South Africa: Zuma Stuck in Burundi Due to Jet Mechanical Problems

President Jacob Zuma was stuck in Burundi after the government-owned presidential jet experienced problems on Friday, his office said.

“President Zuma was unable to leave Burundi when his aircraft Inkwazi developed technical problems,” spokesperson Bongani Majola said in a statement.

This was not the first time that Inkwazi had been grounded due to mechanical difficulties.

Last year, Zuma faced intense criticism following reports that R4bn would be spent on acquiring a new plane for him and his entourage.

It was reported that the luxury jet would also have a conference room, bathroom and private bedroom and would accommodate 30 passengers.

Mosiua Lekota, who was defence minister when the Inkwazi was bought, said the price included R300m for the jet, and R108m to fit and decorate the interior, according to News24’s archive.

During the outcry over Zuma’s R4bn jet, University of Pretoria politics lecturer Roland Henwood told News24 that only United States of America President Barack Obama had a better plane that Zuma.

“There are world leaders who have presidential jets, but that’s exactly what they are, business jets. They are much smaller than what he [Zuma] has at this stage,” Henwood said.

“Only president Obama has a better aircraft.”

Meanwhile, Zuma would miss the 16th Annual National Teaching Awards to be held in Johannesburg on Saturday.

Majola said deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa would take Zuma’s place at the event.

Source: News24


Stark Illiterates in The Police On The Increase-Retired Acting CJ

First published on 30 September, 2015 defunct

A former Acting Chief Judge of Oyo state, Justice John Ige has raised the alarm over the increasing number of illiterates in the Nigeria Police Force.

Justice Ige raised the alarm, recently, in a lecture titled ”KNOW YOUR CIVIL RIGHTS IN A SOCIETY”, at the annual lecture of the Zion Chaplaincy Services, in Ibadan , Nigeria.

”The Nigeria Police Force needs total overhauling to conform with the International Standards and Practice. There is urgent need to raise the basic entry qualification into the Force. It is equally sad to note that majority of the boys in uniform, controlling traffic or at Police check points are stark illiterates. Some of them cannot even speak good English ; and inspite of that inadequacy, some of them believe out of share ignorance, that they are above the law, and therefore, can assault, insult and trample upon the citizens’ liberty at will”.

”Apart from whatever they might have been taught in their Training schools, periodical workshops should be organized for Police officers. They need to be properly tutored, on how to comport themselves and more particularly on the Law of Arrest and Detention and how to preserve law and order. They need to be more civil and stop exhibiting barbaric actions, whenever they want to effect arrest. For instance, there is no need for a Police officer to jump into a man’s car/bus, seize the ignition key and put everybody into confusion and embarrassment. There are some of them, who will point rifles at the direction of the driver, they want to arrest and put everybody in fear. That behaviour is sub-human, uncivilized and wicked. That is not the type of Police Force we need in this period of change. Listen to Radio programmes on Public Enlightenment; you will hear the excesses and atrocities being perpetrated by these boys in uniform. Quite honestly, the kind of arbitrary show of power which is very rampant in our society must be condemned in strong terms”, he stressed.

While calling for a proper Code of Conduct for the Police, Justice Ige said ”for years they have been implicated in frequent human rights violations, including extra judicial killings, torture, arbitrary arrest and detention”.

Justice Ige outline the flaws of the Code of Conduct launched in 2013 : ” a) Rules alone will not address the culture of impunity in the Force, if such is not backed with requisite political will on the part of the leadership. b) That it will take a lot more than a Code of Conduct right now to begin the process of fixing the deep flaws of the Force. c) Does this code capture patrol vehicles without petrol ? A police officer using his own resources to his official uniform ? Or being posted without accommodation ? d) The said Code of Conduct has no sanction for its breach and e) More importantly, the appropriate organ to issue Code of Conduct for Police officers in the Police Service Commission and not the Inspector General of Police”.

He however, said that, ” there are appears to be desperate steps now being taken by Government to correct the errors and mistakes and wrong assumptions being made by Police officers on issues of Arrest and Detention”.

None Payment of Nigerian Workers : Dividends of A Rotten System


Workers in most states in Nigeria are hungry, angry, confused and frustrated, that their state governments have been unable to pay their salaries for several months.

Most of these workers now find it very difficult to meet their domestic responsibilities, just as the plight of the workers, gradually grinds to a halt economic activities in states that are in dire need of industrial development.

Even the pensioners are affected by the financial disability of the state governments. A sizable number of the retirees have passed on, due to various health challenges, resulting from their financial distress.

Strangely, most of the Governors appointed over a hundred  aides, for purposes, only they can best explain.

