Congo Watch: January 2010

Saturday, January 30, 2010

DR Congo & Rwanda - Land disputes at the root of African wars

Land disputes at the root of African wars

A selection of the African continent's fights over land that have turned into violent, conflict, or threaten to.

From The Christian Science Monitor
By Jina Moore Correspondent, 30 January 2010
Land battles that sparked African conflicts

Western Sudan (Darfur) In the 1970s, the government eliminated the country's native administration – a quasi-government and colonial holdover of traditional elders – and rejected traditional land rights, depriving Darfur's pastoralists of access to grazing lands. When famine exacerbated disputes about land in the 1980s, violence broke out. Land grievances were never resolved, and in 2003, a rebel movement made up in part of disenfranchised former landholders revolted against the Sudanese government, which retaliated by arming bands of camel herders known as janjaweed to repress the rebellion – and promising them hefty tracts of the land, emptied in the course of the violence the militia unleashed.

The Democratic Republic of Congo Often called Africa's most deadly conflict, violence in parts of the northeast started over grazing cows in1999, when Hema herders evicted Lendu farmers after purchasing their land. Eviction grievances led both tribes to pick up weapons. As violence spread, the value of other mineral-rich lands contributed to the chaos in which 5 million people have died.

Ethiopia and Eritrea A 1998 dispute over the dusty border town of Badme turned into all-out war, with 80,000 deaths in two years. The town became the flash point of an older argument over the border between the two countries. Both sides saw Badme as a symbol of their real economic concern: power over the port of Assab, the Red Sea trade gateway. Despite international court rulings, the countries consider the border dispute unresolved – and their presidents often rally support by threatening to resume the fight.

Kenya Many indigenous tribes lost rights to traditional lands when the British privatized land holdings. When Joseph Kenyatta, the first postcolonial president, sought land redistribution, he gave the most fertile to his Kikuyu tribe. In a later backlash, many Kikuyu were pushed off their pastures. This created ethnic land grievances that have inspired violence during Kenya's elections since the 1990s, most recently after President Mwai Kabaki, a Kikuyu, was accused of stuffing ballot boxes in 2007.

Rwanda The 1994 genocide may have been catalyzed as much by land scarcity as by ethnic tension. Africa's most densely populated country found itself nearly without enough land to make farmers trust that they and their children could support themselves. Though the slaughter of minority Tutsis was also ethnically motivated, land fears played no small part in the violence.

Zimbabwe Land grievances helped fuel the 12-year war that led to independence in 1979. But recent violence stems from land reform efforts. In the name of economic fairness, President Robert Mugabe seized white farms and turned them over to blacks, primarily government officials who knew little about farming. As a result, agricultural production plummeted, food became scarce, and inflation spiked. Mugabe held power in a 2008 election only with violent intimidation of Zimbabweans.

Combustible land disputes that could erupt in conflict

Burundi The past decade brought the return of more than a half-million refugees who'd fled violence that began with independence in 1963. Many found their homes occupied – and because laws give ownership to anyone who has peacefully occupied land for at least 30 years, many refugees lost their homes and livelihoods. Experts fear the grievance could spark renewed conflict.

South Africa At the 1994 transition to democracy, the government planned to redistribute 30 percent of white-owned farms to blacks within 20 years. Transfers are behind schedule, and more than half have failed. After an outbreak of racial violence last year, observers fear the status quo – with expectations so high, progress so slow, and livelihoods at stake – is combustible.

Southern Sudan The 2005 peace agreement that ended a 20-year fight for the south didn't resolve tensions between the nation's two land systems. Private property reform implemented in the north was rejected in the south, which continues to use traditional rules. Danger of a potential clash between parallel systems is amplified by what's at stake: The south is oil-rich.

Uganda After 20 years of violence in the north, peace is bringing people home – and disputes are erupting over who owns property. Eighty percent of Ugandans have property claims based on the traditional land system, but a generation of conflict has weakened the traditional authority, of elders to resolve disputes or enforce land rules. As the government steps in to fill the power vacuum, experts fear a backlash.

Zambia White farmers forced off land in neighboring countries, found fertile soils here, and were initially welcomed by the government (five years ago). The tone changed as some immigrant farmers agitated locals by putting down roots on traditional lands. New arrivals, especially those fleeing Zimbabwe, are closely scrutinized. Observers fear deepening tensions.

Related Stories

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Thursday, January 28, 2010

Paul Kagame speaks to This is Africa about Rwanda’s remarkable success story

From The Office of Tony Blair
Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The following interview with President Paul Kagame of Rwanda appeared in the latest edition of This is Africa.
“A lot is changing. The voices of Africa are becoming more pronounced. There is insistence on Africa being taken seriously by Africans themselves, and Africans are trying to assert themselves and not only say the right things but also be seen to be doing the right things”

International capital investment will be vital for African development, but governance reform should be indigenously driven and not imposed by external actors, says Rwandan president Paul Kagame.

