Burundi’s President Pierre Nkurunziza is sworn in for a third term at a ceremony in the parliament in Bujumbura, Burundi, Thursday, Aug. 20, 2015. Photo Credit: Voice of America (VOA)
By James Butty | December 14, 2015 12:45 AM
The Burundian government is seeking the extradition from Rwanda of four Burundian journalists working for several private media institutions, including Radio Isanganiro and Radio-TV Renaissance.
Also wanted is Patrick Nduwimana, director of Bonesha FM Radio. The request was reportedly made by the Burundian prosecutor general in a letter to the Rwandan Minister of Justice.
The Burundian government launched a crackdown on independent media after the May 13 failed coup attempt, accusing them of supporting the protests against President Pierre Nkurunziza’s bid to run for a third term. Critics said he was violating the constitution’s two-term limit as well as an agreement that ended Burundi’s 12-year civil war.
President Nkurunziza eventually did run for and win a third five year term in office after a constitutional court ruled in his favor. However, unrest and violent confrontations have continued.
Patrick Nduwimana said the independent Burundian media has never taken sides in the Burundian crisis.
“They (the government) claimed that we have been involved or we are linked to the coup that took place in May, but all this is just nonsense. If we have put on air in our media the statement of the general who proclaimed the coup against Nkurunziza, this does not mean that we were linked to the plan of the coup. We did it as journalists; this is our job; that was a fact; that was the event which happened that time and we just broadcast the statement. So this cannot be the reason or justification for the government hunt and even want to kill journalists,” he said.
Nduwimana said the journalists fled to Rwanda because their safety was not guaranteed in Burundi, and the Rwandan government granted them and thousands of other Burundians asylum in line with international humanitarian law. As such, he said Burundian authorities have no right to ask for their extradition.
Also Sunday, the U.S. government urged its citizens to leave Burundi amid deadly clashes involving the military and police. More than 80 people were killed Friday when armed attackers raided army facilities in the capital Bujumbura.
U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power said this past weekend that “high-level political dialogue” needs to begin immediately between the government and the opposition to try and defuse the situation or else things could “devolve into mass violence.”
The U.S. State Department said it has ordered the departure of non-emergency U.S. officials and the families of personnel.
Nduwimana said the Nkurunziza government should be charged with crimes against humanity.
“There were allegations or reports that an armed group which attacked three military sites or bases in the capital, Bujumbura. After that, police and government militia and some soldiers went into neighborhoods killing young people who were not armed. They rounded them up and shot them. They were not involved in the attack. I think the Burundi of today is guilty of crimes against humanity,” he said.
Nduwimana said the international community should do more to further isolate the government of President Pierre Nkurunziza. He said the United Nations Security Council should stop issuing resolutions that are not backed by action.
Drones are delivering contraceptives to hard-to-reach Ghanaian villages in a program jointly funded by the U.N. and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and it’s so successful that other countries want it too, HuffingtonPost reported.
Deliveries to rural Ghana that once took two days now take 30 minutes by drone, and each flight costs only $15, according to Kanyanta Sunkutu, a South African public health specialist with the U.N. Population Fund.
Sunkutu said he expected the pilot program in Ghana to encounter resistance, and worried people would associate the drones with war. So the U.N., in its program materials, referred to the drones only as “unmanned aerial vehicles” — not drones.
“We don’t want that link between war and what we are doing,” Sunkutu told The Huffington Post in an interview. “But the resistance we thought we would get has not been there.”
Less than than 20 percent of women in sub-Saharan Africa use modern contraceptives. In rural Africa, a flood can shut down roads for days and cut off medical supplies, making access to birth control a massive problem.
An estimated 225 million women in developing countries around the world want to delay or stop childbearing, but don’t have reliable birth control, according to the World Health Organization. This prevents women and girls from finishing school or getting jobs. About 47,000 women die of complications from unsafe abortions each year.
“We are particularly committed to exploring how our family planning efforts can meet the needs of young women and girls,” Bill and Melinda Gates said, according to their foundation website.
The idea to use drones for delivering birth control came from a program in the Amazon, Sunkutu said.
The drone operator packs a five-foot-wide drone with contraceptives and medical supplies from an urban warehouse and sends it over to places hard to reach by car. There, a local health worker meets the drone and picks up the supplies.
Project Last Mile has been flying birth control, condoms and other medical supplies to rural areas of Ghana for several months.
Now it’s expanding to six other African countries. The goal is to revolutionize women’s health and family planning in Africa. Tanzania, Rwanda, Zambia, Ethiopia and Mozambique have expressed an interest.
