Ivorian Driver for KCB Safari

Current African Rally Championship (ARC) leader Gary Chaynes from Ivory Coast is among top drivers expected for the KCB Safari Rally 2014 slated for September 12-14.

The Abidjan-based driver, who...

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Didier Drogba Back to Chelsea!

The announcement comes L' Equipe, the French daily paper on Sunday: Didier Drogba should go back to Chelsea as of this summer and be under contract for a year.

At...

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Mali: Is Cantonment the Key to Success in Negotiations?

Peace talks between the government of Mali and northern rebel groups started in Algiers last week. If they are to succeed, the focus should be on effectively initiating the...

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Nigeria: Biafra and Boko Haram – Different Conflicts, Common Themes

In late June, at a meeting with the College of Bishops of the African Church, Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan made some interesting comments on the Nigerian Civil War of...

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West Africa: FAO Warns of Fruit Bat Risk in Ebola Epidemic

Rome — Organization working to help prevent transmission of deadly virus from wildlife to humans in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone

Increased efforts are needed to improve awareness among rural...

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Ghana: U.S. Embassy Tweet to President Sparks Diplomatic Incident

Accra — Ghana and the United States appear headed on a collision course following disagreements with the US Embassy going viral on some social networking site.

Recently, President John Dramani...

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Nigeria: Outrage After Govt Wants U.S.$1bn Loan to Fight Boko Haram

Lagos, Ibadan, Umuahia, Uyo, Abuja — Nigerians from across the various segments of the country have rejected President Goodluck Jonathan's request for approval of the National Assembly to borrow...

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Want to Save Congo? Help Them Get Rid of the FDLR

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South Sudan: Opposition Forces Claim Capture of Strategic Town

Juba — Forces loyal to South Sudan former vice-president, Riek Machar claimed they were fully in control of Nasir, a strategic Upper Nile state town.

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Latest News

Ivorian Driver for KCB Safari

Current African Rally Championship (ARC) leader Gary Chaynes from Ivory Coast is among top drivers expected for the KCB Safari Rally 2014 slated for September 12-14.

The Abidjan-based driver, who finished second at the weekend’s Rwanda Mountain Gorilla Rally, is eager to make his Safari debut in a Mitsubishi EVOX.

Also coming for the Safari is 2012 ARC champion and Zambian speed merchant, Essa Mohammed. Essa will be navigated by Gareth Dawe of Zimbabwe while Chaynes is teaming up with Romain Comas de Miranda. The all- Rwandese crew of Giancarlo Davite and Sylvia Vindevogel also expected to return to the Safari hoping to pick up from where they left last year.

After retiring in Tanzania last month, Essa restored his championship pride by winning the Rwanda Mountain Gorilla Rally at the weekend. The Kigali-based rally counted as the fifth round of the ARC. The continental showdown moves to Uganda for the prestigious Pearl of Africa Uganda Rally next month before making a stop in Kenya for the Safari Rally.

Top Kenyans expected to shine in the Safari are Alastair Cavenagh and Carl “Flash” Tundo both in identical Proton Neo Satria S2000 cars. Others are last year’s winner Baldev Chager and Jaspreet Singh Chatthe who were jointly leading the ARC until Rwanda. Azar Anwar, 60, will be gracing the Safari for the umpteenth time, having won the event in 2006 with George Mwangi in an EVO6.

Chatthe skipped Rwanda Rally due to a family function but is expected to honour Uganda and Safari. This year’s Safari marks the debut of the Malaysian Proton Super 2000 model, which have so far posted mixed fortunes on Kenyan soil since their arrival early in the year. It is also the first time a local driver will be racing the Super 2000 formula, considering Group ‘N’ has remained a preserve of the Safari Rally for many years.

Meanwhile, Essa savoured his win in the Mountain Gorilla Rally of Rwanda to move within a point of reigning ARC leader Gary Chaynes.

Essa, who has now claimed victory in three of the four events in this year’s ARC calendar, completed the three-day event–the fifth (5th) round of the ARC– in 2:57:24, beating Ivorian Chaynes by a whooping nine minutes and seven seconds.

Ugandan speed star Duncan ‘Kikankane’ Mubiru came third after clocking 3:06:31 while Bukera Valery (3:09:02) and Murengezi Johny (3:09:26) complete the top five. Mubiru, however, earned no ARC points since he didn’t register for the event but finishing third gives him confidence ahead of the Shell Pearl of Africa Rally next month.

Uganda’s Geoffrey Nsamba was among the drivers who didn’t finish the race after he crashed his car on final day. Essa’s other victories this season came in the Rally of South Africa and Zambia Airtel Money Rally but mechanical failure denied him a finish in the Oryx Rally of Tanzania. The former ARC winner also missed the Bandama Rally of Cote d’Ivoire–the opening event of the calendar. Chaynes, who is yet to miss any event, still leads the standings with 76 points, just one ahead of Essa while Chatthe stays third (58 points).

Davite lies fourth on 27 points while Uganda’s Hajji Abdul Sempebwa and Cote d’Ivoire’s Morifere Soumoro share fifth position with 18 points.

Next on the ARC calendar is the Shell Pearl of Africa Uganda Rally scheduled between August 15-16.

Copyright © 2014 The Star. All rights reserved. Distributed by AllAfrica Global Media (allAfrica.com). To contact the copyright holder directly for corrections — or for permission to republish or make other authorized use of this material, click here.

AllAfrica publishes around 2,000 reports a day from more than 130 news organizations and over 200 other institutions and individuals, representing a diversity of positions on every topic. We publish news and views ranging from vigorous opponents of governments to government publications and spokespersons. Publishers named above each report are responsible for their own content, which AllAfrica does not have the legal right to edit or correct.

Didier Drogba Back to Chelsea!

The announcement comes L’ Equipe, the French daily paper on Sunday: Didier Drogba should go back to Chelsea as of this summer and be under contract for a year.

At the end of contract with Galatasaray, the Ivory Coast striker is going to sign another contract with Blues at the beginning of the next week.

Drogba would then join the technical staff of Chelsea. His return to Stamford Bridge has been evoked since a few days. Drogba made sparkling days at Chelsea from 2004 till 2012 and is considered as a hero in London.

Copyright © 2014 Africa Top Sports. All rights reserved. Distributed by AllAfrica Global Media (allAfrica.com). To contact the copyright holder directly for corrections — or for permission to republish or make other authorized use of this material, click here.

AllAfrica publishes around 2,000 reports a day from more than 130 news organizations and over 200 other institutions and individuals, representing a diversity of positions on every topic. We publish news and views ranging from vigorous opponents of governments to government publications and spokespersons. Publishers named above each report are responsible for their own content, which AllAfrica does not have the legal right to edit or correct.

