Daily Archives: December 21, 2018

In Congo, Will President’s Chosen Successor Have Real Power?

KINSHASA, CONGO The crowd roared as the wife of Congo’s departing president pressed her palm to the forehead of the anointed successor and appeared to pray.

A benediction for the man whom President Joseph Kabila has positioned to take over is likely not needed. As this huge Central African nation swings toward a Dec. 30 election that could be its first peaceful, democratic transfer of power, a vocal opposition fears that the long-delayed vote will be rigged in favor of Kabila’s ruling party.

Kabila’s chosen candidate, Emanuel Ramazani Shadary, has not made waves in Congolese politics. That’s the point, critics say. They believe Shadary will just keep the presidential seat warm until 2023, when Kabila can return to office.

Kabila supported those suspicions this month when his camp summoned foreign correspondents to the capital, Kinshasa, for rare interviews in which he cheerfully hinted he would be back in five years’ time. The constitution merely blocks three consecutive mandates, he said. You should never rule out anything.

And with that, critics warn that Shadary will play Medvedev to Kabila’s Putin, president in name only while Kabila holds power behind the scenes in a country with mineral resources worth trillions of dollars and yet one of the least developed in the world. Russian President Vladimir Putin avoided term limits in 2008 by putting forward an ally, Dmitry Medvedev, as president until he could return four years later.

Kabila in his interview with The Associated Press only mentioned Shadary if asked about him.

When Kabila announced months ago that he would step aside and named his preferred candidate, Shadary offered thanks to almighty God for the grace he has shown us. When Kabila’s wife blessed him in front of a campaign crowd earlier this month, he replied, Amen.

The 58-year-old Shadary has been described as a loyalist, not only to Kabila but to his father, former President Laurent Kabila. Shadary on Twitter in recent months has posted as much about Joseph Kabila, an exceptional man in Africa and around the world, as about himself.

More soldier than general, is how the International Crisis Group has described Shadary, pointing out that he does not have an independent power base.

Months before he was announced in August as Kabila’s chosen successor, Shadary told Radio France International he was not a presidential candidate and in fact was going to run for re-election as a national deputy from Maniema province in the east.

Shadary, the father of eight children and a Catholic, is a native of Kabambare in Maniema. He studied political science and rose through the ranks of Kabila’s People’s Party for Reconstruction and Democracy.

He is a former interior minister, a role in which he directed the government’s response to months of deadly protests across the country over the delayed election, originally due in late 2016. In some of protesters’ most vivid confrontations with security forces, diplomats and others gathered at Kinshasa’s Catholic cathedral were tear-gassed, and altar boys were arrested. Pope Francis appealed for peace.

For his success in the political crisis, his ruling party bio says, Shadary was named party secretary-general by Kabila early this year. He also gained the nickname the man of difficult situations.

The European Union, however, sanctioned Shadary along with more than a dozen other Congolese officials, accusing him of obstructing Congo’s electoral process and directing the crackdown on protesters.

As the election approached, Congo’s foreign minister this month asked the EU’s foreign policy chief to lift the illegal sanctions or at least suspend them for a probationary period as a compromise.

But days later, the EU prolonged the sanctions on Shadary and others, saying travel bans and asset freezes would be renewed for a year. Annoyed, Kabila’s special adviser Kikaya Bin Karubi accused the EU of interfering in the election.

Shadary faces the Dec. 30 vote as candidate for the recently formed Common Front for Congo coalition. Kabila is considered its moral authority.

Shadary has two main challengers after opposition parties briefly managed to rally behind a single candidate and then broke apart. Martin Fayulu leads the remainder of that coalition. Felix Tshisekedi, head of Congo’s most prominent opposition party, joined forces with Vital Kamerhe, who finished third in the 2011 election and agreed to throw his party’s support behind him.

Two other opposition candidates with strong followings, Jean-Pierre Bemba and Moise Katumbi, were blocked by Congolese authorities from running.

Whoever receives the most votes wins, even without an absolute majority.

Shadary has vowed to be an effective leader who will act against corruption in a country notorious for it.

