Category Archives: Africa – International

Nigeria – election approaches with increase in tension, propaganda and doubt

African Arguments

By Idayat Hassan

IdayatHassanAs the day of Nigeria’s rescheduled elections approaches, tension continues to pervade the polity. Vitriol pours into the air from partisan political actors and everyday even greater quantities of propaganda are released. This ranges from death threats on a presidential candidate to rumours that members of the opposition party will be implicated if the Boko Haram kingpin, Abubakar Shekau, is captured.

Press conference after press conference takes place, held by both ruling and opposition parties to spew propaganda or paint dire scenarios waiting to unfold. Rather than limiting the vitriol to the country, the political gladiators are shifting their focus abroad, such as at the recently held Chatham House event in London, where the opposition APC’s Presidential candidate, Muhammad Buhari, delivered a lecture. Protests were held there both in support and against both of Nigeria’s two major political parties.

What is becoming obvious is that the six week delay has heightened the stakes in what was already a tense contest – rather than engaging in issue-based campaigns, emphasis is being laid on propaganda.

First, the Permanent Voters Cards (PVCs), the incomplete distribution of which was a key reason given for postponing the elections, is turning into an albatross hanging around the neck of the electoral commission (INEC). It was alleged, several weeks ago, that millions of Nigerians had not collected their PVCs and would, consequently, find themselves unable to vote on election day. But the latest thinking on this is that is the PVC and the resultant use of card readers constitutes a form of electronic voting, which Section 52 of the Electoral Act 2010 states is “for the time being prohibited”. Protests are now being organised both for and against INEC’s decision to use the PVCs and card readers during the elections anyway – legal cases have been instituted in courts calling for the non-usage of the PVCs.

The use of the military in the forthcoming elections is also another scenario waiting to unfold. There are presently two court judgments precluding the use of Nigerian Armed Forces in the security and supervision of the election until an enabling act of the National Assembly is passed. The opposition party, the All Progressive Congress (APC), has already written a letter to INEC and other relevant stakeholders requesting that the aforementioned court orders should be strictly adhered to. Will these judgments be adhered to? And, if not, what implication will this have on the electoral process?

Many Nigerians are already upset that the elections were rescheduled at the behest of the military. The high level of militarisation witnessed during the Ekiti and Osun by-elections was controversial and the newly-released audio #Ekitigate of how the military was used to the advantage of the ruling party puts the supposed impartiality of the of the security agencies in doubt. Some have argued that a new and increased role has been afforded to the military, in particular, and other security agencies by the ruling party.  The real fear is not in the use, but rather in the misuse, of the security agencies in these elections, particularly in light of outright partisanship displayed by some of their members.

On the ongoing judicial war, there are presently over ten cases instituted in various courts in Nigeria, ranging from suits to disqualify the opposition party’s presidential candidate on grounds that he was not able to produce a certificate of high school graduation, to the eligibility of the incumbent president and PDP presidential candidate, Goodluck Jonathan.

Nor is INEC excluded – it is being sued over the decision to use PVCs and card readers to boost the credibility of the elections. The judiciary is being accorded an inglorious role in determining matters bordering on pure politics and mostly initiated in bad faith.  In a country where rumour cannot be dismissed with a wave of hand, news is circulating that most of these instituted suits are being assigned to just one judge.

Former president Olusegun Obasanjo added to the theatrics with his renunciation of his membership of the PDP and public tearing up of his membership card by his ward chairman. According to the former president, there is a plan to install an interim government in place come May 29th instead of an elected president. While the ruling party has debunked this claim, the rumour or threat of an interim government has refused to fade away.

The events currently unfolding are reminiscent of the aborted June 12, 1993 presidential election. Who knows, maybe the master-stroke once again will be a court judgment stopping elections from being held, for one reason or the other, or the disqualification of a candidate. Scenarios, such as the chairman of INEC being removed or forced to resign, escalation of the insurgency in the north east and further rescheduling of the elections, invoking sections of the constitution that Nigeria is in a state of war, are real but may not be palatable in the long run. Who in the international community will kick against the judgment of a court of competent jurisdiction?

As it becomes increasingly difficult to define the master narrative in Nigeria’s political process the fact remains that it is Nigerians that must fight for Nigeria.

Idayat Hassan is the Director of The Centre for Democracy and Development in Abuja.

