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Sudan Leader Visits Juba, Urges Peace Deal Implementation

Sudan’s vice president visited South Sudan’s capital on Wednesday to reiterate Khartoum’s support for its neighbor and to urge the government and armed groups to fully implement the 2018 peace agreement.

After meeting with President Salva Kiir, Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, vice president of Sudan’s transitional government, said Sudan will continue to offer its support to the peace partners in South Sudan so they can carry out security arrangements and other parts of the deal that have yet to be implemented.

Dagalo commended South Sudan’s leaders for progress made in reconstituting the National Legislative Assembly, the council of states and establishing state governments. He said they need to move more quickly on implementing agreed-to security arrangements, especially the training of government and former rebel forces into a unified army.

“We have been assured that the joint forces are going to be graduated [from training], and this is positive news. And we hope that their graduation should not delay any more because we want to see the second batch go for training as well,” said Dagalo. He said Sudan would be monitoring “this development more closely through the different joint committees,” as a guarantor of the peace deal.

Chapter two of the revitalized peace agreement requires the parties to form a unified army. The first group of forces registered at training centers across the country have remained at the camps for nearly two years.

Dagalo said implementing the peace deal is the only means to guarantee stability in the country.

He added that “a stable South Sudan will mean a stable Sudan.”

Sudan and Uganda are guarantors of South Sudan’s peace deal signed by the parties in September 2018 in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa. The agreement calls for a 36- month transitional period to be followed directly by a national election but several of the document’s key provisions have yet to be carried out.

South Sudanese officials have repeatedly stated that the government lacks the funds needed to implement the deal.

Kiir has complained that sanctions and the arms embargo imposed on the country by the United Nations Security Council have slowed implementation of the peace agreement. Kiir has also insisted that the country is unable to train thousands of joint forces to form a unified army due to a lack of weapons, an assertion that western diplomats and United Nations officials have questioned.

Tut Galuak, Kiir’s security advisor who also heads the country’s peace implementation committee, announced Wednesday that the joint forces will graduate shortly after the Muslim holiday of Eid Al Adha.

Despite the challenges that lie ahead such as chronic underfunding for training centers, Galuak told reporters the parties are fully committed to implementing the peace deal.

“We are certain in our stance that the peace implementation is going on well. All parties are optimistic about lasting peace in the country,” said Galuak.

Source: Voice of America

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Politics

UN Calls for Swift Pullout of Eritrean Troops From Tigray

The United Nations Human Rights Council passed a resolution Tuesday calling for the swift pullout of Eritrean troops from Ethiopia’s embattled northern Tigray region.

The eight-month war between Ethiopian federal forces and Tigray’s former ruling party, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, has killed thousands of people, forced some 2 million others to flee their homes and driven about 400,000 into famine.

The council said Eritrean troops were “exacerbating the conflict” that continued Tuesday with the TPLF’s capture of Alamata, the main town in southern Tigray, according to AFP. The town’s reported capture came two weeks after the federal government declared a unilateral cease-fire, following rebel advances.

“What is happening in the Tigray region in Ethiopia is appalling,” said Ambassador Lotte Knudsen, head of the EU delegation to the U.N., which presented the resolution. It is imperative for the Human Rights Council to be able to address this situation.”

UNHCR chief Filippo Grandi said in a statement that “The violence and intimidation of Eritrean refugees must stop. Refugees are civilians in need of and with the right to international protection.”

Eritrea voted against the U.N. resolution to immediately withdraw its troops from the region, which is also a key TPLF demand in cease-fire negotiations.

Fighting between the Ethiopian government and the TPLF broke out in November. Troops from Eritrea, Ethiopia’s neighbor to the north, and Amhara, a neighboring region to the south of Tigray, also entered the conflict in support of the Ethiopian government.

Source: Voice of America

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Politics

Internet Restrictions Hold Back Africa’s Economic Growth, Study Finds

A report by a non-profit group says Africa needs to increase internet access to boost its economies, especially in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The advocacy group found that while Africa’s locally routed online traffic has increased, only one in five Africans has internet access. High taxes and frequent internet shutdowns by some African governments have also discouraged online trade.

The Internet Society group says in a report this month Africa’s internet exchange points, or IXP’s, have increased from 19 to 46 in under eight years. Six countries have more than one IXP.

An IXP is where multiple networks and service providers exchange internet traffic. The increase is significant because a decade ago, most African countries routed their online traffic outside the continent.

