African Contestants at Miss Universe 2012 in Pictures

Miss Universe 2012, the 61st edition of the most prestigious beauty contest in the world.

Miss Angola 2012, Marcelina Vahekeni. Photo: Matt Brown, Miss Universe Organization / Miss Universe Organization Miss Angola 2012, Marcelina Vahekeni. Photo: Matt Brown, Miss Universe Organization / Miss Universe Organization

Miss Angola 2012, Marcelina Vahekeni. Photo: Matt Brown, Miss Universe Organization / Miss Universe Organization Miss Angola 2012, Marcelina Vahekeni. Photo: Matt Brown, Miss Universe Organization / Miss Universe Organization

Miss Botswana 2012, Sheillah Molelekwa. Photo: Matt Brown, Miss Universe Organization / Miss Universe Organization

Miss Botswana 2012, Sheillah Molelekwa. Photo: Matt Brown, Miss Universe Organization / Miss Universe Organization

 

Miss Tanzania 2012, Winfrida Dominic. Photo: Darren Decker, Miss Universe Organization / Miss Universe Organization

Miss Tanzania 2012, Winfrida Dominic. Photo: Darren Decker, Miss Universe Organization / Miss Universe Organization

Miss South Africa 2012, Melinda Bam. Photo: Matt Brown, Miss Universe Organization / Miss Universe Organization

Miss South Africa 2012, Melinda Bam. Photo: Matt Brown, Miss Universe Organization / Miss Universe Organization

Miss Nigeria 2012, Isabella Agbor Ojong Ayuk. Photo: Matt Brown, Miss Universe Organization / Miss Universe Organization

Miss Nigeria 2012, Isabella Agbor Ojong Ayuk. Photo: Matt Brown, Miss Universe Organization / Miss Universe Organization

Miss Namibia 2012, Tsakana Nkandih. Photo: Darren Decker, Miss Universe Organization / Miss Universe Organization

Miss Namibia 2012, Tsakana Nkandih. Photo: Darren Decker, Miss Universe Organization / Miss Universe Organization

Miss Mauritius 2012, Ameeksha Dilchand. Photo: Matt Brown, Miss Universe Organization / Miss Universe Organization

Miss Mauritius 2012, Ameeksha Dilchand. Photo: Matt Brown, Miss Universe Organization / Miss Universe Organization

Miss Ghana 2012, Gifty Ofori. Photo: Matt Brown, Miss Universe Organization / Miss Universe Organization

Miss Ghana 2012, Gifty Ofori. Photo: Matt Brown, Miss Universe Organization / Miss Universe Organization

Miss Gabon 2012, Channa Divouvi. Photo: Darren Decker, Miss Universe Organization / Miss Universe Organization

Miss Gabon 2012, Channa Divouvi. Photo: Darren Decker, Miss Universe Organization / Miss Universe Organization

Miss Ethiopia 2012, Helen Getachew. Photo: Matt Brown, Miss Universe Organization / Miss Universe Organization

Miss Ethiopia 2012, Helen Getachew. Photo: Matt Brown, Miss Universe Organization / Miss Universe Organization

Nigeria: PDP and its retooling strategies for 2015

EON USIGBE reports the two-day capacity-building retreat organised by the national leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as it begins the process of enlightenment of its critical stakeholders over the 2015 general elections.

THE Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), always wanting to have a head start, has commenced its preparations for the 2015 election even though the ruling party will not want anything to be said openly at this time about the election. It has a policy of not discussing 2015 because as President Goodluck Jonathan and the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the party argue, dabbling into the politics of 2015 now will be an unnecessary distraction for governments at all levels. The party faithful have mainly stuck to this position but it has hardly stopped discreet preparations by prospective aspirants around the country who want to assume vantage positions for themselves before the lid is officially lifted on campaigns. However, PDP has signaled that even when it wants to be seen as not showing interest in the 2015 polls at this time, it would not leave anything to chance in preparing its key stakeholders for the battle ahead.

Towards this end, between December 12 and 15, 2012, the party organised a two-day capacity building retreat in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, for its zonal/state publicity secretaries, organising secretaries, publicity and organisation staff of the national secretariat of the party and members of the resident press corps. Coordinated by the National Publicity Secretary of the party, Chief Olisa Metuh, the enlightenment retreat attracted resource persons from various fields of endeavour, including Governor Godswill Akpabio of Akwa Ibom State; PDP National Chairman, Alhaji. Bamanga Tukur, ;his predecessor, Dr. Okwesilieze Nwodo; PDP Board of Trustees [BoT] member, Chief Ebenezer Babatope; former Political Adviser to late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, Dr. Akilu Sani Indabawa; former presidential spokesmen, Mallam Abba Dabo and Olusegun Adeniyi, Senator Aniete Okon as well as a Media Consultant, Colet Odenigbo.
The PDP’s motivation for the retreat was to give the critical stakeholders a better idea of the internal workings of the party.

