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Africa News In Brief (12/3/13)

By December 4, 2013No Comments


Dec. 3 (GIN) – For adapting new technologies to address the financial needs of farmers, Nigerian Minister of Agriculture Akinwumi Adesina was tapped as the Forbes Man of the Year 2013.

By introducing the e-wallet and using cellphones, Adesina said he was cutting out the middlemen and the losses due to corruption.

“When I came on board in July of 2011, I found a corrupt and totally inefficient fertilizer sector,” recalled the minister. “The government was spending huge amounts of money on direct procurement, but less than 11% of farmers got the fertilizers.

“Some of the fertilizers paid for by government were never delivered to the warehouses. Some contained more sand than fertilizer while a large portion of the subsidized fertilizer found its way to neighboring countries where it was sold at prevailing market prices.”

The same applied to the seed sector, he said. “Middle men and briefcase contractors masquerading as seed companies were doing brisk business supplying seed to government.” But much of seeds sold to the government were bought corruptly on the open market. Grain was sold as certified seed.

In the 1960s, Nigeria was one of the most promising agricultural producers in the world. Export crops were the country’s main foreign exchange earner.

Today, “Nigeria is known for nothing else than oil, and it’s so sad, because we never used to have oil – all we used to have was agriculture,” Adesina says.

The oil-rich country has increased food production through his Growth Enhancement Support Scheme by an estimated nine million tons in the plan’s first year.

An innovative Electronic Wallet System – Africa’s first – further allowed the farmers to receive electronic vouchers through their mobile phones for buying subsidized farm inputs, in the process eliminating inefficiencies and the middle man.

“To date we have registered 4.2 million farmers and about 900 agro dealers. For the first time ever, we can now base policy decisions on data, not guess work. I am truly honored and humbled by this prestigious award, which I dedicate to Africa’s farmers,” Adesina said.

UN secretary-general Ban ki-moon has named Dr Adesina as one of 17 global persons to help the world achieve the Millennium Development Goals in a team that also includes Bill Gates.

Kenyan banker James Mwangi won last year’s award. w/pix of A. Adesina


Dec. 3 (GIN) – Diamonds scraped from the earth in Africa are reaping record-setting profits for the gem cutters and auction houses in northern Europe. A single rosy-pink diamond last month sold for $83 million to a prosperous buyer in New York.

In the Central African Republic, diamonds, gold, uranium and other minerals primed the pump for war over profits since independence from France was declared in 1960. Since the last president, Francois Bozize, was ousted in a coup earlier this year, the country has seen the worst excesses in fighting. More than 400,000 citizens have fled their homes, many have died. Reports from relief agencies say it is the eleventh hour before genocide.

“The ‘Seleka’ rebel fighters who overthrew the government of the Central African Republic earlier this year are “out of control”, warned Amnesty International.

Godfrey Byaruhanga, an Amnesty researcher, said: “Seleka forces have attacked civilians across the country, executing and torturing civilians, indiscriminately shelling communities, raping women and forcefully conscripting children”.

He added: “The level of hopelessness and despair has reached a new high as a result of these human rights violations, which may amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity.”

The UN Security Council is scheduled to vote this week on a resolution calling for an African Union military mission. “After months of “wait-and-see”, the international community has finally realized it cannot afford another failed state in Africa, risking regional spillover,” said the International Crisis Group in a new report.

“The situation on the ground is deteriorating at a much faster pace than the international response is mobilizing.”

As France and the African Union prepare their peacekeeping troops, the U.S. has authorized a $40 million package of aid to the AU troops and $6 million for the new African refugees.

Meanwhile, a letter from Secretary of State John Kerry to the Central African Republic acknowledged the country’s Independence Day from France – Dec. 1.

Kerry wrote: “We share a vision for your country’s future that includes security and prosperity for all people. …, We are planning to provide $40 million in assistance to the A.U.-led peacekeeping mission (and) more than $24 million in humanitarian assistance and an additional $6 million specifically to support new Central African refugees in neighboring states.”

“I extend my sincerest wishes for a future of peace, stability, and prosperity.”


