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Rwanda 'Ready' for African Migrants from Israel, Libya

The EastAfrican || By Edmund Kagire || 15 March 2018

rwanda to receive african migrants from libyaRwanda has reiterated its readiness to receive African migrants from Israel and Libya.

Minister of Foreign Affairs, Louise Mushikiwabo, affirmed that Kigali would accept the refugees and asylum seekers as long as the process of relocating them was in line with international laws.

“We have told the state of Israel that our country as part of its policy is ready to receive any African migrant that would be leaving Israel in the context of international law,” she said.

“We have also agreed that we will provide as a country the basics that we provide to our own citizens. It is the same for refugees and other foreign nationals coming to Rwanda. We have yet to get a number of those migrants to arrive here in Rwanda but we are ready, we have been ready,” Ms Mushikiwabo added.

She said Rwanda’s 'open-door policy' on refugees, migrants and asylum seekers remained as was even as Kigali continues to deny a controversial deal with Israel to have refugees relocated from Tel Aviv.

“That policy is not going to change, to receive anybody who is not comfortable for various reasons and all this of course within the means of our country,” she said.

“We are not pretending to be able to receive the whole world here but it is something we are considering,” she added.

Ms Mushikiwabo said the same policy is being applied for the migrants who are in Libya “under extremely horrendous conditions including being sold on markets and being mistreated”.

“On the migrants in Libya we are still waiting to reach an agreement within the context of the African Union which is corroborating with international organisations on migrations to figure out which type of migrants and their identifications, the numbers that would be coming to Rwanda but that would be in the next several weeks,” she said.

Rwanda has offered to take in at least 30,000 African immigrants stranded in Libya as well as African asylum seekers in Israel.

Congo refugees

However, the offer came under scrutiny last month after 11 Congolese refugees in Kiziba camp in western Rwanda were shot dead by police during a food protest.

More than 17,000 refugees have been protesting against a 25 per cent cut in food rations since January by the UN World Food Programme as a result of underfunding.

Following the protests, questions have been raised on whether Rwanda is able to provide basic needs for even more migrants.

Ms Mushikiwabo, addressing these concerns, said the Congolese refugees, who have been in Rwanda for more than 22 years, have "complex demands and have resorted to using violence, even against security forces, to resolve existing challenges."

She said in mid-2000, Rwanda offered the refugees citizenship but many declined.

“We have had cases, which are at the heart of the revolt in the refugee camp, of individuals who have actually applied for a national Rwandan identity card and want to go back and request for a refugee card and at the same time want to go home to the DRC,” she said.

“Basically you have individuals who want to be three things at the same time. They want to be Rwandan, they want to be refugees and that is not really possible. That is really the heart of the matter,” Ms Mushikiwabo said.

She claimed those who led the revolt were angling for relocation to Western countries under existing resettlement programmes but at the same time seeking Rwanda citizenship.

“The revolt has to do with the fact that actually some of them are young and they became extremely violent, attacking the law enforcement agents, trying to hold hostages and our law enforcement agency was not prepared for that kind of violence,” she said.

The government says reduction of food rations affected all of the 173,000 refugees hosted in different camps in Rwanda and not one particular group.

Ms Mushikiwabo said the Kinyarwanda-speaking Congolese refugees' issue was that of an identity crisis and difficulty to choose what they want.

She, however, said the government would facilitate anyone wanting to be repatriated but would not allow anyone to go home with a Rwandan national ID and at the same time wanting to be resettled in the United States or Europe.


On the influx of over 2,500 Burundi refugees last week, the government said it is yet to figure out how to deal with the group because of their “strange religious beliefs”.

The refugees said they left DR Congo for fear of repatriation. They claimed they fled Burundi due to religious persecution.

Ms Mushikiwabo said the refugees, who belong to a Catholic sect, have refused biometric registration and vaccination or modern medicine, a situation that Rwanda's policies and laws won't allow.

“It is something we are trying to figure out, how to deal with this group,” she said.

Source: The EastAfrican…


The Key to Making Peace in Africa

Foreign Affairs || By George Clooney and John Prendergast || 14 March 2018

key to making peace in africa 2018Fighting Corruption Can Help End Conflict

In December 2013, competing factions of South Sudan’s ruling party plunged the country into a horrific civil war as they fought over the spoils of the world’s newest state. Now in its fourth year, the conflict has ravaged the economy, resulted in tens of thousands of deaths, brought hundreds of thousands to the brink of famine, and displaced more than four million people, making this Africa’s largest refugee crisis since the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. And yet, amid all the suffering, a small clique of government elites and their cronies inside and outside South Sudan have benefited financially from the fighting, siphoning off the country’s oil wealth and storing the money in their private bank accounts and in luxury real estate in neighboring countries.

South Sudan’s top officials and their families and associates serve as the main beneficiaries to lucrative contracts, and they steal an astonishing amount from state coffers. As a new Sentry investigation reveals, between 2014 and 2015, top politicians, military leaders, government agencies, and companies owned by politicians and their family members have plundered more than $80 million. To name but one example, Mary Ayen Mayardit, the wife of President Salva Kiir, partially owns an air cargo company that received half a dozen payments from the state oil company, Nilepet. The funds were then used toward military and national security operations, including three payments during an intense period of fighting between April and May 2015. This opaque military procurement process enables the first family to benefit financially from the war—a massive conflict of interest.

Other documents obtained by the Sentry show how Stephen Dhieu Dau, the petroleum minister at the time, used oil revenue to support a militia that had allegedly committed atrocities. A company partly owned by Ajok Wol Atak, the wife of then military chief of staff Paul Malong Awan; Bol Aguer Dok, the nephew of Dau; and Garwec Nyok Kekui, a business associate of the petroleum minister, also received payments from Nilepet for war-related operations at the height of the conflict in early 2015. Each of these same officials also owns high-end properties in neighboring Kenya and Uganda. Their fortunes are tucked away, safely outside of South Sudan’s borders, while a war they created rages on, making life hell for the rest of the country’s population.

The scenario in South Sudan is hardly unique. Something similar plays out across many African countries torn by conflict, including the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Sudan. Oil, gold, diamonds, cobalt, copper, and a variety of other mineral deposits and trafficked wildlife provide immense opportunity for those in power to line their own pockets. Brutally repressing all forms of opposition is seen as the only way to maintain control of the spoils.

Remarkably, there is currently no coordinated strategy to disrupt the illicit siphoning of money by leaders and their foreign business partners. For leaders, giving up power almost certainly means losing access to their spoils, and it might even mean facing prosecution. Every year, billions of aid dollars pour into Africa: taxpayers and donors around the world fund peacekeeping forces, state-building programs, humanitarian assistance, elections, and peace processes. But none of this support has been able to keep corrupt leaders and their network of beneficiaries from stealing billions of dollars.

This is the fatal flaw of peacemaking in Africa: those supporting mediation lack the leverage necessary to stop corrupt figures from using their forces to bomb, burn, imprison, silence, torture, starve, impoverish, kill, and rape to maintain or gain power. South Sudanese peace talks, for example, are currently stuck because Kiir and his allies have rejected any notion of sharing power with the rebels, since such an arrangement would require giving up their exclusive grip on the crudely-constructed looting machine masquerading as a government.

For years, the tool of choice for building leverage against actors undermining peace or human rights has been to impose targeted sanctions. But sanctions have been used sparingly in Africa. They have been applied to only a few individuals at a time, with very little enforcement, and are rarely extended to predatory commercial collaborators, both inside and outside Africa, who facilitate and enable official misdeeds. Over time, warring parties have come to regard sanctions as a vague annoyance for their public relations rather than as any serious threat to their power. The Obama and Trump administrations recently removed comprehensive sanctions against neighboring Sudan, but were unable to extract meaningful changes in Khartoum’s behavior. This move is a potent example of the folly of current peace efforts in Africa, which have for the most part eschewed the use of readily available tools for applying pressure that are both more sophisticated and better focused. 

This standard but failing approach can change. Serious financial pressure with real bite is not only possible; it has proved effective in the past. 

As a start, sanctions must be levied against entire networks, not just individuals. That was the approach the United States took with Iran and North Korea in order to drive them to the negotiating table. The United States deployed extensive sanctions targeting Iran’s leadership and military networks in an effort to disrupt the illicit funding streams used by the country’s ruling elites to maintain their grip on Iran’s economy. For example, in June 2013, the U.S. Treasury Department blacklisted the Execution of Imam Khomeini’s Order, a state-owned entity that includes 37 ostensibly private businesses located around the world, many of which were used as front companies meant to evade sanctions. They generated and controlled massive, off-the-books investments that they hid from both the Iranian people and international regulators. 

Source: Foreign Affairs… 


Bakery Gives Women Path to Independence and Makes Communion Hosts for Ghana

Global Sisters Reporter (GSR) || By Dana Wachter || 12 March 2018

bakery gives women path to independence in ghanaIn the Volta Region of Ghana in west Africa, the Sisters of Mary Mother of the Church Congregation run a health care facility, Mater Ecclesiae Clinic; the Mater Ecclesiae School for young students in the area; and their convents, which include facilities for baking bread, meat pies and Communion wafers.

Just a 10-minute drive from the district capital, Ho, the sisters provide these services from a compound in Sodoke Gbogame, a small town, which makes reaching villages in the area easier.

Sr. Evelyn Claudia Afriyie, the administrator of the clinic who first came to work in Sodoke in 2007, says her sisters have been baking bread and the Communion hosts for longer than she's been a sister.

The wafers used to come from Rome, according to their mother superior, Sr. Georgina Irene Akoto. Around 30 years ago, as priests and communities struggled with consistent delivery to Ghana, Akoto said the sisters began making their own.

Sr. Regina Letsa learned how to make the Communion hosts from her sisters when she came to Sodoke nearly three years ago. She eventually oversaw bulk deliveries to at least three other Ghanaian dioceses and into the capital, Accra. In the last six or seven years, sisters say their product has become well-known through word of mouth.

"The demand now is actually more than we can produce," Akoto said. They can only make as much as their non-automated machines allow: There are currently two functioning machines that heat up through electricity but require hands to press the host, like a large waffle iron.

Laypeople from their community help sisters make the dough of flour and water, spread it onto the flat heated presses and cut off excess that squishes around the sides while the wafer is baking. They pour and bake from Monday to Wednesday and use the end of the week to punch holes into these larger sheets so they are in bite-sized pieces for parishes across the country. They estimate they fill about 100 roughly 8-inch-by-10-inch plastic bags to sell per week.

"It's not very fast as it should be," Akoto said. "[The machines] break down all the time. We try to service them. We try to maintain them, but they break."

The sisters continue baking as they can to provide for their fellow Catholics.

In Sodoke Gbogame, they perform their charism to assist the needy by teaching young women how to bake bread and meat pies to sell in the community. The women are often teenage mothers, some of whom began learning while they were pregnant and have returned to bake and sell with a baby tied around their backs in the traditional carrying fashion.

"Oh, it's helping me," said Priscilla Klu, who now brings her 9-and-a-half-month-old, Vanessa Akapo, to the convent where she works. She and a few other young women sell the meat pies they bake each morning at the nearby school and clinic and on the streets of Sodoke.

Afriyie said people across the region know that the sisters bake, and Akoto said the sisters are motivated to help these teen mothers gain income to continue their education and make money for their families.

"There are a lot of girls in the village, so if we expand this place, we will take them, we will teach them, give them a skill so they will also live on their own," Akoto said. "That's our inspiration."

[Dana Wachter is a freelance journalist and digital storyteller based in London, Ontario.]

Source: Global Sisters Reporter… 


How to Declare a Famine: A Primer from South Sudan

IRIN || By Stefanie Glinski || 05 March 2

a famine primer from south sudanA series of maps released last week showing progressively larger areas of red projects a grim picture of growing hunger in South Sudan, and warns that famine could break out again in some areas unless adequate aid is delivered. UN agencies say that the “food security outlook has never been so dire as it is now,” and that roughly seven million people will require humanitarian aid to avert starvation. 

Those maps and accompanying data are a prerequisite for the planning and delivery of such assistance. The situation in South Sudan offers a look at the steps involved in declaring and hopefully averting famine, including how those maps are produced and why they matter.

Conflict and hunger

The latest data show that after four years of war, nearly two-thirds of South Sudan’s population, more than seven million people will need food aid to stave off starvation in the May-July “lean season” – the hiatus between the depletion of food stocks and the next harvest.

In January, one million people were already severely “food insecure,” a 40 percent increase compared with the same time last year. (For an area to be “food secure” all inhabitants must have constant physical and economic access to the food needed to live an active and healthy life. For more on this and other technical terms related to food and nutrition, see our jargon buster.)

Conflict is the main contributor to hunger in the world’s youngest country, which celebrated independence from Sudan in 2011 but fell back into civil war two years later.

A tanking economy and restricted access for aid workers make it increasingly hard for the South Sudanese to get their hands on food, and for aid agencies to evaluate the situation on the ground.  According to OCHA, the UN’s aid coordination body, 30 aid workers were killed in South Sudan in 2017. The killings were among more than 1,000 “incidents”, including murder, robbery, looting, threats and harassment, that impeded humanitarian access.

In February 2017, famine was declared in the rebel-held Unity State counties of Leer and Mayendit, where some 100,000 people faced starvation. The declaration led to an escalated humanitarian response in the affected areas, and the famine status was lifted in June.

Identifying Famine

The increasingly red maps are part of a data package published by the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC).

Developed by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), IPC brings together UN agencies, international non-profits, and governments. It monitors indicators of food insecurity and categorise that information  into five colour-coded “phases”: pale green for “Minimal”, yellow for “Stressed”, orange for “Crisis”, red for “Emergency” and burgundy for “Famine/Humanitarian Catastrophe.”

The aim is to provide “evidence-based, actionable knowledge to decision makers.”

Adnan Khan, the South Sudan country director for the UN’s World Food Programme, told IRIN that his organisation uses the IPC’s analysis “to inform its emergency response programming, including information on the location of people mostly in need.”

“As was the case in 2017 when famine was declared, WFP is eager to respond rapidly to sudden deterioration of food security conditions as indicated by IPC’s current and projected food security results, for example by scaling up its operations to meet acute needs, prepositioning food before the onset of the rains, shifting resources to identified hotspots and augmenting frequency of air drop cycles.”

Patrick Codjia, a nutrition specialist with UNICEF, explained that the information provided by the IPC is used to raise awareness, nationally and internationally, so as to mobilize the resources needed to address a current or looming crisis.

It is also used to “prioritize areas in urgent need of humanitarian response and assess ahead of time the areas that are likely to reflect a dire humanitarian situation to trigger early humanitarian action,” he told IRIN.

Famine, the worst-case scenario, “is a scientific classification based on standards, evidence, and technical consensus,” according to the IPC.

Strict criteria must be met to declare the “rare and extreme” case of famine, which the IPC describes as the “absolute inaccessibility of food to an entire population or sub-group of a population, potentially causing death in the short term.”

A famine declaration requires evidence of crude death rates higher than two per 10,000 people per day, a global acute malnutrition rate greater than 30 percent, and an extreme lack of food affecting more than 20 percent of the population. (The IPC uses slightly different criteria to project a famine. See here for details.)

A famine declaration must  be approved by the IPC’s Famine Review Committee (FRC), composed of leading food security experts.

In determining food security phases, the IPC takes into account a wide range of factors, such as weather patterns, economy, access, security, and political stability. Gathering such information, especially in the midst of conflict, can be challenging.

Collecting data, with difficulty

“Almost by definition, the risk of famine is highest in the most difficult-to-reach places,” food security experts Dan Maxwell and Peter Hailey, who both sit on the FRC, wrote in a recent paper.

“Humanitarian access – whether for analysis, response, or both – can be extremely limited in contemporary conflict. […] Even when data collection is possible, it is very hurried because of security concerns.”

The 2017 famine was declared “not in full accordance with the minimal evidence requirements of the IPC standard protocols,” the IPC itself said at the time.

Researchers gathering the contributing data would have preferred more respondents to their nutrition surveys, so as to make the declaration “without a doubt,” explained FAO food security analyst Nicholas Kerandi.

