"Part of the reason why poverty still persists in our continent is governments inability to work in a bi-partisan manner with the opposition to confront the many problems facing us as a continent. In almost all the advanced democracies a government in power works or listens to the opposition in matters of national importance such as education, defence, energy and the economy. However in Africa such matters are always hijacked by the ruling government to the detriment of the nation and its people". Lord Aikins Adusei
At its inauguration in 2002, the Africa Union (AU) sets itself ambitious goals "to promote peace, security, and stability on the continent; to promote democratic principles and institutions, popular participation and good governance; to promote and protect human and peoples' rights. It also aims to establish the necessary conditions which enable the continent to play its rightful role in the global economy and in international negotiations and to promote co-operation in all fields of human activity (in order) to raise the living standards of African peoples. The ultimate goal of the AU is to establish a United States of Africa" Source:http://www.africa-union.org
There are many issues that may derail the AU from achieving the goals it has set itself however the most critical of these issues has to do with the very kind of people who constitute the AU leadership. For example the current Chairman of AU in the person of Gaddafi has been a dictator since 1969. For forty years he has ruled his country with iron hand jailing opposition members, restricting freedom of speech, assembly and limiting political activities in attempt to stay in power for good. He frowns on any idea about democracy and has consistently argued that democracy is foreign and unAfrican.
Museveni of Uganda came to power in 1986 and has since ruled his country as his personal estate. In 2003 he had the presidential term limit set by the constitution abrogated so he could be president for life. Obiang Nguema of Equatorial Guinea came to power in 1979 after overthrowing his own uncle and executing him. In that same year Dos Santos of Angola took over power and begun to rule. Both are still president today. In Burkina Faso Blaise Campore has been in power since 1987 and is still adamant about leaving office. Congo Brazzaville´s Denis Sassou Nguesso has used every means just to stay in power. Since 1982 Paul Biya of Cameroon has won every election is his oil rich but economically impoverished country and likewise Hosni Mubarak of Egypt who since 1981 has been president of the North African country. Ben Ali of Tunisia has resisted every attempt to leave office changing the country´s constitution just to stay in power.
Gaddafi has never been elected in his forty year reign as the head of state of Libya. Omar Al Bashir has not been elected. There are no words to describe Mamadou Tandja of Niger and Yahyah Jammeh of the Gambia. Iddris Derby of Chad and Isaias Afewerki of Eritrea have spent more than a decade in power and there is no sign that they are prepared to leave. Ethipoia´s Meles Zenawi is still prime minister after 18 years and it is a waste of time to talk about the tactics he has used to stay in power.
The last time I checked more than half of the over fifty countries that make up the AU had leaders who are unelected and deeply corrupt. Even the rest who claim to have been elected more than half have had their elections questioned by both local and international election observers. Yar´Dua of Nigeria, Ali Bongo of Gabon, Denis Sassou Nguesso, and Mugabe and the elections that brought them into power have all been questioned. The resignation of the head of the electoral commission in Mauritania just immediately after election confirmed what everyone was saying privately at the time.
Thus from Libya where Gaddafi has managed to misrule his country for forty years, to Zimbabwe where the old man still thinks of himself as one that Zimbabwe cannot do without; to Uganda where Museveni and his family are anything but thieves; to Gambia where Jammeh continue to ridicule himself and that of his country with his treatment of HIV/AIDS sufferers; to Kenya where Mwai Kibaki refused to leave office after a humiliating defeat and had to resort to violence to keep himself in power; to Nigeria where corruption and embezzlement have produced a failed state; to Niger where Mamadou Tandja has staged a coup against his own government in an effort to rule for life; to Angola, Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea and Congo where a cabal of corrupt leaders preside over the looting of their countries´ oil revenues; to Ethiopia where Meles Zenawi has turned his country into a prison; to Eritrea where Isaias Afewerki has turned from a freedom fighter to a brutal despot and to Gabon, Togo and DRC where children of former corrupt dictators have assumed the mantle of leadership apparently to continue where their parents left off (including the systematic looting and mismanagement of their countries´ treasuries) there is no sign that continent is going to achieve the lofty goals it has set itself. One needs not look far to see how their incompetence and monumental failures have contributed to the demise of the continent, the countries swimming in rich natural resources yet the people lacking the basic necessities of life.
There are two main characteristics of these leaders which directly go to affect the achievement of the goals set by the AU. First they are all corrupt dictators who are unwilling to relinquish power despite their colossal failures. And second none of the leaders seem to have any good political, economic or social record. Their countries are deeply soaked in poverty. The key question is how is the AU going to promote peace, security, and stability on a continent full of unrepented dictators and how is the AU going to promote democratic principles, popular participation and good governance when the people at the helm of affairs on the continent consistently kick against those laudable ideas?
