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December 08 2013

3,000 Students Protest against Educational Reform in Gabon

Reforms to the educational system were suspended [fr] in Gabon after teachers and students marched together in protests. In the proposed reform, the final exam to obtain the high school diploma will be done in one round instead of two and the entry into high school will be subjected to a final exam instead of a passing grade at the end of the final year of middle high school. Charlie M. explains what was at stake :

By acting spontaneously without waiting for a go ahead word from anyone, young students demonstrated that they were capable on their own, to realize that to deal with the situation, it was necessary for them to intervene and mobilize. Nobody would do it in their place; especially not their elders who are not capable of that. The youth, unlike their seniors, understand better that democrats, regardless of their views, cannot accept that their rights be violated, and therefore cannot yield when it comes to these fundamental issues such as the right to a quality education

A young student n in defiance of the security forces in the streets of Libreville, Gabon via le Gabon qui dit non

A young student n in defiance of the security forces in the streets of Libreville, Gabon via le Gabon qui dit non

August 27 2013

Gabon : les défis de l'énergie - RFI

Gabon : les défis de l’énergie - RFI

http://www.rfi.fr/emission/20130827-gabon-electricite-alenakiri-seeg-bongo?ns_campaign=nl_AFRIQUE270813&amp

Au Gabon, à la veille de la célébration de la fête nationale de l’indépendance, le 17 août dernier, le président Ali Bongo Ondimba a inauguré une nouvelle centrale électrique. La centrale d’Alénakiri est censée mettre fin aux coupures de courant que subissent régulièrement les habitants de Libreville, la capitale gabonaise. D’autres centrales devraient bientôt être inaugurées. L’objectif est d’assurer l’indépendance énergétique d’ici à 2016, sans confier ces nouvelles centrales à la Société d’eau et d’énergie du Gabon, la SEEG. Cette société, jusqu’à présent en situation de monopole, est détestée par les Gabonais.

#gabon #énergie

May 09 2013

Fight Against Ritual Killings Gears Up in Gabon

The discovery of a young girl's mutilated body on a beach in Gabon's capital city of Libreville has renewed the fight in this Central African country against the superstitious practice of ritual killings.

Ritual killing in Gabon is based on the belief that retrieving a living person's organs allows someone else to get strength. Though it is unclear if the girl, who was discovered on 19 March, 2013, was a victim of a ritual killing, the case ignited fears that the practice is on the rise.

There have been as many as 20 instances of ritual killings so far in Gabon in 2013.

Social media networks rose up en force on Twitter, using the #OpGabon and #SOSGabon hashtags to demand justice for the victims. The issue gained even more attention after hacktivist group Anonymous stepped in and posted a graphic video about ritual killings on 11 April, 2013, urging net users to take action: 

An attempt to organize a protest against the killings for 13 April, 2013 [fr] was denied by the minister of the interior, fueling criticism that the Gabonese government allows ritual killings to occur with impunity. Gabonese communities in France and Canada joined in the outcry, thrusting ritual killings into the international spotlight.

The global scrutiny force the normally tight-lipped Gabonese President Ali Bongo Ondimba to issue a statement that avoided mentioning ritual crime but condemned crime in general. First Lady Sylvia Bongo Ondimba has spoken out against the ritual killings specifically, however.

The government also relented on the protest, and the Association for the Prevention of Ritual Crime plans a peaceful march in Libreville on 11 May, 2013 [fr].

The problem of ritual killings is not exclusive to Gabon – all of Sub-Saharan Africa is affected by these murders. For instance, the following video by Youtube user xpxr5 reports on ritual killings of albinos in Burundi [fr]:

It also isn't a new problem. A major protest [fr] against the practice swept through the city of Lambaréné in January 2013. Since May 2012, Gabon's National Observatory for Democracy has called for the establishment of a commission to identify all instances of ritual killing that have occurred in the the last 22 years and for the recognition of such offences as crimes against humanity [fr]. Gabon Review notes in that post that people in high power should not get away[fr] with it:

personne d’autre de haut placé n’a été cité, indexé ou inquiété au cours de ces sessions spéciales. L’opinion nationale a pourtant une conviction intime : les crimes dits rituels sont commandités par des acteurs politiques.

No one in position of power has been charged or convicted during the court session (dedicated to ritual killings). Yet public opinion knows that the so-called ritual crimes are often ordered by politicians

Manifestations contre les crimes rituels au Gabon - capture d'écran de la vidéo garenghem sur YouTube

Protests against ritual killings in Gabon – screen-capture from  a video from YouTube user gwarenghem about protests rituals killings in Libreville, Gabon

Journalist Olivier Herviaux, writing on his blog  ”Africamix la Case à palabres” (The Debate Hut) hosted by French newspaper Le Monde, described Gabon's fight against the killings in recent years [fr]:

Depuis plusieurs années, le crime rituel fait régulièrement la « une » des journaux, notamment au Gabon. Le 3 mars 2005, deux corps d'enfants sont retrouvés, mutilés, sur une plage de Libreville. L'un des corps est celui d'un des fils de Jean-Elvis Ebang Ondo, âgé de 12 ans. Quelques mois après le drame, Jean-Elvis Ebang Ondo fonde l'Association de lutte contre les crimes rituels (ALCR).

For several years now, ritual killings have regularly featured in the front-page news, notably in Gabon. On 3 March 2005, the bodies of two children were found, mutilated, on a beach in Libreville. One of the bodies was that of Jean-Elvis Ebang Ondo's 12 year-old son. A few months after the disaster, Jean-Elvis Ebang Ondo founded the Association for the Prevention of Ritual Crimes.

Herviaux went on to condemn the practice [fr]:

C'est l'un des actes les plus marquants de la barbarie et de l'obscurantisme des sociétés humaines, l'un de ceux qui nourrissent tous les fantasmes, en Afrique, en Occident et ailleurs. Nous sommes bien Au cœur des ténèbres, comme l'écrivait Joseph Conrad.

This is one of the most striking acts of barbarity and obscurantism in human society, one of those that feeds all kinds of myths, in Africa and in the West as elsewhere. As Joseph Conrad wrote, we are deep into into the Heart of Darkness.

Emmanuel Kouassi, who is building a fact-file on ritual killings [fr] on his blog politique et autres (politics and others) [fr], offered deeper insight into the kilings:

Le crime. En droit, c’est le fait de donner la mort ou d’ôter la vie à quelqu’un. Il est, par conséquent, considéré comme un homicide, un acte prémédité.

