Wednesday, March 21, 2018
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DR Congo to open talks with miners on the new mining code

Democratic Republic of Congo said it would open talks on Friday with mining companies about implementing some of the most contentious provisions in a new mining code that hikes taxes and royalties in the face of objections from industry.

President Joseph Kabila signed the new code earlier this month, replacing the previous 2002 law. Foreign investors in Congo, which include Glencore, Randgold, China Molybdenum and Ivanhoe, said it would scare off investment and violate existing agreements.

In a meeting before he signed the code, Kabila assured the companies their concerns would be discussed in follow-up talks to draft regulations for the sector.

Mines Minister Martin Kabwelulu told reporters on Wednesday that the talks with major companies present in Congo, which is Africa’s top copper producer and mines more than half the world’s cobalt, would begin on Friday at 0900 GMT.

According to a work plan Kabwelulu sent to the companies, the negotiations will be divided into six “pillars” running from March 16 to April 24, with a preliminary draft of the regulations to be completed by May 2. Government officials have already begun work on pillar 1.

The regulations must be adopted by the government within 90 days of the code’s signing – on June 7.

The work plan sets aside 25 days – from March 27 to April 24 – for discussions on the fiscal and customs regimes, including the new code’s so-called stability clause, which is the most contentious point between the government and industry.

Miners enjoyed a 10-year protection under the former code’s stability clause against changes to the fiscal and customs regime but those were annulled by the new law, which says that its provisions enter into effect immediately.

The companies still hope the government will honor the 10-year exemptions but Congolese officials have said no compromises reached in the talks can contradict provisions in the code.

The work plan refers only to “the guarantee of stability of the revised mining code (five years for new mining rights)” and not to protection for mining titles that existed under the previous code.

It also calls for discussions about royalty increases, which would raise payments up to five-fold on metals designated “strategic substances” by the government.

The office of Prime Minister Bruno Tshibala appeared to preempt those discussions last week by saying cobalt, whose price has more than tripled in the past two years due to rising demand for electric vehicles, would be declared a strategic substance and that copper could be as well.

Ramaphosa says South Africa to lift visa restrictions for Rwandans

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa announced in Kigali Tuesday that he is working with his Rwandan counterpart, President Paul Kagame, to significantly improve the bilateral ties between both countries, adding that the issue of visa restrictions against Rwandans traveling to his country should be “considered solved.”

Since 2014, Rwandans have found it difficult to travel to South Africa, with only those traveling on service passports able to go to the country.

This is despite Rwanda’s open visa policy to all African countries, including South Africa.

“Consider (the issue of Rwandans not accessing visas to South Africa) as a matter that is solved. We are working with President Kagame to put relations between Rwanda and South Africa on a much better footing,” said Ramaphosa during yesterday’s Business Forum that was organised as part of the African Union Extra Ordinary Summit that is set to adopt the African Continental Free Trade Area.

Speaking during a panel discussion that tackled financing of intra-Africa trade, Ramaphosa said that it does not make sense for countries to push for a free trade area where people’s movement is still being restricted.

He appeared on the panel alongside Bank of Kigali CEO Diane Karusisi, Equity Bank Group CEO, and Benedict Oramah, the President and Chairman of the Board, African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank),

Ramaphosa said that he and Kagame had agreed to resolve the issue of issuing of visa to Rwandans wanting to visit South Africa, among other issues.

“The challenges that were there are going to be resolved. Our ministers of international relations and cooperation are going to work on this immediately, bring us solutions and President Kagame and I are going to sign it off. We thus consider this matter of visas as solved,” Ramaphosa said.

The most affected people by the visa restrictions are students – some of whom were forced to abandon their courses – as well as businesses and patients seeking medical care from South Africa.

Members of the Private Sector Federation have previously said that South Africa’s visa policy on Rwanda had greatly affected the business community.

Speaking to The New Times, Olivier Nduhungirehe, the State Minister for Foreign Affairs, Cooperation and East African Community affairs, said that the statement made by President Ramaphosa on Tuesday sheds light on a new beginning for bilateral ties between the two countries.

“We welcome the statement and we will work with the South African government, specifically the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, to implement the decision,” Nduhungirehe said.

South Africa’s Ambassador to Rwanda, George N. Twala, told The New Times that it was a “frustrating experience denying visas to sick people and students who wanted to travel to South Africa but noted that since the two Heads of State have spoken, it is a matter of time before a new visa regime is adopted.

