Main Menu

Monday, January 15th, 2018

 

Half a million Rohingya refugee children at risk in overcrowded camps in Bangladesh

COX’S BAZAR, Bangladesh, 16 January 2018 – The health and safety of more than 520,000 Rohingya children living in overcrowded camps and informal settlements in Bangladesh is likely to be put at even greater risk ahead of upcoming cyclone and monsoon seasons, UNICEF warned today.

“As we get closer to the cyclone and monsoon seasons, what is already a dire humanitarian situation risks becoming a catastrophe. Hundreds of thousands of children are already living in horrific conditions, and they will face an even greater risk of disease, flooding, landslides and further displacement,” said Edouard Beigbeder, UNICEF Representative in Bangladesh. “Unsafe water, inadequate sanitation and poor hygiene conditions can lead to cholera outbreaks and to Hepatitis E, a deadly disease for pregnant women and their babies, while standing water pools can attract malaria-carrying mosquitos. Keeping children safe from disease must be an absolute priority,” Beigbeder added.

More than 4,000 suspected cases of diphtheria have been reported among the refugee population, with 32 deaths including at least 24 children. UNICEF and partners have launched a diphtheria vaccination campaign, and are working to provide children and families with access to safe water and sanitation facilities, but overcrowding and the growing risk of extreme weather increases the risk of further outbreaks.

In addition to the increased threat of disease outbreaks, the cyclone season brings an increased risk of flooding and landslides, a direct risk to children’s lives. Even a moderate storm could have a devastating impact, with little time to prepare ahead of the start of the cyclone season in march.

Tropical cyclones generally strike Bangladesh in two seasons, March through July and September through December, with the greatest number of storms arriving in May and October. In May last year, Cyclone Mora barreled through the region, destroying approximately one quarter of the makeshift shelters in Rohingya refugee camps and causing widespread damage.

In addition, the regular monsoon rains starting in June could bring devastating landslides and floods. There is a serious risk that shelters, water systems, latrines and other infrastructure could be severely damaged in storms or floods.

The Government of Bangladesh has generously taken in more than 650,000 Rohingya refugees since August 25th already and has been working with UNICEF to deliver life-saving support to the most recent and previous influxes of Rohingya refugees as well the host community in Cox’s Bazar.

Download multimedia materials here: https://weshare.unicef.org/Package/2AMZIFIO0F79
For more information about UNICEF’s work with Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh visit http://uni.cf/Rohingya

About UNICEF

UNICEF works in some of the world’s toughest places, to reach the world’s most disadvantaged children. Across 190 countries and territories, we work for every child, everywhere, to build a better world for everyone.

Follow UNICEF on Twitter and Facebook

For further information please contact:
Joe English, UNICEF New York, jenglish@unicef.org, +1 9178930692


Ghana police questioning three men after explosives found

ACCRA, Jan 15 (Reuters) – Police in Ghana have seized suspected explosives of various kinds in Accra, the capital, and are holding three men connected to the substances, the regional police command said in a statement on Monday.

It did not give details of the arrest, but police sources told Reuters that at least seven grenades were retrieved following a tip-off.

“Police is investigating the matter in coordination with the relevant agencies and therefore assures the public to remain calm,” said the statement issued by Assistant Commissioner David Eklu.

It asked that anybody with related information should contact police emergency lines.

Although relatively peaceful, the West African country has witnessed sporadic ethnic and political violence. (Reporting by Kwasi Kpodo; Editing by Leslie Adler)


President Mutharika chides critics for politicizing corruption

CHIRADZULU-(MaraviPost)-President Peter Mutharika on Monday took task his critics for politicizing corruption in the country.

While President Mutharika acknowledged that widespread corruption he however denied reports that corruption is growing in the country.

Mutharika, speaking during the commemoration prayers organized in remembrance of the freedom fighter John Chilembwe in Chiradzulu, said corruption exists in the private sector, judiciary, faith community and in the media.

“The trouble in this country is that we are politicizing corruption. They say corruption is growing. I don’t this so. It is not true that corruption is growing in this country. What has been growing is the perception of corruption,” he said.

He called on Malawians to join hands and fight corruption which he said cannot be fought by one person.
Mutharika branded as a lie and fabrication the rumour that there are seven cabinet ministers involved in the K236 billion Cashgate scandal.

“This is a total lie; a fabrication of a certain malicious, vicious and irresponsible editor. The anti-corruption bureau announced last week that there are no ministers in the said case. This paper is misinforming the country,” Mutharika said without mentioning the name of the editor and the newspaper.