Et le crime rituel? C’est un crime qui est commis sur la base d’un certain nombre de pratiques, soit traditionnelles ou religieuses, soit culturelles ou mystiques. Dans tous les cas, le crime rituel, est commis dans le but d’utiliser une partie de l’organe du corps humain, pour des sacrifices ; ou, tout simplement, pour des rituels. C’est, malheureusement, à cette pratique que s’adonnent certaines personnes pour, selon plusieurs interlocuteurs, devenir riches. Leurs principaux conseillers : les marabouts ou féticheurs. A chacun son marabout ou féticheur. Souvent, paradoxalement, ce sont les mêmes. Qui exigent la tête, la langue, le sexe, les ongles…le cœur ou les cheveux de l’être humain, femme comme garçon. Pour préparer la potion…magique. Le plus souvent, les personnes convoitées sont les albinos et les handicapés physiques.

Murder. Legally speaking, it is the act of causing someone's death or taking someone's life. It is thus thought of as a homicide – a premeditated act.

And ritual murder? It is a murder that is committed on the basis of a certain practices, whether they be traditional or religious, cultural or mystical. In all cases, ritual murder is committed in order to use part of the organs of a human body for sacrificial purposes or simply for ritualistic ones. This, unfortunately, according to some citizens commenting on the issue, is the practice that some people engage in to become rich. Their main guides in this venture: marabouts [traditional Islamic religious leaders] and witch-doctors — each to his own (paradoxically, the same person will often play both the role of the marabout and that of the witch-doctor). They might seek to use the head, the tongue, the sexual organs, nails … the heart or the hair of the human witch-doctor – maybe of a woman, maybe of a boy — all to prepare the magic … potion. The organs of albinos and handicapped people are the most often coveted.

February 06 2013

When Bob Marley Went to Africa

Sean Jacobs reviews Kevin MacDonald’s critically film, “Marley,”: “The film opens on the Ghanaian coast at the remnants of a slave post, the camera then pans over the Atlantic, finally settling on the green hills of rural Jamaica (Marley’s birthplace Nine Mile) from where it picks up Bob Marley’s story, thus cementing a link between the continent and its new world diaspora.”

January 18 2013

Gabon to Mali: History of French Military Interventions in Africa

[All links forward to french articles unless otherwise stated] 

The French military intervention in Mali, known as Operation Serval [en] started on January 11, 2013 following the advance of terrorists groups towards Bamako. Lauded by a substantial part of the Malian population [en] and many outside observers, the military intervention diverts, however, from the non-interventionist line professed by French President Hollande in Africa.


View L'intervention militaire étrangère au Mali in a larger map
Google interactive map of the Malian conflict by Jeune Afrique

Francis d'Alençon wonders why French interventions in Africa do not raise protests around the world:

Bizarre, bizarre… L’intervention française au Mali ne dérange personne alors que des actions américaines similaires soulèveraient des tempêtes de protestation… De l’avantage de ne pas être une super puissance.

This is odd… The french intervention in Mali does not bother anyone whereas similar actions by the USA would have raised a storm of protests.. There are perks to not being the world's top super power.

To illustrate his point, he quotes from the Cech newspaper Lidové noviny :

Les Français sont intervenus plus de 50 fois en Afrique depuis 1960. Ils ont combattu au Tchad, dans la guerre non déclarée avec la Libye, protégé les régimes de Djibouti et de République Centrafricaine des rebelles, empêché un coup d’état aux Comores, sont intervenus en Côte d’Ivoire. Que ce soit pour préserver des intérêts économiques, protéger les ressortissants français ou démontrer le statut de grande puissance du pays, les locataires de l’Élysée, de gauche comme de droite, ont fréquemment manifesté leur penchant pour les actions unilatérales. … Pourtant personne n’a jamais protesté. … Si les États-Unis intervenaient avec une telle véhémence, il y aurait des protestations interminables en Europe. Et les ambassades américaines verraient défiler des diplomates fâchés, à commencer par les Français.

The French have now intervened more than 50 times in Africa since 1960. They fought in Chad, in the war with Libya, protected regimes in  Djibouti and the Central African Republic from rebels, prevented a coup in the Comoros and intervened in Côte d'Ivoire. Whether to preserve economic interests, protect French nationals or showcase the still imposing power of France, the main tenants of the Palais de l'Élysée, either from the left or from the right wings, have frequently expressed their penchant for unilateral action. But … nobody has ever protested. If … the United States intervened in such a manner, there would be an endless sequence of protests in Europe. U.S. embassies would see angry diplomats coming through their doors, starting with the French ones.

Carte de la rébellion touareg au Azawad, au nord de Mali indiquant les attaques des rebelles au 5 avril 2012

Map of the Tuareg rebellion in Azawad, Northern Mali showing rebel attacks as of April 5, 2012 (CC-BY-3.0)

Below is a chronology of these interventions [There are indeed quite a few of them but contrary to what the Cech newspaper stated, there were less than 50 french interventions in Africa ]. It is based on two articles:  one is a review written by  Nestor N’Gampoula  for Oeil d'Afrique and  another one by Jean-Patrick Grumberg for Dreuz Info. Grumberg adds that most of the French interventions in Africa took place on former colonial soil :

In 1964, airborne french troops landed in Libreville, Gabon after an attempted coup against the regime back then.

From 1968 to 1972, French troops took part in the fight against the rebellion in the Tibesti region in northern Chad.

In 1978 in Zaire (now Democratic Republic of Congo), 600 French legionnaires went into the town of Kolwezi, in the south-east to help thousands of Africans and Europeans threatened by Katangan rebels. The mission was in response to a call for help made by President Mobutu Sese Seko to help his country. The operation cost the lives of five legionnaires, but allowed the evacuation of 2700 Westerners.

In 1979 in CAR, Emperor Jean-Bedel Bokassa is removed by French paratroopers during the Operation Barracuda.

From 1983-1984 in Chad, France undertook Operation Manta, a 3,000 men strong operation to face armed rebels supported by Libya. Two years later, another French military action, composed of mostly aerial attacks called “Operation Epervier“, was deployed after an anti-government attack.

In Comoros in 1989, after the assassination of President Ahmed Abdallah and the takeover of the country by the French mercenary Bob Denard, about 200 French soldiers arrived in the country to force them to leave the country.

In 1990, Paris sends troops to Gabon in Libreville and Port-Gentil in reinforcement of the French contingent after violent riots erupted. The operation allowed the evacuation of some 1,800 foreigners.

In 1991 in Zaire (now Democratic Republic of Congo), the Belgian and French troops managed to evacuate foreigners after violent riots and looting occurred in the country.

In 1991 still, French troops based in Djibouti help the Afar rebellion to disarm Ethiopian troops that had crossed the border following the overthrow of Ethiopian President Mengistu Haile Mariam.