“I think it is a welcome development; we will now live it to the Foreign Affairs ministers. I am sure they will guide the process. The specifics of what actually caused it will be overcome as speedy as possible. I don’t have timeframe but I know the heads of state will set the timeframe because they want this thing over,” Twala said.

Meanwhile, Rwamaphosa said during the panel discussion that the African Continental Free Trade Area was a deal that should be supported by all, saying that every African will walk away a winner.

African Heads of State and Government are set to sign the deal today at the Kigali Convention Centre.

Gaddafi relations haunt Sarkozy in 2007 campaign financing

With former French president Nicolas Sarkozy in custody for questioning on Tuesday over allegations Gaddafi’s Libya financed his 2007 campaign, FRANCE 24 takes a closer look at the intricate, five-year-long investigation’s key facts and figures.

Agents of France’s office for anticorruption and fiscal and financial infractions are questioning Sarkozy in the Paris suburb of Nanterre, where he has been detained since Tuesday morning. It is the first time authorities have questioned Sarkozy in connection with this dossier. They can keep the 63-year-old conservative former head of state in custody for up to 48 hours, after which he could be released without charge, placed under formal investigation or asked to reappear at a later date.

The case in a nutshell

The crux of the matter is whether Sarkozy’s winning 2007 presidential campaign received financing from Libya under the late dictator Muammar Gaddafi, whose son Saif al-Islam first made the allegation in 2011.

In 2012, the French investigative news website Médiapart published a document attributed to Moussa Koussa, Libya’s former chief of external intelligence, suggesting Sarkozy’s 2007 campaign had benefitted from Libyan funds to the tune of 50 million euros.

In April 2013, the Paris prosecutor’s office opened a general investigation for corruption, influence peddling, forgery and misuse of public funds over the allegations.

Days after the inquiry was opened, French satirical weekly Le Canard Enchaîné revealed the earlier discovery of an unreported 500,000-euro transfer to longtime Sarkozy associate Claude Guéant from a firm held by a Malaysian lawyer in March 2008. Guéant would explain the funds were payment for two 17th-century Dutch paintings, although French daily Le Monde noted the canvasses in question had previously been traded for far less. Investigators reportedly linked the transaction to a banker associated with Bashir Saleh, a Gaddafi money man, and French businessman Alexandre Djouhri, who is suspected of serving as an intermediary between Libya and Sarkozy’s team.

Guéant, who served as Sarkozy’s chief of staff when he was president, was charged in this case in 2015 with forgery, using forged documents, and laundering the proceeds of tax fraud in an organised group. Guéant had previously served as Sarkozy’s chief of staff when he was minister of the interior and, briefly, finance minister between 2002 and 2007 and was also Sarkozy’s 2007 presidential campaign director.

A number of Gaddafi-era Libyan officials are known to have made Sarkozy financing allegations. Investigating magistrates are known to have in their possession diaries belonging to Shukri Ghanem, Gaddafi’s Oil Minister, mentioning three payments in April 2007. Ghanem was found drowned in the Danube in Vienna in 2012.

In November 2016, French-Lebanese businessman Ziad Takieddine told Médiapart that he had served as a go-between delivering Libyan cash to then-Interior Minister Sarkozy and Guéant in Paris before the 2007 election. Takieddine claimed to have delivered suitcases stuffed with €5 million euros in 200- and 500-euro notes to the pair at the Interior Ministry, across the street from the Élysée Palace. The alleged intermediary said Abdullah Senussi, Gaddafi’s intelligence chief, had given Takieddine the cash during trips to Tripoli in late 2006 and 2007. Sarkozy and Guéant vehemently denied those allegations and sued Médiapart and Takieddine for defamation. French authorities laid corruption charges on Takieddine himself in the wake of that interview.

Takieddine is also under formal investigation in another, unrelated case involving illegal campaign financing in the 1995 French presidential election.

Latest developments

In September 2017, French anticorruption authorities published a report signaling a curiously high flow of cash among staff on the 2007 Sarkozy campaign. The campaign’s treasurer explained the euro bills as the fruit of anonymous donations, but statements obtained from other witnesses, including the staffer charged with opening campaign mail, are said to contradict that account.

In January of this year, Djouhri was arrested in London on a European arrest warrant issued by France “for offenses of fraud and money laundering” and later released on bail. The 59-year-old Frenchman, a Swiss resident, was incarcerated again at the end of February, before reportedly being hospitalised this month in London with heart trouble.

