Africa news roundup

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A flag map of Africa (image:courtesy of open clipart-vectors from Pixabay)

July 16-22, 2023


Buffer Stock receives GH¢100 million to settle debt

The government has released GH¢100 million (USD8.67 million) to settle part of the debt owed by the Ghana Buffer Stock Company Limited (GBSCL) to members of the National Food Suppliers Association who supplies food items to senior high schools benefitting from the Free SHS policy. The amount, which represents 50 per cent of the total owed to the suppliers is expected to be lodged in the accounts of the suppliers soon. In an interview, Chief Executive Officer of the GBSCL Hanan Abdul-Wahab gave an assurance that the remaining 50 per cent of the money owed would be paid by 17 August 2023. “We are very grateful to the government, especially the Minister of Food and Agriculture for his tireless effort in following up on the process to ensure that the first tranche of the money was released,” he said.

Members of the food suppliers association picketed the offices of the GBSCL a couple of weeks ago, calling on the company to settle its part of the bargain. As a way of re-enforcing their demands, some of them cooked, bathed and slept on the premises for some days. Their spokesperson, Kweku Amedume, entreated the government to pay all the money owed because their creditors were chasing them. Minister of Food and Agriculture Bryan Acheampong, and the CEO of GBSCL later had to intervene and promised to work around the clock to get the money to settle the debt.


Pro-Tinubu protesters storm National Assembly

Protesters in support of the removal of the fuel subsidy caused some disruption at the National Assembly’s main entrance, popularly known as Mopol Gate, in Abuja. The protesters decided to hit the streets to show solidarity with President Bola Tinubu over the removal of the fuel subsidy. According to the protesters, the president made the right decision in removing the ‘canker worm’ that has eaten deep into the economy. During his inaugural speech on 29 May, Tinubu declared that there would no longer be a petroleum subsidy regime as the current 2023 budget he glimpsed did not contain it. On Tuesday, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation Limited and other oil marketers raised the price of petrol from about N537/litre (USD0.68) to approximately N630/litre (USD 0.80). This development has raised concerns across the country.

In response to the fuel hike, the convener of Stand Up Nigeria, Sunday Attah, stated that the Tinubu-led administration had done the right thing and should be supported to deliver on the dividends of democracy. He said, “The announcement on the 29th May 2023, by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, that the subsidy on fuel has been removed has come with mixed feelings. While some have hailed it as apt and timely others have expressed reservations that it may cause further hardship on the citizenry. You will recall that the President anchored the policy on the fact that there was no provision for subsidy payment in the 2023 budget hence cannot be sustained”, Attah added, “Apart from that, the country was bleeding seriously through many leakages occasioned by corruption in high places chiefly among which are the claims on subsidy payments to many firms. After observing the initial reaction to the measure and the attendant panic buying and other impacts on the socio-economic life of Nigerians, we wish to state that the President has done the right thing by removing the subsidy as the advantages of doing so outweigh the disadvantages…. access to petroleum products has become easier and guaranteed as people can now drive into filling stations and refill their tanks without wasting unnecessary man hours on queues.” Justifying the subsidy removal, Attah noted that the problem of fuel scarcity and the attendant hardship on citizens has been solved and people can now use their time for other productive engagements.


Violent protests ‘sabotaging’ economy President Ruto says

After a day of clashes between the police and protesters, President Ruto reiterated his warning to the opposition coalition which had called for a three-day anti-government protest. Ruto spoke in Isiolo, eastern Kenya. He accused the opposition of sabotaging the economy with recurrent protests. “Every part of Kenya has said we cannot sabotage our economy using violence and destruction of business and destruction of property”, he told a large crowd. “Kenya is the only place we have to call home and we must protect it by all means. We must protect our democracy; we must protect the peace in our country because it is the collective responsibility of all of us as citizens”.

Police fired tear gas and live rounds in Kibera, Nairobi’s biggest slum, as protesters hurled back projectiles. Last week’s protests left more than six people dead and many others injured, including 53 children who went into shock after tear gas was thrown inside their school compound. “I would like to congratulate the police for standing firm by ensuring that there is order, ensuring all the criminals are being dealt with so that that there is peace in Kenya, there is no violence, businesses are protected, and all the government infrastructures are protected”, Ruto added. Shops and schools reopened in Kenya, and the capital’s business district, largely shuttered on Wednesday, also resumed activity Thursday morning.

