In Tanzania, UN peacekeeping Chief Pays Tribute To ‘Blue Helmets’ Killed In DR Congo

14 December 2017 – The UN News Center reports that the head of United Nations peacekeeping operations on Thursday attended a ceremony in the port city of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, in honour of the country’s peacekeepers recently killed during their mission in a neighbouring country.

Jean Pierre Lacroix
UN Jean Pierre Lacroix

“We are here today to honor 14 fallen peacekeepers from Tanzania who made the ultimate sacrifice in the service of peace,” said Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Jean Pierre Lacroix.

“The Greek Philosopher Thucydides once said, ‘The bravest are surely those that have the clearest vision of what is before them, glory and danger alike, and yet not notwithstanding go out to meet it,” he added.

These peacekeepers were killed in the attack by suspected Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) elements that took place at the base of the peacekeepers in Semiliki in North Kivu of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) on 7 December.

Tanzania
Tanzania

These peacekeepers are the bravest, he said, offering condolences to the Government and the people of Tanzania.

Mr. Lacroix said to the members of their families that “no word can express your sorrow but we also know that you can be very, very proud of them.”

“Perhaps better than any of us, they knew the dangers they would face in this troubled region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo – a country that is so important for the security of the region,” he said.

United Nations
United Nations

“They knew that these armed groups that are preying on the population have no qualms about attacking UN peacekeepers and yet they placed their lives on the lines to serve the people of this region and of the DRC,” he added.

He stressed that “to truly honor these brave men, we must ensure that the sacrifice was not made in vain.”

“As we mourn this terrible loss, we must work together to ensure that our peacekeepers have the means to achieve our common goal of bringing peace back to the Democratic Republic of Congo,” he added.

Mr. Lacroix will also attend a ceremony in Goma, DRC, on Friday to honour the peacekeepers.

Meantime, the Tanzanian government is requesting a “thorough, transparent and genuine” investigation into the deaths of its soldiers. 44 other soldiers are receiving treatment for their injuries.

 

Transparency Intl (TI) Urges Robust Mining Approval Process to Mitigate Corruption

Philadelphia, PA USA – Transparency International (TI), an organization dedicated to the global coalition against corruption, in a just released report entitled Combatting Corruption in Mining Approvals: Assessing the Risks in 18 Resource-Rich Nations  details how corruption can get a foothold in mining approvals processes before ground is even broken.

Mining
Mining

TI defines corruption as “the abuse of entrusted power for private gain” and furthers adds that this  recognizes that all actors in the mining approvals process – not just government officials-have the potential to engage in corrupt conduct.

TI, in its report, also listed examples from a range of diverse countries and identities including some in Africa, important roles for government, the mining industry and civil society to identify, prevent and mitigate these risks.

In order to understand  and identify the corruption risks in the mining sector of the countries examined, TI urged the following questions be asked:

  1. Who benefits from mining approval decisions?
  2. How ethical and fair is the process for opening land to mining?
  3. How fair and transparent is the licensing process?
  4. Who get the right to mine?
  5. How accountable are companies for their environmental and social impacts and
  6. How meaning is community consultations?  The 102 page report, TI utilized what it refers to as the Mining Award Corruption Risk Assessment (MACRA) tool which undertakes a rigorous and consistent approach to identifying and assessing corruption risks in various contexts.
  7. The steps in the tool include:
  8. Defining the assessment
  9. Mapping the approvals process and practice and identifying vulnerabilities
  10. Analyzing the approvals context and identifying vulnerabilities
  11. Determining priority corruption risks for action and
  12. Assessing corruption risks and validation of the assessment.

The TI  report details the top seven risks from the MACRA tool and standings of some African countries which undertook risk assessments.

