Stringent Security Measures for COP27

Dozens of people who called for demonstrations during the COP27 climate conference underway in Egypt were arrested in the lead up to the opening of the conference, Human Rights Watch said in a statement Sunday.

Security measures in Sharm el-Sheikh, the resort town where the conference is being held, have been stringent. Officials have required the installation of cameras in all taxis, a move that allows security agency surveillance of drivers and passengers, HRW said.

In addition, Egyptian officials have imposed what HRW describes as an “unduly complicated process” for registering for access to the Green Zone outside the COP venue. In previous summits, the Green Zone has been open — allowing for an exchange of ideas on climate issues and giving summit participants the opportunity to interact with the public.

The Egyptian government has also released a smartphone application for attendees that asks for personal information, including passport numbers. HRW said an analysis of the application by two local rights groups revealed the app required access to the phone’s camera, microphone, location and Bluetooth connection. HRW said all the information gathered from the phone app could also be shared with third parties, raising privacy issues.

HRW said the restrictions “would effectively hinder meaningful participation by nongovernmental groups and journalists during COP, preventing a successful and ambitious outcome of the climate summit.”

Source: Voice of America

Cameroon Officials Say Rebels Attacking Schools

Officials in Cameroon say armed separatists have chased several thousand children from schools just days after the students returned to classrooms for the first time in years. Troops sent to restore school security in the western regions say they have killed at least 13 rebels in clashes over the last month.

Cameroon’s military says separatist attacks this month on western villages, mostly on schools, sent thousands of schoolchildren, teachers and villagers fleeing for safety.

Lingalla Prudence is among students who on Monday fled Kumbo, an English-speaking town in the Northwest Region. The separatist conflict has disrupted her education so often that the 21-year-old, who should be in college, is still trying to finish high school.

“We were in school, and some people brought guns and chased us out of the school and kidnapped some teachers and all the children are out of school,” she said.

Teachers’ associations say the anglophone rebels are targeting state schools, which they view as a tool of the French-speaking majority’s rule. But they are also attacking religious and private schools.

Joe Tiemuncho, coordinator of the Parent-Teachers Association for Presbyterian schools in Cameroon, said separatist attacks and threats have shut down scores of schools that had reopened, some for the first time in years, when the school year started on September 5.

“Many schools have shut down given the intimidations that are coming from separatist fighters,” he said. “Teachers, learners and school managers are afraid to get into full-swing activities because it is unpredictable, you can’t say what will happen in the next few minutes. Some teachers have even had their arms amputated. Students have been kidnapped and they [fighters] continue to kidnap teachers, students and others asking for ransom.”

Cameroonian military spokespersons weren’t allowed to speak with reporters on a trip to the area, but they did confirm that hundreds of troops were deployed to restore security so classes can resume.

The military says the separatists also declared a lockdown in the English-speaking western regions that paralyzed trade. Separatists that declared the lockdown say it is in response to a government ban on community schools that the rebels control.

Capo Daniel, a self-declared deputy defense chief of the Ambazonia Defense Forces (ADF), one of the largest rebel groups in Cameroon, said the ADF is not in favor of the lockdown called by other rebel factions.

“Misguided forces that are imposing this lockdown target [on] innocent civilians who have largely rejected this lockdown. So, for the most part, our people stay at home out of fear,” he said. “It is the responsibility of everybody who speaks for the Ambazonia liberation movement to ensure our students access community schools, religious schools and private schools that have been allowed and authorized by us to open.”

Cameroon in August closed more than 200 community schools that rebels said they controlled.

The military says in the past week troops killed at least 13 rebels during clashes in the towns of Kumbo, Oku and Ndop.

Rebel spokesman Daniel confirmed their fighters were killed and said they also killed government troops.

Cameroon’s military did not confirm any fatalities but said a few troops were wounded.

