Sunday, December 16, 2018

Sudanese President Makes Surprise Visit to Syria
President-Assad receives President al-Bashir at Damascus Airport on 16 December 2018 (Photo Sana)

December 16, 2018 (KHARTOUM) - Sudanese President Omer al-Bashir paid a surprise visit to Damascus on Sunday, expressing readiness to improve bilateral relation with the isolated Arab country.

The one-day visit was the first since the imposition of Arab sanctions against Damascus as a result of the repressive campaign of the Syrian uprising against the al-Assad regime started in March 2011.

Al-Bashir is the first Arab leader to visit Syria since the start of the Syrian crisis in March 2011.

"President al-Assad and President al-Bashir affirmed that the circumstances and crises experienced by many Arab countries require new approaches for Arab action based on respecting the sovereignty of states and non-interference in their internal affairs," said a statement released by the Sudanese and Syrian official news agencies.

The statement further said that these approaches, "should improve inter-Arab relations and serve the interests of the Arab people".

The visiting president voiced hope that Syria will recover soon, and that its people will be able to decide on the country’s future themselves without any foreign interference. Also, he stressed that Sudan supports Syria and its security, and is prepared to provide all that it could to support Syria’s territorial integrity.

The Arab League suspended Syria’s membership in November 2011 in response to the Syrian government’s violent attacks on pro-democracy protests.

However, Khartoum refused to follow several Arab countries and sever ties with Damascus despite the crackdown on the Syrian Islamist groups.

The Sudanese Ambassador in Damascus Khalid Mohamed Ahmed Ali was at the airport with President al-Assad to receive al-Bashir.

For his part, al-Assad thanked al-Bashir for his visit and stressed that it constitutes a strong impetus to reactivate relations between the two countries.

(ST)
Scattered Protests Erupt in Sudan Over Economic Woes
Sudanese anti-government protesters chant slogans during a demonstration in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, in September 2013 (Photo: Khalil Hamra/AP)

December 16, 2018 (KHARTOUM) - Sudanese riot police on Sunday used tear gas and batons to disperse protests against price hikes and deteriorating living conditions at several parts of the country.

High school students have demonstrated in El-Fasher, capital of North Darfur State and Damzain, capital of the Blue Nile State.

In El-Fasher, eyewitnesses told Sudan Tribune that residents have burnt tires and blocked major roads in protest against lack of bread roads.

Also, according to Darfur 24 website, residents of Al-Thawras and Al-Radeef neighbourhoods, as well as high school students, took to the streets to protests against the deteriorating living conditions.

It is noteworthy that sporadic protests on Friday and Saturday have erupted at several areas in the capital, Khartoum were protesters burnt tires and chanted slogans denouncing the high cost of living.

To quell anti-austerity protests in Khartoum, Sudanese security forces in September 2013 carried out a brutal crackdown on the peaceful demonstration, killing nearly two hundred protesters say human rights groups or 86 people according to government figures.

Economic conditions in Sudan have been challenging since the secession of South Sudan in 2011 and the loss of the bulk of oil production and exports.

The withdrawal of South Sudan oil has compounded the difficult external environment, including debt arrears, limited access to external financing, U.S. sanctions, and the withdrawal of correspondent bank relations.

Earlier this year, Sudan began a series of economic reforms in line with IMF recommendations to try to bolster the economy, months after a U.S. decision to lift sanctions raised hopes that badly needed investment may return.

The reform policies included austerity measures containing removal of subsidies as the country struggles in the face of inflation running at 68% and acute shortage of hard currency that has sapped import activity.

(ST)
U.S. Imposes Targeted Sanctions on Three People for Fueling South Sudan Conflict
December 14, 2018 (WASHINGTON) - The United States on Friday imposed sanctions against three individuals two South Sudanese and an Israeli, accusing them of trading in weapons with Juba in violation of international sanctions and undermining peace.

The U.S. State Department said in a statement that Israel Ziv and Obac William Olawo were designated by the Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC) "for being leaders of firms that supplied the Government of South Sudan with weapons and ammunition.

Ziv is also accused of supplying weapons to the rebels.

While Gregory Vasili, the former governor of Gogrial State, was designated by OFAC for brokering deals for the sale of military equipment to the South Sudanese government. Also, he provided arms to and commanded a militia engaged in conflict with a competing clan.

"As a result of today’s action, all property and interests in property of those designated by OFAC, that is in the United States or the possession or control of a U.S. person, must be blocked and reported to OFAC," said the State Department.

In two separate reports released in September 2016 and March 2018, The Sentry, an investigation report Co-founded by George Clooney and John Prendergast, revealed the role of Vasili and Olawo in actions undermining peace and stability in South Sudan.

Gregory Vasili was involved in procurement and embezzlement scandals in its report “War Crimes Shouldn’t Pay: Stopping the Looting and Destruction in South Sudan”. While Obac William Olawo’s role in the conflict is described in “Fueling Atrocities: Oil and War in South Sudan”.

Reacting to the sanctions, Prendergast welcomed the measures taken by the U.S. administration against the three individuals who are part of the system of grand corruption that fuels extreme violence in South Sudan and actually makes war profitable.

"This is exactly the way leverage should be built to support peace and fight corruption in Africa. Individual sanctions alone are inadequate," he further said.

The State Department vowed to use all available mechanisms to promote a permanent end to the brutal conflict in east African country in order to bring peace, freedom, and prosperity to the South Sudanese people.

South Sudan has been under an arms embargo imposed by the U.S. in February 2018 and the United Nations in July of the same year.

The government and the main armed opposition group and several other opposition factions signed a peace deal brokered by the IGAD on 12 September 2018.

(ST)
Machar Calls on South Sudanese to Reconcile and Build One Nation
SPLM-Io leader Riek Machar speaks at the peace celebration day in Juba on 31 October 2018 (AP Photo).

December 15, 2018 (JUBA) - The SPLM-IO leader Riek Machar called on South Sudanese to start the reconciliation process in the country saying it is the first step towards building a democratic and prosperous nation.

Machar renewed his call for national reconciliation in a statement issued on the commemoration of the fifth anniversary of Juba massacre on December 15, 2013, where thousands of civilians were killed in Juba following clashes between military elements supporting President Salva Kiir and other supporting his Vice-President Machar.

"The SPLM/SPLA (IO) call s upon our people to start the process of reconciliation among themselves so that they can live in peace and harmony as one people in one nation with one social contract that shall l lead us all to build a democratic, federal and prosperous state," he said.

He further said people should now embrace the revitalized peace agreement stressing it is different from the August 2015 Agreement because it translates their will.

"It is apparent that R-ARCSS will be implemented because you the people of South Sudan have embraced it. In 2015-2016 you were not given an opportunity to express your joy about the agreement. The R-ARCSS belongs to you the people and you demonstrated this by the turn out during the celebration of the 31"October 2018 organized by President Salva Kiir and the TGONU," he said.

Machar further underscored that justice will be done once the transitional justice institutions are established as provided in the revitalized peace agreement.

"The victims who have lost their loved ones, or property shall get redressed. Indeed impunity and lawlessness shall become a practice of past and the rule of law shall prevail," he reassured.

(ST)
South Sudanese Splinter Faction Joins Changson’s FDP
SPLM-IO defectors pose with FDP leader Changson on 16 Dec 2018 (ST photo)

December 16, 2018 (JUBA) - Six former members of the SPLM-IO have joined the Federal Democratic Party/South Sudan Armed Forces (FDP/SSAF) under the leadership of Gabriel Changson Chang, said a joint statement released on Sunday.

In a statement extended to Sudan Tribune, Amb. Kang G. Kang, Brig Gen Lony Reath Duol, Gen Kok Yien Ding, Col Thonk Peter Puot, Col Char Onuer and Maj Sisto Darteyo Ladu announced their decision to join the FDP.

"We took this decision after serious deliberations among ourselves and a serious consultation with the leadership of FDP/SSAF," said the signatories of the statement who added they have 40 officers and over 300 soldiers under their command.

Reached by telephone, Kang confirmed to Sudan Tribune the statement, adding they had been part of the SPLM-IO.

The signatories described Changson as a wise and humble leader adding these are the qualities South Sudan needs to avoid disintegration and anarchy.

