By Masahudu Ankiilu Kunateh
Ghanaians would have to wait much longer for gas to flow from the much-publicised Ghana Gas Project being constructed at Atuabu, in the Ellembele District of the Western Region. Though the project was expected to have been completed last year, the project is at a standstill.
As you read this piece, Sinopec, the Chinese petrochemical company constructing the US$700 million gas project, is threatening to abandon the project and head for home if the Government of Ghana fails to honour its financial obligation to it.
The gas project, a flagship project of the Mills-Mahama administration, intended to help solve the perennial power shortage and its attendant outages, has been bedeviled with serious financial constraints, as a result of the failure of the Government of Ghana to honour its financial commitments to the company.
The project was expected to be completed last year. But financial and other constraints extended the project completion date. The authorities say the project is only about 60 percent complete so far, largely due to financial constraints, according to senior officials of the state-owned Ghana Company Limited, under whose auspices the project is being constructed. The Chief Executive of Ghana Gas Company, Dr. George Sipa Yankey, told Joy FM, an Accra-based radio station, that the Ghana Gas Company has been continuously pleading with Sinopec not to abandon the project. He said the Government of Ghana had sent a delegation to China to discuss the issue with the China Development Bank (CDB), which is financing the project. The project, when completed, will provide gas for power generation, as well as domestic use.
In its report on the inspection of the Early Phase Gas Infrastructure Project, (EPGIP) IMANI Ghana, a civic society organisation, in the Western Regional capital Takoradi and Atuabo, said it believed the “overall project is 33% complete.” The plant will enable safe commercial delivery of processed gas from Atuabo to the Aboadze-based Takoradi Thermal Processing Plant (TTPP). It will also facilitate the transport of Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) from the same site to Domunli, for onward evacuation to Accra by sea-going vessels. The source of the gas is expected to be the Jubilee Oil Fields in the Western Region. An onshore pipeline is programmed to carry the gas, first to the processing plant a few metres off the coast, and then to the power plant at Aboadze.
At the current rate of completion, the project will be ready to deliver gas for power production in Ghana, sometime in early 2014, as against the project deadline of 2013, according to an IMANI Ghana investigation report.
The project may still be fast-tracked for completion by end of 2013, if the flow of funds were to be assured for any such acceleration, experts say.
The civic society organisation stated: “There is a hard limitation on the ability of Ghana Gas to accelerate ongoing project execution: the gas processing modules themselves, are currently being built by a Canadian company.
“The gas processing modules are being built to specifications, and shall, on completion, be shipped to the Gas Processing Plant site in Atuabo to be installed, before going through a range of pre-commissioning and commission activities.
“During these activities, the various modules will be connected together, so that they can work as an integrated whole.”
From the civic society organisation’s investigations, the modular plant requires 20 months of fabrication and engineering, which makes it unlikely, despite recent reports, that it can be completed and shipped before the third quarter of this year. Chronicle
April 27, 2013 (KHARTOUM) – The Sudanese army strongly denied allegations that it is providing shelter to the fugitive Ugandan leader of the Lord Resistance Army (LRA), Joseph Kony.
- Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) leader Major General Joseph Kony, is seen in an exclusive image at peace negotiations in Ri-Kwangba, southern Sudan November 30, 2008 (REUTERS/Africa24 Media)
Until early this year, according to the report, Kony and some of his commanders were operating in Kafia Kingi, a disputed area along the Sudan-South Sudan border where African Union troops tasked with catching Kony don’t have access.
But SAF spokesperson Colonel al-Sawarmi Khalid Sa’ad told Sudan official news agency (SUNA) that the report is “baseless and rejected”.
“SAF has no renegade leaders. It is a united army and has no place for individual acts. SAF has no interest in adopting or sheltering rebels from other countries” he added.
During the two-decades Sudanese civil war, which ended in 2005 with a peace deal granting South Sudan the right to seceded in 2011, Uganda sided with the SPLM rebels who now form the government in Juba.
In response, Khartoum was widely accused of backing the LRA, which began operating in South Sudan and elsewhere in Central Africa having been forced out of northern Uganda by the Uganda People’s Defense Forces (UPDF).
The LRA was founded by Kony in his Acholi community amid repression from the UPDF. Its stated aim is to overthrow the government in Kampala and install the Bible’s Ten Commandments.
Across Uganda, CAR, DRC and South Sudan the LRA is accused of massive human rights abuses including rape, mutilation, murder and the recruitment of child soldiers.
However, the group is believed to only have a few hundred soldier’s left due to desertions and combined regional attempts – recently backed by United States army advisors and African Union troops – to end the conflict militarily.
