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In Western Sahara, desert nomads are rearing an age-long passion for camel herding4 minutes read

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In Western Sahara, desert nomads are rearing an age-long passion for camel herding
A camel herder guides his flock in the desert near Dakhla in Morocco-administered Western Sahara on October 13, 2019. (Photo by FADEL SENNA / AFP)

In the Oued Eddahab desert in Western Sahara, Habiboullah Dlimi raises dairy and racing camels just like his ancestors used to — but with a little help from modern technology.

His animals roam free in the desert and are milked as camels always have been, by hand, at dawn and dusk.

When camels “feed on wild plants and walk all day, the milk is much better,” said the 59-year-old herder, rhapsodising about the benefits of the nutrient-rich drink, known as the “source of life” for nomads.

But Dlimi no longer lives with his flock. 

He lives in town with his family. His camels are watched over by hired herders and Dlimi follows GPS coordinates across the desert in a 4X4 vehicle to reach them. 

He is reticent when asked about the size of his herd. “That would bring bad luck,” he said. 

He prefers to speak of the gentleness and friendliness of the animals he knows like his own children. 

“Camels can endure everything: sun, wind, sand and lack of water, and if they could talk, you’d easily hear how intelligent they are,” he said.

‘Tribes are tribes’ –

Dlimi comes from a long line of desert dwellers from the Ouled Dlimi tribe. 

As tradition dictates, he lists his ancestors going back five generations when introducing himself. 

“I know the desert and the desert knows me,” he said.

Camel herding in Western Sahara a passion with pedigree
A camel herder provides his animals with water, in the desert near Dakhla in Morocco-administered Western Sahara on October 13, 2019. (Photo by FADEL SENNA / AFP)

Like elsewhere, the nomads of Western Sahara are settling, following a shift from rural to urban living.

“Young people prefer to stay in town,” Dlimi said, and herders now mostly come from neighbouring Mauritania, whose desert north is traversed by caravans of up to a thousand camels.

Even they “often demand to work in areas covered by (mobile phone) network signal,” he added.

The population of the nearby town of Dakhla has tripled to 100,000 in 20 years, with growth driven by fishing, tourism and greenhouse farming encouraged by Morocco.

In this part of Western Sahara, development projects depend entirely on Rabat. 

Morocco has controlled 80 per cent of the former Spanish colony since the 1970s and wants to maintain it as an autonomous territory under its sovereignty. 

The Polisario Front movement fought a war for independence from 1975 to 1991 and wants a referendum in which the people of Western Sahara choose between independence and integration with Morocco.

The United Nations has been trying to negotiate a political compromise for decades. 

Read: Struggling Moroccan fishermen turn to aquaculture for revenue

Like many in his tribe, Dlimi has family members on the other side of the Western Sahara Wall separating the Moroccan controlled areas from the Polisario controlled areas. 

He favours loyalty to Morocco while others back independence, he said.

Tribal affiliation trumps politics, though. 

“Tribes are tribes, it’s a social organisation,” he said. “There are very strong links between us.”

To “preserve the past for the future,” Dlimi started a cultural association to conserve traditions from a time when there were no borders and “families followed the herds and the clouds”.

‘Eight-time champion’ –

While Dlimi loves the desert, he does have one complaint: “The camel dairy industry is valued everywhere in the world except here.”

Camel milk is trendy with health-conscious consumers and the lean meat is excellent, Dlimi claims.

Today though, it is small livestock farming that is the main agricultural focus, in response to what non-nomadic Moroccans tend to eat.

Camel herding in Western Sahara a passion with pedigree
Camel calves play among a herd in the desert near Dakhla in Morocco-administered Western Sahara, on October 13, 2019. (Photo by FADEL SENNA / AFP)

The 266,000 square kilometres (106,400 square miles) of Western Sahara under Moroccan control hosts some 6,000 herders, 105,000 camels, and 560,000 sheep and goats, according to figures from Rabat.

In other arid countries, including Saudi Arabia, intensive farming of camels has taken off. 

But, while Moroccan authorities have undertaken several studies into developing Western Sahara’s camel industry, these have not so far been acted upon.

Regardless, a local adage holds that he who has no camel, has nothing.

“Some say that Saharans are crazy because when they have money they spend it on four feet,” Dlimi jokes. 

For him, 20,000 dirhams ($2,000) spent on a camel is a safe investment.

But it is also a consuming passion. 

His Facebook page and WhatsApp messages are filled with talk of camel husbandry techniques, research and racing. 

Racing “is a pleasure and it pays”, Dlimi said. 

Since the United Arab Emirates funded construction of a camel racing track at Tantan, 900 kilometres (560 miles) to the north, racing animals have appreciated in value and can sell for up to 120,000 dirhams, according to Dlimi.

To train his racing camels, Dlimi chases the young animals across the desert in his 4X4. 

