Wednesday, May 25, 2011

News Round-Up From Around Africa/World

  • News media identified as presidential enemy No. 1
  • Achieving a Ceasefire, Moving towards Legitimate Government
  • Agricultural experts push for a strong seed sector in West Africa
  • Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent visits Portugal
  • 2011 Euro Mediterranean Award goes to the Crisis Unit
  • Tanzania: Development partners to provide USD 453 million
  • New UNIDO Study Builds Case for Agribusiness Development as Path to Africa’s Prosperity
  • UN launches photo contest on green issues ‘Worldwide’
  • IMF Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn Resigns

News media identified as presidential enemy No. 1
May 19, 2011/African Press Organization (APO)/ - Reporters Without Borders condemns the threatening letter that President Yoweri Museveni sent to the national media on 17 May, in which he accused some of them, and international media such as Al-Jazeera and the BBC, of encouraging recent “walk-to-work” protests and said they deserved to be treated as “enemies.”
The letter was sent one week after President Museveni announced a constitutional amendment that implicitly threatens journalists who cover protests. It is to be submitted to parliament during the session that begins today.
Under the proposed amendment, the possibility of release on bail would be automatically banned for the first six months for anyone charged with “murder, treason, rape, defilement, child sacrifice, rioting or economic sabotage.”
The charge of “economic sabotage” could be brought against anyone whose actions are deemed to have a negative effect on the country’s economy. Reporters Without Borders fears that it could be brought against journalists who cover protests, since it could be argued that they are scaring off tourists and investors.
“We call on the government to withdraw this amendment,” Reporters Without Borders said. “The president clearly has journalists in his sights. From arrests and increased physical attacks on journalists to lynching attempts and a constitutional amendment, President Museveni seems to turning authoritarian and behaving like a predator just days after being sworn in for a fourth term.”
The press freedom organization added: “Although it is being submitted to a parliament in which the ruling National Resistance Movement has a big majority, this constitutional amendment must not be adopted because it poses a major threat to fundamental freedoms.”
The language that the president used in his 17 May letter seems to have been designed to justify gagging the media and the use of police violence against reporters of the kind seen on 12 May, when 10 journalists were injured.
“Those who have been talking of the harmless ‘walks’ can see their mistakes,” the letter said. “The media houses both local and international, such as Al-Jazeera, BBC, NTV, The Daily Monitor etc that cheer on these irresponsible people are enemies of Uganda’s recovery and they will have to be treated as such.”
During a news conference on 10 May, Museveni was very critical of the media’s coverage of the “walk-to-work” protests, especially the Daily Monitor’s. “This is something I would really advise you to stop because this country belongs to Ugandans, not newspapers or radio stations,” he said. Two days later, he talked of reporting that was “wrong or in some cases malicious.”
It was at the 10 May news conference that the president unveiled the constitutional amendment. He went on to discuss it with members of the ruling party at meetings on 13 and 15 May. Source - Reporters Without Borders (RSF)

New UNIDO Study Builds Case for Agribusiness Development as Path to Africa’s Prosperity
May 16, 2011/African Press Organization (APO)/ - Opportunities and challenges for African agribusiness and agro-industries are the focus of a new book published by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO).
“Agribusiness for Africa’s Prosperity” outlines the current status of agribusiness and agro-industrial activities in Africa, and situates them in historical and global context. It analyses the opportunities for diversified growth, and assesses the existing and potential sources of demand growth for agribusiness development on the continent.
In recent years, a renewed focus on agriculture has been evident in policy and development agendas for the African continent, yet little knowledge has been generated on the inter-linkages of production, agro-industry and markets, as well as the potential and capacities for developing them.
Edited by Kandeh K. Yumkella, Patrick M. Kormawa, Torben M. Roepstorff and Anthony M. Hawkins and with contributions from a wide range of international experts, the book fills what UNIDO perceived as a significant gap in knowledge concerning these issues.
It was conceived as a resource for policymakers, agribusiness managers, and researchers in agribusiness development. The book is available in English and can be downloaded here: Source - UNITED NATIONS

