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Posts tagged ‘Côte d’Ivoire’

West African bloc extends deadline for Bissau polls.



DAKAR (Reuters) – Elections that coup-stricken Guinea-Bissau was to have held in May have been postponed after West Africanleaders prolonged the mandate of its caretaker government by seven months.

The delay underscores the challenges faced by transitional authorities in the tiny West African nation – a known narcotics trafficking hub – following a military coup in April 2012 that prompted international partners to freeze aid.

Heads of state from West Africa’s 15-nation ECOWAS bloc extended the transitional period in Guinea-Bissau until December 31, according to a communique issued late on Thursday after a summit in Ivory Coast.

It said ECOWAS was asking transitional President Manuel SerifoNhamadjo to propose a revised timeline for elections to be held before the end of the year, instead of May as planned.

The former Portuguese colony was thrown into turmoil last year after soldiers ousted interim President Raimundo Pereira and Prime Minister Carlos Gomes Junior days before an election Gomes Junior was favoured to win.

The military junta handed power back to a civilian leadership led by Nhamadjo in May under a deal brokered by ECOWAS, but which was criticized by the United Nations, the European Union and the CPLP grouping of Portuguese-speaking states as dealing too softly with the coup leaders.

The European Union – once a source of hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to the state – has so far refused to recognise Nhamadjo’s administration, a decision the interim president says is hindering election preparations.

Guinea-Bissau’s parliament is also in disarray, with members loyal to ex-premier Gomes Junior calling for his return and blocking the organisation of any polls that could exclude him.

Guinea-Bissau is rich in natural resources, including minerals, cashews, and some of the world’s best fishing offshore, but political instability has hindered investment and kept most of its 1.6 million people mired in poverty.

Thin law enforcement and reported state complicity have allowed South American cartels to use its scores of mangrove-lined islands as a transhipment hub for cocaine bound for the markets of Europe for more than a decade.

Army chief General Antonio Indjai, who runs a military widely suspected of complicity in the drug trade, has been accused of leading the April coup and the EU says he still holds sway.



Blade Runner Tops The News, Rape Takes Back Seat; French Make Patent Grab For African Tea; Ivory Coast Dumps Bodies (Amnesty), African Med Students In Cuba On Strike.


Feb. 26 (GIN) – As the international press corps spins rafts of copy on accused killer Oscar ‘Blade Runner’ Pistorius, the much-needed gender debate expected to follow a young Black girl’s rape and murder has sunk to the back pages.

Cabinet ministers were also missing in action at a crucial debate in Parliament this week on gender-based violence.

Ministers Lulu Xingwana of women, children and people with disabilities, Justice Minister Jeff Radebe, Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa and Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini all failed to show up at the debate, the local Mail & Guardian newspaper reported.

Democratic Alliance spokesperson Debbie Schafer called it symptomatic of a lack of leadership on the issue. Spokesman for the ANC caucus Moloto Mothapo excused the absences telling a reporter that ‘this was not a debate on a portfolio like a budget vote, but a political debate.’

Meanwhile, a rape survivor will have her day in court thanks to pressure by the Treatment Action Coalition that followed up her case lost repeatedly by investigators after it took place in 2010. “Rape in the East Cape is out of control,” an investigating officer acknowledged. “Drastic measures need to be taken to combat this.”

Finally, the release on bail of accused sports icon Oscar Pistorius continues to raise eyebrows as details of his arrest emerge. Essayist Rapule Tabane in the Mail & Guardian observed:  “Pistorius is indeed privileged, what with a big-name spin doctor flying out from London to salvage his diminishing reputation, a specially hired pathologist and sympathetic headlines screaming “Prayers for Oscar”.

“His got special treatment, even from the police: they could not bear to put him in the back of a police van…  After his arrest, he did not have to spend time in a prison. Instead, he was detained at a police station where, it was reported, family members came to visit and gave him food. I do not need to dwell here on the horrors of our prisons, which thousands of our young men have to endure daily, and which Pistorius was spared.

Pistorius was granted bail of 1 million rand. He was allowed to pay an initial installment of 100,000 rand, with the balance due by March 1. He is next due in court on June 4. w/pix of O. Pistorius after arrest


Feb. 26 (GIN) – It’s been called “the new pomegranate juice” blessed with antioxidants and benefits for cardiovascular, diabetes, liver and respiratory ailments. Rooibos tea, grown only in a small area in the Western Cape province of South, has been a popular drink in Southern Africa for ages.

