DR Congo-AU – how neutral and effective is the UN intervention brigade?


To say violence is endemic in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) would be a cliché. It is a graveyard not only of hundreds of thousands, probably millions, of people, mostly civilians, killed in the violence which has plagued the region since the Rwanda genocide of 1994 overflowed that neighbouring country’s border. It also appears to be a graveyard of hope.

A year ago hope seemed to be reviving. The Force Intervention Brigade (FIB) component of the UN peacekeeping mission MONUSCO provided the Congolese government army (FARDC) with enough firepower to defeat the Rwanda-backed M23 rebels and drive them out of the territory. The South African National Defence Force (SANDF) battalion in the FIB, with its Rooivalk attack helicopters, played a vital role in that rare military success for the UN in the DRC.

After the M23 captured the North Kivu provincial capital of Goma in November 2012 – while MONUSCO troops stood by – the UN Security Council in March 2013 passed Resolution 2098, establishing the FIB as the first UN-led overtly offensive force. Though administratively part of MONUSCO, it was given its own unique mandate to take the initiative and ‘neutralise’ the M23 and two other foreign armed groups terrorising this area: the FDLR and the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF).

The cynical interpretation is that the FDLR is only trying to forestall military attack by the FIB and FARDC

With the FARDC, the FIB began operations against the M23 in August 2013 and defeated it by November. The next target was supposed to have been the FDLR – the French acronym for the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, originally established by ethnic Hutus who fled Rwanda after participating in the genocide of the Tutsi population.

The FDLR have been present in eastern DRC for the last 20 years, and provided the Rwandan government with a reason – or pretext – for invading eastern DRC several times, and so has been one of the most destabilising factors in the area.

Earlier this year, faced with the threat of concerted military action against it, the FDLR announced plans to voluntarily disarm. But by May, the deadline for that process came and went, with only a handful of surrenders. In July the member states of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the International Conference for the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) gave the FDLR another six months to implement its agreement to surrender, or face military action. This has placed MONUSCO in a difficult position.

The FDLR has been largely dragging its feet. Some of its less-able bodied fighters have participated in the UN-led disarmament, demobilisation, repatriation and rehabilitation for foreign fighters and returned to Rwanda. This week about 90 of those fighters moved, as agreed, from a transit camp in the east to a more substantial camp in Kisangani much further to the west in the province Orientale. This appeared to be a largely ceremonial gesture to demonstrate the extraction of the FDLR fighters from the war zone.

There is a sense that the FIB thinks that its mission is now accomplished

The cynical but widespread interpretation of the FDLR’s motives is that they are only trying to forestall military attack by the FIB and FARDC. Most of their fighters and weapons remain at large but this small gesture may be taken by the UN and DRC as a sign of sufficient progress.

Meanwhile other killers have been busy. Over the last two months about 200 civilians, including women and children, have been killed in Beni territory, north of Goma in North Kivu province. The ADF, an armed group originating in Uganda, has been blamed, though it is not quite clear if all the attacks, including reported beheadings, mutilations and rape, can be attributed to them. Like the M23 and the FDLR, the ADF are on the list of foreign armed groups targeted by the FIB. Joint operations were planned for early 2014. Surprisingly the FARDC then launched a unilateral operation – Operation Sukola – against the ADF in January this year, claiming victory just a few months ago.

In recent weeks an angry local population has attacked MONUSCO bases in the area for failing to come to its defence. This week MONUSCO military spokesperson Colonel Felix-Prosper Basse strongly denied that MONUSCO had failed the people of Beni, insisting that, ‘We are putting all our efforts together in order to neutralise these people.’ He recalled that when the ADF attacked the FARDC position at Kamango on 25 December 2013, MONUSCO intervened with an attack helicopter to drive the ADF out of Kamango.

The overriding impression one gains from talking to non-government people in the region is that the FIB has not done very much for nearly a year.

This is unfortunately reinforcing the suspicion that the FIB was largely created at the instigation of SADC to help its fellow-SADC member state, DRC, defeat the M23, which was backed by its enemy Rwanda. There is a sense that the FIB thinks that its mission is now accomplished.

The overriding impression here is that the FIB has not done very much for nearly a year

Basse denied that MONUSCO and the FIB were reluctant to go after the FDLR, insisting they would do so it if failed to give up by the 2 January deadline. But whether the FIB itself is impartial and neutral is the growing question. Ironically, the concerns about the FIB’s current relative dormancy come at a time when the legality and impartiality of its aggressive mandate are being questioned.

