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'French Court Throws out Kagame's Libel suit - 16/06/2002'


 The struggle for press freedom in Africa received a major boost in Paris on June 3 when the 17th chamber of the French high court threw out on technical grounds the libel suit filed by Rwandan President Paul Kagame against investigative Cameroonian journalist and author Charles Onana.

The journalist was charged with defamation for publishing a book titled: "Les Sécrèts du Génocide Rwandais-Enqête sur les Mystères d'un Président" (The Secrets of the Rwandan Genocide-investigations into the mysteries of a president), which alleges that Kagame was the key instigator in the downing of President Juvenal Habyarimana's plane on 6 April 1994 which, according to him, sparked off the Rwandan genocide.

But when the matter came up for hearing for the third time, presiding Judge Edith Dubreuil dismissed the case on the grounds that the plaintiff had failed to meet the three-month deadline in filing the case as required by article 65 of the French law of 29 July 1881 on press freedom and publications, as it was only filed on 6 March, more than three months after the publication of the book in November 2001.

Dubreuil, who was assisted on the case by two other judges, Sylvie Menotti and Sophie Poitou, refered to evidence provided by the defence which confirmed that the book was published in November, with 40 copies sold at the FNAC Forum in Paris between 30 November and 6 December, at least over a week before the cut-off date.

The court was told that copies of the book were sent to subscribers such as Ernest Munyankindi on 29 November, to Emmanuel Kaouhijev, Tiphaine Dickson and Séraphine Babona on 30 November, and to Francine Uwera on 3 December. The court also heard that although the press conference announcing the publication of the book by MINSI Publications took place on 10 December, the author, Onana, had already granted an interview on the book to Radio France International (RFI) on 25 November 2001.

When the case opened on 8 April, the prosecution had claimed that investigations into the shooting of the presidential plane was underway before French Judge, Jean Louis Bruguière, and had accused Onana of not respecting the principle of "presumption of innocence" for Kagame in the matter. But the judge refused to grant the request of the prosecution to order the book withdrawn from the market on the grounds that Kagame was not an accused person before Judge Bruguière.

"So far over 5,000 copies of the book have sold out since Kagame filed the libel suit and the demand is expected to shoot up" , Onana told EXPO TIMES beaming with a big smile shortly after the court verdict was delivered in his favour.

Onana described the court verdict as a victory for investigative journalism in Africa and, above all, for the truth about the complex political situation in Rwanda and the Great Lakes region. On why Kagame failed to beat the three-month deadline to file the case, Onana said: " because he (Kagame) deliberately wanted to avoid discussion on the truth about the shooting down of the presidential plane and about the ensuing Rwandan genocide preventing me from presenting the many evidences I have in court."

The journalist noted that it is now necessary for more people to read the book to know who Mr Kagame really is and what he has been doing in his counry about the plane crash and the genocide.
"Mr Kagame was determined to stop the book's circulation because he wanted to avoid the embarrasment of many many people coming to know about the truth in Rwanda but this verdict has torpedoed his dream", said Onana. 

Onana said he has received positive reactions from many people all over the world, including Rwandans, congratulating him on his court victory, which he said is very encouraging considering the efforts he had put in writing the book.

"This is the best opportunity for Mr Kagame to come out and say the truth and ask for forgiveness for bringing untold suffering to the peoples of DR Congo and Rwanda" says Onana, adding: "the international community should now be in a better place to ask Mr Kagame to say the truth and clear his name about the plane crash and the genocide"

Onana observed that "the attitude of the international community would be suspect if they fail to use this verdict to bring Kagame to book. I think now that the facts have started coming out, now is the time for action! 

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 World Bank happy with economic reconstruction in DR Congo - 04/06/2002

IBRAHIM SEAGA SHAW REPORTS FROM PARIS ON THE OUTCOME OF THE RECENT WORLD BANK-CHAIRED MEETING BETWEEN THE D R CONGO AND ITS DEVELOPEMENT PARTNERS 

"There has been impressive progress over the last year, and results are here," said Callisto Madavo, World Bank Vice President for Africa, adding: "We are also encouraged by the continued commitment of the Government to move the economic reforms further ahead and we wish the Congolese people great success in this endeavour, together with their efforts to bring about peace in the country".

Mr Madavo was speaking on the status of the economic programme in the D R Congo and the peace process in the aftermath of the inter-Congolese dialogue at a World Bank-chaired meeting in Paris on May 21 between the government and the country's official development partners.

Briefing the press just after the meeting, which he described as "very successful and constructive", the World Bank official noted that the donors were very pleased with the implementation of the economic reform programme, agreed to increase economic assistance to the D R Congo and provided assurances to fund the economic rehabilitation and reconstruction programmes.

But there was bad news-the debt situation that the DRC faces-which he said preoccupied the donors and other participants at the meeting. Modavo warned that "action needs to be taken first to clear the arears so that the DRC could normalise its financial relations particularly with the multilateral and financial institutions including the IMF, World Bank, and the African Development Bank (AFDB)".

He welcomed the " re-engagement by the Bretton Woods institutions assuming arears can be cleared", which, he says, should translate into action to accelerate the pace of the disbursements to sustain the peace process. He observed that the DRC's arears to the AFDB are partucularly large and that special effort would need to be made by the donor community to assist in settling these arears.

"We also discussed the fact that with arears cleared the issue of debt service by the DRC would continue to be a heavy one and that the donors should try to find a way, perhaps by a multi-donor-administered trust fund to help DRC meet its debt servicing problem", said Modavo.

Fielding questions from the press, Mr Madavo pointed to the dramatic drop in inflation which he described as the enemy of the poor hitherto flying hyper and the creation of an enabling environment for private investors as central to the success of the government's reform programmes.

Modavo showered a bucket full of praises on the D R C government for the structural measures that have been taken to creat an environment where mining can kick in and make a contribution. "We know that the D R Congo is a natural resource-based country and those resources should be used for the benefit of the congolese people", he added. The World Bank official expressed optimism for the progress in formulating a programme for re-construction and recovery with particular emphasis on infrastructure, agriculture and other social sectors such as HIV AIDS.

Modavo observed that the success of the economic reform programmes was reinforced by the recent inter-congolese dialogue snowballing into the recent peace accord at Sun City which he largely attributed to the open door policy of the government in Kinshasa.

On the question of what would happen if things don't work out as planned in the implentation of the economic reconstruction programme, Modavo said : "I think the donors know that post conflict situations are not easy situations and the donors are willing to accompany the process of building peace and stability; they are willing to take risks for peace-peace and stability is not cheap". Modavo however warned that this would largely depend on the genuine commitment of the government to both "economic reform and peace and reconciliation".

But for Modavo and the World Bank that was far from all. Speaking on the bank's role in influencing the governments of Uganda and Rwanda, whose troops are still fighting in the D R C, Modavo said: " this is not an area in which the bank has a mandate but something that the UN has, and has in fact taken the lead on...as you know a mission from the UN Security Council was recently in the area and it dealt precisely with foreign troops fighting in the DRC."

"What the World Bank thinks and does is really what the concensus by the international community is. That is why I said earlier that this meeting has been a very useful meeting because the donors as a group are looking at the situation, agreeing on what needs to be done to take the case forward. Yes we play our part, but in concert with others-we would handle economic issues together with the International Monetary Fund and other bi-laterals and the UN Security Council", said Modavo.

Modavo was however bold to admit the need to approach the problem in the DRC regionally "as stability in one of the countries is going to depend very much on stability in the sub-region".

"What have we been doing to support this stability", he asked rhetorically, adding: "We have been in discussions with some of the countries in the sub-region and under the New African initiative-NEPAD-the Africans are infact making a commitment to try to resolve some of these conflicts and we would like to see them make contribution to the Great Lakes area as well."

The rapport between the press and the world bank was unusually frank as the issue of the role of the latter in piling pressure on Uganda and Rwanda to withdraw their troops from the D R Congo and stop supporting rebel factions that are still reluctant to come on board the peace process proved too hard to be swept under the carpet. But Modavo insisted that if peace and stability is going to come to the DRC and the rest of Africa, "it ought to be the Africans who are going to drive that".

"I think the idea that outsiders, however powerful, are to impose peace and stability in environments where leaders or peope are not pushing for it is perhaps the thinking of the past and quite frankly the thinking of the future is that the people of Africa, the leaders of Africa, have their future in their own hands," said Modavo emphatically, adding: "There are international partners, including the World Bank, to assist them, but the idea that we could go and write the script is the vocabulary of yesterday. The vocabulary of tomorrow is ownership and leadership by the Africans on this isssue."

Modavo was reacting here to a question from Kenyan free lance journalist, Ruth Nabawke. But Modavo's strongly worded reply flies in the face of the role of the international community in squeezing other war lords or behind the scence actors such as Charles Taylor of Liberia by way of economic sanctions and travel embargo to stop supporting rebels fighting legitimate governments. This last observation was made by the author of this report who agreed with Modavo that Africans should indeed take the initiative but invited him nevertheless to agree with him that since the international community succeeded in pressuring Taylor in Liberia to withdraw support from the RUF rebels in Sierra Leone, they can also succeed in doing the same, if they wanted to, to the Ugandan and Rwandan Presidents whose troops are still occupying territories in the the DRC.

Commenting on the implementation of the new economic programme, DRC Finance Minister and leader of the goverment delegation, Matungulu Mbuyamu-Ilankir said the recent macro economic reforms have checked inflation and stabilised the national currency thereby creating a more enabling environment to attract foreign investors. On the political front, the minister touched on the recent progress made in the inter-Congo peace process, which he said took them to Lusaka and South Africa's Sun City. The result, he says, is the Sun City accord which has restored peace and tranquility in the more than 70 % Congo territory including that controlled by the rebel faction led by Jean Pierre Bemba who also signed the accord. "That is why the budget for 2003 is more or less a unification budget that would affect the whole territory under the new alliance", the minister added.

"It is of course easy to start a war but difficult to end it", he says, " but we are optimistic about the current peace process which we believe would take time but with genuine commitment of the government and all rebel factions involved in the conflict, we shall soon get there".

But in reaction to querries from the press, neither the Finance Minister nor any member of his delegation could give a target sum they are expecting from the donors who have expressed concern to help in continuing to fund the country's economic reconstruction programme.

"It is indeed difficult to quantify the needs of the government in implementing the reconstruction programme but all we can say is that a lot needs to be raised to fund the process to the desired conclusion", said Mbuyamu-Ilankir.

Most delegations from the donor community, including France, United States, Germany, Canada, Japon indicated their intent to contribute to the Emergency Multi-sector Rehabilitation and Reconstruction programme (EMRRP) designed by the Government with the support of the World Bank and a number of other donors, and to a demobilization and reintegration project which will be developed within the broader framework of the Multi-country Demobilization and Re-integration Programme for the Greater Lakes Region.

The World Bank is contemplating on organising a Consultative Group in November 2002, to mobilize the full funding needed to support the DRC's reform programme and transition towards peace, and to ensure the consitency and the complementarity of all efforts.

Still on the debt question, the donors expressed satisfaction at efforts, including within the framework of the Paris Club, to resolve it. The following three points were discussed at the meeting:

1. AREARS to the AFDB-which should be further discussed. Several delegations indicated their intention to make contributions for the financing of the settlement plan prepared by AFDB staff in coordination with the World Bank and the IMF.

2. DEBT service-which may be unsustainable even after access to HIPC. Several delegations mentioned that they were considering a proposal by the World Bank to set up a multi-donor Trust Fund to facilitate service to multilateral institutions.

3. ACCESS to HIPC. There was a broad consensus that the flexibility existing under the initiative for countries emerging from conflict could be used, and have an early Decision Point, provided there is continued strong economic performance and taking into account the track record already established.

 

 

'OECD FORUM 2002 : Making Globalisation to benefit all & sundry - 03/06/2002','news','','

 "What must governments do to ensure economic security for their citizens? How to shape globalisation to the benefit of all, and ensure that the poorest are not left behind? What role can education play in building tolerant, democratic and prosperous societies? How to ensure a quick come back in economic growth?" These were among the important questions rhetorically posed by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OACD) Secretary General Donald J. Johnston in his message to the OECD Forum 2002 in Paris between May 13-15 on the topic: Taking care of the fundamentals: Security, Equity, Education, and Growth. Johnston observed that substantial progress can only be made through co-operation across political boundaries involving the full range of society's stakeholders.

The annual forum brought together at the prestigious CNIT conference centre in the La Défence district of Paris some 50 speakers and dozens of participants from civil society, business, labour and educational institutions from all over the world. The conclusions of the presentations and interactive debate of the various panels, some of which ran simultanously, were, according to the OECD secretary-general, "to help shape the outcome of the OECD Ministerial meeting" on 15-16 May.

By far the most important topics on the agenda were globalisation, international trade, security and education. Panelists and participants from geographically and professionally diversified backgrounds traded their views, some times reaching consensus, while at other times parting ways.

GLOBALISATION

Also preparing the ground for the forum, Belgian minister of state for Foreign Affairs, Annemie Neyts-Uyttebroeck said: "Globalisation has undoubtedly brought great benefits to our countries and populations, and spurred their progress. Over the last fifty years, globalisation has led to six-fold rise in world output, thus contributing to major imrovements in the income of a substantial share of the world's citizens and to the creation of new resources which can help us tackle policy challenges in the field of human well being."

In addition to her role in speaking at some of the sessions, Neyts-Uyttebroeck was charged with the responsibility of reporting the main conclusions of the Forum discussions to the 15-16 May Ministerial meeting.

Neyts-Uyttebroeck's thinking was shared by Dr. Dae Whan Chang, president and Publisher, Korean Maeil Business Newspaper and Television, when he said "multi-national corporations, institutional investors, mostly developed countries and their peoples, but also developing countries-poor countries-are benefitting from direct foreign investment made in their countries.

Dr Chang, who was speaking on "Public Concerns About Globalisation" at the OECD forum, recalled the 1997 Asian financial crisis which South Korea was able to tackle and turn things around by implementing some financial reforms advised by the IMF. He however lamented the widening income gap between the haves and have-nots created by globalisation urging the need for what he called "the globalisation of globalisation".

In 1960, says Dr Chang, Korea was neck and neck with Ghana in ranking of poor countries but while Korea was very volatile, Ghana was very stable. He however noted that over 40 years down the line, in terms of the index on education, "Korea now has 160 2-year colleges, and 160 4-year colleges, and we've about 3.3 million college kids" with Ghana trailing far behind. "So unless we shorten the gap between the rich and poor countries we will have more demonstrations", he added.

Giving what he called a Canadian perspective on public attitudes towards globalisation, David Crane, Economics editor of the Toronto Star said it would be interesting to know "why it is that at the same time that the public appears to support many aspects of globalisation they also sympathisies with people who protest against globalisation".

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\r\n Crane noted that with exports of goods and services accounting for 40% of his country's GDP, Canadians clearly see the benefits of trade, foreign investments, all of which, he says, bring new ideas, jobs, greater choice and better standard of living. Crane however observed that most Canadians support some form of capitalist market based systems but warned that they also have "strong attachments to a mixed economy" which has public interests as well.

"There is considerable concern nonetheless in Canada over the process of globalisation or deepening integration and the fear that an ideology of market fundamentalism and the kind of tax competition it can bring would mean a much reduced work for government that would result in loss of public goods, less effective democracy, and also loss of cultural identity, which for Canadians is very important", said Crane

Crane quickly summed up the bubbling issue of public concerns towards globalisation into the fact that it (globalisation) is driven by the free market laissez faire system often called the "Washington Consensus"; lack of concern over transparency and accountability often called the "Democratic Deficit"; societies feel deprived of the powers they need to influence their social and economic environment, and finally the concern over global inequality.

"The September 11 tragedy in New York led to more than 3000 deaths; without taking anything from that tragedy how much attention do we pay to the fact that more than 30,000 children around the world die every day due to poverty, disease and conflict", said Crane.

Going along with Crane in many ways, co-author of the controversial book:THE CASE AGAINST THE GLOBAL ECONOMY, Edward Goldsmith said what we see in the world today is not just free trade but "the creation of paradise by trans-national corporations (TNCs) which do not want to be subjected to constrains of any kind." These TNCs, he says, have systematically removed the constrains put in place to protect the interest of the poor, the unemployed, people in the third world, local communities and local economies.

"Let us don't forget that originally most developing countries-all African countries-were at least self-sufficient in food. What corporate power is trying to do is to actually transform these countries into nations of importers and exporters", said Goldsmith.

Taking a more radical approach to the public outcry against globalisation, Goldsmith said the economic problem of third world countries is made worse by forcing them to export food at prices determined by external forces even when they are facing food scarcity. "Export of food is the main cause of poverty and mal-nutrition in the third world....we are starving them, that is what the FAO is doing, now it is the WTO that has taken over...and by forcing them to export food we are forcing them to import food", said Goldsmith.

Goldsmith, who is also the founding editor of the UK- based THE ECOLOGIST, warned that in india for example most people depend on the farming communities where "about 700 million people are going to be condemned to destitution" if something is not done to reverse the situation. "We are creating in any case poverty on the scale we've never seen before, and it is not aid that would do any good". And to strenghten his argument, Goldsmith quoted Harrold Baker who says that "capital flight in the third world is at least two to three times higher than all the aid we give to the third world."

Commenting on the environmental concern, Goldsmith warned: "we are facing today the greatest threat that humanity has ever faced and we are doing nothing about it-and if we do nothing about it this planet would become unhabitable very shortly, and I'm talking about climate change; we are burning our forests, cutting them down, destroying our soil with industrial agriculture".

To survive the hocus pocus of the global economy, Goldsmith called for the return to localised type of farming rather than monocropping which maximises the interests of the big companies... "even development is not an option, today the problem is survival without development, we need to completely rethink everything we are doing if our children are going to survive on this planet," he added.

Laurence Parisot, Director General of the French Institute of Public Opinion, also had some unkind words against globalisation. Speaking on the French perspective of the phenomenon, Parisot cited a recent study put together by their organisation during the last presidential elections and published in the French daily, LE FIGARO, which shows that "47% of the French think their country has more to lose than gain from globalisation, and 41 % think otherwise.

On the political front, Parisot noted that the ruling political class, especially the parties in the Far Left and Far Right, is totally opposed to the whims and caprises of the global economy, which she said partly accounted for the surprise appearance of the Far Right Le Pen into the second round of the French presidential poll. Parisot also torched on a recent qualitative study in which her organisation discovered that for most French "globalisation is just another form of Americanisation."

"In another recent survey on who is the enemy number one in France during the recent presidential elections, most French, as expected, said it is international terrorism but 31% of those interviewed said it is the United States of America...for most French, the American world company imposes its point of view and its culture in an arrogant way", said Parisot, adding that in her view "the question of anti-Americanism should be clearly put on the table , if not, we risk many more demonstrations that would be difficult to handle."

Another scorching salvo against globalisation came from Mexican Parliamentary Speaker and President of the Latin American Parliament, Beatriz Parades Rangel when she said "scientific and technological revolution is one thing but growing unemployment is another and we don't see how we can come up with an equation that can present an appropriate solution to this problem for our societies." She warned that it is easy to recognise that globalisation is taking place in a world where people live in a state of unequal development adding that "in Latin America and the Carribeans , and of course in Mexico, it is very easy to see which are the segments of society that feel they have been left out of the benefits of globalisation".

But firing a counter from the floor, apparently aimed at the French representative on the panel, Laurence Parisot, one Robert Taylor commented on the much trumpeted idea of seeing public concern against globalisation as anti-Americanism and emphazised the enormous benefits that the world has accrued from globalisation.

"My proposal, and may be European countries should stop attacking America about this, is to improve and encourage the migration of labour across their borders; the USA in the 1990s had the biggest increase of migrant populations into its shores since the first world war and it was a precondition for the fantastic American economic performance in the 1990s instead of pandering to Le Pen and other fascists in Europe", said Taylor.

 

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UNESCO/IIEP Reforms to narrow the education gap in Africa - 15/08/2002

Paris, France

For Africa to achieve economic dependence it needs a pool of its people capable of using their skilles and talents to lubricate the productive sectors of the economy. This underscores the importance of education in promoting development in African countries where such trends are whoppingly lacking. The desire to reverse the negative trend on the part of African governments and some of their international development partners has in the recent past led to the rise of a market-oriented paradigm in reforming the educational sector, especially in technical and vocational training.

This shift in paradigm was however partly provoked by the economic crisis afflicting most African countries who have been finding it extremely difficult to continue the process of providing basic education for their people. Increasing privatisation or semi privatisation of educational institutions has therefore been identified as the only way forward to sustain and improve the educational sector. Shifting the policy focus from inputs to outputs, finding new financing and certification mechanisms, involving social partners in governance, granting more autonomy to institutions, and promoting private providers have been among the emerging common trends.

According to a research conducted by UNESCO's International Institute for Educational planning (IIEP), Technical and Vocational Education (TVE) was in the 1990s subjected to a number of policy changes with the encouragement amongst private training representing the lion share of the reform strategy. However, until recently, not much is known about the activities of these private providers. It is in this context that IIEP, on behalf of the World Bank, launched a study on Private TVE providers in Mali and Senegal, two countries illustrating very different contexts for training. While in the former, TVE benefits from a positive institutional environment, partly due to the establishment of a Training Fund, in the latter, the TVE sector is underdeveloped with no clear strategy regarding its future.

It is recognised that conflicts of interests between the public and private sectors bubble up here and there, especially in the third world. When studying private training provision, according to the IIEP survey, one of the key questions is first and foremost to determine what place the private sector should have in relation to the public sector, and the appropriate measures to favour its development while ensuring effectiveness and equity. The experience of sub-Saharan African countries, the survey adds, illustrates the fact that the public/private relationship is a complementary one, rather than one of substitution or competition.

On the issue of addressing an unsatisfied demand for training and diplomas, it is recommended that the private TVE sector must also meet the needs for skills on the job market. The question is knowing whether it satisfies this need better-i.e. with an improved cost/efficiency ratio-than the public sector.

PRIVATISATION

Poor performance of the educational institutions in most African countries have often been blamed on the administrative deficiences such as over-centralised management, cumbersome procedures, ill-defined responsibilities, slackness in personnel and budgetary management. Worst still, resources needed by the public authorities to kick-start the educational sector and address the inherent deficiencies are unfortunately limited by economic crisis, recession or inadequate economic growth, and debt.

The privatization of education has therefore come to be seen as the best way forward in boosting this sector. Although this system is characterised by the involvement of market and individual initiative in the provision of educational services, a typical mistake, according to a special IIEP survey, is to link it with private schools only. Privatization may take many forms, and can concern any level, stage or element of education as a service in various combinations. While advocates of privatisation say it is necessary to streamline government bureaucracy, eradicate ineffeciency, and meet the unmet or diversified demand, critics lampoon it for profit- making and inequity due to income disparities.

In the developing countries, the share of private schools in total enrolment can be immense (100 per cent in Lesotho, 90 per cent in Zimbabwe, 80 per cent in Botswana), but these schools depend on the state for teachers and per-capita grants.

But a recent study by IIEP noted that although the spectrum of the private sector in education is wide, it produces good or bad schools in the same way as public education. The social and economic make up of the community, together with accountability of staff, are key variables for performance. As often seen in most emerging African countries, the study adds, the best, well-established public schools often operate almost like de facto private schools in terms of exclusivity, where access is determined by whether one can afford property in the catchement area. In mainland Tanzania for example, public secondary schools are considered better than private as the latter develop due to the limited number of the former.

COMMUNITY SCHOOLS

The failure on the part of most African states to meet the increasing educational demand has provoked some village communities to organise themselves in order to create and run community schools. Examples of these schools are found in Mali and Togo, where they educate up to 10 per cent of pupils at primary level, or Chad (nearly 15 per cent).

In his special UNESCO/IIEP sponsored study on Community schools in Mali, Senegal and Togo in 2000, J. Marchand discovered that they are first of all characterised by strong community involvement in which the schools constitute a sort of 'village project'. This appropriation of the school by the community, the study adds, is accompanied by close integration with the surroundings, and richness of social relations in and around the school, including highly motivated teachers often coming from the community itself. In some countries, the community school model is accompanied by interesting innovations in adapting the school calendar, integrating local dialects and developing practical community-based activities. These efforts are often supported by NGOs such as Action Aid and World Vision International.

But according to the study, these definite advantages are also accompanied by weaknesses or stumbling blocks such as lack of sufficient school shelters, equipement and teaching materials, and often untrained and poorly paid teachers. With all this however, these communities struggle to assure the development of their schools and often expect the state to support their efforts. But whether these expectations see the light of day is another matter.

Although these schools are neither public nor really private, and to make matters worse, long ignored by the public administration, they are now being increasingly recognized for their contribution to the development of education in Africa

The underlying element explaining school performance and cost-efficiency is not exactly ownership or source funding, but the type of management of the school and the teaching force. And perhaps that is why apart from promoting research and the drive to increase the role of the private sector in education, the IIEP Director, Gudmund Hernes, in an interview with EXPO TIMES in Paris, said: "We are also actively involved in the training of educational administrators and financial managers; school mapping, publication of catalogues and research papers." Mr Hernes noted that since the setting up of the institute by UNESCO in 1963, it has produced about 1300 graduates from various countries in the world .

"We are happy to report that we've in this way succeeded in promoting efficiency in the educational sector in most developing countries, especially in Africa. Most of our graduates have returned to their countries to occupy top administrative positions in the educational sector, with some, such as in Mozambique, becoming ministers of education", said Mr Hernes.

The IIEP Director observed that they are also organising courses for educational planners and administrators in some African countries such as Senegal and Mauritius. "In fact more than half of our out reach programme is in African countries, including those emerging out of conflict situations", he said. Hernes cited Rwanda and Burundi as among the countries where his institute has been working with authorities to rehabilitate the educational sector long affected by conflicts. He was however quick to admit that problems of security have hindered their operations in some of these areas.

The IIEP has produced an overview of the development of private education in sub-Saharan Africa, as well as case studies on private education in Cameroon and Tanzania (Mainland). Forthcoming are case studies on Tanzania(Zanzibar), KwaZulu Natal province of South Africa, and Kazakhstan.

 

 

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Contract Farming: The Cost/Benefit Conundrum for Africa - 15/08/2002  - Paris, France

 

The evolution of Agrarian policies in Less Developed Countries ( hereafter LDCs) from a predominantly subsistent level carried out by small-scale peasant farmers to a more diversified production of crops for export has in the recent past seen the increasing participation of Trans-national corporations (hereafter TNCs) by way of `contract farming` (hereafter CF) with LDC farmers, especially in sub-Saharan Africa.

Thus this system of farming represents a monumental link between LDCs and the rest of the global economy dominated by the West. In the current scheme of things, each LDC is perforce integrated into the world economy by of way trade and Foreign Direct Investment (FDI)

Orthodox neo-classical economists see this relationship as mutually beneficial evident in the harmonious interdependence between the First and Third worlds. Many people in the Third world reject that view, however. They see it as a way by which the former asserts its dominance, and confines the latter to a subordinate position in the world economy. In line with this thinking is the Dependency theory which describes it as a `barrier to development`. Radical economists have even gone the extra mile to dismiss TNCs as a modern form of imperialism.

CF is an intermediate institutional arrangement that empowers TNCs to participate in, and exert control over, the production process without owing or operating the farms.(Key & Rusten: 1999, p 383). It is an institutional response to imperfections in markets for credit, insurance, price and product information, factors of production, and raw products; and in transaction costs associated with search, screening, transportation of goods and services, price and product bargaining and enforcement.

