Category Archives: Africa – International

Nigeria – oil price fall forces budget revision as naira slumps

BBC

Nigeria forced to revise budget as oil prices remain low

Abuja market scene

Nigeria has been forced to revise its budget following the dramatic fall in the price of oil.

Its finance minister, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, says its economy will now grow at 5.5% this year, rather than 6.4%.

The new budget is based on an oil price of $65 a barrel, rather than the previous assumption of $77.40, although the revised figure is still higher than the recent level of about $60.

Nigeria’s government receives more than 75% of its revenues from oil exports.

The country is trying to reduce its dependence on oil.

Prices have steadily dropped in recent months and are now about half their previous levels.

Falling demand on the back of slackening economic growth and an increase in alternative energy supplies, such as shale gas, have led to a mismatch between supply and demand.

‘Fast’

Dr Okonjo-Iweala urged Nigerians “to begin thinking of the country [as] a non-oil country”.

Nigeria has taken some key steps already in response to the falling oil price, which is at its lowest level since July 2009.

It has devalued the naira and has applied higher taxes on luxury items.

Dr Okonjo-Iweala said: “This budget is based on a few key indicators, $65 a barrel benchmark and we are going to stick to it for now, in spite of the decline in prices, because we feel the average price next year will be around $65 to $70.

“The production level is 2.27 million barrels per day. We’ve revised the growth rate based on the new parameters for the country, down from 6.35% to 5.5% next year. But that is still one of the fastest growth rates we’re experiencing in the world today.”

Nigeria’s currency, the naira, lost 3.5% on the day, hitting a record low of 187.10 to the dollar.

Sierra Leone – government carrying out house to house searches in fight against ebola

BBC

Ebola: Sierra Leone begins house-to-house searches

A disease surveillance officer working for Operation Western Area Surge visits a family in Moyinba, Sierra LeoneThe authorities want to ensure that anyone who may be displaying symptoms of Ebola comes forward for treatment

Sierra Leone has begun house-to-house searches in the capital Freetown to find hidden cases of Ebola.

President Ernest Bai Koroma said that Sunday trading would be banned and travel between districts restricted.

The president said that as Christmas approached, people would need to be reminded that Sierra Leona was at war with a “vicious enemy”.

Sierra Leone has overtaken Liberia to have the highest number of Ebola cases, World Health Organization figures show.

The virus has killed more than 6,800 people this year, mostly in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea.

A nurse wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) checks on a patient at the Kenama ebola treatment center run by the Red Cross Society on November 15, 2014Sierra Leone has had more Ebola cases than any other country

In his statement, President Koroma said the searches aimed to “break the chain of transmission”.

He added: “Do not hide the sick.”

The president said that while many districts of the country had made progress in fighting Ebola, challenges still remained in the western part of the country, which for the past two weeks had accounted for 50% of new infections.

He said that he was introducing an action plan, Operation Western Area Surge, to encourage people to come forward if they had a fever or other symptoms of Ebola.

He said it was necessary to introduce such stringent measures even though it was the festive season – a time when people would normally “celebrate with their families in a joyous manner”.

The president also said that:

  • Travel restrictions between districts would be enforced over the Christmas period
  • Christians would be allowed to attend church services, but would be requested to return home immediately afterwards
  • All New Year’s Day festivities including church services and outings would be prohibited or severely restricted
  • In addition to the blanket Sunday trading ban, the new measures would include time restrictions on Saturday and weekday shopping.

The prevalence of the virus in the capital Freetown is thought to be one of the reasons why Ebola is spreading so fast in the west.

Our correspondent in Sierra Leone, Umaru Fofana, said the measures were partly aimed at controlling crowds.

He said people in Freetown continued to gather on the streets or go jogging along the beach despite the Ebola threat.

This is not the first time that Sierra Leone has used stringent tactics to locate Ebola sufferers, but none have stopped the rise in infections.

