Peacebuilding efforts needed to tackle Boko Haram, end Lake Chad Basin crisis, Security Council told

13 September 2017 &#150 While the efforts of the Governments in Africa’s Lake Chad Basin have diminished Boko Haram’s combat capacity in the region, the terrorist group has changed its tactics, increasing the use of suicide attacks, the top United Nations political official reported to the Security Council today.

UN Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman said the coordinated efforts among the region’s Governments, including through the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF) had &#8220without question&#8221 yielded encouraging progress in the fight against Boko Haram.

&#8220Unfortunately, the fight is far from over,&#8221 he said, noting that the group had shifted its tactics in the wake of these efforts, and some 130 attacks attributed to Boko Haram in the four affected countries &#8211 Nigeria, followed by Cameroon, Niger and Chad ¬&#8211 in June and July resulted in 284 civilian fatalities, a significant increase compared to 146 attacks and 107 civilian fatalities in April and May.

At the political level, he said that the UN Special Representatives for Central and West Africa and the Sahel proposed a regional strategy to address the root causes of the Lake Chad Basin crisis, which would be based on ownership by the countries and subregional organizations concerned: the Economic Community for Central African States (ECOWAS) and the Lake Chad Basin Commission.

On the development front, Mr. Feltman noted that the current crisis has &#8220wreaked havoc&#8221 on basic infrastructure, as well as government resources and services. Indeed, insecurity has sparked large-scale unemployment and left one million school-age children deprived of education. The substantial economic impact of the crisis has reached nearly $9 billion across north-east Nigeria alone.

&#8220Poverty, weak state authority, insecurity and climate change explain this situation, with women and girls being the first victims,&#8221 he said, also noting that conflicts along with all this displacement has eroded, or even broken, intercommunity and intra-community ties. And without robust efforts in peacebuilding, the reintegration of ex-combatants, including Boko Haram and vigilante groups, could create additional tensions.

Meanwhile, humanitarian needs are &#8220staggering,&#8221 with 10.7 million people in the region requiring assistance, Mr. Feltman stated, noting that the bulk of burden is in Nigeria’s north-east. Yet, funding continues to be insufficient, as the appeal for the region, $1.5 billion in 2017, is only funded at 40 per cent.

He went on to raise concerns about the human rights situation, noting the continued violations by Boko Haram, including killings, forceful use of children as suicide bombers and sexual and gender-based violence against women and children. Perpetrators must be brought to justice.

&#8220The UN has also received numerous allegations of serious human rights violations committed in the context of counter-terrorism operations,&#8221 he said, stressing that the Organization continues to advocate strongly with the MNJTF to put forward a clear strategy to prevent sexual exploitation and abuse, including by recruiting a dedicated gender adviser within its civilian component.

While the efforts of the Joint Multinational Force remain essential in resolving the crises, Mr. Feltman said the financial investment of the Joint Multinational Force was a major burden on national budgets for development. That is why support from the UN and its Member States is needed more than ever.

&#8220The complex and increasingly protracted nature of the Lake Chad Basin crisis calls for innovative and integrated solutions that bridge traditional divides between humanitarian and development strategies,&#8221 he said, noting that a special event scheduled for 21 September in the margins of the UN General Assembly’s annual general debate would be an opportunity for the international community to reaffirm its support for the region.

Read More

AFRICA TO BECOME WORLD’S LARGEST CONSUMER MARKET BY 2050 – GHANA’S TRADE MINISTER

ACCRA, Ghana’s Minister of Trade and Industry, Alan Kyerematen, has said that based on the increasing population growth and fast rising middle-class, Africa is favourably positioned to become the world’s largest consumer market by 2050.

Africa is destined by 2050 to become the largest consumer market in the world.

I say this for a number of reasons. When you talk about market size, you are basically looking at three things, which are: population size, purchasing power of the population and the propensity to consume. If you combine all these three factors and you look at our circumstance in Africa, you would appreciate why am saying this.

By 2050 Africa would be probably be almost 3 billion in population out of a total projected population of 9.7 billion in the whole world. And Africa is the fastest growing in terms of population size. But we also know that markets are not just about population or people. That is why I talked about purchasing power. Purchasing power comes from the growth that we have in the middle class.

And because Africa is the fastest growing continent, we also have the fastest growing middle class. So, when I talk about purchasing power, you must appreciate why Africa would become the biggest or largest consumer market in the world. But is also about the propensity to consume.

