Oct 14, 2020

Rwanda has approved the cultivation and export of cannabis even as the use of the stimulant for medical or recreational purposes remains illegal in the country.

The government is targeting to grow its export earnings from the global cannabis market valued at the $345 billion according to analysts New Frontier Data.

The decision has caused confusion with some warning it could be detrimental to the youth if tough controls are not enforced.

Rwanda's Minister of Health Dr Daniel Ngamije said that despite the government's intention to profit from the production and export of marijuana, its use in the country is prohibited.

"This will not give an excuse for drug abusers and dealers. The law against narcotics is available and it will continue to be enforced," Dr Ngamije said on state-run television Rwanda Broadcasting Agency on Tuesday.

A Cabinet meeting, chaired by President Paul Kagame, on Monday approved regulatory guidelines on cultivation, processing, and export of "high-value therapeutic crops".

While The EastAfrican has yet to see the guidelines by press time, a source from the Rwanda Development Board (RDB) told the paper that cannabis is the crop referred to.

Last year, RDB had invited companies to bid for the development of medical cannabis in Rwanda with a focus on the export market.

Prohibition

The production or sale of cannabis is prohibited in Rwanda. Doctors are banned from prescribing it as medicine, and doing so could land them in jail for two years and a fine of about Rwf3 million (about $3000), under Article 266 of the Penal Code.

Use of the narcotics attracts a jail term of two years, while drug dealers face between 20 years to life in prison, and a fine of up to Rwf30 million ($30,000).

A day before the approval, three women in Rubavu District were arrested for drug peddling after they were caught with 1,800 pellets of cannabis.

Analysts say that the government's latest stance causes confusion and will require an amendment of the Penal Code as well as public sensitisation.

According to the law governing narcotics and psychotropic substances, authorisation of production, distribution and use of narcotic drugs shall be delivered if their use is limited to medical and research purposes only.

The law further states that every authorised private or public enterprise selected can only retain the quantities of narcotics drugs that are necessary for the smooth running of the enterprise.

These, analysts say, are contradictory.

"Basically, the government is authorising the production of illegal drugs. The Penal Code should have been amended before the government came up with this decision to allow the mass production of cannabis for export. The law must be clear because it is creating confusion," Louis Gitinywa, a constitutional lawyer based in Kigali told The EastAfrican.

"There should now be some form of legal framework to support this decision, and to explain to citizens how this will work."

 

Credit: East African

Mobile financial services are, in most African countries, born out of crises. In 2011, Zimbabwe had gone through a volatile decade of economic crises – hyperinflation, currency instability and a collapse of the formal financial system. Consumers, mostly employed in the informal sector, had a widespread mistrust of the formal banking system.

In came Econet, a major mobile operator, to launch a mobile money service called Ecocash. Taking advantage of the country’s high mobile penetration, the service had 2.3 million users within 18 months. Today, close to 90% of adult Zimbabweans use Ecocash. In addition, Ecocash paved the way for competitors such as OneMoney, Telecash and Mycash.

The economic crisis in Zimbabwe spurred the rapid adoption and use of mobile money. First came cash shortages coupled with higher cash withdrawal fees and lower withdrawal limits. Then loss of savings to soaring inflation and loan denials in the formal banking system engendered mistrust among consumers. This forced a government-led drive towards a cashless economy and non-cash transactions.

Mobile money transfers in Zimbabwe are mainly from one person to another. This allows for urban to rural money remittances for family support, payment for goods and services in retail settings and financial flows between the formal and informal business sectors. Another important use of mobile money is to store money securely in high crime areas.

An important benefit is the cash-in and cash-out functionality. This allows users to deposit cash into a mobile account through a mobile money agent and withdraw physical cash at a convenient time and place. They can avoid the long queues and withdrawal limits set by the formal banking system.

Despite the compelling value proposition that mobile money offers, the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe recently placed significant regulatory restrictions on its operations. The regulator said mobile money services were fuelling illegal foreign currency exchange, money laundering and fraud, especially through the cash-in/cash-out service.

