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February 21 2014

Equatorial Guinea Moves Closer to Becoming Portuguese Language Country

The door has been opened for Equatorial Guinea to enter the Community of Portuguese Language Countries (CPLP) despite the orienting principles of the intergovernmental organization which pledge “the primacy of peace, Democracy, the Rule of Law, Human Rights and social justice”. 

The recommendation for the country's entry into the organization (which includes Angola, Brazil, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, Portugal, Sao Tome and Principe and Timor-Leste) was approved unanimously by the Ministers of Foreign Affairs for CPLP, who met in Maputo, Mozambique on February 20, 2014, the eve of UNESCO's International Mother Language Day.

Spanish and French are the official languages of Equatorial Guinea, and Portuguese is now closer to become the third. The country, which has been an Associate Observer of CPLP since 2006, announced a proposal in mid-February for the suspension of the death penalty. This change pleased the diplomatic front of the community as the abolition of capital punishment is one of the conditions for membership. 

However, Equatorial Guinea's “human rights record is particularly concerning”, as highlights writer David Shook in an article published on February 19, one day before CPLP's announcement: 

Under the leadership of Guinean president Teodoro Obiang Nguema, now the longest-serving head of state in Africa, Equatorial Guinea continues to rank among the most corrupt states in the world. 

Shook reports that the most important living writer of the country, Juan Tomás Avila Laurel, has been forced into hiding for his work as an activist. Malabo's security forces threatened him just this week after denying his request for permission to stage “a sit-in protesting a recent wave of police brutality”. Shook stresses:

Juan Tomás Avila Laurel’s safety is currently at risk; he faces dire conditions if captured by Guinean security forces. The international visibility of his situation is an important protection.

He also points to The Human Rights Watch “World Report for 2013“:

Corruption, poverty, and repression continue to plague Equatorial Guinea under President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, who has been in power since 1979. Vast oil revenues fund lavish lifestyles for the small elite surrounding the president, while most of the population lives in poverty. Those who question this disparity are branded “enemies.” Despite some areas of relative progress, human rights conditions remain very poor. Arbitrary detention and unfair trials continue to take place, mistreatment of detainees remains commonplace, sometimes rising to the level of torture.

All of this doesn't seem to be relevant now for the representatives of the eight governments that count Portuguese as one of the official languages. The heads of state and government will meet in Dili, Timor-Leste in July to make a decision on Equatorial Guinea's membership. 

“African money #CFA #Malabo”. Photo shared on Flickr by Kaysha (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Reacting to the latest news, the Portuguese chapter of Transparency International, the civic association and corruption watchdog “Transparência e Integridade” (Transparency and Integrity) [pt], tweeted that ”money speaks louder” in the lusophone world. 

Although the government of Portugal had rejected the country's request for membership until now, the relations between the two countries might be changing in times of economic crisis.

Lusomonitor, a website dedicated to the analysis of “lusophone issues” reported [pt] that Equatorial Guinea has injected 133 million euros into Portuguese bank Banif, “helping the Portuguese State to unravel a complicated dossier, which has hindered the fulfillment of the goals of economic and financial adjustment program with the ‘troika'”, composed by the European Central Bank, European Commission and the International Monetary Fund.

Meanwhile, civil society organizations have promised to mobilize against the accession [pt] in the coming times.

Check out past Global Voices coverage of Equatorial Guinea, including: 

07 June 2011 – Equatorial Guinea: A Language That Ignores Human Rights
08 June 2012 – Equatorial Guinea: Dictatorship Seeks Entry in Portuguese Language Community

February 19 2013

African Reactions to the Pope’s Resignation

The announcement by Pope Benedict XVI of his intention to resign with effect from February 28, 2013 provoked many reactions in Francophone Africa, both in traditional media and on social networks. The predominant feeling was that of admiration for the Pope combined with the wish that certain African leaders would follow his example.

The Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI

The Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI. Photo Catholic Church (England and Wales) on Flickr, licence CC by-nc-sa/2.0

Varied opinions, with underlying admiration

In a well-reported article from Togocouleurs blog entitled ‘Must the Pope Die Pope?’, Charles Lebon wrote that [fr]:

La nouvelle est tombée ce 11 février comme un coup de tonnerre dans un ciel serein. Ce coup aurait été moins violent si c’était le décès du pape, qui, dans ce cas et trop souvent prévisible, obligeait les journalistes à attendre sous les fenêtres du saint homme en agonie avec micro, camera et bougie. Mais ce n’était pas le cas. Il s’agit de la démission du souverain pontife au sens de : « renoncer à sa charge ».

The news hit on February 11 like a thunderclap in a quiet sky. The shock would have been less violent if they had announced the death of the Pope who, on this occasion, as on many others, made journalists wait under his windows in agony with a microphone, camera and candle. But this was not the announcement that was made. It was actually the resignation of the reigning pontiff, in the sense of: ‘renouncing his burden’.

Diery Diallo’s blog quoted Father Jacques Seck of Dakar [fr] :

Je dis que je suis heureux que le Saint-Père (Pape Benoît XVI) ait pris cette idée personnellement. Les hommes de Dieu que nous sommes (…) ne sont pas des fonctionnaires qui travaillent. Je suis heureux que le Saint-Père à la tête de l’Eglise nous donne l’exemple. Les évêques, Cardinaux, Pape, ne sont pas des fonctionnaires, quand ils ne peuvent plus ils cèdent la place aux autres », a réagi Abbé Jacques Seck sur les ondes de la Rfm. Rappelons que le Pape Benoit XVI a annoncé sa démission de ses fonctions de Pape pour le 28 février 2013. Il a donné comme raison, son âge avancé qui ne lui permet plus d’exercer le ministère Pétrinien.

I say that I am glad that the Holy Father (Pope Benedict XVI) has taken this step personally. Men of God such as we [...] are not functionaries with a job. I am pleased that the Holy Father as the head of the Church has given us the example. Bishops, Cardinals, the Pope, are not functionaries, when they can no longer go on, they give their place to others.” reacted Father Jacques Seck on the airwaves of RFM. Let us remember that Pope Benedict XVI announced his resignation from his papal duties would take effect on February 28, 2013. As reason, he gave his advanced years which no longer allow him to fulfil the duties of the Holy See.

On the facebook page of Radio France International, a widely-listened to station in Francophone Africa, many reactions were posted [fr] during a programme dedicated to this event:

File:Benoît XVI synode 2008.jpg

Many Africans seem to wish their leaders would be inspired by the courageous act of Pope Benedict XVI. Source photo:
commons.wikimedia.org

From Conakry in Guinea Hilal Sylla [fr] wrote that:

Pour peu que cela ait du sens, cette démission de Benoit XVI me renvoie au Film culte sur l'église et les illuminatis. Une façon de dire que l'église n'a plus de force dans un monde dominé par tant de perversion. Une question : la fin du monde n'est-elle pas proche?

Although it doesn’t make much sense, Pope Benedict’s resignation reminds me of the popular film about the church and the Illuminati. A way of saying that the church no longer has strength in a world dominated by so much perversion. One question: Is the End of the World nigh?

For Samuel Azabho [fr] from Kisangani in the Democratic Republic of Congo:

Cette démission est normale par le fait de l'age. son pontificat est positif dans la mesure où il est le précurseur de la lutte contre la pédophilie. je pense qu'il était un homme de décision. Et celui qui doit venir après lui doit relever le défis de l'avenir de l'église catholique et de toute l'humanité peu importe sa race et ses origines.

This resignation is not unusual because of the matter of his age. His papacy was mainly positive in so far as it was the precursor of the fight against paedophilia. I think that he acted as a decisive man. And whoever follows him must be up to the challenges in the future of the Catholic Church, and of all humanity, no matter his race or origin.

From Yaoundé, Ben Mbele remarked that [fr]:

nous pouvons cependant dire ke le pontificat de benoit xv1 n'a pa été un fleuve trankil, de son discours sur l'islam et la violence en passant par le scandal des prêtres pédophiles et enfin du débat sur le mariage gay,au demeurant notons ke la décision salutaire de benoit xv1 fera un précédent car il lancera le débat sur la modification du droit canon en matière du mandat du pape, personnellement il ne faut pa trop attendre du nouveau pape en matière d’émancipation sur certains sujets car la plus part des cardinaux actuels ont été nommé par benoit xv1 et jean paul 2 eux très conservateurs.

However, we can say that the papacy of Benedict XVI has not been plain sailing, from his speech about Islam, through the scandal of paedophile priests, finishing with the gay marriage question, for all that, we note that the salutatory decision of Benedict XVI will set a precedent because it will launch a debate on whether Canon Law regarding the Pope’s mandate should be modified, personally I don’t think we should expect too much from the new Pope regarding emancipation of certain groups of people because most current cardinals were named by Benedict XVI and John Paul 2, and are very conservative.

Alpha Ulrick Marcellus from Brazzville, in Congo thought that [fr]:

La décision du Pape est courageuse. Il ne démissionne pas mais il renonce, il renonce au ministère pétrinien. Une décision qui n'est pas facile à prendre. Son pontificat a été à mon avis celui des grandes épreuves, des discours aux vérités sans détours et choquant. Benoit XVI à donné le meilleur de lui-même, dans la direction d'une Église en conflit avec un monde de plus en plus excentrique. Pour le futur Pape plaise à Dieu de choisir celui qui est apte, valide à prendre des décisions courageuses contre les déviations que le monde légalise pour préserver l'intégrité de la foi et de l'Église.

The Pope’s decision was courageous. He did not resign, but renounced, he renounced the Holy See. Not an easy decision to take. In my opinion, his papacy was one of great trials, of shocking and hard-hitting speeches about truths. Benedict XVI has given the best of himself, for a Church in conflict with a world becoming more and more eccentric. Let us hope that, for the future Pope, God chooses the one who is best-suited, capable of taking courageous decisions against the deviations that the world legalises, to preserve the integrity of faith and of the Church.

The BBC also broadcast special programmes about Francophone Africa, which were played by local radio stations. The BBC’s facebook page about Africa has more than 17,000 fans [fr]. During the programme about this resignation, Africa Live on February 16, many Africans gave their points of view. Michel Djadji Anigbe from Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire, wrote that [fr]:

Relativement à la décision de démission du Pape, son motif me laisse perplexe et pantois. Comment un grand intellectuel tel que lui a pu accepter ce pontificat avec tous les sacrifices que cela demande. Surtout avec ce que son prédécesseur, le vénérable Pape Jean Paul II , a fait du sien. De plus, son argument est trop facile avec le scandale qui nous a été servi par l'affaire de son majordome. Et quand on sait aussi que le Vatican n'est pas ignorant et étranger à tous ce qui passe actuellement dans le monde.

