South Sudan’s transitional legislative assembly has passed key amendments to the Constitution, allowing the country to return to 10 states.
The assembly, which is supposed to act as Parliament for the next 30 months, made changes to the supreme law.
This also allows the administration of the three additional areas carved out of the states to be run by appointed officers, but in a hierarchical format where local state governors will have a say.
The move was the necessary legal framework the country needed to make changes to its existing regional administrative units, and to accommodate the demands of opposition groups who will soon be roped into a transitional government of national unity (TGoNU).
“We have just concluded the submission of the amendment of transitional Constitution 2011…We have incorporated the 10 states, plus the previous counties and the three administrative areas, Abyei, Reweng and Greater Pibor,” Mr Paul Yaone, the Head of the Information Committee of the Legislative Assembly, said.
The Council of Ministers on Wednesday endorsed the legal amendment but they needed a parliamentary ratification to be effected.
When South Sudan gained Independence from Sudan in 2011, it had 10 states which gradually increased to 32.
The opposition was against retaining 32 states and demanded a return to the original 10. The government insisted on retaining the 32, but in a surprise move at the weekend Kiir agreed to have 10 States, plus three administrative areas
The transitional government will include President Salva Kiir, leader of Sudan People’s Liberation Movement in Opposition (SPLM-IO) Riek Machar and several opposition groups jointly known as the South Sudan Opposition Alliance.
As Egypt suffers an economic downturn, migrants and refugees from sub-Saharan countries are experiencing growing abuse and violence. Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi is trying to intervene, making skin-deep reassurances. Sertan Sanderson reports
The mega-city of Cairo has long established itself as a key destination for many refugees in the region. People fleeing civil war in Syria and in Libya have made the Egyptian capital their homes, with many establishing new businesses and livelihoods there. For the most part, people from Arab-speaking countries have found themselves to be relatively welcome on the banks of the River Nile, as they’ve had to start their lives all over.
However, the situation on the ground often isn’t as welcoming for migrants and refugees from sub-Saharan Africa, who are increasingly reporting instances of racial abuse and discrimination. A report in the Associated Press (AP) says that Egypt has long been ignoring the racist tendencies in the midst of society against people of darker skin colour.
Refugee called ‘slaves’ on streets of Cairo
AP staff in Cairo visited several migrant communities to gather information about the casual racism that migrants in the city with a population of 20 million people are exposed to. People reported that they have “endured racist insults, sexual harassment or other abuses in the past three months” alone. Among those surveyed were four children, who said they had had “rocks and trash thrown at them as they go to or from school.”
Others reported being referred to by racist slurs, including the common Arab-language slur against people of colour, “slave”. The majority of those on the receiving end of such abusive language were sub-Saharan women. The AP team said it had spoken to “at least two dozen sub-Saharan Africans” including the aforementioned four children as part of their research.
Women bear the brunt of the abuse
The AP report highlights the case of two Sudanese sisters, who were assaulted as they were walking their children home from school. A group of Egyptian teenagers crowded around them, taunted them with slurs and even tried to rip clothes off one of the women. The two women, who had only arrived in Cairo a few months earlier fleeing violence in Sudan, said they were shaken to the core.
AP says that the harassment “brought up traumatic memories of detention, torture and rape they said they experienced at the hands of militias in Sudan’s Nuba mountains.” One of the two women told AP that they had fled to Egypt seeking safety, “but the reality was very different.”
The report also highlighted the case of two South Sudanese women, who told the AP they had been sexually assaulted by their employers while working as part-time cleaners. Speaking on the condition of anonymity, they told the news agency that they hadn’t reported the assaults against them to the police, as one of the two women had not finalised her documentation as a migrant in Egypt and the other feared reprisals from her attacker.
According to the International Organisation for Migration or IOM, Egypt hosts more than 6 million migrants, more than half of whom come from Sudan and South Sudan, where conflicts continue to displace tens of thousands of people each year.
IOM confirms growing xenophobia in Egypt
The IOM confirms that attitudes towards migrant women in particular have been shifting for the worse in recent months, with an increasing number of reported cases of “sexual and gender-based violence against migrants.”
Shirley De Leon, a project development officer at the IOM, told AP that xenophobic attacks against migrants were at least in part linked to increasing economic woes in Egypt, which are “exacerbated by inflation, eroded income and high youth unemployment.”
“Women and girls are the most effected, but so are vulnerable men and young boys.” De Leon said. AP also spoke to a male refugee from Ethiopia, who came to Cairo five years ago, escaping persecution at home. He said he believes the only reason he has been able to keep a job in Egypt was because he makes half the salary of an Egyptian. He says that despite xenophobia and economic problems, Cairo remains his best available option.
“Here is much better than in my home country as there is likely a zero chance to leave for Europe,” he told AP.
Attitudes towards refugees and migrants of colour might, however, slowly be changing, as Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi himself declared that refugees and migrants are “our guests and negative treatment is not acceptable and not allowed.”
His words followed a public outcry in November over a viral video showing three Egyptian teenagers bullying a schoolboy from South Sudan. The teenagers in the mobile phone video are seen laughing and making fun of the boy’s dark complexion before trying to take his backpack.
