Rwanda genocide: 100 days of MASS slaughter

In just 100 days in 1994, some 800,000 people were slaughtered in Rwanda by ethnic Hutu extremists. They were targeting members of the minority Tutsi community, as well as their political opponents, irrespective of their ethnic origin.

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Why did the Hutu militias want to kill the Tutsis?

About 85% of Rwandans are Hutus but the Tutsi minority has long dominated the country. In 1959, the Hutus overthrew the Tutsi monarchy and tens of thousands of Tutsis fled to neighbouring countries, including Uganda. A group of Tutsi exiles formed a rebel group, the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), which invaded Rwanda in 1990 and fighting continued until a 1993 peace deal was agreed.

On the night of 6 April 1994 a plane carrying then President Juvenal Habyarimana, and his counterpart Cyprien Ntaryamira of Burundi – both Hutus – was shot down, killing everyone on board. Hutu extremists blamed the RPF and immediately started a well-organised campaign of slaughter. The RPF said the plane had been shot down by Hutus to provide an excuse for the genocide.

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How was the genocide carried out?

With meticulous organisation. Lists of government opponents were handed out to militias who went and killed them, along with all of their families. Neighbours killed neighbours and some husbands even killed their Tutsi wives, saying they would be killed if they refused. At the time, ID cards had people’s ethnic group on them, so militias set up roadblocks where Tutsis were slaughtered, often with machetes which most Rwandans kept around the house. Thousands of Tutsi women were taken away and kept as sex slaves.

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French forces in Rwanda were accused of not doing enough to stop the killing. Photo: AFP

Did anyone try to stop it?

The UN and Belgium had forces in Rwanda but the UN mission was not given a mandate to stop the killing. A year after US troops were killed in Somalia, the US was determined not to get involved in another African conflict. The Belgians and most UN peacekeepers pulled out after 10 Belgian soldiers were killed. The French, who were allies of the Hutu government, sent a force to set up a supposedly safe zone but were accused of not doing enough to stop the slaughter in that area. Rwanda’s current president has accused France of taking part in the massacres – a charge denied by Paris.

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Clothes of people killed in the Nyamata Church, which has been turned into a memorial. Photo: AFP

Why was it so vicious?

Rwanda has always been a tightly controlled society, organised like a pyramid from each district up to the top of government. The then governing party, MRND, had a youth wing called the Interahamwe, which was turned into a militia to carry out the slaughter. Weapons and hit-lists were handed out to local groups, who knew exactly where to find their targets.

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The skulls and bone of some of those killed in Nyamata church. Photo: AFP

The Hutu extremists set up radio stations and newspapers which broadcast hate propaganda, urging people to “weed out the cockroaches” meaning kill the Tutsis. The names of those to be killed were read out on radio. Even priests and nuns have been convicted of killing people, including some who sought shelter in churches.

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The Uganda-backed RPF took the capital in July, ending the killing of Tutsis. Photo: AFP

How did it end?

The well-organised RPF, backed by Uganda’s army, gradually seized more territory, until 4 July, when its forces marched into the capital, Kigali. Some two million Hutus – both civilians and some of those involved in the genocide – then fled across the border into DR Congo, at that time called Zaire, fearing revenge attacks.

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Some two million people fled into DR Congo (then Zaire). Photo: AFP

Human rights groups say the RPF killed thousands of Hutu civilians as they took power – and more after they went into DR Congo to pursue the Interahamwe. The RPF denies this. In DR Congo, thousands died from cholera, while aid groups were accused of letting much of their assistance fall into the hands of the Hutu militias.

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What happened in DR Congo?

The genocide in Rwanda has directly led to two decades of unrest in DR Congo, which have cost the lives of an estimated five million people. Rwanda’s government, now run by the RPF, has twice invaded DR Congo, accusing its much larger neighbour of letting the Hutu militias operate on its territory. Rwanda has also armed local Congolese Tutsi forces. In response, some locals have formed self-defence groups and the civilians of eastern DR Congo have paid the price.

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Rwanda is one of Africa’s fast-growing economies. Photo: AFP

What is Rwanda like now?

RPF leader and President, Paul Kagame, has been hailed for overseeing rapid economic growth in the tiny country. He has also tried to turn Rwanda into a technological hub and is very active on Twitter. But his critics say he does not tolerate dissent and several opponents have met unexplained deaths. Almost two million people were tried in local courts for their role in the genocide and the ring-leaders at a UN tribunal in neighbouring Tanzania. It is now illegal to talk about ethnicity in Rwanda – the government says this is to prevent more bloodshed but some say it prevents true reconciliation and is just putting a lid on tensions, which will only boil over again in the future.


SOURCE: BBC Africa/Rwandan Times/Agencies

Breast Ironing

Breast ironing: the Silent archaic African practice for the “Good of Girls”

By Kylie Kiunguyu


Breast ironing, a traditional practice commonly done in Cameroon, is the use of hard or heated objects like a wooden pestle or scalding grinding stones to stop or slow the development of breasts in young girls, supposedly to “protect them from sexual harassment, rape and early pregnancy”.

Breast Ironing


Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) stands as one of the most horrific forms of injustice done to young girls on the continent. Its effects and consequences are well known and activists are hopeful that the world will see the end of the practice within a generation. But there are other harmful forms of mutilation that African girls face under the guise of protection and the preservation of virtue. Unlike the highly publicised FGM, which claims to ensure cleanliness and better marriage prospects, prevent promiscuity and preserve virginity, breast ironing is a silent practice done to combat the scourge of gender-based violence. However, like FGM, breast-ironing has been identified by the UN as one of five under-reported crimes relating to gender-based violence.

According to Wikipedia, breast ironing is typically carried out by the girl’s mother to ‘protect’ the girl from sexual harassment and rape, prevent early pregnancy that would tarnish the family name and allow the girl to pursue education rather than be forced into early marriage.

Breast ironing is mostly practiced in parts of Cameroon, where the perception by boys and men is that if a girls breasts have begun to grow’, she is ready for sex. The most widely used implement for breast ironing is a wooden pestle normally used for pounding tubers. This is followed by leaves, bananas, coconut shells, grinding stones, ladles, spatulas, and hammers heated over coals.

The practice has also been reported across West and Central Africa, in Benin, Chad, Ivory Coast, Guinea-Bissau, Guinea-Conakry, Kenya, Togo and lower down in Zimbabwe.

Modern Reasons

One wonders what place such an unnatural practice would have in a modern, enlightened African society. Breast ironing in recent times has been accredited to the earlier onset of puberty, caused by dietary improvements in Cameroon over the last 50 years. The mutilation is designed to make teenage girls look less “womanly” to deter unwanted male attention, which could lead to all the aforementioned consequences.

Statistics show that half of Cameroonian girls who develop under the age of nine have their breasts ironed, and 38% of those who develop under the age of 11. According to a 2011 German development agency GIZ report, one out of every 10 Cameroonian girls has been subjected to breast ironing.

Magdalena Randall-Schab, from the UK National Committee for UN Women, said to Express in 2015: “These violent acts are not only perpetrated by men on women, but by older generations of women on young girls. The issues therefore are quite complex as we are dealing with deep-seated cultural beliefs, but there is a need to help people to see that however well-intentioned they may believe their acts to be, they are acts of violence.”

The practice cuts across socio-economic barriers, but rather than use barbaric tools such as stones and hammers, the rich opt to use an elastic belt to compress the developing breasts, thus preventing them from growing.

The website of London-based charity Women’s and Girl’s Development Organisation (Cawogido) states: “Breast ironing is a well-kept secret between the young girl and her mother. Often the father remains completely unaware. The girl believes that what her mother is doing is for her own good and she keeps silent. This silence perpetuates the phenomenon and all of its consequences.”

Health Consequences

Breast ironing is extremely painful and can cause tissue damage. Even though there have been no medical studies on its effects, medical experts warn it might contribute to breast cancer, cysts, depression, and perhaps interfere with breastfeeding later in life.

Other possible side-effects reported by the German development agency GIZ include breast infections, formation of abscesses, malformed breasts and the complete stunting of one or both breasts. Due to the range in the severity of the practice, from using heated leaves to press and massage the breasts, to using scalding grinding stones to crush the budding gland, health consequences vary from benign to acute.

Eradication

Unfortunately, because of the highly clandestine nature of the practice and that it is perpetuated by women in their family settings, eradication would be difficult.

There is no known law against breast ironing, despite efforts by survivors and rights agencies to get the governments to ban the practice. Additionally, no one has been arrested or convicted in Cameroon for breast ironing despite the over 4 million victims.

Read: Fighting violence against women and patriarchy: Leave no one behind

A GIZ survey found that 39% of Cameroonian women opposed breast ironing, with 41 percent expressing support and 26% being indifferent. This indicates that the best bet for eradication is education. A UNICEF report indicates that the motives behind the practice are obviously ineffective as flattened breasts have not reduced the rate of teenage pregnancies and rape incidents. The report states that 38% of children in Cameroon are married by their 18th birthday; that more than a quarter of adolescent girls are mothers; and 20% of them drop out of school after getting pregnant.

Making this information widely known in the countries and communities where the practice is done, as well as stressing the heavy physical and psychological consequences, may begin an upward trend towards eradication.

Speaking about the less commonly known forms of gender-based violence, well intentioned or not, will mean a future where Africa’s daughters are not taught to be quiet as they are mutilated and tortured for tradition or as some kind of convoluted protection. Society’s refusal to lay the burden of sexual and gender-based violence solely with the perpetrators is the reason young female victims suffer tenfold.

The fact that young girls experience torture and mutilation in anticipation of possible gender violence is an indication that patriarchy must end, not just for the good of woman kind but for the betterment of all mankind.

“Don’t teach your daughters to be careful, teach your sons not to rape!”


SOURCE: This is Africa (Hilversum)

Osun state. Photo: Twitter/aufaregbesola

Imo is most educated state in Nigeria as Osun, Ekiti rated most peaceful

The Nigerian Peace Index Report has indicated that Osun, Kogi, Ekiti Kwara and Imo states are the five most peaceful states in Nigeria while Yobe, Kebbi, Bauchi, Zamfara and Sokoto are the least peaceful states.

Osun state. Photo: Twitter/aufaregbesola
Osun state. Photo: Twitter/aufaregbesola

The research, conducted by Foundation for Peace Professionals, also revealed that the South East has the highest number of higher education institutions in the country with Imo State rated to be the most educated state.

Osun is the most peaceful state, followed by Kogi, Ekiti, Kwara and Imo state. Akwa Ibom was rated most peaceful state in the South South, Kaduna in the North West, Kogi in the North Central, Osun in the South West, Imo in the South East and Taraba in the North East.

Lagos state has the least poverty rate, Zamfara, the least crime, Ekiti, the least incarceration rates and Taraba, the least human right abuses.

Executive Director of the Foundation, Abdulrazaq Hamzat, during the Media Launch of the Research Project yesterday, disclosed that data was collected between 2010-2016, an average of which was used for the report.


SOURCE: The Guardian, Nigeria

‘The wars will never end’ – millions flee bloodshed as Congo falls apart

Starving and sick, people living in the Democratic Republic of Congo are caught in a bloody cycle of violence and political turmoil.


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A 22-old rebel soldier, wounded and now dying, in a hospital in Masisi, DRC. Photo: Jason Burke for the Guardian

Justin Kapitu is dying. He does not know it yet, and the doctors treating the 22-year-old rebel fighter are unlikely to tell him soon, but his chances of surviving more than a few months are virtually non-existent.

Kapitu was wounded in a clash between his rebel group and a rival faction in December. Even in the remote green forested valleys and hills of the far east of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where the battle took place, few paid much attention. Such scrappy, bloody confrontations have become an almost daily occurrence.

Bullets shattered Kapitu’s right arm and damaged his intestines. Emaciated and traumatised, he is being treated at the single hospital serving the half million inhabitants of Masisi territory, about a thousand miles east of Kinshasa, the capital.

Kapitu weighs only 30kg (4st 7lb), is in constant pain and can absorb just a fifth of the nutritional value of the small amount of food he can ingest. Abandoned by his former comrades, he is unsure of the whereabouts of his family.

“I was just a foot soldier so I don’t really know why we were fighting,” he said. “There are lots of reasons I think …. I don’t think the wars here will ever stop. They will probably get worse.”

Kapitu’s analysis is shared by many. The vast central African country has been hit by waves of violence, rebellions, protests and political turmoil in recent months, leading to worries about a new civil war like that which killed five million people between 1997 and 2003.

Across the country the security situation has deteriorated markedly as government authority has collapsed, emboldening rival militia groups who hold sway over large areas of territory, often competing for the DRC’s rich resources.

The president, Joseph Kabila, is desperately clinging to power as various groups and individuals use violence to gain cash, territory and support before possible elections later this year.

I don’t really know why we were fighting … I don’t think the wars here will ever stop

Justin Kapitu

The humanitarian situation is dire. More than 13 million Congolese need humanitarian aid, twice as many as last year, and 7.7 million face severe food insecurity, up 30% from a year ago, the United Nations said in March. Many humanitarian officials complain that global attention has been diverted to more heavily reported crises in the Middle East.

More than 4.5 million people are displaced, the highest number in the DRC for more than 20 years, latest figures show. There are outbreaks of cholera. The fighting is, as Kapitu feared, getting worse.

In recent weeks, thousands of army soldiers attacked villages across the province of North Kivu, where rebel groups are based. Around the town of Beni, DRC’s army is fighting an Islamist-inspired militia blamed for killing 14 UN peacekeepersin November, the worst loss of life in a single incident for the organisation for 25 years. Dozens have died in frequent ambushes and skirmishes.

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Tanzanian soldiers at an airbase in Dar es Salaam carry the coffin of a Tanzanian peacekeeper killed in DRC in November. Photo: -/AFP/Getty Images

Though Goma, the biggest city in the east, remains calm, militias have clashed with security forces on its outskirts. Elsewhere in the east, ethnic tensions have led to massacres. Around the town of Bunia, hundreds have died.

There have been fierce battles west of the town of Masisi, as government troops attacked the base of a powerful local warlord known as General Delta.

Among the more than 1.4 million forced from their homes in North Kivu province by the recent fighting is Baraka Buira, who fled with her brother and sister when armed men from one of the most powerful local militia attacked her village near the small town of Nyabiondo shortly after government troops launched an offensive against its bases three weeks ago.

Hidden among the trees, the 14-year-old watched as men were beaten and women dragged screaming into huts. Buira saw several corpses on the ground but believes her parents also fled. She is unaware of their whereabouts.

“We are suffering. This is our unhappiness,” said Buira, who carried her two smaller siblings for 48 hours to reach the relative safety of a camp for displaced people.

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Women carrying bags walk through the Kyala neighbourhood in Butembo, North Kivu province. More than 1.4 million people have been forced from their homes there. Photo: Eduardo Soteras/AFP/Getty Images

The camp has no water and no food distribution since aid organisations withdrew from the region citing growing insecurity months ago. A family has allowed Buira to share their makeshift shack, but can provide little else.

One of the few international NGOs still working in the area is Médecins Sans Frontières. It supports, among other projects, a hospital with more than 300 beds at Masisi, where 17,000 people received care in 2017, a health centre in Nyabiondo, a network of mobile clinics and a fleet of ambulances. The work is increasingly dangerous. In the last two months, MSF personnel and vehicles have been attacked five times.

Logistics pose enormous challenges too. It can take an entire day to drive the 60km from Goma to Masisi on muddy dirt tracks. There are no paved roads and many remote communities can only be reached by motorbike, some only after days walking on forest tracks. Patients regularly die when roads are cut by landslides, torrential rains or fighting.

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“The problem is that a volatile situation like we have now means people need us more than ever, but makes reaching them harder,” said Sebastien Teissier, who leads the MSF project at Masisi.

The crises have been exacerbated by an absence of international forces. The United Nations mission in the DRC is the largest and most expensive peacekeeping effort, but five UN bases near Masisi were shut last year, following a US-led push to cut costs.

Major Adil Esserhir, a spokesman for the UN peacekeepers, said the force was now “more agile”. “We have had to do the same work with less resources. The problem we are facing as a military [force] is that we must give a solution to a problem that is not military,” he said.

Meanwhile the country has been roiled by protests, often bloodily repressed, since Kabila’s second electoral mandate expired 15 months ago. A rebellion in central provinces cost thousands of lives last year and there have been a series of mass prison breaks.

“There is a lack of political will to crack down on the militia … The only way this regime can keep power is to maintain a situation which allows them to keep pillaging. Each armed group can be tied to an official in Kinshasa, either in government or in the army,” said Fidel Bafilenda, an analyst in Goma.

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Displaced Congolese push a boat out over Lake Albert to escape to Uganda, fleeing inter-communal violence. Photo: John Wessels/AFP/Getty Images

Senior officials admit the problem.

“This is a country where anyone can exploit a militia. I can’t deny that there are contacts between politicians and the [armed] groups but there’s no proof that they are financing them. We are a young democracy,” said Julien Paluko, the governor of North Kivu.

Paluko, a Kabilia loyalist, blamed “an absence of state authority” for the problems in North Kivu, which lies more than 1,000 miles east of Kinshasa. The army and police are demoralised, corrupt and poorly trained. An economic downturn and soaring prices have hit salaries.

“Where there is no police, army or justice system, it’s the law of the jungle. We have to do better. We have had some difficult times but we’ve made a lot of progress too,” he said.

The renewed fighting has meant a wave of sexual violence.

Whenever there is fighting there is systematic rape – in villages, at checkpoints on roads, wherever

Anastasia Icyizanye

Anastasia Icyizanye, an MSF health worker working in Nyabiondo, said fighters from one armed group raped 60 women in January when it seized a village market. MSF say they have recorded twice as many incidents of sexual violence each month in 2018 compared to last year.

“Whenever there is fighting there is systematic rape – in villages, at checkpoints on roads, wherever,” Icyizanye said.

DRC observers are particularly fearful of the growing tension between ethnic communities. Despite fertile soil and plentiful water, there is fierce competition for land in the heavily populated green hills above Lake Kivu, as well as for lucrative mines where gold, coltan and other key commodities prized in the developed world are scratched from the ground by artisanal miners.

Leaders of the many local rebel groups say they are acting in self-defence.

“We are simply protecting our villages. When the government and its allies stop trying to force us off our land then we will stop fighting. Until then the wars will continue,” Colonel Faustin Misibaho, a senior officer in the Patriots’ Alliance for a Free and Sovereign Congo (APCLS) told the Guardian.36003

Many of the fighters are very young. Kapitu was 14 when he joined the rebels, seeking revenge after government soldiers killed his father and grandfather during a raid on their village.

“My group killed a lot of people. We were really feared and respected,” he said. “I don’t think about those I killed personally. Why should I? They wouldn’t think about me if it was the other way round.”


SOURCE: The Guardian, UK/ additional reporting by agencies

A crisis the world can no longer afford to ignore

ANALYSIS 


The numbers are hard to fathom. Nearly two million people driven from their homes in 2017 alone. The worst cholera epidemic of the past 15 years, with over 55,000 cases and more than 1,000 deaths. Countless others killed, maimed or sexually assaulted.

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Violence wracks Kinshasa as political process falters. Photo: Congo Research Group

The human costs of the ongoing crisis in the Democratic Republic of Congo are borne disproportionately by women and children, whose homes have been pillaged and burned, who are not in school and thus vulnerable to soldier recruitment, and who have now been left with almost nothing.

“These are not the same conflicts we have been seeing for the last twenty years.” –Jan Egeland

Charlotte Ukuba, 60, fled to Site Etat at Kikwit, Kwilu Province in the southwest of DR Congo.

“I’m living now outside with my eight children,” Ukuba told IPS. “My husband was killed last year by the Kamwina Nsapu’s violence in Kasai province. When I came here, I was living first in a church with other displaced persons. But last week, a pastor chased us away. I have no money and need clothes for my children.”

Her eldest daughter is suffering from malaria. “There are no drugs for this girl. I’m calling for help,” she added.

Violence broke out in Kasai in August 2016 following the uprising of local militia in Kasai Central. The crisis has been characterized by repeated clashes between militias and local security forces, which have subsequently generated inter-community conflicts.

Another displaced woman named Rose Thimbangula died at the age of 47 on Feb. 14 in Nzinda commune in Kikwit. The cause of death was tuberculosis complicated by fistula due to sexual violence. She had no money for medicine.

Dressed in a long black dress, Marie Ntumbala, 37, sleeps on the floor of a small room in Mweka, Kasai province. She is originally from a village called Tutando, 150 kilometers from Tshikapa, but was forced out by conflict. Ntumbala was fortunate enough to be taken in by a local family. But she says she is still living on the edge.

“When I’m ill, I can’t go to the hospital because I’m penniless. The Congolese government must help all the displaced persons in our country,” she said.

DR Congo has some 4.5 million internally displaced people, the largest number in Africa. Elections scheduled for 2017 were postponed to the end of this year, as political instability and clashes between soldiers and militias continues to escalate. An estimated 120 armed groups are operating in eastern DR Congo alone.

Humanitarian actors launched the largest ever funding appeal for the country this year, asking for 1.68 billion dollars to assist 10.5 million people. Only half of the 812.5 million dollars appealed for in 2017 was funded.

Brigitte Kishimana is 28 years old and six months pregnant. She lives at the Moni Site in Kalemi, Tanganyika province in the southeast. “I need prenatal care,” she said. “Several other pregnant women at the sites need it too. If not, their lives will be in danger. Last year, four displaced women died during pregnancy or childbirth,” she told IPS.

Georgette Bahire, a 45-year-old farmer in Sud-Kivu province, fled Lulumba village on June 29, 2017. Fighting between government soldiers and the Mai-Mai, an armed group, drove her from her land. She was taken in by a family in the city of Kibanga.

“Humanitarian workers helped us in 2017 with food and some drugs. But the needs are still great,” she said.

Since the beginning of this year, armed conflicts have continued to plague the country, particularly in the areas of Rutshuru, Masisi, Walikale, South-Lubero and Beni. The gradual withdrawal of humanitarian aid workers from these areas has amplified the vulnerability of people affected by the humanitarian crisis, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said in a September 2017 report.

“The crisis in DR Congo has deteriorated exponentially over the last two years,” Jan Egeland, Secretary General of the Norwegian Refugee Council, told IPS in an interview. “These are not the same conflicts we have been seeing for the last twenty years. Regions that were normally peaceful and stable areas of the country such as the Grand Kasai region and Tanganyika have now become hotbeds of unrest, with intercommunal violence displacing hundreds of thousands.”

“The fighting in the Kivus and Ituri is pushing the conflict in DR Congo closer and closer to a regional humanitarian crisis as tens of thousands of people have had to flee their homes into neighbouring countries like Uganda, Burundi, Tanzania and Zambia. A fresh appeal is necessary because while humanitarian needs are exploding and assistance is not able to meet the pace of needs.”

Egeland called on the international community to prioritize the humanitarian crisis in DR Congo and step up their efforts to help the 13.1 million people in need of assistance.

“If not,” he warned, “there will be fatal consequences for the country and possibly for the region.”

IOM is working to provide durable solutions for 5,973 IDP households in the North-Kivu province.

“Currently, IOM is helping 77 displaced women suffering from fistulas caused by sexual violence,” IOM Programme Officer Jean-Claude Bashirahishize told IPS. “In 2017, IOM received 205 cases of sexual violence in 12 sites,” he said, adding that cultural taboos made it difficult for women to talk about what had happened to them.

IOM helps victims of sexual violence get economic assistance, but also to train in livelihood activities so they can become self-sufficient.

“Insecurity is the greatest barrier to IOM accessing areas where armed groups are fighting government military forces,” Bashirahishize added.

Patrice Mushidinima, a civil society leader at Bukavu, the county seat of Sud-Kivu province, confirmed this, telling IPS, “Sud-Kivu province has 33 distinct armed groups operating in the area.”

In October 2017, the Congolese government and FAO helped more than 20,000 internally displaced persons, of whom about whom 70 percent were women and children at Kikwit, Kwilu province. But the situation is growing increasingly dire.

“Farmers who fled due to conflict have missed three consecutive planting seasons. This has left people with almost nothing to eat. Food assistance is failing to fill the gap. Only 400,000 out of the 3.2 million severely food insecure people in Kasai received assistance in December. More than 750,000 are still displaced,” FAO, UNICEF and the World Food Programme (WFP) warned in a statement.

“IDPs have rights that need to be respected by the government and other authorities in the country. The Congolese Constitution claims that human life is sacred,” Valentin Mbalanda, a human rights activist in DR Congo, told IPS.

The European Commission, United Nations, and Dutch government will co-host a pledging conference in April. Jan Egeland said that international donors must give the same attention and priority to DR Congo that they do comparable crises around the globe.

“That means they must put their muscle and weight behind a successful donor conference and fulfill any pledges made. Donors must also look at needs on the ground and not just the bottom line. The DR Congo crisis of 2018 is not what is was in 2000 or 2005,” he said.

“Lastly, the international community must acknowledge the consequence of doing nothing. The stakes in DR Congo are high if inaction is the route we choose. There could be mass loss of life and humanitarian neglect could destabilize the entire region. This is a crisis of conscience that the world cannot afford to ignore.”


SOURCE: Inter Press Service

How South Sudan Elites use country’s oil money to empower militia groups

South Sudan’s elite is using the country’s oil wealth to get rich and terrorize civilians, according to documents reviewed in an ongoing investigation by The Sentry, an investigative initiative co-founded by George Clooney and John Prendergast.

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Children look on questioningly as their colleague cries. The children are part of the many refugees at the Pagirinya Refugee settlement in Adjumani, near Uganda’s border with South Sudan. Photo: Edgar R Batte/Daily Monitor

Little has been known about the financial machinery that makes South Sudan’s continuing war possible, but documents obtained by The Sentry appear to shed new light on how the country’s main revenue source–oil–is used to fuel militias and ongoing atrocities, and how a small clique continues to get richer while the majority of South Sudanese suffer or flee their homeland because of the ongoing, devastating conflict.

The war in South Sudan, which has featured the use of child soldiers, rape as a weapon of war, and mass atrocities, has resulted in tens of thousands of deaths and has left more than 4 million people displaced.

J.R. Mailey, Special Investigations Director at The Sentry, said: “South Sudan’s leaders should be using South Sudan’s natural resources to benefit the population–but the documents we have obtained indicate that they have used the country’s oil to buy weapons, fund deadly militias, and hire companies owned by political insiders to support military operations that have resulted in horrific atrocities and war crimes.”

