Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Rwanda politician prompts row over genocide memorial

A row has erupted in Rwanda about the genocide memorial not reflecting the plight of Hutus in the 1994 massacres.

During the 100-day genocide, Hutu militias systematically killed about 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus. But opposition politician Victoire Ingabire, who has returned to Rwanda for the first time since the genocide, says Hutus were also killed by Tutsis. Genocide survivors group Ibuka says her comments amount to "genocide negation" and she should be prosecuted. Theodore Simburudari, the head of Ibuka, told the BBC the opposition United Democratic Forces leader should also be tried for "fuelling ethnic hatred". The BBC's Geoffrey Mutagoma in the capital, Kigali, says Ms Ingabire made the comments during her visit to the Kigali genocide memorial on Saturday.

Following the furore sparked by her remarks, Ms Ingabire told the BBC's Great Lakes Service she was not attempting to belittle the genocide. "Clearly, reconciliation has a long way to go," she said in an interview conducted in Kinyarwandan. "People who were massacred in this country cannot simply be forgotten," she said. "Looking at this memorial, it only stops at the genocide committed to Tutsis; there is still another role that concerns the massacres committed to Hutus. "Their relatives were also killed and they are asking themselves: 'When will our concerns be discussed?'"

Judicial authorities have so far not commented on the request by the genocide survivors. But the BBC reporter says considering the sensitivity of the subject, constitutional statutes and other laws regarding the genocide, Ms Ingabire is undoubtedly courting controversy as she moves to register her party to run for the 2010 presidential elections. Ms Ingabire left Rwanda before the genocide began and has spent the last 16 years in Europe. The elections due in August will be the second presidential polls held since the genocide.

Guinea junta 'names civilian Dore as prime minister'

Guinea's military rulers have chosen opposition leader Jean-Marie Dore to be prime minister, overseeing a return to civilian rule, officials say.

Junta spokesman Idrissa Cherif said 70-year-old Mr Dore had "experience and understanding of Guinean politics". Mr Dore has been a prominent critic of army rule and was hospitalised after a military crackdown on 28 September. The junta seized power in December 2008 but leader Capt Moussa Dadis Camara was shot and seriously hurt last month. Interim leader Gen Sekouba Konate is due to return to Conakry on Tuesday, when he is expected to make a formal announcement of Mr Dore's appointment.

Credible election?

Opposition groups chose Mr Dore as their candidate for prime minister after hours of talks and a vote. The BBC's Conakry correspondent Alhassan Sillah, currently out of the country, says Mr Dore and union leader Hadja Rabiatou Sera Diallo each received 94 votes. But he got the nomination because he has a university degree, our correspondent says. The unions, however, say the vote was not fair. Mr Dore said he would have no problem working with the military, describing Gen Konate as "competent and efficient". "The main thing to do is to make sure that the next election will be fair and credible and to start the restructuring of the armed forces," he told the BBC's Focus on Africa programme. Under the deal, Ms Diallo would become one of two deputy prime ministers. The unions had said the prime minister should not be a politician, as the role should be neutral. But the veteran unionist told the BBC she was now willing to be part of a team and that the future of Guinea was the most important thing

The unions are very powerful in Guinea, having staged several high-profile demonstrations since 2006. They had thrown their support behind Ms Diallo - who our correspondent says is venerated like a god by some unionists.

Charges mooted

Mr Cherif told AFP news agency that Mr Dore would steer the transitional government through its "roadmap". He said the administration would consist of 30 members - 10 from the ruling junta, 10 from the opposition, and 10 representatives from the regions.

Following September's crackdown on an anti-junta protest, involving senior politicians such as Mr Dore, several opposition leaders demanded that Capt Camara step down. After reports of a power struggle between his supporters and Gen Konate, Capt Camara agreed last week to take a back seat. In an agreement signed last week, a national election was pencilled in for six months' time. Capt Camara spent weeks being treated in Morocco for a bullet wound after he was shot by an aide on 3 December. Last week he was flown to Burkina Faso, where he is continuing to recover.

A UN report has said Capt Camara should be charged over the September crackdown in which more than 150 opposition protesters are thought to have been killed.

Caspar Leighton BBC News The civilian opposition is clearly not being included in the decision-making process. General Konate is supposedly in charge - but he remains in Burkina Faso allegedly for consultations with Capt Camara, who is weakened after an assassination attempt and has accepted exile. Ordinary Guineans are worried that Capt Camara is still pulling the strings. The agreement reached on Friday was heralded as the breakthrough that could avert disaster in Guinea. But until now it is only an agreement among the military and the civilian opposition has not put its seal on anything.


