Category Archives: Africa – International

South Africa – Constitutional Court overturns ANC victories in Tlokwe by-elections

Mail and Guardian

A Concourt decision to set aside the by-elections results in Tlokwe has left opposition parties questioning the motives of both the ANC and IEC.

Gwede Mantashe says the ANC will respect, and comply with, the Constitutional Court judgment. (Oupa Nkosi, MG)

Opposition parties have welcomed the Constitutional Court’s decision to set aside the controversial by-elections results in Tlokwe, which it has found were not free and fair.

With few months left before the local government elections, the opposition parties have demanded that a transparent and open mechanism be put in place to safeguard the integrity of the elections.

The Constitutional Court on Monday set aside the by-elections conducted on September 12, 2013, in ward 18 and on December 10, 2013 in wards one, four, 11, 12, 13 and 20.

The case was reportedly brought by eight unsuccessful candidates, who had complained about the voter registration process, including a delay in receiving the segments of the national voter’s roll which did not include residential addresses for any of the voters, rendering it difficult, if not impossible for candidates to find, visit and canvas voters. The independent candidates included former ANC councilors expelled in July 2013 for participating in removing ANC mayor Maphetle Maphetle.

Congress of the People [Cope] said the Constitutional Court judgment has put the objectivity and impartiality of the Independent Electoral Commission into serious question.

“Candidates complained validly, but the IEC chose to ignore them to its cost. How could the IEC have conducted an election without finalising the voters’ roll and without issuing the respective segments of the national voters’ roll, to candidates, inclusive of the residential addresses of the voters of the contested wards? This is the most basic requirement for a ward election. Why also did the IEC not act at once on the complaints of irregularity that the aggrieved candidates raised immediately after the elections? Did it willfully sacrifice its objectivity for a sordid reason,” said Cope spokesperson Dennis Bloem.

United Democratic Movement [UDM] leader Bantu Holomisa said the judgment would open the floodgates for the IEC, which needed to teach itself to listen.

“The IEC must stop being arrogant,” said Holomisa. He said it would be difficult to have free and fair elections unless the ANC removed all its deployees, including teachers, municipal managers and other senior officials within municipalities. “The commissioners are deployed by the ANC. You can’t expect a free and fair election. All those deployed by the ANC must be removed there,” said Holomisa.

Economic Freedom Fighters leader Julius Malema accused the IEC of colluding with the ANC to manipulate election results.

“The ANC does not win elections, it steals them. It stole elections in Gauteng [2014 national elections]. The elections in Gauteng were rigged,” said Malema.

He said he did not raise his concerns about the 2014 election results because he did not want to come across as a sore loser.

“I realised that people would be killed if we complained. Already, the government had sent soldiers in Alexander to deal with those who complained about the rigging of elections.”

He said his party was busy preparing party agents, which would be deployed in all polling stations across the country during the 2016 elections.

ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe said the ANC respects the Constitutional Court judgment.

“One of the things that we are known for except in the (Sudanese President Omar) al-Bashir matter, which was putting us between a rock and hard place, is to comply with court orders.

“Once the court makes a decision, we will comply. Our job is to campaign [and win elections] said Mantashe. The IEC said it was committed to implement the court orders, as soon as possible. The IEC said in a statement on Monday that it had already taken and implemented several policy initiatives including:

  • To address political parties and candidates in respect of their responsibility to ensure that they adhere to the code of conduct and thus refrain from practices that violate provisions of the Electoral Act and the Municipal Electoral Act;
  • To develop and disseminate materials to educate the public about the serious consequences of committing electoral fraud such as in providing false information in order to register in a voting district where you are not ordinarily resident and;
  • To capture address details in advance of the proclamation date of an election to enable the candidates and political parties to object to persons that may not qualify to register in the voting district where they intend to register and vote. “The Commission recently met and determined that all certified voters’ rolls for elections provided to contestants must in future contain address details where available as per the requirements of the legislation.”

The Commission is also considering further measures governing elections to further reduce opportunities for irregular and fraudulent voting. These include possibly closing the voters’ roll for a ward immediately when a vacancy arises,” the IEC said.

