Africa Monitor | Volume VII; Issue XLXII

    The Continent

    African growth picks up but debt a concern, says IMF

    Growth across sub-Saharan African will rise to 3.4 percent this year from 2.8 percent in 2017, but in the continent’s poorest countries, debt is a major burden, the IMF said on 7th May. The top performers are Benin, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Rwanda, Senegal and Tanzania, the International Monetary Fund said. Their economies expanded by six percent or more in 2017 and will maintain strong growth over the medium term, it said.

    The star is Ethiopia, which notched up 10.9 percent growth in gross domestic product (GDP) in 2017, and is expected to enjoy 8.5 percent this year. At the other end of the scale lie 12 countries, home to about a third of sub-Saharan Africa’s population. Last year, per-capita incomes declined in these economies — a trend that is likely to happen in most of them in 2018, it said. Its Regional Economic Outlook for 2018 praised high-performing countries that have tackled entrenched macro-economic problems and encouraged investment. These economies have also benefited from favourable global winds — stronger world growth and higher commodities prices. As a result, capital inflows in these economies have risen, and some countries have been able to build up their reserves.

    For the laggards, though, much of the pain lies from the failure to address spending, remove market-distorting policies and mobilise capital. “Macroeconomic vulnerabilities are rising in many countries as the required fiscal adjustment keeps getting delayed,” Abebe Aemro Selassie, director of the IMF’s African Department, said in a press release. “Fifteen of the region’s 35 low-income countries are now rated to be in debt distress or at high risk of debt distress,” he warned. Debt-burdened countries have had to divert resources “from much-needed spending in areas such as health, education, and infrastructure,” he said. Based on current policies, average medium-term growth for Africa is expected to level off below four percent, said Selassie. “(This is) far short of the levels envisaged five years ago, and below what is needed for countries to achieve their Sustainable Development Goals,” he said, referring to a group of UN objectives on a range of social and economic development areas.

    The report also made these points: Terrorism is having a major cost for the Sahel countries, and internal conflicts are a drag for Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan. Violence there also leads to a costly “spillover” of displaced people and refugees to neighbouring countries. – Growth is being hampered by Nigeria and South Africa, the continent’s two biggest economies. “(They) have been stuck in low gear and are weighing on the region’s overall growth,” says the IMF. — South African growth was 1.3 percent in 2017, reflecting a rebound in farming and minerals, and the tally for 2018 is projected at 1.8 percent. Nigeria experienced 0.8 percent GDP growth in 2017, which should rise to 2.1 percent this year.

    Source: Vanguard

     Rwandan President pushes for single digital market

    Rwandan President Paul Kagame has advocated for the advancement of an African single digital market which he said ought to be viewed as a facilitator of economic integration. Kagame was speaking on 7 May  at the Transform Africa Economic Forum, a side event of the Transform Africa Summit 2018. The forum, came out of a proposal made last year by Kagame and Zimbabwe-born businessman, Strive Masiyiwa. Masiyiwa is the founder and executive chairman of Econet, a global telecommunication company. This was suggested with the intention to create a conversation between government and private sector leaders on leveraging the power of technology to drive the continent's development agenda. Kagame said that integrating the continent's digital technologies will among other things have positive impact on countries' development as well as business climate. He cited an example of the telecommunications sector which he said could reduce on costs and improve efficiency through integration.

    Currently due to lack of integration, telephones calls between African countries are often routed through Europe or Asia. "I'm sure people here know it very well, better than I, how even when we are communicating the traffic follows the same route as the planes, where the traffic has to first be channeled outside Africa and then channeled back to us. "What are you integrating, if you don't include this? Why don't we have that happening without having to pay for a visa for the traffic to first go out of Africa and then receive it back?" Kagame posed. The president said that despite not being technologically advanced like other economies, Africa's best chance lies in cooperation. "We still have a long way to go but nevertheless regional cooperation on technology has produced good results to some extent on our continent in recent years. Other urgent integration projects have languished on the African agenda, sometimes for decades. We surely can find ways of speeding that up," he said.

    The desired change he said involves creating conversations through platforms such as the Transform Africa Summit, to foster technology cooperation. "Behind it there has to be political will in real terms. I think business leaders need that political will as well because it comes with the thinking and what you connect with in the interest of our continent and our people," he said. Kagame, who is also the African Union Chair said that the citizens and private sector members are ready to embrace the new trend and are well aware of the benefits. "Our people especially our youth have to eagerly embrace the digital economy and expect to play a full part in it. Innovation is also anchored in the private sector in terms of both research and distribution of products and services," Kagame said.

    The president said at the same time, it was important to main the implementation of initiatives such as the recently signed African Continental Free Trade Area as it serves to provide practical examples to regional cooperation. "At the same time, let's build on that momentum to stay on course with implementing the African Continental Free Trade Area which will unlock tremendous opportunities for our region and our world. It has helped simply by providing practical confirmation of the truth that we have everything to gain from working together and also therefore being more connected," Kagame said. "Examples of successful regional integration such as Smart Africa's focus on One Africa Network have helped lay the groundwork for even more ambitious projects such as the African Continental Free Trade Area," he added.

    Speaking at the summit, Masiyiwa said that promoting integration in its various aspects across the continent would drive prosperity in the continent. "We want free trade in Africa. But who trades? Business people. It's time for our people to start trading freely across the continent as Citizens of the continent. This is why we need free movement of goods, people, services and capital," he said. Dr. Hamadoun Toure the Executive Director of Smart Africa said that integration efforts such as signing of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) was a positive step forward in proving that borders are no longer much of a factor in development. "Borders do not matter anymore, Africa has opened doors to its people to do business freely....This is the spirit that ought to drive the continent," Toure said.

