Can Tshisekedi's govt deliver free education in DRC?


President Felix Tshisekedi faces a stern test this week as parents and children across the Democratic Republic of Congo hope his government will keep a costly vow to make school tuition free. Tshisekedi, who took office in January, pledged to allocate $2.6 billion to primary education, approximately 40 percent of the vast country’s annual budget. His promise concerns more than 50,000 state primary schools and will affect millions of children so far deprived of education because their families cannot afford the fees. The sums paid by parents include not only the costs of admission and facilities, but also teachers’ wages. Can the government cover these costs? Though he cut the symbolic ribbon to inaugurate a new primary school in central Kinshasa on Monday, Tshisekedi acknowledged that he could not say that his pledge had been carried out across sub-Saharan Africa’s biggest nation. “This will be a measure that will be truly definitive and universal in a few months,” the president later told AFP on the sidelines of talks with UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres. “We took things as they came. We had no government, no budget. This will be done. It’s my primordial goal,” added Tshisekedi, who in August named a coalition government including allies of his predecessor Joseph Kabila. “The Congo is capable of raising such a sum. And we will do it.” In 2018, government debt accounted for 14.47 percent of a gross domestic product of $72.2 billion, according to an estimate by the International Monetary Fund, while annual GDP per capita was put at $814. Some 73 percent of the population live in extreme poverty, the World Bank said, the second worst rate south of the Sahara. Testing the promise of free education In Kinshasa, the capital city of approximately 10 million people, two state schools visited by AFP appeared to have turned free education into a reality. “Dear parents, learning is free,” a poster announced at the entrance to the 1 Ngaba primary school in a working-class district. “Last year, the parents paid 104,000 Congolese francs (57 euros, $63) three times,” the headmaster said, adding that with free schooling attendance has doubled. “A down payment of 20,000 Congolese francs I had to pay has been returned to me,” said Isabel Kyese, a seamstress who came with three children, delighted at the refund. “This was an enormous burden because of our feeble income,” she added. “The pupils aren’t going to pay anything,” said Jean-Claude Katemboue, head of the EPA 2 school in Gombe, a wealthier residential district. “I paid nothing and we weren’t asked,” mother Mami Minga said, her children, aged six and 10, in tow. A father in Banalia near the northeastern city of Kisangani was cautious. “I’m going to find out if free education is for real before sending my kids to school,” he said. The primary education ministry has announced that classes will be free in the schools where budgets have been drawn up, totalling 30,773 out of 51,574, according to official figures. Headmaster Kitemboue was gratified at the prospect of being paid by the state rather than parents. “It will raise standard of education and give worth to the teacher.” “When parents support teachers, it can happen that we favour the children of those who pay well,” said a technology teacher, Ados Nsimba. “Meritocracy is going to take charge.” ALSO READ: Liberia president declares free tuition in all public universities Hope for DR Congo The stakes are high when half of the 80 million Congolese are aged under 20, but the World Bank has justified some optimism on growth and finance. “With 80 million hectares (200 million acres) of arable land and over 1,100 listed minerals and precious metals, the DRC has the potential to become one of the richest economies on the continent and a driver of African growth — if it can overcome its political instability and improve governance,” the bank wrote in an overview updated in April 2019. But the former Belgian colony has been plagued by the most deadly conflicts in Africa since the 1990s, while ongoing violence divides communities and contributes to an unstable climate where corruption can flourish, notably in the mining business. AFP

Huge crowds attend Pope's mass in Madagascar

BBC News Africa  

Many of the worshippers brave the cold and wind, spending nights outdoors ahead of his arrival.