Using drones to improve reproductive health isn’t exactly a new idea — it’s just new in Africa, according to Huffington Post. In June, a Dutch organization called Women on Waves used a drone to fly abortion pills to Poland, trying to raise awareness of Poland’s restrictive abortion laws.
Project Last Mile says it is the first to develop a long-term, sustainable program for delivering contraceptives by drone.
Sunkutu hopes that eventually drones will revolutionize other areas of rural African life., starting with family planning.
“They can deliver ballots after elections, or exams for school,” he said. It becomes a logistics management solution for hard-to-reach areas. We’re going to use family planning as an entry and make it sustainable.”
This February, HuffPost Black Voices is honoring black men and women who are paving the way to a better future for black America. As part of our “Black Future Month” series, we will highlight the work of deserving individuals who are striving to make the world a more inclusive place for generations to come.
To kick off our series, we’re honoring eight black men and women in mediawho constantly use their voices, across various platforms, to help unify and uplift others. We hope you admire their activism and participate in the conversation online: #BlackFutureMonth.
1. Franchesca Ramsey | Comedian and video blogger
Franchesca Ramsey is one of the most recognized black voices in media. As the host of the MTV web series “Decoded,” Ramsey displays her smarts and humor as she tackles various topics about race and culture. “My ultimate goal is to make people laugh and make them think, which isn’t always an easy task. I like to think my work is furthering black culture by educating and empowering black people,” she told The Huffington Post.
Ramsey says it’s critical we understand the power of our voices, that’s why she uses her platform to talk about the importance of intersectionality. “Black people come in so many different bodies, genders and sexualities, so it’s important that we’re conscious of that so we can fight for a world that embraces and uplifts black people of every kind,” she said. “Our voices are powerful and have the ability to make change.”
2. Marc Lamont Hill | Academic, author and activist
Marc Lamont Hill’s spot-on commentary, powerful political punditry and insightful speeches makes him one of the most important voices of our generation. The scholar, professor and former HuffPost Live host consistently speaks power to the beautiful complexities of what it means to be black, which he defines in profound ways: “Being black means being part of a tradition that has built, fed, healed and inspired the world,” he told The HuffPost. “Being black is my pride.”
Hill says his fearlessness in speaking out against white supremacy and the nation’s neglect for black lives has been molded by the influential work of many black leaders — but it is men like Malcolm X who inspire him most. “He brought me to God. He taught me that books could change, and save, my life. He modeled discipline like I’d never seen before,” he said. Hill’s unflinching commitment to making sure black lives matter is a mission he upholds every day — and he says that if we are to achieve a better future, the movement must go on. “We must continue to organize,” he said. “We must continue to stretch our radical imaginations in ways that embolden us to resist the divisive forces of late capitalism, homophobia, patriarchy, ableism, and much more. I believe that we will win.”
3. Morgan DeBaun | Founder of Blavity
Morgan DeBaun is the main mastermind behind Blavity, a booming news and culture website catered to black millennials. Since the site’s launch in July 2014, DeBaun and co-founder Aaron Samuels have realized their vision to provide a space where thought-provoking, comedic and insightful content merge seamlessly. “I think Blavity amplifies the good work, things and ideas that already exist in communities of color but oftentimes don’t get uplifted,” she told HuffPost.
DeBaun is inspired by the work of iconic black women of the past like Sojourner Truth, who she says was “fierce and so empowered to speak for herself and others to do the right thing in society.” It’s a mission DeBaun upholds through building great platforms like Blavity, which reflects the work of some of the most influential and important black voices around. “If we continue to share stories, news and ideas that are uplifting and engage one another,” DeBaun said, “I think we will continue to make progress towards a strong community.”
4. Wesley Lowery | Reporter at The Washington Post
Wesley Lowery is known as one of the most diligent black professionals in media. As a political reporter at The Washington Post, Lowery has tirelessly covered issues of racial injustice, police violence and housing issues in America, among other topics. His riveting and detailed reporting explores these areas through “humanizing black characters and contextualizing the black experience for a mainstream (and largely white) audience,” he told HuffPost via email.
Lowery’s stellar coverage in Ferguson and respected commentary on social mediahas helped to establish him as one of the most credible reporters around — and he effectively uses tools like Twitter and TV to tell an important part of the black narrative. Understanding their power, he encourages more black people to leverage these platforms to do the same. “For much of American history, black voices were unheard, and therefore essentially voiceless,” he said. “We achieve a better future by refusing to be muted.”
