Nigeria – arm launches offensive against Niger Delta militants

Reuters

Nigeria launches offensive against militants in Delta oil hub

Sun Aug 28, 2016 8:17am GMT 


 Suspected members of the Niger Delta Avengers are seen as they are paraded by the Nigeria military after their arrest in the Nembe waters, Rivers, Nigeria, August 22, 2016. Photo taken 

August 22, 2016 REUTERS/Stringer

By Tife Owolabi
YENAGOA, Nigeria (Reuters) – Nigeria’s military said on Saturday it had launched a new offensive against militants in the oil-producing Niger Delta, killing five and arresting 23.
Armed groups have claimed responsibility for a series of attacks on oil and gas pipelines in the southern region, reducing the country’s oil output by 700,000 barrels day.
A special forces battalion moved against militant camps on Friday in an operation “aimed at getting rid of all forms of criminal activities”, army spokesman Sani Usman said in a statement.
“In the course of the operation, five militants that attacked the troops were killed in action, while numerous others were injured and 23 suspects were arrested.”
There was no immediate reaction from militant groups, which operate from hard-to-access creeks in the swampland.
The groups say they want a greater share of Nigeria’s oil wealth to go to the impoverished region. Crude sales account for about 70 percent of Nigeria’s government revenue and most of the oil comes from the Delta.
A similar military campaign in May drew sharp criticism from rights groups and residents who said soldiers had laid siege to villages, arrested civilians and raped women in an bid to force them hand over militants. The army denies this.
The government has been trying to broker a ceasefire but the militant scene is divided into small groups whose fighters, drawn from unemployed youths, are difficult to control even for their leaders. 

On Thursday, Oil Minister Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu met traditional leaders from the Delta to ask them to mediate in talks with militants but they said they wanted the army first to release prisoners taken during a previous sweep, an official has told Reuters.
The army in May arrested a group of school teenagers who community leaders say are not linked to militants.
A group calling itself Niger Delta Avengers, which has claimed several major attacks, said in a statement on Sunday they had agreed to a ceasefire to start a dialogue. Officials have refused to confirm this.
(Additional reporting by Felix Onuah, Camillus Eboh and Ulf Laessing; Editing by Andrew Roche)

South Africa – NPA may charge Gordhan as Zuma family business contracts prepare to testify

News24


NPA head Shaun Abrahams 

More than 30 witnesses have been lined up to testify against Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan and three former SA Revenue Service (Sars) officials who may be charged as early as this week.
The witnesses include ANC donor Jen-Chih “Robert” Huang, a former business partner of Jacob Zuma’s nephew Khulubuse, who had his assets frozen two years ago over a R541 million tax claim.
The case against Gordhan, former Sars commissioner Ivan Pillay, former Sars high-risk investigations unit (HRIU) head Johann van Loggerenberg and former Sars commissioner Oupa Magashula is now in the hands of National Director of Public Prosecutions Shaun Abrahams after the Hawks concluded its investigation on Thursday afternoon.
On Friday, the Hawks delivered the case docket to the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) headquarters in Silverton, Pretoria, for Abrahams to handle personally.
Although NPA spokesperson Luvuyo Mfaku denied a decision to charge Gordhan and the others had been taken, City Press has learnt from four senior sources within the NPA, the Hawks and Sars, that they would “definitely” be criminally charged.
Buy City Press today to find out what charges Gordhan and his former colleagues will be facing.

Zimbabwe – Mugabe flies out as protests mount

Newsday

image

Mugabe flies out, leaves Zim in flames
August 27, 2016 in National, News
PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe obstinately flew out of a burning Zimbabwe yesterday, oblivious to the bedlam around him to attend the Sixth Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD VI) which began in Nairobi, Kenya, yesterday.

BY RICHARD CHIDZA
While tempers flared in Harare and the situation threatened to explode into full-scale anarchy, for Mugabe it was business as usual.

Pro-democracy groups and opposition parties have in the past few months cranked up pressure against Mugabe’s increasingly authoritarian regime through protests.

But the 92-year-old Zanu PF leader has reacted with his fashionable brute force, bludgeoning activists to a pulp in the process.

While police engaged in running battles with protesters in the capital, Mugabe was posing for photographs with a group of students departing for studies in China.

Mugabe’s spokesperson George Charamba could neither deny nor confirm the Zanu PF leader had left for Nairobi.