John Prendergast, Co-founder of The Sentry and Founding Director of the Enough Project, said: “Our investigation indicates that members of South Sudan’s ruling clique appear to be profiting from the war itself. In order to build the leverage needed for peace, the international community should target the assets of those responsible for continued violence and deny them from accessing the international banking system.

The long-term, ongoing investigation by The Sentry will continue to reveal and detail further findings in coming months.

The documents reviewed by The Sentry purport to describe how funds from South Sudan’s state oil company, Nile Petroleum Corporation (Nilepet), helped fund militias responsible for horrific acts of violence.

One key document, part of a collection of material provided to The Sentry by an anonymous source, appears to be an internal log kept by South Sudan’s Ministry of Petroleum and Mining detailing security-related payments made by Nilepet. The document titled, “Security Expenses Summary from Nilepet as from March 2014 to Date” (“the Summary”) lists a total of 84 transactions spanning a 15-month period beginning in March 2014 and ending in June 2015.

Key Information Contained in the Documents:

More than $80 million was recorded as paid to South Sudanese politicians, military officials, government agencies, and companies owned by politicians and members of their families who were, according to the Summary, paid for services such as military transport and logistics to forces implicated in atrocities.

South Sudan’s petroleum ministry assisted in the provision of food, fuel, satellite phone airtime and money to a group of militias in Upper Nile state, according to the Summary. The militias are reportedly responsible for destroying villages and attacks against civilians, including a February 2016 attack against civilians at a U.N. site in Malakal that left dozens dead.

Interstate Airways, partially owned by South Sudan First Lady Mary Ayen Mayardit, reportedly received six payments beginning in April 2014 for army logistics and transportation of military hardware.

Nile Basin for Aviation, a little-known airline owned by family members of top military and government officials–including the wife of former military chief of staff Paul Malong and a nephew of then-petroleum minister and current Minister of Finance and Planning Stephen Dhieu Dau–is identified in the Summary as receiving payments from Nilepet in early 2015 for military logistics operations.

According to the Summary, Crown Auto Trade, a Toyota dealership with a majority owner–Obac William Olawo–who is a prominent South Sudanese businessman, received over $8 million in payments from Nilepet in 2014 alone for activities ranging from supplying vehicles to importing armored personnel carriers and transporting tanks and supplies. A report by Control Arms, a research and advocacy group, stated that the type of armored personnel carriers described in the Summary were “observed in different locations within South Sudan between May and December 2014, including in areas of Unity State where the conflict has been intense.” In an interview with The Sentry, Olawo denied that any of his companies have ever been involved in transporting troops, weapons, or equipment for the military. He said that the documents and reports suggesting as much may be confusing his company with “Sierra” an operation connected to Erik Prince, who he said is one of his business partners.

There are indeed two payments recorded in the Summary that mention Prince’s company, Frontier Services Group, in connection with “Project Sierra.” Two $16.4 million payments were recorded as paid in July and October 2014, labeled “Air Logistics & Support Services… (Project Sierra, Frontier Services Group).” Olawo described Sierra as an air cargo operation for the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) and the National Security Service. In April 2016, The Intercept reported that FSG had attempted to provide attack aircraft to the Government of South Sudan in addition to other defense-related services. Representatives from FSG have previously denied doing business with South Sudan’s military but did not respond to questions about the payments described in the Nilepet security expenses summary.

The Summary also lists Golden Wings Aviation–another company owned by Olawo–alongside several other companies in connection with a $4,250,802 payment dated June 1, 2015, labeled “payment for army logistics operation.” The company is also mentioned by the U.N. Panel of Experts on South Sudan as having transported weapons to Unity state on several occasions during a period of particularly horrific violence in 2014 and 2015.

The Sentry recommends the following steps in order to expand financial pressure to hold companies and individuals to account:

Target the Networks Behind Violence: The United States, European Union, and others in the international community should investigate the top officials who have played a role in military operations that have resulted in atrocities and, where appropriate, impose network-focused sanctions on them, their business associates and facilitators, and the companies they own or control.

Impose Sectoral Sanctions: The use of sanctions related to the oil sector should also expand beyond designations of key officials and their companies. Given the ubiquitous use of the U.S. dollar in the oil sector, such a measure could have a strong impact.

Banks and Financial Regulators Have a Key Role: Banks and financial regulators should step up efforts to halt the flow of illicit funds out of South Sudan. Banks found to be connected to be money laundering may incur heavy penalties and be subject to other law enforcement measures. The Sentry will continue to investigate these issues and raise appropriate findings to relevant authorities.

South Sudan’s Neighbors Must Escalate Financial Pressure, or Risk Damage to Their Own Financial Systems: Ethiopia, Kenya, and Uganda have been reluctant to enforce and escalate international political and financial pressures. There are numerous opportunities for the international community–including U.S. and European governments and financial institutions–to encourage South Sudan’s neighbors to increase pressure on those responsible for South Sudan’s civil war.

About THE SENTRY

The Sentry is composed of best-in-class financial forensic investigators, policy analysts, and regional experts who follow the dirty money and build investigative cases focusing on the corrupt transnational networks most responsible for Africa’s deadliest conflicts. By creating a significant financial cost to these kleptocrats through network sanctions, anti-money laundering measures, prosecutions, and other tools, The Sentry aims to disrupt the profit incentives for mass atrocities and oppression, and creates new leverage in support of peace efforts and African frontline human rights defenders. The Sentry’s partner, the Enough Project, undertakes high-level advocacy with policy-makers around the world as well as wide-reaching education campaigns by mobilizing students, faith-based groups, celebrities, and others. Co-founded by George Clooney and John Prendergast, The Sentry is an initiative of Not On Our Watch (NOOW) and the Enough Project. The Sentry currently focuses its work in South Sudan, Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia, and the Central African Republic.

In less than two years, The Sentry has created hard-hitting reports and converted extensive research into a large volume of dossiers on individuals and entities connected to grand corruption, violence, or serious human rights abuses. The investigative team has turned those dossiers over to government regulatory and law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and around the world, as well as to compliance officers at the world’s largest banks.

The State vs. Okah: South African courts can’t help in such cases

On 23rd February the Constitutional Court handed down a unanimous judgment in the consolidated applications in the State vs. Okah matter.

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Nigerian Henry Okah, found guilty of masterminding two car bomb blasts in Abuja, Nigeria, speaks to his legal representative at the High Court in Johannesburg, South Africa. Photo: Werner Beukes/Sapa

This followed the November 2017 hearing in which the Constitutional Court deliberated on the issues of whether South African courts possess extra-territorial jurisdiction for crimes of terrorism and serious offences committed outside South Africa; and whether this was limited to prosecutions for the financing of terrorism only.

Justice Edwin Cameron delivered the unanimous judgment, dismissing Mr Okah’s cross appeals.

The State v Henry Emomotimi Okah

Summary: Does the Protection of Constitutional Democracy against Terrorist and Related Activities Act give South African courts jurisdiction to try terrorist acts committed abroad, besides financing terrorism?

On 23rd February the Constitutional Court handed down a unanimous judgment in the consolidated applications in the State v Okah matter. This followed the November 2017 hearing in which the Constitutional Court deliberated on the issues of whether South African courts possess extra-territorial jurisdiction for crimes of terrorism and serious offences committed outside South Africa; and whether this was limited to prosecutions for the financing of terrorism only. Justice Edwin Cameron delivered the unanimous judgment, dismissing Mr Okah’s cross appeals.

Background:

Mr Okah is a Nigerian citizen holding South African permanent residence. He was charged with 13 counts under The Protection of Constitutional Democracy Against Terrorist and Related Activities Act 33 of 2004 (The Terrorism Act). The charges relate to two bombings in Nigeria- which took place on the 15th March 2010 in Warri as well as on the 1st October 2010 in Abuja. Both bombings were intended to inflict maximum carnage and resulted in the death of at least nine people. Mr Okah was in Nigeria at the time of the Warri bombings and in South Africa during the Abuja bombings. The High Court convicted him on all 13 counts and sentenced him to 24 years in prison. The Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) however held that South African courts have extra-territorial jurisdiction only in relation to “the crimes of financing the offence,” and overturned the Warri convictions and reduced the sentence to 20 years.

Findings by the Constitutional Court:

The Constitutional Court found that the narrow interpretation adopted by the SCA resulted in an absurdity where a court would have jurisdiction to “prosecute the banker, but not the bomber”. The court stated that “The general duty to combat terrorism is broad. It commands a reading of the Terrorism Act that enables South Africa to participate, as a member of the international community, in the fight against an international and transnational phenomenon. The conspicuous consequence of the contested interpretation is that it would pull the Terrorism Act’s teeth, rendering futile its expressed endeavour to give bite to this duty”. The undisputed facts before the trial court establish that both the Warri and Abuja bombings were carried out in clear violation of international humanitarian law. Mr Okah intended for those bombings to be indiscriminate and deadly.

SALC’s amicus submissions before the Constitutional Court:

SALC was invited by the Court to make submissions and was admitted as amicus curiae. SALC’s submissions dealt with the interpretation of section 1 (4) of the Terrorism Act. SALC supported the State’s argument that the SCA erred in its narrow definition of “specified offence.” SALC submitted that a thorough reading of the entire Act requires a broader meaning of the term “specified offence” which covers more than just the financing of terror offences. This is particularly clear when, for example, the following provisions are read, section 4 dealing with acquiring, collecting, using and owning, among others, property which is used for terror activities; and section 11 dealing with harbouring of terror suspects, among others.

SALC’s Executive Director Kaajal Ramjathan-Keogh stated that, “SALC was pleased to be able to assist as a ‘friend of the court’ in this matter. The case is significant in confirming that South African courts do possess extra-territorial jurisdiction in respect of terrorism offences”. The Terrorism Act confers extra –territorial jurisdiction for courts to try crimes that occurred outside South Africa. The SCA did note that while jurisdiction has traditionally been limited to crimes occurring within a state’s territory, international terrorism conventions have, of necessity relaxed this limitation.

The Constitutional court found as follows: The State’s appeal is upheld; Mr Okah’s appeal is dismissed barring the special entry on consular access. The sentence reverts to 24 years.

SALC was represented in this matter by Advocate Kameel Premhid and Webber Wentzel Attorneys.

Dressed for death: the girls Boko Haram sent to blow themselves up

Survivors tell of being forcibly prepared for ‘suicide missions’, henna on their hands and bombs around their waists.

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Two of the women who survived Boko Haram’s attempts to have them carry out ‘suicide missions’. Photo: Ruth Maclean for the Guardian

When Boko Haram fighters kidnapped 17-year-old Nadia and took her to their camp, their commander noticed her straight away. She was squatting with dozens of other abducted women in front of him, listening to his lecture.

When, a few minutes later, the commander ordered his men to take Nadia to his house, she asked: “Why only me?” But she went with the men and waited.

The commander, whose name she never learned, “was dirty, ugly, dark-skinned and had a beard. He had a lot of hair on his head like a madman,” Nadia remembered. He looked mean. And he wanted her as a second wife.

Three months later, Nadia woke up one morning to find her body strapped with explosives. She had been drugged the night before. The commander’s men pushed her on to a motorbike, and dropped her and two others near Gamboro, a town in Borno, the Nigerian state hit worst by the Boko Haram insurgency.

The mission they had been given: to blow themselves up in as big a crowd as they could find.

They gather all the women and preach and preach. Then they ask: ‘Who wants to go to paradise?’

Aisha

Boko Haram, the terrorist group best known for kidnapping hundreds of schoolgirls from the village of Chibok in the middle of the night three years ago, has been under heavy attack from the Nigerian military in recent months.

But as their longed-for “caliphate” across north-eastern Nigeria has shrunk, the number of bomb attacks has increased, with the insurgents increasingly sending the women and children they have abducted to blow themselves up.

The week before Nadia was abducted, Boko Haram had attacked her village. Hiding behind her house, she had listened as they searched for her father, screamed at her mother for trying to hide him, and finally found and shot him.

When the commander announced to Nadia that he was making her his concubine, she was told she was one of the “lucky few” to be selected. But terrified as she was, Nadia had no intention of going along with it.

“He came that night and tried to rape me,” she said, her diamante earrings glinting through her pale blue hijab. “We wrestled seriously. I thought, this is a life-or-death situation, he probably has an STD which would kill me anyway, so I might as well die honourably. I used all my strength to fight him, and he was so angry when he couldn’t succeed in raping me. In the morning he went out and called his boys, and told them to take me out and flog me.”

After more death threats and another rape attempt, he tried a different tack: talking to her, trying to persuade her to accept the marriage. But after three months of cajoling, he had had enough, and decided to get rid of her.

That was how Nadia found herself approaching a checkpoint run by the civilian joint taskforce (CJTF), a paramilitary group helping fight Boko Haram in north-eastern Nigeria, trying to keep her arms out from her sides and not to swing them, to avoid accidentally detonating the bomb strapped to her waist.

When the men at the checkpoint saw the three women approaching, they shouted at them to stop. The women had prepared for this moment – in the minutes after their captors had left them, they had agreed to try to hand themselves in.

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In this 2015 photograph civilians walk past a checkpoint manned by Nigerian soldiers in Gwoza, a town newly liberated from Boko Haram. Photo: Lekan Oyekanmi/AP

“We stopped. We shouted: ‘We’re carrying bombs, we were forced to,’ and we lifted up our veils and showed them the belts,” she said.

They were fortunate: no gun was raised to shoot them. The men called the military and after a 40-minute wait, standing still under a tree, soldiers came and removed the bombs from their bodies.

“I was so happy; we were smiling and laughing,” Nadia said. “We had survived.”

Many do not survive: according to figures collated by the Long War Journal, 154 bombers have died in Nigeria, Cameroon, Niger and Chad since 2014, and this is a conservative estimate, as many attacks go unreported in the media.

When preparing someone for a “suicide” mission, Boko Haram members treat the bomber as if they are already dead, preparing the body as if for their own funeral.

“What they normally do is to dress you very beautifully, and put henna on your hands,” said Aisha, who was “married” to Boko Haram’s fourth-in-command and recently escaped. She saw many women and children recruited and sent on such missions.

This happened to Fatima, now 20, before she was sent to blow herself up in 2015. “They tie your hair back to prepare you for death,” she said, her voice quiet as she removed her red headscarf to show how her hair was braided off her face, as is the custom in funeral rites.

Fatima was raped every night by several different men for eight months, and is still terrified that somehow Boko Haram will find her and kidnap her again. By the time she was chosen for a bombing mission, she was so frightened that she could not speak, and stayed silent throughout the preparations.

“I was so afraid. I didn’t know what they meant. I’d never heard of anyone blowing themselves up. They told us we should go into a crowd and hit here,” she said, touching her hip. “Nobody told us what [the vest] was, but I knew it wasn’t something good. I didn’t look at it.”

She was dropped near Kukara, the target her captors had chosen for her, but she never considered going through with what she had been instructed to do.

“I went up to some soldiers and said: ‘I’m carrying something round my waist,’” she said. “They raised my veil and when they saw it they all jumped back. One said: ‘It’s a bomb!’ I was terrified, I was crying, but they told me not to move.”

Like Nadia, Fatima was believed by the soldiers. The bomb was removed, she was put through a rehabilitation process for three months, and is now living with her mother and sister. However, fearful of the heavy stigma that comes with having lived under Boko Haram, she has told them a sanitised version of her experiences during the abduction. (The names of all the women in this article have been changed.)

Nadia and Fatima were sent on their aborted missions in 2015. At that time, Boko Haram tried to hide the fact they were forcing people to blow themselves up from their other prisoners, afraid they would attempt to run away, according to Aisha, who observed how things changed over her three years in captivity. Now, she said, they have become completely open about it.

“They preach that if you go to [the state capital] Maiduguri and kill people, you will go to paradise without question,” she said. “They have a lot of ways to persuade them. They say: ‘Don’t consider them Muslim brothers and sisters any more – just go and kill them.’

“They gather all the women in one area and preach and preach. Then they ask: ‘Who wants to go to paradise?’ Everyone raises her hand. Then they ask: ‘Who wants to go now?’ Some raise their hands, so they take them and train them in suicide bombing. If nobody raises her hand, they say: ‘God created you, fed you, did everything for you, and this is how you reward him for all this?’ They make sure they get at least one person.

“It doesn’t take long to train them. They either tell you to hold the bomb or they strap it on to your body, round your waist or inside your bra. They tell you to go anywhere where there are a lot of men. They say: ‘Pretend you have stomach pain and fall on the ground. When people gather round you, press the button.’

Aisha saw how they recruited children as young as five for the missions.

“They say: ‘Who wants to go and see their mother in paradise? If you want to see her, that’s where she is.’ The children accept it easily, because they don’t know how dangerous it is. They tell them they won’t feel any pain even if their body is destroyed. I heard them saying that to the children in my camp.”

More and more children are being used in such missions: according to figures collected by Unicef, 27 were killed while wearing bombs in north-eastern Nigeria in the first three months of 2017, a sharp rise from 2016, when 30 were killed in the whole year.

It is the job of Bamussa Bashir, chair of a Maiduguri branch of the CJTF, to ensure that some of his 102 members are always guarding their area of the city, looking out for strangers who could be Boko Haram members or bombers. Women, and especially young girls, are increasingly being regarded with suspicion in Maiduguri.

In February Bashir, a quiet, serious-looking 23-year-old, was in a Maiduguri market, full of people buying beancake and grilled meat, when two girls got out of a car. A young man he didn’t know, buying credit for his phone, said to Bashir: “I don’t trust those girls.”

One of the girls hailed a tuk-tuk and zoomed off. The other started walking towards the market stalls. Bashir jumped up, wondering what to do, and was amazed to see the young man he had just been talking to head straight for the girl and put his arms around her.

“He grabbed her, trying to drag her away from the crowd. Then the bomb exploded.” As well as the young man and the girl, seven others died in the explosion, but the death toll could have been higher.

The hugging technique – when someone grabs a suspected attacker and uses their own body as a shield so fewer people around them die – is one of the only things locals can think to do in the face of the bomb attacks.

“People started doing it in one area, then another – it spread,” said Bashir, adding that he was ready to do it himself if it meant risking his life to reduce casualties.

“I know what death means. I’ve seen my relatives die and they have not come back. My brother was killed by Boko Haram two years ago. That’s part of the reason I do what I do, but what I really want is peace.”

The forgotten mining town where rape is 'normal'

The forgotten mining town where rape is ‘normal’


Aneni sits on a wooden armchair, staring out of her open front door, which lets a chink of sunlight into her dimly-lit lounge. Her three-year-old child, wearing a bright pink dress, plays with a tattered doll and sings nursery rhymes to herself as Aneni recounts the day in November when she was repeatedly gang-raped by three men in balaclavas.

The forgotten mining town where rape is 'normal'
Women from Durban Deep protest against gender-based violence and police inaction in December 2017. Photo: Shaun Swingler/GroundUp

Originally from the small town of Lupane in the west of Zimbabwe, 33-year-old Aneni had arrived in South Africa with her daughter two months before to join her husband, who’d come to seek work.

On the day of the rape, Aneni was moving some of the family’s possessions from the sprawling shantytown of Matholiesville to their new home in Durban Deep, a defunct and dilapidated gold mine on Johannesburg’s Witwatersrand gold reef.

As she was walking in the pouring rain, three men jumped out of a passing taxi and pushed Aneni and her daughter, who was strapped to her back, into an open patch of veld. They kicked Aneni’s legs from under her. Her daughter began to cry. The men slapped the child until she fell silent. She was forced to watch her mother being raped for hours.

Aneni and her family are among the many migrants and low income residents to have moved into the properties formerly inhabited by Durban Deep’s white mine employees until the mine ceased its operations in 2001.

In the past few years, growing competition for the 12-million ounces of gold still believed to be unmined in the Durban Deep area has sparked a deadly turf war in which informal miners, mostly from Zimbabwe and Lesotho, have been murdered by rival gangs and syndicates on an almost weekly basis.

Cut off from support networks and services in this forgotten place, women like Aneni routinely bear the brunt of Durban Deep’s poverty, violent crime and lawlessness.

“I don’t feel right,” Aneni told GroundUp in December, almost a month after she was raped. “Whenever I go outside, I feel terrified of any men I see. Any of them could be the ones who raped me.”

According to Cora Bailey, who founded the CLAW animal welfare clinic in Durban Deep in 2002: “Almost every child here has witnessed rape or domestic abuse. It’s almost as if rape is normal. The police treat it as if it’s a petty crime.”

On a hot December morning, a group of about 30 women from Durban Deep march to the nearby SAPS station in Roodepoort to present a memorandum to the station commander, calling for greater protection against crime and gender-based violence.

The women carry placards reading “Enough is enough”, “I will not be silenced” and “Sick and tired of rape.” Some carry babies and small children strapped to their backs.

“There is a lot of crime happening in Durban Deep and women are the most affected,” says one of the protesters, Lumka Golintete, 29, who works as a clinic assistant and driver at CLAW. “SAPS never comes to Durban Deep because they say that no one is supposed to be living here. It’s like they are saying it’s OK for the women there to be violated.”

But in a community of only about 800 people, Bailey adds that many women are afraid to report crimes to SAPS because of potential reprisals. For other women, there’s the fear that their illegal immigration status will be discovered, leading to deportation.

Brigadier Sam Manala, station commander at Roodepoort Police Station, told GroundUp that his department has been trying to engage with Durban Deep residents to reiterate the importance of opening cases of rape and domestic violence.

“I’ve already met some of the women and told them that there is no way they will be arrested for being a foreign national when they come to open a case,” he added. “I think there have now been some positive developments in the relationship between the women and the police. We are on top of the issue.”

The Gauteng MEC for Community Safety failed to respond to GroundUp’s requests for comment on this story.

The situation in Durban Deep has rapidly deteriorated since 2014, when Johannesburg developer Dino Properties bought the old mining village, which includes two dilapidated hostels, with a view to building up to 15,000 new low cost housing units. Dino Properties has signed a joint venture agreement with Australian mining company West Wits Mining, which plans to resuscitate the mine.

Durban Deep residents, who have been without municipal water and electricity since about the time of the sale, have been left in a state of limbo, fearing that their eviction is imminent. Neither Dino Properties nor West Wits could be reached for comment on this.

Because of the lack of services, CLAW is frequently called upon to do more than care for the area’s animals. Among other things, the staff run an aftercare centre for local children and a women’s group. “There is so much need here,” Bailey says. “Nobody pays any attention to what is happening.”

Since two female paramedics were attacked and one of them was raped while attending to a burn victim in Durban Deep in 2010, ambulances routinely refuse to respond to call-outs to the area, Bailey says.

After Aneni was raped, Bailey was the first person her husband called. Bailey ferried Alice to the overstretched clinic in the neighbouring informal settlement of Sol Plaatje, where, she says, rape survivors can wait months to get an appointment with a counsellor or psychiatrist.

For many rape survivors, a volunteer group called Women as Safety Providers (WASP), consisting of approximately 60 local women, often serves as the only care provider beyond CLAW.

“We deal with a lot of rape cases,” says Felicia Thisani, a coordinator for WASP. She says that some of these cases have caused her to experience bouts of depression. “Sometimes I can’t sleep at night,” she says. She recounts a particular case from 2015, when she found a mother who’d been raped and killed in her home. A six-month-old baby was still trying to draw milk from her dead mother’s breast. According to Thisani, this case is still open and no arrests have been made.

“When we’ve laid cases, the police just seem to disappear,” she says. “You don’t know what they are doing. We are tired of them. We just see them going up and down asking for money from the illegal miners.”

But Brigadier Manala told GroundUp that residents had been calling the wrong number to report crime and that he had now provided them with his direct line and that of the commander on duty at any given time. “If people call those numbers, the police will come directly,” Manala said. He has previously acknowledged that “there are some police officers that are corrupt, but our crime intelligence is working on that.”

Bailey says that children are frequently victimised, too. And CLAW is also currently treating a dog that was raped by a local man, the second such case that Bailey says she has had to deal with in the past year. “There’s a clear link between animal abuse and other forms of domestic and sexual abuse,” Bailey says.

After the protesters have handed over their memorandum at Roodepoort police station, they slowly make their way home to Durban Deep. Bailey, after offering lifts to some of the women in one of CLAW’s bakkies, heads over to the clinic in Sol Plaatje to collect Aneni, who is also heading home after her second medical check-up since she was raped.

Aneni’s check-up has revealed that she is HIV positive. She will have to begin antiretroviral treatment. She’s worried about how her husband, who she says has been very supportive since the rape, will respond to the news.

Her child sits on her mother’s lap, staring out of the car window.

*Not her real name.


SOURCE: GroundUp

Nigerian electricity and the high cost of living in darkness

Nigerian electricity and the high cost of living in darkness


Revealed: How and why Nigerians pay extortionist bills for little or no power supply

AS was often the case in the past, officials of the Eko Electricity Distribution Company, EKEDC, recently stormed the popular Festac Town in Lagos for another round of mass disconnection due to what they claimed was the continued refusal by the residents to pay their electricity bills. But it was a mission that almost turned into a tragic misadventure.

Nigerian electricity and the high cost of living in darkness
Photo: Premium Times

Unknown to the disconnection team before it embarked on this mission, information had earlier filtered to the residents about what was in the offing and they proceeded to lay an ambush.

So, as soon as the EKEDC officials arrived the estate, they were confronted by a group of irate residents who promptly demobilised their vehicle and seized their ladders and other tools they brought along with them for the purpose of electricity disconnection. And while the confrontation lasted, members of the disconnection team were manhandled and held incommunicado as they were prevented from making phone calls.

However, the timely intervention of security agents probably prevented the EKEDC disconnection team from getting the mob treatment. The bitterly aggrieved residents had used the opportunity to give vent to their grouse which bordered on extortion of residents by the EKEDC through outrageous estimated bills, refusal of the electricity company to provide pre-paid meters as requested by residents, frequent mass disconnection, endless power outage, etc.

Incidentally this confrontational drama over electricity supply is not limited to Festac Town, it plays out rather too often across the country. Indeed most electricity consumers across the country are angry. They are angry because power supply has continued to deteriorate while tariffs have increased way beyond reason.