There is no point arguing that there are strong and direct link between dictatorship in Africa and the high level of insecurity and instability seen all over the continent. We need not to look too far to see how dictatorship, corruption and unfair distribution of resources (poverty) led to many civil wars, coups and counter-coups in the 1970s, 1980s, 1990s and even this 21st century. The logic is that if people who are poor cannot democratically change their leaders they will have no other alternative but to use force and violence to bring about a change of government hence the many conflicts and wars seen in Africa.
This logic of violent removal of governments was correctly echoed by President Julius Nyerere who warned against the consequences of over staying in power and stealing resources meant for the people:
"We spoke and acted as if, given the opportunity for self-government, we would quickly create utopias. Instead injustice, even tyranny, is rampant…We can try to carve for ourselves an unfair share of the wealth of the society. But the cost to us, as well as to our fellow citizens, will be very high. It will be high not only in terms of satisfactions forgone, but also in terms of our own security and well-being." Julius Kambarage Nyerere, from his book Uhuru na Maendeleo (Freedom and Development), 1973.
The consequences of a continent dominated by tyrants as echoed by Nyerere was given a boost by Obama in a speech to Ghana´s Parliament in which he linked tyranny and corruption in Africa to the high level of poverty, instability and conflict:
"But history offers a clear verdict: governments that respect the will of their own people are more prosperous, more stable and more successful than governments that do not. Democracy is about more than holding elections - it's also about what happens between them. Repression takes many forms, and too many nations are plagued by problems that condemn their people to poverty. No country is going to create wealth if its leaders exploit the economy to enrich themselves, or police can be bought off by drug traffickers. No business wants to invest in a place where the government skims 20 percent off the top, or the head of the port authority is corrupt. No person wants to live in a society where the rule of law gives way to the rule of brutality and bribery. That is not democracy that is tyranny, and now is the time for it to end". He added: "Make no mistake: history is on the side of these brave Africans and not with those who use coups or change Constitutions to stay in power. Africa doesn't need strongmen, it needs strong institutions". People everywhere should have the right to start a business or get an education without paying bribe. We have a responsibility to support those who act responsibly and to isolate those who don't" Source: http://www.ghana.gov.gh.11 July 2009.
As Nyerere and Obama correctly hypothesized you can only expect wars, instabilities and conflicts in an environment where tyrants and dictators dominate. Hence one may not be surprised to hear that Somalia is burning, or the Lord´s Resistance Army is heading to Kampala, or rebels have encircled N´Djamena the Chadian capital, or the Great Lake Region is in turmoil they are the consequences of dictatorial rule, bad governance, nepotism, cronyism and rampant corruption. The high number of dictators making up the AU leadership, their unwillingness to allow democracy to work will only continue to breed instability, conflicts and wars and hence will defeat the AU´s key goal of promoting peace, security, and stability upon which all the other goals depend.
Where is the AU heading with these dictators still in office? Can any progress be made towards Africa´s unity and can the United States of Africa be realised with all these tyrants in power? The answer is a big no. The fact is that if the AU is ever going to transform itself into a respected democratic institution made up of democratic member countries then it must as a necessity purge itself of these tyrants and their children who are holding the organisation in bondage.
The question is how can the AU rid itself of these selfish leaders? There are a number of things the AU can and must do.
It must first and foremost abrogate the automatic membership. Throughout the world all serious bodies have constitutions and charters that set out the benchmarks that would-be members must attain before they are admitted. This contrasts the AU where membership is automatic no matter the record of a government or the means by which it came to power. This system is not only wrong but it is also self defeating. It is one of the reasons why AU is full of corrupt dictators and tyrants. It is this automatic membership that has ensured that Mugabe could wrought violence against his people and still has the audacity to attend AU meetings. It is this automatic membership that has ensured that Nguema, Museveni, Nguesso, Santos, Afewerki, Tandja, Kibaki, al-Bashir, Mubarak, Gaddafi, Campore, Biya and Jammeh can do whatever they like in their respective countries and still attend AU meetings. The automatic membership must be abolished and benchmarks set for would-be members to attain before being accepted. That is AU must be made up of serious minded countries committed to democracy, rule of law, protection of human rights, peace, stability and fight the against corruption and poverty. Members must demonstrate their commitment to democracy, rule of law, and fight against corruption and poverty before being admitted as is seen in the EU. This must change if the AU is ever going to be a United States of Africa. In the European Union where membership is earned all the 27 members have democratic governments that respect human rights. Romania and other Eastern European nations whose governments were corrupt were forced to reform before they were admitted into the EU and we know how hard Turkey has tried to become a member without success despite the huge internal reforms it has carried out over the last couple of years. We cannot make the AU a body of no standards AU must have standards and benchmarks if it is ever going to eliminate dictatorship from its ranks.