US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention head Tom Frieden told the AP news agency that “the fight is going to be long and hard to get to zero cases”, and is heavily contingent on sick individuals coming forward to be diagnosed.

Ebola deaths

Up to 13 December

6,856

Deaths – probable, confirmed and suspected

(Includes one in the US and six in Mali)

  • 3,290 Liberia
  • 2,033 Sierra Leone
  • 1,518 Guinea
  • 8 Nigeria
Getty

Nigeria – why the stakes are so high in the 2015 elections

African Arguments

By Idayat Hassan

IdayatHassanThe 2015 general elections in Nigeria will define the country. Speculation about a crisis that may ensue in the post-election period is rife. Irrespective of which political party emerges victorious to form the national government, the south-north divide, zoning, religion and other factors could have a significant effect in the aftermath of the polls.

Identity has always played a prominent role in Nigerian elections. This situation has been further exacerbated in the prelude to 2015 as ethnic and religious entrepreneurs capitalize by whipping up such sentiments. At the heart of this is the power sharing and rotation equation between different groups divided along regional, ethnic and religious. This, however, takes different dimensions at different levels of government.

At the national level the bifurcation is along the North – South divide. This is fueled by the power-sharing agreement within the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) called ‘zoning’. Under this agreement, power is expected to alternate between the North and South, however the death of former President Umaru Yar’Adua’s put the agreement in disarray, not only did his then vice president Goodluck Jonathan utilize his unexpired tenure, but also contested and won the election in 2011 (with an alleged agreement that he would not seek re-election in 2015.)

The issue of identity also plays out at the state level. The politics of attrition – “our turn, we are the largest group, we produce the most resources” – is easily observable. This syndrome, coupled with the marginalization card, is strongly played by ethnic zones and religious groups. But identity is quite fluid within the Nigeria context and ethnicity, religion or geo- political identity can fade away when necessary.

The upcoming 2015 general elections differ from the 2011 polls in part due to the emergence of the All Progressive Congress (APC). The country can now be said to be a two party state. In the 2011 general elections, four major parties, including PDP, ACN, CPC and ANPP, contested the elections with the opposition groups polling (in total) less than 42 percent of the votes cast. However, General Buhari of the CPC, registered just a few months prior to the elections, polled over 12 million votes, with 96.9 percent of the vote from Northern Nigeria.

With the merger of major opposition parties, the APC is more formidable, having membership and support beyond the North. Now that General Buhari is on its presidential ticket, it is unlikely that PDP stalwarts will sit back patiently without devising means to win the election at all costs. If Buhari could poll 12, 214, 853 as the presidential candidate of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) as the APC candidate he is a genuinely credible challenger to PDP dominance.

The defection of the five PDP governors to the APC also raised the stakes higher. Political structures previously under the control of the PDP are now controlled by APC. The PDP will however, want to regain these states at all costs which further raises the stakes.

This acrimonious atmosphere has led to an explosion of hate speech. In the last weeks there have been accusations by Northern leaders and even the opposition party that Jonathan-led Federal Government is fueling the Boko Haram insurgency in the North East. Reminiscent of the Rwanda genocide, the state governor of Katsina was caught on tape referring to opponents as “cockroaches” and encouraging his supporters to crush them while they chanted “kill them”. The PDP National Publicity Secretary described the APC as a terrorist party, linking it to Al-Qaeda.

The use of social media has further led to the explosion of hate speech with a geopolitical dimension attached. There is also a need to watch out for the impact opinion polls may have in the elections. In the last  months, several polls have been conducted placing some candidates ahead of others, the likelihood of conflict entrepreneurs latching on to figures from such polls to incite violence when a particular candidate loses out is a reality that must be proactively countered.

This election is being conducted as impunity and partisanship are exhibited at all levels. The security agencies are viewed as partisan at the national and state level. There are allegations of police patrol vehicles carrying political parties/candidates stickers in certain states.  The Inspector General of police is being accused of partisanship with his recent handling of the House of Representatives’ impasse and failure to recognize the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon Aminu Tambuwal, as the speaker.

