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February 28 2011

France: Demonstration in Paris Against Gabon Dictatorship

Written by Julie Owono

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

The small West African country of Gabon has been experiencing weeks of political tension, as two governments - official and unofficial - have both lain claim to the presidency. On Sunday 27 February, 2011, self-proclaimed unofficial president André Mba Obame left [fr] the United Nations Development Programme building in capital Libreville, where he had been taking refuge.

The day before, 7,000 people [fr] gathered in the streets of French capital Paris to demonstrate against African dictators and the French government's alleged collusion with African dictatorial regimes.

Protesters left from Place de la République and headed to the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, via 51 rue de l'Université, where Ali Bongo Ondimba (current official Gabonese president) owns a 140 million Euro mansion.

Both Gabonese and Libyan activists were present in the procession.

Procession of protestors against dictatorships in Africa passing near the Louvres Museum in Paris, France on 26 February, 2011. Image by author.

Procession of protestors against dictatorships in Africa passing near the Louvres Museum in Paris, France on 26 February, 2011. Image by author.

Gabonese activists demonstrating against official Gabon President Ali Bongo in Paris, France on February 26, 2011. Image by author.

Gabonese activists demonstrating against official Gabon President Ali Bongo in Paris, France on February 26, 2011. Image by author.

While passing in front of President Ali Bongo's property, the procession paused to allow protestors to shout “Ali Bongo Dégage” (”Ali Bongo must go”), as show in this Youtube video by user AfricaWeWish:

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

February 22 2011

Gabon: Mourning Unrest's First Casualty, as Bongo Meets Sarkozy

Written by Julie Owono

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

Gabon is mourning the first casualty of the country's political unrest. Marie Mendome was beaten up during the January 29, 2011 attack on the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) building in Libreville, where self-proclaimed president André Mba Obame and his government have taken refuge. According to several testimonies, Mendome died of wounds caused by police brutality.

First alleged victim of the political crisis that began on 25th January 2011 in Gabon

On February 18,  Gabonite wrote on the social network Twitter:

Une mère battue à mort par les « forces de sécurité » au Gabon!

A mother beaten up to death by “security forces” in Gabon!

La voix du Peuple Gabon (Voice of Gabonese People) on its website confirms the information that the woman died because police violence:

Pour avoir été manifester pour dire non, ça suffit comme ça, cette jeune femme de 38 ans s'est sauvagement fait matraquer par ceux-là même qui sont sensés nous protéger.

Because she demonstrated in order to say enough is enough, this 38 year old young woman was savagely clubbed by the same people who are supposed to protect us.

The site continues:

ayant eu plusieurs côtes cassées, elle s'est rendu dans un hopital de la place où on lui a clairement fait comprendre que les manifestants n'etaient pas les bienvenus

suffering from several broken ribs, she went to the local hospital  where she was clearly notified that demonstrators were not welcome.

The report, however, was denied by the Gabonese authorities.  Agence France Press (AFP) published on February 20, 2011 an article entitled “Death of a woman is not due to police brutality” [fr]:

Le Ministère de l'Intérieur a démenti dimanche auprès de l'AFP que le décès d'une sympathisante du président auto-proclamé André Mba Obame,(…) soit dû à des brutalités policières.

Minister of Interior denied on sunday to the Agence France Presse (AFP) that the death of one of self proclaimed president André Mba Obame's sympahiser was due to Police brutalities.

This caused several reactions from Gabonese netizens. Bantuconnexion on Twitter opined:

Now Official: l'AFP Libreville est l'agence de communication du min. de l'intérieur gabonais.

Now official: Agence France Presse in Libreville is now the Communication agency of Gabonese Minister of Interior

In spite of the polemic, Marie Mendome's picture was used as profile picture on Facebook as a tribute:

Liberté du Gabon Révolution (Freedom of Gabon Revolution) used Marie Mendome's image as profile picture on social network Facebook

Her funerals were organised on Sunday February 20, 2011.

Marie Mendome's funerals in Gasepga, Libreville, where she used to live

Sarkozy and Bongo Meet in Paris

French President Sarkozy received in a non-official visit the Gabonese president Bongo on February 21, 2011. Among several subjects, the two Head of States talked about the “wind of revolution” blowing throughout Africa. Interviewed by a Vox Africa Journalist, Ali Bongo declared that [fr]:

Il ne faut pas faire de parallèle entre les différents pays. Certaines situations sont totalement différentes.

We should not make any comparison between different countries. Some situations are totally different.

During the visit, Ali Bongo and Nicolas Sarkozy discussed the the deployment of the French Military Defense Force in Central Africa, whose base is in Libreville:

The visit was highly criticised by the French environmental political Party in a press release [fr]:

Europe Ecologie Les Verts demande au président français de mettre un terme à ces pratiques de prédation économique et écologique, et d’en finir avec sa complaisance vis-à-vis du régime gabonais qui se refuse à la démocratisation.

Europe Ecologie Les Verts  asks that the French President puts an end to these economic and ecologic predatory practices, and stops this permissive attitude towards the Gabonese Regime that denies a true democratic process.

Gabonese activists also had a sit-in inside a building that belongs to the Gabonese authorities in Paris. Their actions was quickly repressed by the French police forces with tear gas [fr]. The activists were protesting against the acquisition by Ali Bongo of this 140 millions Euros luxurious mansion in Paris in May 2010:

Gloria Mika, a fashion model and Gabonese activist wonders on Twitter about the lack of outrage over the plight of the Gabonese struggle:

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

February 15 2011

Gabon: Leaderless Opposition?

Written by Julie Owono

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

Gabon is entering its third week of political tension, as its two governments - official and unofficial - both claim the presidency. But as developments continue in this small West African nation, critics denounce a lack of leadership in the burgeoning opposition movement.

Ongoing Repressions

Ida Reteno Assonouet, Minister of Justice of the official Gabonese Government announced in a press release on 12 February, 2011, that a warrant had been issued [fr] for the arrest of opposition leader André Mba Obame, self-proclaimed ‘unofficial' President of Gabon and the government he has formed.

The same Minister announced that sympathisers who were demonstrating in front of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) building where the opposition government are in hiding, would also be arrested.

In addition, Camarade on Le Post Blog [fr] posted an article regarding students demonstrations at University Omar Bongo, explaining that police are arresting protestors within the campus, in a bid to stifle the movement that started there on Thursday 10 February, 2011.

Student wounded at the University Omar Bongo in Gabonese capital Libreville. Image by Camarade on Le Post.

Student wounded at the University Omar Bongo in Gabonese capital Libreville. Image by Camarade on Le Post.

Among the repressive measures being taken by the official regime, one caused particular discussion among users of the Twitter microblogging network: satirical African online newspaper Le Gri-Gri International has reported [fr] that Guy-Blaise Nambo-Wezet, Gabonese Ambassador to Switzerland, was recalled to Libreville:

Guy-Blaise Nambo-Wezet, ambassadeur du Gabon en Suisse qui a été convoqué par les services de renseignements de l’armée, le tristement célèbre B2

Guy-Blaise Nambo-Wezet, Gabonese ambassador to Switzerland, was summoned by army intelligence services - the infamous B2

B2, the second bureau of the army intelligence services, has a reputation for questioning and torture. Le Gri-Gri continues:

l’intéressé est le frère cadet du Professeur Joseph John-Nambo, Ministre de l’Intérieur dans le gouvernement légitime du Président Mba Obame

The party concerned [Ambassador M. Nambo-Wezet] is the younger brother of Professor Joseph John-Nambo, Minster of Interior of the legitimate government of President Mba Obame.

This connection to the ‘unofficial' opposition government, led Le Gri-Gri to question the political motivation behind this move:

contre tous les usages diplomatiques, un ambassadeur est rappelé, non pas par son ministre de tutelle, « pour consultation », mais par un service de l’armée pour y être entendu comme un vulgaire délinquant.

Against all usual diplomatic practices, an ambassador is recalled, not by his supervision authority “for consultation”, but by an army service to be questioned like a criminal.

Meanwhile at the UNDP building in Libreville, Mba Obame and his ‘ministers' continue to work in forced asylum, as this Le Gri-Gri International photo story [fr] shows:

Michel Ongoundou Loundah, 'unofficial' Gabonese Minister of Defense and Joseph John-Nambo, 'unofficial' Minister of Interior. Image from Le Gri-Gri International.

