Category Archives: Africa – International

Zambia – ruling PF heals rift and Lungu to be candidate



Zambia’s ruling party mends rift to make Lungu its presidential candidate

Sat, Dec 20 2014

LUSAKA (Reuters) – Zambia’s ruling party has settled on Defence Minister Edgar Lungu as its presidential candidate, it emerged on Saturday, ending months of in-fighting that had threatened its chances at a Jan. 20 election.

After President Michael Sata died in October, his Patriotic Front (PF) was rocked by a leadership battle between Lungu and a faction led by the acting president, Guy Scott, who is himself ineligible to run.

The power struggle was seen as potentially clearing the way for an opposition candidate to win, creating political uncertainty in Africa’s second-largest copper producer.

“We are going in full force as one political party now,” Lungu told reporters after filing his nomination papers on Saturday, in the presence of Scott, showing the rift had been healed.

Scott, who was Sata’s vice president, is ineligible to run as his parents were born abroad. This week, a majority of cabinet members called on Scott to resign, accusing him of working against the interests of the party by trying to promote his own candidate, a demand he rejected.

The race for the presidency is now clearly between Lungu, a lawyer who is seen as having strong grassroots support, and economist Hakainde Hichilema who leads a loose alliance of opposition members of parliament.

Nigeria’s national cake – cut up and kept in the family


Letter from Africa: Sharing Nigeria’s cake

Nigeria marked 54 years of independence from the UK in October this year

In our series of letters from African journalists, Nigerian writer and novelist Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani looks at the clamour for assistance that accompanies a politician’s rise to office.

The political party primaries in Nigeria have drawn to a close and voters now have a clearer picture of whose turn it might be to divide up the national cake after the elections in February 2015.

But the winning candidates won’t be the only ones taking their share of the country’s riches.

In Nigeria, news of a person’s success in an election often travels at the speed of lightning, over rivers and mountains and past fields and forests, to his kindred in all corners of the globe.

Those with no jobs believe their days of unemployment are coming to an end; those with no education think it will soon pose no barrier to climbing the corporate ladder; those in faraway lands begin plans to return home.

Soon, these kith and kin launch their pilgrimage towards the successful candidate.

They ring his phone; they send text messages; they knock at his gate.

They offer to help his campaign in any way they can; they organise prayer sessions for his victory, usually late at night in his living room.

The most unforgivable sin a politician can commit is to forget ‘his people’ after he assumes office”

Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani

‘Bitter tongues will wag’
A friend of mine who lives in Lagos told me last week that he was travelling to Benin city.

His friend had just “picked up” a spot in the House of Assembly there. Another person he knew was set for another top position.

“He’s a good friend of my elder brother in Florida,” he said. “I’ve already told my brother: ‘You’d better come down and rub minds with him and introduce us to him.'”

Another friend whose husband is a close associate of a winning candidate in one of Nigeria’s choicest states told me her phone did not stop ringing after his victory was announced.

People had been calling to offer congratulations. Indeed, even I had called for that very reason.

In Nigeria, the culture has always been that anyone who gets into power, who suddenly finds himself holding a knife with which to cut the national cake, must invite his clan to both slice and eat it with him.

Friends and family of candidates take to the streets to celebrate if their man is triumphant at the polls
The most unforgivable sin a politician can commit is to forget “his people” after he assumes office.

He must “remember” his sisters, brothers, cousins, nieces, nephews, in-laws, friends, schoolmates, and so on.

Preferably through contracts, appointments and jobs.

Failure to do so will lead to taunts and ostracism and on the day his tenure expires, he will find himself completely alone.

Long after his funeral, the bitter tongues will continue wagging.

Local history will forever record him as having denied his kindred their turn.

I have heard several amusing stories regarding the influx of people from the Niger Delta region into Abuja, the Nigerian capital, after their kinsman, Goodluck Jonathan, was elected president in 2011.

Outstretched palms
One of my favourite tales was told by my British-Nigerian friend who teaches in one of those Abuja schools where the children pay stupendous fees in dollars and make fun of their teachers’ cheap mobile phones.

She was shocked when a particular pupil, during a science lesson, seemed to know more about crustaceans than you would expect of a child his age in the city.

This child stood before the class and described in great detail how the creatures are caught, cleaned and cooked.

It will be tough for Nigeria to tackle its corruption problem while people demand rewards for their votes
At the end, my friend called the boy aside and asked how he knew so much about the topic.

The child explained that he had grown up in the creeks, where his family petty-traded crustaceans for a living.

That is why the news of a candidate’s potential ascension into political office stirs such joy.

In many parts of the world, it requires years of steady progress for one’s economic circumstances to radically transform.

