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2023 Race Bola Ahmed Tinubu visits Orji Kalu for closed door meeting

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With the Nigerian 2023 Presidential and general elections about to heat up, National leader of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, Asiwaju Bola  Tinubu yesterday paid a visit to the Senate Chief Whip, Senator Orji Uzor Kalu, APC, Abia North. It is no longer news that there are no permanent friends or allies in the Nigerian landscape.

Bola Ahmed Tinubu was said to have visited the former Abia State governor  at the Aso-Villa, Abuja Home of Kalu.

Tinubu arrived at Kalu’s residence at exactly 4:25 PM and  both men hugged each other and  exchanged cordial pleasantries, then  proceeded for an indoor meeting. Reports gathered that Shortly before they engaged in the meeting; Kalu expressed his gratitude to God for his speedy recovery.Tinubu, his return  to Nigeria on October 8 after spending months in London, where he underwent knee surgery.

2023 Race Bola Ahmed Tinubu visits Orji Kalu for closed door meeting

The reason for their meeting was not yet known, but it might not be unconnected with political intrigues going on ahead of 2023 Presidential and general elections, APC National convention, the direct primary system, among others.

Both men were  former Governors of their respective states within the same tenure.

While Tinubu was a former Senator, Orji Uzor Kalu is the current Senator representing Abia North Senatorial District in the 9th Senate.

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AFRICA

Controversy surrounds Okowa’s Chief of Staff Resignation

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No fewer than seven commissioners, including the Chief of Staff to the Delta State Governor, Ifeanyi Okowa, have resigned from the State Executive Council.

Aside from the chief of staff, Festus Agas, who had debunked the claim, others who resigned are Basil Ganagana, Evelyn Oboro, Julius Egbedi, Jonathan Ukodhiko, Christian Onogba, Ovie Oghoore, and Chika Ossai.

Their resignation, it was gathered, may not be unconnected to the requirement of Section 84 (12) of the Electoral Act 2022.

The act stipulates that political appointees must resign their appointments before participating in the 2023 general elections, either as delegates or seeking elective offices.

However, Agas On Friday said that he was yet to resign from his position.

Okowa had last week ordered his cabinet members who have political ambitions to resign their appointment.

Agas’s resignation was said to have been kept in secrecy, as he was sighted in his office from Monday to Friday morning (today).

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It was learnt that the Chief of Staff tendered his resignation on Monday.

Credible sources within the Okowa’s government, while confirming the development, said Agas has started moving vital personal documents and belongings from his office.

Also, the Special Assistant to Okowa on Media, Ossai Ovie Success, in a post on his Facebook page on Thursday, confirmed Oga’s resignation.

He wrote, “I just had a good time with Rt Hon Festus Ovie Agas who just resigned as Chief of Staff Government House Asaba. We spent good time together at the office. Rt Hon Ovie Agas has always been a good father, leader with humility and heart of generosity.”

Agas has been severally rumoured to be interested in contesting the 2023 governorship election on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party.

It has also been rumoured that Agas had alleged to have secured the nod of Okowa to go into the race.

But when contacted by our correspondent, Agas denied his resignation.

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AFRICA

Why are Africas leaders silent as the globe reacts to Russian invasion of Ukraine

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Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has so far been met with diplomatic silence in Africa, except for a comment made by Kenya’s ambassador to the UN earlier this week. Analysts say that while many Africans disagree with Russia’s use of force, the continent’s governments are aware of Russia’s power on the world stage.

Ukraine’s ambassador to Kenya, Andrii Pravednyk, spoke to reporters in Nairobi and appealed to the international community to help his country against Russia’s invasion.

Why are Africas leaders silent as the globe reacts to Russian invasion of Ukraine
Ukraine Ambassador to Kenya Andrii Pravednyk speaks during a news conference on Russia’s attack on Ukraine, at the Ukrainian embassy in Nairobi, Kenya, Feb. 24, 2022.

“Today, the future of Europe and the future of the world is at stake. Today Ukraine calls on the international community to take the following actions, to implement devastating sanctions on Russia now without any delay,” he said.

But so far, African governments have said nothing about the Russian aggression. One exception is Kenya, whose ambassador to the U.N., Martin Kimani, condemned the prospect of an invasion Monday, three days before Russian forces entered Ukraine.

