Wednesday, April 16, 2014

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Tripoli, Libya:

The Libyan Investment Authority (LIA) has filed a $1.5 billion lawsuit against Société Générale (SocGen), claiming the French investment bank helped channel bribes worth tens of millions of dollars to associates of Saif al-Islam, the son of the former Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi.

The LIA, a $60 billion fund set up to invest the country's vast oil wealth, alleges that SocGen fraudulently paid over $58 million to a company called Leinada for "advisory services". These services related to $2.1 billion of derivatives trades that the LIA entered into with SocGen between 2007 and 2009. The Libyan fund claims that Leinada has "no discernible expertise in advising on or structuring financial derivative transactions." Leinada is registered in Panama but controlled by Libyan businessman Walid Giahmi, who is believed to be close to the Gaddafi family.

In the derivative transactions, the LIA suffered heavy losses and are calling for the trades to be voided.

SocGen has called the claims in the lawsuit, which has been filed in London's High Court, as “groundless and without substance." The bank admits to using agents to conduct sales, but says this was normal practice and that middlemen are "fully reviewed through our compliance procedures in respect of the regulations and in complete transparency with the client."

The case against Goldman Sachs

The LIA's lawsuit against SocGen is not its only ongoing case in a London court. The fund's $1 billion case against Goldman Sachs, in which it accuses the American investment bank of exploiting the LIA's lack of financial expertise to make a profit, commenced in January.

Goldman Sachs was one of many Western banks that tried to curry favour with the fund in the mid-2000s when Libya's relations with Western governments thawed, reportedly by plying executives with expensive chocolates and aftershave, and funding luxury trips for officials. Having won its trust, Goldman Sachs allegedly then abused it by investing vast sums of the LIA's money in risky and complex derivative trades in the run-up to the 2008 financial crisis. The Libyan fund claims that it lost over $1 billion in these deals, which its executives did not have the expertise to understand, while Goldman Sachs reaped profits of $350 million.

“No one could evaluate what was happening to our money,” one former LIA employee said in an interview with the Wall Street Journal in 2011. "We saw the losses mounting, and we didn't have the paperwork or tools to analyze our investment."

In a statement released by the LIA in January 2014, it claimed: "[Goldman Sachs] abused the relationship of trust and confidence with the then newly-formed LIA, being the sovereign wealth fund of the Libyan people."

Goldman Sachs has refuted the accusations, saying they are “without merit”.

Misappropriation, misuse and misconduct

Under Gaddafi, the LIA is understood to have been riddled with large-scale misappropriation, misuse and misconduct of funds. Since the dictator's overthrow, the new management is reportedly trying to turn things around, partly by reassessing past dealings with the likes of Société Générale.

“This claim, together with the one against Goldman Sachs that was initiated in January 2014 reflects the desire of the LIA’s new board of directors to redress previous wrongs and seek the recovery of these substantial funds as it seeks to invest and generate wealth for the people of Libya," said LIA chair, Abdul-Magid Breish.

The suits against Goldman Sachs and Société Générale also come as the US Securities and Exchange Commission investigates relations between the LIA and US financial institutions. The agency is looking into whether US financial organisations made payments to LIA executives in the hope of gaining closer access to the fund.

Many of the LIA’s assets remain frozen under sanctions. Jason Peck, a researcher at the University of Cambridge and President of the consultancy company Libya Analysis, says that the corruption in Libya is such that the government prefers some sanctions to remain on LIA assets to avoid individuals or groups siphoning off funds.

Rebuilding after Gaddafi

Libya boasts some of the largest oil reserves in the world and the LIA was established to manage its vast resource wealth in the interests of the population. The Libyan fund has huge reserves in the Central Bank of Libya, set up myriad subsidiary companies, and has investments in hundreds of firms around the world from General Electric to the telecoms multinational AT&T to the Italian football giants Juventus. It has also had multi-billion dollar investments with investment banks, many of which went awry when markets collapsed in the 2007/8 financial crisis.

In the wake of these losses and in an attempt to break with a past characterised by corruption, the LIA now seems to be trying to rebuild its reputation and recover some of the huge sums lost. It also claims to be set on improving accountability and transparency, recently hiring accountancy firm Deloitte to conduct an asset audit and consultants Oliver Wyman to report on strategy in order to “enhance its corporate governance in accordance with best practices.”

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In a one-minute video uploaded in April 2012 and shot at the military fort, which sits like a giant cork atop the centre of Bissau, one watches former president Kumba Yalá standing next to Guinea-Bissau's Army Chief, General António Injai. Surrounded by a small group of onlookers, the former, wearing his trademark red bonnet, hands banknotes one by one to the army man. Afterwards, Yalá and Injai shoot each other wide grins and shake hands before doing the same to some of their associates around them.

As the local correspondent who showed me the video pointed out, this short clip − much of which remains a mystery − encapsulates all the problems with Bissau-Guinean politics: lack of transparency, unaccountability, corruption, and a dubious link between the military and politics.

These have been some of the main ingredients of the country's politics since independence in 1974, and for much of this period, Kumba Yalá, who suffered a sudden cardiac arrest and died on 4 April at the age of 61, was at its centre.

The former president's recent death marks a symbolic break with the past, and Bissau-Guineans may be hoping to mark a more concrete break with the past soon, as they await the counting of their votes from this weekend's general elections.

From prof to politician

Yalá was born into a poor peasant family in 1953 in the western region of Bula. His parents worked the land and young Kumba would have been expected to follow in their footsteps, but his exceptional brightness set him on a path that saw him rise through the Portuguese education system and, against all the odds, go to university. He triumphed academically, became a professor of philosophy, and immersed himself in languages. Besides his mother tongue of Balanta, he became fluent in Portuguese, Spanish, French and English.

Yalá and Guinea-Bissau would arguably have been better off if he had stayed in academia, adding more languages to his repertoire, but the lure of politics and his disillusionment with the government proved too strong.

As a teenager, Yalá had joined the African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC), the independence movement led by Amílcar Cabral which had gone on to rule Guinea-Bissau after independence. Through the years, however, he became disenchanted with its leadership and what he saw as the exclusion of the Balanta. In 1992, a year after a ban on opposition parties was lifted, Yalá saw his opportunity and founded the Party for Social Renewal (PRS).

