Thursday, February 22, 2018

Don't Make African Nations Borrow Money To Support Refugees


Alexander Betts

The European refugee crisis has deluded many voters into believing that most refugees are coming to rich countries. They are not - 84 percent are in low- or middle-income nations. Tanzania is one such country; it hosts over 350,000 refugees mostly from Burundi and the Democratic Republic of the Congo and has had a long-standing commitment to offering sanctuary to persecuted people, despite being among the poorest 30 countries in the world.

In contrast to other countries in the region such as Kenya, Tanzania's reputation for hosting has been generally positive; it pioneered rural self-reliance programs for refugees under its founding president, Julius Nyerere, and offered naturalization to tens of thousands of Burundians under President Jakaya Kikwete from 2005 to 2015. Recently, though, it announced its withdrawal from the so-called Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework (CRRF), a centerpiece of the United Nations ' current reform plans for the refugee system. The CRRF is the operational pillar of a new U.N. Global Compact on Refugees, and one of its main aims is to better support refugee hosting countries like Tanzania, including through greater development assistance.

After months of discussions, Tanzanian President John Magufuli rejected a bill on the compact. The apparent sticking point was that the country would have to borrow money from the World Bank in order to support greater opportunities for refugees. As part of the bank's annual lending window for poor countries, known as IDA18, Tanzania was offered $100 million, split between a loan and a grant. The idea that a country like Tanzania should have to borrow, even at preferential rates, to host refugees on behalf of the international community was roundly derided by Magufuli when he addressed foreign ambassadors in Dar es Salaam on Feb. 9. The government has been clear that it supports refugees but rejected the plan on principle because it wants rich countries to pay Tanzania rather than forcing it to borrow.

U.N. officials in Geneva and New York perceive the Tanzanian decision as an attempt by a nationalist leader to elicit more funding. But it is about much more than money. It is clear to me, having recently spoken with government officials and leaders of nongovernmental organizations, that Tanzania is a country committed to supporting refugees but which feels that international lenders and the United Nations have consistently let it down. The government worries about the security implications of small arms coming to the camps from Burundi and Congo, environmental degradation around the camps, and competition for resources. Above all, what stands out is a sense of historical injustice. Tanzania, having consistently upheld its end of the bargain, has been disappointed by donor states not delivering on their funding commitments.

Tanzania may be a small country, but its reaction has wider ramifications for the global refugee system. Western leaders are especially focused on finding solutions for refugees in havens like Tanzania that are close to conflict zones. And yet, if donors are not even prepared to adequately fund them, there is a real risk that other host countries may follow suit.

Tanzania has been hosting refugees continuously since 1959. During the anti-colonial liberation wars of the 1960s and 1970s, Nyerere offered an open-door policy to hundreds of thousands of people fleeing southern African nations including South Africa and what was then Rhodesia. Tanzania's government gave refugees access to land, making it one of the most progressive refugee-hosting countries in the world. But when Tanzania finally approached international donors for support to make this approach sustainable at the first and second International Conference on Assistance to Refugees in Africa in 1981 and 1984, major donor countries made pledges but failed to deliver. In the mid-1990s, when Tanzania received mass influxes from Burundi in 1993 and then more than 250,000 Rwandans in just a matter of days in 1994, it faced criticism for its forced repatriation of many Rwandans but received only limited support. In 2008, Tanzania announced that it would naturalize 162,000 Burundian refugees who arrived in 1972. Once again, commitments of international support went unfulfilled.

Today, less than 40 percent of the humanitarian budget for refugees in Tanzania is being met. Local concerns from district and regional commissioners in the border regions feature prominently on the radar of the government. In regions such as Kigoma, they have consistently expressed anxiety about the destabilizing effects of small arms and environmental degradation. In this context, and against the backdrop of history, it is understandable that the request to borrow money to implement a plan agreed far away in New York and largely delivered as a fait accompli feels like another bad deal.

Most of the other 12 countries involved in the CRRF rollout seem likely to stick with the process, but there are still broader lessons for refugee politics. Tanzania's central message to international lenders is: Don't be so arrogant as to believe you don't have to build partnerships among equals. Inevitably, a fundamental feature of the refugee system is its glaring power asymmetry. Rich donors fund at their discretion, and poor countries in unstable regions face an international legal obligation to admit refugees. Unlike a growing number of rich countries, poor countries rarely shirk that responsibility or try to weasel out of it. Their willingness to offer sanctuary on their territory risks being taken for granted. Tanzania's announcement is a reminder that if the refugee system is to be sustainable, distant donor states must listen more attentively to the concerns of host countries.

A new approach will require systemic improvements to the refugee system - beginning with more engaged humanitarian diplomacy, better political analysis to understand local and national interests, and more creative financing models.

The World Bank's role in responding to refugee crises should be welcomed. But asking Tanzania to borrow in order to assist refugees is a mistake. Debt forgiveness would be a better way to support host states, especially given that structural adjustment programs and the accumulation of debt underlay Tanzania's shift toward more restrictive refugee policies in the 1990s.

Elsewhere, partnerships have been built with major host countries based on mutual respect. In Jordan, for example, a combination of trade concessions from the European Union and loans and grants from the World Bank and bilateral donors led Jordanian politicians to make it easier for Syrian refugees to work.

If the rich world wants countries adjacent to conflict zones to continue hosting refugees, it needs to begin by recognizing that African politicians face the same constraints as their European or North American counterparts and that they cannot bear the financial burden of accepting refugees alone.

Betts is a professor of forced migration and international affairs at the University of

Leadership Forum Aims To Amplify Influence Of Women In African Governments

Image Via Yale

AFRICA (YALE NEWS) -- Over the last 20 years, women have increased their presence in governments across Africa, but — like their peers elsewhere — they still lag far behind men. Through its Leadership Forum for Strategic Impact, Yale is working to enhance the knowledge and skills of senior African women leaders and to build a network of peers and thought leaders across the continent.

The forum — supported by La Fundación Mujeres por África (the Women for Africa Foundation) and Banco Santander — ultimately aims to amplify the effectiveness and influence of women in African governments.

Now entering its fourth year, the forum will bring a new group of leaders to Yale in May. The group will consist of 15 women from at least five different countries. The forum’s curriculum, designed together with the foundation, will explore governance and policy issues important to Africa’s social, political, and economic development: transparency and corruption; public policy development; rule of law; public health; environmental sustainability; gender equality; economic growth; food security; social welfare; financial systems; energy politics; terrorism and national security; and globalization.

The program will also include seminar-style discussion sessions, presentations, and meetings, all part of an intensive, interactive program, concluding with a trip to Washington D.C. to meet with leading figures in the U.S. government. These 15 women will join a growing network of African women who are working to advance the prospects of their nations and their continent.

The Leadership Forum for Strategic Impact is a keystone of the Yale Africa Initiative, announced by Yale President Peter Salovey in 2013 to further engagement with Africa, foster new directions in research, identify new partnerships with those on the continent, and strengthen Yale’s recruitment efforts, all while emphasizing teaching and learning. Ultimately, the forum aims to develop a network of empowered African women who will have a multiplier effect across the continent, not only among program participants themselves but also among their peers — both men and women — and among the younger generations they mentor.

“The forum not only enables African women to strengthen — and share — their understanding of the challenges facing their societies, but also helps them develop the tools, networks, and policies to address them,” said the program’s director, Emma Sky, an expert on Middle East politics, senior fellow at the Jackson Institute for Global Affairs and director of the Maurice R. Greenberg World Fellows Program.

“The Leadership Forum for Strategic Impact empowers women to contribute to their full potential for the betterment of their societies,” said Sky. “We are grateful to the Women for Africa Foundation and Banco Santander for their support of this important initiative.”

Past participants in the forum have included senior government officials and thought leaders, such as former prime ministers, ministers for gender and education, senators, and members of parliament. These women discussed and implemented strategies to help ensure that more women in Africa rise to positions of leadership, to create an advocacy and training network for African women’s leadership and governance, and to develop curricula for emerging women leaders. They have also worked to improve the effectiveness of lobbying and to develop a new vision for gender-inclusive education.

“The program made me look again at some of the ways we have approached to leadership and think again critically about issues of strategic leadership and how we mobilize people around an objective”, said Obiageli Ezekwesili, former minister of education of Nigeria.

“We need to develop a common vision, a common strategy so that we can help each other”, said Nouzha Skally, Morroco’s former minister of development, family, and solidarity.

“In this change of era we are living, it is particularly important to foster women’s leadership, a transforming leadership that brings new perspectives to solve new problems,” said María Teresa Fernández de la Vega, president of the Women for Africa Foundation. “The Leadership Forum has become a reference for African female political leaders who have the opportunity of meeting, sharing reflections, and shaping a network of empowered women committed with equality, governance, respect for human rights and improving democracy.

“I think that it is about a democratic necessity. You can’t deal with the problems of the world if you don’t take into account the input of over half the citizens, the women,” she adds.

