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Son of Senegal ex-leader Wade ‘to run for president’

Senegal's main opposition party has chosen the son of a former Senegalese president as its candidate at the next presidential election, even though he is on trial for corruption.

Karim Wade's nomination was confirmed on Saturday, just two days before Senegal's anti-corruption court was expected to deliver its verdict in the case against him on Monday.

Wade faces seven years in prison for allegedly amassing a multi-million dollar fortune while serving as a minister under his father's rule.

Karim Wade was nicknamed "the minister of the Earth and the sky" when his father, Abdoulaye Wade, was president from 2000 to 2012, reflecting his powerful position under his father's rule.

Wade junior is alleged to have illegally acquired companies and real estate worth almost $240 million, but he denies the charges and his supporters claim the case against him is politically motivated.

'Transparency of the vote'

Saturday's decision to nominate him was made at a party congress that was attended by 88-year-old Abdoulaye Wade, who is the secretary general of the opposition Democratic Party of Senegal (PDS).

The former president later praised the transparency of the vote saying it had been "conducted publicly in front of party activists and even the press".

He said last month that he was prepared to "give his life" to prevent his son being convicted.

"Karim Wade was chosen by 257 of the 268 delegates" to be the Democratic Party of Senegal's presidential candidate, leading party member Tafsir Thioye told the AFP news agency.

The younger Wade, who has been in custody since April 2013 and on trial since July last year, beat at least seven other candidates to become the PDS's presidential hopeful.

No date has yet been set for the upcoming election that is not due until 2017.

Impact on the verdict

"The fact of choosing Karim Wade is just a way of trying to have an impact on the (court) verdict," Babacar Justin Ndiaye, a political analyst, told the Reuters news agency.

Tension has been mounting ahead of Monday's trial verdict, with local media reporting a heightened security presence in the capital Dakar.

The country's main opposition coalition, which includes the PDS, on Friday urged sympathisers to rally at the court on Monday in a show of support for Karim Wade.

Mamadou Diop Decroix, an opposition politician, said on Saturday that "if the country swings towards violence, it won't be the fault of the opposition but of those who put people in prison".

Justice Minister Sidiki Kaba sought to calm tempers, saying the state would maintain public order.

"Freedom of expression will be respected but within the context of the law. The decision that will be handed down by the court will be an independent one," he told the pro-government daily Le Soleil.

The post Son of Senegal ex-leader Wade ‘to run for president’ appeared first on African Media Agency.

Nigeria election: A vote over Boko Haram?

Nigerians go to the polls on Saturday to choose a president. It is the fifth election since Nigeria returned to democracy in 1999. But the country has yet to experience a transition of power between different political parties.

Incumbent Goodluck Jonathan is from the ruling People's Democratic Party. He is facing a strong challenge from former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari, who heads the opposition alliance, All Progressives Congress.

Central to both campaigns is security and how to combat the armed group Boko Haram.

Both men are adamant they have the determination and the means to see the job through.

Jonathan is a Christian from the Niger Delta in the south, while Buhari is a Muslim from Nigeria's north.

But can either man build bridges across Nigeria's fractious divides?

Presenter: Adrian Finighan

Guests:

Mike Omeri - director-general of Nigeria's National Orientation Agency, which serves to make the public aware of government policies.

Lai Mohammed - chief spokesman for the opposition All Progressives Congress.

James Schneider - editorial director for New Africa magazine.

http://bc05.ajnm.me/665003303001/201503/2271/665003303001_4126544196001_20150322-insidestoryew-nostraps.mp4?videoId=4126494097001

The post Nigeria election: A vote over Boko Haram? appeared first on African Media Agency.

Corruption blights Nigerian army’s fight against rebels

Once the best military in West Africa, Nigeria's army is now struggling to fend off the threat of Boko Haram.

From 2001 to 2012 the military received $19bn. Yearly, that is only about one percent of GDP, even falling to half a percent in 2006. On average, nations typically spend around two percent of GDP.

But in 2014, Nigeria spent $5.8bn on security, a quarter of the total budget.