The National Organising Secretary of the party, Alhaji Abubakar Mustapha, explained this, pointing out that it sought to build capacities and capabilities required at all levels of the party to drive the vision of the 3Rs :Reconstruction, Reformation and Rebuilding) agenda of the present leadership. Beside the need to ensure uniformity in party organization and communication process, he informed that it was aimed at intimating zonal/state organizing secretaries and zonal/state publicity secretaries with the new policy direction concerning party administration and communication strategies.

Host Governor Akpabio held nothing back when he spoke at the event, criticising the party publicity machinery for not communicating enough, the achievements of PDP governors in the country, and wondering “if you don’t talk about your achievement, how would you know about your achievements?” He believed that the presence of PDP officials in Uyo for the retreat would acquaint them with the achievements of his PDP government, which may not have been known to the party officials.

To Akpabio therefore, it will be nice for the party officials to expose themselves more to the efforts of other PDP states so that they can have good selling points for the party. Akpabio was effusive about his own achievements, arguing that with what he has done in the last five years, he had proved that, contrary to speculation that the huge money allocated to Niger Delta states went down the drain, such resources could actually be utilized for concrete development.

“Before I became governor, what was the story in the Niger Delta? That so much money goes in there, but that there is nothing on the ground to show for such fund. But today, within five years of my being in office as a PDP governor, the story has changed. People are saying this governor is doing so much; where will he get the money to pay?” The governor was of the opinion that the PDP publicity machinery had lost the initiative to the opposition because the efforts of state governments of opposition political parties appear more celebrated in the public domain even when they are less than what their PDP counterparts have done.

Beyond this, Akpabio was concerned about the ongoing attempt to revisit the onshore/offshore abrogation. He reiterated to the participants at the retreat that such a move had the potential to break up the country. For him, the proponents of the move should rather concern themselves with issues that bind the country together than focus on divisive issues or creating ethnic, religious and tribal barriers. He said such divisive factors were responsible for the siting of refineries in places not close to their sources of raw materials. “Industries are cited on the basis of where the mineral is deposited. Refineries should have filled everywhere in the Niger Delta because they have the raw materials but they are saying don’t build refineries there.” He believes that there is the need for those behind the resurgent onshore/offshore debate to look inwards and find ways to increase their revenue base,” Akpabio stated.

On his part, Dr. Nwodo, who delivered a paper entitled, “Deepening Democracy through internal Party Democracy, Strategies for conducting Credible, Free and Fair Elections,” explained that the reason why many governors were under performing in office was because of the need to satisfy the godfathers who helped them to positions. He contended that such godfathers sit on large portions of state resources because such governors are in the habit of taking their state’s financial allocations to the godfathers who take away huge chunks for their personal use. The former party boss said what was left in the allocations was not always enough to implement developmental projects in the states.

Nwodo blamed the situation on the manner of selecting party candidates for election where he observed that rather than going through a free and fair process, candidates emerge because of the strength of their sponsors. He argued that leaders produced through robust internal democracy have a social contract with the people as in their conscience; they know they have made promises which they must fulfill. “They know that they may need to go back to the people to renew their mandate. In doing so, they must approach the people with a report card of their success with their current or past mandate.” The former Enugu State governor noted that the motivation of elected members to perform in office should be the trust of the people but “In our party, nay, Nigeria where we have replaced this with godfatherism, we continue to produce the leadership we complain about.”

In a keynote address he delivered at the occasion, Alhaji Tukur promised that the party would not compromise internal democracy but ensure that fairness guided its operations. Noting that the era of imposition of candidates or parallel lists of congresses was over, the party boss also stated that the “era where the wishes of the people are whimsically annulled as far as our leadership is concerned is far gone forever.” He said that his leadership intends to introduce strategies for national political re-engineering designed to achieve the desired energy, security, education, empowerment and environmental sustainability. “That way, our country Nigeria will be on the path to peace, unity and stable democracy, which are constant parameters of security and investment.”

Indabawa, who was the Political Adviser to late President Yar’Adua, warned that the PDP might run itself aground if it failed to adhere strictly to the values of internal democracy, Positing that the PDP’s major opposition is not other political parties but the PDP itself, he maintained that the party stands the risk of what he said is self-liquidation and now faces the big challenge of justifying the massive confidence that Nigerians had in it. Speaking on the topic, “Building Strong Party Chapters and Raising the Political Consciousness of Party Members,” Indabawa stressed the need for the party to uphold internal democracy in all its dealings to be in a position to build strong institutions as well as give Nigerians the quality leadership they expect from the party.

He outlined some of the challenges confronting the party to include erosion of confidence, diversity of interests and consensus building, party supremacy and god-father syndrome; emergent political forces and politics of relevance; elevation of factions over the party; lack of capacity to manage the party, among others.

