Category Archives: Africa – International

Cameroon – revolt by English-speakers indicates wider opposition to Biya

Institute for Security Studies (Tshwane)

23 Feb 2017 <!––>  /  by Liesl Louw-Vaudran

For three activists from western Cameroon who joined a call for the recognition of their linguistic preferences, last week didn’t bring any good news. The lawyer, teacher and journalist have been locked up since mid-January, and their case before a military tribunal was again suspended on 13 February, to 23 March. Cameroonian jails are notorious for not being easy on their inmates.

The arrests of Agbor Balla, Fontem Neba and Mancho Bibissi came amid a crackdown against Cameroonians from the Anglophone regions who participated in anti-government protests these past few weeks. The three, who are among at least 100 people arrested, are charged with sabotage, terrorism and inciting secessionism and civil war – charges that could carry the death penalty.

Meanwhile, the Internet in northwest and southwest Cameroon, the two affected Anglophone regions of the country (out of a total of 10), has been cut off completely for over a month. This decision is estimated to be costing the country US$1.39 million. The organisation Access Now has appealed to the Internet service providers to ignore a directive by the government in Yaoundé and to re-establish the connections.

The Cameroon Anglophone Civil Society Consortium, a well-known rights group, has also been banned since civil society groups and students took to the streets in mid-November last year; and local independent media have been shut down. The protest action was marked by violent clashes between stone-throwing youths and the police, as well as stay-aways and boycotts.

The main gripe of these groups is that the bilingual principle enshrined in the constitution is not respected. Instead, English-speakers feel they are forced to assimilate and accept what the predominantly Francophone majority dictates.

The crisis has historical roots. Cameroon went from being a German colony, to two separate colonial territories ruled by France and Britain after World War I up until independence in 1960. Following a plebiscite in 1961, the British part was reunited with the French Cameroon. The Francophone authorities that have ruled the country since then have pursued a centralised system of government after a brief period of federalism that officially ended in 1972, following a referendum.

Teachers and students say that the central government should send Anglophone rather than French-speaking teachers to schools in the two regions where English dominates. Lawyers also complain that the British Common Law, used in British Cameroon during colonial times, should be maintained in the region. The use of French in the administration limits access and discriminates against those who speak English, they argue.

Some analysts also emphasise that the revolt in the northwest is symptomatic of a larger problem of governance and a state characterised by corruption and inertia. Between 2000 and 2009, northerners – predominantly Muslims – also complained of marginalisation and the absence of the state.

In 2008, protests against soaring food prices rocked the country, as it did periodically since the 1990s. This also led to a violent crackdown by the government.

‘There have been many missed opportunities by the government to handle this issue adequately,’ says Fonteh Akum, a senior researcher at the Institute for Security Studies, who has previously written on the Anglophone zones in Cameroon.

Attempts at implementing a federal system where Anglophones would have their own courts with effective administrative decentralisation have been undermined by ‘irresponsibility and corruption,’ he says. A decentralisation framework already exists, but has been selectively implemented.

‘The government initially argued   that this was a non–issue and that these are secessionists. They refused to acknowledge that Anglophones have legitimate claims,’

Cameroonian scholar Achille Mbembe points out that the claims by Anglophones started as linguistic and cultural, but have become far more political. ‘They don’t feel there is a place for them in this centralised state,’ Mbembe, a professor at the University of the Witwatersrand in South Africa, told ISS Today.

Anglophones are treated like second-class citizens who don’t benefit from the oil revenues that are situated in their region. Very few important government positions are occupied by Anglophones. ‘There has never been an Anglophone minister of defence or finance. People complain that the administration doesn’t speak their language’.

However, Mbembe says the calls for secession by civil society groups and on social media is ‘very dangerous’. These started in the mid-1990s, with the first call for secession by the Southern Cameroon National Council. ‘The cost of secession is just too great,’ says Mbembe, who believes that Africa should move towards greater pan-Africanism instead of dividing in small ‘micro-states’.

