Tag Archives: Reports

Burundi: Target for ICC?

Bujumbura (Burundi) – The UN Commission of Inquiry released a report on Monday (September 4th). It requests the International Criminal Court to investigate crimes against humanity committed in Burundi. The Commission refers to “an organized plan in the pursuit of a common policy.” This is a widespread and systematic attack against the civilian population.

This suggests that crimes against humanity have been committed in Burundi since April 2015. The commission’s report mentions extrajudicial executions, arbitrary arrests, enforced disappearances, torture, inhuman or degrading treatment and sexual violence. The list of abuses is long.

According to the commission, “major decisions, including those leading to serious violations of human rights, would be taken not by the government but by the President of the Republic and a handful of generals.”

The president of the commission, Fatsah Ouguergouz, also targets officials at the highest level of the state, senior officers and agents of the defense and security forces as well as the youth of the ruling party Cndd-Fdd, the Imbonerakure. According to him, these alleged perpetrators are aware of this plan, given their functions in the state security apparatus or their indoctrination within Cndd-Fdd. Targets were especially members of Msd and Fnl parties as well as soldiers of the former army Ex FAB.

Bujumbura dismisses a “biased” report

In order to reach the conclusions of its report, the commission visited Burundi’s neighboring countries. More than 500 interviews were conducted. However, it calls for more cooperation so far refused by the government.

Among the recommendations of the commission are individual sanctions against the main perpetrators presumed by the Security Council. To this end, the commission produced a secret and non-exhaustive list of these suspects which will be confided to the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

The International Criminal Court is called on to launch an investigation into the crimes committed in Burundi since April 2015, a date that marks the start of protests against the candidacy of President Nkurunziza.

The failed coup as well as the attacks on four military camps are decisive factors in the escalation of violence in 2015.

The Burundian government rejected this report. The Minister of Human Rights, Martin Nivyabandi spoke of a biased report that does not take into account the obvious improvement in the country’s situation. The Minister of Justice, Aimé-Laurentine Kanyana, said the ICC cannot do anything better than the Burundian jurisdiction. The National Assembly, for its part, decided to set up a commission to investigate the allegations in the report.

In any case, if the prosecution is to take place, the ICC has only one month to get started. Burundi withdrew from the International Criminal Court on 27 October 2016. Its final withdrawal will take place on 27 October.

Read reactions to the report

By Pierre Emmanuel Ndgendakumana 

Burundi: Target for ICC?

Bujumbura (Burundi) – The UN Commission of Inquiry released a report on Monday (September 4th). It requests the International Criminal Court to investigate crimes against humanity committed in Burundi. The Commission refers to “an organized plan in the pursuit of a common policy.” This is a widespread and systematic attack against the civilian population.

This suggests that crimes against humanity have been committed in Burundi since April 2015. The commission’s report mentions extrajudicial executions, arbitrary arrests, enforced disappearances, torture, inhuman or degrading treatment and sexual violence. The list of abuses is long.

According to the commission, “major decisions, including those leading to serious violations of human rights, would be taken not by the government but by the President of the Republic and a handful of generals.”

The president of the commission, Fatsah Ouguergouz, also targets officials at the highest level of the state, senior officers and agents of the defense and security forces as well as the youth of the ruling party Cndd-Fdd, the Imbonerakure. According to him, these alleged perpetrators are aware of this plan, given their functions in the state security apparatus or their indoctrination within Cndd-Fdd. Targets were especially members of Msd and Fnl parties as well as soldiers of the former army Ex FAB.

Bujumbura dismisses a “biased” report

In order to reach the conclusions of its report, the commission visited Burundi’s neighboring countries. More than 500 interviews were conducted. However, it calls for more cooperation so far refused by the government.

Among the recommendations of the commission are individual sanctions against the main perpetrators presumed by the Security Council. To this end, the commission produced a secret and non-exhaustive list of these suspects which will be confided to the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

The International Criminal Court is called on to launch an investigation into the crimes committed in Burundi since April 2015, a date that marks the start of protests against the candidacy of President Nkurunziza.

The failed coup as well as the attacks on four military camps are decisive factors in the escalation of violence in 2015.