As the situation deteriorates by the day, concerned citizens have repeatedly called on those saddled with the responsibility of governance to save the almost hopeless situation.

Religious organizations have continuously rendered assistance to impoverished workers, even as the state governments have repeatedly reassured the workers that an end is in sight  to the problem. Their assurances have not changed the situation. The people blame their predicament on the Governors.

A religious cleric, Stainless Oluwatikayomid Elijah, recounts how  a Governor in one of the South Western states used the financial resources of the state to purchase vehicles worth N700 million in his electioneering bid to return to office for the second time, while luring voters with N2,500 per vote in the last elections.

Stainless Elijah concludes, ”Nigerians, what they sow is what they are reaping. Now they say they don’t have salaries, why should they expect salaries, then during the elections they were giving people N2, 500 per vote. And they say they are expecting salaries, where will they get salaries ? What sort of country is this ?”

Most of the State Governments blame the situation on the shortfall of their monthly allocation from the Federal Government occasioned by the dwindling revenue from crude oil.

The position of the cleric, is a strong reflection of the rot in the system, which has gone beyond remedy. Perhaps. Is the situation redeemable ? The state Governors are favourably positioned to  know.

A year on from Nigerian election victory, Buhari’s reforms flounders–Reuters

ABUJA (Reuters) – Almost a year after winning an election on promises to fix Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari’s grand vision of reform is fading, with power centralised in his increasingly remote presidency and the bureaucracy in disarray.

After axing almost 50 top civil servants and 40 ambassadors and shaking up ministries in a bid to exercise endemic graft, the 73-year-old former military ruler has even started cancelling some weekly cabinet meetings.

His aides said this was because under his predecessor, Goodluck Jonathan, the meeting had become a forum for ministers to hand out over-priced contracts to friends.

Critics say the effect has been to leave government rudderless while Africa’s biggest economy flatlines.

Power is concentrated in Buhari’s office, where files pile up on the desk of his chief of staff. Ministers appointed only in November – more than six months after Buhari’s victory – are reluctant to make decisions, diplomats say.

Government insiders admit things may be getting worse before they get better, but say that is to be expected given the scale of the task in hand.

“Of course it’s chaos. We’re rebuilding a whole system. There is no depth in the bureaucracy,” said a senior government source who asked not to be named.

Buhari is too often absent to provide enough personal guidance, according to his critics.

Since taking office in May, he has been on 26 overseas trips, visiting Saudi Arabia and Qatar this week, where officials say he hopes to drum up interest from investors.

His opponents complain that his external focus comes at the expense of the two pillars of the domestic economy – the oil-producing Niger Delta and Lagos, the sprawling megacity that serves as Nigeria’s commercial capital.

He has visited neither as president.


Buhari has won plaudits from ordinary Nigerians for fighting graft as part of a crackdown on an elite whose wealth has grown for decades while most of the country’s 170 million people remained in poverty.

The army under his command has also reconquered territory from the Boko Haram group in the north, though the jihadists still regularly stage suicide attacks.

But the ascetic general has not yet delivered on a promise to create jobs by ending reliance on oil. His civil service cull has cut avenues for graft but also created knowledge gaps, to the point that the government has so far been unable to produce a viable budget.

Buhari last week fired a senior budget official who had been appointed in August, after he helped to produce a draft which labelled car or computer purchases as capital expenditures, according to Nigerian research group Budgit.

One billion naira – more than $5 million at the official exchange rate – had been budgeted for office furniture alone.

“This was really depressing when we expected that this should be a total shift from the wasteful culture that we had had in the past,” said Oluseun Onigbinde, founder of the group.

Buhari fired most of the top management at state oil firm NNPC but his replacements have struggled to get a grip on the massive and opaque entity, officials say. Some projects have been delayed as the newcomers struggle to locate the relevant files in the four NNPC towers.

With no regular meetings, ministers are still trying to figure out what they can achieve, officials say. Buhari merged several ministries but since a cabinet retreat in November, he has left them to drift.

Buhari’s aides counter that the cabinet meets whenever there is something to decide, and that the government needs time to work out detailed plans – including funding – for such daunting tasks as road-building or the improvement of Nigeria’s notoriously erratic power supply.

But a senior civil servant who asked not to be named said ministers struggled to get the attention of Buhari’s office.

“There is a proposal, a consultancy does a study but then the report gets ignored,” he said.

Buhari asked Vice President Yemi Osinbajo to coordinate economic policy, but diplomats say he is being sidelined as the president personally handles all key issues, including a freeze of the naira exchange rate that is crippling investment.

That leaves businessmen wondering how the West African oil producer can survive its worst economic crisis for decades.

“Policy statements hang but there’s no trickle down,” said Prince Ike Ubaka, head of the All Farmers Association of Nigeria.