Dawit Bekele is the Africa regional vice president for the Internet Society, a global nonprofit organization that promotes the development and use of the internet. He said Africa having its own IXP’s improves internet performance for users on the continent.

“By developing internet exchange points within Africa, we have limited this kind of unnecessary travels of internet traffic outside of Africa to come back to Africa, which has a considerable advantage to improving the user experience, be it the speed, connectivity or even the cost of connectivity,” he said.

The Washington-based group says its goal is to eventually have 80% of internet traffic in Africa be exchanged locally.

Michael Niyitegeka, an information technology expert, said public demand has forced African governments to improve internet access.

“We can’t run away from the youth population. There are quite a number of young people and therefore their affinity or drive for technology and use of the Internet is way higher than our parents and they are more comfortable using technology than anything else. Finally, the other aspect I think is quite critical is the access to mobile technology devices is a big driver. We see quite a number of relatively cheap smart or internet-enabled phones in our markets and that has a massive effect on how many people can access the internet,” said Niyitegeka.

In a 2020 study, the International Foundation Corporation said internet use could add $180 billion to Africa’s economies.

However, some governments have taken steps to control digital communication by shutting down social media platforms and imposing a high tax on internet use.

Omoniyi Kolade is the CEO of SeerBit, a Nigerian company that offers payment processing services to businesses. He said that government control of the internet will drive businesses backward.

“It’s a way we are driven backward instead of moving forward. We are supposed to encourage access, we are supposed to encourage free access point for interaction for solutions, because if businesses had to put their product on platforms, as long as those platforms are put down or disconnected there is loss of revenue at that point and for payment gateway. We are already losing revenue as those businesses do not exist to achieve the purpose of what they should achieve,” he said.

The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa notes that only 20% of the continent’s population has access to the Internet.

The Internet Society Group is urging African governments to expand internet infrastructure to rural areas, where most of the population lives, so that they can benefit from it.

Source: Voice of America

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Politics

South Sudan’s Liberation Struggle Supplanted by Autocracy

Ten years after gaining independence, some South Sudanese say their struggle for liberation has been supplanted by an autocratic system of government led by the nation’s ruling party, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM).

Many of them complain about a lack of freedom to exercise their rights. They accuse the SPLM and President Salva Kiir of doing very little to protect open political space. They and some analysts also blame the SPLM party for a power struggle that turned into a five-and-a-half year civil war.

Deng Mading, the acting SPLM information secretary, admits some in the party’s leadership helped plunge the country into conflict but does not think the SPLM as a whole is to blame for South Sudan’s current rash of problems.

“I will argue that the individuals’ behavior within the SPLM brought a problem into SPLM as an institution,” he told “South Sudan in Focus,” “but the SPLM as an institution on the other side of the argument, it is still like it was in 1983.”

As the SPLM came into power, according to analyst Bobova James at the Juba-based Institute for Social Policy and Research, it knew little about how to establish functioning government structures.

“Then individuals who are actually the leaders within the SPLM took that as an advantage to begin doing things in South Sudan the way they would like,” James told VOA’s “South Sudan in Focus.” He asserts that “If we have leaders who do not understand the democratic rule of law and governance processes, such leaders cannot even be able to introduce some of those processes within a government.”

James decried the level of politicization that has gripped not only the national government in Juba, but also has filtered down through the system.

“At the state level, we have these SPLM structures that once you become a governor of a state and then therefore you become the chairperson of the SPLM; once you become a commissioner of a county, you become the chairperson of the SPLM [there]. There is a lot of ambiguity. There is a lot of illegality within the SPLM itself.”

Freedom of expression is enshrined in the 2012 Political Parties Act and the country’s transitional constitution. Despite those declarations, the government’s various security organizations do not allow opposition politicians to speak openly, said Albino Akol Atak, a senior member of the African National Congress (ANC).

For example, he said, parties are not allowed to hold political rallies.

“If I am trying to conduct, let’s say, a public rally,” Atak told VOA, “the authorities will come in, everybody will want me to get permission from him and this permission is even restricted. I will be asked, ‘What are you going to present in this public rally?’ If this topic is contrary to what they believe, then I will not be given that permission to conduct a public rally.”

In a report released earlier this year, Human Rights Watch documented a number of incidents carried out by National Security Service officers that included the detention of Moses Monday, director of the Organization for Non-Violence. Monday was detained because his organization erected billboards that demanded financial transparency in government spending.

