Lesotho – Journalist Shot

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There are increased concerns after an suspected assassination attempt, the latest in a series of incidents.

The Lesotho Times announced on July 11th that its editor, Lloyd Mutungamiri, had been shot at his home in Maseru on July 9th by unknown assailants. Despite significant injuries to his face Mutungamiri survived and is recovering in hospital.

The shooting came days after the Lesotho Times reported that its owner, Basildon Peta, had been charged with defamation over an article which criticised the commander of the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF), Lieutenant-General Tlali Kamoli. The article related to an alleged South African Rand (R) 40-million exit plan for Kamoli.

Another Lesotho Times journalist, Keiso Mohloboli, fled the country after stating that she feared for her life, reported the Zimbabwe MailMutungamiri is recovering in a South African hospital after undergoing two major operations to reconstruct his face.

Since Kamoli’s appointment by Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili in 2015 a number of incidents have taken place; his predecessor Maaparankoe Mahao was assassinated,  opposition figures have been attacked and the army has ignored court orders to release detained soldiers, reported All Africa.

According to the Daily Maverick on July 20th, as a further sign of growing intolerance, national executive member of the Lesotho People’s Congress (LPC), Bokang Ramatšella, made a death threat against the US ambassador. The statement was made on Masokotso on Ts’enolo FM, a private government-aligned radio station.

Newly elected Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili greets masses during the ceremony. 17/03/2015, Elmond Jiyane, DoC

Inauguration of Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili – CC 2015

Amnesty International said that authorities in Lesotho must launch an independent and impartial investigation after the attack on the Lesotho Times editor. According to Amnesty the shooting has left journalists fearing for their lives and the authorities have failed to ensure a safe environment.

A joint civil society statement released on July 15th stated, “we call on the Lesotho authorities to take effective measures to protect the right to freedom of expression and the physical safety of all journalists in the country. In addition, the authorities must expeditiously and impartially investigate the attack and bring those responsible to justice.”

Lesotho has seen heightened violence since the assassination of former LDF commander Maaparankoe Mahao on June 25th 2015, and the subsequent reinstatement of Kamoli as head of the LDF after elections in February 28th 2015, caused by a coup attempt launched by Kamoli on August 30th 2014, against then-prime minister Thomas Thabane.

Most opposition leaders, including Thabane, are living in exile in South Africa and refuse to return while Kamoli remains head of the LDF, reported South African news service IOL

Amnesty International has also urged that an investigation into the death of Mahao is thorough and pursued without delay. Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for Southern Africa said, “the soldiers who shot Maaparankoe Mahao are known by the senior army commanders of the LDF. Authorities must ensure that the criminal investigation is thorough, effective and impartial and identifies those with criminal responsibility for his killing.”

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin:

Lesotho – Defence Chief Shot Dead
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol.52, Issue.6, Pp.20613A

LESOTHO: Post-Coup Attempt Poll
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol.52, Issue.3, Pp.20492A–20493A

LESOTHO: Military Deny Coup Attempt
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol.51, Issue.8, Pp.20248B–20249A

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Liberia – Land Rights Concern

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Analysts suggest that the decision not to uphold the Land Rights Act could spark a return to civil war in the country.

The draft Land Rights Act, which had been proposed in 2014, was intended to uphold customary rights to land for rural communities. Since its submission people have been concerned about the lack of progress and it is likely to be delayed further according to the Civil Society Organisations (CSO) Working Group on Land Rights in Liberia.

Over two million people in Liberia, more than half of the population, live on customary land, without legal recognition. It was largely disputes over land under customary tenure that catalysed 14 years of civil wars and led to many deaths.

An estimated 90 percent of Liberia’s civil court cases are related to land and as many as 63 percent of violent conflicts in Liberia are rooted in land rights issues, reported Reuters.

In 2003, following a second civil war, the government pushed on with policies for leasing lands to foreign companies, with oil palm plantations identified as a central strategy by the World Bank, to turn the country into a desirable investment destination.

