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Ethiopia Working On Launching Carrier Rocket

The Ethiopian Ministry of Science and Technology said the country is building a medium sized satellite launching rocket that would come to fruition within the next three years.

Ministry Public Relations Director Wondwosen Andualem said a prototype of the carrier rocket was prepared as a launch pad for the actual work.

“Efforts are underway to launch a medium sized rocket into space within the next three years,”said the director.

He said satellite building capacity has also been growing owing to knowledge and technological exchanges with development partners.

Efforts are ongoing to manufacture both the
satellite and its carrier rocket locally, according to the Director, who indicated its significance for security, weather forecast and other services.

Considering its serious significance, the nation has formed a Space Science Council and Institute Chaired by the Prime Minister.

With the successful accomplishment of the task, Ethiopia would join countries competing to launch satellites in the equator, Wondwosen added.

Kenya: Row Brewing Over How Oil Revenue From Turkana Basin Will Be Shared

Battle over how oil revenue will be shared
between Turkana County in northern Kenya and the national government is shaping up, after President Uhuru Kenyatta declined to assent to a Bill that spells out a resource-sharing formula.

The prospect of petrodollars had generated high expectations in the arid Turkana area with a push to maximise the benefits from the discovery of 750 million barrels of oil in the South Lokichar basin.

And now, Turkana leaders, led by Governor
Josephat Nanok, have started agitating for
increased allocation of the proceeds to the host community and the county government.

In a memorandum explaining the refusal to
assent to the Petroleum Exploration and
Development and Production Bill 2016, President Kenyatta pushed for reduced shares of oil revenues to the county government and the community.

The president, in a memorandum to the National Assembly and Senate, said the revenue due to the local communities should be reduced from the 10 per cent of what the national government gets as set by parliament, to 5 per cent.

“This amount should not exceed a quarter of the amount allocated to county government by parliament,” said the memo.

Turkana legislators had pushed for local
communities’ share of oil revenues to be
increased from 5 per cent to 10 per cent when the Bill was debated.

The Turkana MPs pushed for 20 per cent share reducing national government’s portion from 85 per cent to 70 per cent.

President Kenyatta maintained percentage of revenues due to county governments where oil is found to 20 per cent, but put a caveat that the money will not be more than twice amount allocated by parliament in a financial year.

“Unless the shares of the petroleum revenues reserved to county governments are capped, the implementation of the (percentages set by Parliament) shall pose the challenge of the inequitable distribution of resources and the risk that county governments and local communities shall receive disproportionately higher allocations that might be beyond their absorption capacities,” the president said in the memo.

Governor Nanok is pushing for a 30 per cent
share from oil revenues to reverse years of
marginalisation of Turkana by successive
governments.

“The memorandum violates the rights of Turkana as far as equitable share of natural resources is concerned. The alleged inability to manage own resources and affairs is equated to legalising theft of our resources,” he said during a meeting
of community leaders on December 7, 2016.

“If the president and parliament ignore our plea, the early oil pilot project will be derailed as we will stop all oil exploration and exploitation,” he added.

The Turkana County government in early
December tried to get copies of the production sharing contracts that Tullow Oil Plc signed with Ministry of Energy to no avail.

The memo on the rejection of the Petroleum Bill will now be scrutinised by the Energy Committee in the National Assembly and its counterpart in the Senate before consideration by both Houses.

In the National Assembly and Senate, legislators opposed to the memo have to get a two-thirds majority to overturn it.

President Kenyatta sought to strengthen
Parliament’s power over contracts and
agreements signed on exploration of oil with sharing of documents once production starts.

Lawmakers had proposed that the Cabinet
Secretary submit to parliament production
sharing contracts for ratification in accordance with Article 71 of the Constitution.

But President Kenyatta said it would also be
important for the field development plan to be also submitted to Parliament for scrutiny.

He directed that the field development plan and the production sharing contract be submitted to parliament for ratification within 30 days of approval by both the exploration firms and the Ministry of Energy.