In 1994, French and Belgian soldiers evacuate Europeans while Rwanda Hutus massacred hundreds thousands of Tutsis. Later in the year, some 2,500 French soldiers, supported by african troops, launched “Operation Turquoise“, described as a humanitarian effort, in Zaire and in eastern Rwanda.

In 1995, a thousand men involved in Operation Azalea ended another attempted coup against Comorian President  Said Mohamed Djohar by Bob Denard.

In 1996 in the Central African Republic (CAR), operation Almandin secured the safety of foreigners and the evacuation of 1,600 people after the army mutinied against President Ange-Félix Patassé. The following year in 1997, specifically after the murder of two French soldiers, a French operation against the mutineers was mandated in Bangui (Central African Republic).

The same year, 1997, some 1,200 French soldiers rescued French and African expatriates during fighting between the Congolese army and supporters of the military leader Denis Sassou Nguesso, now President of the Republic of Congo.

In 2002, French forces undertook Operation Licorne to help Westerners trapped by a military uprising that effectively divided Côte-d’Ivoire in two regions.

In 2003, Zaire (now Democratic Republic of Congo), Operation Artemis in Ituri  secured the area and put an end to ongoing massacres. This was followed by the deployment of 2,000 peacekeepers,  80% of which were French.

In 2004 in Côte-d’Ivoire, France destroyed the small Ivorian airforce after government forces bombed a French base.

In 2008 a new French intervention strengthens the regime of Chadian President Idriss Deby and evacuated foreigners while rebels from neighboring Sudan attacked.

In March 2011 in Libya had the French airforces were the first to bomb Gaddafi forces after the vote at the United Nations authorized intervention in Libya to protect civilians caught up in the rebellion against Gaddafi. NATO took command of the overall mission on March 31, a mission that helped the Libyan rebels to defeat the forces of the government and take power.

In 2011 in Côte-d’Ivoire,  French forces alongside UN forces tip the balance in favor of Ouattara during the civil war. The war broke out after the refusal of Laurent Gbagbo to resign and accept the verdict of the election that pronounced Alassane Ouattara as president.

France had decided to break with his role as “policeman of Africa” by refusing to intervene again in the Central African Republic  where François Bozizé (former army chief who came to power by overthrowing the elected president Ange-Félix Patassé on March 15, 2003) faced a rebellion uprising. Little did he know that the events in Mali would force his hands :

In 2013 in Mali,  French bombarded Islamist rebels after they tried to expand their powerbase  towards the Malian capital, Bamako. France had already warned that control of the north of Mali by the rebels posed a threat to the security of Europe.

At the same time, France has mounted a commando operation to try to save a French hostage held by al Shabaab militants in Somalia, also allied with al-Qaeda. The hostage was  killed by the militants.

January 11 2013

Journalist Killed During Ceasefire Talks in Central African Republic

Elisabeth Olofio radio journalist killed in Bambari, CAR - Public Domain

The network of Human Rights Reporters in Central African Republic reports that journalist for the Radio Bé-oko Elisabeth Olofio was killed [fr] when Sékéla rebels entered the town of Bambari, CAR on January 7. A ceasefire agreement was signed [fr] between the rebels and the Bozizé government today (January 11) in Libreville, Gabon.

December 17 2012

Offshore Oil Leak Threatens Protected Lagoon in South West Gabon

Google Earth image of the South West region of Gabon on Dec 14 2012 where an offshore oil leakage have polluted the Fernan Vaz Lagoon via NGO H2O Gabon

NGO H2O Gabon reported that an oil leak [fr] off the shore of Gabon have polluted the Fernan Vaz Lagoon. Oil Company Perenco later confirmed the leak but it claims that the leak did not reach the lagoon [fr].

May 22 2012

Africa: Regimes Under Attack From Satire and Cartoons

[All links lead to sites in French unless otherwise stated.]

The use of satirical language and cartoons in the media is relatively new in most African countries, and began with the print publication of small cartoon strips featuring caricatures depicting a particular part of the population for comic effect. Often, satirical newspapers are a reflection of the state of political affairs in their countries, where politicians never seem to shy away from shameless actions and where dishonesty is the rule rather than the exception.

Satirical language

In an analysis for the site cairn.info, Yacouba Konaté describes the mixture of Molière's French with the local dialects in Côte d’Ivoire where the direct translation from one to the other gives expressions and phrases that are incomprehensible outside their geographical context:

Le français populaire ivoirien dit « français de Moussa », « de Dago » ou « de Zézé » (héros de bandes dessinées dans l’hebdomadaire Ivoire Dimanche), accélère son déploiement durant les années 1970, celles de la croissance ivoirienne qui supporta l’appellation merveilleuse de « miracle ivoirien ». Sa promotion bénéficia de l’appui de la télévision où, pendant des années, le dimanche ouvrit de larges plages horaires à Toto et Dago.

The common Ivoirian-French “dialect” is known as  French language according to “Moussa's'”, “Dago's” or “Zézé's”  (those characters are comic book heroes from the weekly Ivoire Dimanche), and its usage spread more rapidly during the 1970s, a growth which has been excellently named the “Ivoirian miracle”. Television support helped its progression- Sundays meant lots of airtime for Toto and Dago.

In Gabon, a similar method of speech has gained acclaim by becoming a way of exposing corruption and social criticism. A selection of words taken from Raponda-Walker's book on the language is presented by Falila Gbadamassi on the website afrik.com:

Le “bongo CFA”, désigne la monnaie gabonaise qui était autrefois à l’effigie du défunt président Omar Bongo. Le terme se rapporte aussi à l’argent distribué pendant les déplacements du Président ou les campagnes électorales. …. [”mange-mille”] est un « jeu de mots construit sur mange-mil (nom d’oiseau) et désignant le policier ou le gendarme en raison des billets de 1000 francs (FCA, ndlr) qu’ils réclament souvent aux usagers de la route. Et des “Chine en deuil” ? Ce sont des « chaussures noires en tissu souple de fabrication chinoise ou asiatique introduites au Gabon après la mort de Mao Ze Dong », …. Un “dos-mouillé”, lui, est un immigré clandestin originaire d’Afrique de l’Ouest qui arrive au Gabon par la mer.

