Monday, 25 September 2017

The President of Ghana, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, has stated that the successes being chalked as a result of the collaboration taking place amongst countries in West Africa and Africa in the fight against terrorism and armed groups is significant.

According to President Akufo-Addo, countries such as Chad, Cameroon, Niger and Benin have joined Nigeria in the fight against Boko Haram, with the leaders of Mauritania, Mali, Niger, Chad and Burkina Faso, known as the G5 du Sahel, launching a multinational force to fight armed groups in the Sahel region

The co-ordination of activities between the armies and the intelligence agencies these countries, he added, is absolutely essential to a successful battle against terrorism.

“African countries are co-operating in the fight against terrorism and achieving results, and this should spur us on in our collective drive towards an integrated and united Africa,” he said.

President Akufo-Addo made this known on Tuesday, August 1, 2017, when he delivered the keynote address at the graduation ceremony of Course 25 participants of Nigeria’s National Defence College, in Abuja, Nigeria.   

Making reference to the strides made by the European Union (EU), President Akufo-Addo indicated that the EU was given the Nobel Peace Prize for its role in “the advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe”, “transforming most of Europe from a continent of war to a continent of peace”, and the “successful struggle for peace and reconciliation and for democracy and human rights.”

The President noted that “it is a widely acknowledged fact that the EU has helped prevent war amongst its current members since the end of World War II in 1945. History tells us that Britain, France, Germany and Italy had for centuries waged wars over religion, territory and power.”

He continued, “Thus, the creation of a free market, concealing economic and geographical borders, would erode the justification for using war as the quickest avenue to wealth and power, and lessen its appeal. That was the vision that inspired the idea behind the European Economic Community, now the EU, in 1957.”

President Akufo-Addo, thus, indicated that Africa should be inspired by this, and hasten her efforts towards integration.

“If Europe, through the formation of the EU, was able to stop the vicious cycle of violence that had plagued them for centuries, and lead them onto the path of advancement, wealth and prosperity for all, Africa can no longer dither,” he said.

Ghana, Nigeria must work together

With France and Germany being the keys to the success of the European Union, President Akufo-Addo stated that, in the same vein, Ghana and Nigeria, working together, can be the engine for growth of West Africa and Africa.

“Our respective armed forces have co-operated successfully in joint peacekeeping operations in several conflict situations in the region and on the continent, which have enabled peace and security to be re-established. Liberia, Sierra Leone, Cote d’Ivoire, Guinea Bissau, Togo, Sudan, Somalia, Mali and, most recently Gambia, all come to mind,” he said.

President Akufo-Addo, thus, urged the two countries to “now work together to unleash the energy and ingenuity of the African, and with a market of 1.2 billion people, soon to reach 2 billion, the sky will be the limit. Let us work towards the day when all of us will look to doing business, first in our region and continent, before looking to Europe, Asia or the Americas because we have the men and women, the goods, the services and the quality.”

The way forward, he stressed, is to implement regional and continental decisions, such as the ECOWAS Trade Liberalisation Scheme and the Continental Free Trade Area, recognising that ultimately the benefits are in everyone’s interest.

“Those of us who believe strongly in integration can do no better than to give our full support to regional and continental decisions. Through this, we will build institutional confidence and integrity in the structural organs of ECOWAS and the AU,” he added.

All governments in the region and continent, the President stressed “need to collaborate to ensure that the countries of Africa adhere to and maintain common values of governance, i.e. the principles of democratic accountability, respect for individual liberties and human rights, and the rule of law. Such commonality will facilitate immeasurably the process of bonding amongst the nations of our region and continent.”

Published in Parliament

In the eyes of some voters, Philippe Mpayimana, a fresh-faced former journalist running for president of Rwanda, is just a clown. Otherwise, they ask, why would he be running against longtime President Paul Kagame?

Some of Mpayimana's campaign venues are nearly empty of people, underscoring a widespread belief among Rwandans that Friday's election is just another coronation for Kagame, who won 93 percent of the votes in the last election.

In the tidy capital, Kigali, there is little hint of the coming vote.

Presidential candidates are barred from putting campaign posters in most public places, including schools and hospitals. The electoral commission vets candidates' campaign messages, warning that their social media accounts could be blocked otherwise.

FILE - Presidential candidate Philippe Mpayimana speaks to a crowd in Rwanda.
FILE - Presidential candidate Philippe Mpayimana speaks to a crowd in Rwanda.

"Some people here even don't know names of candidates running against Kagame," said Chris Munyaneza, a university lecturer who lives in Kigali. "People are not bothered."

"There is no excitement because people knew the winner a long time ago," said another Kigali resident who insisted on anonymity for his safety.

Kagame has been de facto leader or president of the East African nation of 12 million people since his rebels ended its 1994 genocide. While he remains popular for presiding over impressive economic growth, he inspires fear among some Rwandans who say he uses the powers of the state to remove perceived opponents.