April 27, 2013 (KHARTOUM) – The Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF) rebels swept through Umm Rawaba in North Kordofan state on Saturday morning in an attack that took the Sudanese government and observers by surprise.
- FILE – An armoured column of JEM vehicles drive in Darfur region (Reuters)
The Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) spokesperson, Colonel al-Sawarmi Khalid Sa’ad, said that troops confronted the rebels after they arrived in Abu Kershola in the far north of South Kordofan state, adding that rebels then looted Alla-Kareem village before targeting Umm Rawaba.
Al-Sawarmi, who didn’t mention any killings, said that rebels destroyed the communication tower and electricity station in Um Rawaba and looted civilian property as well as gas stations.
He did not explain why the army did not stop them before they reached North Kordofan.
The Darfur Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), which launched an unprecedented assault on Sudan’s twin capital city of Omdurman in May 2008, confirmed its role in the attack.
“This is part of our strategy to overthrow the regime and we want to weaken the troops on the road towards Khartoum,” JEM spokesman Gibril Adam Bilal told Agence France Presse (AFP).
“This is an attack deep in Sudanese territory” Bilal added.
JEM is member of the SRF, which also includes the Sudan People Liberation Movement North (SPLM-N) fighting the army in South Kordofan and Blue Nile. It also includes the factions of Sudan Liberation Movement led by Minni Minnawi (SLM-MM) and another of Abdel-Wahid Mohamed Nur (SLM-AW).
“This is a significant shift in the war in Sudan,” Nur told AFP. “We are heading to Khartoum,” he said. “This is not a joke.”
Eyewitnesses inside Um Rawaba confirmed to Sudan Tribune the death of nine policemen at the hands of the rebels who, according to the sources, refrained from targeting civilians while they destroyed the judiciary headquarters, the power station and attacked three banks but were unable to rob them.
The eyewitnesses further added that rebels warned civilians against leaving their homes and informed them of potential aerial bombardments by SAF.
SAF’s warplanes hovered over the city for hours but did not carry out any bombings, the eyewitnesses said.
Umm Rawaba, with a population of several thousands, is about 100 kilometers east of the state capital El Obeid, home to a military airbase.
According to the same sources, SRF descended on the city from three directions, forcing authorities to shut down the main highway which connects Khartoum to the White Nile and North Kordofan states.
Hundreds of Um Rawaba residents, who gathered in the city’s hospital where bodies of the 9 policemen lie, chanted anti-government slogans especially upon arrival of the city mayor.
Later in the day, SAF spokesperson told Sudan news agency (SUNA) that the “defeated” rebels withdrew and that the army is chasing the fighters who fled in different directions.
Fighting between the rebels and the army has been so far mainly limited to Darfur as well as South Kordofan and Blue Nile states bordering South Sudan, which seceded from Sudan in 2011.
Sudan’s 2nd Vice president, Al-Haj Adam Youssef, lambasted SRF saying that their acts are aimed at destroying the economic infrastructure of the country, stressing that his government would not “bend”, calling upon SRF to lay down arms and “bow to peace”.
The Sudanese parliament, in an emergency session for its subcommittee on members’ affairs yesterday, described the SRF move as an aggression to strip the nation from its gains and capabilities, calling for the need to defeat SRF militarily and popularly.
The parliament further announced that it will be summoning the defence minister to testify before it on Monday on the circumstances of the attack and taking the necessary measures to “eliminate” the SRF and its pockets.
On a separate front, the Sudan People Liberation Movement North (SPLM-N) which is part of the SRF, said it had seized Alremaila, Alkibeba, Alshiheta and Albejaya east of South Kordofan capital of Kadugli.
“[T]hese villages were controlled by popular defense forces and militias they inflicted heavy casualties both men and military equipment, this in retaliation to the killing of children and displace and looting the innocent people” SPLM-N statement said.
There was no comment from SAF on the SPLM-N claims.
Deby said during a radio interview that the mercenaries were free to roam around the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi, hundreds of kilometres (miles) north of the Chadian border.
But Saleh Gaouda, deputy president of the National Security Committee in Libya’s General National Congress who also represents Benghazi, denied any such camps existed.
“Libya … does not permit military camps where foreigners can find shelter, and will not interfere in the internal politics of our neighbours,” Saleh said.
“As a deputy for the city of Benghazi, I can say categorically that there are no such camps in the city.”
Chad has had rocky relations with its northern neighbour, going to war with Libya in the 1970s and 1980s when former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi tried to seize the Aouzou Strip.
