Africa news roundup

Portrait of African woman
Portrait of African Woman (Photo credit: Garfield Morgan)

27 August to 3 September 2023


Court orders OSP to return Cecilia Dapaah’s seized money

The High Court in Accra has ordered the Office of the Special Prosecutor (OSP) to return the US$590,000 and GH¢2.73 million (US$238,070) seized from Cecilia Dapaah’s home to her within seven days. The court has also reversed an order by the OSP to freeze Dapaah’s bank accounts at Société Générale and Prudential Bank. These orders were made after an application to confirm an order to freeze the bank accounts of the former sanitation minister and seize some monies found in her home was dismissed by the court as without basis. The OSP had made the application as part of an investigation into corruption and corruption-related offences against the NPP politician.

This follows the publication of reports of a case of theft in which monies in excess of $1 million and 300,000 euros (US$325,582 dollars) were stolen from her home. The OSP was of the view that the monies were tainted property and that the order for seizure and freezing should be confirmed by the court. The monies were seized from Dapaah’s home in Abelemkpe when officers from the OSP searched three houses associated with the former minister. The application for confirmation was then made in accordance with the provisions of the OSP Act, Act 959.


Tinubu speaks of 9-month military transition in Niger

President Bola Tinubu of Nigeria, who also heads the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), spoke on Thursday of a nine-month transition for the military in power in Niger since the end of July.  He likened the situation to what had happened in Nigeria at the end of the 1990s. The President saw no reason why this could not happen again in Niger, if the military authorities in Niger were sincere. Tinubu recalled that Nigeria had returned to civilian rule in 1999 after a nine-month transition period instituted by General Abdulsalami Abubakar, who had inherited military power on the death of General Sani Abacha.

Abubakar visited Niger on 19 August as the head of an ECOWAS delegation. That same evening, the new strongman in Niamey, General Abdourahamane Tiani announced a transition period of no more than three years and warned foreign countries against any military intervention. ECOWAS said it was ready to use force to restore constitutional order in Niger. The Nigerian president also warned on Thursday that the sanctions imposed on Niger by ECOWAS would not be eased without “positive adjustments” by the military.

South Africa

Ramaphosa says blaze that killed 74 people ‘awakeup call’

While addressing an inner-city housing crisis, President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa said that the Johannesburg blaze that killed 74 people, including 12 children, was “a wakeup call”.  “This is a great tragedy felt by families whose loved ones perished in this awful manner, and our hearts go out to every person affected by this event,” he said. More than 200 people were living in the building that was gutted by the blaze. Ramaphosa said he hoped an ongoing investigation into the causes of the fire would help to prevent a similar tragedy from occurring in the future.

Johannesburg mayor, Kabelo Gwamanda, said 141 families were affected by the tragedy but could not say exactly how many people were in the building when the fire started. The building stood in a rundown area and families were also living in the basement, which should have been used as a parking garage, said witnesses. Some of the people living in a maze of shacks and other makeshift structures inside the building threw themselves out of windows to escape the fire – one of the worst in South Africa’s history.


Condom shortage hits Nairobi

Kenya is grappling with a shortage of condoms, exacerbated by dwindling donor funding. This has led to concerns about access to safe sex measures. The scarcity of condoms has prompted delays in the distribution of free contraceptives, even as the prices of available condoms continue to rise. For years, Kenyans have relied on accessing male condoms through public venues such as sanitation facilities, hospitals, and condom dispensers, as part of efforts to mitigate sexually transmitted infections, including HIV/AIDS, syphilis, gonorrhoea, and unintended pregnancies.

Dr Ruth Laibon, the CEO of the National Syndemic Diseases Control Council (NSDCC), stressed the need for a prompt solution, particularly due to the reduced availability of free condoms. She observed that shops still had condoms available for purchase. “The country has an ample supply of condoms. The challenge is likely linked to the reduction in the availability of free condoms”, she explained. The decrease in the availability of free condoms was attributed, primarily, to the diminishing external resources that were once supplemented by the government’s allocation for condom procurement. Laibon assured Kenyans that the government was actively addressing the issue, exploring options such as encouraging condom manufacturing within the country to make them more affordable and accessible.


