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Briefing Room

Uhuru, DP Ruto happy with Raila’s decision

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President Uhuru Kenyatta and his Deputy William Ruto say the October 26 presidential repeat election will go on whether Nasa leader Raila Odinga participates or not.

Addressing a rally at Voi Stadium, Taita-Taveta County, the Jubilee leaders, who were there to seek support ahead of the vote, said it is not written in the Constitution that Mr Odinga must contest the election.

“He should stop taking Kenyans in circles,” President Kenyatta said in reaction to news of Mr Odinga’s withdrawal from the race.

“If the journey has become too tough for him, he can relax.”

COURT VERDICT
He added: “I expect elections on October 26 for Kenyans to decide who their leader should be.”

“No one individual should stand in the path of progress of 45 million Kenyans,” President Kenyatta said at the end of his three-day tour of Coast.

The President reiterated that he won the August 8 polls but only accepted a repeat poll as per the Supreme Court verdict to avoid chaos.

He said it is Mr Odinga who challenged his election in court “and has now announced his withdrawal from the race”, adding that the Sh12 billion set aside for the poll should have been channelled to development.

NO MATTER
The Head of State said the Supreme Court cleared him and the electoral agency of any wrongdoing in the August elections and that irregularities were only found in forms.

“We are ready for the election if he (Mr Odinga) will be there or not,” President Kenyatta said.

Mr Ruto said Mr Odinga should stop taking Kenyans round in circles.

“We are told Raila has withdrawn from the election. We want to tell him we are ready whether he will be there or not. It is his constitutional right to vie or not,” Mr Ruto said.

SAMBOJA

President Kenyatta and Mr Ruto opposed Mr Odinga’s push for fresh elections to be held after 90 days, saying Kenyans were tired and wanted to continue with their lives.

They urged Taita-Taveta residents to give them more votes in the repeat poll than they did in August, citing Jubilee’s development record.

The two also praised Taita- Taveta Governor Granton Samboja’s announcement that he will work with Jubilee government for growth.

Mr Samboja was elected on a Wiper ticket, which is a Nasa affiliate.

UNCHALLENGED

Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko said President Kenyatta should be sworn in for a second term following Mr Odinga’s withdrawal.

Meanwhile, Jubilee MPs on Tuesday called on IEBC to declare Uhuru Kenyatta the President following Mr Odinga’s withdrawal.

They said the only option is to declare Uhuru the President because he has no competitor.

National Assembly Majority Leader Aden Duale said despite Odinga’s withdrawal, the repeat poll will still be held and Uhuru Kenyatta will be declared the winner.

“There will be elections as earlier planned on October 26 and President Kenyatta will win,” Mr Duale said.

“Now that we only have Uhuru Kenyatta as the presidential candidate, IEBC should give us the nod to proceed to Kasarani to swear in Uhuru ,” nominated MP Cecily Mbarire said.

CRISIS

Igembe North MP Maoka Maore said Mr Odinga has been misled by his lawyers thinking that he will benefit from his withdrawal or cause any crisis.

Kieni MP Kanini Kega accused Mr Odinga of trying to cause a constitutional crisis by withdrawing his candidature just days to the repeat poll.

Laikipia Woman Rep Catherine Waruguru thanked Mr Odinga for “conceding defeat”.

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Briefing Room

Egypt Warns Ethiopia Nile dam Dispute ‘Life or Death’

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Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, for the second time in as many days, has delivered a stern warning to Ethiopia over a dam it is building after the two countries along with Sudan failed to approve a study on its potential effects.

Ethiopia is finalizing construction of Africa’s largest hydroelectric dam on the Blue Nile. Egypt fears that will cut into its water supply.

Cairo said last week that the three countries had failed to approve an initial study by a consultancy firm on the dam’s potential effects on Egypt and Sudan.

Ethiopia has repeatedly reassured Egypt, but Cairo’s efforts to engage in closer coordination have made little headway.

El-Sissi sought to reassure Egyptians in televised comments Saturday, but stressed that “water is a matter of life or death.”

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Briefing Room

US military responsible for instability in Somalia: Analyst

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The US is increasing its military involvement in Africa to destabilize the continent’s governments and gain control over their resources and strategic ports, an African American researcher in Washington says.

The Pentagon revealed on Thursday that the United States now has some 500 troops on the ground in Somalia even as it denies a “build-up” of forces in the African country.

US Africa Command (AFRICOM) has also said that there have been 28 US airstrikes in Somalia this year, mostly from drones and against purported al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabab militants.

“Somalia is a very important area for both American businesses as well as a means to counter-balance against its regional adversaries,” Randy Short told Press TV on Friday.

“In the case of Somalia, Somalia is rich in oil, gold and it has got its ports in the Red Sea and in the Indian Ocean,” Short said.

“Any instability in Somalia is Unites States’ fault,” he said. “The United States has been tampering with Somalia for the better part of thirty five years.”
The US is deploying militant groups and mercenaries to Africa to “create problems to justify the armed presence of US forces in places like Niger, the Central African Republic, Mali and of course Somalia,” he said.

The US military recently conducted six straight days of airstrikes in Somalia — from last Thursday to Tuesday, according to US media.

AFRICOM was established in 2008 under then US President George W. Bush and strengthened and enhanced the following year during the presidency of Barack Obama.

The force has been operating in at least 35 countries across the African continent.

