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Reflections from the African Land Forces Summit
June 13, 2012 | 0 Comments

Senior Fellow Lawrence J. Korb Reports from Uganda

 

By Lawrence J. Korb*

Although I have traveled all around the world, including visits to all seven continents, until recently I had never been to sub-Saharan Africa, nor had I ever focused very much on it in my research and writing. The only African countries I had visited were in the northern part of the continent—Egypt, for example, which many Africanists claim is not really part of Africa but rather part of the greater Middle East.

Consequently, I was surprised and honored when the Army component of the U.S. Africa Command, or AFRICOM, asked me to speak at this year’s African Land Forces

Ugandan People’s Defense Force troops return to their training camp in Kakola, 75 miles north of Kampala, from training exercises meant to prepare them for the peacekeeping mission in Somalia. SOURCE: Center for American Progress

Ugandan People’s Defense Force troops return to their training camp in Kakola, 75 miles north of Kampala, from training exercises meant to prepare them for the peacekeeping mission in Somalia. SOURCE: Center for American Progress

Summit in Uganda this past month, a meeting focused on strengthening the armies of Africa to meet common security challenges. I came away from the conference with some key insights about our efforts to defeat extremists groups in Africa such as the Lord’s Resistance Army and Al Shabaab, as well as how these countries are conducting their military affairs. These are important issues because the security climate in sub-Saharan Africa affects the United States.

Summit summary

The week-long summit, which was the second biennial summit and the first to be held in Africa, was co-hosted by U.S. Army Africa—the headquarters component of the U.S. military’s AFRICOM combatant command—and Uganda’s army—the Ugandan People’s Defense Force—in the Ugandan capital of Kampala starting May 14. The event brought together the land forces’ chiefs of staff from 36 African nations with military leaders from the U.S. Army. Only Morocco and Sudan refused invitations to attend.

The summit’s opening ceremony reminded me of the Olympics. A soldier draped with each country’s flag marched into a large hall to the strains of martial music. The procession finished with the playing of the U.S. and Ugandan national anthems, followed by that of the African Union. The ceremony was to conclude with opening remarks by the senior U.S. and Ugandan officers and a speech by Yoweri Museveni, president of the Republic of Uganda.

Since President Museveni was late to arrive, the Ugandans screened a movie called “Heroes of the Horn,” detailing their exploits in Somalia. Uganda serves as the lead country in the African Union peacekeeping operation taking place in Somalia. While the movie was, not unexpectedly, very positive, it was an early indicator of the Ugandan military’s media savvy—in fact, that same day there was a front-page story by journalist Craig Whitlock in The Washington Post about their operations in Somalia. When the president finally showed up, he was trailed by a large media contingent that rivaled that of any Western leader.

In his opening remarks, President Museveni, who has ruled Uganda since 1986 and has been accused of attacking opposition members of Parliament and violating refugee rights, made several colorful comments. He described extremist groups fighting religious wars—such as Boko Haram in Nigeria and Al-Shabaab in Somalia—as “idiots with ideological bankruptcy.” The president then blamed the two decades of continued fighting by the Lord’s Resistance Army insurgency on his own Ugandan forces being too small and ill-trained, which he said was compounded by the historic support provided to the rebels by the Sudanese government in Khartoum. It is worth noting, however, that some Lord’s Resistance Army experts do not agree with President Museveni’s analysis, pointing instead to a lack of political will on President Museveni’s part and the fact that only one Lord’s Resistance Army commander has been brought to trial by the International Crimes Division that tries war crimes.

President Museveni also cautioned the assembled military leaders of the 36 African countries at the summit against dabbling in sectarianism and stated that African armies must be independent of foreign exploitation. Therefore, the president argued they should not listen to those (unnamed) external forces that told them not to spend 1.9 percent of their budget—I think he meant GDP—and to reduce the size of their armies.

Three of the last four days of the conference consisted of lectures followed by discussion groups. The lectures were given by generals, diplomats, and analysts from the United States, Uganda, the World Bank, the United Nations, the African Union, Angola, and Malawi. The lectures and discussion groups dealt with such topics as institutional values, social media, regional security challenges, post-war transitions, peace-support operations, and military professionalism.

One day we visited the Ugandan army’s Peace Support Operations Training Center in Kakola, about 75 miles north of Kampala. During this visit we observed Ugandan soldiers undergoing training for the mission to war-torn Somalia, where the African Union is expanding the size of the mission to some 18,000 troops. We watched simulations of how approximately 3,500 Ugandan soldiers would respond to enemy attacks on their convoys and foot patrols while on missions similar to the one in Somalia. Those soldiers about to be deployed held combat drills supervised by U.S. (private contractors from Military Professional Resources Inc.), French, and Belgian military instructors. We learned that the training center has so far trained 10 Ugandan battle groups, seven of which have already been deployed to Somalia.

The Ugandan intelligence chief also briefed us on progress in the operations against the Lord’s Resistance Army rebels—which he called Satan’s Resistance Army—and Al-Shabaab in Somalia. He argued that the rebels had been weakened. In fact, while we were in Uganda the Ugandan army captured one of the Lord’s Resistance Army’s top commanders, Maj. Gen. Caesar Acellam Otto—a member of the rebels’ high command and head of the group’s military intelligence—in the Central African Republic.

But the Ugandan intelligence chief cautioned that the rebel group’s ability to wreak havoc on local populations remains high, though he said that a planned force of 5,000 soldiers under an African Union mandate drawn from the countries where the group operates would enhance the efforts to neutralize the rebels.

Key takeaways

In preparing for my remarks to the summit, in the sessions I attended, and from my observations on the trip to the training center, I came to the following conclusions.

Security and stability in sub-Saharan Africa impacts U.S. security

Weak and failing states such as Somalia can become havens for violent extremist groups such as Al-Shabaab (which is affiliated with Al Qaeda), drug smugglers, and bands of pirates, and can also lead to humanitarian disasters.

And as President Barack Obama noted in a speech at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum this year, he is the first president to have declared that “preventing mass atrocities and genocide is a core national security interest and a core moral responsibility of the United States of America.” That is why U.S. Army Special Forces are in Uganda to help hunt down Lord’s Resistance Army leader and child-abducting warlord Joseph Kony.

The United States is dealing with this part of the world in a very smart and forward-looking way

It has established a unified command to give attention to the area and to establish relations with African militaries, but the United States has not placed the command headquarters on the continent, nor has it deployed any large numbers of combat troops on the ground. This is a good strategy because it undermines the narrative of terrorist groups that the United States is simply another colonial power intent on exploiting the region for its own benefit.

Moreover, in dealing with the problems of the area, the United States acts more like a superpartner than a superpower. We help train and pay for the 17,000 troops from African nations, particularly Uganda, Kenya, and Burundi, deployed in Somalia—about $500 million so far—but are not on the ground. (Remember how well that worked when we did send 30,000 troops there in 1993 as part of the U.N. Operation in Somalia II peacekeeping force?) The 100 Special Operations troops sent to Africa in October 2011 are helping Ugandan forces remove Kony and other rebel leaders from the battlefield but are not engaging in direct combat. The Ugandan forces that captured Acellam Otto on May 12, 2012, had U.S. backing, but unlike the coverage in the United States the Ugandan press did not mention the American role.

The African military leaders I encountered are more competent and professional than I initially realized

While observing the Ugandan troops prepare for Somalia, one American military officer remarked to me that he thought they were more competent than most of the Afghan Security Forces he dealt with.

