Readout of the Vice President’s Meeting with King Mohammed VI of Morocco

WASHINGTON, November 20, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — Vice President Joe Biden and His Majesty King Mohammed VI met today and reaffirmed the strategic alliance between the United States and Morocco and our enduring friendship, which dates back more than 236 years. The Vice President thanked King Mohammed VI for hosting the fifth Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Marrakech, and both agreed on the importance of promoting economic opportunity, especially for women and young people. The Vice President and King Mohammed VI discussed how best to support Morocco’s success, and reaffirmed their dedication to work together to promote human and economic development, including through vocational training and educational exchange.

The Vice President and King Mohammed VI spoke about the wide range of global, regional, and bilateral issues on which Morocco and the United States are partners, including efforts to advance the shared priority of achieving a secure, stable, and prosperous Maghreb, Africa, and Middle East. In particular, they discussed their countries’ efforts together as part of the international coalition against ISIL. The Vice President and King Mohammed VI agreed on the importance of the non-military aspects of the struggle against violent extremism, including exposing and discrediting violent extremist recruitment and providing a compelling alternative through social and political inclusion and economic opportunity. They agreed on the need for the international community to help Libyans unite behind a peaceful path forward. The Vice President and King Mohammed VI also discussed Morocco’s important role as a gateway for trade and investment in sub-Saharan Africa. Regarding the Western Sahara, the Vice President reaffirmed the text of the November 2013 Joint Statement between the United States and Morocco.

Categories: AFRICA

UN Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in Eritrea begins operations

GENEVA, Switzerland, November 20, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — The Commission of Inquiry set up to investigate human rights violations in Eritrea has begun its operations with an initial meeting in Geneva.

The United Nations Human Rights Council established the Commission of Inquiry in June 2014 for a period of one year to “investigate all alleged violations of human rights in Eritrea” as outlined in the reports of the Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Eritrea, whose mandate was created by the Human Rights Council in June 2012.

“Our key aim is to help provide Eritrea with the means to improve the human rights of its population,” said the Commission Chairperson, Mr Mike Smith. “Our work is guided by respect and care for the Eritrean people and their proud history, as well as international human rights standards.”

Mr Smith, Adjunct Professor at Macquarie University in New South Wales, Australia, and former Executive Director of the United Nations Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate, is working with Ms Sheila B. Keetharuth, who is the current Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea, and Mr Victor Dankwa, Associate Professor at the University of Ghana and former member of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights.*

The Commissioners have come together for the first time in Geneva this week, and are holding key meetings with a number of diplomatic missions, including Eritrea, UN agencies, scholars and civil society organisations. They have also been discussing the strategy, methodology and investigative approach they will employ during their mandate.

“We have a clear mandate from the Human Rights Council. The Council has expressed its strong condemnation of the ‘continued widespread and systematic violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms committed by the Eritrean authorities’” said Mr Dankwa.

Ms Keetharuth stated “We are committed to reach out to the people of Eritrea to understand the impact of the current situation on the enjoyment of their human rights and fundamental freedoms. In particular, we are keen to look at the reasons why Eritreans, including unaccompanied minors, are fleeing the country in their thousands”.

The Commissioners said that they wish for the full cooperation of the Government of Eritrea and to this end have met their representative in Geneva and have asked for full access to the country. “We are hoping that this first meeting in Geneva augurs well for future co-operation with Eritrean authorities,” noted Mr Smith.

The Commission of Inquiry, supported by a team of experienced human rights officers, is publishing a call for submissions to encourage interested individuals, groups and organisations to share information with the Commissioners.

The Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in Eritrea was established by Human Rights Council resolution 26/24 to investigate a variety of alleged violations, including extra-judicial killings, enforced disappearances, arbitrary arrests and incommunicado detention, torture, restrictions to civil liberties, human trafficking, discrimination against women and sexual and gender-based violence, violations of child rights, lack of rule of law, and precarious living conditions.

The Commissioners will undertake a first official visit to Switzerland and Italy from 27 November to 4 December 2014 to collect first-hand information on the human rights situation in Eritrea from Eritrean refugees, migrants and other members of the diaspora, as well as other relevant sources.