(Additional reporting by Chijioke Ohuacha; Editing by Ed Cropley and Andrew Roche)

Source : Reuters

Aid Is Key to Reform Local Forces on Rights, Leahy Says

Restricting U.S. Assistance Aims for Rehabilitation, Not Punishment

Sara Egozi

The goal of a law that for two decades has barred U.S. aid to security forces that violate human rights is to rehabilitate culpable units, not just punish them, the statute’s author, Senator Patrick Leahy, told an audience at USIP this week. The senator and administration officials who also spoke highlighted a new interagency policy that promotes reform by restoring assistance to partner governments once they have held perpetrators accountable and moved to guard against future abuse.

“Frankly, this should have been happening a long time ago,” Leahy told about 200 representatives of government as well as non-profit groups, international organizations, academia and research institutions. Participants included officials from the Departments of State, Defense and Justice and the U.S. Agency for International Development. “Civilian and military officials at foreign posts should regularly discuss with their partners when and why units have been deemed ineligible for U.S. aid through the vetting process, and what steps the foreign government can and should take to remediate.”

The focus on remediation has intensified as U.S. security strategy moves to greater reliance on local partnerships to counter violent extremism and other threats. By insisting that local security forces respect human rights and demand accountability for violations, the U.S. is strengthening them, Leahy said. Accountability and conduct that complies with the rule of law is, in turn, crucial to those local partners getting the cooperation they need from local populations, he said.

The workshop event, co-hosted by the State Department and USIP, marked a step forward in how the U.S. partners with foreign governments and militaries to achieve the vision of the “Leahy Law,” as the 1990s-era provisions are known. The Feb. 11 discussion followed up on a related workshop almost a year ago that more broadly addressed how to employ U.S. security aid to promote accountability and prevention in connection with human rights violations.

The remediation policy, developed by an interagency committee a year ago, encourages U.S. officials stationed at embassies and combatant commands to engage in “Leahy Law Diplomacy.” That means helping governments refashion corrupt and abusive military and police units to end impunity so they can again receive U.S. assistance. In a series of panels, civilian and military officials, as well as non-profit and academic leaders, explored best practices in accountability, redressing human rights violations, and facilitating effective security partnerships.

Tom Malinowski, the State Department’s top human rights official, said remediation is fundamental to fulfilling the Leahy Law’s original intent of demanding accountability and avoiding U.S. complicity in human rights abuses.

By creating a path to restore assistance where governments make credible efforts at reform, remediation strengthens partnerships with foreign governments and helps build the capacity of security forces.

“This is the whole point of the Leahy Law,” said Malinowski, the assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights and labor. “It’s not to punish bad behavior for the sake of punishment, but to induce change.”

Leahy, Malinowski and Rebecca Chavez, deputy assistant secretary of defense for western hemisphere affairs, cited the success of remediation practices in countries including Afghanistan and Mexico. The number of abuse allegations filed with the Mexican National Human Rights Commission dropped by more than 50 percent over the past three years, Chavez said.

The accountability required by Leahy’s legislation is increasingly central to building trust between the U.S. and partner governments, as well as the local support necessary for effective security force operations, the officials said. As the U.S. leans more heavily on foreign militaries to resolve global crises, the Leahy Law, and the push for respect of human rights, will stay at the forefront of security priorities, they said.

Remarks of Senator Patrick Leahy

Thank you Nancy and Tom, and thanks to the U.S. Institute of Peace and the Department of State for hosting this discussion.

I also want to recognize USIP for the important and active role it is playing in efforts to prevent and resolve conflicts overseas.

There is really no other U.S. government entity that can bring together the Departments of State and Defense, USAID, and other Federal agencies, as well as nongovernmental organizations, to develop, coordinate, and implement strategies to prevent and resolve conflict.

This workshop is just one example of this.

I also want to publicly thank Laurie Schultz Heim, who is retiring after nine years as the congressional liaison for USIP.  I’ve known Laurie for a long time, when she was a top staff member for former Senator Jim Jeffords.  There is no question that – like countless Vermonters – this organization is better off thanks to Laurie.

I want to begin with two examples, which I picked at random, of what brings us here today–

In two weeks the Foreign Minister of Sri Lanka will visit Washington.  In fact, he plans to speak here at the U.S. Institute of Peace.

Those of you who follow events in Sri Lanka know that in the war between the government and the LTTE, and particularly in the final months of that war, tens of thousands of civilians sheltering in camps and hospitals died from shelling by the Sri Lankan army.  In addition, many of those suspected of being members of the LTTE were rounded up by Sri Lankan soldiers and killed.

