Category Archives: Africa – International

Nigeria – Buhari seeks assembly approval of Chinese and World Bank loans

Premium Times

Rail tracks connecting Abuja - Kaduna

Rail tracks connecting Abuja – Kaduna

President Muhammadu Buhari on Wednesday, again sought the approval of the National Assembly for the federal government to secure about $6.4 billion dollar loans from the World Bank and China to fund infrastructural objectives across the country and combat polio outbreak in the North-East.

In a letter separately read by Senate President Bukola Saraki and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, Mr. Buhari sought approval to borrow a total of $5.851 billion from China to fund Nigeria’s railway projects.

In the letter, Mr. Buhari asked the lawmakers for quick approval to enable Nigeria access the China-Africa fund package already included in 2016-2018 external borrowing plan which was forwarded to the National Assembly last August.

The Senate had rejected the borrowing plan entirely in November last year.

Mr. Buhari explained that the funds accessible under the package are limited and that applications from other African countries are treated on ‘first come first serve’ basis.

The President’s letter reads: “I wish to refer to my earlier letter with respect to the above subject and to inform the distinguished senate that the China Exim bank has approved our request for a loan to execute the Lagos-Kano railway modernisation project, Lagos-Ibadan segment for a sum of $1.231 billion.

“The China government has also informed us that the approval of the Lagos-Kano railway modernisation project, Kano-Kaduna segment and coastal railway project, the Lagos-Calabar segment are imminent.

“China Exim supported projects; Lagos-Kano modernisation projects, Lagos-Ibadan segment $1.231 billion; Lagos-Kano railway modernisation project, Kano-Kaduna segment $1.146 billion and coastal railway project, the Lagos-Calabar segment 3.474 billion, making a total of 5.851 billion.

“As you are aware the funds available under the China-African fund are limited and loan applications from all over Africa countries are funded based on first come, first serve and therefore there is an urgent need to sign these loans as soon as they are approved or we may loose out in the event that we delayed in signing the loan agreement.

“These loans form part of the overall money for the rail strategy. We are in the process of completing the concession of the port Harcourt Maiduguri line to immediately link the eastern part of the nation.

“We fully intend to source further concessioning funding to ultimately upgrade this critical line to high speed standard gauge. These projects form the overall plan to resuscitate the rail transport across the nation and thereby drive inclusive growth.”

Similarly, Mr. Buhari also repeated his request for endorsement of the $575 million loan from the World Bank to tackle infrastructural collapse and combat polio outbreak in Nigeria’s North-East ravaged by Boko Haram terrorism.

The request had earlier been made in October 2016, with appeal for ‘immediate approval’.

Out of the total package of $575 million, $125 million is for the polio emergency, while $450 million is to assist Nigeria in the reconstruction and rehabilitation efforts in the North-East.

In August, Nigeria confirmed two new cases of polio in Borno State, meaning a setback for a country looking forward to receiving certification of polio eradication June 2017.

But, apart from polio, Nigeria’s North East, especially Borno, Adamawa and Yobe states – is a case of humanitarian emergency and infrastructural as well as socio-economic collapse, largely due to Boko Haram terrorism.

South Africa – W Cape court rules SA nuclear deal unlawful

News24

Cape Town – A court ruling declaring government’s actions to secure a nuclear build plan for South Africa unlawful, occurred on the very same day a nuclear disaster happened in Chernobyl, Russia, said Makoma Lekalakala of Earthlife Africa Johannesburg.

“The timing of the judgment, before this important day in South Africa’s history and on the day of the nuclear disaster in Russia, adds to the sense of justice being done,” she said in a statement.

Earthlife and the South African Faith Communities Environment Institute (Safcei) launched a joint court bid in October 2015 to stop government from procuring nuclear energy.

READ: Nuclear battle not over yet – OUTA

Judge Lee Bozalek on Wednesday ruled in favour of the two organisations’ court bid, declaring government’s attempts to secure 9.6 GW of nuclear energy unlawful, including the initial determination to procure nuclear energy in 2013, the cooperation agreements signed with Russia, the US and South Korea, as well as former energy minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson’s decision to hand over the procurement of nuclear energy to Eskom late last year.

“[The ruling was a] victory for justice and the rule of law and the people of South Africa,” said Makoma Lekalakala of Earthlife.

“After over a year and a half of court preparation for justice, Earthlife and Safcei were finally able to block the unlawful and unconstitutional actions of the South African government in its nuclear deal,” she added.

READ: FULL JUDGMENT: Nuclear process declared unlawful 

Safcei spokesperson Liziwe McDaid said the two organisations experienced considerable “delays and dirty tricks along the road to the courts”.