Of the $5.8bn, roughly a third went to the Defence Ministry, that is $830m for the army, $440m for the navy, and $460n for the air force. Another $400m was spent on deployments and missions.

However, much of that money has allegedly fuelled corruption or been siphoned off to enrich regional governments.

This has led to an under resourced military, short of guns and ammunition.

It has allowed Boko Haram to extend its influence, threatening national elections which last month were postponed for six weeks so the army could take on the armed group.

Meanwhile, in the prosperous oil-rich Niger Delta, it is estimated that over a five year period to 2008, oil theft and attacks by armed groups have cost the country about $100bn.

So if Nigeria's army was once considered the best in West Africa, what went wrong? And why has there been under investment in the military?

Retired Major General Ishola Williams, the executive secretary of Pan African Strategic and Policy Research Group, joins the discussion.

UK aid to Africa

In Britain, a new law has been passed ensuring the overseas aid budget is protected every year.

But pressure groups argue that there is a reason the country is encouraging aid, and that it is actually a cover for corporations to tighten their grip in Africa.

Laurence Lee brings this special report.

Afghanistan's Herat

On Counting the Cost, we take a look at Herat, a city which has been largely untouched by the war in the rest of Afghanistan.

It is on the border with Iran and Turkmenistan, which helps as far as trade and prosperity goes.

But Herat's economic growth has been held back by a growing trade in kidnappings.

The city is a major trading centre full of businessmen and that has made it a target for abductions.

Businessmen say the threat of kidnappings and criminals is driving investors away.

More than 100 people were also killed in Herat last year in so-called targeted assassinations.

This year President Ashraf Ghani fired the Herat chief of police and all 15 district chiefs , in a mass sacking, saying they had failed to establish security.

So what is next for the city? And can the violence be stopped?

Nicole Johnston reports.

China's housing crisis

Housing is a crucial engine of growth for many economies. In China, housing makes up 15 percent of the economy. So when it goes wrong, it is noticeable.

Across China local goverments have been investing in unsuccesful grand projects, with ghost towns emerging as a result.

The national government has been trying to tackle the problem of oversupply and falling property prices.

But two interest-rate cuts later, selling property in places such as Yingkou has not got any easier. In the bustling old town, there is little appetite for a move to the empty skyscrapers up the road.

So has the property bubble burst? And will it impact the economy?

Harry Fawcett brings the story of property developers in China.

http://bc05.ajnm.me/665003303001/201503/151/665003303001_4124329405001_PG013182-V01-1-BUS.mp4?videoId=4124062252001

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South Africa: Remembering the Sharpeville massacre

South Africans commemorate the 55th anniversary of the Sharpeville massacre on Saturday, when 69 people were killed and 180 others wounded for protesting apartheid.

The day is hallowed on the South African calendar as "Human Rights" day, but as politicians lead the nation in remembering Sharpeville, what is often forgotten about that bloody day is just as significant as what is recalled.

Those gunned down in Sharpeville, a township south of Johannesburg, were not the only ones who died on March 21,1960 protesting "pass laws" - a domestic passport that black males were ordered to carry and produce upon request - part of the segregation system that severely restricted movement.

In Langa, a shanty town close to Cape Town, police also opened fire on protesters, killing three people. At least 26 others were wounded. In the chaos that ensued, a driver who transported two journalists to the township was also killed.

At the time, the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) - a breakaway group from the African National Congress (ANC) - had called on black males to leave their passes at home, and surrender themselves at police stations in open defiance of apartheid laws.

Thousands took part in the demonstrations in different cities across the country, and police reacted with devastating brutality to the acts of civil disobedience that had threatened to collapse the economy built on the backs of the black majority.

"As young and militant students, we felt that the time had come to fight it," recalled Philip Kgosana, 78, who was a Pan Africanist Congress leader in the Western Cape at the time.

'Historical moment'

Kgosana was a student at University of Cape Town, but because of the country's laws he wasn't allowed to live at the university. He was told he could attend class but was "politely advised to go live in Langa, with the migrant workers".

Those who remember say the resentment was palpable.

"It was the historical moment that the PAC really had its finger on the pulse," said Shirley Gunn, from the Langa Memorial Collective.