The restrictions followed the Reserve Bank’s audit of the four mobile money platforms, including Ecocash. It found that some accounts were opened using fictitious or unverified identification documents. There was also a rampant misuse of mobile money accounts for money laundering schemes and fraudulent overdrafts or fictitious credit. It also cited cases of foreign currency trading outside the formal channels.

Users are now restricted to just one mobile wallet account per person and a daily transfer limit of ZW$5,000 (US$50). In addition, users can no longer transact through mobile money agents. Their operations have been abolished.

As a result, close to 50,000 mobile money agents have lost their source of income. This is likely to affect customers in the rural areas of Zimbabwe who depended on the agents to access mobile money services. These agents gave rural consumers the opportunity to be integrated into the financial system.

The overall effect is that mobile money accounts can only be used for transacting but not “store of value” purposes. Store of value means savings or investment accounts. This is seemingly at odds with findings by academics and development practitioners that mobile money accounts encourage poor customers who are not well served by the formal financial sector to save regularly.

This is all the more so in a country battling with a shortage of banknotes and coins and the collapse of the traditional financial system. The stringent restrictions could stifle innovation among mobile money operators and hinder access to financial services for many unbanked Zimbabweans.

Alternative approaches

The blanket restrictions may have the unintended consequence of excluding legitimate merchants and consumers from accessing financial services. The new regulations also appear out of proportion to the risk. For instance, a tiered approach to know-your-customer regulation could have allowed the regulator to distinguish between risky high-value transactions and low-value transactions.

Zimbabwe has a national population registration system which is only accessible by authorised government workers. The ordinary mobile money agent would not have access to it. But customers without adequate identification could still sign up for a basic account with low transaction and withdrawal limits, instead of being excluded entirely from the financial system.

Alternative forms of identification could have been used for opening accounts. These could include utility bills or letters from local church and village leaders.

The mobile money agent network increased access to financial services in rural and hard-to-reach areas of Zimbabwe. Instead of abolishing the role of mobile money agents, the financial regulator could have reprimanded and fined agents found guilty of money laundering and the trading of foreign exchange without a licence.

The Reserve Bank also needs a financial sector policy that facilitates the development of safe and accessible mobile money services for Zimbabweans who currently don’t have access to financial services. This would require that all stakeholders, including the regulator, mobile money operators, telecommunication regulators and financial intelligence authorities, develop a collaborative regulatory framework.

Such a framework would seek to protect the integrity of the financial system from fraud and misuse. At the same time it would ensure that consumers and merchants enjoyed the full benefits of mobile money services. At all times, the end goal of greater financial inclusion must remain a priority.The Conversation

 

Marcia Kwaramba, Scholar-in-Residence in the Social Responsibility and Sustainability Division, University of Colorado Boulder

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Oct 13, 2020

Coronavirus-related travel restrictions are beginning to lift in some countries after more than six months of panic and uncertainty.

The resumption of international cross-border travel may appear to be a signal that things are slowly returning to normal, but as the latest research from the Henley Passport Index ­­— based on exclusive data from the International Air Transport Association (IATA) ­­— shows, the pandemic has completely upended the seemingly unshakeable hierarchy of global mobility that has dominated the last few decades, with more change still to come.

At the beginning of the year, for instance, the US passport was ranked in 6th position on the Henley Passport Index — the original ranking of all the world's passports according to the number of destinations their holders can access without a prior visa ­— and Americans could travel hassle-free to 185 destinations around the world. Since then, that number has dropped dramatically by over 100, with US passport holders currently able to access fewer than 75 destinations, with the most popular tourist and business centers notably excluded. As criticism of the country’s pandemic response continues to mount, and with the US presidential election just weeks away, the precipitous decline of US passport power and American travel freedom is seen as a clear indication of its altered status in the eyes of the international community.