“I am not going to answer whether he has gone. You should have come to State House where he gave a speech. I cannot paraphrase what the President said, but can only give a statement in anticipation of what he is going to say,” Charamba said. “On TICAD VI, you can write your story that the President went to Japan and you can background your story on that.”

Mugabe has become a frequent flyer in his old age and continues to blow millions of taxpayers’ money on foreign trips, some with little benefit to the economy.

Africa News and Analysis in South Africa and Swaziland

Fewer stories will be appearing on Africa – News and Analysis over the next week as the editor is on a press trip to South Africa and Swaziland, looking at the debate over legalising the rhino horn trade.P1000661

The impetus for the new interest in rhino horn – beyond the catastrophic poaching problem in southern Africa – is Swaziland’s proposal to CITES to have a legal trade in natural m,ortality, deforned and seized rhino horn.

 

This is the Swazi proposal as outlined by Michael Eustace in The Conservation Imperative:

SWAZILAND’S CITES PROPOSAL TO SELL WHITE RHINO HORN.

A Letter from Michael Eustace.

Swaziland has submitted a proposal to sell their horn stocks of 330 kg and also to sell, in the future, 20 kg annually from natural deaths (8 kg) and harvesting horn from about 4 of their 73 white rhino (12 kg). Harvesting will be done on a rotational basis.  The horn re-grows.

The proceeds from the sale of the stocks will amount to $9.9 million at a wholesale price of $30,000 per kg. That amount will be placed in an investment fund to earn about $600,000 p.a.   The annual sale of 20 kg will also produce $600,000, for total funding of $1.2 million p.a.

Swaziland’s law enforcement has been effective with only 3 rhino having been poached over the past 24 years.  This low level of poaching is due to dedicated staff, severe sentences, a good and well rewarded information network and because the King champions wildlife conservation in Swaziland.

There is a risk that as law enforcement in South Africa becomes more intense, so will the risk of poaching in Swaziland increase.  Mitigating that risk will need funding.

The King allows all income from wildlife to be retained by the parks.

The current cost of managing the three parks (Mlilwane, Hlane, and Mkhaya) is $2 million p.a. which is generated from tourism, trading and unsolicited donations.  These parks receive no government funding.   Current funding is inadequate: vehicles are old and need to be replaced, fencing is in need of repair, rangers’ salaries need to be increased and there needs to be sufficient funding to pay for supplementary feed in times of drought.  Donor funding cannot be relied upon.

The purpose of CITES is to ensure that international (legal) trade in rhino does not threaten their survival but by extension, one assumes, CITES has the responsibility to approve trade if that would be to the advantage of rhino.  The Swaziland proposal will test the sincerity of that purpose as there are other factors at play that have little to do with the welfare of rhino but are entrenched sentiments that are opposed to trade…sentiments that are not well supported by logic.

The main factor is that any horn trade will send a message to the market that suddenly all trade in horn is acceptable while the NGOs and others have, for years, been promoting a view that all trade and use of horn is unacceptable and that demand reduction along with law enforcement is the solution to poaching.

Swaziland intends selling its horn to a small number of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) hospitals.  Markets are astute and unlikely to accept false messages.  They will understand the difference between the sale of legal horn and poached horn and that difference will be reinforced by publicity.

The 39-year-old CITES ban on trade in horn has not been effective.  The current trade out of Africa is all illegal and amounts to about 1,300 horns p.a. or 5,200 kg.  If consumers use 5 grams for a course of treatment, then the total supply satisfies about 1 million people.  There are about 1,000 million people in the Far East who use TCM and maybe half of those would buy horn if the price was low enough to be acceptable.

For demand reduction to work all 500 million will need to be persuaded that either buying horn is immoral or they will need to be persuaded, after centuries of belief in it, that horn does not work.  Persuading 499 million is not good enough.  Relying on demand reduction would seem a futile and dangerous policy on which to risk thousands of rhino lives.   Even if it were possible to eliminate demand it would take too long…longer than rhino can withstand the current onslaught.

The sale of Swaziland’s stocks of 330 kg will amount to a once off 6% of the annual market and the on-going sales of 20 kg p.a. will amount to 0.4% of the total market.

Parties need to consider whether their votes are going to support the environment for rhino in Swaziland or the interests of the NGOs.

