• canaa-new-banner-1f.jpg
  • canaa-new-banner-2f.jpg
  • canaa-new-banner-3f.jpg
  • canaa-new-banner-4f.jpg
  • canaa-new-banner-5f.jpg

Long Queues to Vote in First Post-Mugabe Poll

The Guardian || By Jason Burke || 30 July 2018

Millions of people have voted peacefully in Zimbabwe’s first election since the removal of Robert Mugabe, with the result determining the former British colony’s future for decades.

Turnout on Monday appeared extremely high, with long lines of voters forming outside polling stations across the country when they opened at 7am (0600 BST).

By early afternoon, polling officials in the capital, Harare, and surrounding towns were reporting that between 75% and 85% of registered voters had cast their ballots. Full results are not due until much later in the week, and possibly as late as the weekend.

Speaking as he queued at a primary school on the outskirts of Harare – an opposition stronghold – Tinashe Musuwo, 20, said: “I am very optimistic this morning. Things will get better now.”

The two main candidates could not be more different: the president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, 75, was a longtime Mugabe aide and is head of the ruling Zanu-PF party.

Nelson Chamisa, 40, who leads the main opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), is a lawyer and pastor whose only experience of power was a stint as a minister in a coalition government several years ago.

The two represent dramatically different ideologies and political styles, as well as generations. Mnangagwa offers continuity; Chamisa a radical rupture.

Addressing reporters as he voted on the outskirts of Harare, Chamisa said: “This is a great moment for Zimbabwe. The people have spoken. I know we are winning. I know we have won.”

The MDC leader later claimed there was an attempt to “suppress and frustrate” the vote in urban areas where he has strong support through “unnecessary delays”.

International observers offered varying impressions of the election, but they all noted it had been peaceful.

Elmar Brok, the EU’s chief observer, said the voting had been “very smooth” in some cases and “totally disorganised” in others. Other observer missions said they had seen “nothing abnormal and nothing to question the poll’s credibility”.

Nyari Musabeyana, 30, a hairdresser in Kuwadzana, near Harare, said she had got up early to vote for change. “We wish things to be OK in our village. We have no jobs, no cash, no economy. It is the fault of the past government,” Musabeyana said.

Almost four decades of rule by Mugabe has left Zimbabwe with a shattered economy, soaring unemployment and crumbling infrastructure.

Polls give Mnangagwa, a dour former spy chief known as “the Crocodile” for his reputation for ruthless cunning, a slim lead over Chamisa, a brilliant if sometimes wayward orator.

Support for Zanu-PF has historically been strongest in rural areas, particularly its Mashonaland heartland, where more than two-thirds of Zimbabwe’s 17 million people live.

Daniel Chiwesengwa, 74, a retired municipal officer who voted at a remote polling station, said: “The story of our country is the story of this party. They have always done a lot for the people. Chamisa is a young guy. This country needs someone mature.”

If no candidate wins more than half the votes, there will be a runoff in five weeks, though analysts believe this scenario is unlikely. Another possibility is negotiations to form some kind of coalition government if the result is very close.

Although the campaign has been free of the systematic violence that marred previous polls, the MDC has repeatedly claimed it has been hindered by a flawed electoral roll, ballot paper malpractice, voter intimidation, bias in the Zimbabwe electoral commission and handouts to voters from the ruling party.

Diplomats in Harare say the “playing field has not been level”.

There are also widespread fears among opposition activists and supporters that the government or the powerful military will refuse to cede power if defeated. This would provoke massive protests, MDC loyalists said.

“If we are robbed, we will go to the streets,” one MDC supporter said.

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the former Liberian president and a leader of one of the observer missions accredited for the first time in Zimbabwe, spoke of “a critical moment in Zimbabwe’s democratic journey”.

“The elections today provide an opportunity to break with the past,” Sirleaf said at a polling station in a school in Harare. “The lines and voter enthusiasm we are seeing … must be matched by an accurate count and their choice must be honoured.”

Zimbabwe’s rulers know that a fraudulent election would block the country’s reintegration into the international community and deny it the huge bailout package needed to avoid economic meltdown.

Mnangagwa has stressed foreign investment and “unity” during campaigning.

On Monday, he urged Zimbabweans to be peaceful, tweeting: “We are one people, with one dream and one destiny. We will sink or swim together.”

For the first time since Zimbabwe gained independence in 1980 after a brutal guerrilla war against a white supremacist regime, Mugabe is not on the ballot paper. In an astonishing intervention on Sunday, the former president said he would not vote for his former party, Zanu-PF, or the current president, and endorsed Chamisa.

“I cannot vote for the party or those in power who caused me to be in this condition,” he said.

Almost all voters who spoke to the Guardian in recent days said they were happy with a “free and fair” campaign.

Masiwa Nachipo, 45, an unemployed teacher from Norton, 25 miles from Harare, said: “I am very happy. It is a very important election for me, my kids and the future of generations. We need a big change. We want a fresh start.”

Source: The Guardian… 

 

 

Amid Jihadist Push, Mali’s Caritas Deploying 513 Observers for July 29 Vote

Crux || By Crux Staff || 27 July 2018

Caritas, the humanitarian arm of the Catholic Church in the African nation of Mali, is set to deploy 513 election observers during a presidential election scheduled for July 29. The observers were trained from July 12-13 at a workshop in Badalabougou by the Secretary General of Caritas Mali, layman Théodore Togo.

Since 2013, Caritas has been involved in elections monitoring in the troubled African country. It deployed 353 observers during that year’s presidential election, and 428 during legislative elections in the same year.

Togo says his organization wants to “contribute to making the social climate more peaceful and improve the electoral process in 2018.”

Caritas’s contribution as an election monitor, he said, has been praised both by the African Union and the Economic Community of West African States, and is now being “recognized by the hierarchy of the Catholic Church, [as well as] public authorities and the international community.”

He said the tense social and political climate in Mali means there’s heightened need for “elections to be transparent and credible.”

“The political situation has worsened,” Togo said. “In 2013 it was the north of the country that was in crisis, [but] the situation has today spread to the center, making free movement of people difficult.”

At the moment, Mali faces the risk of conquest by Islamist Jihadists in a spirited campaign to install Sharia law, and in the process, hundreds of people have been killed. According to the UN, the government has lost control over some of its own territory, with a very limited state presence in some areas.

In 2013, French troops joined Malian soldiers in efforts to free the north of the country that had been overrun by Jihadist groups linked to al Qaeda, but while that effort was underway, other terrorist groups turned to the Sahel region of Central and Southern Mali.

The UN has said the humanitarian and human rights situation in Mali has “deteriorated,” with more people already killed in the country so far this year than in all of 2017. Over 650 schools have been shuttered by terrorists, under the slogan that “there should be no education but Islam.”

With parts of the country partly in the hands of Jihadists, many cynics wonder how the July 29 election will respect international standards.

“One is tempted to believe the election will be conducted under difficult circumstances,” Togo says, but he insisted it’s not yet hopeless.

“Despite these difficulties, Caritas Mali is not discouraged. We will continue to accompany the government in the organization and conduct of the general election in 2018,” Togo said.

“That’s why we organized this training. We want to bring our election observers up to date with the electoral law and continue to guarantee a transparent, equitable, and peaceful electoral process that conforms to international standards.”

He said the Caritas training highlights the stakes and challenges of the election, explaining the nitty-gritty of the electoral law, including: Institutions of the republic and the rights and responsibilities of the president; the Constitutional Court as well as the role and responsibilities of Caritas observers.

The efforts from Caritas-Mali, observers say, reflect the general stance of the Catholic Church ahead of the election. In a May 9 pastoral letter, the bishops appealed to the consciences of Malians, calling on each citizen to be ready to pay the supreme sacrifice for the interest of the country.

“Our common heritage-Mali - must take precedence over individual and personal interests,” the bishops wrote.

“We want to tell Malians that they have a duty to serve Mali, not to be served by Mali. By rendering services to their Malian brothers and sisters, they are rendering services to God.”

The bishops also called on Malians to vote according to their consciences.

“Avoid voting according to the directives of another person, because such directives infantilize you. If you make a mistake in your vote, it should be a result of your conviction,” they said.

The Secretary General of the Mali Bishop’s Conference, Father Alexandre Denou, called for “a new mentality for a new Mali,” exhorting all Malians to vote and calling on the organizers of the election to exercise transparency.

“This year, we are called upon to allow God to fashion in us a new mentality for a new Mali. This call is even more important for the Church, because this election coincides with the celebration of the 130th anniversary of the Church in Mali,” Denou said.

Yet the dire security situation in the country gives room to fears that the election will make little practical difference, or that it could even exacerbate an already precarious situation. A peace accord signed in 2015 still has to be meaningfully implemented, and the country remains ethnically fractured.

The election will involve some two dozen candidates, but incumbent president Ibrahima Boubacar Keita, who took office in 2013, and opposition frontrunner Somalia Cisse, remain the two major contenders.

Source: Crux…


For Refugees in Sudan, Fears Surround Probe into UN Resettlement Fraud

IRIN || By Sally Hayden || 23 July 2018

As the UN’s refugee agency investigates allegations of bribery and corruption in the resettlement process in Sudan, dozens of refugees have told IRIN they’re too fearful to give full details to UNHCR-appointed investigators. They worry about retribution from those they’re making allegations against because of what they say is a lack of protection for witnesses and close links between some local UNHCR staff and Sudanese security officials.  

Refugees have told IRIN that since the investigations began, they’ve been intimidated and harassed by some Sudanese staff at the UNHCR office in Khartoum, as well as by state security agents and officials of the Sudanese government’s Commission of Refugees. Refugees say they have been called on the phone or asked to meet with these officials and then been pressured not to testify on pain of having their cases for resettlement closed or losing access to other assistance. The Sudanese Commissioner of Refugees did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

On 15 May, IRIN published a report based on interviews with more than a dozen refugees and a former UNHCR staff member. They alleged that decisions on which refugees would be permanently resettled to a third country were often made on the basis of bribes rather than standard eligibility criteria. Two days later, UNHCR suspended resettlement from Sudan and confirmed that in February and March it had launched investigations into alleged corruption, and would soon deploy an anti-fraud team.

In a statement announcing the suspension, UNHCR encouraged anyone with information to contact its Inspector General's Office (IGO), an oversight body that investigates complaints of misconduct, "without delay”.

Over the past 10 weeks, an IGO investigator has contacted refugees and asked them to do phone or Skype interviews. In an email seen by IRIN, “potential witnesses” were told their interviews could be recorded and details could be disclosed on a “need to know” basis with both the subject of the investigation and those involved in taking disciplinary action. The email also stated that they would be asked to swear an oath to tell the truth and shouldn’t discuss the investigation with anyone without prior IGO approval.

But refugees told IRIN they didn’t believe the investigation process offered sufficient confidentiality, and expressed concern that the UN’s refugee agency could provide little help if they were retaliated against. They said they didn’t believe they could come forward safely because of ties between some UNHCR staff and the Sudanese state, and feared reprisals from corrupt Sudanese and UN officials who may be exposed by the investigation.

“Refugees are afraid to speak because those at UNHCR have connections with the [Sudanese] security and can do whatever,” one refugee said.

In an emailed response, UNHCR said it is concerned by refugees’ allegations to IRIN of harassment by local UNHCR Khartoum staff and Sudanese officials. “We take these allegations very seriously,” the email stated. UNHCR encouraged refugees and others to report such behaviour to the IGO.

The IGO receives hundreds of complaints around misconduct every year, including allegations of fraud in the resettlement and refugee status determination processes. When the IGO launches an investigation, they interview witnesses, the people accused of wrongdoing, and may gather documentary and other forms of evidence, according to investigation guidelines published in 2012.

Protection and privacy

Resettlement is a complicated process taking anywhere from several days (in emergency cases) to several years.

As IRIN reported in May, refugees in Khartoum allege that middlemen and local UNHCR staff with close ties to the refugee community have been requesting bribes to speed up and corrupt the registration and resettlement process. The going rate to do that for unregistered asylum seekers in Khartoum was about $15,000, refugees said. Resettling a whole family boosted the price to $35,000-$40,000 – money usually raised by relatives abroad. Around 1.2 million refugees are now in Sudan, and more than 2,000 people were resettled from there in the year ending September 2017, according to UNHCR.

