Category Archives: P

USING DRONES TO SAVE LIVES IN AFRICA

 

By Paul Ndiho

countries are experimenting with drones to deliver on-demand emergency medical supplies to remote areas. The use of drones appears to saving lives. How Rwanda Built A Drone Delivery Service-1

For an aspiring drone pilot, racing unmanned aerial vehicles in my neighborhood or empty parking lots is a new hobby, and I still have a lot to learn. Perhaps, I should not quit my day job as a journalist anytime soon.

In the United States, three main steps must be taken to become a certified commercial drone pilot. Step one; you must learn the rules as required by the Federal Aviation Administration. Step two; you must pass the knowledge test required by the FAA and Step three; you must register your drone with the FAA.

A San Francisco, California-based tech firm Zipline is changing the way people use drones. The company has a fleet of drones that carry medical supplies to remote areas in Africa.

Earlier this month, Ghana became the second African country after Rwanda to launch a fleet of drones carrying medical supplies to remote areas. The drones are part of an ambitious plan to solve the problem of medical access in a country with poor roads. Dr. Wiredu, medical superintendent, Tafo government hospital:

“With the Zipline and this provision of drone technology we believe very much that if we have to bring things on an emergency basis, it is going to be easier for us. Within a very short time like where we find ourselves in the New Tafo government hospital in 30 minutes, we have this product delivered to you.”

Zipline is quickly becoming one of the world’s largest independent logistics networks, providing nearly 13 million people with instant access to essential medicines and revolutionizing access to healthcare with a cost-effective drone delivery network.

Millions of people across the world — in both developed and developing countries — die each year because they can’t get the medicine they need when they need it,”

Zipline’s drones have been flying test runs with blood and vaccines, at the main drone base in Omenako, 70 kilometers north of Accra, one of the company’s four distribution centers.  Zipline says the three other sites should be up and running by the end of 2019.

“When people are in urgent need when their life is on the line, and the hospital might not have the blood or the medicine they need to stay alive, we can get that medicine to them in 15 or 20 minutes by sending a drone and airdropping a package of medicine to the hospital”

Zipline began its African journey in Rwanda in 2016, delivering blood and medicine in Rwanda. That success has inspired other African countries to tap into the technology.   In 2016, Malawi’s government launched Africa’s first drone air corridor, to provide a controlled platform for drones to deliver needed services to communities.

UNICEF-Malawi primarily supports the testing corridor as a pilot project using unmanned aircraft systems for transporting dried blood samples for the early diagnosis of HIV in infants.

In Madagascar, drones fly blood and laboratory materials from rural villages to a research station for testing. The drones help doctors speed up the identification of disease in patients and make quick deliveries of vaccines.

Some commercial drones are already being used to monitor crops, inspect bridges and transmission lines, and assist firefighters and police officers and film movies. As for Zipline’s future, the sky is the limit!

 

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MALAWIANS TO VOTE IN GENERAL ELECTIONS ON MAY 21, 2019

 

By Paul Ndiho and Lameck Masina

Voters in Malawi head to the polls on May 21st.  Political observers are predicting a tight battle for the presidency between incumbent Peter Mutharika and several top opposition candidates. Malawi vice president Saulos Chilima -1

Campaigning in Malawi’s upcoming election is entering its final stages as voters prepare to elect a president, members of parliament and local councilors.

President Peter Mutharika, of the Democratic Progressive Party, has told thousands of his supporters that he will continue to act on his election promises, convincing his backers that he will emerge from the poll the winner in a landslide.

But allegations of corruption continue to hover over his campaign.  The government denies the accusations — and Mutharika’s supporters appear to be unmoved by the corruption claims.

“I just want him to continue from where he started because he has been building a lot of infrastructures, encouraging people in terms of education, helping some people’s careers, yeah, so I am expecting much from him.”

One of President Mutharika’s top rivals in this election is Lazarus Chakwera, of the Malawi Congress Party.  Chakwera, claims Mutharika is failing Malawi’s citizens.  More that 50 percent of the country’s 18 million people are living below the poverty line, unemployment is rampant — life expectancy is low — and the infant mortality rate is high.  An estimated one-million Malawians are living with HIV and over 770-thousand children are orphaned, many due to AIDS, according to USAID.  But Mutharika’s supporters say they sticking by their man.

