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June 08 2012

The Evolution of African Social Welfare Systems

This post is part of our special coverage Global Development.

Considering the debate generated by healthcare reform in the United States and the gradual withdrawal of the French state from public-funded social action, one might think that social protection is an endangered idea. On the contrary, the right to security is an integral component of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 22) and an important part of the Millenium Development Goals (MDG), as conceived by the United Nations.

For the majority of African countries, social welfare systems are still evolving. Each African government has chosen a system specific to its culture, with varying degrees of success, but all recognize the necessity of protecting at a minimum the most vulnerable populations.

An insufficient social protection system 

Assane Fall-Diop summarizes the struggles that are still needed to achieve a real social welfare system in Africa [fr]:

La protection sociale est devenue un thème obligé des débats électoraux en Afrique. En Côte d’Ivoire et en République démocratique du Congo, la Constitution ou la loi font même de l’assurance-maladie un objectif prioritaire. Cependant, l’essor de l’économie informelle et la faiblesse politique et financière des Etats handicapent les réalisations concrètes [..] En Afrique, « seulement 5 % à 10 % de la population active bénéficie d’une couverture sociale », selon l’Organisation internationale du travail (OIT), qui note une dégradation de la situation au cours des vingt dernières années. L’organisation souligne que « près de 80 % de la population n’a pas accès aux soins de santé de base ».

Social protection became a necessary theme of the electoral debates in Africa. In Cote d’Ivoire and the Democratic Republic of Congo, either the Constitution or the law make health insurance a priority goal. However, the booming informal economy and the financial and political weaknesses of African states make it difficult to achieve real progress. In Africa, “only 5-10% of the workforce receives social security coverage,” according to the International Labour Organization (ILO), which notes that the situation has deteriorated over the last 20 years. The organization emphasizes that “close to 80% of the population does not have access to basic healthcare.”

 

End of the month pension queues. Clermont Township, Kwazulu-Natal, South Africa by HelpAge on Flickr (CC-license-BY).

End of the month pension queues. Clermont Township, Kwazulu-Natal, South Africa by HelpAge on Flickr (CC-license-BY).

Lambert Gbossa, deputy director of the International Labour Organization's Regional Office for Africa, explains why he thinks that social welfare is in decline all over the continent. The force of informal economy is, in his opinion, one of the principal causes [fr]:

d’abord, une poussée démographique galopante qui produisit chaque année des cohortes de primo-demandeurs d’emplois; ensuite, une crise économique grave proche de la récession qui a réduit à néant les capacités d’absorption du secteur moderne; enfin, la poussée de l’exode rural obligeant bon nombre d’individus à venir «bricoler» dans les villes. Ainsi, la population active atteint plus de 40 pour cent dans l’ensemble des pays, avec un taux d’accroissement de plus de 4,5 pour cent, légèrement supérieur à celui de la croissance démographique. Au rythme actuel d’évolution des données sur la population active et sur la population salariée, le taux d’occupation des travailleurs salariés pourrait n’être plus que 2 à 3 pour cent au maximum dans les 25 prochaines années. Comme cette population est la seule à bénéficier d’un système organisé de sécurité sociale, il y a ainsi une dégradation prévisible de la rentabilité sociale du système de couverture.

First, a runaway population boom that produces each year a cohort of first-time jobseekers; next, a severe economic crisis, verging on recession, that wiped out the modern sector’s absorptive capacity; finally, a mass rural exodus forcing many to come “mess about” in the cities. In this way, the workforce rose to over 40 percent in all countries, with a growth rate above 4.5 percent, which is slightly higher than the growth rate of the general population. At the current rate, the occupancy rate of employed workers could be more than 2 to 3 percent in the next 25 years. Since this population would be the one to benefit from an organized social security system, there is a predictable drop-off in the social benefits of such a system.

Unequal progress across the continent

Steps have been taken to mitigate this lag in the development of a social welfare system for Africa. The Africa Platform for Social Protection (APSP) wants to see concrete measures to elevate and reinforce the social contract between states and their citizens. The APSP recommends [fr]:

tout programme doit être conçu à partir des structures existantes, y compris les systèmes classiques de protection sociale. En parallèle, la Plateforme insiste sur le fait que les défis de l’intégration régionale et notamment ceux liés à la portabilité des droits sociaux ne pourront être surmontés qu’à la condition que l’évaluation des réalités et opinions locales et nationales s’accompagne d’approches régionales et continentales

For the APSP, programme design must build on existing structures, including traditional social protection systems. At the same time, the Platform highlights that this attention to national and local situations and perceptions has to go hand in hand with the development of regional and continental approaches.

