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Chibok girls to reunite with parents ‘next week’: Nigeria

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Eighty-two Chibok schoolgirls who were released after being held for more than three years by Boko Haram will be reunited with their parents next week, according to Nigeria's minister for women.

Aisha Alhassan said the students' parents will travel from the remote northeastern town in Borno state to meet their daughters in the capital, Abuja.

"Any parents that identified their children will be brought next week to see them," she told AFP at the staff quarters of the Department of State Services.

The 82 have been staying at the domestic intelligence agency facility on the outskirts of the city since their release in a prisoner swap deal on Saturday after months of negotiations.

The Islamist militants seized 276 girls in April 2014, triggering global condemnation and drawing attention to the bloody insurgency.

Chibok schoolgirls: 'One refused to be released' Pressure on Buhari's health led to Chibok girls' release  Boko Haram frees 82 Chibok girls Timeline of events since Boko Haram abducted Chibok girls

Fifty-seven escaped in the immediate aftermath. Of the 219 who did not manage to flee, 106 have either been released or found, leaving 113 still missing.

First Lady Aisha Buhari, whose husband President Muhammadu Buhari was elected on a pledge to defeat Boko Haram, met some of the Chibok girls on Wednesday.

The girls, dressed in colourful traditional ankara print dresses, sang songs and danced in front of the cameras.

Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari (centre) sitting among the 82 rescued Chibok girls during a reception ceremony at the Presidential Villa in Abuja, on May 7, 2017. PHOTO | AFP

The women's minister said the recently-released 82 would be reunited at another facility in the capital with 24 of their classmates who were released or found last year.

They will receive "psycho-social therapy" and "vocational training" to help them reintegrate into society.

Campaign groups and families have criticised the government for keeping the previously released girls away from their parents but Alhassan said they were free to come and go from the centre.

Most chose to stay in the capital, she added.

Some of the 82 released Chibok girls waiting before a meeting with Nigeria's President at the Presidential Villa in Abuja, on May 7, 2017. PHOTO | AFP

The government's goal is to have all the girls back in school at the start of the new academic year, she added, without specifying where. 

"I believe from now to September, these other ones (the recently released 82 girls) would have stabilised and we will be able to take all of them back to school in September."

Thousands of women and young girls have been abducted in the eight-year insurgency, which has left at least 20,000 people dead and displaced more than 2.6 million.

Information minister Lai Mohammed meanwhile indicated talks with Boko Haram about the release of the remaining 113 girls could pave the way for a possible end to the conflict.

"We are looking beyond the release of these girls. We are looking a something much more comprehensive, which is the cessation of all hostilities," he said.

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Wed May 10 06:28:06 EAT 2017

Chibok schoolgirls: 'One refused to be released'

A girl refused to be part of a release deal because she is now married to a militant fighter.

Tue May 09 07:08:49 EAT 2017 Pressure on Buhari's health led to Chibok girls' release  Sun May 07 07:56:13 EAT 2017 Boko Haram frees 82 Chibok girls Sun May 07 09:03:07 EAT 2017 Timeline of events since Boko Haram abducted Chibok girls

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Dlamini-Zuma’s campaign to become next ANC leader struggles to find feet outside KZN – Times LIVE

Dlamini-Zuma's campaign to become next ANC leader struggles to find feet outside KZN

Qaanitah Hunter | 2017-05-20 16:33:48.0

Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma pulled out of a cadres forum meeting on Saturday. File photo.

Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma's campaign to become the next ANC president struggled to find its feet outside her stronghold of KwaZulu-Natal.

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Dlamini-Zuma pulled out of a cadres forum meeting on Saturday which was scheduled to take place in Lebowakgomo‚ Limpopo.

She was due to address ANC Youth League members in the province in an effort to lobby support for her campaign.

However‚ she told organisers that due to a family bereavement she could not attend.

For a brief moment‚ peace reigned in northern KZN 

Dlamini-Zuma sent her chief lobbyist and ANC Women's League president Bathabile Dlamini to address the small crowd instead.

For the last month‚ Dlamini Zuma frequented her home province where last week she received the anointment of incumbent ANC president Jacob Zuma.

Her visit to Limpopo to address the youth league was not welcomed by all with the ANC in the province saying they had nothing to do with Dlamini-Zuma's visit.

ANC Youth League provincial spokesperson Khumbudzo Ntshavheni said the league knew nothing about the event.

"I have no information at all. I don't even know which structure is hosting it‚" she said.

Dlamini-Zuma says education is 'number one‚ number two and number three' priority 

The youth league itself was torn on the event‚ a sign that structures were split along factional lines.

The league's Collins Chabane sub-region issued a statement calling on members to stay away from the event.

"75% members of ANCYL Limpopo PEC members are unaware of the alleged Limpopo Cadres Forum and they are also opposed to comrade Nkosazana to address any ANCYL gatherings without a formal structure's decision‚" the statement read.

This was supported by ANCYL deputy secretary in the province Jimmy Matchaka who said he had no idea about the event.

"In fact most structures support Cyril Ramaphosa‚" he said.

However‚ provincial secretary Che Selani said most people supported Dlamini-Zuma.

