UN Committee Tells Cameroon To End Torture By Security Forces In The Fight Against Boko Haram

Cameroon must act swiftly on the recommendations published Wednesday by the UN Committee against Torture and put an end to the widespread use of torture by security forces fighting Boko Haram, Amnesty International said.

Amnesty International
Amnesty International

The Committee expressed deep concerns about the use of secret torture chambers documented by Amnesty International in July, and its failure to clarify whether investigations were being carried into these allegations, as well as other reports of killings of civilians and enforced disappearances.

“With the Committee against Torture now also demanding an end to the use of torture in Cameroon, it is becoming impossible for the world to ignore the widespread practice of torture in the country,” said Ilaria Allegrozzi, Amnesty International’s Lake Chad researcher.

“The clamour for justice is growing and Cameroonian authorities should respond by taking these reports of torture far more seriously and launching an independent and efficient investigation into these horrific practices.”

Based on submissions from organisations including Amnesty International, the UN Committee noted that large numbers of people from Cameroon’s Far North region are likely to have been held incommunicado and tortured by members of the military and the intelligence services in at least 20 illegal detention facilities between 2013 and 2017.

The Committee also raised concerns that this torture took place with the likely knowledge of senior BIR and intelligence officers at one military base, and that dozens of people may have died following torture and inhuman conditions of detention.

CAT-UN
CAT-UN

In its recommendations the Committee called on Cameroon to publish a declaration from the highest state level affirming an absolute prohibition on torture and other ill-treatment and put an end to the practice of incommunicado detention.

It also called for effective, independent and impartial investigations into all allegations of torture, incommunicado detention and death in custody, and for alleged perpetrators and accomplices of such acts, including those in command responsibility, be prosecuted and sentenced in proportion to the seriousness of the offences.

Elsewhere in its concluding observations, the UN Committee also echoed concerns raised by Amnesty International and others in relation to human rights violations committed in the Anglophone regions of the country, including by demanding an investigation into the deaths of at least 20 people killed in October in clashes between the security forces and protestors.

Paul Biya
Cameroon President Paul Biya

The Committee criticized the failure of Cameroon to provide information on the number of people still detained following protests in the regions, or whether investigations had been launched into the excessive use of force.

UN experts also noted their concerns that journalists such as RFI correspondent Ahmed Abba had been charged under counter-terrorism laws, and that some had been subjected to torture while in detention. The Committee also criticized the regular use of military courts in trials of civilians.

“The UN’s anti-torture experts have recognised that there is a major problem in Cameroon, and their warnings should be heeded. There should be no tolerance of human rights violations like torture, and we hope that the Cameroonian authorities and international community will respond to this report with the seriousness it deserves,” said Ilaria Allegrozzi.

West African Journal Magazine

 

Liberia’s President Visits US And Appeals For Support for Educational System

Little Rock, Arkansas, U.S.A: Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is appealing for support to rebuild Liberia’s educational system, which was destroyed during the years of civil conflict in the country.

Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf
Liberian President At Clinton School of Public Service Lecture

According to a press statement from the Liberian Presidency  copied to West African Journal Magazine, President Sirleaf made the appeal on Monday, December 4, 2017, when she spoke at the Frank and Kula Kumpuris Distinguished Lecture Series of the Clinton School of Public Service of the University of Arkansas in Little Rock, Arkansas, the United States.

Addressing students of the Clinton School of Public Service and hundreds of distinguished guests who crowded the auditorium, President Sirleaf said despite the progress Liberia has made since the end of the civil crisis, the educational system has been one of the weakest areas in the country’s recovery.

Cross Sectior of Audience at Clinton School of Public Service Lecture
Cross Section of Audience at Clinton School of Public Service Lecture.JPG

According to the press statement President Sirleaf noted that progress made in upgrading the educational system has led to an increase of two million students enrolled in school. She, however, added that there is a serious deficit of qualified teachers to properly mold the minds of the young people.

“The students are so many and the teachers are so few,” the Liberian President said, adding that there is a need to give the children quality education to enable them to compete within the global community.

President Sirleaf also noted that the health system in Liberia remains a challenge that must be addressed to enable Liberians to enjoy the benefit of quality health care.
Amid thunderous applause, the Liberian leader lauded the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI)/Clinton Foundation Ebola Response for sending the largest single supply of medical materials to Liberia to combat the Ebola epidemic.