Here in Nigeria, all it takes is an election, and a new political appointment. Suddenly, a child goes from capturing crustaceans in the creeks to an exclusive school in Abuja.

Voracious kith and kin are the main force behind Nigeria’s corruption problem.

Imagine the thousands lined up with outstretched palms behind each political office holder.

Try telling them that you intend to reform the system now that it is finally their turn to eat.



Liberia holds Senate election delayed by ebola

Voters in Liberia are going to the polls in an election that was postponed in October because of the Ebola outbreak.

Liberians are choosing representatives to the country’s senate.

Among the 139 candidates vying for 15 seats are former football star George Weah and Robert Sirleaf, the son of Liberia’s president.

Ebola has infected about 19,000 people in West Africa, killing more than 7,300 – with about 3,340 deaths in Liberia.

The senate elections were postponed in October in a bid to stop campaigners and voters spreading the virus.

The election is being held just days after neighbouring Sierra Leone clamped down on public gatherings.

It has banned Sunday trading, restricted travel between districts and prohibited public celebrations over Christmas and the New Year.

Suspected Ebola patients are kept in quarantine at medical centres
One of Sierra Leone’s top doctors, Victor Willoughby, died from Ebola on Thursday, just hours after the arrival of experimental drug ZMab which could have been used to treat him.

Healthcare workers are among those most at risk of catching Ebola because it is spread by bodily fluids and requires close contact with victims.

In November Liberia’s election commission chairman, Jerome Korkoya, urged candidates and supporters to follow public health regulations in the run-up to the senate elections.

“For instance, the transportation of large groups of electorates by candidates clustered in vehicles and the congregation of huge number of people will be regulated,” he said in a statement.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was in Liberia on Friday at the start of a two-day visit to countries affected by Ebola in West Africa.

Ben Bland reports on Ban Ki-moon’s tour aimed at reminding the world the Ebola threat is not over yet
After stepping off the plane, he washed his hands and had his temperature taken – two important practices to help stop the spread of the disease.

Mr Ban urged people to follow strict health regulations until the epidemic was over.

Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf lifted a state of emergency last month that was imposed in August to control the outbreak.

It came after the WHO said there was “some evidence” that the number of cases in Liberia was “no longer increasing”.

A crowd follows former soccer player George Weah as he campaigns for senate seat in Monrovia.



South Sudan – Machar’s opposition demands that kiir step down in any settlement

Sudan Tribune

December 18, 2014 (ADDIS ABABA) – The SPLM-In-Opposition (SPLM-IO) faction led by former vice-president, Riek Machar, has passed a resolution renewing its demand that president Salva Kiir steps down, despite previous indications by officials from the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) that the two principal leaders agreed to work together for the sake of sustaining peace.

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South Sudanese president Salva Kiir on 12 December 2013 (Photo: AP/Sayyid Azim)

As details of the final 9-page resolutions which Machar signed emerge, the SPLM-IO in the Pagak conference declared president Salva Kiir illegitimate for the “Juba genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes committed during this current war” and therefore does not deserve to lead a transitional period.

The resolutions seen by Sudan Tribune also resolved that there shall be two separate armies with their respective commanders in chief during a 2 or 3 years of transitional period until elections are conducted.

It also reaffirmed the proposed leadership structure to comprise the president as head of state, with some executive powers, and the prime minister as head of government, taking majority of the executive powers, including the power to chair the council of minister.

Previously a power-sharing arrangement presented by the top rebel leader to the IGAD mediation in Addis Ababa before their conference in Pagak compromised that the president would chair the council of ministers.

However when reached on Thursday to clarify the circumstances surrounding what seemed to be a change of position in the rebel group, particularly on the renewed call for president Kiir to step aside, Machar’s spokesman said the decision had been intact all along and was only relaxed during the peace process.

“Initially we wanted Salva Kiir to immediately step down because of the Juba genocide in December last year. We demanded that he stepped down before the peace talks kicked off in January,” said the rebel leader’s spokesman, James Gatdet Dak.

“We however made a compromise by relaxing this demand during the peace process. We have continued to negotiate with president Salva Kiir and his regime. Our leadership has been working with him as a counter-part in order to bring peace but not for him to lead the would-be transitional period,” he further explained.

Dak said there seemed to be a misunderstanding by some who thought that when the rebel group talked of sharing power with the president, it automatically meant president Kiir.

“When we talk of power-sharing between the president and the prime minister, we talk of a leadership structure, not personalities. We don’t automatically attach such positions to particular personalities,” he further explained.

He also reiterated the opposition group’s demand to head the government, saying this was to ensure that the “badly needed reforms, initiated and championed” by the SPLM-IO, would be implemented.

The rebel group demands that the executive powers and responsibilities be attached to the prime minister – a position the two parties agreed to establish during the interim period – just like in the parliamentary regime.

