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Year of no learning in Cameroon

Posted NDI EUGENE NDI in Yaoundé

on  Monday, March 20   2017 at  17:23

Cameroonian Prime Minister Philemon Yang's recent weeklong mission to the Northwest has failed to resolve a protracted schools' crisis.

Schools remain closed in one of the two English speaking regions, where lawyers and teachers have remained on strike since late last year.

During his five-day sojourn, Mr Yang held talks with traditional rulers, parents and other education stakeholders and administrative authorities in a bid to effect the re-opening of schools.

At all his stops, Mr Yang told the people that the prolonged school boycott was an embarrassment to the entire nation.

“The greatest empowerment you can ever have is education. Don’t give it away for anything. It is a wrong place to go,” he said in the city of Bamenda during the visit, his second official mission to the region since the beginning of the strike.

The classrooms

The PM’s latest back-to-school mission followed an announcement that the government had “exceptionally extended” registration for the 2017 national examinations—to lure teachers and learners back to the classrooms and avert a wasted academic year.

The council of the Cameroon General Certificate of Education (GCE) Board declared it had “exceptionally authorised” its registrar to “exceptionally re-open registration” across the country till March 20.

The deadline that was initially fixed for December 30, 2016 was moved to January 27 and later to February 28, because of the persistent strike.

The board’s decision, according to Dr Humphrey Ekema Monono, the GCE registrar, was because of the embarrassingly low numbers for the 2017 exams.

Trade unions

According to the board’s statistics, just slightly over 70,000 candidates had registered to sit for the 2017 examinations as of February 28—a figure estimated to be about three times lower than last year's.

As at the same time last academic year, over 183,000 candidates had registered for the exams.

The chairman of the examination board, Prof Peter Abety, said the decision to extend registration was part of resolutions of “an important” extra-ordinary session of the examination board held on March 3.

He said besides regular members of the board, representatives of teachers’ trade unions, private and religious institutions and those of the teachers’ associations of the two English speaking regions also attended the session.

All examinations

They “unanimously called” on teachers and learners to resume classes latest March 7.

There were about 800,000 learners (from kindergarten to university) in the two regions, according to estimates by Mr Semma Valentine, the acting National Executive Secretary General of Cameroon Teachers Trade Union (CATTU).

The authorities also reached a decision to adjust the examination calendar.

“There would be some minor adjustments on the examination timetable, but all examinations organised by the Cameroon GCE board will be held in 2017,” Prof Abety said in reaction to popular opinion that the teachers’ work boycott had jeopardised examinations organised by the board.

But details of the minor changes had yet to be made public.

However, the Minister for Secondary Education, Mr Jean Ernest Massena Ngalle Bibehe, announced the ministry had published a new schedule to make up for the already lost teaching and learning hours.

to bad

He said teaching hours had been increased to 17 per week, from March 6 to May 13, 2017.

In addition, students of examination classes would have to attend lessons during the two-weeks Easter holidays from March 31 to April 17, while those in other classes would attend for one of the two weeks.

He appealed to all the education stakeholders “to put all hands on deck” for the full implementation of the above measures.

“We are in school but there are no students to teach,” a teacher in Bamenda said on phone last Thursday.

There are fears that Unesco may declare a blank school year if the education stalemate continues.

Heavily militarised

The Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Academic Affairs at the Catholic University of Cameroon (CATUC) in Bamenda, Prof Paul Nkwi, welcomed the government’s move but feared “students would be psychologically disadvantaged” should the schools eventually resume this week.

He said students in the “heavily militarised” Northwest and Southwest regions were “like those in war zones” whose psychology and reaction to things may not be the same.

Besides a heavy deployment of troops, especially to the opposition stronghold of Bamenda, the Yaoundé government had also disconnected internet services to the protests-hit regions.

Should schools eventually re-open in the regions, Prof Nkwi said, educators would have an uphill task of knowing “how to adapt the learning process to a situation of students who are coming out from a war zone, because that’s what they are”.

Lawyers in the two English speaking regions of the Central African state began a strike in October 2016 and teachers joined a month later, protesting against alleged longstanding marginalisation by the predominantly French speaking Yaoundé regime.

Federal system

Demonstrators have been calling for a return to the federal system of government as obtained in the country before 1972.

Several people have been killed and many others arrested in the wake of the protests—a situation that has attracted worldwide condemnations.

According to Prof Nkwi, the lawyers’ and teachers’ protest had just opened a Pandora's box.

“It is not only teachers and lawyers. There are other groups coming up. I don’t want to cite one group which told me that they are also going to table their own grievances,” he said.

Was an option

Some other groups in Cameroon have long been advocating an outright secession by the two English speaking regions, even before the lawyers’ and teachers’ strike.

But government that had recently admitted there was an Anglophone problem, maintains that Cameroon is “one and indivisible” and neither federalism nor separation was an option.

“Anglophones are not seeking to secede; they are seeking to be part of Cameroon with a voice,” Prof Nkwi who is also a seasoned English speaking Cameroonian Socio-political Anthropologist, said.

Cameroon’s Anglophones have held grudges against their Francophone brothers for duping them in a post-independence reunification deal where they expected to be equal partners. They often complain of being treated as second-class citizens.

Equal status

In 1961, a vote was held in the then Southern Cameroons—today's English-speaking Northwest and Southwest regions, over whether to join Nigeria, which had already obtained independence from Britain, or the Republic of Cameroon, which had obtained independence from France. Voters elected to become part of French speaking Cameroon, and the country practised a federal system with equal status until 1972.

But observers think the French speaking part has failed to uphold this equal status.

“Francophones have failed to understand that before the unification we came from two different backgrounds; one group that had enjoyed indirect rule where the British gave them the capacity and the leeway to govern and to develop their own culture and the other one was indirect where the French imposed on them,” Prof Nkwi intimidated.

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Why African cities are ranked so low

Posted MARYANNE GICOBI in Nairobi

on  Sunday, March 19   2017 at  17:02

If you are an expatriate and have the luxury of choosing the country to be deployed to, you may as well pick Vienna, the capital of Austria.

For eight years in a row, it has been ranked the world’s number one city offering quality living for expatriates by Mercer, an international human resource consultancy, in its 19 Annual Quality Living Survey released this week.

But one can see why the Austrian capital offers quality life. The country is rich in history and art, offering a vibrant culture scene; its rents and public transport costs are relatively cheap compared with those in other Western capitals.

Vienna prides itself of being place where the cafe society was invented. Nowhere has the art of relaxing over coffee or hot chocolate been elevated to such heights, or accompanied by such good cake and quite so much whipped cream.

Quality of life

From the survey, Vienna is closely followed in the category of quality of life by Zurich in Switzerland and Auckland in New Zealand, Munich in Germany and Vancouver in Canada.

In Africa, only five cities, three of them in South Africa, feature in the top 100 ranking of quality living.

These are led by Port Louis in Mauritius, topping the Africa chart and taking position 84 globally.

