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The building that houses the French National Assembly, the lower house of France’s bicameral Parliament, June 22, 2014.  © 2014 Dennis Jarvis

(Paris) – France’s National Assembly should approve a bill to require the government to return assets looted by corrupt foreign officials to the people of the county where the money was stolen, Human Rights Watch said today. The bill is scheduled for a vote on March 2, 2021. Members of Parliament should improve the restitution process so that it is fully transparent and independent.

“French courts are at the vanguard of holding corrupt foreign officials accountable for looting public funds,” said Sarah Saadoun, senior business and human rights researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Members of Parliament now have the chance to set the gold standard on how governments can provide justice to corruption’s victims.”

On February 19, the National Assembly unanimously voted to include amendment n°176 in a broader bill on development and fighting global inequality. The provision would fill a gap in French law by mandating that proceeds from the sale of assets confiscated from foreign public officials convicted of money laundering or related financial crimes – known as “biens mal acquis” or ill-gotten gains – are returned “as close as possible to the population of the foreign State concerned.” French law does not currently allow for the restitution of such proceeds, so the French government keeps the seized funds.

France began the process of revising its law to enable the return of ill-gotten gains after a French court convicted the vice president of Equatorial Guinea, Teodorin Nguema Obiang Mangue, of money laundering and embezzlement and confiscated around €150 million (around US$182 million) worth of assets. In February 2020, an appeals court upheld the conviction and in December, the International Court of Justice issued a final ruling rejecting Equatorial Guinea’s claim that the most valuable asset implicated by the case, a mansion worth €110 million, should be protected by diplomatic immunity.

Nguema has appealed the case to France’s Court of Cassation, its highest judicial court, which is expected to hear the case in the coming months. If the French government does not pass a law by the time the court issues its ruling, the money will be absorbed into the French general budget if the conviction is upheld.

The case against Nguema, initiated by Transparency International France and Sherpa in 2008, broke new ground in French anti-corruption litigation allowing nongovernmental organizations to initiate criminal corruption proceedings. Since then, organizations have initiated other cases against prominent foreign officials for money laundering that are winding their way through French courts. 

Returning stolen assets is a requirement under the UN Convention Against Corruption, which France ratified in 2003. In 2017, the Global Forum for Asset Recovery, an intergovernmental initiative hosted by the World Bank, agreed to a set of principles for ensuring transparent and accountable return of recovered assets, including a provision that “stolen assets recovered from corrupt officials should benefit the people of the nations harmed by the underlying corrupt conduct.”

Recently, civil society organizations developed their own set of principles for responsible asset return, drawing on their experiences observing cases around the world. These principles call for transparency, accountability, and public participation at every stage of disbursing funds to mitigate the risk that they are re-looted.

The French bill would establish a new budgetary program, housed under the Office of Development Assistance, that would disburse the funds through nongovernmental organizations or the French Development Agency (AFD). Parliament would provide oversight with input from local and international nongovernmental organizations.

This system would be a big improvement over an earlier proposal, which would have given the development agency full control over the funds. However, given the high risk of such funds being lost again to corruption and the importance of protecting the principle that the money does not belong to the French state, it should be improved to ensure that there is full transparency and accountability through completion of the project.

The development agency should be required to keep the funds fully separate from its general budget. Civil society in the recipient country should also have a role in decision-making about how the funds are used.

“It should be clear that the French government’s role is as a steward to responsibly return the stolen money to the people to whom it rightfully belongs,” Saadoun said. “Local civil society organizations should be able to track the funds and help decide how they are spent on behalf of the public.” Human Rights Watch

On March 15, the oral hearing in the case of Maritime Delimitation in the India Ocean (Somalia Vs Kenya) is set to begin. Legal teams representing these countries are in top gear to prepare for the case, with Kenya naming a new team, according to The Standard (https://www.standardmedia.co.ke/kenya/article/2001404078/kenya-hires-eight-lawyers-in-maritime-case-with-somalia)

Prof. Sean D. Murphy and Judge Tullio Treves will lead other six legal professionals in arguing Kenya’s case at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague. This team is well-acquainted with maritime disputes having represented other countries in the same court.

Prof. Murphy is a scholar of public international relations at The George Washington University Law School, where he has taught since 1998. Previously, Murphy served as a legal counselor at the U.S Embassy in The Hague, where he argued several cases before the ICJ and represented the U.S government before the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.

Justice Tullio Treves was a Judge of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea from 1996 to 2011, and he served as the President for the Seabed Disputes Chamber. Some of the notable cases he has led include France and Canada’s arbitration on the delimitation of maritime zones in the area of Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon. He is also the counsel for Peru in the maritime dispute with Chile, which is currently pending at the ICJ.

