recovered 2 pick up vehicles and 12 motorcycles belonging to the fleeing Boko Haram terrorists. The market has been closed indefinitely.

"It is pertinent to report that troops morale in the theatre of operation is very high and they are ever determined to clear remnants of Boko Haram terrorists wherever they may be in the North Eastern part of our country."

Source(s): Premium Times, 16 February 2016

Congo-Kinshasa: UN, partners to closely coordinate efforts ahead of elections

The United Nations and its international partner organizations said they are closely following the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), particularly in view of the upcoming elections in the country. In a joint press statement, the UN, the African Union (AU), the European Union (EU) and the International Organisation of La Francophonie (IOF) underscored the necessity of an inclusive political dialogue in the DRC, as well as their commitment to support the Congolese actors towards the consolidation of democracy in the country.

According to the statement, the four partner organizations "underline the crucial importance of these elections, whose peaceful, transparent, smooth and timely conduct would greatly contribute to consolidating the progress made in the DRC for more than a decade." Underscoring the importance of dialogue and the search for an agreement between political actors that is respectful of democracy and the rule of law, the organizations urge all Congolese political actors to "spare no effort," within the framework of the country's Constitution, to "ensure the successful holding of elections, preserve peace and deepen democracy, including through a political process."

Recalling the appointment by the AU of Mr. Edem Kodjo as Special Envoy to undertake consultations on the envisaged dialogue in the DRC, the partner organizations also urge all Congolese political actors to extend him their full cooperation. They also recalled that the decision by the AU and the efforts of the Special Envoy on the ground fall within the framework of the relevant instruments of the AU, including the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance.

In addition, the partner organizations said they are committed to closely coordinating their efforts in the DRC, in accordance with their principles and values, with particular regard to the promotion of democracy and the rule of law.

Source(s): UN News Service, 17 February 2016

Rwanda: Removal of informal taxation at Rwanda-DRC border will boost trade

The Congolese government has decided to reinstate the 24-hour operations of the Goma-Rubavu border posts. The move has been welcomed by residents of both sides of the border who look forward to increase trade volumes, mostly driven by cross-border trade. Cross-border trade plays an important part in the country's economic health. For example, in 2014, Rwanda's total informal transactions bordered around $138 million, a figure that speaks volumes.

The trade also helps in reducing differences in prices of agricultural produce because of the proximity of the communities; prices tend to hover around the same levels. The growth of international trade, even if it is the small scale informal cross-border trade, helps to drive economic growth as well as poverty reduction. Unlike Kenya and Rwanda, informal trade is sometimes more than five times in volume, the size of formal trade in both Kenya and the DRC while in the other two countries, it's the other way round. It is also important to note that 83% of cross-border traders are women and it is their main source of income.

But in order to take full advantage of the proximities of both communities, it will take more than just opening the borders around the clock; it needs some policy review where there are no efficient fiscal controls on the Congolese side. According to World Bank the biggest obstacle to cross-border trade was the large number of DRC government services traders have to go through (sometimes more than ten). At each of these stops they experience "informal taxation" as they are expected to pay something. Once those trade barriers are removed, there is no doubt that cross-border transactions will rise even higher.

Source(s): The New Times, 18 February 2016

North Africa

Egypt: Sisi says his country will not hesitate to defend Gulf against any direct threat

President Abdel Fattah Abdel Fattah El Sisi said that Egypt would not hesitate to defend Gulf countries against any direct threat.  The remarks were made during a meeting with a delegation of senior Kuwaiti journalists, including editors-in-chief of major newspapers and news agencies of Kuwait to thank Egypt for its role in the liberation of Kuwait in 1991.President Sisi reiterated that Egypt would not hesitate to send its troops to the Gulf countries, including Kuwait, in case of any direct attack or threat, according to the presidential spokesman. The Egyptian army is the army of all Arabs, the president said.

Egypt does not intervene in the affairs of other countries and respect the will of peoples, he added, reaffirming that Egypt is able to ward off any attack and respond to any direct threat against it or "its brothers". President Sisi welcomed members of the Kuwaiti delegation and congratulated them on the 55th anniversary of Kuwait's independence. He also congratulated Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Jabr on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of assumption of office. For their part, the delegation members praised Egypt's Armed Forces' participation in the liberation of Kuwait.

The meeting also tackled the latest developments in the Arab region and the situation in Syria. Egypt respects the Syrian people, President Sisi underlined, rejecting any attempt to intervene in the Syrian affairs. He called for reaching a political solution to the Syrian crisis to maintain the unity and integrity of the Syrian land.

Source(s): Egypt State Information Service (Cairo), 18 February 2016

Algeria: Algeria for gas producer, consumer countries to share risks

Algeria remains committed to the principle of risk sharing between producers and consumers, for the harmonious development of the gas industry and the principle of indexation of that price to oil prices for long term contracts, said Energy Minister Salah Khebri. "Gas producers and buyers have necessarily to continue to share risks and to agree to the harmonious development of the industry," said Khebri in his speech at the 5th symposium of the Algerian Association of Gas Industry (AIG), held on 9 and 10 February in Algiers with representatives of domestic and foreign companies activating in the hydrocarbon sector and experts.