Michel Ongoundou Loundah, 'unofficial' Gabonese Minister of Defense and Joseph John-Nambo, 'unofficial' Minister of Interior. Image from Le Gri-Gri International.

Gabonese Diaspora in Action

To help understand the struggle against Ali Bongo's regime, three leaders of the international Gabonese diaspora agreed to be interviewed on the issue, and their own reflections on the current crisis.

Gloria Mika is an activist and founder of the citizen watch initiative Les anges gardiens du Gabon [fr] (Gabon's Guardian Angels for Transparency); Jean-Aimée Mouketou, is a Geography professor in Versailles, France and fellow professor in New-Scotland, Canada, who represents DIAGAU (Diaspora Gabonaise Unie - United Gabonese Diaspora) in France; Joël Mbiamany N'tchoreret is a professor in educational psychology in Canada and blogger, who is involved in Gabonese political groups abroad.

Referring to demonstrations organised by Gabonese citizens living in France, Gloria Mika says:

Les gabonnais de l’étranger n’ont pas manqué d’exprimer leur intérêt, en France et aux USA principalement.

The Gabonese diaspora have expressed their interest, mainly in France and the USA.
Gabonese demonstrating in Paris on 11 February, 2011, in support of the Egyptian protests. Image by Gloria Mika on Facebook.

Gabonese demonstrating in Paris on 11 February, 2011, in support of the Egyptian protests. Image by Gloria Mika on Facebook.

For Joël Mbiamany N'tchoreret, mobilisation is a little more difficult in Canada:

Jusqu’à maintenant, il n’y a pas encore eu des actions concrètes directes sur le terrain. Il faut dire que la population gabonaise au Canada est composée majoritairement d’étudiants (80%). La plupart sont des enfants du système comme on dit.

Until now, there have not been concrete actions on the ground. I must say that the Gabonese population in Canada is mainly composed of students (80%). Most of them are children of the system as we call them.

Beyond the political crisis, there appears a profound division between the political elite and the people who are organising to demonstrate. All of the interviewees agree that Ali Bongo won the 2009 presidential election fraudulently, and they all agree on the point that the opposition movement needs a leader.

For Jean-Aimée Mouketou the problem lies in the credibility of those opponents pretending to bring about change:

Au sortir des élections présidentielles d’Août 2009, le peuple gabonais est allé voter massivement pour l’opposition gabonaise et au sortir de cette même élection le même peuple gabonais est sorti massivement pour protéger/revendiquer cette élection, malheureusement, ce même peuple a été encore une fois roulé par ces opposants que moi je qualifie de pseudos opposants

Coming out of the [fraudulent] 2009 presidential election the Gabonese people voted overwhelmingly for the opposition, and after the election, the same people protested massively to reclaim the election. Unfortunately, the people were once again cheated by this opposition that I call the 'so called' opponents

Nevertheless Mouketou admits that André Mba Obame's political act is “courageous”.

Mika insists that:

Nous avons la chance d’avoir un mouvement historique, en référence à ce qui s’est passé en Tunisie, On espère aujourd’hui trouver l’élement qui sera un déclic

We have the chance to witness a historical movement, given what has happened in Tunisia and Egypt. We hope today to be able to find the trigger element [for Gabon]

For Joël Mbiamany, the movement must go beyond mere political figures:

Nous travaillons fortement pour que cette révolte se situe au-delà des leaders et des partis politiques.

We are hard working to make this uprising go beyond leaders and political parties.

One thing is sure for Jean-Aimé Mouketou, the proceedings in Gabon do not have an ethnic aspect:

Ce qui se passe actuellement au Gabon ce n,’est pas une affaire ethnique, mais un problème d’homme politique.

What's happening in Gabon is not an ethnic issue, but a problem of political figures.

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

February 12 2011

Gabon: The danger of ignoring Gabon's revolution

Written by Ndesanjo Macha

Ethan Zuckerman warns of the danger of ignoring Gabon's revolution: “The danger of ignoring Gabon’s revolution isn’t just that opposition forces will be arrested or worse. It’s that we fail to understand the profound shifts underway across the world that change the nature of popular revolution. The wave of protests that swelled in Tunisia may not break just in the Arab world, but across a much larger swath of the planet.”

February 11 2011

Gabon: Students Protest, Army Deployed

Written by Julie Owono

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

Gabon's political crisis reached new heights on Thursday, as students protested at Omar Bongo University in the capital city, Libreville. Whereas protests last week involved mostly opposition members, the unrest appears to be developing into a wider social conflict.

Currently the official government headed by President Ali Bongo, son of the late longstanding strongman Omar Bongo, stands accused of election fraud by an ‘unofficial' opposition government. Former Interior Minister and opposition leader André Mba Obame, has declared himself President. Planned protests in the country have been stifled by the authorities before they can take place.

This video from YouTube user AfricaWeWish shows the protest at Omar Bongo University yesterday:

Students' Revolt

Around 2:00 pm CET on the 10 February, activist Jean-Pierre Rougou who is said to be close to Gabon's ‘unofficial' opposition government posted on social network Twitter:

Gabon: révolte des étudiants de l'UOB qui refusent de vivre comme des chiens

Gabon: Uprising at Omar Bongo University by students who refuse to live like dogs

Pictures of the 10 February demonstration were posted by Libreville resident Carel Dorian Ondo Ellassoumou [fr] on her Facebook page:

Student protestors at the Omar Bongo University (UOB) in Libreville, Gabon on Thursday 10 February, 2011. Image from Carel Dorian Ondo Ellassoumou.

Student protestors at Omar Bongo University (UOB) in Libreville, Gabon on Thursday 10 February, 2011. Image from Carel Dorian Ondo Ellassoumou.

The aftermath of student protests at the Omar Bongo University (UOB) in Libreville, Gabon on Thursday 10 February, 2011. Image from Carel Dorian Ondo Ellassoumou.

The aftermath of student protests at Omar Bongo University (UOB) in Libreville, Gabon on Thursday 10 February, 2011. Image from Carel Dorian Ondo Ellassoumou.

According to website La Voix du Peuple Gabonais (Voice of the Gabonese People - LVDPG) [fr], an online newspaper managed by Gabonese living abroad, students were demonstrating [fr] because they have not received their 100 Euros (66,000 Central African Francs) monthly scholarship money since July 2010.

In addition they were protesting for the reinstatement of three professors, all members of the opposition National Union political party, who are currently ‘refugees' in the Libreville United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) building with the rest of the ‘unofficial' opposition government.

LVDPG reports these details about the clash between students and the authorities:

De violents affrontements ont par la suite éclatés entre les étudiants et les gendarmes venus les empêcher de manifester, ces derniers se permettant même de violer les franchises universitaires, car, ils seraient rentrés dans le campus et brutaliseraient les étudiants à l’intérieur de l’UOB.

Violent clashes burst out between students and the police who came to prevent them from protesting; they [the police] even violated the University's charter, because they went into the campus and brutalised students within the UOB [Omar Bongo University].

Creators of the Facebook page Etudiants Gabonaisen Révolte (Gabonese Students in Revolt) [fr], who describe themselves as “stagnating students, lacking powerful parents at the UOB” [Omar Bongo University], posted on Thursday:

les forces de l ‘ordre viennent de rentrer dans l ‘université et sont en train de nous massacrer comme en 1990!!”

Public law and order forces just entered the university and they are slaughtering us, just like in 1990!!

In 1990, an uprising that began at the same university against late President Omar Bongo was severely repressed by the Gabonese authorities, aided by French Foreign Legion forces in what was called “Operation Shark”.

On the occasion of the protest this week, LVDPG shared a video report that was broadcast on French television channel Bfmtv.com [fr] in 2009 that shows the dilapidated condition of Omar Bongo University:

Reactions Online

The news of the students' protest echoed within the Gabonese community online and reactions quickly appeared.

Referring to the situation regarding the three sacked professors, Paterne Sedryk Magnaga comments on his Facebook profile:

Comme c'est dommage! Au Gabon tu es radié de ton poste quand tu intègres un parti différent que celui du pouvoir c'est de la dictature et non la démocratie.

What a pity! In Gabon you are removed from your position when you get involved in a political party different from the one which holds the power. This is dictatorship, not democracy.

OK L UOB, commenting on LVDPG's article [fr] on February 10, plays down the protest:

arrete votre charabia les etudiants gabonais reclament leurs bourse rien de plus, quel revolte populaire.