5. Issa Rae | Actress, writer and producer
Issa Rae is an awkward — and talented — black woman who is well on her way to changing the landscape of television. As the creator of the hit web series “Awkard Black Girl” and the founder of Color Creative TV, a platform that showcases the work of minority writers, Rae is helping to highlight stories that expand the narratives around black men and women. “I’m in this awkward definition of blackness,” she previously told HuffPost. “Black is supposed to be cool, black is sassy, black is trendsetting. I just don’t feel that way. It’s almost limited in a way and I feel like black is so much more than that.”
Black is so much more, and Rae isn’t the only one who recognizes that; so do the countless fans that admire and contribute to the platform Rae has built. Collectively, they are telling stories that are redefining blackness — and during a time where the work of people of color often goes unnoticed and undervalued by white Hollywood executives, Rae says now is the time to speak up. She previously told us: “Until you have people in positions of power that have varied experiences, nothing will change.”
6. Kyle Banks, André Verdun Jones and Khary Septh | Founders of The Tenth Zine magazine
Kyle Banks, André Verdun Jones and Khary Septh are Brooklyn-based artists who came together to create The Tenth, a groundbreaking magazine that explores the experiences of being black and gay. The biannual publication, which is filled with glamorous images, amazing art and powerful written pieces, shatters stereotypes around black gay youth and brings dimension to the experiences and battles they face. “A huge issue for us is the black church and the hateful abomination doctrine being spewed from pulpits all across this country. We stand as a line of defense for so many LGBT youth that lack the proper defense against such rhetoric,” Banks told HuffPost. “As we continue to build our platform, this is just one of theissues we intend to tackle head-on.”
Banks said the team gives praise to men like Bayard Rustin, a civil rights icon who “also lived as an openly gay black man during a time when hostility toward both were off the charts,” Banks said. “Baynard Rustin, for us, represents a life lived with integrity and unyielding selflessness.” Through taking ownership of their own narrative, Banks and his team are well on their way to creating revolutionary work. “We believe in W.E.B. Du Bois’ philosophy that ‘earnest hard work, political activism and racial community should be the hallmarks of the black community,'” Banks said. “We also believe in Malcolm’s ‘By any means necessary.’ Ideas for a brighter future are nothing new, you see.”
Anti-government protesters shout in front of the Sale courthouse, Morocco as one holds a portrait of Moroccan editor Ali Anouzla. (Abdeljalil Bounhar, AP)
Rabat – Moroccan journalist Ali Anouzla is to stand trial next month over comments about the Western Sahara that he made to the German press, he said on Sunday.
The head of the Lakome2 website faces charges of “undermining national territorial integrity” at a trial due to begin on February 9, he told AFP.
The prosecution service opened an investigation after he mentioned the Western Sahara as one of three red lines for Moroccan journalists in an interview published last month in the German newspaper Bild, he said.
Bild reported that he listed these limits as “the monarchy, Islam and the occupied Western Sahara.”
Anouzla, who faces up to five years in jail if convicted, said he never called the Western Sahara “occupied” and called the translation “inexact”.
Morocco claims sovereignty over the mineral-rich territory, but the Algeria-backed Polisario Front has been campaigning for its independence since 1973.
UN efforts to organise a referendum on the territory’s future have been resisted by Rabat.
The charges against Anouzla come as he faces others of defending and inciting “terrorism” in another case.
Anouzla was arrested in September 2013 after publishing a link on his website to an al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb video on Morocco.
The African Union General Assembly in session. Photo Credit: The Herald (Zimbabwe)
By Aggrey Mutambo
African Union chairman President Mugabe has been strident in his consistent call for the reform of the UN, arguing that Africa, and also Asia, needed to be heard and that their voices be heard. He has never been a fan of the status quo dominated by former colonialists and western hegemons, a situation that extends even to global financial architecture.
THE African Union is to revive its push to reform the most powerful arm of the United Nations when leaders converge in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, this week.
Despite resistance from five permanent members of the UN Security Council, Heads of State and governments of an AU committee have recommended that member-states discuss the issue again.
The 26th Ordinary Session of the AU General Assembly for heads of state and government will be held on January 30 and 31.
Its theme in 2016: African Year of Human Rights with a particular focus on the Rights of Women.
Last week, the Committee of 10, a group of countries, was formed to lobby for UN reforms and resolved to put the issue as the first item on the agenda.
Other members are Algeria, Libya, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Namibia, Zambia, Uganda, Equatorial Guinea and Congo.
Heads will arrive in Addis at the tail-end of the summit, endorsing or rejecting decisions reached by their foreign ministers.
AFRICA’S LACK OF INFLUENCE
The Security Council is charged with maintaining global peace.
It also admits members to the UN and can approve changes to the agency’s charter.
It has 15 members, but only five are permanent and hold veto powers. They are Russia, China, France, the UK and the USA.
