Fury as Chinese Museum Compares Black People to Animals
AllAfrica || By Kylie Kiunguyu || 18 October 2017
A Chinese museum was forced to remove an exhibit comparing Africans to animals when critics pointed out how "astonishingly offensive" it was. The Exhibition showcased photography in a section dubbed "This Is Africa", which juxtaposed images of wild African animals with black African people, which caused an uproar for its racist connotations.
A Chinese Exhibit showcased photography in a section dubbed "This Is Africa", which juxtaposed images of wild African animals with black African people, that caused an uproar for its racist connotations.
The Hubei Provincial Museum in Wuhan included side-by-side photographs from photographer Yu Huiping of animals and people displaying similar expressions. One pair included a young boy and a howling chimpanzee, each photographed with their mouths agape while another set paired a man and a lion, both gnashing their teeth.
The section's pictures which were apparently meant to celebrate the harmony between man and nature were taken down after massive complaints the exhibit's curator said in a statement. African students studying in China complained to their university deans while others petitioned their embassies, according to students and professionals in these circles.
"It's not shocking. Africans are not strangers to racism here in China or elsewhere. But it is sad that despite deepening economic connections and interactions between Chinese and Africans, there's still clearly so much racism and lack of cultural understanding," says Zahra Baitie, a Ghanaian master's student at Tsinghua University studying global affairs to Quartz Africa.
Mr. Yu, who is an award-winning photographer and vice chairman of the Hubei Photographers Association and has visited Africa more than 20 times where he got the material for his exhibition, has so far not commented on the backlash.
A curator at the exhibit, Wang Yuejun, said the decision to hang the photos of people and animals together was his own idea, and not that of Mr. Yu. "The target of the exhibition is mainly a Chinese audience," Mr. Wang said in a statement, adding that comparisons between people and animals are common in China and often a compliment. Mr. Wang said many Chinese people relate to their animal familiars assigned by the Chinese zodiac and "in Chinese proverbs, animals are always used for admiration and compliment."
Once it was brought to his attention, Mr. Wang said, that "putting the photos of African tribes people and animals together hurt the feelings of the African tribes people," and to "show respect for our African friends' opinions," the offending pictures were removed.
Casual racism is common in China, it is a newer global influence and one of Africa's largest trading partner, meaning greater interaction with foreigners and more instances of racial missteps such as:
1. WeChat, China's most popular mobile messaging app, apologized that its translation software was rendering the Chinese words for "hei laowai", or "black foreigner," into English was "nigger."
2. In 2016 the makers of Qiaobi laundry detergent were criticized for an advertisement that depicted a black man being washed with the product, only to turn into a light-skinned Chinese man.
3. In 2015, promotional posters in China for the film "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" depicted John Boyega, a black British actor, smaller than he appeared on similar posters in other countries.
4. Over the summer China's state news agency published a video during a border standoff with India featuring an offensive parody of a Sikh man, complete with a turban and fake beard
More than 141,000 people visited the exhibit which opened just before China's week-long National Day holiday before it was taken down. In fact before viewers complained about the photos, the president of the prestigious China Photographic Publishing House, praised the photographer for "capturing the vitality of primitive life," in a since-deleted social media post, according to the Washington Post.
This initial reaction as well as the comments by the curator Wang Yuejun show that although the photo exhibition was removed the racial undertones for why the exhibit was racist to begin with may not have been understood. This could only mean that racial instances such as these will unfortunately continue to occur.
Become what you play: South Sudanese Man Creates Games for Peace
National Catholic Reporter (NCR) || By Julie Bourbon || 14 October 2017
If the last thing you think about when somebody mentions "gaming" is "peace," then you don't know Lual Mayen. The South Sudanese software engineer turned game designer is part of a movement creating and promoting "games for change," and he's hoping to reach young people in conflict zones, in camps for refugees and the internally displaced to teach them about peace.
His company, Junub Games, employs about 20 software engineers, designers and developers, most of them volunteers in Uganda and South Sudan. "Play peace!" is a tagline on the site's homepage. "Sharing peace & love through gaming" is another.
How, you ask, does a young man who was raised in a refugee camp learn to program computers, travel to the United States, and become a finalist in an international PeaceTech Accelerator program supported, in part, by Amazon Web Services? Mayen credits his success to his education, and his mother's tireless efforts to ensure that he secured one, despite the many obstacles he faced growing up in the midst of civil war.
"When we were in Uganda, in the refugee camp, education was not so perfect. I could not go to a very good school," said Mayen. "When I got to high school, my mom was a tailor and used that to pay for school fees. And then I had to struggle, and I was having that gift for the knowledge."
Mayen, 23, is slim and soft-spoken. In jeans and a T-shirt, with headphones around his neck, he still looks like a college student. He has been living in the Washington, D.C., area for a few months, working at the World Bank and traveling back and forth to South Sudan and to gaming conferences, seeking funding for his apps and board and card games.
He was first exposed to computers in Uganda, outside the Rhino refugee camp where his parents and four siblings still reside. Mayen took a few classes at a training center and was hooked, buying his first computer at age 17. From there, he pursued studies in software engineering at Makerere University in Uganda.
While still a student, he created a mobile banking service and an app to help travelers find hotels. He went back to South Sudan in 2014, after the brokering of a peace treaty, and founded a company called Citycom Technologies, the money from which helped to fund his studies. He hosted the Computer Bridge for Innovation and Technology conference in 2015, attracting the attention of the country's minister of agriculture.
But he couldn't get any government funding, and when war broke out again in 2016, he returned to Uganda and graduated from college, although he couldn't afford to participate in the commencement ceremony. That's when Mayen, who was raised Catholic, had an epiphany about how he should be using his talents.
"You know, in my life, I've come to so many ideas that could have helped me," he said, but the opportunities weren't there because of war. "Most people can just be told 'get your gun and kill your brother,' and they will do it. They have no inspiration. Education is better than making guns. Me, now you can't come to me and say 'get a gun' because I know the value I have."
"Education changes minds and attitudes to each other," he added. "It's really very important because I believe that it's God who gives the knowledge."
Read more… National Catholic Reporter…
Seven Key Trends for Africa's Future
AllAfrica.com || By Julia Bello-Schünemann and Zachary Donnenfeld || 10 October 2017
Opportunities for progress abound in Africa, but governments need to make more strategic investments to improve the development prospects for all on the continent. This is according to an Institute for Security Studies (ISS) report that identifies seven key trends to understanding how Africa's future could unfold over the coming decades:
Africa's population will continue to grow rapidly and remain the youngest in the world.
Levels of urbanisation will keep rising, offering both opportunities and risks.
The absolute number of Africans living in extreme poverty is set to increase.
Africa's economy will continue to expand, but countries' individual performances will vary greatly.
Africa is likely to remain relatively isolated - both from the global economy and across its regions.
Conflict in Africa is causing fewer fatalities than in the 1990s, but the number of violent incidents is increasing, and violence is becoming more complex.
Popular support for democracy in Africa is likely to remain strong.
Africa's population is expected to increase from about 1.2 billion people today to over 1.8 billion in 2035. The demand for services will increase dramatically and put African governments under considerable stress. Besides these sheer numbers, the age structure of Africa's population is critical. Even in 2035, half of sub-Saharan Africa's population will be under 21, which means governments need to spend heavily on education, healthcare and extending basic services.
As Africa's population ages, the ratio between workers and dependents will improve - leading to a potential boost in productivity and economic growth. However, Africa's poorer economies are several decades away from experiencing a demographic dividend - and more importantly, most lack the necessary investments in human capital and job creation to capitalise on it.
Similarly, many African countries are unlikely to reap the potential benefits of urbanisation unless they systematically address some of the structural hurdles, such as lack of job creation, slow economic transformation to higher productivity sectors, poverty and inequality.
On the current trajectory, population growth is likely to compound poverty in sub-Saharan Africa as it is outpacing economic growth (see Figure 1). By 2035, as many as 170 million more Africans could live in extreme poverty (less than US$1.90 a day) than today. This is if the continent's economy grows on average around 4% per year to 2035.
Overall, African economies need to grow much faster and make more strategic investments in human capital to reduce poverty, improve development outcomes and build adequate infrastructure.
Where will this growth come from? Much of Africa is likely to remain vulnerable to global shocks. Its oil and metal exporters will continue to be the most exposed to global price volatility. Growth in non-hydrocarbon-dependent economies - energy importers and agricultural exporters - is likely to remain stable. Current and expected growth rates for some of Africa's agricultural exporters are in line with Asia's fastest-growing economies.
To improve resilience against external shocks, African states need to diversify their economies and tax base, raise revenue more effectively, increase productivity, create jobs and invest in critical infrastructure and the development of human capital.
Countries also need to dismantle some of the regulatory barriers to deeper integration to facilitate the movement of goods, people and ideas across borders and create regional economies of scale. Failing that, Africa will remain isolated - both from the global economy and across its regions.
Africa's ability to participate more in regional and global trade partly depends on improving transportation and trade infrastructure and streamlining regulations. That said, a strategy to connect Africa must also include investment in basic infrastructure, such as access to clean water, electricity and improved sanitation. These services are key components of productivity and hence growth.
Sub-Saharan Africa has the lowest levels of access to basic infrastructure anywhere in the world, and prospects for improvement are moderate compared to other developing regions (see Figure 2).