But this would have entailed travelling to remote islands in the swamps, which in many cases was impractical.

“The available evidence was still strong enough for experts to declare a famine,” Kerandi added. “They allow for ‘professional judgment’ in emergency situations, as it is not always possible to get full data, especially if the bullets are flying and you can’t get to the people.”

The most recent IPC results have no “data gaps”, according to the FAO, because although some areas were inaccessible because of conflict, people who had recently fled them provided information.  

“Hundreds of people are involved in the collection of facts, and we have eleven bases with national and international analysts spread across the country,” explains Katie Rickard, the country coordinator for REACH, a joint initiative of the non-profit ACTED, the think-tank IMPACT, and the UN’s Operational Satellite Applications Programme that develops information tools for the humanitarian sector. REACH works closely with the IPC in South Sudan, where it conducts statistical field research.

IPC data is gathered from various sources. One of the biggest data streams is from the UN-funded Food Security and Nutrition Missions South Sudan (FSNMS), carried out by FAO, aid agencies and government counterparts. It is complemented by additional food security data assessments, research findings from studies, satellite images indicating weather patterns and information about access restrictions faced by humanitarian workers based on reports by the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), a bloc of eight regional states. The IPC assesses all the data, and all participants agree on the food security status in various areas.

Political challenges

When the Southern Sudan chapter of the IPC was launched in 2007 (four years before secession from Sudan), the government of the then autonomous region was initially sceptical. It had  little trust and interest in the international community measuring food security, citing bias and inaccuracy as concerns.

“I was the IPC’s first enemy,” said Philip Dau, Director for Monitoring and Evaluation at South Sudan’s National Bureau of Statistics, adding, “a famine declaration should be released by the president.”

Yet the government soon realised that it was nearly impossible to receive food assistance or funding from donors without thorough research and internationally shared data.

“The IPC results brought more money, and we accepted the protocols and procedures,” said Dau, who now also co-chairs the IPC in South Sudan.

Step-by-step analysis

Over recent weeks, in a room crammed with more than 120 analysts and nutritionists from a range of UN agencies, NGOs, and the government, the countrywide IPC data, collected over three months, was evaluated.

“The first step is to look at the collected interviews,” explained the IPC’s regional coordinator, Kamau Wanjohi.

“From there we classify the severity of the situation and score the reliability and accuracy of the data. If it’s not trustworthy, it’s either cut off or scored as only ‘somewhat reliable’. The final steps are a thorough vetting process and quality control that ends with the Famine Review Committee defending the data and communicating the outcomes.”

When analysts jump on a plane or helicopter to conduct interviews in the most remote parts of South Sudan, questions usually focus on farming, access to markets, number of meals eaten a day, observed rain patterns and mortality.

Yet, according to Maxwell and Hailey, potentially valuable data – on nutrition and mortality, for instance – is sometimes excluded, or given a very low reliability score, because it is be deemed out of date.

“This frequently means that while famine may be occurring, it is impossible to state with certainty,” they wrote in their paper. “A concerted effort to coordinate data collection efforts would help address this problem.”

“Trends are the best way to be sure that data is accurate,” explained Rickard, of REACH.

“We compare people’s answers from before and after food distributions and evaluate what has changed.”

Avoiding a ‘desperate’ situation  

Much of South Sudan’s population depends on food aid, but distributions can be affected by many factors, such as constrained access due to weather or conflict, funding gaps, or changes in the food security phases of specific areas.

“The situation can quickly become desperate,” said FAO spokesperson Lieke Visser, adding that it’s important to decrease dependence on food aid and increase stability so that people can find other sources of food or income.

John Pangech, Director General for Planning at the Ministry of Agriculture and an IPC co-chair, is distraught over his country’s situation.

“People are giving up,” he said. “Inflation has prices of food and water rise to amounts that no family can afford. People want a permanent ceasefire and clear move to stop the war. If the Addis Ababa [peace] talks don’t bring a solution, it will be serious.”

Source: IRIN… 


President Kagame Shocked by High Number of Churches in Rwanda

The EastAfrican || By Johnson Kanamugire and Edmund Kagire || 03 March 2018

kagame shocked by high number of churches“Seven hundred churches in Kigali? Are these boreholes that give people water?” asked President Paul Kagame when he heard that more than 700 churches had been closed down by authorities.

“I don’t think we have as many boreholes. Do we even have as many factories? But 700 churches, which you even had to close? This has been a mess!”

The closure this week by the Rwanda Governance Board (RGB) was meant to tighten rules on registration and functioning of churches in the country in the face of rising cases of fraud and security concerns.

Religious and rights groups said the closure amounts to infringement on the right to worship, but the government says the crackdown is timely, in the face of thousands of mushrooming churches in the largely Christian country.

President Kagame, while officiating at the closure of a four-day national leadership retreat on Thursday, commented on the ongoing operation saying that he was surprised by the large number of churches. He pointed out that had there been proper planning, the situation would not have got to a level where the government has to close churches.

He said that Rwanda has not reached a level where it needs all these churches, noting that such a big number of churches is suitable in bigger and developed economies that have the means and systems to sustain them –which is one of the two scenarios such a development can be explained.

“The second scenario is that you will find such a mess [of churches] in societies which have nothing like ours for different reasons. In Rwanda and Africa, there are those who want to see us in such chaos. When authorities intervene and stop them, they lament that it is a human rights abuse. People should have a right to worship in whatever church, they say,” said Mr Kagame.

He however said that Rwandans do not have the luxury and means to sustain such churches, supporting the move to shut them down.


The heads of Pentecostal churches which are the most affected have lamented the decision to close churches, which they said was hastily implemented.

“We needed more time to put things in order and later an inspection would determine which churches to close,” said Bishop Liliane Mukabadege of Mountain of Hope, pointing out that some of the closed churches can meet the standards given a grace period.

Observers say that crackdown could set back planned investments which faith-based organisations were making including in the media, schools and hospitals.

It is suspected that a recent case involving Amazing Grace FM, a Christian-run radio station accused of airing a hateful sermon against women, put churches in the spotlight. In the sermon aired on January 29, a pastor Nicolas Niyibikora vented against women calling them “evil” and “against God’s plan”.

The radio has since been temporarily closed and fined Rwf2 million ($2,320) for undermining state security and Rwandan culture.

RGB, which registers faith-based and civil society organisations, says there are loopholes in the current law which were deemed not strict enough to address the issues that emerged after its enactment in 2013.

Anastase Shyaka, RGB chief executive officer, said the law allowed churches to start and register later while preachers underwent no licensing process as there are no specific requirements regarding who should practice, standards for places of worship and management, among other things.

“The same way other professions require some training or qualifications-it should also apply to preachers to avoid people who call themselves bishops, pastors or apostles when they have not acquired it through training,” said Mr Shyaka.

RGB officials say this was partly to blame for the several malpractices and internal wrangles that characterised churches and faith-based organisations in the country.

Source: The EastAfrican… 


‘God did this’- How a 22 year-old Texan began a Catholic school for Uganda’s Deaf Children


Catholic News Agency (CNA) || By Mary Rezac || 01 March 2018


how texan began a catholic school for deaf in ugandaRannah Evetts had always wanted to go to Africa. She has no explanation for it, other than that God had planted a deep love of everything Africa in her heart for as long as she can remember.

“Ever since I was a little kid, I would say I was going to Africa, and I didn’t really understand why, and my mom would just call me her little African child because that’s all I would talk about,” Rannah recalled.

Today, Rannah is living out her childhood dream, having founded a Catholic school for deaf children in Uganda at the age of 21.

But it came to fruition in a way she could never have imagined.

Evetts loved to talk about Africa as a little girl. But there was a lot she did not talk about - the sexual abuse she was experiencing and the traumatic consequences she suffered silently for years: depression, suicidal thoughts, self hate and despair.

“Through a lot of hurt and pain that God worked through me,” Evetts told CNA.

Desperately seeking happiness in high school, she threw herself into the party scene, looking for relief.

“I wanted to be happy, I was so tired of hating myself and being miserable, and so when I was a junior in high school I started partying a whole lot...and I quickly realized this isn’t making me happy, I’m just suffering more and more,” she said.

Looking for answers, Evetts started attending different churches with friends and family on the weekends.

Having never been baptized, she bounced around non-denominational Christian churches for a while, but did not feel like she had found the truth until she began looking into the Catholic faith.

“When I was a senior I started RCIA...and through all of that, I gave up drinking, no more parties, I was reading the Bible all the time, and realizing that I just want Jesus. He has to be the cure, because I knew that the world wasn’t,” she said.

When she was baptized at the end of her senior year, Evetts said she felt the presence of Christ, in an indescribable way, in her heart. She felt God calling her to an unfolding mission that would piece together seemingly unconnected parts of her life, including her love for Africa, and her knowledge of American Sign Language.

“It’s hard to explain the real presence that I experienced of Christ inside of me when I did get baptized...and receiving the Eucharist, receiving him in the flesh, I gave up everything, that’s when he opened up the door and said ‘This is what I want you to do and this is why.’”

At her high school in Texas, the only classes offered to fulfill language requirements were Spanish or ASL. Evetts said she joined the sign language class because it was required, she thought it was “cool”, and her sister had taken the same class.

“It was just a requirement, I did not think ever one time that I would do anything with it,” she said, and she even considered dropping the class.

But by her senior year, and as she experienced a conversion, she said God began to pull on her heart through her sign language class, especially when she completed a project on deafness in Uganda.

She learned that the deaf in Uganda are often misunderstood and often mistreated, considered sinners or even cursed. She said that the deaf are often outcast out of malice or because of a lack of resources.

“I relate to the deaf people here because they are outcasted, they’re seen as cursed, they’re seen as sinners, and so they’re shut away from the world kind of, they’re living in this darkness and this silence,” she said.  

“And God pulled me to give what he gave me after all of my years of darkness and hating myself and feeling like I had no friends and nobody to talk to, of wanting to die, feeling like I had no purpose in life - all of those things I was struggling with after being sexually abused, God took them and he transforms everything and he said, ‘These I’m turning into graces.’ And with the deaf people here that’s what he did,” she said.

After high school graduation, Evetts flew to Uganda for the first time to work for seven months for an established school for the deaf in the capital city of Kampala. Through that experience, she met a priest in a village in northern Uganda, in an area with hundreds of deaf children and no resources for them.

“I basically just walked back to the sacristy and I was like, ‘Hi Father, I’m Rannah, can I talk to you?’” she recalled.

The initial meeting sparked a conversation that continued for more than a year and a half, while Evetts, the priest, and the local bishop discerned h starting a school for the deaf.

In 2016, Evetts moved to the village for five months to get used to living in the area and adjust to the culture, and to see if her dream could become a reality. By September 2016, the local bishop gave her permission to use an old catechesis building, “and basically he just said ‘begin.’”

By February 2017, the St. Francis de Sales School for the Deaf opened its doors for the first time. St. Francis was chosen as the patron because he personally developed a sign language to preach the Gospel and teach the Catholic faith to Martin, a deaf man.

“We are here to promote the education and welfare of the Deaf in the West Nile region,” the school’s mission statement says on their website.

“Most importantly we are here to fulfill a deeper meaning behind Christ’s “Eph’phatha” in Mark’s Gospel: ‘... and looking up to heaven, he [Jesus] sighed, and said to him, “Eph’phatha,” that is, ‘be opened.’ And his ears were opened, his tongue was released and he spoke plainly.’”

“The deaf are often outcasts in Ugandan society; isolated, deprived of their rights, and looked down upon by hearing people. They are more exposed to being raped, abused, and neglected by society. They are often thought of as stupid, cursed, and many parents still think it is a waste of money to send them to school,” the statement continues.

“We are here to break this cultural stigma, provide quality education, and give our Deaf students the most precious thing in this world: Jesus Christ.”

Evetts said she was most moved by her love for God to give language to those who otherwise could not speak.

“I didn’t think I would do anything with [sign language], but it’s like everyday [God] reveals more and more why I’m doing what I’m doing,” she said.

“I knew I wanted to evangelize, I knew I wanted to share the word of God with people and what he did in my life. It’s so huge what he did for me, that you can’t not share that with people! I’m a convert and I’m on fire, you know? It’s like, ‘no, I’ve been to the other side, trust me!’”

But it hasn’t been easy. The school is open to children ages 3-14, and the age range brings a variety of needs. When they first arrive, most of the children  have no way of communicating their needs, their thoughts, their experiences, pain or ideas.

“All of a sudden they’re being thrown into this and they have no idea what’s going on, so we have kids who are trying to run away, a lot of our kids just cried seeing me because they’ve never seen whatever I am, and the everyday challenge of bringing them a language...it was incredibly difficult,” Evetts said.

It also came with times of personal darkness and challenge for Evetts, who was the only foreigner in her village, the only woman living at the parish, and the only person from her culture in the area. She would also often feel overwhelmed by the weight of responsibility on her shoulders.

“I have a lot of thanks to give to my mom, because I would tell her ‘I want to come home Mom, because I don’t know what I’m doing,’ and she would stick with me and pray with me,” she said.

She was also still struggling with anxiety attacks and the painful healing of the abuse in her past.

“I want to tell you this because...it shows God’s goodness, because there were days when I couldn’t do this. I’m 22 years old and I don’t know what I’m doing and I’m the leader of all of this thing and I’m working in another country and having my own problems... that I’m dealing with and alone in that silence with God,” Evetts said.

There were several weeks at a time where she felt like she was literally unable to get out of bed in the morning.

“But I want to share that with you because it shows that God did this. You say ‘yes’ to God and he does it, he fulfills it, because this is his school and this is his mission,” she said. “I don’t know how to explain it, but he’s here and he’s got this all under control.”  

The transformation she and the staff began seeing in the students throughout the year was incredible, she said.

Children came to them having been raped, abused or neglected because of their disability, and were transformed in personality and behavior as they started acquiring a language.

At the beginning of the year, many parents reluctantly sent their children to the boarding school, believing it impossible to educate a deaf child. But on the night after the first term ended, and the children went home for the first time, parents started calling the school in amazement.

“They were like, ‘there’s stuff written in [their notebooks]! There’s grades!’ And then their kids are signing all this stuff to their parents, and these parents are like ‘we don’t know what our kids are saying but they know stuff, and they’re talking with their hands!’”

“And so they’re really seeing the evidence of this works, so its a real encouragement for the parents,” Evetts said.

The school has just begun its second year, with 50 students enrolled. It was recently licensed, and the plan is to eventually find enough land to build a boarding school for more than 300 nursery and primary school deaf students in the area.

Evetts said the way the local community has embraced the school with love has been encouraging. As the only white person in the area, Evetts said it automatically brings her a lot of attention, which in turn lets her bring that attention to her work with deaf children.

“God uses that, then I get to explain about sign language and about deafness and how awesome it is. We’re walking around town, playing games with the students, using sign language, and people just gawk and stare--like what? White people know this language too?” Evetts said. “This year I’ve had volunteers come and it’s more people knowing sign language and giving it attention, and Caritas is now helping sponsor our school, so it's just been growing and I see that the community has really taken us on, and it really has been great.”

Evetts said the most rewarding part of the experience has been how God has used her ‘yes’ and the ‘yes’ of her staff members to transform lives and to do something that they would be unable to accomplish without him.

“The closer you get to God in his silence, that’s where he reveals himself, that’s his language,” she said. “And not only that, he reveals you to you--he draws that out of you, and I really learned that the closer I came to him, he just showed me - ‘this is why I put this desire in you, and this is how I’m going to use your sufferings or your vices and this is how I’m going to transform it.’”

“It was all him.”

Source: Catholic News Agency… 



Ethiopia's Stability Envisages Africa's Inclusive Development

AllAfrica || The Ethiopian Herald || By Zelalem Girma || 25 February 2018

stability of ethiopia envisages african inclusive developmentAs Ethiopia is the second most populous nation in Africa, its main challenges are sustaining its progressive economic growth and ensuring poverty reduction, which requires significant improvement in job creation and improved governance.

To make certain a comprehensive growth in the country, the government will need to improve its governance, empower local authorities, and become more accountable to its citizens, according to members of the diplomatic community.