Durban is ranked highest in quality of living in Africa and is ranked 87th globally, closely followed by Cape Town at 94 and Johannesburg at 96.

Unusual services

Durban is friendly for expatriates because it offers easy access to properties, permits, international schools and unusual services like where to get prescription drugs for pets. The city has an online community for international workers where they share experiences and recommend places to get good service.

There are no internationally agreed standards on what constitutes a liveable city, however, Mercer says international workers are keen on a country’s infrastructure when determining the quality of a city they are moving to.

Expatriates also look at a city’s supply of electricity, drinking water, telephone and mail services, and public transportation as well as traffic congestion and the range of international flights available from local airports.

Smooth traffic

It is in these qualities that many cities in East Africa fail. Nairobi, Kampala and Dar es Salaam suffer frequent power outages, along with some of the worst traffic gridlocks on the continent, with Nairobi residents spending almost six hours a day in traffic, costing the economy $370 million annually.

“Before I moved to Kenya, I had no idea that errands could consume so much of my life. Recently, I had to apply for a new Congolese visa, which meant going into Nairobi’s city centre. Getting there means enduring some of the worst traffic in the world,”

The Economist’s Africa correspondent Daniel Knowles wrote recently.

“A journey that should take 15 minutes in smooth traffic can take several hours.

“But even more mundane things take time. Without a proper postal system, if you need to send something to somebody, you have to deliver it yourself.  Online shopping hasn’t really taken off, so when you need groceries you have to go and get them. And everything involves driving around and so getting stuck in traffic jams.”

Such indeed is the life of many expatriates who have moved to Kenya. Take Jacky Habib, a journalist from Canada attached to a media house in Nairobi as an Aga Khan Foundation fellow. She has resorted to using boda boda (motorcycle taxi) to beat traffic to and from work. On weekends, she uses the cab hailing service Uber, because a number of locations in Nairobi are not properly served by the public vehicle service.

She does not also feel completely safe either in the streets of Nairobi and will not carry her laptop when walking in the city.

Cities in East Africa also lack efficient public transport systems with none of them having a light commuter train service, a popular and inexpensive means of transport in developed and recently many visionary developing countries.

Urban middle class

In Nairobi, Kampala and other East African cities, the common means of transport for the urban middle class are loosely regulated minibus taxis that run on no schedule or fixed fare.

Recently, Dar es Salaam launched a rapid bus transit system after remodelling major city roads and has reduced commuting time across the city by more than half.

Nairobi’s commuter train system is nothing near world class. It only serves one side of the city, is slow by any international standards and only makes four trips a day — two in the morning and two in the evening — with no guarantee of reliability.

“Most Nairobians walk to get around,” notes Mr Knowles, an observation only an expatriate finds strange. For a majority of Kenyans, it is the only option.

Kigali in Rwanda, has some semblance of order in its traffic management, but its public transport is insufficient. The city is clean, security is commendable by the region’s standards but rents are high because of a scarcity of international standard housing.

Kigali is well connected to the major international airports of Nairobi, Addis Ababa and Johannesburg, but it still has to compete with Nairobi and Dar es Salaam for connectivity.

All cities in East Africa suffer from water scarcity, and water service is one of the major criteria used by expatriates when ranking cities.

Convenience

The world over, infrastructure is a big attraction not just for expatriates but also for local populations. According to the Mercer report, Singapore has the best infrastructure in the world, followed by the German cities of Frankfurt and Munich that tie in second place.

Baghdad and Port au Prince have the worst city infrastructure. This can be explained by the fact that Iraq is basically still a war zone and Port au Prince has still to recover from the devastating earthquake of 2010; also, Haiti is the poorest country in the Northern Hemisphere.

Singapore’s infrastructure is centuries ahead of that of countries in Africa as the country restricts the number of cars on its roads to control traffic and air pollution and encourages commuters to use bicycles and the public train. Taxis are a popular form of public transport as the fares are relatively cheap compared with those in other developed countries.

In the Middle East, Dubai is ranked highest for quality of living across the region, followed closely by Abu Dhabi, also in the United Arab Emirates.

Dubai has a huge number of immigrants — although the almost six million people that come as workers cannot exactly be classified as expatriates — but its efficient public transport of bus and light train, makes commutes easy for both workers and tourists.

to bad

“Cities that rank high in the city infrastructure list provide a combination of top-notch local and international airport facilities, varied and extended coverage through their local transportation networks, and innovative solutions such as smart technology and alternative energy,” said Slagin Parakatil, a principal researcher at Mercer responsible for the quality of living research.

“Most cities now align variety, reliability, technology, and sustainability when designing infrastructure for the future,” he added. None of the East African cities appear in the top 100 cities conducive for expatriates, considering most urban areas are crowded, hard to navigate and lack proper roads, are inadequately served by public transport, with poor public administration and local authorities bedevilled by corruption.

Other factors

The other standards used to rank cities by international workers is a country’s political stability, media freedom, availability of international schools and sewerage systems, not forgetting minor things like availability of household appliances.

Mr Parakatil said: “A city’s infrastructure, or rather the lack thereof, can considerably affect the quality of living that expatriates and their families experience on a daily basis. Access to a variety of transport options, being connected locally and internationally, and access to electricity and drinkable water are among the essential needs of expatriates arriving in a new location on assignment.

“A well-developed infrastructure can also be a key competitive advantage for cities and municipalities trying to attract multinational companies, talent and foreign investment,” he added.

Reliable data

Not surprisingly, African cities dominate capitals offering the lowest quality of life with Brazzaville in the Republic of the Congo, N’Djamena in Chad, Khartoum in Sudan and Bangui in the Central African Republic ranked the four lowest cities for quality of living on the continent.

A country’s development helps companies determine their expatriate compensation packages rationally, consistently and systematically using reliable data.

They assist by providing incentives to reward and recognise the effort that employees and their families make when taking on international assignments. They remain a typical practice, particularly for difficult locations.

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Kenya’s super rich prefer Europe for second homes

Posted ANNIE NJANJA

on  Tuesday, March 14   2017 at  12:50

Kenya’s super rich in search of a second home are likely to make the investment outside the country with most preferring to buy the residences in Europe, a global realtor says in new findings.

The UK, according to the 2017 Knight Frank Wealth Report, is the most preferred location by the dollar millionaires.

South Africa features as the second most sought-after place as Mauritius, Spain and the US close the top-five preferred list.

The top five locations remained hotspots mainly for their convenience to dollar millionaires frequenting the countries for business.

Studying abroad

The residences are also an alternative accommodation option to the kin of the super rich studying abroad with London—as well as other UK cities—being one of the most favoured higher education destinations.

The recently published report indicates that an overwhelming 68 per cent of Kenya’s Ultra High Net-Worth Individuals (UNHWI) prefer to take their children to study in foreign countries.

In contrast, it emerged that only 28 per cent of global super rich preferred learning institutions outside their countries of origin, which might as well be an indictment of the local education system.