Which is why it came as a shock to learn that a French company was petitioning to own the name “Rooibos Tea”.  “The Dept. of Trade and Industry stands ready to defend South Africa’s trade and intellectual property interests vigorously,” Trade Minister Rob Davies said.

French corporate bids to own foreign names include an attempted patent claim on “Darjeeling,” the name of an Indian tea, which the French company had used for a lingerie line.

This is the second patent fight for Rooibos. A Texas firm, Burke International, registered the name “Rooibos” in 2004 with the US Patent and Trademark Office. When the tea became popular, Burke demanded that users either pay fees for use of the name, or cease its use. Burke’s claim to the name Rooibos was legally denied in 2005.

Copyright claims have even been launched against the national anthem. According to City Press of South Africa, “there are 61 claimants on royalties for Nkosi Sikelel’iAfrica or any derivative of the name, including the National Anthem of South Africa.” But Owen Dean of Intellectual Property Watch, refutes the claims.

“At best such claimants can only claim rights in their particular versions or arrangements of Nkosi (provided they are original).”

Meanwhile, the South African Rooibos Council (SARC) has reportedly applied to register ROOIBOS as a Certification Mark under the South African Trade Marks Act, which registration is intended to serve as the basis for international protection. w/pix of farmer harvesting rooibos


Feb. 26 (GIN) – A year after the international community pushed for polls in the Ivory Coast and helped remove the former president, Laurent Gbagbo, serious abuses of human rights by the current administration have been documented in a new report by the rights watchdog Amnesty International.

“Ivory Coast’s army has committed “widespread human rights violations” against supporters of ousted former president Laurent Gbagbo, Amnesty said in its report published Tuesday.

“This new national army, along with an armed militia of traditional hunters, are carrying out extra-judicial executions, deliberate and arbitrary killings, politically motivated arrests and torture”.

“They are acting with almost total impunity under the pretence of ensuring security and fighting against perpetrators of armed attacks,” the report said.

The Amnesty team heard first-hand evidence about how detainees were being held for months, with no access to their families, doctors or lawyers.

Amnesty delegates visited several places of detention. They heard accounts of torture with electricity or molten plastic to extract confessions about alleged participation in armed attacks.

Gbagbo himself has been detained by the International Criminal Court in The Hague since the end of 2011, accused of crimes against humanity.

Amnesty called for an international commission of inquiry into a July 2012 raid on a displaced persons’ camp near the town of Duekoue, which targeted people from the Guere ethnic group, considered to be pro-Gbagbo.

Fourteen people were reported killed, but Amnesty said “many more bodies are believed to have been dumped in wells”.

Meanwhile, Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan begins a four-day visit Wednesday to the Ivory Coast to discuss with other leaders of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) the current crises in Mali and Guinea-Bissau. At the end of the summit, Pres. Jonathan will remain for a 3-day state visit at the invitation of Pres. Alassane Ouattara. w/pix of Ivory Coast special forces


Feb. 26 (GIN) – South Africa’s Education Minister, Blade Nzimande, has called for the deportation of over a hundred South African medical students in Cuba who launched a hunger strike over conditions they considered unacceptable.

“The sense of entitlement and lack of gratitude displayed by these students who come from a country with such high levels of desperate need for higher education and training, and limited state resources, is totally unacceptable. I condemn it in the strongest terms,” Minister Nzimande said. “If they are threatening to come back home, then maybe they should do just that.”’

But emails sent to the South African daily City Press painted a different picture. A bottleneck apparently held up payment of student food bills which left the students without meals for four days. Meals are primarily pork, not acceptable to some students. The stipend is insufficient, they say, to cover incidental expenses and amounts to a third of what children of the South African diplomatic corps receive.

“The department of health might say our demands are unreasonable, but, honestly, we wouldn’t go to such lengths for something we didn’t believe in,” said one student who asked to remain anonymous.

“None of us are trying to be heroes here, and none of us want to go home and lose our careers,” he added in an email.

Some 2,000 South African medical students are enrolled in the 6 year program which includes one year of practical work in South Africa. This week, about 187 of the student doctors staged a protest outside the South African embassy in the Cuban capital of Havana and were arrested.

They were detained overnight but have refused to give up their fight over food and money.

Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi’s spokesman, Joe Maila, initially promised a “fact-finding mission” to look into the complaints. “We really want to find out what is happening with the food. Where there are serious concerns we will do something immediately. We want these students to succeed. We need more doctors.” According to the students, the mission never arrived.

He defended the pork diet. “Our students are usually served alternate meals consisting of beef, chicken or pork but for the past two or three weeks the Cuban government had problems acquiring beef and chicken. They could only serve what was available, which was pork.”

The students responded: “Whenever we ask for change we are reminded of the fact that we are from poor families, squatter camps, that we are women and men with difficulties, children of the storm and we should be grateful for the little we have.”

The father of a student detained this week told City Press it was unfortunate the department felt this way.

“When our kids complete their studies they return to serve South Africans. In many cases, they work in rural areas where local doctors refuse to go.” w/pix of Minister B. Nzimande


Guinean troops take Ivory Coast village: Official.

ABIDJANIvory Coast (AP) — An Ivory Coast military spokesman says that Guinean soldiers have occupied a border village in western Ivorian territory.

Col. Cherif Moussa said Tuesday that the seizure of Kpeaba village was part of a territorial disputebetween the two countries dating back to Ivory Coast’s independence in 1960.

He said the village had been occupied since the beginning of February.

Moussa said Ivory Coast has soldiers positioned five kilometers (3 miles) from Kpeaba but said that “diplomacy will play its role” in resolving the dispute.


Associated Press

Nigeria Needs A Stephen Keshi Now! By Simbo Olorunfemi.

“The trouble with Nigeria is simply and squarely a failure
of leadership. There is nothing wrong with the Nigerian land,
or climate or water or air or anything else. The Nigerian
problem is the unwillingness or inability of its leaders to rise
to its responsibility…” – Prof. Chinua Achebe.

Whatever the result of the match between Nigeria and Burkina Faso on Sunday, the point has been reinforced – the problem with Nigeria, simply put, is that of leadership. The challenge that confronts us is that of leadership – one with a developed mind of its own, unmoved by the shenanigans of an ignorant, boot-licking sections of the media, yet vociferous and always seeking to arm-twist leadership into going the wrong direction. What is lacking is a leadership that is resolute enough to proceed on the strength of its foresight and conviction to do what is right. A leadership not overwhelmed by the need to dance to the populist tune of a less-than-knowledgeable mass with claim to expertise on subjects they know little about. A leadership, daring to push the people on a track it had designed with the objective of taking the people to the promised land. A leadership strong enough to fly on the wings of its well-founded conviction, damn the nay-sayers, and go down on its dagger, should the outcome not be favourable.

Stephen Keshi has always stood out for his sterling leadership qualities. A man of unmistakable charisma, the ‘Big Boss’ started making his mark, from his days at St Finbarr’s College, Lagos. As the Captain of the famous NNB Football Club, Benin in the 80s, Keshi soon became an integral part of a crop of an NNB-dominated national football team. In a twist of fate, the late arrival of the Stephen Keshi-led group of players from NNB to the Green Eagles Camp resulted in their suspension by NFA for 6 months from all football-related activities in Nigeria. But that was to open another vista for him and his generation of footballers. He left for Ivory Coast and from there, for Europe, opening the gateway for other African players to make a career of football abroad.

It was in the national team, however, that Stephen Keshi’s leadership was more evident. For 14 years, he bestrode the Eagles like a collosus. He was not called ‘Big Boss’ for nothing. He was powerful. He was influential. He was reported to have had input in team selection, at that time. Whatever was the case, you could not ignore Keshi. He had a mind of his own.

It was for the reason that Keshi was his own man that it took the Nigerian football administrators so many years, until their hands were forced into giving him the opportunity to serve as Head Coach of the national team. They knew him as one they could not push around. He had served meritoriously as an Assistant to Shuaibu Ahmodu (another man serially wronged by Nigeria, in spite of his tireless work for the national team, qualifying the team for the World Cup two times, only to be shoved aside by the Administrators on both occasions.) The no-nonsense stance of the Coaching crew that led to the suspension of Victor Agali and others at Mali 2002 for breaking camp rules was instructive. But a compromised section of the sports media was not for that effort to instil discipline and worked to see Ahmodu out of the door. His major sin – not exactly media-cuddling.