Mr Kagame, a softly-spoken former soldier, assumed power in 2000 and since then has overseen one of Africa’s – if not the world’s – most compelling stories of economic growth. Since the turn of the millennium, Rwanda’s GDP growth has averaged more than 7 percent per year. In the past five years the rate of that growth had been increasing, hitting a high of 11.2 percent in 2008, until the effects of the global economic downturn began to impact on the country, curtailing growth to 5.3 percent in 2009.

Underpinning this growth have been sustained private sector reforms that have attracted inward investment into agriculture and telecommunications. The World Bank’s 2010 “Doing Business” report, which tracks global business regulation, put Rwanda at the top of the reform table, stating that Kigali had lowered more barriers to investment than anywhere else in the world. It is this success that has elevated Mr Kagame to a platform from which he has been able to broadcast his message of self-determination with confidence and credibility. Aid, he has prescribed, is not working in its current form. It is through investment that the continent will develop, and the reform process that its governments undergo must be pushed by domestic factors, not by conditionality imposed by donors.

He acknowledges that the gulf between the perception of the continent and the reality on the ground is a massive challenge in terms of courting this investment. Rwanda perhaps suffers more than anywhere else in this regard. In 1994 the country was torn apart by a genocide that left hundreds of thousands of civilians dead and whose aftershocks still contribute to ethnic tensions and instability in the region. The tragedy also imprinted on the Western consciousness an image of suffering that still endures 15 years later. Bridging that gap is, to some extent, a domestic issue, he says, “But it’s also the task for those from outside to pick up the right signals and to change their own perceptions about Africa, and also about the kind of relationship that has to exist between Africa and the rest of the world.”

In a Financial Times article in May 2009, Mr Kagame condemned the “sentimentality” of the G20 and other multilaterals in their discussions on Africa, as well as the prevalence of the donor-recipient model in international relations with the continent. However, that relationship is already maturing, he says. “I think a lot is changing. The voices of Africa are becoming more pronounced. There is insistence on Africa being taken seriously by Africans themselves, and Africans are trying to assert themselves and not only say the right things but also be seen to be doing the right things,” he says. “I also see the emergence of a new approach and attitude from outside of Africa from the rest of the world. There are certain realities that people are learning from… people are discovering that on their side there are a lot of things they need to do, for their own benefit and for their own countries, in Europe or America.”

This understanding of mutual self-interest is increasingly significant not only between the continent and its international partners, Mr Kagame says. The growing potency of the African Union and regional economic bodies, as well as their apparent willingness to step in to resolve disputes, is an encouraging sign. Mr Kagame’s Rwanda has made steps towards reconciliation with the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo. Kigali’s role in the region’s conflicts since the end of the genocide has been much criticised, but the past 12 months have seen an unprecedented degree of cooperation between the two nations. Diplomatic sources in Kinshasa say that there is a strong sense of buy-in from both sides of the border, which suggests that progress is being made on one of Africa’s most intractable areas of conflict.

Mr Kagame sees this as symptomatic of the growing understanding amongst leaders and civilians that they have an individual stake in regional stability. “We are working together at government level and we are also encouraging business to happen across borders. I think the people of Congo are beginning to realise that indeed they benefit more by working with people beyond their borders, rather than keeping their problems to themselves or blaming their problems on outside [influences].”

The thoughtfully controversial stance on aid perhaps demonstrates the kind of interlocutor that Mr Kagame wants to become on the world stage: conciliatory in his willingness to take responsibility for regional problems, but similarly unafraid to pick up on what he sees as hypocrisy in Western discourse. However, he seemed to break this façade recently in his public comments on Chinese investment into Africa. In an interview with Handelsblatt, the German newspaper, Mr Kagame was quoted as saying that China’s involvement was almost overwhelmingly positive, and stood in stark contrast to Western efforts.

Today, Mr Kagame insists that his support was not as unequivocal as has been reported, and he appears genuinely disappointed that the more nuanced message he favours has not come through. Instead, the comments have been built into a far less maturely argued controversy, with the president being cast as an apologist for China. The recurrent criticisms of China’s human rights record and the notion that its lack of conditionality fuel governance failures in Africa were revived. Why, one accusation went, should Mr Kagame accept investments from China while China invests in Guinea and Guinea is in political turmoil following a coup d’etat?

Notwithstanding the difficulty of establishing a causal link between Guinea’s troubles and China’s investment, Mr Kagame suggests there is an inherent hypocrisy in the suggestion that there is a choice between two opposing and mutually exclusive poles, whose approach is characterised by equally divergent views on governance and democracy.

