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Rwanda-South Africa Relations, Hot Potato For Dr. Pandor

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From repeatedly recalling their ambassadors to nearly severing diplomatic ties, South Africa and Rwanda relations could be among the most unpredictable on the continent.

Diplomacy between the two countries collapsed when Dr. Grace Naledi Mandisa Pandor was South Africa’s Minister of Home Affairs, a pivotal docket in the ever collapsing relations between the two nations.

She is now back as new Foreign Affairs Minister at a time when relations are once again thorny, moreover under the same unresolved issues that would have been fixed long ago by her while under Home Affairs.

It is always Rwanda’s hope that for every change of guard at the Foreign Affairs Ministry in Pretoria, translates into positive change in the relations between the two countries.

South Africa being the continent’s economic power house remains an important partner Rwanda would want to engage with, but the waters are not stable enough for this to happen.

The latest appointment of Dr. Grace Naledi Mandisa Pandor as South Africa’s new Foreign Affairs Minister, under the new resized government of President Cyril Ramaphosa, offers yet another complex puzzle for Rwanda.

Between 2012-2014 Dr. Pandor was Home Affairs Minister when the relations between Rwanda and South Africa were completely freezing following assassination attempts on Kayumba Nyamwasa, a Rwandan dissident.

As usual, some Rwandan politicians expressed, in a sarcastic manner, their feelings about the character of Dr. Pandor.

“Congratulations Minister Naledi Pandor! Let’s make our relations great again!” said Amb. Olivier Nduhungirehe shortly after President Cyril Ramaphosa announced his new foreign affairs Minister.

Minister Nduhungirehe’s comment is cordial in text and diplomatic, but the reservations are deeply engraved in it.

Dr. Pandor’s position on matters with Rwanda is known, and there is no evidence of change.

Her selection for this docket therefore may not change much in the thorny and bumpy relations between her country and Rwanda.

For example, she has reservations about Rwanda invoking the UN Refugees cessation clause- this has since been another thorn in the relations.

During her tenure as Home Affairs Minister, Pandor said that her government would first conduct its own investigation into existing conditions in Rwanda and consult extensively with the local Rwandan community before making a decision on invoking the cessation clause.

Her office considered listening to Rwandan refugees’ concerns and fears of being returned to Rwanda, and sharing with refugees the government of South Africa’s position around the cessation clause, which it said clearly required to first articulate the reasons for the clause being invoked.

Towards the end of her tenure as Home Affairs Minister in 2014, it is when much of the relations between the two countries collapsed based on recommendations from her ministry, leading to the expulsion of several Rwandan diplomats by Pretoria.

She has been given a principle post at a time South Africa has revived trial inquest into the 2013 murder of Colonel Patrick Karegeya.

The inquest five years since it had stalled is considered a plot to disrupt efforts to repair relations between the two countries.

Rwanda is also concerned by the inability of Rwandans to get South African visas in Kigali, Rwanda.

It is yet to be determined under the new management of Dr. Pandor whether this Visa issue will be addressed in a different manner.

“We don’t deny South Africans visas to travel to our country, but the reverse to South Africa is not the same,” President Paul Kagame said in previous engagements with journalists.

President Ramaphosa in March 2018 said that the problem of Rwandans being denied visas to South Africa would soon become history after holding talks with President Kagame. This is yet to be realized.

Despite reappointing diplomats, South Africa is yet to appoint a visa official to Kigali, meaning that Rwandans still cannot get visas to South Africa.

It is still early to assess how Dr. Pandor will navigate the current concerns by Rwanda about South Africa hosting the Rwanda National Congress (RNC) led by Kayumba Nyamwasa – a terrorist group that has an objective of overthrowing government in Kigali.

This RNC and FDLR issue has been at the centre of failing relations between Rwanda and Uganda – basically according to Rwanda, the current problems are born in South Africa, exported to next door Uganda from where they would extend their tentacles into Rwanda to destabilize peace and security.

Dr. Pandor has a big assignment in leading the reconstruction of ties between the two countries building on several demands that Rwanda has in the last few months communicated to her government.

For example last year, during the the Extraordinary Summit of the African Union in Kigali, President Kagame and his South African counterpart President Cyril Ramaphosa ordered Foreign Affairs Ministers to work on normalization of relations between the two countries.

Rwanda is concerned about South Africa accepting distortions propagated by Rwandan detractors based in South Africa, and media platforms associated with them.