She pointed out that while many expatriates left the country in the wake of the Ebola outbreak, the CHAI staff remained in Liberia and worked very closely with the health authorities to combat the disease at the risk of their lives.

She also commended President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for their steadfast support of Liberia during the country’s post-war reconstruction, including the Ebola crisis.

Serving as moderator during the interactive question and answer period, former U.S. President Bill Clinton lauded President Sirleaf and the people of Liberia for the progress Liberia has made in its post-war recovery, and assured that the Clinton Foundation will continue to be a partner in Liberia’s progress.

President Clinton expressed the need for Americans to seriously consider developing strong partnerships with Liberia, which he described as a beautiful country with many investment opportunities. “Liberia is a good place for investment,” the former US President added.

Audience Members at Clinton School of Public Service LecturePresident Clinton also indicated that there is a need for partnership to help improve Liberia’s health system. He assured that efforts would continue to be made to assist Liberia in those two areas of critical needs, which are education and health.

Prior to the impressive ceremony, President Sirleaf was taken on a tour of the Clinton Presidential Library, which is featuring an exhibit titled, “Mandela: The Journey to Ubantu.

The exhibit, which features various aspects of the late human rights legend, the press statement concluded.

West African Journal Magazine

HRW Urgess Mauritania To Reject Draft Death Penalty Law

(Tunis) – Human Right Watch (HRW)j says Mauritanian deputies should reject a new draft law that would make the death penalty mandatory for the crime of “insulting” or “mocking” God, the Quran, or the Prophet Muhammad.

HRW-logo
Human Rights Watch (HRW) logo

In a press statement issued, Human Rights Watch said on November 16, 2017, President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz’s cabinet approved the draft legislation, which would eliminate the possibility under the current law of substituting a prison term for the death penalty if the offender promptly repents.

The HRW statement quotes Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch as saying, “Instead of decriminalizing apostasy, as the international treaties they signed would warrant, Mauritanian authorities are hurtling in the opposite direction, closing off alternatives to execution.”

The cabinet’s move came a week after an appeals court sentenced Mohamed Cheikh Ould Mkhaitir, a blogger convicted of apostasy, to a prison term. The court accepted his repentance as a basis for voiding the death penalty that another court had imposed on him for posting an article denouncing the use of religion to justify discrimination in Mauritania. The case attracted international attention, with some leading Islamists figures and political parties in Mauritania calling for the blogger’s execution, HRW said.

Mauritania’s current penal code, in article 306, imposes the death penalty for apostasy but allows for a lighter penalty if the defendant repents.

According to HRW, if the National Assembly passes the draft law, the death penalty will be mandatory, without the possibility of reducing the punishment, for any Muslim who mocks or insults God, the Quran, Muhammad, the angels, or prophets. It would still allow people to escape the death penalty for renouncing the Islamic faith or professing belief in it while secretly disbelieving, provided that the offender repented under specified conditions.

The timing of the introduction of this draft law is clearly related to the verdict handed down in the blogger’s appeals hearing, Human Rights Watch said. A lower court sentenced Mkhaitir to death for apostasy in December 2014 for his article, in which he criticized fellow Mauritanians for citing incidents from the life of the Prophet Muhammad to legitimize caste discrimination in Mauritania. Mkhaitir belongs to the so-called “forgerons,” which is viewed as a lower caste. An appeals court upheld the death sentence.

Map of Mauritania
Map of Mauritania

But on January 31, 2017, the Supreme Court sent the case back for a new trial. On November 8, 2017, the Court of Appeals in Nouadhibou reduced Mkhaitir’s punishment to two years of prison and a fine. The prosecutor general immediately challenged the appeals court ruling before the Supreme Court.

The lowered sentence should have led to Mkhaitir’s release, since he had been in preventive detention for nearly four years. But in the days since the ruling, one of the defense lawyers, Fatimata M’Baye, has been unable to locate her client. A presidential adviser  reportedly stated that Mkhaitir had not been freed and would remain detained until the Supreme Court’s review. His whereabouts are unknown.

Mauritania’s new draft law on apostasy and the failure of authorities to immediately release and void charges against Mkhaitir for his peaceful expression violate international law guarantees protecting free speech, such as those enshrined in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Mauritania has been a party since 2004.

