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Update on Somalia; Transparency International Releases Report on Corruption in Africa

Aired May 26, 2007 - 12:30:00   ET


FEMI OKE, HOST: Hello, I'm Femi Oke, and this is INSIDE AFRICA, your weekly look at life and issues on the continent. And this week, we are going to update you on several stories. We begin in Somalia, with a closer look at what the U.N. calls the worst humanitarian crisis in the country's recent history.
Today, we head to Kenya, to find out what Transparency International's latest global corruption report has in store for Africa.

And finally, we are going to take you to Angola, to give you a sense of what it's like to shop in one of Africa's biggest markets.

But first, to Somalia, where rampant violence could be making an already a bleak humanitarian situation very much worse.


OKE: The endless chaos in Somalia is making it tough for a war-weary population to survive.

HALIM AHMED, DISPLACED WOMAN (through interpreter): The most important thing for me is food. I need something to eat. I arrived here one month ago.

OKE: Halim is not alone. Eight organizations say up to 400,000 people fled their homes during the fighting in Mogadishu. Even inside the city, there are estimates that some 30 to 40 percent of the population has been displaced. Relief workers say many are living huddled under trees, with no real shelter, and the fighting is making it difficult for them to get help (inaudible).

JOHN HOLMES, U.N. HUMANITARIAN COORDINATOR: The immediate humanitarian needs are huge, and largely unmet so far. Little real improvement can be expected unless there is a satisfactory and fully inclusive internal political settlement. Otherwise, I fear the worst.

OKE: John Holmes' trip to Somalia was cut short earlier this month, when a series of bombs exploded, killing three people near his route through Mogadishu. Days later, gunman attacked the World Health Organization office in the capital, wounding a guard. And in another instance, four African Union troops were killed by a remote controlled bomb north of the capital. It was the first deadly attack against Ugandan troops since their 1,600-strong force was deployed in March. And some fear this could deter other already reluctant nations to send badly needed additional troops.

ALI MOHAMED GEDI, SOMALI PRIME MINISTER: It was a barbaric act, targeted to disappoint Ugandan forces, the government and the people of Somalia.

OKE: Off the coast of Somalia, things are not looking better. The U.N. last week warned that aid to about a million people is under severe threat from pirates after a U.N. supply ship was attacked and a guard killed. Their fears were immediately validated when a U.N. relief ship in Kenya refused to enter Somalia waters without adequate security.

KARIM KUDRATI, MOTAKU SHIPPING AGENCY: Currently, we have loaded (inaudible) 150 tons, which is supposed to go to Kismayo, but we have stopped at the moment until we get some security from - from sources that we are applying to.

OKE: The U.N. has issued an appeal for the international community to help stop the piracy. But inside Somalia, shortages of food and medicine are already a reality.

LEADER OF SOMALI RED CRESCENT CLINIC (through interpreter): There are 25 to 30 people who come every day, mainly displaced people from Mogadishu. Their main problem is diarrhea and malnutrition. Our medical stock is decreasing faster than usual.

OKE: While some aid is coming in, it's very clear that there is little hope of real progress until the security situation is resolved. What's not clear is when that will be, and when the Somali people will have the peace they so desperately need.


OKE: As I just mentioned in the report, the United Nations undersecretary-general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief cut short his trip to Somalia because of conditions there. I spoke to him earlier about what aid agencies are up against in Somalia, and what areas they're most concerned about.


HOLMES: The areas we're most concerned about are Mogadishu itself and all the south and central areas which surround it, because that's where the people have fled to from Mogadishu. That's where there are already many people who were displaced and many people suffering from food insecurity, disease. There is cholera there at the moment. So those are the areas we're most concerned about, and have been concerned about for years, but it's also the areas where access is most difficult.

OKE: The transitional government. How much are they in a position where they can actually help the people of Somalia?

HOLMES: Well, clearly, there are limits to the extent to which they can control events all over Somalia, because they are relatively recently arrived and they have a lot of difficult problems to contend with.

