Saturday, December 16, 2017

The outgoing ANC president told delegates at the party’s national conference that factionalism had become the biggest threat to the ANC.

President Jacob Zuma addresses delegates at the ANC's 54th national conference on 16 December 2017. Picture: Thomas Holder/EWN

Gaye Davis
Eyewitness News

JOHANNESBURG - In his final address as ANC president Jacob Zuma has acknowledged the party is at a crossroads, with corporate greed and factionalism among the threats to the 105-year liberation movement.

But he has also lashed out at the media, civil society organisations and big business in his swansong political report to the party’s 54th national conference at Nasrec in Soweto.

Zuma told delegates that “our people are not happy with the state of the ANC” as reflected by its loss of support in the local government elections.

He told delegates factionalism had become the biggest threat to the ANC and said people were worried about corruption, crime and unemployment.

But he launched a stinging attack on the media, civil society organisations and the private sector – at the same time taking a swipe at the judiciary and suggesting that ANC MPs had gone too far in their efforts to hold the executive to account.

Zuma accused the media of having become a player rather than an impartial observer and a vehicle used “to fight personal battles” with the ANC, despite the damage this caused the party and South Africa internationally.

He accused some civil society organisations of existing only to “mobilise hostile opposition” to the ANC and the government and referred to the “unusual activism of the private sector” in supporting such NGOs.

While an “activist parliament” was necessary, Zuma said this had resulted in confusion of the ANC’s role with opposition parties and warned of the danger of personal and factional battles playing out “to the extent of the ruling party voting itself out of power” – a reference to the motion of no confidence he survived but that saw ANC MPs for the first time breaking ranks and voting in their numbers with the opposition.

Zuma also referred to judgments “that give the impression we disregard the Constitution”, saying these “set a difficult precedent”.

He lamented ANC members for taking disputes to the courts rather than solving them internally, saying this was eroding the party’s authority.

Referring to the ANC’s troubled relationship with its alliance partners Cosatu and the SACP, Zuma said delegates needed to discuss recent developments, including the SACP’s decision to contest elections on its own.
Jacob Zuma delivered his final official address as ANC president at the party's 54th national conference in Nasrec on Saturday.

President Jacob Zuma addresses delegates at the ANC's 54th national conference at Nasrec on 16 December 2017. Picture: Thomas Holder/EWN.

Eyewitness News

JOHANNESBURG - Jacob Zuma delivered his final official address as ANC president at the party's 54th national conference in Nasrec on Saturday.

He addressed a number of issues, including state capture & economic transformation. It's worth noting that he didn't really say what radical economic transformation really means.

This is what he did say:

The 54th National Conference is convened under the theme: "Remembering Tambo: Towards unity, renewal and radical socio-economic transformation.”

We are building on the instructive theme of the 53rd conference in Mangaung, which was unity in action towards radical socio-economic transformation.

Going to that conference, we had become alive to the fact that the country needed to get onto a higher development trajectory in order to move more speedily to the national democratic society envisaged by the Freedom Charter.

We recognised that the project of nation-building and social cohesion made possible by the democratic breakthrough of 1994 was coming under threat.

It was clear that we had to implement more radical measures to realize the injunction of the Freedom Charter that the People Shall Share in the Wealth of the Country or alternatively, we had to accept that it would forever remain a dream.

In a word, radical socio-economic transformation underpins the policy framework of the ANC in this current phase of our struggle.

The ANC NEC lekgotla in January produced a definition of radical economic transformation.

We said it meant the fundamental change in the structure, systems, institutions, and patterns of ownership, management and control of the economy in favour of all South Africans, especially the poor, the majority of whom are African and female, as defined by the governing party which makes policy for the democratic government.

Comrade Oliver Tambo had outlined this state of affairs decades before when he said: “We fight also for a South Africa whose wealth will be shared by its people equitably. We fight to abolish the system which obtains in our country today and which concentrates almost all productive wealth in the hands of a few, while the vast majority exists and toils to enlarge that wealth”.

We must be mindful of the fact that the primary beneficiaries of the current socio-economic status quo will by nature be opposed to any talk of radical economic transformation because it challenges and threatens the status quo and seeks to transform it fundamentally.

We have to act decisively, as doing nothing almost guarantees that there will be little progress in the resolution of the triple challenge of poverty, inequality, and unemployment. On the other hand, reckless action will plunge the country into deep economic and social distress.

We must tread carefully but act, because of the serious economic challenges facing our country currently.

The economy remains fragile. Economic growth of one point three percent is projected for 2017, reaching two point two percent by 2019, supported by global growth, stabilising commodity prices and a modest recovery in business and consumer confidence. Improved policy implementation, which must be a key focus area in this conference, will improve the employment and investment outcomes.

In the 52nd national conference in Polokwane, the ANC called for a mixed economy, where the state, private capital, cooperative and other forms of social ownership complement each other in an integrated way to eliminate poverty and foster shared economic growth.

Conference directed that the state must play a central and strategic role, by directly investing in underdeveloped areas and directing private sector investment.

The ANC government has indeed been directed to utilise to the maximum, the strategic levers that are available to the state to achieve transformation.

These include legislation, regulations, licensing, budget and procurement as well as Broad-based Black Economic Empowerment Charters to influence the behaviour of the private sector and drive transformation. Conference will no doubt reflect on these and other instruments as we discuss the implementation.

The land question is a fundamental issue that the ANC needs to resolve and is a key factor in the transformation programme. This ultimate natural resource must be distributed in an equitable manner while enhancing its productivity and ensuring food security.

The ANC government has made considerable progress in the last five years especially in establishing a strong policy and legislative framework with regard to such matters as land tenure and the shift from “willing buyer willing seller” to “just and equitable.”

The Office of the Valuer-General has been set up, which has begun to change the manner in which the calculation of fair compensation is done. A new Bill has been developed to amend the Expropriation Act. Two land audits have been carried out to build a fact base planning purposes.

With regards to human settlements, we have to move with speed to roll back the legacy of apartheid spatial planning which condemns the majority of our people to be born and bred in areas determined for them by the racist Group Areas Act.

With regards to the ownership of the wealth beneath the soil, the Mining Charter was reviewed to determine progress in the achievement of the target of 26% ownership by black persons by 2014.

Some progress has been made but it is patchy. The Revised Mining Charter of 2017 takes this into consideration and among other things, raises the targeted black ownership to 30%.

The challenges facing the mining industry and the need to have policy certainty require action from us as the governing party. Conference should give direction on the matter in a manner that does not destabilise the industry further because of its strategic role in the economy as a whole.

We also need to protect jobs in a difficult economic environment in the mining sector. Our cadres in parliament should also ensure the finalisation of the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act soon in the New Year to ensure policy finality in this sector.

Among the key obstacles to transformation are the high levels of concentration in the economy as well as the collusion or corporate corruption and cartels.

Comrades will know the deep and bitter legacy of economic collusion, which is equivalent to a form of corruption, from the days of apartheid, when companies meet secretly and decide on prices or divide markets among themselves. These cartels squeeze out small players and hamper the entry of young entrepreneurs and black industrialists.

Since the last National Conference, the Competition Commission has uncovered cartels in sectors as diverse as construction, steel, banking, automobile components, food markets, telecommunications and transport.

In the construction industry, more than 20 companies were exposed as being part of cartels that rigged their bids for the 2010 World Cup stadium and road projects. The Competition Commission has also investigated collusion by eighteen global and local banks, involving the foreign exchange markets.

Earlier this year, the Commission concluded its investigation into the banks and proceeded to the prosecution stage.

Market inquiries are currently taking place into the private healthcare industry and corporate practices in the grocery sector, including in shopping malls and townships, in the public transport sector and in the data-services sector.

As these are uncovered, serious concerns have been raised that corruption in the private sector is treated with kid gloves, and is referred to in softer terms such as “collusion”, “accounting irregularities” or “lapses in corporate governance”.