“I am going to vote for Lazarus Chakwera [leader of opposition Malawi Congress Party, or MCP] because his manifesto is good for me.””I am supporting MCP, but I feel that the voted were being rigged already. So if MEC is serious about producing good results that people will indeed vote for change.”

Vice President Saulos Chilima is hoping to win power as head of a new opposition party, the United Transformation Movement.  Political analysts say Chilima is seen as the biggest threat to both Mutharika and Chakwera.   Chilima has a large following of young people who want change from the current administration.

“I think Mr. Saulos Chilima will win and the reason behind this is according to statistics 60 percent of the people who are going to vote are the youths. Now, most of the youths want Dr. Chilima.
“We have had a lot of politicians who were cheating us. And I see I have to vote for those who are giving me hope so that they should develop our country.”

Many Malawians remain undecided for whom to vote as president… Zainabu Mangani is one of them.

“Malawi will remain the same because these politicians are selfish! What can I say? Because they are all the same what they know is to feed their stomach they are not even concerned about our lives they are not even concerned about our welfare. So I don’t want to vote for those people.”
Voter turnout may be the key to winning the presidential poll and the real impact of this election will only be known once the ballots are counted.

 

SOUTH AFRICA DECIDES 2019

By Paul Ndiho

The Electoral Commission of South Africa says nearly 27 million people have registered to vote in today’s National Assembly and provincial legislature elections. The number of people registered to vote represents about 75 percent of the eligible population.

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The stakes are high as South African voters cast their ballots in today’s in general elections.  This is the sixth election held since the end of the apartheid system — and it will determine who will become the nation’s next president.
The poll also marks the 25th anniversary of the country’s iconic 1994 elections which saw the African National Congress party – with Nelson Mandela at the helm – arrive at the forefront of the nation’s political landscape. But now the A-N-C is facing an uphill battle to retain its dominance amid a series of corruption scandals. South Africa’s president says he determined to clean-up his country.
“We want to rid our country of corruption, and we want to rid our country of the wrongdoing that has been happening in the past few years. Comrades we’re not turning back… Corruption comrades are not only corruption against the state; it is corruption against the people of South Africa.”


Political analysts say comments like these from the president have only adds fuel to the opposition – and their campaigning fire.
“He (Ramaphosa) says ‘we stole from your future, give us a chance to steal even more.'”
Julius Malema, leader of South Africa’s far-left Economic Freedom Fighters party, has also taken to attacking government corruption.
“There’s too much money in South Africa (that) is wasted by politicians…Let’s save money! What do you want to do with that money Malema? I want to give those grannies, and I want to give their children that money removed from the pockets of politicians.”
The fight over land reform remains a hot topic as people cast their ballots. South Africa is considering changes to its constitution to allow for the expropriation of land without an explicit plan for compensation. Struggling farmer Meshack Ncongwane was a life-long supporter of the ANC, but he says the party will not have his vote in this election.
“We see corruption being investigated, but no one is being arrested. If it were me, I would have long been in jail, that’s the painful part.”
Young South Africans make up the majority of eligible voters, but they are finding it difficult to find jobs. The nation’s youth unemployment rate is hovering at 53 percent, ranked among the highest in the world. Kgomotso Sebabi, has two bachelor’s degrees, but she says it is still tough to find a job in her field.
“You go to school, and then once you are qualified you sit with a whole stack of certificates that you can’t actually use, but then you can see within the public sector that here I can make a contribution, here I can make a contribution, but it’s like they are just not hiring the correct candidates.”
Tswelopele Maputla, has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Rhodes University, but she feels like she’s been duped into believing education is the answer to poverty.
“I feel scammed, because in so many of these (election) campaigns, right, they talk about unemployment, they talk about poverty alleviation, they talk about gender-based violence, but it’s all a talk shop. And I genuinely feel like you are trying to target the youth, but even the representation in most parties – there are no young people in some of these parties even.”
The government repeatedly vows, especially on the elections campaign trail, to create desperately needed jobs. Political observers say that this election is like no other because for the last 25 years, the ANC has never really been challenged at the polls. But it has also never been as tainted by controversy and corruption as it has been in the last few years.
Paired with the risk of a low voter turnout, the real impact of this election will only be seen as the ballots are counted.

