Thursday, October 30, 2008

ECOWAS--ECOWAS Community Court of Justice Frees Nigerien Slave

Rare is the case of civil society collaborating with regional bodies to bring about positive and constructive change; even more rare is when it is in Africa! So when I first heard the case of the 24-yr-old former Nigerien slave who was taking her case to court, I could only more than jump with glee upon hearing that she had taken the case to none other than the ECOWAS Community Court of Justice.

Established in 2005, the Court has not been as high-profile in the ECOWAS region as one would have expected. I believe the ususal red-tapism and lack of political will will have played their parts in good measure. That said, the only case that might have registered in the minds of the sub-region's citizens have been that of the murder of a Gambian journalist. Truth be told, it's been rather difficult following the case on account of its protacted nature.

As for this case of the Nigerien slave who has been mandated by the court to receive the equivalent of some $20,000 as compensation, this particular case is not just unique, but unprecedented. It is unique because though slavery is an old ghost in parts of West Africa, it took a committed individual to usher in necessary change for people like her; and it is unprecendented because not only has it shown that ECOWAS has potential to bare its teeth, but equally the potential to chomp hard on injustice in t he sub-region.

The news that the ruling is binding and that the young woman will receive compensation is equally interesting. As Aidan McQuade, the director of Anti-Slavery International, told the BBC about how the case would be crucial in highlighting the plight of slaves in Africa:

"This is very important in terms of the community of nations, and particularly the African community of nations looking at other countries within that region and saying: 'What standard are we expecting each other to be held to in relation to international and national law?'"

Friday, October 03, 2008

Underwhelming Close of Sixth Session of ACP Summit

I came in some twenty minutes ago to see President Kufuor and a mini-phalanx of diplomats leaving this frightfully-chilling hall. I got wind that there was no press conference to end the whole affair, which also means that the twice-postponed press conference with the Ivorian diplomat fell through in a radically-twisted way.

These ACP guys must have a twisted sense of humour, because if they think this is the way of promoting transparency, accountability and whatnot, they better do a double-take.

Many of us are not amused. Even the delegates who stood almost-useless outside the foyer wondered what on Earth merited some of the discussions to be closed-sessions? Can anyone help?

The ACP Group needs a serious revision of how it does things. This does not make those of us hawkishly watching the EPA discussions encouraged that they can go onto better things!

They get a C+.

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Commentary on Closed Session of Closing Session

12h24: acp group should work towards lasting peace in Sudan (nuhue)

JAMAICA: unstinting support of all acp states for peace efforts in Sudan. Has a unwavering commitment to people of Sudan. Should not confuse matters of Sudan to matters over ICC, which jamaica subscribes to.

NIGERIA: Concerns over paragraph five. especially paragraph three on non-interference of states. for a distinguished body like this, language should not be tautaologous and language be overkilled.

who says that tomw we might not consider sanctions to bring pressure to bear on level of intl behaviour. want paragraph five deleted.

TUVATU? section two on sustainable devt. change be made...(wording on climate change).

CUBA: sorry, no access to headphones.

SUDAN: parag number 7. noted statements by Jamaica. statement consistent with arab league and african union. what is important is peace process in sudan. the indictment of Bashir could create problems. Necessary to keep paragraph and add other[which one?] one...

KENYA: security, peace and justice should not be overlooked. icc indictment will frustrate regional peace. clause seven should start as it is.

BENIN: paragraph 23: propose to add ..want to add another paragraph on AID EFFECTIVENESS...

ZIMBABWE: paragraph five and seven....

????-ask for suspension of ICC arrest warrant

SOUTH AFRICA retain parags five and seven. the use of sanctions. must as an act of solidarity, retin parag five. all potential parties in sudanese conflict...

ERITREA: express solidarity. retain paragraphs five and seven as is.

12h59 out of here. plenty deliberations over Sudan. And EPAs?

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Inside Closed Session of Closing Session

CARIFORUM: saw epa as a package,are of the view that it liimited market access will not be in best interest of cariforum. at 12h20

kufuor speaks: would urge quickly to get declaration ready. i propose that we take the declaration as a whole, listen to it as a whole and discuss.

someone is speaking? who? [located behind a flag up on the balcony, next to two sleeping security guys]

declaration is bein read out. Declaration in four parts..
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EPAs to Top Agenda on Final Day of 6 ACP Summit

I think it might be stretching it a bit to think that expectations might be raised. Currently sitting at the press centre, waiting for the press conference of the Ivorian minister on the EPAs. Should draw quite a crowd. Two of my colleagues are here, waiting to filter the technical aspects of the EPAs through the lens of the minister's utterances, I am sure. Or is that the other way round?