But his campaign is not convincing, said Al Kitenge, a Congolese economic analyst. Shadary’s governance program … is not very ambitious, nor geared toward addressing the challenges of our country.

Source: Voice of America

Gunmen Kill 25 in Northern Nigeria Village Raids

KANO, NIGERIA At least 25 people were killed when armed men raided two villages in a northern Nigerian state wracked by cattle rustling and kidnapping for ransom, witnesses and the police said on Friday.

Gunmen on motorcycles on Wednesday invaded the villages of Gidan Halilu and Gidan Kaka in Birnin Magaji district of Zamfara state, they said.

“We lost 25 people in the attacks, which were carried out by cattle thieves who have been terrorizing us for years,” Usman Wadatau, a community leader in Gidan Halilu, told AFP.

“We lost 16 people in Gidan Halilu and nine in Gidan Kaka,” he said.

Four of those killed in Gidan Halilu were volunteers from nearby Nassarawa Godel who had mobilized to help fight off the attackers, Gidan Kaka resident Bube Mada said.

In the first attack, which occurred around 1:00 pm (1200 GMT), the bandits opened fire on farmers harvesting sweet potatoes outside Gidan Halilu, killing nine, Mada told AFP.

“The gunmen left after the attack on the farm but returned around 5:00 pm when we were preparing the bodies of the victims for burial and opened fire on the mourners, killing three people,” Wadatau said.

“Some people from our neighbors in Nassawa Godel mobilized to help but the attackers opened fire on them and killed four,” he said.

“The gunmen moved to Gidan Kaka and shot dead nine residents,” said Mada who supported Watadau’s account.

Zamfara state police spokesman Mohammed Shehu confirmed the attacks but said only five people were killed.

“On getting to the scene, five corpses were recovered with one other person injured,” Shehu said.

It is common in Nigeria for security personnel to give lower casualty figures.

Farming and herding communities in Zamfara have been terrorized for years by cattle thieves and kidnappers who raid villages, steal cows, abduct residents for ransom and burn homes.

The frequent attacks have prompted villages to form local militia for protection.

However the villagers too are accused of carrying out extra-judicial killings of suspected bandits, leading to tit-for-tat violence.

In April, troops were deployed to Zamfara to fight the gangs and police banned the civilian militia in an attempt to curb the cycle of reprisals but the violence has continued.

Last month the police claimed to have killed 104 bandits in Birnin Magaji district during a clash in which 16 policemen were killed.

Early this month, an influential traditional ruler in the state called for civilian militia members to be given assault rifles to defend themselves.

Source: Voice of America

Zimbabwe Teachers End Two-Week March for Better Pay

HARARE, ZIMBABWE A group of teachers finished a 300-kilometer protest march Thursday to push President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government to pay them in U.S. dollars and improve their working conditions. But, the government refused to meet with them when they arrived in Harare.

Members of Amalgamated Rural Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe sang No to bond notes salaries as they arrived in Harare Thursday.

That marked the end of their two-week-long march from Mutare to Harare, where they wanted to petition the government to pay them in U.S. dollars.

We should be paid in U.S. dollars, because we last negotiate with the government in U.S. dollars, now they are saying the U.S. dollars is 1-to-1 with bond note, when the reality is not the same when you want to buy. The bond note is not equivalent to the U.S. dollar, said Robson Chere, the secretary-general of the Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe.

The teachers say the bond notes are losing value and are worth about one-fourth of a U.S. dollar. Zimbabwe started printing the currency two years ago to ease cash shortages.

This month, Zimbabwe’s doctors were the first to demand salaries in U.S. dollars, and they are still on strike.

Health minister Obadiah Moyo said the government can’t meet these demands.

We don’t want to lie to each other or waste each other’s time, he said. We all know that there is no foreign currency to even buy the medicines, which they use in hospitals, let alone foreign currency to be paid to individuals.

The teachers’ salary caravan was blocked by arrests until Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights intervened for the release of the teachers who had been detained during the protest.

