Sierra Leone President Reminds ECOWAS of the Need for Peace in Mali

Sierra Leone President Julius Maada Bio has reminded the ECOWAS Commission via a video conference on Monday that there is an urgent need for a peaceful settlement to the political crisis in Mali, while extending his deepest gratitude for its mediation missions.

He was addressing the Extraordinary Session of the Authority of Heads of State and Government of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), noting that maintaining peace and stability in the region was critical for the collective development agenda of the region.

“Our democratic credentials in the region are being challenged. Sierra Leone stands with the rest of ECOWAS on fostering and maintaining a culture of democracy across the region.

“Excellencies, may I reiterate that it is highly important to maintain peace and order in Mali. Extremist terrorist activity in the North of Mali has spread to neighbouring Niger, Burkina Faso, and further threatens the security of the entire region,” he warned.

The President also commended the President of the Commission, Jean-Claude Kassi Brou, Vice President Madam Finda Koroma; Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security, General Francis A. Behanzin; and, Heads of ECOWAS Institutions and agencies for their continued dedication and commitment.

“In line with the views expressed, Sierra Leone condemns all forms of violence and urges all concerned parties to consider the recommendations put forward by the mediation team led by Dr Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, former President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Additionally, Sierra Leone urges strong support for a more robust mandate for MINUSMA.

“Sierra Leone reaffirms its commitment to and support for a peaceful resolution in Mali and encourages President Keita and all other parties to adhere to the decisions of this extraordinary session within an agreed timeline,” he urged.

President Bio concluded by suggesting that in order to maintain good governance, peace, and security in the ECOWAS region it was important to resolve the current socio-political crisis in Mali without delay.

Eliminating Extreme Poverty Requires Urgent Focus on Fragile and Conflict-Affected Countries – WB

Urgent action is needed in countries impacted by fragility, conflict and violence (FCV) to end extreme poverty globally, according to the World Bank Group.

As crisis situations become increasingly protracted — with dire impacts on people and economies — the World Bank Group on Tuesday released an FCV strategy, which for the first time systematically brings a full suite of financing and expertise to address these challenges in both low-and-middle income countries. 

On the current trajectory, by 2030 up to two-thirds of the world’s extreme poor will live in fragile and conflict-affected countries, according to a World Bank report also released today. Bucking the overall trend of a global decrease in extreme poverty, these countries are seeing sharp increases, threatening decades of progress in the fight against poverty. Fragile and conflict-affected situations take a huge toll on human capital, creating vicious cycles that lower people’s lifetime productivity and earnings and reduce socioeconomic mobility. One in five people in these countries are deprived of money, education and basic infrastructure simultaneously. And the number of people living in close proximity to conflict has nearly doubled in the past 10 years.

 “Addressing humanitarian crises requires immediate support and long-term development approaches,” said World Bank Group President David Malpass. “To end extreme poverty and break the cycle of fragility, conflict, and violence, countries need to ensure access to basic services, transparent and accountable government institutions, and economic and social inclusion of the most marginalized communities. These kinds of investments go hand in hand with humanitarian aid.”

The World Bank Group, founded to support post-conflict reconstruction in Europe after World War II, now emphasizes working before, during, and after crisis situations to tackle poverty. It emphasizes prevention by proactively addressing the root causes of conflict — such as social and economic exclusion, climate change and demographic shocks — before tensions turn into full-blown crises. During active conflict, it focuses on building institutional resilience and preserving essential services like health and education for the most vulnerable communities. 

The strategy also emphasizes long-term support to help countries transition out of fragility, including private sector solutions, such as scaling-up investments in small and medium enterprises that are essential to create jobs and spur economic growth. It addresses the cross-border impacts of FCV, for example by focusing on the development needs of both refugees and host communities.

This institutional shift is backed by increases in financing, both through the World Bank’s General Capital Increase and through the recently approved replenishment of IDA, the World Bank’s fund for the poorest countries, which included over $20 billion for FCV. The Bank and IFC will also make key operational changes, such as deploying more staff and resources to countries impacted by FCV and partnering with a range of international and local actors. IFC and MIGA have also committed to significantly increase their support to private sector investments in economies impacted by FCV.

Gains by Abyei interim force can help advance resolution of border issues between Sudan and South Sudan, UN peacekeeping chief says

Parfait Onanga-Anyanga, Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for the Horn of Africa, briefs the Security Council on the situation in the Sudan and South Sudan including the situation in Abyei. UN Photo/Evan Schneider:

The United Nations security force for Abyei remains essential to stability in the border regions between Sudan and South Sudan, the UN peacekeeping chief said on Tuesday, proposing the creation of a civilian unit to support progress towards political resolution of the dispute between the neighboring countries, and requesting a six-month extension of its mandate.

