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Catholic Church under attack in the DRC

Samantha Maloof

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In a country increasingly wracked by armed conflict, nothing is sacred anymore. The kidnapping of a Catholic priest in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and the subsequent demand for a ludicrous Sh50 million ($500,000) ransom, is just the latest instance of turbulence in this violence-ridden nation.

The abduction is concerning not only as the latest instance of the encroaching lawlessness that plagues the land, but also because it represents an openly hostile attack on the Catholic Church of Congo itself. With a corrupt president clinging onto power, the Church has become one of the DRC’s main sources of moral authority and resistance to tyranny. As a result, such a brazen assault on this influential institution only further undermines the country’s chances for a stable future.

Anarchy in the DRC

Despite its incredible natural wealth (it has vast resources of cobalt and copper, among other precious minerals), entrenched corruption in the DRC has kept the vast majority of the populace locked in entrenched poverty. With over 13 million people in need of humanitarian aid and 7.7 million of those facing “severe food insecurity”, the situation is comparable to the crisis in Syria. To add to the humanitarian emergency, armed rebel groups have been engaging in increasingly frequent attacks, especially in the DRC’s eastern provinces, prompting the UN to deploy over 16,000 peacekeepers in the country. That’s the largest peacekeeping operation anywhere on the planet.

15 of those peacekeepers were targeted by rebels in December last year in what has been described as one of the worst attacks on UN personnel in living memory, and the violence has recently spilled over into the religious community as well. The abduction of Father Celestin Ngango on Easter Sunday is just the latest attempt to extort money from the Church, as there have been several others in recent years. In October 2012, three priests were abducted from the Betumbo-Beni diocese, while two more were kidnapped in July 2016. None of the abductees have been seen since. Although a prominent bishop has admitted that kidnappings are virtually a daily occurrence in the DRC, the extortionate ransom demanded for Father Ngango represents a serious escalation vis-à-vis previous sums.

Church as a figurehead of freedom

The stakes have not only been heightened in monetary terms. By targeting clergymen, the rebels are destabilising the DRC further by victimising the very body which is fighting most to save it. The Church has long been an outspoken proponent of democracy and freedom, stretching back to the days of dictator Mobutu Sese Seko. After Mobutu attempted to quash the Church in the 1970s – seeing it as an obstacle to his attempts to consolidate absolute power – the institution enjoyed renewed popularity among the common people, aided by its role as provider of educational and welfare services.

Indeed, in a country where the authorities often fail to supply even the most basic public services to their citizens, the Church has filled a critical vacuum, resulting in enduring popularity even among non-believers. 35 million of 84 million Congolese call themselves Catholics, but many of those who do not identify with the Church still appreciate their support for democracy and social justice. The de-facto leader, Cardinal Laurent Monsengwo, enjoys wide popularity; perhaps more tellingly, he has also been a constant thorn in the side of the country’s dictators. Indeed, current leader Joseph Kabila himself once confided to a European diplomat that he viewed Monsengwo as his “main opponent”.

Striving for justice

It’s easy to see why Kabila is so wary of Monsengwo and his order. The Church fielded 30,000 observers in the 2011 elections and were the first party to cry foul play. When Kabila promised to step down at the end of his mandate in 2016, the Church acquiesced, only to step in as mediators and broker the Saint Sylvester agreement (which called for elections by December 2017) after he refused to keep up his end of the bargain. However, the failure of those elections to materialise has now shifted their position from mediators to mobilisers. Since the end of 2017, the Church has organized 149 peaceful protests, only 16 of which have been allowed to take place unchallenged. With the political opposition typically fractious in nature, the Church has provided a rare and crucial voice of unity against Kabila.

That fractiousness, however, may now be coming to an end with the rise of presidential candidate Moïse Katumbi. Championed by the Church and by dozens of opposition leaders, Katumbi announced his candidacy with the launch of a new “Together for Change” party earlier this year. Katumbi has the financial credentials and the widespread popularity to topple Kabila, prompting the latter to hinder the former’s campaign in any way he can. Kabila has levelled charges of real estate fraud and mercenary recruitment at Katumbi’s door and charged him with three years in prison, though Katumbi (and the Church) maintain his innocence. Additionally, Congolese authorities have blocked his passport application and raised his former Italian citizenship as problematic in blatant attempts to discredit his candidacy. Nonetheless, Katumbi has promised to return to the DRC by June at the latest and lead the charge against his old foe.

