Category Archives: North Africa

Is Africa really rising?

allAfrica

document

Photo: Tami Hultman/AllAfrica

Kingsley Moghalu

London — Public Lecture at the London School of Economics by Dr. Kingsley Chiedu Moghalu, Deputy Governor (Financial System Stability), Central Bank of Nigeria and Author, Emerging Africa: How the Global Economy’s ‘Last Frontier’ Can Prosper and Matter (Penguin Books, 2014)

Is Africa Rising?

In the past decade Africa has emerged in the world’s consciousness in the context of an evolution in the continent’s image. Africa is not yet seen as the place to be, to go to, or to be envied in terms of economic and societal progress. Indeed, still too many people around the world hold a decidedly different view. Gradually but surely, however, Africa is increasingly viewed less as a “hopeless” continent and more as one with promise for economic development, less as a haven of poverty, war and natural disaster and more as a continent that offers economic opportunity. In short, Africa is seen more as a “normal”, even if less prosperous place than many other parts of the world, than as the decidedly “abnormal” place off the map of the mental imagination that it once was.

This recent emergence and the positive evolution of the continent’s image has led to the growth of an “Africa-Rising” industry of analysts, commentators, scholars and business executives in which the continent is seen as the next big thing in the world’s economy. The continent in this view can lay claim to a looming African century close on the heels of the economic rise of Asia in the 20th and 21st centuries.

Three main factors have shaped this trend.

First, many of the wars for which Africa was famous have ended. The wars in Sierra Leone and Liberia, the Great Lakes region of Africa including Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, and the long armed conflicts in the Horn of Africa in Ethiopia, Eritrea and Sudan were and are only a few of the destructive orgies of annihilation of human capital, political stability and economic possibilities that shaped perceptions of Africa as a war zone writ large in the 1980s, the 1990s and the 2000s. As most of these conflicts have ended, more recent ones have raged in Mali and the Central African Republic, keeping the world’s peacekeeping armies in business. But the continent is far more at peace now than it once was, clearing the path for a shift in attention to democratization and economic development.

Second, macroeconomic stability has been broadly established across the continent in the past decade. Inflation is down, at an average of 10 per cent in sub-Saharan Africa compared to the nearly 25 per cent in the 1980s and the 1990s. This trend can be traced to the evolution of better monetary policy by increasingly independent central banks, as well as improved fiscal management. At the same time, GDP growth has continued apace. Average GDP growth in sub-Saharan Africa in the decade leading to 2013 was 5 per cent, with a third of Africa’s countries reaching growth rates of 6 per cent and others, such as Nigeria, growing at average rates of 7 per cent.

According to the African Development Bank, Africa’s economies are growing faster than those of any other continent. Nearly half of Africa’s countries are now classified as middle income countries, the numbers of Africans living below the poverty line fell to 39 per cent in 2012 as compared to 51 per cent in 2005, and around 350 million of Africa’s one billion people are now earning between $2 and $20 a day.

The third factor is the global financial crisis and the subsequent recession in the Eurozone and other Western economies at a time in which African economies were growing rapidly. This has led to opportunistic focus on Africa by several multinationals and global investment funds as the “final frontier” for wealth creation, with returns on investment that can only be the stuff of dreams in the world’s industrialized countries.

But the reality is more nuanced. Contrary to the breathless prognostications of enthusiasts, while Africa has become an economic opportunity in the world economy, the continent is yet to fully emerge, let alone rise, as an economic presence and a co-creator of global prosperity.

Let us look at another set of statistics. Africa’s share of world trade is a minute 3 per cent, with less than 4 per cent of global Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) flows going to the continent. With a combined GDP of S1.6 trillion, the combined GDP of the continent’s 54 countries is just about that of Brazil. The GDP of the entire sub-Saharan Africa, including South Africa, is just about equal to that of Belgium or that of metropolitan Chicago. All the electricity produced in sub-Saharan Africa, half of which is, in fact produced by South Africa, is equivalent to that of Spain which has 20 times fewer people than Africa.

The Argument for a New Paradigm of African Development

What all this suggests is that real questions regarding the “rise” of Africa include that of what parameters are used for measuring the continent’s progress and who does the measuring. Is Africa aspiring to holistic development that encompasses human development as a reflection of the real quality of life of Africans or is it focusing on economic growth statistics that do not necessarily translate into more jobs for its citizens and better education and healthcare? Have African economies become industrialized manufacturing economies, and will job creation outpace population growth and put Malthus to shame? What is the role of science, technology and innovation in African economies? Is Africa assessing its own progress against benchmarks it has set for itself, or is its “rise” the received wisdom from global institutions and the ambassadors of global capital seeking new frontiers of profit?

In Emerging Africa I make the case that Africa needs an endogenous growth model that is inside-out in its perspective, rather than the presently dominant one that is outside-in and globalization-centric. Africa needs to manufacture goods for its own markets as a first foundation, spreading out regionally from that base and emerging as economic power in its own right through competitive advantage or at least self-sufficiency. What is being celebrated as Africa’s rise is the fact that the continent has increasingly become a market or a playground for globalization.

Africans appear to have become excited merely to be participating in the wider globalization process, and the external economic players for whom the continent has become the new frontier are excited at the novelty of playing in new territory and the benefits it has brought or potentially will. This is quite a different thing from structural economic transformation, which is what has happened in many Asian economies and which is what Africa really needs to achieve for itself and its peoples. Without a doubt, GDP growth is necessary for such a transformation, but is not an alternative for it because the two are not the same thing.

Africa’s recent economic growth statistics have been derived largely, but admittedly not completely, from a structural dependence on primary commodity products. This growth is thus not transformative, and it is only transformed economies that can truly rise, in the manner in which we speak, for instance, of the rise of China. The continent needs to decide whether it will continue to engage with the world as (a) a destination market for consumer goods and ideas, (b) a self-sufficient player based on endogenous growth, or (c) as a dominant actor. I argue that the first option is not an option for real progress, the third one is not realistic in the near to medium term given how far behind Africa really is in terms of the structure of its economies, while the second is realistic and achievable within the next 30 years.

The required approach to creating the real economic rise of Africa must be based on at least three things. The first is what I call fundamental understandings, a philosophical approach to wealth creation and economic prosperity that prioritizes the role of individual and collective minds in economic and social progress. In this context, what is required is nothing short of the reinvention of the contemporary African mind. That mind must better understand foundational realities and its inherent power to alter these realities in favour of the continent. The second approach is the need for strategy and the active management of risk. The third is the role of governance, the rule of law, and institution-building.

Fundamental understandings – worldviews and globalization

The point of departure for Africa is the need for African states, their governments and their citizens to understand how the world is structured in reality, and why this is so. They will then need to develop mechanisms that can enable them arrive at a different interpretation from their own perspective, and stamp that interpretation as an alternative reality in their environment. That is to say, African governments must create worldviews, and in that context develop a proper understanding of globalization as a dominant economic context, the implications of this concept and context for Africa in the world economy, and the possibility of creating an “African century”. Nothing is written in the stars in terms of Africa’s destiny. The continent can create the destiny it wants, just as other parts of the world have done.