ANC members must stop glorifying guns‚ says Dlamini-Zuma 

"There is no such thing like we are divided. We are clear on who we want to lead the ANC in December‚" he said. The crowds bussed in to the Lebogwamo Civic Centre relaxed under trees while waiting for the formal event to start.

They were given a hot meal and a drink each.

Given the controversy surrounding the event‚ security was upped with people wearing camouflage printed t-shirts with the Umkhonto we Sizwe logo on the front asked to search each car before entering.

After spending a considerable time campaigning in all ANC regions in KwaZulu-Natal‚ Dlamini-Zuma's lobbyists want her to canvas for support in other provinces as well.

- TMG Digital/Sunday Times



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Brutal Murders of Women, Girls in South Africa Prompt Calls to Act – Voice of America


A succession of brutal murders of women and children in South Africa has sparked national outrage and calls for action to end persistent violence.

"We, as the citizens of this country, we must say enough is enough," said South African President Jacob Zuma, speaking Thursday at a service for three-year-old rape and murder victim Courtney Pieters of Cape Town. "This cannot be accepted. The police must double their effort. I don't know whether we need to introduce more harsher laws or change the laws. This, I think, we must discuss. It's a crisis in the country."

South Africa has long had high levels of rape and murder, but a rash of crimes in recent weeks has grabbed national attention.

The remains of 22-year-old Karabo Mokoena were buried Friday. Her charred body was found this month at an illegal dump in Johannesburg. Her boyfriend, who police say confessed to killing her, has been arrested.

Well-known South African men have stepped up, calling on other men to take a stand.

"When are we going to take our position in society, in families and come to the defense of our women and children?" said actor Patrick Shai. "When is that? How many Karabo's must be dead before you stand up as a man and say it will not happen in my name?"

Karabo's death was followed by the gruesome killings of four other women, also in Soweto, the southwestern suburb of Johannesburg. Two of the women were friends. Three suspects have been arrested in connection with their case. The other two cases are being investigated separately.

Police say all four women appeared to have been raped and murdered.

The youngest victim, Nombuyiselo Nombewu, was 15 years old. Her aunt, Vuyelwa Nombewu, says she cannot understand why someone would do this.

"There is a lot that we expected from Nombuyiselo. We never thought her life will end this way," Nombewu said.

The crimes of aggravated murder and rape in South Africa carry sentences of 25 years in prison. While Zuma says harsher penalties may be needed, activists say police are not aggressively enforcing the existing laws.

Police Minister Fikile Mbalula accepts the criticism.

"Some cases have been reported, including to the police," Mbalula said. "Not enough action has been taken. Now is the time to amplify and speak to those who passed on and those who are still alive to have a massive campaign on the question of gender-based violence."

Cheryl Tshabangu of the Pink Ladies Organization, a group in South Africa that helps trace missing children and family members, says it is important that education starts young.

"It's high time we taught a boy child what it means to respect a woman," Tshabangu said. "We are living in societies that are broken. Most of these boys who end up being abusive are growing up watching the abuse happening at home."

One in five women in South Africa experience violence at the hands of a partner, according to a study released last week by the government agency Statistics South Africa.

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Sudan’s Bashir declines to attend Saudi summit with Trump

Sudan's Bashir declines to attend Saudi summit with Trump

Image copyright Reuters Image caption President Omar al-Bashir had been invited by King Salman

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir has decided not to take up an invitation from Saudi Arabia to attend an Islamic summit at which US President Donald Trump will be guest of honour.

Mr Bashir, who cited "private reasons", is wanted for alleged war crimes in Darfur and the US was reportedly unhappy about his attendance.

Sudan had said it was looking forward to improving US ties at the event.

Saudi Arabia is the first stop on Mr Trump's first foreign tour.

A statement from Mr Bashir's office said the president had apologised to King Salman of Saudi Arabia for being unable to attend the Riyadh summit. No further explanation was given.

Minister of State Taha al-Hussein will represent him.

What's behind Donald Trump's first visit? Who is Omar al-Bashir?

In 2009 and 2010, the International Criminal Court issued arrest warrants against Mr Bashir for genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity related to the conflict in Darfur, which has claimed at least 300,000 lives.

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Media captionTrump's first trip: What's on the agenda in Saudi Arabia?

He denies the charges, and has successfully evaded arrest for several years.

Saudi Arabia is not a signatory to the statute that founded the ICC and neither Sudan nor the US have ratified it.

But a US official told NBC News earlier that the Trump administration opposed invitations or travel by individuals facing ICC indictments.

"While the United States is not a party to the Rome Statute... we nevertheless strongly support efforts to hold accountable those responsible for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes," the official said.

The Saudi summit brings together more than 50 leaders from Arab and Muslim nations.

Mr Trump will deliver a speech on his "hopes for a peaceful vision of Islam".

His trip will also take him to Israel, the West Bank and Europe.

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Mali: Military Might Won’t Solve Mali’s Quagmire

Photo: UN

Peacekeeping forces (file photo).