Situation critical

If elections are allowed to proceed as planned on December 23rd and Katumbi given the opportunity to stake his claim to the presidency, there is a real hope that the DRC can dig itself out of the corruption, conflict and poverty that has taken hold of the country. The support of the Church will be instrumental in giving that hope credibility.

Samantha is a freshly minted graduate in International Relations based in Cairo, currently working as a research assistant in a small think tank looking at development and inequality in Africa

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Africa

Biafra Sets the Alarm Clock at Midnight, Time to Wake Up

Kester Kenn Klomegah

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Over the years, high profiled politicians, academics and human rights groups have been talking about the armed attacks with its devastating effects on the economy in the Igbo-dominated South-Eastern States of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

Nigeria gained its independence in October 1960. Since then it has strongly witnessed the sharp division of Nigeria into three regions – North, West and East – and this factor has further exacerbated the well-developed economic, political, and social differences among ethnic groups. The Igbo-dominated Eastern States have been struggling for peace and freedom necessary for development since the Civil War ended in 1970. 

That was fought between the Government of Nigeria and the State of Biafra from July 1967 to January 1970. The Igbo leadership could no longer coexist with the Northern-dominated Federal Government. The Eastern River States are devastated, millions of the population deeply impoverished while resources remained untapped.

In this interview, for instance, Professor Nathaniel Aniekwu, Secretary at the Alaigho Development Foundation [ADF] in Nigeria, vehemently argues that 50 years after the civil war, the growing threats and frequent attacks by northern ethnic groups and the deepening pitfalls in the federal governance system have negatively affected the development of the Biafra. The Alaigho Development Foundation is a registered NGO with the key aims of addressing development issues in Igboland, and further fight for justice, civil rights and good governance in Nigeria.

How would you argue that 50years after the Civil War [1967 to 1970], growing threats and frequent attacks by ethnic groups have affected the development, particularly in the Eastern States of Nigeria?

It is not rocket science that capital [money] is a coward and therefore does not go where there is insecurity. The Biafra/Nigeria Civil war never really ended. What happened 50 years ago was a transition of the war from open shooting battles to economic strangulation war which has translated into asymmetric herdsmen/terrorist-based war. 

The initial morphed face of the war started in 1970, and was aimed at strangulating the region through infrastructural/economic deprivation. The federal government policy of offering 20 pounds in return for any amount of wealth deposits an Igbo person had in the bank, especially in the face of the 3Rs [Reconciliation, Rehabilitation and Reconstruction] program of reestablishing the region was not accidental. This was quickly followed by the Nigeria Enterprises Promotion Decree of 1972, which had as one of its main objectives to promote Nigerian indigenous enterprises with a view to increasing indigenous equity participation in the national economy. We were supposed to acquire this equity with the balance of the 20 pounds after feeding.

The current phase of the war is the herdsmen/terrorist-based war, which is aimed at destroying our agricultural base and make us completely dependent and then overrun and take over our ancestral lands. These are all orchestrated by the same people who could not wipe us out on the battle fields. The world community continuously watches the large-scale atrocities committed in the country. 

As long as these wars are going on, Nigeria cannot know peace and therefore no real progress. The Eastern region is totally out of the equation from the evidences of our realities. Any progress in the Eastern region must be home grown and organic. This is the real essence of the ADF’s “Aku ruo’ulo” program. Only the desperate and degenerate Chinese will have the temerity to want to invest in Nigeria, but with conditions that makes it better for you to live without their investments.

How would you assess the overall economic development of the Biafra States?

The Biafra States are faring very well given the numerous and insurmountable challenges thrown at them. We have almost no federal presence in the region, no infrastructure, receive the least budget allocations and have the least representation in all the arms of the federal government. This is what has accounted for this current phase of the war. Ndigbo have indomitable spirits and cannot be rendered null and void economically, as long as they are alive.

