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Archive for May 15th, 2008

Mozambique: Nothing prepares you for Maputo (commentary)

Posted by African Press International on May 15, 2008

Publisher: Korir, africanpress@getmail.no source.eastafrican.ke

Commentary by Charles Onyango-Obbo.

It’s late Wednesday afternoon in Mozambique’s capital, Maputo. So your columnist does what most restless scribblers would do — get out the running shoes; slip into something resembling sportswear; stick an iPod in the ears; hit the streets of Maputo; and get hopelessly lost during the exploration.

In the pocket there is reassurance in the form of a photocopy of the passport, a hotel card and a taxi service number picked up from the reception, and enough change to hop a ride back. As a good East African, I am checked into a hotel on Julius Nyerere Avenue. My old man never tires of saying that if you don’t want to stop marvelling in your life, travel. I have roamed the world and Africa, but had never set foot in Mozambique.
When I was younger, I was in a Frelimo solidarity group, a Samora Machel fan club really. Every night before we went to bed, we prayed for misfortune to befall Renamo, the apartheid-backed rebel group that brought so much pain to this land.

So, even though in recent years Mozambique has had among the highest growth rates in Africa, at one point reaching a mind-blowing 20 per cent, it was still difficult not to imagine that Maputo was still only slightly better than war-wrecked Mogadishu. Nothing prepares you for Maputo. For three hours, I wandered the suburbs, crossed the city’s boulevards, and walked along the beach. Invariably, one of the things an East African would look for is if they have matatus. They do, but the drivers are not insane like the ones in Uganda, Kenya or Tanzania.

Here is where the brotherhood began to be truly felt. I was reminded of a profound statement I heard during the post-election bloodletting in Kenya. Prof Wambui Mwangi travelled upcountry, and on the way back she saw that matatus were beginning to return to the roads.

During the violence, she said, Kenya became a strange country to her. She couldn’t recognise it. But when she saw the matatus, the country started coming back to her. The matatu, she realised, was the most quintessentially Kenyan thing… and, it seems, it was the one thing that had survived the crisis. Matatus are a symptom of the failure of our cities to build mass transport systems. But at the same time, they are the arteries that lead you to the soul and heartbeat of a city. If you follow that artery, it can lead you to very interesting places.

Maputo has the telltale signs of the country’s years of war, and your common wear and tear that post-independence African rulers brought with them. Like everywhere, economic liberalisation has created a very wealthy class and, unfortunately, many poor people. The beach is breathtaking. Along it is the inevitable prime real state. You can see which villas and classy apartments represent the old Portuguese colonial-era money.

And the new money that the brothers and sisters have brought to the beach is obvious too. They build bigger and closer to the water. African revolutions have a strange habit of throwing up very bourgeois liberators.
Parts of Mozambique are stunningly European. Unlike Kampala, Nairobi, or Dar es Salaam, you still find posh homes along what would be Kampala Road or Moi Avenue! At my age, these things are not supposed to be happening. But after 20 years, I think I fell in love again – with Maputo.

Pity Mozambique is not a member of the East African Community. It is a reminder that we can’t have all the good things in life. After all, even Machel, who deserved the best of Mozambique more than most, left it behind too.

*Charles Onyango-Obbo is Nation Media Group’s managing editor for convergence and new products.

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Zimbabwe: Lawyers to sue China over arms supplies

Posted by African Press International on May 15, 2008

Publisher: Korir, africanpress@getmail.no source.eastafrican.ke

Story by Wilfred Edwin and Francis Ayieko.

Lawyers from East Africa and the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) are seeking legal action against the Chinese government over arms supplies to Zimbabwe.

The East African Law Society and the Law Society of the Southern Africa Development Community say they have finalised preparations to institute legal action at the International Criminal Court (ICC). Two weeks ago, the 77,000-tonne An Yue Jiang ship carrying several container loads of weapons for the Zimbabwe Defence Force, including three million rounds of AK47 ammunition, 1,500 rocket-propelled grenades and more than 3,000 mortar rounds and mortar tubes, was denied entry by several Southern African countries.

The ship was turned away in Durban and Cape Town, where dockworkers refused to unload the cargo, and later from Beira port in Mozambique, where it was refused permission to dock. Tom Ojienda, president of the East African Law Society, told The EastAfrican last week that the two bodies will approach the ICC to investigate why China is sending arms to Zimbabwe given the current political situation there. Mr Ojienda said that the two organisations will seek court redress on the post-election situation, including torture and assaults carried out on citizens.

The two organisations are going to engage the African Union and the United Nations, into actively addressing the situation. The lawyers were speaking at an emergency Pan-African summit in Dar es Salaam on April 21 to discuss the election crisis in Zimbabwe. The summit asked the African Union not to recognise results of the vote recount. Instead, it wants the continental body to appoint an independent high level Pan-African panel of eminent persons to deliver a political settlement to the country. Saying that the electoral crisis in Zimbabwe can only be resolved through a political settlement that reflects the will of the people as expressed during the March 29, election, the meeting also wants the AU to call upon China and other countries that are propping up the Zanu-PF regime, to desist from such actions. It also called on the AU to openly condemn the state campaign of violence against the people of Zimbabwe for exercising their democratic rights. The summit, called by the East Africa Law Society, brought together 105 representatives of civil society, the legal fraternity, trade unions, academia from 21 African countries.

According to the participants, the mediation efforts spearheaded by SADC and endorsed by the African Union have failed to deliver the necessary solutions to Zimbabweans and to uphold the will of the people.
The entire mediation process has lacked transparency, neutrality, openness and consultation of the majority of the people. The SADC-elected mediator has shown a clear bias for the incumbent government and he should be removed from the mediation process with immediate effect, they said. However, they said they recognised the important role played by certain countries and individuals in attempting to resolve the crisis in Zimbabwe. We are encouraged by efforts and support of particular African heads of state who recognised that the will of the people as reflected on March 29 has been compromised in the subsequent electoral process, they noted. According to the statement, realisation of the change for which the people of Zimbabwe voted on March 29, 2008 is being threatened by Zanu-PFs attempts to cling to power through coercion.