The effort by some leaders to transform the AU into a Commission with more powers to conduct business on behalf of the continent has met fierce resistance and continues to be thwarted by these old corrupt guards who see every reform as a threat to their power and corrupt lifestyle. These tyrants continue to torpedo every effort of AU to move from its current position as a talking shop into serious solution solving body. Mugabe and his cohorts and their sons are holding the AU in bondage through their hold on power. They continue to resist every attempt to transform the AU into a useful body. These corrupt dictators have and still continue to frustrate the good intentions of the body but the AU must not capitulate but work to adopt and implement resolutions that will force these tyrants to improve human rights, empower women, fight corruption and poverty, promote democracy and ultimately give up power.
Furthermore, to prevent the AU from being dominated by tyrants and their children the Africa Union must insist that leaders who are not democratically elected by their citizens cannot become a Chair of the body. If a leader of a country wants to be the Chair of the august body then he/she must subject himself/herself to rigours of elections in his country. Such simple demands by the AU will make these tyrants consider their positions carefully. They will be ashamed to request for a chairmanship position when they know they are not democratically elected. The current situation in which Gaddafi a lifelong dictator chairs the body is not only unacceptable but is also an insult to all the democratically minded people in Africa.
Additionally to boost its position to rid itself of these tyrants the AU must lobby the democratically elected leaders like Senegal´s Wade, Ian Khama of Botswana, Ghana´s Atta Mills, Zuma of South Africa, Benin´s Yayi Boni and others to persuade these tyrants to adopt democracy. The tyrants must be persuaded to stand down and allow free and fair elections to be held. Any tyrant who refuses to stand down should be suspended until free and fair elections are held. The AU is not going to make any progress if the leaders are pampered to do what they want. AU leaders must recognise that Africa cannot harness her strategic importance in this new global order unless there are democratic and institutional reform that will rid the continent of absolute dictators and their corrupt machinery which for so long a time has been responsible for the misery and high levels of poverty seen throughout Africa.
Again the AU should push for genuine democracy in its member countries like the one in Ghana. I am not talking about just elections I am talking about free and fair elections that give opposition equal access to state media and resources. The situation whereby incumbent governments monopolise state resources and employ all manner of tactics to win power as happened in Equatorial Guinea, Congo, and Zimbabwe is a recipe for disaster.
In addition, the AU must insist that children of former dictators cannot automatically replace them when they leave office. The current situation where children of former dictators have been installed as presidents in sham elections is not only an insult to people of these countries but is an indictment on the credibility of AU as a body. It is unacceptable for Faure Eyadema of Togo, Joseph Kabila of DR Congo and Gabon Ali Bongo of Gabon to replace their fathers as presidents. These precedents and developments seem to have encouraged Gaddafi, Museveni and Hosni Mubarak who are busy grooming their children to replace them. This trend is not only dangerous but it is also a recipe for conflict and instability and the earlier the AU sends a clear message to these leaders the better. These dictators and their children must be prevented from establishing dynasties in Africa.
Also the current practice where a country is only suspended when there is coup is not fair to the citizens of Zimbabwe, Equatorial Guinea, Libya, Niger, Gambia, and Eritrea who suffer human right abuses on the daily basis. AU should not suspend only countries where coups have taken place but must also suspend all countries whose leaders engage in human rights abuses and corrupt practices that push their citizens into poverty and economic annihilation. If a country is suspended because a coup has taken place, is it also not morally right to suspend a country when its leaders loot their resources, and engage in human rights violation? If citizens of a country like Libya are denied a say on how their leaders are elected or how their country is governed is it not enough to suspend that country until the citizens are given the opportunity to determine who should lead them?
Again the AU must make sure its institutions are headquartered in countries that respect human rights and rule of law, eschew corruption and is a democracy. I cannot imagine Gambia being made the headquarters of the AU´s Human Right Commission when Jammeh is busy killing journalists in cold blood and has threatened to annihilate people who freely express their views in that country. It is very shocking that the AU seems to be pampering these leaders. I can hardly comprehend why and how a nation whose leader is known to be abusing the rights of its citizens is made the headquarters of a human right commission. AU has got to be really serious if it wants the rest of the world to take it serious. Therefore certain criteria must be met before headquarters are cited in a country and the AU must not hesitate to remove the headquarters when the situation there changes. Ethiopian leaders must demonstrate their commitment to democracy, rule of law, justice and equality before the law. The eroding of democratic values in that country must be of much concern to the AU. I strongly believe Ethiopia should loose its headquarters status if the leaders continue on the path of dictatorship. This will send a clear message to the rest of the leaders that dictatorship and human rights abuse will not be tolerated in the new AU.
Moreover, AU must compile annual reports about human rights, corruption, and abuse of power in all member countries and sanction those countries found to be in breach of AU Charter. If we are ever going to rid ourselves of the dictators and the rampant corruption and abuse of power associated with their regimes then the AU must act and apply sanctions.