Relative to the Pope’s decision to resign, his motive leaves me perplexed and speechless. How could a great intellectual like him have accepted this papacy with all the sacrifices which that demands? Especially with what his predecessor, the venerable Pope John Paul II, had achieved with his. What is more, his argument is too simplistic regarding the scandal of this business with his majordomo. And when you also realise that the Vatican is not ignorant of or a stranger to what happens in the world today.

Didier Didou Mady posed an interesting question [fr]:

Le rejet de la démission du Pape est-il envisageable au regard du droit canon? Quoi de plus normal que les touristes au Vatican visite à la fois le pape et l'ex-pape. Difficile d'avoir un pape infatigable!

Is the rejection of the Pope’s resignation conceivable with regards to Canon Law? What could be more normal than tourists at the Vatican visiting the Pope and the ex-Pope at the same time? It is difficult to have an indefatigable Pope!

An Example for some African leaders?

Africa has many badly run countries. Is this linked to the fact that on this continent we also find heads of State who have been in power the longest?:

Many Africans have commented on the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI by relating it what has happened on their own continent. Josiane Kouaghe from Cameroon wrote [fr] on his blog:

Passés ces moments de disputes, les vraies questions s’imposent. Et les comparaisons ne tardent pas à suivre. «Ah…Il me rappelle Nelson Mandela. Tu te rappelles, en 1999, quand il a démissionné après seulement cinq ans? », demande Éric Ntomb, 64 ans, à son ami. «Tu parles Éric. C’est la même chose avec le pape. Il n’est là que depuis 2005. Si seulement nos dirigeants africains pouvaient faire comme lui», répond l’ami en poussant un long soupir. L’ami dit haut ce que des millions de personnes pensent bas. Et je vous arrête. Ne dites pas que le pape a démissionné parce qu’il est un homme de Dieu. Non!  Il dirigeait le plus petit et puissant État du monde.

After these disputes, the real questions make themselves felt. And the comparisons are quick to follow. “Ah, he reminds me of Nelson Mandela. Do you remember, in 1999, when he resigned after only five years?” Eric Ntomb, 64, asked his friend. “Now you’re talking Eric! It’s the same thing with the Pope. He’s only been there since 2005. If only our leaders in Africa could do the same as him”, answered the friend with a deep sigh. The friend said out loud what millions of people think deep down. And I am stopping you! Don’t tell me that the Pope resigned because he is a man of God. No! He was leading the smallest and most powerful state in the world.

Josiane Kouagheu then reviewed the list of African presidents who resigned their duties voluntarily:

However, by far the most famous of all African leaders to leave power voluntarily was unquestionably Nelson Mandela, in 1999, a fact which has invited these comparisons between Mandela and Pope Benedict XVI.

January 18 2013

Petrodollars, Megalomania and Human Rights in Equatorial Guinea

[All quotations translated from French can be viewed in the original post]

President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo of Equatorial Guinea, the only Spanish-speaking country in Africa, launched a charm offensive in 2011 and 2012 using his petrodollars to target the worlds of showbusiness, sport and international diplomacy.

Being chairperson of the African Union (AU) from January 2011 to January 2012 allowed him to court the media outside Africa's borders. Another opportunity for him to promote himself and his regime when he was president of the 7th ACP Summit of African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States. The ACP, which has links to the European Union, held the summit in Malabo, capital of Equatorial Guinea, from December 13 to 14, 2012.

However, following his accession to AU chairmanship, the media, civil society and blogosphere denounced him for his poor human rights record. Blog Gaboneco wrote [fr]:

The democracy he professes is just right for the outside observers, especially those in Western countries, who, intoxicated by the scent of petrol, have conveniently forgotten their views on democracy, human rights etc. So much so that the strong man of Bata can suppress his opponents and gag the press. The Human Rights organisations are the only ones who dare complain about what is happening in this country, which they do from time to time.

The second most expensive yacht in the world, belonging to the son of  president Obiang - public domain

Equatorial Guinea has the 4th strictest censorship in the world, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, which denounced this lack of freedom:

News and information was tightly controlled in Equatorial Guinea, which the CPJ identified as one of the world’s most censored nations. Nearly all news media were owned and run by the government or its allies. One independently owned newspaper circulated in the country, but it had to practice self-censorship; no independent broadcasters operated domestically.

The regime clamped down again just a few days before the start of the ACP summit. The blog Coup de Gueule de Samuel reported several cases [fr] of journalists being suspended and programmes pulled:

“cultura en casa” ‘Culture at home’ in Spanish, a programme on Equatorial Guinea national radio (RTVGE) was abruptly “stopped and suspended until further notice” on Friday October 19 for having tackled and denounced on air the abuse of power and incompetence of the courts and national parliament which the presenters spoke of.

Other, similar cases of suspensions [fr] were cited by the blog:

- A radio programme, “La Tertulia”, ‘The Gathering' in Spanish, presented by Siméon Sopale, was taken off air four years ago today after denouncing and criticizing the authorities following the announcement that “taxis in Malabo would be Mercedes”.

- Juan Petro Mendene, a Francophone journalist, was suspended in May 2012 for having referred to Muammar Gaddafi even though coverage of the Lybian revolution had been forbidden to be broadcast on RTVGE by those in charge of censorship and against freedom of the press and freedom of expression in Malabo.

- Pedro Luis Esono Edu Bidang was also hit with a suspension in February 2010 until the present, for having announced the discovery of the bodies of seven Malians in a rubbish dump in Bata, economic capital of Equatorial Guinea.

Several days after the start of the ACP summit, Reporters without Borders were asking questions about the death of a journalist who had demonstrated his independence over many years faced with the Obiang regime:

Is it still possible to shed light on this case? … The government should issue a statement to dispel the suspicions under which it finds itself, and should order an investigation if the family requests one.

While the Malabo authorities seek the abolition of visa requirements [fr] with Spain, their security forces are tracking down African immigrants and, in some cases, killing them without hesitation. The blog France-Guinée equatoriale posted an article [fr] revealing these crimes, committed with impunity:

Attacks on African nationals, particularly on Malians, are frequent in Equatorial Guinea. They generally have the aim of extorting money from poor citizens, often illegal workers. When attacks are committed by police or soldiers, they normally go unpunished.

Commenting on the article from the Gaboneco blog, Ramirez le Rescape described abuses of power [fr] by the president's son:

Nepotism - his son is worse than Gaddafi's - because of his greatest extravagances, such as buying 250 suits in just a single day, a single purchase, a single shop, not to mention the Lamborghinis…

Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue, prodigal son and luxury car aficionado is Second Vice President, charged with Defence and Security, a post which does not even exist according to the constitution [fr]. He loves to act the playboy and frequently causes controversy with his orgies of spending. He denies himself nothing - fancy townhouses, luxury villas, collections of Old Masters and stars' memorabilia. Revealing the order of a yacht for his personal use, for the princely sum of 288 million Euros, equivalent to almost three times the education budget for his country. Global Witness blog reported:

Its total contract price is approximately 288 million Euros, or $380 million at current exchange rates. This would make it the world's second most expensive yacht, behind Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich's $1.2billion Eclipse.

The following video shows the seizure by French police of eleven luxury cars at the house of Obaing's son:

Placido Mico of the CPDS (Convergence for Social Democracy) is the main opposition MP in Equatorial Guinea. He is known for being strongly critical of the lack of political presence by the opposition in the country. On the subject of wasteful spending, he reported via diasporas-news.com [fr] that as far as the organisation of summits and conferences is concerned:

Projects such as Sipopo or Oyala - a city created on the mainland - do not serve as development. There are only a few huts around Oyala - no electricity, no schools, no running water, no hospitals. This project is crazy. When Brasilia was constructed, it was done to ease congestion in the capital. Rio and Sao Paulo both had water and electricity…

“We are a country of 700,000 people. Are we going to deport people to make them go to Oyala?”, he asked.

“It is scandalous. In the meantime there are no tables - in some schools lessons take place on the ground. There are no books”, he added.

According to MalaboNews, on Christmas Eve 2012, apparently trying to show off to the international community, the president donated the sum of 60 million Central African Francs to twelve ‘opposition' political parties. Samuel Obiang (no relation) wrote in blog [fr] Coup de gueule de Samuel:

The majority of these parties led by the friends of President Obiang Nguemas think of their party as a veritable source of funds - a ‘business' as the Equatorial Guineans call it.

Some of these parties have no members - who are the allocated funds for, we ask ourselves?

In a country where an independent press is not authorised, with corruption opposition, what future is there for Equatorial Guinea? It has been made rotten through corruption and misappropriation of public funds.

Poverty is escalating dramatically, but nobody is thinking about life after petrol.

Globalwitness.org reviewed some social statistics:

Incredibly, since oil was discovered in the mid-1990s, poverty levels have actually worsened. Equatorial Guinea enjoys a per capita income of about $37,900, one of the highest in the world. Yet 77 percent of the population falls below the poverty line, 35 percent die before the age of 40, and 58 percent lack access to safe water.

Equatorial Guinea is languishing in 136th place in international human development rankings as calculated by mean levels attained in three essential areas, namely, health and longevity, access to education and a decent standard of living. Although richer than many African countries, Equatorial Guinea spends less on investments to improve these key areas than most.

The priorities of those in power in Eqautorial Guinea are far removed from those of the people they govern.

December 30 2012

New GV e-book: African Voices of Hope and Change

Here is a perfect gift to salute the new year: our new e-book dedicated to Africa's Sub-Saharan region. “African Voices of Hope and Change,”  gives you an intimate perspective into the stories and people of Sub-Saharan Africa through our best English-language posts from 2012. From a total of about 800 posts produced over the year from the region, we hand-picked 13 posts to feature from Senegal, Uganda, Mozambique, Guinea-Bissau, Ghana, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Mauritania, Kenya, Angola and other countries.

African Voices of Hope & ChangeYou are welcome to download it here. You can even send a copy (in PDF, ePub or Mobipocket format) to your relatives or friends across the world, maybe as a present for their donation to GV. Most important, please spread the word in your global circles, social networks and anywhere you deem fit!

African Voices of Hope and Change is more evidence of the power of we‘, a collective effort focusing on places and people too often ‘forgotten' by mainstream media worldwide, despite Africa’s diverse but promising growth in the upcoming years. As stated in the ebook introduction, “At the start of the new millennium, it felt as though the African continent was essentially written off by the international community… [but] recent statistics suggest that nine of the fastest-growing economies in the world are in Sub-Saharan Africa.”