In Khartoum, many refugees and migrants live in a constant state of concern over security and safety, analysts and researchers report. “In Sudan, migrants are vulnerable to a litany of abuses,” Human Rights Watch Sudan researcher Jehanne Henry, now the associate director of the Africa division, wrote last year. “Many live in legal limbo; can be rounded up and arrested at any time and summarily tried for immigration violations; and can be jailed, fined, and deported without due process or transparency.”

They face endemic abuse and harassment from the Sudanese police, who regularly arrest them to solicit bribes and are accused of physical violence and sexual assault. Just last week, a video emerged online allegedly showing an undercover police officer raping a refugee woman in a Khartoum street, provoking debate around the sexual abuse of refugees by police officers.

Amid this atmosphere, refugees are anxious and constantly worried about their own safety. This is compounded by their confusion over who is actually carrying out the UNHCR investigations. Several told IRIN that UNHCR officials in Sudan not affiliated with the IGO, as well as some international UNHCR staff, had asked them to visit the Khartoum office to be interviewed. This scenario worried the refugees, who said they would be at risk because the very people they are making allegations against would see them. They were also concerned that translators might feed details of their testimony to the accused personnel.

"I thought it was going to be confidential," said one refugee, after taking part in an interview in the UNHCR compound in Khartoum. "I don't like the idea of going to that office,” the refugee said, adding that those accused were not good people and had a “network of people in key areas”.

“There are many refugees who [have] witnessed the corruption but are afraid to [say] it,” the refugee said. “The consequences [of coming forward] will be life-threatening.”

Another refugee recounted an incident in the reception of the UNHCR office in May in which Sudanese staff involved in the resettlement process warned refugees not to share any information about their cases with a visiting international team who were asking about the corruption allegations. “The local staff spoke to the refugees in Arabic, saying ‘don't tell them'," the refugee explained, adding that the international staff who were present did not understand Arabic.

UNHCR spokesman Babar Baloch said last month that protection is provided for witnesses in certain cases. “Witness protection is a top priority, and where serious safety concerns arise UNHCR has mechanisms in place to respond,’’ he said. “However, as you will understand, for obvious reasons, we won’t be able to discuss details publicly.”

UNHCR did relocate several witnesses during a similar investigation surrounding Kenya's Kakuma camp in 2001. And IRIN was told by a UNHCR official who is not based in Khartoum, and who requested anonymity, that some refugees whose testimony was deemed sensitive have been moved elsewhere for their safety during other investigations, including another one in Kakuma in 2016-2017.

Yet two refugees in Khartoum who are potential witnesses to the Khartoum investigations told IRIN their direct pleas to the IGO and UNHCR for protection, including to be moved to a safe place, had been declined or ignored. Both told IRIN they fear for their lives.

“What they should be doing is resettling them,” a current UNHCR resettlement officer, who has witnessed IGO investigations elsewhere in East Africa and requested anonymity, said. “It’s a perfect resettlement case." Without emergency resettlement or the option of witnesses entering a safe house, the officer said: “No one talks. No one will tell them what’s happening. So it just keeps happening."

Fear of the Sudanese state

UNHCR has previously highlighted the concerns it faces around protection during investigations. A March 2018 overview of the IGO’s work stated that “lessons learned from key investigations” included that “the support that UNHCR can provide to witnesses who face security risks when they are involved in investigations is limited” and “the primary responsibility for witness protection lies with the host State.”

Several refugees who said they were afraid to take part in the Khartoum investigation said they knew they couldn’t turn to Sudanese officials if testifying led to problems. They referred to an incident in April 2017 when dozens of refugees protested at the UNHCR Khartoum compound to draw attention to their allegations of corruption in the resettlement process. Six refugees who were present told IRIN that UNHCR staff had called the police, who set upon the protesters, leaving one woman with a broken leg.

When asked about the incident, UNHCR Sudan spokesman Steven O’Brien initially denied the police were called. Later, when provided with a video that appeared to show police inside the UNHCR compound on the day of the protest, UNHCR spokesman Baloch clarified that police officers had been present but said there was “no evidence of force being used”.

It is unclear how many people have voluntarily come forward to participate in the Khartoum probe, and UNHCR does not comment on current investigations. However, some refugees told IRIN they have long been too afraid to report exploitation and would not participate if asked, particularly out of fear of losing the protections and services associated with refugee status.

“We have never dared to complain because the UNHCR refugee card is the only thing that protects us from Sudanese officials,” one Eritrean woman said. Several refugees told IRIN they feared reprisals could take the form of their files with UNHCR or the Sudanese Commission on Refugees being closed or “lost”, which would mean losing their right to legal protection and the services that go along with it.

The 2017 human rights report from the US State Department notes that refugees and asylum seekers in Sudan are “vulnerable to arbitrary arrest and harassment” in urban areas for incorrect or missing identity cards and authorisation documents.

“We fear retribution and jail, because if we’re removed from the protection of the UNHCR, we have no protection from the Sudanese government,” the Eritrean refugee explained. “So, I would love to file a complaint but fear the consequences of doing so. I feel like nobody at the UNHCR really cares about what we go through.”

A process on hold

As the investigation continues, the impact of the suspended programme is unclear, beyond the fact that hundreds of resettlements have been delayed for at least several months. Around 170 refugees were resettled from Sudan each month in the year ending September 2017, according to UNHCR.

Speaking on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the topic, several former UN staff in Khartoum and elsewhere said they were worried that the suspended programme might put refugees waiting for resettlement at risk.

“Sometimes these investigations take months and months and months to get to the bottom [of],” the former Sudan head of another UN agency told IRIN. “If people in urgent need of resettlement are sitting around for months, [UNHCR is] certainly not supporting their protection.”

Since mid-May, as the investigation has gone on, refugees and former UNHCR staff in Sudan interviewed over the past two months by IRIN have gone from being hopeful about the prospect of change to worrying that the situation may get worse.

“Maybe, once the media is gone, they will keep doing it,” a former UNHCR Sudan staff member said, referring to the alleged corrupt practices. “The situation is complicated in Sudan.”

Source: IRIN…

 


Flags, Flowers Greet First Ethiopia-Eritrea Flight in 20 Years

The EastAfrican || By Reuters || 18 July 2018

The first commercial flight from Ethiopia to Eritrea in 20 years landed safely in Asmara on Wednesday to be greeted by dancers waving flags and flowers, cementing a stunning rapprochement that has ended a generation of hostility in a matter of days.

As Ethiopian Airways flight ET 0312 made the momentous switch from Ethiopian to Eritrean airspace, chief executive Tewolde GebreMariam took to the on-board intercom to remind the 315 passengers they were part of history.

“This is the first time that this is happening in 20 years,” he said, to cheers and applause from passengers and crew on the brand new Boeing 787 Dreamliner.

Families separated from loved ones since the start of a brutal 1998-2000 border war sat next to dignitaries on the flight, one of two that took off from Ethiopia on Wednesday morning.

Passenger Senait Tesfaye told Reuters she had not seen her grandmother Abrehet for more than two decades.

Abrehet, she said, was deported to Eritrea alongside tens of thousands of Ethiopian residents of Eritrean origin at the start of the conflict.

“We have been longing to see her for all these years,” the 37-year-old said as she cradled her three-month-old son Naby.

“He will now get to spend time with her more than I ever did as a child. Words cannot express the joy we feel as a family.”

Other passengers carried flags and wore t-shirts with slogans celebrating the advent of peace.

The airline marked the departure of the planes, the other a Boeing 737, with a message on its Facebook page: “The bird of peace has just flown to #Asmara #Familyreunion #Ethiopia #Eritrea.”

The two 90-minute flights were the icing on the cake of a peace push by new Ethiopian prime minister Abiy Ahmed, whose three months in office have turned politics in his country - Africa’s most populous after Nigeria - and the wider East African region on its head.

With the 41-year-old former intelligence officer at the helm, the ruling EPRDF coalition has ended a state of emergency, released political prisoners, restored phone links and announced plans to open up the economy - including letting foreigners take stakes in state-run Ethiopian Airlines.

The airline - which operates Africa’s biggest fleet - stands to save millions of dollars a year by using Eritrean airspace instead of taking circuitous routes to some Middle East destinations, Tewolde told Reuters.

“This is a big occasion for us,” he said.

The importance for ordinary Ethiopians is far greater.

Surafel Demissie, an Ethiopian priest whose parents died during his childhood, had never been to Eritrea - the country of his mother’s birth - nor met any family members.

“God is about to bring us together. Today, God dismantled the wall,” he said.

Abiy’s predecessor as prime minister, Hailemariam Desalegn, told Reuters on board one of the flights that he felt “heartfelt joy”.

“There has been hatred between us for the last twenty years - now that has been reversed,” he said.

In his boldest move since coming to power in April, Abiy offered last month to make peace with Eritrea 20 years after the conflict in which an estimated 80,000 people died, many of them scythed down by machine-gun fire in World War One-style trench warfare.

Full-blown fighting ended in 2000 but troops have faced off ever since, depriving Ethiopia of access to Red Sea ports and leaving Eritrea to rely on lengthy military conscription to repel the threat from its giant neighbour.

Indefinite national service is the main reason thousands of young Eritrean men flee every month, many making the perilous journey across the Mediterranean in search of a better life in Europe.

Acknowledging that the conflict was placing an unsustainable economic burden on both sides, Abiy has since visited Asmara and Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki reopened his nation’s embassy in Addis Ababa on Monday.

The countries barred their citizens from visiting each other during the conflict and foreigners wanting to travel from one country to the other had to connect via a third country.

“It is crazily expensive,” said one Kenya-based Eritrean businesswoman.

Source: The EastAfrican…

 

Obama Visits Kenya, Land of His Father, to Promote Local Charity

The New York Times || By Mike Ives || 16 July 2018

Former President Barack Obama has arrived in Kenya, his father’s home country, in what was expected to be a lower-profile visit than the ones he made to the country as senator and president.

Mr. Obama traveled to Kenya on Sunday to promote the opening of a sports and training center that his half sister, Auma Obama, founded through her charitable foundation, The Associated Press reported.

In a Twitter post on Sunday night, President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya showed photos of himself meeting a tieless Mr. Obama in Nairobi, the capital. “It was a great pleasure to welcome you back,” he wrote in welcoming Mr. Obama.

In another Twitter post, sent from the official presidential account, Mr. Kenyatta said he and his deputy had “had a refreshing chat” with the former American president and his half sister.

Dr. Obama grew up in Kenya and returned there, after living in Germany and the United Kingdom, to work for the charity CARE International, according to a brief biography posted on the website of her foundation, Sauti Kuu. Her work at CARE focused partly on familiarizing girls with sports as a vehicle for social empowerment.

Sauti Kuu, based in Nairobi, serves children and young people, particularly from urban slums and rural communities. According to the foundation’s website, its new sports and training center is in Alego, apparently the same village where Mr. Obama has said that his Kenyan family is from.

Kenya has always loomed large in the personal narrative of Mr. Obama, the son of a black university student from the country, whom he met only once, and a white anthropologist originally from Kansas. He first visited Kenya in 1987, sleeping for several weeks on his half sister’s sofa, and later described the trip in his first book, “Dreams From My Father.”

Mr. Obama returned to Kenya as a senator in 2006 and again as president in 2015 to rapturous receptions. Many in the country celebrate him as a son of Africa who reached the pinnacle of power.

In a Twitter post last week, Mr. Obama described Africa as “a continent of wonderful diversity, thriving culture, and remarkable stories.”

But Kenya is also tied up in a conspiracy theory, fanned by President Trump for years before he entered politics, that Mr. Obama had actually been born there and was therefore ineligible to be president. Mr. Obama dispelled that false claim in 2011 by publicly showing his American birth certificate, but Mr. Trump did not abandon it until 2016.

