11 May

Stranded South Sudan govt begs U.S. against assistance review

South Sudan’s government urged the United States on Wednesday not to “abandon” the country after Washington said it would review its assistance programs because it could not continue a partnership with leaders perpetuating “endless war”.

“We are asking the United States not to abandon this country (South Sudan) because we need them … their role to assist the population of South Sudan is crucial and cannot be ignored”, said foreign affairs ministry spokesman Mawien Makol Ariik.

The United States is the largest donor of humanitarian assistance to South Sudan, which has been in the throes of a civil war since late 2013 that has displaced around a third of the 12 million-strong population and killed tens of thousands of people.

In a sharply worded statement on Tuesday the White House said the United States was a “proud and hopeful supporter” of South Sudan when it gained independence in 2011.

“Seven years later, the leaders of this country have squandered this partnership … killed their own people, and repeatedly demonstrated their inability and unwillingness to live up to their commitments to end the country’s civil war.”

The U.S. funding provides aid to millions of South Sudanese refugees in Uganda and lifesaving assistance such as food to people still inside the war-torn country.

Washington’s statement says the United States is committed to saving lives but does not want its assistance to “prolong the conflict” or facilitate corrupt behaviour by elites.

Production in some of South Sudan’s oil fields has been shut down due to the conflict, but the government says around 130,000 barrels per day of oil are being produced. Juba spends well more than half ifs budget on weapons and paying soldiers, according to U.N. experts.

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23 Feb

Congo Bribery Probe Puts Israeli Billionaire’s Future on Hold

A 20-year friendship that helped turn Dan Gertler into a billionaire has left the Israeli businessman with a lot fewer places to go.

The U.S. government accused Gertler of corrupt mining and oil deals in the Democratic Republic of Congo and said he acted as a middle-man to enrich his longtime buddy, President Joseph Kabila.

The two have been close since Gertler arrived as a young diamond merchant during a civil war in 1997, and Congo — one of Africa’s poorest countries — is the main source of his wealth.

“Most of my business is in the Congo and my faith is in the Congo,” Gertler, 44, said in a rare interview on Dec. 21, just hours before the U.S. government imposed economic sanctions against him.

At the time, he remained defiantly optimistic about his businesses even as he was being singled out by American and British investigators conducting prolonged bribery and corruption probes related to some of his Congo deals.
“I am a strong believer in the future of the Congo,” he said. But doing anything inside and out of Africa has gotten a lot harder for him in the past two months.
Sanctions have shut Gertler out of the American financial system, halting access to the dollars that are the main currency used in Congo and in global raw-material deals. U.S. companies are banned from doing business with him. Former partners are distancing themselves.
“All our payments have ceased forthwith,” said Mark Bristow, the chief executive officer of Randgold Resources Ltd., which has a gold exploration project with Gertler’s Fleurette Group in northeast Congo. “We’ve got U.S. directors, and we are listed on the Nasdaq. We cannot entertain doing business and transacting in any form.”
To be sure, Congo’s government stands by Gertler, who still holds mineral and oil rights in the country and funds education and health centers.
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19 Dec

African Roses Hitch Ride to U.S. as Ethiopian Growers Go Global

Ethiopia’s burgeoning flower-growing industry is setting its sights on the U.S. in a bid to break the dominance of Latin American producers in supplying roses and other blooms to the world’s largest economy.

State-owned Ethiopian Airlines Enterprise is evaluating freighter flights through Miami — the main entry point for U.S. flower imports — Los Angeles or New York, regional manager Girum Abebe said in an interview. The company currently transports stems there only in the bellies of passenger jets.

Ethiopia has become a major force in global floriculture in the past two decades, exploiting a tropical high-altitude climate that provides year-round natural light combined with hot days and cold nights perfect for bringing plants into bloom. The conditions mirror those found in the Andes, where growers in Ecuador and Colombia currently dominate flower exports to the U.S.

“Ten or 15 years ago Ethiopia was not exporting a single rose, but now we have earned our position in the world market,” Girum said. “North America has been the major importer of horticulture products from other parts of the world, so we want to have part of that.”

Ethiopian flower exports are currently focused on Europe, and have made the country Africa’s second-biggest producer after Kenya and fourth-equal worldwide, according to Rabobank research based on 2015 figures. About 80 percent of Ethiopian production is flown to the Netherlands, the center of the global flower trade, and re-exported from there.

‘Bigger Blooms’

“Most people don’t know it but the flower market is very much a global one,” Amsterdam-based Rabobank floriculture analyst Cindy van Rijswick said. “Ethiopia is doing so well because its labor costs are a bit cheaper than Kenya and if anything its climate is even better, producing bigger blooms.”

European flower sales have been flat in recent years, encouraging growers to look at opportunities for penetrating trans-Atlantic markets, she said.

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