Cameroon’s anglophone rebels want to create a breakaway state they call Ambazonia, separate from Cameroon’s French-speaking majority. The U.N. says the rebel conflict has killed more than 3,300 people and displaced more than a half-million since fighting broke out in 2017.

Source: Voice of America

Japan Reengaging With Africa in Face of Rising China

Japan is the latest country to try to increase engagement with Africa in the face of China’s massive influence on the continent and amid perceived threats to the international order.

There has been a flurry of visits to the continent by top officials this year, including Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and European diplomats. The visits from Western leaders have been seen by many analysts as an attempt to counter Beijing’s clout, and to some extent, Russian influence.

Last month, Japan also sought to provide African countries with an alternative to Chinese lending and investment, pledging to spend $30 billion on the continent and stressing a focus on training African professionals, food production and green growth.

The pledge was made during the eighth Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD) held in Tunisia.

In his remarks at the event, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida criticized Moscow and took an apparent swipe at China.

“It is true that a series of contradictions of the global economy, such as inequality and environmental problems, are concentrated in Africa at this moment. In addition, we need to urgently deal with issues such as the food crisis caused by Russian aggression against Ukraine and unfair and opaque development finance,” he said.

Paul Nantulya, a research associate at the Washington-based Africa Center for Strategic Affairs who has participated in two TICAD conferences, said the reference to “opaque” development finance was “definitely a rebuke to China,” which has been accused of practicing “debt trap diplomacy” — lending heavily to countries that can’t repay in order to gain political leverage.

During TICAD, Japan also announced that some $1 billion would go toward support for African countries’ debt restructuring and promised that Japan “aspires to be a ‘partner growing together with Africa.’”

While there’s increasing consensus among economists that the debt-trap accusations don’t stand up, it’s still a common criticism leveled by the West and its partners and enrages Beijing. Numerous articles in Chinese state media have slammed Kishida’s remarks as a smear campaign and said Japan’s investment pledge had “selfish intentions.”

State publication Global Times said while China does not have a problem with other countries offering aid to African nations, “what China opposes is the vicious attempt by Western countries, including the U.S. and Japan, to discredit China, asking African countries to be “wary” of China at every turn.”

“African countries have their own judgment and do not need the West to teach them what to do,” the Global Times quoted Yang Xiyu, researcher at the China Institute of International Studies, as saying.

The amount Japan pledged at TICAD this year was less than China’s pledge of $40 billion at last year’s Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) in Senegal.

Japan-Africa trade, worth some $24 billion a year, according to the Africa Center for Strategic Studies, is also dwarfed by China’s, which amounted to a record $254 billion last year.

“I think lately, Japan definitely has been trying to strengthen its engagements in Africa and obviously … China is a strategic competitor to Japan,” said Nantulya. “There is an element of competition as far as Japan’s latest push in Africa is concerned.”

Akitoshi Miyashita, an international relations professor at Tokyo International University, echoed this idea.

“The recent TICAD conference was regarded by Tokyo as an important instrument to regain Japan’s presence in Africa in light of China’s growing influence in the region. In that sense, Japan’s ODA (official development assistance) in Africa has clear political purposes,” he told VOA.

However, he said, Japan is “losing an aid competition with China” because with large national debt and a shrinking economy, Japan cannot afford to provide Africa with the amount of money that China can. Japan also cannot provide aid to countries accused of serious corruption and human rights violations, whereas China’s loans are no-strings-attached — and preferred by some African countries.

Philip Olayoku, a Nigerian academic and member of the African Association of Japanese Studies, said he did not think Tokyo was trying to compete with China in Africa because it simply can’t and “does not have the kind of clout that it used to have.”

Instead, he said, Japan is trying to “consolidate its relationship, keep part of what it has, so that China doesn’t displace it.”

While FOCAC and TICAD are similar, analysts told VOA there are several key differences, namely that the Chinese model involves the Chinese state cooperating with African ruling parties directly, while the Japanese one is more multilateral, involving civil society, NGOs and international organizations like the United Nations Development Program and the African Development Bank.