Civil society in East and Southern Africa has demanded a rethink of the AU approach on handling the Zimbabwe post-elections crisis, in a move that could put President Jakaya Kikwete, the current chairman of the AU in a precarious political situation, given the current continental political divide. The entry of civil societies also marks another acid test for Tanzania. Tanzania and Zimbabwe have had a cordial relationship since the latters war of liberation, and last year, President Kikwete then SADC chairman appointed South African President Thabo Mbeki to head a peace mission to Zimbabwe in regional efforts to pursue a long lasting solution even before the election.

The summit participants were shown digital photos of people with severe injuries allegedly resulting from the systematic Zanu-PF terror campaign between March and April 2008 in various parts of Zimbabwe against people suspected of being Movement for Democratic Change sympathisers. It is also not lost on analysts that Zimbabwe has put President Kikwete on a diplomatic collision course with regional power South Africa for the second time in as many months, after the Comoros military intervention, which South Africa disputed.

Prof Haroub Othman of the Institute of Development Studies at the University of Dar es Salaam and chair of Zanzibar Legal Services Centre said the Zimbabwe crisis is a symptom of widely practices politics of exclusion in Africa. Prof Othman said that regional bodies such as SADC, AU and Comesa should not only integrate economically, but should also seek to bring into harmony adherence to democracy and human rights, and must have charters addressing human-rights issues. Through the ongoing delay in announcing the presidential results and through spurious attempts by Zanu-PF to have a recount in some parliamentary constituencies, the summit participants said, the election process has been negated and any run-off as a result of a recount or an announcement of results will be illegitimate. According to them, the announcement of the presidential results has been deliberately delayed to prevent a possible run-off. These results are corrupted and compromised, they claimed.

They said that although the AU mediation process delegated to SADC was supposed to deliver an election that was broadly accepted by the people of Zimbabwe, the delay in announcement of presidential results and the recount in some constituencies have prevented such outcome. The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission has not acted independently and is discredited. The judiciary has been compromised and is not independent. The military is politicised and has excessive control over the government. Zimbabwe is in a constitutional crisis and the legal environment has been compromised and does not provide for and protect the rule of law, they said.

And for some foreign countries that they feel are using the crisis in Zimbabwe to push their agenda in Africa, they said a statement: Certain international countries such as China are propping up an illegitimate regime through a range of activities from diplomatic silence to the provision of arms and ammunition to Zanu-PF. That must stop. They said that the international norm of responsibility to protect places primary responsibility in the hands of the state to protect its people from crimes against humanity, genocide, and war crimes. However, where the state itself is the perpetrator of such heinous crimes, and/or where it fails or neglects to protect its people, the international responsibility to protect cannot be stopped by self-serving claims of sovereignty on the part of armed and predatory elites.

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Nigeria: Opposition party to boycott future polls

Posted by African Press International on May 15, 2008

Publisher: Korir, africanpress@getmail.no source.dailytrust.nigeria

Story by Muideen Olaniyi.

The Action Congress (AC) would not participate in any future elections in the country because the political environment is not conducive for free and fair elections, party chieftain and former PDP national chairman Chief Audu Ogbe said yesterday. There was no point being lured into an election when the result had been predetermined the night before the election, he said.

Ogbeh said, “There was no way any party in Nigeria can win an election with the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) controlling all the apparatus of state with INEC, headed by Professor Maurice Iwu as its appendage.” He said it was sheer hypocrisy for the government to call for an election when it did not believe in free and fair polls. “With the amount of money involved, it is pure bribery. We have seen nothing like it in Africa or the world. In the USA, it is posters and advertising funds but in Nigeria, it is a huge amount of money. We have no such funds to participate in this kind of election. No sensible person will like to take part,” he said. He said AC was hoping to meet with other opposition parties to boycott future elections until such a time that things were put right.

In another statement in Abuja yesterday, ACs national publicity secretary Alhaji Lai Mohamed said his party will not take part in any elections until the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is reconstituted. He said AC took this stand in the light of what it called “skewed results” of the recent re-run elections in Adamawa and Kogi states. It said the country had been railroaded into the comity of one-party states, where only one dominant party must win all elections at all costs. The party said it is finally convinced, in spite of its determined efforts, that “the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) would never allow a free and fair election for as long as INEC remains its parastatal and Maurice Iwu and his cohorts remain in charge.”

AC said it would be desirable if all opposition parties can come together to tackle the rampaging bull that the PDP has become. It however added that “in the absence of that, the AC cannot and will not continue to be a part of the mockery that elections have become under the PDP-led federal government.” The statement added, “We have therefore decided not to participate in any election in this country until INEC is reconstituted with men and women of honour and until there are guarantees that elections can be held in a free and fair atmosphere. What we advise henceforth is for the PDP to compile the names of its candidates for any election and then forward such names to INEC for endorsement. The formality of having people vote should henceforth be done away with, because votes dont count in these climes anymore.”

It also said, “While waiting for the return of sanity to the electoral process, however, the AC hereby assures all Nigerians that it will not relent in tackling the PDPs democracy-demolition squad, just so that we may salvage our hard-earned democracy from the jaws of the extinction-bound behemoth called the PDP.” The party also dismissed “gloating comments from PDP apologists” that the defeat of the AC in Adamawa amounted to a humiliation of former Vice President Atiku Abubakar and that he is now finished politically.

It said, “If any humiliation has taken place, it is the humiliation of the Nigerian voter and of Nigerias democracy! No, Atiku has not been humiliated. He remains the bulwark of Nigerias democracy, the pillar against anti-democratic forces, the man who led the fight to ensure the survival of this democracy. May we remind Nigerians that when that Stone-Age despot was trampling upon everyone in an effort to secure an unconstitutional third term, all those now screaming due process and the rule of law were cowing like chickens in their pens. Only three (then) state governors – Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Boni Haruna and Orji Uzor Kalu – dared to publicly stand shoulder to shoulder with Atiku, the man who led the troops to tear down the third term wall. How can such a man be humiliated?”