Other significant changes in the once-solid global mobility hierarchy paint an equally vivid picture of the chaos caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. At the beginning of 2020, the Singapore passport was ranked 2nd globally, with passport holders able to access an unprecedented 190 destinations globally. However, under the current travel restrictions, Singaporeans can travel to fewer than 80 destinations around the world.

Unsurprisingly, those countries whose coronavirus responses have been criticized for being inadequate have taken the greatest knock when it comes to the travel freedom of their citizens. Brazilian passport holders were able to access 170 destinations without acquiring a visa in advance in January. Currently, approximately only 70 destinations are accessible. The decline in mobility and passport power for countries such as India and Russia have been less dramatic, but nevertheless indicative of an overall shift. Russian citizens had access to 119 destinations prior to the Covid-19 outbreak but can currently travel to fewer than 50. At the beginning of the year, Indian passport holders could travel to 61 destinations without a visa but due to virus-related restrictions, they currently have access to fewer than 30.

HPI Q4 2020 Infographic.png

Without taking the various pandemic-related travel bans and restrictions into account, Japan continues to hold the number one spot on the Henley Passport Index, with a visa-free/visa-on-arrival score of 191. Singapore remains in 2nd place, with a score of 190, while Germany and South Korea are tied 3rd, each with a score of 189. EU member states continue to perform best overall, with countries from the bloc taking up most of the spots in the index’s top 10.

Commenting on the pandemic’s impact on global mobility, Dr. Christian H. Kaelin, Chairman of Henley & Partners and the inventor of the passport index concept, says recent developments represent an era-defining shift. “For citizens of wealthy and democratic countries such as Canada, the UK, the US, and Western European nations, travel freedom is something that has been taken for granted for decades. The pandemic has abruptly changed this, and with the significant loss of access and privilege has come a re-evaluation. As countries around the world battle to manage a new category of risk, there’s been a shift away from travel freedom being regarded as the prerogative of nationals with once-powerful passports, towards a realization that it is now a necessary luxury for those wishing to access first-class education, business opportunities, and quality healthcare for themselves and their families.”

Ongoing restrictions, Brexit, and the ‘new normal’

While Covid-19 has shifted attention away from issues such as Brexit and the US’s controversial migration policies, experts point out that their probable impact has not lessened. Robert McNeil, Deputy Director of the Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford, says that even though the pandemic has exploded the concept of ‘business as usual’, a dramatic Brexit finale still looms on the horizon. “Whatever the final form of the UK’s departure from the EU, it is likely to affect migration. After the 2016 referendum, the depreciation of the pound reduced the UK’s attractiveness to EU workers ¾ something that may recur if Brexit rattles financial markets further. Meanwhile, increased restrictions on EU migrants’ access to the UK labor market are set to be implemented as new rules under the 2020 immigration bill. It seems inevitable these will lead to a fall in EU migration to the UK.”

Dr. Parag Khanna, founder and managing partner of FutureMap, says that increasingly restrictive migration policies have encouraged many people to seek out a Plan B, in the form of a second residence or even a change of nationality. “Even prior to the pandemic, Brexit had pushed British professionals to seek German, French, Spanish, and other EU nationalities based on lineage, or to pursue residency leading to citizenship in countries such as Portugal. Americans have availed themselves of similar options in countries ranging from Canada to Malta. Recent estimates suggest that interest in investment migration programs has jumped five-fold from 2019 through mid-2020.”

Greg Lindsay, Director of Applied Research at NewCities, points to the rise of so-called “digital nomads” as another sign of adaptation to crisis and uncertainty, particularly regarding the results of the upcoming US election. “After the pandemic hit, overnight the world’s knowledge workers became temporary professional nomads, and the disparity between national responses threw into stark relief the comparative advantages of alternative citizenship — especially for Americans suddenly locked out of much of the world.”

