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Woman who show mercy

Hafsat Mohammed works to counter violent extremism by engaging young people at the grassroots level [Caelainn Hogan/Al Jazeera]

Abuja, Nigeria – On a long, barren road in northeastern Nigeria, Hafsat Mohammed, squeezed into a public minibus, saw the gunmen materialise from the bush like a mirage.

The 33-year-old was on her way to Maiduguri, the capital of Borno State and the epicentre of the Boko Haram insurgency, when two Hilux pickups swerved onto the road ahead.

The minibus stopped. Men in combat fatigues and balaclavas emerged from the first pickup and aimed their guns at the windshield. They ordered the passengers out onto the hot tarmac. The second pickup sped off towards a nearby village.

The men beat the passengers with their guns, jeering and calling them names as they did so.

A former radio journalist-turned-civil society activist, Mohammed wasn’t usually afraid to speak up; she thought she might shout or scream, but, instead, she found herself mute.

“I was praying in my mind,” she recalls. “I did not dare pray out loud.”

Then they opened fire.

Mohammed remembers how the dead body of a woman fell on top of her and how she lay there, beneath it.

She heard the screams of two women as they were forced into the pickup. Then the gunmen were gone, leaving tyre marks behind in the dirt.

They had killed five passengers, but Mohammed was unharmed. She and the other survivors, including the driver, got back into the minibus and drove off.

I first met Mohammed in January 2014, just weeks after the attack. She was back at her office in a nondescript high-rise in Kaduna city, the old political capital of the north, gearing up for initiatives to tackle religious intolerance in Nigerian schools.

For the past year, she had been working at the grassroots, community-led Interfaith Mediation Centre, founded by a Muslim imam and a Christian pastor to address interreligious violence.

In sentences often punctuated by a loud, raucous laugh, Mohammed spoke about her work and the attack.

“It motivated me to go back to the northeast,” she said. “It was something that kept on bothering me: ‘What do you do to conquer this [violence]’?”

Her answer to that question has been to try to counter violent extremism by engaging young people at the grassroots level, getting them to imagine a different future and their individual ambitions for it.

“I was in that bus and I saw hell,” the mother of two reflected. “But it motivates me to work for peace.”

Lifting our voice above theirs

When we meet again, at a bustling salon in the Nigerian capital of Abuja in September 2015, Mohammed is sitting quietly getting her hair woven into braids. When they are done, she pulls the slinky hood of a lilac abaya over the neat, steamed rows and scrolls through Facebook updates on her phone.

There has been a bombing in Yola, where people fleeing attacks in Borno are living in IDP camps. “Why would they do this?” she questions out loud.

“We have to make sure that our voice is lifted in such a way that we counter those violent messages and ideologies, our voice is heard above theirs,” she later says.

The following day, she posts a video on Facebook, taken on her phone, her face obscured by a dark niqab, speaking through tears about the bombing in the camp.

“I have something that’s really bothering me today and I want to talk about it,” she opens. “How the Boko Haram insurgents went into an IDP camp in Yola, in the northeastern part of Nigeria, and detonated a bomb, in a camp for crying out loud!”

She cannot comprehend what would make somebody commit such violence against people who have already lost everything other than their lives.

While at a salon in September in the Nigerian capital of Abuja, Mohammed is horrified to learn of a bombing in a Yola IDP camp [Caelainn Hogan/Al Jazeera]

Escalating conflict

In April 2014, when more than 200 girls from the town of Chibok in Borno State were kidnapped by Boko Haram, the world seemingly woke up to what had been erupting around Mohammed since 2009. It is a conflict that has until now claimed more than 15,000 lives and displaced millions.

She has watched as her home state has become the hotbed of a war waged by a group invoking Mohammed’s own Muslim faith.

Across the northeast, education facilities have been repeatedly targeted and, early last year, officials in Borno decided to close around 85 schools, affecting nearly 120,000 students.

Mohammed wanted her children to grow up in Borno, but an attack on a school near the one attended by her children was the final blow: she no longer felt that it was safe for her children to be there.

So, in early 2014, she relocated her father and two young children to Kaduna, a city that has experienced only rare attacks.

But Mohammed didn’t go with them. Instead, she headed further into the epicentre of the crisis in the northeast – to Yobe State

“I thought, what if every individual said, ‘Let’s counter this message by preaching good’? … I felt obligated to do something,” she says, explaining why she would choose to put herself in harm’s way.

Photographs of alleged fighters killed by the Nigerian army during an attack on a boarding school in Yobe disturbed her: they were just young men, she observed. “It became a problem for me, knowing I have a brother, I have teenage cousins, I have a son,” she explains.

She wanted to make other young men less vulnerable to the lure of such groups. “What can we do to prevent it, to show that this is not the way?” she asks.

Women’s role in countering extremist narratives

The kidnapping of the Chibok girls, the ensuing Bring Back Our Girls campaign and the rise in the use of young girls as suicide bombers has made the conflict in Nigeria a key example of the dynamic and complicated role of women within crises fuelled by violent extremism – as targets, as propagators and also as leaders in countering the threats within their communities.

This September, the UN Security Council Counter-Terrorism Committee held an unprecedented meeting on the role of women in countering violent extremism – often seen as a male dominated domain – with female experts from Iraq, Kenya, and Nigeria speaking about the issue.

Pastor Esther Ibanga, an activist for interfaith peace in Plateau State, in Nigeria’s Middle Belt region, believes women play a crucial role in security issues.

Although in Nigeria their involvement is seen as “taboo and sometimes quite offensive to the men,” Ibanga says “women civil society groups tap into the needs of communities, where women and children are disproportionately impacted by terrorism.”

Many activists share Mohammed’s belief that the best defence against divisive ideologies is providing a counter message and encouraging people to speak out.

One such activist is Aisha Yesufu, a campaigner with Bring Back Our Girls. “Poverty in this country makes you nameless, faceless and voiceless,” she says. Yet, “we [citizens] have a duty to speak up against anything that’s wrong”.

But, in some places, people are too fearful to even speak of Boko Haram, she says.

“The question we ask is what narrative are we putting out there to counter what Boko Haram is saying? What are we telling the people?” she asks.

“It’s for us to give a different narrative. If Boko Haram is saying Western education is forbidden, why are they on Youtube? … Why are they driving cars and using assault rifles? Why are they not using horses and donkeys or their own legs? These are people saying education is forbidden but they’re using education.”

While there is no shortage of female activists in Nigeria pushing for change and fighting injustice, Mohammed admits that it’s not always easy to be an outspoken woman.

She says most young men are receptive to her work, but some older men have responded differently.