However, Lambert Gbossa is concerned about the danger represented by the willingness to provide a standard welfare system without considering the specificities of each region and without a participatory dialogue [fr]:

..la question de la réforme de la protection sociale dans les pays d'Afrique se pose avec acuité, elle s’est cantonnée à l'intérieur du système actuel et a rarement essayé de s'intégrer dans une politique globale. Le résultat de ce cantonnement est non seulement une marginalisation de l'immense majorité de la population mais surtout, la perpétuation d’un modèle extraverti et parfois incompris qui a fait de la protection sociale au profit du secteur formel l’essentiel et non le complément d’une problématique plus conforme aux identités. Les schémas très techniques et parfois très formels sont conçus en dehors des populations et n’ont pas été conformes au plan national de développement intégré..

…the question of reforming the social welfare system in the African countries is a good one. This question is confined within the current system and has rarely tried to insert itself into a comprehensive policy. The result of this confinement is not only the marginalization of a great majority of the population, but more importantly the perpetuation of an often misunderstood model that prioritized social protection for the formal sector over the problems in line with identities. The very technical and often extremely formal systems were conceived outside of these populations and were not part of a national plan for integrated development…

Some successful implementations   

Before Mali was shaken by the current political crisis, the country had made considerable progress with regard to social protection and healthcare coverage. This video of a project to improve the treatment of diabetes in Mali by the NGO Santé Diabète Mali, shows an example of social action with a strong impact on healthcare coverage:


Mandatory health insurance was established in Mali in 2010. This program enabled better protection for poor and marginalized populations, but did not reinforce the two other pillars of social welfare in Mali: the development of production infrastructure and the consolidation of structural adjustments. Funding remains one of the major obstacles affecting the sustainability of these social programs.

The foundation for social welfare in Burkina Faso meanwhile is currently being built. The basic principle of a social protection system rests on two essential tools: services and transfers. Olivier Louis dit Guérin defines these tools [fr]:

- Accès géographique et financier aux services essentiels : eau, assainissement, santé, alimentation, éducation, logement, épargne, assurance
- Transfert sociaux versés aux enfants, personnes âgées et personnes actives disposant d'un revenu insuffisant pour les services essentiels mentionnés précédemment.

- Services: Geographic and financial access to essential services, such as water, decontamination, health, diet, education, housing, savings, insurance
- Transfers: Welfare payments to children, seniors and working individuals who earn less than what is needed to have the essential services identified above.

In a study comparing the social welfare systems of Rwanda and Burundi, Solidarité Mondiale offers the following conclusions on social welfare in these two neighboring countries [fr]:

L’étude comparative des systèmes de protection sociale du Rwanda et du Burundi a clairement montré que le Rwanda a déjà réalisé des pas importants dans ce secteur clé qui sont aujourd’hui portés par une forte volonté politique et bénéficient d’un encadrement soutenu de la Cellule Technique d’Appui aux Mutuelles de santé au sein du Ministère de la Santé. La complémentarité fortement encouragée par les pouvoirs publics entre le système étatique de protection sociale, actuellement en pleines réformes, et les systèmes communautaires des mutuelles de santé extrêmement avancés au Rwanda, constituent un atout très important du processus de renforcement et d’extension des systèmes de protection sociale [..] Le Burundi, à la suite d’une guerre prolongée, n’a pas pu renforcer les systèmes existants de protection sociale en vue de leur extension au secteur informel et rural. Néanmoins, à certains égards, certaines initiatives privées ont fait des avancées remarquables dans ce domaine. le Burundi devraient l’inciter à privilégier des systèmes de protection sociale à forte participation populaire, s’il veut en garantir l’appropriation et la durabilité. En effet, la tentation peut être très grande de mettre rapidement en place un système de couverture universelle largement soutenue par les bailleurs de fonds externes.Le retrait de tels bailleurs peut rapidement conduire à la catastrophe comme cela a déjà été le cas pour certaines provinces du pays.