“China’s aid in Africa tends to concentrate on the fields such as infrastructure and agriculture, but Japan’s ODA covers a broader range of development fields, including human development issues,” noted Shinichi Takeuchi, director of the African Studies Center at the Tokyo University of Foreign Studies.

Additionally, Japan tries to transfer knowledge and contribute to African self-sufficiency and has a post-war agenda of helping push for peace and democracy, analysts said. However, they noted that Japan also has an economic agenda, including trying to secure markets for its high-end products.

“It wants to promote activities of Japanese businesses in Africa. As Japan is facing a number of socio-economic challenges, including economic stagnation and [an] aging population, the government wants to benefit from economic opportunities in Africa,” Takeuchi said.

Tokyo also has political agendas in Africa, analysts said. Japan is pursuing a permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council, and China is its strong rival, Takeuchi pointed out. Additionally, African countries are the biggest voting bloc at the U.N., said Nantulya.

Tokyo is also concerned that African countries could side with China — as many already did on Ukraine — and against its interests in areas such as the Western Pacific where the two are in a dispute over the ownership of the Senkaku Islands.

“The Japanese are definitely worried that African countries will be mobilized to support Chinese moves, to support Chinese strategic positions on issues … and it’s one of the reasons why this current TICAD … is really focused on really reengaging African countries diplomatically,” said Nantulya.

Asked whether Japan’s $30 billion commitment to Africa could be seen as an attempt to compete with China, Marie Hidaka, counselor at the Japanese embassy in South Africa, responded, “Nowadays, there are various fora through which many countries engage themselves with Africa, but TICAD, launched by Japan, was the forerunner of such fora for African development.”

“The $30 billion as the sum of public and private financial contributions, which Japan announced during the TICAD 8 held in last month in Tunis, focuses on investment in people and quality of growth and aims for a resilient and sustainable Africa while solving various problems faced by the African people,” she said.

Source: Voice of America

Zimbabwe: Authorities launch crackdown against students protesting high fees

Authorities must drop sinister charges against University of Zimbabwe students who have been peacefully protesting high fees and affirm their right to freedom of assembly and expression, Amnesty International said today.

“It is such a travesty of justice that these students are having to spend time in detention and courtrooms for simply asking for affordable education

Police arrested 14 students at the University of Zimbabwe on 12 September 2022 after they embarked on peaceful #FeesMustFall demonstrations against high tuition fee hikes by the university. While five more students were arrested on 14 September, and taken to Avondale police station and face charges of “disorderly conduct”, some of those who were arrested on 12 September appeared in court on yesterday.

“It is such a travesty of justice that these students are having to spend time in detention and courtrooms for simply asking for affordable education so that they can remain in lecture rooms. The arrests of these students, who were protesting peacefully, are a violation of their right to protest. Authorities must respect students’ right to peaceful protest and drop all charges against them,” said Lucia Masuka, Executive Director of Amnesty International Zimbabwe.

“We consider the arrests to be arbitrary and call on the Zimbabwe Republic Police to respect the freedom to petition and demonstrate as guaranteed by the constitution.”

The university recently announced a staggering increase in tuition fees of up to 1000% requiring undergraduate students to pay up to ZWD500 000 from around ZWD50 000 depending on their faculty, which is equivalent to about $900USD at the interbank rate of 12 September. Students have described the increase in fees as unaffordable and beyond the reach of their parents and guardians and vowed to boycott lectures until the university reverses its decision.

Authorities must respect students’ right to peaceful protest and drop all charges against them

12 of the 14 students were released late on Tuesday 13 September after paying fines of ZWD2000 or $3.31USD each at the interbank rate of 14 September. The remaining appeared in court on 14 September and were released on free bail and are set to return to court on 29 September. The students are represented by Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR).