Despite being the recipient of most declarations on peace and security, Africa can have only non-permanent members who do not influence major decisions.
On Tuesday, Foreign Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed said the push for reforms would go on.
“The Security Council does not reflect 21st century political and economic realities. This underrepresentation is discriminatory, unfair and unjust. The C-10 agreed to sustain push for reforms as per the Ezulwini Consensus and Sirte Declaration,” she said.
Kenya, alongside Equatorial Guinea were the main lobbyists for the “Africa Common Position” in 2005.
Despite meeting with permanent members of the Security Council last year, there was no substantial commitment to change anything.
AU wants at least two African countries have permanent slots in the Security Council. The C-10 proposed that the AU assembly resolves also to push for removal of veto powers if no African nation is included in the permanent category.
“The AU heads of state will decide on the timeframe and reaction to be addressed on UNSC. The C-10 will present its report to the heads of state summit,” Ms Mohamed explained.
Africa accuses the permanent members of being undemocratic and using the security council to safeguard their interests. In 2012 and 2013, Kenya was bitter when its attempts to have cases facing
President Uhuru Kenyatta and his Deputy William Ruto at the ICC were deferred, after the US and the UK abstained from the vote.
The first hurdle is the five permanent members but to exact changes to the council requires more than political lobbying. Other countries like Germany, India, Brazil and Japan also feel they should be in the security council.
In fact, the UN itself formed a task force at the turn of the century to collect views on reforms. The team proposed an increase in membership of the security council from 15 to 25.
The suggestion was blocked by the current members who feared their power to veto would be diluted.
Two and a half million people in the Central African Republic (CAR) are facing hunger. Photo: WFP/Bruno Djoye
20 January 2016 – An emergency food security assessment by the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) and its partners has revealed that half the population of the Central African Republic (CAR) – nearly 2.5 million people – faces hunger.
This marks a doubling in the number of hungry people in a one-year period, as conflict and insecurity have led to limited access to and availability of food.
“Three years of crisis have taken a huge toll on the people of CAR,” said Guy Adoua, WFP Deputy Country Director in the country, in a press release.
“Families have been forced so often to sell what they own, pull their kids out of school, even resort to begging, that they have reached the end of their rope. This is not the usual run-of-the-mill emergency. People are left with nothing,” he added.
According to the assessment, one in six women, men and children struggles with severe or extreme food insecurity, while more than one in three is moderately food insecure, not knowing where their next meal is coming from.
“WFP is extremely concerned by this alarming level of hunger. People not only lack enough food but are also forced to consume low-cost, low-nutrient food that does not meet their nutritional needs,” added Mr. Adoua.
The report shows that the 2014-2015 harvest was poor and that food prices remain high as farmers have not tended their fields due to insecurity, and hundreds of thousands have been forced to flee their homes and abandon their land and livelihoods.
Further clashes erupted in late September as much of the food security data for the assessment was being collected. That violence fuelled more displacement as people were slowly returning home. Nearly 1 million people are still displaced inside CAR or seeking refuge in neighbouring countries.
The report recommends continued emergency food assistance to displaced families and returnees; food and technical assistance to farmers to recover; creating safety nets through programmes such as the school meals programme; and providing support to rehabilitate the infrastructure through food-for-assets activities.
Meanwhile, WFP is providing emergency food and nutritional support to those most vulnerable and plays a crucial role in supporting recovery efforts. The agency’s programmes focused on cash-based transfers and local food purchases going into school meals for thousands of children boost the local economy and people’s livelihoods.
“We must help the most vulnerable, who need emergency food assistance to survive, yet we also need to focus on people across CAR so they can recover and rebuild,” stressed Mr. Adoua.
In December 2015, WFP provided food for nearly 400,000 people through general food distributions, cash-based transfers, nutrition support and school meals, as well as food-for-assets activities, but $41 million is required so that it can respond to urgent needs through to the end of June. To date, WFP’s operation is only 45 per cent funded.
This article was published in the United Nations News Centre.
Kristalina Georgieva of the European Commission, an author of the report, in Athens last month (Simela Pantzartzi/European Pressphoto Agency).
UNITED NATIONS — What if the next time you buy World Cup tickets or summon an Uber ride, you found yourself paying a few cents extra to pay for winter blankets for Syrian refugees or clean water for those displaced in Darfur, Sudan?
That idea — a small tax on high-volume goods and services — is among those proposed by an independent panel appointed by the United Nations to figure out how to pay for the staggering humanitarian crises facing the world today. The report, released Sunday, plainly acknowledges the limits of traditional charity on the part of the world’s rich and calls for a sea change in thinking about how to pay for lifesaving aid in what the Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, called “the age of the megacrises.”