Nigeria – Buhari says terrorism will persist if people remain complacent

Premium Times

Muhammadu Buhari at UN General Assembly

Muhammadu Buhari at UN General Assembly

President Muhammadu Buhari on Sunday in Malta said that violent extremism and terrorism could only thrive and endure if good people remained idle and complacent.

A statement issued in Abuja on Sunday by the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, said that President Buhari stated this at the Commonwealth summit in Malta.

It said that the president was speaking on behalf of other participating African Heads of State and Government at the closing Executive Session of the 2015 Commonwealth Summit.

President Buhari said that he was confident that terrorism would be ultimately defeated with greater international cooperation and collaboration.

“We have had the opportunity to discuss, in a serene atmosphere, wide ranging issues that are of great significance, not only to the members of the Commonwealth, but to the entire global community.

“Of particular note is the Action Statement on Climate Change, which is expected to herald our commitment to saving the planet for present and future generations.

“Of equal significance are our deliberations on Radicalisation and Violent Extremism. We are witnesses to the growing phenomenon of terrorism that is affecting us all, whether big or small.

“The reign of terror will only succeed if peace-loving people choose to remain idle. But I am confident that through our collective efforts, we will defeat this scourge and restore peace,’’ he said.

He also reaffirmed the unwavering commitment of Nigeria and other African member-countries to the promotion and protection of the core values of the Commonwealth.

“I came into power via democratic principles and values espoused by this same body.

“Nigeria as a country will continue to protect and promote these democratic ideals,” he further assured heads of delegations at the session.

The President thanked the outgoing Secretary-General, Kamalesh Sharma, for his exemplary service to the Commonwealth.

“We in Nigeria will not forget his five memorable visits to our country during his tenure.

“As this is his last CHOGM in his present capacity, I know I speak for my colleagues from Africa in expressing our immense gratitude and best wishes to him,” President Buhari said.

Mr. Buhari also congratulated the Commonwealth’s Secretary-General-elect, Patricia Janet Scotland, and assured her of the full support of Nigeria and other African members of the Commonwealth.


Pope in CAR – calls for brotherhood during mosque visit


Pope Francis: ‘Christians and Muslims are brothers’

Pope Francis (C) shakes the hands of children upon his arrival to the Central Mosque in the PK5 neighborhood on November 30, 2015 in BanguiAFP  Pope Francis said Christians and Muslims should turn their back on revenge and hatred

Pope Francis has told worshippers in a mosque in the Central African Republic that “Christians and Muslims are brothers and sisters”.

He was speaking to Muslims who had sought shelter in the capital Bangui after nearly three years of violence between Christians and Muslims.

The mosque visit was seen as perhaps the most difficult part of his Africa tour, a BBC correspondent says

Pope Francis then held the final Mass of his Africa trip in Bangui.

He was speaking in Latin, which was then translated into the local Sango language.

More than 100,000 Muslims left the capital as a result of the fighting but 15,000 are left in an area called PK5, according to the campaign group Human Rights Watch.

Imam Tidiani Moussa Naibi thanked the Pope for his visit and said it was “a symbol which we all understand”, the AP news agency reports.

On Sunday, the Pope called on fighting factions in the CAR to lay down their weapons.

About half of CAR’s population is Christian and 15% are Muslim.

Pope Francis is welcomed by Imam Tiding Moussa Naibi, left, on the occasion of his visit at the Central Mosque in BanguiAP The Pope was welcomed to the mosque by Imam Tidiane Moussa Naibi
Children wait for the arrival of Pope Francis on the occasion of his visit at the Central Mosque in BanguiAP Children waited to greet Pope Francis at the mosque in Bangui
Pope Francis greets people as he arrives at the central mosque in the mostly Muslim PK5 neighbourhood of the capital Bangui, Central African RepublicReuters Crowds turned out to see the Pope as he drove into the PK5 neighbourhood

Celebrating Mass in Bangui, he said they should instead arm themselves “with justice, love, mercy and authentic peace”.

Earlier, he said he hoped next month’s election in the CAR would open a “new chapter” for the country.

The trip to the CAR is the pontiff’s first visit to a conflict zone and the final stop on his three-nation African tour that also took in Kenya and Uganda.

CAR map with Uganda and Kenya

Conflict has blighted the CAR for decades but it was only in 2013 that the fighting took on a religious form.

