What appeared to have been kept under wraps, regarding President Donald Trump’s impression of his his April meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria, is now unveiled.
Financial Times is reporting that, apparently unimpressed with Buhari’s contributions at the US meeting, Trump had described their discussions as lifeless.
Given the US President’s earlier uncomplimentary remarks about some developing economies during which he described them as “shithole” countries, Uhuru Kenyatta’s August visit has received Financial Times’ review.
Donald Trump will welcome Kenya’s Uhuru Kenyatta to the White House on Monday for what will be only the second one-on-one meeting the US president has held with a sub-Saharan African leader since he took office last year.
The first meeting, with Nigeria’s ailing 75-year-old Muhammadu Buhari in April, ended with the US president telling aides he never wanted to meet someone so lifeless again, according to three people familiar with the matter.
Advocates of closer US-Africa ties hope his encounter with the younger, more urbane Mr Kenyatta, 56, will breathe fresh life into a relationship with a region that Washington is seen to have neglected as other countries, notably China, develop ever-closer trade and investment ties with the continent.
Under Emmanuel Macron, France is also trying to reset its relationship with its former colonies in Africa and deepen commercial ties with bigger economies in the Anglo sphere, such as Nigeria and South Africa.
“Trump likes chemistry,” said a person in touch both with senior US administration officials and the Kenya delegation preparing for Monday’s meeting. “Africa has never been high on his radar but if the big guy likes you he’ll find a way to make things work.”
Joshua Meservey, senior policy analyst for Africa at the Heritage Foundation, said: “Presidents Trump and Kenyatta have a pretty warm relationship which can hopefully pave the way for more engagement with Kenya and the rest of Africa.” The Kenyan president, he suspected, might try to “carry the torch” for the whole continent.
After his meeting with Mr Trump, Mr Kenyatta will meet Theresa May, the UK prime minister, in Nairobi next week before flying to Beijing in early September for the Forum on China-Africa Co-operation summit to be presided over by Xi Jinping, China’s president.
“A lot of the influence that America used to wield not too long ago is pretty much diminished,” said Patrick Gathara, a political commentator in Kenya. The increasing interest of other countries in Africa — including Turkey, India and the Gulf States, as well as China — gave African countries more diplomatic options he said.
Washington and Nairobi are expected to sign a series of commercial agreements that could “create hundreds of American and Kenyan jobs”, a White House official told the Financial Times.
Many expect Mr Trump will try to seal a deal over the plan by Bechtel, the US engineering group, to build a $4.5bn four-lane motorway between the port city of Mombasa and Nairobi for which financing has not yet been fully secured.
Aubrey Hruby, co-founder of the Africa Expert Network, said Washington was not focused enough on backing US commercial interests in Africa. “France, China and other countries do direct commercial diplomacy,” she said. “We get too bogged down in conflict of interest,” she said, adding that Washington officials were reluctant to be seen backing one US company over another.
While many in the administration are keen to develop relations with the continent along business lines, in place of a traditional focus on aid and security, Mr Trump’s repeated gaffes have hampered efforts to push the continent higher up the agenda.
The US president appalled leaders on the continent by including African nations among those he allegedly disparaged as “shithole” countries in January. Last year, he mistakenly referred to Namibia as “Nambia” during a public address.
Even last week, Mr Trump waded into a debate over land ownership in South Africa, alleging “the large-scale killing of farmers”. The incidents of such killings have fallen sharply.
“Trump is widely criticised for not having an Africa policy,” said Grant Harris, former Africa director at the National Security Council. “So it’s in his interest to have something from Monday he can present as a win,” he said, adding that the US was considering a reciprocal trade deal with Kenya.
Mr Harris said the onus was also on Mr Kenyatta whose country, like many others in Africa, had borrowed heavily from China, leaving little room to do business with the US.
A White House official said the Trump administration was “progressing” with the development of an Africa strategy, adding that Kenya was one of Washington’s closest security, counter-terrorism and trade partners in Africa.