"We are therefore convinced that under such leader, our country can hope to find a lasting peace and social harmony which have been eluding up to now," said the statement.

(ST)
Uhuru and I Want the Best for Country, Raila Tells Kenyans
SUNDAY DECEMBER 16 2018
   
Uhuru Kenyatta
President Uhuru Kenyatta (right) and ODM leader Raila Odinga converse in Siaya County on December 14, 2018. They have been praised for promoting peace in the country after fractious polls. PHOTO | PSCU

In Summary
Speaking in Kisumu, the President said it is not sustainable to continue with the present winner-takes-all arrangement.
Odinga explained that they chose to leave 2022 succession politics out of the engagement so as to achieve national cohesion.
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By JUSTUS WANGA
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A carefully selected team of elders dubbed “counsels of wisdom” facilitated the handshake between President Uhuru Kenyatta and Mr Raila Odinga early this year, the opposition leader has for the first time revealed.

The revelation is a departure from Mr Odinga’s hitherto held position that the talks were purely a result of his and Mr Kenyatta’s initiative.

Mr Odinga’s remarks will further fuel the never-ending talk that Mama Ngina Kenyatta, the President’s mother, the National Intelligence Service (NIS) Director-General Philip Kameru and Mama Ida Odinga played an integral role in bringing the two together.

In an interview with the Sunday Nation this week, Mr Odinga opened the lid on a series of events that continue to shape the country’s political discourse, ranging from the March 9 peace deal, the spiralling public debt and the quest for a referendum.

TREASON

Disclosing that the decision to mend fences with President Kenyatta was the culmination of a series of meetings which began some time last year and aided by “counsels of goodwill”, Mr Odinga said they settled for March 9 as doing so any other day after US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s visit would have been “shrouded in speculation” that they were forced into a truce by the West.

“They (foreign powers) had nothing to do with this. It was purely home-grown. We knew doing so after he comes or when he is around would have given the impression that it was the West that brought us together,” he said.

Mr Odinga said that in their discussions with the President, they each evaluated the consequences of the choices they had: For him declaring a parallel government with autonomy in his strongholds, at the risk of being charged with treason and sent to the gallows, and Mr Kenyatta on the other hand clamping down on him and his supporters in what could have ushered in anarchy.

The economy was also already taking a beating.

“Remember the President had said anybody swearing themselves in as president would have committed treason which is punishable by death. They had said they would arrest and charge me. The stage had been set. Both would have caused an implosion whose consequences are too grave to contemplate,” he said.

ADVISER

He said the “the counsels” intervened just when matters were about to get out of hand given that he was also under immense pressure from a section of his advisers not to compromise.

“It is under these circumstances that the “counsels of goodwill” prevailed and facilitated dialogue which culminated in the handshake. It would have led to complete breakdown of law and order in the country. We lost about 350 people, some killed the day I was coming from the airport,” he narrated.

He declined to say who the “counsels” were. “It is a subject for another day.”

So much has changed in a short span of time in how the state machinery relates with Mr Odinga.

Before the watershed moment in March, no government official would have wanted to be seen with him in public as any such association would earn one an instant reproach. The same government provides his security.

Today, senior government officials not only accompany him or invite him to inspect projects as did Transport Cabinet Secretary James Macharia in Kiambu recently, but the Sunday Nation also established that they consult him on their day-to-day-running of government.

VAT

While downplaying this development, Mr Odinga said: “I talk to different ministers. I have run a government and so I may know a thing or two that could be beneficial to them. Whenever there are security issues that are of concern nationally, they inform me. I also give my advice from time to time,” he said.

At the height of national outcry following the proposal by Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich to increase Value Added Tax on petroleum products by up to 16 percent in September, a rare consultation was happening behind the scenes between President Kenyatta, who was in China, and Mr Odinga in Nairobi.

Mr Kenyatta, worried that the public anger would snowball into a national crisis, called Mr Odinga to pick his brain on how to assuage the rage.

“He (Mr Kenyatta) told me he was working it out with his team to see where to cut. That’s how a reduction in allocations to counties, Parliament and more austerity measures affecting foreign travel were arrived at.

"He had earlier been advised to reduce it to 10 percent but he told me he was keen to reduce it at least by half. And that’s what he did in the end,” Mr Odinga revealed.

It emerged in the interview that the consultation on VAT is not an isolated incident in the newfound relationship between the two, a far cry from the hard-tackle politics and name-calling that has characterised the relationship between the two.

GOVERNANCE

Mr Odinga, though keen not to appear to be prescribing what the task force on Building Bridges should recommend, says changing the structure of the executive holds the key to addressing deeply rooted ethnic politics.

“At Bomas, we had proposed a hybrid system which is both parliamentary and presidential. In France, the president is elected and has powers over certain portfolios and they too have a prime minister who heads the majority party. S/he forms government in consultation with the president, we could borrow from this. It (the referendum) could also offer an opportunity to cure the gender representation.”

On Thursday, Mr Kenyatta did not hide this fact. Speaking in Kisumu, he said it is not sustainable to continue with the present winner-takes-all arrangement.

“We said we must look at this issue of winner-takes-all. If that is why some people feel left out of government, we must ask ourselves, is it a good thing or not?” the President said.

Mr Kenyatta was visiting Kisumu, the heart of Mr Odinga’s support base in Nyanza, for the first time since the highly acrimonious polls in August last year in a step seen as key in cementing the “handshake”.

2022 ELECTIONS

During the tour, which included Deputy President William Ruto in the first day, protocol was discarded to give the ODM leader an enhanced status.

Alive to the reality that making Mr Kenyatta’s succession part of the agreement would make it prone to attacks by all the 2022 contenders, Mr Odinga explained that they chose to leave it out of the engagement so as to achieve national cohesion.

But going by Mr Kenyatta’s past pronouncements when he said his choice for successor would surprise many, observers say the two may be up to something.

With some of Mr Kenyatta's lieutenants charging that he is too young to retire in 2022, the two faced accusations that they may have hatched a plot that would see Mr Kenyatta become prime minister and Mr Odinga president in future. The opposition leader, however, sought to dismiss the claims.

“Uhuru and I have never said we want to run for office in 2022, let alone somebody wanting to be president and another prime minister,” he said.

CORRUPTION

Were that to happen, it would signal a major realignment in the country ahead of the General Election, with Mr Ruto naturally leading the other faction in a do-or-die duel against the state machinery.

Mr Ruto is already locked in a tough political war.

His foot soldiers, like Nandi Senator Samson Cherargei and Aldai MP Cornelius Serem, say the DP’s political enemies are using the anti-corruption war to target professionals from the Kalenjin community in a plot to clip Mr Ruto’s wings.

“The reason these arrests are not genuine but political is because even the suspects of the NYS scandal have never been convicted. They are petty graft cases meant to settle political scores in order to block DP Ruto from State House come 2022,” Mr Serem claimed.

Mr Odinga however believes that no one is being targeted in the anti-corruption push.

“Was there theft at Kenya Pipeline? The answer is yes. And only those who were in charge have been arrested. Whether you are a Kalenjin or Luo carry your own cross.

"We were not there with you when you were cutting the deals. If you go to NHIF, Geoffrey Mwangi has been arrested because he was at the helm of the organisation, is he a Kalenjin? No. If you go to Kenya Railways, Atanas Maina was arrested, is he Kalenjin? No. I therefore find it cheap that anybody would want to say that his community is being targeted in the war on graft,” he said.

Members of Mr Odinga’s ODM party who have declared support for DP’s presidential ambitions have also found themselves on the receiving end with the party machinery baying for their blood.

“What we have said as a party is we do not want to talk about 2022 politics.”
Brief History of Kenya's Currency Printing Politics
SUNDAY DECEMBER 16 2018

Kenya's new generation currency, launched by Central Bank of Kenya on December 11, 2018. The fight to control the currency printing is a huge battle won in boardrooms and over coffee. PHOTO | DIANA NGILA | NATION MEDIA GROUP

In Summary
The Kenyan currency was printed by De La Rue during colonial times, but later it lost the tender to an English company, Bradbury & Wilkinson.
Rowland encouraged other British newspapers to protest about corruption in Kenya — which eventually led to his fall out with Moi and he lost the printing contract.