Privatization of the electricity sector

All that have happened after the privatisation of the electricity sector, especially the generation and the distribution sub-sectors, are increased darkness and high electricity tariffs from the Distribution Companies, DisCos. While percentage of tariffs increase, nothing has changed by way of improved power supply. Inefficiency has worsened and all that the DisCos have to offer the public are excuses.

How we got here

After decades of inefficient service delivery by the defunct National Electric Power Authority, NEPA, which transmuted into Power Holding Company of Nigeria, PHCN, the Federal Government under former President Olusegun Obasanjo decided to privatise the electricity sector. It was considered a drain pipe on government purse as several billions of Nigeria was annually budgeted for NEPA without proportional service delivery.

Out of frustration, the Federal Government undertook a power sector reform under the Electric Power Reform Act 2005, which created room for the unbundling of the sector into 18 successor companies: six generation companies, 11 distribution companies and the Transmission Company of Nigeria. While all the generation companies, GenCos and DisCos were privatised, the government thought it wise to keep the transmission company.

The DisCos are Abuja, Benin, Eko, Enugu, Ibadan, Ikeja, Jos, Kano, Kaduna, Port Harcourt and Yola. The six GenCos are Afam Power Plc, Egbin Power Plc, Kainji Hydro-electric Plc, Sapele Power Plc, Shiroro Hydro-electric, and Ugheli Power Plc.

Although the Obasanjo administration made a significant progress in the power reform process, it dragged on until the Goodluck Jonathan administration completed the privatisation exercise in 2013. The expectations of the Federal Government and proponents of the privatisation policy was that with private businesses running the sector, the nation’s power problem which has largely destroyed industries would be fully and effectively addressed. However, four years after, the companies were either sold or given to private firms to manage, the Nigerian public continues to suffer the same inefficient service delivery that characterised the defunct NEPA/PHCN.

High tariffs

The belief in many quarters is that the main interest of the Discos is how much they can rake in from consumers, not the volume and quality of power delivery. The Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission, NERC, the regulator in the new power sector arrangement, appears to be interested only in how much the Discos make rather than the services they render to consumers.

Mr. Sam Amadi, former Chairman of NERC under whose supervision the astronomical tariff increase was effected in 2015 made several arguments on what is generally referred to as “cost-reflective tariff”.

He told a gathering of manufacturers in Lagos in 2015 thus: “From what the DisCos have submitted to the Commission, there is a range of tariffs for consumers of electricity. In few DisCos, consumers would see slight increase in tariffs of between 20 per cent to 30 per cent, while it would be higher by 40 per cent there about.

“The charging of tariffs would be based on the cost profile of the Discos, the number of customers available to them and the quantity of power available to them.”

From the forgoing, how much a consumer pays does not depend on the volume of power he is supplied but other extraneous factors such as the number of consumers.

Correlation between current tariffs and quality of service delivery

In the build up to the tariffs increase, Chief Executive Officer, of Eko DISCO, Oladele Amoda, also told a consumer consultation forum that: “There is no way we can have stable power supply without adjusting our tariffs because currently we are running at a loss. The company is being run at a loss since its inception because our investors had invested lots of money into the system which has not reflected on the supply distribution chain to the customers.

“Most of our equipment like transformers, cables, lines and so on, are being imported, and the cost effect of rising dollars had affected the cost of these materials. Gas supply is also another issue, gas suppliers have drastically increased the price and they now feel reluctant to sell gas to industrialists due to price differential.”

The big rip-off

There is no correlation between current tariffs and quality of service delivery. For instance, many residents in medium density areas of Abuja pay between N8, 000 to 15, 000, up from an average of N3,000 to N6, 000 pre-privatisation. However, there has been no significant improvement in service delivery.

This was precisely what has led to the several confrontations between Festac Town residents and the company in charge of supply of electricity in the area. For instance, in a petition dated September 18, 2017 and titled Re: Persistent Fraudulent Estimation Bills, Despite Demand For Pre-paid Meters addressed to the Customer Complaint Unit, Government & Consumer Affairs,Nigeria Electricity Regulatory Commission, NERC,Garki-Abuja, the residents had listed a litany woes they had suffered on account of the inability of the electricity company to meet their electricity needs.

According to them: “Despite our earlier petition on the above subject matter, things appear the way they are or even worse, with EKEDC still giving residents estimated bills of between N9,750 to N15,000 for just the month of September 2017, which was dumped at the close on September 16, 2017.” Their earlier petition under reference is hereby reproduced:

“Sequel to the mass disconnection of the entire ‘A’ Close, 312 Road, Festac Town, Lagos, on account of the residents demand for Pre-Paid meters on July 26, 2017 by your officials, we write to demand that each flat be provided with a pre-paid meter henceforth. It will interest you to know that residents of the above Close have been exploited and extorted for more than two years on account of outrageous estimated bills, which reached its climax on July 26, 2017, when the residents decided that enough was enough and said that they will not pay the estimated bills further till they are provided with the pre-paid meters.

“To refresh your memory on the issues, residents of the above Close had on November 12, 2015 marched to your office at 23 Road, Festac Town, to complain of the same exorbitant estimated bills and demanded an audit of the appliances in the respective residents flats, which was carried out by your staff on November 14, 2015, tagged ‘Operation Show Your Electrical Appliances’. Till date, we were not availed of the result of the said audit.

“Despite individual residents’ efforts and that of the Close executive, it appeared that the more the residents complain, the more the exorbitant estimated bills keep pouring in.

“As you may be aware, unless it turns out you are not, most flats are billed an average N17,000 per month and you will agree with us that this is not only arbitrary but criminal and unacceptable.

“We wish to also bring to your notice that your officials, led by one Mr. Osakwe had sometime in 2014, labeled all the meters supplied by then NEPA and PHCN as outdated and not functional; to use his words: ‘they have been compromised’. And these are same meters being used by other DISCOs. We know of a fact that this was done by your men to create the impression that the meters were not working to give way for the exorbitant estimated bill, under which guise your men have been extorting and exploiting us, which we have decided to stop now.

“The build-up to our recent face-off with your staff in Festac Town started on July 12, 2017, when residents rejected bills for June 2017, which were served on the residents on the said date, that was after three and half weeks of darkness.

Sadly, instead of your staff to take the matter to the office for a resolution of same, we suddenly saw the same bills returned to us some three days later, with the same figures we complained about, in what appeared to be a clear disregard to our complaints.

“But in clear contempt to our sensibilities, your men on July 26, 2017, stormed the said ‘A’ Close for mass disconnection. This was resisted by the residents who mobilised other residents who were at home as most others have gone to work, but your officials, while discussions were on with a woman who said she was the Festac PRO, went to the transformer, where they disconnected the entire close and ‘A’ Close has been in darkness since then.

Unreasonable estimated bills

“Having reviewed the events of November 14, 2015, that of July 12, 2017 and that of July 26, 2012, and bearing in mind that we are most times in darkness due to endless power outages, the Close at a meeting on July 29, 2017, resolved and demands the following:

That all the residents be provided with pre-paid meters henceforth.

That your unbearable bills since January 2017 shall be paid by the residents at N3,000 per month, as an average resident in the same locality with pre-paid meter spends about N1500 per month.

Provide us with result of ‘Operation Show Your Electrical Appliances’ carried out on November 14, 2015, to enable us know how you came about previous bills estimates.

“At the time of writing this petition, the entire A Close is in darkness, and some other Blocks on 31 Road, which were erroneously disconnected also, courtesy of your officials who felt that it was an affront on our part to complain of unreasonable estimated bills and the exploitations we have been subjected to all this while.


SOURCE: Vanguard Nigeria

The things war cannot destroy

In South Sudan, street photography is essentially illegal. It is another casualty of the civil war. Young, fit, twitchy soldiers are everywhere, ready to crack down on anyone who pulls out a camera. No reasons are ever given and no laws are on the books specifically banning photography, but security services across the country have arrested photographers and roughed them up for taking even the most innocent pictures, like a shot of women baking bread.

It wasn’t always like this, but in the four years since the war broke out , scattering millions of people and unleashing unspeakable horrors, the South Sudanese government has become incredibly suspicious. In a country that has ripped itself apart by internecine conflict, anyone can be the enemy.

Stepping off a plane in Juba, the capital, you feel this tight-shouldered tension immediately. Sara Hylton, a Canadian documentary photographer who came here on assignment in August, had anticipated the hostility. What surprised her was the city’s bold style.

Togune, a Juba resident, wears a T-shirt that features his favorite Ugandan musician, Diamond.
Togune, a Juba resident, wears a T-shirt that features his favorite Ugandan musician, Diamond.

Amid all the shot-up buildings, fear and danger, she was struck by the great pride many South Sudanese take in how they look. She saw women in bright print dresses and chunky brass jewelry; some wore purple hair extensions. Men sported bleached dreads and sharply cut suits. There was a fearless sense of style that the war had not managed to kill off.

Nadia Tushabe, the owner of Galaxy salon in Juba, styles Hariet Aroma’s hair.

It wasn’t easy for Ms. Hylton to capture it because she couldn’t take pictures in public. She had to work off the streets, in safe spaces, in people’s homes, their backyards, their tiny, tidy shops. Sometimes, Ms. Hylton found, the nicer the space, the sadder the experience. Many South Sudanese carry their trauma quietly, and those who were trying to will away all the brutality and destruction around them seemed the most vulnerable. They were emotionally exposed in a place where so many dreams have been crushed.

“The fashion industry is very young,” said Juana, a 24-year-old designer. “We don’t have something distinguishing us.” She believes that style is “not just clothes, it shows unity.” Sara Hylton for The New York T

Winnie, who runs a small boutique that sells dresses, purses and one or two paintings, seemed to be swimming upstream. The war has sunk Juba’s economy, and for the two hours Ms. Hylton spent in Winnie’s immaculate shop, where so much thought had been invested into every detail, not a single customer walked in.

“If I was living in this environment, I would have given up,” Ms. Hylton said. “That was the biggest surprise — that people here hadn’t given up, there was still so much hope.”

But there was also still so much sadness. It wasn’t always obvious, but it was there. As Ms. Hylton said: When you interview people, they often put on a brave face and tell you what you want to hear. But when you take out a camera and ask someone to stare into the lens, it’s different. An honesty is revealed. She especially felt this when making a portrait of Wokil, a comedian.

“His posture was very cool, he was trying to be very cool,” she said. “But you could tell he lived through some of the worst stuff.”

“Loss, I recognized loss,” she said. “It was in his gaze.”

Madite, a musician with the artist collective Anataban, poses for a portrait before a performance aimed at spreading the message of peace.

Sara Hylton for The New York Times

Just about everyone Ms. Hylton approached in Juba (she stayed away from soldiers) was willing to be photographed, including a group of young men playing basketball behind a primary school. If South Sudan has anything, it has height; the Dinka and the Nuer, South Sudan’s two largest ethnic groups, are considered among the tallest people on Earth. And basketball is

the sport here , maybe even a ticket out. The former N.B.A. player

Manute Bol , who died in 2010, grew up herding cattle in South Sudan and then made millions. Most of it he gave away, to South Sudanese rebels fighting for freedom.

For as long as anyone can remember, life in South Sudan has revolved around war. That’s as true today as ever.  The endless military checkpoints across Juba and the marauding soldiers who prowl around every neighborhood make it impossible to go out at night.

So young South Sudanese have found a way to do what young people do the world over, just slightly differently. They pack into dark buildings during the bright, hot hours to groove to hip-hop and rap. These places are called “day clubs” (as opposed to nightclubs), and they allow Juba’s youth to hang out, meet strangers, dance, drink and forget for a moment what lies outside the club’s doors.

Crazy Fox , a popular dancehall artist, fled South Sudan for Uganda as a refugee. But after four years, he was “tired of running” and recently came home.

But home for the South Sudanese is a place they themselves broke. South Sudan is the world’s newest country, having won its hard-fought independence from Sudan in 2011. Two years later, a political dispute between Dinka and Nuer leaders in Juba blew up into a full-scale military conflict between Dinka and Nuer across the country.

The war keeps spreading, engulfing other ethnic groups and new areas. It has killed more than 50,000 people, destroyed oil wells, farms, schools and hospitals, and sucked in countless children as child soldiers and then spat them out dead or mutilated. Many people fear what is ahead. It is etched in faces all across Juba.

Still, as death goes on, life goes on. Routine is a refuge, and many South Sudanese are trying to reclaim their lives. Ms. Hylton spent hours in barbershops and in salons where hair extensions hung on the walls like tools at a hardware shop.

“When you come to Galaxy salon, we can change you,” said the owner, Nadia Tushabe, with more than a touch of pride.

It may be hard to believe that a country where the per capita income is around three dollars a day, where three quarters of adults can’t read and a 15-year-old girl has a higher chance of dying in childbirth than she does of finishing primary school , has any fashion or beauty industry at all. But it beats on, fragilely, in packed little houses and tin-walled kiosks lit by a single bulb.

“We don’t have something distinguishing us,” said Juana, a fashion designer. Her patterns are intensely colorful, and she hopes fashion can bridge the poisonous divides between ethnic groups.

Akuja de Garang is, after the model Alex Wek, one of the best-known names in South Sudanese fashion. Large brass jewelry and black nail polish are her signatures. Before the war, she used to organize fashion shows.

“Culturally people take pride in how they look,” she said.

War or not, the South Sudanese are like anyone else.

They want to look good.

This article was first featured on New York Times, read the original here. 

How homeless drug addict was sent to rehab by a childhood friend

A chance meeting between two childhood friends helped one begin a journey back from drug addiction after many years living on the street.It was early October and Wanja Mwaura, 32, was on her way to the market in Lower Kabaete, not far from Nairobi, when she heard someone shout out her name.

She looked up and was surprised to see a tall man with bulging eyes, an emaciated frame, dirtied black overalls and an equally stained thick woollen hat, sitting on the side of the road. She did not recognise him.

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But when Patrick “Hinga” Wanjiru, 34, introduced himself, Wanja says she found herself in shock. Standing before her was a friend she had known since she was seven years old.

“Patrick, or Hinga as we called him, and I had met at primary school in 1992,” says Wanja, who is a nurse from Kiambu County, just outside the Kenyan capital.

“Hinga used to be a great soccer player all throughout school. We nicknamed him ‘Pele’.”

Hinga was estranged from his parents and lived with his grandmother in a squat. When she couldn’t afford to pay his school fees, he was forced to skip classes. Eventually they were evicted even from the squat. But against all the odds, Hinga did well in his exams, until his grandmother died – then he dropped out of school and his life began to take a downward trajectory.

Hinga started abusing drugs, first marijuana and then heroin. He spent hours sifting through garbage to find things he could sell on the streets.

Hinga and Wanja lost touch.Wanja and Hinga hug in the street.

When they met again, more than 15 years later, Hinga had been homeless for more than a decade. He looked nothing like the childhood friend who had once been known as “Pele”.

Sensing Wanja’s dismay, Hinga reassured her that he had only wanted to say hello. She asked him if she could buy him lunch. At a local cafe, she ordered the dish she remembered had been his favourite years earlier – pork ribs and mashed potatoes. She said he appeared distracted, unable to finish sentences.

“I gave him my mobile telephone number and told him to call me if he needed anything,” Wanja says.

Over the next couple of days, Hinga borrowed phones and would regularly call his childhood friend, often just to hear her voice for a chat. He told her that he was committed to getting clean from drugs.

“I decided then, that something needed to be done to help him,” Wanja says.Wanja and Hinga sit on a desk indoors as she teaches him from a book. Hinga is smiling.

Taking to social media, Wanja appealed to her friends to see if she could raise funds for drug rehabilitation.

“Rehab here is very expensive and I had no ways of raising funds on my own,” she says.

“We set up a crowdfunding page, but we only managed to raise around 41,000 Kenyan shillings (£300) initially. However the cost of nine days rehabilitation at Chiromo Lane Medical Center in Nairobi was more than 100,000 KES.

“I wasn’t sure how we would be able to cover this.”

But Wanja had promised to help Hinga, so she took him to the centre anyway, unsure how they would cover the cost.Wanja and Hinga hug. Hinga has completed his 9 day detox and looks healthier.

A spokesperson for the rehab programme says Hinga was a dedicated patient, who committed fully to the nine-day detox.

Within days Hinga had gained weight and his concentration improved. Wanja took to Facebook to speak about her pride at her friend’s transformation in such a short period of time.

“A week ago Hinga and I couldn’t hold a normal conversation without me trying to hold his head up with my hand in order for him to concentrate. Today we can have a normal conversation with him confidently looking at me,” she wrote.

Mombasa businessman Fauz Khalid spotted Wanja’s public post on Facebook and said he wanted to share the story on a wider platform. He posted the photos on Twitter and his post has now been shared more than 50,000 times.

After that, the Kenyan media began to cover the story and Chiromo Lane Medical Center agreed to waive the entire fee for Hinga’s treatment.

Wanja says this was “a blessing”, but she was keen for her friend to undergo a more sustained recovery, and is now raising funds for him to follow a 90-day programme at The Retreat Rehabilitation Centre, where he is currently staying.


Heroin in Kenya

  • It is estimated that between 20,000 and 55,000 Kenyans inject heroin but Kenya does not have a government-funded rehabilitation facility
  • According to the International Drugs Policy Consortium, heroin was used first in cities which were transit points (such as Mombasa) before spreading to Nairobi and other parts of the country
  • The National Campaign Against Drug Abuse, a Kenyan government research body, says it is monitoring 25,000 intravenous drug users around the country – the number of people who snort heroin could be even higher, according to the Anti-Narcotics Unit officials
  • Most of the world’s heroin is produced in Afghanistan, and reaches markets in Europe and North America via Central Asia and the Balkans – but the quantity of heroin seized off the coast of Kenya and neighbouring Tanzania has increased exponentially in the last eight years, leading the UN to conclude that the “Southern Route” is growing in importance

Wanja and Hinga, who is giving thumbs up sign and looking happy sitting on chairs at rehab centre.

“Unfortunately, there is still great stigma around drug abuse in Kenya,” Wanja says. This may be one reason why the government doesn’t provide free drug rehab treatment.

“Rehabs are expensive and out of reach for many people, not only in Kenya but also the greater part of Africa. I am committed to crowdsourcing so I can support my friend at this time,” says Wanja.

“Wanja is an angel sent from God. I owe her my life. She has stuck with me more closely than a brother or a sister,” Hinga said

On Twitter several users echoed this sentiment. Abraham Wilbourne‏, a financial analyst from Nairobi, told Wanja “You have a seat in heaven!” Many called her a “mashujaa”, which means “hero” in Swahili.

“People say I changed Hinga’s life, but he changed mine too.” says Wanja. “I realise now that a small act can change a person’s life.”


Story jointly curated by Bloomgist and partly culled from BBC News

Ethnic cleansing: How US, UN failed South Sudan 

When South Sudan’s Yei region turned violent in the midst of the country’s civil war last year, a handful of U.N. and U.S. officials begged their leaders for help. Government soldiers were burning villages and slaughtering men, women and children, they warned.

Their pleas fell on deaf ears. The U.N. did not send peacekeeping troops to stay in Yei, and the U.S. continued to support South Sudan’s military, possibly in violation of U.S. law, according to an AP investigation based on dozens of internal documents and interviews.

Yei became the center of a nationwide campaign of what the U.N. calls “ethnic cleansing,” which has created the largest exodus of civilians in Africa since the Rwandan genocide in 1994. More than 1 million people have now fled to Uganda, mostly from the Yei region. And tens or even hundreds of thousands of people in South Sudan have died.

Kate Almquist Knopf, director at the Africa Center for Strategic Studies at the U.S. Defense Department, compared the situation in South Sudan to Rwanda.

“The same thing is happening now in South Sudan,” she said. “It’s happening on Africa’s watch. It’s happening on America’s watch. It’s happening on the United Nations’ watch.”

The U.N. says it is still considering sending a permanent peacekeeping force to Yei if it gets more troops. The U.N. now has about 12,000 peacekeepers throughout South Sudan, but U.S. officials say it would take roughly 40,000 to secure the country.

“It’s all about what resources the mission has available,” said spokesman Daniel Dickinson.

The U.S. budgeted $30 million in aid to South Sudan’s military for the 2016 and 2017 fiscal years and gave further $2 million in July for a military and security operations center. The assistance appears to violate a U.S. law prohibiting support to any unit that has committed a gross violation of human rights. South Sudanese soldiers are accused of gang-raping women and killing people, including civilians and a journalist. The government has denied “ethnic cleansing.”

A spokesperson for the State Department said military officials who received assistance “were vetted and not credibly implicated in the gross violation of human rights.”

However, the U.S. aid is a “red flag,” said Sen. Patrick Leahy, who sponsored the law. “The South Sudanese security forces, like their rebel counterparts, are notorious for violating human rights without fear of being punished. We do not want the United States to be associated with such misconduct.”

South Sudan, the world’s youngest country, has received more than $1 billion in humanitarian aid every year from the U.S. and the U.N. In 2013, civil war broke out. A peace deal brokered by the U.S. and the international community collapsed in July 2016.

That month, government troops rampaged through the town of Nyori in the Yei region, according to a former local official. Like others, he spoke on condition of anonymity because he feared retribution.

He ran into the bush to hide, and returned three days later to carnage.

“I witnessed with my own eyes, young children, they were slaughtered,” he said.

Rose Kiden fled when the soldiers swarmed her house. She said she came back to find her sister on the floor, after being raped by eight soldiers. Her husband was killed by government troops when he went to collect food.

But even as the violence near Yei spread, Kiden said, U.N. vehicles drove by without stopping.

“They didn’t do anything,” she said. “They just passed.”

When U.N. officials visited Yei in September 2016, they were horrified by stories of women gang-raped and a baby hacked with a machete.

“If the security situation is not rapidly stabilized, the protection crisis in Yei will swiftly become a multi-faceted humanitarian crisis,” said a U.N. report from Sept. 15 obtained by AP to the top U.N. leader in South Sudan at the time, Ellen Loj.

After nearly two months, the U.N. started sending small, temporary patrols to the Yei region, but the violence merely continued after they left. On Nov. 11, special advisor Adama Dieng warned about “the potential for genocide.”

That month, the U.N. decided not to send a permanent force to Yei. When asked why at her farewell press conference on Nov. 28, Loj said the U.N. did not as yet have enough troops.

“South Sudan is a big country and we cannot have a soldier behind each and every South Sudanese,” she said.

During another U.N. visit in February this year, a community leader from the Yei area said he had begged for peacekeepers three times in the past few weeks.

“We need imminent protection before it’s too late,” he said, according to an internal report. “If we get killed because we told you the truth today so be it.”

Hours later the U.N. left.

The U.S. also struggled to respond to the crisis in South Sudan, according to documents and interviews. In July 2016, the South Sudanese military fired dozens of bullets into two U.S. embassy vehicles.

Still, the U.S. continued to believe it could fix South Sudan’s military. In September, President Barack Obama sought a “long-term military to military relationship” with South Sudan and allowed military training and education, according to a letter to Congress obtained by AP.

“Once again in South Sudan, we have shown a pattern of having bad analysis, either ignoring the symptoms of the problem entirely, not seeing them, or analyzing them in the wrong way,” said Cameron Hudson, the director of African affairs at the National Security Council in the Bush administration.

The U.S. also got approval from the U.N. Security Council for 4,000 extra U.N. peacekeepers in South Sudan, but failed to get the South Sudan government to accept them.

In the fall, a dissent cable drafted within the State Department argued that U.S. support for the peace deal and failure to act was fueling violence.

“The risks of famine, continued mass atrocities, and genocide are among the highest in the world,” the draft cable said. The risks of not changing U.S. policy, it continued, “are immediate and unacceptably high.” The draft was never finalized because it did not gain enough support, and senior officials said pulling out of the peace deal would have created even more violence.

Today, more than 18,000 homes have been destroyed in the Yei region. Hundreds of people have died, and many more have fled.

A pastor from the Yei area at a refugee camp in Uganda said he felt abandoned by the U.N. and the world.

“They could have protected people’s lives,” he said. “They could have saved us from coming to this camp.”

Nigeria’s Ebola heroes: Praised, but unpaid

In our series of letters from African journalists, novelist and writer Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani looks at the plight of medics who “saved” Nigeria from the Ebola pandemic in 2014 but who have not yet been paid.

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Drugs companies are trying to develop a vaccine against Ebola. Photo: AFP

In October 2014, Nigeria received universal praise for its swift and efficient tackling of the Ebola pandemic which had struck West African neighbours Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia.

But the core team of staff from the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) who led the effort have since quit their jobs, because their salaries had not been paid for nearly three years.

“If they play back the clock, they won’t get me to do that job again,” says Dr Kenneth Madiebo, the 53-year-old medic who dealt with the body of Patrick Sawyer, the first identified Ebola case Nigeria in 2014.

A project officer with the NCDC since September 2012, Dr Madiebo was assigned the task of decontaminating the hospital room where Mr Sawyer had died in July 2014, and preparing his body for cremation.

In a video he showed me, Dr Madiebo, the only health official involved in the process, dons his protective gear and enters with a team of morticians to remove Mr Sawyer’s naked body from the narrow toilet where he had died.

97680379_img_20140725_213310
Dr Madiebo, pictured next to the coffin, and a team of morticians worked together to remove the body of Patrick Sawyer. Photo: KENNETH MADIEBO

Mr Sawyer had been certified dead at 7:30 but the removal of his body took place at 23:30 that night.

“Everybody was afraid,” said Dr Madiebo. “Nobody else wanted to do it. But I did it because it was my job.”

“I was ill for days afterwards but it was more psychological, not Ebola.”

Public praise came his way when Nigeria was officially declared Ebola-free on October 20, and the then Health Minister Onyebuchi Chukwu asked Dr Madiebo to stand up during a press conference and commended him openly for his key role in containing the virus.

That same month, the minister resigned his position to pursue other interests, while Dr Madiebo was promoted from project officer to incident manager, a position that came with a salary increase.

But, he has never received the new salary, or any other salary since then.

His colleague Colette Isu-Ezumah, a 43-year-old public health worker who moved back to Nigeria from the US in 2011, shares these frustrations.

She was a driving force behind the 250-strong group of Nigerian volunteers sent to Sierra Leone and Liberia for six months to help in the fight against Ebola, when infection rates were at their peak in 2014 and 2015.

‘No right to email’

Despite this, and just like Dr Madiebo, Ms Isu-Ezumah has not been paid since October 2014.