“If that point was being taken seriously, China shouldn’t be allowed to invest in the West… or the West should not be investing in China because China is doing wrong things in Guinea,” he says with a faint smile. “My argument on this has been not to judge China or judge the West. I want to focus on Africa itself, so that we avoid seeing Africa as not a viable or effective player in world affairs, and only to be seen either as a victim or a beneficiary caught up between other players.”

Africa, he insists, should not be the subordinate partner in African affairs. The debate over China’s disinterested approach to governance, particularly where it focuses on the perceived likelihood that African leaders’ ability to reform will be undermined as a result, is “very patronising,” he says.

Likewise, that reform should not be imposed upon Africa. “We’ve seen China invest in Africa in areas that are key to Africa. My concern is: how are Africans prepared to make good use of these investments for their development, by China or anyone else,” he says. “My thinking is not to blame China for this, or the West for this. I want to start blaming [African countries] for not being … prepared to do their part and to benefit themselves and to benefit those who invest in them.

“What questions should China, or any country in the West be asking [when they invest]? The number one question they should be asking is: does it bring good returns for the investments that they are making? Now, if there are issues about governance and politics, they are free to ask these questions. But tying everything to these questions that have been asked for the last 50 years I think borders on, or even goes beyond, hypocrisy and double standards.”

Mr Kagame’s message of investment over aid and profit over sentimentality does seem to be resonating with the private sector, and his vision of a new narrative for Rwanda – and Africa as a whole – has proved compelling to many in the development community. Others, however, insist that economic reform does not translate into social reform, and that democracy and human rights remain off the table. Mr Kagame’s response is far more Washington consensus than Beijing.

“These investments also encourage positive developments, with more prosperity, with more wealth and more employment and more infrastructure and so on. Africa will develop and will take more control of its destiny, and governments will allow or even be pressured into allowing more freedom, more choices, good governance and democracy,” he says.
Further reading
Africa Governance Initiative

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Friday, January 22, 2010

"A Prosperous and Exciting Africa in Our Lifetime" Tony Blair talks to African Investor magazine

Former UK prime minister Tony Blair has the utmost faith that Africa will succeed, something the continent needs from investors and advisors. His ultimate vision for Africa is to see the continent achieve its own goals. "It's up to Africa and its leaders. I believe that we will see a prosperous and exciting Africa in our lifetime and we are approaching a point where the business community is waking up to the opportunities of Africa at a time when Africa has this new generation of leaders."

Source: "A Prosperous and Exciting Africa in Our Lifetime" Tony Blair talks to African Investor magazine
The Office of Tony Blair, Wednesday, Jan 20, 2010:
The following interview appeared in the January-February 2010 edition of African Investor magazine

"Africa has been at the top of my foreign policy for the last ten years," says Tony Blair, former UK prime minister. "From the very beginning I wanted to forge a new partnership with African leaders and countries. I really believe that Africa is the next big opportunity for investors, it would not only be good for business but could transform the lives of Africans."

Blair is now involved in supporting the continent through The Office of Tony Blair. He has established several other foundations, including The Africa Governance Initiative, to encourage governments across the continent to develop strong regulation to encourage investment in a clutch of African countries - Sierra Leone, Rwanda and now Liberia - and drive development.

"I firmly believe that, in the long-term, good governance and sustained economic growth are the key to poverty eradication. This is the basis of the African Governance Initiative that I set up 18 months ago," says Blair.

"We work with African countries who are serious about standing on their own two feet by growing their private sector and making government work more effectively," says Blair, with the aim of motivating African governments to be independent thinkers.

Blair has been developing his interest in Africa for a long time. He drew criticism for his emotive turn of phrase in calling Africa "a scar on the conscience of the world", accused of shoring up a negative image that Africa was unable to act for itself. At the time of the Commission for Africa, an organisation established to bring to light the core issues affecting the continent, Blair said: "I fear my own conscience on Africa. I fear the judgement of future generations, where history properly calculates the gravity of the suffering. I fear them asking: but how could wealthy people, so aware of such suffering, so capable of acting, simply turn away to busy themselves with other things?"

Now he supports countries he believes are getting on and up for themselves.

Ernest Bai Koroma, President of Sierra Leone, says his government has taken great steps towards driving economic growth in the country. "The IMF has predicted that we will grow at twice the African average by the end of this year (2009)," he said. "But this is only the beginning; our country has a wealth of untapped potential. We are building a legislative framework that provides the right incentives for investors while ensuring that all feel the benefits of economic growth," says Koroma.

The Sierra Leone Trade and Investment Forum held in late November 2009 was attended by Blair and roused great enthusiasm for investing in the country.