Theft and corruption in the private sector is as bad as that in government and must be dealt with decisively by law enforcement agencies.

Corporate collusion is now a criminal offence, punishable with 10 years in prison, in terms of a new provision signed last year.

Legislation and institutions have been put in place by the ANC government to eradicate corruption in the public sector.

Since 2009, the President of the Republic has signed 84 proclamations authorising the Special Investigating Unit to investigate maladministration and corruption in government and state institutions.

The allegations made against some sections of the business community regarding the said capture of the state to advance business interests will be probed further in a judicial commission of inquiry that we committed to establish as the ANC some time ago, in order to uncover the truth.

Let me emphasise that we need to find ways of protecting the ANC from corporate greed and ensure that the decisions we take are informed by the policies of the ANC and are not dictated to by business interests.

Already we have received threats that the ANC will implode and the economy will collapse if certain outcomes arise from this conference, be it conference resolutions on the economy or the leadership elected, if these are not those favoured by business.

The ANC has 105 years of experience of managing contestation, which is an internal democratic process.

We must build a resilient ANC that can withstand such undue pressure and enable the ANC to conduct its organisational work freely.

Meaningful progress has been made through the ANC’s affirmative action and broad-based black economic empowerment programmes and policies.

The ANC must attend to the issues affecting the black middle class such as racism in the workplace or business. Concern has been raised by many black professionals and businesspeople that stereotyping is being entrenched. Being black and successful is being made to be synonymous with being corrupt.

The ANC must promote black advancement and success and fight attempts aimed at frustrating and undermining black economic empowerment and affirmative action.

Access to finance for black entrepreneurs also continues to be a challenge. We need to reflect on this as we discuss the transformation of our development finance institutions.
Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma is seen as a fierce campaigner against racial inequality whose hostility to big business has rattled investors in South Africa.

Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma and Cyril Ramaphosa. Picture: GCIS


JOHANNESBURG - South Africa’s ruling African National Congress holds an election this weekend - seen as too close to call - to replace Jacob Zuma as party leader, with the winner also likely to become the next president.

The ANC will announce current president Zuma’s successor as party leader on Sunday, concluding a bruising leadership battle that threatens to split the 105-year-old liberation movement, which has been in power since 1994.

The race has been dominated by Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, 65, generally favored by financial markets, and Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, 68, a former cabinet minister and chairwoman of the African Union Commission.

South Africa’s rand firmed 2% after courts ruled that senior officials in two provinces seen as supporting Dlamini-Zuma had been illegally elected and could not attend the conference.

“Early signs of a win for Cyril Ramaphosa, the more investor-friendly option, have provided support for the rand,” John Ashbourne, Africa Economist at Capital Economics said.

“But while Mr. Ramaphosa is popular among party members, the result will be decided by political insiders, who may opt for his leftist opponent, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.”

Ramaphosa won a majority of the nominations to become leader of the party, but delegates at the 16-20 December conference in Johannesburg are not bound to vote for the candidate their ANC branch nominated, meaning it is unclear if he will actually win the post.

Ramaphosa has recently stepped up his criticism of Zuma’s scandal-plagued government, while Dlamini-Zuma has said her priority is to improve the prospects for the black majority.

To his supporters, Ramaphosa’s business success makes him well-suited to the task of turning around an economy grappling with 28% unemployment and credit rating downgrades.

In contrast, Dlamini-Zuma is seen as a fierce campaigner against racial inequality whose hostility to big business has rattled investors in South Africa.

“The outcome is difficult to predict. This creates considerable uncertainty that is reflected in significantly increased volatility for the rand,” Elisabeth Andreae, analyst at Commerzbank, said in a note.

Growth in Africa’s most industrialized economy has been lackluster for the last six years, and the jobless rate is near record levels. Analysts say the ANC leadership battle has made it hard to reform the economy and improve social services.

Zuma cracked jokes at an ANC dinner on the eve of the conference and said that “it has been a worthwhile experience” and that he looked forward to stepping down as leader. He is expected to make a more formal speech at the start of the conference. He can remain as head of state until 2019.

The 75-year-old president has denied numerous corruption allegations since taking office in 2009 and has survived several no-confidence votes in parliament.

“People can’t wait to see his back,” political analyst Prince Mashele said in a newspaper opinion piece.
This came as ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe announced on Saturday that all provincial structures nullified by the courts would not be allowed to vote at the national conference.

Members of the ANC sing and dance outside the plenary at the #ANC54 in Nasrec on 16 December 2017. Picture: Thomas Holder/EWN

Mia Lindeque
Eyewitness News

JOHANNESBURG – There has been a mixed reaction from Free State delegates who have arrived at the University of Johannesburg, the ANC’s registration centre for the 54th national conference.

This came as ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe announced on Saturday that all provincial structures nullified by the courts would not be allowed to vote at the party's national conference.

A bus transporting Free State delegates arrived at the university a few minutes after Mantashe’s announcement.

A Free State voting delegate told Eyewitness News he was concerned by the NEC’s decision.

“This is going to affect us big time and it will affect our support a lot.”

But another Free State voting delegate said the decision was insignificant.

“This will not affect the entire province, because it is only some of those branches.”

The decision by the NEC followed a special meeting on Saturday morning.

It means that some delegates from Kwazulu-Natal, North West and the Free State will not be allowed to vote at the national conference.

Mantashe announced: “The decision taken there is that it’s the Free State, it’s KwaZulu-Natal and then Bojanala. All the structures that are nullified will not be voting delegates at the conference. We’re not going to try any idea that will actually contaminate the conference.”

However, some appeared unaware of the ANC’s decision and made their way into the plenary, singing songs in support of their preferred candidates.

A briefing is also expected by the ANC at the University of Johannesburg in Soweto, where there have been some problems with registration.

The registration process has been delayed by several hours. Meanwhile, buses transporting delegates are still arriving at the university with members from provinces affected by the NEC’s decision on voting.
The three province rallied behind Dlamini Zuma leading up to the conference.

FILE: African National Congress (ANC) presidential nominee Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma on 5 December 2017. Picture: Sthembiso Zulu/EWN

Masa Kekana
Eyewitness News

JOHANNESBURG - The decision to exclude KwaZulu-Natal, the Free State and the North West from voting will most likely have an impact on the support for Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma.

The three province rallied behind Dlamini Zuma leading up to the conference.

Delegates who are still making their way in say they don’t think the decision will affect them. Both camps supporting Dlamini Zuma and Cyril Ramaphosa believe they have the numbers.

However, it’s the songs being sung that seem to be giving a slight indication as to who the delegates support.

Fewer buses can be seen arriving, but many delegates are still waiting outside as they slowly trickle in.

There has been a sense of friendly banter as delegates disagree on candidates.

What can also be seen are small groups of delegates huddled, whispering about numbers for their preferred candidates.
The ANC in the North West says not all branches were able to get their votes in on time and the announcement that they voted for Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma is not entirely true.

ANC North West delegation in the main hall at the party's conference at Nasrec on 16 December 2017. Picture: Rahima Essop/EWN.

Masego Rahlaga
Eyewitness News

JOHANNESBURG - Delegates from several regions in the North West claim the results giving Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma their vote is not necessarily a true reflection of their decision on the next president of the African National Congress (ANC).

The delegates are gathered at the University of Johannesburg Soweto campus right now.

The North West’s Matlosana sub-region members say they have asked their representatives who have been registered to vote at Nasrec to raise their concerns about which presidential hopeful will be voted for on their behalf.

They say not all branches were able to get their votes in on time and therefore the announcement that the province voted for Dlamini-Zuma is not entirely true.

The ANC North West’s Tshidiso Ramphele says they are trying to find a way to ensure that their concerns are raised and addressed during credentials.

“We have exhausted avenues in ensuring that problems of our members who have been disputed are solved. Processes have been followed, but in the organisation usually when there are problems like that, there will be a right platform which will emerge during the plenary when credentials are raise. Those problems will be raised there.”

