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South Sudan President and rebel chief given 100 days to form unity government4 min read

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South Sudan President and rebel chief given 100 days to form unity government
(Photo by Akuot CHOL / AFP)

South Sudan President Salva Kiir and rebel chief Riek Machar on Thursday were given another 100 days to form a power-sharing government after failing to resolve differences, a fresh delay that prompted a sharp US warning that the fledgling nation needed new leaders.

The two rivals, whose fallout in 2013 sparked a conflict that has left hundreds of thousands dead, were granted the extension after a rare face-to-face meeting held with regional heavyweights in Uganda.

It is the second time the deadline has been pushed back since the rivals signed a truce last September that brought a pause to fighting.

Both sides had agreed to join forces in a coalition government by November 12. But with the date looming and key issues far from resolved, regional leaders brokered high-level mediations in Entebbe to chart a way forward.

“It was really impossible to have them reach agreement in five days. We’ve given them three months and we will continue our engagement,” Ugandan Foreign Minister Sam Kutesa told reporters following the closed-door discussions at State House in Entebbe.

The meeting “agreed to extend the pre-transitional period… and to review progress after fifty days from that date”, Kutesa said afterwards, reading from an official communique.

Read: South Sudan calls for U.N sanction lift

The United States, a major backer of the impoverished nation, voiced exasperation with the delay and said it would “review our relationship” with South Sudan’s government.

“This inability to meet their own deadline calls into question their suitability to continue to lead the nation’s peace process,” Tibor Nagy, the top US diplomat of Africa, said of Kiir and Machar.

“The US is considering all possible options to put pressure on those individuals who would impede peace and promote conflict,” he wrote on Twitter.

The United States has previously threatened targeted sanctions without a prompt government formation, although an official earlier ruled out ending Washington’s roughly $1 billion in humanitarian assistance.

Nagy nonetheless voiced appreciation to the African mediators who included Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni; General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, who heads neighbouring Sudan’s sovereign council; and Kalonzo Musyoka, a special envoy from Kenya.

Violence halted –

Despite US frustration at the slow progress, some observers warned that pushing the foes to form a unity government before disagreements over security and state boundaries were resolved threatened to plunge the country back into war.

The peace deal has largely stopped the fighting that erupted just two years after South Sudan achieved independence, violence that left nearly 400,000 dead and displaced close to four million people.

“Another extension is far preferable than a return to conflict,” said Alan Boswell, senior analyst at the International Crisis Group think tank.

“Regional mediators must step up at the highest levels to finally resolve the sticking points blocking the peace process from moving forward.”

Machar, who lives in exile in Khartoum and cannot travel freely in the region, had asked for more time so that the impasse over security and territory arrangements could be overcome.

The rebel leader warned that if these were not addressed, the country would see a repeat of fighting in 2016, when an earlier peace deal collapsed, worsening the conflict.

Machar, a former deputy to Kiir, fled South Sudan on foot under a hail of gunfire and has only returned home on rare occasions, fearing for his safety.

Kiir had said he was ready to form a new government and had threatened to do it alone.

International pressure –

The creation of the coalition government, a key pillar of the September 2018 peace deal between the rivals, had already been delayed once in May when regional leaders brokered a six-month extension.

The United Nations Security Council, on the eve of the Entebbe meeting, declared that fully implementing “all provisions of the peace agreement remains the only path that will set the country towards the goal of peace, stability and development”.

A cornerstone of the accord was that fighters from all sides would be gathered into military camps and trained as a unified army — a process dogged by delays and lack of funding.

Little progress has been made on negotiations around state boundaries — another major sticking point.

The European Union, in a statement Thursday before the extension was announced, urged the warring parties to demonstrate “genuine will to build peace” and set realistic deadlines for resolving outstanding issues.

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Madagascar paddy farmers against ‘new city’ relocation

Tempers flare in Antananarivo over plans to relocate Madagascar’s capital

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MADAGASCAR-DEMOSTRATION-URBAN PLANNING
Protestors damage construction equipment after clashes between the inhabitants of Ambohitrimanjaka and police broke out over the protest against the Tana-Masoandra project in the Ambohitrimanjaka suburbs of Antananarivo on October 17, 2019. - Clashes broke out overnight in Madagascar after protesters stormed a company tasked with a controversial urban expansion project, prompting a violent police response. (Photo by Mamyrael / AFP)

Anger is boiling over in the hills surrounding Antananarivo over plans to relocate part of Madagascar’s choked capital to emerald-green farmland.

Hundreds of farmers in Ambohitrimanjaka village are facing off with the authorities over a presidential scheme that threatens to engulf a thousand hectares (2,500 acres) of rice fields.

“We will not swap our land for money and we will not accept being moved,” said Jean Desire Rakotoariamanana, 57, who took part in protests last month.

“These rice paddies provided for our ancestors.”

The unrest has been sparked by a scheme to unclog Antananarivo, a polluted city of three million people wedged in the hills of the central highlands.

If the Tana-Masoandra (“Tana Sun”) project comes to fruition, the area will house all of the government’s ministries, the Senate, a university, a conference centre, hotels and homes for 100,000 people.

Its backers claim that relocation — to what is the city’s distant outskirts — will cost the equivalent of $600 million (542 million euros) and create 200,000 jobs — a major economic boost in the impoverished Indian Ocean island nation.

Construction is scheduled to be completed by 2024.

Choked capital –

Tana-Masoandra stems from President Andry Rajoelina’s vow on the election campaign trail last year to ease the capital’s chronic problems.

“Antananarivo was built to house between 300,000 and 500,000 people, but today there are 3.25 million,” said project manager Gerard Andriamanohisoa, who is also an advisor to Rajoelina.