Dak further defended the necessity to have two separate armies, saying this would also ensure confidence building during the transitional period as well as deter each side from reneging on a peace agreement or resorting to “witch-hunting and violence.”

Juba however passed counter-resolutions on 24 November rejecting to share executive powers with the prime minister, a nominee of the rebels, and dismissed any attempt to institute two armies during a transitional period.

The two warring parties were set to resume the peace talks on Wednesday in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, but government delegation did not show up, prompting IGAD mediators to reschedule the talks for Thursday.


Nigeria – 172 women and children taken in Boko Haram raid on Gamsuri


MAIDUGURI, Nigeria (Reuters) – Suspected Boko Haram gunmen kidnapped 172 women and children and killed 35 other people on Sunday during a raid on the northeast Nigerian village of Gumsuri, residents said on Thursday.

Although no one has claimed responsibility, the attack bore the hallmarks of Boko Haram, which abducted more than 200 women in April from a secondary school in Chibok, only 24 km (15 miles) from this latest attack.

The campaign for an Islamic state by Boko Haram, whose name means “Western education is sinful,” has become the gravest threat to Africa’s biggest economy and top oil producer.

Village resident Abba Musa, a maize grinder who survived the attack, estimated the number abducted as 172 after the village did a head count following the assault.

The attackers shouted “God is Great” and unleashed salvos of gunfire, he said.

“My sister and her seven children were among those taken away,” he told Reuters by telephone. “We ran into the bush and were lucky. There were not many others who were lucky.”

He said at least 33 were killed.

Thousands of people have been killed and many hundreds abducted, raising questions about the ability of security forces to protect civilians, especially around the north Cameroon border where the militants are well established.

“The government is outraged and deeply saddened by this deplorable act,” government spokesman Mike Omeri said in a statement. “Boko Haram continues to choose, ever cowardly, to target civilian populations to spread their brand of terror.”

He estimated deaths at 17 but said the numbers abducted could not yet be reliably ascertained.

Maina Chibok, who did not witness the attack but is from Gumsuri and visited family there shortly afterwards, said the insurgents carted away their victims on open-topped trucks.

News from remote parts of Nigeria that are cut off from mobile communications sometimes takes days to emerge.

A security source confirmed that more than 100 had been abducted and 35 people killed, including the district head.

“They also burnt down a government medical centre, houses and shops,” Chibok said.

The abductions have increased in frequency this year. A man who says he is Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau last month rejected comments by the government that it was in talks to free the Chibok girls, saying he had in fact “married them off” to Boko Haram commanders, in a video posted on the Internet.

Aliyu Mamman, a young vigilante from the area, told Reuters by telephone that there was no security presence to stop the militants, who stayed in the town all night before leaving.

Nigeria sentenced 54 soldiers to death for mutiny in the northeast on Wednesday.

On Wednesday, Cameroon’s army killed 116 Boko Haram militants when they attacked a base in the Far North region of the country, the Defence Ministry said on Thursday.


Turning Africa’s elephants and rhino into economic assets

The jury really is out on this approach to conservation.  It has a certain logic but the trade is so valuable and so criminalized that it is hard to see any government, whether in Africa or abroad, having the expertise, funding and manpower to police a legalised ivory or rhino horn trade and thereby provide income that could ensure ultimate survival but at the cost of regulated hunting. There are strong arguments against it and the real effects of temporary lifting of the ban on ivory sales in the past are still far from clear.  I also have the lingering suspicion that there are those in South Africa who want a legalised rhino trade who are constructing efforts to stop poaching or are actively involved in it. KS

Mail and Guardian

Turning Africa’s Big 5 into hard cash

19 Dec 2014

Lifting ivory and rhino horn trade bans could translate to an economic turnaround for Africa, where the black market for animal products is thriving.

While elephants and rhinos are being slaughtered illegally for their tusks and horns, some argue that legalising trade could be beneficial for both animal and the economy. (Reuters)

For many outsiders, Africa’s big animals are among the natural wonders of the world and a major tourist draw.

For many Africans, elephants, rhinos and lions – or at least the bloody trade in their body parts, and the proximity of big, dangerous critters to their crops, cattle and kin – are part of a wider “resource curse” that has long afflicted the continent.

Commodities such as oil and minerals – or elephant ivory – have historically been extracted in Africa in ways that have enriched a few but failed to spread the prosperity. At its worst, the curse has fueled colonialism, apartheid and conflict.

Framing wildlife issues in this context may help policy makers find solutions to a poaching crisis, which has seen rhinos and elephants slaughtered at a record rate.

Legalising trade in their horns and tusk could provide revenue for housing and other social needs among communities living near wildlife. Similar initiatives in sectors like platinum have been undertaken by black-owned companies such as Royal Bafokeng Platinum.

