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Stop banning newspapers: HRW warns Tanzania’s Government1 min read

This is all part of a wider pattern of repression targeting freedom of expression

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A man reads the local newspaper "The Citizen" in Tanzania. (Photo by STRINGER / AFP)

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Human Rights Watch condemns ban on newspaper

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has berated the ban of Tanzania’s leading newspaper, The Citizen, saying forms part of a succession of attacks on freedom of expression by the government of President John Pombe Magufuli.

The Citizen was last week banned for a week from circulation offline and online, having been accused of propaganda concerning the devaluation of the Tanzanian shilling.

HRW highlighted previous suspensions on newspapers including the ban in 2017 on four newspapers, and the 2016 Media Services Act which gives the government the power to limit and restrict the independence of the media.

‘‘This is all part of a wider pattern of repression targeting freedom of expression over the past few years including creating an excessively high fee to blog, criminalizing posting certain content online, fining TV stations, and prohibiting the publication of independent statistics without government permission.’‘

HRW warned that the actions of the government could prevent ‘people from having legitimate discussions about serious issues facing the country’. Last year, several civil society organisations including the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), wrote a letter to Magufuli asking his government to put a stop to the attacks on journalists and acknowledge the pivotal role that the civil society and independent media play in promoting peaceful coexistence.

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East Africa News

Will power-sharing deadline delay bring peace to S Sudan?

South Sudan’s president and its armed opposition leader have been given another extension to join forces

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Members of the South Sudan Opposition Alliance (SSOA), a coalition of rebel groups. (Photo by Dimo Silva Aurelio / AFP)

South Sudan’s president and its armed opposition leader have missed another 100-day deadline to form a power-sharing government, threatening a tenuous ceasefire that has paused years of bloodshed in the world’s youngest country.

The warring camps were given another extension to join forces after a meeting brokered by regional leaders but whether another delay will bring peace remains to be seen.

History on repeat –

It’s not the first time President Salva Kiir and Riek Machar, his former deputy, have faltered on a peace agreement since a power struggle between the two threw the country into war in 2013.

Ceasefires failed, truces collapsed and the war raged on, killing hundreds of thousands and displacing millions more.

The latest pact, signed in September 2018, brought a rare lull to fighting in parts of the country. But progress toward a more permanent peace has been glacial.

Kiir and Machar agreed to share power in a new unity government by May 2019 but could not break a deadlock over security arrangements and state boundaries.

The deadline was extended until November 12 but that also proved fruitless: six months later, the rivals were no closer to breaking the impasse, and another 100 days were granted.

Army revamp –

Members of the South Sudan Opposition Alliance (SSOA), a coalition of rebel groups
Members of the South Sudan Opposition Alliance (SSOA), a coalition of rebel groups (Photo by Dimo Silva AURELIO / AFP)

A cornerstone of the September 2018 peace accord was that fighters would be gathered in military camps, retrained and deployed as a new national army.

But a lack of funding and distrust hobbled efforts to build an 83,000-strong unified force. 

Suspicions abound over the make-up and command structure of this new army, and who would control it.

Kiir promised $100 million to bankroll the process but just a fraction had trickled out so far, said Alan Boswell, senior analyst at the International Crisis Group think tank. 

“It’s a bit unclear what’s happened to the money that was released,” Boswell told reporters.

Opposition fighters who did report to cantonment sites soon left, complaining of a lack of food and shelter.

Drawing red lines –

The drawing of state boundaries in South Sudan is possibly an even bigger stumbling block. Both sides have long disagreed over the number of states, who should control them, and where boundaries should lie.

At independence in 2011, South Sudan had 10 states. But it has since been carved into 32 in what critics saw as gerrymandering of traditional boundaries by Kiir to reward loyalists, a move that angered his opponents.

“He sees this as a part of a strategy to maintain his power in the country. It’s not a concession he has any interest in making,” Klem Ryan, former coordinator of the UN Security Council’s expert panel for South Sudan, told reporters.

Read: Sudan agrees to ceasefire after peace talks with rebels

Boswell said a deal on states, even a temporary compromise, is “very possible if the two leaders actually want to move this forward”.

“The peace deal is stalled, but it’s not yet dead,” he said.

Security fears –

Machar holds major reservations over his security in Juba and had been demanding a personal protection force to oversee his safety if he returns to the capital.

But Kiir is reluctant to order government forces from the city, keen to keep loyal fighters on hand to shore up his power at the risk of Juba becoming a tinderbox primed to explode.

It has happened before — in 2016, Machar arrived in Juba flanked by his best fighters for talks with Kiir. Three months later his bodyguards and Kiir’s men open fire on each other, and South Sudan returned to war.

“It’s just a redux of what we’ve seen before,” Ryan said.

Stalemate? –

The latest extension brokered again by regional leaders during last-minute crisis talks has sharpened criticism of Kiir and Machar and raised fresh doubts over their commitment to peace.

The United States’ top diplomat to Africa, Tibor Nagy, openly questioned “their suitability to continue to lead the nation’s peace process” amid pessimism over what difference another 100 days would make.

Ryan expected little progress come February: “There’ll be some new proposed process or mechanism at that time to keep this going, but the fundamentals just won’t shift,” he said.

Kiir and Machar have been difficult to budge. Not even Pope Francis — who knelt to kiss their feet during a stunning Vatican intervention in April — could facilitate a breakthrough.

Something worth fighting for –

South Sudan has spent more than half its short life as a nation at war: fighting has left some 400,000 people dead and forced roughly four million people — one-third of the population — from their homes.

But the September 2018 ceasefire is holding. The country is witnessing its longest truce since the civil war began in 2013, though violent skirmishes between non-signatories to the pact are still claiming lives.

Still, observers say the ceasefire has allowed for higher food production, freer movement of civilians, and greater access for aid to reach parts of the country in desperate need.

The UN Human Rights Council said civilians wanted to start rebuilding their lives and “the leaders of South Sudan owe this to their people, who deserve no less”.

A unity government is also a precondition for elections in 2022, and a further delay risks undermining the roadmap toward a democratic vote.

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East Africa News

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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