In its general comment number 34, the United Nations Human Rights Committee—the body of independent experts that monitors governments’ compliance with the ICCPR—makes clear that “prohibitions of displays of lack of respect for a religion or other belief system, including blasphemy laws, are incompatible with the Covenant,” unless they constitute incitement to discrimination, hostility, or violence.

Flag of Mauritania
Flag of Mauritania

Both UN and African human rights standards on the right to life encourage countries to move toward abolition of the death penalty and in countries that retain it, make clear that it should be limited to the most serious crimes and may be imposed only after a fair trial. The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights has stated that: “In those States which have not yet abolished the death penalty it is vital that it is used for only the most serious crimes – understood to be crimes involving intentional killing.”

“Instead of introducing laws to toughen punishment for apostasy, Mauritania should be clarifying the legal status and whereabouts of Mohamed Cheikh Ould Mkhaitir, who should never have spent a single day in prison for his writings,” Whitson said.

HRW

Sierra Leone Parliament Ratifies Key Bumbuna II Project Documents

LONDON, United Kingdom, December 4, 2017/ — Following on from the Government of Sierra Leone’s signing of the 25-year Power Purchase and Implementation Agreements with Joule Africa in August 2017, these important project documents have now been ratified by the Sierra Leone Parliament. This marks another important milestone in the development of the Bumbuna II hydropower project which, when completed, will provide much-needed all-year round power to Sierra Leone.

Political Map of Sierra Leone
Political Map of Sierra Leone

A press statement issued in London on Tuesday, said, under the conditions of the agreement, local project company Seli Hydropower, jointly owned by Joule Africa and its local partner Energy Services Company (ESCO), will build an extension to the existing 50 MW hydro station, Bumbuna I, situated in the north east of the country, adding a further 143 MW of power capacity. Construction on the extension is anticipated to start in the second half of 2018 with operations forecast to start four years later. Seli Hydropower, will be responsible for building, owning and operating Bumbuna II and will also be responsible for operating Bumbuna I.

The release quoted Patrick Beckley, Chairman of Seli Hydropower as saying, “We would like to thank the Government of Sierra Leone for their ongoing support and in maintaining their commitment to the Bumbuna II project ahead of General Elections in early 2018. I am delighted that we received approval for ratification in Parliament with no exemptions –  a clear indication that there is unanimous cross-party support for this project.”

“The development of Bumbuna II has always been a key part of the country’s long-term energy strategy and we look forward to being able to deliver affordable, all-year round power for the consumers of Sierra Leone,” Beckley further added.

In comments, Andrew Cavaghan, Joule Africa’s Chairman and a Director of Seli Hydropower, added that, “I am pleased that we have reached another important milestone in the development of the Bumbuna II project. We are making good progress on all fronts and will look to build on this momentum in the coming weeks and months as we continue to consult with interested parties, appoint a contractor and finalise the relevant financing.”

West African Journal Magazine

“Africa 2017” Forum To Be Held in Egypt

CAIRO, Egypt, December 5, 2017/ — Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi will be hosting six African heads of state at the Africa 2017 Forum that will take place this week in the picturesque beach resort of Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt.

President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi
President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi

The President of Guinea, current chair of the AU, will be joining the Forum as well as the Presidents of Chad, Rwanda, Côte d’Ivoire, Comoros and Somalia. The Vice President of Nigeria is also expected as is the Prime Minister of Mozambique. The Forum will start with a Young Entrepreneurs Day, with 50 of Africa’s leading start-ups in funding and partner pitches.

 

According to a press statement, this business and investment Forum, whose theme is “Driving investment for inclusive growth’, has been convened to increase intra African investments and cross border collaboration. Egypt in 2015 hosted the signing of the tripartite agreement between the three regional economic communities SADC, COMESA and the EAC, and the Forum has been designed for African business leaders to play a greater role by investing in opportunities throughout the continent.

The first edition of the Forum took place in February 2016. This year the programme has been enhanced to include 2 exclusive Presidential Roundtables, where these business leaders will openly discuss policy with the African presidents present to help create a more conducive business environment, in addition to immense investment and business opportunities available in the continent. Youth and entrepreneurs will also play a prominent role. Over 50 of the continent’s brightest and most promising entrepreneurs have been invited to showcase their businesses and will be presenting them to investors and funds in a Deal room curated by Asoko Insights, the release said.