“Some felt I was being disrespectful, that I wasn’t being a lady, that I should be at home, married, having babies like a baby factory, but that wasn’t what I was created for,” she says.

“I am confident, I am strong, I am a Muslim, I am an anti-violent-extremism activist, I advocate against it and I will do whatever I can to stop it. A lot of time I talk in front of people and they say, ‘You’re a woman, you don’t need to talk.’ And I say, ‘Yes, I will talk.’ ”

Aisha Yesufu, a Bring Back Our Girls campaigner, speaks at a daily vigil held at the Unity Fountain in Abuja since the kidnapping of the Chibok girls  [Caelainn Hogan/Al Jazeera]

Segregated schools

It was Mohammed’s father, a former air force man, who instilled in his daughter the gritty confidence she has today. He always told his children they could achieve anything they set their minds to. “He never treated me differently as a girl,” she reflects.

And it was in her former career as a journalist in Kano, the largest city in northern Nigeria, that the roots of her activism were formed. She would visit different communities and meet people facing violence and poverty.

Then, in 2007, she turned to civil society work, consulting for internationally funded development projects.

But she wanted to do more hands-on work to make a sustainable difference on the ground, and so she joined the Interfaith Mediation Centre in December 2012.

In her outreach work for Interfaith in Kaduna, a city divided between north and south, Muslim and Christian, Mohammed saw how religious intolerance could plant the seeds of extremism and hate.

She and a Christian colleague, Samson Atua, visited schools and witnessed classrooms becoming unofficially segregated by religion as communities grew ever more divided. They drew on their own experiences to show teachers and students that the religious divisions in their minds were fabricated.

“If the student is Muslim they’re taught, ‘Oh [the teacher] is a Christian, don’t relate with her,’ or if he’s a Christian, ‘Your teacher is a Muslim, don’t go close to her,’ ” she says.

“There has been resistance from the Christian teachers and the Muslim teachers, and we had to give references from the Quran and the Bible,” she elaborates. “I can sing choir songs and Christmas carols, and the kids say ‘I dare you,’ and I do. The kids and pastors are surprised, with the hijab and all.”

When growing up in Kaduna, says Atua, “You never knew who was a Christian, [and] who was a Muslim.” But now, he says, “hate is the issue of the day”.

Together they made an effective team: the forthright Mohammed, often dressed in a purple-grey abaya, her head covering framing her round, smiling face, and her diamante nose stud catching the light, alongside Atua, an easygoing, soft-spoken young man in a bright blue t-shirt and jeans.

She saw playground games where children called out to each other: “I’m a Christian, you’re a Muslim,” and mimicked guns with their fingers: “Ta-ta-ta-ta, you’re dead!”

On one research visit, she asked students to draw their homes. She remembers how one five-year-old drew a picture of trees, smiling people, animals, and sweets on one side of his piece of cardboard. He covered the other side entirely in black crayon. “When I asked him why, he said, ‘This end [the black side] is full of Christians, the other is Muslims,’ ” Mohammed says.

Mohammed waited until school had finished for the day to meet the boy’s mother, who was shocked. When asked how he got such ideas, the boy said his religious teacher had taught him that “Christians are no good”.

Mohammed’s own family has not been immune to this atmosphere of religious disunity. As a single mother working in Kaduna, her children live most of the time with her father in Maiduguri.

“I had to be the workaholic, up and down,” she says. “My dad was helping me.”

Once in Maiduguri, as she was walking past a church with her son, Mohammed told the boy to go and say hello to the pastor.

“Please don’t make me,” her son responded, tugging at her arm to keep walking. “Only Christians can go into the church.”

She made him go and greet the man, who then gave him some sweets.

That church has since been destroyed by Boko Haram, she says.

We need the correct answers, she says, to discredit “those ideologies, those messages that your children hear on the radio, hear from friends”.

“Every mother’s dream is to have a child who is successful,” she continues. If her own son became a fighter, she says, it would be “heartbreaking … [it would] kill me”.

The names of Nigeria’s states, including Yobe, are represented on the Unity Fountain, a landmark in the federal capital of Abuja [Caelainn Hogan/Al Jazeera]

Yobe State

In December 2014, Mohammed moved to Damaturu, the capital city of Yobe State, and the alleged birthplace of Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau. For the past year, there have been regular attacks by suicide bombers in the city.

The primarily Muslim state was carved out of Borno in 1991, and was one of the northeastern states on which former President Goodluck Jonathan imposed a state of emergency in 2013, due to the escalating Boko Haram insurgency.

She joined a regional development initiative as a project manager for Yobe and became responsible for identifying and supporting campaigns and projects countering violent extremism, particularly among young people – or “our nation,” as she calls them.

In Damaturu, an emerging urban centre, daily life continues, despite the regular threat of suicide bombings, as it does across northeastern Nigeria.

“People just continue their business after a bomb explodes,” she says. “If it’s a really bad attack, they’ll put [a] curfew just for a day.”

Positive messages and dialogue, she believes, can act as a buffer against the anger and frustration she worries could lead many youth to pick up guns themselves. In the rousing wake of Muhammadu Buhari’s landslide election victory in April, Mohammed helped organise a symposium for around 200 young men and women from across the northeast, to discuss everything from leadership to jobs.

We were working on “getting youth on their toes,” she says.

Unlike in Kaduna, where she was on the ground mediating and implementing programmes, in Yobe, Mohammed took a different approach – catalysing local leaders and grassroots civil society organisations to make change within their own communities.

Working with imams

In Yobe, Mohammed worked with interfaith initiatives and women’s groups. One of the most important aspects of this work, she explains, was gaining the trust of local imams who speak out against extremism and violence during Friday prayers and often counsel young people.

A UN event this year highlighted the importance of delinking extremism from religion in countering violent extremism, and Mohammed sees religious leaders playing a key role in that.

“They are change agents,” she reflects.

“There is a lot of frustration everywhere that makes people join [Boko Haram] because they don’t even have the money to buy food or go to the hospital.”

“[There is] poverty, unemployment and frustration that they’re not getting from [the] government what they’re supposed to be getting,” she continues.

When people struggle to see a future for themselves and to form ambitions, Mohammed believes trouble follows.

She wants to empower youth to take control of their lives, to know that they have the right to speak up as citizens and to ask more of their local government; she wants them to see that staying silent or picking up a gun are not the only options available to them.

Just reminding the youth to talk about their future can help, she says, explaining that this is a lesson she has passed on to some of the young people she has worked with.

“They don’t talk about terrorism, about war; they talk about positive stuff, about education, about being who they want to be. They talk about in the future having a family – that’s a great ambition.”