Two months ago, Tibor Nagy, a former US ambassador to Guinea and Ethiopia, was finally confirmed as the state department’s top Africa diplomat.
Mr Kenyatta’s reception in the Oval Office is a boost to a man who once faced an indictment from the International Criminal Court in The Hague for crimes against humanity over his alleged role in the mass violence that followed the 2007 elections. The charges were ultimately withdrawn in 2014.
“There won’t be any mention about corruption in Kenya or human rights,” said Mr Gathara, who said he was sceptical about the Kenyan president’s recent “war on corruption”. Under Mr Trump, he said, the US was now also perceived to have “lax standards”, reducing its authority to pressure anyone else.
Nigerian government chases tax dodgers abroad. New policy targets foreign assets
The President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration has unveiled a new system to ensure that all taxes on foreign assets of Nigerians due the federal government are remitted to the government’s coffers.
The move, the government believes, will strengthen efforts against money laundering and tax evasion.
The new system is captured in a new Executive Order tagged, ‘Voluntary Offshore Assets Regularisation Scheme (VOARS).’
The Executive Order (008) takes effect from October 8, the day it was signed by President Muhammadu Buhari.
According to Buhari’s media aide, Garba Shehu, by the new order, Nigerian taxpayers who hold offshore assets and income are expected to, within a period of 12 months, declare voluntarily those assets and pay taxes on them.
“When they do this, they should expect to derive certain specified benefits,” Shehu said in a statement Wednesday.
He also said that according to the order, “any taxpayer who truthfully and voluntarily complies with the conditions of the scheme, pays a one-time levy of 35 percent on the total offshore assets or pays all outstanding taxes, penalties and interest after forensic audit of their offshore assets and income shall obtain immunity from prosecution for tax offenses and offences related to offshore assets, among others.
“Equally, failure of any defaulting taxpayer to take advantage of this scheme shall, at the expiration of the scheme result in investigation and enforcement procedures concerning offshore assets anywhere in the world pursuant to information now readily available through automatic exchange of information between Nigeria and foreign countries.”
He said in accordance with the new order, the federal government, through the office of the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, will set up a VOARS in Switzerland for all categories of taxpayers who have defaulted in the declaration of their offshore assets, payment of taxes due and collectible subject to the fulfillment of the terms and conditions as stipulated in the order, or any other subsequent complementary regulations that follow.
To avoid the abuse of this process, he said, the federal government makes clear that the “scheme is open to all persons, entities, and their intermediaries holding offshore assets and are in default of their tax obligations in any way, including those who are not already under investigation by law enforcement agencies in Nigeria or any other country and have not been charged with any crimes including theft of public funds or obtaining offshore assets through corrupt practices.”
In signing the order, Shehu said Buhari noted that under Nigerian law, every citizen has the duty to declare his or her income and assets and pay taxes on them but regretted that this, in most instances, had not been the case.
“The sad reality is that efforts to recover these taxes from defaulters through litigation are often frustrated by the complications caused by the change in the character and nature of such assets, insufficient financial intelligence, long delays in courts, among several other reasons,” the presidential aide said.
President Buhari is optimistic that the new scheme will help to facilitate the expedient regularisation of offshore assets connected to Nigeria and lead to “a new expanded tax base for the federal government, and also fund the Nigeria Infrastructure Fund in Switzerland,” he said.
Stealing victory. Cameroon inches toward long-drawn post-election crisis. Who cares?
Cameroon appears headed for a long-drawn crisis with President Paul Biya’s government dismissing an opposition victory claim in the latest presidential elections.
Biya’s governing Cameroon People’s Democratic Movement (CPDM) has termed the opposition acts as a manoeuvre to compromise peace and tranquillity in the country.
The Cameroon Renaissance Movement’s (CRM) candidate, Prof Maurice Kamto, Monday said he had won the vote, sending his supporters into street celebrations.
“I have received a clear mandate from the Cameroonian people which I will firmly defend right to the end and I want the national and international community to bear witness to this historic event that has ushered in a democratic political change in our country,” Prof Kamto said.