The Forum is being organised by the Ministry of Investment and International Cooperation of Egypt and the COMESA Regional Investment Agency (RIA). Speaking ahead of the Forum, Dr. Sahar Nasr, Minister of Investment and International Cooperation of Egypt stressed the importance of greater intra-Africa collaboration: “Intra-Africa trade is a valuable component of Africa’s and Egypt’s economic growth strategy,” she said. “For Egypt’s growth strategy, Intra-Africa trade remains a valuable component. Despite European and North American markets dominating Egypt’s trade activities, we have proximity to African markets as well as trade agreements with African nations. The markets where Egypt has seen an increase in its trade include North Africa, specifically Morocco, East Africa, specifically Kenya, South Africa and Sudan.”

Political Map of Egypt
Political Map of Egypt

The release further stated that Heba Salama, head of RIA, highlighted the responsibility of the private sector to devise innovative solutions. “The private sector can play an important role in filling in the US $93bn infrastructure gap. Manufacturing is another important sector where private sector support is needed. McKinsey Global Institute estimates that Africa could double its manufacturing output in 10 years, which could ultimately create between 6 million and 14 million stable jobs and boost African GDP growth.”

 

The Forum will take place between the 7-9th of December. The speakers feature some of Africa’s leading CEOs and policy makers, including Isabel dos Santos, Chairperson of Unitel Angola, Daniel Matjila, CEO, Public Investment Corporation, Dr. Ahmed Heikal, Founder of Qalaa Holdings, Tony Elumelu, Chairman of UBA, Vera Songwe, Executive Secretary of United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), the press statement concluded.

West African Journal Magazine

Immigrants From Chad, Libya & Somalia Barred Entry to the US

Washington DC – USA: Nationals of the three African nations of Chad, Somalia and Libya will be facing even more difficulty entering the United States in line with a September Presidential proclamation of Enhancing Vetting Capabilities and Processes for Detecting Attempted Entry Into the United States by Terrorists or Other Public-Safety Threats. 

Flag of the US
Flag of US

The U.S. Supreme Court, in a ruling issued on Monday, allowed the third version of President Donald Trump’s travel ban to go into effect. The Justice Department argued that President Donald Trump had acted under his broad constitutional and statutory authority to control immigration to the country.

The three Muslim-majority African countries are included in nine countries named in the travel ban. Others are Iran, North Korea, Syria, Venezuela and Yemen.

Legal challenges to the travel ban continue in the lower courts and the high court told the lower court to move swiftly to determine whether the latest ban was lawful. Federal judges in Hawaii and Maryland had blocked portions of the travel ban saying that they were unconstitutional and geared towards religious discrimination.

In a rather perplexing reason for inclusion on the travel ban, the Guardian newspaper reports that one of the countries, Chad, ended up on the list of ban countries because it was unable to provide an updated passport sample requested by the U.S. Government.

President Idris Deby Itno of Chad
President Idris Deby Itno of Chad

The paper quoted Homeland Security officials as saying there were other reasons for the inclusion of Chad but that discussions were underway to resolve the issues.

Chad has been a major ally of the U.S. in the fight against extremists in Nigeria and Niger and parts of central Africa.

In the U.S. Presidential Proclamation on the three African countries, President Trump said in section (a)  Chad:

(i)   The government of Chad is an important and valuable counterterrorism partner of the United States, and the United States Government looks forward to expanding that cooperation, including in the areas of immigration and border management.  Chad has shown a clear willingness to improve in these areas.  Nonetheless, Chad does not adequately share public-safety and terrorism-related information and fails to satisfy at least one key risk criterion.  Additionally, several terrorist groups are active within Chad or in the surrounding region, including elements of Boko Haram, ISIS-West Africa, and al-Qa’ida in the Islamic Maghreb.  At this time, additional information sharing to identify those foreign nationals applying for visas or seeking entry into the United States who represent national security and public-safety threats is necessary given the significant terrorism-related risk from this country.

(ii)  The entry into the United States of nationals of Chad, as immigrants, and as nonimmigrants on business (B-1), tourist (B-2), and business/tourist (B-1/B-2) visas, is hereby suspended.