Johnson Sirleaf resigns from politics

Former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has clarified that she was no longer a politician in Liberian politics and owed no one party support in any election. The former Liberian leader maintained that despite serving the country for 12 consecutive years as the first female president, she believed once she was no longer serving in such a capacity, she was not a politician.  Johnson Sirleaf’s statement came amidst speculations of her secret support of the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) which attracted the attention of most Liberians especially partisans of the former ruling Unity Party, a party ticket on which she had served for 12 years as president. She declared, “I’m not a politician anymore, I will exercise my constitutional rights and vote in silence as the Constitution requires”.

Speaking to a team of journalists, Johnson-Sirleaf stressed that while the country is going into a major political season, no violence and no discrimination should be meted out against any Liberian but constitutional rights to be given to Liberians prioritized. Since her pronouncement, political pundits have had mixed views of why the former Liberian head of state should speak in such a manner. Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf served the country after the bloody civil war on the Unity Party ticket but since the end of her presidency in 2018 has yet to show support for the party. Speaking recently at a Women’s Situation Room Interactive Forum in Congo Town, Johnson Sirleaf maintained that it was not about politics but rather to come as a Liberian under one umbrella seeking to ensure that peace was upheld for the common good of all Liberians during these elections.

Sierra Leone

US announces visa ban on officials

The United States government has imposed visa restrictions on officials it says are responsible for undermining democracy in Sierra Leone. The move follows the disputed June 2023 General Election, which Western observers claim lacked transparency. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Thursday that the US would impose visa restrictions on officials who were, allegedly, involved in the manipulation and rigging of the electoral process, as well as those allegedly involved in acts of intimidating voters, election observers and civil society activities. “Under this policy, the United States will pursue visa restrictions for those believed to be responsible for, or complicit in, undermining democracy in Sierra Leone, including through the manipulation or rigging of the electoral process; intimidation of voters, election observers, or civil society organisations through threats or acts of physical violence; or the abuse or violation of related human rights in Sierra Leone”, Blinken said.

The Electoral Commission of Sierra Leone (ECSL) came under heavy criticism from Western observers who slammed the process for lacking transparency, even though some local and regional observers, including the African Union (AU) and Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), cleared it as free and fair. The main opposition All People’s Congress (APC) believes the electoral process was rigged to favour the incumbent, President Julius Maada Bio and his party. Bio was declared winner of the presidential race with 56.17 per cent of the vote in the first round, while his Sierra Leone People’s Party won an overwhelming majority in the House of Parliament.


President Samia reshuffles cabinet

Tanzania’s President Samia Suluhu Hassan on Wednesday named a new foreign minister in a reshuffle to her Cabinet, the second such change she has made since taking power in March 2021. She named former minerals minister, Doto Biteko, as Deputy Prime Minister and placed other existing ministers in new dockets. Biteko would also take over the Energy Ministry portfolio from January Makamba who became Minister for Foreign Affairs and East African Cooperation. Former Foreign Minister Stergomena Tax would return to the Defence Ministry which she held before moving to Foreign Affairs last year. “As deputy to Kassim Majaliwa who was retained as Prime Minister, Biteko will be in charge of coordinating government activities,” Chief Secretary Moses Kusiluka said.

The Deputy Premier position is unconstitutional and at the President’s discretion. It has had only two other occupants previously, Augustine Mrema and Salim Ahmed Saliim, who held it on separate occasions during the tenure of former President Ali Hassan Mwinyi (1985-1995). The surprise reshuffle also saw the Works and Transport ministry being split in two and the appointment of Stephen Byabato as Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs directly responsible for EAC affairs. Professor Makame Mbarawa, previously Works and Transport Minister, became Minister of Transport while the former Defence Minister Innocent Bashungwa was named Minister of Works and Anthony Mavunde was promoted from Deputy Minister for Agriculture to Minister of Minerals in place of Biteko. Four ministers swapped dockets with Pindi Chana who became Minister of Legal and Constitutional Affairs where she would handle, among other matters, the government’s side of the constitutional review process. She takes over from Damas Ndumbaro who moved to Chana’s previous post of Minister of Sports, Arts and Culture. Angellah Kairuki was appointed Minister of Tourism and Natural Resources switching places with Mohamed Mchengerwa who became Minister of State in the President’s Office in charge of Local Governments.


