Africa this week - 14 February 2010

By The Ligali Organisation | Sun 14 February 2010

A compilation of the weeks events by the African development institute.

Angola’s economy should grow 7.5percent this year, after a sharp downturn led to an estimated rise of not more than 0.5percent in 2009, the World Bank has indicated. Africa’s top oil producer saw revenues drop off in 2009 due to tumbling crude oil prices on international markets. This led to a 30percent drop in exterior reserves which in turn caused the kwanza currency to lose 25percent of its value compared to the U.S. dollar. Last May the World Bank forecast that the Angolan economy would contract by 3percent in 2009. However, the report released on Feb. 8 estimates that growth in the meantime was between minus 0.5percent and plus 0.5percent. The World Bank’s head economist in Angola, Ricardo Gazel, said oil production should rise this year to 1.9 million barrels from the 1.79 million barrel figure for 2009. (macauhub)

President Idriss Deby has visited Sudan for the first time since 2004 for talks on the troubled Darfur region. The two countries have been fighting a proxy war for several years along their common border around Darfur. The BBC’s James Copnall in Khartoum says the visit is a surprise and has caught Sudanese officials off-guard. Sudan says Chad backs Darfur rebel groups, while Khartoum is accused of supporting armed militias who are active in eastern Chad. Analysts say the rebels function as an extra line of defense for each country, but add that this poisonous mixture has considerably worsened the dramatic humanitarian problems in both areas. Deby’ was greeted at Khartoum airport by Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir. (BBC)

Congo (DRC)
The emergency relief wing of the U.N. voiced deep concern Feb. 5 over the dire humanitarian situation and safety of more than 1 million people forced to flee their homes in eastern Congo (DRC) as a result of violent conflict in the region. A series of armed attacks on makeshift camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs), human rights violations and general banditry in the North and South Kivu provinces have seriously disrupted aid operations, reported the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). On Jan. 15 in North Kivu, armed militia stole a truck belonging to a humanitarian organization and then used it for a violent assault on aid workers in the Muhanga IDP camp in a bid to steal their belongings. OCHA said that the mainly Rwandan Hutu rebel group, known as the FDLR, reportedly raided the Nyange camp in North Kivu on Jan. 22, killing three people and injuring several others. (U.N. News Service)

The residence of former president Jerry Rawlings at Ridge, Accra, has been razed down completely by fire. President J.E.A. Mills and Vice President John Mahama have visited the former president and family to share their loss. Former First Lady, Nana Konadu Rawlings and one of her daughters, Yaa Asantewaa, who were in the house, escaped unhurt while the former president Rawlings, was also not in the house. ( Meanwhile, Ghana is negotiating with the World Bank to help fund a project aimed at boosting rice production in the West African nation, the Ghana News Agency reported, citing Vice President John Dramani Mahama. The government plans to irrigate rice farmlands in the south eastern Accra plains using water transported from the lower Volta River, the Accra-based news agency said. Ghana spends about USD500 million a year on rice imports, GNA said. The country plans to increase production by 60 percent within the next two years, it said. Ghana produced 242,000 metric tons of rice a year, according the Food and Agricultural Organization’s Web site. (Bloomberg)

Guinea’s interim president has named a union leader to head a council charged with managing a transition from military to civilian rule, a decree read on state radio and television said Feb. 8. “Rabiatou Serah Diallo, secretary general of Guinea’s National Workers Confederation, has been named president of the National Transition Council,” the decree signed by interim leader General Sekouba Konate declared. The body will be composed of 101 Guineans from civil society, political parties, religious groups as well as members of the ruling junta’s council.They will have legislative responsibilities since the National Assembly was dissolved in December 2008 after the military seized power in a coup following the death of longtime strongman Lansana Conte Serah Diallo gained international attention in 2007 as a leading figure in protests against the Conte regime. (AP)

Ivory Coast
The U.N. peacekeeping mission in Ivory Coast has deplored recent violence in the towns of Katiola and Divo and appealed for calm as the voter registration appeals process for the upcoming elections takes place. The appeals process is currently underway in preparation for the publication of the final voters list, a vital step in the process towards the holding of the West African nation’s long-delayed presidential polls. The UN mission, known as UNOCI, .encourages all the parties to work to resolve the issues while respecting their respective prerogatives,. spokesman Hamadoun Tour told reporters in Abidjan Feb. 5. (U.N. News Service)

A drought last year in Amboseli National Park in the country’s south killed off up to 60 percent of the park.s herbivore population, forcing lions and hyenas to look to local farmers. livestock for food, reports Deutsche Presse Agentur (DPA) and the Associated Press (AP). The lions and hyenas lost their preferred food, which is mainly wildebeest and zebra, and of late have been raiding the local communities. compounds,. Kenya Wildlife Service spokesman Paul Udoto told DPA. Tourism accounts for 25 percent of Kenya.s gross domestic product, and of that 70 percent is wildlife tourism. In the shadow of Mount Kilimanjaro, Amboseli National Park is one of the nation’s most popular parks. And while its tourist-attracting lions are endangered in Kenya, local villagers have been poisoning them as they began roaming outside of the park and feeding on livestock. (C.S. Monitor)

