Egypt Trades Four Eritreans For One Egyptian Captain

Gedab News
A ship captain, Mohammed Esmat Al Hlaisi, who had been detained in Eritrea since February and accused of being a CIA agent, was returned to his home country after Egypt agreed to Eritrea’s request to deport back four Eritrean asylum-seekers, according to Al Wafd newspaper.

What follows below is largely sourced from Al Wafd:  

Mohammed Al Hlaisi,  26, captained a commercial ship owned by Alaska, an English company. In February, he made an emergency stop in Massawa to repair his ship’s faulty tank.

February is the month that “Operation Fenkel”, the military campaign that liberated the port city from Ethiopia in 1990,  is celebrated in Massawa every year.

The captain was strolling the streets of Massawa when Eritrean intelligence officials picked him up and escorted him to his ship, which they searched. He, and his crew of 12 (Cubans and Filipinos), were told to remain in the ship which they did–for four months, until the captain was taken to Ghindae, a town between Massawa and the capital, for detention.

Eritrean authorities interrogated him for four months and demanded that he admit that he was CIA operative laying mines in the Red Sea which had killed Eritrean soldiers. He was required to confess to this crime in writing and on camera. Captain Al Hlaisi says, “I requested the presence of the Egyptian Ambassador and told them I will not sign such an admission even if you cut me to pieces.”  He was informed that he had been sentenced to twenty years in jail.

Captain Al Hlaisi went on a hunger strike and was rushed to “INAIL” hospital in Asmara where authorities denied the Egyptian ambassador to Eritrea access to visit him. But he was visited by Eritrea’s Minister of Foreign Affairs who informed him that he should give up his hunger strike since negotiations are underway with the Egyptian government for his release.

He was returned to Ghindae, where he remained until October 10, 2012 when he was released. Back in Egypt, government officials showed him the paperwork which indicated that he had been traded for Eritreans who had asked for asylum and had now been deported. Reportedly, the involvement of Egyptian president Mursi was required for this exchange.

The names of the four Eritreans who were traded for the Egyptian captain has not been disclosed. Nor have any of the international or Eritrean human rights organizations, who have repeatedly warned Egypt against deporting Eritrean asylum-seekers to Eritrea, reported the deportation of the Eritreans.

On December 24, 2010, four Britons employed by Protection Vessels International (PVI) were arrested in Massawa and subsequently accused of espionage, terrorism and using the island of Romia as an arms depot. In a TV documentary outlining the charges, the government showed laser guided peripherals as “poison tipped arrows.” Unofficially, the Eritrean regime informed Thomas Mountain,  the only Western “journalist” allowed to work in Eritrea, that the Brits were in Eritrea to assassinate Eritrean officials on Operation Fenkel celebrations of February. The Brits were “pardoned” and released after six months.

The Eritrean Government has many such crisis and it has detained many Yemeni and Egyptian boats and ships starting from the first weeks after independence when it detained over a dozen Egyptian fishermen and refused to give information about them or allow their relatives to visit them.

Such arrests finally led to a clash with Yemen over the Hanish Archipelago in 1995.

Source: Gedab News

Post-Bashir: the sheikhs and the officers

By Magdi El Gizouli

The Sudanese Islamic Movement (SIM) held a series of conferences at state and sectorial levels over the past few weeks in preparation for its awaited general convention in November. Ahead of the conferences the Movement announced a rule barring state governors from competing for the leadership of the organisation in their states. Only Osman Mohamed Yusif Kibir, the governor of North Darfur, distinguished himself by ‘accepting’ the nomination of the Movement’s Shura (Consultative) Council in his state, and was thus announced Secretary General of the SIM in North Darfur for a second term. As governor and chairman of the North Darfur chapter of the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) Kibir unites in his person the three h’s in NCP/SIM jargon, the hakuma (government), the hizb (party) and the haraka (movement). An envious NCP official from the region told a press conference in Khartoum on Saturday that Kibir’s command of the three h’s amounted to “religious and moral corruption”. Hassan Bargo, in charge of the Chad file in the NCP during the height of the Darfur conflict i.e. a manager of Khartoum’s support to Chadian rebels, dismissed the SIM’s conferences as mere “window dressing”, and called on the leadership of the organisation to allow for a generational shift at the top in order to avert an ‘Arab Spring’ in Sudan. Hassan Osman Rizig, the Deputy Secretary General of the SIM, said Kibir will eventually be forced to choose between the hakuma and the haraka, and cannot enjoy the pleasure of the power polygamy. Whether Rizig can enforce the constitutional pedantry of the SIM high office in Khartoum on al-Fasher’s sultan is the wrong question I suppose. Rather the issue is whether the regime can afford a fracture of fragile power in al-Fasher between the three h’s. Like most Sudanese Kibir and Bargo find it hard to grasp the subtle difference between the NCP and the SIM since up the ladder only the jellabiyas change.