A possible concern may be that if the Swaziland proposal is approved it may encourage a proposal for legal trade from South Africa who will argue that at the current high price they can satisfy, sustainably, the entire market for horn without the need to kill one rhino.  The Parties can consider South Africa’s arguments (which may be compelling) if and when South Africa submits a trade proposal for consideration.  It would seem wrong for a possible trade proposal in the future from South Africa to undermine Swaziland’s current proposal.

The entire international trade in horn is currently in contravention of CITES rules and that illegal trade threatens the survival of rhino.  Swaziland has chosen to follow the correct route and to ask for permission to sell a small amount of horn to finance their parks.  If care for rhino is valued and ethical behaviour is valued and the fundamental purpose of CITES is valued, the Swaziland proposal would seem worthy of support.

Yours sincerely,

Michael Eustace.

 

The Kingdom of Swaziland has submitted a proposal to CITES CoP17 to allow a controlled trade in rhino horn accruing from natural deaths, harvesting, and her own poached rhinos.

It is appropriate here to mention what can be described as one of – if not the greatest African conservation success story of all time – the saving of the Southern White Rhino by Ezemvelo KZN, formerly known as the Natal Parks Board.  In the early 20th century, this species had been reduced to less than 50 animals.  At the instance of the likes of Col Peter Potter and a few others, this small isolated population (some state it to have been as few as 12 individuals) remained discretely located at the junction of the White and Black Umfolozi Rivers in Zululand.  When Ian Player arrived on the scene as a young game ranger, this population had grown to some 600-odd animals, protected under what was to become one of the finest conservation agencies in Africa, if not the world – the Natal Parks Board (previously termed the Natal Parks, Game and Fish Preservation Board) under the direction of Colonel Jack Vincent.

It was Ian Player whose vision it was in the early 1960s to distribute the species widely – even to other countries – to spread the risk against extinction, and safeguard white rhinos for posterity.

It is less than likely that the small nucleus of rhinos, whose numbers were finitely limited to the carrying capacity of the Mfolozi Game Reserve at the time, could possibly have withstood the current onslaught in rhino poaching which now annually equates to approximately twice the original number of animals in the nucleus Player started with.  So, had it not been for Ian Player’s vision to spread rhinos far and wide, the world would not have been privileged with the white rhino legacy he left us.

Ian Player died in 2014.  Before he died, he was distraught at the escalating plight of rhinos and advocated strongly for the ban in trade in horn to be lifted in time to save them.  Though Player was a strongly spiritual man, he was also pragmatic and strongly believed in the commercialization of game to enhance its material value in order to attract financial investment in it.  He had seen this work over 40 years in southern Africa where, in that time wild animals had more than trebled in number, while in East Africa they had declined by 80% over the same period of time after consumptive utilization had been outlawed.  There is more game in South Africa today than there was in 1960, and this can be attributed to its commercialisation.  There is, in fact, more game in private ownership in southern Africa now than there is collectively in all national and provincial parks, for no other reason than its legal commercialization.  Dr Anton Rupert once said “the government will not get up at 2 in the morning to tend a sick cow, but its owner will!”  And there is nothing like ownership to protect what one owns and recover what is stolen from one, especially if it has added commercial value.

After 39 years of the futile ban in rhino horn trade being in place, it is time to try something new.  Open the Trade!  Farm rhinos!  Explore all options.  No domestic animal has ever gone extinct!

Rhinos are now no longer considered an asset.  They are a liability.  It is simply too costly and too risky for custodians to continue conserving rhinos without the material returns which rhino horn sales could bring.  Privately owned habitats in South Africa currently support approximately 30% of all white rhinos, which would, without any doubt, grow with a legal trade.  We simply cannot afford the loss of any more rhino habitat, and opening the trade would likely expand rhino range 10 fold.

Measures to control rhino poaching on a continental scale are clearly not working.  We have seen 70 of the 300 rhino owners in South Africa disinvest in rhinos last year, withdrawing some 200 000ha of habitat from rhino conservation.  200 000ha equates to a carrying capacity of some 2 000 white rhinos, plus a variety of other grazing species.  (Reference: Rhino Owners’ Association).

South Africa has always been a strong proponent for lifting the ban, and several countries fully expected her to submit a proposal to CITES CoP17 to do so. Swaziland was standing by to support such a proposal.  For whatever reason South Africa didn’t submit the expected proposal, the deadline was upon us, so Swaziland, to keep a foot in the door and keep options open, worked through the night to produce its proposal and submitted it with only hours to spare in the late afternoon of the last day.