IMF Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn Resigns
May 19, 2011/African Press Organization (APO)/ - Mr. Dominique Strauss-Kahn today informed the Executive Board of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) of his intention to resign as Managing Director with immediate effect.
Mr. Strauss-Kahn made the following statement in a formal letter of resignation to the Board:
Ladies and Gentlemen of the Board:
It is with infinite sadness that I feel compelled today to present to the Executive Board my resignation from my post of Managing Director of the IMF.
I think at this time first of my wife - whom I love more than anything - of my children, of my family, of my friends.
I think also of my colleagues at the Fund; together we have accomplished such great things over the last three years and more.
To all, I want to say that I deny with the greatest possible firmness all of the allegations that have been made against me.
I want to protect this institution which I have served with honor and devotion, and especially – especially - I want to devote all my strength, all my time, and all my energy to proving my innocence.
The Fund will communicate in the near future on the Executive Board’s process of selecting a new Managing Director. Meanwhile, Mr. John Lipsky remains Acting Managing Director. Source - International Monetary Fund (IMF)

UN launches photo contest on green issues ‘Worldwide’
To celebrate World Environment Day 2011, the UN has launched a photo contest.
Organized by Greening the Blue, the internal organization of the UN dedicated to sustainability issues, the contest is open to photographers worldwide. Entries must be submitted before May 27, 2011.
The competition provides an opportunity to raise the profile of existing green activities taking place within the UN, and will enable everyone to share their ideas of what a greener UN might look like. It provides a space for creativity and imagination, for hopes and dreams.
All photos must reflect the theme Visions of a Sustainable United Nations. Applicants can submit up to five photos each.
The winning entry will be announced on World Environment Day, June 5, 2011.
The winner will receive an award, be profiled on Greening the Blue and their photograph will be framed and presented to the UN Secretary-General.

Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent visits Portugal
May 13, 2011/African Press Organization (APO)/ — The United Nations Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent will visit Portugal from 16 to 20 May to gather information from all parties on the situation of this population group and in particular on discrimination and intolerance that they may face and the measures that the Government of Portugal is taking to fight these challenges.
The expert body will be assessing the situation facing people of African descent in Portugal as regards such things as access to education, housing and health services, employment, political participation and the administration of justice. The situation of migrants of African descent and their children will also be of particular interest to the Working Group as well as the way in which the current economic crisis is affecting people of African decent in Portugal.
“The visit is particularly timely as 2011 is the International Year for People of African Descent* and I am looking forward to learning from the Portuguese authorities about the activities that they plan to carry out in the context of the Year,” noted the Chairperson of the expert body, Ms. Mirjana Najchevska.
The Working Group will be in Lisbon to meet with Government officials, representatives of NGOs and academia. They also hope to have the opportunity to visit an Afro-Portuguese community. The Working Group will report on its visit to Portugal to the Human Rights Council in 2012. Source - United Nations Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)

