Category Archives: Africa – International

South Africa – even ANC voters think it is performing badly

Mail and Guardian

An internal report has revealed that ANC voters believe the party is performing poorly in combating crime and corruption, and in creating jobs.
The party blames ineffective communications for its failure to tell supporters of the 'good things' it does in terms of service delivery. (Oupa Nkosi, M&G)

After much soul-searching in the wake of last year’s gruelling general elections, the ruling party is facing another bleak electoral battle – its own research reveals that its voters “think we are performing badly” in combating crime and corruption, and in creating jobs.

The party is defensive in public but an internal election strategy document frankly admits that voters are in a bad mood and are fed up with corruption and incompetence.

“Dysfunctional state services and corrupt leaders and lack of contact lose us hundreds of thousands of votes,” the document’s authors said.

The party will be contesting the local elections next year concerned about the prospect of losing its key metros – Tshwane, Johannesburg and Nelson Mandela Bay.

The ANC conducted a survey in all municipalities over a period of months after last year’s general elections and the outcome of the poll was put together after about five visits to each municipality. The Mail & Guardian has seen a summary of the survey outcomes attached to the party’s elections strategy document.

The ANC remains a behemoth, dwarfing the opposition nationally, and is still in charge of eight provinces and most municipalities, but it is trying to halt the dwindling of its support.

Its national vote was reduced by 4% last year and it won Gauteng, Africa’s economic hub, by a whisker.

Party failures
Repeated violent service delivery protests in townships, a disgruntled section of the black middle class, some disillusioned white voters and a raucous opposition rattled the ruling party during last year’s elections.

The common thread among all these groups is the perception that the party is failing to deal with corruption, crime and high unemployment – three issues highlighted in its internal document.

Almost a quarter of the economically active workforce is unemployed, and the latest crime statistics reveal an increase in murders, house robberies and hijackings, crimes that affect the national psyche. The country was also ranked 67th last year in Transparency International’s corruption index.

The ANC document said corruption and the conduct of leaders could drive away voters, and that the behaviour of some ANC leaders might be affecting its credibility.

The authors said populism is a short-term strategy and that voters want to see a tangible difference in their lives.

“We’re not in touch with the people and we don’t debunk perceptions,” said a senior ANC leader who attended the elections workshop and the national executive committee (NEC) meeting where the document was presented.

Offenders and incompetents
The document advised the party to remove offenders and incompetent councillors “now”. “Select the most credible and trusted candidates,” it said.

In its 2006 local government election manifesto, the ANC introduced a code of conduct for councillors. The code required their work to be “reviewed regularly to ensure that they meet their obligations”. “In that way, the ANC will ensure that councillors remain accountable to you,” the document stated.

But disgruntlement over some councillors has been growing ever since.

On Monday, the ANC fired the Nelson Mandela Bay metro mayor, Benson Fihla, and replaced him with South African Football Association president Danny Jordaan, a move that ruling party insiders say is an attempt to restore its credibility in the Port Elizabeth area.

“[We] need strong council leadership, accountability, strategic budget spending … municipal complaint systems and a three-day response [time] to fix things that are simple and … would make a huge change,” the election strategy document stated.

The party said one of its assets is its “fearsome” election machinery, “recognised as one of the best in the world”.

“Only if we get the right people in charge … teams must each get to an average of 1 100 voters, identify and register strong and weak ANC supporters, [and] persuade with house meetings, leaders and public meetings,” the document said. “[Our] machine cannot be derailed by factional and internal politics. [We] need to build on strengths and minimise weaknesses.”

Ineffective communication
The ANC election machine used to be buttressed by the trade union federation Cosatu, which is now deeply divided, and the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa, which used to be its largest affiliate, has pulled out of the federation.

But the ruling party blames its own ineffective communication for failure to highlight its “good story”. The ANC has urged its representatives to put voters’ needs “at the centre of all communication” because “people love themselves first and then the ANC”.

The NEC member said the party believes that “we don’t tell people the good things that we do”.


The ANC is concerned that there is a perception it is failing to deal with corruption, crime and high unemployment and that this is eroding its support among the electorate. (Joel Thungren)

“Negativity overshadows positivity. For instance, in South Africa, there’s no government that did well on infrastructure development like the ANC government, but we are failing to ensure that we communicate [that] effectively,” he said.