And while many experts actually believe that new technology's most lasting influence will be on a broadening field of education, “also important is the potential for leveraging technology towards a more general transparency and accountability, as shown by initiatives based on social and citizen media for monitoring local elections or making government data available on the Internet.”

Aimed at providing a larger context and fostering the Global Voices mission, this collection of 2012 posts will try to parse out such complex framework and open up the horizon for the upcoming year. These voices tell us about moving forward in hope and change, their accounts reveal a path infused with struggle and collaboration.

Thanks to Mohamed Adel for technical support and to those who variously contributed to articles selected for this new e-book: Afef Abrougui, Ahmed Jedou, Anna Gueye, Eleanor Staniforth, Endalk, James Propa, Kofi Yeboah, Lova Rakotomalala, Nwachukwu Egbunike, Richard Wanjohi, Sara Gold, Sara Moreira, and Ndesanjo Macha.

December 12 2012

University in Benin Changes its Name after Equatoguinean Dictator

You can now call him Doctor Teodoro Obiang  Nguema Mbasogo.

MyGab.Tv reports that [fr] the Univesité internationale du Bénin UPIB is now called Teodoro Obiang  Nguema Mbasogo University after the Equatoguinean dictator. Teodoro Obiang  Nguema Mbasogo has been the benefactor of many schools in Benin [fr] and has received a doctorate degree Honoris Causa from the university at the inauguration ceremony.

August 31 2012

Portuguese, a Global Language?

A community page on Facebook, Língua Portuguesa: Uma Língua Global? (Portuguese Language: A Global Language?) [pt], provides a diversity of materials to promote the debate about the expansion of Portuguese language and its consequences. Several critical issues on the policies of this language of around 200 million speakers are addressed, such as minority languages, multilinguism and linguistic colonialism.

August 11 2012

US, Equatorial Guinea: Rebranding an African Dictator

Equatorial Guinea's President Teodoro Obiang Nguema plans to re-brand himself with the help of the Leon H Sullivan Foundation, a US-based human rights group.

The group has chosen Equatorial Guinea as the host of this year's Ninth Biennial Sullivan Summit. The foundation uses the biennial summit as a space for discussions and dialogue about solutions for Africa's problems. The summit is expected to attract high-profile world leaders, musicians and civil rights activists.

Since Obiang is Africa's longest-serving dictator and has a reputation of being brutal and corrupt [pdf], social media users from all over the world and human rights groups such as the Human Rights Foundation are asking the organizers to cancel the summit.

Human Rights Watch says the following about Obiang and his government:

Equatorial Guinea remains mired in corruption, poverty, and repression under President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, who has been in power since 1979. Vast oil revenues fund lavish lifestyles for the small elite surrounding the president, while most of the population lives in poverty. The government regularly engages in torture and arbitrary detention. Journalists, civil society groups, and members of the political opposition face heavy government repression. To date, President Obiang and his family are the subject of multiple foreign corruption investigations.

In October 2010, UNESCO suspended plans to grant a controversial prize named after Obiang after human rights groups criticized the UN agency citing Obiang's poor human rights record.

The Leon H. Sullivan Foundation has responded to criticism by releasing the YouTube video below:

Accompanying the video is this message:

Vocal Civil Rights organizations in the US are pressuring the Leon H. Sullivan Summit to CANCEL its Summit in Equatorial Guinea. This video expresses the rationale for our steadfast decision to continue our plans to hold the 9th Sullivan Summit of African nations in the country which hosted the African Union just last year. The President, Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, elected by the leaders of African nations as their Chairman.
The Leon H. Sullivan Summit hosts this summit every two years in African countries that are in good standing and members of the African Union.
Please join us. The Sullivan Summit is a diaspora driven conference that celebrates all of Africa.
One love.
We will not be moved.
Peace,
The Sullivan Summit

The Human Rights Foundation responded with this press release and this tweet:

@HumanRightsFdn: @SullivanFound just released video responding 2 us: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X4iAd68kWjw&feature=autoshare … Doesn't explain anything, it answers nothing: http://humanrightsfoundation.org/media/sullivan-foundation-on-the-defense-8-7-2012.php

Twitter campaign :

The Human Rights Foundation launched an aggressive Twitter campaign to raise awareness:

@HumanRightsFdn: This is equivalent of organising conference on free speech in North Korea-then getting Kim Jong-un to cut the ribbon @guyadams @independent

@africamedia_CPJ: @SullivanFound Dictator's talk of change has been spin, PR. Obiang continuing abuse. #sullivansummit will be shoe polish for his jackboot.

@EGJustice: Kudos to @HumanRightsFdn for fact-checking erroneous claims in press release by @SullivanFound. http://bit.ly/QHqIeP #SullivanSummit

@TutuAlicante: French gov't seizes Obiang mansion, but @SullivanFound @AmbAndrewYoung @yorubagal plow forward w/ plans to glorify Obiang at #SullivanSummit

@AfricaOnTheMove: This Sullivan Summit is shameful. Good for HRF [Human Rights Foundation] and Reuters for flagging it. @kelvinnews

@EGJustice: @KarenAttiah exposes effort by @SullivanFound to pressure journalists to give the #SullivanSummit favorable press. http://www.themorningsidepost.com/2012/08/08/commentary-hope-sullivan-masters-is-defending-the-indefensible/#.UCLHWH45bX0.twitter

@guyadams:Just some of Teodorin Obiang's spectacular corruption is detailed here http://ind.pn/Lu5w91 Amazed @sullivanfound will take his money

@KarenAttiah: My piece on the @SullivanFound “How A Dictator Pays for Influence”: http://bit.ly/PANEp8 #Obiang #sullivansummit cc @tmsruge @Semhar

@HumanRightsFdn: High volume of tweets to raise invitees awareness about @SullivanFound's dictator summit in Eq. Guinea. Help us out by RT'ing. Thanks!

Sullivan Summit advertisement on a bus in Washington, D.C. Image source: ‏@ThorHalvorssen

Name and shame :

@HumanRightsFdn: Acc. 2 media, @RevJJackson offered trip, all-expenses-paid by #dictator Obiang, 2 @SullivanFound summit. Learn more: http://humanrightsfoundation.org/media/sullivan-foundation-on-the-defense-8-7-2012.php

@HumanRightsFdn: Acc. 2 media, @TheRevAl offered trip, all-expenses-paid by #dictator Obiang, 2 @SullivanFound summit. Learn more: http://humanrightsfoundation.org/media/sullivan-foundation-on-the-defense-8-7-2012.php

@HumanRightsFdn: Acc. 2 media, @IAmMikkiTaylor offered trip, all-expenses-paid by #dictator Obiang, 2 @SullivanFound summit. Learn more: http://humanrightsfoundation.org/media/sullivan-foundation-on-the-defense-8-7-2012.php

@HumanRightsFdn: Acc. 2 media, @EarlMonroe15 offered trip, all-expenses-paid by #dictator Obiang, 2 @SullivanFound summit. Learn more: http://humanrightsfoundation.org/media/sullivan-foundation-on-the-defense-8-7-2012.php

@HumanRightsFdn: Acc. 2 media, @PhyliciaRashad offered trip, all-expenses-paid by #dictator Obiang, 2 @SullivanFound summit. Learn more: http://humanrightsfoundation.org/media/sullivan-foundation-on-the-defense-8-7-2012.php

@HumanRightsFdn: Acc. 2 media, @LouisGossettJr offered trip, all-expenses-paid by #dictator Obiang, 2 @SullivanFound summit. Learn more: http://humanrightsfoundation.org/media/sullivan-foundation-on-the-defense-8-7-2012.php

Will you be attending? :

@HumanRightsFdn: @TerrieWilliams Media says you were invited to @Sullivanfound summit hosted by Obiang in Equatorial Guinea. Will you be attending?

@HumanRightsFdn: @randalpinkett Media says you were invited to @Sullivanfound summit hosted by Obiang in Equatorial Guinea. Will you be attending?

@HumanRightsFdn: @DrJeffGardere Media says you were invited to @Sullivanfound summit hosted by Obiang in Equatorial Guinea. Will you be attending?

Campaign bearing fruit? :

@ayittey: Have managed to dissuade former prez of Ghana, John Kufuor, from attending the Sullivan Summit in Malabo, Eq Guinea.

@texasinafrica: Huge that @ayittey convinced Kufuor not to attend the tainted #SullivanSummit. One of Kufuor's nephews works @SullivanFound.

@ThorHalvorssen: keynote speaker at #sullivansummit cancels appearance .@johnhopebryant will not attend .@SullivanFound event in #equatorialguinea

@africatechie: Politicians Bow Out of High-Profile Summit Hosted By Africa's Longest-Serving Dictator http://bit.ly/O9yhXw #SullivanSummit

June 26 2012

Africa: Celebrating Humanity through Photos and Videos

An article by BuzzFeed that recently went viral with over 1.6 million Facebook shares, highlighted 21 pictures that will restore your faith in humanity. Unfortunately, Africa and Africans were absent from the piece. Despite efforts to change existing narratives, the African continent is still widely known as a leading recipient of international aid and the place where international NGOs come to 'save' the fragile local population. While there is no denying the enormous needs of the continent, what is often lost in the many humanitarian stories from the region, are the stories of Africans helping Africans. But there is no shortage of great testimonies of human spirit from the African continent. Here are a few photos and videos that show that “Africa's got Heart” too:

Protecting fellow citizens during prayers in Egypt: 

On February 3, 2011 during the Egyptian revolution, Christians put their own lives at risk protecting Muslims praying at Tahrir Square in Cairo, amid violence between protesters and Egyptian President Mubarak's supporters. For more background on the context of the photos, see our special coverage of the Egypt protests.

Egyptian Copts protecting Muslims on February 3 on Tahir Square - Public Domain

Egyptian Copts protecting Muslims on February 3 on Tahir Square - Public Domain

Welcoming home returning IDPs in Sudan:

Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) returned to their original village, Sehjanna, after living seven years in an IDP camp in Aramba. They are welcomed by relatives and friends who stayed back. The voluntary repatriation program is organized by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the Sudanese Humanitarian Aid Commission.

IDPs return to their village and are hugged by the villagers on Flickr by UNHCR (CC license-BY)

Saving elephants in perils in Zambia:

From the Norman Carr Safari  in Zambia: “The Kapani Lagoon is a source of drinking water for the animals of the area, as well as the place to go for a relieving mud bath. Unfortunately though, a young calf was unlucky enough to get stuck in the mud when visiting the lagoon recently. The calf’s cries attracted her mother who rushed to her rescue, only to get stuck in the mud herself.”