Kyerematen was speaking at the 2017 African Prosperity Conference organized by the Pan African Chamber of Commerce and Industry under the auspices of the Ghana Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Accra on the theme; The continental free trade area � Exploring possibilities for business engagements across Africa.

The Trade Minister further urged African countries to take advantage of continental trade, as it has contributed to the growth of many economies in the world.

There is evidence that many countries have used the regional markets as stepping stone unto the global markets and so we should not be surprised to find that, most of the world advance nations are also part of the most integrated regional economies. This is a message for us to understand and appreciate the continent.

This is the reason why we must take advantage of our own market we have created and start serious trading amongst ourselves, by producing what we consume and also consume what we produce. We must believe that this enterprise and agenda of free trade will work, he maintained.

The 18th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the African Union, held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in January 2012, adopted a decision to establish a Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) by an indicative date of 2017.

This, Kyerematen advised that, for the continent to successfully implement and fully benefit from the free trade programme, all African governments must have an industrialisation agenda in place, set up the necessary infrastructure and improve facilitation mechanisms.

President of the Pan African Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Ghana Chamber of Commerce and Indsutry, Dr. Nana Appiagyei Dankawoso I, expressed optimism about the growth of the continent, urging governments to stay committed to the agenda.

My message is simple; Africa has come a long way in a short time and there is every reason to believe that it can continue growing and developing with the appropriate policy response, he said.

Source: NAM NEWS NETWORK

Read More

Immigrants, Refugees Revive Depressed Neighborhood in Columbus, Ohio

COLUMBUS, OHIO � The Northland area of Columbus, Ohio was booming in the 1960s and 70s. About 65 square kilometers, the area was a shopping and dining destination. Its centerpiece was the Northland Mall on Morse Road.

You couldn’t get a parking space at the mall at Christmas time, Dave Cooper, president of the Northland Area Business Association, told Columbusalive.com.

In the early 2000s, the area fell on hard times. Retailers began to desert the mall � Columbus’s oldest � for newer shopping centers and in 2002, Northland Mall closed, ushering the whole Morse Road corridor into a period of increasing crime and vacant storefronts.

The city of Columbus went into action, creating special commissions and offering tax incentives. But when help arrived, it came from an unexpected quarter.

As the old mall was closing, immigrants and refugees were opening up small shops and restaurants along Morse Road. A group of Somali refugees opened Global Mall just five blocks away, offering new space opportunities for startup entrepreneurs. Part shopping center, part community gathering place, Global Mall today hosts all sorts of businesses.

And Global was just the beginning of what has become a corridor of immigrant and refugee businesses along Morse Road.

Some refugees or some immigrants have great business skills. So they got into the business without help of the government and they flourished, says Somali business owner Ahmed O. Haji.

Saraga Grocery

I bought ramen noodles and extra hot peppers. I like the fact that there is a big variety from all different places around the world, says Ron Kosa, a customer at the Saraga International Grocery, which is located in a former Toys R Us building on Morse Road.

Korean immigrant John Sung opened the 5,000 square-meter grocery four years ago.

“We have products from five continents, Africa, Asia, South America, Europe all over the world basically, Sung says, adding that his 80 employees are similarly from all over the world.

In addition to selling groceries, Saraga provides space for individual merchants, hosting a halal butcher, a Mexican bakery and a Nepali food stand among others.

Jubba Value Center Mall

About two kilometers away from Saraga grocery is Jubba Value Center Mall where Somali refugees and immigrants have small shops and help each other bring in new customers. Columbus has the second largest Somali community in the U.S. after Minneapolis, MN.

Morse Road is a very strategic location, says Haji who started the Jubba Travel agency nine years ago. It’s one of the highest revenue generated ZIP codes in Columbus. It’s a great location. Morse has very diverse ethnic people that live in this area.

The influx of refugees and immigrants kept the population of the Northland area from declining in the first years of the new millennium.

From 2007 to 2012, immigrant entrepreneurship rose citywide by 41.5%. Native born entrepreneurship declined by 1.2 percent during the same time period.

Based on a recent study, we could account for over 900 businesses that were opened specifically by the refugee community, said Guadalupe Velasquez, Assistant Director of the Department of Neighborhoods for the city of Columbus. And they then in turn employ over 23,000 individuals.

The total contribution of refugees to the city’s economy is $1.6 billion, Velasquez added.

Travel Agency

I did not have an incentive move or any advice from the city, says Haji about opening his travel agency.

What drove me to start the business was the need for my immigrant people predominantly Somali people who are going back home. And the means of transportation is an airline. So I thought that was a lucrative business to get into.