The International Peace Institute (IPI) has just published a report which argues that by giving the FIB a uniquely-offensive mandate, the UN Security Council inadvertently made not just the FIB but MONUSCO as a whole, a party to the armed conflict. ‘As the UN is now a party, all military members of MONUSCO will have lost the protections afforded to them under international law … and therefore no longer enjoy legal protection from attacks.’

This could discourage countries from contributing troops to MONUSCO. The authors of the IPI report also worry that the FIB could undercut the existing mandates of MONUSCO and other UN missions to protect civilians. They argue that MONUSCO already had a robust mandate to protect civilians before the FIB was created and suggest that it was more the lack of political will and capacity than the weakness of its mandate, that had prevented MONUSCO acting more aggressively.

Presumably this is a reference to the widespread belief that several countries which have contributed large contingents to MONUSCO have given their soldiers standing orders not to endanger themselves.

The IPI report also contends that in a situation where Congolese government forces ‘are responsible and largely unaccountable for serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law, the [Force] Intervention Brigade’s offensive mandate to “neutralize” the non-state armed groups and its relative silence on the FARDC stretches the concept of impartiality.’

As a key actor – perhaps the key actor – in the FIB, South Africa bears a special responsibility to remedy these faults. The FIB’s mandate is now a fait accompli and it is perhaps understandable why SADC insisted on it, given MONUSCO’s weakness. But it is still possible for the FIB to prove its impartiality by going after the FDLR as aggressively as it pursued the M23.

South Africa, incidentally, could also use some of its leverage through the FIB to discourage Congolese President Joseph Kabila from changing the constitution so he can stand for a third term in 2016, as he is widely suspected to be contemplating.

The Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework agreement signed by the DRC and other countries in the region in March 2013 also imposed many conditions on the Congolese government, notably that it should re-establish its authority in eastern DRC and take further measures to entrench democracy in the country. Kabila clinging to power would not serve that end.

Peter Fabricius, Foreign Editor, Independent Newspapers, South Africa

South Africa – The Zimbabwean skeleton in Mbeki’s closet


Thabo Mbeki’s quietly destructive policy on Zimbabwe
26 November 2014

It was the skeleton in the cupboard that successive South African leaders desperately tried to keep locked up. Former presidents Thabo Mbeki, Kgalema Motlanthe and President Jacob Zuma all fought tooth and nail to prevent the release of the Khampepe report on the 2002 elections in Zimbabwe, drawn up by Constitutional Court judges Dikgang Moseneke and Sisi Khampepe.

Finally, the government ran out of strategies and on 14 November had to release the report to the Mail & Guardian newspaper. This came after a six-year-long court battle by the newspaper, which culminated in a Constitutional Court finding that rejected the government’s successive appeals to overturn earlier court orders for the report to be made public.

The document slams the Zimbabwean electoral process, and says that given the intimidation of the opposition and the redrawing of electoral boundaries to favour the ruling Zanu-PF, the elections were neither free not fair. This was in contrast with the assessment of a South African election observer mission that was sent there by Mbeki, then president and mediator in Zimbabwe, which found the elections to be ‘legitimate’.

Morgan Tsvangirai slammed South Africa for scuppering his chances of becoming president

The findings of the Khampepe report, and how it undermined South Africa’s potential to make a difference in upholding democracy outside its borders, are cited in a new Freedom House report about the impact of ‘leading powers’ on democracy and human rights worldwide. South Africa’s impact is considered ‘minimal’.

Paul Graham, the former executive director of the Institute for Democracy in South Africa (IDASA), is the author of the South African chapter of the Freedom House report. Graham says that if the Khampepe report had been released at the time, it could have had far-reaching implications for Zimbabwe and South Africa.

The Governance, Crime and Justice division of the Institute for Security Studies hosted a seminar about the Freedom House report in Pretoria last week. At the seminar, Graham said that an earlier solution to the political crisis in Zimbabwe could have meant fewer refugees streaming into South Africa – something that later exacerbated the devastating xenophobic violence in the country.

‘We lost 12 years,’ said Graham, who now serves as the chair of the International Steering Committee of the Community of Democracies NGO process. At the time, Mbeki and the South African government insisted that its ‘quiet diplomacy’ in Zimbabwe, which was often shrouded in secrecy, was effective. ‘The problem is quiet diplomacy can be active and quiet; or it can be quiet and passive – and therefore unnoticed and unjudged. Or it can be, as we’ve now discovered with the Khampepe report, quiet and destructive,’ Graham said.