By JOHN KAMAU
Kenya Daily Nation

Between late 1989 and early 1990, President Daniel Moi gave one of his British friends, Roland ‘Tiny’ Rowland, a contract to print the Kenyan currency — and that was the only person ever to edge out De La Rue out of the multibillion-shilling contract.

This deal was actually fixed at the Norfolk Hotel, then part of Tiny Rowland’s empire, and where he had a reserved table on the right side of the entrance.

Here, he would hobnob with all the deal brokers, wire-pullers, power players and busybodies who would want to meet him when on the Kenyan business tour.

Mr Rowland loved Nairobi and would later build the iconic Lonrho House between Kaunda Street and Standard street, and where Moi’s court-jester, Mark Too, a semi-literate former milkman, had an office as the deputy chairman of the Lonrho East Africa; the face of the company’s massive interests in the region.

Actually, Lonrho East Africa had no chairman by then — and Mark Too was not deputising anyone. He would later assume the title of chairman.

LIAISON

Mr Too had earned the position at the Norfolk when Mr Rowland was desperate to get into the inner circle of the Nyayo regime.

He was told of a Mr Mark Too, a Nandi businessman; and Mr Rowland went upcountry to meet him.

According to Mr Rowland’s biographer Tom Bower, the 1979 meeting was a test: “Can you get the president on the phone?” he asked.

Mr Too is reported to have picked the phone and dialled the new president. They spoke — and in a second, the British tycoon was convinced that this was the man he wanted in East Africa.

As a result, Mark Too managed to edge out Lonrho’s executive director, the Princeton-trained banker Udi Gecaga, then husband to Jomo Kenyatta’s daughter, Jeni.

‘Tiny’ Rowland, as he was best known because of his height (he was 1.8 metres), knew how to mix business and politics — and that is how he managed to get multimillion dollar deals.

"No wonder the British Prime Minister Edward Heath once described him as 'the unpleasant and unacceptable face of capitalism' but the tycoon didn’t give a hoot: 'You can never have enough enemies."'

CURRENCY

When Udi was brought to Lonrho, he was to occupy a position similar to that of West Africa’s Mr Fix-it Gil Olympio, the brilliant son of the first president of Togo, Sylvanus Olympio, who was killed in 1967 in a successful army coup led by Sergeant Gnassingbe Eyadema.

Gil was a graduate of Oxford and London School of Economics and once worked with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

In Nairobi, Mr Rowland had Mark Too, a complete opposite of Mr Olympio, who would also broker deals from this table — the Lonrho power desk, known for its unending flow of top-notch Chardonnays and expensive steak cuts.

At the back, some managers of Harrison and Sons had an office and they would fly to Nairobi and spend a week at the Lord Delamere Terrace bar — just waiting for Tiny Rowland’s appearance, according to a source familiar with the itinerary.

Actually, Tiny Rowland had not founded Harrison and Sons but had acquired this company, established in 1750, just about the time he was meeting Mark Too, to print currency given its long tradition of printing bank notes and stamps for the British government.

MR FIX-IT

The business of printing currency is cartel-based, cut-throat and a reserve of just a few companies.

While De la Rue had been printing Kenyan currency for ages, it had always managed to outwit its competitors in Kenya — at times by playing diplomatic and commercial politics.

Winning currency printing contracts — often through single-sourcing — is a high-stakes business because it is continuous and lucrative for both the brokers and the shareholders.

By then, Mr Rowland was a well-known corporate raider and his company, Lonrho, was one of the most prominent at the British stock market with the Financial Times describing it as the “symbol of buccaneering capitalism”.

“He tried to look and speak with the affected airs and eccentricities of an arch-type Old Etonian,” Gordon Fischer wrote in his book Fleeting Moments.

At first, Lonrho was looking for a Mr Fix-It in East Africa and poured his troubles on Kenyatta’s colonial-era minister Bruce McKenzie to the Kenyan High Commissioner in London, Mr Ngethe Njoroge.

The Kenyan diplomat had been introduced to Rowland by Zairean diplomat Thomas Kanza, regarded as one of the first Africans to attend the distinguished Louvain University near Brussels.

CONTRACT

Mr Njoroge was a brother to Kenyatta’s Cabinet minister Njoroge Mungai, and was quick to recommend his relative, Udi Gecaga.

A meeting was arranged and the two met in London: “Call me Tiny,” Mr Rowland said as he extended his hand. “Can I call you Udi?”

Udi was only 26 but Mr Rowland had found what he was looking for: a gatekeeper with a foot at State House.

But with Kenyatta’s death in 1978, he had to look for another person, Mark Too, and that is how he would manage to get a chance to print currency through the now defunct Harrison and Sons, which was single-sourced to print Sh20 and Sh50 notes in addition to second generation identity cards.

The Kenyan currency was printed by De La Rue during colonial times, but later it lost the tender to an English company, Bradbury & Wilkinson, after it started printing its own currency in 1966 with the death of the East African currency board.

Although De La Rue would manage to get back this contract, it also bought Bradbury & Wilkinson, its major rival, through an acquisition concluded in 1986. It was one of the many ways to survive as a company — purchasing and killing your rivals.

BIWOTT

The entry of Tiny Rowland and his grabbing of the high-circulation Sh20 and Sh50 notes sent shock waves to the British company, and they decided to do something: They started to plot on how to buy the company from Lonrho, which they did in 1997.

Elsewhere, according to Tiny Rowland’s biographer Mark Bowen, the business mogul had fallen out with Kenya’s Cabinet minister, Nicholas Biwott, now deceased, who demanded some kickbacks.

“The trouble with Biwott is that everyone in Kenya knows that he has collected tens of millions in commissions, but not from us, which is why we didn’t get the sugar or the pipeline, or any other contract for that matter,” Mr Rowland told his own The Observer publication as he launched an incessant attack on Mr Biwott in the British newspaper.

It is now known that Mr Rowland also encouraged other British newspapers to protest about corruption in Kenya — which eventually led to his fall out with Moi and he lost the printing contract.

In 1991, just about the time that Tiny Rowland had started winning some currency tenders, De La Rue was allowed to build a factory at the former Central Bank of Kenya playfield on LR 78784, and was given an EPZ (Export Processing Zone) status — thanks to Hezekiah Oyugi, then a powerful permanent secretary for Internal Security, and Ketan Somaia, the now jailed conman and thief.

This allowed the company to enjoy a 10-year tax holiday and they brought some old machines then stored in Malta, and which had previously been used in New Zealand which had abandoned the making of paper notes for polymer.

OPEN TENDER

Whether this led to the fall out between Tiny Rowland and Somaia is not clear, but historian Charles Hornsby — author of a Kenya: A History since Independence — says that the British businessman wrote to Moi during that period “claiming that Somaia had shown him procurement forms from the Office of the President with spaces for prices left blank, to be filled as he wished”.

By the time Moi was leaving office, De La Rue had managed to get an exclusive 10-year contract signed a few days before Mwai Kibaki was sworn in.

This was the first contract that President Kibaki cancelled after a meeting with his Finance Minister David Mwiraria and Central Bank governor Andrew Mullei in March 2003.

In a letter dated March 13, 2003, Dr Mullei wrote to Mwiraria to confirm the State House agreement: “That De La Rue be informed that a decision has been made to go for open tender for the supply of our notes for the period after December 2004, it being understood that De La Rue will be free to participate in bidding.”

This move, together with the loss of the Land Rover contract for government vehicles, incensed the British government, which eyed Kibaki with suspicion.

The reason the deal was cancelled was because it had been single-sourced and was to become effective on January 1, 2003 after the Narc government came to power.

Mwiraria described this contract, signed by former CBK governor Nahashon Nyaga, as “fishy”.

ANGLO LEASING

Mwiraria had told Dr Mullei in a letter: “There was no reason for the former government to award the contract as early as they did unless there was something fishy.”

The attempt to right the wrongs on currency printing deals backfired so badly as the companies bidding for the tender got entangled in the Anglo Leasing crisis.

