Daily Archives: February 21, 2018

Refugees Camp Out at UN Office in Rwanda, Demand Better Conditions

Three thousand to 4,000 Congolese refugees were camped out Wednesday in front of a U.N. office in western Rwanda, demanding better living conditions at their camp.

The refugees refused to go after marching out of the Kiziba camp on Tuesday and protesting in front of the office of UNHCR, the U.N. refugee agency, in the Karongi district.

The army used live ammunition to break up the protest. The protesters said soldiers shot at them and wounded at least two people.

Rwanda has launched an investigation into what sparked the protest.

In a statement, Jean Claude Rwahama, director of refugee affairs in the Ministry of Disaster Management and Refugee Affairs, said “refugee representatives have been meeting camp management, local authorities, as well as U.N. partner agencies to discuss the cause of Tuesday’s incident.”

Rwandan officials blamed the refugees for provoking the violence.

“It is unfortunate that some refugees resorted to violence even as local authorities and security personnel were working to find a solution to their grievances,” said Rwahama.

Earlier Wednesday, a UNHCR official told refugees there was nothing the agency could do for them unless they returned to the camp. He said the issue was now in the hands of the government.

‘We are being abandoned’

Louis Maombi, president of the Congolese refugees committee in Kiziba, told VOA that they were surprised by the change of tone from UNHCR.

“We were promised a meeting with both UNHCR and Rwanda government officials. Now it looks like we are being abandoned,” said Maombi.

Refugees said they would not leave until their issues were resolved.

The protests followed a decision of the World Food Program to reduce food assistance to the refugees by 25 percent because of a funding shortage.

The government statement said all refugees hosted in Rwanda were affected by this decision.

“We are mindful of the rights of refugees but also caution that they must respect the laws of the host country. Police will therefore carry out thorough investigations into this incident, to establish responsibility and ensure it doesn’t reoccur,” the statement said.

The refugees are demanding to be resettled in another country. If that does not happen, they say, they will walk back into the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The Kiziba refugee camp is one of the oldest in Rwanda and home to about 17,000 Congolese. The camp was opened in 1996 to host Congolese who were fleeing insecurity in the eastern DRC.

Some 130,000 Congolese and Burundian refugees living in Rwanda rely on humanitarian assistance for food. They receive either monthly distributions or cash transfers from WFP so that they can buy food in local markets.

Rwanda says it is committed to ensuring the safety of refugees it hosts. “The government will continue to work with various partners, including U.N. agencies, to improve the well-being of all refugees living in Rwanda,” it said.

Source: Voice of America

Corruption Monitor Paints Grim Picture in Africa for 2017

Sub-Saharan Africa continues to appear at the bottom of Transparency International’s annual index, with the violent, chaotic East African nation of Somalia maintaining its 12-year streak as the lowest rated nation on the chart that tracks perceptions of corruption in 180 countries.

The index also found that more than two thirds of the countries surveyed scored below 50 points on the 100-point scale, with an average score of 43. African nations averaged a score of 32. No nation has ever earned a perfect score. New Zealand leads the index with 89 points. Somalia scored just nine.

Transparency International’s regional adviser for Southern Africa, Kate Muwoki, described the year in corruption on the continent.

To put it simply, most African governments are failing to address corruption in the region, although we do have leaders that have invested in systemic responses to build strong institutions and create behavior change, she told VOA from Berlin, where the organization is based. … So, in terms of some of these rays of hope, at the top of the table we have Botswana, Seychelles, Cabo Verde, Rwanda and Namibia, who all score, currently, over 50 And then, in terms of the very bottom of the table, there hasn’t been much change. We still have the likes of South Sudan, Somalia, right at the bottom, and significant declines from countries like Malawi, Madagascar, Mozambique and Guinea-Bissau.

But Muwoki says things may change, as the African Union and several key African leaders, notably the presidents of the two largest economies on the continent, Nigeria and South Africa, have recently made clean governance a pet issue.