Stop your rigmarole, Gabonese students are just asking for their scholarship, nothing more, what popular uprising?

@franklinishere links to the bfmtv.com video of the rundown university on Twitter:

#Gabon:43 years of disasters: See what you can find at University Omar Bongo in Libreville (video-french): http://bit.ly/ifX0Jf

Ongoing Arrests

On Koaci, an African news website, a blogger reports the arrest of another National Union leader in Bitam, North Gabon:

Nous venons d’apprendre l’arrestation à Bitam (Nord du GABON) de Mr BRUNO NZE MEZUI

We have just learned of the arrest in Bitam (North Gabon) of M. Bruno Nze Mezui

LVDPG [fr] reports that opposition neighborhoods of Libreville are surrounded by the authorities:

“Nous sommes pas pour venir terroriser nos populations mais plutôt assurer leur sécurité vis-à-vis des jeunes qui font le banditisme dans ces différents quartiers”, a déclaré un responsable des gendarmes.

“We are not here to terrorise our population, but rather to ensure their safety against young people who are committing crimes in those areas”, declared a police spokesperson.

The following video shows the deployment of military forces in Nkembo and Rio, areas of Libreville, posted to Youtube on February 10 by user AfricaWeWish:

French Opposition Lend Their Voices

In a blog post entitled “Hear the African Youth”, Pascal Michelangi, opposition deputy mayor of Epinay-Sous-Seinart, a city near Paris, contrasts French President Nicolas Sarkozy's position on the Tunisian crisis with the one he appears to have taken on Gabon's political turmoil. He shares a link to an article on news website Gabonews.ga that says Sarkozy sent his regards to Ali Bongo on the occasion of his birthday on 9 February:

Dans ce contexte politique explosif, Nicolas Sarkozy envoyait ses voeux de joyeux anniversaire au Président Gabonais, tout en terminant sa lettre par un très distingué et laconique… « ton ami ».

In the context of this explosive political situation, Nicolas Sarkozy sent his birthday wishes to the Gabonese President, ending his letter with a distinguished and laconic… “your friend”.

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

February 09 2011

Gabon: Protests Stifled as Official and ‘Unofficial' Governments Face Off

Written by Julie Owono

Following protests last week, tensions remain high in the West African nation of Gabon, as further demonstrations are now stifled by the authorities before they can take place.

The roots of the protests stem from a controversial presidential election in 2009 that saw the succession of Ali Bongo, son of former longstanding President Omar Bongo, in the midst of fraud allegations. The current wave of popular protests for free elections sweeping the African continent (Tunisia, Egypt and Côte d'Ivoire) has made the Gabonese government very wary of allowing protests to grow any larger.

Official vs ‘Unofficial' Governments

In theory, there are currently two governments in Gabon: an official one headed by President Ali Bongo, son of former longstanding President Omar Bongo, and a second ‘unofficial' government composed of two former Prime Ministers and former Interior Minister, André Mba Obame.

Obame has now been seeking asylum in the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) building in Gabonese capital Libreville, along with other members of his ‘government' for two weeks.

Self-proclaimed Gabon opposition 'President' Obame in the Libreville UNDP building, February 2011. Image from Le Gri-Gri International.

Self-proclaimed Gabon opposition 'President' Obame in the Libreville UNDP building, February 2011. Image from Le Gri-Gri International.

Opposition 'Prime Minister' Bandega-Lendoye in the Libreville UNDP building, February 2011. Image by Le Gri-Gri International.

Opposition 'Prime Minister' Bandega-Lendoye in the Libreville UNDP building, February 2011. Image by Le Gri-Gri International.



Obame declared himself president following the broadcasting of the documentary ‘Francafrique', directed by Patrick Benquet, on French public television channel France 2 in 2010. In the documentary Michel de Bonnecorse [fr], former chief of the African Division of the French Presidential Office, makes the following claim regarding the 2009 Gabon presidential election results:

“We have information that Obame got 42% and Ali Bongo 37%, and that the results were practically inverted.”

This declaration triggered internal political turmoil, which was heightened when President Bongo made amendments to the constitution in late 2010 that allowed him to extend term limits indefinitely in case of emergency.

A few weeks after the documentary was aired, whistleblower website WikiLeaks released a cable in which the American ambassador to Cameroon named senior Gabonese officials, including the late President and his son, as having benefitted from the embezzlement of around USD 36 million from the Bank of Central African States.

The money was claimed to have served to finance French political parties, including that of French President
Nicholas Sarkozy, on Omar Bongo's request.

Former Gabon President Omar Bongo with French President Nicholas Sarkozy. Still from the documentary 'Francafrique' (2010), directed by Patrick Benquet.

Former Gabon President Omar Bongo with French President Nicholas Sarkozy. Still from the documentary 'Francafrique' (2010), directed by Patrick Benquet.

Vincent Bolloré, a French business man and personal friend of President Sarkozy, who heads the investment group Bolloré which deals in maritime freight and African trade, dismissed the crisis in an interview with InfosGabon, a pro-Ali Bongo news website:

L’agitation politique observée ces derniers jours au Gabon peut-elle, à un moment ou à un autre, entamer votre engagement pour le développement du Gabon ?

Can the political unrest observed these last days in Gabon, at a moment or another, shake your commitment for the development of Gabon?

Systematic Impeachment of Protests in Gabon

Opposition politician Bruno Ben Moubamba announced via his Twitter account that peaceful demonstrations would be organised in Paris and in the Gabon capital Libreville on Saturday 5 February, 2011, to denounce the Bongo presidency:

Gabon - Grande Manifestation demain à Libreville / Gare Routière

Big demonstration tomorrow in Libreville/Gare Routière area

The word was rapidly spread on the Internet via social networks and citizen media websites, and a march [fr] was held in Paris from Place de la Bastille to Place de la République:

But in Gabon, things have not been so easy. According to Moubamba, the planned 5 February demonstration was repressed by Ali Bongo's security forces:

Encore une fois les forces de sécurité à la solde du pvr gabonais ont choisi la répression / Manifestation de la Gare

Once more, security forces at the mercy of the Gabonese authorities chose repression/Demonstration in Gare Routière area

On Tuesday 8 February, 2011, other demonstrations were dispersed in Gabon. According to online African paper Direct Scoop [fr], tear gas was used against protestors:

(…), les manifestants ont été dispersés par les gaz lacrymogène. ‘’Libreville est dans un état de siège qui ne dit son nom’’, souligne cette source

(…), demonstrators were dispersed with tear gas. “Libreville is under a siege that does not say its name”, underlines the [Gabonese] source

Tension at the UNDP Building in Libreville

Self proclaimed ‘President' Obame has sought asylum in the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) building in Libreville, along with other members of his ‘government' for two weeks now.

National Union, Gabon's main opposition party, was dissolved on the order of Ali Bongo at the beginning of the political crisis.

After the news of the military attack [fr] surfaced, satirical online paper Le Gri-Gri International published a photo story [fr] showing opposition life in the UNDP office:

Ce n’est pas la vie de château, certes, mais les « exilés du PNUD » n’en perdent pas le moral pour autant. Confinés pour la bonne cause, et encerclés par les miliciens à la solde d’Ali Ben

It's not a luxury life, but the “UNDP exiles” are still optimistic. Confined for a good cause and surrounded by militia who are at the mercy of Ali Ben [Bongo]

Anti-USA and UN Rhetoric

There seems to be increasing pressure on the opposition from UN officials however, to vacate the UNDP premises. Jean-pierre Rougou, a source reputed to be close to the unofficial ‘government', wrote on his social network Facebook profile:

La tension avec les responsables du système des nations unies est montée d'un cran aujourd'hui. le représentant algérien était extrêmement gêné de nous faire passer un message verbal de ses supérieurs à NY nous demandant si nous voulions quitter les lieux car ne pouvant nous forcer à le faire. Par ailleurs ils nous ont demandé de nous séparer de tous nos moyens de communication et de n'utiliser que le téléphone fixe du seul bureau auquel nous pouvons accéder.

Tension has gone up a notch here with the UN officials. The Algerian representative was quite embarrassed to tell us that his superiors in NY were wondering if we could willingly depart the premises because they cannot force us to leave. Additionally, they asked that we let go of all our communication devices and only use the fixed line in the only office that we can access.