Make the purchase

“These locations are considered as investments safe havens by the super rich. If you also look at the percentage of the super rich sending their children to foreign land for studies, it makes sense for them to own a home in those countries for convenience and because they have the money to make the purchase anyway,” said Mr Andrew Shirley, the Editor Knight Frank Wealth Report.

On average, the report says, the super rich in Africa own 2.7 homes while 3.2 is the global rate.

It predicts that 37 per cent of Africa’s UNHWI were likely to buy homes outside their birth countries in the next two years, where most (80 per cent) prefer Europe.

Money laundering

Francophone Africa’s rich traditionally opt for Paris while Anglophone Africans go for Britain. The home purchases have been the focus of several western anti-graft and money laundering watchdogs particularly for buyers from oil-rich countries.

About 46 per cent, 42 per cent, 41 per cent and 29 per cent of Latin America, Middle East, Russian and Asia’s UNHWI, respectively, are set to acquire another home outside their country of residence in the coming two years.

Top on the list of factors that influence a residence purchase is the lifestyle of the super rich and personal security.

The rating

They also consider the rating of the location on the safe-haven scale, the education for children, capital appreciation opportunities, access to healthcare and transport links.

The report also ranked Kenya as one of the global top real-estate investment hotspot after the UK, South Africa, Canada and Germany.

Kenya ranked high in personal residences scale with four per cent of the global HNWI looking to own a home in the country.

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How Sierra Leone is using technology to fight graft

Posted KEMO CHAM in Freetown

on  Monday, March 13   2017 at  17:07

In a room on the first floor of the Sierra Leone National Lottery Company building, the telephone lines are unusually busy.

A woman attendant, aided by a male colleague, is busy responding to anonymous callers.

This is part of the Pay No Bribe (PNB) campaign, the latest approach by the government in its crusade against bribery, considered the most prevalent form of corruption in the country.

The callers are guided through a set of three questions: Did a government official demand bribe while they sought a service; did they pay the bribe; or did they meet an honest person who demanded no bribe?

The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) says various studies had pointed to petty corruption, prevalent in the public sector, as having the most profound effect on the livelihoods of the masses, depriving them of much-needed and sometimes lifesaving services.

The crucial sectors

Six government ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs), covering the crucial sectors of health, education, security, water and electricity, were being piloted under the PNB, an innovative reporting platform that collects real time data through three sources, the toll-free line [515] being just one.

Citizens can also download an app on a mobile device and report verbally. On downloading the app, an automated voice prompt leads you through the questions.

They can also log on to a dedicated website [www.pnb.gov.sl] to report.

The system is designed to let anyone report with ease and anonymity, say ACC officials, adding that the idea was to have people even report against their own relatives or friends.

Dominant languages

Since it is the ordinary person that is targeted, the project caters for the three dominant languages in the country - Krio, Mende and Temne.

The idea of the PNB was inspired by the 2013 Afrobarometer report which ranked Sierra Leone worst among 34 African countries, with two thirds of those surveyed admitting bribing an official to get public service.

That report rated the police as the most corrupt institution across the entire continent.

Nigeria, Kenya and Sierra Leone were rated the worst for police corruption.

In Sierra Leone, the police have topped almost every national survey on anti-graft since then, including the first ever quarterly report of the PNB, released at the end of February.

Pay a bribe

Out of a total of 7,027 reports recorded, covering October, November and December 2016, 80 per cent, representing 5,602 people, reported paying a bribe. Another 12.5 per cent (885) reported not paying a bribe. Only 7.7 per cent (540) reported meeting an honest official.

Almost half the reports - 48.7 per cent – were made against the police. 23.2 per cent concerned health officials, while 22 per cent concerned the education sector.

Calls concerning electricity and water sector officials were 4.6 per cent and 1.3 per cent, respectively.

There were other interesting statistics from the report. For instance, it was found that men were 10 per cent more likely to pay a bribe than women.

The men were almost six times more likely than women to pay a bribe to the police, whereas women were four times more likely to pay a bribe than men for health services.

In the education sector, girls (47 per cent) reported slightly less bribery than boys (53 per cent). In terms of public utilities, men were more likely to pay a bribe for electricity services and women for water.

to bad

PNB is one of seven programmes under the President’s Recovery Priorities (PRP), on improving governance in the public sector arm of the UK-funded post Ebola recovery initiative designed to reposition the country to its pre-Ebola growth trajectory.

PRP is chaired by Presidential Chief of Staff Saidu Conton Sesay, who laments that corruption remained a significant challenge to Sierra Leone’s development.

“It diverts resources that should go into healthcare, education and infrastructure and erodes trust in public institutions,” he says.

Serious efforts to contain graft in Sierra Leone started back in 2000. Several legislative reforms have since been instituted but with little effect on the growing phenomenon, which has also become an obstacle for the country to source funding from a wary donor community.

In 2013, the failure to tackle corruption was one of the factors that cost Sierra Leone $300 million in US funding for development projects as part of the Millennium Challenge Corporation.

Remedial actions

The latest Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index shows that Sierra Leone dropped to 123 in 2016 from 119 the previous year.

PNB is not prosecutorial-oriented; it is designed to be used to provide prevention measures, to map out corruption trends and allow the rolling out of targeted interventions and provision of remedial actions.

Therefore, people do not report corrupt individuals; they report a particular department.

The platform basically captures the data and trends on corruption in the public sector, and the data is made public on its website.

ACC also shares detailed reports on monthly trends with MDAs, which use the data to address corruption at source through administrative action or systems and policy reforms.

Trends and patterns

The idea, explains Mr Nabillahi Musa Kamara, the Director of the National Anti Corruption Strategy, is that it shines a spotlight on trends and patterns so that relevant ministries can direct their resources more efficiently towards developing robust responses against institutionalised corruption. He says the intention is to promote change within institutions, rather than targeting or seeking to prosecute individuals who take bribes.

“It captures trends, identifies hot spots and problem areas. It looks at the big picture so that MDAs can work on creating change from within - through training and education, as well as new systems and policies,” says Mr Kamara, who is also the Programme Manager for PNB.

But while the idea is not to prosecute individuals, the Commission says it can use information obtained to launch sting operation on departments, which attract much attention.

Data collected

Mr Lewelyn O’Connor, a computer technician, supervises the call centre. His job includes analysing all data collected from all three reporting sources. He told the Africa Review that they get 100 calls a day on average

The centre is operational between 8am and 5pm, one hour more than the official working period.

Sixty per cent of the reports were received via calls, Mr O’Connor says, noting that the app downloads accounts for 30 per cent, while reporting via the web site was 10 per cent.

While people can call from anywhere in the country, focus was on five districts being piloted in the initiative, including the capital Freetown.

This approach

Analysis of the data collected is done weekly and reports sent to MDAs monthly. MDAs are expected to get back to ACC within seven days with remedial actions.

The Commission says with this approach, it can direct its resources to the right area of intervention.

Already, it has results to show. The police, acting on the monthly reports, say they cracked down on 21 illegal checkpoints between December 23, 2016 and January 12, 2017.