Mutharika also expressed his displeasure at the local media and how it “trashes the country”.

He said the media and many Malawians think that by trashing the country they are trashing Mutharika and asked that the tendency has to stop and that Malawians should be proud of their country just like Chilembwe loved his country.

“John Chilembwe was a humble, hardworking & patriotic man. He wanted to see this country transform. We will strive to work towards transforming this country just like the Chilembwe wanted.

He however, again took a swipe at his critics who he said are constantly undermining him and the dreams he has for Malawi.

“Transformation begins with the change of the mindset. Change is not easy that is why Chilembwe faced a lot of resistance. I have also faced resistance.

Some said I cannot become president, but I did become the president. Some said I am economically clueless, but I took a battered economy and transformed it. I want a country where we have a network of tarmac roads everywhere. This is possible,” Mutharika said.

Mutharika hailed Chilembwe as a selfless, hardworking and visionary man. The president announced that government will build a community technical college at PIM and will be named Aida Chilembwe technical college, in honour of Chilembwe’s wife.

The event was also attended by Malawi Congress Party (MCP) president, Lazarus Chakwera who also laid a wreath at Chilembwe’s memorial pillar at PIM.

Below is the full President Mutharika Speech on 2018 Chilembwe Day;

JOHN CHILEMBWE, MINDSET AND TRANSFORMATION

We have met to celebrate the life of John Chilembwe. Today, we celebrate Chilembwe in the spirit of embracing God for national transformation. And I am delighted to be with you today.

Let me thank you the Providence Industrial Mission for inviting me. In particular, let me thank you for calling upon the nation to think about the transformation of our country.

Transformation begins with the renewal of our minds. This is what The Holy Bible tells us in Romans 12 verse 2. The change of the mindset is the beginning of national transformation.

National transformation is a collective process. We all have to change the way we think and do things for this country to change.

But it takes courage to change a country. Change is never always welcome. That is why Chilembwe faced resistance and got killed.

That is why Moses faced a lot of resistance when he led the children of Israel to the Promised Land.

Jesus Christ himself was denied and killed by the same people he came to save. And, do you remember how people opposed Bingu?

They conspired and he died. When he died, the same people turned round and said he was a visionary. Amalawi timakonda kuyamikira munthu akapita. Tisinthe! Tisiye khalidwe limenelo!
Today, I am facing every kind of resistance while I am leading this country to transformation.

They said Peter Mutharika cannot be a President. He must go back to the University where he belongs. I became the President.

They said Peter Mutharika is economically clueless. I took the badly damaged economy and now the economy has recovered. Inflation is at its lowest point in our history; interest rates are going down and the economy is growing. Our foreign currency reserves are at the highest in history.

Now Malawi is a highly rated destination for investors because we have restored economic confidence.

Malawi is a preferred destination for tourists. According to Forbes Magazine and Cosmopolitan Travel Guide, Malawi is among the 18 top countries to be most visited in 2018.

Worldwide, Malawi is rated number 3 and in Africa as number 1 as a country to visit in 2018. You will not find that in our local media because they are busy trashing this country. By doing that, they think they are hurting me. They are making a mistake. What they do not know is that they are destroying their own country. This kind of behaviour must change. We need to transform our mindset.

We started the National Registration program so that Malawi must be a well-organized society. They said this cannot happen. Sizitheka zimenezo! This sizitheka mentality is bringing this country down.

Now every Malawian above the age of 16 is going to have a National ID.

They said there is nothing my Government is doing. Today, we can see new roads, community colleges, and rural electricity coming to the villages. And I will not stop at anything until this country totally transforms.

I want Malawi to be a country with a network of tarmac roads everywhere; a country with no dusty roads in our cities; a country with electricity in our villages; a country where there shall be no more grass-thatched houses. That is transformation.

I want this country to have more jobs for the youth. That is why we are expanding the private sector by inviting foreign direct investors. We must create new jobs. That is why we are building community technical colleges to equip our youth with skills.

I want Malawi to join the digital revolution. For us to be in the digital age, we need fast and reliable internet which every Malawian can afford. That is why we launched the National Fibre Optic Backbone project. This is the beginning of a digital revolution in Malawi.

For us to transform this country, let us draw our lessons from the life of John Chilembwe. Chilembwe is a symbol of patriotism, integrity and hard work.
Chilembwe was a man of high integrity. With integrity, there will be no corruption.

Corruption is an evil and I want this evil to stop! But slowly, we are taming this evil. We have strengthened the Anti-Corruption Bureau, National Audit and all graft busting institutions. We have given them more resources. But that is not enough.