In addition, the spokesperson of the Department of State Service (DSS), Ms. Marilyn Ogar, has been accused of partisanship following several unsubstantiated allegations against the APC, which includes claiming the party tried to bribe the DSS during the governorship election of August 9th. Similarly, she alleged that APC was a sponsor of the Boko Haram insurgency.

The preconceived notion of the security agencies’ partisanship has implications on the election, with the likelihood that opposition parties will resort to self-help or arming ethnic militias. This is worrying, particularly in the context of an election where the acceptance of results and the electoral outcome is a key challenge. Already the opposition parties are threatening to create a parallel government.

Speaking at the grand finale of Governor Rauf Aregbesola’s bid for re-election in Osogbo, Osun State, APC National Chairman, Chief John Oyegun, warned that any attempt by PDP to rig the 2015 elections would lead to the formation of a parallel government. This was reiterated by the Governor of Rivers State, Rotimi Amaechi, during an APC protest rally held in Abuja on 19th November 2014.

In the 2011 general election, INEC enjoyed the goodwill of most Nigerians, but this trend is changing for a number of reasons. Top of the list is the handling of the Permanent Voters’ Card (PVC) distribution and the Continuous Voters’ Registration (CVR) exercise. These exercises experienced varying challenges, ranging from logistics and capacity to the disappearance of over a million names off the register in Lagos State, to the extension of the exercise from the initially planned 3 to 4 + phases.

The PVC distribution in Lagos and Kano generated so much bad blood with rallies against the commission held across Lagos and political parties joining the fray with press conferences and statements issued, not only questioning INEC but also fostering the impression that the commission is acting out a script. In the same vein, the commission has been accused of planning to disenfranchise Christians by the Chairman of Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor.

The perceived politicization of the creation of additional polling units (now suspended) also impacted the credibility of the commission as it was accused of favouring a particular part of the country. The Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) created by the Boko Haram insurgency constitute another challenge for INEC. There have been many calls for these people to be included in the elections without regard to the provisions of the law, which states that voters can only vote at the polling units where they registered. Without a review of electoral law, the practicality of this is in doubt, and even if an amendment to this effect is passed, how it would be achieved comes into question as these IDPs are scattered in homesteads (not just living in camps).

We also cannot gloss over international best practice as espoused in instruments such as the African Charter on Democracy, elections and governance, which prescribes six months before elections for the amendment of any electoral laws.

This analysis is not complete without emphasizing the increased role of religion in the upcoming elections. While much emphasis has been on political Islam in the Nigerian context, rising Pentecostalism and political power wielded by the Pentecostal pastors with huge followings must be emphasized. Particularly worrisome is the increased vituperation of the chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) and outright partisan role played in the prelude to the elections.

As insecurity continues to pervade the country, much emphasis is being laid on the Boko Haram Insurgency. But a conflict risk assessment shows an average of eighteen states as being at ‘high risk’. For the purpose of this analysis, I shall concentrate on Nassarawa state.

Nassarawa state has been enmeshed in violence for the last 2 years, leaving aside the attempt to impeach the governor which led to loss of lives and property. The quest for power change and an unorthodox agreement between the incumbent governor and the Eggons (who constitute the highest percentage of citizens in the state) that the incumbent Governor will serve only a term in office in exchange for their support in the 2011 general election, is said to be one of the reasons for the emergence of the religious cult group, ‘Ombatse’, in 2013.

The sect is alleged to have murdered over 70 security agents, including men of the Nigerian Police Force (NPF) and DSS in cold blood in May 2013. The security agents were said to have stormed the shrine over alleged forceful conscription of people into the cult, none of the alleged killers of the security men have been brought to book while the white paper that emanated from the panel of inquiry set up by the state government is being challenged in court by the group.