Ties improved after Deby, backed by Gaddafi, seized power in a 1990 military coup. Deby condemned NATO strikes against Gaddafi and was one of the last leaders in region to recognise the new Libyan authorities.
The former French colony of Chad, one of the poorest countries in the world, has been hit by humanitarian crises over the last decade exacerbated by rebellions in the east and south, drought in the arid Sahel region, and flooding.
In March, the Chadian rebel coalition UFR, who lay down their weapons in 2010, warned that they would take up arms again against Deby after he failed to enter talks with them after they agreed to stop fighting.
Chad has sent some 2,000 soldiers to fight alongside French troops to drive Islamists from remote northern towns, mountains and deserts regions of northern Mali. reuters
The ANC has no agenda to remove Congress of South African Trade Unions general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi, spokesperson Jackson Mthembu has said.
“It is also utterly untrue that the processes underway within Cosatu – which the ANC is not aware of and is not party to – are furthering the agenda of the ANC and other allied organisations to remove comrade Zwelinzima Vavi as the general secretary of Cosatu.”
He said the ANC would do anything to strengthen the unity within the labour federation.
Any divisions or factions – imagined or real – within Cosatu are not in the interest of the ANC and are not “enhancing the struggle of the workers” to achieve a better life, he said.
“The ANC remains unshaken by this and other accusations recently that sought to suggest that there are divisions between the ANC and Cosatu,” Mthembu said.
“These allegations are meant to ‘drag’ the ANC into internal controversial matters within Cosatu.”
Mthembu said the ANC respects Cosatu as an equal partner in the alliance and will not interfere with its “organisational challenges by taking any sides”. – Sapa M&G
Malnutrition, coupled with a lack of clean water and sanitation, is battering the population.
“We had already come down from three meals a day to twice a day, or even once. When Yaya picked up a stomach infection we got worried,” Rouguy Ly, a mother of eight, said of her 15-month-old son who fell ill last December.
“He was already weak, and now he refused to eat and had diarrhoea. We took him to the village health centre, but they had run out of zinc and oral rehydration solution, so the nurse showed us how to make our own using salt, sugar and water.”
Nonetheless, his health deteriorated, and he barely survived after being treated for severe acute malnutrition in the only hospital here in Matam district.
Despite early indications the Sahel would not suffer pangs of hunger this year, experts now worry that food insecurity could be worse than in 2012 – the year of the West Africa food crisis.
UNICEF estimated that 22,336 Senegalese children suffered severe acute malnutrition last year. Although gross cereal production in the region was 16 percent higher this year than in 2012, the situation appears to have deteriorated, and UNICEF estimates the number of severely malnourished Senegalese children will top 60,000.
“I had got reports that the harvest was better than normal, so I had expected to see a decline in the vulnerability of the population, in particular malnourished children. However, I saw the opposite in a rather dramatic way,” Claus Sorenson, the director general of European Community Humanitarian Office (ECHO) told Thomson Reuters Foundation after his visit to Mali, Niger, Chad and Senegal in April.
Ten million people in the Sahel remain food insecure, and 4.5 million children under-five are at risk of acute malnutrition.
“These numbers should have come down. It means we are heading for something nasty,” Sorenson said.
Floods in northern Nigeria as well as conflict throughout the region are thought to be the main causes for increasing food insecurity throughout the Sahel.
Nigeria, the breadbasket that supplies up to three-quarters of the region’s food, witnessed a 6 percent reduction in cereal and tuber production after the 2012 floods, offsetting the region’s surplus from the good harvest, according to Oxfam.
Nigeria is replenishing its stock with produce from neighbouring countries, where food prices have rocketed as a result.
“Market prices in southern Niger are now an unprecedented 50 per cent higher than the five-year average and 10 per cent higher than last year when we had the food crisis,” Sorenson said.
Food scarcity has led to more people joining rebel groups such as Boko Haram – exacerbating food insecurity and raising prices as these groups disrupt the movement of goods across borders.
“You see these vast parts of the population without any future. Even I would become a revolutionary, if I were suffering this kind of situation,” Sorenson said.
The conflict in Mali has also caused strains, with supply routes closing and Arab traders who supplied markets in the country’s north fleeing. After the start of the French intervention in January, food prices in northern Mali shot up 25 to 35 percent, prompting NGOs to warn that the area was on the verge of a humanitarian emergency.
Pastoralist refugees fleeing Mali with their animals to Niger, Mauritania and Burkina Faso have raised tensions. According to Oxfam, around 230,000 animals have been taken to Mauritania alone, placing pressure on fodder and water sources.
FUNDING BLACK HOLE
Meanwhile, donors have tightened their purse strings.