The nine-member panel’s report comes as new conflicts erupt in places like Yemen, old ones persist in places like Darfur and climate change intensifies floods and droughts in already fragile countries. Aid for the millions of people affected has sharply risen, but it has not kept pace with demands.
The world needs $40 billion each year to meet the needs of those affected by wars and natural disasters and already faces a shortfall of $15 billion for this year. Those needs are expected to grow; as the report stated bluntly, “Never before has generosity been so insufficient.” Already, food aid has been repeatedly slashed for refugees fleeing conflict in places like Somalia and Syria.
The panel — which includes representatives of donor governments, corporations and civil society — takes pains to point out that despite the growing needs, what the world needs to pony up for emergency relief is a fraction of the $78 trillion global economy. It also argues that in the end, while “helping people in distress is morally right,” providing aid is also in the interest of donor countries.
“Today’s massive scale of instability and its capacity to cross borders, vividly demonstrated by the refugee crisis in Europe, makes humanitarian aid a global public good that requires an appropriate fund-raising model,” the report says.
The conventional wisdom for the humanitarian aid sector had been that most conflicts would be short-lived — and that aid agencies could rely on voluntary contributions from a handful of rich nations to meet those needs. That wisdom no longer always applies. For instance, some conflicts drag on for so long that those who are displaced from their homes remain displaced for an average of 17 years. Countries that host refugees feel the impact acutely, but do not always have direct access to donor money. And refugees are often prohibited from working in the countries where they are living.
The report also suggests tapping into what it calls “Islamic social finance” to help meet humanitarian needs in the Muslim world in particular. That could include earmarking a portion of “zakat,” the ritual annual donation that Muslims are urged to make as an element of their faith.
In addition, the panel suggests that middle-income countries like Jordan, which is hosting hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees, should be able to tap into grants and loans that are currently available only to the poorest countries.
The report urges money transfer agencies to drop their fees, which is a nod to the importance of remittances from migrants to their home countries, especially in times of crisis. The authors of the report also encourage more cash assistance, rather than food, tents and blankets. They cite one 2014 study in which 70 percent of a sample group of Syrian refugees traded “in-kind assistance they received for cash.”
The authors nudge newly wealthy countries to be more generous, suggest that aid officials should tap the private sector more creatively, and fault some United Nations agencies for failing to systematically track and report on how its donor money is spent.
The microtax idea is modeled after a tax on airfare that helped raise about $2 billion between 2006 and 2011, largely for immunization programs worldwide.
The panel members could not agree on exactly what to tax, nor the rates at which to tax. That absence of consensus was a measure of how difficult it could be to come up with such a humanitarian tax.
But it has an important backer: one of the leaders of the panel, Kristalina Georgieva of Bulgaria, the European Commission’s vice president for budget and human resources.
“I’m in support of a voluntary levy,” she told reporters in a briefing before the report was released. She added that the taxes could be small ones on concerts, sports events, even taxi rides.
Ms. Georgieva is among those whose names have been floated as Mr. Ban’s potential successor as secretary general.
President Paul Kagame of Rwanda and President Joseph Kabila of DRC. Photo Credit: Paul Kagame
By Nick Branson and Jamie Hitchen
Staying Power: Referenda in the Republic of Congo and Rwanda have paved the way for presidents Sassou Nguesso and Kagame to extend their tenures. In the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), President Kabila appears intent on remaining in power beyond the end of his second term in November 2016. Kabila’s political machinations have been met with violent protest and international opprobrium. By contrast in Benin, incumbent president Boni Yayi has resolved to step down when he completes his second term in February 2016.
Africa Debt Rising: Sovereign bond issuance rose dramatically as commodity markets peaked in 2014, before tailing off as the price of oil and export minerals collapsed. With budget deficits approaching unsustainable levels in many countries and the supply of cheap debt in decline, some African governments face tough choices – cut spending or dramatically improve domestic revenue collection. This new reality will be inescapable for Zambia and Ghana in an election year. In 2015, their currencies were devalued substantially and visits from the IMF further raised concerns about the sustainability of debt levels. 2016 may see the IMF revert to a more familiar role of supervising austerity measures, albeit in a less conspicuous fashion than during the structural adjustment era; whilst Ghana accepted IMF support, Zambia has so far rejected a financial bailout package.
Economic Opportunity: African economies that rely heavily on oil and other commodity exports – including Nigeria, Angola and Zambia – continue to suffer due to low or declining prices. But this setback also provides an opportunity to focus on diversifying their economies. In Nigeria, there is much talk of revitalising agriculture. In East Africa, efforts are being made to reduce economic inefficiencies and improve productivity: progress in regional telecom reform, for example, demonstrates much from which the rest of the continent can learn.