Bashir's accountability for $25m received from Saudi Arabia


Sudan’s former president, Omar al-Bashir is battling to prove that he did not swindle state resources, at a trial where he is charged with possessing illicit foreign currency and corruption. Speaking publicly for the first time since his ouster, Bashir said last week he had received $25 million from Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, as well as from other sources, but had not received or used money for his own benefit. “I used the money for private donations to various parties,” including medical services, a university, an Islamic media channel, and urgent fuel provision, he said. Testifying in court on Saturday, Bashir’s last office manager said the president was the only person with a key to a room at the presidential palace holding millions of euros. Who received money from Bashir? Yasser Basheer said the former president gave him more than 10 million euros’ ($11 million) cash in his final months of rule for delivery to different parties. The former manager, who worked for Bashir from September 2018 and was speaking as a defence witness, said the president once gave him 5 million euros for Abdelrahim Hamdan Dagalo, deputy head of the feared paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF). The money, Basheer said, was delivered in the presence of Abdelrahim’s brother Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, head of the RSF and deputy head of the Transitional Military Council that ruled after Bashir’s ouster. He is now a member of the Sovereign Council formed in a military-civilian power-sharing deal. Other recipients of cash included the Defence Ministry, plus military personnel and civilians for medical treatment, Basheer said, adding that he did not know the source of the cash and was only following orders. Abdelmoneim Mohamed, an accountant at the International University of Africa, a private institution with links to Islamists, also testified in Bashir’s defence. He said the university’s director and deputy director received 4 million euros in cash from Bashir. Unprecedented trial Sudan’s military ousted Bashir in April after months of protests. His prosecution is a test of how far power-sharing military and civilian authorities will tackle the legacy of his 30-year authoritarian rule. Though he did not speak at Saturday’s hearing, Bashir who sat in a metal cage in the courtroom wearing traditional white robes and turban, denied the charges when formally indicted a week ago. Millions of euros and Sudanese pounds were found at Bashir’s residence in April, a judicial source said. The charges carry maximum prison sentences of around 10 years. The next hearing is set for Sept. 14. The International Criminal Court in The Hague issued arrest warrants against him in 2009 and 2010 on charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide in Sudan’s Darfur region. REUTERS

Somalia: Jubbaland's Madobe Not Yet Out of the Woods


[East African] Last month's re-election of Jubbaland state's President Sheikh Ahmed Islam Madobe has been challenged in court.

Uganda: Tax Deal Keeps Uganda Oil On Ice for a While


[East African] Ugandans' wait to join the league of oil exporting countries looks set to last longer after plans to build a pipeline to Tanzania's coast suffered a double blow this week.

Africa: Pasha 34 - How Digital Technologies Can Help Farmers in Africa


[The Conversation Africa] Digitisation could change the game for Africa's smallholder farmers. Technologies like drones, satellites and apps all have the ability to make farming much easier and simpler. Of course, technology is not a panacea to all the challenges smallholder farmers face - but as it gets cheaper and easier to access, it can make their work much easier.

Sudan: Temple Graffiti Reveals Stories From Ancient Sudan


[The Conversation Africa] Today the northern region of Sudan that borders with Egypt is mostly desert. But this part of the Nile's valley was once home to a powerful African civilisation called Kush. It traded gold and the products of inner Africa to Egypt and the Mediterranean world beyond. Kush was a major power in this region for over 2000 years, reaching its largest extent when it conquered Egypt and ruled as its 25th Dynasty from about 725-653 BCE.

Africa: The African Free Trade Zone Can't Ignore Continent's Security Issues


[The Conversation Africa] The new African free trade zone came into effect at the end of May 2019. All of the African Union's (AU) member states are now legally bound to allow African goods to be traded without restraint throughout the continent. But there are some security concerns to be considered.

Senegal: Is the Socialist Party Set for a Leadership Battle?


[The Conversation Africa] The secretary general of Senegal's Socialist Party, Ousmane Tanor Dieng, died in July this year. There are concerns that his death will intensify divides in the Party's leadership. This threatens the future of a party that has shaped Senegalese politics since 1948, before independence.

