MonitorsPublished on Oct 18, 2016
Vice President Hamid Ansari on October 1 returned to New Delhi after wrapping up a five-day visit to Nigeria and Mali and other roundups
Africa Monitor | Volume V; Issue XXI | Vice President Hamid Ansari returns after 5-day visit to Nigeria, Mali

< style="color: #0069a6;">THE CONTINENT

< style="color: #163449;">Vice President Hamid Ansari returns after 5-day visit to Nigeria, Mali

Vice President Hamid Ansari on October 1 returned to New Delhi after wrapping up a five-day visit to Nigeria and Mali during which he held talks with the top leadership of the two countries on an entire gamut of issues including terrorism, defence and connectivity. He described the visit to the African countries as "very satisfying" and said it was a follow-up on many ideas discussed during the India-Africa Summit in New Delhi last year. Nigeria was the first stop for Ansari. In capital Abuja, he held talks with President Muhammadu Buhari and his counterpart Yemi Osinbajo, addressed members of the Nigerian and Indian industry and also the Indian community besides delivering a speech at the National College of Defence. From Abuja, he went to Nigeria's largest city of Lagos where he met members of the Indian community and also delivered a speech at the University of Lagos. An agreement was signed on standards in Nigeria. Besides a letter of intent on agreements on health, customs, transfer of sentenced persons, and new and renewable energy was signed. The two countries held discussions on a range of issues including cooperation in the field of security, defence, ICT, culture, oil and gas, concessional credits, bilateral air services agreements, power, IT, telecom, infrastructure and fight against terrorism. Ansari then went to Mali, the first high-level visit by any Indian leader. In Malian capital Bamako, he addressed the National Assembly, Parliament of Mali, and met President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, Prime Minister Modibo Keita, CEOs of Indian origin and Indian companies and also Indians posted in the West African country under United Nations Mission. He also participated in the Friday prayers at the Grand Mosque with the prime minister and hundreds of other devout. Two MoUs were also signed between India and Mali, one on standards and the other on cultural exchange. The vice president was accompanied by his wife Salma Ansari, Minister of State for Finance Arjun Ram Meghwal, MPs Bhubaneshwar Kalita, Dilip Kumar Tirkey and Mohammad Salim besides senior officials. Source: Daily News and Analyses

< style="color: #163449;">SA woman among activists on boat captured by Israelis

A South African woman on October 5 made a plea for help after the Israeli government intercepted a boat carrying pro-Palestinian female activists to Gaza. Leigh-Ann Naidoo said she was "kidnapped" during her humanitarian mission. In a video posted on YouTube, Naidoo said: "If you are seeing this video, we have been intercepted and kidnapped by the Israeli occupation forces. I want to put an appeal to all my comrades, brothers, sisters and families to put pressure on the South African government to insist that they release me as soon as possible." Another crew member, Mairead Maguire, from Northern Ireland, said they were intercepted in international waters and taken into Israel. Naidoo wrote in a diary entry, published by, that most boats in the "Freedom Flotilla" were rerouted to the Israeli port of Ashdod, where the Israeli Defence Force would question, process, and deport the women. "From here we will either be moved to a prison or our deportation will be done while we are being held at the detention centre. Our embassies will come to help us and our legal representatives will do the same. Hopefully our mission will highlight the unlawful and inhumane blockade of Palestine." The Department of International Relations and Co-operation could not be reached for comment. The international Freedom Flotilla Coalition is a solidarity movement, composed of campaigns and initiatives from all over the world, trying to end the Israeli occupation of Gaza. Source: news24WIRE

< style="color: #163449;">German Chancellor Merkel begins three-day Africa trip

Merkel has embarked on an Africa trip to improve conditions for private investment in an attempt to tackle the economic causes of migration. Berlin wants to boost ties with Africa in the wake of the refugee crisis. "We have 10 times more direct investment in the European Union than we have in the whole of Africa," Chancellor Angela Merkel told leaders at the G20 summit. So could African countries benefit from the G20 meeting? German Chancellor Angela Merkel's first stop in Africa is Mali, where she is scheduled to hold talks with President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita. On her three-day official trip, the German leader will also visit Niger and Ethiopia. Merkel is the first German chancellor to visit Mali, where more than 550 German soldiers are stationed to battle the Islamist insurgents in the north. France, the African nation's former colonial power, helped local troops push back the militants in 2013, but armed militias still operate in the area. The battle against terrorism is also expected to feature in Merkel's talks with the leaders of all three countries. Merkel will discuss investment opportunities and the need for economic stability in Africa to stem migration to Europe. "I believe we must take a far greater interest in Africa's destiny," Merkel said in her weekly video podcast on October 8. "The wellbeing of Africa is in Germany's interest," she said, adding that the continent would be the focus of her country's upcoming G-20 presidency. The German chancellor is seeking better conditions for private investment in Africa, as she believes that "state support alone cannot advance the development of an entire continent." Germany recorded the arrival of over 890,000 migrants last year. Most of these refugees are from the war-ravaged countries like Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, while many also fled economic hardships across the African continent. The German government wants a similar refugee deal with North African countries as the EU struck earlier this year with Turkey to curb the flow of migrants to Europe. Next week, Merkel will host Chadian President Idriss Deby and Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari. Source: Deutsche Welle