Parliament would then be required to make its decision within 90 days, without which it would be considered to have been ratified.

Zambia women’s ‘day off for periods’ sparks debate

Discussing female menstruation publicly is
something of a taboo in Zambia.

This is no doubt why a provision in the country’s labour law that allows female workers to take off one day a month is known as Mother’s Day, even though it applies to all women, whether or not
they have children.

The legal definition is not precise – women can take the day when they want and do not have to provide any medical justification, leading some to question the provision.

“I think it’s a good law because women go
through a lot when they are on their menses [periods],” says Ndekela Mazimba, who works in public relations.

Ms Mazimba is neither married nor does she have children but she takes her Mother’s Day every month because of her gruelling period pains.

“You might find that on the first day of your
menses, you’ll have stomach cramps – really bad stomach cramps. You can take whatever painkillers but end up in bed the whole day.

“And sometimes, you find that someone is
irritable before her menses start, but as they progress, it gets better. So, in my case, it’s just the first day to help when the symptoms are really bad.”

Women in Zambia do not need to make prior arrangements to be absent from work, but can simply call in on the day to say they are taking Mother’s Day.

An employer who denies female employees this entitlement can be prosecuted.

Ms Mazimba’s boss, Justin Mukosa, supports the law and says he understands the pressure women face in juggling careers and family responsibilities.

A married man himself, he says the measure can have a positive impact on women’s work:

“Productivity is not only about the person being in the office. It should basically hinge on the output of that person.”

But he admits there are problems with the
current system in terms of losing staff at short notice and also the temptation for people to play the system:

“It could be abused in the context that maybe an individual might have some personal plans they wish to attend to so she takes Mother’s Day on the day.

Not everyone is so supportive of Mother’s Day, and there are many women among the critics.

Mutinta Musokotwane-Chikopela is married and has three children.

She has a full-time marketing job but never takes Mother’s Day, arguing that it encourages laziness in working women.

“I don’t believe in it and I don’t take it. Menses are a normal thing in a woman’s body; it’s like being pregnant or childbirth,” she says.

“I think women take advantage of that, especially that there’s no way of proving that you are on your menses or not.”

Ms Chikopela says the provision should have been made more clear in the law.

“The problem in Zambia is that we have too many holidays – including a holiday for national prayers.
So I guess Mother’s Day makes those that love holidays happy.”

The Zambia Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU), the umbrella body representing the country’s workers, is also a supporter of the law.

But the entitlement “would have to be forfeited” if a woman were to take it on a day that she was not on her period, says Catherine Chinunda, national trustee at ZCTU.

“We have been educating women about Mother’s Day, telling them that on that day, they are supposed to rest and not even go shopping or do other jobs because that is wrong,” she says.

The law itself provides no guidance about what is allowed and it would appear that very few, if any, employers have internal policy guidance in that respect.

She dismisses the idea that men should also get a day off every month, as has been suggested by some:

“Men sometimes go to drink and miss work…. they don’t know how it feels to be on menses.”

But while praising the concept of Mother’s Day, some argue that the reality is bad for business.

“Your superiors may have planned work for you to do and when you suddenly stay away from work, it means work will suffer, says Harrington Chibanda, head of the Zambia Federation of Employers.

“Imagine a company that has a number of
employees and six or seven take Mother’s Day on the same day. What will happen to productivity?” he asks.

Labour Minister Joyce Nonde-Simukoko, a former trade union activist, tells me that Mother’s Day was initially informally observed in the 1990s before eventually being brought into law.

But she has stern words for anyone thinking of using the entitlement to bunk off work:
“If you absent yourself yet you are found in a disco house, then it will not be taken as Mother’s Day.

“You shouldn’t even leave town, be found doing your hair or shopping. You can be fired. For example, somebody was found farming after taking Mother’s Day and she was fired.”

One of the problems with the law is that it does not make this explicit, leading to confusion among employers and employees alike.