The North West’s Bojanala region will not be able to vote.
Some of the small groups huddled at Nasrec have been discussing the number of votes they believe they have in the bag.

ANC members from multiple regions sing and dance inside the plenary before proceedings began. Picture: Thomas Holder/EWN.

Masa Kekana
Eyewitness News

JOHANNESBURG - As delegates wait for the African National Congress’s (ANC) national conference to start at this hour, small groups can be seen huddled discussing the election process.

Saturday morning’s urgent national executive committee meeting delayed the start of the much-anticipated conference.

Delegates from the various provinces have been singing their way into the plenary session.

A short while ago, a large delegation from Limpopo made their way in singing “make way for our new leader [Cyril] Ramaphosa”.

Small groupings are quietly doing some last-minute strategising outside.

Delays in the registration processes have led to delegates arriving late.

One delegate from the North West says his branch wrapped up their registration early on Saturday morning.

Some of the small groups huddled there have been discussing the number of votes they believe they have in the bag for their preferred candidate.

It's ultimately these delegates on the ground whose votes decide who becomes the next ANC president
They gathered by the doors at University of Johannesburg’s Soweto campus where registration for the national conference is taking place.

ANC delegates sing and dance outside the plenary at ANC’s 54th national conference. Picture: Thomas Holder/EWN.

Masego Rahlaga
Eyewitness News

JOHANNESBURG – ANC delegates from the North West and Mpumalanga say they are ready to approach the courts because they are seeing names of people they don't know being registered to vote under their regions and wards.

They have gathered by the doors at University of Johannesburg’s Soweto campus where registration for the national conference is taking place.

This follows ANC Secretary General Gwede Mantashe’s announcement on Saturday morning that that all provincial structures nullified by the courts would not be allowed to vote at the party's national conference.

It means that some delegates from Kwazulu-Natal, North West and the Free State will not be allowed to vote at the national conference.

Mantashe announced: “The decision taken there is that it’s the Free State, it’s KwaZulu-Natal and then Bojanala. All the structures that are nullified will not be voting delegates at the conference. We’re not going to try any idea that will actually contaminate the conference.”

A police officer told delegates that he would be closing the doors, but disgruntled members from wards in Mpumalanga and the North West approached the entrance and demanded to be let inside.

However, none of them could enter.

Dumisani Masina, from ward seven in the Ekangala branch in Mpumalanga, says they are angry because no one is explaining why there are people registered under their area that they don't know.

“We asked our regional secretary as to what happened now. She couldn’t answer. We went to the provincial secretary, Mandla Ndlovu, and he couldn’t’ answer.”

Mogapi Marumo, from ward 24 in the Matlosana sub region in the North West, says they are ready to take this matter to court.

“Who are these bogus delegates? We are here to fight it. This is very unconstitutional and we’re going to fight it. If push comes to shove, then we’ll go to court because it’s the only way they want us to resolve these issues.”

Mantashe supposed to address the media but left a short while ago.

In a separate dispute, Tshwane regional delegates have also gathered at UJ Soweto campus demanding their leaders remove their representative from the conference, saying he cannot vote as their branch general meetings didn't materialise.

Delegates from a branch from Mpumalanga say they are aware they will not be allowed inside the main venue in Nasrec, but were surprised to find a list of names under their branch that they don’t know.

Raphael Tloubatla of the Tshwane region he says they have always had only one delegate representing them, but they don’t want him at Nasrec because the branch did not have successful general meetings. He adds this delegate won’t know who the branch wants as ANC president.

“The problem now is, we want the delegate in the conference to be taken out. We are not fighting over this conference. We know him, but he was not properly delegated from the branch.”

He says the ANC only seems to listen to grievances when they approach the courts.

In the North West, delegates from the Matlosana sub-region say they are experiencing the same problem.

(Edited by Shimoney Regter)
Court rulings on the eve of the ANC's national conference have resulted in a number of delegates being stripped of their voting rights.

Rahima Essop
Eyewitness News

JOHANNESBURG - Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma's campaigner Carl Niehaus has criticised ANC members who've turned to the courts to resolve internal disputes.

Court rulings on the eve of the ANC's national conference have resulted in a number of delegates being stripped of their voting rights.

Niehaus says ANC members should not be running to courts to solve their problems.

He believes the party should table a motion at the conference which will make it impossible for members to take the party to court in future.

“We are a political party and political parties resolve their problems politically. It is unacceptable to use a court as an instrument by one particular group or faction within a political party to try and resolve their problems.”

In fact, he holds the view that members should be suspended if they head to court without trying to resolve their issues internally.

(Edited by Shimoney Regter)

Friday, December 15, 2017

Somalia Suicide Bomber Kills Police at Mogadishu Academy
14 December 2017

A suicide bomber has killed at least 18 police officers during a parade at a training centre in the Somali capital, Mogadishu.

At least 15 other people were wounded, officials said.

The bomber, disguised as a policeman, blew himself up at the General Kaahiye Police Academy.

The militant Islamist group al-Shabab has said it carried out the attack. The group regularly carries out bombings in Mogadishu and other towns.

Witnesses said the officers were crowded into an open square for their early morning parade when the bomber detonated his explosives.

"Some of the police were already in lines, and others were gathering, when the man in police uniform entered and blew himself up," said Hussein Ali.

One police officer, Ibrahim Mohamed, said the toll would have been higher if the attacker had managed to get into the centre of the crowd.

Police spokesman Maj Mohamed Hussein said officers had been rehearsing for national Police Day celebrations later this month.

Al-Shabab described the attack as a "martyrdom operation" in a statement posted online.

The group, which is allied to al-Qaeda, is battling the UN-backed government in Somalia. It has been driven out of Mogadishu and most of the main towns it once controlled but remains a threat.

In October, al-Shabab fighters stormed a hotel in the capital killing at least 20 people.

However, the group denied being behind a truck bomb attack in the city earlier in October that killed at least 500 people.

A 22,000-strong African Union force (Amisom) is in Somalia trying to help the government recapture territory from militants.

But the force is due to be trimmed back as part of a long-term plan to transfer security to the Somali army.
U.S. Suspends Aid to Somalia's Army Over Corruption
 Daniel Mumbere

The United States is suspending food and fuel aid for most of Somalia’s armed forces over corruption concerns.

The announcement comes at a critical time for Somalia as African peacekeepers start to withdraw this month.

The AU force – with troops from Burundi, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda – is scheduled to leave by 2020. The first 1,000 soldiers will go by the end of 2017.

During recent discussions between the United States and the Federal Government of Somalia, both sides agreed that the Somali National Army had failed to meet the standards for accountability for U.S. assistance

African Union (AU) troops landed in Mogadishu a decade ago to fight al Shabaab Islamist militants and Somali forces are supposed to eventually take over their duties.

But the United States, which also funds the 22,000-strong peacekeeping force, has grown frustrated that successive governments have failed to build a viable national army.

Diplomats worry that without strong Somali forces, al Shabaab could be reinvigorated, destabilise the region and offer a safe haven to other al Qaeda-linked militants or Islamic State fighters.

The U.S. suspension of aid came after the Somali military repeatedly failed to account for food and fuel, according to private correspondence between the U.S. and Somali governments seen by Reuters.

“During recent discussions between the United States and the Federal Government of Somalia, both sides agreed that the Somali National Army had failed to meet the standards for accountability for U.S. assistance,” a State Department official told Reuters last week, on condition of anonymity.

Somalia’s defence minister confirmed the developments to Reuters news agency.

“It is true that some concerns have been raised on how support was utilised and distributed. The federal government is working to address these,” Somali Minister of Defence Mohamed Mursal told Reuters.

The U.S. suspension comes at a sensitive time.

The State Department official said Washington would continue to support small, Somali special forces units mentored by U.S. personnel and would work with the Somali government to agree criteria that could restore support to other units.

“We are adjusting U.S. assistance to SNA units, with the exception of units receiving some form of mentorship, to ensure that U.S. assistance is being used effectively and for its intended purpose,” the official said.