It also decried what it said is fast emerging as the mockery and humiliation of the judiciary, which has done more than any other arm of government to help put Nigeria on the road to holding free and fair elections and to safeguard this democracy. “The refrain within the federal government and the PDP seems to be this: Let the tribunals continue to order election re-runs as much as they can, we have the final say and will win any re-run at all cost, including using the instruments of coercion at our disposal and ensuring that our parastatal (INEC) performs,” AC said.

The party however warned the PDP not to see the latest turn of events as a victory, saying the so-called biggest party in Africa should remember the saying that a drum that beats too loud is just about being torn apart! It said, “Whereas INEC officials were bribed with huge sums of money to rig the elections in Kogi in favour of the PDP, as has been published and so far undisputed by the local media, the election in Adamawa was sold to the highest bidder, even as the PDP freely allocated votes to its candidate, thanks to the support of well-armed soldiers and policemen who shepherd PDP crooks to squirrel away ballot boxes!

In Adamawa, Murtala Nyakos participation in the re-run was sponsored by 14 state governors, who contributed money and thugs in varying degrees just to ensure that votes dont count. What sort of democracy is this, and how much longer can Nigerians endure this anarchy?”

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Zimbabwe: Political violence hampers food aid planning

Posted by African Press International on May 15, 2008

Publisher: Korir, africanpress@getmail.no source.zimonline

Story by lizwe sebatha.

Bulawayo (Zimbawbe) Politically motivated violence gripping Zimbabwe since last months disputed elections is hampering efforts to assess food aid requirements for a country grappling with an acute food crisis and facing poor harvests this year, relief agencies said at the weekend.

The Ecumenical Zimbabwe Network (EZN) and the Cooperation for International Development Solidarity (CIDSE) that are among groups helping to feed Zimbabweans, said they had been unable to reach all parts of the country to assess the food security situation because of violence and the intimidating presence of state security forces. The EZN comprises more than 20 faith-based organisations involved in humanitarian assistance in Zimbabwe while the CIDSE is an alliance of 15 Catholic Church development organisations from Europe and North America.

The two groups said in a statement: Our partners cannot carry out food security assessments in the post-harvest season and are unable to plan properly the appropriate support to the most vulnerable sectors of the population in this coming year. Zimbabwe, once a regional breadbasket, has grappled with food shortages since 2000 when President Robert Mugabe launched his haphazard fast-track land reform exercise that displaced established white commercial farmers and replaced them with either incompetent or inadequately funded black farmers.

A shortage of seed and fertilizer hampered planting while erratic rains for most of the farming season has meant yields will be much lower again this year and international relief agencies will have to step in with food aid. The EZN and CIDSE said because of violence across much of the countryside they were unable to carry out surveys to establish the extent of food aid required.

The intimidating presence of security personnel and the physical violence taking place across the country is severely limiting our partners ability to fulfill their humanitarian mission. This security situation severely limits access to certain areas of the country, the statement from two the groups said. Politically motivated violence and human rights abuses have resurfaced in many parts of Zimbabwe since a March 29 election that Mugabe and his ZANU PF party lost to the opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai and his Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party.

The MDC, Western governments and human rights groups have accused Mugabe of unleashing militias to scare Zimbabweans into backing him in a second round presidential ballot being held because Tsvangirai defeated the veteran President but failed to garner more than 50 percent of the vote nee ded to take power under electoral laws.MDC deputy leader Thokozani Khupe told journalists at the weekend that ZANU PF militia have killed 20 supporters of the opposition party and destroyed more than 1 000 homes since the elections.

The government however denies the allegation and instead says it is the MDC that has carried out political violence.

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Gold deposits discovered in Kenya by a South African company

Posted by African Press International on May 15, 2008

Publisher: Korir, africanpress@getmail.no
<Story by Leo Odera Omolo
There is likely to bea new gold rush inWestern Kenya following the discovery by a South African firm of an abundance deposits located near Lolgorien in the Trans-Mara district, which is located in the southwest highland of the Rift Valley.
A South African company has reported that it discovered gold deposits that can be commercially viable for full scale mining activities for the next ten years.
The site of the discovery is in the Trans-Mara district in the South Rift. Goldplat Plc of South Africa has been prospecting in the area for the precious mental for some times in the Kilimapesa area and has since confirmed that production would start in the second half of the year
The companys chief executive officer Mr. Demetri Manolisa, said he was optimistic and confirmthat the production would start within the next two or three months from now.
The new discovery is likely to trigger the big gold rush which is similar to what was witnessed in Kakamega town in the early 1930s. There is likely to be a big gold rush for exploration by other companies and individuals, he said.
Kenyas director of mine and Geology, Mr. L.K. Biwott said the companies have been searching for the precious mental in Trans Mara, Migori, Homa-Bay, Siaya and Bondo districts, all located in Western Kenya near Lake Victoria.
We have commenced refurbishment of the plant and are stockpiling high grade materials for processing the gold, said Mr. Manolisa
The CEO said the initial phase of the project which assessed 10 selected targets within the licensed area and carried out shallow drilling of historic tailings is complete.
And not very long from the old gold mine of Lolgorien is another exploration effort by a Canadian based Kansai Mining Corporation of Macalder.
The companies are east african Pure gold Ltd, and Covenant Mining Ltd of America which are currently prospecting in migori and Homay Bay, international gold exploration of Sweden through its local subsidiary Sabimu.
The Kansas corporation of Macalder through its wholly-owned Kenyan subsidiary Migori Mining company ltd has been prospecting licences covering 310.5 square kilometers of the Migori greenstone Belt.
ENDS
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Congo DRC: Prison Overhaul Controversy

Posted by African Press International on May 15, 2008

Publisher: Korir, africanpress@getmail.no source.IWPR

story by Sara Nsimire.