The Fulani/Eggon crises, conflict between farmers and pastoralists and the rivalry between the PDP and APC pervade the Nassarawa state. There is hardly a week without a report of violent conflict, but the state is not being prioritized in terms of election programming.

As Boko Haram continues to acquire more territory, the likelihood of elections in the north east seems dim. From its concentration in the three states of Bornu, Yobe and Adamawa, in the last weeks, the insurgents have shifted attacks to Bauchi and Gombe in the North East, while at the same time making forays into Kano, Niger and Plateau in North West and North Central Nigeria respectively. Boko Haram has established its hegemony in some local government areas in the North East following the incapacity of the military to regain the areas. The question therefore is whether elections be held in the occupied territories.

The legitimacy of the elections and the incoming administration will hinge on the resolution of some of the highlighted issues and above all the quality of elections delivered by INEC.

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

Burkina Faso – interim government suspends ruling party

allAfrica

Burkina Faso’s interim government has announced the suspension of the country’s former ruling party, according to Reuters.

The new Interior Minister, Auguste Denise Barry, is quoted as saying that the Congress for Democracy and Progress (CDP) was suspended for “activities incompatible with the law”. The Reuters reports that two other political groups accused of supporting the CDP attempt to cling on to power also suffered similar fate.

CDP was founded in 1996 through a merger of various groups sympathetic to former president Blaise Campaore.

Compaore’s 27-year rule ended in late October 2014 after being ousted in a popular revolt following his plan to change the constitution in order to allow him to run for office again.

A commander of the elite presidential guard, Lieutenant Colonel Isaac Zida, declared himself head of state following the former leader’s ouster.

Zida then handed power over to a civilian-led interim government headed by Michel Kafando, who is a former foreign minister of the landlocked West African country.

Kafando is expected to take the country to elections late in 2015.

Zambia – Guy Scott sacked by PF and ministers demand his resignation

 

Zambia Reports

Photo: Zambia Reports

Acting President Guy Scott

The drama concerning the leadership of Zambia’s current ruling party and its selection of a presidential candidate took an unexpected turn on Tuesday night, as an emergency meeting by the party’s Central Committee voted to remove Acting President Guy Scott as the party’s Vice President.

The Central Committee voted on the resolution for Scott’s removal during an emergency meeting held at Lusaka’s Blue Nile Lodge.

Guy Scott, whose takeover of power following the death of President Michael Sata has been the subject of extensive controversy, had earlier today written a letter to Acting Chief Justice Lombe Chibesakunda, which argued that the country’s highest court must not allow nomination papers to be filed for candidate Edgar Lungu until the court challenge by competitor Miles Sampa had been exhausted before the courts.

In his letter to the Acting Chief Justice Chibesakunda, who is several years beyond the legal retirement age but had held on to her position due to direct blood relations to the late President Sata, Guy Scott argued “please note that any attempt to bring forward the nomination of any candidate before the end of legal processes should not be entertained.”

In response, the Lungu camp also wrote a letter to the Acting Chief Justice, pointing out that under the constitution the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) is a fully independent institution that cannot take instructions from the Supreme Court, and that Edgar Lungu was indeed the duly elected candidate.

“As Party President neither, the Central Committee nor myself were consulted by my Vice-President, Dr. Guy Scott before this letter could be written to yourself,” Lungu’s letter to Chibesakunda reads. “Therefore the letter written to yourself must be ignored in totality as it has no authority or blessing of the President, or the Central Committee and can best be described as an act of gross indiscipline.”

Following the emergency Central Committee meeting following these events, Lungu signed another letter, this time directly to Guy Scott, notifying him of the resolution regarding his immediate removal as the party’s Vice President, describing his action as “gross indiscipline” that has “threatened the Peace, Law and Order in the Party and the Nation.”