The PRS leaned on two main overlapping constituencies: the Balanta people, who make up around 30% of the population; and the armed forces, which is majority Balanta. Yalá made his association with these groups crystal clear by donning his trademark woollen red bonnet; many outsiders saw the hat as a colourful innovation, but Bissau-Guineans recognised it instantly as an inalienably Balanta headdress. Couple this overt expression of loyalties with Yalá's populist, unpredictable and often abrasive style, and one can understand how the philosophy professor turned out to be a profoundly divisive politician.

The president

Numerically, the PRS' base would have been too narrow for it to win an election under ordinary circumstances. But Guinea-Bissau hadn't seen ordinary circumstances for a long time. Political chaos had reigned supreme since 1980, and in 1998-9, the country erupted into a short but vicious civil war. So when elections came round in 2000, Guinea-Bissau's desperate and exhausted population decided to give Yalá a chance. It wasn't long before they regretted it.

Yalá’s presidency took chaos, corruption and unpredictability to new levels. Ministers were erratically appointed and sacked, the state finances became a bigger mess than they already were, and relations with the army top brass deteriorated. Yalá's administration can also be credited with allowing Latin American drugs barons to increase their foothold in the country. These illegal traders allegedly paid government officials to look the other way as increasing quantities of cocaine started transiting the country, and later reportedly paid soldiers for logistical services rendered. In fact, the wad of cash changing hands in the one-minute video could well have been related to drugs too. General Injai is wanted by the US Department of Justice for drugs trafficking, while one of Yalá’s nephews is in an American jail on similar charges.

However, as local analysts always emphasise, cocaine is not the story of Guinea-Bissau. It is a symptom of a profound political crisis, one Yalá contributed to in many ways, not least when he abolished parliament in November 2002.

Kumba's return

In the end, Yalá's presidency did not last long. In September 2003, the army removed him in arguably the only coup the country has seen that earned the putschists heartfelt gratitude from the entire country.

But Yalá did not disappear or fade into the background. Even while his own friends in the military had grown fed up with him, he kept scheming, knowing that, over time, he would be able to lean on his army friends again if he wanted to stir up trouble. And despite the fact he was banned from politics for five years, this opportunity came very soon.

In 2005, the PRS chose Yalá to be its presidential candidate in the June elections, a decision the Supreme Court eventually upheld. However, a month before the polls were even held, the former president shocked the country again by briefly occupying the presidential palace. In the early hours one morning, Yalá and some accomplices overpowered the single soldier guarding the entrance. Yalá announced that he was withdrawing the resignation he had been forced to sign when he was overthrown and demanded his reinstatement.

This power trip, however, lasted just four hours. After an ultimatum from the army, Yalá and his associates left the building, and in the elections the next month, Yalá came third.

For the next few years, Yalá wrestled with his rivals in the PRS, exiled himself to Morocco for a while, converted to Islam in 2008 (changing his name to Mohamed Yalá Embaló), and ran in elections again in 2009.

Yalá's last grand stand came in April 2012. President Malam Bacai Sanhá had passed away in January, triggering fresh elections. Yalá reached the second round run-off, but the PAIGC, led by former prime minister Carlos Gomes Júnior, was looking the more likely to win. Gomes Júnior had particularly strong ties with Angola, which trusted him to protect growing business interests in the country, but he was unpopular with the army, which was suspicious of his attempts to reform it. In the build up to the polls, rumours grew that if Gomes Júnior won, he would invite Angolan soldiers to break apart the army, and on 12 April, General Injai and a group of mutinous troops stepped in and took control of Bissau.

A fresh start?

This past weekend's elections are the culmination of those events in 2012. In the aftermath of the coup, an interim government was put together, excluding PAIGC, and elections were scheduled to take place in two years' time. Yalá went relatively quiet, but most Bissau-Guineans figured he was up to something, and when Yalá announced that he was leaving politics at the end of 2013, few took it seriously. It was perhaps only with his death, which came on 4 April, that the population would ever be able to truly believe they had seen the back of him.

This election, which is the first not to feature Yalá in some capacity for decades, is understood to have had a high turnout. Votes are still being counted, but the PAIGC is expected to fare well in the parliamentary elections. Meanwhile in the presidential polls, the PAIGC's candidate, Jose Mario Vaz, is also anticipated to make it into the second round run-off scheduled for 18 May. PRS' hopeful, Abel Incada, could join him, though some reports suggest the independent candidate, Paulo Gomes, could cause an upset.

The man in the red bonnet and his interference in the political landscape will not be missed by most. But the fundamental problems that he oversaw and contributed have not died with him. Bad governance, corruption, political turbulence, aid dependence and a powerful, unaccountable, coup-prone army all remain. Kumba Yalá was certainly not the man to solve those troubles, but Bissau-Guineans will be hoping the next man just might be.

Think Africa Press welcomes inquiries regarding the republication of its articles. If you would like to republish this or any other article for re-print, syndication or educational purposes, please contact: editor@thinkafricapress.com.

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On 10 April, the United Nations Security Council unanimously voted in favour of a resolution authorising a peacekeeping force of around 12,000 personnel to be deployed to the Central African Republic (CAR).

The UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in CAR (MINUSCA) will launch on 15 September and has mandate that will last for an initial period up to 30 April 2015. The mission will aim to provide civilian protection, support disarmament and ensure the safe delivery of humanitarian aid to the CAR, which has been ravaged by violence since late 2012. Tensions between Muslim and Christian communities have been high, and the Séléka rebels continue to clash with anti-balaka militias.

There are already around 6,000 African Union peacekeepers on the ground, but intercommunal violence has shown few signs of letting up. Under the UN resolution, these AU troops − operating as part of the African-led International Support Mission to the CAR (MISCA) − will be transformed into formal UN peacekeepers. However, it remains to be seen where the other 4,000 troops and 1,800 police as well as millions in funding needed for the mission will come from.

If the European Union's recent efforts to support peacekeeping missions in the CAR are anything to go by, the UN could face some challenges. In the EU's case, the launch of EUFOR RCA had to be delayed after key member states proved reluctant to mobilise forces or logistical support. It was only after several weeks of uncertainty and pressure from France that the European Council finally announced on 1 April that EUFOR RCA would finally commence. 1,000 EU troops are now due to arrive in the CAR at the end of April, where they will assist 2,000 French and the 6,000 AU troops who have been in the CAR since December 2013.

The Chadian vacuum

Although the approval of a UN mission signifies a positive step, there are still four months until the blue helmets are deployed. Given the ongoing violence, mass displacement and intercommunal tensions, this is a long time. The current peacekeepers have struggled to maintain order and the sudden withdrawal of 850 Chadian troops earlier this month puts further pressure on the already stretched mission.