Mr. Obama is in Kenya at a delicate political moment — about four months after Mr. Kenyatta and his top political rival, the opposition leader Raila Odinga, held a surprise meeting and promised a new focus on national unity after months of escalating tensions. The A.P. reported that Mr. Obama was expected to meet Mr. Odinga during his trip.

Mr. Obama is also expected to visit Kogelo, his father’s home village, The A.P. said. That had not been possible in 2015 because of security and logistical concerns.

Ahead of his 2015 trip to Kenya, Mr. Obama told reporters that he looked forward to the visit and saw it as symbolically important. But he also acknowledged that visiting the country as a private citizen “is probably more meaningful to me than visiting as president, because I can actually get outside of a hotel room or a conference center.”

Source: The New York Times…



“The conflict must end”: Fighting Threatens to Drive Up Hunger in South Sudan’s Lean Season

IRIN || By Stefanie Glinski || 02 July 2018

On Saturday, a new ceasefire came into effect in South Sudan. But within hours it had been violated – terrible news for millions of South Sudanese in the midst of their “lean season”, when food stocks are low and heavy rains can arrive suddenly, washing out roads and links to lifesaving assistance.

July marks the peak of the hunger gap, when harvests are depleted just as new crops are planted. Without food distributed by aid groups, an estimated 7.1 million people – more than half the population – would go hungry. Continued conflict makes humanitarian access to many areas extremely difficult, as well as being deadly and disruptive for civilians.

“The conflict must end,” World Food Programme Country Representative Adnan Khan told IRIN. “It’s one of the main causes of hunger in South Sudan today, forcing millions of people to abandon their land, homes, and jobs, putting them at risk of hunger. We need both peace and sustained [humanitarian] access to succeed.”

The civil war, now in its fifth year, has claimed tens of thousands of lives, displaced more than four million people – either to other parts of South Sudan or to neighbouring countries – and, along with poor governance, done untold damage to the oil-rich country’s economy.

On 27 June, President Salva Kiir and his rival Riek Machar agreed that a "permanent" ceasefire would come into effect within 72 hours, and that humanitarian corridors would be opened up.

But, like numerous previous ceasefires, it was violated almost before the ink dried. The latest agreement builds on a flawed 2015 peace accord that has done nothing to end the conflict, and many analysts believe it is also destined to fail.

Without lasting peace, international aid organisations fear little progress can be made to help stem hunger in the world’s newest country, which has one of the world’s worst levels of food security (access to enough nutritious food for a healthy life).

“Food security goes beyond seasonality,” explains Alemu Manni, a project manager with the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization. During conflict, “people are not able to cultivate their land and are forced to flee the country, disrupting their livelihoods.”

During last year’s lean season, an estimated six million South Sudanese experienced severe food insecurity. According to the FAO, this number dropped to 4.8 million after crops were harvested, and the number of people living in conditions of famine fell from 40,000 to 25,000.

When the rains come

“All of our activities and lives revolve around food. It’s an all-consuming thought,” says Mary Amaik, a mother of six who has lived in Pibor for the past two years.

Pibor, a small town close to the Ethiopian border in eastern Boma State, lies on plains at the source of the Pibor River. It has a small market and an unpaved airstrip that fixed-wing aircraft can’t use during the rains because of the mud. So most aid is now flown in by helicopter, which is much more expensive.

South Sudan’s rains are dramatic. In just a few minutes, roads turn into streams thick with sticky mud, making it almost impossible for cars or trucks to pass. The rainy season runs roughly from May until October – just the time when people are hungriest.

Heavy raindrops hit the corrugated roof of Amaik’s home like a drum roll, the water washing off the dust and gushing into the thick, earthy soil.

“During the rainy season, my garden floods and the majority of my crops are destroyed,” Amaik says. “Right now, it’s a challenge to get food.” During the wetter months, she explains, it’s impossible for traders to reach her town by road.

“Even if we have money, there is no food in the market,” she says.

Agricultural yields have declined since the civil war broke out in December 2013. South Sudan is expected to produce a half a million fewer tonnes of cereal this year than its population requires, a shortfall similar to 2017.

Much of South Sudan’s food is now imported from Uganda, brought in along roads where armed attacks and looting are common. Yet even when supplies arrive, the prices keep them  beyond the reach of many.

The bags of sorghum in Amaik’s house were distributed by aid agencies. Sorghum, the main crop eaten in South Sudan, has risen in price almost fourfold since 2016. During the height of the last lean season, the price peaked at 560 percent above the previous year.

How bad is it?

Food insecurity is categorised into five “phases” of severity. The most extreme phase, “catastrophe/famine” was declared in the towns of Leer and Mayendit in northern Unity State in February 2017.

This year, limited access has made it impossible to gather the data needed to accurately assess the situation in some parts of southern Unity State. Recent fighting forced aid agencies to postpone deliveries of emergency food supplies to Unity.

“It was the hardest area to collect information from, but we know it’s an area of high concern,” says Philip Dau, director of monitoring and evaluation at the National Bureau of Statistics for South Sudan.

“We also saw indicators for food insecurity in Pibor, although these are not pointing to ‘catastrophe’. Sometimes, there are indicators – such as lack of food – but we find no evidence of crisis,” Dau explains.

Lack of access is a constant issue as the conflict fragments among more armed groups, according to Obia Achieng, chief of field operations for UNICEF in South Sudan.

“Nationally, we have conflict between the main parties,” Achieng explains. “Locally, there are dynamics between leaders, smaller conflicts linked to cattle raids, and communal conflicts which limit our access,” he says, adding that it’s difficult to deliver long-term assistance to children and women in south Unity. “But we are trying,” he adds.

Depending on forests, and militias

For some South Sudanese, joining the conflict seems to be their only chance not to go hungry.

Martha, 15, is from Likuangole, a town near Pibor that is impossible to reach by road during the rainy season. She and her mother joined a local anti-government militia called the Cobra, hoping for better security and access to food.

“Likuangole is full of hunger. It was too difficult and that’s why we left,” Martha explains. “Many people from my town went to the bush. I carried luggage and food for the soldiers and they raided villages and cattle so we could have food,” Martha recalls. “We did it for the food.”

They recently left the ranks of the militia and returned home to Pibor. Martha attends school but says she’s struggling during this rainy season because of the lack of sorghum and vegetables.

In Pibor, as throughout South Sudan, women are largely responsible for planting and harvesting.

“Men – even my husband – tell me that I am ‘just’ a woman and that I don’t have rights. We do all of the field work and the planting,” says Amaik. “I think that men are part of the problem when it comes to hunger. The situation is worse, because they don’t work much.”

Stefano Temporin, who heads the South Sudan office of German NGO Welthungerhilfe, says many young men are often away from their homes at cattle camps. They “only return to their families with the start of the rainy season. Others may have been drafted by the various armed groups,” he says.

“I don’t know how they survive”

Although aid agencies provide food, seeds, and farming tools, people here frequently eat only one meal a day, gathering fruit from the forest. Sometimes, they are forced to kill their scrawny cows – often a family’s only asset and also widely used as dowry payments – for what little meat they provide.

“People in some areas are employing harmful survival tactics to try to tide them through tough times, including eating less, rationing, and [reducing] the diversity of food,” says WFP’s Khan.

For Amaik and her family, sorghum and wild fruits are their mainstays.

“During the rainy season, people migrate to Pibor from the villages, so they are not cut off from the market,” she says. “It’s better in Pibor.”

As for the people living in rural, secluded areas with little access to food, she notes: “I don’t know how they survive.”

Source: IRIN…

 

South Sudan’s Warring Leaders Meet for 1st Time Since 2016

The Washington Post || By Elias Meseret || 20 June 2018

South Sudan’s warring leaders met face-to-face for the first time in almost two years Wednesday amid efforts to end a five-year civil war, shaking hands but making no public comments.

South Sudan President Salva Kiir and opposition leader Riek Machar continued meeting into the night and were expected to continue discussions on Thursday in neighboring Ethiopia, which invited them for talks as pressure grows to end a conflict that has killed tens of thousands of people and created Africa’s largest refugee crisis since the 1994 Rwanda genocide.

A Kiir spokesman, Ateny Wek Ateny, has said “anything that brings peace in South Sudan is wanted.”

Machar fled South Sudan after new fighting erupted in the capital in July 2016, ending a brief attempt at peace in which he returned to his role as Kiir’s deputy. He later was put under house arrest in South Africa, whose presidency on Wednesday welcomed Machar’s participation in the talks.

The meeting, attended by Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, was mediated by the East African regional bloc that has led several rounds of failed peace talks. The Intergovernmental Authority on Development last month called for a meeting of Kiir and Machar ahead of an African Union summit on July 1 in Mauritania, saying it would inform a “final decision” on Machar’s participation in the peace process.

Both sides in South Sudan’s civil war have been accused of widespread abuses such as gang rapes against civilians, including along ethnic lines. A number of South Sudan officials have been accused by human rights groups of profiting from the conflict and blocking the path to peace.

Early this month the U.N. Security Council adopted a United States-sponsored resolution that threatens an arms embargo on South Sudan and sanctions against six people, including the country’s defense chief, if fighting doesn’t stop and a political agreement reached. The resolution asks Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to report to the council on that by June 30.

Regional bloc IGAD also has threatened to submit “punitive measures” against violators of December’s failed cease-fire in South Sudan, though sanctions would need approval by the bloc’s heads of state and government.

Associated Press writer Sam Mednick in Juba, South Sudan contributed.

Source: The Washington Post…


Progress on Health is not Good Enough for Africa's Children

AllAfrica || By Dr. Nathan Mulure and Dr. Magdalene Kuria || 16 June 2018

We write as two doctors deeply frustrated by the failure of our continent to save more children and babies. We both work in East Africa, one at an international pharmaceutical company, Novartis, and the other in Kisumu County as a paediatrician. We both see too many African children still die before their fifth birthdays from diseases that are preventable and treatable.

Independence, better medicines and improvements in infrastructure have all made a difference: in 1960, about one in four Tanzanian and Ugandan children died before their fifth birthdays. Today, it is one in twenty. Kenya had a slightly better ratio then and still has today. But, over the same period, the death rate in Sweden has gone from one in 50 toddlers to one in more than three hundred.

Youth is Africa's great gift to an ageing world but even the children who survive are not contributing as much as they could to the African century. Too many of them grow up with lifelong limitations brought about by childhood diseases and malnutrition that could have been prevented or treated.

When African children survive birth, they are most likely to die from one of the three big child killers: malaria, diarrhea, or pneumonia. Child-friendly treatments already exist for malaria and pneumonia, and companies and the scientific community are working on research into new medicines for all three diseases.

Yet, scientific efforts are not enough: too many children never get access to medical care. A recent study, which pooled data from 33 African countries, estimated that only about twenty percent of children with a malaria-induced fever receive the right treatment. Those who get it are often given crushed-up bitter pills that they spit out, instead of those child-friendly malaria formulations that Novartis researchers and expert African doctors worked so hard to develop. Last year, Kenya introduced child-friendly, dispersible amoxicillin tablets to help treat pneumonia in children – they will come to Tanzania and Uganda over the next year – let us hope they get used widely.

The problems in treatment are indeed seen most starkly when we look at the growing threat of respiratory illnesses. Some children have always had asthma but it has become much more common as more and more children now live in urban areas. In cities, the mites that trigger asthma thrive and the pollution makes it worse. Yet, in a 2013 study, 95 percent of the children with asthma who were seen at Uganda's major referral hospital had previously received a prescription for antibiotics. It means that a nurse or doctor had wrongly diagnosed asthma as breathing difficulties related to a bacterial infection. As doctors, we have both seen exactly the same pattern of asthma being treated with useless, repeated prescriptions for antibiotics or cough medicines.

Research from Boston University (BU), commissioned by Novartis and published in the International Journal of Tuberculosis and Lung Disease last month, shows that patients diagnosed with asthma in Kenya often don't have the treatments they need to avoid attacks that may be life-threatening. Half of those in the study who knew they had asthma did not have medicines at home. Of those who did, many had tablets, not the inhalers recommended by international treatment guidelines.