“This modest shift in the mission’s role is necessary to match the reality on the ground,” Jean-Pierre Lacroix, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations said during a briefing to the Security Council on the Secretary-General’s latest report on the work of the UN Interim Security Force, known by the acronym UNISFA.   

He explained that a civilian component would enable the mission to support the parties, the African Union High-Level Implementation Panel and the African Union Commission to advance daily solutions.

“The proposed support is particularly pertinent given the difficult internal circumstances in both countries,” noted Mr. Lacroix, adding: “It is important to prevent the dispute over Abyei and the border regions between Sudan and South Sudan from becoming another frozen conflict and preserve the gains achieved by UNISFA.”

Stressing that while the situation generally remains calm – amid efforts by the Ngok Dinka and Misseriya communities to preserve peace through dialogue – Sudan and South Sudan have made no progress on the issue of Abyei.

Further, there have been delays in the Council’s request to reconfigure the mission, he said. The first phase of troop reductions – a repatriation of 260 troops by 15 March – has not taken place, but efforts are under way to start the process on 12 May. 

As for the increase in police personnel, while the selection of police officers and the formed police unit has been completed, 130 visas from the Sudanese Government, necessary for their deployment, remain outstanding.

Against this background, Mr. Lacroix said that while UNISFA continues to play a stabilizing role in the Abyei Area and along the border regions, the operation can only provide a conducive environment for the parties, whose own efforts remain essential to progress.

“I am encouraged by the significantly improved relations between the two countries in the past year, as evidenced by Sudan’s role in facilitating the revitalized peace agreement reached by the South Sudanese parties and the resumption of joint oil operations,” he told the Council, urging the two countries to continue this “positive trajectory” and extend their cooperation to move forward on the resolution of their disputes.

Also briefing the Council, Parfait Onanga-Anyanga, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa, said that both id Sudan and South Sudan “are at a crossroads with critical political processes under way.”

Following the ouster of Sudan’s President on 11 April after months of popular protests, the new authorities may need time to resume bilateral relations on the border, the Two Areas and Abyei. 

“We have a de facto status quo situation,” he said. In the absence of a joint administration and progress on Abyei’s final status, UNISFA remains central to preventing and resolving intercommunal conflicts.

In the coming weeks, he will encourage the respective capitals, Khartoum and Juba, to take a fresh look at the Abyei file, with a focus on implementing temporary arrangements for the Area’s administration. 

Noting that Sudan’s political transition could allow for redefining relations between the “centre” and its “peripheries” in a way that ends discrimination based on ethnicity, religion and territorial belonging, he said he will encourage parties to resolve the conflicts on the basis of a new political dispensation.

AU Launches Policy to respond timely and effectively to the adverse effects of violent conflict

The African Union Commission (AUC) launches the African Union Transitional Justice Policy (AUTJP) to strengthen the capacity of Member States, AU Organs and Regional Economic Communities (RECs) to respond timeously and effectively to the adverse effects of violent conflict.

The AUTJP was launched at the 64th Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

The policy was recently adopted by the Heads of State and Government at the 32nd Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the Union on 12 February 2019 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

On the occasion of the launch, Dr. Khabele Matlosa, Director for the Department of Political Affairs at the AUC noted that the policy will properly coordinate and structure the African Union intervention on Transitional Justice in Africa by setting the common standards and a continental guide, adding “The policy will realize AU shared values and its policy of non-indifference to war crimes, genocide and gross violation of human rights as provided in Article 4h of the African Union Constitutive Act and Aspiration 3 of Agenda 2063 which envisages an Africa of good governance, democracy, respect for human rights, justice and rule of law.”

The Policy was launched by Amb. Hadiza Mustapha, Advisor to the Chairperson of the African Union Commission on Peace, Security and Governance.

She welcomed the Transitional Justice Policy as the newest addition to the AU’s Peace, Security and Governance Architecture, noting that “the decision to adopt the African Union Transitional Justice Policy in February of this year is an expression of the Heads of State and Government commitment to the promotion and protection of justice, accountability, human and peoples’ rights in Africa. It is a milestone in our quest for African solutions and the need to promote peace, security and stability which are critical to AU’s development and integration Agenda.”