The picture shows a snapshot of the entrance of the doorway to the plenary meeting, which has been closed session since yesterday. The guys inside have special badges, " CLOSED SESSION". Even Dr.DICK Naezer(sp)of the EU delegation here in Accra was

stopped by security, as he went along with his colleague.

My colleague and I speculated that he will most likely bulldoze his way through the meeting this morning, which is supposed to be on FUTURE OF THE ACP GROUP.

The guy to the left of the picture is a journalist who is based in Abidjan. Don't know his name. All I know is the anecdotal information of EU Development Minister Louis Michel having had his stomach stapled, giving him the slimmer appearance, and how "despicable" a character he is. I always knew that;-) The lady to the right is a Balgian journalist who was keen to get a background of the guy on the left. I swear I was not eavesdropping. Being so close as I am, any information is great, dontcha think?

It's 10h17. Press conference ought to start soon! Before I go, let me show you a snapshot of the edition of Graphic Business of this past Tuesday:

It might all be about the money, but it's certainly all about the EPAs now!!

Thursday, October 02, 2008

President Kufuor of Ghana Speaks

He says thanks for condolences expressed for late Baah-Wiredu.

Ghana to take over for the next two years from Sudan. [I see ECOWAS president Ibn Chambas listening attentively to the speech] Kufuor is talking about the need for fair international trading systems, which he acknowledges is non-existent. Aid has tended to be given as charitu. These shortcomings have incapacitated Ghanaians and ACP countries.

Kufuor is talking more about subsidiesthan epas. In broaching the issue, he, too, has mentioned reciprocity. How would the eu take up our dilemma [of what?]

Sir John Kaputin, we wish u well. Summit is now opened at 11.31am

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Sudan President speaks, talks of "simmering cold war"

EPas have ignored development, they have proved that no meaningful devt can be achieved without systemic resolution of crisis in international system. Need better control of natural resources, and debt relief, among many things.

Situation in Darfur: ICC arrest warrant undermines peace process! In a sense, move is politically-motivated. want to settle conflict through negotiations...confident that with President Kufuor's vision, ACP objectives will be realized.

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Glennys Kinnock Speaks on Perfect Storm of...

She wants us to be clear on the turmoil. Weaker countries need assistance. In 2008, need more of the technology that is needed to resolve crisis. Mud-cakes are being given to children in Haiti. Many children die a yr from preventable diseases.

Military-spending would lift everyone out of poverty. UN summit last week was encouraging. Sixteen billion dollars pledged. Neeed to put in context of food crisis. Figures released by UN last week suggest only portion has been fulfilled. You know aid works, and it menas fewer children are dying. Promises must be kept. Many will not meet MDG 1, never mind MDG 5, which is on maternal mortality.

Investment needed not by luck or osmosis. Effective choices needed. There is no silver bullet.

Fr?m the outset, EC has focussed on epas as FTAs, with repition of mantra of reciprocity. If between equals, then fine! There are also concerns on

process, and serious anxieties for regional integration.

The ACP has in its ranks some of the poorest countries. EU council in June said...CARIFORUM EPA signed. ACPs need to be vigilant, and the EU should show flexibilty. This is on the cards in the Caribbean.

Global regulation needs to be strengthened. Addition of further devt before onset of liberalisation. Testing times, but times that require mutual respect.

Stepping down from podium to reveal a diminutive figure, she prompts a warmer clap for a rather powerful speech. Sudan president is about to speak in Arabic. Headphone alert!

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Opening Ceremony of ACP 6 Summit

It is 10h23, and the ACP Secretary-General Sir John Kaputin is about to make his speech. He says it is a priviledge and an honour to deliver preliminary remarks at this august summit.

He wants to express gratitude to the peoples of Ghana and the prez, being grateful for the warm reception being accorded since his arrival to beautiful ciity of Accra.

ACP Group has been involved in many different activities since Khartoum mtg, etc.

Yeah, the World Bank guy and UNICEF lady are here; I
would suppose the European commission is here as well. Press is in their large numbers here. I am seated fortuitously next to a lady I saw on tv last night reading TV Africa news--none other than my GHAJICT colleague Veronica Kwablah, who is listening attentively to the speech by Kaputin, as I type away on this OGO device to

bring you some of the highlights of the acp gathering.

Again, I learnt last night that --yeah, EPAs have been mentioned right now, and right now the guy is talking about aid effectiveness. yeah!--the wireless is only available in the registration tent. One wonders what the guys there would need it for??