    Source: New Times

    Exploring the best tactics to combat fall armyworm outbreaks in Africa

    Cereal farmers across Sub-Saharan Africa are experiencing heavy losses due to the devastation by an invasive pest: the fall army worm - Spodoptera frugiperda. In Africa, it has caused huge losses to staple cereals, especially maize and sorghum, affecting food security and trade. Damage to maize alone is estimated to be between USD$ 2.5 - 6.2 billion per year.

    The fall armyworm’s lifespan, from egg to larva to moth, lasts between one to three months. It’s during the larva stage that it does the most crop damage. Controlling them is a challenge because they reproduce fast and in large numbers, can migrate great distances, hide within growing leaves and have been reported to resist several pesticides. Emergency responses by the affected countries have been based on the use of pesticides, but in most cases this has proven costly and not very effective. Various tactics – both old and new – are being tested to try and control the fall army worm in Africa. These include the use of inter-cropping technology, natural enemies, early warning systems and use of bio pesticides.

    To combat the voracious pest, and prevent the huge losses, policymakers, extension agencies and growers could learn from the experiences of farmers in the Americas, and adapt the same to suit the smallholder African production system. This knowledge must be shared with farmers and agricultural officers. And any policy developed must involve local and international stakeholders before being rolled out.

    The pest, an alien from the Americas, was first reported in Africa in 2016. Starting in the São Tomé and Príncipe islands and Nigeria, in just two years it spread to over 38 African countries.

    The speed with which they spread could be due to a few factors. Firstly, female armyworms produce a huge number of eggs (between 50 - 200 eggs per batch), and can have up to 10 batches within her lifespan. Secondly, the moths are carried by the wind across vast distances. Some have been known to travel up to 1,000km. Thirdly, numbers aren’t being reduced by their natural enemies which means they can multiply uninhibited. All these factors are crucial to keep in mind when managing an outbreak.

    Source: The Conversation

    Kinross shares fall as two more African countries upend mining deals

    Kinross Gold Corp is the latest miner to be hit by changing policies in Africa as governments seem increasingly willing to upend historic deals with foreign companies in their quest for more mining revenue. Mauritania’s rejection of a key permit to expand a Kinross project, and a proposed mining-code review in Ghana, dealt a double blow to the Toronto-based miner on 8th May, sending its shares down the most intraday since 2014. Ghana and Mauritania join a string of African countries – from Tanzania to Zambia to the Democratic Republic of Congo – that are trying to reap greater economic benefits from their natural resources.

    Ghana is benefiting little from its mineral wealth and needs to review its mining code and tax policies, Vice-President Mahamudu Bawumia said on 7th May at a conference in Accra. Meanwhile, Mauritania’s rejection of the permit could affect Kinross’s Phase 2 expansion of its Tasiast mine, Kinross said in its first-quarter earnings statement – and implied the country’s concerns go much further. Its subsidiary received a letter from the Mauritanian government asking for discussions about “all of the company’s activities in Mauritania,” Kinross said, with the aim of creating greater overall economic benefits for the country. “Kinross is currently assessing the situation, including the potential impact of the request on the Phase 2 expansion.” A Kinross spokesman couldn’t immediately be reached for comment on 8th May. The Canadian miner is being affected by policies outside Africa as well. American sanctions against Russian billionaires sent Kinross shares tumbling last month. About 20 per cent of Kinross’s production this year will come from Russia, according to the company website. Russia and West Africa accounted for 41 per cent of Kinross’s revenue in 2017, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Kinross dropped 13 per cent to $4.66 at 11:35 a.m. in Toronto, after plunging as much as 15 per cent. The shares have declined 14 per cent this year.

    Source: The Globe and Mail


    North Africa

    Election plans thrown into turmoil after suicide attack in Libya

    Various Libyan factions are accusing each other of trying to postpone parliamentary and presidential elections, following the suicide-attack against the headquarters of the country's electoral commission on May 2, 2018 in Tripoli. The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the bombing, while the military spokesman in the east of the country downplayed that claim. The suicide bomber attack on 2nd May against Libya's electoral commission headquarters left a trail of death and destruction. Libyan TV showed the charred remains of the badly damaged building and reported more than a dozen people had been killed.

    Arab media said the so-called Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attack. Colonel Ahmed al-Masmari, military spokesman for the self-styled Libyan National Army in the east of the country, was skeptical of the claim. He says that there are "gangs" from the Muslim Brotherhood and al-Qaida that were behind this attack. He says the "Islamic State" group claimed responsibility, but they claim they are behind everything. He says for the Libyan Army, the Muslim Brotherhood, IS, and al-Qaida are the same thing. Masmari said the Muslim Brotherhood is attempting to postpone presidential and parliamentary elections in Libya by tying them to a separate vote on revising the constitution.