AU should engage the people of Africa in its programmes. Very few people know what goes on at the AU headquarters and we are not going to build a successful Africa when the people who make up the continent are excluded from its activities. Universities and other institutions of higher learning must be involved in AU´s activities to sensitise the people and to build grassroot support in member countries. Therefore AU Chapters must be established across Africa: in universities, colleges and high schools to make the people aware of what AU is doing. AU must organise symposia and debates and other competitions in schools. The advantage is that since the students are going to be the future leaders and policy makers in Africa their involvement will help inculcate and build support for AU. To add to this AU must publish news letters and distribute them to schools, civil society organisations, government departments and other institutions to create awareness. Since we are in the information age internet, e-mail and other information distribution methods must be employed to deliver information about the AU to the people. Editors of both print and electronic media must be encouraged to cover AU activities and events.
The AU must also involve the intellectuals, diplomats and technocrats in Africa. President Julius Nyerere the illustrious son of Africa says:
"...intellectuals have a special contribution to make to the development of our nation, and to Africa. And I am asking that their knowledge, and the greater understanding that they should possess, should be used for the benefit of the society of which we are all members." Julius Kambarage Nyerere, from his book Uhuru na Maendeleo (Freedom and Development), 1973.
In short the people of Africa of whom the AU belong must be involved, but this involvement of the people will come to nothing if the dictators are not persuaded to hang off their glove.
Above all, the tyrants themselves must acknowledge that it is in their own interest to give up power and allow democracy and rule of law to prevail. The cost of holding on to power may be costly not only in terms of satisfactions forgone, but also in terms of their own security and well-being.
If the prosperity and stability Obama spoke about and the contribution of intellectuals Nyerere mentioned above as well as the AU´s own long term goal of a United States of Africa are to be realised and have effect in Africa then the AU must at any cost rid itself of the corrupt dictators and their children who are lining up to take their position. You cannot ask intellectuals to play a role while the dictators are undermining their effort.
The AU will not be able to reverse decades of low per capita income, low productivity, slow pace of social and economic development, poor state of infrastructures and weak economies if steps are not taken to ensure that democracy is established on the continent, and that all leaders subject themselves to the rigours of election, fight corruption and poverty and promote peace, stability and development.
If the AU is ever going to realise any of the goals it has set itself then it must as a matter of necessity purge itself of the dictators and their sons.
By Lord Aikins Adusei
The author is a political activist and anti-corruption campaigner.
An Ethiopian minister has denied reports that millions of people need urgent food aid after failed rains.
Disaster Prevention Minister Mikitu Kassa told the BBC that the government was helping those hit by the drought.
He was speaking after the US-funded Famine Early Warning System warned of increased hunger in parts of the country in the coming months.
Ethiopia has been extremely sensitive to images showing its people as starving since the famine of 1984-5.
Mr Mikitu said the report was "not evidence-based".
"It is baseless, it is contrary to the situation on the ground," he told the BBC"s Focus on Africa programme.
He admitted that 5.7 million people were currently getting food aid but argued that "in the Ethiopian context, there is no hunger, no famine" and that the situation was not as bad as in recent years.
"The government is taking action to mitigate the problems," he said.
The latest Famine Early Warning System (Fewsnet) projections show parts of the country in the extreme east, north-east and south-west as "extremely food insecure" - one level below that for a famine - in the period January-March 2010.
The worst affected areas are in the Somali, Gambella and Afar regions.
It says high food prices, poor livestock production and low agricultural wages will lead to increased hunger.
Its report comes after the failure of both rainy seasons in 2009.
Aid agency Oxfam recently warned that drought had hit parts of East Africa for the sixth year in a row.
Oxfam said Somalia"s drought was the worst for 20 years, and November rainfall was less than 5% of normal in parts of Kenya and Ethiopia.
The UN has already said it is aiming to feed 20 million people in East Africa over the next six months.
LAGOS (Reuters) - Nigeria is on the brink of constitutional crisis with its ailing president not transferring powers to his deputy and political king makers feuding over his succession, a senior lawyer and a former U.S. envoy have warned.
President Umaru Yar"Adua has been absent from Africa"s most populous nation for more than a month receiving treatment for a heart condition in Saudi Arabia, but there have been no official updates on his health for weeks.
Vice President Goodluck Jonathan has been presiding over cabinet meetings but executive powers have not officially been transferred to him, leading to questions over the legality of decisions made by the government in Yar"Adua"s absence.
The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), the umbrella body of all lawyers in the country, has launched legal action against the Attorney-General, asking a top court to declare that Yar"Adua has violated the constitution by omitting to transfer powers.