Asked why Mbeki chose not to criticise President Robert Mugabe and why he did everything possible to keep the Khampepe report under wraps, Graham said he suspects South Africa had ‘bigger fish to fry than Zimbabwe’ at the time, like the founding of the African Union (AU) and the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (Nepad), spearheaded by Mbeki and former Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo. ‘They were quite happy to appease Mr Mugabe so that he wouldn’t overturn that process.’

An earlier solution could have meant fewer refugees streaming into South Africa

Secondly, said Graham, there was a general feeling that while Zanu-PF was ‘not all it should be,’ a government led by the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) held a greater risk for South Africa and for Zimbabwe. The MDC’s Morgan Tsvangirai last week slammed South Africa for scuppering his chances of becoming the president of Zimbabwe, saying the Khampepe report is proof of South Africa ‘aiding the subversion of democratic processes in Zimbabwe.’

Following the 2002 election and especially in the run-up to the 2008 poll, repression against the opposition continued and was well documented by local media in Zimbabwe as well as international human rights groups.

The fiasco of the 2008 elections, where Tsvangirai was said to have won the first round and then refused to participate in the run-off due to severe repression against the opposition, plunged the country into an unprecedented political and economic crisis. This was despite the 2008 Global Political Agreement that provided for power sharing between Zanu-PF and the MDC.

Zimbabwe has long been considered Mbeki’s blind spot, but the Freedom House report also records other failures of South Africa’s foreign policy dating back to the Mbeki era, such as the lack of any progress in nudging Swaziland towards democracy. It also recalls controversial business deals like the selling of a mass surveillance package to former Libyan strongman Muammar Gaddafi between 2005 and 2008, which was suspected to have been used to spy on citizens.

Although Zuma was initially applauded for playing a more constructive role in Zimbabwe after coming to power in 2009, the report states that South Africa’s foreign policy under Zuma ‘increasingly appear[s] self-interested and conservative.’ South Africa has taken authoritarian regimes like those in Venezuela as allies, which is ‘unfortunate,’ says Graham.

Mbeki insisted that ‘quiet diplomacy’ in Zimbabwe was effective

In documents like the 2011 white paper on foreign policy, South Africa still claims that it wants ‘a better Africa’ where ‘human rights, human dignity, non-racialism and non-sexism’ are respected. The Freedom House report states that South Africa has made very little impact in this regard.

Generally, South Africa refrains from making strong statements about democracy on the continent – except in the case of some coup d’états – and tends to side with the AU Commission, now led by former South African minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma. ‘Direct democracy support is limited to election observation and the improvement of election processes,’ states the report.

According to the report, one exception is the strong stance South Africa has taken on the rights of marginalised groups like the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community, both domestically and in Africa – referring to a February 2014 statement by the Department of International Relations and Cooperation. Graham laments the general lack of action on human rights globally by a country that initially created a lot of expectation worldwide following its struggle against apartheid. ‘South Africa hasn’t worked out a strategy [or] tactics of promoting human rights,’ he says. ‘We have gone from quiet diplomacy, to just quiet’.

Liesl Louw-Vaudran, ISS Consultant

How the SACP and World Bank Agree on Policies that Restrain Redistribution in South Africa

South African Civil Society Information Service

By Ebrahim-Khalil Hassen · 27 Nov 2014

Picture credit: David Shankbone/flickr

Picture credit: David Shankbone/flickr

Have we reached the end of the road for redistribution in South Africa? Recent publications by the World Bank and the South African Communist Party (SACP) suggest that the time for redistribution may well be over. The oddness of the pairing – usually with different ideological stances – is remarkable in itself, but the underlying logic for reaching the conclusion is even more remarkable.

The policy recommendation is similar. After a strong focus on expanding services, South Africa must now focus on the economy. The detailed proposals from the SACP differ from the standard set of recommendations from the World Bank, but the argument that we have reached the limits of redistribution in South Africa is a common thread. The solutions for the SACP is to be found in policies aimed at industrialisation and infrastructure development. For the World Bank’s part, there are no detailed proposals in its report, but a general call for inclusive economic growth and a warning that the fiscal limits have been reached.

There are, of course, important differences as well, but they share a remarkable circumvention: the failure to unpack how the poor, especially the young and unemployed, will be able to participate in the envisaged economic reforms.