It is no surprise that Stephen Keshi, with a single-minded approach, has built the present Eagles team, away from the orchestrated campaign to undermine his efforts, on the backbone of discipline, character and right mental attitude. These values, he is pushing, that have long gone AWOL in our national life. Is it a surprise that not many saw the sense in what Keshi was doing? In his own words, “… there were lots of problems back home when I left out some of the senior players in the team, but I had my own reasons, which are known to me only… I know that some people did not understand, but I knew exactly the type of players we wanted, the mentality, the players who can work for the team.”  In only 5 weeks, he has been able to build a team of an otherwise indisciplined set of Nigerians that has some semblance of unity of purpose, unlike teams of the recent past.

Keshi proceeded with his work, in spite of distractions from detractors and beer-parlour analysts who always seem to know more about football than those who are professionally involved with it. The Administrators’ body language was all too obvious. In any case, they had only reluctantly fallen back onto Keshi following the monumental failure of the favoured son, Siasia. Not a few felt they were only waiting for Keshi to fail for them to bury him. The report in the papers last week only confirmed the known.

But Keshi beat them to it. He kept to his plan, a joker to his chest. He was man enough to identify the strengths of Daniel Amokachi, who has proved fearless with his thoughts and voice on football, just as he was a rampaging bull on the field. He expressed his preference for Keshi as National team Coach, even when it was politically incorrect and inexpedient to do so. A good Leader is never afraid to surround himself with strong men.

Keshi opted to give the home-based players a chance. He inspired them, shored up their confidence and incorporated them into his main team. The 23-man team to the Nations Cup is made up of 17 debutants. There are not those names that easily roll off the tongues. Same Nigerians who had, before now, called for ‘fresh legs’ and home-based players were not impressed. He did not decorate the bench with the new boys. He made them core members of the unit. Oboabona and Mba are first team players, even though they play at home. The Captain of the team, Joseph Yobo, has spent more time on the bench than the field of play. Keshi has not played names or reputation. He has proved himself a Leader not given to nepotism.

So, what has Keshi done differently that has made him succeed, where many others have failed? What is Keshi doing that the political leadership not doing? What stands out in his style of leadership? What does he bring to the table that Nigeria can learn, given, as we have, on the wings of Chinua Achebe, submitted that leadership is the major problem facing Nigeria? Here are some : Keshi is not a product of some good luck. He has, for a while, sought the job. He considered himself qualified for the job and did not wait on some benevolent god to ordain him for it. He prepared himself for it. The knowledge gathered from his mistakes and misfortune have prepared him for the position. When the Abuja gods would not nod in his direction, he got his hands dirty in Togo and Mali, gaining valuable experience that has become handy in his march to the Nations Cup final. He has not built a team based on quota system or embarked on a vendetta mission. He has remained focused, refusing to be distracted by rabble-rousers. He has not been capricious, but dedicated and deliberate. He did not need to set up committees to address what common sense will easily lead one to do.

Keshi was confident enough to build a team in line with his own template. He built a team, and did not simply assemble an array of stars to jostle for shirts with bulging ego-pips on their hefty shoulders. In so doing, he has succeeded in instilling discipline, forged character and harvested commitment from the team. He was not afraid to pick and drop players. His team is not made up of nominees by Governors of the 36 states and party stalwarts.  He was not afraid to pick raw diamonds and refine them for his use. He was not afraid to lose his job, by risking it all, and for that, he has gained it.

Nigeria needs a Keshi. A man who is not only prepared for the job, but has the wherewithal to inspire, stand his ground and build from the ground up, even in the face of cynicism. Nigeria needs a leader with a roadmap on where he wants to take us and is ready to stick with it, see it through, irrespective of criticism by those who do not know and do not know that they do not know. Nigeria needs a Keshi – a man who is not afraid to appoint strong lieutenants, one who is not intimidated by paper tigers mouthing jaded jargons borrowed from templates handed down by Bretton Woods institutions, but can see original thought and locally-grown solutions for what they are. Nigeria needs a Keshi that is charismatic – inspiring his people, engendering a camaraderie that is necessary for teamwork and nation-building. Nigeria needs a Keshi – a man ready to lose it all on the strength of his conviction.  A man who will be ready to lay down his life so Nigeria can have hers. Nigeria needs a Keshi – a man whom Nigerians might not believe in until he dislodges the formidable forces of Ivory coast that seems invincible to all and pulverise the Mali of poverty presently running riot in the land. When Nigerians are convinced they now have a Keshi, they will be willing to back him, all the way, in running over the Burkina Faso of stagnation that has held the nation down for over 50 years. Nigerians need a Keshi now. This is the hour for our own Keshi.