The Government is, therefore, on their Plan C, which is physical annihilation and possessing their homelands. All economic indices show that in spite of the war against them, marginalization and exclusion from participation in the governance of Nigeria, the Biafra States continue to be very competitive and are very far from being worse off among the Nigerian States.

Do you think it could have been different if the Southeast or the River States were not under the administration of the Federal Government of Nigeria?

I don’t think so, I know it. If they will let us be, even with all the deprivations and infrastructural neglect in place, Ndigbo will grow very quickly to become the go-to place for business. Our detractors know this much and that is what bothers them the most.

What are the economic potentials, especially for foreign investment?

The prognosis is very poor. Nobody goes for a swim in the desert. Only desperate investors still consider Nigeria as an investment destination for the earlier mentioned reasons. Although Nigeria is very richly endowed with natural and human resources, but it has quickly lost all its shining advantages. Moreover, whatever remains had been made in the past, has been squandered, especially as they seek to exclude Biafras from participation in political governance. They failed to deploy the appropriate resources, especially manpower, the broad-minded people who can guide and manage the development of the country, simply because most of them come from the Biafra States. 

Under the current circumstances, how can the government make it easier to attract foreign investment to the region?

The bus has already left the station. The trust has been breached and the center cannot no longer hold. As a Christian, I believe that nothing is impossible with God. But we are not God. We have squandered a lot of goodwill, which all developmental programs required.

Frankly speaking, only a dedicated team of experts can possibly do a lot, if all the impediments on our paths are removed, the trust deficit reversed, religion seizes to be so dominant in our decision making process, the herdsmen/terrorists are reigned in, ethnicity seizes to be a criteria for appointments and recognitions.

Furthermore, if the ethnic nationalities will come together and decide on the form and degree of association they will have in a restructured Nigeria, and the level of authority that should reside at the center: if we shall confess and repent from our sins and seek forgiveness, then perhaps, we stand a chance of reversing the damage.

There are still a lot of challenges in achieving all that you have said above, but do you see any possibilities for national integration and a new leadership paradigm?

National integration is a very clear possibility, especially for The Biafra States. In fact, it is our only hope. Remember that Nigeria is made of many unwilling nations fused into the entity called Federal Republic of Nigeria (FRN). These nations have their inalienable right of association and with whomsoever they chose. These nations must choose their paths of integration.

For Ndigbo, not only that internal cohesion is imperative but also integrating in a union of the agreed is paramount. Leadership is very critical in attaining these objectives and this is where the paradigm shift is called for. Leadership must be looked from the point of view of the governed, at the micro-level of the society. A leadership that is organic and evolves from the people. Not a leadership foisted on the people by a band of degenerates. 

Leadership paradigm shift is needed to look at the Igbo man as he is, what his essence is and then, try and appeal to that essence. Being republican in his core essence means that you cannot lead him the same way you lead the Yorubas nor Hausas. A leadership that achieves this will have a followership similar to what we had with Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe in the first republic or the followership General Odumegwu Ojukwu had during the war.

Note that the followership was so strong that during the war. Professor M. A. C. Odu and Ishiozo Mbu Amohuru went into the Nigerian territory, hijacked an aircraft and flew it down to Biafra. Such were the level of risks and sacrifices they could make. Please note carefully that when the same General Ojukwu joined the NPN upon his return from exile, Ndigbo unfollowed him, because he no longer represented their aspirations. That is the Igbo man. Seen from this perspective, the Igbo man is very easy to lead as long as you the leader is ready to be transparent and represent their aspirations.          

Does that mean there are weaknesses in the Federal System of Governance?

I am usually very wary of stereotyping. By my professional training, I seek for solutions where there are problems. I do not believe in looking for problems to fit into pre-existing solutions. I don’t really care too much what you call the system that works: federal system, unitary system, monarchical system, et cetera.

I don’t know if there is anything wrong with the federal system, but problems can arise as a result of application of systems that are not suitable to the Nigerian environment. Obviously, the federal system of government is not working in Nigerian given the unique nature of the Nigerian political space. We must therefore return to the solution domain, seek long-term solutions that are organic [homegrown] and suitable to our environment.