South Africa: New Economic Proposals Highlight the Role of Services


[The Conversation Africa] South Africa's Finance Minister Tito Mboweni recently published a package of economic policy proposals that warrant serious consideration. They are aimed at reviving the flagging economy whose growth over the past five years has averaged only 1.1% while the real rate of unemployment has climbed towards 40%.

Zimbabwe: Deepening Crisis - Time for Second Government of National Unity?


[The Conversation Africa] Zimbabwe is going through its worst socio-economic and political crisis in two decades. Crippling daily power outages of up to 18 hours and erratic supply of clean water are just some of the most obvious signs. Meanwhile, an inflation rate of over 500% has put the prices of basic goods beyond the reach of most people.

Africa: Desertification Costs World Economy Up to U.S.$15 Trillion - UN


[IPS] United Nations -Forest fires, droughts and other forms of land degradation cost the global economy as much as 15 trillion dollars every year and are deepening the climate change crisis, a top United Nations environment official said Friday.

Africa: First Global Forum of Leprosy-Affected People's Organisations Kicks Off in Manila


[IPS] Manila -Being part of a platform where leprosy-affected people from all over the world can freely interact, exchange and share opinions, ideas, experiences and strategies was always something Tasfaye Tadesse dreamt of.

Africa: Global Network Key to Strengthening Leprosy Organisations


[IPS] Manila -Organisations of people affected by Hansen's Disease or leprosy agree that a global network of volunteer groups is key to eradicating the disease, but concrete steps need to be taken to move the idea from an often-discussed concept to a reality.

Zimbabwe: Ex-President Robert Mugabe Leaves a Mixed Legacy


[IPS] Bulaway, Zimbabwe -Former Zimbabwe strongman Robert Mugabe, who died this week, aged 95, leaves a mixed and divisive legacy.

East Africa: Tanzania All Set to Host Fourth Jamafest Edition


[East African] The fourth edition of the East African Community's Jumuiya ya Afrika Mashariki Utamaduni Festival (JamaFest) is set to take place between September 21-28 in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania at the National Stadium grounds.

Cameroon: Treason Trial of Cameroon President's Arch-Rival Opens


[Deutsche Welle] President Paul Biya's rival in a 2018 presidential race, Maurice Kamto, and his 90 co-accused appeared briefly before a military tribunal on charges of insurrection and rebellion after rejecting the vote.

Zimbabwe: Robert Mugabe's Dead, but Zimbabwe's Woes Persist


[Deutsche Welle] Zimbabwe's youth felt betrayed by the greed of Robert Mugabe and his generation. The former autocrat may be dead, but there are those in government who carry on his legacy, Blessing Vava writes in this guest commentary.

African Instagrammers: Who to Follow


Instagram has become an essential part of our lives, allowing us to show the world what we’re getting up to. But the photo-sharing site is also a platform for people to showcase their creativity, whether it’s about sharing the most artistic photo or simply adding a dash of cuteness to your feed.

Uganda: Revolutionary - Joel Sebunjo On the African Paradox


[East African] Born August 20, 1984, Joel Sebunjo is one of a handful of Ugandan folk/world music artistes.