Between May and June, a team of U.S. and Somali officials visited nine army bases to assess whether the men were receiving food the United States provides for 5,000 soldiers.

“We did not find the expected large quantities of food at any location … there was no evidence of consumption (except at two bases),” the U.S. team wrote to the Somali government.

At one base, less than a fifth of the soldiers listed by Somali commanders were present. The best-staffed base had 160 soldiers out of 550. Only 60 had weapons.

“Many appeared to be wearing brand new uniforms. This implied they were assembled merely to improve appearances,” the letter, seen by Reuters, said.

An ongoing assessment of the Somali military this year by the Somali government, African Union and United Nations drew similar conclusions.

The joint report seen by Reuters said many soldiers lacked guns, uniforms, food, vehicles or tents. Troops relied on support from AU forces or local militias to survive.

“The SNA is a fragile force with extremely weak command and control,” the report said. “They are incapable of conducting effective operations or sustaining themselves.”

Most units don’t have radios, leaving soldiers to rely on runners to get help when mobile networks go down, the report said. Troops lacked paper to write reports, toilets, boots and medical equipment such as tourniquets. Many slept under trees.

SNA units were at 62 percent of their authorised strength on average. Only 70 percent of them had weapons, the report said.

Although the report was deeply critical, diplomats praised the government for trying to quantify the scope of the problem.

“The government deserves massive praise for doing it and being willing to talk about it,” Michael Keating, the U.N.’s top official in Somalia, told Reuters.

The United States also suspended a programme paying soldiers $100 monthly stipends in June after the federal government refused to share responsibility for receiving the payments with regional forces fighting al Shabaab.

Washington has spent $66 million on stipends over the past seven years but has halted the programme several times, concerned the money was not going to frontline soldiers.

One Somali document seen by Reuters showed members of a 259-strong ceremonial brass band were receiving stipends this year meant for soldiers fighting militants.

The State Department’s watchdog said in a report published in October there were insufficient checks on the programme and U.S. stipends could fund forces that commit abuses – or even support insurgents.

Officially, Somalia’s military is 26,000 strong, but the payroll is stuffed with ghost soldiers, pensioners and the dead, whose families may be receiving their payments, diplomats say.

Intermittent payments from the government have forced many active soldiers to sell their weapons, ammunition or seek other work – practices the U.S. stipends were designed to curb.

Washington has whittled down the number of troops it pays to 8,000 from over 10,000 but there is still no reliable payroll, said a Mogadishu-based security expert.

Defence Minister Mursal said the United Nations is creating a biometric database and plans to help the Somali government make cash payments directly to soldiers via mobile phones.

The new government will also set up a separate system for widows, orphans, and the wounded so the payroll would adequately represent military strength, he said.

The weakness of Somali forces has deadly consequences. The insurgency is striking with ever larger and more deadly attacks in the capital Mogadishu and major towns.

A truck bomb killed more than 500 people in October and a suicide bomber killed at least 18 at a police academy on Thursday.

Somalia’s national security plan calls for a military of 18,000 soldiers, funded by the central government and operating country-wide.

Getting there will be hard. Security experts say the military is dominated by a powerful clan, the Hawiye, which would be reluctant to lose control of the lucrative security assistance revenue stream.

Many regional governments within Somalia already see the Hawiye-dominated federal forces as rivals rather than allies.

The government’s ability to push reforms depends on balancing demands from federal member states, lawmakers, clan leaders and international partners, the U.N.’s Keating said.

“It’s going to take a long time and its going to run into massive clan resistance,” he said. “Some clans are very dominant in the security forces.”

Somalia’s partners also need to get serious and coordinate better, said Matt Bryden of the think-tank Sahan Research.

According to Sahan, donors – including the EU, AU, Turkey and Uganda – have trained more than 80,000 Somali soldiers since 2004. Bryden said records are so poor it was not clear if many had taken multiple courses, or just quit afterwards.

“It’s like sand through your fingers – where are they all?”
US Commander Orders New Probe Into Somalia Raid
By LOLITA C. BALDOR, Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — The head of U.S. Africa Command has asked for an additional investigation into whether civilians were killed during a deadly August raid in Somalia involving American and Somali forces.

Army Col. Mark Cheadle, a spokesman for Africa Command, said Wednesday that Marine Gen. Thomas Waldhauser has asked the Naval Criminal Investigative Service to look into the details of the raid in Bariire village by Somali troops supported by U.S. special operations forces. The decision comes just two weeks after Africa Command released a statement discounting reports that several civilians, including children, were killed in the attack.

Cheadle said Waldhauser requested the NCIS investigation in recent days after additional published reports came out saying that local villagers were insisting that innocent civilians were killed. He said Waldhauser also questioned why there have been discrepancies in how many were killed, and decided an additional investigation was needed.

The Aug. 25 raid caused an uproar, with bloodied bodies laid out in the capital, Mogadishu, for display. Some government officials also charged that civilians were killed. In late November, Africa Command announced it had completed a thorough assessment of the raid and concluded that only armed enemy combatants had been killed.

The raid targeted a local farm, and the deputy governor, Ali Nur Mohamed, told reporters that the dead, including children age 8 to 10 and a woman, were killed "one by one mercilessly."

The Trump administration earlier this year approved expanded military operations against the Somalia-based, al-Qaida-linked extremist group al-Shabab. The U.S. has been launching frequent drone strikes against militants in the country this year, including on the small but growing presence of Islamic State group fighters there.

The U.S. trains Somalia forces and at times supports them in raids.
Togo Opposition Wants Regional Backing for Political Change
Thursday 14 December 2017 - 11:08pm

LOME, Togo - Togo's opposition on Thursday called on regional leaders to pressure the country's government to accept the reality of political change, as its supporters again protested against President Faure Gnassingbe.

A coalition of 14 parties, which has led almost weekly demonstrations since August, appealed to heads of state and government attending Saturday's ECOWAS summit in Abuja to put pressure on the regime.

Gnassingbe, who currently holds the rotating presidency of the Economic Community of West African States, has led Togo since 2005 after the death of his father, General Gnassingbe Eyadema.

The general himself was in charge for 38 years.

The wave of demonstrations has seen calls for the introduction of a maximum two-term presidential mandate and two-round voting system.

Opposition parties said Gnassingbe's counterparts should "put everything in place so that at the Abuja summit, the regime that has governed the country for more than 50 years takes on board and finally accepts the alternation of power".

The statement said Togo was an "unacceptable political anomaly" in the region, where two-term limits on presidents have become the norm.

"All institutions in the country are locked up in favour of a single family and... the ballot box has no meaning," it added, warning that action was needed to prevent the situation in Togo becoming "uncontrollable".

"The fight that Togo's people have been having for four months has only one goal: to allow our country to enjoy democracy."

Togo's government has opened preliminary discussions with a handful of opposition parties to pave the way for talks to end the political stand-off, as recommended by West African leaders.

But they are not part of the coalition, which has condemned the closed-door discussions and the government for wanting to organise and be part of the process, rather than allowing mediators in.

IMF Recommends Floating Sudanese Pound
December 13, 2017 (KHARTOUM) - The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has strongly advised Sudan to float the Sudanese pound stressing it is critical for creating the necessary conditions for attracting investors and promoting economic development.

The call is included in an annual report on Sudanese economy released this week providing a roadmap for economic recovery after the secession of South Sudan in July 2011. It also comes after the revocation of U.S. sanctions on Sudan opening the door to "strengthen the outlook and boost the payoff from ambitious reforms".

"Directors agreed that exchange rate unification is critical for eliminating the distortions that hamper investment and growth," said the report which is issued after a visit of IMF delegation to Khartoum.

"Many Directors saw merit in an upfront unification of exchange rates to eliminate multiple currency practices and to bolster the credibility of the authorities’ reform agenda," the report further said.

