Category Archives: Legal Rights

African Union Strongly Denies Allegations of Cronyism, Corruption

ADDIS ABABA – A spokesperson for African Union chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat has rejected allegations that the organization is run like a “mafia-style” cartel, a term used in a leaked internal memo from AU staff accusing their boss of corruption and cronyism.

VOA has since obtained a copy of the March 6 document, which was signed by Sabelo Mbokazi, the president of the AU Staff Association. The memo, first reported in South Africa’s Mail & Guardian, gives several examples of allegedly illegal appointments of staff, and calls for the “restoration of sound administrative management and leadership.”

At a meeting on Sept. 28, 2019, staff complained about the recruitment process for the AU’s new head of human resources, Hamza Sahel. Staffers said his hiring was the “manifestation of glaring cronyism and total collapse of leadership” inside the AU.

But Ebba Kalondo, the chief spokesperson for Faki, said the AU chairman and new human resources chief have “no direct relationship.”

She encouraged Sabelo to come forward and substantiate his allegations.

“They’re obviously very serious allegations,” Kalondo said. “[On] Mr. Sabelo, it’s regrettable of course that he wanted to speak to the entire staff complement about this when he has direct access to the chairperson to be able to make these allegations. But, seeing that he wanted to be able to communicate in this way, we certainly hope that he will be able to give us or at least share some of the proof of these extremely serious allegations of which of course everybody wants to get to the bottom of.”

The allegations come during a period when many staff inside the AU are threatened with losing their jobs as the institution goes through deep structural reforms started under the Rwandan presidency in 2018.

Faki, a Chadian politician, is currently in Brazzaville, Republic of Congo, to hold talks with African heads of state over the ongoing crisis in Libya. A spokeswoman said when Faki returns, he will respond to Sabelo internally about each point raised in the memo.

Source: Voice of America

All-Female Ranger Unit Protecting Kenya’s Wildlife

KAJIADO, KENYA – Kenya’s Amboseli National Park is home to herds of elephants that have been the target of poachers trafficking in the illicit trade in ivory. Now a program that has brought women on board in the fight against poaching is gaining traction.

At the start of another day at the Olgulului-Ololarashi Group Ranch, 23-year-old park ranger Purity Amleset, the leader of this all female ranger unit, sets out the day’s plan with her team, ensuring that each member has her orders correct.

Today’s task: locating an elephant and her newborn calf.

Team Lioness

Dubbed “Team Lioness,” the ranger unit is made up of eight women whose core duties involve protecting wildlife within the 1,230 square kilometer stretch of parkland that surrounds Amboseli National Park.

They are chosen for their academic achievements, physical stamina, integrity and discipline.

Amleset says joining an all-female ranger unit has been beneficial to the traditionally patriarchal Maasai community.

She says her community held the view that women and girls were the weaker sex and that girls could only do menial jobs and housework, which included only raising a family. However over the course of time, the female rangers have been showing and telling them the importance of being a ranger just like the menfolk.

Gateway for poachers

The Olgulului-Ololarashi Group Ranch’s proximity to the Amboseli park makes it a likely gateway for poachers who may seek entry into the national park to hunt illegally.

Patrick Papatiti, the commander of the Olgululului Community Wildlife Rangers has about 76 rangers under his charge. He says integrating women has not been easy.

“We have the same mentality even within the male ranger unit, the same mentality that ladies cannot do it. But surprisingly we have the best young women who can run, who can move faster than these guys, who can go long(er) distances than these guys,” he sad. “So from that, working together helped us to clear the norm that these are the same ladies the same girls that you see in the village.”

Despite the challenges, in the end James Isiche — the regional director for East Africa from the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) — says starting an all-female ranger unit was a risk worth taking.

“Communities in Kenya are male-dominated, but this particular one is extremely male-dominated,” he said. “So getting young ladies to engage in what is seen as a man’s job is a huge success and what we (are) seeing is that it’s encouraging other girls to step up and say that ‘when I finish school I also want to join the female lionesses.’”

Source: Voice of America

South Africa in Recession, Figures Show

JOHANNESBURG The official announcement that South Africa is in recession only confirmed what many South Africans, beset by high unemployment and unreliable electricity, already knew: The economy is flagging.

This week, the nation’s statistical agency announced the gross domestic product had shrunk by 1.4 percent in the fourth quarter of 2019. That means two consecutive quarters of contraction, making this officially, for the third time in the history of democratic South Africa, a recession. The nation shed the apartheid system with its first inclusive elections in 1994.

Multiple domestic challenges persist, notably, the security of electricity supply with heightened rotational loadshedding impeding the optimal functioning of the economy, economist Lara Hodes of Investec Bank said. Additionally, persistent policy uncertainty and the slow implementation of crucial reforms continue to weigh on business and consumer confidence, inhibiting satisfactory growth.

But Finance Minister Tito Mboweni promised in his annual budget speech, presented last week, that better times are ahead. He identified the nation’s electricity provider, Eskom which has failed to keep up with demand, and has had to implement rolling blackouts in recent weeks as a priority.

We forecast that the South African economy will grow by 0.9 percent and inflation will average 4.5 percent in 2020, he said. Over the next 18 months, the economy should get a number of jump starts. Persistent electricity problems will, however, hold back growth. Over the next three years, we expect growth to average just over one percent. Therefore, a stable supply of electricity will be our No. 1 critical task.

Seven out of 10 of the nation’s biggest industries contracted in the fourth quarter, with agriculture falling the most, by nearly 8 percent.