Articles and commentaries that identify allAfrica.com as the publisher are produced or commissioned by AllAfrica. To address comments or complaints, please Contact us.

Mali: Is Cantonment the Key to Success in Negotiations?

Peace talks between the government of Mali and northern rebel groups started in Algiers last week. If they are to succeed, the focus should be on effectively initiating the ‘cantonment’ of armed groups, a military process that involves removing them from the conflict zone and restricting their movements.

Containing armed groups in this way could reduce the risk of further trouble. The UN Security Council emphasised the need to undertake the ‘cantonment’ when it passed Resolution 2164 on 25 June 2014.

The violent clashes that took place in Kidal on 17 and 21 May this year after the visit of Mali’s Prime Minister, Moussa Mara, demonstrated how fragile the status quo is. The fighting had resulted in the Malian army and administrative authorities withdrawing from the town of Kidal; striking a severe blow to the Ouagadougou Agreement.

Signed just over a year ago, the effectiveness of the Ouagadougou Agreement has been in doubt for some time now. On 18 June 2013 the Mali transitional government and the northern rebel groups Haut Conseil pour l’unité de l’Azawad (HCUA) and the Mouvement national de libération de l’Azawad (MNLA), signed a preliminary agreement in Ouagadougou paving the way for the 2013 presidential elections and an inclusive peace agreement.

On the same day other rebel groups, namely the Coordination des mouvements et fronts patriotiques de résistance (CM-FPR) and the Mouvement arabe de l’Azawad (MAA), complied with the Ouagadougou Agreement. The inauguration of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta on 19 September 2013 signalled the achievement of the first objective in the preliminary agreement.

Despite some encouraging signs, such as the Algiers Declaration on 9 June 2014 and the platform signed by northern armed groups on 16 June 2014 to harmonise their positions prior to talks with the Malian government, real dialogue remains elusive. Clashes reported on 11 July 2014 in northern Mali between some armed groups indicate that conflict persists.

The situation remains volatile because most of the northern armed groups have not been brought under control. This increases the risk of confrontation not only between armed groups, but also between these groups and the Malian army. Considering that disarmament has not taken place, the cantonment process – which armed groups signed up to in the Ouagadougou Agreement – should be implemented.

The cantonment reflects the compromise reached between the government of Mali, which initially wanted the rebel groups to disarm before holding peace talks, and the armed groups, which have been reluctant to disarm for fear of weakening their position in any future negotiations.

In practice, the cantonment process is to be handled by the Joint Technical Security Commission established under the Ouagadougou Agreement, which comprises both national and international stakeholders. On 18 February 2014, the Commission outlined how the cantonment should take place. However, these plans have not been fully implemented, due mainly to the MNLA’s refusal to be part of the process.

The new round of inter-Malian talks, which started on 16 July 2014, takes place under particularly difficult circumstances. In order to prevent the situation from further deteriorating on the ground, the Joint Technical Security Commission must resume and accelerate the cantonment of rebel groups.

Although there have been some good initiatives to revitalise the peace and reconciliation process, such as the establishment on 20 March 2014 of the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission and the appointment on 22 April 2014 of a high representative of the head of state for inter-Malian inclusive dialogue, the government of Mali has been unable to come up with a clear roadmap for the peace talks. It is worth recalling that Malian authorities agreed to sign the Ouagadougou Agreement largely as a result of international pressure, and did so with some reluctance and reservations.

It seems that these reservations still prevail and have led to delays in the implementation of the Ouagadougou Agreement. In January 2014, Malian authorities requested Algeria to play a more active role in efforts to resolve the crisis.

In fact, the government of Mali has never really concealed the fact that it wanted Algeria to be a key player in the peace talks, to the detriment of the mediator appointed by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), President Blaise Compaoré of Burkina Faso, who was considered more accommodating vis-à-vis the rebel groups.

Complicating matters further is Morocco’s involvement in the process to end the crisis. This illustrates that Mali is getting much-needed support at the regional level, but the presence of too many regional actors – each with its own agenda and interests – could jeopardise the search for a sustainable solution.

If genuine peace talks are to take place that produce a clear roadmap, it is imperative to implement the provisions of the Ouagadougou Agreement, especially those relating to the cantonment of armed groups. This will help improve security in northern Mali and provide an environment conducive to successful negotiations. It would test the armed groups’ commitment to brokering a peace deal and restore confidence between the parties in conflict.

Involving Mali’s regional and international partners in this process will be key. Beyond the usual rhetoric, these partners must make use of all political and diplomatic means at their disposal to support the process and put pressure on the MNLA to join the Commission that is responsible for making sure that cantonment happens.

 - Ibrahim Maiga, Junior Fellow, Conflict Prevention and Risk Analysis Division, ISS Dakar

Nigeria: Biafra and Boko Haram – Different Conflicts, Common Themes

In late June, at a meeting with the College of Bishops of the African Church, Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan made some interesting comments on the Nigerian Civil War of 1967-70. Jonathan sought to compare the war with the ongoing conflict in Northern Nigeria, and the struggle between government forces and the Islamist militant movement Boko Haram.

One of his statements ran thus: “In the North-East, it is almost like it is even worse than the Civil War because in the Civil War, you know if you are here, you know the battle line, either a Biafran or Nigerian. You know where to run to. Right now, you don’t even know where to run to because the enemies are in the Sokoto (trouser) pocket.”

This comparison, albeit a fairly limited and superficial one, demonstrates the extent of the concern that the present day insurgency in the north is causing in the country. Jonathan is not the only Nigerian to have harked back in recent months to the Civil War, which saw Nigeria’s Eastern Region attempt to secede from the country under the leadership of the now deceased General Ojukwu.

Famed Nigerian playwright and poet Wole Soyinka has also spoken out on the similarities and differences between Biafra and Boko Haram. The scale of violence and uncertainty, and the regional nature of the fighting have raised the spectre of Nigeria’s past grapples with regional tensions and differences, and the Biafran War provides the most obvious and dramatic historical example for comparisons and lessons to be drawn from.

However, Jonathan’s portrayal of the war as it compares to the struggle against Boko Haram falls short for two key reasons. First, it offers an oversimplified and romanticized memory of the Biafran war itself, which was a complex and fragmented civil struggle.

Second, it stops short of any real effort to draw comparisons between the two conflicts, when doing so can in fact offer some interesting similarities, as well as some crucial differences between.