Dr Pandor has previosuly served in the south African Government as Minister of Education, Home Affairs and Now Foreign Affairs. She is a senior member of the ruling ANC party

About Dr Pandor

Born in 1953 Dr. Pandor is a strong mobiliser for the Ruling African National Congress Party and mostly honoured as comrade like most senior cadres of the party. She has served as cabinet minister since 2009 in different portfolios.

This new minister is a well-educated politician that acquired a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degree in Education at the University of Pretoria (Tuks).

She holds a Master’s degree in Education policy and practice in multi-racial societies, and another in Linguistics from the applied linguistics perspective.

“I am a teacher by early training and am fascinated by education,” Pandor says, adding she chose education “because it is the discipline I have always had an interest in understanding further.”

Pandor is married to Sharif Joseph Pandor and has four children.

She converted to Islam after she met her husband while studying in Botswana, her in-laws gave her the Islamic name of Nadia. On her religious conversion Pandor said: “My parents said God is God”.

Editor’s note: This article was first published on May 30, 2019

Politics

New Law Criminalising Journalism Practice in Nigeria

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The Nigerian Guild of Editors, NGE, has rejected the bid by a member of the House of Representatives, Odebunmi Olusegun (pictured above), to amend the law establishing the Nigerian Press Council, NPC, and the National Broadcasting Commission, NBC.

They said the envisaged amendments would kill free press in Nigeria and render journalists captives in the land.

The Guild, in a statement by the President, Mr. Mustapha Isah and General Secretary, Iyobosa Uwugiaren, yesterday, described both the NPO and NBC amendment bills as draconian, given the provisions inserted into them by the sponsor of the bills Odebunmi Olusegun, a member of the House of Representatives from Oyo State, who is neither a journalist nor a social scientist.

The Guild argued that while the sponsors of the bills claimed that the amendments were geared towards moderating the ‘recklessness of the media, the bills are actually criminalising journalism practice in the country.

The body of editors argued that the media, which serve as the ‘oxygen of democracy’ would be strangulated if the bills are passed into law.

“At a time there is a popular ongoing global conversation about the need for a #NewDealForJournalism”, for immediate and sustained action from, and collaboration between governments and other influential actors to improve the policy, funding, and enabling environment for independent professional journalism, we see the proposed laws as unhelpful.

“While we are not opposed to an Act that will promote media stakeholders-driven regulatory council, the many draconian provisions in the Odebunmi Olusegun-sponsored bills are actually aimed at criminalising media practice in Nigeria.

“While the intention of the sponsor of the bills is suspicious, the bills negate all known features of media regulatory bodies in the world,’’ the Guild said.

It contended that while the NPC Act CAP N128, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 1992, created by the military dictatorship gave the Council board full responsibility to administer the council, the proposed Act restricts the council board to ‘’advisory capacity on a part-time basis without direct interference in the day to day administration of the council”, and gives the Executive Secretary all the powers.

The Guild stated further that “While the proposed NPC Act says the Board shall consist of one representative each from the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ); Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE); Newspapers Proprietors Association of Nigeria (NPAN); Broadcasting Organisation of Nigeria (BON); Ministry of Information; two representatives of the general public, one of whom shall be a legal practitioner and a woman and Executive Secretary of the council, who shall serve as the secretary to the Board, the board is a mere advisory body.

“The Bill also says that the Chairman of the Board shall be appointed by the President on the recommendation of the Minister in charge of Information.

“And that all other members of the Board shall be appointed by the President on the recommendation by the Minister of Information. The intention of this kind of Council is suspicious.’’

The body of editors is of the view that the professional body doesn’t need the approval of the Minister of Information to establish and disseminate a National Press Code and standards to guide the conduct of print media, related media houses and media practitioners and approves penalties and fines against violation of the press code, as provided for in the bill.

“The Guild is not aware of any media regulatory council in the world, which says media regulatory council shall establish a National Press and Ethical Code of Conduct for media houses and media practitioners, which shall come into effect and be disseminated after approval by the Minister of Information, and that the code shall be binding on every media houses and journalists.

“Again, apart from the fines for journalists or media houses that violate the Act, the bill also says that in an extreme case, the council shall order the striking out of the name of the journalist from the register;

“And suspend the person from practice by ordering him not to engage in practice as a journalist for a period not exceeding six months; as may be specified in the directive.