“Our boss kept telling us not to worry, that we would eventually get paid,” she says.

Tired of all the placations, Dr Madiebo decided to take matters into his own hands.

At the time, President Muhammadu Buhari had just been elected, and with no new health minister named, Permanent Secretary Linus Awute was in charge.

Dr Madiebo sent an email to Mr Awute, copying in his six colleagues who were also out of pocket for nine months’ pay.

“You have no such right to write me directly, knowing that you are under several layers of authorities in the Federal Ministry of Health,” came the reply from Mr Awute in July 2015.

“Where is such impunity and unsatisfactory conduct coming from?”

He added: “The terms of your engagement and payment of salary, to the best of my knowledge, was strictly under the Federal Ministry of Health/CDC Cooperative Agreement.

“Funding for your salary can only be accommodated under the Project and subject to availability of funding for which the CDC was unable to make further funding release to the Project.

The only mistake here is that Management of the Federal Ministry of Health ought to have disengaged you promptly to prevent this tendentious email.”

‘Show magnanimity’

But the final words in that verbose email from Mr Awute offered some hope:

“After my brief and the discussion that followed with the relevant Department, I went out of officialdom to abandon the nicety to show magnanimity by developing a plan to absorb you into the main stream Civil Service.”

Nigeria's Ebola heroes: Praised, but unpaid
Nigeria escaped the worst of the Ebola outbreak, which killed more than 11,000 people. Photo: AFP

Clinging to this glimmer of hope, Dr Madiebo and his colleagues kept on working.

“I resigned my job in the UK to bring my 15 years of specialist training to help improve the deplorable health conditions in my country,” said Dr Chuks Ukpaka, one of the medical doctors who established the NCDC in September 2012.

“We were never disengaged but promised payment in arrears.”

Dr Madiebo’s next task was to co-ordinate a three-week monitoring period for those Nigerian Ebola volunteers on their return.

A more dangerous mission followed, when he took a blood sample from a suspected Lassa Fever patient in an Abuja hospital in 2016.

“Everybody thought I was crazy,” he says. “The lab staff were afraid to receive the sample from me.”

‘Desirous of justice’

Still, their salaries remained unpaid.

So Dr Madiebo kept writing to Mr Awute and other top health ministry officials, which he believes earned him a reputation as a troublemaker.

When the NCDC moved to a new building in 2015, Dr Madiebo says he was snubbed:

“I eventually stopped going to work because they refused to give me an office, so that they could justify not paying me.”


Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani:

Adaobi Tricia NwaubaniADAOBI TRICIA NWAUBANI

Nigeria has lost the expertise and experience of the team which fought Ebola


Abdul Nasidi, who was head of the NCDC from 2011 to 2016, confirmed that the salaries were not paid but says it was not his fault, adding: “Even I am owed salaries”.

Yet it appears Dr Madiebo’s email campaign is paying off, following an announcement in May 2017 from Nigeria’s current minister for health, Isaac Adewole, that a new committee is to investigate issue.

“The ministry is desirous of doing justice to these consultants,” says the man leading the committee and wider reforms at the ministry, Halad Keana.

He adds that the committee’s final meeting will take place in the first week of September, after which time a report and recommendations will be submitted to Mr Adewole.

In the meantime, Nigeria has lost the expertise and experience of the team which fought Ebola, and may have to start from scratch if faced with another deadly epidemic.

“I could not pay my rent, my children’s school fees, or my transportation to work,” Ms Isu-Ezumah says.

“When my son was admitted to hospital in March 2016 and I couldn’t pay his medical bill, I thought to myself: ‘If I were in the US, I would at least have insurance coverage'”.

She left Nigeria in July 2016, and now works for the US Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

Dr Ukpaka also returned to the UK, where he works as a trainer and a lead GP. But he says his heart is still in Nigeria and he is eager to return, despite feeling betrayed by his NCDC experience:

“There are so many challenges in the health sector there that require my services.”

Dr Madiebo still considers himself an NCDC employee because he has not yet received a dismissal letter, although he also plans to launch his own data and research company.

“They used me,” he says. “It would have been better for me to stay in my small cocoon, earn a small salary and not be involved in this.”


SOURCE: The Bloomgist/BBC

Nigeria is wasting its rich water resources

Nigeria is so rich in water resources that many of its 36 states are named after rivers. In addition to surface water found in nearly every part of the country, there’s also plenty stored in the ground.

Nigeria is wasting its rich water resources

The country has 215 cubic kilometres a year of available surface water. This is a lot higher than many African countries, particularly those in the southern and northern regions of the continent. South Africa, for example, has about 49 cubic kilometres a year.

One would imagine that Nigerians have plenty of water to drink.

But this isn’t the case. In fact, only 19% of Nigeria’s population has access to safe drinking water. Although 67% of people have basic water supply, access is uneven. In cities, 82% of people have a basic supply. In rural areas, only 54% do.

Wealth also distorts access. About 80% of wealthy Nigerians have access to at least a basic water supply, in comparison to only 48% of poor Nigerians.

The lack of accessible, reliable and safe drinking water, together with poor sanitation and hygiene, is estimated to cost Nigeria about USD$1.3 billion in access time, loss due to premature death, productive time lost and health care costs.

Why is this happening in a country with abundant water resources? Nigeria suffers from “economic water scarcity” – the inability to properly manage, use and protect water resources for socioeconomic development and environmental sustainability.

Regulation challenges

Nigeria aims to provide water that meets the standards set out by the World Health Organisation. In practice, poor regulatory, legal and institutional frameworks prevent this. It’s no surprise that potentially toxic concentrations of metals have been reported in Nigeria’s drinking water.

Another major problem is that the country has adopted a “control and command” approach to water resource management. It focuses on engineering physical infrastructure and excludes other perspectives. This means that authorities managing water don’t sufficiently engage with the people using it. Infrastructure in communities tends to collapse when users aren’t involved in planning or running it. There has also been little coordination between federal, state and local government agencies.

New research shows that water management needs different approaches. These include broader stakeholder involvement, collaboration between sectors, more attention to the human dimensions of management, and recognition of the economic, social, ecological and cultural values of water.

South Africa provides a legal example that Nigeria can learn from. The South African National Water Act provides for the basic rights of humans and the environment. The first prescribes the minimum amount and quality of water required for domestic activities and hygiene, to which everyone is entitled. The latter prescribes the minimum amount and quality of water to which the environment is entitled to maintain and protect ecosystems. The Act also expects ordinary citizens to have a say in the water sector. In Europe, the European Commission Water Framework Directive also provides for broader stakeholder involvement in the management of water resources.

The role of pollution

Pollution is another major cause of water scarcity in Nigeria. It’s common to see waste dumped in rivers and streams. In cities, storm water carries pollutants which contaminate water resources.

Pollution has led to high levels of toxic chemicals such as metals and pesticides being reported in Nigeria’s water resources.

Underground water is also being polluted through seepage from waste dump sites. This is a major health risk.

Poor water quality affects people, the economy and the environment. Contaminated water is the primary cause of diseases such as typhoid fever, diarrhoea and dysentery in Nigeria. These diseases kill people and are very costly to the economy.

In the Niger Delta, contamination by oil exploration activities is a big worry. It has led to declining fish harvests and loss of biodiversity.The poor are affected the most.

What must be done

Nigeria needs to change the way it manages water.

Firstly, it should include a wider range of stakeholders. Secondly, it should draw on the knowledge and disciplines of a variety of sectors.

Providing potable water involves science, policy and practice. All these must be considered in developing the proper management system for water in the country. Such a system needs more flexible, adaptive and responsible institutions.

Federal, state and local governments should work together to update and tighten regulations controlling water quality.

Nigeria also needs a water quality monitoring network and a water quality database. The database would store physical, chemical, biological and ecological information.

It’s also important to raise public awareness about the value of water and to increase public participation in water supply schemes. Getting people involved helps to sustain water infrastructure.


SOURCE: The Bloomgist/This article was first published exclusively on The Conversation

Could breakfast and lunch at schools reduce stunting among African Children?

Could breakfast and lunch at schools reduce stunting among African Children?

Stunting –- a condition in which children are shorter than the recommended height for their age –- is a key indicator of long-term malnutrition. It has severe effects on a child’s cognitive growth and development.

Could breakfast and lunch at schools reduce stunting among African Children?

South Africa continues to have a high prevalence of stunting. This is despite the fact that it’s a middle income country, which should put it on a par with countries like Brazil, which has a stunting prevalence rate of just 7%. In South Africa nearly a fifth of children under the age of 14 are stunted, showing persistently high levels of food insecurity in households.

The traditional dominant thinking about stunting suggests that it’s an issue set in early childhood and that after the age of two there is limited opportunity to correct it. But research has started to disrupt this conventional wisdom, suggesting that there are opportunities to “catch up” in middle childhood – that is around the age of 7 years – and later again in puberty.

Our research builds on this new thinking. It suggests that the physical effects of stunting can be reduced up until the age of 14 and that there is an association between lower stunting levels and serving children a combination of a breakfast and lunch meals at school.

Our findings are only preliminary and require further verification in different settings. But our study lays the ground for a possible solution to consistently high rates of stunting among children in South Africa.

A meal on arrival

All children attending 60% of the poorest schools in South Africa receive a lunch meal as part of the National School Nutrition Programme. The meal consists of a protein, starch and vegetables.

Schools in South Africa are classified into five quintiles (categories): quintile one and two schools are the poorest while quintile five are the wealthiest. The nutrition programme targets schools in quintiles one to three.

Children at some quintile one and two schools are also being given breakfast when they arrive at school through partnerships that the education department enters into with corporates and foundations.

Our study assessed the effects of children between the ages of six and 14 receiving a combination of breakfast and lunch against those who only received lunch. We looked at 39 schools. At eight of them, children received breakfast and lunch while at the other 31 they only got lunch. The schools were in the Lady Frere district of the Eastern Cape, the country’s poorest province. Lady Frere is a largely rural area.

We measured the childrens’ height and weight and found that the stunting rate among children who received lunch was 14%. This compared with a rate of 19% for the province. The lower stunting rate could be explained by the age range of the children in our study. While the provincial average is for children from the age of 0 to 15 our sample does not include pre-school children who are more vulnerable to stunting. Stunting rates in Lady Frere may also be lower than in other parts of the Eastern Cape.

But more significantly, among the pupils who received two meals the stunting rates was even lower – at 9%. This is despite these children being from arguably poorer households. Similar results were found in the urban leg of the study.

Counter-intuitive stats

Our findings counteract conventional wisdom about stunting but they are not without precedent. Research in Brazil, Guatemala, India, Philippines, and the Gambia show that there are opportunities for height-for-age catch up after the first 1000 days of a child’s life.

Our findings suggests that for our sample of children between the ages of six and 14, there are opportunities for catch up and that there is an association between providing an additional meal at school and lower stunting rates, although this does not mean that the programmes cause these effects.

But we believe our findings need to be subjected to further assessment. This is because the study was not designed to assess impact and there could therefore be other possible reasons for the reduction in stunting seen in Lady Frere. We also do not know whether the physical effects observed in our study would also result in positive cognitive effects, although some research suggests it would not.

Policy initiatives

The National School Nutrition Programme is one of three initiatives by the South African government to address malnutrition in children. The other two are child support grants as well as the Integrated Food Security and Nutrition Programme – a process aimed at ensuring an integrated approach across agriculture, social development, education and health to ensuring delivery of food security programmes.

These programmes amount to massive state investments in alleviating the effects of childhood poverty. But the consistently high stunting levels suggest that they aren’t enough to address the effects of household food insecurity.

Our findings echo international research which shows that stunting can be shifted in middle childhood and puberty. This suggests that a great deal might be gained from providing children with two meals at school, although further research is required. Nevertheless it does show that there is potential for South Africa to disrupt the high stunting levels its school children face.

If you are bald, don't go to Mozambique

If you are bald, don’t go to Mozambique

Mozambicans do not hate bald men but there are some people in Mozambique who believe you may have some gold in your head.

If you are bald, don't go to Mozambique

Police have warned that bald men in the East African nation could be targets of ritual attacks, after five men were recently killed in central Mozambique, two in May in Milange district, close to the border with Malawi, where albinos have also been targets of ritual killing for years.

Superstition is rife in Africa. This has led to the rise in ritual killing and trafficking in human organs and body parts. In Tanzania and Malawi, albinos are killed for their body parts which are sold for use in witchcraft. According to a Red Cross report, witchdoctors pay as much as $75,000 for a full set of albino body parts to make spells and charms they claim bring luck, love and wealth.

In Mozambique, a superstitious belief that bald men have gold in their head has put them in harm’s way as they are now being killed and their heads taken to a witchdoctor who is expected to use magical powers to extract gold from the heads. Superstition in Mozambique had in the past made some people in the Portuguese-speaking country to to abandon their own elderly parents, accusing them of witchcraft.

Mozambique Police have started investigating the deaths and have arrested two suspects already. Spokesman Inacio Dina said: “Our preliminary conclusion indicates that the phenomenon is due to cultural beliefs. We are currently investigating the case to find out more and to understand the dimension of the problem.

“The phenomenon can lead bald people to be pursued and killed. This is a serious homicide crime. Our current interest is to catch and hold responsible all those involved,” Dina added.

Male pattern baldness is caused by hormones and genetic predisposition. It usually follows a pattern of receding hairline and hair thinning on the crown. Treatment may simply involve accepting the condition, although there are also medications that can be tried. Surgery is also an option.

The secret behind Rwanda’s successful vaccination programme

The secret behind Rwanda’s successful vaccination programme

The best medical treatment option in the world can’t save a single patient unless it is delivered at the proper time, with the proper plans and processes in place.

That’s why implementation science for health matters. It can best be described as a collection of principles that, if applied, will ensure the best possible health care is delivered to a specific community. It involves using evidence-based research to identify the obstacles to delivering health services, and the best ways to overcome them. The research must take into account things like geographical limitations, the social and economic make up of a community as well as cultural practices. Once established for one community, the methodology can be reused in others.

Through my own experience – as an academic and as former health minister of Rwanda – I am convinced that, unless we adopt this approach we won’t be able to achieve universal health coverage and other United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals. This is particularly true for Africa where health services are stretched because of a lack of resources.

If we incorporate efficient, evidence-based practices into our service delivery models in Africa we’ll save millions of lives, as well as millions of dollars.

A vaccination programme rolled out in Rwanda illustrates what I mean.

The Rwandan example

In 2011 Rwanda began a vaccination programme  for human papillomavirus (HPV) – the most common sexually transmitted disease in the world. 33 countries had rolled outvaccination programmes, but few of them were in developing countries and none were in Africa.

In 2010, when we were preparing our first campaign, Rwanda seemed an improbable candidate for achieving near-universal HPV vaccination coverage. After all, we were ranked the 15th poorest nation in the world. International skeptics argued that developing countries couldn’t manage because of their weak scientific base, poor infrastructure, economic difficulties and overemphasis on curative, rather than preventative, medicine.

At the time even the developed world had achieved only moderate coverage of HPV vaccinations. The US had less than 35% of its adolescent female population fully vaccinated, and France also had a low coverage. If countries like this couldn’t realise HPV universal vaccination roll-outs, how could low and medium income countries manage?

But we weren’t deterred. We convinced HPV vaccine producers to ignore the global disapproval by presenting our evidence-based strategy of how we would roll-out a programme across the country. They listened, and then signed a public private partnership agreement, which funded the programme.

Despite the seemingly impossible odds, Rwanda achieved 93% HPV vaccination coverage within a year of initiating the campaign. The coverage level has been maintained ever since

What is the secret to Rwanda’s success? The answer is simple. We put our trust in implementation science.

Implementation science in action

For the rollout we collected evidence, adapted distribution methods to our setting and set clear targets and outcomes.

Every step of HPV distribution was evidence-based. To analyse the cultural implications of our program, the Ministry of Health conducted a series of interviews and discussions with community members. We set up a task force which included all stakeholders – religious, educational, political, parliamentary, and community leaders – and designed a strategy of nationwide community education to spread awareness of cervical cancer, the benefits of the vaccine, and the proper time to receive it. Since almost all types of cervical cancer are caused by the human papillomavirus, it was important first to explain the link with cancer.

Using the same focus groups, we developed a method of defining and reaching the target population. Since HPV is a sexually transmitted disease, we wanted to vaccinate girls before they became sexually active. The task force researched the proper age bracket for this. Its conclusion was that a school-based vaccination scheme of 12-year-old girls would be most effective. Over 97% of female Rwandan pre-teens are enrolled in primary school and few have sexual intercourse at that age.

Another research component was on the cold chain management. We needed to know how much vaccine to procure, how much storage space and money this would require, how many transport vehicles we would have to mobilise and where to send them. We also drew from our experience in rolling out other vaccination programs to create a rotating decentralized storage system.

Once all the evidence had been evaluated, we put a detailed delivery plan in place. We organised a distribution system to transport the vaccine from the cargo plane, to Kanombe International Airport, to the national warehouse, to the 30 district hospitals, to the 436 health centres – at that time, to the primary schools.

We also collaborated with Rwanda’s 45000 community health workers and all the teachers concerned. They identified girls who were absent from school on the day of vaccination to make sure they were covered too. And teachers were taught how to monitor students in the days after the vaccination so that they could report any adverse side-effects and be a key pillar of the HPV vaccine pharmacovigilance system.

The principles of implementation sciences applied for the success of the HPV vaccination roll-out have been used in other vaccination campaigns. Today in Rwanda we have more than 90% of all children fully vaccinated for 11 vaccines, with an additional HPV vaccine for all girls.

The need for research and education

As Vice Chancellor of the University of Global Health Equity in Rwanda we are introducing researchers to implementation science.

Like any science, it requires research. At the moment, the global focus (and therefore global funding) is on clinical research and fundamental sciences. Last year less than 2% of all research grants offered by the National Institute of Health, the largest funder of health research in the world, have been dedicated to implementation science.

But to improve health care we must also invest in implementation research to improve service delivery. Sure, we need basic science to create cheaper, more effective technology. But we also need implementation science to provide cost-effective ways of delivering and promoting universal health coverage.

Why the number of people with multiple chronic conditions is on the rise in Africa

Why the number of people with multiple chronic conditions is on the rise in Africa

More and more people around the world are getting sick with two or more health conditions at the same time. For example, people are increasingly coping with two chronic non-infectious diseases, like hypertension and diabetes. Or they will have a chronic infectious disease like HIV and a chronic non-infectious disease like asthma.

Why the number of people with multiple chronic conditions is on the rise in Africa

The co-existing conditions could include diseasesdisorders, illnesses or other chronic health problems. The concept of having two or more chronic health conditions at the same time is called multimorbidity.

Traditionally, developed countries have a high prevalence of non-communicable diseases – like hypertension – and due to this, a high rate of multimorbidity.

Now the tables seem to be turning. Due to the rise in the cases of non-communicable diseases in developing countries, there is an increasing emerging pattern of high levels of multimorbidity. This includes cases of hypertension which is now the most common co-morbid chronic non-communicable disease in the world.

The prevalence of non-communicable diseases is increasing at an alarming rate. In 2000, non-communicable diseases accounted for only 56% of the total disease burden. Scientists estimate that by 2020, they will account for almost 70% of the total disease burden in developing countries.

The increase has been driven by urbanisation and changing dietary and behavioural patterns with people eating more processed food and sugar and exercising less.

But alongside this, many developing nations, especially in Africa, have the additional burden of chronic infectious diseases.

Non-communicable diseases and chronic communicable diseases co-occur, and the risk factors, such as alcohol and tobacco use, associated with them are often shared. This further increases the likelihood of multimorbidity.

In Africa, the concern is that populations who are already socially and economically vulnerable also face the highest risk of multimorbidity. These include the elderly, people who have a lower socio-economic status and those who are not as educated. An intersectoral approach to address these vulnerable groups is needed. This remains challenging for developing health services in many African countries.

Affecting the patient and the system

The impact of multimorbidity is three-fold: it affects the patient, the health care provider and the health system as a whole.

Multimorbid patients have a decreased quality of life and tend to access health services more frequently. This often results in loss of potential income. And it places an extraordinary financial and psychological burden on the patient. The psychological burden often manifests as depression with mental health conditions frequently being associated with multimorbidity, which are often neglected or poorly managed.

More generally, the high self-management requirements and multiple drug prescriptions associated with multimorbidity can lead to poorer health outcomes for patients.

From the provider perspective, multimorbid patients are complex to treat. This can lead to increased workloads. In addition, they need an in-depth understanding of multiple drug and disease interactions. With each additional comorbidity consultation, time and individual patient cost increase dramatically.

But providers often find themselves in systems which are inadequately prepared to deal with this level of complexity due to their vertical nature. Vertical systems are based on the one disease model of care, which focuses on individual diseases, rather than holistic patient care.

Innovative models of integrated care are required to appropriately manage the multimorbid patient. This is a challenging task as integrated models need to be context specific. A “one size fits all” isn’t enough to address patients’ needs.

To tackle the problem, solutions need to focus on what’s causing multimorbidity. This means that policymakers must look beyond the health sector – they must engage with multiple sectors. This is necessary as most risk factors relating to multimorbidity are driven by factors that lie outside the health care system. Risk factors such as obesity, alcohol use and smoking can all be influenced by policies outside the health sector.

In South Africa, a well known example of this has been the reduction of secondary smoking as a result of a range of anti-smoking initiatives. These included using the media to run campaigns warning about the health risks of smoking, to limiting smoking areas in the hospitality industries alongside the establishment of an excise tax on tobacco products.

More recently, to address the rising burden of diabetes and associated risk factors, South Africa has proposed a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages. A similar tax was successful in reducing the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages in Mexico.

One of the challenges in creating these policies lies in opposing powerful industry actors whose interests don’t lie with health issues, but with making profits. This requires advocacy from several key public health role players such as academics, civil society, and governmental departments.

Next steps

In Africa, multimorbidity will impose increasing strain on vulnerable people and already stretched health systems.

A structured collaborative approach is needed to manage the problem. This should include developing a good understanding of Africa’s unique patterns of multimorbidity, its causes, and focus on prevention.

Insecurity threatening Lagos economic growth

Insecurity threatening Lagos economic growth

In April, the governor of Lagos, Nigeria Akinwumi Ambode called the country’s commercial nerve the world’s fastest growing mega city, with GDP of $136 billion. At this level, Lagos sits comfortably as one of the top ten economies in Africa by GDP. Should Nigerian states start fending for themselves; only Lagos and a few others would be able to survive. Lagos generated more than $940 million internally in 2016, exceeding the combined IGR of 30 states in Nigeria.

Insecurity threatening Lagos economic growth

The city state remains a major economic focal point in Nigeria, generating around 10 percent of the country’s GDP. It continues to grow its revenue as investment flows rise with expanding opportunities in several sectors. Economic growth in the Nigerian port city seems to be boundless but whatever brightness the future holds can only illuminate as far as the dark forces of insecurity recently rampaging Lagos would allow.

It has been more than 40 days since some 6 pupils were kidnapped at a school in Epe, on the north side of the Lekki Lagoon in Lagos, raising questions about the ability of the state government to address insecurity. The parents of the abducted pupil have reportedly paid N10 million ransom to the kidnappers but they are yet to get their children back. Security operatives in Lagos seemed to be clueless about the whereabouts of the abducted pupils, with parents’ only hope now the kidnappers’ assurance that their children would be released soon. Insecurity is increasing in Lagos at a worrying pace; apart from kidnapping which is becoming frequent, cult killing is also becoming rampant in some parts of the state.

While peace does not necessarily drive growth and development, insecurity disrupts it. Lagos Governor Ambode’s goal of making Lagos Africa’s third largest economy is under threat.

Lagos has been able to diversify its economy and to a large extent, reduce its dependence on oil allocations from the federal government. The state generates revenue from a variety of sources, including transport, manufacturing, construction and wholesale and retail. To continue growing its economy, Lagos faces challenges such as rapid population growth, urbanisation, as well increasing demands for infrastructure. These challenges cannot be addressed only by widening the tax net, but also by making the state a perfect investment destination. Although Lagos has huge potentials, much will not be achieved if the current security challenges are allowed to fester further. 

Insecurity makes investors nervous. Therefore, a safer Lagos with its numerous potential will remain an investment destination that can achieve the governor’s dream of a top three African economy by 2020.  

The secret behind the rise of Christian universities in Africa

The secret behind the rise of Christian universities in Africa

The last two decades have seen a brisk growth in Christian universities in sub-Saharan Africa. This phenomenon exists at the intersection of two of the most dynamic social trends on the continent: the rapid rise of Christian adherence and the volatile growth of higher education.

The secret behind the rise of Christian universities in Africa

A century ago, there were only nine million Christians living in Africa. Most were in Egypt’s and Ethiopia’s ancient churches. By 1950, this number had tripled, to about 30 million. Today, out of a population of around 1.2 billion, there are an estimated 582 million African Christians — Orthodox, Catholic, Protestant, Pentecostal and belonging to independent churches.

African higher education’s growth has also been rapid. In the 1950s, there were only 41 higher education institutions and 16,500 students on the whole continent. By 2010, 5.2 million students had enrolled in 668 higher education institutions in sub Saharan Africa, more than double the number in 2000.

This rapid growth has been far from smooth. Steep increases in demand coupled with cuts in state higher education funding left a gap that has been filled by the private sector, and increasingly by Churches. State and church are now educational partners, but there are some tensions inherent in this relationship.

Emerging from turbulent times

African universities today are emerging from a turbulent half century. The immediate post-colonial era brought high hopes, with supportive governments and massive international investments.

But by the 1980s, African universities were suffering deep financial cuts as falling commodity prices and inflated energy prices crippled national budgets. World Bank and International Monetary Fund advisers pushed debtor nations to reallocate educational spending toward primary and secondary schools. Meanwhile, authoritarian regimes suspected flagship universities of subversion and slashed their budgets. By the 1990s, even the finest African universities were in crisis.

To compound these problems, the growth of secondary education drove a relentless demand for tertiary enrolments.

Governments mandated their flagship universities to enrol far beyond their carrying capacities. New regional institutions were founded and tertiary technical colleges were granted university status.

Even with increases in funding, African higher education budgets lagged behind enrolment gains. Thousands of African academics were so discouraged by the educational crisis that they left to find work elsewhere.

Private, Christian universities fill the vacuum

In the early 2000s the tide began to turn.