(c)  Libya: 

(i)   The government of Libya is an important and valuable counterterrorism partner of the United States, and the United States Government looks forward to expanding on that cooperation, including in the areas of immigration and border management.  Libya, nonetheless, faces significant challenges in sharing several types of information, including public-safety and terrorism-related information necessary for the protection of the national security and public safety of the United States.  Libya also has significant inadequacies in its identity-management protocols.  Further, Libya fails to satisfy at least one key risk criterion and has been assessed to be not fully cooperative with respect to receiving its nationals subject to final orders of removal from the United States.  The substantial terrorist presence within Libya’s territory amplifies the risks posed by the entry into the United States of its nationals.

Political Map of Libya
Map of Libya

(ii)  The entry into the United States of nationals of Libya, as immigrants, and as nonimmigrants on business (B-1), tourist (B-2), and business/tourist (B-1/B-2) visas, is hereby suspended.

(h)  Somalia:  

(i)   The Secretary of Homeland Security’s report of September 15, 2017, determined that Somalia satisfies the information-sharing requirements of the baseline described in section 1(c) of this proclamation.  But several other considerations support imposing entry restrictions and limitations on Somalia.  Somalia has significant identity-management deficiencies.  For example, while Somalia issues an electronic passport, the United States and many other countries do not recognize it.  A persistent terrorist threat also emanates from Somalia’s territory.  The United States Government has identified Somalia as a terrorist safe haven.  Somalia stands apart from other countries in the degree to which its government lacks command and control of its territory, which greatly limits the effectiveness of its national capabilities in a variety of respects.  Terrorists use under-governed areas in northern, central, and southern Somalia as safe havens from which to plan, facilitate, and conduct their operations.  Somalia also remains a destination for individuals attempting to join terrorist groups that threaten the national security of the United States.  The State Department’s 2016 Country Reports on Terrorism observed that Somalia has not sufficiently degraded the ability of terrorist groups to plan and mount attacks from its territory.  Further, despite having made significant progress toward formally federating its member states, and its willingness to fight terrorism, Somalia continues to struggle to provide the governance needed to limit terrorists’ freedom of movement, access to resources, and capacity to operate.  The government of Somalia’s lack of territorial control also compromises Somalia’s ability, already limited because of poor recordkeeping, to share information about its nationals who pose criminal or terrorist risks.  As a result of these and other factors, Somalia presents special concerns that distinguish it from other countries. 

President Mohamed-Abdullahi-Mohamed of Somalia
President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed of Somalia

(ii)  The entry into the United States of nationals of Somalia as immigrants is hereby suspended.  Additionally, visa adjudications for nationals of Somalia and decisions regarding their entry as nonimmigrants should be subject to additional scrutiny to determine if applicants are connected to terrorist organizations or otherwise pose a threat to the national security or public safety of the United States.

Waivers: 

The U.S. Presidential Proclamation, under the waiver provision says: 

A waiver may be granted only if a foreign national demonstrates to the consular officer’s or CBP official’s satisfaction that:

(A)  denying entry would cause the foreign national undue hardship;

(B)  entry would not pose a threat to the national security or public safety of the United States; and

(C)  entry would be in the national interest.

By Emmanuel Abalo

West African Journal Magazine

 

ECOWAS Leaders Weigh Sanctions Against Guinea Bissau

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), said Sunday they are considering sanctions against Guinea-Bissau’s President for failure to implement the agreement to end the two-year political crisis.

ECOWAS
ECOWAS logo

According to Anadolu Agency, ECOWAS negotiators led by president of the Commission, Marcel De Souza, said that President Jose Mario Vaz and his ruling powerful PAIGC have failed to implement anything that came out of talks brokered by President Alpha Conde of Guinea Conakry in June this year.

Known in Bissau as the Conakry Accord, president Vaz has been asked, among other things, to appoint a concession candidate acceptable to him and his party as prime minister but Vaz appointed Umaro Cissoko Embalo who is outside of African Party for Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde.

ECOWAS is expected to hold a meeting and take appropriate action in Nigeria from December 12 to 16, Souza said.

Guinea Bissau Pres Jose Mario Vaz
Guinea Bissau President Jose Mario Vaz

The heads of states of ECOWAS reserve the right to apply sanctions, collective and individual, and also withdraw the regional forces who are currently keeping the peace in the country, Souza said.

Public schools are closed and hospitals are struggling for funds.

-Instability

Bissau has witnessed nine coups or attempted coups since 1980 and currently it has 600 regional forces securing the small nation.

The military has a history of interference in politics which is why the regional body has asked soldiers to stay in the barracks.