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US ‘witch-hunt’ of African executives at WHO, AfDB infuriates continent12 minutes read

In this special report, News Central’s Political Editor Sumner Shagari Sambo reports that most Africans believe that the United States recent actions against WHO’s Tedros Ghebreyesus and African Development Bank, AfDB’s Akinwumi Adesina were a payback for the continent’s ongoing romance with China.

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US President Donald Trump flanked to the left by African Development Bank, AfDB's Akinwumi Adesina and to the right by WHO's Tedros Ghebreyesus in a merged photo by News Central.

Africans are angry at the recent attacks by the United States government on two top executives from the continent holding lead positions at the World Health Organization (WHO) and the African Development Bank (AfDB).

“For some reason, funded largely by the United States, yet very China centric, the WHO really blew it. We will be giving that a good look. Fortunately I rejected their advice on keeping our borders open to China early on. Why did they give us such a faulty recommendation?”, the US President lashed out in a tweet at the World Health Organization in April.

International observers say the real target of Trump’s obsession was the Ethiopian WHO Director General, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus whose position has been threatened for being too close to the Chinese, a paint brush the US continues to rub against African leaders.

Like the WHO boss, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, President of multilateral lender, African Development Bank – AfDB – is also on the firing line by United States government and officials who are out to scuttle his return for second term.

Being a minority shareholder in an institution largely owned 57.11 percent by African countries, analysts are appalled why the US is the only one out of 78 shareholders hell-bent on pushing spurious financial allegations meant to push into the bin Adesina’s second term bid despite his being cleared by AfDB’s Ethics Committee chaired by a Japanese who is an Executive Director with the multilateral lender.

US President Donald Trump in an undated photo. One analyst told News Central that the “US has a track record of intolerance for multilateral organisations and has sought to bully other nation states into accepting its position on issues in these organisations.”

– WHO DG fights to save job –

Despite the WHO’s denials of the accusation, with facts, that the world body prepared the world enough for the coronavirus pandemic, the US government has not spared it, prompting Ghebreyesus to urge calm and not politicising Covid-19.

“We are close to every nation, we are colour-blind. Please, unity at national level, no using Covid for political points,” Dr. Ghebreyesus said. “Second, honest solidarity at the global level. And honest leadership from the US and China.

“The most powerful should lead the way and please quarantine (sic) politicising Covid,” he appealed, in comments seen as a response to Trump, who has insisted that the WHO appeared to be “very biased toward China”.

WHO had approved a coronavirus test in January – but the US decided against using it, developing its own test instead. However, in February, when the testing kits were despatched, some of them didn’t work properly and led to inconclusive results.

Public health experts say the delay enabled the virus to spread further within the US and as at May 28, America had lost 100,000 citizens to Covid-19 with more deaths still being recorded.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, who chairs the African Union, (AU) in April issued a statement affirming solidarity and support across the continent for the WHO Director General, Ghebreyesus who he said has shown “exceptional leadership … from the very early stages of this unprecedented global health crisis.”

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has remained calm despite US President Donald Trump’s allegations against his leadership of the COVID-19 pandemic, caused by the deadly coronavirus. He has received support from the African Union (AU) and other global leaders. (Photo by Christopher Black / World Health Organization / AFP)

– US targets AfDB’s Adesina –

President Trump’s administration has not hidden its disdain for African leaders because of their renewed engagement with China that has seen the latter emerge as major investor offering cheap loans to countries on the continent leading to most international contracts going East and reduced American influence across Africa.

US authorities have again shifted attacks to another African heading an international institution, the African Development Bank, AfDB where Nigeria’s Akinwumi Adesina is President.

After unsuccessful attempts against his election in 2015, US authorities have now cobbled several allegations of financial mismanagement and nepotism against Adesina.

Using unnamed staff and third parties, it has instigated a crisis within the multilateral lender after realising Adesina was coasting home to victory as the only contender for the position in the forthcoming election after multiple endorsements by other shareholders, institutions and countries. The election is set for August during the bank’s annual general meeting.

Adesina, was investigated and cleared by AfDB’s Ethics Committee of the sixteen charges against him by aggrieved staff and has repeatedly refuted the allegations.

But the United States, AfDB’s third largest investor after Nigeria, Egypt and its largest non-regional investor is unsatisfied with the clean bill of health given Adesina and wants an external audit, independent of the institution.

“We have deep reservations about the integrity of the (ethics) committee’s process,” U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a May 22 letter. “Instead, we urge you to initiate an in-depth investigation of the allegations using the services of an independent outside investigator of high professional standing.” Mnuchin said in a letter to the Chairman of AfDB’s Board of Governors, Kaba Niale.