Goma (Congo DRC) – Plans to transfer prisoners from a jail in Goma to one in a lawless, violent part of the North Kivu region, has left many fearing for their lives.

The plans are part of an overhaul of the local prison system which will see the renovation of a jail in Goma, the capital of North Kivu province, in the east of the Democractic Republic of Congo, DRC, and the rebuilding of another some distance away in a conflict-wracked part of the region. Overcrowding in the former jail will be resolved by transferring inmates to the latter. Renovation has already begun at Gomas Munzenze jail. Europe has already pledged 40,000 euro to the Reform of the Justice Sector in Congo, REJUSCO, project undertaking the work – which will connect the inner yards electrical system to the national power grid, and rebuild the prisons bathrooms, walls, showers, doors, roof, and floor.

Much of the prisons interior renovations will be done by inmates who will be compensated under an agreement with the prisons director and the project foreman. Some improvements have already been made. Prisoners now have mattresses and blankets and no longer sleep on the floor. And, a separate prison unit has been created for women and minors, as well as a medical unit. A fence has been erected around the jail to improve security.

The deputy coordinator for the REJUSCO and the prison facilities in the province, Robert Amisi, said the renovations are nearly half complete. For nearly a month now, all Munzenze cells have had lighting. In addition to renovating Munzenze, officials want to rebuild the Nyongera prison and farm in Rutshuru, some 75 kilometres from Goma, which currently is used to grow food for inmates, such as beans and corn. Once operational, the Nyongera prison will house an estimated 300 to 400 inmates, and will be used to relieve the overcrowded conditions at Munzenze. Although it was designed for 150 inmates, Munzenze today has about four times that number.

Nyongera is an old prison that was emptied in November 1996 by the Allied Democratic Liberation Forces, AFDL, of former Congolese president Laurent Dsir Kabila. Although the Nyongera region is occupied by federal army units of the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo, FARDC, it remains unstable. Residents of the region complain of frequent attacks, killings and lootings by either federal forces or the lawless Mai-Mai militia fighters. Because of this, most of the residents of Nyongera live in refugee camps protected by United Nations forces and assisted by aid organisations.

Although justice officials have said the rebuilding of Nyongera prison will be completed soon, few prisoners want to be transferred there because of the fighting. Inmates of Munzenze say they would prefer to die in prison there than under the Mai-Mai sword. Desperate to avoid possible transfer to Nyongera prison, about a dozen inmates recently attempted to escape from Munzenze. Jail officials said one was shot dead when a guard opened fire on the escapees and a second died after jumping off a wall.

But security at Nyongera may not be prisoners only worry. Lubamba Lundambwe, a Goma lawyer whos defending the rights of inmates, said those from Goma prefer to stay closer to family members who supplement their meagre food rations. Prison director Joseph Mirindi said he is appealing to the government of the province to ensure that inmates are fed every day. The renovation by REJUSCO is a good thing, he said, however, the state must also think about the current problem of the food supplies for prisoners.

Currently, the inmates are fed two ladles of mbungule, a mixture of beans and corn, prepared without salt or oil, but this is not always regular. Some report that they go four days or more without food and survive by drinking only tap water. From his darkly-lit cell, one young prisoner, serving a three-year sentence for rape, questioned the renovations. What is the purpose of refreshing the paint on the walls of a cell accommodating a desperate man with no future? he asked.

The inmate complained of serious stomach pain due to the poor diet at the prison. Others also question the merits of renovating Munzenze. Pierre Mazambi, a lawyer and professor at the Free University of the Great Lakes in Goma, suggested that the state build a new and larger prison in the area. He also suggested that land be set aside for cultivation by the prisoners, so theyll be able to not only grow their own food but also learn agricultural skills and become useful citizens. But the state remains focused on its plans for Munzenze and Nyongera.

As soon as the security situation will have improved, no doubt Nyongera will serve to relieve Munzenze, said Amisi. Amisi has appealed to the people of Goma to trust that the renovations by REJUSCO will improve justice for the residents of North Kivu.

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Cameroon launches 13 billion CFA savanna cocoa mixed farming project to boost production

Posted by African Press International on May 15, 2008

Publisher: Korir, africanpress@getmail.no

<Story filed by Tansa Musa

YAOUNDE, The government of Cameroon has announced plans to boost cocoa production in the country by extending production to the savanna zone as from next July through the 30-year Savanna Cocoa Mixed Farming Project.

According to Hortense Ngono, leader of the technical team from the project operator the Agence Nationale d ppui au Developpement Forestier (ANAFOR),the pilot phase of the project will be launched at Bokito in the Mbam division, a transitional zone from the tropical forest to the savanna, some 130 km north of the capital.

Project aims at reducing deforestation caused by cocoa growers as they extend their plantations by planting cocoa together with other tree crops on the same piece of land and fight rural poverty, she said.

The humid nature of the Mbam region greatly favours cocoa growing, she added. It will greatly help in the fight against poverty in rural areas by enabling farmers to grow a multiplicity of crops at a time and on the same farm.

She said farmers will be provided high-yielding hybrid cocoa plants which will be nursed on the spot as well as high yielding varieties of tree crops such as avocado, oil palm, coconut, plum tree, etc.

The first phase, to run till 2011, is expected to cost some 13 billion CFA francs and will involve some 3,000 farmers drawn from 16 different farmer cooperatives working on 4,000 hectares. It is after then that the project will be extended to other savanna zones in the country.

For its part, ANAFOR will help farmers acquire land and train them on the best practices of mixed farming techniques, said Hortense Ngono.

Cameroon is the fourth biggest cocoa producer in the world, with production standing at 179,243 metric tonnes in 2006/2007 up from 163,821 the previous season.

For now, cocoa is grown in five of the country’s 10 provinces that fall within the tropical forest, including the South-West, Centre, South, East and Littoral provinces.

The cocoa season runs from August 1 to July 31 of the following year, with peak harvest from November to January.(END)

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Sudan: Census ends unsuccessfully in South

Posted by African Press International on May 15, 2008

Publisher: Korir, africanpress@getmail.no source.tribune.sudan

story by James Gatdet Dak.