Elephants stuck in mud. Image by Abraham Banda, Norman Carr Safaris

Elephants stuck in mud. Image by Abraham Banda, Norman Carr Safaris

Team trying to rescue the elephants. Image by Abraham Banda, Norman Carr Safaris

Team trying to rescue the elephants. Image by Abraham Banda, Norman Carr Safaris

The elephant comes out of the mud. Image by Abraham Banda, Norman Carr Safaris

The elephant comes out of the mud. Image by Abraham Banda, Norman Carr Safaris

Overcoming cyclone together in Madagascar:  

Cyclone Giovanna made landfall in Madagascar [fr] on February 13, 2012. The cyclone was classified as a category 4, with winds of up to 194 km (120 mph) ripping up trees and electricity towers. Officials reported  that there were at least 10 casualties. The two main cities in Madagascar, Antananarivo and Toamasina, were out of power for long stretches, marking the darkest Valentine's Day yet in the country. The cyclone did not dampen the spirit of Malagasy people, who showed resilience and helped one another to move away from the flooded areas, all the while still wearing their brightest smiles.

Citizens helping each other and still smiling despite the flood during Cyclone Giovanna by Twitter user @aKoloina

Citizens helping each other and still smiling despite the flood during Cyclone Giovanna by Twitter user @aKoloina

Helping students with disabilities in Ghana

Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah is an athlete and activist from Ghana. Yeboah was born with a severely deformed right leg. Yeboah rode 380 kilometers across his country to raise awareness and change perceptions of the disabled. He opened the Emmanuel Education Fund for promising students with disabilities.

Yeboah discussing overcoming disabilities with a child in a wheelchair. Screenshot from the documentary Emmanuel's Gift

Yeboah discussing overcoming disabilities with a child in a wheelchair. Screenshot from the documentary Emmanuel's Gift

Celebrating peaceful elections in Senegal: 

An historical ending to a tense electoral period took place in Senegal on March 25, 2012. Incumbent president Wade was defeated in the presidential elections after citizens protested for months against his nepotist and authoritarian regime. In downtown Dakar citizens celebrated  the peaceful end of the Wade regime.

Demonstrators show their joy by Nd1mbee on Flickr, used with his permission

Demonstrators show their joy by Nd1mbee on Flickr, used with his permission

Protecting marine life in Mozambique:

Janet Gunter showcases a local NGO, Bitonga Divers, that strives to protect marine life by “making positive links between protecting sea life, tourism and economic development.” Here is a video of their work[pt]:

Winning an Olympic heat for Equatorial Guinea, months after learning how to swim:

Eric Moussambani Malonga is a swimmer from Equatorial Guinea. He gained fame when he won the heat although he had never raced more than 50m before the preliminaries, and was swimming by himself when the two other swimmers in his heat were eliminated for false starts. Eric confessed that the last 15m were very difficult for him as can be seen in the video. Yet his willingness to finish the race, while struggling mightily earned him a standing ovation from the audience.

March 07 2012

Africa: Interview With Africa Desk Officer at the Committee to Protect Journalists

Abdoulaye Bah (AB): First of all, who is Mohamed Keita ?

Mohammed Keita (MK): I run the Africa desk of the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), which is based in New-York.

AB: What are the aims of CPJ?

MK: CPJ is a nonpartisan, not-for-profit, nongovernmental organization dedicated to defending press freedom worldwide since 1981. CPJ was founded by a group of eminent American journalists, including the late Walter Cronkyte and Dan Rather, to support their colleagues around the world during a period of kidnappings and murders of journalists in Lebanon and Latin America in the 1980s. CPJ cherishes its independence from any government and does not take any contributions from any state.

Abdoulaye Bah (AB): First of all, who is Mohamed Keita ?

Mohammed Keita (MK): I run the Africa desk of the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), which is based in New-York.

AB: What are the aims of CPJ?

MK: CPJ is a nonpartisan, not-for-profit, nongovernmental organization dedicated to defending press freedom worldwide since 1981. CPJ was founded by a group of eminent American journalists, including the late Walter Cronkyte and Dan Rather, to support their colleagues around the world during a period of kidnappings and murders of journalists in Lebanon and Latin America in the 1980s. CPJ cherishes its independence from any government and does not take any contributions from any state.

Logo of the Committee to Protect Journalists. Image source: http://cpj.org/.

AB: What are the African countries where freedom of expression is most at risk?

MK: Eritrea: President Isaias Afewerki brutally closed down the independent press in this Red Sea nation in a September 2001 crackdown on dissent. Since then, Isaias' information minister Al Abdu runs and directs the propaganda machine of the state-controlled press. The government directs journalists what and how to report on. It is the African country whose prisons are holding the largest number of journalists (at least 28). All the journalists are held in secret prisons without charge or trial and without contact with their families, with many of them thought to have died in custody. Only Iran is imprisoning more journalists worldwide.

Ethiopia: In February 2011, Ethiopian police threatened to throw into prison dissident blogger Eskinder Nega if he did not stop comparing the Arab Spring uprisings to Ethiopia’s 2005 pro-democracy protests. Eskinder was arrested 9 months later on terrorism charges and faces a possible life sentence in a politicized case based on his critical online writings. Ethiopia operates sub-saharan Africa’s most extensive snd sophisticated Internet censorship infrasctructure and was ranked among CPJ’s top 10 Online Oppressors.

The government of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi is trailing only Eritrea in imprisonment of journalists. Almost all the journalists, including two Swedish reporters, have been charged with terrorism for reporting on opposition and rebel groups. With a series of restrictive laws, Meles' ruling EPRDF has tightned absolute grip over media licensing and regulation, the public state media and all public institutions. The independent press is limited to a handful of private newspapers and one radio station. The government also jams radio programs from Voice of America and Deutsche Welle and bans journalists’ access to the Ogaden where a rebellion is taking place. Meles' government has driven into exile the largest number of journalists in the world over the last decade.

Gambia: President Yahya Jammeh's years of intimidation of the press, a series of arson attacks on media houses, the closure of newspapers and radio stations, the unsolved murder of Deyda Hydara and the disappearance in government custody of reporter Ebrima Chief Manneh, have created a climate of terror for journalists in Gambia and forced the best journalists into exile.

Zimbabwe: Zimbabwe arrested and prosecuted a man last year for posting a political comment on Facebook. President Robert Mugabe's ruling ZANU-PF has allowed only a handful of independent newspapers to operate in Zimbabwe while retaining absolute grip over media licensing and regulation and national airwaves. Journalists operate under some of the world's most restrictive security and media laws.

Equatorial Guinea: President Teodoro Obiang's grip on the oil-rich nation is based on strict control of news and information. The president and his associates control all the media outlets in the country and no journalist is able to report independently about national priorities or spending or corruption.

Rwanda: Paul Kagame justifies restrictions on the press by invoking Radio Milles Collines, which in fact was a government-sponsored radio station, not an independent station. Kagame's government also abuses laws against “genocide ideology” and “ethnic divisionism” to prosecute and jail critical journalists and opinions contradicting the official version of the 1994 genocide.

Somalia: all belligerents in Somalia's conflict target journalists who are caught in the crossfire between rival militias, warlords, government and insurgents. Somalia is the deadliest country for the press in Africa: at least 40 journalists have been killed since 1992.

South Africa: President Jacob Zuma's ruling African National Congress has faced press criticism over its record on corruption, crime and poverty. To silence the critics, the government has introduced a series of legislative proposals that would criminalize investigative journalists, including the controversial Protection of State Information Bill, which critics have called the secrecy bill. Verbal and physical intimidation of journalists, particularly by the ANC’s youth league is on the rise.

Angola: President Jose Eduardo Dos Santos and his associates of the ruling MPLA control most of Angola's media outlets and enforce censorship of news and information. only 2 newspapers and 2 radio stations were not controlled by the government. Journalists reporting about official corruption are prosecuted and given prison sentences. Security forces attacked and intimidated journalists reporting on anti-government protests by youths calling for Dos Santos to step down.

Angola and Cameroon have introduced legislative measures to combat “internet crime” but the laws punish the electronic dissemination of photos and videos of public events with prison terms.

Democratic Republic of Congo: Journalists operate at the mercy of security forces, rebel groups and powerful politicians who abuse journalists in total impunity. at least 8 journalists have been murdered since 2005 with justice falling short of solving the murders.

Ethiopia's dissident blogger Eskinder Nega. Photo courtesy of Lennart Kjörling.

AB: Bloggers from North Africa have contributed significantly to the success of revolts in the countries of North Africa. Is it conceivable that in sub-Saharan Africa bloggers play a similar role?

MK: Social media tools have become platforms for the kind of dissent that is repressed offline and they are used to organize protests offline. Some governments, such as Ethiopia, Angola, and Cameroon, are beginning to crack down on this use of the Internet, by passing laws against “cyber crime” or intimidating bloggers. In addition, Facebook, Twitter and Youtube users who are posting photos and videos from the streets using their cell phones are breaking some of the biggest news in Africa these days, and traditional media is trying to keep up with them.

AB: In Mozambique, in 2008 and 2010, well before the revolutions in the Arab world, the civil society was able to organize a demonstration against the rising cost of living using SMS. In Ghana, in 2010, citizens participated massively in constitutional review by using Facebook and mobile phones. Should these examples be regarded as exceptional cases or other similar events may occur elsewhere?

MK: Social media in the hands of young citizen journalists is fueling protest movements in Angola, Nigeria and Senegal.

The cover of CPJ

AB: What role do you attribute to social media in Africa and what are the obstacles?

MK: They have democratized news and information - making it more difficult for governments and the enemies of press freedom to keep a nation into the dark. it has created a virtual bridge between Africans in the Diaspora and those in the home countries. but the users are still largely unprepared to the dangers lurking online. Zimbabwe arrested and prosecuted a man last year for posting a political comment on Facebook. and many governments regularly demand email passwords of journalists in custody. Data security is the next challenge for journalists as more of them start to mostly work online.

AB: What can we expect from the African Union?

MK: The AU has a Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression but she works only part time and lacks the resource to do her job. AU member states still lack the political will to respect press freedom and protect journalists. Regional human rights instruments like the Court of Justice of the Economic Community of West African states (ECOWAS) give us hope. The court issued landmark rulings against the Gambia on cases of disappearance and torture of journalists, but the problem is enforcement.

AB: The year 2011 was difficult for the press freedom in Africa, how do you see the year 2012?