This requires a reappraisal of a number of fundamental assumptions that have prevented Africa’s economic development and transformation such as a misunderstanding of where responsibility lies for the continent’s transformation. From this point of departure, the fundamental understandings of issues such as globalization, foreign aid, capitalism and international economic governance as a framework for economic development, and so forth, can be applied to economic activities such as industrialization, finance, agriculture, foreign investment, science and technology, and world trade.

I argue in Emerging Africa that the fundamental reason for Africa’s condition of underdevelopment is the absence of a futuristic worldview. This is the most fundamental aspect of the African development dilemma. A worldview is basically how we see the world, understand and interpret it, and how we engage with the world around us and beyond us. It is that inner world of the mind of an individual or group, which he or she or they project in their outward actions, and which influences the world around them by creating certain realities.

The Belgian philosopher Leo Apostel and his research collaborators identified seven core components of a worldview. These are: (a) a model of the world – an understanding of how the world is structured and how it functions; (b) an explanation of where we have come from and why the world is the way it is; (c) rational futurology, which addresses the question of where we are going, the possible destinations, and the options and alternatives to promote or avoid; (d) values, including systems of ethics that guide what we should or should not do; (e) action – how to get to our goals by developing and implementing plans; (f) knowledge – how to construct knowledge systems, addressing the questions of what’s true or false; and (g) building blocks that construct a worldview from what already exists in theories, concepts or models across various disciplines or ideologies.

Worldviews matter enormously, because their outcomes are never neutral. Indeed they are often reflected in or as world orders. Although initially subjective, they can with dogged application result in “objective” reality. The transatlantic slave trade was a world order based on a worldview – repugnant as it was – of the “superiority” of slave owners and the “inferiority” of the enslaved peoples. Emancipation and the abolition of slavery was also based on another worldview, and the hardiness of the worldview of the transatlantic slave trade, faced with a strong opponent in abolitionism, transmuted into colonialism in order to ensure and continue the economic benefits of the exploitation of Africa and the Africans.
Thus, the projection of these worldviews, backed up by the sustained deployment of certain comparative advantages such as military prowess based on technology, established realities that are accepted as “facts of life”. This has been demonstrated in diverse climes such as the Western world, with its worldview of scientific rationalism and individual freedoms leading to economic progress along a certain model, and the East, which has risen, represented by China, along another model of stability as an end in itself, and the importance of the clan or society above the individual.

From this foundation we can then situate globalization, its impact on Africa’s economic trajectory, and why Africans need to engage the phenomenon from a somewhat different and more sophisticated standpoint. Globalization is the process of increasing interconnectedness of the economies of previously well demarcated nation-states; the phenomenon of the instant transmission of ideas, events and culture over long distances through the instrumentality of technology, and the impact of these processes on local environments.
Thus, for our purposes here, there are two highly relevant dimensions of globalization. The first is that it has two main elements, the economic and the social, with technology as its chief instrument. This is why we all believe that the internet has made the world a much smaller place, and Africa now has over 600 million mobile telephone users, more than the United States and Europe.

Second, a more comprehensive understanding of globalization must involve both its scope and its motives. We must go beyond issues such as the extent and the geographies, the boundaries of which have been breached by globalization, to the questions of who is globalizing and why. [1]

This is what has been termed “global intent” or strategic intent, without which globalization will not be what it is and would not have had the economic and other impacts it has had.

Economic globalization has, in fact, hurt Africa more than it has helped the continent, contrary to the received wisdom. The gains for African countries from opening up to international economic forces without adequate internal preparation have been limited and far outweighed by the adverse of the continent’s engagement with economic globalization. Economic policies enunciated by the Bretton Woods institutions in the 1980 and 1990s led to lost decades of development opportunities and outcomes. Structural adjustment and liberalization without the proper foundations as a core condition led to the effective de-industrialization and unproductiveness of the continent by weakening the manufacturing sector and promoting import-driven economies. Trade liberalization under WTO regimes has not brought benefits. It has removed incomes from tariffs that have not been replaced by effective internal revenue mobilization.

It is against this backdrop – that of an uncritical embrace of globalization and its institutions or agents in the mistaken belief that these forces are benign in intent or impact, or agnostic in belief, or that African countries are obliged to do so as members of a presumed “international community” or “global village” – that Africa’s “rise” must be evaluated. The road to progress begins with asking and answering the right questions, and African countries must do so. Who is responsible for Africa’s development? Who will shape Africa’s destiny?

The answer: Africans and no one else. Not foreign investors; not development “partners”; not the supposed international community; not foreign aid.

Nevertheless, one of the paradoxes of globalization is that the phenomenon has so opened up the world and its inhabitants to each other that the prospects and opportunities economic advancement are now almost universal. This process, underpinned by the invention and innovation of industrial technology, is not a secret. It is open to any country or region of the world that is prepared to harness it. Perhaps the secret lies in what’s beneath the surface – the full understanding of all the dimensions of that process and the preparation to harness the recipe. It does not have as much to do with presence or absence of natural resources, with Africa is endowed more than any other continent. If it did, Africa would be the richest continent rather than the impoverished one it has been for far too long.

Paths to Economic Transformation

The first application of these fundamental understandings to take a very clear-headed approach to capitalist economics, the paradigm through which virtually all African states are now seeking to develop in the aftermath of the Cold War and the collapse of communism and socialism. Most of the growth of Africa’s economies is driven by the private sector. That’s ok, but not unreservedly so. To be clear, I am a capitalist.

But, to drive real economic transformation, capitalism must be managed by the state in a number of ways. The first is that clear choices must be made between the different kinds of capitalism –indeed there must exist in African governance and public policy an understanding of these different strands, and the implications of each as a possible choice for each African country. Thus, African states must choose between state capitalism as practiced by China, welfare capitalism, crony or oligarchic capitalism, and entrepreneurial capitalism. I recommend a blend of at least two of these according to the peculiarities of each African country, but have a bias for entrepreneurial, small-business capitalism because that is what most suits Africa’s historical development, societies, and its large informal economies.

Second, African countries must revisit the role of the state as a guiding hand as opposed to the misguided abdication of the responsibility of the state to the private sector. This creates wealth but with too much inequality in the distribution of that wealth, which is in itself a long-term risk. There must be a public-private private approach to the three fundamental requirements for successful capitalism – access to finance, property rights, and innovation.

The next step in the application of fundamental understandings is that African countries must embrace industrialization. This imperative also extends to the industrialization of agriculture, a mainstay of many African economies but presently largely at a subsistence level. It would be foolhardy to be caught in the fanciful conceptual trap of a supposed post-industrial society that is assumed to have developed in the West, with 3-D manufacturing supposedly threatening traditional industries and service economies challenging manufacturing ones.