    University of Paris Political Science Professor Khattar Abou Diab also is skeptical about the alleged "Islamic State" claim of responsibility for the bombing. He says these terrorists do exist, and they have their own independent networks, but they frequently are manipulated by various countries. He notes that at one point it appeared that "IS" was infiltrated by former Gadhafi elements, and now it looks like certain countries are manipulating them. One needs to look at who profits from the crime, he insists. Arab League head Ahmed Aboul Gheit said earlier this week certain countries have stepped up funding to various local militia groups. U.N. Libya envoy Ghassan Salame said the internal and external tangents of the Libyan crisis need to be tackled. He says the United Nations is working to resolve the internal conflict, but efforts must be made on the international and diplomatic front to reduce negative meddling and increase positive intervention. Washington-based Middle East analyst Theodore Karasik tells VOA recent reports that eastern Libyan military commander General Khalifa Hafter was on his deathbed demonstrate the extent of outside propaganda by certain countries. "What Hafter's trip to Paris exposed was how aggressive the Qatari-Turkish-Pro Muslim Brotherhood info-war campaign is. This campaign that focused on Hafter's health and his imminent [death] was illustrative of how aggressive Ankara and Doha still are in Libya," he said. Analyst Christopher Davidson, who teaches at Durham University in Britain, tells VOA he thinks neither General Hafter nor the Muslim Brotherhood are likely to want to see "potentially unifying national elections take place" in Libya. Both sides, he argues, "need more time to gain more territory and strengthen their hand at the future national negotiating table."

    Source: VOA News

    Polisario front reiterates willingness to resume resume direct talks with Morocco

    Frente Polisario has reiterated its willingness to cooperate constructively for the immediate resumption of the direct negotiations with the Kingdom of Morocco, without preconditions and in good faith, in order to allow Sahrawi people exercise their inalienable right to self-determination and independence. During the meeting of the Permanent Office of the National Secretariat of Frente POLISARIO, chaired by Sahrawi President and Secretary General of Frente Polisario, Brahim Gali, reiterated "support to the United Nations Secretary General's Personal Envoy for Western Sahara Horst Kohler, for the immediate resumption of negotiations, which have been at the standstill since 2012".

    The Frente Polisario hoped that the UN Security Council would intervene in accordance with the resolution 2414, adopted recently, in order to make the Kingdom of Morocco abide by the international law, added the source. The Polisario Front also urged the Security Council to accelerate the holding of a free, just and fair referendum on self-determination of Sahrawi people.

    Source: SPS


    Southern Africa

    ANC accepts North West Premier’s resignation

    Embattled North West Premier Supra Mahumapelo has "voluntarily" decided to resign, the ANC confirmed on 8 May, 2018. There have been violent protests in the province's capital Mahikeng and other towns through the province over the past month as pressure mounted on him to vacate his position. Acting provincial secretary Susan Dantjie confirmed in a statement that the party accepted Mahumapelo's resignation "with a sense [of] apprehension - but great pride". "As an organisation, we will forever be appreciative and learn from his emphatic, principled but simple approach to issues," Dantjie said, "In his 35 years of revolutionary activism in the ANC, he has mastered the art of remaining simple and humble at all times, despite sustained concocted attacks against him by some friends and comrades."

    She said the party was confident he would continue his movement in whatever new role he was deployed to. "We urge him to remain steadfast in what he believes are the necessary tasks of executing the revolution," she said.

    Pressure mounted on Mahumapelo to vacate his office after President Cyril Ramaphosa appointed an inter-ministerial task team to investigate the unfolding crisis. He has already placed the health department under national administration. Ramaphosa was expected to receive a report from the inter-ministerial team, led by minister in the Presidency Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, this week.

    Source: News24

    Mozambique rebel leader Afonso Dhlakama dies

    Mozambique rebel leader Afonso Dhlakama died on 3 May, according to sources with the Mozambican National Resistance (RENAMO), the country's main opposition party. Party sources and members of his family told VOA that Dhlakama died in the remote mountains of Gorongosa, where he had been since 2013 as periodic conflict resumed in the southern African country. A cause of death is not yet confirmed, but some sources say it was a heart attack, and others say it was diabetes-related.

    Dhlakama led RENAMO for nearly 40 years, including during a 16-year war against the ruling Mozambique Liberation Front (FRELIMO) that ended in 1992. RENAMO subsequently emerged as an opposition party that continued to retain armed fighters. He had a series of meetings recently with President Filipe Nyusi and was perceived as playing a significant role in the country's ongoing peace process. Dhlakama and the government announced a truce in December 2016, an apparent step toward a possible formal peace agreement. FRELIMO has ruled Mozambique since it gained independence in 1975 from Portugal, which ruled the country for more than four centuries.

    Source: VOA News

    Namibia to sign N$50 trillion Africa trade deal

    President Hage Geingob on 8 May confirmed that Namibia will soon sign up to the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement (AfCFTA), which will give the country easier access to the African market currently valued at nearly N$50 trillion. Namibia has always been pro-AfCFTA but delayed signing the actual agreement to first ensure all its bases were covered through an inclusive consultative process, said Geingob during a meeting with AU Commission Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat at State House on 8th May.

    The president gave the assurance that Namibia is fully committed to the integration of the continent and strongly believes that its own economic development depends on advancing regional and continental economic cooperation and integration. “Africa’s advancement remains first and foremost a matter for Africans. Namibia reiterates her commitment to the AfCFTA and the Protocol to the Treaty Establishing the African Economic Community Relating to the Free Movement of Persons, Right of Residence and Right of Establishment, and will expedite internal processes to sign and ratify these instruments,” Geingob said.