“But we persevered and now we have been vindicated,” she said.

SAFCEI and Earthlife based their case on the South African Constitution, McDaid said, which states that when it comes to far-reaching decisions, such as the nuclear deal, which would alter the future of our country, government is legally required to debate in Parliament and do a thorough, transparent and meaningful public consultation.

Public participation to underpin energy policy

According to Adrian Pole, legal representative for Earthlife and Safcei, the judgment means that there is no decision in terms of the relevant empowering statute that new nuclear generation capacity is needed and should be procured in South Africa.

READ: Energy minister to cough up for nuclear court costs 

“The Russian agreement has been declared unlawful and unconstitutional for its tabling. Before any nuclear procurement can proceed, the Minster of Energy in concurrence with the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (NERSA) will be required to make a new determination in accordance with a lawful process that is transparent and includes public participation.

“This will necessarily require disclosure of relevant information that to date has been kept from the public, including critical information on costs and affordability,” Pole said.

Project 90 by 2030 – an environmental non-profit organisation – called the court ruling a “victory for democracy”.

“Both Safcei and Earthlife are small organisations, with a handful of people working tirelessly over the last few years on this issue,” said researcher Richard Halsey. “Despite all the high level issues of state capture and patronage politics, the courts are still standing up for due process and the need to have energy planning done in a transparent and consultative manner.”

Reuters

By Wendell Roelf | CAPE TOWN

CAPE TOWN A South African pact with Russia’s Rosatom to build nuclear reactors was deemed unlawful by a High Court on Wednesday, casting fresh doubt over the country’s energy plans.

Operator of Africa’s only nuclear power station, Eskom wants to add 9,600 megawatts (MW) of nuclear capacity – equivalent to up to 10 nuclear reactors – to help wean the economy off of polluting coal in what could one of the world’s biggest nuclear contracts in decades.

South Africa and Russia signed an Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) in 2014 that sealed a cooperation pact between state-owned nuclear group Rosatom and state-owned utility Eskom.

Judge Lee Bozalek said any request for information to kickstart the procurement process was set aside as was the cooperation pact. The deal had included a favourable tax regime for Russia and placed heavy financial obligations on South Africa, Bozalek said.

“Seen as a whole, the Russian IGA stands well outside the category of a broad nuclear cooperation agreement, and at the very least, sets the parties well on their way to a binding, exclusive agreement in relation to the procurement of new reactor plants from that particular country,” Bozalek said.

The Southern African Faith Communities Environment Institute (SAFCEI) and Earthlife Africa-Johannesburg had jointly filed the court application to stop the nuclear programme.

“There are no more secret deals and everything has to be done in the open,” said SAFCEI spokeswoman Liz McDaid.

It was not clear whether the government would appeal the ruling.

The government has downplayed the agreement with Russia, saying it was not a final contract and that an open tender process would still be conducted.

The Department of Energy said the government “has not entered into any deal or signed any contract for the procurement of nuclear power,” adding that it has signed IGA’s with the United States, South Korea, China, Russia, and France.

The head of South African nuclear state agency said last year that Rosatom was not the frontrunner and that the tender would be open to all bidders.

Eskom Chief Nuclear Officer Dave Nicholls said: “We haven’t been through the judgement yet so we can’t comment.”

Rosatom officials in Moscow and in Johannesburg said the company “could not comment on legal disputes between South African entities that do not directly involve us.”

The main opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) party said the nuclear battle would now return to parliament and it would use all its powers to block the deal.

NUCLEAR OPTION

After the 2011 nuclear disaster in Fukushima led many countries to cut back nuclear programmes, South Africa is one of the few still considering a major new reactor project and the tender is eagerly awaited by manufacturers from South Korea, France, the United States and China.

With U.S. firm Westinghouse in Chapter 11 proceedings and France’s Areva being restructured, Rosatom’s two main competitors are hamstrung by financial difficulties, boosting the Russian firm’s chances.

China has little experience building reactors abroad and Korea’s KEPCO has only one major foreign reactor contract, in the United Arab Emirates.

France, which built South Africa’s two existing reactors, is keen to stay in the race and utility EDF – which is taking over Areva’s reactor manufacturing unit – said last month it would respond to Pretoria’s “request for information”.

Eskom sees nuclear as an option to replace coal-fired power, but some economists, however, have questioned whether the country’s ailing economy can afford a nuclear building programme they estimate could cost around 1 trillion rand ($76 billion).

Some pundits say former finance minister Pravin Gordhan was fired partly because he resisted pressured by a faction allied to President Jacob Zuma to back nuclear expansion.

New Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba has said nuclear expansion will only be pursued if it is affordable.

The ruling would not stop the nuclear plan, analysts said.

Travis Hough, business unit leader for energy & environment at consultancy Frost & Sullivan Africa, said: “This is most probably just another bump in the road and nothing is going to derail the nuclear programme.”

(Additional reporting by Mfuneko Toyana in Johannesburg, Jack Stubbs in Moscow and Geert De Clercq in Paris; Editing by James Macharia)

 

Liberia – deadly disease outbreak in Sinoe County with over a dozen dead

From Umaru Fofana

There’s a deadly outbreak in Sinoe County, southeastern #Liberia which started at the weekend and escalated on Monday & Tuesday. Sources at the F.J Grante Hospital in Greenville speak of over a dozen deaths – with health officials donning PPEs similar to those worn during Ebola. One expressed total bewilderment to me. Unclear what the outbreak is but blood samples have been taken to Buchanan in Grand Bassa county. Some of the victims are said to be literally dropping dead. The Liberian National Police are using megaphones to warn residents to report all sick cases to the hospital and not to churches/shrines.

 

BBC

Liberia tests mystery disease swabs

Liberia’s health ministry says it is testing the blood samples taken from eight people who have died from an unidentified disease in Sinoe county, 350km (217 miles) south-east of the capital, Monrovia.

Health ministry spokesperson Sorbor George said that efforts to resuscitate those who died unfortunately failed, the BBC’s Jonathan Paye-Layleh reports.

Mr George added that five others, showing similar symptoms of adbominal or stomach pains, have been admitted to hospital for treatment.

State radio has described the illness the victims died of as a “strange disease”.

Nearly 5,000 people died in Liberia from the 2015 Ebola outbreak when the authorities were criticised for not acting fast enough in the face of the deadly virus.

But there is no suggestion that the victims have died of Ebola and reports from the area of what happened prior to their deaths indicate that they did not experience Ebola-like symptoms.

Researcher with a vial of blood

AFP

 

 

South Africa – how to save the Karoo

News24

2017-04-26 07:17

As the Karoo faces increased development, scientists are calling on citizens to help them research this unique landscape. (Ashraf Hendricks, GroundUp)

As the Karoo faces increased development, scientists are calling on citizens to help them research this unique landscape. (Ashraf Hendricks, GroundUp)

Oudtshoorn – “Scientists know very little about the plants and animals in the Karoo, and there is an urgent need to document the indigenous species found in this important part of South Africa,” says the Karoo BioGaps Project, a citizen science initiative which aims to document the Karoo’s natural resources.

But this vast track of South Africa, which contains a wide range of animal and plant life despite its extreme temperatures and low rainfall, is being eyed for development. Shale gas exploration, solar plants and other infrastructure are being earmarked for the Karoo, to boost much-needed development. But without data, scientists and policy makers do not know which areas require additional protection or to be left alone entirely.

“We need to learn which species are widespread, and which are sensitive to proposed future changes in land use and development,” says the newly launched project, GroundUp reports.

There are two ways you can get involved in documenting Karoo biodiversity:

• You can photograph Karoo species and upload your pics to http://www.ispotnature.org/projects/karoo-biogap. There is also a community forum where uploaders can discuss photos and observations.
• Even if you have no plans for visiting the Karoo anytime soon, you can help to transcribe the thousands of historical records at http://transcribe.sanbi.org/. These treasure troves were collected before conservationists and explorers dreamed that a person would be able to take and share photos with anyone in the world instantly.

Historical records

“It is absolutely critical for us to digitise these old herbarium and museum records as they are basically unavailable for use by scientists in their un-digitised format,” says Carol Poole, the South Africa’s National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) project co-ordinator for biodiversity research.

“The ability these days to crunch large datasets means that including all these historical records along with current fieldwork records is very important.

“They give us a perspective of what species existed where in the past, and we can compare that to where we find these species in the fieldwork being conducted today. So comparing historical and current species records is an important part of assessing species’ distribution and threat status,” she says.

Some of these records date back to the 1830s, and digitising them will make them accessible to anyone who wants to look at them. There are 12 main groups that the Karoo BioGap Project is looking to inventory: plants, mammals, amphibians, reptiles, freshwater fish, birds, bees, spiders, dragon flies, scorpions, grasshoppers and butterflies.

Climate change

Citizen science is the latest trend in resource cataloguing, but researchers say that engaging non-scientists in this way introduces them to a world that usually gathers dust in archives or allow them to discover new things.