There is corruption in the private sector, in the judiciary, in the media and the faith community. However, one man cannot fight corruption alone. We need to fight it together. If you see corruption, report to the authorities.

The trouble in this country is that we are politicizing corruption. They say corruption is growing. I don’t think so. It is not true that corruption is growing in this country. What has been growing is the perception of corruption.
I will give you an example. There has been mention of seven cabinet ministers. This is a total lie; a fabrication of a certain malicious, vicious, and an irresponsible editor.

The Anti-Corruption Bureau just announced last week that there are no cabinet ministers in the said case. Instead of informing the public, this paper is misinforming the country. We must love our country.

Chilembwe loved his country. That is why he fought for it; and shed his blood for this country. Let us be patriotic.

Chilembwe was a hard worker. He founded this Industrial Mission because he believed that Africans must be industrious in order to be self-dependent. Let us be industrious.
Chilembwe is a man who dedicated his life to the service of God. In serving others, we serve God. And we serve God by serving others.

In serving others, Chilembwe was a progressive thinker who fought for transformation of this society. He fought to change the life of his people.

In this part of Africa, Chilembwe was the first African to build schools for Africans. He knew the power of education in transforming lives.

Chilembwe was the first African to fight for the rights of women and children. Chilembwe believed in empowering women as the foundation of society. That is why his wife Ida, had a vocational school for training women in skills.

In honour of this spirit, I decided that we must construct a technical college. The construction has started and it is at window level. This college will be called the Ida Chilembwe Technical College.

This college is part of technical community colleges we are building all over the country. Chilembwe saw the vision of community colleges 100 years ago. He wanted a technical college, and now his vision has been fulfilled.

As we reflect on the lessons we draw from the life of John Chilembwe, let us learn to change the way we think in order to change our nation.

God grant us the courage to decide to change; the wisdom to choose what is right; and the faith to follow the path of the righteous.

Thank you!
God bless Malawi!
And bless us all!

:


Dismissing talk of breaking away is futile if historical injustices are not addressed

By MARIA NZOMO
More by this Author

A bill that seeks to split Kenya is under way, complete with names for the envisaged states.

The bill, sponsored by the National Super Alliance, wants 40 counties to form the Peoples’ Republic of Kenya.

Nairobi County, the home of Kenya’s administrative and economic capital, as well as the coastal counties of Mombasa, Lamu, Tana River and Kilifi are designated to be part of the proposed republic.

LAKE REGION

Equally, lake region counties of Kisumu, Homa Bay, Migori and Siaya are to be carved from Kenya.

Should the bill pass, only seven counties would remain as part of the original state to be called the Central Republic of Kenya. This would render CRK a minuscule landlocked mass, with GDP losses of more than 80 per cent.

But seceding is not a walk in the park. One only need look at the August to November catastrophe attributed to the 2017 poll-related demonstrations, with opposition claiming more than 100 people were killed by security agents.

Similar reaction was witnessed in previous secession efforts. The first was in the Northern Frontier District in the 1960s.

NFD had indicated intentions to join Somalia. President Jomo Kenyatta enlisted the support of the British to suppress the uprising.

The Mombasa Republican Council emerged in 1999, claiming to address political and economic discrimination against the region.

It intensified pressure for secession in 2008 under the slogan: “Pwani si Kenya” (The Coast is not part of Kenya). The government outlawed the group but the decision was later reversed by a court. Nevertheless, the government still retains a leash on the movement.

The recent secessionist talk has been met with a warning from the government.

Western envoys have also expressed displeasure and called for dialogue between the government and the opposition to resolve contentious issues, including efforts towards greater inclusivity and effective implementation of devolution.

Despite the standoff, it is notable that during his November visit to the United States, Nasa leader Raila Odinga steered clear of the debate. He, however, claims to be pushing for electoral reforms as well as social and political justice.

If this be the case, one can assume that the creation of a Nasa-led parallel governance structure in counties and the planned swearing-in of opposition leaders, is a strategy to bring the State to the negotiating table. However, this seems unlikely.

SOVIET UNION

A closer look at history — the outcome and obtaining conditions in other African countries that have experienced secession — can inform us what could await Kenya in the event of State disintegration, especially the human cost and the deterioration of problems that triggered secession.

Similarly, we may wish to take some lessons from Europe and the former Soviet Union, which have experienced attempted and actualised secession.

Finally, we need to consider if a secessionist group in Kenya has the resilience and capacity to survive the combined hostility of the state and the global community.

It took more than 20 years of a brutal civil war for South Sudan to secede from the Arab-dominated north.