It also instituted a regular meeting of all crime officers and regional police commanders to formulate strategy on tackling bribery within the traffic division, the major point of focus.

Service charters

A number of other reforms have been initiated within the other MDAs covered by the PNB campaign, including the installation of giant billboards serving as service charters for key services provided by public service providers.

At the core of all this is the issue of transparency, says Mr Patrick Sandi, the deputy director of education and outreach at the ACC.

He says they were working on increasing visibility of the service charters across all public institutions so that citizens can identify legitimate charges.

“We will only reduce public sector corruption when we work together – the public, by reporting when they are asked to pay bribes, and the MDAs by identifying and changing the policies and procedures which allows corruption within their ranks to flourish.”

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Condom divides Sudan

Posted MOHAMMED AMIN in Khartoum

on  Tuesday, February 28   2017 at  10:32

Islamists and secularists are virtually at war in Sudan over a recent newspaper article on the condom usage and the concept of the faithfulness among couples.

And the author of the article, Ms Shamail Alnour, is in deep trouble. Radical Islamists, led by cleric Mohamed Ali Al-Gizoli, want her charged with apostasy.

The crime is punishable by a death sentence in Sudan.

Ms Alnour's article had explained how condom use could help stem the rising cases of HIV/Aids infections in the predominantly Muslim state. Ms Alnour works for the Al-Tayar daily newspaper.

Radical Sudanese Muslims are totally opposed to the distribution of condoms for protective sex, despite the fact that close to 80 per cent of the HIV/Aids infections in the country were through sexual intercourse.

Rights activists

On Ms Alnour's defence are fellow journalists, human rights activists and the opposition parties.

Many were questioning the introduction of the religious discourse in the ideological and and social and political issues among Muslims in general and Sudanese in particular.

Furthermore, questions were being raised about the impact of the Alnour discourse on the spread of HIV/Aids in Sudan.

Ms Alnour, in her article, called for the differentiation between the core Islamic values and the practices by the Islamic countries which have adopted the Sharia (Islamic law).

More vulnerable

She said the Sudanese government had abandoned it’s commitment to provide healthcare to the citizens, yet invested heavily in the anti-condom campaign, thus making the youth more vulnerable to the HIV/Aids scourge.

However, Mr Al-Gizoli who considered a jihadist leader and a proponent of the Islamic State (Daesh), called on his supporters to wage a campaign for Ms Alnour's immediate trial.

In his recent Friday sermon, Mr Al-Gizoli strongly condemned Ms Alnour for her argument about the usage of the condom as a protection against the spread of the HIV/Aids.

"We will organise a wide campaign to bring this criminal to court for trial for apostasy,’’ Mr Al-Gizoli said.

The opposition

He further directed his followers to commence a campaign against all the "secularists’’ in the country.

‘’Those secularists, including journalists, wants to sabotage our community but we will not allow them to do that, we will eradicate them peacefully,’’ he vowed.

On the other hand, journalists, civil society organisations and the opposition political parties have vowed to protect the Sudanese journalists and the freedom of expression in the country. Sudanese Journalists Network (SJN) condemned the accusation levelled against Ms Alnour; terming them a serious threat to the media in Sudan.

"The Sudanese Journalist Network expresses its deep concern over the threat to the journalists by the extremists and it will be closely monitoring the situation to protect the Sudanese journalists,’’ SJN said in statement on Friday.

"We consider this as a serious setback to the freedom of expression in the country and we call on the authorities to take its responsibility to protect the press and the journalists in the country,’’ it urged.

Hundreds of Sudanese human rights activists have organised a campaign of solidarity with Ms Alnour on the social media. They have called on the anti-government movements and activists to stand against the 'terrorism', accusing the security organs of being behind the intimidation of the journalists.

The opposition political parties have equally condemned what they consider as a terror campaign against the freedom of expression in Sudan.

The Sudanese Congress Party, the Sudanese Communist Party and the National Umma Party were all unequivocal against their opposition to the campaign against Ms Alnoour.

Lawyers have also been roped in. The Sudanese lawyers' board for human rights condemned the accusations, vowing to raise a counter case against the Islamist leaders.

Targeted journalist

Rebel movements, including the SPLM-N, the Darfur-based Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM) and the Justice and Equality Movement, have also thrown their weight behind the targeted journalist.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), Sudan has the highest rate of HIV/Aids prevalence in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), with about 56,000 people living with the deadly virus. The infected include 3,500 children and 2,300 pregnant women.

A joint survey conducted by the UN and the Sudanese Aids Combating Programme, under the Ministry of Health, showed a national HIV/Aids prevalence rate of 1.6 per cent. However, some regions had higher prevalence of about 4.4 per cent, among refugees, and 4 per cent among sex workers.

"Sexual transmission is the main mode of infection (79 per cent), followed by 5 per cent lack of universal precautions and blood safety, and mother-to-child transmission,’’ the survey showed.

Sexual behaviour

"To prevent and control HIV/Aids transmission through sexual behaviour, it is important to encourage abstinence, discourage sex outside the marital boundaries and encourage traditional beliefs and practices that encourage the youth to get married.

"It is also important to raise the awareness regarding protected sex, including the use of condom and make condoms available for use,’’ the survey said.

Arguments have also been sparked about polio vaccination as a possible cause of HIV/Aids spread.

Radical Islamic leader Alsadig Abdullah Abdul Majid and his group have been campaigning against the vaccination organised WHO and the Ministry of Health, claiming the vaccines were imported from Israel, considered an enemy state.

The calls have negatively affected the vaccination campaign, despite the high rates of polio among the children in Sudan.

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South Africa and the xenophobia demon

Posted PETER DUBE in Pretoria

on  Monday, February 27   2017 at  15:48

Xenophobic violence is, once again, rearing its ugly head in South Africa's Gauteng Province.

Gauteng, which means "place of gold", is the smallest of South Africa's nine provinces but it is highly urbanised and home to the country's largest city, Johannesburg and the administrative capital, Pretoria.

In the last three weeks, there have been numerous indications that foreign nationals were under threat in South Africa.

There was a flare-up of attacks on foreign-owned residences and businesses in Rosettenville, Johannesburg and Atteridgeville, west of Pretoria.

Another signal

The registration of an explicitly xenophobic political party, South African First, was also another signal.

Last Friday, a group that calls itself “Concerned Mamelodi residents” staged an anti-foreigners march in Pretoria.

The organisers had spent the past three weeks mobilising people, distributing blue flyers in Pretoria.

The flyer reads: “Why is the government giving asylum-seeker status to Nigerians, Zimbabweans, Pakistanis? Is there war in Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Pakistan etc? Unemployment is at 34% in South Africa but they give people asylum-seeker status; when there is no work in South Africa, what do you expect them to do? They will commit crimes. Go to Spar, Cash Crusaders, Nandos, restaurants and other companies etc. It is only Zimbabweans and other foreign nationals working there. Where must South Africans work?”