    African leaders have agreed that the AfCFTA takes effect within 18 months, but first at least 22 countries must formally ratify the agreement. There is already a problem with the time frame, with Africa’s biggest economies saying it is unrealistic as it is too short a notice to wrap up negotiations among the African countries that already signed up to the agreement. Moulded in the form of the European Union’s version of free trade, the AfCFTA presents immense opportunities for African countries to trade among themselves in a market valued at nearly US$4 trillion (about N$50.6 trillion) without trade restrictions such as tariffs. By signing up to the AfCFTA individual African countries agree to remove tariffs on 90 percent of goods, with only 10 percent of tariffs applicable on specially defined goods when trading with one another. It also asks African countries to give preference to ‘Made in Africa’ goods, which, while it is good news, poses a challenge when it comes to ensuring quality standards on goods.

    Currently not all African countries have the same quality standards and the regulation and enforcement of these standards vary. This is to the extent that multi-national companies trading in consumer goods package goods differently, according to markets where the goods go, to ensure, and pass the inspection of, the varying quality standards in each of the countries they export to.

    The establishment of the AfCFTA is the first Agenda 2063 flagship project on target for completion within the roadmap established in pursuance of Agenda 2063’s First Ten Year Implementation Plan, aimed at boosting Africa’s economic growth and intra-African trade through integration by creating a ‘One African Market’.

    Source: New Era

    Malawi ex-president Joyce Banda still under corruption investigations

    The Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) says it has not cleared former president Joyce Banda on corruption allegations in the biggest financial scandal in the country's history called Cashgate, dismissing her claims that the graft-busting body said it had no solid evidence against the former president, partially clearing her name. The "Cashgate" scandal prompted foreign donors - who provide around 40 percent of Malawi's budget - to pull the plug on aid worth around $150 million. The scandal helped push Banda out of power in the 2014 election, and President Peter Mutharika vowed to clean up the system to bring donors back. ACB director Reyneck Matemba wondered where Banda is getting the information of her being cleared from. "We never said we have cleared the former president (Joyce Banda)," said Matemba.

    Matemba said the ACB is still investigating Banda following claims by Cashgate convict Oswald Lutepo on her role in Cashgate and on payments worth $4.5 million (about K3.5 billion) Mudzi Transformation Trust received from oil exploring companies on the same day that the Malawi Government issued licenses in 2013. Mudzi Transformation Trust was a five-year project launched in 2013 to build houses for vulnerable people. It targeted 20 000 villages nationwide, but just over 500 houses were built at the end of former president Joyce Banda's term in 2014. Lutepo confessed that while he had indeed swindled the state, he'd also personally delivered cash to Banda during her term as president. He said Banda was the mastermind behind the fraud. "They [the alleged masterminds] used my account as a conduit. I have been to State House several times to deliver the money. If there are CCTVs (closed camera circuits), they will prove me," said Lutepo.

    Source: Nyasa Times


    East Africa

    Museveni protests to UN boss over Entebbe base

    Ugandan President Museveni has written to the United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, formally tabling Uganda's displeasure and protest over his recommendation to drop Entebbe as a UN regional service centre. In the letter sent last week, the President noted as "unfair" a decision to pick Nairobi over Entebbe to host the world body's regional service center in Africa even when Uganda and Kenya are "friendly neighbours". The other two recommended locations are the Hungarian capital, Budapest, and Mexico City - one of the world's dangerous cities rife with murders, drug traffickers and criminal gangs.

    Secretary-general Guterres, in a May 1 report to UN's Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ), noted: "The location assessment proposal is contingent on host country consultations...this combination of locations (Budapest, Mexico City, and Nairobi) would provide time zone and regional coverage, ensuring a strong business continuity..." ACABQ is a 16-member committee of experts elected by UN General Assembly whose members, in theory, serve as individuals rather than respective country representatives and its decisions are not final.

    Its current chairman is Mr Carlos Massieu, a Mexican, raising the possibility of conflict of interest when the committee this week begins considering the UN secretariat's report also favouring Mexico City. In his response to the proposed changes, President Museveni informed Mr Guterres to ensure that Uganda is fairly treated and that UN functions and facilities are shared equitably among member countries during the Global Services Delivery Model reforms. He also reminded the secretary-general that Uganda, which was the pioneer and remains largest troop contributor to the African Union Peace-keeping Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), deserves to host a UN regional service centre due to the country's substantial contributions to regional peace and security.

    The UN boss is yet to respond to the concerns raised. Investigations by this newspaper show that Kenya's former Permanent Representative to the UN, Ambassador Macharia Kamau, whom President Uhuru Kenyatta early this year tapped to become Foreign Affairs Cabinet secretary, led his country's lobby from 2016.

    Source: Daily Monitor

    Ethiopia - potentially the China of Africa

    The Growth and Transformation Plans Ethiopia designed to push its economy into lower middle income status by 2025 bear in them a transition from an agrarian economy to an industrial one. In line with that goal, the country has been striving to draw in foreign investment to boost the manufacturing and industrial sectors. Those efforts seem to bear fruit as Ethiopia has been ranked the seventh most attractive African country to investors by Africa Investment Index (AII) 2018.

    With a rapidly growing economy, a huge population of over hundred million, proximity to major international markets, conducive policy environment and a rapidly improving infrastructure, Ethiopia has increasingly become a favorable destination for FDI. Numerous companies have relocated their manufacturing plants from countries such as Turkey, India and China to Ethiopia over the past decade. European and American companies are also increasingly flocking to the rising investment magnet in East Africa. Internationally recognized apparel, textile and shoe brands have also established manufacturing plants in Ethiopia. With an 8.5% Percent rate of economic growth forecasted for the next year by the IMF, Ethiopia is expected to retake its position as the fastest growing economy in Africa. According to IMF figures, the country also had an average of 10 percent economic growth over the past dozen years. The sustained rapid economic growth complemented by strong performance in the coming years, gives Ethiopia a positive outlook going forward.