The group of CSOs, however, stated that concessions to mining, logging and agriculture, that cover around 40% of the country, pay little consideration to local people. According to the Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI), of 237 mining and agricultural concessions in the country, all had established communities living within them.

“If its (Liberia’s) leaders try to fuel development by selling off community lands to the highest bidder, the price will once again be instability and conflict,” said Solange Bandiaky-Badji, Director for Africa at the RRI, reported Reuters.

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CC-2015

The coalition of 18 CSOs issued a statement which read, “if the legislature does not pass the 2014 version of the Land Rights Act before its recess in August, it will likely be delayed until after the elections; a new government takes office in 2018, leaving the legislation in limbo indefinitely.”

They added that the Act has not been made public leading to suspicions that key provisions have been removed, in a subversion of hopes for a peaceful future. “Liberia has been hailed as West Africa’s leader in land rights, but time is running out for the legislature to take this crucial step and make good on years of promises to the Liberian people. I fear that if the Act fails to pass, or passes without the key principles safeguarding the rights of communities, the country will slide backwards,” said Bandiaky-Badji, reported the CSO Working Group.

The CSO group also commented that Liberia has the opportunity to lead the way in securing its peoples’ land and forest rights, as well as contributing to sustainable development and climate change mitigation, two goals the leaders of the country have repeatedly pledged to work towards. The CSO Working Group stated that four tenets needed to be included in the Land Rights Act:

1. The formalisation of customary ownership with legal protection the same as individual private ownership.

2. Communities are able to self-define and self-identify their lands and boundaries.

3. Communities are directly responsible for the management of their land and natural resources, and there must be free, prior and informed consent before external investments are made.

4. Customary land rights take precedence over all other proposed uses of land.

Meanwhile on June 30th the United Nations (UN) mission in Liberia, (UNMIL) came to an end, 15 years after 15,000 troops were deployed. Analysts claim that a number of troops will remain and the move is hoped to encourage the ruling party to focus on internal domestic politics, although others have expressed doubt about the ability and willingness of the authorities to deal with the issues, reported the Daily Observer.

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin:

LIBERIA: Security Concerns
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol.53, Issue.3, Pp.20935C–20936A

Liberia – Chinese Military Cooperation
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol.52, Issue.1, Pp.20439B

LIBERIA: Corruption Charges
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol.53, Issue.5, Pp.21278A–21278C

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East Africa – Graft in Rail Investment

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Investigations into fraud and embezzlement are opened in one of Africa’s oldest railways.

An investigation, which has attracted the attention of the World Bank, suggests that Qalaa Holdings, which took over Rift Valley Railways (RVR) intending to revamp the rail link, has been involved in numerous questionable dealings. The World Bank has opened investigations into RVR, which manages the railway from Kampala to Mombasa in Kenya.

For many years one of the most importance rail routes in Africa has suffered neglect and underinvestment, until Qalaa Holdings, one of the biggest African private equity funds, sought to invest in the service.

An investigation by journalists from the UK, Belgium and Kenya under Finance Uncovered has obtained leaked documents and conducted interviews with rail staff. They noted that the company had created an offshore structure of shell companies to extract millions in advisory fees from RVR. The World Banks’ integrity unit has also opened investigations into fraud and embezzlement.

At the same time a parallel railway line, built by the Chinese, is set to open soon, which will be more efficient that the older line and is expected to absorb customers and profits, hampering more RVR’s already bad financial situation.

The British started the construction of the Kenya-Uganda railway in 1896, intended to secure Lake Victoria from German, Belgian and French colonial expansion. It later became known as the ‘Lunatic Express’ after many thousands died and millions were spent on its construction.

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Tororo, Uganda – CC 2010

In 2010 Qalaa Holdings, an Egypt based fund, took over through an offshore holding, Ambiance Ventures. In the subsequent year the company managed to secure US$287m in investments from a number of sources including the World Bank ($22m), the African Development Bank (AfDB) ($40m), and a number of others.

