Category Archives: Africa – International

South Sudan elites causing financial and currency crisis

Sudan Tribune

(JUBA) – The involvement of elites in the South Sudan’s financial sector, particularly speculation in the parallel currency market by the well-connected, is responsible for the currency depreciation and inflation in the country, a new report said.

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Women sell food at Konyo Konyo market in South Sudan (Reuters)

The 16-page report, entitled “The Nexus of Corruption and Conflict in South Sudan”, was released on Monday by The Sentry, an initiative of the Enough Project, together with its supporting partners C4ADS and Not On Our Watch (NOOW).

It mainly identifies four major sectors in which the country’s wealth and revenues are said to be diverted towards the personal and institutional interests of elites: The areas mentioned in the report include the extractives sector, the military, state spending and the money laundering hub.

“The emerging financial sector in South Sudan has been exploited by elites who use it as a laundering and revenue-generating vehicle,” says report obtained by Sudan Tribune.

According to the report, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) warned in December 2014 that South Sudan’s reserves amounted to less than three weeks of imports, a situation which saw the Central Bank resort to borrowing and printing money, leading to inflation.

“The diversion of dollars into the parallel currency market is increasing pressure on the Central Bank’s foreign exchange reserves,” it adds.

The South Sudan’s economy, it said, is currently facing a major financial squeeze with oil revenues drying up and conflict and corruption minimising the effectiveness of foreign investments and humanitarian donations.

“South Sudan’s elites have built a kleptocratic regime that controls all sectors of the economy, and have squandered a historic chance for the development of a functional state. Predatory economic networks play a central role in the current civil war, because much of the conflict is driven by elites attempting to re-negotiate their share of the power balance through violence,” said John Prendergast, co-founder of The Sentry.

“Any effort to end the war in South Sudan requires much greater financial pressure on those elites and the networks that fund violence,” he added.

Meanwhile the report recommends that financial drivers of the conflict and motivations of the major players be understood as essential in the ongoing peace negotiations.

It further urges the international community and regional actors to pursue a more deliberate strategy to diminish the incentives and resources that are funding and fueling the current conflict.

“This strategy includes: promoting budget and beneficial ownership transparency, conditioning aid and assistance on measurable improvements in procurement and contracts oversight, building sanctions enforcement capacity, and pushing for targeted financial enforcement measures to freeze and recover assets of those who have skimmed profits from the ongoing conflict,” stressed The Sentry’s newly released report.

(ST)

South Africa – “canned hunting” no longer tenable as public opinion hardens

Mail and Guardian

Public opinion is against lion hunting, says the president of SA’s Hunters’ Association, and changes must be made for a more acceptable policy.

Phasa president Hermann Meyeridricks wants the policy on lion hunting to be reviewed. (Peter Andrews, Reuters)

The president of the Professional Hunters’ Association of South Africa (Phasa) has asked the association to reconsider its position on lion hunting, which he has described as no longer tenable and a risk to both the reputation and survival of professional hunting in South Africa.

In a letter recently circulated to association members, Phasa president Hermann Meyeridricks noted that the campaign against trophy hunting has intensified around the canned or captive-bred lion hunting issue since Phasa’s current policy on lion hunting was adopted at its annual general meeting in November 2013.

Broadly, Phasa’s current policy recognises the legality of and demand for captive-bred lion hunting, and the association is working with the predator breeders and government to improve standards and conditions to a generally acceptable level. However, “we have made little demonstrable progress on this front”, Meyeridricks said.

“Broader society is no longer neutral on this question and the tide of public opinion is turning strongly against this form of hunting, however it is termed,” he said. “Even within our own ranks, as well as in the hunting fraternity as a whole, respected voices are speaking out publicly against it.”

“Against this background, I have come to believe that, as it stands, our position on lion hunting is no longer tenable,” said Meyeridricks. “The matter will be on the agenda again for our next annual general meeting, and I appeal to you to give it your serious consideration so that together we can deliver a policy that is defensible in the court of public opinion.”

