Wednesday, 30 April 2014


Twenty years after Rwanda’s genocide, the world’s newest state—not Syria or Darfur—is the region most in danger of mass exterminations along ethnic lines.
With Secretary of State John Kerry traveling to Ethiopia today, site of the peace talks for
South Sudan, he will be greeted by a bracing reality: no civilians in the world are in greater danger than those of South Sudan.  Not in Syria, Central African Republic, or Darfur is the threat of targeting on the basis of identity so immediate as it is for certain ethnic groups in vulnerable areas of South Sudan. Given the lack of protection by Juba government forces, the inability of UN troops to protect large numbers of people, and the absence of significantly greater protection from the broader international community, hundreds of thousands of people are likely to die in the coming months, whether directly through targeted violence or indirectly through hunger.  It is an unsurpassably urgent crisis and yet the world's response has been in no way comparable to the threats civilians now face on a daily basis.
Following the political and military events of mid-December when targeted violence erupted in Juba, capital of South Sudan, conflict has steadily escalated. Now, more than four months later, we are witnessing events that have all the hallmarks of genocide.  The split in South Sudan's army—the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA)—has been largely along ethnic lines, primarily between the Dinka, the largest tribal group in the South, and the Nuer, the second largest tribal group.  As a consequence of this split, what appeared initially to be a vehement demand for governance reforms—but without evident military goals—has developed into a full-scale military rebellion, with violence escalating into something like "symmetric warfare" between two forces that are comparably trained and armed. 
Unlike the "asymmetric warfare" to which we have become accustomed to hearing about (e.g., Iraq, Afghanistan, Darfur), symmetric warfare ensures heavy casualties in military confrontations.  But victories and defeats now have more ominous consequences; for in South Sudan the victors see military victory as justifying civilian slaughter of the predominant ethnic group of the opposing forces.  And with a terrifying momentum, ethnic slaughter leads to yet greater ethnic slaughter.  When the town of Bentiu in oil-rich Unity State fell to rebel forces on April 15-16, hundreds of Dinka civilians (and many Darfuris) were hunted down and killed—men, women, and children.  Hate radio locally broadcast locally urged the rape and murder of Dinkas—or even Nuer who were not enthusiastic enough about the victory.  Meanwhile, in Bor (Jonglei State), Nuer civilians under the protection of the UN force (UNMISS, UN Mission in South Sudan) made the mistake of celebrating the victory of the rebels in Bentiu; in reprisal, a large gang of Dinka youth broke into the UN compound and killed dozens of Nuer.  We have seen earlier versions of this vicious ethnic violence in Malakal (Upper Nile) and in other smaller towns, as well as Juba itself.
Toby Lanzer, who heads UN humanitarian operations in South Sudan, has referred to the slaughter in Bentiu as a "game changer." Whether or not the game changed with this particular incident, it provided clear evidence that without an international force capable of enforcing a separation of armed elements, or at least robustly protecting civilians, the fighting will intensify and become more relentlessly ethnic in character.
Beyond the human suffering and destruction that is a consequence of this terrible violence, an even larger threat looms.  For fighting has already displaced more than a million people from their homes and villages, and has done so in the midst of the planting season—April and May, when the rainy season begins.  For planting to be successful, people, seeds, and farming equipment need to be in the same place at the same time.  For displaced people this simply doesn't happen; and if this planting season is a failure, the fall harvest will be as well.  Famine will stalk the land and as many as seven million people will confront extreme food insecurity—in short, starvation.  And the penchant that both parties have for blocking humanitarian aid to areas controlled by the other will exacerbate the difficulties for residents of the most affected areas.
The situation, however, is not hopeless.  There are steps that could be taken to prevent full-scale genocide, which Secretary Kerry can advance during his visit.  First, appropriate international forces need to be deployed to South Sudan to protect civilians.  A vanguard regional force should deploy to protect large concentrations of internally displaced persons who are most at risk of targeted attack.  This must be followed by a substantial augmentation of the UN mission in the region (UNMISS), which as it has deployed is militarily incapable of protecting all civilians in need. 
Second, a major international diplomatic press led by a respected international figure is needed to negotiate a cross-line humanitarian assistance delivery channel. 
Third, biting sanctions need to be imposed by a coalition of states willing to collectively seize bank accounts, houses, cars, and any other assets owned by government or rebel officials—or other regional actors—complicit in war crimes or obstruction of aid deliveries.  Consequences are needed to increase international leverage over the parties, including ramping up efforts to create a mixed judicial process internally and to refer the war crimes perpetrated there to the International Criminal Court
Fourth, international efforts in support of a peace process must redouble.  Leverage should be built by key states with influence and deployed in the service of the talks.  And civil society and political opposition should receive greater international support and be meaningfully included in the peace process as well.
Twenty years ago Rwanda was engulfed in the flames of hatred, as Darfur has been for 10 years.  Hundreds of thousands died because no meaningful international action was taken.  With South Sudan threatening to explode in an ever-expanding cycle of revenge, that legacy of international failure must be reversed, or hundreds of thousands more will die—on our watch. 