The Mujeres por África Foundation is a private organization based in Madrid, which was launched in 2012 by Fernández de la Vega, the former first deputy prime minister of Spain. The foundation’s aim is to contribute to the economic, social and political development of Africa, through concrete projects geared toward empowering women and their role in society.

Banco Santander supports the Leadership Forum for Strategic Impact through its Santander Universities corporate area. For over 20 years, the bank has been working with universities and academic institutions through an initiative that is unique in the world and that distinguishes it from the rest of the bank and financial institutions. It maintains a stable alliance with more than 1,200 academic institutions from all over the world, among them, the Women for Africa Foundation and Yale University. Until 2018 a total of EUR 1,600 million will be allocated in support of higher education projects. In the U.S., the bank has established for the time being a total of 41 agreements with universities and research centers.

Africa's Manmade Water Crisis

SOUTH AFRICA (GULF TIMES) --  About a decade ago, at a meeting of South African mayors convened by Lindiwe Hendricks, South Africa's then-minister of water and environmental affairs, we predicted that an unprecedented water crisis would hit one of the country's main cities within 15 years, unless water-management practices were improved significantly. That prediction has now come true, with Cape Town facing a shutdown of its piped water network. The question now is whether African leaders will allow our other projection that, within the next 25-30 years, many more of the continent's cities will be facing similar crises to materialise. 

Africa has long struggled with urban water and wastewater management. As the continent's population has swelled, from about 285mn in 1960 to nearly 1.3bn today, and urbanisation has progressed, the challenge has become increasingly acute. And these trends are set to intensify: by 2050, the continent's total population is expected to exceed 2.5bn, with 55% living in urban environments. 

The challenge African countries face may not be unique, but it is, in some ways, unprecedented. After all, in Western countries, urbanisation took place over a much longer period, and against a background of steadily improving economic conditions. In building effective systems for water and wastewater management, cities had adequate investment funds and the relevant expertise. 

In Africa, cities' financial and management capacities are already overwhelmed. As a result, water and wastewater management has often fallen by the wayside, with policymakers focusing on water-related issues only when droughts and floods occur. The Third World Centre for Water Management estimates that only about 10-12% of Africa's population has access to adequate domestic and industrial wastewater collection, treatment, and disposal. 

Given that the construction of the infrastructure and systems required to meet African cities' water needs is likely to take some 20-30 years, governments' sustained commitment is essential. A key imperative is the development of more environmentally friendly systems for wastewater disposal, as is cleaning bodies of water within and around urban centres that are already heavily contaminated.
Such an effort must be based on a comprehensive approach to assessing water quality that covers a wide range of pollutants far more than the 10-40 that most African utilities now monitor with the expectation that new pollutants will be added as they emerge. Cities like Singapore now regularly monitor 336 water quality parameters to ensure water safety. To that end, Africa will need access to the relevant expertise, adequate funding, and well-run laboratories all of which are currently in short supply. 

Funding such efforts will not be easy. For one thing, official corruption has long undermined investment in the planning, design, and construction of water infrastructure, as well as the effective management of existing infrastructure. For another, the social value of water including its central role in many African religions has long limited governments' ability to create a viable funding model for water utilities. 

Though countries are often eager to trade resources like oil, gas, minerals, timber, and agricultural products, no country in the world sells its water to other countries. Canada approved the North American Free Trade Agreement only after its parliament confirmed that the agreement would not apply to water in its natural state. In federal countries like India and Pakistan, even individual provinces refuse to consider giving water to their neighbours. 

Countries don't make much money from water domestically, either. In 2001, South Africa introduced a 'Free Basic Water Policy, according to which all households, regardless of size or income, receive six kilolitres (1,585 gallons) of water per month at no cost. One might argue that this is because water is necessary for survival. But so is food. And while both water and food are guaranteed in South Africa's constitution, only water is provided for free. 

And South Africa is no anomaly. In most urban centres worldwide, water is free or highly subsidised, and politicians are reluctant to change that. Singapore's water price did not rise at all from 2000 to 2016, and Hong Kong's water prices haven't changed since 1996, even as the price of everything else has risen. 

While water obviously shouldn't become an expensive luxury good, governments' reluctance to charge appropriately for it has undermined their ability to invest in water utilities, including proper wastewater collection and treatment. Far from levelling the playing field, this has made urban water management in most cities less equitable, because the state is unable to provide the necessary services in an efficient, sustainable, or comprehensive way. 

When Cape Town's water network is shut down because reservoirs have become dangerously low probably on July 9 residents will have to stand in line at one of 200 water-collection points, in order to collect 25 litres per person per day. That task will be particularly hard on poor and otherwise vulnerable people. 

As South Africa's politicians and media debate the causes of this crisis, they often focus on climate change a culprit that cannot talk back. But the fact is that the dismal state of urban water management exemplified by the fact that 36% of the water in South African cities is either lost due to leakage or not paid for, compared to 3.7% in Tokyo and 8% in Phnom Penh remains a leading reason for the shutdown. 

Managing urban water is not rocket science. Solutions have been well known for decades, and the needed technology, expertise, and even funds are available. What has been missing is political will, sustained public demand, and continuous media scrutiny. Cape Town's crisis should serve as a wake-up call for all of Africa. Unfortunately, like Africa's water resources, it is most likely to be wasted. Project Syndicate

* Asit K Biswas is Distinguished Visiting Professor at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore. Cecilia Tortajada is Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of Water Policy, Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore.

Republican Congresswoman: Many Mass Murderers Are Democrats

Assemblywoman Claudia Tenney, R-New Hartford, speaks during a news conference at the Capitol, in Albany, N.Y. The Republican congresswoman from upstate New York says "many" people who commit mass murder are Democrats. U.S. Rep. Tenney made the comment Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2018, on Talk 1300 Radio during a discussion about calls for stricter gun control since last week's deadly Florida high school shooting.

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — A Republican congresswoman from upstate New York said Wednesday that "many" people who commit mass murder turn out to be Democrats. U.S. Rep. Claudia Tenney made the remarks on Talk 1300 Radio during a discussion about calls for stricter gun control since last week's deadly Florida high school shooting.

"Yeah, well, obviously there is a lot of politics in it, and it's interesting that so many of these people that commit the mass murders end up being Democrats, but the media doesn't talk about that either," Tenney told talk show host Fred Dicker.

Tenney did not offer any evidence to support that statement. Democratic state Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi, who is opposing Tenney this fall, called her comments "disgusting" and "toxic" and urged her to apologize.

Evan Lukaske, a spokesman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said Tenney demonstrated "how completely unfit she is to serve in Congress." In a statement Wednesday night, Tenney said her comments were taken out of context.

"I am fed up with the media and liberals attempting to politicize tragedies and demonize law-abiding gun owners and conservative Americans every time there is a horrible tragedy," she said. "While we know the perpetrators of these atrocities have a wide variety of political views, my comments are in response to a question about the failure to prosecute illegal gun crime. I will continue to stand up for law-abiding citizens who are smeared by anti-gun liberal elitists."

Tenney was first elected in 2016. Her district covers a large swath of central New York including the cities of Binghamton, Utica and Rome.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Students Across US Walk Out Of Class To Protest Gun Violence

High school students Mia Arrington, center, 18, of West End, and Cheyenne Springette, right, 17, of Mt. Oliver, lead chants as they march down Liberty Avenue during a walk-out in solidarity with other high schools across the country to show support for Parkland, Fla, students on Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2018, in downtown Pittsburgh. In a wave of demonstrations reaching from Arizona to Maine, students at dozens of U.S. high schools walked out of class Wednesday to protest gun violence and honor the victims of last week's deadly school shooting in Florida. (Stephanie Strasburg/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette via AP)

In a wave of demonstrations reaching from Arizona to Maine, students at dozens of U.S. high schools walked out of class Wednesday to protest gun violence and honor the victims of last week's deadly shooting in Florida.

The protests spread from school to school as students shared plans for their demonstrations over social media. Many lasted 17 minutes in honor of the 17 people killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.

Hundreds of students from Maryland schools left class to rally at the U.S. Capitol. Hundreds more filed out of their schools in cities from Chicago to Pittsburgh to Austin, Texas, often at the lunch hour. Thousands walked out in Florida.

At the protest in Washington, students held a moment of silence in memory of those killed in Parkland and listened as the names of the dead were recited. Daniel Gelillo, a senior at Richard Montgomery High in Rockville, Maryland, helped organize the protest and said students aimed to pressure lawmakers to act on gun control.

Up until now, he said, nothing has quite fazed them. "The Orlando shooting, Las Vegas and now Parkland," he said. "Something has to happen. Innocent people are dying because of the easy access to firearms in this country."

At Dublin Scioto High School near Columbus, Ohio, about 200 students sat outside in silence for 17 minutes and wrote notes of support that will be mailed to survivors of the Florida shooting. Afterward, they gathered in a circle to discuss how they could push for stronger gun control.