The publication of the World Bank report, “South Africa Economic Update: Fiscal Policy and Redistribution in an Unequal Society”, provides an important analysis of the impact of government expenditure on the poor and for the first time, provides incidence reports on taxation, which shows that personal income tax is progressive. The study uses methodologies used in other countries, which allows for comparisons.

South Africa is an outlier. The impact of government spending on the poor in South Africa has the biggest impact on inequality when compared to other countries. But, we still remain the most unequal country compared to others in the sample.

The paradox of having a redistributive fiscal outcome with social grants having the biggest impact alongside very high levels of inequality is an important one. The World Bank uses this finding to argue that redistributive efforts via government spending are unlikely to lead to major changes in inequality. In other words, the bank is arguing that social grants reduce inequality, but play a limited role in economic growth. The evidence however shows that social grants play a role in supporting poorer people’s involvement in the economy.

Importantly, the World Bank combines good redistributive impacts with a warning that South Africa is required to “consolidate its fiscal position” and ultimately suggests that the answer lies in inclusive economic growth. But while saying so, the World Bank also pays scant attention to the highly concentrated nature of the South African economy, which is the major obstacle to inclusive economic growth.

The South African Communist Party (SACP) recently published a policy document titled: “Going to the Root: A Radical Second Phase of the National Democratic Revolution – Its Context, Content and Our Strategic Tasks”. The core distinction it makes is a division between the first and second phases of transformation. During the “first phase” it is argued that radical changes to political rights and redistributive efforts have resulted in major improvements in service delivery. However, it argues that despite these improvements in service delivery, inequality and unemployment remain extremely high.

To rectify this failure a “second phase” is needed. The SACP makes a call for “radical economic transformation”, which includes an attempt to grow the capitalist economy whilst also nurturing the solidarity economy.  The “second phase” is about radical economic transformation with industrial policy and infrastructure development playing a foundational role in supporting structural change.

The starting points for the World Bank and the SACP may be different, but the underlying message is the same. South Africa needs to focus on the economy and the time and space for expanding redistribution is limited.

It is worth noting that this is not the first time that the World Bank and the SACP have been in agreement. The SACP also endorsed the World Bank inspired Growth, Employment and Redistribution (GEAR) plan. This is factually correct, but what is of broader interest is the fact that eighteen years later, the same argument, which brought these strange bedfellows together, is being repeated. Just as in 1994, the argument is that restructuring government finances combined with market-based reforms will lead to higher economic growth and greater social equity. The variables are obviously different, but the underlying logic is jarringly similar: (a) social spending has limited impact and (b) economic restructuring will stimulate growth and inclusion.

However, we know that the GEAR policy failed to deliver on the anticipated levels of economic growth and employment. It did not increase investment levels either. In fact, major increases to the social grant system only occurred after the GEAR period with supporters arguing that this was due to the fiscal space created by GEAR and critics arguing that it was due to GEAR’s failure to create employment.

Taken together and perhaps unwittingly the reports reduce the space for redistributive projects with the promise of greater equality depending on programmes to improve economic inclusion. In arguing this point, the core question of how poor people are supposed to share the benefits of economic reform remains unsatisfactorily answered.

Specifically, the relationship between the agency of the poor and the structure of the economy is glossed over. Unemployment data provides an important reminder of the interaction between structure and agency. Youth unemployment best illustrates this.

In South Africa, there are over three million unemployed young people who are not employed or in education and training. It’s not just that these young people merely have limited opportunities to enter their first job; they can be more accurately described as being structurally excluded. Importantly, they receive no social security support.

Government interventions to reduce youth unemployment exist and in several instances are producing encouraging results. However, scaling these programmes to have substantial impacts requires expanding government budgets. Moreover, as analysis undertaken by the Basic Income Grant Coalition indicates, expanding social security to this group in South Africa would provide a foundation on which programmes such as improved education, public works and entry into education and jobs are much more likely to succeed.

Expanding the social security system will require more public money and a radical reprioritisation of existing spending. The outcome of expanding social security would however result in greater participation in the economy through employment and potentially youth enterprises. A credible case for expanding the redistributive role of fiscal policy is thus made.

The SACP may repudiate this on the basis that its discussion document contains strategies to address youth unemployment. For instance, it argues for a continued and expanded role for public works as part of a strategy for “decommodification of work”. However, a much bolder strategy of government supporting the “right to work” through an expansion of the Community Works Programme (CWP) would have a more significant and lasting effect as opposed to simply increasing the existing Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP). The shift from short-term work on public works under the EPWP, to regular work under the CWP offers greater prospects for improving the agency of the young and unemployed to enter the economy, and arguably also strengthens the non-state sector. Here again, the costs of scaling the CWP would be large, but affordable provided a significant reprioritisation of existing spending is undertaken.