He stated, “If positive changes along the lines discussed are not initiated and vigorously pursued, the PDP stands the risk of self- liquidation. After all, it is becoming self-evident that the only serious opposition to PDP is PDP itself. In this project of panel-beating and renewal, the party must search for that big idea that stands it out from the crowd. Institutions survive the dynamics of constantly evolving forces of time and space only if they are clearly identifiable by what they stand for. So, PDP’s strength is guaranteed if only it is organized around the defined big idea that gives it unique and distinctive identity. The mark of such a big idea is the political praxis that is unique to it. Without this, whatever strength is injected into the party will only be artificial and temporal.”

In his paper titled, “Connecting with the Public: The 10 Media Commandments,” former Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Olusegun Adeniyi, warned politicians to learn to treat reporters with dignity. Listing 10 pitfalls that politicians should avoid while dealing with the media, the Chairman of Editorial Board of Thisday, stressed the need for politicians to give the media up-to-date information. He stated: “if you must engage the media and you don’t not have ‘juicy’ information to give, make irresistible phrases. A dull press conference or press statement will not make the news just because it is coming from a big man. When they have failed to write it as you would have wished or you were innocently misquoted, ignore them. Only gross acts of bad faith and unfairness merit a complaint. You must recognize that there are hostile reporters and you also have the aggressive ones. If you think a story is misleading, inaccurate or unfair, call the reporter and say so calmly, yet firmly. With that you may win him/ her over. After all, believe it or not, reporters are human beings too,” he advised.

Chief Babatope advocated in his paper on “Motivational Method for Membership Recruitment, Retention and Loyalty,” that there should be fair spread of benefits of government economic programmes to as many members of the party as possible. He advised that the party at all levels must identify those who are genuine businessmen and who will need government support, saying that while governments must cater for the interests of the entire people of the country, the party must ensure that its active members benefit from the programmes.

After the two-day session, the participants at the retreat came up with a nine-point communique where they agreed that Nigeria is at a critical development curve and therefore, to move to the next level, the PDP must continuously improve on the workings of its processes and practices. The retreat urged members to show more interest in the management of the media while the PDP must engage in wide publicity and propagation of its policies, programmes and achievements to enhance greater understanding by the citizenry. It also advised the party leaders and all members to tap the full advantage of the social media such as facebook, twitter, etc, to combat negative perception as well as sell the agenda of the party.

Similarly, the retreat noted that there is no alternative to internal party democracy and to enhance this therefore, it recommended, as a matter of urgency, the introduction of e-registration and computerisation of party membership as this will ensure transparency in party electoral processes. On the strategic importance of the offices of organisation and publicity secretaries at all levels, participants agreed that they are vital for the progress and success of party and government policies and programmes and challenged them to rise up to the serial distortion of the achievements of PDP-led governments by the opposition.

Furthermore, the retreat advocated less turn-over of party officials to make for continuity and stability, stressing the need for the PDP to encourage loyalty and hard work through incentives, patronages, merit awards, letters of commendation among others.

The 130 participants at the retreat applauded the uncommon transformation of Akwa Ibom State under Governor Akpabio and noted his support and that of the people of the state towards the successful hosting of the event.
Nigerian Tribune

Zimbabwe Zanu (PF) is unelectable: analyst

Zanu PF has already blown its chances of winning the harmonized elections set for next year by fielding an unelectable Robert Mugabe as their presidential candidate, a political analyst has said.

Pedzisai Ruhanya, a director with the Zimbabwe Democracy Institute said as a result of its failure to change its leadership, the former ruling party is being ‘propelled into the wilderness by political and economic plans that repel voters.’

Speaking on SW Radio Africa’s Hidden Story program on Wednesday, Ruhanya predicted that after 32 years in power, at which he presided over the worst economy in the world, Robert Mugabe is now unelectable and so is ZANU PF.

‘Mugabe is going to turn 89 in February next year and will become one of the oldest political candidates to contest an election. Zimbabwe will reject him at the ballot box. The inability to change its leadership will almost certainly condemn ZANU PF to political history.

‘Zimbabweans cannot invest their future into an 89 year-old candidate and this is a quandary for ZANU PF and a huge problem for Mugabe and this is not opposition driven, it is self inflicted,’ Ruhanya said.

He said Mugabe failed to implement the GPA because that would also mean his defeat: ‘ZANU PF being aware that it has survived for 32 years because of repressive media and security laws would not dare implement the provisions of the GPA’

He emphasized that Mugabe abuses, disregards and celebrates violence, which has seen him survive for this long, including in his own party.

‘Violence is part of ZANU PF’s DNA and this is why they say ZANU PF ndeyeropa (ZANU PF is for blood). That is why in his own party Mugabe is not contested, he’s intolerant to internal democratic processes.

‘Now….what do you think will be his attitude when he is contested by a foreigner, someone outside ZANU PF. If you look back to 2008, the results are there for everyone to see,’ observed Ruhanya.

African Union Rep.(AMISOM) moving office to Somalia

Special Representative of the Chairperson of the African Union Commission for Somalia Mahamat Saleh Annadif said during a Tuesday (December 18th) meeting with Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud that he was relocating his office to Mogadishu, the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) announced.