  1. What is the risk that community leaders negotiating with a mining company will not represent community members’ interest? Kenya, South African and Zimbabwe were listed a “very high” in the report.
  2. What is the risk that mining laws have been, or will be, if reform is planned, written to favor private interests before the public interest? Zimbabwe was listed as “very high” while Liberia was assessed as part of a group of risks.
  3. Assuming consultation with communities or land holders is required, what is the risk that negotiations for landholders or community agreements can be manipulated? Kenya and Sierra Leone were listed as “very high”.
  4. What is the risk that criteria for awarding licenses, etc will not be publicly knowable? Kenya, South Africa and Sierra Leone were listed as “very high”.
  5. What is the risk that applicants for licenses, etc will be controlled by undeclared beneficial owners? Zambia and Zimbabwe were rated as “very high” while Kenya was assessed as part of a group of risks.
  6. What is the risk that, in practice, that there is no due diligence on applicants claims regarding their capacity and financial resources? Kenya, Sierra Leone and Zimbabwe were listed as “very high”.

TI is urging governments, civil society and industries around the world to ask the following questions in their own countries, utilize their own examples and context to better understand the risks in their own context to building corruption- free mining processes.

 

Political and administrative context 1. Who benefits from mining approval decisions? Corruption is more likely to occur when:

  1. Regulations on political donations and lobbying are weak
  2. The real owners or beneficiaries of licence applicants are not disclosed
  3. Senior public officials don’t declare assets or interests in mining companies
  4. Controls on revolving doors are inadequate
Land allocation 2. How ethical and fair is the process for opening land to mining? Corruption is more likely to occur when:

  1. Land rights are poorly protected and not properly registered
  2. Rules and criteria for opening land to mining are not clear or transparent
  3. Register of land rights is incomplete or uncoordinated with other land use registers
Mining licence application and approval 3. How fair and transparent is the licencing process? Corruption is more likely to occur when:

  1. Steps in the licencing process are unclear
  2. Information in the licence register is missing or not publicly available
  3. The licencing authority is under-resourced
  4. Decision-making criteria are unclear or decisions are vulnerable to ministerial interference
Environmental and social impact assessment 4. Who gets the right to mine? Corruption is more likely to occur when:

  1. Due diligence on licence applicants is inadequate
  2. Controls to deter licence stockpiling are ineffective
  3. Regulation and disclosure of licence transfers are weak
5. How accountable are companies for their environmental and social impacts? Corruption is more likely to occur when:

  1. Verification of ESIAs is inadequate
  2. Criteria for environmental approval decisions are not clear or transparent
  3. ESIA reports are not publicly available
  4. Enforcement of licence conditions is weak
Community consultation 6. How meaningful is community consultation? Corruption is more likely to occur when:

  1. Rules for consultation are not clear
  2. Consultation only occurs with local elites
  3. Information about the project or its potential impacts is not accessible to community members
  4. Community agreements are not publicly available

Some of the African countries listed in the TI report are taking steps to mitigate corruption risks as it relates to the land and mining sector.

Mining in Zimbabwe
Mining in Zimbabwe

Kenya has recently taken steps to protect customary land rights. South Africa has been working to streamline its mining approval process but not without  some lingering bureaucratic hurdles. Zimbabwe is moving to install an online presence to ensure accuracy and ease of application in the mining sector.

Zambia has opportunities to de-politicize the mining committee to avoid undue influence and abuse from political appointees as is the case presently. Sierra Leone, in spite of legal requirements for the mining sector, has weak enforcement regimes which must be strengthened and include implementation of the Community Development Agreements which benefit local communities. Presently, the country’s National Minerals Agency is taking steps to be more transparent and is not publishing contracts on a dedicated website.

Conflict diamond
Conflict diamond

TI says governments, mining industries, the public must first understand the sources of corruption and then implement effective solutions and mitigating measures.

“Countries with robust approvals regimes can attract higher quality investments from major players who avoid corruption-prone jurisdictions, improve economic returns to their citizens and reduce rates of social conflict around mining projects,” the global corruption watchdog organization says.