Embracing new safeguards in an age of uncertainty

Dr. Juerg Steffen, CEO of Henley & Partners, says there is no question that the volatility of 2020 has boosted the appeal of investment migration for an increasingly wide range of people, from an increasingly wide array of countries. “Fascinatingly, we have seen unprecedented interest in residence- and citizenship-by-investment programs from citizens of developed economies, particularly the US. In fact, there was a startling 238% increase in enquiries from Americans between January and mid-September 2020 compared to the same period in 2019. The events of this year have demonstrated that we cannot predict the future, but for those high-net-worth investors who want to ensure they are well prepared for the next major disruption, alternative residence or citizenship is increasingly seen as an indispensable asset and a vital hedge against ongoing volatility.”

Oct 13, 2020

UK retail chain Tesco has suspended the purchase of avocados from multinational Kakuzi and its majority shareholder Camellia Plc, following a class action suit levelling accusations of gross human rights violations in and around their 42,000-acre Murang’a plantation.

Britain's biggest grocery retailer announced the move after law firm Leigh Day said Sunday it had initiated legal action against UK firm Camellia, whose subsidiary runs the site.

The lawsuit, filed on behalf of 79 Kenyans at London's High Court, accuses the subsidiary Kakuzi of employing security guards alleged to have perpetrated horrific abuses since 2009.

They include killings, rape, attacks and false imprisonment.

Leigh Day said former Kakuzi employees at the 54-square-mile (140-square kilometres) plantation in central Kenya, which is also a major source of macadamia nuts, pineapples and timber, are among the 79 claimants.

Britain's Sunday Times newspaper, which first reported on the legal action, said Kakuzi supplies avocados to several UK supermarkets, including Sainsbury's and Tesco.

A Tesco spokesperson said: "Any form of human rights abuse in our supply chain is unacceptable.

"We have been working closely with the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI), alongside other ETI members, to investigate this issue and ensure measures have been taken to protect workers.

"However, in light of additional allegations published, we have suspended all supply whilst we urgently investigate."

Sainsbury's told the Sunday Times: "We continue to work closely with other UK retailers and the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI) to urgently investigate and address these reports."

Chain reactions
Tesco’s move is expected to rally other retailers in dumping Kakuzi, whose parent firm Camellia risks paying billions owing to a class action suit by 79 Kenyans who were assaulted, raped or had their relatives murdered in the Murang’a plantation.

Tesco is one of Kakuzi’s biggest clients as it sources thousands of the Murang’a-grown avocados every year. The supermarket said it does not condone any form of human rights abuse in its retail chain and that it has been working with various authorities to weed out any such actions by its suppliers.

Details of the class action suit were first published by The Times, a UK paper, on Sunday. The court papers paint a gory picture of horror and impunity, as security guards in the plantation seemingly did whatever they wished to Murang’a residents as police officers covered up any attempts to bring culprits to book.

In 2013, a 51-year-old woman was collecting firewood in Rwanda Forest within the 42,000-acre plantation when she was stopped by a security guard who accused her of theft.

The security guard tried to grab a rope the woman had, and while they were still struggling, he kicked her and she fell to the ground. The guard then removed her clothes and raped her before leaving her on the ground.

The woman tried to report the matter to the police, who asked her to go home and return the following day. When she returned, she was told to come back the following day.

Eventually she asked the officers why they were reluctant to take up the case and she was told it was her fault she was raped because she “was disturbing Kakuzi”.

Feeling helpless the woman went home and dropped her quest for justice. A year later, she started feeling unwell and went to hospital where she was diagnosed with HIV.

Four years later, a 58-year-old woman found herself in a similar situation after walking for 45 minutes to Rwanda Forest. She met two security guards who demanded a bribe to let her continue collecting firewood.

When the woman said she had no money, they took turns raping her before ordering her to leave. Just over a month after the incident, the woman sought medical assistance and was also diagnosed with HIV.

At least 10 other women also contracted HIV in similar circumstances, documents filed in the UK courts and seen by the Nation reveal.

Kakuzi’s response
On Monday, Kakuzi Plc issued a statement insisting that very few of the 79 claims had been reported to local authorities and that the publication of a story by The Times is part of a smear campaign against it and its clients.