Chad's decision to remove its troops came after mounting allegations that its soldiers had opened fire on civilians, killing at least 30, in a recent confrontation with anti-balaka force on the outskirts of Bangui. Some Central Africans are also suspicious of MISCA's Chadian contingent, believing it to be allied with the Séléka rebels, while Chadian troops have been accused of committing human rights abuses by Human Rights Watch and the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

In the end, angered by what the Chadian government claimed called a "gratuitous and malicious campaign that blamed them for all the suffering in CAR," it decided to withdraw its troops. The majority of Chadian peacekeepers have now returned home. Some contingents were said to have lingered in the north-eastern town of Kaga-Bandoro, creating a sense of unease amongst the local population, but the town's mayor reported on 11 April that the remaining troops have now left.

Although distrusted by some, Chad's withdrawal comes as a blow to the peacekeeping mission. Its soldiers had proved useful in negotiating and disarming the Séléka in Bangui and parts of northern CAR. Because of its links to the Séléka, Chad was well-placed to mediate and in fact could still play an important role in ending the conflict. For the time being though, its president, Idriss Déby, seems to be fuming over the allegations made against his troops.

One organisation that seems to be standing in solidarity with him is the African Union. In a report issued after a meeting held by the Peace and Security Commission last week, the AU appeared to back the claim that the peacekeepers were ambushed by the anti-balaka.

As for filling the gap left by Chad's 850 troops, finding replacements might not take long, but with Séléka secessionist rebels threatening to go to war with the anti-balaka after the militias attacked their bases in the town of Dekoa, the AU needs to move quickly.

Time and money

Time is also of the essence for MINUSCA, though maintaining international support and funding will be crucial too, as a look back a previous UN intervention in the CAR suggests.

The previous UN intervention in the country was established in late 1997. The regime at the time, led by President Ange-Félix Patassé, was being rocked by widespread public discontent and had recently suffered three successive army mutinies over unpaid salaries.

Towards the end of 1996, Pattasé had requested the support from fellow African governments to help maintain stability. The results was the deployment of MISAB, an 800-strong force drawn up from a handful of African countries with logistical support from France. It was only when France announced it was preparing to pull out that the UN pushed for the establishment of the UN Mission in the Central African Republic (MINURCA).

With 1,300 peacekeepers and a mandate to disarm rebels and provide police training, MINURCA proved fairly successful and managed to ensure security during the 1998 presidential elections. However, the mission was short-lived. After failing to raise the sufficient funds to sustain it, MINURCA disbanded in 2000, leaving the desperate Patassé to appeal to the Democratic Republic of Congo and Libya to send reinforcements. Patassé survived coup attempts in 2001 and 2002, but was finally ousted in 2003 by François Bozizé.

The circumstances and role of MINURCA were very different to the situation in the CAR today and the main aims of MINUSCA, but maintaining funding and sustainability will be crucial for MINUSCA if it is to be successful in the long-term as well as the short-term. It is understandable though that the short-term is the current focus. With the violence in the CAR showing no signs of abating, one million of the country's 4.5 million population displaced from their homes, and the humanitarian crisis deepening, the deployment of MINUSCA cannot come soon enough.

Think Africa Press welcomes inquiries regarding the republication of its articles. If you would like to republish this or any other article for re-print, syndication or educational purposes, please contact: editor@thinkafricapress.com.

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Dear Reader,

Dozens of people were killed this morning when two bomb blasts hit a busy bus station on the outskirts of Abuja, Nigeria. No-one has claimed immediate responsibility for the attack, but suspicion has fallen on the militant group Boko Haram. The Islamist insurgents were reportedly behind an assault last week in the north-eastern Borno state in which at least 60 people were killed, and are believed to have been responsible for the abduction of two Italian priests and a Canadian nun in Cameroon at the start of the month. If their involvement in the kidnapping is confirmed, it will have been the group's third abduction in Cameroon and could signal a shift in tactics.

Several sources within the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM), an instrument set up by the African Union to encourage good governance, have alleged that the organisation is fraught with high-level corruption, mismanagement and political manipulation. In an in-depth investigation conducted by Think Africa Press, officials as well as a number of senior figures in the APRM claimed that there has been widespread fraud and misuse of funds, and that the mechanism's integrity and independence have been undermined. Some allege that the responsibility for APRM's state of affairs goes right to the top.

Momentum is continuing to build towards Egypt's 26 May elections, which are widely expected to see Abdel Fattah al-Sisi stroll into the presidential office. The rise of the field marshal to the presidency will see the military's grip tighten even further, but it is not just in the political arena that the army's power is likely to expand. Since the overthrow of President Mohamed Morsi in July 2013, the military appears to have increased its involvement in the economy. The army is already estimated to control up to 40% of Egypt's GDP, and in recent months it has signed a number of mega-infrastructure deals worth several billions of dollars.

North: Egypt's Military Economy: Money is Power, Power is Money

West: Nigeria: Federalism Works

Central: What Does the Tactic of Foreign Kidnappings in Cameroon Tell us about Boko Haram?

East: Rwanda's 20 Year Miracle: "We Had Nowhere To Go But Up"

South: S. Africa: Parliament Forms Committee to Probe Nkandla

Below are a few highlights from the past week:

All the best,

The Team at Think Africa Press


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If buried memories are dust, then water binds them together and helps give them form. Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor's debut novel Dust works hard with that conceit, setting those two elements – sand and water – together in a tense cops-and-robbers pursuit. At stake are some of literature's loftiest themes: life, death, truth, deceit, country, and love.

The book opens with an engineer named Odidi Oganda, the story's embodiment of water, as he flees the gun-toting police through the streets of Nairobi, Kenya. He dies sputtering blood and leaking faeces. The violence inspires his family – father Nyipir, mother Akai-Ma, and sister Ajany – to examine their own pasts, each with varying shades of that same degree of violence, until deeply buried secrets are brought to the surface to face the rain. Circling the Ogandas is Isaiah Bolton, whose missing father Hugh has a suspicious connection with the family. The story weaves through major entries in Kenya's historical timeline, mixing the Mau Mau Rebellion, the 1959 assassination of Tom Mboya, and the 2007-08 post-election violence into the same thematic stew as the Oganda recipe of secrets and amnesia.

Published in late January 2014, Dust has drawn accolades from some of African literature's modern titans, including Taiye Selasi in The New York Times, as well as Binyavanga Wainaina, author and editor of the Kenyan literary journal Kwani?. To celebrate Kwani?'s recent ten-year anniversary, Owuor shared a University of Nairobi stage with Americanah author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie for a double-launch.