Equatorial Guinea has countered the U.S by publicly adopting the position of the bank’s Ethics Committee that cleared Adesina of wrongdoing.

Nigeria, Adesina’s home country, countered the US late Thursday by insisting that such a request could not be granted by the Board of Governors as AfDB’s corporate governance code contains no such provision for an external “independent outside investigator”.

– Adesina fights back –

“I maintain my innocence with regard to trumped-up allegations that unjustly seek to impugn my honor and integrity, as well as the reputation of the African Development Bank”, Adesina said in a media statement with his personal signature Wednesday.

The AfDB President added: “I am confident that fair, transparent and just processes that respect the rules, procedures and governance systems of the bank, and rule of law, will ultimately prove that I have not violated the code of ethics of this extraordinary institution.”

Adesina thanked the AfDB’s shareholders for the clearance given him by the ethics committee after the internal investigation of the allegations while asking that they disregard false media reports that he has stepped down.

“I maintain my innocence with regard to trumped-up allegations that unjustly seek to impugn my honor and integrity”, president of the African Development Bank (AfDB) – Akinwumi Adesina in the heat of the crisis. AFP PHOTO / ISSOUF SANOGO (Photo by ISSOUF SANOGO / AFP)

Analysts say the US has done all within its powers to derail Adesina and his Africa-focused development agenda pointing at the whistleblower allegations made against Adesina as mere orchestration by the American representative at the bank, Stephen Dowd, whom the French press has since unmasked. The US has been a member of the bank since 1983.

One AfDB insider said “America believes that Adesina is an unapologetic pan-Africanist, who, more than any other president, has moved the development agenda of the bank and Africa forward in a manner that no other in the bank’s 56-year history has done.

“On the board, he does not kowtow to the U.S. or its whims on critical issues relating to Africa’s development.”

Last year, Adesina successfully led AfDB’s shareholder General Capital Increase from $93 billion to $208 billion. In the process, he became the first bank president to take the risk of championing a case for increasing capital for Africa’s development during a first term in office.

“It was a gambit that paid off in spite of initial strong American opposition”, the AfDB insider said.

– Nigeria rallies support –

Nigerian authorities have begun lobbying for Adesina after receiving satisfactory intelligence briefing that the AfDB president was the victim of a witch-hunt by the Americans.

“The call for an independent investigation of the president is outside of the laid down rules, procedures and governing system of the bank and its articles as it relates to the code of conduct on ethics for the president,” Zainab Ahmed, Nigeria’s Finance minister wrote in a letter to AfDB’s Board of Governors where it denounced the plans to circumvent the bank’s internal procedures.

Ahmed asked the AfDB to “uphold the rule of law and respect the governance systems of the bank” and if there was need for improvement, it should be done according to laid down procedure. She then highlighted all Adesina’s projects and achievements which she noted did not warrant such an attack on his career.

Former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, in a letter to former African presidents also canvassed support for Mr Adesina, saying he had taken the bank to a great height since he took the position in the last five years.

Adesina, “has actively positioned (AfDB) as an effective global institution ranked fourth globally in terms of transparency among 45 multilateral and bilateral institutions,” Obasanjo wrote to 13 former heads of state including Thabo Mbeki of South Africa, Hailemariam Desalegn of Ethiopia and Ellen Sirleaf-Johnson of Liberia.

“As Africa faces COVID-19, Dr. Adesina again took bold measures to ensure the bank can respond proactively to support African countries and got its board of directors to approve a $10 billion crisis response facility to support African countries,” Obasanjo said.

“In addition, the bank successfully launched a $53 billion ‘Fight COVID-19’ social impact bond on the international capital market, secured at 0.75 per cent interest rate.” These achievements “made all the heads of state and governments of ECOWAS region to endorse him for second term,” the former Nigerian leader wrote.

– Africans hit Western powers –

On mainstream and social media, the American government has been accused of misuse of power and tagged as joy-killers for trampling on African chief executives heading global institutions like the WHO and AfDB.

“Our major derailing point in this case is the fact that, since we have accepted some of these western countries to have a stake in AfDB, we should also be rest assured that they will certainly have their way when it comes to the way and manner we run our affairs in AfDB”, Hussaini Modibbo Wurno wrote on Facebook.

Danjuma Sunday, a social commentator said the United States was only out to hit African executives because of China’s growing influence across Africa to the detriment of Western powers.

