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South African soldiers deployed to Cape Town to help fight gangs

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South African soldiers were deployed to gang-ridden Cape Town suburbs on Thursday to help quell escalating violence that has killed hundreds this year and that officials have likened to a war zone, a Reuters cameraman and community activists said.

Bloodshed over the past seven months in mainly poor black and mixed-race areas has killed more than 2,000 people, almost half gang-related, Western Cape provincial officials said.

The South African National Defence Force said last Friday it would deploy a battalion with support elements to communities in a vast area called the Cape Flats, where high rates of unemployment and drug abuse have fueled gang activity.

“For an hour and a half they targeted houses and cordoned off some streets. … They did some raids with the anti-gang unit and the local police,” Kader Jacobs, chairman of the Manenberg Community Policing Forum, which helps crime prevention in the working class Manenberg suburb, said of the army deployment.

“I think the people expected the army to be in the area at least between 8 and 12 hours, not a cameo visit of an hour and a half and off you go,” he said.

A Reuters cameraman followed the convoy of armored personnel carriers, with an estimated 200 soldiers, from Manenberg to another crime hotspot, Hanover Park. Both areas were built more than 50 years ago during the apartheid era to house mixed-race families displaced from suburbs designated whites-only.

The deployment of several hundred soldiers to gang strongholds will take place from July to October, although Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula suggested on Wednesday that the “exit strategy” would be determined by intelligence gathering.

The soldiers were promised following a visit by Police Minister Bheki Cele to the Philippi shanty town on the Cape Flats after almost a dozen people were killed earlier this month.

Famous for its stunning tourist attractions, including Robben Island and Table Mountain, Cape Town has some of South Africa’s highest murder rates, with 3,674 murders recorded in the Western Cape last year, according to police statistics.

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There is an entrenched gang culture with thousands of young men belonging to street gangs with names like “Hard Living” and “Young Americans”.

Mapisa-Nqakula said on Wednesday she hoped the army deployment would deter further gang violence.

“It will have to be robust in the beginning to stabilize the situation and have an element of surprise,” she said.






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East Africa: Lapsset Project Adopted By AU in Move to Boost Continent’s Free Trade Area

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Kenya’s mega Lamu Port-South Sudan-Ethiopia-Transport (Lapsset) Corridor Programme has been adopted as an African Union project and redesigned to link the Lamu port on the eastern African Coast of the Indian Ocean to Douala port in the western Africa Atlantic Ocean.

The adoption means it is now under the African Union and elevates the project’s status to attract foreign direct investment and other financiers compared with its status during the launch in 2012. It also means the implementation will now be a regional affair under the AU, and will be important to the realisation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).

The Africa Union’s High Representative for Infrastructure Development in Africa, Raila Odinga, made the announcement at a ceremony last week in Mombasa, Kenya. The ceremony was attended by ministers from Kenya, Ethiopia and South Sudan, who signed a memorandum of understanding for development and funding, which was preceded by a three-day technical team meeting to discuss the future of the project.

The meeting was also attended by prospective financiers of the project including the African Development Bank (AfDB), the United Nations Economic Mission of Africa and the African Union’s New Partnership for Africa Development (Nepad).

Last July, the Lapsset Development Authority applied — to the AU Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA), under Nepad and subsequently to the Presidential Infrastructure Champion Initiative (PICI) project under the AU Commission — for consideration under the AU flagship projects of Agenda 2063 after facing financial constraints and lack of political will, which has slowed its implementation.

The Lapsset authority argued that the project had potential to boost continental integration.

Mr Daniel Osiemo, Nepad Kenya’s representative, said the corridor project is the only PIDI project and the largest in eastern Africa with a market catchment of more than 160 million people.

“This infrastructure development will promote the achievement of the AfCFTA and the inter connectivity will enhance movement of goods and services,” said Mr Osiemo, adding, “Lack of infrastructure was cited as a major impediment in doing business and this project will create a link from Lamu port and help ease trade by reducing the distance through an efficient land transport system.”

“Ethiopia is a large country and we need infrastructure to make business cheaper, that is why we are investing in the Lapsset corridor and we have already tarmacked more than 500 kilometres of road from Moyale to Awasa. Our presence here should send a clear signal that we are for the project,” said Ethiopia’s ambassador to Kenya Melos Alem, who witnessed the signing of the MoU. He refuted claims that Ethiopia had abandoned the Lapsset project in favour of Eritrea’s ports of Assab and Massawa, which are closer to the country. He also added that southern Ethiopia, with a population of 50 million people, will be best served by the Lamu port.

The initial design of the project was to cover Kenya, Ethiopia and South Sudan, but the redesign and adoption by the AU will see the project connect East Africa with West Africa to facilitate the AfCFTA and also make it easy when lobbying to be considered under the AU programme.

“The new regional project implementation programme will assist partner countries to hasten the development of the project and this commitment will attract more financiers to bring this project to success. In the past, each country has been funding its own projects but the MoU will facilitate crowd funding,” said Mr Odinga.

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“The project has been adopted by the AU and this will give it an upper hand in crowd funding,” said Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for Transport James Macharia.

The project will comprise roads, railways, ports, pipelines and special economic zones, to be implemented in two phases, starting with the Lamu-Isiolo-Addis Ababa to Djibouti by road and rail, while the second phase will connect Lamu to Kribi/Doula in Cameroon via Juba in South Sudan and Bangui in Central African Republic.

Lapsset joins the ranks of other continental corridors such as East Africa’s Northern Corridor and Central Corridor.

Some of the projects under the Presidential Infrastructure Champion Initiative being considered by the AU are the Nigeria-Algeria gas pipeline project (Trans-Sahara Gas Pipeline); Missing links on the Trans-Sahara highway and optic fibre link between Algeria and Nigeria; Dakar-Ndjamena-Djibouti road/rail project. Others are North-South Corridor road/rail project; Kinshasa-Brazzaville bridge road/rail project; Unblocking political bottlenecks for ICT broadband and optic fibre projects linking neighbouring states and construction of navigational line between Lake Victoria and the Mediterranean Sea.