Certainly, there remains a challenge in establishing effective command and control throughout the ranks so that the professionalism at the top becomes part of the institutional frameworks of these militaries. But the signs are promising.

Moreover, in the questions I received after my talk, as well as in the discussions with the military leaders, it was clear that many of the militaries were opening up opportunities for women.

By the time the third biennial African Land Forces Summit occurs in 2014, I believe the U.S. Army, in collaboration with the African militaries, will be well on its way to bringing the Lord’s Resistance Army and Al Shabaab to heel. Such developments will benefit Africa, the United States, and the world.

*Lawrence J. Korb is a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress.

 

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Time For An African Valley? — Sub-Saharan Accelerators Start To Emerge
June 13, 2012 | 0 Comments

By Mike Butcher*

The news that i/o Ventures had launched the Savannah Fund in Africa is clearly welcome news for an emerging continent. It’s $10m fund size will be a shot in the arm for the eco-system there. But I was surprised to see that it was being described in some quarters as the “first ever” Sub-Saharan African incubator and accelerator. Because it patently is not.

“I think MEST would actually be the first model in this space,” said African tech watcher Ben White of vc4africa.biz when I asked him about this. MEST has a fund size of $20m, although it’s invested via a non-profit.

So to start getting into this, it may be that we are well over-due for a run-down of accelerators in Africa. Here’s what we’ve found so far.

There’s clearly been a proliferation of coworking spaces and tech incubators around Sub-Saharan Africa over the last 3-5 years. Accelerators linked with funds are a more recent phenomenon:

1. MEST: Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology (MEST) provides training and mentoring in Accra, Ghana. Started in 2008, MEST is a not-for-profit NGO that is funded by the Meltwater Group through its non-profit Meltwater Foundation. Invests in 3-5 startups per annual programme. Fund size: $20m spread over 10 years.

2. HumanIPO (Nairobi, Kenya). Launched 2011. 88mph is their seed fund. Takes a minimum 10-15 investments per year. Has room for 25 startups in its space. Fund size: Uknown.

3. Umbono (Cape Town, South Africa). Launched 2011. This is Google’s accelerator & fund. Puts in $25k to $50k seed capital. Fund size: Unknown.

4. ActivSpaces (Buea & Douala, Cameroon) was launched in 2009 and is a co-working space linked with the Sanaga Ventures seed fund. Size: Raising $1m.

5. Mara Launchpad (Kampala, Uganda). Launched 2012. Backed by Mara Foundation. Fund size: Unknown.

6. Lastly there is the co-working space iHub (Nairobi, Kenya) launched 2010 and is now the base for the Savannah Fund as mentioned above. Fund Size: $5m, but is aiming to be $10m eventually.

The Savannah Fund is coming out of i/o co-founder Paul Bragiel and i/o entrepreneur-in-residence Mbwana Alliy along with Erik Hersman a cofounder the Ushahidi crowd sourcing platform and a cofounder of Nairobi’s iHub. Five early stage $25,000 for 15% equity and three to six months to prove themselves. Follow-on funding for the successful ones will be in the region of $100,000 to $200,000.

Savannah Fund has backing from Tim Draper, Dave McClure of 500 Startups, Yelp co-founder Russ Simmons, and Dali Kilani and Roger Dickey of Zynga, as well as local Kenyan entrepreneurs, including Karanja Macharia of Mobile Planet.

Savannah will also run an incubator like i/o in San Francisco for ten companies a year, but it appears the companies will be sourced in Nairobi with the ones showing promise being shipped over from East Africa to the US to scale up.

The consensus on the ground amongst seasoned AfricaTech watchers is that while Nigeria has the fastest growing economy it’s also pretty dangerous at the moment. Kenya also has its issues but is widely regarded as a strong hub for tech companies in Africa, and Tansania has potential, but Ghana is quickly gaining a reputation because of its relatively stable business and political environment and the English language is widespread. It’s also becoming a big airline hub because airlines prefer not to drop their staff into potentially dangerous countries.

Expect more Africa coverage from TechCrunch in due course…

*Culled from http://techcrunch.com

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Economic growth stirs hope in Africa
June 13, 2012 | 0 Comments

Over the next five years, the continent will expand faster than any other

By Emily Dugan *

While ministers in Europe try to hold together crumbling economies, a success story has been quietly emerging to the south. Africa is experiencing its longest income boom for 30 years, with gross domestic product growth rates averaging about 5 per cent annually over the past decade. Even this year, as markets elsewhere collapse, the continent’s income is projected to increase by around 4.5 per cent.

Africa will have the world’s fastest-growing economy during the next five years of any continent, according to the International Monetary Fund. Its forecasts also show that seven of the world’s 10 fastest-growing economies will be African, with Ethiopia, Mozambique, Tanzania, Congo, Ghana, Zambia and Nigeria expected to expand by more than 6 per cent a year until 2015.

The world is starting to take notice: trade between Africa and the rest of the globe increased by 200 per cent between 2000 and 2011. As well as the usual exports of oil, natural gas and minerals, the sale of African-manufactured goods is also increasing. Over the past ten years, African manufactured output has doubled.

Zambia is one of the continent’s most promising economies, growing at 7.6 per cent in 2010 and 6.6 per cent in 2011. Thanks to the technology boom, its supply of copper, which now accounts for almost half its exports, is highly sought after. Though it is still among the poorest in the world – it is ranked 164 out of the 187 countries on the UN Human Development Index – there are signs that its economic success is starting to translate into better lives for its citizens. By 2009, the country had full primary school enrolment, up from 80 per cent in 1990, and the latest figures show a decline in the infant mortality rate to 86 per 1,000 live births in 2009 from 88 in 2008.

Marcelo Giugale, the director of the World Bank’s poverty reduction programme for Africa, has been watching how the continent’s economic successes impact on its poorest people and is cautiously optimistic. “Sustained growth is necessary but not sufficient on its own to have an impact on poverty”, he said. “You can have growth for a long time and it will help only a few people. We have been lucky that growth has been accompanied by poverty reduction. Not as much as you’d hope, but still. We don’t have continental numbers, but we do have individual countries that show a reduction in poverty, especially extreme poverty.

“In Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda and Mozambique, infant mortality, health indicators and educational attainment have all improved.”

Mr Giugale believes the mineral-rich continent could see even greater leaps. “If Europe holds together, I think this growth in Africa will continue,” he said. “We are only at the tip of the iceberg in terms of the commodities that Africa has that we know about. I would estimate we still know only about 10 per cent of what’s there. There is so much still to discover.”

Technology has helped speed up growth. In Kenya, for example, mobile phone bank transfers have revolutionised rural access to cash. Just two years after the mobile banking system M-Pesa was introduced in 2007, 40 per cent of Kenya’s adult population had become customers.

There are also early signs of a growth in the continent’s middle class. An African Development Bank report has projected that by 2030 much of the continent will have a middle-class majority and that consumer spending will soar from $680bn in 2008 to $2.2trn.

Joel Kibazo, a consultant working with Oxford’s Centre for the Study of African Economies, says the signs of an emerging middle class are encouraging: “If you look at my country, Uganda: when I was growing up, there was one university, now there are about 30. All these people who are educated are coming out wanting a middle-class lifestyle. They don’t want to go back to villages and mud huts, they want to buy microwaves and laptops.”

But he fears the current European crisis could chip away at the successes. “In 2008, when the rest of the world fell off a cliff, Africa continued moving up”, he said, “but this time, I don’t think it’s going to escape the turmoil in Europe in the same way.”