“The rivalry between the US and China is being extended to Africa indirectly due to the bilateral economic relationship that is on the increase between African countries and China”, Sunday said. “So to get the African countries, their leaders, regional heads and institutions headed by Africans are targeted with corruption allegations, war crimes and others just to break them for relating with China,” he concluded.

One of Nigeria’s leading newspapers, The Guardian, reported that the espionage activities on the issue by the Americans had been revealed and blocked; and that with the mounting opposition against them, it was only a matter of time before they withdrew the spurious allegations against Adesina.

“It is believed that America’s intention all along was that even if one of the allegations stuck, Adesina would have to be removed as president of the bank and made ineligible for re-election. This attempt failed”, The Guardian wrote Thursday.

AfDB President Akinwumi Adesina has received support from many Africans after being cleared by the Ethics Committee of the bank chaired by a Japanese Executive Director. AFP PHOTO / ISSOUF SANOGO (Photo by ISSOUF SANOGO / AFP)

“The fact is that the governance procedures of the bank during the investigation were followed to the letter. However, as the outcome of the investigation did not suit the anticipated expectations of the U.S., it now seeks to undermine the credibility of the bank, derail Adesina’s leadership, and possibly set the pretext for a veiled threat to pull out of the bank as a shareholder”, the Nigerian daily wrote.

“We all know that the current administration in the US has a track record of intolerance for multilateral organisations and has sought to bully other nation states into accepting its position on issues in these organisations. The most recent example being the WHO. Recently, the WTO Director General also had to resign, because of harassment by the current US administration”, an international lawyer who refused to be named told News Central.

The lawyer, who was a former legal advisor for the multilateral lender said “as a believer in the rule of law, I strongly take exception to the US position. I hope that the institution will resist this bully tactic and protect the AfDB from an unnecessary and potentially destructive corporate governance crisis”.

As the AfDB probe continues despite Adesina’s chants of innocence, all eyes remain focused on the WHO’s Dr. Ghebreyesus to see if Trump and the United States would back down or force him out like they did the Director General of the World Trade Organization, Roberto Azevêdo.

Azevêdo, a Brazilian career diplomat, resigned abruptly on May 14 as WTO director-general effective August 31. His second four-year term was not scheduled to end until September 2021. His views clashed with President Trump’s preference for bilateral power politics.

The WTO’s operations have been crippled since late 2019 as a result of actions by the Trump administration, which has refused to approve nominees to fill vacancies in a crucial appeals panel that rules on trade disputes.

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Board of Governors agree to independent probe of AfDB President, Adesina

The ethics committee of the continental bank, headed by Takuji Yano, had in its report last month cleared Adesina of all sixteen counts saying he was was not guilty of all the charges but the United States remained unconvinced.

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President of the African Development Bank (AfDB), Akinwumi Adesina in an undated photo.

After weeks of review and consultation, the Bureau of Board of Governors of the African Development Bank Group has bowed to US pressure and approved an independent investigation of the allegations against the President of the Bank, Akinwumi Adesina.

“Based on the views of some Governors on the matter and the need to carry every Governor along in resolving it, the Bureau agrees to authorize an Independent Review of the Report of the Ethics Committee of the Boards of Directors relative to the allegations considered by the Ethics Committee and the submissions made by the President of the Bank Group thereto in the interest of due process”, a communique from the Board of Governors said Thursday.

The decision, taken at the meeting of the Bureau on Thursday regarding the whistle-blowers’ complaints against Adesina, is in deference to the demand by the U.S. government that a fresh and in-depth investigation be conducted into the allegations against Adesina using an independent investigator, Premium Times, a Nigerian daily reported having access to the resolution on Friday.

On May 5, the ethics committee of the continental bank, headed by Takuji Yano, said in its report that Adesina was not guilty on all counts.

Yano is a Japanese executive director charged with the responsibility of investigating allegations by some concerned employees against the Bank’s president.

The committee described the allegations that Adesina violated the code of conduct of the institution as “spurious and unfounded”.

Regardless, the United States government expressed “deep reservations about the integrity of the committee’s process” and called for a fresh “in-depth investigation of the allegations.”

– Why fresh probe is required –

At the end of its meeting Thursday, the Bureau of Board of Governors issued a communique, agreeing with the U.S and authorizing an independent review of the ethic committee’s report.

The communique, signed by the Chairperson of the Bureau of the Boards of Governors, Niale Kaba, reads,

“The Bureau reiterates that it agrees that the Ethics Committee of the Boards of
Directors performed its role on this matter in accordance with the applicable rule under Resolution B/BG/2008/11 of the Board of Governors.