Achieving a Ceasefire, Moving toward Legitimate Government
May 13, 2011/African Press Organization (APO)/ — The longer Libya’s military conflict persists, the more it risks jeopardising or undermining the anti-Qaddafi camp’s avowed objectives. Civilians are figuring in large numbers as victims, both as casualties and refugees. The country is de facto being partitioned, as divisions between the predominantly opposition-held east and the predominantly regime-controlled west harden into distinct political, social and economic worlds.
As a result, it is virtually impossible for the pro-democracy current of urban public opinion in most of western Libya (and Tripoli in particular) to express itself and weigh in the political balance. All this, together with mounting bitterness on both sides, will constitute a heavy legacy for any post-Qaddafi government.
The prolonged military campaign and attendant instability likewise present strategic threats to Libya’s neighbours. Besides fuelling a large-scale refugee crisis, they are raising the risk of infiltration by al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, whose networks of activists are present in Algeria, Mali and Niger, countries sharing long borders with Libya. To insist on Qaddafi’s departure as a precondition for any political initiative is to prolong the military conflict and deepen the crisis. Instead, the priority should be to secure an immediate ceasefire and negotiations on a transition to a post-Qaddafi political order.
Unlike events in neighbouring Tunisia and Egypt, the confrontation that began in mid-February between the popular protest movement and Qaddafi’s regime morphed into a civil war from a very early stage. This owes a great deal to the country’s history and chiefly to the peculiar character of the political order Colonel Qaddafi and his associates set up in the 1970s.
Whereas Egypt and Tunisia had been well-established states before Presidents Mubarak and Ben Ali came to power in 1981 and 1987 respectively, such that in both cases the state had an existence independent of their personal rule and could survive their departure, the opposite has been true of Libya. As a result, the conflict has taken on the character of a violent life-or-death struggle.
Eight years after overthrowing the monarchy in 1969, Qaddafi instituted the Jamahiriya, or “state of the masses” — a jerry-built state that is very much a personal creation largely dependent on his role. A constitutive principle of the Jamahiriya is the axiom, proclaimed in Qaddafi’s Green Book (1975), that “representation is fraud” and that no formal political representation is to be allowed.
Whereas all other North African states have at least paid lip-service to the right to political representation and have permitted political parties of a kind, however unsatisfactory, in the Jamahiriya there has been none at all, and attempts to create them have been considered treason.
The consequence of this radical refusal of the principle of representation has been to stunt the development of anything approaching effective, formal institutions or civil society. Notably, the articulation of diverse ideological outlooks and currents of political opinion, which other North African states have allowed to at least some degree, has been outlawed in Libya.
A corollary of this low level of institutionalisation has been the regime’s reliance on tribal solidarities to secure its power base. Strategic positions within the power structure — notably command of the security forces’ most trusted units — have been held by members of Qaddafi’s own family, clan and tribe (the Qadhadhfa) and of other closely allied tribes. At the same time, and especially as of the late 1980s, the regular armed forces have been kept weak, undermanned and under-equipped, the object of Qaddafi’s mistrust.
These various features of Qaddafi’s political order help explain why the logic of civil war set in so quickly after the first demonstrations. The protest movement’s early demand that Qaddafi leave unavoidably implied not simply his departure and regime change, but rather the overthrow or collapse of the entire order that he established. The distinction between the state on the one hand and the regime on the other, which was crucial to enabling the Tunisian and Egyptian armies to act as neutral buffers and mediators in the conflict between people and presidency, was impossible to make.
There can be no doubt that the Jamahiriya is moribund and that only a very different form of state — one that allows political and civic freedoms — will begin to satisfy the widespread desire of Libyans for representative and law-bound government. Yet it was never going to be an easy matter to find a way out of the historic cul-de-sac of Qaddafi’s creation.
The character of the Libyan crisis today arises from the complex but so far evidently indecisive impact of the UN-authorised military intervention, now formally led by NATO, in what had already become a civil war. NATO’s intervention has saved the anti-Qaddafi side from immediate defeat but has not yet resolved the conflict in its favour. Given its mounting political and human costs, complacent assessments that simply sustaining the present military campaign or increasing pressure will force Qaddafi out soon enough reflect a refusal to reconsider current strategy and envisage alternatives.
In any event, it would be reckless to ignore the possibility that, should the regime suffer swift military defeat, the outcome might be not a transition to democracy but rather a potentially prolonged vacuum that could have grave political and security implications for Libya’s neighbours as well as aggravate an already serious humanitarian crisis.
The revolt and its subsequent military efforts have been comparatively unorganised affairs. While the Interim Transitional National Council – the institution designed to govern opposition-controlled territory — has been making some progress in developing political and military structures in the east, it is most improbable that it has or can soon acquire the capacity to take on the business of governing the country as a whole.
The assumption that time is on the opposition’s side and that the regime will soon run out of ammunition or fuel or money (or will be overthrown by a palace coup) similarly substitutes wishful thinking for serious policy-making. Although such predictions might turn out to be true — and it is difficult to assess in the absence of reliable estimates of Qaddafi’s resources — time almost certainly is not on the Libyan people’s side.
As the military confrontation draws out, casualties and destruction mount, the country’s division deepens, and the risk of infiltration by jihadi militants rises. Economic and humanitarian conditions in those parts of Libya still under regime control will worsen. Nor should the cost to Libya’s neighbours of a prolonged chaotic, unstable situation at their borders be overlooked.
If some way cannot be found to induce the two sides in the armed conflict to negotiate a compromise allowing for an orderly transition to a post-Qaddafi, post-Jamahiriya state, the prospect for Libya but also North Africa as a whole and the Sahel countries (Chad, Mali and Niger) will be ominous.
A political breakthrough is by far the best way out of the costly situation created by the military stalemate. This will require a ceasefire and unfettered humanitarian access to all areas within the country, implementation of which should be monitored by a UN-mandated international peacekeeping force. It must be accompanied by immediate, serious negotiations between regime and opposition representatives to secure agreement on a peaceful transition to a new, more legitimate political order.
Such an outcome also necessitates involvement by a third party trusted by both sides — actors currently in short supply. A joint political proposal by the Arab League and the African Union –the former viewed more favourably by the opposition, the latter preferred by the regime — is one possibility to lead to such an agreement. But this cannot happen without the leadership of the revolt and NATO rethinking their current stance.
Their repeatedly proclaimed demand that “Qaddafi must go” confuses two quite different objectives. To insist that he can have no role in the post-Jamahiriya political order is one thing, and almost certainly reflects the opinion of a majority of Libyans as well as of the outside world. But to insist that he must go as the precondition for any negotiation, including that of a ceasefire, is to render a ceasefire all but impossible and maximise the prospect of continued armed conflict.
To insist that he both leave the country and face trial in the International Criminal Court is virtually to ensure that he will stay in Libya to the bitter end and go down fighting. Ultimately, only an immediate ceasefire is consistent with the purpose originally claimed for NATO’s intervention, that of protecting civilians.
The claim that Qaddafi has failed to deliver a ceasefire ignores the fact that no ceasefire can be sustained unless it is observed by both sides. The complaint that Qaddafi cannot be trusted is one than can be levelled at any number of leaders on one side or another of a civil war. The way to deal with the issue is to establish the political conditions — by mobilising through concerted diplomacy a strong international consensus in favour of an immediate, unconditional ceasefire and serious negotiations — that will increase the likelihood that he keeps to his undertakings.
The present conflict clearly represents the death agony of Qaddafi’s Jamahiriya. Whether what comes after it fulfils Libyans’ hopes for freedom and legitimate government very much depends on how and when Qaddafi goes.
This in turn depends on when and how the armed conflict gives way to political negotiation allowing Libya’s political actors — including Libyan public opinion as a whole — to address the crucial questions involved in defining the constitutive principles of a post-Jamahiriya state and agreeing on the modalities and interim institutions of the transition phase.
The international community’s responsibility for the course events will take is very great. Instead of stubbornly maintaining the present policy and running the risk that the aftermath will be one of dangerous chaos, it should act now to secure a negotiated end to the civil war and facilitate a new beginning for Libya’s political life. Source - International Crisis Group