The clamour around the November conference nevertheless is not without substance. The incumbent Secretary General of the SIM, Ali Osman Mohamed Taha, also the First Vice President and the Deputy Chairman of the NCP, declared to the conference of the SIM women sector that he is not interested in another term at the helm of the Movement. Time has come for elders like himself, he said, to withdraw to advisory functions and allow a younger generation of leaders to manage the affairs of the SIM. Conveniently enough, the proposed constitution of the Movement sets a two terms limit for election to the office, an exact fit to Taha’s occupancy of the post. As Taha, the perennial deputy, announced his intent to slip out of the jellabiya of the SIM’s Emir unidentified sources in the NCP told in-house journalists that a consensus was emerging in the party to nominate Taha for presidential office in the 2015 elections, a proposal that the SIM’s second in command, Hassan Osman Rizig, did not deny. Rizig, cautious not to step on toes bigger than his, said the NCP general conference was the only platform where such a decision could be met. Meanwhile, Taha’s cheerleaders in the Khartoum press went on early campaign, popularizing the notion that the deputy’s moment has at last arrived; who else but the loyal Taha deserves the top jellabiya? The immediate drive for the succession stir is the open secret that President Bashir’s health is compromised. A spokesman of the Palace in Khartoum said the President had a throat surgery last August in Qatar but was in good health. “All rumours that his health is not good are baseless”, affirmed the spokesman without offering further details. Notably, the presidential uncle, al-Tayeb Mustafa, wrote in support of a Bashir exit in 2015. “It is in the interest of the President, after a quarter of a century of rule, to rest in dignity at the end of his current term, away from politics and its whirlwinds”, he concluded after listing the immediate duties requiring President Bashir’s attention: oversight of the implementation of the Addis Ababa agreements with South Sudan, securing Sudan’s borders and bringing an end to the rebellions in South Kordofan, the Blue Nile and Darfur, stabilisation of the political and economic situation in the country in preparation for a new era of good governance and peaceful transition of power. Well, judging by his 1989 coup statement President Bashir and Co had a quarter of a century to do the same.

The Taha cheerleaders, it seems, are consciously ignoring the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) establishment, the ‘old Sudan’ political party jealously guarding the throne. At President Bashir’s side two senior officers have survived the habubs of the NCP-SAF alliance safe from plane crashes and early retirement. These two gentlemen – Bakri Hassan Salih (Minister of Presidential Affairs) and Abd al-Rahim Mohamed Hussein (Minister of Defence) – are unlikely to surrender ultimate authority to the NCP/SIM bureaucracy without at least a fair bargain. If Taha and his captains find it difficult to discipline Mr Kibir into abiding by the SIM’s rules then the tanks at the SAF headquarters are surely not going to follow their command whatever the jellabiyas they happen to wear.

The author is a fellow of the Rift Valley Institute. He publishes regular opinion articles and analyses at his blog Still Sudan. He can be reached at m.elgizouli@gmail.com

Celebrate the 48th anniversary of Sudan’s glorious October 1964 revolution

Sunday 21st October 2012 marks the 48th Anniversary of the Glorious Sudanese Revolution that toppled the Six– year dictatorial rule of the military junta led by General Ibrahim Abboud and enabled the Sudanese peoples to build democratic institutions and declare their Bill of Citizenship Rights and Duties. The Glorious October Revolution provided a living proof that firmness of purpose and joint alliance of students associations, trade unions of lawyers, medical doctors, university academics, judges, teachers and Sudan Workers Union, civil servants, professional bodies, general public members from the marginalised regions, civil society organisations, youth federations, Sudanese women’s Union and political parties nationwide were capable of making paranormal heroic sacrifices when had the will and wanted to do so.

On this timeless memorable National Occasion one salutes all the components of the Sudanese people inside and outside the country without discrimination and irrespective of individual’s ethnicity, gender, colour, belief, language, age, political affiliation, regional or tribal affiliation – each one wrapped up one’s Sudanese identity of Citizenship closely about oneself, to work together to remove our common enemy, the racist despotic National Congress Party (NCP) regime.

The October 1964 Revolution was triggered precipitated by the riot police storming an audience attending a Seminar on the Problem of the Southern Sudan hosted by the Khartoum University Students Union (KUSU) . That was on the night of the twentieth of October 1964. In the night referred to the riot police forces killed two students, late Ahmed al-Gurashi Taha from Garrasa village in the White Nile and Babiker Abdel hafiz from Wad-Duroo neighbourhood in Omdurman, along with one of the University of Khartoum labourers, named Mabior, from Southern Sudan. And in the morning of the twenty – first day of October 1964 was the outbreak of October Revolution, the news of which reached all parts of Sudan. Moreover, Singers, artists and musicians like late Artist Mohammed Wardi and Artist Mohammed al-Amin stirred enthusiasm and raised courage among the protesters. The ultimate result was the ousting of regime of General Ibrahim Abboud. However, the main reason for the October Revolution was the Sudanese people’s dislike of being ruled by military totalitarian regimes. At the era of outbreak of the October Revolution in Sudan in 1964 terms such as ‘Uprising’ and ‘Revolution’ were not heard of to many peoples in the Arab and African regions to which Sudan belongs geographically and/or politically. It sounds ironical that the so-called ‘Arab Spring’ has been dubbed to mark the popular uprisings in 2011 in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Libya and now in Syria; more than forty years after the Sudanese Glorious October Revolution of 1964. Here, the Sudanese people are virtually a revolutions pedagogue to other nations. This assertion is made in view to the fact that the Sudanese preceded those peoples in that respect for more than four decades. Having that being said, the immediate question that comes to mind would be as to why the Sudanese people’s revolution or Sudanese peoples ‘spring’, as some political analysts tend to call, against the most autocratic NCP regime is delayed despite the atrocious crimes it committed and continues to do so; the second question is about the factors that have played the role in the longevity of the regime, given all the available facts are against Islamism NIF pointing towards its demise, though continued to remain viable: To give plausible answers and address the factors helped the regime to live on, it is necessary to give some information on how the NIF came into power in Sudan and factors that helped.