MK: Each new year brings new challenges in this battle to keep the press free. The secrecy bill in South Africa has to be defeated, because South Africa is a model of democracy and free press for the continent, and this bill threatens to undo 18 years of progress since the end of Apartheid. South Sudan, the world's newest nation, is already abusing press freedom, this is also worrying. Ethiopia and Burundi's abuse of terrorism laws to prosecute and jail critical journalists is a disturbing new trend that has to be stopped. Press freedom is on the brink of extinction in Ethiopia, Angola, Gambia and Rwanda. Niger is probably the best example of a country where press freedom has advanced.

You can follow Mohamed Keita on Twitter @africamedia_CPJ and also read his articles on CPJ blog.

 

February 22 2012

Equatorial Guinea: AFCON 2012 is Over, Corruption Fight Continues

The 2012 Africa Cup of Nations is over but the fight against corruption continues: “The 2012 Africa Cup of Nations might have come to an end at the weekend, but rights groups are determined to keep co-hosts Equatorial Guinea in the media spotlight and draw attention to the government’s inherent corruption and abuse of national funds.”

February 06 2012

Africa: Highs and Lows of the 2012 African Cup of Nations

Beyond their ethnic, political and regional divides, people unite together around their national football team. We saw the First Lady of Gabon dancing like an excited schoolgirl every time one of the eleven players of the ‘Azingo Nationale' scored a goal and became “the Panthers” for their country.

The people of Equatorial Guinea were ecstatic with the qualification of their national team, languishing in the midst of one of the most ferocious dictatorships. According to Human Rights Watch, journalists who have visited the country to report on the human rights situation have been detained, interrogated, censored and deported.

In the fervour surrounding the 2012 African Cup of Nations, there are two key points that attract attention. The first is the absence of some of the higher achieving teams in African football.

Michael Dodje's blog explains [fr] the unusual goings-on in this year's Cup of Nations:

Imagine a Euro competition without Germany, Spain, Holland and England. Impossible you say, even though Ukraine or Poland would not have to participate in the qualifying rounds as host nations. And yet, this is what happened in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea. Indeed, for the first time in ages we will not see Egypt, Cameroon, Algeria, Nigeria or even South Africa in this championship. How did this happen?

Remembering that the five teams mentioned above have won 15 out of 27 previous Cup of Nations tournaments. Nicholas Mc Anally on le229.com responded [fr]:

…If these teams do not qualify then there will be others to replace them. It's a breath of fresh air seeing teams like Botswana, Niger and Equatorial Guinea making their debuts in the Cup of Nations.

Another novelty in this year's Cup is the way that the thorny issue of bonuses has been resolved. A post on the blog plat du pied explained [fr] what happened on the 15 November, 2011:

After the cancellations of the matches against China, Gabon, Salvador and Mexico, Cameroon has again cancelled a friendly match at the last minute for the fifth time since the start of the season.  The players went on strike, once again, in protest against the federation over their bonuses for the match.

On the same blog, a statement issued by the Cameroon players, known as the ‘Indomitable Lions', said:

Due to the absence of attendance bonuses, the players have decided not to travel to Algiers and to not play any part in the match against Algeria scheduled for the 15 November.

Different solutions to the problem have been found by building on past negative experiences. A post [fr] on the blog marocfootball.info, concerning the Moroccan national team, the ‘Atlas Lions' stated that:

The President of the highest court in Moroccan football announced that a deal has been made with the Atlas Lions in that they accept that they will not receive any form of attendance bonus if they fail to reach the quarter finals of the 2012 African Cup of Nations.

Côte d'Ivoire, not long out of a prolonged and disastrous civil war, will pay their national team the ‘Elephants' a bonus of 5 billion CFA francs (1 million US dollars) if they win the final. The blog afrik11.com states [fr]:

The 23 players in the side receive 5 million CFA francs (10,000 USD) in attendance bonuses. This amount will be paid if the team is eliminated in the first round. In the quarterfinals, the bonus of each player will rise to 8 million, rising further to 10 million in the semifinals and then to 20 million in the final (40,000 USD). The coach, Zahoui François will also enjoy his share of the pie, receiving double the bonuses of his players.

afrik11.com also comments [fr] on the bonuses paid to the Mali national team, the ‘Eagles of Mali' at the beginning of January:

Earlier this week the Malian football team received their bonuses for qualifying for the 2012 African Cup of Nations. Two hundred million CFA francs (40,000 USD) were given in cash to the players and coaching staff before the national team left Lomé (Togo) for the final stage in their preparations for the competition.

The Equatorial Guinea team in training by @FlorianK_Sport

The Equatorial Guinea team in training by @FlorianK_Sport

Equatorial Guinea, co-hosts of the event, is a country unable to build a stadium capable of hosting a match due to the frequent rains. Yet abidjan.net posted a blog surrounding their first victory [fr] in the competition:

Teodorin Obiang, the Minister for Agriculture presented a cheque for 500 million CFA francs (760,000 euros) to Francisco Pascual Eyegue Obama Asué, the Minister for Sport, in the absence of the national team in Mbini (mainland Mali). He added a cheque for 20 million CFA francs (30,400 euros), 10 million that had been promised for each goal scored ; the team only won the match 1-0 but he explained that the goal disallowed by the referee deserved to be credited with a bonus.

This blog points out that the actions of Teodorin, tipped to succeed his father as president, are under scrutiny by the Americans.

The generosity of petrodollars being used for the bonuses for the Equatorial Guinea football team makes the Republic of Guinea look like a poor relation. In Conakry, the first problem was in trying to find the money to pay for the bonuses. As reported by lejourguinee.com, the country set up a National Committee for Support, led by General Mathurin Bangoura, Minister for Housing and Urban Development with the aim of raising funds for the bonuses. Notably, the first contributions came from the Indian community settled in the country.

The least well-spent money during the tournament, without doubt, has to be the bonuses awarded to the ‘Teranga Lions', the Senegalese national team, who had entered the competition as strong favourites and fell at the first hurdle. Yet, at the beginning of the competition the blog can.starafrica.com stated [fr] that:

There are some concerns surrounding the bonuses given to the Senegalese side.  On Wednesday the Sports Ministry gave the squad bonuses amounting to 140, 650,000 francs in full for their qualification for the 2012 African Cup of Nations.

Africa: 2012 Cup of Nations Delivers Many Surprises

Unlike Senegal, who failed to win their opening match in the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations, Ghana, another competition favourite, managed to win their opener, beating Botswana, who were participating in this tournament for the first time. This, the first match in Group D, took place on Tuesday 24 January in the Stade de Franceville, Gabon.

The Black Stars of Ghana finished the match with ten men following a red card for John Mensah in the 66th minute. They did all they could to win [fr], and were not phased, according to FourFourTwo, who tweeted:

#Ghana show no remorse over Mensah red bit.ly/xkpul2 #AFCON2012

Botswana fought bravely during their first ever appearance in the Africa Cup of Nations. A video summary of the Ghana-Botswana match is available here [fr], courtesy of Direct 8 Sport.

Mali met Guinea for the other opening day Group D game, which saw the Eagles off to a promising start in the tournament, beating Guinea 1-0. Boukary Konaté, a Global Voices author who tweets under the name @Fasokan [fr], posted reactions from the stadium in Macina, Mali:

@Fasokan: Grand bruit et applaudissement à Macina pour le but malien #can2012

@Fasokan: Loud noise and applause from Macina following Mali's goal.

and also [fr]:

@Fasokan: les supporters de Macina espèrent sur un deuxième but malien

@Fasokan: Fans from Macina are hoping for a second goal from Mali.

On Wednesday 25, the first match on Day 2 of Group A, Zambia versus Libya, resulted in the first nil-nil draw of the competition. Torrential rain caused kick-off to be delayed by an hour and a quarter with the match finally starting at 6.15pm, after some doubt as to whether it would go ahead.

Zambia were anxious to secure their place in the quarter finals against a Libyan team who seemed re-energised following their defeat on the opening Saturday of the tournament. The match was played on a waterlogged pitch, as can be seen in this photo posted by Alexandre Nakbi (@Alex_Nak), showing its condition moments before kick off [fr]:

@Alex_Nak: Voila l'état du terrain actuellement. #CAN2012 #Libye #Zambie pic.twitter.com/MSHrD1ae

@Alex_Nak: Here is the state of the pitch right now. #CAN2012 #Libye #Zambie pic.twitter.com/MSHrD1ae

Rain also delayed the Day 2 Group A match between Senegal and Equatorial Guinea. Tournament favourites Senegal were eliminated in a surprise 2-1 win for Equatorial Guinea, assuring a place for the latter in the quarter finals. The defeat of the Lions of Teranga greatly disappointed [fr] their fans:

@observateurs: Le Sénégal sort de la CAN. “On aurait dit des jeunes de centre de formation” #can2012 fb.me/10kgX5eNf

@observateurs: Senegal exit the Cup of Nations. “They looked like kids from a training camp” #can2012

@founseni_soro: Sénégal Grande nation de football, . mais aussi grande déception de la CAN2012. Allez les zelephants #civ2010

@founseni_soro: Senegal - a great footballing nation, but great disappointment in the 2012 Cup of Nations.

In Day 2 of Group B, Angola could not overcome Sudan, one of the weakest teams in the Cup, despite two goals from Manuchi on Thursday 26 January in Malabo Stadium, Equatorial Guinea. If they had won, Angola would have qualified for the quarter finals. The four goals from the match can be seen in the following video [fr]:

Ivory Coast and Burkina Faso met at Malabo later that day for the second match in Day 2 of Group B. The Elephants of Ivory Coast beat the Stallions 2-0, qualifying for the quarter finals while Burkina Faso were eliminated.

Fans of Ivory Coast watching the match against Sudan by @FlorianK_Sportflorian" width="480" />

Fans of Ivory Coast watching the match against Sudan by @FlorianK_Sport

Day 2 of Group C on the Friday saw Gabon beat Morocco 3-2 and Tunisia beat Nigeria 2-1, securing quarter final places for the Panthers of Gabon and the Eagles of Carthage.

The 2012 Africa Cup of Nations can be followed on the BBC website and on Twitter using the hashtags #CAN2012 and #AFCON2012.

January 28 2012

Equatorial Guinea: A Story Idea for Journalists Covering the Africa Cup of Nations

Shelby Grossman shares a story idea for journalists covering the Africa Cup of Nations in Equatorial Guinea: ” There is a fear among those who have been in the country for a while that after the tournament the government will conduct raids and crack down on illegal immigration. The harassment of foreign West Africans is already awful.”

January 25 2012

Africa: 2012 Cup of Nations Kicks Off!

[All links to external content are in French]

The Africa Cup of Nations began in Bata, Equatorial Guinea this Saturday January 21, 2012, kicking off three weeks of fierce competition. The Cup of Nations, the most important international football competition in Africa, is taking place in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea between January 21 and 12 February.