He says the regime of President Paul Biya, who has been in power for 35 years, is characterised by ‘inertia, indifference and abandonment’.

Opinions differ as to how much support there is for the Anglophone cause in the rest of Cameroon. Some say that in the initial stages of the protests, Francophone Cameroonians supported the calls by trade unions and students. These were seen as legitimate. However this sympathy has waned due to some radical views – expressed on social media – that a ‘genocide’ is being planned against western Cameroonians. The majority Francophone inhabitants also reject the secessionist claims.

Yet there have also been expressions of solidarity with the Anglophone cause countrywide. Following the African Cup of Nations victory by the Cameroonian Lions last month, goalkeeper Fabrice Ondoa, who is Francophone from Yaoundé, dedicated the African Cup to ‘our brothers from Bamenda’ [the capital of northwestern Cameroon]. ‘We need a united Cameroon,’ he said in a message widely circulated on social media. ‘I am from Bamenda, for you,’ he concluded in English.

Thus far, there has been little reaction from the international community. The African Union (AU), apart from one statement expressing concern over the situation, hasn’t been involved in any efforts to calm the situation in western Cameroon. It is likely that the AU is adopting a wait-and-see attitude, and will only act if the situation worsens.

What matters most to the international community is that Cameroon remains stable and continues to be part of the global fight against terrorism. (The government has joined forces with Nigeria, Chad and Niger to root out Boko Haram.)

For now, the instability, characterised by various waves of contestation, is up to Cameroonians to handle. Biya (84) is set to stand for re-election next year – and the expectation is that he will win another mandate, despite the growing popular displeasure with his rule.

Liesl Louw-Vaudran, ISS Consultant

South Sudan – EU pledges $82m in emergency famine aid

Sudan Tribuneseparation

February 22, 2017 (JUBA) – The European Commission has announced an emergency aid worth €82 million in the wake of the declaration of famine outbreak in South Sudan.

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European flags are seen outside the European Commission headquarters in Brussels (Reuters Photo)

At least 100,000 people, aid agencies said, are facing starvation in parts of the country while 4.9 million of them need urgent humanitarian assistance.

“The humanitarian tragedy in South Sudan is entirely man made. Urgent action is needed to prevent more people from dying of hunger. I have seen for myself the impact of this crisis when visiting South Sudan and neighbouring countries such as Uganda, and I’m ready to return to the region,” the EU Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management, Christos Stylianides said in a statement.

“Crucially what matters is that all parties allow humanitarian organisations to have immediate and full access to do their job and deliver aid. Ultimately it is only by laying down arms that the country can be rebuilt and that the hopes that came with independence can be fulfilled,” it adds.

The new EU humanitarian aid package will be used for the most urgent needs in the country and help neighbouring countries cope with the massive influx of refugees.

To date, the European Commission has reportedly made more than €381 million available to respond to the worsening humanitarian crisis in South Sudan since fighting erupted in December 2013 in areas such as health and nutrition, water, sanitation and hygiene interventions, education as well as shelter and protection.

The EU is one of the biggest donors of humanitarian aid in South Sudan, having provided over 40% of all humanitarian financing to support life-saving programmes in 2016.


South African economy – Gordhan budget should keep ratings agency at bay for now


2017-02-23 05:00 – Liesl Peyper

Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan ahead of his 2017 Budget. (Photo: Matthew le Cordeur)

Cape Town – Ratings agencies are likely to view Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan’s 2017 Budget Speech in a relatively neutral light, said Jeffrey Schultz, economist at BNP Paribas.

Although the Treasury managed to avoid further GDP growth downgrades (for the first time in six years) and stuck to its lowered expenditure ceilings announced in the medium-term budget policy statement last October, ratings agencies may be disappointed by the fact that South Africa will only have a budget surplus by the 2018/19 – a year later than what was promised in October.