President Francois Bozize was ousted in a coup in March 2013 and a group of mostly Muslim rebels from the north, the Seleka, marched on Bangui, briefly taking control of the country.

Their rebellion tapped into a feeling northerners had of being excluded and unrepresented by the central government, correspondents say.

They targeted churches and Christian communities, which triggered the creation of the anti-Balaka – meaning anti-violence – militias, and led to a downward spiral of tit-for-tat violence which continues.

Towns and villages are divided, with hundreds of thousands of people displaced into camps divided along religious lines.

Central African Republic:

Media captionAlastair Leithead visits the scene of recent religious violence
  • Population: 4.6 million – 50% Christian, 15% Muslim, 35% Indigenous beliefs
  • Years of conflict and poor governance
  • Conflict only recently along religious lines
  • Previously ruled by Emperor Jean-Bedel Bokassa
  • Rich in diamonds
  • 10,000-strong UN force took over peacekeeping mission in September 2014
  • France has about 2,000 troops in its ex-colony, first deployed in December 2013

Central African Republic – Pope prays for peace



Protected by the heaviest security ever seen on his trips, Pope Francis on Sunday preached reconciliation in the divided Central African Republic, a nation racked by bloodshed between Muslims and Christians.

As the pope’s Alitalia plane touched down from Uganda to start his first visit to a war zone, attack helicopters patrolled the skies and armoured personnel carriers from French and U.N. peacekeeping forces waited outside the airport.

Special security forces wearing patches of the yellow and white colours of the Vatican flag were on hand to help his normal security retinue.

In an unprecedented precaution for papal trips, a U.N. soldier armed with a rifle rode in each of the minibuses carrying reporters accompanying the pope.

Bangui, the capital of the former French colony, has seen a surge in clashes that have left at least 100 people dead since late September.

France, which has around 900 soldiers deployed in the country, warned the Vatican this month that the visit could be risky but the pope was determined to go to the majority Christian nation.

“Reconciliation, forgiveness, love, peace,” he said in a dramatic voice in the homily of a Mass at the city’s cathedral in the afternoon, appealing to warring militias to “lay down these instruments of death”.

Francis was driven past tens of thousands of cheering people to and from events in a simple car or an open popemobile.

“Work, pray, do everything for peace. But remember, peace without love, friendship and tolerance is nothing,” he said at one stop, a visit to camp housing some 4,000 people displaced by the violence in Bangui’s neighbourhoods.

He was mobbed by the crowd and asked them all to shout out repeatedly in their native Songo language: “We are all brothers”.

The tight security continued in the afternoon when he opened a “holy door” at the city’s cathedral for a symbolic local start of the Roman Catholic Church’s jubilee year on the theme of mercy. The jubilee begins officially at the Vatican on Dec. 8.

“The Holy Year of Mercy is coming early to this land that has been suffering for years from hate, incomprehension and lack of peace,” he said, standing on the cathedral steps.

“For Bangui, for all the people of the Central African Republic and for all the countries in the world suffering from war, we ask for peace,” he said in the unprepared remarks to a crowd outside.


Shortly after his arrival Francis heard interim head of state Catherine Samba-Panza paint a bleak picture of her country.

“We absolutely need forgiveness because our hearts have been hardened by the forces of evil. We have lost the sincere love for others and we are henceforth anchored in intolerance, the loss of our values and the disorder that is the result,” she told him at the official welcoming ceremony.

France sent in soldiers in 2013 in an attempt to stem the violence. Muslims and Christians have since split into segregated communities. Tens of thousands of Muslims have fled to the far north, creating a de facto partition.

About 80 percent of the impoverished country’s population is Christian, roughly 15 percent is Muslim and 5 percent animist.

Central African Republic’s government is deploying around 500 police and gendarmes to secure the visit. More than 3,000 peacekeepers from the MINUSCA U.N. mission will also be deployed and French troops will be on alert as well.

The most dangerous segment of the pope’s African trip takes place on Monday when he will enter Bangui’s PK5 Muslim enclave and visit its central mosque. The neighbourhood, epicentre of a fresh surge in violence, is encircled by Christian militias who have imposed a blockade.

Bangui is the final leg of his first African trip that has already taken him to Kenya and Uganda.