Three potential candidates for Friday's election were disqualified by the electoral commission for allegedly failing to fulfil certain requirements, including collecting enough signatures. Two others — Mpayimana and Frank Habineza of the Democratic Green Party of Rwanda — were cleared to run.

The 59-year-old Kagame has already claimed victory, telling a rally in July that the winner of the election is already known: "The day of the presidential elections will just be a formality." He pointed to a constitutional amendment after a referendum in 2015 that allows him to stay in power until 2034.

'Climate of fear'

Ahead of the polls, tension has been growing following the mass retirement of over 800 army officers — rare before an election — and the reported arrest of at least four senior officers. The arrests include a man related to the late Col. Patrick Karegeya, a former intelligence chief who became a prominent dissident but was found dead in January 2014, apparently strangled, in South Africa.

FILE - Incumbent Rwandan President Paul Kagame gives a speech during a campaign rally, July 31, 2017 in Gakenke, Rwanda, ahead of August 4 presidential election.
FILE - Incumbent Rwandan President Paul Kagame gives a speech during a campaign rally, July 31, 2017 in Gakenke, Rwanda, ahead of August 4 presidential election.

Karegeya's widow, who now lives in the United States, said of Kagame: "I think he is a man with an endless hatred, even to those he has put in the grave like my husband." Leah Karegeya said six family members, including her sister Goretti Kabuto, are in detention in Rwanda because of their ties to her late husband.

Two decades of often deadly attacks on political opponents, journalists and rights activists have created a "climate of fear" ahead of Rwanda's election, Amnesty International said in a report last month.

"There are many unknown prisons in this country, and many people have vanished and died there," said one supporter of opposition candidate Habineza, Charlotte Umutesi. "My brother disappeared for a long time and we didn't find him until much later. We need a change before it is too late."

'Visionary' leader

Rwandan authorities, including Kagame, deny critics' claims that the government targets dissidents for assassination or disappearances.

Others insist the president has widespread support. Eric Ndushabandi, a professor of political science at the National University of Rwanda, said many admire Kagame as a "visionary" leader who united a country scarred by the 1994 genocide, in which over 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were massacred by Hutu extremists.

"People are influenced by the traumatic situation of the genocide and conflictual politics in the past and no one is ready to go back," Ndushabandi said.

Meanwhile, opposition rallies often flop, apparently because some people are afraid to be seen associating with the president's opponents.

FILE - Presidential candidate Frank Habineza of the opposition Democratic Green Party gestures to supporters at an election campaign rally in Musanze District, Rwanda, July 28, 2017.
FILE - Presidential candidate Frank Habineza of the opposition Democratic Green Party gestures to supporters at an election campaign rally in Musanze District, Rwanda, July 28, 2017.

In the southeastern town of Nyamata, where independent candidate Mpayimana held his first campaign rally, only about 15 people — most of them children — attended. Police last week arrested the mayor of the western district of Rubavu, Jeremie Sinamenye, over allegations that he and some of his staff prevented voters from attending Mpayimana's rallies.

The other candidate running against Kagame, Habineza, called his campaign an act of "hope" despite the obvious risks. The organizing secretary of Habineza's party went missing two years ago and remains unaccounted for. The body of his deputy, Andre Kagwa Rwisereka, was discovered in 2010 with a severed head in the southern town of Butare.

That killing followed the shooting death of newspaper journalist Jean-Leonard Rugambage, whose tabloid had been suspended by Rwandan authorities.

"Running against President Kagame comes with courage," Habineza said.

Published in Business and Economy

Gideon Morik bends down before a neatly piled mound of red soil just beside his home. It’s the grave of his daughter, Anna. She was fourteen years old when she and her friends were gunned down on Christmas Eve.

The dry breezes of the harmattan swirl around Morik as he speaks in low tones.

“May your sweet soul rest in perfect peace,” he says. Morik remembers picking up her corpse and taking it to the mortuary. It’s a day that still haunts him.

“Up till now, I don’t believe it was my daughter I was carrying,” he pauses and blinks his eyes rapidly. “At a very, very tender age, a promising young girl.”

The men who shot up Morik’s community that day also set his house on fire. There’s a collapsed ceiling fan in the middle of the living room. Pieces of his children’s bicycles lean along a burned wall. The restroom is covered in rubble and shards of glass.

Morik lives in a remote community of mainly Christian farmers called Goska. He’s a leader here, having served on the state and regional level. Goska is in the southern region of the northern Nigerian state of Kaduna. Southern Kaduna is a hotbed of sporadic sectarian strife. Politics, land rights and other disputes have fueled the violence since the 1980s.
That’s when residents say Christians and Muslims started using violence to advocate for their communities. Hundreds of people have been killed in the latest bout of unrest that began in December 2016. The state government management agency says 204 people have been killed since December, but numbers are still being compiled.

Morik does not know if he will ever see justice for Anna’s murder.

She was in her bedroom when she heard gunshots outside in the evening of December 26. She fled out the backdoor, but it was already too late.

About 200 attackers, according to witnesses, had invaded Goska. Witnesses saw them shooting AK-47s and heard them shouting “Allahu Akbar!”