< style="color: #163449;">Kenya ranked 3rd in access to credit in Sub Saharan Africa

Kenya has been ranked third in ease of access to credit in the sub Saharan Africa according to a new report by the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW). The report dubbed Economic Insight: Africa Quarter 3 2016 says Kenya is ranked after Rwanda and Zambia and before Ghana, Mauritius and Uganda. "Access to finance is a vital driver of economic growth, so this is great news for Kenya. The interest cap enacted in Kenya benefits customers by both keeping the rates regulated, as well as spurring greater competition amongst banks. It could also further incentivise more accurate credit scoring. All of these measures should help Kenyan businesses in the longer term," said Michael Armstrong, Regional Director, ICAEW Middle East, Africa and South Asia. According to the report released on October 14, Rwanda has made six reforms to facilitate getting credit during 2010-16, through strengthening borrowers' and lenders' collateral laws. "Angola came in at the bottom of the rankings, and it is much more difficult to get credit there than in SSA on average. Angola only made one reform to facilitate access to credit in 2010-16. While Angola has the third largest banking system after Nigeria and South Africa in SSA, only a small portion of the population uses the banking system and few businesses apply for loans," the report states. The report however says the Kenya's credit market will be distorted in the short term following the new enacted a law in August 2016 prohibiting banks from lending at rates of more than 4 per cent over the Central Bank Rate that is currently at 10 per cent taking the rates down from weighted average lending rates of 18.2 per cent as at June 2016. But on a more positive note the report states the new law could spur greater competition and incentive more accurate credit scoring. "Both would be positive for access to finance in the longer term. Given that banks will require some time to adjust to the new regulation, and considering uncertainty related to global financial conditions, Kenyan authorities are expected to adopt a cautious approach towards monetary easing," the report observes. Sub Saharan Africa, the report indicates performs relatively poorly in terms of getting credit compared to other regions of the world, with a regional average Distance to Frontier score of 35.9 per cent - only the Middle East and North African region does worse. According to Making Finance Work for Africa in 2015 only 23 per cent of African households had access to formal or semi-formal financial services. Source: CAPITALFM

< style="color: #0069a6;">CENTRAL AFRICA

< style="color: #163449;">Fighting kills 30 in Central African Republic

Fighters with the former Seleka rebel group attacked a northern town in Central African Republic and clashes left at least 30 dead and 57 wounded as United Nations peacekeepers confronted them. Peacekeepers repelled the attackers, killing at least 12 of them, the UN said. The attack in Kaga-Bandoro was likely retaliation for the death on October 11 of a suspected former Seleka member, the UN mission said in a statement. Central African Republic descended into conflict in 2013 when the mostly Muslim Seleka rebels overthrew the Christian president Francois Bozize. That ushered in a brutal reign with many atrocities committed. When the rebel leader left power, a backlash by the Christian anti-Balaka militia against Muslim civilians followed. "There is, today, no legitimate reason for any armed group to use weapons," said the UN mission's chief Parfait Onanga-Anyanga. "The people have suffered enough and are tired of this war that has lasted too long." The UN condemned the violence overnight on October 12 that saw rebels attack civilians, target authorities, and loot aid organisations. Armed men attacked a secondary school during teacher training, witnesses told the UN children's agency, saying among those killed were three teachers, the director of an educational centre, and the vice president of the parents association. "We are deeply shocked by these developments and saddened that teachers have been targeted," said Mohamed Malick Fall, UNICEF's representative in the country. A local priest said two humanitarian workers were also among the dead. He spoke on condition of anonymity out of fear for his safety. More than 5,000 people already displaced by years of violence have taken refuge next to the UN base, their informal settlements burned, the UN Office for Humanitarian Affairs said. Hundreds of former Seleka fighters have regrouped in Kaga-Bandoro, along with Muslim civilians, after fleeing the capital, Bangui, two years ago. Source: Al Jazeera (Doha)

< style="color: #163449;">Burundian envoy to the US says African countries will leave ICC