“Undesirably, Treasury only now anticipates achieving a primary budget surplus of 0.2% of GDP by 2018/19 from an estimated deficit of -0.1% of GDP in 2017/18. Although the achievement of a primary surplus is still ultimately obtained over the medium-term, we believe ratings agencies will be disappointed that the finance ministry is kicking the can down the road in much the same way as its debt-to-GDP profile has evolved,” Schultz said.

Ratings agencies may also be underwhelmed by the lack of meaningful breakthroughs on much needed economic growth reform initiatives.

READ: Budget in a nutshell: Tough times ahead

“Instead the finance minister rather provided progress updates on the labour market (national minimum wage), mineral and land policy, the funding of higher education, the on-going review of business incentive programmes and the need to cut red tape to improve the ease of doing business – nothing new.”

Herman van Papendorp and Sanisha Packirisamy from Momentum Investments said rating agencies are likely to take comfort from the fact that government remains committed to fiscal consolidation.

“Nevertheless, unfavourable economic conditions and the absence of bolder reform efforts could still, in our view, lead to a downgrade by the end of the year as downtrodden business and investor confidence continues to hinder SA’s longer-term growth prospects, leaving South Africa’s fiscal and debt metrics susceptible to adverse shocks.”

They also believe that disparaging political developments could tarnish the rating agencies’ view of SA’s institutional framework.

Not so radical 

Christie Viljoen, economist at KPMG, said Gordhan’s address eased some concerns about how “radical” the “radical socio-economic transformation” would be.

In his speech, Gordhan said he agrees with President Jacob Zuma that a new perspective on economic transformation is needed. He emphasised though that sound public finances, the health of South Africa’s financial institutions and investment-grade credit ratings are also valued elements in the sustainability and integrity of the country’s transformation path.

“The minister’s speech showed that the National Treasury is still steering the fiscal ship towards consolidation,” Viljoen said, “and the only comment that could maybe seen as somewhat radical (in a local political context) is the commitment by the minister to not only increase competition in monopolised private industries, but to also endeavour for ‘greater private sector participation’ in sectors dominated by public enterprises.”

READ: Economic transformation more than just a slogan – Gordhan

The ruling party’s often referenced “developmental state” philosophy includes strong state intervention in and control over the economy, so Minister Gordhan’s statement on greater private participation is surprising. It would be good to see more detail or something more tangible about this potential change in policy, Viljoen said.

Gordhan has, with his 2017 Budget Speech, yet again demonstrated that there is a depth of fiscal management skills available within our Treasury department, which is able to respond to the challenges of the day, said Tandisizwe Mahlutshana, Executive of Marketing at PPS Investments.

Levelheaded Gordhan’s honest analysis 

“Although the bold pronouncements in this year’s budget may have a few panicking, the majority of South Africans stand to be net winners.”

This Budget Speech comes amid heightened political tensions and infighting within the ruling party, which appear to have a direct impact on the future of National Treasury, and ultimately on the finance minister himself Mahlutshana said.

“However, Gordhan’s levelheadedness ensured that the country is not deprived of its right to hear an honest analysis of where we are economically and our government’s strategies to move the country forward.”

* Visit our Budget Special for all the budget news and in-depth analysis.

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South Africa – dysfunctional state’s day of reckon ing coming, says US expert


Feb 23 2017 08:24

Matthew le Cordeur

President Jacob Zuma in the National Assembly on Thursday night. (Screen grab from SABC)

Cape Town – South Africa’s day of reckoning with international rating agencies is coming as a result of President Jacob Zuma, who “ushered in a kleptocracy that’s now reached deep into his entire administration, barring the Treasury”.

That’s the view of Eurasia Group president Ian Bremmer and author of Time magazine’s list of the world’s top geopolitical risks, who visited South Africa in February on a fact-finding mission.

Bremmer placed South Africa in 10th place on the Times risk list, an alarming position to be in considering the various tensions rising around the world.

An influential Wall Street adviser based in New York, Bremmer is a leading political scientist specialising in US foreign policy, states in transition and global political risk.