The report also said security officers detained a political activist identified as Kanybil Noon and held him without charge for 117 days. It said Noon was released on condition that he stop criticizing the government.

While defending his party, SPLM’s Mading said that, to ensure good governance, SPLM has committed itself to implementing the 2018 revitalized peace agreement. He said free and open elections are critical to achieving that goal.

“After the elections, people of South Sudan will judge because we need to give people of South Sudan a voice and make your government to be legitimate,” he said.

South Sudanese youth rights activist Wani Stephen Elias also wants people to be able to safely express their opinions.

“Much space should be given for citizens,” he said, “to express their interest in terms of the governance, how they want corruption to be tackled, how education should be, how the health system is they want it to be, then how road infrastructure, leadership and transparency in terms of decision-making process.”

South Sudanese singer Okuta Ciza Malish, 34, popularly known by his stage name Silva X, said that as his country marks a decade of freedom, it is time for its leaders and their government to renew their commitment to the values that drove their struggle for freedom.

“May this 10th anniversary bring us peace, love, unity and freedom and really good security,” he said. “Let’s hope it becomes a restarting point for us to reflect on everything that we did in the past — good or bad — and put a possible way forward that will help every citizen in this country.”

Source: Voice of America

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Politics

As France Plans to Shrink Sahel Force, Jihadi Threat Grows

During a grueling, weekslong mission in northern Mali, French soldiers were confronted by a familiar threat: Extremists trying to impose the same strict Islamic rule that preceded France’s military intervention here more than eight years ago.

Traumatized residents showed scars on their shoulders and backs from whippings they endured after failing to submit to the jihadis’ authority.

“We were witness to the presence of the enemy trying to impose Shariah law, banning young children from playing soccer and imposing a dress code,” said Col. Stephane Gouvernet, battalion commander for the recent French mission dubbed Equinoxe.

France is preparing to reduce its military presence here in West Africa’s Sahel region — the vast area south of the Sahara Desert where extremist groups are fighting for control. In June, French President Emmanuel Macron announced the end of Operation Barkhane, France’s seven-year effort fighting extremists linked to al-Qaida and the Islamic State in Africa’s Sahel region. France’s more than 5,000 troops will be reduced in the coming months, although no timeframe has been given.

Instead, France will participate in a special forces unit with other European countries and African countries will be responsible for patrolling the Sahel.

The move comes after years of criticism that France’s military operation is simply another reiteration of colonial rule. But the shift also takes place amid a worsening political and security crisis in the region. In May, Mali had its second coup in nine months.

Although officials of Mali’s government have been able to return to some towns once overrun by jihadis, for the first time since 2012, there are reports of extremists amputating hands to punish suspected thieves — a throwback to the Shariah law imposed in northern Mali prior to the French military intervention.

There have been spikes, too, in extremist attacks in Burkina Faso and Niger, sparking concern that the reduction of the French force will create a security void in the Sahel region that will be quickly filled by the jihadis.

“If an adequate plan is not finalized and in place, the tempo of attacks on local forces could rise across the region over the coming weeks, as jihadists attempt to benefit from a security vacuum,” said Liam Morrissey, chief executive officer for MS Risk Limited, a British security consultancy operating in the Sahel for 12 years.

While France has spent billions on its anti-jihadi campaign, called Operation Barkhane, Sahel experts say that it never dedicated the necessary resources to defeat the extremists, said Michael Shurkin, director of global programs at 14 North Strategies, a consultancy based in Dakar, Senegal.

“They have always been aware that their force in the Sahel is far too undersized to accomplish anything like a counterinsurgency campaign,” he said.

France has several thousand troops covering more than 1,000 kilometers of terrain in the volatile region where the borders of Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso meet. Alerts about attacks are often missed or responded to hours later, especially in remote villages. Operations rely heavily on the French air force, which conduct airstrikes, transport troops and deliver equipment. The desert is harsh with temperatures reaching near 50 degrees Celsius, exhausting troops and requiring additional maintenance for equipment.

The Associated Press spent the days before Macron’s announcement accompanying the French military in the field, where pilots navigated hostile terrain in the pitch dark to retrieve troops after a long operation.

Some soldiers questioned if the fight was worth it. “What are we doing here anyway?” asked one soldier after Macron’s announcement. The AP is not using his name because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

Others acknowledged the jihadis are a long-term threat. “We are facing something that is going to be for years. For the next 10 years you will have terrorists in the area,” Col. Yann Malard, airbase commander and Operation Barkhane’s representative in Niger, told the AP.