Most recently a documentary entitled Blood Lions was screened at the Durban International Film Festival. The film is said to “blow the lid off claims made by the predator breeding and canned hunting industries”.

‘Rogue elements’ must be rooted out
In conjunction with the film, a Blood Lions campaign has also been launched with the aim of putting an end to this practice where, “at least two or three captive bred or tamed lions are being killed in canned hunts each day in South Africa. Hundreds more are slaughtered annually for the lion bone trade”, according to the campaign.

“Currently, almost 8 000 predators are being held in cages or confined areas and none of this has anything to do with conservation. If we don’t act now, that number could well be over 12 000 within the next few years,” says the campaign’s website.

On July 17 Minister of Environmental Affairs Edna Molelwa convened a stakeholder engagement meeting to address issues of lion breeding and hunting. In a subsequent press release, the department said all industry role-players present at the meeting conceded that “rogue elements” were operating within the lion breeding and hunting industries, and needed to be rooted out.

The department said it is prohibited to hunt a lion in a controlled environment or while it is under the influence of a tranquiliser. It is also prohibited to hunt a lion using poison, snares, air guns, shotguns, or by luring it with scent.

Illegal hunting damaging the legal industry
“The organisations [that were] present agreed that the illegal hunting of lions was damaging the legal industry,” the press release said. “However, it was noted that provincial conservation authorities have taken a proactive stance with regards to rooting out illegality.”

Participants agreed to the establishment of a forum to investigate a number of issues related to the lion industry in South Africa. Meyeridicks said the release of the film had raised the public profile of the issue even further, but was not necessarily what triggered his appeal to Phasa members. “It was always our position that the current policy is not where we wanted to end, it is where we wanted to start. And it was always going to be up for review from time to time.”

In the letter to Phasa members Meyeridricks said that with some airlines and shipping lines refusing to transport hunting trophies, Phasa had to face the fact that the lion issue was putting at risk not only the reputation of professional hunting in South Africa, but its survival.

According to Phasa’s website, airlines that have recently banned the transportation of hunting trophies include Emirates, Qatar and Lufthansa.

South African Airways (SAA) last week reversed its decision to embargo the transportation of rhino, elephant, tiger and lion trophies. The embargo was originally implemented following incidents of false declarations and the submission of falsified documents for the shipment of some hunting trophies. It was lifted, effective immediately, after consultation with the department of environmental affairs and commitments that compliance and inspection areas would be strengthened, SAA said in a statement.


South Africa – two Nkandla tours but no answers

Mail and Guardian

Both parliamentarians and selected media have now been inside Nkandla, but no group has emerged with answers to the most important questions.

Both tours have to date failed to address Madonsela’s finding that Zuma was guilty overexpenditure on the Nkandla project. (Madelene Cronje, MG)

ANALYSIS

On Sunday, the gates to the presidential homestead in rural KwaZulu-Natal were cracked open just wide enough to admit a small group of journalists to what the presidency considers the publicly-funded areas of the core compound.

The group included no representatives of the Mail & Guardian, nor any from City Press, the two newspapers most responsible for bringing the spending of public money there to public attention since December 2009.

As was the case when MPs were granted access last week – the first access ever granted to anyone not in the employ of the state or a Chapter 9 institution – the official media tour did not include the actual residences of the Zuma family, instead being limited to outside areas and structures built from scratch by the state. Through that omission it neatly avoided problematic features such as the (state-funded) air-conditioning units noted by investigators from the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) in a report first made public in September 2014.

The media tour also did not include any answer from President Jacob Zuma on burning questions, such as why he initially told public protector Thuli Madonsela he was willing to repay taxpayers for the cost of building a larger cattle kraal (which he requested because the size of his herd had increased) then tacitly recanted.

Both tours – and the ongoing deliberations of Parliament’s ad-hoc committee on Nkandla – have to date failed entirely to address Madonsela’s finding that Zuma was guilty of an ethical breach for failing to protect state money from wild over-expenditure on the Nkandla project. Nor have any of the events and discussions addressed the findings of the SIU that Zuma’s personal architect and his agent in his dealings with the state on Nkandla was responsible for an enormous waste of taxpayers’ money – some of it money diverted from allocations where it would have contributed to regenerating city centres and protect against the disaster of dolomitic sinkholes.