It required the support of the international community, premised on the principle of self-determination, for the south to gain independence in 2011.

South Sudan was heralded as a country with substantial natural resources that could have been tapped to transform the lives of its citizens.

Soon after independence, and before the construction of statehood through institutions and frameworks of governance, the country descended into war.

RIEK MACHAR

At the core of the conflict is the rivalry of President Salva Kiir and his former deputy Riek Machar.

This has led to atrocities, attempted coups, mass displacements and destruction of economic structures.

With a population of 7.5 million making up the 10 ethnic groups, South Sudan is ranked by the World Bank as one of the least developed countries.

Illiteracy stands at 87 per cent while mobile phone penetration is just 15 per cent. In the meantime, the number of South Sudanese refugees continues to swell.

By December, Uganda was hosting about a million, Ethiopia 400,000 and Kenya more than 100,000.

Clearly, the South Sudanese have serious problems giving meaning to their struggle for secession. Citizens have little to be grateful for as they swing between death by the bullet, malnutrition or disease.

South Sudan is a towering example of why secession may not be the answer for long-standing deprivations unless it is accompanied by a radical transformational agenda.

As it stands, the historical injustices of South Sudanese have found a new home in the new country, with monumental intensity.

In 1993, Eritrea gained independence from Ethiopia through a UN-sponsored referendum after a 30-year war.

The country drew up a constitution in 1997, yet the framework of governance has not been implemented to date. Eritrea is a single party regime, with mandatory military conscription.

Fundamental freedom, including freedom of speech and of the press, are not guaranteed.

The media are controlled by the government and there is low level of internet access. Eritrea’s agriculture has been ruined by a concert of drought and internal conflict.

In 2013, the UN Human Development Index ranked Eritrea the lowest in Sub-Sahara. In 2015, the UN accused President Isaias Afewerki’s regime of systematic and extreme abuses of the population that may amount to crimes against humanity.

Amnesty International said the country had at least 10,000 political prisoners while Reporters Without Borders ranked Eritrea last in its press freedom index for the eighth year running.

Thousands have made the treacherous journey across the Sahara and Med in search of better opportunities in Europe. For Eritreans who welcomed secession, aspirations that ignited their struggle have not come to fruition.

In Nigeria, the republic of Biafra seceded in July 1967 and surrendered in January 1970.

Unlike South Sudan and Eritrea, the Biafran secession was neither recognised by the UN nor by most African countries. Though there was justifiable cause for secession, the option proved to be a poisoned chalice.

The two and a half years’ dalliance with secession was nothing more than a costly war, pitting Biafra against a well-equipped Nigerian military.

Nigeria imposed a blockade on Biafra, making it impossible to import food or have any meaningful relations with the outside world. This situation led to the deaths of more than a million people.

Somaliland is an interesting case. Having broken away from Somalia in 1991 after the civil war, the country is yet to galvanise international recognition.

The former British protectorate seceded after 30 years of unity attempts with Somalia failed. Somaliland has all that is needed to form a state: an elected government, a military, a territory, a currency and a flag.

The country has held six elections since 2001, ending in peaceful transitions of power. Despite this, the African Union does not support this secession on the grounds of the 1963 pact by the Organisation of African Unity to retain the inherited colonial borders.

The global community has also declined to grant recognition to Somaliland.

The unhappy experiences with Eritrea and South Sudan and the likelihood of opening a Pandora’s Box for potential secessionists could have increased the undesirability of the breaking away option and greater push for dialogue.

Other cases examined earlier reveal additional elements that Kenya should consider. One is the tortuous nature of the journey towards secession, especially the human cost, which in the case of the Bougainville was about 20,000 lives in a decade, while Chechnya was an estimate of up to 50,000 dead or missing.

Catalonia has yet to calculate the human cost at the end of the confrontation with the Spanish Government.

Another factor that Kenya should note is the issue(s) that triggered secession in other countries.

HISTORICAL INJUSTICE

The only trigger that Kenya shares with the rest is historical injustice.

Except for the short-lived NFD scenario and the MRC’s Pwani si Kenya, the key issue has not been about a claim of a separate socio-cultural identity and territory.

Rather, it is historical injustices perpetuated by successive regimes; socio-economic and political exclusion and inequitable distribution of national resources.

These grievances should not seek solution in secession but in a genuinely democratic and inclusive governance structure, under a selfless leadership.

We need to develop capacity to hold leaders to account.

How then should Kenyans respond to the calls for secession?

The reviewed scenarios in these articles indicate that breaking away is not necessarily a panacea for correcting historical injustices and human rights violations.