When Morik saw his daughter’s bloodied body on the ground, he froze.

That’s when police came. That’s when the assailants fled. But no one really feels safe.

“The attackers are still outside the village,” Morik says. “Any attempt by anybody to go one kilometer outside this village, he will be killed.”

Morik’s cars were set on fire. In the house next to his, stray chickens strut around in a daze. The coop is still lying on its side and there’s no one around to pick it up - the homeowner fled Goska weeks ago, like many others.

Goska sits in a valley surrounded by rolling hills where Christian farmers of various ethnic groups share the fertile land with nomadic cattle herders who belong to the predominantly Muslim ethnic group called Fulani.

Conflict is increasing to unprecedented levels here as more cattle herders move south, oftentimes entering farming land. Farmers accuse the Fulani herdsmen of allowing their cattle to trample and eat their crops. Fulani cattle herders accuse the farmers of killing their cattle.

“We lost almost more than 6,000 cows,” says Haruna Usman, a Fulani leader and head of the Kaduna State chapter of the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders association.

Usman accuses the Nigerian media of bias. He says that Christians, unlike Fulanis, have greater access to the media.

“They will go to the media and say Fulani are killing them. They are the people causing all these problems, blocking roads. When they meet someone grazing his cows in the bush, they will just kill him,” Usman says.

Abdullahi Jibril, a Fulani cow herder, says his three adult sons are missing. They were last seen grazing their cows in a predominantly Christian neighborhood a few weeks ago. They are presumed dead.

“What hurts me most is that I can’t find the corpses,” Jibril explains, speaking in Hausa. “I’m calling on the government to take charge and wipe my tears.”

Jibril wants the government to compensate him for his losses. He says he also wants the Christians to stop killing Muslims.
But there are deep-rooted suspicions between Christian farmers and the Fulani Muslim herdsmen, according to Agyole Abeh, the Kaduna state police chief.

Abeh tells VOA that the police force is still investigating the attack in Goska.

They’re also investigating an attack on Dangoma, a few kilometers away from Goska. In Dangoma, homes belonging to Fulani families were razed to the ground on December 23 and December 26.

“It was Christians from Goska who attacked the Muslims in Dangoma. Look at the houses, completely destroyed,” says Usman.

Several communities across southern Kaduna are nearly deserted except for elders who say they were too weak to run away when an attack happens. It’s not difficult to find bullet casings in the dirt.

The ones who do summon the strength to run away sometimes go to makeshift relief camps.

Binta Linus holds her son, Alfa, on her lap. She’s waiting to get food donations at a camp set up by a Christian pastor named Gideon Mutum in Takau Primary School’s yard.

“For them, this place is actually like a safe haven because they lack food. They lack clothing. If you actually beg them, in the nearest possible time to go back to their villages, they’re not ready,” Mutum tells VOA.

Linus says she watched Fulani cattle herdsmen slaughter her husband with a machete in January.

In the afternoon, Linus joins a line where Mutum and his wife distribute packages of noodles and juice. In another line, Alfa reaches for a free notebook to use when he eventually goes back to school.

Ndi Kato, a 26-year-old native of southern Kaduna, passes out the notebooks for children. She’s an activist and founder of the Dinidari Empowerment Foundation.

“There is something happening here. And as long as you’re not paying attention, this thing is going to keep on happening and nothing is going to be done to relieve people of the pain they’re going through,” Kato tells VOA.

The violence is colored with religious hues - Muslims and Christian leaders blame the other.

Rev. John Mark Chitnum of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Kafanchan, tells VOA about 800 Christians have been killed in southern Kaduna in the past two years.

“You can go and count from the graveyards, you can go. Even the bones are still there,” he says. In December, Christians gathered on these streets to hold a peaceful rally. But the rally turned into a riot.

“I joined the protest because the killing of the people in southern Kaduna is too much and mostly our Christians, says Shadrack Samson, a 31 year old local activist. “Our people are dying. We see it as a genocide. Seriously it’s a genocide because we don’t see anything from the government to safeguard the lives of these innocent people.”

Meanwhile, Muslims clerics are demanding the arrest of Christian leaders who they say are spreading incendiary messages to their followers.

“Most of these people actually called onto the people of southern Kaduna to take up arms to protect themselves. We’ve seen these people go to the media to tell their people to pick up arms,” says Sheik Usman Abubakar Babatune, the chairman of the Kaduna State Council of Imams and Ulama.

The killings have stopped in the past few weeks as police, soldiers and personnel from the nearby Nigerian Air Force base monitor the area. But no one has been prosecuted in connection with the recent violence.

Communities are left to mourn and pray for peace.

Published in Headliners

A gunman and a police officer were killed in an attack on the home of Kenya’s deputy president in the western town of Eldoret, a senior administrator said Sunday, just more than a week before a national election.

Deputy President William Ruto and his family were not at home at the time of the Saturday attack, police said. Ruto is the running mate of President Uhuru Kenyatta, who is seeking a second and final term in office in the Aug. 8 elections.