By Corinne Dufka (Associate Director, West Africa)

"The Jihadists are the law now," an elder from central Mali told me. "The very day the French-supported operation finished, the Islamists were back in the villages," confided another villager last week, referring to a military operation near the Mali-Burkina Faso border in April.

The French-led military intervention in northern Mali in 2013 was hailed as a military success, ending the region's occupation by ethnic Tuareg separatists and armed Islamists linked to Al-Qaeda. But since 2015, attacks against Malian forces and abuses by Al-Qaeda-linked groups have moved southward to Mali's previously stable central regions and, last year, spread into neighboring Burkina Faso.

The endurance of the jihadist recruitment success and their appeal to many villagers suggests that military operations on their own will not be sufficient to defeat the threat. President Emmanuel Macron should keep this in mind when he visits the country this Friday.

Since 2015, I've interviewed scores of witnesses and victims to abuses in central Mali. They described how, in recent months, groups of up to 50 Islamist fighters closed down schools, banned women from riding on motorcycles driven by men other than their husbands, and imposed their version of Sharia (Islamic law). "We used to spend days celebrating a marriage or baptism, dancing and singing together," one man said. "Not anymore."

Men accused of being informants for the Malian government often turn up dead. Since 2015, Islamists have executed at least 40 men in their custody, including village chiefs and local officials. Some were murdered in front of their families. Several people said they felt pressured to have one of their sons join the Islamists.

Villagers described how soldiers detained and executed three family members in January.

However, an equal number of villagers told me they welcomed the presence of the Islamist groups in central Mali and saw them as a benevolent alternative to a state they associate with predatory and abusive governance. Many seethed as they described Malian army abuses during counterterrorism operations, including arbitrary arrests, torture, and executions. Since late 2016, I have documented the alleged extrajudicial killing by soldiers of 12 detainees, the most recent in early May, and the forced disappearance of several others.

Villagers described how soldiers detained and executed three family members in January. "We heard gunshots in the distance," one witness said. "I followed the tracks of the army truck and found our people in a shallow grave." This week, I received a desperate email from the brother of a man forced into a white pickup by men in uniform on February 3. "We have heard nothing; we have searched everywhere," he said.

While the behavior of the state security services has improved in recent years, Malian authorities have made little effort to investigate those implicated in violations.

The armed Islamist groups operating in central Mali, an area inhabited by several ethnic groups, have concentrated their recruitment efforts on the Peuhl or Fulani. Villagers said the Islamists are recruiting by exploiting frustrations over poverty, abusive security services, rampant banditry, local Peuhl clan rivalries, and, especially, corruption.

"The jihadists speak a lot about corruption... how the authorities steal, torture and do bad things to us," one elder said. "Honestly, they don't need to try very hard to recruit the youth... they're going themselves."

Islamists are increasingly filling the governance vacuum.

Villagers also said the Islamists are increasingly filling the governance vacuum. They welcomed Islamist efforts to investigate and punish livestock thieves, including by executions. Others praised Sharia rulings in favor of victims of domestic violence or spousal abandonment. Elders from both the sedentary Bambara and pastoral Peuhl communities credited the Islamists' efforts in late 2016 to resolve deadly land disputes. This meaningfully reduced communal violence in some regions, they said.

"We are fed up with paying bribes every time you meet a man in uniform or government official," one villager said. "The Islamists get all this done without asking for taxes, money, or one of our cows."

The burden to resolve this situation lies first and foremost with the Malian government. But military operations, including those supported by the French, are not enough to pull Mali from this deepening quagmire.

French strategy in Mali and the wider Sahel won't succeed without helping Mali to address the issues underlying decades of insecurity and the growing support for abusive armed Islamist groups. After all, it was corruption, poor governance, and abusive security force conduct that led to Mali's spectacular collapse in 2012.

When President Macron visits Mali on Friday, he should urge the government to professionalize the security forces and hold them accountable, to support the chronically neglected judiciary, and to take concrete action against rampant corruption. Strengthening Mali's weak rule of law institutions is complicated work, but no counterterrorism strategy can succeed without it.

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Africa: Ethiopia Congratulates New French President

Photo: Al Jezeera/YouTube

French president-elect Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte Trogneux.

Prime Minister Hailemariam Dessalegn congratulated Emmanuel Macron on being elected the 25th President of France.

The prime minister also wished the new president a fruitful and successful term.

According to Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the premier expressed his belief that the historical relations of the two countries would reach a new height during Macron's administration.

He further said that the existing people-to-people and economic ties between Ethiopia and France would also be reinvigorated.

The two countries have been working in partnership for many years to combat terrorism.

In this regard, the collaboration of Ethiopia and France has brought peace and stability in the turbulent Horn region.

Currently, the diplomatic and political relations between the two countries which spanned over a century is expanding in spheres of trade and investment.

Emmanuel Macron, who become the youngest President in French history, won the 2017 presidential election against Marine Le Pen. Macron served as France's Minister of Economy, Industry and Digital Affairs from 2014-2016.


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First Somali Woman, Fadumo Dayib In Risky Run For Presidency

She is truly charismatic , can be seen as a hero in her highly misogynistic nation. As a heath-care specialist graduated in Finland, she is the first woman ever to run in October 2016 for Somali presidency in Eastern Africa in front of 17 men including the president in power Hassan Cheick Mohamed.