“You are aware that I was elected PF President by the General Conference held on 30th November 2014 at the Mulumgushi Rock of Authority in Kabwe,” Lungu states in his letter to Scott. “This Consent Judgment remains valid and binding on all members of the Patriotic Front and has not been discharged or set aside by any court of law. You are also aware that the High Court upheld this decision through a Consent Judgment issued on 3rd December 2014.”

Lungu’s letter to Scott concludes: “In pursuance of Article 19 (c) and 61(j) of the Party Constitution you are hereby informed that you have been removed from the position of the position of Vice-President with immediate effect and will henceforth remain an ordinary member of the party.”

14 Cabinet Ministers Demand Scott’s Resignation as Acting President

MinistersMore than half of the members of Cabinet known as ministers – the top most body charged with the responsibility of government operations – have asked Acting President Guy Scott to quit his position because his continue stay at the helm of the country was threatening the peace and stability of Zambia.

The ministers held a press briefing a short while ago at which they demanded that Scott resigns for engaging in activities that had the potential to throw Zambia in turmoil.

Among the ministers were Alexander Chikwanda (finance) Ngosa Symbakula (home affairs), Harry Kalaba (foreign affairs), Fackson Shamenda (labour), Christopher Yaluma, Yamfwa Mukanga, Chishimba Kambwili, Jean Kapata, Nkandu Luo, Inonge Wina, Joseph Kasonde, John Phiri and Katema, Emerrine Kabanashi.

The 14 Cabinet ministers have since called for an urgent Cabinet Meeting to discuss the replacement of Guy Scott.

Spokesperson for the group Harry Kalaba states that Scott’s action have consistently endangered the peace, security and stability of the country.

Yesterday, drama ensued as Scott attempted to block the candidature of Patriotic Front candidate Edgar Lungu by writing a letter to acting Chief Justice Lombe Chibesakunda.

Somaliland seizes Yemeni and Egyptian boats fishing illegally in its waters

BBC

Somaliland seizes Yemeni and Egyptian vessels

A Somali coastguard patrols off the coast of Somalia's breakaway Republic of Somaliland on 30 March 2011The EU has trained Somali coastguards in an attempt to tackle lawlessness off the East African coast

Somaliland has seized more than 51 Yemeni boats and an Egyptian ship for fishing illegally in its waters, an official has told the BBC.

Admiral Ahmed Osman said coastguards had also arrested more than 250 fishermen who were on board.

This is the biggest arrest ever by Somaliland’s coastguards, trained by Western states to curb piracy and illegal fishing off its coast.

Illegal fishing has depleted fishing stocks along the Somali coast.

Correspondents say years of illegal fishing by foreign trawlers devastated the livelihoods of many people, some of whom then became pirates who attacked vessels for ransom.

Piracy in the region has declined in recent years following the deployment of a multi-national naval force.

Last month, the EU Naval Force provided training and equipment to the Somaliland coastguard.

Somaliland unilaterally declared independence from Somalia in 1991, but is not recognised by the United Nations or any government.

Mandela – Myth and Reality opens up debate

SAS, University of London

Mandela:Myth and Reality – a chance for considered reflection

Posted on December 17, 2014 by

Nelson_Mandela-2008_(edit)

Keith Somerville, a senior research fellow at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies (ICWS), who was able to observe at first-hand, developments in South Africa, helped to organise the recent Mandela: Myth and Reality conference. Coming a year after the death of the country’s first black president, it brought together a remarkable group of experts to analyse his contribution to the creation of the new, free South Africa.

 

By Keith Somerville

On 5 December, the anniversary of the death of Nelson Mandela, the Institute of Commonwealth Studies held a conference which examined in detail the complexities of his legacy as a nationalist leader, his relationship with the South African Communist Party, his management of the transition from apartheid, his record as president and the construction of his powerful media image. The well-attended, day-long event was marked by contending views, informed argument but also mature debate with papers presented by leading African and British academics, people who knew and worked with him, and prominent journalists.