Supporters in Africa and around the world have been enjoying the build-up to the two opening matches; dancing, light and sound were all part of the spectacle:

GaGuie the Mascot! With GAGUIE : GA as in Gabon, GUI as in Guinea and E as in Equatorial! Image from fr.cafonline.com with permission

GaGuie the Mascot! With GAGUIE : GA as in Gabon, GUI as in Guinea and E as in Equatorial! Image from fr.cafonline.com with permission

Here is a round up of the first three days of the tournament.

Matchday One

Libya took on Equatorial Guinea in the curtain raiser on 21 January, and it was co-hosts Equatorial Guinea, making their tournament debut, who took a surprise 1-0 win.

With just six minutes remaining, Balboa, the Equatorial Guinea number 11 finally opened the scoring after a one-on-one with the Libyan goalkeeper. The score stayed 1-0 until the final whistle, to the delight of the Equatorial Guinea fans who had packed the stadium.

The Senegalese fluffed their entry to the competition with a 2-1 defeat inflicted by Zambia on the same day. Senegal fans took to the web to place the blame on coach of the national team.

Touy wrote on Seneweb News [fr]:

le souci avec un entraîneur local c'est que même s'il se rend compte que le capitaine par exemple Niang n'est pas au niveau il aura la crainte la peur ou la pudeur de le faire sortir au détriment de la victoire bien sur!!

The problem with having a local coach is that even if he realises that the captain, let's say Niang, is not good enough he'll either be afraid or too modest to take him off, to the detriment of getting the win of course!

Amara Traoré [fr] on RFI sheds some light on the subject for us:

Tout le monde savait avant même le début de la CAN que les zambiens sont très vifs et utiliseraient cette vivacité pour gérer les sénégalais beaucoup plus costauds. Alors lui l’entraîneur et son staff devraient trouver un bon système pour les contenir avant de les attaquer.Donc je trouve kil n'a pas fais son boulot qui était de voir les choses venir et de jouer avec des joueurs rapides mais surtout de ne pas trop bourrer cette attaque ou personne ne se retrouve .

Everyone knew, even before the Cup of Nations began, that the Zambians are very energetic and would use that energy to combat the much bigger and stronger Sengalese. So the coach and his staff should find a system to contain thembefore going on the attack. He hasn't done his job which is to anticipate and play fast players but above all not to throw men forward who then can't find each other.

Matchday Two

The second matchday saw the entry of one of the competition favourites: the ‘Elephants' of Côte d'Ivoire. A magnificent strike by Didier Drogba in the 39th minute secured the victory for Côte d'Ivoire over Sudan. The win for the Elephants wasn't enough for every Ivorian fan on the net however. Many felt that they could have done better.

Phox Hermann [fr] said:

la vérité est bonne à dire heinnn. ELEPHANT ke moi jai vu là c N'IMPORTE KOI

Good to tell the truth, riiight. That was no ELEPHANT that I saw

Bi Tia Vincent Toh [fr] added:

la conservation d'un unique but nous a donné des sueurs froides.
Que Mr Gervino soit un peu plus réaliste devant les buts,
Que Mr Yaya Touré regagne sa place au milieu et joue effectivement comme à city
Que la defense cesse d etre trop permeable,

keeping hold of a one goal lead brought us out in a cold sweat.
If only Mr Gervino [sic] was more realistic in front of goal,
If only Mr Yaya Touré could get his place back in the middle and play as well as he does at city
If only the defence stopped leaking,

Angola also played their first game and overpowered Burkina Faso with a 2-1 victory.

Matchday Three

Gabon, the second co-host team of the 2012 Cup of Nations showed their strength with a 2-0 win over Niger, the opening Group C match of the tournament played in a fantastic atmosphere in the Stade de l'Amitié in Libreville.

Rodrigue Magaya [fr] commented on Aubameyang's goal on Facebook:

que dire?!!!merci aux gars, il fallait ça pour la beauté du spetacle et naturelement monter a tt nos adversaires que nous sommes la!!bien en place et on a pas peur!!!vive la can, et vive encore plus nos pantheres;que Dieu benisse le gabon!!!!!!

what can I say?!!!thanks to the lads, we needed that for the beauty of the contest and naturally to show all our opponents that we're here!!right on the spot and with no fear!!long live the cup of nations, and may our panthers live even longer;God bless Gabon!!!!!!

The 2012 Cup of Nations can be followed on TV5 MondeCanal+ Afrique and on Twitter and Google+ via the hashtags #CAN2012 (in French) et #ACN2012 (in English).

January 24 2012

Africa: Sex, Love and Magic at the Africa Cup of Nations 2012

2012 is undoubtedly a significant year for football lovers in Africa as Gabon and Equatorial Guinea host the main football competition in Africa, the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON). The tournament has been held every two years since 1968. However, the tournament will now move to odd-numbered years from 2013.

Writing about the tournament on FourFourTwo, Jonathan Fadugba (@JustFootball) shows how Africa's 41st best footballing nation, Equatorial Guinea, came to host the AFCON:

As one of the smallest countries in continental Africa, what do you do if you cannot play your way to a major international tournament? In Equatorial Guinea's case the answer was simple. You buy your way in.

Aided by the discovery of vast oil and gas reserves that prompted huge economic growth in the mid-1990s, Equatorial Guinea found the resources possible to mount a joint bid with neighbours Gabon. After seeing off competition from Nigeria, in 2006 they were named joint hosts for what will be their first ever African Cup of Nations.

In a sense, therefore, the challenge is already won for the Nzalang Nacional. As a nation with just 2,300 registered players merely competing on such a stage is impressive enough.

He continues to describe what Equatorial Guinea’s Head of State is expecting:

 

2012 Africa Cup of Nations logo. Image source: cafonline.com

President Obiang has boldly declared that he expects Equatorial Guinea to go all the way at this Cup of Nations. “Not only do we want the national team to display attractive football and sporting values, we also want them to win the Cup. The trophy must remain in Equatorial Guinea,” he stated. But really this is a pipe dream. The squad is arguably the weakest in the competition 

Krobea D’Bee (@kwame_amoh), a Ghananian sports columnist, roots for his team the Black Stars – the nickname for Ghana’s national team. He starts by saying:

The 2012 Africa Cup of Nations will be one of the keenly contested continental showpieces irrespective of opinions making rounds that it will not live up to the billing as a result of the absence of nations like Egypt, Cameroon and Nigeria

He goes on to say:

Truly, the joint-favourites tag carried by Ghana and Ivory Coast is deserving though it puts pressure on the two West African neighbours. For Ghana’s Black Stars, the pressure is doubled some sort because of their performance at the global showpiece before this tournament

Erick E. Cleves, a blogger based in Venezuela, predicts a Ghana-Ivory Coast final:

Although the tournament has many interesting and powerful sides, the favourites are surely the Ivory Coast and Ghana. Both teams have a strong base of experienced European-based players, and both have experience of international tournaments at the highest level.
My support and heart is with the Black Stars! And I hope to be able to watch some African football from here in South America!

A 15-year-old blogger (@NathSalt1) notes the ‘headache’ that teams in the English Premier League have to undergo while losing their players for a month or so to the continental competition:

Every Premier League manager’s nightmare, but spectators and a scouts dream. With some of the best and hottest worldwide talents on display the African Nations Cup is always a delight to watch. The tournament illustrates the strength of talent Africa can offer top clubs around the world. With competition in the tournament improving hugely every two years that it’s staged a lot of teams will feel they can make a push to win it.

Mark (@twoht) has quite a detailed preview of the 2012 showcase:

Sudan are no longer a nation, after partition in July 2011, although the fledgling South Sudan national side still has international affiliations to sort out. While Libya are a very different nation indeed after the bloodiest of cabinet reshuffles last spring… Libyan football was hugely complicated by the fact that Colonel Gaddafi’s son Saadi could play the game properly – even if his career was boosted by the predictable “helping hands.” So “politicised” was almost a euphemism.

Libya’s pre-uprising captain, Tariq Ibrahim Al-Tayib, openly declared his and his team’s support for Gaddafi. But that was probably why he was captain. Others thought differently as they metaphorically battled on at neutral venues while real battles were fought at home (never were metaphors of war to describe football more inappropriate)….

Gabon’s qualification as co-hosts comes two years after they were squeaked out of a quarter-final place in the Angolan tournament’s tightest group. However, Equatorial Guinea have no such competition tradition and are internationally-ranked lower than the earth’s core – the lowest Fifa-ranked team (and by some distance too, at 151) in the tournament

He also discusses an article that looks at the relationship between the tournament and ‘oil-rich” nations:

A thought-provoking article by Sam Wallace in the Independent newspaper likened Equatorial Guinea to Qatar – in the “lots of lovely oil” sense, as much as “the only way Equatorial Guinea were going to play in the African Nations was by hosting it”. But this blazed no trail, as Austria and Switzerland showed in Euro 2008. Wallace was also scathing of the African Confederation (CAF) for selecting politically “unsuitable” tournament hosts (Libya were due to be 2013 hosts until their “regime change”)… Wallace’s basic point was a good one, well-made. The event has become “the target of oil-rich nations with dubious track records and in need of a PR-stunt.”

Finally, a popular sports analyst, Gary Al-Smith (@garyalsmith) looks at the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations through Sex, Love and Magic:

 

AFCON trophy is the most coveted trophy in African soccer. Image released under Creative Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0) by Shasta

The sex tales are applicable to Botswana as well. First-timers at the tournament, they reek of naiveté. 

Why else would the team have to order (not suggest) grown men not to ‘boink’?

The Zebras [the Botswana national team] have been warned to stay away from sexual activities, with boss Stanley Tshosane warning that “sex drains energy from a player and I expect my players to abstain till end of the tournament”. He’s also issued drug abuse warnings, touting “face-to-face and group talks with the players.”

While some of the methods were based in medical science, rumour mongers accused Ghana of jinxing their Group D opponents by using ‘charms.’
Magic is not new to the African Cup. From the failure of South Africa to qualify being blamed on non-payment of a sangoma to the assertion that Michael Essien’s injury at Angola 2010 was caused by psychic powers, there are countless stories.

Ask players with Cameroon why there never seems to be peace between their star-studded lineup, and you may get whispers of how there are “too many marabouts working for the same team”, thereby cancelling out the efficacy of their powers. Is there any truth to these stories? That is certainly open to question.

Gabon and Equatorial Guinea, the hosts, will use every trick in the book – fair or foul – to get as far as they can. After all, it’s what hosts do. Equatorial Guinea have offered $1 million USD to the team for every victory, in addition to $20,000 for every goal.