The French strategy has been to weaken the jihadis and train local forces to secure their own countries. Since arriving, it has trained some 18,000 soldiers, mostly Malians, according to a Barkhane spokesperson, but progress is slow. Most Sahelian states are still too poor and understaffed to deliver the security and services that communities desperately need, analysts and activists say.

State forces have also been accused of committing human rights abuses against civilians, deepening the mistrust, said Alex Thurston, assistant professor of political science at the University of Cincinnati.

Since 2019 there have been more than 600 unlawful killings by security forces in Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger during counterterrorism operations, according to Human Rights Watch. France’s Barkhane, too, has been accused of possible violations of international humanitarian law and human rights, after an airstrike in Mali in January killed 22 people, 19 of whom were civilians, according to a report by the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Mali.

Soldiers agree that there are limits to what can be achieved militarily and without political stability in the Sahel, jihadis have the edge.

“We don’t have an example of a big win in counterinsurgency, and it’s difficult to achieve that in the current environment because for an insurgency to win they just need to stay alive,” said Vjatseslav Senin, senior national representative for the 70 Estonian troops who are fighting alongside the French in Barkhane.

Some of those living in the Sahel fear what hard-fought gains have been made will unravel all too quickly.

Ali Toure, a Malian working in the French military base in Gao warned that “if the French army leaves Mali, jihadis will enter within two weeks and destroy the country.”

Source: Voice of America

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Politics

Burkina Faso’s President Sacks Defense Minister

Burkina Faso’s President Roch Kabore has dismissed the country’s defense minister in the wake of widespread protests Saturday against insecurity.

Cherif Sy had been defense minister since the country’s conflict with domestic terror groups started in 2015. His replacement is the president himself, along with a minister delegate, Colonel Major Aimé Simpore, who has been appointed to assist.

At the beginning of June, Burkina Faso saw its worst terrorist attack on civilians since the conflict with armed groups linked to al-Qaida and Islamic State started. At least 138 people were killed in the village of Solhan.

The attack triggered a wave of protests against insecurity that swept the country last weekend. Sy’s departure was one of the protesters’ major demands.

Sy was sacked Wednesday, as was Security Minister Ousséni Compaoré, who was replaced with Maxim Kone, a foreign affairs deputy.

Will changes bring calm?

So what does this reshuffle in leadership mean for the country?Burkinabe analyst and activist Siaka Coulibally said public opinion was mixed, and even if some accepted the ministers’ departures as a concession, it’s dubious as to whether it’s enough to reverse the negative effect of terrorism across the country. Whether the reshuffle will be enough to calm the anger depends on whether there are new attacks, he said.

The fighting in Burkina Faso is at its most intense in the east of the country and in the northern province of Sahel. Izidag Tazoudine, a local official from the tri-border region of Sahel province, where Burkina Faso’s border meets with Mali and Niger, said he was hopeful that things would change after the reshuffle.

Since Sy has been in office, Tazoudine said, there have been attacks and discontent, such as that in the northern communities of Solhan, Markoye and Barsalogho, where insurgents ambushed and killed 11 police officers in late June. That’s why people wanted the president to change the ministers of defense and security. Tazoudine said that because those moves have been made, it’s believed that things will change now.

Smockey, a local hip hop artist and co-founder of Citizen’s Broom, a civil society group that played a central role in ousting the country’s former dictator in 2014 as well as in organizing last weekend’s protests, said the recent actions weren’t enough for virtuous governance. It is necessary, he said, to tackle problems at all levels of the state and not only these two key ministerial posts.

No risk of coup seen

Philippe M. Frowd, an associate professor at the University of Ottawa and an expert on security in the Sahel, was asked whether he thought the protests could escalate into a coup, as happened in neighboring Mali recently.

“I don’t sense a strong similarity with Mali in the sense of fragmentation within the armed forces or very strong inter-elite tensions that would typically be what goes into the recipe for a coup,” he said. “So I don’t think Burkina Faso is immediately in that risk zone.”

Meanwhile, opposition leader Eddie Kombiego said the reshuffle would not be enough to return security to the country. The opposition is determined to push ahead with further protests this weekend.