•From a minority ethnic group in Forestiere region
•Critic of military rule
•Organised 28 September protest, claims he was beaten by soldiers
•Leads the Union for the Progress of Guinea party
•Stood for president against strong-man ruler Lansana Conte in 1993 and 1998
•Has never served in government

Guinea leader Camara breaks exile silence

The sidelined military leader of Guinea has spoken in public for the first time since he was seriously wounded by an assassination attempt in December.

Capt Moussa Dadis Camara is in the Burkina Faso capital, Ougadougou, where he backed a plan to let his deputy manage the transfer to civilian rule. He said that his hand was not forced in signing the transition agreement. He also urged Guineans to put aside ethnic differences and support the transfer to democracy. The address to the nation given from voluntary exile by Capt Camara is a vital step on Guinea's path to civilian, democratic rule. He has a near-mythical status among his followers, and the public support given to Guinea's transition from military rule by the man once in charge of it should lay many fears to rest.

Hurdles ahead

Visibly weakened, Capt Camara ruled himself out of running in future presidential elections. With this speech, the key figures in Guinea's military hierarchy have all publicly vowed their support for the end of army rule. The agreement reached on Friday bars any member of the military government from contesting the planned presidential election. There are hurdles ahead, though. The civilian opposition has proposed two possible candidates to be prime minister in the transition government. Made up of political parties and trade unions, they were unable to agree a single candidate and want the current military head, Gen Sekouba Konate to make the final choice.

The event that ignited Guinea's political crisis was the army's killing of more than 150 opposition supporters at the end of September. The call for justice has been strong and the United Nations blames Capt Camara and others for the killings. The International Criminal Court is examining the case and if arrest warrants are eventually issued, they are bound to cause shock waves in Guinea's fragile society.


•23, 24 December 2008 Strongman President Lansana Conte dies, Capt Camara takes over, promises 2010 election
•15 August 2009 Says he may stand for president
•28 September Soldiers kill protesters in Conakry, reports of atrocities and rapes
•October US, EU, African Union and Ecowas impose sanctions on junta
•3 December Capt Camara shot in the head in apparent assassination attempt
•4 December Flown to Morocco for surgery
•12 January 2010 Capt Camara leaves hospital in Rabat and is flown to Burkina Faso

Sudan would accept separation, says President Bashir

Sudan would accept the south's secession if southerners were to vote for independence in a referendum next year, President Omar al-Bashir said.

Speaking at a ceremony marking five years since the end of the north-south war, he said his Northern Congress Party did not want the south to secede. But he said the party would be the first to welcome such a decision. Analysts say Mr Bashir struck an unusually conciliatory tone in the speech, which has been well received. In recent months tension has been rising between the two sides. Southern politicians have accused Mr Bashir and his allies of wanting to fix the referendum to ensure a "no" vote - to try to keep the south's oil wealth to themselves. Mr Bashir has denied the allegations.

Next year's referendum was part of the 2005 peace deal which brought to an end more than two decades of civil war. The agreement also stipulated that a national election must be held. The vote is due in April.

Scepticism remains

In a televised address, Mr Bashir promised that the north would act as "good neighbours" to the south. "The National Congress Party favours unity," he said. "But if the result of the referendum is separation, then we in the NCP will be the first to take note of this decision and to support it." The BBC's Peter Martell, in the south's capital Juba, says there is a generally positive feeling about Mr Bashir's comments - people in the crowd were cheering as he delivered his speech. But he says plenty of people in the south remain sceptical and prefer to wait and see if he will honour his promises. Mr Bashir is subject to an international arrest warrant for war crimes in the country's Darfur region. And many in the south believe he and his allies have been arming rival ethnic groups in the south to destabilise the region.

The election in April will be the first multi-party national election in a generation. Mr Bashir is standing for president, but the leader of Southern Sudan, Salva Kiir, is not. Mr Kiir's SPLM party confirmed last week that he would seek re-election to the post of Southern Sudan president rather than national leader. The SPLM is instead fielding another candidate for the post of national president, which correspondents says shows that the party's priority is independence for the south.

Economic connections

During the celebrations to mark the end of the war, Mr Kiir made a plea for southerners to accept the result of the referendum whatever it may be.

"The north and south will continue to be economically and politically connected whatever the choice of the people of Southern Sudan," he said. He stressed that oil, which makes up 90% of the south's wealth, would still be pumped through the north for processing until the south could construct its own facilities. After years of conflict, Southern Sudan is one of the poorest areas of the world. Last year, some 2,000 people died in conflicts in the region, which the SPLM say are being stirred up by allies of Mr Bashir in order to destabilise the region ahead of the elections. Mr Bashir's National Congress Party has denied the charges.