Mohammed speaks to nearly 200 youth in Yobe at a grassroots symposium this summer to counter violent extremism and discuss ambitions, leadership and needs of young people in the northeast [Courtesy Hafsat Mohammed]

Damaturu’s youth

In Damaturu, she spoke to as many young people as she could. Some came to her house, others she’d find in groups at a park or on street corners where mobile recharge cards are sold under colourful umbrellas or at roadside tea and bread stalls.

She spoke to carpenters, bricklayers, and painters.

“They would tell me their ambitions,” she says. “They never got the chance to go to school, but they had ambitions, they had dreams.”

Many were scared to go to school, even if it were possible; they were afraid that Boko Haram would come to kill them.

“If we go to school, what will happen?” a 10-year-old boy asked her. She told him he would be safe and that the security forces would watch over him. He reminded her that security forces had been present when other students had been killed.

One day, in a market in Damaturu, Mohammed was drawn to a gathering of young male tailors. They were arguing about why the media called the Boko Haram fighters Islamic extremists.

“It’s not religion,” said one man, angered by those who claim Boko Haram is an Islamic movement. “It’s not Islam.”

They were hurt that their religion was being linked to something they felt was so far removed from their beliefs. “Why don’t they say ‘Christian terrorist’?” asked one, referring to the Charleston church shooting in the US.

“I’m like, for real? In the market?” Mohammed laughs. “These guys have a point.”

Mohammed, who rejects the idea that extremism or hateful ideology is particular to any religion, explained to them that because Boko Haram claims to be Islamic, that’s how people see them.

“Well, they [the media] should have more common sense,” one man responded. “It really gets on my nerves.” She encouraged him to get his message out there.

Most of the young people she meets believe the boys who have joined the fighters are being used.

But Mohammed worries that young men, constantly being painted as potential terrorists, could be marginalised to the point that they end up fitting that image.

“We get them to say, ‘Okay, I’ll just be it,’ ” she says. “Things like this can trigger their frustration and make them hate people.”

She says that many of the young men she has met have been approached about taking up arms, but that they were in no way eager to do so.

“They’re frustrated with the whole issue. They want to go to school, they want to go farming, but now they can’t because they’re afraid to move around.”

Helping women

In June, Mohammed registered her own NGO called Choice for Peace, Gender and Development, to help young people and women whose family members have been taken, whether abducted or recruited, or killed.

“I feel the pain of other mothers,” she says. “They feel helpless to prevent it.”

In Yobe she tried to encourage women-led initiatives and also to set up psychosocial support for women who were dealing with trauma.

The use of young girls, some as young as 10, as suicide bombers has devastated communities.

“Girls are heartbroken that [Boko Haram fighters] are using girls as suicide bombers, that’s something they never expected,” she says.

The young women at the symposium she organised could barely talk about it; instead they just cried.

Each attack leaves her feeling more horrified that anyone could do such a thing. “Even today, it just baffles me,” she says.

In June, Mohammed registered her own NGO to help young people and women whose family members have been taken, whether abducted, recruited, or killed [Caelainn Hogan/Al Jazeera]


But these days, Mohammed doesn’t feel she’s in a position to help anyone.

The calls began in August: Three different voices, all male. They told her the same thing: When the time is right, we will find you and we will kill you. They said they knew where her family was, that if she continued her work they would harm her daughter.

“Ever since this recent [threat] … every day I sit alone, I get feverish, I get sick,” she says. “I get really confused at times, I’m really scared. I know I’m safe but the thought, it keeps coming.”

In these moments, and in the strained silences when she does not want to speak or to remember, it is sometimes hard to recognise the resolute and unshakeable young woman who sat at her desk just weeks after the attack on the road.

Now, in the early evenings, she is driven home from meetings in Abuja, the lights of the minarets of the capital’s grand mosque glowing in the approaching dusk.

She arrives at the gated, guarded housing complex where she lives, and spends most evenings curled up on the sofa. She fries eggs and watches television. Mostly stuck inside, Facebook has become an outlet for her.

But when she thinks of the men in the pickup trucks, or of her father’s house in Borno, now filled with displaced relatives, her whole body stiffens. Instinctively, she wraps her arms around herself.

“[Last year], I was fearless; I would go back to Yobe and stay there, I wouldn’t leave and no one could convince me to leave,” she says. “But I’ve been holding on strong for a long time and I’m breaking down.”

Her hands clasped on her lap, she says: “Now the trauma is in my head.”

The events of the last few years – the attack on the road; the teenage son of a cousin who disappeared only for a note to turn up at his home saying that he refused to join the fighters so they killed him; the friend from Gwoza who returned home after the army had reclaimed the area from Boko Haram, and found a ghost town and people’s bones – have all taken their toll.

“After these phone calls, these threats, all that came back,” she admits quietly.

“I want changes in this country,” she says. But alone in a room that is not hers, separated from her family for fear of putting them in danger, she acknowledges that, right now, she needs to look after herself first. “It’s time to keep my life.”

You can follow Caelainn on Twitter at @CaelainnH.

Source: Al Jazeera


Nigeria’s Dasuki arrested arms Fraud

Nigeria’s Dasuki ‘arrested over $2bn arms fraud’
1 December 2015
From the section Africa
Former National Security Adviser Sambo Dasuki (R) arrives with one of his counsels Ahmed Raji at the Federal High Court in Abuja, Nigeria, September 1, 2015Image copyrightReuters
Image caption
Sambo Dasuki has denied any wrongdoing and says the allegations are politically motivated
Boko Haram