"No child should have to go to school and be scared for their life," said Daviyana Warren, a 15-year-old sophomore at the school who walked out. "It hits close to home because it's happening to us." While some groups have worked to organize national demonstrations in the coming weeks, students say gatherings Wednesday were mostly impromptu and organized out of a sense of urgency to find solutions to gun violence.

Many of the protests were accompanied by chants of "Never again," which has been a rallying cry since the Florida shooting. "These gun deaths are happening like every day, and we're not doing anything to change it. It's ridiculous," said Rebecca Parch, a student who organized a walkout at Lakewood High School, near Cleveland. "It's just too many lives lost, and I think that teenagers are just done with it now."

Students at her school and others called for limits on AR-15 rifles, the weapon authorities say 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz legally bought and used in the Florida attack. Teens at some schools called for a ban on the AR-15 and similar rifles among civilians, saying they should be reserved for military use.

Principals at some schools allowed the protests and promised not to punish students for leaving class. Parch said the administration at her school vowed to join students in similar demonstrations in the future. But some districts threatened to discipline those who joined the wave of walkouts.

Superintendent Curtis Rhodes, of Texas' Needville Independent School District, said students who left class would be suspended for three days, even with permission from their parents. "Life is all about choices and every choice has a consequence whether it be positive or negative," Rhodes wrote in a letter to families and on social media. "We will discipline no matter if it is one, fifty or five hundred students involved."

Similar walkouts already are being planned, including on March 14, one month after the Florida shooting, and on April 20, the anniversary of the Columbine High School massacre in Colorado. While some students said their opinions have been belittled because they're still teenagers, they counter that they'll soon be voters and shouldn't be taken lightly. Some said they're taking a stand because lawmakers haven't.

"They send out their thoughts and their prayers, and we appreciate that, but that's enough," said Warren, of Dublin Scioto. "We need change." The Florida high school shooter's lawyer has said he is sad, mournful and remorseful and has called him "a broken human being."

Associated Press writer Matthew Daly in Washington, D.C. contributed to this report.

Follow Collin Binkley on Twitter at @cbinkley

The Latest: Sheriff Of Grieving Community: 'Never Again!'

Aria Siccone, 14, a 9th grade student survivor from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where more than a dozen students and faculty were killed in a mass shooting on Wednesday, cries as she recounts her story from that day, while state Rep. Barrinton Russell, D-Dist. 95, comforts her, as they talk to legislators at the state Capitol regarding gun control legislation, in Tallahassee, Fla., Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2018.

TALLAHASSEE, FLA. (AP) — The Latest on the deadly Florida school shooting (all times local): 8:15 p.m. The sheriff in the Florida county where a school shooting rampage claimed 17 lives has told a cheering audience gathered for a CNN town hall broadcast that young people in his community will hold lawmakers accountable if they do not enact stricter gun controls.

Sheriff Scott Israel of Broward County took up a microphone on a platform and told a cheering crowd of mostly young people Wednesday evening that the U.S. has had enough of deadly shootings. He says he walked through the crime scene of a "horrific killer" 30 minutes after last Wednesday's attack on a Parkland, Florida, high school.

He then declared, "Never again!" Israel told the young people to press on with seeking gun law changes, adding "America's watching you ... there will be change." He said elected officials will have to make decisions that keep the community safe or "they are not going to hold office" — at least in his grieving community.

6:30 p.m.

The sheriff of the Florida county where a shooter killed 17 people at a high school last week has ordered all deputies who qualify to begin carrying rifles on school grounds.

Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel said at a news conference Wednesday that the rifles will be locked in a patrol car when not in use until the agency secures gun locks and lockers.

The sheriff said the school district's superintendent fully supports his decision.

Marjory Stoneman Douglas High's school resource officer was carrying a weapon when the shooting happened last week but did not discharge his firearm. It's unclear what role he played in trying to thwart the shooter and whether he was aware of suspect Nikolas Cruz's past behavior at the school. The sheriff said those details are still being investigated.

5 p.m.

About 30 people demanding a conversation about gun legislation have begun a sit-in protest at the office of four Florida House Republican leaders.

Fifteen-year-old Tyrah Williams said Wednesday that she wants to know why they won't consider bills to create more gun restrictions.

The sophomore at Leon High School, which is walking distance to the Capitol, says the leaders were not talking to the protesters, "so we're just sitting till they speak."

The Leon County school superintendent allowed students to leave class to take part in an anti-gun rally outside the Capitol. Williams said she would have attended even if he didn't.

Democratic candidate for governor Chris King was among two busloads of people who drove up from Orlando and St. Petersburg for an anti-gun rally. He acknowledged that if he were elected, gun-control measures probably wouldn't pass the Republican-controlled Legislature but said he would be in a position to veto expansions of gun rights.

4:20 p.m.

Florida's Republican legislative leaders say they are going to move ahead with a "sweeping" bill that responds to the shooting at a high school that left 17 people dead.

The legislation will include substantial increases in money spent on mental health programs and school resource officers. Lawmakers are considering a program promoted by one Florida sheriff that calls for law-enforcement training and deputizing someone who is allowed to carry a weapon on campus.

Legislators may also enact a waiting period for rifle purchases and raise the legal limit from 18 to 21. Florida now has a three-day waiting period for handguns.

Students from Marjory Douglas Stoneman High School visited the Capitol on Wednesday to talk to lawmakers.

Rep. Jose Oliva, a Miami Republican who met with some of the students, said he understands "there is a tremendous amount of emotion around this subject."

3:30 p.m.

Several hundred people have protested outside of the Florida House of Representatives while lawmakers were in session.

The protesters were upset Wednesday that the Republican-controlled chamber refused to take up a measure a day earlier that would have banned assault rifles and large capacity magazines.

The crowd burst into chants of "vote them out" and "we're students united, we'll never be divided." The noise could be heard inside the chamber but business went on uninterrupted.

Rep. Evan Jenne graduated from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. The Democrat was among others from his party who spoke to the crowd. Jenne told the students to take ownership of the movement.

3:10 p.m.

About 2,000 students, parents, teachers and supporters held hands and chanted outside of Marjory Douglas Stoneman High School one week after the shooting there.

They chanted "never again" and "I will not be a victim" and joined hands and held them aloft at about 2:20 p.m. Wednesday. That's about the time the Feb. 14 rampage began.

Seventeen people were killed in the attack. As the students gathered in Parkland, thousands of people were 400 miles away in Tallahassee, urging lawmakers to take action on gun laws.

2:30 p.m.

Vice President Mike Pence says the administration is putting "renewed energy" into making schools safe.

Pence spoke Wednesday at the meeting of the National Space Council at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. He took a moment to talk about the terrible school attack last week.

He says he will be returning to Washington to join the president for "a listening session" with students, parents and teachers from not only Parkland, Florida, but other communities that endured similar shootings, including Columbine and Sandy Hook.

Pence is chairman of the newly revived space council, an advisory group that is pushing commercial space and expeditions to the moon.

1:30 p.m.

Thousands of people have converged on Florida's Capitol to urge legislators to pass tougher gun laws.

Students from Marjory Douglas Stoneman High School spoke Wednesday to reporters inside the Capitol while several thousand people rallied outside the building. She described lawmakers inaction on a bill Tuesday that would have banned assault rifles and large capacity magazines as "absolutely abhorrent."

The students entered a gun-friendly political climate in Tallahassee, where lawmakers have rebuffed gun restrictions since Republicans took control of both the governor's office and the Legislature in 1999.

Outside, the crowd burst into chants of "Vote them out" as speakers called for the removal of Republican lawmakers who refuse to address gun control issues. One sign read "Remember the men who value the NRA over children's lives" and then listed Republicans in Florida's Congressional delegation. Another sign said: "Kill the NRA, not our kids" and "These kids are braver than the GOP."

12:30 p.m.

A student who survived the high school shooting in Florida last week is speaking out at the state Capitol about his experience.

Lorenzo Prado said Wednesday that he was mistakenly identified as the gunman after the shooting last week. Prado says SWAT team members held him at gunpoint and took him into custody before eventually releasing him. He says he feared for his life and also felt guilty for those he couldn't protect and those who died. He became emotional at times during his speech.

He says he is at the Legislature to urge lawmakers to change gun laws. He is one of hundreds of students there to try to sway lawmakers to take action.

11:30 a.m.

A number of students at a Florida high school walked out of their classrooms to remember the 17 students killed last week at nearby Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

The students at Western High School in Davie, Florida, were also protesting gun violence during the walkout Wednesday morning.

Students carried large signs, each listing the name of a school where a shooting has taken place, along with the date of the shooting and the number of dead. Others carried signs with #NeverAgain.

Students at schools across Broward and Miami-Dade counties in South Florida planned short walkouts Wednesday, the one week anniversary of the deadly shooting.

Kirsten Anderson, a sophomore at Western High, told NBC6 that students will be signing a large banner, which will be taken to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High to offer support to students and teachers.