Pope preaches frugality, conservation in Madagascar


Pope’s message to the Malagasy Pope Francis called on the Malagasy people to protect the environment, even as he reiterated his warning against corruption. The Argentine pontiff told his hosts they should “create jobs and money-making activities which respect the environment and help people escape poverty”. Madagascar’s British ambassador Philip Boyle told AFP the country loses around 200,000 hectares of forest each year, adding that “most of the tropical rainforest could disappear by 2040”. The pope said there “were many causes driving excessive deforestation which benefits just a few people… and compromises the future of the country.” The pope also had words of encouragement for the youth of Madagascar, most of whom are unemployed. Liberal-leaning president Andry Rajoelina was elected to a second term last year mainly on promises of jobs and housing. At Antananarivo’s Soamandrakizay stadium, thousands of young people – mainly scouts – gathered for a vigil. They waited for hours in the heat. “I am here to ask for the pope’s blessing to face the harsh realities of life, insecurity, poverty and corruption,” said 17-year old student Njara Raherimana, who travelled hundreds of kilometres for the event. “All this gives me hope for change in my country,” echoed fellow student, Antony Christian Tovonalintsoa, who lives in the outskirts of the capital. During the vigil, Pope Francis lauded the “joy and enthusiasm” of the singing crowd. He encouraged the youth not to fall into “bitterness” or to lose hope, even when they lacked the “necessary minimum” to get by and when “educational opportunities were insufficient” Pope arrives in Madagascar The pope arrived in Madagascar on Friday evening, for the second leg of his tour. A short video of the children who welcomed Pope Francis in Madagascar. Am extremely beautiful country, Madagascar is also extremely poor, with a GDP per capita of $1,600 a year. pic.twitter.com/ssBHs22CT9— Ines San Martin (@inesanma) September 6, 2019 His trip here is anticipated by many, including conservationists who hope the environmentally-conscious spiritual leader will spotlight the island that lost 2% of primary rainforest last year, the highest of any tropical nation according to the World Resources Institute. “He should say that this forest is God’s creation. He gave it to us and for our own benefit,” said Anselme Toto Volahy, researcher from Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust. “If we don’t manage it well, we will destroy ourselves.” Pope’s final messages to Mozambicans On his final day in Mozambique, Pope Francis on Friday scolded political and business leaders in the resource-rich but poor East African country who allow themselves to be corrupted by outsiders. “Mozambique is a land of abundant natural and cultural riches, yet paradoxically, great numbers of its people live below the poverty level,” Francis said in the stadium, in an area of the capital where many people live in shantytowns with houses of corrugated metal roofs. The pope visited a hospital for HIV-AIDS sufferers run by the Sant’ Egidio community and then said a mass for some 60,000 of people in Maputo’s national stadium. “At times it seems that those who approach with the alleged desire to help have other interests. Sadly, this happens with brothers and sisters of the same land, who let themselves be corrupted. It is very dangerous to think that this is the price to be paid for foreign aid,” Francis said. While the pope did not give any specific examples of corruption, Mozambique is still struggling to recover from the impact of a $2 billion debt scandal, which saw hundreds of millions of dollars in borrowing guaranteed by the Mozambique government disappear. The head of the Catholic Church also told tens of thousands of faithful at the packed stadium not to resort to “vengeance” “We cannot think of the future and build a nation” with violence, the pope said in a homily to a crowd of about 60,000 at the Zimpeto stadium in the Mozambican capital Maputo. Speaking in Portuguese, he asked them not to follow the old law of retaliation “an eye for eye, a tooth for a tooth. “No family, no group of neighbours or ethnic group and even less no country has a future if the motor that unites them… is composed of vengeance and hatred,” he said. September 05: Pope addresses politicians On his first full day in Mozambique, Pope Francis applauded a recently signed peace deal between government and rebels. The pontiff’s visit comes after the government and the former rebel group Renamo, now the main opposition party, signed a historic treaty. The two sides in the former Portuguese colony fought a 15-year civil war that ended in 1992 and killed about a million people. But only last month did they sign a permanent ceasefire. In talks with President Filipe Nyusi, the pope expressed his “personal gratitude… for the efforts made in recent decades to ensure that peace is once more the norm.” Reconciliation, he said, is “the best path to confront the difficulties and challenges that you face as a nation.” He described the accord as “a landmark that we greet with the hope that it will prove decisive.” The talks at the presidential