"Sierra Leone has significant, unrealised potential and is open for business and investment," said George Soros, international business mogul, in a televised address. "If you look carefully at the real Sierra Leone, it is clear that the country has the genuine potential to become a leading African economy."

Although Blair gives money freely, he says "all African countries should aim to be in a place where they do not need development assistance.

"President Kagame of Rwanda and President Koroma in Sierra Leone, who I work closely with, are just two examples of a new generation of pro-business, pro-reform leaders from Africa who are serious about rooting out corruption, providing protection for investors and leading more stable, better-governed countries," he says.

"I have been through similar challenges to the presidents I work with, albeit in a very different national and regional context. You sometimes need the experience of someone who has sat on ‘the other side of the desk'."

Blair has the utmost faith that Africa will succeed, something the continent needs from investors and advisors. His ultimate vision for Africa is to see the continent achieve its own goals. "It's up to Africa and its leaders. I believe that we will see a prosperous and exciting Africa in our lifetime and we are approaching a point where the business community is waking up to the opportunities of Africa at a time when Africa has this new generation of leaders."

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Thursday, January 21, 2010

Rwandan genocide suspect Sosthene Munyemana arrested in France

The arrest comes weeks after French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner made his first visit to Rwanda since diplomatic ties were restored in November. See reports here below.

Doctor wanted in Rwanda in genocide detained
From Associated Press via Taiwan News on Thursday, 21 January 2010:
Bordeaux police say they have detained a Rwandan doctor wanted by his homeland for allegedly playing a part in the 1994 genocide.

Sosthene Munyemana, who works as an emergency doctor, was freed under judicial control, meaning he must report to judicial officials until his appearance before a court that will decide his fate.

France rejected his asylum demand in 2008 and detained him Wednesday on an international arrest warrant. Rwanda wants the doctor extradited for his alleged role in the genocide.

Munyemana says he is innocent and has appealed the asylum decision.

An estimated 500,000 people, mostly ethnic Tutsis, were massacred in 100 days of frenzied killing led by radical Hutus.
Rwandan genocide suspect arrested in France
From BBC News at 07:51 GMT, Thursday, 21 January 2010:
A Rwandan doctor wanted on charges of genocide and war crimes has been arrested in France, police say.

Sosthene Munyemana, 45, who had been working in a hospital in Bordeaux for eight years, denies the charges.

His arrest on an extradition warrant from Rwanda comes weeks after France and Rwanda restored diplomatic ties.

France had rejected an asylum bid by him in 2008, saying there were "serious reasons" to suspect his involvement in war crimes in 1994, AFP reported.

Some 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed in the 100-day massacre in 1994.

Mr Munyemana was released on bail, but must report to judicial officials until a court date is set.

He had been on the Interpol list of wanted men for a few years.

Shooting down

The arrest comes weeks after French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner made his first visit to Rwanda since diplomatic ties were restored in November.

Relations between Paris and Kigali had been poor for several years but were severed in 2006 after a French judge accused President Paul Kagame and several senior officials of being behind the 1994 murder of Rwanda's Hutu President Juvenal Habyaremana.

The shooting down of his plane triggered the 1994 genocide.

Those suspected of being most responsible for the killings are being tried by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) based in Arusha, Tanzania.

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Tuesday, January 19, 2010

DR Congo offers help to Haitians - Senegal offers free land to any Haitians who want to "return" to Africa

On Sunday, Senegal's President Abdoulaye Wade said he was offering free land to any Haitians who wanted to "return" to Africa.

"The president is offering voluntary repatriation to any Haitian that wants to return to their origin," said Mr Wade's spokesman, Mamadou Bemba Ndiaye.

Responding to the Senegalese offer, Mr Mende said the government would certainly not reject any Haitians if they wanted to move to DR Congo.

SOURCE: BBC News online at 17:39 GMT UK, Monday, 18 January 2010 - Poor DR Congo offers aid to Haiti.  Here is a copy, in full:
The Democratic Republic of Congo has announced it is sending $2.5m (£1.5m) in emergency aid to Haiti, to help it cope with last week's earthquake.

Some Congolese have criticised the offer. After years of conflict, which is still raging in the east, millions of people live in poverty.

The country depends on foreign aid and civil servants frequently go unpaid.

But Information Minister Lambert Mende told the BBC that DR Congo would contribute within its means.

"Congo isn't bankrupt, our own problems shouldn't prevent us from helping a brother country," he said.

But political scientist Ntanda Nkere from the University of Kinshasa told the BBC:

"It's a contradiction to see a country which is facing serious financial problems giving away $2.5m but at the same time, it's a purely diplomatic reaction, the Congolese government wants to appear like any other government."

On Sunday, Senegal's President Abdoulaye Wade said he was offering free land to any Haitians who wanted to "return" to Africa.