The launch of the Policy celebrates the AU’s historic journey towards championing a continental framework on transitional justice following the recommendation by the African Union Panel of the Wise in 200 and later endorsed by its Policy Organs in 2011. The Transitional Justice Policy was developed with a view to, inter alia, strengthen the capacity of Member States, AU Organs and Regional Economic Communities (RECs) to respond timeously and effectively to the adverse effects of violent conflict.

Looming famine in Yemen could put two million mothers at risk of death – UN agency

Four months-old Saleh, admitted in Al Hudaydah’s main hospital in April 2017, and his mother Nora. Close to half a million children and two million mothers in Yemen are at risk of dying from severe acute malnutrition due to ongoing conflict.

UN OCHA/Giles Clarke Four months-old Saleh, admitted in Al Hudaydah’s main hospital in April 2017, and his mother Nora. Close to half a million children and two million mothers in Yemen are at risk of dying from severe acute malnutrition due to ongoing conflict.

The critical difficulties in accessing food in Yemen, and other hardships caused by the ongoing conflict, could lead to the world’s worst famine ever, and place up to two million malnourished, pregnant and lactating women at risk of death, the UN sexual and reproductive health agency, UNFPAsaid on Thursday.

“Lack of food, displacement, poor nutrition, disease outbreaks and eroding healthcare have heavily affected the health and well-being of 1.1 million malnourished pregnant and lactating women, causing numerous cases of premature or low-birth weight babies, severe postpartum bleeding, and extremely life-threatening labor processes,” UNFPA warned, adding that if the situation continues to deteriorate, up to two million mothers could end up being affected.

Since conflict escalated in Yemen in 2015 between non-state armed groups and a Saudi-led coalition in support of the Government, constant shelling and bombing has destroyed key civilian infrastructure across the country. Although targeting medical facilities is strictly forbidden under humanitarian law, nearly half of the health facilities are no longer operational, including those established to provide reproductive health services. As a result, many of these women go undiagnosed and untreated.

This past August, for example, Al Thawra, Al Hudaydah’s largest hospital – the only hospital of the area which provides critical neo-natal and emergency care – was attacked, putting the city’s almost 90,000 pregnant women and girls at great risk.

“I felt I was in hell because of what I saw,” said midwife Noha, who was working at the hospital’s obstetric ward when the attack took place on 2 August. “Now pregnant women prefer to give birth at home, where they are exposed to many risks and problems. They do not come to the hospital out of fear for their lives,” she explained.

The humanitarian crisis in Yemen is one of the worst in the world, with three quarters of the population requiring some form of life-saving assistance and protection, according to the UN’s humanitarian coordination office (OCHA). The conflict has rendered civilians’ access to food increasingly difficult through a combination of factors, including unprecedented inflation, import controls, and limited freedom of movement.

“There is now a clear and present danger of an imminent and great big famine engulfing Yemen: much bigger than anything any professional in this field has seen during their working lives,” UN humanitarian chief, Mark Lowcock told the UN Security Council last week.

Although the humanitarian crisis in Yemen is one of the world’s best funded crises, with 71 per cent of the 2018 appeal funded to date, the needs continue to grow and outpace the response. Working with limited funding, UNFPA’s support to the 184 health facilities that offer reproductive health services may stop if additional resources do not become available urgently.

How peace journalism can help the media cover elections in Africa


Voting in the presidential run-off elections in Mali, recently. EPA/Tanya Bindra

Several countries in Africa, including Zimbabwe, Mali, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Cameroon, hold crucial elections this year. Some of the polls are likely to be marked by protests as well as clampdowns on dissenting voices as well as the news media and internet access. All this amid the spread of fake news.

Author: Professor of Journalism in the Department of Journalism, Film and Television, University of Johannesburg
Disclosure statement: Ylva Rodny-Gumede does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
Partners: University of Johannesburg provides funding as a partner of The Conversation AFRICA.

It’s important to consider the role of the media in this heady mix.

A great deal of attention has been paid to the role of the media in instigating, maintaining, and exacerbating violence through their news coverage. War and conflict sell and make the headlines.

And, the news media are predisposed to using frames and a language that conform to what peace scholar Johan Galtung has labelled “war journalism”. This is reporting that emphasises conflict over peaceful resolutions, differing viewpoints over common ground, and sensationalism over depth and context. The result is that audiences are given the impression that conflict is inevitable, and that peace or conflict resolution are beyond reach.

This can also happen during the coverage of elections when a great many things can go wrong leading to best practice and ethics being overlooked. When this happens the media can be party to exacerbating conflict and violence.

A different approach is therefore required. The media are responsible for reporting accurately and efficiently on different political parties, candidates, political party programmes and policies. This also extends to providing platforms for debate between contesting parties as well as forums for discussions with the public.