In the restricted tendering, some of the companies invited to show interest included French company François-Charles Oberthur Fiduciaire, Germany’s Giesecke & Devrient, Canadian Banknote Company, Britain’s De La Rue, Holland’s Joh Enschede Banknotes, Orell Fussli of Switzerland and Australia’s Note Printing Australia Limited.

But when CBK picked the finalists, it dropped Canadian Banknotes and Note Printing Australia leading to a protest by the Canadian High Commission in Nairobi.

But with the emergence of Anglo Leasing scandal, one of the top bidders, François-Charles Oberthur Fiduciaire, was busy handling the damage done after it was linked to the aborted passport printing saga.

It is a long story … but of interest is that behind the tenders and the fight to control the currency printing is a huge battle won in boardrooms and over coffee. There are many other sideshows, thanks to deal brokers and wire-pullers.

Mr Kamau is the Editor, Investigations and Special Projects. Jkamau@ke.nationmedia.com; @johnkamau1
Courts to Review Over 400 Death Sentences in 2019: CJ David Maraga
SUNDAY DECEMBER 16 2018
Kenya Daily Nation

Chief Justice David Maraga gifts an inmate glasses at Kamiti Maximum Security Prison in Kiambu County on Sunday, December 16, 2018, after a church service. PHOTO | DENNIS ONSONGO | NATION MEDIA GROUP

In Summary
In a landmark judgment in December 2017, six judges of the Supreme Court found that the mandatory nature of the death sentence was unconstitutional.
Documented reports indicate that from 1963 to 1987, 280 persons out of 3,584 people sentenced to death were executed in Kenya.

Hezekiah Ochuka the last Kenyan hanged for the 1982 attempted coup after he was found guilty of treason.

By COLLINS OMULO

At least 400 inmates have applied for a review of their death sentences since the Supreme Court did away with the penalty in December last year, Chief Justice David Maraga has said.

Mr Maraga said that the Judiciary will embark on the process of resentencing in 2019 and give a chance to several inmates to persuade the courts to review their sentences.

“I don’t have the exact numbers right here but they are quite many. There are about 400 but we will deal with them. Even when we were making the judgment at the Supreme Court, we knew that there will be quite a number,” said Mr Maraga on Sunday during a visit at Kamiti Maximum Prison.

LANDMARK RULING

In a landmark judgment in December 2017, six judges of the Supreme Court found that the mandatory nature of the death sentence as provided for under Section 204 of the Penal Code was unconstitutional.

The judges, led by Justice Maraga, said a person facing the death sentence deserves to be heard in mitigation because of the finality of the sentence, adding that during mitigation the offender’s version of events might evoke pity, necessitating the court to consider an aspect that might have been unclear during the trial.

Justice Maraga said that during the resentencing process they will take into consideration other factors such as rehabilitation success of an inmate based on reports from the prison management before finalizing the new sentencing.

“Resentencing is not a long process. It is a question of coming and one is given an opportunity to say why his sentence should be reviewed,” he said.

'EXECUTION HISTORY'

Although Kenya has not executed anyone on death row since 1987 when Hezekiah Ochuka was convicted and hanged for the 1982 attempted coup, the sentence is still handed to offenders.

Documented reports indicate that from 1963 to 1987, 280 persons out of 3,584 people sentenced to death were executed in Kenya.

But since 1987, those on death row have been kept waiting for the hangman’s noose. It was not until 2009 when President Mwai Kibaki commuted the sentences of more than 4,000 convicts on death row to life.

According to Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, a total of 6,058 prisoners have been sentenced to death since 2011 with the majority of persons on death row mainly convicted for robbery with violence.

In March, the Attorney-General (AG) named a 13-member task force chaired by Maryann Njau-Kimani, Secretary for Justice at AG’s office, to gather views from Kenyans on life sentencing, and establish a framework to deal with the resentencing of persons on death row as directed by the Supreme Court.

The task force will define life imprisonment and whether Parliament should come up with minimum and maximum sentences for capital offences.

This followed a suggestion by lawyers that Parliament should come up with minimum and maximum sentences for serious offences such as murder, robbery with violence and attempted robbery with violence, which afford a prisoner a chance for conditional release.

As the law stands, those serving life imprisonment or detention are released after some years under the President’s prerogative of mercy. 
Tough Balancing Act for Kenya as China and US Battle for its Heart
SUNDAY DECEMBER 16 2018
Kenya Daily Nation

Passengers aboard Madaraka Express at Nairobi terminus on November 3. The Standard Gauge Railway was funded by the Chinese government. FILE PHOTO | NMG

In Summary
Kenya has been named one of the “anchor country” in the region for President Donald Trump’s foreign policy on the continent.
The development puts Kenya at cross-roads, where it will have to delicately balance its interests alongside that of the two countries.
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By GERALD ANDAE
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The United States has once again renewed its war with China as it seeks to tame its influence in Africa, particularly in Kenya, which has enjoyed a lot of financial support from the Asian nation.

Kenya has been named one of the “anchor country” in the region for President Donald Trump’s foreign policy on the continent. The development puts Kenya at cross-roads, where it will have to delicately balance its interests alongside that of the two countries.

Kenya has borrowed heavily from China with the current loans as at September standing at Sh549 billion. However, Kenya must also find a way to maintain a good relationship with US, which is the country’s major trading partner.

Economist Ally Khan Satchu says Kenya has to please the two countries because of the interests that it has in both.

“Kenya has borrowed heavily from China. The projects for which the borrowing was undertaken are unlikely to be sustainable at the booked price. Kenya is best off keeping both sides at the table but if push comes to shove, we are more likely to tack to the West,” said Mr Satchu.

The two countries have recently been embroiled in vicious tariff wars and Mr Satchu argues that US is using all means to tame Beijing's influence.

“The US is certainly bearing it’s fangs with respect to China. The tariff war, Freedom of Navigation Operations all over the South China Sea all speak to a more aggressive US and therefore it was expected that we would see spillover into African affairs,” he said. “The US wants China to feel pain and to bow,” said the economist in an interview with the Sunday Nation.

The Trump team’s initiative is said to entail efforts to enhance relations with Kenya and other African countries viewed as regionally important and also as prime targets of China’s moves to gain political and economic advantages on the continent.

Since 2015, China has been Kenya’s major market for imports after it toppled India from position one.

Beijing, which is the world’s second biggest economy after the US, shipped in goods worth Sh390.62 billion in 2017, a 15.75 per cent growth over Sh337.46 billion in 2016, according to government official statistics.

Kenya’s exports, however, fell marginally to Sh9.998 billion in 2017 from Sh10.060 billion a year earlier, resulting in a trade deficit of nearly Sh380.63 billion.

President Uhuru Kenyatta has been calling on Chinese firms to set up more bases in Kenya through joint ventures with domestic companies.

Exports of duty-free goods to the US under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa) decreased by Sh1.6 billion last year as the capital investment too went down. The goods, mainly textile products, declined from Sh34.4 billion in 2016 to Sh32.8 billion last year.

The Agoa programme allows Kenya and other sub-Saharan African countries to export identified goods at preferential terms to the US, exempting them from paying tax.

Other exports to the US that recorded increased earnings last year included coffee, edible nuts and tea.

The Agoa initiative which was expected to end in 2015 after the initial deadline of September 2012 was extended by the US lawmakers for another 10 years.

The extension of Agoa, commonly referred to as the Third-Country-Rule, marked a major relief for players in the Kenyan textile industry because it helped guarantee supply of raw material.
Kentucky's Hepatitis A Outbreak Surpasses 3,000 Cases
WLKY
12:37 PM EST Dec 15, 2018

LEXINGTON, Ky. —Kentucky health officials said more than 3,000 cases of hepatitis A have been reported as the outbreak reaches its second year.

The Kentucky Department for Public Health said patients have been hospitalized in more than half of the state's 3,122 reported cases from August 2017 through the first week of December 2018. There have been 19 reported deaths in the outbreak.

Jefferson County, Kentucky's most-populated county, has the most reported cases with 642. Carter County has the highest incident rate per capita with 126.

Officials in Jefferson and Fayette counties have recommended that all residents get vaccinated against the disease. Previous vaccination efforts were targeted at people with a high-risk of contracting hepatitis A, including those who use illegal drugs and the homeless.

