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Treasuring Africa’s Seas and Oceans

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As an island nation state totally surrounded by the ocean, Seychelles considers water bodies worthy of special status and recognises them to be among Africa’s most prized natural assets. They need to be valued, protected and taken good care of our seas and oceans are very strategic economic assets and could be regarded as the cornerstone of our modern-day development efforts. Africa is indeed well located to play an important role in the world economy for the richness of its oceans and the facilities she provides for world trade.

The Atlantic Ocean, for example, that washes the continent’s western shores is the world’s second largest ocean and the world’s richest fishing grounds. It is also rich in natural gas and oil deposits.

The Indian Ocean is one of the greatest facilitators of maritime trade as it is the host of vital sea routes that connect the Middle East, Africa and East Asia to Europe and the Americas. It also carries more than half of the world’s sea-borne oil. This ocean is also rich in many assets, including natural gas and oil deposits.

Likewise, the Red Sea is one of the world’s most heavily travelled waterways. When the West was finding the closest route to the East, instead of going via the Cape of Good Hope, the Suez Canal was dug and officially opened on 17th November 1869, making it part of the Silk Road between Asia and Europe through Africa. Since the enlargement of the Canal and its re-opening on 6 August 2015 as the New Suez Canal, the number of ships going through it has increased from 49 to 97.

In 2020 some 19,000 cargo ships carrying 1.17 billion tonnes of cargo worth over 6.2 billion USD in revenue for Egypt went through the canal. Roughly 4 times more ships go through the Suez Canal than through the Panama Canal. Its importance was deeply felt when the Evergreen blocked the canal and world trade came to a near stop.

Last, but not least, there is the Mediterranean Sea, which bears major historical importance with regards to its role in the development of trade and shipping. Unfortunately, it has become a grave for African migrants wanting to leave Africa in the hope of a better life in Europe. Thousands of our brothers and sisters never make it. The exploitation that can be described as modern day slavery, engineered by dishonest Africans lords, brings to us the harsh reality of continued slavery on our continent.

Unfortunately, too often the wealth produced by Africa’s natural assets does not return to Africa, but stays elsewhere. This exploitation has to be addressed. I call on all leaders of Africa to help stop the plunder and enrichment of third parties while our African brothers and sisters continue knocking doors with begging bowls. I also call on western nations to not only preach democracy and humanitarian principles, but to practice them, as it is only in this manner that we will have fairness and work towards solving poverty issues, while achieving Sustainable Development Goals. I repeat the call  for an efficient and meaningful partnership.

The continent recognizes the importance of its great network of rivers and lakes that feed into these seas and oceans and of course the coastal marshes that are such important reproduction habitats of so many sea water species.

We are proud of our River Nile, the longest in the world and a life shaping river for one of the most famous, oldest and culturally rich civilizations, Ancient Egypt; The Congo River which is the second largest river in the world after the Amazon, and equally the world’s deepest recorded river; Lake Victoria, the world’s largest tropical lake and the second largest fresh water lake by surface area and The Zambezi River, that gives us the Victoria Falls, the largest in the world and one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the world.

There is no doubt whatsoever that Africa’s inland and surrounding water bodies are truly at the core of all development strategies and efforts. They offer many transformative attributes that have shaped, and have even greater power to further mould societies and communities according to their socio-economic aspirations. This could be illustrated by the adoption of a blue economy strategy as a development pathway by many African countries, where oceans, seas, lakes and rivers have become Africa’s true north.

Perspectives for future development are immense. Indeed, these waterbodies are integral to our livelihoods, and yet some of them, like the Indian Ocean, have been described as being amongst the least explored terrains in the world. Our task is to push for continued scientific research; for oceans and seas not only to have ecological, nutritional and economic values, but also to recognise their role as key climate regulators that influence global weather systems.

In other words, Africa must ensure that we persevere in the protection of planet earth. At COP26, this message from our continent must resonate throughout the world. Seychelles, like other island states of the continent will make its voice heard as it fights for its sheer existence in the climate change adaptation programmes.

The emphasis on the need for greater education programmes in getting communities to attach greater values and respect to our seas and oceans cannot be stressed enough. Our nations need to know the ripple effects of human interventions specially when there is over exploitation and sustainability is threatened.