Emerging economies, such as India and China, do not seem put off, however, and are snatching up opportunities in mineral-rich countries. In 2008, the Democratic Republic of Congo took $6bn of Chinese money for infrastructure – some 2,400 miles of road, 2,000 miles of railway, two universities, 32 hospitals and 145 health stations. In return, China got a slice of the country’s natural resources to feed its own industry – 10 million tons of copper and 400,000 tons of cobalt.

In contrast, Britain has not seized chances on the same scale. Razia Khan, a senior researcher for Standard Chartered Bank, said: “Africa is trading that much more with the emerging powers, so the UK’s share of trade with Africa is not as dominant.”

Over the next 40 years, Africa’s population is set to double, from one billion to two billion, a massive increase in the number of young people of working age. The median age on the continent is currently 20 – half that in Europe, where the economy is faltering.

Yet the continent’s recent swift expansion has largely passed by northern Africa. In Egypt, growth fell by 3.3 percentage points to below 2 per cent in 2011, and in Tunisia a fall of 4.2 percentage points produced contraction of around 1 per cent, according to analysts at the African Economic Outlook. In Libya, the civil war brought oil production to a standstill and GDP shrank by more than 40 per cent. The more mature economy of South Africa also bucked the trend for economic expansion, expanding its output by only 3.1 per cent in 2011.

Despite the economic gains, there are some who find the regimes unpalatable. Tom Cargill, the assistant director of the Africa programme at the foreign policy think tank Chatham House, said: “If you’re interested in states becoming more economically successful, then what is coming out of Africa is good news. But if you are interested in an Africa where human rights are respected and governments take on the attributes of Western democratic countries, including fair elections and freedom of speech, then it isn’t good.

“African states are finding their own ways to economic growth which don’t conform to those liberal human rights criteria. Part of that is because Europe is declining, so European prescriptions of how to behave, in terms of governance, is becoming less attractive to African states.”

Though some may be uncomfortable about how it got there, it seems Africa can no longer be dubbed “the hopeless continent”.

*Culled from http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/africa/

 

 

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BBC announces major new focus on Africa*
June 13, 2012 | 0 Comments

The BBC has today announced its first-ever dedicated daily TV news programme in English for African audiences. The new programme, BBC Focus On Africa, brings together the expertise of the BBC World Service’s African Service and BBC World News on television. It is the first in a range of new programming for Africa to be launched by the BBC this summer, including a major expansion of its TV offer.

Africa is now one of the fastest developing news markets in the world - this new investment will expand our services for African audiences."-Solomon Mugera, BBC Africa Editor

Africa is now one of the fastest developing news markets in the world - this new investment will expand our services for African audiences."-Solomon Mugera, BBC Africa Editor

BBC Focus on Africa will be aired by the BBC’s broadcast partners in Africa and will be shown globally on BBC World News. It forms just one part of an expansion of the BBC’s offer on TV, radio and online.

The BBC today named Komla Dumor and Sophie Ikenye as the main presenters of the daily 30-minute news programme.

BBC Focus On Africa will be launched on prime-time TV across the continent from 18 June 2012 at 17.30 GMT. The programme will draw on the pool of BBC African talent on the continent and in London to report on Africa’s rising economies, entrepreneurs, innovators, culture, entertainment and sport.

Focus on Africa will be covering the major news from the continent and asking: is there a way out of the Sudan crisis? What impact will Europe’s economic problems have on Africa’s booming economies? How does Africa deal with its growth in natural resources?

The programme will also challenge African leaders and politicians on tough issues. Focus On Africa will report on the latest developments in business, technology and science and speak to those driving change. It will also look at how Africa is becoming an information technology hotspot. The programme will report, for example, on Kenyan scientists who are at the forefront in discovering cheaper, locally produced medicines to combat malaria.

Focus On Africa reporters across Africa will be giving us a snapshot of the innovation, lifestyle and culture of the country they live in. The programme will feature Africa Beats, looking at the people behind Africa’s varied music scenes. Every step of the way viewers will have their say through social media.

Focus on Africa presenter Komla Dumor says: “After decades of turmoil and uncertainty, a new Africa is emerging. The old stereotypes are being challenged and a new, compelling narrative is being written. I am incredibly excited to be part of a new BBC programme that will provide solid coverage and analysis of Africa’s challenges and prospects.”

Solomon Mugera, the BBC’s Africa Editor, says: “Africa is now one of the fastest developing news markets in the world – this new investment will expand our services for African audiences.

“While radio remains popular in Africa, TV is growing – and our partnerships with leading African broadcasters play a key part in these future plans. Mobile phone ownership is racing towards a billion, internet connectivity is rising and social media is empowering audiences. It’s essential that the kind of independent journalism the BBC does that isn’t slanted to one political or commercial viewpoint remains central to the new media landscape.

“With correspondents in 48 African countries, production centres in Nairobi, Abuja, Johannesburg and Dakar and a weekly audience of 77 million, the BBC already has deep roots in the continent. Our journalists are from the African countries they report on – in English, Swahili, Hausa, Somali, Kinyarwanda/Kirundi and French – living and breathing the big stories and issues facing Africa.”

The BBC also announced that six special episodes from Africa of current affairs interview programme Rendezvous, hosted by Zeinab Badawi, will be broadcast on BBC World News from mid-June with guests including President Kikwete of Tanzania.

The BBC newsgathering resources in Africa are part of a global network of 70 bureaux. The BBC made its first broadcast to Africa more than 80 years ago. The combined audience on radio and television makes the BBC the largest international broadcaster in Africa.

*Courtesy of http://www.bbc.co.uk/mediacentre/worldnews/

 

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Vogue Italia’s “Rebranding Africa” disaster
June 13, 2012 | 0 Comments

By Elliot Ross

Everybody’s trying to rebrand Africa, and it isn’t going so well. Vogue Italia’s latest issue — boosted by great billowing gusts of editorial hot air from both the New York Times and the Guardian — is called “Rebranding Africa”, and as you’d expect the whole thing is an embarrassing and insulting shambles. The images are okay, but otherwise it feels like something a middle-schooler cobbled together for a class project. And then got a “D” for it.

First: you’re re-branding the continent of Africa — as one does — so who do you pick as your cover star? Well, it was the obvious choice. What self-inflating fashion magazine wouldn’t lead their Africa edition with a picture of a South Korean diplomat sitting behind a desk in Manhattan? That’s right, people. The new face of Africa is none other than UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon. There are so many way to read this choice. An obvious take is that Vogue Italia, despite their claims of “rebranding” Africa must have decided Africans can’t govern themselves and need UN intervention.

The interview with Ban is very curious reading indeed. Apparently, the man is just world class at regurgitating very precise development statistics. It reads like an annual report of a large multinational NGO. Either that, or what we’re reading is a mashed up press release or a stilted email exchange dressed up as a conversation that actually took place (the latter is most likely the case). He drones endlessly on about the Millennium Development Goals, which is exactly what you’d expect him to do, but is also precisely the opposite of the kind of thing which invites the readers of Vogue Italia to think of Africa in a new way. With Ban Ki-Moon as its new face, Africa is (a) boring and uncool, and (b) a stubborn problem to be managed by foreign technocrats. No change there.

So why is he on the cover? We have absolutely no idea. The man dresses like any other boring technocrat. The Guardian said the Vogue Italia coverage showed that the effort to rebrand the continent “wasn’t just a token effort” and that it made us (in the West, naturally) sit up and take notice. How? To us, all that this shows is that the addled people at Vogue Italia are incredibly unimaginative, and quite weird when it comes to its coverage of the unfamiliar — that is, the dark continent/country of Africa.