Juba (Sudan) The population and housing census in Southern Sudan officially ended on Tuesday, May 6, unsuccessfully according to reports from various states in the region.

The Chairperson for the Southern Sudan Census, Statistics and Evaluation Commission, Mr. Isaiah Chol Aruai, in a press statement he issued on Tuesday, estimated that about ninety to ninety-five percent (90% to 95%) of South Sudan population has been counted. Aruai blamed a number of challenges for not achieving a 100% headcount. He said insecurity in the South coupled with heavy rainfalls in some states were among the obstacles to the success of the census.

The Census Chairperson however concluded that the exercise went on well. Sample reports from various states such as Northern Bahr el Ghazal, Eastern Equatoria, Upper Nile and Lakes states dispute the census results, saying many more areas have not been reached and counted in the region.

For instance, Census Field Coordinators in Aweil, Northern Bahr el Ghazal state, reported that several villages near to the North-South border have been counted to the northern population by enumerators from Southern Kordufan while dozens of villages more were not mapped in the census mapping and therefore could not be located for the count.

A similar report came out of Rumbek where about twenty-eight villages and many more cattle camps were not counted because they were not included in the census mapping. Some villages, although mapped, could not be accessed because of insecurity in the area, the report added. Census Field Coordinators also complain about lack of transport, saying in some situations two Counties had to share only one vehicle for the enumeration exercise and without means to communicate.

There is also a wide range of complaints by enumerators that promises by respective state census offices to make them sign contracts in order to get paid after the exercise have not materialized, leaving enumerators confused and worried whether they would get paid or not. The Sudan Population and Housing count is the most important mechanism in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) meant to determine how power and wealth should be shared between North and South in accordance with the census results.

The results of the Census will also be used for determining political constituencies prior to the conduct of the countrys general elections in 2009. This will also be used by the government in planning for distribution of basic services across this vast country. Aruai said the next step is for the census authority in the country to compile, analyze and disseminate the results within the next three months.

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Djibouti: Country petitions UN over Eritrea’s military build-up

Posted by African Press International on May 15, 2008

Publisher: Korir, africanpress@getmail.no source.theGuardian,nigeria.

Bidding to forestall possible conflict, the tiny port nation of Djibouti, a key United States (U.S.) ally in the Horn of Africa, has urged the United Nations (UN) Security Council to take immediate action to prevent a conflict with its northern neighbour Eritrea.

In a letter to the council president circulated Tuesday, Djibouti’s Foreign Minister, Mahmoud Ali Youssouf, said Eritrea has launched a major military build-up on their border overlooking critical Red Sea shipping lanes. He accused Eritrea of carrying out “an undisguised and naked provocation against my country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.” “We call on the council to deploy urgently all necessary measures toward preventing yet another conflict, under any guise, in a region long ravaged by mayhem, bloodshed and destruction,” Youssouf said.

More than 1,200 U.S troops, according to The Associated Press (AP), are stationed in Djibouti, which hosts the base for an anti-terrorism task force in the Horn of Africa. France also has a base in Djibouti, its former colony. Youssouf said he was bringing the Eritrean buildup to the council’s attention because there has been a progressive growth of Eritrean troops at our common border since February 2008.”
Djibouti has responded by sending troops to the border as well, Youssouf said.

He said contacts with Eritrea at the highest level “have failed to elicit any credible response.” Eritrea’s UN Mission said no one was immediately available to respond to the foreign minister. Youssouf recalled that in 1996 Eritrea floated “a false map … that incorporated the same northern border area into its territory, thus unilaterally redrawing the established border.” Youssouf said Djibouti suspects the motivation behind Eritrea’s deployment is the strategic location and panoramic view of the critical Red Sea shipping lanes from the border.

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Somalia: Deadly battle rages between Ethiopia soldiers, insurgents

Posted by African Press International on May 15, 2008

Publisher: Korir, africanpress@getmail.no source.garoweonline.somalia.

Beletwein (Somalia) – Ethiopian troops in central Somalia were ambushed Wednesday as they withdrew from one town and were heading back towards the Ethiopian border, locals said.

The fighting erupted around noon as a 30-truck Ethiopian army convoy left their positions in Bulo Burte, a town in Hiran region. The Ethiopian contingent was attacked in a hilly village between Bulo Burto and Beletwein, the provincial seat of power.

Local villagers reported that the battle lasted for nearly two hours, as Ethiopian soldiers exchanged a barrage of gunfire and artillery with Islamist insurgents. Unconfirmed reports obtained by Garowe Online indicated that four Ethiopian army trucks were burned after sustaining insurgent rocket fire. There were heavy casualties on both sides of the conflict, according to villagers, but casualty figures were difficult to obtain because of the fierce fighting.

In one brutal incident, Ethiopian soldiers who left the frontlines entered a small village where they pulled three Somali civilians from their home and executed them, according to local sources. Meanwhile, the Ethiopian army’s largest base in Hiran region, located near the border village of Kala-Beyr, was pounded by at least seven mortars early Wednesday. It is not clear if any soldier was hurt in the mortar attack, but locals said Ethiopian soldiers entered surrounding villages to conduct an investigation.

Somalia’s Hiran region remains without a governor, even though Prime Minister Nur “Adde” Hassan Hussein appointed a new administration last month. Many members of the new regional authority have refused to accept the jobs, citing lack of resources and political discord domestically. Yusuf Daboged, an Ethiopian-backed warlord who was the last governor of Hiran region, has maintained that he is the de facto governor, despite the Prime Minister’s decree replacing him. Mr. Daboged was last reported to be in Kala-Beyr alongside Ethiopian military commanders.

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Zimbabwe: Army speaks on political violence

Posted by African Press International on May 15, 2008

Publisher: Korir, africanpress@getmail.no source.zimonline

story by cuthbert nzou.