The other members of the team include professors Phoebe Okowa, Makane Mbengue, Laurence Boisson De Chazournes, Christian Tams and Eran Sthoeger. In addition, the experienced boundary dispute expert Coalter Lathrop will assist the team with geographic analysis and cartographic skills.

In 2014, Somalia petitioned the ICJ for a review after bilateral talks with Kenya failed to settle the maritime dispute involving a 62,000 square-mile triangle in the Indian Ocean, which is believed to be rich in hydrocarbons. In the recent past, Kenya and Somalia’s diplomatic relations have deteriorated, with Somali citing interference in its sovereign affairs by the Kenyan government. By The Maritime Executive

 
NAIROBI, Kenya, March 2, 2021/APO Group/ --

152 people have tested positive of the coronavirus from a sample size of 2,213.

29 patients have recovered bringing the total to 86,717.

Unfortunately 3 patients have succumbed to the disease pushing the total fatalities to 1,859.

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of Ministry of Health, Kenya.

Polls have indicated that more than half of Kenyans think police are a threat rather than a service

 

It’s unclear at first: Are we reading a true-crime novel, or are we on Twitter?

“The 45-yr-old dad, a local Jua Kali artisan, had gone to his son’s house to enquire on his habitual absenteeism from school,” the script begins, using a Swahili term for someone who works in the sun.

He barges into his 21-year-old son’s room, “only to find him enjoying a romantic moment with a lady.”

 

We are, in fact, on Twitter, and this is the account of Kenya’s esteemed Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI). And yet the language only becomes more florid, even Shakespearean.

A patricidal stabbing allegedly occurs. The older man does not simply die: He “profusely bled, sliding into his death.” Our narrator assures us the younger man is in custody despite escaping an “infuriated mob.”

In recent months, the directorate’s Twitter account has become some of the most titillating reading in Kenya. The director, George Kinoti, the country’s top detective, was blunt about why.

“For a very long time in Kenya, police have been thought of as killers. See a policeman? You run. Nothing good could come of it,” he said. “If we want the public’s confidence, we have to show them we are not all like that - we do work for them.”

 

The wielding of the badge as a license for brutality is nothing new. At least 778 people have been killed or “disappeared” by police in Kenya since 2007, according to Missing Voices, a group that tracks official and other reports of extrajudicial killings. Last year’s tally was 166. The number of police convicted in these killings is in the single digits, according to Kenya’s Independent Policing Oversight Authority.

The force, with its numerous branches, including the DCI, has not been significantly reformed since colonial times, Mr Kinoti acknowledged, back when British overlords used it to subjugate rebellions. Polls show that more than half of Kenyans think police are a threat, not a service.

The police, in other words, have some serious PR work to do.That’s where the recounting of high-octane searches for the suspected perpetrators of “heinous acts,” such as child sex abuse, horribly botched circumcision rites, or the chopping up and burning of the body of one’s murder victim, comes in.Jonah Kimani, 29, is the man at the keyboard, tweeting to a following that has recently ballooned to almost 700,000.

Mr Kimani has a penchant for scandal, evidenced in part by his choice on a recent day to wear a tan suit in the tradition of one of his idols, Barack Obama. In his spare time, he bolsters his vocabulary by listening to other favorite orators, such as the Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

“Kenyans from top to bottom have embraced Twitter as their source of information,” said Mr Kimani, who once dreamed of becoming a journalist but ended up a police constable. “What I’ve learned is that people want thrills. You must feed your followers. That’s how the word gets out.”

Mr Kinoti, the director, would know. Before taking the nation’s top detective job, he was a spokesman for the police’s inspector general, known for his approachability.

He also knows a thing or two about dramatic police action: When terrorists stormed an upscale hotel and office complex in Nairobi in 2019, taking dozens of hostages, he rushed in locked and loaded, and was inside for 18 hours until the siege ended. He occasionally retells the story of how he was shot 28 times during an assassination attempt in 2005.

Under his leadership, the PR team has grown to eight, all of whom are younger than 35. A few others work in a new call center across a drab hallway, where dozens of actionable tips flow in each day, mostly via Twitter.

“A lot of information slides directly into our DMs, especially now that we are tweeting more often,” said Inspector Michael Mugo, who leads the team. “I’d like to think we’ve made crime fighting more accessible to people, by speaking their language.”

Kenyans are famously online. The hashtag #KOT - Kenyans on Twitter - is a cultural and political force. Judging by the kinds of comments Kimani gets on his posts, he thinks it can be a force for good when coupled with his agency’s detective work.

That said, it is Twitter.

After a recent post cautioning motorists not to settle fender benders on their own after one man was swindled for a “whooping” half-million Kenyan shillings, one user took issue with Mr Mugo and Mr Kimani’s prized vocabulary.