Africa must first create industrial societies because that is what creates jobs, which African countries need to outpace population growth and maintain economic growth and social stability by avoiding a youth bulge in the future. Moreover, 55 per cent of world trade is based on manufacturing, while 7 per cent is based on agriculture. And massive infrastructure networks of electric power and transport infrastructure connecting the continent’s countries to one another and their component parts have rightly been recognized as a priority by many African governments which are moving to create such infrastructure over the next decade.

The next two key drivers of economic transformation are science, technology and innovation on the one hand, and education and human capital development on the other. Both must be linked. African countries need to make technology and innovation a strategic priority from the standpoint of a worldview that Africa can invent and innovate, and must do so if it is to liberate itself from the oppressive dominance of globalization. Some African countries such as Kenya are making strides in the development of innovation with the development of an ambitious, $15 billion “silicon savannah” in Konza, a 2,000 hectare city 60 kilometres outside Nairobi that is designed to turn Kenya into an attractive location for technology businesses and incubators, and challenge South Africa’s dominance in this area.

Science, technology and innovation is one of the main paths which Africa can exploit to make a great leap forward in the world economy. Talent abounds in the continent, but African governments need to create an enabling environment for innovation and create incentives, institutions and markets to support it. Here the link between innovation and taking innovations to market as commercial products that are priced competitively to counter imports is key. Human capital development in which African countries improve the falling quality of education in several countries and focus on education that builds technical and technological skills that are linked to industrial policies and job-creation strategies will play a major role in economic transformation.

Governance, Leadership and Institution-Building

The intervention of military governments in most African countries in the three decades between the 1960s and the 1990s set back the hand of the clock in Africa’s economic development because it led not to benign dictatorships that drove economic development as happened in some Asian countries, but to the restriction of the space for the evolutionary development of good, accountable governance. With the return of virtually all African countries to democratic status, this challenge remains, alongside that of economic development.

Governance and leadership determine to a large degree how much progress a country can make on the economic front. If the governance of an African country is based on the search for the economic progress of citizens, and the effort is well directed and managed, economic transformation can occur. But if governance is based on rent-seeking and competition for the spoils of public office, the resources of the state will be drained far more than real wealth can be created, in which case the dividends of democracy become questionable.

The best way to utilize governance as a tool for creating the wealth of Africa’s nations is for governments to create a number of paradigm shifts through public and economic policy. These include the establishment of economic complexity through an industrial policy that supports manufacturing. Countries such as Nigeria and Ethiopia are making progress in this direction. Building strong, independent institutions that will ultimately have a positive impact on economic activity by assuring the rule of law and protecting investments from arbitrariness, and creating a level playing field for economic actors is also critical. Another fundamental requirement of good governance as a wealth creator is the manufacturing of consent of the citizens to a vision of economic transformation to which a nation’s collective energies can be channelled in a united manner.

The difference between the wealth and poverty of nations, their success or their failure, lies in the existence or absence of strong institutions. Institutions, when they function well, function dispassionately as systems that make predictable decisions based on benchmarks and thresholds that are clear to all. They serve to remove the system of economic incentives from the tyranny of the whims and caprices of individuals. Where institutions are weak and caprice reigns, there will be little or no progress because there is no meritocracy. Rewards are aligned not to creativity or productivity, but along lines of unproductive patronage networks that sustain political power but do not create wealth for a nation. A society that functions in this paradigm is fundamentally unable to transform its economy because the playing field is not a level one. Rent-seeking is rampant, but creates pools of plenty for the tiny few that are linked to the patronage network within vast pools of poverty.

The manufacture of consent is absolutely essential for economic transformation in Africa. Because development is the result of the deployment of creative talent and economic activity in a productive direction, it is necessary for African governments to define economic policy visions and directions and obtain the buy-in of the citizens to such a vision. We have seen this approach utilized by every dominant economic power in the world, whether it is the United States which applies a free-market oriented economic culture or China, which has achieved massive leaps in economic development in the past 30 years through an adaptation to state-directed capitalist activity while maintaining the dominance of the Communist Party. In all instances, this has been achieved through propaganda and mass mobilization.

Strategy and Risk Management

African countries have often not lacked an understanding of what the challenges to their economic development are. The real challenge has sometimes been to just get on with “doing it” effectively and creating the required transformation. This requires an understanding of strategy as a modern management concept and its application to governance. Sadly, this is still lacking inside African governments, with only very few exceptions.

Tony Blair, the former British prime minister, had a famous strategy unit in 10 Downing Street that drove his governance agenda and ensured that a single thread of vision, communication and execution priority – in this case, education – ran through all the narratives actions of his ten years in office. Strategy and risk management have just come into their as legitimate functions in Africa’s private sectors. Their application to the role of the government and the effectiveness of the state – which encompasses the private sector commercial space – is even more consequential for the future of Africa.

Strategy and risk management need to become embedded in governance thinking and architecture in Africa. Strategy is about shaping the future. It is about how to create the future of our imagination. If we are to create an African century, African countries will not succeed without a clear strategy and strategic thinking. That “how” is the difference between dreaming and visioning, and bridging the gap in between.

Strategy is first of all about thinking and about a way of thinking, before it becomes a matter of plans. As Max McKeown writes in the context of corporate organizations, but also applicable to nations, it is about “outthinking your competition”. Thus strategic intent and ability are linked to the concept of worldviews, since strategy first requires strategic thinkers whose minds are open to vast possibilities. Second, worldviews, strategy formulation and strategy execution are intricately linked. Many African countries have been “planning” for decades but without the sort of strategic intent that has moved Asia forward in massive leaps. This requires focused objectives, an understanding of strategy management, especially in the context –framing choices and strategic possibilities, making the choice, and strategy execution management.

Africa’s Future

To conclude, then, contrary to the prevailing popular view about Africa Rising, the continent has no automatic, inexorable future. Growth, though a significant factor in economic development, is quite a different thing from transformation, which is what Africa really needs. Transformation means fundamentally improved indicators in such things as education and healthcare, infant mortality, life expectancy, infrastructure, and industrial production, not resource-driven economic activity or subsistence agriculture that produces a “growth myth”, the myth that increases in GDP will make poor countries catch up with rich ones based on numbers that, while generally accepted as a standard of measurement, in fact have debatable exactitude.

The Cambridge University economist Ha-Joon Chang makes the provocative but thoughtful point that a society can become better off without marked increases in GDP [2]. Thus the focus for African countries must remain that of a fundamental transformation in the structures of their economies, not the growth numbers that the current structures throw up. This implies a transformation away from the prevailing model that is presently being celebrated as the Africa “rising”.