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Gunfire in Ivory Coast barracks after rebels ‘apologise’ for mutiny

An AFP journalist said Friday that the shots were heard just hours after national television broadcast a ceremony in which a soldier presented as a spokesman for 8,400 former rebels, many of them based in Bouake, said they wished to apologise to President Alassane Ouattara for the mutiny.

In January, former rebels integrated into army ranks staged a mutiny that paralysed activity in several towns of the west African country while they pressed their demands for bonuses.

In meeting the demands of the ex-rebels, who controlled the northern half of Africa's biggest cocoa producer between 2002 and 2011, the authorities provoked a fresh mutiny by other troops and paramilitary gendarmes.

Clashes claimed four lives in the political capital Yamoussoukro.

The mutineers, who demanded 12 million CFA francs (€18,000) in payments for each soldier, obtained five million francs (€7,500) in January and had been due to receive the rest of the sum this month, according to the rebels.

The government had refused to give details of the negotiations.

The AFP journalist said gunfire was heard throughout the night at the 3rd infantry battalion's Bouake barracks, and soldiers also fired in the air at the northern entrance to the city.

There was no immediate indication as to the reasons for the gunfire.

Banks and many shops were also closed in the city Friday.

Organised without the knowledge of the press, the orchestrated ceremony -- broadcast after it took place at the presidential palace -- appeared to signal a dramatic end to the protest movement.

As well as apologising the rebel spokesman, named as Sergeant Fofana, said they were giving up all their financial demands.

Ouattara said of the rebels that he "believed their words were sincere" and they would now be "exemplary soldiers".

Fofana said: "We apologise for the various situations we know we have caused. We definitively renounce all our financial demands."

In a sign of allegiance, he then saluted the president, the images showed.

Ouattara said Thursday the country was going through a "very, very difficult time" after a fall in the price of cocoa led to a net loss of 150 billion francs CFA (€230 million) to the state budget.

The mutiny had "scared Ivorians, as well as those who want to invest in and visit the country," he said.

He also announced that the government had given up plans to build new schools, a health centre and cultural centres across the country, as well as delaying until 2018 a key election promise -- bringing electricity to every village with more than 500 inhabitants.

Last year, Ivory Coast launched an ambitious plan for the modernisation of the military, including an overhaul of personnel as well as purchases of materiel worth €1.2 billion.

Part of the plan provides for the departure of several thousand men, particularly ex-rebels, who will not be replaced.



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Sudan: New Inclusive Govt Formed

Photo: The Citizen

Omar-al-Bashir of Sudan.

By Mohammed Amin

Sudanese Prime Minister Bakri Hassan Saleh on Thursday announced the formation of the new government of national unity that includes the opposition.

The new government was part of the outcome of the National Dialogue launched in 2014 by President Omar al-Bashir and concluded in October last year.

President Bashir, who took power in a coup in 1989, has been battling rebels and grappling with economic hardships compounded by US sanctions and the secession of South Sudan in 2011, which took away about three-quarter of oil production.

"According to Articles 58 and 70 of the Sudanese transitional constitution of 2005 and after consultations with the head of the council of ministers, the Sudanese presidency has issued a presidential decree of the formation of the consensus government," Mr Saleh said, addressing a press conference in Khartoum.

Mr Saleh said the new government will have 31 ministers and 40 deputies and will be in place until the year 2020.

The new government is required to lead in the review the constitution, national reconciliation as well as economic reforms.

"This government comes to implement the recommendations of the national dialogue, the country's largest political event after independence in 1956. The government's priorities are to increase production and people's livelihoods and achieve peace," Mr Saleh said.

The constitution was amended in December to include the position of the prime minister, a post that President Bashir had scrapped after taking power. Mr Saleh, who is also the vice president, was appointed to the position on March 1.

The ministerial and other government positions will be shared among the political parties and interest groups that participated in the dialogue.

The premier also called on opposition parties which boycotted the National Dialogue to join the new administration, saying there was still room for them.

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South Sudan child refugees top one million: UN

South Sudan child refugees top one million: UN

AFP | 2017-05-08 11:01:25.0

A refugee child from South Sudan plays at Bidi Bidi refugee’s resettlement camp near the border with South Sudan, in Yumbe district, northern Uganda. File photo

War has now forced more than one million children to flee South Sudan and uprooted 1.4 million others within the country, the United Nations said on Monday.

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Children make up 62 percent of the 1.8 million people who have fled South Sudan for refugee camps in neighbouring Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda since civil war began in 2013, the UN children's agency, UNICEF, and refugee agency, UNHCR, said in a joint press release.

Another 1.4 million children are living in camps inside South Sudan.

"The future of a generation is truly on the brink," said UNICEF's Leila Pakkala.

"The horrifying fact that nearly one in five children in South Sudan has been forced to flee their home illustrates how devastating this conflict has been for the country's most vulnerable," she said.

South Sudan won its independence in 2011 but two years later a new conflict began when President Salva Kiir accused his former deputy Riek Machar of planning a coup.

The war quickly spread, splitting the country along ethnic lines and triggering famine in some areas earlier this year.