One central investment has been in new rolling stock, for which $63m was allocated for 20 “brand new” locomotives. However the journalists discovered that no new locomotives were purchased at all, instead they were purchased second-hand and refurbished from US-based National Railway Equipment Company (NREC). In total 20 locomotives were received for $20m rather than the stipulated $63m.

Regarding freight services, Chief Executive of the Kenya Ships Agents Association Juma Ali Tellah has said that many distributors have lost faith in the railways’ ability to transport containers; a blow as much of the railway’s income comes from freight.

“There are too many delays both in the port and during transportation…the skippers never know when their containers will reach destination. It’s not surprising that only a fraction of freight is transported by rail,” Tellah said.

Even though it currently has a monopoly, RVR has struggled to make profits under Qalaa’s management; in 2014 it reported losses of $1.5m. Despite not making a profit Qalaa has collected $4.7m of advisory fees from Africa Railways Limited, the investment vehicle of RVR registered in the British Virgin Islands. The firm has also paid very little corporation tax, and despite getting millions from state-backed development banks, many of its investments are managed through these offshore shell companies; while these corporate structures are not illegal, the investment will not fully benefit the home countries.

(The Observer, Kampala 22/6)

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin:

ROADS AND RAILWAYS: East Africa
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol.53, Issue.5, Pp.21292B–21293C

ROADS AND RAILWAYS: Rwanda – Tanzania
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol.53, Issue.4, Pp.21255A–21255C

ROADS AND RAILWAYS: Kenya
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol.52, Issue.12, Pp.21112A–21112C

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Western Sahara – Death of Polisario Chief

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As the longstanding leader of the disputed territory dies, the Sahrawi people continue to face an uncertain future.

The leader of the Western Sahara independence movement Polisario Front, Mohamed Abdelaziz, died of lung cancer aged 68 on May 31st, after spending four days in a coma, and was buried on June 4th in the disputed territory.

Abdelaziz had spent more than 40 years fighting for independence. His coffin was draped with the flag of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR), which was proclaimed by Polisario Front in 1976.

The Moroccan authorities consider the Western Saharan to be its “southern provinces” but many other countries, including Moroccan neighbour Algeria, recognise the SADR. Morocco is also the only African country not to be a member of the African Union (AU), while the SADR has been a full member for a number of years, reported BBC News.

Abdelaziz served as secretary-general for the group through many decades of independence struggle. He was born in 1948 in Smara, Western Sahara, and was from the Reguibi, one of three Sahrawi tribes. Reports said that he was educated in the south of Morocco and his father was in the Royal Moroccan Army.

Abdelaziz reportedly became acquainted with Sahrawi nationalist militants at Moroccan universities and in May 1973 became a founding member of the Polisario Front along with Mustapha Sayed El Ouali.

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Sahrawi Refugee Camp – CC 2012

The Algerian government is the main backer of the Polisario Front, and Algerian Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal was one of those to pay tribute to Abdelaziz, and President Abdelaziz Bouteflika decreed eight days of mourning after his death.

According to Al Monitor, in a refugee camp in Boujdour, where Abdelaziz had lived, many people came into the streets wailing when they heard the news. United Nations (UN) Secretary General Ban Ki Moon also expressed his sadness at the death of the leader, reported the UN News Centre.

However earlier in April Morocco had expelled most UN staff from the territory after Ban Ki Moon referred to the situation as an “occupation” At the same time there had been reports on the possibility of violence if there was not a deadline set for self-determination, reported the Washington Post.

Abdelaziz’s successor is expected to be announced within the next 40 days and in the interim the President of the Sahrawi National Council, Khatri Addouh, is to lead the group according to Polisario sources.

The dispute is a complex issue; in the Huffington Post, Professor of Political Science from Oklahoma University, Mohamed Daadaoui, writes that the framing of the conflict in terms of a colonial occupation force has discredited some of the historical and cultural links between the two regions. The regional rivalry between Morocco and Algeria has also fuelled tensions.