Most of Haiti's population are descended from slaves.

"The president is offering voluntary repatriation to any Haitian that wants to return to their origin," said Mr Wade's spokesman, Mamadou Bemba Ndiaye.

Responding to the Senegalese offer, Mr Mende said the government would certainly not reject any Haitians if they wanted to move to DR Congo.

The earthquake killed tens of thousands in Haiti, with many bodies still stuck in the remains of buildings.

Aid is slowly arriving but aid workers are struggling to distribute it to all those who need it.
I hope the whole world helps Haiti. See comments online at BBC's Have Your Say:  Should Africa help Haiti?  Here is a copy of some heartwarming comments posted:

Monday, 18 January, 2010, 18:49 GMT 18:49 UK
First I would like to thank you to African leaders that tried to help our brothers and sister in Haiti. This is a time we have to show the world that we are able to help our with a lettle that we have. I will say long live to our African leaders. Haitian people were our people before the end in that island. This is time for them to come. Second, I thank world leaders that put their hands to help Haiti. Specaily, United States leaders. Haitian history is our everyone that why they are in Haiti.
Simon, NJ, US Original From South Sudan
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It does not matter who helps them.
JUST HELP THEM !!
Haiti, as a country, have never harmed anyone.
Please everyone come together and help them.
Gareth, UK
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Added: Tuesday, 19 January, 2010, 08:46 GMT 08:46 UK
The Senegal president's offer is a good one. Haitians should explore living in Africa especially if conditions in their state are, relatively, not as favourable. There is good abundant farmland and opportunity for those with skills to live better in Africa. Infact, i would propose Haitians obtain African citizenship and join the African Union
Ezekiel Pombe, Kisumu
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Added: Tuesday, 19 January, 2010, 02:10 GMT 02:10 UK
yes! everywhere should help haiti!! they are in desperate need of help!
me, vegas
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Added: Monday, 18 January, 2010, 22:56 GMT 22:56 UK
May God bless President President Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal,
Macaulay Akinbami, Lagos-Nigeria
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Added: Monday, 18 January, 2010, 20:20 GMT 20:20 UK
The Senegalese govt's thinking and offer is really very encouraging i enjoin other African's country to offer same olive branch and hopefully the Haitians are considering this
olaosebikan o.k (mrs), Lagos
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Monday, January 18, 2010

France: Cote d’Ivoire - Tournée africaine de Bernard Kouchner

Cote d’Ivoire / Tournée africaine de Bernard Kouchner
Copy of report, in full.
Source: France – Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
(PARIS, France) 18 janvier 2010/African Press Organization (APO)/
— Actualités diplomatiques du ministère français des Affaires étrangères / Point de presse du 18 janvier 2010. (…)

(Une information de presse fait état de la présence de Claude Guéant à Abidjan le week-end dernier, alors que Bernard Kouchner a dû annuler le 10 janvier l’étape ivoirienne de sa tournée africaine. Y a-t-il une différence d’approche entre la présidence de la République et le ministère des Affaires étrangères et européennes au sujet de la Côte d’Ivoire ?)

Comme nous l’avions indiqué, Bernard Kouchner a décidé d’annuler l’étape ivoirienne de son récent déplacement en Afrique, en raison de l’annonce par les autorités ivoiriennes du report de la publication des listes électorales consolidées. Aucune visite officielle de haut niveau n’est prévue en Côte d’Ivoire prochainement. Comme vous avez pu le constater, le secrétaire général de l’Elysée était l’invité hier d’Europe 1. La coordination entre l’Elysée et le Quai d’Orsay est totale et particulièrement vigilante sur le dossier de la Côte d’Ivoire./.

Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)
Attentat au Caire (22 février 2009) / Communiqué de Bernard Kouchner

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Thursday, January 14, 2010

Pass this on: Missing Persons Registry - Haitian Earthquake January 2010

Copy of message today on Twitter from Ushahidi's Erik Hersman:
Pass this on. Missing persons registry for #haiti is http://www.haitianquake.com
about 4 hours ago from twhirl
ushahidi
Further reading

Patrick Meier's report at Ushahidi's blog, 13 January 2010: Our Efforts in Response to Haiti’s Earthquake - We’ve launched Haiti.Ushahidi.com

Ethan Zuckerman's blog post at My Heart's in Accra, 13 January 2010: Following the Haitian earthquake online

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Tuesday, January 12, 2010

World Bank: Republic of Congo & DR Congo eligible to participate in initial $26.2m phase of CAB program to develop high-speed telecoms

$215 Million Central Africa Backbone Program (CAB Program) Will Bring Low Cost, High Speed Internet to the Region. Program is expected to bring significant development impact.

