Thursday, December 28, 2017

A Passion For Games

A Passion for Games

With a large population, poverty, corruption, and sectarian conflicts, Nigerians have a figured a way to deal with their woes: board games.
In fact, the national past time is also a competitive sport, with the country boasting more top 100 players than any other nation, and winning the Scrabble world championship in Nairobi, the Economist reported.
It is uncertain how many Nigerians play, but according to the coach of Nigeria’s national Scrabble team, there are roughly 4,000 Scrabblers in more than 100 clubs around the country, compared to about 2,500 in 152 clubs in North America.
However, national tournaments with prizes up to $10,000, also involve other board games such as Monopoly and chess.
The capital Lagos even has its own Monopoly board.
Some say Nigeria’s passion for games underscores the county’s unofficial motto: “Nigerians strive to finish first.”

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

A Dam On The Nile


A Dam on the Nile

Fearing that a dam in Ethiopia’s highlands will impact the flow of water through the deserts of Sudan to Egyptian fields and reservoirs, Cairo suggested the three nations turn to international experts to help settle the dispute.
Ministers from Ethiopia and Egypt met in Addis Ababa on Tuesdayto try to resolve a disagreement over the possible impact of the $4-billion Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, which is currently under construction, Reuters reported.
The agency cited officials who took part in the sessions as saying Egypt had suggested involving an international body such as the World Bank.
For their part, Sudan and Ethiopia say Egypt has refused to accept their proposed amendments to the environmental impact assessment. Water sharing has been a contentious issue for decades, with analysts repeatedly warning that a dispute could boil over into conflict.
Currently, Egypt claims the right to around 55 billion cubic meters of water from the river, saying even that amount compels it to recycle water several times and supplement its supply with desalinated seawater, the Financial Times noted. Ethiopia says the dam won’t impact countries downstream but has refused to recognize Egypt's claim.

Mixed Heritage-The African Migration Started Earlier

Mixed Heritage

Scientists have many theories about the origin of our species. The most widely accepted of them is that humans stemmed from a common ancestor in Africa and migrated out of the continent some 60,000 years ago.
But a new study mapping out the fossil record of human migration suggests that homo sapiens actually migrated from Africa much earlier than previously believed – nearly 120,000 years ago, the International Business Times reported.
At multiple dig sites across Asia and China, archeologists uncovered skull samples that revealed fully-developed homo sapiens 70,000 years older than previously found, confirming that the species’ mass migration occurred way before what was once thought to be the scientific consensus.
Scientists’ new theory partially reinforces previous thought on the matter, however, by confirming that our early ancestors migrated from the continent about 60,000 years ago, but only as small groups of foragers and explorers.
That came to shape the evolution and diversity of those like the Neanderthal, and also peoples across the world from China to Europe, scientists posit.

Camerron: Speaking Up


Speaking Up

The arrest of Cameroonian-American writer Patrice Nganang in Douala earlier this month brought home a conflict that has remained obscure in the US.
A literature professor at Stony Brook University in New York, Nganang criticized President Paul Biya’s handling of a secessionist movement in the English-speaking northwest and southwest regions of the largely French-speaking African country.
“Detaining an important independent voice like Patrice Nganang, who has used his writing to investigate the consequences of violence, is indicative of a movement by the government to silence all political criticism and dismantle the right to free expression,” said PEN America in a statement to the Associated Press.
Serving in office since 1982 – he’s one of many African strongmen to remain in power for too long – Biya has cracked down on the secessionists. The president claims he’s fighting terrorists, but critics said he’s discriminating against a minority that’s standing up for their rights.
An online campaign to free Nganang has sprung up. Local media wrote that he was likely to remain behind bars in a maximum-security prison until at least Jan. 19 when he is scheduled to face a judge again. Newsday reported that he’s accused of threatening to kill Biya, inciting violence and insulting the army.
The crisis in the English-speaking regions erupted late last year when locals staged strikes and protests, saying they couldn’t use their language in courts or other government venues and teachers in English schools often spoke French as their first language. The army attempted to suppress the demonstrations, arresting leaders and allegedly killing as many as four people.
Schools are still closed in the northwestern and southwestern regions.
Recently, Voice of America reported that Cameroonian troops had burned down a village in Mamfe on the Nigerian border after clashes that resulted in the deaths of at least four soldiers and untold civilian casualties. “People are dying in (great) numbers in Mamfe,” a villager told the news service.
The problem has spilled over into Nigeria, where Anglophone refugees have swarmed across the border in search of safety. The United Nations counted more than 7,000 with plenty more seeking asylum. A heavy wet season in the area has made it harder to bring supplies to those folks as overwhelmed locals deal with the influx, the UN added.
The violence has also spread to Cameroon’s parliament, where the Guardian wrote that an English-speaking lawmaker threw an object – potentially a part of her desk or her shoe – at a colleague in protest of legislative leaders refusing to let her or other Anglophone lawmakers speak.
It was a symbol of how actions will replace words when voices are silenced.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Liberia: Ready To Score!