If between now and the CITES CoP17, there is insufficient support and encouragement for it, the proposal can always be withdrawn.  To be successful, such a proposal to CITES requires a 66% – 2/3 majority vote in favour of it.  It is almost certain that this will NOT be achieved because custodians have been preoccupied defending their rhinos and themselves at the poaching coalface while donor dependent animal rights activists have been targeting Hollywood and other international iconic figureheads to continue with the ban in trade.  The world follows Hollywood, so the marketing skills of these donor dependant activists have totally outclassed those of the custodians, and they have built up an international stigma against the legal trade and those who support it.  At least Swaziland’s proposal will provide the first step to a much needed platform for debate at CoP17 where the majority of African rhino custodians and their supporters will be afforded the opportunity to voice their views on an international forum.  CITES happens every 3 years.  Had this proposal not materialized now, we would have had to wait another 3 years before taking the first step, and at the current rate of plunder, rhinos may not have the time to survive further delays in trying something new.  At least now, at CoP18 in three years time, the second step at advocating the lifting of the ban can be taken when the pro consumptive message can be fortified and lobbied for at international level.

Currently criminals take 100% of the profits, and custodians pay all the costs of protection.  This disparity will lessen with a legal trade.  It is common sense that a legal trade will immediately compete with the illegal trade and any revenue it attracts will not be available to the black market criminals.  This is the rationale around the Swazi proposal which hopefully will gain momentum.  Ian Player said before he died that the iconic figures of the world, had been misinformed by the animal rights activists who advocate for the continuation of a 39 year old ban which is still not working for the rhinos.  The ban is, however, working for the criminals and for those activists who raise donor money by supporting it.  The question has to be asked: “Is it in the financial interests of donor dependant animal rights activists to find a solution to the plight of the rhinos when finding one would remove a very fertile platform for raising donor funding?”!  In this respect, we hastily acknowledge that some activists are sincere and cannot be placed in this bracket.

The other question to be asked is, Is there one single ban with a lucrative commercial black market alternative, which has ever worked?

And for how much longer than 39 years do we need, to realize that the current ban is not working?

Ted Reilly. Big Game Parks, Swaziland.

Mugabe warns protestors there will be no Arab Spring in Zimbabwe

Reuters

Zimbabwean opposition supporters carry rocks during clashes with police in Harare, Zimbabwe, August 26,2016.REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo
By MacDonald Dzirutwe | HARARE

President Robert Mugabe warned protesters on Friday there would be no “Arab Spring” in Zimbabwe after anti-government demonstrations descended it to some of the worst violence seen in the southern African nation for two decades.

Zimbabwean police fired tear gas and water cannon at opposition leaders and hundreds of demonstrators at a protest against Mugabe and the ruling ZANU-PF, before unrest swept across large parts of the capital Harare.

“They are thinking that what happened in the Arab Spring is going to happen in this country but we tell them that it is not going to happen here,” Mugabe told state television, referring to a series of uprisings that toppled leaders across the Arab world.

Mugabe accused Western countries, including the United States, of sponsoring the protests.

“They are fighting because of Americans,” said Mugabe.

Earlier, opposition head Morgan Tsvangirai and former vice president Joice Mujuru fled a rally in their cars while protesters ran for cover as police broke up the core of the demonstration. However, anti-Mugabe leaders warned that this would be the first of a series of protests.

Mugabe’s opponents have become emboldened by rising public anger and protests over an economic meltdown, cash shortages and high unemployment. Mugabe, 92, has led Zimbabwe since independence from Britain in 1980.

Clashes spread through the streets of the capital Harare as riot police fought running battles with protesters who hurled rocks at officers, set tyres ablaze and burned a popular market to the ground, in some of the worst unrest since food riots in 1998.

Didymus Mutasa, a senior official from Mujuru’s party and convener of Friday’s protest, vowed to repeat the demonstration a week from now and blamed police for the violence and disobeying a court order allowing the march to proceed.

“If that was intended to cow us from demonstrating, I want to say the opposite has been the case. We are going next Friday to do exactly the same as we have done today,” Mutasa told reporters.

Most businesses shut down early on Friday fearing looting by protesters. Mujuru said 50 people were injured and hospitalised.