Sell drugs

The flyer concludes: “Nigerians, Pakistanis, Zimbabweans etc bring nothing but destruction; hijack our buildings, sell drugs; inject young South African ladies with drugs and sell them as prostitutes. How is that helping us? They have destroyed our beloved Johannesburg, now they are destroying Pretoria.”

The march sparked violent clashes with the security agencies and heightened fear among foreign nationals.

Ms Rudo Gwaze of Capital Park in Pretoria West said they were now living in fear.

“We're scared because the last two times the attacks happened, it started off with signs like these. I may have to go away from this place until I’m sure there is calm,” Ms Gwaze said.

Were killed

The last two bouts of attacks took place in 2008 and in 2015. Several people were killed while others were left injured during the nationwide attacks.

The Africa Diaspora Forum (ADM) chairperson, Mr Marc Gbaffou, said they had been receiving calls from foreign nationals who said “they do not know where to go”.

He described the flyer’s rhetoric as consisting “slanderous and defamatory attacks on the migrant communities mentioned” and urged authorities not to allow the march to take place.

One of the organisers, Mr Makgoka Lekganyane, said their march was legal and they would not be discouraged from telling the truth. The march had been met with stern opposition from civil and religious organisations.

The response

“Unemployment is high but they give people asylum-seeker status. It must be stopped. The little jobs that are created, go to foreigners. Our borders need to be secured. These people need to be taken back to their countries,” Mr Lekganyane said.

Mr Gbaffou said calls by Nigeria for the African Union (AU) to step in needed to be taken seriously.

Nigeria's senior presidential aide on foreign affairs, Mr Abike Dabiri-Erewa, claimed that 116 Nigerians had been killed in South Africa in the last two years.

“This is unacceptable to the people and government of Nigeria,” said Mrs Dabiri-Erewa in an emailed statement.

Mr Gbaffou said: “We are waiting to see the response from the South African government. We hope they will not come out in denial that there is no xenophobia like they did in the past.”

ADM organised a prayer session on Thursday against the Friday march.

The chairperson of the Southern African Catholic Bishops Conference (SACBC) Justice and Peace Commission, Bishop Abel Gabuza, called for calm and restraint.

“We cannot stress it enough that, even in cases of extreme dissatisfaction with law enforcement and alleged criminal activities perpetrated by some foreign nationals, community members should not take the law into their own hands. No grievance justifies violence against foreign nationals,” said Bishop Gabuza.

The Institute for Justice and Reconciliation (IJR) also called on authorities to remain vigilant and to prevent a repeat of xenophobic violence.

“Government should take the necessary steps to protect foreign nationals and also initiate interventionist measures aimed at fostering understanding of the conditions that often lead foreign nationals to seek refuge in South Africa, in the same way that South African exiles sought refuge across the continent in the brutal days of apartheid,” the IJR said in a statement.

And while all this was playing out in full public view, the South African government dismissed it.

Drugs and prostitution

The Department of International Relations and Corporation (DIRCO) spokesperson Clayson Monyela on Tuesday said the attacks on foreign-owned residences and businesses were “sporadic criminal incidents”.

“It was just sporadic criminal incidents, the residents were clear that they were unhappy about drugs and prostitution. You can deduce from that there is no nationalities targeted. South Africans are not xenophobic,” Mr Monyela said.

The department of Home Affairs' spokesperson, Mr Mayihlome Tshwete, confirmed they had met the organisers of Friday's march.

“They have a right to march peacefully, we spoke to them and we said as long as the march doesn't add to the current environment it is okay,” Mr Tshwete said.

In 2015, government set up an ad hoc Joint Committee on Probing Violence Against Foreign Nationals. The Committee, whose members included Cabinet ministers, came up with 12 recommendations, including that the department of Small Business social Social cohesion

Development could assist South Africans, both in financial and non-financial needs, social cohesion was to be promoted through the use of inter-cultural sport.

The Premier of Gauteng was also to ensure that mechanisms were put in place to better ensure the implementation of government policy of 30 per cent procurement from Small, Medium and Micro Enterprises and 70 per cent local procurement.

However, Mr Gbaffou believes the recommendations have not been implemented.

“We don't think they were implemented...after the attacks we didn’t hear anything. We know they will never implement the recommendations, they don't want to address the issues,” he said.

Rising hostility

He believes Johannesburg Mayor Herman Mashaba was to blame for precipitating the rising hostility against foreign nationals. Mr Mashaba railed against criminal foreigners in December.

“We believe that Mayor Mashaba made these pronouncements with the intention of making foreign nationals a scapegoat for the present and future failures of his administration in solving the numerous problems besetting the city,” Mr Gbaffou recorded in his letter to President Jacob Zuma.

“His utterances will have the effect of inciting xenophobic violence and mayhem against the migrant community. Already since he made his speech, migrants are reporting that they are facing increased harassment from South African citizens,” it further read.

Hate speech

Mr Mametlwe Sebei from the Lawyers for Human Rights ( LHR) also blamed Mr Mashaba for inciting the vigilante attacks.

“We believe the idea that some people like Mashaba can make this kind of hate speech in inciting violence against innocent people, such as it happened before with King Zwelithini. There should be impunity to accountability, we are saying enough is enough,” he said.

Nevertheless, Mayoral spokesperson Tony Taverna-Turisan questioned the motive of linking the mayor’s insistence on the rule of law being respected and the current xenophobic attacks taking place.

Law enforcement

“It is not only ignorant but very dangerous. Mayor Mashaba has on numerous occasions condemned xenophobia and any form of violence linked to xenophobia,” Mr Taverna-Turisan said.

In Pretoria, Mr Mashaba's counterpart, Mr Solly Msimanga, sternly said there was no place in society for prejudice and violence.

“We encourage all people of Tshwane to not engage in this violent conduct and report any illegal, illicit and xenophobic conduct to local law enforcement so that we may deal with is swiftly,” the Tshwane Mayor said in a statement.

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Mohammed Abdullahi Farmajo gives Horn of Africa fresh hope

Posted ZAKARIA YUSUF AND ABDUL KHALIF

on  Thursday, February 23   2017 at  11:13

The election of Somalia’s new president Mohammed Abdullahi Farmajo offers the country’s international partners a new opportunity to step up efforts in advancing peace and stability in Somalia as well as the wider Horn of Africa.

Yet the hopes of a stable future for war-torn Somalia may be short-lived if the fraught regional dynamic, in particular the mistrust felt by regional powers, are not effectively unaddressed.

Farmajo’s near-landslide election victory on 8 February is without parallel.

Although the eruptions of joy across the Somali-speaking Horn and the shared jubilation of citizens and soldiers in Mogadishu is rightly giving way to more sober assessments, the view that a seismic shift has occurred will be difficult to ignore.

New dawn

Ensuring that this election ushers in a new dawn, and that Farmajo’s new found political capital is well invested, a renewed diplomatic engagement by partners on numerous fronts will be required to support national-level reform and ease regional anxieties. The upcoming London Conference on Somalia, now expected in early May, represents an opportunity to do just that.