The Malawi authorities have told gay activists who put up posters and distribute leaflets on the streets anonymously to “come out in the open.” Government official Kingsley Namakhwa said it was against the law to mount such campaigns anonymously. But he also pointed out that homosexuality was illegal, and anyone promoting it would be prosecuted. Rights groups have recently criticized Malawi for prosecuting two men who got engaged to each other. Tiwonge Chimbalanga and Steven Monjeza, believed to be the first gay couple in Malawi to start the marriage process, have pleaded not guilty to charges of public indecency. Their trial is due to start soon. “As far as the Malawi government is concerned we only have two gays in Malawi - Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga,” Namakhwa said. “If there are others, let them come out in the open.” (BBC)

Nigeria’s Vice-President Goodluck Jonathan has accepted the post of acting president. President Umaru Yar’Adua has been in Saudi Arabia for more than two months receiving medical treatment. Parliament earlier voted to recognize Jonathan as acting president to end political uncertainty in the country amid Yar’Adua’s absence. Meanwhile, an election for governor of Anambra state in Nigeria’s oil-rich Delta region has been condemned amid reports of vote-buying and ballot-box theft. Peter Obi was re-elected but just 300,000 people cast their ballots from an electorate of 1.8 million. Gangs of youths intimidated and harassed voters and snatched three ballot boxes from polling stations. The chaos has dampened hopes of improvements to Nigeria’s voting system ahead of national elections in 2011. (BBC)

Rwanda’s upcoming presidential election is sparking threats and attacks on opposition party members, Human Rights Watch said Feb. 10. The August 2010 presidential election has prompted serious incidents of intimidation against members of the FDU-Inkingi and the Democratic Green Party of Rwanda -- new opposition parties critical of government policies, the group said in a release issued in Kigali. HRW alleges the attacks are coming from “individuals and institutions close to the government and the ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front.” “The Rwandan government already tightly controls political space,” said Georgette Gagnon, Africa director of HRW. “These incidents will further undermine democracy by discouraging any meaningful opposition in the elections.” (UPI)

A widespread humanitarian crisis persists in war-torn Somalia, with an estimated 3.2 million people, or 42 per cent of the population, in need of emergency aid or livelihood support, and one in six children acutely malnourished and requiring specialist care, according to a U.N. update released Feb. 5. Of these children, one in 22 is severely malnourished and at a nine-fold increased risk of death compared to well-nourished children, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reported. In south and central Somalia, which has been plagued by factional fighting and has not had a functioning central government since 1991, the rates are higher with one in five children acutely malnourished, of which one in 20 is acutely malnourished. These national rates of acute malnutrition continue to be amongst the highest in the world. (U.N. News Service)

South Africa
Foreign nationals are being attacked with “impunity” in South Africa, a leading human rights organization charged as the latest service delivery protests turned violent and several hundred residents turned their anger on Ethiopian refugees living in Siyathemba township, about 80km east of Johannesburg. Service delivery protests erupted on Feb. 7 in Siyathemba, a satellite township of Balfour, a rural town in Mpumalanga Province. Shops owned by foreign nationals were looted, more than 100 people, including women and children fled the township, and police arrested 22 people for public violence, according to reports. Similar acts of xenophobia took place during service delivery protests eight months ago in the same township, when the perpetrators were also arrested but charges of public violence were subsequently dropped. (IRIN)

The newly appointed head of the joint African Union-United Nations peacekeeping mission in Darfur, known as UNAMID, on Feb. 9 met with members from key rebel militia as part of a series of talks on the prospects for a durable peace in the war-scarred region in western Sudan. The meeting, which took place in the Qatari capital of Doha, was held between UNAMID Joint Special Representative Ibrahim Gambari and negotiators from the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) and the Sudan Liberation Army/Armed Revolutionary Front (SLA/ARF). UNAMID noted that the talks, covering a range of issues relating to cooperation between the joint peacekeeping operation and the rebel groups, were transparent, constructive and promising, with all parties committed to working closely to advance the peace process in Darfur. (U.N. News Service)

Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai rejected legislation signed into law by President Robert Mugabe that forces companies in Zimbabwe to sell more than half of their shares to black investors because it would scare off foreigners. The regulations would have scared off foreign investors, already jittery about Zimbabwe as an investment destination,. Tsvangirai said in a statement posted on his own Web site on Feb. 9. .Without foreign direct investment in Zimbabwe, it will be difficult to kick-start the national economy.. Zimbabwe is attempting to grow its economy after a decade of political turmoil and recession under the leadership of Mugabe, whose Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front party controlled parliament from independence in 1980 until March 2009, when it lost elections to the Movement for Democratic Change. (Bloomberg)

Complied by &

African Development Institute

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