Africa news roundup

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The continent of Africa (image: courtesy of Pfuderi)

June 18-24,2023


Teacher licensure examination records large failures

The Registrar of the Ghana Teacher Licensure Examination (GTLE), Dr Christian Addai-Poku, has revealed that out of the 7,728 prospective teachers who sat for the licensure examination last month, only 1,277 passed. This figure represents 16.5 per cent of the candidates who sat again for the examination, introduced to licence teaching practitioners. According to Addai-Poku, all the candidates had sat for the exam at least twice, with some as many as nine times. He explained that those affected had one final chance to re-write the exam in the latter part of the year before its format and content changed. Candidates who failed at their last chance and wanted to re-sit the exam, would be “required to upgrade themselves to acquire a first degree”.

“We are reforming and restructuring the examination and we will start it this year with those who have qualified to write it for the first time,” Addai-Poku added. He said unlike the current examination where the candidates were examined in numeracy, literacy, and professional skills, they would be examined in their area of specialty. Thus, a candidate who aspired to teach geography must, in addition to the three areas, be examined in geography.

The GTLE was introduced by the government in 2019 backed by the Education Act of 2008, Act 778, with the first-ever teacher licensure exams taking place in September 2018. The introduction of teacher license and continuous professional development were key policies being pursued by the government through the National Teaching Council and was aimed at improving the professional standing and status of teachers in the country.


Shettima swears in new Inspector General of Police

The Acting Inspector General (IG) of Police Kayode Egbetokun has officially assumed office as the 22nd IG. The former IG, Usman Baba, officially handed over to Egbetokun on Wednesday at the Louis Edet House, Force Headquarters, Abuja. Egbetokun promised to secure the nation, noting that the Nigeria Police Force would strive for excellence, transparency, and accountability to citizens. He observed that much still needed to be done to improve policing in Nigeria, adding that he was aware of the enormous responsibility that accompanied his appointment. “The Nigeria Police Force will strive for excellence, transparency, and accountability”, he said.

Egbetokun advised that a technology-driven approach to leveraging other techniques to ensure effective and efficient use of resources would be applied. “We will provide support structures for police officers that would cater for their physical and psychological needs. We will introduce programmes to strengthen the minds and hearts of every officer. We will secure the nation”, he said. Stressing the importance of community policing as one of the policy priorities of his administration, he noted that he planned to strengthen the intelligence-gathering capabilities of the force and further appealed for cooperation and teamwork, promising to run a transparent and integrity-driven regime. Egbetokun also appealed to Nigerians to support the police in the fight against criminal activities, while noting that he hoped to build stronger inter-agency collaboration and deepen the technology approach to guaranteeing internal security.

South Africa

Ramaphosa holds peace talks in Russia

President Cyril Ramaphosa, who is in Russia as part of a peace-seeking delegation, has told his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin the conflict in Ukraine, had to stop. “This war must be settled… through negotiations and through diplomatic means”, said Ramaphosa. He added that his delegation, consisting of seven African leaders, “would like this war to be ended”. “This war is having a negative impact on the African continent and indeed on many other countries around the world”, Ramaphosa said.

The delegation also held talks with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv. “We have come to listen to you and through you to hear the voice of the Russian people,” said Comoros President Azali Assoumani, head of the African Union. “We wanted to encourage you to enter into negotiations with Ukraine,” he said.

President Vladimir Putin gave the African leaders seeking to mediate in the war in Ukraine a list of reasons why he believed many of their proposals were misguided. Putin also stressed Russia’s commitment to the continent. However, Putin reiterated his position that Ukraine and its Western allies had started the conflict long before Russia sent its armed forces over the border in February last year. He said the West, not Russia, was responsible for a sharp rise in global food prices early last year that has hit Africa especially hard.

Putin told the delegation that Ukrainian grain exports from Black Sea ports that Russia has permitted for the past year were doing nothing to alleviate Africa’s difficulties with high food prices because they had largely gone to wealthy countries and that Russia had never refused talks with the Ukrainian side, which had been blocked by Kyiv. Moscow had, however, repeatedly said any peace must allow for “new realities”, meaning its declared annexation of five Ukrainian provinces, four of which it only partially controls. Putin said Moscow was “open to constructive dialogue with anyone who wants to establish peace on the principles of fairness and acknowledgement of the legitimate interests of the parties”.