    The challenge over the past three years has been the political unrest in different parts of the country. However, that also seems to have abated with the election of the new Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (Ph.D.). The popularity he receives and the sense of unity he has galvanized among the people seem to have convinced the Ethiopian people that he deserves their co-operation and support. Therefore, the political stability that has been the whole mark of the past quarter of a century is assumed to have been reinstated. Such suitable conditions are expected to bolster Ethiopia's stature as an investment hub considerably over the foreseeable future. However, there are those who take this potential to unchartered territory through claims that it might be the new China. In a recent report by CNN entitled "Ethiopia is now Africa's fastest growing economy," Vijaya Ramachandran, an economist at the American think tank Center for Global Development (CGD), attributes Ethiopia's growth to governmental effort to boost industrial production and manufacturing. A report released by Ramachandran and three other academics argues that "Ethiopia can follow in China's footsteps, and become a destination for low-wage manufacturing jobs."

    The report by the group of economists categorizes African states into three in terms of their income levels. The first group consists of solidly middle-income countries. This group includes South Africa and Botswana, which are characterized by very high labor costs and capital intensive industries. The second group includes leading low and lower-middle lower-income African countries like Kenya, Tanzania and Senegal - coastal, relatively stable, and with a strong business sector.

    The report further cites a McKinsey Survey administered to Chief Procurement Officers of large apparel companies on which countries would become the top manufacturing destinations in the next five years. The result, it states, ranks Ethiopia as the seventh in the world and the first among African countries. With such lofty perceptions about the country by Chief Procurement Officers, the flow of FDI to Ethiopia should pick up even more momentum in the coming years. The report also states that higher labor prices and the reputational problem of poor working conditions in Asian industrial locations are deriving investors away from the region to other destinations such as Africa. The rising wages of workers and the general cost companies incur in China are also forcing companies to relocate to alternative destinations. In other countries, it is restrictive labor and business laws that are raised as constraints for more foreign direct investment.

    Ethiopia, on the other hand, offers lower labor wages and better working conditions than the countries with reputation for poor working conditions. The report states that some sources claim manufacturing working conditions in Ethiopia - though far from ideal - are better than in Bangladesh and Cambodia. In the International Trade Union Global Rights Index, goes on the report, Ethiopia fared better than Mexico and Malaysia. There have, however, been health and safety concerns in some instances. Although not vividly put, the report implies that there are no restrictive labor laws in Ethiopia, which is meant to show that companies have relatively bigger room to manipulate labor. These conditions need to be improved. The report concludes that though it is hard to project what the future will bring, it is safe to determine that Ethiopia is better positioned to embark on a manufacturing-led take off than other African countries. It, therefore, has the potential to become the China of Africa.

    Source: The Ethiopian Herald

    Twenty-seven people die in Nakuru dam tragedy

    At least 27 people have been killed when Patel Dam burst overnight flooding villages in the Subukia area of Nakuru County. The toll, the highest in a single flood-related incident now brings to over 160 the number of people who have died countrywide as a result of floods since heavy rains started in March. The incident occurred on 9th May at around 9 o’clock in the evening when Patel Dam broke its banks sweeping villages in the Solai area of Subukia. “We have so far found 27 bodies and the search and rescue operation is still going on,” Gideon Kibunja, CID chief for Rift Valley region told Capital FM from the scene. Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiangi flew from Nairobi to lead the operation the following morning and was set to issue a statement over the tragedy at the private dam used for irrigation and fish farming. Our Correspondent at the scene said she had scene gory images of bodies, including of young children, trapped by debris while others were dug out of mud or retrieved from their damaged houses which were washed away by flood waters.

    The Kenya Red Cross Society (KRCS) reported that 39 people had been rescued in a joint operation with the county government and were admitted to Bahati sub-county and Nakuru County Referral Hospital. Governor Lee Kinyanjui said Nakuru County was working closely with KRCS as well as the security agencies to coordinate rescue missions. Among villages affected are those in the farmlands of Nyakinyua, Endao, and Arutani where hundreds of people were displaced. Also affected were Solai Boys High School and Arutani Girls Secondary School. Statistics released by the Interior Principal Secretary Karanja Kibicho on Wednesday indicated that 222,456 people have so far been displaced as a result of ongoing rains in flood-prone areas.

    Source: Capital FM

    Kenya’s first locally made nanosatellite to launched in May

    The first ever Kenyan-made nanosatellite, a creation of the University of Nairobi and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, will be deployed from the International Space Station on 11 May 2018 at about 1pm Kenyan time. The University of Nairobi, in collaboration with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), have developed a nanosatellite, an extremely small satellite in the shape of a 10 cm by 10 cm cube, with the volume of just one litre. Dr. Jackson Mwangi, an engineer at the University of Nairobi who was involved in the nanosatellite's development, said the satellite has been handed over to the JAXA Tsukuba Space Centre in Japan in preparation for its deployment. It will be the first selected CubeSat to be deployed from Kibo, which is the Japanese Experiment Module of the International Space Station (ISS), according to the university. "The 1KUNS-PF (1st Kenyan University Nano Satellite Precursor Flight) is the first satellite to be developed by Kenyans and the first to be operated by a Kenyan university," Dr Mwangi said in a statement.

