Statement at the Conclusion of an IMF Mission on Zimbabwe

HARARE, Zimbabwe, March 27, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — An International Monetary Fund (IMF) staff mission, led by Mr. Alfredo Cuevas, met with the Zimbabwean authorities in Harare during March 12-26, 2014, to hold discussions on the 2014 Article IV Consultation and the combined first and second reviews under the Staff-Monitored Program (SMP).1 The program was approved by IMF Management in June 2013 and extended in December 2013 (see Press Releases No. 13/174 and No. 14/09). Ann-Marie Gulde-Wolf, Deputy Director and Domenico Fanizza, Assistant Director of the African Department also participated in the mission discussions.

The IMF team held productive discussions with Zimbabwe’s Chief Secretary in the Office of the President and Cabinet Misheck Sibanda, Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa, Mining Minister Walter Chidhakwa, Indigenization Minister Francis Nhema, Advisor to the President Timothy Stamps, acting Governor of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) Charity Dhliwayo, and other senior government officials. The mission team expresses its gratitude to the Zimbabwean authorities for the frank and high quality discussions during this visit; and also thanks the representatives of labor, business, and civil society, as well as development partners, who made time to meet with us.

The discussions covered recent economic developments and the near and medium-term outlook and risks for Zimbabwe; implementation of the policies and reforms under the SMP; and implementation of other policies to restore fiscal and external sustainability, enhance financial sector stability, and unlock the country’s potential for sustained growth and poverty reduction.

In recent years Zimbabwe’s economy expanded following more than a decade of decline that culminated in hyperinflation; but the rebound phase of its recovery is over. Growth decelerated in 2013, reflecting the impact of adverse weather conditions, weak prices for key exports, competitive pressures, low liquidity, and election-year uncertainty. Real GDP in 2013 is estimated at just above 3 percent, sharply down from 10

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New EU support to increase security in the Central African region

BRUSSELS, Kingdom of Belgium, March 27, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — Today, the EU announced that it would provide close to €2 million to support the fight to eliminate the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), a militant movement in the Central African region. The new contribution will support the “Regional Cooperation Initiative for the elimination of the Lord’s Resistance Army” (RCI-LRA), led by the African Union, in Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan and the Central African Republic, for a period of 17 months. It will cover, among other things, staff allowances, communication equipment and operational costs of this initiative.

Andris Piebalgs, EU Commissioner for Development, said: “The Regional Cooperation Initiative has been instrumental in creating a peaceful and secure environment for development in the LRA-affected countries and this is why the EU has been supporting it since 2011. It has degraded the LRA and increased pressure on its combatants to defect. It is essential to sustain the initiative’s operations to eliminate the threat of LRA once and for all”.

The LRA remains a destabilising factor in the Central African region, and in particular in South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic; this has dire security and humanitarian consequences. The military movement has been causing fear, panic and displacement with brutal actions including killings, rapes and abductions. It is estimated that 353,000 people are still displaced in LRA-affected areas. The LRA leaders were the first individuals indicted by the International Criminal Court in 2005 for war crimes and crimes against humanity, including murder, rape and forced enlistment of children.

In response to the atrocities committed by the LRA, the African Union decided in 2011 to establish the RCI-LRA in order to defeat the LRA in Uganda, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic. The initiative comprises a Joint Coordination Mechanism (JCM) which coordinates the initiative at political and strategic level, involving the African Union Commissioner for Peace and Security and the ministers of defence of the countries mentioned above. It also operates a ‘Regional Task Force (RTF)’ composed of currently 3,085 military troops from the affected countries.

Background

Today’s funding is provided through the African Peace Facility (APF) which was created in 2004 as the main source of funding to support peace and security in Africa. Since 2004 the EU has provided over €1.2 billion through the APF.

The APF has been effective in backing African efforts in the area of peace and security on the continent by providing predictable aid. It has allowed a number of African-led peace operations to take place, such as the missions in Somalia, the Central African Republic or Mali and provided a significant contribution to the strengthening of African institutional capacities and cooperation in peace and security at the continental and sub-regional level.