Africa’s future is thus not on auto-pilot to some gilded age, but will be one that Africans create by their economic and public policy choices. What exists now, without doubt, is an opportunity for a turn-around in the continent’s trajectory from that of its not-too-distant past. In this context, then, there is no need for a return to defeatist Afro-pessimism, but what the continent needs is realism and a determined focus on the right priorities.

The most important factors that will influence Africa’s future, then, include: (a) whether African countries can develop and execute transformation strategies effectively and with discipline; (b); how Africa handles the continent’s burgeoning population, projected by some estimates to hit 2.4 billion people by 2050 – will it yield a demographic dividend or a youth bulge?; (c) how African countries handle the challenge of jobless and non-inclusive growth; and (d) whether the continent can develop and effectively deploy its human capital, the most important investment for competitiveness in a globalized world.

All of this, of course, will have to be anchored on the foundation that is the real secret for the success of Africa’s quest for prosperity – the African mind. That mind-set needs to change from one that is predominantly focused on day-to-day or short-term survival or “progress” as defined through this prism – not of a well-ordered society but of individual affluence in the midst of mass exclusion from prosperity – to one in which the mind-set takes a long term, past and future view of the world and the place of the African in that world, and what it takes to get to that place.

The African mind-set needs to place greater emphasis on “thinking it through” because action that is transformational is one that is guided by a philosophical or conceptual compass – a worldview. As we have seen, worldviews are the secret of the rise of the societies of the West and the Rest (mainly Asia). These worldviews develop through a combination of historical and cultural evolutions, on the one hand, and through the instrumentality of propaganda and public diplomacy to the citizens of a state and the rest of the world. The place to begin is in the educational system. It is that combination of well-inculcated worldviews, knowledge and skills that produces human capital – the secret of transformation.

I rest the case for a truly Emerging Africa.

Thank you.

[1] Alex MacGillvray, A Brief History of Globalization (Constable and Robinson, 2006), 27.
[2] David Pilling, “Has GDP Outgrown Its Use?”, Financial Times Magazine, July 5/6 2014   allAfrica

© Kingsley Chiedu Moghalu, 2014

US-Africa summit – the struggle to get leaders to step down

Mail and Guardian

Obama may struggle to persuade African leaders to step down timeously at leadership summit.

Still popular: Burkina Faso nationals cheer for their president, Blaise Compaoré (seen in the portrait). He has been in power since 1987. (AFP)

When United States President Barack Obama faces the large group of heads of state he invited for the first US-Africa Leadership Summit in Washington on August 6, he will almost certainly be aware that many of them came to power while he was still a university student.

Civil society organisations are urging him to use the opportunity afforded by the summit to remind the long-serving African leaders about the need to step down after their terms expire.

In no less than six African countries, most of them Francophone, there are plans afoot by heads of state to change their Constitutions to stay in power for longer than legally permitted.

The rumours and allegations on changing term limits have led to political strife and, in some cases, violent protests in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Burkina Faso, Benin, the Republic of Congo, Rwanda and Burundi.

“The bids by leaders to change their Constitutions to stay on are one of the main sources of instability in many countries in Africa today,” says DRC legal expert Jean-Pierre Fofé Djofia Malewa.

Speaking at a conference on international justice organised by the Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa in Senegal earlier this month, he said all eyes are on Obama to see whether he will mention the issue at the summit.

“The message should be [to] keep things simple [and] stick to the Constitution,” he said.

In the DRC, President Joseph Kabila has been in power for more than 13 years. His party is flighting the idea of either scrapping the constitutional term limits, as many of his peers have done, or changing the electoral system to a proportional one similar to that in South Africa.

The second option would allow Kabila to turn back the clock and run in the next two elections.

Ample time
Kabila could learn from his Angolan neighbour José Eduardo dos Santos, who has been in power since 1979 and only changed the electoral system in 2010, ensuring that he has ample time for two constitutional mandates.

Could a word from Obama make Kabila change his mind?

Civil society activist Jeggan Grey-Johnson, from the regional office of the Open Society Foundation in Johannesburg, says Obama is being encouraged to use the summit as a platform to urge heads of state to recommit to prior engagements and instruments on good governance.

But he thinks the summit is mainly in reaction to the many previous Africa-China, Africa-Japan or Africa-Europe summits, in which politics did not play a big role.

“Obama has to tread carefully because speaking about governance could be seen as contentious,” says Grey-Johnson.

In May, US Secretary of State John Kerry stated on a visit to Kinshasa that the US is prepared to give the DRC $30-million in aid to hold elections “in accordance with the Constitution”, which was seen as a clear warning about sticking to the presidential term limits.

Swaying the other Francophone heads of state might be more difficult. In Burkina Faso, for example, plans by the ruling party to hold a referendum to change article 37 of the Constitution in order for long-time President Blaise Compaoré to serve another term has led to huge political strife.

In an interview with the weekly pan-African news magazine Jeune Afrique earlier this month, the man who took over from the popular Thomas Sankara as president in 1987 after Sankara was slain, refused to say whether he is going to push for a third term next year.

But he did say that after 27 years in power “you don’t think about yourself, but about the future of your country”.

Asked whether he is talking to his peers about constitutional term limits, notably to presidents Kabila, Thomas Boni Yayi of Benin, Denis Sassou-Nguesso of the Republic of Congo and Paul Kagame of Rwanda, he admitted: “I would lie if I said no, but actually [we talk] very little.”

Of this group, Sassou-Nguesso is certainly the most experienced. Having ruled the Republic of the Congo between 1979 and 1992, he again came to power in 1997, won elections in 2002 and 2009 and still seems fit enough to try for a third term in 2016. The Constitution currently forbids this.

In Rwanda, Kagame has been in power since 2000 and was elected with overwhelming majorities in 2003 and 2011. The Constitution limits the head of state to two seven-year terms, but there have been persistent suggestions by his supporters that he should change the Constitution in order to stay on beyond 2017.

These rumours and frequent media articles are seen as an effort to gauge international opinion.

The same can be said about the rumours about a third-term bid in Burundi, where President Pierre Nkurunziza is supposed to quit power next year. Political conflict, especially involving the youth wing of the ruling party, has raised concern among observers, including the United Nations and the African Union.

m&g

Africa – one step forwards, two steps back in overall development, UN says

allAfrica

Photo: Hien Macline/UN

Pupils in Cote d’Ivoire: Education is one of the crucial indicators used in compiling the Human Development Index.

Cape Town — While a number of African countries have recently made some progress in improving the quality of life of their people, nearly as many are backsliding, according to the latest United Nations statistics. And across the board, Africa continues to lag far behind the rest of the world in its levels of human development.

These are the broad conclusions that can be drawn from the snapshot provided by comparing country rankings for 2013 to those for the previous year, as published in the 2014 Human Development Index. The index, a project of the UN Development Programme (UNDP), measures quality of life by examining achievements in income, health and education.

