Saturday, April 30, 2016

Zuma Should Face 800 Graft Charges, Court Orders
April 30, 2016

PRETORIA. — South African President Jacob Zuma should face almost 800 corruption charges that were dropped in 2009, a judge said yesterday, piling further pressure on the embattled leader. The charges, relating to a multi-billion dollar arms deal, were dropped by the chief state prosecutor in a move that cleared the way for Zuma to be elected president.

“The decision . . . to discontinue the charges against Mr Zuma is irrational and should be reviewed,” Pretoria High Court judge Aubrey Ledwaba said.

“Mr Zuma should face the charges as applied.” The prosecutor had justified dropping the charges by saying that tapped phone calls between senior officials in then-president Thabo Mbeki’s administration showed political interference in the case.

The recordings, which became known as the “spy tapes”, were kept secret but finally released in 2014 to the main opposition party, the Democratic Alliance (DA), after a five-year legal battle.

DA leader Mmusi Maimane said yesterday’s court ruling was a major blow for the president, who has faced months of criticism over various corruption scandals and the country’s dire economic outlook.

“Today (yesterday) is a great victory for the rule of law. Ultimately (President) Jacob Zuma must face prosecution,” Maimane said after attending the court hearing. “We are deeply, deeply delighted. We believe it’s a significant judgement.

“(President) Jacob Zuma must have his day in court.” The DA called for the National Prosecuting Authority to immediate revive the 783 charges of corruption dating back to 1999. But the legal wrangling is set to continue, with the ruling likely to go to appeal.

The president last month lost another major legal case when the country’s highest court found he violated the constitution over the use of public funds to upgrade his private residence.

The so-called “security upgrades”, which cost taxpayers $24 million, included a swimming pool, chicken run, cattle enclosure and an amphitheatre. The DA and other opposition parties attempted to impeach him in parliament, but the ruling African National Congress (ANC) used its majority to easily defeat the motion.

President Zuma has also been beset by allegations that a wealthy Indian migrant family had such influence over him that it could decide ministerial appointments. Pressure on the president to be ousted or to resign has grown with several veteran leaders of the party that brought Nelson Mandela to power in 1994, calling for him to step down.

President Zuma (74), will have completed two terms in 2019 and is not eligible to run for president again, but the ANC — which is packed with his loyalists — could replace him ahead of the next election.

Last week, a commission he set up cleared all government officials of corruption over the 1999 arms deal. Zuma himself was accused of having accepted bribes from international arms manufacturers. His advisor, Schabir Shaik, was jailed for 15 years on related charges in 2005, with the judge saying there was “overwhelming” evidence of a corrupt relationship between the two.

Shaik was released on medical parole in 2009, the year President Zuma was elected president. President Zuma’s competency was also questioned when he sacked two finance ministers within days in December, triggering a collapse in the rand and a major withdrawal of foreign investors.

— AFP.

African Union Commission Chair Dlamini-Zuma Mourns Papa Wemba
April 29, 2016

ADDIS ABABA. – Chairperson of the African Union Commission Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma extended her heartfelt condolences and conveyed her sympathies to the friends, fans and family of the African musician of Congolese origin, Papa Wemba, who died while performing at a concert in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, on April 24. “The passing of Papa Wemba is a tragic loss, not only for the people of the Democratice Republic of Congo, but for Africa as a whole and the world in general”, Dr Dlamini-Zuma said.

“His music served both as a cultural tool for bringing Africa’s diverse populations together, but also, crucially, to project an African voice, into the global scheme. His talent and spirit will be greatly missed”, she added.

With a career spanning over four decades and resulting in numerous national and international accolades, Papa Wemba, born Jules Shungu Wembadio Pene Kikumba in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, is a legend and icon in African music. Known also as Africa’s King of Rhumba Rock, Papa Wemba’s original sounds have roused and inspired many across the African continent, Europe and beyond.

Papa Wemba’s unique voice to contribute to a more positive narrative about Africa – beyond war, famine and poverty — and his music has been a tool for the promotion of African integration through arts and culture. He stood for, and advocated for a self-reliant Africa.

“In the spirit of giving his best to Africa, the King of Rhumba Rock was one of the artistes that came to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, when we were celebrating 50th anniversary of our continental organisation OAU/AU, in May 2013,” she said.

Meanwhile, hundreds of mourners welcomed the body of Papa Wemba, back to the Democratic Republic of Congo yesterday. It was flown into the capital, Kinshasa, from Cote d’Ivoire, where he died. Ivorian fans attended an all-night concert held in his honour in the city.

He is due to be buried on Tuesday after lying in state in a stadium in Kinshasa, on Monday. After Papa Wemba’s coffin left the airport it was taken to a morgue, reports the BBC’s Poly Muzalia from Kinshasa.

Many of Africa’s top musicians have paid tribute to Papa Wemba, including Cameroon’s Manu Dibango, who described him as the “voice of Africa”. Ivory Coast’s Culture Minister Maurice Bandaman said at a memorial service before the body left that “an artist never dies . . . Papa Wemba is dead, and now [he is] even greater than before,” reports the AFP news agency.

The BBC’s Tamasin Ford in Abidjan says most of the audience at the all-night concert were dressed in white as a mark of respect. Papa Wemba’s wife and his entire entourage were there, and his daughter read out a memorial prayer.

Performers included Ivorian stars Magic System, Meiway, Espoir 2000, Zouglou Makers and members of his Viva La Musica group, who were on stage with him when he died. Papa Wemba may be gone, but his music will stay with us forever.

-AU Commission/BBC/HR
Call for Collective Efforts to Resuscitate Industry in Zimbabwe
April 29, 2016
Zimbabwe Herald

Local industrialists should “think outside the box” and complement Government efforts to re-tool industries and increase productivity, a senior Government official said yesterday.

Last year, industrial lobby group Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries said local manufacturing companies required at least $8 billion as working capital, of which $5 billion was for replacing obsolete equipment.

Speaking at a mechanisation and industrialisation workshop at the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair, Industry and Commerce Deputy Minister Chiratidzo Mabuwa said collective efforts were needed to resuscitate local industry.

“We need industry to think out of the box, to retool and supply the local and international market,” she said.

“We are also engaging with the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, asking the central bank to set aside funding for retooling.”

Industries in Zimbabwe have failed to regain their competitiveness after adoption of multiple foreign currencies due to various challenges chiefly obsolete equipment, high production costs, lack of lending and stiff competition from cheap imports.

On its part, the Government has adopted various measures to support resurrection of the local industry, including setting up the Distressed and Marginalised Areas Fund meant for struggling companies to access bail out financing.

Last year, the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) announced that it had mobilised $210 million from development banks to support capital projects that boost production in industry.

The RBZ governor Dr John Mangudya said in his 2015 mid-term monetary policy statement that the funds had been mobilised from the African Export-Import Bank (AfreximBank) and the Development Bank of Belarus.

The RBZ also agreed with local banks that effective October 1 last year they would charge interest rates of between 6 and 18 percent per annum depending on the credit worthiness of the borrower.

“The downward review in bank charges and interest rates is envisaged to achieve the key objectives of stimulating aggregate demand, promote the resuscitation of industry, improve the cost of doing business and support sustained economic growth and development and thereby going beyond stabilisation,” said Dr Mangudya.

Industry capacity utilisation is hovering below 40 percent.

— New Ziana.
UK Suspends Financial Aid to Mozambique
April 29, 2016

LONDON. — The UK government says it has suspended financial aid to Mozambique over an alleged “serious breach of trust” relating to undisclosed debts. This follows similar action from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank.

The IMF halted funding 10 days ago when it found Mozambique had not declared debts of more than $1 billion (£700 million).

The government says the liabilities relate to guaranteeing loans taken out by two mostly state-owned companies. The UK said in a statement that it was now “working closely with other international partners to establish the truth and co-ordinate an appropriate response”.

The IMF is currently carrying out an analysis to see if Mozambique has a sustainable level of debt, and the World Bank is waiting for its outcome before it approves any more loans.