“The Bureau also reiterates that the Chairperson of the Bureau of the Board of
Governors performed her role in accepting the findings of the Ethics Committee in accordance with the said Resolution.

“However, based on the views of some Governors on the matter and the need to carry every Governor along in resolving it, the Bureau agrees to authorize an Independent Review of the Report of the Ethics Committee of the Boards of Directors relative to the allegations considered by the Ethics Committee and the submissions made by the President of the Bank Group thereto in the interest of due process.

“The Independent Review shall be conducted by a neutral high calibre individual with unquestionable experience, high international reputation and integrity within a short time period of not more than two to four weeks maximum, taking the Bank Group’s electoral calendar into account.

“The Bureau agrees that, within a three to six month period and following the independent review of the Ethics Committee Report, an independent comprehensive review of the implementation of the Bank Group’s Whistle-Blowing and Complaints Handling Policy should be conducted with a view to ensuring that the Policy is properly implemented, and revising it where necessary, to avoid situations of this nature in the future.”

The AfDB President is yet to react to the latest decisions by the Board of Governors. But he has repeatedly denied wrongdoing.

On a visit to President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday, Mr Adesina, a former Nigerian Minister for Agriculture, said the 16 allegations raised against him were trumped up, “and without facts, evidence, and documents, as required by the rules and regulations of the bank.”

He added that the Ethics Committee of the bank cleared him of all the allegations, and that calls for a fresh investigation by the United States of America, were against the rules.

“My defence ran into 250 pages, and not a single line was faulted or questioned,” he said.

“The law says that report of the Ethics Committee should be transmitted to the Chairman of Governors of the bank. It was done, and the governors upheld the recommendations.

“That was the end of the matter, according to the rules. It was only if I was culpable that a fresh investigation could be launched.

“I was exonerated, and any other investigation would amount to bending the rules of the bank, to arrive at a predetermined conclusion.”

While stressing that the motive was to soil his name, and that of the bank, the AfDB President said he was proud to be Nigerian, and thanked President Buhari for his unflinching support.

Nigeria is the largest shareholder of the African Development Bank with 9.1 percent shares.

– Allegations against Adesina –

In its petition, the concerned staff accused Mr Adesina of 20 breaches of the bank’s code of conduct, including “unethical conduct, private gain, an impediment to efficiency, preferential treatment, and involvement in political activities.”

The group, which noted their allegations were in line with AfDB’s whistle-blowing policy, said these activities adversely affected the confidence and integrity of the bank.

Nigeria, Adesina’s home country, had last week countered the US by insisting that such a request for an independent investigation could not be granted by the Board of Governors as AfDB’s corporate governance code contains no such provision for an external “independent outside investigator”.

Nigerian authorities then began lobbying for Adesina after receiving satisfactory intelligence briefing that the AfDB president was the victim of a witch-hunt by the Americans.

“The call for an independent investigation of the president is outside of the laid down rules, procedures and governing system of the bank and its articles as it relates to the code of conduct on ethics for the president,” Zainab Ahmed, Nigeria’s Finance minister wrote in a letter to AfDB’s Board of Governors where it denounced the plans to circumvent the bank’s internal procedures.

Ahmed asked the AfDB to “uphold the rule of law and respect the governance systems of the bank” and if there was need for improvement, it should be done according to laid down procedure. She then highlighted all Adesina’s projects and achievements which she noted did not warrant such an attack on his career.

Former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, in a letter to former African presidents also canvassed support for Adesina, saying he had taken the bank to a great height since he took the position in the last five years.

Adesina, “has actively positioned (AfDB) as an effective global institution ranked fourth globally in terms of transparency among 45 multilateral and bilateral institutions,” Obasanjo wrote to 13 former heads of state including Thabo Mbeki of South Africa, Hailemariam Desalegn of Ethiopia and Ellen Sirleaf-Johnson of Liberia.

The U.S. became a member of the African Development Fund in 1976 and of the African Development Bank in 1983. Also, its bilateral cooperation with the bank has been strengthened through cooperation agreements.

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Politics

Court rejects Burundian opposition bid to annul poll results

The panel of judges said the CNL had failed to provide sufficient evidence and ruled the complaints were “null and void”, validating Evariste Ndayishimiye’s victory with 68.7 percent of the vote.

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Presidential Candidate and Leader of opposition National Freedom Council (CNL), Agathon Rwasa

Burundi’s constitutional court has rejected an opposition bid to overturn the results of the May 20th presidential election, declaring the ruling party’s candidate Evariste Ndayishimiye the winner.