Outrageous amounts of money have been splashed before but not like this.

He ends the post by saying:

As ever, there are bound to be many subplots in the tournament which starts (on January 21st) and ends on February 12. Here’s hoping there isn’t too much boinking in obscure places

December 31 2011

Online Highlights from the Portuguese-Speaking World in 2011

2011 has been another year in which bloggers and activists from a number of Portuguese-speaking countries have come together to report, translate and promote blogs and citizen media from all over the world. This article selects the highlights in the coverage of Lusophone countries on Global Voices over the last year.

Portuguese language and culture

In February we covered several blogs that gave voice to their love of the Portuguese language, paying tribute to the great variety of dialects spoken by more than 200 million people worldwide.

Hau nia lian, hau nia rain (A minha língua, a minha terra). Foto de Sapo Noticias Timor Leste (domínio público)

Hau nia lian, hau nia rain (My language, my country). Photo by Sapo Noticias Timor Leste (public domain)

In May the newspaper @Verdade, our partner in Mozambique, described Portuguese as a language that is bound up in what it means to be Mozambican.

In its coverage of Timor Leste, Global Voices examined the role of languages in asserting the identity of a country which has 16 national languages and dozens of dialects. Some blogs on Cape Verde also suggested that there are “distinct social functions” for both the language spoken by the people, Crioulo, and the official language, Portuguese.

Online demonstrations brought a more political dimension to bear on this issue, with heated reactions to the proposal for Equatorial Guinea to become a member of the Community of Portuguese Language Countries, despite having a poor track record on human rights.

Brazil: Paths towards Development

In spite of the current global crisis, Brazil is experiencing a period of economic optimism fuelled by domestic consumption. In order to maintain this growth, ongoing development policy in the country has been putting pressure on the environment and human rights.

O custo social da expansão de biocombustível: a comunidade indígena Guarani Kaoiwa de Laranjeira Nhanderu foram expulsos de suas terras há 14 meses atrás para dar lugar as plantações de cana.Foto de Annabel Symington, direitos Demotix (21/10/10).

The social cost of the rising demand for biofuels: the indigenous Guarani Kaoiwa community of Laranjeira Nhanderu were expelled from their lands 14 months ago to make way for sugarcane plantations. Photo by Annabel Symington, copyright Demotix (10/21/10).

The Amazon rainforest is seen as potential land for agriculture and as a source of raw materials and energy. Brazil's new forestry code, which regulates the use of the country's forests, has led to concerns and public demonstrations against the encouragement of farming and deforestation. “Green” agribusiness focused on biofuels and the replacement of felled trees with eucalyptus plantations have been shown to be unsustainable practices in both social and environmental terms. The dispute for land provoked by agribusiness led to the killing of activists and indigenous leaders during 2011. Yet Brazil is persisting in exporting its agribusiness model to other countries, such as Mozambique, regardless.

Coverage of events surrounding the Belo Monte Dam certainly caused the greatest outcry this year, uniting environmentalists, indigenous people and Brazilians living alongside the affected rivers. Protests in the immediate area of the dam and in major cities attracted international attention and challenged the human rights policy of Dilma Rousseff's government. This action did not wane after construction of the plant began, but rather took on different forms, including an Occupy protest by the Tupiniquim people and court cases.

These and related issues have been organised into four special features: Forest Focus: AmazonDossiê Belo Monte [only in pt], Indigenous Rights and Global Development.

Portugal: Crisis, Austerity and Protests

From the “Scraping-by Generation” protest in March to participation in the global protests on 15 October, Portugal has seen its political and economic crisis reach unprecedented proportions in 2011, with the fall of a government and the EU committee coming into the country to effect the financial “rescue” of public debt.

Keep calm and protest. Indignados em frente à Câmara do Porto. Foto da organização do 15 de Outubro.

Keep calm and protest: outraged protesters outside Porto Town Hall. Photo by the protest organisers, 15 October.

Netizens took to social networks to mobilise action against severe austerity measures and to speak out in opposition to the racket conducted by the rating agencies, but also to gain inspiration from other countries, such as Iceland, on other forms of public participation.

Having launched a page devoted to special coverage of the current situation, Europe in Crisis, in September, Global Voices has acted as a bridge between different languages and has facilitated greater dialogue between outraged citizens from European countries that are suffering similar problems.

Angola: 32 Years in Power sparks Protests

In Angola the sense of revolt against the 32-year government led by José Eduardo dos Santos is becoming increasingly palpable in the streets and on the internet. Protests would have begun in March had the government not been successful in pre-empting them.

In September the police used heavy force to break up a protest, resulting in at least 18 protesters receiving prison sentences. Against all expectations, the movement has regrouped, while the number of citizen reporters in the country is also on the increase.

Video uploaded to the post Angola: Videos of Repressed Youth Protest in Luanda

Internet and the digital culture in Brazil

The fruits of increasingly widespread access to the internet in Brazil were borne out in 2011 by many creative, collective and effective examples of action. One such case was the mobilisation of social networks to take down a paedophile blog, and the call put out on Facebook to join in the unique “Different People's Big Barbeque Protest” in an upscale São Paulo neighbourhood.

Cartaz do protesto "Queremos ser Maria Bethania" convocado por Leon Prado no Facebook.

Protest poster which reads "We want to be Maria Bethania", organised by Leon Prado on Facebook.

The online arena has also been the scene for a number of less auspicious episodes related to digital culture. In January the Ministry of Culture announced that it was abandoning Creative Commons licensing on its site, a blatant step backwards in public policy on the internet and copyright. Shortly afterwards, in March, the same ministry allowed the famous signer Maria Bethânia to raise 1.3 million reais tax-free for the creation of a poetry blog, thereby rousing the ire of bloggers, the twitterati and activists involved in the cultural sphere.

Cases of online censorship continue to crop up and, on occasion, overflow into the non-virtual world, with attacks on bloggers who are critical of the authorities.

In December we became aware of renewed death threats made against Ricardo Gama, who blogs against cases of the abuse of power and other irregularities by the Brazilian police. Gama had already been shot in an attack in Rio de Janeiro in March. Towards the end of this year, many were not convinced by the reason of “suicide by hanging” given for the death of Hamilton Alexandre, a controversial blogger from Santa Catarina, and social networks are being used to call for a thorough investigation of the case.

In 2012 we will continue to listen to the stories that are being told by the citizens of the world through the internet, and to amplify them so that they reach a global audience. Our doors are always open to anyone who wants to get involved in what Super magazine earlier this year dubbed “one of the 10 coolest projects on the internet”.

João Miguel Lima collaborated on this post.

November 08 2011

Equatorial Guinea: Teodoro Obiang Nguema and his son face the French justice system

 

The president of Equatorial Guinea, Teodoro Obiang Nguema, appeared more offended than concerned to find himself among 30 leaders, four of them from  Africa, who stole from their people, assets estimated at several billion dollars.  This is according to a report published in 2009 by the Catholic Committee Against Hunger and for Development (CCFDT - Terre Solidaire)  entitled “ill gotten goods, who does crime profit”?

According to Reporters without Borders, the Equatorial Guinean president, who is presented by the national radio in his country as an “Equatorial Guinean God”, lodged a complaint against the authors of the report.  However, the 17th chamber of the Tribunal de grande instance de Paris, dismissed the case on October 7.

A blog from an association called Survie, reports:

“Teodoro Obiang complained particularly about certain passages in the report, indicating that he established a “real authoritarian regime” and that his clan amassed a fortune estimated between 500 and 700 million dollars, from the diversion of oil revenue.

As far as the tribunal was concerned, the cautionary wording, the abundance in testimony and references in the incriminating report, demonstrated the honesty of the writers of the report.  Moreover, the tribunal ordered the president of Equatorial Guinea, to pay 2,500 euros to each of the four he accused, for the abusive nature of his complaint”.

Further down on the same note, the following remark appears:

“At the outset of the hearing, president Obiang's lawyers, lamented the present day climate in France as being unfavourable towards African leaders”.

Afriquejet.com published the following story from PANA (Panafrican Press Agency):

“Moreover, the report affirms that this wealth was derived from the diversion of oil revenue and that 80% of the national income would have been monopolized by the oligarchy in power in Malabo.  In its document, the association accuses the leader of Equatorial Guinea and 10 members of his family, of having laundered 26.5 million dollars in real estate purchases between 2000 and 2003.  The president would also have acquired a mansion on Avenue Foch in Paris”.

This decision took place within a few days of the Paris police, seizing 11 luxury cars belonging to 43 year old, Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue, also known as “Teodorin” minister of Agriculture and Forestry, son of the president.  The France-Guineeequatoriale.org site, states the following specifics:

“The eleven vehicles seized at the time of the search, were 2 Bugatti Veyrons, 1 Maserati MC12, 1 Porsche Carrera GT, 1 Ferrari Enzo and 1 Ferrari 59 GTO, 1 Aston Martin V8 V600 LM, 1 Rolls-Royce Phantom, 1 Drophead Coupe, 1 Bentley Azure and 1 Bentley Brooklands Coupe, from 500 to 1001 horsepower and from 200,000 to approximately 2 milion euros an item.

The operation decided upon by the French justice system, took place right in front of residents and passersby at 42 Avenue Foch, in the beautiful districts of Paris, a stone's throw away from the Arc de Triomphe”.

The blog mentions that the opulent-looking building of more than 2000 m could belong to Teodorin, adding that:

“Last September 21st, the two judges Roger Le Loire and Rene Grouman, in charge of the case of “ill gotten goods ” (BMA) had already ordered a search of the mansion”.

The caradisiac.com site published a letter from Patrick Garcia showing a video of the 11 vehicles.

Contrary to what the powers in Malabo might suggest, this action is not deemed a persecution.  It had to do with new developments in the “ill gotten goods” affair and is dificult to disociate from French media revelations, the dubious accumulation of wealth regarding the financing of political parties by African dictators.

According a a letter published on the blog of Afrik.com:

The public prosecutor's office in Paris, proceeded Wednesday with a search of the offices of lawyers and notaries within the context of the investigation of the “ill gotten goods” in France, of African heads of state, Denis Sassou Nguesso of the Congo, Teodoro Obiang Nguema of Equatorial Guinea and the late Gabonese president, Omar Bongo Ondimba.

The powers in Malabo, felt compelled to publish a press release to voice their protest.  The site afreekelection.com published a letter citing:

“According to Malabo, the seizure of several vehicles on Wednesday, belonging to the Equatorial Guinean president's family, took place just two days prior to a new meeting that was to be held in Paris to deal with the cost of the creation of Unesco-Obiang Nguema Mbasogo”.