Source: Voice of America

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Politics

Arab Foreign Ministers Meet in Qatar to Discuss Nile Dam Conflict

Arab League foreign ministers met Tuesday in Qatar, focusing on efforts to resolve the Nile River dam conflict between Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia. Egypt’s Foreign Minister said Cairo is seeking a diplomatic, not a military, solution to its dispute with Ethiopia over the filling of the dam, set to begin next month.

Arab League head Ahmed Aboul Gheit and Qatar’s Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdel Rahman bin Jassem al Thani talked to journalists Tuesday after Arab League foreign ministers met in Doha.

They said the group is calling on the U.N. Security Council to take up the water dispute between Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia.

The league is trying to prevent a conflict when Ethiopia begins to fill the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam again next month despite the absence of a water-use agreement with Egypt and Sudan.

Mediation efforts by the African Union have not made any tangible progress and both Egypt and Sudan have expressed concern that their national security will be adversely affected if Ethiopia proceeds with filling the dam.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry told Arab media Monday that Cairo is still trying to exhaust all diplomatic channels with Ethiopia before resorting to other means.

He said Egypt is trying to reach a solution within the current negotiating framework, but if it fails and there is damage or a threat to the lives of Egyptians or Sudanese, then both countries have a responsibility to defend and protect their people.

Sudan’s Irrigation Minister Yasser Abbas told a press conference Monday in Khartoum his country would approve the filling of the dam if Ethiopia enters into a binding agreement with both Sudan and Egypt.

He said Sudan is ready to accept a step-by-step agreement with Ethiopia if it will sign an accord including everything that has been agreed upon until now, including a guarantee that negotiations will continue within a finite period of time.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who repeatedly has insisted the filling of the dam will continue, as scheduled, at the start of July, said recently his country was not trying to use the dam to pressure its neighbors.

He said the dam is a sign of Ethiopia’s independence and through it, “we affirm that we have no behind-the-scenes colonialist project to use against our neighbors.” He added that Ethiopia is a “proud, independent country, and will continue to be so, forever.”

Egyptian political analyst Said Sadek told VOA that Ethiopia’s ruling party has been using the dam negotiations for “internal political considerations,” including uniting disparate ethnic factions within the country and rallying support ahead of upcoming elections.

He also believes Egyptian leaders will exhaust diplomatic means before taking more forceful action.

“Egypt is hesitant to jump into a war before fulfilling all the diplomatic channels so that anything that is done, at least we have legitimate international coverage, or we went through the channels of solving international problems peacefully and we failed,” Sadek said.

Paul Sullivan, a professor at the U.S. National Defense University in Washington, told VOA, “This is a very delicate and treacherous moment for negotiations,” and the situation could become “inflamed” if Ethiopia tries to fill the dam too quickly, causing water shortages in Egypt and Sudan.

“The situation is coming to a head, and what happens in the next few weeks could determine a lot,” he added.

Source: Voice of America

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Politics

Cameroon Aids CAR Citizens Displaced by Ongoing Post-Election Violence

Cameroon has offered huge consignments of food and mattresses to at least 3,000 displaced persons said to be in dire need on its eastern border with the Central African Republic. Most of the people, displaced by violence following December presidential elections in the CAR, say they lost everything and that ongoing unrest keeps them from returning home.

At least 700 displaced people from the Central African Republic turned out in Kentzou, an administrative unit on Cameroon’s eastern border with the CAR, Friday to receive assistance from the host country. One day earlier, Cameroon said it had sent a delegation led by Territorial Administration Minister Paul Atanga Nji to eastern Cameroon to help those displaced by the CAR crisis.

Nji visited several border villages and administrative units, including Kentzou and Garoua-Boulai. Nji said he distributed food and humanitarian assistance from the government of Cameroon. He said Cameroon decided to assist displaced persons after local government officials said the Central Africans were living in poverty.

He said the government of Cameroon mobilized 17 trucks to transport and donate mattresses, blankets, buckets and food to at least 3,400 displaced people. He said President Paul Biya instructed him to tell the displaced persons to live in peace and respect Cameroon’s laws. He said Cameroon wants to know when the displaced will want to voluntarily return to the CAR.

The violence that sparked the exodus involves armed groups and has been ongoing since Austin-Archange Touadera was reelected president in December. Much of the trouble is centered on border areas. It is suspected that fleeing rebels are among the displaced persons.

Nji said Cameroon was delighted that the items will improve the living conditions of the displaced persons until they go home.