Simply stated, without an effective and sustainable redistributive strategy – either through an expansion of social security or a reimagined public works programme – the likelihood of youth participating and benefiting from economic reforms is unlikely. It is the link between government usage of its resources to improve the prospect of people participating in the economy, and the restructuring of the economy that must be sustained. It harks back to the principle contained in the Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP) to link development to growth.

Rapid structural change in the economy is obviously needed. Industrial policy and infrastructure development programmes are intended to do just that. However, even here the links between these programmes and more egalitarian wealth distribution are tenuous. Start-up and smaller businesses would be hard pressed to find direct support through the current suite of industrial policy schemes, and larger businesses will benefit more from the infrastructure plan. Here again, redistribution matters.

The redistribution of market-based opportunities for firms is a subject not discussed in our economic policies. However, across the globe procurement policies, taxation, competition policy, supplier development programmes and other instruments are more aggressively utilised by government to support the entry of smaller firms and their continuation. Here again, it requires a reprioritisation of spending and more importantly, a reorientation in policy.

The biggest challenge however remains that much of what is being proposed rests on South Africa rapidly improving its economic growth rate to at least 4,5% per annum, or more ambitiously to 7% over a sustained period. The likelihood of this occurring is extremely slim precisely due to low levels of economic participation. In a context where rapid economic growth will not be achieved, the role of government to strengthen economic participation is foundational. In particular, it requires us to develop policies that improve prospects for economic inclusion even under conditions of low economic growth.

The danger of the SACP and World Bank asking us to focus on economic transformation alone is not only that the possibility of a stronger redistributive stance recedes. Without linking redistributive instruments to economic strategies, South Africa will fail to provide the ways and means for excluded people and firms to craft strategies to participate in economic growth. The challenge is not simply more money, but rather better programmes and a radical reprioritisation of existing spending. Surely, the more people are enabled to participate in the economy the prospects for sustained economic transformation increase?

Hassen is the founder of Zapreneur and Proposal Desk, both websites aimed at answering the question, “Can the Internet help South African small business?”

Zimbabwe – internal ZANU-PF wrangles stall development


Internal Ruling Party Wrangles Stall Development in Zimbabwe

Supporters (wearing red) of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change led by Morgan Tsvangirai after witnessing their party losing to President Robert Mugabe in last year's elections. They now face another disappointment as the fight to succeed Mugabe turns attention away from development. Credit : Jeffrey Moyo/IPS

Supporters (wearing red) of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change led by Morgan Tsvangirai after witnessing their party losing to President Robert Mugabe in last year’s elections. They now face another disappointment as the fight to succeed Mugabe turns attention away from development. Credit : Jeffrey Moyo/IPS

HARARE, Nov 26 2014 (IPS) - With the ruling Zimbabwe Africa National Union Patriotic Front party in Zimbabwe seized with internal conflicts, attention to key development areas here have shifted despite the imminent end of December 2015 deadline for global attainment of the U.N. Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

The eight MDGs targeted to be achieved by 31 December 2015 form a blueprint agreed to by all the world’s countries and the world’s leading development institutions.

“Every development area is at a standstill here as ZANU-PF politicians are scrambling to succeed the aged Mugabe here and they have apparently forgotten about all the MDGs that the country also needs to attain before the 2015 deadline” – Agrippa Chiwawa, an independent development expert

But, caught up in the succession fight among ruling party politicians as the country’s 90-year old President Robert Mugabe – who has ruled this Southern African nation for the last 34 years – reportedly  battles ill health ahead of the party’s elective congress in December, development experts say the Zimbabwean government has apparently shifted attention from development to party politics.

“Every development area is at a standstill here as Zanu-PF politicians are scrambling to succeed the aged Mugabe here and they have apparently forgotten about all the MDGs that the country also needs to attain before the 2015 deadline,” independent development expert Agrippa Chiwawa told IPS.

The battle to succeed Mugabe pits Justice Minister Emerson Mnangagwa and the country’s Vice-President Joice Mujuru, who is currently receiving a battering from the former’s faction which has won sympathy from the country’s first family, with First Lady Grace Mugabe venomously calling for the immediate resignation of Mujuru before the ZANU-PF congress.