The Burundian government rejected this report. The Minister of Human Rights, Martin Nivyabandi spoke of a biased report that does not take into account the obvious improvement in the country’s situation. The Minister of Justice, Aimé-Laurentine Kanyana, said the ICC cannot do anything better than the Burundian jurisdiction. The National Assembly, for its part, decided to set up a commission to investigate the allegations in the report.

In any case, if the prosecution is to take place, the ICC has only one month to get started. Burundi withdrew from the International Criminal Court on 27 October 2016. Its final withdrawal will take place on 27 October.

Read reactions to the report

By Pierre Emmanuel Ndgendakumana 

For future disaster preparedness, Sierra Leone could look to Cuba

On August 14th, Mudslides in Freetown, Sierra Leone killed 1,000 people, mostly inhabitants of the urban slums in the hills above the capital. Despite its portrayal as a natural disaster caused by days of heavy rain, “the tragedy was entirely man-made,” as writer Lansana Gberie states bluntly. The result of environmental degradation, lack of disaster preparedness and substandard housing for the poor, these deaths could have been avoided.

Much like the Ebola epidemic that killed 4,000 Sierra Leoneans in 2014, the deep roots of this disaster are the neocolonial structures and neoliberal policies that govern Sierra Leone. They assure, as Joshua Lew McDermott, the President of the African Socialist Movement International Support Committee, argues in Jacobin: that “… the levers of the Sierra Leonean state that could have checked the wealth extraction and bolstered domestic industries and social services were done away with in the name of fiscal austerity, debt repayment, and incentivizing foreign investment.”

While poverty constrains the resources available for disaster response, not all governments in poor countries are equally ineffective. The difference in government response is highlighted every time there is a major hurricane in the Caribbean, and many more die in Haiti than in Cuba. For example, Hurricane Matthew killed 546 in Haiti and only four in Cuba despite being of similar intensity in both locations (it also killed 47 Americans).

The government of Cuba, unlike Haiti’s, invests in meteorology, with dozens of weather stations to monitor, predict and track incoming storms. The victims in Sierra Leone sadly had no similar warning system. In Cuba, there are annual preparations and drills in May at the beginning of hurricane season. The military and police make plans for evacuations. In “areas identified as vulnerable,” authorities provide “electrical generators, drinking water and additional medical personnel in advance of the storm’s approach, as members of the community are bestowed with the responsibility of providing such essential services.”

Furthermore, the Cuban government provides its citizens with health care and education. “Compared to their Caribbean neighbors, Cubans are far better prepared for emergencies. Not only do they benefit from better infrastructure and housing, as well as a highly effective risk communication system, but more importantly, Cuba is populated by the most educated population in the developing world.” A more educated population better understands the risks posed by hurricanes and how to respond to them.

Although many dismiss Cuba’s success at minimizing the number of deaths due to hurricanes and other natural disasters as possible only in one-party state, “there’s little about its hurricane program that rests on authoritarianism.” While, “the hurricane response may be directed from the top down… it’s carried out by ordinary Cubans in their local communities, building on the regular training they receive.” There is no technical reason why Sierra Leone could not follow such a model of “total mobilization.” The problem is political will.

The real impediment is that neocolonialism and neoliberalism deprive the Sierra Leonean government of the fiscal capacity and policy space to solve the problems of substandard housing and lack of disaster preparedness. Many NGOs are doing an admirable job of replying to the crisis, but disaster relief is a core government function and the Sierra Leonean government is simply too small and disorganized to handle such crises.

Continue reading on Africa is a country

By Francisco Perez

For future disaster preparedness, Sierra Leone could look to Cuba

On August 14th, Mudslides in Freetown, Sierra Leone killed 1,000 people, mostly inhabitants of the urban slums in the hills above the capital. Despite its portrayal as a natural disaster caused by days of heavy rain, “the tragedy was entirely man-made,” as writer Lansana Gberie states bluntly. The result of environmental degradation, lack of disaster preparedness and substandard housing for the poor, these deaths could have been avoided.

Much like the Ebola epidemic that killed 4,000 Sierra Leoneans in 2014, the deep roots of this disaster are the neocolonial structures and neoliberal policies that govern Sierra Leone. They assure, as Joshua Lew McDermott, the President of the African Socialist Movement International Support Committee, argues in Jacobin: that “… the levers of the Sierra Leonean state that could have checked the wealth extraction and bolstered domestic industries and social services were done away with in the name of fiscal austerity, debt repayment, and incentivizing foreign investment.”