On 13 November 2017, Sudan’s Finance Minister Mohamed Osman al-Rikabi denied intentions to float the Sudanese pound. He pointed out that his ministry would take a number of measures to strengthen the price of the pound, stressing that its value would stabilize in the near future.

Several economists, including former Finance Minister Abdel-Rahim Hamdi, recently called on the government to give up the system of managed floating exchange rate and allow the market mechanisms to set the price of the pound. They say the exchange rate unification would allow drawing foreign capital back to the country, improving Sudan’s external competitiveness, supporting exports and attracting foreign investment.

However, the IMF experts stressed that successful exchange rate unification will also require appropriate supportive macroeconomic and structural policies

Accordingly, the report included a policy reform scenario proposing that the "Exchange rates are fully liberalized at the beginning of 2018 and remain unified and market-determined thereafter "

Once the pound is floated, the IMF says energy and wheat subsidies should be scrapped between 1019 and 2021. However, this tough measures should be accompanied with an increase of the social spending to from 2018 onward to ease the adjustment pain from the reforms.

The Sudanese pound has weakened against the dollar since the lift of economic sanctions last October. The measure increased the demand for dollar in the black market from the business community putting pressure on the meagre hard currency.

The IMF estimates in its report that Sudan’s external debt reached $ 52.4 billion or 111 percent of GDP at end-2016 and, because of the large exchange rate depreciation, rose by 29.5 percent of GDP in 2016.

The international body repeatedly underscored the need to remove Sudan from the U.S. State Sponsors of Terrorism list to benefit from debt relief.

Turkey’s Erdogan to Visit Sudan Soon
December 14, 2017 (KHARTOUM) – President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey will visit Sudan before the end of this month to boost economic relations between the two countries.

The announcement was made following a meeting on Wednesday between Erdogan and President Omer al-Bashir who was in Istanbul for the extraordinary Islamic summit on Jerusalem.

According to the official Sudan News Agency, It was agreed during the two-hour meeting that President Erdogan would visit Sudan on 24-25 December leading a

During the meeting, President Erdogan announced his visit to Sudan on 24-25 December, leading a large delegation of more than 200 businessmen, to explore investment opportunities available in Sudan.

There are many Turkish investments in Sudan.

Also, the two countries have signed a military cooperation agreement since 2011. In May 2017Sudanese defence minister discussed with his Turkish counterpart ways to promote joint cooperation in military fields and defence industries.

State Minister for Foreign Affairs, Hamid Mumtaz, who accompanied al-Bashir in his visit to Turkey, described the meeting as “fruitful” adding it tackled bilateral relations and issues related to developments in the Islamic world.

UN Security Council Backs Regional Efforts to Revive South Sudan Peace Agreement
A United Nations Security Council briefing on sexual violence in South Sudan on 22 October 2014 (Photo: UN)

December 14, 2017 (NEW YORK) – The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) said Thursday said it remains deeply concerned over the situation in war-torn South Sudan and expressed strong support for a regional initiative aimed at rescuing its 2015 peace agreement.

The conflict in South Sudan, now in its fifth year, has killed tens of thousands of people and displaced more than two million of them.

But the Security Council, in a statement, said it is “deeply” concerned about the actions of all parties to the conflict that are perpetuating this, with 7.6 million people now in need of aid, four million displaced, and six million lacking enough food to feed themselves.

The Council also took note of the September 2017 mid-term report of the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (JMEC) and its findings that the parties to the conflict have failed to implement substantive elements of the 2015 peace agreement, which sought to end the fighting that broke out in December 2013.

The Council expressed its strong support for the regional bloc (IGAD) High-Level Revitalization Forum (HLRF), which was established to revitalize efforts to implement the 2015 peace agreement and that it looks forward to the convening of a fully inclusive forum and substantive progress on the initiative by the end of December.

IGAD is a regional mechanism in Eastern Africa consisting of Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan and Uganda.

The Council, in its statement, “strongly” urged all parties to engage constructively in the process to revitalize the 2015 peace agreement, underlining that no party should set pre-conditions for participation.

The 15-member Security Council noted with deep concern the continuing obstacles that hinder the delivery of vital lifesaving assistance to the South Sudanese people, condemning attacks on national and international humanitarian personnel and compounds.

The Council reiterated that perpetrators of violations of international humanitarian law and violations and abuses of human rights must be held accountable, to break the prevailing cycle of impunity.

South Sudan Resumes Issuing New Passports
The director general at South Sudan immigration department, Majak Akec Malok speaks to reporters in Juba, December 14, 2017 (ST)

December 14, 2017 (JUBA) - South Sudan on Thursday said it had resumed issuing passports after a system failure forced those seeking new passports and renewal of old ones to abandon external travels.

The director general of the nationality and passports at the ministry of interior, Majak Akec Malok attributed the cause to technical failure, although multiple immigration officials claimed failure to pay a German-based company its pending arrears caused the problem.

Malok told a news conference in the South Sudanese capital, Juba that problems at immigration were resolved and the department is ready to provide needed services.

“We have resumed our operation and whoever that is in need and wants to apply for national certificates and passports, we are ready to serve them,” he said Thursday.

The official, however, described as “unfounded” earlier reports that the directorate of passports and immigration could not issue passports since November after its German technology provider shut down its machine after the finance ministry failed to pay $500,000.

“When there is an issue which is not clear and it is for the public, you come to us so that we give you the correct information. But if you rely on the unfounded rumours which are usually allegations from the street talks, then you end up misleading the public instead of clarification”, said Malok.

According to top immigration official, technical faults that hit the department have been resolved and its staff would work during normal working days in order to clear the load caused by shutdown.

“Today, I am giving a statement to the citizens across the country that we stopped producing nationality and passports documents since date 9th last month. There was a technical problem but we have managed to solve it,” he told Sudan Tribune.

A former deputy finance minister, Mou Ambrose Thiik was earlier quoted saying the passport and national identification server had been blocked by German company Muhlbauer, after South Sudan failed to pay an annual software license fee of around $500,000.

Machar-led Rebels Invited for IGAD High-level Revitalization Forum
December 12, 2017 (KAMPALA) - South Sudan’s armed opposition faction (SPLM-IO) has been invited to attend the high-level peace revitalization forum in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia from 17-22 December.

“You may recall that the IGAD [Intergovernmental Authority on Development] assembly of heads of state and government at its 31st extra-ordinary summit held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on 12 June, 2017, decided to urgently convene a High-Level Revitalization Forum (HLRF) of the parties to the Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan (ARCSS), including estranged groups,” the letter signed by Ethiopia’s prime minister partly reads.

In the 8 December letter addressed to Riek Machar, organizers of the meeting said they consider as key measures to restore a permanent ceasefire, full and inclusive implementation of the peace agreement and revise realistic timelines and implementation schedules towards democratic election at the end of the transitional period.

The High-Level revitalization forum will kick off in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia from 18-22 December after the extraordinary session of the IGAD council of ministers due to take place from15-16 December.

“Your Excellency, all participants to the HLRF will be representing their respective parties. Hence, I wish to kindly request you to delegate three (03) duly- authorized representatives of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army-in opposition (SPLM-IO) who will participate in the forum. In this regard, I recommend that at least one of the delegates could be a woman”, further states the letter.

“I strongly believe your Excellency that your wise leadership in this important initiative to revitalize the agreement on the resolution of the conflict in the Republic of South Sudan (ARCSS) is very critical,” it adds.

The Ethiopian prime minister said in the letter that he was optimistic the armed opposition group will seize this historic opportunity to engage earnestly to revitalize the ARCSS, cease all forms of hostilities, end the conflicts and re-establish a firm foundation to building sustainable peace, stability and democracy in the war-torn nation.

The Troika countries earlier called a conducive environment for the peace revitalization process and warned that sanctions would be imposed on those who violate the ceasefire and obstruct humanitarian assistance ahead of the IGAD-brokered peace forum.