10:45 a.m.

Democratic Sen. Lauren Book of Broward County helped organize the busloads of students who came to the Florida Capitol to push for gun legislation after last week's deadly shooting at a high school.

Book says she spent the night with the students in Tallahassee's civic center. She said many of the students were up until 5 a.m., getting only an hour or two of sleep before walking to the Capitol.

She says they "were working and writing and talking about the things that are important to them."

Students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, have been calling for gun safety legislation since a shooting rampage at the school killed 17 people.

10:25 a.m.

Students from the Parkland, Florida, high school where 17 people were killed in a shooting rampage split into several groups to meet with lawmakers and other state leaders in the state's capital.

One group met with Attorney General Pam Bondi behind closed doors to talk about mental health issues and later joined other students in a question and answer session with Senate President Joe Negron and Senators Rob Bradley and Bill Galvano.

Some tearfully asked why civilians should be allowed to have weapons like the AR-15 used in the attack at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Negron didn't directly answer the question, saying, "That's an issue that we're reviewing."

The students burst into applause when Galvano said he supports raising the age to purchase assault-style weapons from 18 to 21.

9:45 a.m.

Students from the Parkland, Florida, high school where 17 people were killed in a shooting rampage got little sleep as they prepared for a day of meeting with Florida's legislative leaders in Tallahassee.

The contingent of about 100 Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students traveled to the state capitol by bus from South Florida, arriving Tuesday night at Leon County High School, where they were greeting by fellow students.

They spent the night at the Leon County Civic Center. Democratic State Sen. Lauren Book, who paid for the bus trip, traveled with the students and stayed with them at the civic center. She said they were up until almost 5 a.m. preparing for remarks they want to make during the meetings with lawmakers as they push to ban the assault-style rifle used to kill 17 people at the high school in suburban Fort Lauderdale.

On Wednesday morning, they made the short walk to the capitol to meet with leaders, including Senate President Joe Negron and House Speaker Richard Corcoran. The group will return home later Wednesday.

6:55 a.m.

The day before 17 people were gunned down at a Florida school, a co-worker says the suspect made plans to go with him to a shooting range.

Brian Halem tells the Miami Herald he asked 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz for his phone number last Tuesday so they could coordinate a weekend trip to Gun World of South Florida. "Save it as, 'Crazy Nick,'" Cruz told his new friend.

Halem, a 19-year-old college freshman, worked with Cruz at the Dollar Tree in Parkland and says they bonded over enthusiasm for firearms. He describes Cruz — now charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder — as a "walking dictionary" who "knew guns inside and out."

In hindsight, Halem says conversations about tactics like wearing a gas mask during a firefight might have been a red flag. But Halem says he was shocked by the shootings.

1:15 a.m.

Students who survived the Florida school shooting are preparing to flood the Capitol pushing to ban the assault-style rifle used to kill 17 people, vowing to make changes in the November election if they can't persuade lawmakers to change laws before their legislative session ends.

About 100 Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students arrived at a Tallahassee high school to extended applause late Tuesday after a nearly eight-hour trip.

Despite their enthusiasm and determination, the students and their supporters aren't likely to get what they really want: a ban on AR-15s and similar semi-automatic rifles. Republican lawmakers are talking more seriously about some restrictions, but not a total ban.

Some restrictions could include raising the minimum age to purchase the weapon to 21 and creating a waiting period.

Follow the AP's complete coverage of the Florida school shooting here: .

A Redefining Moment For Africa

Image Via Transparency

ADDIS ABABA (TRANSPARENCY) -- The newly released Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) provides a good baseline for the African Union (AU) anti-corruption efforts in 2018. This year’s theme for the AU is “Winning the Fight against Corruption: A Sustainable Path to Africa’s Transformation.” As the AU rolls out its plan, this is an important moment for Africa to take stock of the current situation.

In some ways, the CPI points to a more hopeful future for Africa. The transformations in Rwanda and Cabo Verde show that corruption is manageable with well-sustained effort. Long-term anti-corruption investments in countries like Cote d’Ivoire and Senegal are also steadily paying off. On the other hand, tackling corruption remains a herculean task for countries at the bottom of the index, like South Sudan and Somalia.


Despite being the worst performing region as a whole, Africa has several countries that consistently push back against corruption, and with notable progress. In fact, some African countries score better than some countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Specifically, Botswana, Seychelles, Cabo Verde, Rwanda and Namibia all score better on the index compared to some OECD countries like Italy, Greece and Hungary. In addition, Botswana and Seychelles, which score 61 and 60 respectively, do better than Spain at 57.

The key ingredient that the top performing African countries have in common is political leadership that is consistently committed to anti-corruption. While the majority of countries already have anti-corruption laws and institutions in place, these leading countries go an extra step to ensure implementation.

From President Paul Kagame’s strict enforcement of compliance with the leadership code in Rwanda, to President Jorge Fonseca’s open promotion of institutional transparency in Cabo Verde or President Ian Khama’s innovative approach of “mainstreaming anti-corruption” across ministries in Botswana, these countries learned what works best in their communities and pursued these tactics with commitment. These countries score 55, 55 and 61 respectively on the CPI.

Equally positive, in Mauritius, which scored 50 on the index, Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth courageously embarked on a programme to improve its country score by 16 points within the next ten years.


Cote d’Ivoire, a significant improver on the CPI, increased its score by nine points from 2013 to 2017, and moved from 27 to 36 on the index. In a country where communities are heavily burdened by corruption, the government is making great strides towards alleviating this problem. During his first term in office, President Alassane Ouattara quickly followed through on his campaign promises and: 1) passed a law on the prevention and repression of corruption; 2) set up a national anti-corruption authority; and 3) pursued compliance with some international initiatives, like the Extractives Industry Transparency Initiative (EITI).

Similarly in Senegal, which increased its score from 36 to 45 in the last six years, anti-corruption efforts also improved. Shortly after assuming office in 2012, President Macky Sall put in place a Ministry of Good Governance and National Office against Fraud and Corruption (OFNAC). He also re-instituted Senegal’s Court for the Repression of Illicit Enrichment (CREI), among other measures. Since then, the government followed through to ensure proper facilitation and functionality of these institutions. 

Despite improved anti-corruption efforts in some countries, the situation continues to worsen in a few others. The lowest-scoring countries on the index are often those where there is conflict or war. Reducing corruption in these contexts is particularly challenging. The fragile nature of governments in these situations presents a real challenge to making meaningful changes. In addition, some countries that perform poorly on the index are led by African leaders that run for office on an anti-corruption ticket, but never live up to their pledges to deliver corruption-free services to their citizens.

This scenario is all too common across the continent and makes it difficult to combat corruption effectively. For example, since 2012, Liberia declined 10 points on the CPI. In her final state-of-the-nation address, former President Sirleaf Johnson admitted that her administration did not deliver on its anti-corruption pledge. Her tenure was marred by accusations of nepotism, illegal contracts and impunity for her cabinet ministers.


In the quest to win the fight against corruption, the AU will need to call for visible commitment to anti-corruption from all of its leaders. In addition, the AU should consider investment in countries that historically struggle with anti-corruption efforts and show little to no progress. This includes countries like Malawi and Guinea Bissau that continue to decline significantly, as well as countries like Somalia and South Sudan, which fall at the very bottom of the index and face significant governance challenges.

Bahrain Sentences Prominent Activist To 5 Years In Prison


Activist Nabeel Rajab strokes his pet bird at his home following an interview with The Associated Press in Bani Jamra, Bahrain. A court in Bahrain sentenced Rajab to five years in prison over a series of tweets on Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2018.

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES (AP) — A prominent human rights activist in Bahrain was sentenced Wednesday to five years in prison over tweets alleging prison torture in his country and misconduct in Saudi Arabia's war in Yemen, despite wide international criticism of his trial.

Nabeel Rajab's sentencing marks the latest chapter in a yearslong crackdown on dissent in Bahrain, a tiny island kingdom off the coast of Saudi Arabia that's home to the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet. He's already serving a two-year sentence handed down in July over television interviews he gave that included criticism of Bahrain.

Rajab has been hospitalized several times during his most-recent incarceration over heart problems and ulcers. Rajab's Twitter account posted a message Wednesday saying he entered the court with a "cheerful smile" before his sentencing. After his sentencing, he raised his hands making a peace sign and laughed.

Bahrain's constitution guarantees its citizens freedom of speech. However, Rajab was prosecuted under laws making it illegal to offend a foreign country, spread rumors at wartime or "insult" a government agency.

Responding to questions from The Associated Press, the government of Bahrain's National Communication Center said Rajab's convictions "did not, in any way, relate to any political views he may hold." "Bahrain's commitment to protecting the security of the nation and its citizens is absolute," the center said in an email. "Nabeel Rajab was found guilty of undermining that security."