The Facility has also supported a number of mediation and conflict prevention actions. It has been used, for example, to support the African Union High-Level Implementation Panel for Sudan and South Sudan, which has played an important role in the attainment of peace and stability within and between the two states.

Furthermore, the APF has contributed to a more comprehensive political dialogue between the EU and Africa in the area of peace and security.

Source: APO

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Nigeria: UN torture prevention body to visit from 1 – 3 April

GENEVA, Switzerland, March 27, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — The UN Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture (SPT) is due to visit Nigeria next week for talks on strengthening the authorities’ efforts to prevent and eliminate torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment of detainees.

SPT Chairperson Malcolm Evans and fellow committee member Victor Madrigal-Borloz will be in Nigeria from 1 to 3 April and are scheduled to meet government officials and hold technical discussions with the relevant ministries, as well as meeting civil society organisations.

Their talks in Abuja will focus on advising and assisting the Nigerian authorities regarding the measures that they need to take in order to be in compliance with the obligations contained in the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture (OPCAT), which Nigeria ratified in 2009.

They will also hold discussions on the role, achievements and challenges of Nigeria’s independent National Preventive Mechanism – a body which OPCAT requires be established and which must have the authority and capacity to visit any place where persons are deprived of their liberty in order to help prevent torture or ill-treatment.

“This is our first visit to Nigeria since it ratified OPCAT. We will be exploring what has been done and the further steps the country needs to take to effectively prevent torture and ill-treatment of people held in detention, and so meet its OPCAT obligations,” said Mr Evans.

The SPT has a mandate to visit all States that are party to OPCAT and to make recommendations to the authorities to provide for effective safeguards against torture and ill-treatment of persons deprived of their liberty.

“Our aim is to ensure that this vital work is done, and to encourage and support all those involved in the doing of it, at whatever level or capacity,” Mr Evans said.

Source: APO

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Africa’s youth key to strengthening agricultural economy / More investment needed to create new opportunities for young people in the sector, FAO Director-General tells Regional Conference

TUNIS, Tunisia, March 27, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — Getting more African youth involved in agriculture and boosting support for the region’s vulnerable family farmers will be pivotal to improving food security and economic well-being in the years to come, FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva told participants at the Organization’s Regional Conference for Africa.

He also named water scarcity, low investment and conflict as being among the challenges to food security in the region, but said he was confident that Africa could “reach peace, stability and food security” in the future.

“The region’s economic growth rate is above the global average and most of the world’s fastest-growing economies are in Africa,” Graziano da Silva told ministers of agriculture and funding partners at the 24-28 March event. “The challenge is to translate this growth into social inclusion. Agriculture, rural development and youth can make this happen.”

Rejuvenating agriculture

The links between youth, agribusiness and rural development are high on the agenda at the conference. Africa is the world’s youngest region, with more than half of the population being under 25 years of age.

“Every year, 11 million people enter (Africa’s) labour market. But salaries are low in the rural sector, informality is high, agriculture is not considered as attractive by many of the region’s youth, and social protection is not always available for rural families in critical situations.”

A paper prepared for the conference points out that impressive growth in some African countries over the past decade has not translated into widespread employment or income for young people. FAO is calling for greater public and private investment in agribusiness, agro-industry and market-related services to attract and keep young workers, fuel job creation, and spur new development in the agricultural sector.

Family farming

The Director-General noted that the African Year of Agriculture and Food Security was being observed alongside the International Year of Family Farming, calling on African countries to “use this opportunity to put small farmers, fishers, pastoralists, forest collectors and traditional and indigenous communities at the center of our agenda.”

“Let me emphasize that to achieve food security we need to combine the sustainable increase of production and social protection to provide a cushion for the most vulnerable,” pointing out that some 90 percent of rural African households are engaged in farming-related activities.