 By Emmanuel Abalo

West African Journal Magazine

 

NATO Supports Mauritania In Enhancing Its Crisis Management System

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) says its crisis management center implemented through the NATO Science for Peace and Security Programme (SPS) can contribute to the fight against the challenges of trafficking and terrorism in Mauritania and the Sahel region of Africa.

NATO Flags
NATO Flags

According to a statement from NATO’s headquarters, it says the system could also serve as a model for the neighboring countries and regional organizations which have shown interest in this innovative center.

The national center will improve civil protection, operational watch, and early warning of the population against threats and risks, and enhance preparedness against crises affecting national security. It also supports emergency response by compiling and analyzing information from various sources, using modern technology and simulations.

It is based on a system which provides modern communication equipment for crisis monitoring, alert and management. Operators, technicians and other personnel in charge of the system have been trained, at technical and operational levels, so as to be able to implement their responsibilities and follow their missions.

This comprehensive system has been referred to as an example for the entire Sahel region.

“It is with great satisfaction that I see this project achieved,” said Inspector Mohamed Lemine Haidara of the Mauritanian General Directorate for Civil protection. “This project was developed for the Mauritanian Civil Protection in cooperation with the NATO SPS Programme and my French counterparts. I want to pay tribute to all those who were deeply committed to make this project advance and succeed. Its recognition went beyond Mauritania’s borders and it is considered as a model by the countries in the Sahel region,” he continued

General (Ret.) Denis Opplert of the French General Directorate for Civil protection and Crisis Management concluded, “For me, this project has represented an exceptional human and technological challenge. I was happy to see the progressive and complete takeover of the system by its users and managers. I want to thank them, as well as the French experts for their contribution”.

Mauritania-map
Mauritania

The four regional operational coordination centres across Mauritania located in Nouakchott, Nouadhibou, Rosso and Néma have also been supplied with portable kits for mobile crisis coordination.

The system facilitates situational awareness in the different provinces of Mauritania. The centres are receiving and processing emergency calls, track incidents, and share the information gathered at the national level and in other regions affected by a particular event.

The crisis management center financed within the framework of the NATO SPS Programme also received substantial national contributions from France and Canada, NATO said.

ICC Prosecutor Ask UN Security Council To Act On Outstanding Arrest Warrants

12 December 2017 – the ICC Prosecutor on Tuesday told the UN Security Council that Sudanese President Omar Al Bashir recently travelled to countries that recognize the International Criminal Court (ICC) but none arrested or surrendered the Sudanese President.

ICC_ Fatou Bensouda
ICC Chief Prosecutor Ms. Fatou Bensouda

ICC Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda told the Security Council in New York and  quoted by the UN News Center said, “I call on this Council to prioritise action on the outstanding warrants of arrest issued by the Court.”

She also said that “there can be no justification for States Parties to fail to arrest a suspect against whom an ICC warrant of arrest has been issued, irrespective of that person’s official status.”

Ms. Bensouda’s briefing comes one day after the Pre-Trial Chamber II decided that Jordan, which is a non-permanent member of the Security Council, was non-compliant when Mr. Al Bashir visited Amman in March. The Chamber agreed to refer the matter to the Assembly of States Parties of the Rome Statute – which established the ICC – and to the Security Council.

“This costly inaction has the potential to undermine the fight against impunity, the effect of which is to lower the bar of accountability that many have fought to raise,” Ms. Bensouda said.

“This continuous nonfeasance only serves to embolden others to invite Mr. A1 Bashir to their territory, safe in the knowledge that there will be no consequences from this Council for such breaches,” she added.

Mr. Al Bashir last week visited Chad, a country which had been referred to the Security Council for non-compliance on this matter in 2011 and 2013.

The Sudanese President also recently visited Russia and Uganda, among other countries.

President Omar al-Bashir-Sudan
President Omar al-Bashir-Sudan

In June 2015, he visited South Africa. While the Chamber established that there was no legal or factual justification for South Africa’s failure to arrest and surrender Mr. Al Bashir, it decided against referring South Africa to the Assembly of States Parties or to the Security Council.