Jonathan’s assertion that during the Civil War combatants knew ‘the battle line,’ is less grounded in history than it might first seem. Certainly the Biafran Conflict saw more in the way of conventional ground battles, and artillery, tanks and planes were employed in ways we might consider to be more ‘straightforward’ than insurgency, suicide bombings and kidnapping. But all three of these strategies, so reviled in the media and feared at home and abroad, were also employed during the Civil War.

Ojukwu authorised several attempted car bombings of Lagos during the early months of the conflict, with limited success. Cross border guerrilla action was extremely common, as was cross border trading, as black markets thrived, albeit at great risk to the participants.

The Biafran Organization of Freedom Fighters (BOFF), was a sub-section of the Biafran armed forces that actually trained boy recruits to cross the lines and pretend to serve as Nigerian troops in order to gain intelligence and infiltrate the Federal ranks.

Many of these boys never returned. Kidnapping didn’t occur in as dramatic and alarming a fashion as recent events in Nigeria, but Biafra did come under fire towards the end of the war for holding hostage several Italian oil workers who were captured by their forces.

Moreover, it was not even purely in the forms that fighting took that the Biafran War was murkier and less polarised than Jonathan’s statement makes it out to be. Many commentators today neglect altogether from their analysis that the conflict was precipitated by immense political unrest between factions in Nigeria’s three main regions.

This culminated in mass violence in the North of the country, following a failed coup which had seen many high profile Northern leaders killed, and a predominantly Eastern, Igbo led military regime under General Ironsi installed.

Divisions within the army and across the country led to these northern massacres, where thousands of Igbos were killed, and a huge exodus back into the region which subsequently pulled away and named itself Biafra was triggered. Just as today many fear the potential of the ongoing conflict to escalate into full scale Civil War, the Biafran struggle also began not as a straightforward conventional war but as a series of political and social upheavals that had their genesis in regional tensions.

These fault lines continued to change during the war, with the allegiance of the Western Region an uncertainty, and many divisions and struggles between generals within the Federal Government as well as in Biafra.

If one looks deeper, it also becomes clear that many of the same fault lines and tensions continue to play a role in the present day crisis in Northern Nigeria. In the 60′s one of the key grievances within the Nigerian Army, where the unrest began, was prompted by education.

This took the form of an overabundance of educated eastern Igbo in the officer corps, as compared to smaller numbers from the Muslim north, where attempts to spread Christianity and the schooling that often accompanied it had been resisted and prevented under the British colonial regime.

Today similar issues have taken new forms – Boko Haram is itself opposed to the implementation of ‘Western’ forms of education. Likewise the continued underdevelopment of the North, which has created endemic poverty that itself serves to push desperate Nigerians into more extreme actions, can be traced to an extent to the failure to overcome this enduring imbalance between the North and other areas of the country.

Both conflicts also have a significant international dimension that must be recognised. Whilst the Biafran War began as a series of internal struggles, it quickly adopted a crucial external stage, as Ojukwu sought to lobby for international intervention on behalf of Biafra, and General Gowon, the leader of the Federal Government, sought military hardware from Britain and Russia in order to bring Biafra back into the federation as quickly as possible.

As the war went on, the starvation caused by federal blockages was broadcast into homes through television across the world, one of the first televised crises with which the world has become devastatingly familiar.

In the same way Boko Haram has become far more than just a localised insurgency. The kidnapping of over 200 Nigerian schoolgirls from Chibok in Borno State saw the issue become transmitted on a global scale, a subject of discussion for a wider international audience than ever before.

Goodluck Jonathan and his government are appealing increasingly to external actors for support, and recent allegations of Boko Haram having linkages to wider Islamic terrorist networks are indicative of the snowballing nature of the conflict. Like Biafra before it, Northern Nigeria is rapidly becoming an international focal point, with severe implications for the shape of the conflict.

At the same time one must recognize limitations to comparison between the two conflicts. The weaponry and technology available to both sides today makes conventional war unlikely, but insurgency extremely viable and difficult to combat.

The Biafran war was heavily influenced by the discovery of oil underneath the Eastern Region, which intensified both regional desires for secession and international insistence on the federation remaining intact.

By contrast, whilst oil continues to play a damaging and unresolved role in Nigerian politics, it doesn’t seem to be a primary motivation of Boko Haram. Whilst the political tensions within the army during the 60′s spilled over into Coups and infighting, it seems more likely that elections will play a decisive role in the political struggle in present day Nigeria.

It remains crucial not to fall into clichéd, rose-tinted memories of past conflicts in any context, and Goodluck Jonathan is no exception. The Biafran struggle was a fragmented affair in which infiltration, weapons of terror and local grievances played a key part.

In this sense Boko Haram is not as far detached from the wars of the past as some might like to think. Long-running issues of regional integration and political representation lie at the heart of today’s violence, just as it did when the yellow sun banners flew over the cities of Eastern Nigeria.

Tom Lowman is an MA student at the School of Oriental and African Studies, London. He blogs at tomlowman.wordpress.com

West Africa: FAO Warns of Fruit Bat Risk in Ebola Epidemic

Rome — Organization working to help prevent transmission of deadly virus from wildlife to humans in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone

Increased efforts are needed to improve awareness among rural communities in West Africa about the risks of contracting the Ebola virus from eating certain wildlife species including fruit bats, FAO warned today.

Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone are struggling to contain the world’s deadliest recorded outbreak of the virus, which is transmitted by direct contact with the blood and body fluids of infected people as well as infected animals.

The West African epidemic is thought to have started when the virus crossed over from infected wildlife into the human population and subsequently began spreading between people.

Curbing human-to-human transmission is the most important focus for governments and international health agencies. However, FAO is working closely with the World Health Organization (WHO) to raise awareness of the transmission risks from wildlife among rural communities that hunt for bushmeat – or meat obtained from the forests – to supplement their diets and income. These communities risk future spill-over from species that can carry the virus, including fruit bats, some primates, and duikers.

“We are not suggesting that people stop hunting altogether, which isn’t realistic,” said FAO Chief Veterinary Officer Juan Lubroth. “But communities need clear advice on the need not to touch dead animals or to sell or eat the meat of any animal that they find already dead. They should also avoid hunting animals that are sick or behaving strangely, as this is another red flag.”

Fruit bats – usually eaten dried or in a spicy soup – are thought to be the most likely reservoir species for the virus, which they can carry without developing clinical signs of the disease, and should be avoided altogether, according to FAO.

“The virus is killed when meat is cooked at a high temperature or heavily smoked, but anyone who handles, skins or butchers an infected wild animal is at risk of contracting the virus,” Lubroth said.

Myths and mistrust thwarting efforts

While several governments in the region have attempted to outlaw the sale and consumption of bushmeat, bans have proved impossible to enforce and have met with suspicion from rural communities.