Following the instabilities observed recently in some parts of the country, the government has declared a State of Emergency(SoE) to protect losses of life and damages in properties as well as to adjust political reforms.

Foreign Minister Dr. Workeneh Gebeyehu affirmed foreign diplomats that the SoE which runs for six months since last week will certainly be helpful in bringing lasting peace and reinstating the constitutional law and order in place.

As to Dr. Workeneh, the situation in Ethiopia has returned to normalcy, and peace has prevailed so far following the declaration of the SoE and other measures taken by the government.

In this regard, The Ethiopian Herald has met with some members of the diplomatic communities to discuss about the current situation in Ethiopia in one hand and their views about the SoE on the other hand.

Deputy Commissioner of the African Union Quartey Thomas Kwesi says the African Union (AU) supports the initiatives that the government has taken to bring improvements in all aspects.

As Ethiopia's peace, stability is significant for Africa's inclusive advancement; AU calls the government of Ethiopia to protect the peace and security of the people as well as to safeguard public and private properties from damage.

Apart from its recognition in managing the surrounding peace and stability, Ethiopia has also acceptance in participating to safeguard world serenity and tranquility, the Commissioner added.

Similarly, William, a Diplomat from the African Union also says we believe in the government and people of Ethiopia to be able to resolve this situation, as it is a political issue in nature, we have a strong conviction that Ethiopia will come out of this process peacefully. These are what we desire and looking for meeting the aspirations of all Ethiopians.

Though the government seems somewhat missing control of this great country, be it the SoE and the political situation, it is the constitution, the people and the government of Ethiopia that could tackle these matters.

Ambassador of Netherlands to Ethiopia, Bengt Van Loosdercht for his part said although it is a good move to invite the international community for discussion and it is also compulsory to hold inclusive dialogue with all segments of the society such as civil society organizations, public institutions and media houses among others.

"Respecting the decree is respecting the democratic freedom of the people." As the government intends to protect people's properties and their constitutional rights, the government will take its responsibility to undergo everything in the implementation process, he commented.

Ambassador Bengt also says the declaration of the SoE will not affect the involvement of Netherland investors in this country as it assures their security, and less harm on their physical infrastructures of the flower growers in Oromia and Amhara states.

Sudan, South Sudan and other countries' Ambassadors lauded the declaration of the SoE and the various measures that the country has taken to broaden political freedom and run smooth democratization process.

As the country is working towards more openness and more inclusiveness, it is commendable that the government takes responsibility to ensure peace and development in the country.

Ambassador of Kenya to Ethiopia Catherine Muigai Mwangi says for her part that the SoE declared in Ethiopia is imperative to ensuring the well being of the public, and returning the previous sustainable peace and stability in the country and beyond.

According to her, as the government is incredibly displaying open and transparent progress to ensure peace and order in this country, it is necessary to support all the reforms of the Ethiopian government and the people as well.

Other members of the diplomatic communities believed that following the Prime Minister's decision to resign from his position, the government has to make use of the existing measures and opportunities to transfer power peacefully thereby to ensure peace and stability in the country.

Source: AllAfrica… 


Latest Nigeria's Boko Haram Crisis: Anger over Missing Girls

BBC News || 22 February 2018

anger in nigeria over missing girls 2018There is growing anger and confusion among the parents of a group of missing Nigerian schoolgirls following an attack by Boko Haram Monday night.

Parents of pupils who disappeared from their boarding school in Dapchi told the BBC their girls were still missing.

This is despite a statement on Wednesday saying some had been rescued.

The Nigerian activist group, Bring Back Our Girls, has called on the government to release a list of the names in order to clarify how many pupils are missing.

The group was set up after the abduction almost four years ago of 276 girls from a school in Chibok, also in north-eastern Nigeria.

Parents fainted with shock

Parents originally said that around 100 children were thought to be missing following the attack in Yobe state.

Officials placed the figure far lower, at around 50, and initially said they had not been abducted. Instead, they were said to be hiding in the bush after fleeing the attack,

Then, in a statement released on Wednesday, the Yobe state government said they had been told by the army an unspecified number of girls had been rescued from the "terrorists who abducted them".

Reuters news agency quoted parents and a government official as saying two girls had died, 76 had been rescued and at least 13 were still missing.

Now parents have told the BBC the state governor backtracked on the statement and said the girls had not been found after all - leading five of the parents present at the briefing to faint with shock.

One parent, Kundiri Alhaji Bukar, told BBC Hausa: ''[The governor] said soldiers were dispatched but the military commander told him they could not locate the girls with the Boko Haram militants.

"He said no-one is really sure whether the girls were taken away by Boko Haram. But we on our part, we believe Boko Haram abducted the children."

Another parent, speaking anonymously, said people had been commending the authorities on their quick actions, but the change of position "angered the people".

"Many people broke into tears; some even collapsed," the parent said.

Dapchi, about 275km (170 miles) north-west of Chibok, came under attack on Monday, causing students and teachers to flee into the surrounding bush.

Residents say that Nigeria's security forces - backed by military jets - later repelled the attack.

Locals living near the school told the BBC that many of the girls who had fled had been found after hiding in surrounding villages - some up to 30km away.

Yobe's police minister said that 815 of the school's 926 students had later returned to the school.

President Muhammadu Buhari has sent ministers to the area in a fact-finding mission.

What has happened to the Chibok girls?

Last September, a group of more than 100 of the Chibok girls were reunited with their families at a party in Abuja.

Most of the group were released in May as part of a controversial prisoner swap deal with the Nigerian government that saw five Boko Haram commanders released.

But more than 100 schoolgirls are still being held by Boko Haram, and their whereabouts are unknown.

Boko Haram militants have been fighting a long insurgency in their quest for an Islamic state in northern Nigeria. The conflict is estimated to have killed tens of thousands of people.

The Chibok girls represent a fraction of the women captured by the militant group, which has kidnapped thousands during its eight-year insurgency in northern Nigeria.

Source: BBC News…


Fall of African Leaders Not a Guarantee to 'People Power'

AllAfrica || Daily Nation || By Aggrey Mutambo || 17 February 2018

fall of african leaders 2018South Africa, Zimbabwe and Ethiopia will be having new leaders this year in an unexpected turn of events where office holders have either resigned or forced from office.

They joined the Gambia and Burkina Faso, two countries that chased their leaders out of town recently.

In South Africa, Mr Jacob Zuma - the scandal monger - was forced out this week, just hours before MPs could begin proceedings on his impeachment.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn handed in his resignation after conceding that a solution to continued protests in some regions could only be found with him out of power.

Should Africa celebrate these events or just consider them ordinary occurrences?


Mr Zuma’s replacement, Cyril Ramaphosa, promised to fight corruption, something that identified with his predecessor’s tenure.

“This is not yet uhuru. We have never said it is uhuru. We are going to seek to improve the lives of our people on an ongoing basis, and since 1994, we have done precisely that,” Mr Ramaphosa said after he took the oath of office.

“Issues to do with corruption, issues of how we can straighten out our state-owned enterprises and how we deal with ‘state capture’ are on our radar.”

Corruption is common in sub-Saharan Africa. According to the Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index, Pretoria is 64th out of 176 countries.

Kenya is 145th, just a rank above the failed state of South Sudan.

Ethiopia is ranked at position 108, closely followed by Tanzania at 116.

In east and southern Africa, only Namibia, Rwanda and Botswana scored above 50 points.

Some observers feel Mr Ramaphosa could help cure corruption in South Africa and essentially affect dealings with the countries Pretoria trades with.

“Ramaphosa knows how to tap into the global community for partnerships. He is a businessman and only wants efficiency,” Prof Maurice Amutabi, a historian and Vice-Chancellor of Lukenya University, said.

President Uhuru Kenyatta met the new South African leader last month when he attended ANC celebrations where diplomats said the two urged for better business relations.

The event seemed to be the first step in ironing out differences with Mr Ramaphosa, whose closeness to National Super Alliance leader Raila Odinga is an open secret.

Mr Ramaphosa was rejected by the Party of National Unity as mediator during Kenya’s 2008 chaos.

Some experts think it will not be obvious for Mr Ramaphosa to fit this expectation yet, especially given that his ascension was engineered by the ANC top brass.

“There may not be much impact in the cases of South Africa or Zimbabwe on African politics,” Mr Tom Mboya, who teaches political science at Maseno University, said.

“This is because senior leaders in the Zimbabwe military and the party started the change.

"In South Africa, ANC even rejected a motion of no confidence by the opposition, a move they had planned to pull on Zuma last week. It says something.”

Mr Mboya added that influential political happenings should normally follow the pattern of the Arab Spring or the clamour for political plurality in Africa in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

“At that time, it was a bottom-up approach. Fed up with their governments, citizens and civil society demanded change,” he said.

“We can look up to Ethiopia since the prime minister’s resignation was because of protests.

"We should not celebrate yet for it may not bring the desired democratic change on the continent.”

During the clamour for democracy, some countries got better at elections.

Ghana, Zambia and Malawi are examples. Others like Somalia, the Central Africa Republic, the DR Congo and Burundi plunged into chaos.

However, Ethiopia’s case is complicated. Diplomatic sources told the Sunday Nation that some key political players had been meeting quietly in Nairobi to try and steer restive Oromia and Amhara regions into the national fold.

The diplomats said dominant figures in the Tigrayan People's Liberation Front, a member of the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front, suggested direct talks with the Oromo Democratic Front, an organisation that is not in the ruling coalition and some of whose leaders had been jailed.

The ruling coalition controls all seats in the 547-parliament but is dominated by TPLF.

Others are the Oromo Peoples’ Democratic Organisation, the ANDM based in the Amhara region and the Southern Ethiopian People’s Democratic Movement.

The PM’s resignation will await a formal acceptance by his party.

Source: AllAfrica… 


Sexual Assault Cover-up Claims in South Sudan Rock Oxfam

BusinessDay Live (BL) || By AFP, Agency Staff || 13 February 2018

sex abuse claims in south sudan rock oxfamScandal-hit British charity Oxfam was reeling on Tuesday after new claims of sexual assault and cover-ups in South Sudan, as Haiti’s president condemned the behaviour of some of its staff in his country as "undignified and dishonest".

Helen Evans, former global head of safeguarding, also warned of assaults on children volunteering in Oxfam’s hundreds of high-street charity shops in Britain.

She accused senior managers of failing to act, heaping pressure on CEO Mark Goldring just hours after his deputy resigned over a scandal involving aid workers’ use of prostitutes in Haiti and Chad.

Haitian President Jovenel Moise spoke out about the scandal on Tuesday, saying there was "nothing more undignified and dishonest" than humanitarian aid workers exploiting "needy people".

Evans told Channel 4 News of a survey conducted during her 2012-15 tenure, which exposed a "culture of sexual abuse" in some Oxfam offices.

The survey of 120 staff across three countries found between 11% and 14% said they witnessed or experienced sexual assault.

Seven per cent of staff in South Sudan — four people — witnessed or experienced rape or attempted rape involving colleagues.

The revelations have caused outrage in Britain, where Oxfam received £31.7m from the government in 2017.

Some commentators have said the scandal should prompt a rethink of Britain’s commitment to spend 0.7% of its national income on foreign aid — a UN target that only very few countries in the world respect.

The international development ministry has begun a wider review of how the foreign aid sector deals with allegations of sexual misconduct in the workplace.

"Emergency situations are almost a perfect environment for these kind of activities to emerge," Mike Jennings, head of the department of development studies at the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies, said.

"You have extremely vulnerable people … and a few people who are effectively controlling access to resources, or have huge amounts of power. Whenever you have those inequalities and variances in power, you have scope for abuse."

Megan Nobert, who was drugged and raped by a fellow aid worker in South Sudan in 2015, told BBC radio that sexual violence in humanitarian workspaces was a "common occurrence".

She drew parallels with the #MeToo campaign of denouncing sexual harassment, which started in Hollywood and has since expanded to different sectors such as the media, politics and the world of music.

"The humanitarian community is the latest to have to grapple publicly with an issue that it’s been trying to figure out how to respond to quietly," Nobert said.

Evans said she asked to take her findings about abuse to the senior leadership team at Oxfam, but the meeting was cancelled and Goldring told her that discussing the report would not take things any further.

Later during her tenure, Evans said she received three new allegations in a single day in February 2015, including one woman forced to have sex for aid.

"There was one of a woman being coerced to have sex in a humanitarian response by another aid worker, another case where a woman had been coerced to have sex in exchange for aid, and another one where it had come to our attention where a member of staff had been struck off for sexual abuse and hadn’t disclosed that," she said.

Evans — now a local councillor in England — said she "struggled" to understand why senior management did not give her more resources to address the problem.

In a separate issue, Channel 4 cited figures showing seven incidents of "inappropriate conduct with children" in Oxfam’s shops in 2013-14.

One case involving an adult volunteer assaulting a child — the minimum age for volunteers is 14 years — went to court, Evans said.

Oxfam has been battling accusations it covered up allegations about the use of prostitutes by Oxfam staff members in Haiti following a devastating 2010 earthquake.

Following an internal investigation, some staff members were dismissed and others allowed to resign.

But the charity has admitted it could have been more transparent with regulators about the accusations.

Oxfam deputy chief Penny Lawrence resigned on Monday, saying: "As programme director at the time, I am ashamed that this happened on my watch and I take full responsibility."

Source: BusinessDay Live… 


Ellen Johnson Sirleaf Wins 2017 Ibrahim Prize

AllAfrica || Daily Observer || 12 February 2018

ellen johnson wins 2017 ibrahim prizeThe 2017 Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership has been awarded to Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, former President of Liberia, the Mo Ibrahim Foundation announced today following a meeting of its independent Prize Committee.

In its citation, the Prize Committee praised her exceptional and transformative leadership, in the face of unprecedented and renewed challenges, to lead Liberia's recovery following many years of devastating civil war.

"Ellen Johnson Sirleaf took the helm of Liberia when it was completely destroyed by civil war and led a process of reconciliation that focussed on building a nation and its democratic institutions," said Dr. Salim Ahmed Salim, Chair of the Prize Committee, announcing the decision.

"Throughout her two terms in office, she worked tirelessly on behalf of the people of Liberia. Such a journey cannot be without some shortcomings and, today, Liberia continues to face many challenges. Nevertheless, during her twelve years in office, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf laid the foundations on which Liberia can now build."

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf became President of Liberia on 16 January 2006, after winning the 2005 national elections. She served her first term 2006-11 and was then successfully re-elected for a second term, serving in office 2012-17.

Sirleaf is the fifth recipient of the Ibrahim Prize, which recognizes and celebrates excellence in African leadership. The Ibrahim Prize aims to distinguish leaders who, during their time in office, have developed their countries, strengthened democracy and human rights for the shared benefit of their people, and advanced sustainable development.

Since 2006, Liberia was the only country out of 54 to improve in every category and sub-category of the Ibrahim Index of African Governance. This led Liberia to move up ten places in the Index's overall ranking during this period.

On hearing the outcome of the Prize Committee's deliberations, Mo Ibrahim said: "I'm delighted that the Prize Committee has decided to make Ellen Johnson Sirleaf an Ibrahim Prize Laureate. In very difficult circumstances, she helped guide her nation towards a peaceful and democratic future, paving the way for her successor to follow. I am proud to see the first woman Ibrahim Laureate, and I hope Ellen Johnson Sirleaf will continue to inspire women in Africa and beyond."

Madam Johnson Sirleaf joins Hifikepunye Pohamba of Namibia (2014), Pedro Pires of Cabo Verde (2011), Festus Mogae of Botswana (2008) and Joaquim Chissano of Mozambique (2007) as an Ibrahim Prize Laureate. Nelson Mandela was made the inaugural Honorary Laureate in 2007.

The Ibrahim Prize is a US$5 million award paid over ten years and US$200,000 annually for life thereafter. The Mo Ibrahim Foundation will consider granting a further US$200,000 per year for ten years towards public interest activities and good causes espoused by the Ibrahim Laureate.