Sarkozy and Gaddafi, a complicated relationship

Soon after his election in May 2007, Sarkozy scored the diplomatic coup of helping free five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor from a Libyan jail. The six medics had been convicted of deliberately infecting Libyan children with HIV and sentenced to death. Sarkozy had sent his soon-to-be ex-wife Cécilia and Chief of Staff Guéant to Libya to meet with Gaddafi in July 2007 and ultimately usher the medics out of Libya on a French state plane.

As president, Sarkozy rolled out the red carpet for Gaddafi early, famously allowing the eccentric autocrat to pitch his Bedouin tent on the grounds of the Hotel de Marigny, a state-owned mansion adjacent to the Élysée Palace, during a controversial five-day official visit to Paris in December 2007.

Relations evidently soured, however. In March 2011, after Gaddafi’s regime put down an insurrection in Benghazi, Sarkozy was the first foreign leader to recognise Libya’s rebel leadership as the country’s legitimate government. It was during the following week that Gaddafi’s son Saif al-Islam told foreign media outlets that Sarkozy would have to give the regime’s money back. “Sarkozy must return the money he accepted from Libya to finance his election campaign,” the junior Gaddafi told Euronews at the time.

The French president, meanwhile, was in the vanguard of advocacy for NATO-led air strikes in support of the rebellion that would ultimately end Gaddafi’s 42-year rule. The Libyan autocrat was killed in still-hazy circumstances in his hometown of Sirte in October 2011.

Busy lawyers

Sarkozy has already been ordered to stand trial over alleged illegal financing of his unsuccessful 2012 re-election campaign. In that case, the prosecution claims Sarkozy spent nearly double the €22.5-million legal limit for a French presidential bid, alleging his campaign falsified billing from a PR firm called Bygmalion. Sarkozy is appealing the decision to send him to trial.

The one-term president was cleared in October 2013 in another case alleging campaign financing impropriety ahead of the 2007 election. He had been accused of taking financial advantage of the frailty of the elderly L’Oréal heiress Liliane Bettencourt, France’s richest woman, who suffered from dementia.

In 2016, Sarkozy failed in his latest bid to win another term in the Élysée Palace when he lost the conservative Les Républicains nomination to François Fillon, his former prime minister. Sarkozy was eliminated after the first round of voting in France’s conservative primary, an open vote held five days after Médiapart published its interview with Takieddine about the suitcases full of cash.

As it happens, Fillon’s bid would falter under the weight of his own legal troubles, a fake jobs scandal that saw charges laid against Fillon and his wife Penelope in March 2017, just weeks before he finished a grim third in the presidential election’s first round.

African heads of State begin to arrive Rwanda for AU summit

Rwandan online tabloid The New Times, reported that African Heads of State and Government as well other African leaders are expected to start arriving Kigali today ahead of the African Continental Free Trade Area agreement signing on Wednesday.

The Tabloid said that, so far, 29 Heads of State and Government have confirmed attendance while 16 others delegated top government officials.

This means that over 35 countries could sign the agreement, which seeks to make Africa the world’s largest trade zone where goods and services can be traded with no restrictions among member states.

The meeting will be preceded by Executive Council meeting which brings together foreign affairs ministers today and a business summit scheduled to take place tomorrow drawing top African business leaders and Heads of State and Government.

Countries which confirmed their Heads of State to attend include Niger, Uganda, Chad, Congo Brazzaville, Djibouti, DR Congo, Togo, Mauritania, Gabon, Guinea, Senegal, Kenya, Mali, Madagascar, Guinea Bissau, Mozambique, Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Central African Republic, Libya, Comoros, Sahrawi, Ghana, Lesotho, The Gambia, Somalia, Angola, Zimbabwe and South Africa, according to organisers.

Countries that are sending other delegates at the level of Vice President, Prime Minister or Minister of Foreign Affairs include: Ivory Coast, Seychelles, Morocco, Swaziland, Tanzania, Benin, Malawi, Mauritius, Botswana, Cape Verde, Egypt, Namibia, Sao Tome, Tunisia, South Sudan and Eritrea.

The summit will also be attended by leaders of international organisations and eminent persons.

Among those expected include the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa chief, Vera Songwe, President of African Development Bank Adesina Akinwumi and COMESA Secretary General, Sindiso Ngwenya.

Others include New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) Secretary-General Ibrahim Mayaki, Special Envoy of African Union Peace Fund Dr. Donald Kaberuka, former Nigerian President Olesegun Obasanjo, and Executive Director of the International Trade Centre (ITC) Arancha González.

Tomorrow’s business summit is themed around leveraging the power of business to drive Africa’s integration.