Burundi's pending decision to withdraw from the International Criminal Court (ICC) likely presages the same action by other African countries, the Burundian ambassador to the United States said on October 13. "African countries will quit the ICC one by one in the coming months and years", Ambassador Ernest Ndabashinze said. While declining to comment specifically on threats by some Kenyan leaders to remove the country from ICC jurisdiction, the envoy cited a common sentiment in Africa about the ICC. "Many African governments now view the court as an instrument used to control, manipulate and impose foreign decisions on Africa," Mr Ndabashinze said in a telephone interview with the Nation. He pointed to African Union's call earlier this year for formulation of a strategy for withdrawal from the ICC. He said African disgruntlement with the court stems primarily from the ICC's nearly-exclusive focus on countries in the continent in cases related to genocide and war crimes. But some African governments have themselves been the source of requests for ICC action in the case of six of the nine investigations initiated in the continent. In addition, some African countries have said they have no intention of withdrawing from the ICC. Burundi's Parliament voted decisively earlier this week to pull the country out of the ICC. That step awaits ratification by President Pierre Nkurunziza, but Ambassador Ndabashinze said that the move is final and irreversible. Burundi would thus become the first country in the world to withdraw from the 14-year-old court. "The ICC is part of a process that is dividing Burundians," Mr Ndabashinze claimed. He said government opponents allegedly involved in an unsuccessful coup attempt last year are using the ICC to protect themselves. "Others outside Africa are also involved in this process of destabilising Burundi," the envoy added. ICC Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda announced in April that the court would open an investigation into reports of "killing, imprisonment, torture, rape and other forms of sexual violence, as well as cases of enforced disappearances." The United Nations says that more than 500 Burundians have died in political violence arising from President Nkurunziza's decision last year to seek a third term in office, which he went on to win. Nearly 300,000 Burundians have fled the country amidst fears that the unrest could lead to mass killings. Withdrawing from the ICC cannot occur instantaneously under the terms of the Rome Statute that established the court. A country must first submit an official letter to the UN secretary general stating its intention to opt out of the Rome Statute. The necessary letter triggering Burundi's pull out from the ICC had not been received as of October 12, a UN spokesman said. The Rome Statute gives the ICC power to move ahead with criminal investigations that were initiated prior to the effective date of withdrawal. In his comments on October 13, Mr Ndabashinze brushed off a US warning this week that withdrawal from the ICC would "isolate Burundi from its neighbours and the international community at a time accountability, transparency, and engaged dialogue are most needed." The United States is not itself a member of the ICC and cannot criticise Burundi's move, the envoy stated. Source: Daily Nation

< style="color: #163449;">Health sector gets Frw 16 billion Belgian boost in Rwanda

The Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, Claver Gatete, and the ambassador of Belgium to Rwanda, Arnout Pauwels, on October 13 signed a financing agreement worth €18 million (Frw 16 billion) to support the health sector. The grant will be disbursed through sector budget support and contribute to the realization of Rwanda's third Health Sector Strategic Plan (HSSP III), developed for 2012-2018. There will be two installments, €12m for the fiscal year 2016/17 and €6m for 2017/18. "We are thankful to the Belgium government for this support that will contribute to the achievement of our health sector goals. Under EDPRS 2, our focus in the health sector is to improve the quality of health care services, including the management of hospitals, while continuing to expand geographical and financial accessibility," Gatete remarked. The Minister of State in the health ministry, Patrick Ndimubanzi , said that the money will support the overall budget but especially to be oriented in maternal and child health activities as well as purchasing of hospital equipment and their maintenance. Ambassador Pauwels for his part said that the mid-term review of HSSP III has highlighted the great achievements made in the sector and shown the importance of ensuring the sustainability and inclusiveness of the system. "Belgium, being the only bilateral donor providing budget support to the health sector, is willing to contribute to the process of finding innovative ideas to meet the sector's medium-term resource needs and ensure the sustainability of the system while maintaining equity and quality of service delivery" he said. Belgium has been supporting the health sector through sector budget support since 2008. 25% percent of all current Belgian development aid to Rwanda is provided through sector budget support. Source: Rwanda Focus

< style="color: #0069a6;">NORTH AFRICA

< style="color: #163449;">Ruling Islamist Party win parliamentary election in Morocco