The firm says it has asked Director of Public Prosecutions Noordin Haji to order an investigation into the claims. Camellio’s sister companies Linton Park Plc and Robertson Bois Dickson Anderson Ltd have been enjoined in the suit as they provided managerial support to Kakuzi.

At least seven Kakuzi Plc workers are among claimants in the suit.

The workers were accused of theft, beaten brutally before being taken to the police station and finally, court. Even though the cases against them collapsed, they incurred heavy medical bills to treat the effects of the violence.

Kakuzi is registered in Kenya, with Camellia holding a 50.7 per cent stake. Camellia, a global conglomerate which employs 78,000 people worldwide, said in a statement it bought that stake in Kakuzi in the 1990s but that it did not have "operational or managerial control".

"Kakuzi is investigating the allegations so that if there has been any wrongdoing, those responsible for it can be held to account and if appropriate, safeguarding processes can be improved," it added.

Kakuzi was initially served with a demand notice indicating that the Kenyan operation would be enjoined in the suit, but the 79 claimants eventually opted to only go for Camellia, Linton Park and Robertson Bois Dickson Anderson.

UK-based law firm Leigh Day is representing the 79 claimants, with the support of the Kenya Human Rights Commission and the Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations (SOMO).

The law firm filed the case on June 27, 2019 and served the documents on Camellia on July 10, 2020.

Camellia and its sister companies are yet to file responses. After being made aware of the intention to sue last year, Camellia and Kakuzi sought an out-of-court settlement on condition that the identities of the complainants were revealed.

It also insisted that all cases must be withdrawn before the parties pursue alternative dispute resolution processes.

After Camellia claimed that Leigh Day and its clients rejected alternative dispute resolution, the law firm said that the British multinational is the one unwilling to use a process that will be safe to the complainants.

“Second, it is the victims who have insisted on anonymity since they fear reprisals by Kakuzi guards and others. They have offered to disclose their identities to the defendants in a manner which allows the claims to be investigated but which meets their security concerns. Camellia has flatly refused this and insists that the identities of the victims should be disclosed without any safeguards,” Leigh Day said in a statement.

Lease controversy
The UK lawsuit has reopened the controversy into Kakuzi’s land lease, which expires in 2022. Kakuzi has filed a case to stop the National Land Commission’s (NLC) historical land injustice committee from looking into eight complaints filed by different groups against its leases.

The NLC committee suspended hearings pending the outcome of Kakuzi’s case, but ordered that the lease not be renewed until the complaints are determined. Kakuzi has challenged the NLC order as well in court.

Murang’a Governor Mwangi wa Iria said the legal provisions spelt out in the Constitution must be adhered to in granting lease renewals in the county, saying the current stalemate that involves Del Monte has to be settled through an all-inclusive dialogue.

Land rights crusader Phillip Kamau, who chairs the Kandara Residents Association, said Kakuzi occupies 42,000 acres of prime land, whereas Del Monte occupies 22,500 acres, all committed to 99 years lease.

“Kakuzi has since gone to court to restrict our agitation to auditing its lease even when we are aware that it has 20,000 of the holding being idle. We have leased land to them, which they do not require … the same case with Del Monte which does not utilise 12,000 acres,” he said.

 

Source: The Nation / AFP

Oct 13, 2020

Nigeria is to go ahead with a plan to rehabilitate the narrow-gauge railway between Port Harcourt, on the Atlantic coast, and Maiduguri on the border with Chad, a distance of around 1,000km.

The plan was announced by Rotimi Amaechi, the minister of transport, in September. On Wednesday, he told reporters that it had received official approval.

Amaechi said: “The Federal Executive Council has approved the award of contracts for the rehabilitation and reconstruction of the Port Harcourt to Maiduguri narrow-gauge railway, with new branch lines and transshipment facilities.”

He added that the council had also approved the construction of a deep-sea port in Bonny and a railway industrial park in Port Harcourt.