“There is a lot of mistrust, to the extent that people are hiding patients rather than getting medical help, and it’s very difficult to control the disease in the midst of many myths and rumours,” said Katinka de Balogh, FAO veterinary public health officer and Ebola focal point.

De Balogh said there were growing concerns about the effect the outbreak may have on food security in some parts of the region as some farmers are too afraid to work in their fields, while some markets have also closed down.

FAO action plan

FAO has already committed resources and is working with governments, WHO country offices and other partners in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone to improve information about the virus at community-level, using existing networks such as rural radio and agricultural extension services.

“It is critical for rural communities to understand the risks, both of human-to-human transmission and from wildlife, so that they are in a position to make informed decisions themselves,” de Balogh said.

The Organization will work with governments to also set up wildlife surveillance systems to support early detection of the virus, collaborating with wildlife rangers, veterinarians and local universities. “Rural communities have an important role to play in reporting unusual mortality in the animal population, which is another reason that their collaboration is so crucial,” de Balogh said.

In addition, FAO will help to assess the role of hunting in livelihoods with a view to finding healthier and more sustainable long-term livestock production alternatives to provide people with additional protein and income.

West Africa’s first human cases of Ebola virus disease were suspected to have occurred in December 2013, and according to WHO more than 600 people have died from the disease in the region.

Lethal in up to 90 percent of cases, Ebola virus disease causes multiple organ failure and, in some cases, severe haemorrhaging. There is currently no vaccine for the disease.

Ghana: U.S. Embassy Tweet to President Sparks Diplomatic Incident

Accra — Ghana and the United States appear headed on a collision course following disagreements with the US Embassy going viral on some social networking site.

Recently, President John Dramani Mahama, in typical fashion had used social media to communicate the need for Ghanaians to make sacrifices in these challenging times, as there was light at the end of the tunnel.

This is in reference to his calls to government officials to accept a salary cut.

He tweeted on his site Twitter page, @JD Mahama, “As a people, we have had to make sacrifices. I wish to assure you that the results of these sacrifices would begin to show very soon.”

Shortly after, a response came from the US Embassy’s official handle, which stated, “And what sacrifices are you making? Don’t tell me that pay cut.”

The tweet from the US Embassy elicited fierce responses and condemnation from some state officials, who felt the Embassy, was unduly interfering in the politics of the country and showing disrespect to the President.

As the atmosphere got heated with accusations and counter-accusations on the issue, the Embassy came up with an apology and explained the circumstances surrounding the tweet.

It shifted blame onto one of its officials for the blunder, not the Embassy or the US government.

“The earlier errant tweet was a private message mistakenly sent out on our account. The views expressed in no way reflect the views of the United States Government or the US Embassy,” it tweeted.

The Embassy further promised to ensure that all employees fully understood their responsibility toward carefully managing its public outreach through social media.

“We have apologised to the President and we offer an apology to the Ghanaian people. Our staff mixed a personal handle with that of the embassy’s,” it concluded.

Not satisfied with the explanation, Foreign Affairs Minister, Hannah Tetteh hit back.

“The tweet was public and associated with your twitter handle. It was not a private/personal account.”

Ras Mubarak, the Coordinator of the National Youth Authority, called on the Foreign Minister to summon the US Ambassador to explain.

Copyright © 2014 CAJ News Agency. All rights reserved. Distributed by AllAfrica Global Media (allAfrica.com). To contact the copyright holder directly for corrections — or for permission to republish or make other authorized use of this material, click here.

AllAfrica publishes around 2,000 reports a day from more than 130 news organizations and over 200 other institutions and individuals, representing a diversity of positions on every topic. We publish news and views ranging from vigorous opponents of governments to government publications and spokespersons. Publishers named above each report are responsible for their own content, which AllAfrica does not have the legal right to edit or correct.

Nigeria: Outrage After Govt Wants U.S.$1bn Loan to Fight Boko Haram

Lagos, Ibadan, Umuahia, Uyo, Abuja — Nigerians from across the various segments of the country have rejected President Goodluck Jonathan’s request for approval of the National Assembly to borrow a whooping $1 billion to fight insurgency.

Jonathan had on Wednesday forwarded a letter to the National Assembly, asking the lawmakers to urgently approve a $1 billion external loan for the Federal Government to confront the Boko Haram insurgency.

The President’s letter, seeking the lawmakers’ approval to borrow the money, was read during the plenary in Abuja on Wednesday. He said the money would be used to upgrade the equipment of the Armed Forces.

However, the Lagos State House of Assembly, in a statement, issued by its Chairman, Committee on Information, Strategy, Security and Publicity, Segun Olulade, condemned the President’s request, insisting that if granted, it would put the nation in more debt.

The House noted that though there is no doubt that everyone is seriously concerned about the need to end Boko Haram insurgency ravaging the Northern part of the country, any attempt to put the nation on the track of undue borrowing is not acceptable.

While raising some rhetoric, the lawmakers noted that the Federal Government is gradually making the nation to wear the status of a “prodigal son” by its unnecessary wasteful and undue thirst for money.

“Where has the budget for security operations in the country been going since 1999? With all the claims of a buoyant and robust financial stand of the nation by the Coordinating Minister of the Economy and Finance, why has it been so difficult to generate funds internally to step up fight against terrorism?

“What has happened to all the looted money claimed to have been recovered by this government? Why is President Jonathan eager to borrow money before the general elections? What is happening to all the missing money in the country that this government is yet to locate?

“Thousands of questions are seriously begging for answer. The Jonathan government, having been so reckless with money, does not enjoy the confidence of Nigerians over borrowing proposals.

“We urged the National Assembly to reject the proposal in the interest of innocent Nigerians who have been critically battered as recipients of the consequences of financial ineptitude of this administration under President Jonathan,” the statement read in part.

The lawmakers also alerted that as long as corruption thrives, any money borrowed would be squandered by few individuals while the money would have been spent to the last kobo before it even arrives.

They challenged the Federal Government to tell Nigerians what has happened to the increased budgetary allocation for Defence which was raised to the tune of N968.2 billion in the 2014 budget simply because of fight against Boko Haram before proceeding for another borrowing attempt.

The Human Rights Writers’ Association (HURIWA) on its part condemned the plan by President Goodluck Jonathan to source for $1 billion loan to fight insurgency just as it demanded for a forensic probe of the alleged N76 billion CCTV scam.

The group wants the Government to also introduce death penalty for the crime of theft of Defence and Police budgets.