“From the exchange of fire we thought it was more than one attacker, because he used different firearms, but after we subdued him, we found only one man dead, plus our officer who he had killed,” Wanyama Musiambo, Rift Valley Regional Coordinator, told reporters at the scene Sunday.

FILE- The home of Kenya's Deputy President William Ruto in Sugoi village near Eldoret, Kenya, Aug. 4, 2010.
FILE- The home of Kenya's Deputy President William Ruto in Sugoi village near Eldoret, Kenya, Aug. 4, 2010.

Musiambo declined to comment when asked about the motive of the attack, or the attacker’s identity. The deputy president’s residence is guarded by an elite paramilitary police unit.

Musiambo said the attacker initially had no gun but managed to break into the police armory once inside the compound.

“I want to say that after the operation we discovered that it was one gunman, but because he was inside there, he could change position and firearms because he had access to the guns. And the guns he was using were ours,” he said. “We have however launched investigations into the issue, to find out if he conducted the attack alone or he was with others who may have escaped.”

Late Saturday, police initially said the attacker was armed with a machete and had injured one police officer before holing himself up in an outbuilding.

Ruto and Kenyatta spent Saturday campaigning in the counties of Kitale, Kericho and Narok, the president’s office said in a statement. Neither commented on the incident.

A Reuters reporter near Ruto’s compound said he saw several police vehicles going in and out of the compound, as well as one armored vehicle in the compound.
The reporter said he also saw one armored vehicle in the compound.

Published in Business and Economy

Voters in Senegal are casting ballots in a legislative election that has brought the country's former longtime leader back to the political scene.

Ex-President Abdoulaye Wade, now 91 years old, has been leading his loyalists' efforts to win seats in Sunday's election.

Wade was president from 2000 to 2012, when he was defeated by current President Macky Sall. He returned from France this month to campaign in the parliamentary contest, though critics accuse him of re-entering Senegalese politics to try and pave the way for his son to return as well.

A young woman holds up pictures of Abdoulaye Wade and his son Karim as she waits for the former President at Dakar international airport, Dakar, Senegal, July 10, 2017. (S. Christensen/VOA)
A young woman holds up pictures of Abdoulaye Wade and his son Karim as she waits for the former President at Dakar international airport, Dakar, Senegal, July 10, 2017. (S. Christensen/VOA)

Karim Wade has been in Qatar since his release from prison in 2016 after serving three years on corruption charges.

Unlike many of its West African neighbors plagued by dictators and coups, Senegal is known for its political stability.

Published in Headliners


People walk on a flooded road at Okokomaiko in Ojo district of Lagos, on May 31, 2017.Image copyrightAFP
Torrential rainfall left many homes, shops and roads flooded in Lagos

Nigerians are facing at least three months of battling against heavy rains that could lead to deadly, destructive flooding.

At the beginning of July, the government warned that 30 of the country's 36 states could be at risk.

Already, 16 states, including the commercial hub Lagos, have been badly affected.

Five years ago, the worst flooding in more than 40 years in Nigeria claimed 431 lives and displaced nearly two million people, according to the country's National Emergency Management Agency (Nema).

BBC Africa's Ishaq Khalid explores the causes and what needs to be done to protect Nigerians from the scourge of floods every year.

How bad is this year's flooding?

The rainy season usually runs from July to September in Nigeria and every year it poses the threat of devastation and destruction across the country, claiming lives and destroying property.

So far this year, several people have been killed across the country and hundreds of residential buildings, cars and other vehicles have been destroyed or submerged under water.

Car in flood
Vehicles are often submerged or swept away by floods

Thirty-seven-year-old tea seller Sa'adu Abubakar, lost his six children and two wives when water poured into their apartment in the city of Suleja, just north of the capital, Abuja.

"I held two of the children but I could not withstand the force of the water. The children slipped out of my hands," he told the BBC's Hausa Service.

"I was just desperately praying to Allah at that moment. When the day broke, we found my family's dead bodies a short distance from our home."

A Flooded street
Fast flowing floodwaters have battered the streets of the central city of Suleja

Another resident of Suleja told the BBC: "The rain started at 23:30 at night, we heard a loud 'boom'. Before I knew it, I was up to my neck in water.

"We couldn't salvage anything... we have to save our lives. My house was well built but the water brought it down.

"We need help. I haven't been able to cook food since yesterday and I'm living on the goodwill of other people."

The tragedy in Suleja has once again highlighted the magnitude of the devastation caused by floods in Nigeria. Yet despite the yearly loss of lives and property, it seems that so far the country has not taken many concrete measures to tackle the disasters.

Which areas are worst affected?

Niger state in the north of the country has the highest number of casualties so far. Officials have confirmed that 15 people have died and many more injured. Other badly affected states are mostly in the south, near to the River Niger. Lagos has also been badly hit.

A taxi motocyclist rides on a flooded road at Okokomaiko in Ojo district of Lagos, on May 31, 2017.Image copyrightAFP
Torrential rainfall left many homes, shops and roads flooded in Lagos

Why is the flooding so bad?