From the BU study, we also know a lot about why this happens. Medicines for chronic diseases such as asthma are often out of stock in public facilities (where they are dispensed free of charge or at a minimal price to the patient) and too expensive when they are sold in pharmacies. The study showed that at the chemist, the poorest people were paying nearly twice as much for an asthma inhaler as the richest people and four times more than some middle-income patients.

Novartis is already working with faith-based providers in Kenya and Uganda to provide treatments against asthma and childhood pneumonia at very low prices, and will soon launch additional products. A key aspect of these efforts is to work with partners to ensure there are no irrational price disparities at the chemist but, again, our efforts alone will not be enough.

The theme of this year's Day of the African Child is "Leave No Child Behind in Africa's Development." Too often the children who are Africa's most precious resource are not at the centre of development strategies. That must change and we must all play our part.

Just imagine if all African children survived to be six years old. Not only would families rejoice and prosper together but our societies would gain extra scientists, teachers, poets, entrepreneurs and workers.

Without a new determination, we will always be running to stay still. We will finally overcome the infectious diseases that still kill so many of our children but we will lose them to growing threats such as asthma and diabetes. To stop this will take money, government action, a renewed commitment from health professionals, the countless efforts of faith groups, NGOs and companies. Most of all, though, it will require all of us to stop accepting a world where an African child is fifteen times as likely as a Swedish one to die before his fifth birthday.

Authors:

Dr Nathan Mulure - Novartis Social Business Cluster, Head East and Southern Africa
Dr Magdalene Kuria - Paediatrician, Kisumu, Kenya

Source: AllAfrica…

 

Will Any of Our Teams Finally Break the Quarter-Finals Jinx?

AllAfrica || By Jerry Chifamba || 14 June 2018

Of course, any World Cup would not be complete without a distinctively glamorous opening ceremony to kick things off. And even though it seems like only yesterday that we were laughing at Brazil after their 7-1 capitulation to Germany in July 2014, it's already been four years.

This year's tournament runs from starts tonight through to July 15, with 32 countries hoping to claim the trophy.

The hosts Russia face Saudi Arabia following an opening ceremony at Moscow's Luzhniki Stadium. But we only care about our very own African teams, don't we?

We haven't been that great in this elite competition, but we always hope for the best. Which one among our representatives will make us proud?

Although no African team has ever qualified for the semi-finals, I argue that now is the time to change the continent's World Cup story.

The continent has always promised a great deal in the international showcase but delivered very little. So which one among Nigeria, Egypt, Senegal, Morocco, and Tunisia will break the spell and become the first to get to the semi-finals?

We can honestly agree that escaping their respective groups would still be an admirable achievement, but what are the odds?

The Pharoahs of Egypt are a dominant force at the Africa Cup of Nations. With one of the world's most in-form players Mohamed Salah of Liverpool, they stand a chance of doing wonders - if his injury during the Champions League final against Real Madrid doesn't get in his way.

However, Tunisia's prospects of pulling off an upset have been dented by injuries to Youssef Msakni and Yassine Taha Khenissi.

Source: AllAfrica…


Punchy Quotes from Officials Implicated in African Football Bribery Exposé

AllAfrica || By David Kwalimwa, Nairobi News || 10 June 2018

African football is in shock in the wake of an exposé aired on BBC by an undercover journalist highlighting the corrupt dealings in the industry, including widespread bribery and possible match-fixing.

Ghana Football Association Kwesi Nyantakyi, Kenyan assistant referee Aden Marwa and his Gambian colleague Ebrimma Jallow are among those implicated.

But what exactly happened?

More important, what did these trio say during and moments after pocketing bribes?

Kwesi Nyatntakyi - Upon receiving a 'shopping gift' worth $65,000 (Sh6.5 million), he said:

"Thank you very much. Oh. Thank you very much. Thank you."

On how the brokers (including himself) would share the loot from a proposed $50,000,000 (Sh5 billion) sponsorship deal for the Ghana Premier League he said:

"First, let me talk about the sponsorship. For the sponsorship, we will form a company to be the agency, and that company will be responsible for ensuring that the benefits of the Ghana Football Association promises are met. We can charge, 20%, 25%, then amongst us we agree that this person gets this percent. Everybody should be sorted out then there would be peace, you understand?"

Aden Marwa - He was offered $600 (Sh60,000) as a gift to build 'friendship'. He said:

"You know, thank you for the gift but you know, the most important thing is our friendship, getting to know each other."

Marwa also explained which Caf Africa Champions League referees can or cannot be approached.

"You know the tournament guys would not like to come and see you because a majority of them are junior referees so like they want to make a name for themselves. But don't worry the guys from Morocco, I cannot promise that I will talk to all of them you know how they are they will listen and then report you."

Ebrimma Jallow - was also offered $500 (Sh50,000) before stating;

"We first need to build some friendship and relationship, you know. It is not like you are bribing me, just that friendship is important and in this job you need friends to be able to function."

Source: AllAfrica…

 

Burundi’s President Says Will Not Seek Re-Election, Easing Unrest Fears

Reuters || By Reuters Staff || 07 June 2018

Burundi’s long-serving President Pierre Nkurunziza promised on Thursday to step down when his term ends in 2020, easing fears of fresh violence in the impoverished country.

Nkurunziza had been widely expected to take advantage of recent changes to the constitution to stand for two more terms - raising concerns that Burundi would see a repeat of the unrest that erupted after he stood for a third time in 2015.

But he told a ceremony: “My term is ending in 2020.”

“This constitution was not modified for Pierre Nkurunziza as the country’s enemies have been saying. It was amended for the good and better future of Burundi and the Burundian people,” he said in the speech broadcast on state television.

Opposition politicians who had accused him of trying to cling to power gave the statement a guarded welcome. “I think he just want(s) to calm internal public opinion and the international community,” Léonce Ngendakumana, the deputy chairman of the opposition FRODEBU group told Reuters.

The violence that erupted in 2015 shook a region still haunted by the 1994 genocide in Burundi’s neighbor Rwanda. Rwanda and Burundi have a similar ethnic mix.

TERM LIMITS

Opponents accused Nkurunziza at the time of breaking the constitution and the terms of a peace deal that ended an ethnically-charged civil war. Thousands fled violence that erupted after protests and a failed coup.

Last month voters in the small central African nation approved changes to the constitution that would theoretically allow Nkurunziza to stay in power until 2034. The opposition said the vote was marred by intimidation and fraud - a charge the government denied.

Rights groups also raised the alarm. But Nkurunziza said on Thursday he would support whoever replaced him in 2020.

The former rebel leader first came to power in 2005 at the end of Burundi’s civil war that left at least 300,000 people dead.

Pro-democracy organizations and activists have criticized moves by several other long-serving African rulers, notably in Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo, to stay in power by extending term limits.

Burkina Faso’s veteran leader Blaise Compaore was driven out of office in 2014 amid mass demonstrations against his attempts to extend his 27-year rule.

Writing by Elias Biryabarema; Editing by Janet Lawrence and Andrew Heavens

Source: Reuters… 


War Leaves One in Four Girls in South Sudan Suicidal - Report

Thomson Reuters Foundation || By Nita Bhalla || 29 May 2018

One in four adolescent girls in South Sudan has considered killing herself, traumatised by physical and sexual violence brought on by the country's civil conflict, a report by the children's charity Plan International said on Tuesday.

The study, based on surveys with 249 girls aged 10 to 19 across South Sudan, said 25 percent reported they had suicidal feelings in the last 12 months, largely due to the fear of being raped, beaten, kidnapped or killed.

Seventy-five percent of girls said the conflict had negatively affected their state of mind, one-third had been injured in the violence, and 13 percent had been abducted driving some to the depths of despair, said the report.

"These girls have endured some of the most horrendous hardships imaginable," George Otim, Plan International's country director in South Sudan, said in a statement.

"If we are to help give them some hope for the future, we must see an end to the conflict in South Sudan. We need to tailor support around gender and age so that adolescent girls feel safe from violence and can continue with their education."

South Sudan, which split from its northern neighbour Sudan in 2011, has been gripped by a civil war sparked by rivalry between President Salva Kiir and his former deputy Riek Machar.

The world's youngest nation is now in its fifth year of conflict, and the violence has led to the deaths of tens of thousands of people.

Protracted insecurity has also hampered food production and disrupted markets, leading to hyperinflation - and sparking a food crisis.

Almost half South Sudan's population lacks reliable access to enough food, says the Famine Early Warning Systems Network.

As a result, 4.5 million - or one in three - South Sudanese have fled their homes, almost 90 percent of them women and children, the U.N. adds.

Around 2.5 million people have been forced to seek refuge in Uganda, Kenya, Sudan, Ethiopia, the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic. A further two million people are displaced inside the country.

Aid workers agreed gender-based violence can leave adolescent girls with mental health problems ranging from paranoia and fear, to depression and despair, but said they had not come across cases where girls were suicidal.

"Clearly the discrimination faced by girls increases and we have seen many girls who are being forced into early marriage as a negative consequence of conflict," said Silvia Onate, child protection specialist at Save the Children.

"Even if children have not experienced violence themselves, they will have certainly witnessed members of their families being killed, and some will face trauma and need psychosocial support. There is however a lack of specialised care."

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation…



Ebola Scare - Airports on High Alert, Screen Passengers to Prevent Spread

AllAfrica.com || By Chinedu Eze and Paul Obi || 20 May 2018

Airport facilities and medical structures that served Nigeria in the aftermath of the 2014 Ebola virus disease outbreak are being reactivated as the country tries to be on the alert for possible reoccurrence following the confirmation of several EVD cases in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. THISDAY learnt at the weekend that the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria had activated its Ebola preventive programme. The programme had been put in place after the late Liberian-American lawyer, Patrick Sawyer, introduced the Ebola virus into Nigeria in July 2014, when he flew into Lagos en route Calabar for a conference.

The World Health Organisation warned on Friday that the Ebola virus could spread exponentially, after about 45 cases and 25 deaths were recorded in DR Congo, with several more cases reported in the busy Congolese port city of Mbandaka. WHO said, "The risk of international spread is particularly high since the city of Mbandaka is in proximity to the Congo River, which has significant regional traffic across porous borders." It said nine countries bordering Congo, including Congo-Brazzaville and Central African Republic, were at high risk of Ebola spread and had been supported with equipment and personnel.

Nigeria shares borders with Cameroon, which has boundaries with the Central African Republic and Congo Brazzaville, both of which have common borders with DR Congo.

THISDAY gathered that FAAN had gone further to establish clinics at the airsides of the international airports in Lagos, Abuja, Kano, Port Harcourt, and Enugu to ensure that passengers suspected of having the disease are not allowed to come into the arrival halls. FAAN said suspected passengers would be quarantined at the airsides of the airports.

Though WHO said the EVD was not yet an international emergency, airport workers told THISDAY that there was a high risk of Ebola spread to Nigeria because Nigerians were among the most travelled indigenous people in the continent. Many travel for business while some move as tourists across Africa.

Investigation reveals that many Nigerians live in Congo, and an estimated 10, 000 of them trade across West and Central Africa and travel back to Nigeria through mainly Kenya Airways, since the Arik Air flight experiment to the country a few years ago failed. But Nigeria does not have direct flights to Congo.

General Manager, Corporate Affairs, FAAN, Mrs. Henrietta Yakubu, said all the medical equipment that were installed to detect passengers with Ebola were still intact and had been activated for the screening of in-bound passengers. Yakubu said passengers coming from Central and some parts of West Africa were to present their Ebola vaccination cards to confirm that they had been vaccinated against the disease. She said this time, the medical workers who screened travellers did not operate with hand-held equipment because thermal scanners had been installed unobtrusively to monitor passengers as they move to the arrival halls.

Similarly, speaking in Abuja yesterday during the "Health for All Challenge Walk," WHO Country Representative, Dr Wondi Alemu, said, "WHO is working hand-in-hand with the Federal Ministry of Health and National Centre for Disease Control to take necessary precautions at the ports."