In the document, the party said it wants to dominate the news with good stories about delivery and to show the electorate that “we are fixing problems”.

If the party implements its election strategy, South Africans will see an enhanced ANC presence on social media and more selfies and personal letters from ANC leaders.

‘Detached from people’
The NEC member said the party “acknowledged that there are some among us who are arrogant, aloof and impatient with people. We are seen to be detached from people. When you start getting a better income, you move [away] from your community,” he said.

The ANC’s unique selling point is its countrywide presence, according to the NEC member, and that is a disadvantage for other parties.

The party has warned its leaders not to underestimate the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), which is led by former ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema.

Ironically, the EFF has also conceded that its performance in recent by-elections was dismal, which it attributed to a lack of funds.

But the ANC said its public representatives should not take the possibility of the EFF gaining traction lightly and “provoking conflict with the state (led by the ANC)”.

Given the EFF’s youthful leadership and support, the ANC said it wants to “re-energise our potential young supporters”.

Youth league implosion
Compounding the ANC’s inability to reach young voters is the implosion of its youth league and a weak South African Students’ Congress, which has lost several campuses to opposition parties.

Referring to the Democratic Alliance, the ruling party said the DA’s strategy is to elevate itself as a paragon of good governance.

Out of the country’s 278 municipalities, the DA runs 28, some in coalition with other parties.

A political analyst in the Western Cape, Daniel Silke, said the DA has to build a public relations campaign around its new leader, Mmusi Maimane, in the three targeted metros.

He said, although issues such as Maimane’s perceived stance on homosexuality and veteran journalist Allister Sparks’s controversial comments about Hendrik Verwoerd’s leadership abilities were an electoral flop, they didn’t matter much in local government polls.

DA candidates
The DA has yet to finalise its list of mayoral candidates. The only known candidates so far are the party’s Eastern Cape leader and new federal chairperson, Athol Trollip, who will contest the Nelson Mandela Bay metro, and Western Cape leader Patricia de Lille, who said she wants to retain the City of Cape Town’s mayoral seat.

But the ANC’s worst fear seems to be potential co-operation between the DA and the EFF. While addressing the American Chamber of Commerce in South Africa on Monday, Maimane said “establishing coalitions prior to an election is almost a sin to speak about”.

The ANC said the strategy of the EFF and the United Democratic Movement (UDM) is to discredit the Independent Electoral Commission by creating the impression that it will rig the elections to favour the ANC. “Do not reinforce this with your behaviour,” the document’s authors warned party leaders.

The UDM, the EFF and the DA last year attacked the IEC’s independence following an office-leasing scandal that saw the resignation of Pansy Tlakula as the commission’s chairperson. The opposition successfully mounted a legal battle against her.

The M&G reported last month that the ANC has introduced strict guidelines for selecting candidates for next year’s elections, including the screening of candidates by branch committees.

Selection will begin in August and a conference to finalise the list is scheduled for December.


By-elections show that EFF has a way to go

The EFF dreams of putting up candidates in every municipality and winning wards and, more ambitiously, entire metropolitan councils in next year’s local government elections.

But if the results of by-elections contested by the party so far are anything to go by, the EFF is struggling to make inroads into municipalities.

There were threats of teaching the ANC a lesson when the red berets put up seven candidates in the rural KwaZulu-Natal municipality of Mtubatuba earlier this month, but the EFF failed dismally. In one ward, the party secured a mere 35 of the 2 457 valid votes cast.

It was hardly different in 21 other wards contested in six sets of by-elections since August last year.

When the EFF tested the ground in the Western Cape in February, it scored a paltry 55 of the 1 593 votes recorded. The trend was similar in January in the Free State town of Bethlehem, where the party received 43 of the 1 421 valid votes cast.

It had better luck last November, when it contested 10 wards in Limpopo’s Mogalakwena municipality and received an average of 218 out of about 1 029 votes per ward. A disclaimer worth noting at this point is that by-elections record significantly lower voter turnout compared with ordinary local government elections.