Mozambique’s Prime Minister Carlos Agostinho do Rosario went to the IMF headquarters in Washington DC last week to explain the government’s position.

The government has admitted that it acted as guarantor for a $622 million loan taken out by state-owned Pro-Indicus, and another loan of $535 million by Mozambique Asset Management. Both are involved in the maritime industry.

The mechanics of this are the same as with a personal loan.

If you take out a loan from a bank, the bank always asks you about your other liabilities. Do you have other debts? It will also want to see a payslip.

From the bank’s point of view, it is all to do with risk. Can you make the payments on their loan, if you have a lot of other debt as well?

And it is the same with countries. So, when the IMF lent money to Mozambique, it would have asked about the country’s other liabilities.

As the Mozambique government failed to disclose that it guaranteed the two large loans, it has put the IMF loan in jeopardy.

The IMF is now worried that Mozambique will not be able to meet its liability commitments with this extra debt on its books.

— BBC.

Central African Republic: Security Council Extends Mandate of UN Mission in the Country
The United Nations Security Council today extended until 31 July the mandate of the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA), determining that the situation in the country constitutes a threat to international peace and security.

Under Council resolution 2281 (2016), the 15-member body authorized the Mission to take all necessary means to carry out its mandate within its capabilities and areas of deployment.

The Council also welcomed the peaceful organization of a constitutional referendum on 13 December 2015 and legislative and presidential elections in December 2015, and February and March 2016, as well as the inauguration of President Faustin Archange Touadéra on 30 March.

In addition, the Council recognized that the future mandate of MINUSCA needs to be adapted to "the new circumstances stemming from the end of the transition, in full consultation with the newly elected authorities."

The Council also requested that the Secretary-General conduct a strategic review of MINUSCA to ensure that MINUSCA's future mandate is "properly configured and adapted to a post-transition stabilization environment that enables peacebuilding efforts" in the Central African Republic.

The Council also requested that the Secretary-General present recommendations to the Council by 22 June.
MINUSCA Launches Disarmament Exercise in C.A.R.

The United Nations mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) has launched its Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration (DDR) programme, a statement has said.

According to MINUSCA spokesperson, the move is aimed at helping thousands of fighters in the country return to civilian life.

The operation focusing on ‘‘reducing community violence ‘’ will cover 3,000 former combatants including 1,500 anti-balaka, 1500 self-defense fighters.

Amongst others, the programme offers some ex-combatants a chance to enroll in a national army – in theory after they have been vetted.

This agreement signed in January has widely been dismissed as irrelevant.

A serious bone of contention has been that of communities being forced to accept people who may have committed serious abuses.
MINUSCA had budgeted 28 million for this project.

The overthrow of President Francois Bozize in March 2013 by Michel Djotodia plunged the country into chaos. The violence by anti-balaka and seleka had left several people dead and forced many people to leave their homes.

The election of Faustin Archange Touadera in February this year brought with it hope for a return to stability for the country.

The launch of the DDR itself was highly anticipated to ease the country’s transition into a peaceful state.

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Anti-Trump Protesters, Police Clash Outside California Republican Convention
Associated Press

BURLINGAME, Calif. — Hundreds of rowdy protesters broke through barricades and threw eggs at police Friday outside a hotel where Donald Trump addressed the state’s Republican convention. Several Trump supporters said they were roughed up but no serious injuries were reported.

The protest just outside San Francisco occurred a day after anti-Trump protesters took to the streets in Southern California, blocking traffic and damaging five police cars in Costa Mesa after a speech by the leader in the race for the Republican presidential nomination.

Demonstrators at both locations waved Mexican flags, an action meant to counter Trump’s hard stance on immigration and disparaging remarks about Mexico.

Because of the protest, Trump was rerouted to a back entrance. In a surreal scene, news helicopters showed the billionaire businessman and his security detail walking between two concrete freeway barriers before hopping down onto a grass verge and walking across a service road.

“That was not the easiest entrance I ever made,” Trump quipped when he started speaking to the convention delegates. “It felt like I was crossing the border.”

Outside, crowds of anti-Trump demonstrators broke through steel barricades and pelted riot police with eggs as the officers stood shoulder-to-shoulder to keep the demonstrators from entering the hotel.

A man wearing a red hat bearing the Trump campaign slogan “Make America Great Again” was punched in the head from behind while being jostled by a group of shouting protesters. Another Trump supporter said he was punched and spit on by demonstrators who also threw his phone to the ground.

“It went gangbusters. They attacked me,” said Chris Conway, a mortgage broker from San Mateo.

Burlingame is right outside San Francisco, a liberal bastion that became the focal point of the immigration debate last year when an immigrant in the country illegally, and who had been deported multiple times, shot and killed a woman walking with her father.

Immigration has been one of Trump’s main issues and he often has highlighted the San Francisco killing while touting his plan to build a wall along the entire Mexican border.

California’s primary is June 7, a date once seen as too late to influence the selection process. Now it is seen as the election that either gets Trump over the threshold needed for the nomination or leaves him just short.

He’ll likely make many visits to California in coming weeks. That and his hard stand on immigration in a state where millions of immigrants live and that’s run by Democrats who generally support more benefits, services and job opportunities for those in the country illegally raise the prospects of more raucous demonstrations.

In Orange County, once a Republican stronghold but now home to a surging Hispanic population, a vocal but peaceful demonstration before a rally and Trump speech turned violent afterward. At least 17 people were arrested, five police cars were damaged and an officer was hit in the head by a rock but not seriously hurt, authorities said.

One Trump supporter had his face bloodied in a scuffle as he tried to drive out of the Pacific Amphitheatre area.

Dozens of cars — including those of Trump supporters trying to leave — were stuck in the street as several hundred demonstrators blocked the road, waved Mexican flags and posed for selfies in front of lines of riot police.

There were no major injuries and police did not use any force.
Election 2016: Is the Costa Mesa Trump Melee a Sign of Turbulence Ahead?
April 29, 2016

An anti-Trump protester jumps on top of a police vehicle as others fill the streets in front of the O.C. fairgrounds Thursday night. A Costa Mesa police cruiser was damaged during the demonstrations.

The melee in the streets outside Donald Trump’s Costa Mesa rally Thursday could mark the beginning of many large, turbulent demonstrations against the controversial Republican presidential front-runner.

There have been protesters at Trump events since the early days of his candidacy. But as his campaign moves into heavily Latino California and the state’s pivotal June 7 primary race, the urgency and size of the protests could grow, some political analysts predict.

“It’s a total whammy effect,” said Peter Ditto, a social psychologist at UC Irvine specializing in political behavior. “You have a lot of people who are dissatisfied – pro-Trump people and anti-Trump people. Coming to Orange County, you have a mix of the conservatives and the growing Latino community that is particularly volatile.

“I would expect to see this throughout Southern California.”

And beyond, as an unruly crowd of several hundred anti-Trump demonstrators in the Bay Area showed Friday, less than 24 hours after the larger Orange County disturbance.

Protesters gathered outside the California Republican Party’s weekend convention in Burlingame, where they forced Trump’s entourage to find an alternative entry to the hotel and delayed the candidate’s luncheon speech. Later, members of the crowd attempted to storm the hotel, but were turned back by police in riot gear.

As at the Costa Mesa event, protesters had a range of objections to Trump. But there was a strong Latino presence and Mexican flags in both cases, reflecting perhaps the most persistent concerns at the two California protests.

Trump’s anti-illegal immigration stance, including plans to build a massive barrier the length of the Mexican border, is among the most divisive parts of his political platform. And that theme was on full display at the Thursday rally, where he portrayed California as a leading victim of those who enter the country illegally. He roused 8,000 supporters at the Pacific Amphitheatre into a chant of “Build that wall.”

Many in California’s large Latino population have taken offense at the candidate’s characterization of those crossing the border as criminals. And that community, including many second- and third-generation Americans, has shown an ability to mobilize large numbers at rallies in support of legislation to aid those here illegally – especially in Los Angeles.