(Additional reporting by Crispin Dembassa-Kette; Editing by Ros Russell)

Ethiopia – Africa’s biggest refugee camp that no one mentions

Inter Press Service

In the Jesuit Refugee Service compound people, mainly women, cue to get allocations of blankets, rice and cooking oil. Credit: James Jeffrey/IPS

In the Jesuit Refugee Service compound people, mainly women, cue to get allocations of blankets, rice and cooking oil. Credit: James Jeffrey/IPS

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia, Nov 29 2015 (IPS) – On a sunny November day in Addis Ababa the courtyard of the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) centre is packed with people—some attend a United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees reception clinic, others get essential supplies, while students attend classes, and many simply play volleyball, table football or dominoes to pass the time.

Benyamin told IPS he came to Ethiopia from Yemen because practising his religion freely just wasn’t an option. After converting from Islam to the Jewish faith, he was put in a psychiatric hospital. “If I’d been sent to court I could have been put to death,” Benyamin adds phlegmatically.

Guilain, 35, from Guinea in West Africa, has lived in Ethiopia for 11 years, while two years ago his wife and daughter managed to enter the United States, where he hopes to join them—eventually.

“I miss them but I must keep my heart intact, so I can’t think about it too much,” Guilain told IPS. While he remains in Ethiopia, Guilain has formed a seven-member band of fellow Guineans who practise in the JRS’s small music room. “The music gives me hope. I am happy when I come here; you see people enjoying themselves—it helps you to forget.”

Now in its 20th year, the JRS compound resembles a microcosm of Africa’s—and even the Middle East’s—troubles, hosting refugees from South Sudan, Congo, Uganda, Somalia, Eritrea, Yemen, Burundi and more. It aims to assist 1,700 people in 2015, Hanna Petros, the centre’s director, told IPS.

While many European countries bemoan the arrival of refugees, developing countries host 86 per cent of the world’s refugees, according to a 2013 UNHCR Global Trends report. Ethiopia hosts about 680,000 refugees, the largest number of any African country.

Often these countries already struggle to respond to the needs of their own populations and are reluctant to allow refugees to study, work or move freely within their territories.There is an increasing awareness in the international community that while global inequality continues, and failed states fester, refugees will continue moving to perceived better alternatives—with numbers quite possibly increasing, unless those inequalities and conditions that create refugees are dealt with effectively.

But there’s also increasing consensus that finding solutions to such complex and geographically dispersed problems could prove one of the world’s major vexations for the foreseeable future.

“You just have to accept you can’t help with everything,” a UNHCR worker at the JRS reception clinic, who has worked in Ethiopia for eight years, told IPS. “If you don’t accept that then you can easily get overwhelmed by it all. It’s basically like social work; you have to keep your emotions separate.”

Inside the JRS library, Ethiopian teacher Endrias Kacharo gives a lesson to teenage students on the values of leadership. “It helps them deal with their situations and being totally stuck, by thinking about what they can do and how to empower themselves,” Endrias told IPS.

Others, however, have clearly run out of patience, hence harsh words can accompany mention of Ethiopia’s Administration for Refugee and Returnee Affairs, known as ARRA, and of the UNHCR.

“All they care about is their budgets; they don’t care about refugees,” a 33-year-old Congolese man, who fled to Ethiopia five years ago to escape fighting and government persecution of his minority Banyamulenge tribe, told IPS. “It’s a form of psychological killing living here because we aren’t allowed to work. We are hopeless.”

And there was more—talk of shady deals going on so Ethiopians can pose as refugees to get resettled in Europe, and doctors in Ethiopian hospitals told to give refugee patients limited medical assistance to preserve budgets.

Most refugees are more circumspect in their comments, visibly conscious of having to get by in a foreign land under the authority of another government, although such is the convoluted refugee system that even indigenous Ethiopians are caught up in it.

In a corner of the JRS compound is a small café run by Wude, one of her four grandchildren strapped to her back as she prepares numerous dishes for lunchtime. Outside, one of her eight children, 29-year-old Ababa, makes traditional Ethiopian coffee.