Dec. 3 (GIN) – Despite hundreds of millions of U.S. taxpayer dollars spent on nation building, U.S. efforts in Somalia appear to be sliding back to square one.

As the Somali government passed its one-year anniversary in September, wrangling among the leaders lead to the ouster this week of the Prime Minister. His critics accused his administration of favoritism and clan politics.

Prime Minister Abdi Farah Shirdon lost a vote of confidence in parliament, in what is seen as a blow to efforts to stabilize the country. He fell out with President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud last month after he tried to sack some of the president’s allies from the cabinet.

A Somali national who lives in the U.S. and teaches at Bard College in N.Y. wrote a sobering article for the New York Times two months ago titled “Somali’s Leader: Look Past the Hype.”

He was referring to Somalia’s president Hassan Sheik Mohamud, who he called “a darling of the West.”

During a recent visit to the East African country, friends of Bard Professor Nurrudin Farah shared their doubts that President Mohamud could stand up to the elders who fanned the flames of the two-decade-plus civil war and still dominate the country.

Among the cited failures was the failure to punish the convicted killer of two Doctors without Borders staffers in 2011. The murderer, another Doctors without Borders worker, was sentenced to 30 years but was freed after 3 months. He returned to his hometown and lives openly, apparently without fear of arrest.

Nurrudin wrote: “You would expect the president of a dysfunctional state like Somalia to move with greater alacrity to bolster confidence in the rule of law. Mr. Mohamud has not done so. It’s not his only deficiency. He has lost credibility among the countries contributing to the 17,700-member African Union mission that is propping up his regime.”

“Those in the West — like Time magazine, which in April named the president one of the world’s 100 most influential people — would be wise to re-evaluate their rosy assessments until Mr. Mohamud commits himself to the principles on the basis of which he was elected.”

Meanwhile, the Berlin-based corruption watchdog Transparency International this week called Somalia the most corrupt country in the world. w/pix of N. Farah

Nuruddin Farah, a professor of literature at Bard College, is the author, most recently, of a trilogy of novels: “Links,” “Knots” and “Crossbones.”


Dec. 3 (GIN) – Composer, singer and dancer Pascal Tabu Ley Rochereau passed away this week in a Belgian hospital where he had been undergoing treatment for a stroke.

Pascal-Emmanuel Sinamoyi Tabu was born in what was then the Belgian Congo in 1937 (or 1940, depending on the source). He led the Orchestre Afrisa International and was considered one of the greatest Congolese musicians of all time, pioneering the musical genre known as Congolese rumba.

An innovative bandleader whose melllfluous sound melded African, Cuban and Caribbean rhythms, he sang in an airy tenor dubbed “The Voice of Lightness.”

“Seigneur (Lord) Tabu Ley Rochereau,” as his fans called him, he sang in churches and then in school choirs. He would later join the Ministry of Education as public servant and then work as a financial officer at the Athénée de la Gombe.

After the fall of Mobutu’s regime, he returned to Congo and entered politics, while still pursuing his artistic activities. He was appointed a member of the Transitional Assembly and served in 2005 as vice-governor of the city of Kinshasa.

In 2012, while celebrating 72 years of age, Tabu Ley was decorated in Kinshasa by the Chancellor of the National Orders with two gold medals, the one for Civic Merit and the other arts, sciences and humanities, in recognition of his many artistic works that have enhanced the Congolese culture worldwide.

During his 46-year career, Tabu Ley composed over three thousand songs and sold thousands of records. Four of his sons, Pegguy Tabu, Abel Tabu, Philemon and popular rapper Youssoupha have launched music careers as singers and composers.

In 1985, the Government of Kenya banned all foreign music from the National Radio service. After Tabu Ley composed the song “Twende Nairobi” (“Let’s go to Nairobi”), sung by M’bilia Bel, in praise of Kenyan president Daniel arap Moi, the ban was promptly lifted. In the early 1990s he briefly settled in Southern California. He began to tailor his music towards an International audience by including more English lyrics and by increasing more international dance styles such as Samba. w/pix of Tabu Ley Rochereau


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