The Commissioners are holding their first press briefing on Thursday, 20 November, at 10.00 a.m. in the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

Categories: AFRICA

IMF Mission and the Central African Republic Reach Staff-level Agreement on Financial Assistance under the Rapid Credit Facility

BANGUI, Central African Republic, November 20, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — An International Monetary Fund (IMF) mission, headed by Mr. Ekué Kpodar, visited Bangui, Central African Republic (C.A.R.), from November 11 to 18, 2014 to hold discussions with the C.A.R. authorities on an emergency program that could be supported by the IMF’s Rapid Credit Facility (RCF).1

At the end of the mission, Mr. Kpodar issued the following statement:

“The Transitional Authorities of the C.A.R. and the IMF mission reached staff-level understandings on a macro-fiscal framework and a set of economic and structural policies to reinforce the progress made since the previous RCF approved by the IMF Executive Board in May 2014. These policies are aimed at further restoring macroeconomic stability, achieving fiscal consolidation, strengthening the capacity of the C.A.R. government, coordinating technical assistance, and maintaining the commitment of international donors. Under these understandings, C.A.R. could receive support on these policies through a follow-up RCF for an amount of SDR 5.57 million (equivalent to CFAF 4 billion). The IMF’s total financial assistance to C.A.R. for 2014 would thus reach SDR 13.925 million (equivalent to approximately CFAF10 billion). Additional contributions from development partners to the IMF’s assistance would bring the total external budgetary support to the C.A.R. to approximately CFAF 80 billion for 2014.

“The protracted political and security crisis in the C.A.R. and the resulting collapse of economic activity continue to present major challenges to the Transitional Authorities. For 2014, while economic activity is gradually resuming and some of the displaced persons have been able to return, the volatile security situation led the mission and the C.A.R. authorities to revise the GDP growth forecast downward to 1 percent. At the same time, the scarcity of basic consumption goods has translated into a steady rise in prices, with inflation projected to reach 11.6 percent on average in 2014, well above the Central African Economic and Monetary Community (CEMAC) convergence criterion of 3 percent. The external current account deficit is projected to narrow to 6.4 percent of GDP in 2014, reflecting the substantial financial support from the donor community as well as the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) countries. However, the strong reliance on food and oil imports and the lagging performance of the exporting industries make further balance of payments support necessary.

“In the budget area, the priority remains to further improve the mobilization of domestic revenues and enhance the quality of spending with a view to limiting the domestic primary balance to 5 percent of GDP in 2014 and 4.1 percent in 2015. The Transitional Authorities will continue implementing measures to strengthen public financial management by enhancing the monitoring of cash flow management, further cleaning up the civil servants roster and payroll, revising the convention with commercial banks to administer tax collection, and strengthening transparency in oil taxation.

“Finally, the mission held in-depth discussions on a draft budget and policies for 2015. For next year, we expect that the return of security and the successful completion of the political transition will mark the beginning of a sustainable economic recovery with a real GDP growth rate estimate of 5.7 percent with inflation being contained at 5.7 percent. However, public finances will continue to be under pressure and will require continued support of the international community.

“The mission met with the President of the C.A.R., Mrs. Catherine Samba-Panza, and held discussions with the Prime Minister, Mr. Mahamat Kamoun, the Minister of Finance and Budget, Mr. Bounandele Koumba, and his delegation, and representatives of development partners, the diplomatic community, and the private sector.

“The mission takes this opportunity to thank the C.A.R. authorities for their exemplary cooperation and the candid and constructive discussions that took place.”

1 The RCF (http://www.imf.org/external/np/exr/facts/rcf.htm) is a lending arrangement that provides rapid financial support in a single, up-front payout for low-income countries facing urgent financing needs.

Categories: AFRICA

IMF Staff Concludes Visit to the Republic of Congo

BRAZZAVILLE, Republic of the Congo, November 20, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — A team of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) led by Ms. Dalia Hakura, Mission Chief for the Republic of Congo, visited Brazzaville during November 11−19, 2014. The mission reviewed recent macroeconomic developments and the near-term outlook, discussed the 2014 supplementary budget, the draft 2015 budget and sought the authorities’ input on the agenda for the 2015 Article IV consultation with the Republic of Congo, planned for April 2015.

At the end of the mission, Ms. Hakura made the following statement:

“Macroeconomic performance has been broadly satisfactory thus far in 2014. Growth is projected at 6 percent in 2014, in light of a slight rebound in oil production. This will also be supported by strong non–oil growth, due mainly to higher government infrastructure spending. Year-on-year inflation has continued to decelerate and the overall price level in June 2014 was virtually unchanged from a year ago, largely as a result of declining food prices. The mission notes that the recently approved 2014 supplementary budget provides for an elevated level of government spending, mainly due to preparations for the All Africa Games. This elevated spending implies a deviation from the fiscal rule that the authorities introduced in 2013. If fully implemented, the budget will considerably widen the non-oil primary deficit and hold back fiscal savings in 2014.