EFF secretary general Godrich Gardee concedes that the party has struggled in by-elections.

“Ordinarily by-elections don’t have the ‘voom-voom’, the excitement, media hype and publicity of local government elections,” Gardee said.

However, he said the poor performance seen so far is “not a measure of how the EFF will do when we go to the playing fields”.

The EFF has not invested much in contesting by-elections, Gardee said. “By-elections are more expensive than ordinary local government elections. We are operating in a shoestring environment and hand to mouth. Capital is hostile to us and we don’t have tenders.”

But he insists this will not deter the party in the 2016 municipal elections.

“We learned our lesson. We have to register our supporters. A lot of our supporters turned up to vote in last year’s election but were not registered,” Gardee said.

Political analyst Ebrahim Fakir said, although performance in by-elections cannot be used to predict voting patterns, the recent results have rubbished the notion that EFF is well organised and can tap into local communities.

“I don’t think the EFF will do terribly well in local government elections because in [municipal] elections there is a test of narrow support in a concentrated area,” he said. Fakir predicted the party will do fairly well on councils’ proportional representation lists. The party was recently allocated one such seat in the Mtubatuba municipality.

At its inaugural conference in December, the EFF said its draft local government elections strategy would be ready by March. Gardee, however, said changes are being made to that strategy because the party has learned from previous by-elections. “We are refining it [the strategy]. We cannot be reckless. It is a war plan. We don’t want our competitors to know.” – Qaanitah Hunter


Nigeria moves Boko Haram survivors

BBC

Nigerian army ‘relocates’ 260 Boko Haram survivors

A child rescued from Boko Haram in Sambisa forest is seen at the Internally Displaced People's camp in Yola, Nigeria on 3 May 2015.
Hundreds of people rescued by the Nigerian army are being held at a camp in Yola

The Nigerian army has relocated at least 260 women and children recently rescued from the militant Islamist group Boko Haram, officials say.

They were taken from a camp in the north-eastern city of Yola and flown to an unspecified military facility.

The women will receive medical help and support as part of their rehabilitation process, the BBC has learnt.

The government is said to be worried that some women may have been radicalised while in captivity.

Camp officials said there were suspicions some of the women had been communicating with militants.

They will be housed at the military facility under the Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) Programme which is part of the government’s so-called “soft approach” to combating terrorism.

Backed by soldiers from Chad, Cameroon and Niger, the Nigerian army has managed to liberate a number of towns from the militants since they launched a military operation in February.

However, sporadic attacks and violence have continued, with thousands killed in the last year alone.

‘Serious humanitarian crisis’

Some 275 women and children were brought to Malkohi camp in Yola on 2 May, after their rescue from a Boko Haram camp in the Sambisa Forest.

At the time, the women said some members of their group were killed when the militants pelted stones at them because they refused to run away as the army approached.

While 260 of them have now been moved, some are still being treated in a hospital in Yola, according to the BBC’s Nigeria Correspondent Will Ross.

A spokesman for the government body managing the camp, Sani Datti, told the AP news agency that he was aware soldiers had removed the group. But said he had no more details of what he described as an “entirely military affair”.

Separately on Thursday, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said the Boko Haram insurgency had caused “one of the most serious humanitarian crises in Africa”.

General view of school in Yola, Nigeria, where victims are recovering (May 2015)
Recent captives were rescued from what is thought to be the group’s last Nigeria stronghold

“Whole communities have fled their villages and endured unimaginable suffering… even if the fighting stopped tomorrow, it will take years of investment and painstaking work to rebuild livelihoods and services,” ICRC president Peter Maurer said.

He has just returned from a trip to the two north-eastern cities of Maiduguri and Yola, where thousands of people have fled the violence.

He said the charity was seeking an additional $65m (£41m; €58m) to support its operations in Nigeria as well as in Chad, Cameroon and Niger, where the fighting has spread.

Further support was also needed for the victims of sexual violence, he said, amid widespread evidence the militants raped some of the kidnapped women and girls.

About 1.5 million people have been displaced and hundreds more abducted since the group launched their violent uprising in 2009. More than 15,500 people have been killed in the fighting.

The group is still holding many women, girls and children captives including 219 schools girls it kidnapped from a school in Chibok in April last year.