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Briefing Room

Saving Somalia Through Debt Relief

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KEVIN WATKINS

Kevin Charles Watkins is the Chief Executive of Save the Children UK

Somalia needs humanitarian aid to stem its short-term suffering, but that cash will not break the country’s deadly cycles of drought, hunger, and poverty. To do that, the IMF must forgive Somalia’s crushing debt, just as it has for nearly every other heavily indebted poor country.

LONDON – Julius Nyerere, the first president of Tanzania, once asked his country’s creditors a blunt question: “Must we starve our children to pay our debts?” That was in 1986, before the public campaigns and initiatives that removed much of Africa’s crushing and unpayable debt burden. But Nyerere’s question still hangs like a dark cloud over Somalia.

Over the last year, an unprecedented humanitarian effort has pulled Somalia back from the brink of famine. As the worst drought in living memory destroyed harvests and decimated livestock, almost $1 billion was mobilized in emergency aid for nutrition, health, and clean water provision. That aid saved many lives and prevented a slow-motion replay of the 2011 drought, when delayed international action resulted in nearly 260,000 deaths.

Yet, even after these recent efforts, Somalia’s fate hangs in the balance. Early warning systems are pointing to a prospective famine in 2018. Poor and erratic rains have left 2.5 million people facing an ongoing food crisis; some 400,000 children live with acute malnutrition; food prices are rising; and dry wells have left communities dependent on expensive trucked water.

Humanitarian aid remains essential. Almost half of Somalia’s 14 million people need support, according to UN agencies. But humanitarian aid, which is often volatile and overwhelmingly short-term, will not break the deadly cycles of drought, hunger, and poverty. If Somalia is to develop its health and education systems, economic infrastructure, and the social protection programs needed to build a more resilient future, it needs predictable, long-term development finance.

Debt represents a barrier to that finance. Somalia’s external debt is running at $5 billion. Creditors range from rich countries like the United States, France, and Italy, to regional governments and financial institutions, including the Arab Monetary Fund.

But Somalia’s debt also includes $325 million in arrears owed to the International Monetary Fund. And there’s the rub: countries in arrears to the IMF are ineligible to receive long-term financing from other sources, including the World Bank’s $75 billion concessional International Development Association (IDA) facility.

Much of the country’s current debt dates to the Cold War, when the world’s superpower rivalry played out in the Horn of Africa. Over 90% of Somalia’s debt burden is accounted for by arrears on credit advanced in the early 1980s, well before two-thirds of today’s Somali population was born.

Most of the lending then was directed to President Siad Barre as a reward for his abandonment of the Soviet Union and embrace of the West. Military credits figured prominently: over half of the $973 million in US debt is owed to the Department of Defense. Somalia got state-of-the-art weaponry, liberally financed by loans. The IMF was nudged into guaranteeing repayment through a structural adjustment program.  Repaying the debt today would cost every Somali man, woman, and child $361.

None of this would matter if Somalia had qualified for debt reduction. The Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Initiative (HIPC), created in response to the great debt relief campaigns of the 1990s, has written off around $77 billion in debt for 36 countries. Somalia is one of just three countries that have yet to qualify. The reason: the arrears owed to the IMF. (Eritrea and Sudan have also not qualified, for similar reasons).

The IMF view is that Somalia, like earlier HIPC beneficiaries, should establish a track record of economic reform. This will delay a full debt write-off for up to three years, exclude Somalia from long-term development finance, and reinforce its dependence on emergency aid. Other creditors have endorsed this approach through silent consent.

Somalia deserves better. President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed’s government has demonstrated a commitment to economic reform, improved accountability, and transparency. For two years, it has adhered to an IMF program, achieving targets for improving public finance and the banking sector. More needs to be done, especially in terms of domestic resource mobilization. But this is the first Somali government to provide the international community with a window of opportunity to support recovery. We must capitalize on it.

Waiting three more years as Somalia ticks the IMF’s internal accounting boxes would be a triumph of bureaucratic complacency over human needs. Without international support, Somalia’s government lacks the resources needed to break the deadly cycle of drought, hunger, and poverty.

Somalia’s children need investment in health, nutrition, and schools now, not at some point in the indefinite future. Investing in irrigation and water management would boost productivity. With drought-related livestock and crop losses estimated at around $1.5 billion, government-supported cash payment programs would help aid recovery, strengthen resilience, and build trust.

The benefits of these investments would extend to security. Providing the hope that comes with education, health care, and the prospect of a job is a far more effective weapon than a drone to combat an insurgency that feeds on despair, poverty, joblessness, and the absence of basic services.

There is an alternative to IMF-sponsored inertia on debt relief. The World Bank and major creditors could convene a creditor summit to agree to terms for a prompt debt write-off. More immediately, the World Bank could seek its shareholders’ approval for a special mechanism – a “pre-arrears clearance grant” – that would enable Somalia to receive IDA financing. There is a precedent for this: In 2005, the US championed World Bank financing for Liberia, which at the time had significant IMF debt after emerging from civil war.

The technicalities can be discussed and the complexities resolved. But we should not lose sight of what is at stake. It is indefensible for the IMF and other creditors to obstruct Somalia’s access to financing because of arrears on a debt incurred three decades ago as much through reckless lending as through irresponsible borrowing.

Somalia’s children played no part in creating that debt. They should not have to pay for it with their futures.

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