Reviewers outside African literature circles have given the book an enthusiastic reception too. All seem to be praising Owuor for her fiery, poetic approach to prose, while the most ardent have suggested that befuddled readers are just being lazy.

Sand and water

Owuor's style certainly is a remarkable element of the book, perhaps the most. It is intensely visual, bereft of exposition, and wielded in grammatical fragments. It is writing that wants to be sensuous, gathering the five senses together for a riot of stimuli, while at the same time winking and nudging through the subtext of its themes and metaphors.

At times, it works very well. The first 17 pages vault alongside Odidi as he tries to evade the police. He reflects on a complicated relationship with his father. He pines for his girlfriend, his sister, and, with boyish resonance, his mother. “He grips his shattered right shoulder. Protrusion of bone. Blood trail. Trickle from his mouth. It is said that in the throes of battle dying men cry out for their mothers. Akai-ma, Odidi groans. She wards off ghouls and bad night entities, wrestles God, casts ancient devils into hell before their time, and kicks aside sea waves so her son will pass unhindered. Akai-ma.”

Other times, it falls flat. Anxiety “flutters” like a stone. “White-streaked hairs” somehow perform a “verdant sprouting.” Owuor also has an overwrought tendency to intrude on her narrative with would-be profundities, as when the “anguish was a phantom limb, raw, weeping, and invisible.” Or with her meditation on the oaths of silence, which are “slow-dripping venom with their seductive promise of memory loss.” Used sparingly, some of these expressions might hit home. But there are far too many of them. They snare attention and break the storyteller's spell, which is the style equivalent of an on-stage magician accidentally sawing a woman in half for real.

Debates over poetic prose often hinge on this tension between what works and what doesn't. Readers and writers who prefer a more documentarian approach believe it is the only way to fully realise characters and plot, while those more taken by abstraction see themselves as truer artists plumbing for meaning in the deep pipes of subtext and allusion. Some combination of the two is probably the best, though trickiest, approach.

Owuor, winner of the 2003 Caine Prize for Fiction and a 2005 resident of the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa, seems to be consciously struggling with that dichotomy. In an interview with Guernica Magazine, she said her book took over eight years to finish and that she showed an early draft to Wainaina, who told her, “Yvonne, this is crap.” In the novel's acknowledgments, she thanks her editor for killing off a litany of her “darlings,” which is industry speak for language choices writers adore in spite of their dysfunction. That cull, she goes on to write, brought “order into a long, long tale.” More order would've been better, but there's every reason to think a second book might produce it.

In the meantime, Owuor's debut is certainly not without merit. In particular, Dust contains two reactions to death not diminished by stylistic shortcomings. One makes private investigators out of its affected. Chief among these is Ajany, who reveals one of the story's key secrets while relying on a childhood memory to sculpt clay, which is where the dust and water image patterns most meaningfully converge. By contrast, the other reaction is paranoid and self-serving, and the agents of its persuasion do their best to brush away the truth. Nyipir is one of these, though he partially redeems himself as the story draws to a close. It is that triumph of truth over corruption that comprises the book's central optimism, offering a hopeful vision of the future for a country too often sandbagged by negative news coverage.

Think Africa Press welcomes inquiries regarding the republication of its articles. If you would like to republish this or any other article for re-print, syndication or educational purposes, please contacteditor@thinkafricapress.com.

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At the start of this week, Nigeria's GDP figures nearly doubled after the government recalculated economic output. Statisticians rebased their numbers to include changes to the economy, and in a heartbeat Africa's most populous country had also become its richest, leapfrogging South Africa by a mile, and shooting up the global rankings to join the likes of Norway and Poland.

Although the ground under their feet was exactly the same, the country they were living in on paper had suddenly shifted for Nigeria's 170 million population. Or should that be 180 million? Or 140 million? Or even higher or lower? The actual size of Nigeria's population is also based on questionable estimates and evidence, and it too is heavily contested.

The fact that Nigeria's statistics are so deeply shrouded in doubt is striking especially given that it is, as we now know, the richest country on the continent. This begs the question: if our understanding of Nigeria rests on such shaky ground, what about poorer, less well-connected, and more closed off countries? For example, what about Eritrea?

No data

Trying to get any data about Eritrea can be a thankless task. Access to information is very limited and the authoritarian regime's relationship with any media apart from those run by its own information ministry is strained at best. The Horn of Africa nation is deeply isolated internationally and is considered to have one of the worst records in the world when it comes to civil liberties, political rights and domestic freedoms.

Unsurprisingly, international headlines about the Red Sea state are rare, and when there is coverage, it is usually about runaways fleeing the nation's grip, abductions of Eritrean refugees in the Sinai Peninsula, human rights violations, or tentative predictions about how long the regime can last.

With virtually no data to work with, it unsurprising that analysts also tend to shy away from the country. In continent-wide studies, Eritrea is often coloured in grey to demarcate 'no data', while even multilateral organisations such as the African Development Bank sometimes have to release reports that pretend Eritrea does not exist.

The 2012 African Economic Outlook Report, which is probably the most comprehensive analysis of the country for several years, provides a few valuable if limited insights. But even this most complete report on record misses out some hugely important features such as population size.

Given the difficulties in estimating Eritrea's population − existing figures range from about 3.5 million to almost double that at 6 million or more − it is perhaps wiser not to guess at all. However, the size of the population has enormous consequences for all per capita figures. The World Bank, for example, estimates Eritrea's income per head to be $504, basing its calculations on population figures of just over 6 million. If Eritrea's population were in fact closer to the 3.5 million mark, that income per head figure could be as much as $864.

The black market

However, especially when it comes to Eritrea, even reliable figures can only tell us so much. For instance, the country's black market for currency exchange significantly complicates things.

The Eritrean currency has been pegged at 15 Nakfa to $1 since 2005. Due to high inflation over many years, the currency has lost value, but the government keeps it fixed in an attempt to tackle external debt. This has contributed to the blossoming of a parallel and illegal internal market for currency exchange. Those caught exchanging currency on the black market can be imprisoned for up to 18 months, but the entire economy depends on such illegal exchanges.

In late 2012, the rates in this illicit market offered three times the amount of Nakfa per dollar compared to official rates. And in March 2013, this already massive gap widened as the Eritrean government overvalued the national currency even more, fixing 10 Nakfa to $1. One important implication of this when examining Eritrea's national economy is that using the official exchange rate is likely to hugely overestimate the real level of economic development. Using the rates found on the burgeoning black market would suggest the country is significantly poorer than if using the government's rates.