The study comparing the social protection systems of Rwanda and Burundi clearly shows that Rwanda has already made significant strides in this key sector that are today bolstered by a strong political will and that benefit from the support of the staff of the technical support unit (CTAMS—la Cellule Technique d’Appui aux Mutuelles de Santé) within the Ministry of Health. The government strongly encourages extremely sophisticated collaboration among the state system of social protection, current reforms, and the system of community-based health insurance. This collaboration is a very important trump card in the process of strengthening and extending the social protection systems […] Burundi, following a lengthy war, could not support the existing systems in order to extend them to the informal and rural sectors. Nevertheless, certain private initiatives have made remarkable advances in this field. If it wants to ensure ownership and sustainability, Burundi should encourage the prioritization of social protection systems through strong popular participation. It may be tempting to put in place a system of universal coverage, largely supported by external donors. The withdrawal of funds by such donors could quickly lead to a disaster, as has already been the case for some provinces in the country.

This post is part of our special coverage Global Development.

Featured and thumbnail image shows examination close-up in a hospital for women and children, Cote d'Ivoire, by Flickr user World Bank Photo Collection (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).

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 15 2012

« Nous coûtons moins cher… »

Des Etats-Unis au Burkina Faso, de l'Inde à la République dominicaine, dès l'âge de six ans, des enfants sont employés dans les exploitations agricoles, vestimentaires, aurifères… Ployant sous des sacs de gravats, de briques, ou de légumes… Se faufilant dans les mines de mica, en Inde, dans des tunnels (...) / Burkina Faso, États-Unis, Inde, Enfance, Jeunes, ONG, Pauvreté, Travail, République dominicaine, Esclavage - La valise diplomatique

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.

 

April 09 2012

One Day on Earth: Worldwide Collaborative Music Video Released

A new music video has been released in preparation for the worldwide screening of the Global Collaborative film One Day on Earth, which will take place in locations all around the planet on Earth Day (22 April, 2012).  The video features musicians, poets and dancers captured on film all during the same 24 hour period in 10 October, 2012, artfully recut and remixed by Cut Chemist.

 

The collaborative film One Day on Earth was filmed all on the same day, October 10, 2010, with more than 3,000 hours of footage sent in from all corners of the world, showcasing the amazing diversity, conflict, tragedy, and triumph that occurs in one day. The Global Screening will take place on Earth Day (April 22, 2012) in every country of the world, with the assistance of World Heritage Sites and the United Nations.

 

https://vimeo.com/39875998

The music video includes footage from India, Papua New Guinea, Benin, Burkina Faso, USA, China, North Korea, Mongolia, Kenya, Afghanistan, Jamaica, Spain, Taiwan and many other locations.

You can read more about the upcoming screening on our previous post One Day on Earth: Global Screening of Worldwide Collaborative Film and you can sign up for a screening in your city or town on the One Day on Earth site.

April 07 2012

Mali: A War, a Declaration of Independence and Conflicting Objectives

Things have been moving rapidly in the civil war that is tearing Mali apart. On Friday, April 6, Tuareg rebels of the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) proclaimed [fr] the “Independence of Azawad” [fr]. In this crisis that threatens to sweep across the entire Sahel region, several actors with conflicting objectives are playing a dominant role.

In a post published on camer.be, Valère MBEG presents the issues [fr] behind this war:

Le Mali est un vaste pays de 1.241.238 km² et une population galopante de 15.000.000 d’habitants selon le recensement de 2009, la région de l’AZAWAD couvre les 2/3 de la superficie pour une population ne représentant que  10 % des habitants avec d’énormes richesses naturelles qui sont actuellement peu exploitées en raison de l’absence de financement en infrastructures de transports qui renchérissent le coût des exploitations. Le Mali est également le troisième producteur africain d’or après l’Afrique du Sud et le Ghana, de quoi aiguiser les appétits des multinationales qui verraient bien dans l’AZAWAD un nouveau Sud Soudan avec peu de populations pour beaucoup de richesses naturelles ….