Many hope that Farmajo’s credibility and popular support can be channelled productively.

The national reconciliation talks, aimed at healing deep wounds from the civil war that broke out in 1991, have stalled and Farmajo’s strong mandate may be what’s necessary to resuscitate them.

Cross-clan support

Although the entire indirect election process was extremely corrupt, Somalis have completed a relatively credible presidential election that has resulted in a peaceful transfer of power.

Farmajo’s cross-clan support – the biggest mandate strongest platform for any Somali president – is a rare demonstration of unity in the ethnically homogenous but clan-fractured country.

The mandate is indispensable fin for making critical progress on multiple fronts, particularly on reconciliation, addressing corruption and finalising the constitution.

A number of factors worked in Farmajo’s favour and helped seal his remarkable victory.

First, Farmajo tapped into a growing anti-Abgal (a Hawiye sub-clan) mood and a widely shared antipathy to its the dominance of the Abgal, a Hawiye sub-clan that gave the country its and the fact that the last two presidents were Abgal.

Resentment

But this frustration among the other clans also extended to the implicit agreement between the Abgal/Hawiye and Majerteen/Darood clans that allowed them to control, and share, both the presidential and prime ministerial seats.

Moreover, Farmajo’s victory was also helped by former President Hassan Sheikh’s decision to support the re-election of Mohamed Osman Jawari’s of the (Digil/Mirifle) as parliamentary speaker.

This sly tactical support was intended to scupper Sharif Hassan Sheikh Adan’s presidential campaign, since it is an unwritten rule that the president and speaker cannot hail from the same clan.

This fuelled Digil/Mirifle resentment, who ended up coming together during the presidential election rounds to vote against Hassan Sheikh.

Youth and diaspora

Second, Farmajo is also well liked among diaspora and youth: More than 125 of Somalia’s 283 MPs and Senators are from the diaspora and 165 MPs and senators are under 35 years of age.

In addition, approximately 30 per cent of the newly elected MPs are also affiliated with Islamist-leaning groups, including Salafi movements and the Muslim Brotherhood (excluding Hasan Sheikh’s Damal Jadid).

These have been, for some time, against the previous president’s perceived closeness with Ethiopia and its meddling in Somali politics.

Third, Farmajo benefitted from a huge wave of nationalistic fervour and a widely shared perception he could be the right person to build a robust Somali National Army (SNA), speed up Amisom’s exit, stabilise security, curb interventions by neighbouring countries, and protect Somalia’s dignity and sovereignty.

Immediate task

Farmajo’s immediate task will be to manage the inordinately high expectations that could potentially trigger a serious public backlash and further instability.

Unless Farmajo moves with speed to fulfil his pledge to rebuild the security forces and state institutions, tackle corruption, and unify the country, dissatisfaction could trigger a serious public backlash and further instability.

A further immediate impediment to Farmajo’s proposed domestic agenda stem from the entrenched elites, which stop at nothing to preserve their self-serving positions.

Clan elite leadership comprise a form of a very corrupt “deep state” that often operate against the interests of the people.

Some believe this network cut short Farmajo’s tenure as prime minister in 2011.

Foreign funding

Meaningful progress will be unlikely unless these factions are controlled through a mixture of co-option and coercion.

The elections also highlighted the extent to which covert foreign funding of politicians fuelled clientelism allegations that some acted as puppets and has impeded Somalia’s democratic transformation.

In particular, Gulf Arab states and Turkey were widely alleged to be giving cash to the top five presidential candidates.

Managing competing foreign interests in future presidential elections and reducing the corrupting influence of illicit foreign funding must be a priority for the Farmajo government.

One potential institutional solution would be to formalise the Integrity Commission, set up just days before the presidential elections with the aim of curbing bribery.

Foreign meddling

On a regional and international level, Farmajo’s stated intent to reshape his country’s foreign policy could prove a daunting challenge, not least because his victory stemmed in part from his campaign image as a staunch nationalist opposed to foreign meddling – especially by Ethiopia and Kenya.

As head of state, he will need to move with extra caution to navigate regional politics and ease the anxieties of these powerful neighbours who are suspicious of his brand of politics.

Growing tensions between Egypt and Ethiopia (over Nile Waters, the Grand Renaissance Dam and South Sudan) could potentially spill over into Somalia and complicate matters for Farmajo.

The speed with which Cairo has moved to embrace the new Somali president is bound to increase Ethiopia’s anxieties at the growing Arab influence in the country.

Nationalism

The resurgent Somali nationalism that Farmajo is said to embody is causing particular concern in Ethiopia, which could become an equal, if not greater, challenge to the new president.

Ethiopia and Somalia are historical rivals and Addis Ababa has intervened repeatedly in its eastern neighbour since the central government collapsed in the early 1990s.

Addis Ababa has a long history of intervention in its smaller eastern neighbour. 

In 2006, Ethiopia moved swiftly to dislodge the popular Union of Islamic Court (UIC) Islamist government that enjoyed immense popularity and managed to restore peace in Somalia during its brief six-month reign.

Addis saw the UIC's anti-Ethiopian posturing and Somali nationalist rhetoric in support of a “greater Somalia” that incorporates Somali inhabited areas in neighbouring countries as a threat and acted accordingly.

Discreet diplomacy

If Farmajo adopts a similarly antagonistic posture – as his popular “nationalist” constituency demands – then Addis will quickly act to undermine the new regime in Mogadishu, regardless of the progress made in Somali-domestic struggles.

He will need to move slowly in relation to Ethiopia and Kenya and building new bridges that underscore the shared interest between the new president and these countries in stabilising Somalia.

At the same time, international partners should also keep in mind the historical context and the destabilising potential of resurgent Somali nationalism in the region.

Consequently, it must encourage discreet diplomacy to promote dialogue and accommodation between Somalia and its neighbours.

Regional tension

There are clues that regional tensions may still worsen.

Pro-Farmajo social media activists posted a picture of an Ethiopian senior official at the election venue captioned “Ethiopia shattered by the poll outcome”.

Such taunts were disseminated widely across the Somali-speaking Horn and diaspora.

Such sentiment is likely to reinforce Ethiopia's negative perception and, worse, galvanise it into action to undermine.

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Want victory in Kenyan politics? Just bribe your way through!

Posted NATION REPORTER

on  Monday, February 20   2017 at  11:18

A majority of Kenyans would not mind voting for political aspirants who splash money and promise them rewards during election campaigns.

Findings of a survey on voter bribery tendencies in the country reveal a deeply entrenched habit, with more than half of the respondents confessing that their choice of candidate is easily influenced when they are bribed.

At the centre of it are the voters who have no problem giving their votes in exchange for “something small”.

After all, it appears to be an ‘accepted tradition’ in Kenyan politics, the respondents argued, pointing to weak enforcement systems and political parties and institutions that appear to condone the practice.