The opposition National Freedom Council (CNL), headed by Agathon Rwasa, had alleged the May 20 general election was riddled with fraud and irregularities, including intimidation of voters, the arrest of opposition polling agents, ballot stuffing and proxy voting. 

However the panel of judges said the CNL had failed to provide sufficient evidence and ruled the complaints were “null and void”, validating Ndayishimiye’s victory with 68.7 percent of the vote.

Rwasa’s share of the vote was given at 24.18 percent while opposition party UPRONA won 1.63 percent.

The ruling CNDD-FDD won 86 seats in parliament and the CNL 32, while UPRONA won two. Three seats are constitutionally reserved for the minority Twa ethnic group.

The ruling party’s information secretary Nancy Ninette Mutoni on Twitter hailed a turnout of 87.71 percent of 5.1 million registered voters.

Heavily armed police were deployed around the country’s main city Bujumbura for the court’s ruling.

The CNL appeared resigned to an outcome it had predicted.

“We were not expecting a miracle, despite the massive fraud and numerous irregularities that we presented to the court and despite the Catholic Church’s report,” party secretary general Simon Bizimungu told AFP.

“We are not surprised, because the court system is not independent in Burundi.”

Burundi’s Catholic Church said last week its observers stationed at polling centres across the country also witnessed ballot box tampering, officials harassing and intimidating voters, and proxies registered “in place of dead people and refugees”.

Foreign observers were not allowed to oversee the electoral process.

A joint statement issued by western diplomats made no reference to any irregularities and urged the opposition to pursue legal paths to contest the election outcome.

“The elections took place in a highly repressive environment with no independent international observers,” said Lewis Mudge of Human Rights Watch in a statement on Monday.

“Reports of killings, arbitrary arrests, beatings, and voter intimidation during the campaigns should not be brushed under the rug.”

One voter told the rights watchdog that the feared youth wing of the ruling party, known as the Imbonerakure, which the United Nations has described as a militia, were inside the voting station “telling people to vote for the CNDD-FDD.”

– Challenges ahead -Ndayishimiye, 52, a former army general who was handpicked by ruling party elites to succeed veteran President Pierre Nkurunziza, will be sworn in in August for a seven-year mandate.

Nkurunziza will step aside after 15 tumultuous years. His controversial bid to stand for a third term in 2015 sparked violence and a major political crisis which left at least 1,200 dead and saw 400,000 flee the country.

The regime tightened its grip on the country, and allegations of rights violations by security forces have soared in recent years.

Ndayishimiye is described by those who know him as more open-minded than many in the ruling CNDD-FDD party, and is not associated with the worst abuses of recent years.

However observers say he did not stand out as trying to rein in the violence that erupted after the 2015 election.

He is set to inherit a deeply isolated country, under sanctions and cut off by foreign donors, its economy and national psyche damaged by years of political violence and rights violations.

A first major challenge is likely to be the coronavirus outbreak until now largely ignored in the country, which has taken few measures to combat it, with authorities claiming God is protecting Burundi from its worst ravages.

The country has officially recorded 63 cases and one death, however doctors in Bujumbura speaking to AFP on condition of anonymity say many cases and deaths are going unreported.

Burundi’s first lady Denise Bucumi is currently in a Nairobi hospital after being evacuated last week, with a high-ranking government official and a source in the presidency confirming she had tested positive for the virus. 

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Health

Bitter sweets: Madagascar minister fired over candy plan

Minister Rijasoa Andriamanana said last week she was ordering $2.2 million worth of sweets to go with the Covid-Organics concoction, which some experts have warned is useless against COVID-19.

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Madagascar MPs investigated for corruption.
President Andry Rajoelina of Madagascar.

Madagascar’s education minister was sacked Thursday after announcing a plan to buy sweets for students to take the edge off the “bitter taste” of a herbal tea the president says is a coronavirus remedy.

Minister Rijasoa Andriamanana said last week she was ordering $2.2 million worth of sweets to go with the Covid-Organics concoction, which some experts have warned is useless against COVID-19.

She told the press that “a purchase of sweets and lollipops” had been made, with all students in the Indian Ocean island nation to receive three each.

She added that it was for the “bitter taste” of the drink, which President Andry Rajoelina has been promoting for export, saying it is the country’s “green gold” which will “change history”.

The potential benefits of Covid-Organics, have not been validated by any scientific study. 

That such expense was going to sweets in one of the world’s poorest country’s sparked outrage, fanned by the Malagasy press, and the order was cancelled.

The minister defended the plan, but it was not considered by the cabinet, which relieved her of her duties in a dry statement.

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