In California, “we have a density of Latinos you don’t see in other places,” Henry Vandermeir, chairman of the Democratic Party of Orange County. “And tensions are running high because they’re being made scapegoats by Trump.”

Trump supporters reject such characterizations, although some say they expect more big demonstrations at their candidate’s events.

“I think it will continue, but I think Donald Trump will stay the course and talk about the things Americans care about,” said Costa Mesa’s Eric Beach, founder of the Great America super PAC set up to help Trump get elected. “I think the people you see coming together (for Trump) are worried about our national security first and foremost. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to protect our border.”

Beach said Trump has the support of many legal immigrants, and made an appeal to U.S. Latino citizens demonstrating against his candidate.

“If they care about jobs and they care about the economy, they should look at the last 20 years and what needs to be done and who can do it,” Beach said.


Outside of Trump’s Costa Mesa rally, hundreds of anti-Trump demonstrators gathered, at first peacefully, holding signs, before taunting began.

As the evening progressed, the demonstration took on a party atmosphere at times as large numbers of young men milled about and police were called from neighboring cities to help control an escalating situation.

Before the night was over, a police cruiser window was smashed, a Trump supporter’s face was bloodied and 18 were arrested.

“I’ve been living in Costa Mesa all my life and this is the craziest thing I’ve seen here,” said Ivan Carcamo, 20, while watching the last of the demonstrators thin out just before 10 p.m. “Some of my friends were protesting, and I just tagged along. ... When I heard Donald Trump was coming, I knew something would happen but I didn't think it would be like this.”

Art Montez, a longtime activist who works on voting and civil rights issues for the League of United Latin American Citizens, expects to see more large anti-Trump demonstrations. The path to political change is most effectively pursued through peaceful protests, he said.

“But people aren’t mature, and Trump brings out the worst in people – and he can bring out the worst in our community,” said the Buena Park resident and Centralia school board member. He added that when students are bullied on the playground, “we teach them to walk away. But there’s no principal on the political playground.”

The Democratic Party of Orange County and the O.C. Young Democrats set up a Facebook page that encouraged demonstrators to attend Thursday’s rally, emphasizing the need for nonviolent protest.

“With these kinds of events, there are always a few who are aching to cause some kind of trouble and they don’t reflect the feelings and approach of most demonstrators,” Vandermeir said.

Ditto, the UCI psychologist, said highly charged demonstrations fuel misbehavior. “People get worked up and they tend to do things that they wouldn’t do on their own,” he said. “It’s a party atmosphere mixed up with anger and two groups facing off.”


Violence and lawbreaking by protesters can hurt the cause of those opposing Trump, Ditto said.

“Trump can say, ‘Look, we’re not the ones causing trouble,’” he said. “And when there’s violence by the protesters, it almost excuses any violence by Trump supporters.”

Jimmy Camp, a GOP strategist working on Republican efforts against Trump, said the predominantly left-leaning protesters at Friday’s Bay Area event also hurt their cause by burning American flags and waving Mexican ones.

“They’re pushing people toward Trump,” said the Orange resident, who witnessed the Bay Area demonstration.

How much tensions rise before the June 7 election could also be up to Trump, at least in some measure, Ditto said.

“Part depends on whether he decides to play with that anger,” he said. “It’s a powder keg.”

Contact the writer:
Anti-Trump Protests Break Out for Second Day in California

Protests erupted in California for the second day in a row on Friday against U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump, who is moving closer to winning the Republican nomination after a string of victories this week.

The billionaire businessman was forced to halt his motorcade and go through a back entrance to a hotel to give a speech to the California Republican convention and avoid several hundred loud protesters gathered outside.

"That was not the easiest entrance I've ever made," Trump told the gathering in Burlingame, south of San Francisco, after weaving around a barrier and clambering across a road to get to the venue. "It felt like I was crossing the border actually."

Demonstrators, some of whom held Mexican national flags, at one point rushed security gates at the hotel and police officers had their batons out.

The mogul had already drawn protests in California, with chaotic scenes on Thursday outside a Trump rally in Costa Mesa. Anti-Trump protesters smashed the window of a police car and blocked traffic. Some 20 people were arrested.

Protests have become common outside rallies for Trump who has earned ardent critics, as well as support from Republican voters, for his rhetoric against illegal immigration. His campaign abandoned a rally in Chicago last month after clashes between his supporters and protesters.

He has accused Mexico of sending drug dealers and rapists across the U.S. border and has promised to build a wall and make Mexico pay for it.

Trump, who described himself this week as the party's presumptive nominee, would take a large stride toward knocking his Republican rivals out of the presidential race if he wins the Indiana primary next week.

On Friday, he said he is approaching the 1,237 delegates needed to clinch the nomination.

Trump, who has run as a political outsider and only recently started making inroads with the Republican establishment, called for the party to band together behind him. But said he could win the White House without them if needed.

"There should be and there has to be unity. Now with that being said, would I win, can I win without it? I think so, to be honest," Trump told the convention. His speech drew applause, though not the fervent reception of his usual campaign rallies.


Trump's main rival, Senator Ted Cruz, on Friday picked up the backing of Governor Mike Pence of Indiana in a rearguard battle to damage Trump's chances.

"I'm not against anybody, but I will be voting for Ted Cruz in the upcoming Republican primary," Pence said on an Indiana radio show.

Cruz, from Texas, is trailing the former reality TV star in the Midwestern state after losing to him by a wide margin in all five Northeastern states that held nominating contests on Tuesday.

A CBS poll earlier this week found Trump with about 40 percent of support in Indiana, compared to 35 percent for Cruz. The poll had a margin of error of 6.6 points. Other polls have also shown Trump ahead.

The Republican front-runner was in California ahead of its June 7 primary, when the most convention delegates of the Republican nominating cycle will be at stake.

After his speech, Trump made a similarly unconventional exit out of the hotel via the back door.

Cheryl McDonald, 71, of Discovery Bay, said she had to pass through protesters to get inside the hotel.

"They were yelling. I think the only words they know in the dictionary are profanities," said McDonald, who said she is a Trump supporter.

Ohio Governor John Kasich, a distant third in the race for the party's nomination, distanced himself from what he said was a divisive campaign that preyed on voters' fears.

"I'm worried about a divided, polarized country," Kasich said. "It doesn't have to be that way."

(Reporting by Doina Chiacu and Timothy Ahmann in Washington and Brendan O'Brien in Milwaukee; Writing by Emily Stephenson; Editing by Richard Valdmanis, Alistair Bell and Kim Coghill)
Protesters Descend on Burlingame to Rail Against Trump
By Kimberly Veklerov and Kale Williams
6:15 pm, Friday, April 29, 2016

Presidential candidate Donald Trump was forced to abandon his motorcade on the side of a freeway, scramble up a hillside and slip into a side entrance of the hotel hosting the California GOP convention Friday as hundreds of angry protesters surrounded the building and did their best to disrupt the Republican front-runner’s speech.

Trump joked about his roundabout entrance to the convention, saying it felt like he was “crossing the border” — but the rambunctious demonstrators outside saw no humor in it all as they scuffled with police, threw eggs and blocked roads around the Hyatt Regency in Burlingame.

Antoinette Chen See, 34, one of several protesters who formed a human chain on Old Bayshore Road outside the hotel, said she came out to try to deny Trump a platform in the Bay Area for what she called his racist rhetoric.

“We have a failed system in which someone who is so antiblack, so anti-Muslim and so anti-immigrant is allowed to be a viable candidate for president,” she said. About the chains linking her to her fellow protesters, she said: “They are not comfortable, but it’s worth it.”
Some Trump backers

Presidential candidates Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas and Gov. John Kasich of Ohio were also scheduled to speak at the convention, but it was Trump who drew the most ire from demonstrators Friday before, during and after his noontime speech. Coming just one day after protests at one of the billionaire’s campaign stops in Southern California turned violent, police were on high alert.