The findings are contained in a report titled; Voter Bribery as an Election Malpractice in Kenya; A Survey Report Dec 2016, to be officially launched later this week.

The findings of the survey carried out by Interthoughts Consulting and commissioned by the Centre for Multiparty Democracy (CMD) in partnership with the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, a German political foundation, point to a high likelihood that voter bribery will still be witnessed at high levels in the 2017 General Election.

A political party

Out of the 514 respondents from the 10 counties surveyed between April and June, 2016, 56 per cent confessed to having ever received a bribe from a political party aspirant or candidate.

From each of the 10 counties — Nakuru, Bomet, Kiambu, Kisumu, Machakos, Meru, Kilifi, Migori, Trans-Nzoia and Kakamega — more than 50 per cent confessed that they would easily give their vote to the person who gave them something or promised to reward them.

Bomet County west of Nairobi, had the highest proportion of respondents who had ever received a bribe at 64.71 per cent followed by Kisumu, Nakuru, Kakamega, Kilifi, Trans Nzoia, Kiambu and Machakos while Migori had the lowest at 41.51 per cent.

Various forms of voter bribery were identified in the survey, ranging from frequent fundraisers (harambees) during the period preceding elections and during campaign periods to dishing out handouts to the voters.

It is also during this time that you will see aspirants jostling to pay school fees and hospital bills and even take care of funeral expenses, particularly to the voters who the politicians had probably avoided and kept off in the past.

Politicians also make promises of individual direct benefits in varying rewards, from jobs to tenders.

Give out clothes

They will also pay a sum of money for people who attend their political meetings in form of transport reimbursements and allowances and some will also give out clothes such as t-shirts and lessos (form of shawl) in the name of electoral material.

Some aspirants or candidates also pay for opinion polls, influencing the process and results of the same.

This is the first survey on voter bribery tendencies in the country, showing perceptions and challenges to address them.

Findings were based on debates and discussions that involved voters, aspirants, political parties and opinion leaders in the 10 counties visited. Questionnaires were also administered to 514 respondents.

There was a strong agreement that refusing to collect the bribe to vote was an individual responsibility, with Kisumu leading at 80 per cent followed by Kiambu at 73.81 per cent and Nakuru at 70 per cent.

Some of the respondents, however, said even though they had received bribes from aspirants for political offices and other elective seats, they may not necessarily vote for them.

Morals and ethics

The indication was that they would collect bribes but vote for persons of their choice, pointing to a society that is struggling with values, morals and ethics.

According to some of the respondents, they will collect the money for other reasons as long as the aspirants are in the business of dishing it out.

The survey points out that some of those receiving money may not even be registered voters or members of the aspirant’s party while others may be registered far away from the aspirants area, hence cannot vote for them.

Of interest is that there was a high level of awareness that voter bribery is an electoral malpractice and a form of corruption, hence a punishable crime.

On the other hand, however, respondents argue that precedence has been set in previous elections, and experience has shown that persons who engage in voter bribery have not been convicted.

Engage in corruption

Many respondents also felt that almost all the candidates seeking elective seats engage in corruption, hence their choices are limited.

In some cases, it is the citizens themselves who demand to be given something.

On the spot are political parties, aspirants and their agents who seem to be the drivers of the malpractice.

Many aspirants are moneyed and able to meet the electoral needs. High poverty and low income levels among citizens, especially youths who have no gainful employment were cited as some factors that encourage the malpractice.

Have money

But there is also legal instruments and policies and institutions which have failed to nib the problem in the bud, resulting in weak enforcement of existing laws, which leave culprits going Scot free.

Many Kenyans also have a strong mentality of money exchanging hands for votes, and this is based on experiences in previous elections held over the years.

But CMD warns that while people tend to choose those who have money thinking they are best placed to care of them, the aspirants may have corruptly obtained the money and so easily give it out.

They will, however, still recover the money corruptly, once elected, resulting in a cycle.

“It was clear to them that voter bribery influences how the people vote and results into people electing leaders who are evidently corrupt by having bribed the voters in the first place and hence likely to sustain their very nature of being corrupt even after being elected,” the report to be launched on Friday states.

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Tripoli residents in daily ordeal on uprising anniversary

Posted AFP

on  Thursday, February 16   2017 at  13:22

Six years after the start of an uprising that toppled a dictator, Libyans in Tripoli see no reason to celebrate with power cuts, exorbitant prices and insecurity plaguing their daily lives.

At a moment's notice, shopkeepers in the Libyan capital pull down their shutters, cars make sudden u-turns and gunshots ring out in the empty street.

"We're living at the mercy of men obsessed with weapons, violence and profit," says Abdelalim al-Hajj Ali, as he hides with his daughter from clashes inside a bakery.

"The situation in our country is dramatic," the 48-year-old teacher says, while fighting rages outside in one of the capital's shopping streets.

On the eve of the anniversary of the revolt that ended Muammar Gaddafi's decades-long rule, Libyans say living conditions have deteriorated in the year since a UN-backed unity government started working in the capital.

The Government of National Accord has also failed to assert its authority across the rest of the oil-rich country.

"It's tiresome to see Libyans living in the dark, poverty and constant fear when there's a sea of oil in their country's belly," Ali says.

Holed up inside the bakery, Ali and his daughter can hear gunfire and the screeching tires of the fighters' pick-ups armed with anti-aircraft guns.

Tripoli has been controlled by dozens of armed groups since Gaddafi's fall, and it is often hard for residents to follow their fluctuating loyalties and who they are fighting.

Safe routes

Armed groups display stickers on their vehicles according to their current interests, usually mentioning an official body — such as "army" or "interior ministry" — to give themselves some legitimacy.

Clashes have been regular in the Libyan capital since 2011, especially at night, and checkpoints have spread across the city.

While traffic jams create a sense of normality for Libyans living in the capital, driving across Tripoli can be dangerous, especially at night.

To help each other out, Libyans have started swapping information about safe routes on social media.

"The Ghot Ashaal road isn't safe. An armed criminal gang is stealing cars," one user writes on a Facebook group dubbed "Safe Path" with more than 20,000 followers.

"Exchange of gunfire on the Al-Madar road," warns another user. "Brief truce but expect a second half-time."

As if security was not enough to worry about, Libyans in the capital have also been hit by daily power and water outages, dizzying price hikes and a cash crunch.

In the long queues outside banks, people are on edge and arguments break out for the smallest of pretexts.

Mariam Abdallah, 50, says she had hoped life in the capital would improve after the GNA started work in March last year.

"We thought things couldn't get worse but they have," says the travel agency employee.

She lists "longer power cuts, water and gas shortages, fuel queues, hyperinflation (and an) ongoing cash crisis, which have literally handicapped the city."

Libyans downbeat

"People are exhausted and depressed. The anniversary of the revolution is nearing and people have no cause to celebrate."

Tarek Megirissi, an Libyan political analyst, is similarly downbeat.

"Despite Libya's oil output recovering, the economic situation remains dire with basic goods growing more scarce and expensive, alongside a worsening liquidity crisis," he says.