For secession to effectively redress the grievances that triggered it, it must be accompanied by strong democratic governance institutions and a leadership to match, to avoid rights violations like those experienced in South Sudan and Eritrea.

LOSS OF LIFE

The Biafran case also demonstrates that if secession is not internationally and regionally recognised and is violently opposed by the incumbent administration, it can result in catastrophic loss of life.

The Somaliland case reminds us of the importance of regional and global recognition. After almost three decades since seceding from Somalia, Somaliland remains in limbo, unable to advance its national interests through international interactions.

On the other hand, suppressing secession without addressing the underlying grievances only serves to escalate, rather than resolve, the problem.

Indeed, empirical evidence has demonstrated that countries with long piled up historical grievances have a high propensity for repeated emergence of secessionist tendencies that may be temporarily trampled upon but are likely to continue resurfacing with greater vengeance unless and until the root problem is addressed.

Breakaway movements signal a brewing problem, which if left unattended, could trigger instability for the country and threaten the sanctity of the republic.

Maria Nzomo is Professor of International Relations & Governance & Director, Institute of Diplomacy & International Studies, UoN. & Ex- Ambassador of Kenya to the UN & WTO


Call for reforms as more law students fail their bar exam

By OUMA WANZALA
More by this Author

A report has laid bare the massive failure of law students seeking to be admitted as advocates of the High Court of Kenya between 2009 to 2016.

Out of 16,086 students who sat for the Bar examinations administered by Council of Legal Education (CLE), only 7,530 passed while 8,549 failed, which translates to 53 per cent failure.

The report by a taskforce on legal sector reforms that was chaired by prominent lawyer Fred Ojiambo, is set to be discussed by stakeholders at a major conference in Mombasa that started Monday and will run until January 18.

The conference is being attended by representatives of universities, CLE and other players in the legal profession. The taskforce was set up by the Attorney General in September 2016 to look at the training of legal professions in the country.

The report points out that 5,298 students, who failed bar exams are actively involved in employment in law firms, county governments, universities, among others sectors.

About 47 of the students are in law firms; county governments have employed 10 per cent of them, others work in the Judiciary, parastatals , office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, academics  among other fields.

About 53 students who failed their examination in 2009; 62 in 2010; 324 in 2011; 595 in 2012; 1,113 in 2013 are still in the system hoping to pass the exams in subsequent attempts. For 2013, students who failed but are still in the system are 1,365; 1,786 for 2015; while 2016 has the highest number of failures at 3,251.

For instance in 2016, only 1,009 students passed the Bar exams while 3251 failed.

The report indicates that candidates who failed the examination had obtained their undergraduate degrees in some of the local universities.

Kenyatta University leads with 30 per cent, Moi University is at 22 per cent, University of Nairobi Parkland Campus (20 per cent), Catholic University of Eastern Africa (8) and Kabarak University (6).

Others are University of Nairobi Mombasa Campus (5), Nazerene University (2), Mount Kenya University (4) and Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (2).

“Unfortunately, while the number of graduates has increased, there have been concerns about deterioration in the quality, professional capacity, and competence of these graduates as they transition into practitioners.

This decline has in turn been attributed to the decline in quality and standards of training and apprenticeship.”

On average, there was  a 21 per cent increase per annum in the enrolment of students into Bar programme between 2009 and 2016.

“There is a relationship between the increased enrolment and fail rate. As the number of students enrolled in the LL.B programme increases, the failure rate similarly increases,” adds the report.

The taskforce now wants an exit avenue to be provided to students who are still in the system such as paralegals.

“This is partly because of heavy investment already spent on these persons.

“The other avenue is to urge the council to vigorously enforce quality standards, facilities and resources at legal education providers to improve the quality of training which will, in turn, improve pass rates at the law schools and during  advocates training programmes.”

The taskforce now wants the 8,549 candidates to be identified and profiled by the CLE.

The taskforce also want a limit on number of attempts at the bar examination.

Currently Bar examination candidates are permitted to attempt the examination within 5 years.

Upon exhausting the maximum number of attempts, an applicant may be permitted  to attempt the Bar examination within a further five years subject however, to the candidate being re-admitted  to the advocates training programme afresh as the curriculum for the first 5 years will have to run its course.

The task of the team was to evaluate, review, and make recommendations on – suitability and quality of legal education and professional legal training curriculum, standards, entry qualification criteria and delivery systems.

Other terms of reference was legal sector practice, licensing and membership process, institutional structure criteria and participation mechanism.