In this regard, he said that the oil prices downtrend in the international oil markets "must not overshadow the utility of long-term contracts and the indexation of gas prices to those of the oil products." "We remain firmly committed to the institutional architecture that allowed developing stable and mature gas supply systems with our partners for more than three decades," he insisted.

The difficulties encountered by natural gas are resulting, according to the minister, of "inconsistent energy policies in some areas." The minister stressed that in the electricity production in Europe, the natural gas is "disadvantaged" compared not only to the heavily subsidized renewable energy, but also to coal which is more polluting due to a deficient carbon market.

Concerning the country's internal market, the minister announced a sustained progress of national energy consumption in 2015, with 8% growth rate for electricity consumption, 5% growth for natural gas and 5.5% for oil products. This sharp increase was driven mainly by population growth and improved living standards of the Algerians, he said. Similarly, the national electricity production are forecast to hit 150 tera-watt hours (TWh) by 2030, while consumption of natural gas is expected to increase two-fold within the same period. Natural gas, which helps meet 63% of energy needs of the country, represents 41% of the primary hydrocarbon production and 52% of hydrocarbon exports.

Source(s): Algerie Presse Service (Algiers), 16 February 2016

Tunisia: Delivering support for Tunisia requires review of travel alerts by friendly countries

Minister of Foreign Affairs Khemaies Jhinaoui said on 17 February, delivering support for Tunisia in this critical stage requires the review by friendly countries of travel alerts for their nationals to Tunisia." "The goal is to help the tourism industry recover its normal pace," added the Foreign Minister who was speaking on 17 February at a meeting to which were invited the heads of diplomatic missions accredited in Tunis.

The meeting, held at the Foreign Affairs Department, was attended by Minister of Tourism and Handicrafts Salma Elloumi Rekik and Minister of the Interior Hedi Majdoub.  Khemaies Jhinaoui reviewed the situation of the tourism sector and preparations engaged to ensure the success of the next season at all levels, stressing the importance of intensifying co-operation with the European partnership in this area.

Quoted in a Foreign Ministry press release, Jhinaoui called on European countries to further increase support to Tunisia "as a safe tourist destination." For her part, the Minister of Tourism reviewed the measures taken to secure the tourist resorts, archaeological and cultural sites and hotel units. She gave an overview of the main axes of the national strategy to restructure the tourism sector and the action plan of the department to improve services and diversify the tourist product.

The Miniser of the Interior talked, for his part, about the measures taken as part of co-operation mechanisms with European partners to improve the security situation in the country and secure ports, airports and tourist circuits in all regions of the country.

Source(s): Tunis Afrique Press (Tunis), 17 February 2016

Southern Africa

Mozambique: Refugees seek safety in Malawi as violence soars

Rising tensions and violence in Mozambique have caused hundreds of people to flee to Malawi, with concerns mounting over a continued humanitarian crisis due to overcrowded camps. In the village of Kapise, just 100km south of the Malawian capital, Lilongwe, over 5 800 people from more than 1000 families have settled in a camp that initially held just 150 families. The Mozambicans, most of whom have arrived from the Tete province, are alleged to have fled fighting between government forces and the country's opposition, Renamo.

Humanitarian organisation Doctors Without Borders (MSF) has a permanent presence in the region, providing healthcare services and supporting the ministry of health in seeing to those in need. MSF Field Co-ordinator Whitney Ward spoke on the harsh living conditions faced within the camps, saying she had never seen such levels of overcrowding. "We're talking about hundreds of little shelters crammed on top of each other, where many children run around, people cook on stoves. As the rainy season failed till recently, the camp was usually very dry and it was a serious fire hazard," said Ward.

The threat of malaria within the camp has also been a serious cause for concern, with overcrowding and lack of sanitation making the risks ever more serious. "Half of the consultations in MSF clinic are linked to malaria cases: in the past week alone we've treated 388 malaria patients. People's vulnerabilities are immense, but we've been quite lucky so far that no contagious disease has affected the camp."

With the looming fear of a cholera outbreak, MSF has taken action in drilling two boreholes, with additional drilling in the pipeline. "The only regular water stream has dried out and people, usually women, now have to wait 2.5 hours on average to fill their jerrycans of water. Each person has on average 8 litres of water a day, barely enough to drink and cook and well below the minimum 15 to 20 litres recommended as a humanitarian minimum in emergency settings," Ward stated. Additional locations are currently being sought out to house the refugees to allow for minimum living standards and easier access to humanitarian aid.

MSF has since sent an urgent call to the government of Malawi, as well as the international community, to recognise that the camp needs to be moved to meet minimal emergency levels of services, as internationally agreed. No government intervention, nor that of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), had taken effect thus far.

Source(s): News24WIRE, 18 February 2016

Zimbabwe: EU renews sanctions

The European Union has once again renewed for another year its sanctions on President Mugabe and First Lady Amai Grace Mugabe, a move analysts said indicated that Zimbabwe and the bloc were going in circles on re-engagement. A notice on the EU's official journal on 17 February showed that the illegal sanctions would be maintained until February 20, 2017 and the decision was arrived at after "taking into account political developments in Zimbabwe".