Ready to Score

Former soccer star George Weah looks set to become president as Liberians go to the polls Tuesday for the final round of the West African country’s presidential election.
Having already run the first round, Weah now faces the country’s vice president, Joseph Boakai, in the battle to replace incumbent President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who can’t run again because of term limits.
Though Weah lost to Sirleaf in his first two runs for the presidency, his promises to fight corruption and bring change have resonated more strongly with voters this round, Bloomberg quoted Ben Payton, head of Africa research at risk consultancy Verisk Maplecroft, as saying.
Promises of change notwithstanding, Weah has chosen a familiar name for his running mate: Jewel Taylor, the ex-wife of warlord-turned-president Charles Taylor – who remains popular despite his notorious use of child soldiers in the civil war he unleashed in 1989. The former strongman is now serving a 50-year prison term imposed by a special United Nations Court.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Uganda: Changing The Rules


Changing the Rules

The Ugandan parliament voted to amend the constitution, allowing President Yoweri Museveni to seek another term at the polls in 2021 and perhaps setting him up to become president for life.
Now 73 years old, Museveni would otherwise have been ineligible to contest, due to a constitutional provision that set an age limit of 75 years for the country’s president. Legislators approved the amendment removing the limit by a vote of 315-62 Wednesday after a long debate, Reuters reported.
Amid the proceedings, police blocked two legislators who opposed the amendment from entering the parliament to serve court documents that would have required House speaker Rebecca Kadaga to explain to a judge “the irregular suspension” of six members – all opposed to the amendment – who were suspended on Monday for alleged disorderly conduct.
Earlier, the battle over the amendment had descended into a brawl in the debating chamber.
The amendment also reinstates a two-term limit that had previously been scrapped to allow Museveni to continue his rule, that will come into effect only after the 2021 elections – allowing him two more five-year terms.

The Congo: For The Sake Of Us


For the Sake of Us

Start a discussion about ecosystems that are vital to the Earth’s survival and folks will undoubtedly mention the Amazon, polar glaciers, the Great Barrier Reef and the African savannahs where elephants and other animals roam.
But scientists recently discovered a 56,000-square-mile wilderness that they say could be vital to containing the greenhouse gases causing climate change: the peatlands along the Congo River.
Peat is decayed vegetation and other organic matter that has settled in watery bogs. As the Washington Post reported, researchers previously thought peat mostly existed in cold, northern environments like the British Isles and Canada. It seems it also can be found in Central Africa.
That’s good news insofar as peatlands make up only 3 percent of the planet’s land area but store as much as all the carbon found in living plants and animals.
But it’s also bad news because the desperately poor people living along the Congo River are cutting down the trees that make the peatlands possible at rate of around 2.4 million acres a year.
“They [peatlands] can release an enormous amount of carbon and contribute to climate change,” British scientist Simon Lewis told the Post. “They are really a pivotal part of the global question about how we manage ecosystems in the future to reduce our emissions to zero.”
The people along the Congo aren’t the only ones chopping down trees.
A new initiative that uses satellite images to record real-time deforestation found that people burned down around 60,000 soccer fields’ worth of trees since October this year, likely to clear land for agriculture, Reuters reported.
Corporations that produce palm oil, a popular ingredient in numerous food products, are making little or no progress on a 2014 pledge to reduce deforestation while draining peatlands in Indonesia and Malaysia to grow plants for the oil, the Independent said.
The knock-on effects are surprising. In Australia, for example, deforestation is causing runoff into the Great Barrier Reef, where water quality is already causing an unprecedented die-off of the creatures in the undersea ecosystem, wrote the Guardian.
Some people are acting.
American, European and Japanese companies are scrutinizing or halting wood imports from countries like Papua New Guinea where illegal logging is scarring the land, the Financial Times reported.
The Irish Times noted that Ireland’s climate change watchdog has also called on the country to cut down on its use of peat because the dirty fuel is hampering the Emerald Isle’s climate change goals.
But, put into context, those efforts are like fighting tides that are slowly but inexorably rising.