Insecurity in Nigeria: Many Nigerians voted for Muhammadu Buhari because of his campaign commitments to tackle corruption and defeat Boko Haram. The arrest of former National Security Adviser Sambo Dasuki for allegedly overseeing illicit and financially fraudulent transactions worth billions of naira is highly symbolic. Despite an announcement that the government has “technically won the war” against the Boko Haram insurgency, military action has not yet been convincing and the threat remains. The renegotiation of the Niger Delta amnesty and recent agitation by Biafran separatists illustrate the security challenges facing Buhari’s government.
Urban Transport: In September 2015 Addis Ababa opened the first part of a new 17km light rail system funded in part by Chinese investment. A similar venture that forms part of the urban plan in Lagos has been beset by delays. However, Governor Ambode of Lagos State has promised that the first line will be operational by December 2016. Dar es Salaam’s bus rapid transit (BRT) system failed to open as planned in October 2015 but is expected to launch in the first quarter of 2016. New urban transport networks will need to be affordable for the everyday commuter if they are to successfully reduce congestion and improve the productivity of cities.
Flying Donkeys: The world’s first civilian cargo drone station is set to open in Rwanda in 2016. “Flying donkeys” will be capable of carrying small packages across distances of up to 80km and could help to overcome some infrastructure challenges. Regulation concerning the use of unmanned vehicles is in the process of being drafted by Rwanda’s civil aviation authority and a successful pilot should see a nationwide network of cargo drone routes established.
Sorting out the Union: The post-election crisis in Zanzibar has highlighted the shortcomings of Tanzania’s current political configuration and reignited calls for power to be shared more equitably among the constituent parts of the Union. Tanzania remains the only African nation to possess a dual-government structure, a lopsided arrangement that falls short of being a fully-fledged federation. Zanzibar retains its own executive, legislature, and judicial system; while a parliament in Dodoma and a president in Dar es Salaam take decisions for both the mainland and the Union as a whole. Tanzania’s president, John Magufuli, may consider constitutional reform as a solution to the impasse in Zanzibar; however, he will face resistance from his own party, which has repeatedly rejected changes to the status quo.
The Prominence of Social Media: African youth harnessed the potential of modern communication tools to mobilise protests in Burkina Faso and South Africa, successfully preventing a military coup and halting significant rises in university tuition fees. Twitter hashtags are becoming important tools for mobilisation and are likely to become more prominent as the cost of communication decreases. Governments are already responding to this perceived threat. Tanzania rushed through four pieces of legislation relating to access to information, media, statistics and cybercrime in 2015, while Nigeria may adopt a social media bill in 2016.
The Battle for the ANC: In South Africa, rumours have been circulating about plots to oust President Zuma mid-term. Zuma famously usurped Mbeki as ANC president at the national conference in Polokwane in December 2007, positioning him to become head of state, following the April 2009 elections. Zuma’s decision to fire Nhlanhla Nene as finance minister was an assertion of his authority that backfired. With the ruling party likely to lose control of important metropolitan authorities at municipal elections in 2016, the campaign to succeed Zuma will dominate South African politics right up until the next ANC national conference in December 2017.
A Changing Climate: In 2015, flooding in Freetown and Accra devastated urban areas whilst El Niño brought drought to rural Zimbabwe and Ethiopia. Unpredictable weather will be a continuing feature in years to come, despite the agreement reached at COP21 in Paris. Long term commitments can work alongside short-term solutions: improved urban management and support for the growing of drought resistant crops like finger millet. But weather can also offer opportunity for the continent. Renewable energy, in particular solar, wind and geothermal, has been cited as a key avenue for tackling the power deficit on the continent by African Development Bank president, Akinwumi Adesina.
Nick Branson and Jamie Hitchen are researchers at ARI.
Thirty-six people died in Kinshasa in January during demonstrations sparked by perceived attempts by President Joseph Kabila of the Democratic Republic of the Congo to stay in power after his second and final term. A few months later and just across the border, protesters took to the streets of Bujumbura in April when Burundi’s President Pierre Nkurunziza announced plans to seek a constitutionally tenuous third term in office.
President Denis Sassou Nguesso’s security forces in the Republic of Congo used deadly force against demonstrators in Brazzaville and put opposition leaders under house arrest in October, when they expressed disagreement with a constitutional referendum to allow the leader to run for a third term. And while mass street demonstrations were noticeably absent in Kigali, Rwanda’s parliament and judiciary successfully cleared several legal hurdles this year to enable President Paul Kagame to run again after his second, seven-year term comes to an end in 2017.