The Sri Lankan Government is now faced with the question of how to respond to demands by the United Nations, the Sri Lankan people, and many governments including the United States, to punish those responsible for such crimes.

My second example is Nigeria, where Boko Haram is committing horrific atrocities against the local population.  The Nigerian military has mobilized against Boko Haram, but it has also been accused of raping and murdering civilians, in some instances reportedly shooting hundreds of innocent people.

Both Sri Lanka and Nigeria are friends of the United States.  Both have new governments that we support.  We provide hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to Nigeria, and tens of millions of dollars in aid to Sri Lanka.

When I first wrote the Leahy Law 20 years ago I had these types of examples in mind, although back then my focus was on Central America.

As we have seen, Central America was not an aberration.  Impunity for crimes by foreign security forces – even some UN peacekeeping troops – remains a widespread problem.

The Leahy Law is designed to help prevent U.S. complicity in human rights abuses by foreign security forces, and encourage accountability when they occur.

Consider the alternative:  providing training and weapons funded by American taxpayers to foreign security forces who commit heinous crimes, even though their governments are doing nothing about it.

The challenge is how to apply the law to achieve what to some may appear to be competing or even incompatible national interests, but which I believe to be complementary.

It is a crime when Boko Haram commits rape and murder, but not when it is done by the Nigerian army?

It was a crime when the Tamil Tigers recruited child soldiers and used suicide bombers, but not when the Sri Lankan army targeted civilians and executed prisoners?

Of course is was.  And if we fail to recognize this we embolden those who would make a mockery of the principle that no one is above the law, and we do a grave disservice to the people of those countries.

When we partner with foreign security forces we automatically become involved in the internal affairs of those countries.  The way those forces act and are perceived by their own people reflects – positively, or negatively – on us.

When our partners, trained or equipped by us, commit abuses, we become complicit – or we are perceived to be complicit – in the predatory and abusive acts that erode the legitimacy of those forces.

I think most people understand this.

The Leahy Law makes clear that the United States will not tolerate or support foreign partners who violate the personal integrity, dignity, or due process of their citizens.  People who order, commit, or cover up such crimes should be prosecuted and punished.

The law also makes clear that those who use torture or shoot prisoners for reasons of political expediency, or because justice systems are slow or inefficient, will not receive U.S. support.

That is what the law requires when a foreign government rejects the need for accountability.

But that is not the outcome we want.  We want to help build professional, disciplined, transparent, and accountable security forces who are suitable partners for the United States.

We can do that not by treating them as if they are above the law – as we unfortunately sometimes have done – but by providing an incentive to answer to the law.

Many of these units may seem brazen and capable in the short term, and it is understandable to want to partner with them.  But we need military partners that are both capable and legitimate – who respect the rule of law, defend the rights of citizens, and build stability in their countries.

That is why the Leahy Law is not in conflict with the strategic, security focus on “building partner capacity” – whether in Nigeria, Sri Lanka, or anywhere else.  To the contrary – the law represents a convergence of universal values and national security interests.

As a former prosecutor, I understand the importance of accountability.  If our partners want to stop extrajudicial killings, torture, rape, and forced disappearances, they need to send a clear signal that perpetrators will be held accountable.

We know that often requires significant reforms of judicial procedures and institutions.  And we know that building the capacity of civilian and military justice systems takes time.

We are not prescribing how accountability should be administered in every case, nor do we have unrealistic expectations for countries where the rule of law barely exists today.  We are looking for the political will to stop impunity, provide the right incentives, and send a positive signal to the citizens of those countries.

Disciplinary procedures and credible justice systems distinguish professional soldiers and police from criminals.

Accountability builds the public trust and support that security forces need to respond effectively to terrorism and other violent crimes.

That is why the Leahy Law puts so much emphasis on remediation.  We want to stress that U.S. officials – civilian and military – in Washington, at our embassies, and at the combatant commands, should look for opportunities to assist their foreign partners in remediating units of security forces that have violated human rights.

Frankly, this should have been happening a long time ago, because the Leahy Law has always provided for the restoration of U.S. aid if governments act to clean up abusive units.  The law explicitly requires the Secretary of State to assist governments that take such steps.

Yet, for many years the law was treated as a pie-in-the-sky idea the Congress wanted that should be ignored, rather than risk upsetting the sensitivities of foreign governments.

The law requires active diplomacy – “Leahy Law diplomacy.”  Civilian and military officials at foreign posts should regularly discuss with their partners when and why units have been deemed ineligible for U.S. aid through the vetting process, and what steps the foreign government can and should take to remediate.

I am encouraged that one year after the new remediation policy was developed by an interagency committee, there have been several cases where remediation has worked and there are other cases in the pipeline.

