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AU chair questions US stance on African peacekeeping

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Addis Ababa – The African Union’s new chair Moussa Faki Mahamat on Wednesday questioned US commitment to fighting terrorism on the continent after it blocked efforts to get UN funding for an anti-jihadist force in the Sahel.

“This is a specific case of a certain number of African states taking the initiative to create a dedicated force to fight terrorism. So, we don’t understand how the United States could hold back or not engage in the fight against terrorism,” Faki said in an interview with AFP.

Faki’s January election as chairperson of the AU commission came days after the inauguration of US President Donald Trump, who has proposed slashing US funding for aid projects and multilateral institutions like the UN.

The former Chadian foreign minister made peace and security his top priority and claimed an early victory when the UN Security Council last month welcomed the deployment of a five-nation African military force to fight jihadists in West Africa’s Sahel region.

But the US stopped the Security Council from formally backing the force and opposes funding it.

Washington has argued that UN authorisation was not necessary because the troops will be operating in the territories of Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger, the countries that make up the force.

However the real issue is seen to be willingness to commit UN funds to the mission and the question of financing still hangs heavily over the so-called G5 force, which will be headquartered in Mali.

Faced with the possibility that the Trump administration’s budget proposal under debate in the US congress could slash funding to African aid projects or institutions like the AU, Faki urged Washington not to abandon the continent.

“We hope that the new administration will be in step with the current challenges of the world,” Faki said. “In any case, it does not seem opportune for the United States to disengage itself. These are fundamental questions which determine my faith for peace and stability in the world.”

Last month the US pushed through a $600m cut in the UN’s budget for peacekeeping operations that will force the drawdown of a long-running peacekeeping mission in Sudan’s troubled Darfur region.

The US is one of the foreign donors that pay for the bulk of the AU’s budget and is a key partner of the body’s AMISOM peacekeeping mission in Somalia.

But the African bloc has already found itself at odds with the Trump administration, particularly on the issue of climate change.

The AU spoke out against Trump’s June announcement that the US would pull out of the Paris climate deal, with deputy AU commission chairperson Thomas Kwesi Quartey calling on Washington to return.

Africa

Warlord’s fighters become movie stars as Ugandan cinema booms

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BLOOMBERG — Opio was 16 when he was abducted by a Bible-quoting warlord and forced into a militia notorious for massacres and sexual slavery. Two decades on, he again took up a rifle — this time playing one of his former comrades in an award-winning Ugandan movie.

As the cameras rolled, he and other actors stormed a village set, shot at civilians and were ambushed at a river crossing. It was all for ‘The Devil’s Chest,’ one of two feature films about Joseph Kony and his rebel Lord’s Resistance Army that was made on location in northern Uganda last year and stirred some painful memories.

“I felt it all coming back, the frustrations, the helplessness and how sometimes I would feel that I just wanted to die,” said Opio, who’s now 38 and spent seven years in the LRA before fleeing and accepting a state-sponsored amnesty. “But at the end of it all, I knew it was just a movie — I had already left that real life in the past.”

Uganda, too, has moved on from the chaos sown by Kony’s militia, which may have been responsible for 100,000 deaths in central and eastern Africa in the past three decades. There’s been an investment in oil exploration and infrastructure in the north, which the LRA terrorized until 2005, while the capital, Kampala, is touted as a hot new nightlife spot. Now at peace — and still under the iron rule of President Yoweri Museveni — U.S. ally Uganda is a regional heavyweight, sending troops to Somalia and South Sudan.

The country isn’t a complete stranger to Hollywood: ‘The Last King of Scotland’ recreated the despotic 1970s rule of President Idi Amin, while Lupita Nyong’o played the mother of a chess prodigy in Disney’s ‘Queen of Katwe,’ which takes its title from a Kampala neighbourhood. Recent years, though, have brought a surge in locally funded films. Museveni’s drive to remain in office may have curbed political expression, but it hasn’t dampened creativity in an economy that’s almost quadrupled in size since he took power in 1986.

At least 700 Ugandan features and short films have played at festivals in the past five years, according to Ruth Kibuuka, content development manager at the Uganda Communications Commission, the industry regulator. While quality was initially “wanting,” it has “greatly improved,” partly due to technical training, she said.
There’s still a long way before Uganda challenges Nollywood, Nigeria’s film industry that produces movies at a rate second only to India’s. That’s despite the efforts of Nabwana Isaac Godfrey. The founder of Wakaliwood, a studio that turns out scrappy, fast-paced action movies from a Kampala slum, he says he’s directed about 60 since 2005 — at less than $300 each.
Driving Passion

“The industry is growing at a very good speed and it’s passion that is driving it,” said Godfrey. His most famous production,‘Who Killed Captain Alex?,’ showcases the crude computer-generated effects and over-the-top violence that’s won him a cult following outside Uganda.