Key resignations

The year 2017 also saw the fall of several regimes long accused of shady dealings.

No fewer than four heads of state accused of major financial crimes resigned in the past year: Gambia’s Yahya Jammeh, Angola’s Jose Eduardo dos Santos, Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe and, most recently, South Africa’s Jacob Zuma. A high-level corruption scandal also tainted the administration of Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, who resigned earlier this month amid mounting anti-government protests.

But holdouts remain: The Democratic Republic of Congo’s entrenched, corruption-accused leader has repeatedly postponed elections, and the leaders of Uganda, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Congo, and Cameroon have all long remained in power amid allegations of mismanagement. Corruption investigations continue into current and former officials across the continent.

Rays of hope

Zuma’s successor, Cyril Ramaphosa, has made fighting corruption his key issue. The multi-millionaire businessman, this week, called for top government officials to be audited, starting with himself. Several other African heads of state have done the same in recent years.

Now, if there ever has been anything that many South Africans would like to have line of sight of, it is the lifestyle audit of their public representatives, he said Tuesday. Now that is something that I believe we have to do, and this will be done starting with the executive of the country, yes, we will go in that way, Ramaphosa said.

And in Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari recently announced that all national assets recovered in a recent anti-corruption drive would be sold to benefit the treasury. Buhari is also the chairman of the AU anti-corruption effort.

Muwoki says the global watchdog has noted these new developments, but urged citizens to keep up the pressure by shining light on suspected corruption.

2018 marks a very important year for the continent, she said. We have seen this renewed commitment from the African Union and from leaders at the recent summit in Addis Ababa. It is encouraging and we definitely support this these are some of the things that we would be encouraging civil society and media, and some of these other key stakeholders to hold these leaders to account.

Source: Voice of America

Malian Activist Urges Shakeup of Country’s Politics

This year, Malians will vote in nationwide elections amid discontent over continued insecurity and poverty. Popular anger has found a focal point in a diminutive figure who goes by the name of Ras Bath. Without running for office himself, Ras Bath is an influential figure to watch.

Mohamed Youssouf Bathily, who everybody calls Ras Bath, addresses a rally in Mali’s second city, Sikasso.

With jokes and anecdotes, he paints a picture of how he says Mali’s ruling class holds on to power and perks. Mali’s elites don’t like it one bit but the people can’t get enough of his speeches.

So how did the son of a government minister become the voice of the poor?

The answer to that question lies next door in Senegal.

Ras Bath went to Dakar in 2010 for law school. He met the Senegalese rapper Fadel Barro, who was about to start a popular movement against that would usher then-president Aboulaye Wade to defeat in the 2012 elections. This became “Y’en a marre,” or “We’re fed up.”

“Y’en a marre” went on to inspire Balai Citoyen in Burkina Faso, which helped chase away that country’s long-time ruling elite in 2014. Is Mali next? Yes, says Ras Bath.

“We have tried everything,” he said. “We had empires, we had colonialism, and then we had one-party rule and military rule. We have chosen true democracy, with freedom of conscience, freedom of opinion, freedom to form associations and political parties. But this democracy has been hollowed out. We need to shake things up for it to get better.”

He set up a citizen’s movement called Collective for the Defense of the Republic, or CDR, in 2013. CDR organizes the mass rallies where he speaks.

He also started a radio program, “Cards On The Table,” in 2014.

Live on air, Ras Bath discusses the problems of ordinary Malians, exposes corruption scandals and calls on government ministers to resign. Unheard of in a country where politeness could be said to be part of the national DNA.

And indeed, his critics say that he is too abrasive, too confrontational. As the local saying goes: “Tell the truth but do it gently.”

Ras Bath was arrested in August 2016, a move that provoked violent riots in Bamako. The charge was inciting the army to disobey orders. The Court of Appeal threw out the charge in November of last year.

The activist remains unapologetic.

He says his slogan is “choquer pour eduquer” (“shock, in order to educate”). Ras Bath wants Malians to change their thinking about government.