Instead, the tours and deliberations have brought focus on the poor state of repair of state infrastructure in and around Nkandla and the often shoddy workmanship of the initial construction.

For the ANC, apparently hellbent on protecting Zuma from personal liability, this has served to undermine the narrative of comfort and luxury bought for Zuma and his family at state expense, even though the actual living conditions of the family have never been on show.

For the opposition, the Democratic Alliance in particular, the poor construction and upkeep have presented an opportunity to hark back to its primary election message: that the state under the ANC is incapable and wasteful. With Nkandla unlikely to sway voters in upcoming local government elections and with Zuma not in contention in the national elections that will follow, the opposition has shown a distinct liking for this broader criticism of the government, even at the price of turning Zuma into a perceived victim of graft and state ineptitude rather than a recipient of largess.

That leaves only Madonsela’s office insisting that Zuma must take some personal responsibility and make at least token amends and that only through what Madonsela has herself described as soft power, limited to persuasion by public shaming.

And it leaves unaddressed the structural problems of a system in which a President is responsible for policing his own ethics, and where half a decade of state misspending and overspending can pass without any public representatives being held to account.


US-Africa – Obama in Ethiopia for talks with regional leaders

BBCBarack Obama, right is greeted by Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn. 26 July 2015Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn greeted President Obama in Addis Ababa

President Barack Obama is in Ethiopia on the second leg of his African tour – the first serving US leader to visit the country.

He is due to hold talks with government officials and discuss the civil war in South Sudan with regional leaders.

President Obama will also be the first US president to address the 54-member African Union at its headquarters in Addis Ababa on Tuesday.

Mr Obama flew to Ethiopia after a two-day visit to Kenya.

There he had discussed trade and security but also called for greater human rights and warned of the dangers of corruption.

The US president was greeted at Addis Ababa’s international airport by Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn.

On Monday, Mr Obama is due to discuss ways to bring South Sudan’s 19-month-old civil war to an end.

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At the scene: Karen Allen, BBC News, Addis Ababa

Compared to the Kenyan leg of his tour, President Obama’s arrival in Ethiopia signals a more sombre mood.

Ethiopia is a close ally of the US in fighting militant Islamists. Thousands of Ethiopian troops are in Somalia, where the capital Mogadishu was the scene of a major bomb blast on Sunday.

But despite security ties, Mr Obama is expected to raise concerns about what critics say is the erosion of democratic freedoms in Ethiopia.

Recent elections in which the ruling party secured all of the parliamentary seats, and a further clampdown on the media and the jailing of bloggers, are among the issues on which the US president is expected to express alarm.

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Crowds cheer Barack Obama's motorcade. 26 July 2015
Crowds cheered Barack Obama’s motorcade as it left the airport in Addis

In talks with leaders from Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda as well as the Sudanese foreign minister, he is expected to call for tougher sanctions and a possible arms embargo if the warring factions do not agree on a peace deal.

However, a US official travelling with Mr Obama said Monday’s talks were not expected to lead to a breakthrough.

“This is an opportunity to reinforce the effort that’s on the table and to strategise… on next steps in the event that it doesn’t succeed,” the official told reporters.

Fighting in South Sudan has left thousands of people dead and displaced more than two million.

Security issues will also be on Mr Obama’s agenda as Ethiopia, like Kenya, is battling the jihadist group al-Shabab.

Media captionUS President Barack Obama says the repression of women is a “bad tradition” that “needs to change”

Correspondents say he is also likely to call for greater democracy and human rights while in the country.

Ethiopia’s ruling party, the EPRDF, and its allies won every single parliamentary seat in May’s elections. Opposition parties claimed the process was rigged.

Some rights groups have criticised Mr Obama’s visit to Ethiopia, warning that the trip could lend credibility to a government accused of jailing journalists and critics.