“Bongo CFA” means the Gabonese currency that once bore the head of the late president Omar Bongo. The term also refers to the money distributed during presidential trips or election campaigns. …[”mange-mille”], which means a police officer or constable, is a “play on words composed from mange-mil (the name of a bird) and the 1,000 CFA franc notes the police often demand from road users” [1,000 is “mille” in French]. And “Chine en deuil” (mourning Chinas)? They are “black shoes made in China or Asia from soft fabric, introduced to Gabon after the death of Mao Ze Dong”. A “dos-mouillé” (wet back) is an illegal immigrant originally from West Africa who came to Gabon by sea.
Election results confirmed by Ali Bongo: a TOTAL victory! I would like to thank my sponsor... A caricature of Bongo by Hub via Agora Vox, used with permission

Election results confirmed by Ali Bongo: a TOTAL victory! I would like to thank my sponsor… A caricature of Bongo by Hub via Agora Vox, used with permission

In both Gabon and Côte d’Ivoire this type of French is used in everyday life in the same way as all other languages, without any derogatory meaning or humourous intent, but when it appears in publications or on TV it serves for social and political critique, with the singular ability to make an otherwise unfunny drawing make people laugh. The textual content is paramount.

Cartoon emergence

Cartoon drawings, or comics, were developed later only, as and when authoritarian regimes relaxed their grip on freedom of expression. In an article published on waccglobal.org, Gado wrote a retrospective history of cartoons [en] in African countries:

With the introduction of multi-party politics in most African countries during the 1990s, cartooning emerged as a growing profession. This does not mean that it was not around before then. In the 1960s there were pioneers like Gregory (Tanzania) with his popular Chakibanga cartoon and the Juha Kalulu strip by Edward Gitau, the oldest living cartoonist in East and Central Africa.
Political changes brought greater freedom of expression as well as of the press. This has injected new life into newspapers, magazines and the publishing industry generally.

Arrest warrant for Omar El-Bechir. Disquiet among African heads of state. We are victims of crimes against immunity! A caricature of the African heads of state by Dilem via Zoom Algérie (used with permission) 

Arrest warrant for Omar El-Bechir. Disquiet among African heads of state. We are victims of crimes against immunity! A caricature of the African heads of state by Dilem via Zoom Algérie (used with permission)

To mark the 2011 International Festival of Cartoons and Illustration, which took place in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, Damien Glez's article published on africandiplomacy.com entitled “Newspaper Cartoonist: a Profession under Pressure(s)” discusses the risks and difficulties involved in being a satirical cartoonist:

Moins assassinés, les dessinateurs ne sont pas totalement immunisés. Au Cameroun, le caricaturiste-vedette Nyemb Popoli a eu maintes fois maille à partir avec le régime de Paul Biya. A la fin des années 80, dans le Bénin du «marxisme-béninisme», le dessinateur Hector Sonon voyait ses dessins systématiquement passés à la moulinette du comité de censure du ministère de l'Intérieur. Le Sud-Africain Jonathan Shapiro, alias Zapiro, fut détenu par les autorités en 1988. Non loin, au Zimbabwe, le dessinateur Tony Namate joue au chat et à la souris avec les autorités. Au Nigeria, autre pays anglophone, les caricaturistes - en premier lieu le pionnier Akinola Lasekan - ont souffert longtemps des dictatures militaires…

Although not often killed, cartoonists are not completely immune. In Cameroon, the top cartoonist Nyemb Popoli has had many brushes with Paul Biya's regime. In the late 1980s, during the “Marxist-Beninist” era in Benin, cartoonist Hector Sonon repeatedly saw his drawings being passed to the interior ministry's censorship committee. South African Jonathan Shapiro, also known as Zapiro, was arrested by authorities in 1988. Nearby, in Zimbabwe, cartoonist Tony Namate plays cat and mouse with the authorities. In Nigeria, another English-speaking country, cartoonists- in first place the pioneer Akinola Lasekan- have long suffered at the hands of military dictatorships…

Participants in the festival, organised by Cartooning for Peace / Dessins pour la paix, included Karlos from the Ivory Coast, and Timpous, Gringo, Joël Salo and Kab's from Burkina Faso.

In South Africa, Shapiro, of the apartheid era, was sent to prison for angering racist authorities with his critiques, and now his stands against the African National Congress's grip on the politics of his country are costing him dearly. Melanie Peters describes a critical cartoon [en] on iol.co.za condemning President Zuma's bill from last year, and reports on feedback from netizens:

While the cartoon depicts a man titled “Govt” with his trousers unzipped facing a screaming woman being held down by a man labelled “ANC”, the first is clearly Zuma, complete with showerhead, and the second Gwede Mantashe, the ANC’s secretary-general. Next to them on the floor, her dress torn and a discarded pair of scales beside her, is an apparent rape victim, shouting “Fight, sister, fight!”

Some comments posted on the site contain personal and racist abuse, but support can also be found. Siobhan wrote [en]:

Go, Zap! Exactly depicts what is happening with the 'secrecy' bill! It's being done to the Constitution, to Democracy and to each South African- most of whom are so used to being screwed by the ANC they don't even know it's happened…

New talent

Until recently, the cartoonists had no training. But changes are being made. According to Alimou Sow, Oscar, the creator of Le Lynx, has trained a number of junior colleagues in Guinea. However, it is probably in Madagascar that the first generation cartoonists have best prepared their successors, with production diverse and thriving equally in both national languages and French. According to the provisional list proposed by wikipedia.org, the number of Malagasy artists is several times higher than that of all the other African countries combined.

The publication of satirical newspapers in several countries has allowed satire to exist and thrive amid a great number of difficulties: in Senegal, Le Cafard libéré; in Burkina Faso, the Journal du Jeudi and the latest l'Etaloon; in Benin, the Canard du Golfe; in Guinea, Le Lynx; in Mali, Le Canard déchaîné; in Madagascar, the Ngah; etc.

Christophe Cassiau-Haurie tells us in an article on africultures.com entitled “La caricature à Maurice, 170 ans d'histoire” (Cartoons in Mauritius: 170 years of history) that:

La toute première caricature référencée remonte à l'année 1841, dans le journal Le bengali.

The very first example of a cartoon dates back to 1841, in the newspaper Le bengali.

Festivals and other events are also on the increase both regionally and throughout Africa. The article already cited by Damien Glez lists these:

«BD'Farafina» à Bamako, «Cocobulles» à Grand Bassam, «Fescary» à Yaoundé ou «Karika'Fête» à Kinshasa.

“BD'Farafina” in Bamako, “Cocobulles” in Grand-Bassam, “Fescary” in Yaoundé or “Karika'Fête” in Kinshasa.

Information and communications technology is another tool that is beginning to take its place among the means of expression for African comedians: zapiro.com, bing.com, africartoons.com, 2424actu.info and gbich.com, for example.

On an international level, Africans are increasingly present. For example, they participate in the Cartooning for Peace / Dessins pour la paix's activities, started in 2006 by the French cartoonist Plantu together with Kofi Annan, then the Secretary-General of the UN, with a two-day conference uniting the 12 most famous illustrators in the world to develop ways to “unlearn intolerance”.