The index shows that 11 African countries improved their rankings in 2013 over 2012, while the rankings of eight declined. Nevertheless, only five African countries appear in the “high human development” category, while 35 of the 43 countries whose development is categorised as “low” are African.

Although Zimbabwe is ranked “low” – at 156th place among 187 countries – its improvement between 2013 and 2012 was the most dramatic in the world. Its ranking rose by four places. The UNDP said in a press release that this was a result of “a significant increase in life expectancy – 1.8 years from 2012 to 2013, almost quadruple the average global increase.”

On the other hand, Libya’s human development is classified in the “high” category but its ranking plunged the most – by five places to 55th place. This was a consequence of conflict contributing to a drop in income, the UNDP said.

Apart from Zimbabwe, better rankings were also achieved by Zambia, which rose two places, to 141, and by nine other countries, whose positions rose one place: the Democratic Republic of Congo (to 186), Lesotho (to 162), Morocco (129), Mozambique (178), Nigeria (152), Sierra Leone (183), South Africa (118), Tanzania (159) and Togo (166). However, the index nevertheless scores the DR Congo, Mozambique and Sierra Leone as among the world’s 10 least developed countries.

Other African nations besides Libya whose rankings slipped were Equatorial Guinea, by three places to 144th place, Senegal, also by three places (to 163), Cape Verde (two places, to 123), Egypt (two places, to 110) and Mauritania (two places, to 161). Each of the following countries dropped one place: Botswana (to 109), Chad (184), Comores (159), Gabon (112), Guinea (179), Niger (187), Sao Tome and Principe (142) and Seychelles (71).

However, Africa fares better if its rate of progress is assessed over the 13 years since 2000. Although sub-Saharan Africa has the highest levels of inequality in the world, it notched up the second highest rate of overall progress in the index between 2000 and 2013, the UNDP said in a press release.

“Rwanda and Ethiopia achieved the fastest growth, followed by Angola, Burundi, Mali, Mozambique, the United Republic of Tanzania and Zambia,” the agency said.

Taking a global perspective, the UNDP this year placed considerable emphasis on reducing people’s vulnerability to factors outside their control, and on building up resilience to avert the threats they face.

“High achievements on critical aspects of human development, such as health and nutrition, can quickly be undermined by a natural disaster or economic slump,” the report said. “Theft and assault can leave people physically and psychologically impoverished. Corruption and unresponsive state institutions can leave those in need of assistance without recourse.”

It suggested that “real progress” in improving human development depended not only on improving people’s education, health, safety and standards of living, but also “on how secure these achievements are and whether conditions are sufficient for sustained human development. An account of progress in human development is incomplete without exploring and assessing vulnerability.”

Providing an African take on the issue, the director of the agency’s Regional Bureau for Africa, Abdoulaye Mar Dieye, added that “withstanding crises and protecting the most vulnerable, who are the most affected, are key to ensuring development progress is sustainable and inclusive.”

No African country is in the “very high” development category, and only the north African and island nations of Libya, Mauritius, the Seychelles, Tunisia and Algeria fall in the “high” category.

The 10 countries in the world with the lowest development levels are, from the bottom, Niger, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Central African Republic, Chad, Sierra Leone, Eritrea, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Guinea and Mozambique.

 

allAfrica

French military to secure Algerian plane crash site in Mali

VoA/allAfrica

Photo: VOA

An Air Algerie flight carrying 116 people has vanished while en route from Burkina Faso to Algeria. A French government official and the plane’s Spanish owner says contact was lost with the aircraft over northern Mali.

France has sent a military unit to secure the wreckage of an Air Algerie plane that crashed in Mali on its way from Burkina Faso to Algeria with 116 people on board.

President Francois Hollande’s office said in a statement Friday the plane, which was carrying 51 French nationals, was clearly identified even though it has “disintegrated”.

There have been no reports of survivors.

Burkina Faso army General Gilbert Diendere confirmed the plane was located about 30 kilometers north of the Burkina Faso border, in the Malian region of Gossi.

“At this location the (rescue) mission found debris from the plane that unfortunately included the remains of human bodies,” Diendere said.

“We have not been able to evaluate properly because night began to fall and rescuers confirmed to us that they have seen the totally burnt and scattered wreckage of the plane. Unfortunately, our team saw nobody (alive). The team saw no survivors there,” he said.

Authorities say the flight encountered strong storms after taking off from Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso.

There were few clear indications of what might have happened to the airliner, but Burkina Faso’s transport minister said the crew asked to adjust their route at 0138 GMT because of a storm in the area.

It is not yet known if weather played a role in the plane’s disappearance. The flight from Burkina Faso to Algiers should have taken four hours.

Earlier, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told reporters the aircraft “probably crashed,” as French fighter jets based in West Africa were taking part in the search.

French President Francois Hollande canceled a planned visit to overseas territories and said all military means on the ground would be used to locate the aircraft.

Earlier Thursday, Kara Terki, a spokesman for Air Algeria, confirmed there had been no sign of the plane since around 0330 GMT, about one hour before it was scheduled to land in Algiers Thursday morning.

The MD-83 aircraft, constructed in 1996, was chartered by Air Algerie from Spanish airline Swiftair. SwiftAir said in a statement it was continuing to work with Air Algerie and local authorities to locate the missing plane.

Last seen over northern Mali

Security officials in Mali told VOA that the plane was last seen on radar over northern Mali, between Gao and Tissalit, near the border with Burkina Faso.

Gao was one of the towns in northern Mali seized by al-Qaida-linked Islamist militants in 2012. The Malian government regained control after a French-led military intervention last year, but militants continue to attack French and government troops.

Algerian officials have set up a crisis team at the Algiers airport, while Swiftair said emergency equipment and personnel have been deployed to find out what happened to the plane.

According to Burkina Faso’s Ministry of Transportation, there were 110 passengers and six crew members on board, including 50 French citizens and 24 Burkinabe.

They said most of the passengers were in transit to destinations in Europe.

The plane was chartered by Air Algerie from Spanish airline Swiftair.

VOA’s Jennifer Lazuta contributed to this report. Some information for this report provided by Reuters. allAfrica

BBC

The wreckage of a plane that disappeared with 116 people on board on a flight from Burkina Faso to Algiers has been found in Mali, officials say.

French troops based in the region are on their way to secure the site, about 50km (30 miles) from the border with Burkina Faso, French officials said.

Air traffic controllers lost contact with the plane early on Thursday after pilots reported severe storms.

The passengers on the Air Algerie flight included 51 French citizens.

The McDonnell Douglas MD-83 – Flight AH 5017 – had been chartered from Spanish airline Swiftair.

French President Francois Hollande expressed solidarity with the friends and families of those on board.

“A French military unit has been sent to (the area) to secure the site and gather evidence,” his office said in a statement (in French).

The statement went on to say that the plane had “disintegrated”, without giving further details.