The technique has made him an eight-time champion in national competitions, he said.

But camels can be stubborn, Dlimi stressed, telling of how he once sold his best champion for a “very good price”, but the animal refused to race once it had changed hands.

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EAC intra-trade to grow by implementing joint policies

Work permit restrictions have been relaxed and professionals and companies are able to expand across the regional bloc

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EAC intra-trade to grow by implementing joint policies
Photo credit: Twitter / CCCC

Intra-trade between partner states of the East African Community is projected to grow between five to eight per cent annually if the countries fully implement joint policies and regulations, exploit individual competitive edge, and eliminate non-trade barriers.

While speaking at the bloc’s 20th anniversary, the chairman of the East African Business Council, Nicholas Nesbitt, said East Africans, especially private sector players, need to reflect on how far they have lived up to the ethos of regional integration.

Nesbitt said; “the private sector should be a key partner in the integration process, providing the agenda for economic and social integration. Most importantly, the region should look to becoming a single trading bloc.”

He added that both the partner states and private sector should accelerate the domestication and implementation of harmonised policies.

The EABC chairman further commended the progress made so far in the cross-border trades and easy migration, stating that it is now easier to access cross border markets.

However, he said intra-EAC trade volumes have not reached the desired levels, at just 12 per cent.

Nesbitt said the EAC is yet to exploit the power of numbers to create more jobs and income opportunities that will improve the purchasing power of citizens, thereby spurring further economic growth.

He recommended value chain collaboration between manufacturers to exploit each country’s competitive advantage.

Work permit restrictions have been relaxed and professionals and companies are able to expand and establish their customer base across the regional bloc.

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DR Congo rainforest attacked on all sides

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DR Congo rainforest attacked on all sides
A bicycle carrier cycles with a load of about 300 kilograms of charcoal to sell in Goma, northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo(Photo by ALEXIS HUGUET / AFP)

Lush rainforest covers millions of hectares of the Democratic Republic of Congo, a central part of Earth’s natural defence against global warming — but it is under severe threat from a perfect storm of mismanagement.

An array of global and local NGOs are in a tense fight to save the rainforest, which lost an area twice the size of Luxembourg last year alone, according to Global Forest Watch.

But the problems run right through DR Congo society — from the poor who rely on charcoal for fuel in a country with meagre supplies of other power, to the senior officials who profit from illegal logging.

“There are lawmakers and soldiers involved. They don’t pay taxes — it’s unfair competition,” says Felicien Liofo, head of a wood craftsmen’s association.

Local police say soldiers simply rip apart the fences around the forest and threaten to shoot anyone who tries to stop them.

– NGOs fight back 

The government faces a daunting challenge to protect the rainforest. 

Its 2002 forestry code imposed a moratorium on new concessions and regulated the number of trees that could be chopped down under existing permits, but officials complain of a lack of resources.

Felicien Malu, a provincial environment coordinator, has roughly 1,200 workers to cover a province twice the size of Portugal.

DR Congo rainforest attacked on all sides
Joseph Bisole, 27, a former child soldier in the armed forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo, manufactures charcoal as part of the WWF (World Wildlife Fund) Ecomakala project to reduce illegal charcoal production, in Burungu, northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo, on September 28, 2019. (Photo by ALEXIS HUGUET / AFP)

But his staff, he says, are not paid and lack even the basic tools of their trade — boats, motorcycles or pickup trucks. 

“We can’t organise control missions because there are many rivers to cross and unpaved roads,” he says.

His predecessor in the job was suspended for embezzlement, underlining how corruption feeds the problem of deforestation.

NGOs have launched a multi-pronged attack against the plunder.

Greenpeace Africa and a coalition of eight NGOs from DRC and neighbouring Congo-Brazzaville have demanded a halt to all industrial activities in the millions of hectares of peatland shared by the two countries.

DR Congo rainforest attacked on all sides
Two beneficiaries of a WWF (World Wildlife Fund) pilot project to produce domestic bio gas to combat illegal charcoal production look at their new gas cooker in their home in Sake, northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo, on September 28, 2019. (Photo by ALEXIS HUGUET / AFP)

The ancient wetlands store huge amounts of carbon, but companies are involved in oil exploration, logging and industrial agriculture in the area.

Global Witness investigated the illegal logging trade and earlier this year accused a general in the Congolese army of illegally reselling logging permits.

However, electricity in DRC is a rare luxury, meaning that most Congolese still rely on charcoal as their main fuel supply.

Making charcoal involves chopping down trees and slow-burning the wood in covered ovens — all of which comes at a steep price for the environment.

“I get through a $30 sackful every two months. That’s a fair chunk of what I earn,” says Solange Sekera while shopping at a market in the eastern city of Goma. “We have no other means of preparing meals.”