The frequency of the flooding differs across the regions, but the height of the rainy season tends to be from July to September, and it is often a time of anxiety for many communities living in flood-prone areas.

Heavy rains, combined with poor drainage systems and blocked waterways cause rainwater to flow through commercial and residential dwellings.

Town planning expert Aliyu Salisu Barau told the BBC that Nigerian authorities and ordinary citizens are ill-prepared for such disasters.

"Tackling persistent flooding requires long-term planning," he said.

"In most cases the authorities do not make provision to clear drainage systems until it is already rainy season," Mr Barau added.

A sandal vendor pushes his cart through the flooded streets of Maiduguri in north-east Nigeria on July 5, 2017.Image copyrightAFP
Poor road drainage can cause flooding

Nigeria's swelling population could make matters worse.

Its currently home to 180 million people, and a recent UN report estimates that Nigeria will become the third most populous nation in the world by 2050, overtaking the United States.

This could put pressure on land as the need for more housing rises. But it is the lack of proper town planning and the authorities' inability to accommodate these changes which causes most alarm.

Some residents dump rubbish and waste in the streets, putting extra strain on the few existing urban drainage systems and preventing the steady flow of rainwater.

What about dams?

Nigeria's many dams are also seen to be part of the problem.

Used for irrigation and fish-farming activities, some are located close to towns and villages. But observers say these useful water reservoirs are poorly maintained and during the rainy season they can sometimes burst, releasing torrents of water into nearby communities.

This picture taken on August 27, 2011 shows floodwaters coursing through Ibadan, Odo Ona, in Oyo State.Image copyrightAFP
More than 100 people were killed when a dam burst in torrential rain in Oyo State in 2011

The Lagdo dam in neighbouring Cameroon, which is on the Benue river that runs through Nigeria, also poses a danger of heavy flooding in Nigeria when the Cameroonian authorities decide to release the dam's excess water.

To add to the problem, the Nigerian authorities have very few arrangements for evacuating endangered communities - even in the face of imminent flood risks. And when warnings are issued they are rarely heeded by the least well off locals.

What should Nigeria do?

Analysts say something concrete must be done to prevent the high death tolls seen in recent years.

Destruction to property can be reduced by introducing effective town planning, respecting construction rules and regulations, and rooting out corruption in the building certification process.

House damaged by torrential rains
Flooding and heavy rains can destroy peoples' homes

The number of fatalities and the impact on communities could be reduced if the authorities prepared themselves to forcibly evacuate those who are at imminent risk.

Raising public awareness and encouraging people to become more aware of their urban environment are also key.

Unless these practical measures are taken, experts say, floods will continue to destroy lives and property.

Published in News & Stories

Zambia beat Mauritius 3-0 in the final of the 2017 Cosafa Under-17 Championships at the St Francois Xavier Stadium in Port Louis.

Mauritius - in their first ever continental final - held out for over an hour, before Zambia scored three goals in 10 minutes.

Captain Prince Mumba, Christopher Phiri and Kingsley Hakwiya were all on target for the Junior Chipolopolo.

It is Zambia's first title win in the competition for southern African teams.

After their disqualification 12 months ago for fielding ineligible players, Zambia are riding a wave of success after their Under-20 team were crowned African champions and then excelled at the recent Fifa Under-20 World Cup in South Korea.

"It was a very good tournament for Zambia but we had some difficulties in the first half as the home team was getting full support from their public," Zambian U-17 coach Mumamba Numba told BBC Sport.

Mauritius winger Jean Yannick Aristide
Mauritius winger Jean Yannick Aristide was named Player of the Tournament

"But I spoke to them at half-time and they scored three goals."

"Last year we could not accomplish our mission, so we told the boys that we should come to win [this year] and prove that they deserved to be applauded."

Mauritius drew some consolation from left-winger Jean Yannick Aristide being named Player of the Tournament.

Mauritius FA President Samir Sobha praised his team's performance in their first African final.

"We set up this team only seven months ago and we are delighted with the results," he told BBC Sport.

"We have youth championships for the U-13, U-15 and U-17 - for both men and women - and the work we have begun on youth development is yielding its fruits.

"There is still a long way to go, but we want to continue on this path."

Earlier in the day, Malawi defeated South Africa 2-1 to claim third place.

Published in Sports

With a picture-perfect coastline, unrivalled wildlife and a fascinating culture, there are countless reasons you should go to Kenya – but here are just a few…

You can take an alternative safari

Before I ever actually went on a safari, I thought the popular activity was all about sitting in a 4×4 behind reinforced windows and gazing at animals from afar.

How wrong I was. It turns out it’s perfectly safe to get up close and personal with the animals – not to the extent of petting a lion or trying to tickle an elephant’s tummy (obviously), but to feel a lot closer than the traditional 4x4s would have you believe.

At Ol Malo Lodge in Laikipia County, a beautiful, boutique hotel with just a handful of bedrooms, there’s no need for 4x4s.