The name Boko Haram, loosely translated from the region’s Hausa language, means “Western education is forbidden”.

map

Burundi – protests continue to rock Bujumbura

Al Jazeera

ANTI-GOVERNMENT PROTESTS ROCK BURUNDI’S CAPITAL

By Al Jazeera

Protesters in Burundi have clashed with police in anti-government demonstrations against a third term bid for power by the president, a week on since a failed coup.

At least two protesters were killed and eight were wounded in Thursday’s clashes with police in the capital Bujumbura, the Red Cross said.

They are the latest victims of the unrest prompted by President Pierre Nkurunziza’s bid for a third term, in which more than 20 people have died.

Heavy gunfire was heard all day in suburbs of Bujumbura, with intense bursts of automatic weapons, as protesters in reply hurled rocks from makeshift barricades.

Smoke rose from districts of the city where fighting as heaviest.

The sound of gunfire echoed in Bujumbura as night fell, with no apparent sign of easing in the darkness, especially in the Musaga and Kanyosha districts.

Police in Musaga said they had been sent to restore order “whatever the cost”.

Cholera outbreak

More than 110,000 people have fled the violence in Burundi to neighbouring countries, according to the UN.

Humanitarian agencies are struggling to cope as tens of thousands of refugees stranded on Tanzania’s Kagunga Island face dire medical conditions.

UNICEF officials told Al Jazeera on Thursday that conditions at Kagunga were “tough” and that a cholera outbreak had made conditions even more dire.

At least 33 people have died, with 27 deaths believed to have been cholera related.

The World Health Organisation declared cholera a level 1 emergency in the region on Wednesday.

“It is very, very tough in Kagunga, and our focus now is to try and save those living in these very poor conditions,” said Thomas Lyimo, a health officer at UNICEF.

More than 100,000 people have crossed into Tanzania since political unrest began in Burundi on April 26.

At last count, some 70,000 refugees were still in Kagunga, waiting to be transferred to the Nyarugusu camp outside Kigoma.

The political crisis, which began in late April after Burundi’s ruling party nominated Nkurunziza to stand again in the June presidential election, deepened last week when a top general staged a failed coup attempt.

Emmanuel Ntahonvukiye, the newly appointed defence minister, called for unity in the wake of the abortive coup, which was crushed by loyalist forces after street fighting between rival factions.

“The survival of Burundi as a nation depends on the cohesion of the army,” a military statement read, warning that, should the army splinter, it would result in a situation seen in Somalia.

One of those killed was shot as demonstrators tried to reach the National Assembly, where three ministers were sworn in at extraordinary session.

President’s claims

Nkurunziza, in an address to the nation late on Wednesday, said most of the central African country was secure, and that the upcoming parliamentary and presidential votes would be peaceful.

“Peace and security reign over 99.9 percent of Burundian territory and population are going about normally in their activities,” Nkurunziza said in a broadcast on state radio.

Most of the demonstrations took place in Bujumbura’s suburbs.

One group of protesters briefly reached the symbolic city centre, only to be swiftly chased away by the police.

Opposition and rights groups say that Nkurunziza’s bid for a third five-year term violates the constitution and the terms of the peace deal that brought an end to a 13-year civil war in 2006.

Nkurunziza, a former rebel leader and born-again Christian who believes he has divine backing to lead, argues his first term did not count as he was elected by parliament, not directly by the people.

On Wednesday, his office announced that parliamentary polls set for May 26 had been postponed to June 5, but there has been no mention of rescheduling the June 26 presidential election.

Rights groups accuse Nkurunziza of launching a crackdown on opponents and independent media in the wake of the failed coup.

The presidency has dismissed the claims.

Burundi’s government appears increasingly isolated diplomatically.

Belgium, the former colonial power, threatened on Thursday to end assistance to the country if Nkurunziza presses ahead with a third term.

Nigeria – Buhari praises Jonathan’s acceptance of electoral defeat

Punch

Jonathan’s acceptance of defeat averted crisis, says Buhari

 

President-elect, Maj. Gen. Muhammadu Buhari

The President-elect, Muhammadu Buhari, has commended President Goodluck Jonathan, for conceding defeat at the March 28 presidential election.