According to the minister, the reconstruction of the railways would cost around $3bn. The industrial park is expected to cost $240m and the port $480m. These last two projects would be developed as public–private partnerships “at no cost to the federal government”.

The port at Bonny will have a rail connection to the Port Harcourt line. Other connections will be built to Owerri, the capital of Imo State, and Kafanchan in Kaduna State.

In the past, the 1,067mm gauge line between Port Harcourt and Maiduguri was known as the “eastern line”. The main and branch lines cover a distance of about 3,500km, and before it fell into disuse relied on a semaphore signalling system.

 

Sudan’s transitional government recently announced a nationwide ban on female genital mutilation.

A 2014 survey backed by the United Nations estimated 87% of Sudanese women and girls between the ages of 15 and 49 had been subjected to the practice. Most undergo an extreme form known as infibulation. Tamsin Bradley sets out the context in which the ban was announced and the prospects for change under the reformist government.

How widespread is female genital mutilation in Sudan?

Female genital mutilation, or cutting, is widespread in Sudan. The practice is also common in Egypt, Somalia and among some groups in the Arabian Peninsula (Oman, United Arab Emirates, Yemen), Iraq and occupied Palestinian territories. It is not common in Bahrain.

The reasons for the practice are the same in all the countries. Most respondents in social studies indicate reasons such as to maintain cleanliness, increase a girl’s chances of marriage, protect her virginity, discourage “female promiscuity” thus preserving the family honour, improve fertility and prevent stillbirth. Also, femininity is thought to be enhanced through the removal of “masculine” parts such as the clitoris, or in the case of infibulation, to achieve smoothness considered to be beautiful.

Religious reasons are often mentioned and are sometimes misused by groups in favour of the practice to sustain it. Religious leaders in Sudan have yet to put out a common statement, one of the factors that’s hindering efforts to abandon the practice.

What are its most evident effects on women and girls?

These are multiple – medically as well as in terms of denying basic human rights.

Female genital mutilation causes long term and serious health problems. This includes making menstruation and childbirth highly risky, painful and ultimately life threatening. If performed outside a medical setting and in unsanitary conditions the practice can cause immediate infection that is painful and long-lasting. Girls are known to have died as a direct result of being cut.

Female genital mutilation operates to maintain girls as objects of control. It denies girls and women autonomy over their own bodies and over life decisions in a broader sense.

What is the significance of this ban?

The ban is the result of decades of campaigning. It is evidence of the influence of global, national and local activism that has finally exerted pressure on state governments to enforce the ban. It is also an indication that attitudes are beginning to shift. But there is no room for complacency.

Sudan operates as a federal system. This means that states are allowed to have their own legislation and formulate their own child laws. The first law banning it was passed in the state of South Kordofan in 2008. This was followed by Gadaref state in 2009. Both states ratified a Child Act with an article banning female genital mutilation.

The challenge was achieving countrywide ratification, which has now happened through the passing of the law by the sovereign council.

But the law alone won’t reduce female genital mutilation. It will have to be supported by highly visible public health and human rights messaging at every level, most critically at the grassroots.

What we have learnt from those early states is that giving effect to a ban requires concerted effort. Additional steps that have been taken include media campaigns at federal, state and community levels. This has included using radio programmes with messages from key informants and leaders, songs and role-plays to encourage abandonment of the practice.

Media campaigns have worked alongside the powerful national “Saleema” campaign. Saleema, which means “whole girl” in Arabic, is a UN-funded social movement designed to emphasise that an empowered, successful girl is uncut. Saleema has facilitated the work of many legislators and activists. It is seen to have contributed significantly to raising the visibility of female genital mutilation and reformulating it as a violation and major health risk rather than a cultural matter.

A similar law was passed in Egypt but didn’t stop the practice. What are the prospects in Sudan?

It’s important not to assume that approaches to end female genital mutilation work across contexts. For example, political and economic factors can play a large role.