The restrictive measures will continue to apply to President Mugabe and Amai Mugabe and one entity, the Zimbabwe Defence Industries.  Measures against five service chiefs remain suspended subject to review every three months. The quintet includes Central Intelligence Organisation director general Happyton Bonyongwe, Police Commissioner General Augustine Chihuri, Zimbabwe Defence Forces Commander General Constantine Chiwenga, Air Force of Zimbabwe Commander Air Marshal Perrance Shiri and Zimbabwe National Army Commander Philip Valerio Sibanda.

Reads part of the EU notice: "This decision shall apply until 20 February 2017. The suspension shall be reviewed every three months. This decision shall be kept under constant review and shall be renewed, or amended as appropriate, if the council deems that its objectives have not been met." Foreign Affairs permanent secretary Ambassador Joey Bimha said Zimbabwe would maintain its stance that the illegal embargo should go in toto.

"We don't think the sanctions are warranted, legal and justified," he said. "As such, we will not change our position and this is the stance we will continue to take -- the sanctions should be removed in totality. You can remove all the people from the sanctions list but as long as they remain on the face of the country, President Mugabe, it does not make sense to us and that we don't tolerate."

The EU imposed illegal sanctions on Zimbabwe in 2002 at the behest of Britain after the country embarked on the land reform exercise. Britain had reneged on its commitment to fund land redistribution from the white minority to the landless black majority. Britain has lately come under pressure from other EU countries to end the diplomatic war with Zimbabwe because most of them want to normalise trade relations with the mineral-rich southern African country.

European countries such as France and Denmark have started warming up to Zimbabwe's vast investment opportunities and have invested in a number of sectors. Zanu-PF spokesperson Cde Simon Khaya Moyo described the EU as "rogue elements" who continued to support illegality. "These sanctions are illegal and never went through the United Nations Security Council so we cannot spend our time discussing illegality," he said.

"We have told them our position that these sanctions should be removed in their entirety and unconditionally. They are not doing anyone any favours and we are a country that abides by laws and we do not entertain rogue elements who do not follow rules, including those of the UN." The illegal embargo is believed to have cost the country nearly $42 billion. Pursued with a parallel programme of "regime change", and supported by the United States of America, the sanctions have failed to dislodge President Mugabe and his Zanu-PF party.

Source(s): The Herald, 18 February 2016

Zambia to plug water wastage by harvesting rain

As erratic rainfall leaves Zambia's reservoirs running low and its crops thirsty, the government is planning to harvest water and tap the precious resource more efficiently. Experts warn that drought linked to the current strong El Niño weather phenomenon is compromising water security in the southern African country of more than 15 million people.

But drought is only part of the problem - when Zambia does get rain, the country lacks the infrastructure to store it for use during dry spells. "The country has 40 percent of the water (supply) in the southern African region, but most of it is not harvested," Minister of Energy and Water Development Dora Siliya told a meeting on the problem with international agencies.

Agriculture Minister Given Lubinda said Zambia received 160 billion cubic metres of rainfall annually in the past decade. But only 60 billion cubic metres of this is captured each year in lakes and reservoirs, while the rest washes away. A government-led project, launched in 2013 and funded by a $50 million loan from the World Bank, aims to stop that waste by revamping the management of Zambia's water resources over five years.

Siliya said $30 million would be used to construct 15 dams and 300 exploratory boreholes around the country. The remainder would be spent on maintaining some of Zambia's existing dams. For businessman Mooya Chilala, better infrastructure holds the promise of a more reliable water supply."Even in our homes, the water supply is erratic," said Chilala, who lives in Lusaka. "At most we only have running water in the house four hours a day."

Lusaka Water and Sewerage Company spokesman Nshamba Muzungu blamed the erratic supply on pumps being unable to operate during heavy load-shedding caused by power shortages. But the project to develop the country's water resources should help its hydropower plants run at a higher capacity and reinstate a more stable water supply, he said.

The initiative will also go some way to mitigate El Niño's effects on groundwater, said Davis Mwanza, head of water engineering at Lusaka's Natural Resources Development College. "Last October, boreholes dried up in Lusaka because of a number of factors, among them the erratic rains and the indiscriminate and unregulated construction by people in one of the water re-charge areas," he said.

Mwanza is optimistic the water management project will allow the country to utilise its "sufficient" water supply properly. But new infrastructure alone won't be enough, he added. "We also need the Water Resources Management Authority to begin operating fully to regulate both surface and underground water so that this water-harvesting initiative can be supported," he said. Since the authority was set up as a state corporation in 2013, it has worked with a skeleton staff, and needs both more people and more funding, he added.

For farmers like Evelyn Nguleka, Zambia's water project - which will also build and rehabilitate community dams and weirs - means relief from trying to grow crops with unreliable rains. Zambian farmers know they need to move towards installing irrigation, but most can't afford to build dams, she said. "This is a long overdue initiative. We should have started on this water harvesting some time back," said Nguleka, who is president of the Zambia National Farmers Union. "This year we are having a partial drought (and) we cannot depend on rain."