“Hate has no place in the democratic process,” Bay Area activist Cat Brooks said in a widely distributed statement urging people to join the anti-Trump rally Friday. “Black communities and all communities of color deserve a democracy that respects our vote, our vision and our values.”

The throng of protesters didn’t dissuade at least a few Trump supporters from staging a small demonstration of their own. Cheryl Tapp, a 62-year-old flight attendant from Burlingame and longtime Trump fan, came out to the hotel to show her support.
Equatorial Guinea's President Obiang Wins Re-election

Equatorial Guinea's President Teodoro Obiang Nguema has won re-election, securing 93.7 percent of votes cast in an April 24 poll to extend his 37-year rule over the Central African oil producer, a government statement said on Thursday.

Obiang, Africa's longest-serving leader, has ruled the former Spanish colony since 1979 when he staged a bloody military coup and ousted his uncle, who was later executed.

Obiang's closest challenger in the polls was Avelino Mocache Benga, who won just 1.5 percent of the vote, according to complete provisional results. Turnout was 92.9 percent, the statement from Equatorial Guinea's Office of Information and Press said.

With territory divided between the African mainland and islands in the Gulf of Guinea, Equatorial Guinea boasts the highest GDP per capita in Africa thanks to its extensive oil and gas reserves.

However, it ranks 144 out of 187 states listed on the United Nations' 2014 Human Development Index.

Critics say oil money is funneled to a rich elite while much of the country lives in poverty. A 2004 U.S. Senate probe showed millions of dollars channeled by Obiang and his relatives into the disgraced Riggs Bank.

- See more at:

Friday, April 29, 2016

Abayomi Azikiwe, PANW Editor, Featured in TVC Interview on the United States Primary Elections: 'Party Contests Are Closed Processes Upholding the Status Quo'
To view this segment with the Pan-African News Wire editor just click on the website below:

Watch this Television Continental (TVC) interview with Abayomi Azikiwe, editor of the Pan-African News Wire, discussing the primary elections process in the United States.

The dialogue took place on Wed. April 27, 2016, the morning after five state primary elections in the northeast of the U.S.

Azikiwe explains that many of the primary elections are closed processes which are not reflective of the groundswell of support of Senator Bernie Sanders and tend to favor Wall Street stalwart former Secretary of State and New York Senator Hillary Clinton.

This pan-African satellite news and entertainment network, TVC, can be viewed live at: .

The telecommunications outlet is based in Lagos, Nigeria in West Africa and its news website can be reached at: .
Detroit To Experience New Round Of Massive Water Shut-offs
Thousands of households are being subjected to ongoing terminations

By Abayomi Azikiwe
Editor, Pan-African News Wire

Despite the business media praise of the actual program of dislocation and underdevelopment aimed at long-time residents disguised as “revitalization”, the City of Detroit is slated to embark upon a new round of massive water shut-offs.

Many who are scheduled to be terminated may not be aware of the imminent crisis they are facing. A report from Michigan Public Radio indicated that the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD) are not placing notices on the doors of homes which are in arrears on their bills. (April 15)

The water department says that “customers” should look for the notices on their bills sent out in the mail or posted online. This represents a departure from years past when the DWSD would send “collectors” to households informing them that their services were slated to be terminated in five days if arrangements to pay were not made.

Spokesman for DWSD, Bryan Peckinpaugh, told the media that bills have labels entitled “account status” printed on them, in what he described as bold fonts letting residents know they are behind or in danger of termination of services.

Peckinpaugh stressed the department stopped using door tags as a budgetary matter. Noting the DWSD utilizes other means to notify residents.

“We have a new e-mail system that the City of Detroit utilizes that we’re also utilizing at DWSD to communicate with our customers through text and e-mail,” Peckinpaugh said.

Perhaps realizing that these practices could ignite widespread anger, Detroit corporate-oriented Mayor Mike Duggan told the Detroit Free Press that the City would continue to post notices on doors regarding potential shut-offs. Duggan, who the Free Press claims re-established the notification policy in 2014, says he disagrees with the decision and is ensuring thatemployees who hang notices on doors will continue to make their rounds as of April 15.

“The mayor has not been informed of any decision to discontinue the door hanger notices and would consider that decision to be completely unacceptable,” mayoral spokesman John Roach said in a statement. Peckinpaugh, on behalf of the DWSD has declined to comment on Duggan’s supposed reversal of the new policy.

Duggan, who was elected to office during the bankruptcy in 2013, resulting from a write-in campaign after he failed to qualify for ballot status, has to stand for re-election in 2017. The longtime political figure linked in the past to the former Wayne County Executive Ed McNamara’s Democratic Party political machine is a former resident of Livonia, one of the most segregated cities in the United States.

A Tale of Two Classes

Even though the daily newspapers are filled with stories of economic revival in Detroit, joblessness, poverty and homelessness remains major social problems. Media reports of a plan for thousands of water shut-offs seriously contradict the official corporate narrative involving the situation in the city.

The Detroit News, which is considered a more conservative publication than the Free Press, wrote a revealing story on April 1 pointing to the disparate treatment between largely working class and poor households which are routinely terminated from water services, and the opposite approach to thousands of businesses that remain behind in their bills but are not shut-off.

Journalist Joel Kurth wrote that: “Detroit last year shut water service to 23,300 homes — the equivalent of every household in the city of Pontiac — but left the taps running at thousands of businesses that owe millions of dollars, city documents show. Businesses and government-owned properties owe nearly twice as much as residences, $41 million compared with $26 million for homes, but only 680 were shut off in 2015, according to records obtained by The Detroit News through the Freedom of Information Act.”

Consequently it is quite obvious that the real target of the water shut-offs are the majority African American, proletarian and impoverished residents of the city. The termination of water flowing into households is tantamount to an “illegal lock-out” since it becomes almost impossible to live in a home, flat or apartment without this essential service.

Therefore, the impact of these policies serves to further dislocate and forcefully remove tens of thousands more people from Detroit. In the last census period of 2000-2010, Detroit, the largest per capita African American populated municipality in the United States lost nearly 25 percent of its overall residents.

Detroit residents with minors in their places without water are subject to intervention by Child Protective Services under the guise that the household is dangerous and unfit to live in.

During 2015, over ten percent of the city’s 200,000 residential accounts were shut-off, whereas approximately 0.3 percent of the city’s 25,000 non-residential accounts suffered the same fate, the records say. Since 2014, when the termination of services gained national and international attention due to protests outside the DWSD headquarters downtown and the blocking of the Homrich wrecking company facilities on the eastside, over 50,000 shut-offs have been carried out.

Kurth also wrote in the April 1 article that: “City records claim the state owes more than $1 million — $648,000 for the Detroit Reentry Center prison and $473,000 for Belle Isle, which the state Department of Natural Resources has managed since 2014. Both are more than 60 days overdue and eligible for shut-offs, records show.”

The Need for Mass Struggle to End Corporatization

Two years ago during the largest municipal bankruptcy in United States history the city under emergency management was forced through mass action to declare a moratorium on water shut-offs for several months.

However, payment plans set up in the aftermath of this period have failed to keep tens of thousands of households out of shut-off status. Yet another plan was introduced in March through the Great Lakes Regional Water Authority (GLRWA) which ostensibly provides assistance to those in low-income households.

This plan allocates only $4 million to assist those unable to pay their bills, many of which are questionable and under dispute, falling far short of the tens of millions that are in arrears. One factor rarely spoken about in the water crisis in Detroit is the interest rate swaps on bonds associated with the DWSD which have drained at least $537 million from the system since 2012.

A March 11 article in The Nation illustrated that the problems of rising water rates and shut-offs is national in scope pointing to the existence of these problems in other cities such as Pittsburgh and Baltimore. Carrie Sloan writing for publication places the blame where it should be on Wall Street.