What do you have to say about the next elections of the State Governors and the President?

I believe the forthcoming elections will be business as usual. There is nothing in the horizon that makes me think it will be different. The problems with election is part of the structuring problems bedeviling Nigeria, and unless Nigeria restructures, nothing will change. However, we are waiting when Nigeria will hit “Ground Zero”, then restructuring will become inevitable.

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Re-Negotiating Apartheid in 21st century’s South Africa

Sayantan Bandyopadhyay

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Introduction to the Idea of Apartheid

‘Apartheid’ or Apartness is the term used in Afrikaans and Dutch languages. It is the name given to separating people by Race, with reference to where you live, where you work, where you go to school, what mode of transport you use and where you die. This policy was introduced by the National Party (NP) in 1948 and it continued until 1994 when the 1st all-race elections were held. In the 1980s, the system of Apartheid was considered so entrenched that international observers predicted South Africa can’t have a democratic polity without a civil war. But negotiations between ANC led by Nelson Mandela and NP led by De Klerk gave us a compromised solution with a truly democratic constitution. But Apartheid was not just for these 46 years as segregation of blacks from the whites existed ever since the Dutch 1st landed in South Africa in 1652.

The demography of South Africa is quite interesting as South Africa had 3/4th of Blacks, Africans, Colored and even Indians who were taken there for work and they settled there. The whites were a small minority who controlled all political power in pre-Democratic South Africa and enjoyed considerable economic success. These whites were Dutch descended Afrikaners and the British descended English speakers. The history also plays a part in making South Africa a region of Apartheid as this mere refueling and trading post at Cape of Good Hope of the Dutch and British will soon become the richest region of Africa. Diamonds were discovered at Kimberly and world’s largest Gold reserves were discovered near Johannesburg. A combination of factors like diversity, longevity, power and wealth created the factors which led to the inception of Apartheid.

The causes of Apartheid are of two types-Real & Immediate causes. The Real cause was white business owners wanted to make sure they make unparalleled profits by using a massive lowly paid African workforce. White settlers wanted protection from competition in jobs and businesses from African workers and producers. This elaborate system helped them to preserve their lead. The Immediate cause of the war needs to be understood in the context of the 2nd World War. South Africa manufacturing sectors and factories boomed in this period. White males were predominantly working for the military and so factories needed to be staffed with women and African male workers in even semi-skilled and skilled jobs. These skilled jobs were denied to them until the 2nd world war and hence the white electorate was getting skeptical about increased black competition for jobs. Secondly, in War times Police and internal law enforcement agencies could not regulate passes of Africans and regulate their movement in the cities. So Racial lines between the white and black started getting blurred. Thirdly, Whites were outnumbered in the cities for the 1st time in the history of South Africa. The rural populace started migrating to the cities due to increased job opportunities, aspirations of a better future and as famines hit the countryside. Fourthly, African workers working in the industries increased by 70% at this time and the number of women workers increased by 50%. After the 2nd world war, Africans constituted 50% of the industrial workforce for the 1st time in the country’s history. This was looked like a threat by the white populace. Fifthly, ANC started becoming very militant in this period as they decided that their days of pleas, prayers and petitions were over as their dialogue and faith in the British crown did not bring any credible results. They decided to shift to radical methods to give wings to their aspirations.

The immediate causes were viewed as threats by the white populace so both the UP (United Party) and NP campaigned for solving the problems of blacks. The Nationalist Party won the elections in 1948 in spite of the fact they won fewer votes due to a constitutional provision of greater rural representation. They found a legislative route to drive through reforms by announcing Influx control in South Africa. Apartheid was described to the world as a social experiment to build a new model. It was designed to fulfil the tripartite objectives of NP which are Economic Growth, maintenance of white supremacy and reduction of African protests.

How Apartheid was implemented

The NP felt their mandate as a call for ‘white supremacy now and always’ and started building an intricate system by a complex mixture of laws where everything in the lives of South Africans were determined by Race. The country became a police state for most of the populace and the mechanisms of laws were truly breathtaking. We will look at some of them to get a fair idea about this arrangement.