A new study this week said ambitious investment in agricultural water management could halve the global food deficit by 2050, while limiting some of the harmful impacts of climate change on crop yields. Women for Change, a Lusaka-based group that works in the Zambian countryside, is urging the government to concentrate its water-harvesting efforts in rural areas. "Most of the streams or even wells where people draw water, either for drinking or crop irrigation, are drying up," said its executive director, Lumba Siyanga.

"The women and the children suffer most when water security is compromised as they are the most vulnerable."When boreholes, dams or streams run dry, most women cannot afford to buy water from companies or kiosks, she added."Worse still, these alternative (commercial) water sources may not even be available in rural areas," she said.

Source(s): Thomas Reuters Foundation, 18 February 2016

East Africa

Ethiopia: Ticking clock on drought

The international community has just three weeks to provide $245 million in emergency food aid to help prevent a potentially catastrophic escalation in severe acute malnutrition cases in drought-afflicted parts of Ethiopia from the end of April when the main 'hungry season' begins. This drought is affecting communities throughout the Horn of Africa, from Somalia to Eritrea.

"The situation here is as grave as I have ever seen it in the 19 years I have spent in Ethiopia and we now only have a tiny fraction of time for the international community to help to stop this," warns Save the Children Ethiopia Country Director John Graham. "It can take around 120 days to purchase and transport food into Ethiopia through Djibouti– if these emergency funds do not arrive in time, there is no question that there will be a critical fracture in the food aid supply pipeline during the main 'hungry season' which peaks in August"

Ethiopia continues to endure the devastating impacts of its worst drought in 50 years, which has already left a staggering 10.2 million people in need of emergency food assistance, including 6 million children. More than 400,000 children will need urgent supplementary feeding for severe acute malnutrition this year - a condition that can lead to physical stunting and mental development delays. Additionally, at least 1.7 million children and pregnant and lactating women are suffering from moderate acute malnutrition, and are at risk of sliding into further crisis if the food pipeline breaks down.

"In 2016, when we have all the right systems in place to prevent a massive humanitarian disaster, it would be absolutely unforgivable if the international community failed to act. We all said 'never again' after the tragedy of 1984, and again after the famine in Somalia in 2011 – so now is crunch time and we must all step up before it's too late." Despite early warnings, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's call for urgent support has not been met. Currently, the combined Ethiopian Government and UN Appeal for $1.4 billion to combat the impact of the drought remains less than half funded.

"The Ethiopian government has shouldered much of the financial burden so far, but if they don't get more immediate help from foreign donors they may be forced to redirect funding from other vital areas, including education and maternal and child health programs, in order to buy life-saving food aid," says Mr. Graham.

A series of failed rainy seasons triggered by the El Nino weather system has devastated food production and livelihoods across vast swathes of the country, causing food crops to fail, livestock to perish, and severe water shortages leaving 5.8 million people in need of urgent access to drinking water. In many drought-affected areas, dried up wells, springs and rivers have led to a sharp increase in chronic skin conditions such as scabies, with ever-worsening dehydration weakening people's health and leaving them vulnerable to communicable diseases.

"Families should not be put in a position where they need to make heartbreaking decisions about what they use precious water for – to drink and cook with, or to bathe their children and prevent the spread of disease," adds Mr. Graham. Save the Children gives children in the United States and around the world a healthy start, the opportunity to learn and protection from harm. We invest in childhood — every day, in times of crisis and for our future. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

Source(s): Save the Children, Westport, Connecticut, 10 February 2016

Kenya: Feeding the poor

One of the most striking things about Nairobi is its cultural diversity. More than 42 ethnic communities call the Kenyan capital home, each bringing their unique culture, traditional dishes and approaches to cooking. As with many cities across sub-Saharan Africa, the divide between rich and poor is stark and Nairobi is no exception. In this episode of Street Food, we look at the implications of rising global food prices on the poor, the efforts to popularise traditional foods, and explore the inter-tribal dynamics of what Kenyans eat. We meet Judith Mwango, who prepares low-cost packed lunches for her clients who have jobs but don't have much money. Judith cooks dishes that her customers will like, and that means catering to the traditional tastes of different tribes, such as the Kikuyu people, although she herself is a Kisii.

Susan Kamua, Kenya's best-known TV chef and a cooking consultant, is attempting to "glamourise" traditional foods. With the appearance of so-called rich man's diseases such as high blood pressure and diabetes, Kamua argues that there's a growing need for healthier, traditional foods. "Traditional foods are much more nutritious," she says. We meet food vendor Millicent, who economises on time, wood and ingredients by cooking in one pot: she simply separates different dishes by putting them into plastic bags in the same pot. And we investigate the influence of the Indian community and how foods such as biriyani and chapatis have become Kenyanised. Meat, well-loved by Kenyans, remains prohibitively expensive.

We head to two places that specialise in this luxury: the well-known restaurant Carnivore, which is known for serving meat of the savannahs and, 20 kilometres outside Nairobi, we visit the Maasai restaurant Olepolos, which makes Kenya's most famous dish, nyama choma - a style of barbeque often featuring goat. Much of Nairobi's fresh produce comes from the informal sector. We meet Rachel Njoki Ndichu, a milk distributor; 75 percent of Nairobi's milk is supplied by small producers such as Rachel. And we head to Kibera, one of Africa's largest slums which has a vibrant internal economy, the supply of food being a major sector, and visit "hotels" - the Kenyan word for cheap eating house.