Hepatitis A is transmitted by oral contact with fecal matter. It attacks the liver and causes symptoms including abdominal pain, nausea, diarrhea, fever and jaundice.

Saturday, December 15, 2018

France's 'Yellow Vest' Protesters Hit Paris Streets for Fifth Week
President Emmanuel Macron has announced a series of concessions in an effort to quell the unrest.

Dec. 15, 2018 / 7:37 AM EST
By Lucy Kafanov and Linda Givetash
NBC  News

PARIS — Protesters wearing their now-famous yellow vests held a minute's silence on the streets of the French capital Saturday morning for those injured and killed in clashes with police. It was a brief moment of quiet amid weeks of demonstrations that have roiled the country and seized global attention.

In Paris, armed officers patrolled eerily empty streets as authorities braced for the fifth consecutive weekend of nationwide protests against President Emmanuel Macron.

Some storefronts were boarded up, though others remained open to welcome Christmas shoppers.

An estimate 33,000 people took to the streets — less than half the number seen the previous weekend. The demonstrations were largely peaceful and clashes were contained.

The "yellow vest" protests began last month against planned tax hikes on gas but have since morphed into a wider rebuke of Macron’s presidency and an expression of anger at his attempts to reform France's long-ailing economy.

Escalating riots forced Paris into lockdown, while violent clashes with police resulted in hundreds of arrests, along with many injuries and six deaths.

The number of fatalities increased Saturday when a driver died after colliding with a truck that had been stopped by a barrage of "yellow vest" protesters near the Belgian border.

In preparation for this weekend's demonstrations, 8,000 police were deployed across the city while thousands more were stationed across the country. Six people were arrested in the capital before 9 a.m. local time (4 a.m. ET). That number had increased more than ten-fold within three hours.

Police were out in full riot gear while water cannons were on standby, ready to control unruly crowds.

Tear gas was fired at a small group of protesters near the Champs-Élysées while a handful of topless activists from the feminist protest group Femen encountered security forces near the president's residence, the Élysées Palace.

About a thousand people gathered by the city's opera house and another thousand gathered at the Arc de Triomphe, which was vandalized with spray paint in previous demonstrations. Despite occasional clashes, the crowd was relatively calm in comparison to recent weeks when an estimated 10,000 protesters flooded the streets.

Macron has announced a series of concessions in an effort to quell the unrest.

He scrapped the unpopular gas tax increase, which was aimed at reducing the country's greenhouse gas emissions. In a televised address to the nation on Monday, Macron accepted some responsibility for the protests and also announced wage rises for the poorest workers alongside tax cuts for pensioners.

On Friday, he called for an end to nearly a month of protests. "France needs calm, order and a return to normal," Macron said.

The government has warned that the demonstrations are taking a toll on the country's economy, as well as causing widespread disruption.

Lucy Kafanov reported from Paris, and Linda Givetash from London.

Linda Givetash is a reporter based in London. She previously worked for The Canadian Press in Vancouver and Nation Media in Uganda.

Margot Haddad, Reuters and Associated Press contributed.
France 'Yellow Vest' Protesters Defy Government to Gather
BBC World Service

The French capital is experiencing its fifth Saturday of tear gas and clashes

"Yellow vest" protesters have gathered in Paris and other cities for a fifth consecutive Saturday of demonstrations.

Protesters defied a government call to suspend the action following Tuesday's attack on Strasbourg's Christmas market where a gunman killed four people.

However, fewer people turned up - 66,000 altogether, officials said, compared to 125,000 last Saturday.

The movement, initially against a rise in fuel taxes, now addresses other issues, including education reforms.

Seven people have died in the "gilets jaunes" (yellow vest) protests so far, the latest in an accident resulting from a blockade by protesters on Friday.

How is this Saturday shaping up?

About 69,000 police have been mobilised across France to prevent a repeat of the violence of previous weeks.

In Paris, slightly more than 2,000 took to the streets on a cold and rainy day, compared to 10,000 last week.

Police stopped and questioned 168 people in the capital, detaining 115.

Scuffles broke out on the Champs-Elysées several times during the day, with police using tear gas and water cannon. However, as night fell, the iconic boulevard was reopened to traffic.

Seven people were injured.

Some museums were closed, but both the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower remained open.

In Marseille, this protester holds a sign demanding a "citizens referendum"

In Bordeaux, more than 4,500 protesters took to the streets. Police had to use water cannon to disperse them. A similar number protested in Toulouse.

In Nantes, some 1,200 protesters saw rounds of tear gas fired at them.

Similar scenes occurred in Avignon and Besançon.

In Calais, a group of "yellow vests" blocked the access road to the port.

Thinning support?

Analysis by Hugh Schofield, BBC News, Paris

A few hundred desultory figures in day-glo vests wander up and down the Champs Elysées.

Occasionally there are whoops and jeers, followed by a bang and a bit of gas. A group of protesters has got too close to a police cordon, and a show of force pushes them back. The mini-panic lasts about 15 seconds.

That is about the extent of the fifth yellow-vest demonstration, which confirms the downward trend of last Saturday. Maybe the troublemakers will enter the game like they did last week - but it can't be on the same scale, because today there simply aren't enough bona fide protesters around to give them cover.

The "gilets jaunes" who have turned out seem to be the hardline left-wing element. There is a lot of talk about the "RIC" - Citizens' Initiative Referendums. This is a demand of the far-left leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon - and a long way from the yellow vests' original call, which was for a simple cut in fuel tax (long since conceded).

The movement - or at least the Saturday protest movement - is shrinking and hardening.

But has the government not made a U-turn?

The impact of the demonstrations has been keenly felt in France. The government has been forced to bow to pressure and adjust its economic course.

President Emmanuel Macron responded to the nationwide street protests by scrapping an unpopular fuel tax rise, and promising an extra €100 (£90; $114) a month for minimum wage earners and tax cuts for pensioners.

However, it is far from clear that he has done enough to defuse public anger.

What is the yellow-vest movement?

The protesters adopted the name after a social-media campaign urging people to take to the streets wearing the high-visibility yellow jackets that must be carried in every vehicle in France.

They were initially protesting against a rise in duties on diesel, which is widely used by French motorists and has long been less heavily taxed than other types of fuel.

Mr Macron had said higher taxes on fossil fuels were needed to fund renewable energy investments.

But protests have also erupted over other issues, including calls for higher wages, lower taxes, better pensions and easier university entry requirements.

The movement's core aim, to highlight the economic frustration and political distrust of poorer working families, has widespread support.
Rising Insecurity in Central Africa Republic Threatens Wider Region, Security Council Told
Displaced women and children gathered at an IDP site in Paoua town, Central African Republic. (file photo)Yaye Nabo Sène/OCHA

13 December 2018
United Nations News Service

Rising violence in the Central African Republic threatens to spill across the border into neighbouring countries, creating further instability, a senior United Nations official warned on Thursday, urging continued and coordinated regional efforts to bolster peace and security.

In particular, a comprehensive and cautions approach is needed against the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) as the African Union works to replace its ongoing initiative against the rebel group, said Francois Lounceny Fall, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Central Africa and the head of the UN Regional Office for the region (UNOCA).

Replacing the AU’s initiative to neutralize the LRA, should not leave a security vacuum that the group could exploit to relaunch and intensify its campaign of violence, he said, briefing the Security Council.

Mr. Fall said that the Nigeria-based Boko Haram extremist group was also a malicious threat to the region that the international community needed to watch carefully, said Mr. Fall, as it continues to launch “indiscriminate attacks” against security forces as well as civilians.

Efforts to stamp out Boko Haram should also focus on addressing the root causes of the insurgency, said the UN envoy.

Regional developments

Turning to the developments in the Central African sub-region, Mr. Fall, informed the 15-member Council of a number of recent election campaigns, including the October parliamentary ballots in São Tomé and Príncipe, as well as legislative and local elections in Gabon. Elections in Chad, scheduled for November, had been postponed however, he reported.

“I encourage the Chadian authorities to organize these elections as soon as possible and call on the international community to provide the necessary financial support to the Government, as required,” said Mr. Fall.