The Islamist party, which has led the coalition government since the Arab Spring protests in 2011, has won the country's parliamentary elections. Participation was relatively low at 43 percent. Morocco's ruling Islamists have won the country's parliamentary elections, official results showed on October 8. Some 43 percent of the North African kingdom's 15.7 million eligible voters cast their ballots in October 7's parliamentary vote, which was only the second election since constitutional reforms were instated to quell the street protests that erupted during the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings. The moderate Islamist Justice and Development Party (PJD) won 125 of the 395 seats in the Chambers of Representatives, whereas the Party of Authenticity and Modernity (PAM) came second with 102 seats, according to the country's interior ministry. The conservative Istiqlal (Independence) Party has come in third with 31 seats, Interior Minister Mohammed Hassad told reporters. This means no party will win a clear majority, setting the stage for a ruling coalition. So far the PJD's signature achievement is passage of a controversial reform of the retirement system while following a relatively liberal economic policy. "Today democracy won," Prime Minister Benkirane said as the results started to come in. "After leading the government for five years, after implementing reforms, after its achievements, after carefully managing the budget and reforms with the retirement fund ... after widening health care coverage, after all of this - thanks be to God - today, the Moroccan people have given the PJD a victory." Some parties have fielded ultra-conservative Salafists, in a sign that Islamists are becoming a feature of Moroccan politics. The PAM poured enormous resources into a campaign criticizing the government's economic record as "catastrophic" and pledged to roll back the "Islamization" of society and legalize cannabis. The government said the vote was fair, though there have been allegations of irregularities from all sides. PAM spokesman Khalid Adennoun told reporters his party had filed "50 complaints" of voting irregularities in the port city of Tangiers. Local media also reported a violent incident in which an Islamist candidate was attacked and wounded outside a polling station in the capital Rabat. The religious PJD came to power in 2011, months after massive street protests prompted concessions from Morocco's monarchy. A new constitution transferred some of the king's powers to the elected parliament, at a time when autocratic regimes were falling in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya. Source: Deutsche Walle

< style="color: #163449;">Egyptian markets hit by sugar shortages

After a three-hour hunt for sugar in a number of shops in Giza, one consumer was able to find one bag at a supermarket, but at the price of EGP 10. The same 1 kg bag was sold at EGP 5 about two months ago. "We hear daily that the government has supplied sugar, but the reality is that sugar is lacking from all supermarkets, and even consumer complexes, and as soon as it becomes available, it runs out," Yasmin, an Egyptian consumer, said. She is not alone as other consumers have reported deficiency in sugar supply at more than one commercial chain. An Aswat Masriya reporter went for a tour in Downtown Cairo October 11 night in search for sugar, but did not find any at the government's Al Ahram Markets' branches and other shops, however it was available at some of the large commercial chains. The manager of an Al-Ahram Market branch, Ashraf, told Aswat Masriya that the quantities of sugar supplied to the market have declined since last month, adding that nothing has arrived in the past two days. "The Ahram Market always had no less than 2 tonnes of sugar in stock, however last month the quantities supplied to us declined by almost half and are sold in just hours due to the increasing demand," he said. Al-Ahram Market is one of the government complexes where sugar is sold at a subsidised price of EGP 5, resulting in high demand. It also sells sugar to consumers who are not under the umbrella of the supply ministry's subsidy system for the same subsidised price. "We even set a limit of 3 kg of sugar per person in order to allow a larger number of people to buy it," Ashraf added. What is the main reason behind the crisis? According to a source at a private sugar company who preferred to remain anonymous, the main reason behind the decline in sugar and the associated price hike is the new regulations imposed by the ministry of supply on the distribution of sugar. New regulations have limited the distribution of sugar to the Holding Company for Food Industries only, leaving out hundreds of traders and packaging factories. There are five public sector companies operating in Egypt in sugar production. Also in operation are two other private sector companies: the Saudi company Savola and Nile Sugar Company, owned by businessman Naguib Sawiris. Egypt consumes about 3.2 million tonnes of sugar annually but produces just over 2 million tonnes leaving a gap of slightly over a million tonnes a year for imports. Supply Minister Mohamed Ali al-Sheikh, who assumed the post early September, decided to restrict sugar output to the Holding Company for Food Industries, which owns only two distributing companies, the source said. "Distribution used to occur through hundreds of traders and small factories, but the government decided that they are greedy and manipulate prices, so it chose to limit distribution to one entity, which is the Holding Company," the source added. This has led to a noticeable deficiency in sugar supply as the Holding Company has limited capacity in distribution, thus restricting supply to large chains and factories that use sugar as production input, according to the source. As for the private companies, their production relies on sugar beet, whose production season had ended a few month ago, so their stock is almost depleted, the same source said. The Supply Ministry's official spokesperson Mohamed Askar declined to comment on the new method for distributing sugar. Askar only said that a meeting was held between the supply minister and members of the commercial chambers and large commercial chains to address the crisis and that it "will be solved within days." Other reasons? The method of distribution is not the only reason behind the crisis, but other factors like the dollar shortage and the global increase in sugar prices have contributed to the problem, prompting private sector companies to stop importing. The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) said last week that food prices have risen in September to their highest since March 2015, with sugar taking the lead. FAO stated that sugar prices increased by 6.7 percent in September compared to August, and attributing this largely to bad weather conditions in Brazil, the world's biggest producer and exporter of sugar. The source mentioned that private sector companies could have imported raw sugar and then refined it in order to address supply shortages, however foreign currency shortages presented an obstacle. In May, the Egyptian government decided to exempt raw sugar importers of customs, while fees of EGP 900/ ton were imposed on white sugar exports. Another factor contributing to the crisis is that one of the major factories refining sugar, affiliated with Savola, switched to exporting all its output of white sugar since the beginning of the year instead of directing it towards the local market due to the dollar crisis. A source from Savola said that exporting the factory's output is "among the main reasons" behind the crisis as it contributed to the deficiency in supply. "Savola imports raw sugar in dollars, and refines it in its factory," the source said. "It used to sell part of it in the local market and export the rest, but with the surge in dollar price in Egypt, the company preferred to export all its output, which is about 450,000 tonnes annually in order to benefit from the global increase in sugar prices." The supply ministry has announced several times in the recent period that it imported large quantities of sugar. It said in a statement on October 11 that current reserves should be enough until February. However, sources from the two private companies said that the crisis could last until the production season in Jan. and Feb. despite attempts to quell it through government imports. Source: Aswat Masriya