For director Hassan Mageye, ‘Devil’s Chest’ commemorates the insurgency’s victims while showing that people have moved on. It won best feature at Uganda’s main film festival in September but hasn’t yet been widely released. He estimated about 90 percent of the 400-strong cast were affected by Kony’s rebellion, including some ex-fighters.

Roger Masaba, who portrayed Kony, said he was advised by some of the cast who’d met the real man. The 47-year-old said he was surprised not everyone off the set in the north expressed dislike for the warlord. While he was in costume, some even thought he was Kony.

Kony, who’s been indicted by the International Criminal Court and still on the run, went on to plague South Sudan and the Central African Republic with a much-diminished militia. His former fighters in Uganda were mostly granted amnesty by the government, which has provided counseling and outlawed discrimination against them.

There’s a strong local appetite for stories about Uganda’s past, according to Steve Ayeny, the director of ‘Kony: Order From Above,’ another feature about the rebels and their captives filmed at a northern army base. He said about half his 445 actors and extras were former insurgents.

Reenacting the lynchings and burning of villages “was not easy,” said Ayeny, who had friends killed during the period his film portrays. “Because they were the truth, we just had to deal with it and say, ya, let’s move on.”

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South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma resigns

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South Africa’s embattled President Jacob Zuma has resigned his office with immediate effect.

He made the announcement in a televised address to the nation on Wednesday evening.

Earlier, Mr Zuma’s governing ANC party told him to resign or face a vote of no confidence in parliament on Thursday.

The 75-year-old has been under increasing pressure to give way to Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, the ANC’s new leader.

Mr Zuma faces numerous allegations of corruption.

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South Africa’s ANC gives Zuma 48 hours to quit, state broadcaster says

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PRETORIA/JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – South Africa’s ruling African National Congress (ANC) gave President Jacob Zuma 48 hours to resign as head of state on Monday after an eight-hour meeting of the party’s top leadership, the SABC state broadcaster said.

Party leader Cyril Ramaphosa’s motorcade left a marathon ANC National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting at 10:30 p.m. (2030 GMT) for Zuma’s residence near the Union Buildings in Pretoria to deliver the message in person, the SABC said, citing sources.

His motorcade returned an hour later to the venue of the ANC meeting debating Zuma’s fate.

The rand ZAR=D3, which has tended to strengthen on signs Zuma could step down before his second term ends next year, extended its gains to 0.7 percent to the dollar on expectations Zuma was on his way out.

ANC officials and Zuma’s spokesman could not be reached to comment.

Since Ramaphosa was elected party leader in December, Zuma has faced mounting calls from his party to end his scandal-plagued second term a year early.

The NEC meeting in a Pretoria hotel had all the ingredients for a showdown between Zuma stalwarts and those backing a swift transfer of power to Ramaphosa, the deputy state president.

Ramaphosa, 65, says he has held direct talks with Zuma over a transfer of power, and said on Sunday the meeting of the party’s executive committee would be aiming on Monday to “finalize” the situation.

The party executive has the authority to order Zuma to step down as head of state, although there is domestic media speculation that he might yet refuse.

Zuma survived calls last year from within the NEC for him to quit.[L8N1IU0QO] But analysts say there is greater support for him to step down now.

His tenure as president officially runs until mid-2019 and he has not said publicly whether he will step down voluntarily.

The president is also facing a no-confidence motion in parliament set for Feb. 22, but has survived several similar attempts to oust him in the past.

His entire Cabinet would have to step down if the motion of no-confidence against him was successful.

Since becoming president in 2009, Zuma has been dogged by scandal. He is fighting the reinstatement of 783 counts of corruption over a 30 billion-rand (now $2.5 billion) government arms deal arranged in the late 1990s when he was deputy president.

Some within the ANC and the opposition say the Gupta family, friends of Zuma, have used their links with the president to win state contracts and influence Cabinet appointments. The Guptas and Zuma have denied any wrongdoing.

India’s Bank of Baroda (BOB.NS), which counts the Guptas as clients, has announced plans to exit South Africa, the central bank said on Monday.

Ramaphosa has put the focus on rooting out corruption and revitalizing economic growth since defeating Zuma’s preferred successor, Zuma’s ex-wife Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, in the ANC leadership race.

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