“This kind of media regulatory council will neither serve the interest of the media industry, strengthen its constitutional role of holding public officers accountable to the people nor serve the general interest of the public, who are the original trustees of the media,” the Guild explained.

The NGE noted that in the proposed NPC legislation, the sponsor mischievously smuggled in the controversial ‘’fake news” provision, stating that any person who carried news established to be fake thereafter, committed an offence;

“And was liable on conviction to a fine of N5 million or a term of two-year imprisonment or both, as well as a compensation of N2 million payable to the person(s), group(s), corporate bodies, government or any of its agencies whom the news was carried against.”

According to the NGE, the bill also states that any print media house whose m edium is used to carry such news is liable on conviction to a fine of N10million or closure of such media house for a period of one year or both;

“And compensation of N20 million to the person, group, corporate body, government or any of its agencies, whom the news was carried against.”

On the proposed NBC amendment legislation, the Guild said Section 23 of the bill which gave the Minister of Information powers to participate in the making of regulations, was unhelpful, saying the participation of the minister will turn NBC into a tool for political interference.

The Guild noted that the provisions of the two bills gave the impression that the Federal Government was out to crush its enemy, insisting that the media was not an enemy of the state.

The NGE added that the two bills if passed, would compound the nation’s negative image in the global community.

“Nigeria comes in at No. 120, the rough equivalent of a D+ in this year’s index by Reporters Without Borders.

“You’ll find similar results on the Democracy Index where Nigeria is ranked No. 110— the lowest-ranking Hybrid Regime, one slot away from Authoritarianism,’’ the NGE said.

VanguardNigeria

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Politics

EU Removes Shackles On Burundi

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After back and forth negotiations, President Evariste Ndayishimiye of Burundi has managed to convince the European Union to lift tough sanctions that had crippled his country under his predecessor.

EU sanctions on Burundi were first imposed in October 2015, by Council Regulation (EU) 2015/1755 and Council Decision (CFSP) 2015/1763, following Pierre Nkurunziza’s disputed election to a third term as President, breaking a decade-old agreement on a two-term limit, and the violent crisis that followed.

Claude Bochu the European Union Mission envoy in Burundi met with President Ndayishimiye on June 21 and informed him that the EUs opinion on his country was not the same as in the previous situation.

“This is remarkable progress, significant progress, which is why I asked to inform the president of it since a few months ago, 6 to 7 months ago, the opinion was not the same”, he noted.

The EU Ambassador to Burundi, said that there has been an important shift in the views of EU ministers and institutions and this view has been attentive to what has happened in Burundi.

According to him, “it is on the basis of the positive developments initiated by President Ndayishimiye in terms of good governance and the rule of law and human rights that these measures were taken.”

“We were delighted, the President and myself, that this political dialogue between the EU and Burundi had resumed few months ago. The exchanges made it possible to follow and feed the reforms which, little by little, are emerging in this country. So we welcomed them with pleasure and the president welcomed this news.”

Important Projects

Ambassador Claude Bochu briefed President Ndayishimiye on the development projects the EU intends to support by the end of the year.

“There was a release for the rehabilitation project of the port of Bujumbura, a dossier which links the EU to the African Development Bank with funding of Euros60 million. This will allow the port to go ahead and enter into contracts to remedy a number of malfunctions due to obsolete equipment “.

Another project concerns agricultural development: “This project is ready, it is about assisting the birth of value chains in the agricultural sector. We are only waiting for the signing of the financing agreement with the Minister for the Economy and Finance.”

There are three other projects mentioned in particular support for the health sector: “Next week, there will be the inauguration of a blood transfusion center in Gitega,” Bachou said.

There are also projects for the protection of the environment, natural resources and water management. That’s not all, there is a new project to support the Ministry of Justice in its efforts to facilitate access to justice for Burundian litigants.

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Politics

DRC Army Launches Offensive Against Twa Rebels

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The Congolese Army (FARDC) has rolled into action against marauding Twa rebels that have been wrecking havoc in the city of Nyemba, 135km from Kalemie territory in Tanganyika province.

General Jean-Marie Ruvunangiza, commander of the 22nd naval group in this province said on Tuesday that his forces are determined to wipeout the rebels and restore calm and peace in the area.

“The fighting still continues. For now, these thugs are infiltrating here and there; they are on the run, ”General Jean-Marie Ruvunangiza said.

A week ago, armed Twa elements attacked this part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, looting several houses. This situation had compelled the army to launch an offensive to put out of harm’s way these rebels.

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