Modern technology may offer a way to replace costlier forms of more basic infrastructure. However, leapfrogging the construction of roads, water supply or sewerage facilities, for example, is simply not possible.
The sixth trend identified in the ISS report is that levels of high-fatality violence in Africa are now generally comparable to those of half a century ago and are significantly lower than during the post-Cold War period. However, the continent is witnessing an increase in the number of violent incidents largely driven by riots and protests (see Figure 3).
In 2016, riots and protests accounted for almost 40% of total conflict events in Africa, up 10% from the previous year, followed by violence against civilians, battles and the use of improvised explosive devices. In line with the global trend, terrorist incidents are also increasing in Africa.
Politically motivated violence, however, will not necessarily affect Africans more than profit-motivated violence. The increasing levels of criminal violence in Southern Africa, West Africa, North Africa and the Sahel are expected to cause more deaths than armed conflict in the medium-term future.
Africa's high conflict burden requires continued investment in conflict prevention, control of arms, security-sector reform, the rule of law and regional forces. In the face of capacity constraints and ongoing democratic transitions, the international community will continue to be a key player in Africa's future security.
The last trend identified in the ISS report is that popular support for democracy in Africa is likely to remain robust - even when essential elements of democratic accountability on the continent are often absent. While democracy still isn't the dominant form of government in Africa, unlike the global trend, levels of democracy in sub-Saharan Africa have improved. In fact, Africa is relatively more democratic than could be expected given its generally low levels of GDP per capita.
Many African countries are under pressure to increase inclusion when the foundations of sufficient security and state capacity upon which to build democracy are still fragile. The issue is not a choice between democracy and development, but how to steadily advance inclusion at a pace commensurate with social and economic development.
While the challenges may seem overwhelming, this research points to areas that African governments could leverage to capitalise on the enormous potential that exists on the continent.
Julia Bello-Schünemann, Senior Researcher and Zachary Donnenfeld, Researcher, African Futures and Innovation, ISS Pretoria
Africa Leads the Way in Election Technology, but There's a Long Way to Go
AllAfrica.com || By Stephen Chan || 06 October 2017
Kenya's recently annulled elections will soon be re-run, but the long-term questions they raised about election management are still unanswered. The spotlight is on the work of international observer teams, but there are also much wider questions of electoral capacity - problems that extend to the top of the African Union, and thence across the whole continent.
African democracies are in the process of co-ordinating a generation jump in applied technology. So far, they have actually done a remarkable job by global standards. After all, something like electronic voting is still not used in the UK, where people in raincoats wait patiently while someone with a pencil draws a line through their name on a paper spreadsheet. The rain-sodden voter drips into the polling booth and makes a choice, casts their vote with a pencil on a sheet of paper, and shuffles outside again while putting up an ineffectual umbrella. Nothing has changed for 100 years.
It's Africa that has led the way - and the West isn't the place to look for immediate answers for all the problems of running a 21st-century election. One such problem is the use of multiple forms of electronic voting. Voter identification by electronic means is given priority in Nigeria, but even there, it's not implemented consistently: there are different systems provided by different companies, all submitting tenders on a competitive basis.
The African Union needs to devise a standard set of requirements and attributes for electronic voting across the continent. It's no longer enough to have a protocol that says paper votes have to be placed into clear plastic ballot boxes. But the African Union has fallen behind. Its previous head, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, was hardly technologically minded; in fact, her successor has apparently stressed the commission urgently needs an email system fit for purpose.
Dlamini-Zuma has now returned to line up for the presidency of her home country, South Africa, whose cabinet is renowned for its technological illiteracy. There are very few images of its current president, Jacob Zuma, working on a laptop or PC, and possibly none of him actually pressing the keys. (His next door neighbour, Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe, has seemingly never been pictured with a laptop at all.)
But if the presidents might have trouble sending simple emails, the thousands of local observers at each election will need special training of the sort never attempted before. They need to know not just how the system works, but how it can be made not to work - or at least, to work in ways that do not reflect the electorate's will. Only after that does the question of international observer capacity come into play.
It's fair to say that although EU observers to Kenya were deployed far in advance of the election and had good geographical coverage, the team was not replete with electronic expertise. And it's not as if there was no advance knowledge that this would be an electronic election.
Well before the elections began and before the EU observer team was deployed, senior members of both the EU team and the Kenyan opposition were given access to a detailed paper I prepared on the problems of electronic observation. And there was ample evidence from the 2015 Nigerian elections that these things could be bumpy rides. To be fair, electoral commissions need to upgrade their capacities as well; whatever happened in Kenya, whether wicked or incompetent, it was clear electoral officials were not on top of their game, unlike their Nigerian counterparts, who managed to resolve their problems in the end.
Electoral commissions need to open up all stages of the electronic process to knowledgeable observers, and especially the verification stage. This is where subtle algorithmic adjustments can be inserted to preserve close parity between voting patterns on the ground and "verified" results that "just" deliver very narrow victories to a ruling party.
At least electronic cheating can only really work persuasively in close elections. The days of 90% victories are almost (if not quite) over, but they will be followed a rash of elections "won" by about 2%. Margins of about 4%, as in the Kenyan elections, will have to be open to expert interrogation. As it turned out, Kenya's elections were annulled on grounds of non-electronic irregularities, but neither the opposition nor the electoral commission seemed able to make sustained cases for or against electronic abuse.
Still, it is Africa that has come almost of age in electronic and digital voting. The West's elections look like Sony Walkmans in the age of the smartphone. Even that comparison might be a bit flattering: in the UK, going to vote is like cranking up an LP on a turntable to 78rpm. Let's hope Africa's new leaders and technocrats will make the generational jump more smoothly in the future, and keep showing the creaky old West the way.
African Boys and Girls Enter Teens with Gender Stereotypes Firmly Set
AllAfrica.com || By Kristin Mmari, Johns Hopkins Medicine || 02 October 2017
A team of international experts have just published the most comprehensive analysis to date of how children on the cusp of adolescence perceive growing up as a boy or girl. The Global Adolescent Study involved a series of interviews conducted over the last four years with hundreds of early adolescents and their parents in 15 countries. These included Burkina Faso, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria and South Africa. We asked lead researcher Kristin Mmari to explain the significance of the study
What did the 15-country global study set out to establish?
Our overarching question was to explore how boys and girls from diverse cultural settings experience their transitions into adolescence. Questions we were interested in finding answers to included: what changes? How do these changes vary by boys versus girls? How do these changes vary by geographic and cultural location?
We wanted to address these questions because the way in which adolescents experience biological and social changes differ. Factors that play a role include gender, cognitive abilities, educational, emotional, life experiences as well as cultural and social contexts. Yet information on how these factors manifest and inform gender differences across contexts is quite limited, particularly from low and middle-income countries.
A particularly interesting, yet unknown aspect of early adolescence, is how boys and girls establish relationships that ultimately shape their sexual and overall health from early to late adolescence.
What are the most important findings from African countries involved in the study?
So far, only Assuit in Egypt, Nairobi, Kenya, and Ile Ife, Nigeria have been involved. Another four countries, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burkina Faso, Malawi, and South Africa, will be included in future products and analyses.
The key takeaways from the study so far are:
First global study to demonstrate that we can measure gender norms around the world among this young age group ages 10-14 years old. Before this study, it was not known whether adolescents in this age group would be able to accurately provide information about what it meant to be an 'adolescent' and the attitudes and beliefs about gender that influenced their transition into adolescence. Not only did we learn that it's possible to collect data from this age group across multiple cultural settings, but that in fact, adolescents are astute observers.
There are consistent forms of patriarchy around the world: girls are perceived to be vulnerable and in need of protection to preserve their sexual and reproductive health. Their mobility and social space is greatly reduced and often enforced by parents to "preserve their reputation". Girls who are observed to be seen with boys are automatically assumed to be in romantic and sexual relationships with them, and this can often ruin their reputation or their families.
Boys expand their social space and are given much more freedom and independence. But they also face increased risks related to the environment, such as increased engagement in violence and/or substance misuse.
There were more similarities than differences between the sub-Saharan African contexts and the other sites included in the study. However, boy-girl relationships were frowned upon and subjected girls to sexual and reproductive health risks, such as pregnancy and gender based violence; as a consequence, many parents did not want their daughters in the company of boys.
The goal of the study was to get insights that could be used to inform policies that promote sexual and reproductive well-being. What insights were gained and what key interventions should follow?
We already know that norms around gender inequitable lead to poor health outcomes among older adolescents and young adults. For example, research has shown that when men and boys adhere to traditional views about masculinity, they are more likely to report having used violence against a partner, to have a sexually transmitted infection, and used substances Pulerwitz and Barker, 2008. Other studies have found correlations between beliefs in gender inequitable norms and HIV transmission rates, contraceptive use, and gender based violence (Barker and Ricardo, 2005).
This study shows that these norms are being solidified much earlier than we thought. Interventions then need to start earlier and should include both boys and girls. They should also address gender as a system that's made up of multiple actors, ranging from parents, teachers, peers, neighbourhoods, and the broader media and policy environment.
What happens next?
Phase 2 of the study will be a large quantitative survey to examine the extent to which changes in beliefs of gender inequitable norms lead to changes in health outcomes, and the factors that may contribute to these changes.
Which African Country is the Least Unhealthy?