Discussing theoretical notions of self-determination throws to light questions of who is actually to be involved in deciding the regions future, Daadaoui states. The boundaries of the region are themselves a colonial construction which have little bearing on the movements of nomadic tribes.

Whatever the developments as the Polisario Front elects an new leader, the Sahrawi people themselves, especially many of those in Algerian refugee camps – numbers that the Polisario Front puts at 160,000 and the Moroccan regime at 50,000 – should remain the central concern of negotiations.

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin:

ALGERIA, MOROCCO – WESTERN SAHARA / UN: Row Over Disputed Territory Status
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol.53, Issue.3, Pp.20917A–20918A

ALGERIA – MOROCCO: Bone of Contention
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol.51, Issue.11, Pp.20342A

ALGERIA – MOROCCO: Border Shooting

Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol.51, Issue.10, Pp.20305A–20306A

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Burkina Faso – Drought Adaptation

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Farmers seek creative solutions to persistent drought, as analysts stress that diversification must be central.

Parts of rural Burkina Faso are experiencing increasingly lengthy droughts; the dry season which historically came between February and June is now extending to July and even August in many rural areas.

With the lack of rain, crops left in fields dry up, rendering a large part of the harvest useless. On May 11th Al-Jazeera reported that the drought caused the government to intermittently cut the water supply to the capital Ouagadougou. One resident in the city said she had not experienced such a crisis for over 20 years.

Farmers in the Passore region have been helped by the introduction of mobile ‘plant clinics’ that allow farmers to bring in damaged crops for inspection and consultation. The initiative is part of the Building Resilience to Climate Extremes and Disasters (BRACED) programme, supported by the United Kingdom’s (UKDepartment for International Development (DFID).

Erik Dirkx, from Welthungerhilfe, a German charity that helped establish the plant clinic system, said, “the plant clinics took a while to get off the ground but are starting to bear fruit…the farmers we speak to appreciate getting expert advice that’s available to them locally,” reported Reuters.

In Burkina Faso over 80% of the population rely on subsistence agriculture and persistent droughts have big implications. According to the United Nations (UN) Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), malnutrition in the north Sahel stands at 9.4% for children under five; 10% is considered a serious emergency.

In Tamissi village in northern Burkina Faso, Reuters reported that two “plant doctors” – Maurice Albert and Rihanata Sawadogo – had set up plants clinics. In one case they diagnosed an insect agricultural pest and offered an environmentally friendly pesticide as a solution.

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Farmer, Burkina Faso – CC

Currently, 14 million people across southern Africa are facing hunger due to the prolonged drought caused by the strongest El Niño weather phenomenon in 50 years. South Africa is expected to import half of its maize and in Zimbabwe as much as 75% of crops have been abandoned in the worst-hit areas.

According to new research entitled ‘Timescales of transformational climate change adaptation in sub-Saharan African agriculture‘, diversification is a central strategy that needs to be pursued by farmers suffering from drought and pests. The research suggests that farmers growing nine key food crops are able to withstand the effects of climate change to a much greater degree.

Maize, bananas and beans, some of the most important crops to sub-Saharan Africa, are under the most significant threat. There are suggestions that highly exposed and sensitive areas in Guinea, Gambia, Senegal, Burkina Faso and Niger, which depend highly on maize, millets, sorghum and legumes, should seek to diversify soon. Sorghum and millet, for example, have a higher resistance to heat that maize.

In Senegal there are plans for weather forecasts to reach 7.4m rural people via community radio and text message, which will help farmers to make crucial decisions on the farms, around planting, fertiliser and weeding.

“The images coming out of southern Africa today are alarming, and they should serve as a warning: there is still time to adapt tomorrow’s agriculture for a warmer world, but only if we start now,” according to Julian Ramirez-Villegas, a postdoctoral research fellow at the Institute for Climate and Atmospheric Science, reported AllAfrica.