In the case of Sudan, the country has received donor funding targeted at ending the practice for a number of years. This has helped to build the capacity of activists to push for change. This funding is continuing and will build on the earlier successes.

But a ban can only work if there’s on the ground coordination and commitment at multiple levels. Government must work with donors and implementers. More importantly than anything, change has to be driven by the grassroots. Community activists are key change agents and it is their drive and energy that determines the likely success. Change, even with a new law, will be slow in contexts where activism is not encouraged and civil society is curtailed.

Another reason for hope in Sudan is the country is going through political change. This could open up civil spaces and support the voices of young women and girls who do not want to be cut.The Conversation

 

Tamsin Bradley, Professor of International Development Studies, University of Portsmouth

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Oct 12, 2020

Nigeria's Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, has announced the dissolution of the dreaded police unit, Special Anti Robbery Squad (SARS or FSARS).

The police chief also announced major police reforms including the formation of an investigative team, which will include civil society and human right groups, for the purpose of “investigating alleged cases of human rights violations” by the police.

The dissolution of the SARS is coming on the heels of the #EndSARS protest nationwide.

The IGP, who reports directly to the Nigerian president from whom he receives directives, made the announcement on Sunday afternoon at a press conference at the force headquarters.

A statement on the announcement was also circulated by the police spokesperson, Frank Mba.

The SARS, a police unit, has been accused of extortion, harassment and murder of many young Nigerians.

 

- PREMIUM TIMES 

Oct 11, 2020

Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari has said he is determined to end police brutality, introduce reforms and bring "erring personnel... to justice".

His comments came after two days of protests sparked by a video of a man allegedly being killed by police.

The protest movement initially targeted the federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad (Sars), widely accused of unlawful arrests, torture and murder.

The protesters say they want the unit disbanded rather than reformed.

Previous commitments to change the behaviour of the police have not had an effect, critics say.

In a series of tweets, the president said that his government's "determination to reform the police should never be in doubt".

Nigeria Buhari Twitter Response

He added that he was being "briefed... on the reform efforts ongoing to end police brutality and unethical conduct".

But he called for calm and emphasised that most police officers were committed to protecting Nigerians.

On Friday, in the capital, Abuja, police fired tear gas at protesters who were highlighting police harassment and brutality.

Nigeria EndSARS Protest2

                                                                                    On Friday, protesters could be seen running from tear gas in the capital, Abuja (Reuters)

A police spokesman said minimum force had been used but demonstrators told the BBC that some people had been beaten and one said she had heard gunshots.

The hashtag #EndSARS was trending worldwide on Twitter on Friday with celebrities including the Nigerian superstars Wizkid and Davido tweeting their support for protesters.

British-Nigerian Star Wars actor John Boyega has also expressed his backing on social media.

'Targeted for being flashy'

The #EndSARS hashtag was first thought to have been used in 2018, but it emerged once again a week ago following the alleged killing of a young man by officers from the Sars unit.

Many people were using the opportunity to share stories of brutality attributed to the police unit, which has developed notoriety for unduly profiling young people, reports the BBC's Nduka Orjinmo from Abuja.

Those considered "flashy" often attract the Sars officers' attention and very few walk away without having to hand over money, while others are arrested or jailed on trumped-up charges and some have been killed, our correspondent adds.

Nigeria EndSARS Protest3 Getty

On Sunday, Nigeria's inspector general of police Mohammed Adamu banned the Sars unit from carrying out stop and search duties and setting up roadblocks.

He also said members of Sars must always wear uniforms and promised the unit would be investigated.

But protesters want the unit disbanded completely.

Past promises

Two years ago, Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo tweeted that he had directed that the "management and activities of Sars" should be overhauled "with immediate effect".

Then last year, a specially formed Presidential Panel on the Reform of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad recommended reforms along with the dismissal and prosecution of named officers accused of abusing Nigerians.

At the time, President Buhari gave the head of police three months to work out how to implement the recommendations, but critics say little appears to have changed.

 

Source: BBC

Oct 09, 2020

The selection of a new director general of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) is entering its final stage.