In June, a summit of IGAD heads of state and government decided to convene a meeting of the signatories of the South Sudan peace agreement to discuss ways to revitalize the peace implementation. During the June summit, it was agreed that all groups be included in the discussion aimed at restoring a permanent ceasefire.

The South Sudanese government earlier warned that the revitalization forum by the regional bloc, which mediated the 2015 peace deal, should not be another platform for negotiations of the peace accord between the two factions to the conflict.

Over a million people have fled South Sudan since conflict erupted in December 2013 when President Kiir sacked Machar from the vice-presidency. Tens of thousands of people have been killed and nearly two million displaced in South Sudan’s worst violence since it seceded from Sudan in July 2011.

New Discoveries in Aswan Including Child Burials, Small Artemis Statue
Nevine El-Aref
Thursday 14 Dec 2017

Four intact child burials, a cemetery and a headless statue of Greek goddess Artemis have been discovered by different missions

There have been a series of antiquities discoveries in Aswan in the last few weeks, officials have said.

The Swedish-Egyptian mission working in the Gebal El-Silsila area has uncovered four intact burials of children, while the Austrian mission at Kom Ombo’s archaeological hill discovered a large segment of a First Intermediate Period cemetery, and the Egyptian-Swiss mission working in the old town of Aswan has unearthed a small incomplete statue that probably depicts Greek goddess Artemis.

Mostafa Waziri, secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities,told Ahram Online that the four child burials date to the 18th dynasty(549/1550 BC to 1292 BC.).

They consist of a rock-hewn grave for a child between two and three years old; the mummy still retains its linen wrapping and is surrounded with organic material from the remains of the wooden coffin.

The second burial, he went on, belongs to another child aged between six and nine years old, who was buried inside a wooden coffin, while the third burial is of a child between five and eight. Both of these graves contain funerary furniture, including amulets and a set of pottery.

The fourth burial is a of a child between the age of five and eight.

“The new burial discoveries are shedding more light on the burial customs used in the Thutmosid period as well as the social, economic and religious life of people during that period,” Maria Nilsson, head of the Swedish mission said,adding that the mission has succeed during its previous excavation works to uncover many burials but the newly discovered ones have a special significance.

More excavations and studies onthesite will revealmore about the death rituals conducted in this site during the period, she said.

The Egyptian-Austrian archaeological mission in Kom Ombo led by Irene Foster uncovered a part of a cemetery from the First Intermediate Period,with a number of mud-brick tombs.

Numerous pottery vessels and grave goods were unearthed.

Foster explains that the preliminary study revealedthat it is mostly built on top of an earlier cemetery. Below the cemetery, Foster told Ahram Online, the mission has uncovered remains of an Old Kingdom town with a ceiling impression of King Sahure from the 5th Dynasty(2494 to 2345 BC).

In the ancient town of Aswan, the Egyptian-Swiss mission, headed by Egyptologist Wolfgang Muller, unearthed a statue of a woman that was missing its head, feet and right hand.

Abdel Moneim Saeed, general director of Aswan and Nubia Antiquities,said that the statue is carved from limestone and measures 14cm by 9cmin width and the thickness of its bust is 3cm and the lower part is 7cm.

A preliminary study on the statue reveals that the dress she wears is similar to that of Artemis,Greek goddess of hunting, procreation, virginity and fertility, combined with the Egyptian goddesses Isis and Bastet.
Moscow, Cairo Expected to Sign Deal to Resume Flights Friday: Sputnik
Ahram Online
Thursday 14 Dec 2017

Egypt’s aviation minister will travel to Russia on Friday to sign a protocol deal to allow the resumption of Russian flights between Moscow and Cairo, which were halted following the 2015 downing of a passenger jet, Russian state news agency Sputnik said on Thursday.

“We expect that he will come on Friday,” Sputnik's Arabic website quoted Russian Transport Minister Maxim Sokolov as saying.

Asked whether a flight resumption protocol with Egypt will be signed, the minister said: “We expect that it will be signed.”

Sokolov told reporters on Monday that flights could be resumed in early February.

Moscow grounded all civilian passenger flights to Egypt in 2015 over security concerns after a Russian A321 airbus crashed in Sinai shortly after taking off from Sharm El-Sheikh. All 224 people on board were killed in the crash.

An Egyptian aviation ministry source told Sputnik the minister would leave for Russia on Thursday, to complete procedures to resume flights between the two countries and to sign an aviation security protocol.

Earlier this week, Russian President Vladimir Putin met Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi in Cairo to sign a deal for a nuclear power plant and discuss resuming flights.

The downing of the Russian flight has dealt a blow to Egypt's tourism industry, a major source of hard currency, with tourist numbers dropping by some 50 percent in the first half of 2016 year-on-year.

Russians used to make up the largest single tourist group in Egypt, contributing to about a fifth of foreign vacationers in the country as of 2015, according to official data.
Former PM Shafiq Discusses Potential Presidential Run With National Movement Party Leaders
Ahram Online
Thursday 14 Dec 2017

Former Egyptian prime minister and presidential hopeful Ahmed Shafiq led a meeting on Thursday at a Cairo hotel with leaders of the Egyptian National Movement Party, which was founded by Shafiq, to discuss whether he would run in the upcoming presidential elections in May 2018, Al-Ahram Arabic news website reported.

“Whether or not Shafiq decides to run for president, the upcoming period will witness active participation by the party in the Egyptian political scene,” said party spokesman Khaled El-Awami.

Shafiq, who returned to Egypt earlier this month after residing in the UAE for five years, said that his presence in Egypt will allow him to assess whether he should run for president.

Shortly after arriving in Egypt, Shafiq said in a phone interview with presenter Wael El-Ebrashy on Dream TV channel that he has enjoyed full freedom of movement since arriving in Cairo, denying reports he was placed under house arrest.

The 76-year-old Shafiq served as aviation minister under former president Hosni Mubarak and briefly as prime minister during the 2011 uprising, before he was replaced in February 2012.

Shafiq narrowly lost the June 2012 presidential elections to the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohamed Morsi, who held the post for one year before being ousted in July 2013 following nationwide protests against his rule.

Shortly after the 2012 election, Shafiq claimed that the vote was rigged and travelled to the UAE, citing "concerns for his own safety."

While in the UAE, Shafiq was tried in absentia on a number of corruption charges, but was either acquitted or had charges against him dropped.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

'Spread no Hate': Cairo Hosts Symposium Against Anti-migrant Hate Speech
Amira Noshokaty
Thursday 14 Dec 2017

Cairo hosted on Wednesday a crucial and timely symposium titled ‘Spread no Hate: A Global Dialogue on Hate Speech against Migrants and Refugees,’ held by the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC).

The symposium, the fifth edition since 2015, hosted a panel of media icons from all over the world who shared similar thoughts about the topic of how we portray “the other.”

"The world has witnessed the largest wave of mass migration since World War II," explained Nihal Saad, chief of cabinet and spokesperson of the high representative of UNAOC, highlighting the global efforts of the United Nations to emphasise the point that "diversity enriches every society."

Radhia Achouri, director of the United Nations Information Centre-Cairo, says that the number of refugees and immigrants has risen from 13-15 million in 2000 to 22.5 million today.

As such, idea for the ‘Together Campaign’ came together. The campaign focuses on similarities rather than differences between peoples.

Among the various awareness activities of the campaign is the ongoing Global Migration Film Festival in Cairo, which hosts documentaries telling the stories of immigrants. Achouri says that the idea behind this is toput oneself in the place of "the other."

Achouri also says that media plays a very important role in influencing our perception of the issue of migration.

Chaker Khazzal, a Palestinian author and journalist who grew up in the refugee camps of Lebanon, says that media outlets often focus on violence committed by some immigrants while turning a blind eye to the success stories of immigrants.

“Hate speech has become omnipresent to the extent that it was propagated throughout the American elections," Lamia Rady, one of the symposium’s key speakers and head of the Arabic Language Service of the Associated Press, told Ahram Online.