Monday, December 18, 2017

South Africa: A New Direction


New Direction

The political party that launched black majority rule in South Africa under Nelson Mandela is choosing a new leader to succeed President Jacob Zuma on Monday.
It’s a pivotal election for the African National Congress (ANC), which has been dogged by scandal and graft accusations under Zuma, Reuters reported. Due to the historical dominance of the ANC, the winner is expected to become the country’s next president after elections in 2019.
The vote was delayed, but nearly 5,000 delegates began voting around midnight after the field of candidates was narrowed to pit Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, 65, against his Zuma’s ex-wife Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, 68.
Playing to the party’s past strengths, Dlamini-Zuma – whom Zuma is backing – pledged to tackle the racial inequality that persists despite the end of white minority rule. Ramaphosa vowed to fight graft and jumpstart the economy – a message that appealed to foreign investors.
Zuma narrowly survived a no-confidence vote in August, and has been accused of tarnishing the party’s legacy and doling out state contracts to his friends in the powerful Gupta family.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Congo: Justice Served!


Justice Served

Human rights campaigners applauded a court ruling that sentenced 11 members of a Congolese militia to life in prison for raping dozens of young girls as a landmark for justice in a country where such crimes often go unpunished.
The fighters from Djeshi ya Yesu – the Army of Jesus – militia were accused of raping at least 37 girls near the village of Kavumu in Democratic Republic of Congo’s South Kivu province between 2013 and 2016, Reuters reported.
The prosecution alleged that a spiritual adviser to the group – which is helmed by provincial lawmaker Frederic Batumike – told the fighters that raping very young children would give them mystical protection against their enemies.
Batumike and other militia members were also convicted of murder, membership in a rebel movement and illegal weapons possession, and the court ruled that the rapes and murders amounted to crimes against humanity. The crimes had caused an international outcry and rights workers had criticized the government for its slow response.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Zimbabwe: Hope In Africa.


Hope in Africa

Zimbabwean novelist NoViolet Bulawayo wrote a special message on Facebook for children born on Nov. 21, the day former President Robert Mugabe left office after almost 40 years in power.
“You’re our most precious, most untarnished promise, may you never see what we’ve seen,” wrote Bulawayo, according to the Christian Science Monitor. “May you know, finally, a Great Zimbabwe.”
The man who replaced Mugabe, President Emmerson Mnangagwa, is no angel. Once a close ally of Mugabe, he’s a former secret police director who stands accused of committing genocide in the 1980s.
But change is nonetheless in the air in this south African country.
Authorities are permitting a white farmer to return to his farm after Mugabe evicted him in June as part of “post-colonial” reforms widely viewed as an effort to distract the public from the country’s moribund economy.
The development was a sign that the new government was serious about restoring property rights and the rule of law, Reuters said.
“All citizens who had a claim to land by birthright, we want them to feel they belong and we want them to build a new country because this economy is shattered,” presidential advisor Chris Mutsvangwa told the news agency.
Government housecleaning is underway. Prosecutors, for example, have charged former Finance Minister Ignatius Chombo with corruption. While he oversaw an economic collapse in a resource-rich country, Chombo somehow acquired at least 100 homes in Zimbabwe alone.
Writing to Mnangagwa to appeal for mercy, Chombo said he was learning “a few hard lessons,” local news outlets reported.
Meanwhile, the country’s new finance minister recently unveiled a proposed budget that Agence France-Presse said was designed to “reestablish its credibility with global financiers in order to relieve chronic cash shortages, a dearth of foreign exchange and a gaping budget deficit.”
Not everything can change quickly. Zimbabwe is likely to continue permitting big game hunters to seek trophies in the country’s sprawling wilderness. Conservationists might grouse, but hunting and safari tourism are among the country’s strongest assets.
“Zimbabwe is on its knees because of economic downturn, yet the international community expects our poor country to look after elephants and lions when we can’t even feed our nation,” Zimbabwean zoologist Victor Muposhi told the New York Times.
Muposhi has a point.
But at least now Zimbabweans have license to imagine a day in the future when they as well as elephants and lions in their country can go happily about their business.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Kenya: Conflicting Coronations