But we're saying to them that one of the things they need to do is to facilitate and help the work of the humanitarian community in helping the Somali people, and that means trying to make sure that people can move around relatively freely, that they're not stopped at checkpoints the whole time and asked for large sums of money, and that they can have visas and customs clearances quickly. Those are the kinds of things where, you know, the government can make a difference even if they can't control absolutely everything, and that's what we're trying to discuss with them.

OKE: In Somalia, it almost seems like a chicken-and-the-egg situation -- do we have security before we deal with the humanitarian crisis, or vice versa. How do you even approach something this big?

HOLMES: Well, we have to get on with trying to help people, whatever the security situation may be. Of course, it makes it harder if the security situation is bad, it's dangerous, and I pay tribute to all those people on the ground who are working so hard.

I think we have managed to reach quite a lot of people already. Either with food, through the World Food Program and/or NGOs, or with non- food items through other agencies, like UNICEF and UNHCR.

But we're not meeting the need at the moment. That's why we need to work harder. That's why we need more cooperation from the transitional federal government, from the opposition forces in Somalia as well, who need to respect the humanitarian effort properly, from the Ethiopians and from the international community.

It's really a collective effort we need if we're going to help people in desperate circumstances.

And don't forget, it's not just those who have just fled Mogadishu. I was able to seize in Mogadishu some displaced people who've been displaced inside Mogadishu for up to 17 years. I went to see some of them, and their conditions were absolutely terrible. Little children living in appalling conditions, I mean, very little prospect for the future, unless something changes. So, we have an awful lot to do. We have an awful lot of time to catch up, and the Somali people really need our help.

OKE: Do you think the transitional government has the wherewithal to actually be able to cooperate with you? Do they have the ability to change the situation in Mogadishu and around Somalia even?

HOLMES: Well, I think you can really do that on a lasting basis, if there is this kind of political dialogue which I've been talking about. There has to be a reaching-out process to opposition forces, so that all the Somalis can come together.

Otherwise, what I fear is, this government will not prove a lasting government, and the situation will not get better. We'll go back to the kind of years of conflict and degradation and poverty which have affected Somalia for so long.

OKE: In your dialogue with the transitional government, are you also talking to the Ethiopian authorities as well?

HOLMES: Yes, we are. I didn't meet the Ethiopian force commander while I was there, but we have been in touch with Ethiopia through their representation here in New York and in Addis Ababa. And indeed, our message to them is the same: Please, do all in your power, directly and indirectly, to help the humanitarian effort to be effective, because there are people out there who are really suffering, really in need, women who are having to give birth in the countryside with no medical help, children without clean water, people affected by disease. They need help, and that means they need help from you and the Ethiopian authorities as well.


OKE: That was U.N. Undersecretary General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief John Holmes.

Since 1991, Somalia has seen nothing but war, anarchy and a complicated series of characters and interests. It began when Somali warlords, widely believed to be backed by the United States, ousted dictator Siad Barre. Then in 2004, the main clans, armed groups and politicians set up their latest attempt at a transitional government, with the help of the United Nations, and supported by the African Union and Ethiopia. But the government has been struggling to exert its authority and has very little popular support.

Last year, a third party, the Union of Islamic Courts, entered the stage and seized Mogadishu from the warlords. This prompted Ethiopia to send in troops to help the interim government drive out the Islamists. That battle for control of Mogadishu has caused some of the heaviest fighting in 16 years.

Hopes are now pinned on the possible arrival of additional African peacekeeping troops and a national reconciliation conference, which is scheduled for June. The conference has already been delayed once due to security situation in Mogadishu.

So, let's have a look at what some African editorials have to say on the conflict in Somalia.

"The East African" in Nairobi writes, "Somalia is on fire, and the sooner the international community wakes up to this fact, the easier it will be to put out the flames. Already, Ugandan troops are learning a swift and painful lesson -- that there is no peace to maintain. The most immediate task awaiting any mission to the war-torn nation is pacification with speed and ruthlessness."

"The Monitor" in Kampala writes, "Ugandan peacekeepers went to war- torn Somalia to restore calm and sanity under an African Union mission. But 1,500 men alone cannot execute successfully a task initially meant for 8,000 troops. This has overstretched their capacity, and turned them into easy targets for Islamist militants. The recent incident calls for a second thinking on our presence in Somalia."