Agricultural experts push for a strong seed sector in West Africa
May 13, 2011/African Press Organization (APO)/ — Underlining that seed security is a prerequisite for achieving food security, agricultural experts participating in the just-concluded Regional Workshop on Seed Policy in West Africa urged decision-makers to support the sustainable growth and development of the West African seed sector, particularly for food security crops, such as rice, millet, sorghum, cowpeas and maize.
The experts recommended the need to formulate, adopt, and implement coherent strategies and policies at regional and national levels for the rapid development of viable seed enterprises which would help increase the steady supply of quality seed to millions of smallholder farmers in West Africa.
The workshop was jointly organized by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the Africa Rice Center (AfricaRice) in Cotonou, Benin. It was inaugurated by His Excellency Michel Sogbossi, Minister of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries, Government of Benin.
“Strong research programs and solid seed systems are crucial to give farmers access to better varieties and quality seeds,” said Dr. Marco Wopereis, AfricaRice Deputy Director General & Director for Research at the workshop, which provided an overview of the current status of the West African seed sector as well as the challenges and opportunities associated with it.
Seed entrepreneurs in the sub-region face many challenges because of the absence of coherent seed policies, poor infrastructure and lack of access to improved seed, complementary inputs, production technologies, credits and training.
Highlighting the importance of developing national seed policies, Dr. Robert Guéi, Senior Officer from FAO, remarked that the seed industry was relatively more developed in other regions of Africa than in Central and West Africa.
“Until now only a few countries in West Africa, such as Nigeria, Côte d’Ivoire, Sierra Leone, Benin, etc., have formulated and passed a coherent seed policy, while a few others are in the process of doing so,” Dr. Guéi said.
Key recommendations targeted to specific stakeholder groups were made by the participants to enable a sustainable seed production and distribution effort to take off in the sub-regions. These include the need to:
•    Develop improved varieties and ensure their rapid delivery through effective seed systems;
•    Develop national action plans to support the sustainable development of seed industries;
•    Strengthen partnerships between the public and the private sector on seed-related issues, with clear delineation of their respective roles;
•    Develop the capacity of the formal and informal seed sectors;
•    Integrate a value-chain approach in the seed policies;
•    Develop regulatory frameworks for rapid and sustainable growth of the seed industry; and
•    Ensure the participation of the whole range of actors in the formulation of seed policies.
“A true partnership among all the actors will be the basis for success to develop a strong seed sector in West Africa,” said Dr. Rita Agboh-Noameshie, AfricaRice scientist, who coordinated the workshop in partnership with FAO.
The workshop was attended by decision-makers from 11 countries in West Africa and from Madagascar. Representatives from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the West African Economic and Monetary Union (UEMOA), the West and Central African Council for Agricultural Research and Development (WECARD/CORAF), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the African Development Bank (AfDB), the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), the International Fertilizer Development Center (IFDC), the African Seed Trade Association (AFSTA), the African Seed Network (ASN), FAO and AfricaRice also took part. Source - Africa Rice Center (AfricaRice)