Attia Essawi, an expert on African affairs at Cairo’s al-Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies, says it will take a lot to break broadly-held racist attitudes in Egypt, where for centuries people with fairer, more European looking skin have received preferential treatment.
“Authorities should be decisive, with more severe measures against racism and bullying,” he told the Associated Press. But while leaders like Sissi are trying to address the issue, there might still be a long way to go for Egypt to own up to its racist attitudes towards sub-Saharan migrants and refugees:
In 2018, a court sentenced a man who had beaten a South Sudanese teacher working in a community-run school for refugees to death to seven years in prison. While some see progress in the fact that he was sentenced at all, others find the conviction too lax for a man who was known to harass refugees even before committing murder.
Refugees and rights workers all agree that the country still has a long way to go, as racist attitudes against migrants and refugees appear to be deeply ingrained across various sections of Egyptians society. In a research paper from 2012, long before the onset of the so-called refugee crisis of 2015 and 2016, the UNHCR already noted racist attitudes and violence against sub-Saharan migrants in the country dating back many years.
A one-day Workshop christened Diaspora Voting Initiative held in Abuja on Monday, 17 February. Organised by the UK-based Nigeria Diaspora Voting Council, the event was attended by Senator Babafemi Ojudu, Special Adviser on Political Matters to the President who represented Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo; Rt. Honourable Femi Gbajabiamila, the Speaker of the House of Representatives: Hon. Mrs Abike Dabiri-Erewa, the Chairman/CEO of the Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM); and Hon. (Mrs) Tolulope Akande-Sadipe, the chairperson, House of Reps committee on Diaspora Matters; among other dignitaries. Prince Ade Omole, the Chairman of the Nigeria Diaspora Voting Council, explains why Nigerians living abroad should be allowed to vote at elections in his welcome speech at the event. Here’s the full text of the speech:
The Nigeria Diaspora Voting Council was set up to raise awareness for the importance of the exercise of Nigerians’ suffrage rights across the Globe and also partnering with stakeholders such as NIDCOM, INEC and other Voting Groups committed to bringing awareness of the Citizens’ voting rights to the fore and how best they can exercise these rights in the 21st Century. To this end, we have built up considerable coverage indices and have been involved in the promotion and organisation of events such as these to promote these ideals. It is thus an invaluable privilege and honour that I have this opportunity to address you distinguished guests and principal stakeholders in the well-being of our dear Nation Nigeria to present this Address today.
Countries around the world evolve with time along with the dynamism associated with global trends. Nigeria, the most populous Black nation in the world can therefore not be an exemption.
The issue of Diaspora Voting has been on the front burner for quite a number of years. It is quite worrisome and onerous that over 25 million Nigerians in the Diaspora (according to World Bank estimates, 2017) have had to incur huge travel costs and dedicate time commuting to and fro in a bid to exercise their franchise at each electioneering period. This, from the current global standpoint, does not speak well of a country that prides itself as the Giant of Africa.
MAKING A CASE FOR DIASPORA VOTING
As referenced above, according to World Bank data 2017, over 25 million Nigerians are said to be domiciled outside the country [Nigeria]. These 25 million Nigerians make huge and considerable contributions to the economy through humongous financial inflow into the country.
In 2017 alone, a whopping $22 billion was recorded (gross) as remittances into the country. The figure was 16.4% higher than what was obtained in 2016. In 2018, Diaspora remittances to Nigeria equalled US$25 billion, representing 6.1% of GDP. The 2019 total is estimated to be close to US$30 billion including remittances made through unofficial channels.
It is instructive to state that Nigerians in the Diaspora recorded the fifth largest remittances worldwide after India, China, the Philippines and Mexico. Interestingly, there are 115 countries the world over that allows voting by their Diaspora citizens out of which 28 of such countries are found in Africa, 20 in Asia, 16 in America, 10 in the Pacific while 41 are found in Central, Eastern and Western Europe. It therefore becomes worrisome that Nigeria, a futuristic global equaliser and the meritorious giant of Africa is yet to have this entrenched in its electoral laws.
THE 2020 DIASPORA VOTING WORKSHOP
The leadership of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) under the management of Professor Mahmoud Yakubu has been vying for Nigerians in the Diaspora to exercise their franchise in their respective domicile countries. This, the head honcho, Professor Mahmoud, kick-started shortly after his assumption of office with an advocacy to The Presidency and the National Assembly.
He has reiterated several times the need for Nigerians resident outside the shores of the country to be able to exercise their franchise wherever they are resident.
However, as sterling and commendable as the move by the current leadership of the electoral umpire is, the modalities for such noble and stellar milestone were not articulated. It is not only enough to articulate the viewpoint of Voting in the Diaspora but there also exists an imperative need to suggest possible legislative amendments that may aid the speedy implementation of this proposed modality. To bridge this gap, the Nigeria Diaspora Voting Council has researched and prepared a constitutional amendment bill to kick-start the process and deepen the discuss on Diaspora Voting.