"We had to report on it, we had to denounce it. There are ethics and regulations that politicians have to follow, but if the people elect someone who propagates hate speech as the president of the most influential country in the world, then we cannot stay silent,” Rady said, adding that “the media must also showcase examples tolerant speech.”
Egypt to Open Rafah Border Crossing With Gaza on Saturday for Four Days
Ahram Online
Thursday 14 Dec 2017

Egypt will open the Rafah border crossing with the Gaza Strip in both directions for four days starting Saturday for humanitarian purposes and to allow the passage of students, state-run news agency MENA reported.

Since March, the crossing has been opened occasionally to allow Palestinians stranded outside Gaza to return home.

The crossing in the Sinai Peninsula is the major gateway to the outside world for 1.8 million Palestinians living in Israeli-besieged Gaza, as it is the only crossing not controlled by Israel, which has blockaded the Strip since 2006.

Egypt has kept the border largely closed over security concerns following the ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in 2013, but occasionally allows traffic for humanitarian purposes.
Tunisia Ready for "Decisive Action" on Economy, IMF Says
Reuters Staff

TUNIS, Dec 14 (Reuters) - The International Monetary Funds says Tunisia is committed to “decisive action” to reform its economy before the IMF reviews the payment of its next loan tranche.

Last year, the Washington-based IMF agreed a four-year loan programme worth about $2.8 billion with Tunisia, but tied to economic reforms.

Tunisia has been hit by a sharp fall in tourism revenues and fresh foreign investment because of militant attacks in 2015 and overall turmoil since the 2010 overthrow of long-time ruler Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

“Building on their ambitious budget law for 2018, the Tunisian authorities have expressed their commitment to take decisive action,” the IMF said in a statement late on Wednesday after a visit of a delegation to Tunis.

“The main challenge for the months ahead is to make-up for the significant delays in lifting long-standing obstacles to growth and addressing large fiscal and external deficits,” it said.

Economic Reforms Minister Taoufik Rajhi told Reuters the staff-level deal reached with the IMF delegation opened the door to the third loan installment.

“It confirms the reform paths followed by the government,” he said.

The IMF has been pressing Tunisia to reduce the public wage bill -- at almost 15 percent of GDP one of the world’s highest -- and energy subsidies, which it said were “disproportionately” benefiting the rich.

Both cuts would be targetted at reducing the deficit.

In the 2018 budget, Tunisia plans cut its budget deficit to 4.9 percent of gross domestic product in 2018, down from about 6 percent expected in 2017, officials have said.

The IMF said it supported efforts by Tunisia to get removed from a blacklist of 17 jurisdictions imposed by the European Union this month on what the bloc deemed to be tax havens.

The decision shocked the North African country with analysts warning it will undermine badly needed investment and efforts to secure $3 billion in foreign loans to fund its budget next year.

In April, the IMF agreed to release a delayed $320 million tranche of Tunisia loans.

Tunisia wants to reduce the public workforce by 20,000 from 800,000 via voluntary redundancies but will go ahead with a wage increase for public servants in 2018 as agreed with powerful labour unions. (Reporting by Ulf Laessing and Tarek Amara; Editing Jeremy Gaunt)
Tunisia: Calls for Boycott of US Products to Support Jerusalem
December 14, 2017

Tunisians protest against US President Donald Trump’s announcement to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel on 9 December 2017 in Sfax, Tunisia [Houssem Zouari/Anadolu Agency]

December 14, 2017 at 9:43 am

A spokesman for Tunisia’s Popular Front coalition yesterday urged Arabs and Muslims to boycott American goods following US President Donald Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

“The natural reaction from supporters of the Palestinian cause is to boycott American goods,” coalition spokesman, Hamma Hammami, said during a rally organised in support of the Palestinian cause in Tunis.

“The calls to close the US embassy in Tunisia and Arab countries, and to expel US ambassadors are legitimate, given the serious step taken by the US administration.”

Leader of the Popular Front and Secretary-General of the Popular Current Party, Zouhair Hamdi, said the rally is a form of struggle to support the Palestinian cause.

Hamdi stressed the need to expand and diversify the movements which support the Palestinian issue in order to sustain the momentum adding that there is fear that this push will fade.

He called on the political parties represented in the Tunisian parliament to “ratify a bill that criminalises normalisation with Israel”.
Ivory Coast to Reduce Size of Army by Paying Off Soldiers
12 DECEMBER 2017

INTERNATIONAL - Ivory Coast will pay thousands of soldiers 15million CFA francs (R351550) each as part of buy-outs aimed at reducing the size of its unruly and mutiny-prone military, documents showed yesterday.

Africa’s fastest-growing economy last year, Ivory Coast was hit earlier this year by successive uprisings by low-ranking troops. The costly bonuses paid to end the unrest helped to balloon the budget deficit this year, and the episode tarnished its image as one of the continent’s rising economic stars.

The government said last week that it would retire about 1000 soldiers by the end of the year as part of efforts to bring the force - estimated at about 25000 troops - in line with “accepted standards”.

A spokesperson did not say last week how much the soldiers would receive under the voluntary scheme. However, a document obtained by Reuters outlining the plan stated that each retired soldier would receive a payment of 15m CFA francs.

Neither the spokesperson nor Ivory Coast’s defence minister were available to comment yesterday.

Diplomats said the move signalled that the government was beginning to implement a military reform law. According to a copy of the law seen by Reuters, 4400 troops are to leave the army over four years. It was not immediately clear if the figure includes soldiers already scheduled to retire during the period.

Ivory Coast’s army was thrown together from rival loyalist and rebel factions at the end of a 2011 civil war that brought President Alassane Ouattara to power after his predecessor, Laurent Gbagbo, rejected his defeat in a 2010 run-off election.

Diplomats and analysts say the force is bloated with unqualified personnel.

An adviser to Parliament Speaker Guillaume Soro, considered a leading candidate to replace term-limited Ouattara in 2020, was arrested in October after a secret arms cache at his home helped mutinying soldiers to halt a loyalist advance.

Soro and his supporters say the charges were politically motivated.

Sit Up! We Are Losing Our Next Generation- Muntaka Tells Health Ministry
Ghana |
Nathan Gadugah
13-12-2017 Time: 07:12:08:pm

Member of Parliament for Asawase is angry at what he says is the snail's pace strategy adopted by the Health Ministry and the Ghana Health Service in vaccinating students of Senior High Schools contaminated either by meningitis or swine flu.

Muntaka Mubarak cannot understand what is preventing the two institutions from providing the necessary vaccinations to the schools especially the affected ones.

It is exactly a week since the health ministry diagnosed swine flu as the cause of death of some four students of Kumasi Academy. A dozen others were treated with the same symptoms and discharged.

Since then there have been reported cases of deaths in Koforidua Secondary Technical, Bawku Senior Technical and Damongo Secondary all of which are confirmed cases of meningitis.

The Head of Disease and Surveillance Unit at the Ghana Health Service Dr Franklin Asiedu Bekoe told Joy News they are working with the WHO to import the necessary vaccines to stop the spread of the diseases.

He said the initiative to import the vaccines is being championed by the ministry and WHO. According to him, once the virus has been detected a process has to be followed to ensure the virus is compatible with the vaccines. But that process has been concluded and it will take some days to import at least 10,000 doses of the vaccines into Ghana, he stated.

But the Asawase MP believes the process is too slow adding Ghana’s emergency health system appears to be broken down.

Kumasi Academy students

Muntaka Mubarak is afraid the situation will worsen if the contaminated students go on vacation.

"We all know how the spread of virus is and how devastating it can be. You tell me which part of the world that you cannot get to Ghana in 72 hours?" he asked.

"The Health Minister should sit up. They should concentrate on prevention,” he said adding, “we are losing the next generation of this country.”

“They were able to know the cause of death on Wednesday. It’s now one full week,” he said, adding it shouldn’t take more than 72 hours to get vaccination imported into the country.


The Vice President of the National Association of Graduate Teachers (NAGRAT) Angel Karbonu told Joy News they are worried about the situation.