Harare (Zimbabwe) Zimbabwes army on Wednesday broke its silence on political violence in the country to reject charges that soldiers have violated human rights and murdered opposition supporters since March when President Robert Mugabes government suffered electoral defeat.

Army deputy public relations officer, Major Alphios Makotore, said the army was concerned by the allegations that soldiers have spearheaded a campaign of violence, torture and murder against opposition supporters to force them to vote for Mugabe in a second round presidential election.

Zimbabwe holds a presidential run-off poll at a yet unknown date after opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai defeated Mugabe in a March 29 election but failed to garner more than 50 percent of the vote required to takeover the presidency. Makotore said: The Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA) wishes to raise concerns over articles being published in the print and the electronic media on allegations relating to the alleged political violence, assaults, harassment and robberies perpetrated by men in army uniforms the army categorically distances itself and any of its members from such activities.

The opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party accuses the army of spearheading and directing a campaign of violence and murder by gangs of ruling ZANU PF party youths and war veterans that the opposition says has killed 24 of its members and displaced another 5 000, while 800 homesteads have been burnt down. The MDC has alleged that the army has deployed more than 200 senior soldiers to orchestrate violence in what the opposition party has described as a war being waged by Mugabe against voters in a bid to intimidate them to grant him another five years in office.

MDC spokesman Nelson Chamisa insisted that the army was heavily involved in political violence, adding that his party had compiled a full list of army officers at the forefront of committing human rights abuses.
We have names of soldiers perpetrating violence, Chamisa said. No amount of denials will take away the fact that the army, police, CIO agents, war veterans and ZANU PF militia are brutalising our supporters.
Worsening political violence in Zimbabwe a country also grappling with its worst ever economic crisis and food shortages has raised an outcry by the international community with United Nations chief Ban Ki-Moon saying on Monday that he was concerned with the violence, adding he was consulting African leaders on how to resolve the situation.

The UN Secretary General spoke as the head of the African Union Commission, Jean Ping, visited Zimbabwe for talks with Mugabe on the countrys deepening political crisis. While also this week South African President Thabo Mbeki, the Southern African Development Communitys mediator in Zimbabwe, dispatched a team of officials led by Cabinet Minister Sydney Mufamadi to probe post-election violence in Zimbabwe.
Mufamadis team was expected to meet all political players in a bid to find a solution to the violence and ensure that the second round presidential ballot is held in a free and fair environment.

No date has been set for the run-off election while Tsvangirai who maintains he was cheated of outright victory in the first round poll is yet to commit himself to contesting the second round ballot. Tsvangirai is widely expected to win the run-off poll on the back of a worsening economic crisis that has fed voter anger against Mugabe and is marked by an acute shortage of food and the worlds highest inflation of more than 160 000 percent.

However analysts warn that a violent onslaught by army-backed ZANU PF against Tsvangirais supporters and MDC structures could effectively alter the political equation and deliver victory to Mugabe. ZimOnline.

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South Africa: Generation Y must ask ‘Why?’ (opinion)

Posted by African Press International on May 15, 2008

Publisher: Korir, africanpress@getmail.no source.guardian.sa

story by Zengeziwe msimang.

I am a middle-class child of the Y Generation — the Why Generation. I came of age in the post-apartheid 1990s.

We were taught to be brash, question authority, talk back and think smart. Our parents flooded us with learning tools. My life has been as much framed by the fight for freedom in this country as it has by the technological boom that catapulted the world on to the information highway.

I was not old enough to cast my vote on April 27 1994, but I was old enough to understand what was happening, to stand at the feet of Nelson Mandela that glorious day at the Union Buildings, my chest swelling with pride, elation and relief. Freedom had come. Halala!

For a special few of us, freedom was real. The children of exiled struggle comrades-turned-icons, the children of men and women who had gone from the trenches to the boardroom. I get the sense that this baffled my parents generation as much as it did mine. It was the first hint of the question that would define my generation: so what then will they fight for?

Sadly, our response has been less than satisfactory. We are the spoilt children of Mother Freedom. We interpreted freedom as the right to have. We could go to whichever beach we wanted, dine in the finest restaurants, shoulder to shoulder with our former madams and masters. White schools welcomed us with (semi-)open arms, allowing us to gain their knowledge, wear their uniforms, acquire their accents. We could speak to people on other continents, growing up in chat rooms and watching youth culture beamed across flat-screen TVs.

And then, after decades of South Africas loud calls for freedom booming around the globe, a silence grew. A loud silence that said: what next? We had negotiated a revolution and written a Constitution that was the envy of human-rights activists throughout the world. But these victories left a gaping vacuum in the psyche of the countrys youth. The rainbow nation, so bright and diverse in its colours, seemed to be dimming with each passing year and the generation entrusted with moving the country to the next level — the developmental state — seemed not to know how to stop partying.

And still Generation Why continued the post-apartheid festivities. Our parents had created the freedom; it was up to us to enjoy it. We went to university and studied actuarial science, engineering and investment banking, many of us priding ourselves on being able to put first black before our job title. Black economic empowerment ensured that a private school accent and a penchant for fine whisky would propel us to the top of the corporate game. And the silence grew.

Yes, there were years of active debate. There were youth development initiatives, HIV/Aids initiatives, agricultural initiatives. But those were for the less fortunate. We, who attended the best schools and hung out in the best nightclubs, became content to leave the politics to the politicians.

My generation has all the tools necessary to drown out that silence threatening to overtake our hard-won freedoms. We are constantly in touch. Not necessarily with the world around us — we use the internet to search for the latest fashion trends and to create blogs about nothing. We use our cellphones to get directions to parties and to send more sweet nothings to one another. The more we have learned to communicate, the less we know what to say.

But the blame is not entirely our own. We have taken our cue from leaders who, with every crisis, grow more hushed. They believe that if they say as little as possible, better yet nothing at all, then all our problems will go away. When people began to die of Aids, when millions of rands were misappropriated in the arms deal, when Zimbabweans began to cross our borders in search initially of jobs and stability and now food and water

And we, Generation Why, never asked why our leaders stood silent. We have not spoken. We simply basked in the silence that is the birthright of freedom.