The slogans Chanted by the National Islamic Front (NIF) when it seized power the 30th of June 1989 through a military coup d’état against a democratically elected government in Sudan during the Third Democratic Epoch were: “It is for God’s Sake; Not for Power & Not for Prestige” claiming that their programme was a “Civilisational Project and an Apostolic Orientation” . But the results of that lie were an autocratic dictatorial regime, Empowerment to acquire wealth by exploiting the public purse, suppression with brutality any opposition , waging never ending civil wars against the peoples of south of Sudan and Darfur, employing the doctrine of divide to rule through inciting intertribal prejudices to damage the social fabric. Very soon, the NIF showed its grim face which it concealed behind the mask of Islamic Religion which they have maligned. Knowing the instinctive devoutness of the average Sudanese citizen, NIF stroke the right chord to get the tune and played the religion card which was capable to lure very many citizens to believe the lie. NIF by its nature is devoid of morality. It utilized the Machiavellian Principle of ‘the End Justifies the Means’ without any scruples of conscience. The so-called Islamic Movement (IM) in Sudan with its countless denominations of Muslim Brotherhood (MB), Islamic Charter Front (ICF), National Islamic Front (NIF), National Salvation Revolution (NSR), Popular Congress Party (POP) and lastly and not the least the notorious National Congress Party (NCP), has been the cause of all the political woes and the scourges Sudanese people have been suffering. Those beasts deceived people by the use of formal religiosity manifestations such as chanting religious passages during speech, long goatee beards, shortening robes and the tendency to rant. Debauchery in rivalry is one of the most reprehensible of their morals; the sins, perhaps, makes the Satan who had been expelled from Mercy feeling embarrassed! Thus the NIF slogans went unheeded with the fall of the masks that were concealing their ills. Religiosity mania and trading with the Islamic religion which initially led the devout Sudanese people to believe the lie in the past have become obsolete and no longer capable to lure them. The Sudanese people have recognised and knew the degree of hypocrisy with which NIF has been practicing to cheat them.

The greatest witness to the lack of humanity and compassion among those who belonged to the membership of the Islamic Movement (IM) in Sudan is the unprecedented brutality with which the NCP regime carried out its ethnic cleansing, genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity committed against the people of Sudan in the Darfur Region. The International Criminal Court (ICC) has indicted the establishment’s president Omer Hassan Ahmed al-Bashir and his aides that included the Defence Minister Abdel Rahim Mohammed Hussein, Governor of South Kordofan Ahmed Mohammed Haroun and the Militia leader Ali Mohammed Ali Abdurrahman Kosheib. All of them are fugitives remaining at large.

The Sudanese peoples in Darfur, Kordofan, Nuba Mountains, Southern blue Nile, Nubians in the far North, the Beja in the East, Central region (Gezira) people, those in the national capital Khartoum and the Sudanese in The Diaspora have said enough is enough and decided now to topple the heir of the NIF, the misnomer, the National Congress Party (NCP) regime and throw its remnants into the abyss of the history dustbin. That is the only option at the top of the goals of their struggle. It is onus on the Sudanese people to utilize the successful previously tried approach in the timeless immortal glorious October Revolution that called for a radical change to the political infrastructure and replacing it by a system based on rule of law, transparency and good governance. The NIF and its successive regimes did not leave any previous values of the Sudanese people, but completely destroyed. Moreover, the National Congress Party government sought to use humanitarian aid as part of their military strategies and considered it as trump card; mass starvation as a negotiating strategy using food as a weapon, in pursuant to repeat the very crimes of ethnic cleansing and genocide they committed in Darfur. Manipulation of humanitarian aid in the conflict is an integral part of the strategies of the NCP regime in Sudan led by fugitive from international justice Omar Hassan Ahmad al-Bashir. This is based their alleged sovereign right to refuse entry of relief into the camps for displaced persons.

ON this Anniversary, we salute the Sudanese women for their tireless struggles for which they have been subjected to all kinds of oppression in the form of flogging, arbitrary arrests, imprisonment and rape at the hand of the NCP regime’s National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS). We have to break the vicious cycle/ circle of draconian laws and the kangaroo courts ran by the security apparatus and the police unit known as Abu Taira. The Sudanese people must put an end to the campaign of targeted violence which amounts to crimes against humanity, and the denial of humanitarian relief.

We the people of Sudan are in the face of a war imposed upon us by the NCP regime. Nevertheless, winds of change are blowing through the country whether NCP likes it or not. The NIF with its countless denominations was the owl that has been cawing on Sudan for more than two decades; as a source of bad luck, misfortune and omen that plagued the people in villages, hamlets, nomadic settlements in the countryside, cities and in urban and rural areas.

It is time for lessons to be learned from the October 21st 1964 Victorious Sudanese Revolution on its 48th Anniversary. The Sudanese people in general and the youth in particular need to be inspired and take lessons from it. And for those who still hoping that the notorious Islamic Movement (IM), with its countless denominations of Muslim Brotherhood, Islamic Charter Front, National Islamic Front (NIF), National Salvation Revolution (NSR), National Congress Party (NCP) and Popular Congress Party (POP) to get reformed and waiting at the sidewalk or holding the stick from the middle it is high time for them to join the ranks of the Sudanese resistance forces that include the Sudanese Revolutionary Front (SRF). The SRF is formed of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement – North (SPLM-North) led by Malik Agar, Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) led by Dr. Gibriel Ibrahim, Sudan Liberation Army –led by Abdel Wahid Mohammed NOUR (SLA-AW), Sudan Liberation Army –led by Minni Arko Minnawi (SLA-MM), Vice Chairman of the National Umma Party (NUP) Sayed Nasruddin al-Hadi Al-Mahdi, Prominent leader al-Tom Haju – of the Democratic Unionist Party- Original, Mohammed Osman Taj-Assir al-Mirghani – Democratic Unionist Party- Original and many respectable political bodies to overthrow the NCP regime. It is Wake-up call for all to participate in the privilege of toppling the NCP regime and dismantling its components before it becomes too late. Let the undecided to come back to their senses and join People’s Revolution. The regime is at its weakest period of time. For the struggle and resistance against the NCP regime, there are only two trenches: one for the chivalrous Sudanese people and another for the shivery. It is better for all to join the ranks of the Sudanese resistance to uproot the NCP regime from power, to avoid fragmentation of what is left of the Sudan and further waging of its regional wars in the Blue Nile, South Kordofan, Darfur, Eastern Sudan, the Far North Nubian region and elsewhere in Sudan to stay in power.