Source: World Bank Press Release No:2010/094.SDN
Contact
In Geneva: Ian Larsen
Phone: +41(0)79 477 96 17
E-mail: ilarsen@worldbank.org or ianlarsen71@yahoo.com
GENEVA, October 6, 2009 – Today the Executive Board of Directors of the World Bank Group has announced its endorsement of the $215 million, ten-year Central African Backbone Program (CAB Program). This program will support the countries of the Central African region in developing their high-speed telecommunications backbone infrastructure to increase the availability of high-speed Internet and reduce end-user prices. The CAB Program will also help countries harmonize the laws and regulations that govern the ICT sector to increase private sector investment and improve competition.

Three countries – Cameroon, Chad and Central African Republic (CAR) – are participating in the initial $26.2 million phase of the Program. A further eight countries are also eligible to participate in the Program—Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Niger, Nigeria, São Tomé and Principe, and Sudan.

The CAB Program is being supported through a partnership between the World Bank Group and the African Development Bank (AfDB). The program also aims to leverage an additional US$98 million from the private sector. In conjunction with the Economic and Monetary Community of Central Africa (CEMAC), the African Union Commission (AUC) will play an important role in facilitating inter-governmental cooperation and policy harmonization. The International Finance Corporation (IFC) will also assist governments in structuring Public Private Partnerships under the program.

Development Impact

The CAB Program brings much needed connectivity to Central Africa. Until now, people in Central Africa have the lowest quality and highest cost Internet and telephone services in Africa. The population pays up to two times more in monthly Internet rates than people living in other African countries, and up to three times more than those living in other parts of the world. “The CAB Program is very important for the countries involved and lies at the heart of their development strategies. It will assist countries to strengthen their enabling environment, create competition and, ultimately increase access and lower the costs for end users,” said Mary Barton-Dock, World Bank Country Director for Cameroon, Chad and Central African Republic.

In its recent Information and Communications for Development 2009: Extending Reach and Increasing Impact, the World Bank found that for every 10 percentage-point increase in high speed Internet connections there is an increase in economic growth of 1.3 percentage points. The report also identifies the mobile platform as the single most powerful way to reach and deliver public and private services to hundreds of millions of people in remote and rural areas across the developing world.

“Ultimately, our goal is to develop regional and national broadband backbones and significantly reduce the cost of ICT services in Central Africa. Through better and affordable connectivity, the aim is to leverage the transformational powers of ICTs to support economic growth, SME development, employment creation, productivity gains and trade integration in the region,” says Mohsen Khalil, Director of Global Information and Communications Technologies at the World Bank Group.

Modernizing the ICT Sector

In addition to infrastructure development, the CAB Program will strengthen the capacity of public institutions such as the sectoral ministries and regulatory authorities and will promote a competition-friendly environment by liberalizing the sector and restructuring telecommunications operators.

The Program is also meant to be a model of regional integration and successful public-private partnerships. Its design and implementation require the cooperation of several countries and international and regional organizations. Design goals will be to: (i) maximize the use of private financing (or minimize the use of public financing); (ii) ensure feasibility and attractiveness of the transaction; and (iii) secure open access to regional connectivity infrastructure and ensure competitive, reasonable tariff of international, regional and national capacity.

“This program is a great example of the World Bank’s increasing emphasis on regional infrastructure as part of Africa’s development,” said Rick Scobey, Acting Director for Regional Integration in Africa at the World Bank.

Part of a Broader Regional Strategy

The World Bank Group and African Development Bank (AfDB), in partnership, are committing significant resources and are making progress on the ground in helping to achieve the goals outlined at the October 2007 Connect Africa Summit. The Summit was convened by the International Telecommunications Union, the World Bank, the African Development Bank, the African Union, and the United Nations Global Alliance for ICT and Development.

This partnership has already launched three major regional connectivity programs, among a range of other ICT activities, with a fourth in the pipeline.

Regional Communications Infrastructure Program (RCIP)

The World Bank is providing US$424 million in financing for the Regional Communications Infrastructure Program (RCIP) to support regional connectivity and transparency in government through the use of ICT. The Program is available to all countries in the East and Southern Africa region and can be tailored to each country’s specific needs and priorities. The first phase of RCIP included Kenya, Madagascar and Burundi and was approved by the Board of the World Bank in 2007. The second phase was for Rwanda and was approved in 2008. The third phase includes Tanzania, Mozambique and Malawi and was approved by the Board of the World Bank in June 2009.

East African Submarine Cable System (EASSy) – World Bank Group, AfDB and other Development Finance Institutions (DFIs)

EASSy is a 10,000 km submarine fiber-optic cable running along the East Coast of Africa from Sudan to South Africa. It will directly connect eight of the countries along the route and indirectly connect all of the others in the region to the international communications infrastructure. It will provide broadband connectivity to the global fiber-optic cable networks, supplying low-cost, high bandwidth capacity to the markets in the region.