"Services are collapsing, and no political body seems capable of governing the country and instead are pre-occupied with jostling for absolute power."

A former administration tried and failed to seize three ministries in the capital in January, while a parliament in the country's far east has refused to cede power to the unity government.

But UN envoy Martin Kobler said last week talks had made progress on "possible amendments" to the deal that created the GNA, notably on the future role of a rival army chief backing the parliament in the east.

Khalifa Haftar, whose forces control much of eastern Libya, was not included in the GNA's original line-up.

In a queue for the bank in Tripoli, Selma Fathi, a 53-year-old housewife, however says she is optimistic.

"I have great hope of seeing Libya rise up again thanks to its youth," she says.

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Farmajo signals a new era of hope for Somalia

Posted ABDULKADIR KHALIF in Mogadishu

on  Tuesday, February 14   2017 at  10:54

Euphoria erupted in almost all the neighbourhoods of the Somali capital Mogadishu as soon as the presidential electoral committee announced that Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, better known as Farmajo, had won the poll.

Farmajo attained 184 votes while his opponents, the incumbent President Hassan Sheikh Mohamoud and predecessor Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, garnered a combined 119 votes in the February 8 contest.

President Mohamoud respectfully conceded defeat by taking up the microphone and telling the joint session of the Lower and Upper houses about his decision not to run for a third round.

His decision prompted a rapturous applause, paving the way for Farmajo to be declared president.

Gunfire salutes

Immediately, there were celebrations punctuated with gunfire salutes outside the hall in Afasyoni, a complex next to Mogadishu’s Aden Abdulle International Airport, where the election was taking place.

Hordes of people who had learnt that the new president was going to stay at the Jazeera Plaza streamed to the hotel, chanting Farmajo! Farmajo!

Escorted by guards, the president retreated to the hotel, amid chants by ecstatic crowds who promised night-long celebrations.

However, Farmajo's message through the media, was: “Please go back to your homes. The celebrations must end.”

Military officers

“Time for celebrations must end. Time for work is going to start,” he said.

The following day, assemblies of youth and even military officers did street dances along major roads in Mogadishu, largely ignoring the message of the president. Portraits of Farmajo with slogans such; DANTA DALKA IYO DADKA (for the benefit of the land and the people) and ‘Nabad iyo Nolol’ (Peace and Life), went on sale along the main streets.

Farmajo hosted at the Jazeera Hotel, the so-called coalition of presidential candidates, made up of 20 opposition contenders for the seat which he won.

The president was advised to shun tribalism and avoid surrounding himself with a few individuals, but instead form a government that could lift the Somali people out of their predicament.

Tax payments

Many were the pledges Farmajo made during the campaigns and in his address to the legislators prior to the presidential election.

He promised to establish strong bonds between the citizens and the government to enable the former participate in the stabilisation of the country through tax payments.

During the campaigns, Farmajo also promised to form a government that truly represents the people.

In his address to the MPs, Farmajo asserted that his predecessor neglected the security of the parliamentarians, stating that 19 lawmakers were killed over the past four years.

Between February 2- 5, each of the 22 presidential candidates was given 15 minutes to address a joint session of the members of the Lower and Upper houses. It was the opportunity for each to sell his programme.

Farmajo used his time to explain the problems he wished to tackle if elected, including insecurity, corruption, bad governance and the prevailing drought.

to bad

The president's first major assignment will be the nomination of a prime minister. In so doing, he will have to adhere to a complex clan power sharing known as the 4.5 formula. Once the PM is approved by parliament, he or she will have to form a Cabinet and present a programme to be endorsed by parliament.

Farmajo told the legislators: “My government will implement my ‘Nabad iyo Nolol’ (Peace and Life) programme.

“My government will collaborate with the aid agencies in the face of millions of our people suffering from shortage of water, food and medication.”

“We need urgent relief,” he added.

Untapped resources

Farmajo had, during the campaigns, taken cognisance of the fact that most Somalis lived in poverty. “We are poor people sitting on enormous natural wealth,” he told the legislators.

“We need to benefit from the untapped resources.”

The president also reacted to the recent Transparency International report that ranked Somalia as the most corrupt country in the world.

He also retorted to whispers that Somalia was suffering from too much intervention by foreigners. “This country is not for sale. This nation is not for sale,” remarked Farmajo from the podium of parliament.

Armed personnel

While serving as a premier in 2011, Farmajo promised economic reforms, including regular pay for the civil servants and the armed personnel. He stated that such a programme could only be realised if corruption was eliminated from the state apparatus.

Security has been a recurrent theme in the president's speeches, in which he points a finger at the Al-Shabaab, the radical jihadist group linked to the Al-Qaeda.

To Farmajo, the answer to the stabilisation of security was the armed forces getting regular pay. “Payment to the armed forces is not a reward, but a right,” said Farmajo while addressing the parliamentarians.

He criticised the preceding government for underperforming in tackling the jihadists.

“The country is at war, but the government (of President Mohamoud) does not seem committed to war,” he told the legislators. He added: “The war is only from one side – Al-Shabaab attacks and the government only offers condolences and condemnations.”

Tackling terrorism

“Our armed forces need good treatment to get the upper hand,” he said, adding that such objective could be achieved through the people trusting their government.

Farmajo appears set to employ the stick and a carrot policy in tackling terrorism.

“Al-Shabaab has only two options: Peace is extended to them. If they accept, it is fine. If not, we - the people, the MPs and the government - will go to war.”

A Mogadishu political analyst Hussein Mohamed, reckons that the path ahead may not be particularly smooth for Farmajo. “The road ahead is littered with broken glasses,” said Mohamed during a fadhi-ku-dirir (informal debate) at a teashop in downtown Mogadishu.

Different agendas

“The groups with different agendas are various and diverse,” he added.

Elaborating further, Mohamed remarked: “The religious groups vary from the extremist Al-Shabaab to the very moderate Sufis.”

He also pointed out that those leading unregistered political parties harboured diverse objectives from the nationalistic socialist doctrines to liberal programmes.

No doubt; clan affiliation and tribal interests also play a critical role in the Somali psyche. That the Somali regions and local authorities often differ over partisan interests, cannot be gainsaid.

Ran wildly

The celebrations of the Farmajo election reached an epic the next Sunday when Abdullahi Mohamud Osman alias Danyeerow met with Farmajo at the Jazeera Plaza Hotel. Osman, a humble man from a farming community in Jowhar District, 90km north of Mogadishu, is widely known as AR FARMAJO II GEENYA (Take me to Farmajo).

As soon as Farmajo was declared president-elect, the farmer ran wildly across Jowhar town, yelling AR FARMAJO II GEENYA. His photos and message have gone viral across the social media used by Somalis.

“In 2011, I predicted that Farmajo would be elected president in my life time,” said Osman after meeting the new leader.

“I told him to realise his motto: DANTA DALKA IYO DADKA (for the benefit of the land and the people),” he added, saying that he prayed for his success.