The court's decision drew immediate condemnation from human rights organizations. Amnesty International said it showed Bahrain's "utter contempt for freedom of expression." The Paris-based International Federation for Human Rights, in a joint statement with Rajab's Bahrain Center for Human Rights and the World Organization against Torture, said his imprisonment "illustrates once again the current crackdown on any dissenting voice in Bahrain."

"It's time the Trump administration showed some spine in standing up to the dictatorship in Bahrain," said Brian Dooley, a senior adviser at the U.S. -based group Human Rights First. "It should take punitive action over this verdict and send the American ambassador to visit Rajab in prison to tell him that the U.S. is on his side and against this reckless repression."

Western diplomats were on hand for Rajab's sentencing hearing Wednesday in Manama, Bahrain's capital. Rajab's legal problems began after Bahrain quashed the 2011 Arab Spring protests. He was sentenced in August 2012 to three years in prison for allegedly fomenting clashes between police and protesters. At the time, he was already serving a three-month sentence for posting anti-government comments on Twitter. He was released in May 2014 after serving two years, but was detained again over his comments on Twitter.

Bahrain's King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa pardoned Rajab in July 2015 over concerns about his health after the activist served some three months in prison. But Rajab was again arrested in June 2016 over his tweets alleging abuse at Bahrain's Jaw prison and criticizing civilian casualties in the Yemen war waged by a Saudi-led coalition, of which Bahrain is a member. Prosecutors also investigated the 53-year-old activist for letters he wrote while imprisoned that were later published by newspapers Le Monde and The New York Times.

Bahrain, a nation only some 760 square kilometers (290 square miles) in size, is home to some 1.4 million people. About half are Bahraini citizens, the majority of them Shiite. The island has been ruled since 1783 by the Sunni Al Khalifa family. King Hamad, who took the throne in 1999, initially took steps to move the country from an absolute monarchy to a constitutional one. The first parliamentary elections since 1973 were held in 2002.

However, the Shiite majority accused the government of treating them like second-class citizens. They joined pro-democracy activists in demanding more political freedoms in 2011, as Arab Spring protests swept the wider Middle East. Saudi and Emirati troops ultimately helped violently put down the demonstrations.

Amid this recent crackdown, local Shiite militant groups have carried out several attacks on security forces. Independent news gathering in Bahrain also has grown more difficult, with the government refusing to accredit two AP reporters and others while shutting down a prominent local independent newspaper.

America has faced criticism over its stance on Bahrain, which hosts over 7,000 U.S. troops, mostly sailors attached to a sprawling base called the Naval Support Activity in Manama. President Donald Trump's administration has approved a multibillion-dollar sale of F-16 fighter jets to Bahrain without the human rights conditions imposed by the State Department under President Barack Obama.

At a briefing Tuesday, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert described Rajab as a "prominent human rights activist" and said American officials were "disappointed" by his recent convictions. "We continue to have conversations with the government of Bahrain about our very serious concerns," she said.

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AP Exclusive: Migrant Recounts His Deportation From Israel

Eritrean migrants wear chains to mimic slaves at a demonstration against the Israeli government's policy to forcibly deport African refugees and asylum seekers from Israel to Uganda and Rwanda, outside the Knesset, Israel's parliament, in Jerusalem. Tens of thousands of Africans in Israel face jail if they do not accept an offer to relocate to an unnamed African country, while Uganda and Rwanda, widely presumed to be the likely destinations, have denied the existence of any agreement with Israel's government even though scores of migrants are believed to have already settled there. (AP)

KAMPALA, UGANDA (AP) — Inside the immigration office in Tel Aviv, Yohannes Tesfagabr considered his options. He could not return to Eritrea, a country he risked his life to flee in 2010. He hoped to avoid the fate of compatriots who languished in a desert jail for illegally staying in Israel.

So in an emotional decision last November, the 29-year-old accepted what Israeli authorities were offering: $3,500 and a one-way ticket to Uganda or Rwanda. Two weeks later he was on a flight to Uganda.

"They told me, 'If you don't leave you are going to jail,'" Tesfagabr recalled. "It's forced. They tell you to say you are going voluntarily, but it is not voluntary. They force you to deport yourself."

Tens of thousands of Africans in Israel face jail if they do not accept an offer, allegedly without further assurances of safety, to leave for an unnamed African country. Both Uganda and Rwanda, widely presumed to be the destinations, have denied any agreement with Israel's government even though scores of migrants are believed to have already settled in the East African countries.

Tesfagabr said his group of Eritreans was not taken through the official immigration desk upon arrival in Uganda. They were ushered through the cargo area by a Ugandan official and driven to a hotel in the capital, Kampala. Their passports were confiscated. Hours later, they were turned out of the hotel — without their passports.

The five other Eritreans declined to talk to The Associated Press because of safety concerns. But Tesfagabr said he wanted to speak out because he felt he had been harshly treated by Israel, a country he had grown to love.

"My Hebrew is four times better than my English," he said one recent evening. Tesfagabr, a village boy who felt hopeless after being forcefully conscripted into Eritrea's army, arrived in Israel in 2012, the victim of alleged traffickers in Sudan who helped him cross a border point in the Sinai after his family was made to pay a $3,900 ransom. To force his parents to pay, his captors beat him and staged mock executions.

But after crossing into Israel, Tesfagabr benefited from random acts of kindness. In Rehovot, a city south of Tel Aviv, he found a satisfying job as a sous chef. He had an apartment and a bank account, but he had to get his visa renewed every two months.

When two compatriots were jailed for overstaying their visas, Tesfagabr knew his days were numbered. "They take you like a dog, like a donkey," he said of the migrants taken to the Holot detention center in the Negev desert. "They do what they want."

This month Israeli authorities began distributing deportation notices to some 40,000 African migrants, who have until April 1 to comply. Nearly all are from Eritrea and Sudan, countries with questionable human rights records.

The deportation plan has sparked outrage in Israel, where many say it is unethical and damages Israel's image as a refuge. Israel cites complaints that the migrants have transformed working-class neighborhoods of southern Tel Aviv into unrecognizable slums. Israeli authorities say women, children and families are exempt from the deportation order.

This month thousands of African asylum seekers protested outside the Rwandan Embassy in Israel, calling the deportations racist and urging Rwanda not to cooperate. They claim they have no rights in Uganda and Rwanda and are forced to flee toward Europe through war-torn countries like Libya.

Okello Oryem, Uganda's deputy minister of international affairs, described reports of a deal to take in migrants from Israel as "fake news." Rwanda's government has insisted it "has never signed any secret deal with Israel regarding the relocation of African migrants."

Mossi Raz, an Israeli lawmaker who recently traveled to Rwanda and Uganda to investigate, said his group concluded that the arrangement "does not ensure the safety and well-being of the refugees." Raz said the delegation met with two migrants believed to be among the few remaining in Rwanda. He said others, in the hundreds or thousands, were transferred to Uganda within days, forced to pay for their travel.

"The refugees will arrive in these countries and will not receive refugee status, their documents will be taken from them and they will be left with nothing," Raz said. "Rwanda is only participating in this agreement because of the money it will receive from Israel."

Tesfagabr, the Eritrean migrant, is now jobless, without a passport and dependent on his savings to pay the rent. The soft-spoken man said he feels like a prisoner and dreams of relocating to Europe. "I want to start a new life," he said.

Associated Press writers Ignatius Ssuuna in Kigali, Rwanda and Tia Goldenberg in Jerusalem contributed.

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Eritrean migrant Yohannes Tesfagabr, one of the tens of thousands of African migrants Israel has targeted for deportation, recounts his journey to The Associated Press in Kampala, Uganda. His case highlights the predicament of tens of thousands of Africans in Israel who face jail if they do not accept an offer, allegedly without further assurances of safety, to relocate to an unnamed African country.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Netanyahu Confidant Identified As Scandals Mount

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu waves during the opening ceremony for a bomb-proof emergency room in a hospital in Ashkelon, Israel, Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2018.

JERUSALEM (AP) — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, already reeling from a damaging police report into alleged corruption, faced yet another scandal on Tuesday — with allegations that a longtime confidant attempted to bribe a judge in exchange for dropping a corruption case against the Israeli leader's wife.

Netanyahu quickly denounced the allegations. But they presented an embarrassing new headache for him as a growing list of members of his inner circle gets swept up in scandals. The latest case surrounds Nir Hefetz, a longtime media adviser to Netanyahu and his family.

Hefetz is suspected of suggesting, through a middleman, to Judge Hila Gerstel in 2015 that she could be appointed attorney general if she dismissed a pending case against Sara Netanyahu's excessive household spending. Hefetz and the middleman are being held in police custody.

The offer never materialized, and Israel's current attorney general recommended last fall indicting Mrs. Netanyahu in the case. But Israeli media, including columnist Ben Caspit, who broke the story, said the judge was shocked by the offer. Police said Tuesday she had given testimony as part of their investigation.

The Haaretz daily said Gerstel had spoken about the incident at the time to her colleague Esther Hayut, who is now the Supreme Court's chief justice. Media reports said that Hayut is expected to be questioned by police.

