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‘Africa will not succumb to gay rights pressure’, AU chairman tells European Union

“African countries will not want to be lectured on governance and human rights.”

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African leaders ready to sign AfCTA
Chairman of the African Union Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat. /AFP

Chairman of the African Union Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat on Thursday told the European Union leaders that the continent will not succumb to pressure for the recognition of gay rights in various countries.

Mahamat at a press conference kicking off a meeting between AU and EU leaders highlighted “differences” over topics like international justice and gay rights at a meeting with the European Union intended to deepen the partnership between their continents.

“Certainly, we have our differences. International criminal justice, sexual orientation and identity, the death penalty, the centrality of the African Union in certain crises, etcetera,” Mahamat said.

Calling these differences “normal”, Faki said they could be overcome only with “recognition and acceptance”, an AFP report quoted him as saying.

Thursday’s talks mark the second visit by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen to AU headquarters in less than three months. 

In December she chose to visit the AU on her first trip outside Europe after taking her post, a decision she said at the time was intended to send a “strong political message” about Europe’s partnership with Africa.

Von der Leyen is in the process of preparing a new “Africa Strategy” for the EU, due to be unveiled in early March. 

In her own remarks Thursday, she said the two continents were “natural partners” and stressed areas of cooperation like trade and the fight against climate change.

Later at a press conference she said she believed the two blocs could work through the disagreements Faki had pointed out.

“This is what the essence of a good partnership and a good friendship is. You build on a solid foundation with common projects you can work on, and you’re able to mark very clearly where differences are,” she said. “We try to convince but we acknowledge that there are different positions.”

“We should not follow the notion of expecting the African Union to adapt to the European Union,” she added. 

The majority of African countries criminalise same-sex sexual acts.

Various African countries have resisted efforts to try African leaders at the International Criminal Court in The Hague. In 2017, Burundi became the first country to pull out of the court altogether. 

Europe will try to use Thursday’s talks to promote trade and economic cooperation in response to “the flood of Chinese investment in the continent”, said Mikaela Gavas, senior policy fellow at the Center for Global Development, an international non-profit foundation.

But the question of human rights remains a major potential barrier to deeper cooperation, Gavas said.

“African countries will not want to be lectured on governance and human rights,” she said. 

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Nigerian Telecos Submit 43 Million National Identity Numbers for Verification

It was also gathered that so far that the NIMC has been able to provide about 45 million NINs, as it was able to register about two million people in the last one month after the Federal Government ordered citizens to register their SIMs with valid NINs.

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About 43 million National Identity Numbers (NIN) in Nigeria have been submitted by telecommunication companies to the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) for verification in order to have them registered with their respective Subscriber Identification Modules (SIM).

Also, as the deadline for telephone subscribers with NINs to register their SIMs with the identity numbers elapsed today, operators have said that SIMs with unlinked submitted NINs will not be blocked.

It was also gathered that so far that the NIMC has been able to provide about 45 million NINs, as it was able to register about two million people in the last one month after the Federal Government ordered citizens to register their SIMs with valid NINs.

On December 15, 2020, the Federal Government declared that after December 30, 2020, all SIMs that were not registered with valid NINs on the network of telecommunications companies would be blocked.

It extended the December 30, 2020 deadline following widespread opposition against the earlier announcement and gave three weeks’ extension for subscribers with NIN from December 30, 2020 to January 19, 2021.

It also gave six weeks’ extension for subscribers without NIN from December 30, 2020 to February 9, 2021, however, many organisations have called for further deadline extension or outright suspension of the NIN registration process due to the large crowds who had yet to have their NINs.

Although the NIMC refused to speak on the matter after several calls and messages were sent to senior officials of the commission on the subject, operators in the telecommunications sector told confirmed that about 43 million NINs had been submitted to the agency for verification.

Speaking on behalf of the firms, the Chairman, Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria, Gbenga Adebayo, said the NINs were sent to NIMC for verification in order to ensure that the numbers were harmonised with their respective SIMs.

He said, “I don’t have the number of SIM cards that have been linked but at the last count, NIMC told us that they have about 43 million Nigerians who have NINs.

When asked if the government would block the SIMs of subscribers who could not have their SIMs registered despite submitting their NINs to their service providers, Adebayo said such SIMs would not be blocked.

He said “this is because as far as you are concerned as a subscriber, you have uploaded that number to your operator and forwarded to NIMC.