“I am very happy to be once again in Mogadishu and look forward to deploying here on a more permanent basis in the coming weeks,” Annadif said during his two-day visit to Somalia. “I had a very fruitful discussion with President Mohamud and assured him of the African Union’s and AMISOM’s continued support for the stabilisation efforts of his government.”

“AMISOM has played a crucial role in helping Somalia overcome decades of strife and we will continue to support our Somali brothers and sisters as they move towards a new era of peace and stability,” he said.

Mohamud welcomed Annadif’s announcement that he plans to relocate his office to Mogadishu from Nairobi, according to Somali National News Agency.

Annadif also met with Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Fowsiyo Yusuf Haji Aadan and was briefed by senior AMISOM military, police and civilian officials before touring the new AMISOM headquarters, where he will be based.

Ethiopia postponed Eskinder Nega’s appeal again

ADDIS ABABA — Ethiopian journalist Eskinder Nega appeared in court on Wednesday as the prosecution had to re-explain the charges against the prominent blogger.  Eskinder also got the chance to defend himself before the court.

Eskinder Nega

Eskinder Nega

Eskinder made his court appearance with opposition leader Andualem Arage and two other opposition members.  They are all imprisoned on terrorism charges as they were found guilty earlier this year of having links with the outlawed group Ginbot 7 and trying to start Arab Spring-type demonstrations in Ethiopia.

The blogger was sentenced to 18 years in prison and Andualem was given a life sentence.

Eskinder Nega defended himself while lawyer Abebe Guta defended the others as they tried to appeal their sentences on Wednesday. Abebe said the prosecution was asked to justify the terrorist charges to the Federal Supreme Court after Eskinder and the others appealed their sentences last month.

“They tried to justify the former prosecution that they presented to the High Court.  They said that these people have connection with Ginbot 7 terrorist organization in Eritrea and these terror acts is sponsored terrorism,” Abebe explained,  “which means it is supported by the Eritrean government and because they are clandestine and because their membership is not official.  So in that case, if it is not official, if is clandestine, how do you discover that they have connection and link with the state sponsored terrorism of Eritrea and terrorist organization?”

Eskinder, Andualem and the others were all sentenced last summer under the anti-terrorism law.  Abebe said the latest developments at the Federal Supreme Court give him hope:

“The lower court didn’t consider our defense.  The lower court didn’t base its decision on the law and the facts in unity,” he noted.  “It took only one side of argument of the prosecution.  And we are happy that when the court evaluates deep into the fact and the law, maybe it can pass decision in favor of our clients.  It can set them free, it can reduce their punishment.  And it can also reprimand to the higher court for review.”

Ethiopia is among the top 10 countries with the most imprisoned journalists, according to the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists.

Government spokesman Shimelis Kemal denied the allegations as false:

“You can not name a single journalist who has been brought to a court and who has been convicted therefore on account on a statement that he has written,” he said.  “We have some people who happen to be serving as journalist in some newspaper.  It is true they have been prosecuted for matters that has nothing to with their journalistic activity.”

Eskinder, Andualem and the two other opposition members will appear in court again in January as they continue their appeal.  The judges of the Federal Supreme Court will then outline how the case will continue.

World Bank assists Ethiopia with 4bn Dollars

The World Bank launched today (December 19, 2012) Country Partnership Strategy (CPS) for Ethiopia in which the Bank planned to provide 4 billion US dollars to the country for the coming four years supporting its Growth and Transformation Plan (GTP).

“One of the key pillars we focused on in the strategy is job creation,” said World Bank Country Director Guang Zhe Chen, speaking at the launching ceremony of CPS held this morning at the Sheraton Addis. “This is one of the key areas Ethiopia needs to focus at the moment…It is because jobs fight poverty and create opportunities. CPS is not only about the future, it is also about effective implementations of existing programs,” he said.

CPS, which used to be called Country Assistance Strategy, started July 1, 2012 will be implemented till June 30, 2016.

Sufian Ahmed Minister of Finance and Economic Development of Ethiopia, on his part noted that CPS is a testimony of the long standing collaboration between the country and the World Bank. The minister also urged the Bank to deliver finance on timely manner and review implementations accordingly.

GTP, which was launched by the Government of Ethiopia two and half years ago, ambitiously targets to double the economy of country shifting it from agrarian to industrialized nation by 2015. “Our priority is to continue the momentum of inclusive and job creating growth in Ethiopia,” said Ahmed Shide, State Minister of MoFED, uploading the ‘double digit growth’ recorded for about the last eight years.

Ethiopia and World Bank began relationship in 1955 and currently the country is the largest beneficiary in Africa.

Among others, CPS new elements include: macroeconomic issues such as job creation and public sector effectiveness. While extending partnerships with regions, development partners from emerging economies and private sector, academician as well as NGOs.

It also aims to deploy to a larger extent analytical work to support evidence-based dialogue; resume the budget support agenda, which the bank suspended after the 2005 Ethiopian election crises. CPS plans also to gradually increase utilization of the recently approved Program for Results (PforR) instrument.

