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Senate confirms Emefiele for second term as Nigeria’s Central Bank governor1 minute read

Emefiele introduced a multiple exchange rate regime to mask pressure on the naira and avoid a series of devaluations

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Nigeria's Central Bank Governor Godwin Emefiele speaks during the monthly Monetary Policy Committee meeting in Abuja, Nigeria May 22, 2018. REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde/File Photo

Nigeria’s Central Bank Governor Godwin Emefiele has been confirmed for a second five-year term in office on Thursday when he won a unanimous vote of support in the Senate, parliament’s upper house.

During his first term, Emefiele, who has backed a strong local currency, pumped billions of dollars into the foreign exchange market to support the value of the naira.

President Muhammadu Buhari, whose office favours a strong naira, nominated Emefiele for a second term in a letter to the Senate on May 9.

His term was due to expire this month.

“The nominee has performed credibly in his first tenure which resulted in the exit of the nation out of economic recession,” the Senate’s committee report said in recommending approval for Emefiele’s nomination, a Reuters report had said on Wednesday.

Emefiele also introduced a multiple exchange rate regime to try to mask pressure on the naira and avoid a series of devaluations, in a step that has kept liquidity tight in Africa’s biggest economy.

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East Africa Politics News

“I have not killed any Tutsis”, Rwandan genocide suspect Kabuga tells court

“Since 1994, Felicien Kabuga, known to have been the financier of Rwanda genocide, had with impunity stayed in Germany, Belgium, Congo-Kinshasa, Kenya, or Switzerland,” a French justice ministry statement said.

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A wanted poster with a photograph of Felicien Kabuga is displayed at the French Gendarmerie's Central Office for Combating Crimes Against Humanity, Genocides and War Crimes (OCLCH) in Paris on May 19, 2020. © Benoît Tessier, REUTERS

Arrested Rwandan genocide suspect Felicien Kabuga has told a French court that the international charges against him are lies, affirming his innocence at the resumed hearing on Wednesday.

Asked if he understood the charges made against him by a United Nations tribunal, Kabuga dismissed the chargesheet as full of “lies”.

“All of this is lies. I have not killed any Tutsis. I was working with them”, Kabuga told the court through an interpreter.

Kabuga, who was arrested near Paris earlier this month after more than two decades on the run, is accused of financing and arming the ethnic Hutu militia that slaughtered over 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus in 1994.

France has not disclosed when and how Kabuga who had a $5m US reward on his head, entered France.

“Since 1994, Felicien Kabuga, accused of being a financier of Rwandan genocide, had stayed in Germany, Belgium, Congo-Kinshasa, Kenya, or Switzerland,” a French justice ministry statement said.

His ability to hide to evade an international manhunt for more than 20 years has raised questions over whether he had accomplices in foreign countries.

“It is difficult to imagine he could have escaped into French territory without the help of accomplices in such places,” Patrick Baudoin of the International Federation for Human Rights said.

The International Federation for Human Rights has supported survivors in the prosecution of other Rwandan genocide suspects living in France.

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Health

Algeria insists on hydroxychloroquine for Covid-19 treatment

WHO said on Monday it had temporarily suspended clinical trials of hydroxychloroquine as a potential treatment for coronavirus.

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Algeria has disclosed plans to continue the use of hydroxychloroquine in tackling the coronavirus, despite the discouragement by the World Health Organization that has suspended clinical trials of such treatments following a study which showed that the drug caused more harm than good.

“We’ve treated thousands of cases with this medicine, very successfully so far,” said Mohamed Bekkat, a member of the scientific committee on the North African country’s Covid-19 outbreak. 

“We haven’t noted any undesirable reactions,” he said.

Bekkat, who is also head of the Order of Algerian Doctors, said the country had not registered any deaths caused by hydroxychloroquine.

“For confirmed cases, we use hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin. Then there is a whole protocol for serious cases,” a health ministry official said on Monday.