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Nigeria’s former national security adviser, Sambo Dasuki, has been arrested for allegedly stealing $2bn (£1.3bn), his representatives say.
Mr Dasuki is accused of awarding phantom contracts to buy 12 helicopters, four fighter jets and ammunition. He denies the allegations.
The equipment was meant for the fight against Boko Haram Islamist militants.
Mr Dasuki was picked up early in the morning by security agents, a PR firm representing him said.
Africa Live: BBC news updates
Two weeks ago, President Muhammadu Buhari ordered Mr Dasuki’s arrest after he was indicted by a panel investigating the procurement of arm under the last administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan.
PRNigeria said he was picked up by intelligence agents from his home in the capital, Abuja, where he was already under house arrest facing separate charges.
Later on Tuesday, the former governor of Sokoto state, Attahiru Bafarawa and owner of a Lagos-based private TV station, Raymond Dokpesi, were detained separately by Nigeria’s Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), in connection with the alleged fraud.
Both men, who are political allies of the former president, have denied any involvement in the arms deal.
Nigerian troops patrolling in the streets of the remote northeast town of Baga, Borno State on 30 April, 2013Image copyrightGetty Images
Image caption
Mr Dasuki played a prominent role in Nigeria’s fight against Boko Haram
Their arrest follows those of some of Mr Dasuki’s associates by EFCC on Monday.
The anti-corruption body said they included former Minister of State for Finance Bashir Yuguda and the sons of some prominent politicians of the former ruling party over allegations of impropriety in relation to the arm deal.
Earlier, Mr Dasuki said he had not been given a chance to defend himself before the investigative panel and described its recommendation as “politically motivated”.
The former army colonel is already facing a trial for allegedly possessing illegal firearms.
He is the first senior official of the former government to be charged under the rule of President Muhammadu Buhari, who took in office in May.
The BBC’s Martin Patience in Lagos says Mr Dasuki’s arrest will reinforce President Buhari’s message that he will not tolerate corruption no matter how senior the official.
The president was elected partly on a promise to clean up Nigeria’s notoriously corrupt politics, our correspondent says.
Boko Haram has killed thousands in north-eastern Nigeria in its six-year campaign to create an Islamic state.
Sambo Dasuki
Former Nigeria’s national security adviser, Sambo DasukiImage copyrightReuters
From a royal family, he’s the son of the 18th Sultan of Sokoto, spiritual leader of Nigeria’s Muslim community

A career soldier, rose to be a colonel in the army until his retirement
Reportedly one of the officers who arrested current President Muhammadu Buhari when he was overthrown as military head of state 30 years ago – something he denies
Became former President Goodluck Jonathan’s national security adviser in 2012
Oversaw the fight against Boko Haram under his presidency
At the centre of a row over Nigeria’s unorthodox arms procurement in 2014, when South Africa seized suitcases packed with millions of dollars of cash at an airport in Johannesburg
Charged for possessing illegal weapons in August 2015
Was put under house arrest despite a court order to allow him travel abroad for cancer treatment

Breaking News: SPLM-IO give government a lists of 589 name based on 21 States model

New list of SPLM-IO advance team
Emmanuel Akile | December 4, 2015 | 11:48 am

South Sudan’s rebel leader Riek Machar, second left, looks across after shaking hands with South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir, center-right wearing a black hat, after lengthy peace negotiations in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia Monday, Aug. 17, 2015. South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir refused to sign a peace agreement Monday with rebel forces, saying he needs 15 days before he will sign, although rebel leader Riek Machar had signed the accord before Kiir refused. (AP Photo/Mulugeta Ayene)

The government has received a new list of 589 members of the advance team of the SPLM in Opposition, according to the Minister of Information, Michael Makuei.

But the date of their arrival in Juba has not been fixed.

The government has been demanding for the list to indicate the ranks of various members of the team before they arrive in Juba for the implementation of the peace agreement.

Mr Makuei told Eye Radio that the government is yet to respond to the SPLM in Opposition about the list.

“They have divided it up into groups in accordance with states – with their 21 states,” Mr Makuei explained.

“For example, the advance team in Upper Nile team number 1 [comprises of] 21 [representatives]; team number 2, 21, and team number 3, 23, Unity state, 32.”

For his part, the spokesperson of Dr. Riek Machar says his group is still working with IGAD and members of the international community to arrange for their transport to Juba.

James Gatdet says the team includes political leaders and former members of parliament.

South Sudan Disagrees With Rebels Over Size of Juba Advance-Team


  • Government will take 50 people, a 10th of amount rebels want
  • Team’s arrival is peace-process step to end two-year civil war

South Sudan’s government said it will only accept an advance rebel team in the capital that’s about a 10th the size of that nominated by the insurgents, potentially stalling a process to end two years of civil war.

The government is only willing to take between 36 and 50 people for incorporation into national institutions during the 30-month transitional period, presidential spokesman Ateny Wek Ateny said by phone from Juba, the capital. Rebels had said they would send 550 representatives, starting from Dec. 1. None have arrived.

“The intentions of sending 550 at one go is unclear, whether they are military personnel or civilians,” Ateny said on Thursday. “We are not convinced as to what the 550 will be doing in Juba. They are almost a battalion.”

Tens of thousands of people have been killed in oil-producing South Sudan and over two million forced from their homes during fighting that resulted from a fracturing of the ruling party and army in December 2013.

Under an August pact, rebel leader Riek Machar will return as President Salva Kiir’s deputy for the 30-month period leading to elections. The transitional government was supposed to be established in late November. Clashes have continued even after several pledges to cease hostilities.

If rebels “remain adamant” over the numbers, the government will seek the intervention of regional monitors and a joint-commission that’s overseeing the power-sharing agreement, Ateny said.

What China hopes to achieve with first peacekeeping mission

Chinese peacekeepers in South Sudan

China started deploying hundreds of troops to South Sudan earlier this year to bolster the UN peace mission in the country – the first ever Chinese infantry battalion to be sent on external peacekeeping operations.

As Africa’s biggest trading partner, China is perhaps more associated with deal-making rather than peacekeeping in the continent.

The country’s oil interests in South Sudan, the world’s newest state, are vast and largely kept hidden from view.

Nevertheless the Chinese presence in the troubled country is developing a distinctly “blue” hue to it.

The 1,031 blue-helmeted peacekeepers consist of medics, infantrymen and engineers.

Image caption A peacekeeper’s tour of duty lasts eight months

For a nation hesitant about talking to the Western media, it took us months to secure access to the battalion’s main base in the capital, Juba.

Their presence in the city is low key, save for an imposing gate adorned with blue Chinese characters and standing about 30ft (9m) tall at the entrance.

More on China in Africa:

Chinese and Ivorian workers in Abidjan, Ivory Coast - July 2015Image copyright AFP

The BBC is running a series of pieces about China’s role in Africa ahead of the China-Africa summit on 4-5 December in South Africa.

Inside, troops – many of them experiencing their first time outside China – stand to attention during their early morning drill.

Most have left behind families who like many others, still consider Africa the “dark continent” of a Joseph Conrad novel.

“My family can’t understand how people holiday in Africa,” one of them confided.

Like other outsiders, there is perhaps little understanding of the vast tourism or economic potential that many African countries enjoy.

Power of selfies

Known as CHN-BATT, the Chinese battalion was keen to show us the human face of its peacekeeping operations.

It has been called upon to settle violent disputes inside the vast displacement camps that still provide sanctuary for more than a million people, but the focus was not on the guns that sit heavy on the soldier’s shoulders.