Members of the taskforce were the chairperson of Kenya Law Reform Commission Mr Mbage Nganga, outgoing Director for Public Prosecutions Keriako Tobiko, Chief Registrar of the Judiciary Ann Amadi, chairperson of Advocates Complaint Commission Beauttah Siganga, Law Society of Kenya president Isaac Okero among others.


CJ decries cases of petty crimes

By SAM KIPLAGAT
More by this Author

Chief Justice David Maraga on Monday raised concern over the high number of poor people who are arrested and jailed, compared to rich offenders.

Mr Maraga said the number of poor in conflict with the law was “alarmingly disproportionate to that of the well-to-do.”

He added that many of the poor offenders find themselves in trouble for fairly minor offences such as lack of business licences, being drunk and disorderly and creating disturbances.

The CJ also lamented that there was a disturbingly low rate of successful prosecution of serious offences with, for example, only five per cent of sexual offences attracting a guilty verdict while offences such as organised crime and capital offences have the highest rate of acquittals and withdrawals.

“This obviously means that along the way, freedom is procured at the expense of justice. This is something that controverts the very essence of our existence as the custodians of justice,” he said.

Mr Maraga was speaking when he launched the Committee on Criminal Justice Reforms at the Supreme Court on Monday.

The National Committee on the Administration of Justice will, among other duties, review the sector and give recommendations that will drive the necessary reforms in the criminal justice system.

JUSTICE SYSTEM

The committee, chaired by High Court Judge Grace Ngenye has members from state and non-state actors. It has members from the Judiciary, police, the prosecution, prisons, the probation and the Children’s Department.

Justice Maraga noted the entire justice system has systemic, structural and agency challenges requiring urgent attention.

Present during the occasion were DCJ Philomena Mwilu, Attorney-General Githu Muigai, Council of Governors vice-chair Anne Waiguru and judges, among other guests.

Mr Maraga said the existing legal framework is not sensitive to the needs of the youth and that was why many young people find themselves in conflict with the law in their bid to socialise and earn a living.

He said 75 per cent of pre-trial detainees in the prisons are between the ages of 18 and 35 years.

The CJ said that a study by the Judiciary revealed that more children are remanded in prisons than in Children’s Remand Homes, and that their cases take inordinately longer periods to resolve than is allowable in the law.

“On the other hand, conditions of detention were found to be inappropriate or unfavourable for special interest groups such as persons living with disabilities, expectant and nursing mothers, people with terminal diseases, elderly persons, intersex people and others,” he said.

The Supreme Court president said the committee will assist in aligning the criminal justice system with new thinking that is influencing the sector in many other jurisdictions around the world.

Prof Muigai promised to draft necessary laws and amendments. The committee is expected to present its report by December.


Bank of Ghana sees more stable cedi in 2018 on lower inflation

* Aims for depreciation of less than 4.8 percent

* Ghana in its last year of IMF credit programme

By Kwasi Kpodo

ACCRA, Jan 15 (Reuters) – Ghana’s cedi will be more stable in 2018 than last year, helped by lower inflation outlook and higher oil production, the central bank said on Monday.

The currency of the major commodity exporter declined 4.88 percent to the dollar in 2017, its best performance in five years, compared to a 9.6 percent slip in 2016, according to Bank of Ghana interbank reference rate.

Ghana is in the last year of a $918 million International Monetary Fund deal signed in 2015 to rebalance state finances and stabilise the cedi, which plunged 31 percent in 2014.

Steve Opata, head of financial markets at Bank of Ghana, told Reuters that, with monetary, fiscal and inflation indicators all heading in the right direction, the 2018 objective was to have a year-end decline of less than 4.8 percent.

The objective was also to foster broadbased economic growth partly through an easing of interest rates, he added.

Ghana’s current account deficit narrowed to 4.6 percent last year from 6.6 percent in 2016 while its trade balance recorded a surplus of 2.3 percent in 2017, compared to a 4.2 percent deficit. The surplus was driven mainly by oil exports.

The West African country, which began pumping oil from its offshore Jubilee reserves in late 2010, is set to nearly double national output to 200,000 barrels daily as additional fields come on stream this year.

Opata said Ghana was on course to achieve its medium-term inflation target of 6-10 percent by the end of June. Consumer inflation stood at 11.8 percent in December, slightly above a target of 11.2 percent.

The IMF said it was upbeat about Ghana’s economy for 2018, provided the government continued fiscal consolidation and expanded domestic revenue collection.

“In general, we are optimistic in terms of economic growth, monetary policy and a more stable exchange rate supported by a declining current account deficit,” its Ghana chief Natalia Koliadina said.