One guy they could have picked instead for the cover is Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, whose moribund interview with chief editor Franca Sozzani really ought to be somehow preserved in formaldehyde and wheeled out at journalism school graduations as a chilling example of just how bad journalism can get. Much of the copy is taken up with Sozzani’s worrying whether they can photograph Goodluck the Vogue way.

The “interview” is really long passages of Sozzani generously offering her explanation to Jonathan of exactly what is wrong with Nigeria:

All the richest Nigerians spend their money abroad because there a no shops here, no hotels with a chic African flair, no hip restaurants or clubs. Why not build an African Rodeo Drive in Lagos or Abuja, with boutiques carrying both imported and Nigerian goods?

Finally, there’s a single lonely quote from Jonathan in there, in which he agrees with the long speech Sozzani has made. It’s not often we feel sorry for Goodluck Jonathan, but seriously, poor chap. It’s also not sure when they did the interview. There’s no word of #OccupyNigeria, which showed Jonathan up to be insensitive and dithering.

You also get the sense that the next time Vogue Italia “do” Africa, Nigeria’s notoriously corrupt and terrifyingly incompetent oil minister will probably be the new cover star, as Sozzani drools mindlessly over one of Nigeria’s most detested politicians:

We are joined by the Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke, a gorgeous and elegant woman – who also happens to be a princess – dressed in traditional robes, with a Master’s from Cambridge and the distinction of being the first woman to run Nigeria’s most important ministry.

Actually they did already. In the same issue.

Sozzani’s representation of Nigeria’s complex social and political situation is as astute as you’d expect it to be, and thanks to the internet, she gets called out big-style by a Nigerian called “Rachel”, whose comment on the website is by far the best piece of writing in the entire magazine, print or online:

This is possibly this worst piece of journalism on Nigeria I have EVER read. I cannot tell you how angry people are reading this. It is a shallow piece of vanity which glosses over the complexities of the tensions in Nigeria. When you say ‘Muslim’s ultimatum to the Christians’ – do you mean that all the Muslims who make up half of the 158 million people living in Nigeria have a vendetta against Christians? WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT???? It was Boko Haram’s ultimatum – you can’t just say ‘Muslims’ throwing in millions of people into a sentence who have felt just as much violence and suffering as Christians in Nigeria. It isn’t just Christians who have died during the violence but many Muslims. Sweeping statements like this fuel tensions between Christians and Muslims but of course that is perfect for the American audience who probably believe every Muslim is part of Al Q’aeda.

Your dramatic entrance to Nigeria was completely unnecessary. There are thousands of expats who have lived here for years in complete safety. It is reports like this that do nothing for the country. Do not flatter yourself to believe that you would be of ANY value to a terrorist. You would probably annoy the hell out of them. WHY did the editors think it would be important for readers to hear what you think what should be done in Nigeria? You were talking to the President of the country who is dealing with increasing rates of poverty and a decline in security and you are telling him to build an African Rodeo Drive? Oh yes, please build it so the 5% of the super wealthy population that can actually afford to buy from these sort of shops will no longer travel. The rest of the population can look on with their begging bowls in envy.

And also – the Petroleum Minister is probably one of the most corrupt people in Nigeria who has only added to the poverty, and therefore the security problems in the country. Don’t you know ANYTHING about the fuel subsidy scandal here? Do you know how many people are calling for her resignation? I feel so disappointed. I dread to think what the issue is like. I agree with you on one thing, it is important that people see beyond the famine and death in Africa and see the potential it has to grow but the potential has to be found in communities who are doing what they can to get out of poverty whether it be telecommunications to do banking, solar energy to power their small businesses or community initiatives to support women. What use is a Banana fricking Republic?

Sozzani responded with this rather bitchy outburst:

@Rachel: It’s been a long timesince I last received such an idiot comment on my website. When I say Muslims, I never thought that the entire population of muslims is against Catholics as I live part of my life in Morocco and all my friends there are Muslims. I think that you took the negative side of the article and I’m sorry to say that is you who is against your own country, not me, as if we give work to women and we build up new shops and hotels, even for the 5% of the population, it can attract tourism and give job to local people. Is this nothing for you? Is it so unnecessary that I go to see them and try to help them?Iif so, I’m sorry for you, you don’t love your country and don’t want to help it. I don’t care and I go on my own way and certainly you won’t stop me. Just for yuor info, all the people – young designers, tailors and those producing fashion – are very happy and selling well thanks to me. This is the most important thing for me. [sic]

Blimey. It’s a close one, but I think overall we’re with Rachel on this.

Other than that there’s a short piece on El Anatsui which wrongly says he works in Ghana and then miraculously manages to rebrand (why not?) his transcendent genius as yet more developmental gobbledygook:

Forerunner of a big part of the continent’s contemporary art, with his artwork he has shown how a possible solution for his country is that of believing in the concept of recycling as a source of creativity and richness.

Some bearable features on African footballers in Italy and Didier Drogba, they discover Nollywood again (The New York Times has done so too recently), the formerly disgraced Kenyan TV journalist Jeff Koinange (whose style is something to behold), that country’s Prime Minister Raila Odinga, Swedish-Ethiopian chef Marcus Samuelson (there are other top African chefs Vogue Italia), a picture of the Rwandan Ambassador to Britain handing his credentials to Queen Elizabeth II who is dressed in what resembles a nightgown, more Presidents, and a few models.

And then there’s Tommy Hilfiger, who gets some great free advertising with an African alibi as the magazine reproduces yet another long, unreadable press release. An unattributed quote explains how the mostly boring fashion scenster Hilfiger is basically the new Jesus Christ:

When Tommy Hilfiger came to the village for the first time, no one knew who he was. But when locals realized how famous he was in the rest to the world, they were very impressed: they were satisfied that if someone so important, rich and privileged could be interested in them and spend time with them, they themselves counted more than what they had been led to believe. They began to have more faith in the possibility of change.

Well, Africa, consider yourself rebranded.

*Culled from http://africasacountry.com

 

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Obamas’ freedom of Cape Town honour divides South Africa
June 12, 2012 | 0 Comments
Cape Town's decision to grant Barack and Michelle Obama freedom of the city has been branded a 'political gimmick'. Photograph: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Cape Town's decision to grant Barack and Michelle Obama freedom of the city has been branded a 'political gimmick'. Photograph: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Decision to honour Barack and Michelle Obama criticised by religious groups amid row over US impact on Middle East

By David Smith, Libreville, Gabon *

Bestowing an honour on America’s first black president might seem an uncontroversial choice for post-apartheid South Africa. But what was good enough for the Nobel peace prize committee is just the latest trigger for acrimony in the polarised city of Cape Town.

Its decision to grant president Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, the freedom of the city has provoked a growing backlash from rival parties, churches, Muslim groups and trade unions, who branded it a “political gimmick”.

They warn that if the couple ever set foot in Cape Town to accept the award, they will be greeted by mass protests drawing attention to America’s human rights record.

The dispute began a month ago when Patricia de Lille, the mayor of Cape Town and member of South Africa‘s main opposition party, the Democratic Alliance (DA), announced the nomination of the Obamas for the city’s highest accolade.

“For this city, as for the entire world, president Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama are the guiding stars to our eventual destination,” she said. “In a cynical age, there is a desperate need for universal hope – hope that acts as a reminder that, no matter what the odds, even the supposedly unattainable is within our grasp.”

“Freemen of the city” include Nelson Mandela and the archbishop emeritus Desmond Tutu, she added.