Wife of Senate President Bukola Saraki, Mrs Toyin Saraki, who is the founder of Wellbeing Foundation Africa and also Special Adviser to WHO, disclosed during the walk that WHO had released 5, 000 doses of vaccine to curtail the spread of Ebola in DR Congo. Saraki said there was need to sensitise Nigerians on hygienic measures to adopt to prevent the spread of the disease.

Yakubu told THISDAY, "We installed thermal scanners and we never removed them. They were mounted in the arrival hall. The thermal scanners have been there, but we have activated them now that there is threat of Ebola. When the Ebola virus started, we were using thermometer, handheld, to detect those who might have the disease. But now we have gone way beyond that. People pass through scanners everyday but they don't know the thermal scanners are there and as they walk past, it checks their temperature.

"The scanners are monitored, but as a passenger, you will pass through them without knowing that you are being watched. But if your temperature is 38 degrees or above, an alarm will sound like a whistle, and you will be held back. This will alert port health officials who are monitoring. They will excuse the passenger. We have isolation clinics at the airside. This is to ensure that passengers are checked from the aircraft into the terminal building before they come to the arrival hall. From the airside they will be tested and if they are positive they will be put in the isolation clinic that we have created, where further screenings will be conducted on them."

Yakubu added, "Our medical personnel at the offices have been pulled out. This was mainly due to the health workers strike, as port health medical personnel embarked on solidarity strike. But the port health officials are at the airports now working in collaboration with our medical personnel. Our medical personnel are complementing the staff of port health. We have the medical personnel at all the major airports in Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt, Kano, and Enugu that operate international flights and we want to ensure that nobody with the disease can enter the country without being detected."

On the 2014 Ebola experience, Yakubu stated, "The processes we put on ground then were globally commended by WHO and IATA. It is the same processes that are on ground now. In fact, I spoke with the airport managers and they assured me we have hand sanitisers. Officials who have contact with the passengers have been given hand gloves and we have the sanitisers at rest rooms and information desks.

"We have also started implementing the policy on vaccination certificate. Those coming from the routes where there is presence of Ebola must show their vaccination certificates. Our port health officials scrutinise the certificates,"

Saraki said in Abuja that disease surveillance officials in Congo spotted the Ebola virus and, "The leadership of WHO reacted promptly within three days with 5, 000 doses of vaccine."

She said, "Nigeria must not rest on her oars, we need to sensitise the citizenry on personal hygiene within and around them. Hand washing with soap must be taken seriously."

Saraki added regarding the walk, "The walk is going on all over the WHO country offices. We in the Wellbeing Foundation are happy to be a part of this and we are happy that the maiden edition was a success with about 2, 000 participants and by next year we hope that about 20,000 will participate."

Following the outbreak of the Ebola disease in Congo, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority had issued a warning to airlines, especially the ones that operate regional and international flights, urging them to screen passengers before boarding them. NCAA gave the directive in a circular. It informed the domestic operators of the outbreak of EVD in Congo on May 8, 2018.

NCAA noted, however, that WHO was yet to declare the outbreak of EVD in DRC a Public Health Event of International Concern, but said the authority, the Federal Ministry of Health, and other relevant agencies had taken concerted steps to ensure the virus did not enter Nigeria.

Spokesman of NCAA, Sam Adurogboye, told THISDAY that of port health officials as well as officials of FAAN and NCAA had conducted mock drills on how to handle any Ebola carrier identified at the airports.

Adurogboye said, "We already have an existing system on checking Ebola at the airports. What we did was to activate it. We have also put in place a system that will alert concerned officials when any airline that operates to the affected destinations arrives Nigeria.

"From the flight plan we would know even before the flight takes off to Nigeria and when it will arrive so we just alert everyone concerned. We are not taking any chances and we are being careful with flights arriving from that part of the continent. We are being very, very careful."

NCAA stated in the circular to airlines, "Pilots-in-Command of an aircraft are to report to Air Traffic Control any suspected case of communicable disease on board their flight in line with Nig.CARs 18.8.22.4."

It said in case of any suspected case of communicable disease on board an aircraft, aircrew were to fill the General Declaration (Gen Dec) and Public Health Passenger Locator forms in line with the Nigerian Civil Aviation Regulations (Nig.CARs) 18.8.17.4 and 18.8.22.5.

The agency directed that completed general declaration and public health passenger locator forms were to be submitted to the port health services of the destination aerodrome.

The authority also directed that airlines should ensure they have on board valid and appropriate numbers of first aid kits, universal precaution kits, and emergency medical kits in line with Nig. CARs 7.9.1.12. It directed airlines to refresh the knowledge of their crew members in the handling and communication to ATC of any suspected case of communicable disease on board their flights.

"Airlines are to contact Port Health Services for clearance before importing human remains into the country. Airlines are to report to the authority in writing of any suspected case of communicable disease in flight," NCAA directed.

NCAA also said it would continue to collaborate with relevant agencies to ensure that the Public Health Emergency Contingency Plan developed for the guidance of aviation stakeholders was adhered to, to prevent importation of any communicable disease into the country through the airports.

Source: AllAfrica.com…


Surprise and Concern as King Changes Swaziland's Name

News24 || By AFP || 20 April 2018

from swaziland to eswatini 2018Residents of the tiny African kingdom of Swaziland on Friday weighed up their country's new official name after the king unexpectedly announced it would now be known as "eSwatini".

King Mswati III, one of the world's few absolute monarchs, declared the name change at celebrations on Thursday marking 50 years since independence from British colonial rule.

Meaning "place of the Swazi", eSwatini is the local Swazi language name for the nation landlocked between South Africa and Mozambique.

Critics of the king, who took the throne in 1986 aged 18, said the move was an example of his authoritarian and wasteful reign in a country that suffers dire poverty.

"We see here King Mswati's autocratic style," said Alvit Dlamini, head of the Ngwane National Liberatory Congress, a political party which, like others, is not allowed to run in elections.

"He can't change the name of the country on his own. He was supposed to consult the nation."

Dlamini said that the change would be expensive for Swaziland, where 63% of the 1.3 million population live below the national poverty line, according the World Food Programme.

"This will come with major cost implications, we are a broke country," he said.

"And it will affect us with organisations like the African Union and United Nations, and in international protocols and agreements."

The Trade Union Congress of Swaziland warned that the process was not immediate, adding it would not immediately change its own name.

"When the king has made a pronouncement, due process must take its course," acting general secretary Mduduzi Gina told AFP.

'No name change overnight' 

"The legislature must initiate a process to amend the constitution. The change cannot be a knee-jerk reaction.

"We will not become the Trade Union Congress of eSwatini overnight. We will consult with our affiliates."

For many Swazis, the change also raised concerns about updating paperwork and additional bureaucracy.

"Some of us don't suffer from an inferiority complex," said Mbabane resident Hynd Shongwe, in a dig at the king.

"The name change is neither here nor there. My only worry is the cost and inconvenience of official documents changing. If it was by choice, we would remain with the current documents."

Unlike some countries, Swaziland did not change its name when it gained independence in 1968 after being a British protectorate for more than 60 years.

The new name had been mooted for several years, with lawmakers considering the issue in 2015, and the king has used eSwatini in previous official speeches.

Source: News24… 

 

America's Petty Policy on Used Clothes for Africa

The Conversation || By Garth Frazer || 17 April 2018

petty policy on used clothes for africa from usFostering international development has long been viewed as central to the moral, humanitarian, strategic and security interests of the United States.

In particular, there is one area where the United States has been a leader in development assistance — providing trade preferences to African countries, most of which are low-income countries.

This has been achieved through the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), which was initially passed by U.S. Congress in 2000 and signed into law by President Bill Clinton. The legislation was deliberately renewed by both Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

AGOA demonstrates the power of U.S. trade policy to bring about significant change in Africa through measures that, while trivial from the American perspective, can have a sizeable impact in Africa. Specifically, AGOA allows for eligible African countries to export a long list of goods to the United States without paying the import tariffs that most countries must pay and without being subject to import quota restrictions.

The beauty of AGOA lies in the fact that it costs the U.S. very little to implement in terms of lost tariff revenue and lost market share. In fact, it’s fair to say that the implementation of AGOA has had zero impact on the U.S. economy, and close to zero in terms of American tariff revenues.

At the same time, however, AGOA has resulted in an increase in exports in some key products that have been massive when measured by African standards.

For example, apparel exports, which have historically been an important stepping stone in the process of development for virtually all countries, increased on average by 42 per cent under AGOA.

As soon as one considers the short-term and long-term good will, as well as trading relationships, that AGOA has nurtured between the U.S. and Africa, it has undoubtedly been an example of a win-win scenario for both the United States and Africa.

Shift away from human rights concerns

Importantly, not all African countries have been eligible for AGOA trade preferences. Practically speaking, countries found lacking in basic protection of human rights and countries that have moved away from democracy have either not been granted AGOA eligibility or have been removed from AGOA eligibility.

Specifically, five countries have been removed, either temporarily or as of now, after military coups or coups d’état: Mauritania, Guinea, Madagascar, Mali and Guinea-Bissau.

Côte d’Ivoire was once removed following the failure to reach a peace agreement and the failure to hold elections. Other countries, none of which are paragons of good government, have been removed for different periods related to human rights abuses of varying kinds (Democratic Republic of the Congo, The Gambia, South Sudan, Swaziland and Burundi).

These actions have been consistent with the promotion of U.S. values of human rights and democracy worldwide, and consistent with historic aspirations of American foreign policy. In a single exception to the above pattern, suspension of agricultural benefits — not removal — was threatened for South Africa in 2015 in a dispute over chickens, but this suspension wasn’t implemented.

Under the current U.S. administration of President Donald Trump, however, this philosophy and approach has shifted.

The United States is currently in the process of suspending Rwanda from its current status under AGOA not because of military coups, but because Rwanda wants to restrict the importation of second-hand clothes that come from the United States.

Cheap clothes for African consumers

Currently, a significant fraction of the used clothing disposed of by Americans through their donations to thrift shops and parking lot boxes are not sold in the U.S., but are shipped to Africa. Since these clothes are sourced for free, they serve as incredibly cheap sources of clothing in these countries.

This serves to benefit African consumers, although it historically had a negative impact on African apparel production that was serving the domestic market.

Some countries, such as South Africa, have implemented near bans on used-clothing imports as a result. Whether restriction of used-clothing imports is a good policy for African countries, therefore, is open to debate. The reduced used-clothing imports may well be replaced in the future by new clothing imports from Asia.

However, what is deeply concerning is that when the members of the East African Community (EAC), a regional trade agreement similar to NAFTA, decided to increase the restrictions on used-clothing imports, the current U.S. administration responded by threatening to remove AGOA access for them.

As a result of this threat, Kenya quickly reversed its decision. Then, in February, Rwanda, Uganda and Tanzania decided to end their proposed ban on used-clothing imports too. However, because Rwanda is maintaining significant tariffs on used-clothing imports, the U.S. has decided to suspend Rwanda’s AGOA access for apparel exports.

Used-clothing exports from the U.S. to all EAC countries combined had an all-time peak of US$43 million in 2012, which is 0.003 per cent of American exports. This is a truly negligible industry from the American perspective. Its trifling economic value is not surprising as this industry essentially takes items that might otherwise go to the garbage and ships them to Africa.

However, the United States is indicating that a major foreign policy goal on the African continent is the defence of its ability to dispose of second-hand clothing there.

The top U.S. foreign policy goals in Africa apparently no longer relate to human rights or democratic freedoms, but to protecting tiny, marginal American industries.

In contrast, China is building its influence on the African continent. While the Chinese are not promoting human rights or democratic freedoms, they’re also not punishing African countries for their trade policies for the purpose of defending tiny Chinese industries.

It is absolutely clear which superpower is willing to allow African countries to make their own policy decisions. It will be interesting to see which superpower is dominant in Africa in the long term.

Source: The Conversation… 

 

Which Way for Africa?

Daily Monitor || By Harold Acemah || 15 April 2018

which way for africa as au hits 55On May 25, the African Union will celebrate the 55th anniversary of the founding of the AU’s predecessor, the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Eight years later, from 1971 to 1973, I was privileged to represent Uganda at several OAU conferences when I was posted to Addis Ababa as Third Secretary at the Embassy of Uganda to Ethiopia.