I hope we see more of this.  And I think we will, because the goal of the law is to improve conduct.

This workshop is an opportunity to discuss how our programs to help reform corrupt and abusive military, police, and judicial institutions – whether conducted by the Pentagon, the State Department, Justice Department, or USAID – are improving accountability.

  • Are these programs working, and if not why not?
  • Where have we seen progress in strengthening respect for the rule of law?  Where are perpetrators of human rights abuses being punished?
  • What tools can we offer to assist partner governments with investigations and prosecutions of specific cases of human rights abuses?
  • Are we seeing results from the Pentagon’s human rights training, or is it wishful thinking if abuses continue to be tolerated by high ranking military officers who may have been promoted despite – or even because of – their own criminal history?
  • Can we make progress in a country like Egypt, one of the largest recipients of U.S. military aid, whose government is persecuting civic activists and journalists and ignoring abuses by its security forces?
  • Is there a correlation between corruption – a pervasive problem in many developing countries – and human rights abuses that deserves greater scrutiny?

I look forward to hearing what comes out of today’s discussion.

I am also encouraged that, despite the occasional naysayer who wants to waive the Leahy Law or make exceptions when the facts do not support it, more and more people recognize that the law is less about making accusations than about defending human rights and building lasting partnerships we can be proud of.

They recognize that the alternative is indefensible – supporting abusive security forces that violate domestic and international law and whose governments tolerate or even encourage it.

That is not acceptable to the United States and it should not be acceptable to our partners.

Thank you Nancy, Tom and all of you for helping make the Leahy Law what it needs to be.

Source :USIP

Uganda’s Pre-Election Violence Spurs USIP-Trained Youth to Act

Aubrey Cox and Gopal Ratnam

Two Ugandans, Hassan Ndugwa and Nulu Naluyombya, are campaigning to ensure that this month’s elections challenging President Yoweri Museveni’s 30-year rule are peaceful, even as the government has arrested critics and opposition party workers. Drawing on concepts and skills of dialogue, storytelling and active listening that they learned in USIP’s Generation Change Fellows Program, the two estimate their message has reached 20,000 people.

Hassan and Nulu said they have crisscrossed the country, starting with an event in December 2015 in the capital Kampala that drew 150 people from civil society organizations, youth and women’s groups, as well as religious leaders, government officials and the police.  They join a coalition of other youth-led programs, like #IChoosePeaceUG, that are dedicated to elevating messages of peace during the election cycle. The goal is to convince citizens to engage in the election campaign in non-violent ways rather than getting involved in the kind of violence that already has broken out during the primary season.

“Finally people understood that supporting different candidates does not mean we are enemies but people with different views.” Generation Change Fellow Nulu Naluyombya.

The U.S. State Department has warned that excessive use of force, arrests of journalists and obstruction of opposition party rallies in Uganda have created an “electoral climate of fear and intimidation and raises questions about the fairness of the process.” The Feb. 18 election pits Museveni, 71, against long-time opposition leader Kizza Besigye and former Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi. A prominent aide to Mbabazi’s campaign has disappeared under unclear circumstances, according to the Reuters news agency.

Although the campaign period has featured Uganda’s first ever U.S.-style presidential debate, which Museveni skipped, media coverage of the elections has been hampered by intimidation and excessive government regulation of media outlets that provide air time to opposition candidates. The political opposition and human rights groups accuse the ruling party of wielding a million-strong force of official “crime preventers” to intimidate the opposition. The government, for its part, accuses opposition candidates of forming youth militias.

Elections tend to be a key magnet for conflict to turn violent. USIP runs programs aimed at preventing such violence and conducts research to study which methods might be more effective under certain conditions. Public education, citizen consultations and peace messaging are among techniques often used to lessen the risk of tensions turning violent before, during and after elections, said USIP Senior Program Officer Jonas Claes in a March 2015 article examining the range of approaches.

Generation Change’

USIP adopted the Department of State’s Generation Change initiative in 2014 and has trained 73 young civic leaders in 10 countries under the fellows program. Hassan, a senior program coordinator with Uganda Muslim Youth Development Forum, which works to prevent extremism and youth radicalization, and Nulu, founder and executive director of Success Chapter, which trains young women in basic life skills, began their fellowship with USIP in 2014.

Both of them say the program gave them a better understanding of how conflict arises in societies and how to manage it peacefully.

“Before the program, I always thought conflict was a bad thing or it’s a negative thing,” Nulu said in a Skype interview. “After the training, I realized conflict is not necessarily a negative thing, but how you handle the conflict is going to determine whether the outcome is going to be a negative or positive.”

That, in turn, is likely to determine whether “people become violent or non-violent,” she said.