On Cameroon, the senior UN official raised concern over continuing reports of alleged human rights violations and called on the Government to speed up its efforts towards decentralization as well as promotion of bilingualism and multiculturalism, as tensions between French and English-speaking communities continue.

Cameroon’s Anglophone regions – the country’s northwest and southwest regions – have seen multiple strikes and demonstrations over the past year as tensions have mounted over what the country’s English-speakers see as discrimination against them in favour of the majority French-speaking population.

Subregional cooperation

Also in his briefing, Mr. Fall urged nations in Central Africa to “remain committed” to institutional reform at the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), particularly with regard to funding mechanisms to ensure the effective implementation of key projects in the areas of peace, security and governance.

Founded in 1983, ECCAS includes Angola, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Republic of the Congo and São Tomé and Príncipe as its members.

Security Council adopts resolution 2447 underling the importance of helping rule-of-law institutions achieve sustainable peace in countries hosting peacekeeping and special political missions.
Council adopts resolution urging UN mission support for national rule of law institutions
In an earlier meeting the same day, the Security Council adopted a resolution urging the alingment of support programmes for rule of law institutions in countries with a UN peacekeeping mission, with the mandates of those missions.

Unanimously adopting resolution 2447 (2018), the Council requested that the Secretary-General enhance the coherence, performance and effectiveness of such support and ensure coherence between UN country teams and other actors of the Organization in order to help Governments improve prisons and other criminal justice facilities.

Members called on the Secretary-General to ensure that the planning of peacekeeping and special political missions entails a thorough analysis of the context, capacities and needs of criminal justice sectors in host States, highlighting the importance of treating each case based on local needs.
China, Russia Abstain on UN Central African Republic Peacekeeping Vote
Moscow’s ambassador complained that the French-drafted resolution exposed ‘an approach to the African countries as one’s own turf’

Friday, 14 December, 2018, 12:00pm
South China Morning Post

Russia and China abstained on Thursday in a United Nations vote to extend a peacekeeping mission in Central African Republic because the French-drafted resolution did not make direct reference to Russia’s efforts to help the country.

The remaining 13 UN Security Council members voted for the annual renewal of the operation, deployed in 2014, which has more than 12,000 troops and police. Violence broke out in CAR in 2013 when mainly Muslim Seleka rebels ousted the president, prompting reprisals from mostly Christian militias.

Despite their abstentions, Russia and China both said they supported the peacekeeping mission. But the Security Council vote highlights a wariness by Western powers of efforts by Moscow and Beijing to expand their influence in Africa.

“Assisting the government of the Central African Republic is not a competition. In helping one of the world’s poorest countries emerge from more than a decade of conflict in pursuit of peace and development, there’s no room for jealousy,” Deputy US Ambassador Jonathan Cohen told the council.

China and Russia projects in Africa are US security issues, top adviser to Donald Trump says
Earlier on Thursday the Trump administration unveiled its strategy for Africa, which national security adviser John Bolton said aimed to counter economic and political influence of China and Russia on the continent.

In CAR this year, Russia has sent plane loads of weapons and dozens of contractors to train soldiers and secure mining projects, marking the start of its highest-profile military foray in Sub-Saharan Africa for decades.

While the African Union, supported by CAR’s former colonial ruler France, is trying to broker peace, Russia and Sudan separately mediated a preliminary agreement signed by Central African armed groups in August in Khartoum.

A woman near UN soldiers in the Central Africa Republic in April, 2018. Photo: AFP
The African Union initiative “is the only dialogue process which is direct and inclusive between the Central African government and the armed groups from which dialogue and comprehensive peace agreement could emerge”, French UN Ambassador Francois Delattre told the council on Thursday.

Russian UN Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia complained that the French-drafted resolution did not welcome peace efforts “in line with and help the implementation of the African peace initiative” or the contribution of Russian trainers.

“Behind all of this what we can see is an approach to the African countries as one’s own turf and reserve within the vicious circle of metropolis versus colony,” Nebenzia said.

Chinese UN Ambassador Ma Zhaoxu said the resolution should have recognised all efforts to broker peace in CAR.
U.S. Orders Non-emergency Staff Out of Congo Before Election
Democratic Republic of Congo's President Joseph Kabila speaks during a Reuters interview at the Palais de la Nation in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, December 9, 2018. REUTERS/Benoit Nyemba-

KINSHASA (Reuters) - The U.S. State Department said on Saturday it had ordered non-emergency government staff and family members of government employees to leave Democratic Republic of Congo a week before a presidential election that it fears could turn violent.

Campaigning for the long-delayed Dec. 23 poll to choose President Joseph Kabila’s successor had been mostly peaceful until this week, when security forces opened fire to disperse opposition gatherings, killing at least four people.

A fire in the capital Kinshasa also destroyed thousands of voting machines and ballot boxes early on Thursday morning, and Kabila’s ruling coalition and opposition candidates traded blame for the incident.

The State Department also said in an e-mailed advisory to citizens that it had “limited ability to provide emergency services” to U.S. citizens located outside Kinshasa, especially in the east and the central Kasai provinces.

The U.S. embassy in Kinshasa closed for a week last month over what it said was a possible terrorist threat. Two diplomats told Reuters the purported threat was related to the arrest of a cell of Tanzanian jihadists from a Ugandan Islamist group.

Britain advised its citizens on Wednesday against travelling to Congo, while the U.N. human rights chief on Friday called on Congolese authorities to halt violence and inflammatory speech ahead of the election.

Kabila, who succeeded his assassinated father in 2001, is due to step down after the election. His refusal to leave power when his mandate officially expired in 2016 sparked violent demonstrations in which security forces killed dozens of protesters.

Reporting By Giulia Paravicini; Editing by Aaron Ross, William Maclean
Ethnic Violence in Southern Ethiopia Kills and Wounds Dozens
Outbreaks of violence in southern Ethiopia between the Oromos and other ethnic groups have escalated since April.

At least 21 people have been killed in two days of intense fighting between ethnic groups in southern Ethiopia amid escalating violence that has sent hundreds fleeing across the border to neighbouring Kenya.

The violence broke out on Thursday and Friday near the town of Moyale, on the border with Kenya, in a region claimed by both the Oromo, the largest ethnic group in the country, and the Somali ethnic group.

The fighting also wounded 61 others, the state-affiliated Fana radio reported, citing the Oromia regional state communication office.

Outbreaks of violence in the south between Oromos and other groups escalated since Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed - the first Oromo leader in Ethiopia's modern history - assumed office in April.

An internal United Nations report, dated December 13 and reviewed by the Reuters news agency, also confirmed the fighting, with heavy artillery being used, and said there was likelihood the conflict could spill over into Kenya.

An Ethiopian source in the capital in touch with people in Moyale said at least several dozen people had so far died in the fighting, which was more intense than previous clashes in the same area earlier in the year.

Patrick Mumali, Moyale sub-county deputy commissioner, confirmed late on Friday that hundreds of Ethiopians crossed the border to Kenya.

Early this year, at least 5,000 Ethiopians were forced to seek refuge in Kenya after several civilians were killed in what the Ethiopian army said was a botched operation targeting rebels in the country's south.

"People have been killed, business premises bombed and torched, houses have also been set ablaze in the fight between Oromo and Somali Garre fighters," said Wario Sora, a human rights activist from Moyale on the Kenyan side.

In the Oromiya region, the largest in the country, there are at least four separate conflicts along ethnic lines in addition to a border dispute that risks erupting into new violence, aid groups say.

SOURCE: NEWS AGENCIES
Ethiopia Clashes Between Ethnic Groups Leave 21 Dead and 61 Injured
Violence has escalated since Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed came to office

Heavy fighting between ethnic groups in southern Ethiopia has killed at least 21 people and wounded 61, its state news agency said on Saturday, amid escalating violence that has sent hundreds fleeing across the border to neighbouring Kenya.

Outbreaks of violence in the south between the Oromo and other groups have escalated since Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed – the first leader from the Oromo ethnic group in Ethiopia's modern history – came to office in March.

Fighting broke out between Somalis and Oromos in Moyale, a town bordering Kenya, on Thursday and Friday, the Ethiopia News Agency said, citing Suraw Mohammed, deputy spokesman of Somalia Regional State.