While poverty constrains the resources available for disaster response, not all governments in poor countries are equally ineffective. The difference in government response is highlighted every time there is a major hurricane in the Caribbean, and many more die in Haiti than in Cuba. For example, Hurricane Matthew killed 546 in Haiti and only four in Cuba despite being of similar intensity in both locations (it also killed 47 Americans).

The government of Cuba, unlike Haiti’s, invests in meteorology, with dozens of weather stations to monitor, predict and track incoming storms. The victims in Sierra Leone sadly had no similar warning system. In Cuba, there are annual preparations and drills in May at the beginning of hurricane season. The military and police make plans for evacuations. In “areas identified as vulnerable,” authorities provide “electrical generators, drinking water and additional medical personnel in advance of the storm’s approach, as members of the community are bestowed with the responsibility of providing such essential services.”

Furthermore, the Cuban government provides its citizens with health care and education. “Compared to their Caribbean neighbors, Cubans are far better prepared for emergencies. Not only do they benefit from better infrastructure and housing, as well as a highly effective risk communication system, but more importantly, Cuba is populated by the most educated population in the developing world.” A more educated population better understands the risks posed by hurricanes and how to respond to them.

Although many dismiss Cuba’s success at minimizing the number of deaths due to hurricanes and other natural disasters as possible only in one-party state, “there’s little about its hurricane program that rests on authoritarianism.” While, “the hurricane response may be directed from the top down… it’s carried out by ordinary Cubans in their local communities, building on the regular training they receive.” There is no technical reason why Sierra Leone could not follow such a model of “total mobilization.” The problem is political will.

The real impediment is that neocolonialism and neoliberalism deprive the Sierra Leonean government of the fiscal capacity and policy space to solve the problems of substandard housing and lack of disaster preparedness. Many NGOs are doing an admirable job of replying to the crisis, but disaster relief is a core government function and the Sierra Leonean government is simply too small and disorganized to handle such crises.

Continue reading on Africa is a country

By Francisco Perez

Floods, Hurricanes, Droughts… When Climate Sets the Agenda

Rome – When officials and experts from all over the world started the first-ever environmental summit hosted by China, they were already aware that climate and weather-related disasters were already seriously beginning to set the international agenda – unprecedented floods in South Asia, strongest ever hurricanes Harvey and Irma, and catastrophic droughts striking the Horn of Africa, among the most impacting recent events.

In fact, Ordos, China has been the venue of the 13th summit of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), which has been focusing over the period 6-16 September on ways to further mitigate and prevent the steadily advancing desertification and land degradation worldwide.

Officials and experts from 196 countries attending the UNCCD 13th session –known as COP 13- are now expected to agree on a 12-year Strategy to contain runaway land degradation that is threatening global food and water security.

Countries are also expected to announce their targets for land restoration, to agree on measures to address the related emerging threats of forced migration, sand and dust storms, and to agree on actions to strengthen the resilience of communities to droughts.

Desertification Everywhere

No wonder—globally, as many as 169 countries are affected by desertification, with China accounting for the largest population and area impacted, UNCCD warns.

Desertification is not just photogenic images of oceans of sand and dunes – it is a silent, invisible crisis that is destabilising communities on a global scale, according to UNCCD.

“As the effects of climate change undermine livelihoods, inter-ethnic clashes are breaking out within and across states and fragile states are turning to militarisation to control the situation.”

“If we are to restore peace, security and international stability in a context where changing weather events are threatening the livelihoods of more and more people, survival options are declining and state capacities are overburdened, then more should be done to combat desertification, reverse land degradation and mitigate the effects of drought. Otherwise, many small-scale farmers and poor, land-dependent communities face two choices: fight or flight.“

Famine in Africa, Again

Meanwhile, the most impacted continent by climate change and weather induced disasters – Africa, which contributes only 4 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions – is now experiencing a scenario in its Eastern region of consecutive climate shocks causing back-to-back droughts that have left at least 8.5 million people in Ethiopia in dire need of food aid.