In 2001, the World Bank reemphasised the universities’ role in national development. After years of neglect, western foreign aid programs re-targeted higher education and private funders returned. The Partnership for Higher Education, for instance, which engaged eight American foundations with universities in nine African countries, invested around USD$440 million between 2000 and 2010.

African governments began to approve more organisational charters for private universities and technical schools. In Ghana, for example, there were just two private universities in 1999. Now there are 28.

Christian higher education has played a salient role in this rapid private growth. Nigeria has chartered 61 private institutions since 1999. Of these, 31 are Christian. In Kenya, there are 18 chartered private universities and 13 more with interim authority. Of all these, 17 are Christian.

Sub-Saharan Africa is one of the hot spots of Christian higher education growth worldwide, a trend that can be observed across the continent.

In a broad sense, the Christian university movement is driven by the massive demand for access to higher education and the liberalisation of government chartering – both global trends.

But the religious scene in Africa provides its own drivers of this movement. The building of universities in Africa is part of a larger effort by church leaders –Protestant, Catholic and Pentecostal – to institutionalise, and thus conserve, the huge gains in Christian adherence.

Christian groups in Africa often look first to sponsor primary and secondary schooling, but they also move quickly to train clergy. In 1950, there were only perhaps 70 or 80 pastoral education programmes or theological schools across Africa, but a recent survey found 1,468 of them.

Christian universities announce Christian purposes and perspectives for learning non-religious subjects and they structure campus life to reflect Christian norms. Many of them have strict codes of personal conduct for students. Yet most welcome qualified students regardless of faith.

Tensions between state and church mandates

These new Christian universities are very dynamic places, and their leaders express high hopes that they will help their nations flourish. But one of the main themes of higher education history has been secularisation.

State officials have decided to accommodate religious educational partners, but some still wonder why Christians want to impose religious hiring criteria, curricular development, and student norms.

Broad state purposes inevitably rub against religious particularity, even in highly religious Africa.

It is too soon to predict the trajectory of the African wing of the worldwide Christian university movement, but one cannot miss its growing presence and emerging challenges.


This story first appeared on The Conversation, the original also apeared on University World News.

Is not only gender violence, UN has a problem of child rape

Is not only gender violence, UN has a problem of child rape

If a United Nations official in New York raped an American child, there would be hell to pay. Similarly, if a UN official in Geneva raped a Swiss child, there would be an outcry.

Is not only gender violence, UN has a problem of child rape
Members of a U.N. peacekeeping force in the Central African Republic allegedly turned to sexual predation, betraying their duty to protect. Photo: Washington Post

So why is it that when a United Nations official or peacekeeper rapes an African child, the organisation fails to ensure that perpetrators are prosecuted?

This a question that the world body has been avoiding for years. Only recently its top officials acknowledged that the UN has a very serious sexual violence problem.

Earlier this year UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres confirmed that UN peacekeepers and civilian staff perpetrated 145 cases of sexual exploitation and abuse involving 311 victims in 2016 alone. That is more than two victims for each case on average.

Many of the victims, by the UN’s own admission, are children. And while the numbers are huge they are likely to be the tip of the iceberg because they only represent the crimes that have been reported. More than that, these numbers are only representative of sexual crimes committed within the organisation’s peacekeeping forces.

The problem is so bad that the UN keeps an updated list of accusations against peacekeepers on a website. So far this year 32 reported cases of sexual violence have been made against peacekeeping staff.

Long-standing affair

The 2016-2017 figures are only a small portion of the sex and child rape crimes committed by UN staff and peacekeepers over at least the last 20 years. The figures don’t include the UN sex scandals in the Bosnian War dramatised in the 2010 film Whistleblower nor the long running “food for sex” scandals of the early 2000s. These involved UN peacekeepers withholding food from refugees and displaced families until they agreed to the soldiers access to their children for sex.

A 2006 Save the Children report found “abuse at all age levels from 8 to 18”. Victims older than 12 years of age were identified as being “regularly involved in selling sex”.

The report went on to say that among the children interviewed “all of the respondents clearly stated that they felt that the scale of the problem affected over half of the girls in their locations”. This is a longstanding problem that dates back to the war in Bosnia.

According to the Code Blue Campaign, a campaign set up by Aids Free World to respond to the growing UN sexual abuse scandal, the Berbérati battalion of Congolese peacekeepers in the Central African Republic were the subject of serious concerns over a period of two years 2014 to 2016.

According to Code Blue, in June 2016 UN investigators knew that a group of children was living inside the army base, making them easy prey for a battalion that had been accused of multiple counts of child rape.

To put “multiple” into statistical context let’s use the UK as a point of reference. In the UK only one in seven rapes are reported. If one assumes that the same number of rapes are reported at the UN, then the 311 cases reported in 2016 would represent over 2100 victims in a single year.

That is a figure that should be hard to ignore. Yet the UN continues to use legal and sovereign immunity claims to prevent the prosecution of offenders.

This immunity rests on challengeable legal foundations and can be waived by the UN. But the world body chooses not to waive immunity, instead using this legal fiction to protect child rapists.

Not a single one of the accusations  the UN lists on its website, and specifically those that involve the rape of children, has been prosecuted.

For at least 20 years the leadership of the UN has known about this sexual violence problem and for years it has failed to act. Indeed, former Secretary General Kofi Annan listed his failure to address the problem decisively as one of his regrets. His successor Ban Ki Moon has also acknowledged that not enough has been done.

Current Secretary General Guterres has proposed a four-part strategy to deal with the problem. This entails putting the rights and dignity of victims at the forefront of the UN’s efforts, working relentlessly to end impunity for those guilty of sexual abuse and exploitation, building a civil society network to support UN efforts, and raising worldwide awareness of the problem.

Releasing the 2016 UN annual review Guterres said,

I fully recognise that no magic wand exists to end the problem of sexual exploitation and abuse. Nevertheless, I believe that we can dramatically improve how the United Nations addresses this scourge.

Many people in power have known for decades of the sexual abuse by the UN and for some reason it continues. It is one of the reasons I quit the UN in 2009 calling out the abuse in my 2013 book “A Life Half Lived”.

Three years later, is the world just beginning to see the scale and scope of the problem? Are we today with the UN precisely where we were with the Catholic Church in the 1980s?

If we are, then as a global community, we need to do better than just “dramatically improve”. This scourge must be stopped now. Children in conflict zones need our help.


This story was first published on The Conversation, by isiting Professor, Public Policy, King’s College London

Africa’s ‘men of God’ are preserving injustices against women | What we found

Africa’s ‘men of God’ are preserving injustices against women | What we found

Adoley and her husband Mike (not their real names) attend one of Ghana’s mega churches. Both are university graduates. She is a seamstress and owns a small retail shop. He is an accountant. The couple live with Mike’s family, where Adoley sometimes feels she’s blamed for the couple’s childlessness after having three miscarriages.

Africa’s ‘men of God’ are preserving injustices against women | What we found
Churches in the global South, especially Africa are growing. Photo: Reuters/Akintunde Akinleye

When they visited our home in Accra one Sunday in December 2015, Adoley complained about a few things, such as Mike refusing to carry her handbag in church while she went to the bathroom, because – as he explained – “a man doesn’t carry a woman’s bag”.

This anecdote points to a bigger story about the church in Africa today, and the messages that some of its influential male leaders promote about masculinity, marriage and gender roles in society more broadly.

“Men of God” are powerful

While churches in the economic north are emptying out those in the Global South – and especially Africa – are growing. Pentecostal and charismatic churches have mushroomed, many influenced by a wave of American-exported evangelicalism in the 1970s and 1980s.

Churches also carry out important social functions the state has neglected. They are involved in addressing HIV/AIDS, building hospitals and establishing universities. This kind of work – sometimes called the “social gospel” – makes the church much more than simply a religious space. The modern African church promises a life that is abundant and prosperous – both spiritually and materially.

African church leaders – the bishops and archbishops, prophets and overseers, pastors and deacons, benignly referred to as “men of God” – are powerful. Their teachings have a wide reach that is not limited to Sunday mornings and mid-week services. There are TV and radio programmes, audiotapes and books, international branches and YouTube videos that reach a wide audience beyond their own congregations.

They are also influential voices on gender issues. Jesus’ social gospel subverted gender cultures – and actively sought to challenge injustice in general. There are several examples of Christ’s counter-culture behaviour when it comes to his relationship with women. Women were generally viewed as the cause of men’s sexual sins. To prevent Jewish men from yielding to temptation, they were instructed not to speak to women in public, including their own wives. Not only did Jesus speak to a woman in public he dared to touch them in public.

These perspectives are not sufficiently evident in the messages preached from mega church platforms across the continent today. When it comes to the question of gender, injustice seems to have intensified in the church

Problematic messages about marriage

Much of the current discourse from church platforms in Africa focuses on marriage. Subjects include the breakdown of marriages, preparing women to be good wives, and the “unsuitability” of certain types of young women for marriage.

Archbishop Duncan Williams, founder of Ghana’s Action Faith Chapel International, caused a stir in 2014 when he told women:

it’s a privilege to be married… Sister when you get married, be thankful and stop misbehaving… It doesn’t matter how pretty and beautiful and intelligent you are; until a man proposes to you, you are going to stay beautiful, pretty, intelligent, nice and whatever, and rotten.

Not long afterwards Bishop Dag Heward Mills, founder of Ghana’s Lighthouse chapel, mocked Ghanaian girls for their inability to cook, saying that they were “less than 10% of what we want”.

In his book Till Death Do Us Part, Bishop Charles Agyin-Asare, founder of one of Ghana’s mega churches, responded to the issue of abuse in marriage, writing:

You are not the first woman to be beaten by your husband, and you will not be the last… Rise up with the Word of God and use your spiritual weapons… Keep going to church, listen to tapes, pray, notice the blessings around you, keep your vows.

Women, in this discourse, have no value outside of marriage. And they have no value within it beyond providing domestic services. Women carry the responsibility for keeping the marriage intact, even at the cost of their personal well-being and safety.

These pronouncements can have a profound impact on women’s position in marriage and, given the importance of marriage in African cultures, on gender relations more broadly.

A particular brand of masculinity

The male gender, just like the female gender, is culturally constructed. And as the church defines and redefines the roles and positions of women in marriage and society, it does the same for men.

The church has always been a male-dominated institution. Beyond this, my research into the gender discourse of the Pentecostal and charismatic churches shows how they promote a particular brand of masculinity.

By “masculinity”, I refer to “a cluster of norms, values, and behavioural patterns expressing explicit and implicit expectations of how men should act and represent themselves to others”.

On the one hand, the brand of masculinity espoused by the “men of God” encourages behaviour that can be advantageous for many women in relationships: they generally eschew violence, advocate monogamy and companionship between spouses, and underscore the responsibilities of fathers and husbands.

On the other hand, the “Men of God” portray women as the “weaker sex” emotionally and intellectually, who need protection and guidance. Sometimes they emphasise women’s “limitations”. This leads to a devaluing of women, re-inscribing male domination and undermining female autonomy.

A different approach

Pre-martial counselling has been suggested as part of the problem. But, there are churches that foster a more gender-sensitive approach.

One is the Family Life Ministry at Calvary Baptist church in Accra. They work with a network of professionally trained lay counsellors across several churches in Accra to offer couples practical social and spiritual guidance using an alternative approach to “family life”.

Gender issues are tackled from social, medical, legal and cultural perspectives. Couples are encouraged to see men and women as created equal in the image of God, and to see the development of their partners as a positive investment in their own lives, and those of their families and society.

Only when approaches like this become the norm will the church become a place where women as well as men, wives as well as husbands, the single as well as the married, can experience comfort, well-being and true freedom from bondage.

Until then, in our deeply religious context, we can expect some fraught gender relations at best, and many unhappy wives especially.


This publication first apeared on The Conversation, and it was published by , a Professor of African Studies, University of Ghana

Black in a white skin: students with albinism battle prejudice

Myths and stereotypes about albinism abound. People with the condition are called derogatory names, like inkawu – the Nguni term for white baboon – and isishawa, a Zulu word for a person who is cursed. They are stared at, and must field ignorant questions.

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People with albinism often isolate themselves to avoid discrimination. Photo: Shutterstock

Some beliefs about albinism are incredibly dangerous, like the idea that having sex with a woman with albinism will cure a man of HIV. The bones and body parts of people with albinism are believed by some to bring good luck. In countries like Tanzania, Kenya and Zimbabwe, people with albinism are hunted so their body parts, particularly their hands and genitals, can be used in traditional medicine (muthi).

Albinism is a word derived from the Latin albus, meaning white. It’s a genetically inherited condition where a shortage of melanin pigment affects the eyes, hair and skin. Most people with albinism tend to have light hair, skin and eyes – but their other facial features and hair texture resemble those of Africans. They are usually born into black African families.

This means people with albinism tend to identify with the black rather than the white community. Their physical differences, though, mean they don’t fit into either the black or white race groups. I worked with two other researchers, Relebohile Phatoli and Nontembeko Bila, to try and understand the experience and contradiction of being a black person in a white skin in post-apartheid South Africa.

People with albinism often battle poor vision and blindness because of their condition. The students we interviewed struggled to keep up in lectures because they couldn’t see the board properly.

There were other struggles, too. Our findings confirmed the lack of knowledge about albinism, as well as stigma, “othering” – to separate “them” from “us” – and discrimination in relation to people with this condition.

Stigma and stares

About one out of every 4000 South Africans is living with albinism. Although the dangers aren’t as great in South Africa as for those in countries such as Tanzania, Kenya and Zimbabwe, people with albinism still struggle with stigma and discrimination.

We interviewed five university students with albinism and 10 students at the same university without the condition. The institution in question is a large urban university with several satellite campuses. There are an estimated 10 students with albinism registered at this university; it is not compulsory to register with the institution’s programme for disabled students and some people with albinism do not regard themselves as being disabled.

Our aim was to explore the beliefs and practices regarding albinism within a South African university. What we found exposed the sort of discrimination and “othering” that people with albinism experience.

One of the students with albinism said:

Honestly, I think albinism is a curse because people always stare at me, talk about me behind my back and also make very nasty remarks when I pass, saying that I do not know that my father is not black but is a white person and that is why I look the way I do.

This type of comment highlights the intersection of race, colour and gender in the social construction of such beliefs.

A student without albinism believed that albinos

don’t die, they just go missing and they disappear. Last year when I was pregnant, I was told that I must not look at the albinos because if I do I will get a child with albinism or if I do look at them by mistake I should spit at them to avoid a child with albinism.

Such forms of stigma have far-reaching psychopathological ramifications, such as self-exclusion from services, alienation and social withdrawal, loss of identity, poor self-image, depression and anxiety.

Stereotypes also dramatically affected the way people without albinism interacted with people with albinism. This in turn influenced how people with albinism viewed themselves. One student with the condition remarked: “I always have to prove myself, work extra hard and put in more effort into everything so that people can see me as ‘normal’.”

Isolation was another problem for students with albinism. They preferred to exclude themselves from the rest of the student population to avoid being judged or experiencing discrimination.

The students who didn’t have albinism said they were willing to befriend people with the condition – but wouldn’t necessarily go on dates with them. Those students who had befriended peers with albinism said they were able to value and appreciate the person behind the condition.

Learning and empowerment

So what are the lessons that can be learned from this research? How can young South Africans learn more about albinism and start breaking down the myths around it?

We recommend that schools provide knowledge and awareness programmes about the condition of albinism in the Life Orientation curriculum. Life Orientation is the holistic study of the self in relation to others and to society and focuses on the personal, social, intellectual, emotional, spiritual and physical growth of learners. This subject is usually offered in the last three years of high school.

Universities and colleges also need to engage in awareness programmes with students and lecturers. These programmes must explore the impact of beliefs and stereotypes on people affected by this condition, and the challenges posed by reading lecture notes.

Social workers, psychologists, nurses and other helping professionals need to arrange support groups and educate parents, learners, teachers, traditional healers and the general public about what causes albinism. They can also teach people how to treat those with the condition and equip those with albinism to handle discrimination.

People living with albinism must be given the tools they need to exercise agency and help play an active role in breaking the cycle of stigma and discrimination. By being out in the world, empowered to discuss their condition, they can demystify it and be positive role models.

Through these strategies we can hopefully create a safer, more just, humane and caring society where the rights of all groups are respected.


This story was first Published on The Conversation by 

Why the African Union needs to revisit its admission requirements - the Morocco case study 

Why the African Union needs to revisit its admission requirements – the Morocco case study 

Morocco’s admission to the African Union (AU) was a mistake. In one move, the AU squandered a chance to discourage the north African state’s aggression against Western Sahara. It also showed how the body struggles to enforce the implementation of its own standards and directives.

Why the African Union needs to revisit its admission requirements - the Morocco case study 

Morocco easily met the AU’s admission criteria. It’s geographically located within Africa and was voted in by more than a simple majority.

These are soft requirements, and they are a problem. The AU doesn’t make any real effort to determine whether applicants are genuine democracies before it admits them. No steps are taken to ascertain that an applicant state has the capacity to implement democratic policies and norms.

This isn’t the first time the AU has admitted a country to its ranks without due diligence. It took a mere 18 days from South Sudan’s independence to its admission into the AU. At the time South Sudan lacked even the most rudimentary physical and human infrastructure to implement AU rules. It has since become a burden to the union.

It’s time for the AU to look beyond geography and a simple majority vote. It must start demanding strict adherence to fundamental democratic values.

Morocco’s smooth ride

From the time Morocco submitted its application until its formal admission, the question of Western Sahara was swept aside.

The African Union has a poor disciplinary track-record. So there’s no guarantee that it will take any serious action against Morocco – beyond its ineffective suspension procedure – if it intensifies its aggression against Western Sahara.

The issue of Western Sahara aside, the AU has made no effort to assess the ability of Morocco’s domestic institutions to implement the union’s democratic and economic policies. Had the AU subjected Morocco to a proper due diligence exercise, it would have found that its occupation of Western Sahara violates the principles stipulated in articles 3 & 4 of the AU’s Constitutive Act which are territorial integrity, respect of borders, and non-interference in the internal affairs of a member state.

In addition, the AU would have found that the Moroccan government is notorious for forcing dissidents serve long prison terms after unfair trials for purely political reasons.

The consequences of lax admission rules

The failure to consider democratic values as part of the AU’s admission process continues to have a number of negative effects. The absence of strict pre-conditions for membership has made it difficult for the union to manage errant behaviour among member states.

Member states not only routinely disregard  the AU’s basic democratic norms, they have also refused to agree on a common understanding of these norms.

Even in cases where AU organs have recommended sanctions for serious violations of human rights, as in the case of Burundi, some member states refused to vote  in favour of collective military intervention.

Member states have shown a reluctance to strengthen  the democratic functions of the AU. And, there’s no common position on how to move the union beyond the rhetorical plane.

With a strict pre-admission process, issues of compliance with AU rules and regulations could be easily determined, and the necessary measures to address violations adapted.
Which way forward?
It’s not naive or idealistic to suggest that the AU needs stricter admission criteria. The union has strong democratic foundations  which are espoused in the Constitutive Act.

These were the democratic values championed by African states as the union transitioned from the Organisation of African Unity in the year 2000.

That little attention has been paid to upholding the continental organisation’s democratic ethos remains one of the key drawbacks of the AU.

It missed the opportunity to push its democratic agenda during the processes that admitted first South Sudan and then Morocco. Thankfully, the AU can still redress this position by amending its Constitutive Act for future applications.

I am proposing a fourth condition for admission: the strict adherence to democratic norms as stipulated in articles 3 & 4 of the Constitutive Act.

The prospect of enlarging the AU to include the African Diaspora presents the union with an opportunity to enforce a stricter admission process. Haiti is likely to apply again for AU membership and if it’s admitted this could open the door for other countries in the Caribbean and Latin America.

If this happens, then the AU should subject each applicant state to a process that assesses its ability and willingness to comply with the union’s democratic norms, the likely obstacles to that compliance, and the feasibility of assisting the applicant state to redress its democratic shortfalls.

That could ideally be done through a strengthened African Peer Review Mechanism. Such process should be tailored to assess the political and economic readiness of an applying state to fulfil AU obligations.


Edition first published by Associate Professor of International Law, University of South Africa/ The Conversation

More female children will be used as suicide bombers in West Africa in 2017

More female children will be used as suicide bombers in West Africa in 2017

Female suicide bombers, many of them young girls, in West Africa in 2017 has significantly risen compared to 2016 according to the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) report

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UNICEF documented 27 young girls used in suicide attacks already in 2017, 30 in 2016, 56 in 2015, and just four in 2014. This largely confirms the trends compiled by FDD’s Long War Journal.

According to Long War Journal data, there were at least 80 female suicide bombers used in 2015. In 2014, there only 15 females, most of which were adult women.

Since June 2014, at least 151 women and girls have been used in subsequent attacks the report says. The overwhelming majority of these assaults have occurred in Nigeria, while at least 14 has occurred in Cameroon, three in Chad, and one in Niger.

This year Boko Haram militants have used at least 27 children to carry out suicide bombing attacks in the first three months in Nigeria, Chad, Niger and Cameroon, the reports says.

This marks a major increase — 30 children were used in bombings for all of 2016 in those four countries, where Boko Haram is active.

The horrifying pattern is a sign of shifting strategy for Boko Haram, now waging its eighth year of conflict. “The insurgency has changed its tactics over the course of the conflict, from holding towns and territory to a guerrilla-style insurgency that uses hit and run attacks and improvised explosive devices,” UNICEF says.

That shift is clear in the numbers: Four were used in suicide attacks in 2014, 56 in 2015, and 30 in 2016.

It’s enabled by the militants’ systemic kidnapping of thousands of children, most famously the more than 270 schoolgirls taken from the town of Chibok, Nigeria, three years ago. Girls in particular are subjected to forced marriage and repeated rape.

“This is the worst possible use of children in conflict,” UNICEF’s regional director for West and Central Africa, Marie-Pierre Poirier, said in a statement. “These children are victims, not perpetrators, forcing or deceiving them into committing such horrific acts is reprehensible.”

It is not clear that all of the children who have carried out attacks are cognizant of what they were doing, the report states.

There are also major concerns about how the uptick in attacks impacts the way other children who return after being abducted by Boko Haram are viewed by their communities, making reintegration more difficult. “Girls, boys and even infants have been viewed with increasing fear at markets and checkpoints, where they are thought to carry explosives,” UNICEF says.

The organization published testimony from “Amina” from Chad, who was 16 when she got married, only to find out later that her new husband was a Boko Haram militant. Here’s more:

“After being manipulated and drugged, she was forced into an attempted suicide attack. Four people including Amina were on a canoe riding towards a weekly crowded market. The four girls carried bombs that were strapped to their bodies. When a Vigilante Committee spotted them on the canoe, two of them activated their explosive belt. Amina didn’t activate her device but she was injured in the explosion. She lost both her legs.

However Nigeria President Muhammadu Buhari vowed in Sambisa Forest during the 2017 Nigerian Army Small Arms Championship (NASAC), that never again will terrorists take over and occupy any part of Nigeria’s territory.

Represented by the Minister of Defence, Mansur Dan-Ali, Buhari noted that his government is resolved to stamp out all activities and operations of the Boko Haram insurgents from Nigeria.

This year alone Al Qaeda’s group has been linked to over 100 attacks in West Africa. Most of the attacks so far  have occurred in Mali, majorly in the northern part of the country.

EXPOSED! What Nigerian govt told UK court about Malabu scandal, Etete

EXPOSED! What Nigerian govt told UK court about Malabu scandal, Etete

The transfer of over $800 million to accounts controlled by Dan Etete from a Nigerian government account was fraudulent and in contravention of Nigerian laws, the federal government told a UK High Court.

EXPOSED! What Nigerian govt told UK court about Malabu scandal, Etete

The money was part of the $1.1 billion paid by Shell and ENI for OPL 245, considered one of Nigeria’s richest oil blocks. Although the government sought to transfer the total sum to Mr. Etete’s accounts, suits filed by middlemen seeking payments for services allegedly rendered during negotiation meant the government could only transfer $801 million of the money.

About $110.5 million was transferred to a Swiss account after one of the middlemen, Emeka Obi, won his case against Malabu while $85 million remained stuck in the UK following a court ruling.

It was in a bid to retrieve the $85 million that the Nigerian government filed its suit at the High Court of Justice, Admiralty and Commercial Court in the UK in October 2016.

Nigeria’s former attorney general, Mohammed Adoke, who authorised the transfer in 2011 following a controversial agreement with Malabu and another with Shell and ENI, has repeatedly maintained that he acted in the best interest of the federal government on the matter.

However, in a notice filed at the British Court, the Nigerian government under President Muhammadu Buhari argued that the transfer of the funds was in contravention of Nigerian laws.

“Those funds should have been paid into the Consolidated Fund of the Government of Nigeria, following the grant of an oil exploration license to a foreign oil consortium,” the government argued according to court documents.

The federal government argued that based on Section 80 (1), of the Nigerian constitution, all such monies should have been paid into the Consolidated Fund.

EXPOSED! What Nigerian govt told UK court about Malabu scandal, Etete

“All revenues or other moneys raised or received by the Federation (not being revenues or other moneys payable under this Constitution or any Act of the National Assembly into any other public fund of the Federation established for a specific purpose) shall be paid into and form one Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Federation,” the section states.

The government argued that it was therefore illegal for the Goodluck Jonathan administration to have opened a separate Escrow Account in JP Morgan bank in London into which the $1.1 billion was paid.

Even after receiving the money in the escrow account, the government argued, it should have been transferred directly into the Consolidate Fund.

Etete’s ‘fraudulent’ role

Apart from the illegality of the account into which the money was paid, the Nigerian government also argued that Mr. Etete fraudulently secured the oil block for Malabu in 1998, at a time he served as petroleum minister under late dictator Sani Abacha.

Reports earlier showed how Mr. Etete created a fictional character, Kwekwu Amafegha, who owned 30 per cent shares in Malabu at inception; thus meaning the minister awarded the block to a company he partly owned.

Restating this claim to the British court, the federal government said Mr. Etete’s action violated Section 98 of the Nigerian Criminal Code Act 1990 which makes it a criminal offence for any public official to corruptly obtain any property or benefit of any kind for himself or any other person in the discharge of his official duties.

The government also argued that Mr. Etete’s conduct in the use of Malabu as a front breached the code of conduct for public officials.