Sierra Leone

Meat imports from Liberia banned

Sierra Leonean authorities have banned the movement of cattle from Liberia, as well as the importation of meat from the neighbouring country, due to the still unexplained death of 36 cows in a border area, they said on Tuesday. According to Monrovia, an investigation is underway into the causes of the death of cattle in early July in a field in the town of Kelima Bendu, in Lofa County, about ten kilometres from the Sierra Leone border and about 15 from Guinea. Liberian authorities have not said when the results of the investigation will be known.

Sierra Leone has banned the movement of cattle, goats and sheep along the border with Liberia, the importation of meat products from that country, temporarily closed livestock markets in the border area and increased surveillance in slaughterhouses. In May 2022, an anthrax epidemic broke out in Sierra Leone, killing more than 200 animals. Transmitted by spores that can remain inactive for decades in the soil, anthrax is transmissible to humans and potentially fatal in its rarest forms. “So far, no cases of dead cattle have been found in other parts of Lofa or other counties,” Liberia’s agriculture ministry said on 7 July.


Weah makes amends after breaching the constitution

After what many considered a blatant violation of National Code of Conduct which bars appointed officials from engaging in political campaign activities such as election canvassing, the Executive Mansion has announced that President George Weah has given the Liberia Maritime Authority (LMA) Commissioner, Lenn Eugene Nagbe, a leave of absence. President Weah’s decision comes barely four days after he appointed Nagbe to chair the Coalition for Democratic Change campaign team — with a mandate of ensuring that a second term is secured at the polls in October.

The Executive Mansion said, in a release on 19 July, that the leave of absence will take effect on 4 August 2023, a day before the NEC’s official campaign begins. “While Commissioner Nagbe is away, Senior Deputy Commissioner of the Liberia Maritime Authority Emmanuel N. Reeves will administer the affairs of the institution as Officer-in-Charge”. However, Weah named Nagbe on Monday 17 July, at the conclusion of the ruling coalition’s “Thank You” rally held in Monrovia. But, little did the President and his jubilant audience know that his action to appoint Nagbe was in violation of the National Code of Conduct, which prohibits presidential appointees from engaging in political activities. Weah’s appointment contravenes Part-5 of the Code of Conduct, especially section 5.1 and 5.2 that are captured under political participation.

South Africa

Putin will not attend BRICS summit

President Vladimir Putin, of Russia, will not attend the BRICS summit in South Africa in August, South Africa’s presidency said on Wednesday. Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will attend alongside the leaders of Brazil, India, China and South Africa. In a statement, the South African presidency said the decision was reached “by mutual agreement” between the two countries. Putin’s possible attendance at the summit had presented a diplomatic dilemma for South Africa as he has an arrest warrant from the International Criminal Court (ICC) for alleged war crimes linked to the war in Ukraine.  As an ICC member, South Africa would be obliged to arrest Putin were he to appear in person at the summit.

On Tuesday, President Cyril Ramaphosa asked permission from the ICC not to arrest Putin, according to a local court submission published on Tuesday. Ramaphosa said that arresting Putin would amount to a declaration of war.  The Kremlin responded on Wednesday saying Russia did not tell South Africa that arresting Putin on an ICC arrest warrant would mean “war”.  South Africa has refused to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, saying it is neutral and favours dialogue. The country has been criticised by Western powers for its closeness to Moscow.


First national space satellite to be launched later this year

A report has indicated that preparations for the launch of Tanzania’s first national space satellite are moving along quickly. According to Nape Nnauye, the East African country’s minister of information, communication, and information technology, the spacecraft might be sent into orbit later this year. He assured top ministry officials, present at a retreat, that every effort was being made to guarantee the launch of the nation’s first satellite. “We are confident that Tanzania’s satellite will be launched this year. It will be possible… We are currently laying the ground,” the minister for information remarked.

President Samia Suluhu Hassan originally declared the nation’s venture into space technology in the country’s capital of Dar es Salaam in May of this year. The initiative is one of the ministry’s objectives for this year, Nnauye subsequently acknowledged to The Citizen, a Tanzanian news outlet.  “The President has already said and issued a directive on the issue. It is now our responsibility to see to it that this is implemented”, he said. The project is expected to cost billions and will allow Tanzania to join other African nations which have their own satellites.