Going a step further into the real detail of Eritrea's economy, unofficial sources report that most households in the capital Asmara receive an average of $350 per month in undeclared remittances from relatives abroad. There are two particularly well-known mechanisms through which these clandestine transfers takes place: alongside shipments of contraband goods from Sudan, and when relatives from abroad visit.

These transfers are likely to be hugely significant for Eritrea's economy. After all, a wage in the formal sector will at best leave you with 1500-2500 Nakfa per month. According to official rates, that comes to $150-250, but in reality it is worth considerably less and is barely enough to survive. For most families in Asmara, therefore, remittances are crucial and often constitute the majority − sometimes as much as 90% − of their overall income. Counterintuitively perhaps, Eritrea's alarming brain drain ends up significantly stimulating its economy.

However, not all families in Eritrea are so lucky. A pattern of regional migration has occurred within the country in which those that have no relatives abroad are destined to a rural life as subsistence farmers cultivating mostly barren land, while those with close ties to family outside the country can maintain a life in the capital.

A shot in the dark

After Nigeria's GDP was rebased earlier this week, nothing concrete changed. Nigerians didn't suddenly have more cash in their wallets, the unemployed were still unemployed, and the many malaises in the national economy went nowhere. However, in the medium term, the updated figures could have a considerable impact, especially as foreign investors look at the country in a different, far more rosy light.

After all, statistics and economic analyses affect policies. Reliable figures can be crucial in helping actors − whether governments, individuals, corporations or multilateral organisations − make the right decisions, while unreliable ones can do the very opposite. When it comes to many countries, not least Eritrea, a great deal of caution needs to be taken before attempting any kind of shot in the dark.

Think Africa Press welcomes inquiries regarding the republication of its articles. If you would like to republish this or any other article for re-print, syndication or educational purposes, please contact: editor@thinkafricapress.com.

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Cairo, Egypt:

Momentum is continuing to build towards Egypt's 26 May elections, which are widely expected to see Abdel Fattah al-Sisi stroll into the presidential office. After a long period of speculation, the recently promoted Field Marshal finally announced last month that he would be taking off his military slacks and stepping into civilian shoes to run for top office.

In a poll in March, 39% of Egyptians said they were planning to vote for him, while fewer than 1% of respondents said they were planning to vote for any of the other candidates. Anything but a Sisi victory seems highly unlikely, and come May, the military's hold on power will have become even further entrenched. It was only in January 2011 that Hosni Mubarak − a military man too, like all his predecessors since 1952 − was overthrown, but now it seems the Egyptian military is not only back in the seat of power, but perhaps stronger than ever. A look behind the political curtains at the backstage that is the Egyptian economy seems to bear this out.

Flexing muscle

With around 2 million personnel, including 500,000 in the army, the Egyptian military is the biggest in Africa, and one of the largest in the world. Arguably far more striking than the extent of its physical muscle, however, is the size of economic muscle. Its spokespeople consistently try to play down its role in Egypt's economy, claiming the military is responsible for just 1% of the country's GDP, but analysts tend to believe the military controls between 5 and 40% of the economy, with most leaning towards the higher end of that spectrum.

Exact figures are hard to come by. The military's budget is kept confidential and its business dealings are typically untaxed and unaudited on apparent grounds of national security. It is known, however, that military is involved in countless different businesses in countless different industries. Military-owned companies engage in ventures from cement to shipbuilding, from fertiliser to fridges, and from tourism to televisions. The Egyptian army owns hospitals and child-care centres, it is a huge player in the country's agricultural sector, and it has various contracts with foreign investors worth hundreds of millions of dollars. The military also owns vast tracts of land. In 1997, a presidential decree awarded the army the right to manage all of Egypt's unused land. According to some estimates, that essentially gives the military de facto control of 87% of the entire country's land mass.

When Mohamed Morsi came to power in June 2012, it was the first time for half a century that the reins of power were not in the hands of a military man. The army was forced to take a step back politically, but economically little changed. In fact, the Muslim Brotherhood-led government quickly recognised that taking on the military's entrenched economic interests would be difficult and dangerous, and therefore decided to develop parallel institutions instead.

Despite taking care not to step on the military's very large toes, however, some believe Morsi's plans to develop the hugely lucrative Suez Canal with help from Qatar alarmed the army, which was not involved in the deal, and arguably contributed to Morsi's army-backed overthrow in July 2013.

Mega-military

Since the military's return to the top political table in July 2013, it seems to have accelerated its economic activities and intensified its hold on the country. 19 of the 25 provincial governors appointed after Morsi's removal were generals, several figures who were supportive of the military under Hosni Mubarak were returned to important economic positions, and although Sisi was only officially the First Deputy Prime Minister, he was widely understood to be the real power behind the throne.

With this newfound authority, Egypt's generals have been making up for lost time. They are moulding the economy to develop along lines of their choosing and have taken the opportunity not just to entrench their business activities even further, but upscale and expand them.

One area of particular interest has been huge infrastructure projects. Since Morsi's overthrow, the military has been awarded contracts for the construction of tens of thousands of housing units and apartments, dozens of roads, railways, bridges and tunnels, and scores of health centres, schools and other buildings. These projects are believed to be worth billions of dollars.

In February, meanwhile, the Egyptian defence ministry signed a deal which will see them develop an exclusive, high-end complex in Uptown Cairo, which will be filled with expensive housing, international luxury stores and a golf course.

And last month, it was announced that the UAE firm Arabtec Holding had agreed a project with the Egyptian army to build one million low-income housing units across 13 sites in the country. This deal is reportedly worth an enormous $40 billion. It has not been revealed where the financing for the construction will come from, but it is understood that the land − which, as in many of the other mega-projects, is owned by the military − will be given for free.

This tranche of new military mega-deals has not only been allowed by the Egyptian government, but actively facilitated. Under Egyptian law, contracts are meant to be awarded competitively through bids and auctions, but in November 2013, Adly Mansour, Egypt’s Acting President, issued a decree allowing ministries to skip the bidding process in "cases of emergency." This has effectively allowed several state contracts to be awarded to the military with little transparency, oversight or competition.

Furthermore, through the new Egyptian constitution, passed in a referendum this January, the military's long held legal exceptionalism is again closely protected. In fact, the new constitution even goes further in some ways, such as the amendment that allows civilians to be tried in military courts. Yesterday, the journalist Islam Al Humasy became the first to be sentenced under this new law when a military tribunal handed him a one-year prison term for posting leaked videos of Sisi.