Michelle Obama had travelled to Cape Town last year during a tour of Africa.

To some the award seemed in keeping with a longstanding relationship between the US civil rights and South African liberation movements: Obama has recalled that his first taste of political activism was speaking at an anti-apartheid rally. In the immediate afterglow of his 2008 election victory, it may have struck a popular chord. Now, however, South Africans have doubts.

Tony Ehrenreich, the provincial secretary of Congress of South African Trade Unions in western Cape, said it was “appalled” at the award, citing “the atrocious behaviour of the USA on the Palestinian question, and their endorsement of Israel aggression against the people of Palestine.”

Ehrenreich, who as the candidate of the governing African National Congress (ANC) was defeated by De Lille in the last mayoral election, accused her of ignoring the majority of Capetonians. “Obama has done nothing for the city of Cape Town that in our view deserves the freedom of the city, as he does not represent the value system of the city people of justice and fairness.”

In a joint letter to president Jacob Zuma, two Islamic organisations, the Media Review Network (MRN) and Muslim Judicial Council (MJC), said they were “astonished and dumbfounded” by De Lille’s decision.

“Obama’s intimate role in authorising US drone attacks overseas is a cold-blooded account of how he and his disciples in Washington decide on who will live and who must die,” they wrote. “Innocent Pakistani, Yemeni, Somali and Afghani civilians have lost their lives or have suffered traumatic injuries that have changed their lives for ever.”

The National Education Health and Allied Workers’ Union also condemned the move. “We are totally opposed to this because the majority of the poor people of Cape Town are still treated like outsiders in their own city and nothing has been done by Ms De Lille to narrow the huge inequality gap that exist between the rich and the poor,” it said.

De Lille’s office said the Obamas would still be given the award because more than 60% of the city council voted in favour.

Brooks Spector, a journalist and former US diplomat based in South Africa, said: “Perhaps the originators of this choice seem to have wanted to link to the assumed popularity of the Obamas – and especially Michelle Obama – without thinking through how this would become a politically controversial, touchy issue for them. Now they are caught in a dilemma: if they go forward, it is a convenient thing for the DA-run city to be criticised on; if they withdraw their offer, they look weak or indecisive.”

*Culled from guardian.co.uk

 

 

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With Kenya election, East Africa enters make or break season
June 11, 2012 | 0 Comments

By CHARLES ONYANGO-OBBO *

As Kenya heads into the first election under its new Constitution, the East African Community too will begin its most dramatic transition.

The transition season will end in 2017 in Rwanda, when President Paul Kagame is scheduled to step down. How the leaders and East African citizens play their hands over this period, could make or break the East African project.

President Museveni with Makerere University students in 2010. Picture

President Museveni with Makerere University students in 2010. Picture

For starters, more East African leaders will be leaving office and handing over to new leaders in this period, than at any other in the region’s history. Kenya’s president steps down next year in March when the country votes, after serving his constitutionally provided two terms in office.

Burundi and Tanzania, both countries with term limits, will go to the polls in 2015 and Presidents Pierre Nkurunzinza and Jakaya Kikwete will leave office.

Only Uganda, where term limits were scrapped, goes to elections in 2016 with uncertainties about whether President Yoweri Museveni — who has been in power since 1986 and is already the longest-serving East African president ever — will bow out or soldier on.

Over the past year, Museveni has had to continually quell his riotous ruling National Resistance Movement, where youthful MPs, sensing that the elder leader’s prestige has been tarnished by years of corrupt government and alleged nepotism, figure that he is no longer the Colossus he was some years back.

At the official age of 68, Museveni is looking wan and is frequently off colour, which has prompted what promises to be a messy internal succession scramble. So far, it is presumed that the abstemious and wily NRM secretary-general, Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi, is the man at the front of the succession queue.

Other claimants to Museveni’s throne have ganged up on him, and have thrown everything that is not nailed down at his head and character.
More than any other in the region, the succession in Uganda is set to be the most unpredictable.

In Rwanda, Kagame has given all indications that he is packing his bags and clearing out of State House. But Rwanda-watching and Kagame-bashing and Kagame-boosting are among the biggest industries in the world as far as Africa goes, so there are many voices who don’t think the former guerrilla leader will leave office.

In any event, there is one thing about Rwanda that is not doubt. The Rwanda Patriotic Front, easily Africa’s most disciplined ruling party and one of its richest, will continue to run the show for a long while. And Kagame, who will still be a relatively youthful 60-year-old in 2017, will continue to exert influence over how business is conducted in Rwanda.

The comings and goings in East African State Houses over the next five years are important, because over this same period, the EAC will be undergoing a radical remake. Last week, EAC Secretary General Dr Richard Sezibera said fragile South Sudan’s application to join the EAC is being studied.

South Sudan’s admission is likely to be quick. Uganda’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for East African Community Affairs Eriya Kategaya said earlier this year at the launch of the Society for International Development’s State of East Africa Report 2012 in Nairobi, that there was a strategic need to admit South Sudan into the EAC fold in order to “protect the new nation against aggression by [north] Sudan.”
War-scarred but slowly stabilising Somalia has also applied to join.

Somalia will take critical steps towards restoring functioning government for the first time in over 20 years between now and August, when it will have passed a new constitution, elected a new parliament, and its first democratically appointed president in generations.

The Amisom wand

The modest progress made in stabilising Somalia is thanks to the African Union’s peacekeeping force in Somalia, Amisom. Until this year, two EAC countries — Uganda and Burundi — were the only two countries providing troops for Amisom and it is they who broke the militant Al Shabaab’s back in Mogadishu, and lately took the key city of Afgoye, Somalia’s breadbasket, considerably improving food security, an important factor if the country is to return to normalcy.

Kenya entered the Somalia fray in October 2011, and after a cautious first few months, has been aggressive in recent weeks, taking the town of Afmadow, and setting its sights on the strategic Kismayu port town.

The Kenya Defence Forces, which were “re-hatted” as Amisom troops in February, said last week that they would have Kismayu in the bag by the key date of August.

With Kismayu, Mogadishu, and other important regions of Somalia controlled by Amisom and the Somalia government, the new government elected in August will have a reasonable degree of credibility. In all probability, Burundi, Kenya, Uganda and Djibouti Amisom forces — which will shortly be joined by Sierra Leone — will remain in Somalia for a few more years.

They are unlikely to leave their shining foreign policy prize out of the EAC, when they withdraw. Indeed, because of the mutual EAC defence pact, the regional armies will have a legal basis to remain in Somalia were the Amisom mandate to expire soon, if it were a member of the Community.

How the EAC will cope with, possibly, five new presidents having to deal with new members — South Sudan and Somalia — who are politically unstable and whose government structures will still be primitive, is anyone’s guess.

History is the best guide here. The EAC has survived transitions before — none of the EAC presidents in power today, with the exception of Museveni in Uganda, was in office when the EAC charter was first signed in 1999.

But some of East Africa’s coming challenges are unprecedented.

According to the State of East Africa Report 2012 (SoEAR2012), the region’s population has grown by 24 million since 2005 and was estimated to be 139 million in 2010.

“The most important population characteristic of East Africa are its children and youth”, said SoEAR2012, “who account for an overwhelming majority, 80 per cent, of the region’s population in 2010.”

Most of these are unemployed, with youth joblessness rates in countries like Uganda estimated to be over 80 per cent. Youth discontent and unrest is rising, and over the next five years, new — and possibly inexperienced — EAC leaders will be the ones to deal with the problem before it explodes into revolt.