Nigeria religious riots 'kill 200' in Jos

At least 200 people have been killed in violence between Christians and Muslims in the Nigerian city of Jos, says the monitoring group, Human Rights Watch.

Troops ordered by Nigeria's vice-president to help police restore order have arrived and are patrolling the streets, enforcing a 24-hour curfew. The fighting, which broke out on Sunday, has prompted thousands of people to flee the city. Houses, mosques and churches have been burnt down and many people arrested. It is believed to be the first time Goodluck Jonathan has used executive powers since President Umaru Yar'Adua left Nigeria for hospital treatment in Saudi Arabia in November.

Lt Col Shekari Galadima, a spokesman for the 3rd Division of the Nigerian Army, told the BBC's Network Africa programme the streets were calm and the troops in control of the situation. The area has seen several bouts of deadly violence in recent years. At least 200 people were killed in an outbreak of fighting between Muslims and Christians in 2008, while some 1,000 died in a riot in 2001.

Violence spreading

The current violence has forced at least 3,000 people from their homes. On Tuesday the violence spread beyond the city boundaries to neighbouring areas. The death toll has not been verified independently and it is not known how many Christians have died. Human Rights Watch say at least 200 have died in the latest outbreak of violence. Balarabe Dawud, head of the Central Mosque in Jos, told AFP news agency he had counted 192 bodies since Sunday. Muhammad Tanko Shittu, a mosque worker who was helping to prepare mass burials, told Reuters he had counted 149 bodies.

Jos is in Nigeria's volatile Middle Belt - between the mainly Muslim north and the south where the majority is Christian or follow traditional religions. Correspondents say such clashes in Nigeria are often blamed on sectarianism. However, poverty and access to resources such as land often lie at the root of the violence. It is unclear what the trigger was for the latest bout of violence.

Plateau State spokesman Dan Manjang told Network Africa there were reports that it may have started after a football match. But he said it would be surprising if football was the reason. Reuters quoted residents as saying the violence started after an argument over the rebuilding of homes destroyed in the 2008 clashes.

Shehu Saulawa, BBC Hausa

Jos has long been a time-bomb waiting to explode.

The town is split into Christian and Muslim areas. The divisions have been perpetuated by Nigeria's system of classifying people as indigenes and settlers. Hausa-speaking Muslims have been living in Jos for many decades but are still classified as settlers, meaning it is difficult for them to stand for election. The two groups are also divided along party political lines with Christians mostly backing the ruling PDP, and Muslims generally supporting the opposition ANPP. In Nigeria, political office means access to resources

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Senegal offers land to Haitians

Senegal's president says he will offer free land and "repatriation" to people affected by the earthquake in Haiti.

President Abdoulaye Wade said Haitians were sons and daughters of Africa since Haiti was founded by slaves, including some thought to be from Senegal. "The president is offering voluntary repatriation to any Haitian that wants to return to their origin," said Mr Wade's spokesman, Mamadou Bemba Ndiaye. Tuesday's earthquake killed tens of thousands and left many more homeless.

AFRICA HAVE YOUR SAY Africa should contribute to our Haitian brothers and sisters. In our sometime dire situation, a significant number of Africans find some money to have a drink or buy credit for our mobile phones Lawrence Barchue, London. Buildings have been reduced to rubble, the distribution of aid is slow, and people have been flooding out of the devastated capital, Port-au-Prince. "Senegal is ready to offer them parcels of land - even an entire region. It all depends on how many Haitians come," Mr Bemba Ndiaye said. "If it's just a few individuals, then we will likely offer them housing or small pieces of land. If they come en masse we are ready to give them a region."

The spokesman emphasised that if a region was given, it would be in a fertile part of the country rather than in its parched deserts, the Associated Press news agency reported.

Africa - 'dumping ground' for counterfeit goods

It is early morning in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, and a small independent wholesaler is doing a roaring trade. The city's street traders and small independent retailers have come to stock up on household products, one of which is toothpaste.

This wholesaler stocks two brands. The first, the so-called genuine article, is manufactured by Unilever, one of the world's biggest consumer goods businesses. The other, the wholesaler describes as "Chinese" - Unilever calls it fake By close of business this wholesaler is justifiably pleased. He has sold more tubes of counterfeit toothpaste than the genuine article, which is excellent news for the bottom line. On the genuine product he has made a 13% mark-up, on the counterfeit an impressive 50%. Fair play to him, some might say - after all it is only toothpaste.