At the same time, severe drought has deepened in Somalia with the risk of famine looming on about half the population.

The death of livestock in the impacted areas has caused a breakdown in pastoral livelihoods, contributing to soaring hunger levels and alarming increases in malnutrition rates.

This is just a quick summary of the dramatic situation facing these two East African countries, which are home to a combined population of 113 million people (101,5 million in Ethiopia and 11,5 million in Somalia), and which are in need of additional urgent resources to prevent any further deterioration.

The situation has rapidly deteriorated, and the heads of the three Rome-based United Nations food agencies, at the conclusion of a four-day visit to the affected areas, called for greater investment in long-term activities that strengthen people’s resilience to drought and the impacts of climate shocks.

“This drought has been going on for a long time and we have lost much of our livestock… If we didn’t get food assistance, we would be in big trouble – but this is still not enough to feed us all,” Hajiji Abdi, a community elder, last week said to José Graziano da Silva, director general of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Gilbert F. Houngbo, president of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), and David Beasley, executive director of the World Food Programme (WFP).

Continue reading on IPS

By Baher Kamal

Floods, Hurricanes, Droughts… When Climate Sets the Agenda

Rome – When officials and experts from all over the world started the first-ever environmental summit hosted by China, they were already aware that climate and weather-related disasters were already seriously beginning to set the international agenda – unprecedented floods in South Asia, strongest ever hurricanes Harvey and Irma, and catastrophic droughts striking the Horn of Africa, among the most impacting recent events.

In fact, Ordos, China has been the venue of the 13th summit of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), which has been focusing over the period 6-16 September on ways to further mitigate and prevent the steadily advancing desertification and land degradation worldwide.

Officials and experts from 196 countries attending the UNCCD 13th session –known as COP 13- are now expected to agree on a 12-year Strategy to contain runaway land degradation that is threatening global food and water security.

Countries are also expected to announce their targets for land restoration, to agree on measures to address the related emerging threats of forced migration, sand and dust storms, and to agree on actions to strengthen the resilience of communities to droughts.

Desertification Everywhere

No wonder—globally, as many as 169 countries are affected by desertification, with China accounting for the largest population and area impacted, UNCCD warns.

Desertification is not just photogenic images of oceans of sand and dunes – it is a silent, invisible crisis that is destabilising communities on a global scale, according to UNCCD.

“As the effects of climate change undermine livelihoods, inter-ethnic clashes are breaking out within and across states and fragile states are turning to militarisation to control the situation.”

“If we are to restore peace, security and international stability in a context where changing weather events are threatening the livelihoods of more and more people, survival options are declining and state capacities are overburdened, then more should be done to combat desertification, reverse land degradation and mitigate the effects of drought. Otherwise, many small-scale farmers and poor, land-dependent communities face two choices: fight or flight.“

Famine in Africa, Again

Meanwhile, the most impacted continent by climate change and weather induced disasters – Africa, which contributes only 4 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions – is now experiencing a scenario in its Eastern region of consecutive climate shocks causing back-to-back droughts that have left at least 8.5 million people in Ethiopia in dire need of food aid.

At the same time, severe drought has deepened in Somalia with the risk of famine looming on about half the population.

The death of livestock in the impacted areas has caused a breakdown in pastoral livelihoods, contributing to soaring hunger levels and alarming increases in malnutrition rates.

This is just a quick summary of the dramatic situation facing these two East African countries, which are home to a combined population of 113 million people (101,5 million in Ethiopia and 11,5 million in Somalia), and which are in need of additional urgent resources to prevent any further deterioration.

The situation has rapidly deteriorated, and the heads of the three Rome-based United Nations food agencies, at the conclusion of a four-day visit to the affected areas, called for greater investment in long-term activities that strengthen people’s resilience to drought and the impacts of climate shocks.

“This drought has been going on for a long time and we have lost much of our livestock… If we didn’t get food assistance, we would be in big trouble – but this is still not enough to feed us all,” Hajiji Abdi, a community elder, last week said to José Graziano da Silva, director general of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Gilbert F. Houngbo, president of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), and David Beasley, executive director of the World Food Programme (WFP).