In an email to investors, analysts and economists around the world, Bremmer said he “encountered one of the most dysfunctional governments in the emerging market space right now”.

Zuma is ‘functionally illiterate on economics’

“President Jacob Zuma is an exceptionally savvy political tactician but functionally illiterate on economics,” said Bremmer.

“And he’s ushered in a kleptocracy that’s now reached deep into his entire administration, barring the Treasury.

“That they’ve managed to forestall credit downgrades is surprising, but the day of reckoning is coming, especially as the political pressures around Zuma mount.”

He pointed to hope in the form of Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, but said it seems he doesn’t have enough votes within the African National Congress (ANC) to make his rise to the presidency a reality.

“There’s an eclectic but significant alliance forming around … Ramaphosa to take over the leadership of the … ANC party in December, with big business, the country’s trade unions, and the communists all hoping for an alternative to Zuma’s corruption.

“Ramaphosa certainly holds the moral high ground among party members, but that doesn’t count for much in the party’s internal elections, which will see some violence and is likely to be about brown envelopes rather than policy positions.

“At least for now, it doesn’t look like Ramaphosa has the votes inside the ANC.”

Glimmer of hope

However, Bremmer offered a sense of hope.

“Still, that doesn’t mean the wheels are about to fall off South Africa,” he said.

“There’s a rich talent base in the country – only about 20% of South Africa’s whites left the country post-apartheid, and the elite labour pool is now reasonably well mixed between black and white.

“Further, South Africa’s economy is no longer dominated by commodities, but instead has diversified towards infrastructure, services and information technology, all of which bodes well for a comparatively inexpensive and high quality-of-life destination.

“Education remains poor and immigration is limited (mostly because of spotty execution on visas rather than the policies themselves), which limits the upside, but you already see South Africa, on Europe’s time zone, becoming a more attractive back office destination for European firms.”

Africa’s rise is also good news for South Africa.

“As Africa itself continues to grow, the base for diversified firms continues to be South Africa,” said Bremmer.

“Especially because the larger African markets – Egypt and Nigeria – are otherwise unattractive as destinations for regional hubs.

“For increased consumption and infrastructure, Africa overall will still see moderate to high growth. Companies that plan on expanding investments accordingly will mostly situate themselves in South Africa.”

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UN asks f9or $4bn for famine relief in Africa and Yemen


By Rodrigo Campos | UNITED NATIONS

UNITED NATIONS More than $4 billion is needed by the end of March to help nearly 20 million people who risk starvation in Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen, United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres said on Wednesday.

Citing armed conflicts and climate change as part of the reasons for the food emergency, Guterres led a call for $5.6 billion in funding for humanitarian operations in the four countries this year, of which $4.4 billion are needed by the end of next month “to avert a catastrophe.”

“Despite some generous pledges, just $90 million has actually been received so far,” said Guterres, about two cents for every dollar needed.

“We are in the beginning of the year but these numbers are very worrying.”

Armed conflicts are having devastating humanitarian consequences, said Guterres, calling climate change a “key enhancer” of the humanitarian problem.

Last week, the U.N. World Food Programme’s chief economist told Reuters more than 20 million people in the four countries were at risk of dying from starvation within six months.

U.N. chief Guterres said Wednesday women and girls are disproportionately affected by the crisis and nearly half a million children are suffering severe acute malnutrition.

“Famine is already a reality in parts of South Sudan,” Guterres said. “Unless we act now, it is only a matter of time until it affects other areas and other countries. We are facing a tragedy.”

Yemen, where more than 10,000 people have died as part of a two-year-long conflict, is facing the largest food insecurity emergency in the world, Guterres said, with an estimated 7.3 million people needing immediate help.

Earlier on Wednesday, a senior U.N official said more than seven million people face starvation in Nigeria’s insurgency-hit northeastern region and around Lake Chad.