The shot callers in CF are the TNCs or firms who serve as the middlemen or traders between the LDC farmers and the consumers. The local and foreign firms are more or less part of the `marketing chain` made up of buyers and sellers from farmer to consumer. Local firms buy produce from the farmers, process and sell them first by whole sale, and later by retail, TNCs buy produce, process and export. The chain operates thus:

LOCAL FIRMS: Primary procurement--Processing-wholesale-retail
TNCs: Primary procurement-Processing-Export

Some LDC governments have generally blamed traders for exploiting consumers by charging higher prices, far above those received by farmers. Most LDC governments, especially those in Sub-Saharan Africa have tended to use this exploitation as a perfect alibi to justify state-ownership of the marketing system a la state marketing boards. These boards however became less common in most LDCs in recent years.

Neo-classical economists are less keen on the idea of state intervention championed by the left wing or marxist dependency school. They prefer to leave the marketing chain to private traders only intervening to encourage more competition in private markets.

Since most LDCs, especially in Africa, were forced by international financial institutions such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank to pursue policies of trade liberalisation to qualify for loans, multilateral and bilateral aid, state marketing boards like most other institutions of state intervention began to give way to the private sector which quickly came to be dominated by TNCs. LDC governments were therefore asked to pursue out-ward oriented policies aimed at using export as 'engine of growth'. They were therefor faced with the choice of following this path of development or continue with their 'inward oriented policies' geared towards national self-reliance.

Desperate to survive the financial crisis that became the order of the day in most LDCs in the 70s and 80s, third world governments found it difficult, if not impossible, to escape the whirlwind of the so-called free trade blowing across the world economy. By kowtowing to the carte blanche of the Britton Woods duo (IMF& World Bank), whose shots are willy-nilly called by TNCs, LDC governments had more or less auctioned their countries' economic sovereignty to the crazy world of globalisation dominated by western powers.

On the other hand, however, free trade-though not necessarily benign-has, in the eyes of the neo-classical economists, often played a crucial role in the evolution of economic development in the world of the second best. This theory is of course based on the theory of comparative advantage, which encourages a country to specialise in producing certain products for export in which it has comparative advantage in relation to its factors of production-land, labour and capital-to pay for imports. Thus international specialisation, value-added agricultural products and labour saving are some of the benefits accruing from free trade.

But it has been argued that while CF promises significant benefits for farmers in many cases, recent studies have revealed circumstances to the contrary.

In looking at the benefits and costs of CF on LDC economies in sub-Sahara Africa, like other parts of the third world, one may need to search for answers to important questions such as: Where LDCs better off before the introduction of CF by TNCs? Did or do LDC farmers have better prices for their produce? Did or do they have access to credit and technological assistance …and so on and so forth?

It is in the context of the possible answers to some or all of the above questions that one may possibly arrive at the benefits and costs of CF to LDC farmers in particular, and their economies as a whole.

Development thinking on the cost/benefit analysis of CF is expectedly divided into two ideological blocs-the right wing represented by the Neo-classical economic theory on one hand, and the left wing represented by the Marxist/dependency theory paradigm.

It has often been argued that the left's usual view of the role of the state as the guardian of vested social (class-based) interests runs counter to the rights' hypothesis of the free market economy. The right has constructed it's own political economy of the state from the weaknesses and policy failures of state intervention aimed at promoting national well being.

An important phase in the evolution of development thinking in recent years was the emergence of the mainstream economic theory which of course quickly ballooned into the New Right or Left of Centre depending on the situation.. This position, which agrees or disagrees with either side of the divide in the name of promoting economic development, has however been lampooned for leaning more towards the right.

While the Neo-colonial economists believe that there are more benefits to be accrued from CF, those of the Marxist dependency school think that there are more costs involved in it for LDCs.

ECONOMIES OF SCALE OR WEALTH ACCUMULATION

Neo-classical economists have argued that CFs often associated with economies of scale -in marketing, purchase of inputs, technical expertise etc-all to make LDC farmers achieve large-scale production at a little cost in terms of inputs or factors of production such as land and labour.

In his study of the experience of contract farmers in Indonesia's West Java province, for example, Ben White agrees that the 80s and 90s saw the steady growth of `food and commercial crop production…stimulated by various structural adjustment and deregulation measures which accelerated the transition from import substitution to export orientation`. (Hill, 1995).

Sheila Bhalla's 1999 study of the Indian Agricultural state of Haryana is among the most apt examples of economies of scale influenced by CF. It is the only Indian state which has combined high farm output growth rates with an absolute decline in the number of workers engaged in agriculture during the liberalisation era.

But in the eyes of the dependency theorists, the economies of scale only go to increase the profits and wealth of the rich ruling and corporate class at the expense of the rural poor.

Echoeing this line of thinking Bhalla wrote: 'Most important, what the Haryana case demonstrates is that the ultimate enemy of the poor in this context is the tendency of the new economic policy to generate gross inequality-not the straightforward kind where most people get better off, but the benefits of growth accrue more to the rich than the poor, but the real mean kind where the relatively rich get richer and the poor get poorer, not just in relative terms, but absolutely. No economic policy can be called efficient in third world countries if it does this to people whatever else it may achieve in other areas.'

There is also the case of Ivory Coast where large scale agricultural production by CF only succeeded in ushering in what Samir Amin refers to as 'growth without development' benefiting only the ruling class and the large plantation owners at the expence of the rural poor.

It is therefore becoming increasingly clear that while CF promises to deliver a bucketful of benefits for LDC farmers, recent surveys monitored by Key & Runsten in 1999 have only proved that members of the rural population have reached only limited gains or have been directly harmed by CF.

Taking the dependency pool of reservation on CF some notches up the ladder, Ben White, writing in 1997, argueed that the interest of large-scale capital and international agencies in `small peasant` (family-farm) forms of production represents an attempt to subjugate them to capital in a form which allows the surplus profit from agricultural modernisation to be captured not as profits for direct producers but as profits for the `core`, and transforms peasants into a class of virtual `development peons'.

ACCESS TO CREDIT, TECHNICAL ASSISTANCE OR ECONOMIC IMPERIALISM AND `MONOPSONY`

Access to credit and technical assistance has often been advanced to justify CF as an ideal agricultural path for LDC farmers to follow. The emphasis laid by CF on the production of crops for export makes it possible for contract farmers to get access to bank credits. In most cases credit contract is, according to Key and Runsten, transacted `at the same time as the farming contract and does not require any trips to a bank-administrative costs are minimised and the borrower can avoid notary and other collateral fees`.

On the other end of the spectrum, the cost LDC farmers have to pay for this credit, however, is the below market prices which they charge the TNCs for their raw agricultural product. `Hence, credit market transaction costs present an incentive for firms to contract rather than use spot markets…Firms can earn the highest returns to their financial services from these growers willing to pay the most for credit ( Key &Runsten: 1999, p384).

But that is not all. Another cost that goes hand in glove with this credit windfall is that most agro-industrial TNCs process or pack crops for which there is little or no local market. The LDC farmer therefore loses out when market distortions force firms to change `contract` crops. Examples of such crops in Mexico include broccoli, basil, special melons and kabota squash.

Neo-classical economists also point at technological and marketing assistance as an advantage for contract farmers. Agro-industrial TNCs have emerged as the most dynamic path to economic growth and social development where technology and marketing strategies are transferred to LDCs.

But in the eyes of the Dependency school, there is equally an inherent cost in this benefit. We often see that the farming systems that agro-industrial firms transfer to developing countries reflect the relative prices of labour and capital prevailing in the countries where the technology was developed. Moreover, a large chunk of the machinery and agro chemicals, including fertilizers, genetically modified seeds, herbicide etc are labour saving and capital intensive largely favouring wealthier farmers.

This situation has the double-bubble problem of putting small-scale peasant agriculture at a competitive disadvantage relative to large-scale production.

Another inherent cost of this much-hyped technological benevolence is the almost forgotten issue of inappropriate technologies and products. TNCs are generally seen as costly and highly imperfect organs for the transfer of technology to LDCs.

Along this line of thinking Stuart Corbridge (1986) agrees with firebrand critic, Vaitsos, who says:…a more acceptable form of transfer may lie with unbundled licensing and patenting agreements which, for all their shortcomings relieve the purchasing government of the necessity to buy an entire technology package (which in any case will remain under TNC control. (Vaitsos: 1973)

Agro-industrial firms have also been accused of introducing the `wrong products into the Third world. Richard Peet talks about cultural imperialism`, peet, 1982, p. 297). Thus the firms `take their product decisions with respect to their own international factor environments…. quite at odds with the factor proportions appropriate to LDCs. Corbridge: 1986,p 165)

Another cost is inevitably buried in the tendency of contracting TNCs to use both promotional activities and naked blackmail in hiring farmers to abandon traditional seeds and switch to company-controlled seeds. Promoted as high yielding and disease resistant, the company seeds appear tempting to the multinationals, which make the buying of this seed variety by the former a condition of the contract.

Transfer pricing, which is one of the ways TNCs transfer excess profits to their home countries, is very much evident here. There is always a large-scale intra-firm trade involved in the transfer of inputs and outputs for CF owned by one TNC parent company.

A TNC can, for instance, according to Diane Elson (1995) transfer funds from a particular country by `raising the prices it charges for inputs (seeds, fertilizers) `to its subsidiary in that country; or by lowering the price it pays for outputs`(value added exports) from that subsidiary.`. Thus here prices are not determined on an open market with independent and competing buyers and sellers at arms-length. While the contract farmer and the LDC get a raw deal, the TNC, which transfers its huge profits emerges as the ultimate winner in the whole transaction.

EMPLOYMENT OR UNEMPLOYMENT

There has often been a tug of war between the neo-classical economists and dependency theorists in associating with increasing employment on one hand and unemployment on the other.

On the benefit side, CF may create positive multiplier effects for employment, both in the farm and non-farm sectors in the local economy. Bhalla's study of the Indian agrarian state of Haryana offers a most apt example of this claim. Bhalla (1999, p28) asserts that by 1993-94, although `labour productivity had risen in both sectors, the figure for the non-farm sector had gone up to more than four times that for agriculture in India as a whole.

Bhalla claims that even though at the all-India level, the gap between farm or non farm labour `grew wider and wider` from the 50s to the 90s,…Haryana managed to move against the stream with the help of CF.

Bhalla adds:The Haryana workforce urbanised at an exceptionally rapid rate. Moreover, Haryana also was one of the very few states where, even in rural areas, non-farm employment grew fast enough during the 1970s to regain all the ground lost during industrial years, and more. (Bhalla: 1999, p29)

On the other extreme, however, CF has been dismissed for creating more unemployment and major disruptions in farm households `especially between Male head-of -households and their wives and children.(Carney & Watts, 1990). Moreover recent experiences in Latin America, Runsten & Key claim that despite the highly labour intensive nature of most processed crops, many firms shun small holders, preferring to farm with larger capitalised growers.

The `capitalist` nature of CF may also be at odds with the interests of women in agricultural development. While peasant farming involves the whole family, farm workers in CF are usually male. As expected, a male-head-of household may have more sway over his wife if he negotiates a contract with a TNC (Taussig: 1992)

In his study, Bhalla (1999, P46) also admits that the `share of the rural workforce` in Haryana, as well as its real wages on one hand, and rural poverty on the other, went up at the same time.

Kaplan & Kaplinsky (1999) take this thesis of jobless output and export growth some steps up in their soul-searching study of South Africa's Decidous Fruit Cannning Industry (hereafter DFCI). They claim that despite South Africa's average growth rate of 3% since its transition from apartheid rule in 1994, this has had no impact in reducing the country's unemployment-South Africa is said to have "one of the worst unemployment problems in the world" (Fallon and Lucas: 1998, P.1). And this despite DFCI exports accounting for 32% of the country's 1990-94 exports.

SPECIALISATION, TRADE LIBERALISATION OR MARKET DISTORTIONS & ENVIRONMENTAL DEGRADATION

As I emphasised earlier in this essay, it is in this domain that the fiercest crossing of swords between the Right and Left in development thinking has taken place. But for the purpose of this survey, I would limit myself to where it directly relates to CF in LDCs

On the benefits front, neo-classical economists argue that with free trade-the elimination of all trade barriers-will make domestic prices equal to world prices. Weeks (1999, p 49) claims that ` this results in an increase in the output of the product whose price has risen, and a decline in the output of the product whose price has fallen (Specialisation). Domestic demand for each product no longer equals the production of each. Supply-demand equilibrium is achieved through international trade, which results in welfare gains… It is this line of argument that yields the generalisation that a policy shift towards free trade will result in a country realising its comparative advantage`

For CF to thrive in LDCs, the above thesis of trade liberalisation must hold sway.

In his study of African governments' intervention in the market, Bates (1995, p156) states that they do so `in an effort to lower prices. They adopt policies, which tend to raise the price of the goods farmers buy. And while they attempt to lower the costs of farm inputs, the benefits of this policy are reaped only by few rich farmers. For this, and other reasons, mainstream economists dismiss state intervention as adverse to the interest of farmers. Before the introduction of contract farming in most LDCs in Africa, state marketing boards were very common. The model below explains better.

Table 1:
MARKETING BOARD CONTRACT FARMING
Farmer Farmer
LDC state marketing board TNC
World Market (e.g TNC) DC supermarkets
DC Supermarkets

Bates further admits that in their pursuit of industrial development, LDCs in Africa need revenues and foreign exchange, and African governments therefore had no alternative but to intervene in markets in an effort to set prices in a way that transfers resources from agriculture to the `industrialising sectors of the economy'.

But enter CF, state intervention via marketing boards gave way to capitalist intervention via TNCs in this crazy world of globalisation. This brings me to the most neck-breaking cost of CF where the whole big noise of specialisation and trade liberalisation is merely reduced to one big joke-Market distortions-that for all intents and purposes favours the DCs against the LDCs.

Kaplan and Kaplinsky (1999) offer one of the most striking examples of these market distortions in the study of canning industry in South Africa. Thus the desperate bid to adjust to the demands of globalisation rendered most LDCs vulnerable to the whims and caprices of DCs. These demands include the lowering of trade barriers, removal of state subsidies on agriculture, and of course, replacing state marketing boards with agro-industries or firms. Mainstream economists claim that where this specialisation is in resource-abundant sectors, then the gains to welfare and growth will be upped. But Kaplan & Kaplinsky (1999, p1787) claim that the `dangers posed by globalisation are that remaining market imperfections will make it difficult to appropriate these potential benefits…`

Thus the global organisation of production and exchange makes it difficult for South African food canning producers to realise their potential comparative advantage. This, claims Kaplan & Kaplinsky (1999, p1788), `has implications not just for firm specialisation and government economic policy, but also for the general relevance of much of mainstream economics to economies operating in a world of the second best.`

A most apt example of market distortions is evident in Kaplan & Kaplinsky's study where despite South Africa's DFCI being both a low-cost and high-quality producer of canned fruits, its share of global production has significantly dropped in recent years.

Table 2

Buyer ranking on scale of 1-5 (1=lowest, 5=highest) 

 

\r\n   \r\n S. A. \r\n Spain \r\n Australia \r\n Greece \r\n N. Italy \r\n S. Italy
\r\n Visual \r\n 5 \r\n 4 \r\n 3 \r\n 3 \r\n 4 \r\n 2
\r\n Colour \r\n 5 \r\n 4 \r\n 3 \r\n 3 \r\n 4 \r\n 2
\r\n Taste \r\n 3 \r\n 4 \r\n 4 \r\n 4 \r\n 4 \r\n 2

Source: Interview with Chief Buyers at a large European Importer, May 1999 (Kaplan & Kaplinsky: 1999, p 1789)(Surprisingly, "taste" does not appear to be as important as other quality attributes in this sector)

They further argue that: Given cost and quality advantages, it might be expected, therefore, that the South African DFCI would be expanding at the expense of high cost and lower quality competitors such as Greece, Spain and Italy. Yet the trend of global production has been in favor of the relatively uncompetitive producers. Despite its comparative advantage, South Africa's share of global production has been falling, as has its share of the EU market. The major beneficiary has been Greece, with Spain and Italy also registering substantial improvements in output. (Kaplan & Kaplinsky: 1999, p 1789-1790)

These market distortions in favour of DCs therefore explain the falling international market share of the lowest cost/ highest quality South African producer and of course the tightening of its profit margin. Kaplan & Kaplinsky claim that the primary factors determining changing patterns of global production shares are the European Union's trade and Common Agricultural Policies (CAP). These provide significant gains to European producers, both on the output side (via protection) and on the input side (via subsidies).`

What beggars belief from all this is while the rich DCs in the North impose trade barriers and provide subsidies for their producers, they force LDC governments to liberalise as a pre-condition for foreign aid and investment. This is grossly unfair and it is at the centre of the cost of CF as the basis of an uneven playing ground in favour of DCs against LDCs.

Another cost of this so-alled trade liberalisation aspect of CF is the inherent environmental degradation syndrome.In their study of Thailand, (laherty, Vandergeest and Miller, 1999), they discovered that the conversion of or rice paddies to shrimp ponds`raises serious concerns over the potential for environmental degradation, resulting in increased marginalisation, exclusion, and pauperisation.`

THE WAY FORWARD

As argued by dependency theorists such as Kaplan & Kaplinkky (1999), policy prescriptions which are being followed by LDCs such as South Africa to reduce trade barriers and to deregulate industry governance structures, may make sense when all countries follow similar policies. But when major DC competitors continue to pursue highly protective policies in areas where LDCs have a clear comparative advantage, the consequences of liberalising may be adverse for the latter.

When all is said done, there needs to be level playing ground where the relationship between TNCs and LDC farmers and governments should be one of mutual trust and equal partnership needed to create a striking balance between the maximisation of profits by the former and attainment of sustainable and human face development by the latter.

I think to achieve this balance LDCs need to pursue South-South trade, regional agro-economic integration, international product cartels, co-operatives among farmers, trade barriers and subsidies to protect LDC economic interests as DCs do when necessary. For what is good for the goose should also be good for the gander. I hope these recommendations would be taken in good faith by the Council on Agriculture in the emerging African Union. 

 

 

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AFRICA: Hopes and Concerns for 2003 and beyond - 04/01/2003'

\r\n  Expotimes - Paris. France 

As we begin a new year, it is necessary to reflect a bit on the trials and hopes of Africa, a continent still struggling hard to gradually, if not quickly, move away from the willing recipient of relief aid to a more active partner in the global political economy. The early part of 2002 no doubt ushered some bubbling hopes for the continent with the birth of the New Partnership For Africa's Development (NEPAD) initiative on October 23, 2001.

The NEPAD initiative, the brain-child of Presidents Mbeki of South Africa, Wade of Senegal, Obasanjo of Nigeria and Boutlifika of Algeria, has the tall objective of achieving development for Africa at a growth rate of 7 per cent per annum for 15 years. During this period, NEPAD hopes to claw in about US$65 billion to finance the execution of the various programmes under the initiative. The initiative sounds very good and has, as expected, gained wide support by governments across the continent. And what is more, the International communinity, including the international financial power houses (the Bretton Woods Institutions), is strongly backing the initiative.

But over a year on, NEPAD which is still to take off the ground, is visibly bugged down by a number of stumbling blocks such as the slow response of the international community in raising the funds needed to prop up the initiative and the doubts and fears expressed by observers and NGOs working in efforts to develop Africa. One such NGO is the Third World Network-Africa (TWN-Af) engaged in advocacy on issues related to development, environment and North-South affairs. It has recently criticised the ineffectiveness of NEPAD as a tool to push Africa's development a step forward. It has expressed fears that NEPAD will be driven by the Bretton Woods Institutions (the IMF and the World Bank) with very serious implications for the continent's struggling people. Another fear seriously expressed in the media is that this whole NEPAD initiative was a strategy of western powers to encourage African leaders to mellow down on their earlier energy at transforming the Organisation of African Unity into the new African Union, fearing that it may soon become a powerhouse capable of posing a major challenge in the politics of the global economy.

But with all these obstacles and concerns, NEPAD is poised to stay and wobble on. We only hope that the founders and implementors of this initiative would heed the concerns raised as a way of avoiding the worsening of an already volatile situation in efforts to turn things around.

This brings us to another important milestone in the history of the continent-the founding of the African Union from the ashes of the now defunct Organisation of African Unity. This developement no doubt offers hope to all Africans and well-wishers for a continent that is now more than ever showing that it is ready for business on equal footing with the rest of the world. Again it is hoped that our present crop of leaders would take advantage of the present mood and implement all the provisions of the AU, and resist all the external and internal forces that seek to sabotage efforts of the Union to put make the continent one of the best in the world.

However, it is not all good news in Africa in 2002 as a bloody war broke out in Ivory Coast in September sending shock waves and suffering in the West African sub-region. The burning issue of the ethnic and religious riots in Nigeria recently causing numerous deaths and destruction of property and the eventual denial of that country to host the Miss World Pageant has also not been a welcome news. Another omen is the famine which is afflicting the southern part of Africa and threatening to hit millions again in Ethiopia although the British Development Secretary Claire Short recently played down the latter as an empty fund-raising ploy by corrupt politicians and NGOs. The next few months would show who is telling the truth.

The fact however remains that civil conflicts and natural disasters have proved to be among the leading causes of Africa's slow pace in catching up with the rest of the developed world. The recently signed peace accord to end the civil war in the D R Congo also offers fresh hopes that all is not lost in efforts to make Africa a peaceful and promising continent.

On the democratic front, the peaceful democratic elections in Sierra Leone in May, and in Kenya in December also offer hope that the continent is gradually coming to terms with the reality of ensuring smooth transfer of power which is a sine qua non for political stability needed for economic development.

 

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Climate Change adds stress to scarce water resources - 23/06/2003'

Expo Times, Paris

 It is recognised that today water remains at the top of the development agenda, and there are simple reasons for that. Water is essential for hygiene and health practices. It is important for irrigation, to ensure food security. Water is also a basic component of industry, necessary for hydropower and thus energy, and it is indispensable to maintain ecosystems and biodiversity.

However, today over one billion people lack access to clean water and 2.4 billion people still live without improved sanitation, according to the World Bank. As a result of this situation, 3.5 million people die each day due to water-related diseases. The number of people affected by water scarcity is projected to rise to 5 billion by 2025. And yet according to research findings recorded by the World Bank, this gloomy picture does not account for the potential negative impact of climate variability.

Water resources thus remain the greatest casualty of recent severe climatic changes such as sea level rise, shifts of climatic zones due to increased temperatures, and changes in precipitation patterns which have already been taken a heavy toll on millions of people living in developing countries and threatening their potential of moving out of poverty. Droughts, floods, and storms are now a recurrent phenomena throughout the world, however the impact has been most severe on poor citizens in Central America, Mozambique, China, and Bangladesh, among other developing countries.

Moreover, the world bank has warned that in many water scarce regions, particularly in the subtropics, changes in rainfall patterns and increased evaporation as a result of short term climate variability or long-term climate change may lead to further reduction in water access.

"If the international community does not take decisive action to support developing countries in mitigating the potential impacts of climate change and implementing adaptive strategies, these dramatic projections may become a reality," argues Kristalina Georgieva, Director of Environment for the World Bank.

To make matters worse, increases in temperature and changes in precipitation are projected to accelerate the retreat and loss of glaciers, with associated negative consequences to vast areas such as the Himalayan and the Andean regions. The sea level rise associated with projected increases in temperature could displace tens of millions of people living in low-lying areas, such as the Ganges and the Nile delta, and could threaten the very existence of small island states. World Bank research indicates that over 96 percent of disaster-related deaths, caused in part by floods and droughts in recent years, have taken place in poor countries.

Georgieva emphasized that "the key challenge is to recognize the linkages between major environmental issues - in this case, climate change and water resource availability. At the national level, we must develop mechanisms capable of integrating climate change concerns into economic planning, and simultaneously act multilaterally to move this effort forward at the global level." She called on rich countries and donors to "work together with developing country governments and non-state actors to help integrate climate variability and climate change impacts into their overall development strategies."

According to the World Bank's Robert Watson, former Chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), "Human-induced climate change adversely effects key development issues such as the quantity and quality of water, agricultural production, human health, and human settlements. In addition, climate change will decrease biological diversity, hence undermining the ecosystem goods and services needed for sustainable development, exacerbate land degradation, and increase local air pollution."

The World Bank has been working directly over the last decade to mitigate these risks. As an Implementing Agency of the Global Environment Facility (GEF), the Bank has assisted developing countries to achieve the climate change objective of reducing greenhouse gases (GHGs) through support for policy reforms and lending primarily for renewable energy and energy efficiency projects. The Bank is mainstreaming the GEF into its regular operations. The total climate-change portfolio today includes 62 projects at a total cost of $6.8 billion, with GEF financing $578 million, and funding for the rest from the Bank, private co-funding, and government counterparts.

The Bank has the largest renewable energy portfolio of any institution in the world, with renewable projects of approximately $590 million, or about 6 percent of the Bank's total energy lending over the last 6 years. By facilitating the carbon finance business, through the Prototype Carbon Fund (PCF), the Bank is expanding this market for developing countries.

Under the Kyoto Protocol, industrialized countries can meet their greenhouse gas emission reductions through projects that generate emission reductions in developing countries and economies in transition, both mitigating climate change and promoting sustainable development. Together, with Regional Development Banks, UN agencies, and other partners at the global level, the World Bank has been working to expand and harmonize adaptation strategies to climate change into long-term development strategies.

And yet despite all these efforts by the World Bank and other environmental campaign institutions, concern for the environment is still viewed by many people as a rich-country luxury. But the reality of the situation particularly in developing countries has proved them wrong. This is simply because, according to the World Bank, natural and man-made environmental resources-fresh water, clean air, forests, grasslands, marine resources and agro-ecosystems-provide sustenance and foundation for social and economic development.

And the World Bank, which today remains one of the key promoters and financiers of environmental upgrading in the developing world, endorsed in 2001 an Environmental Strategy to guide the Bank's actions in the environmental area, particularly over the next five years. The Strategy emphasizes three objectives: improving the quality of life, improving the quality of growth and protecting the quality of the regional and global commons.

It recognizes that sustainable development, which balances economic development, social cohesion, and environmental protection, is fundamental to the World Bank's core objective of lasting poverty alleviation.

 

 

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D R Congo receives US$10 billion IMF & W. Bank Debt Relief Service Package - 07/08/2003'

 Paris, France

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has received a big pat on the back with a US$10 billion in debt service relief from the IMF and World Bank for taking the steps necessary to reach its decision point under the enhanced Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Initiative.

The DRC is the 27th country to reach its decision point under the enhanced framework of the HIPC Initiative. Under the enhanced HIPC Initiative, according to the World Bank, The International Development Association (IDA) will provide a total of US$1.031 billion in nominal debt service relief (about US$831 million in net present value terms), which will be delivered in part through a 90 percent reduction in debt service on IDA credits from 2003 to 2026.

The IMF will provide assistance of approximately US$472 million in NPV terms (equivalent to about SDR 338 million in NPV terms) under the enhanced HIPC Initiative, which will be delivered in part through an average annual reduction in debt service of about 50 percent until 2012. Both institutions have already delivered some of their assistance through the concessional treatment of arrears owed to them, and IDA delivered an additional portion of its assistance through a post-conflict grant.

Under the enhanced HIPC Initiative's burden-sharing approach, the DRC's other creditors will provide the remainder of the Initiative's debt relief.

Resources made available by debt relief under the enhanced HIPC Initiative are being allocated to fund key poverty-related expenditure, which is outlined in the DRC's Interim Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (I-PRSP).

The DRC is emerging from years of political turmoil and economic decline. Over the past two years, in spite of periodic outbursts of violence, the country has made considerable progress in consolidating its peace process, stabilizing its economic situation, and creating the conditions for sustainable economic growth and poverty reduction. The DRC has put arrears-clearance operations in place with its external creditors and, after a decade of building up arrears, it is normalizing its economic relations with the international community.

In April 2002, the DRC embarked on an economic reform program supported by the IMF and World Bank. For the first time in 13 years, economic growth was positive in 2002, and inflation fell sharply from 135 percent at end-2001 to 16 percent at end-2002. In March 2002, the government produced an I-PRSP through a participatory process that, in preparation of the full PRSP, will broaden as the country patches up its differences under a new national unity government with all the warring factions on board.