No joke

Fake toothpaste ranks low down the list of priorities for the continent's law enforcement agencies. According to Roberto Manriquez, a criminal intelligence officer in Interpol's intellectual property crime unit, counterfeit medicines are the number one priority of the world's biggest police organisation. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 30% of medicines sold in developing countries are fakes and a major problem is that high numbers of drugs bought by the state for use in public hospitals are being illegally obtained and then sold on for profit in the private sector.

For Unilever, whose claim to fame is that "160 million times a day, someone somewhere chooses one of its products", the growing trade in counterfeit goods is no joke. Copycat toothpaste can compromise a consumer's health, says Nick Hart, Unilever's brand protection director.

In the United States in 2007 counterfeit toothpaste labelled "Colgate" was found to contain a chemical known as diethylene glycol which is used in anti-freeze and is said to pose a low-grade health risk. As a global multinational, jeopardising a consumer's health or safety is not a risk Unilever can afford to take. On the other hand, for the counterfeiter - who has no brand to protect, has invested nothing in research and development, has probably paid no import duty or VAT and in all likelihood has used cheaper ingredients - there is much less to lose and far more to gain.

Indeed with the rising number of direct trade routes between Africa and China, together with porous border controls, outdated legislation and weak enforcement mechanisms, the continent has become fair game for counterfeiters - and the recession has made it worse. "Africa has become a dumping ground for the world's unwanted goods," says Darren Olivier, head of brand enforcement and a director at Bowman Gilfillan attorneys in Johannesburg.

As manufacturing techniques have become increasingly sophisticated, everything from electrical products to software and antibiotics can be counterfeited. In many cases even the packaging is replicated. So the consumer is tricked into buying a fake product which, at best, might be a second-rate radio set but, at worst, a pesticide with the capacity to wipe out entire crops, or an anti-retroviral without active ingredients.

Vastly inferior

This raises an important question: Do brand owners like Unilever have a responsibility to lower prices to the point where there is no market for counterfeit goods in Africa? For Unilever's Mr Hart, price is not the issue. "One of the biggest problems we face is the misconception that counterfeiting is a problem associated with luxury items like handbags, DVDs and music." But these goods, he adds, are sold at substantially reduced prices and the brand-savvy consumer is generally making a conscious decision. By contrast, fake household goods and consumer hygiene products are increasingly sold at prices on a par with the genuine item. "The consumer pays the normal price, believes she is buying the genuine article but is actually buying something that may be vastly inferior," he says.

But would a drop in prices not at least start to address the problem? "We can drop our prices but they [the counterfeiter] have much more margin to work with than we do because they haven't paid import duties and so on. Not in our wildest dreams could we lower prices to the same degree," Mr Hart says. The result is that many multinationals, but also small local companies, are being forced to shut up shop. For instance, Eveready East Africa, the battery company, has lost 70% of market share to counterfeit goods.

The implications are staggering, says Omari Issa, chief executive of the Investment Climate Facility for Africa (ICF)- a pan-African body that works with the public and private sector to remove barriers to doing business in Africa. "If you consider that each employed person in Africa supports between 10 and 20 people, then continent-wide this is affecting millions of people." Recent research by ICF found that in the East African Community (EAC), $500m (£310m) in revenues from unpaid taxes was lost to counterfeit goods. "Just think of the hospitals, roads and schools that could be built," says Mr Issa. Other "shocking data" from the study was that in Kenya over 30% of medicines on sale were counterfeit and fake electrical goods had caused numerous fires.

Challenges ahead

So what is being done about it?

Some headway has been made in the EAC which is expected to become a common market this year (thus allowing the free flow of goods across borders). This was one of the reasons that sparked discussions, driven by the ICF, about the need for an EAC-wide policy and common legislation to combat counterfeiting and piracy. It is hoped that this will be in place in 12 months.

But, as Mr Issa points out, there are significant challenges ahead and replacing existing outdated legislation is the easy bit. "It must then be enforced and consumers, government officials and even heads of state will have to be educated," he says. If it works, however, the hope is that an EAC policy will be used as a benchmark for the rest of Africa. Mr Issa also notes that the problem is much worse in West Africa which is home to some of the world's poorest countries.

Many of these are located on illicit trafficking routes and governance is weak.

The result is that the region has become a dumping ground for counterfeit goods, especially pharmaceuticals. A UN report published in July 2009 reveals that revenues gained from 45 million counterfeit anti-malarial medicines were worth $438m - more than the annual gross domestic product of Guinea-Bissau. West Africa is the next destination for Interpol, which to date has conducted three operations in East and southern Africa under the umbrella of the International Medical Products Anti-Counterfeiting Taskforce set up by the WHO.