After the shootings, anger on the streets only burgeoned.

"We felt a lot of injustice had been done because on our side, we didn't beat the police, because these people want to force themselves on us without even listening to our grievances," Kgosana said.

The township erupted. Members of PAC embarked on a damaging labour strike, helping to fashion another victory. The government suspended the pass law, but PAC wanted to go futher.

"That whole history, if you look at the whole iconography around it, you will see burning passes. That was not the main point of Sharpeville," Gunn said.

Following the events in Sharpeville and Langa, Kgosana then spectacularly led according to some estimates between 30,000-50,000 protesters on a 15km march from Langa to the Caledon Square police station in Cape Town's city centre on March 30.

He was thrown in jail and forced into solitary confinement for 21 days.

"On 29 March, the police took the decision to force us to go to work, whether we liked it or not. They stoned our homes and beat people up. The next morning, I had actually talked to about 10 people with broken arms and head wounds. It was sickening," Kgosana said.

The apartheid regime was quick to recognise the revolutionary zeal of the events in Sharpeville and Langa, but decided to squash dissent rather than engage or reform. The consequences were far-reaching.

"An opportunity to have a peaceful negotiation in good faith was once again lost, and it just gave further impetus for the need for the PAC and the ANC to adopt an armed struggle and give up the idea of resisting peacefully," said Emilia Potenza, curator of the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg.

"We missed an opportunity to negotiate a peaceful change," she said.

In April 1960, the ANC and PAC were banned and forced underground. Both parties formed armed wings in efforts to breathe new life into the resistance.

Nelson Mandela became commander-in-chief of the ANC's armed wing, Umkonto-we-Size (MK). Following his arrest, Mandela was sentenced to life imprisonment on four counts of sabotage.

Langa forgotten

Through the 1970s and '80s, Langa became a larger site of upheaval and dissent. On March 21, 1985, on the anniversary of the events 25 years earlier, at least 21 people were shot dead when police opened fire on hundreds of people in a funeral procession that had been banned by the state.

Measuring the impact of the Langa massacre of 1985, Derek Catsam, from the department of history at Ohio university, wrote that where the events of 1960 had resulted in the "effective quashing of a culture of massive resistance, the 'Langa Massacre' would prove to be a catalyst for some of the most tumultuous years in South African history".

The killings came at a time of severe unrest across the country. South Africa was heaving under the collective weight of civil unrest in the townships, a struggling economy, and international sanctions.

Fast forward to 2015 and Langa is relatively absent from the national consciousness.

For some, the relative anonymity of Langa in the greater story of the struggle against apartheid points to the politics of selective memory. While the PAC has struggled to find relevance as a party in 21 years of South Africa's democracy, the ANC's dominance and ownership of the liberation narrative have coloured the way these chapters of South African history are told.

"History has been re-appropriated by the ruling party because 1994 came and we [were] looking at a new set of dates we would commemorate," Gunn said.

Forgetting the past

In 2010, Julius Malema - then-president of the ANC Youth League and current leader of the country's Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) opposition party - wrote that the Sharpeville massacre "must be properly located in the struggle as led by the ANC".



Kgosana told Al Jazeera he understands that the scale of the Sharpeville massacre snared the world's attention, but cautions against the politics of selective memory.

"Sharpeville was of such a massive scale that there was no forgetting about it. It hit the whole world for the fact that they could see the gravity of the apartheid system and its cruelty," Kgosana said.

In many ways, the ignored history in Langa is the story of a South Africa still living on the margins; it is in places such as Langa that the failings of democracy are most glaring.

Today, close to the hostel in Langa where Kgosana once lived as a student, a humble memorial with a mural of him in the throes of protest commemorates the march he once led.

The memorial is also a rare spot where residents are able to relieve themselves - because a space in the structure provides a lavatory - in a township that lacks basic sanitary services.

Kgosana said Langa is far from the dreams he once held as a 23-year-old revolutionary.

"Freedom is freedom when you have social freedom, economic freedom, psychological freedom, all the freedom that we need, and our people are still far, far away," Kgosana said.