Chinese peacekeepers in South Sudan
Image caption The Chinese peace troops are focusing on their humanitarian mission

We are taken to see water being delivered by Chinese peacekeepers to a group of villages who have been forced to flee their homes, not because of brutal conflict but the violent banditry that has followed the recent troubles.

The Chinese medics break away to tend to a group of elderly men and young mothers, eager to seek some health advice and a fist full of pills.

China is here to win hearts and minds.

The selfies the soldiers capture on their mobile phones as they stand casually next to South Sudanese children, who show off the few words of Mandarin they have picked up, suggest that the tactic is working.

“These people remind me of my children at home,” one of the soldiers whispers discreetly (they’ve been forbidden by their bosses in Beijing to talk formally to the press) and indeed the shroud of mystery that surrounds the Chinese peacekeepers, begins to fall away.

‘Natural evolution’

But arguably, until recently China has been playing a “double game” in South Sudan.

A recent report by a UN sanctions committee claimed that Chinese companies supplied anti-tank missiles and launchers, rifles, ammunition and rockets to South Sudan to the tune of $20m (£13m).

Weapons sales are reported to have stopped before the recent rebellion ignited at the end of 2013 but China has major economic interests here that it is keen to defend.

South Sudan’s elusive peace:

  • A tentative regionally backed deal to created a power-sharing government was signed in August
  • At least seven ceasefires agreed and broken since conflict started in December 2013
  • Nearly one in five South Sudanese displaced by the current conflict, from a total population of 12 million
  • Almost four million people are facing severe food shortages
  • South Sudan gained its independence in 2011, but the region has been at war for 42 of past 60 years

Five obstacles to peace

Malakal: The city that vanished

South Sudan’s shattered dream

China is taking on a broader strategic role across Africa – the continent’s largest trading partner.

Its naval ships have already supported counter piracy operations in the Indian Ocean.

Africa’s wealthy Asian friend has confirmed plans to establish a military re-supply base in Djibouti and an ambition was recently announced to supply 8,000 police for peacekeeping duties at the UN.

This enhanced role for China beyond the marketplace, is seen by observers such as Jakkie Cilliers from the Institute of Security Studies not as an assertion of its military might but a “normalisation” of China’s role in Africa.

People going to a camp for displaced people in JubaImage copyright AP
Image caption More than 2.2 million South Sudanese have fled their homes in the current conflict

This “diversification of dependents” as Mr Cilliers describes it, is a natural evolution for an economic powerhouse with new found interest in Africa.

So it is not surprising that Chinese troops are taking on roles that hitherto have been largely done by African forces or funded by Western interests.

In the past few weeks the discussion has rapidly switched from peacekeeping to China’s response to the war on terror.

Three Chinese citizens were killed in the recent siege at a luxury hotel in Mali, one was injured during last months multiple attacks in Paris and the so-called Islamic State confirmed that it had killed a Chinese citizen it had been holding hostage.

Chinese peacekeepers in South Sudan
Image caption The BBC is the first foreign broadcaster granted permission to film the Chinese peacekeepers

China is what the experts describe as a “status quo” power which hitherto has favoured a non-interventionist strategy.

That may mean that we are unlikely to see Chinese boots on the ground as part of counter-terror operations but economists like Kenya’s James Shikwate sees the economic positioning of China in Africa as being “inextricably linked” to its wider strategic interests.

Take the example of Chinese warships being used to help rid the East African coastline of Somali pirates.

Mr Shikwate believes China has plans to expand the number of “friendly ports” in Africa in order to protect its growing economic interests from bandits and “terrorists”.

“The security angle to the relationship is already becoming evident although it looks like diplomacy focused on commerce and trade,” he said.

So the deployment of Chinese peacekeepers may signal the start of a deeper engagement by the country in global security issues.

Certainly President Xi Jinping has issued stern warnings in the wake of recent terror attacks and the issue will almost certainly be raised at this week’s Africa – China summit in Johannesburg.

But despite the robust language coming out of Beijing we are unlikely to see unilateral action by the most populous nation in the world.

Instead China looks set to embed itself deeper into UN operations.

No Money No Peace

The United States made South Sudan’s leaders sign a peace deal — but they can’t make it work without cash.

  • By Alex de WaalAlex de Waal is Executive Director of the World Peace
  • December 2, 2015 – 12:27 pm
No Money, No Peace


Currently out of the headlines, South Sudan’s war, which began in December 2013, is a brutal competition for power between President Salva Kiir and his former vice president, Riek Machar. This conflict in the world’s youngest state has left tens of thousands dead. In August, African mediators drafted a “Compromise Peace Agreement” to try to end the fighting. The U.S. role was to ratchet up pressure on the warring leaders to sign it. This was difficult enough — but maintaining smart pressure on those leaders for sufficient time to actually implement the deal will prove well-nigh impossible.

The United States’ support for peace in South Sudan offers a lesson in the shortcomings of the dominant American model for fixing countries in conflict: squeeze their leaders until they cry “uncle” and agree to pretend to be democrats. The problem with this is that the pretense cannot be upheld for long. Different, more complex tools are needed to consolidate a ceasefire and establish a workable power-sharing arrangement. To keep the peace, South Sudanese leaders need enough funds, and the discretion to use them, to grease the wheels of their patronage machines and buy a real peace that’s not just on paper. If the U.S. is to involve itself in fixing conflicts — and not just in South Sudan — it needs to recognize this disagreeable truth.

The Compromise Peace Agreement follows the standard template: power-sharing among belligerents; attempts to make security arrangements (a ceasefire and building a national military and security sector); division of national wealth; elections; and a truth, reconciliation, and justice process. It’s attractive on paper, but lacks the fundamental requirements of a working deal. There’s little goodwill, either between the leaders who signed the deal, or between them and the outside parties — their African neighbors and the United States — who imposed it. President Kiir was conspicuously reluctant, and felt insulted when his detailed reservations were unceremoniously discarded. Machar, too, has been visibly skeptical, dragging his feet on filling in the details of the security plan.

There’s good reason the parties to the peace deal are unenthusiastic — they lack the resources to implement it.

There’s good reason the parties to the peace deal are unenthusiastic — they lack the resources to implement it. Coercive diplomacy can bring South Sudan’s leaders to the negotiating table, and it can even compel them to sign a peace agreement — but it can’t make it stick. They need, quite simply, money. And the United States’ failure to recognize this is the basic flaw in the strategy for ending the war in South Sudan.The United States’ policies toward South Sudan have been astonishingly naïve. In 1997, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright met the then-leader of the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), John Garang, in an apparent endorsement of the group. At the time, a senior official on Albright’s team said that the meeting represented a demonstration of support for a “[future] regime that will not let Khartoum become a viper’s nest for terrorist activities.” A bipartisan array of Washington advocates for South Sudan held out the hope that this guerrilla movement would shed its record of corruption and human rights violations, and transform into a model of good governance. That didn’t happen, of course. So when a fratricidal war erupted in December 2013, Washington behaved like a spurned lover, turning from uncritical adoration to condemnation and coercion.