“Through our taxes, we pay the police to protect our homes, we pay our representatives to keep an eye on the government and we pay the president to rule for the good of us all,” he said. “Judges, lawmakers, presidents are not your masters; they are here to serve you.”

He says these are new ideas in Mali, where authority is revered and rarely questioned.

Few expect a major upset in the upcoming elections. However President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita is criticized for not doing enough to remove armed terrorist groups from the country and to root out the corruption and bad governance that plunged Mali into crisis in 2012.

Malians have taken to the streets to express their discontent, last summer forcing President Keita to abandon efforts to change Mali’s constitution. In the last two months, it was violence against women that brought people out on the streets in protest.

Civic activism is expected to play a major role in elections this year.

A new song, by the up and coming protest singer Soldat, or Soldier, features Ras Bath’s famous slogan: “bua ka bla.” It means: “take a rest.” A clear message to President Keita, who at 72 seeks re-election.

Source: Voice of America

President Ramaphosa tees up for Presidential Golf Challenge

President Cyril Ramaphosa will tee up alongside business leadership and other stakeholders in support of charities at the annual Presidential Golf Challenge at the Atlantic Beach Golf Estate, Melkbosstrand, Western Cape, tomorrow, Thursday 22 February 2018.

This annual challenge is hosted by the Ministry for the Public Service and Administration in partnership with the private sector as part of a programme of activities concentrated around the State of the Nation Address.

The Presidential Golf Challenge raises funds for charities designated by the sitting President and provides an opportunity for networking between government and partners in other sectors of society. The 2018 Presidential Golf Challenge proceeds will be donated to the Cyril Ramaphosa Foundation, which will in turn distribute funds to deserving charities.

President Ramaphosa welcomes private sector funding for charities and commends companies and individuals for finding the means in tough economic times to demonstrate generosity and goodwill in support of needy communities and organisations.

The golf event affords President Ramaphosa an opportunity to emphasise the role of business in economic development and to appreciate the positive impact of corporate social investment on poverty alleviation and the transformation of South African society.

Source: The Presidency Republic of South Africa

Address by the President of the Republic of South Africa and the Commander-in-Chief of the South African National Defence Force, Cyril Ramaphosa, on the occasion of the Armed Forces Day

Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, Ms Nosiviwe Mapisa Nqakula,

Ministers and Deputy Ministers present,

Premier of the Province of the Northern Cape, Ms Sylvia Lucas,

Secretary for Defence, Dr Sam Makhudu Gulube,

Chief of the South African National Defence Force, General Solly Shoke,

Generals, Admirals, Officers, Warrant Officers, Non-Commissioned Officers,

Military Veterans,

Distinguished Guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am honoured to be back in Kimberely for the second time in four days to join the South African National Defence Force and the people of the Northern Cape in hosting Armed Forces Day.

At the interfaith service I attended on Sunday, I saw in our armed forces a reflection of the South Africa we are constantly seeking to build.

I saw the diversity of our country enveloped in your uniforms.

I saw just as I witness today black and white South Africans, young and old, men and women, together.

I saw discipline, commitment and professionalism.

And I saw the warmth of our national character shining through.

The participation of all faiths in the Sunday event was a reminder of the inclusive society we are building.

It was heartening to see the wonderful, creative talent of men and women in uniform on display.

On Sunday, it was our men and women in uniform who lifted the spirit of our nation through the soaring voices of soloists, trumpeters, saxophonists and the vibrant defence choir.

So when we look at our armed forces we see a manifestation of the South Africa that belongs to all of us, black and white, which our Constitution directs us to build.

This day is a reminder that our soldiers are an integral part of us, not an external force.

You are bedrock of our communities.

You are our mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, friends, neighbours.

We dare not fail to appreciate how the peace we enjoy lives alongside the constant vigilance and readiness that enables you to keep us as safe as we are.

You are opening incredible opportunities for young people in both the public and private sectors.

South Africa’s defence technology is globally sought after.