The Rights group also asked for the introduction of a general war tax of at least N1, 000 per working individual [in private and public sectors] and N5,000 per registered companies to help set up a War Trust Fund (WTF) meant for procurement of state-of-the-art information technology-driven facilities and combat weapons for the prosecution of the ongoing counter insurgency war.

The group said it was wrong to seek external fund to prosecute a war largely created by insurgents in our contemporary periods and expect generations yet unborn to bear the burden of repayment.

HURIWA therefore urged President Jonathan to have a rethink of seeking for $1billion foreign credit facility to prosecute the ongoing counter insurgency war but to look inwards and draw up quick win strategy for making Nigerians to own the process of the counter terror war by contributing just a little for the war trust fund.

HURIWA also suggested that political office holders at all levels be asked to give 25 per cent of their monthly salary (for two months only) towards the setting up of the counter-insurgency war fund to be managed by a five-member team made up of Nigerians of unimpeachable integrity with representations from ministries of Finance, Defence and the Civil Society Community.

On the alleged collapse of the $470 million (N76 billion) National public security communications system project in Abuja, the Rights group tasked the Federal Government to hire tested and trusted foreign forensic investigators to unravel the whereabouts of the huge public funds deployed in the critical security infrastructure which as evidently made manifest was not effectively delivered.

HURIWA recalled that the contract for the NPSCS project was awarded by the Federal Government to provide a secure an independent multimedia communications system for the police and other security agencies in the country.

“We urge President Jonathan to ensure that all those that sabotaged these critical security facilities are brought before the court of law to face the full weight of the law. We use this opportunity tunity to repeat our call for the death penalty to be imposed for crimes of diversion of Defence and Police budgets henceforth,” HURIWA stated.

A National Conference delegate, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN), asked the National Assembly to reject the request made by President Jonathan, asking for $1 billion loan to aid the war against Boko Haram insurgency.

Falana said the President must explain what he had been doing with the budgets made for Defence in the past few years.

He said, “The request made by President Jonathan for approval of the Senate for a loan of $1 billion to fight the menace of the Boko Haram sect should be rejected in its entirety. Between 2010 and 2013 over N3 trillion was budgeted for defence.

“Under the Appropriation Bill signed into law on May 23 this year, 20 per cent of the entire federal budget, that is, the sum of N968.127 billion out of N4.962 trillion was earmarked for Defence. The Senate should find out what happened to the Defence budget in the middle of the year to warrant a supplementary budget of N160 billion.”

Similarly, another Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Yusuf Alli, said the request by the President had created a state of uncertainty as he had yet to be fully aware of all the parameters for the request.

He urged the National Assembly to be sure there was a need for it before approving it.

He said, “I am sure they should be sure that there is a need for it before they will approve it. One does not possess all the parameters for asking for the loan, so one is a bit in a quandary. One does not have all the factors that have been considered.

“But one wants to believe that the National Assembly will be given all the facts to do the correct thing,” he stated.

A security consultant, Ben Okezia, faulted the request by Jonathan, saying the Army already had a budget which was being used to fund its counter-terrorism campaign in the North-East.

He said the government should not attempt to hoodwink Nigerians, adding that the number of Boko Haram insurgents was not up to 2,000 and that not all of them were armed.

He therefore cautioned the National Assembly against approving the loan request, saying the government was not sending everyone in the Army to fight against Boko Haram and as such there was no need for the loan.

A chieftain of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Lekan Balogun, said inasmuch as he would have loved to comment on the issue, he did not know how they arrived at the figure to be borrowed.

He said insurgency by Boko Haram “is becoming a big fight and there is nothing too much to be done to free Nigeria and Nigerians from their grip; everything that has to be done to stop their act must be done, but what do they want the huge amount of money for? A billion dollar is N160 billion!”

Two Ibadan-based lawyers and activists, Doyin Odebowale and Femi Aborisade, also condemned the move.

Odebowale, also a Classics lecturer at the University of Ibadan, said only President Jonathan and members of his party could answer the questions surrounding the borrowing of such a huge amount of money to fight Boko Haram.

“Nigerians should begin to understand the itinerary of this government. First, the Chief of Defence Staff, Badeh, said insurgency would end by April. One would have thought that this careless statement was made based on the available intelligence report at his disposal.

“Boko Haram responded with such bestial ferocity as never witnessed before. Nyanya was bombed and over 200 girls were abducted in a state under the so-called emergency rule. The military suffered heavy casualties afterwards.

“They were simply mowed down like grass by a rag tag but evidently determined band. There has been no respite ever since. Soldiers almost killed a so-called commanding officer who was accused of incompetence cum complicity in the death of some officers and men.

“High ranking officers are equally accused of simply stealing funds meant for the welfare of these hapless underlings. Do they need that amount to gather intelligence or buy new guns to combat “faceless” enemies?

“Do they want to accept the suggestion bordering on omnibus amnesty for criminals called insurgents? What is the opinion of aunty Ngozi on this loan? What are the conditions attached to the loan?

Aborisade in his own reaction maintained that “the proposal to take $1 billion (or approximately N160 billion) by President Jonathan is a further confirmation that the Federal Government is not ashamed to be rated one of the most corrupt countries in the world.

“Before any rational government could have the effrontery to make such a proposal, it would have explained how about N1 trillion budgeted for Defence in the 2014 had been utilised. The cost-benefit analysis of what was originally budgeted ought to have been presented.

“We must ask President Jonathan how much has been spent from ‘Agency-wide Vote’, apart from the budgeted N1 trillion for Defence in 2014? Borrowing by any government is not wrong provided it is meant for regenerative and productive ventures which would not only repay the loan but also create surplus.

“Indeed, if the inability to curtail Boko Haram were limited to lack of raw cash, borrowing would not have been the only option. Nigeria still has billions of Dollars in foreign reserves, from which the needed funds could be taken.

“According to Channels TV, as at May 10, 2014, Nigeria’s foreign reserves amounted to $39.97 billion. It does not make any economic sense to prefer taking loans with interest when the country has money in foreign reserves from which any amount can be taken without any cost in terms of interest payment.

“If the $1b is not to be stolen in preparation for 2015, then President Jonathan should disclose to Nigerians the source of repaying the loan and the duration for realising the amount to be borrowed. We call on the National Assembly to reject President Jonathan’s proposal to take $1 billion to fight Boko Haram insurgency.

“Inability to fight Boko Haram insurgency is a product of lack of political will. Besides, the root source of Boko Haram and other similar criminalities in Nigeria is material poverty, which social security schemes would more effectively address rather than entrenching a militarised democracy,” he added.

However, A human rights activist and Chairman of Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders (CACOL), Comrade Debo Adeniran, said the plan by President Goodluck Jonathan to borrow more money to fight Boko Haram was not a bad decision if the money would be properly utilised.