In two press releases published on Tuesday 8 February, 2011, the unofficial opposition Gabonese government accused the United States' ambassador in Gabon of keeping a guilty silence on violations by Ali Bongo and his regime against civil liberties.

Jean-pierre Rougou compared the response in a note posted on Facebook to that of the Swedish UN Secretary General Dag Hammarskjold; Hammarskjold's reaction to a Congolese political crisis in 1960 led to the assassination of the first legally elected Prime Minister of the Republic of the Congo, Patrice Lumumba.

En 1960, l’attitude du Secrétaire Général de l’ONU, le Suédois Dag Hammarskjöld, a conduit à l’assassinat de Patrice Lumumba.
En 1994, l’attitude des Nations-Unies au Rwanda a aboutit au résultat que l’on connait.

IN 1960, the attitude of the UN Secretary General, Swede Dag Hammaskjöld, led to the assassination of Patrice Lumumba.
In 1994, the attitude of the United Nations towards Rwanda led to the result that we now know.

January 01 2011

Gabon-France: Wikileaks reveals The Financing of French Political Parties by Omar Bongo

By Abdoulaye Bah · Translated by Lova · View original post [fr]

On December 30, 2010 Antoine Ganne writes in an article on  afrik.com citing Wikileaks : ” nearly 30 millions euros were diverted from the Bank of the Central African States (BEAC) by former Gabonese president Omar Bongo, some of which were sent to French political parties, specifically Jacques Chirac's but Nicolas Sarkozy's as well.”

December 28 2010

Africa: West Africa's First Commercial Data Center Launching in 2011

By Ndesanjo Macha

A company simply identifying itself as West Africa Data Centres is taken the bold step to launch the first commercial large-scale data centre, in West Africa, David Ajao reports.

December 20 2010

Africa: The Scandal of the “Ill-gotten Gains”

By Abdoulaye Bah · Translated by Lynn Palermo · View original post [fr]

On November 9, 2010, the French Supreme Court of Appeals overturned a decision rendered a year ago by the Paris Court of Appeals, agreeing to hear the case brought by the French section of the NGO Transparency International [fr]  called “the ill-gotten gains” of the heads of state of Congo-Brazzaville, Gabon, and Equatorial Guinee  and members of their entourage.

It all begin in March 2007, when the Catholic Committee against Hunger and for Economic Development (CCFD) - Terre Solidaire  published a report on the  embezzlement of public funds by politicians of the South [fr].  It's title?  “Ill-gotten gains…too often bring profit: Dictators' fortune and Western complacency.”

Focusing on domestic goods of the countries victimized by their leaders, the study by the CCFD - Terre solidaire [fr] revealed abuses at the national level:

« Par exemple, Mobutu a transformé Gbadolite, son village natal au Zaïre, en un « Versailles de la jungle », avec une cinquantaine d’hôtels, un aéroport international qui pouvait accueillir le Concorde et plus de trois palais. Quant à Denis Sassou Nguesso, président en exercice au Congo Brazzaville, il détiendrait, avec sa famille, la moitié de l’économie du pays»

For example, Mobutu  transformed Gbadolite, his native village in Zaire into a “Versailles of the jungle,” with about 50 hotels, an international airport capable of receiving the Concorde, and more than three palaces.  Denis Sassou Nguesso, President of Congo Brazzaville, and his family controlled half of the country's economy.

A police investigation confirmed most of the allegations and uncovered the existence of many other goods [fr] in the form of both real estate and personal property (including cars and the dictators' bank accounts).

Sassou Nguesso's house. Source: témoignages.re

The report alleged that the clan of Omar Bongo Odimba (OBO) of Gabon had appropriated 39 real estate properties, of which 17 of there were in the name of their leader.  Most of the properties were located in the 16th arrondissement of Paris.  It also identified 70 bank accounts, 11 of them in OBO's name; and an automobile fleet of at least 9 vehicles whose total value is estimated at 1,493,443 euros.

survie.org reveals [fr] that, in addition to OBO's ill-gotten gains in France,

« En 1999, le Sénat américain a publié un rapport d’enquête sur l’origine de la fortune du président (gabonais). Ce document établit qu’Omar Bongo est devenu client de la Citibank de New York en 1970 et qu’il a ouvert de multiples comptes auprès de ses différents bureaux, à Bahreïn, à Jersey, à Londres, au Luxembourg, à New York, à Paris et en Suisse. …. Au total, le montant des avoirs du chef d’Etat, qui ont été placés sur ses différents comptes bancaires à la Citibank, à New York, de 1985 à 1997, serait d’environ 130 millions de dollars. La City Bank aurait expliqué « que l’argent provenait d’une allocation budgétaire, 8,5 % du budget gabonais - soit 111 millions de dollars - étant chaque année réservés au président ».

In 1999, the U.S. Senate a published the report of an investigation into the origins of the fortune of the President (of Gabon).  This document established that Omar Bongo had become a client of Citibank of New York in 1970 and that he had opened multiple accounts at different offices in Bahrain, Jersey, London, Luxembourg, New York, Paris, Switzerland.  … All told, from 1985 to 1997 the Head of State had allegedly deposited around 130 million dollars in various accounts with Citibank New York.  Citibank allegedly explained “that the money came from a budgetary allocation: 8.5% of the Gabonese budget, or 111 million dollars, was reserved for the president annually.”

The report goes further.  survie.org adds [fr] that:

« C’est dans son hôtel particulier qu’il a ainsi accueilli pendant la campagne présidentielle française les candidats Nicolas Sarkozy et François Bayrou ainsi que la moitié du gouvernement Fillon lors de sa première visite officielle sous la présidence de N. Sarkozy. »

During the French presidential campaign, he also received candidates Nicolas Sarkozy and François Bayrou at his home, as well as half of Fillon's government during the first official visit under the Sarkozy presidency.

Another site, asso-sherpa.org revealed [fr] more proof of the abuses of the OBO clan:

“Edith Bongo, alors épouse du Président gabonais, aurait ainsi fait l’acquisition d’une Daimler Chrysler au moyen d’un chèque tiré sur un compte ouvert auprès de la Banque de France par le Trésor Public Gabonais.

Edith Bongo, who was the wife of the Gabonese President at the time, allegedly acquired a Daimler Chrysler with a check drawing on an account opened at the Banque de France by the Gabonese Public Treasury.

Copy of the check for Chrysler purchase. Source: Asso-sherpa.org

Police services have also exposed the role played by various intermediaires (bankers, lawyers) in carrying out these various operations.

According to the report [fr] by CCFD-Terre solidaire, the fortune of Congolese President Denis Sassou NGesso and his entourage allegedly consists  of 18 properties; 112 bank accounts; and a fleet of automobiles, including  at least une vehicle worth 172,321 euros.

Nor is that everything.  The Congolese President and his clan's embezzlements

«  auraient commencé dès sa première période au pouvoir, de 1979 à 1992, en négociant la vente du pétrole en dessous du prix du marché en contrepartie de versements à son profit. A ce jour, la fortune de Denis Sassou Nguesso est estimée à plus d’un milliard de dollars. »

allegedly began during his first presidential term between 1979 and 1992, by negotiating the sale of oil below the market price in exchange for bank account deposits that benefited him personally.  At that time, Denis Sassou Nguesso's fortune was estimated at more than a billion dollars.

As for President Teodoro Obiang, who had closer relations with the United States than with France, the article titled “Biens mail acquis à qui profite le crime?” [”Gains ill-gotten: who profits from this crime?”] by Antoine Dulin and Jean Merckaert and found at ccfd-terresolidaire.org explains the extent of their illegal self-enrichment:

80% du revenu national serait monopolisé par l’oligarchie alors que 65% de la population vit toujours dans l’extrême pauvreté. ….. En 2003, ces comptes représentaient la relation la plus importante de la Rigg’s Bank, avec des versements totaux allant de 400 millions à 700 millions de dollars en une fois ! »

80% of national revenue is allegedly monopolized by the oligarchy, while 65% of the population still lives in extreme poverty.  In 2003, these accounts represented the most important relationship held by Rigg's Bank, with total deposits increasing from 400 million dollars to 700 million dollars at a time!

Furthermore, after the November 2009 elections in Equatorial Guinea, President Obiang formed a new government of 69 members, ousting practically all of the preceding ministers.  According to the site [fr] Africatime.com:

« En effet, dans le Gouvernement, il y a trois fils du Général, un frère, trois neveux, deux beaux-frères et trois cousins. »

Indeed, in the government, there are the General's three sons, one brother, three nephews, two brothers-in-law, and three cousins.