Section 5 of the Nigerian Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act 1991 provides that “a public officer shall not put himself in a position where his personal interest conflicts with his duties and responsibilities.”

Other sections of the Act like sections 10 and 23 were also violated by the then petroleum minister, the government said.

The government also argued that the failure of Malabu to pay any fee in 1998 when the block was awarded to it and also its failure to pay a $210 million signature bonus in 2016 was also illegal and further meant it had no right to the block.

“In summary, the 29th April Agreement was a corrupt agreement which deprived the claimant and the Nigerian people of the value to which it was entitled from the sale and exploitation of OPL 245 Block …” the government argued.

In its defence of the 2011 agreement and the transfer of the $801 million, Mr. Etete’s Malabu presented two letters written by Mr. Adoke.  In the first letter dated July 25, 2011 and the second dated May 20, 2013, Mr. Adoke accepted responsibility for the 2011 agreement and transfers stating that it was in public interest and that he had the permission of the federal government to authorise the deal.

In its ruling on the matter, delivered on December 19, 2016, the British court agreed with the Nigerian government and ruled that the $85 million be handed over to the Nigerian government.

There has been no confirmation on if the Nigerian government had received the $85 million or what effort was being made to retrieve it as ordered by the court.

The spokespersons for the Central Bank of Nigeria and the Office of Attorney-General of the Federation could not be reached for comments throughout Monday. Their telephone lines were switched off.

Criminial trial

A day after the court ruling, the Nigerian government commenced criminal proceedings against Messrs. Adoke and Etete, as well as others accused of involvement in the shady transactions that saw more than half of the $801 million Mr. Etete received go to companied owned by controversial businessman, Aliyu Abubakar.

Mr. Abubakar is believed to have been a front for officials of the Goodluck Jonathan administration. Shell and ENI are also being prosecuted for their roles in the scandal.

After years of denial, Shell recently admitted it knew the money paid would end in private pockets, including those linked to Mr. Etete who a few years earlier was convicted of money laundering in France.

Shell, ENI and their officials have also been indicted by an Italian prosecutor who wants them prosecuted for their roles in the scandal.

 

A business solution

Despite the ongoing prosecutions, the Nigerian government has intensified moves in recent weeks to partner with Shell and ENI on the block and other business dealings.

The Minister of State for Petroleum, Ibe Kachikwu, told Acting President Yemi Osinbajo during a closed-door meeting on May 10 that the new deals being entered with Shell and Eni would be crucial to the country’s economic exploits.

“These are huge billions of dollars of investment in Nigeria, I am not going to shut that down,” the minister said, adding that “the issue of the criminality (on Malabu) is outside my realm.”

Industry insiders believe the renewed negotiations would be highlighted to shareholders at the Shell annual general meeting slated to kick off on Tuesday in the Netherlands in order to downplay the criminal prosecutions.

The oil giant would likely express optimism about the talks to convince shareholders that the Malabu probe would not damage its business interests in Nigeria and globally.


SOURCE: The Bloomgist/Premium Times/Agencies

An African University is on a mission to decolonise social sciences

An African University is working towards a path to decolonise social sciences and it is serious

It’s not often that you get to create a new university from scratch: space, staff – and curriculum. But that’s exactly what we’re doing in Mauritius, at one of Africa’s newest higher education institutions. And decoloniality is central to our work.

An African University is on a mission to decolonise social sciences
It’s time for students to see Africa differently. Shutterstock

I am a member of the Social Science Faculty at the African Leadership University. Part of our task is to build a canon, knowledge, and a way of knowing. This is happening against the backdrop of a movement by South African students to decolonise their universities; Black Lives Matter protests in the United States; and in the context of a much deeper history of national reimagination across Africa and the world.

With this history in mind our faculty is working towards what we consider a decolonial social science curriculum. We’ve adopted seven commitments to help us meet this goal, and which we hope will shift educational discourse in a more equitable and representative direction.

Seven commitments

#1: By 2019, everything we assign our students will be open source

Like most institutions of higher education in Africa (and across much of the world) ALU’s library is limited. Students often deal with this by flouting copyright and piracy laws and illegally downloading material. We don’t want to train our students to become habitual law breakers. Nor do we want them to accept second-tier access to commodified knowledge.

Our aspiration is that by 2019 everything we assign in our programme will be open source. This will be achieved by building relationships with publishers, writers and industry leaders, and negotiating partnerships for equitable access to knowledge. This will ensure that a new generation of thinkers is equipped with the analytic tools they need.

It will also move towards undoing centuries of knowledge extraction from Africa to the world that has too often taken place with little benefit to the continent itself.

#2: Language beyond English

Students who read, write and think in English often forget that knowledge is produced, consumed, and tested in other tongues.

We commit to assigning students at least one non-English text per week. This will be summarised and discussed in class, even when students are unable to read it themselves. Our current class comprises of students from 16 countries who between them speak 29 languages. English is the only language they all share. Exposing students to scholarly, policy, and real-world work that’s not in English means they are constantly reminded how much they don’t know.

As we grow, students will also be expected to learn languages from the continent: both those that originated in colonialism (Arabic, English, French, Portuguese), and those that are indigenous such as isiZulu, Wolof, or Amharic.

#3: 1:1 Student exchange ratio

Having cross-cultural experiences, particularly as an undergraduate, has become an important part of demonstrating work readiness and social competency in a “globalised” world. But scholars have shown that globalisation is often uneven. Strong currencies enable such experiences, so those who benefit usually come from Europe and North America.

This has had huge implications for higher education, where “student exchange” usually takes place at a ratio of 10:1 – ten Americans or Norwegians, for instance, exploring South African townships, for one Ghanaian who might make it to the Eiffel Tower.

In Social Sciences the body is the research tool and the mind the laboratory in which experiments are undertaken. We support as much exchange as possible across the broader institution. But our commitment when it comes to student exchange is strictly 1:1 – one ALU student goes abroad for every one exchange student we welcome into our classroom.

#4: Text is not enough

Africa’s long intellectual history has only recently begun to be recorded and stored through text. If students are exposed only to written sources, their knowledge is largely constrained to the eras of colonisation and post-coloniality.

To instil a much deeper knowledge and more sensitive awareness to context and content, we are committed to assigning non-textual sources of history, culture, and belief: studying artefacts, music, advertising, architecture, food, and more. Each week students engage with at least one such source to attend to the world around them in a more careful way.

#5: We cannot work alone

Social scientists often assign themselves the role of deconstructor: unpacking power, race, capitalism and consumption with glorious self-righteous abandon. My colleagues and I recognise that we cannot work alone, and require our students to play a central role in contributing to the university’s outputs.

We design our curricula in such a way that students are compelled to create, iterate, work with feedback, apply that feedback, and critically appraise it. We want them to collaborate with as wide a range of other people as possible, stretching them to use language and the tools of analysis that they acquire in their training with real world implication. For example, students recently worked with our legal, policy, and learning teams to write the university’s statement on diversity.

#6: Producers, not only consumers

The students who choose to come to the university bring with them tremendous insight and experience. These are often developed and augmented by spending time in the quintessential multi-cultural environment of the campus and dormitories. That allows certain fusions, tensions and commonalities to emerge much more clearly than they might in other places.

Working and living within this environment, it’s essential that students start contributing to discourses surrounding Africa as early as possible. It might take years to know how to write a publishable scholarly article – but an op-ed, podcast or YouTube video is not quite so demanding. This allows students to get accustomed to their voices contributing to and shaping public dialogue in and about Africa.

#7: Ethics above all

Social Sciences both reflect and shape the world. Our programme, then, is committed to the principle of “do no harm”, and also to be an impetus for good.

Students will learn to think and act to the highest ethical standards, and to feel confident in asking the same of others working with them. This is essential in bringing into being a world in which Africa’s place is both central – as it has arguably always been to global capitalism – and also respected.

Collaboration

It’s early days at ALU. There’s a lot we still need to do, and it will take time for us to build the institution into what we collectively envision. These seven commitments are an important foundation for the Social Sciences.

We’re inviting responses and collaborations through our blog, through email or through collaborations with our students.

Paraguay’s population is exploding, but where are all the jobs?

Paraguay’s population is exploding, but where are all the jobs?

In recent weeks, Paraguay has been shaken by a fierce parliamentary debate about a bill – recently killed off in the House of Representatives – that would have allowed presidents to be re-elected.

Paraguay’s population is exploding, but where are all the jobs?
Paraguayan farmers are demanding agrarian reforms that would restore lost jobs to the countryside. PHOTO: Jorge Adorno/Reuters

And although photographs of the Congress building in flames and the murder of a young protester by security forces drew international attention and clearly demonstrated the limits of Paraguay’s democratic system, political turbulence is just the most visible aspect of the deep economic and social problems facing this South American country.

Paraguay’s boom

The country’s situation could, in theory, be favourable. Paraguay is in the midst of a demographic boom that is transforming the shape of its population.

According to official projections, almost 60% of the country’s almost seven million people are between 15 and 64 years old. That means an extraordinary proportion of Paraguayans are of working age, and a relatively small segment, consisting of children and the elderly, is dependent.

Unfortunately, these statistical data do not imply an upsurge in productivity and economic growth; the country’s current economic structure does not have room for so many new workers. The Paraguayan government has yet to create a plan for integrating th, much less for putting in place differentiated pathways to employment for young people and vulnerable groups.

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Informal settlements have grown in Asunción as people migrate from rural areas to the city seeking employment. PHOTO: Jorge Adorno/Reuters

Without such policies, Paraguay’s demographic bump, which is projected to continue through to 2025, will have the opposite effect to creating an economic boom. It will deepen inequality and poverty, boost the informal economy and actually spur emigration.

Strong growth, weak fundamentals

After recovering from a deep crisis in 2012, the Paraguayan economy has actually been growing at a steady clip, with GDP rising by 4.7% in 2014 and 5.2% in 2015.

But structural weaknesses are apparent. The mainstays of the Paraguayan economy are commodities and hydropower, which accounted for 25.6% and 24.9% of its GDP, respectively, in 2015. After that comes the underground economy, Paraguay’s third most important economic sector, according to one Treasury Ministry official in an interview conducted by the author in 2010. This mainly comprises smuggling activities on different scales.

Despite a reduction in poverty, which dropped from 32% in 2011 to 22% in 2015, Paraguay is still one of the poorest countries in Latin America. It ranks fourth in extreme poverty, after Honduras, Guatemala and Nicaragua, according to a 2016 ECLAC report.

Inequality is also widespread. Though the country’s GINI coefficient, which indicates economic inequality, has dropped from 0.5124 to 0.4714, there’s still a significant gap between rich and poor Paraguayans. According to the General Statistics Surveys and Census Bureau (DGEEC), the poorest 40% of Paraguayans pocket only 12.5% of the nation’s revenues, while the richest 10% earn 37.1% of all income.

Finally, there’s underemployment, which hovers at 19% (only 5.34% of Paraguayans are fully unemployed). Among the 3.3 million people nationwide who have jobs, 664,000 either work less than 30 hours per week “but would like to work more, and are available to do so”, according to the above-mentioned DGEEC bureau. Or they work 30-plus hours but are paid less than minimum wage“.

Rural exodus

In rural parts of the country, these economic weaknesses are magnified. Unemployment for urban men can reach 55.12% in some areas, but it’s 64.19% in rural zones. Wages are also notoriously lower in rural areas – even bosses earn less.

The rural-urban economic gap is the result of large-scale agriculture steadily eating away at small-scale farming in Paraguay. And it is increasingly prioritising high-tech monoculture enterprises.

Today, 90% of the land belongs to just 5% of landowners.

Thanks to a surge in inflows of transgenic crops since 2012, agri-business revenues have multiplied in Paraguay.

In late March, about a thousand farmers converged on Asunción in an annual march, demanding across-the-board agrarian reform. The protesters called for debt forgiveness for small farmers and condemned the widespread concentration of rural resources.

Paraguay’s population is exploding, but where are all the jobs?
Harvesting soybeans in Paraguay, where industrial farms are increasingly pushing out small landholders. PHOTO: Jorge Adorno/Reuters

Studies have confirmed that between 1991 and 2008, when the last National Agricultural Census was conducted, the total amount of productive land in Paraguay fell by some 5.7%. The number of farms and homesteads covering less than 100 hectares has shrunk, while those between 100 and 500 hectares has risen by almost 35%, and massive plantations covering more than 500 hectares are up by almost 57%.

Farmers’ deepening marginalisation in the countryside has made city living more attractive.

Asunción, the capital, has grown steadily, from 388,958 people in 1972 to 515,587 in 2012. Some 37% of the nation’s population is now concentrated in the city and the surrounding Central Department area.

Although complete official accounting of informal settlements are not available, the National Housing Bureau, SENAVITAT, estimates that the region now has some around 1,000 slum areas.

Though wages are higher in the city, Paraguay’s labour market usually makes it hard for rural migrants to find jobs, so new arrivals often face underemployment, temporary joblessness or longer-term unemployment.

The democratisation debate

Underemployment and rural poverty are fuelling Paraguay’s current turbulent politics, highlighting a critical question that was first debated during South America’s democratic transitions in the 1980s: can political democracy truly exist in countries that haven’t also attained economic and social democracy?

Some thinkers claim that economics and politics are independent dimensions, and that the social rights can be enshrined after democracy is established.

Paraguay’s population is exploding, but where are all the jobs?
Political upheaval has shaken Paraguay in recent months, as unemployment and poverty rise. PHOTO: Jorge Adorno/Reuters

More critical – or less optimistic – political scientists contend that, to the contrary, there can be no real democracy if it’s not accompanied by the steady spread of social and economic equality.

For Paraguay, the latter hypothesis has won out.

Paraguayan democracy is so lacking in social components that it has become a shrunken version of government. It consists almost exclusively to ensure that institutions function, elections are held regularly and transparently, ballot-box outcomes are accepted and, above all, that the population accepts the nation’s entrenched economic structure.

This is not really democracy.

What’s more, a steady stream of scandals has revealed widespread fraud and corruption, and there are deep-rooted processes of political and economic exclusion.

No matter who runs in the 2018 election, it will be merely a fiction of democracy – a mechanism that serves to continue the systematic uprooting of farm families for the benefit of agribusiness and bolstering an urban economy that pushes workers into underemployment or into the informal sector.

Until social justice, equality and rights are brought into politics, Paraguay’s turbulence can be expected to continue.

Famine ravage Africa while the world’s media turn blind eye

Major political events in the US and Europe have preoccupied western media over the past year. Chief among these has been Donald Trump’s rise to US president and his continuing efforts to establish a credible domestic and foreign policy agenda.

Famine in Somalia 4

Before that, the inability of the European Union to agree on a plan to host an influx of refugees gained the media’s attention along with the United Kingdom’s referendum on Europe. Now a succession of national elections across Europe – in France, Germany and the UK among others – looks set to dominate front page news.

The western media’s focus on momentous events at home has come at the expense of reporting on events unfolding in the global South. Among the events which have been eclipsed by the media’s preoccupation is the famine that’s unfolding in Africa.

Today the causes of famine are largely man made even though below average rain fall has exacerbated local food production in the Horn of Africa over the past 18 to 24 months. However, in Sudan, Niger, the Central African Republic and Nigeria military conflict over the past three to four years has disrupted food production, displaced millions and created conditions which prevent the delivery of humanitarian assistance (assuming it was available).

The situation today is not unlike events that unfolded in Ethiopia in the early 1980s. Western governments then failed to monitor and intervene in time to prevent or mitigate the famine. It took a global media event – in the form of Band Aid and a pop song [Do they know it’s Christmas] – to focus attention on the failure of western governments to respond to the tragedy that was unfolding. Alas humanitarian assistance, when it arrived, was too little too late.

The factors responsible for famine are complex. But, following the work of Amartya Sen, a Nobel Prize winning economist, they are well known and should be the focus of western development policy and humanitarian assistance. They include poor governance, inadequate planning, limited investment in development, ongoing violence and large scale population displacement. Unfortunately, such factors don’t appear on the agendas of western governments.

At the same time development assistance to Africa has declined since 1990. The continent receives approximately 33% of total Overseas Development Assistance, down from 45% in 1990. And while humanitarian aid has stabilised at 7% to 8 %, funding for economic projects has increased from 17% to 21%.

Even though over the long-term the assistance should, in theory, be declining as the pace of development picks up, the need for humanitarian assistance needs to be constantly assessed so that it can be delivered in time to save lives.

Interests are far more insular

Why has western development policy failed to recognise the signs that a famine has been unfolding in Africa? Why has it failed to provide humanitarian aid in a timely manner?

The answer to these questions is twofold. Firstly western governments have failed to engage in sustained dialogue with African states to discuss the consequences of policies that rely on force, which displace populations and which disrupt markets and set back development.

Secondly it appears that western governments and tax payers are no longer interested in Africa. Their interests are far more insular, a situation reflected in the domestic issues that dominated the US election and the UK Brexit referendum.

The extent of western interest in Africa, indeed with the global South, is focused on securing the flow of oil and other commodities which underpins their consumption. Coupled with this are determined efforts at stopping illegal migrants and refugees from entering the west. This fact is reflected in the $21 billion cost of Trump’s proposed wall between the US and Mexico and the European Union’s €2.5 billion project to bottle up migrants in Africa to prevent them from reaching Europe.

The current cost of humanitarian assistance for Africa pales into insignificance against such sums.

Too little too late

The famine in Africa is occurring on a much larger scale than in 1980 across the Horn of Africa, in the Central African Republic and in Nigeria where an estimated 40 million people are at risk.

Yet humanitarian assistance has come very late. What’s on offer is too little and it will be delivered too late to prevent large scale death. For instance the European Union’s pledge of €760 million to the Horn of Africa was only announced in November 2016 while European states made belated and quite small pledges in February this year. The US, for its part, remains the largest provider of food aid but has yet to state what it will pledge to alleviate famine in Africa.

In 1984 public support for Band Aid provided a much needed kick up the backside to western governments for their failure to respond to the needs of 1 million Ethiopians. It remains to be seen who or what’s going to push the world into action today, for the 40 million Africans who face famine.

White population in extensive control of the South Africa's economy

White population in extensive control of the South Africa’s economy

The role of “white monopoly capital” in post-apartheid South Africa has been in the news lately. In the South African context, it can be understood as the white population’s extensive control over the country’s economy.

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The legacies of clonialism persist with white people still controlling a large chunk of the South African economy. Photo: Reuters/Siphiwe Sibeko

The debate reflects a recanting view against the rainbow nation dream sold when the country gained political freedom 22 years ago. The idea is that white monopoly capital is the source of the problem of multiple failures of the South African political economy.

The response has been a rising chorus of white monopoly capitalism deniers who argue that the governing African National Congress (ANC) is using the concept as a shield against criticism. Instead of addressing its failings such as a faltering economy, widening inequality, unemployment, corruption and incompetence, the argument goes, the ANC is deflecting attention for the country’s difficulties by blaming white monopoly capital.

Some in this camp add that South Africa has recorded significant progress in redistributing the country’s wealth, mainly via the allocation of equity in formerly white companies to black economic empowerment groups. They quote figures that they say reflects rising levels of black ownership on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange.

But by relying on a single indicator, they ignore other key pointers which are critical to understanding the stranglehold that white capital has over the South African economy. The exclusive focus on the JSE ignores the fact that the stock market is just one of many forms of capital. Others include land – probably one of the most contentious of all forms of capital in South Africa’s history – home ownership and human capital, in the forms of knowledge, skills and education.

A multifaceted enquiry into the state of South African economy that includes all these forms of capital leaves no doubt that white capital continues to dominate the economy.

To reject this reality shows a clear lack of understanding of “capital” and the link between historic and contemporary forms of “capital accumulation”. This is because the historical legacies of colonialism and apartheid – which saw the transfer of a vast amount of the country’s resources into the hands of white European migrants – continue to shape the political, economic and social life of the country.

Persistence of white privilege

Legacies of white privilege still persist. High levels of poverty and rampant unemployment still haunt black communities.

This inequity is also evident in patterns of ownership.

Despite claims to the contrary, a study of black ownership on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange shows clearly that black South Africans remain small time players. According to a recent study, only 23% of the shares traded on the exchange are held – directly and indirectly – by black South Africans.

On top of this, capital, in its varied forms such as the land, property and human capital, remains heavily skewed to white ownership.

The land is particularly important in the South African context as it carries most colonial scars. The country’s colonial and apartheid regime (both white minority) used expropriation to remove people from their land. They then used this stolen land to accumulate capital in the forms of mining and agriculture.

At the time of apartheid in 1994, more than 80% of the land was in the hands of white minority. Data from the Institute of Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies suggest that just under 60,000 white-owned farms accounted for about 70% of the total area of the country in early 1990s. Land reforms programme has been slow. Some suggest that less than 10 % of the total land has been redistributed from white to black ownership since 1994.

Another cornerstone of the colonial as well as apartheid designers was to deny all black people access to economic opportunities as well as to limit their scope in both education and jobs.

These developments have had sequential implications and generational effects. The result is that racial inequalities continue to be reproduced.

There are a great many examples that can be cited to show this. For example, white people continue to be more skilled and attain higher education levels than their black counterparts. They are, therefore, more likely to attain higher positions in the labour market and, on average, earn higher wages.

Black South Africans remain heavily under-represented in the skilled jobs market because they are largely unskilled and hence most affected by the country’s high unemployment.

The colonial and apartheid legacy can also be seen in asset ownership. White people own houses, hotels, resorts, shops, restaurants, savings, cash, foreign assets and other forms of complex financial products. They leverage their ownership and control to extract rents and increase their wealth, while majority of the blacks are still poor.

Capital accumulation and wealth creation

The adoption of the market-based reforms in post-apartheid South Africa meant that the already skewed distribution of wealth in the country got worse. Whites continued to reap the rewards of their previous privilege under the new economic system.

There’s no doubt that the country’s new ruling party elite has also benefited from the political system, many through black economic empowerment deals. The alliance between the white monopoly capital and corrupt ANC government afflicts devastating consequence on the poor.

The South African government needs to do more to address widening inequality, rampant unemployment and deliver on the promises of development for all and not just few. It needs to prove its detractors wrong – that it’s pursuit of what it terms “radical economic transformation” fulfils the promise of addressing the country’s skewed economic ownership patterns.


SOURCE: The Bloomgist/The Conversation

South Sudan famine: Only hope is the lifeline sent by the UK from the sky

South Sudan famine: Only hope is the lifeline sent by the UK from the sky

In the dusty, baking emptiness of Leer in South Sudan, bags of British food aid fall from the sky to relieve the hunger below.

South Sudan famine: Only hope is the lifeline sent by the UK from the sky
Planes drop aid sacks into famine-hit areas of South Sudan. Photo: ROBERT OXLEY/ DFID

It is here in the north of the country that the United Nations has declared a famine. It is here that the fighting between government and rebel forces has driven so many into hunger and homelessness. And it is here that UK aid is being carefully targeted from the air.

To watch these bags of cereal and pulses and food substitutes pour from the bellies of ageing Russian transport planes that have been hired by the aid agencies is to witness an absolute good. For without it, more people in this war-ravaged, hunger-stricken country in central Africa would starve to death.

South Sudan famine: Only hope is the lifeline sent by the UK from the sky
Hungry South Sudanese eat leaves and seeds to survive as famine bites harder, Photo: iBasam

I watched the Ilyushin planes lumber slowly into view alongside Priti Patel, the International Development Secretary, who had travelled many hours to see what impact the money she had authorised was having on the ground.

Despite the controversy over her £13bn aid budget, Ms Patel insisted that Britain’s humanitarian spending gave it influence in the world.

First the planes practise a low pass over the drop zone, marked by a large white cross. They make another wide circuit to let nearby villages know an aid delivery is on its way. And then, at around 300 metres above the ground, they begin to drop their cargoes.

South Sudan famine: Only hope is the lifeline sent by the UK from the sky
Any food drop in a government-held area has to be matched by one in territory held by the rebels

Each plane can carry about 30 metric tonnes of aid, about 600 sacks. They make three passes, dropping 200 sacks each time. These are not parachute-born crates, just individual bags hurtling towards the ground. Like some dreadful game of pass-the-parcel, each sack is bagged seven times to stop it exploding on impact.

To watch this, to see the gleam of hope in the eyes of those waiting below, is a moving experience. For many of them, without this aid, they would be forced to live off what nuts, leaves and water lilies they can forage, none of which provides adequate nutrition.

“UK aid is providing a much-needed lifeline to people who have been persecuted, driven off their homes, forced to flee,” Ms Patel told me. “The aid that we are providing right now is the difference between life and death.”

South Sudan famine: Only hope is the lifeline sent by the UK from the sky
Children cross a body of water to register for a UN food distribution program in Thonyor

Yet the problem is this. Each plane contains food enough for only 2,000 people a month. The cost of the planes is astronomic and there are only seven in the region that the World Food Programme can operate.

There is a scarcity of available food aid because there are so many other droughts in the region. Each drop has to be negotiated with local community leaders and armed groups, whose permission is needed to ensure that any fighting is put on hold. The hungry will come only if they feel safe.

The distribution centre on the ground – a temporary, pop-up affair – can exist only for a few days before the security risks become again too great.

South Sudan famine: Only hope is the lifeline sent by the UK from the sky
Children in South Sudan are suffering from acute malnutrition

Any food drop in a government-held area has to be matched by one in territory held by the rebels. The amount of aid has to be roughly equal in size to avoid accusations that the aid agencies are taking sides.

In other words, this aid that falls from the sky may help people who are the hardest to reach in a severe humanitarian crisis. But it is expensive, complicated and, as aid workers repeatedly told me, not nearly enough.

South Sudan famine: Only hope is the lifeline sent by the UK from the sky
Women carry food in gunny bags after visiting an aid distribution centre in Ngop in South Sudan’s Unity State on March 10, 2017.

There are three road corridors into South Sudan along which aid can travel by truck. And this can be more efficient. One truck alone can carry as much as a Russian transport plane.

Yet trucks have deal with checkpoints, fighting and simple banditry. And soon they will lose the roads when the rains come and render much of the country impassable. So there is, aid workers say, a race against time to build up aid dumps before the weather closes in.