The Population Registration Act, 1950 which provided the crux of all subsequent legislation as it divided the people into White, Colored, Natives (Bantu) and Indians. The massive population registrar was created for everyone and identity cards were issued with the assigned race of the individual. This was the bedrock legislation laying down a rigid racial classification and identification mechanism which will govern your access to rights and legal remedies. The Abolition of Passes and Coordination of Documents Act of 1952 was created to standardize the requirement of passes for Africans. Regional Pass documents which were known as Reference books were made mandatory to be carried by everyone in person at all times. The Prohibition of Mixed Marriages Act, 1949 prohibited marriages between whites and other communities. The Immortality Act of 1950 banned Sexual relations between Whites and other communities. The Group Areas Act, 1950 gave the government the power to regulate land ownership and occupations on the basis of race. It gave the government all the necessary ammunition needed to divide all of South Africa. The Reservation of Separate Amenities Act, 1953 stated all races should have separate public facilities like toilets, parks and beaches and the infamous Apartheid Signboards were erected under this act. The Native labour Act, 1953 banned trade Unions for labourers and their Right to Strike.

The most dangerous piece of legislation was The Bantu Education Act of 1953 which had long-term devastating consequences on the future of South Africans. The idea was to teach Africans their Cultural Heritage and give them the necessary skill sets as per their opportunities in life. The school curriculum was tailor-made to fit the demands of economic life for only Africans in South Africa. The objectives of Bantu education was to provide some skills for Africans to make them effective instruments in the labour markets. Secondly, it aimed to solve problems of poverty and unemployment as unemployed black youths were becoming militant and espousing violence on the streets. Thirdly, this system they hoped will make the Africans hate their own cultures and regard the Europeans as prophets to save them barbaric cultures. They will be true symbols of “Black Skin with White Masks. “The consequences of Bantu Education were as follows. At first, Bantu education institutionalized Apartheid culture and ideology and formalized myopic curriculum, unqualified teachers and resources hungry schools for Africans. Secondly, Instructions in Mother Tongues had two impacts as when they reached higher classes

a)They could not understand mathematical and other technical aspects due to poor grip on English Languages.

b)South Africa is a diverse country with multiple mother tongues so instructions in mother tongues helped in exposing ethnic fault lines between these communities.

The most painful aspect of Bantu Education is it turned out to be an instrument of oppression instead of its emancipatory abilities.

The 21st Century South Africa

“Never, never and never again shall it be that this beautiful land will again experience the oppression of one by another and suffer the indignity of being the skunk of the world. Let Freedom Reign. The Sun shall never set on so glorious a human achievement.”-Nelson Mandela’s Inauguration speech in 1994

These were the words of Nelson Mandela, the 1st Black President of South Africa. When South Africa truly elected in a truly democratic election. The country was brimming with optimism at this time and everyone looked forward with hope towards a glorious future. It has been more than 25 years since that time but the country remains deeply segregated.

The Apartheid Era segregation of cities continues as all the major cities have most prime locations occupied by the Whites as the government could not re-distribute land as per the negotiated settlement which ANC & Nationalist Party had decided in the 1990s. All the prime locations of Johannesburg, Pretoria, Cape Town, and Durban are still occupied by the minority whites. They make up the top 5% or most rich people in the populace and the areas they live have all best houses, best amenities, best hospitals and facilities which can happily be compared with any western European countries. If you move outside, you see millions of people living in makeshift camps even without the bare minimum facilities. Khayelitsha in Cape Town is the home of the biggest informal settlements and is a fast-growing city with a population of over 1 million. But as most people live outside the city in shabby conditions the unemployment rates are 50% and the crime rates are very high.

The World Bank Report (May 2018) also testifies the fact South Africa remains the most economically unequal country in the world. The Nelson Mandela introduced RDP (Reconstruction & Development Program) is the biggest state-led Housing Development project in the world. It has seen more than 3.6 million new homes built free of charge for people having annual income less than 3500 Rand (£200). But RDP Program has certain demerits like reinforcing spatial apartheid as these houses were constructed outside the cities where the Africans already lived. These zones were de-linked from the core areas of the cities through Apartheid era natural and artificial barriers. Secondly, RDP houses are allotted after a painful waiting period of 10-15 years if you are not well connected to the government. Thirdly, RDP houses are single-storied arranged in boring repetitive rows and the inhabitants are forbidden from engaging in Trade from those flats. Fourthly, as these houses are built fast and cheaply sometimes they even fall down and they look a lot like open-air prisons.