In Cameroon, the authors of the CCFD-Terre solidaire investigation write that:

À peine devenu chef d’État (en novembre 1982), Paul Biya faisait parler de lui à propos de son patrimoine. Le 16 mars 1983, Le Canard enchaîné dévoilait deux acquisitions présidentielles en France : l’une avenue Foch à Paris, l’autre sur la Côte d’Azur, à Cagnes-sur-Mer. …. En mai 1997, L’Événement du jeudi estime que la fortune du président camerounais et de sa famille approche les 70 millions d’euros, dont des châteaux en France et en Allemagne, à Baden- Baden.

Shortly after Paul Biya became Head of State (in November 1982), people were already talking about his inheritance.  On March 16, 1983, Le Canard enchainé uncovered two presidential acquisitions in France: one on the Avenue Foch in paris; the other in Cagnes-sur-Mer on the Mediterranean.  In may 1977, L'Evenement du jeudi estimated the fortune of the Cameroonian President and his family at close to 70 million euros, including chateaus in France and in Baden-Baden in Germany.

Despite all the evidence assembled by these investigations, it took until November 9, 2010 for the Supreme Court of Appeals to reach its decision.

In these times of troubling governance in Africa, the Ill-Gotten Gains affair can only reinforce the perception that government leaders are enriching themselves while their people live in misery.

October 28 2010

Gabon, France: Gabon-raised Frenchman to Run for Elections

By Lova Rakotomalala

Will Mael Nyamat explains [Fr] what a black candidate who was raised in Gabon like himself can bring in terms of perspective to the political discourse during the French primary elections. Nyamat also argues in his book that the historically close tie between Gabon and France [Fr] makes him as sensible to the French cultural exception as any other Frenchmen.

August 12 2010

Gabon: Gabon's press blossoms

By Ndesanjo Macha

Elisabeth Moumba discusses the blossoming of Gabon's press: “Until 1990, Gabon had only two public television channels and two radio stations–RTG 1 and RTG 2, along with Radio Gabon and Radio II–with one private pro-government daily, L'Union, and one pan-African radio station, Africa N1.”

July 09 2010

African Soldiers on the Champs Elysees on Bastille Day

By Mialy Andriamananjara

RTL Info writes about France's invitation to former colonies to parade on the Champs Elysees on July 14, Bastille Day.
“Des détachements de treize pays africains (Bénin, Burkina Faso, Cameroun, République centrafricaine, Congo-Brazzaville, Gabon, Madagascar, Mali, Mauritanie, Niger, Sénégal, Tchad et Togo) défileront aux côtés de l'armée française sur les Champs Elysées. En Belgique, la participation de militaires congolais au défilé de la Fête nationale, le 21 juillet, un moment envisagée, a été annulée à la suite du tollé déclenché par une déclaration faite en mars par le ministre de la Défense, Pieter De Crem.”
“Thirteen african countries (Bénin, Burkina Faso, Cameroun, République centrafricaine, Congo-Brazzaville, Gabon, Madagascar, Mali, Mauritanie, Niger, Sénégal, Tchad et Togo) will parade beside the French army on the Champs Elysees. In Belgium, participation of Congolese soldiers at the national day parade, July 21, to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of Congo's independence, has been cancelled after the vehement protests following the declaration in March of the Belgian Minister of Defence, Pieter De Crem.”
Hubert Falco, secretary of state for veteran affairs, explains :
« Le président de la République a invité nos partenaires africains à ouvrir le défilé », a-t-il déclaré mardi au musée de l’Armée, à l’hôtel des Invalides de Paris. Il inaugurait un cycle d’hommage aux anciens combattants africains intitulé « Force Noire - Tirailleurs 2010 » qui comprendra, outre le défilé, la publication d’un manuel scolaire sur ce thème et des expositions.
« La présence de détachements des forces armées africaines sur les Champs-Élysées, leur défilé devant leurs aînés, anciens combattants de l'armée française, sera une image forte de cette année 2010 », a avancé Hubert Falco. « Pendant cent ans, depuis la création des premiers corps de Tirailleurs sénégalais par Napoléon III en 1857 jusqu'aux années 1960, ils ont servi la France avec loyauté, courage, abnégation », a-t-il ajouté.
La « Force noire » était le surnom donné aux troupes coloniales par le général Charles Mangin. Ces troupes étaient également appelées Tirailleurs sénégalais, bien qu’également originaires de plusieurs pays, aujourd'hui la Mauritanie, le Mali, la Guinée, la Côte-d'Ivoire, le Niger, le Burkina Faso ou encore, entre autres, le Bénin et le Tchad.
“The President has invited our African partners to open the parade.” he announced tuesday at the Museum of the Army, at the Invalides of Paris. He opened a cycle of hommage to former African soldiers entitled “Black Forces - Tirailleurs 2010″, which comprises, the parade, but also publication of a school textbook on the theme and other exhibits. ”The presence of African armies on the Champs Elysees, them parading before their elders, veterans of the French army, will be a strong image of the year 2010″ Hubert Falco supposes. During 100 years, since the creation of the Tirailleurs senegalais by Napoleon III in 1857 until the 1960s, they have served France with loyalty, courage, abnegation”, he added.  The “Black Force” was the nickname given to colonial troops by the general Charles Mangin. These troops were also called Tirailleurs senegalais, even though they came from many countries, nowadays called Mauritania, Mali, Guinea, Cote d'Ivoire, Niger, Burkina Faso, and among others, Benin and Tchad.
Out of 14 countries to which invitations were issued, only Cote d'Ivoire declined, as reported on Afrik.com :
“Les Forces armées nationales de Côte d’Ivoire ne prendront pas part au défilé militaire prévu le 14 juillet à Paris, avec la participation des troupes des anciennes colonies africaines de la France, lit-on sur Abidjan.net. “Le président Gbagbo a tranché, nos troupes ne participeront pas au défilé du 14 juillet. Elles ont d’autres occupations au moment où la Côte d’Ivoire est en guerre”, a expliqué samedi l’ambassadeur de Côte d’Ivoire à Paris, Pierre Aimé Kipré. Il a également rappelé les contentieux qui opposent les deux pays depuis le début de la rébellion, en septembre 2002, notamment la destruction en 2004 de la flotte aérienne ivoirienne par les forces françaises et la mort en 2005 de plusieurs citoyens ivoiriens fauchés par des balles françaises.”
The Ivorian army will not participate in the military parade organized on July 14 in Paris, with the participation of other former African colonies of France, one reads on Abidjan.net. President Gbagbo has decided, our troups will not participate in the parade of July 14. They are otherwise occuped at this time when Cote d'Ivoire is at war”, has explained Pierre Aime Kipre, ambassador of Cote d'Ivore in Paris. He has also reminded the contentious issues opposing the two countries since the beginning of the rebellion, in september 2002, notably destruction in 2004 of the Ivoirian Air force fleet by French forces, and numerous Ivorian citizens' death in 2005 under French bullets.
On Jeune Afrique, Deb comments:
“Mais pourquoi meme défilé en france.. on dit le cinquantenaire d´independance  des pays africains et non de  l'europe..franchement .Comme si apres 50 ans l´afrique n´est pas capable de feter son anniversaire seule sans impliquations exterieurs.. la CI ny participeras pas, oui j'en suis fiere…”
But why even parade in France… One says this is the Fiftieth anniversaries of African countries, not European ones… Frankly… As if after 50 years Africa is unable to celebrate her anniversary alone, without external interference. Cote d'Ivoire will not take part in this parade and I am proud of it…
For others, this African Bastille Day reflects the ambiguity, the impasse of French politics towards Africa.
On lemonde.fr, one reads:
que fête-t-on ? A l'évidence, le bilan de ce demi-siècle d'indépendance pour les peuples concernés n'est glorieux ni pour la France ni pour les Etats africains. Rend-on hommage aux sacrifices des tirailleurs coloniaux des deux guerres mondiales ? Pas de quoi pavoiser non plus, puisqu'il a fallu la récente décision du Conseil constitutionnel pour que le principe de l'égalité des pensions des anciens soldats africains et français soit enfin reconnue. Quant au défilé sous l'Arc de triomphe d'armées africaines dont certaines ont participé récemment à de sanglantes répressions, il apparaît pour le moins ambigu.”
What is one celebrating? Evidently the results of this half-century of independence for involved people is not glorious for France, nor for the African states. Does one honor the sacrifices of colonial soldiers under the two world wars? Nothing to be proud of either, because the recent decision of the Constitutionnal Council was sorely needed for the recognition of the principle of equality between retirement benefits for African veterans and French veterans. And seeing African armies parade, under the Arc de Triomphe, some of whom have recently participated in bloody repressions is at the very least ambiguous.
The ambiguity is a common theme reprised across African bloggers.
Joachim Vokouma on lefaso.net:
“A vrai dire, de nombreux Africains s’interrogent sur le sens de la participation des troupes africaines au défilé  du 14 juillet. Faut-il rappeler les horreurs, les massacres et les assassinats qui ont jalonné l’occupation coloniale ? Que célèbre t-on ?
La fin du mépris, des humiliations et du paternalisme ? Une Humanité enfin réconciliée ? Que le cinquantenaire des indépendances soit l’occasion, pour ceux dont l’humanité avait été mise entre parenthèse durant l’esclavage et la colonisation, de faire le point sur ce qu’ils ont fait de leur liberté recouvrée est sans doute plus que nécessaire.”
Many Africans wonder about the opportunity of African troops participating at the July 14 parade. Must one recall the horrors, massacres, murders that punctuated colonial occupation? What is one celebrating? The end of contempt, humiliations and paternalism? A finally reconciled Humanity? May the fiftieth anniversary of independances be the opportunity, for those whose humanity was put in between parenthesis during slavery and colonization, to deliberate on what they have done on their recovered freedom.