The candidates for the Ibrahim Prize are all former African executive heads of state or government who have left office during the last three calendar years, having been democratically elected and served their constitutionally mandated term.

The Ibrahim Prize for African Leadership recognizes and celebrates African executive leaders who, under challenging circumstances, have developed their countries and strengthened democracy and human rights for the shared benefit of their people, paving the way for sustainable and equitable prosperity. It also highlights exceptional role models for the continent and ensures that the African continent continues to benefit from the experience and wisdom of exceptional leaders once they have left national office, by enabling them to continue in other public roles on the continent. The Prize is an award and a standard for excellence in leadership in Africa, and not a 'first prize', there is not necessarily a Laureate every year.

Source: AllAfrica…


Peace in Northeastern Nigeria Requires Justice for Military Crimes Not Just Boko Haram Atrocities

IRIN || By Idayat Hassan || 07 February 2018

justice for military crimes not just boko haramOne day the Boko Haram insurgency will come to an end. When it does, there will be a painful time of reckoning. But for lasting peace to come to northeastern Nigeria, one important fact must be acknowledged from the start: there are perpetrators and victims on many sides.

After eight and a half years of conflict, no one knows when the guns will fall silent. Government declarations of victory are still routinely followed by the jihadist group committing yet another violent outrage.

Boko Haram is proving hard to defeat. It has survived a split between Abubaker Shekau (the ranting leader seen on the YouTube videos) and a rival faction led by Abu Musab al-Barnawi that is aligned with so-called Islamic State. It has weathered the food shortages that have affected rural communities across Borno State. And it has resisted a sustained offensive by the Nigerian military targeting its strongholds in the Lake Chad region and the Sambisa Forest, further south.

The brutality of Boko Haram – its killings, torture, rapes, and abductions – are well known. But the Nigerian military and a pro-armed forces vigilante group called the Civilian Joint Task Force, or CJTF, are also accused of committing human rights violations – well documented by Amnesty International.

The Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court has identified eight possible cases of crimes against humanity in relation to the conflict in northeastern Nigeria. These include six possible cases against Boko Haram and two against the Nigerian security forces. 

There have been various negotiation efforts between the government and elements within Boko Haram. This has involved talking to both factions of the insurgency, and has resulted in the release of two batches of the Chibok school girls.

Justice for whom?

If these negotiations were to go a step further and result in a ceasefire and peace agreement, or if somehow the Nigerian military finally found the skill and commitment to “win” the war – what would peace look like? There would certainly be a demand for accountability and justice, but justice for whom?

The challenge of transitional justice in Nigeria is illustrated by a scoping paper by the Centre for Democracy and Development. It identifies the several categories of victims and perpetrators – and the issue is complicated.

Appearing on both sides of the ledger – as both victims and perpetrators – are the Nigerian military, the CJTF, Boko Haram ex-combatants, government officials, and civilian collaborators.

Within the military, for example, the rank and file see themselves as not only victims of Boko Haram, but also of corrupt government officials and senior officers who have lined their pockets with the resources that should have been spent on fighting the insurgency.

In researching the report, I asked a lot of people in the three northeastern states of Borno, Yobe, and Adamawa what transitional justice should entail on the day peace returns.

Can’t trust Boko Haram

What was clear is that there is a great deal of anger towards Boko Haram. That includes those the government is trying to reintegrate through its Operation Safe Corridor demobilisation programme.

The overwhelming opinion was that all insurgents – even those who have surrendered – should be prosecuted.

It’s a powerful emotion, especially among the displaced. The sentiment commonly heard amounts to this: “we are suffering in IDP camps, with little food and only basic services, while the perpetrators are in a rehabilitation camp, drinking bottled water and sleeping under mosquito nets.”

Many believe the ex-combatants are not at all repentant: they surrendered merely out of hunger, or to save their lives – because they had run afoul of their Boko Haram commander or been out-gunned by the military.

The common denominator was: “Boko Haram can never change, they cannot be trusted.”

Army crimes

The armed forces and the CJTF are also clearly seen as complicit in rights violations and should be held to account, although in this regard opinion is less unified.

Their perceived crimes range from extra-judicial killings, sexual violence, cruel and unlawful detention, to simple theft.

Take the Knifar Movement. This group of displaced women from Bama in northern Borno have organised themselves to fight for the release of their husbands, detained by the military on the alleged grounds they belong to Boko Haram – charges the women deny.

In a petition to a judicial commission on human rights abuses by the military, they named 466 people they alleged were killed by the military in Bama, and another 1,229 currently held in Giwa Barracks in Maiduguri, the capital of Borno State. They also accused the military and CJTF of raping women and girls in government-run IDP camps, even releasing a YouTube video to press their case.

Another victims’ group is Jida Dole [Justice by Force]. It comprises Giwa Barracks detainees but also includes Maiduguri residents protesting the military’s conduct at the height of the insurgency, before Boko Haram was expelled from the city.

Most people see justice as holding members of the military and Boko Haram to account, but others are more focused on financial compensation for their material loss.

Others still want the “truth” in a conflict where conspiracy theories are rife. Common questions: Who funds Boko Haram? Are the politicians and the military complicit in the continuation of the war?

The problem with amnesty

Operation Safe Corridor is about to release the second batch of supposedly deradicalised ex-Boko Haram fighters back into the community.

But a good deal of controversy surrounds the programme. Very little work has been done to prepare communities for the returns, and it is unclear under what legal framework it operates.

Granting a blanket amnesty in this insurgency – without taking note of the victims – will make peace and justice more difficult to achieve.

Furthermore, it doesn’t actually prevent the perpetrators from being tried for war crimes under international law. This implies that amnesty is insufficient as the sole transitional justice mechanism.

Instead, groups like the Centre for Democracy and Development want a system that can deal with both perpetrators and survivors responsibly. This would be a welcome development in Nigeria, where historically such issues have been handled in an ad hoc political way – never holistically – with accountability swept under the carpet.

Since the country’s return to democracy in 1999, there have been various attempts to address grievances.

The Human Rights Violations Investigation Commission – popularly known as the Oputa Panel – was set up by former president Olusegun Obasanjo to look into crimes committed between 1966 and 1999.

The commission sat for five years, received over 10,000 submissions, but heard just 200 cases publicly. The glaring omission was that the final report of the panel was never officially released to the public – names were not named; there was no truth, no justice, no real reconciliation.

In addressing the Niger Delta militancy, where youths took up arms to protest exploitation and environmental degradation in the oil-rich region, a blanket amnesty was also adopted as a means of post-conflict peacebuilding.

But experience has shown this is only an interim solution and there is no accountability to the victims. The resurgence of militancy in the Niger Delta is proof that impunity stores up trouble.

These lessons must be learnt in the case of northeastern Nigeria.

Source: IRIN… 


Six Countries Awarded for Efforts to End Malaria

AllAfrica || African Leaders Malaria Alliance || 02 February 2018

six countries awarded for fighting malariaThe African leaders Malaria Alliance (ALMA) held a Forum, on 28th January, in Addis Ababa, as part of the 30th African Union Summit.

ALMA is an initiative of heads of state and government, working across country and regional borders to eliminate malaria from the continent by 2030. It was launched in 2009 at the 64th session of the United Nations General Assembly. Over the years, the ALMA Secretariat has been supporting countries in their fight against malaria; as well as in enhancing Maternal Newborn, Child and adolescent health in several ways.

This 2018 forum was about the review of the ALMA Scorecard for Accountability & Action and the ALMA 2030 Scorecard towards the Malaria Elimination, in the context of the ambitious malaria elimination agenda, based on the African Union strategy and vision; presentation of progress on malaria elimination and discussion among heads of states on progress, challenges recommendations and sharing of best practices.

For the first time, the scorecard that is presented to the heads of state featured an indicator on Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs). This was the occasion for the Regional Director to provide insights and actions that Head of State and Governments need to champion in the fight against malaria and NTDs.

“Elimination of malaria and NTDs requires - above all - political leadership, from the highest level to leadership of programmes, resource mobilization, and intersectoral and cross-border collaboration”, said Dr. Mashidisio Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa. “We need all actors on board – communities, governments, donors, pharmaceutical companies and academic institutions to achieve our malaria and NTD goals, and ultimately the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) ‘to ensure healthy lives and promote wellbeing for all at all ages’”, she added.

During the ALMA Forum, six (6) WHO African countries received an award: Algeria and Comoros for being on track to reach the 2020 global malaria milestone; Madagascar, Senegal, The Gambia, Zimbabwe for having a decrease of more than 20 % malaria cases and malaria related deaths in the period 2015-2016.

“To continue to win the war against malaria, considerably more resources will need to be invested in the fight. Countries need to outsmart the mosquito and the plasmodium parasite. ALMA stands ready to support country sub-regional and regional efforts in this regard” said the Executive Secretary of ALMA, Joy Phumaphi. “If we work together and if we dedicate ourselves, not just to control Malaria, but to eliminate it country by country, region by region, across borders, and to ultimately eradicate it off the face of this planet. We will win this fight. It is a fight that can be won”, she emphasized.

This year, African leaders Malaria Alliance (ALMA) will be supporting the Reproductive Maternal Newborn Child and Adolescent Health (RMNCAH) scorecards in 19 countries and those related to Malaria will be rolled out in 10 African Countries.

Dr. Moeti also had a bilateral meeting with Joy Phumaphi, Executive Secretary of ALMA, to discuss strengthening of WHO-ALMA partnership.

The situation of Malaria in Africa

The 2017 World Malaria Report indicates that malaria cases are on the rise, with 194 million new cases and 410 000 deaths reported on the African continent. There is a lack of predictable, sustainable international and domestic funding for malaria control, which is reversing the gains made so far. On the positive side, more people at risk of malaria in Africa (54%) are sleeping under an Insecticide-treated net, indicating some success in behavior change and outreach campaigns. In 2016, 15 million children in 12 Sahel countries were protected through seasonal malaria chemoprevention programmes.

The situation of Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) in Africa

The African Region carries about 40% of the global burden of Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs), which have a great economic impact and contribute to the vicious cycle of poverty and disease. Health and economic development are closely linked. WHO regional office for Africa and its partners are making progress in delivering interventions to control NTDs, and in strengthening the capacity of national NTD programmes in the African Region.

Source: AllAfrica… 


How International Media Reported TV Shutdown in Kenya

Standard Digital || By Paul Wafula || 31 January 2018

international media on tv shutdown in kenya 2018The Government shutdown of TV stations for defying a directive not to cover the live swearing-in of Opposition leader Raila Odinga was the biggest story in international media yesterday.

The BBC reported that the Kenyan authorities shut down TV stations to prevent live coverage of a swearing-in event by Raila, who disputed last year’s presidential election results.

The election was annulled following allegations of irregularities. Uhuru Kenyatta won a repeat election in October, but Raila did not take part.

Uhuru was sworn in for a second term last November.

The President is reported to have warned the media not to cover the event and the Attorney General said holding such a ceremony amounted to treason.

Speaking to KTN, Raila said the media ban “confirms we have descended to the level of Uganda”, which stopped media coverage during elections in 2016.

Three privately owned television stations - NTV, KTN and Citizen TV - went off air from around 9am. Citizen TV told the BBC the Government authorities had forced them off the air because of the station’s plans to cover the gathering.

KTN viewers watched their screens fade to black as the news presenter read a statement confirming that the Communications Authority of Kenya was switching off transmission.

But all three broadcasters provided live coverage online, on YouTube and social media. Al Jazeera reported that the TV networks were gagged ahead of Raila’s “inauguration”.

It reported that authorities took the independent broadcasters off air over plans to cover the ceremony.

The AFP reported that Raila’s supporters gathered in Nairobi ahead of a ceremony to swear him in as an alternative president, while the Government cracked down on the media.

The international news agency reported that the planned “inauguration” three months after an election Raila claimed was stolen from him had sparked fears of violence.

However, police did not block the thousands of supporters from gathering at the Uhuru Park venue.

“The Government has come under fire after the Editors Guild revealed media managers had been summoned by President Kenyatta and warned not to broadcast the event live,” AFP reported.

Reuters, a wire agency, reported that authorities shut down private TV and radio stations as Raila’s supporters gathered in a Nairobi park where he was due to take the presidential oath in an act of protest.

The agency reported Raila’s supporters insist that he, not Uhuru, is Kenya’s legitimate leader.

Source: Standard Digital… 


Kagame Assumes AU Chair, Launches Single Africa Air Market

The Independent || 28 January 2018

kagame new au chair 2018President Paul Kagame of Rwanda started his reign as African Union Chairperson on Sunday by announcing the launch of a Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM).

“Today we launch the Single African Air Transport Market, a major step forward for transportation. We are nearly ready to adopt the Continental Free Trade Area. It needs to be done this year,” said President Kagame in his acceptance speech at the opening of the 30th annual African Union summit in Addis Ababa.

Kagame told Africa’s leaders that “by committing to break down these various barriers, we will send a tremendous signal in Africa and beyond that it is no longer business as usual.”

The Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM) is a flagship project of the African Union Agenda 2063, an initiative of the African Union to create a single unified air transport market in Africa, the liberalization of civil aviation in Africa and as an impetus to the Continent’s economic integration agenda.

Eligible airlines of the 23 countries are, effective this season, entitled to conduct their business into the markets and fully operate the traffic rights provided for in the Yamoussoukro Decision.

The launch event in Addis Ababa brought together the aviation industry in Africa and airline manufacturers to forge ahead the effective implementation of SAATM.

The Yamoussoukro Decision of 1999 provides for full liberalization in terms of market access between African States, the free exercise of traffic rights, the elimination of restrictions on ownership and the full liberalization of frequencies, fares and capacities.

To date, the number of member states that have adhered to the new commitment has reached twenty-three (23): Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Cabo Verde, Congo, Cote d’Ivoire, Egypt, Ethiopia, Gabon, Ghana, Guinea, Kenya, Liberia, Mali, Mozambique, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Swaziland, Togo and Zimbabwe.

“Scale is essential. We must create a single continental market, integrate our infrastructure, and infuse our economies with technology,” said Kagame, adding that ” No country or region can manage on its own. We have to be functional, and we have to stay together.”

Message for youth

Later in his acceptance speech, Kagame reached out to the youth of the continent.

“Elders should be able to enjoy the pleasure, of telling you how hard they had it at your age, so you don’t take things for granted, and are inspired to work even harder,” Kagame said.

“However, too many Africans come of age in the same conditions as their parents and grandparents, and sometimes the hardships endured are even worse. Our job is to make sure that every generation in Africa, enjoys a better life than the previous one.”

“We cannot build Africa without you,” he concluded.

Source: The Independent… 


African Migrants Are Better Educated Than U.S. Citizens - Study

AllAfrica || This Day || 23 January 2018

african migrants better educated than usI'll never forget my sister's experience in undergrad with a Nigerian classmate that she says had an attitude with her since she stepped foot inside their medical ethics class. My sister would come home saying the classmate often threw labels at her and her friend like "ghetto" and "entitled" and my sister could never quite understand the aggression that came from someone she had barely said five words to outside of a classroom discussion.

It's no secret that the relationship between African-Americans and some first-generation African immigrants can be complex, and these complexities very often show up in the education sector that lead to conversations about culture, priorities, access and equal opportunity.

African American magazine, Vibe, recently highlighted a study that focused on African immigrants and their varied levels of education: "According to a report by the New American Economy, a Washington-based research advocacy group, the U.S. immigrant population from sub-Saharan Africa (49 countries with a total population of more than 1.1 billion) grew from 723,000 to more than 1.7 million between 2010 and 2015. In turn, those apart of that demographic has continued to grow in the nation's education system. The New American Economy found a total of 16% had a master's degree, medical degree, law degree or a doctorate, compared with 11% of the U.S.-born population."

According to Jeanne Batalova, a senior policy analyst at the Migration Policy Institute think tank in Washington, many refugees are recipients of the "diversity visa program" which hopes to boost immigration from underrepresented nations, the population of African immigrants seem to be very diverse in their "educational, economic, and English proficiency profile".

In other words, it appears African immigrants are comparatively held to a higher standard than other immigrants and respectively, U.S. citizens.