Since the president’s executive order limiting travel from six countries, including Somalia, took effect in June, Haji says his business has declined dramatically. But he will keep at it.

“The city is very welcoming. Columbus, I’ve been here for almost 21 years now, and I am not going to go anywhere else.”

Source: Voice of America

Read More

American Basketballers Find Their Dream Teams in Africa

DAKAR, SENEGAL � Reggie Moore rarely gets through a day without stopping for an autograph or selfie in the basketball-mad African country of Angola.

If I’m in the mall, it’s going to be 30 to 40 selfies, said Moore, a bearded 36-year-old Californian who plays in Angola’s professional league and also for its national team. It’s kind of nice to have a country that knows who you are.

For Moore, representing an African country is a little like playing on a Dream Team. And he’s not the only American to seek out the African experience.

Africa generally exports basketball players to the United States, but a handful of American professionals have gone the other way. The African championship, known as AfroBasket, began its knockout stage Thursday in Tunisia and features several Americans who were granted citizenship to play for African teams.

It’s probably their only shot at international glory or the Olympics. Basketball governing body FIBA allows one naturalized citizen per roster.

I feel at home, said Clevin Hannah, a Wichita State alum and point guard for Senegal. I don’t feel out of synch or out of place when I put my jersey on. It’s an honor.

Stipends cover costs but there’s generally no compensation for international duty. Some countries and team sponsors pledge to pay bonuses for winning, however.

A second passport can open doors because some pro leagues limit Americans. But most say the real value is the experience, both on and off the court.

Against Egypt, Hannah set up teammate Hamady Ndiaye for a third-quarter alley-oop that sent supporters in Dakar’s Marius Ndiaye Stadium into a frenzy.

There’s nothing like it, Hannah said of the atmosphere as celebrations continued in the stands after the game. It can’t compare to Europe or the U.S.

A’Darius Pegues, who played at Campbellsville University in Kentucky, said he jumped at the opportunity to play for Uganda, although his first visit to the East African country is only planned for after AfroBasket.

Like Pegues, many American players have little connection with their new countries.

New realities

In the African championship’s early rounds in Senegal last week, the 6-foot-10 center also was unfamiliar with the heat – there’s no air conditioning in the Dakar arena.

After that first game, I got to the hotel, I was clearly dehydrated, Pegues said. I’m not an excuses guy but being realistic, the air in there, either you’re here and you’re used to it, or you have to be prepared to drink 20 bottles of water.

Another adjustment for Americans is the physical play. Jimmy Williams recalled being clobbered on a drive to the basket during his first game for Togo.

The ref told me, ‘Welcome to Africa,’ said Williams, who played at Alderson Broaddus University, a Division II school in West Virginia.

Togo’s qualification for the 2011 AfroBasket sparked celebrations in the streets of the capital Lome.

It’s one of my best memories, Williams said.

It’s not all celebrations. Shortly after moving to Angola, Moore went looking for a hamburger in the wrong neighborhood in the capital Luanda, a sprawling city of about 6 million people.

Two people on a motorcycle. Guns out. ‘Give me your phone, give me your money.’ You’ve got to give it up, he said.

The poverty is apparent. Moore’s first memory of touching down in Angola, an oil-rich former Portuguese colony in southern Africa, was seeing tin shacks near the runway. People on the street often ask him for taxi money; he usually complies. Moore grew up near Fresno and as a kid thought life was tough. Not anymore.

You realize there are people who have it a lot worse. It makes you appreciate the things you have in life, Moore said.

The 29-year-old Hannah, who grew up in Mississippi, visited Goree Island in Senegal, a point of departure during the Atlantic slave trade. He wonders if he has Senegalese ancestors.

These could be some of my family members here that I’m walking past every day, said Hannah, who is African-American. It’s a sight to see. So many black people.

The American pros in Africa typically land gigs through networking. Hannah and the Senegal national team coach had the same agent. An injury left a spot open before the 2016 Olympic qualifiers.

When Moore’s team in Spain stopped paying players in 2008, he remembered that a former teammate had urged him to come to Luanda. A professional club there matched his $14,000 per-month salary. Moore speaks Portuguese, and his wife works with orphanages.

The Angolan women’s national team also has an American, Italee Lucas. She played at the University of North Carolina.

American coaches get in on the act, too. Will Voigt led the Nigerian men’s team to the 2015 AfroBasket title, and former NBA player Sam Vincent helmed the Nigerian women’s team to victory last month.