Amnesty International’s Abdullahi Halakhe said: “We don’t want this visit to be used to sanitise an administration that has been known to violate human rights.”

Human Rights Watch and other organisations urged Mr Obama to put the “pressing human rights concerns… at the forefront of your discussions”.

A legal case currently being fought through the US courts alleges that agents of the Ethiopian government eavesdropped on the internet activities of a man in the US state of Maryland.

The man, born in Ethiopia and now a US citizen, works for a political opposition group outlawed in his home country.

Nigeria – 34 shia protestors killed in Zaria by military

Premium Times

Killers of 34 Shia protesters in Zaria must be punished – Odinkalu

Chidi Odinkalu, Chair, National Human Rights Commission

Chidi Odinkalu, Chair, National Human Rights Commission

Military personnel involved in the killing of 34 peaceful protesters during the pro-Palestinian rally in Zaria on July 25, 2015 must be brought to book, the chairman of the Nigerian Human Rights Commission, NHRC, Chidi Odinkalu, has said.

“If that number of people (34) can just be killed and nothing happens, then that is oppression,” the rights chief said during a conference to commemorate the killing of the Quds day protesters in Abuja on Sunday.

Speaking on the topic “From Al-Quds to Zaria: A melting pot of rights violation, veil of bias and conspiracy of silence,” Mr. Odinkalu said the NHRC “owes the country a duty to investigate and find out what truly happened that day and those implicated punished.”

He decried the conspiracy of silence of the killings, saying “if 34 young men would be killed in cold blood and then their families would be told to keep quiet, then that is the worst oppression.”

He said the greatest injustice is to “allow a parent to bury his three young children murdered in cold blood in the same day while the society keeps quiet.”

He said the rights commission would soon conduct a public hearing to get to the root of the Zaria killings and ensure that all those implicated are appropriately prosecuted.

The NHRC chief said the leader of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria, Ibraheem Zakzaky, whose three undergraduate sons were among those killed, is not only a religious leader but a human rights leader.

“The Shia community in Nigeria has been oppressed unjustifiably for so long in this country,” Mr. Odinkalu said.

He also said Mr. Zakzaky was among the few Nigerians that stood against the Sani Abacha military brutal regime that clamped down on human rights campaigners.

Other speakers at the event were the Chief Imam of Washington DC, Muhammad Al-Asi; Massoud Shadjareh of the Islamic Human Rights Commission, London; Dahiru Yahaya of Bayero University, Kano; Yohanna Buru, an inter-faith campaigner; and Ebenezer Oyetakin of the Anti-corruption network for justice.

There was also a documentary and exhibition on the images, sights and sounds of the Zaria Quds day massacre at the event.

Nigeria – female suicide bombers hit Damaturu

Reuters

A blast set off by a female suicide bomber tore through a crowded market in the northeastern Nigerian city of Damaturu on Sunday, killing 19 people and wounding 47, the emergency response agency said.

No one claimed responsibility for the explosion but it is the latest attack in the last few weeks that bear the hallmarks of militant Islamist group Boko Haram.

Hundreds of people have been killed in bombings and shootings across northern Nigeria since Muhammadu Buhari, who has promised to crush the group, was inaugurated as president on May 29.

“The death toll has gone up to 19 dead and 47 injured,” National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) spokesman Mohammed Kanar said.

The attack took place six days after a suicide bomber killed three policemen at a checkpoint on the outskirts of the city.

And earlier this month at least nine people were killed in the city by a female suicide bomber as worshippers gathered to mark the Muslim holiday Eid al-Fitr.

Boko Haram controlled a swathe of land around the size of Belgium at the end of 2014 but have been pushed out of most of that territory by Nigerian troops in the last few months, with military help from neighbouring Chad, Niger and Cameroon.

Since then the militants have carried out attacks in the north and neighbouring countries.

At least 19 people were killed in a suicide bombing in the northern Cameroonian town of Maroua on Saturday.

