Rumors feed a surge in migrants to Agadez

False rumors about a safe passage to Europe have drawn a large number of migrants to Agadez – even from far-away Asian countries. This is putting pressure on the city as well as on migrant organizations on the ground.

Niger Flüchtlingsdrehkreuz Agadez (Getty Images/AFP/I. Sanogo)

The central city of Agadez has long been a common stopover for migrants and refugees passing through the country. Many, however, have recently chosen to remain there for the time being.

The mayor of Agadez, Rhissa Feltou, says that there has been a major surge of Sudanese nationals coming to Agadez lately, “but also other countries where I don’t have enough information to go into detail about nationalities and numbers.”

In addition to their numbers, there have also been changes in the demographic profiles of migrants and refugees passing through Agadez.

“We have had an increase in the numbers of Sudanese asylum seekers and refugees coming from Libya to Agadez. All of them say that they’ve been experiencing situations of extreme violence there,” Louise Donovan, a field officer working for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Niger, told InfoMigrants.

Reports of slavery and torture surfacing in Libya in recent months have led thousands of African refugees to seek a way out of the beleaguered North African nation, with many heading straight to Niger. Bordering Libya to the north, Nigeria to the south and Mali to the West, the desert nation is considered to be the safest country in the region at large.

Migranten aus Westafrika Symbolbild Menschenhandel (Getty Images/AFP/I. Sanogo)West African migrants returning from Niger after fleeing Libya

“They left Libya because they were being tortured, because they’ve been sold on multiple occasions, and because they were being persecuted. And they came to Niger and not to another country because it’s the closest safe country. They’re aware of the fact that we have refugee camps with other refugees here, and for most of them it’s really about the peace and security here,” Donavan explained.

From Asia to Agadez

Seeing foreign faces in Agadez is not exactly news; the city has long been a hub for migrants and refugees from across Africa, with the boundaries of human trafficking and voluntary migration often blurring in the central Nigerien city.

Recently, however, there have been reports of sightings of foreigners with other nationalities coming from far outside of Africa as well – many of whom are said to apparently have come to Niger following false reports stating that they could secure a safe passage to Europe from there.

“I have been told by local authorities that among the recent surge in migrants in Agadez, there are many people from Afghanistan, people from Sudan, from Chad and many other nationalities,” locally-based DW journalist Tilla Amadou told InfoMigrants.

“And the locals feel that they don’t understand why these people from far away places are here, and how they got here to begin with. But they certainly are here; you can spot them on the streets. Some are even part of the local economy, selling mobile phones and other things,” Amadou said.

Niger Flüchtlingsdrehkreuz Agadez (picture-alliance/dpa/K. Palitza)A 17-year old migrant from Ivory Coast stranded in Agadez

False rumors

There’s another trend that has been reported from the streets of Agadez: some of the new wave of migrants and refugees coming to Niger are believed to have come having heard false rumors of legally being granted safe passage to Europe from the Nigerien city.

The UNHCR’s Louise Donovan believes that such gossip does indeed drive some of the migration patterns observed in Niger: “There’s a huge amount of word-of-mouth. Most people have a mobile phone now; you can easily get onto the internet and read all kinds of things. So some people have indeed told us that they heard of this gossip, but by far not everybody.”

One of these false rumors states that the UNHCR was trying to address the migration crisis across Africa by moving people indiscriminately from Agadez to Europe.

One-way ticket to Europe?

Donovan stresses that it is part of her job to try to dispel such myths and set the record straight. When asked where she thinks these rumors might originate, she explains that genuine information often gets distorted as it is passed on, until it starts to roll out of control:

Karte Niger Agadez Englisch

“Basically, this is what happened: the UNHCR are doing an evacuation program called ETM, the Emergency Transit Mechanism, from Libya. This is for extremely vulnerable refugees who are trapped in detention centers in Libya. As part of this program, we’ve been trying out evacuation flights from there to Niger on a temporary basis to look for solutions. Resettlement is obviously one of those solutions, and we’ve been working with various governments, with the French government in particular, to find resettlement places for these people.