(Reporting by Rodrigo Campos; Editing by James Dalgleish)

Nigeria – Buhari calls Kano governor

Premium Times

Buhari calls Kano Governor during prayer session

Senate President, Bukola Saraki and Speaker, House of Representatives meet President Muhammadu Buhari in London

Senate President, Bukola Saraki and Speaker, House of Representatives meet President Muhammadu Buhari in London

President Muhammadu Buhari on Wednesday made a phone call to the Kano State Governor, Abdullahi Ganduje, to thank the people of the state who had gathered to pray for the quick recovery of the president, an official said.

The governor, who organised the special prayer gathering at Government House, Kano, asked the president how he was feeling as soon as he picked the call.

“I’m much better now and I thank you for the prayers and indeed the entire Nigerians”, Mr. Buhari said in a call placed on speakerphone near the hall’s microphone and heard by everyone in the hall.

Governor Ganduje then told the President that he was being overhead by those offering prayers for him, to which Mr. Buhari responded by expressing happiness and gratitude.

Mr. Buhari has been in the UK for over 30 days for health reasons. His spokesperson recently said the president was asked to take a bed rest based on results of some medical tests conducted.

The presidency has not given any date for Mr. Buhari’s return.

The Kano government sponsored Wednesday’s special prayers including the recitation of the Quran for the speedy recovery of the president.

The event, which was conducted at the Africa House of the Government House, drew Islamic clerics from different sects including Izalat, Tijjaniyya and Qaddiriyya.

Before the commencement of the recitation of the Quran, the clerics offered special prayers, saying it is imperative for everyone to pray for the president.

Aminudeen Abubakar, the State Commandant of the Hisbah, said while offering his prayers that regardless of one’s religion, a leader deserves his followers’ prayers.

Kabirullah Kabara, the leader of Qaddiriyya, said they would continue to pray till the president fully recovers.

Among those present during the prayers were the state’s deputy governor, Hafiz Abubakar, commissioners, state lawmakers and party stalwarts.

Governor Ganduje said President Buhari needs the prayers of Nigerians for quick recovery.

Mr. Ganduje said the fight against corruption started by the president was gaining momentum.

Gambia – Jammeh’s spy boss linked to killings and torture is arrested

Al Jazeera

Gambia arrests ex-intelligence boss linked to abuse

Spy chief Yankuba Badjie has been accused of overseeing kidnappings, arbitrary arrests, torture, killings and rape.

Barrow has promised to end human rights abuses in the country during his inauguration on Saturday [Reuters]

Police in The Gambia have arrested the country’s former head of the national intelligence agency and his deputy, both accused of overseeing killings, kidnappings, arbitrary arrests, torture and rape during their time in office.

Spy chief Yankuba Badjie and director of operations Sheikh Omar Jeng were detained on Monday and being investigated for potential abuses of power, spokesman Foday Conta told the DPA news agency on Wednesday.

The arrests were part of new President Adama Barrow’s attempts to re-establish democracy in the small West African nation, a police spokesman said.

Opinion: Gambia, a lesson for African dictators

Badjie took over at the intelligence agency in 2013, with Jeng as his deputy.

According to rights group Human Rights Watch, the state intelligence as well as government paramilitary forces targeted journalists, political opponents and the LGBT community over a period of two decades under the rule of longtime President Yahya Jammeh.

In January 2015, the former government was also accused of forcible disappearances of friends and relatives of coup plotters, including elderly people and at least one minor.

READ MORE: Gambians ready to rebuild their country \’from scratch\’

Barrow has released dozens of opposition activists from prison since replacing Jammeh last month.

Jammeh caused weeks of political impasse by refusing to accept the result of the December presidential election.

International pressure, including the threat of a regional military intervention, led Jammeh on January 21 to finally accept his election defeat and fly into exile in Equatorial Guinea.

Hundreds of thousands welcomed Barrow’s return to Gambia days later.

Barrow has pledged to reverse Jammeh’s repressive policies and promised to keep The Gambia in the International Criminal Court and rejoin the Commonwealth.

Source: News agencies