A few simple criteria can be used to judge whether or not the media are doing a good job. How balanced and fair are they in their coverage. Are all parties getting a fair share of coverage? Are the media playing a role in monitoring fair play by all parties before, during and after elections? And are the results covered fairly?

The media can play a role in creating peaceful and non-violent elections. They can do so by following some simple approaches set out under the alternative model of peace journalism. This puts emphasis on conflict resolution, analysis of the underlying causes of conflict, the use of alternative news sources, and the use of language that doesn’t over-emphasise or play up conflict.

Where the media has played a negative role

The media were implicated in fuelling violence in the Kenyan elections in 2007-2008, playing up divisions between the two main contesting coalitions parties and their candidates. Importantly, the Kenyan media failed to mitigate hate speech, spreading violent imagery pitting communities against one another.

Equally, the media were implicated in the controversies surrounding the controversial Zambian presidential elections in 2016. They were accused of waging a propaganda war, with the private media backing opposition parties, and the public media supporting the governing Patriotic Front party and its incumbent candidate, President Edward Lungu.

In Africa, biased media coverage in favour of incumbent presidents has been cited as among the reasons voters have little faith that elections are credible, and the outcomes legitimate.

Here, social media, and Twitter in particular, have reinforced the role that the media play as a force for both good and bad in elections. No more evident is this through the spread of fake news.

How can elections be covered differently?

Doing things differently

The media can play a role in creating peaceful and non-violent elections. Research shows that journalists are well aware of the pitfalls of playing up conflict at the detriment of conflict resolution. There is an openness to change, and to adopt new reporting practices, including entirely new models of journalism.

Peace journalism has been highlighted as such an alternative model because it emphasises conflict resolution, analysis of the underlying causes of conflict, the use of alternative news sources, and the use of language that does not over-emphasise or play up conflict.

But peace journalism has also been criticised for being too philosophical and idealistic. In some instances critics have likened it to “sunshine journalism”. Foremost, it’s the model’s practical application and implementation that has been queried.

So, can the peace journalism model work?

Research  in South Africa shows that audiences who were shown television news inserts reworked according to the peace journalism model, were more likely to pick up on as well as understand the underlying causes of conflict and to see opportunities for conflict resolution; rather than seeing conflict as inevitable and without any chance of being resolved.

Research from the Philippines and the Middle East shows similar results.


Research among journalists shows that they are well aware of the many pitfalls of covering conflict. But they also argue that it’s not their role to act as “peacemakers”.

That said, there is agreement that journalism practices could be changedto reflect alternative views, thus showing that consensus or common ground can exist, even between two warring or opposing factions.

It seems peace journalism provides a good model for reflection and for training journalists to be more sensitive when reporting on conflict.

The article was first published by The Conversation 

Promoting the Inclusive Growth Agenda in the Arab Region

Speech by Jihad Azour, Director of IMF Middle East and Central Asia Department

Arab Economic Forum, Lebanon


Jihad Azour, Director of IMF Middle East and Central Asia Department

Prime Minister Hariri, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, I am delighted to be here with you today in my beloved city of Beirut, which I admire for its creative abilities and love for its diversity and openness.

I would like to thank the Economy and Business Group for organizing this conference, as well as for their tireless and continuous efforts in general.

The importance of inclusive growth, which we will be discussing today, lies in its ability to meet the aspirations of our people, create jobs, and enhance social justice. Today, the developments facing the Middle East and the world in general make the need for bold and sustained reforms even more urgent in order to achieve inclusive growth.

Growth in the Middle East region has been sub-par since the global financial crisis, which has resulted in fluctuating income levels and insufficient job opportunities. There are internal structural causes for weak growth in the area, as well as external challenges that adversely affect the region and its economy, including volatility in global commodity prices. In addition, conflicts in the region have had a negative impact on stability and growth in its economies.

The Arab region has the highest level of youth unemployment in the world, averaging 25 percent, and more than 27 million young people will enter the labor market in the region over the next five years.

Ladies and gentlemen, reforms in support of inclusive growth can help lead to great achievements. For example, an annual increase of 0.5 percentage point in employment can raise real GDP growth to 5.5 percent and per capita income by 3.8 percent per year. The young people of the region have tremendous potential if given the right opportunities, and they are perhaps the best illustration of why promoting inclusive growth is vital to the region’s long-term success.