There was no immediate word on the bilateral talks that Ramaphosa, host of a summit in August featuring Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, had said he would have with Putin. Since the International Criminal Court indicted Putin in March on war crimes charges – which he rejects – South Africa, as a member of the court, finds itself in the awkward position of being obliged to arrest him if he sets foot there.


Suspect in cult deaths dies in custody

One of the 30 suspects being held together with the Kenyan cult leader Paul Mackenzie over the deaths of more than 300 people who were told to starve themselves to death if they wanted to go to heaven, has died in custody. The deceased had been in police custody for more than 60 days while the Kenyan criminal investigations continued with the probe and exhumation of bodies around Shakahola forest on the outskirts of Malindi in coastal Kenya.  A prosecutor in the Mackenzie case, Jami Yamina, informed the Mombasa court on Wednesday that the deceased, who had been identified as Joseph Juma Buyuka, was among the Mackenzie followers who had staged a 10-day hunger strike while in custody. “The [Mackenzie] aide had declined to eat and drink while being held at Watamu Police Station”, Yamina told Al Jazeera. “He died two days ago. Complications were from hunger strike and starvation, but we will await a postmortem report”. Buyuka reportedly died on Monday while undergoing treatment in a nearby Malindi Hospital.

The prosecutor added that the autopsy report would be presented to the court after the postmortem was conducted. Two other suspects, Evans Sirya and Fredrick Karimi, who were also admitted on the same day, were still critically ill in the same hospital. “We [the state] shall file a medical report on their progress with the court within a week. After the postmortem on Buyuka is concluded, we shall also produce the report”, he told the court. Together with 15 other suspects, Buyuka appeared in court emaciated and unable to stand or walk. The investigating officer informed the court that the suspects had staged a hunger strike. In Kenya, suspects are held in cells at police stations until they are arraigned in court. Last week, the prosecution team asked the court that the sixteen suspects be moved from the police station cells to a government prison where they would be force-fed. The request was granted. When they appeared in court last week, Buyuka, Karimi, Sirya and two others promised the Shanzu Senior Principal Magistrate Yusuf Shikanda that they would resume eating and cooperate with the police, a court official told Al Jazeera anonymously. On Wednesday, the judge asked the prosecutor to present a medical report of all the 30 suspects in custody today. The death toll from the mass starvation episode has hit 336. At least 93 bodies were retrieved in the 10-day third phase of the exhumation exercise that started on 6 June and stopped on 16 June.


Swedish Foreign Trade Minister calls for improved business climate

Swedish Minister for International Development Cooperation and Foreign Trade, Johan Forssell, has stressed the need for the Government of Liberia to further improve its business climate for entrepreneurs and investors in the country. “We are ready to take on the risk of investing in Liberia, and in order to make that happen, we want the government to improve its business climate. So, that is our message here”, he said. According to Forssell, his mission was to help more countries around the world, like Liberia, to pursue a similar journey to that of Sweden in terms of creating a favourable business environment. Forssell claimed that the reason for his visit to Liberia was to discuss trade, aid, and support for sexual and reproductive health. “We are not here for resources, and we believe that to get on this [path], if we believe together, manage towards addressing them we can also assist Liberia”, he added. Forssell noted that their bilateral relationship with Liberia was strong, and they had already thanked the government of Liberia for their clear vision regarding the Russian military skills envisioned in Ukraine.

Forssell disclosed that his country offered an extremely competitive, open economy with access to new products, technologies, skills, and innovations. They were eager to offer Liberia assistance as it was one of the countries with which Sweden had been working in the last couple of years. He observed that Liberia had a lot of potential and was a country rich with resources. He noted, “I see a lot of challenges regarding transparency and corruption, but we are here to say that we are together to really foster a very business-friendly environment”. He added that there was a great probability for Liberia and the whole regional support system to attract more investment, but that it was also crucial to empower Liberian small business enterprises. He emphasized that Sweden and Liberia had been long-standing partners.