"We are saying there is a duty on the president to do it, it is not discretionary ... We cannot continue this way, we are not running a banana republic," NBA president Rotimi Akeredolu told Reuters in a telephone interview on Thursday.
"We are treading a very dangerous path and we have to be very careful. We are trying to paper over a few cracks ... but if we are not careful the whole building will collapse," he said.
The NBA"s legal action follows a similar suit already brought by prominent human rights lawyer Femi Falana.
It also adds to a crisis in the judiciary triggered by the swearing in on Wednesday of a new chief justice, the first time in the country"s history the head of state has been absent for the ceremony and an act some senior lawyers say is illegal.
The legality of the top judge"s position is vital because he who would swear in a new president should Yar"Adua leave office: controversy over the chief justice would mean controversy over the legality of the new president, lawyers say.
Nigeria does not need legal confusion over what is already a fierce succession debate.
"Yar"Adua"s removal from office would result in a political and constitutional crisis for the United States" most important strategic partner in Africa and one of its largest suppliers of oil," former U.S. ambassador to Nigeria John Campbell said.
"Though Yar"Adua has been ill since he assumed the presidency in 2007, there is no consensus yet among the king makers about what to do upon his removal," he wrote in a paper published on Wednesday by the Council on Foreign Relations, a U.S.-based think-tank.
Key to the debate over Yar"Adua"s succession is an unwritten agreement that the office of president rotates every two terms between the predominantly Muslim north and the Christian south.
Yar"Adua is a northerner mid-way through his first term. Jonathan is a southerner, meaning that should he take over if the president leaves office as the constitution states, he would be under pressure not to stand in 2011 presidential elections.
Nervousness among Yar"Adua"s northern "kitchen cabinet" over Jonathan even serving as acting president is what is preventing Yar"Adua from transferring powers, political analysts say.
"This problem has been foisted on us because of a cabal in this country," Akeredolu said.
The government and presidency officials have said state business is continuing as normal and that Yar"Adua is being consulted on issues needing his attention, such as a supplementary budget which they said this week was taken to him to sign on his sickbed.
But analysts say government business is slowing. Two of Nigeria"s top oil partners, Royal Dutch Shell and Chevron, have been in renewal negotiations covering expired licences in Africa"s biggest energy supplier and neither they nor the government have yet announced a resolution.
"The stakes are high ... Continued access to oil revenue will be a powerful incentive for the king makers to find a way out of the current crisis, despite their regional, ethnic and religious divisions," Campbell said.
He said the best-case scenario would be a constitutional agreement which allowed the country to "limp" towards 2011 elections, but warned that if the struggle between rival factions became prolonged, the army could step in.
"If the current crisis spins out of control, the Nigerian military is likely to intervene, possibly with a nominal civilian head," said Campbell, who was U.S. ambassador to Nigeria from 2004 to 2007.
Egyptian police have attacked some 1,200 international activists who had gathered at the Rafah border crossing to protest against the Israeli-imposed blockade on the Gaza Strip. The activists say their protest was a "non-violent" gathering, aimed at showing the rest of the world how badly the people of Gaza are suffering. At least one of the activists was injured in the attack. On Wednesday, 86 international activists were allowed to enter the enclave from Egypt via the Rafah crossing, but other members of the Gaza Freedom March say they are being forcibly held in their hotels. Egyptian officials say the activists were banned from entering Gaza because of what they called the "sensitive situation" in the Palestinian territory. The activists were joined by a few hundred Palestinians as they marched from northern Gaza to the Erez crossing with Israel. AO/MMN
Senegal"s President Abdoulaye Wade has apologised to the Christian minority for comparing a controversial statue to Jesus Christ. Archbishop of Dakar Theodore Adrien Sarr said the comments had "humiliated" Catholics, leading to angry protests by hundreds of Christian youths in Dakar. Mr Wade made the comments after imams condemned the statue as "idolatrous". The $27m (£16.6m) North Korean-built "African Renaissance" statue has also been criticised as a waste of money. Senegal has a long history of tolerance between majority Muslims and the influential Christian community, who make up some 6% of the population. But the BBC"s Tidiane Sy in Dakar says there have been recent warnings that this could be at risk. Three respected groups have called on the government to be cautious about how it handles religious issues. President Wade sent his influential son, Karim, who is also a cabinet minister, to deliver a personal apology to Archbishop Sarr after the stone-throwing Christian youths clashed with security forces outside Dakar cathedral on Wednesday. The archbishop had said: "We were shaken and humiliated by the comparison which the head of state made between the monument to African renaissance and the representations found in our churches." President Wade had sought to deflect the criticism of his statue on religious grounds by comparing it to the statues of Jesus Christ found in churches. He hopes that the statue will attract more tourists to the country but many Senegalese feel the money could be better spent. The statue, intended to symbolise the fight against racism, was Mr Wade"s idea and he says he will personally take 35% of the revenue it generates, with the rest going to the state. When completed early in 2010, it will be bigger than the Statue of Liberty in New York.