And "The Nation" in Nairobi writes: "The core of the problem in Somalia is lack of a central authority with enough muscle to contain the numerous warring clans and sub-clans."

When we come back, Africa and the corruption index 2007. We take a look at where the continent fits into this year's ranking.

And later, a visit to one of the largest open-air markets in Africa, and this is one shopping trip you won't want to miss. See you soon.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: South Africa says it's developing a new strategy for bio-fuels that will help raise crop production from 3 to 10 million tons per year. The country says the move should help stimulate jobs and businesses, and that the changes will not impact food safety.

Kenyans could be forced to pay more for their locally grown sugar. Industry groups say rising production costs, combined with cheap imports, pose a big threat to the country's sugar industry. Kenya produces about 400,000 tons of sugar each year.

Tanzanian health officials have stopped production of pesticide-coded mosquito nets after 12 workers collapsed at a Sunflag factory in Arusha. The employees were working with the toxic films without gloves or masks. Critics accuse Sunflag, one of the Kenya's biggest textile businesses, of poor working conditions.


OKE: Welcome back. You're watching INSIDE AFRICA.

Corruption undermines justice in many parts of the world, denying victims and the accused the basic human right to a fair and impartial trial. That's the verdict of Transparency International's global corruption report for 2007. This year, the focus of the report was judicial justice, and there was not much good news for Africa.

Globally, the report said that judicial corruption blocks access to justice, hampers economic development, and erodes human rights and undermines trust in the institution of justice.

When it comes to Africa, the report says that lack of transparency remains a major problem, but Botswana and Mauritius were the only two African nations to score just above threshold for serious corruption. At the bottom were Chad, Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Guinea.

Earlier, journalist Elizabeth Weirimu spoke to the vice chair of Transparency International about this year's report and Africa's place in it.


AKERE MUNA, VICE CHAIR, TRANSPARENCY INTERNATIONAL: We have a definition of corruption, which is the use of entrusted power for private benefits. This report this year actually looks at the judiciary in over 30 countries, and see how this is influenced by corruption. And we're trying to see what can be done about it, and - and also look at examples and make an assessment, which runs from June to June almost of the previous year.

ELIZABETH WEIRIMU, JOURNALIST: So, what is Transparency International doing to combat judicial corruption in various nations?

MUNA: The report we're here to launch in Kenya is - it will have tools in it. It comes with a box of tools that help you look at, you know, how do you have a transparent judicial system?

The judiciary is key in the fight against corruption. Once you're trying to tackle judicial corruption, you're trying to wrestle it away from the hands of the very powerful who have captured the system, and they don't take it lying down.

And so they fight back. They fight back in very many ways, and by going against judiciary itself.

I want to say it's not only an African problem. All of us followed this - what happened in the United States with the firing of whole group of prosecutors. All of us have been following what's happening in Pakistan, with the firing of the Supreme Court judge. And in many African countries, you have cases where judges have been - have been fired.

The political power always tends to want to have a hold on the judicial system, which makes independence of the judges not very easy, because you know very well, you know, if they control appointment, the salaries and the transfers, then, of course, then it is very difficult to have a judiciary that's truly independent.

WEIRIMU: And what is the impact of judicial corruption in African states?

MUNA: The impact of corruption, of judicial corruption, is beyond anything you can imagine. Firstly, because the poorest are those who are hit very, very severely. A lot of countries in Africa really - the citizens themselves question the judiciary. (inaudible), there are countries like Ghana that have been doing very well in terms of fighting corruption in the judiciary.

The courts are becoming more and more - becoming more and more important in the political process. Look at Nigeria. The important part the judiciary has had to play in the whole process, who can be a candidate, who cannot be, what provisions of the electoral law apply, what don't. And in most African countries, the ultimate results are published by the - by the judiciary.

Go back to Ivory Coast, President Gbabgo (inaudible) a process where the judiciary played an important role. Madagascar. So the judiciary is playing more and more important role in the electoral process, and the electoral process can also be the valve (ph) in terms of social stability.

So if you don't have a powerful judiciary, which is independent, and a judiciary in which the judges themselves assume the important role they have to play, then, you know, you might just be sawing the seeds of future chaos.