“With the present security situation we are facing in the country a right thinking person should support any measure that will curb the insurgency,” he said.

But Adeniran said Nigerians would be more disappointed if at the end of the whole exercise, the government could not achieve the goal of taming of Boko Haram in the country.

“Nigerians at the end of the day will demand accountability from this government if it fails to use the money to fight insurgency in the country”.

Similarly, the Publicity Secretary, Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), Anthony Sani, said the Northern Delegates Forum was in support of the government’s decision to borrow $1 billion to prosecute terrorism in the country.

In an interview with Daily Independent, Sani said the group was in support of any measure by the government to end the insurgency in the country because the issue of security of lives and property is the primary responsibility of any government.

In Umuahia, Chief Justin Nwosu, a Chartered accountant, who is into Public practice, described the measure as laudable.

“You see, for the economy to grow, stabilise, and move forward and for growth to take place, for the economy and industry to thrive, we need security. So the loan is going to be secured for purposes of stabilising the security of Nigeria. That is proper because, you cannot plan or put something unto nothing, you cannot put any investment, development or project in a very disorganised or anarchic society.

Barrister Ugochukwu Ndubuka, an Umuahia based legal practitioner, said he was not opposed to the loan application by President Goodluck Jonathan to the Senate.

“I am not opposed to that application to the Senate considering the spate of killings by the insurgents in the country. That amount is not too much considering what other countries that have experienced insurgency spent. I think President Jonathan is being reasonable, he is trying to ensure that stability is restored,” he stated.

Former Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Akwa Ibom State, Hon. Victor Iyanam, said the request was appropriate, considering the huge harm meted on the nation by insurgency.

“If you know what terrorism has done to countries that have been unable to combat them alone, you would agree that no expense is too much, so long as the battle is won.

“From what we have gathered, it is not that they are going to give us $1 billion; they are going to give us hardware, software, all manners of wares that would assist us to fight terrorism, I think it makes much sense. But for them to do that, a lot of money would be involved,” he stated.

Meanwhile, the Coordinator of National Information Centre, Mr. Mike Omeri, said the Federal Government would not spare resources to bring back the schoolgirls abducted from the Government Secondary School, Chibok, Borno State, on April 14.

Omeri was responding to a question from a journalist on whether the resources of the Federal Government had depleted in the fight against terrorism such that it now needed to borrow $1 billion to prosecute the war.

The NIC coordinator said, “Even the United States goes for this kind of facility. For any country involved in such military expedition, not just the Boko Haram issue, but engaged in a number of military exercises, its stock will deplete. Every country must restock to reinforce its capability.

“That is not to say that the resource of Nigeria has finished and therefore we needed to go for loan. It is not cash that will be given to Nigeria. It is a long term facility.

“It is country-to-country kind of process because what the government is looking for is the approval of the National Assembly so that the President can negotiate for arms to consolidate, to reinforce the stock the Armed Forces have and to guarantee that we will win the war against insurgency and we have an effective and capable assets to prosecute any unforeseen issue. This happens to all countries. It is not exclusive to Nigeria,” he explained.

He added: “Once the country is engaged in any kind of activity of this nature, it sure will lead to depletion of resources. So, I don’t think the loan is because the resources are depleted. For the amount so far spent, I am not in a position to say so.”

Akinwunmi King, Augustine Adah, Oladele Ogunsola, Emeka Okafor, Idongesit Ashameri and Joe Nwankwo

Copyright © 2014 Daily Independent. All rights reserved. Distributed by AllAfrica Global Media (allAfrica.com). To contact the copyright holder directly for corrections — or for permission to republish or make other authorized use of this material, click here.

AllAfrica publishes around 2,000 reports a day from more than 130 news organizations and over 200 other institutions and individuals, representing a diversity of positions on every topic. We publish news and views ranging from vigorous opponents of governments to government publications and spokespersons. Publishers named above each report are responsible for their own content, which AllAfrica does not have the legal right to edit or correct.

Want to Save Congo? Help Them Get Rid of the FDLR

“… IN such countries, genocide is not too important… ” remarked French President Francois Mitterrand during an interview on 14th of July 1994, describing the Genocide perpetrated against the Tutsi in Rwanda.
A Genocide that claimed the lives of ov…

Liberia: Changing Lives on Larger Scale is Goal of Senate Run – Robert Sirleaf

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Photo: Liberian Observer

Robert Sirleaf, receiving petitions calling for him to run for Senate.

Monrovia — Robert Sirleaf, son of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, has declared his candidacy for senator representing Montserrado County, which includes Liberia’s capital, Monrovia. In a conversation with AllAfrica about how Monrovia neighborhoods can combat coastal erosion and flooding – for an upcoming series of reports supported by the Rockefeller Foundation on challenges facing cities – Sirleaf talked extensively about the importance of empowering local communities to improve their situations. He also agreed to an interview about the Senate race. AllAfrica’s Boakai Fofana talked with Sirleaf in his office. Excerpts:

Let’s start off first by the obvious question: why do you want to be Senator of Montserrado county?

For the last few years, we have been doing a lot of work in Montserrado county and some other counties. We’ve done some work in Bomi; we’ve done some work in Nimba. The people of Montserrado have spoken. I have been underneath a lot of pressure – maybe for the last two years – to declare for political office to represent them at the next higher level. It’s taken a lot of self-thinking to make a very personal decision. And I decided to make it in the best interest of the county.

And what is that best interest? What do you hope to achieve at the end of the day?

Changing lives is one of the most important things we have done. We have been creative in creating employment, water, sanitation, and market places for the women. So when you go the next level to do it on a bigger and broader scale, obviously, I am [only] one person. As senator, I can rally partners. We all can benefit from sharing ideas in making Montserrado better – and other counties better at the same time.

Given that decisions in Senate are made by majority vote, how do you intend to make an impact personally?

Partnership. Politics is about interests. There are interests that we have in making the lives of the people better – coming up with creative ideas, coming up with ideas of employment, infrastructure development. It’s a matter of aligning these interests and getting to a common goal.\

In the end, what would you regard as a successful term of office?

Nine years will make me 63; that should be enough. What we’ve been able to achieve in four years from the very small perspective that we have, a nine-year commitment to the people of Montserrado County, we will be able to achieve a lot of more. We are very committed to that and confident in our ability to create the partnerships and attract the right type of people to do investment in Montserrado. I think we can be extremely successful.

When you say nine years should be enough, do you mean in the senate or in public service?

With the senate for nine years – and when you add the other five or six [already] done, it’s a lot of time to commit. Some people do it for 20 or 30 years – hats off to them. I think nine years in the senate will be enough for me.