The multi-stakeholder dialogue will be the first ever meeting of its kind.

The business summit will feature speeches, presentations and panel sessions with an aim to gather inputs from private sector on integrating Africa’s economies.

Among the topics to feature at the business summit include; diversification of African commodities, opportunities for one market, jobs, women and youth empowerment, reducing cost of doing business, and financing trade.

The guarantee of a larger and easy-to-access market is expected to boost production capacities of firms in the continent leading to other benefits such as increased job creation and more tax receipts for government.

Zimbabwe to hold general elections in July

Zimbabwe’s first presidential and parliamentary elections since the end of former strongman Robert Mugabe’s long rule will take place in July, President Emmerson Mnangagwa said on Saturday.

The polls will be the first major test of the new leader, who took power in November after a de facto military coup forced the 94-year-old Mugabe to resign.

They will also be the first without Mugabe’s name on the ballot since independence from Britain in 1980.

“As a nation, party and government, we are looking forward to very peaceful, transparent and harmonised elections in July this year,” Mnangagwa told reporters after a meeting with South Africans President Cyril Ramaphosa on Saturday night.

Mnangagwa, 75, said the elections would be free of the violence that gripped previous polls and which was one of the reasons for strained relations between Zimbabwe and the West.

“I have already invited all political parties in Zimbabwe to a roundtable where we all commit ourselves to non-violence,” he added.

Mnanaggwa will have to announce a date in an official notice. He has said he would invite Western observers, who had been banned under Mugabe’s rule.

The state-owned weekly Sunday Mail said a European Union pre-election team was expected in Harare on Monday.

The EU head of mission in Zimbabwe, Phillipe Van Damme, told the paper it would meet the president, political party leaders, and the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission.

Mugabe, in his first comments since he stepped down, said last week that Mnangagwa’s rule was “illegitimate” and a “disgrace”.

Burundi sets May date for controversial referendum

Burundi’s President Pierre Nkurunziza on Sunday set May 17 as the date for a referendum that could extend his rule for at least a decade.

The small Central Africa nation has been unstable since 2015, when Nkurunziza decided to seek a third term in office that his opponents said was unconstitutional.

The referendum will decide whether to amend the constitution to extend presidential terms to seven years from five.

The proposed changes would limit the president to two consecutive terms but would not take into account previous terms, potentially extending Nkurunziza’s rule to 2034.

“The draft constitution submitted to the referendum will be adopted if the absolute majority of votes or fifty percent plus one vote, approve it,” Nkurunziza said in a statement issued by his office announcing the date.

Several leaders around Africa have sought to void laws or use other tactics to thwart opponents and prolong their reigns beyond constitutional limits, sometimes for decades.

Those who opposed Nkurunziza’s third five-term launched an armed struggle against his government, and the resulting violence has left hundreds dead and forced at least 400,000 people into exile.

Regional efforts to find a peaceful resolution to the conflict have dragged on without results so far.

This month, the ruling CNDD-FDD decided to give Nkurunziza the title of “CNDD-FDD Party Visionary” after appraising his ideas and teachings.

The title has no specific role attached to it and appeared to be aimed at shoring up support for the president ahead of the referendum.

Morocco submit bid to host 2026 World Cup

The Moroccan 2026 World Cup Bid Committee announced on Friday that it has formerly submitted its bid book at FIFA headquarters in Zurich, Switzerland.

“The committee has kept its commitment by submitting a quality bid book while respecting FIFA’s deadlines,” said a statement released by the committee on Friday.

“The 2026 World Cup in Morocco will benefit players, fans, FIFA, Morocco, Africa and the whole World,” the statement said.

FIFA experts are expected for an official inspection visit on April 17-19.

This is Morocco’s fifth bid to host the World Cup, after their unsuccessful bids for the 1994, 1998, 2006 and 2010 editions of the tournament.

Morocco is competing a joint bid from the United States, Mexico and Canada.

FIFA will make the decision at FIFA Congress on June 13 in Moscow, Russia, on the eve of the opening match of the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

Canada to send helicopters, troops to Mali

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau with his country's military

Canadian peacekeepers backed by helicopters will join UN Blue Helmets in the troubled west African nation of Mali before autumn, a government source said on Friday.

Defense Minister Harjit Sajjan is to provide details of the number of troops on Monday, said the source, speaking on condition of anonymity about what will be Canada’s first mission to Africa since Rwanda in 1994.