Mampouya, a Congolese blogger:
“Ce 14 juillet donc, les naïfs spectateurs français s’apprêtent à applaudir ce qu’il faut bien appeler des milices d’Etat (en tout cas au moins pour le Congo Brazzaville) sous couvert d’armées nationales. Prudent, le gouvernement français a pris grand soin d’éviter que les organes de presse “hostiles” rencontrent les membres des détachements militaires invités. Il y aurait-il des choses à cacher ?”
This July 15, the unsuspecting French onlookers are getting ready to applaud what one must call state militias (at least for Congo Brazzaville) masquerading as national armies. The French government has carefully avoided inviting “hostile” media organizations, and they will not meet with military guests. Are they hiding anything?
Joachim Vouakoma again on watching armies with sinister acts parading on the Champs Elysees :

« Verra t-on défiler toutes les armées y compris celles qui ont commis des massacres ? », interroge une journaliste allemande.
Allusion aux massacres de 150 civils commis par l’armée guinéenne fin septembre dernier dans le stade de Conakry. Jacques Toubon qui est tout sauf un néophyte en affaires « françafricaines », feint pourtant l’ignorance, botte en touche et renvoie la question à son auteur : « Pourriez-vous me dire quelles sont les armées qui ont massacré ou qui massacrent ? ». Il finira par révéler que de toute façon, ayant pris son indépendance en 1958 après son refus du référendum de la même année, la Guinée ne faisait pas partie des invités. Au Niger, où un coup d’état a mis fin à la dérive autoritaire de Mamadou Tandja, Paris espère que des élections seront organisées d’ici juillet. Quant au président malgache, c’est en catimini que Jacques Toubon l’a rencontré à Paris et son cas est pour le moins embarrassant.
Will we see armies parading including those who committed massacres, asks a German journalist. Reference to the massacres of 150 civilians committed by the Guinean army end september in the Conakry stadium. Jacques Toubon is all but a newbie in Francafrican business, and feigns ignorance, asks the question back “Can you tell me which armies have massacred or are massacring”. He ends up revealing that after getting its independence in 1958 after having rejected the referendum the same year, Guinea will not be part of the guests. In Niger, where a coup d'etat ended the authoritarian drift of Mamadou Tandja, Paris hopes that elections will be organized by July. As for the Malagasy President, Jacques Toubon met with him in secret in Paris, and his case is at the very least embarrassing.
Alain Rajaonarivony, a Malagasy blogger :
Une quarantaine de militaires de la Grande Ile qui doivent défiler pour le 14 juillet sont depuis hier à Paris. 36 officiers malgaches ont été décorés pour «service rendu à la France». 8 militaires français ont reçu en retour des distinctions, on ne sait trop pourquoi. Roindefo Monja a profité de son séjour hexagonal pour déposer une gerbe au monument des soldats malgaches morts pour la France, au Bois de Vincennes. Et le ministre de l’Education est en train de détricoter complètement les réformes de Marc Ravalomanana pour s’aligner sur le système français. On revient aux trimestres au lieu des bimestres, et au Lycée, on aura désormais les filières S (scientifiques) et L (littéraires) comme en France. Quand on vous dit que tout va bien… !
About forty soldiers of the Great Island who will parade on July 14 have arrived in Paris yesterday. 36 Malagasy officers have been decorated for “rendered services to France”. 8 French soldiers have received in return mentions, one does not really know why. Roindefo Monja (Note of the author : former Prime Minister) has taken advantage of his stay in France to place flowers at the monument of Malagasy soldiers fallen for France, at the Bois de Vincennes. And the minister of Education is busily dismantling Marc Ravalomanana's reform to align the Malagasy educational system with the French one. We are back to trimesters, no more semesters, and  we will have now S (Scientific) and L (Literary) high school diploma fields. When I told you everything is all right…
Others wonder why Black African countries are the only one parading:

sans revenir sur les détails du débat, la question à laquelle la France et ses partisans africains ne peuvent pas répondre, c’est de savoir pourquoi c’est l’Afrique Noire seule qui est invitée à cette cérémonie et non pas le Maroc, la Tunisie, l’Algérie, le Vietnam pour ne citer que certaines anciennes colonies françaises?
Cette cérémonie ne commémore pas notre indépendance mais bel et bien notre dépendance. C’est simplement insultant pour les peuples Africains.

Without rehashing the details of this debate, the question that France and her African partners cannot answer is why is it that only black African countries were invited to this ceremony and not Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria and Vietnam among the former French colonies? This ceremony is not to commemorate our independence but actually our dependence. This is just plainly insulting for African people.

Senegalese historian Fadel Dia on his blog:

:

“le minimum serait d’exiger que la France fasse auparavant ce qu’elle n’a pas fait en 1960 : solder ses comptes à l’endroit de ses anciens combattants d’Afrique, qui l’avaient servie et s’étaient sacrifiés pour elle. Les soldats que Paris se propose d’inviter en 2010 sont les héritiers de ces combattants oubliés dont ils doivent porter les revendications et auxquels la France peut rendre justice, définitivement et solennellement, pour boucler un demi-siècle d’occasions manquées.
Si les soldats africains doivent défiler à Paris le 14 juillet 2010, alors que ce soit plutôt les éclopés et les survivants de 39-45, d’Indochine et d’Algérie, pour étaler aux yeux des Français leurs illusions perdues et leur détresse de serviteurs mal récompensés. Il est temps, enfin, que la dette du sang que leur doit la France cesse d’être un « contentieux  », pour devenir le « gage d’une histoire commune », que les Tirailleurs Sénégalais ne soient plus, comme le craignait Senghor, des « morts  gratuits », que les Français réalisent qu’il ne s’agit pas ici seulement « d’un devoir de mémoire » mais « d’un devoir d’histoire et de vérité » selon le mot du député socialiste Alain Rousset.”
The minimum would be to demand from France that she does what she did not do in 1960 : to settle her accounts towards the African veterans, who have served her and sacrificed themselves. Veterans that Paris invites in 2010 are the heirs of the forgotten veterans whose demands they should endorse, and to whom France can render justice, definitively and solemnly, to bring an end to this half century of missed opportunities. If African soldiers must parade in Paris on July 14 2010, it must be as survivors and war wounded of 39-45, of Indochina and Algerian wars, to showcase to the French their lost illusions and their distress of ill rewarded services. It is time, at last, that the blood debt owed by France ceases to be a “contentious point”, to become “a token of common history”, that the Tirailleurs Senegalais will not be, as Senghor feared, “gratuitous dead”, that the French realize that this is not only a “duty of memory”, but also “a duty of history and truth”, as told by the socialist parlementarian Alain Rousset.