Lesotho opposition parties form coalition government

BBC

Supporters of the Democratic Congress (DC) party chant slogans in Lesotho's capital, Maseru, ahead of February's electionsThe Democratic Congress (DC) party came first by one parliamentary seat

Five opposition parties in Lesotho have formed a new coalition government after snap elections over the weekend failed to produce an outright winner.

The poll was intended to ease tensions after an attempted coup last August.

The All Basotho Convention of outgoing Prime Minister Thomas Thobane came second with 46 seats.

Pakalitha Mosisili’s Democratic Congress was narrowly ahead with 47 seats and formed a majority of 61 with other smaller parties.

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Analysis: BBC’s Nomsa Maseko in Maseru

A voter casts her ballot in Maseru, Lesotho, Saturday 28 February 2015

Even though politicians showed a level of maturity during the elections, Lesotho still faces underlying unresolved issues that trigged last year’s crisis.

The country urgently needs institutional reforms which clearly articulate the role of the police and the army – and the role of the opposition in parliament.

But the coalition partners would need a two-thirds majority to amend the constitution, which is unlikely given the strong opposition they will face from the party of the outgoing prime minister.

Lesotho may be a small country of just over two million people, but it is closely watched by South Africa as it produces water for the region’s economic hub, which cannot afford further political instability. Lesotho’s voters are also hoping politicians will put their differences aside and focus on creating employment for the youth and developing the country.

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Announcing the final results, Lesotho’s Independent Electoral Commission urged all parties to break away from a cycle of political intolerance.

Last year’s power struggle polarised Lesotho’s security forces, with the police believed to have sided with Mr Thabane and the army seen as backing his deputy, Mothejoa Metsing who leads the Lesotho Congress for Democracy.

Mr Metsing will remain deputy prime minister as his party has joined the new coalition with its 12 seats in the 120-member parliament.

The army was confined to barracks for the election, which observers said was free and fair. The regional bloc Sadc deployed 475 police officers to provide security.

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Lesotho parliamentary poll results

People queuing to vote in Lesotho's electionsAbout 1.2 million people were registered to vote
  • Democratic Congress (DC): 47
  • All Basotho Convention (ABC): 46
  • Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD): 12
  • Basotho National Party (BNP): 7
  • Popular Front for Democracy (PFD) – 2
  • Reformed Congress of Lesotho (RCL) – 2
  • Four other parties (BCP, LPC, MFP, NIP) – 1 each

Source: Lesotho’s Independent Electoral Commission

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Mr Mosisili, who served as prime minster from 1998 until 2012, said the mistakes of Mr Thabane would not be repeated by the new government.

Lesotho is completely surrounded by South Africa, which played a key role in mediating last year’s political crisis.

It started when Mr Thabane suspended parliament to avoid a motion ousting him as the head of the coalition.

He later fled, saying he was the target of a coup attempt, after the military attacked the police headquarters.

Nigeria – federal government says 1.65m people displaced by Boko Haram

Leadership

Boko Haram – FG

Maj-.Gen. Chris Olukolade

The federal government said yesterday that about 650,000 persons from the north-eastern parts of the country have been displaced by the terrorist activities of the Boko Haram sect since the insurgents started their gory activities.

Attorney-general of the federation and minister of justice, Mr Mohammed Adoke (SAN) stated this while speaking at a high-level segment of the 28th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council held in Geneva, Switzerland.

He, however, expressed satisfaction with the “recent successes achieved by security forces and the increased level of cooperation at regional and sub-regional level to raise a multi-national force of 8,700 involving Chad, Niger, Cameroun and Benin by the African Union, with support from Nigeria’s global partners.

“My delegation believes that this initiative offers valuable lessons for the global community. In this regard, I cannot overemphasis the need for increased financial and material support for the multi-national force as well as the internally displaced persons and refugees”, Adoke added.

The AGF recalled the successes achieved over the years through international collaboration within the United Nations system in areas of human trafficking, migration issues, prosecution of war crimes and crimes against humanity, as well as the protection of the environment.

He added that there was a need to intensify current initiatives in these and other fields, pledging Nigeria’s support to the Council in this regard.

On the number of persons displaced so far by insurgency, Adoke said, “Nigeria’s experience in combating terrorism and insurgency perpetrated by the Boko Haram sect in north-eastern Nigeria and our common borders with Chad, Niger and Cameroon, clearly demonstrates the relevance and potency of international cooperation and solidarity in tackling this scourge.

According to him, since the insurgency began, close to 650,000 Nigerians have been internally displaced in the afflicted region, and another one million as refugees in neighbouring countries of Cameroun, Chad and Niger.