“Mugabe’s rule must end now, that old man has failed us,” said one protester before throwing a rock at a taxi.

RIOT POLICE

More than a hundred police officers in riot gear, backed up by water cannons and armoured trucks, occupied the venue that opposition parties planned to use for their demonstration.

As opposition supporters arrived for the march, they were told by the police to leave. The officers then fired tear gas and water cannon when parts of the crowd refused to comply.

Police spokeswoman Charity Charamba said the force was still assessing the day’s events. “We will let you know once we are done,” she said.

Officials from Mugabe’s ruling ZANU-PF party were unavailable for comment.

“Demonstrating is the only solution left to force the dictator out of office,” said Tapfuma Make, an unemployed 24-year-old from Chitungwiza town, south of Harare.

Zimbabwe’s High Court earlier ruled that police should allow the protest to proceed between 12 p.m. – 4 p.m. (1000-1400 GMT) in what Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) called a “victory for democracy”.

“Today has been for me the worst day that I have lived in this country, where I have observed with my own eyes, the state breaking its own laws and the state starting violence by attacking people who were just gathered together,” Mutasa said.

Opposition parties leading the protests say the electoral agency is biased in favour of the ruling ZANU-PF and is run by security agents loyal to Mugabe, charges the commission denies.

The protesters want the next vote in 2018 to be supervised by international observers, including the United Nations. They are also calling for Mugabe to fire corrupt ministers, scrap plans to introduce local bank notes and end cash shortages.

The latest demonstrations come nearly two months after the biggest large scale ‘stay at home’ strike in Zimbabwe since 2007, inspired by social media movements such as #ThisFlag led by pastor Evan Mawarire.

Home Affairs Minister Ignatius Chombo on Thursday called opposition leaders “foreign agents” using protests to cause chaos in order to justify international intervention.

(Writing by Joe Brock; Editing by James Macharia and Andrew Heavens)

South Sudan – Machar leaves hospital in Khartoum but will stay in Sudan

Reuters

South Sudan opposition leader, Riek Machar, has left hospital but will remain in Khartoum for some time, Sabt Makkouk, an aide accompanying Machar, said on Friday.

Sudan’s Information Minister announced on August 23 that Machar, who left South Sudan to escape government forces, was in Khartoum for medical treatment.

“Riek Machar left hospital this morning in stable health and has recovered … He will stay in Khartoum for some time,” Makkouk told Reuters.

President Salva Kiir sacked Machar from his post as vice president after renewed fighting in South Sudan’s capital Juba last month between forces loyal to the long-time rivals. The clashes forced tens of thousands of people to flee.

Machar withdrew to the bush during the fighting in Juba and was picked up this month by U.N. peace keepers in Democratic Republic of Congo with a leg injury. His spokesman earlier said Machar had left South Sudan to evade Kiir’s forces and had said his injury was not serious enough to require medical attention.

Makkouk said that Machar would speak at a press conference on Friday or Saturday in Khartoum to explain the latest developments in South Sudan. He was also due to meet Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir.

(Reporting by Khaled Abdelaziz, writing by Asma Alsharif; Editing by Richard Balmforth)

Zimbabwe anti-Mugabe protest: Police fire tear gas

BBC

man holds sign for Robert Mugabe Rd that has been taken downREUTERS A street sign bearing the president’s name was taken down by protesters

Police in Zimbabwe have fired tear gas and water cannon at opposition supporters who had gathered for a protest march in the capital, Harare.

They have also beaten up people wearing red T-shirts, the colour of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change party (MDC), a BBC reporter at the scene says.

Protesters are calling for electoral reform ahead of polls in 2018.

President Robert Mugabe, 92, says he intends to stand again.

Leaders from 18 opposition political parties have called for Zimbabweans to march through Harare today as part of a so-called “mega demonstration”.

The High Court ruled on Friday morning that the planned opposition march could go ahead, a day after police warned that unauthorised demonstrations would not be tolerated.

Police with batons clash with protester in red t shirtAP Police used batons to beat opposition protesters

Public protests, which used to be relatively rare in Zimbabwe, have proliferated in recent months, focusing on the dire state of the country’s economy.

Most of these have come under the banner of the #ThisFlag movement, inspired by charismatic pastor Evan Mawarire, who has urged non-violent protest over perceived corruption and economic mismanagement

The country’s economic crisis has worsened recently, leading to a chronic cash shortage and delays paying civil servants.