Donors and other development partners meeting at the World Bank European office in Paris on 4 -5 December 2002 with a delegation of the DRC government pledged financial contributions exceeding $2.5 billion after welcoming the progress made by the latter.

It is believed that the successful implementation of the peace process leading to the formation and recent inauguration of the interim national unity government would help consolidate the gains made on the economic front.

Moreover, in recognition of the authorities' satisfactory progress in implementing sound macroeconomic and structural policies, the DRC's total external debt in net present value terms is to be reduced by approximately 80 percent under the enhanced HIPC Initiative.

"The authorities' implementation of their economic program to date, under difficult circumstances, has been broadly satisfactory and has paved the way for reaching the decision point under the enhanced HIPC Initiative," said Horst Köhler, the IMF's Managing Director, following the IMF Executive Board discussion on July 23, 2003.

But on a more cautious note, World Bank Country Director for the DRC Emmanuel Mbi said : "Executive Directors of the World Bank also warned of the high risks the country faces going forward and urged determined action by the authorities and concerted support from the international community to ensure that economic recovery attains a stronger foothold and the economy begins to realize its enormous potential."

The HIPC initiative was launched n 1996 by the World Bank and IMF to create a framework in which all creditors, including multilateral creditors, can provide debt relief to the world's poorest and most heavily indebted countries, and thereby reduce the constraints on economic growth and poverty reduction imposed by the debt-service burdens in these countries.

The Initiative was modified in 1999 to provide three key enhancements: ·

Deeper and Broader Relief. External debt thresholds were lowered from the original framework. As a result, more countries have become eligible for debt relief and some countries have become eligible for greater relief; · Faster Relief. A number of creditors began to provide interim debt relief immediately at the "decision point." Also, the new framework permitted countries to reach the "completion point" faster; and · Stronger Link Between Debt Relief and Poverty Reduction.

Freed resources were to be used to support poverty reduction strategies developed by national governments through a broad consultative process.

To date, 27 countries, two-thirds of the HIPCs have reached their decision points and are receiving debt relief from all sources that will amount to more than US$40 billion over time, and an average stock-of-debt reduction in NPV terms of nearly two-thirds. Of these 27 eight countries Benin, Bolivia, Burkina Faso, Mauritania, Mali, Mozambique, Tanzania and Uganda have reached their completion points.

The net present value (NPV) of debt is the discounted sum of all future debt-service obligations (interest and principal). It is a measure that takes into account the degree of concessionality of a country's debt stock. Whenever the interest rate on a loan is lower than the market rate, the resulting NPV of debt is smaller than its face value, with the difference reflecting the grant element.

The other world's poorest and heavily indebted countries on the HIPC initiative include Benin, Bolivia, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Guyana, Honduras, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritania, Mali, Mozambique, Nicaragua, Niger, Rwanda, São Tome & Príncipe, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia.

 

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Long Term Economic Impact Of HIV/AIDS More Damaging Than Previously Thought - 05/08/03'

Paris, France

A new World Bank research report has warned that HIV/AIDS causes far greater long-term damage to national economies than previously assumed, arguing that by killing mostly young adults, the disease is robbing the children of AIDS victims of one or both parents to love, raise and educate them, and thus undermines the basis of economic growth in the long term

This suggests that a country like South Africa, the report states, could face progressive economic collapse within several generations unless it combats its AIDS epidemic more urgently. According to the new report"The Long-run Economic Costs of AIDS: Theory and an Application to South Africa" most studies of the macroeconomic costs of AIDS, as measured by reduced GDP growth rates, do not pay enough attention to the way in which human knowledge and potential are created and can be lost. This is one of the key channels influencing long-term growth.

In Africa, for example, where the epidemic has hit the hardest to date, existing estimates range between a modest decline of 0.3 and 1.5 per cent in GDP growth annually. In contrast, the report argues that the costs are likely to be much higher.

"Previous estimates overlooked the impact of HIV/AIDS on children if one or both parents die, how they can suddenly become orphans, how they become vulnerable to dropping out of school, and how, in this way, the disease weakens the ability of today's generation to pass on its skills and knowledge to the next," says Shanta Devarajan, co-author of the new research findings, and Chief Economist of the World Bank's Human Development Network.

"In those countries facing an HIV/AIDS epidemic on the same scale as South Africa, for example, if nothing is done quickly to fight their epidemic, they could face economic collapse within several generations, with family incomes being cut in half."

The landmark report of about 111 pages released in July 2003 argues that the long-run economic costs of AIDS are almost to be much higher, if not more devastating. The report glaring identifies three ways in which the argument establishing how the epidemic can significantly slow down economic growth, even to the point of leading to a devastating economic collapse :

First, AIDS selectively destroys human capital, that is, peoples' accumulated life experiences, their human and job skills, and their knowledge and insights built up over a period of years. It is primarily a disease of young adults. As these infected adults become progressively sick and weak, they steadily lose their ability to work. Eventually, the disease kills them in their prime, thereby destroying the human capital built up in them over the years through child-rearing, formal education, and learning on the job.

Second, AIDS weakens or even wrecks the mechanisms that generate human capital formation. In family homes, the quality of child-rearing depends heavily on the parents' human capital. If one or, worse, both parents die while their children are still young, the transmission of knowledge and potential productive capacity across the two generations will be weakened. At the same time, the loss of income due to disability and early death reduces the lifetime resources available to the family, which may well result in the children spending much less time (if any at all) at school.

Third, the chance that the children themselves will contract the disease in adulthood makes investment in their education less attractive, even when both parents themselves remain uninfected. Thus with too little education and knowledge gathered from their parents, as well as being deprived of parental love and guidance throughout their childhood, the children of AIDS victims later become adults who themselves are less able to raise their own children and to invest in their education. The process is insidious, since the effects are felt only over the long-run, as the poor education of children today translates into low adult productivity a generation later, and so on.

The report therefore agrees that the accumulation of human capital is the force that accelerates economic growth in the long term. But if nothing is done, the report warns, the outbreak of the disease will eventually precipitate economic collapse.

"Economic analysis for practical policy-making often pays too little attention to the wider economic context," says Hans Gersbach, co-author and Professor of Economics at Heidelberg University, Germany.

"We have attempted to go beyond conventional reasoning where the long run effects of AIDS are concerned. The threat of a downward spiral in levels of human capital and productivity when a society is assailed by an epidemic like AIDS must be a centerpiece of a broad macroeconomic perspective."

In the early phases of the epidemic, economic damage may appear to be slight. But as the transmission of capacities and potential from one generation to the next is progressively weakened and the failure to accumulate human capital becomes more pronounced, the economy will begin to slow down, with the growing threat of collapse.

This raises important social and fiscal implications for economic policy. The first is the threat of worsening inequality. If the children left orphaned are not given the care and education enjoyed by those whose parents remain uninfected, there will be increasing inequality among the next generation of adults and the families they form. Social customs of adoption and fostering, however well-established, may not be able to cope with the scale of the problem generated by a sharp increase in adult mortality, thereby shifting the onus onto the government. The government itself, however, is likely to experience increasing fiscal problems and so be unable to fully finance this additional task.

Second, by killing mainly young adults, AIDS seriously weakens a country's tax base, and reduces its ability to finance public expenditures, including those aimed at accumulating human capital, such as education and health services not related to AIDS. In this way, the damaging impact of HIV/AIDS on economic growth over the longer run is intensified. As a result, national finances will come under increasing pressure. Slower economic growth means slower growth of the tax base, at the same time as governments face growing demands to treat the sick and care for orphans.

"This report confirms how important it is for policymakers to act swiftly and effectively to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS, and to treat those with the disease," says the study's co-author Clive Bell, a visiting World Bank Research Fellow, and Professor of Economics at Heidelberg University.

"Keeping infected people alive and well, especially parents, so they can continue to live productive lives and take care of the next generation, is not only the compassionate thing to do, but it is also vital for a country's long-term economic future."

Moreover, going far beyond its contribution on the macroeconomic ramifications of AIDS, the report is grounded on other strands of the litterature available on this deadly disease. It is for instance partly motivated by empirical observation that good health has a positive and statistically significant effect on aggregate output (Barro & Sala-1-Martin, 1995, Bloom, Canning and Sevilla, 2001). The theory that widespread diseases are a formidable barrier to economic growth has also been drummed home by the recent report by the Commission on Macroeconomics and Health (WHO, 2001).

The report notes that the outbreak of AIDS leads to an increase in mortality, and if the prevalence of the disease becomes sufficiently high, there may be progressive collapse of human capital and productivity.

The policy problem, therefore, warns the report, is to avoid such a collapse. The report gives three instruments available for this purpose : First, spending on measures to contain the disease and treat the infected ; second, aiding orphans, in the form of income-support or subsidies contigent on school attendance ; and finally, taxes to finance the expanding programme. The central policy problem, the report adds, is to find the right balance among these interventions in order to ensure economic growth in the long run without excessive inequality.

The first central conclusion of the report is that the AIDS epidemic will peak far in advance of the economic damage it will ultimately cause. In southern Africa, for instance, the report notes, where prevalence rates among the age-group 15-49 are already 20 per cent and more, the worst is still looming large. The second main conclusion drawn from this report agrees that the scale of the damage, in terms of accumulated losses in GDP per capita, will also be large, even if the measures designed to combat the disease and to ensure the education of half and full orphans are well chosen, and the fiscal means employed to finance them are highly efficient. In the absence of such measures ; an economic collapse is on the cards, the report warns.

The raison d'être for these gloomy findings lies in the outrageously insidious and selective character of the disease. By killing mostly young adults, the report argues, 'AIDS does more than destroy the human capital embodied in them ; it also deprives their children of those very things they need to become economically productive adults-their parents loving care, knowledge and capacity to finance education. This weakening of the mechanism through which human capital is transmitted and accumulated across generations becomes apparent only after a long lag, and it is progressively cumulative in its effects.'

The authors of the report argues : 'there in lies the sources of the difference between our findings and those of previous studies, which have focused either on the role of quasi-fixed factors over the medium run or on the historical record to date.'.

'What are the lessons to be drawn for public policy ? Where the prevalence rate is still low, as in much Asia, eastern Europe, the Near east and latin America, it is of the utmost importance to contain the disease at once : for the economic system as well for individuals, an ounce of prevention is worth far more than a pound of cure.'

The authors note that the theoretical sections of the report are exclusively devoted to a rigorous formulation and analysis of this problem. ' Intuitively, the question is what combination of measures should be adopted to promote the formation of human capital and good health when the threat of a collapse looms.'

Meanwhile, it is recognised that the World Bank has over the years been consistent in fighting HIV/AIDS in all regions. Over the last few years, it is believed to have committed US$1.6 billion in grants, loans and credits for HIV/AIDS programs worldwide. The Bank is especially engaged in Sub-Saharan Africa, where more than 29 million adults and children are infected with HIV/AIDS.

As of July 2003, the Bank had committed more than US$800 million for HIV/AIDS programs in 23 African countries. All of the poorest countries in Africa are on track to receive grants from the World Bank for their HIV/AIDS national programs.

Policy guidance and special initiatives are offered for middle income African countries with high HIV prevalence, such as Swaziland and other parts of Southern Africa. In these countries, the Bank is providing implementation and technical support, and knowledge services to complement financing from the Global Fund For AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria, and other sources.

"While there is much economic analysis that shows how costly it is to provide prevention, care and treatment to the millions that are infected and affected, there are far fewer studies that show how costly it is not to act." says Debrework Zewdie, Director of the World Bank's Global HIV/AIDS Programme, adding :"This new study will help fill this gap, and its approach should persuade governments of the need to draw up a plan of action and act on it.".

Noticeably absent in the conclusion of the report, however, is the much more important question of poverty of the hardest hit people of developing countries in Africa and the need for them to have access to cheaper AIDS preventive drugs, education and other social services.

 

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Liberia: Thousands flee towards down town Monrovia as rebels advance - 21/07/2003' Expo Times, Paris

LURD rebels reportedly fought their way into the western suburbs of the Liberian capital Monrovia over the weekend as tens of thousands of residents took to their heels towards the city centre to escape from a deadly hail of mortar bombs and gunfire.

The embattled Liberian President Charles Taylor said he would never abondon his people, even as the rebels closed in, vowing to fight to the last man.

 According to the US-based ABS news channel, rebels streamed across a river bridge and took positions a few kilometres from the city centre which they hammered with volleys of mortar rounds, killing at least one person, witnesses said.

But forces loyal to Taylor's government, including rag-tag civil militias said they had pushed back the rebels after they passed Monrovia's port area and neared another bridge at the entrance to the city centre, although the military situation on the ground appeared far from clear.

This third rebel attack on the troubled capital shattered hopes that promised West African peacekeepers, and perhaps US troops, could deploy quickly to allow President Taylor to step down and avoid a fresh bloodbath.

Taylor's Defence Minister Daniel Chea, who was carrying a pistol while encouraging civilians not to demonstrate near the frontline for fear of being hit by raining rebel mortars, said 20 civilians had been killed in the fighting around Monrovia in the past two days although it was difficult to confirm.

Diplomats said a French photographer was wounded during the fighting in the coastal city and was in a serious condition receiving treatment at the US embassy.

Over 300 people were killed in the last two previous rebel attacks on the capital and Aid agencies estimate that 200,000 people displaced by fighting and squating in camps in the outskirts of Monrovia were on the move again in search of safer grounds.

President Charles Taylor's spokesman Vaanii Paasawe blamed a U.N. arms embargo for the country's plight. The embargo was imposed to punish Taylor's regime for trading guns for diamonds with rebels in neighboring Sierra Leone.

"They have tied our hands and feet and thrown us into a boxing ring," said Paasawe.

Mr Taylor's government and rebels signed a cease-fire on June 17 at talks in Ghana, but the truce has repeatedly been violated.

Mr Taylor was recently indicted for alleged war crimes in Sierra Leone. The US has promised to send troops to support a West African keeping force to be deployed to maintain the peace but said would only do so when Taylor leaves. Taylor for his part has vowed to leave only after the deployment of peacekeepers.

Caught up, however, in this sad dilemma are the poor innocent civilians who have already paid a heavy price for a war that has been part of the country's polity for the past 14 years.

 

 

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'Land : The issue I found difficult to ignore in Zimbabwe - 24/11/2003'

 

Ibrahim Seaga Shaw who recently visited Zimbabwe on a special tour of European journalists organised by the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority shares his experience on what he found about the implementation of the much media-hyped land distribution policy, an issue which he said he apparently found difficult to ignore.

When I was invited to join a team of journalists in Europe on a nearly two-week tour of Zimbabwe's rich eco-tourism reservoir, I accepted the challenge despite my very busy schedule because I grosso modo saw it as a very good opportunity to prove or disprove the much Western media hyped stereotypical representation of Zimbabwe as a country where the only news is the wanton destruction of the lives and property of perceived opponents of Mugabe's fast-track land redistribution policy. At least I saw it as an opportunity to see things as they are, and not as the editors and journalists in Europe, largely following the lead set by their home governments or commercial mentors, would want us to believe.

The 10-hour flight from London Gatwick to Harare on Air Zimbabwe appeared less boring than anticipated perhaps not only because we were in the business class but because I managed to punctuate it with casual chats with two Zimbabweans also in the business class.

"Why are you visiting Zimbabwe; don't you think you are risking your life ?", a man who simply introduced himself as Simon, seated on the far right, ventured when I introduced my self as a journalist based in France.

"I thought it was better to come and see for my self what has been going on in your country and in any case a journalist worthy of the name should always be ready to go for the truth even if it means risking his life", I said cautiously hoping to sustain the dialogue.

Simon, a white Zimbabwean farmer, recalled how he fled with his family (wife and two children) to the safety of the United Kingdom when 700 hectares of his land was taken away from him and redistributed under the new policy leaving him with 300 hectares. He said Zimbabwe recorded about 75 per cent drop in the production of the country's main export crop tobacco because, according to him, most of the lands that were seized by force are yet to be put into productive use.

On my way from the loo located in the rear of the business class, I spotted a Zimbabwean black businessman called Eddie who proved to be equally forthright. He told me how the land issue was put on hold for 10 years following the country's Independence in 1980 but, he added, when the government saw that the white commercial farmers and their British government backers were not ready to co-operate in the 'willing seller willing buyer' arrangement without a fight, it decided to take the bull by the horns to embark on the fast-track land redistribution scheme. "Of course many Zimbabweans are yet to see the benefit from this land reform programme but as is the case with any revolution it will take some time before this would happen", said Eddie.

With these two different positions, which inevitably propped up my urge to pry into the controversial land issue, I returned to my seat . But once in Zimbabwe, I was quickly reminded by Colletta Bacchmann, the ZTA representative in Germany who accompanied us, that the main purpose of the tour was to take us to the country's many tourist attractions so that we can write to our people about our experience in these places. As if to make their point even clearer, our tour itenerary turned out to be strictu sensu about tourism. But I refused to bulge ; I continued to press for at least a day or two off to do some thing on the land issue. I argued that there is no way a visiting journalist worthy of the name would write about tourism in Zimbabwe without touching on the land issue which has already taken a heavy toll on all economic sectors of the country, including of course that of tourism.

And that was how I made my trip at sunrise to the farms in the Mazoe district in the Mashonaland east province, some 35 km from Harare, on Friday April 11, day 9 of our tour, a deviation from the tour itenerary which proved equally eventful. At least I managaed to get what I wanted although at the price of forgoing the flight to Bulawayo, the country's second capital, and the famous Hwange National park said to be the home of thousands of elephants.

My ZTA tour guide Gladys Bengo, who drove me to Mazoe from my Sheraton Harare hotel, said she was among most civil servants to benefit from the land redistribution programme which she admitted has made life better for her and her family. Located in the Marondera area 80 km east of Harare, Gladys said her farm produce mainly maize, wheat and potatoes with 13 full time employees.

"Thanks to the land redistribution programme, I'm now expecting to harvest soya beans in the next few days that would fetch me some thing like 25, 000, 000 Zim dollars; for the first time since I graduated from the university I'm now talking in the millions", said Edwell Hukuimwe, the Mazoe district Information Officer who together with the ZTA tour guide took me on a conducted tour to some farmers in the Mazoe district in Murewa.

Mazoe which, according to the 2002 census, has a population of 199, 408, owed its name from the famous small man- made lake Mazoe used mainly for irrigating citrus fruits. Farming is the main occupation here growing tons of maize, tobacco, citrus and soya beans, as well as diary products. Gold is also mined here with the Jumbo mining company employing about 500 people.

As we drove on a narrow tarmac road to one of the farms, we passed the Glendale Spinars plant for processing cotton, which Hukuimwe described as one of the best in the world.

When we got to the building housing the office, restaurant and workshop of Daniel Chinyemba, one of the many Zimbabwean farmers to benefit from the new land redistribution policy, it was buzzing with life. Beaming with confidence, Daniel told me how the new policy made it possible for him to have 80 hectares of fertile land, and how, contrary to speculation in the media, he has been able to convert his new lands into productive use growing over 300 tons of wheat among other crops.

Chinyemba, who said he has 44 workers (14 permanent and 30 casual) working on his farms, noted that he sells his farm produce to the Government Marketing Board (GMB) in the spirit of patriotism and because, as he put it, they assist with seeds and fertilizers, although he said the price they pay is otherwise lower than what is offered by the private sector.

Admitting, however, how his new acquired piece of land has really transformed his life, Chinyemba lamented how before the new land policy he and his other six brothers with their families were sharing a mere 7 hectares of land which he flatly said was not even enough for one family.

" In fact this land is too small for me as I've utilised every single piece of what has been allocated to me and I've got the potential to develop even 3 or 4 times of that land without any problem because I've also managed to buy tractors ", said Chinyemba.

Apparently in his 40s, Chinyemba said he is an agricultural engineer by training which explains why he is also the proud owner of the Glendale engineering workshop that produces farming equipments with four outlets in the whole of Mazoe employing over 100 workers. He took us to the workshop and then to his shop and restaurant run by his wife.

The climax of our visit to Chinyemba's growing business empire was our tour of his farms where he pointed to his " 27 hectares of cotton, down there we've 15 hectares of maize, and from here going up on top of there we've got 22 hectares of maize ; here we have bit of ground nuts and soya beans for next year's seeds ".

Chinyemba was however quick to admit that his new farm land was before the land redistribution programme owned by one white farmer called Collin Schaffer who, he said, was merely using it as satellite farm growing only soya beans and peas as he owns many other hectares of fertile land. He added that Schaffer was among the many white farmers who fled Zimbabwe in protest of the new land policy.

Our second stop was at the farm of Mazoe tour guide and Information Officer himself Edwell Hukuimwe, who showed us his maize farm ready for harvest which he said should be bringing in about 500 bags. He said he is expected to make millions of Zimbabwe dollars after this harvest. Hukuimwe said he grows three types of crops spread across the three farming seasons by way of crop rotation so as to make sufficient use of the land. He said he has about 9 workers (one manager, 3 permanent and 5 casuals) adding that appart from their salaries, he gives them bonus whenever there is a very good harvest.

"Before the new land policy, we were a nation of mere producers, but now we do not only produce crops but we own the means of production which is very vital ", said Hukuimwe matter-of-factly.

On our way on foot from Hukuimwe's farm we met some farm workers living in three small farm houses. One of them, Anthony Lucky, living there with his family, said he is still working on the same farm land now owned by a black Zimbabwean who got it from a white Zimbabwean farmer. When I asked him through an interpreter whether he was happier working for a black farm owner than he was under his former white employer, he said he feels much better although he thinks something should be done to improve their salaries against the backdrop of the growing inflation which is making life even more difficult.

As is generally expected of a district information officer, Hukuimwe proved to be well informed about the ups and downs of the implementation of the new land policy. Driving to our third and final farm of the day, Hukuimwe said : " special projects such as citrus plantations, green houses for flowers, which these newly resettled farmers do not have the requisite skills to run, are now being allocated to people with the required knowledge, experience and resources to run ".

Arriving at the Dorking Dairies specialising in producing dairy products and owned and run by a white farmer who was expecting us, I quickly realised the difference as far as security is concerned, unlike the other farms we had earlier visited, I saw a barbed wire fence with a gate manned by a security guard who only let us in after consulting his bosses.

Speaking confidently in an interview, Dorking Dairies Proprietor and Managing Director, Ian A. King said : " We primarily rare cattle and we milk cows ; but we also have a factory where we process our own dairy products and so unlike a lot of other farms, we have value-added products which is quite good because it creates employment for people in the area. "

King, who said he inherited the 300 hectares of land which he is currently using from his late father, noted that he has about 380 Zimbabweans employed on the farm, dairy products factory, green house for flowers, including those more or less self-employed in Harare selling dairy products on commission basis.

He said his farm has about 100 cows which they milk to produce dairies although as he put it, they also buy milk from other farmers ; " 35 per cent of the dairies that we sell comes from this farm and the rest from other farms ".

King said apart from his factory and that of the main Dairy board which produces 90 per cent of the total consumption in the country, " there is a few such as the one in Bulawayo, and the other in the south of Harare, but I think in terms of fresh milk production we are probably the next largest after Dairy Board which is partly government owned. "

In addition to the dairy products, King said : " We do horticulture, we grow about 50 hectares a year of vegetables mainly for the local consumption, and then we've a 2.15 hectare rose project which is exported into Europe and many other countries. We also grow little maize just to feed the cattle. "

I asked him whether he was affected by the new land policy, he said : " I dont know …up to now, we haven't been, but it is not for me to say wether we would or wont be. " King added that he is still using his 300 hectares he had before the fast-track land distribution policy and that he has not so far been approached by any desperate land grabbers.

Pressed on what he thinks is going to be the outcome of the stand off between the government and majority of the white farmers who fled the country in protest of the new land policy, King said he thinks it is going to be difficult because everybody has a different approach to the problem and " I think at the end of the day one thing that would always come out is that there is a ruling party and a government that is in power, and as long as that is the de facto situation you have to learn to live with that…In general I dont think there is anybody who ever doubts the need for an agrarian land reform ; the discussion has always been on how to achieve it…

" But I think government has had its policy and I think we just have to wait and see ! life has to go on…You see, it is all different now and it would always be different ; people would just go forward from here ; you have to continue with life ; we have to continue producing as far as we can as there are about 300 people who depend on this farm for their living. "

On the question of the run-away inflation crippling the country's economy, King said it has been very difficult but stressed that " the key is to remain productive and increase your productivity all the time, if you can keep pushing productivity and increase your output, then you can cope with the inflation ".
King introduced Nelson Masuku as his farm assistant supervisor and Glenys Wills as his Admin. Manager before taking us on a conducted tour of his dairy factory where we saw cows being milked and machines processing yoghurt with mostly black Zimbabweans working to earn their living. We were also taking around Dorkings horticultural farm and the green house of roses and other flowers.

Lessons from My Mazoe Tour

My tour of Mazoe which ended that evening left me with three clear impressions of optimism for Zimbabwe : First, that contrary to Western media reports, most Zimbabweans who acquired land from the new policy are making full use of it to better their once improvished lives and communities taking the cases of Hukuimwe and Chinyemba. Second, that there are still white farmers such as Ian King who are still going about their business peacefully and happily working with their black fellow Zimbabweans and would prefer to keep going in this way without meddling into politics contrary to what the media in the West are saying.

Third, attempts are being made to correct the mistake of allowing land grabbers who have little or no required skills, experience and capital to maintain the redistributed plots of land by now making sure that specialised farm projects are now allocated to people with the required capacity to maintain and develop them.

One thing though that stood out glaringly was the idea of a steady rise of a new black Zimbabwean elite such as the Hukuimwes and the Chinyembas as not only the producers but the new owners of the means of production, and it remains to be seen whether farm workers such as Anthony Lucky would continue to be better off under their new black masters compared to what they were experiencing under their former white masters, or whether they would also one day become owners of the means of production.

The final point I observed is that the Zimbabwean authorities need to identify and encourage more white farmers of the likes of Ian King genuinely determined to continue with their business in helping to generate the much needed capital in the country with the least intention of openly or negatively messing around with politics.

 

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Pre-Cancun Debate : Economic Liberalisation and the Developing World - 13/10/2003','pre-cancun-debate-economic-liberalisation-and-the-developing-world-13102003','','

 Expo Times, Paris

The fifth Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organisation took place in the Mexican city of Cancun between 11-14 September as a follow-up to the Doha Development Round in 2001 where new negotiating mandates were awarded by Ministers to the WTO administration that placed development issues, especially the interestes of the less developed countries, at the heart of the WTO work.

These mandates inaugurated a three-year negotiation period where progress was expected to be made on the following issues : agriculture, services, implementation, industrial goods, new issues, trade and environment and drugs, patents and public health. The Cancun conference was therefore intended to gauge the progress made in the negotiations pursuant to the mandates entered into the covering the above subjects.

It is within the context of international efforts to set the scene to the Cancun Conference by highlighting the progress that has been made since Doha and to indicate what further progress should be made to successfully complete the negotiations entered into over the next two years that the seminar on " Economic Liberalization and the Developing World " was organised in Paris on September 5 by the Kuwaiti-based Abdullah Al-Mubarak Al-Sabah Foundation.