Follow Raeesa Pather and Azad Essa on Twitter: @raediology and @azadessa

The post South Africa: Remembering the Sharpeville massacre appeared first on African Media Agency.

DRC calls for end to UN peacekeeping mission

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has demanded the removal of thousands of UN peacekeepers, claiming it is ready to assume the "full responsibility for its security" despite scores of civil society and rights groups urging the UN to extend its mandate in the country.

Foreign Minister Raymond Tshibanda urged UN council members on Thursday to respect the DRC's "legitimate aspiration" to assume full control of its security, a decade and a half into a UN peacekeeping mission there.

Tshibanda said his country had made "major" political and economic progress and had succeeded in getting the upper hand over Hutu rebels and the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, who are accused of fomenting unrest in the east.

The UN mission has been deployed in the DRC since 1999 and comprises some 20,000 troops, essentially based in the country's east.

In January, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon proposed trimming some 2,000 peacekeepers, while the DRC is seeking a more substantive immediate drawdown of about 6,000 troops.

However, the UN Stabilization Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO), has cautioned that a gradual pullout of troops is needed to minimise the risk of renewed violence, home in recent decades to some of the bloodiest outbreaks of violence anywhere in the world.

"MONUSCO will not stay in the DRC forever," Martin Kobler, the head of MONUSCO said.

The DRC will only "achieve stability through the establishment of functional, professional and accountable state institutions and through strengthened democratic practices," Kobler added.

However, nearly 180 civil society and rights groups have urged strengthened powers for the UN mission in DR Congo to ensure peaceful elections due in November and help end unrest in the country's volatile east.

The appeal by 179 groups comes amid fears President Joseph Kabila could seek to stay on beyond the end of his mandate by 2016.

Protests over Kabila's alleged attempt to seek a third term has claimed up to 42 lives this year, according to rights groups.

According to the UN, tens of thousands of people died in February and March 2013, and more than 100,000 fled their homes during clashes between a militia and army forces in the east.

The post DRC calls for end to UN peacekeeping mission appeared first on African Media Agency.

Somalia PM interview: We are ready for business

Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke became Prime Minister of Somalia for a second time in December 2014 and faces a tough task in preparing the transition to a new administration in 2016.

Sharmarke's biggest challenge includes unifying the country and challenging the armed group al-Shabab.

Somalia has made significant gains against the group, but the rebels still pose a significant threat to the Somali state and its immediate neighbours.

African Union peacekeepers and Somali security forces have managed to push al-Shabab out of some the country's major cities, but the fighters still control large swathes of the countryside in southern Somalia.

The group continues to launch periodic attacks in the capital Mogadishu, including against government institutions, and hotels frequented by government officials.

Al Jazeera' Barry Malone talked to Sharmarke about continuing insecurity in the country, foreign investment and the possibility of ever sitting at a table with al-Shabab.

Al Jazeera: What are you doing in Qatar?

Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke: Somalia is no longer equated with the negative aspects: piracy, terrorism. Now the country is ready for business. And we want to solicit with whomever wants to invest. In the end, it's economic growth and poverty reduction that really can get so many youth in our country out of disparity. So we are pushing to move onto the investment. So we discussed ways in which Qatar could invest in the country.

AJ: You said Somali had a negative reputation around security: piracy, al-Shabab etc. Do you think that hinders investment? How can investors trust their investments will be secure in Somalia?

Sharmarke: I think Somalia is the number one country that has seen a steady decline in terrorism activities in the last few years when you compare it to other hot spots in the world. So I think Somalia is less vulnerable and the country is really moving out of this, gradually but surely.

AJ: Last night the Pentagon put out a statement saying that a US drone had killed a senior al-Shabab leader, Adan Garar. They say this man was one of the masterminds of the Westgate attack in Kenya. What do you think the impact of that strike will be?

Sharmarke: There's no safe haven for terrorists in Somalia. Whoever commits crimes wants to be punished. The United States cooperates with us on on containing and destroying terrorist activities in Somalia. I think in the last couple of years most of the key leaders of al-Shabab were taken out. In that sense, the al-Shabab organisation is really weakened and even some are defecting to the government side. We've had the defection of high-profile individuals.