Continue reading on IPS

By Baher Kamal

In Niger and Mali among migrants returning back from Libya

Niamey, Bamako – As of several months ago, in Niger as in Mali, two of the principal stops of the itinerary of the migrants of the Sub-Saharan Africa towards Europe, the routes and stories of the people journeying are changing. In fact, following the arrival of the initial financing of the EU Trust Fund for Africa, created at the Euro-African meeting at Valletta in November 2015, these countries’ migratory policies are adapting to the requests of the European Union to stop or at lease contain the flow of the “Central Mediterranean”, subjecting a good part of the aid for development to signed agreements for repatriation and the externalization of the community frontiers south of the sands of the Sahara.

Unlike years ago, in the “legendary” stations of the Sonef and Rimbo companies of Niamey, the migrants are hidden from curious eyes: dormitories closed with gates, maximum stay of one or two weeks, nervous guards. In order to meet “foreigners” it is necessary to follow the international departures towards Bamako, Dakar or Abidjan, and no longer the national ones in the direction of Agadez or Arlit, another migratory stop in the north of Niger. “Here no one thinks anymore to reach Italy. We have no more money. No one has the money to go to Europe! And so many have decided to return home, but do not know how to do so.” Alfred is a young civil engineer originally from Gambia, a country from where, after years looking for work, he left in order to seek his fortune.

After having been expelled from Libya at the border with Niger, he arrived in the city three days ago and sleeps in the Rimbo station. “At the dormitory we are about fifty men and women. Above all, people from Gambia, Mali, Senegal, Liberia and Nigeria. We heard on the radio that the German government is giving lots of money to the countries of the region in order to help the migrants, but we do not see it. We have yet to see one euro since we have been here! We can only count on ourselves in order to return home.”

Welcome to hell

Alfred walks all day under the harsh sun of Niamey accompanied by a conational in search of help, aid and work that does not even exist for Nigerians. We encounter them in the center walking around with a lost look and stomach cramps between an open air garbage dump and a busy vegetable market, close to the city’s Cathedral. In front of a steaming plate of rise, meat and fried potatoes, Alfred finds his smile for a moment.

“I am very happy to be able to recount my story.” Unlike the “classic” testimonies of migrants, the hell this man describes was not so much on the road towards Libya, but the return. “Going was easier, coming back instead was horrible. The Nigerian government is the worst of all. Since I left Gambia, on the road towards Libya, I have never seen a situation like this.” What Alfred strains to say is that, after having been arrested on a boat which had just left from a Libyan beach for Lampedusa and expelled at the frontier with Niger, since entering the country, the Nigerian police have extorted all that he had, about 1500 euro.

“We were a group of 100 -150 people, the Libyans delivered us to the Nigerian frontier authorities. In Libya someone told me of an organization at Agadez which helps migrants return home. However, when the Nigerian military brought us to the city, they did not allow us to go to the IOM. They kept us in the police station of the first district, in the center. They did not give us food or water, we had to cry to have water. They told us that there was no international organization that assisted migrants and that we had to pay for the ticket to return to Niamey ourselves.” On the road to Niamey, which is a thousand kilometers from Agadez, Alfred’s bus stops at about thirty checkpoints where, systematically, the migrants must pay to continue.

An exhausting journey that has caused Mary, Alfred’s wife, an eye infection. The idea to leave was hers. It took a lot for her to convince him to take the “back way” and leave their two small children in Gambia. “They are named Jackie and Patience … they must have patience and await our return,” says the woman with a weak voice. “I could not stay anymore in that dormitory.” All around the mud and sheet metal rooms in the periphery of Niamey rest the broken dreams of many Sub-Saharan migrants, rejected and robbed along the road to Europe like Alfred and Mary, who now find themselves blocked on the road to return home.

Business as usual

Hassan Boucar Regional expert and local man of the association Alternative Espace Citoyenne (AEC), is convinced of the actual exploitation of the migratory issue by local managers who think only to enrich themselves. “Europe does not have answers that go beyond repression and asks the African countries to follow the same route. The European Union has all the means to repress, our countries instead do not the means to block the exit and entrance ways of migrants. In any event, whatever will be the result of such politics, for us one cannot block the right to migrate favoring projects and programs of so called ‘development’.” When alluding to the repression desired by Europe and activated by Niger, above all Hassan Boucar refers to the current situation of Agadez “which violates the right of people to circulate.”