It was rare that a week went by without discussion related to these East and Central African leaders’ efforts to seek a third term in office. All four leaders have been accused of human rights abuses during their tenures, with some of the loudest allegations related to crackdowns against opponents and protesters who pushed back against the maneuvers to extend presidential mandates beyond existing term limits.
Despite the controversies, the leaders kept their titles and remained at the top. This made 2015 the year that the region’s strongmen found ways to legally cling to power. Using a term recently coined by Human Rights Watch, it was the year of the “constitutional coup.”
“Military coups are no longer de rigueur,” HRW deputy director Anneke Van Woudenberg and researcher Ida Sawyer wrote in Foreign Policy in November, noting that the shift was partially caused by the African Union’s decision not to recognize administrations that achieve power by force. “Instead, African leaders who are unwilling to abide by term limits, or unfavorable election results, prefer to simply change the laws and constitutions that stand in their way.”
Constitutional changes and legal judgments helped pave the way for these presidents to pursue lifelong leadership. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo or DRC, it was a proposed amendment that would have postponed the 2016 elections until a nationwide census was completed — a move critics believed would let Kabila sidestep constitutional term limits and stay in power for several more years.
After the deadly protests in January, the proposal was revoked. But in the months since, the government has detained protesters and opposition members in an attempt to silence peaceful activists, according to a December report from Human Rights Watch. It’s still unclear what Kabila will do.
Next door in Congo, Sassou Nguesso used a constitutional referendum to lift both the age and term limits that would have made him ineligible. The changes passed with 92 percent voting in favor — although the opposition accused the regime of lying about voter turnout — and the president is expected to move forward and call elections by spring of 2016. Experts say he is unlikely to step down willingly; he has after all been president since 1997, and before that from 1979 to 1992. Sassou Nguesso has not groomed a successor who would protect the president from international criminal cases and look after the assets his family has secured during its reign, according to Stanford University fellow Brett Logan Carter.
“Sassou Nguesso doesn’t want to risk this,” Carter said ahead of the referendum vote, noting the leader has likely become more fearful after seeing fellow African strongmen like Libya’s Muammar Qaddafi and Burkina Faso’s Blaise Compaoré fall from power. “There is no one else for Sassou Nguesso to transfer power to, so in a way he’s been forced into this position.”
Most recently, Rwanda held a constitutional referendum of its own on December 18, giving the public the right to chose whether to change the constitutional term limits. The country’s parliament and judiciary had already lifted several hurdles to allow President Kagame to extend his rule, and the referendum was seen as the final step. According to official results, 98 percent voted in favor of the changes that, in theory, will allow the leader to serve another seven-year term, followed by two five-year terms. In other words, he could be in power until 2034.
Earlier this year as the parliament and judiciary began to clear the way for these changes, University of Buffalo political science professor r Reverien Mfizi — a survivor of the 1994 Rwandan genocide — explained that all those legal steps were part of an attempt to give the process a sense of legitimacy.
The constitutional changes have been framed, Mfizi said, as a normal process of Rwandans deciding for themselves whether or not Kagame gets to seek another round as head of state. All of this occurred without any public protest — in fact, the government has frequently referenced a nationwide poll showing an overwhelming majority was for Kagame running again.
“Kagame is a very smart, very thoughtful leader. I don’t always agree with him, but you have to admire how clever he is,” Mfizi said. “What’s missing from that story is it’s virtually impossible to oppose the regime.”
But arguably, the highest-profile power grab this year with the deadliest and most destabilizing effects came from Nkurunziza in Burundi. Almost eight months after the leader announced third-term plans, pushing demonstrators out into the streets to protest the move, the country has been engulfed in continued political instability and violence.
Nkurunziza pursued a new term despite a clearly outlined two-term limit in the constitution, which was established in 2005 as part of the Arusha peace agreement that ended the country’s decade-long civil war. The constitutional court cleared the former rebel leader to run, saying he had been appointed to his first term in 2005, not democratically elected.
Protests quickly turned violent as police cracked down on demonstrators, while opponents and Nkurunziza supporters clashed with each other in the streets. As dozens were killed and tens of thousands fled to refugee camps in neighboring countries including Rwanda, Tanzania, and the DRC, Nkurunziza pushed on with his reelection campaign — even as regional and international organizations and governments called on him to step aside. He ultimately claimed victory at the polls in July, and the crisis shifted to politically motivated violence, disappearances, and assassinations on both sides.