Press Freedom In Africa

By Paul Ndiho

Across Africa young people are standing up to the abuse of power by mobilizing widespread protests against their respective governments. Some longtime leaders are becoming fearful of these uprisings and are hitting back by stifling freedom of speech and shutting down access to the internet and social media networks. Uganda Journalists-1

In its annual report, Freedom House, an independent watchdog group dedicated to the freedom of expression, freedom of the press and democracy around the world, says democracy is in retreat in 2019.  More authoritarian governments are now banning opposition groups or jailing their leaders, eliminating term limits and restricting the use of the internet and independent media.

Jon Termin, the Director of Africa programs at Freedom House, appearing on VOA’S Straight Talk Africa says Angola and Ethiopia — both historically closed countries that were previously ruled by autocratic leaders, are expressing a commitment to much-needed reforms.

“The picture for Africa is a mixed one. There are some concerning countries…but I also want to point out that they’re two countries in particular  Ethiopia and Angola that has undergone a very serious turn around in the last year. Both of those countries Ethiopia and Angola have seen a significant increase in our annual ratings.”

Zimbabwe’s status has improved from the Not Free to Partly Free category because the 2018 presidential election, though flawed, granted a degree of legitimacy to the rule of President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who seized power after the military forced the resignation in 2017 of former longtime leader Robert Mugabe.

The right to freedom of assembly appears to be the exception, rather than the rule, as young people advocate for democratic values, self-determination, and freedoms in Sudan. Their determined push led to the recent ouster of former leader Omar Al-Bashir.

Despite some gains, several of the continent’s aging authoritarian leaders continue to cling to power.  In Cameroon, President Paul Biya, now in office for 36 years, was re-elected after presiding over elections in 2018 that were marred by allegations of fraud and low voter turnout.

In Uganda, long- time leader President Yoweri Museveni’s regime in office for 32 years—oversaw the removal of a presidential age cap from the constitution, allowing him to run for a sixth term in 2021.   He has also sought to curb dissent by arresting opposition leaders Kiiza Besigye and pop star turned politician Bobi Wine.

The rights group “Internet Without Borders” says efforts by governments across Africa to deliberately sever online access to silence dissent over various issues is on the rise.

” It’s worrying because it’s not just an internet shutdown, it’s a triggering of more serious human rights violations,”

In its 2019 press freedom report, the right of freedom of expression and free media remains in jeopardy in Burundi.   In March, Burundian authorities charged three schoolgirls with defacing a picture of President Pierre Nkurunziza by scribbling over images of him printed in their school textbooks.

In another development,  the Voice of America and the British Broadcasting Corporation are both barred from broadcasting in Burundi. In March, Burundi’s media regulator, the National Communication Council announced that it had withdrawn the operating license for the BBC and renewed its suspension of the VOA, the ban extends to journalists, both foreign and domestic, who provide information to either broadcaster.

Meanwhile, U.S. lawmakers are urging Congress to pass and quickly implement the Global Fragility and Violence Reduction Act on Burundi in an effort to avoid any escalation of another political and humanitarian crisis as the 2020 election approaches.

In Rwanda, to avoid running afoul of the regime, censorship and self-censorship is the norm, rather than the exception.  Rwanda’s Supreme Court, last week, repealed a law that banned the publication of political cartoons, while upholding another that punishes any person who insults or defames the president of the republic. Breaking this law could land the person in prison for at least five years.

Rwanda ranked 155th out of 180 in the 2019 World Press Freedom Index released last month.

In South Africa, however, people are optimistic about their press freedom as they celebrated the 25th anniversary of the end of apartheid.

” The right to elect the leaders we want. To be free also means we must exercise, not just our right, but our responsibility to wake up and elect leaders. People died so that we can have this freedom. Freedom was not free.”

Ghanaian, Journalist Eugene Selorm Owusu says perhaps without a free press there would be no democracy in Ghana.

“In Ghana press freedom plays a significant role, In shaping the political discourse in Ghana. It acts as the watchdog on all government institutions and journalists in the country often go undercover to uncover the untold stories going on in the country. And without a free press, this wouldn’t be possible. Without a free press, there would be no democracy in Ghana.”

Freedom House has ranked the Central African Republic, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, Equatorial Guinea, and Eritrea among the worst performing countries on freedom of expression and press freedom.