Ex-youth leader Ble Goude charged with war crimes over postelection violence in Ivory Coast.

ABIDJAN, Ivory CoastIvory Coast‘s state television says former youth leader Charles Ble Goude has been charged with war crimes over his alleged role in violence linked to the West African country’s disputed presidential election two years ago.

RTI television said Monday that Ble Goude also faces charges of murder and theft of public funds. He was arrested in neighbouring Ghana last week and extradited to Ivory Coast.

Ble Goude was a youth minister under President Laurent Gbagbo. Gbagbo’s refusal to cede office despite losing the 2010 presidential election vote to current President Alassane Ouattara sparked five months of violence that claimed at least 3,000 lives.

Human Rights Watch says the ultranationalist group that Ble Goude headed killed hundreds of Ivorians and West African immigrants during the conflict.


By The Associated Press | Associated Press

West African leaders gather for Mali summit.

  • Malian soldiers patrols in a street of Niono, Mali, some 270 kms (180 miles) north of Bamako, Friday, Jan. 18, 2013. French troops encircled a key Malian town on Friday to stop radical Islamists from striking closer to the capital, a French official said. The move to surround Diabaly came as French and Malian authorities said they had retaken Konna, the central city whose capture prompted the French military intervention last week. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)

    View PhotoAssociated Press/Thibault Camus – Malian soldiers patrols in a street of Niono, Mali, some 270 kms (180 miles) north of Bamako, Friday, Jan. 18, 2013. French troops encircled a key Malian town on Friday to …more 


BAMAKO, Mali (AP)West African leaders headed to a special Mali summit in Ivory Coast on Saturday to discuss how to step up their role as the French-led military intervention to oust Islamic extremists from power entered its second week.

Neighboring countries are expected to contribute around 3,000 troops to the operation in Mali, aimed at preventing the militants who rule northern Mali from advancing further south toward the capital.

While some initial contributions from Togo and Nigeria have arrived to help the French, concerns about the mission have delayed other neighbors from sending their promised troops so far.

Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara said Saturday that Mali’s neighbors must work together to eradicate terrorism in the region.

“No other nation in the world, no other region in the world will be spared” if large swaths of the Sahel are allowed to become a ‘no man’s land,'” he said.

At Saturday’s meeting, the big issue will be sorting out a central command for the African force, a French official said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to publicly discuss the sensitive security matters.

Nigerian Gen. Shehu Usman Abdulkadir is expected to be named the force commander.

Speaking Saturday on French 3 television, French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Drian said France now has 2,000 troops in Mali and has mobilized 2,900 in the overall operation in places like Senegal, Burkina Faso and Niger.

He said France “could go beyond” the 2,500 troops initially announced for Mali, and said that at full deployment, Operation Serval would involve some 4,000 troops in the region.

Meanwhile, Le Drian insisted “there has been no ground combat in Diabaly” involving French troops,

French forces have moved around Diabaly to cut off supplies to the Islamist extremists who took the town on Monday, said a French official who spoke on condition of anonymity to be able to discuss sensitive security matters.

Mali once enjoyed a reputation as one of West Africa’s most stable democracies with the majority of its 15.8 million people practicing a moderate form of Islam.

That changed last March, following a coup in the capital which created the disarray that allowed Islamist extremists to take over the main cities in the distant north.

The U.N. refugee agency said Friday that the fighting in Mali could force as many as 700,000 people to flee their homes in the coming months.


Corey-Boulet reported from Abidjan, Ivory Coast. Associated Press writers Krista Larson in Bamako, Mali and Jamey Keaten in Dakar, Senegal contributed to this report.



West African bloc calls extraordinary summit on Mali.

ABIDJAN (Reuters) – The West African regional bloc ECOWAS has called an extraordinary summit for Saturday in Ivory Coast to discuss the military campaign against Islamist rebels in Mali, a Ivorian minister said on Sunday.

“The heads of state will come together to consult and to evaluate the situation,” said Ali Coulibaly, African Integration Minister for Ivory Coast, which holds the rotating chairmanship of the 15-nation bloc.

Coulibaly said an emergency contingent of ECOWAS troops, scrambled at short notice after France intervened with airstrikes in Mali on Friday, would start arriving in Bamako on Sunday.

(Reporting by Joe Bavier; writing by Daniel Flynn; editing by Andrew Roche)



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