Kenya’s Independent Electoral Boundaries Commission (IEBC) is aiming to register 18 million voters in total — about four million more than the number in 2007. Not all these voters will be youths, but if we consider that Kenya’s population is currently increasing by one million every year, and that between 1999 and 2006 the working-age population increased from 9.7 million to 13.1 million (approximately 500,000 young people joining the work force every year) then it is likely that most of Kenya’s new voters will be between 18 and 24 years old.

With their vote in 2013, will come expectations of a good deal from the new leaders. This same pattern will be replicated in most of East Africa.

With the recent discoveries of oil and gas in the region, governments will have the money to pay for new job and social programmes and buy off restless voters.

Uganda’s oil is expected to start flowing in 2017, Kenya’s at perhaps around the same time. Tanzania is also likely to find a lot more deposits of gas, as is Rwanda, which is also exploring for oil.

However, most of the secessionist demons in Africa also live in East Africa. The region has seen the most number of successful secessions in Africa —Ethiopia/Eritrea, the Sudans; and there is a high possibility Somaliland will break away — evidence that perhaps East Africans are quite a schizophrenic people, integrationist and parochial at the same time. The Tanzanian Union is also coming under pressure. A fortnight ago in Zanzibar, Uamsho, a group that is demanding a referendum on Zanzibar’s secession from Tanzania, was behind three days of disturbances in which churches were burnt.

In the 2010 election, Zanzibar took some steps to put an end to perennial election violence by instituting a new power-sharing deal so that it’s no longer “winner takes all”: Ali Mohamed Shein from the governing CCM (Chama Cha Mapinduzi) party was voted in as president in elections in November 2010.

Zanzibar ‘wrinkle’

He narrowly beat Seif Sharif Hamad of the opposition Civic United Front. Under a power-sharing deal, Mr Sharif serves as one of Shein’s vice-presidents. The power-sharing deal was enshrined in a constitutional amendment adopted in 2010 to end perennial election violence.

While Uamsho’s secessionist demands are a new wrinkle Tanzania doesn’t need, the fact that the country’s new constitution is expected to be inaugurated in April 2014, means it has a chance to offer Zanzibar an additional calming sweetener.

The worry in Tanzania will probably be that Kikwete’s successor will have a bigger political fight on his hand than his predecessor.

The ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi’s fortunes have been dwindling in recent years, as the party is bogged down by corruption scandals and rising internal struggles. In the 2005 election, for example, CCM won 206 out of 232 seats, and Kikwete was elected with 80 per cent of the vote.

It bled in the 2010 election. CCM won 186 out of 239 seats, and this time Kikwete had to make do with 62 per cent of the vote — even then, there were allegations that the vote was stolen.

CCM should still scrape by, but the fact that it has become comfortable with running the show largely unchallenged since just after Independence, means it could become nasty if faced with the real possibility of losing power. That point, though, is not about to come tomorrow.

In November last year, a rights group reported that more than 300 people had been killed in the preceding five months, including opposition and former rebel FNL members.

The dangerous slide continued in Burundi, with Human Rights Watch reporting last month that there had been a significant increase in political violence: “Reciprocal killings by members of the ruling National Council for the Defence of Democracy-Forces for the Defence of Democracy (CNDD-FDD) and the former rebel group the National Liberation Forces (FNL) increased, particularly in Bujumbura and in Bujumbura Rural Province. Impunity for these crimes remains one of the most serious obstacles to peace. The single largest incident of killings took place in September in Gatumba, near the Congolese border.”

Of the five members of the EAC, Burundi is probably the one over which most sleep should be lost. But if Nkurunziza’s successor is a gentler ruler, it too might still have a prayer.

Long-term, East Africa must worry about a common problem of institutional credibility. It seems that the majority of East African president are able to capture their countries’ imaginations, but the institutions th e state and other leaders don’t.

A Gallup poll published on April 25, for example, showed that in Kenya 62 per cent of respondents approved of President Kibaki, but only 38 per cent approved of the country’s wider leadership.

In Tanzania, 66 per cent approved of President Kikwete, but only 59 per cent approved of the country’s wider leadership. In Uganda, 60 per cent of respondents approved of President Museveni, but only 49 per cent of the country’s wider leadership.
There were no polling numbers for Rwanda, but President Kagame typically turns in high ratings in most opinion polling. Little polling is done in Burundi, but the same pattern might well be repeated there.

These numbers might flatter the leaders, but for as long East Africa is a region ruled by men, not institutions, it is will also more likely continue to report a democratic deficit.

*Courtesy of The East African

 

 

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France Africa relations: Le Grand Divorce? By Nicholas Norbrook
June 11, 2012 | 0 Comments

Informal networks and unscrutinised presidential authority have shaped France’s Africa policy for decades. The last time a socialist politician won the presidency – François Mitterrand (1981-1995) – he promised to radically shake up France-Africa relations, as did President Nicolas Sarkozy (2007-2012). It is now President François Hollande’s turn to try to push for good governance and to normalise relations with France’s former colonies.

Tricolores, alongside Algerian and Syrian flags, billowed over Place de la Bastille on 6 May, a historic ground zero for global revolutionaries and a happy stamping ground for France’s left. The election of the Socialist candidate to the Elysée raises hopes in Africa too. Perhaps this time there will be a definitive break with the past, an end to the nebulous and opaque net- works of what has become known as Françafrique. Perhaps.

New French President, François Hollande says he “will break, once and for all, with the out-of-control practices of Françafrique

New French President, François Hollande says he “will break, once and for all, with the out-of-control practices of Françafrique

The main charge against France is that it froze the political evolution of its former colonies, even as it gave them independence (see timeline). Proof of the perennity of the system: President Nicolas Sarkozy supported the attempt to shoe horn Karim Wade, son of the increasingly autocratic Abdoulaye Wade, into the Senegalese presidency. France’s foreign minister Michèle Alliot-Marie offered French police training to the thugs of Presid- ent Zine el Abidine Ben Ali in Tunisia. This attempt by a French minister to stop the Arab Spring in its tracks – by a minister who had been accepting largesse from her Tunisian counter- parts – is the latest stain on France’s conscience.

And this political freeze has led to arrested development. On many metrics, Francophone African countries lag behind their continental peers. French-speaking Africa represents 19% of sub-Saharan Africa’s gross domestic product, whereas English-speaking Africa represents around a half – and that is excluding South Africa. Of the 187 countries ranked by the United Nations Development Programme’s human development index, seven of the 10 worst performers are Francophone countries. Burundi, Niger and the Democratic Republic of Congo are the last three on that list. France gets 60% of the uranium it uses for its world-beating nuclear industry from Africa – including Niger.

CÉLLULE AFRICAINE NO MORE

Not everyone agrees. Côte d’ Ivoire’s President Alassane Ouattara told The Africa Report: “If you take Francophone countries of the CFA franc zone, I think that the situation is actually much better than many Anglophone countries. There has been a real mastering of inflation, which really is a cancer for the poor. There has been strong growth. Perhaps the populations of these countries did not get as fair a share of this growth as they should have.”

Regardless of the debate over how far Francophone Africa has been hamstrung by its former colonial master, the question going forward is can Hollande end Françafrique? During his campaign Hollande claimed, like Sarkozy before him, that there would be a ‘rupture’ with “the old habits of Françafrique”.

But Kader Arif, a Socialist member of the European Parliament and Hollande’s advisor on development mat- ters, says that the change will be radical. “We will get rid of the cellule africaine, place African affairs under the Minister of Foreign Affairs and give parliament anoversightrole.”This is a positive sign: the personalisation of politics under Elysée secretary general Jacques Foccart allowed for clientelism to flourish.