“Understanding how non-verbal communication and storytelling are very important aspects of communication, we incorporated skits in our campaigns to further drive the peace message home,” Hassan and Nulu said in a joint e-mail outlining their work.

A campaign sketch they developed in multiple local languages shows a husband and wife supporting different candidates without letting their political choices affect the peace at home.

“Putting the message in a skit helps to break it down for people who don’t understand” English, Nulu said. And “it’s fun and interactive.”

Having learned through USIP the difference between debate, which can stoke conflict, and dialogue, which can promote understanding, the pair encourages Ugandans to “use dialogue instead of debate so as to stay peaceful in this period” as they discuss support for different candidates, the two leaders said.

Active Listening

Hassan and Nulu said the learned skill of active listening has helped them address different groups of citizens with varying levels of education and economic status without belittling their audience.

Leadership training they received as USIP fellows helped them create partnerships with other groups as well as the Ugandan police, which provided security for their efforts and was crucial in their campaign across eight districts that are more likely to experience violence – Masaka, Kampala, Mukono, Mbarara, Kanungu, Fortportal, Jinja and Mbale, they said.

Unlike many non-governmental organizations working to prevent election violence through TV talk shows and advertisements, Hassan and Nulu said their efforts are focused on direct contact with citizens and involving them in generating ideas and solutions. Rather than organize events in hotel conference rooms, they focused on engaging citizens living in rural communities, reaching out to people in their homes and towns.

Approaching “people on their motorcycles or people who’re in their gardens, and giving them these messages was a powerful part of the campaign,” Nulu said. “Being able to reach people, most of whom don’t have TV sets, don’t read newspapers, they’re not even on Facebook … was exciting and powerful.”

“Finally people understood that supporting different candidates does not mean we are enemies but people with different views,” Nulu said.

With both political parties threatening to not accept defeat, Hassan and Nulu recognize the potential for violence after the elections. They acknowledge that their work will not end on February 18, and that building a more peaceful Uganda will be a long-term effort.

Source :USIP

Sudan’s National Dialogue Poses Test to Government’s Commitment

Susan Stigant

In Sudan, a country still struggling with violent conflict in Darfur and two other states, almost 700 participants in a national dialogue process are finalizing recommendations after three months of vigorous and genuine discussion. But legacies of tension and division are hard to overcome. Key groups that must be involved for any resolution to be sustainable have not joined. Most concerning, the open debate exercised within the national dialogue does not extend outside the doors of Friendship Hall.

University of Khartoum. Photo credit: Petr Adam Dohnálek/Wikicommons

The hall, Khartoum’s main conference center near the banks of the Nile, is playing host to intensive discussions on fundamental issues of identity, human rights, the economy, governance, foreign affairs and peace. President Omar al-Bashir initiated the process in 2014, and the conference convened in October 2015.

“Internal peace in countries like Sudan and South Sudan requires political transformation – a new, inclusive, responsible and accountable way of governance.” – Ambassador Princeton Lyman

In a visit this week with Ambassador Princeton Lyman, a special advisor at USIP, we sought to learn more about the prospects of the national dialogue; explore how it relates to other local dialogue initiatives and the peace talks on Darfur, Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile; and understand the ongoing challenges to securing an inclusive peace.

We saw first-hand the dedication and achievements of those who participated. As Ambassador Lyman said in a lecture afterwards at the Peace Research Institute at the University of Khartoum, “There is no doubt that the participants in the dialogue have been addressing very critical and sometimes very sensitive issues with vigor and earnestness. The results could be far-reaching.”

But it is not enough. The dialogue has not been sufficiently inclusive. Key armed groups and members of the political opposition declined to join the national dialogue, saying that the structure is dominated by the ruling National Congress Party. The government counters that more than 100 political parties and 30 armed groups have joined and that the invitation to the opposition remains open.  But as the deliberations in Friendship Hall wind up in the coming days, a mechanism is needed to further broaden discussions about the future of the country.

Without an end to the wars, it is hard to imagine how the resolutions agreed to in the national dialogue could be implemented. Furthermore, throughout Sudan, civil society organizations are being denied registration or closed, non-violent activists are being detained with documented cases of mistreatment, political and civic leaders are being barred from traveling to meetings outside of the country and media outlets are being shut down. The government justifies these actions in the name of national security, but this limited political space runs directly contrary to the supposed purpose of the dialogue.

Test for the Government

In the coming months, the Sudanese government’s commitment will be put to the test. Will the recommendations be taken to the Sudanese people for a broader, more inclusive dialogue? Will negotiations to end the violent conflict make progress? Will the hundreds of recommendations from the national dialogue be implemented?