June 13 2010

France : Poetry Slam World Cup

By Suzanne Lehn

Bobigny, in the Paris suburbs, is hosting  a different kind of  world cup, namely  the 4th Poetry Slam World Cup (the quarter finals), on June 12th and 13th. Bondy Blog interviews [Fr] two  finalists:  Le Wise, from Gabon, and Philipp Sharri, from Germany.

June 08 2010

50 years Later, Independence and the Resource Curse in Francophone Africa

By Lova Rakotomalala

Francophone Africa is celebrating 50 years of independence in 2010. In light of this anniversary, a summit Africa-France took place in Nice, France as the oft tumultuous relationship between France and its former colonies was again under the spotlight. Many Africans voices are wondering out loud what is there to celebrate, given the mediocre level of human development achieved in many countries since independence.
The recurrent lament of those many outraged voices is that the African continent is certainly rich in natural resources and yet, it seems that the continent is endlessly plagued with what is known as the resource curse and many believe that those foreign interests are no stranger to sustaining the curse.
From an economic standpoint, Africa has certainly benefited from the boom in commodities in the last decade but not as much as one would predict. A report for Mckinsey Quarterly entitled “What drives Africa's growth?”, the authors state that:

Oil rose from less than $20 a barel in 1999 to more than $145 in 2008. prices for minerals, grain and other raw materials also soared on rising global demand. [..] Yet natural resources generated only 32% of Africa's GDP growth from 2000 to 2008.

So why has Africa not benefited more from its resources? Many Africans would argue that the way international interests are involved and mixed in the exploitation of those resources and the lack of transparency regarding those deals do not help foster development for African states. In a dossier on FranceAfrique for Focus on Africa , Stephen Smith highlights the special ties between France and the continent:

But since he took office, President Sarkozy has perpetuated France's time-honoured tradition of parallel diplomacy in Africa.
One set of advisers presides in public over the official business with Africa, while high-ranking Elysee staff, in tandem with unofficial middlemen, is in charge of the lucrative and highly personalised politics that Mr Sarkozy denounced during his presidential campaign.
The French media regularly expose the broken promises and the new lease on life given to Francafrique.
The elite collusion of Francafrique has become an anachronism, at odds with the stark realities of shrinking French engagement - both government and private - with its former territories south of the Sahara.

The oil curse is the most cited issues in the francophone regions but certainly not the only one. In a recent report for the Africa report, Norbrook wonders who really owns Africa’s oil:

This brave new world for African oil has been driven by price hikes, which make the expensive process of exploring a risk worth taking. The move offshore, enabled by advances in technology, requires deep pockets – hiring the drill boat that discovered oil in Ghana cost about a million dollars a day.
Another important dynamic has been the multiplication of competition, with Chinese and Indian companies joining the European and US array of majors. Where oil production was traditionally controlled by a small elite whose monopoly was seen as unhealthy, new challengers have made it easier for governments to negotiate terms.

Africa Oil Map from Theafricareport.com

Blogger Achille in Antananarivo, Madagascar has been following the political crisis in Madagascar closely, here is how he links the turmoil there and the oil curse (fr):

On a tous cherché la cause de cette crise, mais on oublie que c’est le pétrole qui a lancé les offensives. Tous les autres évènements tels que le pillage des forêts, le banditisme, l’accroissement de la pauvreté ne sont que les conséquences. La Francafrique a commencé à bouger dès qu’on a entendu les premières études positives sur le pétrole sans compter les autres ressources qui attirent d’autres pays. Je viens de me rendre compte qu’on est cerné par les multinationale, les canadiens au sud, les chinois vers Soalala et évidemment Total, le grand ami des pays en développement et des dictateurs de pacotille ! Et nous, on est là comme des cons à regarder le train qui transporte notre pognon loin vers l’horizon ! Quand j’ai vu le chiffre de 100 millions pour une concession pétrolière, je me suis dit qu’enfin la stupidité avait enfin atteint son sommet avec nos dirigeants.

We have all been seeking the cause of this crisis, yet we often forget that oil is what triggered all of the turmoil. All the other events, pillaging the national forest, high crimes, the ever-increasing poverty are only the byproducts of that. Lobbyists for Francafrique only started to make their move when they heard that there was oil to be exploited, not discarding the fact that other resources were also attractive to them and other nations.
In fact, I just realize that we are surrounded by corporations, Canadians in the South, Chinese in Soalala and of course Total, every developing country and wannabe dictators’ best friend. In the meantime, we are just standing here, watching our resources being shipped to far away places ! When I saw that 100 millions were granted for an oil concession, I said to myself that stupidity has finally reached its peak with our leaders.

Back in the 70’s, oil was seen as a passport towards rapid development. That was the case for Algeria, Libya and Irak says Passion-histoire. He explains how quickly that hope has now faded away (fr):

Dans les années 1970, grâce la rente pétrolière, l’Algérie, la Libye et l’Irak paraissaient engagés dans un processus de modernisation accélérée. Le pétrole était la bénédiction qui permettrait à ces États de rattraper leur « retard » économique.
L’Algérie était un « dragon en Méditerranée », la Libye un « émirat » et l’Irak « la puissance militaire montante » du monde arabe. Sur le plan politique, le socialisme progressiste laissait penser que des transformations profondes s’opéraient : émancipation de la femme, urbanisation, scolarisation, augmentation de l’espérance de vie…
Quelques décennies plus tard, la désillusion est cruelle. Le sentiment de richesse a entraîné ces pays dans des expérimentations voire des impasses politiques, économiques et militaires aux conséquences désastreuses dont ils peinent encore à sortir.

In the 1970, thanks to petrol rent, Algeria, Libya and Irak looked like they were engaged in a rapid modernization process. Petrol was the blessing that would allow this states to catch up from an economic standpoint. Algeria was to the “Mediterranean Dragon”, Libya was the “Emirate”, and Irak was “ the rising military power” of the arab world. From a political standpoint, progressive socialism would let many believe that many deep transformational change were in the works, women empowerment, urbanization, schooling, rising life expectancy…
A few decades later, the disillusion cuts deep. The feeling is that those riches led those countries to try out experiments that led to political economical and military dead ends that had disastrous consequences from which they have a devil of a time trying to escape.

Reacting on the celebration of 50 years of independence, Faustine Vincent writes that African nations are reluctant to submit their report card (fr):

Mais, au final, le cinquantenaire embarrasse tout le monde. Côté africain, «les pays auraient dû en profiter pour faire un bilan d’étape. Ce n’est pas le cas, assure Boubacar Boris Diop, écrivain sénégalais. Certainement parce qu’ils n’ont pas lieu d’en être fiers».

In the end, this 50 year anniversary celebration is quite embarrassing for everyone. From the African side, “this was an opportunity to draw conclusions from their journeys so far. However, that is far from the being the case says Boubacar Boris Diop, a Sengalese writer. They certainly don’t have anything to be proud of”.

On the French side, the Sarkozy administration used to express a willingness to do away with the practices of former French administrations. As reported by Sarah Halifa-Legrand, this was expressed in rather crude terms by Alain Joyandet, Secretary of State for French Cooperation (fr):

…[La France] se montrant “prêt à laisser tomber l’Afrique si son pays n’y trouve pas son compte”. Dans la bouche d’Alain Joyandet, cela donne : “Ne pas avoir peur de dire aux Africains qu’on veut les aider, mais qu’on veut aussi que cela nous rapporte”

[France] is ready to “give up on Africa if the country does not find it worthwhile”. From the mouth of Alain Joyandet: “ Not to be afraid to tell Africans that we want to help them but there has got to be something in it for us as well”

In Gabon, Association Survie notes that despite last year’s turmoil in Gabon, the company Total has done quite well for itself in 2010:

Elle a publié un résultat net de 42 millions d’euros au titre du premier trimestre 2010, en hausse de 109% par rapport à la même période en 2009.

Total has reported a net benefit of 42 millions euros in the first trimester of 2010, that is an increase of 109% from the same period in 2009.

Finally, Arimi Choubadé at Quotidien Nokoue in Benin posts a sarcastic note asking us to imagine how better-off France would have been if only France could have “maintained” her privileged ties with countries that have major natural assets (fr):

Imaginez une France partenaire privilégié d’une Côte d’Ivoire forte de son cacao ; d’un Gabon, d’un Congo, d’un Tchad, d’un Cameroun voire d’une Mauritanie dopés par l’exploitation du pétrole ; d’un Mali, d’un Bénin et d’un Burkina Faso en pôle dans la production de coton ; d’un Togo transfiguré par les ristournes du phosphate; et d’un Niger comblé par l’exploitation de l’Uranium. Cela éviterait à Sarkozy sa posture actuelle de puissance mitigée.