Lost in the middle was understanding of what makes South Sudanese governance function: political payoffs. When northern Sudan ran the territory as a quasi-colony, it used the tried-and-tested imperial method of divide-and-rule, renting the allegiance of southern Sudanese chiefs and militia commanders at the going rate. Khartoum’s intelligence chiefs were malign but smart: they rarely overpaid their clients. When Kiir became the SPLM’s leader in 2005, he simply adapted this same marketplace system to his own goal — the independence of South Sudan.

He used South Sudan’s oil wealth to buy the loyalties of every militia commander in the market, in the process building up a putative army of 745 generals (41 more than the U.S.’s four combined services), and, in the process, bidding the price of loyalty higher than Khartoum could afford. Kiir won the auction handsomely in 2011 when South Sudanese voted for independence. But this kind of patronage market only works while the money keeps rolling in — and when South Sudan shut down its national oil production in 2012 in a dispute with northern Sudan, cutting off 98 percent of its government revenue, the money quickly ran out. Oil exports resumed in April 2013, but too late to replenish the coffers, and the SPLM crashed into civil war.

Every workable peace deal in Sudan or South Sudan — including the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement and the 2006 Juba Declaration — has been forged during a period of budgetary expansion. When funds are growing, leaders can apply public monies to their “political budgets” and thereby build a constituency for peace through bribes, allocations of government and army posts, and licenses for corrupt dealings. It’s not pretty — but it works.

The 2015 Compromise Peace Agreement tried to do something never achieved before: impose a deal on leaders who are strapped for cash. Kiir immediately did the only thing a political dealer in such a predicament could do: He squeezed out the outlying members of his political coalition and cracked down on opposition groups that represented their potential alternative constituencies, freeing up political funds and jobs. He also rushed through an administrative reform, increasing the number of states from ten to 28, thereby creating a host of new official posts he could hand out. Machar has, of course, rejected these, and is maneuvering to ensure that there are key positions for his own protégés, especially in the army.

The U.S. and other internationals are justifiably outraged at the war crimes committed in South Sudan, the mind-boggling extremes of its corruption, and the blatant self-interestedness of its leaders. There’s no doubt that according to any contemporary ethical standard, the entire political leadership warrants criminal investigation, and the summary punishments of targeted sanctions are well-deserved.

Unfortunately, measures such as targeted sanctions and crackdowns on corruption are constraining South Sudanese leaders’ political finances at this critical moment.

Squeezing them won’t make them honest — it will just make them desperate.

Squeezing them won’t make them honest — it will just make them desperate. We may wish South Sudan to be led to peace, democracy and development by paragons of political virtue. But the reality is that the country is stuck, for now at least, with the leaders of today. And bitter experience suggests that these leaders can make peace only if their political budgets are filled with ready cash.

So, following the “Ikea Rule” — if you stick it together, it’s yours — the U.S.’s immediate fix for South Sudan is money. Not development aid or programs of institution building run by professional contractors, but ready cash. Either direct aid to the government and army, with few questions asked, or a deal with the Asian oil companies to reschedule the commercial debts that President Kiir has run up to pay for the war.

The other peace track is slow financial and democratic reform. Part of this is getting those who fund the government — Asian oil companies and Western donors — to use their financial clout more cleverly. Recognizing that political leaders need political budgets, these systems of reward can be mapped and formalized, so that political finance becomes an instrument for transparency and accountability, rather than larceny and gangsterism. We could call this “politically smart anti-corruption.” In South Sudan, a chamber of commerce is a stepping-stone to a democratic assembly.

The final element is to take a step never considered by the mediators of South Sudan’s conflict: go out and consult the people. On the unfailing principle that those who define the problem are those who have a chance of solving it, the implementation of the Compromise Peace Agreement should involve talking — at length — with South Sudan’s citizens and letting them set an agenda. This will be slow, noisy and unruly, but South Sudan’s long-suffering people will be sure to seize an unprecedented opportunity to express their views and propose what needs to be done. Unlike their political masters, ordinary people will not demand personal payoff in exchange for peace. Peace and democracy are best learned by practice, and an internationally-imposed peace process should provide the chance to do just this.

South Sudan’s men of dishonour

South Sudan’s men of dishonour


The rules of war were broken long ago in South Sudan, but the recent spate of violence against civilians has introduced a new level of barbarity.

Both government and rebel troops have been accused of atrocities in 21 months of war, but in the past few months the accounts from those who escaped the violence are horrifying.

They tell of women and girls being raped or abducted, families being burned alive in their homes – and at least one case of a child being hanged from a tree.

The abandoned farms and fields, the torched huts, and the complete lack of cattle in Leer, Unity State, are evidence of what appears to have been a scorched earth policy of destruction.

Leer is the hometown of rebel leader Reik Machar and was a stronghold for the military forces that backed him when the army split.

Nyal is one of the last remaining areas held by rebel forces who have suffered big defeats at the hands of government forces
Image caption Nyal, in Unity State, is one of the last remaining areas held by rebel forces

Now it is virtually empty, as tens of thousands of people have scattered into the marshes of the Nile flood plains and into an overcrowded United Nations camp.

The destruction is evident from the air – access on the ground for journalists has been limited.

The story of what happened has to be pieced together from the accounts of those forced from their homes, and it is testimony to a terrifying campaign of violence.

“They spared no-one, neither a child, an old man nor an old woman,” Nyakuoth Manyal told me as she sat under a small, home-made shelter of wooden sticks and tarpaulin.

“They killed everyone. There was no-one left in the village,” she said, as some of the children she had brought to the UN camp in Bentiu lay next to her listening.

Much of southern Unity State lies in the floodplain of the Nile known as the Sudd - it's a vast swamp where tens of thousands of people fled the fighting which began in May
Image caption Tens of thousands are marooned in the marshes, where they have fled to escape the fighting

They had spent weeks living under a tree, but a shortage of food forced them to walk for days to the UN camp they had heard about.

“They took away the cattle, and girls over 15 to make their wives. It was some Dinka and some Nuer who did it.”

These are the two biggest ethnic groups in South Sudan, represented by the political foes who sparked this civil war: President Salva Kiir who is Dinka, and former vice-president turned rebel leader Riek Machar who is Nuer.