Donatien Barka, the mayor of Kentzou, however, said host communities have been reporting clashes with the displaced Central Africans and that the area is no longer secure.

Barka said between 2017 and 2020, some 32,000 people displaced by the fighting have sought refuge in Kentzou. He said the influx inundated the 28,000 inhabitants of Kentzou and that theft of food and cattle, and conflicts over lodging and farmlands were reported daily. He said Cameroon reinforced its military in Kentzou in January when rebels protesting the CAR leadership came to Kentzou illegally.

Barka said he did not have updated figures of the number of displaced people remaining in Kentzou because movement across the porous border is uncontrolled. He said when there is fighting in the CAR, people cross over to Cameroon. He said his wish is for the displaced persons to return to their country.

Martial Beti-Marace, the CAR’s ambassador to Cameroon, says peace is gradually returning to the CAR and civilians who fled fighting should agree to voluntarily return to their country.

Speaking from the CAR’s capital Bangui, he said democratic institutions are gradually being put in place after the December 27 elections in which a majority of CAR civilians chose Touadera as their president. He said a majority of civilians who fled bloody conflicts between government troops and rebels in the CAR have voluntarily returned and are living in peace in their towns and villages.

Beti-Marace said Cameroon and the CAR are both struggling to maintain a collective peace because a crisis in either country affects them both. He said Cameroon and the CAR are trying to convince displaced persons to return home and contribute to the development of their country.

Violence among armed groups since 2013 has forced close to a million Central Africans to flee to neighboring Cameroon, Chad, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Nigeria.

Cameroon shares a 900-kilometer border with the CAR. Cameroon’s Territorial Administration Ministry says Cameroon has taken in and is home to more 300,000 displaced Central Africans.

Source: Voice of America

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Politics

Malawi Expresses Regret Over Expulsion of Its Diplomats From South Africa

Malawi’s government said Saturday that it had received news of its diplomats’ alleged misconduct in South Africa with regret and that it would punish those involved when they returned home.

South Africa on Friday declared all Malawian diplomats persona non grata for abusing diplomatic privileges and gave them 72 hours to leave the country.

South Africa’s Ministry of International Relations said in a statement that the action followed an investigation that found the diplomats had been buying duty-free alcohol with cash and then reselling it to retailers.

A Malawi government spokesperson, Gospel Kazako, told local media Saturday that the government had already talked with some of its South Africa-based diplomats.

“What they are saying is that they are being accused of abusing the tax privileges that they had,” Kazako said. “You know, according to the Vienna Convention of 1961, diplomats have certain privileges, and one of the privileges is that of not paying tax in the hosting country on certain items and certain services. Alcohol is one of those items, so there was abuse, according to South African government.”

The South African Revenue Service said the scandal, which also involved diplomats from other countries including Rwanda, Burundi and Lesotho, had led to the estimated loss of millions of dollars in unpaid taxes every month. It has not yet been determined how long the illegal enterprise was operating.

Not ‘normal consumption’

John Chikago, Malawi’s former high commissioner to South Africa, told VOA the matter was strange and surprising.

“We buy with the diplomatic card, and you can’t just buy any amount, unless you have a party at your house or there is national day [celebration] for your country,” he said. “But if it is normal consumption, you should buy only one bottle or two bottles. But they were buying cartons. How? So, it appears there was a syndicate.”

Chikago said the issue could tarnish the image of Malawian diplomats in other embassies.

“That is the image we are giving to South Africa — that we are corrupt people, because embassies are the image of Malawi — so it must stop,” he said.

Sheriff Kaisi, a political science lecturer at Blantyre International University, dismissed fears that the incident would affect diplomatic relations between Malawi and South Africa. But he said the image of ordinary Malawians living in South Africa could be affected.

“We have quite a number of citizens living in South Africa,” he said. “They will be seen as people who are not trustworthy, people who cannot follow rules of the game.”

However, Malawi’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement Friday evening that the Malawi government had conveyed regret to the South African government about the conduct of the diplomats involved, and that it would take appropriate action when the diplomats returned to Malawi.

Source: Voice of America

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Politics

UN General Assembly Confirms 5 Countries to Security Council

NEW YORK – The U.N. General Assembly voted Friday to give two-year terms on the powerful 15-nation Security Council to five countries.

Albania, Brazil, Gabon, Ghana and the United Arab Emirates all ran unopposed for available seats in their regional groups, and each secured the necessary two-thirds majority required of the secret ballots cast.