He said some of the displaced had fled to Kenya, while those who had stayed in Ethiopia were receiving humanitarian aid.

The two groups have been engaged in prolonged conflict which has however intensified in recent months.

Early this year at least 5,000 Ethiopians were forced to seek refuge in Kenya after several civilians were killed in what the Ethiopian military said was a botched security operation targeting militants in the country's south.

"People have been killed, business premises bombed and torched, houses have also been set ablaze in the fight between Oromo and Somali Garre fighters," said Wario Sora, a human rights activist from Moyale on the Kenyan side.

Patrick Mumali, Moyale sub-county deputy commissioner, confirmed late on Friday that hundreds of Ethiopians have crossed the border to Kenya.

An internal UN report dated 13 December and reviewed by Reuters also confirmed the fighting, with heavy artillery being used, and said there was a likelihood the conflict could spill over into Kenya.

An Ethiopian source in the capital in touch with people in Moyale said at least several dozen people had so far died in the fighting, which was more intense than previous clashes in the same area earlier in the year.

In the Oromiya region, the largest in the country and home to the largest ethnic group, the Oromo, there are at least four separate conflicts along ethnic lines in addition to a border dispute that risks erupting into new violence, aid groups say.

Reuters
Somalia Uproar Continues After Former al-Shabaab No. 2 Seized
2018-12-15 14:08

A third day of protests began on Saturday in Somalia over the arrest of the former No 2 leader of the al-Shabaab extremist group, who has been a leading candidate for a regional presidency.

Officials said at least eight people have been killed so far as angry supporters take to the streets.

The African Union peacekeeping mission in Somalia in a statement released overnight called for "utmost restraint" after the gunfire-fueled uproar around Muhktar Robow's arrest on Thursday in Baidoa, and it denied playing any role.

His arrest is seen as a high-profile test of Somalia's treatment of defectors from the al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabaab, Africa's most active extremist group. Somalia's government welcomed the defection last year by al-Shabaab's former spokesperson but not his popular candidacy to lead Southwest state, which took some officials by surprise.

Robow was seized by Ethiopian troops accompanied by Somali police, witnesses told The Associated Press. He was flown to the capital, Mogadishu, a Somali intelligence official said. All spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to speak to reporters or for safety concerns.

Some Somali lawmakers had accused the AU mission of being involved.

Ethiopia's military, which contributes troops to the AU mission, has not commented. Robow's arrest could re-ignite old tensions between Somalia and neighbouring Ethiopia despite recent diplomatic breakthroughs in the Horn of Africa sparked by Ethiopia's reformist new prime minister.

Somalia's security ministry confirmed Robow's arrest, citing the federal government's earlier ban on his candidacy, which said he had not completed the defection process. The ministry also alleged that Robow had failed to renounce extremist ideology, and accused him of mobilising armed forces to threaten the security of Baidoa.

Somali officials have announced that the election for the Southwest presidency will go ahead on Wednesday, even after Robow was arrested. His local supporters in Baidoa have loudly protested.

A new joint statement by the United States, more than a dozen countries, the AU mission and the United Nations expresses concern, deploring the violence, urging dialogue and urging all parties "to respect the integrity of the electoral process."

Robow's controversial campaign has further exposed the rift between Somalia's federal government based in Mogadishu and regional governments, who in recent months have effectively severed cooperation with the capital over multiple grievances.
Somalia Violence: Deadly Baidoa Clashes Over Robow Arrest
14 December 2018
BBC World Service

Several people are reported to have been killed in southern Somalia as violence erupted following the arrest of a former al-Shabab commander set to contest regional elections.

At least 11 people, including soldiers and civilians, died in Baidoa during clashes involving supporters of Mukhtar Robow, sources told the BBC.

The government has accused Mr Robow of being a security threat.

He is seeking the presidency of South West state in next week's election.

News of Mr Robow's arrest early on Thursday triggered street protests in Baidoa, the regional capital.

A Somali radio station tweeted images of roads strewn with burning tyres and rocks.

Among those killed in protests was a member of the regional parliament, Baidoa elder Saleh Isak told Reuters news agency.

An African Union peacekeeping force (Amisom) is in Somalia to help the government fight al-Shabab, an Islamist militant group.

On Friday afternoon, Baidoa residents described the city as calm but tense, with shops closed and most residents staying indoors.

"Amisom's armoured vehicles came into the town as a patrol," said one resident, Halima Mohamed.

"They went back after they saw it was calm and that some residents blocked some of the roads with big stones."

The BBC's Ibrahim Adan in the capital, Mogadishu, says the nationality of the soldiers who were killed is not clear. Ethiopian troops, who form part of the Amisom force, have a base in the city.

Robow a threat to government control

Analysis by Tomi Oladipo, BBC Africa security correspondent

Mukhtar Robow's defection last year from al-Shabab was much-touted by Somalia's UN backed-government as a success in its fight against the militants. The 49-year-old trained in Afghanistan and was a founder member of the al-Qaeda-linked group. But his standing with the government collapsed when he announced his candidacy to become president of South West state.

This poses a threat to the government's intended control of the area through its preferred candidate, Abdiaziz Lafta Gareen.

But in Somalia clan politics is powerful - and Mr Robow belongs to the Leysan sub-clan, one of the largest in the state. The government's campaign against him has actually brought him more attention and boosted his popularity.

The arrest has backfired as it seems the powerbrokers in the capital, Mogadishu, did not predict these protests in Baidoa. The situation is likely to deteriorate if his candidacy in next week's elections is cancelled, as the government tried to do when it initially banned him from contesting in October.

Ethiopia and the African Union mission in Somalia have remained silent about the alleged involvement of Ethiopian troops in the arrest. They would need a good reason to have been involved, otherwise they will only gain enemies in Somalia who see them as partisan and meddling in local politics.

Mr Robow was a spokesman for al-Shabab and once served as its deputy leader before defecting last year.

Who are Somalia's al-Shabab?

Two months ago, the federal government banned him from contesting the state elections but the electoral commission gave him the go-ahead.

Following his arrest, a government statement said he had been organising a militia in Baidoa.

"These actions indicate that he never relinquished his extremist ideologies and is ready to harm the Somali people again," the statement said.

Mr Robow is supported by several clans in the area and is regarded as a serious candidate. His supporters were infuriated by his detention.

"This is a violation of democracy, Robow was standing in his region and his people wanted him. The government has no right to arrest him," Baidoa resident Mohamed Sheik Ali told AFP news agency.
US Military Says it Killed 8 Extremists in Somalia’s Capital
By Post Wire Services
December 15, 2018 | 3:41pm

The US military said it killed eight members of the al-Shabab extremist group with an airstrike south of Somalia’s capital.

The attack happened on Saturday near Gandarshe, a coastal community, according to the U.S. Africa Command. No civilians were involved, the military said.

The US has carried out at least 40 airstrikes this year against al-Shabab, an al-Qaeda-linked force considered Africa’s most active Islamic extremist group. It controls parts of rural Somalia and stages deadly attacks in the capital, Mogadishu, and other cities.

U.S. airstrikes have picked up dramatically since President Trump took office and approved expanded military operations in Somalia. The attacks also target a small presence of fighters linked to the Islamic State group.

Post Wire Service

Friday, December 14, 2018

Canada Must Set Meng Completely Free, and This is Why
By Ai Jun
Global Times
2018/12/13 17:07:21

China and the US are on the cusp of a political war, a conflict without smoke. This is what Washington is telling the world. China cannot dodge it and Canada has to make its choice carefully.

When US State Department spokesperson told reporters Tuesday that the case of Meng Wanzhou, CFO of China's tech giant Huawei, "is based solely on the facts and the law," he had not assumed he would be slapped in the face very soon by his President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Trump said Tuesday he would intervene in Meng's arrest with the US Justice Department, if it would help promote a trade deal with China. He was echoed by Pompeo the next day, who said, "It's totally appropriate to do so. The president's mission is very clear. It's America First, right?"

What they conveyed is simple - Washington doesn't really have an independent judicial system and controversial cases with political implications can be swayed by the US president.

Trump may believe he showed goodwill to China, but he is actually feeding the belief that Meng's episode is nothing more than a political case.