OKE: That was journalist Elizabeth Weirimu, speaking to Transparency International's Akere Muna earlier.

Now, here's a look at some African perspectives on the issue of corruption.

"This Day" in Lagos reads: "Corruption is the greatest challenge to progress across much of the developing world, and this is particularly so in Africa.

"News From Africa" says: "There's a saying among Africans that the continent is under-developed in the corruption field. Much of this can be traced to slavery, the colonizing period and to the Cold War. Africans are no more innately dishonest than Canadians, nor are they any more given to institutionalized corruption, nepotism or incompetence."

And the "Nigerian Tribune" reads: "Corruption is a human frailty, which is universal. What differs is how societies decide to deal with it. Some societies repudiate it, others celebrate it."

When INSIDE AFRICA returns, a trip to Angola's Roque Santeiro market. It's quite a shopping affair. Join me on the other side, we have some kwanza to spend.



OKE: Here is a look at some of the stories in the headlines this week: Kenyan police this week arrested seven people in connection to the beheading of six people outside of Nairobi. The killings are believed to be the work of the Mungiki religious sect, a group outlawed in Kenya due to its links to extortion, murder and political violence. Police say the victims were abducted and tortured before being dismembered. Their bodies were then abandoned near police station in Kiambu.

Just when they thought it couldn't get any worse, inflation and food shortages rose again in Zimbabwe.

JOHN ROBERSTON, ECONOMIST: The inflation figures dropped out above 1,000 percent a year ago. We have now gone about 3,000 percent. In fact, it's very close to 4,000 percent. And it looks like it will continue rising.

OKE: The prices for staple food items like maize nearly doubled in Zimbabwe in the month of April.

And Amnesty International says the politics of fear have provoked a human rights meltdown, and creating a dangerous (inaudible). The human rights group's latest annual report accuses U.S. President George W. Bush of using fear of terrorism to enhance his power, but also points the finger at Zimbabwe and Darfur, where hundreds of thousands have died in what the U.S. describes as genocide. It also says Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe has played on racial fears to promote his own political agenda.


OKE: Hello again. It's time for us to do some serious shopping, and for that we're going to take you to one of Africa's largest open air markets, Roque Santeiro market in Luanda.


OKE: The people call it "The Wall Street of Angola". Roque Santeiro is the largest open-air market in Angola and one of the biggest in Africa. It's more like a huge city than a shopping center. Around a million people come here every day. They pack into buses to pick up the best bargains in Luanda.

There are distinct shopping areas for different kinds of goods. In the food quarters, steaming piles of food are cooked on ingenious contraptions. The smell of fish wands over the market's doors, and local dishes are miraculously produced from pots and pans in makeshift kitchens.

Locals say you can buy anything at Roque Santeiro if you just look hard enough. Smart luggage sits on the dusty floor. The latest Angolan sounds blast out from the music stores. And you can even get your TV fixed.

Like any major shopping center, there are places to get pampered. At Eloisa's (ph) hair dressing salon, you can get your hair done in the latest style. (inaudible). Those pots (ph) are big and guaranteed to get you noticed.

And while the ladies are in the salon, the gents are at the cinema. Who knew Mark Wahlberg would be playing to full houses in the middle of an Angola market.

The women sifting dry casaba work tirelessly just to make a few kwanza. It's this informal market economy that helps set prices in the rest of Luanda.

As vibrant and throbbing with life as it is, there's a dark side to the market. Armed security guards are reminders of gangs that operate at Roque Santeiro. At night, homeless children slip onto the stools, and there are parts of the market where youngsters sell themselves just like the rest of the produce.

There's talk here that Luanda authorities want to move the sprawling market city to a new, clean location away from the city center. Roque Santeiro market is named after a Brazilian soap opera about a rich, decadent family. It's an Angolan joke, which may well fall flat if the Wall Street of Angola is forced to move and smarten up.


OKE: That was a great day at the market. It took a day to get around it all, and you'd really, really love to visit the market, do make sure you take somebody from Luanda so at least you don't get lost.

And that's our show for this week. Thanks for watching. There's so much more to come next week, so please let this show be your window to the continent.

I'm Femi Oke, and until the next time, take care.



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