During your declaration of intent you talked about social ills in Montserrado county. Some critics would assert that you helped create them. What can you say to that?

I would say a lot of people may not know me as well as they think they know me. But they are welcome to come to Montserrado; they’re welcome to come to Monrovia; they’re welcome to come to all the neighborhoods that we’ve worked in and talk to the people. We have made a difference in West Point. We have done two markets in West Point. We’ve done disaster relief program in West Point. We’ve built a football field in West Point. We’ve built a gym in West Point. If you go to New Kru Town, you will see the same type of footprint. Clara Town, you will see the same kind of footprint. If you go to Doe Community, you will see the same kind of footprint. If you go to Brewerville, you will see the same kind of footprint.

You know, it’s endless. So when people say social ills, I spent a lot of my time in the football world. We started that program in BYC football in 2009. You cannot deny success – even the people who make the criticisms. We set up the largest football program in Liberia, and we didn’t become that in 2013. We began in 2009 and built an institution of BYC’s football and built a very successful institution. You go to BYC’s football game, there’s 12,000 people. All 12,000 don’t love Robert Sirleaf, but all 12,000 cheer for BYC’s football.

You have certainly done a lot, as you are enumerating, but is talk about social ills an acknowledgement of government’s inability to perform in that particular sector? Some would say ‘government’s failure’.

The government is not the panacea for everything, regardless what government you talk about, whether it’s the government of Liberia, Guinea, Ghana, the United States. It doesn’t solve all the problems. It creates the opportunity at very high level to solve the problems. So to say that government is to solve everything, we don’t necessarily agree with that statement. As individual, running an office of five, we have been able to make a difference in Montserrado county – and we are certainly not the government.

Gay rights issues have become a topic of discussion both locally and internationally, with many countries in Africa and other parts of the world coming under pressure to legalize gay rights. What is your perception about gay rights issues?

We believe in equality for all. We believe in the equality of women. We believe in equality of deaf people. We believe in equality of young people. But also we are extremely respectful of our cultural norms. We are respectful about the will of the people. If the will of the people of Montserrado takes a particular position on this issue, it is up to me as their senator to express their will at a high level. But the world is a changing place. In the 1950s and 1960s, African Americans or black people couldn’t go into certain places [in the United States]. Back in the 1930s or 1940s, black people couldn’t ride a bus. If you go to Europe or any other place, there’s always this issue. But the world is a changing place. My job is to represent the will, the views, the desires of the people of Montserrado County, and that’s what I am going to do.

When you talk of the will of the people, my personal opinion is that an unscientific survey will show that the people of Montserrado County will not want gay relationships legalized; would you go for that?

My opinion is to express the will of the people. The will of the people is my job. I am not the boss of the people of Montserrado County. The people of Montserrado County are my bosses. So if my boss tells me collectively, this is their will, my [responsibility is] to address that.

Are you married…and do you have kids?

No, I am divorced. I have two children. They are older. I am very sensitive to their wellbeing. I keep them out of the flow of this discussion and this dialogue. They live their own lives. They both are in their twenties. They support themselves. Their view is that I have a right to do what I want to do. Robert Sirleaf has no intention to dwell into their private life because that is not the issue. The issue is the will of the people of Montserrado County, expressing their will and working for them.

Are you a U.S. citizen?

Both my parents were born in Montserrado County. I was born in Montserrado County. Both my parents are Liberians. I am a Liberian. I have a Liberian passport. I travel as a Liberian.

So what do you make of reports that you applied for a Liberian work permit… and people were displaying a passport on social media, purporting to be yours. Is that actually yours?

I have seen a lot of that on the Internet, shown [to me] by my people. If you look at the major news networks – the BBC, CNN, Euronews, Sky – it has shifted to more social media. The issue with social media is, people post any and everything. People post things that they doctor. People post things that they change. People post things that they make up. The Liberian Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization I think has addressed that, and it’s best that they address this issue legally.

So are you saying that the passport that is out on social media is doctored?

There are a lot of things on social media that are doctored, and will continue to be doctored. I will let the social media manage that. I am in all legal standing to take the steps and I will remain so.

You didn’t apply for Liberian document?

That document you saw, if you really look at the document, Robert Sirleaf wouldn’t say his address is adjacent the Fish Market. Robert Sirleaf certainly wouldn’t misspell Monrovia. So I will leave it at that, for people to make their own judgment about my capacity, how I write and how I can spell.

There are perceptions out there that the money for your foundation is taken from the government’s coffers. Would you care to comment on that?

I have never taken any money from the national coffers. That is a proven fact. Again, you give somebody a laptop, and they write a lot of things. Let me take it to the next level: after six years [of my contributions] to the country and the county, nobody has come with a piece of paper that says here’s something that proves he has stolen money from the Liberian people. Nobody has done it. Yet people get on the radio, they say these things to people. It’s catchy. It sounds good: “Oh, the man took our government money”. Where is the evidence? There are some [suggestions] that I should go out and sue people. Sue them for what? Why go and make a burden at my expense. I have not taken from the Liberian people. I have never stolen money from the Liberian people. There is no evidence, but people say it.

Over the past years I have engaged with people who have made these statements – and do you know what they tell me? I say [to them], “You all know [the facts].” And they say, “We know, but we just say it on the radio, because, you know, that’s politics.” And I say, “You know it’s not fair to me. If you’re going to make such allegations, you should really back it up with evidence, because that’s just spoiling people’s name.

Sometimes. As an individual, I cut; I bleed like everybody else. It saddens me that people say the kinds of things that they know they can’t substantiate.

In our campaign, we are not going to do that. We think the Liberian people deserve better. We are going to stay focused on the issues; we are going to stay focused on the record; we are going to stay focused on the commitment. I don’t want to go after any of the other very good candidates that are in the race. I don’t want to delve into their lives. It’s just not fair, and the Liberian people deserve better. They know the propaganda they are doing, and it’s a disservice. It’s an absolute disservice to the people.

Now let’s get to this, do you own shares in the oil companies, like Chevron or ExxonMobil that may be pumping oil in Liberia in the future?

Absolutely none! I have no interests; I have no partnership; I have no equity invested in any one of them. If mutual funds I invest in happen to buy [shares in] those companies, I may be an indirect shareholder, but let’s not make it complicated. I own no share of Chevron, no share of Exxon, no share of an oil company. And again, it saddens me people will say this.

Talking about the oil sector, would you comment on allegations by one of your opponents for the Senate, Christopher Neyor, who was head of the National Oil Company of Liberia (Nocal), that you personally benefited from relations with the international oil companies exploring in Liberia?