“Against the backdrop of the limited remaining lifetime of oil reserves, the recent decline in international oil prices makes it more urgent for the authorities to revert to a path of fiscal consolidation starting from 2015, while enhancing the efficiency of government spending. In this regard, targeting an early reduction of the non-oil primary deficit that also limits the growth of government spending by more than currently envisaged in the 2015 budget would help to safeguard fiscal and external buffers and contribute to mitigating risks to macroeconomic stability in the medium-term. In a context of rising global oil production, the Republic of Congo is facing an uncertain external environment. There are downside risks to oil prices from a weaker global economic outlook, including slower growth in China.

“For the 2015 budget, the authorities should examine the scope for larger fiscal adjustment while safeguarding targeted social spending and growth-enhancing capital spending. The mission welcomes the authorities’ intention to prioritize completion of basic infrastructure projects whilst also taking steps to begin the conditional cash transfer program. The authorities are also encouraged to follow up on recommendations from the ongoing Public Expenditure Management and Financial Accountability Review by the World Bank and other development partners. This should help to identify reform actions needed to strengthen budget execution, procurement and disbursement processes.

“The authorities should continue with ongoing structural reforms to support inclusive growth in the non–oil sector. The mission welcomes the authorities’ near term focus on ensuring access to water for all, and encourages continuing efforts to improve the business climate, which remains one of the most challenging in Sub–Saharan Africa. These reforms will be important to unlocking the potential of the private sector in the Republic of Congo.

“The mission notes the authorities’ continued commitment to a prudent debt management policy. Against the backdrop of recent increases in external debt, which now stands at about 30 percent of Gross Domestic Product, the continued reliance on concessional borrowing will help maintain long–term debt sustainability and preserve the hard won gains of the Highly Indebted Poor Countries/Multilateral Debt Relief Initiative granted in 2010.

“The execution of the Republic of Congo’s macroeconomic policy and structural reform agenda would also benefit from enhanced transparency. The long delays in data availability hamper the timely assessment of the macroeconomic policy stance. In this regard, the mission welcomes the authorities’ efforts to strengthen the National Institute of Statistics through the development of a national statistics action plan with IMF technical assistance.

“The mission met with the State Minister of Economy, Finance, Planning, Public Portfolio and Integration, Mr. Ondongo, Minister at the Presidency in Charge of Territory Planning and Large Projects, Mr. Bouya, Special Advisor to the President, Mr. Gokana, Deputy Minister in Charge of Planning and Integration, Mr. Mokoko, National Director of the Central Bank, Mr. Ondaye, and other senior officials. The mission also met with representatives of the private sector, civil society, and development partners.

“We thank the authorities for the warm welcome and cooperation given to the mission, and wish them well in the important and challenging policy tasks they face.”

Categories: AFRICA

UK welcomes UN action to sanction Libyan terrorist groups

LONDON, United-Kingdom, November 20, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — Foreign Secretary welcomes UN action taken to list two terrorist groups in Libya, underlining need to support UN-led mediation efforts.

Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said:

“I welcome the action taken by the UN Al-Qaida Sanctions Committee to list Ansar Al Sharia Benghazi (AAS-B) and Ansar Al Sharia Derna (AAS-D). Both groups have links with Al-Qaida and are responsible for acts of terror in Libya, including bomb attacks, kidnappings, and murder.”

“The decision sends a clear message that the international community will take action against extremist groups in Libya who pose a threat to peace and security. It is incumbent on all Libyans to reject these groups and all they stand for.

“The UK urges all parties in Libya to cease fighting immediately and fully supports the mediation efforts of the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General, Bernardino Leon, in pursuing an inclusive and broad based dialogue.”

Categories: AFRICA

International community welcomes newly-elected President of Somalia’s Interim South West Administration

MOGADISHU, Somalia, November 20, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — The United Nations, the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD), the European Union (EU) and the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) welcomed the formation of the Interim South West Administration (ISWA) in Somalia and the subsequent election of Sharif Hassan Sheikh Adan as the new President of the ISWA.

“We welcome the election of Sharif Hassan Sheikh Adan as the new President. At the same time, we underline the importance of dialogue and inclusivity and urge the new leader to reach out “We welcome the election of Sharif Hassan Sheikh Adan as the new President. At the same time, we underline the importance of dialogue and inclusivity and urge the new leader to reach to all constituents of the ISWA and, to reach consensus on addressing the many challenges ahead. The establishment of the Interim South West Administration paves the way to focus our minds on providing services for the people and building a functioning administration.”

“In conclusion, we join international partners in urging the Federal Government of Somalia and the new Administration of the ISWA to work towards peace and state formation. We reiterate the commitment of the international community to supporting the authorities in ensuring peace, stability and prosperity in Somalia”.

Categories: AFRICA