“I still want to go to America for the sake of my children,” Wube, an Ethiopian who was married to a Democratic Republic of Congo refugee who died after 40 years in Ethiopia awaiting resettlement, told IPS. Through the marriage, Wube and her children are still classed as refugees and therefore cannot be employed in Ethiopia due to current rules for refugees.

This conundrum is one example from many within the labyrinthine bureaucracy that refugees must attempt to navigate, and is why so many end up languishing in Ethiopia for years, if not decades.

Ethiopia’s little appreciated refugee situation is given an added twist by the fact that, despite glacial relations between Ethiopia and Eritrea never thawing since the end of their catastrophic 1998-2000 war, thousands of hosted refugees are Eritreans fleeing a country that a 2015 United Nations report describes as ruled by fear.

The May Aini, Adi Harush and Hitsats refugee camps, located in the northwest of Ethiopia’s Tigray region, close to the borders with Eritrea and Sudan, are some of the largest refugee camps in the country, housing thousands of Eritreans; others manage to get to Addis Ababa.

Mihret came to Addis Ababa after making a night-time border crossing from Eritrea into Ethiopia guided by her uncle, all the while hearing frightening sounds, she told IPS, that were likely Eritrean military border patrols who reportedly operate with a shoot-to-kill policy.

A qualified doctor, Mihret despaired of Eritrea’s enforced military service controlling her life. After two years in Addis Ababa she finally made it to a north European country by obtaining a legitimate visa—an exception to the rule.

Often young, highly skilled and entrepreneurial, what many refugees say they find unbearable is the hopelessness of their situation, which stems from an international asylum system structured around the assumption that most conflicts are short-term and refugees will eventually return home.

But the reality is often quite different. Rather than emergencies, it is chronic political and economic crisis in the likes of Afghanistan, Somalia, Sudan, Palestine, Myanmar and Eritrea fueling primary global refugee flows, according to the 2013 UNHCR Global Trends report.

Such is the scale and diversity of challenges faced by many countries’ populations, that distinctions between refugees and economic migrants become blurred. Hence the argument for a new terminology of “survival migrant”, someone falling outside the internationally recognized definition of a refugee but, nevertheless, fleeing very serious socio-economic rights deprivations.

For now, many of these individuals, having no passport and coming from countries often labeled high risk for illegal migration, find themselves cut off from obtaining study visas and work permits for developed countries, and condemned by strict national migration rules to remain as refugees for years in the likes of Ethiopia.

Hence so many risk so much, with every February seeing an exodus of refugees, especially Eritreans, from Addis Ababa heading to Sudan in the hope of continuing northwest and eventually reaching Europe. March is the right month, according to popular wisdom here, to start the journey from Sudan’s capital, Khartoum, to Libya. The Sahara desert is not too hot and the waters of the Mediterranean Sea will be calmer by April than during the winter.

But there’s no mitigating the dangers of dealing with human traffickers, rickety boats and the simple capriciousness of the elements. Eritreans accounted for the majority of the 3,000 people who drowned in the Mediterranean this year, humanitarian agencies estimate.

So not everyone takes the gamble, choosing to remain at the mercy of the international asylum system.

“At least I’m free to practice my faith here,” Samrawit, 30, a Pentecostal Christian who teaches English classes at the JRS, and who seven years ago also walked at night across the border from Eritrea into Ethiopia, told IPS. “But when you can’t even earn a living, such freedom really counts for nothing.”

(Note: names of Eritreans have been changed.)


Kenya – will the wall with Somalia reduce Al Shabab threat?

Al Jazeera

Can a 700km wall along the Kenya-Somalia border stop al-Shabab attacks? We investigate the threat of the armed group.

Kenya has started construction on a 700km-long wall along its porous border with Somalia, in an attempt to shield itself from the armed group al-Shabab.

The ambitious project, which consists of brick walls, fences and observation posts, will stretch from the town of Mandera in the north to Kiunga in the south. The goal is to lock out al-Qaeda-aligned fighters who have repeatedly crossed into Kenya to wage attacks.

Kenya, an al-Shabab target due to its military involvement in Somalia, has seen an upsurge in large scale attacks recently.

Earlier this year, 148 people, including 142 students, were killed after gunmen stormed the Garissa University College, some 200km from the Somalia border .

The massacre piled new pressure on Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta to deal with the group which has killed more than 400 people in the country over the past two years.