May 02 2012

Africa: Calls for Transparency Over Marked Increase in Land Deals

The UK Guardian newspaper's Global Development blog reports that an international coalition of researchers and NGOs has released the world's largest public database of international land deals. This marks an important milestone in highlighting a developmental issue that has received little attention in the international news cycle.

The report states that almost 5% of Africa's agricultural land has been bought or leased by investors since 2000, and emphasizes the fact that this is not a new issue, yet points out that the number of such land deals has increased tremendously in the past five years.

Many observers are increasingly worried that these land deals usually take place in the world's poorest countries and that they impact its most vulnerable population, the farmers. The benefits seldom go to the general population, partially because of a lack of transparency in the proceedings of the transactions.

An additional report by Global Witness, entitled Dealing with Disclosure, emphasizes the dire need for transparency in the making of land deals.

World's poorest nations targeted 

The Global Witness report lists that 754 land deals have been identified, involving the majority of African countries for about 56.2 million hectares.

Target countries of land deals from the Land Matrix Project

Target countries of land deals from the Land Matrix Project

The nations targeted are usually some of the poorest in the world. The countries with the most deals in place are Mozambique (92 deals), Ethiopia (83), Tanzania (58) and Madagascar (39). Some of those deals have made headlines because they were conducted to ensure control over food imports, when the targeted regions faced major food crises.

The NGO GRAIN has already explained in detail the gist of their concerns in an extensive report released in 2008:

Today’s food and financial crises have, in tandem, triggered a new global land grab. On the one hand, “food insecure” governments that rely on imports to feed their people are snatching up vast areas of farmland abroad for their own offshore food production. On the other hand, food corporations and private investors, hungry for profits in the midst of the deepening financial crisis, see investment in foreign farmland as an important new source of revenue. As a result, fertile agricultural land is becoming increasingly privatised and concentrated. If left unchecked, this global land grab could spell the end of small-scale farming, and rural livelihoods, in numerous places around the world.

In Malawi, land deals have grown increasingly prevalent to the detriment of the local farmers. A report from Bangula explains the challenges faced by Malawian farmers, Dorothy Dyton and her family:

Like most smallholder farmers in Malawi, they did not have a title deed for the land Dyton was born on, and in 2009 she and about 2,000 other subsistence farmers from the area were informed by their local chief that the land had been sold and they could no longer cultivate there. […] Since that time, said Dyton, “life has been very hard on us.” With a game reserve on one side of the community and the Shire river and Mozambique border on the other, there is no other available land for them to farm and the family now ekes out a living selling firewood they gather from the nearby forest.

Land construction in Madagascar. Photo by Foko Madagascar, used with the author's authorization

Land construction in Madagascar. Photo by Foko Madagascar, used with the author's authorization

Farmers in Madagascar share similar concerns because they do not own the rights to the land they farm and an effective land reform is yet to be implemented. The Malagasy association Terres Malgaches has been at the forefront of land protection for the local population. They report that [fr]:

 Les familles malgaches ne possèdent pas de document foncier pour sécuriser leurs terres contre les accaparements de toutes sortes. En effet, depuis la colonisation, l’obtention de titres fonciers auprès de l’un des 33 services des domaines d’un pays de 589 000 km2 nécessite 24 étapes, 6 ans en moyenne et jusqu’à 500 dollars US. (..) .  Face aux convoitises et accaparements dont les terres malgaches font l’objet actuellement, seule la possession d’un titre ou d’un certificat foncier, seuls documents juridiques reconnus, permet d’entreprendre des actions en justice en cas de conflit.

Malagasy families do not usually own an estate property document that enable them to secure their lands against land grab. In fact, since colonial times, one has needed about 24 steps, 6 years and up to 500 US dollars to get such documents. There are merely around 33 agencies in the country that deliver such documents for a country that is 589,000 kilometres square […] In the face of the increasing land grabs that Malagasy land is currently at risk of, this certificate is the only document that can trigger legal action in case of conflict.

The association also reports on the practices of a mining company Sheritt, in Ambatovy, which have created a buzz in the local blogosphere because of environmental concerns for the local population and business malpractices (via MiningWatch Canada):

Sherritt International’s Ambatovy project in eastern Madagascar – costing $5.5 billion to build and scheduled to begin full production this month – will comprise a number of open pit mines (..) it will close in 29 years. There are already many concerns about the mine from the thousands of local people near the facilities. They say that their fields are destroyed ; the water is dirty ; the fish in the river are dead and there have been landslides near their village. During testing of the new plant, there have been at least four separate leaks of sulphur dioxide from the hydro-metallurgical facility which villagers say have killed at least two adults and two babies and sickened at least 50 more people. In January, laid-off construction workers from Ambatovy began a wildcat strike, arguing that the jobs they were promised when construction ended have not materialized. The people in nearby cities like Moramanga say that their daughters are increasingly engaged in prostitution.

Video of a worker's testimony in Ambatovy.

Solutions for the local population? 

The plight of Madagascar's farmers' plight may be slowly changing though. Land reform discussions are in progress, according to this report:

 According to a paper presented at the 2011 International Conference on Global Land Grabbing, about 50 agribusiness projects were announced between 2005 and 2010, about 30 of which are still active, covering a total land area of about 150,000 ha. Projects include plantations to produce sugar cane, cassava and jatropha-based biofuel.
To prevent the negative impacts of land grabbing, (The NGO) EFA has set up social models for investors, with funding from the UN Development Programme (UNDP). The goal is to help investors negotiate with the people in the area where they want to implement projects, as a way to prevent future problems.

Joachim Von Braun, formerly  of the International Food Policy Insitute (IFPRI), wrote the following regarding land deals:

 It is in the long-run interest of investors, host governments, and the local people involved to ensure that these arrangements are properly negotiated, practices are sustainable, and benefits are shared. Because of the transnational nature of such arrangements, no single institutional mechanism will ensure this outcome. Rather, a combination of international law, government policies, and the involvement of civil society, the media, and local communities is needed to minimize the threats and realize the benefits.

The need for transparency in land deals is further emphasized by  Megan MacInnes, Senior Land Campaigner at Global Witness:

Far too many people are being kept in the dark about massive land deals that could destroy their homes and livelihoods. That this needs to change is well understood, but how to change it is not. For the first time, this report (Dealing with Disclosure)  sets out in detail what tools governments, companies and citizens can harness to remove the shroud of secrecy that surrounds land acquisition. It takes lessons from efforts to improve transparency in other sectors and looks at what is likely to work for land. Companies should have to prove they are doing no harm, rather than communities with little information or power having to prove that a land deal is negatively affecting them.

 

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.

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

November 18 2011

Gabon's UNESCO bailout: International solidarity at what price?