Mali is a vast country of 1,241,238 km² with a growing population of 15,000,000, according to the 2009 census. The AZAWAD region covers two-thirds of the area and has a population representing only 10% of people and also enormous natural resources which are currently underexploited due to a lack of funding for transport infrastructure which increase the cost of operations. Mali is also the third largest African producer of gold after South Africa and Ghana—something to whet the appetites of many multinationals that could easily see AZAWAD as a new South Sudan with a small population and vast natural resources….

the territory claimed by the MNLA by @twitafrika on twitpic

Sabine Cessou wrote [fr] about the military situation on Slate afrique:

 ”La donne est complexe dans le désert: les rebelles touaregs du MLNA disent ne pas poursuivre les mêmes objectifs qu’Aqmi. Ils ne se battent pas pour une République islamique de l’Azawad, mais pour la création d’un État laïc.

“The issue  is complex in the desert: Tuareg rebels of MLNA say they do not pursue the same objectives as AQIM. They are not fighting for an Islamic Republic of Azawad, but for the creation of a secular state.

In a posting on malijet.com, Nouhoum DICKO reviews the situation and introduces the actors [fr] on the ground:

Le mouvement islamiste Ansar dine, (l'Armée de la religion), est l'un des autres groupes armés de la région  dirigé par Iyad Ag Ghaly, principal artisan de la prise de Kidal, dont il est originaire. Celui qui fut le principal chef de la rébellion touareg des années 1990, aurait subi l'influence des islamistes pakistanais. Ansar dine serait composé de jeunes radicalisés au contact d'Al-Qaïda au Maghreb islamique (Aqmi).

Un nouveau groupe islamiste a fait irruption en décembre 2011, le Mouvement pour l'unicité et le jihad en Afrique de l'Ouest (Mujao). Se présentant comme une dissidence d'Aqmi, il serait dirigé par des activistes maliens et mauritaniens. Il avait revendiqué l'enlèvement des trois humanitaires européens dans un camp de réfugiés sahraouis. Ce groupe revendique sa participation à la prise de Gao, le samedi dernier.

The Islamist movement Ansar Dine, (The Religion Army), is one of the region's other armed groups, led by Iyad Ag Ghaly, main architect of the capture of Kidal, his home district. This man, the principal leader of the Tuareg rebellion of the 1990s, would have been influenced by Pakistani Islamists. Ansar dine would be made up of of radicalized young people who have come into contact with Al-Qaeda in Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).
A new Islamist group, the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Afrida (Mujao), sprang up in December 2011. Describing itself as a breakaway faction of AQIM, it would be run by Malian and Mauritanian activists. It had claimed responsibility for the kidnapping of three European humanitarian workers in a Sahrawi refugee camp. Tge group also claims to have participated in the capture of Gao last Saturday.

The blue men of the desert by Aysha Bibiana Balboa on Flickr ( License CC-NC-BY)

The leaders of Ansar Dine wasted no time in displaying their true colours. Indeed, maliactu.net reports [fr] that:

Le leader d’Ansar Dine, Iyad Ag Ghaly, ex-figure des rébellions touareg des années 1990, a rencontré lundi soir les imams de Tombouctou, une ville d’environ 30.000 habitants où il compte instaurer la loi islamique, selon un fonctionnaire de l’agglomération. A la faveur de l’avancée foudroyante des rebelles touareg dans le nord du Mali, le groupe Ansar Dine et des éléments d’Al-Qaïda au Maghreb (Aqmi) ont pris lundi le contrôle de Tombouctou, aux portes du Sahara, à environ 800 km au nord-est de la capitale Bamako. Tombouctou, grand centre intellectuel de l’islam et ancienne cité marchande prospère des caravanes, surnommée “la perle du désert”, est inscrite sur la liste du patrimoine mondial de l’Unesco.

On Monday night, the leader of Ansar Dine, Iyad Ag Ghaly, former figure of the Tuareg rebellion of the 1990s, met the imams of Timbuktu, a city of about 30,000 inhabitants, where he plans to introduce Islamic law, according to an official of the city. On Monday, through the lightning advance of the Tuareg rebels in northern Mali, the Ansar Dine group and Al-Qaeda elements in the Maghreb (AQIM) took control of Timbuktu, the gateway to the Sahara, about 800 km northeast of the capital Bamako. Timbuktu, a leading intellectual centre of Islam and ancient commercial city which prospers from merchant caravans, dubbed “the pearl of the desert”, is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Ibrahima Lissa FAYE, in a post entitled “Mali: Tuareg Rebels and Ansar Dine Islamists Each Claim Control of Timbuktu,” wrote [fr] on pressafrik.com:

Le chef du mouvement Ansar Dine, Iyad Ag Ghali, semble en effet contrôler la ville après avoir fait reculer les rebelles touaregs du MNLA qui étaient entrés les premiers dans Tombouctou dimanche. Alors contrairement au MNLA qui ne s'intéresse qu'au nord du Mali, dont il réclame l'indépendance, Iyad Ag Ghali, lui, veut imposer la charia, la loi islamique, à tout le pays et à Tombouctou on signale même la présence de dirigeants d'Aqmi.