AllAfrica.com || By Fran Whittaker-Wood || 26 September 2017
Noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) such as heart disease, cancer and diabetes are now the primary cause of premature deaths worldwide, killing over 36 million people each year. A large percentage of these conditions are self-inflicted, caused by unhealthy lifestyle choices such as drinking, smoking and an unbalanced diet.
A recent report by the World Health Organization revealed that measures to control the spread of NCDs has been inadequate, leading to the United Nations health agency to put pressure on governments around the world to do more to tackle the global health crisis.
The map below exposes the most unhealthy countries in the world, and highlights those whose residents need to change their lifestyle in order to lower their risk of developing life-threatening illnesses.
Data for this research was obtained from the World Health Organization, the CIA World Factbook and the World Lung Association. Each country's performance was ranked on three factors:
Alcohol consumption per person, per year
Tobacco consumption per person, per year
Obesity prevalence within the population
The ranks for each country were then averaged to determine which population poses the biggest threat to their health through harmful behaviours.
The Czech Republic was exposed as the most unhealthy country in the world. The nation's citizens emerged as some of the heaviest drinkers, each consuming a massive 13.7 litres of pure alcohol every year, the equivalent in volume to 550 25ml shots. The country also ranked 11th highest for the number of cigarettes smoked each year, despite having some of the strictest laws on tobacco purchase and consumption in the EU.
Eastern Europe emerged as the most unhealthy region in the world, with 9 of the 10 top spots on the list occupied by countries in the territory such as Slovakia, Croatia and Poland. Russia ranked in second place while Slovenia came in at a close third, with its residents being the 6th biggest consumers of tobacco products on the planet, smoking a staggering 2,637 cigarettes each year.
The United States was the only non-European country to rank in the top 10 due to it having one of the highest rates of obesity in the world, where 35% of the adult population is classified as being dangerously overweight. Its comparatively low tobacco and alcohol consumption however, prevented the nation from ranking higher in the list.
Interestingly Oceania emerged as the world's fattest region, with the continent's small Pacific islands being home to some of the most obese populations on the planet. Samoa ranked first for obesity prevalence with a staggering 41.6% of the nation's population having a BMI over 30. Tonga, Kiribati, Tuvalu and Fiji also featured in the top 10 for obesity, owing to the islanders appetite for high-fat, energy-dense foods imported from Western societies.
Residents of Afghanistan were named the healthiest, having the second lowest rate of obesity in the world with only 2.7% of the population having a BMI over 30. The country also ranked in the bottom 20 for the number of cigarettes smoked per year (just 83) and drunk one of the smallest amounts of alcohol in the world, owing to the country's ban on the sale and consumption of alcohol. African nations also fared well, with countries such as Malawi, Niger and Ethiopia among the 10 least unhealthy populations in the world.
Trump Adds Chad to U.S. Travel Ban, Lifts Restrictions on Sudan
AllAfrica.com || 25 September 2017
President Donald Trump has included Chad in a new list of countries whose citizens are prohibited from entering the United States. But the ban placed on Sudanese travellers earlier this year has been ended.
In a proclamation issued on Sunday, he also retained Libya and Somalia on the banned list. The other nations now affected by the ban are Iran, North Korea, Syria, Venezuela, and Yemen.
The presidential proclamation said that although Chad's government is "an important and valuable counterterrorism partner of the United States", it does not share enough information to enable the U.S. to judge whether its citizens pose a threat to public safety.
"Additionally," President Trump added, "several terrorist groups are active within Chad or in the surrounding region, including elements of Boko Haram, ISIS-West Africa, and al-Qa'ida in the Islamic Maghreb."
The proclamation did not mention Sudan, but the Washington Post reported senior Trump administration officials as saying that Sudan's "cooperation on national security and information-sharing showed it was appropriate to remove it from the list".
Trump also named Libya as a valuable counter-terrorism partner but said the country faced "significant challenges in sharing several types of information, including public-safety and terrorism-related information necessary for the protection of the national security and public safety of the United States".
In Somalia's case, he said although the government met the U.S.'s requirements for sharing information, it was unable to give consistent and effective cooperation to the U.S. In addition, the "terrorist threat that emanates from its territory" presents special circumstances justifying a ban on immigrant visas.
However, unlike citizens of Chad and Libya, Somalis will be able to apply for "non-immigrant" visas – allowing for short-term family, tourism and business travel, subject to heightened scrutiny of visa applications.
Excerpts from portions of the proclamation relating to Chad, Libya and Somalia follow:
The government of Chad is an important and valuable counterterrorism partner of the United States, and the United States Government looks forward to expanding that cooperation, including in the areas of immigration and border management. Chad has shown a clear willingness to improve in these areas.
Nonetheless, Chad does not adequately share public-safety and terrorism-related information and fails to satisfy at least one key risk criterion. Additionally, several terrorist groups are active within Chad or in the surrounding region, including elements of Boko Haram, ISIS-West Africa, and al-Qa'ida in the Islamic Maghreb.
At this time, additional information sharing to identify those foreign nationals applying for visas or seeking entry into the United States who represent national security and public-safety threats is necessary given the significant terrorism-related risk from this country... The entry into the United States of nationals of Chad, as immigrants, and as nonimmigrants on business (B-1), tourist (B-2), and business/tourist (B-1/B-2) visas, is hereby suspended.
The government of Libya is an important and valuable counterterrorism partner of the United States, and the United States Government looks forward to expanding on that cooperation, including in the areas of immigration and border management.
Libya, nonetheless, faces significant challenges in sharing several types of information, including public-safety and terrorism-related information necessary for the protection of the national security and public safety of the United States. Libya also has significant inadequacies in its identity-management protocols.
Further, Libya fails to satisfy at least one key risk criterion and has been assessed to be not fully cooperative with respect to receiving its nationals subject to final orders of removal from the United States. The substantial terrorist presence within Libya's territory amplifies the risks posed by the entry into the United States of its nationals.
The entry into the United States of nationals of Libya, as immigrants, and as nonimmigrants on business (B-1), tourist (B-2), and business/tourist (B-1/B-2) visas, is hereby suspended.
The Secretary of Homeland Security's report... determined that Somalia satisfies... information-sharing requirements... But several other considerations support imposing entry restrictions and limitations on Somalia.
Somalia has significant identity-management deficiencies. For example, while Somalia issues an electronic passport, the United States and many other countries do not recognize it.
A persistent terrorist threat also emanates from Somalia's territory. The United States Government has identified Somalia as a terrorist safe haven. Somalia stands apart from other countries in the degree to which its government lacks command and control of its territory, which greatly limits the effectiveness of its national capabilities in a variety of respects. Terrorists use under-governed areas in northern, central, and southern Somalia as safe havens from which to plan, facilitate, and conduct their operations.
Somalia also remains a destination for individuals attempting to join terrorist groups that threaten the national security of the United States. The State Department's 2016 Country Reports on Terrorism observed that Somalia has not sufficiently degraded the ability of terrorist groups to plan and mount attacks from its territory.
Further, despite having made significant progress toward formally federating its member states, and its willingness to fight terrorism, Somalia continues to struggle to provide the governance needed to limit terrorists' freedom of movement, access to resources, and capacity to operate. The government of Somalia's lack of territorial control also compromises Somalia's ability, already limited because of poor recordkeeping, to share information about its nationals who pose criminal or terrorist risks.
As a result of these and other factors, Somalia presents special concerns that distinguish it from other countries.
The entry into the United States of nationals of Somalia as immigrants is hereby suspended. Additionally, visa adjudications for nationals of Somalia and decisions regarding their entry as nonimmigrants should be subject to additional scrutiny to determine if applicants are connected to terrorist organizations or otherwise pose a threat to the national security or public safety of the United States.
U.S. Signals Africa Policy Shifts
AllAfrica || By Fred Strasser || 19 September 2017
The U.S. plans to continue diplomatic and military support for African nations but expects its counterparts to step up significantly in areas ranging from fighting corruption to countering terrorism and stopping arms purchases from North Korea, U.S. officials said during a symposium at the U.S. Institute of Peace.
Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Tom Shannon said Africa has moved from an afterthought of global geopolitics to a rapidly developing hub that touches U.S. interests in virtually every region of the world. African allies and partners of the U.S. are wrangling with persistent conflicts and humanitarian crises on the continent, Shannon noted. Yet, the majority of African states are moving toward more open markets and stronger rule of law, trends that encourage the U.S. to continue supporting their success, he said.
The day-long symposium on Sept. 13 brought together officials and scholars specializing in Africa in the U.S. and on the continent to discuss topics ranging from governance to economic partnerships, with an emphasis on ending the civil strife that is holding back development in some parts of the continent. The event was co-sponsored by the Africa Center for Strategic Studies, the Institute for Defense Analysis, the National Intelligence University and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.
While the U.S. signaled its policy direction for the first time, African and U.S. experts said they were concerned that there’s a vacuum in U.S.– African relationships currently that increases the difficulty of rebuilding those relationships if time lapses. Many speakers called for closer ties more involvement by civil society and young people to address the grievances that fuel violent conflict.
U.S. Marine Corps General Thomas Waldhauser, the commander of U.S. Africa Command, detailed U.S. efforts to improve the capabilities and professionalism of African troops, seeking to support political solutions to local conflicts and establish a level of security that allows economic development. He and Shannon separately outlined an American diplomatic and military strategy that positions Africa to solve its own problems, even as civil wars, insurgencies and terrorism afflict parts of the continent.