Background

The 14 students who were arrested on 12 September were detained at Avondale police station and charged with disorderly conduct.  They were identified as Thelma Nzero, Mufaro Vhutuza, Owen Mashaya, Tinashe Zana, Tinotenda Mwenje, Fletcher Katehwe, Havana Mtetwa, Natasha Dhliwayo, Ropafadzo Mutangadura, Fatima Ajida, Tsungai Chitodha, Beyond Wendy Siwela, David Musasa, and Godknows Zabhura.

The five other students who were arrested on 14 September have been identified as Tivimba Musengi, Tinotenda Mangana, Hazel Gwande, Tanyaradzwa Nzvimbo, and Charles Moyo.

#FeesMustFall protests broke out at the University of Zimbabwe on Monday 12 September 2022 as students demonstrated against the university tuition fee hikes. The university increased fees for both undergraduate and postgraduate study by up to a staggering 1000%. Under the new fee structure, undergraduate students are required to pay up to ZWD500 000 from around ZWD50 000 depending on their faculty, which is equivalent to about $900USD at the interbank rate of 12 September. While students pursuing a Master’s degree will have to fork out up to ZWD1 million or $1800USD.

The university has also increased accommodation fees from ZWD71,000 to $616USD or the equivalent in local currency for the August to December semester.

The hike in fees risks forcing many students to abandon their studies thus potentially violating their right to education.

Source: Amnesty International

As Monkeypox Drops in the West, Still No Vaccines for Africa

With monkeypox cases subsiding in Europe and parts of North America, many scientists say now is the time to prioritize stopping the virus in Africa.

In July, the U.N. health agency designated monkeypox as a global emergency and appealed to the world to support African countries so that the catastrophic vaccine inequity that plagued the outbreak of COVID-19 wouldn’t be repeated.

But the global spike of attention has had little impact on the continent. No rich countries have shared vaccines or treatments with Africa, and some experts fear interest may soon evaporate.

“Nothing has changed for us here. The focus is all on monkeypox in the West,” said Placide Mbala, a virologist who directs the global health research department at Congo’s Institute of Biomedical Research.

“The countries in Africa where monkeypox is endemic are still in the same situation we have always been, with weak resources for surveillance, diagnostics and even the care of patients,” he said.

Rich countries hoard vaccine

Monkeypox has sickened people in parts of West and Central Africa since the 1970s, but it wasn’t until the disease triggered unusual outbreaks in Europe and North America that public health officials even thought to use vaccines. As rich countries rushed to buy nearly all the world’s supply of the most advanced shot against monkeypox, the World Health Organization said in June that it would create a vaccine-sharing mechanism to help needy countries get doses.

So far, that hasn’t happened.

“Africa is still not benefiting from either monkeypox vaccines or the antiviral treatments,” said Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO’s Africa director, adding that only small amounts have been available for research purposes. Since 2000, Africa has reported about 1,000 to 2,000 suspected monkeypox cases every year. So far this year, the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have identified about 3,000 suspected infections, including more than 100 deaths.

In recent weeks, monkeypox cases globally have fallen by more than a quarter, including by 55% in Europe, according to WHO.

Dr. Ifedayo Adetifa, head of the Nigeria Center for Disease Control, said the lack of help for Africa was reminiscent of the inequity seen during COVID-19.

“Everybody looked after their (own) problem and left everybody else,” he said. Adetifa lamented that monkeypox outbreaks in Africa never got the international attention that might have prevented the virus from spreading globally.

Rich countries have stretched their vaccine supplies by using a fifth of the regular dose, but none have expressed interest in helping Africa. WHO’s regional office for the Americas recently announced it had struck a deal to obtain 100,000 monkeypox doses that will start being delivered to countries in Latin America and the Caribbean within weeks. But no similar agreements have been reached for Africa.

“I would very much like to have vaccines to offer to my patients or anything that could just reduce their stay in the hospital,” said Dr. Dimie Ogoina, a professor of medicine at Niger Delta University in Nigeria and a member of WHO’s monkeypox emergency committee.