“Kenya rejects such a yearning from being pursued by force. We must complete our recovery from the embers of dead empires in a way that does not plunge us back into new forms of domination and oppression,” he said.

Separately, South Africa issued a statement Wednesday urging Ukraine and Russia to find a way to de-escalate tensions.

Steven Gruzd is the head of the Russia-Africa Program at the South African Institute of International Affairs. He says African states are well aware of Russia’s power in the international system.

“African countries are mindful of the role Russia plays in international politics. It is a supporter without asking governance questions, without asking [about] the internal affairs of countries,” he said.

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Why are Africas leaders silent as the globe reacts to Russian invasion of Ukraine
FILE – Russian President Vladimir Putin is seen on a tv camera while he delivers his statement to the media at the Russia-Africa summit in of Sochi, Oct. 24, 2019. (Alexei Druzhinin, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

“There was a big Africa-Russia summit in 2019 in Sochi where 43 African leaders went. Russia is definitely wooing the continent and that may weigh on how critical countries are going to be,” he said.

But Grudz says in principle, African government oppose the idea of rearranging borders by force.

“We were left with colonial borders at the end of the 19th century and when our countries became independent, we decided that we would respect those borders even though they cut off ethnic groups and language groups and so on. Otherwise, it’s a recipe for total disaster. So, I think the fact that there is some political affinity between Russia and African countries would probably make the statement more muted but African countries will stand for their principles and one of those is territorial integrity and sovereignty,” he said.

Kenyan international relations expert Kizito Sabala says he doubts the Kenyan ambassador’s words at the U.N. will affect Nairobi’s relationship with Moscow.

“Russia is going to ignore this statement just like any other from the U.S. or any other partner. They are just going to proceed with what they want to do and what they think is right but in terms of relations, I don’t think it is going to adversely affect Kenya-Russia relations,” he said.

Russia has exerted increasing influence in Burkina Faso, the Central African Republic, Mali and Libya in recent years. Some governments have used Russian mercenaries to battle insurgent groups.

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AFRICA

Russia Steadily Rebuilding Presence in Africa

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Russia has drawn the world’s attention with its aggressive stance toward Ukraine. The former Soviet power has been rebuilding ties with Africa more quietly, strengthening economic and military cooperation, but also raising Western concerns about its tactics and goals there.

Russian flags waved in Burkina Faso’s capital following January’s military coup in the West African nation. A statue unveiled in the Central African Republic last fall shows local soldiers, backed by Russian fighters, protecting civilians.

Those are the more obvious symbols of Russia’s resurgent presence on the continent. Africa is a foreign policy priority, Russian President Vladimir Putin said at the first Russia-Africa summit of political and business leaders in 2019.

“We are not going to participate in a new ‘repartition’ of the continent’s wealth,” he said. “Rather, we are ready to engage in competition for cooperation with Africa.”

A second summit is planned for St. Petersburg in October. The first, at the Black Sea resort town of Sochi, generated diplomatic agreements and billions of dollars in deals involving arms, energy, agriculture, banking and more, said the organizer, the Roscongress Foundation.

Moscow has been building new ties and refreshing alliances forged during the Cold War, when the former Soviet Union supported socialist movements across Africa. After the Soviet Union’s collapse in 1991, it largely withdrew from the continent.

Since at least 2007, especially in the last few years, Russia has been increasing military and other economic involvement in Africa. The 2019 summit produced contracts with more than 30 African countries to supply military armaments and equipment. Businesses, including state-backed commercial interests, have invested heavily in security sectors, technology and industries that extract natural resources such as oil, gas, gold and other minerals.

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Rusal is a company that excavates minerals for aluminum in Guinea and nuclear group Rosatom seeks uranium in Namibia. Alrosa, the world’s largest diamond mining company, has pushed to expand operations in Angola and Zimbabwe, according to the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

“Russia is clearly interested, in search of new economic markets and geopolitical influence in Africa,” said Tatiana Smirnova, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Quebec’s Centre FrancoPaix and an associate with the University of Florida’s Sahel Research Group. “It’s important for Russia.”