There could be an IMF staff assessment mission in Accra at the end of February, she added. (Reporting by Kwasi Kpodo; editing by John Stonestreet)


Two dressed as nuns steal Sh3.5m from Nairobi forex bureau

By STELLA CHERONO
More by this Author

Two robbers disguised as nuns on Sunday raided a forex bureau in Karen, Nairobi, and stole money amounting to Sh3.5 million in different currencies.

Police said one of the robbers entered the forex bureau before an attendant handed the suspect the money in 15 different currencies.

The robber then got out and left on a motorcycle.

Karen police boss Cunnigham Suiyanka believes the robber is a woman.

“We have arrested the attendant of the forex because we highly suspect that he may have colluded with them,” Mr Suiyanka said, adding that they were investigating the matter.

An officer privy to the investigations said the forex bureau attendant had told police the suspect pretended that she wanted to change US dollars to shillings.

“He says that when the ‘nun’ sprayed on his face a substance that rendered him unconscious before making away with the money.

His story is, however, not adding up because the video we watched showed him voluntarily handing over the money without a struggle,” the officer said.

The CCTV footage, which is now with the Directorate of Criminal Investigations in Karen, shows the ‘nun’ and another woman walk into the bureau.

They then press the button and the attendant opens the door. They then walk in and load money into bags.

In less than a minute, the two had accomplished their mission and walked out of the bureau with the money in the bags.

Two security guards who were manning the premises told police they could not tell a robbery was taking place inside since there was no commotion.


Sonko moves to block Sh60bn payout

By MAUREEN KAKAH
More by this Author
By MOHAMED AHMED
More by this Author

The Nairobi county government has gone to court to stop all payments to its creditors amounting to about Sh60 billion.

In case documents filed on Monday, Governor Mike Sonko argued his office has huge amounts of accrued debts from previous administrations and which cannot be settled owing to laws governing appropriation of funds before use.

While blaming former Governor Evans Kidero’s tenure and the defunct Nairobi City Council for incurring the huge debts which have accrued interests, Mr Sonko noted that his administration had not been well furnished with the status of payment of the pending decrees.

Through lawyer Elias Mutuma, the governor said various creditors had sought to attach the county property.

He added that the creditors had also sought arrest warrants against some county officials yet his office is the custodian of public property.

“The county is caught up in a situation where it is not able to take appropriate legal action in the interest of the public and prudent use of public resources for lack of express powers to do so,” said Mr Mutuma.

While promising that the county intended to settle the debts amounting to Sh57,694,204,678 in six months, he said there was a need to conduct an internal audit to protect public property.

“The Nairobi county government is experiencing financial constraints that have made it difficult for it to meet its monthly obligations as well as settle debts by its predecessors and particularly the decretal sums issued,” said Mr Mutuma.

He noted that there were several warrants of arrest issued against county officials, which had consequently affected the functioning of the county government.

The county chief finance officer and acting county secretary are some of the officials who arrest warrants have been issued against.

Mr Mutuma added that there was also a risk of making double payments if proper verification is not done.

At the same time, Mr Sonko said yesterday he had no regrets over his deputy Polycarp Igathe’s decision to resign.

CITY RESIDENTS

He said he was ready to work alone to deliver services for city residents.

Speaking after opening Nairobi MCAs Sectoral Committee on Water and Sanitation workshop at Pride Inn Hotel in Mombasa, Mr Sonko said would work with other elected leaders and professionals to serve city residents.

“I have professors with me and other elected leaders around. I have also been a senator, a Member of Parliament and God is there. Work will continue. We will serve our people and ensure they get what we promised them,” he said.

Asked if he was ready to reconcile with his deputy, Mr Sonko said he would “consult” Nairobi residents and his party.

“What dialogue? Those are issues that I cannot address here. They concern the people of Nairobi and I will talk about them when I get there. I cannot decide now,” he said.


Raila role headache derails unity talks

By IBRAHIM ORUKO
More by this Author
By BERNARD NAMUNANE
More by this Author

Foreign diplomats pushing for dialogue between the National Super Alliance and President Uhuru Kenyatta want the public to determine the role opposition leaders Raila Odinga and Kalonzo Musyoka should play in the aftermath of the elections.

It emerged on Monday that lobbying, spearheaded by the US, UK and Germany and the clergy is not aimed at the ultimate formation of a government of national unity, an idea repulsive to the Jubilee Party.

Diplomatic sources revealed that they were yet to propose any particular roles for Mr Odinga and Mr Musyoka — who claim to have won the August 8, 2017 elections — in the talks they have so far held with them.