“Detroit water customers have seen their rates spike by nearly 120 percent in the last decade; almost half of their payments now go toward paying down the debt on the swap termination fees, Sloan emphasized. “In a city where nearly 40 percent of residents live below the poverty line, it’s not surprising that many have fallen behind on their skyrocketing bills.”

Sloan went on to point out that in the scheme of economic policies directed at urban areas “in 2008, when Wall Street crashed the economy, and the massive risks associated with these deals came to light, cities across the country found themselves owing banks millions of dollars.”

The billions needed to rebuild the declining infrastructure of the cities are being expropriated by some of the leading financial institutions such as Chase Bank, UBS and Morgan Stanley.

These factors must take center stage in the struggle for the right of working people, the nationally oppressed and the poor to remain in the cities.
Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Debated at United Nations as World Crisis Escalates
By Abayomi Azikiwe
Editor, Pan-African News Wire

Numerous heads-of-state attended a United Nations conference in New York City in late April to address the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) 2030.  Another gathering focused on the current status by governments internationally to curb the impact of climate change.

This SDG program was adopted during 2015 after the lapse of the Millennium Development Goals (MDG). The MDG set objectives of eliminating poverty and raising incomes beginning in 2000 and extending for a decade-and-a-half.

During the first decade of the 21st century there were conditions which arose in leading states within Africa, Latin America and the Asia-Pacific resulting in significant economic growth. The rise in prices for oil, natural gas, strategic minerals and other commodities produced by so-called “developing countries” fueled profits for multi-national corporations and governments ruling states where these resources were extracted and exported.

Income generation within the post-colonial and neo-colonial states encouraged Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in the areas of light and heavy industrial production, technology transfers along with greater cooperation among governments in the Global South. Actual levels of household incomes rose in many regions of Africa, Latin American and the Asia-Pacific along with political alliances among these states bringing to the fore such organizations as the Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa Summit (BRICS), the Africa-South America Summit (ASAS) and the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC).

Nonetheless, the distribution of the wealth generated during the new millennium was far less than equitable. Wealthy social groups arose while professional, small-and-medium-sized enterprise owners and their workers experienced significant improvements in their living standards.

Much of the debt which had crippled the African continent during the 1980s and 1990s was written off and refinanced giving the appearance of substantial development that would extend into the unforeseeable future. The further deregulation of the international financial industry provided credit for corporate investments and individual household consumption.

Rapid Reversal in Evidence

By the close of the last decade the expansion of a credit-based economy was quickly resulting in the closure of leading investment firms and banks. Western capitalist governments and central banks were compelled to bailout the financial institutions to the tune of trillions of dollars and euros.

The effect of this phenomenon in the United States, Western Europe and China was not immediately apparent to many governments in Africa. Nevertheless, the strategic interests of leading capitalist states remained in conflict with the emerging economies.

Under the Obama administration more emphasis was placed on domestic production of oil and natural gas prompting a precipitous decline in the prices of these major exports for countries such as Nigeria, Russia, Venezuela and Brazil. In South Africa, where the extraction of gold, diamonds, platinum, iron ore and coal had been the engine of growth under the racist system of settler-colonialism since the late 19th century, witnessed large-scale capital flight and job losses.

Of course there was a clear political agenda in operation as well where the regional blocs of FOCAC, BRICS and the rejuvenated Non-aligned Movement (NAM) were perceived by imperialism as a threat to their hegemony in the fields of international exchange and the overall balance of military and economic forces.

United Nations Conference Served as Forum for ‘Emerging States’

Two notable speeches during the meeting were delivered by President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe and President Dilma Rousseff of Brazil.

Speaking at the High-Level Thematic Debate on Achieving Sustainable Development Goals on April 21, President Mugabe criticized the imperialists’ economic sanctions which have robbed Zimbabwe of over $42 billion in revenue since the beginning of the millennium, effectively hampering the Southern African state from reaching the MDGs. The impact of the sanctions against Zimbabwe was placed within the context of the broader economic crises facing former colonial and neo-colonial countries.

Mugabe spoke to the urgency of the situation facing the majority of peoples of the world saying: “It is my hope that the critical lessons of the Millennium Development Goals will instruct us in this endeavor and particularly on the imperative of moving swiftly from commitments to action, to assure success in our common and individual efforts. The enormity of the ambition we have set for ourselves must be matched by an equal sense of purpose, cohesion and speed. Let us, therefore, use this occasion to compare notes and inspire one another as we set off on the demanding transformative journey ahead of us.” (Zimbabwe Herald)

The president of this former British colony and leading independent state in Southern Africa stressed that: “Recent revelations have shone light on the schemes, legal or otherwise, that deprive governments of huge financial resources which can be channeled towards development. International cooperation is imperative in stemming and stamping out financial engineering schemes that siphon resources from use for public good.”

Furthering noting “For us in Africa, illicit flows, estimated at $60 billion a year, further hemorrhage the limited financial resources at our disposal. This area needs urgent resolution to ensure that an improvement in domestic resource mobilization efforts contributes to national coffers, and not to lining the pockets of those illegally transferring these resources from our countries.”

Washington under the Obama administration is stiffening sanctions against Zimbabwe by prohibiting transactions involving dozens of institutions and individuals as part and parcel of an imperialist scheme to interfere in Zimbabwe’s 2018 elections. Evidence uncovered by the state-owned Sunday Mail during the week of April 18 illustrated that U.S. administration is blocking Visa Card and MasterCard usage for all Zimbabweans on a list of “Politically Exposed Persons”.

Banks operating in Zimbabwe have received warnings of “stiff penalties” that will be imposed on people and institutions which fail to carry out the sanctions. Earlier in February, Barclays Bank was fined $2.5 million for conducting financial transactions involving Zimbabweans and other entities on the list.

Brazilian President Rousseff, who was subjected to an impeachment vote in the lower house of parliament, said that she would continue to fight to remain in power in Brazil after a politically-motivated attack against the Worker’s Party, which is numerically a minority group in the legislature, but still maintains the largest bloc within the legislative body.

She blamed the wealthy class in Brazil for what she described as the illegal attempt to force her from office. She indicated that she would appeal to the regional South American states to suspend Brazil if she does not survive a vote in the senate scheduled for May.

Reuters reported on her visit during the Climate Change dialogue at the UN, noting “Rousseff denounced her impeachment as a ‘coup’ to an international audience on Friday (April 22), and said she would petition the Mercosur regional grouping of South American nations for Brazil to be suspended if the democratic process is violated. ‘I would appeal to the democracy clause if there were, from now on, a rupture of what I consider democratic process,’ she told reporters in New York.”

Mercosur’s platform embodies a clause which can be enacted if elected governments are overthrown among member states. This happened in Paraguay in 2012.

If the removal of Rousseff is found to be in violation of democratic practice, member-states can be suspended from participating in regional meetings along with the imposition of economic sanctions. Rousseff’s comments during a press conference in New York were the strongest statement yet that she will continue to resist those seeking to remove her from office.
Pan-African Journal: Worldwide Radio Broadcast for Sun. April 24, 2016--Hosted by Abayomi Azikiwe
Listen to this special edition of the Pan-African Journal: Worldwide Radio Broadcast hosted by Abayomi Azikiwe, editor of the Pan-African News Wire.

To hear the podcast of this episode just click on the following URL:

The program features our regular PANW reports with dispatches on the intensifying sanctions enacted by the United States government against the Southern African state of Zimbabwe; President Barack Obama has defended former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton against protests by Black Lives Matter forces in the U.S. while he is on a state visit to Britain; the most powerful bloc in the Egyptian parliament is aligned with the military-turned-civilian rule of the North African state President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi; and the Islamic State in Libya has been reportedly driven out of the eastern city of Derna.

In the second hour we will focus on the anti-racist demonstrations which have continued in the U.S. since 2013 prompted by several high-profile killings by police and vigilantes.

Finally a review of several news stories taking place on the African continent are presented in further detail.
Pan-African Journal: Worldwide Radio Broadcast for Sat. April 23, 2016--Hosted by Abayomi Azikiwe
Listen to the Sat. April 23, 2016 edition of the Pan-African Journal: Worldwide Radio Broadcast hosted by Abayomi Azikiwe, editor of the Pan-African News Wire.