< style="color: #163449;">Algeria, Cuba singh agreement on health cooperation

Algeria and Cuba inked on October 13 in Havana an agreement on modalities to implement cooperation in the health sector. This agreement aims at strengthening Algeria-Cuba health cooperation under the framework agreement inked in last May in Algiers. Minister of Health, Population and Hospital Reform Abdelmalek Boudiaf and his Cuban counterpart Roberto Morales Ojeda signed the agreement. The official signing ceremony took place in the presence of Cuban President Raul Castro, Premier Abdelmalek Sellal and Minister of State, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Ramtane Lamamra. Sellal arrived October 12 in Havana for a three-day official visit at the invitation of Bermudez. Upon his arrival in Havana, Sellal underlined the "excellent" relations between Algeria and Cuba, adding that the two countries would work together to further boost them. Prime Minister said that he felt at home in Cuba, adding that relations between the two countries would be further strengthened. Source: Algerie Press Service (Algiers)

< style="color: #0069a6;">SOUTHERN AFRICA

< style="color: #163449;">Opposition coalition hangs in the balance in Zimbabwe

A COALITION of opposition political parties to form a united front to remove President Robert Mugabe from power in the 2018 general elections hangs in the balance amid serious contestations and jostling between the parties even before formal negotiations begin. Twenty parties in August came together under the banner of the National Electoral Reforms Agenda (Nera) to push for electoral reforms ahead of the elections. The move was seen as a precursor to an electoral pact. But intense jockeying as opposition parties scramble to position their preferred candidates in the race to lead the coalition is heightening tensions and complicating inter-party relations. MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai and Zimbabwe People First leader Joice Mujuru are seen as front runners to lead the coalition. According to sources close to the coalition talks, several differences are threatening the nascent pact. Sources in the opposition ranks revealed there was tension between ZimPF and the Tendai Biti-led People's Democratic Party (PDP) over membership at a time hordes of PDP officials are jumping ship to join Mujuru's outfit. PDP vice-president Sipepa Nkomo and a number of senior officials from Matabeleland have resigned from the party to join ZimPF, destabilisng the party in the process. The entire PDP Matabeleland North provincial executive crossed the floor to join Mujuru's party. PDP spokesperson Jacob Mafume confirmed Nkomo's resignation, adding that ZimPF had betrayed his party. PDP officials have been close to Mujuru's party since its formation, with officials from the party even attending ZimPF rallies. Mafume said: "Yes, he has resigned to be destined to join People First. He has resigned together with his wife and a number of relatives. It shows a lot of excitement and old habits dying hard on the part of ZimPF. We have always thought that Mujuru was a breath of fresh air, (we) hope she will not disappoint everyone else in Zimbabwe who have put their hope and trust in her. "Moreover, for her to become a serious opposition actor she has to quickly decide whether she wants to form a political party or an old people's home." A well-placed source linked to the negotiations said the coalition can only succeed if leaders of opposition political parties learn to compromise. "Mujuru people say she should lead the coalition because she has liberation credentials while MDC-T people say Tsvangirai has been in the trenches longer. In Bulawayo at the MDC-T's 17th anniversary celebrations the slogan was '2018 Tsvangirai chetechete' (Tsvangirai for president 2018). It almost sounds Zanu PF-like but its import is no one else should lead the coalition," the official said. "The elephant in the room which is likely to scuttle any success in coalition building is the people's attitudes and egos of the key players involved. I get a sense that both Mujuru and Tsvangirai have a sense of entitlement, which is not helpful." "Tsvangirai considers himself the big face of opposition politics and that should entitle him to lead the coalition whereas Mujuru thinks her liberation credentials put her ahead of everyone. If the coalition is to be successful they both will have to learn to compromise but I'm afraid it doesn't look like they are prepared to do so," the source added. Speaking at a rally in Ruwa over the weekend, MDC-T secretary-general Douglas Mwonzora hinted that the opposition party preferred Tsvangirai to lead the coalition. "The president (Tsvangirai) will make an announcement on this, but we want a candidate who has beaten Mugabe before," he said. "A candidate with no blood on his hands, a candidate who has shown performance-related promises when he was once in government," said Mwonzora. Meanwhile, Mujuru, speaking last week during a question-and-answer session after her address at British think-tank Chatham House, asserted she was ready to lead a coalition government if the other political parties she is working with endorse her. She said she would not demand to lead the grand coalition. Source: Zimbabwe Independent