In his introductory remarks at the conference held at the prestigious Pavillon Dauphine in Paris, the Foundation's Vice President, Sheikh Abdullah Al-Sabah said : " since its establishment, the Foundation has been serving many causes and services that are not confined to any geographical location or a specific cause…By sponsoring this conference, the foundation hopes to move towards macro endeavours which address the root causes of many of humanity's problems and grievances. "

The vice president noted that while his organisation continues its efforts to provide assistance in education and health, among others, it now wishes to " revamp the world's efforts to reduce, if not erradicate, the causes of the suffering of these poor people. Along these lines, the Foundation believes in helping developing countries to achieve better living standards which is absolutely necessary, if not urgent. This of course is the major challenge. In this respect one of the Foundation's aims in sponsoring this conference is based on the critical role trade plays in our world in a global sense. "

" There is no doubt that trade affects the livelihood of everyone, critically in developing countries which stand to benefit significantly more than any other countries from economic liberalisation. Obviously, this requires developing countries to adopt the right framework, and to back this up with solid determination. What is needed are reforms from within developing countries and the adoption of a bottom-up modus operandi inorder to achieve a manageable set of targets within the capability of their resources "

Drawing parallels from his country Kuwait, Sheikh Al-Sabah lamented that " it is easy to note that although rich economically in hydro carbons, its economic power base can be fundamentally influenced in every other respect by sucessfully pursuing effective trading policies ; it is therefore vital that a country such as mine should adopt a pro-active approach in reforming their economies before it is induced to do so externally. "

Sheikh Abdullah noted that he saw his Foundation's role, as part of civil society in the developing world , as mainly supporting constructive debate and interraction on issues that are vital, " not only to our region, but to the global community at large. For this reason, and in pursuit of this new additional strategic change, the Foundation took the initiative to organise this conference, thus helping to enhance the dialogue and intellectual understanding of the issues related to economic liberalisation and the developing world. "

British Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, Patricia Hewitt, one of the keynote speakers, described the Cancun conference as a key mildstone in the Doha development agenda. The British Minister, who started to speak in French but quickly changed to English, outlined what she called her aspirations for Cancun in the following way : " Cancun is neither the begining of this round of negotiations nor the end, but is an important mid-point in the round. And it is time for political leaders from all countries to prove that there really is a development round. We need to show big ambition if we are to achieve big results ".

Hewitt lamented that the road from the Dowa round has been long and winding " with too many deadlines missed " and cynicism among member states of the developing world growing. And although she said she is determined to push forward the idea that the world trade system is based on a fundamental principle of equality, she was quick to admit : " the reality is, for too long, the richer countries of the world dictated the terms of trade…we preach free trade at home and practice protectionism abroad ".

Hewitt expressed hope that despite the many disagreements on many technical issues, " a consensus is begining to grow that trade and trading partnerships between countries can help to make our world more secure and more just."

French Foreign Trade Minister François Loos, in a key note speech read by his representative, appeared even more forthright when he called for a fair playing ground for all members of the World Trade Organisation in all aspects of international trade, especially those of the less developed countries of sub-Saharan Africa.

With this objective, he says, agricultural produce in Africa, which has been the worst victim of the existing unfair deal, may have a chance of surviving as this would make African agricultural and manufactured exports more accessable to markets in the developed countries. " For this to happen, the developed countries, and also the big agricultural produce exporting countries, should à priori unilaterally open their markets to Africa's exports, " said Loos.

Proping up the case for fair trade, Abdul Rahman Bin Hamad Al-Attiya, Secretary General of the Gulf Cooperation Council, called for constructive negotiations, especially on the sub-regional level in the efforts to find a balance on the playing field of international trade. But although, developing countries, he said, " were anticipating at the Doha conference that negotiations would lead to the fulfilment of the obligations which would increase growth rates, yet there was a common feeling that development needs are being ignored. "

The GCC secretary general admitted that the creation of the free trade area in their region in march 1998, establishing, among other things, a common market, put member countries of the WTO in that region in a better position to compete in international trade.

Focusing more or less on the just released World Economic Prospects Report for 2004, the las t Key note speaker, Dr Carlos Alberto Primo Braga, Senior Advisor on International Trade, The World Bank, said : " The bottom line is that there are good news in the report for our expectations in the world economy even though there is uncertainty particularly related to the situation in Iraq and the war against terrorism. But we are still optimistic about the prospects for the world economy and that is one reason to put so much emphasis on structural reforms…So those are our forecasts at this point in time as you can see both in the case of high-income economies and with respect to developing economies we expect 2004 to bring us back to growth levels similar to those we had before September 11. "

Dr Primo Braga however amitted that roughly half of the developing countries of the world are still to benefit from international trade and that agricultural protectionism in rich countries remains high thus making it difficult for these poor countries to catch up. The World Bank expert advocated pro-poor country policies in agriculture-such as increasing transparency, slashing tariffs and having rich countries taking the lead-as the way forward, for as he put it, " vision without implementation is hallucination.

" It is against this background that we have to ask what can we do through the Trade Agenda, and particularly the Doha Agenda that can make the difference for the poor ", said Dr Primo Braga.

Using slides to illustrate his points, the World Bank Trade Policy Advisor noted that one of the good news is that most regions are going to achieve one of the many millennium development goals- this one with respect to poverty.

" The bottom line is that developing countries, as was mentioned, have made significant progress in terms of their policy regime, and in terms of integration with the world economy, over the last twenty years, but a good agreement in the Doha Round can have a significant impact, particularly from the point of view of poverty alleviation ",

Fielding a question from the audience on the burning issue of the negative impact of trade on the environment, former WTO director general Mike Moore said there exists in that world body a structure committed to strike a balance between these two variables (trade & environment) and that " there is great resistance to allowing or regarding the WTO as the organisation of last resort for the environment or labour or human rights or indigenious rights …and this is where there is a clash. "

Moore, who turned out to be the Guest Speaker at the conference warned against the idea of setting up environmental regimes that would punish poor countries, adding that many developing countries are often very suspicious of rich white countries and their NGOs who come down and tell them what to do about trade and environmental protection.

 

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Al-Sabah Foundation VP Speaks on Projects in the Developing World - 13/10/2003'

 

The Abdullah Al-Mubarak Al-Sabah Foundation last month organised a seminar on the topic " Economic Liberalisation and the Developing World " in Paris ahead of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) Ministerial Conference in Cancun on September 11. The Vice President of the Foundation Sheik Abdullah Al-Mubarak Al-Sabah who delivered the introductory remarks at the seminar gave this exclusive interview to Ibrahim Seaga Shaw, publisher and Editor in Chief, Expo Times.

EXPO TIMES : It's interesting to have your foundation organising such a big seminar in Paris just days ahead of the WTO ministerial conference in Cancun. How does organising such meetings fits into the aims and objectives of your foundation ?

SHEIKH AL-SABAH : First let me give you a brief run down of the origins of the foundation. The Abdullah Al-Mubarak Al-Sabah Foundation was established on the will of my late father Sheikh Abdullah Al-Mubarak Al-Sabah in 1992 with empahisis on social, education and health programmes within the arab world, islamic world and the developing world. We have had generally more than 105 programmes undertaken over the last ten years : community centres which include mosques, schools, social centres from the Maghreab to Mozambique through relief agencies in Kuwait which handle these programmes for us. In Egypt for example we help the Library at the University of Cairo. We provide assistance to human rights organisations. We help NGOs working in developing countries in the health and humanitarian sectors. We also provide assistance to Kuwaitis by sending them abroad for medical treatment for some serious diseases or surgical operations which they cannot readily get at home.

EXPO TIMES : What about in the field of eduction ? Considering the fact that low literacy rates have been behind the slow pace of development in most developing countries, what concrete programmes have your foundation undertaken to promote education in general in this part of the world?

 SHEIKH AL-SABAH : We 've been helping in this area in many ways : by giving scholarships to the youths in the Arab world and by sending some good students for further studies in Universities in America, Europe, Jordan, Egypt and elsewhere to have professional and technical degrees. We are laying particular emphasis on education because we believe in the investment in human capital. It is not only raw materials that should count in developing countries. There is also the need for developing countries to become more competitive and efficient in participating in the global economic system.

EXPO TIMES : Apart from Kuwait, is there any other country in the Middle East, the Maghreab or Sub-saharan Africa for example where your foundation is also giving assistance in this sector, especially in the area of scholarships ?

SHEIKH AL-SABAH : Yes of course. We do that in Egypt and other parts of Africa as well as in Jordan. We also build schools and educational centres. We also link up with centres of educational excellence. For example in the United Kingdom we undertake the sponsoring of social academic chairs and fellowships in key universities such as Oxford, School of Oriental and African Studies and Surrey University for Oil Studies. We try to promote more of research and education towards issues which touch on the lives of all regions. We've been doing this for the past ten years and we still have on going fellowships on islamic, research and development issues.

EXPO TIMES : What criteria do you consider in giving out these scholarships, fellowships and funds for specific projects. Do you have a committee with well defined structures taking care of this ?

SHEIKH AL-SABAH : Yes, we have a Board of Trustees ; and we have a structure looking at what projects deserve funding based on our criteria. We tend to try to spread ourselves geographically. We are not bound by region or by country. We are trying to do as much as we can, of course within our modest means (laughs). As you know we cannot do everything at the same time. With education, what we are also trying to do is building on cultural bondings. For example being part of the British-Kuwaiti Friendship Society, Dr. Souad Al-Sabah, my mother and chairman of the foundation, who is also a well known arab poet, writer in economics and female activist in the arab world, we provide funding for this society by sponsoring hosting of the annual book prize. We sponsor a book prize every year for the best book written on the Middle East to enhance more bridging between the two cultures. The book prize is mainly created to build foundations and , especially after September 11, it is important to show the Western world that the Arab world-the Middle East-is not only about terrorism but also about culture and education. And by hosting and sponsoring the annual book prize through the British-Kuwaiti Friendship Society, we want to build the cultural bridges and solidify the foundation.

EXPO TIMES : What type of book prizes do you offer ?

SHEIKH AL-SABAH : Prize is awarded to the best book published out of British publishers or from English language publishers from Princeton, Oxford and Cambridge Universities'presses. We produce about 40 books a year mainly on the arts, politics and about any on the Middle East. This we think contributes towards a better understanding of issues about the Middle East in the West. And also it is done in an academic format. There is a very well known book by Ahmed Rashid on the Taliban which, immediately before the September 11 terrorist attack on New York, was the second runner-up in our book prize. In fact we have the Souad Al-Sabah publishing house which is funded by the foundation, and of course the chairman of the foundation Dr. Souad Al-Sabah, who is running the publishing house, is a distinguished poet and author in the arab world with many published works to her credit.

EXPO TIMES : Is the publishing house a kind of profit making enterprise ? If so where do you put the money accruing from this venture ?

SHEIKH AL-SABAH : No the publishing house is not a profit making endeavour but tries to back the young arab writers and scholars in the arab world to produce more literature because there is less literature read in the arab world than any where in the world. That is too bad ; illiteracy rates are still high in the arab world. The Publishing house has four categories of book prizes per annum for the arts and sciences. The publishing house's activities also include holding ceremonies in gratitude of the efforts of very distinguished arab scholars. For example the famous poet Nazab Albani is one of our prize holders ; he died two years (may the peace of Allah be upon his soul). Other winners of prizes include activists and writers from Maghreab to Bahrain, to Cairo, to Damascus ; to remember their good work during their life time. It is a way of paying them back for their good work in a modest way.

EXPO TIMES : What about the health sector ; the building of hospitals and providing essential drugs for people in need in developing countries.

SHEIKH AL-SABAH : Yes we are also actively involved in the health sector. In fact we are at the moment building a health clinic in Almahara in Southern Iraq ; although the political situation there is still not very good we have initiated that project through our partners. This is just one example of our pro-active health projects.

EXPO TIMES : And do you also support projects such as conferences and seminars on health and development issues ?

SHEIKH AL-SABAH : I've now expanded the scope to cover issues of political, economic and social concerns to the Middle East in particular, and to the developing world in general. And also to promote awareness on security and political issues. We organised a conference at the Royal United Service Institute in White Hall in the United Kingdom before the war in Iraq, and the key note speaker there was Rt. Hon.Michael Bryant, MP and Minister of State Foreign Affairs. The congregation was made up of distinguished diplomats, politicians, academics and journalists who wanted to discuss this critical issue, three days before the war. We were there to put forward our concerns to policy makers.

EXPO TIMES : So since that conference this is the second big meeting of this nature you have organised ?

SHEIKH AL-SABAH : No, we 've done many conferences and seminars of this nature, but much less so in the West, mainly in the Arab World…in Cairo, Damascus etc. In fact this is the first time we are organising a seminar in Paris. Why Paris ? Paris is an important centre ; is the heart of Europe ; and is culturally important with very distinguished mixture of people from all over the world with British, French and Arab participants as you saw today. And it is not very far from Brussels, the heart of the European Union.

EXPO TIMES : Coming back to this seminar in Paris today, what inspired your foundation to organise it ? It is like you are now moving towards much bigger organisations such as WTO since this meeting is like one of the curtain raisers of the upcoming meeting in Cancun.

SHEIKH AL-SABAH : We are not organising a function perse on WTO. We are looking at economic liberalisation in the developing world. WTO is not the issue we are discussing perse although as a multi-lateral organisation, it is a means to an end. But because of the critical timing of the conference just before the Cancun Ministerial Summit; hence the WTO signifies. Economic liberalisation can be done in two or three different ways : Either unilateral, bi-lateral, regional trading agencies or multi-lateral endeavours. If you look at the regional trading organisations in the Maghreab, the EEC or the EU in Europe or OPEC ; these are regional organisations which have functioned since the 80s and 90s. But these can also constitute hindrance to mulitnational organisations like the WTO. So bilateral relations have been occuring. Unilateral trade liberalisation has occurred from the Asian Tigers for example. Perhaps this is because need is the mother of innovation. One needs to take strong initiatives towards liberalising the economy. It can be done either : bottom-up (domestically) or top-down (multilateral organisations) or both at the same time. But if we dont go through multi-lateral organisations, and if we dont uni-laterally liberalise, we would become victims of huge regional trade associations like the EU which would dictate the terms, and not negotiate the terms through a legal framework but through a power politics framework.

EXPO TIMES : So you think trade is important to help countries of the developing world solve their problems ?

SHEIKH AL-SABAH : Of course trade is important as it impinges on the lives of every one, especially those in the developing world. We believe that if one can discuss such a central issue as trade, one can relieve our populations, or at least attempt to discuss important matters like trade which can potentially, with the right framework, with the right consensus, lead to the alleviation of poverty, the increase of living standards in the developing world. So that is the aim of the foundation-through backing issues related to trade and creating a forum of discussion between policy makers, between academics, between journalists, between politicians and diplomats, who can together discuss and find solutions to the problems of the global economy. In this way, elements of distrust, either south-south or north-south, would be minimised, if not completely eliminated to make way for greater co-operation. We should stop putting all the blame on external factors to our problems start to take care of our backyards. You have countries like South Africa for instance where they dont have capital ristrictions but you have others in Africa which have capital ristrictions, which is not good for business because I cannot invest my money as I am not free to take it out afterwards. You can not say Africa, because Africa is not monolithic. Take the cases of Libya, Egypt and Tunisia in the Maghreab. Egypt is different from Libya because Libya has no foreign direct investment because of sanctions. But Tunisia is a very good example of an economically liberalised country which has its social values and at the same time has driven itself towards economic growth in a very sustainable manner, with a proficient work force, and also with an efficient economy.

EXPO TIMES : You think trade liberalisation is the only way out for developing countries ?

SHEIKH AL-SABAH : Pragmatic trade liberalisation because we cannot say about one side suits all policy because they are different from trade liberalisation. China for example remains a socialist country but embraces capitalist issues ; Japan is a developmental state, the country backs the big business through the bureaucracy, throught the ministries and also protects these businesses by restricting imports-hence Japan's big trade surplus in the 80s. One cannot look at Singapore's difference from Malaysia, which is an islamic country and also a country which is export-driven. So every country is unique…So our foundation is aimed at sponsoring and organising seminars and conferences to debate these issues central to the fight against poverty, illiteracy and economic stagnation.

    

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Kuwaiti Foundation promotes education, health & trade in the Developing World - 13/10/2003

\r\n Expo Times, Paris

The Kuwaiti-based Abdullah Al-Mubarak Al-Sabah Foundation organised a seminar on the topic " Economic Liberalisation and the Developing World " in Paris on September 5 as a prelude to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) Ministerial Conference in Cancun on September 11.

Basically managed as a Charitable Trust, the Foundation believes that International trade can play a major role in the promotion of economic development and the alleviation of poverty and recognizes the vulnerability of least-developed countries.

Foundation operates from Kuwait and was launched in 1992 on the will of the late Sheikh Abdullah Al-Mubarak Al-Sabah. Born in 1914, Sheikh Abdullah was the son of Mubarak 1, known as Mubarak the Great and Founder and First Emir of the modern state of Kuwait. Sheikh Abdullah had a remarkable career in his own right and saw through the early development of Kuwait, retiring in 1961 when it achieved independence. A year after his death in 1991, his widow Dr Souad M.Al-Sabah established the Foundation as a living testimony to her husband's work and commitment to humanity, with her two sons Sheikh Mohammed and Sheikh Abdullah as her deputies and active trustees.

Education lies at the heart of many of the Foundations Programmes and in addition to scholarships the Foundation has funded University fellowships, professional chairs and research programmes. The Foundation also supports medical programmes, ranging from medical centres in central Africa to social centres in Asia as well as Middle East projects.

In keeping with its aims of promoting dialogue and exchange of views on contemporary issues and events, the Foundation has in the past organised and sponsored a number of forums, bringing people of all cultures together to hear leaders in their fields give their analyses of current developments in a constructive and intellectual environment.

The Paris seminar was therefore meant to enhance the debate on global trading prior to the Cancun Conference, to see where the world trading community is in its task to complete a further round of trade negotiations that will benefit all countries in the world, but especially undeveloped countries so that the peoples in those countries can raise their own living standards and, in so many cases, ease their way out of poverty.

Speaking at a press conference at the Centre for the Foreign Press in Paris (CAPE) a day before the seminar, Sheikh Abdullah Al-Mubarak Al-Sabah, the late Sheikh Abdullah's son and name sake, and Vice President of the Foundation said, " the foundation operates in several developing countries around the world based on no discrimination on race, creed, faith or religion ; the Foundation knows no black or white. It has undertaken many comprehensive programmes in the areas of education, health and forums in Asia, Africa, the Middle East, Europe and the United states ".

Sheikh Abdullah noted that in sponsoring the Paris seminar, " the Foundation wishes to build on extended experience in the above mentioned areas and wants to take this strategic decision to a macro endeavour by promoting such a conference on such an important topic as trade ".

Reacting to a question on how relevant is trade to the aims and objectives of the Foundation, Sheikh Abdullah had this to say : " The Foundation is mainly concerned with backing social endeavours related to education and health in the developing world. But of course one cannot detach the issue of trade from that in the macro endeavour because trade impinges on the life of every individual in the developing world. Trade and the framework of trade will ultimately determine the quality of life of these people and assist in the alleviation of poverty ".

On the question of the media-hyped accusation of the WTO as a Club effectively run by rich nations bent on increasing their wealth and making the poor countries poorer, Sheikh Abdullah admitted that Agriculture, where farmers in Europe and other developed countries enjoy the advantage of subsidies against those in the development world, is at the centre of this widening development gap, but warned there is still need for a multinational framework to provide a forum for negotiations to ensure a fair and equal agreement between the different parties involved.

He referred to Kuwait which he admitted needs to diversify its economy beyond that of oil, a feat which, he said, has been proving difficult to achieve for most oil producing countries in the Gulf region. " For Kuwait to prepare itself on the international oil scene, what is needed involves a two-way agreement with importers of oil in the western hemisphere, to liberialise their quotas and in return Kuwait and other oil producing countries can all open up their markets to investment, trade and industry. And in this way Kuwait can have a lead in comparative advantage. "

Apart from this comparative advantage, Sheikh Abdullah added, what Kuwait needs amongst other oil economies is to establish joint ventures in the area of education and make the country more competitive in international trade. He observed that Kuwait should move away from its paradoxical state of being rich in one area and poor in the others.

Fielding a question on why Paris, and not London, was chosen for the venue of the conference, British Labour MP Stuart Bell who chaired the press conference said this was partly because one of the key note speakers, British Trade and Industry Secretary Patricia Hewitt had expressed wish to return to Paris, and moveover because they always believe that the French are more involved in agriculture.

" By bringing together a French minister and his British counterpart on the same platform, we want to show that the difference between the two countries over Iraq does not in any way affect the very good traditional relationship existing between them, " said Bell.

 

 

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'Remembering Africans in the Nazi Camps - 11/07/2004

EXPO TIMES – Paris

May 8 1945, the day the Allied Forces declared victory over Nazi Germany of Adolf Hitler at the end of the Second World War, is a date observed in a very big way in France and other parts of Europe bythe laying of wreaths in memory of all those Jews and soldiers who lost their lives in the hands of the Nazis. But wait a minute, the victims of the Nazi Camps were not all Jews; they included hundreds of blacks of African descent, most of whom were brought in to fight on the side of the Allied Forces. Unfortunately however, during the 8 May celebrations each year, not a single word or wreath is laid in memory of those blacks who died along side the Jews, nor a single word uttered on behalf of the few black survivors of this Nazi genocide, as if their lives were different from those of the Jews.

It was against this background and the desire to rewrite African history vis-à-vis Europethat DiasporaAfrique 2000, a Pan-African Association in France, decided to break the long silence by organising avideo projection of a documentary "Des Noirs dans les Camps Nazis" (Blacks in the Nazi Camps) madeby an Ivorian journalist Serge Bilé. The projection on Friday May 7 at the 'Images D'Ailleurs', the firstblack cinema hall in Paris, was apparently dedicated to the memory of the black victims and survivors of the Nazi camps, and as part of the Allied Forces victory day commemoration.

In order to wet my enthusiasm to learn more about the usual pooh-poohing of anything African in the West, I chose to follow my inner instinct and honour the invitation of my countryman Brima Conteh, president of Diaspora Afrique 2000. The hall itself was jam-packed with mostly blacks from different backgrounds, and you can literally count the few whites who were around. Conteh spoke briefly about the aims and objectives of his association before the projection.\"\"

The documentary, which lasted an hour, turned out to be quite emotional mainly featuring three blacksurvivors of the Nazi labour & camps telling their bitter stories. It was also punctuated with occasional slides of the Nazi camps in black and white. The idea is to bring to light, for the first time, the suffering of these blacks originally from Ivory Coast, Senegal, Cameroon, Congo, and even Equatorial Guinea sent to fight along side the Allied Forces with identity cards bearing not their original nationalities but rather those of their colonial masters such as France, Belgium, Spain, Great Britain, and sometimes Germany. While the jewish victims have often been remembered with their survivors even benefiting from reparations from Germany, their black colleagues from Africa or the Caribbean islands have been all but ignored and forgotten, not to talk of reparations to their survivors.

One of the survivors, John William, an Ivorian remembered for interpreting the famous song by Lara and many negro religious songs recalled how, as a young man in 1943, he was employed as a qualified mechanic and later placed in one of the Nazi labour camps where he suffered unspeakable repression. He said he continued to pray hoping to survive the horrible experience; and in this way he quickly became a devout Christian. Another, Dominique Mendy, who was filmed in his native Senegal, also had a similar story of suffering and frustration to tell, comparing their experience more or less to that suffered by other African brothers and sisters during the era of the slave trade.

The other, Théodore Michael, is black but still considers himself to be a German since his family migrated to Berlin from Tanganyika, a former German colony. He recalled how, following the promulgation of the laws of Nuremberg-the decrees that were drawn up by one Glotke, who was, after the war, Chancellor Konrad Adenauer's Secretary of State-jews, tsiganes and "negroes" were the victims lined up for the Nazi concentration camps and gas chambers. Théodore Michael said because the Germans were eager to protect their "blood and honour", they frowned at children born from unions of German women and African soldiers dismissing them as "basterds of the Rheine", which they took to be more of a humiliation for the German Reich.

 

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'Sierra Leone ranks poorest of the World for the seventh straight year - 24/07/2004

EXPO TIMES, Paris, France

The 2004 Human Development Report released last Wednesday July 15 by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has for the seventh time in a row ranked Sierra Leone as the poorest country in the world featuring 177, the last on the list, with its West African neighbours Niger, Burkina Faso and Mali in following order from bottom.

The report itself has three categories of countries: top human development, medium or average human development, and weak human development. All but four countries in the last category-Pakistan,Yemen, Haiti and East Timor-are African. However Seychelles is the only African country to feature in the first category at 35, while other African countries such as Maurice, South Africa, Namibia, Guinea Equatorial, Botswana, Algeria, Morroco, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Ghana, Comoros, Sudan, and Cameroon fall in the second average category.

According to the report, which is based on 2002 data, a citizen of Sierra Leone can expect to live to just over 34 years. At the other end of the ranking, Japanese have an average life expectancy of 81, Swedes 80. For the fourth straight year, Norway topped the overall ranking - which takes in life expectancy, income and educational attainment. It was followed by Sweden and Australia.
\r\n Of the top 20 nations, only Australia at third, Japan at ninth and New Zealand at 18th were outside Europe or North America. The United States was ranked eighth, a fall of one place from last year.

The world's newest nation, East Timor, was included for the first time and ranked at 158, the lowest outside Africa. The other lowest non-African nations were Haiti at 153 and Yemen at 149.

The Report blamed AIDS for pushing down African development levels. "AIDS is reversing the hard-won gains of recent decades," Elizabeth Lwanga, deputy director of the UNDP's Africa office, said at the international AIDS conference in Bangkok, Thailand.

While AIDS has been pushed by the UNDP as the main obstacle standing in the way of the African countries listed in the poor countries category, recent developments in other African countries point to some other factors such as conflicts, corruption and bad governance. In the case of Sierra Leone, it is easy to see, going by recent reports, that here AIDS is considered a far lesser evil compared to corruption, bad governance and of course the still looming hangover of a devastating civil war which was officially declared over in January 2002.

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\r\n For a country with dwindling public utilities such as water, electricity, food security, education etc, the last position of Sierra Leone in the development index could hardly be said to be hyperbolic. Here the war hangover, rather than the AIDS brouhaha, is often advanced as the perfect alibi for the countries poor ranking year in year out. The big question occupying many Sierra Leoneans is when would this merry-go-round of poverty reach full circle to make way for the long awaited horison.

\ When in an interview in Paris, over a year ago, I asked Sierra Leone Vice President Solomon Berewa to give a time frame when the country would move some steps forward in the development ladder, he stopped short of making any commitments, saying rather that the reconstruction of any country emerging from civil war, as is the case of Sierra Leone, normally takes time. When one considers this rather pessimistic, albeit frank, assessment of the situation by the country's number 2 man against the backdrop of the desperate reality on the ground reported by the local and international media such as the growing inflation now at 22%, the suspension of the IMF and World Bank programmes until the government cuts down excessive spending, grounded electricity supply in the country's capital Freetown, one cannot help nursing the opinion that the promised land is indeed becoming more and more elusive.

As we can see, the patience of the international community, which has poured in millions of dollars and euros into the country's post war reconstruction efforts, is gradually running out.

The suspension of the IMF and World Bank programmes is even expected to make matters worse since it would mean an automatic suspension of most, if not all, multilateral and bilateral aid, grant and loan to the country. This would push the country's growing deficit even wider. The world's leading financial institutions have accused the Tejan Kabbah government of spending more than it is earning, and this has naturally caused the country's deficit to widen, leading to an increase in inflation to 22%. Infact, according to a recent article in the Standard Times written by Abdul Kuyateh, the world's financial institutions off-loaded a bucket full of blame on the newly created National Revenue Authority headed by Dr John Karimu, set up to overhaul the main revenue earning institutions such as Customs and Income Tax departments, for having spent far above the revenue generated.

This confidence lost on the part of these financial institutions is indeed a cause for concern particularly when one considers that just less than two years ago, these same institutions were full of praise for the Kabbah government at the November 2002 World Bank donors conference in Paris for having checked inflation that was then at about 7%. What went wrong that must have made things get so worse with all the relative stability the country has enjoyed within this period is the billion dollar question that should be occupying well meaning Sierra Leoneans. Why for instance the canker worm of corruption continues to eat into the fabric of the country's very survival despite all efforts by the Kabbah government which canalised into the creation of the Anti-Corruption Commission?