“I recommend @DCI_Kenya to download Grammarly,” he wrote, referencing the popular editing app. “It’s a sting [sic] of conscience to use words inappropriate. What is “whooping”. The last time I checked whooping it meant to utter a loud shout or cry.”

Above all, the DCI is hoping increased engagement on Twitter will help it fight crime.

All too often, Mr Mugo feels as if his team is tweeting about a “mastermind, who escaped our dragnet by a whisker.”

He wants more examples of the “thunderstruck neighbours who witnessed the incident informed our detectives who responded swiftly and effected his arrest.”

“It’s one way of showing we don’t just go out shooting people indiscriminately,” Mr Mugo said. “We want to show that there is justice - that the police really do something useful.”The Washington Post/The Independent

 

Forty-nine motorcycles made little noise but raised much interest in Nairobi’s Karura Forest this morning, as the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) launched a pilot electric bikes project in the presence of Kenyan government officials and business leaders. Following the pilot phase in four locations in Kenya, the project is expected to expand in an effort to reduce air pollution, improve national energy security and create green jobs.

“Kenya is importing more motorcycles than cars, doubling its fleet every 7-8 years. These are generally inefficient and poorly maintained polluting motorcycles,” said Joyce Msuya, UNEP Deputy Executive Director. “Kenya’s electricity is very green in 2019 with more than 80% was generated by hydro, solar, geothermal, and wind. Shifting to electric bikes in Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda and elsewhere will reduce costs, air pollution and Greenhouse Gas Emissions, as well as create jobs.”

"The average motorcycle is estimated to be 10 times more polluting per mile than a passenger car, light truck or SUV. Hydrocarbons are dangerous to human health,” said Peter Anyang' Nyong'o, Governor of Kisumu County. “Electric motorcycles not only mitigate against this health hazard but also help reduce noise pollution that the rampant increase of petroleum powered motorbikes currently causes in our cities.”

The pilot aims to help policy makers assess the barriers in uptake of the much-needed technological shift towards electric bikes, and to demonstrate that the shift is feasible and within reach. In Kenya, the number of newly registered motorcycles, commonly used as taxis (boda-boda), was estimated in 2018 at 1.5 million and will likely grow over five million by 2030.  Though developing countries have the fastest growing fleets of bikes, most lack vehicle emissions standards or programmes and incentives to promote zero emission vehicles.

The pilot test launched today in Kenya is based on a study implemented by the Energy and Petroleum Regulatory Authority, the University of Nairobi, and Sustainable Transport Africa. The pilot includes a host of local partners, including ministries, and national and sub-national authorities, and uses bikes donated by Shenzhen Shenling Car Company Limited (TAILG). It will last 6-12 months and is replicated in Uganda, Ethiopia, the Philippines, Thailand and Viet Nam. The overarching project, “Integrating Electric 2&3 Wheelers into Existing Urban Transport Modes in Developing and Transitional Countries” is supported by UNEP with funding from the International Climate Initiative (IKI) of the German Ministry for the Environment.

John Chege, infrastructure coordinator from Friends of Karura Forest said, "In my restoration work, the bike will help me move swiftly through the vast forest of over 1000 hectares in a very short period. At first, I was nervous about having to charge it, but now I got used to it. Since it is fast and emits no noise and air pollution like the diesel motor, they allow us to provide better security in the forest and tackle one of Nairobi’s worst environmental problems." 

Two- and three-wheelers are a central transport mode in many low and middle-income countries, including African ones, quickly rising in numbers to a 50 percent increase by 2050. Highly polluting two- and three-wheelers can account for the same amount of emissions as a passenger car. A rapid global shift to electric motorcycles can result in saving 11 billion tons of co2 and about USD 350 billion by 2050 (more than double the annual energy-related emissions in the USA and about 14 times the 2019/2020 budget of Kenya).

A global leapfrog to electric vehicles, already underway in countries like Norway and China, is essential to curb carbon dioxide emissions. Transportation contributes approximately one-quarter of all energy related CO2 emissions. By 2050 it is likely to reach one-third, when the global number of passenger cars is projected to more than double. This growth is expected mostly in low-income countries, where there are rarely any vehicle emissions standards. 

Scaling up the transition to electric mobility will require investments in battery charging infrastructure. Kenya’s electric power generation capacity is sufficient to support the charging infrastructure. However, while demand for motorcycles is high, particularly in rural areas, distribution networks are inadequate. However, this challenge may be tackled by using solar energy, setting up charging stations, consulting boda-boda operators and using lithium ion batteries.

UNEP’s Electric Mobility (eMob) Programme promotes the transition of low-income countries to zero emission vehicles, in line with the UN Environment Assembly’s Air Quality Resolution and the Paris Agreement.

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