And there is also an amnesty in place. Whomever denounces violence, we're ready to deal with and accommodate.

AJ: What about drones? US drone strikes get a negative press and many populations have turned against them because they say there's a high civilian death toll. Is that a problem in Somalia?

Sharmarke: Drones have taken out key leaders of al-Shabab. The US and Somalia cooperates on that.

AJ: Is the amnesty to al-Shabab members working? How many have taken up the offer?

Sharmarke: A lot have taken up the offer. We've really had some high-profile people defecting. They are in the government's hands. And we are ready to continue with this so that our young kids are not lured into these kinds of activities for nothing.

AJ: What would you say to people who say these men should be tried in court?

Sharmarke: I think whoever denounces violence and is ready to become part of society again should be given a chance.

AJ: Do you ever see a day in which you will sit down at a table with al-Shabab and speak to them?

Sharmarke: I think al-Shabab would have to denounce all violence and must denounce all the terrorist activities that they have conducted. They must really not only denounce but show that these were appalling acts that they committed.

AJ: And, if they did, do you ever see a day in which al-Shabab could actually be a political party?

Sharmarke: I think there will always be a small number who will never denounce violence and the only way is going to be to contain them and destroy them. But I think, anyone who denounces violence, we are ready to accommodate.

AJ: So those people could enter politics?

Sharmarke: It is a process, for them to get into politics. They'd have to transform in a very drastic way.

AJ: One man, one vote for the 2016 elections was what your government promised when it came to power. But you're not in control of the entire country. So how can everyone get a vote?

Sharmarke: Districts controlled by al-Shabab are very few now. Most of the country is in the hands of the government. I think, for 2016, we are expecting that all those districts will be in the hands of the government.

AJ: A lot of your success at pushing al-Shabab back is thanks to an African Union force (AMISOM), which is made up of about 20,000 troops. When do you hope that these foreign troops can go home?

Sharmarke: Actually it wasn't AMISOM who only did this. It was also our forces. We are grateful for AMISOM's contribution. I think our brothers have done a tremendous job. Also our forces are doing great work to liberate all those districts. I think we are into two phases: one is to contain and destroy al-Shabab. The other is to build a national army with a national character.

Once we succeed in that, there will be a downgrading of AMISOM forces.

AJ: So when do you see that happening?

Sharmarke: I think the process might start 2016/2017.

AJ: You mentioned at the start of the interview that a lot of people have a negative view of Somalia. A lot of people think of violence, they think of al-Shabab, they think of piracy. How does that make you feel as the prime minister of Somalia to know that this is what some people think?

Sharmarke: I think it's not only Somalia that's going through such problems. And I'm glad to say that Somalia is making progress on all of those. Piracy is down almost 90 percent. There haven't been any incidents in the last year or so. Terrorism is going down. And a large part of the country is in the hands of the government.

I think compared to other parts of the world, with what's going on in Syria, Libya and Afghanistan, Somalia is the only country that really shows some success in really dealing with terrorism.

AJ: You lived in the United States for many years. What do you think of the portrayal of Somalia in popular culture in the West, in Hollywood movies? Black Hawk Down, Captain Phillips etc.

Sharmarke: That is why I came here to change the narrative and get away from that. Somalia is ready for business. It is no longer the country in which piracy and terrorism dominate the news. There are millions of Somalis that are moving on with their own lives. I think the country is rebuilding. I think most Somalis now have decided to pick up their own pieces and do whatever they can to better their lives.

I think that should also be part of the news. That negativity no longer fits the country. The world should now look at Somalia with different eyes.

The post Somalia PM interview: We are ready for business appeared first on African Media Agency.

Horn of Africa: 126 pirates convicted in the past 4 years

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Ofei Kwafo-Akoto* highlights local regulations governing investment by African pension funds into private equity and considers the need for greater regional investment in this...

Report on African ‘cities of opportunity’ highlights the region’s potential

Global accounting and consulting firm PwC has launched the first edition of its ‘Into Africa – the continent’s cities of opportunity’ report, which details...