Noting approvingly that the balance of U.S. trade with Africa is near parity. Shannon said the administration is moving its economic focus for the continent “from aid to trade and investment,” aiming to create jobs for both Americans and Africans. He cited figures showing that six of the world’s 10 fastest-growing economies are in Africa.
Oren Whyche-Shaw, acting senior deputy administrator for the U.S. Agency for International Development, said the U.S. has to acknowledge its competition for investment in Africa – China. That global power is making 150 investments per year in the continent’s manufacturing sector, up from only two in 2000, he said.
Interaction With North Korea
On international security, Shannon said the U.S. is asking African countries to help restrict political and economic interaction with North Korea by shutting down illicit trade networks and openly opposing North Korea’s missile and nuclear tests. The U.S. is making clear that the cost of continued engagement with North Korea will increase “reputationally and politically” as time goes on, Shannon told reporters in a briefing at USIP after his remarks. Trade with North Korea includes guest workers, military ties forged through arms sales and sanctions-busting money laundering, he said.
“Numerous African partners have taken concrete actions, but more needs to be done,” he said.
Regarding terrorism, Shannon praised the blows African states have delivered in recent years to terrorist groups including Boko Haram and affiliates of al-Qaida and ISIS. But he stressed that sustained peace can only come from addressing the root causes of conflict, including marginalization and inadequate economic opportunity for a bulging youth population. In addition, counter-terrorism efforts are undermined by abusive and illegal behavior of security forces, he said.
“The challenge now is for our African partners to complement their successes on the battlefield,” he said.
Waldhauser echoed Shannon, citing what he called an old adage for measuring an army’s real effectiveness.
“If an African military [unit] walks down the road in a village and the women and children are running inside their huts, those guys aren’t doing their job,” he said. If they come out to talk and shake hands, they are. “That’s how we measure success in terms of capacity building for our militaries.”
Shannon said the U.S. will keep working with the African Union to end violence and mass atrocities in conflict-wracked countries, including the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan. However, the U.S. will demand deeper commitment to action by African leaders, he said, adding that “the long-term sustainability of our financial commitments requires contributions from our assistance partners.” The United States is intent on seeing that its “investment is effective and enduring,” he said.
Finally, Shannon said that expanding democracy, good governance and the rule of law in Africa is critical to furthering the peace and security the U.S. seeks to build in the region.
“As far as the United States is concerned, Africa is already a continent of allies and partners,” Shannon said. “With a few notable exceptions, the vast majority of African states share our commitment to free markets, equitable trade, democracy and the rule of law, secure borders and effective responses to global terrorist threats.”
Ambassador Donald Yamamoto, acting assistant secretary of state for Africa, said the U.S. plans to expand “on areas which have been highly successful and which are critical to our national strategic interests but also to the future of Africa.”
“The fundamental issue is we need strong institutions, not leaders who are dictators or strongmen,” Yamamoto said.
The Costs of Corruption
Shannon referred to an oft-cited 2002 study by the African Union that calculated the continent loses $150 billion a year to corruption. Low-level corruption erodes faith in government and increases the wealth gap, while high-level bribery deters foreign investment, weakens the delivery of basic services and degrades the capacity of security forces, he said.
Increasing that capacity is a core mission of Africom, which supports national armies with training, intelligence, technical expertise, equipment and air support. Efforts have helped rout ISIS from Libya and push back extremists in Somalia. Such assistance “bought time” for the United Nations-recognized government in Libya to take a stronger leadership role and supported Somalia’s strategy for stabilizing its elected government and rebuilding its economy, he said.
But only capable local forces can help create long-term stability, Waldhauser said. Even then few, if any, of the challenges faced by the U.S. in Africa can be resolved primarily with military force, he said.
“The military guys realize the necessity for development more than most,” Waldhauser said. “We’ve been striking al-Shabab and al-Qaida for some time and we’re still at it.”
Asked about a possible jobs program in Somalia to encourage defections by al-Shabab militants, Waldhauser said, “I would start by talking about the drivers that push young boys into these extremist organizations. It’s the need for education, jobs, livelihood, hope for a future. Success will come from individuals not going for money or promises from extremists in the first place.”
Former AU Chair to Help South Africa's Zuma Avoid Corruption Charges?
AllAfrica || By Benita Van Eyssen, DW || 18 September 2017
President Zuma has faced numerous corruption allegations in court. As the ANC is due to elect a new party leader, could Zuma's support of Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma be a move to save himself?
President Jacob Zuma is due to step down as African National Congress (ANC) leader at a key national party conference in mid-December. The new party leader usually succeeds the country's president at the subsequent national poll.
Current front runners for the post of ANC leader are Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, former head of the African Union (AU) who was married to Zuma from 1982 to 1998, and Cyril Ramaphosa, Zuma's deputy in the presidency and the ANC. While Dlamini-Zuma is thought to be largely sympathetic to her ex-husband, Ramaphosa, is a Zuma critic. The former trade unionist and stalwart of black economic empowerment is today a wealthy businessman and has voiced strong criticism over Jacob Zuma's latest corruption cases.
According to political analysts, Zuma is preoccupied with installing a successor sympathetic to him. If not, it is almost certain that he would have to answer to old and new corruption charges.
"The moment he is no longer ANC leader, he is powerless and open to prosecution. Even his enemies within the party will come after him," William Gumede, chairman of Democracy Works Foundation and author of the book Restless Nation, Making Sense of Troubled Times, told DW.
"That is why he is trying to keep it in the family, pushing for his ex-wife [Dlamini-Zuma] to succeed him. Whether it is [through] bribing or killing, he wants to get her that job," he added.
The murders of dozens of low-profile ANC officials since elections last year has fueled speculation of strife within the party. There are also fears of possible violence in the weeks leading the December party conference.
Even if the ANC has lost support due to several damaging corruption scandals, it remains South Africa's strongest political party and could win national elections scheduled for 2019.
Numerous corruption charges
The myriad of cases currently surrounding Zuma include the 2016 Constitutional Court ruling, which concluded that he had breached the constitution by failing to pay back a portion of the estimated 240 million rand (15 million euros; 18 million US dollars) he spent on renovating his home. It also includes the reinstatement by the High Court of 783 counts of corruption brought against him in 2009.
The state-capture case in particular rocked South Africa in 2016, which linked Zuma and his family to the Gupta brothers, a trio of Indian businessmen, who are alleged to have influenced the appointment of high profile political positions in South Africa. South Africa's main opposition group, the Democratic Alliance (DA) are currently in court to force Zuma to establish a commission of inquiry to investigate the case.
Last year, South Africa's then-Public Protector Thuli Madonsela, issued a damning report that detailed political interference by the Gupta brothers. Madonsela gave Zuma 30 days to establish a commission of inquiry, yet almost a year has gone by with little progress on the matter.
In recent months, there has since been a steady flow of emails, leaked to the mediathat reveal more about the Gupta family's meddling in state affairs and how they benefitted from state-owned enterprises.
Zuma's relatives have business links to the Guptas. His son, Duduzane Zuma, was recently linked to a campaign by a European public relations firm, Bell Pottinger, contracted by the Guptas to "sow racial hatred and division in South Africa."
Zuma has a record of stalling the courts. He has also earned a reputation for appointing sycophants across state institutions including the police service, prosecuting authorities and the revenue services.
Amidst a wave of student protests around university fees and South Africa's colonial past, the more political hashtag #ZumaMustFall started circulating on social media about two years ago.
Just last month, Zuma survived a no-confidence vote in parliament. That 20 ANC lawmakers voted in favor of booting him out in the secret ballot was seen as evidence of deepening divisions within the party.
Read more: Denis Goldberg: ANC should 'clean its house'
The opposition has campaigned relentlessly for Zuma to resign. They argue that the former liberation movement that came to power under the leadership of Nelson Mandela has lost its moral high ground.
"Jacob Zuma is not fit to preside over South Africa and South Africans. His loyalty lies with himself, his family, his cronies and his party," the leader of the opposition DA, Mmusi Maimane, told DW.
"He has led a systematic assault on our democratic institutions during his term of office. Much of this assault has been aimed at keeping himself out of court and out of prison," he said.
The far-left Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) party has been just as emphatic over the need for Zuma to step down. They have repeatedly pushed for the president to face justice both in parliament and the courts.
"Jacob Zuma has to resign. He is not a legitimate president because he broke the constitution," EFF spokesman Mbuyiseni Ndlozi told DW.
An ailing economy
Some of the decisions under the Zuma presidency, including cabinet reshuffles, have had unprecedented adverse effects on the economy. Economic growth now hovers at under 0.5 percent. Unemployment is close to 28 percent and structural and education reforms are seen as badly needed.
"Since he came into office, we've seen a loss of confidence in the domestic economy and progressive credit ratings downgrades," said Laura Campbell, an economist with Econometrix, an independent South African consulting firm.
"There is a lot of political noise in the run-up to the ANC conference. Ratings agencies like Moodys and Fitch will wait to see who wins before deciding on further downgrades," she added.
Obama's 'Power Africa' Program to Continue
AllAfrica || 13 September 2017
President Barack Obama's initiative aimed at doubling access to electricity in sub-Saharan Africa by 2030 is set to continue under the Trump administration, says the official responsible for the program.