Our ‘blue’ blind spot or ocean-related scientific knowledge gaps need to be filled. Mindsets need to change and be revamped with more creative, ingenious and constructive ways of thinking. As our actions impact on the living seas, oceans and waterways in and around our continent, it becomes our duty to also transform the minds of future generations and make the youth of tomorrow the guardians of those important assets.

Indeed, all these are auspicious, but daunting tasks and ambitions which might seem illusory for many African countries whose immediate preoccupation amidst the COVID-19 pandemic is to satisfy their nation’s basic needs. In this challenging international context, it is crucial that the development of our ‘blue’ resources remains central to our efforts to ensure food security and social wellbeing.

Let us also be always reminded of the principles of inclusivity, which creates space for cooperative and coordinated actions. As such, what may seem unattainable alone, may be achievable through our combined efforts and actions.

The Ocean Decade launched earlier during the year presents an opportunity for us citizens of this great African continent to reach out to our neighbours and even further out to other global citizens to explore the means and opportunities for the sustainable utilization of our water bodies for the benefit of all.

In concluding, may I stress that we maintain Africa’s seas, lakes and oceans its rightful place: at the heart of our modern civilization. So, let us direct our actions towards our true north, the ‘blue north’, and secure this beacon of hope for Africa!

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Africa

The Transitioning Democracy of Sudan

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Sudan has been the focus of conflict for much of its six decades as an independent nation. Despite being an anomaly in a region crippled with totalitarian populism and escalating violence, the country hasn’t witnessed much economic or political stability in years. While the civic-military coalition, leading a democratic transition towards elections, has managed to subside the fragments of civil war, growing hostility in the peripheries has begun threatening the modest reforms made in the past two years. The recent coup attempt is a befitting example of the plans that are budding within the echelons of the Sudanese military to drag the country back into the closet. And while the attempt got thwarted, it is not a success to boast. But it is a warning that the transition would not be as smooth a ride as one might have hoped.

The problems today are only a reflection of Sudan’s issues in the past: especially which led to the revolution. The civil unrest began in Sudan back in December 2018. Sudan’s long-serving ruler, Omer al-Bashir, had turned Sudan into an international outcast during his 30-year rule of tyranny and economic isolation. Naturally, Sudan perished as an economic pariah: especially after the independence of South Sudan. With the loss of oil revenues and almost 95% of its exports, Sudan inched on the brink of collapse. In response, Bashir’s regime resorted to impose draconian austerity measures instead of reforming the economy and inviting investment. The cuts in domestic subsidies over fuel and food items led to steep price hikes: eventually sparking protests across the east and spreading like wildfire to the capital, Khartoum.

In April 2019, after months of persistent protests, the army ousted Bashir’s government; established a council of generals, also known as the ‘Transitional Military Council.’ The power-sharing agreement between the civilian and military forces established an interim government for a period of 39 months. Subsequently, the pro-democracy movement nominated Mr. Abdalla Hamdok as the Prime Minister: responsible for orchestrating the general elections at the end of the transitional period. The agreement coalesced the civilian and military powers to expunge rebellious factions from society and establish a stable economy for the successive government. However, the aspirations overlooked ground realities.

Sudan currently stands in the third year of the transitional arrangement that hailed as a victory. However, the regime is now most vulnerable when the defiance is stronger than ever. Despite achieving respite through peace agreements with the rebels in Sudan, the proliferation of arms and artillery never abated. In reality, the armed attacks have spiraled over the past two years after a brief hiatus achieved by the peace accords. The conflict stems from the share of resources between different societal fractions around Darfur, Kordofan, and the Blue Nile. According to UN estimates, the surging violence has displaced more than 410,000 people across Sub-Saharan Africa in 2021. The expulsion is six times the rate of displacement recorded last year. According to the retreating UN peacekeeping mission, the authorities have all but failed to calm the rampant banditry and violence: partially manifested by the coup attempt that managed to breach the government’s order.

The regional instability is only half the story. Since the displacement of Bashir’s regime, Sudan has rarely witnessed stability, let alone surplus dividends to celebrate. Despite thawing relations with Israel and joining the IMF program, Sudan has felt little relief in return. The sharp price hikes and gripping unemployment which triggered the coup back in 2019 never receded: galloped instead. Currently, inflation runs rampant above 400%, while the Sudanese Pound has massively devalued under conditions dictated by the IMF. And despite bagging some success in negotiating International debt relief, the Hamdok regime has struggled to invite foreign investment and create jobs: majorly due to endemic conflicts that still run skin-deep in the fabric of the Sudanese society.