France’s Interior Minister said it appeared likely the plane had crashed due to bad weather.

‘Burnt and scattered’

The crash site was identified on Thursday by the Burkina Faso army near the village of Boulikessi, officials said.

Gilbert Diendere, a Burkina Faso army general, said Mali had agreed to their cross-border search which was launched after a resident in Gossi described seeing a plane go down to the south-west of the town.

“Sadly, the team saw no-one on site. It saw no survivors,” he told reporters.

Weather map

“They found human remains and the wreckage of the plane totally burnt and scattered,” he added.

Malian state radio said shepherds had been the first to spot the wreckage and had informed the authorities, the BBC’s Alex Duval Smith reports from the Malian capital, Bamako.

‘Sandstorm’

French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve told French radio network RTL that “the aircraft was destroyed at the moment it crashed”, meaning that it did not appear likely that the plane was attacked mid-flight.

“We think the aircraft crashed for reasons linked to the weather conditions, although no theory can be excluded at this point,” he said.

Earlier, French fighter jets and UN helicopters had been hunting for the wreck in the more remote desert region of northern Mali between Gao and Tessalit.

Algerian Minister of Transport Amar Ghoul (left) chairs an Algerian crisis unit meeting at the Houari-Boumediene International Airport in Algiers, Algeria, 24 July 2014 Algerian officials held a crisis meeting on the crashed plane

Contact with Flight AH 5017 was lost about 50 minutes after take-off from Ouagadougou early on Thursday morning, Air Algerie said.

The pilot had contacted Niger’s control tower in Niamey at around 01:30 GMT to change course because of a sandstorm, officials say.

Burkina Faso authorities said the passenger list comprised 27 people from Burkina Faso, 51 French, eight Lebanese, six Algerians, two from Luxembourg, five Canadians, four Germans, one Cameroonian, one Belgian, one Egyptian, one Ukrainian, one Swiss, one Nigerian and one Malian.

The six crew members are Spanish, according to the Spanish pilots’ union.

French ties

Flight AH 5017 flies the Ouagadougou-Algiers route four times a week, AFP reported.

BBC West Africa correspondent Thomas Fessy says it a route often used by French travellers.

France sent troops to Mali in January 2013 after al-Qaeda-linked militants threatened to overrun the capital, Bamako.

It ended its military deployment in Mali in July, but agreed to keep troops in the region as part of a new military operation based in Chad, focused on targeting Islamist extremists in the Sahel region.

France has strong ties to many west African countries. Mali, Algeria and Chad were all former French colonies.

line

McDonnell Douglas MD-83

Chris Yates, aviation analyst, said the aircraft was “relatively elderly”

  • Twin rear-engine, short-medium range airliner
  • More powerful version of the MD-80 type, based on earlier DC-9
  • Range: 4,637km (2,881 miles)
  • Capacity: 172 passengers
  • First flew: 1984

Sudanese woman in apostasy case arrives in Italy; audience with pope

Mail and Guardian

Meriam Ibrahim, whose death sentence was overturned after international outcry, has arrived with her husband and two children in Italy.

Meriam Ibrahim and her family have successfully arrived in Italy in their second attempt to leave Sudan. (AFP)

Meriam Ibrahim, a Christian Sudanese woman spared a death sentence for apostasy after an international outcry, has arrived in Italy.

Italian television showed the 27-year-old leaving an aircraft at Rome’s Ciampino airport accompanied by her husband, two children and Italy’s vice minister for foreign affairs, Lapo Pistelli.

Ibrahim was sentenced to 100 lashes for adultery and to death for apostasy in May, sparking an international campaign to lift the death sentence. More than a million people backed an Amnesty International campaign to get her released, with British prime minister David Cameron and US civil rights activist Jesse Jackson among world leaders who clamoured for her release.

While on death row, Ibrahim, a graduate of Sudan University’s school of medicine, gave birth in shackles in May. It was a difficult birth as her legs were in chains and Ibrahim is worried that her daughter may need support to walk.

Because of the baby, Ibrahim was told that her death sentence would be deferred for two years to allow her to nurse.

International outrage
Under the Sudanese penal code, Muslims are forbidden from changing faith, and Muslim women are not permitted to marry Christian men.

During her trial in Khartoum, she told the court that she had been brought up as a Christian, and refused to renounce her faith. She and Daniel Wani – an American citizen – married in 2011. The court ruled that the union was invalid and that Ibrahim was guilty of adultery.

Her convictions, sentences and detention in Omdurman women’s prison while heavily pregnant and with her toddler son incarcerated alongside her caused international outrage.

After an appeal court overturned the death sentence, Ibrahim, Wani, and their two children tried to leave the country in June, but were turned back. The Sudanese government accused her of trying to leave the country with false papers, preventing her departure for the US.

Her lawyer, Mohaned Mostafa, said he had not been told of her departure on Thursday.

“I don’t know anything about such news but so far the complaint that was filed against Meriam and which prevents her from travelling from Sudan has not been cancelled,” Mostafa told Reuters.

Ibrahim and her family had been staying at the US embassy in Khartoum. – © Guardian News & Media 2014

BBC

Sudan ‘apostasy’ woman Meriam Yahia Ibrahim meets Pope

A Sudanese woman who fled to Italy after being spared a death sentence for renouncing Islam has met the Pope.

Meriam Yahia Ibrahim Ishag flew to Rome with her family after more than a month in the US embassy in Khartoum.

There was global condemnation when she was sentenced to hang for apostasy by a Sudanese court.

Mrs Ibrahim’s father is Muslim so according to Sudan’s version of Islamic law she is also Muslim and cannot convert.

She was raised by her Christian mother and says she has never been Muslim.

Welcoming her at the airport, Italy’s Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said: “Today is a day of celebration.”

Meriam Ibrahim looked relieved as she arrived at Rome airport

Mrs Ibrahim met Pope Francis at his Santa Marta residence at the Vatican soon after her arrival.

“The Pope thanked her for her witness to faith,” Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi was quoted as saying.

The meeting, which lasted around half an hour, was intended to show “closeness and solidarity for all those who suffer for their faith,” he added.

‘Mission accomplished’

The BBC’s Alan Johnston in Rome says there was no prior indication of Italy’s involvement in the case.

Lapo Pistelli, Italy’s vice-minister for foreign affairs, accompanied her on the flight from Khartoum and posted a photo of himself with Mrs Ibrahim and her children on his Facebook account as they were about to land in Rome.

“Mission accomplished,” he wrote.

A senior Sudanese official told Reuters news agency that the government in Khartoum had approved her departure in advance.

Mrs Ibrahim’s lawyer Mohamed Mostafa Nour told BBC Focus on Africa that she travelled on a Sudanese passport she received at the last minute.

“She is unhappy to leave Sudan. She loves Sudan very much. It’s the country she was born and grew up in,” he said.