Addressing a media briefing from Pretoria on Tuesday, Andrew M. Herscowitz, the U.S. government's coordinator for the program - known as "Power Africa" - said many in the current administration are "particularly intrigued" because of how the program harnesses private sector funds to advance development goals.
The private sector invests between 50 and 100 dollars in projects for every one dollar of government money, Herscowitz said. "So this is a model that many in the administration really like and want to see continue."
He said a number of top officials, including the U.S. Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, have made statements in support of Power Africa and indicated that they intended to continue it. In Congress, "we enjoy widespread bipartisan support," he added.
Herscowitz said the program is on track to achieve its overall goals. It has tripled its initial goals and now aims to generate 30,000 megawatts and make 60 million connections by 2030. Three of every four projects generate renewable energy and many countries are beginning with smaller solar and wind projects.
Developing connections with electricity distribution grids is still a "significant challenge," according to Herscowitz. But companies providing local connections to power are beginning to take off.
He added: "We see tremendous growth in the companies that are providing solar home systems, the pay-as-you-go models, where people in peri-urban and rural areas are able to get access, not just a simple tower and light bulbs, but to clothing irons and electric razors, and televisions, radio chargers, all with a small solar panel that costs them less than $2 a day, sometimes less than 50 cents a day."
African Justice and Rights Courts Set to Merge
The EastAfrican || By Sara Bakata || 11 September 2017
The mandate of the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights (AfCHPR) will not be usurped by the proposed African Court of Justice and Human Rights.
When the latter’s protocol finally comes into force, they will merge and there will be no hierarchy of importance as far as the charter and instruments of the African Union are concerned.
According to Justice Sylvain Sore, president of the AfCHPR, the court will remain separate, obligated to its mandate but as a chamber of the new court.
He added that the proposed African Court of Justice and Human Rights will have three chambers: Human rights, general affairs and international law, and criminal law.
Justice Sore was speaking to journalists in Arusha on the sidelines of a workshop to come up with a new communications strategy to improve the visibility of the work of the AfCHPR.
It was one of the court’s year-long activities marking its 10th anniversary, which was celebrated last year.
The AfCHPR was created by the African Union’s Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Establishment of an African Court on Human and Peoples’ Court in 2006.
The Arusha-based court started its work on a low note and its first key decision was in June 2013, when it ruled on Tanzania’s election law — now regarded as a landmark decision.
Recently, the number of cases filed with the court has significantly increased to 33 in 2015 and 22 in the first quarter of 2016. Currently, 61 cases are pending at the court and 25 have been concluded.
Eight-year legal battle
The most recent case is the eight-year legal battle of The Ogiek versus The Republic of Kenya, concluded this year and ruled in favour of the Ogiek community.
They sued the government for violation of their rights to life, property, natural resources, development, religion and culture under the African Charter, to which Kenya is a signatory.
The ruling is now considered a precedent for marginalised indigenous communities on the continent and around the world. Kenya said it will abide by the court’s ruling.
Another historic ruling was that of the son of the late Libyan president Muammar Gaddafi, Saif al-Islam Gaddafi.
In June 2016, the court ruled that the Libyan government had violated Gaddafi’s rights to liberty and a fair trial by detaining him since 2011 and that he should be released. The government at first declined, but later released him.
Source: The EastAfrican…
U.S. Sanctions South Sudan Officials for Allegedly Enriching Themselves amid Civil War, Famine
The Washington Post || By Carol Morello || 06 September 2017
The United States on Wednesday placed sanctions on three close associates of South Sudan’s president, saying they had personally profited from a climate of corruption in a government that has been called a kleptocracy.
The Treasury Department imposed sanctions on Gen. Malek Reuben Riak Rengu, the army’s deputy chief of staff in charge of military procurement; and Michael Makuei Lueth, South Sudan’s information minister. In addition, sanctions were placed on Paul Malong Awan, who was chief of staff of the South Sudan People’s Liberation Army until President Salva Kiir fired him in May. Three companies owned or controlled by Riak also were sanctioned.
The Treasury Department said the sanctions were in response to the deteriorating humanitarian situation in South Sudan and the role of officials in undermining stability and peace.
“These actions send a clear message to those enriching themselves at the expense of the South Sudanese people that we will not let them exploit the U.S. financial system to move and hide the proceeds of their corruption,” said Sigal Mandelker, undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence. “Treasury will forcefully respond to the atrocities ongoing in South Sudan by targeting those who abuse human rights, seek to derail the peace process and obstruct reconciliation in South Sudan.”
State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement that the Trump administration will increasingly scrutinize South Sudanese officials.
“This is a man-made crisis, and one the Government of South Sudan can stop,” she said.
The sanctions come days after Kiir met in the capital of Juba with a senior U.S. official who raised concerns about the violence sweeping South Sudan and the dangers posed to humanitarian workers trying to reach starving people amid a civil war.
Mark Green, administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development, said he warned Kiir that the administration is reviewing U.S. policy toward South Sudan, but Kiir dismissed all his concerns. The following day, after he visited U.N. and church compounds where tens of thousands of ethnic minorities have sought protection from government forces who have looted their homes and killed people, Green told reporters that he thought Kiir should visit the same sites and observe the truth firsthand.
The timing of the sanctions so soon after Green’s visit suggests that while the measures were already in the works, they could have been averted if Kiir had acknowledged the lawlessness and government corruption and agreed to improve the situation.
The United States has spent about $730 million this year on humanitarian aid to people uprooted by almost four years of conflict.
South Sudan is the newest and one of the poorest countries in the world. It declared independence from Sudan in 2011, and war erupted two years later over a falling-out between Kiir and his vice president, a political rival. Since then, 2 million civilians have been displaced inside South Sudan, and another 2 million have fled as refugees to neighboring countries. In the chaos engulfing the country, 83 humanitarian aid workers have been killed, making it the most dangerous place in the world for them to work.
In 2014, President Barack Obama placed sanctions on six military officers in South Sudan, including one who commands opposition troops. None ranked as high or was as closely linked to Kiir as those sanctioned Wednesday.
Officials from the United Nations and donor countries have visited South Sudan recently to urge Kiir to participate in peace negotiations. Almost all have said the government is as much to blame for the violence and resulting famine as the opposition troops fighting it.
A report last year in the Sentry, an investigative group funded by actor George Clooney, said top officials in South Sudan have accumulated fortunes while war and atrocities have pushed the country to the edge of collapse. The State Department’s latest human rights report cited the Sentry’s conclusion that South Sudan’s government is a kleptocracy.
The Treasury Department said Riak was responsible for planning offensives in which civilians were targeted and human rights abuses occurred. It said he had entered into contracts with inflated prices, for which he received kickbacks. The Sentry said it saw documents showing millions of dollars moving through Riak’s personal bank account over four years, although he drew an annual salary of $32,000.
According to the Treasury Department, Malong ordered army units to block the movement of humanitarian supplies for hungry civilians, claiming that food would be diverted to militias instead. Treasury said that after Malong was fired and fled Juba, he was reportedly stopped carrying millions of U.S. dollars allegedly stolen from the army. The Sentry said that Malong, whose government salary was $45,000 a year, has two luxury villas in Uganda and a mansion in a gated community in Kenya.
Makuei, as information minister, was accused of advocating actions that obstructed the delivery of humanitarian aid. The Treasury Department also said he was involved in planning a 2014 attack on a U.N. compound in which three U.N. guards and 140 civilians, mostly women and children, were killed. Last week, Makuei said in a news conference that the government will review the mandate for U.N. peacekeepers to operate in South Sudan when it is scheduled for renewal in December.
Source: The Washington Post…
Why I’m Proud to be African Today
IRIN || By Nanjala Nyabola || 01 September 2017
It’s not easy to get a sitting president to leave office. In some cases, corruption, violence, and institutional inertia have conspired to keep some African presidents in office for decades.
In other cases, the sheer weight of going up against a person who knows the system, has the theoretically unlimited resources of the state at their disposal, and to whom political appointees owe their allegiance is often too much for opposition parties.
So, elections are held, but there is rarely a surprise. Hence why today’s annulment of the election victory of President Uhuru Kenyatta by Kenya’s supreme court is such a landmark moment.
Change certainly can happen at the end of a constitutional term in office. But the power of incumbency means that it is rare for a sitting president to be turfed out if he or she is not ready to retire.
But in the last three years some significant shifts seem to be occurring. A quick survey of the status of incumbency across the continent suggests a growing political maturity – not in African voters, who have always turned out in big numbers to make their voices heard – but in African politicians who are increasingly willing to accept defeat.
In a world where generalisations and trends about Africa tend to be negative, this resurgence of democratic spirit is an important one to note.
It began in Nigeria in 2015 when Muhammadu Buhari beat then-president Goodluck Jonathan in a hotly contested poll. Given Nigeria’s chequered political history there was real apprehension over whether Jonathan would concede. But he not only conceded, but congratulated Buhari for his win.
Then John Dramini Mahama became Ghana’s first one-term president. He happily handed over to Nana Akufo-Addo in 2017, that man he defeated in the 2012 vote.
A slightly different set of circumstances led to an unexpected transition in the Gambia. Self-proclaimed ruler-for-life Yahya Jammeh surprisingly accepted electoral defeat after 22 years in office.