    The satellite was built through the KiboCUBE programme. The programme was launched in September 2015 by the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA). In collaboration with JAXA, they offer educational and research institutions from developing countries the opportunity to deploy cube satellites from the International Space Station (ISS). The University of Nairobi won the KiboCUBE opportunity over other global institutions in a stiff selection process. "This is a very exciting moment and an important step in UNOOSA's movement towards tangible initiatives in our capacity-building efforts. Innovative projects like KiboCUBE can achieve concrete results and have a real impact on space science and technology development for the benefit of all," said UNOOSA director Simonetta Di Pippo in a statement. The development of the nanosatellite cost approximately Sh 120 million despite its small size. Miniaturised satellites now have the increased capability of performing commercial missions that previously required larger satellites.

    According to University of Nairobi's director of corporate affairs, John Orindi, a delegation, led by Kenya's Education Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed, will travel to witness the event in Japan. "The deployment ceremony will be done from Kibo Space Centre on 11 May 2018, at about 1pm Kenyan time. The Cabinet Secretary, Ambassador Amina Mohamed, will lead a powerful delegation comprising government officials and university researchers to witness the event live," he said to the press. The University of Nairobi's team said the satellite will be used to test technologies it has developed for the future launch of a larger earth observation satellite. The team also hopes to apply data acquired from the satellite to monitor agriculture and coastal areas.

    Source: This is Africa

    Rival South Sudan leaders still “bent on armed confrontation”: UN peacekeeping chief

    The peace process in South Sudan is at a critical juncture while opposing sides allow themselves to get bogged down in arguments over ministerial quotas, the United Nations peacekeeping chief said on 7th May, as the country prepares for a third round of regionally-backed peace talks. “Parties remain far apart on the issues of governance and security,” Jean-Pierre Lacroix, the UN Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, told the Security Council, noting that agreement on permanent ceasefire terms and transitional security arrangements, remain elusive.

    In addition, while the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, IGAD - an eight-country trading-bloc in Africa - has worked to narrow the gap ahead of talks, the parties remain far from agreement. The world’s youngest country, South Sudan, has spent much of the past seven years mired in conflict, riven by a political face-off between President Salva Kiir and his then former Vice-President Riek Machar that erupted into full-blown war late in 2013. The conflict shows no signs of abating and there has been a recent surge in violence across large parts of the country, impacting thousands of civilians. Nearly 4.3 million South Sudanese have been driven from their homes – 1.7 million internally, and around 2.5 million across its borders. Of particular concern is the scale of sexual violence perpetrated, said Mr. Lacroix, underscoring that reports of rape and gang rape are compounding what is already a “desperate situation” for women and girls. Humanitarian agencies are also facing increasing challenges responding to those in need. In April, two relief workers were killed, bringing to 100 the total number of aid workers killed since December 2013. “We must respond and respond quickly to ensure accountability for these violations and abuses and bring an end to these heinous acts once and for all,” stressed the senior UN official.

    No sign of ‘meaningful implementation’ of ceasefire agreement

    Both the Government and opposition remain bent on armed confrontation and the Agreement on Cessation of Hostilities – signed in December last year – is yielding little, underscored Mr. Lacroix, calling on the Council to use its influence.

    “It is in this context that I reiterate that there must be a tangible cost for the continuation of violence in South Sudan,” he said, “there must be consequences for blatant violations of the Cessation of Hostilities agreement and broken promises to protect civilians.”

    “Without consequences, we have no one to blame but ourselves for allowing the crisis to escalate unchecked and perpetuating a lack of confidence in a political solution to the crisis.”

    Source: UN News


    West Africa

    Buhari calls for international community’s support on climate change

    President Muhammadu Buhari on 8 May, 2018 in Abuja reiterated the need for sustained financial, technical and capacity building support from the international community to mitigate the adverse effects of climate change in the country. The president, according to his spokesman, Mr. Femi Adesina, made the call while receiving a letter of credence from Mr. Robert Jan Petri, the Ambassador of Netherlands to Nigeria. According to him, Buhari said Nigeria would continue to vigorously pursue the replenishment of the Lake Chad Basin, which has dried up to 10 per cent of its original size. "With the population growth in Nigeria and the drying up of the Lake Chad, we have to move faster and adapt to the impacts of climate change through technological solutions," the president was quoted as saying.

    He said the president told the Dutch Ambassador that following Nigeria's active participation in United Nations-organised Climate Change conferences in 2015, 2016 and 2017, the Nigerian government successfully hosted a high-level international conference on Lake Chad in February 2018. "President Buhari noted that the high-level conference provided an opportunity to push further options to restore the Lake Chad, including the inter-basin water transfer project from Ubangi River in Central Africa to the Lake. “On agriculture, the president welcomed the interest by some Nigerian doctoral students studying in the Netherlands on developing the sector through research and innovation, particularly the livestock sector," Adesina said. He said in separate remarks, while receiving the letter of credence from the High Commissioner of the Republic of Botswana, Mr Pule Mphothwe, Buhari commended the Southern African country for its consistent support for Nigeria in the international fora.