Ali Bongo, president of Gabon, has pledged US$2 million to UNESCO [fr]. Ali Bongo made the offer in response to the announcement by the UN agency of an multi-donor emergency fund at the closing of its November 10 General Conference. The fund is designed to help compensate for the US$65 million shortfall left by the withdrawal of funding to UNESCO by the United States and Israel in protest at the granting of membership to Palestine.

This gesture from Gabon could be viewed as an act of solidarity with the UN agency, but activists in this oil-rich Central African nation are urging the public to look beyond the announcement.

Open Letter to Irina Bokova

Image of a primary school in Mefoupe, Woleu Ntem, Northern Gabon - cc http://jp-rougou.blogspot.com/

In an open letter to Irina Bokova, the Director General of the UNESCO, Ca suffit comme ça (”Enough is Enough), Gabon's largest civil society organisation, explained why Gabon's donation should not be accepted [fr] :

En temps normal, une telle contribution à l’effort scientifique et culturel, ne poserait aucun problème mais, au regard de la paupérisation galopante dans notre pays actuellement, le Peuple Gabonais, poussé par l'instinct de survie, vient plutôt lancer un appel à votre organisme pour qu’il refuse le don de 2 millions de dollars US que voudrait lui offrir l’Etat gabonais.

In normal times, such a contribution to the scientific and cultural community would not pose any problem. However, for the sake of self-preservation and when considering  the soaring pauperisation of our country, we call on your organisation to refuse the US$2 million donation the Gabonese government would like to offer.

Ali Bongo, in an interview to the UN radio, justified his offer:

We have indicated our wish, like the one of many other countries, for the creation of a Palestinian State, at the side of the State of Israel. (…) The Palestinian people have the same right to its aspirations like the rest of us.

Gabon has recognised [fr] the existence of Palestine since 1989.

On an article published by Jeune Afrique, ‘le gabonais' commented:

Contrairement aux uns, je pense que l'aide apporter à l'UNESCO est normale. car cette institution apporte beaucoup au monde et au peuple gabonais en particulier. l'Unesco soutient nos programmes et surtout ceux de la société civile au Gabon depuis ces dernier temps. laisser l'Unesco dans la boue faute d'avoir accueilli la Palestine est inadmissible. Merci Mr le Président d'avoir fait le geste.

Contrary to some, I think that the aid brought to UNESCO is normal. This institution brings a lot to the world and to the Gabonese people in particular. UNESCO supports our programs and specifically those of the civil society in Gabon. Leaving UNESCO in the mud because it has chosen to welcome Palestine is unacceptable. Thank you, Mr President for making this gesture.

In its letter to Irina Bokova, Ca suffit comme ça offers examples of alleged human rights violation by the incumbent regime:

Plusieurs illustrations peuvent être apportées à la corruption et à la privation de libertés fondamentales : plusieurs responsables de médias privés écrits et audiovisuels sont régulièrement emprisonnés et leurs médias illégalement suspendus, des leaders syndicaux de l'éducation nationale et d'autres fonctionnaires de ce secteur d'activité se sont vus suspendre leurs salaires pour avoir exercé leurs droits civiques ; des partis politiques dissouts (exemple de l’Union Nationale, principal parti de l’opposition gabonaise) (…)

There are many instances of corruption and denial of fundamental liberties: several owners of private print and broadcasting media are regularly detained and their media illegally suspended; union leaders of national education and other civil servants have seen their salaries suspended for exercising their civil rights; political parties have been dissolved (for instance the National Union, main Gabonese opposition party)….

Human rights violation caught on video?

Members of Ca suffit comme ça have publicised a video illustrating what they consider to be one of the Ali Bongo regime's violations, specifically regarding the right to receive a decent education. On November 14, YouTube user Miguel Yalban posted a video of an alleged attack by public forces in a high school of Port-Gentil, the country's second largest city and the center of Gabon's petroleum industry:

The female student in the video explains [fr]:

Students of Thuriaf Bantsantsa school have been on strike since Friday morning (November 11, 2011) (…). This morning we were at our school, we hadn't broken anything. Public forces arrived to ensure security, but instead of that, they came in and started beating up kids in uniform (…) One girl fell, I don't know if you've seen that (…) others were wounded, we took them to the hospital

Some netizens doubted the veracity of the event. One YouYube user mpsi91 commented [fr] :

Ohh qu'est ce qu'ils revendiquent même? Certains font la grève là juste pour ne pas avoir cours (à sourire au caméra pendant que les autres essayent d'expliquer le problème)!

Oh what are they even demanding? Some are on strike just to avoid going to classes (even laughing at the camera while others are trying to explain what the issue was!)

Elie Gbg Jeremie, a Facebook user who appears to be a student from the school, explains:

ns eleves de BANTSANTSA ns n avons pas accepter la decision du conseil de ministre d la semaine derniere qi a nommé notre proviseur a un autre poste (…). Notr Lycée a 1e tres mauvaise renomée dans la vill e de Pog M.Mihindou vient et veux chang cette image de nous,on ns l enleve. (…) cette scene fut vraiment ecoeurente lorsq ses gens ns ont prit d assaut.

We students of BANTSANTSA do not accept the decision of the Ministers' council that appointed our principal to a different position (…). Our high school had a very bad reputation in the city, Mr. Mihindou came and wanted  to change the image of the school, and then he got taken from us. (…) this scene was really disgusting when those people attacked us.

November 11 2011

Gabon and Brazil: Bongo Indulges Himself with a Football Match against the Seleçao

This post is part of our special coverage page Gabon Unrest 2011

1,000,000 BRL ($570,000 USD): that is the price paid by the president of Gabon, Ali Bongo [pt] to gift himself a football tie against the Seleçao of Brazil  according to the Brazilian news site Folha.  Excessive spending is nothing new for the Bongo family. The satirical French newspaper ‘Le Canard Enchaîné' revealed [fr] on November 8  that Omar Bongo, the former president of Gabon went on a purchasing binge for suits worth 344,000 euros in Paris in 2007. His son, Ali Bongo,  the current president also spent 88,000 euros in 2010 for the same type of purchase. These expenses are in stark contrast with the harsh reality of the everyday lives of the Gabonese population.