“This situation has posed grave humanitarian situations in the affected areas including the neighbouring countries,” he revealed.

 

Nearly 66,000 Nigerian IDPs in Cameroon- UN

The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has disclosed that there are nearly 66,000 Nigerian internally displaced persons (IDPs) staying in Cameroon.

This was revealed at the daily briefing in Geneva chaired by director of the UN Information Service, Corinne Momal-Vanian, and attended by the spokespersons for the World Health Organization (WHO), the International Labour Organization, the Human Rights Council and the United Nations Refugee Agency.

In a statement signed by the UN Information Officer, Oluseyi Soremekun, it revealed that “UNHCR Adrian Edwards had revealed that Cameroon’s Far North region had seen a new influx of refugees over the weekend following clashes in northeast Nigeria between regional military forces and insurgents.”

She added that about 16,000 Nigerian refugees were in Cameroon, caught amid ongoing violence in villages along the border.

He revealed that once screening had been completed, those latest movements were expected to bring the total number of Nigerian refugees in Cameroon to nearly 66,000, of whom 41,571 refugees had already been verified by UNHCR.

Adrian said the UNHCR was working with Cameroon to relocate refugees as quickly as possible away from areas of active conflict, to a transit site at Kousseri, which lies 90km from the border and 370km north of Minawao where there was an established refugee camp.

He added that “because of conflict between military forces and insurgents happening on the Cameroonian territory, UNHCR did not have access to border areas where refugees had arrived.”

boko_haram

‘Anti-Boko Haram offensive progressing’

The defence headquarters has said that the operation against Boko Haram, backed by the Multi-national Joint Task Force (JTF), is progressing and achieving its intended goals.

Director of defence information, Maj-Gen Chris Olukolade said the JTF was also adjusting its manoeuvres to counter what seems to be a new Boko Haram fighting strategy of using guerrilla warfare and suicide bombings.

According to Reuters news agency, a latest reports said that the Boko Haram gunmen attacked an island on the Niger side of Lake Chad on Monday, with locals reporting heavy casualties.

“The multi-national Joint Task Force will defend any coalition member against Boko Haram attacks,” he said.

“The offensive on the terrorists is continuing as planned and achieving required results. All the identified cells have been either bombarded or assaulted on the ground, and those operations that have been completed are undergoing cordon-and-search by troops with the view to recovering all arms in their (rebels’) possession, and also apprehending anyone of the rebels who might be hiding, and recovering all arms that may be in their possession,” Olukolade said.

He attributed the recent military successes against Boko Haram to training coupled with adjustment in military tactics.

“This has been the pattern of their operation. Before now, they had decided to adopt the style of ISIS, wanting to hold on to territories. What they were doing [lately] has been more of guerrilla warfare. And we are adjusting our tactics to contain them accordingly,” Olukolade said.

South Sudan – peace talks resume under IGAD auspices

Sudan Tribune

(ADDIS ABABA) – Leaders of the South Sudan’s government and rival factions of the ruling Sudan Peoples’ Liberation Movement (SPLM) on Tuesday afternoon began face-to-face talks in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, as deadline for peace set by regional mediators approaches to dead end.

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Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn (C), South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir (L) and South Sudan rebel chief Riek Machar (R) attend a meeting on March 3, 2015 in Addis Ababa (Photo AFP/Zacharias Abubeker)

Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), an East African regional bloc mediating the two conflicting parties, has given both sides until Thursday, 5 March, to reach a comprehensive peace agreement to end nearly 15-month long conflict in South Sudan.

South Sudan President, Salva Kiir and his former deputy and current rebel leader, Riek Machar, resumed the direct negotiations on Tuesday on the key contentious issues which had been slowing the peace process.

The two principals held the closed door meeting till late night hours discussing critical issues particularly on the structure of the transitional government, power sharing ratios, as well as on the composition of the national legislature and transitional security arrangements.

A rebel source close to the meeting told Sudan Tribune that the gap was still wide as president Kiir continued to reject adoption and implementation of federal system of governance and separation of the two rival armies or phased amalgamation during the transitional period, which he said were fundamental issues in the peace process.

After meeting Kiir and Machar earlier, Ethiopian prime minister, Hailemariam desalegn, urged the two leaders to expeditiously address the outstanding issues and take tough decisions to strike a final peace settlement to the crises.

“Very little time remains,” Desalegn said, urging both sides to take difficult compromises further noting them any more failure to reach a negotiated settlement would mean prolonging the crises against the wishes of the South Sudanese people.