Jihadists have ramped up their activities in central Mali in recent months, targeting domestic and foreign forces in violence once confined to the country’s north.

Four United Nations peacekeepers were killed and four wounded in late February when a mine exploded under their vehicle in central Mali.

The peacekeeping mission, known by the acronym MINUSMA, currently has more than 13,000 military personnel and 1,900 police.

They have been deployed in Mali since 2013 to counter the jihadist insurgency and general lawlessness.

Canada’s contingent to MINUSMA will also include police and will provide “logistical support and assistance” during a planned 12-month mission, the government source said, after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke with Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel and Netherlands Prime Minister Mark Rutte, whose countries are already part of MINUSMA.

“Everybody is interested in reinforcing Sahel security,” the Canadian source said.

Islamic extremists linked to Al-Qaeda took control of Mali’s desert north in early 2012, but were largely driven out in a French-led military operation launched in January 2013.

In June 2015, Mali’s government signed a peace agreement with some armed groups, but the jihadists remain active, and large tracts of the country are lawless.

In November, Trudeau said Canada would boost its support for UN peacekeeping missions by mobilizing a “quick reaction force” of 200 soldiers that would be backed by tactical helicopters and Hercules transport aircraft.

The numbers fell short of Trudeau’s initial pledge of 600 troops but marked a recommitment to multilateralism after his predecessor Stephen Harper sought distance from the United Nations during his decade in office.

It was not immediately clear if the quick reaction troops are the ones being assigned to Mali, a former French colony.

France has 4,000 troops in the area as part of its Operation Barkhane anti-jihadist mission.

Two French soldiers from that contingent were killed and another was hurt in late February when their vehicle struck a mine in northeast Mali, an attack claimed by a jihadist alliance.

Mali and neighboring countries belong to a new G5 Sahel force, to become fully operational in mid-2018, that will work alongside MINUSMA and the French contingent.

Canada’s General Romeo Dallaire commanded the United Nations Assistance Mission in Rwanda (UNAMIR) from October 1993 to August 1994.

He has been credited with saving tens of thousands of Rwandans during the troubled mission, which left him with deep psychological scars, an experience detailed in his autobiography “Shake Hands With The Devil.”

Mali set to follow Congo DR step in revising mining code

Dr. Boubou Cissé, Minister of Economy and Finance

Mali’s government is negotiating with mining companies to draft a new mining code but will move to implement a new law unilaterally if no compromise is reached, the West African country’s economy minister said on Friday.

Many mines in Mali, Africa’s third-largest gold producer, are protected from changes to the fiscal regime for 30 years, but Boubou Cisse told reporters during a joint news conference with an International Monetary Fund mission that the government aimed to reduce those protections to the lifespan of the mine.

“The negotiations are underway. If they don’t pan out, it will be a unilateral decision like in DRC,” Cisse said, referring to Democratic Republic of Congo, which this month raised taxes and royalties miners have to pay, despite industry opposition.

Companies with stakes in industrial gold mines in Mali include Randgold, AngloGold Ashanti, B2Gold and Hummingbird Resources.

Cisse also said the government expected economic growth of 5 percent in 2018, down from 5.3 percent last year.

The IMF, meanwhile, said in a statement that Mali’s macroeconomic outlook was “broadly positive” but cautioned that rising insecurity in the country’s north and center could hold back economic progress.

3 Tanzanians arrested with drugs in Kenya

Kenyan police on Friday arrested three Tanzanian nationals and seized heroin worth over 900,000 U.S. dollars at the common border in Lunga Lunga in the coastal town of Kwale.

The drugs weighing 30 kilograms were seized by a team of security officers on a public bus on transit to Mombasa.

Head of Anti-Narcotics Unit Hamisi Massa said the suspects are among wanted drug traffickers nabbed during the covert operation.

“Acting on intelligence information we arrested the three and seized the drugs concealed in three suitcases. This is major breakthrough in the war on narcotic,” said Massa.

He said the three are being interrogated before they are arraigned in court to face drug trafficking charges on Monday.

Massa said reports indicate that the three were hired by a wanted Tanzania drug baron Swale Ahmed to smuggle the drugs in the country for distribution targeting mainly foreigners.

Ahmed was arrested last year where drugs worth 100,000 dollars were seized by security team in Mombasa.

Intelligence reports indicate that Ahmed runs an empire that smuggle hard drugs, mainly heroin, and has evaded several police dragnets by bribing security agents.

The Friday crackdown was carried out by detectives who were behind the arrest and extradition of four suspected drug traffickers to the United States.

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