The commitment of Uganda and most African countries to the cause of African unity was total during those good old days when Africans were waging a relentless and protracted struggle against colonialism, racism, racial discrimination and apartheid. Uganda’s commitment was shown by deed, not empty and useless rhetoric as is routinely the case today. Uganda paid her contributions to the regular budget of the OAU and the OAU’s Liberation Committee which was based in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania on time, in full and without any self-serving excuses or conditions.

Mwalimu Julius Nyerere expressed correctly and succinctly the hopes and aspirations of Africans in a letter he wrote which was published on March 27, 1960, by The New York Times.

Nyerere wrote in March 1960 that: “The Africa we must create, the Africa we must bequeath to posterity, the Africa of our dreams cannot be an Africa that is simply free from foreign domination. It must be an Africa that the outside world will look at and say: ‘Here is a continent that has truly free human beings.’ The outside world must be able to say: ‘If you really want to see how a free people conduct their affairs – if you want to see a people who live up to their ideals of human society – go to Africa!’ That is the continent of hope for the human race.

“I feel that Africa’s own tradition, her moral strength, her lack of ties with one bloc or another and that sentiment of oneness that the centuries of suffering have built among all her peoples, can together fit her for the role I have suggested – the role of champion of personal freedom in the world today.”

Mwalimu’s eloquent and prophetic words of wisdom are not mere wishful thinking of an idealist, but realistic wishes of a great man who tried his level best, along with many like-minded African leaders of his generation, to lead Africa to a promised land.

Mwalimu Nyerere, Kwame Nkrumah, Milton Obote, Kenneth Kaunda, Sekou Toure, Modibo Keita, Patrice Lumumba, Diallo Telli, Robert Gardiner and many others shared the above dream of Africa which is destined to be the hope of the human race. I believe that given the requisite political will as well as good and dedicated leadership that dream is achievable.

Africa has sadly become a laughing stock of the world instead of the hope of the human race. Ordinary Africans are today in chains almost everywhere on the continent. Why has Africa gone down the drain? Who has dumped Africa prematurely into the dustbin of history? How can Africans crawl out of the garbage pit in which Africa’s corrupt, greedy, self-centred and worthless leaders have consigned wananchi?

First, wananchi, especially Africa’s youth, must wake up, join hands and take full control of their destiny and not expect Africa’s ruling elites, intellectuals and politicians to rescue them from oppression, exploitation and humiliation by callous ruling classes who feel entitled to political power and the natural resources of Africa. Africa’s wananchi have a moral obligation to free themselves from the yoke of oppression, subjugation, exploitation and neo-colonialism.

Second, Africa’s working classes must unite and wage a relentless struggle for freedom from oppressors, pseudo-liberators and pseudo-revolutionaries who have betrayed the just, legitimate and patriotic cause and struggle for African dignity and unity and the dream which Mwalimu Nyerere wrote about in 1960 which he attempted to realise during his tenure as a great leader of the people of Tanzania, Africa and the third world.

Third, Africa’s genuine friends and development partners in the world must support the just struggle of the masses for liberty and stop lending a helping hand to corrupt African dictators who do not care about the interests and welfare of Africa’s wananchi. Some shameless African dictators have openly bragged that they grabbed power to pursue and advance personal and tribal agendas. May God bless Africa!

Mr Acemah is a political scientist and retired career diplomat.

Source: Daily Monitor…

 

Ahead of Peace Talks, a Who’s Who in South Sudan’s Splintering Civil War

IRIN || By Stefanie Glinski || 12 April 2018

who is who in south sudan splintering civil war 2018When the third round of talks aimed at revitalising the chances of peace in South Sudan gets underway in Addis Ababa on 26 April, the country’s influential former military chief wants to be at the table.

Paul Malong’s announcement on Tuesday, 11 April, that he was launching a new opposition party added an extra element of uncertainty into the mix ahead of potentially pivotal talks aimed at restoring a permanent ceasefire and reviving a collapsed 2015 peace agreement.

More than four million people, one third of the population, have fled their homes since South Sudan’s brutal war began in December 2013, creating the largest refugee crisis in Africa since the 1994 Rwandan genocide, and parts of the country have plunged towards famine.

Accused of human rights atrocities against civilians, Malong was sanctioned last year by the United States for obstructing peace talks, international peacekeeping efforts, and humanitarian missions.

Malong’s group, the South Sudan-United Front, is one of as many as 14 opposition groups seeking to join the discussions in the Ethiopian capital on 26 April, many of which already see the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) process as discredited.

Announcing the formation of his new group from exile in Kenya, Malong said he wanted to “arrest the carnage” of South Sudan’s ongoing war, stating that President Salva Kiir “has concentrated all his efforts, with the help of a small clique around him, to quite literally loot the coffers of our great nation to total bankruptcy.”

Malong’s new grouping is being portrayed both as a political party and as a form of rebellion, but experts say any large-scale military ambitions he may harbour are likely in their infancy.

“Malong has yet to show the capability to launch a potent rebellion,” explained Alan Boswell, conflict analyst and Sudan expert for Small Arms Survey, a Geneva-based group focusing on armed violence. “The declaration of his rebel movement is a political move, not a military one. He is seeking to legitimise and protect his interests during the political process in Addis Ababa.”

South Sudan’s war began after Kiir, an ethnic Dinka, accused his former deputy Riek Machar, an ethnic Nuer, of attempting a coup. Fighting has since killed more than 50,000 people, with the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) and the SPLA-in-Opposition (SPLA-IO) the main parties to the conflict.

A peace agreement was signed in August 2015, during Malong’s time as army chief, but the war has since splintered into myriad inter- and intra-communal conflicts, incorporating previously localised disputes over land, resources, and power. Observers say the dynamics change almost daily.

Peace talks have continuously failed and the security situation is unpredictable at best in many parts of the country. The nation is largely divided along ethnic lines – especially since the creation of new states, now a total of 32 – and traditional front lines are changing into widespread guerrilla warfare, with numerous militias also involved in the fighting.

What next?

The IGAD-led peace process has proven difficult to resurrect. Opposition groups say IGAD partner states Uganda and Kenya (accused by the UN of fuelling the conflict by supplying weapons) are on Kiir’s side. Some are arguing for the African Union and the UN to take over.

While some observers still back the IGAD process and think it’s important to give it the best chance possible, others see it is an outside intervention that has already failed and blame it for helping to further fragment the conflict.

The mandate for Kiir’s transitional government is due to run out in July and a government spokesman warned on Friday, 6 April, that any foot-dragging during negotiations by the opposition could lead to fresh elections.

The UN has warned that any attempt to hold elections before the country is in a more stable environment only risks deepening and extending the conflict.

With time running out, achieving some progress in the next round of talks is paramount. But the omens for steps towards peace aren’t looking great. “It’s the national dialogue that will move this country forward,” First Vice President Taban Deng Gai said last month during a speech in Yambio. “It needs to happen in South Sudan; it can’t happen in Addis.”

As the picture is muddied ahead of the peace talks in Addis Ababa, here’s a quick look at Malong’s new group and some of the other main protagonists:

The South Sudan-United Front

The jury may still be out on whether Malong’s primary intentions are political or military, but his new SS-UF group could become a major factor on the front line as the former army chief likely still enjoys considerable support in his hometown of Aweil and the surrounding Bhar-el-Ghazal region.

The main opposition group, the SPLA-IO, is already actively encouraging Malong’s military ambitions. “His movement is a big threat to the government, because he will fight in areas that we have never reached, like the Bhar-el-Ghazal region,” SPLA-IO spokesman Lam Paul Gabriel said, adding, “Malong will expose a lot in the peace negotiations, making it difficult for the government to handle the pressure.”

Malong has announced his intention to join the talks in Addis Ababa, but it’s not yet clear if he will be permitted to participate in the negotiations.

“Malong is a hardline defector from within Kiir’s Dinka power base,” explained Boswell. “The main threat he poses is from within Kiir’s coalition rather than from outside. If Malong is invited to join the peace process, then the government will protest and could use it as a pretext to roadblock the process.”

Serving as governor of Northern Bhar-el-Ghazal between 2008 and 2014, Malong was made chief of the army in January 2014. In May 2017, he was sacked and placed under house arrest in South Sudan’s capital, Juba, until he fled while supposedly seeking medical treatment. He now lives exiled in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi.

Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA)

South Sudan’s government-controlled army was founded in 1983 by ‘father of the nation’ John Garang. A collection of smaller militias such as the Mathiang Anyoor, which Malong was accused of controlling and which are accused of human rights atrocities, normally support the government.

Sudan People’s Liberation Army-in-Opposition (SPLA-IO)

Loyal to Machar, the SPLA-IO is the SPLA’s main opponent. It usually has the support of some smaller youth militias such as the White Army in Northern Jonglei. Government accusations that Machar and the SPLA-IO were planning a coup resulted in the start of the civil war on 15 December 2013.

After new fighting erupted in the capital Juba in July 2016 and Machar fled the country, Taban Deng Gai was instated as the new first vice president. Some members of the SPLA-IO were loyal to Taban Deng and now still support Kiir’s government. This nominally opposition faction loyal to Taban Deng remains a separate entity from both the SPLA and the SPLA-IO in most parts of the country, but is pro-government. Most of the opposition forces across the country are an array of local, non-Dinka ethnic groups.

The Shilluk Agwelek militia

The Agwelek forces have fought both alongside the SPLA and the SPLA-IO (those loyal to Machar). Primarily focused on defending Shilluk land in South Sudan’s Upper Nile, the group is predominantly loyal to Johnson Olony, believed to side with the opposition.

National Salvation Front (NAS)

Most of the NAS rebels are from the country’s Equatoria region and were previously with the opposition loyal to Machar but later joined Thomas Cirillo Swaka, Kiir’s former deputy head of logistics who resigned in February 2017 and accused the president of turning South Sudan into a “tribal army”.

Murle and Bul Nuer Communities

These ethnic groups are currently pro-government.

Other groups:

Western Equatoria has several armed groups, some of which recently signed amnesty agreements with the government, such as the South Sudan People’s Patriotic Front and the South Sudan National Liberation Movement (SSNLM). Many of the child soldiers released in Yambio in February were previously captured by the SSNLM.

Groups like the Gelweng (armed cattle keepers from Lakes State), the Mathiang Anyoor, and the White Army rely on local community structures. It is estimated that South Sudan has at least 40 different armed groups. New ones continue to emerge, particularly due to the conflict spreading to the Equatoria and Northern Upper Nile regions.

Source: IRIN…

 

Meet First Sudanese Woman to Coach a Men's Football Team

AllAfrica || Radio Dabanga || 08 April 2018

first sudanese woman to coach male footballersSalma El Majidi is the first Arab and Sudanese woman to coach a men's football team in the Arab world.

"I became a coach because there is still no scope for women's football in Sudan," El Majidi told an AFP reporter in eastern Sudan's El Gedaref where she trains players of the El Ahly El Gedaref club.

Daughter of a retired policeman, Majidi was 16 when she fell in love with football. It came about as she watched her younger brother's school team being coached. She was captivated by the coach's instructions, his moves, and how he placed the marker cones at practice sessions, the AFP report reads.

"At the end of every training session, I discussed with him the techniques he used to coach the boys," El Majidi said. "He saw I had a knack for coaching... and gave me a chance to work with him."

Soon she was coaching the under-13 and under-16 teams of El Hilal club in Omdurman, the twin city of Khartoum. Later she coached the Sudanese second league men's clubs of El Nasir, El Nahda, Nile Halfa and El Morada.

She is acknowledged by the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) as the first Arab and Sudanese woman to coach a men's football team in the Arab world.

"There are restrictions on women's football, but I'm determined to succeed," El Majidi said. She had to convince her family first before she could proceed with her dreams. She now dreams of coaching an international team.

Women football

Nowadays, Sudan has only one women's football team, the Women's Challenge Team. It was established by a group of young Sudanese women at the Comboni playground in downtown Khartoum in 2001.

The team played its first competitive match in 2006. Eight years later, in 2014, the members, divided into two teams, played a match in Khartoum. They women players were cheered by large numbers of fans, representatives of civil society organisations, and some foreign diplomats.