While noting a resolution now being considered by the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) in New York, the Ethiopian premier who also chairs IGAD told Kiir and Machar to be courageous to swiftly make “compromises and alternatives rather than only reiterating old positions.”

“This is a sign of the frustration that the international community feels in relation to the parties in South Sudan, and their continued intransigence in resolving the crises.”

“The region is also frustrated. The solution is in your hands. Don’t throw it away any longer,” Desalegn further advised the two principals.

With deadline to reach final peace accord less than 48 hours away, and considering wide gaps remaining for both sides to agree, observers speaking to Sudan Tribune doubt a final agreement would be reached before the deadline on Thursday.

Also, considering previously failed deadlines and existing gaps on contentious issues observers suspect that the parties may instead ask IGAD to extend the 5 March deadline in which failure may lead to sanctions threatened by the IGAD, AU and the international community.

IGAD Chief mediator, Seyoum Mesfin, also urged the parties to in no time accelerate the final peace deal.

He also appealed on IGAD leaders, the UN, African Union and the international community at large to join the IGAD calls and exert pressure on the warring parties.

IMF says Zimbabwe needs credible plan to clear debt arrears

Reuters

(Reuters) – The International Monetary Fund said it would consider extending new financial support to Zimbabwe only if the southern African country agrees to clear arrears with international financial institutions.

Zimbabwe owes $9 billion (5.9 billion pounds) in external debt, half of it in arrears and has not received financial support from the IMF, World Bank and African Development Bank since 1999 due to policy differences between President Robert Mugabe and the West.

Zimbabwe’s economy is slowing down due to lack of foreign investment, electricity shortages and expensive loans. Cheaper imports are damaging local industry, forcing firms to close.

Domenico Fanizza, who is leading an IMF team to review Zimbabwe’s progress on the fund’s staff programme, told a committee of parliament on Wednesday that the country was on course to meet its set targets under the programme.

Some of the targets include stabilising the financial sector, re-engagement with Western countries and reducing the budget deficit.

“We would consider financial support only when there is agreement on how to solve the arrears because otherwise we cannot do it,” Fanizza said.

“We need to have a credible plan for clearing arrears.”

Answering questions from the members of parliament, Fanizza said IMF shareholders like the United States who have imposed financial sanctions on Zimbabwe were unlikely to stand in the way of new funding for the southern African country.

Fanizza said Zimbabwe should open up the economy to allow greater participation by the private sector and attract foreign investment.

Frustration in Guinea as hunger follows ebola

Reuters

 

Hunger and frustration grow at Ebola ground zero in Guinea

MELIANDOU, Guinea (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – A charred kapok tree and around a dozen graves scattered amongst the mud brick houses of Meliandou are painful reminders of the toll Ebola has taken on this village in southeast Guinea.

Scientists traced the source of the worst-ever outbreak of Ebola to two-year-old Emile Ouamouno, who they believe contracted the disease while playing near the tree, home to hundreds of bats that may have been hosting the deadly virus.

The boy’s father, Etienne Ouamouno, said Emile fell ill in December 2013, and infected his sister and mother who was eight months pregnant at the time. Over a year later, having lost all his immediate family, Etienne Ouamouno has difficulty in finding words to describe his grief.

For now, his body language does the talking.

Sitting at the foot of the kapok tree, which has since been set alight by the villagers to smoke out all the bats, Ouamouno nervously lights up a cigarette and takes a number of short drags in quick succession before flicking off the ash.

There is a long, uncomfortable silence as he contemplates the significance of this spot. Almost 24,000 people mainly in hardest-hit Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, have been infected and some 9,700 have died from Ebola as a result of the chain of transmission that started here.

“It wasn’t Emile that started it,” Ouamouno finally says in Kissi, the local language. “Emile was too young to eat bats, and he was too small to be playing in the bush all on his own. He was always with his mother.”

NO INCOME

For Ouamouno and thousands of others in the forest region of southeastern Guinea, once the breadbasket of the West African nation, the suffering has only deepened. Ebola has left them scared, frustrated and jobless.

“There’s food on the market, but not enough money to buy it. Around 100,000 people are out of work since the mining companies closed due to Ebola,” said Jean-Luc Siblot, emergency coordinator for the World Food Programme (WFP) in Guinea.