Mafias take over construction industry

Strong allegations have emerged to the effect that a mafia has taken over the local construction industry, resulting in the granting of lucrative tenders to foreign companies. The extent to which the ‘construction mafia’ invaded the local space has allegedly caused a serious shortage of work for local contractors, civil works, and consultants together with specialists. As a result, hundreds of Eswatini companies continue to close down due a massive shrink in revenue. Over 100 players in the local construction industry, who converged at the Construction Industry Council (CIC) workshop convened at Happy Valley Hotel yesterday, made a plea to the regulators to decisively deal with the continuous hostile takeover by the ‘construction mafia’ before effects became dire and caused a negative impact in the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). As such, Ngubo Yengwe Construction Director, Sabelo Nhleko, called upon the council to extensively address the issue of companies which grant tenders to foreign companies against dictates of the CIC Act.

Nhleko said it was very disheartening to see what he termed as simple jobs being undertaken by foreign companies while local companies continued to struggle for jobs. He gave the example that companies such as Inyatsi Construction Group, which empowered fellow Emaswati through sub-contracts and tenders, were also victims of the ‘construction mafia,’ which always makes it a point that foreign companies are granted all the pricey jobs. “The CIC was established in 2013 primarily to protect local construction industry players. However, we continue to experience a lot of irregularities, especially the granting of tenders to foreign companies, which is very painful to say the least. We are still struggling for jobs even today because there is a mafia which has taken over the local construction industry”, said Nhleko. He implored the kingdom to emulate Botswana, where he said no foreign companies are contracted for any work costing less than E300 million (USD 334 million).


Students hospitalized over suspected food poisoning

Some 300 students at Nakanyonyi secondary school in Mukono district are fighting for their lives after suspected food poisoning.  The students developed complications at the Church of Uganda-owned school after being served lunch comprising beans and posho. The affected students were immediately rushed to various health facilities including Nagalama hospital, Mukono CoU hospital, Mukono General hospital, Kayunga hospital, and Kawolo hospital. “Two wards in Grade B at Mukono hospital are full and they have admitted some of the victims in the private wing. Ambulances are still ferrying in more learners,” said our reporter at the scene.

It is still unclear how the suspected poison ended up in the learner’s meals. Nakanyonyi school has been at the centre of a dispute between the neighbouring community and the Church of Uganda over land. According to some sources, today’s incident comes just a day after the senior chef was relieved of his duties over unclear reasons.


Water crisis hits Kapiri Mposhi

Kapiri Mposhi district has been hit by erratic water supply. Some areas have been completely without piped water for close to two weeks. A survey revealed that townships including Riverside, East Park, Kawama and Ndeke are affected by the erratic water supply forcing people to walk distances and turn to shallow wells for the commodity. But Lukanga Water and Sanitation Company District Manager Buumba Simuyambala disclosed that the water utility company has had challenges to adequately supply water because of a broken water pump at Mushimbili Dam, the main water reservoir for the company.

Buumba said the water utility company has since initiated a rationing schedule to ensure all the compounds have water. “We have a challenge since one water pump broke down over two weeks ago at Mushimbili dam which is our main water reservoir in the district”, he said.


Government to reform foreign and diplomatic service

The permanent secretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, International Cooperation and Gambians Abroad, yesterday, told the National Assembly that there are a number of policy proposals and blueprints to reform and enhance Gambia’s diplomatic and foreign service.These measures emerged at a time when the government is under intense criticisms following the expulsion of three diplomatic staff at the Gambian Embassy in the US for their alleged involvement in fraud, prompting calls for the government to revive and reshape its foreign policy and diplomacy. Critics also accused President Barrow of turning Gambia’s diplomatic missions into a dumping ground to reward his political allies.

Appearing before the National Assembly standing committee on foreign affairs, Lang Yabou informed deputies that diplomacy and foreign policy has evolved since the development of some of the existing frameworks established for the conduct of Gambia’s diplomacy and foreign policy, arguing that there is the need for new frameworks to meet the demands of Gambia’s foreign policy. He said in developing these policies the government will seek inputs from all Gambians at home and abroad, the UN systems and selected countries in Africa which have technical capacity and established structures of foreign services to learn from them.


Fuel shortage re-emerges

Long queues have returned at fuel stations across Malawi as the government is still struggling to resolve longstanding foreign exchange shortages. Reports indicated that in Zomba, almost all stations have no fuel while in Mzuzu, diesel is available but there is no petrol. Since August last year, Malawi has faced a nationwide shortage of fuel for several days every month, affecting work, businesses and domestic activities.

President Lazarus Chakwera admitted, in September last year, that the root cause of the fuel shortage was forex scarcity which his administration is struggling to resolve. The Reserve Bank of Malawi said last month that Malawi Government’s forex reserves were not enough to last a month. According to the Reserve Bank, Malawi spends USD50 million per month on fuel and this has depleted the country’s fuel reserves.

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