“There are some people of course who, when they read on the media that people are being resettled from Niger, assume that they can have the same thing. But this is a specific program addressing a specific problem; we’re evacuating people [from Libya]; we’re not resettling all of the asylum seekers in Niger. We certainly wouldn’t have the capacities for anything like that, let alone the right.”

Mayor Feltou agrees that these kinds of rumors, originating from misunderstood and miscommunicated reports, echo throughout Agadez.

“Since the [UNHCR] office was launched, there have been people of many nationalities attracted to coming here because of their facilities and services, which they can access with ease in Agadez, all the while hoping to somehow eventually establish refugee status here and use that to possibly get all the way to Europe. There are precedent cases where this has happened.

Niger Agadez Afrika (Getty Images/Afp/Issouf Sanogo)An aerial view of Agadez

“France’s decision to allow some people in as refugees is precisely what drives this surge of people of Sudanese background and other nationalities recently to come here and try their luck at getting refugee status. There are refugees and migrants from all sorts of countries that now come to Agadez because they think there’s some brand of simplified procedure to apply for asylum.”

Migrant vs. asylum seeker

But the UNHCR is already trying to do just that; as part of a recent initiative, the UN’s refugee agency hopes to expedite the process of assessing their caseload of hundreds of thousands of refugees across Niger who are wishing to apply for asylum – and thus help to set them apart from migrants who may likely not be entitled to asylum status.

“We are working in identifying asylum seekers. We already have 55,000 Malian refugees in Niger, we have over 108,000 Nigerian refugees,” Louise Donovan told InfoMigrants. It may, however, take a long time for all those applications to be properly assessed, as regional conflicts keep forcing people to flee to safer countries like Niger.

“And now at the moment we are also evacuating refugees from Libya, and the majority of those are Eritreans and Somalians. There really is no end in sight. However, we are also trying to look closely at the economic dynamic of some of the people who are claiming asylum and who may not be entitled to it. This might help in improving the situation in the refugee camps in the long run.”

Niger Flüchtlingsdrehkreuz Agadez | IOM (picture alliance/KEYSTONE/A. Anex)

Leonard Doyle, a spokesman for the International Organization for Migration (IOM), thinks that most migrants in Niger, regardless of their background, will ultimately be forced out of the country.

“The vast majority of the people coming to Niger are economic migrants. They will be rejected. They have no hope of getting asylum,” Doyle told InfoMigrants.

Professional migrants

Doyle has been observing migration patterns for many years, and believes that the recent changes in Agadez’ migrant and refugee population are a long-term symptom of the dynamic nature of human migration patterns, rather than solely the result of gossip and rumor.

“Some of these people have been migrants for years. I don’t think any of them are going to believe for a second any kind of false news that the UNHCR is getting people a ticket to Europe. That’s not what they do. And they know that.”

Doyle told InfoMigrants that in many instances, the Asian nationals currently seen in Niger already have a long history of migration, and that being experienced in crossing multiple national borders, they aren’t typically the kinds of migrants who would be driven by rumors and idle gossip.

Watch video03:13

Agadez: Transit hub for human trafficking

“You will find that many of those with, say, Bangladeshi passports, actually have identity papers from living in Libya in the past. So they might be part of a group of economic migrants that left Libya after the fall of [former Libyan President Moammar] Gaddafi, and then later came back again. As far as we know, these are largely economic migrants,” Doyle said.

He also believes that locals in Agadez need not worry about the prospect of a new migrant route being established that runs through Agadez.

“Niger is mostly a country of transit. People are transiting through there, trying to get elsewhere.”

The ‘burden of migration’

Locals in Agadez, however, remain unsettled by the recent upsurge of refugees and migrants in their city, regardless of such expert opinions. Omar Kata, a local resident, told InfoMigrants that migrants arriving in Agadez are a “burden” for the impoverished city.

“There aren’t sufficient infrastructures in place for locals to begin with, such as hospitals and sanitary facilities. There just aren’t enough public services to begin with. Do you think there will be adequate infrastructures then to accommodate all these migrants?” Kata said.

Moussa Abara, another local resident, says that the city was already overwhelmed with internal migration from within Niger – notably with people coming from the south of the country to the capital to seek economic opportunities.