Russia Steadily Rebuilding Presence in Africa
Sub-Saharan Africa’s Import-Export Partners

Trade between Russia and African countries has doubled since 2015, to about $20 billion a year, African Export-Import Bank President Benedict Oramah said in an interview last fall with Russia’s state-owned Tass news agency, cited by the Russia Briefing investment news site. He said Russia exported $14 billion worth of goods and services and imported roughly $5 billion in African products.

However, Africa does more business with other countries, notably China, its biggest trading partner in recent years.

Russia’s overtures in recent years offer cooperation without the “political or other conditions” imposed by Western countries, Putin has said.

“Russia provides, as did the Soviet Union before, an alternative vision for African nations” based on “this common anti-Western critique,” said Maxim Matusevich, a history professor who directs Russian studies at Seton Hall University in New Jersey.

However, while the Soviets tried to sell socialist ideas of modernization in Africa, Russians today “are not offering any ideological vision,” he said. “What they’re essentially doing is they’re contracting with African elites on a one-on-one basis. … They insist on the importance of sovereignty and contrast that with the West, which is trying to impose its values, such as transparency, honest governance, anti-corruption legislation. Again, I’m not saying the West is always sincere doing that, but that’s the official message – and they [Russians] are not doing any of that.”

Shifting dynamics

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The spread of militant Islamist extremism and other violence in Africa has created more openings for Russian military involvement. For instance, five nations in the volatile Sahel region – Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger – solicited Moscow’s military support in 2018. Russian fighters also have been engaged in Mozambique and Angola.

France’s planned drawdown of troops from Mali, its former colony and partner in the fight against jihadists since 2013, leaves still more room.

Last Thursday, France and its security partners announced they would exit Mali, citing “multiple obstructions” by the military junta that took power in 2020. France will redeploy its 2,400 troops elsewhere in the Sahel.

Russia Steadily Rebuilding Presence in Africa
FILE – French Barkhane force soldiers who wrapped up a tour of duty in the Sahel leave their base on a transport plane in Gao, Mali, June 9, 2021.

Private military contractors also are helping advance Moscow’s agendas in Africa, Western observers say. These include fighters in the shadowy Wagner Group, allegedly controlled by Putin associate Yevgeny Prigozhin. Putin has denied any connection with the group.

“It’s not the state,” Putin said. “… It’s private business with private interests tied to extracting energy resources, including various resources like gold or precious stones.”

Those private fighters operate in parallel with the Kremlin, said Joseph Siegle, who directs research for the Africa Center for Strategic Studies, part of the U.S. Defense Department. He said they are part of Moscow’s tool kit to prop up weak African leaders in exchange for economic or other advantages.

“Every place we’ve seen Wagner deployed around the world and in Africa – be it Libya, Sudan, Mozambique, Central African Republic – it has been a destabilizing force,” Siegle said. “What Russia has been doing has been deploying mercenaries, disinformation, election interference, arms-for-resources deals, opaque contracts … aimed at capturing wider influence.”

That influence can protect Russia’s interests in international circles, Matusevich said, citing Russia’s 2014 seizure of the Crimean Peninsula.

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“We know that in the aftermath of the invasion of Ukraine, when Russia was sanctioned in the United Nations, a lot of African nations abstained from the vote,” he said. “So, they are gaining diplomatic support and alternative diplomatic blocs that they can count on.”

The United Nations is investigating reports of “grave” human rights abuses in the Central African Republic, allegedly committed by private military personnel. Meanwhile, Russian mercenaries are glorified as public protectors amid a coup attempt in the 2021 Russian film The Tourist. The movie, set in the Central African Republic, reportedly was funded by Putin ally Pregizhin.

Security concerns

In Mali, the leaders of a 2020 military coup brought in Russian military trainers – and what U.S. and French authorities say are Wagner mercenaries.

Russia Steadily Rebuilding Presence in Africa
FILE – Malians demonstrate against France and in support of Russia on the 60th anniversary of the independence of the Republic of Mali in 1960, in Bamako, Mali Sept. 22, 2020.

Some in Mali welcomed them by waving Russian flags, reflecting not only the country’s historic ties with the former USSR but also public impatience over continued insecurity, said Niagalé Bagayoko, a Paris-based political scientist who chairs the African Security Sector Network. The organization seeks security and justice reforms, and is among advocates for more protections for civilians in the Sahel and more transparency and accountability for military operations there.