This episode was filmed soon after Kenya's post-election violence in 2008, and we look at how the food crisis, tribalism and xenophobia have affected the availability of food. Can traditional dishes foster greater understanding between tribes? Eric Wainaina, whose music addresses tribalism, believes it can. He talks us through the differences between tribes in terms of the food they eat and tells us: "We can't talk about peace if people's access to the necessities of life have been curtailed. There can't be peace without food. There can't be peace without sustenance."

Source Al Jazeera (Doha), 17 February 2016

Uganda: An arresting event

The Ugandan elections had been proceeding with less strife and acrimony than usual when they suddenly reverted to type on 13 February, when the opposition Forum for Democratic Change leader, Kizza Besigye, found himself once more tear-gassed and handcuffed. As polling day on 18 February approached, military and police flooded the Kampala streets in an intimidating show of force.

About a week earlier it came out that 35 anti-riot vehicles with 'Uganda Police' written on the side had arrived at Mombasa, Kenya. The police had apparently requested them in April 2014. The reports of their arrival so close to election day made the overall message to the public unmistakable. That message was carried forward on the streets every day. On 15 February, a supporter of Besigye's was killed in clashes with the police. Several more were injured.

If Besigye has come to be seen as a 'usual suspect' for detention at election time, renegade General David 'Tinyefuza' Sejusa may well become another. He went into exile in Britain in May 2013 after claiming President Yoweri Museveni was planning to pass power to his son, Brigadier Muhoozi Kainerugaba. He returned in December 2014 after reportedly striking a deal to obtain an increase in his pension in exchange for his silence. Whatever deal was struck quickly soured and Sejusa has since led a vocal campaign against Museveni from his Platform to Rescue Uganda. After months of agitation, Sejusa was arrested on 31 January. He awaits the polls in Luzira Prison: prisoners aren't allowed to vote.

Sejusa, whose last government job was head of the intelligence services, has had an up and down relationship with Museveni and he resigned in 'disgust' at corruption in 1997. He has been wooed back time and time again, though. He belongs to the same branch of the President's Banyankole ethnic group, the Hima. Yet in a televised debate, Museveni showed another side on 13 February, just as Besigye was being arrested. He had always snubbed such debates and many wondered if he had agreed to appear because the topics had been pre-arranged with State House. Many viewers judged his performance as no more than passable.

Source(s): Africa Confidential, 19 February 2016

West Africa

Burkina Faso: The long arm of Al Qaida

Last month's bombings in Ouagadougou could signal a much bigger campaign of attacks in Africa. Al Qaida's military-security chief Seif el Adel is suspected by Western security experts of having played a key role in the bombing of the Splendid Hotel and the Café Cappuccino in Ouagadougou on 15 January, Africa Confidential has learned. Seif el Adel, a nom de guerre meaning 'Sword of Justice', was born Mohamed Salah el Din Abdel Halim Zeidan in Egypt in 1960. He is one of five senior Al Qaida officials that Iran quietly freed last March in exchange for Iranian diplomat Nour Ahmad Nikbakht, though their release emerged only in September.

Four of them, including Seif el Adel, are experts in chemical and other weapons of mass destruction, and security officials are interested in the Iran links. Along with two Jordanians, two of the remaining four are also Egyptian: Abu Kheir el Masri (real name, Abdullah Mohamed Rajab Abdel Rahman) is married to one of Usama bin Laden's daughters and once ran Al Qaida's Management Council. Abdullah Ahmed Abdullah (aka Abu Mohamed el Masri, aka Abu Mariam) was, with Seif el Adel, indicted by the United States over the bombing of its embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998. Those attacks killed 224, mainly local, people and injured over 5,000, many seriously.

Last month's attack in Ouaga killed 30 people in and near a hotel frequented by foreigners including troops and United Nations' staff. The dead include French-Moroccan photographer Leila Alaoui, who was on an assignment for Amnesty International, and her Burkinabè driver, Mahamadi Ouédraogo. The siege was brought to an end with the assistance of French troops from neighbouring Mali and US intelligence information. Al Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) named the attackers as Battar al Ansari, Ahmed al Fulani al Ansari and Abu Muhammad al Buqali al Ansari. These were assumed to be noms de guerre; 'Ansari' means 'supporter' (of the faith) and 'Fulani' suggests a Fula/Peulh individual.

In Mali itself, international peacekeepers rely largely on intelligence from Netherlands', French, US and, newly, German, intelligence officers. These internationalised alliances find their parallels among Islamist organisations. On the day of the Burkina bombing, AQIM issued a report on behalf of Al Mourabitoun, which has largely operated much further north in the Sahara. AQIM has far greater experience in the Sahel Belt.