The project was developed by a consortium of 26 telecommunications operators, mostly from Eastern and Southern Africa with the support of five DFIs: International Finance Corporation (IFC), the AfDB, European Investment Bank, Agence Française de Développement (AFD) and Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau (KfW). The total cost of the project is $235 million with around $70 million coming as debt-financing from the DFIs. Of this, IFC contributed $32.7 million and AfDB contributed U$14.5 million.

EASSy is one of three submarine fiber-optic cables that are due to become operational in the region between 2009 and 2010. Experience shows that competition between submarine cables is the best way to achieve efficient and affordable ICT services.

West African Power Pool – Joint World Bank-AfDB

Limited inter-country connectivity in the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) region results in inefficient, costly routing of calls between neighboring countries by satellite. Policy makers in the region have identified the emerging regional electricity transmission infrastructure as a way of improving high bandwidth regional communications capacity. These electricity networks have built in fiber-optic cables whose spare capacity can be utilized to provide backbone services to communications providers on a wholesale basis.

The World Bank and AfDB have been closely involved in developing the regional electricity transmission infrastructure through the West Africa Power Pool (WAPP). This transmission infrastructure will also be able to carry telecommunications traffic. In 2008, a stakeholder workshop in Benin endorsed the opportunity and committed to removing the bottlenecks associated with creating a regional backhaul network.

The World Bank and AfDB continue to provide support to the development of this network in FY09 through the preparation of the detailed technical, commercial and financial feasibility studies. Staff are also working with governments in the region to address the legal/regulatory and contractual arrangements for implementation, and continue to work with other donor agencies to ensure that efforts in this area are complementary.

“Regional communication infrastructure programs such as the CAB program illustrate what can be achieved through a strong partnership between the governments, private-sector and development partners,” said Yann Burtin, Project Manager for the CAB Program. The contributions of the AfDB and of the African Union Commission are essential to the process, added Burtin.

“The CAB program is an exciting development for Chad, Cameroon and the Central African Program. Regional connectivity projects like this one are increasingly important in the African Development Bank’s strategy for the region,” said Amadou Thierno Diallo, Manager for Energy and ICT at theAfDB.

For more information, please visit:
http://www.worldbank.org/gict
Cross-posted to Sudan Watch and Niger Watch.

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Monday, January 11, 2010

Rwanda: Habyarimana killed by his own army, UK experts report

Rwanda is this week expected to release the findings of an investigation by UK defence experts into the causes of the April 6, 1994 air crash that killed president Juvenal Habyarimana and his Burundian counterpart Cyprian Ntaryamira, triggering off a 100-day genocide in which nearly a million Rwandans, mainly Tutsi, died.

Click here for full story by The East African (Kenya), Monday, 11 January 2010 via Afrika.no - The Norwegian Council for Africa.

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Friday, January 08, 2010

Africa Cup of Nations: Togo footballers shot on bus in Congo, near Angolan border

Togo footballers shot in ambush
Report from BBC News at 17:44 GMT, Friday, 8 January 2010:
Gunmen have fired on a bus carrying Togo's football team to the Africa Cup of Nations in Angola, wounding several players, competition officials say.

They say robbers shot at the bus in Congo, near the Angolan border. There are reports of serious injuries.

The Africa Cup of Nations is due to start on Sunday.

Togo's first game is to be played on Monday in the oil-rich territory of Cabinda, where rebels have been fighting for independence.

The Togolese team includes Manchester City striker Emmanuel Adebayor and Aston Villa's Moustapha Saliphou.

Those wounded also include team doctors. The identities of the injured are not known.

The BBC understands Adebayor is not among them.
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Africa Cup of Nations: Venue guide

Four brand-new stadiums spread across Angola's west coast will give fans the chance to explore more than just on-field excitement at the Africa Cup of Nations. The BBC's Louise Redvers gives an insider's guide to the venues. Click here for full story at BBC News, Thursday, 7 January 2010.
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Africa Cup of Nations ready for kick-off

Africa Cup of Nations
Venue and dates: Angola, 10-31 January Coverage: Final and semi-finals live on BBC TV, BBC World Service and commentaries on BBC Sport website. Live commentary on opening match on BBC World Service and BBC Sport website. Click here for full story by Alistair Magowan, BBC News, Friday, 8 January 2010.

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Wednesday, January 06, 2010

FDLR Inc: Congo’s multinational rebels, one of Africa's most feared militias

The German authorities have arrested leaders of a militia which operates in the Democratic Republic of Congo - but how strong is the case against them? The BBC's East Africa Correspondent Peter Greste investigates.