< style="color: #163449;">NGOs want Gordhan charges scrapped in South Africa

Two NGOs intend applying to the High Court in Pretoria to have the "unsustainable" charges against Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan scrapped. Freedom Under Law and the Helen Suzman Foundation sent a letter of intent to National Director of Public Prosecutions Shaun Abrahams on October 14, calling for him to withdraw the charges against Gordhan. Failing that, they wanted the NPA to deliver its documents and certain details about the case to them by October 21, with a view to stopping Gordhan's prosecution. "Ordinarily, one does not comment on the merits of pending court cases," former Constitutional Court judge Johann Kriegler, of Freedom Under Law, said on October 14. "But we cannot stand by while untold damage is being done to the reputation and stability of our country following the shocking allegations levelled at the Minister of Finance and the theatrical manner in which they were broadcast earlier this week." Kriegler said the two NGOs had the charges analysed and were advised that they were legally flawed and factually unfounded. "It is not for us to speculate who or what, if anything, lies behind the investigation and prosecution, but we have been advised that there is a basis upon which we can ask the High Court to examine the validity and viability of the charges with a view to cutting short the prosecution." The two organisations gave the NPA until 16:00 on Friday, October 21, to withdraw the charges against Gordhan, or provide the documents to them. Abrahams announced on October 11 that Gordhan, former Sars deputy commissioner Ivan Pillay and former commissioner Oupa Magashula would be charged in relation to an early retirement pay-out granted to Pillay in 2010, and the extension of his contract. Source: news24WIRE

< style="color: #163449;">Malawi President goes missing;  worried Malawians take to social media

Malawians have been asking, to anyone who cares to know, about the whereabouts of their President Peter Mutharika. President of the landlocked country since May 2014, Mutharika who spent time teaching law at Washington University, travelled to New York for the 71st General Assembly. The meeting ended on September 26th and it was expected that every head of state would return to their homeland. Mutharika did not and his absence has caused a buzz in Malawi. With #BringbackMutharika, Malawians have posed questions, criticised government officials and gossiped about the man's health. The problem has largely been poor communication from government officials and local newspapers have lambasted the lack of coherent information. Private newspaper Nyasa Times wrote of "their incredible inability to answer the many questions making rounds on tongues of the people of Malawi." And according to Dr Boni Dulani who teaches political science at the University of Malawi, they should be shown the door. "Peter Mutharika should fire his PR team. They have embarrassed him & Malawi," he argued on October 13. "Of course, a President practicing 1940 politics in 2016 is an embarrassment to himself." It could be that Mutharika's own officials have been in the dark or that they were simply asked to keep silent about it.'MEETING PEOPLE' on October 13, Malawi government spokesman Malison Ndau told the BBC that Prof Mutharika was still meeting "a number of people one by one." The identity of these people or the venues of those meetings was not clarified. Malawi's State House had announced on October 11 that the President will arrive on October 16 at 1pm. "State House is informing the public that His Excellency Professor Arthur Peter Mutharika will on Sunday 16th October 2016 return to Malawi from the United States of America (USA) where he attended the 71st United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) and also attended to various government businesses. "The President shall arrive at Kamuzu International Airport (KIA) at 1300hrs," said Presidential Press Secretary Mgeme Kalilani in a Facebook post. The choice of October 16 followed his failure to arrive on October 8. And activists in Malawi have challenged the government officials to provide footage of those meetings if at all he was conducting the said businesses. Without that, it has fueled a rumour that the man, 76, is unwell and admitted to a hospital in the US. With an estimated population of 16.8 million, Malawi has been relatively stable since 1991 when the one-party system was ended. It has held five presidential elections since. Yet the current miscommunication depicts a country still with hangover of the past. "We have a system whose one foot is in autocracy and another in democracy and therefore operating in such a dual conflicting lane highway makes this country, its leadership, its citizenry and its politics move in insane circles," private newspaper Nyasa Times wrote in a commentary. Educated at Yale University, the Malawian lawyer rose to presidency after defeating incumbent Joyce Banda in May 2014. Malawians may generally be justified to demand answers. Peter Mutharika's elder brother Bingu wa Mutharika's died in 2012 when he was sitting President. He collapsed in his country, rushed to South Africa and was declared dead two days later. The chaos surrounding his health and death were so poorly communicated that the announcement was made on the day Joyce Banda, who had been Bingu's vice-president, was sworn in as the new President. Source: Daily Nation