In 2005, the Council asked The Hague-based Court to investigate war crimes in Darfur. ICC judges issued arrest warrants in 2009 for Mr. Al Bashir and other top officials for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes in the western Darfur region, where up to 300,000 people may have died and millions have been displaced since civil war erupted in 2003 between the Government and rebels.

 

 

Liberians Still Weary Over Unsettled Elections

Monrovia, Liberia – The weariness of Liberians over the fate of their electoral process dogged by legal hurdles after four parties sued against results of the first round on 7 October 2017 charging “massive fraud and irregularities” has been settled by the country’s high court.

Liberians Waiting To Vote
File Photo of Liberians Waiting To Vote

The opposition Liberty party sued demanding a re-run of the presidential and legislative elections meant to produce a president expected to succeed Ellen Johnson Sirleaf who was democratically elected, a historic moment since 3 January 1944 when Edwin J. Barclay turned over to William VS Tubman.

Following weeks of legal arguments, the hearing officer at the National Elections Commission adjudged that evidence adduced by lawyers of the Liberty party, the ruling Unity Party as well as opposition Alternative National Congress and All Liberian People’s Party was not sufficient to necessitate a re-run of the poll.

But the aggrieved parties appealed to NEC’s board of commissioners which swiftly upheld the decision. But Liberia’s Supreme Court has now heard and issued a ruling on the appeal of the Liberty Party.

Perhaps conscious of the race to beat the 16 January deadline for inauguration of a new president to avoid a constructional crisis, Liberians are relieved  that the court has acted to move to the run-off poll between incumbent Vice President Joseph Boakai and opposition leader George Weah who came 28.8 percent and 38 percent respectively in the first round of elections on October 10th.

Political Subdivision Map of Liberia map
Political Map of Liberia

Meanwhile, public opinion has been divided with youngsters who comprise majority of the population up in arms saying this is the time for Weah who resembles their kind to win while elder citizens on the other hand differ insisting Weah lacks sufficient experience and education to govern Liberia at this time demanding sophistication.

Notwithstanding the protracted court proceedings marked by bitter war of words involving supporters of candidates Weah and Boakai on radio talk shows there has been no reported violence.

The country’s electoral body, the National Elections Commission (NEC) was instructed by the Supreme Court, in its ruling, to clean up the voters rolls prior to the holding of the run-off elections. The NEC has yet to indicate how it will undertake the process and timetable for completion in order to set a date for the run-off elections.

By T.K. Sannah in Monrovia

West African Journal Magazine

Charles Taylor Former Arms Supplier Van Kouwenhoven Arrested in South Africa

A former business associate of convicted Liberian war criminal Charles Taylor, the Dutch businessman, Guus van Kouwenhoven has been arrested in South Africa.

Taylor and Kouwenhoven
Charles Taylor and Guus Van Kouwenhoven

According to Reuters,  van Kouwenhoven was picked up by security in Cape Town based on an arrest warrant issued by the Dutch authorities.

A Dutch Appeals Court convicted the 74 year old Mr. Van Kouwenhoven in absentia and sentenced him to 19 years in prison in April of this year.

He lived in Liberia in Liberia during the Taylor Presidency and was convicted as an accessory to the commission of war crimes and , arms trafficking and selling weapons to Taylor’s rebel faction, the National Patriotic Front (NPFL) in contravention of UN sanctions.

Former Liberian Warlord Charles Taylor
Former Liberian Warlord Charles Taylor

Major atrocities were committed by forces loyal to Taylor for which he, Taylor, was arrested, tried and convicted by the Special Court for Sierra Leone which held proceedings in the Hague, the Netherlands. Over 250,000 people died in Liberia and neighboring countries and thousands others were maimed.

Van Kouwnhoven who has denied any involvement in the charges against him had been living in South Africa and avoiding return to the Netherlands, claiming that he is ill.