Kaputin continues that missions to fiji, sudan and djiboutou have highlighted importance of intra-acp

Fact-finding mission will go to Mauritania. On a positive note, Togo and Sudan have assumed normal relations with the European Union.

The ICC indictment has caused some friction regrettably in Darfur. Negotiation on EPAs have concerned grouo for a copnsiderable number of time. Process have split states that have initialled full epas, with some saying no. He hopes way can be smoothed on epas. This impt topical issue is on the agenda, he maintains.

10h37--is it me or does Kufuor look sleepy? He was looking down at something till Kaputin inhis address went "Mr.President,...", prompting him to turn towards the speaker's direction on the podium! With all that travelling he has been doing, he naturally must be itching to get up, don't you think? Behind me, looks like some elderly-looking man has just found joy in annoying some of us with a strident ringtone.

As the press both listen attentively to, and pretend to listen to and look serious at what Kaputin is delivering, a quick scan reveals that people seem to be listening, altough I see quite a number are dozing off. Oh well.

People will get ready to clap as Kaputin thanks the President for his kind attention.
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Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Reason for Delay of Start of Joint ACP MOFA and Council of Ministers Meeting Clarified

A few minutes ago, the chair of the meeting came to explain in French that they are duly sorry for the delay of the meeting, but key ministers of foreign affairs and others are battling out some issues around the document for the meeting. We have been asked to exercise patience, I guess.

In the meantime, I found out that the person I am sitting next to is no less than the ambassador of Togo to Brussels. He

is an affable-looking man, wearing a grey, pinned-stripe sut-like thingy. I only know, because some francophone guys came up behind me a few days minutes ago, introducing the ambassador of Côte d'ivoire here in Accra to him.

On a positive side, my colleagues--registered as delegates-- are capitalising on the tardiness of the meeting to do some serious lobbying of ministers around the EPA. I see one of them articulating a point to a Tanzanian diplomat.

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6 ACP Summit--Day Two: Raw Deal for the Press

I got into town to the Accra Conference Centre on a day after the public holiday to heavy traffic, coupled with the cacophonous noises of siren ushering commuters and motorists alike to move way for the oh-so-important delegates (comprising mostly ambassadors) to head to the AICC on a day that will see the joint meeting of ACP Council of Ministers along with the ACP Ministers of Foreign Affairs.

Yet again, the meeting is late.

If we forget the fact that the Press were politely asked to wait for delegates to get a bag before they could come for one, or the fact that local press is not factored into the free lunch, or even coffee break, we could simply sigh a huge one and get on with our business.

But there is more: the press is not getting the documents from the ACP press person Robert Irago (somehow, since yesterday, he has not been able to coordinate the distribution of material for them!) as expected. The ushers are unable to give us the documents we need to be able to read between the lines for the necessary reporting we need to do. Is it any wonder the Ghanaian press sometimes behave so mediocre?

Here is yours truly who is profoundly interested in what he is here for, but starved off information to do my job! Who can blame me when a neglectful minister or ambassador not here on time comes to his seat to find no documents:-) At least, some of us will put it to good use!

Speaking of which, I have the following documents here as I type this in the plenary hall, which regrettably has no wireless!! They are: [<i>le reunion va demarrer dans cinq minutes</i>] * DRAFT ELEMENTS OF THE ACCRA DECLARATION; *CONTRIBUTION OF THE ACP CIVIL SOCIETY TO THE 6TH SUMMIT OF HEADS OF STATE AND GOVERNMENT IN ACCRA (GHANA); *Draft agenda of the joint meeting of the acp council of ministers of foreign affairs to be held on Wednesday 1 October 2008 from 9.30 to 13.00 in Accra, Ghana.; *report from the council of ministers to the 6th acp summit of heads of state and government on the implementation of decisions of previous summits and important developments relevant to the acp group.

It is now some 29 minutes after 10. All sorts of people are standing up smiling to people both fake and genuine smiles. You know here that the laptops that are open are for serious business as the wireless is not set up in the building (unlike at UNCTAD XII in April).
Be-spectacled delegates of the slim,thin, fat, and pot-bellied type move around at all sorts of paces. The head table where the ACP SG and Assistant SG are seated are empty, with no signs of where they could be. The five minutes asked for is long-past, and it remains unclear when we are starting. Just overheard a member of the Ghanaian press sitting behind me that "they will hand over the chairmanship of the ACP to Ghana..." Unsure what that is about.

We live in hope--and plenty of it!

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