Chiwawa told IPS that despite the government having contained recent strikes by medical doctors here through appeasing them by reviewing their salaries, the public health sector is in a state of decay amid acute shortages of treatment drugs.

Elmond Bandauko, an independent political analyst, agrees with Chiwawa. “Internal fights within the ZANU-PF party are stumbling blocks to national, social and economic prosperity; the ZANU-PF government is concentrating on its party succession battles as the economy is on its knees and there is no projected solution to the economic woes the country faces at the moment,” he told IPS.

Fighting over who will succeed 90-year-old Robert Mugabe at the head of Zimbabwe’s ruling ZANU-PF party has relegated agriculture, like other development issues, to the side-lines if not outright neglect. Credit: Jeffrey Moyo/IPS

“Policy makers from the ZANU-PF government, who are supposed to be holding debates and parliamentary sessions and special meetings on how to move the country forward, are wasting time on political tiffs that do not save the interests of ordinary Zimbabweans,” Bandauko added.

Even the country’s education system has not been spared by the ruling party political milieu, according to educationists here.

“Nobody is talking about revamping the education system here as government officials responsible are busy consolidating their powers in the ruling party while national examinations are fast losing credibility amid leakages of exam papers before they are written, subsequently tarnishing the image of our country’s quality of education,” a top government official in the Ministry of Education told IPS on the condition of anonymity, fearing victimisation.

Even the country’s ordinary subsistence farmers, like Edson Ngulube from Masvingo Province in Mwenezi district, are feeling the pinch of the failure of politicians. “We can’t beat hunger and poverty without support from government with farming inputs,” Ngulube told IPS.

Yet for many Zimbabweans like Ngulube, reaching the MDGs offers the means to a better life – a life with access to adequate food and income.

Burdened with over half of its population starving, based on one of the U.N. MDGs, Zimbabwe nevertheless committed itself to eradicating hunger by 2015. But, with the Zanu-PF government deeply engrossed in tense power wrangles to succeed Mugabe, Zimbabwe may be way off the mark for reaching this target.

In addition, in September, the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) sub-regional coordinator for Southern Africa, David Phiri went on record as saying that Zimbabwe could fail to meet the target to eradicating hunger by 2015 owing to conflict and natural disasters.

Zimbabwe’s 2012 National Census showed that more than two-thirds of Zimbabwe’s 13 million people live in rural areas and, according to the World Food Programme (WFP), this year about 25 percent of them need food aid or they will starve, and between now and 2015, 2.2 million Zimbabweans will need food support.

Zimbabwe’s Agriculture Minister Joseph Made is, however, confident the country is set to end hunger before the 2015 deadline. “We have land and we have hardworking people utilising land and for us there is no reason to doubt that by 2015 we would have eradicated hunger,” Made told IPS.

Claris Madhuku, director for the Platform for Youth Development (PYD), a democracy lobby group in Zimbabwe, perceive things rather differently.

“What actuates Zimbabwe’s failure to attaining MDGs is the on-going governance crisis, a result of the ruling ZANU-PF party’s internal wars to succeed the party’s nonagenarian President, which have not made development any easier,” Madhuku told IPS.

According to the PYD leader, in order for Zimbabwe to experience magnificent development, “the ruling party has to try and get its politics right.”

But with Zimbabwean President Mugabe apparently clinging to the helm of the country’s ruling party with renewed tenacity, it remains to be seen whether or not real development will ever touch the country’s soils.


African court to hear Kenya Mau Forest land case

Star (Nairobi)

African Court to hear Ogiek case against the Kenya government

BY LYDIA MATATA Some of the Ogiek evicted from Mau forest in 2010. Photo/FILEThe African Court on Human and People’s Rights will on Thursday and Friday hear a case filed by the Ogiek community against the Kenyan government for consistent violations and denial of their land rights. “This is the violation of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights to which Kenya is a signatory,” the petition by one of Kenya’s remaining forest dwellers reads. In the petition, the Ogiek allege the government’s violation of their rights to property, natural resources, development, religion and culture. The case on indigenous peoples’ rights will be a first by the African Court in operation since 2006. It was first lodged with the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights but was reportedly referred to the African court because of serious alleged human rights violations. The case was filed by three organizations, Minority Rights Group International, the Ogiek People’s Development Programme and the Center for Minority Rights Development. – See more at: http://www.the-star.co.ke/news/african-court-hear-ogiek-case-against-kenya-government#sthash.m77yNJa1.dpuf