The timber trader and arms dealer is appearing before a South African judge on Friday for a hearing into the extradition request from the government of the Netherlands.

Timber TradeGlobal Witness investigated the business dealings of Van Kouwenhoven’s Oriental Timber Trading Company in Liberia. Information gathered from that investigation was used by Dutch prosecutors over a decade ago to convict Kouwenhoven. But the country’s High Court returned the case to the lower courts for a retrial.

It is widely known that Van Kouwenhoven used his lucrative timber company as a front to smuggle arms and ammunition to Taylor forces during the Liberian brutal civil war between 2000 – 2003.

Van Kouwenhoven was deported from the U.S. in the 1970s for this involvement in the fraudulent sale of stolen paintings.

Reporting by Emmanuel Abalo

West African Journal Magazine

 

CPJ Writes Mauritanian President On Detained Blogger Mohamed Cheikh Ould Mohamed

Mauritania Blogger Mohamed-Cheikh-Ould-Mkhaitir
Mauritania Blogger Mohamed-Cheikh-Ould-Mkhaitir

President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz
Islamic Republic of Mauritania
Ministère du Secrétariat Général à la Présidence
B.P.184 Nouakchott, Mauritania
via Fax: +222 525 85 52

December 6, 2017

Dear President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz,

We, the undersigned international non-governmental organizations (NGOs), ask you to ensure that blogger Mohamed Cheikh Ould Mohamed, also known by the name of Mohamed Cheikh Ould M’kaitir, regains his freedom since he has served his sentence. We also urge you to take steps to guarantee Mohamed’s safety upon his release.

A Mauritanian court sentenced Mohamed to death in December 2014 on apostasy-related charges after he published an article titled “Religion, religiosity, and craftsman,” in which he criticized the Mauritanian caste system. The court ruled that the article was blasphemous to the Prophet Muhammad, despite the blogger repenting in court and saying he did not intend to insult the prophet.

Based on Mohamed’s repentance, an appeals court in the city of Nouadhibou on November 9, 2017, reduced Mohamed’s death sentence to two years in prison and ordered him to pay a fine of 60,000 Mauritanian ouguiya ($172).

Having spent more than three years in prison, Mohamed was scheduled to be released, yet he remains in custody, according to a November 16 press statement from the former Justice Minister Ibrahim Ould Daddah. The blogger’s relatives told CPJ that they have not been able to visit him or confirm his whereabouts.

Since Mohamed’s imprisonment three years ago, preachers have called for his death. Moreover, your cabinet on November 16 approved a bill to amend Article 306 of the penal code that would punish “defamation to God, the Prophet Muhammad, Holy Books, angels or prophets” by death. Under the bill, repentance would not allow authorities to reduce the sentence or drop charges as they had previously done in Mohamed’s case. In his November 16 press statement, then Justice Minister Ibrahim Ould Daddah said that the law will not be applied retroactively, but Mohamed’s continued detention is deeply concerning to us.

In an April 14 interview with Rcadio France Internationale, Your Excellency said that you will ensure Mohamed’s safety, just like any other Mauritanian, once the court orders his release. We urge you to ensure his prompt release and safety, regardless of political pressure.

We also urge you, Your Excellency, to reaffirm your vision of Mauritania as you described it in the interview: A country where people can practice democracy and have the freedom to write “whatever they want.” Abolishing laws that curtail press freedom, and freedom of speech, would be a step towards this vision.

Thank you in advance for your attention to this urgent matter.

Sincerely,

Sherif Mansour
Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator
Committee to Protect Journalists

Christophe Deloire
Secretary General
Reporters Without Borders

Carles Torner
Executive Director
PEN International

Eric Goldstein
Deputy Director of Middle East and North Africa division
Human Rights Watch

Karin Deutsch Karlekar
Director, Free Expression at Risk Programs
PEN America

Maran Turner
Executive Director
Freedom Now

Stephen Cockburn
Deputy Regional Director Research, West and Central Africa Office
Amnesty International