The presentation of this award, created in 2008, was suspended in 2010 following protests from NGO human rights activists and high profile personalities such as Nobel Peace prize winner Desmond Tutu of South Africa.

The denunciation of this initiative, started bearing fruit because after lengthy discussions the case was postponed until the following spring.

With a per capita income estimated in 2010 at $14,540, the 668,225 inhabitants of Equatorial Guinea were classified as being among the wealthiest populations among non-OCDE countries.  This is only according to the statistics.  In reality, the wealth attributed to leaders is quite different from that of the population.  Even though this country is the third largest producer of oil in sub-saharan Africa, its people live in poverty.  Access to drinking water and electricity, is a dream for many.  Life expectancy in 2009 was 62.37 years, classifying it at 180th place in the world, behind other African countries of lesser wealth, that are better managed.

 

November 04 2011

Equatorial Guinea: President Appoints Son as Deputy Envoy to UNESCO and the FAO

According to  guineequatoriale-info.net [fr], the President of Equatorial Guinea, Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, has appointed his son to lead the National Directorate of the ongoing referendum campaign to create a vice-presidency position. This appointment comes  one week after appointing him as deputy envoy to UNESCO in Paris and to the FAO in Rome.

October 03 2011

Equatorial Guinea: 11 Luxury Cars Belonging to Obiang's Son Seized in Paris

11 luxury cars belonging to the son of Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, president of Equatorial Guinea were seized [fr] on September 28 in Paris, as part of the undergoing “Ill-Gotten Gains” investigation. Tokinambo reacts to the news on the togocity blog [fr] : “O Africa, a president's son can own 11 luxury cars. What exactly is his job description again?  In Equatorial Guinea, the common man is struggling to feed himself and this kid is showered with luxury goods. My question is: if the son owns 11 cars, how many does the father own himself?”

 

September 18 2011

France, Africa: Suitcases Filled with Cash Expose The Françafrique Connection

Fresh out of the Dominique Strauss Kahn scandal, a new scandal is now rocking France and the upcoming 2012 French presidential campaign.  Robert Bourgi, a shady lawyer and advisor for “African affairs” confessed [fr] to French media he had acted for years as go-between between French politicians and Francophone Africa heads of states, delivering approximatively $20 millions in cash to former President Chirac, former Minister of Foreign Affairs Dominique de Villepin, and  extreme-right leader Jean-Marie Le Pen, to finance  past election campaigns.

Screen shot of Lawyer R. Bourgi on BFM TV with Ruth Elkrief

Despite the storm of denials and libel suits , Mwona Mboka, in Congo, echoed a widely shared feeling [fr], in France and in Africa:

Ce n’est pas un scoop, tout le monde le sait. Il a tout simplement oublié de nous révéler le montant des commissions qu’il prenait au passage.

This is not exactly breaking news because everyone knew this. He only omitted to reveal the amount of the commissions he siphonned from those deals for himself.

Françafrique, a generic name for French neocolonialism and the plundering of  natural resources in its former colonies, has been investigated  for years, though books, articles and documentaries (video). However, this is the first time that a key player of  the “Françafrique” network, on a first-name basis with African presidents, gave insiders information. His confession reads like a  mafia-film script: wads of cash stuffed in suitcases or even in African drums  delivered to the Elysee Palace, codenames such as “Mamadou” for Minister De villepin, and “Daddy” for late President Bongo.

The cast of alleged funders, all African presidents, include: the late Omar Bongo in Gabon, Blaise Compaoré in Burkina Faso, Laurent Gbagbo in Cote d'Ivoire, President Wade and his son Karim in Senegal, Denis Sassou Nguesso in the Republic of Congo, and even President of Equatorial Guinea, a former Spanish colony, Teodoro Obiang.  A close aide of ex President Gbagbo[fr] in Côte d'Ivoire  confirmed Bourgi's allegations.

“50 years of Françafrique is enough!' - Demonstration poster (2010) from website Survie.org

Thousand of comments and reactions have flooded African blogospheres. In the Republic of Congo, an oil-rich country riled with poverty, 216 Congolese expressed on Mwinda.com[fr] the anger, humiliation and exasperation shared by netizen accross Francophone Africa.

René Mavoungou Pambou [fr]:

Voilà qu’on nous flanque en plein visage les méfaits ou crimes dont est capable la prétendue douce France, berceau des droits de l’homme.

And now, they throw in our faces the misdeeds or crimes that the so-called “Sweet France', the craddle of human rights, is capable of.

Mouk writes [fr]:

tant que la France sera en Afrique, il n y aura ni paix ni développement. la classe politique française étant l'une des plus prostituées au monde, la démocratie et les libertés pour les africains ne la concernent pas.

As long as France will be in Africa, there will be no peace or development. France political clique being one of the most prostituted in the world, they are not concerned with democracy and freedoms for Africans.

Ata Ndele, on the same comment thread, is thinking ahead:

Les spécialistes africains du droit peuvent-ils nous dire si nous pouvons , nous aussi, porter plainte en tant que partie civile ?

Could African law specialists tell us if it is possible for us  to file a civil suit  as well?

A number of commentators, like Yacobi, turn their anger toward their leaders:

Vous hommes politiques africains, commencez à mieux traiter vos peuples, les blancs vont vous regarder différemment.

African politicians, start treating your people better, and white men will look at you differently.

Mame Diop, on his Facebook page [fr], links the money sent to France and the widespread underdevelopment:

Combien de mères vont encore mourir ce soir en donnant la vie, faute de dispensaire, d'ambulances, de routes praticables, de médecins! Combien? […] Débarrassons nous de cette bande de macaques!!!

How many mothers will die tonight while giving birth, for lack of clinics, of ambulances, of tar roads, of doctors? How many?[…] Let's get rid of this bunch of monkeys !!!

 
In Senegal,  Seneweb [fr] site is bursting with reactions to the alleged implication of President Wade and his son, as the 2012 presidential election looms:

Lune :Je crois que laisser une minute de plus Abdoulaye Wade et sa maudite famille à la tete de notre pays releverait de la lacheté

Lune: I think that letting Abdoulaye Wade and his darn family for another minute at the head of our country would be a show of cowardice.

Mooo:

je pense que le temps est venu de limiter nos relations avec ces puissances occidentales voyous qui nous ont maintenu dans la pauvreté,les guerres civiles,les dictatures pendant des siècles.Le moment est venu pour l'Afrique de s'ouvrir aux autres puissances et pays émergents tels:La Chine,Le Japon,le Brésil et certains pays arabes.Nos relations d'avec les puissances occidentales pendant des siècles ne nous valu que tristesse et misère.

I think the time has come to minimize our relationship with those Western rogue states, they maintained us in poverty, civil wars, dictatures, for centuries. The time has come for Africa to open itself to other powers and emerging countries, such as China, Japan, Brazil, and some Arab countries. Our relationships with Western countries, for centuries, have brought us nothing but misery and poverty.

Senegalese Ahmadou Fall thinks it is already the case [fr]on Afrique en ligne:

Le choix des dirigeants (chefs d'États) n'est plus une prérogative de la France au gré de ses intérêts et de sa stratégie géopolitique.La France qui reçoit ces valises de la honte, remplies de billets destinés au financement occulte de partis politiques est cette même France qui perd sa place dans cette Afrique qui s'oriente vers d'autres partenaires…Le Rwanda de Paul Kagame l'illustre assez bien avec la destitution du français comme langue officielle, au profit de l'anglais. La percée des pays asiatiques en lieu et place des anciennes puissances coloniales montre qu'il faut plus que jamais changer d'attitude et de stratégie…

Picking out heads of states according to its interests and its geopolitical strategy is no longer a prerogative of France. France, with these suitcases of shame, filled with banknotes to secretly fund its political parties, is the same France that loses its influence while Africa is moving forward with other partners … In Rwanda, Paul Kagame illustrates this quite well, with the removal of French as an official language, in favor of English. The rise of Asian countries in lieu of former colonial powers shows that more than ever a change of attitude and strategy is needed.

Adopt a French presidential candidate!

In Burkina Faso, a country troubled by violent mutinies in the army, Leyla M. Diallo launches a tongue-in-cheeck appeal to her president, on opposition  Facebook group Blaise Campaoré doit partir [fr](Blaise Campaoré must go):

Toi qui es assuré de gagner ton élection à 80% des suffrages exprimés, partage un peu de ta béatitude avec un candidat perclus de sous-financement aigu sévère. Toi, dont les dépenses courantes sont moins contrôlées que dans les pays du Nord: parraine un présidentiable français!”

You, who are assured to win your election with 80% of the votes, please share a little of your good fortune with a candidate stricken with acute under-financement. You, whose expenditures are less controled than in northern countries: adopt a French presidential candidate!

Faso.net has republished a column from Le Pays, urging civil society to come forward [fr]:

les Africains doivent comprendre qu’ils sont les vrais perdants dans cette histoire. Il est temps qu’ils fassent preuve de maturité et prennent à bras-le-corps leurs responsabilités. L’obligation de rendre compte, inhérente à toute gouvernance démocratique, doit cesser d’être un simple discours. La balle est, pour cet aggiornamento, dans le camp de la société civile africaine. Elle doit sortir de sa torpeur et prendre le relais, pour demander des explications à tous les gouvernants

Africans must understand they are the real losers of this story. It's high time for them to show they are mature and tackle their responsabilities. The obligation of accountability, central to any democratic governance, must go beyond mere words. The ball is, for this awakening call, in the field of African civil society. It must snap out of its slumber and take charge, to demand explanations from all its leaders.

In France, where a judge has scheduled a preliminary hearing of Robert Bourgi, Survie.org, the pioneer organisation who filed a lawsuit against African leaders and their “ill gotten gains” in France, urges French voters to demand a thorough parliamentary investigation, on the eve of their own presidential election:

un tel audit devra poser toutes les questions qui fâchent, qu’il s’agisse du soutien aux dictateurs africains et aux contreparties obtenues, du financement occulte de la vie politique française, du rôle de l’armée française et de ses multiples ingérences, des multinationales, du franc CFA, etc.Au-delà des mallettes et des millions d’euros évoqués dans cette affaire, il est utile de rappeler que l’Afrique est victime d’une prédation économique et financière particulièrement sophistiquée

The investigation will have to raise every difficult questions: the support to African dictators and the price they paid for it, the secret financing of French political life, the role of the French army and its multiple interferences, the role of the corporations, of the Franc CFA currency, etc. Beyond the suitcases and the millions of Euros of this scandal, it is useful to remind readers that Africa is the victim of a particularly sophisticated economical and financial looting.
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