Imagine France with a privileged partnership with Ivory Coast and its abundance of cocoa; with Gabon, Congo, Chad, Cameroon even Mauritania boosted with oil; with Mali, Benin and Burkina Faso and their cotton, with Togo transformed by its phosphate and with Niger, and its uranium reserve. It could have helped Sarkozy from having to deal with its position as just a middle-of-the-pack powerhouse.

April 11 2010

Gabon: African actor in Chinese martial art movies

Do you know Luc Bendza? He is probably the only African to take part in Chinese martial art movies.

January 13 2010

Africa: 2010 Africa Cup of Nations Starts: What Do We Expect?

2010 CAN in Angola

2010 CAN in Angola

This year Africa’s in the sports arena for all the right reasons. First to shine the spotlight is definitely the Confederation of Africa's (CAF) African Cup of Nations being held in Angola which is just a stone’s throw away from South Africa, which hosts the World Cup in June later on this year.

As expected in many respects, this is a dress rehearsal for most of the teams which qualified for the World Cup from Africa.

But not everyone is celebrating Africa’s premiere football showcase as Mark Murphy notes:

If this year’s African Cup of Nations in Angola has entered the psyche of English football fans at all, it is because of the cataclysmic effect on Chelsea’s Premier League title hopes of a month without Didier Drogba

David James also wonders aloud in an article for Sports Blog:

With Chelsea flying there is plenty of speculation as to how they will cope without Didier Drogba, Michael Essien, Salomon Kalou and Mikel John Obi

Quite a number of English clubs will lose their players to the tournament with Chelsea and Portsmouth being the biggest casualties. Plagued by financial difficulties, Portsmouth has been living from hand to mouth and currently lie last in the English Premier League.

www.guardian.co.uk/football/blog/2009/dec/20/african-cup-nations-david-james”>David James again:

‘African Cup of Nations will hit us but who wouldn’t want to be there?’
…we have had so many other things to worry about – not getting paid, having another change of manager, being bottom of the league – that the thought of players going missing in a few weeks' time has not yet come to the fore. Of course it will be a big blow to us. We don't have the biggest of squads, and to lose some of our best players will have a huge impact. When our players do return there could be a host of other problems, such as mental and physical fatigue, adjusting to the difference in temperature, and injuries. So what do the Portsmouth players themselves think? To gauge opinion I had a chat with some of them over dinner, and the only thing anyone wanted to talk about was who would win the competition

The hosts, Angola will be hoping to save their blushes after failing to qualify for the World Cup after a promising period in 2008 as noted by Oliver:

After a successful stint in the 2008 African cup of nations, Angola were awarded the rights to host the tournament for the first time in its twenty six year history. Angola, who have only featured in the competition four times, preceded to the quarter finals in 2008”
But going by the first game against Mali they must wish the fortunes are better and pray (and play too) hoping to make it through the knock-out rounds of the quarter-finals and looking forward to replicating Egypt’s success of hosting the Cup and winning 1986/2006(along with other nations such as Sudan-1970,Ghana -1978, Algeria-1990, South Africa-1996);

Another country hoping to change their fortunes is last tournament’s hosts, Ghana. Should Ghana be taken seriously?:

Should Ghana be taken seriously?”– It goes on to ask if they shall find comfort with “John Mensah, John Pantsil, Stephen Appiah, Laryea Kingston are all nursing injuries while Muntari was famously overlooked”
It goes on further to say,
“Soon after the draw for the CAN several media pundits installed Ghana as joint favourites together with La Cote D’ivoire. Well that was before the injury crisis, but still that is the expectation this young team is up against-to at least make the final

The Indomitable Lions- as the Cameroonians have their old but vastly experienced players to put through their case as their iconic players look to hang the boots in pride. Cameroon is led by Rigobert Song who plays in his eighth African Cup of Nations tournament:

Cameroon promise to be strong. Their manager, Paul Le Guen, has found a way of ensuring star striker Samuel Eto'o does not feel the need to scamper all over the pitch in search of the ball, and the skilful Betis midfielder Achille Emana has become the prime conduit to the Inter star. In the centre of defence Cameroon boast one of the hottest prospects in African football, the 20-year-old Monaco centre-back Nicolas N'Koulou, who has been compared to a young Franco Baresi. What is more, in a tournament where few of the teams have top-class goalkeepers, Cameroon are an exception: Carlos Kameni is excellent

The other countries expected to make run-ins in the title chase include past winners Tunisia, Algeria, Nigeria and the West African states of Mali and Burkina Faso. Togo team decided to go back home following the attack on the team bus in Cabinda:

The heartbreaking attack on the Togo team bus in rural Cabinda, an Angolan territory geographically separated from the rest of the nation, on the eve of the 2010 African Nations Cup upset me deeply. Foremost, I’m upset about the dead and wounded; I’m upset that the vile geo-political mix of oil, land, terrorism, and inequality claimed innocent lives and injured the travelling party of a soccer team that was interested in nothing more than a game. But I’m also upset about the potential for the ambush to detract from what should be a great year for African soccer—and to further distort perceptions of Africa

Cameroonian blogger George Fominyen discusses the incident in a post titled “Death in the Africa Cup's group of death”:

When four West African neighbours were drawn to play in group “B” of the African Cup of Nations in the enclave of Cabinda, pundits named it the “group of death”. But they were far from imagining that someone will die from gun-shot wounds two days before the kick-off of the tournament.

Ethan Zuckerman discusses the incident in a wider context arguing that “what happens in Cabinda doesn't stay in Cabinda”:

Actually, hosting Africa’s biggest football tournament – that is, up until the World Cup later this year – was probably a good branding move for Angola, which has made vast strides since the Angolan civil war ended in 2002. The mistake was in holding one of four sets of matches in Cabinda. It proved to be a tragic, deadly mistake: Separatist guerillas attacked a convoy of team buses, led by Angolan military, as they travelled from Congo-Brazaville into Cabinda, killing three members of the Togolese national team’s entourage and wounding nine others.

On a lighter note, Brucio offers American viewers options of viewing the African Cup of Nations:

No regular USA cable or dish packages have the games. You need the African or Middle East package. If you have no idea how to see the games then I would suggest calling all the African restaurants and bars in your town to find out who is showing them

Dary, however, has tips on how to watch the tournament from the US, UK and Australia:

Unless you have a ticket to an Angola 2010 game, there are basically three ways to watch the African Cup of Nations 2010. Option One is to watch it on TV. Option Two, you can watch a legal, high quality internet stream. Option Three, you take your chances with a barely legal pirated internet stream.

Cup of African Nations

Cup of African Nations

There are also some interesting facts about this year’s African Cup of Nations which now has 17 countries competing:

Did you know? The youngest player is Zambia’s defender Emmanuel Mbola, only 16 at the kick off of the African Cup of Nations. The oldest is Mozambique’s midfielder Nelinho, aged 38. Each squad has called up 23 players, save from Burkina Faso who arrived in Angola with only 22. Forward Aristide Bancé had a fallout with his coach Paulo Duarte and refused to play.  66 of the 367 players play in France, the African Cup’s number 1 provider. OGC Nice reluctantly sent 8 of its players to Angola: Poté (Benin), Bamogo (Burkina Faso), Faé (Ivory Coast), Mouloungui (Gabon), Traoré and Bagayoko (Mali), Apam (Nigeria), Ben Saada (Tunisia).

Dary has compiled a list of 11 players to watch:

Everyone knows about Ivory Coast’s Didier Drogba and Cameroon’s Samuel Eto’o. The superstars of African football. Most will know about Mali’s Fredi Kanoute and Seydou Keita too. You don’t need WorldCupBlog to tell you about them. So we thought we’d compile a list of 10 players to watch at the 2010 Africa Cup of Nations, featuring talented youngsters and other players with slightly lower profiles than those listed above.

Mamadou Gaye discusses the match between Ivory Coast and Burkina Faso and says, “The best is yet to come”:

Hello and welcome to my first blog on SuperSport.com. I look forward to exchanging views and ideas with you through this medium. You can also catch me on Soccer Africa and during SuperSports' coverage of the Afcon on SS3 and SS4.
I think the game between Ivory Coast and Burkina Faso was a good one. It was pacey and very tactical.

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