In fact, since September, the application of Law 036/2015, a decree of May 2015 against the trafficking of humans hailed by Europe as a step ahead in the fight against irregular migration, is changing the face of Agadez, a city until today called “the door of the desert” by Sub-Saharans. At more than 1000 kilometers from the capital Niamey, this crucial stop of the Sub-Saharan migratory flux towards Europe, is undergoing a closure due to the criminalization of the passeur and militarization of the region.

Besides the socio-economic impact that risks weakening an already critical situation, according to local authorities and associations like AEC, the journey of the migrants has undergone radical changes. “The uncertainty of a safe passage, like before, brings many to renounce continuing the journey. Today, in the perception of the migrants at Agadez, a barrier exists.” Azaoua Mahaman, a Nigerian originally of Agadez who works for IOM, the International Organization for Migration, cites the numbers furnished by the transit centers of the IOM situated in the periphery of the city: “an average of about 30 new migrants received every day, with a net increase of voluntary returns taken over by the IOM: 1721 in 2015, 5089 in 2016 and already 373 in the first three months of 2017. The principal countries of repatriation are Senegal, Mali, Cameron, Gambia, Guinea Conakry and Guinea Bissau.”

Returnees and the transit of Agadez

The head of the mission of IOM in Niger, Giuseppe Lo Prete, is aware of the change taking place in the region. “The risks increase, the costs increase. The passage costs much more now because the Nigerian police are confiscating the vehicles. Obviously, at the end, it is always the migrants who pay. If they are brought back to Agadez, like thousands of people, the migrants are not reimbursed like with a travel agency; therefore, there are many more migrants that remain blocked in Agadez.”

To deal with the emergency and facilitate the return of migrants to their countries, the Trust Fund has financed the IOM-Niger with a total of 22 million euro for the reception and repatriation of migrants, in particular, with a transit center in Agadez,that can welcome up to 1000 people. “We are negotiating a project with the Trust Fund for 100 million euro for Niger and 13 other countries of origin for migrants, including Libya.” In the conference room of the new headquarters of the IOM in Niamey, Lo Prete uses the statistics of the IOM to describe the current situation: “In 2016, more than 300,000 people have gone towards Algeria and the majority towards Libya.

In 2016, 100,000 people came home. There is a continuous flow in both directions. In January 2017, for the first time, according to our data collected in our transit points, there were more people returning than people that left; 8000 people came back, 6000 left. But this does not mean that the people transiting from Niger towards Algeria and Libya are decreasing.

“This is because when a passage closes for migrants another ten open. And the Sahara certainly does not lack unbeaten paths.” The official version of the IOM, satisfied by the decrease of the “migratory candidates” and the consequential increase in “voluntary” (an attribute heavily discussed in the regional debate) returns and repatriations, is contested by the associations of civil societies in Mali and Niger.

Hassan Boucar specifies the position of the AEC on this matter as follows: “In the last months the data presented by the IOM demonstrates that, despite the sensible decrease in the passage of migrants in the city of Agadez, arrivals from Libya have not decreased”. Citing the return of the “old” route through Gao, previously abandoned due to the war in the north of Mali, and the creation of new stops in the vast desert of the Aïr (in the Agadez region) and the Ténéré (Bilma and Dirkou area), Hassan Boucar sustains that today in order to avoid the checkpoints in Agadez, migrants hide in peripheral “mobile ghettos” and by foot reach the ‘passeurs’ and their vehicles up to 40-50 km outside the city.

Sahara cimitery

The use of the less beaten paths, some of which cross through poorly indicated mine zones, and the difficult access to stop-overs where to rest and find water, which are always more controlled by the Nigerian army searching for migrants, increases the risks and the cost of the journey towards Europe.

It is difficult to find statistics on the number of people who have lost their lives in the Sahara in these years, more so if you search for recent data. Far away from the Mediterranean, these are silent deaths which do not make the news, swallowed by the desert sand that “kills more than the sea.” According to an inquest, commissioned by the AEC to Ibrahim Diallo, an independent journalist of Agadez, however, from the application of the Law 036/2015, at least three big accidents with dozens of victims occurred in the north of Niger.