More than highlight the different levels of education held between African-Americans and African immigrants, the study refutes what many believe to be opinions held by U.S. President Donald Trump that immigrants contribute little to the American economy.

In fact, Andrew Lim, associate director of research at New American Economy, believes African immigrants are making America look good: "Overwhelmingly the evidence shows that (African immigrants) make a significant, positive economic contribution to the U.S. economy."

If anything, the study is proof that immigrants are significant contributors to the U.S. economy and have little to no negative effect on overall wages or employment levels for U.S.-born workers.

Source: AllAfrica…


George Weah: Footballer-turned-president Faces his Toughest Challenge

BBC || 22 January 2018

president george weah sworn in liberia 2018An inspiration on the pitch, Liberia's new president George Weah could struggle to meet expectations off it, writes Fergal Keane.

An army band is playing on the far side of the field, the jaunty strains of ragtime float through the dead heat of the morning.

It is Monrovia in the dry season and we are gasping, airless under the climbing sun and waiting for President-elect George Weah.

When he arrives the former professional footballer is dressed in the red kit of the George Weah All-Stars and is preparing to lead a team of his friends against a selection from the armed forces.

When I last visited Liberia in 2003, the warlords and military men had made the country a byword for anarchy.

Desperate civilians were piling their dead in front of the US embassy to try to force an international intervention.

Now, at an army base in the capital, I am watching a democratically elected leader stroll out on to a football pitch to play against soldiers, who clearly hold him in awe.

For the first time in over 70 years, Liberia is experiencing the peaceful transfer of power from one elected leader to another.

Mr Weah made his name as a star of European football at clubs like Monaco, Paris Saint-Germain, AC Milan, Chelsea and Manchester City.

For much of this time his home country was consumed by vicious civil war. Fourteen years after the war ended, and after a previous failed attempt, George Weah eventually triumphed in presidential elections last October.

Halfway across the pitch I manage to intercept Mr Weah with a question. Could he ever hope to be as successful a president as he was a footballer?

There is a note of impatience in his response.

"You only look at me as a former footballer but I'm a human being," he says. "I strive to be excellent. I can be successful. I was successful before in my career.

"When I left here people asked me the same question: 'Will you be successful in Europe?' I told them that when I work hard and believe in what I believe in, I show I can persevere.

"I believe that with the help of the Liberian people I will be successful."

Most people I meet here in Monrovia want to believe in the idea of George Weah as national saviour.

Returning here after 14 years, the contrast with the desolation of the past is striking.

Long gone are the boy soldiers and their ruthless commanders who struck fear into us at roadblocks. Instead bands of young people are busy sweeping rubbish from the streets ahead of the inauguration.

'We are proud of our country and our neighbourhood. We want it clean," a woman called Rose tells me.

A former child soldier, Joseph Duo, immortalised in a photograph which showed him exultant in the middle of battle, believes Mr Weah is the "best hope we have to have change in this country".

Mr Duo is now a father of five children and works for the city council. I find him at home one evening, busy helping his two youngest children, a boy and a girl, with their homework.

"The memories of war still keep me awake at night," he says. "But my children don't know war and they will never know war. That is my hope."

Joseph's preoccupations now are education and employment. His eldest son Blessing, aged 22, has no job, and little hope of finding one in one of the world's poorest economies.

An estimated 63% of Liberians live below the poverty line. The campaign group, Transparency International, describes corruption as "endemic and permeating most sectors of society".

Driving through Monrovia I regularly spot stickers with the plaintive message: "Don't bribe the police".

George Weah has come to power promising to fight corruption, revolutionise education and healthcare and create tens of thousands of jobs.

This has created a huge sense of expectation. Time and again people tell me they believe he will change their lives.

After all he began his own life in the slums of Monrovia. He understands their struggle, they say.

I catch up with George Weah again during an official visit to a mosque in the centre of Monrovia.

As he is being swept along the hallway I manage to ask if he can possibly satisfy the expectations of those who were cheering for him outside.

"I know I am going to meet the expectations… when people love you, you have to strive for them.

"So there's a lot of expectation but we will meet the expectation… because this is a whole global world we want to create… where you will come to help our people…" He smiles at me as he says this.

Critics point out that so far his promises have not been backed up by detailed plans.

In fairness, George Weah would not be the first politician to avoid spelling out how he plans to fund his campaign manifesto.

But few in the world face the pressure of hope that he has ignited among the poor.

Nobody doubts his ability to motivate and inspire. The unknown quantity is his capacity to administer effectively.

He chose the ex-wife of former warlord Charles Taylor, Jewel Howard Taylor, as his deputy.

Having historically been a staunch critic of Taylor and his National Patriotic Party (NPP), questions are being asked of the motives.

As a correspondent returning to a country I previously knew only in war, the contrast is astonishing. The markets are full. The schools are thronged. Fear has been vanquished.

But only prosperity can keep it at bay. With great hope comes, always, the possibility of great disillusionment.

Few leaders anywhere in the world face as daunting a task as that which now confronts George Weah.

Seven things about George Weah:

Born 1 October, 1966, grew up in a slum in Liberia's capital

Signed by Arsene Wenger to Monaco from Cameroonian club Tonnerre Yaoundé

Made Monaco debut in 1987, went on to play for AC Milan, Paris Saint-Germain and Chelsea

Only African to win Fifa World Player of the Year

First ran for president in 2005, losing to Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

Graduated with a business degree from a US university after being accused of lacking education

Elected president in December 2017

Source: BBC… 


Five Migration Trends to Watch in 2018

IRIN || By Tania Karas || 17 January 2018

migration trends to watch in 20182017 saw a host of new and quickly deepening humanitarian crises from Southeast Asia to Africa. But behind this rising tide of forced displacement was an isolationist and xenophobic political backdrop that could render 2018 even worse, especially given the lack of diplomatic leverage and leadership required to resolve intractable conflicts.

In the United States, President Donald Trump spent his first year erecting bureaucratic walls to keep out immigrants and refugees, while calling for a physical wall along the southern US border. In Europe, far-right candidates threatened to upset a host of elections. And, as North Africa acted as a holding cell, conflicts in both the continent's east and centre escalated while humanitarian budgets shrank, driving up the numbers of internally displaced and urgent protection needs.

“What distinguishes conflicts of today is that they’re unending,” Demetrios Papademetriou, co-founder and president emeritus of the Migration Policy Institute, told IRIN. “None of the conflicts we see today are anywhere near being resolved, because the resolutions are extremely complex. They involve religion, power, control of resources. No refugee-producing conflict today will be resolved in the near future.”

UN member states are hammering out the details of two global compacts – one on refugees and one on migration – to be adopted at this year’s General Assembly in September. But few are optimistic that they will be game-changers for better global refugee and migration governance in the years to come.

So, while this year promises to be even more difficult, here are five key questions on migration policy the answers to which will shape how 2018 really plays out for some of the world’s most vulnerable people:

Will the EU continue its harmful deterrence policies?

A dramatic decline in sea crossings from Libya to Europe in 2017 sounds on the surface like a success. But this year is likely to expose the kinds of human rights abuses the EU is willing to tolerate to keep externalising its migration responsibilities.

Like the 2016 EU-Turkey accord – which choked off the Aegean Sea route but led to more than 10,000 asylum seekers being detained on Greek islands and returns to unsafe countries – Italy’s deals with Libyan groups have come with a human cost: abuse for up to one million migrants languishing in detention centres, often with ties to militias. Despite an international outcry, mainly due to CNN footage of what appeared to be slave auctions, little is likely to change before Italy's general election in March.

Towards the end of 2017, the EU and the African Union put together a repatriation plan to send migrants back to their countries of origin or other transit countries, such as Niger, with the help of the UN's refugee agency, UNHCR, and the International Organization for Migration.

“The bigger question is what happens to people when they’re back in Niger,” Minos Mouzourakis, policy researcher at the European Council on Refugees and Exiles in Brussels, told IRIN. “The EU is talking about resettlement as an option, but that doesn’t mean the same people being evacuated to Niger will have access to durable solutions. What is the actual objective? Are we just returning people to another transit country and calling it an evacuation, or are we giving them avenues to other legal options like resettlement?”

Migrant returns are paid for through programmes like a 3.3 billion-euro "emergency trust fund" originally billed as development aid for North Africa.

In late December, 162 refugees and migrants from Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia, and Yemen were brought to Italy from Libya under the EU-AU plan. But if the troubled inter-EU relocation programme is any indication, infighting may prevent the bloc from implementing a meaningful plan for resettlement from Africa.

Will the US lead the way (backwards) on refugee resettlement?

Last year, Trump all but ended resettlement to the United States, which has taken two thirds of the world's resettled refugees annually for the past decade. His executive order last January banned refugees and travellers from several Muslim-majority countries, prompting months of legal battles and indefinitely barring tens of thousands who had cleared the years-long vetting process. Though courts have saved the programme, the president sets the ceiling for refugee admissions, and in September he set it at 45,000 for fiscal year 2018, the lowest level since its inception in 1980. So far, admissions have slowed to a trickle. Many advocates predict the United States won’t even come close to Trump’s number.

Domestically, this threatens the entire American resettlement regime, since resettlement agencies’ federal funding is tied to the number of refugees they assist. Several agencies are already closing offices and laying off personnel.

Other countries are stepping in with increased resettlement pledges, including Canada, Australia, and the United Kingdom. But those slots won’t be enough to fill the hole left by the United States.

“At a time when the international community is trying to come together to promote more equitable responsibility-sharing on refugees, when the US cuts the number of refugees it’ll resettle, it sends a very negative signal to the rest of the world,” Mark Yarnell, senior advocate and UN liaison for Refugees International in Washington, DC, told IRIN. “And even though resettlement is so rare relative to the number of people who are refugees, it’s still the solution many refugees hope for – and when they see it diminishing, they’re more likely to take more hazardous paths to safety.”

Of course, the brunt of the burden will still fall on the Global South to continue hosting the vast majority of the world's refugees in the developing world. Most end up staying in the neighbouring countries they flee to for generations. The number of simultaneous, large-scale humanitarian crises worldwide means emergency response funding is stretched thin, even in rapidly deteriorating situations of mass displacement like the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Central African Republic, and South Sudan. It’s important to remember that unlike parts of the Europe and the United States, most African nations are not rolling up the welcome mat. They are, however, feeling the strain.

How will EU infighting over common asylum policy play out?

A handful of EU countries are pushing the envelope on burden-sharing and resisting international protection obligations towards refugees and asylum seekers.

“The refugee question is now increasingly tangled with other issues: respect for rule of law, targeting NGOs, judicial independence,” explained Mouzourakis. “Disregard for asylum law in countries such as Hungary and Poland seems to come as part of the broader package in how they view their relationship with the EU.”

This year will tell whether Brussels will actually crack down on those member states. In 2017, the European Commission launched infringement proceedings against Hungary related to its ill-treatment of asylum seekers.

In December, the Commission referred Hungary, Poland, and the Czech Republic to the European Court of Justice for failing to relocate limited numbers of asylum seekers from Greece and Italy as part of the EU-wide relocation scheme. And, this month, Greek migration minister Yannis Mouzalas accused six EU countries of “sabotaging” the programme, and said that disputes have weakened the chance of a common asylum policy.

But it remains to be seen how far Brussels will go in pushing non-compliant members to do their part. Despite low numbers of asylum seekers in those countries, foreigners – and particularly Muslim foreigners – have become an effective scarecrow for right-wing politicians. And an escalating battle with Brussels over resettlement could stoke the nationalist fires back home, helping right-wing movements in the short-term. Hungary, for its part, has a general election in April. Meanwhile, the EU faces a June deadline to reform its common asylum system.

How will Latin America shake up?

Amid Trump’s talk of a wall and rising xenophobia in Europe, Mexico, traditionally an origin country for migrants or a transit stop for Central Americans en route to the United States, now finds itself a destination country.

“I think there is a Trump effect,” Francisca Vigaud-Walsh, a senior advocate at Refugees International, told IRIN. “But also, Mexico is offering asylum and people are taking advantage of it. It’s about getting to safety and not about achieving the American dream.”

Groups that help asylum seekers in Mexico projected 18,000 asylum requests for 2017, which represents a huge jump from 8,800 in 2016 – and a 600 percent increase over four years ago. Asylum applicants include Central and South Americans, as well as Africans who chose Mexico over the perilous Central Mediterranean route to Europe by sea.

Mexico is unprepared for the influx. Human rights groups say asylum decisions can be wildly inconsistent and unfair. As IRIN reported in November, refugee advocates say Mexico is systematically denying asylum claims made by African applicants. Still, migration experts expect asylum claims there to keep rising.

This year will also bring a continued exodus of Venezuelans fleeing the effects of its imploding economy: malnutrition, food shortages, rampant inflation, and a lack of jobs or healthcare access. More than a million people have fled – the majority in 2017 – and nearly half are now living in neighbouring Colombia. Many have also ended up in Brazil, Ecuador, and Peru.

Though most Latin American countries have generally been welcoming, regional hospitality is wearing thin. Taking a page out of the playbook of Trump and various right-wing EU leaders, politicians and candidates are building their platforms around anti-migrant sentiment: restricting immigration featured prominently in the run-up to Chile’s presidential election last December, and an ultra-right-wing candidate for Brazil’s October 2018 election has modelled himself as the country’s very own Trump.

Will voluntary returns really be voluntary?

2017 saw an increasing and worrying trend in national governments sending home failed or unwelcome asylum seekers and migrants – some after decades of living in exile. What’s most disturbing is that many of these returns may be coerced, even if host countries label them voluntary and enlist the help of the IOM. In many cases, the migrants have no choice and risk living without legal status if they stay in their host countries.

Among those being returned en masse are: Afghans who sought asylum in various EU countries where their asylum recognition rates are falling despite the fighting intensifying back home; Somalis returning from Kenya, despite widespread conflict, famine malnourishment; Haitians from the Dominican Republic; Africans from Israel; Syrians from Jordan and Lebanon; and failed asylum seekers of various nationalities from Greece to Turkey.

Meanwhile, Bangladesh and Myanmar reached an agreement in November to repatriate many of the 655,000 Rohingya Muslims who fled Myanmar in the past six months – even as they continue to flee. Returns are scheduled to start later this month despite outcry from international aid groups. It’s still unclear whether the UN’s refugee agency, which was not party to the repatriation negotiations and has been barred from acting to its fullest capacity in Bangladesh, will be allowed to have a role in return efforts. And as IRIN reported only today, some of those being asked to return have fled and returned before only to find persistent persecution. They are therefore adamant they won’t go back.

Over the past 12 months, avenues for obtaining asylum – whether via legal resettlement or reaching a safe country on one’s own – have been shrinking across the globe. 2018 will tests the limits of deterrence policies, but also demand more creative and sustainable responses if outcomes for people on the move are to improve.

Source: IRIN… 


Africa Should Respond to Trump's Racist Rant by Taking the Moral High Ground

AllAfrica || By John J Stremlau || 15 January 2018

racist rant of trump needs africa responseOfficial reactions from Africa were appropriately critical of President Donald Trump's credibly reported comments about not wanting more immigrants coming to the US from "shithole" countries. This included all those south of the Sahara. A few reactions even included constructive suggestions.

The African Group of United Nation ambassadors unanimously dismissed the comments as "outrageous, racist and xenophobic". They demanded Trump retract them and apologise. Botswana, Senegal and South Africa summoned US local representatives to be served with a demarche. In normal diplomatic practice this is a stern request for an explanation and is tantamount to a formal protest.

But in dealing with Trump, normal protocols are beside the point.

More than a year after he took office Trump has yet to announce an Africa policy, or even fill important diplomatic positions. He has yet to nominate an Assistant Secretary of State for Africa or an ambassador to South Africa. This means that African leaders lack any policy context in which to frame and guide traditional diplomatic reactions.

The Trump administration's incompetence makes it difficult for African countries to engage Washington in seeking meaningful explanations, much less substantive negotiations. Even at lower working levels sustaining routine relations are complicated by a lack of policy guidance, budgetary uncertainty, and inter-agency management. This affects complex development, environmental, trade or security issues.