But perhaps even more than the practical
benefits, it is the intention and the spirit of the legislation that many Zambians support.

As Linda Kasonde, a senior lawyer, tells me:
“The reason why mother’s day is important within the Zambian context is that it recognises that women are the primary care-givers in our society – regardless of whether they are married or not.”

Plastic Rice in Nigeria – Customs

Nigeria has confiscated 2.5 tonnes of
“plastic rice” smuggled into the country by
unscrupulous businessmen, the Nigerian customs service says.

Lagos customs chief Haruna Mamudu said the fake rice was intended to be sold in markets during the festive season.

He said the rice was very sticky after it was boiled and “only God knows what would have happened” if people ate it.

It is not clear where the seized bags came from but rice made from plastic pellets was found in China last year.

Rice is the most popular staple food in Nigeria.

Whoever made this fake rice did an exceptionally good job – on first impression it would have fooled me. When I ran the grains through my fingers nothing felt out of the ordinary.

But when I smelt a handful of the “rice” there was a faint chemical odour. Customs officials say when they cooked up the rice it was too sticky – and it was then abundantly clear this was no ordinary batch.

They’ve sent a sample to the laboratories to determine exactly what the “rice” is made of.

They are also warning the public not to consume the mystery foodstuff as it could be dangerous.

Fake food scandals are thankfully rare in Nigeria when you compare it to countries such as China.

The big scandal here is fake pharmaceutical
drugs that a kill a huge number of people every year.

A total of 102 sacks, each containing 25kg (55lb), was seized.

Investigations are under way to establish how much of the contraband has already been sold.

The customs official called on “economic
saboteurs who see yuletide season as a peak period for their nefarious acts to desist from such illegal” business activity.

Mr Mamudu did not explain how the plastic rice was made but said it had been branded as “Best Tomato Rice”.

Cameroon’s anglophone protest francophone administration

At least two people have been
reported killed in the Cameroonian
city of Bamenda, capital of the
North West province, during a
confrontation between protesters
and security forces about two weeks ago.

The clashes broke out after protesters
set up barricades to prevent a rally by
president Paul Biya’s party from taking
place.

The North West and South West
provinces, Cameroon’s only English-
speaking areas, have been witnessing
protests in recent days with people
calling for an end to the use of French
and perceived disenfranchisement.

Some groups have been calling for a
return to a federal state system. Others
have called for the breakaway of the
North West and South West provinces
and the restoration of the so-called
“Southern Cameroons” or Ambazonia,
which was a British mandate during
colonisation.

On Monday, thousands of teachers and
lawyers in the English-speaking regions
went on strike, accusing the government of trying to marginalise them by imposing the French language on their schools and courts.

Some 5,000 people, according to the
police, demonstrated in Buéa, the
capital of the South-West, one of the two
English-speaking regions of Cameroon’s
22 million inhabitants, after the heeded
calls from the Social Democratic Front
(SDF), one of the main opposition
parties.

MPs and SDF activists expressed their
solidarity with Anglophone teachers and
lawyers who feel marginalized by the
Francophone majority.

They also denounced the injustices
suffered by lawyers, teachers and
English-speaking students since the
beginning of their sling at the end of
November.

Many of the protesters demanded a
return to federalism in Cameroon, as was
the case between 1961 and 1972.

Areas controlled by Britain and France
joined to form Cameroon after the
colonial powers withdrew in the 1960s.

Cameroon was initially a German colony,
before it was split into two by the
League of Nations after the First World
War (1914-18): one part was under
French tutelage and another part, close
to Nigeria, under the British mandate.

In 1960, French Cameroon gained
independence. A year later, a portion of
the Anglophones decided through a
referendum to join Cameroon. As a
result, the country now has 10 semi-
autonomous administrative regions:
eight are Francophone, while the North
and Southwest regions are home to
approximately five million English
speakers.

Federalism was then established in the
country between 1961 and 1972, but
the first president Ahmadou Ahidjo
proclaimed the United Republic in 1972.