 

ANALYSIS – ETHIOPIAN POLITICS

 

By Paul Ndiho

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed begins his second year in power with a new challenge, keeping his promise to make the 2020 elections free and fair, despite rising political violence. Abiy

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s first year in office was marked by a series of popular reforms.  He’s tapped women to head top leadership positions, signed peace deals, most notably with longtime foe Eritrea and he’s cracked down on corruption.  Not surprising, Prime Minister Ahmed is generating worldwide headlines, Time Magazine recently named him as one of the 100 most influential people in 2019. In part, for his leadership style and for doing what a lot of people thought was impossible.

Ahmed called for an end to the repressive, exclusionary governance that had plunged the country into turmoil. Ethiopian journalist and activist Eskinder Nega, is among hundreds of prisoners released this year. He says Prime Minister Ahmed should continue to work towards promoting democracy and expanding political freedoms.

  “Does the new Prime Minister want to bring genuine democracy to the country, he has said so, but in the final analysis, he will be measured not by what he says but he will be measured by what he does. So he has to walk the talk, and he hasn’t done that up now, at least he should have lifted the state of emergency.”

A surge in ethnic violence in Ethiopia, along the border areas of Gedeo and West Guji regions, has driven away nearly 1 million people from their homes.

  “We have seen health centers in the area faced with an enormous problem. They were working ok, but suddenly, they’ve got more than double the population coming in, and many of those people who are coming in are sick already. We have been providing them with additional basic medicines to enable them to treat those who are sick.”

Violence is threatening to undermine Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s calls for unity in the country. It’s also overshadowing the popular liberal measures he has announced since coming to power.

“We came here because we were attacked. We left our village empty-handed to save our lives. We traveled and spent three days in the bushes to get here.”

 The 42-year-old Ahmed was appointed by the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front as it sought to ease ethnic tensions and appeal to disenfranchised youth.

Since becoming Prime Minister, he has met publicly with newly-freed political prisoners and held repeated meetings with Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki to negotiate a July 2018 agreement re-establishing relations following a brutal 1998-2000 border war.

“He’s restoring the rule of law in the country so that the Ethiopian people will have confidence in the system, in the judicial system, in the security system, and the government as the whole.”

In a historic move, the prime minister appointed Sahle-Work Zewde as the country’s first female president. And several other women to senior government positions. These positions carry significant symbolic weight and social influence, especially for young women.

“Women’s political participation, to me as well, is beyond cabinet positions. It’s participation at all levels and the participation of women who’ve never been in politics before.”

New elections are slated for 2020, but some opposition parties are casting doubt on whether the government will be fully prepared to hold elections by that time. Some opposition groups say continuing instability may impair the government’s ability to safely conduct a free, fair and credible election next year. An election that Prime Minister Ahmed is hoping will be the crown jewel of the reforms he is promoting and defending.

Dawn of a New Era in Sudan

 

By Paul Ndiho

Thousands of Sudanese demonstrators are continuing to rally in support of their demands for a civilian rule in front of the army headquarters in Khartoum. Protesters are keeping the pressure on the military council to quickly transition to a civilian government following the ouster of longtime former President Omar al-Bashir. sudan-protests

The Sudanese Professionals Association, the chief organizer behind the protests, is urging people to head to the sit-in and defend it from any new attempts by the military to disperse the demonstrators.

Protesters remain defiant after an attempt to break up their sit-in. They’ve been here outside the defense ministry since April 6th.

After removing Bashir, the military council announced that it would setting up a transitional military council to run the country for up to two years – but demonstrators have strongly rejected that plan.

“Our first demand is the need to form a civilian sovereign council, with aggressive representation for limited tasks. This council must have limited tasks, which are the tasks of sovereignty only.”

Outside army headquarters crowds remained camped outside the complex, despite SPA warnings of an attempt to disperse the sit-in.

And the 55-member African Union threatened to suspend Sudan if the military fails to hand power over to civilians within 15 days, saying “a military-led transition would be completely contrary to the aspirations of the people of Sudan.”

“The African Union would further appeal probably to all stakeholders right now on the ground that more now than ever, it’s time to engage in an inclusive dialog, to create the conditions that would make it possible to meet the aspirations of the Sudanese people, to form democracy and good governance and restore constitutional order as soon as possible.”

“We as Sudanese we are looking forwards for justice, for freedom, for democracy and we thank all our people, our youth, our women for this great victory, and we are going to make all pressure to the military council to reply to all our demands.”

Witnesses say several army vehicles had surrounded the area of the sit-in and that troops were seen removing the barricades which demonstrators had put up as a security measure.