The final two – from an initial list of eight candidates – are Nigeria’s former finance minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and South Korean trade minister Yoo Myung-hee.

Both are female which means that if members of the WTO can coalesce around one them in the final stages of selection, it will be the first time the job has been taken by a woman.

Ms Okonjo-Iweala and Ms Yoo both have political and international experience and both were students at American universities.

Ms Okonjo-Iweala, who also has US nationality, has had two spells as finance minister and a short stint as foreign minister in Nigeria.

Much of her career was spent as an economist at the World Bank. She eventually rose to the position of managing director, essentially second in command at the institution. She has been an unsuccessful candidate for the top job at the bank.

She is currently chair of the board of the international vaccines alliance, Gavi.

She has not spent her career immersed in the details of trade policy as some other candidates did. But her work as a development economist and finance minister means she has often had to deal with international trade.

She describes trade as “a mission and a passion”.

Ms Okonjo-Iweala would be the first African to be director general of the WTO.

Ms Yoo is much more of a trade specialist.

Her statement to the WTO’s general council hinted at a literal lifetime in the area – she said she was born the same year that South Korea acceded to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, which became one of the key elements of the WTO’s rule book.

She started her career in trade, she said, in the year the WTO was born, 1995.

She has been involved in some of South Korea’s key trade negotiations in that period, including with China and the US. She makes a point of her “deep knowledge and insight into the details of various areas of trade agreements”.

Under stress
Both candidates were keen to point out their abilities in bringing sides together in negotiations.

That is a skill the successful candidate will have to draw on extensively.

It is important to remember that a WTO director general can only make progress if they can get the member countries on board.

It has been said that the DG has no executive power; that they are more like a butler announcing to the member countries) that dinner is served.

But the WTO is an organisation under stress. Two of the biggest commercial powers on the planet – China and the US – are embroiled in bitter trade conflict.

The US has some substantial concerns about the WTO. Many of them pre-date President Trump, but his administration has taken a less collaborative approach to pursuing them.

The US has undermined the WTO’s ability to carry out one of its main functions – settling trade disputes between member countries.

It has refused to allow the body which hears appeals to appoint new members, effectively judges. That reflects US concerns that the body’s judgements were going beyond the WTO rulebook. The US block has left it unable to take new appeal cases.

It doesn’t mean the dispute settlement system doesn’t work at all, but it is seriously impaired.

In terms of diversity, the WTO seems to be heading into new territory. It will, almost certainly, have a woman as Director General for the first time a woman.

The regional representation might also break new ground, if the African candidate gets the job – there has been an Asian director general before, from Thailand.

If all goes to plan we will know who it is by early November.

 

- BBC

Oct 09, 2020

Pan African businessman and Econet Group Chairman Strive Masiyiwa says his Africa Data Centres has started construction of Nigeria’s biggest Data Centre.

We recently acquired a 5 Acre piece of land in Lagos, where we are starting construction of one of the largest buildings in the city. In Data Centre terms it will be the single largest Data Centre in Africa outside South Africa.

Architects and engineers have been working for months, and now the contractors are about to start work. Our Lagos facility will make it possible for Nigerians to get more Cloud services cheaply. It will drive investment into Nigeria, and help create thousands of hi-tech jobs!

In a few weeks, I hope to post [exclusively] on Sasai Watch, design of the building, and video. I will be coming to Lagos to see construction progress early next year and also for the opening Ceremony of phase 1 later in the year! I will invite many of you to the opening ceremony.

Africa Data Centre [ADC] is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Liquid Telecom, which is itself majority-owned by Strive Masiyiwa’s investment group.

ADC is now Africa’s biggest Data Centre company, a new high tech industry which supports Cloud computing services for big international companies, telcos, and banks. ADC first built a Data Centre in Nairobi Kenya, before making several acquisitions in South Africa. It has another major facility in Kigali Rwanda. It is also undertaking projects in Egypt and Ghana.

 

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