AFD Radio Ep. 144 – Fr. Tony Akinwale on Nigeria’s Future

Posted by Bill on behalf of the team.

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Guest Interview by Bill: Fr. Tony Akinwale, Nigerian political philosopher and theologian of the Dominican Institute in Ibadan Nigeria. How Nigeria could become a world power very soon and what Americans should know about that country. Then: Kelley covers Guatemala’s political upheaval. Produced: September 18th, 2015.

Episode 144 (53 min):
AFD 144

Related Links

Fr. Tony Akinwale’s website
Nigeria Guardian: “The Real Name Of Corruption”, by Tony Akinwale
Nigeria Guardian: “Naming and renaming” (Public nomenclature under military rule), by Tony Akinwale
Nigeria Guardian: “A kingdom of warlords”, by Tony Akinwale
AFD by Kelley: “Guatemala has a lot to celebrate this independence day”

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Deja Coup: Burkina Faso military arrests civilian leaders (updated)

The Burkinabe Presidential Guard has just detained (kidnapped) the president and the entire cabinet of Burkina Faso in front of journalists. The country is less than one month away from elections but the interim cabinet had discussed abolishing the Guard because it was dangerous. This could be coup #3 of the past year. (If confirmed, it would be the 8th to succeed since independence.)

Update: More info

There was no immediate claim by the military on public air waves that they now controlled the country.

News of the standoff Wednesday created panic in Burkina Faso’s capital of Ouagadougou, where people closed shops early and headed home fearing violent demonstrations. The protests that led to President Blaise Compaore’s ouster escalated to a point where the parliament building was set ablaze.
[…]
The prime minister initially had threatened to disband the [presidential guard] back in December but later reversed course. Then on Monday, a truth and reconciliation commission released a report calling for the disbanding of the unit. Human rights groups have accused the regiment of opening fire on unarmed demonstrators last October, when massive protests forced Compaore to resign.

 
See also our extensive archives on Burkina Faso political analysis.

Update II: Presidential Guard troops fired as protesters confronted them over their arrest of the civilian government.

Update III, 9/17/15, 4:29 AM ET: An officer has announced a coup and plans for a “national democracy council” to organize “democratic and inclusive elections.” The overthrown transitional civilian government was already wrapping up preparations for democratic elections next month but they were not “inclusive” in the sense that they excluded many people affiliated with the regime overthrown less than a year ago. The coup leaders are likely representing just 1,300 troops in the renegade Presidential Guard and very few people beyond that (except perhaps some allies of the former regime).

Burundi president pledges to expand teen death squads

2015 Burundian Constitutional Crisis

Agence France-Presse: “Groups threatening Burundi security must be destroyed: president”

Burundi’s president on Wednesday called for groups that threaten national security to be “destroyed”, setting a combative and hardline tone as he begins a controversial third term in office.

In a speech read out on state media, Pierre Nkurunziza said young people would be given “patriotic, theoretical and practical training” to work alongside the central African nation’s security forces.

“These mixed security committees will be asked to work day and night so that groups which seek to only kill and upset security, especially inside Bujumbura, will be destroyed and so that we won’t be talking about them two months from now,” he said.

He urged “all people to rise up as one, and to work with security forces so that this promise can be kept”.

 
Burundi has a very low median age — half the population is aged 17 or younger, according to the CIA World Factbook — although a number of other sub-Saharan African countries actually have even younger populations. Just shy of 1 in 10 people in Burundi is a young man or boy in the 15-24 age bracket.

Well before the violent election cycle the President had essentially created paramilitary teen death squads by arming teenage members of his political party’s “youth wing,” known as the Imbonerakure. This was particularly troubling to many in light of its similarities with the Interahamwe Hutu militias in neighboring Rwanda during its 1994 genocide. (Burundi’s ruling CNDD-FDD party is the political arm of a Hutu rebel force from its own civil war period.) The new announcement from President Nkurunziza can be interpreted as a call to expand these Burundian youth militias significantly.

In early July, UN Human Rights High Commissioner Zeid Raad al-Hussein specifically condemned the Imbonerakure’s role in the political violence surrounding the election:

He said his office has documented dozens of killings in the past two months, most of them shootings of demonstrators and human rights defenders by the youth wing and security forces. Zeid urged the government to disarm the Imbonerakure youth wing of the ruling CNDD-FDD party immediately.

 
Earlier, at the end of May, leaders of the other four East African Community member countries (that is, not including Burundi) met in Tanzania to discuss the crisis and issued a statement also spotlighting the Imbonerakure:

“The summit, concerned at the impasse in Burundi, strongly calls for a long postponement of the elections not less than a month and a half,” said the statement on Sunday.

The leaders also called for the “disarmament of all armed youth groups” and for the “creation of conditions for the return of refugees”.

 
The United States suspended one of its largest security training programs in Africa in response to widespread violence by Burundian security forces.

Flag of Burundi

Flag of Burundi

Buhari: Anti-corruption help better than foreign aid, for Nigeria

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Nigeria Pulse — “Buhari: President says Nigeria doesn’t need foreign aid”:

President Muhammadu Buhari has appealed to the United States to help Nigeria by plugging all the loopholes that had been used by government officials to steal the country’s assets rather than help with foreign aids.

According to Mallam Garba Shehu, Senior Special Assistant to President Buhari on Publicity, “Buhari did not go to the US with a begging bowl. We don’t need foreign aid, he told everyone, so long as the world powers can help us plug all the loopholes that had been used to steal our assets.”

 
A novel approach, maybe; I don’t know how extensively this suggestion of substituting banking reform for development aid has been pitched before. And it’s quite correct that the West’s blind eye toward revenue embezzlement and asset theft schemes (using Western companies and finance networks) is a major scourge on African development in general:

Hundreds of Western multinational firms involved in concession trading in Africa are registered in traditional tax havens, such as the Cayman Islands, the British Virgin Islands and Bermuda.