Africa's limited resources, institutional capacities and vulnerabilities add to the risks associated with the current state of affairs.

Challenging racism with reason

Ebba Kalondo, chief spokesperson for the African Union said Trump's comment "flies in the face of accepted behaviour and practice". But she then sounded a possibly hopeful note. She added that the US remains a global example of how migration gave birth to a nation built on strong values of diversity and opportunity. We believe that a statement like this hurts our shared global values on diversity, human rights and reciprocal understanding.

Kalondo's appeal to what Abraham Lincoln famously called "the better angels of our nature" also recalls how Trump's predecessor, Barack Obama, sought to transform troubling moments into what he suggested could be "teachable moments".

In this spirit prominent African Americans, such as popular TV news pundit Joy Reid, have responded to Trump with positive reminders. Reid informed her viewers that her mother is a professor who immigrated from Guyana and her father a successful Congolese-American geologist. Other successful Africans are also speaking out. This affirms that Kalondo's reference to enduring shared global values may not ring as hollow as Trump's bigoted comments might cause us to fear.

This does not deny the immediate danger posed by Trump. As a New York Times editorial reminded readers the day after the reported comment and his attempt to retract it:

Mr Trump is not just a racist, ignorant, incompetent and undignified. He is also a liar ... And still supporting Trump are a substantial number of the 63 million voters who elected him. It is these people, albeit not a national minority, who he continues to court, with his denigration of immigrants and especially those of African origin.

Trump's comments can be viewed as a reflection of his personal animus and a conviction that they will play well with his political base.

Further complicating any effort to hold Trump and his supporters to account is that he's repeatedly said he "is the least racist person he knows". Polling suggests that most of his political supporters also believe they're not racists.

Such denials have a long history in US politics. They are at the heart of America's ongoing struggle for racial justice as recounted in "The Nationalist's Delusion" by Adam Serwer.

Trump and his white nationalist supporters will also never concede that the history of slavery and colonial exploitation perpetrated by their own American and European ancestors contributed to Africa's problems of economic underdevelopment and political balkanisation.

Time to break with protocol

African governments and non-governmental groups are right to voice outrage in reaction to Trump's outbursts, and to criticise his behaviour.

But they need to do more. They can encourage and cooperate directly with those in Congress, African-Americans and the growing network of civil society groups opposed to Trump. This may bend, or even violate, traditional diplomatic practice. But Trump's own disregard for international principles and norms justifies using alternative methods and interventions.

Having America as a more politically capable, willing and acceptable partner is surely in Africa's long-term interests. This aspiration can be rooted in the same values as the pan-African democratic vision enshrined in the AU's Constitutive Act. The vision was championed more than a decade ago under the banner of an African Renaissance. It is based on shared commitments to democratic cooperation, greater collective self-reliance and eventual democratic integration. But it is floundering and could founder.

If Americans succeed in resisting Trump and reconsolidating their democracy, then this could lend critical support for African democrats who still believe in the shared vision that the AU's Kolondo refers to.

Source: AllAfrica… 


Africa's Health Challenge is a Human Rights Issue

AllAfrica || By Graça Machel || 18 December 2017

health in africa a human rightAccess to health is a human right. The Constitution of the World Health Organization states that "the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health is one of the fundamental rights of every human being" .

It follows that if people cannot live healthy lives or access the health services they need, then they cannot enjoy all their other human rights. And if policies, institutions and systems restrict access to health care and prioritise profit over people, then that constitutes a denial of fundamental human rights.

In the past week, the world has marked both Human Rights Day on December 10 and Universal Health Coverage Day on December 12. Civil society groups, human defenders and community activists came together to form a movement based on solidarity and hope, recognising that the struggle for health and human rights are two sides of the same coin.

These struggles are especially acute in Africa. Hundreds of millions of Africans are faced with the appalling choice between seeking life-saving medical care and putting food on their tables.

This is a matter for outrage. It reflects a collective lack of political commitment to health across our continent. Members of the global community committed to the UN Sustainable Development Goals in September 2015 where 193 countries pledged to invest in achieving Universal Health Coverage (UHC).

I am personally committed to the cause of UHC through the work of the Graça Machel Trust, and also as a member of The Elders – the group of independent leaders founded by Madiba to work for peace and human rights, which is today led by Kofi Annan.

Universal Health Coverage is rooted in equity and rights and is therefore a cause that is near and dear to the Elders. In July this year, we launched a Walk Together campaign, to mark the organisation's 10th anniversary and the upcoming centenary of the birth of our founder, Nelson Mandela.

Through this campaign, we are standing alongside over 1,000 organisations that are part of the global Universal Health Coalition to shine a light on extraordinary stakeholders delivering health care around the world.

I know from personal experience in southern Africa that affordable, accessible and quality health care is vitally important in building inclusive, prosperous and sustainable societies.

Earlier this year, I travelled with my fellow Elder Mary Robinson to Tanzania to meet ministers, officials and community members to see first-hand how that country is trying to widen access to health.

We met many inspiring people, especially outspoken civil society activists, and heard from rural women who have minimal access to health facilities and face unaffordable user fees to obtain treatment.

We also received the unfortunate impression that funding primary health care and investments in service delivery are not yet at the levels required.

Policymakers need to afford it the highest priority in their budgetary decisions. Primary health care is the cornerstone of health systems, connecting patients with trusted health care providers who can address the most common health needs throughout their lives. We are at time in history were knowledge, capacity and resources combined can eradicate the tragedy of preventable deaths.

One of the first acts of Nelson Mandela as president of a newly democratic South Africa was to grant access to free health care for women and children under five. We see the benefits of decisions like these in Nigeria's Ondo State, for example, where the provision of free health care for pregnant women has reduced maternal mortality by three quarters.

African political leaders, and indeed leaders globally, need to place as health a priority, and confront the powerful vested interests of private medicine and the pharmaceutical industry to ensure access is affordable for all.

Investment in human capital through better education and health care is the best way to improve skills, capacity and productivity needed for future economic growth and innovation.

One of the biggest challenges African heath systems face is the lack of reliable data. Therefore, strengthening the collection, analysis and application is key to ensure that any investment made target the system's weaknesses to enhance health care delivery.

The scale of need is certainly daunting. In Kenya, 83 percent of people lack financial protection from health care costs; in South Africa, over 80 percent of people are not covered by health insurance. The evidence is clear, however, investment in health care and promotion of universal coverage is imperative and can strengthen social cohesion and solidarity, and help rebuild trust in public institutions.

Malawi has never charged user fees in public health facilities, and has a child mortality rate of 64 deaths per 1,000 – in contrast to 109 in Nigeria, which is seven times wealthier.

Ethiopia provides universal and free primary health care services to the entire population through an extensive network of 37,000 community health workers.

These are examples that all countries in Africa can use as a reference. In our ongoing fight for health and justice, let us again recall the words of Nelson Mandela: "health cannot be a question of income; it is a fundamental human right."

Graça Machel is a member of The Elders and the founder of the Graça Machel Trust.

Source: AllAfrica…


A home to Call your Own – Even if it is a Slum

IRIN || By April Zhu || 14 December 2017

kibera home to call your ownNairobi’s Nubian community has won recognition of their land rights, but can other slum dwellers?

Kibera is the largest slum in Kenya, home to more than 250,000 people. Yet it has only one graveyard and only one group of people are buried here. While others are laid to rest in their ancestral lands up-country, the Nubians are the only ethnic group that considers Kibera their homeland.

A tiny community, Nubians were only officially recognised as a Kenyan ethnic group as recently as 2009, and for decades had been denied full citizenship rights.

Originally from Sudan, they were recruited by the British over a century ago to serve as colonial troops, and were rewarded for their service with land in what was then a remote area, miles away from the centre of Nairobi. They called it Kibra, the Nubian word for “forest”.

In a nation where ethnic identity and political power remain closely linked to land, Nubians’ exclusion from formal land tenure not only impeded their struggle for recognition but kept them powerless in the midst of land grabs as Nairobi urbanised.

Within a matter of decades, Nubians watched as their farms and once thick, dark forests transformed into one of the most well-known slums in Africa.

Now a wrong has finally been righted for the 13,000-strong community. In June, President Uhuru Kenyatta granted Nubians a communal land title deed for 288 acres in Kibera, a watershed moment in a long fight for rights to their land.

But this victory for one oppressed minority doesn’t resolve the broader challenges thrown up by Kenya’s rapid urbanisation and neglect of its informal settlements.

Multiple forms of marginalisation intersect in slums like Kibera, where residents lack access to the most basic of services, and reforms have repeatedly stalled.

Memories of home

Ahmed Adam, 75, is a member of the Kenya Council of Nubian Elders. His grandfather was among the original colonial King’s African Rifles regiment who first settled in Kibra, recognition by the British for their role in two world wars.

Even as a grandfather of 20 children, Adam has only a small, plaster-walled house on a slope of shanty-houses that overlooks the area where his childhood home once stood, across the now-foul river.

“There, life was good,” Adam said, reflecting on his childhood home. “Not like here where you can’t even breathe and there is dirt everywhere. Everyone lives close together. It smells… Our life here on our land is not good.”

In 1979, Adam was living in the house built by his grandfather decades before when he was given notice by the government to evacuate. After seven days, bulldozers arrived at dawn to demolish his home.

For every estate that was being built within Kibera – many in the name of “affordable housing” – Nubian families like Adam’s were evicted, without compensation or resettlement to this day. Nubians for years also faced discrimination in getting statutory documents like IDs.

“I have been actively fighting for these 288 acres for six good years, but I am not the first. I am the sixth generation,” explained Shafi Ali Hussein, chairman of the Nubian Rights Forum, a paralegal organisation based in Kibera.

The Kenyan government owns the land on which Kibera stands but for many years did not officially recognise the settlement. Kibera always seemed on the cusp of demolition, and as a result was deliberately and systematically denied public services like a permanent water supply.

Nubians were “squatters on our own land,” said Hussein. Not only did the Nubian community face chronic government neglect, they also had the particular misfortune of fighting for indigenous land rights within one of the fastest-growing cities in Africa.

Kibera became bloated with low-wage migrant workers sucked into the city looking for work. Today, the river running through the slum, black and foul, is barely distinguishable from surrounding plastic waste. But as recently as 30 years ago, its banks were lined with sugarcane, and the river even hosted a sailing club.


Land in Kibera, unregulated and thus tax-free, was illicitly acquired and developed by civil servants, businessmen, and even churches. As Nubians’ privileged military status became obsolete after independence and the arable land in Kibera shrank, their economic situation deteriorated.

They resorted to building low-income shacks and renting them out. To this day, rent is still the main – albeit precarious – source of income for many Nubian households. These are not absentee landlords: in most respects they share the same struggle as the slum dwellers they rent out to.

Kenya’s long-standing land grievances remain a contentious and emotive issue. Where political power is still heavily informed by ethnicity and belonging, the rhetoric of land disenfranchisement is a powerful tool for mobilising mass support.

It was what fuelled the post-election violence in 2007-2008, the worst ethnic clashes in the country’s history. Land reform became a priority as Kenya reworked its constitution in the aftermath of the unrest.

Veteran opposition leader Raila Odinga played a major role in developing the politically unifying National Accord, which included Agenda Four, a set of policies created to address “long-standing issues” like land reform.

However, throughout Odinga’s two decades as an MP representing Kibera he was by no means on the Nubians’ side.

In fact, most Nubians consider him the greatest opponent to what they regard as land justice. They especially resent the influx of people from Odinga’s Luo ethnic base in western Kenya, allegedly to build himself a “vote reservoir” within Nairobi.

Odinga and his political allies have deliberately used Nubians’ status as landlords as a wedge issue to mobilise political support among tenants, in a community in which there are multiple political players.

Nubians have also opposed the low-income housing projects that activists have promoted as a means to support the urban poor. They regard them as the permanent settlement and development of others on their own land.

Development for whom?

The pressure of urbanisation on settlements like Kibera is unrelenting. Just over 60 percent of urban households in Kenya live in slums, according to the World Bank. These poorly serviced informal shanties were meant to be temporary, but over time have become permanent homes.

There have been high-profile attempts to improve living conditions in Kibera, like the Kenya Slum Upgrading Programme, a collaboration between the government and UN-Habitat that began in 2001 spearheaded by then-prime minister Odinga.

But the decanting site completed in 2008 – meant to temporarily house slum residents as their areas were redeveloped into modern high-rises – was left empty for over a year and then gentrified as poor coordination and legal opposition from prominent Kibera landlords stagnated progress and created an administrative void.

Today, many of the high-rises are rented out to other tenants by the intended beneficiaries, who have themselves moved back into the slums.

“They will become concrete slums before they’re even commissioned, because they’re not designed with the intention of creating homes,” said Sheikh Issa Abdulfaraj, chairman of the Kenya Nubian Council of Elders. “They are just dormitories for people working in industrial areas.”

Abdulfaraj highlights the important difference between the Nubian vision for a new and improved Kibera and the government’s top-down development plans.

Nubians want a better Kibera, but more importantly, their own Kibera – a motherland for the Kenyan Nubian diaspora.

“There is a difference between these mushrooming housing projects... and creating a metropolis which is a home and town for the Nubians,” said Abdulfaraj. “All those other people have their own reserves, up-country homes. The Nubians don’t have such things. This is all we have.”

Although some Nubian elders agitated for the land title to include the full 700 acres of Kibera, the final compromise gave 288 acres to the Nubians and left the rest under government ownership.

Consequently, Nubians continue to advocate against housing projects that establish permanent housing on their land, including a World Bank resettlement project that has introduced multi-story housing to resettle Kibera residents whose homes lie along the new railway corridor.

“Whatever the government does for them on their land is between them and the government,” said Hussein. “But the 288 is our portion.”

In his address to a delegation of the Nubian community in June 2017, Kenyatta promised to work with them to formalise Kibera’s infrastructure, including roads, sewage, water, and electricity, so that Kibera “will not be a tourist venue for people coming to see African poverty, but rather a place where the whole world can see how the poor man takes himself out of poverty to become a rich man.”

That is the hope for all who live in Kibera – that the government, alive to its responsibilities, will deliver on building a better community for everyone.

Source: IRIN… 


What One of the Deadliest Ever Attacks on UN Peacekeepers Means for Congo

IRIN || By Samuel Oakford || 08 December 2017

deadliest ever attacks on un peacekeepersUN chief calls it a “war crime” after at least 14 “blue helmets” killed

At least 14 UN peacekeepers were killed and more than 50 wounded when armed men attacked their base in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, the UN mission, known as MONUSCO, said on Friday.

The attack on the troops in Semuliki, in North Kivu’s Beni region, began at dusk on Thursday and lasted several hours.

At least 12 of the peacekeepers killed were Tanzanian soldiers. Five Congolese soldiers were also killed, and the Congolese army put the number of rebel deaths at 72. UN officials said the toll could still rise as some peacekeepers were still missing and others gravely injured.

UN officials said it was likely that the attack was perpetrated by members of the shadowy Allied Democratic Forces, which has been active in the area for years. The ADF, which originated in Uganda, has not claimed responsibility.

Peacekeeping chief Jean-Pierre Lacroix said the UN would “get to the bottom of this”.

The Tanzanian troops were part of the UN’s Force Intervention Brigade – the specialised contingent authorised in 2013 by the Security Council to target and disarm rebel groups in the country.

Lacroix said the incident was a response “to our increasingly robust posture in that region”. The Tanzanian unit is believed to be among the UN’s most effective troops in the region.

Ian Sinclair, director of the United Nations Operations and Crisis Centre, said the attack was the third aimed at Tanzanian soldiers in the same area over the past several months.

Who did it?

Sinclair said the base is situated on the “fringes” of the forest and positioned to obstruct routes used by groups, including the ADF, into the Beni area.

But analyst Christoph Vogel believes it is too early to draw firm conclusions that the ADF, an Islamist rebel group, was responsible for this attack.

Over the past 15 years, the ADF’s main military camps have been in the Rwenzori Mountains and in the Semuliki Valley. It is a highly secretive organisation with strong historical ties to other armed groups in the area and local customary chiefs.