Two injured in Kenya blasts

Two people have been injured in two blasts in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, according to local media.

The blasts, in quick succession, happened outside Al Amin mosque in the Somali-dominated Eastleigh district of the capital Nairobi during the evening rush hour on Wednesday, police said.

The area has been the scene of numerous attacks suspected to be the work of Somali groups who object to Kenya’s
armed incursion into neighbouring Somalia.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack.

“There were two explosions and two people were injured near the Al Amin mosque in Eastleigh,” Moses Ombati, Nairobi’s police chief said according to Reuters.

“The two injured were civilians, we are not sure who is behind the attack and we suspect it was grenades.”

One person was injured in a grenade attack on Sunday, days after two separate strikes hit the Eastleigh area, injuring local lawmaker Yusuf Hassan.

Kenya has sent troops to pursue Somali militants it blamed for repeated security attacks and the kidnapping of two Western tourists within its borders.

Tensions have risen in the past two months in Eastleigh, commonly dubbed “Little Mogadishu” because of its large Somali population.

Some of Eastleigh’s population are refugees but many others are Kenyans of Somali ethnicity and illegal immigrants.

The wave of bombings, shootings and hand-grenade attacks blamed on Somali militants have hit the capital, the port city of Mombasa and towns near the frontier with Somalia, prompting Kenya on Tuesday to order all refugees and asylum seekers to report to camps and to bar them from living in towns.

Ethiopian Migrants Abused And Unwelcome In Yemen

Desperately seeking a future

Year on year the numbers of men women and children leaving Ethiopia in search of work and freedom from repression in one of the Gulf States and beyond is increasing. Lured by the often hollow prospect of earning enough money to support their family, United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) estimate around 85,000 men women and children, desperate and naïve, have this year, no matter the severe risks, made their way to Yemen, the hub of migration out of the Horn of Africa. In the last six years around 250,000 Ethiopians have made the dangerous journey into this very poor,deeply divided country besieged with internal problems,which has limited resources, the second highest rate of chronic child malnutrition in the world and where 45% of the population live in poverty.

Into this chaos step the Ethiopian migrants, who, unlike Somali’s have no refugee status, suffer from poor consular support and are seen by most Yemenis as an unwelcome burden. They sit low on the domestic workers hierarchy and, along with other African nationals are discriminated against throughout the Gulf region where xenophobia and racism has found expression in the region’s politics and government policies.

The majority of migrants leave the security of their home, the love and comfort of their families, not because they want to, but because they have, they believe, no alternative. Overwhelmingly young, 18–30 years of age, from rural or semi-rural environments, poorly educated with many lacking basic literacy, driven by poverty the majority go in search of work, whist around 25% are estimated to be from political opposition parties. The Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) who make up almost 50% of all registered migrants arriving in Yemen, and the Ogoden National Liberation Front (ONLF). Legitimate groups persecuted and branded terrorists, by the EPRDF government that in all but name, rules over a single party state and allows no form of political dissent or opposition, no matter the constitutional content to the contrary.

The influence of smugglers, masquerading under the acceptable guise of ‘broker’ on many vulnerable individuals living in rural areas, with no knowledge of the wider world, is great. Imbedded within the community they paint a picture of migration coloured by wealth and prosperity, opportunity and excitement. Accounts of horrific migration experiences are known, but all too often ignored,‘smoking kills’ deterring nobody. Arguments of self-persuasion and denial reinforced by brokers who see another victim, another human commodity, to be wrung dry. Migrants and smugglers alike are pushed to extremes, desperately trying to survive in a ‘dog eat dog’ world, dominated by an unjust, corrupt market economy, that persecutes the poor and concentrates unlimited wealth and power in the hands of the few; causing extreme inequality, hardship and unbridled human and environmental destruction. A system In which huge corporations, banks and financial institutions of the developed nations along with their allied governments condition and define developing countries as they try against all odds to haul themselves out of poverty.

Hopeless journeys made in hope

Djibouti city is the first major stage in the harrowing journey to Yemen, here or at sea all possessions, including mobile phones, cash and clothes are stolen, by smugglers, corrupt police or border guards. The journey to Djibouti’s capital is harsh and dangerous, in which many Ethiopian migrants die of starvation, dehydration or are killed by bandits. Trafficking is also serious a danger, Djibouti the US state department say is “a transit, source, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking… [Migrant] women and girls may fall victim to domestic servitude or forced prostitution after reaching Djibouti City, the Ethiopia-Djibouti trucking corridor, or Obock – the preferred crossing point into Yemen,” and gateway to the Gulf. Here migrants “have no access to food, safe drinking water or shelter from the sun,” the Danish Refugee Council (DRC) report, ‘Desperate Choices’, states, and wait for days or weeks for favourable conditions to cross the perilous waters of the Gulf of Aden, in flimsy boats manned by vicious criminal gangs. They have usually come from Ethiopia by truck, although occasionally the entire journey is made on foot, over weeks through one of the hottest, most inhospitable areas in the world. Some aren’t lucky enough to get to the port, in September last year, IRIN 15/11/11 report, 60 Ethiopian migrants were found dead about 120 km west of Djibouti’s capital.