“We do not believe in them we still in our revolution, our demands are not met and we are not going to leave this place until we get everything done. We hope that we can get civil government, we don’t want the army government any more in Sudan, and we don’t want the Islamic Party National Congress”.

 “The government is not yet, and the government did not fall until now, and I think that not yet. So all the people in the world they have to know that the Sudanese people now will not go back to their houses without falling total regime… and the Islamic movement”.

A 10-member delegation representing the protesters delivered a list of demands during talks with the council last weekend, according to a statement by the Alliance for Freedom and Change umbrella group.

The military council, however, has met with political parties, urging them to agree on an “independent figure” to be prime minister.

“We want to set up a civilian state based on freedom, justice, and democracy,”

Omar al-Bashir ruled Sudan with an iron fist for 30 years before he was deposed following mass protests that have rocked the country since December.

Bashir rose to power in a 1989 coup, and he was one of Africa’s long-term serving presidents.

The United Nations human rights office, is calling on the military council to cooperate with the International Criminal Court which has issued an arrest warrant for Bashir for alleged war crimes committed nearly 15 years ago.

World powers, including the U.S. and Britain, and Norway have issued a joint statement calling for “inclusive dialogue to effect a transition to civilian rule and democratic governing much sooner than two years. Meanwhile, thousands of people

U.S Policy for Africa

By Paul Ndiho

In December 2018, the administration of U.S president Donald trump unveiled a new U.S.-Africa policy focused on combating what they say are the “predatory” practices of China and Russia. STA US AFRICA POLICY CLEAN

The United States has a new U.S.-Africa strategy, as announced in December by National Security Adviser, John Bolton. The announcement came during a speech at the Heritage Foundation, an American conservative think-tank based in Washington, D.C. that IS primarily geared towards public policy.

Bolton set the tone for the administration where he challenged African governments to choose the United States over China and Russia for their commercial, security, and political relationships.

“Under our new Africa strategy, we will target U.S. funding toward key countries decades and particular strategic objectives. All U.S. aid on the continent will advance U.S. interests, and help African nations move toward self-reliance.”

President Trump’s critics say noticeably absent from the new plan is any “commitment to Democratic governance and leadership on the African continent which is among the leading priorities for Sub-Saharan Africa in 2019, according to a study published by the Brookings Institution’s Africa Growth Initiative.  Brahima Coulibary, a Senior Fellow at Brookings Institution explains.

“I believe that the U.S. has a solid foundation and a strong legacy in Africa, through the success of its past programs and actions on the continent, on which to build. Without more proactive approaches, however, the U.S. risks falling further behind on this vastly important and strategic continent. Ultimately, the future of U.S.-Africa relations will be determined more by U.S. policies and actions (or lack thereof) toward Africa, than those of other countries toward Africa.”

Despite the criticism, the U.S. administration says it’s on course to engage with Africa. Last week, U.S Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, welcomed newly-elected President Felix Tshisekedi, of the Democratic Republic Congo to Washington. They discussed the future of U.S.-D-R-C relations and expressed their shared interest in partnering to deliver a better and more prosperous future for the Congolese people.

Relief and excitement spread through Liberian communities across the United States last month after President Trump issued an executive order extending the deadline of the Deferred Enforced Departure program for 4,000 Liberians living in America to March 30, 2020.

The White House also announced that the president’s daughter Ivanka Trump would visit Ethiopia and Ivory Coast over four days this month for a women’s economic empowerment summit in Ivory Coast. Led by his daughter, In February president Trump signed the women’s global development and prosperity initiative, which focuses on advancing female participation in the global economy.

In October 2018, U.S First Lady Melania Trump wrapped up her first visit to Africa that highlighted child welfare and promoted the work of the U.S. Agency for International Development on the continent. Her four-nation tour included stops in Ghana, Malawi, Kenya, and Egypt.

In his first meeting at the White House with a sub-Saharan African leader, President Trump held talks last year with Nigerian president, Muhammadu Buhari, The leaders reaffirmed and strengthened their commitment to fighting terrorism and violent extremists.

President Trump also met last year with Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta at the White House FOR talks on security and trade. The two leaders signed agreements that will see American companies invest IN $238 million worth of projects in the east African nation.