Granted Jammeh did try and walk back his concession after the opposition threatened to prosecute him for crimes committed in office, but in the end he fled into exile in Equatorial Guinea.
And then in Somalia, Mohamed Farmaajo took over from Hassan Sheikh Mahmood in February this year in a peaceful transition that defied the logic of the country’s ongoing civil war.
Of course, it’s not all been smooth sailing. In Burundi, Pierre Nkurunziza’s tampering with the constitution to stay in office has thrown that country into chaos. In Gabon, Omar Ali Bongo needed one of those last-minute 99 percent turnouts in his home constituencies in order to secure his stay in power.
Elections in Chad and in Guinea led to violent boycotts that did nothing to shift the status quo, while in Angola, although Jose dos Santos is nominally stepping aside, his hand-picked successor is about to slip into his shoes.
And while the victories of perennial presidents Yoweri Museveni (Uganda) and Paul Kagame (Rwanda) were never in doubt, there was still a measure of disappointment that neither made any serious effort to at least sustain the illusion of democracy.
In Uganda, perpetual oppositionist Kizza Bessigye has been repeatedly detained and harassed, while Diane Rwigara, one of Kagame’s challengers, has lately gone missing.
That’s what makes the news from Kenya so astonishing, and the court’s judges such unlikely heroes.
The commission that runs the elections had declared incumbent Kenyatta the winner of the 8 August election – despite loud protest by the opposition party, NASA. The opposition insisted that though the vote had been free and fair, the tallying of the results had been fiddled with.
So certain was NASA that it would not get a fair court hearing that it initially refused to lodge a petition and present its evidence of electoral fraud.
The decision by the supreme court, by a 4-2 majority, that there were enough irregularities in the conduct of the ballot to invalidate was therefore stunning. The verdict takes Kenyans back to the polls within the next 60 days.
But just as importantly it has also been a dramatic assertion of the judiciary’s independence.
For the long game of establishing democracy and the rule of law in Kenya, the supreme court’s decision was a good one. It restored confidence in a body that Kenyans routinely place second or third on their list of the least trustworthy institutions.
Ultimately, it brought the judiciary back into play as a place where executive power can be checked, further watering down the near-absolute hold that incumbents have over political processes on the continent.
Anywhere in the world, incumbency is a powerful force for any opposition to counter. One side has access and power to state resources but also has the privilege of inertia from voters and a human instinct to favour stability over disruption.
Leaders rarely remain in office purely based on the choice of voters. The power of incumbency rests on the availability of three things: a political leader who wants to retain power; an electoral commission that is easy to influence or compromise; and a judiciary that is willing to look the other way.
To date, electoral commissions have been the focus of efforts to check the power of incumbents, and while this proved enough in Ghana, Nigeria, and Gambia, in many cases it’s simply not enough.
Today’s decision in Kenya adds another player to the game, which one can only hope inspires more judiciaries on the continent.
Nanjala Nyabola is a Nairobi-based writer and political analyst.
African Politicians Seeking Medical Help Abroad Is Shameful, and Harms Health Care
AllAfrica || By Tahiru Azaaviele Liedong, University of Bath || The Conversation || 24 August 2017
There is an African idiom that if a man does not eat at home, he may never give his wife enough money to cook a good pot of soup. This might just be true when applied to politicians on the continent seeking medical help anywhere but home.
Africa's public health systems are in a depressing condition. Preventable diseases still kill a large number of women and children, people travel long distances to receive health care, and across the continent patients sleep on hospital floors. On top of this, Africa's health professionals emigrate in droves to search for greener pastures.
It's therefore not surprising that people from Africa travel abroad - mainly to Europe, North America and Asia - for their medical needs. In 2016, Africans spent over USD$6 billion on outbound treatment. Nigeria is a major contributor. Its citizens spend over USD$1 billion annually on what's become known as medical tourism.
It can be argued that private citizens opting to seek medical help in other countries don't owe the public any explanation, because it's their own affair. But medical tourism among Africa's political elite is a completely different kettle of fish and a big cause for concern, because they are responsible for the development of proper health care for the citizens of their countries.
It's well documented that politicians from across the continent go abroad for medical treatment. The reasons for exercising this choice are obvious: they lack confidence in the health systems they oversee, and they can afford the trips given that the expenses are paid for by taxpayers.
The result is that they have little motivation to change the status quo. Medical tourism by African leaders and politicians could therefore be one of the salient but overlooked causes of Africa's poor health systems and infrastructure.
Since the beginning of 2017, President Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria has spent more time in the UK for medical treatment than he has in his own country. By seeking treatment abroad, Buhari broke one of his own electoral promises - to end medical tourism.
Buhari is just one of many heads of state to find help elsewhere. Patrice Talon, the President of the Republic of Benin, underwent surgery in France a few months ago.
The cases of Buhari and Talon, however, aren't as bad as other presidents who have had decades to fix their countries' health care systems, but haven't. Robert Mugabe, President of Zimbabwe for the past 37 years, frequently seeks eye-related treatment 8,240 kilometres away in Singapore. Jose Eduardo dos Santos who has just stepped down as Angola's leader after 38 years, also travels to Spain for treatment
In the recent past, some African leaders died abroad while seeking treatment. Zambia's Levy Mwanawasa died in France while the country's Michael Sata passed away in the UK. Then there was Guinea Bissau's Malam Bacai Sanha who died in France, Ethiopia's Meles Zenawi who died in Belgium, and Gabon's Omar Bongo who died in Spain.
A few fortunate ones made it home, but died shortly afterwards. They include Nigeria's Musa Yar'Adua who died in Abuja after returning from treatment in Saudi Arabia, and Ghana's Atta Mills who died in Accra after returning from a brief medical spell in the US
The picture painted above is shameful. As long as Africa's leaders keep going abroad for medical reasons, the ambition for better health infrastructure will remain an illusion.
Costs and risks
Countries pay a heavy cost for this behaviour. It's estimated that in Uganda, the funds spent to treat top government officials abroad every year could build 10 hospitals.
Not only do the leaders travel with elaborate entourages, but they also travel in expensive chartered or presidential jets. For example, the cost of parking Buhari's plane during his three month spell in London is estimated at £360,000. That's equivalent to about 0.07% of Nigeria's N304 billion budget allocation for health this year. And there would have been many other heavier costs incurred during his stay.
The failure of leaders to improve health care and stem brain drain also carries a heavy price. A 2011 report estimated that nine African countries - including Nigeria and Kenya - had lost USD$2.17 billion of their investment in health care professionals. This figure might be higher now.
On top of this, African hospitals that were previously world class have been reduced to symbolic edifices due to political negligence. For example, Lagos University Teaching Hospital was once deemed to be one of the best on the continent. Recently, it was criticised for decadence. Not far away, Ghana's flagship national health insurance scheme is ailing.
Essentially, when people charged with responsibility feel they have no need for public health systems because they can afford private health care at home or abroad, ordinary citizens bear the brunt.
The way forward
The effective health systems in western and Asian countries that are being patronised by African leaders only exist because they were developed, and are consistently maintained, through political commitment and visionary leadership, qualities that are clearly lacking in Africa.
To bring change, African citizens must start condemning political medical tourism. They must also push for regulations to curb the shameful practice. Taxpayer funded medical trips should be banned and criteria set detailing what sicknesses that can be covered by the public purse. Though a law to this effect exists in Nigeria, it appears to be ineffective. It must, and should work.
Essentially, if the leaders do not experience the poor state of health care, they might never strive for any positive changes to it.
Tahiru Azaaviele Liedong does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond the academic appointment above.
Former Leaders Blame Endless Conflicts in Africa On Egotism
AllAfrica.com || By Deogratias Mushi || Tanzania Daily News || 25 August 2017
Selfishness is an outdated attitude that all African leaders should get rid of and respect their countries' constitutions on term limits, former President Benjamin Mkapa has said.
Addressing reporters ahead of the official opening of the African Leadership Forum 2017 here yesterday, Mr Mkapa said regional bodies -- the African Union (AU) and Southern African Development Community (SADC) have a role to play in seeking amicable solutions in areas of conflicts.
"We need readiness to take measures. We also need brave African leaders to address issues of marginalised democracies that subject Africans to deaths and turmoil. Leaders should consult different cadres before coming to a certain decision," he said.
Mr Mkapa warned that unless African leaders speak with one voice and take bold decisions to solve conflicts in countries like South Sudan and Libya, instability would continue affecting the continent, sometimes creating rooms to loot resources from the affected countries.
The former president said some conflicts have remained unsolved for years due to African leaders being disorganised and lacking coordination among themselves. Former President Jakaya Kikwete urged the AU to boldly continue addressing the Libyan conflicts, which have so far claimed many lives.
Nigerian former leader Olusegun Obasanjo said that unless African leaders took the bull by its horns, more conflicts might continue emerging in the continent, citing efforts by African leaders to contain Charles Taylor in Liberia for reference.
His argument was supported by former President of Tunisia Mohamed Marzouki who insisted that countries facing conflict in Africa should always resolve to hold national dialogue meetings, which bring together all cadres, including the opposition and other parties to the conflicts.
"If convened before eruption of catastrophes, national dialogues put conflicting parties at mutual understanding. The meetings should not wait for issues to get out of control," he warned.
Namibia's Deputy Prime Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah remained optimistic that Africa was leading towards the direct direction, when former leaders meet and commend ways of creating peace and stability in Africa.