Abduction murder and rape

More shocking even than the numbers of people is the violent treatment they face. Murder, abduction and ransom demands, torture, rape, sexual abuse and more rape, are the nightmares many are subjected to by criminal gangs and smugglers. And all in the pursuit, not of happiness, which they left behind, but $100 a month, to feed and clothe their families 1000 kilometers or more away.

On arrival in Yemen men and women are separated, wives taken from husbands, daughters from Fathers brothers from sisters. Trafficking and multiple rape of women is widespread, IRIN 12/03/12 state “the majority of the approximately 3,000 women held by smugglers in Haradh [on the border with Saudi Arabia] over the past year were raped, many of them repeatedly.”DRC relate this account from a 15-year-old boy, who “was captured by Abd al-Qawi’s gang. They tied a rope round my legs and hung me upside down and beat me almost to death for three days. I was made to watch an Ethiopian woman being raped and an Ethiopian baby about one year old being killed.”Cases of male rape, punishment for trying to stop the rape of a wife or sister, have also been documented.

On a positive note, deaths at the hands of smugglers have dramatically decreased, onlyto be replaced by anotheratrocity – abduction, the terrifying experience of the majority. With $100 – 300 being demanded from family members who can barely feed themselves, let alone pay a ransom. Torture and violence at the hands of hostage takers is brutal; pulling teeth, gouging eyes, driving nails through hands and feet, cigarette burns are all reported, and if ransoms are not paid, migrants, after this hell are often beaten to death. In March this year 70 Ethiopian men and women were discovered in Yemen’s Hajjah Governorate, again near the border with Saudi Arabia,the UN humanitarian news and analysis, reports, “their captors, they said, had beaten them with pipes, burned them with cigarettes and poured liniment in their eyes making them scream in pain.” This horrific incident indicative of many follows close on the heels of the killing of three Ethiopian men in January, shot while trying to escape from smugglers. They had made the arduous journey from rural Ethiopia to Yemen, full of hope, only to be tortured and finally murdered.

The ordeal of women begins in Djibouti, DRC report an Ethiopian man recounting the sea passage when “four Yemeni smugglers were on board the boat. They raped the girls in front of us, we were not able to move or to speak, and those girls were already sold to Yemeni traffickers.” Many are abducted and held captive, sometimes for months on end, their experiences are harrowing in the extreme, DRC tell of a 16 year old girl from Wollo who was imprisoned for six months and repeatedly raped by gang members. Far from being the exception the majority relate incidents of sexual abuse, with “many reporting being raped at almost every stage in their journey and stay within Yemen.” They “are often captured, kidnapped and disappear and it is believed they are trafficked for sexual or domestic slavery”. It is unclear where women are trafficked, it is suggested they are sold to Saudi families as “virtual slaves”, many no doubt end up in some kind of sex trade, those that eventually make it out of Saudi Arabia relate incidents of rape at the hands of brokers or employers. The horrific stories are endless, extreme abuse and brutality by vicious criminals who are destroying lives in the thousands, and it seems, with impunity. Those victims lucky enough to make it home need therapeutic support and time to gently heal, the Ethiopian government in partnership with international and national NGO’s, in addition addressing the reasons why their citizens are leaving home, need to provide professional care to help the victims overcame such trauma.

Yemeni collusion

The smugglers are organized and well armed, raiding their houses, the Chief of Police for Haradh District that borders Saudi Arabia, where 4,000Ethiopians currently await repatriation, said, Reuters report, “we face fierce resistance and shootouts. It’s like fighting an insurgency… As long as these people keep arriving the smugglers will keep taking them. There is nothing we can do.” The Yemeni and Ethiopian governments have been discussing ways to present “all facilities required to return the Ethiopian refugees to their home,” said the Yemeni Interior Minister, with standard political ambiguity, failing to mention the brutal criminality taking place inside his country, the security services corruption and the complete lack of police activity to apprehend the smugglers, protect the migrants and bring the trafficking to an end.

The Yemeni authourities shamefully complicit in the violence are portraying Ethiopian and other migrants as the cause of and reason for the increased level of extreme criminality, and as UNHCR report with internal instability giving riseto “reduced police presence…[that is] giving human traffickers and smugglers more room to operate.” And in a sign that suggests furtherstate collusion with criminal gangs, we are informed that police activity “is also frequently preventing patrols along Yemen’s shores by humanitarian teams as they try to reach new arrivals before the smugglers.” Corruption is endemic, with security officials coordinating with smugglers on the borderwith Saudi Arabia, “a climate of collusion and low political will to apprehend and prosecute smugglers is allowing the trade and abuse of migrants to flourish” (Reuters). The country is run, a military officer on the payroll of the smugglers to the tune of $2,000 a month says, “by tribes not policemen: these people are my friends.” ‘These people’ are turning a bind eye to the murder, rape and trafficking of innocent migrants seeking work to feed their families.