The FDLR is one of Africa's most feared militias
The FDLR is one of Africa's most feared militias

From BBC News
By the BBC's East Africa Correspondent Peter Greste, 18 November 2009:
FDLR Inc: Congo’s multinational rebels
Over the past few months, I have been investigating connections between war crimes allegedly committed by the FDLR in the Congo, and their leaders living in Europe.

One of them is Callixte Mbarashimana, an unlikely-looking warlord, elegantly dressed in a suit, tie and overcoat. With his neatly trimmed goatee and easy smile, he looks more like a university professor than the second-most powerful man in one of Africa's most feared militias.

Mr Mbarashimana is the executive secretary of the FDLR - one of the most potent rebel forces fighting in the dense forests and bush-land along the eastern frontier of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

They are, he says, "a military-political organisation to protect Rwandan refugees and … to liberate the Rwandan people from the yoke of the fascist regime of the RPF (Rwandan Patriotic Front)".

'Conglomeration'

These are claims that gall human rights workers, the United Nations and countless Congolese civilians, who accuse the FDLR of a catalogue of abuses, including mass rape, murder, forced recruitments, child soldiers, using slaves to illegally exploit minerals.

"It's just a conglomeration of criminals," according to the head of the UN's programme to demobilise the region's armed groups, Greg Alex. "What have they done in the Congo that's been righteous?"

According to UN investigators, FDLR executives operate relatively freely in North America, and Europe. Those connections have infuriated peacekeeping officials in the Congo who have repeatedly called on host governments to dismantle the support structure that keeps the rebels fighting.

"The linkages are clear," said a frustrated Hiroute Guebre Sellassie, head of the UN's peacekeeping force in the province of North Kivu.

"The FDLR has remained cohesive as it is now because of the political leadership in Europe. These are people that encourage those in the field to kill, to rape every day. These are crimes, so they should be prosecuted."

'Commander-in-chief'

The FDLR's president, Ignace Murwanashyaka, lives in Mannheim in Germany. He was arrested on Tuesday, charged with being a leader of a terrorist organisation, of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Ignace Murwanashyaka

German authorities accuse Ignace Murwanashyaka of war crimes

In interview after interview, serving and former FDLR officials told me that he is not only the ideological and political force behind the movement, he is its supreme military commander.

He is "like President Obama," according to the FDLR's spokesman in the Congo who goes by the nom de guerre of "La Forge".

"Just as President Obama is also the commander-in-chief of the US armed forces, so President Murwanashyaka is our military leader as well."

The BBC has obtained a log of calls from satellite phones owned by senior FDLR commanders that shows a regular and consistent communication with leaders in the diaspora, notably Ignace Murwanashyaka.

The evidence - supported by testimony from former officers - suggests that he personally directed strategy and approved operations.

FDLR Inc: Congo’s multinational rebels

The UN estimates over a thousand civilians have been killed this year

Child soldiers

Captain Busokoye Donat is a former FDLR officer now in Rwanda under the demobilisation scheme. He used to be in charge of officer training before taking over what he described as "civil defence" - which is training civilian supporters in weapons and military tactics.

"You have to understand that in our organisation, Dr Murwanashyaka is like God," he said.

"He might not give tactical orders - that's the job of the officers who know the situation on the ground - but every operation is run past him for approval."

"He knows everything that happens in the field."

I asked Donat about reports that the FDLR is recruiting child soldiers.

"We have been losing a lot of troops through DDRRR (the UN's demobilisation programme) so we have to go to schools to get more soldiers. We have no choice," he said.

"Does Dr Murwanashyaka know this?" I asked.

"I told you. Dr Murwanashyaka knows everything that happens."

Donat also linked the leader to attacks on innocent villagers.

"I personally saw a telegram in which President Murwanashyaka told commanders that they should attack villages to force civilians to flee."

"That's to put pressure on the international community and Rwanda to negotiate with us," Donat said.

Justice

Before his arrest, we asked Mr Murwanashyaka for an interview. He referred us to his executive secretary Callixte Mbarashimana in Paris.

Callixte Mbarashimana

Callixte Mbarashimana defends the FDLR's human rights record

Mr Mbarashimana denied complicity in war crimes. "I am in a country where justice works. I am ready to face justice if there are any allegations that come with evidence."

"I have always claimed my innocence and I am ready - I repeat ready - to face justice if they come with allegations."

Mr Mbarashimana fiercely defended the FDLR's human rights record. "There is no FDLR policy to attack any civilian population," he said. "We condemn all those abuses. We have consistently called for an international investigation so that they can identify the authors of those abuses and bring them to justice. That is our policy."

The French authorities told me Mr Mbarashimana has broken none of their laws. They said free speech legislation protects his right to act as the organisation's spokesman, and they have not received any formal request for an investigation.

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