There are a number of citizen science projects in South Africa, allowing anyone interested to choose the project that would suit their interests best.

For example, rePhotoSA, an initiative from the Plant Conservation Unit and the Animal Demography Unit at the University of Cape, is collecting photos from around southern Africa to track how climate change and development have altered landscapes. It calls itself a “repeat photography project of southern African landscapes”  http://rephotosa.adu.org.za/

For a more hands-on experience, the miniSASS project aims to create an inventory of life in our rivers and dams. The types and numbers of small animals living in our water bodies tell whether that water is in a good condition or not. Based on the SASS (the South African Scoring System), this initiative is the brain-child of the Water Research Commission, environmental consulting organisation GroundTruth, and the Wildlife and Environmental Society of South Africa (Wessa). This information is then passed on to policy makers.

Digitised records

Asked what volunteers got in return for being part of  the Karoo BioGaps Project, Poole says that they will be helping decision-makers on important national issues, such as the shale gas development.

“There is also the excitement of being part of history in a way – transcribing these historical records will mean that the transcriber themselves has played a role in history as these digitised records will exist in databases forever.”

One thing that makes the Karoo BioGaps Project stand out is that its managers recognise that sometimes kudos is not enough. There are also prizes for the most pictures and most transcriptions.

Kenya – police fire tear gas to stop Kisumu primary vote demo

Reuters

KISUMU, Kenya Kenyan police fired teargas on Tuesday to disperse hundreds of people who took to the streets to protest the outcome of a regional party primary in the west of the country.

This month’s primaries, where voters choose party candidates, have been a chaotic affair, marked by violent clashes, cancellation of results and claims of rigging.

The problems have raised fears over the planning for a national vote on Aug. 8 and whether there may be further violence in Kenya, a key Western ally in a volatile region and East Africa’s largest economy.

Voters will pick a president, parliament and local authorities, a decade after 1,200 people were killed in ethnic violence following a disputed presidential election.

The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), which will conduct the election, said it would punish those behind the rising cases of violence in the primaries.

Tuesday’s protesters were angered by the results of a primary that re-elected the incumbent governor of the Homa Bay county, Cyprian Awiti, to run for the opposition Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) in August.

At least one person was injured in the fracas, said Willy Lugusa, the police commander for the region, adding police dispersed the protesters to prevent damage to private property.

“We are not using live bullets, we are only using teargas when people are demonstrating in a manner that is likely to cause the breach of the peace,” he told Reuters.

Neither Awiti nor ODM, which is led by the main opposition leader Raila Odinga, were available immediately for comment.

HARD-FOUGHT CONTESTS

The IEBC said all parties and their aspirants were bound to act peacefully during the primaries in line with the electoral code of conduct.

“We will impose sanctions against candidates and political parties who contravene the code,” the commission said in a statement, pledging to do all it can to ensure a free and fair election in August.

Contests to lead the country’s 47 local authorities, known as counties, are hard-fought affairs. The winners will control annual budgets of billions of shillings.

ODM postponed its primaries in the capital Nairobi on Tuesday after youths stormed a store where ballot papers were held, claiming they wanted to prevent rigging, a party spokesman said.

The ruling Jubilee party annulled the results of its primary elections in several counties on Friday after widespread protests over shortages of voting materials. The party started repeating them on Monday.

President Uhuru Kenyatta is running for a second and final five-year term for Jubilee. The main opposition coalition, bringing together Odinga and four others leaders, was expected to name its candidate later this week.

Macharia Munene, a professor of international relations at USIU-Africa university in Nairobi, said the violence in primaries was being sponsored by corrupt politicians.

“There is a linkage between corruption and violence,” he said. “Refusing to accept honest results – that’s corruption.”

(Additional reporting by Humphrey Malalo and George Obulutsa in Nairobi; writing by Duncan Miriri; Editing by Tom Heneghan)

Zimbabwe – Grace Mugabe blocks Kasukuwere investigation meeting

news24 WIRE/allAfrica

Photo: The Herald

Zanu-PF political Commissar and Local Government minister, Saviour Kasukuwere.

President Robert Mugabe’s wife Grace has reportedly told five top Zanu-PF officials, who are investigating the party’s embattled political commissar Saviour Kasukuwere, to call off a meeting in Bindura, after it emerged that rival party factions were planning on disrupting it.

Last month, News24 reported that close to 1 500 placard-carrying demonstrators had marched in Bindura, Mashonaland Central Province’s provincial capital, demanding that Mugabe wield the axe on Kasukuwere.

Some leaders of the protest accused Kasukuwere of harbouring presidential ambitions and plotting behind Mugabe’s back, with a view to take over power from him.