The right to be free and safe

The realization of freedom for the people is the solemn duty of the Ethiopian government, it is the foundation of democracy without which no true and lasting human development will take place, it is however a duty regarded by the TPLF/EPRDF with contempt and disregarded totally. The quest and heartfelt desire of the people of Ethiopia is for social justice and liberty not migration to the Gulf or beyond. They are deeply proud, dignified and many devoutly religious, who love the land of their birth. Overwhelmingly they risk life and limb not in search of material wealth but to escape economic hardship and political imprisonment at the hands of a highly repressive regime that seeks total control and denies all freedom of speech, acknowledged as a human right in the federal constitution.

The political space, narrow in the extreme must be opened, to allow, indeed encourage political and social participation and responsibility. Participation feared only and always by the dictator, would enrich the society, allowing the free flow of ideas to address the many issues facing the country. Such inclusive measures, in keeping with the time and the aspirations of the people would cultivate an atmosphere of hope and strengthen the community. A nationwide programme to raise awareness of the dangers inherent in migration via Yemen and to Gulf countries more broadly, aimed at deterring the unknowing is an imperative responsibility of the government, designed and delivered perhaps in collaboration with international NGO’s working throughout the country, further facilitating involvement and cooperation.

The non-partisan distribution of development aid, an ignored legal requirement, would be a positive step in bringing relief from extreme economic hardship and curtailing migration. Currently, grain fertilizer and food, are selectively distributed by regime stooges based, not on need, but on political affiliation. Ethiopia’s primary donors, America Britain and the European Union, have a responsibility to ensure this is addressed, in addition to insisting the Ethiopian government observes human rights, adheres to federal and international law and dismantles mechanisms of state repression. All such steps would build confidence in change, reducing the need to migrate. Development that does not address humanitarian needs justly, and denies the observation of basic human rights enshrined in law, pollutes the notion of change, allows state corruption and limits government responsibility to the realization of targets set by international institutions seeking to maximize their return and build political/economic models of conformity and control.

In accordance with the responsibilities of office, the Ethiopian government must take all necessary steps to safeguard its citizens.Appropriate consular support is essential in offering protection, advice and sanctuary to migrants, no matter their political affiliation or ethnicity. Urgent, sustained and coordinated efforts are needed by the affected countries law enforcement agencies and judiciary to close down the criminal networks, route out corruption and safeguard migrants. The innocent men women and children from Ethiopia making an impossible choice, with they see no alternatives, are not the villains in this ongoing human tragedy they are the victims trapped in a terrifying nightmare.

Graham Peebles is Director of The Create Trust, www.thecreatetrust.org A UK registered charity (1115157). Running education and social development programmes, supporting fundamental Social change and the human rights of individuals in acute need. Contact , E: graham@thecreatetrust.org

A Tale Of Two Sudans

A Tale Of Two Sudans
If the two Sudans can resolve their differences, the two countries can emerge as powerful resource-based economies.
When Southern Sudan emerged as the world’s newest nation after breaking away from Sudan (also called North Sudan) in 2011, it was clear the secession had to be followed up with reforms and adjustments in both countries.

While South Sudan’s social and economic indicators are poor, there is tremendous scope of using its oil revenues to elevate the standard of living of its 8.3 million people.

“Social indicators are generally well below regional norms, and the country’s infrastructure is almost non-existent (there are only 100 kilometers of paved roads, mainly in the capital Juba),” notes the IMF.

Revenues from crude oil can help improve the social and economic indicators, which are said to be far below regional levels.

“Although South Sudan has sizeable economic potential, major challenges will need to be overcome if this potential is to be realized,” says the IMF.

Among these challenges are lack of strong infrastructure and institutions and poor labour skills.

“A pre-condition for addressing these challenges is the achievement of a lasting settlement of bilateral issues and tensions with Sudan.”

The country produces around 300,000 barrels per day of crude oil, but its exports have been hampered by excessive transportation fees imposed by Sudan. The northern neighbour has demanded $32-36 per barrel as fee to cross its border, while the south has offered $1 as fee.

Co-operation will be important as the two countries remain interdependent for their oil industry. Southern Sudan has most of the resources, while the north has much of the infrastructure, including refining and logistical infrastructure.

While there are three refineries in North Sudan with a total refinery capacity of 122,000 barrels per day, Southern Sudan has none.

The Energy Information Administration, the U.S. Department of Energy’s research arm, says the two countries’ combined crude reserve range anywhere between 4.2 billion barrels to 6.7 billion barrels, much of it locked in Muglad and Melut Basins.

“Due to civil conflict, oil exploration prior to independence was mostly limited to the central and south-central regions of the unified Sudan,” the EIA notes. “Natural gas associated with oil production is mostly flared or re-injected. Despite known reserves of 3 trillion cubic feet (Tcf), gas development has taken the backseat to oil development and gas exploration has been limited.”