The fact that the ghettos of Agadez have become “mobile” increases the difficulty to encounter the migrants in places such as refuges, bars, clubs and restaurants outside of the IOM center of Agadez. This constitutes an additional obstacle for the local and international NGOs involved in the assistance of traveling migrants. “Since September we have difficulties maintaining the humanitarian corridors” is revealed by an operator of Doctors of the World-Niger. Even in the station of the new transport company Al Izza in Agadez, whose yellow-black logo appears everywhere in the city, there are few migrants who sleep the night; almost everyone is waiting for a bus to return to Niamey, and from there, try to return home.

——

“Bamako, Gao, Niamey, Agadez”…“Agadez, Niamey, Gao, Bamako”. Like a mantra, Andy loudly recounts the stops of his journey. Hubs of the principal migratory way which connects Sub-Sahara Africa to the door of Europe, the so called “Central Mediterranean Route.” Points on a map creased from the stories of one of the many reception centers for migrants born in the last years in the capital of Mali. The itinerary retraced by Andy, a twenty-five year old Liberian who has forgotten how long ago he left, is confused as that of many migrants.”

From Bamako we went up to Gao in the north. Here, after waiting weeks, they put us on trucks telling us that we were heading to Tamanrasset, in Algeria. But after a long trip in the desert, we understood that they were instead taking us towards Agadez, in Niger.“ Sense of direction and spatial succession drown in the sea of sand of the Great Sahara. On the map attached to the wall, his finger goes back and forth among Liberia, Mali, Niger, Libya and Algeria, his mind elsewhere.

“Two armed bandits with faces covered by turbans attacked our convoy, they sequestered us and imprisoned us in the desert. They had obviously been informed of our arrival by the passeur (as human traffickers are called here, ed). They were the ones who sold us. Those like me, who did not have money or relatives to call to pay a ransom, were put to work as slaves and slowly left to die. One day they took us to the desert and abandoned us. After seeing many lifeless bodies lying around me, I got up and walked for three days and three nights in the desert without water until I arrived at Gao. There I begged and found the money for a bus that brought me back here to Bamako.” All that Andy wishes now, as many young men who like him have “failed the adventure,” is to return home. Stripped of all goods, wasted, tired and let down, Andy realizes that his return will be seen by his family and the entire village as a grave dishonor, but he has no choice.

It’s Sunday morning in the capital of Mali. We meet John, a Liberian migrant friend of Andy, at the bus station of Sogoniko, a forced stop for the migrants passing through Bamako. Everyday dozens of buses depart for the major cities of Western Africa. Among hot vendors, women who cook without rest, fumes and dust, we stop under the shade of an umbrella. In the shelter formed around the “toubabou” (“whites” in Bambara, the principal language of Mali) someone asks for a cigarette, a boy offers a lighter, another asks if any tea is left. We are not the only foreigners. Within the group a little boy appears, seemingly timid.

In English, he asks if he can sit on the bench and recount his story, the only luggage left after his long journey. After having shared everything about his journey in front of us all – “since no one understands English” – John, as African tradition dictates, invites us to visit the place where he sleeps in a reception center managed by the local association ARACEM, not far from the other station, belonging to the Sonef transport company. A dozen boys and girls enter and exit from the rooms surrounding a courtyard illuminated by the intense light of the early afternoon. Some wash sneakers of the latest fashion, others soccer shoes, that will take them to tread the green fields of Europe. Above a door the writing “migrants in transit or returning.”

“The new agreements between the European Union and the Sahelian countries will cause the death of another thousands of persons. The African managers have smelled the possibility to get rich and they will not stop before anything.” This is confirmed by Ousman Diarra, president of the Malian Association of Deportees (AME), an ex migrant expelled like all the components of AME. The existence of a local association, that fights for the rights of migrants for over twenty years, clearly demonstrates the dedication to this theme by part of the Malian public opinion.

In the discourse of Diarra, the financial aid taken from the European Development Fund and channeled into the Trust Fund decided at Valletta in November 2015 will not bring any real benefits to the region. “The Trust Fund, like all the European funds for development poured into Africa and Mali, is not interested in the true socio-economic roots of the problem. In fact, a large part of the money will be used to reinforce the closing of the frontiers, to provide biometric passports and to control travelers according to a merely securitarian approach. As long as there is underdevelopment in Africa, the people will continue to leave.”