Regional priorities and partnerships

Graziano da Silva said the region had taken an important step to strengthening agriculture with the establishment of the Africa Solidarity Trust Fund. The Fund, fully financed by African countries, is housed at FAO, but co-led with the African Union, and developed in keeping with priorities laid down by the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP).

Later in the week, the Director-General is expected to sign agreements releasing the first packages of funding to six countries for programmes and action plans supported under the Trust Fund (Central African Republic, Ethiopia, Malawi, Mali, Niger and South Sudan). FAO has also supported countries in developing proposals for other sources of funding, including the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program (GAFSP), which has benefitted 15 African countries with a combined total of more than $560 million.

The FAO chief also stressed the importance of partnerships combining the efforts of governments, private sector companies and civil society in accessing financial services and other support for farmers.

Organizational focus

In his address, the Director-General also gave an overview of a process of transformational changes taking place within FAO and its benefits for Africa, including an increase in its technical presence in offices throughout the region.

FAO has three regional initiatives aligned with the renewed strategic framework, which respond to priorities identified by Member countries and which are in different stages of implementation: support to the renewed efforts and approaches to end hunger by 2025; promoting the sustainable intensification of agricultural production and commercialization; and, building resilience in the drylands of Africa with a special focus in the Sahel, Horn of Africa and flood-prone countries.

Making progress

Around 60 developing countries worldwide have already met a hunger-reduction target outlined by Millennium Development Goal number one, to halve the proportion of chronically hungry people between 1990 and 2015.

In Africa, the countries include: Angola, Benin, Cameroon, Egypt, Ghana, Djibouti, Libya, Malawi, Niger, Nigeria, Sao Tome and Principe, South Africa, Togo and Tunisia.

Source: APO

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Impartial justice for all, the key to reconciliation in Côte d’Ivoire – UN expert human rights expert

GENEVA, Switzerland, March 27, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — The United Nations Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Cote d’Ivoire, Doudou Diène, expressed concern over unresolved issues in the national reconciliation process of the West African country, ahead of presidential elections in 2015. The key, he stressed, lies in applying “impartial justice for all” in a country still recovering from months of unrest after a disputed poll in 2010.

“The 2015 presidential election has to be the ultimate test and proof that Cote d’Ivoire has recovered from this crisis,” Mr. Diène said during the presentation of his latest report* to the UN Human Rights Council. “However, there are key problems that have not been resolved, and which have to be resolved to make the election democratically credible and consensual.”

“The most important point, because all the problems are very closely interrelated, is that the reconciliation process is linked to the key issue of justice and, more precisely, the issue of impartiality and equity of justice, and to the problem of fully participating democratic process,” he said.

The Independent Expert warned that -for the time being- only people accused of crime and coming from the side of the former president Laurent Gbagbo are being tried or imprisoned. “The problem of equity of justice is that all that have committed violent crimes whatever their political, ethnic or tribal or religious background should be tried,” he underscored.

He particularly called for the expedition of the trial of the country’s former first lady, President Gbagbo’s wife. The former president is currently facing trial in the Hague’s International Criminal Court.

The Independent Expert charged by the UN Human Rights Council to monitor, report and advice on the human rights situation in Cote d’Ivoire, also called for the reform of the national electoral body ahead of the 2015 elections.

“For the election to be credible, the independent electoral commission has to be reformed,” Mr. Diène said. “Everybody agrees that it has to be reformed because it does not reflect the reality of the political landscape of Cote d’Ivoire.”

“Cote d’Ivoire is on the way of recovering from ten years of violent crisis, but it is just a process because the crisis has been very deep,” the human rights expert stated. “It will take time for Cote d’Ivoire to totally recover but I feel the grounds have been rebuilt and the basis is there for recovery.”

(*) Check the Independent Expert’s report to the UN Human Rights Council (A/HRC/25/73): http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/HRC/RegularSessions/Session25/Pages/ListReports.aspx

Source: APO

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