Nigeria to charge Shell $4bn for oil spill

ReutersNigeria’s parliament says Shell should pay $4 billion for 2011 oil spill


A view of the shore of the Atlantic ocean at Orobiri village,days after Royal Dutch Shell's Bonga off-shore oil spill, in Nigeria's delta state December 31, 2011.REUTERS/Akintunde Akinleye

A view of the shore of the Atlantic ocean at Orobiri village,days after Royal Dutch Shell’s Bonga off-shore oil spill, in Nigeria’s delta state December 31, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Akintunde Akinleye

ABUJA (Reuters) – Nigeria’s National Assembly said on Wednesday oil major Shell (RDSa.L) should pay $3.96 billion (2.51 billion pounds)for a 2011 spill at its offshore Bonga oilfield in the latest assessment of damage to the environment.

The non-binding decision comes after years of analysis by various Nigerian state agencies, which have proposed a range of fines as high as $11.5 billion.

The parliament finally reached a decision based on the report of the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA), which previously recommended a fine of $5 billion.

Shell declined to comment. The company has previously said it took responsibility for the spill and had cleaned the area.

The parliament’s decision is non-binding as it only has the power to recommend fines to the government and cannot enforce them.

NOSDRA estimated that around 40,000 barrels were spilled when a tanker was loading crude at the offshore platform operated by Shell’s subsidiary SNEPCO. The Bonga field was producing 200,000 barrels per day at the time.

NOSDRA has previously said the spill had hurt locals in the area who rely on fishing for their livelihoods as the slick covered an area of around 950 square km.

“Since all efforts by this committee were tactfully rebuffed by SNEPCO, (it) has decided to adopt the damage assessment report submitted by NOSDRA as the lead agency in all oil spill management,” Uche Ekwunife, chairman of the environmental committee told the assembly.

Shell is also being pursued in a class action case for two other spills in the Niger Delta in 2008. In June, it offered 30 million pounds ($51 million) in compensation to 15,000 residents in the Bodo Community but this was rejected.

The United Nations Environment Programme has criticised Shell in the past for not doing enough to clean up spills and maintain infrastructure.

Nigeria is Africa’s largest oil exporter and an OPEC member but the environmental toll has been huge. The mangrove creeks of the delta region are heavily polluted mainly due to leaks from illegal pipeline tapping and sabotage.

Foreign companies have been selling their stakes in onshore oilfields after becoming frustrated with industrial scale theft and resulting spills, which show no signs of abating.

On Monday, Shell had to shut down a pipeline as a result of a new leak close to where it was removing oil taps.


South Africa – EFF threatens to disrupt Zuma state of nation address

Mail and Guardian

Floyd Shivambu has warned Baleka Mbete that if President Zuma does not come to Parliament the EFF will disrupt his State of the Nation Address.

The opposition parties demanded that President Jacob Zuma be called to answer oral questions before the house adjourns for Christmas holidays. (David Harrison, M&G)

The acrimonious relationship between the Speaker of the National Assembly Baleka Mbete and Economic Freedom Fighters’ MP Floyd Shivambu came to a head on Wednesday afternoon with Mbete reminding Shivambu that as an African child, he had to respect her.

This was at a meeting of the National Assembly’s programme committee where opposition parties disagreed with Mbete about what should be on the programme of the assembly’s last sitting on Thursday.

The opposition parties demanded that President Jacob Zuma be called to answer oral questions before the House adjourns for Christmas holidays, but Mbete and the ANC reiterated that a failure by opposition MPs to give assurances of a conducive climate for Zuma to answer questions, has made it difficult for the president to be in Parliament.

Shivambu urged Mbete to ensure that Zuma comes to Parliament to answer questions before the end of the year. He threatened that a failure to do so will see EFF MPs disrupting the State of the Nation Address in an attempt to force Zuma to answer questions at the event.

The State of the Nation Address is one of the key events in the calendar of the South African Parliament. It is scheduled for February 12 and normally, the president addresses the joint sitting without any interruptions. A debate on his address is then held over two days, following the address.

“The next time he comes here, he is going to answer questions whether he likes it or not … whether it is state of the nation address or whatever gathering it is. There won’t be a Jacob Zuma who speaks here before he answers questions, that is the commitment of the EFF,” said Shivambu.

‘You are not my mother’
He then addressed Mbete by her first name, saying she knew that the EFF was not intimidated by the ANC. Mbete snapped. “Angiyona intanga yakho, Floyd. [I’m not your peer, Floyd]. “You are an African child, brought up by people I respect. And I’m quite sure you are not reflecting the way they brought you up.