    He also said the president recounted Nigeria's leadership role in the liberation of African countries from colonial domination, saying: "It is a national duty to support our African brothers in their time of need." The president, he added, also received a letter of credence from Mr. Houssam Diab, Ambassador of Lebanon to Nigeria, and commended Lebanon for the successful parliamentary elections, commitment to stability and security in the Middle East, as well as assistance to Syrian refugees. He said in their separate remarks, the ambassadors, while highlighting the existing cordial relations between Nigeria and their countries, called for increased trade and economic cooperation. He quoted the Dutch Ambassador as saying: "We are in the process of intensifying our cooperation, particularly on agriculture where we can offer our expertise, being the second largest exporter of food after the United States." Furthermore, he said the Botswana High Commissioner to Nigeria told Buhari that several companies from his country had indicated interest in investing in Nigeria's mining, agriculture, sports and creative arts sectors. "Sequel to the visit to my country (Botswana) by your predecessor in 2011, there is a great desire for my president to visit Nigeria," Mphothwe reportedly said.

    Source: This Day

    Senators brace for heated land rights act debate in Liberia

    There are growing indications that the four year-old Land Rights Act (2014) will finally be passed by the senate, and sooner than expected, a source in the Senate Committee on Lands, Mines, Energy, Environment and Natural Resources has told the Daily Observer. According to the new senate arrangement, debates on some of the very crucial and delayed bills will now be held exclusively on Thursdays, while Tuesdays will be reserved for other legislation and confirmation hearings. The Land Rights Act (2014) was submitted to members of the legislature by President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, which marked a very major step in resolving the country’s land conflicts; delineates the different categories of land ownership and rights by discussing the bundles of rights associated with each land category. The proposed Act itself recognizes Government Land, Public Land, Customary Land and Private Land.

    Under the Private Land category, the ownership of private land shall become extinct by abandonment and the land to government if the owner fails to pay all taxes on the land for a continuous period of 10 years or the land has not been occupied, developed or used by the owner for a period of 10 years. The same private land category provides that land may be acquired by many means, including adverse possession, when the occupant remains in possession without objection for a continuous period of 15 years. (In current statute it is 20 years). The proposed Act states that a private landowner may lose his title on account of loss of his Liberian citizenship; in that case, the government will take ownership of the land when there are no surviving heirs or spouses. In this case, he shall be entitled to a just compensation from the government or lease of the land from the government. Under the Customary Land, a community’s ownership of land includes the ownership and rights to use an alienate, by any means, all non-mineral resources on the land such as forests. However, mineral resources are excluded. The proposed Act also stipulates that under the Customary Land, all concessions, contracts, permits and licenses issued on such land prior to the effective date shall remain enforceable in keeping with their existing terms and conditions. “For concessions and other contracts and licenses issued after the effective date, including mineral concessions, each community hosting said concession, in addition to other benefits, will receive a minimum of five percent free-carried undiluted interest at all times, of the rights in the concession, license, permit or other encumbrance,” the proposed Act noted.

    Through an Act of the Legislature, according to the proposed Act, the government shall establish a small and efficient semi-autonomous agency, to be named and styled Customary Land Support Office, to assist traditional communities in the development of their Customary Lands. Following the passage of the Bill by the House of Representatives, the Bill was sent to the senate for concurrence. The Senate plenary sent same to the joint Committees on Lands, Mines, Energy, Natural Resources and Environment then chaired by now Senate Protempore Albert T. Chie, and Judiciary, Claims, Human Rights and Petitions committee, chaired by Grand Cape Mount County Senator Varney Sherman. The Joint Committee in its final report to plenary in August 2017, told senators that it had consulted experienced international experts in land matters during public hearings and in committee room, and that major interactions were held with citizens through civil society groups, Female Lawyers, Liberian Bar Association, Council of Elders of Grand Gedeh County, experts, the general public, and community leaders. On the question of why the senators, including some members of the joint committee, did not vote for immediate passage of the Bill, Senator Chie said the main intent of that sitting was to have an open debate, “and everyone participated and concerns and amendments suggested will now be included in the committee’s final report, which we are confident will be passed by this 53rd Legislature; we are not doing this to help any individual or institution to leave a good legacy as perceived by some people.” The new chair on Lands and Mines Lofa County Senator George Tamba Tengbeh was not available for comment when contacted on 8th May; but other members of that committee are optimistic of a marathon debate on 10th May to be followed by passage of the Bill.

    Source: Daily Observer

    Nine killed in fresh Taraba attack in Nigeria

    The Police Command in Taraba on 9 May confirmed the death of nine persons in early morning attacks on Tutuwa community in Ussa Local Government Area of Taraba. The Police Public Relations Officer in the state, David Misal, told journalists that a yet-to-be identified armed militia must have carried out the deadly attack. Mr Misal said Aliyu Tafida, the Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) of the command, and heads of other security agencies in the state had already moved in to assess the situation. Rimansikwe Karma, the Chairman of Ussa Local Government Council, while also confirming the attack to newsmen, added that three people were injured.

    Karma said that the attackers rounded up the village at about 5 a.m. and launched the attack when members of the community were going for early morning prayers. “Every Wednesday morning, the community conducts mid-week service and most of them were on their way, when the armed militia attacked them. “Nine persons were killed and three others sustained life threatening injuries and are currently receiving treatment at Takum General Hospital. “The unfortunate thing is that the attackers left before the arrival of security personnel,” he said.

    Source: Premium Times


    Central Africa

    DR Congo confirms new outbreak in country’s north-west

    An Ebola outbreak has been declared in the north-west of the Democratic Republic of Congo. There are two confirmed cases of the virus and 17 deaths, the health ministry said on 8th May, 2018. The incident in the town of Bikoro comes more than a year after an outbreak in the country killed four people. In 2014 more than 11,000 people were killed in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia.