According to UN projections, the capital’s population could double within the next 15 years, he said.  

Only 36 per cent of Madagascar’s 26 million people live in urban areas, but the majority of these are congregated in Antananarivo.

Overcrowding has bred monster traffic jams, garbage pile-ups and slums which become routinely flooded.

Air pollution, caused by exhaust fumes and bush fires, is sky-high. On one day last month, a monitoring group found that levels of fine particulates were eight times higher than guidelines set by the World Health Organization (WHO). 

But the capital’s problems gain little sympathy in the village of Ambohitrimanjaka, which lies around 12 kilometres (eight miles) from the capital.

And the government’s offer of relocating the farmers 700 kilometres (435 miles) away in the town of Bevoay, spiced by the promise of a five-for-one land swap, has gained little traction.

Sacred heritage –

“We are not opposed to development and progress,” said 60-year-old paddy farmer Dada Leba. 

“But let the president set up his project somewhere else. It is not land that we’re short of in Madagascar.”

Referring to a revered 18th-century monarch, Leba added: “King Andrianampoinimerina himself awarded these rice paddies to our ancestors and bequeathed to us the responsibility of farming them.

“Going against this wise king’s wish will cast a curse on the president,” he said darkly.

“If they take our land away from us, we’ll have nothing to live from,” declared Dede Antsahamarina, 60. “This new city is not intended for uneducated farmers like us.”

Violent clashes broke out between police and protesters last month over the building of a bridge designed to link the planned complex with Antananarivo.

One civilian and four officers were injured before police fired warning shots to disperse the crowd.

The government has tried to ease the mood by offering around 700 families the equivalent of around $20 million (18 million euros) in compensation.

“We are going to implement support measures to provide retraining for the farmers or to relocate their activities to other places,” said Andriamanohisoa.

The president has sent envoys to try to talk the farmers around and made a direct pitch to them on the airwaves.

“If you’ve got a one-hectare (2.5-acre) rice paddy… listen, I’ll give you five hectares in Bevoay,” Rajoelina said on TV.

But rather than backing down, the farmers say they are considering filing a lawsuit against the grand plan.

The Battle of the Rice Fields, it seems, has only just begun.

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East Africa Politics News

Kenya, Lesotho Strengthen Bilateral Ties with Three Agreements

In an effort to boost bilateral ties and cooperation between the two African nations, Kenya and the Kingdom of Lesotho have today signed three key pacts; an agreement on the establishment of a Joint Commission for Cooperation (JCC), a Memorandum of Understanding for Bilateral consultations as well as a Memorandum of Understanding in the Field of Sports.

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In an effort to boost bilateral ties and cooperation between the two African nations, Kenya and the Kingdom of Lesotho have today signed three key pacts; an agreement on the establishment of a Joint Commission for Cooperation (JCC), a Memorandum of Understanding for Bilateral consultations as well as a Memorandum of Understanding in the Field of Sports.

The agreement on the establishment of a JCC will enable the two countries to identify and explore areas of cooperation while the MOU on sports will provide an opportunity for development of sports as an economic activity. The agreement on Bilateral Consultations on the other hand, will pave the way for the two countries to hold consultations on both bilateral and multilateral matters affecting the two countries at regional, continental and global levels.

The deals were signed at the end of talks held between President Uhuru Kenyatta and the Right Hon. Dr Motsoahae Thomas Thabane, Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Lesotho, at the State House, Nairobi.

Prime Minister Thabane arrived in Nairobi last evening for a three-day state visit and was formally received today morning by his host, President Kenyatta at a colourful ceremony that included a guard of honour mounted by a detachment of the Kenya Army and a 19-gun salute.

During his visit, Prime Minister Thabane will lay a wreath at the Mausoleum of Kenya’s founding father, Mzee Jomo Kenyatta as well as visit the United Nations complex in Gigiri among other engagements.

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Jugnauth Victorious in Mauritius elections

The Eastern African island nation of Mauritius on Thursday went to the polls where incumbent Prime Minister Pravind Kumar Jugnauth of the Militant Socialist Movement (MSM) emerged victorious.

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The Eastern African island nation of Mauritius on Thursday went to the polls where incumbent Prime Minister Pravind Kumar Jugnauth of the Militant Socialist Movement (MSM) emerged victoriously. As per the Mauritian constitution, the prime minister is appointed by the president: The latter must, however, appoint the party leader with a clear majority in the National Assembly. MSM won 38 of the 62 seats while its main rivals, the Labour Party and the Mauritian Militant Movement (MMM), garnered 13 and 9 seats respectively. The Organisation of the People of Rodrigues (OPR) party garnered 2 seats.

The country’s National Assembly has 62 elected members, with an additional eight members appointed to ensure ethnic and religious minority representation. According to the electoral commission, 76.84 percent or 723,660 of those eligible to do so turned out to cast their votes.

The Southern African Development Community (SADC) Electoral Observer Mission deployed to Mauritius and led by Zimbabwean Foreign Affairs and International Trade Minister, Dr Sibusiso Moyo, has described the electoral process prior to the voting exercise as professionally organized and conducted in a peaceful environment.

“The Mission observed that the pre-election and voting phases of the 2019 National Assembly Elections were professionally organized, conducted in an orderly, peaceful and free atmosphere, which enabled the voters to express their democratic will and those who sought office campaigned freely,” said Minister Moyo while presenting their preliminary observer report in Port Louis over the weekend.

Prime Minister Jugnauth, succeeded his father when the latter, Sir Anerood Jugnauth, resigned from the post in 2017. The senior Jugnauth has held the positions of Prime Minister and President intermittently between 1982 and 2017.

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