palace were also attended by Renamo opposition leader Ossufo Momade. The pope also commiserated with victims of the two cyclones that killed more than 600 and affected hundreds of thousands. “I would like my first words of closeness and solidarity to be addressed to all those struck by cyclones Idai and Kenneth, whose devastating effects continue to be felt by so many families,” he said. “I want you to know of my own participation in your anguish and suffering, and the commitment of the Catholic community to respond to this most difficult situation. “Amid the catastrophe and desolation, I pray that, in God´s providence, constant concern will be shown by all those civil and social groups who make people their priority and are in a position to promote the necessary rebuilding”. The pope asked Mozambicans to be vigilant against pillaging and unethical exploitation of natural resources “driven by a greed generally not cultivated even by the inhabitants of these lands, nor motivated by the common good of your people”. September 04: Pope arrives in Mozambique Thousands of jubilant Catholic faithful on Wednesday welcomed Pope Francis to Mozambique as he kicked off a three-nation tour of African countries, expected to focus on those hard hit by poverty, conflict and natural disaster.* Touching down just after 6:00 pm local time (1600 GMT) Francis was greeted on the tarmac by President Filipe Nyusi, a military band playing the national anthem and a display of traditional dance. The first pope to visit Mozambique since John Paul II in 1988, he was then whisked away in his popemobile, flanked by police bikes as crowds waved signs reading ‘welcome to Mozambique Prophet of reconciliation” and danced in celebration. He stood in his popemobile and waved at the thousands of faithfuls who lined up along the fringes of the city’ main streets as he made the five kilometre (three mile) route from the airport to the Nuncio’s residence in the posh Sommerschield suburb, where he will stay during the visit. Mozambique itinerary On Friday he will address a mass at the giant Zimpeto stadium in the seaside capital Maputo. The pope is expected to discuss the country’s fragile peace process, the devastation caused by two back-to-back cyclones early this year, and the upcoming general election. The three-day visit to Mozambique comes a month after the government signed a historic peace treaty with the former rebel group Renamo, which is now the main opposition party. The 16-year civil war devastated the former Portuguese colony and Renamo has never completely disarmed. The pope may also address the issue of extremism in northern Mozambique where jihadist attacks have claimed more than 300 lives over two years. Expectations of Mozambicans “I hope his visit will bring us effective and long lasting peace,” said Arnaldo Menezes, a 25-year-old student, referring to the treaty with Renamo. “We don’t want war anymore. I want to be able to travel freely across the country, even in the north,” he said. With elections scheduled for October, some fear violence may break out. “He is coming at a time when we Mozambicans are trying to consolidate peace,” said Manuela Muianga, a biologist and disaster relief manager in the capital, Maputo. “We Catholics feel that he is a visionary man who can help Mozambique to strengthen hope and make us forget all those things that make us fight against each other. The biggest concern is the fighting between the two parties. I’m sure he will address this,” she said. The pontiff will only have time to visit Maputo while in Mozambique, much to the disappointment of those in the central city of Beira where Cyclone Idai killed at least 600 people and left hundreds of thousands homeless in March. “Although I am unable to go beyond the capital, my heart reaches out to all of you, with a special place for those of you who live in difficult situations,” he said in a video message, adding: “You are all in my prayers.” The capital has been spruced up for the visit, with the government spending 300,000 euros ($330,000) for the trip, according to Foreign Minister Jose Pacheco, including repairs to Maputo’s cathedral and city roads. Many locals appear happy to splurge on pope-branded regalia. Twenty-nine-year-old Catarina Simbine showed off a Pope-branded cloth known as a capulana. “Me and my fellow congregants from Santa Theresa de Calcutta took about six months preparing for his arrival,” she told AFP. Beatrice Netu, 70, remembered welcoming the pope on his first visit to Mozambique as “one of the biggest privileges of my life”. “I would not be able to handle it if the Pope came up to us and greeted us or touched my hand here where I am standing in the crowd, I would probably faint!” Beyond Mozambique The pope will also visit the large Indian Ocean island of Madagascar and its much smaller and wealthier neighbour Mauritius — both situated off the eastern coast of Africa. Mozambique and Madagascar are among the world’s poorest countries and Francis’ decision to visit is seen by commentators as an act of solidarity from a cleric who was a frequent presence in the shantytowns of Argentina and is now called the “pope of the poor”.

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