Sierra Leone

President calls for ‘peaceful’ vote ahead of polls

Sierra Leone’s president, Julius Maada Bio, who is running for re-election, held his final rally in the capital on the Freetown’s Lumley Beach on Tuesday (20 June) before the polls open on Saturday (24 June). Voters will also elect MPs and local councils. Bio is one of 13 candidates vying for the top office. The Sierra Leone People’s Party nominee called for a peaceful election at the end of a tense campaign. “I want to appeal to everybody, we want peaceful elections. No violence. You have your card, on that day go and vote”, he told his supporters. Traditional parade-like political street rallies have been banned this year to avoid potential violence. Macksood Gibril Sesay, a former electoral commissioner, expressed concern that there “wasn’t a process of healing” after deadly riots in August last year. “Everybody knows that elections are a period where they just need something to spark off and then there will be chaos everywhere.”

The two main parties waited until just a month before elections to release their manifestos. Since then, the opposition has lambasted the Electoral Commission of Sierra Leone (ECSL) for alleged bias in favour of the ruling party, raising speculation that it is laying the groundwork for a court challenge -– a tactic both parties have used in the past. Disinformation abounds on both sides, and the online space could have a more significant influence on voters than ever this year. Information Minister Mohamed Rahman Swaray told AFP that internet penetration had risen to nearly three million, from 370,000 people in 2018.


Government prohibits use of foreign currencies in domestic payments

Tanzania’s central bank on Tuesday reminded local residents to stop making domestic payments for goods and services using foreign currencies. The Bank of Tanzania (BoT) issued a statement against the background of violations of the directive it had recently observed. According to the statement, the government issued a public notice prohibiting residents from using foreign currencies to pay for goods and services, in August 2007 and December 2017, respectively. The BoT reminded the public that the government’s directives were still valid and should be adhered to at all times. All prices of goods and services in Tanzania should be quoted in Tanzanian shillings including rent for land, housing and office, fees for education, medical services, equipment and reagents, transport, logistic and port services, electronic equipment, and telecommunication services.

The statement said tourists or non-resident customers may use foreign currency in paying for. services such as accommodation, travel, airport and visa, transit trade and cargo handling, however these individuals were required to provide their identification documents such as passports and certificates of incorporation for companies for proper capturing and classification of statistics. The exchange rate used for such payments should be clearly displayed and not exceed the prevailing market exchange rate. The statement stressed that the Tanzanian shilling is the only legal tender in the country, adding that any act of refusing payment in Tanzanian shilling amounts to a violation of the Bank of Tanzania Act 2006.


Military rescues three of six students abducted by rebels

The Ugandan military has rescued three of the six students who were kidnapped by rebel fighters when they stormed the Lhubirira Secondary School in Mpondwe on Uganda’s border with the Democratic Republic of the Congo last week and massacred 42 people, mostly young students, the army said on Wednesday. “There were six students kidnapped and three have so far been rescued,” said military representative Felix Kulayigye. A woman and two children who had been kidnapped outside the school were also rescued, while two fighters were killed and two guns captured, Kulayigye said. Fighters from the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), a group linked to ISIL/ISIS, is said to be responsible.

The rebels entered a boys’ dormitory, shot at the children and set the building on fire, incinerating nearly everyone in it. They then entered a girls’ dormitory and killed them with machetes. The attack was one of the most horrific in Uganda in decades. Most of the bodies recovered from the boys’ dormitory were burned beyond recognition and authorities are using DNA tests with samples submitted by parents of the students, to identify them. The ADF, formerly a Ugandan rebel group, operates in the jungles of eastern DRC and has over the past two decades been blamed for killings of civilians there. The group has also sometimes carried out attacks in Uganda including bombings at a police station and near the parliament building in the Ugandan capital in 2021. Deemed a “terrorist” group by the United States, it is considered one of the deadliest of dozens of armed militias that roam mineral-rich eastern DRC, like the M23 rebels.