While the coup attempt failed, it is still not a sigh of relief for the fragile government. The deep-rooted analysis of the coup attempt reveals a stark reality: the military factions – at least some – are no longer sated in being equal-footed with a civilian regime. Moreover, the perpetrators tried to leverage the widening disquiet within the country by blocking roads and attempting to sabotage state-run media: hoping to gain public support. The population is indeed frustrated by the economic desperation; the failure of the coup attempt means that people have still not given up hope in a democratic government and a free-and-fair election. Nonetheless, it is not the first tranche of the army to rebel, and it certainly won’t be the last. The only way to salvage democracy is to stabilize Sudan’s economy and resolve inter-communal violence before leading the county towards elections. Otherwise, it is apparent that Bashir’s political apparatus is so deeply entrenched in Sudan’s ruling network that even if the transitional government survives multiple coups, an elected government would ultimately wither.

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Money seized from Equatorial Guinea VP Goes into Vaccine

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As a classic precedence, the Justice Department of the United States has decided that $26.6m (£20m) seized from Equatorial Guinea’s Vice-President Teodorin Nguema Obiang Mangue be used on purchasing COVID-19 vaccines and other essential medical programmes in Equitorial Guinea, located on the west coast of central Africa.

“Wherever possible, kleptocrats will not be allowed to retain the benefits of corruption,” an official said in a statement, and reported by British Broadcasting Corporation.

Obiang was forced to sell a mansion in Malibu, California, a Ferrari and various Michael Jackson memorabilia as part of a settlement he reached with the US authorities in 2014 after being accused of corruption and money-laundering. He denied the charges.

The agreement stated that $10.3m of the money from the sale would be forfeited to the US and the rest would be distributed to a charity or other organisation for the benefit of the people of Equatorial Guinea, the Justice Department said.

The UN is to receive $19.25m to purchase and administer COVID-19 vaccines to at least 600,000 people in Equatorial Guinea, while a US-based charity is to get $6.35m for other medical programmes in Equatorial Guinea.

Teodorin Nguema has been working in position as Vice-President since 2012, before that he held numerous government positions, including Minister of Agriculture and Forestry. Known for his unquestionable lavish lifestyle, he has been the subject of a number of international criminal charges and sanctions for alleged embezzlement and corruption. He has a fleet of branded cars and a number of houses, and two houses alone in South Africa,

Teodorin Nguema has often drawn criticisms in the international media for lavish spending, while majority of the estimated 1.5 million population wallows in abject poverty. Subsistence farming predominates, with shabby infrastructure in the country. Equatorial Guinea consists of two parts, an insular and a mainland region. Equatorial Guinea is the third-largest oil producer in sub-Saharan Africa.

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African Union’s Inaction on Ethiopia Deplorable – Open Letter

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The crisis in northern Ethiopia has resulted in millions of people in need of emergency assistance and protection. © UNICEF/Christine Nesbitt

A group of African intellectuals says in an open letter that it is appalled and dismayed by the steadily deteriorating situation in Ethiopia. The letter, signed by 58 people, says the African Union’s lack of effective engagement in the crisis is deplorable. The letter calls on regional bloc IGAD and the AU to “proactively take up their mandates with respect to providing mediation for the protagonists to this conflict”.

The letter also asks for “all possible political support” for the AU’s Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa, Olusegun Obasanjo, whose appointment was announced on August 26, 2021. A United Nations Security Council meeting on the same day welcomed the former Nigerian president’s appointment.

Earlier in August 2021, UN  chief Antonio Guterres appealed for a ceasefire, unrestricted aid access and an Ethiopian-led political dialogue. He told the council these steps were essential to preserve Ethiopia’s unity and the stability of the region and to ease the humanitarian crisis. He said that he had been in close contact with Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and had received a letter from the leader of the Tigray region in response to his appeal. “The UN is ready to work together with the African Union and other key partners to support such a dialogue,” he said.

August 26, 2021 was only the second time during the conflict that the council held a public meeting to discuss the situation. Britain, Estonia, France, Ireland, Norway and the United States requested the session.

Fighting between the national government and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front broke out in November 2020, leaving millions facing emergency or crisis levels of food insecurity, according to the United Nations. Both sides have been accused of atrocities.

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