Corruption has been the subject of much debate in Sierra Leone in the recent past. The other day, the country's main opposition party (APC) leader Ernest Koroma was quoted by the Concord Times blaming the Kabbah government for failing to handle corruption which he said has made the situation get out of control to the extent of provoking a ban to all top government officials from visiting the US. I dont know how true is Ernest Koroma's declaration but if it is true then I'm sure it would send the right message to theKabbah government that it must act now to end corruption or face more international sanctions.

While I used to know Ernest Koroma as an industrious and hardworking insurance expert whose Insurance Company Ritcorp quickly rose to become the best private insurance company in the country, and for which my newspaper was doing some publicity, I still have my reservations as to how his dynamism would make his party look any better than the ruling SLPP party in tackling corruption considering the equally long history of corruption and mismanagement which the country suffered under the previous governments of his party. The only way perhaps he could go about this is by underking a complete overhaul of the party which would mean a total purging of all old APC politicians from any decision making process involving the party.

If the patience of the international community as it were is running thin, then that of the people on the ground seem to be running thinner by the hour. This was openly demonstrated when the opposition APC cleared over 80% of the votes in the recent local elections in the all important Western Area giving them the right to appoint the Mayor of Freetown; it was like voting for the lesser of two evils. Life is becoming more and difficult for majority of Sierra Leoneans.The life expectancy and infant mortality of the country are bound to plunge further than that in the UN index if majority of households in the country continue to go without three square meals a day. As a matter of fact, monthly remittances from Sierra Leoneans living abroad have saved many households in the country from falling victims to what is generally called in local parlance "001" meaning one meal a day tantermount to going to bed hungry.

Black outs in the capital Freetown are now becoming more freequent than ever making the government's promise of developing the country's industrial base a big joke as electricity is one of the basic requirements to make this dream come true. Little wonder what has happened to the great Bumbuna hydro electric project, a project that has spanned two decades with little sign that it would be completed soon to take care of the electricity problems in the country. Vice President Berewa told me the other day in Paris that they needed 43 million dollars to complete this project. But how big is that amount that the government cannot afford with all the aid packages and revenues from the revamped mining sectors. I honnestly think that there is a big question of misplaced priorities in the country, and until that is tackled, the end of the tunnel would remain elusive.

The Kabbah government therefore needs to change gear if it wants to make food security, and provide better conditions of living for the people a must well before the targeted time of 2007 as the patience of both the international community and the people plunges by the hour.

 

 

 

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TOURISM IN ZIMBABWE: Discovering Africa's Paradise - 2010-03-10 - by Dr Ibrahim Seaga Shaw'

SPECIAL REPORT

ExpoTimes Executive Editor Ibrahim Seaga Shaw just back from Zimbabwe reports on what he discovered about Tourism in Zimbabwe

 

 "I cannot stop you from making the trip but you need to be very careful as Zimbabwe is no longer a safe place to visit especially for journalists; you may be killed and nothing would come out of it." These words quickly flip-flopped my mind as the Air Zimbabwe Boeing 747,on which I and five other colleagues from Europe were flying to Harare, became air-borne. I saw my colleague Michèle in my minds eye going over this piece of advice all over again. It sounded a bit stupid, but the reality of the western media stereotypical representation of a country where the only news is the wanton destruction of the lives and property of perceived opponents of President Mugabe's fast-track land redistribution policy began to dawn on me like a ton of bricks.

But as a journalist who is always eager to depart from the usual arm-chair journalism youofter see in Paris, London, Berlin, New York and what have you I, unlike Michèle, refused to fall victim to this media hype, and instead decided to accept the invitation from the Authority to join the 13-day tour of European journalists with the aim of re-discoveringthe country's rich eco-tourism. At least I saw it as anopportunity to see things asthey are, and not as the editors and journalists in Europe, largely following the lead set by their home governments, would want us to believe.

And this was how I found myself on the plane heading for what looked like a Hollywood-style adventure from which you may have to count your blessings to live to tell the story. The 10-hour flight from London Gatwick appeared less boring than anticipated perhaps not only because we were in the business class but because I managed to punctuate it with long casual chats with two Zimbabweans also in the business class. Half-way through our flight, I hopped from my seat in the middle and joined a man seated on the far right who simply introduced himself as Simon, a white farmer returning to see what was left of his1000 hectares of land.

"Why are you visiting Zimbabwe; don't you think that you are risking your life", he ventured when I introduced my self as a journalist based in France.

"I thought it was better to come and see for my self what has become of this grat country and in any case a journalist worthy of the name should always be ready to go for the truth even if it means risking his life", I said cautiously hoping to sustain the dialogue.

Simon recalled how he fled with his family (wife and two children) to the safety of the United Kingdom when 700 hectares of his land was taken away from him and redistributed under the new policy leaving him with 300 hectares. He said Zimbabwe recorded about 75 per cent drop in the production of the country's main export crop tobacco because, according to him, most of the lands that were seized by force are yet to be put into productive use.

On my way from the gents located in the rear of the business class, I spotted a Zimbabwean businessman called Eddie who proved to be equally outright. He told me how the land issue was put on hold for 10 years following the country's Independence in 1980 but, he added, when the government saw that the white commercial farmers and their British government backers were not ready to co-operate in the 'willing seller willing buyer' arrangement without a fight, it decided to take the bull by the horns to embark on the fast track land redistribution scheme. "Of course many Zimbabweans are yet to see the benefit from this land reform programme but as is the case with any revolution it will take some time before this would happen", said Eddie.

Equipped with these two different positions, I returned to my seat. Still full from the well served dinner of salmon herb crust decorated with roast parisienne potatoes, spin arch buttered and turned carrots, I managed to squeeze some sleep at least till 5 in the morning. I only appreciated how big the plane was when this time I strolled down the right hand gents of the Economy Class on the tail end near the kitchen. At least, unlike the Business Class, all the seats here were occupied. I beheld black and white faces, perhaps mostly Zimbabweans, in both classes, leaving me with the impression of a multi-racial country. We were served with a rich breakfast at 5:30 am starting with fresh fruit salad according to the menu of the executive class.

"We apologise if, due to previous passenger selection, your choice is not available" and "Thank you for flying with us-do it again...soon!" were the lines that quickly caught my attention on opening the menu. The crew was just extraordinary as they served us drinks routinely throughout the flight.

We landed Harare international Airport Friday morning April 4 at 6:20 Zimbabwe time, an hour ahead of British time, where we spent another hour waiting for the ZTA representative who was to help us through immigration formalities. At least here, unlike other airports I have visited in Africa, notably the Lagos Murtala Muhammed International Airport, I didn't observeany incident of immigration or custom officers demanding or receiving bribes from unsuspecting passengers. When the ZTA man finally turned up with a mini-bus, he introduced himself as Stanley Banda and apologized for the delay which he blamed on the change in the flight schedule-leaving London an hour ahead due to an unexplained reason. Driving about five minutes from the airport to the centre of Harare the visitor is greeted with a banner 'Zimbabwe Independence in 1980' on an arch across the road. I quickly realised that here, like Zimbabwe's former colonial master Britain, right hand drive is the norm.

Bvumba: 'The Misty Mountains'

We checked in at the Cresta Lodge located in the eastern outskirts of Harare where I had a well deserved shower. We had another breakfast at 8:30 with a buffet where we were joined by the ZTA Marketing and Communications Director, Givemore Chidzidzi, and Christine Kirsty, the German TV freelance journalist who came a week earlier on a cycling tour. Following a snappy briefing by Givemore and Stanley on the tour itinerary and handing over of the usual ZTA information packs labeled 'Zimbabwe: Africa's paradise, we headed straight for the mysterious Bvumba mountains near Zimbabwe's eastern border with Mozambique.

'You are welcome to savour the hospitality and beauty of our country ... Your itinerary has been structured to expose you to as much tourism diversity as possible. It is all our hope that you will enjoy the best there is in Zimbabwe and above all share this experience with your friends and people at home.' was the highlight in Chidzidzi's letter I found in the information pack as we drove on the same minibus. Edging out of Harare on the main tarred highway linking the capital to the east we crossed a make-shift police check point after our driver showed his driving license and other required documents without coming down.

The five-hour drive to Bvumba was punctuated with two short stops first at Marondera, a big industrial town 60 kilometers from Harare, and next the city of Mutare, district headquarter of Manica land province for quick sight-seeing, shopping, phone call and attending to the call of nature, where necessary. Anticipating late arrival in Bvumba, Stanley, our Tour guide, brought some packed sandwiches and drinks from the Cresta Lodge to which we occasionally helped our selves as we drove. A familiar sight to the visitor along the long stretch of road from Marondera to Mutare is the string of mountainous rocks dotted with small farming settlements. You have to drive between 30 to 40 kilometers before meeting a big village or town along this road suggesting a sparsely populated area of a country with a population of 13 million.

Fast-track from Mutare we began our 30 minutes ascent for the mystical Bvumba as we snaked our way on the zigzagged, but good-tarred, road winding beautifully up through the steep mountain ranges. This string of mountains, quite fascinating in its rugged beauty, literally inundates Zimbabwe's eastern border stretching some 300 km from north to south. For a holiday-maker in search of rejuvenation, its appeal is glaringly evident as it offers peace of mind in a tranquil, but stunning, environment with lots of scenic views. These 'mountains ofthe mist' are dotted with many cozy country hotels famous for their good cuisine, hospitality and plenty of peace and quite. It was at one of the most famous of these, the Leopard Rock Hotel, renown for its award winning world-class 18-hole golf course and magnificent views down into Mozambique, we checked in after arriving Bvumba at 3 pm.

Like any other curious visitor with longing for nature, I quickly fell in love with this hotel despite its location in the wilderness for buzzing with a beautiful blend of a refreshing green vegetation and luxury trimmings of all what one would expect of a five star hotel on offer. When I opened the window to my room equipped with satellite TV, direct dial telephone, mini bar..., I smelt the freshness of the air oozing out of the thick vegetation all the more. It was as if nature and modernity were meeting in the room right before my eyes.

From the terrace where we had our late lunch, I got a better view of the golf course lying on either side of a small lake and dotted with divers species of flowers, the sparkling swimming pool, the bowling green and flying birds, all combining to add to the elegance of the hotel. Before sunset we strolled to the Bunga Forest and national park home to many animals such as impalas, hyenas and leopards. From this point we got a better view of the legendary leopard rock overlooking the hotel from which it got its name.

Our hotel guide led us into the story behind the legend of leopard rock. About five hundred years ago, a village called "Damara" meaning "Utopia" for being rich and healthy rested at the foot of the Chinyakweremba, 'The Hill of the Tired Legs.' One afternoon there was a big party with eating and dancing when an old man limped in seeking food and shelter. "Go away", jeered the revellers, "We haven't got time to worry about a silly old man like you". A girl in the village however followed and offered him beer and bread. He thanked her and warned: "Be far away from this place before sunset, for I have cursed and will destroy it." When the girl reported this warning to the others, they dismissed her. Good to his promise, the old man caused a heavy thunder which forced the mountain to break and crash down in huge rocks killing all the villagers save for the girl who heeded the warning to live to tell the story.

Night life at the Rock for the visitor is equally cool and relaxing in the bar or casino after a well balanced dinner. Formerly opened in 1946, the hotel was given royal accolade in 1953 when Queen Elizabeth the queen mother and Princess Margaret stayed there. The Queen mother is reputed to have said: "There is no where more beautiful in Africa".

Leopard Rock's Assistant Manager Terrie Kagande told me how the historic golf course and many services on offer are still attracting local and foreign guests from far and wide including Europe, Australia, South Africa, Mozambique although he was bold enough to admit a drop in the inflow of the latter due to what he described as "negative publicity in the foreign media". "Despite the political and economic problems, we are hosting at least two conferences by various international and local groups per week on average", said Kagande.

Nyanga District: A Rich Cultural Heritage

On our way to Nyanga, about two-hour drive north of Mutare, in the morning of April 5, we toured the Bvumba botanical gardens laden with dozens of species of flowers and trees and the wonderful Prince Charles View overlooking the Bvumba mountains from where we got a better view of the border town linking Zimbabwe to Mozambique. For the tour in the Nyanga district the team was transferred into another vehicle, this time a jeep, driven by one Spencer who Stanley introduced as our new guide from Sunset Tours. The dirt feeder road here, unlike the one we used to tour the Bvumba botanical gardens, turned out to be very bumpy as we had to occasionally hold tight to avoid hitting our heads on the roof top of the jeep. Here the visitor is immediately greeted with pine forests beautifully lining the road. Our next stop was Mtarazi falls, the second highest in Zimbabwe, but had to do a five minute walk on a bushy footpath before we could get a better view of it. We drove up the famous Pungwe View from where we got a scenic view of Mount Nyangani (2593 m), Zimbabwe's highest mountain, which takes a relatively little mountaineering skill to climb to the summit along a clearly marked trail lasting two hours. The landscape stretching from the Pungwe view to Mtarazi falls is inundated with many scenic spots which often play host to picnics organised by visitors.

The highlight of our Nyanga tour met us at the Rhodes Hotel where we met Mrs. Masaya of the Nyanga Tourist Association (NTA) who quickly turned out to be the most jovial and amusing of all the tour guides I met on this tour. Mrs. Masaya, a white Zimbabwean and wife of a black who teaches Economics at the University of Zimbabwe, took us on a conducted tour of the Rhodes Museum rich in achieved pictures of Cecil Rhodes and black heroes who fought the war of liberation against colonial rule. At the Rhodes hotel we were taking to a room which has the bed and other furniture Cecil Rhodes used during his life time. At least I was able to touch the bed and wardrobe of the man who carved one of the largest British empires in Africa (Rhodesia and the Nyasaland) during the colonial period.

As we drove to Nyanga village proper, this time on a tarred road, Mrs. Masaya gave us a brief run down of how Nyanga used to be the home of a farming community who moved into the valleys about 400 years ago but whose descendants were forced by white settlers to move upwards to the rocky hilltops after a fierce battle. We were treated to a cocktail with members of the Nyanga Tourism Trade at the Kamusha Kadiki hotel run by a Zimbabwean Indian lady, Davina Rana, also a member of NTA. Here we were provided with the first opportunity to freely discuss the issues affecting the tourist industry in Zimbabwe with our hosts. "In Europe we are told there is no press freedom in Zimbabwe but reading the papers on our way to this place I realise journalists enjoy a lot of freedom here", said Pascal Baeten, the freelance Belgian journalist and tour participant. I agreed. The consensus that emerged out of the discussion was that something should be done by all Zimbabwe's stake holders to resolve the political impasse over the land issue to revive the tourist industry and other economic sectors of the country.

We had dinner at the famous Montclair Hotel and Casino, about 30 minutes drive from Nyanga village and headed straight to the Trout beck Sun Hotel, another hour drive. Exhausted after a very hectic day with what appeared to be the tightest itinerary from Bvumba and Nyanga, a shower proved a stitch in time.

Our tour in Nyanga was however still not over as we joined Mrs. Masaya again in the morning of Sunday April 6 at Nyanga Tourism Association library which offers the visitor a huge collection of books about the history of Nyanga and the rest of Zimbabwe. From here we strolled on the main road of Nyanga village spotting the post office, hospital and string of shops, including a pharmacy.

At the Ziwa museum and Monuments, about an hour drive on a dirt but relatively motorableroad from Nyanga village, we discovered a huge collection of stone structures representing one of the most impressive and extensive set of ruins to be found anywhere in Africa. The most notable of the these structures built over 400 years ago were loophole hilltop forts built of large granite blocks and boulders with absolutely no mortar. We literally frog-matched through a narrow outlet of one of these loopholes leading us to a wider inside with a dug-out gorge where our museum guide told us the people use to keep their buffalos against wild animals. Hunter-gatherer tools, iron smelting sites and rock paintings conjure up visions of activities of a people in bygone days. In truth, Ziwa represents the interpretative centre of the history and archaeology of Nyanga-a must-visit for any holiday-maker with curiosity to discover the humble beginning of what is today the historic Nyanga district.

On our way back to Nyanga village, our guide Tambu, Mrs. Masaya's assistant, took us to the Arts and Crafts shop and sculptor centre where we bought souvenirs at give-away prices. We made a quick stop-over at the ecology-rich home of Mrs. Masaya, who introduced her husband and surprised us with a birthday cake and champagne to celebrate the birthday of Charles Ofoji, the German-based Nigerian journalist and tour participant. I found the cozy two-storey home of the Masaya's, with an imposing thatched roof top surrounded by artificial fish ponds and green vegetation, quite amazing. About 40 minute drive from Nyanga on our way to Harare we passed through the Inn on Ruparara equiped with a game park and traditionally built residential rooms for visitors with longing for nature.

We got to Harare late in the evening and checked in at the Sheraton Hotel and Towers, one of the three five star hotels in the capital. At least here, in the executive lobby on the 15th floor, I was able to check my emails in four days. Watching CNN and BBC from my hotel room, I saw correspondents beaming with confidence as they report the fall to US troops of the Saddam Hussein International airport in the outskirts of the Iraqi capital Baghdad, a report which the Iraqi Information minister was later seen dismissing as untrue. In this war fought more on propaganda than in the field, it was indeed difficult to tell where the truth was coming from. Feeling more relaxed, I began to reflect on our experience in the great Manicaland province where, save for the few petrol queues we saw in Mutare, life was normal as we did not experience or see any evidence of violence or human rights abuse you often read about in the mainstream media. We even bumped on a group of tourists and golf players from Germany who told us they were enjoying their stay in the beautiful country with no worries.

Kariba: Africa's best kept secret

We checked out of Sheraton in the morning of day 4 of our tour and headed for Kariba in the northwest of Harare. Lying on the main road about 90 km from Harare is the big agricultural town of Chinhoyi in the Mashonaland west province where we stopped briefly to buy local newspapers. We arrived Makuti where we picked up our tour colleague Christine, who said she completed her cycling tour with no problem. We also met Robin Brown, a white Zimbabwean tour guide of CANSAF adventures, who drove us to probably the wildest and loveliest National Park in Zimbabwe-Manapools, near the shore to which the mighty and famous river Zambezi ambles its way from Lake Kariba. We left the tarred road as we crossed the checkpoint into Manapools proper on bumpy and pot-hole laddenned dirt feeder road where we got our baptism of tse tse fly attacks. From the 4-wheeled open Toyota truck, the best for such rough drives, we felt more exposed to the tse tse flies although we took consolation in the animals ranging from impalas, birds, elephants, wild dogs, monkeys to hyenas we occasionally spotted as we wobbled on.

We arrived our destination of tented camps mounted on the bank of the Zambezi by Robin's Canoeing safaris workers who gave us the customary warm Zimbabwean welcome. With Robin still playing the role of our driver and tour guide, we went on a game drive where we occasionally spotted different species of animals within close range. Since it was getting late, we didn't manage to go on a game walk, although Mana Pools is generally known as the only national park in Zimbabwe where one is allowed to walk freely, despite the presence of elephant, buffalo and lion. "The animals here are friendly but some can be dangerous if you get too close", said Robin as we approached the sandy shores of the Zambezi whose horizon was beautifully shining with the brilliant radiance of the sunset. From here we saw Zambia just across the river.

Robin, who said he has been working as a guide in canoeing safaris on the Zambezi river since 1991, admitted that the negative propaganda in the foreign media selling Zimbabwe as an unsafe country has caused a sharp drop in their customers. "In 1999, we received 1800 customers coming from far and wide while in 2002, we got only 400; but we have decided to stay and continue our safaris because we have faith in Zimbabwe-Zimbabweans are good people and we pray that the problems will soon be behind us. Robin was speaking to me in an interview around our burn-fire which provided light for our tents just after his staff, all black, treated us to a delicious cuisine for dinner. Beaming with confidence, Robin said at least some Europeans, including the English, are still ignoring the negative publicity and travel advice to come and take part in their adventurous canoeing safaris because as he put it " canoeing the Zambezi has always been a holiday out of the ordinary".

There are two ways visitors experience the extraordinary offers of Mana Pools. While the less-adventurous visitor may prefer to enjoy the fun from a near-by luxury lodge with game drives and walks, the adventurous may prefer sleeping in a tent on the river bank and enjoying the close-up thrill of four-legged visitors, such as elephants and hyenas, monkeys..., during the day and night! But since we were programmed to experience the latter we had no choice but to prepare ourselves for it. Sharing a tent with Charles Ofoji, who was bold enough to confess how shaky he was in going through this experience, and despite the few scary groans probably from hippopotamuses, I passed the night with the soundest and longest sleep I had throughout the whole tour with no four-legged visitor, at least not one that I took notice of.

The next day, day 5, we were off again to Makuti where Robin, accompanied by his assistant Fisher Ngweome, dropped us to join our mini ZTA bus. A quick call to the ZTA Chief Executive, Dr. Chokonya, to arrange interview meetings with some farmers and government ministers slightly delayed my lunch at the Makuti Lodge and had to literally hurry up to join the others. Half-way to Kariba, I received a call from Dr. Chokonya on Stanley's cell phone telling me that he has managed to book some appointments for me on the following Monday April 14. I felt some relief over the possibility of tipping in a little into the land issue which, largely due to its misrepresentation in the media, has affected the tourist industry among other sectors. I am grateful to Dr. Sylvester Maunganidze of the Zimbabwe embassy in Paris for linking me up with Dr. Chokonya.

We crossed the beautiful man-made lake kariba by a small machine-propelled boat to Fothergil Island and national park. Lake Kariba, which was completed as a dam in 1958 stretching 290 km long and 32 km at its widest point, provides Zimbabwe with hydro-electric power and countless pleasures for tourists and locals such as fishing, water skiing and sailing, including the offshore Matusadona National Park. The exciting crossing lasted about an hour, and after checking in at the Fothergill Island Lodges, we went on a quick game drive around the national park in the island where we spotted elephants, baboons and Impala's at close range. My room at the Lodge was a small but self-contained v-shaped roof-thatched hut where, after a refreshing shower, I felt closer to nature again. With no TV and land telephone, this lodge is the place for a holiday- maker who wants to be at peace with nature far away from the troubles of the world. I met two French couples at the restaurant at dinner who told me they work for Total Fina in Zimbabwe and they were out there enjoying their holidays. They told me Zimbabwe is safe for tourists although most of their relatives and friends back home who would love to come explore its beauty often complain about the high hotel rates in the country compared to its neighbours.

At dawn we geared up for a game drive around the island with a very elegant sunrise skyline and this time got almost to a striking distance of the impalas and elephants. Our guide Sean Hind, a white Zimbabwean with an Irish background, showed us an airstrip where small planes from South Africa and other neighbouring countries often land to have a feel of the huge reservoir of wild life.

We set sail for the Sanyati Lodge situated alongside the spectacular Sanyati Gorge and Sheltered by the Matusadona mountain range where we were treated to a nice blend of buffet for lunch. Offering luxurious accommodation built from a combination of stonewalls, rough plaster, indigenous timber and thatch, the Sanyati Lodge provides a peaceful haven for the ultimate in relaxation. The Sanyati Marketing Director, Frenchman Laurent Picherit told us their lodge has been able to survive because of new marketing strategies such as encouraging more locals, including western diplomats, and foreign clients from neighbouring countriesto sail on the lake Kariba, explore the rich reserve of wildlife in the Matusadona National Park and relaxat the Sanyati. "When these diplomats and foreign clients return to their embassies and countries, we expect them to report the peaceful and wonderful experience they had here to their people". Despite its location in the wilderness, the lodge buzzes with ultra-modern facilities including conference centres, Internet, satellite TV etc. Interestingly enough this was the only lodge or hotel we visited whose rates are in Euros and not US dollars.

We sailed again across the lake Kariba this time to the town of Kariba where we visited the famous dam wall across the river Zambezi which connects Zimbabwe to Zambia in the north, checked in for dinner and the night in Kariba Breezes hotel. Following a quick meeting with members of the Kariba Tourism Publicity in the morning, we made our way for Harare by road on the same ZTA mini bus which we had left near the shore in Kariba on our way to Fothergil Island. We punctuated our drive to Harare with a quick tour of the mysterious Chinhoyi Caves and the great mysterious hole. Once at Sheraton Harare where we checked in again, our ZTA guide Stanley told me arrangements had been made for me to have a day off to visit some farms and talk to some farmers on the land issue the following day, Friday April 11, day 9 of our tour. This day-off meant I had to forgo the flight to Bulawayo, the country's second capital. Lying in my hotel room and reflecting a bit on our tour to all the national parks that link lake Kariba and the river Zambezi, I found it difficult to disagree with the publicity stunt-Kariba: Africa's best kept secret, which, for all you know, is still being explored, albeit on a rather low key level.

My trip at sunrise to the farms in the Mazoe district in the Mashonaland east province, some 60 km from Harare, also proved very eventful. My ZTA tour guide Gladys Bengo, who drove me to Mazoe, said she was among most civil servants who benefited from the land redistribution programme which she admitted has made life better. "Thanks to the land redistribution programme I'm now expecting to harvest soya beans in the next few days that would fetch me some thing like 25, 000 Zim dollars; for the first time since I graduated from the university I'm now talking in the millions", said Edwell Hukuimwe, the Mazoe district Information Officer who accompanied me to the farms where I met two farmers (black and white).

So far so good on my visit to the farms in Mazoe, at least for now, hoping to say more of my experience there in a subsequent article.

Victoria Falls: Among Seven Wonders of the World

I didn't fly the next morning, Saturday April 12, from Harare to Victoria Falls where I was supposed to join the team because they missed their flight from Bulawayo due, I was told, to the illness of Wolfgang who works for the second leading travel newspaper in Austria. To keep me busy, Stanley and Gladys arranged for a United Tourism Council (UTC) tours to take me on a conducted city tour in Harare visiting the national museum, Alexandre Park, Kopje, course way, Mbare market and the Unity Park, formerly called Cecil Rhodes.

I was billed to fly the following Monday April 14, day 10 of our tour, to theVictoria falls, to join the others and at least make up for the loss of not visiting Bulawayo and the Hwange national park which, I was told, is home to over 80, 000 elephants. My experience in Victoria Falls also proved wonderful and extraordinary, the most momentous being flying by helicopter over the falls, voted one of the seven natural wonders of the world; the fun of getting brutally wet from'rain' water splashing from the falls as we walked within close range on the overhanging piece of land standing on the other side; sunset cruise on the Zambezi on a UTc boat withother tourists from France, the UK and South Africa; spectacular cultural and traditional African dances at the Falls Craft village entertaining us and a little over a dozen other tourists, all white; and dinner punctuated with occasional cultural performances at the famous Boma restaurant offering traditional game meat and other Zimbabwean dishes.

Sharing Tour Experience with Tourism Ministry Officials

Back in Harare in the evening of the following day, the last but one of our 13-day tour, we checked in again at Sheraton where we had a meeting and dinner with the Tourism and Environment minister and some of his senior officials ostensibly to hear from us on our tour experience which they thought was going to be useful for policy. In summing up, Ludwig Shauchser, publisher of the popular German-based online travel newsmagazine, Afrika Aktuel, said on the whole the tour went on fine leaving all the participants with the perception that the country is still safe for tourists since we didn't see or hear any case of a tourist or a visitor being molested or harassed, adding that we were particularly encouraged by the warm hospitality of all the Zimbabweans we met. Ludwig, who last visited the country in 1991, however noted that we observed few petrol queues, the bad feeder road into Manapools, the relatively high hotel rates and the disappearance of the triangular Kariba, Victoria Falls and Harare flight shuttles which make touring these places much easier. I suggested that the government should try to provide more institutional incentives that would encourage more tourists to flow in as a way of overcoming the negative perception of the country caused by travel advice by their home governments, which, I warned, is proving difficult to change.

But the German freelance TV journalist and author Christine Kirsty quickly became the centre of attraction when she was given the floor to explain how she, coming a week earlier, cycled long distances including that between Mutare and chimanimani all by herself without any attack or harassment from either 'four or two- legged predators'.