Political observers say the United States should be motivated to engage with African countries for the same reasons as China and Russia: Africa’s economic and political clout is growing rapidly — and the continent boasts a young, burgeoning population, which, by 2050, will make up 25 percent of the world’s people and workforce.

TROPICAL CYCLONE IDAI RAVAGES SOUTHERN AFRICA

By Paul Ndiho

The death toll from Cyclone Idai has climbed to over 750 in the three southern African countries hit by the powerful storm. International aid agencies are scrambling to reach survivors with needed relief and to stop a growing humanitarian crisis. tropical-cyclone-idai-web-statement.compendiumItemFull

The United Nations and international aid agencies are rushing food, medicine, and other emergency relief supplies to the survivors of Tropical Cyclone Idai that ripped through southern Africa, killing hundreds while destroying buildings and farmland across Mozambique, Zimbabwe, and Malawi.

In Mozambique, the death toll from Cyclone Idai that slammed the port city of Beira and the surrounding areas has reached nearly 450 and is still climbing. The number of people in makeshift camps has also risen from 18,000 to 128,000, according to the nation’s Land and Environment Minister Celso Correia.

“So we have an update of the number of lives that were lost. It has increased from 417 to 446 lives. We also have many people that were affected which is 531,000. These are preliminary numbers as soon as we do our survey of the ground we will be able to give you updates on this. To say that the people that are safe in our camps are almost 110,000 people already in the camps.”

The tropical storm made landfall in Beira on March 15 with high winds and lashing rain that lasted for more than nine hours, leaving the low-lying city of 600,000 isolated.

International aid organizations have stepped up their daily deliveries of aid on cargo planes from around the world. The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs says they are preparing to deploy three large field hospitals, as early as next week.

The United Nations Food Program is ramping up its airdrops to isolated pockets of people stranded by the floodwaters and delivered food parcels to displaced families sheltering in schools and other public buildings northeast of Beira.

Cyclone Idai also lashed Eastern Zimbabwe, killing more than 250, a toll that actually could be as much higher. Worst hit was Chi-mani-mani in Manicaland, an eastern province which borders Mozambique. UN agencies and the Red Cross have rushed emergency food and medicine by helicopter to the stricken countries. Some families are burying their dead in damp graves as injured survivors filled up the hospitals.

One resident told VOA, 26 people from the area have already been buried. Tinashe Sithole says he walked a long distance after his village had been cut off by rushing floodwaters.

“I have walked about 28 kilometers (17 miles) from Ngangu location up to Skyline. There is no bridge; all bridges were swept away, even the biggest bridge at Charter – that is the Nyahode Bridge – was swept away.”

Meanwhile, in Malawi, 56 people have died and a large number of schools in the flood-affected areas of southern Malawi have been closed. Some are being used as evacuation centers. Children are studying outside, under trees, after floods destroyed their classrooms.

“Most of the learners, they are not coming to school, because the rivers are flooded and they are unable to cross those rivers to come to school.”

The extent and severity of the current flooding in southern Malawi are overwhelming relief organizations, leaving many struggling to respond in hard-to-reach areas. Malawi officials say the situation is becoming unbearable, given the unprecedented levels of destruction.

“We don’t have enough food at all. So we need a lot of food. We don’t know, perhaps the Lorries we see here, they are to be distributed to us. We don’t know, because up to now we haven’t received any food at all.”

Weather forecasters are expecting more rain to fall in the region and cyclone affected families can only hope for quicker intervention from the international aid community.

MALAWIANS GEAR UP FOR ELECTIONS IN MAY 2019

By Paul Ndiho
In less about two months voters in Malawi head for tripartite elections. Political observers are predicting a tight presidential race between President Peter Mutharika from the Democratic Progressive Party against his former Vice President Saulos Chilima of the United Transformation Movement and Lazarus Chakwera with the Malawi Congress Party the main opposition party.   IMG-20190128-WA0046-620x330

Campaigning in Malawi is underway. On May 21st, in addition to the presidency, voters are set to cast their ballots for Members of Parliament and local Councilors. The wealth and patronage networks of the three main parties are driving the country’s politics.

President Peter Mutharika, Democratic Progressive Party continues to tell his thousands of supporters he will continue to act on his election promises from his 2014 victory, to rid Malawi of endemic corruption, fix the economy and tackle violence against women and people with albinism.