Crude production in the two countries had averaged 450,000 bpd in 2011, but since appears to have fallen as the two countries failed to agree on security and export arrangements.

Latest data available for the countries, show exports averaged 330,000 bpd in 2011, with China accounting for two thirds of the exports, and Malaysia (30,000 bpd) and Japan (25,000 bpd), absorbing the remainder.

While analysts expects Sudan and Southern Sudan to increase exports in 2013, for now the production disruptions are destabilising both Sudan and Southern Sudan.

Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir s’ government in Khartoum is facing unrest and tensions as the stalemate with its southern neighbour continues.

He is also wanted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity and war crimes in Darfur.

“The regime in Khartoum is in crisis, faced with multiple challenges that, combined, profoundly threaten its existence and Sudan’s stability,” notes the International Crisis Group. “The economy is in a freefall that any oil deal with South Sudan will only slow, not arrest.”

Indeed, the ICG believes that the President’s tactics of dividing and ruling has made a bad situation worse, and Sudanese hope that a coup could lead to his ouster. Recent arrests of key security figures for allegedly planning a coup underlines the simmering tensions in the country.

 

“A key hurdle – though not the only one – is President Omar Hassan al-Bashir. He has further concentrated authority in a small circle of trusted officials and is unwilling to step aside”, says EJ Hogendoorn, Crisis Group’s Horn of Africa Project Director. “Many hope for regime change via coup or military overthrow but have not considered the dangers”.

Clearly, the secession of southern Sudan has not resolved the challenges facing the two countries.

“Sudan needs a truly comprehensive peace agreement, not a partial settlement that serves the government’s divide-and-rule tactics and perpetuates the unacceptable status quo,” the ICG notes. “At the same time, the NCP needs to be part of any transition. Leaving it out in the cold would be costly. Its elites are too powerful to ignore, and the opposition is too divided and inexperienced to rule alone.”

Sudan’s economy is set to decline 11.1% this year and a further 0.6% next year, as the secession of South Sudan led to the country losing around three-quarters of its oil production, half of its fiscal revenues, and about two-thirds of its international payment capacity, says the International Monetary Fund.

“The authorities’ reform package of June 2012 is an important step toward restoring macroeconomic stability and reducing the economy’s dependence on oil,” says the IMF. “They would allow macroeconomic conditions to improve gradually starting in 2014, with non-oil growth picking up to about 4.5%, inflation declining to single digits, and the fiscal deficit dropping to about 1.5% of GDP.”

CHINESE INFLUENCE
The Chinese could wield some influence in bringing the two parties together, especially as the Asian giant has huge investments in the country.

 

Chinese companies led the development of the Sudanese oil sector, led by the China National Petroleum Company (CNPC). Not only was CNPC the main developer of the fields, but also in the construction of the pipeline to Port Sudan.

Other resource companies also believe in the long-term potential of the two Sudans.

Canaco Resources Inc., a Toronto-listed company, bought Shark Minerals Inc. on December 17, lured by its massive acreage in Sudan.

The company is currently focused on exploring the Galat Sufur Project, a 20,020 square kilometre land package in northern Sudan near the border with Egypt that forms part of the Arabian-Nubian Shield, also known as Galat Sufur.

“Galat Sufur has had little, if any, modern exploration activity prior to Shark and is considered prospective with many artisanal miners active within the region,” the company said in a statement. “Shark has been exploring Galat Sufur for the past 12 months and has identified several drill targets and an initial drill program is under way.”

In addition, Shark controls the 4,846 square kilometre Ghazal Project near the Eritrean border in north-eastern Sudan.

Sudan is also looking to seal loans and financing agreements worth USD4-billion in the New Year, according to Suna, the state news agency.

The Crisis Group says Sudan must reform or face a civil war – which would negatively impact its southern neighbour.

“Most Sudanese know what is necessary to end decades of conflict. Even before independence in 1956, it was clear that power and resources should be shared more equitably with marginalised regions. The historical focus was often on South Sudan, but other areas have suffered as well,” says the ICG, arguing that other regions have also risen in armed revolt for greater say in resource development.

“This dynamic will not change unless there is fundamental structural reform of how the country is governed, and all its political forces – the NCP, the traditional parties, the SRF and youth groups – work together to create a more inclusive and representative government that accepts and respects the tremendous diversity of the Sudanese peoples.”

© alifarabia.com 2012

5 Indian sailors kidnapped from ship off the coast of Nigeria’s oil-rich delta

A shipping company says five Indian sailors have been kidnapped off the coast of Nigeria’s oil-rich southern delta.

A statement Wednesday from Medallion Marine said the men had been taken when their tanker was attacked Monday.

The company said officials were working with Nigerian authorities to free the men.

Nigeria’s oil-rich delta is a kidnapping hotspot, as militant and criminal gangs target foreign oil workers, as well as middle- and upper-class Nigerians.

On Monday, kidnappers abducted four South Koreans and a Nigerian working for Hyundai Heavy Industries Co.