Conflicting Coronations

Kenya’s opposition postponed an alternative swearing-in ceremony for its leader Raila Odinga, raising hopes that the political crisis resulting from a disputed presidential election may be fading.
The opposition coalition, NASA, had planned an alternative inauguration for Tuesday, Kenyan independence day, a move that the attorney general said would amount to treason.
NASA said in a statement it would postpone the swearing-in after “consultations and engagement with a wide range of national and international interlocutors,” Reuters reported. But it said it would soon announce a new date for the ceremony.
On Oct. 26, incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta easily won a repeat election, which Odinga boycotted, after the Supreme Court nullified the results of the first election in August. The political uncertainty has stymied private investment, and election-related violence has claimed more than 70 lives.
“He (Raila) doesn’t want to throw the country into turmoil and he has reasoned with those asking him to shelve the plan,” a NASA insider told Kenya’s Standard newspaper.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Steinhoff shares bounce off 14-year low in volatile trade

Steinhoff shares bounce off 14-year low in volatile trade: Steinhoff shares plunged another 50 percent on Friday, before recovering as traders booked profits on short positions taken out after the South African retailer disclosed accounting irregularities earlier this week. More than $12 billion has been wiped off the market value of the owner of Conforama furniture stores and Poundland discount shops since Wednesday, when it announced an independent investigation into its accounts and said its CEO was leaving.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Steinhoff identifies €1bn noncore assets to boost liquidity

Steinhoff identifies €1bn noncore assets to boost liquidity: In the grip of an accounting scandal that led to it indefinitely postponing the release of its 2017 financial results, JSE-listed retail multinational Steinhoff  noted on Thursday that it had received expressions of interest in noncore assets that will release a minimum of €1-billion of liquidity. Further, Africa-focused subsidiary Steinhoff Africa Retail (STAR) will today formally commit to refinancing its long-term liabilities due to the company. It is expected that the STAR refinancing will be concluded on better terms than those applicable to STAR’s current liabilities due to Steinhoff, given the strong cash flow inherent in its business.

A Criminal Trial For Jacob Zuma Or Donald Trump?