The team continues to lack recognition of FIFA. In 2012, in response to a question from FIFA regarding the feasibility of creating a women team, the Islamic Fiqh Council in Sudan issued a fatwa (a religious order) deeming a women's football team "an immoral act".

The coach of the Women's Challenge Team, Ahmed Babikir, told Al Jazeera in 2015 that Sudan used to have many women's teams in the past. "We need to go back to that," he said. "FIFA should not provide the Sudanese Football Association with any funding until they form more women's teams and support existing ones."

Source: AllAfrica… 

 

Winnie Madikizela-Mandela: Revolutionary Who Kept the Spirit of Resistance Alive

The Conversation || By Shireen Hassim || 03 April 2018

revolutionary winnie mandelaNo other woman – in life and after – occupies the place that Winnie Madikizela-Mandela does in South African politics. A stalwart of the African National Congress (ANC), she nevertheless stands above, and at times outside, the party. Her iconic status transcends political parties and geographical boundaries, generations and genders. Poets have honoured her, writers have immortalised her and photographers have adored her.

Her life has been overburdened by tragedies and dramas, and by the expectations of a world hungry for godlike heroes on whom to pin all its dreams, and one-dimensional villains on whom to pour its rage. Yet perhaps it is in the smaller and more intimate stories of our stumbling to make a better world that we are best able to recognise and appreciate the meaning of the life of Madikizela-Mandela.

In her particular life, we may see more clearly the violence wrought by colonialism and apartheid, the profound consequences of fraternal political movements to whom women were primarily ornamental and, yes, the tragic mistakes made in the crucible of civil war.

Her political power stemmed from the visceral connection that she was able to make between the everyday lives of black people in a racist state, and her own individual life. State power, in all its vicious dimensions, was exaggerated in its response to her indomitable will – and in its stark visibility, personified.

Fearless in the face of torture, imprisonment, banishment and betrayal, she stood firm in her conviction that apartheid could be brought down. She said what she liked, and bore the consequences. Her very life was a form of bearing witness to the brutality of the system.

A life of misrecognition

Many obituaries will outline the broad sweep of her life; few will mark the extent to which her revolutionary ideas were shaped before she even met Nelson Mandela. To most of her social circle in the 1950s, for a long time into the 1980s, and certainly for Nelson Mandela’s biographers, Madikizela-Mandela was a young rural naif who charmed the most eligible (married) man in town.

This way of seeing her as primarily beautiful, and not as an emerging political figure, has coloured both contemporaneous accounts of Madikizela-Mandela (for she was surely too young and beautiful to have a serious political idea) as well as scholarly accounts of the period (which focused on the thoughts and actions of men).

This misrecognition resonated in the ANC, which had no way of accommodating Madikizela-Mandela’s political qualities other than by casting her in the familiar tropes of wife and mother. Astutely, she embraced the role of mother and wife of a political leader and fashioned it into a platform for her own variant of radicalism, drawing on recent memories of the forcible dispossession of land and its impact on the Eastern Cape peasantry, and black consciousness.

She kept those traditions alive in the ANC, especially in the everyday politics of the townships, when the leadership of the party was crafting new forms of non-racialism and at times vilifying black consciousness. Even though she was not part of the inner circle of the black consciousness movement, being older than the students leading it at its height, she was an ally in words and spirit.

In the tumult after the 1976 uprising, she built a bridge between different political factions. In the early 1990s, when Nelson Mandela was urging armed youths to give up violent strategies, it was Madikizela-Mandela they called on (along with the then leader of the South African Communist Party Chris Hani) to defend their change in tactics.

She played a similar role in brokering between moderates and radicals in the ANC and its breakaways up until her death. This was a form of gendered politics made possible by her status as mother of the nation, uniting warring sons and holding together her political family, even if peace was maintained only in her presence.

White power and black suffering

Winnie Madikizela was born in a rural Eastern Cape village called Bizana in September 1936. Her parents, Columbus and Gertrude, were teachers and her childhood was marked by the stern Methodism of her mother and the radical Africanist orientation of her father.

Rural life, with its entrenched gender roles, shaped her childhood. Not only was she aware of her mother’s desire to bear another son, but she and her sisters were expected to care for their male siblings. She was barely eight when her mother died months after giving birth to Winnie’s brother. Her childhood was cut short, and she had to leave school for six months to work in the fields and to carry out, with her sisters, all the daily chores of the household, from preparing food to cleaning. In her large and rambunctious family in which her parents upheld discipline with physical punishment, she learned to defend herself with her fists, if necessary.

Her rural background made her aware of land dispossession as a central question of freedom. By her own account, she learnt about the racialised system of power early in her life. From her father, she learnt about the Xhosa wars against the colonisers, and later would imagine herself as picking up where her ancestors had failed:

If they failed in those nine Xhosa wars, I am one of them of them and I will start from where those Xhosas left off and get my land back.

She was to retain the theme of land dispossession by colonialism throughout her political career. Associated with this was the idea that race was central to colonialism. Taught by her grandmother that the source of black suffering was white power, her framing of politics was defined completely by the ways in which her family understood the relations of colonialism, and by their personal experiences of humiliation.

As with many other ANC members with Eastern Cape roots, she did not think of urban struggles as the only space of resistance, or workers as the only agents of change. She warned, in 1985, that

The white makes a mistake, thinking the tribal black is subservient and docile.

Militant to the core

After six short years together, Madikizela-Mandela’s husband, Nelson, was sentenced to life imprisonment. By this stage, she too was inextricably involved in the national liberation movement, politics with single parenting. She was attuned to the mood of people, and was more of an empathic leader than a theorist or tactician.

She was an effective speaker, and had a gift for winning over an audience. Adelaide Joseph, a friend and fellow ANC activist, recalls that when she made her first public speech…right on the spot, while she was speaking, the women composed a song for Winnie Mandela. And they started to sing right in the hall.

She joined the ANC Women’s League and the Federation of South African Women, and participated in several campaigns. She was militant to the core. On one occasion, when a policeman arrived at her house with a summons and dared to pull her arm, she assaulted him and had to defend herself in court for the action.

She was far from being a bystander, or a passive wife patiently waiting for her husband’s release from prison. In her autobiography, Madikizela-Mandela credits several other women for influencing her politically. Among these were Lilian Ngoyi, Florence Matomela, Frances Baard and Kate Molale, all leaders of the Federation.

For her, they were the “top of the ANC hierarchy” although at the time no women were in fact in any formal leadership positions in the ANC. The ANC only allowed women to become full members in 1943, and during the 1950s, women were locked in an intense battle for recognition within the movement.

In the ANC Women’s League and in the Federation, she held positions as chairperson of her branch in Orlando, and was a member of their provincial and national executives. In the 1970s, with her close friend Fatima Meer, she formed the Black Women’s Federation. It was a short lived organisation with few campaigns, but signalled an adherence to the new township based politics that was sweeping the country.

Her mode of work in any case was not that of painstaking organisation-building; she was more capable as a public speaker and as someone who could connect with people in the harsh conditions of life in apartheid’s townships. She attended funerals and counselled families, acts of public courage that sustained activists. She offered a form of intimate political leadership, instinctively aligning herself with people in distress.

Gender was her political resource, enabling her to draw on effective qualities to form political communities and providing a mode in which she could enter into the lives of people in the townships. She embraced the role of mother and wife of a political leader and fashioned it into a platform from which she challenged the apartheid state.

Banishment and brutality

If the apartheid state had hoped to break her, they failed. She was fearless in the face of the state’s attempts to silence her. Her home was repeatedly invaded and searched, and she was arrested, assaulted and imprisoned several times. Then, in 1977, in an act of extreme cruelty, she was served with a banishment order to a place in the Free State called Brandfort – a place she had never heard of nor had she ever visited.

It was a horrendous uprooting from her family and community in Soweto, a form of exile that she described as “my little Siberia.” Madikizela-Mandela grasped very clearly the power that could derive from associating actions against her with actions against the nation. As she put it,

When they send me into exile, it’s not me as an individual they are sending. They think that with me they can also ban the political ideas. But that is a historic impossibility… I am of no importance to them as an individual. What I stand for is what they want to banish.

But although the state did not break Winnie, by her own account it did brutalise her. Talking about her long period of solitary confinement and torture in 1969, she told a journalist that that imprisonment of eighteen months in solitary confinement did actually change me … We were so brutalised by that experience that I then believed in the language of violence and the only to deal with, to fight, apartheid was through the same violence they were unleashing against us and that is how one gets affected by that type of brutality.

The consequences were awful, not just for her but also for Paul Verryn, and especially for the families of Stompie Seipei and Abu Asvat. This period in her life, and in South African politics generally, is one that will not only occupy our moral energies, but also shape the ways in which narratives of violence in the 1980s are written. These were dark times in a country weighed down by states of emergency and militarised control. The exaggerated quality of Madikizela-Mandela’s life had to bear, too, the nightmares of our nation’s struggles to free itself.

The ANC could barely contain the nature of leadership that Winnie represented. Like many women in the movement, she was marginalised from its powerful decision making structures. Unlike male leaders, her personal life was constantly under the spotlight (no doubt aided by a zealous security machinery that kept her under constant surveillance), and she was judged harshly and unfairly for her private choices. Although she was a masterful player of the familial categories of wife and mother, she felt reduced by them too.

Commentators like to use words such as maverick and wayward to describe her, but these tendencies developed because the regular structures of the ANC could not easily accommodate a powerful woman with a radical voice. Stepping outside the agreed parameters of the official party line, as she frequently did, was a form of asserting her independence, a form of refusal of the terms of political cadreship that were available to women in the ANC and in society more generally. It also allowed her to build alliances with the new voices emerging after 1994, from standing with the Treatment Action Campaign against Thabo Mbeki’s policies on HIV/AIDS, to supporting the formation of the Economic Freedom Fighters. It accounts for the tremendous affection for her among young activists who are equally wary of the sedimented power structures in politics.

The endless stream of photographs that picture her in romantic embrace with Nelson Mandela, even now in her death, and despite their divorce, miss this fundamental point: the marriage was only a small part of her life, not its definitive point. To present her simply as wife, mostly as mother, is to erase the many struggles she waged to be defined in her own terms.

Source: The Conversation… 

 

Forty-four African Countries Sign a Free-trade Deal

The Economist || 22 March 2018

african countries sign for free market trade 2018But Nigeria is among the protectionist holdouts

“LET’S get together,” sang the choir to the rhythm of Bob Marley, as a succession of African leaders signed an ambitious, continent-wide free-trade agreement in Kigali on March 21st. Although all 55 members of the African Union (AU) had been involved in negotiations around the grandly named Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA), not all were ready to sign as one. On the day, 44 put pen to paper. Among the holdouts was Nigeria, Africa’s largest economy. Paul Kagame, Rwanda’s president and the host of the AU summit, had no time for sceptics. “Some horses decided to drink the water. Others have excuses and they end up dying of thirst.”

The logic of the deal is sound. Trade in Africa is still shaped by relationships and infrastructure dating back to the colonial era. Countries mostly sell primary commodities to other continents. Only 18% of their exports are traded within Africa, where they often face high tariffs. The CFTA is meant to change that by creating a “single continental market for goods and services”. UNCTAD, a UN agency, reckons that eliminating import taxes between African countries would increase regional trade by a third and lift African GDP by 1% over time. Currently, nearly half of this trade is in manufactured goods. Services would also be opened up.

But not everyone is convinced. Muhammadu Buhari, Nigeria’s president, cancelled his flight to Kigali amid domestic pressure. An official says Nigeria was given just a few days to read the text, which he worries will hurt incumbent businesses.

Some protectionists fret that importers will slap “Made in Africa” labels on goods from elsewhere. “It will kill our industry and kill our jobs,” says Ayuba Wabba of the Nigeria Labour Congress. Such instincts run deep in Nigeria. Its biggest company, Dangote Cement, was nurtured with import restrictions, which shielded it from foreign competition. Chiedu Osakwe, Nigeria’s chief negotiator, is nevertheless confident that his country will sign in due course. Big countries such as Nigeria stand to gain most from the deal, which will help their firms expand regionally.