Shivambu responded: “This is a professional relationship. This is not a mother and child relationship. You are not my mother.”

Shivambu said as members of Parliament, they were equals and they could engage openly and honestly without raising issues of culture. The meeting was heated throughout, but in the end the ANC made several concessions but would not give in on the major issue raised by the opposition – calling Zuma to account before the end of this year.

Mbete assured MPs that she also wanted Zuma to answer oral questions in the National Assembly. “I have pursued the presidency on the issue of finding a date when the president can come and answer questions,” she said.

She reminded MPs of their role on the last occasion that the president was in the National Assembly to answer questions. “He sat in the holding room here in Parliament, hoping that he would be called back to the House to finish off the questions that were on the order paper that day, but we couldn’t,” she revealed.

‘Pay back the money’
EFF MPs chanted to Zuma to pay back the money spent on non-security measures at his private home in Nkandla, after he failed to respond to a question on when he would make the repayments as recommended by the public protector.

Mbete also revealed that she stopped engaging with the presidency about Zuma coming to Parliament when the opposition parties started meeting with Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa last week. She said matters became complicated when that process was scuttled by opposition parties who refused to give assurances that Zuma won’t be heckled.

In the meeting on Wednesday, MPs wanted to know if there were any assurances on whether Zuma would deliver the State of the Nation Address in February, seeing that he wants assurances before appearing in Parliament.

EFF MP Godrich Gardee asked: “If you are saying that the president is awaiting for assurance for him to come to Parliament, to ensure that he will not go through what he went through on August 21 … and the State of the Nation Address is coming, does the president have assurance?”

Gardee said Zuma was creating a constitutional crisis because it was “peremptory and obligatory” and not by choice whether he comes to Parliament or not. “Heckling and shouting is found in Parliaments throughout the world. He can’t say he can’t be heckled and shouted at when people feel like the president is out of order,” he added.

Gardee also blamed Mbete and Parliament for being complicit in Zuma’s “unconstitutional conduct”, the refusal to come to Parliament waiting for assurances. “We are very quick in having other unfinished business being finished, but not on the one of the president to come and finish his business.”

This was speaking in reference to a report of the powers and privileges committees, which found EFF MPs guilty of contempt of Parliament by chanting “pay back the money” at Zuma, and which proposes sanctions of up to 30 days suspension from Parliament without pay. The report is set to be adopted by the National Assembly during Thursday’s sitting, and this will see the sanctions against EFF MPs kicking in the following day.

Constitutional obligations
Freedom Front Plus MP Corne Mulder warned Mbete, saying the process that the opposition parties had with Ramaphosa could never have been about the president not fulfilling his constitutional obligations.

Mulder also noted a press statement issued by the presidency on Tuesday that insisted that Zuma had fulfilled his parliamentary obligations as “shocking and misleading” to South Africans because it created an impression that when Zuma pitches up in Parliament, he is fulfilling that obligation. “He doesn’t,” said Mulder.

Mulder also wanted to know whether Zuma would deliver the State Of the Nation Address, in the light of the assurances that he wants. He urged Mbete to explain parliamentary rules and the constitution to Zuma, adding: “I hope that the people who drafted that statement yesterday are not the people advising the president.”

DA parliamentary leader Mmusi Maimane was also “disturbed” by the presidency’s statement saying that it was misleading. He said it was wrong to spend millions of taxpayers’ money to reconvene Parliament for one report and then not call the president on the basis that a deal with opposition was scuttled. “If we are going to call a special sitting to consider one report, surely we can call in the same sitting for the president to come and complete question session as is his constitutional duty and as per the rules of this Parliament,” said Maimane.

Mbete dug in her heels about Zuma, but conceded on a number of issues on the programme. The report dealing with the EFF MPs was only going to be considered or adopted without a debate; but at the request of the DA, an 85-minute debate will be held on the matter.

Opposition parties have rejected the findings against EFF MPs and have questioned the “harsh” sanctions. The ANC also agreed to a snap debate that was also proposed by the DA on the escalating crisis at Eskom.

The DA’s Natasha Michael requested the debate on Wednesday afternoon, and it was granted in unprecedented time – less than three hours after the request was made. The house will also have members’ statements, which are basically political statements about current affairs and farewell speeches will also be held as Thursday’s is the last scheduled sitting for this year.