Changing his stripes?

When Sisi announced last month that he would be "answering the demand of a wide range of Egyptians" in running for the presidency, he emphasised the symbolic and emotional significance of his transformation from a military man to a civilian.

"The first time I wore military uniform was in 1970 as a 15-year-old cadet at the Air Force High School, almost 45 years ago, and I take pride in wearing this uniform to defend my country", he said. "Today, I am taking off this uniform to defend this homeland as well." This conjured up solemn images of the field marshal taking off his stripes and laying down his arms, of him leaving a world of tanks and fighter jets for a world of summits and meetings, and of him broadening his scope from mere security to politics and economics.

He painted an picture of a great transformation in the trajectory of his life. However, in many ways, Sisi − like many of his erstwhile colleagues in Egypt's vast and expansive army − may find he feels far more comfortable in a business suit than he realises.

Think Africa Press welcomes inquiries regarding the republication of its articles. If you would like to republish this or any other article for re-print, syndication or educational purposes, please contact: editor@thinkafricapress.com.

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Addis Ababa, Ethiopia:

It is 5:20am on 30 January, 2014, and most of the residents of Ethiopia's capital are asleep. On the streets, a few vehicles prowl as night-time revellers – mostly girls in short skirts – make their way home after a long night of merriment. On Bole Avenue, some guards stand in front of the enticing window displays of the well-stocked shops as the artificial palm trees that line the street shimmer in the biting morning cold.

Near a roundabout, our source approaches us. Despite the early hour, she seems alert, her bright eyes piercing in the pre-dawn light.

"I hope that no-one will recognise me," she says in a soft Southern African accent. She wears a hood over her head and asks us not to look at her. "Walk right and stick to me," she urges, hoping we will look like clubbers returning home.

After a long silence, she speaks. "I fear for my job by talking to you," she says before another long pause, "but my job is nothing compared to the fate of the continent through the APRM."

The APRM she is referring to is the African Peer Review Mechanism, an instrument set up by the African Union in 2003 to encourage good governance through mutual assessments. The mechanism was heralded as an innovative African solution to African issues, and so far 34 countries have joined voluntarily. But over a decade on from its establishment, it seems a number of problems have developed, distracting the APRM from its mission.

These are problems that few in the organisation are willing to talk about. One Cameroonian minister, for example, declined to be interviewed for fear of retaliation against his government, commenting mysteriously “each state has its own skeletons in the closet." Meanwhile, two other senior figures − one a former member of the APRM's Panel of Eminent Persons, the other a minister in a West African government − first agreed to speak before having a change of heart.

Another individual who evaded persistent requests for an interview was Assefa Shifa, who was at least until this January, head of the APRM Secretariat. Shifa's reluctance, however, may be understandable given that, according to many people, he's at the centre of the APRM's travails.

APRM management structure

Shifa, a tall Ethiopian man in his early 60s, is described as shy by many who know him. "He could not hurt a fly," Marie-Angelique Savané, a former member of the Panel of Eminent Experts, recalls thinking of him when they first met. But what some see as timidity, others say is an act to conceal his linguistic failings. Shifa reportedly speaks broken English and has not mastered French, Arabic or Portuguese, despite the APRM's requirement that employees are able to speak at least one of these four languages. Shifa's CV contains some similar mysteries. In it, for example, he lists his most recent academic achievement to be an MBA I from the University of South Africa in 2007-8. When contacted, the university said it had no record of issuing such a degree.

Shifa's route to the leadership of the Secretariat, the body that oversees the day-to-day running of the APRM, is as curious as the man himself. In 2006, Shifa had been working at the UN Development Programme (UNDP) for over a decade, during which time he had risen up to the position of Regional Information Technology Officer. But that May, the UNDP sent him to the APRM Secretariat, based in South Africa, where he was initially hired as a technician to manage the database.

One of the recruiters who interviewed him recalls pointing out to Shifa that the APRM job would be a significant step down from the leadership positions he had previously held at the likes of IBM and Shell, according to his CV. Shifa did not mind. Similarly, it seems that the APRM did not mind hiring Shifa to do a job that, according to sources close to the APRM, was already being done by the Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA).

Shifa did not stay long in this position though. In July 2008, the director of the Secretariat stepped down, and the Panel of Eminent Persons picked Shifa to hold the reins for a three-month interim period.

Two years later, however, Shifa was still running the show and eventually managed to convince the Panel to confirm him as Acting Director. At the time, the Panel was in an ongoing struggle over organisational control with the Committee of Focal Points, another body in the APRM's management structure. According to an APRM source, the Panel was led to believe that Shifa would side with them in the dispute. And so, the insider says, Shifa's position "is the interim which lasts to this day.”

Adding a further layer of confusion, Akere Muna, who was Chairperson of the Panel until this January, asks why the UNDP has even allowed its employee to work at the APRM all this time. "As an employee of UNDP, he is not qualified to transact business on behalf of the APRM Secretariat," he says.

Accusations of mismanagement, intimidation and fraud 

The uncertainties around Shifa's ascension and ability to safeguard his position would seem less dubious if he were considered to be good at his job, but his tenure so far has hardly been steeped in triumph.

For example, Muna claims he forbade the 2012 Annual Report from being made public because it was so full of errors that "it would be a disgrace to the APRM." In it, for instance, Denis Sassou Nguesso is listed as the President of Uganda rather than the Republic of Congo, Tanzania is classified as a Francophone country, while the flag of Mauritius is attributed first to Mauritania and then to Mozambique.

When asked by the Panel to present details of the finances that went into the production and printing of 500 copies of the report, Shifa reportedly destroyed all the documents relating to the procurement of services. Think Africa Press managed to track down the contact details of Jimmy Andetowa, the marketing manager of the company responsible for printing the report, but he ignored several requests for an interview.

"All members and partners are aware of all these malpractices," says our hooded source in Addis, "but no-one says anything...It protects Shifa, who knows too much."

Meanwhile, another APRM employee, speaking on condition of anonymity, suggests a different reason people are reluctant to speak out. "[Shifa] imposes fear and servitude. He gives contracts of two to three months to employees and reminds everyone that he is the one who signs them."

This claim is backed up by Muna in his 'Reflections on the APRM and the Management of the Transition', a report he wrote coinciding with the end of his term as Panel chair earlier this year. In it, he writes: "[Shifa] hired and fired at will without consulting anyone. He increased salaries and made appointments and promotions without any consultation... New employees appeared and disappeared in Panel meetings without any information supplied to the Panel on their status functions or duration of employment."