There have been many concerns as to what voting system would be adopted. Would such modality be by postal voting (voting by post)? Would it be voting by proxy? Would it be by e-voting (electronic voting)? Or would it be by personal voting at an external polling unit that would be located at a diplomatic mission office? All of these and other sundry issues are what this workshop is set to discuss.
This is the primary reason for inviting the major stakeholders to this workshop to discuss the Diaspora Voting issue and channel a clear path to delivering President Muhammadu Buhari’s DV promise. Just last week in Ethiopia, President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR confirmed again:
“I have said it severally that I am not against it (Diaspora voting). However, you will need to convince the National Assembly to amend the relevant laws to make Diaspora voting a reality”.
The Presidency is represented by our erudite and scholarly Vice President, H.E Prof. Yemi Osinbajo who will be delivering the lead paper, while the offices of the Senate President and Speaker, House of Representatives will make very robust contributions to the issue of the day.
Other critical stakeholders that will be on the podium include, the Chairperson, Nigerians In Diaspora Commission under the able leadership of our hardworking Hon. Mrs Àbíké Dabiri-Erewa; Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, representative, Dr Lecky as well as other notable key speakers from the National Assembly, Senator (Dr) Basiru, chairman, Senate committee on Diaspora Matters and Hon (Mrs) Tolulope Akande-Sadipe, chairperson, HoR Committee on Diaspora Matters.
The Nigeria Diaspora Voting Council appreciates the support and cooperation from NIDCOM, INEC and the representatives of the National Assembly though the bulk of the work, constitutional amendment assignment, will be done at the National Assembly before passing the baton to INEC for implementation.
A COLLECTIVE TASK
Overtly, the process to enable Nigerians in the Diaspora to vote is an uphill task that is far beyond party affiliation. It is a serious matter that must go beyond sloganeering and translated into practical and achievable project. All relevant and critical stakeholders must demonstrate readiness and articulate a reasonable roadmap that will eventually lead to the electoral franchise of Nigerians in the Diaspora.
Procrastination, they say, is the thief of time. And there is no better time than now.
It is therefore our belief that at the end of this workshop, the necessary machinery will be set in motion to fast track the realisation of the DV project in preparation for the 2023 General Elections.
On this note distinguished ladies & gentlemen, I welcome everyone, including Nigerians in the Diaspora who travelled down for this workshop and all our invited special guests to this epoch-making rendezvous and wish us all fruitful deliberations on the move to guarantee an egalitarian Nigeria that works for all.
Thank you & God Bless Nigeria!
Prince Ade Omole Chairman, Nigeria Diaspora Voting Council (NDVC) and Chairman of the APC UK Chapter
Once upon a time , a gentleman was passing through an elephant camp .
Here he noticed that the elephants were not caged in cages or chained as you often see them.
Instead the elephants were held back using a small piece of rope tied to one leg.
The gentleman was surprised to see such a small rope containing the elephant which was known for its strength .
He was surprised to see that the elephants were not trying at all to break the rope using it’s strength and escape from the camp
Curious and wanting to know the answer, he asked a trainer nearby why the elephants were just standing there and never tried to escape.
The trainer replied :
“when they are very young and much smaller we use the same size rope to tie them and, at that age, it’s enough to hold them. As they grow up, they are conditioned to believe they cannot break away. They believe the rope can still hold them, so they never try to break free.”
The only reason that the elephants weren’t breaking free and escaping from the camp was that over time they adopted the belief that it just wasn’t possible.
So the moral of the story is that no matter how much the world tries to hold you back, always continue with the belief that what you want to achieve is possible. ‘Believing you can become successful’ is the most important step in actually achieving it. Stay tuned for more…
If Africa must rise from the ashes, we must reduce the influence the West has on our politics, governance, social and cultural ideologies. We must reduce their advice, and most times, blackmail, when it comes to issues between our various tribes. This is important because Africa’s politics and policies are often subjected to our various tribes and ethnic nationalities.
There are various aspects of human life where European and American ideals can’t be imported by Africans. Some of these aspects which have hurt Africa so bad in the past and present are politics (Democracy), religion and civil relations, among others. Below we will have discussions on these aspects and propose how best to save Africa from the brink of total anarchy.
Africa’s system of governance should be unique and should be agreed upon by the various ethnic nationalities that make up every nation. African elites and leaders must reduce how much influence their diplomatic ties with European governments have on their decision making. We are Africans, and we should coordinate our nations and governance in an African way.
No foreign idea or principle can solve Africa’s issues. We are a great and ancient people, and only our ways of doing things can help us in these trying times. Let our political, religious, educational and social elites pay more attention to the ancient principles and wisdom of our people. Only Africa can save Africa.
The present leaders of Africa have already shown a remarkable willingness to consult and seek advice among themselves. Africans have, indeed, begun to think continentally. They realise that they have much in common, both in their past history, in their present problems and in their future hopes.
The greatest contribution that Africa can make to the peace of the world is to avoid all the dangers inherent in disunity, by creating a political union which will also by its success, stand as an example to a divided world. A Union of African states will project more effectively the African personality. It will command respect from a world that has regard only for size and influence.