We owe it to ourselves and to those who have gone before us (those who are now perhaps too tired or too comfortable to continue to speak) to use media and communication tools to foster the growth of South Africa through her turbulent teens and into her potential-filled youth.

I want my generation to snuff out the silence that has enveloped the political spaces in our country. I want us to make a noise that will be heard past our borders and across our continent: why are we here, what are we fighting for, why should we bother, what difference will it make? The first question is Why? For what it is worth, my answer is: Because we can, because we should, because we must.

*Zengeziwe Msimang works in the ICT sector. She writes in her personal capacity

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South Africa: Change course on land or face grave consequences (commentary)

Posted by African Press International on May 15, 2008

Publisher: Korir, africanpress@getmail.no source.businessday.sa.

Land reform in SA is in trouble. Be warned: this is not just another policy issue in which government capacity is unequal to a difficult task. This is an issue that affects the very foundation of our 1994 constitutional compromise on property rights.

For most South Africans, the history of land is one of pain and injustice. People must be fully compensated for land and assets that were stolen. At a time of rising food and commodity prices, the future of the land issue will affect the countrys ability to reach its economic growth targets, produce its own food, and compete in global markets. Land redistribution is taking place far too slowly to meet the expectations raised by the governments target that 30% of commercial agricultural land should be owned by blacks by 2014. In the three years from 2004 to last year, state redistribution of formerly white-owned land to black owners increased by less than half a percentage point, from 4,3% of commercial land to 4,7%.

The restitution process has successfully settled almost all urban claims but is now seriously bogged down. The last phase of restitution dealing with the biggest, most difficult rural claims involving many thousands of people has resulted in large swathes of productive commercial land being placed under claim and therefore effectively frozen for years to come. For example, according to the South African Cane Growers Association, 50% of all cane land is under claim with only 4% settled; nearly half of the timber land owned by Mondi is under claim, as is at least 17,5% of Sappis land. This means that farmers cannot borrow against their land for the next harvest or any machinery or improvements; it means that aspirant new black farmers cannot get bank loans to purchase this land.

There is no prospect of meeting this years deadline for completion of the restitution process. Without bold intervention, significant parts of the rural economy are set for decline. Most land reform projects involving large numbers of people being resettled on newly acquired land have been abject failures in the words of a senior official, assets dying in the hands of the poor. The government now admits that 50% of these projects have failed to make beneficiaries better off, with many other observers assessing the rate of failure to be considerably higher. Attempts to improve security of tenure for black people in rural areas have made little, if any, progress. This applies to communal land areas, as well as the rights of tenants on commercial land. Many voluntary initiatives in the private sector have been aborted or put on hold because of the scale of restitution claims now gazetted on private land and delays (lasting years) in resolving them.

Influential officials and politicians have begun to look for quick, radical solutions. The land affairs department is encouraging municipalities to levy very high rates on farm land to make it unaffordable for established farmers to stay on their land, thus pushing down prices. Parliament is considering an expropriation bill that will expand state powers to buy land at below market prices, without owners consent, and undermining owners access to the courts if they object to being expropriated. Citing Zimbabwean and Namibian examples, the department has suggested that the government should have the right of first refusal on all land outside developed urban areas and that without a certificate indicating governments lack of present interest, such land cannot be sold on the open market. Imagine the delays, the potential for corruption and patronage and the effect on land markets.

Without producing any facts, all these proposals assume that the main obstacle to successful restitution is white farmers demanding unreasonably high prices to delay or subvert reform, while enriching themselves at the governments expense. But the results of extensive research on the operation of land markets throughout the country, looking in detail at property transactions in areas subject to restitution, do not support this assumption. There is no consistent upward movement in the prices the government has been paying to settle restitution claims. Prices fluctuate depending on the type of property bought. Some recent claims on large and valuable sugar and fruit farms have been expensive to settle, but overall restitution transaction prices increased only by 1,1% a year during the period from 2003 to 2006. The evidence simply does not support the notion that restitution prices have been unreasonable; or that white farmers with land under claim are systematically taking unfair advantage of land reform.

Numerous reports from established farmers all sound the same. For years they struggle to form partnerships with government structures and resolve land issues voluntarily, often making generous offers of land and continuing post-settlement support. These offers are rejected and eventually land is bought by the government. But then officials do not know that agriculture is a seasonal business and acquire or move people onto land at the wrong time of year; or land is not allocated at all for long periods, and when eventually allocated beneficiaries receive no support from the government. Beneficiaries often have no interest in actually farming on what is highly valued and scarce agricultural land. There have been several notorious disasters, when restitution beneficiaries have been effectively abandoned by officials; and the destruction on more than one formerly productive farm has been compared to a war zone.

Some new black farmers who have benefited from land redistribution and are finally starting to prosper are now finding their new property under claim as the restitution process proceeds in isolation from other policies. In some parts of the country, black farmers are angry with the state because officials have not finalised the process of granting them freehold ownership of land and have done nothing to remove illegal squatters from the land.

The slow place of processing and settling the remaining land restitution claims appears to be largely attributable to two factors. There is a deepening lack of capacity within provincial and national state structures to engage constructively with private interests, manage post-settlement support or even spend the money allocated them by the treasury. About a third of posts, including senior positions, in the land affairs department are vacant. Many officials know little about agriculture. There is a serious mismatch between the value of the land under claim and the restitution budget. In 2008-09, the departments total budget was R6,6bn. To put this in perspective, just a handful of claims on valuable coastal land could cost R1bn to settle.

The amount of money, skill and engaged political leadership required to deal with land reform is far greater than the government or African National Congress originally assumed. If future land reform policy is based on mistaken assumptions about what is holding back progress or descends into a search for scapegoats, SA could drift into some very negative consequences. A combination of incorrect, racially tinged assumptions behind policy making, low budgets, and low capacity coupled with ambitious targets without any realistic plans, all start looking like a future too ghastly to contemplate. No one should underestimate the importance of the rising accumulation of difficulties with respect to land issues and the dangers of current trends in the policy conversation. However tempting it is for urban political or business leaders to ignore what is happening, this would be a grave mistake. SA needs to reassess what it is achieving and how best to make progress in the land arena. A great deal is at stake.