Since becoming president, Buhari has made a number of changes aimed at tackling the insurgency, including the replacement of his defence chiefs.

He moved Nigeria’s defence command centre to Maiduguri, the birthplace of the jihadi sect, and has worked with counterparts in neighbouring countries to set up a multinational force with headquarters in Chad’s capital, N’Djamena.

Obama urges Kenya to fight corruption; flies on to Ethiopia

Daily Nation

Barack Obama urges Kenya to fight corruption in government

He called on all Kenyans to take up the responsibility for fighting corruption.

US President Barack Obama speaks at the

US President Barack Obama speaks at the Safaricom Indoor Arena in Nairobi on July 26, 2015. AFP PHOTO | SAUL LOEB  

US President Barack Obama has put the Kenyan government to task over laxity in fighting corruption at top government offices.

He called on all Kenyans to take up the responsibility of fighting corruption, but insisted that little progress would be made unless the cancer is “fought from the top”.

“If someone in public office is taking a cut of what they don’t deserve, that’s taking away from those that deserve their fair share.

“The folks at the top who are taking from ordinary people need to be prosecuted,” he said.

Mr Obama said while corruption was a universal problem and not unique to Kenya, there seemed to be a tolerance that needs to be broken.

“The fact is, too often, corruption is tolerated here in Kenya because people think that is how things have always been done. It is time to change habits and decisively break that cycle,” he said.

Speaking on Sunday at the Safaricom Indoor Arena at the Kasarani Stadium, the US president encouraged young people to be part of the change towards a less corrupt Kenya.

“The thing about democracy is that someone is always complaining about something. When you do something for one person, the other person is not happy and they keep asking, ‘What have you done for me lately?’ Such civic participation is essential in removing the cancer of corruption,” he said.

He also commended the role played by civil society groups in putting leaders on their toes and ensuring that they run their affairs with integrity.

BBC 

Obama in Kenya: Country at crossroads, says president

US President Barack Obama has praised Kenya’s economic and political advances, but also warned of challenges ahead.

In a speech in Nairobi, he said his father’s homeland had “come so far in just my lifetime”.

But he also said corruption, terrorism and tribal or ethnic division were threats to its future.

“Kenya is at a crossroads, a moment filled with peril but enormous promise,” he said.

Young Kenyans nowadays did not have to serve a colonial master or leave the country – like his grandfather and father had had to, Mr Obama said.

“Because of Kenya’s progress, because of your potential, you can build your future right here, right now,” he said to applause from a huge audience at a sports stadium in the capital, Nairobi.

But he warned that despite the country’s political stability, tribal and ethnic divisions could be stirred up.

“A politics that’s based on only tribe and ethnicity is doomed to tear a country apart. It is a failure – a failure of imagination,” he said.

However, he praised the country for emerging from the ethnic violence that erupted after the disputed 2007 election.

President Obama also warned that the “cancer” of corruption was costing the country 250,000 jobs.

And he condemned the repression of women – including female genital mutilation and forced marriage, which he said did not belong in the 21st Century – adding that the best use of development aid was to spend it on girls’ education.

He also urged Kenya to “embrace diversity”, a clear reference to gay rights.

‘Historic visit’

Security has been tight for Mr Obama’s two-day visit to Kenya.

The trip, which began on Friday, is his first visit as president to the land where his father was born.

Later on Sunday, President Obama will fly on to Ethiopia. He will be the first US president to visit the country. He will also become the first US leader to address the 54-member African Union (AU) on Tuesday.

AU Commission chief Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma described the trip to Ethiopia as a “historic visit” that would “broaden and deepen the relationship between the AU and the US”.

On Saturday, Mr Obama praised Africa’s economic and business potential in a speech at a business summit.

He also visited a memorial for those killed in the 1998 US embassy bombing in Nairobi.

After holding bilateral talks, President Obama and President Kenyatta said they were “united against terrorism”.

But they differed sharply in their positions on gay rights. While Mr Obama spoke strongly against discrimination, Mr Kenyatta said Kenya did not share the same values.