"Before coming, I discovered that it was hard to convince our publishers; when I say I want to write a story on Zimbabwe, they will say: oh no! Not yet! Even on television, the story has been the same", said Kirsty

When Tourism Minister F D Nhema came in to ask "But Why", Kirsty simply retorted: "'Because of your political situation' is the answer. I think the problem is most of the publishers have the same opinion as the German politicians; if I must be honest I must say I felt a little bit insecure because of this sheet of paper: DONT TRAVEL TO ZIMBABWE". She was however optimistic that her story of a German woman (herself) cycling all alone without a guide in Zimbabwe to live to tell the story would be published back home when she returns because she thinks it would make interesting reading.

Speaking to me in an interview over dinner, the ZTA Chief Executive, Dr. Chokonya said: "We have been trying to shift the focus of our industry to south-south trade with the Asian and Southern African market as a way of cushioning the negative effects the north-south trade has suffered in the past two years. Of course it is clear that we want tourists to come from everywhere although that should not make us forget that south-south trade is more important to us in the developing world than north-south trade."

Showing that he meant every word he said, Dr. Chokonya said that was why on assuming office as Chief Executive, "we were about to send Tourism representatives to London, New York and Frankfurt, but I immediately changed that because those places are not our priority, and instead we are now sending them to France-because France as a county has been less hostile to us and here there has not been this deliberate week-to-week warning of their people not to come to Zimbabwe. The other two are going to China, our biggest Asian market, and South Africa."

Our tour ended the following day April 16 after a debriefing meeting with stakeholders of the Tourism industry in Zimbabwe to hear from us about our experience. We left Harare that evening for London after checking out of Meikles Hotel, with a lot to report back to our people.

 

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Interpol steps up efforts to make African Police more effecient - 17/09/2003

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Interpol interview.

Ibrahim Seaga Shaw, who recently visited the Interpol secretariat in Lyon, the second French capital, spoke in this exclusive interview with the organisation's Secretary General Mr. Ronald Kenneth Noble

 SHAW : What initiatives have you put in place to improve information exchange in the police within the African region ?

NOBLE : The first initiative put in place to improve the exchange of information in Africa involves something that had happened a couple of years ago when we eliminated all debts for all interpol member countries, including a large number of countries in Africa, because part of that time the countries that hadn't been able to pay those debts were not able to participate in all the activities. So we wanted to make sure that all the members in the world were full participants.

The second thing that we did was we had a rescheduling of the dues of member countries throughout the world, and by doing so we had a reduction of dues percentages required to be paid by the poorest countries throughout the world-a reduced obligation by almost 75 per cent. By reducing their dues we allowed them to take those resources that they would otherwise pay interpol and use them to improve their police system.

The third is that we are putting in place the Interpol I/24/7 communication system at interpol offices around the world and that system allows member countries to use the Internet and the state of the art technology to send any cryptive messages -messages that cannot be read by unauthorised persons-and at the same time receive these cryptive messages from other member countries. And that I/24/7 communication system would enable the police in Africa to send photographs and finger prints, down load documents and reports, and thereby facilitate their exchange of information.

SHAW: Speaking at the 32nd Interpol European Regional conference on May 14 in the Netherlands, you recognised the involvement of some criminal groups operating in Europe in arms trafficking in Africa leading to the circulation of tens of millions of small arms and light weapons making it very difficult to bring an end to conflicts in Africa. How has your organisation been reacting to this trend and how do you think the threat assessment of crime would be tackled in Africa ?

NOBLE : One is the organisation has been supportive of the African regional chiefs of police organisations that exist such as SAACPO (Southern Africa Association of Chieves of Police), EAACPO in East Africa and WAACPO in West Africa-these regional police organisations that are tackling problems in these African regions including the establishing of projects. Secondly Interpol is in the process of analysing something called IWETS(International Weapons Explosives Tracking System). In effect if we find out that that system is workable that would allow us to gather data about weapons and explosives trafficking not only in Africa but throughout the world. And thirdly, what we've been trying to do is support the sub-regional efforts in Africa by making sure that we have qualified and trained police officers working there so that they can focus on projects in that area as well.

SHAW: Talking about this new ultra-modern 1/24/7 global communication system …

NOBLE : I/24/7-I for Interpol, 24 for 24 hours a day , 7 for seven days a week…

SHAW : Thank you ! Considering the fact that Africa is still far behind in modern communication infrastructure how fast do you think the police in Africa would benefit from this system. ?

NOBLE : One is we are going to provide hardware, software and training free for African member countries. So one benefit is that African countries would be able to get this system forthwith. Two, right now for African member countries to communicate to one another, and to interpol, is expensive ; for them to use codable telephone systems ; the land line system in some African countries is non-existent ; and faxing is very expensive as well. So by giving African member countries this technology-hardware and software, they would be able to communicate with one another more cheaply and more efficiently, and outside of Africa, more cheaply and more efficiently.

 SHAW: Despite international efforts to put an end to human trafficking especially women and children for the purpose of exploitation by way of prostitution and sweetshop labour, respectively, this practice has continued unabated. How do you explain this ?

NOBLE : One is …there are…When one thinks of the trafficking of women issue, one has to think of two categories : One category is made of people who are deceived and lulled into going from one country to another with the expectation that they would get a better job, they would get a better life, but when they in fact reach that country, their passports are taken away from them and they are then forced into prostitution, and it is a very very serious organised crime problem. But what we've done is we have specialy targetted investigations targeting organised crime groups that trafic women for those purposes.

The second category is that where people knowingly and voluntarily wish to travel from point A to point B in order to engage in prostitution. That is a much more difficult crime problem to deal with when there isn't the organised crime aspect in it because you have a number of people travelling, it is not obvious the type of people travelling, the reasons that they want to engage in illegal immigration. So it is a difficult crime problem to tackle. What Interpol has focused on is the organised crime aspect and especially the people who are deceived into leaving their countries with expections of improving their lives only to be forced into prostitution and other criminal activities.

SHAW : Is Interpol directly involved in trying to tackle this problem…Have you been working with other organisations in this regard and have you recorded some concrete successes...as you can see this problem is becoming more and more serious in Europe. ?

NOBLE : What I would do is may be ask the person in charge of the human trafficking department to give examples of successes we have had in these cases. But the way that Interpol tries to tackle the problem is-there are a number of things we're trying to do-one is to target organised crime groups that engage in the trafficking of human beings for these purposes, and we have had specific projects with significant successes that we've done ; two is we try to improve the way in which police examine passports and other travel documents to make sure that people coming across borders have lawful and proper travel documents because we know when organised criminals engage in such activities they tend to give false passports to these people ; and three is we try to talk to member countries like the IOM and other organisations that try to focus on the migration problem. It's not just a criminal problem, is a problem of people not having the right opportinities in their own countries, is a problem of some countries having too strict immigration laws or requirments and therefore some people feel they have no option but to try to go illegally, a sort of a very very complex problem. But Interpol has a very specific role to play, and the role we have been playing is the one that targets organised crime involvement in the illegal trafficking of human beings.

SHAW: Have you made any attempt to try and see how best to tackle this problem from the source…from the countries for instance in Africa or Asia where the victims of this practice are taken from ?

NOBLE : Yes, we have. We have. For example in China, Interpol has encourged that country which has in fact implemented a policy where by they would accept back all the chinese people who have illegally fled China to other countries. Which means a person leaving China for example who knows once she is arrested she is going to be sent back to China is going to be less likely to do it, where as before when they know China wouldn't accept them back ,they would be more likely to leave. So we work with the source country to agree to accept its people back. We also work with the countries which …

SHAW: What about African countries ? Have you been able to succeed in this way in any African country ?

NOBLE : With China, the volume and number of people from one country were so large that it was easier to work with China. With Africa, what we've done is work with African member countries police forces generally to try to fight the illegal immigration in their countries. For example at the point of departure from Africa, Morocco, and at some entry points such as Italy, Greece and Spain, we try to co-ordinate with the police in those border crossing points to try to discourage the illegal immigration.

SHAW : With Africa increasingly becoming the transit point, and even destination of drugs, what in your opinion do you think would be the new practical strategies aimed at combating this menace ?

NOBLE : One is that Interpol member countries, each time they seized drugs, need to collect information about the kind of bag it was carried in ; the kind of secret compartments it was stored in and the characteristics of the person carrying the drugs. That information is to be shared with member countries so when a person comes in carrying a black brief case with a certain mark on it, a certain brand name, and if that brief case was seized in the US containing drugs or was seized in Spain containing drugs, then an African border control person or customs control person would say : " black brief case ! It's the same kind of brief case that was seized in Europe, in Africa and in America, let's examine that ", we've had great success in this strategy. That's one area. Two, is a point I keep going back to, time and time again. The police have to share information about the ways in which they are tackling drug trafficking, and about the shifting patterns of drug trafficking. And this is what we call the threat assessment for Europe, Africa, Asia and the America's and it says that we believe that this kind of activity-this kind of criminal activity-is on the increase and therefore be on the look out for smuggling coming through South Africa for example, or coming through Harare, or coming through Nairobi, where ever it might be ; the important point to keep in mind is that drug traffickers normally have their illegal products mixed in legal products and so if you have an increase in legal trade you've got to worry about an increase in drug trade. It sounds bad, but it is true.

SHAW: Talking about corruption in high places in the police system in Africa, most observers think this has hampered efforts at checking the increasing crime rate in Africa. What specific efforts have been taken, if any , by your organisation to tackle this problem ?

NOBLE : The corruption problem is one that people have been trying to handle world-wide and not just in Africa. It is a problem that people have been trying to tackle by establishing best practices and encouraging member countries to put best practices in place. But it's not only a police problem in terms of enforcing the law against corrupt police. It's also a societal problem. We keep telling member countries you got to make sure you pay the police a proper salary because it is much easier for a police officer who is making a solid wage which can pay his family, pay his housing, pay for his food and clothing to be honest than it is for a police officer who is not going to make money to pay for food and clothing for his family. I'm not justifying corruption ; what I'm saying is that it's a very complex issue that's got to be approached globally-from recruiting the right people, training the right people, paying them, equiping them and educating them, and then enforcing very very strongly any violations that might be to the law in terms of a corrupt police officer. And a corrupt police officer in one African country taints the image of police officers in all African countries, and a corrupt officer in Africa, or Europe or Asia or the Americas taints the image of police officers around the world. So police have a common interest in ruling out corruption. It's wrong. It undermines the rule of law. It undermines the profession that they have sworn to honour.

SHAW: I would want to believe that you've made such remarks at some conferences you have attended in Africa. If so, have you been getting positive feedback from some African leaders especially with regards to your concern that better conditions of service for the police may serve as a deterrent to police corruption ?

NOBLE : First what I want to be clear about and what I dont want any misimpression on is that I'm making statements on behalf of Interpol ; chiefs of police from African countries are making the same statements on behalf of their police forces and changes are occuring. But more needs to be done in Africa and throughout the world to make sure that police are properly paid, are properly trained and are properly monitored. And what African member countries and all member countries have been embracing is the Interpol's initiative of establishing best practices in the area of fighting corruption ; we already have a working group established in that regard. At last year's Interpol's General Assembly we had the best practice policy approved and at the African regional conference in Zambia I expect the police to embrace this initiative as well.

SHAW : Talking about the global threat of terrorism, how do you think Africa fits into the equation ?

NOBLE : Okay, it's clear that Africa has been a target of some of the worst terrorist acts that have occurred over the last five years. It's clear that is the region of the world where terrorists believe that they can move around freely and that they can engage in terrorist activity without the same risk of being caught unlike in other countries. But the terrorist problem is not only an African problem ; it is an American problem, European problem and Asian problem. What Interpol would like to see happen is that wealthier countries need to make sure that African police officers receive the proper training and equipment, and the support to fight terrorism at the local level. The Commissioner for the South African police, Mr. Salebi has sponsored and is in support of an initiative that the Southern Africa Chiefs of Police have put in place for an early warning system for a possible terrorist activity in Southern Africa. At the Interpol regional conference in Zambia we followed up the importance of fighting terrorism as it relates to putting in place the I/24/7 communication system.

SHAW : The Zimbabwe Police Chief, Augustine Chihuri, recently resigned his honourary vice president for Africa post in the Interpol Executive Committee. Did he resign because of Western pressure ? If so, what does it say about Interpol being non-political.

NOBLE : Interpol is not only considered to be non-political, it's apolitical. And with Mr Chihuri; his resignation did not come about because of pressure from any large country or any large group of countries. His resignation came about because a member of his police force made an unfortunate statement suggesting that his appointment or his receipt of the honorary vice president title was an endorsement of the Zimbabwean police force. It was not an endorsement and it was not a non-endorsement ; rather it was an authomatic honour given to all executive members who completed their term of service. Once that unfortunate statement was circulated in the press, the appointment received political attention ; and so to avoid any politicisation of Interpol, Mr. Chihuri resigned honourably.

SHAW: Finally, how has Interpol been coping with the problem of sovereignty among the 181 member countries in tackling organised crime such as terrorism, genocide and other crimes against humanity ?

NOBLE : Interpol embraces and supports one hundred percent the view that each of its member countries is a soverign. But what Interpol tries to do is get all its member countries to co-operate towards a common enemy that is helping member countries track down dangerous fugutives, terrorists, organised crime figures and certainly any persons sought for any of the genocide crimes handled by the International Tribunals. But Interpol leaves it to each member country to decide if it will in fact enforce a request for arrest that comes from another member country. And that is the only way Interpol can function because you never gonna be able to get all 181 member countries to agree on all issues 100 per cent.

A NOBLE CV…Interpol's secretary general

Ronald Kenneth Noble, the first African-American secretary general of Interpol, was nominated by the Interpol Executive Committee in July 1999, and confirmed by the 69th General Assembly on 2 November 2000. Noble has extensive international law enforcement expertise. Currently professor of Law at the New York University School of Law, Noble's law enforcement career includes service in both the US Department of Justice and Treasury.

In addition to service as an assistant attorney and deputy attorney general, he more recently was chief law enforcement officer in the US Treasury Department from 1989 to 1996.

In this position, he had command over-seeing several of the largest law enforcement agencies in the United States such as the Secret Service, Customs Service, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, the Office of Foreign Assets Control, and the Criminal Investigation Division of the Internal Revenue Service.

A former member of Interpol's Executive Committee, Noble has also been president of the 26-nation Financial Action Task Force, the anti-money laundering organisation established by the G7 (now G8) in 1989.

Raised in New Jersey and Germany, Noble holds a Bachelor's degree in economics and business administration from the University of New Hampshire and a J.D from Stanford University Law School.

 

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'Vice President Berewa on the special court & other national issues - 27/05/2004','vice-president-berewa-on-the-special-court-a-other-national-issues-27052004','','

Sierra Leone's Vice President Solomon Berewa headed a government delegation to a donor consultatative meeting hosted by the World Bank European Office in Paris in November 2002. Expo Times Executive Director and Editor in Chief Ibrahim Seaga Shaw, who also attended the meeting as a journalist invited by the World Bank, met the Vice President for this exclusive interview touching on the special court which has just kicked off, and other issues still relevant to the country's development aspirations.

SHAW: There have been reports that war victims are complaining of hardship and neglect because government seems to be paying more attention to the re-integration of ex-combatants and thus ignoring their plight. This has made some of them to be less enthisiastic to serve as witnesses to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. What has your government done to avoid such a situation ?

BEREWA: In the first place their interests have not been completely ignored by government. Some provision is being made for them, and also by certain NGOs. It may not be adequate, but something is being done for them. Secondly, it has been explained to them that it is in every body's interest to successfully implement the NCDDR programme that would secure the peace and make the country safe for everybody, including themselves. It has also been explained to them by no less a person than the president himself that it would be in the interest of the war victims and the amputees to appear before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) because it has the power, after completing its work, to make recommendations for some type of compensation or reparation to the war victims. Those who do not appear would have themselves to blame. So it is in their interest to appear before the commission. And so we are hoping that they would take the point to appear before the commission and assist it in its work.

SHAW: As former Justice Minister are you optimistic the TRC would actually serve the purpose for which it has been set up against the backdrop of the overlap of functions which most observers see between it and the special UN court ?

BEREWA: No, I dont see any overlap there. They are performing two different functions, though leading up to the same results. The TRC is a commission before which people are expected to come and explain what happened to them. The supposed perpetrators of these crimes are also expected to come and face their victims and reconcile with them. It is a healing process-those who were injured would reconcile with those who injured them-that is the purpose. At the end of the day the commission would set the records straightt so that we can all know where we went wrong and why. It is not going to try people, send them to jail or hound them. It is a commission and not a court. Now the Special Court is a court ; it would be trying those who they feel were really responsible for the most heinious crimes against humanitarian law and against the individuals' human rights and so forth . These are the ones the Special Court would be trying to conclusion like any court and there would be no overlap between it and the TRC. Rather they would run in parallel. Both of them would be meant to bring peace and reconciliation to the country by getting peoples' grievances addressed and healed.

SHAW: What about a situation where those war victims who have reconciled with their aggressors before the TRC are again called upon to testify before the Special Court against these same aggressors, do you think they would cooperate ? Dont you forsee a problem here ?

BEREWA: If the TRC deals with a matter sufficiently and thinks that matter is within its competence, that is the end of the matter. If a matter is for the Special Court it goes there straight and not first to the TRC. If it is for the TRC, it goes there straight and not first to the Special Court. And so it is not the case that you go here first and go there later.

SHAW: But suppose you need a witness to justify a particular crime that had been committed-a very serious crime against humanity-may be you need a witness who might have testified before the TRC, and you need him or her to come before the Special Court. What are you going to do ?

BEREWA: If somebody has appeared before the TRC, and his victim or oppressor or the person who caused him injury is there as well ; in so far as that particular incident is concerned, it is finished there. A person may appear before the TRC as a witness, he may appear again before the Special Court as a witness in some other matter. The subject matter would not be the same.

SHAW: How far have you gone in raising funds to run the Special Court and the TRC ?

BEREWA: I think they have enough money now to start with their work. At least they have money that would go for one year…

SHAW: How long do you think the Special Court would sit ? Do you think it would drag on like the one on the Rwanda genocide which is now going into the third year ?

BEREWA: No, I dont think so. The two are different. I dont expect this one to be too long. It is a special court and so it's own arrangements are made to be very simple-not complicated like that on the genocide in Rwanda.

SHAW: Who do you think would be the likely candidates of the Special Court ?

BEREWA: I wish I knew. I really cannot guese. It is a matter within the discreation of the court-the prosecutor. If a complaint is brought before the court it is up to the prosecutor to determine whether it would be given hearing.

SHAW: Now coming to the changing business climate in Sierra Leone that is supposed to be woeing potential investors, what is the fate of the top lebanese businessmen you recently expelled from the country?

BEREWA: They were expelled not because of their business practices but because of their conduct not been in the best interest of Sierra Leone.

SHAW: Have you reconciled with some of them ? What is the present situation ? Are you still having problems with these and other business men in the country ?

BEREWA: No we have no problem with them. Any person, whether Lebanese or Sierra Leonean who works within the law is okay. By and large the lebanese comply. I mean like other businessmen, they carry on with their normal business like other Sierra Leoean businessmen, but if individuals do wrong, we fall on them ; we deal with people as individuals and not as a class. Not because one lebanese has done something wrong, therefore all lebanese are bad.

SHAW: It is like Sierra Leone is quickly moving towards a free market economy with increasing trade liberalisation and other macroeconomic policies set in motion with the help of international financial institutions such as the World Bank and IMF. How is the government reconciling this with the need to protect local industries, promote social services and reverse the economic hardship that is still evident in the country making it to be ranked as the poorest in the world for the past three years in a row according to the UN development report ?

EREWA: We have no problem there. We have always encouraged an open door policy as a very important practice we have in our regime. Any good investors are free to come and compete with others. If you are good you stay. So trade liberalisation is not a new thing to us at all. You see we want to promote industry. We want to promote the manufacturing and export of goods because it would help to ease the unemployment problem we have. There would be a lot of jobs and this may also help us earn foreign exchange. If something is being produced or manufactured in the country, our tendency is to protect it. We wont stop imports but we wont allow imports to be brought in at such a low cost that would disturb or destroy the industry that is producing the same thing. We have some measures we take to protect somehow our local industries because it provides employment for our workers, it pays excise duties, and sometimes even export duties. We can do that without violating the principles of trade liberalisation. So paying tax, excise and custom duties ; these are not really much of an issue. I think what has been the problem is that there have been so many bad things happening in Sierra Leone that to export goods to Sierra Leone, the insurance premium was very high, and also because of the stealing at the ports, that again costs importers a lot. So that at the end of the day, the goods imported, when sold, are very expensive. But thank God that has now been controlled. So as you can see it is not more so the duties but the insurance premium and the importer loses so much goods to stealing and corruption but once those are controlled, people would not bother with the duties that are paid.

SHAW: At the World Bank business forum members of your delegation made some very convincing statements to woe investors to the country and kick-start the private sector economy once again with the war now officially declared over. What concrete steps have you been taking as a government in creating the right environment, including of course infrastructural sectors such as good roads, electricity etc. ? I know electricity has been a problem in the country for some time now. I dont know whether you would throw light on the latest on the Bumbuna hydro project which has been under construction for ages, and which you inherited.

BEREWA: Well, we are aware of the obstacles to attracting foreign investment. When I was addressing these business men today, I told them that some of these obstacles are in fact good opportunities for investment. For instance, we are doing everything to maintain the steady supply of electricity. But we can only do it within our available means and resources. If they are serious businessmen who want to invest in a big way, they would decide to invest in electricity and power. In this way the obstacle created by the absence of electricity, they can use that as an opportunity to invest ; to bring power and do it on a commercial basis. Government is doing everything to raise funds for the completion of the Bumbuna hydro project. The president has gone to a number of places and there are prospects that it would happen but it involves a huge sum of money. And it is not something you can get money for and then finish it tomorrow. It would take some time. But all these obstacles are opportunities for development. Investors can come and if they find out that even the communication network is facing problem then may be they would go for Sierratel and then invest in it and make it a success. Then services would be provided sufficiently. So all these things …that was what I was explaining to the investors this morning.

SHAW: Coming back to the Hydro project, what do you think has actually been slowing down its completion. It's like the construction has been going on for ages ! Is it a problem of security ? What is going on ? Are the Italians still working there ?

BEREWA: No, there is no problem with security. The Italians suspended the work long ago. But it was not damaged during the war. It was well protected. But it requires a lot of money. We are talking of more than US$34 million to finish it, and is a lot of money. So I mean there are a lot of contacts as I told you, with the Italians, the Germans…and some arrangement is going to be put together and so whatever happens. But what ever happens, it would not be finished tomorrow. It would take some time to see it through. So what we need now is the immediate thing-the revamping of the existing power system. And is why I said investors can come in and help revamp this project.

SHAW: And now talking about Sierratel, which you just mentioned, we have been receiving complaints from people who say that they, like others in other African countries, are seriouly being exploited by cell phone companies. I dont know whether the government is protecting these rather vulnerable cell phone consumers.Because it's like for instance we hear that in Sierra Leone, when you have a mobile or cell phone, you have to be paying every month just to keep the number, in Europe it is not always the case as there are phones such as the pay-as-you-go's for which you are never required to pay monthly for keeping the number. Moreover, dont you think some of these cell phone agents are taking advantage of the gullibility of these poor consumers and that government is now paying much attention to the cell phones instead of reviving the already bad state of the land telephone network ?

BEREWA: Well, of course, there is no doubt that our celluler phone users are having a much more rougher time than those who use it in Europe as you said when you buy a cell phone you are asked to…you know there are so many ways of doing it. And you said the people are not using the national provider ; it is because it is not feasible everywhere. The celluler phone is easy to handle-you can go every where with it-that is people are clamouring for it. And ofcourse because of that demand for it the tendency is there for people to be exploited. The best way to do it is to allow competition to operate. We have quite a number of celluler phone companies now and you know that may help a little bit. You cannot regulate it in the sense of how much they are to charge and how to charge. Pure economic forces would have to come into play, and if Sierra Tel is able to provide the service all over the country, the need to upgrade cellular phones becoming more expensive would be reduced.

SHAW: Is Sierra Tel also involved in the cellular phone business as well ? Do you share the view that their involvement might help ?

BEREWA: There is the plan for Sierra Tel to be involved but the modalities are still to be put in place and I think it would make the difference.

SHAW: Now talking about the other important issue of the need for an improved business climate to attract foreign investors, you assured potential investors at the World Bank sponsored business forum that the country is now safe and ready for business. But what are you going to do to encourage former investors in Sierra Leone who had the bitter experience of losing everything as a result of the conflict. Some former French investors in Sierra Leone, particularly in the tourist industry, when contacted, said they want to go back and revive their business but fear the risks involved in case of another problem since their home government has made it quite clear that they would not provide them with insurance cover should they prefer to venture again into Sierra Leone, more so as there is no longer any bi-lateral agreement between the two countries.

BEREWA:: Nobody would of course ask the French government to insure its nationals who want to go to do business in Sierra Leone or anywhere else for that matter. We cannot tell the French government to that. Any good businessman, what he wants to do is to find out. There is always what is called feasibility studies-find out about the climate, ask people who are doing business there ; there are French men who live there. That is why we we came here ready to explain to them about the present climate for businessmen in Sierra Leone. People could take advantage of that by going to the nearest missions in Brussels, London etc. And they have a French Consul in Sierra Leone who can tell them about the situation there. Moreover there are many Sierra Leone business groups there who can communicate with them and find out. But we cannot tell their government to insure them. We cannot tell any business man that before you come to Sierra Leone, make sure that you are insured by your home government. We would of course assure them that when they come there would be no problem.

SHAW: Which areas are you expecting more investors to come from : the US, Europe or Asia ; as you said you have an open door policy in your investment programme ?

BEREWA: We are not of course going to concentrate on one area or areas. Our doors are open to all genuine investors : Chinese, Italians , Koreans, Americans, British, French, they are all welcome.

SHAW: What about the foreign missions ; have most of them been re-opened. Most nationals tend to follow their missions ; when for instance they want to go and do business in a particular country such as Sierra Leone but if they dont have a mission to protect them they would not take the risk. What can you say to this ?

BEREWA: There are Koreans there, Israelis, just name the countries they are all there. Even though they dont have consuls or chargé d'affaires, once you are in Sierra Leone the government of Sierra Leone protects you. I mean whether your embassy is there or not ,it is not your embassy that protects you. We are more secured than most countries. It was the war that was causing all the problems but now that it has ended there is no reason to be afraid .

SHAW: What about the political situation where your party- the SLPP- recently won a land slide parliamentary and presidential elections. But what do you think would be the prospect for a sustainable multi-party democracy in a situation where people are saying that there is virtually no opposition in Parliament and therefore limited checks and balances?

BEREWA: You are the witness ; but I think there is opposition in parliament as we have about 20 something MPs from the opposition in parliament. You know that is not a small number. And if they want to work well they would do so by checking all policies properly before passing them into law. In any case the government we have is a presidential and not a parliamentary government. So is not a case where you go and pass a vote of no confidence in a government. Is a presidential system ; in parliament we dont have an opposition side and a government side rather we have a majority and minority parties. They can vote across issues and is working quite well.

SHAW: How do you think this would help the country's recovery programme ? What time frame do you have in mind for the country's economic reconstruction now that the war is over to move it away from the bottom of the development ladder-the poorest of the poor according to the UN ?

BEREWA: How could you not be the poorest country after waging war for all these years and after everything has been destroyed-people killed, buildings destroyed, the infrastructure destroyed. Our ranking as the last of the poorest is not surprising to us. Now the efforts we are making here and what we are doing all over the place is to make sure that we come out of this situation. And if we succeed in getting enough resources then that would determine how soon we would get out of this situation.