To hear the podcast of this episode just click on the website below:

The program airs initially from 1:00-4:00pm EDT and afterwards on podcast at the link above. We will feature reports on Zimbabwe's participation in the United Nations Conference this week in New York on the Sustainable Development Goals; the leaders of South Africa and Namibia have pledged to strengthen their bi-lateral ties during a meeting Windhoek; Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff charged wealthy oligarchs with plotting to remove her from office in the South American state; and the Cuban Communist Party concluded its 7th Congress on April 19 in Havana.

In the second hour we look at the contributions of African American artist Prince who was found dead on April 21 and his decades-long battle with the recording industry in the United States.

Also we examine the 151st anniversary of the conclusion of the U.S. Civil War during April 1865.
Abayomi Azikiwe, PANW Editor, Featured on TVC: 'New York Primary Elections Rigged in Favor of Wall Street'
To view the video file of this segment just click on the following website:

Watch this Television Continental (TVC) interview with Abayomi Azikiwe, editor of the Pan-African News Wire, on the New York primary elections where numerous charges of voter suppression and rigging were made.

Azikiwe told the satellite news network based in Lagos, Nigeria that reports indicate approximately three million people were denied the right to vote in the election due to restrictive laws, lack of ballots and other irregularities.

This segment aired live over TVC earlier today on April 20, 2016.

The New York Republican primary was given to billionaire Donald Trump and Wall Street Democratic Party champion Hillary Clinton.

Senator Bernie Sanders' supporters in many cases were denied the right to participate since they are not registered as Democrats due to the fact that most are independents.
Buhari: Multinational Patrol Force Underway for Gulf of Guinea
By Isiaka Wakili
Nigeria Daily Trust
Apr 28 2016 6:33PM

Adesina quoted President Buhari as saying that patrols by the multinational task force would augment and boost ongoing efforts to improve security in the Gulf, and curb crude oil theft and piracy.

President Muhammadu Buhari has disclosed that a multinational task force will soon be established to patrol the waters of the Gulf of Guinea.

Presidential spokesman Femi Adesina quoted Buhari as disclosing this yesterday while receiving French Minister of Defence Mr. Jean-Yves Le Drian.

Adesina quoted President Buhari as saying that patrols by the multinational task force would augment and boost ongoing efforts to improve security in the Gulf, and curb crude oil theft and  piracy.

He said Buhari and Le Drian also discussed ongoing French support for the Federal Government's efforts to end the Boko Haram insurgency.

He said the president expressed his government's appreciation of the assistance and support of France and other G7 countries, which he noted, had helped Nigeria achieve significant successes against Boko Haram insurgents.

"When we got into office in May, last year, Boko Haram was effectively controlling at least 14 local government areas. But now, it is no longer so, and they have resorted to attacking soft targets with Improvised Explosive Devices. We are determined to secure all of our territory effectively. We are doing our best and our troops are now operating in the Sambisa Forest," Buhari said.

Le Drian was said to have earlier assured President Buhari that France would continue to assist Nigeria to overcome Boko Haram, and that all terrorists must be seen as common enemies of the free world.


Thursday, April 28, 2016

Nigeria, France Sign Pact on Military Equipment, Training
By Ronald Mutum
Nigeria Daily Trust
Apr 28 2016 4:43PM

The High Defence Committee was set up as part of agreements reached during the last visit of President Mohammadu Buhari to France.

The French and Nigerian governments on Thursday signed a ‘letter of Intent’ on defence cooperation to include acquisition of military equipment and training for members of Nigeria’s Armed Forces (NAF).

This was made known in a communiqué on strengthening cordial bilateral relations on Security and Defence after the maiden meeting of the High Defence Committee made up of Nigerian and French officials on Thursday at the Ministry of Defence Headquarters in Abuja.

The Communiqué was read by the permanent secretary of the Nigerian Ministry of Defence Ambassador Danjuma Sheni in the presence of the Nigerian Minister of Defence Mansur Dan-Ali and the Minister of Defence of France Jean Le-Drian.

The High Defence Committee was set up as part of agreements reached during the last visit of President Mohammadu Buhari to France.

Sheni explained that the two days deliberations focused on four areas of strategic dialogue, military technical cooperation, intelligence sharing, and equipment procurement.

He said the committee agreed that identifying credible manufactures, capacity building and negotiations with French equipment manufacturers would be offered to the armed forces of Nigeria.

They also agreed that France would provide technical advice on Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV), to the Nigerian military while promoting multi-lateral intelligence sharing in support of the Multi-National Joint Task Force (MNJTF).

They also agreed that France would explore the possibility of providing the armed forces in liaison with French Forces in Senegal with operational updated maps under the premises of Document for Operational Cooperation.

They also agreed that France would share experience with Nigeria in the organization and processes of establishing an Imagery Centre, and deliberated on how the list of defence equipment presented could be procured at good value for money.

In their remarks, both Defence ministers agreed that the defence cooperation demonstrates both countries determination to check the menace of terrorism in the West African region and global terrorism.

Buhari: 24 States Can't Pay Salary Despite Bailout
By Isiaka Wakili
Nigeria Daily Trust
Apr 28 2016 6:21PM

President Muhammadu Buhari says he is greatly concerned that nearly two-third of 36 states of the fare still having difficulties with salary payments despite the bail-out funds provided to them by the Federal Government.

This is just as the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF) has requested an 18-month deferment for deductions from debtor-states' allocations.

President Buhari yesterday met with the 36 state governors and told them that he was very disturbed by the hardship state government workers across the country and their families were facing due to the non-payment of salaries.

Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity Garba Shehu quoted Buhari as assuring that in order to ameliorate the hardship, the Federal Government would strive to make more funds available to the states by expediting action on refunds due to them for the maintenance of federal roads and other expenses incurred on behalf of the Federal Government.

Buhari also said that he would establish an inter-ministerial committee to study a Fiscal Restructuring Plan for the Federation which was presented to him by the governors.

The president said that the committee would review the plan to improve the finances of state governments and make recommendations on how proposals in the plan should be dealt with by the Presidency, the Federal Executive Council and the National Assembly through legislation.

He, however, urged the governors to understand that while he was ready to do all within his powers to help the states overcome their current financial challenges, the Federal Government also had funding problems of its own to contend with.

"You all know the problems we have found ourselves in. You have to bear with us," the president told the governors.

The presidential spokesman quoted the NGF Chairman, Governor Abdulaziz Yari of Zamfara State and the Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State, who chaired the committee that worked on the Fiscal Restructuring Plan, as asking the Federal Government to do more to help the states financially.

The governors were said to have told Buhari that while they had resolved to take other measures to boost their internally-generated revenue, the implementation of the Fiscal Restructuring Plan would help them to deal with their funding problems on short, medium and long-term bases.

They were also quoted to have said that if the plan was adopted and implemented by the Federal Government, states would become more financially empowered to fulfil their constitutional responsibilities.

Addressing State House journalists after the meeting, Yari said the NGF was asking for 18-month moratorium of loan payment so that states could strategise.

"We are asking for 18 months moratorium before we can start paying so that we would able to strategise," Yari said.

It would be recalled that President Buhari had last week approved a one-month moratorium for debtor-states.

Yari also told journalists that the states wanted the debts owed them by the federal government paid.

"For the short term, we are looking at a situation whereby our debts that are hanging, 2005 right from Obasanjo’s exit of the Paris Club, some of the monies that were not paid so that the states that are having difficulties can get money from there," he said.

Yari said to develop the IGR is not overnight, but a long term programme that has to be planned.

"And also our services have exploded and there is nothing we can do about it because people are getting their daily bread from there and we cannot say we are going to cut salaries and wages. We have to find a solution otherwise we would keep going back and forth because the plan you had for $100 per barrel and now oil is selling for 28 and 31 dollars, you will not achieve anything. So,we have device a plan for short term, medium term and longterm. these are part of short term."