The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has secured only a quarter of the funding needed to address the crisis.
According to Oxfam humanitarian campaign manager Elise Ford, “2013 is at risk of becoming a black hole for funding. It is a key transition year to help lift populations out of crisis and get them on the road to recovery. We need both [short-term] humanitarian assistance and long-term funding to build resilience.”
The financial crisis has also played a role in unmet funds. OCHA tweeted this month that 2012 was the “first time since 1996-97, official dev [development] assistance aid has fallen in two successive years.”
The EU aims to mobilise €1.5 billion on resilience in the Sahel between 2014 and 2020. Through the Global Alliance for Resilience Initiative (AGIR), ECHO hopes to achieve “zero hunger” in the Sahel within 20 years.
“If we don’t get to the root causes, if we don’t look seriously at what generates the hunger or malnutrition, then we’re shooting ourselves in the foot,” Sorenson said. “In all honesty, what’s the point in saving a life now if the life is lost next year?” alternet
The memo does not say who paid the ransom for the family of seven, who were all released on April 19, although it says Cameroon freed some Boko Haram detainees as part of the deal.
France and Cameroon reiterated denials that any ransom was paid. Nigerian authorities declined to comment.
Armed men on motorcycles snatched Tanguy Moulin-Fournier, his wife, brother and the couple’s four young children, the youngest of whom was four years old, on February 19 while they were on holiday near the Waza national park in north Cameroon, some 10 km (six miles) from the Nigerian border. They were believed to have been held in northeast Nigeria.
Nigerian Islamist sect Boko Haram claimed the capture of the family of Moulin-Fournier, who worked in Cameroon for French utility firm GDF Suez.
French President Francois Hollande at the time denied any money was paid when the family was released on April 19.
The Nigerian report suggests that 1.6 billion CFA francs ($3.15 million) was paid, but that right up until the last minute Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau had insisted on double that, before agreeing to reduce it if some Boko Haram members in Cameroonian jails were freed.
Reacting to the report, a French foreign ministry official said that France has passed a clear message that it does not pay ransoms. Cameroon government spokesman Issa Tchiroma Bakary said “Cameroon did not pay any ransom”.
A spokesman for Nigeria’s government declined to comment.
The report suggests Nigerian security forces decided not to try to rescue the hostages so as not to endanger their lives. A botched rescue attempt of a British and an Italian hostage believed to have been held by Islamist sect Ansaru in March last year resulted in both hostages being killed.
French news network i-tele reported earlier on Friday that a ransom had of $7 million had been paid, suggesting either Cameroon President Paul Biya or GDF-Suez had paid it.
Eight French hostages are being held in the Sahel region, although the fate of one of them is unclear after al-Qaeda’s north African arm last month said it had beheaded Philippe Verdon.
Hollande has said Paris has ended a policy of paying ransoms for hostages, but suspicion that the country still does despite official denials has been a source of tension with the United States.
France brushed off an allegation by a former U.S. diplomat that it paid a $17 million ransom in vain for the release of four hostages abducted in 2010 from Niger.
Hollande told the family of the Sahel hostages in January that the new policy also meant that he had told companies and insurance firms to not pay ransoms. reuters
Mozambique – Last rhinos gone
Park director António Abacar said this week that no rhinos had been seen since January “which means that the ones that lived in the park are probably dead”.
The last park census in 2011 still found a few animals but their extinction has meant poachers are now turning to elephants which are being shot in greater numbers. “Our greatest problem is that some of our workers are involved in poaching” Abacar told reporters and 30 employees were currently being disciplined.
The park covers an area of 1.1 million hectares.
The park is part of the Cross-border Great Limpopo Park which also covers the South African Kruger Park and the Gonarezhou Park in Zimbabwe.
The ease with which poachers get into PNL, and from there into the other parks, led South Africa to threaten to reinstall fences between the parks.
Since 2008 the South African police and army have killed 279 Mozambicans involved in poaching while another 300 were arrested. The Portugal News
By Mabvuto Banda
Queues at Admarcs are never-ending as thousands of people wait for days to purchase the staple crop. Phiri told IPS that she puts her eldest child in the queue at night, in order to keep her place for the next day, while she sleeps with her other children in one of the office corridors across the streets.
“The market has become my temporary home with my children because I have no energy to walk back and forth every day. I would rather sleep here and wait for the maize,” she said. Phiri is from Chinsapo Township, some 40 km from Lilongwe.
This southern African nation has been hit by a maize shortage after two consecutive dry spells. Maize is Malawi’s most important food crop, accounting for 90 percent of all caloric intake, followed by cassava, sweet potatoes and sorghum. But, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Malawi’s cereal production for 2011/2012 was seven percent below the previous season’s harvest.