Our forests may disappear’ –

The charcoal trade — known locally as Makala — is worth millions of dollars and it is attracting armed groups to the Goma area, threatening Virunga natural park, a sanctuary for endangered mountain gorillas. 

More than 2,000 kilometres (1,200 miles) to the west, the reliance on charcoal in Kinshasa is also causing severe problems.

Kinshasa residents consume five million tonnes of wood a year, according to French research group Cirad, and increasing urbanisation is just raising the pressure on the forests.

On the hillsides around the capital, there are scarcely any trees left.

NGOs and the government are once again trying to respond.

The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) is trying to minimise the impact of charcoal burning by introducing “eco makala” ovens that burn the fuel more efficiently and so use less wood.

DR Congo rainforest attacked on all sides
WWF (World Wildlife Fund) Ecomakala project managers visit a eucalyptus plantation partly intended to produce charcoal in northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo on September 28, 2019. (Photo by ALEXIS HUGUET / AFP)

And President Felix Tshisekedi is trying to boost electricity across the country to reduce demand for wood-based fuel.

He has championed hydroelectric power — and ground was broken in early October on a new dam in Goma.

NGOs and locals are not convinced of the viability of the project, but Tshisekedi is adamant: “Given the current rate of population growth and our energy needs, our forests may disappear by the year 2100,” he says.

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Buhari nominates new tax chief as dwindling revenues hit Nigeria

Nami’s nomination is subject to the confirmation of the Nigerian Senate which would screen and confirm the nominee

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Buhari nominates new tax chief as dwindling revenues hit Nigeria
Muhammad Nami. Photo credit: TheCable

Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari on Monday shocked many citizens especially the business community with his nomination of Muhammad Nami for the chairmanship of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), the country’s second major cash cow.

Buhari nominated Nami as the new Chairman of the FIRS thereby putting an end to the tenure of Babatunde Fowler, a close ally of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and ruling party leader, Bola Tinubu who many in the business community had thought would naturally be rewarded with a second term due to his close affinity to powerful politicians and businessmen.

Fowler was qualified and had been optimistic that with the gradual increase in collection of revenues in the past year, he deserved a reappointment despite an initial presidency query which subtly showed President Buhari was unhappy with the drop in previous yearly revenue collections.

Nami’s nomination is subject to the confirmation of the Nigerian Senate which would screen and confirm the nominee upon receipt of an executive communication from the presidency.

Monday’s presidency statement described the nominated tax chief as “a well-trained tax, accounting and management professional with highly rated qualifications and professional practice and licenses from relevant professional bodies.”

Nami has about three decades of practical work experience in auditing, tax management and advisory services to clients in the banking, manufacturing, services and public sectors as well as non-profit organisations, the statement said.

President Buhari also approved the composition of the board of FIRS which comprise of a member representing each of Nigeria’s six geographical zones and statutory representatives from a select number of ministries and government agencies.

Fowler, whose term of office expired same day of the announcement was asked “to hand over to the most senior director on the board, who will take charge, pending the Senate confirmation of the new board.” Shehu said.

Fowler’s sack and political intrigues –

Buhari nominates new tax chief as dwindling revenues hit Nigeria
Former Chairman of Nigeria’s Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), Babatunde Fowler in an undated photo/Wikipedia.

Fowler had been nominated by President Buhari in 2015 and his confirmation by the Senate elicited favourable reactions within the business community which is largely based in Nigeria’s south with a larger presence in the commercial city of Lagos.

He had previously been in charge of the local tax authority in Lagos state and was a member of one of the most powerful political family in the southern part of Nigeria led by Bola Tinubu, who has been Buhari’s ally since 2013 after entering an alliance of smaller parties that fused to become the All Progressives Congress (APC). The party would then go on to form a North-South alliance that later defeated then ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) at the centre in 2015.

The Tinubu political family had nominated Yemi Osinbajo, a Professor of Law as Buhari’s Vice Presidential candidate and when the APC won, several offices were shared to the bloc including that of Fowler who naturally got nominated because of his closeness to Tinubu and Osinbajo who have governed Lagos for years.

But trouble started for the former tax chief midway into his four-year tenure when allegations of sharp practices hit the FIRS and reduction in Nigeria’s tax receipts led to an outcry even from the presidency.

A presidency query on August 8th this year signed by Buhari’s Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari had demanded explanations from the FIRS boss over discrepancies in tax revenue remittances between 2015 and 2018 compared to that between 2012 and 2014.

Fowler in his reply attributed the declining performance of the FIRS between 2015 and 2018, to the low earnings from crude oil and the recession, which hit the Nigerian economy in the second quarter of 2016. He also said while the FIRS management has control of non-oil revenue collection figures, oil revenue collection figures were subject to more external forces.

The former FIRS boss had in the August 19 reply disclosed that the total actual collection for the said period under the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan was N14.527.85 trillion, while total actual collection between 2016 and 2018 under Buhari’s administration was N12.656.30 trillion.