Bekkat’s comments came days after medical journal The Lancet published a study of nearly 100,000 coronavirus patients, showing no benefit in those treated with the drug, which is normally used against arthritis.

The study found that administering the medicine or, separately, the related anti-malarial chloroquine, actually increased Covid-19 patients’ risk of dying.

The World Health Organization said on Monday it had temporarily suspended clinical trials of hydroxychloroquine as a potential treatment for coronavirus, following the Lancet study.

Bekkat argued that the Lancet study had led to “confusion” as it “seems to concern serious cases in which hydroxychloroquine is of no help”.

“There is evidence that the use of chloroquine by some Arab and African countries has proven to be effective when used early,” he explained.  

Public figures including US President Donald Trump have backed the drug as a virus treatment, prompting governments to bulk buy — despite several studies showing it to be ineffective and even increasing COVID-19 hospital deaths.

Algeria’s coronavirus outbreak is one of the worst in Africa, with a total of 8,503 cases and 609 deaths officially recorded since February 25.

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Politics

Hunger, xenophobia threaten migrants during Covid-19 lockdown in South Africa

“Hunger has no colour, but unfortunately the government of South Africa has discriminated against us on the basis of our country of origin”, said Amir Sheikh, head of the African Diaspora Forum.

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Hundreds of illegal migrants from various African countries are gathered on the streets as they are evicted from the makeshift camp they are occupying around the Central Methodist Mission in Cape Town on March 1, 2020. (Photo by RODGER BOSCH / AFP)

The car approaches the gates of the small parish church, where an army of hands await.

The precious food is swiftly taken from the car boot and back seat and lined up in bags in the courtyard, rather like a military parade. It is time for the handout. 

In the eyes of the waiting women and children, there is relief: a gleam that comes from the prospect of having a full belly.

The scene, in the parish of Mayfair just outside the centre of Johannesburg, has become grimly familiar across South Africa’s largest city. 

Even as a strict lockdown to slow the coronavirus pandemic is eased, many foreigners living in this country have no work and are hungry.

South Africa is the continent’s second-largest economy and a magnet for millions of refugees and migrants from elsewhere.

But the vast majority of them depend on day-to-day work — and this informal source of income catastrophically dried up from one day to the next because of the lockdown. 

In a country considered by the World Bank to be the most unequal in the world, many of these luckless people now have nothing. 

“I see a lot of community members suffering because of this lockdown,” said Alfred Djang, a 50-year-old lawyer who left the Democratic Republic of Congo 19 years ago. 

Some had been working in shops, “they were selling things on street corners, but they are not allowed to do it anymore,” Djang said. 

“They don’t have permits so they need to beg for food here and there,” he added. 

– ‘Hunger has no colour’ –

Amir Sheikh, head of the African Diaspora Forum, said his non-profit group had been swamped by requests for help.

“Since the beginning of the lockdown we have initiated a process of cooking food for the migrants,” the Somali said.

Funded by religious organisations, his network provides 3,500 parcels and 750 meals each week.

“It is very important because those people have been neglected… hunger has no colour, but unfortunately the government of South Africa has discriminated against us on the basis of our country of origin,” he said.

As part of an unprecedented emergency plan, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced food distributions and a monthly allowance of 350 rand ($20 / 18 euros) for the most destitute, an AFP report said.

Neither Ramaphosa nor his ministers have mentioned any conditions for the nationality of people receiving the aid.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa


But migrants and non-governmental organisations insist that in de-facto terms, the help goes to South Africans.

While the “rainbow nation” Nelson Mandela dreamed of has some four million foreigners, most of them do not have a residence permit — a document with the value of gold.

– No work, no pay –

In Lenasia, a township in the remote outskirts of Johannesburg, 49-year-old Edward Mowo relies on his Lazarus hands for a living. He brings dead televisions, radios and telephones back to life.

Under the corrugated iron roof of his shack, the Zimbabwean admitted to having difficulty feeding his wife and three children.