However, according to some, Shifa's misdeeds in the Secretariat go even further than incompetence, mismanagement and intimidation.

In 2012, the APRM paid the company Reneesance 4 million Rand (around $400,000) to cater for a two-day meeting in Durban, South Africa. But according a source in the APRM, the costs for the conference were already covered by the South African government. "This sum is South African taxpayer’s money," says the APRM insider. "The late Minister of the South African Public Service, Roy Padayachie, has presented an appeal to the Durban municipality to fund dinner and transportation for participants."

Think Africa Press contacted some of the late minister's former employees, but they declined to comment.

The same year, Deloitte also conducted a 'Forensic review of subsistence and travel claims expenditure incurred by the ARPM'. In the final report, a copy of which is in the possession of Think Africa Press, the investigators expressed serious concerns around the APRM's financial procedures. "The APRM does not currently have its own set of Policies and Procedures in respect of S&T [subsistence and travel claims]," it concludes, adding that "The APRM therefore processed some transactions without complying with the requirements of any policy."

The Deloitte review goes on to point out that "The honorarium rate has never been reviewed", that "Panel members do not declare their interests" and that "APRM does not have an internal audit function." Among many other things, it also reports that "the APRM is paying excessive per diems", that "Panel Members do not always use the most direct routes when travelling on APRM business" and that "unauthorised salary advances were being provided to APRM employees and consultants."

Crucially, the review also notes "The APRM CEO [i.e. Shifa] approves and authorises all S&T claims, including his own."

The report thus detailed a series of extensive problems in the APRM's financial management system, but according to Joseph Tsang Mang Kin, a member of the Panel of Eminent Persons, nothing ever came of it. "This forensic audit report was never made public or brought to the attention of the [Heads of State] Forum and [Committee of] Focal Points," he says. "It was presented only to the Panel [of Eminent Persons] in September 2012 in South Africa. [There was] no follow-up."

Similarly, at the recent 30 January 2014 APRM summit, Muna claims that Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the president of Liberia and the current president of the APRM's Heads of State Forum, instructed him to keep silent on internal APRM affairs. "No mention was to be made about poor management at the APRM Secretariat," he says. "I am therefore complied to orders."

The APRM's financial dealings have thus remained obscured to the public, though the European Union, one of the organisations' funders, may be aware of the mismanagement. In 2010, the EU donated €2 million ($2.8 million) to the APRM's Trust Fund, into which all external contributions are paid. Maria Sanchez, the EU's communications officer, told Think Africa Press that €1.3 million of the donation has been spent, but she refused to give any details of how it was used.

One possibility, however, is that at least some of the money went towards paying Shifa's salary. Muna recalls that soon after his appointment as Chairperson of the Panel of Eminent Persons in May 2013, he came across a letter from Amos Sawyer, a former Liberian president and Muna's predecessor as Panel Chair, requesting that Shifa's contract be extended and that the Trust Fund pay his wages. "All this is contrary to the rules of APRM and those regulating the Trust Fund," insists Muna.

Deloitte's 2012 report also recommended a forensic audit of the APRM's Trust Fund and bank accounts, but Shifa, who is responsible for these funds, reportedly refused access to the necessary information. According to a source associated with the APRM, what investigators would have found is a set of obscure payment systems. The employee claims that to extract money from the Trust Fund, one would "transfer money from the Trust fund account to Standard Bank hosted by the Development Bank of Southern Africa [which manages the APRM's accounts]. Then from there, [one would] transfer the money into an account opened by Shifa at Nedbank."

Akere Muna fully supports a forensic audit of the Trust Fund and says there is an urgency to do so. A financial audit of the APRM, he hopes, will give assurance to member states that their contributions are well managed. Moreover, he argues that the Secretariat should be equip a competent and motivated staff.

Shifa and Sawyer

Despite the many questions around Shifa's background, competency and financial dealings as head of the Secretariat, he appears to be strongly supported by various friends in high places.

For example, a few months ago when the Director of UNDP Africa, Abdoulaye Mar Dieye, tried to recall Shifa to the UNDP − sending Shifa an email on 13 December 2013 and then a letter on 8 January 2014 − he came across stiff resistance.

Amara Konneh, president of the APRM's Committee of Focal Points and a minister in the Liberian government, quickly opposed the measure, sending a letter to members of the Panel telling them it was not their prerogative to terminate Shifa's tenure. Konneh also said that he would contact the UNDP at the highest level to contest Shifa's removal.

According to a well-placed source at the UNDP, President Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia, who is currently the president of the APRM's Forum of Heads of State, also got involved, calling Dieye and ordering him to reconsider.

The UNDP director reportedly declined. However, Shifa then resigned from the UNDP and, on 13 January, Konneh submitted an official letter to Shifa authorising him to resume his duties as head of the Secretariat and promising to grant him a new contract. The president of the Committee of Focal Points explained his decision by insisting that with "multiple urgent activities" coming up, including a heads-of-state summit in January 2014, it was important to have a Secretariat with "institutional memory."

According to Panel members Tsang Mang Kin and Muna, this move was in breach of APRM rules. Muna also questions Konneh's justification for it, pointing out that the UNDP made the decision to recall Shifa in mid-December, but that it was only a month later that his supporters spoke out. "Why is it during the last week before the preparation of the summit that this story resurfaces?” he asks.

As Konneh promised, Shifa was offered a new contract, and in her speech at the APRM summit, Johnson Sirleaf announced that Shifa − along with the rest of the Secretariat staff − would remain in his post for at least a further four months.

Some of those present for the summit at the African Union headquarters were critical of Johnson Sirleaf's actions, commenting that "Africa will never take off with this type of business management." Meanwhile, another attendee asked, "Who appointed the Acting Director and what is the procedure?"

The answer, according to the APRM's Procedural Manual, is that the director is to be appointed by the Heads of State Forum for a three-year term, renewable once. This was not the case with the renewal of Shifa's contract this January. 

Think Africa Press sought clarification on this matter from Erastus Mwencha, Deputy Chairperson of the African Union Commission, the body in charge of matters relating to the APRM, but did not receive a response.

However, regardless of the legality of the move, these recent events beg the question of why Konneh and Johnson Sirleaf have been so keen to keep Shifa in office, even if it means upsetting influential peers and bending the rules. According to a source in the APRM, the answer may come back to APRM's financial dealings.