Mboweni also attributed the economic situation to the spread of the novel coronavirus, which originated in China in late 2019 and has since infected more than 91,000 people worldwide. While South African officials have yet to report a confirmed case of the virus, Hodes acknowledged that it has hurt the economy.

South Africa is a small, open economy and therefore it is highly sensitive to global events. Although we do not know the extent of the economic damage COVID19 will cause, it depends on how quickly the virus is contained, she told VOA. It is currently weighing significantly on global markets.

Meanwhile, one of the few African nations that has seen at least one confirmed case of coronavirus is thriving economically. New figures from Nigeria show the oil giant surpassed its fourthquarter growth forecasts, making it Africa’s largest economy.

Source: Voice of America

Trump Calls Egyptian Leader to Discuss Nile Dam

WHITE HOUSE – U.S. President Donald Trump and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi spoke on Tuesday to discuss the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), after U.S.-brokered talks on the Nile mega dam fell apart last week.

The White House in a statement Tuesday said that President Trump expressed hope that an agreement on the dam would be finalized soon and benefit all parties involved.

Foreign Minister Gedu Andargachew said on Tuesday that Ethiopia would continue talks but warned Washington not to rush the process or try to influence the outcome.

I think it is best if America works to support the negotiations so that the parties resolve the remaining issues, Andargachew said to VOA Amharic.

Last week Ethiopia rejected a U.S.-brokered draft agreement.

Ethiopia said it would commence first filling of the dam’s reservoir, despite months of talks with Egypt and Sudan hosted by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. Downstream country Egypt fears Ethiopia’s plans to rapidly fill the reservoir could threaten its source of fresh water.

The country said it did not accept the U.S. “characterization that the negotiation on the Guidelines and Rules on the First Filling and Annual Operation of the GERD is completed.

Last Wednesday it walked out of what was supposed to be the final round of talks between Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan in Washington.

At the end of the talks, Egypt issued its own statement saying it had initialed the agreement, calling it “fair and balanced” and in “the common interest of the three countries.

The United States seems to be putting its thumb on the scale in favor of Egypt, said David Shinn, adjunct professor of international affairs at the George Washington University and former U.S. ambassador to Ethiopia.

Shinn said it’s not clear what the United States is trying to achieve beyond Trump’s statement that he wants a quick solution to the problem. Perhaps it is time to make the agreement public so that everyone can see what the United States is proposing, Shinn said.

Given Ethiopia’s refusal to accept the terms of the of the agreement, the Trump administration has no option but to bow out and make room for another impartial mediator, said Addisu Lashitew, a research fellow at the Brookings Institution.

Lashitew accused the administration of not fully understanding the mess it has created by complicating a delicate negotiation process that was already tense.

In a matter of weeks the U.S. has squandered the goodwill that it has developed with Ethiopia through decades-long engagement, Lashitew said.

The next steps in negotiations are unclear.

It’s now a matter of political will, said Aaron Salzberg, director of The Water Institute at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

If the parties want to reach an agreement, they will work through the remaining differences � with or without the United States, Salzberg added.

Source: Voice of America

Trump Calls Egyptian Leader to Discuss Nile Dam

WHITE HOUSE – U.S. President Donald Trump and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi spoke on Tuesday to discuss the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), after U.S.-brokered talks on the Nile mega dam fell apart last week.

The White House in a statement Tuesday said that President Trump expressed hope that an agreement on the dam would be finalized soon and benefit all parties involved.

Foreign Minister Gedu Andargachew said on Tuesday that Ethiopia would continue talks but warned Washington not to rush the process or try to influence the outcome.

I think it is best if America works to support the negotiations so that the parties resolve the remaining issues, Andargachew said to VOA Amharic.

Last week Ethiopia rejected a U.S.-brokered draft agreement.

Ethiopia said it would commence first filling of the dam’s reservoir, despite months of talks with Egypt and Sudan hosted by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. Downstream country Egypt fears Ethiopia’s plans to rapidly fill the reservoir could threaten its source of fresh water.

The country said it did not accept the U.S. “characterization that the negotiation on the Guidelines and Rules on the First Filling and Annual Operation of the GERD is completed.

Last Wednesday it walked out of what was supposed to be the final round of talks between Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan in Washington.

At the end of the talks, Egypt issued its own statement saying it had initialed the agreement, calling it “fair and balanced” and in “the common interest of the three countries.

The United States seems to be putting its thumb on the scale in favor of Egypt, said David Shinn, adjunct professor of international affairs at the George Washington University and former U.S. ambassador to Ethiopia.

Shinn said it’s not clear what the United States is trying to achieve beyond Trump’s statement that he wants a quick solution to the problem. Perhaps it is time to make the agreement public so that everyone can see what the United States is proposing, Shinn said.

Given Ethiopia’s refusal to accept the terms of the of the agreement, the Trump administration has no option but to bow out and make room for another impartial mediator, said Addisu Lashitew, a research fellow at the Brookings Institution.

Lashitew accused the administration of not fully understanding the mess it has created by complicating a delicate negotiation process that was already tense.

In a matter of weeks the U.S. has squandered the goodwill that it has developed with Ethiopia through decades-long engagement, Lashitew said.

The next steps in negotiations are unclear.

It’s now a matter of political will, said Aaron Salzberg, director of The Water Institute at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

If the parties want to reach an agreement, they will work through the remaining differences � with or without the United States, Salzberg added.

Source: Voice of America