Niger Flüchtlingsdrehkreuz Agadez (picture-alliance/dpa/K. Palitza)This human trafficker says that he manages to smuggle 80 people into Agadez each week

“And now, there are all these migrants from Libya, Sudan and elsewhere, who come here or travel through here. We don’t know what they want to do here. We don’t know their intentions. The UNHCR should really take stock of how many migrants there are in Agadez.”

Abara believes the only solution is deportation. “I think that the migrants that arrive here should automatically be sent back to their native countries. If we wish to help them, we should help them in their own countries, not here in Agadez.”

Mayor Rhissa Feltou warns that all the aid going towards the care of migrants and refugees in Agadez is making the local population turn against them.

“The problem is that there relationship between locals and foreigners just isn’t good. They receive help, shelter, food, and so they oftentimes end up being better off than the locals, who suffer so much because of high unemployment and poverty here.”

The migration dilemma in Agadez remains complex. Louise Donovan says the UNHCR is doing its best to help local authorities address the problem, but the tensions between migrants and the local population look set to continue.

“We’re working very, very closely with the government, with the Ministry of Interior, with the Ministry of Justice. But it’s very clear that for anybody who is fleeing persecution, [Niger] will continue to keep their asylum space open. So, we’re definitely not going to see these refugees disappear.”

First published on InfoMigrants.


Cyril Ramaphosa sworn in as president of South Africa

A day after ex-President Jacob Zuma’s nine years in office ended, fellow ANC politician Ramaphosa took the presidential oath amid parliamentary protest. Ramaphosa promised to fight the corruption that had tainted Zuma.

Watch video02:11

South Africa has a new president

Cyril Ramaphosa was sworn in as South Africa’s new president on Thursday, following the resignation of former incumbent and scandal-ridden Jacob Zuma.

Ramaphosa was elected without a vote after being the only candidate nominated in the parliament in Cape Town, Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng said, though opposition parties boycotted the vote.

The new president is expected to deliver the postponed state of the nation address on Friday evening. The South African parliament announced the ceremonial details on Twitter.

Read more: South Africa – The rise and fall of the ANC

Corruption issues ‘on our radar’

A number of scandals surrounding Zuma had seriously damaged the ruling party, the African National Congress (ANC). Zuma was removed as president effective immediately after he handed in his resignation letter on Thursday.

Ramaphosa said tackling corruption and mismanagement in state-owned enterprises would be a priority of his administration. “I will try to work very hard not to disappoint the people of South Africa,” he said following his election.

Read more: Opinion: Cyril Ramaphosa must get down to business right away

“The issues that you have raised, issues that have to do with corruption, issues of how we can straighten out our state-owned enterprises and how we deal with state capture are issues that are on our radar screen,” the 65-year-old added.

Read more: South Africa’s President Zuma: A chronology of scandal

Watch video02:20

South African President Jacob Zuma ‘compelled to resign’

Opposition opted out of vote: The two main opposition parties, the Democratic Alliance (DA) and the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), both refused to vote for Ramaphosa. As parliament began its sitting, EFF members became disruptive and eventually walked out.

The leader of the major opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) party, Mmusi Maimane, noted with skepticism that Ramaphosa also belonged to the scandal-plagued ANC: “We don’t have a Jacob Zuma problem, we have an ANC problem.”

However, he said the DA would cooperate with Ramaphosa if he acted in the interests of the South African people.

Who is Cyril Ramaphosa: Ramaphosa was elected leader of the ANC in December 2017, narrowly beating Zuma’s chosen successor — his former wife Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma. Ramaphosa had also been deputy president under Zuma. He is a former union leader-turned-businessman and is one of South Africa’s wealthiest people.

Read more: Zuma’s exit lifts South African stocks

Past achievements: Ramaphosa played a key role in founding the powerful Congress of South African Trade Unions, and as secretary general of the ANC in the early 1990s, he was part of the team that negotiated the end of apartheid and drafted South Africa’s new progressive constitution. In his business ventures, Ramaphosa brought the McDonald’s franchise to South Africa. In 2015 Forbesmagazine estimated him to be worth more than $450 million (€360.4 million).