Since WHO declared monkeypox a global emergency, Nigeria has seen the disease continue to spread, with few significant interventions.

“We still do not have the funds to do all the studies that we need,” Ogoina said.

Research into the animals that carry monkeypox and spread it to humans in Africa is piecemeal and lacks coordination, said Mbala, of Congo’s Institute of Biomedical Research.

Last week, the White House said it was optimistic about a recent drop in monkeypox cases in the U.S., saying authorities had administered more than 460,000 doses of the vaccine made by Bavarian Nordic.

Cases drop in U.S.

The U.S. has about 35% of the world’s more than 56,000 monkeypox cases but nearly 80% of the world’s supply of the vaccine, according to a recent analysis by the advocacy group Public Citizen.

The U.S. hasn’t announced any monkeypox vaccine donations for Africa, but the White House did make a recent request to Congress for $600 million in global aid.

Even if rich countries start sharing monkeypox tools with Africa soon, they shouldn’t be applauded, other experts said.

“It should not be the case that countries only decide to share leftover vaccines when the epidemic is declining in their countries,” said Piero Olliaro, a professor of infectious diseases of poverty at Oxford University. “It is exactly the same scenario as COVID, and it is still completely unethical.”

Olliaro, who recently returned to the U.K. from a trip to Central African Republic to work on monkeypox, said WHO’s emergency declaration appeared to offer “no tangible benefits in Africa.”

In Nigeria’s Lagos state, which includes the country’s largest city and is hard hit by monkeypox, some people are calling for the government to urgently do more.

“You can’t tell me that the situation wouldn’t have improved without a vaccine,” said Temitayo Lawal, 29, an economist.

“If there is no need for vaccines, why are we now seeing the U.S. and all these countries using them?” he asked. “Our government needs to acquire doses as well.”

Source: Voice of America

US Pledges Support for Cleaner Energy in Nigeria

U.S. special envoy on climate John Kerry has pledged U.S. support to help Nigeria mitigate the effects of climate change, saying Africa’s most populous nation would benefit from a $12 billion fund for climate action.

Kerry began a two-nation West Africa visit Monday in the Nigerian capital, where he met with Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari. In Abuja on Tuesday, Kerry met with top government officials including ministers of environment, petroleum resources and agriculture, and signed the Clean Energy Demand Initiative.

He said the agreement allows the U.S government to assist Nigeria in developing technologies for cleaner fuel sources, including gas, wind and solar energy.

“Nigeria is a very important, if not one of the most important, countries in terms of the direction of dealing with climate for all of Africa, because Nigeria is a major producer of gas and oil and how Nigeria approaches the climate crisis will send a message to the rest of the continent, will help set the direction of our dealing with the climate crisis,” Kerry said.

But Abba Ali Yarima, co-founder of the Green Panthers Foundation, a nonprofit that advocates for those affected by climate change, said the gesture was long overdue.

Africa is a continent of 55 countries, but its carbon emissions account for no more than 3.8 percent compared to the global north, Yarima said. “We believe there should be reparations by all these developed countries who have emitted more carbon gases than we did here in Africa. Even the $12 billion is quite small.”

Nigerian authorities have been making efforts to address climate change issues.

In November of last year, authorities passed a climate change bill targeting net zero emissions by 2060. Last month, authorities launched an energy transition plan focused on greater use of solar power and doubling natural gas generation.

However, Yarima worries any funds given by the U.S. will be mismanaged or stolen.

“I’m also looking at other aspects of accountability when it comes to Nigeria,” Yarima said. “We’re still battling with corruption and how we’re very good with policy papers but not very good when it comes to implementation. So I’m just scared with this huge amount of money, I suggest there should be a mechanism in place that will help checkmate how this money is going to be spent.”

Kerry, a former U.S. secretary of state, said the world needs to cut carbon emissions by 45 percent by 2030.

He will complete his visit in Senegal, where he’ll be attending the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN).

Source: Voice of America