By Sara Prestianni

This investigation report – Diverted Aid – has been coordinated by Ludovica Jona and funded by the European Journalism Centre (EJC) through its “Innovation in Development Reporting Grant“.

Credit picture: Sara Prestianni

Africa’s open data revolution hampered by challenges

Nairobi – Sub-Saharan Africa has numerous data revolution challenges such as little capacity and investment, thus limiting demands for using data to boost sustainable development. According to the inaugural Africa Data Revolution Report (ADRR), there is minimal or non-existent collaborations among data communities regarding the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Africa’s Agenda 2063.


The report was presented last month (17-21 July) during a panel discussion at the second Africa Open Data Conference held in Accra, Ghana.

The report cites issues such as legal and policy frameworks, infrastructure, technology and interactions among key actors as challenges that confront data ecosystems of ten African countries studied: Cote d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Kenya, Madagascar, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa, Swaziland and Tanzania.

The ADRR was jointly published by the Economic Commission for Africa, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), World Wide Web Foundation and Open Data for Development Network (OD4D).

“Open data is Africa’s biggest challenge,” says Nnenna Nwakanma, a senior policy manager at the US-headquartered World Wide Web Foundation, noting that open data revolution is key to Africa achieving the SDGs.

Nwakanma tells SciDev.Net that data revolution is built on access to information, the web, and to content, citing open data’s benefits such as governments functioning more efficiently, businesses innovating more and citizens participating in governance and demanding accountability.

Serge Kapto, a policy specialist on data from the UNDP, says that frameworks such as the African charter on statistics and the strategy for harmonisation of statistics in Africa adopted by the continent have laid the groundwork for an African data revolution.

“The report also points out that data is inherently as much a political as a technical issue,” Kapto notes. “Therefore, the stumbling blocks that impede progress of the data revolution for sustainable development must be addressed on both political and technical levels.”

Kapto adds that Africa is well positioned to reap the benefits of the data revolution for sustainable development and leapfrog technology to serve national and regional development priorities.

But, he explains, much work remains to be done to fully take advantage of the opportunity afforded by the data revolution for achieving development plans.

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By Gilbert Nakweya

How Kenya’s votes will be counted, and why transparency is so crucial

The shocking murder of Christopher Msando, which came to light this week, casts a pall over Kenya’s 8 August elections. As the acting director of information and communications technology at the Independent Elections and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), Msando had a key role in two critical aspects of the electoral process: the biometric identification of voters at polling stations; and the results management system, which aggregates votes once they’ve been counted at the polling station level.

Both of these procedures are managed through the IEBC’s Kenya Integrated Elections Management System (KIEMS). Technical experts have expressed their confidence in the KIEMS, and the IEBC partially tested the system on 2 August.

While a full system test ahead of election day remains necessary, as recommended by international election observers, Msando’s death has raised broader questions about the integrity of the technical processes that underpin the election. Since a full murder investigation will not be complete before polling day, rumours will inevitably continue to circulate about the motives of the perpetrators.

There is little the IEBC can do to stop this speculation. However, in order to reassure the Kenyan electorate and political competitors, the IEBC could take further steps to demonstrate transparency.

It could release the results of the KIEMS test; it can ensure that it fully publicises and explains its decisions in the coming days; and it could share with political parties the IEBC’s contingency plans in the event the KIEMS is not fully operational on 8 August.

How the count should work

According to current plans, votes are to be counted at each of the 40,883 polling stations after voting has closed. The results will then be transmitted to constituency tallying centres in each of Kenya’s 290 constituencies via the KIEMS.

Due to a court ruling, the IEBC in Nairobi cannot modify the results from either the polling stations or constituency tallying centres. This means that a simple tabulation of the 290 constituency results will produce the national results.

Representatives from political parties stationed at polling stations and constituency tallying centres will know the results before they are transmitted to Nairobi. If they are vigilant and professional, these agents can make valuable contributions to the integrity of the count and tabulation process.

IEBC has requested that party representatives check and agree that the results entered in the KIEMS match those on the written results form, though this is not required by law or regulation.

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By Aly Verjee