< style="color: #0069a6;">EAST AFRICA

< style="color: #163449;">Ethiopia declares official mourning after stampede

Ethiopia has declared three days of national mourning after a stampede at a religious festival in Oromia, which started after police fired tear gas and warning shots, killed at least 50 people. Protests in Oromia started in November last year when the government announced a plan to expand the capital - a city-state - into the surrounding Oromia region. Many Oromos saw that as a plan to remove them from fertile land. The scheme has since been dropped, but the unrest spread as demonstrators called for the release of prisoners and for wider freedoms. In the Amhara region, demonstrations began over the status of a district - Wolkait - that was once part of Amhara but was incorporated into the neighbouring Tigrayan region more than 20 years ago. Those demonstrations have also since spread. The ruling Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front is a multi-ethnic coalition made up of four parties. The opposition and political analysts, though, say it is dominated by the Tigrayan People's Liberation Front. The Government Communication Affairs Office said that flags across the country and at Ethiopian embassies and consular offices would be lowered to half-mast starting from October 4. "The country declares the mourning following the death of people who lost their lives because of the violence instigated by anti-peace elements," the government said. Oromo opposition leaders say the stampede was sparked by police firing tear gas and shooting in the air to disperse people at the festival. Sections of the crowd had started to shout anti-government slogans and make anti-government gestures, according to media reports. Witnesses said people were crushed, and others fell into ditches as they tried desperately to escape the police. The Associated Press news agency reported clashes between security forces and protesters on October 2 evening and on October 3 morning in the towns of Bishoftu and Ambo after the incident. "Some people tried to come out en masse this morning to protest the deaths of holiday-goers on October 2 and also demand the release of people arrested during the celebrations," said Nimona Negash, a tuk-tuk driver in Bishoftu, where the October 2nd disaster happened. "The protesters were peaceful but dispersed by police violently." He said family members of people who died in the stampede on October 2 and others looking for their relatives were flocking to Bishoftu, creating tension there. According to the New York-based Human Rights Watch group, at least 500 people have been killed by security forces since anti-government protests began in November. Though demonstrations started among the Oromo, Ethiopia's biggest ethnic group, they later spread to the Amhara, the second most populous group. Both groups say that a ruling coalition is dominated by the Tigray ethnic group, which makes up about 6 percent of the population. Authorities have blamed rebel groups and dissidents abroad for stirring up the protests and provoking violence. The government has denied that violence from the security forces is systemic, though a spokesman has previously told Al Jazeera that police officers "sometimes take the law into their own hands", pledging an independent investigation. The Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front ruling party in August rejected a United Nations request to send in observers, saying it alone was responsible for the security of its citizens. A government statement on October 2 said "those responsible would face justice". Source: Al Jazeera (Doha)

< style="color: #163449;">UN unrest rises amid Kiir's death rumours in South Sudan

The UN has warned of increasing violence in South Sudan as the government was forced to publicly dismiss rumours of President Salva Kiir's death to quell rising tensions. The UN said it was being denied access to parts of the country where fighting has erupted and condemned "in no uncertain terms these acts of violence and attacks against non-combatant civilians". "The United Nations Mission in South Sudan is extremely concerned over increased reports of violence and armed conflict in various parts of the country in the last few weeks," a statement said on October 12, noting fighting in northern Unity State and southern Equatorias. UNMISS also said it had been denied access to an area where 21 civilians were reportedly killed in an ambush on a road between the capital Juba and southern city of Yei over the weekend. Also on October 12, Information Minister Michael Makuei held a press conference to deny rumours of Kiir's death that had circulated in recent days, triggering fear and tension in Juba. "This is a mere lie, there is nothing as such. Salva Kiir has not even been sick," said Makuei, slamming "wild rumours" he said aimed to divide the people of South Sudan. Later in the day Kiir, 65, was driven about town in the back of a pick-up to prove he was alive. In recent days residents of Juba had reported a higher-than-usual presence of soldiers on the streets, as the rumours coincided with mounting concerns over a rise in violence. "We are scared of the situation. You cannot know what is exactly happening," said Moses Modi, a resident of Juba who was staying in his house over security fears. Another Juba resident, speaking on condition of anonymity, reported that some schools had sent pupils back home. South Sudan, which gained independence in July 2011, descended into war just two-and-a-half years later when Kiir in December 2013 accused his then-deputy Riek Machar of plotting a coup. Numerous attempts to reach a sustainable truce failed, and in a major setback to peace efforts, fierce clashes erupted in Juba on July 8 this year between Kiir's guards and troops loyal to Machar. The international community has expressed concern since the July clashes, which pushed the number of refugees past the one million mark, according to UNHCR. In a further blow to peace hopes, Machar last month urged "a popular armed resistance" against his rival's government. Machar, who fled to Khartoum, Sudan in July, on October 12 left for South Africa for medical tests. An influential group of South Sudanese politicians known as the "former detainees" - after their arrest when war broke out in 2013 - added their voices to the many rising concerns. They said they were "greatly disturbed by the recent increase of war and violent conflict all over again; its ever deepening intensity and level of brutality; an apparently all-pervasive and creeping sense of resentment and hate". "The country is on the edge of a precipice," the group said. Source: Al Jazeera (Doha)

