Friday, 28 June 2013


The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) today urgently appealed for $22 million to tackle the locust plague that has already infested over half of Madagascar’s cultivated land and pastures and threatens to trigger a severe food crisis in the island nation.
Funding is needed to start a large-scale control campaign in time for the next crop planting season in September, the agency stated in a news release, adding that its emergency appeals for Madagascar remain “severely underfunded.”
With the plague “largely uncontrolled”, FAO expects that two-thirds of the country will be infested by locusts by September. At stake are the food security and livelihoods of some 13 million people, or nearly 60 per cent of the population. Nine million of those people are directly dependent on agriculture for food and income.
“If we don’t act now, the plague could last years and cost hundreds of millions of dollars. This could very well be a last window of opportunity to avert an extended crisis,” said FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva, who stressed that prevention and early action are key.
The agency pointed out that timely control of the locust upsurge in Madagascar at an early stage would have cost $14.5 million in 2011-2012. However, FAO only received half the necessary funding. Another campaign had to be launched, but that received barely a quarter of the required funds in 2011-2012, it added.
Funding will need to be allocated by July to have all the supplies and personnel in place to mount a wide-scale anti-locust campaign starting in September, FAO said.
“FAO’s locust control programme needs to be fully funded in order to monitor the locust situation throughout the whole contaminated area and to carry out well-targeted aerial control operations,” stated the agency.
“Otherwise, undetected or uncontrolled locust populations will continue to breed and produce more swarms. The plague would therefore last several years, controlling it will be lengthier and more expensive and it will severely affect food security, nutrition and livelihoods.”
The full programme that is needed to return the locust plague to a recession requires over $41.5 million over the next three years. The programme includes: improving the monitoring and analysis of the locust situation; large-scale aerial and ground spraying and related training; monitoring and mitigating the effect of control operations on health and the environment; and measuring the impact of anti-locust campaigns and the damages to crops and pasture.
A recent FAO assessment mission on the impact of the current locust plague in Madagascar found that rice and maize losses due to the locusts in some parts of the country vary from 40 to 70 per cent of the crop, with 100 per cent losses on certain plots.
A joint UN crop and food security assessment mission is currently on the ground to measure the locust’s damages to food security and livelihoods. More detailed data analysis will be available in July, but the resources to start preparation for the field actions have to be available now, FAO stressed.
The agency estimates that losses in rice production could be up to 630,000 tonnes, or about 25 per cent of total demand for rice in Madagascar. Rice is the main staple in the country, where 80 per cent of the population lives on less than a dollar per day. 

Thursday, 27 June 2013


Former Republican President Rupiah Banda

The decision by the PF administration to revoke the diplomatic passport of former president Rupiah Banda is not only illegal and improper but it undermines the separation of powers as set out in the republican constitution. As a matter of law and procedure, therefore, the government should immediately hand back President Banda’s passport in order to uphold the law, preserve the integrity of parliament and maintain whatever goodwill Zambia is still able to muster amidst a long and ongoing series of social, political, economic and diplomatic blunders.
The Benefits of Former Presidents Act, passed by Parliament makes clear that every former president is entitled (among other benefits) to a diplomatic passport along with one return air ticket for such former president and their spouse. The only instance in which any of the benefits of a former president can be revoked is if Parliament decides by two-thirds majority to do so. Parliament can only take such action if the former president has been convicted of an offence and sentenced to imprisonment for more than 6 months. This is clearly not the case.
The action by the PF administration amounts to a violation of the separation of powers as contemplated under our constitution. Should the government fail to hand back former president Banda’s passport, Parliament must immediately take this matter up as a breach of our constitution. It is imperative that the Speaker of the National Assembly demand an explanation from the Minister of Home Affairs as to the legality of this action. Should Parliament fail to act, the courts will be able to intervene.
The office of the former president is a national institution that deserves dignity and respect. The current court cases against President Banda are not sufficient to grant power to remove the privileges accorded to his office as former president. The more we undermine this office through these types of actions, the more we undermine our goodwill and standing as a nation. The more we undermine our standing as a nation, the less investment we will see, which will translate into less employment for our abandoned youth who have long given up on the promises that were made to them during the last election.
Elias C. Chipimo
National Restoration Party (NAREP)