"No refugee crisis today worries me more than South Sudan," said Valentin Tapsoba of the UNHCR.

Tens of thousands of people have been killed in the ongoing conflict, among them more than 1,000 children, the UN added.

Children have not only been victims of the violence and abuse, but perpetrators, forcibly recruited into armed groups and deployed in the fight against opposing soldiers and in the brutal attacks on civilians that have defined the conflict.

UNICEF said it has raised just over half of the $181 million (164 million euros) needed to help South Sudanese refugees this year, while the UNHCR said it has only received 11 percent of the $782 million it needs.

Competing conflicts and crises around the world mean that aid agencies are struggling to get the funds they need to do their work.



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Dialogue series is pro-delivery; the anti-Zuma space is crowded – chairperson

Dialogue series is pro-delivery; the anti-Zuma space is crowded - chairperson

Ernest Mabuza | 2017-05-05 16:31:58.0

South Africa's President Jacob Zuma. File photo.
Image by: ROGAN WARD

The founding members of the National Foundations Dialogue Initiative (NFDI) were at pains to explain that the discussions were not part of efforts to fight off President Jacob Zuma.

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They were responding to an ANN7 headline‚ the Gupta-owned TV news channel‚ which questioned whether Friday’s event was a meeting of an anti-Zuma front.

The initiative‚ formed by a number of foundations of eminent South Africans‚ aims to create a platform for citizens to talk about challenges facing the country.

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Addressing a media briefing on the initiative’s inaugural event in Johannesburg on Friday‚ NFDI chairwoman Nomhle Canca said the initiative was not against anyone or anything.

“We are pro-delivery and we are pro the Constitution. I think the space of anti-Zuma and anti-government is a very crowded space. We want to belong to the space of pro-democracy and the Constitution‚” Canca said.

She added that provincial and then local dialogues would be held so that citizens raised the discussion points.

The founders of the initiative are the following foundations: Chief Albert Luthuli‚ Desmond and Leah Tutu Legacy‚ Robert Sobukwe‚ Helen Suzman‚ Umlambo‚ FW de Klerk‚ Jakes Gerwel and Thabo Mbeki.

IFP’s Buthelezi says JZ has right to reshuffle cabinet‚ Jonas calls for solutions 

Three former presidents - FW de Klerk‚ Thabo Mbeki and Kgalema Motlanthe - and former deputy president Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka were keynote speakers at the inaugural event.

Helen Suzman Foundation director Francis Antonie said: “If we are anti-anything‚ it is about being against corruption and against non-delivery. We have extraordinary challenges facing our country which precede this government of the day.

“Perhaps the greatest challenge we are faced with is our youth.”

Constitution should occupy special place in discussions about SA’s future: Mbeki 

Sandile Luthuli‚ of the Chief Albert Luthuli Foundation‚ said the creation of a platform for citizens to be heard was a necessary platform to ensure they were heard.

“One of the key outcomes of the initiative is: For us having gone out and engaged citizens‚ we should then partner with government to inform it of the voice of the people. This initiative should be welcome as a potential partner to government.”

Dave Steward‚ of the FW de Klerk Foundation‚ said it was in favour of establishing a platform where South Africans could talk about problems facing the country. “It is in favour of finding solutions that the country is facing.”

Mbulelo Bikwani‚ chief executive of the Desmond and Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation‚ said this initiative should have been started in 1994‚ to watch over government all the time.



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Nigeria: Govt Will Continue to Guarantee Freedom of Worship – Vice President Osinbajo

By Seriki Adinoyi

Jos — The federal government has reassured Nigerians that it will continue to guarantee freedom of worship and ensure peaceful coexistence among diverse ethnic and religious groups in the country.

The Vice-President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, who gave the assurance at the 50th anniversary of Saint Augustine Major Seminary, Jos, Plateau State, said the government would continue to abide by the tenets and position of the constitution in relation to religious matters.

He commended the seminary for the role it has been playing in shaping the society and molding the characters of people towards becoming responsible citizens and its contributions to the nation at large.

Also speaking, the Governor of Taraba State, Mr. Dahiru Ishaku, said the country needs peace to develop its potentials to the fullest capacity, adding that the major challenges of the North-east presently was how to promote peace and arrest the insecurity in the zone.

The governor charged religious leaders in the country to pray for the geo-political zone and political leaders for more strength and wisdom towards ensuring that both the present and future of the country is peaceful.

The vice-president, who also visited the venue of Plateau State Micro, Small & Medium Enterprises Clinics for viable enterprises in Jos, said the federal government has created enabling environment for business and company registration as part of its efforts towards promoting investment in the country.

"By now, the time and period of business registration has improved. By next month, activities of Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) will be online to make company registration easier and for research in relation to businesses," he said.

He added that all bureaucratic bottlenecks associated with importation are being dismantled, adding that the present administration has created conducive atmosphere for both importers and investors to do their businesses in line with the laid down procedures.

"The government business is to make entrepreneurs happy and make things easier for them. The government is also encouraging local manufacturers. Not only this, the government is supporting development banks to fund small and medium industries.