Supreme Court rules that government must allow advocacy group to get registered

The Eswatini Supreme Court on 16 June ruled that the government must allow an LGBTQ and intersex rights organization to legally register. The Registrar of Companies in 2019 denied Eswatini Sexual and Gender Minorities’ request on grounds that it advocates for LGBTQ and intersex rights that are illegal. Eswatini Sexual and Gender Minorities in 2020 petitioned the Supreme Court to hear their case. Eswatini Sexual and Gender Minorities in 2022 appealed a ruling that dismissed it. “Once again, the judiciary has reminded the executive branch of government and its functionaries of the importance of Section 33 of the Constitution,” said Melusi Simelane, who filed the case on behalf of Eswatini Sexual and Gender Minorities, in a statement. “This is a monumental judgement and a constant reminder to the executive to exercise its powers with restraint and pay close attention to the rights and liberties of every citizen. We now hope the minister will make a decision that will be remembered in history as protecting the rights of the marginalized LGBTIQ+ citizens of Eswatini without prejudice.” The ruling directs the government to respond to the group’s request within 60 days.


First Lady pledges commitment to advancing the course of women

First Lady Monica Chakwera has pledged her unwavering commitment to advancing women and girls’ health, education and economic empowerment in the African region. Madam Chakwera made the pledge during the commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the Organisation of African First Ladies in Development (OAFLAD) in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Established in 2022, OAFLAD serves the purpose of mobilizing and advocating for resources and policies that promote the well-being and empowerment of women and children across Africa. It provides a platform for first ladies to exchange experiences, share best practices, and devise strategies to address shared challenges.

According to a statement released by OAFLAD, Chakwera’s commitment to women and girls is not only in Malawi but throughout the African continent. “As a prominent advocate for gender equality and social justice, she actively shapes OAFLAD’s agenda and priorities as a member of the steering committee”.  Her participation in the celebration stands as a testament to her exemplary leadership and dedication to the advancement of women and girls’ rights and well-being in Malawi and beyond.

The 20th anniversary celebration was graced by the presence of first ladies from countries, including Malawi, Mozambique, Botswana, Burundi, the Central African Republic, Ivory Coast, The Gambia, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Namibia, and the host country, the Democratic Republic of Congo. The organization’s primary focus lies in making economic contributions, improving health, empowering women, advancing education, and combating gender-based violence.


Driver’s licences to be renewed every 5 years

The interior ministry has revealed that plans are afoot to make driver’s licences renewable every five years in the country, instead of one. Gambians and non-Gambian drivers alike are forced to renew their licences every year, despite the Transport Act stipulating a period of every five years. The interior minister said that government plans to rectify the issue and will soon make yearly renewals a thing of the past. “The ministry of interior in collaboration with key stakeholders has begun discussions on five – ten years period renewal arrangements,” he told the National Assembly yesterday. He was responding to a question raised by Alhajie Mbowe, the NAM for Upper Saloum, who wanted to know why drivers in the Gambia are required to renew their licences on a yearly basis. “I think it’s a very good idea to change the way licences are renewed,” the minister admitted. “Before, it used to be every December and we all suffered when we had to travel to Senegal and so on. So, we decided to renew it on the anniversary of the issuance so that people would not have to go to the renewal point at the same time.

NAM Mbowe referred the minister to the Transport Act insisting that the yearly renewal is an outright violation of the law. “That is why I am calling your attention to look at it [the Act] and do the needful as quickly as possible,” he demanded.


Government seals $6.3 billion debt restructuring deal

Zambia has clinched a deal to restructure more than $6 billion in debts owed to other governments, a French official said on Thursday in a long-awaited breakthrough to ease pressure on the southern African country’s strained public finances. In 2020, Zambia became the first African country to default on its sovereign debt during the COVID-19 Pandemic and has struggled since in protracted negotiations to agree a deal on the $12.8 billion of external debt it was trying to restructure.

“We have reached an agreement on the outline of a debt treatment, we’ve reached the end of the negotiation,” the French official, who did not wish to be identified, told journalists. Zambia’s public sector creditors agreed to reschedule $6.3 billion, including $1.3 billion in arrears, and private sector creditors are expected to do the same on the $6.8 billion owed to them, the official said.”We’ve already spoken to representatives of the private sector and they know what to expect, that they will have to restructure and make a comparable effort”, the official added. The agreement calls for Zambia’s debt to be rescheduled over more than 20 years with a three-year grace period during which only payments on interest are due. The restructuring agreement with official creditors paves the way for Zambia to receive another $188 million tranche of money from the International Monetary Fund, part of a $1.3 billion package approved in August 2022.

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