But trade in African ivory, for example, has long benefited the traders, who exploited or terrorised local communities.

Demand for ivory
European and American demand for ivory for billiard balls reached industrial scale in the 19th century, helping to fuel the great power scramble into Africa. Men such as Tippu Tip, a Zanzibari trader, made a fortune out of the trade, using slave labour to ferry his “blood ivory”.

King Leopold of Belgium treated the Congo like a fiefdom. His officials killed elephants with abandon and confiscated tusks from villagers – part of a genocidal campaign to plunder natural resources that killed millions of people.

Today, ivory from elephant tusks and horn from rhino still benefit a limited number, including global criminal syndicates, a point underscored by the arrest this month of 16 people in the Czech Republic for horn smuggling.

The United Nations has also linked the ivory trade to terror groups such as the Lord’s Resistance Army, while a report by conservationists last year found a strong link between poverty, infant mortality and elephant poaching.

Surge in slaughter
After the trade in ivory was banned at the end of the 1980s, poaching declined sharply. It has since been escalating dramatically, driven by consumer demand in China, where ivory is coveted for decorative items and jewellery.

Last year was the third consecutive year in which at least 20 000 elephants were poached in Africa, according to the UN-linked Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).

Poaching of rhinos for their horns, used in traditional medicine in Vietnam and China, has also soared, with South Africa at the epicentre.

According to government data, South Africa had lost 1 020 rhinos in 2014 by the middle of November, compared with 1 004 for all of last year and over triple the 333 rhinos poached in 2010.

Based on the average weight of rhino horns, that could represent 4 000kg to 5 000kg of the commodity, which conservationists say is fetching $65 000 a kilogram on the black market – making it more valuable than gold or platinum.

That works out to a total ranging from $260-million to $325-million – money that could be used for development in poor communities such as rural villages in Mozambique, from which many of the poachers killing South Africa’s rhinos hail.

Rhino horn can be harvested, because it grows back. South Africa is considering a proposal to CITES to lift the trade ban on the commodity, though Environment Minister Edna Molewa stressed last month that no final decision has been reached yet.

Depriving income
Elsewhere, the wholesale slaying of elephants in regions such as central Africa is depriving the rural poor of a potential source of future income in the form of eco-tourism.

Finding ways to generate cash from big animals also has wider conservation and social imperatives. Poor villagers have to contend with elephants raiding their crops and lions preying on their livestock or worse.

This is another part of the curse that has contributed to African poverty, according to academics such as Jared Diamond.

African animals are especially ornery: the Asian buffalo has been harnessed to the plough, while Africa’s version is untamable, putting put the region at an historical disadvantage.

The task facing policy makers and conservationists is to lift the curse by making big animals an economic boon instead of burden to Africa’s rural poor. – Reuters

Sudan – Darfur Déjà Vu

African ArgumentsBy Alex de Waal

Alex-de-Waal1There is an old joke that Sudanese politics is different every week but if you come back after ten years it is exactly the same.

That sums up my impressions of the Darfur peace talks in Addis Ababa two weeks ago, except that it is nine years ago, not ten, that I became engaged full time in working for the African Union on the last round of the Darfur mediation.

The participants are almost all the same, except greyer, thicker around the middle, and (in the case of the rebels) wearing smarter suits. It is the same Minni Minawi; the same Abdel Wahid al Nur (booked into a different hotel and refusing to turn up); Khalil Ibrahim has been replaced by his brother Jibreel; Majzoub al Khalifa has been replaced by his deputy Amin Hassan Omar.

The same issues, the same demands, the same procedural gimmickry, the same obstinacy, the same selective memory. (Didn’t they sign a Declaration of Principles that includes all the issues they are raising now, back in July 2005?)

The same claims by the government generals that they are on the brink of victory, and by party bosses that they are about to win round most of the rebel commanders, leaving the rebel leaders isolated; the same earnest claims by the rebels that they are talking to the Arabs who are about to rise in revolt, and the government is about to collapse when the next army offensive fails.

The same blithe insistence from U.S. diplomatic staff that Minni should be taken seriously and the rebels have learned a lot. (They have learned that the U.S. is gullible.)

The Darfur Peace Agreement failed eight and a half years ago because the government delegation had other priorities than settling the Darfur conflict on terms they thought were too expensive. (Today, the Khartoum government’s priority is not to lose the $2 billion promised by Qatar on the condition that there is no interference with the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur.)

It failed because the same rebel leaders represented a small fraction of Darfurians, and moreover were too weak to take their followers with them into a peace deal, and so the rebel movements fragmented.

Darfur’s conflict can be settled but not by these means.

Alex de Waal is Director of the World Peace Foundation.