SHAW: Now that the World Bank report has praised the government for the impressive performance in checking inflation, what time frame can you give with all other things been equal for this to be felt by all Sierra Leoneans and get the country up the development ladder. ?

BEREWA: Let's dont go by speculation. Everything depends on how fast we are aided in our developmental efforts. If we get all what is needed then the sooner I think we would get out of the present situation. If I begin to say in the next six months, one year, that would not be sensible at all. It depends on how much assistance we are able to get.

SHAW: Thanks very much for granting this interview. It has been a pleasure talking to you.

 

 

 

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Diamonds: Botswana/Sierra Leone, Still Far Apart - 25/05/2004

Expotimes -  Paris

A World Bank study, released on May 14, 2003, concludes that while diamonds fuelled an "economic miracle" in a country like Botswana, they led to a total economic collapse in Sierra Leone. This study highlights how sound economic management or mismanagement can produce drastically different results.

The report outlines that in 1961, the per capita income of the two diamond-rich African countries approximately stood at $1,070. Today, Botswana is cited as an example of a stable and well-functioning democracy, with a per capita income of about $8,000, relatively equally distributed. In contrast, Sierra Leone's poor governance "led to the state's collapse and created the incentive, as well as the opportunity, for a rebellion throughout the 1990s." Sierra Leone is now among the poorest countries in the world, with a per capita income of about $480.

Over the years, the study observed, the government of Sierra Leone lost control over its assets, enabling private entrepreneurs and organized criminals to take charge of the diamond mining. Youths were marginalized in the economic and political collapse of the 1980s and turned increasingly to crime and drugs, making it "relatively easy" for rebel leader Foday Sankoh to recruit young men for his civil war and to finance warfare through diamond extraction. Botswana on the other hand "went down a different path", and with a sound financial management of its precious stones, the country has emerged as one of the very few success cases of stable democracy in Africa.

It is now a year since the release of that World Bank report, and so far, going by latest developments on the ground-in the diamond industry and other sectors of the country's economy-the situation in real terms remains the same, if not worse. Sierra Leone ranked the poorest of the poor in the recent United Nations Development Report, the fouth time in a row, with almost the same per capita income. International and local media reports are awash with the increasing impatience of the population who continue to suffer in abject poverty with dwindling public utilities ranging from transport, electricity, health and sanitation, water to food security, to name a few.

The marginalisation of youths, a problem which partly provided Foday Sankoh's rebellion with the manpower he needed, is still very much evident in the country. A recent BBC report by Lansana Fofana hinted on how he found some of these marginalised youths digging in diamond pits in Kono instead of being in School. More than half of the squard of the Sierra Leone under 17 were forced to go into hiding and seek asylum recently in New Zealand because, according to them, they have no future in Sierra Leone. All these are far from being isolated, but rather part of a wider chain of more recurrent, developments. With teachers and lecturers always on strike for better conditions of service, the educational system has been rendered weak and ineffective to serve a growing, and increasingly desperate, youth population. This explains why most youths today in Sierra Leone are in a hurry to leave the country for better opportunities elsewhere.

It is now more than two years since the war was officially declared over, but the reconstruction efforts are still a long way to go to translate all the flowery promises of making use of the diamonds and other valuable minerals to benefit the people. Last year alone, over 45 million US dollars worth of diamonds left the country through unofficial channels. But according to a report from the government gold and diamond office, $44 million worth of diamonds had left the country through the official channel so far this year, predicting a constant rise in exports over the next several years.

"This is the first time in the last 15 years that diamond exports have increased so significantly,... "That steady increase is linked to good governance and awareness." said Lawrence Ndola Myers, the Chief Government diamond Valuator and head of the Gold and Diamond Office.

International watchdogs have estimated that illegal smuggling of diamonds from the poor tiny country , denied the country's state coffers a staggering $400 million over the past 15 years.Legal trading resumed cautiously in 2000, with exports of about $10 million worth of alluvial diamonds. By last year, Sierra Leone legally shipped $76 million in raw stones to cutters in Europe, Israel and Lebanon.

If, as Myers put it, the surge in diamond exports is linked to good governance and awareness, then it must indeed be welcome as good news since these are words that have been lacking in the political landscape in Sierra Leone for ages. It is now hoped that corruption, characterised by advance fee payment and bribery, which has been bugging this country's steady growth to catch up with countries like Botswana, is now becoming a thing of the past.

But again it is always easier said than done. Sierra Leone indeed has a long way to go to catch up with Botswana, and this process can only be accelerated if, and only if, pro-active measures are put in place to erradicate corruption in the mining sector, as well as other important sectors of the country's development. This financial discipline is also needed if the millions of dollars accrued from the diamond sector, and other areas of the national economy including aid, are to trickle down to the ordinary man by way of providing jobs and very basic social ameneties such as water, electricity, health and sanitation, education etc.

 

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SADC's Resounding Support','sadcs-resounding-support' - New African, Sep 2000   -2010-03-10 

 

Christmas has come early for President Mugabe. Under pressure at home and abroad to drop his controversial land reform policy, Mugabe's hand has been strengthened enormously by leaders of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) who gave him unflinching support at their 20th Summit held in Windhoek, the Namibian capital, on 6-7 August.

\r\n The SADC chairman, President Joaquim Chissano of Mozambique led the chorus. In remarks, widely viewed as a clear-cut support for Mugabe, Chissano said there has been a tendency on the part of some "big powers" to put a "blanket" over the history of the freedom struggle by "portraying heroes of the freedom struggle as anti-democratic and even dictators".

"We cannot in SADC condone these views," Chissano said. "We are the democrats and we want democracy to work according to the will of our people in each one of our countries."

Present at the Summit were the presidents of Angola, Botswana, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Lesotho`and the King of Swaziland. DRCongo, Mauritius and Seychelles were represented by their foreign ministers.

In defiance of the Mugabe-bashing in the West, the SADC "congratulated" him and "the people of Zimbabwe on the manner in which they conducted their parliamentary elections on 24-25 June".

The Summit nominated the South African president, Thabo Mbeki, and his Malawian counterpart, Bakili Muluzi, to make representations to Britain, on behalf of the region, in attempts to break the impasse on Zimbabwe's land issue.

"We are convinced," the leaders said in a statement after the Summit, "that to have a land reform programme that is fair and just to all the stakeholdets, it is imperative for the UK government to honour its obligations under the Lancaster House agreement to provide recourse for that purpose."

They expressed disappointment at "the partisan and biased manner" in which a sector of the international media had misrepresented Zimbabwe's land policy.

"We reiterate our acceptance of the urgent need to effect land redistribution in Zimbabwe to address land hunger and poverty affecting millions of black Zimbabweans," the leaders said.

They welcomed Mugabe's assurances that the land programme would be handled peacefully, and within the provisions of the laws of Zimbabwe.

"We are therefore greatly concerned about the bill cited as the `Zimbabwe Democracy Act of 2000' passed by the US Senate on 23 June 2000, seeking to impose on Zimbabwe a land reform programme and a political dispensation as prescribed by the US Senate."

The bill seeks among other things to authorise the US president to support opponents of Mugabe's government by financing propaganda activities against the government through the support of the private media and opposition-minded civic groups.

"We further note, with concern," the SADC leaders said, "that the [American] bill also aims to subvert Zimbabwe's economic foundation by prohibiting assistance or debt relief from being extended to Zimbabwe by the USA and by any international financial institutions to which the USA is a member.

"This punitive piece of legislation is counter-- productive and unjust since it will have far reaching negative implications for the economic development and evolution of democratic institutions in Zimbabwe in particular and the region in general."

The leaders continued: "We find it regrettable that this bill is being proposed at a time when Zimbabwe is involved in a challenging economic recovery programme and when we in SADC are trying to deepen the integration process in our region. The bill will mark a major setback in our community building efforts."

As a result, the Summit urged the US Congress to reconsider its policy and withdraw the bill before it is passed into law.

In this regard, the SADC leaders mandated their ambassadors in Washington and the SADC Secretariat to make urgent representations to the US Congress "projecting the SADC common position on this matter".

"We also call on the region's civil society groups and parliaments to rally behind the people of Zimbabwe against this bill."

Mugabe could not have expected more. The resounding support was seen as proof that, at last, African leaders are determined not to bend the knee to big-power bullying, no matter the consequences.

Ibrahim Seaga Shaw SADC Congo peace talks  - At the time of going to press, the SADC Congo peace talks were still going on in Lusaka, Zambia. Early indications pointed to a good conference.

 

 

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A Talking Shop: New African, Oct 2000 ','a-talking-shop','','

 

As expected, no real mention was made at the UN Millennium Summit (6-8 September) about the burning debt and aid dependency problems afflicting Africa. Deja vu.

Africa is too poor to get out of poverty on its own, and the donors are keeping it on the short list. This is why aid dependency is continuing... It's not enough, the size is small, and the conditions attached to them are not right". These words coated in loose threads of emotions, and the usual rhetoric, caught my attention recently for some obvious reasons.

The place was the 21 st floor conference room of the United Nations located in London's famous Millbank Tower where the ruling Labour Parry has its communications centre. The speaker was Yilmaz Akyuz, an UNCTAD expert, who was there to defend the UNCTAD report on "Capital Flows and Growth in Africa", released on that same day - 27 July.

"Its like climbing a palm tree", said Akyuz, "if you don't put enough water in it, you will never get the water out and you can spend your life getting a ladder and getting out nothing. This is what aid is like in Africa".

On the surface, I was refreshed by Aky-'s words but after a snappy bottom-up reflection, I was quick to behold that the words were too beautiful to be true.

According to the UNCTAD 43page report, doubling the current amount of aid to Africa could end the continent's aid dependence within a decade.

"The only feasible way to end aid dependence," the report argues, "is to launch a massive aid programme and to sustain rapid growth for a sufficiently long period so as to allow domestic savings and external private flows to gradually replace official flows."

It says an increase in official flows to $20bn could trigger a virtuous circle of rising national savings, investment and faster growth of about 6% per annum in sub-Sahara Africa.

Fine words! But the problem is how long are we going to wait for these hot-chocolate words to kickstart action from the donor community? Given the current parsimony of donors towards Africa, one doesn't need much to predict where the wind is going to blow.

In fact, the UN Millennium Summit in New York (68 September) delivered the answer. As widely expected, no real mention was made about the burning debt and aid dependency problems afflicting Africa. Save for a reference to the UN's failing peacekeeping missions in Africa, no real African concerns were tackled at the Summit.

Which prompted the Zimbabwean president, Robert Mugabe, to say in New York: "If the new millennium, like the last, remains the age of the master race, of the master economy and the master state, then I am afraid we in developing countries will have to stand up and say: Not again!"

Debt relief

UNCTAD's report itself does not treat debt relief with enough attention. No wonder, Akyuz was at a loss when cornered by a representative of jubilee 2000 (the debt cancellation pressure group) on how donors would receive the report, especially coming just a week after the Okinawa G8 summit in Japan (21-23 July), where world leaders had failed to heed appeals by jubilee 2000 and other groups for debt relief for developing countries.

Some time ago, America promised $600 million in debt relief for 25 countries by the end of this year. Yet not a penny has changed hands nine months into the year because the US Congress is refusing to play ball. As a result, even Uganda, Washington's "blue-eye" ally, is still waiting to receive its share of the promised relief.

The European Union and Japan are no better. If America, the world's richest country, which has seen a 3% growth in GNP in the last five years hasn't paid, what do you expect from the others?

What chance then has the UNCTAD appeal that aid to Africa should be doubled?

There are those who say the $750m spent in hosting the Okinawa G8 Summit should have been better spent in paying some of the debts of poor African states.

The Okinawa Summit made several promises - tackling world poverty, disease and promoting sustainable economic growth in the developing world, especially in Africa by the year 2015. But the Summit failed to say how these targets could be achieved without resolving the debt issue.

You only need to look at the 1999 UN Human Development Report which said Tanzania's debt service payments "are nine times what it spends on primary health care and four times what it spends on primary education", to see what I mean about debt relief.

UNCTAD is not new at the game of issuing reports that do not stand the test of time. On 15 September 1997, it released a report documenting SEVEN "troublesome" features of the contemporary global economy. But nobody paid any heed to the report. Three years on, the situation of the global economy remains unchanged, if not gone worse.

Marshall Plan

Most analysts say for Africa to lift itself up from aid dependency, the continent needs the European-style recovery programme codenamed the "Marshall Plan" under which Washington provided massive reconstruction aid to Europe which involved bilateral programmes outside the framework of the World Bank/IMF system.

The Marshall Plan was initiated and bankrolled by America for two reasons: First, to quickly arrest the fall-out of the 1930s economic recession in Western Europe on the world economy; and second, to check communist advances in Europe after World War II.

These two reasons also spurred Washington and its allies into action to save the Asian economies during the 1997/98 economic crisis, which saw massive aid poured into Asia to shore up Asia's crumbling currencies.

One is left to ask what the donor community is waiting for to start a similar thing in Africa, where natural and man-made disasters have made it difficult, if not impossible, to turn the worsening economic tide for the better?

The recent UNCTAD report attempts an answer: "The fact that any adverse consequences outside the continent are small has meant a corresponding lack of interest by the international community when financial distress has hit the region," it says.

With the end of the Cold War, Africa means little or nothing to the G8 save for the random exploitation of its natural resources. Africa can go to hell for all it cares. President Clinton's cold-shoulder to Nigeria's appeal for debt relief during his recent visit to that country, thus came as no surprise.

The admirably simple-minded solution of the Marshall Plan "to provide 80% of the assistance on a grant basis and end the period of dependence as soon as possible" is still the best way forward for Africa. If the UNCTAD report is to stand the test of time, it must follow the pattern of the Marshall Plan. The report sounds good but, so far, only on paper.

 

 

 

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We Need a National Conference' - New African, Jan 2001 ','we-need-a-national-conference-new-african-jan-2001-','','

Dr Abass Bundu, former executive secretary of Ecowas and leader of the Progressive Peoples Party (PPP) of Sierra Leone, tells our guest sub-editor, Ibrahim Seaga Shaw.

New African: The recently launched Grand Alliance of opposition parties is said to be gathering momentum in and outside Sierra Leone. As a member of this movement, what is the rational behind its formation and what do you hope to achieve?

Abass Bundu: No one needs convincing any more that in the best interest of our country, we have to respond to the yearning desire of the common man in Sierra Leone who wants to see all of our parties come together. This is what the Grand Alliance (GA) has sought to do. The goal is to have a single party co-ordinating all our efforts so that we can face the ruling party squarely on a level playing field and let the people decide. That is the essence of democracy. I believe we shall succeed. Our target is the SUP as a party and not our southern brothers and sisters. Let nobody interpret what we set out to do as a contest between North v South or between Temne v Mende. We must not section-- alise, regionalise or tribalise what we are seeking to do. We are simply seeking to establish in a very genuine fashion a democratic polity in our society. So our target is the SUP party which has misruled the country, and which no longer deserves the trust of the electorate.

NA: Parliament recently voted overwhelmingly for the extension of the state of emergency regulations for another six months, barely a week after stoutly opposing the bill, thus fuelling speculation of "palm-greasing" As an expert in international law, what do you think are the legal and political implications of this, and how would it impact on the Grand Alliance as a united front?

Bundu: Well, I think MPs were simply reflecting the decisions of their various parties. The state of emergency's prolongation has a direct legal implication. Under the 1991 constitution, parliament will stand dissolved by the end of its fifth year in existence. That power is not even vested in the president. It is an automatic operation of the constitution. The only way parliament can stay on is if there is a state of emergency. So by extending the emergency regulations for another six months, one can envisage the possibility of parliament living a life beyond its constitutional term of five years. It would be legal but that is the only way it can do that; otherwise, it has to be dissolved and fresh elections held. The same goes for the president. His term too will come to an end and the only way, again under the constitution, that he can prolong his presidency is through the state of emergency. So now you can see clearly why Alhaji Tejan Kabbah has maintained the state of emergency since he declared it in March 1998.

NA: There are fears about holding the next elections as planned, because of the security situation, and people are therefore calling for the setting up of an interim government to complete the peace process and organise elections when the present government's term ends in February. What is your opinion on this?

Bundu: I'm happy with the question - what is my opinion - because what I'm about to say is exactly my opinion and not that of the Grand Alliance (GA). I want that to be clearly understood because I don't want to cross swords with my colleagues in the GA.

I think it's extremely difficult to hold elections on the due date. There are certain conditions attached to the holding of elections, such as the registration of voters. That has not yet been done. I don't see how that can be achieved in the present climate. Maybe it's possible to do it in the Western, Southern and parts of the Eastern Provinces; but certainly not in the Northern Province, which is still under rebel occupation. That is a major obstacle that we must overcome.

The second is that we must respect the principle of democracy, which insists that every vote counts. It is in the nature of democracy, you cannot weight one man's vote more than the other. If that is so, it is wrong to hold elections now simply because it's easier to have election results in areas not under rebel occupation than areas under rebel occupation. Because the net result of this is to disenfranchise those people in those constituencies still under rebel control.

Now I would very much have liked to see the government proceed in prolonging the life of parliament and the presidency not by way of the state of emergency, which is an extraordinary measure. What people should know is that a state of emergency is not a normal way in proceeding in governance. It is an extraordinary event, and extraordinary events make bad precedent.

It would have been better to convene a Bintumani type national conference where people put their partisan interest aside and look at the bigger picture - the national interest -- and deliberate for days if necessary. At the end of the day, we would have produced a set of ground rules to govern our country. But to go by way of the state of emergency is something I don't agree with. It sets a very bad precedent and smacks of undemocratic behaviour.

So my thesis is this: We need a national conference (NC). Let the NC determine whether we need a transitional administration. If the answer is yes, it will set it up. It will be the collective consensus of the nation, such as we had in 1996 when the whole nation galvanised and told the NPRC junta: "Your days are numbered, we want elections come what may." The same thing should be done.

And believe me it's going to help. You see the culture of revenge that has gripped our nation would begin to give way if we are to dialogue. Let us begin a process that would get out of our minds any feeling of revenge.

Now we must allow Tejan Kabbah's reign to run its course, which is a five-year period. But at the end of his term, I don't think it would be the decision solely of the SUPP government to determine what form of government we must have. The state of emergency must go and the NC held under UN supervision.

NA: The Lome Peace Accord suffered a series of setbacks recently, largely caused by the unfortunate events of May last year, and the government doesn't seem to be clear whether to continue with it or pursue the military alternative. What do you make of this?

Bundu: In my opinion I think negotiations have not failed. A political solution has not failed. Any time a negotiated settlement of a conflict encounters problems, the fault lies not in the settlement itself but rather in the intentions of the parties. They have to be genuine enough to convey in very sincere terms what they want to see happen. You cannot be negotiating with another party while at the same time you are harbouring evil plans against him - it's not going to work!

So let's be quite clear: Whether it's the Abidjan Peace Accord, the Conakry Peace Accord or the Lome Peace Accord, the fault lies not with the accords but with the sincerity of the parties who signed them, be they government or rebel.

You see peace is a process. And that process has a lot of ingredients. We've just been dealing with one - democracy and democratic elections. How genuine can we make the next elections be? If we leave room for disputations, we might end up going back to square one. So for lasting peace to be achieved, the democracy aspect of the equation as well as the question of trust must be addressed.

It doesn't mean that we must pander to the whim and caprice of the rebels. I would not accept the pampering of the rebels to the extent that they are brought into government purely because of the power of the gun. That is again setting a bad and dangerous precedent. They must be encouraged that if they seek political power, that power is available only through the ballot box and not the barrel of the gun. And there is no better place to talk to the rebels than at a national conference.

We've always advocated a negotiated settlement to the conflict in Sierra Leone. This has made some people in government to brand us as junta or rebel collaborators. But that has not deflected me in any way as I still believe that negotiations are the best way forward.

 

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Election Rells Rining - Apr 2000 ','election-rells-rining-apr-2000-','','

Ten months after the Lome Peace Accord, Sierra Leoneans may be heading to the polls by November. Although elusive, the deputy secretary of the Interim National Electoral Commission (INEC), A. B. S. Samura hinted to New African: "We've not been officially informed but the talk is gaining momentum".

Some old-timers are already dusting their political garments and preparing for the time of reckoning, But the new generation of politicians, who blame the old politicians For the country's current sorry state (after nine years of rebel war), have promised to give the oldtimers a run for their money.

"Two new parties: The Revolutionary United Front Party (RUFP) led by former rebel leader Foday Sankoh and the Peoples Democratic Alliance (a splinter group of the Peoples Democratic Party) have already registered with INEC", revealed Samura.

Among the front runners are the country's two oldest parties - the ruling Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP) and the All Peoples Congress (APC).

Despite the traditional support which the SLPP and APC enjoy, a growing number of Sierra Leoneans blame them for the current near parlous state of the country, and the political and social decay which ignited the RUF rebellion in 1991.

Many also believe the two parties should disband to avert a repeat of the bloody civil war, a view surprisingly shared by the country's high commissioner in London, Prof. Cyril Foray.

"It has always been my view that it is better to ban all the old parties, especially the major ones, in order to have a fresh start. I think the constitution provides for elections once every five years and I see nothing wrong in holding them before the deadline if the situation demands," the high commissioner, who is nursing presidential ambitions himself, told New African recently. "What cannot be constitutionally accepted is to hold elections beyond the deadline", he added.

"The deadline" is February 2001 when President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah's term ends. The distant sounds of the election bells are being reinforced by pressure from some Western governments who appear to be pushing for early polls. At the moment, the UN is happy bankrolling Sierra Leone's peace process, with some help from the US and Britain, apparently to underscore the West's determination to keep the country's fledgling democracy afloat.

But recent visits to Freetown by some US and British officials, have left analysts suggesting that there is more to the West's concern than mere democracy. They say the visits cannot be unconnected to the mad rush for access to the country's rich mineral resources.

But the delay in the disarmament process of some 45,000 ex-combatants is also clouding hopes for early elections. Latest statistics from the National Committee for Disarmament, Demobilization and Re integration (NCDDR) put disarmed combatants, so far, at 17,212. In the same period, 141,000 weapons have been surrendered.

Lack of trust among the former warring factions has generally been the main reason for the slow pace of the disarmament process. While Major Johnny Paul Koroma, leader of the former Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) junta, says his soldiers' reluctance to disarm is due to fears of being attacked by the RUF and the civil militias, Sankoh accuses the West African peacekeepers, Ecomog, AFRC soldiers and the civil militias of attacking his positions.

The UN Security Council recently voted for its peace monitoring force to be increased from 6000 to 11000, but as New African went to press, no additional troops had been sent in, dashing further hopes of an early completion of the disarmament process.

Speaking on Koroma's behalf, the former AFRC minister of information, Mohamed Bangura, still in exile in London, said recently: "Genuine democracy will only be assured when the nation becomes arms free. I don't think there is any need to worry about elections. If the period of President Kabbah's legitimate power draws to a close, he should be replaced by an interim leader of national unity to take the country through the elections."

Some Kabbah loyalists, however, argue that the government's mandate should be extended for a year to compensate for the lost nine months that the AFRC junta ruled the country while Kabbah's government was in exile.

The other problem is about the rebels. Foday Sankoh recently attacked the UN, accusing it of double standards. Sankoh was expelled from South Africa and Ivory Coast in February, allegedly as a result of the UN travel ban imposed in early 1998 on AFRC and RUF members . But before the February incident, Sankoh had gone on government-sponsored or approved foreign trips to Libya and elsewhere, in his new capacity as the vice president of Sierra Leone. But, in February, as he visited South Africa on medical grounds, he was suddenly accused of going to sell diamonds, and not for medical reasons as he claimed.

Sankoh, predictably, fired back. In a statement to the "moral guarantors" of the Lome Peace Accord, he attacked Kabbah's government for its failure to implement its side of the peace deal, and lashed at the UN for its "double standards".

But, as the mudslinging continues, most Sierra Leoneans are becoming impatient with the slow pace of the peace process and the lack of commitment by all the factions in pushing it forward.

While some say elections should be held only after the completion of the disarmament process and the attainment of lasting peace, some think otherwise. The controversy could spiral into a repeat of the 1996 referendum when people were asked to vote for peace before elections, or elections before peace.

Plus fa change (Nothing changes in Sierra Leone politics)

 

 

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'RWANDA - Kagame sues in Paris: New African, May 2002 ','rwanda-kagame-sues-in-paris-new-african-may-2002-','','

 New African,

The 17th chamber of the French high court in Paris was the scene of a chain of dramatic flip-flops on 8 April as the court began to hear a case brought by the Rwandan president, Paul Kagame, against the Paris-based freelance journalist and author, Charles Onana.

The journalist is charged with defamation for publishing a book titled: "Les Secrets du Genocide Rwandais - Enquete sur les Mysteres d'un President" (The secrets of the Rwanda genocide-investigation into the mysteries of a president"), which alleges that Kagame was the principal suspect in the shooting down of President Juvenal Habyarimana's plane on 6 April 1994 which, according to him, sparked off the Rwandan genocide.

The book blames Kagame and his RPF army for shooting down the Falcon 50 plane, using two ground-to-air missiles. Also on the plane was the Burundian president, Cyprien Ntaryamira. The two presidents were returning from a peace summit in Tanzania.

Though he says he has been defamed, Kagame does not want money. He is calling on the French court to order the author to pay one symbolic euro to the Rwandan state for prejudice suffered as a result of the defamation.

He also wants the accused to publish the court's judgement in the foreign media. In addition, the court should order Onana to pay 5,000 euros for each copy of the book found in the bookstores.

Kagame's lawyer, Natasha Renaudin, charges that investigations into the shooting of the plane are underway before the French judge, Jean Louis Bruguiere, and accuses Onana of not respecting the principle of "presumption of innocence" for Kagame in the whole affair.

When the case opened on 8 April, the prosecution asked the judge to order the book withdrawn from the market. But the president of the threeman council of judges, Madame Dubreuil, refused the prosecution's request on the grounds that Kagame was not an accused person before Judge Bruguiere. The court adjourned till 29 April.

Onana has described the case as "an attempt to stifle the truth".

The worry of the prosecution is understandable when viewed against the backdrop of the overwhelming demand for the book since its publication on 10 December 2001. Interestingly, Deo Mushayidi, a Tutsi journalist and former Kagame spokesman, helped Onana to write the book.

"Over 2,000 copies have been sold since Kagame filed the suit, and the demand is increasing," Onana, born in Cameroon, told New African.

"The English version of the book will soon be out to let the 'truth' reach a much wider audience," he added.

He says the demand for the book confirms his claim that it represents the beginning of the end of the many lies that have been told about the Rwandan genocide, which he argues was not planned but spontaneous following the shooting down of Habyarimana's plane.

According to Onana, he based his book on the hypothesis that both the Tutsis and Hutus committed crimes; both sides had victims, and most of the time it was very difficult to tell the difference between the Hum and Tutsi killers or victims.

He says the many provocations from the Tutsis following the downing of the plane contributed immensely to the genocide.

"That is why this book is seen as an eye opener to help the search for the truth surrounding the 1994 genocide. I hope that it will help the international community to break its silence on the issue of the shooting down of the plane," says Onana, adding "How was it possible for the plane to be shot down by a missile when it was landing at the Kigali airport then manned by UN peacekeepers?"

Support

When the case finally opened in court on 8 April, there was a show of support for Onana by dozens of Rwandans, mostly Hutus, who either came to court or went to demonstrate in front of the Rwandan embassy in Paris. One of the placards read: "We want to know the truth."

Emmanuel Rwirangira, one of the organisers of the demonstration, told New African: "We are here to call on the Rwandan authorities to investigate the shooting down of the presidential plane, which we believe provoked the genocide. We are here also to show support for the journalist who is appearing in court today for bringing out the truth about the situation in Rwanda."