They will begin their terms on Jan. 1, 2022.

The council deals with issues of international peace and security. It has the power to deploy peacekeepers to trouble spots and to sanction bad actors. New members bring different experiences, perspectives and national interests to the council and can subtly affect dynamics among its members.

The council currently has several Middle Eastern crises on its agenda, including the Israeli-Palestinian situation and conflicts in Libya, Syria and Yemen.

Richard Gowan, U.N. director for the International Crisis Group and a long-time U.N. watcher, says the United Arab Emirates may play a role in those areas and elsewhere.

“The UAE has a lot of influence not only in the Middle East but in the Horn of Africa, and other council members will hope the Emiratis will use their influence to help stabilize countries like Sudan and Ethiopia,” Gowan said.

Gowan notes that Albania is a country that has “seen the U.N. fail awfully in its region in the past.”

The U.N. failed to stop the Balkan war of the early 1990s, leading to NATO bombing in 1995. Then in 1999, Kosovo’s ethnic Albanians fought Serbs to gain independence.

“Albania’s main interest on the U.N. agenda is of course still Kosovo, but the Security Council only has very limited influence there now,” Gowan told VOA.

UAE Ambassador Lana Nusseibeh noted that the council’s work does not end when resolutions are adopted.

“The UAE will be part of the coalition that speaks to strengthen the results-oriented nature of the council as much as possible,” she said, adding that the council is most effective when it is united.

But in recent years, diverging views, particularly among its permanent members — Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States — have stymied action on urgent issues.

“The Security Council’s record on recent crises has been pathetic,” Louis Charbonneau, U.N. director at Human Rights Watch, told VOA.

“Whether it involves war crimes in Gaza, massive human rights abuses in Myanmar, or atrocities in Ethiopia’s Tigray region, the most you can usually expect is the occasional statement of concern — and that’s if you’re lucky,” he said.

The countries elected Friday will replace exiting members Estonia, Niger, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Tunisia and Vietnam on Jan. 1.

They will join the five other current non-permanent members: India, Ireland, Kenya, Mexico and Norway, and the five veto-wielding permanent members: Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States.

Source: Voice of America

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Will Promises of Democratic Transition in Mali Convince France to Leave??

A promise Monday by Mali’s new interim president to hold democratic elections by early next year appears to meet some conditions set by France to resume recently suspended cooperation with Malian forces. But some hope Paris is slowly heading for the exit when it comes to its yearslong Barkhane anti-terrorist operation in the Sahel.

France’s announcement last week that it was halting counterinsurgency cooperation with Malian forces followed Mali’s second coup in less than a year. President Emmanuel Macron denounced the power grab as unacceptable, warning also he would pull French troops from Mali altogether if it tipped to radical Islam. 

Sworn in as Mali’s latest interim president days later, junta leader Assimi Goita vowed to preserve his country’s democratic gains and meet promises to hold elections by next February. Not everyone believes him. 

“I think Goita is trying to reassure the international public opinion and international partners,” Sambe said. “But in the meantime, since the first transition, we see the military tried to keep themselves in power. And the last coup is an illustration of this.” 

Bakary Sambe is director of the Timbuktu Institute research group. He said while Goita and his military junta are under pressure, so, too, is Macron, as he eyes next year’s presidential elections at home and sharpens his anti-terrorism rhetoric. Support for keeping France’s eight-year-old, 5,100-man Barkhane anti-terrorism operation in the Sahel is fading — both in France and in the countries where it operates, as anti-French sentiment is mounting.  

Meanwhile, Sambe said some Malians support Goita and the idea of holding talks with at least some armed groups in the country, which France rejects. 

“Venturing sanctions against the junta will be perceived as a double punishment against the Malians, who already doubt the effectiveness of the action of the international community which has neither defeated terrorism nor stabilized Mali,” Sambe said. 

Meanwhile, here in France, some hope the suspension of cooperation with Mali’s army will be a first step to a bigger drawdown and eventual French military exit from the Sahel — a vast area edging the Sahara Desert that is rife with instability. Others said they aren’t sure of what will happen. 

French anti-terrorism specialist Marc-Antoine Pérouse de Montclos said no other forces in the region can take France’s place. Meanwhile, he told France’s TV5 Monde channel that militants are profiting from the security void. And, he notes, Mali isn’t France’s only partner in the Sahel counterinsurgency effort. A broader, so-called G-5 Sahel coalition also includes Mauritania, Chad, Niger and Burkina Faso. 