The education sector was badly affected by Bantu education System and even in a post-Apartheid South Africa, the impacts continue to haunt them. Many Non-white South Africans have to pay the black tax which means supporting their unemployed parents, grandparents and paying fees for their siblings. This decreases their abilities to dream larger goals in life.An OECD’s Report showed that after six years of schooling, 27% of black South African students still could not read.

Corruption: – Corruption has been a huge factor for South Africa as Jacob Zuma presidency was tainted with the ugly marks of corruption. World Bank reports declared South Africa as the most corrupt country in the world in 2018.

Indicators:-The Official unemployment rate is around 28% and most of the wealth is concentrated in the hands of the whites. 10% of the white population owns 90% of the national wealth and 80% of the black South Africans owns nothing at all. But the number of Black Asian and mixed-race millionaires increased by leaps and bounds to 17300 as per New World Wealth consultancy firm. But all of them had one thing in common which is lucrative ties with the government. The number of the Black middle class has also proliferated to 4.2 million as according to estimates from the ‘University of Cape Town.’14% of the Populace of South Africa still lives in informal settlements and the backlog of RDP houses have reached 2.1 million in 2018.

Entrepreneurship:-More Business firms are closing down than opening as per estimates of London Business School and only 2.5% of firms have been established in 3.5 years. The odds of being a black entrepreneur are not in your favour.

HIV:-South Africa’s 19% of the population is infected by HIV. Thabo Mbeki’s government (1999-2008) was the complete denials government who refused to believe South Africa’s HIV rates and even went to an extent to ban antiretroviral drugs which pushed thousands of South Africans towards death. The situation has improved after Mbeki with efforts of the Ministry of Health and NGOs like Treatment for Action. But more needs to be done to address the social cause of the disease.

Poverty & Underdevelopment:-The National debt has ballooned seven times since 1994.ANC development plans reinforced the rural-urban divide by focusing on development in urban spaces.

Land Control:-So Nelson Mandela tried to redistribute land by using the ‘Willing-Seller and willing buyer model’. This model failed miserably as only 10% of the white-owned land could be returned back to the black farmers’. This even creates problems for black entrepreneurs as they have very less property to procure loans by using the property as collateral. White Farmers control an estimated 73% of the farmlands today. South Africa could not implement any radical policies to mitigate rural poverty by redistributing lands without compensation due to fear spooking markets, down-gradation from international credit agencies and pressure from the USA.

The Way Forward-Towards a Bright Future for the Rainbow Nation

“Mandela may have postponed Revolution but for how much longer is the question.”-Henrich Wolff, a local architect of South Africa

South Africa’s problems have been created by more than 300 years of systematic Racism and historical injustice on behalf of the blacks. But some policy decisions, the current style of governance and normalization of corruption which are post-1994 phenomenon have sought to take the country backwards by a few decades. South Africa is a unique case in point where we cannot implement a one size fits all policy as Whites and Non-whites have stark inequalities. So we need to develop a model which helps in achieving equity.

Some Improvements which can be implemented to make South Africa an egalitarian society are:-