South Sudan: Find out more

News graphic showing the ethnic groups of South Sudan
Image caption There is no dominant culture in South Sudan – the Dinka and the Nuer are the largest of more than 60 ethnic groups, each with its own language and traditional beliefs, alongside Christianity and Islam

Five obstacles to lasting peace

Why does South Sudan matter so much to the US?

In December 2013, violent clashes in the capital Juba soon spread across the country, sparking division in the army largely along ethnic lines, with the majority of rebel forces being Nuer.

The government says it was an attempted coup, the rebels say it was a politically motivated attack on a rival political group.

There’s no independent clarification of what sparked the fighting, but there’s no doubt millions have been displaced and millions more are suffering sickness and hunger.

An ineffective ceasefire and an internationally brokered peace agreement flawed by reservations and objections is doing little to resolve the crisis.

The evidence from Unity State suggests society is unravelling and with it the chances of peace and stability returning any time soon to the world’s youngest country.

An airplane carries out an food-drop over a field at a village in Nyal, an administrative hub of Panyijar county in Unity state, south SudanImage copyright AFP
Image caption People in inaccessible areas have to rely on food drops to survive

Nyaguar Nhial said she and her family fled the fighting into the marshes, spending their days up to their necks in water with the children floating on reed mats.

“Still the soldiers would be firing into the water,” she said, describing how they would wait until after dark before going venturing out onto high ground to sleep and then slipping back into the water before first light.

They spent two months living like this before hunger took its toll and they came to the camp for help.

“On the first day the soldiers arrived in the village they shot at everyone, sparing nobody,” said another woman, breast-feeding next to her, and who did not want to give her name.

“They didn’t even spare the girls – raping them, forcefully, so there was nothing they could do.”

They said some of the attackers were wearing military uniforms, others not, and repeated the claim this was not just Dinka killing Nuer, but this was becoming an intra-ethnic conflict of Nuer killing Nuer.

woman carries foodImage copyright AFP
Image caption The WFP says there is a serious risk of famine in South Sudan if humanitarian access is not improved

Ethnic violence is rarely clear-cut, and the Bul-Nuer clan, and their armed youth militia, have been blamed for joining government troops on an offensive into the rebel stronghold in Unity State.

South Sudan has cattle-rustling culture and their reward appears to have been the cattle, now absent from Leer, but present in large numbers in Bul-Nuer territory.

While violence is not unusual, well-defined lines have now been well and truly crossed, and traditionally safe places for women and children to shelter have been obliterated by the war.

“Their coping mechanisms have not helped them this time around,” said David Littlejohn-Carillo, who leads the International Committee of the Red Cross mission in Unity State.

“It’s a deadly overlap: continued fighting fuelled by local rivalry, a political split on the national level with a large amount of weapons and ammunition, and the weather factor.”

There is usually a lull in fighting during the rainy season where differences are settled, but there has been less rain this year which is bad for both crops and peace-making.

Clans that were once allies are now turning on each other, as accountability appears to count for little – and levels of society from politician to pastoralist are disintegrating.

Every recent arrival at the Bentiu UN camp has a terrible story to tell – that is why they have come.

That is also why the camp has tripled in size in a few months and is now dangerously overcrowded with an epidemic of malaria and children dying of malnutrition.

south sudan map with unity state

A South Sudanese woman working for Unicef, the United Nations children’s fund, who didn’t want to be named, has been collecting testimony from some of those arriving at the camp.

What she found echoes the events described in reports by the UN, Human Rights Watch, and a leaked Africa Union report into atrocities.

“There were many children killed. They witnessed many women killed and they saw with their own eyes, in the areas where they lived, many girls and women raped, and some abducted – they took them with the cattle,” she said.

“According to the testimony of one family they saw four children killed – three shot by guns and one not killed in a normal way, but hanged until the child died.”

The presidential spokesman for South Sudan, Ateny Wek Ateny, denied government troops had carried out atrocities but said an investigation was going on.

“We will not leave any stone unturned and we will bring those people to the books,” he said, if there is evidence atrocities were carried out.

“It is atrocities committed by South Sudanese against South Sudanese, so they are in the jurisdiction of our laws.”

SPLM (IO) dismisses government’s “biography” demand for advance team to Juba

South Sudan’s rebel leader Riek Machar, second left, looks across after shaking hands with South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir, center-right wearing a black hat, after lengthy peace negotiations in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia Monday, Aug. 17, 2015. South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir refused to sign a peace agreement Monday with rebel forces, saying he needs 15 days before he will sign, although rebel leader Riek Machar had signed the accord before Kiir refused. (AP Photo/Mulugeta Ayene)


December 2, 2015 (ADDIS ABABA) – South Sudanese armed opposition faction of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM-IO), led by the first vice-president designate, Riek Machar, has slammed president Salva Kiir’s government for coming up with a new demand which sought biographies for each and every individual of the over 550 SPLM-IO members of the advance team to Juba before the government could approve their return.


Media comments coming from the office of president Kiir had put forth a new demand suggesting that although the government received the list of 560 members of the SPLM-IO’s advance team expected in Juba in days, there was still need for the opposition leadership to provide detailed particulars or biographies of each member of the team.

A presidential spokesman, Ateny Wek Ateny, told the UN-run Radio Miraya on Wednesday that the reason behind the new demand was for the government to know who is who in the team of the opposition membership and for “security reasons”, adding that the biographies should include details of what each individual used to do before joining the SPLM-IO in the war.

He added that the government will then have to decide who it should allow to enter Juba or not.

“The advance team of the SPLM-IO did not come today [Wednesday] because two major issues are delaying their coming. One issue is that they have not provided particulars of individual members of the advance team. The list which they have sent is incomplete. It is only names but it does not say what these people do,” said Ateny.

“The other issue is connected to logistics. The United Nations has accepted to provide transport for 50 members but the list we have received is for 560 members. This issue is not a problem. It can be settled. The government can negotiate with the UN if they provide clear information as required,” he added.

Information and broadcasting minister, Michael Makuei Lueth, however in a slight contradiction confirmed in a separate interview that the government had asked the armed opposition to send a more detailed list of the advance team.

“We are still waiting for them. The list they have sent was incomplete. So we asked them to send us the complete list. We asked them to send us a list written in alphabetical order without title, without status, without seniority, without rank,” said Lueth, contradicting remarks of the presidential spokesman, who demanded biographies.

While the information minister focused on the required alphabetical order of the list, the presidential spokesman said the demand was about their biographies.

But an official of the opposition faction lashed out at the new demand, saying this was unlawful and another delaying tactic indicating that the government was not serious to implement the peace agreement.