However, CPDM Secretary-General Jean Nkuete told a press conference in Yaoundé late Monday that the party was surprised and worried by the declaration which showed disregard for the rules of democracy and institutions.
“We express our surprise, our indignation and worry in the face of such irresponsible declaration that has no foundation. They are doing this in a bid to cause an uprising of the population to defend an imaginary victory,” he said.
No official results have been released yet from the election, in which eight candidates challenged longtime President Paul Biya.
Nkuete accused Kamto of breaking the law by announcing that he won the election.
Kamto is not the only candidate claiming victory. Cabral Libii of the opposition Universe Party announced he is leading the vote count.
Opposition candidate Garga Haman of the Alliance for Democracy and Development says two candidates want to create social unrest to oust President Paul Biya, who has led Cameroon for 36 years.
“Those two candidates are in a hurry to go to Etoudi [to be president]. Not yet my dear friends, not yet. Let us wait for the decision of the constitutional council. There is no reason to go on to the streets. Do not exploit the mentality of the youths,” he said.
Despite the turmoil, Biya, one of Africa’s longest serving leaders, is expected to win in the face of a deeply divided opposition.
In the midst of the crisis, Cameroon’s long time allies and former colonial master, France, seems comfortable observing from the stands. Many believe the latter’s interests, especially security of the country’s international business concerns, are at the centre of its diplomatic posturing on the matter of the Cameroons.
Another Rwandan opposition party leader ‘disappears’. Why it matters
The jailed vice president of Rwanda’s opposition FDU-Inkingi party escaped from prison on Sunday, according to the country’s correctional service.
Boniface Twagirimana was missing from a routine headcount at the prison Monday, local media reported, quoting a Rwanda Correctional Service spokesperson. The spokesperson said that Twagirimana and another prisoner had managed to escape by jumping over the complex’s fence and said that an investigation had been launched.
But members of the FDU — an unregistered political party — are calling “foul play” and fear that Twagirimana’s life could be in danger.
In a statement released Monday, the FDU party questioned how Twagirimana could have escaped out of a high security prison he had been transferred to only five days prior and called on the Rwandan government for answers.
“This information…leaves us to believe that there could be foul play by Rwandan security services,” the statement said.
“We call on the Rwandan government to inform the family, the party FDU-Inkingi and the general prison about the circumstances of the disappearance of Twagirimana. Mr Twagirimana was in the custody of the state which is accountable for his safety,” it added.
In September 2017, Twagirimana and eight other FDU party members were arrested on charges of forming an armed group and seeking to overthrow the government, charges Twagirimana denies.
The FDU members were placed in a Kigali jail where their party leader, Victoire Ingabire, was serving out a sentence for charges related to comments she made about the country’s 1994 genocide and collaborating with a “terrorist organization.”
Ingabire has long said her sentence was a result of her work as a prominent government critic and that the charges effectively criminalized her freedom of expression. International organizations such as Amnesty International and a 2017 African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights ruling have supported those views.
Last month, Ingabire was granted a presidential pardon by Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame and was released from jail after serving eight years of her 15-year sentence.
Immediately after she was freed, she called on the Rwandan government to open the country’s political landscape to the opposition and asked them to free all other political prisoners, including Twagirimana and other members of her political party.
On October 3, Twagirimana was moved from Kigali’s Mageragere prison to Mpanga prison, in the country’s southern Nyanza District. The authorities did not inform Twagirimana’s family that he was being transferred or give any explanation for the move, according to Twagirimana’s wife.
Rwanda’s National Police and Rwanda’s Correctional Service have not immediately responded to CNN’s request for comment.
Twagirimana is not the first FDU member to go missing.
In May 2017, party member Jean Damascene Habarugira disappeared after he was called to meet an official responsible for the security of his locality. A few days later, Habarugira’s family were called to collect his body from a local hospital.
Twagirimana denounced Habarugira’s murder as an assassination. In a statement, the FDU said that Habarugira was “assassinated in cold blood” because of his opposition to the local authority’s agricultural policies and concerns over police brutality.
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