Let’s take lessons from the Forty –eighth Anniversary of the Glorious October Twenty – first October 1964 Revolution sparked by the masses of the Sudanese People on the Twenty – first October 1964. At the time the October Revolution offered a groundbreaking opportunity and inspired all the people of Sudan from Halfa Dighaim to Nimule and from Port Sudan to Geneina to form their political forums and rebel to oust the 17th November 1968 junta. Without any shred of doubt today’s Sudanese people are capable and worthy to restore the Glorious heroic history.

Dr. Mahmoud A. Suleiman is the Deputy Chairman of the General Congress for Justice and Equality Movement (JEM). He can be reached at mahmoud.abaker@gmail.com

South Sudan and the question of “14 Mile area”

By Sabrino Majok Majok

The Cooperation Agreement recently signed in Addis Ababa on September 27th, 2012, has been received with mixed reactions in South Sudan with negotiators and their colleagues at an extreme end while people of Northern Bhar El Ghazal, civil society, and well-wishers at reconciliatory and balanced position of the agreement. In presence of these two opposing views, therefore, it’s worth clarifying people of Northern Bahr El Ghazal’s position.

Our position is that the so-called “14 mile,” has never existed and has never ever been part of any peace agreements, including CPA.

Furthermore, the area that South Sudanese negotiators called “14 miles,” is not part of any claimed or disputed areas whatsoever when it comes to Sudan and South Sudan post independence issues. As such it is mind boggling and absurd, really, to constantly hear and read comments on cooperation agreement by South Sudanese negotiators who portray themselves as gifted, Angel-like few in the country. They say that they understand “14 miles,” better than citizens of Northern Bahr El Ghazal State; that the argument of the people of Northern Bahr El Ghazal State is “out of ignorance.” But the opposite is true: Pagan, Salva Mathok, Makuei Lueth, Paul Mayom, and Dr. Marial’s views are unfounded, presumptuous and imaginary that warrant strongest condemnation they deserve. Yes, Pagan and colleagues’ views are just like somebody telling you that you do not know what is inside your house. Why? Because people of Northern Bahr El Ghazal know very well which areas are theirs and which are not, it is just simple as that. This general truth does not need Pagan, Makuei and the rest to interpret it; nor do we need rocket scientists for the same purpose.

But one thing is crystal clear. The area now being referred to as “14 miles” lies deep inside Northern Bahr El Ghazal territory and has never been contested at any time in history.

In fact, our villages are located many miles north of River Kiir. Had it not been for the unwarranted incursion into our land by Khartoum successive and dictatorial regimes during the long war, our borders with the North would have been more than 100 miles North of River Kiir.

Secondly, our gallant forces, SPLA, at Kiir Adem, Warguet and Majak-Wuoi are stationed many Kilometers North of River Kiir while Sudan armed Forces are stationed at Abumatharik (Majok Anei Yor) which is 50 miles North of Kiir while on the eastern side of Kiir River, SAF are stationed at Meriem (Rum Mamer) which is 35 miles North of River Kiir.

One therefore wonders why our forces would be required to leave their positions North of Kiir 10 Kilometers then continue moving Southward up to 14 miles (22 kilometers) then move further for additional 10 kilometers as stipulated by the agreement. If this goes as planned by the likes of Pagan, then it means our forces would be stationed 42 kilometers South of River Kiir only in Northern Bahr el Ghazal State. I can’t help posing a question here: how many kilometers would the Sudanese Armed Forces move back Northward from current position at Abumatharik and Meriem? I think it’s high time that Pagan and the ilk educate the public, particularly the people of Northern Bahr El Ghazal whom he considers ignorant.

At this juncture, I would like to inform fellow South Sudanese citizens that the people whom Pagan Amum and his team continuously referred to as ignorant know what Pagan’s group is upto.

To take you back in time, Pagan close ally and current Government spokesperson, Dr. Marial Benjam, once said before our historic referendum when he was interviewed on SSTV that the two Sudans have high chances of reuniting in the future like East and West German during the cold war era.

With this in mind I cannot agree more with comrade Del Rumdit Deng in his article published on Citizen News Paper dated October 15th, 2012, when he observed, “…by putting together all these agreements, one can clearly see unionists’ invisible hands in full play for the rebirth of New Sudan Ideology…We have our independence but we don’t control our international borders. Without our international borders we don’t have our international sovereignty.”

In any eventuality, Pagan’s reference to Great people of Aweil as ignorant is a misnomer. Consequently, ignorance rightly reflects back to Pagan Amum Okiech and his team who assume that they know our villages more than we do.

And regardless what pro “14 miles” say on media, the Great people of Aweil will never ever relinquish an INCH of their land to Sudan.

One also wonder what level of English Proficiency should people of Northern Bahr El Ghazal attain to understand Cooperation Agreement? What special linguistic qualities do Pagan Amum, Salva Mathok Gengdit, Michael Makuei, Paul Mayom, Dr. Marial and others have that make them understand the agreement better than people of Northern Bhar El Ghazal whose land was given to Sudan?