She insisted on the AU to work on the sources of conflicts in search of permanent solutions to problems facing Africa, the view that was supported by Professor Funmi Olonisakin, the Director of the African Leadership Centre, King's College London, saying that regional cooperation was vital in bringing about implementable democratic process.
The African Leadership Forum has brought together former Heads of State as well as leaders from all sectors across Africa to discuss pressing issues affecting Africa's sustainable development.
The African Leadership Forum 2017 aims at building on three previously successful dialogues convened by President Mkapa. The meetings focused on Africa's transformation, integration in Africa and African business.
Mr Mkapa and his South African counterpart Thabo Mbeki co-chair this year's forum. The dialogue focuses on the complex dynamics that have caused continuous conflicts and deliberate on how to practically and realistically navigate through them for lasting peace.
According to the Uongozi Institute, Peace and security in Africa is of great concern not only because of the fatal consequences that result from its absence but because much of Africa shall continue to be very poor without sustained peace and security.
Further, to achieve the goals of effective integration, unity and sustainable development within and amongst African nations, it is fundamental that there is peace and security.
BBC Is Now Broadcasting in Pidgin to West African Audiences
AllAfrica.com || By Ben Ezeamalu, Oladeinde Olawoyin and Olanrewaju Oyedeji || Premium Times || 21 August 2017
As President Muhammadu Buhari's aircraft taxied along the runway of the Abuja International Airport on Saturday, a presenter at one of Nigeria's popular Pidgin radio stations announced to his listeners:
"The president don show."
This Pidgin expression translates to "The president is back," an explanation that Nigeria's president has returned after a 103-day medical vacation in London.
Since the launch of the Wazobia FM, the first Nigerian station to broadcast fully in Pidgin, in 2007, the language has gained increased popularity as a medium of choice for broadcast across the country and the sub-region.
On Monday, the BBC launched its BBC Pidgin, the first African digital service that aims to provide news, current affairs and analysis of Nigeria, West and Central Africa, as part of the biggest expansion of its World Service since the 1940s.
"We are really excited that this is the first fully digital service that the BBC is offering in Africa and it is a really exciting opportunity for us," Bilkisu Labaran, the BBC Nigeria's Editorial Lead, said in an interview with PREMIUM TIMES.
"Pidgin is a real language of opportunity across the region, spoken by millions across the West and Central African region. It is spoken by 75 million people in Nigeria alone. By the time you to Ghana, Cameroon, Sierra Leone, Liberia, you are speaking to millions and millions across this region."
The West African Pidgin English, also known as the Guinea Coast Creole English or Broken English, originated during the trans-Atlantic slave trade in the late 17th and 18th centuries where it served as a language of communication between the British slave merchants and local African traders.
It gradually spread across other parts of West African colonies as a useful trade language, particularly among local ethnic groups who spoke different languages.
There is no official figure as to the precise number of Pidgin speakers in Nigeria but estimates say as a second language, it is spoken by about half of the population - up to 75 million people. And as one moves from southern to northern Nigeria as well as across the sub-region, variants of the language are common among the speakers.
Ms. Labaran said the variants of Pidgin across the region would serve as an opportunity to encourage a lot of engagement from the BBC's audience.
"We have a network of reporters from Ghana, Nigeria, and others so we could reflect those variations," she said.
"But with that engagement with our audiences, we will get inputs from them or have a robust debate on what's the best way to write this word or that word, you know, we will encourage all of that so we could engage one another in agreeing on what's the standardized way of writing something.
"This is an opportunity, Pidgin is an informal language; it's not a written language so the BBC sees a role here in encouraging a discourse to reach that consensus so that we will take that opportunity of Pidgin being a lingua franca across the region to communicate."
As part of the British government's new investment through the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, FCO, the sum of £289 million worth of investment would be channelled towards the launching of 12 new languages - six of them from Africa including three from Nigeria.
In addition to BBC Pidgin, broadcasts will also be launched in Afaan Oromo (Ethiopia); Amharic (Ethiopia); Gujarati (India); Igbo (Nigeria); Korean (North Korea, South Korea); Marathi (India); Punjabi (India, Pakistan); Serbian (Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina), Telugu (India); Tigrinya (Ethiopia, Eritrea); and Yoruba (Nigeria, Benin, Togo).
Currently, the BBC World Service delivers content around the world in English and 28 other language services on radio, TV, and digital, reaching a weekly audience of 269 million people. In Africa, contents are delivered in English, French, Hausa, Kinyarwanda, Kirundi, Somali, and Kiswahili.
But the Pidgin Service hopes to make inroads in a region where the language is not accepted as an official lingua franca and its use in schools are frowned upon by the authorities.
BBC Pidgin team
Linguists, however, maintain that Pidgin is a full language in its own right and has grown to become a language of communication among young people mostly due to its ability to bring people together as well as its expressive and fun nature.
In 2014, then US ambassador to Nigeria, John Entwistle, caused a stir among listeners when he responded in Pidgin to a question on live radio about his government's threat to sanction Nigeria after the country had signed the Same-Sex Marriage (Prohibition) bill into law.
"People talk about sanction, no be say US government know say sanction dey for Nigeria because of same sex palava o," Mr. Entwistle had said, which simply meant that the US government was not aware of any sanctions on Nigeria because of the Same-Sex law.
The success of Wazobia FM after its debut a decade ago encouraged the launch of other fully Pidgin radio stations in Nigeria; even Wazobia FM followed up its success with the launch of Wazobia TV in 2014.
Some young people interviewed by PREMIUM TIMES described the introduction of more Pidgin broadcast services as a welcome development.
Simeon Zagonde, a Lagos resident, said, "Personally to me, I don't subscribe to it but not everyone understands English, to me it's welcome for those who cannot speak English or any native language."
Another resident, Helen Mojisola, said, "It depends on their service and the sweetness of the word pronunciation, it's a great one but if they don't handle it well, it may not work."
Already, the BBC Minute (English), launched in 2015, and the BBC World Service are partnering with local radio stations in countries around the world where partners take BBC Minute and air them on their own stations, including other versions like the 'BBC Minute On..' which focuses on a single subject in more detail.
The BBC said the new Pidgin Service is targeted at mostly the younger - and female - audiences with social media playing a key role.
Ms. Labaran said with Africa being the youngest continent in the world, it would be an opportunity to serve its young population.
"We will be known for the content that the BBC is traditionally known for which is the core news, because this generation is a 'switched on' generation - they may be based in Lagos, Yaounde, or Accra but they want to know what's happening in Paris, in Hong Kong, in Barcelona, everywhere," she said.
"So we are going to bring that core global news that is balanced, fair and impartial to that audience but also other contents - they also want to know what Jay-Z and Beyonce are doing; they want to know what D'banj goes to do in London; what Tiwa Savage is doing in Paris.
"So it's connecting those worlds, bringing Africa to the world and bringing the world to Africa."
Hate Speech Stirs Trouble in Burundi
IRIN || 21 August 2017
Next month, the Commission of Enquiry on Burundi, established by the UN Human Rights Council, is due to deliver its final report on abuses in the central African state and to make a judgement as to whether these abuses, including killings, torture, and abduction, amount to international crimes.
The commission has highlighted the prevalence of hate speech in Burundi, notably by the ruling party and its affiliates, saying such rhetoric, which often targets specific ethnic groups, “reinforced” human rights abuses. It has called for the state to take action against perpetrators.
In 2015, an announcement by President Pierre Nkurunziza that he would stand for a controversial third term plunged the country into crisis, marked by violent clashes between protestors and security forces, a failed coup, and the flight of hundreds of thousands of people out of the country.
Burundi continues to present numerous risk factors of further violent destabilisation and hate speech remains widespread, especially on social media, while authorities appear to being doing little to curtail it.
Facebook posts and comments, some using pseudonyms others by people apparently using their real names, routinely contain blatant incitement to violence.
“Hutus are filth and we will keep killing them if the opportunity presents itself,” read one recent Facebook post by someone calling himself “Ntwari Alexis”. The profile picture shows a man sitting on an armoured car brandishing the national flag of Burundi.
Since “Ntwari” means “brave man” in the Kirundi language, the name is presumably fake. The post appeared the day after the second anniversary of the assassination in a rocket attack in Bujumbura of General Adolphe Nshimirimana, a former intelligence chief and right-hand man to Nkurunziza.
During Burundi’s 1993-2006 civil war, which pitted a range of Hutu rebel groups against the Tutsi-led government and army, Nshimirimana served as the military commander of the CNDD-FDD, a Hutu insurgency that transformed itself into the political party now in power.
On Twitter, one Diana Nsamirizi wrote recently of the country’s Tutsi minority (who dominated power between independence and the end of the civil war): “Now it’s your turn. I want you to flee [the country] and see what it’s like. You’re conceitedness will end one day.”
Another poster on Facebook wrote: “All the problems the country has had were caused by the Tutsi… The Tutsi are difficult to live with. They are proud. They overestimate themselves. They are the descendants of Cain. The Tutsi massacred Hutus in 1968, 1972, 1994-2004. We must not forget these troubles and above all those who caused them.”
A message posted by a 20-strong group on the social media network in mid-June went even further, declaring: “We are determined to fight the mujeri until they give up their beastly ways.” The Kirundi word mujeri is a derogatory term for stray, dirty dogs, in this case applied to opponents of the regime.