"This becomes necessary because the only way through which we can develop as a country is to consume what we produce. We must use what we made and patronise our locally produced goods," he said.


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Nigerian civil society leaders urge Buhari to take medical leave now

Nigerian civil society leaders urge Buhari to take medical leave now

Reuters | 2017-05-02 10:55:12.0

Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari speaks after returning from a medical trip from London to Abuja, Nigeria March 10, 2017.
Image by: Presidential Office/Handout via REUTERS / REUTERS

Nigeria's ailing President Muhammadu Buhari, who had nearly two month's medical treatment in Britain earlier this year, should take medical leave immediately, civil society leaders have said in an open letter.

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The 74-year-old president returned home in March and said he would need more rest and health tests. Details of his medical condition were not disclosed.

In a letter titled "President Buhari should take medical leave immediately", a group of political activists noted his absence from the last two weekly cabinet meetings and speculation about his ability to run Africa's most populous nation and biggest economy.

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"We are compelled to advise him to heed the advice of his personal physicians by taking a rest to attend to his health without any further delay," they said in the letter dated May 1.

The letter was signed by 13 civil society leaders including human rights lawyer Femi Falana and Jibrin Ibrahim, an academic at a think-tank based in the capital Abuja.

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Buhari's spokesman could not immediately be reached for comment.

Garba Shehu, one of the president's spokesmen, last week said the president received daily briefings on activities of government and met his vice president regularly.

He also said Buhari was spending most of his time in his private residence, which is equipped as an office, adding that he had gone through the worst period of his recovery in London.



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Nigeria: Buhari Urged to Take Medical Leave Immediately

Photo: Daily Trust

President Muhammadu Buhari.

Nigerian civil society leaders have urged ailing President Muhammadu Buhari to immediately take medical leave to attend to his health.

Several activists, including notable lawyer, Femi Falana, and Jibrin Ibrahim, said the president should heed the advice of his personal physicians without further delay.

"As we join the Nigerian people of goodwill to pray for a speedy recovery of President Buhari, we are compelled to advise him to heed the advice of his personal physicians by taking a rest to attend to his health without any further delay," they said in a statement Monday.

Others who signed the statement are Debo Adeniran, Chris Kwaja, Y. Z. Ya'u, Chom Bagu, Olanrewaju Suraju, Ezenwa Nwagwu, Anwal Musa Rafsanjani, David Ugolor, 'Sina Odugbemi, Muhammed Attah and Adetokunbo Mumuni.

Read the group's full statement below:

When President Mohammadu Buhari was recently in the United Kingdom on a medical vacation, which lasted 59 days, many public officers said that he was "hale and hearty." But upon his return to the country President Buhari disclosed that he had never been that sick in his entire life. Even though the President did not disclose the nature of his ailment, he revealed that he went through blood transfusion. While thanking the Nigerian people for their prayers, the President announced that he might soon travel back for further medical treatment.

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Nigerian President Urged to Take Urgent Medical Leave
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A few weeks ago, the Governor of Kaduna state, Mr. Nasir El-Rufai urged Nigerians to give President Buhari time to recover from his sickness. The plea was made after the Governor had visited and presumably assessed the state of the President at the presidential villa in Abuja. However, due to the apparent deterioration in the President's health condition, he has neither been seen in public in the last one week nor attended the last two meetings of the Federal Executive Council. His absence at the last Jumat service in the villa has fuelled further speculations and rumours on President Buhari's medical condition.

But instead of embarking on regular briefing on the actual state of the health of President Buhari, officials of the federal government have continued to assure the Nigerian people that the is no need for apprehension over the matter. In defending the absence of the President at the last FEC meeting and other state functions, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr. Garba Shehu stated that "the president's doctors have advised on his taking things slowly, as he fully recovers from the long period of treatment in the United Kingdom some weeks ago."

As we join the Nigerian people of goodwill to pray for a speedy recovery of President Buhari, we are compelled to advise him to heed the advice of his personal physicians by taking a rest to attend to his health without any further delay.

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Former Arts and Culture Deputy Minister resigns as MP – eNCA

JOHANNESBURG - Former Deputy Minister of Arts and Culture Rejoice Mabudafhasi has resigned as a Member of Parliament (MP).

Mabudafhasi represents the ANC in the Bushbuck Ridge constituency in Mpumalanga.

She's told eNCA she resigned because she wants to rest.

READ: Dipuo Peters resigns from Parliament

The 73-year-old was one of six deputy ministers sacked in President Jacob Zuma's cabinet reshuffle at the end of March. 

She was replaced by Ms Maggie Sotyu (who was formerly deputy police minister) as Deputy Minister of Arts and Culture.

Her previous deputy minister portfolios in government included the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism, and the Department of Water and Environmental Affairs.

Mabudafhasi had been an MP since 1994, and a deputy minister since 1999.

She's the latest in a growing list of axed Cabinet members who've quit parliament.

Others include former Energy Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson‚ former Transport Minister Dipuo Peters, former Public Service and Administration Minister Ngoako Ramatlhodi, and former Deputy Finance Minister Mcebisi Jonas.