While you can, of course, go wildlife-spotting in a truck, it seems far more adventurous to venture out on foot, with a guided walk with a local Samburu tribesman, or to sit atop a camel or horse while trying to spot animals between the trees.

It’s a surreal experience to be gazing at zebras, elephants, giraffes and more, just feet away, while clinging onto your camel for dear life with one hand and snapping away with your camera with the other.

You can learn all about another culture

9 reasons you need to book a trip to Kenya right now
A young Samburu shepherdess (Picture: Getty)

Ol Malo works very closely with the local Samburu tribe, so, as a visitor, you’re offered a firsthand perspective into their fascinating lives.

Just hours after stepping off the tiny Safarilink plane that whisked us from Nairobi to Laikipia, we were strolling through the wilderness on our way to a local Samburu village, accompanied by our guide Leuia.

The Samburu are a polygamous, nomadic tribe that live in villages called manyattas. In this particular part of Laikipia, they work closely with Ol Malo, giving guests access to their vastly different, intriguing lives.

They have a variety of interesting customs – drinking blood as a major food source, enduring painful rituals to become warriors (such as men getting circumcised without even being allowed to wince – ouch!) and creating treasured jewellery formed of beads, with each different shape and colour symbolising a different meaning.

You can see genuine corporate social responsibility in action 

Ol Malo set up the Samburu Trust, an organisation that works closely with the Samburu people, providing everything from clean water and healthcare to beadmaking workshops and a nomadic school.

So many hotels work closely with the local community, but it feels more hands-on here.

Guests are invited to watch the beadmaking workshops that help the Samburu women bring an income to their homes, and we were also given a tour of the nomadic school where children from the local tribe can get a primary education.

You can watch your breakfast being hoovered up by an eland

True story: if you’re not too protective over your cornflakes, then you’ll probably enjoy watching Ol Malo’s resident eland demolishing your cereal.

You can hang out with adorable animals

If you’ve always secretly wished The Lion King was real-life, and not just a film, I’ve got good news for you – you can find a live-action version in Kenya.

The beautiful Fairmont Mount Kenya Safari Club, a sophisticated, elegant hotel in Nanyuki with gorgeous views of Mount Kenya, not only has monkeys running around the property, but is also home to an animal orphanage, where you can spot everything from leopards and warthogs (yes, real life Pumbas!) to zebras, sunis (tiny, adorable antelopes) and even a 150-year-old tortoise whose life expectancy is 300.

I defy you to take a trip Ol Pejeta Conservancy (a short drive from the Fairmont Mount Kenya Safari Club), and not want to drop your job, cramped flat and everything you know to go and live with baby animals.

This baby zebra – which we named Storm – was abandoned by his mother after a bout of awful weather, and is now being cared for by experts at the conservancy.

While of course he was fluffy and adorable, meeting the scared, week-old creature shaking and searching for his mother was also a heartbreaking experience, and the importance of funding and donating to conservancies like these really hit home.

You can stay on opposite sides of the equator

The Fairmont Mount Kenya Safari Club has the enviable position of being split down the middle by the equator.

There are two basins on opposite sides of the path that’s directly on the equator, and on each side, the water in the basin swirls down the plughole in opposite directions.

If you want to splash out on a truly equatorial adventure, the Equatorial Suite – where Winston Churchill used to stay – has a bed with one side in the southern hemisphere, and the other in the northern.

You can learn about the increasingly important issue of conservation

Ol Pejeta is home to the last three northern white rhinos in the world.

The last male, Sudan, is the equivalent of 100 years old, and we were able to meet him at the conservancy.

The last two female northern white rhinos, Najin and Fatu, also live at the conservancy, but are sadly infertile.

It will take a miracle of science, such as stem cell technology, to keep the species alive so that it doesn’t die with the last three at the conservancy.

You can do some crazy things too

If petting rhinos and trying to spot stingrays isn’t crazy enough for you, take a trip to the postcard-pretty Diani Beach, with its endless white sand beaches and Instagram-friendly panoramas.

If lazing at the pool or building sandcastles isn’t quite daring enough, there’s always Skydive Diani.

You may never have experienced terror like it (signing the waiver is scarier than actually jumping out of the plane), but after the rush of hurtling through the Kenyan sky, there’s no view quite like the one you see while suspended in the air with the calm sea and stretches of Diani Beach below you.

When the adrenaline rush is over, you can crash at the enormous pool at Diani Beach’s beautiful Swahili Beach, and rewatch for the hundredth time the video of the exact moment you jumped out of the plane.

You can eat some fantastic food

Kenya is a heaven for foodies, with plenty of amazing culinary spots.

Picca Alapatt, the chef at Fairmont Mount Kenya Safari Club whips up an incredible Indian feast, with huge platters of dishes catering to the most avid meat-eaters as well as vegetarians too.

Eating a five-course breakfast on the slopes of Mount Kenya, and gorging on a seemingly endless feast by a bonfire in the large grounds of the resort are particular highlights offered by the hotel that you shouldn’t miss out on.