Mutharika enjoys the incumbency advantage, opinion polls have forecast Mutharika’s ruling party to win, but regular allegations of corruption could hobble his campaign in the impoverished southern African nation where reports of government graft are routine. But the government denies any allegations of corruption.


Opposition and civil action groups claim that he and the ruling D-P-P received about $195-thousand from a contractor supplying food rations to the police.

This election pits Incumbent President Mutharika against his former Vice President Saulos Chilima. Political analysts say Chilima is seen as the biggest threat to Mutharika. Chilima quit the ruling party in July in protest of alleged corruption. The former ally turned foe has launched a series of bitter attack on the president and hopes to win power as head of a new opposition party United Transformation Movement.

Chilima told VOA in an interview that he no longer speaks to President Mutharika — and he alleges that corruption is worsening under the current administration.

Analysts say Chilima, 45, a wealthy businessman, could easily give Mutharika, 79, a tough battle. And technically under Malawi’s constitution, the vice president cannot be fired by the president, so he is still the Vice President.

Meanwhile, Former Malawian president Joyce Banda has dropped out the race for president and plans to ally with Lazarus Chakwera, the presidential candidate for the Malawi Congress Party, the biggest opposition group.

Her announcement could be a game changer and serve as a significant boost to the prospects of the main opposition party ahead of the elections. But critics have questioned the alliance saying it appears former president Banda is not politically loyal to any particular ideology.  Lazarus Chakwera, claims President Mutharika has failed Malawians in many areas, justifying the need for a new leader.

“I am appealing to Malawians, this is the best chance we have to build a new Malawi together so that we have servant leadership, we have unity in the country, we have prosperity for everyone, and we are fighting and ending corruption, and everybody follows the rule of law.”

For voters in Malawi the presidential election is critical and strong leadership is vital. The nation is heavily dependent on foreign aid and is arguably one of the poorest countries on earth; over 50 percent of the country’s population live well below the poverty line. Agriculture accounts for one-third of its GDP, and 85 percent of its people survive on subsistence farming.

CHALLENGES OF IMPLEMENTING SOUTH SUDAN’S PEACE DEAL

By Paul Ndiho

Time is running out for South Sudan’s principle signatories to the peace agreement signed in September 2018 to form a unified national army and perhaps form a government of national unity. Screen Shot 2019-03-14 at 7.40.27 AM

It all seemed possible when a new peace deal was signed between South Sudanese President Salva Kiir and opposition leader Riek Machar last September, but time is quickly ticking away to meet the deadline set for May 12th, 2019.

In two months, an eight-month “pre-transitional” period ends.  Under the terms of the peace deal, the government and opposition are supposed to implement the agreement and form a transitional government or risk yet another unraveling.

Continuing violence and human rights violations, including rape and sexual violence, in South Sudan may amount to war crimes, according to the UN body that is reporting to the Human Rights Council on alleged gross violations and abuses of human rights in the country.

“The Commission is alarmed at the number of executions that have taken place in South Sudan. In the last two weeks alone there have been seven executions. There are currently 185 people on death row in Juba alone, of which two are juveniles.”

Armed forces are being challenged to end violations against children and take concrete action to protect the country’s youth by ensuring their recruitment and abuse is halted.

“The children of South Sudan need peace, and they need freedom, they need to be secure, like all the children in the whole world. They need to be doing things that children do, they need to go back to school, they need to be productive members of their community in the future, and that cannot be done within the conflict, and that cannot be done if they are part of the armed forces.”

The South Sudanese government denies these allegations and is pledging its full support to ensure that children are protected.

“There is a standing command order to all the field commanders to report any illegal recruitment of children in the army. The Department of Child Protection and the Assistant Chief of Defense Forces of Moral Orientation has conducted numerous workshops in the divisions and units on how to discourage children joining the army and how to identify children and report them to the nearest civil authority.”

Rape and sexual violence against women and girls as young as eight is unfortunately still widespread in the country according to a U.N. investigation published in February by the U.N mission in South Sudan. It recorded 175 cases of mainly rapes that lasted hours, by multiple uniformed and armed men, between September and December of 2018.

“There has been no accountability inside (South) Sudan for what is a chronic, endemic problem of sexual violence against women and girls. Virtually complete impunity over the years.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki met with South Sudanese President Salva Kiir earlier this month in South Sudan, in an effort to breathe new life into the stagnant peace agreement.  Among their ideas discussed, were bringing aboard groups who rejected last September’s deal.

 

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