< style="color: #163449;">Al Shabaab raids AMISOM base in El Baraf town in Somalia

Heavily armed Al shabaab fighters launched a daring raid on African Union forces military outpost in El Baraf area in middle Shabelle region, south of Somalia on October 13. The ambush has sparked a fierce battle between Al shabaab attackers and AMISOM soldiers which was raging on for several minutes in the area, which lies close to Mahaday town. There was no immediate reports of casualties as result of the Al shabaab attack on AMISOM base in El Baraf area, but local residents said both sides have suffered heavy losses. In a separate incident, a bomb has ripped through a small teashop in Mahaday town., killing at least one person, and wounding six others, mostly innocent civilians, according to area administrator. Source: Shabelle Media Network (Mogadishu)

< style="color: #0069a6;">WEST AFRICA

< style="color: #163449;">In Nigeria, 21 missing Chibok schoolgirls released

Twenty-one of the Chibok schoolgirls abducted by Boko Haram in 2014 have been released. Presidential spokesperson, Garba Shehu, said the girls were in the custody of the State Security Service, SSS. "It is confirmed that 21 of the missing Chibok Girls have been released and are in the custody of the Department of State Services, DSS," he tweeted on October 13. The extremist militant group kidnapped nearly 300 female students from a secondary school in Chibok on April 14, 2014, provoking international outrage. More than 50 managed to escape on the day they were captured. Since then, there has only been one confirmed release since then. In May, 19-year-old Amina Nkeki was found carrying by the Civilian JTF. Source: Premium Times

< style="color: #163449;">NDP to file suit against EC over disqualification in Ghana

The National Democratic Party (NDP), says their lawyers are working around the clock to file a suit against the disqualification of the presidential candidate, Nana Konadu Agyemang Rawlings after their 24 hour ultimatum elapsed on October 12. The Electoral Commission on October 10 disqualified the former First Lady and some 12 others from contesting in the presidential election after they failed to meet the requirements. In the case of the former First Lady, the EC said, is unable to accept Mrs. Rawlings' nomination because the number of subscribers to her forms did not meet the requirements of Regulation 7 (2) (b) of CI 94, Mrs. Charlotte Osei, the Commissioner said at a press conference. According to the EC, one subscriber on page 89 of her nomination forms is not a validly registered voter and illegally registered twice and so is on the Exclusion list of multiple voters. Details are: Salifu Abdulai District: Nanumba South Voter ID no: 6617004814 (28.3.2012)Voter ID no: 2126900022 (04.8.2014). But in a petition sent on behalf of the candidate and her running mate through their lawyers, gave the EC a twenty-four (24) hour ultimatum to reinstate the candidate or face them in court. The party according to its General Secretary, Alhaji Ibrahim Frimpong, is yet to receive a response to their petition. According to him, lawyers for their presidential and running mate will file a suit on October 14 against the EC over the unlawful disqualification. Source: Ghanastar

< style="color: #163449;">In Liberia, six suspected polio cases discovered in Nimba

The Head of the Nimba County Health Team and Chief Medical Officer of the county, Dr. Collins Bowah, says six suspected polio cases have been discovered in the county. Speaking during the dedication of a surgical theatre at the Saclepea Comprehensive Health Center in Saclepea, Dr. Bowah said health workers in the county discovered the cases recently during a polio immunization campaign in the county. He said samples that were taken from the six children from different locations in Nimba have been sent for laboratory test in Monrovia with results expected soon. According to Dr. Bowah, the six kids were already paralyzed between July and September this year. Dr. Bowah said the discovery of this crippling disease is worrisome for the county in particular and the country in general. He wants citizens work with the county health team by reporting any strange health-related occurrences in their communities, emphasizing that it is the only way health workers in the county can effectively serve them. Source: Liberia News Agency This monitor is prepared by Harish Venugopalan, Research Assistant, Observer Research Foundation, Delhi
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