*Bernstein is head of the Centre for Development and Enterprise. This article is based on a new CDE report, Land Reform in SA: Getting back on track, which she co-authored with Jeff McCarthy.

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African Press International – api

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Africa at large: Lagging behind in access to e-infrastructure

Posted by African Press International on May 15, 2008

Publisher: Korir, africanpress@getmail.no source.businessdaily.ke

story by okuttah mark.

Most African countries are slow in channelling information technology towards economic and social benefits, the latest global e-readiness report shows.

The e-readiness rankings by the Economist Intelligence Unit allow governments to gauge the success of ICT strategies against those of other countries and provide corporates with an overview of the worlds most promising investments locations. In this report, North America was ranked the best garnering 8.72, followed by West Europe 8.16, Asia-pacific 6.34, Central and Eastern Europe 5.54, Latin and Eastern Europe 5.33. East Africa scored 5.14.

Factors guiding the rankings are connectivity, business, legal, social and cultural environment, government policy and consumer trends. The rankings illuminate the factors that are driving or inhibiting a countrys progress from using ICT to advance economic and social developments, says Peter Korsten, global leader of IBM Institute for Business.

In terms of electronic preparedness, the United States is now the global e-world readiness leader with a score of 8.95 followed by Hong Kong. South Africa is the most prepared in Africa at number 39 out of the 70 ranked states. No East African country features in the list. Economist Intelligence Unit considers mass access to infrastructure as the foundation of e-readiness.

Regional research firm, Research ICT Africa, attributes the low ranking of African countries to failure to deregulate telecoms markets enough so that competition can bring mobile services down. The organisation takes specific issues with fixed to mobile interconnection rates, which it claims, are 80-100 per cent higher than global trends. Markets with atronomical rates include Kenya, Benin and even South Africa. Mr Paul Kukubo, the chief executive, ICT Board of Kenya, said the country can borrow the best practices in legal matters from South Africa.

Mr Kukubo adds that data and property regulations are needed to protect local investors and attract foreign ones. To be at par with the trends of competition, observers say that countries like Kenya need to tackle tax regime, start up financing, and labour costs.

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African Press International – api

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Africa at large: AU must review its ambitions (opinion)

Posted by African Press International on May 15, 2008

The Namibian, by Alfredo Tjiurimo Hengari- May 7, 2008.

Earlier this week, Jean Ping, who incidentally completed his doctorate in economics at the Sorbonne, reported for office as President of the African Union Commission.

When the President of Tanzania, Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete, became the chairman of the African Union for the year 2008 in January, he declared: “we are aspiring for an Africa that is safe, stable and at peace with itself.
We are ashamed of the violent conflicts which are currently engulfing Africa.” It has been six years since the African Union was established and its successes are variably muted in a number of domains, in part due to its size and contradictory political ideologies and values.

I have argued in these pages before that the African Union is an appalling copy of the European Union. Students of comparative regional integration would agree with me that it is a bad copy in the sense that it only looked at the form of the European Union without examining the substantive political processes that led to the creation of the European Union at Maastricht in 1992. Again, in integration literature, the Union is the highest stage of integration.

This is normally achieved after economies have been integrated substantially. This begs the question as to why the African Union agreed ambitiously to a Union without any detail that suggests that we are indeed a Union of states. Be that as it may, such a process is perhaps irreversible and we may have to live with that painful theoretical anomaly, with its concrete, practical and hollow consequences. In that sense, the Sirt Declaration was ambitious without the accompanying financial means to sustain and live up to those ambitions.

The end result has been a process, which is largely donor driven, for the realisation of its most basic institutional infrastructure. In that context, it remains a matter of conjecture and luck, the extent and the pace with which the African Union will realise the long-standing objectives contained in the Lagos Plan of Action of 1981 which incorporated programmes and strategies for self-reliant development and cooperation among African countries.

Yet, in this domain, there are competing priorities, with some countries trading more with external countries than they do with their neighbours. Such problems are also compounded by a certain reticence and a lack of commitment on the part of North Africa to be part of the integration process, some wishing to foster closer ties with the EU and the Middle East as opposed to Sub-Saharan Africa.

Such challenges do suggest that the African Union must review its objectives, and most importantly, its mandate. A continental body consisting of over 53 states, with different histories and varying degrees of economic development is unlikely to develop common positions on economic issues, nor will it do so on the most pressing of political issues. The institutional architecture envisioned for the AU is ambitious and broad, with neither depth nor capacity.

Nor has the AU fully sorted out how it relates to the multiplicity of other African institutions and initiatives, many of which overlap: the regional economic communities, and the Pan-African Parliament.
This explains partly, the paralysis and the generalities that have become symptomatic of its processes. However, conflict resolution is an area in which the African Union can play a meaningful role on the continent.

It should be the raison d’tre of this continental body to allow regional bodies to play the role of political and economic integration, while the AU remains in that process largely consultative and a catalyst, setting out general principles. Such a view dovetails with Jean Ping who declared that his priority would be to reinforce the relationship between Africa and the Middle East in order to end conflicts on the continent.
This approach is informed by the fact that some of the most violent conflicts in Africa, be they Darfur or Somalia, are the result of a difficult crossroads between Arabs and Africans.

Besides, there is a general commitment on the part of external partners, such as the European Union, the United Nations and individual countries such as France, the United States and Britain to invest in a new African security infrastructure. Thus, the starting point for the AU under Jean Ping should be for the AU to prioritise conflict prevention and resolution.

For that to happen, there must be preparedness on the part of member countries to give more powers to the AU Peace and Security Council.

*Alfredo Tjiurimo Hengari is a PhD fellow in political science at the University of Paris- Panthon Sorbonne, France.

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