Daniel Wani in Rome airport Mrs Ibrahim travelled with her husband Daniel Wani

“But her life is in danger so she feels she has to leave. Just two days ago a group called Hamza made a statement that they would kill her and everyone who helps her,” he added.

Mrs Ibrahim’s husband, Daniel Wani, also a Christian, is from South Sudan and has US nationality.

Their daughter Maya was born in prison in May, shortly after Mrs Ibrahim was sentenced to hang for apostasy – renouncing one’s faith.

Under intense international pressure, her conviction was quashed and she was freed in June.

In June, Meriam spoke to the BBC as she entered the US embassy, as Reeta Chakrabarti reports

She was given South Sudanese travel documents but was arrested at Khartoum airport, with Sudanese officials saying the travel documents were fake.

These new charges meant she was not allowed to leave the country but she was released into the custody of the US embassy in Khartoum.

Last week, her father’s family filed a lawsuit trying to have her marriage annulled, on the basis that a Muslim woman is not allowed to marry a non-Muslim.  bbc

Sudan – family of woman accused of apostasy tries to annul her marriage

Sudan Tribune
Family of Sudan’s apostasy woman files lawsuit to annul her marriage

July 18, 2014 (KHARTOUM) –The family of the Sudanese woman convicted of apostasy has filed a lawsuit to annul her marriage to her Christian husband.

Meriam Ibrahim was sentenced to death last May for renouncing Islam, but was released after what the government said was “unprecedented” international pressure. An appeals court found Ibrahim not guilty on two charges of apostasy and adultery and overturned the lower tribunal’s verdict.

However, the 27-year-old woman was taken into custody by National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) officers at Khartoum airport last month along with her husband, Daniel Wani, and two children.

After being released from custody, Ibrahim has been staying at the US embassy in Khartoum along with her husband and two young children.

The Sudanese government accuses Ibrahim of forgery and providing false information in relation to a South Sudanese travel document she used while trying to leave Sudan for the US, a day after the appeals court ruling.

Ibrahim, who was reportedly born to a largely absent Sudanese Muslim father, was raised according to her Ethiopian mother’s Christian faith.

Earlier this month, Ibrahim’s brother lodged a case in the court of proceedings in the Alhag Youssef neighbourhood, east of Khartoum to prove that Ibrahim is a family member through a DNA test.

Her father also filed a lawsuit to prove that Ibrahim is his daughter and a Muslim but he withdrew the case this week without providing a reason.

Ibrahim’s sentence drew widespread international condemnation, with Amnesty International calling it “abhorrent”. The US state department said it was “deeply disturbed” by the sentence and called on the Sudanese government to respect religious freedoms.

UK prime minister David Cameron told The Times that he was “absolutely appalled” when he learnt of the death sentence against Ibrahim and called for lifting the “barbaric” verdict.

The US state department welcomed the release of Ibrahim and called on Sudan to “repeal its laws that are inconsistent with its 2005 interim constitution, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights”.

Meriam Ibrahim pictured with her husband Daniel Wani (L), children and legal team following her release from prison on 24 June 2014 in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum (AFP)

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http://www.sudantribune.com/spip.php?article51736

Sudan – Bashir denounces criticism of RSF and says he will end “tribal” conflicts

Sudan Tribune

July 13, 2014 (KHARTOUM) – The Sudanese president, Omer Hassan al-Bashir, has renewed promise to end rebellion and tribal conflicts in the country by the end of 2014 and denounced criticism directed to the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) from some political forces.

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Sudan’s president Omer Hassan al-Bashir delivers a speech on 27 January 2014 in the capital, Khartoum (Photo: AFP/Ebrahim Hamid)

Bashir, who received from the speaker of the parliament, Alfatih Izz al-Din, on Sunday the parliament’s response to the letter he tabled at the National Assembly, praised efforts of the Sudanese army and other regular forces in defending the country.

He further strongly defended the RSF, saying they defeated rebel groups in several areas in Darfur and South Kordofan.

“They [RSF] offered 163 martyrs and several of wounded within five months only to defend the country,” he added.

The Sudanese president denounced criticism of the RSF by some political forces, saying the latter turned a blind eye on the violations committed by the rebel forces in the localities of Haskanita, Al-li’ait Jar Alnabi, Altiwaisha, and Kalmando in North Darfur.

The RSF militia, which is widely known as the Janjaweed militias, were originally mobilized by the Sudanese government to quell the insurgency that broke out in Sudan’s western region of Darfur in 2003.

The militia was reactivated and restructured again in August 2013 under the command of NISS to fight rebel groups in Darfur region, South Kordofan and Blue Nile states following joint attacks by Sudanese Revolutionary Front (SRF) rebels in North and South Kordofan in April 2013.

Sudanese authorities arrested leaders of two opposition parties recently after accusing the RSF of committing serious abuses in conflict zones.

ELECTIONS TO BE HELD AS SCHEDUELD

The Sudanese president on Sunday also directed the National Elections Commission (NEC) to make the necessary arrangements for holding elections in April 2015, saying it is a constitutional requirement and there is no reason for delaying it.

Sudan’s opposition parties call for forming a transitional government and holding a national conference with the participation of rebel groups to discuss a peaceful solution for the conflicts in Darfur region, South Kordofan, and Blue Nile states.

The interim government would organize general elections once a political agreement on constitutional matters is reached, inaugurating a new democratic regime. But the NCP rejects this proposal saying opposition parties must simply prepare for the 2015 elections and that rebels should sign first peace accords.

Last week, Bashir issued presidential decrees appointing NEC chief, deputy chairman, and two other members.

The Sudanese parliament also passed amendments to the 2008 elections law amid accusations by opposition that the government plans to rig the election process through the new law.

Bashir said the amended electoral law would allow all political forces to be presented in the parliament.

Under the amended law, the percentage of proportional representation according to the draft bill went up from 40% to 50% with an increase in the minimum allocated for women from 25% to 30% and for the party representation list from 15% to 20%.

Bashir underscored commitment to widen the circle of political practice and allow public freedoms according to the law and without infringing on the rights of other people and public rights.

He called upon MPs to focus on resolving problems facing Sudan on top of which are the tribal conflicts which is fuelled by the enemies of the country.

Bashir renewed Sudan’s adherence to its principles, saying the country was targeted since a long time ago due to its geographical location

(ST)

Sudan – Mahdi’s Umma Party sets conditions for dialogue

Sudan Tribune

Sudan’s NUP to set new conditions for resuming participation in the national dialogue


June 18, 2014 (KHARTOUM) – Sudan’s opposition National Umma Party (NUP) has suggested that it intends to set new conditions in order to resume participation in the national dialogue stressing that this process cannot start from the point where it stopped prior to the arrest of its leader al-Sadiq al-Mahdi.