Reactions on the street: Ordinary South Africans greeted Zuma’s departure and Ramaphosa’s swearing-in with optimism.

Samushle Mhlongo told DW that, “I think Ramaphosa is going to do an amazing job and I have the confidence that he has the ability to do that and improve the country’s economy.”

Ramaphosa’s business background has helped boost people’s confidence in his ability to improve the country’s economic performance.

“I feel it is going to be better, a new change for the country. Our people can get more jobs, creating jobs for the young people,” Banjamin Matou told DW. “We think he can do that for us because he is a businessman as well. It’s going to be a better future for all of us because he knows the business.”

Watch video01:14

‘Comrade Ramaphosa is the new ANC president’

DW’s editors send out a selection of the day’s hard news and quality feature journalism. You can sign up to receive it directly here.

cmb, law/rt (AFP, Reuters)


Ethiopian PM Hailemariam Desalegn resigns after mass unrest

Hailemariam’s resignation comes amid protracted anti-government protests that have left hundreds dead and tens of thousands detained. He will continue in his role until the “power transition is completed.”

Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn speaks during an interview

Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn said on Thursday he had submitted his resignation as both premier and the chairman of the ruling coalition.

Hailemariam has faced nationwide protests following his government’s harsh crackdown on dissent and opposition. The academic-turned-politician has led Ethiopia since 2012 following the death of former strongman Meles Zenawi.

“Unrest and a political crisis have led to the loss of lives and displacement of many,” Hailemariam said in a televised address to the nation.

“I see my resignation as vital in the bid to carry out reforms that would lead to sustainable peace and democracy.”

Read moreEthiopia: Crisis in the land of economic miracle

Violent protests

Hundreds of people have died in violence sparked initially by an urban development plan for the capital, Addis Ababa, in 2015. The unrest spread the following year with protests against political restrictions.

The government responded by declaring a state of emergency, granting itself special powers, including the right to deploy the army.

Though the worst of the violence was quelled, periodic demonstrations continued.

In a bid to ease tensions, the government beganreleasing political prisoners last month after Hailemariam said charges against them would be dropped to “create a national consensus and widen the democratic space for all.”

The 53-year-old prime minister will continue in his role until the “power transition is completed,” the state-affiliated Fana Broadcasting Corporate reported.

The ruling coalition has accepted Hailemariam’s resignation, Reuters news agency reported, citing state-affiliated outlets.

ap/kms (Reuters, AP)

Each evening at 1830 UTC, DW’s editors send out a selection of the day’s hard news and quality feature journalism. You can sign up to receive it directly here.

Watch video01:25

Ethiopia frees political prisoners after protests


Opinion: South Africa’s lost decade

For many South Africans, Jacob Zuma’s resignation was like a belated Valentine’s Day present. But his successor Cyril Ramaphosa faces enormous challenges, says DW’s Claus Stäcker.

A smiling Jacob Zuma flanked by three of his four wives (picture-alliance/dpa/M. Hutchings)Jacob Zuma with three of his four wives

Actually, everything has been said and written about Jacob Zuma. He was a mistake. He leaves behind a country in tatters, with corrupt and inefficient public enterprises, an economy that has been downgraded to junk status and  public debt at a record high. Incompetent leaders can be found at all levels.

South Africa had entered a promising new era with Nelson Mandela at the helm in 1994, but Zuma represents a lost decade in the country’s history. For a brief moment, he appeared like a down to earth alternative to his predecessor Thabo Mbeki, who was regarded as aloof and obstinate. Zuma, on the other hand, appeared like a politician who was close to the masses and who represented the poor and marginalized with his humble background and his lack of education. A man who, with his traditional dances, costumes, struggle songs and shameless polygamy, had a strong appeal for those left behind.

The power of Zuma’s populism

Zuma’s party, the progressive African National Congress (ANC) that had long enjoyed international support, fell  under his spell and could not stop his populist attraction. The party understimated his shrewdness and deviousness and was completely usurped within just a few years by someone who did not stand for anything – except for an unscrupulous talent to stay in power and enrich himself, his family and his cronies.