One of the provincial leaders, John Ngwenya, told the protesters who were carrying a coffin with Kasukuwere’s pictures stuck on it, that the local government minister had overstayed his welcome as a cabinet minister and senior party official.

Another provincial leader, Chantelle Mbereko, was quoted as saying that Kasukuwere had grabbed a number of unnamed mines and had parceled out residential stands to his relatives, despite the stands having been provided for Zanu-PF youths.

Reports have said that the Mashonaland central province was the first to pass a vote of no confidence in Kasukuwere, before it eventual spread to other provinces.

This reportedly triggered President Mugabe to deploy a high-powered Zanu-PF delegation last week to investigate circumstances that caused the province to pass a vote of no confidence in Kasukuwere.

The task team was made up of Zanu-PF secretary of administration Ignatius Chombo, Defence Minister Sydney Sekeramayi, State Security Minister Kembo Mohadi, Women’s League commissar Marble Chinomona, and Senate President Edna Madzongwe.

According to NewsDay, unnamed sources said that Grace had called Chombo over the weekend to call off a meeting scheduled for Sunday, after some politburo members and legislators from the province threatened to disrupt it.

This was after it emerged that the politburo members did not trust Chombo, as he was seen as being sympathetic to Kasukuwere.

“The province raised issues with the First Lady. (Kenneth) Musanhi has direct contact with Grace, so he advised her that the province does not trust Chombo. Grace had to instruct Chombo to call off the meeting,” the unnamed source was quoted as saying.

Meanwhile, according to the state-owned Herald newspaper, Mashonaland Central Provincial Affairs Minister Martin Dinha had said that the directive came from Chombo, as some members of the task team were not available to attend.

The paper quoted Dinha as saying that they wanted the handling of the accusations against Kasukuwere to be dealt with expeditiously.

He added that the meeting had been rescheduled to Wednesday.

“We received advice from the secretary for administration [Chombo] that we will reconvene on Wednesday. Some of the politburo members who were supposed to attend were committed elsewhere. As the head of the province I want the issue to be dealt with expeditiously,” Dinha was quoted as saying.

South Africa – Police Minister warns former Hawks boss he is coming for him

News24

 2017-04-25 16:28
Fikile Mbalula (File, Netwerk24)

Fikile Mbalula (File, Netwerk24)

Pretoria – “General Ntlemeza, you must know I am coming for you. You are working 24-hours to do an illegal operation… I’m going to unleash the law.”

This was the fiery warning from Police Minister Fikile Mbalula at a press conference on Wednesday.

Mbalula was briefing the media on his strategic plan to wage war against crime.

But it was questions on former hawks boss Berning Ntlemeza that stirred the minister’s anger.

On Monday, Ntlemeza reported for duty, despite a High Court ruling that his appointment was invalid and should be set aside. He left with a state-issued car and cellphone. Mbalula threatened to issue an arrest warrant, and Ntlemeza later returned the car.

On Tuesday, Mbalula told reporters that there were certain Hawks officials meeting in safe houses with Ntlemeza to plot against him.

“I’m aware about operations, working in safe houses to undertake an operation on the minister of police. I’m aware and I’m coming for them,” he said.

Rogue Hawks elements

An impassioned Mbalula warned these rogue Hawks elements that he would not allow resources to be invested in illegal operations.

“I am going to act. I’m not going to allow rogueness to happen in this country, willy nilly,” he said.

He said Ntlemeza’s legal counsels were “voodoo lawyers” who used provocative language to manipulate the media.

“If he thinks he is entitled to come to work, tell him to come now. He will not see me, but he will see me in terms of the law. I’m very clear about it. There is no beef between us… We must respect the law.”

Mbalula said he would not allow Ntlemeza to blackmail him, and that only the African National Congress could stop him from exercising his mandate.

“A smart cop acts quietly, not through press conferences… I owe Ntlemeza nothing. He never did me any favours. I’ve served this country. I’ve served my organisation to the best of my ability. It’s only the ANC that can tell me you are now out of line… I owe no policeman a favour. I’m here to work with them and, if possible, let’s play golf.”

He said he would wait for the courts before making any decisions against acting national police commissioner Lieutenant-General Khomotso Phahlane, who is under investigation for his lavish lifestyle.

Mbalula, however, said that it was concerning that so much scandal surrounded a high ranking police official.

“The minister will not defend any wrongdoing. Once evidence has been tested and found that there is authenticity, the minister will not defend any wrongdoing by whoever is in the police service. It is worrisome when one of our own at the helm of the police is receiving such accusations. We must follow the law,” he said.