“Most people don’t work anymore, so they don’t get paid. So how can I be paid?” he said.

“My kids were born here but they don’t get anything because we are not South African nationals,” Mowo said.

“Even with my documents I don’t get anything. They should help us, as we are legal but I’m still waiting. I’ve never seen them… We have to survive without the government, and it’s hard.”

Sharon Ekambaram, in charge of migrants’ assistance at an NGO called Lawyers for Human Rights, said the authorities had systematically refused to help foreigners.

“There has not been a single refugee that has confirmed with me that their application is through, that they qualify and they are going to get a grant,” she said. “This is a serious crisis.”

Questioned by AFP, the social development ministry declined to comment before an upcoming court case over the conditions under which its aid is distributed. 

Ekambaram said a hotline set up last week offering legal advice received more than 700 calls within days of grants being announced, many asking about food.

“We have seen children going to hospitals being diagnosed as malnourished,” she said.

Even though apartheid ended a generation ago, South Africa is still struggling with rampant inequality and poverty, which in turn have fed ugly xenophobia.

After a surge in violence and mob attacks in September against foreign-owned businesses in and around Johannesburg, Ramaphosa was booed at the funeral of his Zimbabwean counterpart, Robert Mugabe.

“South Africa is not xenophobic,” he pleaded at the time.

– ‘Institutional xenophobia’ –

But ambiguities in his government’s policies have been laid bare by the coronavirus pandemic.

Last month, Finance Minister Tito Mboweni called for locals to be favoured for jobs as the country emerges from the crisis.

“The proportion of South Africans working in a restaurant must be greater than that of non-South Africans,” he declared.

Dewa Mavhinga of Human Rights Watch (HRW) said the pandemic had brought this type of discourse to the surface.

“A number of migrants have no access to food, they are facing starvation. It’s a blatant violation of their basic rights, it points to a pattern of institutionalised xenophobia,” Mavhinga said.

“South African authorities have an obligation to support and provide assistance to those in needs who are unable to find food,” he said. 

“If the South African government is unable to help them because of lack of resources it must open up to international supporters to step in.” 

In its defence, the government says it has set up a Solidarity Fund to coordinate emergency food aid, and no proof of identity is required from beneficiaries.

“The Solidarity Fund’s response was to roll out a humanitarian relief effort aimed at assisting vulnerable families, experiencing severe food insecurity across South Africa, irrespective of their nationality,” said Thandeka Ncube, head of humanity support.

But many illegal immigrants prefer to keep their distance from these handouts, dreading that they will be picked up, say grassroots workers.

“Without any permit, our main worry is to be deported. They have to hide from the police, it’s exhausting,” said Abdurahman Musa Jibro, a leader for Ethiopia’s Oromo community in South Africa.

He says that he too has received no help from the authorities.

– ‘Humanity should come first’ –

“Some shopkeepers are asking their clients for an ID before selling them some food,” Jibro said.

“If you cannot show any ID, they tell you ‘go elsewhere, go elsewhere’,” he added.

Thanks to the generosity of his community, his association has been able to feed around a thousand Ethiopian families, most of them undocumented or asylum seekers. 

“Some people are bringing us food parcels. That’s how we survive now,” said a 47-year-old Ethiopian woman who asked to remain anonymous.

She fled repression in her country and has been living in Johannesburg with her three children without a residence permit since 2008.

She said she believed the government should help her family because “we are living here in this country. Humanity should come first, before any document.”

Some consulates in neighbouring countries have recently expressed interest in arranging the repatriation of their citizens stranded in South Africa during the pandemic.

“That’s a possibility which I’m considering,” said Collin Makumbirofa, a 41-year-old Zimbabwean who has been living in the overcrowded Alexandra township in Johannesburg for more than a decade.

“As foreign nationals, we are contributing so much to the South African economy, it’s totally unfair from the South African government not to help people living on its own soil,” he said.

“It’s very tough, we are starving. Life has become unbearable here.”

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