They are known to cooperate with other local militia and there is also enough evidence to suggest that some attacks attributed to the ADF in the past were in fact conducted by the Congolese army.

“It's quite possible that the ADF is involved but there is no proof,” concluded Vogel. “It’s absolutely possible that the ADF teamed up with other militia or more mysterious actors.”

Attacks in the region are often attributed to “suspected ADF rebels” with little in the way of proof.

Recent incidents include the killing of 26 civilians a few weeks ago, which led to the closure of the main road back to the city of Beni. In late October, the Congolese commander in Beni survived an ambush when a rocket hit his jeep, killing another soldier.

The shock of this attack, though, is the scale of it, involving scores of heavily armed attackers and lasting several hours.

It will have significant humanitarian repercussions in a region where mounting violence involving several armed groups and the Congolese army has displaced a million people in the first half of this year, on top of 922,000 in 2016.

As a result of the ongoing fighting, Congo was declared a Level 3 emergency by the UN in October, its highest level of crisis.

“The immediate impact [of this attack] is that MONUSCO will turn inwards,” said Vogel. “There will be less patrolling, and less armed escorts available to humanitarians who rely on them to help provide access.”

The attack is likely the second deadliest ever on UN blue helmets — the highest toll since 26 Pakistani peacekeepers were killed in Somalia in 1993. Last year, that many peacekeepers were killed across all UN operations.

“This is the worst attack on UN peacekeepers in the organisation’s recent history,” said UN Secretary-General António Guterres. “These deliberate attacks against UN peacekeepers are unacceptable and constitute a war crime.”

There is a perception that the changing nature of peacekeeping, epitomised by the offensive-minded Force Intervention Brigade, has increased the risks for blue helmets.

They are increasingly deployed in situations where there is no peace to keep, serving in areas where violent extremist groups operate, and where they are expected to “take sides”. UN peacekeepers are also mandated to execute more ambitious tasks, including the protection of civilians.

Are operations becoming deadlier?

But the evidence suggests that overall UN fatalities are not substantively on the rise.

Between 1948 and 2015, 3,561 peacekeepers lost their lives – although combat accounted for just 923 of those fatalities: accident and illness both being the more likely cause of death.

Before this incident, since the beginning of this year, 67 peacekeepers had died.

Historically, the heaviest death tolls as a result of combat action had been the 1960 UN Operation in Congo, the UN’s mission in Somalia, and the 39-year-long UN’s deployment in Lebanon.

But in recent times, Mali stands out. There have been 140 deaths since the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali, MINUSMA, was established in 2013 – by far the UN’s riskiest current deployment.

MONUSCO, however, is the UN’s largest peacekeeping mission, both in terms of personnel and cost. In March, the Security Council voted to drop the mission’s troop ceiling from 19,815 to 16,215 soldiers.

(Addditional reporting by IRIN Africa Editor Obi Anyadike in Nairobi)

Source: IRIN…


Why Zimbabwe’s New Administration Could Fail to Bring Change

This is Africa || By Sunday Orji || 07 December 2017

zimbabwe new administration and changeZimbabweans have been celebrating Robert Mugabe's demise but the new administration could fail to bring change. The opposition and civic groups urgently need to regroup and intensify the fight for reforms in the electoral, media and security sectors to ensure holistic change.

In the early hours of the morning on 15 November 2017, the commander of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF) announced through the country’s state broadcaster the intervention of the military in the politics of Zimbabwe. Major-General Sibusiso Moyo, who made the announcement, claimed the intervention was not a coup, saying that the army’s involvement was designed to target “criminal” elements in government “causing social and economic suffering in the country”. President Robert Mugabe was placed under house arrest until his formal resignation in a letter sent to Parliament ended his 37 years in power. His axed deputy, Emmerson Mnangagwa, was sworn in days later as the new president of Zimbabwe. The bait that was dangled was the concept of ‘transition’, which implied a new era to come.

Since then, political analysts and observers have been musing on the subject of the Zimbabwean transition, pointing out its positive prospects, relishing the supposed birth of a new era and the return of democracy. Yet there is more to the Zimbabwean transition than meets the eye. There is an underlying pessimism that stems from Africa’s sad historical precedents when it comes to military-controlled transitions. In all the supposed liberative military interventions in Africa, whether in Nigeria, Angola, Egypt, Libya or Ghana, the eventual outcome differed substantially from the initial hopes. So, judging by the past and the present circumstances in Zimbabwe, what hope is there that the new administration will succeed? Could the new administration be a welcome break from the country’s tumultuous past?

The first hurdle

The most difficult situation facing the new government would be to re-position the Zimbabwean economy, which has been shattered by a series of enduring economic challenges such as inflation, an empty foreign reserve and massive unemployment. Mugabe’s government has been accused of causing the economic collapse, which has been characterized by rampant food shortages, unemployment, inflation and endemic corruption.

Mnangagwa is inheriting a comatose economy. In his inauguration speech, Mnangagwa promised to address most of the issues that had been triggered by the mismanaged economy and chaotic land reform. However, in practical terms, the new president has not outlined the plan for the turnaround. Critics remain skeptical, pointing out that earlier this year, when Mnangagwa was the vice president, he claimed that the government had exceeded their employment creation target by creating 2,2 million jobs, which was blatantly untrue.

Mugabe gone, but the entrenched Zanu-PF system intact

Although Mugabe is gone, the situation in Zimbabwe is pretty much the same. There are no major changes in the politics that should inspire new optimism. The only change, it appears, is the reduction of Mugabe’s power in the politics of Zimbabwe and Zanu-PF, the country’s ruling party.

It appears that the transition is just an exercise of the agenda of Zanu-PF, aided by the military. The expectations of the people of Zimbabwe for a holistic transformation have been dashed. Mnangagwa has retained the same old faces in leadership positions – his new Cabinet features many of the same ministers from Mugabe’s government, some of whom have been accused of corruption. Worryingly, the new faces in Cabinet are members of the army who were part of the coup, or ‘intervention’, if you like. As Pedzisai Ruhanya, director of the Harare-based Zimbabwe Democracy Institute (ZDI), said to Al-Jazeera, “The vice-like grip of the military on political affairs is likely, if not certainly, going to continue in the post-Mugabe era.”

Worryingly, the new faces in Cabinet are members of the army who were part of the coup.

While Mugabe’s fall is indeed cause for celebration, observers have been cautiously optimistic. This emphasis on caution points to the dangers of trusting the new transition, especially when we consider the continued presence of Mugabe’s old allies in government.

In an interview with the PBS News, Johnnie Carson, currently a senior adviser at the US Institute of Peace and former Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs under president Barack Obama, said: “Zimbabwe has thrown out a dictator, but it’s uncertain whether the country is moving towards the political and economic reforms that so many Zimbabweans want. Emmerson Mnangagwa is virtually a younger version of Robert Mugabe. In many ways, he is a clone of President Robert Mugabe […] He, however, has served as the enforcer and is responsible for some of the country’s worst human rights violations in 1980 and again in 2008 and 2009, when Robert Mugabe stole an election.”

Why the transition could fail to bring change

While expectations and hopes of positive change are still high, the fact that politics is still isolating the vast majority of ordinary citizens while paradoxically placing the military at the centre of political decision-making is worrying. Aside from the role of the military in the coup that removed Mugabe, the government of Zimbabwe has over the years been run as a pseudo-military government shrouded in secrecy. This situation can be traced to the struggle for liberation.

The two military groups that led the liberation war – Zimbabwe People’s Revolutionary Army (ZIPRA) affiliated with Zimbabwe African People’s Union (ZAPU), while the Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army (ZANLA) affiliated with the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU) – merged to create the Zimbabwean army.

The two political movements, ZAPU and ZANU, controlled Zimbabwe’s politics after independence in 1980, before merging into one party, called ZANU-PF, in 1987. Somehow, the current ruling party, Zanu-PF, was largely drawn from the military. The situation created an opening that was often exploited by generals in the Zimbabwe National Army, who interfered unduly in the politics of Zimbabwe. This happened despite the provisions of Section 208(2) of the constitution of Zimbabwe, which states that the military must be apolitical.

The way forward

As Blessing Zulu, a reporter for the Voice of America, said, “The situation is not looking that good, unless the international community comes in to ensure that they institute reforms.”

With the voices of the citizens of Zimbabwe almost eliminated and their calls for a new chapter, marked by inclusivity, ignored, the initial optimism seems to have been severely dashed.

The opposition was ill prepared on how to take the fight further once Mugabe was taken out of the picture.

The situation is exacerbated by the fact that the opposition seems to have lost its momentum now that its rallying point – the mantra that Mugabe must go – has been nullified. It seems that the opposition was ill prepared on how to take the fight further once Mugabe, the figurehead, was taken out of the picture. The opposition and civic groups urgently need to regroup and intensify the fight for reforms in the electoral, media and security sectors to ensure holistic change. If these changes do not come, and soon, the fall of Mugabe could turn out to be a meaningless change of faces while a corrupt and repressive political system continues to endure.

Source: This is Africa… 


Former AU Chair Dlamini-Zuma Receives Global Political Leader Achievement Award

AllAfrica || By Peter Dube, The East African || 01 December 2017

former au chair awarded as political leaderSouth Africa's African National Congress (ANC) presidential hopeful, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, has been awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award at the World Political Leader (WPL) Global Forum.

The WPL is a worldwide network of female politicians which seeks to increase both the number and the influence of women in political leadership.

Accepting the award, Dr Dlamini-Zuma said: "I am supremely honoured. This award has inspired me immensely. I will continue to work harder to push down barriers to women's emancipation and empowerment."

Congratulating her for the award, the ANC spokesperson Khusela Sangoni said: "She has dedicated her life to service of our people. She is and remains an exemplary leader and inspiration not only to women leaders but to all progressive forces committed to clean governance, visionary leadership and an uncompromising commitment to bettering the lives of our people."

A former health, foreign affairs and home affairs minister, Dr Dlamini-Zuma was elected the chairperson of the African Union Commission in 2012, becoming the first woman to head the continental bloc's secretariat for nearly five years.

President Jacob Zuma's ex-wife, Dr Dlamini-Zuma, a seasoned politician in her own right, has emerged as a prime candidate to replace him at the helm of ANC and as the party's presidential candidate in 2019 if she wins.

She faces stiff competition from Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa.

The ANC elections are slated to take place during the party's elective conference on December 16 to 20, in Johannesburg.

Source: AllAfrica… 


How Europe’s Panic Over Migration and Terrorism is a Big Opportunity for Africa

IRIN || By Elissa Jobson || 29 November 2017

migration panic a big opportunity for africaVideo footage of African migrants detained on their way to Europe being sold as slaves in Libya has provoked outrage and dismay in Africa and the wider international community. As a result, migration has been placed at the top of the agenda of this week’s fifth triennial African Union-European Union summit in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire.

For Europe, migration has become an almost existential problem. The influx in 2015 of more than one million refugees and migrants fleeing war, persecution and poverty in the Middle East and Africa created deep divisions and raised difficult questions about the EU’s commitment to open borders. It is threatening the viability of the union and providing an opening for right-wing, anti-immigrant, anti-Islam political parties and movements across the continent.

For Africa, despite the tragic deaths of many of those in transit, the migration of its citizens to Europe has not been a major concern. The vast majority of African migrants, contrary to perceptions in Europe, move between countries on the continent, which places great strain on host nations such as South Africa and Senegal.

Unsurprisingly, these opposing views mean that the EU and the AU have very different priorities. The EU is doggedly focused on trying to prevent illegal migrants reaching its shores whereas the AU is looking for ways to increase legal routes to Europe for Africans. It is essential that these two positions are reconciled.

Leaders from Africa and Europe last met in 2014, and until now African resistance meant that migration was not even formally tabled for discussion. But the emergence of the images of modern-day slave trafficking, which followed oral accounts of Libyan slave auctions that surfaced in April this year, has shaken the African Union (AU) out of its torpor.

For its part, Europe has developed a two-pronged strategy to curb African migration and what it sees as the associated danger of terrorism.

First, it has tried to address the root causes of instability, forced displacement and illegal migration through investment compacts with selected countries. These deals have been heavily criticised for offering incentives for reducing migrant flows to repressive regimes, such as Sudan and Eritrea, whose own domestic policies fuel the exodus to Europe. While this containment policy had some success in reducing migrants transiting through Niger, for example, the reductions have often been short-lived as security forces are easily bribed by smugglers.

Second, the EU and its member states have tried to seal their Mediterranean Sea borders by increasing their military presence and counter-terrorism operations in the Sahel – a key transit route for illegal migrants. Taken together, these measures aimed at reducing migrant flows show that the EU is willing to do “whatever works”, as one European diplomat put it.

What the AU sees as the EU’s “fortress approach” to border control, coupled with ham-fisted European diplomacy, has alienated Africa. So too has the tendency of the media and populist politicians in Europe to link African migrants to increased terror attacks. A myopic focus on migration has increasingly become the lens through which the EU views its peace and security relationship with Africa.

Discussions in Abidjan this week should focus on gradually increasing access for skilled African workers, who could be essential given Europe’s rapidly aging population. The AU and EU should also look for common ground outside the question of migrant flows to and from Europe, for example by focusing more on the root causes of migration – something both institutions profess to have an interest in.

Europe’s panic over migration and terrorism represents a significant opportunity for Africa. The EU and its member states have money to spend provided they can be assured of quick wins that will help calm the fears of citizens. “If we talk about migration, anything is possible. [...] we’ll pay,” explained one European diplomat.

If the AU and African governments really want to address the root causes of migration, they should leverage support for border control and fighting jihadists and terrorists against EU investment in education, job creation, better governance more evenly distributed economic growth throughout Africa.

This, however, requires coordination. Until now, competing national and regional interests have overridden a more unified African approach to migration that could bring continent-wide benefits. But the grim reality of the migrant slave trade in Libya seems to have stirred the pan-African conscience, and continental cooperation may now be possible.

Source: IRIN…


Why Doesn’t South Sudan’s Refugee Exodus Spur East Africa to Action?

IRIN || By Aly Verjee || 22 November 2017

south sudan refugee exodus 2017Migration crises in Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa reconfigured global politics. So why – as the millionth South Sudanese took refuge in Uganda earlier this year, and with the total number of South Sudanese refugee and asylum seekers now more than two million – is there no comparable shift in the political posture of East African states?

Uganda hosts by far the greatest number of South Sudanese refugees, but Sudan also hosts nearly half a million, Ethiopia more than 400,000, and Kenya over 100,000. In 2017 alone, the number of refugees increased by 500,000, and there’s no sign the massive and rapid depopulation of South Sudan will abate any time soon. 

All four host countries are crucial to sustaining, or spoiling, any conflict resolution effort in South Sudan, but it’s time to end the presumption that the refugee exodus is sufficient to alter regional geopolitics. There’s little evidence that the mass movement of South Sudanese across international borders has mobilised the country’s neighbours to positively act to address and resolve the multiple political, security, and humanitarian crises in South Sudan. 

It would be a mistake to believe there is a migration tipping point at which the region, accustomed to tolerating refugee populations for decades, will suddenly unite or work collaboratively to address the conflict. For the most part, the presence of South Sudanese refugees doesn’t affect core national or regional political or security interests. 

The geopolitics

Other interests explain bilateral and regional behaviour. 

These include, but are not limited to: economic ties and pecuniary relations; the belief in maintaining a regional balance of power; ongoing jockeying for regional hegemony between Ethiopia and Kenya, Ethiopia and Uganda, and Ethiopia and Egypt; historic antagonisms between Sudan and Uganda (even if that bilateral relationship is currently improving); the belief that stability in South Sudan is best served by a continuation of the current regime; or, conversely, that a degree of instability in South Sudan is necessary to ensure Juba is never strong enough to again threaten its neighbours. 

The bottom line is this: the prospect of the systematic depopulation of the world’s newest country doesn’t motivate action by the region.

Further, wider international preoccupation with the refugee crisis may only reinforce regional political complacency. 

To unconditionally commend neighbouring countries for their generosity in hosting civilians fleeing conflict or starvation overlooks the cynical reality that hosting refugees is an opportunity for some states to raise money and burnish reputations.