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin:

COTTON: Burkina Faso
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol.53, No.4, Pp.21258B–21259B

Drought and Famine
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol.53, No.4, Pp.21239A–21239B

Food Security
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol.52, No.10, Pp.21025A–21025C

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Ethiopia – Oromia Violence Continues

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Without a fundamental change in development policy, rights groups claim that protests in the Oromia region will continue.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has deplored the lack of international coverage of protests in the Oromia region; the region has experienced widespread violence, with around 400 dead, many more injured and tens of thousands arrested, since November 2015.

The protests were originally triggered by the Addis-Ababa Master Plan, which proposed to extend the capital’s municipal boundaries outwards, forcing many Oromo farmers in the area to move. According to HRW there were at least 500 protests across all 17 regions of Oromia province, largely spurred by experiences of historic displacements and a lack of compensation.

HRW commented that Ethiopia has an ‘authoritarian development policy’, for example when large scale agricultural investments are made, local communities are rarely consulted about the decision and those who resist are often subject to heavy state repression.

Most of the protesters have been young students, particularly of primary, secondary and university age, many of the older generation have been more reserved due to past experiences of state crackdowns on dissent and protest.

The protesters have stated that it is a grassroots mobilisation organised mainly through social media and the independent Oromia Media Network. Despite the majority of protests being peaceful the Ethiopian security services have shot indiscriminately into crowds and made tens of thousands of arrests, with widespread allegations of violent methods and torture.

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Oromo Protest 2007 CC

In January 2016, the Ethiopian government did cancel the Master Plan in a rare concessionary move, but this did not stop the protesters, whose concerns had broadened to include the heavy-handed security response, arbitrary imprisonments and the discrimination of the ethnic Oromo.

One story, cited by HRW, said that a 17 year old student had gone to the protests not really understanding the issues, and after seeing his friend get shot he had ran to the Kenyan border, where he told a reporter that one minute he was worrying about school, the next he realised he may never see his family again. The story is familiar, with many thousands of student protestors forced to flee and seek asylum in neighbouring countries.

HRW commented that the United States (US) and other Ethiopian allies, particularly Britain, often highlight the regional counterterrorism initiatives the country is involved in, but turn a blind eye to the domestic violence; its position as the seat of the African Union (AU) and the fact that it hosts many thousands of refugees, makes public criticism of the security response more difficult.

Much of the limitations on the international coverage has been generated by the restrictions on reporting in the country, particularly for independent journalists. Similarly the ongoing food crisis – the worst famine since 1984-85 – has been the centre of global attention, which according to HRW has led “governments around the world to overlook or downplay the other very urgent crisis unfolding in Oromia.”

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Oromo Village CC – 2013

However, despite the cancellation of the master plan, the displacement of Oromo farmers is likely to continue, unless the government fundamentally alters its development trajectory by considering communities as meaningful partners.

The Addis Standard reported that despite the Ethiopian regime’s rhetoric of decentralisation to local governments, recent academic studies have shown that across different regions the service delivery from the local governments remained one of the most centralised, top down, hierarchical and government-controlled.

The experience of such a development apparatus has been a primary factor in catalysing protests. It contributed to a rising political consciousness for the Oromo people, through encounters with development and governmental administration, while also fostering a sense of invasion into their everyday lives and exclusion from consultation, reported the independent Addis Standard.

Earlier in April the Deputy Chairman of the largest Oromia political party, the Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC), Bekele Gerba, along with 21 others, were charged under a counter terrorism law; Bekele was accused of having links to the banned Oromo Liberation Front (OLF). Bekele described horrible conditions in detention at Maekalawi prison, including torture and widespread ill-treatment.

The security authorities also charged 20 young university students for protesting in front of the US Embassy in Addis Ababa in March this year, reported HRW.

The Oromo unrest marks the most serious domestic political crisis in Ethiopia in over a decade, with land becoming an increasingly prominent issue. Since 2009 the Ethiopian government has leased around 2.5m hectares to more than 50 investors from countries such as India, Turkey, Pakistan, China and Saudi Arabia.