A Burundian protester during an anti-government demonstration in the capital Bujumbura, on June 3, 2015. Protesters said they were disappointed that East African leaders didn’t ask President Pierre Nkurunziza to give up his bid for a third term. Photo by Dai Kurokawa / EPA
The situation has hit a critical point in recent weeks. To date, at least 300 people have reportedly been killed and more than 200,000 have fled the country since the violence began in April. On December 11, armed assailants waged a series of seemingly coordinated attacks on three military bases. Gunfire rang through the capital all day as security forces clashed with the fighters, and the next day 87 bodies were found on the streets of Bujumbura. In the day after the attack, a report from the International Federation for Human Rights found 300 young, unarmed civilians had disappeared, 154 of whom have since turned up dead. The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein became just the latest to stress the looming risk of all-out conflict, stating that Burundi was on “the very cusp of civil war.”
In response, the African Union took a major step and approved the deployment of 5,000 peacekeepers to be sent to the country. Known as the African Prevention and Protection Mission in Burundi, the plan is backed by the United Nations Security Council, while the Burundian government has said it would not allow foreign troops to enter its borders.
“If the situation continues, the African Union and international community cannot sit by and watch genocide, if it is going to develop into that,” said Erastus Mwencha, the deputy chairman of the African Union Commission.
The international community now awaits formal notice from Burundi and for the AU to decide whether it will send troops anyway, even if the Bujumbura authorities do not approve. Meanwhile, how Nkurunziza responds internally will be key. For months, observers have cited the leader’s perceived will to get a third term at all costs.
“Is there somewhere in the Bible where leaders are called on to massacre their people?”
A lot of the discussion surrounding Nkurunziza’s political ambitions has centered around his belief that he has risen to power by God’s will. The born-again Christian leader has stuck to the divine narrative particularly hard in recent months, even thanking God for winning the July elections and saying God would take care of the country’s rebels.
His fellow strongman on Burundi’s northern border, Rwanda’s Kagame, has questioned both Nkurunziza’s power grab and his belief in God. In a November speech, Kagame said Burundi should learn from the experience of the Rwandan genocide in 1994, while calling out the government’s failure to stop the internal violence.
“Burundi’s leaders pride themselves on being men of God, some are even pastors,” Kagame said. “But in what God do they believe?… Is there somewhere in the Bible where leaders are called on to massacre their people?”
LAGOS, the congested commercial capital of Nigeria, has a population variously estimated at anything from 12m-21m. But what is certain is that people are moving to the megacity and its smaller counterparts across the continent in droves—and not into brand new flats with recently acquired mortgages.
With around 40% of its people living in cities, sub-Saharan Africa is the world’s least urbanised region. But it is changing fast: the UN predicts that its urban inhabitants will more than treble in number to 1.1 billion by 2050, accounting for 56% of the region’s population. By 2030 Dar es Salaam, Johannesburg and Luanda will have joined Kinshasa and Lagos as megacities, each with more than 10m people.
Most of that growth will be in slums, which are currently doubling in size every 15 years while they shrink in many other parts of the world. They’re not always cheap to live in, either. Economists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology found that in Kibera, a Nairobi slum, residents devoted almost a third of their non-food expenditures to rent. More than 90% of them are tenants. In Kenya’s countryside, by contrast, 90% of households pay no rent at all, typically because they built their own shelter on informally owned land.
Rural migrants who want to take advantage of the opportunities Africa’s cities have to offer often have no choice; formal housing is unaffordable in most countries. The cheapest new, privately-built formal house in Ethiopia cost $68,783 in 2013, according to the Centre for Affordable Housing Finance in Africa, a South African non-profit. A 100 square metre state-subsidised apartment sold for $16,600, 35 times the average Ethiopian’s earnings (by comparison, in Britain the ratio is around five times). Even in Mali the cheapest legally-built private homes in the region, at $5,800 (plus another $1,000 to $4,000 for land, depending on location) are out of reach for most.
It is no surprise that sub-Saharan Africa has the smallest mortgage market in the world. Just 3.7% of adults in urban areas had any type of home loan in 2011, according to a World Bank report released this week. The value of Nigeria’s mortgages more than quadrupled between 2006 and 2011, but was still equivalent to no more than 0.5% of GDP, compared with more than 25% in South Africa.
That won’t change until more of the region’s land is registered (just 10% was in 2013) and the tangles of state and customary ownership are resolved. Rwanda’s computerised land registry is the kind of reform that might help. It cut the time it takes to transfer a property from a year to a month. Countries from Ghana to Uganda are trying similar reforms. African cities will also have to invest huge sums in sewage systems, roads and other infrastructure if they want to house the millions of people who are likely to move there in the coming years. In the meantime Africa’s slums will continue to swell.