Sabrino Majok Majok is a citizen of Northen Bahr El Ghazal State. He is also the director general at the state ministry of finance. He writes this as a citizen, not a member of the government. He can be reached through sabrino.m.majok@gmail.com.

Qatar says Ethiopia severed ties over ‘unfounded and untruthful’ charges

DOHA: Qatar said on Wednesday it was “surprised” by Ethiopia’s decision to cut diplomatic ties with the Gulf state, and rejected as unfounded the accusation that it sought to destabilize the Horn of Africa. The official Qatar News Agency (QNA) cited a Foreign Ministry spokesman as saying Doha was “surprised” by Ethiopia’s “unfounded and untruthful allegations,” and saw them as “a deliberate attempt to justify its own erroneous policies.”

On Monday, Ethiopia announced it was severing ties with Qatar, accusing Doha of supporting armed opposition groups across the Horn of Africa and citing Qatar’s “strong ties” with Ethiopia’s arch-foe, Eritrea.

QNA quoted the spokesman as calling on Ethiopia “to refrain from implicating Qatar in regional differences,” and adding that “the Ethiopian government made similar allegations in the past, charges to which Qatar preferred not to respond in the hope that such erroneous behaviour might cease.”

On Monday, the Ethiopian government said in a statement that it had “displayed considerable patience toward Qatar’s attempts to destabilize our sub-region and, in particular, its hostile behavior toward Ethiopia.

“Qatar has now, however, become a major source of instability,” it added. The statement accused Qatar of using its “media outlets” to undermine Ethiopia.

On April 11, the Ethiopian Foreign Ministry sharply criticized Qatar-based news network Al-Jazeera for broadcasting TV reports on Ethiopia’s Ogaden region. Ethiopia imposed a news blackout on the vast area, which has an ethnic Somali majority and has seen a long-running separatist rebellion by the Ogaden National Liberation Front.

“It is hard to ignore the fact that Al-Jazeera broadcasts out of Doha, the capital of Qatar. Qatar is a close ally of Eritrea,” the Ethiopian statement said. “It would be totally unrealistic to imagine that any Al-Jazeera program on Ethiopia could be anything other than seriously biased.”

Many regimes unaccustomed to criticism have downgraded relations with Qatar over Al-Jazeera’s coverage of their policies. - AFP

Tanzania: natural gas boom masks degradation in rule of law and social stability

By Tom Savory and Subiro Mwapinga

Things are changing in Tanzania. Large gas finds off the country’s coastline look set to shake up a country generally considered in continental economic analysis as stable but unexciting. With big players entering the Tanzanian market, the country finds itself the topic of conversation in boardrooms and the subject of articles in business journals and broadsheets with increasing prominence.

Excitement about Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) plants and concern about regulatory change are indeed big news; however what isn’t getting as much attention is an apparent degradation of the rule of law and social stability in the East African nation.  GDP growth masks rising perceptions of inequality, driven not least by high inflation rates. Social tension across Tanzania is also on the increase, which should be a worry to the government and investors alike.

This has been evident through incidents in recent weeks of political and religious violence that we predict are likely to increase in the build up to the 2015 general election.

Chadema Rallies

In two separate incidents at the end of August and beginning of September, rallies organised by the main opposition party, Chadema, ended with deaths.  On 27 August, Chadema supporters rallied in Morogoro region, which saw the death of party supporter, Ally Zona, from head wounds after clashes between activists and the police who were attempting to disperse the noisy group.  Just a week later, on 3 September, journalist David Mwangosi died after being struck in the stomach by a tear gas canister, again as police tried to disperse Chadema supporters at the opening of a new local branch office.

Chadema, admittedly, played its own part in the violence – not least in breaking a political agreement not to hold demonstrations during the tense census period.

 

Organised Crime

On the night of 13 September, Mwanza Regional Police Commissioner (RPC) Liberatus Barlow was shot dead in strange circumstances.  Reports at the time suggested that a group of masked assailants ambushed Barlow as he dropped off a passenger.   Our sources understand that he had mistakenly approached a group of individuals who were dividing illicit minerals, sourced from illegal mining operations, which are endemic in the region. Upon realising his identity, the criminals murdered the RPC to protect their operation.

Director of Criminal Investigations, Robert Manumba, has recently declared that the police would seek revenge for the incident – a concerning statement, later condemned by the Legal and Human Rights Council (a civil liberties NGO).

Religious Rioting

On Thursday 12 September riots broke out in Mbagela, Dar es Salaam, as rumours circulated about a Christian youth who allegedly desecrated a Koran.  The resulting fracas saw at least seven churches and a number of cars attacked and torched.  In the police operation that followed the riots, the Secretary of the Council of Muslims’ Organizations, Sheikh Ponda Issa Ponda, was arrested, leading to further disturbances.

Meanwhile, Muslim cleric and Zanzabari separatist, Sheikh Farid Hadi Ahmed, went missing – an event that enraged followers, leading to rioting on the semi-autonomous island, which saw bars and cars torched.  After these outbreaks, policeman Corporal Said Abdulrahman was found dead in an apparent machete attack near the island’s capital, Stone Town.

The religious riots in October are the third such incident on the Zanzibar archipelago in 2012, with incidents that occurred in May and July being attributed to religious and political tensions.