The News Agency of Nigeria reported that Buhari gave the commendation in Abuja on Thursday when he received Nigerien President Issoufou Mahamadou on Thursday. He said Jonathan’s action turned around Nigeria’s nervous political process.

He said, “The Nigerien president purposely came to congratulate me on my victory and President Goodluck Jonathan for the maturity and statesmanship that he exhibited by accepting that he had lost the election.

“His (Jonathan’s) action actually doused tensions and averted crisis in Nigeria.

“Not only Africa but the world has commended the President for that because if he had disputed the election, there would have been crisis in the country.

“That is what people don’t want, not only Nigerians but other countries. So, he came to commend President Jonathan for his courage and statesmanship.”

He said Mahamadou had also come to show solidarity and acknowledged Nigeria’s importance on the continent.

Buhari said but for colonialism, Niger and Nigeria and all countries living along the border would have been one as they shared similar cultures, religions and mannerisms.

“As he rightly puts it, if Nigeria sneezes, the rest of Africa catches cold because of its importance, population and resources.

“So, Nigeria and Niger Republic are one entity as one singer from Niger puts it in his lyrics. We share a 1,500-kilometre long border with Niger which stretches from Chad to Sokoto, and all the people living along the borders on either sides are same people.

“The colonialists separated these people when they partitioned Africa at the Berlin conference in 1885. They separated the Fulani, Kanuri and the Hausa from their brothers who are presently in Niger.

“They separated the Yoruba of Nigeria and the ones in Benin Republic. They also separated the Fulani and other tribes who were living together as one along the Cameroon border.

“So, all these countries around us were a single entity with people of similar culture and religion before they became separated but time has changed and we thank him for reminding us of our history of brotherhood.”

Earlier, Mahamadou had said he was in Nigeria to convey the gratitude of Niger Republic to Nigerians for the peaceful conduct of the elections held in spite of challenges.

“President Jonathan conceding defeat and this act will have a lasting impact and influence on politics in Africa, West Africa and Africa at large.

“So, I’m here both to congratulate the president-elect and the people of Nigeria for the smooth conduct of the elections,” Mahamadou said. 

French claim killing of jihadist leaders in Mali

BBC

Two jihadist leaders killed in Mali, says FranceThis file picture dated on January 2, 2015 shows French helicopters stationed at a base in Goa, 320 km east southeast of Timbuktu, as part of the Barkhane Operation

Hundreds of French troops are in the region as part of a counter-terrorism operation

French special forces have killed four jihadists, including two leaders, in a raid in north Mali, the French defence ministry says.

One of those killed was Amada Ag Hama, suspected of the kidnapping and murder of two French journalists in 2013.

He is said to be a commander of in al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.

France sent troops into Mali two years ago when Islamist militants threatened the capital Bamako. Some 3,000 remain in the region combating terrorism.

The other leader killed was named as Ibrahim Ag Inawalen, from another al-Qaeda linked militant group, Ansar Dine.

Aside from the murders of Radio France International journalists Ghislaine Dupont and Claude Verlon, Amada Ag Hama was also said to be involved in the death of aid worker Michel Germaneau and the abduction of four French nationals in Niger, both in 2010.

“France has a long memory,” said Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius.

Mali suffered a coup in 2012. In the chaos that followed, Tuareg rebels seized control of the north, declaring independence, before being supplanted by Islamist militants.

Instability remains, despite the French intervention and the presence of the 11,000-strong UN peacekeeping force known as Minusma.

On Wednesday, an attacker opened fire on a UN residence in Bamako, injuring a guard.

Angola – trial of journalist Rafael Marques de Morais

allAfrica

Angola: Power Fights Truth in Angola

New York — If the world’s awareness about diamonds and their tarnished journey to the west has grown, it is, in part, because of the fierce and fearless work of journalists like the Angolan Rafael Marques de Morais. As the story of blood diamonds is turning into celebrated Hollywood productions, the fate of the storyteller himself hangs in the balance. Rafael is on trial in Angola for exposing murder and abuse in the mining industry. His accusers, the generals and companies who bear responsibility for these alleged crimes, were willing to settle this case before trial on condition that Rafael retract his claims.