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Opposition leader of Umma Party and Sudan’s former Prime Minister al-Sadiq al-Mahdi at his home in Omdurman after he was released, June 15, 2014 (REUTERS/Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah)

The NUP suspended participation in the dialogue last month to protest al-Mahdi’s arrest and what it said was a government crackdown on political and media liberties.

Al-Mahdi was arrested on May 17th for criticizing alleged crimes and atrocities committed by the Rapid Support Force (RSF) government militia in conflict zones.

He was released on Sunday and the state media said the move was done after al-Mahdi’s lawyers appealed to the justice minister Mohamed Bushara Dousa to use his powers under article (58) of Sudan’s penal code which allows him to stop criminal proceedings against any suspect at any point before being sentenced by a court.

It carried a statement by NUP Central Commission stating that they support the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) and said that what al-Mahdi mentioned regarding RSF is derived from complaints and claims “that are not necessarily all true”.

However, several NUP leaders including Meriam al-Mahdi denied offering an apology, describing the statement attributed to the NUP Central Commission as “fake”. However the opposition party has yet to formally deny its authenticity.

The NUP said in a statement on Wednesday that its call for national dialogue was driven by strategic and circumstantial reasons relating to the dangers facing the country, adding that it joined the government’s initiative for dialogue with great enthusiasm and urged all political parties to join as well.

“Following this bitter experience [of arresting al-Mahdi] things cannot begin where it stopped and a genuine review for the reasons behind the failure of the government’s call for dialogue must be conducted in order to determine who is responsible for that failure”, the statement reads.

The NUP emphasized in the statement that it does not react impulsively but has a strategic view which is based on the national interest of the country, reiterating commitment to establishing a new regime without resorting to violence or seeking foreign support.

The NUP further mentioned that the new regime will be established through direct contact with all Sudanese parties inside the country and abroad in order to achieve national objectives including full democratic transition and comprehensive and just peace.

The statement thanked all those who supported al-Mahdi during his prison time, saying they are confident the Sudanese people and political parties would facilitate the NUP mission of reaching a unified national position to achieve the country’s national interests.

MEETING OF THE DIALOGUE’S MECHANISM

Meanwhile, the leading figure in the ruling National Congress Party (NCP), Qutbi al-Mahdi, announced that the dialogue mechanism would meet soon in order to prepare for launching the political process with the participation of all components of society.

The dialogue mechanism, which is headed by president Omer Hassan Bashir, includes seven members from the government side and an equal number from the opposition. The mechanism work was suspended following arrest of al-Mahdi.

Al-Mahdi told the government sponsored Sudan Media Center (SMC) website that the dialogue will not be confined to political parties, saying it will include civil society organizations, women groups, students, workers and craftsmen, and national personalities.

He further said that issues raised by the opposition parties which refused to participate in the national dialogue must be discussed in the dialogue not prior to it.

Last January, Bashir called on political parties and armed groups to engage in a national dialogue to discuss four issues, including ending the civil war, allowing political freedoms, fighting against poverty and revitalizing national identity.

He also held a political roundtable in Khartoum last month with the participation of 83 political parties.

The opposition alliance of the National Consensus Forces (NCF) boycotted the political roundtable, saying the government did not respond to its conditions.

The NCF wants the NCP-dominated government to declare a comprehensive one-month ceasefire in Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile. In addition it has called for the issuing of a general amnesty, allowing public freedoms and the release of all political detainees.

(ST)

US fury with Sudan over bombing of South Kordofan

BBC

US says Sudan is bombing civilians in South KordofanSudanese soldiers celebrate after recapturing an area of South Kordofan from ethnic minority rebels – 20 May 2014 Sudanese government forces have been fighting minority rebels in the region for three years
The United States has accused Sudan of stepping up its attacks on civilians in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states.

Samantha Power, the American ambassador to the UN, condemned the attacks in which she said schools and hospital had been deliberately targeted.

Ms Power said since April Sudanese aircraft had dropped hundreds of barrel bombs on towns and villages.

More than a million people are reported to have been displaced by fighting between government forces and rebels.

Sudan’s ambassador to the UN did not respond to the comments.

Earlier this week aid agencies wrote to the UN Security Council, African Union and the Arab League demanding an end to attacks on civilians by the Sudanese government.

Samantha Power, the US ambassador to the UN, speaks to media at the UN headquarters in New York – 10 April 2014 Samantha Power compared the government’s tactics in the region to those used in Darfur
Ms Power condemned “in the strongest possible terms” the Sudanese government’s offensive in the region.

Ground and air attacks have increased since April and many have targeted civilian aid workers, which if accurate would seriously violate international law, she said.

Ethnic minority rebels in the area have been fighting government forces for three years in a war that the United Nations says has affected more than one million people.

Unrest has been fuelled by grievances among non-Arab groups over what they see as neglect and discrimination by the Arab-dominated government in Khartoum.

Ms Power compared the government’s tactics with those used in the war-torn western region of Darfur, where more than 300,000 people have been displaced so far this year alone, she said.

“The US calls on all armed groups in Sudan to cease all violence against civilians and comply with international law,” she said.

BBC

Eritrean bishops bemoan the state of their “desolate” country

BBC

Eritrea ‘desolate’ – Catholic bishops

The Catholic cathedral in Asmara The Roman Catholic church is the second biggest denomination in Eritrea

Four Eritrean Catholic bishops have published a letter criticising life in the country – a rare move in one of the world’s most tightly controlled states.

Although they were careful not to condemn the government directly, correspondents say the letter-writers are taking a huge risk.

The bishops describe the country as “desolate” because so many people had fled or were in prison or the army.

The Eritrean government has not yet commented on the letter.

Many of the migrants who drowned off Lampedusa last year were from Eritrea.

The bishops referred to this, saying: “There is no reason to search for a country of honey if you are in one.”

Isaias Afewerki Isaias Afewerki has been Eritrea’s president since 1993

Human rights groups have called Eritrea a “giant prison”, with torture widespread.

Amnesty International last year said some 10,000 Eritreans had been imprisoned for political reasons since independence from Ethiopia in 1993. This was denied by the government.

Young men must do national service until the age of 40, prompting an estimated 3,000 to flee the country each month.

Handle detainees ‘humanely’

In their 38-page letter written in Tigrinya, the bishops said Eritreans were going to “peaceful countries, to countries of justice, of work, where one expresses himself loudly, a country where one works and earns”.

There was no-one left to look after the elderly, they said.

The letter was signed by Bishops Mengsteab Tesfamariam of Asmara, Tomas Osman of Barentu, Kidane Yeabio of Keren and Feqremariam Hagos of Segeneiti.

The bishops pointedly said that “all those who are arrested should first be handled humanely and sympathetically” and then be presented to court for trial.

After the Orthodox, the Roman Catholic Church is the second biggest in Eritrea and correspondents say the bishop of the capital, Asmara, in particular, wields considerable influence in the country.  BBC