Zanzibari Separatism

Social unrest has not only been manifested in violence however – on Zanzibar, divisions between separatists and unionists have been growing.   At the Zanzibari parliament on 18 October, ruling party Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) politicians walked out in protest over inaction following the recent riots, demanding that the Zanzibari government deregister the Uamsho Muslim group, seen as being extremist, and to whom they have attributed the recent violence.   Uamsho was originally formed as a protest against agreements between the mainstream Civic United Front and the CCM party.

Almost simultaneously, Zanzibari Minister without Portfolio, Mr. Mansoor Yusuf Himid, was dismissed from his position in the island’s cabinet after he publicly questioned CCM’s stance on union arrangements.  Mr. Himid’s position, promoting Zanzibar’s secession from the union, demonstrates the growing confidence of separatist politicians.

Implications for Business

Zanzibar’s tourist industry has been most directly affected by recent events. At the time of writing, it is understood that many tourist shops have been closed on the island for three days straight while many passengers on a recent incoming flight requested to remain on the plane until its next stop at Dar es Salaam.  Tourism is a major foreign exchange earner for Tanzania and is the biggest industry on Zanzibar.

Violence and perceptions of insecurity raise business and living costs, reducing the competiveness of the country.  With Tanzania vying for investment in competition with its regional neighbours, small changes in investor confidence could well lead to large changes in capital flows to the country.

Continuing evidence of militant criminality and political involvement in the small-scale mining industry is a further worry for existing investors and newcomers to the market alike.  Corruption is entrenched and deep-rooted, and influence of these illegal operators groups is felt at many levels of society, both in the mining areas and beyond.  Tanzania is determined to unlock further mineral potential both in the established gold industry and also with other metals – insecurity will make this task more difficult for legal entities, providing further space for unlawful actors.

Our analysts see much of these worrying trends as a wider reflection of the weakness of the current administration. During President Benjamin Mkapa’s reign, many of these trends were dormant or non-existent.  With three more years until the 2015 election, a vote that incumbent President Jakaya Kikwete is ineligible for, our expectation is increasing social tension, political and religious conflict.

Tom Savory and Subiro Mwapinga at africapractice, Tanzania: www.africapractice.com

Eritreans in Canada still tapped for tax, refugee says

Winnipeg Free Press
Eritrea promised Ottawa it would stop, but Winnipeggers say they’re still being shaken down to pay a two per cent tax to a regime they fled.

Last month, the Canadian government threatened to expel Eritrea’s consul if the country continued to collect a two per cent tax on Eritreans living in Canada. Canada adopted United Nations sanctions to stop the flow of money to Eritrean defence forces linked to terrorist groups. Eritrea agreed to stop collecting the diaspora tax from Canadians.

But members of the Eritrean community in Winnipeg say they were told at a closed meeting recently they still have to pay it, just not through local channels.

One man said he attended the Sept. 23 meeting at the Ellice Cafe because he thought it was “to discuss Eritrean issues.” When he got there, he realized the event hosted by the Eritrean Community in Winnipeg Inc. wasn’t an open community gathering.

People had to sign in and write down their phone numbers, he said. Some who showed up were not allowed entry.

“Before me, two people were kicked out,” said the man who arrived in Canada a few years ago and was afraid to have his name published.

“They said, ‘You’re not Eritrean — you have to go!’ ”

The two per cent tax is still required but won’t be collected by local agents or the consulate in Toronto, the crowd of about 50 people was told.

Newcomers are struggling to get settled in a new country and don’t want to give money to the government they fled, said the refugee at the meeting.

“I don’t believe in this two per cent tax,” the man said.

He said Lambros Kyriakakos, the president of the Eritrean Community in Winnipeg Inc., spoke at the meeting. He is the president of the organization that sponsors Eritreans who fled the regime. He told the group he’d just visited Eritrea, the attendee said. He said the money Canadian Eritreans are sending to the regime is helping orphans and rebuilding the country. The man in the audience said they were told not to believe United Nations or media reports that their donations are funding military operations or terrorist groups.

He said Kyriakakos told them the Free Press and the Vancouver Province were directed by the National Post to fabricate such stories. The newspapers, they were told, are “mercenaries” funded by Eritrea’s enemy, the government of Ethiopia, the man said.

The Free Press is neither owned nor operated by the National Post. Nor is it on Ethiopia’s payroll.

Kyriakakos refused to comment.

The newcomers from Eritrea are being manipulated by the Eritrean Community in Winnipeg Inc., and coerced to keep sending money, says a Winnipeg human rights group.

“They incite hatred against Canadians so people will cling with them and feel safe,” said Bereket Mebrahtu, with the Eritrean-Canadian Human Rights Group of Manitoba. The newcomers are receiving misinformation about the Free Press that makes them feel under attack as Eritrean community members, Mebrahtu said.

“This is how they deflect the substance of the issue and instigate fear of the people — that the community is the only sanctuary.”

If they don’t pay the tax, they’ll never get a visitor’s visa to go there or their relatives in Eritrea will suffer as a result, say community members and a report to the UN.

carol.sanders@freepress.mb.ca

Press Release: Ginbot 7 urges Ethiopians to stand with Muslim brothers and sisters

Brutal Killings Inside Mosques Will Not Deter The Resolve Of The Ethiopian Muslim Community

Ginbot 7 Press Release

Ginbot 7 Movement for Justice, Freedom and DemocracyIn the twenty one years of the TPLF rule, the Ethiopian people and the world at large have witnessed mass killings, targeted killings, and indiscriminate killings of the young, old, women and children as young as 8 years old. In 2005, the mass killing in Ethiopia reached its climax when special security forces under the direct order from the late Prime Minister Meles Zenawi savagely killed over 200 people as the world watched quietly. When Deputy PM Haile Mariam Desalegn took the oath of office and promised to walk on the same path as his predecessor, many Ethiopians lowered their expectation of witnessing a free, just and democratic Ethiopia in their life time.