While the government has accused outside factions, particularly the diaspora, over stirring the protests, Executive Director of the Oromia Media Network, Jawar Mohammed said, “the diaspora magnifies news of what is happening, yes, but no matter how much it agitates it cannot direct at the village level in Ethiopia – this is about dissatisfaction,” reported the Inter Press Service.

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin:

ETHIOPIA: Oromia Region Crackdown
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol.53, Issue.3, Pp.20934C–20935C

ETHIOPIA: Addis Master Plan Scrapped
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol.53, Issue.1, Pp.20861B–20862B

ETHIOPIA: Violent Repression of Oromo Protests (Free to Read)
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol.52, Issue.12, Pp.20828C–20829B

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South Africa – Miners Pursue Class Action

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Former and current gold miners are given the go-ahead to pursue class action for health damages.

The legal action is likely to be taken against numerous mining companies according to the Johannesburg high court who made the ruling on May 13th; if it goes ahead it is likely to be the largest class action suit in South African history.

The miners claim that they contracted silicosis, an incurable lung disease, from working in the mines; the defendants include Anglo American, AngloGold Ashanti, Gold Fields, Harmony Gold, Sibanye Gold and African Rainbow Minerals.

Silicosis is a disease caused by the inhalation of silica dust in gold bearing rocks and can lead to breathing complications and tuberculosis, reported BBC News Online.

In a separate case in South Africa earlier this year, about 4,400 silicosis victims and their families won a US$32m settlement from Anglo American and AngloGold Ashanti.

Gold mining has played a central role in South Africa’s history, however Gold’s contribution to GDP has declined in recent years to around 1.7% of GDP in 2013, according to Statistics South Africa. During the apartheid era insufficient labour health and labour practices contributed to the spread of work-related diseases.

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Gold Mine S.Africa C.1890-1923 – CC

The stories of the miners were revealed during the court proceedings; Bongani Nkala who was leading the suit said that “blasting underground created a lot of dust and much of it remained in the workplace, even after the walls were sprayed with water…I was never provided with any respiratory equipment, ” reported AFP.

Another miner, Bangumzi Bennet Balakazi, started in the mines aged 21 in 1974 and worked until 1999, he now has both tuberculosis and silicosis. He said, “my daily routine started at 3.00am in the morning, when we are woken by a siren…soon after the blasting had finished, miners returned to the blasted area almost immediately…the white miners only returned to the blast area after most of the dust had settled.”

Now after the court ruling, around 500,000 current and former miners are open to sue around 30 companies for damages, in a case that dates back many decades. Former miner Vuyani Bwadube, said, “today’s judgement is most welcome… the companies do not have time for us. Even today they don’t care,” he said.

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The judge ruled that mining work dating back to 1965 was covered under the ruling and that the families of dead workers could join the suit. Some of the health studies found that levels of silicosis in South African gold mines at 22-36%, some of the highest rates in the world.

The mining companies issued a statement saying they were studying the court’s decision. One company, Gold Fields had called the case a “generic attack” on the mining industry and Harmony Gold claimed that class action would be “unimaginably cumbersome, costly, time consuming and thus inconvenient.”

The companies may seek an out-of-court settlement and have said they are interested in setting up a “legacy fund” to distribute money. According to independent journalists network GroundUp, the mining companies implicated are appealing the court judgement, although lawyers for the mineworkers stated, “we think this is an attempt to frustrate and delay.”

(AFP 13/5 2016; BBC News Online 13/5)

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin:

South Africa – Pay–out To Sick Ex-Miners
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol.53, Issue.3, Pp. 21222A

SOUTH AFRICA: ‘Distracting’Political Noise
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol.53, Issue.3, Pp.21206A–21206C

Southern Africa – Fighting TB Among Miners
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol.53, Issue.2, Pp.21186C

Subscribe to the Africa Research Bulletin today

 

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