Highlights of the data presented in the letter showed that during the period 2012 to 2014, out of the N14.527.85 trillion, oil revenue accounted for N8.321.64 trillion or 57.28 per cent, while non-oil accounted for N6.206.22 trillion or 42.72 per cent.

Similarly, during the latter period of 2016 to 2018, out of the N12.656.30 trillion, oil revenue accounted for N5.145.87 trillion or 40.65 per cent and non-oil revenue accounted N7.510.42 trillion or 59.35 per cent.

In his concluding reply, Fowler had told the Presidency that notwithstanding the increase, FIRS had in line with the Nigerian government’s revenue base diversification strategy, grown the non-oil tax collection by over N1.304 trillion (21 per cent) when the total non-oil tax collection for 2016 – 2018 is compared to that of 2012 – 2014.

He remained optimistic that the current strategies and initiatives “adopted by FIRS will improve revenue collections and meet the expectations of government in the coming months,” Fowler said.

But Fowler’s explanation seemed not to have hit the right notes in Aso Rock as President Buhari came out smoking on October 1, where in his Independence day speech he warned of huge consequences for revenue generation agencies that were falling short in their targets and remittances.

“Our revenue-generating and reporting agencies will come under much greater scrutiny, going forward, as the new performance management framework will reward exceptional revenue performance, while severe consequences will attend failures to achieve agreed revenue targets,” Buhari had said.

With such a warning coming six weeks after Fowler had replied the Presidency query, it was all too clear that he was the target of Buhari’s independence day broadcast.

But Fowler did not go to sleep as he unleashed his political machinery and friends within business circles close to the presidency to assuage Kyari and other known powerbrokers in Aso Rock. But as he was doing this, his traducers also stepped up their accusations by sponsoring protests against him including a lawsuit by a legal practitioner, Stanley Okwara which accused the FIRS boss of “overstaying his tenure.” The courts later threw the case out for lack of a locus standi.

Nigerians react to non-renewal of Fowler’s term –

Buhari nominates new tax chief as dwindling revenues hit Nigeria
FIRS headquarters building in the Wuse Zone 5 district of Abuja, Nigeria/Nbcc.org

Many Nigerians in their reactions to the non-renewal of Fowler’s tenure at the FIRS said it was not surprising as Buhari had once more shown his tendency to promote sectional interests in his government.

They wondered why Buhari had refused to renew the tenure of a southerner and replaced him with a northerner if the decision was not politically motivated and meant to quash the 2023 presidential ambition of people like Tinubu.

Others who supported Buhari’s action see it as the right step “to prevent an abuse of the FIRS by Tinubu’s boys ahead of 2023 presidential election,” one analyst said.

A known critic of the Buhari administration, Olushola Olufolabi wrote on Twitter that “A FINANCIAL AND TAX ‘TODDLER’ WHOSE EXPOSURE IS JUST KADUNA AXIS, HAS BEEN NAMED TO REPLACE THIS PROVEN AND SEASONED FOWLER. WE KEEP BRINGING THE WORST OF US TO LEAD THE BEST OF US”……

But one of President Buhari’s supporters, Theresa Tekenah said: “Fowler’s tenure expired and Mr Nami was appointed. Is he competent? Yes! Why are youth here wailing and bringing ethnicity to this? Focus on the issues! Just stop!”

One critic blamed Fowler for his fall. Usman Okai Austin said the former FIRS boss did not tackle the allegations against him properly. He also rejected reports that Fowler was sacked. “Not true, his tenure expire and the president refused to denies it. Fowler is a bad accountant who don’t deserves second term in FIRS. Everything in FIRS under Fowler are being handle by consultants from Lagos and Lagos, while the real staffs trained are left idle.”

Former Minister and ardent Buhari critic, Femi Fani-Kayode also said Fowler’s sack was not surprising. “Finally Fowler of FIRS is out and, just as I predicted, he has been replaced by a northern Muslim. When will Tinubu and Osinbajo finally accept that they were outflanked, outmanoeuvred, fooled and scammed into betraying their own people by the Fulani cabal. More to come!”

Some supporters of the presidency said the change at the tax authority was necessary as Buhari’s commitment to rebuild Nigeria through massive infrastructure development in his second term can only happen if the country has more access to funds, especially from increased tax revenues to reduce constant foreign borrowing.

With the recent dismantling of many political positions previously held by politicians loyal to Tinubu and stripping of Vice President Osinbajo’s office of many powers he had previously exercised including the recent refusal of President Buhari to transmit powers to his deputy while on about three week’s vacation, as previously done, it remains to be seen how the presidency will tackle allegations of a proxy war with previously known allies and accusations of sectionalism through “pro-north” policies in a country known for its deep North-South political divide.

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