Tuesday, 29 April 2014


Fossil fuel subsidies are contributing to fiscal instability and undermining governments’ efforts to combat serious economic and environmental challenges, such as climate change, and the transition to an inclusive green economy, according to experts.

“Reforming Fossil Fuel Subsidies for an Inclusive Green Economy” is the theme of the two-day event co-organized by UNEP, IMF, GIZ and the Global Subsidies Initiative of IISD. Sessions will focus on how fiscal policies can address the perverse effects of fossil fuel subsidies and strengthen government spending for sustainable development.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change recently reported that CO2 emissions from fossil fuel combustion and industrial processes were responsible for approximately 78 per cent of the total increase in greenhouse gas emissions between 1970 and 2010.

Experts say reducing or eliminating harmful fossil fuel subsidies – and properly pricing energy to account for environmental impacts – is one of the most promising ways governments can promote a transition to a greener economy, and even the playing field for investments in energy efficiency and renewable energy.

Subsidies to producers often support inefficient state-owned energy companies and stifle incentives for greater efficiencies and innovation, while subsidies to consumers often encourage excessive consumption, which has knock-on effects for pollution, human health and greenhouse gas emissions.

Globally, fossil fuel subsidies are estimated to be in the range of US$500 billion. When taking into account implicit subsidies from the failure to charge for pollution, climate change and other externalities, the IMF estimates the post-tax subsidy figure is closer to $2 trillion worldwide – equivalent to about 2.9 per cent of global GDP, or 8.5 per cent of government revenues. Furthermore, it finds the removal of such subsidies could lead to a 13 per cent decline in CO2 emissions.

In comparison, according to the International Energy Agency, global subsidies to the renewable energy industry were $88 billion in 2011.

“Fiscal policies are of particular importance in a green economy transition. Confronted by a fiscally constrained world, government reforms might appear to be a daunting challenge,” said UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner.

“However, it is important to note that fossil fuel subsidies cost countries precious funds. For example, they divert government resources from pro-poor spending in Africa, where governments spend an estimated 3 per cent of GDP – equivalent to their total health care allocation – on fossil fuel subsidies,” he added.

Several countries, including Ghana, Namibia, the Philippines and Turkey, have all shown that it is possible to reform energy subsidies and prices. UNEP is currently undertaking green economy fiscal policy studies in several countries, including Ghana, Kenya and Mauritius, which will inform the respective governments as they advance their fiscal policy reforms.

Experts are calling on governments to use government policies to leverage private investment in green sectors by redirecting public investments to clean technologies and providing direct public expenditure for research and development. For example, tax incentives could make investments in clean technologies more attractive, while government funds could reduce the risk profile of capital intensive new technologies.

In addition, experts acknowledge that, in some cases, eliminating these subsidies could have ramifications on the poor or weaken the competitiveness of domestic industries. Therefore, they said, social protection measures are needed to ensure vulnerable groups are not overlooked and receive assistance during a transition period.