Christopher Neyor is my friend. I have nothing against Christopher Neyor. I was actually on the board of directors [of Nocal] when Christopher Neyor was the CEO for a very short period of time. He’s a fine Christian. I have no personal beef with Chris in terms of the allegations that he’s made. He has every right. I leave it to him and his conscience.

People call you the de facto president and say you call the shots from behind the scene. Is that true?

Nope. I don’t call anybody’s shots. I only have 24 hours in the day. In the football season, everybody can tell you where I am, spending hours on football field – two, three, four, five, six games a week; traveling with the with the team, trying to buy them their boots, trying to take care of their medical issues – and then be de facto [president]? That would make me superman. I am not even remotely close. I have asked again of the people who make these allegations – in a one-one-one conversation – and the answer is always the same: “You know, I just say that thing for the politics.”

So you meet them [the people who make these allegations against you]?

Of course! Of course! Most recently, there were some people holding some placards in an area that we visited. Twenty-nine of these young people were put in jail. We sent people to the Central Prison. We paid their fines, and then we talked to the people who were ‘quote unquote’ against Robert Sirleaf. We brought them to my office; we sat in front of these young people. I asked them. “Do you all have a personal issue?” [Their answer was], “Papay, no. Actually we like you. There are some people that pay us five dollars to do it.” I say, “Five dollars is actually offensive to me.”

[The people who pay them to protest] put these children at risk. They were beaten in jail for jail fees. I told them they actually have to figure a way to improve their lives. You don’t have to go and do something you don’t have any conviction of.

Don’t you think the fact that your mother is president and you want to be senator will heighten public perception about nepotism, even though it isn’t nepotism because you will be an elected official?

People throw these words around because they sound convenient. I am very proud of what we were able to achieve at Nocal during my short stay there. It was very specific – what I was going to be able to do. It was very specific – when it was going to end. And it did end on all those terms. And I think it surprised people that it actually did. People have this view that money was taken out of Nocal. They are welcome to check. I have always been open. Nocal can be audited. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is the president of Liberia. Robert Sirleaf’s connection to Montserrado County is a separate issue. She has a very big and difficult job. Mine is to [represent] to the best of my ability the people of Montserrado county.

Do you want to be president at some point?

No.

Not at all?

No.

There is this speculation out there that you want to go to the Senate, grab the pro temp position and then use it to run for the president in 2017. And you are saying that isn’t true?

Boakai, I don’t know how many other ways to say ‘no’. I have said ‘no’ twice. I can spell ‘no’. N.O. is still ‘no’! [laughter]

As I move around your office I see a lot of young men. Some people are asking why you employ a lot of young men?

We have been in this office for almost six years. We started the office with two people. There are women around, and some are actually in this room. We are very happy, we very proud of them. I have never asked them their political affiliation, and they can speak for themselves. We look for capacity, and we look for talent. It’s not like we employ twenty people. The young men who initially came into the office were young men from different backgrounds and persuasions. There is nobody in our office that would classify as a Unity Party partisan. I feel sorry for them that they have to carry the burden of rumors, innuendos, whispers in the corners.

Would you like to address anything, as we conclude this interview, which we haven’t touched?

I think you covered all the questions. It’s easy and convenient for people to use the word corruption. It’s easy and convenient for people to use the word nepotism. It’s easy and convenient to address rumors and Innuendos. It’s much more difficult for the people who don’t see things the way you see it to talk about your record. That is the focus of this election. This election is about your record. This election is about issues. This election is about who can best represent the people of Montserrado county for the next nine years. That’s what this election is about.

AllAfrica interviews are edited and condensed.

South Sudan: Opposition Forces Claim Capture of Strategic Town

Juba — Forces loyal to South Sudan former vice-president, Riek Machar claimed they were fully in control of Nasir, a strategic Upper Nile state town.

A military spokesperson for the rebels said forces under the command of Maj. Gen. Gathoth Gatkuoth liberated Nasir town from pro-government forces at dawn.

“The liberation of Nasir came about after repeated futile attempts made by Kiir’s forces to arrest Gen. Gathoth at his twin bases in Maan-Deng and Jigmir,” said Brig. Gen. Lul Ruai Koang in statement extended to Sudan Tribune.

He further said their forces have for the last three days been fighting in self-defense in order to “protect and prevent unlawfully arrest of the top military commander”.

“Today at dawn, Kiir’s forces were finally repulsed, pursued at neck-breaking speed and as result, Nasir was captured at 700am this morning,” partly noted the rebels’ statement.

The opposition forces also claimed to have captured three government tanks and allegedly destroyed a number of trucks during the assault on Nasir.

South Sudan army (SPLA) spokesperson, Phillip Aguer earlier told Radio Tamajuz that fighting was ongoing between pro-govermment forces and rebels in Nasir.

But Gordon Buay, a member of other armed groups integration committee disputed the rebel claims, saying opposition forces were repulsed out of Nasir town by pro-government forces.

“The group that attacked the airport and commissioner’s office resisted for hours. However, the SPLA forces defeated them at 12:30 PM. At the Airport, around 230 rebels were found dead,” Buay said in a statement obtained by Sudan Tribune.

IGAD CONDEMNS ATTACK

The special envoys from the regional bloc (IGAD) have strongly condemn this attack in Nasir by forces of the SPLM/A-In Opposition, describing it a blatant violation of Cessation of Hostilities (COH) Agreement, signed between the Government of the Republic of South Sudan and the rebels on 23 January.

“While the casualties of this attack are yet to be assessed, the mediation team is saddened by the continued loss of lives not only of combatants, but of vulnerable groups like women and children,” IGAD said in a statement.

Both warring parties, the regional bloc said, had on 10 June pledged to “end the war now” and establish a transitional government within 60 days.

“In view of the above and of reports of rising tensions in other areas, the IGAD Special Envoys appeal to the Parties to remain committed to the Agreements signed and to exercise maximum restraints and desist from any further violations,” IGAD further observed.

Talks between the two parties, currently on hold, is seen as the best alternative to the country’s seven-month old conflict that has killed thousands and displaced nearly 1.5 million South Sudanese.

Copyright © 2014 Sudan Tribune. All rights reserved. Distributed by AllAfrica Global Media (allAfrica.com). To contact the copyright holder directly for corrections — or for permission to republish or make other authorized use of this material, click here.

AllAfrica publishes around 2,000 reports a day from more than 130 news organizations and over 200 other institutions and individuals, representing a diversity of positions on every topic. We publish news and views ranging from vigorous opponents of governments to government publications and spokespersons. Publishers named above each report are responsible for their own content, which AllAfrica does not have the legal right to edit or correct.