    The outbreak declaration was made after laboratory results confirmed two cases of Ebola out of a sample of five suspected patients, the World Health Organization (WHO) said. "Our top priority is to get to Bikoro to work alongside the government," the WHO's Peter Salama said in a statement. "Working with partners and responding early and in a co-ordinated way will be vital to containing this deadly disease." The international health organisation says it has released $1m (£738,000) from an emergency fund and has deployed more than 50 experts to work with officials in the country.

    This is the ninth time an Ebola outbreak has been recorded in the DR Congo. The virus was first discovered there in 1976 (when the country was known as Zaire) and is named after the Ebola river. Ebola is thought to be spread over long distances by fruit bats and is often transmitted to humans via contaminated bush meat.

    Source: BBC News

    More evidence pins fugitive Charles Ndereyehe on genocide

    A former director-general of Rwanda Agriculture Research Institute (ISAR), Charles Ndereyehe, played a key role in planning the genocide against the Tutsi, including and funding the Interahamwe militia to commit the genocide, and should account for this. This was said by Philbert Rutagengwa, the advisor to the Executive Secretary of the National Commission for the Fight against the Genocide (CNLG). Rutagengwa was speaking on 5 May, 2018 in Huye District as Rwanda Agriculture Board (RAB) management and staff as well as survivors, remembered the institution’s former workers killed during the Genocide against the Tutsi.

    ISAR is one of three agencies that were merged to form the current Rwanda Agriculture Board. Ndereyehe, who is currently in the Netherlands, hailed from former Cyabingo commune, Ruhengeri prefecture (Northern Rwanda). In the Netherlands, Ndereyehe coordinates the activities of extremist groups of radical Rwandan exiles, linked to the same ideology that led to the Genocide against the Tutsi in 1994.

    In May 1994, Rutagengwa said, Ndereyehe wrote a letter to all ISAR staff ordering that everyone should cede 20 per cent of their salary for the month of May to support the act to wipe out Tutsi. “It is in the same letter he said that ISAR itself [as an institution] should give a particular contribution of Rwf1 million that would be used to recognise killers, whereby each was allotted up to Rwf10,000 depending on their viciousness in killing,” he said. “The genocide crime is indelible. We hope that justice will be rendered,” he said.

    In 1992, Ndereyehe, together with other elite Hutu extremists including Ferdinand Nahimana, Dr Eugene Rwamuco, Dr Jean Berchmas Nshimumuremye among others, created and led a group of gang called ‘Cercle des Republicains Progressistes’ which was at the forefront of sensitising students from Butare (former National University of Rwanda), and the University of Nyakinama to join such the group whose objective was to subsequently commit the Genocide.

    When he was deployed at ISAR in 1993, as the head, he made a plot to exterminate the families of Tutsi who were employed at the institution, witnesses say. Rutagengwa said Ndereyehe linked militiamen to the notorious Captain Ildephonse Nizeyimana who facilitated their gun use training with support from Junior Military Academy (ESO) in Butare. Also, he said, Ndereyehe gave cars that were used by the perpetrators, and set prizes for those who would kill many people in the genocide. “The major killing (in Butare) took place on April 26, 1994, when over 300 Tutsi including men, women, children and babies, were killed upon his instructions,” Rutagengwa observed.

    Ndereyehe was sentenced to life in absentia by Gacaca court on 5 November, 2008 for genocide crimes.

    Source: New Times

    International media banned during Burundi’s referendum campaign

    Burundi’s constitutional referendum campaign has been marred by violence as government security forces and ruling party members have intimidated, beaten, and killed perceived opponents. The government has tried to keep news of these abuses from the outside world. On 4th May, it doubled down on that effort, suspending the British Broadcasting Corporation and the Voice of America from reporting in the country before the critical final days of the scheduled May 17 vote. A win in the constitutional referendum will allow President Pierre Nkurunziza – who has been in power since 2005 – to extend his term in office until 2034. The government-controlled National Communication Council (CNC), Burundi’s media regulator, suspended the BBC for six months for “violating press laws” and “unprofessional conduct” after inviting a Burundian national to its program on March 12. It claimed his remarks were “inappropriate, exaggerated, non-verified and damaged the reputation of the head of state.” The CNC banned VOA for the technical reason that it was using a banned frequency. The CNC warned French broadcaster Radio France Internationale that it could face consequences for recent remarks it deemed “untruthful and partisan,” and the Burundian station Isanganiro was criticized for apparently poor verification of sources.

    Several weeks earlier, the CNC suspended the online comments section of Iwacu, Burundi’s main independent newspaper. Burundi previously had one of the most independent media environments in the region. But when Nkurunziza announced his bid for a contested third term in 2015, a crackdown on protests led to a serious political and human rights crisis and tightened restrictions on the media. Local stations were physically destroyed and a journalist went missing as Burundians, the majority of whom live in the countryside, turned to international broadcasts for information. And now the government has turned to silencing some of these crucial international voices. The CNC knows the power of the media. It recognizes that when the country is deprived of accurate news, then government security forces can act with impunity. As campaigning kicks off around the referendum, more violence can be expected, with Burundians increasingly in the dark, reliant on rumors and scraps of information. But the government can’t stop the networks of Burundians sending information to Burundian and international human rights groups. Even with all the radio stations in the country shut, crimes will ultimately be reported and those responsible eventually brought to justice.

    Source: HRW


    This monitor is prepared by Harish Venugopalan and Abhishek Mishra, Research Assistant, Observer Research Foundation, Delhi

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