“In 2013, the whole Malian population [was] enthusiastic when the French arrived … today they are rejecting their presence,” Bagayoko said.

“To be honest, I would not be very surprised if, in two years or so, the same could happen with the Russian presence,” she said.

African countries are showing a willingness to look beyond a single foreign partner in their efforts to find stability and security, she said. “There is the realization … that being only engaged with single actors …. is restricting the possibility for diplomacy, but also for military apparatus.”

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Russia is not the only foreign government trying to broaden influence in Africa, home to vast resources including a surging youth population.

The White House plans a second U.S.-Africa leadership summit later this year, following up on an initial Washington gathering in 2014 and the European Union has announced a new $172 billion investment in infrastructure, countering China’s Belt and Road initiative.

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AFRICA

Liberia’s Former Defence Chief Samukai to Be Jailed for Embezzlement

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The Supreme Court of Liberia handed down two-year prison sentences to former defence chief Brownie Samukai along with deputies Joseph Johnson and James Nyuman Ndokor after they failed to return one million euros worth of stolen money from a government pension account.

Samukai, who was in court as the ruling was being read on Thursday, fled the building before he was taken to jail.

Accroding to Marvin Sackor, Liberian Deputy Inspector General for Operations: “We are working with our counterparts, the National Security Agency, to get a clear understanding about the whereabouts of Samukai.”

The funds were stolen from the Armed Forces of Liberia pension account during the mandate of former President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, when Samukai headed the defense ministry.

The three men were ordered by the court to pay a total of €500,000 within six months, but failed to do so.

Gross violation

The Supreme Court’s Associate Justice Sie-A-Nyene G. Yuoh said the convicts will remain in prison until the balance amount is paid in full, with an interest rate of €20 per month, for what she termed a ‘gross violation’.

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The three were found guilty of theft of property, criminal conspiracy, and misuse of public money among others for embezzlement from the Army’s compulsory savings account.

The ruling means Samukai will not be allowed to serve as Senator of Lofa County.

Brownie Samukai, a staunch critic of incumbent President George Weah and a stalwart of the former ruling Unity Party, was elected during the 2020 midterm Senate election but was barred from taking his seat after he was found guilty of raiding the Army coffers.

Positive ruling for soldiers

Soldiers whose money was stolen by the three former officials have welcomed the court ruling.

“The money was forcefully deducted from us monthly; surprisingly we heard the account was empty,” says soldier James Wilson*.

“I am happy, but I think their properties should be seized. We need the money,” Wilson told RFI via telephone from the Edward Binyan Kessely Military Barracks in Monrovia.

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Samukai supporters say ruling politcally motivated

Supporters of Samukai have described the court’s ruling as a plot against the senator-elect.

“This is purely political! The people of Lofa are under-represented because our senator-elect has been prevented from taking his seat even though he’s already paid some of the money,” exclaimed Lofa resident Yanquoi Flomuku.

This refers to a payment made on Thursday of €170,000 in three separate checks, prior to the judgement.

But the court maintains as the three were convicted together, they must return the funds together.

Others insist that President George Weah and his Congress for Democratic Change party influenced the court’s ruling. They maintain he also has plans for political opponents such as politician Alexander Cummings of Alternative National Congress (ANC).

“Just as they used the court to keep Brownie Samukai out of the Liberian Senate, the Congress for Democratic Change intends to use the slanderous but baseless case of fraud to keep Alexander B. Cummings off the ballot paper,” says Menipakei Dumoe, an ANC political activist.

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However, Adolphus N.S. Weah, an independent political analyst who doubles as Chairman of the Center for the Exchange of Intellectual Opinions (CEIO) disagrees.

He says the case is purely legal, describing the ruling as a boost against corruption.

“I don’t see any witch hunt here,” says Weah.

“It sends out a bad picture for someone to illegally take away resources belonging to servicemen so we should all support the court clampdown on corruption,” he told RFI in Monrovia.

While court’s search for the three culprits took two years, many see the ruling as a new day in Liberia’s fight against corruption.

*names have been changed for protection

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