Netanyahu said the latest suspicions were a continuation of a wider media witch hunt against him and his family. "I never consulted Nir Hefetz on this matter, he never proposed anything to me on this issue, and you know what? I don't believe that he suggested this possibility with anyone," Netanyahu said in a statement posted on Facebook on Tuesday, calling the claims "total madness."

Earlier on Tuesday, Hefetz was identified as a central suspect in another case. Police said Hefetz and Shlomo Filber, the former director of the Communications Ministry under Netanyahu, are suspected of promoting regulation worth hundreds of millions of dollars to Israel's Bezeq telecom company. In return, Bezeq's popular news site, Walla, allegedly provided favorable coverage of Netanyahu and his family.

Bezeq's controlling shareholder Shaul Elovitch is also in custody, along with his wife, son and other top Bezeq executives. Former journalists at the Walla news site have attested to being pressured to refrain from negative reporting of Netanyahu.

The prime minister, who held the communications portfolio until last year, has not yet been named as a suspect in either of this week's cases, though he may soon be questioned. But the cases gave new fuel to opposition calls for Netanyahu to step aside as he fights a growing list of corruption scandals. Netanyahu dismissed the investigations as "delusional, fabricated claims" that are part of an "orchestrated campaign" against him and vowed to "continue to lead the state of Israel responsibly, discreetly and with great dedication."

Yair Lapid, leader of the opposition Yesh Atid Party, said that if Netanyahu doesn't want to resign, he should at least declare himself "incapacitated," allowing a caretaker prime minister to be appointed.

"Israel deserves a full-time prime minister who is not engaged in anything else. Let him choose whatever path is convenient for him," Lapid said. "Netanyahu has become a liability for the citizens of Israel," added Avi Gabbay, leader of the opposition Labor Party. "Every day that he stays in office is damage to the country."

The latest probes come days after police announced that there was sufficient evidence to indict Netanyahu for bribery, fraud and breach of trust in two separate cases. Attorney General Avihai Mandelblit, a Netanyahu appointee, will make the final decision on whether to file charges — a process that is expected to take several months.

Netanyahu is accused of receiving lavish gifts from Hollywood mogul Arnon Milchan and Australian billionaire James Packer. In return, police say Netanyahu operated on Milchan's behalf on U.S. visa matters, legislated a tax break and connected him with an Indian businessman.

In the second case, Netanyahu is accused of offering a newspaper publisher legislation that would weaken his paper's main rival in return for more favorable coverage. Netanyahu has long accused the Israeli press corps of being biased against him and has taken steps to counter it by promoting more sympathetic outlets.

Netanyahu's backers have also lashed out at police, accusing them of an overzealous campaign to topple him. Israel's police chief, Roni Alsheikh, said Tuesday that the police recommendations were coordinated with the attorney general and were handled in a professional manner.

"Our main objective is to remain neutral and professional," he said in a speech to visiting Jewish American leaders. "We keep out of the media conversation, neither right nor left, but only on the side of the law."

Associated Press writer Ilan Ben Zion contributed to this report.

Facebook And Mandela Foundation To Publish Madiba Archive Online

Nunu Ntshingila (L), Sello Hatang and Nicola Mendelsohn (R) at the Nelson Mandela Foundation.

SOUTH AFRICA (HUFFPOST) -- To build on, protect and maintain the legacy of Madiba, the Nelson Mandela Foundation and Facebook will be making the Mandela archives available to all.

Social media network Facebook announced on Monday that it will embark on a three-year partnership to support the Nelson Mandela archive based at the Nelson Mandela Foundation (NMF).

The company will work with the foundation to document and preserve the archives of the life and times of Nelson Mandela, ensuring that they are made accessible to all in a single online collection.

It will further support the foundation on social media with Facebook Live streaming of key global events throughout Madiba's centenary year.

The partnership aims to build on, protect and maintain the legacy of Nelson Mandela.

Nunu Ntshingila, regional director of Facebook Africa, said Facebook is proud to be associated with the great work that the NMF is doing in preserving Madiba's legacy – and also facilitating dialogue around key issues.

"Our contribution will ensure that this work can continue, while making his life's works and learnings accessible to all," Ntshingilla said.

Multiple projects throughout 2018 are planned by the foundation, and they will allow the global community to celebrate Mandela's lifelong commitment to making a positive impact in society.

"The partnership with, and the support from Facebook will allow the foundation to achieve its objective of reaching different parts of the world, with the aim of building value-based societies." said NMF chief executive Sello Hatang.

"We hope that in the end we can look back and say we were able to use Madiba's centenary to build a world of his dreams."

US Warns Uganda, Tanzania And Rwanda On Used Clothes imports Ban

Jessica kiyingi, a vendor at Kampala’s popular market, Owino, selling second hand clothes. INDEPENDENT/JIMMY SIYA

KAMPALA, UGANDA (THE INDEPENDENT) -- The US has warned East African Community (EAC) leaders that will converge in Kampala this week that their planned ban of the importation of used clothes by 2019 violates conditions set to expand trade and investment in Africa under the African Growth and Opportunity Act, known as AGOA.

In March2016, the head of states in the EAC, which comprises of Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi and South Sudan agreed to ban import of used clothes in the region in three years as part of the EAC Vision 2050 and the Industrialization Policy to enhance manufacturing sector that currently contributes 8.7% to the regional Gross Domestic Product to 25% by 2032.

At a press briefing last week, the acting head of economic and regional affairs at the Africa Bureau of the US State Department Harry Sullivan confirmed that the office of the US Trade Representative (USTR) could review trade benefits to Uganda, Rwanda and Tanzania under AGOA after a complaint by U.S. interests about an East African ban on imports of used clothing.

“The leaders of Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda are going to meet on this issue, so I wish I was privy to what they might decide. They might not have come to consensus yet, I’m really not sure, but we are asking those three countries to do two things. One is to decrease their tariffs to their pre-2016 levels, and the second thing we’re asking is to commit that aside from health or sanitary reasons, not to phase out the export of used clothing,” Sulliavan stated.

Speaking to the African media last week, he said the US is watching the EAC moves closely. “So we’ve communicated that, we believe very effectively, to all levels of the three governments. The trade ministers met last Friday; I don’t have a read-out on what their discussions were. The leaders will meet next week, and I believe the result of that meeting will determine how we proceed.”

Last year, the US Trade Representative (USTR) revealed they are reviewing their trade relationswhips with East Africa in response to a petition filed by the Secondary Materials and Recycled Textiles Association (SMART), which complained that the ban “imposed significant hardship” on the US used-clothing industry and violated AGOA rules.

AGOA, which was extended last year, allows exporters from African countries that meet given terms, to export their goods into the U.S. without the usual tough restrictions. In turn, America also gets some preferential treatment of their products.

Uganda, Rwanda and Tanzania have raised taxes for used clothes and offered incentives to manufactures to invest in their local textile sectors starting in the financial year 2017/18.

Uganda has increased the environmental levy imposed on used clothes from 15 % to 20 % of the cost and freight insurance (CIF) value in some taxes during the post-election budget.

Rwanda has increased taxes on import of used clothes for the second consecutive year from $0.2 to $2.5 in the last financial year to US$4 per kg this financial year arguing that it intends to protect the market for new clothes made locally. In the financial year 18/19, Rwanda plans to charge $5 per kg on import of used clothes.

Isaac Khisa analyses the impact the ban could have BELOW

ANALYSIS | ISAAC KHISA | Among optimists, the proposal by East African Community (EAC) member states to ban the importation of used clothes by 2019 is great because it could spark the growth of a local textile industry in the bloc.

But pessimists say the move will complicate the region’s trade arrangements with leading partners including the U.S. which is also a large exporter of used clothes to the region. It could also increase the cost of clothes in countries where the majority of the population is poor and lead to the import of new cheap clothes to out-compete the very industries the regional governments seek to protect.

Faced with these options, some business analysts are proposing a middle-ground that reflects the status quo. They say the region is better off allowing entry of used clothes as it also develops its own textile industry.

“As a region, there’s need to allow entry of any products provided there are no illegalities in the sale of those items on our markets while at the same time boosting their production locally,” said Charles Ocici, the executive director at Enterprise Uganda, a USAID-sponsored agency for equipping skills to small and medium firms.

He suggests a co-existence of used and new clothes in the regional markets and the use of taxes to ensure fair competition between them.

That way, Ocici says, the burden of the ban will not only be felt by the poor but by all clothing consumers, who will, in turn, buy the locally made clothes.

He added that the co-existence will also make EAC avoid unnecessarily frictions with the powers where used clothes originate.

New Threat As USA, Others Set To Abandon Nigeria’s Oil

Oil Pipeline Image Via Vanguard

ABUJA (NIGERIAN VANGUARD) -- There are indications that the United States and other nations will soon abandon Nigeria’s oil, which may negatively affect the nation’s revenue generation.