The 15 January announcement is addressed to 'the worshippers of the cross who occupy our homes, plunder our wealth and threaten our security' to 'remind' them 'of their crimes against our people in Central Africa, Mali and all other Muslim countries'. The Splendid was 'frequented by employees of the kufr nations', it declared. The Koran in fact designates Jews, Christians and Muslims as all 'People of the Book'.

Al Mourabitoun, which carried out the January 2013 attack on Algeria's In Amenas gas plant, killing 40 mainly foreign staff, is led by an Algerian, Mokhtar Belmokhtar. It is also widely blamed for November's raid on the Radisson Blu hotel in the Malian capital, Bamako, when 22 people died, which some see as a joint operation with Al Qaida. The similarity with the Burkina attack is unmistakeable. One close observer of these events described the Mourabitoun-AQIM relationship as a 'fusion' and was sure Seif el Adel was involved. 'Belmokhtar would not have agreed to this if it was not ordered by the AQ leadership and only someone with the stature of El Adel could pull this off'.

Western sources had confirmed Seif el Adel was in North Africa, having moved from Somalia since his release because there were 'too many drones', said one. Before he left, he is suspected of helping to prepare the 15 January attack on the African Union Mission in Somalia base at El Adde, Gedo region, on 15 January. Al Haraka al Shabaab al Mujahideen claimed that the suicide bomb attack had killed over 100 Kenyan soldiers serving with Amisom. Nairobi refuses to give a precise death toll but dozens of its troops were reported to have died.

'Al Shabaab did it at a time when many of its members wanted to shift to ISIS Da'ish>', said a Somali specialist. 'Many actions are carried out to prove that Al Shabaab, affiliated with Al Qaida, does not need ISIS to undertake terror attacks. The same in Mali and Burkina Faso'. Accompanied by Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari and Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud at a memorial service for the Kenyan troops on 27 January, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta vowed to keep his forces under the AU flag in Somalia. Kenyan oppositionists are calling for their withdrawal, in the belief that this will persuade Al Shabaab to stop attacking inside Kenya. 'They have forgotten that the enemy has made it clear he will follow us home', said Kenyatta. 'We must defeat terrorists, their sponsors and sympathisers', said Buhari, who is battling Boko Haram at home.

Two of the explosives used in the Adde attack were four times stronger than that used in the 1998 bombing of the US Embassy in Kenya, AC has learned. That indicates, said a military specialist, that a top explosives expert such as Seif el Adel had instructed Al Shabaab on building such powerful bombs, unusually powerful for the Somali organisation. It is believed that on his way to the Sahel, Seif passed through Sudan, to visit what a source described as 'many jihadist old hands' there, including Mohamed Loai Bayazid aka Abu Rida el Suri, an Al Qaida-founder who worked closely with Usama bin Laden during his years in Sudan in the 1990s and who still lives in Khartoum. One of Seif's sons is believed to have travelled from Syria via Turkey to join him.

Seif el Adel is often described as a former Egyptian army special forces colonel but since he left Egypt after the assassination of President Mohamed Anwar el Sadat in 1981, to which he has been linked, he would seem to be too young to have reached that rank. He belonged to Egyptian Islamic Jihad, which claimed the assassination. In the 1990s, he trained Islamist fighters in Sudan alongside the late Usama bin Laden. The Guantánamo Bay detainee Khalid Sheikh Mohamed, who after torture confessed to, among other crimes, the murder of US-Israeli Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl in Pakistan in 2002, reportedly implicated Seif el Adel.  The presence of this explosives expert in the Sahel has focussed interest on two questions. They are Tehran's strategy in releasing the five and the 'franchise war' between Al Qaida and Da'ish ('Islamic State'). As it polishes its new credentials free of nuclear sanctions (as opposed to ballistic missile sanctions), Iran is battling for influence with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates in the Middle East and beyond.

Djibouti, now much sought after by world powers including China, and Sudan both broke diplomatic relations with Iran last month on the prompting of Saudi Arabia. The Islamist regime in Khartoum joined the Saudi-UAE coalition fighting Iranian-backed Shia Houthi rebels in Yemen for two reasons: to stave off Gulf hostility and sanctions, and in return for a cash injection at a time of economic collapse. Both Riyadh and Abu Dhabi had been threatening Khartoum, and banking and other financial sanctions have been biting hard. President Omer Hassan Ahmed el Beshir's National Congress Party regime is reported to have received over US$1 billion from Saudi for sending ground troops to Yemen. Since then, other African armies are offering to bolster the Saudi force in Yemen in return for hefty pay-outs.

Khartoum officially broke relations with Iran after the storming of Saudi Arabia's diplomatic mission in Tehran in protests triggered by Riyadh's beheading on 2 January of Nimr Baqr al Nimr, a prominent Saudi Shia cleric and critic of the monarchy. Iran has for years provided Khartoum with assistance, especially support for the military. These diplomatic breaks raise questions about Iran's strategy in Africa. Whatever covert ties Tehran may retain with Khartoum, it has nevertheless lost much of what one security source described as 'its bridgehead into Africa' via Sudan. Tehran's Africa strategy involved 'exporting the revolution' to all Muslims, notes a 2012 South African intelligence report on Iran which AC recently obtained.