Gambian president, Yahya Jammeh, is once again on the offensive against homosexuality, describing the practice as an act of "indecency" which has no place in the country"s military. ‘‘We will not encourage lesbianism and homosexuality. It is a taboo in our armed forces.”
But this is not the first time Jammeh has shown revulsion for gays and lesbians, and certainly not only in the army. The largely homophobic president who seems to enjoy basking in interminable trend of controversies recently ordered all people with sexual orientation to persons of the same sex to leave the country, or risk death.
"The Gambia is a country of believers...sinful and immoral practices as homosexuality will not be tolerated in this country," he said in May 2008. And as usual, he came under wide condemnation then.
President Jammeh made his latest outburst as he preached ‘Indiscipline’ in the military, as part a decoration ceremony for newly promoted army officials, including the country’s newly appointed military chief and his deputy who was just demoted to private and sacked, only to be reinstated a day or so after and promoted to a higher rank. That has been the trend in the country’s largely traumatized military core of late.
He said that indiscipline in the army will not be tolerated. “Discipline in the army cannot be compromised. We have seen a drastic drop in discipline in the army which is unacceptable. If you wear a uniform, you must be exemplary in discipline,” the president stated.
An undisciplined army, he added, is equal to a band of robbers and thus “dangerous to the nation. From the general down to recruits, I am not going to tolerate indiscipline.”
In his characteristic posture, the Gambian leader, notorious for his uncompromisingly strong feeling of hostility for the country’s colonial power, Britain, said he has achieved so much in 15 years for the Gambian army what the British could not in 400 years. He pointed to the existence of the rank of ‘General’ in the present Gambian army as indication of this fact.
Over the past few weeks there have been persistent reports of alleged coup attempt, and this has mainly been fueled by a number of arrests of senior military officers, including the country’s immediate former army chief who was instrumental in foiling a coup that almost saw the removal of Yahya Jammeh who himself came to power by the barrel of the gun.
The men have since been in detention without charges or any official explanation from the authorities.
As normalcy gradually returns to Zango area of Bauchi metropolis yesterday after the religious crisis that broke out in the city last Monday, business and commercial activities have resumed fully just as more riot policemen and soldiers have been deployed to maintain peace. People were seen returning to their homes, while others whose houses were razed went round in company with relatives to see the damages done. People who had taken refuge at the building of defence industry had left the place for their different places of abode. Soldiers and policemen were seen patrolling the streets and the road blocks have been dismantled. Bauchi State Police Public Relations Officer, ASP Mohammed Barau, said both riot police and the Army deployed in the area would stay for some time to sustain the peace. He advised people in the state to go about their normal business as security personnel were on alert to protect their lives and properties.
The Chief Imam of Bauchi Central Mosque, Mallam Bala Ahmed Baban Inna said religious fundamentalists usually hide under the cover of religion to carry out their evil act, adding that Islam means peace and it does not permit fighting or chaos of any kind. The Imam prayed to God to forgive the sins of the deceased and advised people to live in peace with one another according to the tenets of Islam and laws of the land. Meanwhile, the state police command has maintained that 35 members of the religious sect including their leader, Malam Badamasi, were killed and not over 72 as claimed by some people. The command also said two residents of the area and a soldier lost their lives which brings the death toll to 38. The PPRO, Barau said: “As soon as there is any new development, we will get across to you people. So please don"t listen to rumour because the situation at hand now is very sensitive.”
However, a source told THISDAY that he counted over 70 corpses at the morgue of the specialist hospital between Monday and Wednesday morning “and I want to fault the media on the number of children reported that were killed in that Kala-Kato uprising”. According to him, “even on that very day, we counted over 18 children not to talk of the adults who are still dying from injuries sustained in the fight, and if you doubt me, go and ask those people working in the mortuary.” Secretary to the Nigeria Red Cross (NRC) in the state, Malam Adamu Abubakar, said many of the people who were killed in the clashes on Monday were youngsters below 18 years of age. Abubakar disclosed that while some of the victims were shot, most were attacked with machetes and knives. An army officer who was sent from a nearby base to speak to the sect’s leaders was killed with a machete, he added. He said most of the dead were youngsters from outside Bauchi, popularly called almajirai, who had been sent to study Arabic and the Koran with local clerics.