The day started with an artistically powerful and stunning new documentary on Mandela by the South Africa film-maker Khalo Matabane. Utilising archive film and interviews with South African activists, leaders and commentators who knew Mandela, world statesman and, most importantly, young South Africans who grew up in the Mandela era, it shone a bright light on Nelson Mandela the man and the leader, and on the South Africa he left behind.

No punches were pulled in describing the problems and massive inequalities that still mark the country, 20 years after the ANC took power. Young black South Africans talked about the problems of unemployment and the poor living conditions of the majority of black people. Khalo, in his film and answers to the audience’s questions, said that while everyone praised Mandela for his policy of reconciliation, he felt forgiveness had perhaps gone too far and people hadn’t been held to account. Mandela took time to pursue reconciliation when he should have given more attention to raising the living standards of the poor and marginalised.

The day proceeded with a panel on Mandela as a nationalist leader focusing particularly on his relationship with the South African Communist Party and the effects that had on Mandela’s outlook and the development of the ANC. Contending views were put forward by Professors Stephen Ellis, author of External Mission: The ANC in Exile,  Tom Lodge, a biographer of Mandela, and Hugh Macmillan, who has written widely on the ANC and its relations with Zambia and other Africa states, and Moses Anafu, who worked with Mandela during the transition period as Commonwealth head Emeka Anyaoku’s special representative.

Stephen Ellis was clear that Mandela was a member of the SACP Central Committee and felt that the communists had been the dynamic force behind the move towards armed struggle in South Africa. Tom Lodge took a different view and gave a fascinating account of the construction of Mandela’s image. He was less concerned about party membership, while Hugh Macmillan said this concentration on communism was a hangover from the Cold War and that the ANC pushed for armed struggle to compete with the break-away and radical Pan-Africanist Congress. Moses Anafu was clear that in terms of policy and the role of Mandela in the transitional period, his relationship with the party was effectively irrelevant.

While no final agreement was reached on the nature and importance of the communist link, the session was ably summed up by Professor Saul Dubow, who made the point that whether or not Mandela was formally a member of the communist party, what mattered was the effect on policy and ANC actions. His conclusions and the answers to question from the audience, established a good base from which to proceed to the next panel dealing with post-apartheid leadership.

In a wide-ranging session, Dr Desne Maisie, Dr Funmi Olonisakin, Knox Chitiyo and Paul Holden looked at key aspects of Mandela’s presidency and legacy as a government leader, with detailed examinations of the economy and continuing inequality, the problems of corruption in South Africa, Mandela as a leader in southern Africa and his overall style of leadership. Dr Merle Lipton summarised the wealth of material and presented an acute critique of governance and economic management under the Mandela government.

The final session dealt with Mandela’s media image and his relationship with the press. Chaired by Professor Winston Mano, this examination was carried out by former BBC correspondent Peter Biles and Richard Dowden, the Director of the Royal African Society.  Both knew Mandela and covered his period in power, and his retirement.

They stressed how Mandela used charm and his immense personal presence to woo and dazzle the media in a way that often protected him and his government from criticism.

Each session was marked by lively debate and participation from the audience, itself reflecting a wealth of political activism, academic knowledge and journalistic experience. The day offered an excellent opportunity, which was seized eagerly by speakers and audience alike, to open a thorough and, I’m sure, continuing debate on Mandela the man, leader and legend.

The discussions established the parameters for this debate and was valuable in reaffirming the influence, personal prestige and immense political influence that Mandela brought to bear on South Africa, Africa and the last two decades of the 20th century. The reality of what he achieved and the areas where reconciliation took precedence over reconstruction and redistribution of wealth was examined and debated, while the construction of the media image and mythical status was also brought to the fore.

The conference was organised by Keith Somerville and Martin Plaut (both senior research rellows at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies), Dr Sue Onslow and Olga Jimenez. The organisers are grateful to the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation for paying the expenses of Khalo Matabane.  A podcast of the day is available here.