“Where is the law which says a South Sudanese returning to the capital, Juba, must have his or her biography checked first? This is unlawful and irrational demand which only indicates that the regime is reluctant to implement the peace agreement,” responded James Gatdet Dak, the official spokesperson of the leadership of the armed opposition faction.

“Our membership is none of their business,” he told Sudan Tribune on Wednesday.

The new demand, he said, was an unnecessary delaying tactic by the government which seemed not to be comfortable with the return of the opposition cadres to the national capital and to the other state capitals.

“Or should I say this may bring suspicion about the intention of the government to prioritize knowing the biographies of our political cadres,” he added.

Dak challenged that nobody asked permission from the government to join the armed struggle and therefore did not need permission from the government to return to the capital in the implementation of the peace agreement.

The membership of the SPLM-IO cadres, he further explained, are a combination of those who fled from Juba and other state capitals and towns as well as those who joined from the diaspora in the neighbouring countries and mainly from the western world.

The opposition leader’s spokesman further argued that what the government should have done was to receive the list containing the names of the members in the team and make the necessary arrangements for their reception.

He reminded that the opposition’s membership is not 550 only, saying tens of thousands more who wish to return to Juba in the near future will do so.

Earlier, government’s information minister, Michael Makuei Lueth, said they were waiting for the list of the advance team so that they could make necessary preparations for their reception including accommodation, but did not put forth the demand for their biographies.

Dak said the new demand would “unnecessarily” make further delays for the travel of the advance team and should therefore be removed, adding that the list of the advance team was already availed to the government.


Dak further told Sudan Tribune that other causes for the delay of the advance team is the logistical arrangements being made by the United Nations and donors in coordination with IGAD, including the provision of transportation of the team from Pagak, the SPLM-IO general headquarters, to Juba.

He also said some of the members of the team from inside the country had no travel documents or passports and the travel documents or Ethiopian visas had to be provided first before they could fly to Juba.

He could not confirm the date for the flight to Juba of the advance team, saying it would depend on how fast the arrangements can be completed “this week.”

The over 550 members, who will include political leaders of the opposition group, will be led by the chief negotiator, Taban Deng Gai, and some other senior colleagues who are members to bodies provided for in the peace agreement.

Their protection while in Juba and other state capitals, Dak added, would be provided by the United Nations.

The team will kick off the implementation of the peace deal which ends the 21 months of violent conflict, mobilize populations in support of its full implementation as well as organize for the reception of their top leader, Machar, to form a government of national unity with president Kiir by January 2016.

The purpose of seeking particulars and provision of list in an orderly manner of the members of the advance team of the armed opposition faction has remained a subject of speculations.

Observers and peace advocates have pointed out that the government was engaged in delaying tactic of the visit of the opposition at the expense of peace and return of stability in the country because those in the government allegedly feel they would be affected by the changes when the transitional government of national unity is formed.

This is the fourth delay of the visit of the advance team, despite mounting pressure on the two main warring parties from within and outside the country.

The Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (JMEC) and members of the international community urged the two sides to scale up the processes and avoid unnecessary delays in implementing the deal and embark on the formation of transitional government as it was agreed in the regional brokered peace agreement.

Other sources speculated unconfirmed concerns that the government was divided over how to handle the country’s affairs in the face of the peace agreement, with some getting worried that the return of the opposition members with their reform agenda may infiltrate the pro-government’s internal front and further divide them.

Majority of members of parliament from greater Equatoria and Upper Nile regions walked out of the national parliament last week in bitter protest against constitutional amendments which paved the way for creation of 28 states by the president, saying it was violating the peace agreement.


Breaking News in Lake State, South Sudan

Very fresh bad news from Lakes State
4 people were killed this evening at about 6pm at a junction between Aluakluak, Agany and Akot – a place specifically called Tin Pan Aliet. Among the killed, two are from Apak Clan of Yirol West and two are from Yirol East.

RNPS IMAGES OF THE YEAR 2011 – A Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) soldier stands at attention during an Independence Day rehearsal in Juba July 5, 2011. REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic (SUDAN – Tags: MILITARY POLITICS)

In Rup pan Buol Riak, between Wulu and Rumbek town, 2 other people have been killed from Rup sections of Rumbek Center.
Death toll in Cueibet among the clans of Awet Akot, Joth of Mayath Pakam has risen to 16 people.
Total death toll this Tuesday in Lakes State is 22 people.

Good News for Africans: African Union to introduce an African passport

African Union to introduce an African passport

By on December 2, 2015 — The African Union has said the continent could soon become borderless with the introduction of an African passport as part of the bloc’s 2063 Agenda. So far, two countries – Rwanda and Mauritius are implementing the plan

Stamps in an African passport. Photo:  Jon Rawlinson/Wikimedia

Stamps in an African passport. Photo: Jon Rawlinson/Wikimedia

The African Union has said the free movement of citizens could be improved with the introduction of an African passport as part of its 2063 Agenda for “a continent with seamless borders”.

AU Commissioner for Political Affairs Dr. Aisha Abdullahi said on Sunday that Africa could soon become borderless and the plan for a single African passport is in progress and so far, two countries – Rwanda and Mauritius – have implemented it, Zegabi reported.

“This would also ensure the free movement of people on the continent,”

“Our people will not have to carry a visa to gain access to other African states. There will be free trade of goods” Dr. Abdullahi said at the #Africities summit.

“We have identified flagship projects, for example, [the introduction] of an African passport to ensure that Africans can move freely to every African state,” Dr. Abdullahi reportedly said.

The proposal to implement a single passport for Africa is part of the AU’s 2063 Agenda. The project, which was agreed upon last year, also aims to improve intra-African trade and to ease the movement of domestic goods between member states, Zegabi reported.

The African Union has said the free movement of citizens could be improved with the introduction of an African passport as part of its 2063 Agenda for “a continent with seamless borders”.

According to the African Development Bank (AfDB), “The AU’s vision is matched by a call to action to introduce an African Passport and abolish visa requirements for all African citizens in all African countries by 2018”.

Meanwhile, AfDB is finalising, “the first Africa Visa Openness Index”, which ranks African countries on the level of openness/restrictiveness of their visa regimes, which aims “to drive visa policy reforms across Africa, simplify visa application procedures and encourage positive reciprocity”.

Other unions across the world have abolished passports. For example, the border-free Schengen Area (a creation of the Schengen Agreement), where 26 European countries (22 of the 28 European Union (EU) member states) have abolished passports and other border controls. The member states have a common visa policy, which facilitates the free movement of people.

Source: African Union 2063 Agenda and Zegabi

Africans Press Serving South Sudan and the world
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