“Closures of borders with Ivory Coast, Liberia and Mali and the lack of willingness for food transporters to come into the region meant agricultural collectives were stuck with their products,” Siblot told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Jobs have dried up in 91 percent of the communities surveyed by WFP in the forest region. Farmers in other parts of the country say up to 50 percent of their crop has spoiled because they could not be sold across borders.

WFP estimates that up to 1 million people do not get three meals a day and many have to sell their assets to buy food. Ebola has made this worse.

Since September, WFP has distributed over 15,000 tonnes of food aid to around 550,000 people in the forest region, including the prefectures of Macenta, Gueckedou and Kissidougou, where the outbreak was the most ferocious.

MARSHALL PLAN

In the dense undergrowth around Meliandou, children pick mushrooms for dinner while their mothers make palm oil in the village courtyard. But palm oil alone will not feed the family, nor will it sell for enough to put food on the table.

“What we need right now is agricultural support. We need more classrooms, a church, and health posts staffed with doctors and equipped with medicine,” said Ouamouno, who started to open up with the encouragement of the village chief.

In January, global aid agency Oxfam called for a multi-million dollar post-Ebola “Marshall Plan” to help Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia — similar to a U.S. aid programme to help rebuild shattered European economies after World War Two.

The idea was revived on Tuesday as the leaders of the countries met international donors in Brussels to discuss their response to Ebola.

Back in Meliandou, villagers were sceptical of the government’s intentions ahead of presidential elections due later this year.

“The government has never done anything for us in the past, so why would they change now,” said Ouamouno, reflecting the view of many in this largely anti-government region of the country.

 

Nigeria – Buhari slams Jonathan government over fuel shortages

Punch

 

Buhari slams FG over fuel scarcity

Former Head of State, Gen.Muhammadu Buhari

 Presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress, Maj. Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), has condemned the hardship faced by Nigerians in the search for petrol, saying the citizens were wasting productive hours queuing at filling stations.

“The countless number of man hours that will be spent at petrol stations will reduce our productivity as a nation. This should not be so,” Buhari said in a tweet on Tuesday.

The former head of state, who took to tweeter to react to the scarcity of the product, called on Nigerians to reject a system that had turned the country, which he described as the world’s largest crude exporter, into an importer of petrol.

The APC presidential candidate recalled that domestic consumption of petrol was taken care of when he was the Chairman of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation and Minister of Petroleum in 1970.

He added that two of the country’s four refineries were built while he was the petroleum minister.

The APC presidential candidate expressed concern that Nigerians had been put at the mercy of importers as a result of the failure to meet domestic needs of the people by the refineries.

“But over the last several years, our refineries have declined and we are at the mercy of imports,” Buhari said.

Scarcity of premium motor spirit, popularly called petrol, worsened across the country on Tuesday with a litre of the product selling between N140 and N160 in Kogi State.

Investigation by one of our correspondents on Tuesday revealed acute shortage of petroleum products in the state with the few stations with fuel selling as high as 100 per cent over the official N87 per litre pump price.

Our correspondent noticed long queues in two filling stations that sold fuel at the Abuja bye-pass in Felele, in Lokoja.

Other filling stations along the road closed their gates to customers, dis[playing the “no fuel” signal.

Meanwhile, Speaker of the Kwara State House of Assembly, Mr. Razak Atunwa, on Tuesday described as sad the allegation by the National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, Alhaji Adamu Mu’azu, that the ongoing fuel scarcity was caused by the APC.

Mu’azu reportedly said the APC had bribed oil marketers to hoard petroleum products nationwide.

The Speaker, in a statement by his media aide, Mr. Olawale Rotimi, decried the poor state of the nation’s economy.

He called on President Goodluck Jonathan to stop politicising the welfare of Nigerians, urging the President to re-position the nation’s economy to make it possible for Nigerians to embark on their daily activities.

Atunwa said, “Mu’azu has blamed the fuel scarcity on the opposition party, another flimsy excuse. No serious government will blame everything on the opposition; a serious government must take responsibility for whatever happens in the country.

“The Federal Government has spent trillions of Naira on so-called subsidy without accountability. Under Jonathan, over $8bn is lost annually to oil theft, the biggest Nigeria has ever experienced.

“Unfortunately, United States, who is the major importer of Nigerian oil since 1973, has announced that it will not import oil from Nigeria anymore, yet President Goodluck is not diversifying our economy.

“APC has no power to ignite scarcity of fuel in the nation; hence, Jonathan should take responsibility and stop politicising the wellbeing of Nigerians.”

Copyright PUNCH.