“There are no particular roles suggested for Raila and Kalonzo. An agreement on their future should be spearheaded by Kenyans themselves,” said the source.

On Monday, Mr Odinga confirmed that the diplomats, who he met alone on Friday at his Capitol Hill office in Upper Hill, Nairobi, with his co-principals Mr Musyoka (Wiper), Mr Musalia Mudavadi (ANC) and Moses Wetang’ula (Ford-K), have not suggested any position for him in the current set-up.

Instead, he said US ambassador Robert Godec was pushing for talks between the two political sides over electoral reforms.

“They have not gone to the details of what it should be. They only talk of bringing on board more stakeholders. But I have stated that they are interfering in what is basically a Kenyan affair which should be left to Kenyans to solve,” he said on the telephone.

Last week, Mr Godec said the US is not particularly pushing for any rewards or position for politicians but dialogue that will bring all Kenyans on board.

“The US continues to be committed to a national conversation involving all Kenyans to build national unity, address long-standing issues and  resolve divisions exacerbated by 2017 elections,” he said in a statement.

Earlier, some allies of Mr Odinga claimed that the US was pushing to have Mr Odinga elevated to a statesman as part of efforts to end the political standoff. The plan, they claimed, was to elevate the position to that of hierarchy of the … State, complete with the trappings of state power.

The US wants the position to come with an office, a motorcade, staff and a commensurate package that will allow Mr Odinga to travel the world promoting Kenya’s image and giving talks on democracy, one of them told the Nation.

The allies said part of the package would be a retirement deal commensurate with Mr Odinga’s long career in the public service and a further promise to support his push for reforms.

However, the former prime minister is said to have rejected the proposals, saying they do not represent the interests of Kenyans yearning for electoral justice.

A source in Nasa said Mr Odinga also rejected the proposal because it does not take care of the interests of the larger Nasa family.

“Assuming I accept, what will I do with my colleagues in Nasa?” Mr Odinga is reported to have asked the ambassador when the proposal was made.

On Monday, Mr Odinga who is walking through a tricky path with his plans to be sworn in as the people’s president told the diplomats to keep off.

“They cannot come to tell us who should be this and that. We are talking about a stolen election and our aim is reforms to bring about electoral justice. We have never talked anything about that,” he said.

Nasa leaders have set January 30 as the deadline for talks with Jubilee party, failure to which Mr Odinga will be sworn in as the people’s president and Mr Musyoka as his deputy.

ELECTORAL INJUSTICE

The talks should revolve around electoral justice, reorganisation of the country’s governance structure, particularly the Executive and the Legislature, strengthening the Judiciary and devolution and security reforms.

The US is opposed to illegal actions by politicians but has pledged to support efforts towards dialogue. Though it doesn’t say it openly, Washington may mean it is opposed to issues demanded by Nasa to have elections repeated or the plan to swear in Mr Odinga.

Another diplomatic source expressed concern that the lobbying had not gathered momentum and that Jubilee had decided to wait for Nasa’s enthusiasm to fizzle out.

“Both sides have not made movement towards dialogue yet. Jubilee believes demands for electoral reform can be addressed progressively … as focusing on it now will slow down momentum of government to implement its promises. Nasa wants principals to meet with Uhuru first and agree on agenda … which must include electoral reforms,” said the source.

The source said foreign diplomats were of the view that the opposition coalition has been pushing itself into tight corners, citing the refusal to take part in the repeat elections of October 26 last year. “Now Jubilee believes there won’t be good faith from opposition even in dialogue,” he said.

Jubilee secretary-general Raphael Tuju has dismissed calls for dialogue, arguing that there is no legal framework nor a constitutional reference for talks after one side in an election contest has been declared victor. He argues that Nasa leaders are seeking relevance after they lost.

“What is the legal basis or the constitutional reference for these talks? There is none, and what these people are trying is to be relevant after losing,” he said on the phone. He wondered if Nasa would have invited Jubilee for talks had they won. “If they had won the elections, would they have invited us for dialogue?”

He also accused foreign diplomats of trying to get President Kenyatta to hold talks with a rival he defeated.

In the past two weeks, Mr Godec has met Nasa parliamentary leadership led by Mr Wetang’ula, who is the senate minority leader and his counterpart in the National Assembly,

Mr John Mbadi. He has also met the Senate Speaker Kenneth Lusaka and majority leader in the National Assembly Aden Duale.

Nasa has refused to recognise Mr Kenyatta as the elected President, saying he was a product of a flawed electoral process, which Mr Odinga and Mr Musyoka boycotted, accusing the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission of “stonewalling” deliberations to have a credible repeat elections.