South Sudan famine: Only hope is the lifeline sent by the UK from the sky
UK International Development Secretary Priti Patel inspects aid sacks that have been dropped by plane. Photo: ROBERT OXLEY/DFID

Such is the reality of delivering British and other aid in the north. To the south, in the capital, Juba, the UK is funding much of South Sudan’s only children’s hospital – its medicines, its water tanks, its solar panels. Here doctors are seeing rising numbers of children with acute malnutrition. And inevitably they need more resources, above all more space.

On the day we visited, in one ward alone, there were 43 children sharing 21 beds. I spoke to Rhoda, a 50-year-old woman who had brought in her granddaughter 10 days previously. Cecilia, only 18 months old, arrived severely malnourished. Her mother had died and Rhoda had no milk to feed her. But, she told me, Cecilia’s fever and diarrhoea had abated after a few days of milk and porridge.

South Sudan famine: Only hope is the lifeline sent by the UK from the sky

Further south, the problem is one of refugees. More than a million South Sudanese have fled the country to escape the fighting. We travelled to northern Uganda where on average 2,000 people are pouring over the border each day. Last week there was one 24-hour period when no fewer than 7,000 refugees came across.

Uganda – unusually – welcomes refugees and gives them a plot of land with shelter and access to services. Here millions of pounds of UK aid is being spent to provide some of the basic infrastructure. Yet here again the scale of the crisis outweighs the humanitarian response. Last August there was next to nothing at the main refugee settlement at Bidibidi. Now, it is the largest such settlement in the world, home to more than 270,000 people.

South Sudan famine: Only hope is the lifeline sent by the UK from the sky
South Sudan Declares Famine As Thousands Face Starvation

Clearly, the scale of the humanitarian challenge is huge and growing. But the aid agencies report that the United Nation emergency response for South Sudan is hugely underfunded, with some international donors showing reluctance to stump up the cash. So this is a crisis that many expect to get worse before it gets better.


SOURCE: The Bloomgist/BBC/iBasam/BuzFeed

Survey explains who marched against President Zuma and why

South Africa has long been described as the “protest capital of the world”. But the protests have largely been confined to black townships and informal settlements.

Survey explains on who marched against President Zuma and why

The student protests of 2015-2016 suggested that this was beginning to change, with students of all races marching to places such as the African National Congress’s (ANC’s) headquarters Luthuli House, Parliament and Union Buildings. But the most recent marches were the first time in post-apartheid South Africa that such a united force was seen against a president and the governing party – the ANC.

This followed growing discontent towards President Jacob Zuma and the ANC that was reflected in the loss of support in the 2016 local government elections. The outcry following Zuma’s recent cabinet reshuffle, widely seen as being influenced by the interests of the Gupta family, culminated in nationwide protests on 7 April 2017.

Thousands of people marched across the country, notably in Pretoria, Durban, Johannesburg and Cape Town, demanding that Zuma resign. These were followed by a march of the combined main opposition parties on Wednesday 12 April to the seat of government in Pretoria that attracted tens of thousands of protesters, making it possibly the largest march in post-apartheid history.

What might these marches tell us about the future direction of South Africa’s political landscape?

The 7 April march was largely organised under the banner of the Save South Africa campaign, which is made up of a variety of civil society organisations and business leaders. The predominately middle class makeup of the campaign was widely debated online. But who did attend and why? Was this a rebellion of the white middle class?

A research team from the University of Johannesburg decided to find out by conducting a short survey with 185 marchers. While a small sample, the research team felt that provided a fairly accurate sample and an indicative sense of who was involved and why.

Our findings were that the majority of those who marched were middle-class and mostly black. Most said they were there to protest against Zuma.

Who marched?

Of the 185 people surveyed, 56% were black African and 30% were white. The marchers were predominately middle class. Of those surveyed, 58% held what could be considered middle class occupations – either professional or managerial, technician and associated professions or clerks. Only 10% could be regarded as holding traditionally working class occupations – either skilled manual labour or trades work, domestic work or elementary. 13% were self-employed.

The middle class nature of the protest is reinforced when looking at the marchers’ place of residence and mode of transport to the march. Most of the marchers surveyed lived in a suburb (74%) and nearly half (42%) used a private car to travel to the march. The average age of the marcher surveyed was 41, again suggesting that the marchers were likely to be people somewhat established in their careers. Just under two thirds (61%) were men.

Why did people march?

The reasons that people gave for marching can be categorised into one of five themes: anti-Zuma, change, social justice, the economy and/or corruption and other. The anti-Zuma theme was the most popular, with 41% of marchers surveyed providing this as their reason for attending.

Survey explains on who marched against President Zuma and why
Protesters in Cape Town call on President Zuma to step down. Reuters/Sumaya Hisham

But identifying as anti-Zuma should not be equated with being anti-ANC. A number of respondents made clear that their opposition was to Zuma and not to the ANC. For instance, a retired 58 year old white man from Centurion said that he was at the march

to support all South Africans to get rid of the Zuptas (Zuma and the Guptas), not the ANC.

While a black African self-employed 42-year old women from Benoni said

Zuma must go! Leadership is not for the people… I’m an ANC person but we want our old ANC back.

Nearly half (48%) of black Africans responded with anti-Zuma sentiments. For white respondents, this was the second most common response, 26%. The second most common theme overall, and the most common theme for white respondents, was social justice. This encompassed a broad range of perspectives. For instance, one white 48-year-old housewife from Centurion said

tax money … is not being used to help the poor. Zuma misuses our money, the poor get poorer. Struggle people didn’t die for this!

Other respondents displayed their concern for social justice around a rights-based discourse. One 22-year-old black African student from the Pretoria suburb of Faerie Glen said he was at the march “in defence of the constitution”. While others framed their reason for being at the march around the future of their children.

The third most common theme was concerns for the economy and or corruption. For instance, a black 33-year-old operations manager from Randburg said,

My mom is a government employee – her pension fund will be looted and it’s not their money. Zero leadership in this country. State is corrupt. Junk status.

Women were slightly more likely than men to raise issues of the economy and or corruption. Lastly, need for change accounted for 11% of respondents. No significant difference in the reasons for marching by class could be determined, partly because the sample of working class people was too small to draw any conclusions.

Future prospects

Most of the respondents surveyed were not part of any political grouping, with most (57%) reporting that they had attended the march with family or friends, and nearly a quarter (23%) saying they had come alone. Time will tell whether this loose network of people will be able to build and sustain a collective movement. As other commentators have highlighted, a movement that centres on removing Zuma alone is unlikely to bring the socio-economic change demanded by poor and working class protesters almost daily in the country’s mainly black townships and informal settlements. Can concerns for the pensions of government employees be united with demands for service delivery from those very same government employees? It remains to be seen.


Molefe Pilane, an independent researcher and Linah Nkuna, a Lecturer in Communication Science at the University of South Africa and a PhD student at the University of Johannesburg, contributed to the survey.

How African governments are use advertising as a weapon against press freedom

How African governments are using advertising to fight against press freedom

National governments remain the single largest source of revenue for news organisations in Africa. In Rwanda, for example, a staggering 85-90% of advertising revenue comes from the public sector.

How African governments are use advertising as a weapon against press freedom
Starving news media of revenue is a means of indirect state control. Photo: Shutterstock

In Kenya, it’s estimated that 30% of newspaper revenue comes from government advertising. In 2013, the government spent Ksh40 million in two weeks just to publish congratulatory messages for the new President Uhuru Kenyatta.

But with a general election coming up this year in August, the Kenyan government has decided to stop advertising in local commercial media.

In a memo, reportedly sent to all government accounting officers, the directive was given that state departments and agencies would only advertise in My.Gova government newspaper and online portal.

Electronic advertising would only be aired on the state broadcaster – the Kenya Broadcasting Corporation.

It’s difficult not to characterise the withdrawal of state advertising from commercial media as punitive. Without this revenue stream newspapers are likely to fold.

Worse still, efforts to withdraw government advertising from commercial media can be interpreted as a worrying way to undermine the freedom of expression.

Starving news media of revenue is a means of indirect state control. This has been the case in countries such as Serbia, Hungary, Namibia, Lesotho and Swaziland.

But to fully understand the link between government spend on advertising and media freedom it’s important to take a historical perspective.

How did we get here?

The 1990s saw the adoption of multi-party politics in many African countries. This led to relatively liberal constitutions in South Africa, Kenya, Nigeria and Ghana among others.

Since then, most African governments have grown anxious about their inability to control the local news agenda, much less articulate government policy.

For governments in countries such as Ethiopia, Uganda, Zimbabwe and more recently Tanzania, controlling the news agenda is seen as a means to stay in power. Views that compete with the state position are often cast as legitimising the opposition agenda.

This is part of a much broader strategy for political control which Africanist historians and political scientists have called the “ideology of order”. This is based on the premise that dissent is a threat to nationbuilding and must therefore be diminished.

The narrative was popularised by most post-independence African governments and emphasized through incessant calls for what they liked to call “unity”.

In Kenya, former president Daniel Moi even coined his own political philosophy of “peace, love and unity”. Citizens were expected to accept this narrative unequivocally. Dissenting views were undermined through state-controlled media such as Kenya Broadcasting Corporation and newspapers such as the Kenya Times.

From the 1960s – 1980s, African governments conveniently used the nation-building argument to suppress legitimate dissent. Opposition was punished by imprisonment, forced exile and even death. This was common practice in Kenya, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, and in West Africa more generally.

The current political climate on the continent is premised on constitutional safeguards including the protection of free speech which make these kinds of punishments unlikely in the present day.

Many countries now have institutional safeguards including fairly robust judicial systems capable of withstanding the tyranny of naked state repression.

As a result, the media is controlled in subtler ways and its violence is softer. It’s against this background that I interpret the withdrawal of government adverts from the commercial media in Kenya.

Controlling media budgets

In Kenya, the decision followed a special cabinet meeting which agreed that a new newspaper would be launched to articulate the government agenda more accurately.

The government also argued that the move was part of an initiative to curb runaway spending by lowering advert spend in Kenya’s mainstream media and directing all the money to the new title.

A similar move was made in South Africa last year when the government’s communications arm announced that it would scale down government advertising in local commercial media.

Instead, advertisements would be carried in the government newspaper Vuk’uzenzele. The decision withdrew an estimated $30 million from the country’s commercial newspaper industry.

The South African government also claimed that the move was made to reduce government spending. But critics have argued that the decision was made to punish a media outlet that’s been particularly critical of President Jacob Zuma’s presidency.

In both countries the decisions have hit at a particularly hard time for the media industry, providing governments with the perfect tool with which to control the press.

Will a free press survive

Commercial news media is going through a period of unprecedented crisis. The old business models are unable to sustain media operations as audiences adopt new ways of consuming news.

More than that, mass audiences are growing ever smaller. Newspapers particularly haven’t been able to adapt to the changing profile of the old versus the new newspaper reader.

The effect has been that newspapers are no longer as attractive to advertisers. As such, they have to rely a lot more on state money and patronage for survival.

To sidestep state control commercial media in Africa must rethink their business models and diversify their revenue streams.

It won’t be an easy road but non-state media must also work hard to disrupt this re-emerging narrative of “order”. Nation states cannot revert to the dark days when government policy was singular and alternative viewpoints were silenced or delegitimised.


SOURCE: The Bloomgist/The Conversation

After supporting Morocco’s membership, Nigeria is considering to leave ECOWAS

The economic community for West African states- ECOWAS came into existence in 1975, with the idea of bringing together all the states in the West African sub-region together in cooperation, self defense and share common socio-economic cum political advantages.

Nigeria 2

The aim of the regional economic grouping among others is to promote cooperation and integration, leading to the establishment of the ECOWAS Trade Liberalization Scheme (ETLS) The ETLS was to establish a free trade area where enterprises of Member States may move goods within the ECOWAS bloc without paying duties and levies but today, one of Africa’s strongest regional body that attracted application from Northern Morocco to be admitted is facing its biggest threat.

Since last year, the Nigeria Senate had urged the Nigeria Federal Government (FG) to suspend, the ECOWAS Trade Liberalization Scheme (ETLS) and ECOWAS Common External Tariffs (CET) that Nigeria entered into in year 2000 similarly to the BREXIT struck by the United kingdom with European Union.

However the Economic Commission of West African States, ECOWAS, had said Nigeria is a major beneficiary of ECOWAS Trade Liberisation Scheme, ETLS, stressing that it controlled more than 40 percent of trade in the region and Nigerian businesses and products remain the biggest beneficiaries of the scheme.

But the Nigerian legislature is accusing the scheme of “abuse of customs’ tariff and indiscriminate issuance of fiscal policies. A Nigeria Senator Hope Uzodinma, had also maintained that the country needs to protect her national interest. A Senate committee had blamed the exit of companies like Michelin, Cadbury, UAC and others from the country on the ECOWAS protocols.

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and other stakeholders however refuted the claim. They added that the overriding factor for their exit was lack of electricity to run their high capacity equipment.

The lawmaker also blamed the infiltration of foreign rice into the country through the borders on the instrument, but again stakeholders were quick to slam that and instead blamed same on the lack of capacity by the Nigerian Customs Services which is saddled with the responsibility of checking what comes into the country.

The former Head of State of Republic of Niger, and president of the task force on ETLS, General Salou Djibo, said the seven-member task force for the instruments drawn from Nigeria and other member states, would monitor the effectiveness of the protocol, adding that it would also be on a fact finding mission, as well as, go all out to step up advocacy.

What will happen if the Senate committee should have their way?

Although there are bottlenecks around the ETLS which have made the scheme unpopular and largely unknown. Rising from a workshop organized by Deloitte and the Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA) recently, Some of the bottlenecks which businesses have faced whilst implementing the scheme where highlighted and includes:

long delays in obtaining a Certificate of Origin (CoO) from the National Approval Committee upon submission of an application; refusal by customs agencies of some Member States to honor valid CoOs; where valid CoOs are honored, delays by the customs agencies of Member States in facilitating the clearance and transit of goods to the next border crossing; customs agencies of some Member States validating CoOs at a national level instead of vide the EC who would be able to confirm legitimate CoOs.

But If the Nigerian Senate should come through with this, Nigeria’s largest companies and Banks could face major losses are they are currently exporting – duty and quota free, locally manufactured products to over 350 million people within the ECOWAS bloc.

Nigerian companies which could be severely affected due to their presence in almost all west African countries, include Globacom, Dangote Group, Zenith Bank, United Bank for Africa (UBA), Diamond Bank, Cadbury Nigeria Plc, among others.


SOURCE: The Bloomgist/The Nerve Africa

Otodo Gbame: We are helpless, homeless – we are nobody

Thousands of people in Otodo Gbame, a community in Lagos State have been left homeless after police stormed an informal fishing settlement and set fire to their homes, Bloomgist reports.

Members of the Otodo Gbame riverine community said armed police fired bullets and tear gas indiscriminately, forcing them onto canoes in the water as their houses were leveled.

Otodo Gbame: We are helpless, we are homeless - we are nobody
Otodo Gbame: Everyone in the community was forced onto the water, there were hundreds of boats

One man was shot in the neck and later died, residents and Justice and Empowerment Initiatives (JEI), a Lagos-based group working with the community, told Al Jazeera.

The forceful eviction followed the destruction of the homes of more than 4,700 people in the settlement in mid-March for environmental and health reasons, according to local authorities.

“[Police] came very, very early in the morning [of Sunday],” Tina Edukpo, a 21-year-old Otodo Gbame resident, told Bloomgist.

“When I saw them, I was surprised,” she said.

JEI codirector Andrew Maki, who arrived at the community shortly after the demolitions began, said that at least 50 to 60 officers and 10 police vehicles were in Otodo Gbame in the morning.

He said that the Lagos State Task Force officer in charge at the site told him and residents that police were there on the orders of the governor.

‘Security measure’

According to the Lagos State Governor’s Monitoring Team Twitter account, Sunday’s demolition was carried out as a “security measure in the overall interest of all Lagosians”.

It said it believes “militants” were using the community as a base, an accusation residents and rights groups deny.

Otodo Gbame 5

It also said the settlement was “illegal, without any title or appropriate government approval”.

Maki said on Sunday that police shot tear gas and bullets, forcing thousands of residents onto boats.

“Everyone in the community was forced onto the water, there were hundreds of boats,” Maki said.

Paul Kunnu, another Otodo Gbame resident, said people had nowhere to go but the water.

“They started shooting tear gas and bullets,” Kunnu, 38, told Al Jazeera. “So many people started running into the water.”

Otodo Gbame 4

He also said he remained on a boat in the water for nearly 12 hours and was continually pushed away from the land by marine police as other officers set fire to the remaining homes.

According to residents and JEI, a 20-year-old student was shot in the neck. Video from Sunday shows a bleeding man being rushed in a canoe for help. Maki, from JEI, said the man died in the boat before getting to the hospital.

Authorities were not available for comment on the death.

The Otodo Gbame community is one of many informal settlements along the waterfront of Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial capital.

In January, a Lagos court issued an injunction halting demolitions in such communities after an estimated 30,000 Otodo Gbame residents were evicted in November 2016 to make way for development projects, rights groups said.

JEI and Amnesty International accused the government of violating that court order on March 17 when excavators and police razed of homes of at least 4,700 Otodo Gbame residents.

Ototdo Gbame: We are helpless, we are homeless - we are nobody
Rights groups said more than 4,700 people were displaced in March when Lagos police demolished many of the homes in Otodo-Gbame. PHOTO: JEI

Following last month’s demolition, Lagos State Governor Akinwunmi Ambode issued a statement defending the move, saying it was not in violation of the January injunction.

Ambode said the evictions were carried out “to ensure that the waterfront area is free from environmentally injurious and unsanitary habitation a few months after it was consumed by fired and rendered uninhabitable”.

The government has also said it was not responsible for the fire that displaced thousands in November 2016, instead blaming an “ethnic clash” between residents of different communities.

A ruling on a court case against the governor and other Lagos officials – filed by JEI and dozens of waterfront communities in Lagos – over the March demolition is expected on Wednesday.

‘We have to rebuild’

Last year, rights groups warned that more than 300,000 people faced eviction from waterfront communities across the state of Lagos.

Makeshift housing is common in the poorest parts of Lagos, a city of more than 20 million people.

Morayo Adebayo, a senior researcher at Amnesty International, accused the government of grabbing land.

Otodo Gbame 6

“This is a land-grab situation. That is what is happening,” Morayo told Al Jazeera by phone on Sunday.

“Otodo Gbame residents are fishermen who derive their daily sustenance from the water,” she said. “They have been here for more than 80 years.”

Residents, including Kunnu and Edukpo, vowed to rebuild.

“I want to rebuild my home because I don’t have any other place to go,” Edukpo said. “This is the third time they have demolished my home.”

Kunnu agreed.

“[These are] our homes where our fathers and grandfathers have lived,” he said. “We have to rebuild.”

Residents “Shot Dead”

Daniel Aya, a resident of Otodo Gbame, a riverine community in the Lekki area of Lagos state, was allegedly shot dead during a demolition exercise by men of the state’s task force on Sunday.

In a series of tweets and investigations by The Bloomgist, hundreds of  the evictees were seen leaving the shambles of what used to be a haven of safety through canoes.

Residents of Otodo Gbame ‘shot dead’ as government forcefully ejecting people
Monday Idowu, bullet wounds to his chest from sporadic police shooting. Photo: Justice and Empowerment Initiatives

Some of the fleeing residents were trapped on water, as men of the marine police in the team of the task force, prevented them from going back to the land.

According to Justice and Empowerment Initiatives (JEI), a non-governmental organisation, a stray bullet hit Aya, who was rushed out of the scene, but died hours later.

The organisation shared pictures of residents who were fleeing the community as a result of government’s action.

Court cannot stop Ambode

Justice Adeniyi Onigbanjo of the Lagos High Court ruled today that Governor Akinwunmi Ambode demolition of Otodo Gbame community is irrevocable by the court.

Otodo Gbame 8

The judge, presiding on the matter said the court does not have jurisdiction to order the activities of the governor.

However, the judge expressed disappointment at the Governor’s disregard of the court order by demolishing the waterfront community after a court order has been given for status quo to be maintained by both party pending a final judgment on the issue. The judge also pointed that the demolition of Otodo Gbame is out-rightly going against the rule of law.

“The third respondent (Governor Ambode) undermined the principle of rule of law and is going against the democratic system which put him in office in the first place.”

Justice Adeniyi had earlier ordered Governor Ambode appear before it to explain why he demolished the community against a court temporary order, but the judge backtracked, making a ruling that the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) gives the Governor immunity which shields him from any legal case while he remains as the Governor of the state.

Learning empathy can help in building community projects in Africa

Learning empathy can help in building community projects in Africa

Empathy is one of the most important skills any leader can have. A huge 2015 research project across 38 countries found that empathy makes leaders more effective and their businesses more successful.

Learning empathy can help in building community projects in Africa
A Unicef team creating a collaborative paper plane. PHOTO: Unicef

But how do you teach empathy? How can it be cultivated in students who will become leaders in future? And could it be done in a way that foregrounds ancient, indigenous knowledge and practices which might have been sidelined by colonialism?

For instance, in 2005 Unicef developed a plan to hand out mosquito nets to help curb malaria in Malawi. But instead of using the nets to cover themselves while sleeping, people used them for fishing – a phenomenon that’s been seen elsewhere in Africa, too.

Unicef assumed that the need for protection against malaria was among Malawians’ priorities. But actually, the most urgent need was for basic sustenance. This is an example of how developing a better understanding of the local context can assist in coming up with solutions that meet users’ needs.

Organisations also need to understand that knowledge already exists in communities which must be considered when coming up with solutions for social challenges. In parts of Africa like Kenya and Sudan, as well as in India, for example, villagers use cow urine around their houses’ perimeters to ward off the mosquitoes that carry malaria. Cow urine and dung is also used as a pest repellent mixed into the lining of houses’ walls.

It’s these kinds of contextual considerations that have informed my work with Unicef in a design thinking programme that focuses on empathy and respecting indigenous knowledge.

Putting people first

Unicef deals with issues related to children all over the world. In 2016 it approached the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design Thinking (the d-school) at the University of Cape Town to develop more human-centred solutions to some of the complex challenges facing vulnerable children and families, particularly on the African continent.

Design thinking is a human-centred approach to problem solving. It develops an understanding of problems through engaging with those affected – the users. Its approach to solving problems is participatory, involving the users in finding solutions.

Unicef is involved in solving a number of complex challenges, and realised that it’s critical to put humans at the centre of that work. It wanted to ensure that the solutions designed would contribute to local communities’ sustainability and resilience. Unicef too often goes into communities offering solutions without considering local ideas, approaches and knowledge – as the Malawi mosquito net project showed. Its employees don’t spend time, really understanding the problems they’re trying to solve before designing solutions.

That’s where instilling empathy comes in: organisations need an empathetic mindset that leads to better understanding not just of what the problem is, but also what caused it in the first place.

That’s what informed my ongoing design thinking programme with Unicef. It’s a customised programme that helps train organisations in design thinking. I’m working with Unicef Malawi and some of its partners – and developing empathy forms a big part of the course.

Empathy in design thinking

There are two types of empathy in design thinking: emotional and cognitive. Emotional empathy centres on instinct, emotions and shared experience. The emotional aspect includes assessing our own thoughts and actions for the purpose of personal learning and development. Design thinking encourages students to cultivate curiosity and challenge prejudice to discover commonalities with other people who may be different from them. Listening is extremely important, too.

Emotional empathy is a starting point for individual team members in any design thinking programme before they shift focus towards the user for whom they’re designing solutions.

The second dimension of empathy is cognitive. Here, one comes to understand how others may experience the world from their point of view. Cognitive empathy includes the mental process of acquiring and understanding through thoughts, experience and senses. It includes processes like knowledge, memory, judgement, reasoning and decision making.

Understanding different points of view requires humility: we may have been trained as experts in our various disciplines but that hardly means we know everything. Each person possesses very little knowledge, which becomes valuable when a team comes together.

All the participants in a design team need to be empathetic with the users they’re designing for if their solutions are to be relevant. This informed my planning for the Unicef course.

Immersion

The participants include Unicef employees and people from organisations that implement the solutions Unicef develops. I started by taking participants through a three day introduction to design thinking. They had to work collaboratively in a multidisciplinary team. They had to learn the value of empathy for the user – that’s, people affected by the problems they’re trying to solve.

They took part in an immersion experience at the Cape Town Society for the Blind. This took them into a very different context and forced them to experience the physical world as blind people do. It was a powerful way to help them understand the implications of navigating a world not designed to facilitate their access. They ate dinner in the dark and were forced to use all their other senses in the same way blind people must.

All this helped participants to understand that even those they might consider less knowledgeable have experiences, emotions and aspirations. This understanding helps with the development of true empathy.

Empathy for others and understanding their context could go a long way in helping organisations to come up with relevant solutions. An understanding of context allows us to learn from others’ experiences and to arrive at an informed solution with the users. This allows organisations to solve the right problems – and, in the long run, to help communities become more resilient and self-sustaining.


SOURCE: The Bloomgist/The Conversation

ANALYSIS: Should degrees be mandatory for all leaders?

In our series of letters from African journalists, Joseph Warungu looks at why Kenya insists that its senior political leaders must hold a university degree, and Mike Ikenwa, a Digital Media Strategist and a Nigeria Writer looks at why Nigerians are starting to demand for the certificates and educational qualifications of their leaders.

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There is a whirl of activity online at the moment as Kenyans try to “find” their old school mates to stand by them in case they are required to prove that they did in fact attend school and sat national examinations.

It is all a light-hearted mock of the serious situation in which the Governor of Mombasa, Ali Hassan Joho, has found himself in.

Police are investigating whether Mr Joho forged his Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) as alleged by the Kenya National Examinations Council.

He denies any wrongdoing but if these allegations are proven, Mr Joho could be in danger of criminal charges and could be stripped of the degrees he subsequently obtained at university.

A person vying for the position of governor is required by law to hold a degree from a recognised university.

This means Mr Joho could potentially be locked out of the race to defend his seat in the August general election.

It is this last point that leads Mr Joho to describe the whole situation as attempts to intimidate him.


Joseph Warungu:

Joseph WarunguBC SEMA KENYA

“Some of the worst cases of abuse of power have involved highly educated people.”


Mr Joho, who is a member of the opposition ODM party, is a fierce critic of the ruling Jubilee Party government and is never afraid to clash publicly with the president.

It is unlikely that the learned men and women who drafted the 2010 constitution of Kenya had Mr Joho in mind when they included a university degree requirement for holders of the office of president, governor and deputy governor.