“I would suggest that at the heart of the problem is that there has not yet been a commitment to a real democratic transition, especially by the ruling authorities,” Ambassador Lyman said in his Feb. 9 speech, “The Missing Piece: Where is the Peace in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement?”

A former special envoy to Sudan and South Sudan, Ambassador Lyman assessed the challenges to building a lasting peace within Sudan and South Sudan and engaged in a vigorous discussion with the 30 university professors, civil society leaders, former political leaders and students who attended. Drawing on experiences from South Africa to South Korea, he argued that “internal peace in countries like Sudan and South Sudan requires political transformation – a new, inclusive, responsible and accountable way of governance.”

The issue of U.S. sanctions on Sudan was raised often during the visit. The United States has imposed penalties on the Sudanese government since 1997, including economic measures in 2007 “in response to the government’s continued complicity in violence occurring in the Darfur region,” according to the State Department.

Ambassador Lyman pointed out that sanctions are linked to the most critical challenges Sudan is confronting: Conflict, human rights, and political transformation. The national dialogue is addressing several of these, and the conclusions and follow-up implementation will be closely watched.

But as Ambassador Lyman pointed out in his speech, the national dialogue has to be linked to political negotiations that end the internal conflicts and support a transition to democratic governance. Moreover, civil society, the media and political activists have to be given space to exercise the rights and freedoms guaranteed by Sudan’s own constitution. And an agreement on humanitarian access to assist civilians impacted by violent conflict that resurged in Darfur in late 2015 and early 2016 and that continues in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile states must be put into action. The issues of sanctions has to be seen in this context.

“In Sudan and South Sudan, despite years of intensive negotiation, multiple agreements, and the dedicated work of so many, peace remains not only elusive, but—in South Sudan and parts of Sudan— has been lost altogether,” Ambassador Lyman said. “Yet we cannot despair nor pull back from this work. Too many people are suffering, too much potential is being lost, too much danger exists of even greater loss of life that, if anything, we must intensify our work.”

Susan Stigant is USIP’s director of Africa programs.

Source : USIP

Adolescent Substance Abuse Rising

By Catherine Robertson

Despite the rise of health issues in our nation, teen smoking, drinking and abuse of illegal drugs tops the list of public health concerns, according to a study published Wednesday by The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA).

In the study, CASA describes the problem of adolescent smoking, alcohol use and prescription drug use as a public health issue of “epidemic” proportions. CASA reports the significance of the age in which a person begins abusing illegal substances, “The younger a person is when he or she begins using illicit drugs or misusing controlled prescription drugs, the higher the risk of drug use disorders.”

Although there has been discussion about lowering the legal drinking age from 21 to 18, the CASA report defends the significance in keeping 21 the legal age for alcohol use. According to the study: For those who started using any of these substances before age 18 [nicotine, alcohol or other drugs], 1 in 4 are addicted, compared with 1 in 25 who first started to smoke, drink or use other drugs at age 21 or later.

“Prevention is the foundation of our public health system and of my work as Surgeon General. One of the greatest challenges we face is preventing teen substance use and related risky behaviors,” said U.S Surgeon General, Vice Admiral Regina M. Benjamin, M.D.

The study places blame on the glamorization of alcohol and drug use in the media, saying it is a major factor in influencing the future of America’s youth. “The encouraging messages adolescents hear to smoke, drink and use other drugs help drive this problem and are created, in large part, by adults. Tobacco and alcohol advertisers and marketers supply teens with their wares. Many communities are dense with alcohol and tobacco outlets. Prescription drugs are advertised as a cure for every ill.”

Not only does adolescent and teenage use of marijuana and other illegal drugs pose a danger to the individual, but society as a whole pays for the substance abuse that is occurring. Although research on the actual financial costs of underage substance abuse is limited, the CASA study found that in 2007, the cost of underage drinking was an estimated $68.7 billion. This shocking number amounts to $2,280 per year for every adolescent in the United States.

Perhaps the efforts that once worked to curb adolescent substance abuse need to be revamped. As our nation becomes more connected through media and social networking it is essential that we find new tactics to connect and influence the youth society.

The CASA report provides recommendations that may be successful in gaining the attention of adolescences such as, “creative yet profitable ways to craft messages that discourage adolescent substance use, eliminating marketing efforts to adolescents that make addictive substances appear attractive, and using new technology to counteract prosubstance use media and advertising messages.”

Source : Health News

Egypt Artists Call for Freedom After Novelist Is Jailed

Egyptian writers, artists and filmmakers have launched a public campaign for greater freedom of creativity and expression following the jailing of a novelist on charges of violating “public modesty” through his writing.

Author Ahmed Naji, accused of publishing a book with references to sex and drugs, was sentenced to two years in prison on Saturday.