In good conscience, Rafael refused to give them the exoneration they demanded. Instead, he offered only to admit that it is possible that they did not know about or order the abuses. As a journalist, Rafael is concerned with the facts, not with making legal judgments, which is actually what his accusers were demanding.

Without a settlement, the case against Rafael is proceeding and will now likely require the court to judge whether or not he was right in pointing a finger at those who were and are in a position to stop the abuses. That is what this case is about and law is clearly on Rafael’s side.

Since Nuremberg, international justice has held that those who know about, or should have known about, the actions of their subordinates or others whom they control, bear responsibility for the crimes that result. This principle is now codified in the statute of the International Criminal Court. Nevertheless, many in positions of power, continue to insist that a lack of actual knowledge absolves them of any responsibility from their actions. Thanks to journalists like Rafael, excuses like that are no longer tenable.

Governments, Angola’s included, bear an even greater responsibility to investigate and prosecute those who would abuse fundamental rights, which all states are obligated to protect. They cannot, as many have tried, escape this obligation by simply denying any involvement. Due diligence to protect human rights requires concerted efforts to hold abusers to account.

The tide has turned on those who would seek to silence journalists by threatening them with imprisonment. In a case against Burkina Faso, Africa’s highest human rights court recently ruled that it is no longer permissible for a state to imprison someone for defamation. Coming as just its second decision on the merits of any case, this decision signals the Court’s early recognition of the urgent need to protect those who would expose corruption and abuse on the continent.

Instead of prosecuting Rafael for doing what was courageous and right, Angola’s government must investigate and prosecute the generals and companies who bear ultimate responsibility for the murder and abuse he has exposed. Journalists who speak truth to power do all of us a great service. They deserve our appreciation and support, not unfair trial and punishment.

Garth Meintjes is the  Executive Director of the  International Senior Lawyers Project

China fishing illegally off the west coast of Africa

BBC

  

China illegally fishing off W Africa – Greenpeace

Fishing pirogues in Kayar, Senegal

There is an absence of efficient fisheries management in some West African states

More than 70 Chinese vessels have been found fishing illegally off the coast of West Africa, Greenpeace says.

Using information gathered from 2000 to 2014, Greenpeace said Chinese companies had fished in prohibited grounds or under-declared their catches.

Boats either turned off their identification systems or transmitted false location data, it added.

One company’s fishing capacity off the coast of Guinea Bissau is said to have exceeded its authorised limit by 61%.

The absence of efficient fisheries management in some West African states allows rogue companies to plunder marine resources, the BBC’s Thomas Fessy reports from Dakar in Senegal.

  

A bottom trawler fishing boat

Bottom trawlers are considered the most destructive fishing vessel in the industry

In less than a month, Greenpeace documented an average of one new case of illegal practice by a Chinese-owned boat every two days, but the report’s authors say they think that is only the “tip of the iceberg.”

Chinese companies were “unlawfully exploiting West Africa’s marine environment,” said Rashid King, head of Greenpeace East Asia’s China Ocean Campaign, in a statement.

“They were taking advantage of weak enforcement from local and Chinese authorities to the detriment of local fisherman and the environment.”

‘Exploiting’

Mr Kang said unless the Chinese government controlled rogue fishermen, it would “seriously jeopardise” its mutually beneficial partnership with West Africa.

China came to West Africa’s aid during the Ebola outbreak, Mr Kang said, but Chinese companies were “exploiting” West Africa’s marine environment.

In the most recent cases, the Greenpeace ship MY Esperanza, which sailed off Senegal, Guinea-Bissau and Guinea last autumn, documented 16 illegal fishing activities by 12 Chinese vessels.


  

Woman at a West Africa fish market

Chinese companies are escaping licensing fees and plundering West Africa’s fishing resources, Greenpeace says

Over the last 15 years, Greenpeace has also investigated illegal fishing practices by EU, Korean and Russian fishing vessels in Africa.

From 1985 to 2013, China expanded its Africa fishing operations from 13 to 462 vessels.

The vessels were mostly bottom trawlers, which Greenpeace calls “one of the most destructive fishing vessels in the industry”.