In just a little over a month in office, PM Haile Mariam Desalegn has kept his promise of staying the course of his predecessor in gunning down peaceful demonstrators on the streets of Ethiopian cities. On Sunday, October 21, 2012, Haile Mariam Desalgen mercilessly took the lives of his first four victims in a standoff that started inside a Holy Mosque in the Amhara zone. Two of his young victims were frog marched by security forces and shot execution style at the nearby police station while the other two were shot and killed inside the Mosque compound. According to reliable local sources, there are many people who are seriously wounded and the death toll may increase by two fold.

Ginbot 7, Movement for Justice, Freedom and Democracy categorically denounces the barbaric killing of innocent civilians and holds Haile Mariam Desalegn and his associates accountable for the lives lost. Ginbot 7 acknowledges that the Muslim community in Ethiopia has been waging a legitimate struggle in Ethiopia for the past 11 months. The demands are simple and crystal clear – they have asked the regime for freedom of worship and for the right to elect their religious leaders in their own way and place of their own choosing. These rights are protected by the Ethiopian constitution which the regime is obligated to respect.

Ginbot 7 urges Ethiopians inside and outside of Ethiopia to stand together with our Muslim brothers and sisters in this difficult time. Ethiopians of Muslim and Christian faith must stand together as a community to continue the struggle for freedom, justice, democracy and equality understanding and believing that we live in the context of each other, and acknowledging that the source of our freedom is our collective struggle.

We ask that donor nations and international organizations get their act together and start holding the brutal regime in Ethiopia accountable for its heinous crimes and its wanton disregard for the sanctity of life. All civilized nations should strongly condemn this act of terror against the Muslim community in their place of worship.

In Solidarity!

RE: Okonjo Iweala: Nigeria’s Weakest Link

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala

By Ayodeji Sunday

 My attention was drawn to an article (Ngozi Iweala: Nigeria’s Weakest Link) by one Sonala Olumhense. After reading the piece, I concluded that only someone who has absolutely no regard for conscience and truth could have attempted to create such large-scale deception as is being peddled by the writer of this malicious article. It is indeed amazing the extent some people can go just to bring themselves to limelight.

 

The efforts of Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala to reinvigorate the economy and fight corruption have been widely acknowledged by Nigerians and the world at large. Therefore, such a prejudiced concoction, as Olumhense’s, is not just a distractive tactic but also a tit-for-tat attempt in connivance with corrupt individuals in high places, whose evil machinery has been grounded by this exceptional woman. Indeed, this is another manifestation of the Nigerian analogy that when you fight corruption, corruption fights back!

 

Without much ado, I will like to examine the ten points on which Olumhense premised his baseless case.

 

Point One: His report on the failure of the National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy (NEEDS) is a blatant lie. Under this programme, Nigeria was able to pay its debts arrears owed to some International Finance Institutions (IFIs), particularly the Paris and London Clubs via: (1) Direct repayment where $6.4b was paid (2) Debt buy-back arrangement where $8b was settled at 25% discount, and (3) Debts write-off where $16b was written-off by the creditors. The entire Paris Club debt relief enjoyed by Nigeria totalled US$18b, or a 60% for a US$12.4b payment of arrears and buyback. Similarly, the debts owed to London club commercial creditors were also restructured and paid off. The domestic debts constituting about 12% of GDP in 2005, owed to contractors and civil service pensioners were systematically paid.

 

Other economic spheres where NEEDS recorded appreciable achievements include fiscal and monetary policies. Public spending was reduced from 47.0% in 2001 (before she assumed office) to 35.4% in 2004, which resulted in budget surplus of 7.7% of the GDP for 2004, up from deficits of 4-5% of the GDP in 2002-2003 (USAID, 2006). The list is endless. Anyone can search the records and see for themselves.

 

Point Two: Sonala claimed that billions of naira was drained and is still being drained into the poverty eradication programme involving 13 federal ministries. However, this is another vituperative attack against the person of Okonjo-Iweala. How could he possibly link the Finance Minister with the performance or otherwise of 13 other ministries in such a direct manner? As the Coordinating Minister of the Economy, she is supposed to carry out oversight functions – and that she seems to have been doing quite well. Her efforts to ensure that MDAs deliver have been widely acknowledged. Ministries, departments and agencies that are not living up to their billing are constantly being checked. It is only fair to acknowledge that, in spite of the challenges of corrupt officials who may be trying to divert the poverty eradication funds, the programme has recorded a commendable degree of success in the areas of youth employment, rural infrastructural development, social welfare services and national resources development.

 

Point Three: The writer also claimed that in the negotiations with the Paris Club, one “top member” of the government walked away with a personal fee of N60 billion. He went on to indict former president Obasanjo and Okonjo-Iweala claiming that none of them had ever challenged it, as if that would validate his spurious allegations. Obviously, madam minister has enough work on her table and is more concerned with serious matters of state to be taken in by such rootless ranting. How can someone who prides himself as a neutral social critic make such bogus claims as these without backing them with concrete facts? Who is the “top member” of the government that walked away with a personal fee of N60 billion? I dare Olumhense and his sponsors to name the person if indeed his claims are true. It is only unintelligent people like Sonala who would make stupid accusations like that in a process that is vetted internationally.