And there are signs that Hollande will be tougher on corruption. Addressing members of Amnesty International and Oxfam, his defence spokesman Jean-Yves Le Drian has said Hollande will impose tighter controls on arms sales. French company Thompson-CSF (now Thales) was involved in a troubled South African arms deal of 1999.

Another of Hollande’s advisors is William Bourdon of Sherpa, a non-govern- mental organisation formed by lawyers that took three Central African lead- ers to court – Teodoro Obiang Nguema of Equatorial Guinea, the late Omar Bongo Ondimba of Gabon and Denis Sassou-Nguesso of Congo-Brazzaville – in March 2007. The investigators behind the ‘biens mal acquis’ affair demand that these presidents account for their endless lists of properties and bank accounts in France. Eva Joly, the 2012 presidential candidate for the Europe Écologie-Les Verts party and the former investigative magistrate who brought down the national oil company Elf in the 1990s, may well receive a role in government.

NOT JUST ANY REGIME

The ties that bind France’s political elite to the Françafrique system run deep. Eyebrows were raised when Laurent Fabius, a potential future foreign minister for Hollande, made trips to see the presidents of Gabon, Togo and Benin between December 2011 and this February. Contacted for this article, Fabius declined to comment. For Jean-Christophe Rufin, France’s former ambassador to Senegal under Sarkozy, this sent all the wrong signals, “as if the bad old habits have come back”.

“Not at all,” said Arif. “We will not work with just any regime, and it’s not only the candidate [François Hollande]who is saying this but it is a collective expression of will. Those regimes that are not moving in the direction of democracy shouldn’t be frequented.” He went on to explain the importance of opening France to non-traditional partners including South Africa, Ghana and Nigeria.

Kofi Yamgnane, a Franco-Togolese politician now running Africa relations for Hollande, is a connection to the days of the late President François Mitterrand. The last time the Socialists had the presidency, there was a similar great hope for change in Franco-African relations that was quickly dashed. On discovering how Elf showered the French political class with money, Mitterrand did not close down the system but just insisted the Parti Socialiste receive its cut. His son, Jean-Christophe Mitterrand, or ‘Papa m’a dit’ (Papa told me) as he came to be known, was good friends with the son of Charles Pasqua, a key player in President Jacques Chirac’s Africa policy. Both sons would be caught up in the Angolagate affair, the illegal sale of arms to Angola.

President Sarkozy did not appear to remove himself from the shadowy net- works of years past. Pascaline Bongo, who ran her father’s finances, sat in the front row at Sarkozy’s investiture as candidate, next to the financiers of his…

To continue reading, get a copy of the June, 2012 edition of The Africa Report, on sale at newsstands, via our print subscription or our digital edition.

 

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Why Nigeria hates SA: Gloves off to be champion of Africa
June 8, 2012 | 0 Comments

By Charles Molele*

Competition over UN, AU jobs and economic rivalries are escalating tension between the powerhouses of Africa’s north and south, writes Charles Molele.

The diplomatic sabres have been rattled; the political fangs have been bared: the tensions between Africa’s powerhouse of the north, Nigeria, and its counterpart in the south, South Africa, have been escalating.

The main reasons are efforts by Abuja to obtain a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council and membership of the G20 group of advanced and industrialised economies. On the other hand, there are perceptions that Pretoria wants to occupy every powerful position in multilateral institutions.

These factors have forced Nigeria to go against South Africa’s attempts to replace Gabon’s Jean Ping with South African Home Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma for the powerful position of the African Union (AU) Commission chairperson, according to a senior government diplomat who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Several South African diplomats and the ministers of foreign affairs in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) are lobbying hard for Dlamini-Zuma to be elected during a re-run of the race slated for July in Lilongwe, Malawi.
But some of the diplomats, who were not mandated to talk to the press, said that Nigeria could spoil the party for South Africa.

They said Nigeria, the largest oil-producing country in Africa, was expected to support Ping, a former Gabonese foreign minister.

It would probably be joined by the Francophone countries of West Africa, which came under the banner of the Economic Community of West African States and the Economic Community of Central Africa.

Deteriorated
Earlier this year, Dlamini-Zuma stood against Ping, but neither garnered the required majority to be elected.

Relations between South Africa and Nigeria deteriorated last year after South Africa backed incumbent president Laurent Gbagbo, who lost national elections, during the battle for control of Côte d’Ivoire.

Nigeria’s new administration under President Goodluck Jonathan has also been championing efforts to surpass the size of the South African economy and join the world’s 20 largest economies by 2020. South Africa is the only African member of the G20, and this does not sit well with the Nigerians.

Like Nigeria, South Africa also wants a permanent seat on the Security Council.

In recent months, Nigerians have been complaining about South Africa dominating aspects of their economy, especially in telecommunications. Recently, a South African company opened high-profile shopping centres in Nigeria and several South African banks are eyeing opportunities there.

Immigration
According to a South African diplomat in the department of international relations and co-operation, Nigeria also hates the fact that many economically depressed African countries rush to South Africa whenever they need aid and donations, something that Nigeria cannot afford to provide. In the past two months, South Africa has given millions of dollars in aid and donations to Somalia ($100-million), Malawi ($35-million) and to drought-stricken countries in the Sahel region, such as Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and  Chad (a total of $100-million).

Immigration remains another source of tension between the two countries. The recent deportation of 125 Nigerians for not producing yellow fever vaccination certificates has made matters worse.

Said a South African diplomat: “The tension between the two countries is mainly about who is the most powerful on the continent economically, politically, even militarily.

“They [Nigerians] want to spite us because we have been getting senior positions and membership in multilateral institutions such as the Brics [Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa], Ibsa [India, Brazil, South Africa], the G20, the Non-Aligned Movement and the United Nations Security Council. Nigeria doesn’t like this. Nigeria also wanted to occupy these positions, but they do not have a stable democracy like ours, their economy is not as diverse as ours, and their financial institutions are not as highly rated as ours. Nigeria does not like this.

“Corruption is rampant in their country and terrorism is out of control. The tensions between Muslims and Christians are making it difficult for anyone to operate or conduct business there.”

Slightly fragile
Political analyst Zamikhaya Maseti said the relationship between the two countries had always been slightly fragile but remained cordial during the era of former presidents Thabo Mbeki and Olusegun Obasanjo.But, Maseti said, the Jonathan administration had repositioned the country as an economic powerhouse capable of playing a dominant role in African affairs.

“I support calls in diplomatic circles that South Africa should withdraw from this AU race because it is causing more harm than unity among African countries,” said Maseti.

“Nigeria believes that South Africa is holding many key positions in the multilateral institutions and should not be contesting for this … in terms of the so-called gentleman’s agreement, South Africa and Nigeria are not supposed to be contesting for these positions in the continental body.”

He added that the “mis-articulation” of the African agenda under President Jacob Zuma had also caused tension between South Africa and Nigeria and many other African countries.

No-fly zone
“Many African countries will never forgive us for backing the Security Council resolution which called for a no-fly zone in Libya. That resolution will forever remain a black spot; every bomb that landed in Libya, killing dozens of women and children, did so with our blessing in the eyes of Africa. How do we expect them to trust us now?”

But a senior diplomat in the depart­ment dismissed suggestions that South Africa should withdraw from the AU race because of deepening divisions on the continent, and also said South Africa should not have to carry the blame for the UN resolution on Libya – it was an AU decision, and Nigeria and Gabon also voted for it.