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WEF presents government with chance to show unity – Times LIVE

WEF presents government with chance to show unity

Shenaaz Jamal | 2017-05-01 16:30:52.0

President Jacob Zuma.
Image by: GCIS

President Jacob Zuma will lead a delegation of 17 ministers and deputy ministers to the World Economic Forum being held in Durban this week‚ in a move economists say is designed to show the foreign community that there is unity in government.

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The three-day event begins on Wednesday at the Durban International Convention Centre and will see world leaders‚ economists and analysts converge on the coastal city.

Economists say the large contingent‚ which includes Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba and his deputy Sifiso Buthelezi‚ is an attempt for government to show a united front following the Cabinet reshuffle and ratings downgrades that followed.

‘Those stealing from the people must be removed and disciplined’ - Ramphosa 

Economist Dawie Roodt said government needed to use the opportunity wisely and ensure it attended the forum with concrete policies and plans to regain investor confidence.

“There needs to be good leadership at the forefront to calm some nerves but you have to show people what you can offer‚ but we don't even know what radical economic transformation is‚” said Roodt.

WEF Africa has come to SA at the right time‚ says Zuma 

This year the forum is set to focus specifically on issues that include education‚ skills and employment; entrepreneurship; energy; infrastructure and development finance; combating‚ adapting to and building resilience against climate change; and science‚ technology and innovation.

Another economist‚ Azar Jamine‚ said the government wanted to see itself as an important leader in Africa and would try to impress investors

“This is really not going to be making a huge impact on the economy‚ although it seems they are trying to resuscitate the confidence in the economy‚” said Jamine.

The forum will also see a number of fringe events taking place around Durban‚ including the launch of Oxfam’s “Starting with People: A human economy approach to inclusive growth in Africa” report.

The report is set to be a response to Africa’s inequality crisis‚ persistent poverty and troubling economic prospects across many African countries.

“The report explores the potential of the human economy to achieve inclusive economic growth‚ focusing first and foremost on what works for people‚” said Oxfam spokesman Isaac Mangena.

The forum will also see a heavy presence of police and intelligence officers. On Monday‚ police said security would be tight at the event‚ with extra security measures having been put in place as some NGOs and community organisations are expected to protest. Communities have been warned to protest in the designated areas and within the confines of the law.

“There will be uncompromising security and any criminal or disruptive conduct will result in appropriate action being taken‚ including arrest and prosecution‚” said police spokesman Vishnu Naidoo.

TMG Digital/TimesLIVE



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Somalia: Nation Reaches Tipping Point


Somalia is at a tipping point.

The election of a new president with cross-clan support, the emergence of a youthful and reform-minded parliament, and renewed international interest present a genuine opportunity to promote needed political and security reforms to combat Al-Shabaab and stabilise more areas.

The London Conference on Somalia in May coincides with this moment and should be seized upon to mobilise international support. However, because the new federal cabinet was only approved in early March, conference organisers should be realistic about how detailed the government's plans can or should be. More broadly, key international actors - the European Union (EU), African Union, Arab League, UK, Turkey and the U.S. - will need to coordinate and achieve consensus on realistic strategic goals, including creating an environment in which the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) can begin to draw down.

If the new president fails to deliver on promised key reforms - including to rebuild the national army, revamp the constitution, curb corruption and strengthen federalism - both domestic and external support for the Federal Government of Somalia (FGS) will inevitably wane and Al-Shabaab will be in a stronger position to rebuild its forces and support.

Al-Shabaab exploits humanitarian needs

Although international aid has picked up, its geographic coverage remains limited, not least because insecurity is rampant and the UN has so far managed to raise only 30 per cent of the $825 million it asked for in early March. As a result, the threat of famine is unlikely to diminish in the next six to twelve months and 5.5 million people (nearly half the population) will require emergency aid. The immediate priority is to mobilise more funds, prevent a repeat of the large-scale graft that marred past relief efforts and assist the hardest hit communities in remote regions which are increasingly turning to Al-Shabaab for assistance. Al-Shabaab is exploiting these needs to improve its image and attract public support, allowing people to move to relief centres run by local and international agencies, even as it gives no indication of its willingness to grant aid agencies access to areas it controls.

Al-Shabaab struggles to demonise diaspora Somalis' crowd-funding campaign (collecting small amounts of money from a large number of people) and especially the Caawi Walaal campaign organised by youth volunteers to provide water and food to remote villages. International actors should therefore support such initiatives, given their potential to extend the reach of the relief effort to remote areas inaccessible to Western aid agencies.

Harnessing the diaspora

The recent elections produced Somalia's most demographically diverse and youthful parliament ever. Nearly half its 283 members are younger than 50; over 90 hail from the diaspora; and 63 are female. President Mohammed Abdullahi Farmajo campaigned on reform and owes his victory to younger and well-educated diaspora MPs. However, efforts to push through needed reforms and national reconciliation will be complicated by the poor delineation of roles and authorities among the president, prime minister and speakers of the upper and lower houses, as well as by powerful vested interests that will want to maintain the 4.5 formula that apportions FGS positions among the four major and smaller minority clans. The president will not be able to rely solely on the diaspora bloc but will need to work with politicians more closely tied to the traditional clan leadership. In the same vein, the new administration will need to avoid giving too many positions to diaspora Somalis, which could aggravate deep societal divisions.