Even worse, it risks sending the message that as long as sanctuary is provided to civilians, there’s little expectation that the neighbours need do anything more to tackle the conflict.

Why the refugees don’t matter

Depending on the neighbour, different factors account for the false logic that refugee flows matter. 

In the cases of Kenya and Uganda, South Sudanese refugees are hosted in the most marginal, distant parts of both countries, far removed from the politics of Nairobi and Kampala. 

The Turkana of Kenya may be upset by the influx of refugees into Kakuma refugee camp, but Kenyan political elites do not perceive the South Sudanese influx in the same terms.

Nor are all refugees perceived equally in Kenya. In the popular imagination of some Kenyans, a Somali migrant in Dadaab, or Eastleigh, Nairobi is immediately to be treated with suspicion. 

The narratives – all too often seen through the distorted prism of terrorism – and conceptions of Somali-Kenyans within the national Kenyan identity, position Somali refugees quite differently from South Sudanese refugees.

In Uganda, although national security is an overriding policy concern, the presence of South Sudanese refugees doesn’t threaten the integrity of the state, in the way, for example, that the insurgency of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) once did. 

While there have been some concerns that the scarcity of resources, demonstrated in competing demands for land and water, has and will upset host communities, such problems will not rise beyond the local level. A cynic might argue that Kampala has historically shown little concern for its citizens in northern Uganda, so why should non-citizens present there be of any greater interest?

To the north, in Sudan, most fleeing South Sudanese are in immediate border areas, such as White Nile and South Darfur states, or in the capital, Khartoum.  And apart from their designation as refugees as specified by international convention, little has changed in Khartoum’s eyes since the times when such migrants would have been categorised as internally displaced (Sudanese) persons. 

If Sudan is less inclined to meddle in South Sudan’s internal affairs than has historically been the case, it’s because of broader policy objectives such as regional alignment with Ethiopia and the enticing prospect of normalising relations with the United States. The presence of South Sudanese on Sudanese territory is not a push factor.

Ethiopia was perhaps most sensitive to the implications of hosting South Sudanese refugees, given concerns that the delicate balance between Anyuak and Nuer in its Gambella region would be upset by an influx of South Sudanese Nuer. 

In the early phases of the conflict, in late 2013 and early 2014, Ethiopia hosted the majority of South Sudanese refugees. And while there have been some incidents in Gambella as a result of the refugee presence, these have been sporadic and far less consequential than other cross-border security issues, including the abduction of Ethiopian children in April 2016, and the August 2017 border incursion by South Sudanese armed forces during the fight for Pagak, an opposition stronghold.

As shocking as it is that South Sudan risks losing another generation to displacement and exile, the belief that this sad development will, in and of itself, motivate regional states to actively resolve the conflict is misplaced.  

Any international strategy to engage the region needs to understand the true, divergent and convergent, political and national security goals of each country, individually and collectively. Regional unity of purpose to address the conflict will otherwise remain elusive.

Source: IRIN… 


People for Sale: Where Lives are Auctioned for $400

CNN || Nima Elbagir, Raja Razek, Alex Platt and Bryony Jones

people for sale in libya 2017"Eight hundred," says the auctioneer. "900 ... 1,000 ... 1,100 ..." Sold. For 1,200 Libyan dinars -- the equivalent of $800.

Not a used car, a piece of land, or an item of furniture. Not "merchandise" at all, but two human beings.

One of the unidentified men being sold in the grainy cell phone video obtained by CNN is Nigerian. He appears to be in his twenties and is wearing a pale shirt and sweatpants.

He has been offered up for sale as one of a group of "big strong boys for farm work," according to the auctioneer, who remains off camera. Only his hand -- resting proprietorially on the man's shoulder -- is visible in the brief clip.

After seeing footage of this slave auction, CNN worked to verify its authenticity and traveled to Libya to investigate further.

Carrying concealed cameras into a property outside the capital of Tripoli last month, we witness a dozen people go "under the hammer" in the space of six or seven minutes.

"Does anybody need a digger? This is a digger, a big strong man, he'll dig," the salesman, dressed in camouflage gear, says. "What am I bid, what am I bid?"

Buyers raise their hands as the price rises, "500, 550, 600, 650 ..." Within minutes it is all over and the men, utterly resigned to their fate, are being handed over to their new "masters."

After the auction, we met two of the men who had been sold. They were so traumatized by what they'd been through that they could not speak, and so scared that they were suspicious of everyone they met.

Crackdown on smugglers

Each year, tens of thousands of people pour across Libya's borders. They're refugees fleeing conflict or economic migrants in search of better opportunities in Europe.

Most have sold everything they own to finance the journey through Libya to the coast and the gateway to the Mediterranean.

But a recent clampdown by the Libyan coastguard means fewer boats are making it out to sea, leaving the smugglers with a backlog of would-be passengers on their hands.

So the smugglers become masters, the migrants and refugees become slaves.

The evidence filmed by CNN has now been handed over to the Libyan authorities, who have promised to launch an investigation.

First Lieutenant Naser Hazam of the government's Anti-Illegal Immigration Agency in Tripoli told CNN that although he had not witnessed a slave auction, he acknowledged that organized gangs are operating smuggling rings in the country.

"They fill a boat with 100 people, those people may or may not make it," Hazam says. "(The smuggler) does not care as long as he gets the money, and the migrant may get to Europe or die at sea."

"The situation is dire," Mohammed Abdiker, the director of operation and emergencies for the International Organization for Migration, said in a statement after returning from Tripoli in April. "Some reports are truly horrifying and the latest reports of 'slave markets' for migrants can be added to a long list of outrages."

The auctions take place in a seemingly normal town in Libya filled with people leading regular lives. Children play in the street; people go to work, talk to friends and cook dinners for their families.

But inside the slave auctions it's like we've stepped back in time. The only thing missing is the shackles around the migrants' wrists and ankles.

Deportation 'back to square one'

Anes Alazabi is a supervisor at a detention center in Tripoli for migrants that are due to be deported. He says he's heard "a lot of stories" about the abuse carried out by smugglers.

"I'm suffering for them. What I have seen here daily, believe me, it makes me feel pain for them," he says. "Every day I can hear a new story from people. You have to listen to all of them. It's their right to deliver their voices."

One of the detained migrants, a young man named Victory, says he was sold at a slave auction. Tired of the rampant corruption in Nigeria's Edo state, the 21-year-old fled home and spent a year and four months -- and his life savings -- trying to reach Europe.

He made it as far as Libya, where he says he and other would-be migrants were held in grim living conditions, deprived of food, abused and mistreated by their captors.

"If you look at most of the people here, if you check your bodies, you see the marks. They are beaten, mutilated."

When his funds ran out, Victory was sold as a day laborer by his smugglers, who told him that the profit made from the transactions would serve to reduce his debt. But after weeks of being forced to work, Victory was told the money he'd been bought for wasn't enough. He was returned to his smugglers, only to be re-sold several more times.

"I spent a million-plus [Nigerian naira, or $2,780]," he tells CNN from the detention center, where he is waiting to be sent back to Nigeria. "My mother even went to a couple villages, borrowing money from different couriers to save my life."

As the route through north Africa becomes increasingly fraught, many migrants have relinquished their dreams of ever reaching European shores. This year, more than 8,800 individuals have opted to voluntarily return home on repatriation flights organized by the IOM.

While many of his friends from Nigeria have made it to Europe, Victory is resigned to returning home empty-handed.

"I could not make it, but I thank God for the life of those that make it," he says.

"I'm not happy," he adds. "I go back and start back from square one. It's very painful. Very painful."

Source: CNN…

A Coup de Grace: South Africa’s Perfect Foreign Policy Storm?

Daily Maverick || By J. Brooks Spector || 16 November 2017

Most non-meteorologists became familiar with the term “the perfect storm” when they came across it either in the book by Sebastian Junger, or in the film directed by Wolfgang Petersen. In both versions, the storyline depicted the tragic fate of a Gloucester, Massachusetts-based fishing trawler, the Andrea Gail, and its crew, when the boat was caught – and sank – in the confluence of three late autumn storms in the North Atlantic. The resulting storm became an immensely powerful weather system, much more than just the sum of its individual elements. And very, very lethal.

Just possibly, something like an international relations version of a perfect storm is poised to buffet South Africa, and that will not be pretty. Almost a half-year ago, I was given the chance to watch the African National Congress’ consultative process at work in its drafting of its foreign policy positions for its national policy congress. It was not quite the sausage-making that German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck had warned against, but, still, it was not particularly pretty, and the result had more than a little of the “horse designed by a committee” feel to it.

After watching this exercise, I had written in this space, “In some areas, such as economic development, government control over major economic sectors, or social grant policies, the final agreed-to policy documents will certainly be strongly reflective of the leadership’s ambitions, values and goals. But that may not be the case as much as in foreign policy. This will be the case, if for no other reason, than that an articulate, cogent, coherent foreign policy no longer looms very large in South African thinking in the way it once did during Nelson Mandela’s tenure in office – as with ‘highly principled foreign policy’ as a jewel in the crown of South Africa’s return to global respectability. That is because, for many, foreign policy, save at the margins, seemingly has little to do with the turf wars being fought over the swag that constitutes the winnings of today’s ‘hyper-patronage’ state.

“… Foreign policy – the diplomats’ occupational field of activity – is supposed to be a careful analysis of a nation’s most fundamental needs, goals, ambitions and responsibilities in connection with the rest of the international community and then a sorting out of what has to happen to enhance the nation’s safety and security.

“… For a middle-tier nation such as South Africa, foreign policy is significantly about boosting the chances of the nation for economic advancement and regional stability – and, hopefully, in advancing at least some elements of that ‘highly principled foreign policy’, in terms of its efforts in international forums such as the United Nations. All of this must be tempered with some kind of realistic evaluation of what the country’s leaders see as national self-interest. [And]… self- or national interest naturally includes the traditional values of state preservation and economic advancement, as well as support for the broad application of the rule of law, along with a vigorous nod towards support for regional and global stability….

“Not surprisingly, as with this document under discussion, the governing party periodically produces a foreign policy manifesto for its national policy conference (coming up at the end of the month). Thereafter, a significant share of that language will find its way into governmental language on foreign policy planning and execution. The challenge is to see what is key about this document – and what has been left out.”

In response to a still earlier version of the working paper, I had argued, “... as a document for hands-on guidance to the government or the nation’s people, it suffers the flaws of all cut-and-paste jobs… [But] What it clearly lacks, however, is any real sense of the criticality of economics and trade for national growth and success. There is no sense of comparison with rivals and alternative models of success, and no embrace of difficult choices that must be met in the future. When everything has equal weight and everything is a first priority, nothing is...’

This time around, while the newest document speaks of South Africa’s dealings with the BRICS alignment, the building of solidarity with progressive forces globally and global institutional reform, as well as a range of consultative mechanisms such as enhanced parliamentary relations and exchanges, it devotes three sentences to the entirety of economic diplomacy… [Italics added]

“There is no discussion of the how of growing FDI or other international participation in the economy, let alone why such things should matter to the country’s foreign affairs agency, or how that department should work tightly with all other elements of government, private industry and the investor community as a whole.”

University of Johannesburg academics Chris Landsberg and Mzukisi Qobo, together with the Centre for Global Dialogue’s Francis Kornegay, had argued in their response to the new draft, “Since 2009 the ANC has failed to offer animating ideas about the country’s place in the world. Its perspectives on power dynamics in the world have travelled back in time, and are frozen in a world that no longer exists. This is notwithstanding its acknowledgement that at both the National Conference in Mangaung in 2012 and the National General Council of 2015 [it] observed that the material conditions continue to change in ways that are unpredictable and fluid. This point also features in the current discussion document prepared for the 30 June 2017 ANC Policy Conference.”

Beyond the failure to come to terms with the centrality and criticality of economic issues and economic diplomacy in anything approaching substance, I had then gone on to note, “… on perhaps the most important issue of all beyond economically related diplomatic efforts and foreign policy initiatives, the ANC discussion document is mum. And that, of course, is the future of South Africa’s interactions with its northern neighbour, Zimbabwe.”

And so here we now sit, just as two major storms are starting to buffet the South African ship of state simultaneously, and as no one in authority seems particularly prepared to deal with the major damage that seems likely to ensue as a result. The first of these, of course, is the economy, now in yet worse shape than it had already reached when the party’s newest foreign policy discussion paper had first been mooted.

The country is now perched precariously on the lip of the crater – at the bottom of which is now-broad agreement that its sovereign bonds and other investment opportunities will get junk status ratings shortly. That will precipitate major mandatory capital outflows by institutional investors, trigger higher inflation and still-further currency exchange rate slides. This is not what we call a virtuous circle. Price rises on consumer goods, fuel, and services will follow, and, with all this, unemployment may well nudge past 30%.

Such circumstances will not be helpful to politicians in power, let alone for pretty much everybody else being caught in it. And still there appears to be no realistic, concrete plan in place to set in place international and domestic economic policy initiatives to resurrect the nation’s economic circumstances – other than some semi-delusional whistling in the dark. By itself, this economic storm already has the makings of one of those category 5 hurricanes.

But then there is Zimbabwe. That is storm number two. From the look of it, South African policy-makers had no plans, no scenarios, nothing ready to go, in order to deal with the absolute inevitability that the Mugabe regime was going to falter sooner or later – and probably sooner. And so it has. In response, on Wednesday, the South African president announced it was sending an observer to consult with both sides, whatever that may have meant, and whatever that may mean, going forward.

Talk about shutting the barn door after the horse has bolted at full gallop to the next county. The president in Zimbabwe was, after all, a nonagenarian, and was visibly frail and confused in recent public appearances.

Perhaps the military staged their non-coup-coup to pre-empt a move by Grace Mugabe to cement her place as her husband’s putative successor. Or perhaps they figured the stars were now aligned to give them a good chance of success at making a change. Or perhaps the military just thought it was about time to grab for the brass ring.

And now, with the near-certain ending of the Mugabe era, and the almost certain economic, political and security upheavals that will follow this moment, if millions of Zimbabweans have anything in common with people from any other trouble spot in the world today – or throughout history – many Zimbabweans will up-stakes and flee for greater security, even if it is only temporary.

We’ve all watched the terrible scenes in the Mediterranean, in refugee camps in the Balkans, Greece and Turkey, and now, most recently at the Bangladesh/Myanmar border on television. Perhaps three million Zimbabweans are already inside South Africa – or beyond – and that movement of people happened largely as a result of economic insecurity. But what happens when the likely deluge arrives in Zimbabwe? Does South Africa have a realistic emergency plan to be launched into motion to deal with the vast movement of people, the economic upheavals and the rest of the chaos that may come very soon as a result of the end of the Mugabe era?

Someone pointed out to me earlier on Wednesday that besides all those potential circumstances, there is also the fact over a hundred South African companies operate in Zimbabwe – and that much of the economy in the northern part of South Africa is tied to consumer shopping destined for Zimbabwe. What are the plans for emergency economic support to such a deeply affected region, once spending by Zimbabweans dries up? Or, even worse, once actual money essentially vanishes from the country north of the Limpopo? How are many people there are going to be able to eat, let alone buy anything else they need? Are there planned co-operation plans already on the books with international aid agencies, other foreign nations, and NGOs to feed, clothe and shelter an increasingly desperate population beyond those who already survive courtesy of international donor aid?

The consequences of a failure to put economic diplomacy in support of sustained, stable, forward-thinking, rational economic policy are about to hit South Africa with a real body blow. But then, coping with the increasingly likely implosion to the north will just make things worse. And the combination of these two, even if there were no other major policy storms on the horizon such as a major catastrophic climate disaster, will make things much, much worse.

Now, here is a final thought. Just perhaps, the gods who decided where that rugby tournament takes place in 2023 simply didn’t want to place a bet on South Africa sorting out its economic storms during the next five-and-a-half-years. And when they cast their votes, they probably were not even thinking about events in Harare.

Source: Daily Maverick… https://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2017-11-16-a-coup-de-grace-south-africas-perfect-foreign-policy-storm/#.Wg2RuIhRVPY


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