When he was asked if the deaths and the outbreak of meningitis have something to do with the introduction of the Free SHS, Mr Angel Karbonu said the issue of congestion has always been part of the Senior High School System and cannot say whether or not the situation has been aggravated by the free SHS policy.
H1N1 Outbreak: Pharmaceutical Society of Ghana Calls for Measures to Curb Spread
Dec 13, 2017 at 9:09pm
Ghana Broadcasting Corporation

The Pharmaceutical Society of Ghana is worried about the recent outbreak of the H1N1 virus in some parts of the country particularly, in education institutions.

It said, the occurrence has the tendency to derail gains made in the health sector if effective methods are not employed.

Speaking to GBC’s Radio Ghana, the Deputy Executive Secretary of the Society, Kwame Peprah Boaitey, said the organisation has alerted its members to be on the lookout for symptoms of H1N1 and Cerebro Spinal Meningitis.

Mr. Boaitey said members have been alerted and are on the look out to detect and take necessary action to prevent further spread.

Mr. Peprah used the opportunity to highlight symptoms of the two viral diseases and what the public can do by way of prevention.

Project Set to Reduce Maternal, Child Deaths in Nigeria
By Chukwuma Muanya and Adaku Onyenucheya
Nigeria Guardian
14 December 2017   |   4:30 am

GAMSU, GE Healthcare train nurses at LUTH on mother, infant care
Several studies including the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the United Nation International Children’s Education Fund (UNICEF) have shown that critical strategy for reducing maternal and child morbidity and mortality is ensuring that every baby is delivered with the assistance of a skilled birth attendant which generally includes a medical doctor, nurse or midwife.

According to the WHO and UNICEF, every single day, Nigeria loses about 2,300 under-five year olds and 145 women of childbearing age. This makes the country the second largest contributor to the under–five and maternal mortality rate in the world.

However, the Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, earlier this year, described the high mortality rate of under-five in Nigeria as unacceptable, and said the country has made significant progress in reducing the rate of newborn deaths from 201/1000 live births to 128/1000 live births in 2013.

Several studies by the WHO and UNICEF in developing countries, including India, have demonstrated that that ending preventable child deaths can be achieved by improving access to skilled healthcare professionals during pregnancy and at time of birth, life saving interventions among others.

To address Nigeria’s very poor record regarding maternal and child health outcomes, the Federal Government had through the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) established the Midwives Service Scheme (MSS), a public sector collaborative initiative, designed to mobilize midwives, including newly qualified, unemployed and retired midwives, for deployment to selected primary health care facilities in rural communities. The aim is to facilitate an increase in the coverage of Skilled Birth Attendance (SBA) to reduce maternal, newborn and child mortality.

Also, in a bid to reduce maternal and infant mortality in in Nigeria, a Public Private Partnership (PPP) has emerged. The Gamaliel and Susan Onosode Foundation (GAMSU) has partnered with General Electric (GE) Healthcare to train no fewer than 45 nurses at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH) on maternal and infant care.

To this end, the partnership saw nurses at the School of Nursing, LUTH, Idi Araba, Lagos, trained on capacity building as well as the use of state-of-the-art equipment to cater for pregnant women and newborn to reduce the burden of deaths in Nigeria.

Chief Operations Officer, GAMSU, Toyin Olanrewaju, said, as a not for profit organisation, particular about the well being of the Nigerian child, there was need for partnership with GE healthcare to prevent maternal and child deaths.

“We thought about the fact that a lot of mothers come into the hospital to have their babies, with some of them coming out with their babies in their arms while some don’t survive child birth. On an average, a lot of mothers die for reason that could be avoided both in the public and private hospitals, that alone will trigger anyone to sat something must be done.

“Out of 10 pregnant women who walk into the hospital, three come out with healthy babies, so we felt what was the need of improving a child’s education when we don’t help bring them out of the hospital alive, hence, the opportunity for us to partner with GE healthcare, which is worthwhile to train nurses in both the theoretical and practical aspect of getting into the hospital,” she said.

She said nurses play critical role in giving care to patients, which necessitated the need for their capacity building to have them get used to the latest technology, as most of the equipment used in the country’s tertiary health institutions are obsolete.

“The partnership allows these nurses see all of the equipment, work with them, and we hope it will impact them, the hospital, state and the Nigeria as at large,” Olanrewaju added.

On his part, the General Manager, GE Healthcare West Central Africa, Eyong Ebai, said that the organisation is focused on capacity building within the health sector, as the partnership would bring both institutions with similar goals to improve capacity building within the healthcare space in Nigeria.

He stressed that the major gaps in the country is clinical effectiveness and skills of workers in the healthcare system

“In improving the healthcare system, you do not only focus on improving technology, but also the workers with clinical skills, which is why we have picked 45 nurses to train and develop then or the course of mother and child care so that they would help cave lives,” he said.

Ebai added that GE healthcare has also partnered with Northern States Governor’s Forum, private investors and others state governments, signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to focus on rural care, secondary care and specialist care to increase the education capacity of healthcare professionals.

He noted that the only way to measure improved outcome was to see changes in the indices, less complications during child birth among others factors, adding that the institutions have trained five nurses out of the 45 nurses as tutors to continue the re- training of other upcoming nurses.

“It is not all about training and walking away, we have to equip the nurses to be able to tutor other nurses, which is the important factor of this initiative,” he maintained.

Ebai further stated that GE healthcare is focused on ensuring that primary healthcare centres are improved on with technology and capacity education at every ward as it affects every Nigerian at the grass root.

Olanrewaju added: “On an average, you will find out that a lot of mothers die for reasons that could be avoided, both in the public and private hospitals. That alone, is enough to ginger anyone to say, ‘something needs to be done about it.’ What is the essence of putting so much effort in improving the education of a Nigerian child, when we are not even sure the Nigerian child would come out of the hospital in the first place? That is really the reason why this partnership is in place.

“Let us say we have an average 10 mothers walk into a general hospital which should actually serve its purpose and then just two or three of the mothers come out with healthy babies; what is the point? Having said that, we would want to believe that we would have 45 nurses in different parts of the country, doing something different from what their colleagues are doing now, we want to believe we would have made a positive difference. We are looking forward to having success stories from this particular training.”

Ebai added: “The main way you measure success is improved outcomes in healthcare. So for this particular program, we are focused specifically on maternal and infant care. We would expect to see some change in the indices, fewer complications in childbirth, and fewer children dying during childbirth and a reduction in maternal mortality. It is important that when you are running these kinds of initiatives, after the program is finished, that you monitor and measure from base line pre-training to going forward over the next two years, whether you can see a tangible change.

“If you look at some of the initiatives that we have run in Nigeria and the rest of the continent, you will clearly see that there is a change in outcomes for patients when you run these types of programmes. One thing that I have not mentioned is that of the 45 trained, five were tutors. So there is an element of training the trainer as well. It’s not just after the training, you walk away; we also equipped five of the nurses, so they will be able to tutor other nurses as they come through. That’s an important factor to ensure that you continue to see the benefits of a programme like this.”

“From a future point of view, GE is focused in a number of key areas. So we have our rural care; what we call a “Primary referral care program,” which entails looking at your primary healthcare facilities and ensuring that technology plus capacity and education is delivered at that point. This is extremely important because in the primary healthcare sector, it touches the most number of Nigerians.

“So essentially, every local government area and every ward have a primary healthcare facility, so we have a big focus on ensuring that the primary healthcare facility is improved, with technology, capacity and education. But if you look into the more complicated space, which is secondary care and specialty hospitals, GE are very much at the forefront and working with the private and public sectors in developing that specialist healthcare with a big focus in radiology, oncology and cardiology. In the oncology space, as a separate stand-alone entity, we have such a long way to go in Nigeria in oncology and you’ll see a lot of focus from GE specifically around oncology and learning what other nations have done in regards to developing a very strong oncology network. That is what we will be focusing on in the next year or so.”