Or they are associated with shell companies registered in the United Kingdom, or are directed via financial entities in Switzerland and the United States.
[…]
If the most powerful industrial countries take steps to curb tax evasion and the use of opaque holding companies by multinational resource extraction firms and by their African business partners (often in government positions) it would do much to benefit African citizens.
[…]
Court actions in France and U.S. Senate investigations have brought to light vast luxury investments held in France and the U.S. in the names of some African leaders and members of their families.

More importantly, Western governments could start to force banking institutions to implement existing “know your customer” rules. These would compel African leaders to demonstrate how they obtained their fortunes and on what basis the cash is rightly their own.

 
But I fear Buhari’s appeal is unlikely to be effective on a significant scale, given how little we’ve done against tax avoidance, accounting games, and financial network loopholes that severely hurt us too (albeit at a smaller proportion). If we won’t fix something for ourselves, the odds are sadly even lower that we will fix it anyone else — even for Africa’s largest economy.

Burkina Faso’s transition staggers onward toward October

Burkina Faso’s post-coup transition to democracy is, theoretically, still on track to be completed by October. However, as the AFP reports, there is nearly constant tension between the hated Presidential Guard and its former number-two, the Military Prime Minister Isaac Zida.

A month ago, Zida claimed to have averted their plot to overthrow him in a coup, but it’s unclear how true that was. They did unsuccessfully publicly try to pressure him to resign earlier in the year. (Either way, the militarists of one stripe or another already have a huge seat at the table in this transition, even without any new coup.)

What little popular support Zida had left, inside or outside of the military, seems to have evaporated when he attempted to promote himself from Lieutenant Colonel to General (after, of course, having “promoted” himself to Acting President by force last year and then getting himself named Interim Prime Minister).

President Michel Kafando, the nominal civilian head of the transition, has been increasingly marginalized (unsurprisingly, given Zida’s presence) and can only issue plaintive appeals for calm and restraint in the coming 3 months.

West Africa’s regional bodies and leaders have continued to play a guiding role in Burkina Faso’s transition process wherever possible, as they did from the start, but this has caused its own bumps. New legislation setting the rules for participating in the country’s planned first democratic elections in October was struck down on July 13 by the ECOWAS Court of Justice because it excluded many people and parties closely affiliated with the Blaise Compaoré regime ousted last fall.

The regional court ruled that the exclusion’s basis — whether or not a politician or party had supported Compaoré’s failed attempt to amend the constitution to remove term limits, i.e. the move which prompted the government’s overthrow — was overly broad and was “a violation of their fundamental human rights.”

The former ruling party enthusiastically announced its nominee for the election upon reinstatement of eligibility. He proceeded to praise the ex-president whose multi-decade tenure in office ended with the national parliament building literally being burned to the ground by protesters.

At this point, it would be a near-miracle if Burkina Faso makes it through the October elections peacefully with a smooth transfer of power and no return to office for Compaoré’s old guard or the militarists. But with the transition roadmap not yet completely dead, despite many opportunities for it to have failed already, I think we can at least expect some positive outcomes, even if it’s unlikely all of those will come to pass.

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Remembering East Africa’s WWI fallen

Did You Know: World War I included battles in East Africa by local conscripts and produced widespread famine in the East African colonial system…

More than one million people died in East Africa during World War One. Some soldiers were forced to fight members of their own families on the battlefield because of the way borders were drawn up by European colonial powers, writes Oswald Masebo.

 
There are still guns and other battlefield artifacts in place since 1916.

John Iliffe’s archival research suggests that Germany had about 15,000 soldiers in south-west Tanzania in 1916 out of whom about 3,000 were Germans and the remaining 12,000 were Tanzanians whose names are not recorded.

The Tanzanian carrier corps also played a central role in sustaining the war. Their story should be recovered.

It is estimated that during the peak of military operations in 1916 the German colonial state conscripted some 45,000 African carrier corps.

 
After the German colonies collapsed or were seized, many who had benefited from German colonization or had been forced to serve it had to hide their identities or change their stories to avoid being branded collaborators by fellow locals and the new British authorities.

US suspends big security aid programs in Burundi

Due to elections violence and continued risk of coup during the 2015 Burundian Constitutional Crisis, State Department and DOD pull the plug on Burundi for military and non-military security aid. The huge US peacekeeping training program is halted:

In response to the abuses committed by members of the police during political protests, we are suspending all International Law Enforcement Academy and Anti-Terrorism Assistance training that we provide to Burundian law enforcement agencies.

Recognizing that Burundi’s National Defense Force has generally acted professionally in protecting civilians during protests, the United States continues to value our partnership with the Burundian military and urges them to maintain professionalism and respect for the rule of law.

However, due to the instability caused by the Burundian Government’s disregard for the Arusha Agreement and its decision to proceed with flawed parliamentary elections, the United States is unable to conduct peacekeeping and other training in Burundi. As a result, the United States has suspended upcoming training for the Burundian military under the Department of Defense’s Section 1206 Train and Equip program, as well as training and assistance under the Africa Military Education Program.

We remain deeply concerned that the current crisis will further hamper our ability to support the important contribution of the Burundian military to international peacekeeping.

 
To get a sense of scale for this news, as previously noted on AFD, via The Wall Street Journal:

After Nigeria — a country 18 times more populous — the U.S. trained more soldiers in Burundi than any other sub-Saharan African country between 2007 and 2014, according to publicly available data from the U.S. State Department. In the first nine months of 2014, 6,298 soldiers from the tiny country went through courses including advanced special operations, language classes and counterterrorism studies.

 

Flag of Burundi

Flag of Burundi