It has been two months since the African Ambassadors Group in Washington DC, including Zambia’s Ambassador Mr. Palan Mulonda celebrated the 50th anniversary of the African Union at the Washington Hilton Hotel along 700 other guests.
At this celebration,the keynote address was made by Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Reuben Brigety. Other speakers included His Excellency Serge Mombouli, Ambassador of the Republic of Congo and Chairman, Africa Day 2013 Organizing Committee, His Excellency Abdalla Baali, Ambassador of Algeria and Representative of the Chairman of the African Union and His Excellency Elkanah Odembo, Ambassador of Kenya who made remarks on behalf of the African Ambassadors Group.
Welcoming the guests at this ocassion, Ambassador Serge Mombouli observed that the 50th anniversary celebration marked a historic milestone for people of African descent. He noted that the anniversary was to celebrate Africa’s past, present and future. He also hoped that Africans would continue to work and fulfill the central goals of the visionary leaders who gave birth to African Unity 50 years ago.
Further, Ambassador Mombouli said the African Union’s golden jubillee was being commemorated on the theme “ Pan Africanism and the African Renaissance”, adding that  under this theme, Africa was looking at that spirit of pan Africanism that inspires Africans through solidarity, unity of purpose  to reflect on the road travelled since 1963.
Thereafter, a message on behalf of Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegan who is also Chairman of the African Union was read by His Excellency Abdallah Baali who is the Ambassador of Algeria.
 The message stated that Africa Day marked not only a great leap forward in the Pan Africanist quest for freedom, independence and unity, but also the beginning of  collective endeavor for the realizations of Africa’s socio-economic emancipation.
The Chairman of the African Union observed that the major responsibility of the current and future generations of Africans was to create a continent free from poverty and conflict and an Africa whose citizens would enjoy middle-income status.
The Chairman of the Ambassadors’ Group, His Excellency, Elkanah Odembo, Ambassador of Kenya and Chairman of the meanwhile encouraged the United States to consider more long-term and strategic investment in Africa stating that trade between the African countries and the US had been growing rather “slowly”.
He also noted that Africa had undertaken far reaching political and economic reforms and called for more investment on the continent. Ambassador Odembo said the political and economic changes had made Africa a more desirable destination for investment.
 Against this background he appealed to the United States to scale up its investment in the 44 or so African countries from a mere US$100 billion equivalent to trade between the USA and South Korea to something much higher.
 The African Union was carved out of a previously existing organization that was known as the Organization of African Unity (OAU) established on May 25th in 1963 in Addis Ababa, as a result of the OAU charter signed by representatives of 32 African governments. A further 21 states with the exception of Morroco gradually signed over the years.
The OAU paved the way for the birth of the African Union (AU) in July, 1999 with four summits that were held leading to the official launching of the African Union. The first was the Sirte Extraordinary Session held on 9th November, 1999, followed by the Lome Summit  in 2000 that adopted the Constitutive Act of the Union.
 The Lusaka Summit of 2001  drew the roadmap for the implementation of the AU and finally the Durban Summit of 2002 that launched the African Union and convened the 1st Assembly of the Heads of States of the African Union.
The vision of the African Union is that of a continent that is integrated, prosperous and peaceful, driven by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force in the global arena
The keynote speaker Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Dr. Reuben Brigety II said the United States was confident with Africa’s future, particularly with regards to Africa’s political unity, growing economy and expanding opportunities.
He explained that the spread of democracy and good governance was one of the key factors leading to increased economic growth in Africa and that the US was pleased to recognize that six of the ten fastest growing economies in the world were in Africa.
Turning to the African Union, the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs observed that one of the most encouraging and exciting African developments in the last decade had been the degree to which the African Union had set pace for unified political standards and conflict resolution on the continent.
The African Union had taken an indispensable role in addressing political crises from Madagascar to Mali, he said. Other successes had been scored in the adoption of the African Union Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance, the Africa Peer Review Mechanism and the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding creating a Strategic Partnership between the US and the African Union by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the African Union Chairperson Ms. Dlamini Zuma
The writer is Deputy Chief of Mission at the Embassy of the Republic of Zambia in Washington DC

Saturday, 22 June 2013


So the G8 summit is over, the documents are out and the verdicts are in. 

Verdicts include:

The UK Trades Union Congress: "yet another opportunty has been missed to finally get to grips with global tax avoidance and evasion"

The Taxpayers Alliance in the UK: "This summit was a distraction which was never going to address the root cause of British public disquiet over tax avoidance: our hideously complex tax code"

Of the 10 points in the G8 Declaration, the Spectator magazine says "it’s difficult to see how governments could really be measured against any of these criteria in a year’s time"

Larry Elliot at the Guardian said: "progress at the summit itself was virtually non-existent. A declaration of G8 principles was a windy document that committed the west's leading industrial nations to do little specific"

Sally Copely, the spokesperson for the IF campaign said: "Today’s G8 tax deal is a step in the right direction, but it also leaves major unfinished business"

Development Initiatives and Publish What You Fund were pleased with the focus on the International Aid Transparency Agreement "The G8 is finally delivering on aid transparency promises with all countries committing to full and timely implementation of the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI). This includes France, Italy and Japan, for the first time"

Murray Worthy of ActionAid, on tax said: “If all of these promises become reality this could have an enormous impact on tackling one of the greatest scandals of our time. But there is a long way to go and today all we have is a general statement of principles with no detail and no deadlines. ..  As always the devil will be in the detail, and there’s no detail here."

Kevin Watkins, new ODI Director, did not mince his words: "We were promised a bang, but this is a whimper. It is simply a wish list."

I don't know about you but I find it really difficult to assess G8's--esepcially this one--because:

1.  The devil really is in the details.  The 10 point Declaration is replete with "should" rather than "we will".  This is disappointing but perhaps it is unrealistic to have expected anything but.  The 24 page Communique does have more detail within it--some quite specific--and will provide grist for the various G8 Accountability mechanisms to grind out the truth.

2. The UK government made it really difficult for itself.  One T would have been a challenge, but 3?  Admittedly the Transparency and Tax T's are strongly linked, but Trade is a massive issue that surely deserves a singular focus.

3. Syria. There is usually a crisis or two that disrupts the nonemergency agenda, and Syria was it this time, but it is not so usual that the crisis involves G8 members so directly in the security space.  This must have taken a lot of energy away from the other agendas.

Ultimately, though, Lough Erne will best be judged a year from now and perhaps 5 years from now. 

Nevertheless Prime Minister Cameron deserves credit for getting Tax and Transparency onto the agenda.  But as one commentator said (I can't find the exact quote), the PM must not be seen to be the "geek doing the homework for the other kids". He has to show sustained leadership to get them to do their own.