Ali Bongo, president of Gabon by the World Economic Forum on Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

A large proportion of the population remains poor

According to the CIA Factbook, « Gabon enjoys a per capita income four times that of most sub-Saharan African nations, but because of high income inequality, a large proportion of the population remains poor. »
It is this large proportion of impoverished citizens  that the Brazilian national football team witnessed during its stay which began on November 7 upon their arrival in Libreville.  On the online platform Le Post, Gabonese activist and blogger Jean-Pierre Rougou describes the visit as follows [fr]:

Alors que l'équipe brésilienne foulait le sol gabonais pour le match amical à se tenir le 10 novembre sur le terrain inachevé et en mauvais état du stade de l'amitié que la Chine a fait don au Gabon, les joueurs ont pu observer à travers les vitres de leur autobus, le spectacle dévastateur des destructions de quartiers du gouvernement de Ali Bongo

When the Seleçao set foot on the Gabonese soil for the friendly match to take place on November 10 in the unfinished and damaged Stadium of Friendhsip that China gifted to Gabon, Brazilian players could witness through the windows of their bus the devastating spectacle of the destruction of some neighborhoods by the Ali Bongo's Government

The stadium was built by a Chinese company in exchange for lucrative mineral exploitation contracts.

To illustrate his comment, Rougou shared a Youtube video posted by user VeioRJ on November 8, 2011. It was shot from the inside of the Seleçao's bus while it wandered in the streets of Libreville:

The video caused strong reactions among many Gabonese netizens. On a Facebook group named ‘Infos Kinguélé‘ many shared their point of view on the video and on the Brazilian team's visit:

Citoyen libre Gabon writes [fr]:

Les Brésiliens n'ont fait que réagir comme tout être humain normal ferait en se rendant dans un pays supposé être riche de pétrole, manganèse, bois, etc., avec seulement 1,5 million d'habts!

Brazilians only reacted the way any human beings would have reacted when visiting a country that is supposed to be rich with oil, manganese, wood, and so on, and on top of that with only 1,5 million inhabitants!

Ningmultimedia Ningworld adds [fr]:

ces brésiliens viennent prendre leur agent au Gabon et par la suite ils continuent de se moquer de notre sale vie

those Brazilians come to get paid in Gabon, and at the end of the day, they will still make fun  of our miserable lives

Brazil vs Gabon: A complete flop?

Brazilian sports news site ‘Globo Esporte' reports that the stadium built by Chinese contractors  where the game is scheduled is in poor condition [pt] :

De longe, lembra o Engenhão, no Rio de Janeiro. Porém, de perto, a história muda de figura. (…) Além disso, a pista de atletismo, no entorno do gramado, ainda está sendo finalizada.

From afar the stadium looks like Engenhão of Rio de Janeiro. But when you look closely, the story is different. (…) Holes and uneven surface areas are easily spotted. Moreover, the running track which surrounds the field is still not completed yet.

The defense player of the Brazilian team, Luisao, shared with the AFP about the contrast he witnessed during his visit:

“On sait qu'ici le gens ont leurs problèmes et arriver ici et voir les gens sourire au passage de la Seleçao, la joie dans le stade, c'est une fierté.” Le défenseur du Benfica commente aussi la pauvreté aperçue et les dizaines de maisons détruites par les autorités lors d'une opération de lutte contre les constructions anarchiques le long de la voie menant au stade.

“We know that people here have their problems, but it is a source of pride for us to come here and make the people smile when they see the Seleçao.” The defense player of the Benfica football club also noted the poverty around him and the dozens of houses destroyed by the authorities during an operation launched to fight against illegal constructions on the side of the roads

According to this article on Fohla.com, the journalist explains that the 1,000,000 BRL paid by Ali Bongo were initially intended for a special practice match played by members of the Brazilian national team in front of thousands of selected Gabonese VIP officials :

O número certo de “amigos do presidente” –como um alto executivo do governo chama o grupo– no evento é uma incógnita. Militares afirmam que Ali Bongo convidou de mil a até 15 mil aliados.

The exact number of  the “president's friends” - as coined by a high leader of the government - is unknown. Military officials stated that Ali Bongo has invited up to 15,000 alies.

However, when  the managers of the seleçao saw the poor condition of the Stadium, they refused to let their players practice at the ‘Friendship stadium'. The journalist adds that the Technical Committee of the Brazilian team (CBT) ignored that the practice match was organised by Ali Bongo himself.

The match against the Gabonese national team nevertheless took place on November 10, 2011. The beginning of the game was delayed because of a 18 mn electricity outage. ‘Brasil x Gabao' was even trending worldwide on Twitter:

Brazilian netizens shared their views on the event. Lucas ironically writes [pt]:

@Sou1nerd: Brasil x gabão = zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

And Jairo Costa adds [pt] :

@Jairo_Costa: R$1.000.000,00 de suborno n eh suborno,eh Brasil x Gabao…um absurdo!!

R$1,000,000.00 of corruption, Brasil vs Gabon… absurd!

Gabonese blogger Rougou conludes his post by saying [fr]:

Le match amical du Gabon contre l'équipe B du Brésil est une occasion pour Ali Bongo de tenter d'endormir le peuple en essayant de lui faire oublier ses problèmes de vie quotidiens. Mais que le gouvernement de l'incompétence et de l'improvisation se révise, le peuple n'est pas dupe!

The friendly match oGabon vs the B team of Brazil was an opportunity for Ali Bongo to try to numb the people's attention  and make them forget about  their daily challenges. But itwould behoove this government driven by incompetence and improvisation to think twice about it, the people cannot be fooled all the time!

This post is part of our special coverage page Gabon Unrest 2011

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.

 

October 13 2011

African Bloggers Review the French Primary Elections

Mengue M'Eyaà review the proposals [fr] outlined by the French presidential candidates towards the African continent during the primary elections. She notes that all the proposals centered around how France can exit the Françafrique paradigm and that the candidates have a more nuanced understanding of several African issues such as the transition towards an effective democracy, foreign aid and accountability in governance.

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.

May 10 2011

Gabon: Parliamentary Immunity Removal Could Spark Protests

This post is part of our special coverage Gabon Unrest 2011.

The central African Republic of Gabon has been facing a latent political and social crisis since January 26, 2011. André Mba Obame, president of the now banned opposition party ‘National Union', took his oath as the country's president, claiming that he had won the June 2009 election which was officially won by Ali Bongo, son of the former president Omar Bongo.

The crisis has since deepened, with protests from students and recently oil workers, despite of the exit of Mba Obame from the UNDP (United Nations Development Programme) building where he had sought refuge for a month.

Immunity lifted

On May 5, Mba Obame, who is also a Gabonese member of parliament (MP), saw his parliamentary immunity removed by a National Assembly vote, after he was accused of high treason. This will allow legal proceedings against Mba Obame before a civil tribunal.

The procedure at the National Assembly was initially scheduled to take place on May 4, but in this already tense situation, hundreds of Mba Obame's supporters demonstrated to show their support to the one they consider their real leader. They gathered in front of the National Assembly building in Libreville, the capital city, surrounded by an imposing army deployment, forcing the president of the National Assembly to postpone the hearing.

Jean-Pierre Rougou, a Gabonese activist, has posted a few pictures of this demonstration:

Mba Obame's car surrounded by partisans in front of the National Assembly, Libreville. Image copyright Jean-Pierre Rougou.