The leader of the movement Ansar Dine, Iyad Ag Ghali, indeed appears to have control of the city after having caused the the MNLA Tuareg rebels who first entered Timbuktu on Sunday to retreat. So, unlike the MNLA who are interested only in northern Mali, where it calls for independence, Iyad Ag Ghali, himself, wants to impose Islamic Sharia law in the country and in Timbuktu, where there is even a presence of AQIM leaders.

There are major concerns among Malians regarding the respect for human rights. Rape and looting are reported in several towns under rebel control. According to a post on afriquinfos.com, at a special general meeting held in Bamako, Malick Alhousseini, president of the Collective of Residents of Northern Mali (COREN) said [fr] that:

cette rencontre se tient à un “moment douloureux de notre histoire, avec notre pays occupé, notre terroir natal aux mains des envahisseurs et des terroristes”.

Il a rappelé que depuis dimanche dernier, le Mali est un pays coupé en deux, de fait que les assaillants et les terroristes ont tout dévasté dans les localités qu'ils occupent : banques cassées, administration pillée, centres de santé vandalisés, entre autres.

this meeting was held at a “painful moment in our history, with our country occupied, our native lands in the hands of the invaders and terrorists”.
He recalled that since last Sunday, Mali has been a country divided in two, because the assailants and terrorists have destroyed everything in the communities they occupy: banks broken, administrative buildings looted, health facilities vandalized, among others.

The National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA), indicating that its objectives were achieved, put an end to hostilities for a few days before proclaiming its independence.

But there is proof of the differing objectives of the groups who participated in the fighting: according to atlasinfo.fr (the Algerian consulate in Gao, one of the conquered cities), while the MNLA made ​​these statements, another movement and six of its officials were abducted and taken [fr] to an unknown location:

L’attaque s’est produite en fin de matinée. Un groupe armé a attaqué le consulat. Il a remplacé le drapeau algérien par un drapeau noir avec des écritures arabes, emblématique des mouvements salafistes.

The attack occurred in the late morning. An armed group attacked the consulate. It replaced the Algerian flag with a black flag with Arabic writing, emblematic of the Salafi movement.

Condemning the abduction and all acts of vandalism and attacks against civilians in the liberated towns, the MNLA, in a press release signed by [fr] Bakaye Ag Hamed Ahmed, Communications, Information and Media Relay Officer, made the following statement:

Le Mouvement National de Libération de l’Azawad se désolidarise de toutes les organisations mafieuses s’étant introduite ces jours-ci dans l’Azawad, contribuant à instaurer un climat de chaos et de désordre, après la libération du territoire.

The National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad dissociates itself from all mafia organizations that are being introduced in Azawad these days, contributing to a climate of chaos and disorder, after the liberation of the territory.

This imbroglio is complicated by the fact that severe sanctions have been imposed upon Mali by the Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the African Union and the United Nations, following the military coup that overthrew President Amadou Toumani Touré and helped precipitate events.

Beyond Mali, there are all the neighbouring states where Tuareg populations threatened with collapse are found. The demographic structures are identical: a Sahelian area in the north where the Tuaregs and other black minority populations dwell, many of whom are nomadic, and a more hospitable area inhabited by sedentary populations. In all countries, this second area is the one that absorbs the most investment and is inhabited mainly by blacks, causing resentment on the part of the first area's inhabitants, who believe that the distribution of resources is inequitable.

This complex situation is a threatening one for the civilian population, and is further complicated by Boko Haram's potential to do harm, the flow of arms from the Libyan arsenal, the chronic shortage of water and the risk of famine.