Zuma made good use of the weapons he had amassed during the struggle against the apartheid regime. As the ANC’s head of intelligence during that time, Zuma had meticulously collected facts about friends and foes alike. When he brought South Africa’s official intelligence organizations and investigative authorities under his control after becoming president, Zuma had plenty of information at his disposal that he could use against almost everyone and play his opponents off against each other. He did not manage to take control of the media and the judiciary, but the public service is full of Zuma’s men.

Ramaphosa’s mammoth task

All this illustrates the mammoth task that awaits Zuma’s successor, Cyril Ramaphosa. South Africa, once Africa’s beacon of hope and its economic engine, is hardly taken seriously on the continent anymore. It’s a special case with its never ending history of apartheid and eternal black-white portrayal. It lacks a coherent foreign policy and has become unpredictable. Investors have long started to give preference to other regions. South Africa’s large corporations have started to operate around the globe and put their money elsewhere.

Claus StäckerDW’s Claus Stäcker was a correspondent in South Africa for many years and now heads DW’s Africa programs

Cyril Ramaphosa is suspiciously quiet these days. So far, there has been no vigorous TV speech from him, no public display of triumph or words of scorn.

Ramaphosa probably knows exactly what lies ahead and how big the damage really is that Zuma has left behind. The opposition is right to demand early elections, which probably would not suit Ramaphosa. He wants to have time to make his mark in order to improve his position ahead of the scheduled elections in 2019. Ramaphosa wants to prevent a split within the ANC; instead he wants to reform the party and lead it to another election victory.

Compromise and concessions

For that, Ramaphosa will have to make compromises as well as concessions to Zuma’s supporters, which are not likely to go down well with many voters. Ramaphosa’s fans expect him to clean up the country and to restore the public’s confidence in the judiciary, the constitution and state bureaucracy. They want Zuma and his cohorts to stand trial. They want public servants to serve the country’s interests, not their own.

This will be a tough test for Ramaphosa, despite his excellent qualities. The industralist and multimillionaire does not represent the common people, but South Africa’s victorious elite. Aged 65, he belongs to the old generation of liberation heroes who are becoming less and less popular with the country’s youth. The sensational rise of the leftwing populist Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) party, led by the former head of the ANC youth wing, Julius Malema, is a clear indication that the ANC has lost the young generation almost completely.

Africa’s generation conflict   

This is a generation conflict which links South Africa to the rest of the continent. Trust in the old guard is dwindling with every failure and every broken promise. Ramaphosa’s new cabinet will definitely be more capable than Zuma’s incompetent governments. But it will be mercilessly judged by its archievements: an economic upswing rather than nepotism, jobs rather than empty promises, perspectives for the poor rather than slogans. If elections take place as planned, Ramaphosa’s government will get its first report card in 2019.


South Africa’s ANC decides to remove Jacob Zuma as president

South Africa’s Jacob Zuma’s ANC party has resolved to “recall” him as head of state. The decision comes on the back of a 13-hour meeting among the party’s top officials.

Watch video00:32

ANC says it has asked S. African President Zuma to step down

South African President Jacob Zuma’s African National Congress (ANC) party on Tuesday said it has decided to remove him from office, but said no deadline had been set for the embattled leader to step down.

Local reports said the party’s National Executive Committee, which met for 13 hours from Monday into Tuesday at a hotel outside the capital, Pretoria, to discuss Zuma’s future, suggest officials have given him 48 hours to resign.

ANC General Secretary Ace Magashule told reporters on Tuesday that Zuma had agreed to step down but wanted to serve a notice period of 3 to 6 months. Magashule said the party could not agree on Zuma’s request for an extended stay.

Magashule said he had met Zuma personally to pass on the decision.

“We haven’t given him any deadline to respond … the organization expects him to go,” he said.
Read more: South Africa’s President Zuma: A chronology of scandal

Watch video01:31

South Africa’s ANC to decide over President Zuma’s future

What happens next?

  • Zuma is not legally obliged to follow his party’s instructions.
  • In fact, doubts remain over whether Zuma is prepared to relinquish his position any time soon, fueling media speculation that he might refuse and try to carry on as president.
  • Such a move, however, would likely be short-lived. The president is already scheduled to face a parliamentary confidence vote on February 22. While he has survived a handful of such votes in the past, Zuma would likely fall far short of the necessary votes without the backing of the ANC.
  • “I don’t know what will happen, but let’s leave it to President Jacob Zuma,” Magashule said on Tuesday.