At first, Affordable Housing solutions can be game-changer and Johannesburg has already started implementing it. In this scheme, private developers are legally bound to reserve 30% of their houses and provide them at affordable rates. This will help in making the city inclusive and breaking the Spatial apartheid of the cities. Secondly, RDP needs to plan and then implemented.RDP needs to convert into a smart city project where houses will be better organized properly with more commercial spaces. The government has to increase incentives for living at the RDP houses. Thirdly, informal settlements need to be made more livable by using various projects like VPUU (Violence Prevention through Urban Upgrading program). This project which is being implemented in Cape Town can really help in improving basic minimum infrastructure, lowering crime rates. This project uses community-based participation to improve streets and places. Fourthly, the government has to bold policy measures by implementing land ceiling acts. This needs to be done in a much-planned manner to avoid Zimbabwe’s case of giving farmlands to farmers without necessary knowhow of commercial farming. Fifthly, the government needs to scrap the PIA (Protection of Information) Act and bring more robust legislation to increase transparency and accountability of the government. Sixthly, the government needs to improve health and education indicators of the populace by aggressively spending on these two sectors. These sectors demand a bit of patience and perseverance as significant development takes time but they are very important in propelling South African economy and improving human development parameters. A consultancy firm can be engaged to give properly focused ideas of governance intervention at the specific levels and here South Africa can learn from the Government of Haryana’s ‘Saksham Haryana’ Program. Seventhly, the government of South Africa needs to develop a dual-track strategy to deal with HIV which will have to look at both the social and medical causes of the epidemic. Eighthly, the government needs to abolish private militias (Police) which the rich use for their protection and enforce uniform policing’s standards across the country.

Whenever a small developing country starts treading on the path of development it faces numerous challenges on its way to fulfilling the mammoth aspirations of its population. South Africa is a unique case as it has suffered from systematic repression and oppression and hence the government needs to put greater efforts to make country livable, human and more inclusive for all.

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Africa Supports Nigeria’s Candidate for WTO Director-General

Kester Kenn Klomegah

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The African Union (AU) and Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) have thrown their unflinching support for Nigeria’s Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, a candidate contesting for the top position at the World Trade Organization (WTO). This backing implies that Africa is strongly behind her, and further shows a popular acknowledgement among top diplomats and politicians that Africa may be in line for the Director-General’s post at WTO.

This June, WTO kicked off the process for selecting a new Director-General, after its current Brazilian Chief, Roberto Azevedo, decided to leave his job a year early, at the end of August. The surprise announcement of his early departure has left everyone scrambling. His successor will have, as required, to steer reforms and negotiations in the face of rising protectionism, a deep recession caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and growing trade tensions, notably between the United States and China.

Biographical records, however, show that Okonjo-Iweala developed a 25-year career at the World Bank in Washington. She then served two terms as Finance Minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (2003-2006 and 2011-2015) under the political leadership of President Olusengun Obasanjo and President Goodluck Jonathan respectively. Born into a royal family in Delta State, her father Professor Chukwuka Okonjo became the Eze (King) from the Obahai Royal Family of Ogwashi-Ukwu.

With high aspirations, Okonjo-Iweala studied at prestigious Harvard University, graduating magna cum laude with an AB in Economics in 1976. In 1981, she earned her PhD in regional Economics and Development from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) with a thesis titled Credit policy, rural financial markets, and Nigeria’s agricultural development. She received an International Fellowship from the American Association of University Women (AAUW) that supported her doctoral studies.

With a solid education and broad experience, a number of African presidents, such as Niger’s President and ECOWAS Chairman Mahamadou Issoufou has strongly urged non-African countries to get behind and endorse Africa’s candidature, referring to Nigeria’s Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. In addition, the Nigeria’s Foreign Ministry explained in a statement that ECOWAS had thrown their support behind her candidacy due to “her long years of managerial experience at the top echelons of multilateral institutions.”

There is broad support for an African candidate and a woman, since neither have headed the Geneva-based body in the past, according to sources following the process. Supporters of Okonjo-Iweala, a former minister and World Bank managing director, vaunt her negotiating skills, including clinching a multi-billion dollar debt relief package for Nigeria.

The WTO is the only global international organization dealing with the rules of trade between nations. The goal is to ensure that trade flows as smoothly, predictably and freely as possible. It currently has 164 members, monitoring each other’s practices and regulations against a set of standard trading rules in order to improve transparency and avoid protectionism.

In addition, WTO works to build the trading capacity of developing and least-developed countries, helping them integrate and benefit from the multilateral trading system. This is an essential part of the work. The trading system has be inclusive, with the benefits of trade reaching as many as possible around the world, particularly in the poorest countries.

The WTO provides its members with a tried and tested system of shared rules and principles to support economic cooperation and thereby boost growth, development and job creation around the world. It provides a forum for members to raise, discuss and potentially solve the complex problems that they face. There is huge value in the system of World Trade Organization.

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