“Mujeri are little dogs which bite people,” the Facebook post continued. “To eradicate the mujeri, they must be chased, even in their hiding places.”
In yet another post, “mujeri” was applied to certain prominent foreigners in Burundi, including US Ambassador Ann Casper: “Behead those mujeri,” wrote someone using the name “Eustache Tiger”, a vocal supporter of the president.
Also among the targets of violent threats has been former president Domitien Ndayizeye, after he spoke out against the Imbonerakure, the ruling party’s youth wing, which gained notoriety earlier this year when 100 of its marching members chanted that female opposition supporters should be raped or even killed. Human Rights Watch has accused the Imbonerakure of being involved in the gang rapes of women and the torture of opposition members.
After the former president criticised the slogans of the youth wing, Sylvestre Ndayizeye (no relation), who coordinates associations affiliated with the ruling party, warned his namesake that should he continue to “insult” the Imbonerakure, “we will deal with him”. He used the Kirundi verb
“gukorerako”, which in the slang of the youth wing, which harks back to the language used by rebels during the civil war, means to kill.
Burundi’s penal code outlaws such declarations, according to jurist Pacifique Manirambona. “The state prosecutor or his office is supposed to take up such matters, initiate investigations, and prosecute those behind such hate speech,” he told IRIN.
“Defamation, or hatred against a group or people or a segment of the population, causes social problems and endangers lives. Insults or describing individuals or groups as animals [or] cartoons depicting people as animals are degrading and should be punished under law,” he added. As well as “stray dogs”, targets of hate speech in Burundi have been described as snakes, refuse, and excrement.
Political scientist Jean-Marie Ntahimpera warned that resorting to animal terminology was “very dangerous. We saw it during the  genocide in Rwanda. The Tutsi were called inyenzi, cockroaches, before being killed.”
Dehumanisation is one of the 10 stages of genocide identified by Gregory H. Stanton, the president of Genocide Watch. According to The Genocide Report, “dehumanization overcomes the normal human revulsion against murder…. [One group] is taught to regard the other group as less than human, and even alien to their society. They are indoctrinated to believe that ‘We are better off without them.’ They are equated with filth, impurity, and immorality.”
That dehumanisation, and other phenomena among the 10 stages, such as “classification”, “symbolisation”, “polarisation”, and mass rapes, are visible in Burundi does not mean the country is heading towards a genocide. But, as the Human Rights Council pointed out, it does make acting against perpetrators all the more important.
Yet, according to Manirambona, the jurist, nobody in Burundi has ever been prosecuted for hate speech.
Worse still, it is not uncommon for those who do post hate speech on social media to receive messages of support from government officials. Senior presidential aide Willy Nyamitwe, for example, congratulated Sylvestre Ndayizeye over his remarks, even though they were widely interpreted as an overt death threat.
Zambia's Compulsory HIV Testing Decision Sparks Debate
AllAfrica || By Mildred Katongo, Steven Zande and Kennedy Mudenda, Times of Zambia || 17 August 2017
Stakeholders have hailed President Edgar Lungu for directing that HIV/AIDS testing now be mandatory in all public health institutions.
The Zambia National Blood Transfusion Services (ZNBTS) said the mandatory test was a brilliant move that would help people know their status and begin treatment early to lessen the disease burden.
ZNBTS medical director Joseph Mulenga said the move would reduce HIV stigma and also help people who test positive commence the treatment early when the CD4 count was still high.
Dr Mulenga said this could also reduce the demand on blood transfusion as people who tested positive would be put on treatment on time as opposed to knowing their HIV status when their CD4 count was already low, meaning they would require more blood.
"The mandatory AIDS test is a brilliant idea and a step in the right direction. This means that there will be less disease burden, because the disease will be suppressed. People who test positive will be put on treatment early and will not get most of the opportunistic infections such as anemia which requires blood," he said.
Policy Monitoring and Research Centre (PMCR) executive director Bernadette Deka said mandatory HIV testing presented a new gateway to HIV prevention, care and treatment.
Ms Deka said the expanded access to HIV testing would provide important opportunities for ensuring universal access to knowledge of HIV, enhancing access to HIV prevention activities, including prevention of mother to child transmission, management of Sexually Transmitted Infections among others.
She said this needed to begin in the health care facilities and extended to the community and that it was important to explore health care providers' attitudes toward mandatory HIV testing for different patients and various factors associated with providers' attitudes.
"This will offer suggestions to help policy-makers design more targeted interventions to help health care providers deliver better services to People Living with HIV/AIDS in Zambia that will feed into community initiatives that will translate into significant reductions in incidence and prevalence rates.
Ms Deka said the mandatory testing would also help in improving early diagnosis of HIV and linkage to appropriate care, support and timely initiation of antiretroviral treatment (ART), in order to improve health of people living with HIV, prevents onward transmission to HIV negative partners, including vertical transmission.
The Young Men Christian Association (YMCA) in Livingstone said the move was a step in the direction in creating a generation that was free of HIV in Zambia by 2030.
YMCA secretary general Susu Chinyimbwa said young people needed to be better equipped to manage their HIV infection and take ownership of their health care.
Mr Chinyimbwa said previously in Voluntary Counseling and Testing (VCT) the emphasis ended at encouraging people to be counseled and tested voluntarily, but with the new direction people are mandated to be tested and know their HIV status.
Staying Alive in Africa: WhatsApp Finds New Uses in Conflict Zones
AllAfrica.com || By Inna Lazareva || 03 August 2017
New tool relies on WhatsApp to detect, verify and log attacks on health facilities and workers
These days, the word on the street in war-torn Syria is that hospitals are best avoided - even if you're injured.
"Sometimes we hear that people feel the home is safer than the hospital," said Mohamed Elamein, an information officer at the World Health Organization (WHO) in Gaziantep, Turkey, close to the Syrian border.
Communities often oppose plans to build a clinic in their town or village fearing it will be targeted, he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by telephone.
Keeping a standardised track of attacks on health facilities and workers has been a major challenge in conflict zones.
But a new digital instant messaging tool that relies on smartphone application WhatsApp has been developed by the WHO and its partners to detect, verify and log the devastating consequences of such attacks.
It is hoped the WhatsApp-based tool will provide vital evidence for the international community, which in the future could be used to hold perpetrators to account.
Syria has been named the most dangerous place on earth for healthcare providers by a Lancet Commission on Syria report, published in March, which revealed that more than 800 medical workers had been killed since 2011.
Nearly half of hospitals in non-government controlled areas were attacked and a third of services hit more than once between November 2015 and December 2016, according to a separate study published by Elamein and others.
The new tool piloted in Gaziantep by health organisations working in Syria involves a WhatsApp group of nearly 300 trusted contacts on the ground.
After the initial alert of an attack, further details are logged and cross-referenced with a range of sources in a central database.
'WHO' YOU GONNA CALL?
Mobile messaging is the fastest-growing digital communication phenomenon ever, according to a report compiled this year by the International Committee of the Red Cross.
From the Syrian hospital alert system to refugees who share information about safety at sea, digital messaging services like WhatsApp, owned by Mark Zuckerberg's Facebook Inc, are becoming indispensable in fast-unfolding humanitarian crises.
Their potential is growing every day, experts say, with 3.6 billion people globally expected to use messaging apps by 2018.
In Syria, the WhatsApp tool identified 402 attacks against health facilities and medical workers between November 2015 and December 2016. It is also designed to report attacks on ambulances and patients.
The tool is already being deployed in Jordan and Pakistan, and the WHO plans to roll it out in Iraq and Yemen. The U.N. agency is also considering its use in other troubled hotspots, including in Africa.
While smartphones are less widespread in Africa, the number of users almost doubled between 2014 and 2016, reaching 226 million.
In Nigeria, South Africa and Tanzania, up to 90 percent of smartphone owners regularly use at least one messaging service, such as WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger, according to a study issued last month by GSMA Mobile Economy.
During the 2014 Ebola epidemic in West Africa, 25,000 people subscribed to the BBC's first "Lifeline" humanitarian service using WhatsApp. It disseminated public information via audio, image and text message alerts to combat the disease's spread.
In Somalia, a country grappling with drought and attacks by the al Shabaab militant group, messaging apps also play a critical role for the diaspora, said Amor Almagro, a spokeswoman for the World Food Programme.
"It's one of the ways by which they stay in contact with their families in Somalia, get news from home and arrange for money transfers through the informal networks," she said.
FANNING THE FLAMES
But instant messaging is far from a panacea in crisis zones, and some experts say it can also be used to fuel violence.
In Central African Republic, diamond smuggling gangs are plundering the country's resources and funding conflict by making illegal sales via WhatsApp and Facebook, said a recent report by NGO Global Witness.
Connectivity disruptions are another hurdle.
Earlier last month, Somalia plunged into an internet blackout lasting more than three weeks, after a cargo ship damaged an underwater cable.
Other countries simply pull the plug. In 2016, 11 African governments suspended internet connections during elections or protests.
A 2016 paper by Adebayo Fayoyin of the United Nations Population Fund warned of a "new media utopianism", adding "technology is a tool of development, not an end in itself".
(Reporting by Inna Lazareva; Editing by Adela Suliman, Lyndsay Griffiths and Megan Rowling. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit http://news.trust.org)