Another demonstrator, Antoine Nyetera, a Tutsi and a member of the royal family in Rwanda said that the genocide really began in 1990 when Tutsis and Hutus systematically massacred each other. Nyetera wondered why the international community seemed to be ignoring that and the shooting down of the presidential plane.

"Although I'm a Tutsi, I'm here to show solidarity with Onana's who has done a good job for telling the truth and for the realisation of peace and reconciliation in our country," Nyetera said.

The co-author of the book, DEo Mushayidi, was left out in the indictment but came to demonstrate nonetheless.

Not all Tutsis however, seem to agree with the authors. They organised a rival demonstration against the book in front of the French high court while it was in session on 8 April.

One of them, Oscar Ngaboyera, who came all the way from Belgium for the demonstration, said: "We are demonstrating against the book by Onana, the revisionist, and to support the Rwandan government's court action against him for defamation. Most of us here lost all our family members in the genocide which Onana has misrepresented in his book."

Ngaboyera said the genocide started in 1959 but regretted that nobody had been punished to serve as a deterrent. On the question of reconciliation, he said: "Reconciliation without justice is useless because it will leave room for more massacres in the future."

But Onana himself appears to be least,ruled by the opposition. It was "a small number of about 30 Tutsis", he said, adding that he was rather encouraged by the large turn-out of "more than 200 people, Hutu and Tutsi combined" who came to demonstrate in his favour.

 

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'Kagame 0, Onana 1: New African, Jul/Aug 2002 

 

The 17th Chamber of the French high court in early June threw out on technical grounds the libel suit filed by Rwandan president, Paul Kagame, against the investigative Cameroonian journalist and author, Charles Onana.

The journalist was charged with defamation for publishing a book titled: "Les Secrets du Genocide Rwandais-Enqete sur les Mysteres d'un President" (The Secrets of the Rwandan Genocide - Investigations into the Mysteries of a President), which alleges that Kagame was the key instigator in the downing of President Juvenal Habyarimana's plane on 6 April 1994 which, according to him, sparked off the Rwandan genocide (see NA, June).

But when the matter came up for hearing for the third time, presiding Judge Edith Dubreuil dismissed the case on the grounds that the plaintiff had failed to meet the three-month deadline in filing the case as required by Article 65 of the French law of 29 July 1881 on press freedom and publications.

Kagame filed his case on 6 March, more than three months after the publication of the book in November last year.

Dubreuil, who was assisted on the case by two other judges, Sylvie Menotti and Sophie Poitou, referred to evidence provided by the defence which confirmed that the book was published in November, with 40 copies sold at the FNAC Forum in Paris between 30 November and 6 December, at least over a week before the cut-off date.

The court was told that copies of the book were sent to subscribers such as Ernest Munyankindi on 29 November, to Emmanuel Kaouhijev, Tiphaine Dickson and Seraphine Babona on 30 November, and to Francine Uwera on 3 December.

The court also heard that although the press conference announcing the publication of the book by MINSI Publications took place on 10 December, Onana had already granted an interview on the book to Radio France International (RFI) on 25 November 2001.

When the case opened on 8 April, the prosecution had claimed that investigations into the shooting of the presidential plane was underway before the French judge, Jean Louis Bruguiere, and had accused Onana of not respecting the principle of "presumption of innocence" for Kagame in the matter.

But the judge refused to grant the prosecution request to order the book withdrawn from the market on the grounds that Kagame was not an accused person before Judge Bruguiere.

"Kagame was determined to stop the book's circulation because he wanted to avoid the embarrassment of many, many people coming to know about the truth in Rwanda, but this verdict has torpedoed his dream," said Onana.

 

 

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Criminals beware, Interpol is wiring up Africa: New African, Sep 2003 

Ibrahim Seaga Shaw went to interview the first African-American (in fact the first American of any colour) secretary general of Interpol, Roland Kenneth Noble, at the Interpol headquarters in Lyon, France. He reports on how Interpol is wiring up Africa to its new ultra-modern communication system to combat African and international crime.

Interpol is the largest international police organisation in the world. Set up in 1923 to facilitate cross-border criminal police co-operation, the organisation today has 181 members spread over five continents. It supports and assists all organisations, authorities and services whose mission is to prevent or combat international crime.

Interpol's priority areas are public safety and terrorism, criminal organisations, drug-related crimes, financial and hightech crime, trafficking in human beings, and fugitive investigation support.

There are over 200 Interpol liaison offices throughout the world. The majority of these are known as National Central Bureaux (NCBs). An NCB is the national hub for international co-operation against crime. It is financed and maintained by the authorities in each member country and is likely to have local operational police officers on the staff.

Interpol has a long history of activity and co-operation in Africa. Perhaps this is explained by the fact that the continents position as a crossroads between the Americas, Europe and Asia lays it open to transnational crimes such as weapons and illicit drug trafficking, illegal immigration, trafficking in stolen motor vehicles and fraud which can only be stopped by international police co-operation.

Following the assumption of duty in November 2000 by Ronald K. Noble, as secretary general of Interpol, the organisation has undertaken a more robust involvement in Africa, especially in the area of improving communication and information exchange among member states to prevent or combat international crime.

Until Noble came into office, Interpol had been working on an antiquated system called X-400 which was put in place in the early 1990s. Now, thanks to Noble's foresight, Interpol has a new internet-based "I-24/7" communication system that works around the clock in a fast and secure manner.

According to Alison Bernard, Interpol's communications' manager, "the new system, technologically, is very simple, but the difficulty is putting the equipment in place in developing countries and helping them to understand it.

The "1-24/7" system was a major discussion point at the 17th Interpol African Regional Conference held last month in the Zambian capital, Lusaka, from 23-25 July, attended by senior African police officers and security experts.

Stanley E. Morris, the "I-24/7" programme director, said Interpol's priority was to get most African countries connected to the system "at least within a year".

Work on connecting South Africa and Botswana is at an advanced stage and nearing completion. "There is generally the political will on the part of African police chiefs to embrace this new exciting project," Morris said, adding that the installation of the equipment would come simultaneously with the training of personnel co-ordinated by Interpol's sub-regional bureaux in Abidjan, Harare and Nairobi.

When our correspondent, Ibrahim Seaga Shaw, met with Ronald K. Noble, he first asked him about Interpol's initiatives to improve information exchange with its African member countries.

Roland Noble: The first initiative which was put in place a couple of years ago involved the cancellation of all debts owed by member countries, including a large number of African countries, who couldn't participate in all Interpol activities because they hadn't paid their debts. We wanted to make sure that all the members in the world were full participants.

Secondly, we rescheduled the dues of member countries. By doing so, we reduced the dues obligation of poorer countries by almost 75%. This allowed them to use the money that they would otherwise have paid to Interpol to improve their police systems.

Thirdly, we are putting in place the Interpol I-24/7 communication system in our offices around the world. That system allows member countries to use the internet and state of the art technology to send or receive cryptic messages that cannot be read by unauthorised persons. The system will also enable the police in Africa to send photographs and fingerprints, download documents and reports, and thereby facilitate a faster exchange of information.

Shaw: At the 32nd Interpol European regional conference in The Netherlands on 14 May this year, you recognised the involvement of European criminal groups that traffick in arms in Africa, a situation that adds to the conflict situation on the continent. What is Interpol doing to combat this crime?

Noble:We have been supportive of the African regional chiefs of police organisations that are tackling this problem. Interpol is also in the process of analysing something called WETS (International Weapons Explosives Tracking System), which, if workable, would allow us to gather data about weapons and explosives trafficking not only in Africa but also throughout the world.

We are also supporting African sub-regional efforts to make sure we have qualified and trained police officers to deal with the problems there.

Shaw: Talking about the new 1-24/7 global communication system, considering that Africa is still far behind in modern communication infrastructure, how fast do you think the African police will benefit from this system?

Noble: We are going to provide hardware, software and training free for African member countries. So the benefit in Africa will be immediate.

At the moment, it is very expensive for our African members to use codable telephone systems to communicate with one another or with Interpol. So by giving them this new technology, they will be able to communicate with one another or with Interpol more cheaply and more efficiently.

Shaw: Despite international efforts to put an end to human trafficking, especially women and children, for prostitution and sweatshop labour, the practice has continued unabated. How do you explain this?

Noble: When one thinks of the trafficking of women, one has to think of two categories. One category is made up of women who are deceived or lulled into going from one country to another with the expectation of a better job or a better life, but when they reach their destinations, their passports are taken away from them and they are then forced into prostitution. It is a very, very serious organised crime problem. Our response has been targeting special investigations at these organised crime groups.

The second category is where people knowingly and voluntarily travel from point A to point B in order to engage in prostitution. That is a much more difficult problem to deal with because there isn't the organised crime aspect in it.

Shaw: Have you made any attempt to tackle this problem from the source, from the countries in Africa or Asia where the victims of this practice are taken?

Noble: Yes, we have. In Africa, we are working with police forces in member countries to fight illegal immigration. For example, at the point of departure from Africa, especially in Morocco, and at some entry points such as Italy, Greece and Spain, we try to co-ordinate with the police there to discourage illegal immigration.

Shaw: With Africa increasingly becoming a transit point and even destination of drugs, what do you think can be done to combat this menace?

Noble: We tell Interpol member countries that each time they seize drugs, they have to collect information about the kind of bag it was carried in, the kind of secret compartments it was stored in, and the characteristics of the person carrying the drugs.

That information is to be shared with member countries, so when a person comes in carrying a black brief case with a certain mark on it, a certain brand name, and if that briefcase was seized in the US containing drugs, then an African border control person would say: "Black brief case! It's the same kind of brief case that was seized in Europe, in Africa and in America, let's examine it." We've had great successes with this strategy.

Two, is a point I keep going back to, time and time again. The police have to share information about the ways in which they are tackling drug trafficking, and about the shifting patterns of drug trafficking.

This is what we call the threat assessment for Europe, Africa, Asia and the Americas. And it says that we believe that this kind of criminal activity is on the increase and therefore we should be on the look out. The important point to keep in mind is that drug traffickers normally have their illegal products mixed in with legal products; and so if you have an increase in legal trade, you've got to worry about an increase in drug trade. It sounds bad, but it's true. 

Shaw: Talking about corruption in African police forces, most observers think this hampers the fight against crime. What is Interpol doing to clean the house of corruption that the police built?

\Noble: The corruption problem is one that people have been trying to handle worldwide and not just in Africa. But it's not only a police problem in terms of enforcing the law against corrupt police officers. It's also a societal problem.

We keep telling member countries you've got to make sure you pay your police officers a proper salary because it is much easier for a well paid police officer who can look after his family, who can pay for his housing, who can pay for his food and clothing, to be honest than it is for a poorly paid police officer who cannot look after himself and his family.

I'm not justifying police corruption. What I'm saying is that it's a very complex issue that has to be approached globally - from recruiting the right people, training the right people, paying them well, equipping them and educating them, and then enforcing very strongly any violations that might be to the law in terms of a corrupt police officer.

And a corrupt police officer in one African country taints the image of police officers in all African countries. Likewise, a corrupt officer in Africa or Europe or Asia or the Americas taints the image of police officers around the world. So police officers have a common interest in routing out corruption. It's wrong. It undermines the rule of law. It undermines the profession that they have sworn to honour.

Shaw: I would want to believe that you've made such remarks at conferences you have attended in Africa. If so, have you been getting positive feedback from African leaders especially with regards to your concern that better conditions of service may serve as a deterrent to police corruption?

Noble: First, what I want to be clear about and what I don't want any mis-impression on is that I'm making statements on behalf of Interpol. Chiefs of police from African countries are making the same statements on behalf of their police forces, and changes are occurring.

But more needs to be done in Africa and throughout the world to make sure that the police are properly paid, are properly trained and are properly monitored. Our member countries have embraced the Interpol initiative of establishing best practices in the area of fighting police corruption.

We already have a working group established in that regard. At last year's Interpol General Assembly, we had the best practice policy approved, and at the African regional conference in Zambia the police embraced this initiative as well.

Shaw: Talking about the global threat of terrorism, how do you think Africa fits into the equation?

Noble: It's clear that Africa has been a target of some of the worst terrorist acts that have occurred over the last five years. Its also clear that Africa is the region of the world where terrorists believe they can move around more freely and engage in their activities without the same risk of being caught, unlike in other countries.

But the terrorist problem is not only an African problem, it is an American problem, European problem and Asian problem. What Interpol would like to see happen is that wealthier countries have to make sure that African police officers receive proper training, equipment and the support to fight terrorism at the local level.

Jacky Selebi, the South African police commissioner, has sponsored and is in support of an initiative that the Southern Africa chiefs of police have put in place for an early warning system for a possible terrorist activity in Southern Africa.

At the Interpol regional conference in Zambia, we followed up the importance of fighting terrorism as it relates to putting in place the I-24/7 communication system.

Shaw: The Zimbabwean police chief, Augustine Chihuri, recently resigned his honorary vice president for Africa post in the Interpol Executive Committee. Did he resign because ofWestern pressure? If so, what does it say about Interpol being non-political?

Noble: Interpol is not only considered to be non-political, it's apolitical. And with Mr Chihuri, his resignation did not come about because of pressure from any big country or any large group of countries.

His resignation came about because a member of his own police force made an unfortunate statement suggesting that his appointment was an endorsement of the Zimbabwean police force. But it was neither an endorsement nor a non-endorsement.s Rather, it was an automatic honour given to all executive members who completed their term of service.

Once that unfortunate statement was circulated in the media, his appointment received political attention. And so to avoid any politicisation of Interpol, Mr Chihuri resigned honourably.

Shaw: Finally, how has Interpol been coping with the problem of sovereignty among its 181 member countries in tackling organised crime such as terrorism, genocide and other crimes against humanity?

 Noble: Interpol embraces and supports 100% the view that each of its member countries is sovereign. But what Interpol tries to do is get all its member countries to co-operate towards a common enemy by helping them track down dangerous fugitives, terrorists, organised crime figures and certainly any persons involved in crimes of genocide before the international tribunals. But Interpol leaves it to each member country to decide if it will in fact enforce a request for arrest from another member country. That is the only way Interpol can function because you will never be able to get all 181 member-countries to agree 100% on all issues.

 

 

 

 

Foreign Connection, The'  -  New African, Jul/Aug 2000

Despite all the chest-beating in London about British intervention, the Sierra Leone peace clock is still ticking anticlockwise on a fast track to square one. Recent events - the hostage drama and the detention of Foday Sankoh - have ignited a new round of war. Now in tatters, even feared dead, is the Lome Peace Accord signed in the Togolese capital in July 1999.

Most analysts believe the foreign players in the conflict should shoulder the Lion's share of the blame for the latest fighting. But the mad rush for the country's rich mineral resources, especially diamonds, has made it difficult for them to hands off:

Related Results

While Britain has been showing keen interest for diamonds a la Branch Energy and Executive Outcomes, the United States has been eager to protect the interest of its conglomerate, Nords Resources, which owns majority shares in Sierra Rutile plc.

The US and other players such as Canada and France have also been jealously eyeing, and even pulling some strings, for the diamonds, albeit behind the scenes. Thus Sierra Leone has become a pawn in the chess game of the powers jostling for influence.

Says Michael Wundah, editor of The Tribune newsletter, the mouthpiece of the UK branch of the ruling SLPP party: "Our wealth is the nemesis of the crisis in Sierra Leone, like the case of oil in Nigeria. The West has been involved in the exploitation of this wealth but has not done much to end the crisis. Sandline came and restored Kabbah to power but that did not end the war." Wundah was speaking at a recent symposium at the Africa Centre in London.

Britain and the US have never made secret their preference for a military solution to the RUF rebellion. Some critics say the West's venom against the RUF was influenced more by geo-political and economic factors than the mere campaign for democracy. Else, they say, the West would have hit the roof in DRCongo where Ugandan and Rwandan support for rebels trying to oust President Kabila, has received little or no Western expression of concern.

The RUF links with Libya, Liberia and Burkina Faso ("the unholy axis" according to the West) have now been elevated as one of the chief concerns of the West. As usual, the regional grouping Ecowas, is nodding agreement and refusing to take full credit for its lead role in peacekeeping in both Liberia and Sierra. All the three peace accords on Sierra Leone - 1996 (Abidjan), 1997 (Conakry) and 1999 (Lome) - have all had substantive Ecowas input. Critics, however, have generally blamed Britain and America for the collapse of these Ecowas peace initiatives.

Although London and Washington urged Kabbah to sign Lome, the money and logistics they promised to support the accord, never showed up or arrived too late to make an impact. Thus Lome, fraught with hocus-pocus from day one, was, like the two accords before it, doomed to fail whenever the West was ready.

Lome's turn for extinction was timed with the flying in of the 800 British marines on 8 May to coincide with the stage-managed demonstration at Sankoh's residence. No one has yet told the nation why the demonstration was allowed, and who by, when under the state of emergency imposed by Kabbah in 1999, demonstrations (whether by God or Satan) are explicitly forbidden!

As it happened, in a matter of hours, the British "evacuation expedition" ballooned into a "full-scale intervention" ostensibly to bolster the UN and government troops.

Kabbah's embattled government welcomed the British troops with glee, but their presence provoked mixed reactions among Sierra Leoneans.

Said Hassan Omolaja: "Britain's efforts in Freetown should be applauded especially as a democratically-elected government has been assisted in its fight against brute force."

But Cee Caulker, a Sierra Leonean, expressed a different opinion in a letter to "expotimes.net", the Sierra Leone online newsletter. Drawing a parallel to the Zimbabwe land issue, he said: "In the eyes of the British media, President Mugabe was a villain, the people trying to take back their land were squatters in their God-given land. Because they can't get their way in Zimbabwe, Britain was desperate to do anything to save its face. So Sierra Leoneans' blood became that to be shed."

Despite the recent high profile visits to Freetown (first) by Robin Cook, the British foreign secretary, and then John Prescot, the deputy prime minister, the last batch of the British marines pulled out on schedule on 4 June, leaving a token Force to "train" the Sierra Leone army.

Most people blame the British for exacerbating, rather than easing, the tensions. Because until the British intervened, there was no fighting in Sierra Leone. The Lome Accord, though not implemented fully, was going fine. Only the UN troops had had some local difficulties with the RUF. And that could have been sorted out without a hot war.

Thus, while some say the British rushed into the so-called "rescue operation" to score political points and claw back some prestige lost over their foreign policy miscalculations in Zimbabwe, others see it as a damage control mechanism to smooth over last year's Sandline arms scandal. Honestly, people don't know what the British objective was, of is, in intervening - and sparking another round of war in Sierra Leone.

Coming on the heels of the gradual British pull out, were the UN Jordanian troops clash with the RUF on 12 June near the Rokel River, 20 miles to Freetown. The RUF has since taken Lunsar - again - from the pro-government forces. Lunsar has been changing hands like the diamonds, and the latest twist in the town's fortunes has put paid to the claims that the rebels are beating a hasty retreat.

The RUF is now demanding the release of their leader Sankoh and others, as a quid pro guo for a return to the Lome Accord. President Kabbah, for his part, told parliament on 16 June that he would only resume talks with the rebels when they retreated to positions held before Lome was signed. 

As the stand off rolls on, innocent civilians caught in the fray are already paying a heavy price. Those fleeing for cover have swelled the displaced population around Mile 91 and its environs.

The Liberian foreign minister, Monie Captan, who has been negotiating the release of UN Indian hostages held by rebels in Kailahun, has said: "You can't negotiate the release of hostages in an atmosphere of hostilities."

Meanwhile the governments in Sierra Leone and Liberia are busy trading accusations of harbouring dissidents to destabilise each other. Liberia has since moved troops to the border "for security reasons".

 

 

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http://www.thepatrioticvanguard.com/spip.php?article3603

 

 

 Welcome back to my site. Within this site, you'll find information about me and various things that relate to me professionally.

 

 

Dr Ibrahim Seaga Shaw - Senior Lecturer in Media and Politics

& Programme Leader MSc Mass Communication Management

Department of Media and Communication Design,

School of Arts and Social Sciences 

Northumbria University

Squires Building (Room 304), City Campus

Newcastle upon Tyne NE1 8ST

United Kingdom

 

Board Memberships and Affiliations  

  •  

    • IPRA – International Peace Research Association:Secretary General
    • War and Media Network: Member
    • The Exiled Journalists' Network: Board Member
    • British Education Academy: Member
    • Bristol Legacy Commission: Member
    • The Exiled Journalists' Network: Board Member, Programme Coordinator
    • African Voices Forum: Founder & Secretary General
    • Expo Network and Expotimes Online News Portal:Founder 
    • Member of Centre for International Development, Northumbria University
    • Member of New Media and Intercultural Communication
    • Member of the International Association of Media and Communication Research
    • Member of the Disaster and Development Network, Northumbria University
    • Founding Member of the Risk and Conflict Network, Northumbria University
    • Member of the Peace Journalism Commission (IPRA)
    • Co-convener, Media, Conflicts and Human Rights (IPRA)
    • Trustee, Board of Trustees, Bristol Community Housing Foundation

     

     

     

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BOOKS AND BOOK CHAPTERS

 

Books (Monographs)

  • Shaw, Ibrahim.S (2016) Business Journalism: A Critical Political Economy Approach. Routledge. Taylor and Francis. London.UK
  • Shaw, Ibrahim.S (2012) Human Rights Journalism:  Advances in Reporting distant humanitarian interventions. Palgrave Macmillan. Hampshire. Basingstoke

 

Books (Edited Collections/Readers)

  • Roy, S and Shaw, IS (2016)(Eds.) Communicating Differences: Culture, Media, Peace and Conflict Negotiation. Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke, UK.
  • Shaw, Ibrahim.S, Hackett, R, Lynch, J (2012)(Eds.) Expanding Peace Journalism: Critical and Comparative Perspectives. Sydney University Press

 

Book Chapters

  • Shaw, I.S (2018) UNESCO Journalism Education Model Curricula in Africa— A call for a “glocal” rather than global (universal) journalism model. In Hayes Mawindi Mabweazara (Ed.) Newsmaking Cultures in Africa: Normative Trends in the Dynamics of Socio-Political & Economic Struggles. Palgrave MacMillan
  • Shaw, I.S (2017) Media, Culture and Human Rights: Towards an intercultural communication and human rights journalism nexus. In Howard Tumber and Julio Waisbord (Eds.)  Routledge Companion to Media and Human Rights. Routledge. London.UK.
  • Shaw, I.S and Luo, D (2016) Citizen Journalism, Cyber-activism, and ‘crowdsourcing: The mediation of the sacking of Sierra Leone’s vice president Sam Sumana on Face Book. In Bruce Mutsvairo (Ed) Mobile Media, Digital Activism and Dilemmas for Democracy in Africa. Palgrave Macmillan. Hampshire. UK. 
  •  Roy, S & Shaw, IS (2016) Introduction: Communicating Differences—Toward Breaking the boundaries for Peace and Conflict Research. In Sudeshna Roy and Ibrahim Seaga Shaw (Eds.) Communicating Differences: Culture, Media, Peace and Conflict Negotiation. Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke, UK.
  • Shaw, I.S (2016) Reporting the Lee Rigby Murder and the Anti-Muslim Hostilities in the UK in 2013: The Cultural Clash Communication and Human Wrongs Journalism Nexus. In Sudeshna Roy and Ibrahim Seaga Shaw (Eds.) Communicating Differences: Culture, Media, Peace and Conflict Negotiation. Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke, UK.
  • Shaw, I.S (2015) From Citizen Journalism to Human Rights Journalism: Framing the Ebola Epidemic in Sierra Leone on Facebook. In Bruce Mutsvairo(Ed) Participatory Politics and Citizen Journalism in a Networked Africa: A Connected Continent. Palgrave Macmillan. UK.
  • Shaw, Ibrahim S (2013) Humanitarian Journalism. In Fackson Banda (Ed.)  Model Curricula for Journalism Education: A compendium of New Syllabi. UNESCO Series on Journalism Education.
  • Shaw, Ibrahim.S (2012) Human Rights Journalism: A critical Theoretical Framework of a new Strand of Peace Journalism. In Ibrahim Seaga Shaw, Jake Lynch and Robert H Hackett (eds) Expanding Peace Journalism: Critical and comparative approaches .Sydney University Press.
  • Lynch, J, R.A. Hackett and Shaw, I.S (2012) Introduction: Expanding Peace Journalism: Comparative and Critical Approaches. In Ibrahim Seaga Shaw, Jake Lynch and Robert Hackett (Eds.) Expanding Peace Journalism: Comparative and Critical Approaches. Sydney University Press.
  • Shaw, Ibrahim.S (2007) Le regard des journalists Occidentaux sur la guerre en Sierra Leone: LECTURE CRITIQUE DU TRAVAIL DE 3 JOURNALISTES FRANCAIS, IN François Biyele (Ed) Nouvelles approches des problematiques de communication  sur l’Afrique  subsaharienne: REPRESENTATIONS, IDEOLOGIE ET INSTRUMENTALISATION, L’Harmattan, Paris (Currently being translated into English).
  • Shaw, Ibrahim S (2000) Chemin Deficil d'exil  dans “Comment la France Traite l’Asile Politique”, L’Harmattan, Paris

 

  Preface and Foreword

  • Shaw, I.S (2016) Preface. In Charlène Cabot: Climate Change, Security Risks, and Conflict Reduction in Africa: A Case Study of Farmer-Herder Conflicts over Natural Resources in Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, and Burkina Faso. Hexagon Series on Human and Environmental Security and Peace, vol. 12 (Berlin – Heidelberg – New York: Springer, 2016).
  • Shaw, I.S (2016) Foreword. Hans Günter Brauch, Ursula Oswald Spring, Juliet Bennett, Serena Eréndira Serrano Oswald (Eds.): Addressing Global Environmental Challenges from a Peace Ecology Perspective. SpringerBriefs in Environment, Security, Development and Peace, vol. 27 (Cham–Heidelberg – New York – Dordrecht – London: Springer-Verlag, 2016)

 

 Forthcoming Book

  •  2018: Reporting Human Rights, Conflicts, and Peacebuilding : Critical and Global Perspectives. Palgrave-Springer. Editors : Ibrahim Seaga Shaw and Senthan Selvarajah. (In Press).

 

Forthcoming Book Chapters

  • Shaw, I.S and Selvarajah, S (2018) Introduction: Reporting Conflicts, Human Rights and Peacebuilding: Critical and global perspectivesIn Reporting Human Rights, Conflicts, and Peacebuilding : Critical and Global Perspectives. Editors : Ibrahim Seaga Shaw and Senthan Selvarajah. Palgrave-Springer. (In Press).
  • Shaw, I.S and Selvarajah, S (2018) Human Rights Journalism: Towards a Critical Constructivist Epistemological Approach. In Reporting Human Rights, Conflicts, and Peacebuilding : Critical and Global Perspectives. Editors : Ibrahim Seaga Shaw and Senthan Selvarajah. Palgrave-Springer. (In Press).
  • Shaw, I.S and Luo, D (2018) Understanding and Practicing Human Rights Journalism in China. In Reporting Human Rights, Conflicts, and Peacebuilding : Critical and Global Perspectives. Editors : Ibrahim Seaga Shaw and Senthan Selvarajah. Palgrave-Springer (In Press).
  • Shaw, I.S (2019) The Prospects and Challenges of Mediating Peacebuilding in Africa: Towards a human rights journalism approach. In Jacinta Maweu and Admire Mare (Eds) Media, Conflicts and Peace building in Africa. Routledge
  • Shaw, I.S (2019) Western Liberal Democracy: How different is the African Journalism model? In Mehita Iqani and Sarah Chiumbu (Eds) Media Studies.  Oxford University  Press. UK (Submitted and now under peer review
  • Shaw, I.S (2019) From financial journalism to business journalism: Towards public business journalism. In Jacqueline Lima Dorado, Denise Lopez Da Silva, and Renan Da Silva Marques (Eds.) Political Economy of Journalism Tendencies, prospects and regional development.

 

 

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