Much of our technological capability shows that we are well positioned, through our armed forces, to participate in the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

This has established our defence sector as an important contributor to innovation in our economy.

It has made defence a sector where young people can exercise not just their physical capabilities, but their creativity and exercise skills across a broad range of endeavours from catering to intelligence gathering, to engineering and project management.

Fellow Compatriots,

A decision was taken in 2012 to proclaim the 21st of February as Armed Forces Day.

It commemorated the day in 1917 when the SS Mendi was sunk in World War I.

The SS Mendi was transporting 823 members of the 5th Battalion, the South African Native Labour Corps to France, when it was struck by the SS Darro.

Over 600 black troops died in the disaster.

It is a day on which we remember the bravery of soldiers prepared to fight in a war that was not theirs.

It is recorded that as the SS Mendi sank, the soldiers chose to die with dignity and honour.

It was this tragedy that SEK Mqhayi recalled in his poem, ‘Ukutshona kukaMendi’.

In it he writes:

Could we have sacrificed anything more precious?

What did it mean to sacrifice a village?

Was it not giving the bull calves of your homestead?

Sending those very ones who loved you as a nation?

We’re talking deep now; we have added our voice,

Proudly we are part of those opening the road to freedom.

In the way Abel was the sacrifice of the earth?

In the way the Messiah was the sacrifice of heaven?

Be consoled, all you orphans!

Be consoled, all you young widows!

Somebody has to die, so that something can be built;

Somebody has to serve, so that others can live

This day has become a day that allows us to remember all men and women who have paid the ultimate price in defence of freedom, peace and justice.

It reminds us that blood was spilled by many of our people to guarantee us our freedom and dignity.

It is a reminder that honourable and courageous men and women continue to put their lives on the line to secure our peace and defend our Constitution.

Compatriots,

This year, Armed Forces Day celebrations carry a profound and special meaning for our nation.

They occur at a time when our defence force has once again demonstrated the deep roots of our Constitutional dispensation.

They are even more significant because they occur in a year when South Africa commemorates the centenary year of our icon and first Commander-in-Chief, President Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela.

It is this SANDF that President Mandela envisaged as a non-partisan unifier and defender of all South Africans.

President Mandela oversaw the formation of the SANDF as a force that upholds the Constitution of the Republic in defence of all its people.

President Mandela left behind a disciplined SANDF that protects our territorial integrity and supports peace and development initiatives on the African continent.

Thank you heartily for your patriotism and for lending a hand in the renewal and development of our beloved country.

We applaud the major role that the Department of Defence is playing in actively promoting our Defence Force as a career of choice.

During the past year, the South African Navy continued to lead the Department of Defence’s participation in Operation Phakisa.

Through Operation Phakisa, the SANDF aims to enhance ship-building.

During this year, the SANDF will lead the rejuvenation of the Naval Dockyard in Simon’s Town.

It will commence with the building of patrol and survey vessels for the South African Navy to rejuvenate the national ship building industry.

This project will create 570 high technical jobs and 4,500 indirect jobs over the next five years.

The SANDF conducted various maritime border safeguarding operations under Operation Corona, ensuring the safety and stability of South Africa’s maritime zones.

Operation Thusano is a departmental initiative with the Cuban armed forces that involves the maintenance and repairing of the SANDF operational vehicle fleet.

From inception in 2015, over 4,000 vehicles have been repaired and several workshops in SANDF units revived.

A total of 446 South Africans are apprentices and a further 395 have qualified as technicians through transfer of practical knowledge by the Cubans.

As I mentioned in the State of the Nation Address, I will soon be visiting the leadership and management of our national departments to see how well we can work together to accelerate the imperatives of service delivery, training and job creation.

As Commander-in-Chief of the South African National Defence Force, I will be prioritising my engagement with the Department of Defence.

On this historic and auspicious day, I wish you well and thank you once more for your loyalty to our country and for your service to our people.

I thank you.

Source: The Presidency Republic of South Africa