A Criminal Trial For Jacob Zuma Or Donald Trump?
  Recently I gave you my take on what happened in the regime change in Zimbabwe. To briefly summarize, those wishing to remove Mugabe from power were “stuck between a rock and a hard place” as follows:
1)    They did not have the 2/3’s majority in the parliament to affect a legal impeachment.
2)    A forceful removal of Mugabe by the military would have brought in the South African Defense Forces who would have put Mugabe back into power after major disruptions and loss of life.
     Those wishing change were forced to “make Mugabe a deal that he could not refuse.” He walked out of office with no criminal or civil liability in Zimbabwe.
      Let us go back over 43 years when Richard M. Nixon was forced to resign as president of the USA. On the day that Nixon left office, he rode on Air Force One and landed at a US Air Forced base in Southern California. Much to everyone’s surprise, a crowd of over 50,000 supporters and well wishers greeted him as he stepped from the plane. (Please keep this thought in mind as we move forward.)
    Then President Gerald R. Ford got the bad news from the US Justice Department that a criminal trial of Richard M. Nixon would take up to two years. The country would be paralyzed as the trial went forward. The costs of such a trial would be staggering. President Ford decided that the only solution was to pardon Nixon. The disgraced president was handed a huge income tax bill over a tax fraud. His wealthy supporters paid the bill, by the way.
     Let us fast forward to today. Eventually Jacob Zuma and Donald Trump are going to be confronted with overwhelming evidence of their guilt in financial and political wrong doing. In both the US and South Africa here is the dilemma that authorities will have to face as follows:
1)    Any criminal trial of Jacob Zuma or Donald Trump would literally be “the O.J. Simpson murder trials (1994-1995) on steroids.” Each trial would cost billions of Rands or billions of dollars. Such money would be much better spent on social programs, etc. As the old saying goes: “The lawyers would end up getting all the money.”
2)    Today we have televised trials and massive proliferation of mobile devices where people can watch television from almost anywhere. As such trials unfolded, people in offices, schools, working here and there, and in the home would be mesmerized as the criminal trials went forward. South Africa and The USA would suffer a paralysis that would last up to two years.
3)    Regardless of how much objective evidence proving wrong doing is presented in either country, there will be a large group of people who still support these men and refuse to believe that they are guilty. (Please refer to my comments about the greeting that Richard M. Nixon got in August of 1974.) Such criminal trials would literally “spiritually tear apart both South Africa and the United States.”
4)    Both Jacob Zuma and Donald Trump have both shown how good they are at “beating criminal charges in court, etc.”
    Those seeking a regime change will take note of this dilemma. At the end of the thought process, negotiations will begin to make either man “an offer that he cannot refuse.” It will be a pardon for all wrong doing for them and any family members involved with them in the wrong doing. They will go back to private life as free men and enjoy their wealth. Other people charged in this wrong doing will see the inside of jail; some for a long time.
    Regardless of what country one lives in and what language one speaks, our parents teach us as little children the difference between right and wrong. We are taught that if we do wrong, we will be punished. We are taught that we are to expect moral and ethical conduct from our political leaders.

    The moral of this story is what is supposed to happen in this world and what actually happens are two different things.

Zimbabwe: A New Leaf


A New Leaf

Zimbabwe Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa pledged to re-engage with international lenders, curb spending and attract investors to revive its battered economy on Thursday, as he introduced the first budget since a new government replaced ousted President Robert Mugabe.
Chinamasa also announced that the government would amend Mugabe’s controversial indigenization laws, limiting the requirement of 51 percent indigenous ownership to the platinum and diamond sectors, Reuters reported. Designed to increase black Zimbabweans’ share of the economy, the laws had been misused by corrupt leaders, undermining investor confidence.
The government will also further defer a 15 percent export tax on raw platinum to 2019, retire all civil servants aged over 65 and close some overseas diplomatic missions to reduce the budget deficit.
Under Mugabe, who relied on patronage to maintain power until a de facto coup replaced him with President Emmerson Mnangagwa last month, the deficit rose to around 10 percent of GDP – with more than 90 percent of government spending devoted to civil servant salaries. The country’s economy collapsed following the seizures of thousands of white-owned commercial farms.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Kenya: Costs Of Contention


Costs of Contention

The political crisis engendered by Kenya’s disputed presidential election has hit the country where it hurts, adding to the impact of a drought to drag economic growth down to its slowest pace in five years, according to the World Bank.
The World Bank this week cut its 2017 growth estimate for Kenya’s economy to 4.9 percent from an April forecast of 5.5 percent, Reuters reported.
After the Supreme Court nullified the Aug. 8 poll re-electing incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta and ordered a re-run that was boycotted by the opposition, private investment has slowed due to political risk. Meanwhile, a drought has already driven up inflation and reduced consumer demand, the bank said.
The crisis isn’t over yet. While Kenyatta has been sworn in for a second five-year term, opposition leader Raila Odinga has said he will hold a parallel “swearing-in” ceremony next week.
Nevertheless, the bank expects the economy to rebound to 5.5 percent in 2018 and 5.9 percent in 2019.