In Kenya’s Enemy Within we look at the government’s proposed border wall and whether it will help stop attacks on Kenyan soil.

Investigative journalist John Allan Namu speaks to people with direct access to the project, who say the plan is unfeasible and won’t enhance the country’s security.

We hear how corruption among immigration officials, poor coordination with intelligence agencies and slow responses from the security forces have left Kenya unable to stem the attacks.

With exclusive access to al-Shabab fighters in Kenya, we are told how the wall represents a futile effort to shut out the group and the biggest threat the country is facing is from within.

We also speak to the Muslim community who say that constant harassment and intimidation at the hands of security forces, and scare-mongering by the government, are helping drive al-Shabab’s recruitment and creating the perfect breeding ground for the group.

Source: Al Jazeera

Nigeria – Obasanjo warns of unemployment powder keg


Olusegun Obasanjo

Samuel Awoyinfa, Abeokuta

Former President Chief Olusegun Obasanjo has expressed concern over the unemployment rate in the country, stressing that if urgent steps are not taking to address it, “the country may be sitting on a keg of gun powder.”

He expressed this concern on Saturday at the 16th and 17th convocation of the Tai Solarin University of Education, Ijagun, Ijebu Ode, Ogun State.

The institution was also marking its 10th anniversary.

Obasanjo, who advised the graduating students to think outside the box to discover what they could do positively on their own to survive, noted that the state and federal governments must take the issue of job creation seriously.

He said, “If there is no job for the unemployed to feed themselves and also to contribute to the development of the country then, we will all be sitting on a keg of gun powder.

“We should be able to break the cycle of poverty, through job and wealth creations. We can achieve this at both the federal, state, local, family and individual levels.

“We must all see education as a tool for making positive contributions to our country. But, if after your education, there is no job, you must be able to think outside the box positively, that is one advantage education has provided for you and not making you a tool for evil machinations.”

Obasanjo, who was conferred with the honorary doctorate degree in Political Science, alongside the late matriarch of Awolowo family dynasty, Mrs. Hannah Idowu Dideolu Awolowo and business mogul, Aliko Dangote, said his administration had 12 years ago mooted the idea of elevating four federal Colleges of Education into universities of education.

But he added that it was the National Universities Commission that should explain why it did not take action on it.

He said the colleges the Federal Government had proposed to upgrade included Adeyemi College of Education, Ivan Ikoku College of Education, and two others in Kano and Zaria.

Obasanjo commended the Ogun State government for taking up the initiative to establish the first University of Education in Nigeria.

He said, “The idea of creating a university of education in Nigeria came up 12 years ago, when I was the President of the country. I had thought that if we could have specialised universities for agriculture, specialised universities for science and technology, why not for education? Why can we not have a university designated for education?

“At that time at the federal level, four Colleges of Education, which belong to the Federal Government would have been turned into universities of education. They include the Adeyemi College of Education in Ondo, Ivan Ikoku College of Education, one in Kano and I think the other in Zaria. We were ready to go (well, why we could not go, Peter Okebukola is here, you can ask him and he will tell you).

“Well, the Ogun State government took this initiative and behold, we had the first University of Education in Ogun State. Mr. Governor, please help us to thank your predecessor for this.”

Obasanjo said he accepted the award, even when he had rejected the one from his own The BELLS University of Technology, Ota, because of the name, Tai Solarin, which the university was named after.

He added that he accepted the honorary doctorate degree because the late HID, was also given a posthumous doctorate degree, describing her as “a role model as far as education development is concerned in Nigeria.”

The state Governor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun, said the convocation marked the continued demonstration of his government’s commitment to the production of qualified teaching personnel for the nation’s education system.

He noted that a university should be a place where fresh ideas should be generated and reflected in the environment where such an institution was located.

He said, “Let me enjoin you all that a university where ideas and ideals are always traded can never be static in outlook and in conduct. It must be dynamic always, interfacing and responding to its environment and all the challenges of its operating millieu.”

The Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Oluyemisi Obilade, in her welcome address, said the institution was positioned to respond to national and global educational needs.

She added that the institution had equipped the graduating students with the necessary skills as well as content knowledge for effective teaching and learning.

Copyright PUNCH.


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