A case in point is Burkina Faso, where suspected Islamist militants killed at least 160 people early Saturday. French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian heads to Ouagadougou this week to show France’s solidarity — illustrating the bigger ties binding France to a complicated conflict.

Source: Voice of America

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Politics

Africa Parliament Scuffle Upends Leadership Talks

A well-aimed kick. A strong shove, body checks, shouting and a fight for dominance.

This isn’t a rowdy football (soccer) match. This is the latest session of the Pan African Parliament.

The continental body brings together African legislators to implement the policy of the African Union. And its latest session, this week, was suspended amid a physical scuffle over leadership that prompted this Portuguese-speaking delegate to call for help as a literal fight happened on the floor:

“Please call the police,” he pleaded, through a translator, over the official feed provided by South Africa’s government, as delegates in suits and traditional regalia shoved, kicked and wrestled with each other at the venue in Johannesburg.

“Please call the police, put an order here. It is urgent, it is urgent. You should call the police. Please call the police. Please call the police. This is urgent. This is urgent, please call the police, please call the police. Please. Please, call the police.”

Let’s go to the replay

VOA watched the two-hour ordeal. In the style of Africa’s favorite sport, football (soccer), here’s how the action unfolded:

We start on May 31 with all 229 MPs, taking to the field at this venue near Johannesburg. The goal: elect a new president.

The Southern African bloc, led by feisty, far-left striker Julius Malema of South Africa — the sharp-tongued leader of the Economic Freedom Fighters party — strode out onto the field with strong support of their region’s candidate, Zimbabwe’s Fortune Charumbira.

But they were met by a strong defense from their West and East African opponents, who each back a different candidate. The Southern side pushed their offensive, arguing that the leadership should rotate by region — a West African currently holds the top spot.

About 28 minutes into the first half, things got loud, with one faction chanting for elections. And then, a few minutes later, it got physical. In the five minutes of chaos that unfolded, members committed most of the classic red-card fouls: kicking, tripping, jumping, charging, striking, holding and pushing — basically, everything but touching the ball, though some members did try to grab the plastic ballot box. MPs also rushed the podium several more times before the speaker called things off.

And the post-match analysis

Here’s the Southern African take on it, from South African parliamentary spokesman Moloto Mothapo. The Pan African Parliament is not supposed to be a blood sport, he said.

“The two caucuses’ attempts to continue with electing the new president and ignoring advice from the AU that the well-established principle of geographical rotation within the union be observed is a sign that they do not value unity in the continent,” he told VOA.

From Nairobi, pan-African activist Daniel Mwambonu was quick to pin the blame on not just West Africa, but on the country that he believes taught them to play rough.

“The Francophone region is putting personal interests first,” he told VOA “… So basically, they are trying to reduce the African parliament into a dictatorship of some sort. What we witnessed in countries that are controlled by France, there’s actually coups every time we have a new leader, he or she has removed from power by the military. This situation we are witnessing in Mali is because these countries that were colonized by France and they actually behave like colonizers themselves because of the French assimilation policy.”

And from Ghana, Pan-African activist Sarfo Abebrese notes that no Southern African has held the presidency, which bolsters Southern Africa’s case for a change of leadership. But Abebrese, a lawyer, said the Southern team didn’t exactly play by the complex rules of the game.

“I do not think that I have much time to go into the nitty-gritty of the rotation argument,” he said.

“But suffice it to say that if you have a situation where South Africa thinks that they really, really need to have a candidate at the helm of affairs for the first time, they have to go by the rules, that is all that I can say. Get amendments done and Article 93 and then let’s get back and get the right thing to be done for the sake of Africa and for African unity and pan Africanism that the parliament is supposed to stand for.”

Mwambonu, who heads the Global Pan-Africanism Network, says a possible solution is to bring in more referees from civil society. Here’s the call he would have made.

“We’d have issued them a red card,” he said. “And if we were there, actually, we would not have allowed that chaos to happen. Because we are really passionate about Africa, and that’s what pan-Africanism is all about: putting the interests of Africa first.”

And that is one thing that all of the parties here seem to agree on: Africa, as a continent, was not helped by this. Nor, apparently, was this important legislative body: the parliament called off its presidential election, leaving the organization without a clear leader until they meet on the field again.

Source: Voice of America