Uganda hired George Galanopoulos, a 28-year-old assistant coach for the G-League Texas Legends, to lead the team through just its second AfroBasket. The Ugandans went 0-3 but each game was tight, and they took 11-time champion Angola to overtime.

Hopefully, I can stay involved, Galanopoulos said. It would be great to help put Ugandan basketball on the map.

Source: Voice of America

Read More

A Dead Dictator, His Rusting Boat and a Fight for History

RIJEKA, CROATIA � In a Croatian port sits a boat built to carry bananas from Africa to Italy, that laid mines for Nazi Germany and was sunk by Allied planes before it was salvaged as the personal yacht of a globe-trotting communist leader.

Josip Broz Tito and the state he led – Yugoslavia – have long passed into history, and the boat, the Galeb (Seagull), was left to rust in a corner of Rijeka’s once mighty docks.

Now, with Rijeka readying to become European Capital of Culture in 2020, city authorities have secured European Union money to restore the 117-meter (384-feet) boat as a museum, just as debate in Croatia rages over the life and deeds of the man who graced the pink mattress in the front port-side cabin.

If the Galeb was a symbol of Tito’s prestige on the world stage – a communist leader welcome in ports West as well as East – its restoration is part of Croatia’s own tortured process of reconciliation with its 20th century history.

Villain to some, hero to others

To conservatives in Croatia, Tito – who was born in what is today Croatia to a Croat father and Slovene mother – was a totalitarian dictator: to look fondly on him means to be nostalgic for a shared federal state that denied Croats their own until they forged one in a 1991-95 war.

Liberals, however, recall his guerrilla fight against the Nazis and the relative freedom and prosperity of Yugoslavs compared to those who lived in the Soviet Union or in its shadow.

They see in the disdain of conservatives a thinly veiled fondness for the World War II Croatian state that collaborated with the Nazis but was snuffed out with Tito’s Partisan victory – sentiment that has gained a foothold in mainstream Croatian

politics in recent years.

It is a tug-of-war over history and identity that was encapsulated this month in the renaming by Zagreb’s city council of the capital’s Marshal Tito Square to Republic of Croatia square.

Days later, the government ordered the removal of a plaque near the site of a World War II concentration camp that bore a notorious slogan associated with the Nazi puppet regime in Croatia.

“We live in a time when history is being reinvented retroactively,” said Ivan Sarar, who as head of culture at Rijeka’s city council is in charge of its 2020 makeover.

“It’s interesting that just by undertaking this [restoration] we have already been declared revisionists,” he told Reuters.

‘Quasi-cultural exhibitionism’

After years of false-starts, work on restoring the Galeb is imminent – a mammoth, multi-million-euro task to recreate the 1950s chic of Tito’s floating palace, host to over 100 heads of state and some of Hollywood’s finest.

Some of the furniture remains – in Tito’s cabin, his turquoise-tiled bathroom and the adjacent salon with doors that open to the deck. But the ship itself is little more than a rotting hull.

The Galeb was the stage for Tito’s major contribution to history, said Sarar, a showcase for the non-aligned movement he helped found in answer to the East-West polarization of the Cold War.

But Sarar stressed: “We won’t be soft on anyone.”

He noted Tito’s cosy ties with dictators around the world, the exodus of Italian residents of Rijeka when he took the city as part of Yugoslavia, and his denial of democracy during 35 years of one-man rule until his death in 1980. Yugoslavia fell apart in war a decade later and some 135,000 people were killed.

It was Tito’s seizure of Rijeka and the Istrian peninsula that cemented his status in this part of Croatia as a liberator.

Dozens of streets in Istria still bear his name, as do others in the Balkans – most notably in Serbia, once the dominant republic in Yugoslavia.

Conservatives, however, struck a blow with the renaming of Zagreb’s Marshal Tito Square, part of a deal struck by the mayor to secure his majority in the city assembly.

The man behind the initiative, leading right-wing politician Zlatko Hasanbegovic, told Reuters that while Tito was “undeniably a significant historical figure,” so were Napoleon, Stalin and Lenin.

“In all countries, streets and squares bear the names of those who embody the values with which the entire nation identifies itself,” he said, describing the restoration of the Galeb as part of an attempt to revive the cult of Tito.

“Those insisting on it should ask themselves how the tens of thousands of victims of Yugoslav communism look on that kind of quasi-cultural exhibitionism.”

In Rijeka, Sarar denied planning any kind of homage to Tito.

“We want to create a place for dialogue, away from the current situation of extreme black, white and red truths that lead nowhere,” he said. “It’s bound to be difficult.”

Source: Voice of America

Read More