Over two million people are facing food shortages this year due to the prolonged dry spells and soaring food prices that have pushed consumer inflation to 36.6 percent as of March.
Phiri may not be willing to walk from Chinsapo every day, but each morning before the sun rises, a four-month pregnant Memory Jamesi wakes up and walks 40 km to the Admarc in Lilongwe.
A few weeks ago the mother of three was so weak that she fainted while standing in the long Admarc queue.
“I felt very weak and tired…I started shaking violently as I stood on the queue and I don’t know what happened after that,” Jamesi told IPS as she lay in her hospital bed in the over-crowded female ward at Kamuzu Central Hospital.
But Jamesi’s plight is hardly unique. About five in 10 residents in Chinsapo told IPS their children have gone hungry over the last few months, not only because of the maize shortage, but because they cannot even afford to buy it when it is available.
A 50-kg bag of maize used to cost around 13 dollars, but now the price has more than doubled to about 30 dollars – way above the earnings of those living in dire poverty, on less than 20 dollars a month.
In a country where women make up 70 percent of the farming workforce and are the breadwinners in their families, women and children are bearing the brunt of the high food prices.
The food situation has also worsened in the last two months, since about 30,000 metric tonnes of maize in the strategic grain reserves went bad.
This, according to principal secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security, Jeffrey Luhanga, was enough maize to feed almost 400,000 of the two million people in need of food aid.
“The 30,000 metric tonnes of maize that went bad was enough to feed the masses up to harvest period. But now we have had to import 50,000 metric tonnes from Zambia to help fill the gaps,” Luhanga told IPS.
This was the first time in six years that Malawi has had to import maize from neighbouring Zambia.
From 2006 to 2011, Malawi reaped bumper harvests of maize because of a successful fertiliser subsidy programme. Under the programme, which started in 2005, the poorest farming families are given a 40 percent reduction in the cost of fertilisers and seeds.
It worked well for Malawi. In 2003, the country adopted the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP), which aims to help eliminate hunger and reduce poverty.
But the two consecutive dry spells and corruption in the distribution and supply of fertiliser for the subsidy programme have cut the bumper harvests and affected yields.
“During the last two years under the administration of (late president President Bingu wa) Mutharika, the fertiliser inputs subsidy programme was corrupted and the targeted families did not benefit because fertiliser was diverted. Secondly, two droughts, especially along the country’s maize belts, affected the harvests,” Luhanga said.
However, Minister of Agriculture and Food Security Peter Mwanza told IPS that the coming harvest was expected to be a strong one thanks to good rains.
“Our first crop estimate shows that we expect to harvest 3.5 million metric tonnes, which is more than what we harvested last year,” Mwanza said.
The initial harvest being forecast is more than the national requirement of 2.8 million metric tonnes. ips
South Sudan’s government has been struggling to contain several insurgencies it claims are supported by its old civil war foe Khartoum since it gained independence from Sudan in July 2011. Sudan denies the claims.
On Friday, South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir issued an amnesty for six rebel commanders including Bapiny Monytuil, the leader of the South Sudan Liberation Army (SSLA), and their troops.
“The (SSLA) militia that have been in the north have surrendered. All of them have come,” Unity State government spokesman Joseph Arop Malual told Reuters. Unity contains several oilfields.
Led by a senior commander, Matthew Puljang, a large group of SSLA crossed the border with around 100 trucks from Sudan, where they are believed to have a training base, Malual said.
The SSLA, formed in the late 1990s, is one of largest rebel groups in the region. It switched sides several times during the civil war between north and south Sudan that killed some 2 million people in fighting over oil, religion, ideology and identity. The war, which began in 1983, ended with a 2005 peace deal that paved the way for the southern secession.
“(The surrender) is positive because they are our brothers. We no longer have to fear attacks from the north,” Malual said.
There was no immediate comment from Sudan or the SSLA, which has accused the South Sudan government of corruption in the past.
Security analysts say hundreds of people were killed in clashes between the predominantly ethnic Nuer SSLA and government forces in November 2011 and March 2012 in Unity State, although the group has not been active recently.
Earlier this month Sudan’s President Omar Hassan al-Bashir made his first visit to South Sudan since its secession in a bid to help normalise relations and restart cross-border trade.
“(This) is a significant development toward improved relations between Sudan and South Sudan. It shows that concrete deals were signed during Bashir’s recent visit to Juba,” said Jonah Leff, a regional analyst for the Geneva-based Small Arms Survey, referring to the surrender. reuters