Many of the details of the accord are still to be agreed upon. Countries are supposed to eliminate tariffs on a list comprising 90% of products (although they have not yet agreed what will go on this list). In practice, however, that could allow them to leave unchanged duties on most of their current imports, which are concentrated in a narrow range of goods.

Tariffs are not the most important barrier to trade. A bigger obstacle is that standards and licences are different across Africa. Take the example of a large South African retailer with stores elsewhere on the continent. It has a big warehouse where employees take products such as tubes of toothpaste out of the cartons that are used in South Africa and repack them into ones that comply with labelling rules in other countries. Red tape also slows things down. The Trade Law Centre, a South African think-tank, looked at the time taken for customs and port handling in Africa and in Singapore, and then imagined closing the gap by a fifth. The economic gains would be roughly double those expected from eliminating tariffs. The CFTA will try to lower these hurdles to trade, though there is little sign of the EU-style machinery that makes Europe’s single market work.

Big plans can go stale. A mooted free-trade area for the Americas is now defunct. This one will come into force only when it has been ratified by 22 signatories. Trade patterns will not change until countries start making things that their neighbours want to buy. But some countries are galloping ahead, hopeful the rest will catch up.

Source: The Economist… 

 

Rwanda 'Ready' for African Migrants from Israel, Libya

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Congo refugees

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Burundi

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

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

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

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

Source: The EastAfrican…

 

The Key to Making Peace in Africa

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: Foreign Affairs… 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: Global Sisters Reporter… 

 

How to Declare a Famine: A Primer from South Sudan

IRIN || By Stefanie Glinski || 05 March 2

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

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

Conflict and hunger

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

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

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

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

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

Identifying Famine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Collecting data, with difficulty

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Political challenges

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

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

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

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

Step-by-step analysis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Avoiding a ‘desperate’ situation  

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

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

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

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

Source: IRIN… 

 

President Kagame Shocked by High Number of Churches in Rwanda

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Loopholes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: The EastAfrican… 

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“It was all him.”

Source: Catholic News Agency… 

 

 

Ethiopia's Stability Envisages Africa's Inclusive Development

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: AllAfrica… 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For Refugees in Sudan, Fears Surround Probe into UN Resettlement Fraud

IRIN || By Sally Hayden || 23 July 2018

As the UN’s refugee agency investigates allegations of bribery and corruption in the resettlement process in Sudan, dozens of refugees have told IRIN they’re too fearful to give full details to UNHCR-appointed investigators. They worry about retribution from those they’re making allegations against because of what they say is a lack of protection for witnesses and close links between some local UNHCR staff and Sudanese security officials.  

Refugees have told IRIN that since the investigations began, they’ve been intimidated and harassed by some Sudanese staff at the UNHCR office in Khartoum, as well as by state security agents and officials of the Sudanese government’s Commission of Refugees. Refugees say they have been called on the phone or asked to meet with these officials and then been pressured not to testify on pain of having their cases for resettlement closed or losing access to other assistance. The Sudanese Commissioner of Refugees did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

On 15 May, IRIN published a report based on interviews with more than a dozen refugees and a former UNHCR staff member. They alleged that decisions on which refugees would be permanently resettled to a third country were often made on the basis of bribes rather than standard eligibility criteria. Two days later, UNHCR suspended resettlement from Sudan and confirmed that in February and March it had launched investigations into alleged corruption, and would soon deploy an anti-fraud team.

In a statement announcing the suspension, UNHCR encouraged anyone with information to contact its Inspector General's Office (IGO), an oversight body that investigates complaints of misconduct, "without delay”.

Over the past 10 weeks, an IGO investigator has contacted refugees and asked them to do phone or Skype interviews. In an email seen by IRIN, “potential witnesses” were told their interviews could be recorded and details could be disclosed on a “need to know” basis with both the subject of the investigation and those involved in taking disciplinary action. The email also stated that they would be asked to swear an oath to tell the truth and shouldn’t discuss the investigation with anyone without prior IGO approval.

But refugees told IRIN they didn’t believe the investigation process offered sufficient confidentiality, and expressed concern that the UN’s refugee agency could provide little help if they were retaliated against. They said they didn’t believe they could come forward safely because of ties between some UNHCR staff and the Sudanese state, and feared reprisals from corrupt Sudanese and UN officials who may be exposed by the investigation.

“Refugees are afraid to speak because those at UNHCR have connections with the [Sudanese] security and can do whatever,” one refugee said.

In an emailed response, UNHCR said it is concerned by refugees’ allegations to IRIN of harassment by local UNHCR Khartoum staff and Sudanese officials. “We take these allegations very seriously,” the email stated. UNHCR encouraged refugees and others to report such behaviour to the IGO.

The IGO receives hundreds of complaints around misconduct every year, including allegations of fraud in the resettlement and refugee status determination processes. When the IGO launches an investigation, they interview witnesses, the people accused of wrongdoing, and may gather documentary and other forms of evidence, according to investigation guidelines published in 2012.

Protection and privacy

Resettlement is a complicated process taking anywhere from several days (in emergency cases) to several years.

As IRIN reported in May, refugees in Khartoum allege that middlemen and local UNHCR staff with close ties to the refugee community have been requesting bribes to speed up and corrupt the registration and resettlement process. The going rate to do that for unregistered asylum seekers in Khartoum was about $15,000, refugees said. Resettling a whole family boosted the price to $35,000-$40,000 – money usually raised by relatives abroad. Around 1.2 million refugees are now in Sudan, and more than 2,000 people were resettled from there in the year ending September 2017, according to UNHCR.

In Khartoum, many refugees and migrants live in a constant state of concern over security and safety, analysts and researchers report. “In Sudan, migrants are vulnerable to a litany of abuses,” Human Rights Watch Sudan researcher Jehanne Henry, now the associate director of the Africa division, wrote last year. “Many live in legal limbo; can be rounded up and arrested at any time and summarily tried for immigration violations; and can be jailed, fined, and deported without due process or transparency.”

They face endemic abuse and harassment from the Sudanese police, who regularly arrest them to solicit bribes and are accused of physical violence and sexual assault. Just last week, a video emerged online allegedly showing an undercover police officer raping a refugee woman in a Khartoum street, provoking debate around the sexual abuse of refugees by police officers.

Amid this atmosphere, refugees are anxious and constantly worried about their own safety. This is compounded by their confusion over who is actually carrying out the UNHCR investigations. Several told IRIN that UNHCR officials in Sudan not affiliated with the IGO, as well as some international UNHCR staff, had asked them to visit the Khartoum office to be interviewed. This scenario worried the refugees, who said they would be at risk because the very people they are making allegations against would see them. They were also concerned that translators might feed details of their testimony to the accused personnel.

"I thought it was going to be confidential," said one refugee, after taking part in an interview in the UNHCR compound in Khartoum. "I don't like the idea of going to that office,” the refugee said, adding that those accused were not good people and had a “network of people in key areas”.

“There are many refugees who [have] witnessed the corruption but are afraid to [say] it,” the refugee said. “The consequences [of coming forward] will be life-threatening.”

Another refugee recounted an incident in the reception of the UNHCR office in May in which Sudanese staff involved in the resettlement process warned refugees not to share any information about their cases with a visiting international team who were asking about the corruption allegations. “The local staff spoke to the refugees in Arabic, saying ‘don't tell them'," the refugee explained, adding that the international staff who were present did not understand Arabic.

UNHCR spokesman Babar Baloch said last month that protection is provided for witnesses in certain cases. “Witness protection is a top priority, and where serious safety concerns arise UNHCR has mechanisms in place to respond,’’ he said. “However, as you will understand, for obvious reasons, we won’t be able to discuss details publicly.”

UNHCR did relocate several witnesses during a similar investigation surrounding Kenya's Kakuma camp in 2001. And IRIN was told by a UNHCR official who is not based in Khartoum, and who requested anonymity, that some refugees whose testimony was deemed sensitive have been moved elsewhere for their safety during other investigations, including another one in Kakuma in 2016-2017.

Yet two refugees in Khartoum who are potential witnesses to the Khartoum investigations told IRIN their direct pleas to the IGO and UNHCR for protection, including to be moved to a safe place, had been declined or ignored. Both told IRIN they fear for their lives.

“What they should be doing is resettling them,” a current UNHCR resettlement officer, who has witnessed IGO investigations elsewhere in East Africa and requested anonymity, said. “It’s a perfect resettlement case." Without emergency resettlement or the option of witnesses entering a safe house, the officer said: “No one talks. No one will tell them what’s happening. So it just keeps happening."

Fear of the Sudanese state

UNHCR has previously highlighted the concerns it faces around protection during investigations. A March 2018 overview of the IGO’s work stated that “lessons learned from key investigations” included that “the support that UNHCR can provide to witnesses who face security risks when they are involved in investigations is limited” and “the primary responsibility for witness protection lies with the host State.”

Several refugees who said they were afraid to take part in the Khartoum investigation said they knew they couldn’t turn to Sudanese officials if testifying led to problems. They referred to an incident in April 2017 when dozens of refugees protested at the UNHCR Khartoum compound to draw attention to their allegations of corruption in the resettlement process. Six refugees who were present told IRIN that UNHCR staff had called the police, who set upon the protesters, leaving one woman with a broken leg.

When asked about the incident, UNHCR Sudan spokesman Steven O’Brien initially denied the police were called. Later, when provided with a video that appeared to show police inside the UNHCR compound on the day of the protest, UNHCR spokesman Baloch clarified that police officers had been present but said there was “no evidence of force being used”.

It is unclear how many people have voluntarily come forward to participate in the Khartoum probe, and UNHCR does not comment on current investigations. However, some refugees told IRIN they have long been too afraid to report exploitation and would not participate if asked, particularly out of fear of losing the protections and services associated with refugee status.

“We have never dared to complain because the UNHCR refugee card is the only thing that protects us from Sudanese officials,” one Eritrean woman said. Several refugees told IRIN they feared reprisals could take the form of their files with UNHCR or the Sudanese Commission on Refugees being closed or “lost”, which would mean losing their right to legal protection and the services that go along with it.

The 2017 human rights report from the US State Department notes that refugees and asylum seekers in Sudan are “vulnerable to arbitrary arrest and harassment” in urban areas for incorrect or missing identity cards and authorisation documents.

“We fear retribution and jail, because if we’re removed from the protection of the UNHCR, we have no protection from the Sudanese government,” the Eritrean refugee explained. “So, I would love to file a complaint but fear the consequences of doing so. I feel like nobody at the UNHCR really cares about what we go through.”

A process on hold

As the investigation continues, the impact of the suspended programme is unclear, beyond the fact that hundreds of resettlements have been delayed for at least several months. Around 170 refugees were resettled from Sudan each month in the year ending September 2017, according to UNHCR.

Speaking on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the topic, several former UN staff in Khartoum and elsewhere said they were worried that the suspended programme might put refugees waiting for resettlement at risk.

“Sometimes these investigations take months and months and months to get to the bottom [of],” the former Sudan head of another UN agency told IRIN. “If people in urgent need of resettlement are sitting around for months, [UNHCR is] certainly not supporting their protection.”

Since mid-May, as the investigation has gone on, refugees and former UNHCR staff in Sudan interviewed over the past two months by IRIN have gone from being hopeful about the prospect of change to worrying that the situation may get worse.

“Maybe, once the media is gone, they will keep doing it,” a former UNHCR Sudan staff member said, referring to the alleged corrupt practices. “The situation is complicated in Sudan.”

Source: IRIN… http://www.irinnews.org/news/2018/07/23/refugees-sudan-fears-surround-probe-un-resettlement-fraud

Multimedia

Audio - Various



Video: Kamba Peace Museum - Machakos

 

African Continent

Advertising

Advertise with us...

frontbannerimage

Documents

        

  • banner1.jpg
  • banner2.jpg
  • banner3.jpg
  • banner4.jpg
  • banner6.jpg
  • banner7.jpg
  • banner8.jpg
  • banner10.jpg