Complex pressures

So far Interpol has checked 549 premises including wholesalers, pharmacies and clinics. It has closed 45 of these and opened 80 cases which local organisations must follow up. Part of the process is training and Interpol works with local police, as well as bodies like customs and immigration, drug regulatory authorities and the private sector. "Our strategy is to go into a country for a week, provide two days training and three days operational support," says Mr Manriquez. He adds: "Co-operation from local authorities has been excellent." Still, this remains a multifaceted and complex problem.

In Kenya, for example, pressure to implement anti-counterfeit legislation has been delayed because public health campaigners have argued that the definition of what constitutes a counterfeit product is too vague and could be used to prevent access to generic drugs. Clearly Africa needs access to cheaper medicine. But it does not need fakes.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Pope Benedict XVI urges Italy to respect migrants

Pope call to Italy over migrants

Pope Benedict XVI has called on Italians to respect the rights of immigrants.

It comes after a wave of violence against African farm workers in southern Italy which left some 70 people injured. Police have evacuated hundreds of Africans by bus from the town of Rosarno, in Calabria. Correspondents say the problem is closely related to organised crime in the region.

Pope Benedict XVI spoke out strongly in favour of the rights of poor African farm workers, who have been the target of violence in recent days. About 70 people have been injured, including migrants, local residents and police officers trying to restore order. "An immigrant is a human being, different only in where he comes from, his culture and tradition," he told pilgrims gathered in St Peter's Square at the Vatican. "He is a person to respect and with rights and responsibilities, and should be respected particularly in the working world where there is an temptation to exploit." "We have to go to the heart of the problem, of the significance of the human being," the Pope said. "Violence must never be a means to solve difficulties. "The problem is a human one, and I invite everyone to look in the face of those nearby and see their soul, their history and their life and say to themselves: it is a man and God loves him as God loves me."

Mafia link

The BBC's David Willey in Rome says many of the migrants from north and west Africa have been earning starvation wages as fruit and vegetable pickers - backbreaking work which Italians do not want. The labour market is controlled by the local mafia, called the 'Ndrangheta, which is believed to employ ever growing numbers of illegal seasonal day labourers. The workers live in sordid conditions and are paid very low wages, out of which they have to pay kickbacks to their bosses, says our correspondent. Wages are handed out in cash, labour laws and safety and health regulations are ignored, and no taxes or welfare contributions are ever paid.

The Calabrian mafia has become one of the most powerful criminal organisations in Italy in recent years, controlling much of Europe's narcotics trade. Italy's Interior Minister Roberto Maroni prompted a storm of criticism from the leftist opposition by suggesting that the violence was the result of not addressing the issue of illegal workers in the country. "There's a difficult situation in Rosarno, like in other places, because for years illegal immigration - which feeds criminal activities - has been tolerated and nothing effective has ever been done about it," he said according to Italy's La Repubblica newspaper.

Opposition leader Pierluigi Bersani said: "Maroni is passing the buck ... We have to go to the root of the problem: mafia, exploitation, xenophobia and racism."

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Nigeria criticises 'unfair' US air passenger screening

Tougher screening of passengers wanting to fly to the US has been condemned as unfair by Nigeria - one of the nations singled out for special checks.

Information Minister Dora Akunyili said the rules, brought in after a Nigerian allegedly man tried to blow up a plane, discriminated against 150m Nigerians. Bomb suspect Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab did not represent Nigeria, she said.

Nigerians are among 14 nations whose nationals face stiffer rules including body searches and luggage checks. Four other African countries - Algeria, Libya, Somalia and Sudan - are also subject to the new measures. It follows an alleged attempt to blow up a plane on Christmas Day.
US President Barack Obama has been under pressure to make visible security improvements. But Ms Akunyili said 23-year-old Mr Abdulmutallab's act was a "one-off". "Abdulmutallab's behaviour is not reflective of Nigeria and should therefore not be used as a yardstick to judge all Nigerians," she said. "He was not influenced in Nigeria, he was not recruited or trained in Nigeria, he was not supported whatsoever in Nigeria. "It is unfair to discriminate against 150 million people because of the behaviour of one person."

The BBC's Fidelis Mbah in Lagos says queues of people waiting to check in were longer than usual at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport on Monday after the new security directives came into effect. He says extra officials had been deployed to search luggage and frisk passengers. Nigeria has already said it has tightened its security measures since the alleged Christmas Day plot. Security agents prevented our reporter from speaking to people in the queues.