According to the Energy Information Administration (EIA), the US may drastically reduce its import of crude oil from Nigeria by 2022, going by its projection of becoming a net energy exporter in four years.

In the newly released Annual Energy Outlook for 2018, EIA stated that the transition from net energy importer to net energy exporter will not take place until 2050 in some sensitivity cases. “The transition of the United States to a net energy exporter is fastest in the high oil price case, where higher crude oil prices lead to more oil and natural gas production and transition the United States into a net exporter by 2020.

 “In that case, higher crude oil prices also result in higher petroleum product prices and lower consumption of petroleum products, driving decreases in net petroleum imports. “In the High Oil and Gas Resource and Technology case, with more favourable assumptions for geology and technological developments, the United States becomes a net exporter in 2020, and net exports increase through the end of the projection period. 

“In cases with relatively low oil prices or less favourable assumptions for geology and technological developments, US net energy trade still decreases, but the United States remains a net energy importer through 2050.” 

Meanwhile, India, Nigeria’s largest importer of crude, which reduced its demand in 2017, started importing from the US. However, speaking on the implication of this development to the NigeriaN economy, Chairman of the Petroleum Technology Association of Nigeria, PETAN, Mr. Bank Anthony Okoroafor, stated that: “we should be looking for alternative buyers, build refineries/upgrade and maintain our existing refineries to focus on adding value to our crude oil which will also create more jobs and more revenue to the country. We can be supplying refined crude to the whole of Africa. 

“Also, we should change from been a net importer of crude oil to net exporter of refined petroleum products.” He stated that: “We import over 80% of products consumed. This is a shame. There is a big gap in the supply of refined products in Nigeria and West Africa region. This shows great potential for domestic refining of petroleum products. With oil price hovering between 60 to 70 dollars per barrel, we should focus on refining.

 “Our local refining capacity is 445,000 bpd but they have never operated above 15% capacity which is a real shame. We consume about 17 billion litres of PMS annually, 2.9 billion litres of AGO annually and 390 million litres of aviation fuel annually.” Commenting on downstream activities, he added that: “We must privatise the refineries, deregulate fully refined products and allow demand and supply to regulate price. Deregulation will be a key driver for growth within the refining sector. We really need bold and decisive reforms to attract investors. 

“Government should focus on providing enabling environment for business to prosper. If you want the refineries to work, you will require financial independence; people who will be able to take decisions, carry out their maintenance without seeking higher layers of approval.

 “This is the only way to be bullish. There is need to have KPIs for the Managing Directors of the refineries and let it be self-funding. It should be financially independent; in that way our refineries will be working. Let’s change from crude oil exporter to refined product exporter in 5 years time.”

Monday, February 19, 2018

Behind The Scenes With Victor Oladipo, The NBA's One-Man Musical

All-Star Weekend wasn’t just another high note from Victor Oladipo’s season-long coming out party—it was also the first time his father watched him play. The Crossover goes behind the scenes with the Pacers star in LA.Image Via Sports Illustrated

LOS ANGELES (SPORTS ILLUSTRATED) -- The trip from Indiana to Los Angeles spanned five years, five coaches, two trades, one position change and a final unexpected stopover in the middle of Colorado (or was it New Mexico?). Victor Oladipo’s flight was scheduled to land in L.A. at 11 a.m. on Thursday, but the Pacers eight-seat corporate jet slammed into 170-knot headwinds, and a plane that normally travels 500 miles per hour screeched to 350. The jet can hold 1,200 gallons of fuel, but due to the slow going it needed more. Which is why, on the first day of his first full-fledged All-Star Weekend, Oladipo found himself standing on a small airstrip attached to Pueblo Memorial Airport. He gazed across the barren landscape. “I’m in an episode of Breaking Bad,” he thought. Pueblo is in Colorado, not New Mexico, a source of debate among Oladipo and his companions as they lounged in the terminal and waited for the fuel. Oladipo ate a burger with a lettuce bun from the café.

Over the next 96 hours, he would host one party at a club with Cardi B, another with Snoop Dogg and Floyd Mayweather. He’d sing with Jamie Foxx, dunk with Black Panther and toast Michael Jordan’s birthday at a $100 million mansion in Bel-Air. He’d play Jenga in a sneaker store stock room with someone who goes by The Shiggy Show, an apt moniker for the weekend, and he’d dance alone in front of 1,000 people at a practice. He’d eat sushi from Katsuya and chicken from Popeyes. He’d ride in enough Mercedes Sprinters to fill a presidential motorcade, protected by three security guards and primped by two stylists. They would present him with approximately 40 ensembles, a dozen of which he would wear. He’d wake up early to toss 12-pound medicine balls and do plyometric pushups in the J.W. Marriott fitness center, and at 9 a.m. Sunday, he’d watch online the weekly sermon delivered by Pastor John K. Jenkins at First Baptist Church of Glenarden back home in Maryland.

As Oladipo dressed for the game Sunday afternoon in his room on the 15th floor—opting for the red-white-and-black Givenchy button-down, black Helmut Lang leather top and black AMIRI jeans with a tear in the knee—he pondered the meaning of Pueblo. “I’ve had a long journey to get here,” he said. “Sometimes you’re in the middle of nowhere.” He glanced at his reflection in the bathroom mirror, curls freshly shorn by a traveling barber, and headed to the bus. He didn’t have to be there until 1:50. “Let’s do 1:45,” he said. He was excited, as one would be when about to play in front of his father for the first time.

The 25-year-old Oladipo—“pronounced like Home Depot,” he clarifies—comes across as relentlessly carefree. He sings wherever he goes, normally R&B, from Sam Smith to Marvin Gaye, Tyrese to Tank. He describes himself as a bird and a butterfly. He peppers his speech with the word feathery, which he defines as “the greatest of all goods, not heavenly but feathery.” When the Pacers acquired Oladipo last summer, his coaches compared him to Lou Rawls, not Paul George. “His life is a musical,” says assistant Dan Burke, and he’s hitting the high notes: 24.4 points per game on 48.4% shooting, best of his career. “Also, he has a nice voice,” center Al Jefferson says, “so you don’t have to tell him to shut the hell up.”

Oladipo’s tenor shifts only when the subject turns to basketball and family. His parents, Chris and Joan, immigrated to the United States from Nigeria 32 years ago. They prized education, not sports, and Chris held two jobs so Victor and his three sisters could attend private schools. “I never really saw my dad because he was always working,” Oladipo recalls. “We didn’t have a great relationship.” While Joan warmed to hoops, Chris never did, driving a wedge between father and son. He rarely met Victor’s coaches or teammates.

In each of his first three NBA seasons, Oladipo went to All-Star Weekend, either for the Rising Stars Challenge or the Slam Dunk Contest or the parties. But last February, he flew to Washington D.C. instead and sat in Chris’s office for three-and-a-half hours. “It had been a long time since we had a real conversation,” Oladipo says. “But you’ve got to work at it, because he’s your dad, so his opinion means more than anybody’s. He told me he believes in me, and that gave me a huge boost.”

In January, Oladipo was selected to his first All-Star Game and he invited the man he calls Pops. He braced for rejection, but Chris accepted—on one condition: no cameras, no interviews, no fuss. Oladipo booked a flight from D.C. to L.A., arriving late Saturday and departing late Sunday, with a room at The London in West Hollywood. In previous articles, Chris has claimed he has seen his son play before, but if so nobody noticed. “Maybe on TV, but not in person,” Oladipo says. “This is the first time I will know for a fact he is there. It’s going to be a big deal for me. I still can’t believe he said yes.”

After a seven-hour voyage, an hour-long Sprinter ride and a “fitting” at the Loews Hollywood overseen by the stylists, it was time to throw down some 360 reverse windmills. Oladipo was the lone All-Star to participate in the dunk contest, but he’s spent the past three months keeping the Pacers in contention, leaving little time for car hurdles or drone drops. “I’m going to need an elephant,” Oladipo said, “so I can jump over its trunk with the water shooting in the air.” Dunk coach Chuck Milan—yes, there is such a thing—was supposed to fly to Indiana for a practice session, but the trip was postponed because of bad weather, so they only talked on the phone. Three years ago, Oladipo finished second to Zach LaVine, on the strength of a 540-degree jam. But in the Thursday night rehearsal at Staples Center, he could not land much of anything, and even Milan looked anxious in his "I Jump High" hoodie.

Oladipo’s priorities have evolved from basketball’s favorite sideshow. In the Lakers empty locker room, he touched a photo of their championship rings and asked his friends, “Who’s going to win it?” Nobody wanted to answer. “We’re fifth in the East right now,” Oladipo started. “First of all, who thought the Pacers would be fifth at the break? If we get that 3 seed, I’m telling you, look out. It’s going to be scary.” He strutted to the middle of the room in boxers and socks. He was punchy. He pretended the Lakers logo on the carpet was the Finals stage.