He said part of the medium term programme they were looking at was the revenue mobilization formula "in ensuring that resources which were due for the past 10 years to states will be made available to them after the National Assembly approval; while the agricultural and minining will
be a long term programme."

Yari added: "The committee that will be set up will have the vice president, minister of power, works and housing will be in that committee because he headed similar committee on revenue formula at the Nigeria Governors Forum in 2012/2013.

"At the same time, some states have committed their resources to some federal government projects like roads and airports. There is a committee that was set up to look into that, we are urging the committee to hasten and complete up their work and present to Mr. President so that states can get relief."

On the reported allegation by Finance Minister Kemi Adeosun that states are in financial crisis because the governors are not saving, Yari said: "states are only taking 26 percent whereas the federal government is taking 52 percent and you are asking us to save. The truth remains that the states are taking 26 percent and the federal government 52 percent, what are they doing with the money? We are not sovereign so how can we save?

"We are dealing with our different states economy which we are trying our best to fix. Most times, we are busy shouting that what is supposed to be given to us has not been given. For the past three years, we have been saying show us if the excess crude has been used judiciously or not. So, the question of saving or not does not arise."

On the demand by the Nigeria Labour Congress for N56,000 minimum wage, Yari said: "well, they are right because we agree what they are being paid is too small, but they must understand the situation the country is because from where we are deriving our resources from is now lower by 60 percent. So, how do we do the magic? But we are going to do our best."

He described loan restructuring and bailout as temporal measures, saying "Each state has a programme right from short to mid and long term which we presented to Mr. President and he graciously accepted and he plans to put a committee in place that would look at the matter starting with short term."

Yari also stated: "The meeting was about the economy . We deliberated amongst our colleagues and we did say we would pass our demands to the federal government to look at demands per state. States are the landlords, we own the land and the people. So, the economy of this country lies in the
state. Everything comes from the state, the oil, agricultural produce,
mining and people are in the states; while the federal government is in

"So, if any state has any issues and is known to Mr President, I doubt very much if he will be able to sleep with his two eyes closed. We are closer to the people and have many challenges in the states. Today (yesterday), we have received support from the Federal Government in terms of bailout, restructured our debts, giving us 15% of the Excess Crude Account for development.

“Herdsmen” and the Gathering Storm 
APRIL 28, 2016
Nigerian Vanguard

We are deeply perturbed by the escalating  conflicts between heavily-armed cattle herdsmen and  indigenous communities, especially in the four geopolitical zones of North Central, South East, South West and South-South. We have raised the alarm several times on this issue.

Our voice has resonated with those of countless other Nigerians in the swelling chorus of calls on the Federal Government to frontally and immediately mobilise the Nigerian armed forces to arrest the menace of these gunmen. From the plains of Plateau, Nasarawa and southern parts of Kaduna States, these armed desperados have increased in numbers, pouring southward into Oyo, Ekiti, Ondo, Osun, Ogun, Benue, Taraba, Kogi, Enugu, Abia, Anambra, Delta, Edo and parts of Rivers States.

They brazenly herd their livestock into people’s farmlands and threaten them with their deadly weapons at the slightest sign of protest. Some of them even go beyond that and engage in criminal ventures such as kidnapping, armed robbery, murders and rape.

They sometimes block the highways and inflict life-threatening injuries on their victims. The worst part of it all is that, as in the case of Agatu in Benue State, they drive indigenous people from their communities and occupy same in a fashion reminiscent of medieval conquests.

Even more worrisome still is the fact that these gunmen openly brandish their sophisticated weapons and very little is done by the law-enforcement agencies to enforce the law prohibiting the illegal possession of unlicensed firearms which the rest of the society is strictly bound to observe. We admit that this menace has been there for over a decade, but what was seen as isolated cases of infractions has ballooned in scale and thrust in the past one year, with the law enforcement agencies showing a singular lack of interest to confront it.

Fulani herdsmen have cohabited peacefully with their host communities and land-owners in all parts of the country for ages. Why the sudden upsurge of invasions and violent criminalities among these gangs of “herdsmen”?

We, once again, call on the Federal Government to order a crackdown on this menace in the same manner that Boko Haram, the Shiites, Biafra agitators, pipeline vandals and others have been militarily confronted.

We hope this is done quickly to avoid matters getting to a breaking point where communities might be forced to raise their own respective militias for the defence of their homelands.

The security agencies must wake up, do their jobs and head off possible outbreak of anarchy in Nigeria. A stitch in time saves nine.

Read more at:
Herdsmen and the Killing Field
April 28, 2016
By Olusegun Adeniyi
Nigeria ThisDay

On 30th July, 2013, the parents of the ten Directorate of State Security (DSS) operatives killed two months earlier by the Ombatse cult in Nasarawa State staged a peaceful protest in Lafia where the then Vice President Namadi Sambo was due to commission some projects. The protesters were responding to the statement by the then DSS Director General, Mr. Ita Ekpenyong that the service had ‘forgiven’ the criminals who killed the DSS operatives while on a legitimate duty.

“Our children were sent on an operation to save other Nigerians, and they were not given any protection. We can’t see them alive; we can’t see their corpses. They only sent us the death certificates of our children”, said Dr. Nandul Durfa, 64, father to a late operative called Timman Durfa. Another protester, Nimsel Nanyal, 57, said it was unthinkable that security men were killed and the federal government could not give them justice. “In Britain, one soldier was killed on the street, not even in the line of duty like our children, and the British Prime Minister was everywhere making statements. He even attended the burial. Here, we were sent death certificates, and that is all,” Nanyal added.

It is now almost three years since that tragedy which claimed the lives of 55 police officers and 10 DSS operatives who were deployed to restore order in a community called Alakyo. The corpses of those 65 agents of state were never recovered and I will not be surprised if their families have also been abandoned. Yet the message conveyed by that so-called forgiveness famously proclaimed by Ekpenyong was that the Nigerian State could neither protect its own personnel who were on lawful duties nor seek justice for them after being killed in a most gruesome manner. But the larger implication of the way we managed that tragedy was that we were invariably telling the whole world that life makes no meaning in our country. That is the sort of disposition that emboldens criminals to believe they can take the lives of innocent citizens without consequences.

Incidentally, someone who spoke the minds of Nigerians at the time is a certain Muhammadu Buhari who is now the president. He said most memorably: “The SSS boss or whoever that said he has left everything to God has no right to do that. Nigerians can practice any religion they want or even if they don’t want, they can be atheist or anything they want to be, that is constitutional. But nobody should hurt a citizen of Nigeria and then get away with it, not to talk of slaughtering law enforcement agents and then somebody coming out from the system to say such a thing. It is either that person doesn’t know what he was talking about or he shouldn’t even be there. Those that killed the security men must be hunted and prosecuted no matter how long it will take because this is the bottom line about law and order, and security in the country. They can’t be forgiven, they can’t override the constitution, Nigerians are being hurt and killed in their duties and those that killed them must be brought before the law”, Buhari said.

That was candidate Buhari who was seeking to be our president. Now that he is on the saddle, we have not seen any such forthrightness in dealing with the sectarian violence that threatens to tear the country apart. Yet at this most challenging period, the president must stand up and be counted because, as I stated last week, there can be nothing more grievous than for someone or a group of people to believe they can take the lives of others without being held to account.

For those who may have forgotten, there were three elements involved in the 2013 Ombatse tragedy in Nasarawa State: Ethnicity, religion and politics, even though there was also a little dose of superstition. Unfortunately, the underlining issues in the current tragedies, whether in the South East or in the North Central, are not dissimilar. So, for us to resolve them and bring about lasting peace, we need our president to rise above himself. Unfortunately, he has thus far not shown that inclination–at least, that is what his body language suggests and with that, he has only provided ammunitions for politicians who feed on tragedies by capitalizing on our fault-lines.