2011 Euro Mediterranean Award goes to the Crisis Unit
 May 13, 2011/African Press Organization (APO)/ — Transparency, rapidity and efficiency: these are the key to the foreign ministry Crisis Unit’s winning of the “2011 Euro Mediterranean Award”, assigned each year to a winning candidate, selected from among public and private institutions, national daily newspapers and journalists, for distinguished achievement in communicating events associated with the Mediterranean region.
The Crisis Unit falls into the category of “institutional communications”. President of Assafrica e Mediterraneo Pierluigi D’Agata, who worked in collaboration with the Italian association of public and institutional communications on the assignment of the prize, stressed the “highly delicate phase” the Mediterranean is experiencing, underscoring how the Crisis Unit “has been exceptional in recent months” in seeing to it that thousands of Italians “are protected and able to leave a multitude of crisis theatres in absolute safety”.
Head of the Crisis Unit Fabrizio Romano described the work his team does, citing the social networks (Twitter and Facebook) and the websites “viaggiare sicuri” and “dove siamo nel modo” as irreplaceable instruments in assuring information to Italian travelers and locating them at difficult moments.
Sponsored by Assafrica & Mediterraneo, a specialised association within the Confindustria system, which represents and lends support to Italian firms operating in or interested in developing operations in 70 countries in the Mediterranean, Africa and Middle East, in collaboration with the Italian association of public and institutional communications, the award has long been a unique initiative on the Italian panorama, offering a benchmark for public/private best practices throughout the Mediterranean region. Source - Italy Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Tanzania: Development partners to provide USD 453 million
May 13, 2011/African Press Organization (APO)/ - 12 of Tanzania’s Development Partners (DPs) have committed 453 million dollars (USD) to support the Government’s budget (2011-12).
Additional funds in the range of more than USD 100 million are available from some DPs and could also be disbursed, depending on performance in 2011. This high level of support reflects DPs’ confidence in the Government’s ability to use resources to implement the national poverty reduction plan. DPs noted Tanzania’s continued stable and democratic political system, the Government’s strong commitment to growth and poverty reduction, generally stable macro-economic policies, and a public financial management system that, while still frail, is stronger than in most African countries, and provides reasonable assurance of the integrity of the use of public funds.
General Budget Support (GBS) is the preferred way of receiving aid for Government and it has the potential to increase domestic accountability of aid funds through the national system of control and accountability, and increases government ownership of the development policies supported by aid. This year’s commitment again marks a reduction in GBS compared to the previous year (USD 534 million in 2010/11), if the additional funds mentioned are not disbursed. (Including sector budget support in the commitment amount this year, that were not included last year, makes a direct comparison complicated.) This downward trend in GBS does not necessarily imply an overall reduction in aid to Tanzania, as the Government is also supported by donors in other ways with targeted budget and project support to various sectors.
In the current global economic climate DPs are, more than ever, required to demonstrate that development assistance delivers results and value for money. At the annual review of GBS in December 2010, performance was assessed to have been only moderately satisfactory. While much had been achieved there were important areas where progress had been slower than expected. Overall, the Government had only fully implemented about half of the agreed actions under the joint performance assessment framework. Reform efforts in key policy areas such as reducing poverty, improving the business environment, enhancing domestic accountability and improving the quality and equity of public services need to be speeded up to deliver better results.
A number of high-level corruption cases between 2000 and 2008 damaged Tanzania’s reputation. The government took some decisive actions that helped restore confidence, but it remains a concern that some of these cases have not been resolved. Progressing these cases towards conclusion as well as implementing promised legislative reforms would help to address the perception that progress in tackling corruption has slowed. An active fight against corruption is an underlying principle of, and essential for confidence in, GBS as a mechanism for aid delivery.
The 12 development partners and the government have also signed a Partnership Framework Memorandum agreeing the mechanisms for budget support for the next five years.
The following DPs provide GBS: African Development Bank, Canada, Denmark, European Union, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Japan, Norway, Sweden, United Kingdom and World Bank. Norway has been Chair for this group for the past 12 months, and the European Union will now assume this role. Source - Tanzania – Norwegian Embassy

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