The solidarity campaign was launched on Thursday with a series of video messages from intellectuals in support of creative freedom.

In the first campaign video, well-known Egyptian scriptwriter Medhat El Adl expressed concern for the future of art in Egypt, saying the sentence against Naji came as an “extreme shock” to writers and artists.

“If this is how it is, my published novels contain things that would put me in prison too,” said best-selling author Alaa al-Aswany, adding that he has signed petitions, along with others from the field, requesting Naji to be freed.

Naji’s detention followed recent sentences handed to the TV presenter and researcher Islam Behery, who is serving a year-long prison sentence for “defaming religious symbols” and the writer Fatma Naoot, who has appealed a three-year sentence for “defaming Islam”.

Free speech crackdown

The growing movement by Egyptian intellectuals protesting the cases also includes Culture Minister Helmy el-Namnam, as well as two former culture ministers and the Egyptian Publishers Association.

Former Google executive Wael Ghonim, who helped ignite Egypt’s 2011 uprising, also criticised the verdict against Naji.

Rights lawyers and activists say cases filed by the public prosecution against writers and thinkers for issues related to “virtue” or religion have spiked under the rule of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.

As an army chief, Sisi led the popular overthrow of former President Mohammed Morsi in 2013 amid mass protests against his rule.

Egyptian artists and writers were among Morsi’s most outspoken critics.

“Those who were in your place before you have withered away because of similar actions, and the same way of thinking,” prominent TV host Youssef el-Hosseiny said in his show earlier this month, an implicit warning that Sisi cannot afford to alienate Egypt’s artists and intellectuals.

Culture Minister Helmy El-Namnam attended a conference on Thursday supporting Naji, the third conference held to discuss the novelist’s sentence in as many days.

Naji was initially acquitted but after the case garnered widespread media coverage prosecutors appealed the verdict, and in the latest ruling he received the maximum penalty of two years imprisonment.

Liberia: Activist Vandalark Patricks Charged With Multiple Criminal Offences

Monrovia — Political activist Vandalark Patricks has been formally charged by the government with sedition and criminal libel against President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. Witnesses say Patricks was picked up at a local Haiti center downtown Monrovia at 4pm on Tuesday by officers wearing mufti and whisked off to the Headquarters of the Liberia National Police (LNP).

One day after his arrest and subsequently being charged by the Government of Liberia, Patricks was taken to the Temple of Justice late Wednesday afternoon at about 4:00 pm to the offices of the Montserrado County Attorney, Cllr. Daku Mulbah. There, he was handed a copy of the indictment.

Following his appearance at the office of the Montserrado County Attorney, he was later escorted to the Monrovia Central Prison under a heavy security escort. His legal counsel, Cllr. Tiawan Gongloe, was seen on Wednesday at the Temple of Justice ensuring that his client is brought to the court. “The Police have told me that they will be bringing my client to the court within 20 minutes time but he has been charged with sedition and criminal libel against the President,” said Cllr. Gongloe.

Cllr. Gongloe indicated that the charges against his client were bailable and was only willing to secure the bail when he is brought to court and the charges are reviewed but Gongloe was unable to secure a bail for his client due to his late arrival by the Police, a source indicated. Court record in the possession of FrontPageAfrica states that the political activist was charged based on a press statement where he allegedly accused the President Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of being behind the lethal political violence against her political opponents in order to attain state power.

The Indictment also stated that political activist Patrick has allegedly said that the former Managing Director of the Liberia Petroleum Refinery Company (LPRC) was murdered because he has exposed the bad dealings of the President Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. According to the indictment defendant (Patrick) also accused President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf administration of being involved in several political deaths including the death of Siafa Gbollie, standard bearer of the Free Democratic Party (FDP), Michael Allison, whistle blower, Harry Greaves, Victoria zayzay and 16-yr old Shaki Kamara.

The court indictment also stated that in order for the defendant to incite the people against the government he pronounced that the Government was mute on the ritualistic killings that has been carried out against girls by rapists when the defendant failed to realize that all of the rape cases when reported the suspects are investigated and when found culpable are sent to court for prosecution,

Also the indictment accused the defendant of declaring open support to the political leader of the Movement for Progressive Change (MPC) Simeon Freeman recent statement that the government has a blacklist that bears the name of political opponents to be eliminated including the leader of the main opposition party the Congress for Democratic Change (CDC).

“The act committed by the defendant Vandalark Patricks grossly violates the New Penal Law of Liberia Section 11.11 of the statutory law of the Republic of Liberia” stated the indictment. Defendant Patricks arrest and subsequent charge by the government comes barely a week when information Minister Lenn Eugene Nagbe announced that government will go after people who use the airwaves to castigate government.

Source : FPA