Read more: South African President Jacob Zuma falls from favor in ANC

Watch video01:22

Pressure mounts on Jacob Zuma to step down

Why does the ANC want Zuma out?

  • Since becoming president of South Africa, 75-year-old Zuma has been battling multiple corruption allegations.
  • His ties to the wealthy India-born Gupta family has come under particularly scrutiny. The Guptas are believed to have exercised major influence over South Africa’s government.
  • While the allegations have seen Zuma’s popularity plummet in recent years, he has never been found guilty of any of the accusations or charges tabled against him.
  • Nevertheless, the ANC sees its position at the helm at risk. Under Zuma, the party picked up under 54 percent of the vote in the 2016 local elections — its worst ever political performance since coming to power in 1994 under Nelson Mandela.

Who will take over?

  • Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa remains the favorite to replace Zuma as South Africa’s head of state, after he replaced the president as head of the ANC back in December.
  • The former trade unionist-turned-billionaire businessman was elected to lead the party after defeating Zuma’s preferred successor, his ex-wife Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.
  • Ramaphosa has said he would place his focus on rooting out corruption and revitalizing South Africa’s lackluster economic growth.

Watch video01:10

South African leader Jacob Zuma awaits his fate

ap, dm/se (Reuters, AFP, dpa)


Obasanjo in DW exclusive interview: ‘Democracy is about change’

President Buhari should not run for another term in office, ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo advised in a letter to Nigeria’s head of state in January 2018. In an interview, he told DW why he published the letter.

Watch video03:31

Former Nigerian President Obasanjo on fighting corruption

Nigerian former president Olusegun Obasanjo is known for his public letters to sitting presidents. In 2013 he wrote a letter to Goodluck Jonathan condemning the widespread corruption in Nigeria. This was one of the key areas Muhammadu Buhari vowed to address during his time in office. However, the fight against graft seems to have been tougher than Buhari had calculated. According to Nigeria’s Supreme Court 1,124 corruption cases were brought before the country’s courts in 2017.

Obasanjo also addressed President Buhari’s ill health, which had prevented him from attending to state affairs for several months. The letter came at a time when Obasanjo launched his Coalition for Nigeria movement which he claims is not a political, but a socio-economic organization.

DW: In 2015  you decided to endorse the then opposition candidate Muhammadu Buhari. Now you heavily criticized him in a letter and urged him not to run for a second term. When you think back, was it a right decision to endorse Buhari?

Olusegun Obasanjo: Yes, it was the right decision. With the benefit of hindsight, you will agree with me, if you know what has happened and what has been revealed about the government of Jonathan and those who are with him, in terms of sordid corruption and you will agree that this was the right decision. I believe it that was a decision that was good at that time for our country and our democracy. Because we were able to transition from one party to another party. As a result of that we are consolidating democratic process. It is also the right decision now, for us to see that the man who is taking over from Jonathan has not met the expectation of Nigerians, that’s what democracy is all about. Democracy is about change. But if you think that is not the right decision, then you are not a democrat. But I am a democrat and tomorrow if I take a decision and things don’t work out the way we expect them to work out in a democracy, then you make a change.

One of the biggest promises of President Buhari was to fight corruption. That is his flagship topic. You are now saying that he turns a blind eye on corrupt people in his inner circle. Has Buhari’s corruption fight failed already?

I won’t quite put it that way. I would say he was probably looking outside, he wasn’t looking inside, because if you are fighting corruption [and] corruption is becoming rife then you also have to turn your attention inward.

What would you do differently if you were him in fighting corruption?

I would do what I exactly did before. I set up the two mayor institutions that are being used to fight corruption. I would make sure that the people who are in charge of these two institutions are men or women of integrity and I would look outside and inside because there is no point in fighting corruption beyond you while you have corruption (in front of) your nose.

Would you say is that you were more successful in fighting corruption?

I won’t judge myself. I will leave that to other people.

President Buhari is widely regarded as a man of integrity among most Nigerians. Is he lacking seriousness?