The Sands at Nomad Hotel – a boutique property in Diani Beach – is also a culinary delight worth experiencing, with its classy beach setting, fresh, tasty food and perfect views of the white sands and glittering seas.

The Carnivore, in Nairobi, brands itself a “beast of a feast”, and for good reason. If you’re vegan or vegetarian it may not be the ideal place for you (there’s a lot of meat being passed around), but for carnivores, you’ll get to try everything: ostrich meatball, lamb chops, turkey, crocodile and even bull testicle. Yum.

How do I get there?

Kenya Airways flies to Nairobi from Heathrow daily, with economy class tickets starting from £439, and business class tickets starting from £1891 return.

Considering that the chairs in business recline to an almost fully flat bed and that you’re presented with the snuggliest blanket on the planet to fall asleep under, upgrading to business is definitely worth considering – it certainly seems like better value for money than many other business class long-haul flights out there.

Where do I stay? 

In Laikipia, Ol Malo Lodge is offering a ‘Stay 3, Pay 2’ special offer for 2017, with prices starting from $530 per night, including guided walks, horseriding, camel treks, Samburu cultural visits and more.

The posh Fairmont Mount Kenya Safari Club – a favourite haunt of Winston Churchill and Bing Crosby – offers rooms from $265 per person per night on a full board basis. 

Swahili Beach, a luxury hotel with enormous rooms, a swimming pool fit for a king and an ideal location right next to the beach, offers rates starting from £160 per night per room on a half-board basis. 

Before catching your flight back home, you’ll want to spend some time in Nairobi too, and you can’t pick a better place to rest your head for the night than the elegant Fairmont The NorfolkA bed and breakfast stay starts from $200 per person per night.

For more information on visiting Kenya, you can contact the Kenya Tourism Board on 020 7593 1731 or visit Magical Kenya. 

Published in Parliament

Ghana and Malta have pledged to strengthen the ties of co-operation that exist between the two countries, as well as collaborate further and provide mutual support for each other at both bilateral and multilateral levels.

This was the outcome of a roundtable discussion held between the ministerial teams of Ghana and Malta, on Wednesday, July 26, 2017, as part of events marking the 3-day State Visit to Ghana by the President of Malta, Her Excellency Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca.

Describing the visit to Ghana by President Marie-Louise Preca as a landmark one, as it is the first time a sitting President from the Republic of Malta is paying a State Visit to Ghana, President Akufo-Addo, in his remarks at a joint press conference with the Maltese President, stated that their discussions bordered on several issues of importance to both countries.

These issues, he stated, included the improvement in the volumes of trade between Ghana and Malta; mutual support for candidates from the two countries vying for positions with international organisations; issues of migration; and the deepening of political consultations on matters of mutual interest to the two countries, amongst others.

President Akufo-Addo noted that his Maltese counterpart and her team have resolved to give voice to Ghana’s cause and interests at the European Union. Ghana, on the other hand, the President stressed will also help to facilitate the provision of a platform for enhanced economic engagement between Malta and the member countries of ECOWAS.

This, according to President Akufo-Addo, should boost the trade volumes, and help bring prosperity to the peoples of Ghana and Malta.

On the matter of reforms of the global political order, President Akufo-Addo made it clear that the inability of the United Nations to undertake the reforms of its institutions that will reflect the realities of our times, and not the realities of the post-war world, represents a manifest injustice against the peoples of Africa.

The Ghanaian team, according to President Akufo-Addo, stressed the importance it attaches to the process of UN Reform, especially of the UN Security Council, as set out in Africa’s Common Position on UN Reform, based on the Ezulwini Consensus, and solicited the support of Malta for this position.

“It is time to correct the longstanding injustice that the current structure and composition of the UN Security Council represent for the nations of Africa. Her Excellency and her delegation shared this sentiment and expressed its desire to collaborate with Ghana to this end,” he added.

It was also agreed that Ghana and Malta extend support to candidates from their respective countries vying for positions in international organisations.

“Ghana has, therefore, given support to Malta’s bid for membership of the Council of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) elections, which take place later this year. Malta, on the other hand, will support Ghana’s bid for a Non-Permanent Seat at the UN Security Council from 2020 to 2021,” the President said.

He continued, “This support mechanism has also been to the candidature of Professor Henrietta Mensah-Bonsu, as a Judge on the International Criminal Court (ICC). An MOU, to this end, would be signed after this session by the Foreign Ministers of the two countries.”


On the issue of migration, President Akufo-Addo bemoaned the high numbers of young Africans taking distressing risks across the Sahara and around the Mediterranean, trying to reach a better life.

“Whilst we strive to provide youths with the right environment in Africa, which would enable them enhance their skills, receive appropriate training, and have access to digital technology and enhanced economic opportunities, Her Excellency the President and her delegation have reiterated their commitment to champion the need for humane treatment of illegal migrants as well as the protection of their human rights in accordance with international law, both at home and on EU platforms,” he added

President Akufo-Addo revealed that Ghana has been included in the list of beneficiary countries of the EU’s Emergency Migration Fund – a Fund designed to assist in the return and re-integration of our citizens into society.