It was a journey which we faced some challenges along the way: victimization, some of our colleagues injured, developed blisters, union chief Chere said. Also we were arrested several times along the way as well. They were frustrating us because they did not want us to reach Harare send a message to the government.

After being denied a meeting with Zimbabwe’s finance minister, Mthuli Ncube, teachers’ union official Obert Masaraure said the protest will continue.

We will permanently reside here, schools are not going to be opening, all the teachers are gong to be residing here, he said. We are confident that when schools open, more teachers are going to be residing here until the grievance of salaries is addressed. We are determined to be here for as long as it takes.

Wednesday, the government said Vice President Constantino Chiwenga would soon meet the striking doctors.

President Mnangagwa plans to meet Friday with another group of teachers that did not take part in the salary caravan.

The marching teachers say they don’t need a meeting because the president already knows their problems and demands.

Source: Voice of America

Nigeria OKs Firearms for its Road Safety Officers

ABUJA, NIGERIA Nigeria’s Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) has secured government approval for their officers to carry firearms. The commission pushed for the measure after an increase in road crimes and attacks on members of the corps. But not all Nigerians are happy with the idea that the people responsible for road safety will have deadly weapons at their disposal.

Blasting horns coming from vehicles in congested traffic is a morning ritual on this road in the center of Nigeria’s capital.

Members of Nigeria’s road safety squad are directing traffic. This is their daily routine.

Sini Kwabe is national coordinator of the road officers and a special marshal.

I discovered that this is one of the spots that is so bad in terms of traffic congestion, and I decided to call my people to come out as early as possible today and I had to join them to make sure that we decongest, Kwabe said.

Officers trained

But the duties of Nigeria’s road corps could be taking a new twist soon. Kwabe says the corps has secured government approval to carry firearms.

For three decades, the safety squad has conducted its operations without being armed.

Kwabe says his officers are well trained.

The federal government has approved that and the officers and men have already undertaken their training, he said. When we had our own training two years back I was privileged to be part of the management.

A recent spate of attacks on road corps members by armed robbers and reckless drivers prompted the government’s decision.

More than 70 corps members have been killed in the last year by armed robbers or hit-and-run drivers.

Some drivers, officials worried

But the prospect of armed road marshals has raised worry among some residents of Abuja.

Commercial cab driver Moses Ndawo explains his concerns.

For them to have a gun is a suicide mission, with all those experiences that I have … because I don’t see the reason. They never have guns. They’re doing all this. By the time he has gun, nobody can withstand or talk to him. By the time you say one thing they can shoot.

Fidelis Nnadi is the executive director for Accidents Prevention and Rescue Initiative, a nongovernmental organization. He says he does not like the plan for armed road officers.

The federal road safety commission does not need arms because by virtue of their creation, by virtue if their establishment � they’re established to ensure safety of road users. Road safety is more of a civil matter … civil outfit, it is not a security agency.

It is not clear when the road corps will begin carrying firearms. When it happens, Nigerians will be watching and wondering � will their weapons make the roads safer, or more dangerous?

Source: Voice of America

SPAIN: 11 AFRICAN MIGRANTS FOUND DEAD IN BOAT – COASTGUARD

MADRID, Eleven migrants have been found dead in a boat in the sea off southern Spain along with 33 survivors, the Spanish coastguard said.

A coastguard spokeswoman said that rescuers had taken the migrants, who came from sub-Saharan Africa, to the Spanish port of Almeria early Thursday.

She said rescue services had been searching for the boat for two days in the sea between Spain’s southern Andalusia region and the north of Morocco.

“Eleven people were found dead on board and 33 alive” – four women and 29 men, she said.

There was no indication that minors were among the dead or the survivors.

The coastguard is searching for three other boats in the same area, each with between 50 and 55 migrants on board.

Spain has become one of the main points of entry into Europe for irregular migration, ahead of Greece and Italy.

The International Organization for Migration says that more than 55,000 migrants have arrived in Spain by sea this year, and that 744 have died trying, more than three times as many as in 2017.

Source: NAM News Network