31 January 2013

Africa News Round Up January

In Mali, the United Nations is speeding up planning for a peacekeeping force in Mali as French and Malian troops steamroller into territory seized by Islamists, Daily Nation reports.

The UN Security Council could start talks within days on moves that would probably incorporate African troops now gathering in Mali into a formal blue helmet force, diplomats said.

"There is increasing talk now of maybe moving straight to a UN peacekeeping operation. And that is one of the options the council will be looking at in the next few days," said one senior western diplomat.

UN officials said that planning for a peacekeeping force started months ago, before France intervened on January 11 to halt an Islamist advance on the Mali capital, and is now at an "advanced" stage.

After halting the advance by al-Qaeda linked groups, French troops on Wednesday entered Kidal, the last Islamist bastion in norther Mali, as part of a counter-offensive which has seen Islamist fighters disappear into the desert.

The success of the French campaign means "it might be possible to move faster than originally thought to a full UN peacekeeping operation," the western diplomat added.

Other Security Council diplomats confirmed that talks on the next move in Mali could start soon. US ambassador Susan Rice has proposed several times in council talks in recent weeks that a peacekeeping force must be considered, diplomats said.

Diplomats stressed there was still no agreement and that it could take weeks to get agreement on any new UN step. Peacekeepers could not take over until the offensive strikes against the Islamists are complete, they said.

A new Security Council resolution would be needed to approve any UN force.

About 5,000 African troops are scheduled to arrive in Mali in coming weeks and these could make up the core of any UN force once France declares its offensive is over, diplomats said.

A UN peacekeeping force would change funding for the troops and the mandate in areas such as human rights.

Much of the Security Council debate will be over what kind of force is approved.

In Kenya, the Daily Nation reports that Jubilee coalition presidential candidate Uhuru Kenyatta on Wednesday night asked Kenyans to vote for his presidency as part of a "vote of no confidence" in the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Mr Kenyatta told a gathering of the Asian community representatives in Nairobi that he and his running mate, Mr William Ruto would deliver their promises even if they would be attending court sessions at The Hague.

Mr Kenyatta who spoke at the Visa Oshwal Auditorium said since his case hearing and that of Mr Ruto would be on different dates, he would alternate with him in the running of the government such that no vacuum is left.

"I can assure you that the government will function even as we attend court sessions. You should trust us with your votes because this would be an endorsement to our leadership and a vote of no confidence to the Court itself," he told the gathering.

"The president sometimes goes out of the country even for three weeks and the government still runs smoothly."

In the event that they both have to attend court sessions, Mr Kenyatta said there will be "necessary structures" such as provisions in the Constitution in place to fill the void.

The two alongside former Head of Civil Service Francis Muthaura and journalist Joshua Sang have been scheduled to answer charges of crimes against humanity during the 2008 post-election violence.

In South Africa, grassroots members of the African National Congress (ANC) believe the party is sidelining non-black supporters, according to a potentially politically explosive study published on Wednesday, News24 reports.

Research by the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation showed ANC members who are not black feel left out because of their race.

"Generally speaking branch members have deep seated concerns with non-racialism in the ANC and in society more broadly," said the report posted on the foundation's website.

One respondent told the researchers that "in the ANC racism is still very strong and it can be proven any day anywhere".

Another said "the ANC is more racist than any political party at the moment".

The ANC "preaches about being non-racist... but is doing the opposite", added another party member.

The impression that the party promotes the interests of blacks first has seen its support base eaten away in sections of the population, the report concluded.

"Indeed the perception [whether real or imagined] that the ANC is advancing only the interests of Africans has led to loss of electoral support in 'minority areas'."

The study was conducted in the country's largest city and its economic hub, Johannesburg.

The results of the study showed that the party which prides itself as an example of democracy in Africa, has fewer members of the minority races occupying leadership positions at branch level.

"Many branch members are disillusioned about the manner in which members are awarded senior positions," said the study, with many believing these are "only open to Africans".

"This raises significant questions about democracy in the party," it added.

ANC officials could not immediately be reached for comment.

While acknowledging that race relations have significantly improved since the ANC took to office nearly two decades ago, the study noted that members also feared broader societal trends.

Elsewhere in South Africa, the richest black man in the country, Patrice Motsepe, has announced he is giving away half his wealth to improve the lives of the poor, the BBC reports.

The mining magnate said the money would be handled by the Motsepe Foundation to address education and health issues.

He said he was inspired by the word's two wealthiest men, Bill Gates and Warren Buffet, who are encouraging billionaires to donate to charity.

Mr Motsepe has a net worth of $2.65bn (£1.67bn), Forbes' rich list estimates.

Born in the Soweto township, he is a lawyer by training and South Africa's first and only black billionaire.

He founded the publicly traded mining conglomerate, African Rainbow Minerals, which has interests in platinum, gold, coal and other minerals.

He made most of his mining fortune through the government's black economic empowerment policy, which mandates that mining companies be at least 26% black-owned, says the BBC's Pumza Fihlani in Johannesburg.

The businessman also owns Pretoria-based football club Mamelodi Sundowns.

He said he was also going to join the The Giving Pledge, a campaign started by Mr Gates and investor Mr Buffet in 2010. So far more than 70 billionaires have signed up to it.

"I decided quite some time ago to give at least half of the funds generated by our family assets to uplift poor and other disadvantaged and marginalised South Africans but was also duty-bound and committed to ensuring that it would be done in a way that protects the interests and retains the confidence of our shareholders and investors," Mr Motsepesaid in a statement.

Mr Motsepe said he was also inspired by the spirit of "ubuntu" - an African belief system which translates as "I am because you are", meaning individuals need other people to be fulfilled.

"South Africans are caring, compassionate and loving people. It has always been part of our culture and tradition to assist and care for less fortunate and marginalised members of our communities. This culture is also embodied in the spirit and tradition of ubuntu/botho," he said.

His wife Precious Motsepe told the BBC that the move would help counter the impression that Africa is always waiting for outside help.

In Zimbabwe, Finance Minister Tendai Biti has said that the country only had $217 (£138) left in its public account last week after paying civil servants, the BBC reports.

However, he said that the following day some $30m of revenue had been paid in.

Mr Biti told the BBC he made the revelation in order to emphasise that the government was unable to finance elections, not that it was insolvent.

Polls are due this year, with President Robert Mugabe's Zanu-PF fighting Mr Biti's Movement for Democratic Change.

Mr Biti has previously complained that diamond-mining companies have not been paying revenues to the government.

The power-sharing government set up in 2009 ended years of hyperinflation by using the US dollar, but the economy remains fragile.

Mr Biti told the BBC's Focus on Africa radio programme that his statement had been deliberately taken out of context.

"You journalists are mischievous and malicious - the point I was making was that the Zimbabwean government doesn't have the funds to finance the election, to finance the referendum," he said.

"To dramatise the point, I simply made a passing reference metaphorically that when we paid civil servants last week on Thursday we were left with $217... but even the following day we had $30m in our account."

Zimbabwe needs nearly $200m (£127m) to pay for a referendum on a new constitution, as well as the election.

The government-run Herald newspaper says Mr Biti and Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa have been given the task of sourcing this money from donors.

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