From whichever perspective one looks, Meng's case seems to be related to a political war against China's rise. Washington's policy of treating China as a strategic opponent has led to a large-scale political campaign against Beijing at various levels of US government departments — the judiciary, executive, and education.

After the US media hyped up that hackers working on behalf of China are believed to be responsible for the recent Marriott hotel chain data breach, US Justice Department is preparing to announce new indictments against Chinese hackers. Almost at the same time, the US Senate approved the Reciprocal Access to Tibet Act Tuesday, as a move to pile pressure on China's internal affairs.

Trump and Pompeo have made it quite clear that US national interest is above all. The current aim of US strategy is to launch an all-out offensive against China, one that has been forged at all levels.

Meng's case is obviously political, rather than a so-called criminal case. There are universally recognized rules in international extradition law which does not allow extradition in political cases. In the past, Canada has refused US extradition requests for political reasons.

Meng did not violate Canadian laws. If Canada extradites Meng, it will violate internationally accepted extradition provisions, and the move would be considered illegal.

Amid rising tensions, the chain of events makes it hard for people to believe they are simple individual cases, but the US' long-planned scheme to engage in rivalry, especially political confrontation with China, and escalate it.

But what role should Canada play in this drama? When Trump suggested he could turn Meng into a bargaining chip with China, Ottawa, which arrested Meng at US' behest, was thrown under the bus by Washington. It must be wondering how it has got embroiled in the controversy. The only rational choice for Canada is to withdraw and spare itself the predicament.

Canada must be clear that in the US political war against China, if it picks the US side, it will inevitably be injured by China's counterattack.
China Readies Its Counterattack Against Canada
By Zhang Hui
Global Times
2018/12/14 23:48:40

Ottawa panicked by Beijing’s pressure to release Meng

A profile of Huawei's chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou is displayed on a Huawei computer at a Huawei store in Beijing on Thursday. China demanded Meng's immediate release after she was arrested by Canadian authorities following an extradition request by the US. Photo: AP

Waves of strong condemnation and possible counterattacks from China on Canada's detaining of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou has sparked deep anxieties from the Canadian government and society. 

Chinese Ambassador to Canada Lu Shaye called Meng's detention "a premeditated political action in which the US wields its regime power to witch-hunt a Chinese high-tech company out of political consideration" in an article he wrote for the Globe and Mail on Thursday.

In the article, titled "After Huawei arrest, has Canada lost its sense of justice,"Lu said that the Canadian side detained Meng in an unreasonable way given that she has not been charged according to Canadian laws, and her arrest is clearly not judicial independence but a miscarriage of justice.

Meng was released on C$10 million ($7.5 million) bail on Tuesday, after being detained by Canadian authorities on December 1 on an extradition request from the US.

Chinese analysts said that the incident deeply and profoundly hurt Chinese people's long-establishing friendly feelings to Canada, who may react intensely if the Canadian side fails to correct its mistakes.

Moreover, Canada has clearly tied itself with the US' interests and lost its independence over sovereignty, which damaged its international image as people from other countries may have second thoughts about visiting Canada over concerns of unwarranted detention, Li Haidong, a professor at the Beijing-based China Foreign Affairs University, told the Global Times on Friday.

Concerned Canadians

Chinese netizens have flooded the account of the Canadian Embassy in China on China's Twitter-like Weibo since last week, criticizing Canada for losing sovereignty and becoming a puppet of the US.

"Meng's detention has indeed triggered widespread anger in Chinese society, although I have not heard about specific situations," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lu Kang said at a routine press conference on Friday in response to whether tightened security outside the Canadian Embassy in China was due to escalating anti-Canada sentiment among Chinese public.

Former Canadian ambassador to China Guy Saint-Jacques who was aware of the anti-Canadian comments on Weibo, suggested Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland fly to Beijing to try to "lower the temperature" in the current dispute, Global News, a Canadian broadcaster reported on Thursday.

Meanwhile, Canadian scholars and media outlets warned that China may sour relations with Canada in various fields including trade. 

China certainly has the means to inflict pain on the relationship with Canada, Gordon Houlden, director of the China Institute at the University of Alberta, told CBC News on December 8.

Making inroads into China will get more difficult in terms of formal state-to-state arrangements, and high-level visits may also be impacted, at least in the short-to medium-term, he said.

According to the website of Canadian Agri-Food Trade Alliance, China will be crucial to Canada's economic future over the next 50 years. China is, and will remain, Canada's second-largest national two-way trade partner after the US.

Canadian agri-food exports to China include canola products, pulses, pork, beef, wheat and barley, and from 2015 to 2017, China's agri-food and seafood imports from Canada increased by 28 percent.

Some Canadian agricultural exporters have already started to worry about their business.

"Everyone in the farm community is worried there might be some retaliation and the retaliation might involve canola," Neil Townsend, a senior analyst at FarmLink Marketing Solutions in Winnipeg, Manitoba, told Bloomberg on Thursday.

Cam Dahl, president of Cereals Canada, an industry group, told Bloomberg that "This is a situation we are watching closely as the political environment is unpredictable and could have significant negative consequences."

Many Canadian residents have been calling and asking their government to release Meng unconditionally.

Under a CBC News' post saying Chinese detentions raise fears of Canadian business chill, a netizen named Gavin Blackman tweeted on Friday that "The President of the US has implied that the extradition of Meng Wanzhou is a pawn in his trade war... Since that is all it is to him, why are we taking flack over this? Drop it and let her go."

The comment referred to Donald Trump's interview with Reuters on Tuesday in which he said he would intervene in the case if it could help close a trade deal with China.

More blows to come

Li Haidong said that China has plenty of ways to attack Canada, and China will upgrade its measures step by step in response to Canada's performance.

Chinese people could say no to all Canadian products, and it's already started with the famous Canada Goose, which has seen its shares plunge in the past days and Chinese consumers calling for a boycott against it.

The brand postponed the opening of its first flagship store in China which was originally scheduled to open in Beijing on Saturday, the South China Morning Post reported Friday.

Liu Weidong, a research fellow at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences' Institute of American Studies, told the Global Times that China could use taxes or non-tax measures including safety or health concerns to refuse the entry of Canadian products. 

Canada's main export commodities to China in 2017 were oil seeds and miscellaneous plants, wood pulp, wood and articles of wood, automotive products, and ores, according to the Government of Canada website.

It seems that not only are Canadian down jackets facing a chilly winter, its property market has also been affected.

The Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver (REBGV) reported that residential home sales totaled 1,608 in the region in November 2018, which was 34.7 per cent below the 10-year November sales average and the lowest sales for the month since 2008.

The drop in sales was not immediately linked to Meng's case, but experts warned that it may become a reason for its continued drop in the future.

Another card China has is reduction in cultural exchange with Canada, experts said.

"Chinese travel agencies could cancel tour packages to Canada," Liu said.

Many Chinese people are starting to question the safety of traveling to Canada, Lu said on Thursday's press conference.

"In the long run, Chinese people will turn to other countries for overseas study out of safety concerns," Li said.
UN Worried by Pre-election Violence in DR Congo
 14 DEC, 2018 - 22:12 

A motorcyclist rides near smoke billowing from fire at the independent national electoral commission's (CENI) warehouse in Kinshasa, DR Congo December 13, 2018. – Reuters

GENEVA. – The UN human rights chief on Friday called on the government of Democratic Republic of Congo to halt violence and inflammatory speech ahead of the country’s long-delayed December 23 presidential election.

Michelle Bachelet’s comments came a day after a fire at a warehouse in the capital Kinshasa destroyed thousands of voting machines and ballot boxes meant for a vote that could mark Congo’s first peaceful transfer of power.

Candidates for President Joseph Kabila’s ruling coalition and the opposition blamed each other for the incident. Violence has flared on the campaign trail this week, with security forces killing at least two people at opposition gatherings.

“In an already tense electoral environment, I urge the government to send a clear signal that threats and violence against political opponents will not be tolerated,” Bachelet said in a statement

“I am deeply worried about the reports of excessive use of force, including live ammunition, by security forces against opposition rallies.”

Congo’s forensic police are investigating Thursday’s blaze and the national electoral commission said the vote would go ahead as scheduled.

– Reuters