Southern African country ranked 10th African country with best GDP

Eswatini was ranked the 10th African countrwith the best GDP per capita figures. Business Insider Africa published a courtesy list of Trading Economics, a data platform that offers its customers precise data for 196 nations, including historic data and projections for more than 20 million economic indicators, currency rates, and stock market indices. The publication highlighted that the continent was rich with resources, be it natural or human resources and its status as a developing region means that some countries are primed to enjoy a large GDP per capita, while others weren’t there yet. “The disparity in GDP per capita across Africa is stuck. One end of the spectrum, countries like Seychelles and Mauritius boast comparatively high GDP per capita figures, driven by thriving tourism and service sectors”, reads the article. It explains, further, that this could be due to huge GDP revenue juxtaposed against a controlled population, or it could just speak to the ingenuity and competence of administrators within the country. “On the other hand, several Sub-Saharan African countries, like Chad and Central African Republic struggle with low GDP per capita due to a mix of factors including political instability, lack of infrastructure, and limited access to education and healthcare”.

Economist Sanele Sibiya defined GDP per capita as a calculation that divides a country’s total economic output, that is the country’s GDP, by its population. “GDP per capita is calculated by taking the GDP of the country and dividing it by the number of people in the country”, he said. He added that Eswatini had a vast GDP compared to the population. “This means that if the country’s GDP was to be distributed equally among the citizens, each individual would get US$4000 per annum,” he said. Sibiya further expressed that those figures would be realized if in the distribution of the wealth in the country was not skewed and that is what GDP per capita outlined. He stated that the positive ranking painted a beautiful picture but it did not reflect what was on the ground and was probably because the country’s population was small but the country was equally able to produce and perform better than most countries in the region.


Supreme Court Judge Easta Kisaakye resigns

Esta Kitimbo Kisaakye has resigned as Uganda’s Supreme Court Judge.  Kisaakye wrote to President Museveni on 19 July 2023, informing him of her decision to take early retirement. “On 12th October 2009, you appointed me to serve as Justice of the Supreme Court of Uganda,” said Kisaakye. “As at the time of writing this letter, I have served on the Supreme Court for 13 years and 10 months …. Article 144 (1) of the Constitution of Uganda permits a judicial officer to retire at any time after attaining the age of 60 years. I am now aged 63 years. In accordance with the said article, I hereby tender in my early retirement from the Supreme Court”, she added.

Kisaakye’s resignation came five months after the Judicial Service Commission recommended her removal from office over alleged misconduct and a verbal attack against Chief Justice Owiny-Dollo over the 2021 presidential election petition. Kisaakye has been in the limelight since 2021 for having accused Chief Justice Owiny-Dollo of confiscating her file. This was on 18 and 19 March 2021 when Kisakye wanted to read her minority ruling in the election petition that was withdrawn by former presidential candidate, Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu, who wanted to overturn the victory of the incumbent President Museveni.  In that case, Kyagulanyi had filed a petition challenging the results of the 2021 presidential election. He made a follow-up application seeking leave of the Court to amend his main application.

The Court refused to grant the sought leave. It was held that the application had been beyond the strict time limit provided by law within which the petition should be filed. But Justice Kisaakye dissented, arguing that Kyagulanyi had been deprived of his right to prepare the main application as he had been placed under illegal house arrest during the window of time he could have been preparing his application. While delivering her dissenting judgment, Justice Kisaakye alleged that Chief Justice Alfonse Owiny-Dollo, had attempted to obstruct her from handing down her dissenting judgment.  Owiny-Dollo denied the charge, but Kisaakye was subjected to an investigation by the Judicial Service Commission (JSC). In February 2023, the JSC ruled that Kisaakye had desecrated the Supreme Court when she held a press conference and made scathing and disrespectful attacks on the Chief Justice, defied his directives to share her findings with other members of the panel and was absent from work beyond her approved leave period. The judiciary later suspended payment of Justice Kisaakye’s salary, housing, medical and other benefits for being away from her duties without official leave. Judicial officials say they were not aware whether the President had already greenlighted Kisaakye’s resignation.