Government, President Akufo-Addo assured, will collaborate with Malta and EU member stated to help find solutions to the factors that trigger illegal migration.

“Our deliberations also centered driving investment opportunities, domestic and foreign, in our two countries, and the need for enhanced co-operation and partnership in our development efforts.

A Business Forum between our two Chambers of Commerce, as well as with the Association of Ghana Industries (AGI), has been scheduled to take place at the Accra International Conference Centre tomorrow, July 27, 2017, to identify the trade and business opportunities that exist and would be mutually beneficial to our two countries,” he added.

It was the hope of President Akufo-Addo that “as we shape the future of Ghana, and position Ghanaian enterprises to compete effectively in the global market space, we have friends, such as the Republic of Malta, to support us in this objective.”G

Published in Parliament

It's a stretch to claim spending upwards of £40 million on 28-year-old Chelsea midfielder Nemanja Matic represents great value for Manchester United but you can't put a price on keeping manager Jose Mourinho happy.

Often the embodiment of the phrase "face like a wet weekend" during his fraught-but-ultimately-successful first season at United, Mourinho has kept up his complaining throughout the summer, moaning that the club have not gotten all of his desired deals over the line. 

There were even reports Mourinho was at odds with the Glazer family over slow progress in the market. Hours after such claims surfaced, United have seemingly made a breakthrough. Go figure.

Matic's arrival would placate Mourinho, who is set to be reunited with a player he trusts. Such players tend to thrive in an environment where they have the faith of those in charge, as evidenced by Matic's success enjoyed under the Portuguese, winning the Premier League title with him in 2014-15.

Securing one of the cogs in Chelsea's past two title triumphs, and in a position where United desperately need quality, means a summer that threatened to turn into a damp squib can now be partly salvaged. It seems ludicrous to say United still need to make significant improvements to their squad after spending nearly £600 million since Sir Alex Ferguson retired in 2013, but that is the reality of the situation.

While it's heresy to criticise the greatest football manager of all time, it's fair to say midfield -- specifically centrally -- seemed to be an afterthought towards the end of his 27 years in charge. Marouane Fellaini was the first central midfielder to arrive at Old Trafford in six seasons when he joined under David Moyes in 2013. The last was Owen Hargreaves in 2007-08.

Matic, therefore, would be an important signing. His arrival will, in theory, unshackle Paul Pogba from the defensive burden he had to endure last season and also push midfield terrier Ander Herrera further forward when needed. Having an anchor in front of the back four will protect a defence that performed well in 2016-17 -- only Tottenham conceded fewer in the league -- and it should improve the attack, too.

Matic was the "1" in a 4-1-3-2 at Benfica, although he sometimes had a midfield partner in a 4-2-3-1 before he returned to Chelsea in January 2014, winning two league titles -- the latter of which included forging a strong understanding with N'Golo Kante in Antonio Conte's now-fabled 3-4-3.

Kante is arguably the best in the world at what he does, but there's an increasingly irritating affliction whereby fans and critics have to compare anyone and everything to the Frenchman. Speak to some Chelsea fans and they'll say Kante put Matic in the shade last season. Elsewhere, he's compared favourably to Pogba when the pair fulfill completely different functions.

At United, while a combination of Matic and Michael Carrick doesn't scream pace, it certainly has poise, and you can imagine Mourinho deploying the pair together in tougher assignments. Mourinho's default setting is control, and having two solid members of his XI acting as a screen and allowing the more exuberant components like Pogba the chance to do damage further forward seems like a sensible move.

Nemanja Matic is set to be reunited with Jose Mourinho at Manchester United.

At 6-foot-4, Matic would also be the latest recruit in Old Trafford's land of the giants. David De Gea, Eric Bailly, Pogba, Matic and Romelu Lukaku represent a fearsome spine. Yes, this is football and not the NBA, but height and power are nevertheless useful commodities, and Matic is hardly a Marouane Fellaini-style battering ram, either. The Serbia international has a good touch, an impressive range of passing and a ferocious shot. Can you imagine Fellaini even attempting this or this, never mind actually pulling it off?

A midfield masterclass at Manchester City in February 2014, where Yaya Toure was completely surpassed as Mourinho locked down a superb 1-0 win, highlights what Matic can do. Cynics will chime "that was three years ago," but Matic played 35 league matches in 2016-17 and was one of the reasons why Chelsea won the title. These are his peak years, and all being well, he should be able to provide three to four seasons of high-demand service.

United have become predictable going forward, a blight that crept in during Ferguson's final years in charge, and Fellaini's arrival exacerbated the problem. While not entirely to blame for the club's attacking malaise, it has been galling to see United hit long balls for him to chest down or flick on as they chase a goal. It's primitive, but with Matic's arrival, Fellaini is on borrowed time and could be on his way out of the club with reports of interest from Galatasaray.

Matic has been Mourinho's trusted lieutenant in the past and, if United can complete the deal, will play an important role in Manchester United's future.

Published in News & Stories
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