If the gap between men and women with regard to participation in the labor market were narrowed, growth in the countries of the region could be doubled within a single decade and cumulative GDP could be increased by a trillion dollars. If the region transferred the equivalent of 1 percent of GDP from spending on energy subsidies to investing in infrastructure, the result would be a 2 percent increase in real GDP and the creation of half a million new jobs over the next six years. By increasing the financing available to small and medium enterprises to the median level in developing countries, more than $300 billion could be provided to increase investments in the private sector in the region.

In fact, ladies and gentlemen, many countries in the region have placed creating jobs and achieving inclusive growth at the top of their reform programs, and some of these countries have taken steps to boost the economic and financial opportunities available to young people and women, and to promote and develop the private sector.

Many countries are making efforts to use technology to expand economic and financial inclusion. FinTech projects in the region have increased seven-fold since 2009 in countries such as Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, and the United Arab Emirates.

Jordan, for example, has created a service called eFawateerCom, which is an electronic platform that enables people to pay bills electronically by means of an ATM. This platform handles more than a million transactions per year and links its users to over 70 million Internet traders.

Among the important reforms being implemented by a number of countries in the region are measures to enhance the business environment, reduce bureaucracy, and promote small and medium enterprises.

In this context, Morocco has been able to create 85,000 jobs in the auto industry by enhancing the business climate and establishing free trade zones in Casablanca and Tangier. At present, about 45 percent of the spare parts required by the auto sector are manufactured by domestic suppliers.

The region is in desperate need of such efforts to adapt and transform, and the examples that we have cited need to be duplicated in other countries of the region, as they open new and better horizons for a future in which everyone can benefit from inclusive growth.

The International Monetary Fund believes that societies flourish when there are opportunities for everyone. It is essential that the countries of the region invest in their talented young people and strive to enhance opportunities for communication and interaction with the rest of the world.

At the beginning of the current year, the IMF held a conference in Morocco, which was organized jointly by the Government of the Kingdom of Morocco, the IMF, the Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development, and the Arab Monetary Fund. The conference was attended by over 300 people from 20 countries of the region, including government officials, representatives of the private sector and civil society, and global experts, who met to discuss how to overcome the obstacles facing the implementation of inclusive growth policies.

In the first session of the conference today, we will release a report on how to activate these programs and policies on the ground, and I am confident that we will conclude our discussions with an agenda that will help promote inclusive growth.


The agenda needs to focus on five priorities:

The first priority is promoting a dynamic private sector in order to achieve higher growth and create more jobs.

In this regard, it is clear that the old model, where the state plays the role of primary employer, is no longer sustainable. The private sector must play a larger role, and this requires government measures to create a climate of fair competition for private enterprises, as well as taking advantage of global trade and new technologies. Companies in the region also need to increase their investments, contribute their fair share of the tax burdens, and cooperate with the public sector to improve the infrastructure.

The second priority in this agenda to achieve inclusive growth is providing support for marginalized groups.

To this end, policies must be adopted to integrate young people, women, and rural inhabitants into the labor force by preparing them for suitable jobs. Financial inclusion, including the use of FinTech, is an important tool for enabling people, as approximately 70 percent of the adults in the region do not have bank accounts.

The third priority on the path to inclusive growth is using fiscal policy to invest in human resources and infrastructure.

Meeting this objective requires that fiscal policy be redesigned in order to allocate a larger share of public funds to improve the infrastructure in a large number of the region’s countries, and to enhance social safety nets, services, and education by increasing social spending, which today amounts to only 11 percent of GDP in the Middle East, compared to 19 percent in the developing countries of Europe. It is also essential to expand the tax base, make it more progressive, and ensure that all parties pay their fair share, while providing support to the needy.

The fourth priority is integration into the global economy.

According to our estimates, greater openness could raise growth in the region by 1 percentage point on average, which would be a huge boost.

The fifth priority of the agenda for inclusive growth is enhancing governance and combating corruption.

Corruption needs to be weeded out, as it remains a major constraint to private sector activity and public sector efficiency. We need to focus on transparency and governance, which are areas of weakness in the region.


Finally, ladies and gentlemen, there is no doubt that inclusive growth is a joint responsibility shared by the government, the private sector, and society as a whole. Inclusive growth requires both collective wisdom and collective action, and the participation of those directly affected by the reforms is also necessary. Why? Because this type of dialogue enhances confidence and the sense of ownership, which helps ensure the sustainability and lasting effect of these reforms.

The countries of the region hold enormous promise. We have a rich history and culture that is deeply rooted in science and commerce. We have vast resources. And above all, we have a talented generation of young men and women who are eager to work and be productive members of society.

We must therefore pay attention to their aspirations and rise to the level of their hopes and dreams.

Thank you very much.