NBA headliners typically reveal themselves by their third seasons. This is Oladipo’s fifth. But he’s been a late-bloomer at every level. He didn’t dent the starting lineup at DeMatha Catholic High until his senior year and he couldn’t land a scholarship to Virginia even after attending three camps there. AAU coaches described him as “nosy,” eavesdropping on conversations during bus rides. They’re talking about me, Oladipo convinced himself. They don’t want me anymore.

He was too daring to run the point and didn’t shoot well enough to space the floor. He caught lobs at the top of the square—sometimes, for fun, in his school uniform: bucks and khakis a couple sizes too small—but his energy could be overbearing. DeMatha coach Mike Jones insisted that he listen to slow jams before games to mellow out. If his backstory reminds you of somebody else's, perhaps it's the guy whose face stretched across the building next to Oladipo's hotel, 575 feet high and 1,261 feet wide.

“Russ!” Oladipo chirped Friday afternoon, as he strolled beneath the Jordan Brand billboard, en route to a Verizon appearance that followed a Foot Locker appearance that followed an NBA Cares appearance. The specter of Russell Westbrook has hovered over Oladipo since he was a sophomore at Indiana and head coach Tom Crean called Oklahoma City general manager Sam Presti with an unrelated question. “He told me how they never let Russell just be an athlete,” Crean recalls. “How they held him accountable to be a basketball player.”

Even when Westbrook left opponents in his vapor trail, the Thunder harped on him to take the extra dribble and finish higher off the glass. Crean absorbed every word, which he would apply to the development of his own dervish, who was not yet on Presti’s radar. Crean sat Oladipo in a conference room and unspooled clips of Westbrook from Year 2 to Year 3, Year 3 to Year 4. “Here is a phenomenal athlete,” Crean explained, “becoming a better player all the time.” During the 2011 lockout, Pacers coaches took a field trip to Bloomington and execs advised them to check out Cody Zeller. But when the Hoosiers practiced, Burke looked past their 7-foot center. “Who’s No. 4?” Burke asked. “It’s not that he’s good. But he’s wild.”

That spring, Crean requested an evaluation of Oladipo from the NBA Undergraduate Advisory Committee, and 28 teams reported they would not draft him. A year later, he was picked second overall by Magic general manager Rob Hennigan, who had come to Orlando after working under Presti in Oklahoma City. “Rob’s vision,” Crean remembers, “was Russell Westbrook.” The Thunder molded Westbrook into a point guard and the Magic intended to do the same with Oladipo, but they lacked the supporting cast and the organizational commitment. Orlando shuffled him from point guard to shooting guard to sixth man. Three head coaches came and went. Young players, stuck in an interminable rebuild, battled for minutes and shots.

Presti rescued Oladipo on draft night 2016, extracting him from Orlando for power forward Serge Ibaka, and installed him alongside the dynamo he’d failed to emulate. At their first joint workout, over the summer in Los Angeles, Oladipo arrived at the appointed time. “Yo!” Westbrook barked. “You’re late.” In Year 1 A.D.—After Durant—Westbrook was on a mission and Oladipo a sabbatical, constantly learning and occasionally participating. A secondary ballhandler for a team that required only one, Oladipo stood on the perimeter and studied Westbrook, rampaging at the rim. “It was a great visual,” Oladipo says. But in the playoffs, when the Thunder needed him to do more, he wasn't primed. After Houston dispatched Oklahoma City in the first round, Oladipo, who had averaged just 10.8 points per game and shot 34.4%, sat mournfully in the Toyota Center locker room. “I’m nowhere near the player I want to be,” he thought.

Westbrook had shown him what alpha dedication looks like. Oladipo flew to Miami last May and strode into DBC Fitness, domain of Dwyane Wade, another Crean disciple. “What do you want to accomplish?” asked David Alexander, owner of DBC. Oladipo wanted to be an All-Star. “This will be the hardest four months of your life,” Alexander responded. “But if you treat it like Navy SEAL boot camp, you’ll have your best season.” Oladipo weighed 222 pounds that day. Three weeks later, he was at 205, having cut flour, dairy and gluten from his diet. He discovered a mild wheat allergy. “I could have told him to eat a brick,” Alexander says. “He’d have eaten the brick.”

When the Thunder sent Oladipo to the Pacers in July in the deal for George, the second time he’d been traded in 13 months, he nursed the sting for a day. Then he called Domantas Sabonis, who was with him in the deal from Orlando to Oklahoma City, and again from Oklahoma City to Indiana. “This is crazy, but it’s going to be better than you think,” Oladipo started. “I know these people. They’re going to treat us like we’ve never been treated before.” In college, Oladipo drove to Indianapolis for Pacers playoff games, and in his NBA debut, the road crowd at Bankers Life Fieldhouse greeted him with a standing ovation. After four pro seasons in No. 5, he returned to 4, the digit he wore at Assembly Hall.

For his introductory press conference, Oladipo caught a ride on the Pacers’ private plane with club president Kevin Pritchard. Even the Oklahoma City Police Department was tweeting about “the theft of Paul George,” among scores of swipes at Pritchard and Oladipo. “This wasn’t a dump,” Pritchard told him on the flight. “We targeted you.” The Pacers needed an accelerator to push their slow-motion offense into the modern era. “It was the first time in my career I felt like a team really believed in me,” Oladipo says. “I was just thinking, Don’t mess this up.”

But that was the wrong message, as Chris Carr would attest. Carr is the Pacers’ sports psychologist and his office in the practice facility has become Oladipo’s refuge. “I had a lot of baggage to throw away,” Oladipo says. “When you get traded twice in a year, people call you a bust, and doubt creeps in. It marinates in your mind.” He doubted himself in high school, when the recruiters dismissed him, and college, when the scouts spurned him. “Dr. Carr helped me see that I can do this. That it’s in me.”

At 6'4", Oladipo remains an undersized shooting guard, but the Pacers hand him the ball in the middle of the court, as the Hoosiers used to do. In OKC, if he gave it up, he probably wouldn’t get it back. In Indy, he drives when he chooses, and lanes are open. Oladipo is still adjusting to the freedom. On defense, he constantly pesters coaches, “Are we going over or under the screen here?” They prefer not to answer. “We trust you,” Burke replies. “Let’s not put a bridle on the bull.” Burke allows Oladipo to gamble for one steal per game, and if he is successful, another.

There is an old NBA axiom, It’s not who you get. It’s when you get him. Oladipo is the only Indiana rotation player who has attended every optional shootaround this season. “I’m a different person than I used to be,” he says, and he credits many for the transformation: coach Nate McMillan, Alexander, Carr. Russ. Before one game, the Pacers were goofing around in the tunnel when a teammate noticed Oladipo staring blankly ahead. The player asked Oladipo what he was thinking about. “I’m thinking about ripping their heads off,” he said.*

Seven months after the trade and the pep talk, Oladipo wore Sabonis’s jersey to the Rising Stars Challenge on Friday night, and he was still rocking it when he spotted Jamie Foxx in the L.A. Convention Center parking garage. Oladipo grew up in the church choir and Foxx was his idol. “Hey, I like your music!” Foxx shouted. He scrolled through his phone and called up “Song For You,” the title track from the R&B album Oladipo released in October. Foxx blasted the catchy tune through his leather boombox backpack:

I’ve been so many places in my life and time,
Sung a lot of songs, I made some bad rhymes.
I’ve acted out my life in stages with 10,000 people watchin’.
We’re alone now, and I’m singing this song to you.

Stunned, Oladipo burst into verse, and eventually Foxx joined him, providing backing vocals in the parking lot. On Sunday morning, when Oladipo was asked to rank his All-Star experiences, the encounter with Foxx finished first by far. The parties were a blur, starting with CAA’s rooftop bash at Catch LA, and the dunk contest was a bust. Oladipo did not locate an elephant, but he did convince Black Panther star Chadwick Boseman to lend him his mask from a courtside seat, dressing up a double-pump tomahawk. But Oladipo was eliminated after the first round, about the time his father touched down from D.C.

Oladipo did not sleep much Saturday night, out late and up early, listening to Pastor Jenkins and lifting 45-pound dumbbells with Pacers assistant sports performance coach Andy Martin. “My dad texted,” he reported between sets. His whole basketball life, he’d seen teammates and their fathers after games, and tried not to turn jealous. His Pops was finally coming. “You’ll recognize him,” Oladipo said. “He looks just like me.”

Chris wore a blue suit over a plaid shirt and sat in a suite. The plan was for Victor to play, then shower, then meet him in Section 109. But All-Star Games run long and Chris worried he’d miss his 11 p.m. redeye. So late in the fourth quarter, a Pacers official retrieved him from the suite and led him down the Staples Center stairs to the hallway next to Team LeBron’s bench. There, Chris waited, for Team LeBron to win and his son to celebrate. Somewhere between the court and the locker room, Oladipo found his dad and fell into his arms. “A year ago today,” he said, “you told me I could achieve anything.”

“This,” Pops replied, “is only the beginning.”