April 05 2012

Mali: An Introduction to the Tuareg Population

The blog of the Tuareg movement Temoust Survie  publishes a post that provides [fr]a brief introduction to the Tuareg culture : “we are a nomadic people living from farming and trade. The Tuaregs are estimated to be about 1.5 million in a region that spans across Mali, Niger, Algeria, but also Libya, Burkina Faso and Mauritania. The common language Tamashek is related to the Berber language. With the Ethiopian population, the Tuaregs are one of the few African people with their own calligraphy.  The distinguishing features of the Tuareg clothing are the indigo veil they wear hence their nickname “the men in blue”.

February 09 2012

Sahel Region: 1.6 Million Children at Risk of Malnutrition

Afrik.com reports that [fr]: ” because of the low harvest and an increase of 60 to 80 % in cereal pricing, 10 millions people across Niger, Mali, Mauritania, Burkina Faso and Chad will be affected by food security issues, including 1.6 million children.”

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 13 2012

Africa: Good Development Blog

Good Developments is a blog about African politics, development aid, peace and conflict. The blog is run by Katrin Eder and Peter Dörrie.

Reposted bymurdelta murdelta

January 07 2012

Burkina Faso: Samuel Kiendrebeogo: 1949-2012

R.I.P. Samuel Kiendrebeogo: “The African media community lost a central voice this week with the passing of Samuel Kiendrebeogo, the veteran host of weekly media magazine Médias d'Afrique et D'Ailleurs on Voice of America's French service. Sam, as he was known, died while vacationing in his native Burkina Faso. He was 63.”

November 02 2011

Gadaffi's Lost Arsenal, a Threat to the Sahel Region

Since the beginning of the conflict in Libya that toppled the Gaddafi's regime, weapon trafficking has been on the rise in the Sahel region. The consequences of this trafficking threatens peace in a region that is already destabilized by poverty and vast uncontrolled areas.

The Permanent Interstate Committee for Drought Control in the Sahel (CILSS in French) is an international organization whose mandate is to invest in research for food security and the fight against the effects of drought and desertification in the region. Its country members include Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal and Chad. All of them are on high alert regarding the potential impact of weapons on the loose reaching their borders.

Africa Boyebi repost a report from the AFP on his blog that describes an uncontrolled weapons site [fr]:

L'arsenal compte quelque 80 bunkers de béton peints couleur sable destinés au stockage de munitions, essentiellement de fabrication russe et française.
Dans un seul de ces bunkers, l'AFP a compté environ 8.000 obus de 100 mm. Dans d'autres, des centaines de bombes de 250, 500 et 900 kg larguées par avion, sont empilées sur plusieurs mètres de haut, mais aussi des roquettes, des bombes à fragmentation, des obus d'artillerie et de mortier de tout calibre, des munitions de canon antiaérien…

The arsenal includes about 80 bunkers painted sand color that were used to stockpile ammunitions, mostly made in Russia or France.
In one of those bunkers, AFP counted as many as 8,000 100 mm long shell bombs. In other bunkers, hundreds of 250, 500 and 900 kg bombs were also piled up to several meters high, as well as rockets, artillery shells and mortars of any caliber, and anti-aircraft gun ammunitions…

Peter Bouckaert, Human Rights Watch's emergencies director and an expert in humanitarian crises provides the details of the weapons [fr] that were found unguarded 100 km south of Syrte in the following video. He states that some of weapons here were retrieved in the Sinaï desert and even Gaza later:

Way before conflict broke out in Libya, there were weapons circulating throughout the Sahel region at the unguarded borders of many countries, but these weapons were much smaller in size and range. However, more sophisticated weaponry has been introduced in the past few months.

However, more sophisticated weaponry has been introduced in the past few months. Samuel Benshimon on Sahel Intelligence explains that AQIM (Al-Qaeda Organization in the Islamic Maghreb - a radical Islamist militia) may have claimed some of these heavy weapons [fr]:

According to reliable sources from the capital cities of  Chad, Niger, Mali, Burkina Faso, Algeria and Mauritania, heavy weaponry, including anti-aerial missiles abandoned in Libya were seized by mysterious terrorists groups. A military source in Bamako states that many of these weapons were already transported  towards AQMI bases in the north of Mali by African mercenaries.