I don’t know which Nigerians you are talking about. Maybe Nigerians of four years ago. Talk to Nigerians today.

In your letter, you wrote that Buhari has a poor understanding of the dynamics of internal politics. You also said that he is weak in understanding and playing in the foreign affairs sector. Your critics are saying that they have the impression that you [feel you] are a moral authority and that you are the only person who understands how to run this country. What do you say to that?

I won’t answer them. I will reserve it as my right as a Nigerian.

You said in the past that you would pull out of politics. How does that go together with the new coalition movement?

A movement is a movement. It’s not a political organization. It’s a social, economic organization. And I have said that if that movement turns political, I will withdraw from it.

But you write that the two biggest parties in the country are unfit to run Nigeria. Do you hope to provide an alternative?

No, I would not stand in the way of that movement. If it decides to become a candidate sponsoring organization then it will become political and I will withdraw from it.

It is not yet clear who the members will be. And the names that got a lot of attention were the names people already know former governors, members of the [opposition] PDP (People’s Democratic Party). Some people have the feeling that it is not going to be a new innovative movement but think that it’s old people in new clothes.

If that is what you hear then you are hearing it wrongly. There are thousands of Nigerians inside Nigeria and outside Nigeria who have never been in politics and are members of this movement. It’s not old wine in a new bottle. It’s new wine in a new bottle.

Olusegun Obasanjo served as Nigeria’s president from 1999 to 2007, as well as Nigeria’s military ruler from 1976 to 1979. He has taken on the role of a senior diplomat, which has in the past included negotiating the release of the kidnapped Chibok girls and serving as a special UN envoy to resolve the crisis in eastern DRC. He quite the ruling PDP party in 2015 and  recently launched the Coalition for Nigeria movement.

The interview was conducted by DW’s Africa correspondent Adrian Kriesch.

Watch video03:48

Fighting corruption in Nigeria: What has Buhari achieved?


South Africa: Cyril Ramaphosa addresses ANC ‘disunity and discord’ during Mandela anniversary celebrations

Deputy President Ramaphosa told crowds he plans to tackle corruption within the ANC, while also promising “closure” over the issue of President Jacob Zuma’s expected resignation.

Watch video02:00

ANC meets to discuss President Zuma’s future

African National Congress (ANC) leader and South African Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa admitted to “a period of difficulty, disunity and discord” within the party during celebrations in Cape Town on Sunday to mark the 28th anniversary of Nelson Mandela’s release from prison.

Ramaphosa told crowds he wants to usher in a “new beginning” for the ruling ANC party. He also promised to tackle corruption.

He used the occasion to address the ongoing issue of President Jacob Zuma’s leadership, emphasizing that the ANC under new leadership would follow Mandela’s principles and values and severe action would be taken against those involved in corruption scandals.

The ANC is expected to hold a special party conference in Pretoria on Monday amid mounting pressure for Zuma to step down following numerous corruption scandals that have sparked widespread public anger.

Read more: South Africa’s President Zuma: A chronology of scandal

Cyril Ramaphosa and Jacob Zuma with Nelson Mandela (Getty Images/AFP/W. Dhladhla)Cyril Ramaphosa (l), Nelson Mandela (m) and Jacob Zuma (r) attend the Convention for a Democratic South Africa in 1991

‘Closure’ expected this week

Ramaphosa, who is expected to succeed Zuma, told the crowd that South Africans would soon have “closure” on talks to remove Zuma from office and that ruling party leaders will confirm details of a power transition during Monday’s meeting.

“Because our people want this matter to be finalized, the national executive committee will be doing precisely that,” he said. “It is important that we manage the discussions currently underway with care and purpose, ensuring that we put the interests of South Africa first.”

Opposition parties have criticized reports of ongoing private talks between Zuma and Ramaphosa. Critics have expressed concern that Zuma may be requesting immunity from prosecution in exchange for his resignation.

The ongoing impasse over Zuma’s resignation led to the cancellation of a series of public events last week, including the annual State of the Nation address on Thursday.

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Pressure mounts on Jacob Zuma to step down

Subry Govender contributed to this report

im/sms (AFP, dpa, AP)