Monday, 28 April 2014


The first national sanitation summit was convened yesterday to start drawing up a "people's plan for sanitation and dignity".
The service delivery protests that happen almost every day across the country have been described as a "ticking time bomb" by Professor Peter Alexander from the University of Johannesburg, with an estimated 16 million South Africans lacking proper sanitation.
Pregs Govender, deputy chairperson of the SA Human Rights Commission, slammed the City of Cape Town for building open toilets without thinking of the dignity of those who had to use them.
"Eventually, these toilets were enclosed not just because of a ruling from the SAHR but because of what everyone did together," said Govender, who urged communities to stand together to define constitutional rights such as dignity
Govender added that the SAHRC was interested in engaging communities about access to water, as it "is not possible to live properly on the 25 litres of water a day" government had allocated to poor people.
The summit attracted delegates from informal settlement organisations and civil society with the aim of developing a "people's plan for sanitation and dignity that will build on and support, struggles by communities throughout South Africa", according to Phumeza Mlungwana, general secretary of the Social Justice Coalition.
"When we live without services, our dignity is undermined. Diseases such as TB, diarhhoea and HIV are perpetrated by our living conditions," lamented Bandile Mdlalose from Abahlali baseMjondolo shackdwellers' organisation.
"When winter comes we know there are shack fires and you have to make sure your funeral policy is up-to-date because you don't know whether you will still be alive in December," she added.
"The biggest problem is that we accept the things we should not accept. If we keep quiet about rights that are in the Constitution, in another 20 years' time, we will come back and preach the same thing,"said Mdlalose.
If we keep quiet about rights that are in the Constitution, in another 20 years' time, we will come back and preach the same thing,"
Meanwhile, Joconia Rahube accused officials in Madibeng municipality in the North West of having no interest in fixing broken water infrastructure as they were profiting from the private water trucks that delivered water to the areas.
Rahube's brother, Osiah, was shot dead by police during a water protests in Madibeng in January.
Anglican Archbishop Thabo Makgoba praised the SJC for convening the summit, saying that we needed to "go back to the Constitution to ensure that the values of equality, dignity and justice" were upheld.
"You are raising painful issues. What is the content of dignity? What is the content of justice? If a city id not delivering services, what should you do?" said Makgoba.

Saturday, 26 April 2014


Investors in energy from Germany, Canada, China and South Africa have descended on Ghanaian capital Accra to explore ways of providing solar energy to sub-Saharan Africa.

"The growth in the power sector in sub-Saharan Africa is likely to be somewhere between 60 and 80 gigawatts over the next ten years, and solar is going to form 10 to 15 percent of the overall increase in energy mix across sub-Saharan Africa," Douglas Coleman, project director for Mere Power Nzema Limited, told Anadolu Agency.
The company is developing a 155MWP grid connected solar photovoltaic (PV) power plant in Ghana. The solar PV plant will consist of over 630,000 solar modules situated on 452 acres of land.
The plant, according to the company, will be the largest in Africa. It will cost approximately $350 million and is expected to begin electricity production in 2015.
"If the legal, regulatory and political frameworks are in place, there is certainly sufficient global capital with an appetite for investment in this sector in sub-Saharan Africa," said Coleman.
Ghana is currently hosting a two-day Sub-Saharan Africa Solar Conference organized by independent business media company Magenta Global.
Investors from Germany, Canada, China and South Africa are attending the conference.
Representatives of the energy ministries and commissions of several sub-Saharan countries – including Senegal, Sierra Leone, Uganda and South Africa – are also taking part.
"Africa has one of the best solar resources globally and these must be taken advantage of because it is a fee-free stock," said Jasandra Nyker, CEO of South Africa-based BioTherm Energy (Pty) Ltd.
"It is infinite and solar solutions are modular and easy to roll out. So, I do think there is an opportunity for us to take advantage of it," Nyker added.
Germany-based Deutsche Gesellschaft fur Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) has been implementing a program that promotes the development of renewable energy pilot projects by German and Ghanaian business partners.
"In a bilateral program with the Government of Ghana, we are currently running it for 1.85 million euros, but a larger program of ours in Nigeria is in the range of 15 million euros," Steffen Behrle, the GIZ team leader at conference, told AA.
Wisdom Ahiataku-Togobo, director of Gahanna Energy and the Petroleum Ministry's renewable energy directorate, cited several challenges facing the East African country's quest to go solar.
"The production of only 2.5 megawatts of solar energy covers 3.4 hectares and costs $3.99," he told AA.
This, the official said, poses a challenge to agricultural farms because large tracts of land are needed to generate solar energy.
But that's not a problem for Nigeria.
"Only 1 percent of Nigeria's land mass can sustain solar power for Nigeria," said Professor Lawrence I. N. Ezemonye, director of the Energy Commission at Nigeria's National Center for Energy and Environment.
He said over 97,000 rural communities in Nigeria were without electricity, urging investors to support the West African country.
According to statistics from the FMO Entrepreneurial Development Bank, the Dutch development bank, sub-Saharan Africa is experiencing an energy crisis, with only 24 percent of the population having access to energy.