Under the heading 'Iranian intelligence activities in Africa', it notes that in 2010-11 the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, 'reasserted the hardline approach and reaffirmed and enhanced Iran's relations with Islamist movements and networks with the capacity of destabilising those countries closely aligned with the USA and its allies'. Meanwhile Saudi has supported Islamist groups through the less official route of paying for mosques and madrasat across the continent, many of them financed by individual donors, often Islamists who ensured that these institutions employed some radical staff.

Many African security officials complain that this upsurge of strict Wahhabi Islam pushed by Saudi Arabia has led to the outflanking of the more liberal Sufi Islam, which had been previously dominant in Africa. Against the growing strength of Wahhabism in Africa, armed Islamist fighters find it easier to press their demands for full Sharia (Islamic law), including a theocratic state and the outlawing of other religions.

Now there is concern that the Burkina attack could presage a new and more still more deadly Al Qaida campaign in Africa. Al Qaida leader Ayman el Zawahiri, an Egyptian who, we hear, has been covertly in Yemen, is a one-time leader of Egyptian Islamic Jihad, to which Seif el Adel also once belonged. Some Western intelligence sources suspect they are planning another 'spectacular' in Africa or beyond to bring Al Qaida back into the limelight.

Source(s): Africa Confidential, 08 February 2016

Ghana: Let's stop the blame game; people of Nsawam need water

Stories making headlines in the Ghanaian media in the last few days point to the acute shortage of potable drinking water for residents of Nsawam Adoagyiri in the Eastern Region. According to the reports, the water shortage is due to the drying up of the Densu River, which, over the years, has been their only source of water they fetch and treat for cooking and drinking. The river is suspected to have dried up due to farming and galamsey (illegal mining) activities along its banks, causing the water level to drop.

The Municipality, which has not seen any flow of water through the taps for the past two weeks as a result, would have to wait for the rains to increase the water level in the river or continue to use polluted water from other sources. The situation has compelled the residents to rely on tankers and water sourced from the polluted Densu River for domestic use, a state of affairs, which has not only brought untold financial hardship on the residents, but is also affecting their health.

In an interview with Accra News on the issue on February 11, 2016, Frank Annor-Dompreh, Member of Parliament (MP) for Nsawam-Adoagyiri, blamed the Mahama-led government for the crisis. He said the insincerity and evasiveness of the Deputy Minister of Water Resources, Works and Housing, Samuel Yaw Adusei, in responding to questions when he appeared before Parliament, has given credence to his position that the government's poor handling of the issue has led to the current disaster.

Mr. Annor-Dompreh explained that when the sector Minister appeared before the House on November 11, 2015, he promised that the Nsawam Water Treatment Project (NWTP) would be completed in December, last year, but to no avail, which, in his opinion, has led to this situation. He said, the first part of the two-phase project was completed during the Kufuor administration, but an agreement with the international contractor for pipe laying was terminated after the governing party won the 2008 elections. A local firm was then awarded the contract, but a multiplicity of issues around the project caused another abrogation, he said.

The second phase of the project, which involved the rehabilitation of the treatment plant and expansion of the dam to improve water flow, was boosted with 11 million euros counterpart funding by the Belgian government. The government, he said, failed to provide the remaining amount for the project, thus stalling its continuation. He observed that it has now become his responsibility to shoulder the supply of water to communities, schools, and other essential service providers in his constituency since the issue became serious.

The Chronicle also reported in the Thursday, February 11, 2016 edition of the paper that Mr. Samuel Adusei, Deputy Minister in Charge of Water Resources Works and Housing, has blamed the water crisis in the area on climate change and human activities such as illegal mining, bush burning and farming. Mr. Adusei promised that his Ministry would ensure adequate security of the water body to stop people from carrying out human activities that would lead to the further depletion of the river.

The Deputy Minister was inspecting dredging works currently ongoing in the river body to remove sand, unwanted materials and expand the banks to help solve the water crisis in the area. The Chronicle believes both the MP and the Deputy Minister mean well, and that they are both committed to solving the problem for the betterment of our brothers and sisters in the area.

The paper does not, however, think the way forward to solving the crisis is the blame game, especially, judging from the way the MP for the area was blaming the government of the day for the disaster. It is obvious that climate change and other human activities, such as illegal mining, bush burning and farming could be blamed for the depletion of the Densu River.

If the issue of policing the water body, just as it has been done at the Weija Dam, would help to reduce the 'human activity factor' leading to its regular flow, then The Chronicle would advise that, as the Deputy Minister stated, security must be beefed up around the water body to ensure its safety. Residents of the area, especially those living or working along the banks of the Densu River, must also bear in mind that it is their activities that have brought this water crisis upon them, therefore, the earlier they pull the brakes, the better. The Municipal Assembly must enforce its bye-laws to ensure that residents are whipped into line to obey its rules and regulations, so that they no longer indulge in activities that would deplete the water body.

The chiefs in the area and their elders must also discipline themselves first, by not indulging in illegal mining, which has now become a canker in the economic fiber of the country, and come up with regulations that would deter residents from embarking on activities that would affect the wellbeing of the water body, and, by extension, their lives as human beings.