Economic regeneration (symbolised by upmarket hotels, restaurants and homes in Mogadishu) is largely underwritten by remittances from some two million diaspora Somalis, worth some $1.4 billion each year. The FGS has held meetings to mobilise more effective diaspora support for reconstruction, yet there is neither an agency entrusted with policy formulation nor a proper regulatory environment, a gap that could prove risky. For example, Mogadishu's acute land crisis is fuelled by poorly planned investment exploiting local regulatory loopholes. One idea would be for the Somali Economic Forum, a donor-funded organisation fostering private sector development and economic growth, to use its upcoming conference in Dubai that will bring together diverse stakeholders to help the new administration create a rules-based regulatory environment to promote sensible investment.

Fostering peaceful federalism

Strengthening and broadening the fragile administrations of federal member states should be a priority for the government in order to stabilise areas far from Mogadishu. So far, the protracted and ad hoc devolution of power from the weak FGS to federal states has resulted in de facto blocs dominated by powerful clans which tend to monopolise power and resources. Minority clans, including smaller sub-clans within major ones, often feel sidelined, with dangerous implications: in Puntland, for example, successive mutinies by security forces occurred in February and March over unpaid wages, and several armed clan-based militias operate largely outside the control of Puntland President Abdiweli Gaas. Equally problematic are increasing Al-Shabaab attacks and targeted assassinations, as well as a growing, albeit small, Islamic State faction operating in Puntland.

Elsewhere, the ousting of Galmudug Interim Administration (GIA) President Abdikarim Guled by the state parliament has created a power vacuum and elections planned for late March were postponed due to the severe drought. A similar no confidence motion was initiated against Interim South West Administration (ISWA) President Sharif Hassan Sheikh Adan in March. Pushing for genuine and viable political settlements at the intra- and inter-federal state levels must remain a priority. To that end, the FGS and international actors should focus on the following:

Setting up a permanent mechanism to help resolve disputes among federal states, such as Puntland, Galmudug Interim Administration, Juba Interim Authority and Interim South West Administration. In so doing, the government in Mogadishu and state presidents would address the reality that several inter-state borders are contested and, in almost all states, minority clans feel aggrieved by local power sharing, with the risk that such discontent could trigger wider violence within and between states; Supporting the Independent Boundaries Review Commission (IBRC) to first demarcate contested state borders and then define their boundaries more generally; Supporting efforts to finalise currently vague and unaddressed issues in the provisional constitution, including especially by clarifying legislation on resource and power sharing among federal states and the FGS; Supporting constructive dialogue between Somaliland, which continues to seek independence, and the FGS. In this respect, Somaliland's agreement with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to manage Berbera port and host a military base is likely to exacerbate simmering tensions between Somaliland and the FGS.

Security after AMISOM?

Al-Shabaab remains a resilient force that undertakes suicide bombings, targeted assassinations, ambushes and sweeps across south-central Somalia. After AMISOM played a key role in pushing Al-Shabaab's conventional forces from most urban centres, most troop contributing countries (TCCs) are seeking to depart; at a March meeting in Nairobi, the TCCs began crafting a plan for the mission's drawdown. AMISOM Commander General Soubagleh now says the withdrawal could start as early as 2018. But to make this possible, the FGS and federal states will need to improve governance dramatically and end local conflicts in liberated areas.

Indeed, without a clearer and more institutionalised division of power, resources and security responsibilities between the FGS and federal states, as well as among federal state administrations, current security gains against Al-Shabaab will be difficult to sustain. In addition, the plan to draw down AMISOM needs a coherent framework to establish a sustainable national force that can take over responsibility for security and mitigate the negative effects of regional competition. The new administration's further development of a national security architecture is a positive step, but the roles and responsibilities of the National Security Council and the president, notably in terms of command and control authority, will need to be clarified and institutionalised. Moreover, efforts to build the Somali National Army (SNA) could be improved through much better international coordination among the EU, U.S., UK, Turkey and Gulf states, which are all involved in troop training. There are growing indications that the U.S., under the Trump administration, is determined to up its direct military involvement. This carries risks. Although enhanced training and equipment would help, increased airstrikes could inflame public opinion and unwittingly drive communities into Al-Shabaab's arms - especially if they cause civilian deaths.

Pursuing electoral reform

Somalia still has a long way to go before shifting from the 4.5 quota system to one-person-one-vote elections; in particular, it is unlikely that the requisite level of security will be achieved in the next four years. Recent elections were also marred by lack of transparency and accountability, which generated both corruption and electoral manipulation. Therefore, rather than focusing on the overly ambitious goal of one-person-one-vote, the London Conference ought to consider some of the inherited challenges, principally the 4.5 clan system. In particular, Somalis and international actors should:

Encourage the FGS to finalise the process of establishing functioning political parties; Provide technical support to register citizens across the country; Strengthen the capacity of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) to organise and oversee future elections; and Help the IEC organise smaller scale (eg municipal) elections.

This commentary is part of the ICG's Watch List 2017 – First Update.

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