NOC meets sports minister to boost cooperation

The National Olympic Committee of Zambia (NOCZ) held discussions with Zambian Minister of Youth, Sports and Art Elvis Nkandu in a bid to strengthen cooperation. A delegation led by NOCZ President Alfred Foloko paid a visit to Nkandu to “foster understanding”, “address policy concerns” and “establish collaboration for the betterment of the sports landscape”. The NOCZ said the meeting was a “significant stride towards advancing sports development” in Zambia. Discussions centred on technical and policy matters surrounding the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Art and the NOCZ. “Minister Nkandu emphasised NOCZ’s pivotal role in advocating for sports development, aligning with Governmental objectives”, a statement from the NOCZ read. “He encouraged NOCZ to continue its efforts in supporting the Government’s mission through diverse capacity-building initiatives aimed at nurturing national sports federations.

“Furthermore, he urged NOCZ to collaborate closely with the Ministry in addressing challenges faced by federations, especially in terms of adopting effective governance practices. “Minister Nkandu unveiled the Ministry’s dedication to exploring funding avenues that can drive sports infrastructure development nationwide and serve as hubs for talent identification and nurturing, fostering the growth of athletes from all corners of Zambia”. The NOCZ said it had agreed with the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Art to create a “comprehensive policy framework”. It was expected to serve as a guide for relations and collaboration between the two bodies in a bid to ensure a “unified approach” in steering sports development strategies. The NOCZ said Nkandu also reaffirmed the Government’s support for Zambia’s preparations for next year’s Olympics in Paris and proposed regular meetings to boost cooperation. NOCZ vice-president Hazel Kennedy, Secretary General Boniface Kambikambi and board members also attended the meeting.


Barrow receives new UNOWAS Rep

His Excellency President Adama Barrow Thursday received the new UN Representative for West Africa and the Sahel, H.E Leonardo Santos Simão, on a tour to acquaint himself with the work environment. During the audience, President Barrow congratulated him on his role while stating that he came at a difficult time when the region was experiencing instability. The President referenced 2017 when the presidents of some ECOWAS member countries assumed office through democracy to bring development for their people.

President Barrow said the Mali situation was not addressed and set a precedent. ‘’Some citizens are unhappy with their Presidents, and the root cause should be addressed because the military is not a solution’’, he observed. The President also highlighted the Gambia’s human resource base and the expectations of the young people while urging the UN to be proactive in looking at challenges for presidents to respect term limits and to avoid unconstitutional changes. He said the UN was an important partner and was grateful for its support for the TJ process. “Next is the implementation stage and we need support for compensation and to make it a priority to facilitate reconciliation and the justice processes”, President Barrow said, adding that TJ financial support should give reparation priority and not justice only.


Government to rehabilitate all railway lines

Minister of Transport and Public Works Jacob Hara says government will rehabilitate all railway lines in the country to resume rail transport network as was the case in the past. During inspection of construction work on Nsanje-Bangula-Marka railway line on Thursday, the minister said the rail transport would facilitate transportation of goods into Malawi from neighbouring countries. “This government is committed to make sure that all means of transport are improved to facilitate the movement of goods in and out of the country”, he added.

He said he was impressed with the progress of the work on Bangula-Marka railway line, adding that this was the beginning of rail rehabilitation in other parts of the country to ensure smooth movement of rail cargo and passengers. The Minister also praised the contractor for setting up a slipper production plant in the district, which has created jobs for some people in Nsanje. Recently Nsanje District Commissioner Dominic Mwandira said once the railway was completed many people would find economic opportunities. He also expressed hope that prices of some commodities were likely to come down in the border district as the railway transportation was cheaper than road.

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