Mba Obame's car surrounded by partisans in front of the National Assembly, Libreville. Image copyright Jean-Pierre Rougou.

Army facing demonstrators in front of the National Assembly, Libreville. Image copyright Jean-Pierre Rougou.

Army facing demonstrators in front of the National Assembly, Libreville. Image copyright Jean-Pierre Rougou.

Netizen reactions

On website La voix du peuple Gabonais (Voice of the Gabonese People) more than 138 comments were posted under the article [fr] on this news. According to user AMO Advocat, a civil war would be the consequence of the possible arrest of Mba Obame:

[…] Boukoubi n'a qu'à arrêter AMO si lui et son chef son courageux

Mais les conséquences seront une guerre civile et impitoyable

[…] Let Boukoubi [general secretary of the presidential party] arrest AMO [André Mba Obame] if he and his boss are brave.

But the consequence will be a relentless civil war

Mba Obame claims that the lift of his immunity is a political act which aims at his political and physical elimination [fr] by the current Gabonese government.

National Assembly representatives have given another explanation for the vote. According to MP Jean Christophe Mbiguidi Dinga, who led the ad hoc commission in charge of this case, as quoted on website infosgabon [fr], the lift of immunity will “allow the possibility of Mba Obame to explain himself before the law”.

This post is part of our special coverage Gabon Unrest 2011.

March 24 2011

Gabon: Citizen Web Documentary Wins Award

Written by Julie Owono

Website Web Docu [fr] has announced that the citizen web documentary Gabon : violences d'un coup d'état électoral [fr] (Gabon: The violence of an electoral coup) has won the award for best web-politics documentary at the Web TV-Festival 2011 [fr]. The documentary was produced in 2009 during the post-electoral turmoil that followed the controversial election of President Ali Bongo.

March 11 2011

Gabon: Two Rival Presidents, One Accused of Embezzlement

Written by Julie Owono

This post is part of our special coverage of Gabon Unrest 2011

After spending one month in refuge at the offices of the United Nations Program for Development (UNDP) in Libreville, Gabon, self-proclaimed president André Mba Obame and his government finally left the building on February 27. An agreement was reached with the official government of President Ali Bongo thanks to mediation by the UN, but this has not stilled the movement for change in Gabon. The unrest has been ongoing since January 25, when the unofficial president Mba Obame took his oath.

Bongo in trouble at World Bank

As the power struggle continues, Ali Bongo now stands accused of “misappropriation of shares for personal profit” during his time as the chairman of the board of directors of the Office of Ports and Harbors of Gabon (OPRAG). French businessman Jacques Dupuydauby filed a legal complaint on February 22 with the World Bank's International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID). According to the news weekly ‘Jeune Afrique', deals Bongo made regarding two Gabonese ports are under scrutiny (via A bas le masque [fr] ).

(Dupuydauby is a historic rival of another French businessman dealing in maritime trade, Vincent Bolloré, who is a friend of President Sarkozy, and has spoken favorably of Bongo's standing.)

In France, Bruno Ben Moubamba, a Gabonese politician who was appointed minister of foreign affairs in the unofficial government, held a rally on March 7 in front of Ali Bongo's €150 million mansion in Paris. In a speech in front of the property, which is located in one of the city's most luxurious areas, he urged the French government to stop being tolerant of African dictators like Bongo. On March 3, Moubamba posted a video of himself speaking, wondering where the money used to purchase the expensive property comes from (in French with English subtitles):

Has Ali Bongo used OPRAG funds to serve his own interests, for example to acquire this “palace” in Paris: Pozzo di Borgo?

The ICSID already ruled in May 2010 that President Ali Bongo's government should pay €240 million to a Belgian consortium [fr] in an suit related to fraud in railway contracts.

This new trade dispute comes at a time of an already unfavorable context for Ali Bongo.

Uneasy truce as Mba Obame leaves the building

Only one day after Mba Obame left the UNDP building, Bongo's government announced that all members of the unofficial government would soon face “justice”. According to a post by Camarade on the website Koaci [fr], some were already summoned by Gabonese intelligence services for questioning.

Upon Mba Obame's exit of the UNDP building, many supporters offered caustic and suspicious reactions online. LVDPG ('La voix du peuple gabonais‘ - Voice of the Gabonese people) was one platform where netizens shared their concerns [fr]. Some, like ‘Le Début‘ assume there must be a deal between Ali Bongo and André Mba Obame:

Transparence oblige, il y a forcément une contre-partie, c'est la logique des négociations et du prix à payer pour sortir d'une termitière!!! AH POLITIQUE QUAND TU TIENS!!!
Alors on attend le véritable compte rendu.

Transparency requires it, there must have been some compensation, it is the logic of negotiations and the price to pay to get out of an anthill! AH POLITICS! Let us wait for the real proceedings.

Suspicions like these have only been reinforced by the fact that Mba Obame has not issued any official statements since his exit from the UNDP. Diplomatic rumors aired in Camarade's post [fr] on Koaci.com seems to confirm this theory:

Une source interne au PNUD-Gabon a également affirmé que la sortie d’exil du gouvernement Mba Obame n’est qu’une première étape du processus de décrispation du climat politique gabonais. [Ce] qui expliquerait l’annulation de la déclaration envisagée par les exilés le jour de leur sortie du PNUD.

An inside source at the UNDP-Gabon has also said that the exit of the exiled government of Mba Obame is only a first step in easing the political climate in Gabon. [This] would explain the cancellation of the declaration proposed by the exiles on the day of their release from the UNDP.

For others, like @chrisseminarist on Twitter, Mba Obame is a strategist who put an end to his exile to continue the struggle for revolution:

@chrisseminarist (March 1): André Mba Obame continue le combat pour être reconnu président du Gabon

André Mba Obame continues the struggle to be recognised as the President of Gabon

Revolution ahead

In spite of the alleged incapacity of the Gabonese opposition to lead a revolutionary movement, Charlie M. writes on his blog, ‘Le Gabon Enervant‘ [fr] (The Irritating Gabon) that he is convinced a revolution will happen in the country, no matter what politicians do:

Au Gabon il est clair pour tout observateur averti, que si les tenants du pouvoir n’apprennent pas à servir leurs peuples avec justice et dignité, et non tout le folklore qu’ils font en ce moment, le Gabon aura sa révolution, tôt ou tard. C’est inévitable.

In Gabon it is clear for any informed observer, that if those in power don't learn to serve their people with justice and dignity, instead of the folklore they are currently showing, Gabon will live its revolution, sooner or later. It is inevitable.


This post is part of our special coverage of Gabon Unrest 2011

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