To worsen matters, on the issue of herdsmen, President Buhari is already a suspect given the record of his intemperate session with the late Oyo State Governor Lam Adesina a few years ago. The situation is compounded by the recent “your-people-have-killed-my-people” statement by his kinsman-DG of the DSS, Mr. Lawal Musa Daura. But even when I believe Buhari’s silence on the recent tragedies has been unhelpful, I am also aware that most of the hysteria about herdsmen are political and may be no more than a campaign of calumny essentially targeted against the president, just because he is a Fulani man.

However, it was very reassuring last night that President Buhari would condemn “the attack on Ukpabi Nimbo community in Enugu State and other such acts of extreme violence against communities in other states of the federation”, as stated by his spokesman, Garba Shehu. The president has also directed the Inspector General of Police, the General Officer Commanding the 82nd Division of the Nigeria Army and the Enugu State Director of DSS “to personally oversee investigations into the attack on the community and ongoing efforts to apprehend the culprits.”

Indeed, it is the political slant to a crisis that has been with us for many decades that is actually now causing the problem even when most people are aware the real issues are environmental, economic and criminal. But I believe, from my own experience, that we can deal with some of these issues if our politicians and other critical stakeholders, including those of us in the media, decide to be open-minded. I highlighted some of the points two years ago in Kaduna at an “International Conference on Security and Development Challenges in West and Central Africa” where I delivered a paper. Put together by the then National Security Adviser, Col Sambo Dasuki, I had opportunity to interact with the real herdsmen—the big men who own the cows as I told the story of my village in Kwara State that has a Fulani settlement called ‘Gaa Okanla’.

I grew up to meet the settlement and virtually everybody in our village now say the settlement had been there before they were born. It was founded by a nomadic Fulani man called Anfani who reportedly mixed freely with our people. His first son was named Okanla and I grew up to know him as Baba Okanla with some of his children, especially Baba and Musa as my contemporaries and friends even till today. So in my village, we have had five generations of Fulani men who have lived in harmony with our people and I am aware there are many communities like that in Kwara State.

Notwithstanding, I am also aware that several other issues have come in such that the real lasting solution is to discourage the nomadic culture in our country. Even before it became a national security challenge, it was no longer ideal to have able-bodied young men and women roam about the country with cows. It is both primitive and a gross abuse of the young men and women who ordinarily should be in school. Besides, there are health hazards to these cows that are being paraded through the forest and may have attracted all manner of diseases. But the main worry for now is the human tragedy.

That we have a serious problem on our hands is not in doubt though it is comforting that the federal government is very much aware of the challenge and now looking for workable solutions. Two weeks ago, Interior Minister, Lt General Abdulrahman Dambazau (rtd) convened an inter-ministerial meeting in a bid to finding a lasting solution to what, according to him, “threatens the very fabric of our country’s unity and progress”.

Dambazau, from what he said at the forum, appreciates the fact that the entire herdsmen menace has graduated from isolated instances into a discernible and even predictable pattern of criminal behavior with grave and urgent national security implications. What Dambazau and his team, working in collaboration with other stakeholders, must now do is to isolate all the issues as they seek enduring solutions which will not happen until we deal with the challenge of law and order in our country. Even though the menace of the herdsmen is much more complex than many people imagine, those with criminal tendencies in our midst must know that the State will punish, rather than forgive, them for heinous crimes.

“While the ongoing conflict is centred on Nigeria’s internal security, I believe it might be necessary to also consider the larger West and Central Africa region in arriving at an understanding of the Niger-Benue basin as an arena of conflict because of its rich pasture and water resources where pastoralist converge seasonally to graze their cattle,” said Dambazau who added: “It is duly recognized that the conflict spawns beyond the immediate Niger-Benue river trough to even south-eastern and western Nigeria, where similar conflicts even with violent tendencies are being recorded regularly. Indications are also that there are opportunistic criminal angles to this conflict, in the nature of cattle-rustling, armed robbery and kidnapping. There are also recent reports that the Boko Haram terrorists are taking advantage of the situation to further their dastardly agenda.”

Against the background that the history of group confrontations in Nigeria can be traced to the simplistic North-South, Christian-Moslem pattern, the authorities should be worried about such dangerous dimensions to what is already a serious problem. Unfortunately, we are in a precarious moment when dire economic conditions are pushing neighbours, families and groups to a brittle point. That then explains why acts of violence that are staged in places where they can be given “they versus us” interpretations will hurt our national security very badly if not properly handled.

President Buhari therefore needs to move swiftly on this matter before he has on his hands a dangerous internal conflagration to add to Boko Haram, a simmering trouble in the Niger Delta and an economic downturn that has already put many Nigerians on edge.
Between Boko Haram and Fulani Herdsmen
April 29, 2016
Nigerian Punch

A herdsman with his cattle in Enugu

These, indeed, are strange times for our beloved nation. Harsh economic realities occasioned by a sharp decline in global price of oil coupled with incessant fuel scarcity, unemployment, inflation, hunger and poverty have continued to make life tough for the people. To complicate matters, political situation remains as charged and volatile as ever. However, of all our nation’s current troubles, insecurity is, perhaps, the most complex.

Until recently, terrorism was alien to our culture. But recent occurrences have since altered the equation. No thanks to the dastardly acts of the Boko Haram sect, Nigeria is, today, a focal point of global terrorism activities. Through a series of callously designed and devilishly executed bloodletting operations, unrivalled in the annals of the country, the sect has thrown the country into protracted volatility.

To underline its wide acclaim as a globally recognised terrorist body, the sect was designated by the US Department of State as a terrorist organisation in 2013. In the first half of 2014, Boko Haram killed more than 2,000 innocent and hapless civilians, in about 95 attacks. In the last three years, more than 3,000 people have lost their lives as a result of Boko Haram operations. A recent research claimed that Boko Haram attacks have left at least 12,000 people dead and 8,000 crippled in the last three years while hundreds of thousands have fled their homes for the fear of the insurgents. Presently, over 260 secondary school girls, kidnapped in a most notorious manner, from their school in Chibok, Borno State, have been in the den of the Boko Haram sect for well over 200 days.

As the nation continues to grapple with the arduous task of containing the activities of Boko Haram, out of the blues came yet another menace of a different kind, but with an equally potent capability to coldheartedly waste human lives. Take the back seat Boko Haram; enter Fulani herdsmen, the new merchants of blood in town! Though the bloody acts of Fulani herdsmen have been around for quite some time, their intensity, of late, is becoming quite alarming.

From Agatu in Benue State, Akure in Ondo State, Bukuru area in Plateau State, Oke Ogun area in Oyo State, Gassaka and Bali local government areas in Taraba State to Nimbo in Enugu State, rampaging Fulani herdsmen seem to be on a mission to draw blood. And blood they are getting. Everywhere they go, sorrow, tears and blood trail them. Curiously, they operate in such an audacious fashion that makes a mockery of our national security arrangement.

From the way things are, there seems to be a thin line between Boko Haram and the Fulani herdsmen. Both are agents of death that regale in inflicting pains and sorrows on their victims. Think about many orphans and widows that the duo have unleashed on the society. Perhaps, more fearful, is the fact that they both seem to be above the law of the land. So it seems.

Sadly, as it was the case at the outset of Boko Haram insurgence, the dastardly acts of Fulani herdsmen have not been accorded the requisite handling by appropriate authorities. For instance, it took President Muhammadu Buhari something akin to ages before he eventually came out with a precise position on the appalling activities of the Fulani herdsmen. The motive behind such a costly silence, in the face of acts capable of disintegrating the country, remains a mystery to ordinary Nigerians. It is exactly the same pattern of belated response that gave Boko Haram the necessary impetus that turned it into such a monstrous group in the country. The reason(s) our leaders often wait pointlessly for the blood of hapless compatriots to be spilled in needless circumstances before stemming the tide would continue to be a mystery.

This brings us to the thorny issue of modus operandi of both Boko Haram and Fulani herdsmen. The method of operation of the two groups is quite curious.