In Praise Of An Incredible African Warrior, Author, and Tactician-Tim Bax

Jack Waldbewohner You are a class man who enjoys the finer things in life. I once had an employer who was a retired USAF transport pilot with adventures like flying Colonel "Mad Mike" Hoare around the Congo in the 1960's. Back in the 80's, you would always see me dressed in Burberry's suits imported from Glasgow, hand-made Church shoes from London, an Omega Speedmaster Moon Walk watch, and a Burberry's trench coat. James C. Lewis was the employer. He once told me: "Jack, you're head to toe class. You look like a real 'merc.' I see you as a retired major in the SAS who went into private security." Tim, Jim could be describing you. On top of all those accolades, you were an incredible warrior in combat that I never was. And you have incredible tactical skills that I sort of had.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

A New African Tradition For Hanukkah

Meskerem Gebreyohannes prepares dinner at her restaurant, Taste of Ethiopia, in Southfield, Mich.CreditBrittany Greeson for The New York Times
For Meskerem Gebreyohannes, all of the Jewish holidays bring doro wat, a luxurious chicken dish she makes with slowly cooked onions and a red chile sauce layered with flavors from the African spice trail.
Despite growing up in a Jewish family in Harar, a city in Ethiopia a few hours by car from Somalia, she never celebrated “modern” holidays like Hanukkah.
Mrs. Gebreyohannes, 58, is the chef and an owner, with her husband, Kassa, of Taste of Ethiopia, a small restaurant in Southfield, Mich. She is like many other Jewish immigrants from Ethiopia, who did not learn the story of the Maccabees defeating the Greeks. It appears in the oral Torah that was written down around A.D. 200, a time when much of the world was unaware of the existence of a Jewish community in Ethiopia.
Separated from Israel and the Diaspora for more than 2,000 years, Ethiopian Jews followed the Old Testament, which does not include the Hanukkah story, as a source for holiday customs. Mrs. Gebreyohannes fled Ethiopia in 1981 as a refugee to Djibouti, then went to Canada in 1982, where she started observing the custom of lighting a menorah for eight days. She settled in Michigan in 2004.
Now, her Hanukkah traditions include candle lighting with tofe (a homemade Ethiopian beeswax candle with a big flame) as well as the doro wat, “chicken with sauce” in Amharic, a dish eaten by all Ethiopians. For her celebrations, Mrs. Gebreyohannes serves it with dabo, a holiday bread made with flour, or injera, the daily bread made of teff.
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“In Ethiopia, we were always surrounded by cooking,” she said earlier this fall, while pulverizing the onions and garlic for her doro wat.
Ms. Gebreyohannes uses oil rather than the more traditional ghee used in the dish. Bright red berbere — she uses a chile spice mix from Ethiopia that includes cardamom, ginger, fenugreek and thyme — lends more than color to the sauce.
“When you smell a good berbere, you can taste the spices are there, and you don’t need to add anything else,” she said. “The spices act like cornstarch or flour to give the sauce substance.”
Mrs. Gebreyohannes learned in Ethiopia to use every part of the chicken: the bones for soups and the skin to enrich the sauces. She nostalgically refers to the birds from her home as “sacred.”
“We say that when a woman knows how to pull apart the 12 parts of a whole chicken, she has become a full woman and is ready to marry,” she said. (For the record, that’s a pair each of drumsticks, thighs, breasts and wings, and the chest, neck, ribs and giblets.) “As a child, I learned to prepare meals and dishes for many people. The idea of making a meal for less than 10 people is American.”
Her doro wat recipe may not last for all eight nights of Hanukkah. But it will add warmth, and a new holiday tradition, for one.
Recipe: Doro Wat (Ethiopian-Style Spicy Chicken)
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Correction: December 4, 2017 
An earlier version of this article misstated the date when the oral Torah was written. It was around A.D. 200, not 200 B.C.
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