Samuel Benshimon adds that a high level officer has confirmed the accuracy of this information and that he also said [fr]:

The authorities of his country are very worried about AQIM reloading on weapons in such manner and that it presents a very palatable threat fro the entire region. He adds that amongs the weapons are Sam7, anti-aerial missiles made in Russia. Similar concerns were expressed by the president of Chad Driss Deby. The weapons were retrieved by African mercenaries or AQIM elements and were transported overnight to their final destination. The branches of AQIM  based in the north of Mali are controlled by Algerian emirs Mokhtar Belmokhtar and Abdelhamid Abou Zaid

What ought to be even more worrisome are the issues that author and blogger Thérèse Zrihen-Dvir has listed in the following post [fr] :

The revolution is now over and Libya is free. However, the former rebels are not ready to let go of their weapons right away. Just in case, you know. The region is still not stabilized, the police is still composed of volunteers for half of them. No national army has been fully set up so the population feel like they ought to protect their communities themselves and hold on to their weapons.

In an article on elkhabar.com blog, Moroccan scholar Mohamed Drif (specialized in Islamic movement), predicts that the region will be controlled by three groups that sprung from the fall of Muammar Gadaffi in Libya [fr]:

The first group will be composed of the Gadaffi's loyalists, the tribes that fought by his side and that went home in the North of Niger. The group is experienced with combat and that owns weaponry that allows to pursue the fight against the new regime in Libya and will target western interests in the region.

The second group will be composed of the many Africans that were linked to the Gadaffi regime. This group will start to destabilize the region not because they want to avenge Gadaffi but because they want to regain the financial loss they incurred when the support from Gadaffi ran dry. Guerilla warfare from this group is likely in order to claim some quick financial spoils.

The third group will be composed of Gadaffi partisans in Libya or in neighboring nations who are striving to destabilize the region for tribal reasons.

Cafe Aboki blog posts an AFP report, which claims that the National Transitional Council of Libya has found yet another stockpile of weaponry [fr], this time, of the chemical type. Chemical weapons are very mobile [fr] and have a great capacity to kill and destroy the surrounding environment.

A study by Olivier Lepick for Recherche Stratégique indicates the multiple  angers that chemical weapons [fr] can present:

Some characteristics of chemical weapons are tailor made for terrorist activities, most notably the fact that there are no reliable detectors of chemical and biological weapons, they are not easily traceable and the relative ease with which one can procure such substances. Evidently and unfortunately, these weapons also have a tremendous capability to spread fear and panic among the civilian population.

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.

September 06 2011

Burkina Faso and Niger: Haven for Gaddafi ?

René Dassié reports that Gaddafi and a heavily armed convoy might be headed to Burkina Faso via Niger [fr]. Burkina Faso president Blaise Compaoré has yet to confirm that he offered refuge to the deposed Libyan leader.

June 11 2011

Burkina Faso: Song Gets Musician Into Trouble

Sean Jacobs posts a video of the song that got the Burkinabe reggae singer Sams’K Le Jah into trouble with the the government of Blaise Compaore.

June 06 2011

Burkina Faso: Netizens Debate Political Turmoil on Facebook Group

The 2,000 member strong opposition Facebook group “Blaise Compaoré doit partir” ([President] Blaise Compaoré must go) is one of the platforms netizens are turning to to share news, updates and opinions [fr] about the tense situation in Burkina Faso, where mutinous militaries and presidential forces clashed last week in the town of  Bobo Dioulasso.

June 03 2011

Burkina Faso: Bobo Dioulasso Under Curfew

Jonas, on Fasopresse, gives  his account of the lootings and unrest [fr] in Bobo Dioulasso, the economic capital of Burkina Faso. The city is now also affected by the ongoing conflict between  the government and mutinous militaries that begun back in February.

May 20 2011

Africa: African Cartoonist Top Somalia Cartoon competition

African cartoonists win cartoon competition: “Cartoonists either based in or originally from Africa have made a clean sweep of the prizes on offer during the inaugural edition of the Hadaf Somalia International Cartoon Competition. The competition was organized by the Association of East African Cartoonists (KATUNI).”

April 15 2011

Burkina Faso: President Campaoré Flees from Mutiny

Grioo reports that Burkina Faso President Campaoré has fled the Capital City (fr) Ouagadougou under the pressure of mutinous soldiers. The onset of the discontent in the army was reported on April 2nd when a mutiny first broke out.

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