"Johnson Sirleaf seeks to protect Shifa to prevent the audit of the Trust Fund which may expose Amos Sawyer," says the insider. Sawyer, the former Liberian president, was the Chairperson of the Panel of Eminent Persons from January 2012 to May 2013, and just before he stepped down personally urged that Shifa's tenure be extended. Some suggest that Sawyer is concerned that if Shifa were to be replaced, certain transactions might be exposed.

From documents Think Africa Press has seen, there is a record of Sawyer misapplying for APRM funding support. On 21 May, 2011, for example, Sawyer received a letter from the APRM's Finance Department asking him to reimburse the organisation R58,837 ($5,500). The letter states that Sawyer claimed expenses for a journey from Monrovia to Maputo − which, being for APRM business, would be eligible to be paid for by the organisation − but which first went via Indianapolis in the US. Sawyer was a research scholar at Indiana University. A more direct journey from Monrovia to Maputo would have been much cheaper, and the APRM requested that Sawyer pay back the difference.

An APRM insider also claims that Sawyer took advantage in more ways that have not been uncovered. For instance, our source claims Sawyer used APRM funds to pay private healthcare bills and received $9,000 for secretarial expenses, the need for which was never justified with supporting documents.

Seeking responses

Think Africa Press contacted Sawyer for comment, but did not receive a response. Konneh was also contacted repeatedly, but to no avail.

An attempt to question Johnson Sirleaf the day after the APRM summit was similarly brushed aside.

In March, Othello B. Garblah, writing for the Liberian paper The New Dawn, did get an opportunity to directly confront Johnson Sirleaf. Towards the end of a long interview about a variety of topics, Garblah introduced the issue of the APRM and this investigation, saying "I have a colleague called Ramata Sore she’s from one of those Francophone countries, she did some investigations in Addis Ababa and other places, it has to do with the appointment of the head of the APRM Secretariat (Assefa Shifa) and how you tried to shield Dr. Amos Sawyer, by keeping the head of the Secretariat there to prevent his alleged exposure."

The Liberian president responded by repeating her argument earlier in the year: "First of all, I am not shielding Dr. Sawyer," she said. "Dr. Sawyer was head of the Panel of APRM, elected by them... We could not let him [Shifa] go just before the AU summit-otherwise there would have been nobody to have prepared the Summit meeting...My position was, we had three weeks away from the summit, if you don’t have a CEO and there is no time to recruit a new CEO how will you have a successful summit?

"So, we had to ask UNDP to let him stay. At the meeting they have here just last week, the man has now been dismissed and they have a recruitment process on the way to find his successor."

The exact status of Shifa remains unclear, but Muna is keen to point out that, contrary to Johnson Sirleaf's claim, Sawyer was not elected by the Panel. "He is one of the rare Panel Chairs not to be elected by his Peers," he says. "He was appointed by Meles [Zenawi]."

The Panel vs. the Committee of Focal Points

According to Muna, the opacity and lack of oversight at the heart of the APRM's inner workings can be traced back to the leadership of Meles, the late Ethiopian prime minister and Johnson Sirleaf's predecessor as president of the Committee of Heads of State.

Meles rose to that position in 2007 after Nigeria's former president, Olusegun Obasanjo, stepped down. The Ethiopian premier's term then should have lasted a maximum of two years, but he somehow held onto power until his death in August 2012.

One of his first actions as chair was to appoint his Chief Economic Advisor, Newai Gebreab, as the chairperson of the Committee of Focal Points. And with this, says Muna, Meles was able to control the administration of the APRM for several years.

"The fact that Meles remained for a long time as the Forum Chair is the cause of this poor governance," he says.

Central to this, he claims, was Meles' efforts to undermine the power of the Panel of Eminent Persons. Under the APRM's framework, the Panel's independence and authority over the Secretariat is meant to ensure the credibility and integrity of the mechanism. However, Muna argues that, in 2012, Meles rebalanced power away from the Panel and towards the Committee of Focal Points (CFP). He says that the mission of the CFP, which is made up of current government ministers and senior officials from member states, changed dramatically and was awarded greater control over the management of the APRM at the expense of the Panel. "Since 2012, the Panel is no longer in charge of administrative and financial affairs," he says.

According to Tsang Mang Kin, the very creation of the CFP "was not included in the basic documents of the APRM," but now "the CFP is considered superior to the Panel." Furthermore, because members of the CFP are part of governments under review, he believes that CFP members may have a conflict of interests and an interest in disturbing the process to avoid censure of their governments.

In his written reflections, Muna says that after the establishment of the CFP, he persistently tried to meet with Konneh, the CFP's chair, to discuss its mandate and relation to the Panel, but was constantly avoided. "As Chair of the Panel I requested such a meeting over five times in writing by mail and orally, to no avail," he writes. "As a matter of fact I did travel twice to Monrovia to meet with the Focal Point Chair but was unsuccessful. On one occasion there was a Focal Point Meeting, and I was allowed to sit in the Lobby of the Hotel for half a day waiting to meet the Chair of the Focal Points. I was not even invited into the meeting which all levels of members of the Secretariat were allowed to attend. I was not even allowed to be introduced for me to address a prepared courtesy message and leave!"

"It is inconceivable that there is no mechanism for continuous contact and collaboration," he adds.

Tsang Mang Kin claims the opacity and new arrangement with the CFP has undermined the credibility of the evaluation process and that the moral authority and integrity the APRM was meant to have under the authority of the independent Panel has been destroyed.

Muna meanwhile concludes his report, writing: "From the issues discussed hitherto, one must necessarily conclude that there is an urgent need to fine tune the Operating Procedure Rules, revise the nature of the relationship between the Panel and the Committee of Focal Points, urgently develop governance rules for the Committee of Focal Points, change the strategy for the management of transition and migration into the AU structure and, finally, instituting [sic] a more robust and transparent approach to recruitment."

"Africa must rise again"

Back on the streets of Addis Ababa, it is now 6:48am and the sun has risen. The small groups of night-time revellers on their way home have given way to the city's early risers walking to work, and the roads are quickly getting busier.

"I must go,"says our hooded source, having revealed all she knows about the problems at the heart of the APRM, about evidence of corruption and nepotism, and complicity at the highest levels. Before leaving, however, she turns back to us. "Africa must rise again," she says, "and it must begin with the APRM."

Think Africa Press welcomes inquiries regarding the republication of its articles. If you would like to republish this or any other article for re-print, syndication or educational purposes, please contact: editor@thinkafricapress.com.

For further reading around the subject see:

 

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