When THISDAY visited the Bauchi Specialist Hospital where the corpses were kept, riot policemen were seen keeping guard at the mortuary. But a senior staff of the hospital yesterday said they had received 37 corpses, including that of the leader of the sect, Badamasi. He said all their fridges were filled with corpses, adding that no relative of the dead had come to claim any of the corpses, perhaps for fear of being implicated. Badamasi’s corpse was placed on the bare floor at the hospital’s mortuary with that of 35 other people. All efforts by THISDAY to speak with the hospital’s Chief Medical Director (CMD), who is the only competent official to comment on the issue was unsuccessful as he was said to be on official engagement outside the premises. Violence had broken out Monday in the Zango aread of Bauchi metropolis following the arrest of a suspected leader of an Islamic sect, Kala Kato Group, by the police in Bauchi.
KHARTOUM (Reuters) - Sudan"s parliament passed a law on Wednesday governing the oil-producing Abyei region"s right to join the country"s southern region if it secedes, or to remain part of the north.
But lawmakers said problems remained about who in Abyei would be allowed to vote on the question in a ballot that will coincide with a referendum in the south in a little over a year on whether southern Sudan should go its own way.
In a 2005 peace deal which ended more than two decades of civil war, Abyei was a major bone of contention and the region remains a possible flashpoint for a return to conflict.
The dominant northern National Congress Party and the former southern rebel Sudan People"s Liberation Movement (SPLM), which formed a coalition government after the 2005 deal, voted for the law. But some lawmakers said significant problems remained.
The law allows for the people of Abyei, in central Sudan, to choose whether to remain in the north or join the south, which many analysts expect to secede in a simultaneous vote in January 2011.
It gives the Ngok Dinka tribe and other Sudanese who reside in Abyei the right to vote. A simple majority will decide the region"s future.
Prominent lawmakers from the nomadic Missiriya tribe, who graze cattle a few months a year in Abyei, walked out of parliament, saying they wanted the same status as the Ngok Dinka.
"What happened today was a conspiracy against the Missiriya," said Mahdi Babo Nimr, a senior Missiriya figure.
The tribe has previously threatened military action if its demands are not met.
Parliament"s deputy speaker said some details on who was eligible to vote had yet to be finalised.
"The referendum commission will decide on the criteria for residency in the region," said the SPLM"s Atem Garang. "It is a deferred problem."
Garang said choosing the eight members of the referendum commission would in itself be a point of contention.
"It will be difficult to get people who are sincerely neutral," he said.
Abyei, whose people are among the poorest in Sudan, lies along the north-south border which is still not demarcated. Its potential as a flashpoint is increased by the fact that many of Sudan"s oil fields traverse the contested north-south boundary.
Sudan"s civil war claimed an estimated 2 million lives, drove 4 million from their homes and destabilised much of east Africa.
Many worry a separate south will have serious security problems as tribal violence has sharply escalated this year killing at least 2,000 people.
A witness said five Kenyans were shot, three to death, by a man wearing a south Sudan army uniform in the region"s capital Juba on Monday night.
"The dead, one lady and two men, are still in the mortuary in Juba waiting to be transferred to Nairobi today," said Kenyan Lucy Wanjiku who saw the attack.
The independent web site Sudan Tribune quoted south Sudan army spokesman Kuol Diem Kuol as saying the army was investigating the attack.
Kuol also said that in separate violence on Monday, five south Sudan soldiers were killed in clashes with civilians.
ABUJA—IN SPITE of the controversy over his legal powers, the out-going Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Idris Legbo Kutigi, yesterday, in Abuja, swore in Justice Aloysius Iyorgyer Katsina-Alu as the 11th Chief Justice of Nigeria.
Not a few senior lawyers, especially members of the Inner Bar, had strongly argued that the laws of the nation neither allowed, recognised nor envisaged an incumbent Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, swearing-in his successor because, by doing that, it would mean that the nation would have two substantive Chief Justices at the same time.
They had argued that such situation would be absurd and should be avoided.
It was also their contention that since 1958 when the first indigenous Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice (Sir) Adetokunbo Ademola, was sworn into office till the time of Justice Kutigi, who is the 10th Chief Justice, the Oath of Office was administered on each one of them by the Head of the Federal Government, the appointment being a political one.
They had also argued that even if there was no clear-cut constitutional provision stopping an incumbent CJN from swearing in his successor, the practice since 1958 was already a norm which ought not be disturbed.
But, the out-going CJN, Justice Kutigi who sworn-in his successor yesterday faulted the arguments of the senior lawyers, saying they lacked merit.
Kutigi, who administered the Oath of Office on Justice Katsina-Alu, yesterday, however, said he was still the number one judicial officer in the country and would be in charge of the third arm of government until he formally bowed out of the Bench.
The Kutigi-born jurist, few hours after the swearing-in of Justice Katsina-Alu, hit the mandatory retirement age of 70, and is due to formally bow out of the Supreme Court Bench today.
Only six serving justices of the Supreme Court graced the event yesterday.
They are Kutigi, who administered the oath; Justice John Fabiyi, who was recently elevated to the apex court Bench; Justice Tanko Mohammed; Justice James Ogebe; Justice Coomasie and Justice Mahmoud Mohammed.