The thinking was that the president is the CEO of the country while governors are the CEOs of Kenya’s 47 regional county governments.

These positions require governance experience and a visionary leadership that is partly the product of a mind broadened by education.

But perhaps the big issue the constitution was trying to address was the culture of the 1980s and early 1990s, when the Kenyan president tended to be surrounded by half-educated sycophants.

These handfuls of men who had the ear of the president were so powerful they could influence public policy on just about anything.


Arresting Marx?

The story is told of how in a bid to stem anti-government sentiments at public universities, one of these semi-literate leaders said: “The government has enough resources to hunt down and arrest this Karo Makisi who is inciting the students to riot”.

The poor politician was convinced that Karl Marx was a man physically present at the universities and was causing trouble for the government.Karl Marx, the philosopher and sociologist who advocated struggle for social changeWas Karl Marx really causing trouble on Kenyan campuses?


No-one had educated him on popular social, economic and political ideologies.

Another of the inner-circle politicians who barely went to school is famously said to have proposed a great solution to the frequent unrest and clamour for political change taking place in public universities.

“If all that the students want is dayarog, they should be given the dayarog to eat so that calm returns to the institutions.”

He mistook the students’ demand for dialogue as a type of food that was missing from their menu.

This is how far Kenya has come in the evolution of its political leaders.

Now fearful of being barred from running for the lucrative position of governor, many politicians who did not go to university have been studying day and night to obtain degrees.


Long-lost classmates

But based on experience of poor leadership, Kenyans know that a university degree does not define a leader nor guarantee competent leadership.

Some of the worst cases of mismanagement of resources and abuse of power have involved highly educated people.

On the contrary, Kenya has in the past witnessed brilliant leaders who were elected into office without degrees and who have gone on to personify exemplary leadership.

The constitution of Kenya has another provision on leadership and integrity.

This requires people vying for public office to be elected on the basis of personal integrity, selfless service and honesty.

However, these core leadership principles have been reduced to a mere process of certifying that the candidate is of good conduct and free from corruption charges.

The clearance procedure is open to manipulation and abuse, and judging by the number of leaders who have been involved in grand corruption over the last five years, it is an exercise in futility.

So Kenyans can be forgiven for turning Mr Joho’s education pain into a national pastime online.Screenshot of a tweet mocking the investigation into Mr Joho's credentialsLight-hearted Kenyans on social media have seized the Joho affair to joke about the necessity of getting in touch with long-lost classmates

No matter how progressive the constitution is or how comprehensive the laws are, it is only when the people breathe life into its letter and spirit and defend it with their lives that transformation can truly begin to take place.

For now, because I’m not sure who else might be reading this, excuse me for a moment as I try to find my long lost classmates… just in case.


‘Dino and His ‘fake’ degrees’

One of the most outspoken members of the Nigeria senate and the senator representing Kogi West, Dino Melaye has come into a serious attack by all-angry Nigerian youths who have started demanding his educational qualifications and evidences to prove that he attended from the universities which he said the graduated from.

Though senate mandated the committee to look into the issue after Ali Ndume, senator representing Borno south, moved a motion that the matter be investigated, Nigerians have continued to refute the authenticity of his claimed certificates.

“In the PUNCH of today, page 16 and with your permission I will want to lay it and it says ‘Dino Melaye in first degree certificate scandal’ and it goes on and on,” Ndume had told his colleagues.

“I will therefore appeal to the senate to investigate and our colleagues will be cleared and this senate will stand as it suppose to.”

Speaking with journalists after the decision to probe him was reached, Melaye expressed optimism that the investigation would clear all allegations levelled against him.

The lawmaker said he had obtained seven degrees, and was in the process of bagging the eighth.

“We welcome the development. It will finally clear the air of all malicious allegations,” Melaye had told journalists.

“To say that I did not graduate from Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) zaria is to say that I am not a senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”

Melaye claimed that he had degrees from Harvard University and London School of Economics and Political Science.

However, both schools have denied awarding Melaye any degree. Harvard University said Melaye only completed a week-long leadership seminar in November 2016.

There are discrepancies in the spelling of Melaye’s name in some of his academic credentials.

In his Statement of result, his name was given as ‘Daniel Jonah MELAYE’. His name was given as “Melaye Daniel” in his NYSC discharge certificate.

The name on his Diploma from University of Jos read ‘Daniel Dino Melaye’. Melaye possesses an Advanced Diploma in Law, Security and Conflict Resolution from the institution.

Melaye’s name was wrongly spelt in his Senior School Certificate in 1992. It read ‘Melaiye Daniel Jonah O’.


The Presidency says President Muhammadu Buhari has no certificate case hanging on his neck as being insinuated in some quarters.

Garba Shehu, the Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity to the President, gave this clarification while reacting to the Sunday Punch newspaper where the president was featured among prominent Nigerians the paper alleges have certificate scandals.

Mr. Shehu said the president was not in the category of Nigerian leaders with questionable certificates.

He enjoined the Punch editors to update their records to avoid making this repeated mistake.

The statement read: “In reaction to your cover story this morning Sunday, March 26,2017, we wish to emphatically state that President Muhammadu Buhari does not fit into your categorisation of leaders with certificate scandals because he bears none that is on available records.

“In the course of the contest for the office of the President in 2015, a number of wild, untrue and malicious allegations were made against him in order to stop him from contesting for the office in the election.

“The issue of certificates was raised against him but the campaign successfully dealt with the allegations by providing evidence that not only was he qualified to run, he had a far higher academic qualification than is required by the constitution. As a result, he went on to run for the office and eventually won.

“Since the purpose of the challenge was primarily to stop him from being a candidate in that election, the challengers either voluntarily withdrew or abandoned the cases soon after he won and all of them were subsequently struck off by the courts.’’

The presidential aide therefore maintained that president had no certificate case hanging on his neck.


SOURCE: The Bloomgist/BBC/Kenya News Agency/Punch

Why Africa seem to be less happy than every other continent of the world

As part of the celebration of the International Day of Happiness on March 20, the United Nations released the 2017 World Happiness Report and Africa is less happy than last year.

INDIA-AFRICA-CULTURE-MIGRATION-PHOTOGRAPHY-FILES

Africa is also the least happiest continent in the world with: lowest GDP per capita, health life expectancy, generosity, dystopia, social support, freedom to make life choices, perceptions of corruption and confidence interval.

These are the variables used to measure global happiness level since the survey was launched in 2012 using data from the *Gallup World Poll.

47 of the 166 countries in the *Gallup World Poll are African countries and 44 made it on the happiness ranking measured on a scale of 0 to 10, with 10 indicating greatest happiness.

In all, 155 countries with available data were surveyed including 44 African countries.


Highlight of ranking

Algeria led as Africa’s happiest country but lagged at 53rd in the world where Norway is ranked the happiest followed by Denmark, Iceland, Switzerland, Finland, Netherlands, Canada, New Zealand and Sweden.

The story was different last year when Algeria led as Africa’s happiest and 38th in the world with Denmark being the happiest globally.

Mauritius is the second happiest country in Africa and 64th in the world, followed by troubled Libya (68), Morocco (84), drought-stricken Somalia (93), Nigeria (95), South Africa (101), Tunisia (102), Egypt (104) and Sierra Leone (106) respectively.

Africa dominated the bottom of the ranking with Benin (143) on top of the bottom ten followed by Madagascar (144), South Sudan (147), Liberia (148), Guinea (149), Togo (150), Rwanda (151), Tanzania (153), Burundi (154) and the least happiest country in the world — Central African Republic (155).

The Central African Republic returned to the surveyed group this year and took Burundi’s position at the bottom.


Reasons for poor performance

“Africa’s lower levels of happiness compared to other countries in the world might be attributed to the disappointment with different aspects of development under democracy,” the report said, adding that “although most citizens still believe that democracy is the best political system, they are critical of good governance in their countries.”

The report also attributed slow infrastructure and youth development to population pressure while acknowledging the significant improvement in meeting basic needs according to the Afrobarometer index of ‘lived poverty’.

It also highlights Africa’s resilience despite poor infrastructure.

“African people demonstrate ingenuity that makes life bearable even under less than perfect circumstances … African people are essentially optimistic and this optimism might serve as a self-fulfilling prophecy for the continent.”


Way forward

What if Africa looks to its youth to realise the continent’s dreams of prosperity? What if the African youth’s confidence in their future and their entrepreneurial spirit were to be matched by substantial investment in their development? Then, no doubt, African countries would join the ranks of the world’s prosperous and happy nations. – the report advised.


*The Gallup World Poll was introduced in 2005 and surveys approximately 1,000 residents per country, targeting the entire civilian, non-institutionalized population, aged 15 and older.

In 2016, face-to-face surveys were used in all of Sub-Saharan Africa and most of North Africa. In Libya, telephone survey methodology has been used since 2015.

The Gallup World Poll is translated into 85 languages throughout Africa and attempts are made to conduct interviews in the language the respondent speaks most comfortably.


SOURCE: The Bloomgist/Africa News

Report: How safe is it to drink Fanta and Sprite in Nigeria?

A recent court case in Nigeria has highlighted concerns that locally made soft drinks may be considered unsafe for human consumption elsewhere.

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There has been uproar in Nigeria after it emerged that the company that manufactures Fanta and Sprite, the Nigeria Bottling Company (NBC), has been ordered by a court to place warning labels on its products, stating that they are unsafe when consumed alongside vitamin C.

The drinks are said by critics to contain high levels of the preservative benzoic acid and the colouring sunset yellow.

NBC is challenging the ruling.

The case has caused deepening concern in a country where Fanta, Sprite and Coca-Cola are probably the most widely consumed soft drinks.

Barbara Ukpabi owns a grill restaurant which serves local food in Oniru, Lagos. She says she might stop buying Fanta and Sprite for the restaurant and also has concerns about giving the drinks to her children.

“I was thinking of reducing how much I drink of it. I’ll be thinking of drinking less of it or going to other substitutes like juice.”

Although like many Nigerians, the habit is hard to break.

“I just had my lunch and I had Coke and water.”

Security guard John Uloko didn’t see the reports about the soft drinks in the newspapers but heard about it via WhatsApp and hasn’t drunk any since.

‘Flexing their muscles’

The ruling was the result of a nine-year-long court battle initiated by Nigerian businessman Fijabi Adebo.John UlokoJohn Uloko has stopped drinking Fanta and Sprite


In 2007, Mr Adebo shipped Nigerian-made Fanta and Sprite to the UK to sell at his chain of shops in Manchester.

His shipment was confiscated by UK customs, originally because of concerns about the authenticity of the beverages.

But when the UK health authorities tested the products, they were declared unsafe for human consumption and destroyed.

Mr Adebo sued NBC, Coca-Cola’s franchise owner in Nigeria, which had sold him the products.

They had refused to take financial responsibility for the incident.

He later extended the case to include the food standards agency Nafdac, on the grounds that it had allegedly not performed its duty.

Last month – nearly 10 years after he filed his case – a Lagos high court ruled against Nafdac and ordered the Nigerian Bottling Company to place written warnings on its Fanta and Sprite bottles.As NBC is appealing, the labels have not yet been added to the bottles.

Mr Adebo told the BBC: “Initially they were flexing their muscles, which dragged [out] the process. I went to court to compel Nafdac to do its duty.Soft drinks in Nigerian storeThe warnings have not yet appeared as the ruling is being challenged


“We shouldn’t have a product that is considered substandard in Europe.”

His viewpoint is echoed by many, angered that products considered unsafe for consumption in the UK are legal in Nigeria.

The case has prompted discussions about accepted standards in the country.

Although benzoic acid is widely used as an antibacterial and antifungal preservative in acidic foods and beverages to extend their shelf life, studies have shown that the chemical can cause health problems in certain circumstances.

‘Toxic’

A scientist based in Nigeria, who has dealings with Nafdac and asked to remain anonymous, says some human toxicity studies have shown that benzoic acid may react with ascorbic acid (vitamin C) in soft drinks, forming benzene.

“While benzoic acid itself is relatively non-toxic, when benzene is formed in the presence of ascorbic acid in foods it is particularly dangerous, as benzene is widely known to be toxic and linked to many forms of cancer. These include leukaemia and other cancers of the blood,” the scientist said.

The secretary-general of the Nigerian Medical Association says it is impossible to make a judgement about acceptable levels of benzoic acid without conducting a local study looking at health implications over a long period of time.Passers-by walk past the Nigerian Bottling Company in LagosSoft drinks may need more preservative in hotter countries


Dr Yusuf Sununu Tanko says there are a number of examples where evaluations are different between countries because of differences in physical constitution, diet and environment.

“Each country has its own acceptable value of what is considered normal for what is fit for human consumption,” he says.

Nigeria’s health ministry published a statement in response to the public outcry, reassuring Nigerians that the drinks are safe for human consumption.

However, the ministry advises that medicines are taken with water to help “prevent unexpected drug-food interactions”.

Although the government has not spoken of enforcement, it “encourages” all bottling companies to include advisory warnings on all relevant products.

The Nigerian Bottling Company has appealed against the court ruling. It says the levels of benzoic acid in its soft drinks are “well within the levels approved” by both the national regulator and Codex Alimentarius, an international food standards body.

The company also says the ingredient levels set by countries for their food and beverages are influenced by factors such as climate, with drinks in hotter countries needing higher levels of preservative.

It also says there was “no proven case of negligence” or finding that the company had breached its duty of care to consumers.

The government’s Consumer Protection Council has formally requested documents from the Nigerian Bottling Company ahead of an independent inquiry.

With an appeal in motion and a government inquiry under way, this case is far from over.


This story was written by Ijeoma Ndukwe and it was first published online by BBC Africa


SOURCE: The Bloomgist/BBC

South Sudan refugee crisis: The shaking bridge between life and death

For three years South Sudan has Continue reading “South Sudan refugee crisis: The shaking bridge between life and death”

Queue in Nigeria state of Lagos

Can Buhari get Nigerians to be disciplined again?

Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari famously ordered people to form neat queues as part of his 1980s “War Against Indiscipline”. Can he make Nigerians queue again?

Queue in Nigeria state of Lagos


During Nigeria’s 2015 presidential election campaign one of the tactics used by the former President Goodluck Jonathan’s campaign was to remind voters of life under President Buhari when he was a military leader in the 1980s.

Pictures of Nigerians in long queues at banks and bus stops and people being whipped by soldiers imposing Gen Buhari’s so-called War Against Indiscipline were distributed in an effort to make him unelectable.

However, the anti-Buhari campaign had the opposite effect. Many Nigerians voted for him because of what they saw as his tough stance.

Thirty years after that war on indiscipline, President Buhari has unveiled a new version, this time with a toned-down name: “Change begins with me”.

Stamps and a badgeBadges and stamps from the 1980s campaign encouraged people to form an orderly queue, turn up on time and to stop corruption

According to the government, the programme is aimed at fighting “dishonesty, indolence, unbridled corruption and widespread impunity” so that Nigerians can “embrace daily introspection over their ‘immoral’ conduct”.

During the launch of the campaign, President Buhari said: “Virtues like honesty, integrity, hard-work, punctuality, abhorrence of corruption and patriotism, had given way to dishonesty, indolence, unbridled corruption and widespread impunity”.

Many Nigerians will agree with the government that indiscipline is rife in everyday life.

At supermarkets, banks, hospitals and cinema ticket halls, people are expected to queue for their turn to be served.

But there are always those Nigerians that will jump the queue, and shout obscenities at anyone who challenged them.

Often there will be chaos in the queues and only those who can shout and fight get their way.

In hospitals, attendants often take bribes from those who wish to bypass queues and they serve those who are willing to pay.

It’s not only queues that illustrate indiscipline in everyday life. Lateness, bad driving and dumping rubbish are all normal.

Lateness, excused as “African time”, is endemic in Nigeria.

Clocks on sale at a local market in Agege district in Lagos August 16, 2016.

Start times are seen as nothing but a number

If you get an invitation to a public event and a top government official is expected to attend, it is not worth being there on time.

If an event is said to start at 13:00, the best time to be there is 15:00 or later.

The perennial lateness of domestic flights is legendary: the boarding time on your printed ticket is not taken seriously, and your flight often leaves more than three hours later.

Nigerians are used to it and are shocked when a flight actually takes off as scheduled.

Then there is rubbish.

In many places in Nigeria you might see dustbins perpetually empty. This is because people throw rubbish wherever they like.

Rubbish on the roadSigns are ignored

Often, you will get strange looks if you ask for a rubbish bin to drop banana peel – from someone who thinks nothing of throwing the peel on the street.

Toilet manners aren’t much better.

Some Nigerians lack the self-respect to use the right facilities and use them correctly.

Recently, a picture was widely circulated online of a man urinating by the side of the road next to a bold police notice saying “Do Not Urinate Here”.

Picture of Instagram post on urinatingNIYIADISA

The situation is worse on the roads where people drive with impunity and ignore traffic signs.

In fact, people who observe the traffic rules put your life in danger.

Driving an expensive car is a licence to use your mobile phone while driving. The policeman is afraid of the big man.

If you survive a car crash in Nigeria, you should not celebrate too soon.

Pedestrians shop at a market in Lagos, Nigeria on 20 June 2016It’s rare to obey traffic laws

Here’s how it’s likely to play out: You will be writhing in pain from your injuries, the police will arrive at the scene and you might be asked to pay for petrol for the police car to take you to the nearest hospital.

A police station should be a place for the public to be reassured of government’s protection.

Instead they are dens of corruption.

If you want to report a crime, you had better have a paper and pen for the officers to fill in their forms. A bribe will also help make sure your case is investigated.

You will also need the money to buy your freedom from the police when they arrest you on trumped-up charges.

Corruption is a way of life. In many government offices you have to pay bribe to get things done, such as renewing identity documents like passports or driving licences.

The cycle of corruption is so familiar to Nigerians that when there’s a fire in a government office, people conclude that someone must have set the building on fire to eliminate the evidence of corruption.

I can’t list all the problems in Nigeria, and they are many, but Mr Buhari will need more than a slogan to begin to take them on.

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Buhari’s wars against indiscipline in quotes

  • 1983: “While corruption and indiscipline have been associated with our state of under-development, these two evils in our body politic have attained unprecedented height in the past few years.”
  • 2016: “The long-cherished and time honoured, time-tested virtues of honesty, integrity, hard work, punctuality, good neighbourliness, abhorrence of corruption and patriotism, have given way in the main to dishonesty, indolence, unbridled corruption and widespread impunity.”
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His challenge is that he’s trying to fight a system that has entrenched distrust between Nigerians and their leaders.

The public’s unenthusiastic reaction to President Buhari’s latest plan for making the country disciplined again shows what he’s up against.

While few Nigerians would deny that indiscipline is a big problem, many used social media to ridicule and criticise the plans.

Many think that he should start with his government in making the changes he wants to see in Nigerians. They say he should reduce waste of public resources.

They point to his 10 presidential planes, the unchecked spending by state governors and his inner circle who have been enriching themselves.

The discipline campaign might have worked in 1980s when Nigeria was still under military rule but it may be harder to discipline citizens under democratic rule.

This time, he cannot order soldiers to make civil servants who are late for work perform frog jumps in public.

Some believe the government should be talking about making food affordable, not forming a brigade to fight indiscipline.

 

Women and children at the Marrah Mountains in Darfur in western Sudan.

Report: the forgotten mountain people of Darfur

Thanks to technology and social media, an average person today sees dozens of pictures daily without giving much thought to them. I was flipping through pictures online a few months ago when one image stopped my finger in midair.

Women and children at the Marrah Mountains in Darfur in western Sudan.
Women and children at the Marrah Mountains in Darfur in western Sudan. Photo: Andriane Ohanesian

It is of a cave full of people in a mountain side, with light beaming in from the cave entrance revealing smouldering red coal from cooking fires.

The image is by Nairobi-based American photojournalist Adriane Ohanesian.

“I wanted to be there when the people were waking up,” said Ohanesian of the haunting picture.

A conflict region

She took the picture deep in the Marrah Mountains in the heart of Darfur, a conflict region in western Sudan, the land of the Fur people. “Dar” means “land” in Arabic and “fur” is the name of the ethnic group inhabiting the land.

“It’s an area nobody can get to easily.” Yet she did.

For years, no United Nations agency or international journalist had been granted permission by the government in Khartoum to visit the region. It has remained volatile and off the tourist map for almost a decade.

“What is known is Darfur from 10 years ago,” she said, referring to the “Save Darfur” movement in the US a decade ago when she first heard of Darfur. Back then the main concern was modern day slavery. There were stories of the dark-skinned Fur people being captured and “sold” into slavery by pro-government Arab militia.

“A lot of people thought that the conflict had ended but the truth is that it had escalated,” she explained, adding, “I knew I wanted to get to these mountains because nobody had been there in the past five years. There was no information coming out and I wanted to know what was happening.”

The kindness

It took three years of planning with a Dutch journalist to figure out how to get to the rebel-controlled area. A dangerous journey by no means. “It was about making the right connections. The rebel group Sudan Liberation Movement/Army (SLM/A) controls the mountains that I was trying to get to.”

Ohanesian’s curiosity about Darfur and the conflict there was stirred by young Sudanese students she met in Cairo in 2010 while visiting her friend in the city.

“They were inviting and hospitable. It was such a big contrast between the kindness of the Darfurians and the image I had of the conflict there and how the Sudanese government was intent on setting communities against each other.

The cycle of violence in Darfur has been described as “the Arab apartheid” with the pro-government Arab communities attacking the “dark-skinned” communities.

Ohanesian’s opinion is that “It’s a strategy to create conflict and keep the people occupied through fighting. It’s about control of resources by suppressing people.”

In the course of planning her journey into Darfur’s Marrah Mountains, Ohanesian had a rendezvous with Abdul Wahid Mohamed el-Nur, the SLA rebel leader and an ethnic Fur.

A law degree

Educated at the University of Khartoum, Wahid graduated in 1995 with a law degree and worked as a lawyer. In June 1992, he and others, while still at the University of Khartoum, created the Sudan Liberation Movement/Army and took up arms against Khartoum.

After three years of planning, Ohanesian and the Dutch journalist flew to Chad in 2015 where the plan was to cross into Darfur.

“The rebel group led by Wahid held the area at this time, and we had the support of his forces.” Ohanesian said this was the most frightening part of the journey — crossing the border into Darfur.

The government was bombing the area day and night.

“We drove up in an old beat-up car before dark and into the desert. The next morning we were picked up by the rebel forces.

Bullet cases

“There’s just sand everywhere, no roads and only water from riverbeds. We were driving in the desert through abandoned farms, ruins of villages that had been attacked and you could tell the more recent attacks because of the burnt possessions — clothes, frames of beds, human and animal bones, smashed pottery and bullet cases.”

Of the collection of pictures of the journey, she points out one of a lifeless hand, fingers partially curled – effects of rigor mortis — lying in the sand. “That hand was of a government soldier. The rebels won’t bury the enemy but carry their dead away for burial,” she was told by the SLM/A forces.

Their destination was the Marrah Mountains which she said, “was the only area under the control of rebel fighters, so it was where civilians had fled to for safety.”

Safe to continue

It was a long and dangerous journey. At some point, the group was forced to wait under a tree for a week until it was safe to continue. Communication with cellphones is impossible since the government has cut the signal off, unless of course, one has a satellite phone.

Finally they arrived at the mountains, and they had to leave the vehicles and walk for two days, 10-12 hours a day, into the depths of the mountains. “Most of the walking was at night because it is cooler while the days are scorching hot.

“The cave was in the centre of the mountains. We had walked for 10 hours to the base of the mountain but to reach the cave was another three-hour climb up a cliff. It’s the most physically demanding thing I have ever done,” she recalled.

At 3.30am on March 2, 2015 they headed up to the cave. “I wanted to be there when the people were waking up in the morning, lighting fires, preparing breakfast. There were 200 to 300 people in the cave.”

The haunting picture of a cave in western Sudan’s Marrah Mountains where the Fur people now live. PHOTO | ADRIANE OHANESIAN


The haunting picture of the people in the cave was taken on that first day. Some had not seen a foreign person in five years, some never.

There were mostly women and girls; some had been raped by government soldiers and had fled to shelter in the cave because the government had also bombed their villages in the valleys. The men were away fighting the infamous pro-government militia, the janjaweed.

Ohanesian spent the morning in the cave. “The people couldn’t go out much because of the bombings. The valleys in the mountains are green and the people grow food like potatoes to sustain themselves.

“The mountains are beautiful. One old man told us of the trade the communities used to do with the closest main towns. They were farmers and kept livestock. They took their produce to town and the old man remembered the first time he saw road blocks. It was in 2003.”

It was the start of the Darfur war.

Fighter jets

Ohanesian said: “The people of the mountains had among them soldiers who had obviously seen too much war and killings, children who made army tanks and Antonov bombers out of clay. Children who could barely walk knew the sounds of fighter jets and guns.”

Attention to the Darfur genocide began with reports by Amnesty International and International Crisis Group in 2003. But the widespread media coverage only followed when the outgoing United Nations Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Sudan, Mukesh Kapila, called Darfur the “world’s greatest humanitarian crisis” in March 2004.

The rebel groups in Darfur are not fighting for independence unlike was the case in South Sudan. They want representation in the government and to be treated as equal citizens in Sudan, with basic human rights and dignity.

There is no government-developed infrastructure in western Sudan, where the Darfur is. No healthcare, no schools, no water supply. They are neglected by the government.

According to Ohanesian, there are few options for the internally displaced in Darfur.

Younger soldiers

They can stay where they are and get killed; flee to a refugee camp in Chad — which is a hostile country — or go to a refugee camp in government-controlled areas — which is basically going to live under the control of people who attacked you in the first place.

“Some of the older men living in the mountains have been fighting for a decade for what they deem is their right. The younger soldiers were in their 20s when the fighting broke out in Darfur and they remember government forces burning their villages. I met one young man who grew up in refugee camps and then joined the rebel group,” Ohanesian said of the Darfur fighters.

“I wanted to bring out information from a place where nobody had been to in many years,” she said.

Her journey into Darfur was motivated by the drive to seek the truth and as a photojournalist, to document and provide information on the conflict there.

Her pictures and story of Darfur have appeared in Time and in British, Dutch, French and German media.

“Since January 2016, most of the places I was in have been taken over by government forces. Many villages have been burned, and the people have moved farther into the mountains and many more just don’t know where they are,” she said.