However, the Director-General, NIMC, Aliya Aziz, as well as the spokesperson for the commission, Kayode Adegoke, did not pick several calls to their lines nor did they reply messages sent to them on the matter.

Also, when contacted on whether there would be an extension of the January 19 deadline, the media aide to the communications minister, Uwa Suleiman, affirmed negatively.

However, She stated that if there was such information, the communications ministry or any of its relevant agencies will publicise it.

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Kenyans in Diaspora Make Sh329.41 billion Remittances Despite Pandemic

Kenyans living abroad made an average Sh6.33 billion weekly remittances in spite of 2020 economic lows induced by the pandemic.

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Latest data from the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) show that diaspora remittances 2020 rose 10.7% hitting Sh329.41 billion from Sh285.23 billion that was sent home the year before.

In a statement, CBK governor Patrick Njoroge said “Remittance inflows were strongly buoyant in 2020 despite the devastation by Covid-19 in the source countries,”  

“This remarkable growth of remittances has been supported by financial innovations that provided Kenyans in the diaspora more convenient channels for their transactions.”

This, in spite of coronavirus-induced disruption, the share of remittances in the country’s foreign exchange receipts show that about Sh6.33 billion was sent home every week.   The total remittances were 9.56 percent higher than the maximum of Sh300.67 billion ($2.824 billion) that Dr. Njoroge had projected in mid-2020.

The CBK projected a 12 percent fall in remittances to Sh232.2 billion due to job cuts and global economic disruptions.  

Owing to a strong recovery in June, the apex bank revised this to a growth of just one percent. The strong performance came after remittances in December hit Sh32.91 billion. This is the highest to have ever been sent home in a single month.

December is historically a strong month for remittances when Kenyans abroad send home Christmas presents, rent to support families and school fees payments.

The United states with an estimated 90,000 Kenyans is the largest country in terms of remittances. However, the country has emerged as a global hotspot for Covid-19 infections and also experienced turmoil in its recently concluded national polls.

Inflows from Germany, the United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar also make up a significant component.

These remittances improved with gradual recoveries of major economies abroad. Also the various methods of sending cash and mobile money transfers helped in this regard.  

Remittances to Kenya also defied the World Bank projection of about 20 percent expected to hit combined remittances across the world due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Kenya currently comes tops in diaspora remittances among East African countries. The amount the country receives is the single largest source of foreign currency ahead of major cash crops and tourism.

Since 2015 when it surpassed earnings from tea exports, foreign remittances have been Kenya’s largest source of foreign exchange. Other significant sources of foreign exchange include receipts from the hospitality as well as horticulture and coffee exports.

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ANC to suspend Carl Niehaus for ‘attacking’ senior party leaders

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Umkhonto we Sizwe Military Veterans Association (MKMVA) spokesperson Carl Niehaus has declined to comment on the ANC’s intention to place him on suspension after he attacked ANC deputy secretary-general Jessie Duarte in a recent statement.

“I do not comment on leaked letters,” Niehaus said on Tuesday morning when asked to comment on the letter sent to him informing him of the intention to place him on suspension.

When pressed further on the knowledge of the letter, he said: “Stop it. I am not commenting.”

In the letter addressed to Niehaus and dated January 19, ANC general manager Febe Potgieter-Gqubule reminds him he has been employed in the secretary-general’s office since March 2019 to give direct support to the work of the secretary-general.

She wrote: “You have been advised, on more than one occasion, that your public statements and social media posts are unbecoming of someone working in this high office, which has the primary responsibility of driving and co-ordinating the work of all structures of the ANC. You also received a written warning to this effect on October 12 2019.

The notice to suspend Niehaus from the ANC comes less than a week after he had accused Duarte of publicly bashing him in the media.

“I am saddened that even the Deputy Secretary General of the ANC, comrade Jessie Duarte, saw it fit to attack me, and undermine my long history as a 42-year veteran of the ANC in good standing, as well as my elected position as an NEC member of MKMVA, and MKMVA National Spokesperson. This she did, knowing that when she was doing so, I was gravely ill. It was unnecessary and callous – I am deeply saddened by it,” Niehaus said.

It is not yet clear what exactly Niehaus is referring to, however some of his part remarks, many made in defence of Magashule, of which he is a fierce supporter, have prompted Duarte to condemn him on several occasions.

Potgieter-Gqubule said Niehaus’ comments on Duarte were in violation of the ANC Personnel Policy Manual. Niehaus has now been given 48 hours to explain why he should not be suspended on full pay, pending the institution of disciplinary action against him for misconduct

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