Nevertheless, politicians, judicial officers, serving and retired from various courts graced the occasion. Also present were the governors of Benue, Rivers, Kwara, Enugu and Bayelsa states.
Kutigi blasts critics
In a nine-minute remark by Justice Kutigi on the occasion which had all the trappings of a court ruling, he said:
“I thank the Almighty God Allah who brings us together today to witness this epoch-making event. For the first time in the history of this country, the Chief Justice of Nigeria has sworn-in the in-coming.
“It is the first time (clapping). That it is the first time is not the fault of anybody. This is because the law has always been there. The swearing-in of the CJN is either done by Mr President or the outgoing or retiring Chief Justice. Now the occasion arises to perform the function which I have just done.
‘I am aware that this has generated a lot of commentaries and controversies from people who were supposed to know. The law is there. There is nothing new.
“If you look at the Oath Act 2004, you will see the provision there where the CJN, justices of the Supreme Court, President of the Court of Appeal and the justices of the Court of Appeal, among others, are all listed in a column, all of them, according to the Act are to be sworn in by the President or the Chief Justice of Nigeria.
Kutigi justifies action
‘The provision is there and it has always been there.
“That the outgoing CJN has never done it does not make it wrong. The law is clear.
“If you also look at the 1999 Constitution, it also makes it clear: that the person who has the responsibility of swearing-in the new CJN is the Chief Justice of Nigeria.
‘What I am saying is that there is nothing new about it. The law is there but for the first time we are just using it today.
‘And, let me say that I will be attaining the age of 70, Insa Allahu, by midnight today (clapping)
“The law requires me to bow out at the age of 70 and so I should bow out tomorrow (today).
“So, make no mistake about it, I am still in charge. (clapping again and laughing)
“I said this because I don’t want mischief-makers to go and write in the papers that there are two CJNs in Nigeria .
“Until I retire tomorrow, I am still in charge.
“Ladies and gentlemen, being a member of the judiciary myself, a member of this court, I can say that the new CJN who has just been sworn-in is the 11th indigenous Chief Justice of Nigeria (clapping).
“The President of the Court of Appeal who has also just been sworn in is the fifth President of the Court of Appeal.
‘I have been at the Supreme Court since 1992.
“I have worked with both of them. I have worked with Justice Salami at the Court of Appeal while I was there and all along while I was at the Supreme Court, the new CJN joined me here two years after I came here. “We know each other very well.
I can tell you that he knows his onions. Very hardworking. I can assure you that you will enjoy him.
“I say congratulations to both of them.
“I have nothing more to add but to say that I am very grateful. I didn’t know that this hall will this be filled. By the grace of God, we shall continue to do our best in the judiciary. Thank you very much,” he added.
Justice Kutigi, who administered the oaths of office was the 10th indigenous CJN.
His predecessors included Justices Adetokunbo Ademola, Taslim Olawale Elias, Sir Darnley Alexander, Atanda Fatai-Williams, George Sodeinde Sowemimo, Gabriel Ayo lrikefe, Mohammed Bello, Muhammadu Lawal Uwais and Salihu Moddibo Alfa Belgore, most of who are dead.
Enter new Chief Justice
The new and the 11th Chief Justice, Justice Aloysius Katsina-Alu, was born on August 28, 1941.
He pursued his legal training at the Law Faculty of the Institute of Administration , Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, between 1963 and 1964, before proceeding to London .He attended the Inns of Court School of Law, Gibson and Weldon College of Law, School of African and Oriental Studies, University of London from 1964-1967.
He obtained the Degree of Utter Barrister.
Prior to the commencement of his legal studies, his Lordship had formal military training at home —Nigeria MilitaryTraining College, Kaduna, 1962, and abroad —Mons Military Training College, Aldershot, England, 1962-1963.
He also holds a diploma in Business English (1972).
Justice Katsina-Alu was enrolled to the English Bar in October 1967 and to the Nigerian Bar on June 28, 1968.
He worked as a private legal practitioner in 1968 and between 1977 and 1978.
Between 1969 and 1977, he worked as a Legal Officer at the Nigerian Ports Authority, Lagos .
In 1978, he became the Attorney-General of Benue State until 1979 when he was appointed a Judge of the Benue State High Court.
From the High Court of Benue State, he was elevated to the Court of Appeal Bench in 1985.
He served as a Justice of the Court of Appeal until 1998, when after 20 years post-call he was appointed a Justice of the Supreme Court in November 1998.
He has been on the Supreme Court Bench until recently when he was elevated and sworn-in yesterday as the 11th Chief Justice by Justice Kutigi.
He is an awardee of the National Honour of the Commander of the Order of the Niger, CON, in recognition of his services to the nation.