Source(s): Ghanian Chronicle Editorial, 15 February 2016

Niger: Issoufou's first term fails to impress people

President Issoufou's first term has not impressed most Nigeriens. They are unhappy with the continued presence of foreign military bases in the country and his failure to fulfill his promises. Many former supporters of Mahamadou Issoufou are frustrated. They had pinned their hopes on him when he joined the opposition in 2011 after decades of serving the previous regime. Albert Chaibu, a civil rights activist who previously worked alongside Issoufou, summed up his disappointment. "When politicians are in opposition they talk of human rights, democracy and other values, but once they are in power they forget all that. I personally do not believe it any more, these are just nice words because they want power."

During his campaign, Issoufou promised to fight corruption and hunger, improve national security and boost the economy, but five years later many people in Niger are frustrated. Corruption is more rampant than before, the country is threatened by terrorism, and freedom of the press has not improved. In an interview with DW, Nouhou Arzika, a prominent civil rights activist in Niger, spoke his mind. "Issoufou had promised many things that made the people of Niger dream of a bright future. They hoped that this time round things would be better. Now the time is up and nothing of what was promised has been implemented. "

Issoufou himself is satisfied with his performance. "I have kept my promise to bring about the renaissance of Niger without exception," he said recently. "We have invested 7,000 billion CFA francs (about 11 billion euros) in infrastructure, education, health, access to drinking water, food security and the modernization of our armed forces." Referring to the latest Corruption Perception Index published by Transparency International, government spokesman Marou Amadou said the country had improved since 2011, moving up 35 slots to occupy 99th position. He said some goals had even been exceeded. "We have been able to build 15,000 classrooms instead of the planned 2,500. We have also recruited all unemployed physicians and effectively doubled the number of doctors in the country. We have constructed drinking water fountains."

However the United Nations Human Development Index does not reflect this. In its 2015 report, Niger ranks last at position 188, meaning it is one of the poorest and least developed countries in the world. Government spokesman Amadou tried to put this in a positive light. "We have come a long way and have made tremendous achievements. Of course people would have liked to see us in position 100 or 112, but the work that we have accomplished in the past years will pay off economically."

Civil rights activists Albert Chaibu disagrees. "The health sector and food security have not improved," he said. "The state of our schools is a serious problem. For decades, the public school system has not been working." Most recently, teachers went on strike because of inadequate salaries and poor equipment. He says it is no surprise that parents who can afford it send their children to private schools. The UN recently warned that some two million Nigeriens were under threat of hunger. This brings back memories of 2005, when famine killed up to 50,000 people.

The current crisis stems mainly from the fact that tens of thousands in southeastern Niger fled their villages in fear of the Islamist sect Boko Haram. The sect is waging war in neighboring Nigeria and operates beyond the country's borders. The region is extremely volatile. In Mali, Islamists have become established despite the presence of some 10,000 UN peacekeepers. Since the overthrow of Gadhafi, Libya is hardly a state anymore and in Algeria the aged Abdul Azziz Bouteflika no longer has control over the situation. "In my opinion, we have managed to turn Niger into a relative haven of peace," says government spokesman Amadou. In fact, there have been no major attacks since 2013. After terrorist attacks in Bamako and Ouagadougou in 2015, security forces in Niger were put on higher alert. The fact that the country is stable mainly has to do with the large US and French military bases there.

But for civil rights activist Nouhou Arzika these are a problem. "Issoufou has done very little to ensure that Niger remains independent," he says. "The French used their intervention in Mali in 2013 as an excuse to expand their presence in Niger. Their central command is not here, but in France where no one knows what's going on, neither our the president, nor our defense minister or army chief - none of them." Spokesman Marou Amadou rejects this. It was not an easy decision to work together with the Americans and French, he says. But Niger did not have its own drones or air defense forces. "And how sovereign would a state be when it is overrun by terrorists?" Amadou questions. "As far as the French and the Americans are concerned, they are our allies. When we no longer need them, they will leave."

The opposition and civil society groups have their doubts about this. France in particular has strong economic interests in Niger. The French energy company Areva has been mining uranium in the north since 1968. This covers 40 percent of the demand for electricity in France's nuclear power plants. When the old contract expired in 2013, the Nigerien government wanted to ensure that the country benefited more from its own resources. The people of Niger had high hopes in their president, a trained mining engineer who had himself worked at an Areva uranium mine.

Critics say the president has not kept his word. "Instead of implementing the mining law, the government continues to grant Areva tax exemptions," said Ali Idrissa, coordinator of a network of organizations working against corruption (ROTAB). The Mining Act stipulates higher license fees, meaning more revenue for the state. Idrissa is angry with his former colleagues, including government spokesman Amadou, who was a founding member of ROTAB. "Areva is polluting the environment," he says. "They should pay for that. The population is affected by radiation, but there is not even a decent health center in the area." Areva even rejected the proposal to contribute 30 percent to maintain the roads on which the uranium is transported. For Ali Idrissa it is clear, "Niger is not a poor country, Niger is badly governed."

Source(s): Duetsche Welle, 18 February 2016

(This monitor is prepared by Harish Venugopalan, Research Intern, Observer Research Foundation, Delhi

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