 

Point Four: The success of the MDG programme is another area where the writer of this malicious article has chosen to ignore the facts. Apart from the records, which are readily available, the impact of the MDG programme has been widely felt across the nation. Ask the students who now have new classrooms, or the rural dwellers that have now have access to basic facilities including well-equipped health centres. Time and space will not permit me to give a detailed analysis via this medium. But, really, how necessary is that when anyone can easily check the facts for themselves?

 

Points Five and Six of Olumhense’s article refer to Okonjo-Iweala’s tenure as finance minister during the Obasanjo regime without due recourse to the fact that she left that office in 2006. For conscience’s sake, you cannot hold her responsible for events that transpired when she was not in office!

 

Point Seven: Olumhense wrote, In a speech after she left office, Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala said: “General Abacha looted about $3-5 billion from the Nigerian treasury in truckloads of cash in foreign currencies, in traveler’s checks and other means. Most of these monies were laundered abroad through a complex network including some of the world’s best known banks.” Now, how does that prove his point? Isn’t it obvious that this writer is only attempting to insult our intelligence?

 

Point Eight: Olumhense wrote, the pioneer chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, and a very close friend of Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala, has confessed that the Obasanjo government was more corrupt than that of Abacha. This is another serious blunder. I thought the EFCC is saddled with the responsibility of stemming the tide of corruption. Since when has that become part of NOI’s job description? Even at that, her relentless commitment to tackle corruption has been so effective as to have earned her the name “Okonjo Wahala” by those whose corruption coffers are being ripped open.

 

Point Nine: Obasanjo was said to have indicted Mr. Jonathan’s government of squandering $35 billion of Nigeria’s foreign reserves since May 2007, saying the money may have been “shared.” This is another lame point begging for validation. It is too bad that Olumhense would use this as a point against the Finance Minister, thinking Nigerians would be as gullible as himself to accept it hook, line and sinker. If he possesses such evidence of corruption against Mrs Iweala, then his patriotic duty is to report her to the EFCC. People like him are responsible for the persistent lack of progress in Nigeria, because they will rather have a mediocre in charge of the economy.

 

Point Ten: The writer’s claim that the ‘Transforming Nigeria Document’ is not yet available is the easiest pointer to his malicious intentions as the article has long been published and has been in the public domain for nothing less than seven months. Anyone can simply Google and download the document from the National Planning Commission website: http://www.npc.gov.ng/vault/Transformation.pdf.

 

How come Olumhense did not see all the good things being done by the Finance Minister? Why did he not mention the reduction in recurrent expenditure, the bringing of oil subsidy profiteers to book, the ports reform, the Sovereign Wealth Fund, the poverty eradication and women empowerment policies and other good things being implemented by the minister? Olumhense is like the proverbial loafer who, whilst ignoring the life-sustaining functions of the sun, frequently complains that it casts shadows. Sonala Olumhense and people like him must realize that any fool can criticize, condemn and complain.

 

I pity the future of this country with people like him wielding whatever modicum of influence they have on hapless Nigerian readers with the liberty that their pen – or more appropriately – their computer and internet modem afford them. Olumhense’s argument is warped and his reasoning debased. People like him don’t amount to much on a penny worth of paper. And they make far worse administrators than the people they set out to criticise. It is obvious that Olumhense is the weakest link in all of Nigerian media given that he is an outright liar!

 

Ayodeji, a social commentator and community development advocate, writes from Lagos.

New Mini iPad unveils

The new iPad mini is projected on a screen during an Apple event in San Jose.

Two weeks ago, Apple CEO Tim Cook revealed the company had sold its 100 millionth iPad. Today, the tech giant is hoping to snap up even more of that market share with its highly-anticipated iPad Mini.

The announcement came at the same time as the fourth-generation iPad, also announced today (probably much to the chagrin of those who bought the new iPad just six months after it was unveiled).

The 7.2 mm iPad Mini weighs only 0.68 lbs, which makes it 53% lighter than the fourth generation iPad. The screen measures 7.9 inches, larger than many of the competing small-form tablets like the Nexus 7 (as Schiller enjoyed explaining at length in his presentation).

In an extensive side-by-side comparison with the Google Nexus 7, Phil Schiller explained how there was 49% more viewable area when navigating web pages, as well as a host of other reasons why the iPad Mini was superior. If you’re a budget shopper, that might not make enough of a difference: while Apple was announcing the iPad Mini, Google chose today to announce the price drop of its Nexus 7 16GB model to $199 — a tough move for Apple to fight against when the iPad Mini starts at $329 for the same size hard drive.

[ PHOTOS: iPad Mini unveiled by Apple ]

The iPad Mini will be available in two versions, a Wi-Fi only and a cellular-enabled one, which will be supported in Canada on many of the major networks like Bell, Rogers, Telus and Koodo, with LTE speeds where available. The Wi-Fi versions will be shipping first, with pre-orders beginning on October 26. Sales of the cellular versions will take place two weeks later.

Great attention has been paid to the shape of the iPad Mini, at least according to Jon Ive, design guru at Apple. He explained in a video that the thinner bezel of the edge has been designed to allow for one-handed maneuverability (note: I’m guessing Apple isn’t addressing the needs of those with tiny girly hands, like me) and comfortable holding, allowing you to use your free hand to navigate the screen.

CNET reports that the new iPad Mini will have 10 hours of battery life (at least, so says Apple), a front-facing FaceTime HD camera, rear-facing 5-megapixel iSight camera and a dual-core A5 processor.

Here’s how the iPad Mini pricing breaks down: for the Wi-Fi version, it’ll run you $329 for 16GB, $429 for 32 GB or $529 for 64GB. To have a cellular model, the prices jump to $459, $559, and $659 respectively. All prices are in U.S. dollars.