“We are not going to withdraw,” the diplomat said. “The region [SADC] has no appetite to withdraw. They believe it’s their time and this is in keeping with the rotational principle of the AU.

“South Africa was approached by SADC to lead the AU Commission and they identified Dlamini-Zuma and we agreed.

“The so-called gentleman’s agreement does not exist. Following the stalemate at the AU summit in January, the Benin president, Thomas Yayi Boni, who is the current chair of the AU, asked about it and there was no answer.
“So this gentleman’s agreement thing does not exist.

Unresponsive
“What everybody complained about was that the AU is weak; it is unresponsive to Africa’s problems; it takes time to act; and it’s unable to counter Western hegemony.”

Claude Kabemba, political analyst and an authority on Africa, said Nigeria was comfortable with Ping because he was from a small country and could be dictated to.

“If you have South Africa in the AU Commission, Nigeria is not going to do as it likes because South Africa is an influential country and Africa’s economic powerhouse,” said Kabemba. “That is why they are comfortable with Gabon or small countries in the position.

“It’s all about power relations between two powerful states on the continent. It’s also about who controls what and who is seen as leading the continent.”

Last week, the SADC extraordinary summit held in Luanda reaffirmed its support for Dlamini-Zuma and said: “There was a need to strengthen the AU in order to better position the continental body for the multitude of opportunities and challenges facing Africa.”

Victory for gender equality
In early May, the Pan African Business Forum, an umbrella body with a membership of 350 influential business people and professionals, also endorsed Dlamini-Zuma’s candidature at a press conference in Accra, Ghana.

The forum said her win would be a victory for gender equality and would give the continent a new impetus for economic development – it would be an important player in world affairs. “Dlamini-Zuma fits the bill perfectly for this all-important continental position,” the forum’s president, Prince Prosper Ladislas Agbesi, told the Ghanaian media.

“What is needed now is an AU chairperson who can not only serve as effective mediator and consensus builder among member states on a variety of issues but also serve to cut through the many vested interests, and point the continent in the right direction when making decisions in all those issues.

“This is where Dlamini-Zuma can be effective for the benefit of the AU continental body and, indeed, for the continent as a whole.”

Department of international relations spokesperson, Clayson Monyela, said: “Relations between South Africa and Nigeria are strong and cordial, both political and economic. In fact, the leadership of the Nigerian ruling party at the highest level is in South Africa this weekend to interact with our country’s leadership with a view to further consolidate the strong ties.”

Approached for comment, the Nigerian ambassador to South Africa, Sonni Yusuf, referred to a media statement he released after reports suggested that Nigeria would back Dlamini-Zuma for the AU post, in which he denied the suggestions.

The reports were based on ambiguous remarks made last month by Nigerian Vice-President Namadi Sambo after a meeting of the Nigeria-South Africa Binational Commission in Cape Town. He reportedly said that Nigeria would support South Africa for positions at multilateral institutions from time to time, whenever the need arose.

*Courtesy of Mail & Guardian South Africa

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International dimensions of the conflict in Eastern Congo
June 8, 2012 | 0 Comments

Gary K. Busch*

The African territory which includes Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has been in virtually a state of war since 1995; that is at war with each other. This has engaged the national armies, militias, ‘civil defence’ groups, looters, pillagers, child abductors and abusers, rapists and murderers. Each category is not mutually exclusive. Virtually every category contains most if not all of the sociopathic designations. One can add to this the United Nations Peacekeepers whose range of social debilities accurately mimics those whose peace they are purported to be keeping.

The wars in the Eastern Congo have been responsible for the deaths of millions of Congolese who paid the price of living in a very rich and unmanaged country with failing or non-existent civil institutions. These wars, centred mainly in eastern Congo (North and South Kivu and Maniema) have involved nine African nations and directly affected the lives of 50 million Congolese.

Between August 1998 and April 2004 some 3.8 million people died violent deaths in the DRC. Since 2004 this number has almost doubled. Many of these deaths were due to starvation or disease that resulted from the war, as well as from summary executions and capture by one or more of a group of irregular marauding bands. Millions more had

The profits and riches to be gained from exploitation of Eastern Congo’s natural resources continue to propel violence, pillage and the suffering of the Congolese people

The profits and riches to be gained from exploitation of Eastern Congo’s natural resources continue to propel violence, pillage and the suffering of the Congolese people

become internally displaced or had sought asylum in neighbouring countries. Rape was endemic.

By 1996, the war and genocide in neighbouring Rwanda had spread across the border into the DRC. Rwandan Hutu militia forces (Interahamwe) were helped to escape from Rwanda by the French Army in Operation Tourquise. This allowed the creation of Hutu refugee camps in the DRC which were filled with Interahamwe escapees. Not surprisingly this attracted the attention of the victorious Tutsi in Rwanda and the Tutsis resident in the DRC (the Banyamulenge) who feared that these DRC-based Hutu camps would lead to attacks against Rwanda.

In October 1996, Tutsi-led Rwandan troops (RPA) entered the DRC with an armed coalition led by Laurent-Desire Kabila, known as the Alliance des Forces Democratiques pour la Liberation du Congo-Zaire (AFDL). Kabila was installed in power with the ouster of Mobuto on the 17 May 1997. Kabila declared himself president, consolidated power around himself and the AFDL, and renamed the country the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The DRC’s military was renamed the Forces Armees Congolaises (FAC).

As the FAC was being reorganised the Rwandan troops took over the security in the East. They were confronted by several competing militias:

· The Interahamwe militia of ethnic Hutus, mostly from Rwanda, which fought the Tutsi-dominated Government of Rwanda;

· Hutu members of the former Rwandan Armed Forces, believed to be responsible for the 1994 genocide of Tutsis in Rwanda, which also fought the Government of Rwanda;

· The Mai Mai, a loose association of traditional Congolese local defence forces, which fought the influx of Rwandan immigrants;

· The Alliance of Democratic Forces (ADF), made of up Ugandan expatriates and supported by the Government of Sudan, which fought the Government of Uganda; and

· Several groups of Hutus from Burundi fighting the Tutsi-dominated Government of Burundi.

During 1997, relations between Kabila and his former backers (Museveni of Uganda and Kagame of Rwanda) deteriorated. In July 1998, Kabila ordered all foreign troops to leave the DRC. They refused to leave; claiming that the DRC troops could not defend their interests from the exile groups operating the Eastern Congo. On 2 August 1997, fighting erupted throughout the DRC as Rwandan troops ‘mutinied’, and fresh Rwandan and Ugandan troops entered the DRC. Kagame ordered his troops to attack Kinshasa to depose Kabila in the hopes that his Banyamulenge Tutsi allies in the newly formed Rwandan-backed rebel group called the Rassemblement Congolais pour la Democratie (RCD) would take over. Soon after, Museveni created the rebel group called the Mouvement pour la Liberation du Congo (MLC) to fight for Uganda’s interests and sent into the Congo thousands of Ugandan soldiers. This campaign was impeded when Angolan, Zimbabwean, and Namibian troops intervened on behalf of the DRC.

However, this left the Eastern Congo (where the war was being fought), in the hands of Uganda and Rwanda with some sections held by the Mai-Mai and Burundi. This created a situation where the occupying forces could engage in the massive looting of eastern DRC’s riches. Numerous accounts and documents suggest that by 1997 a first wave of ‘new businessmen’ speaking only English, Kinyarwanda and Kiswahili had commenced operations in eastern DRC. Theft of livestock, coffee beans and other resources began to be reported with frequency. By the time the August 1998 war broke out, Rwandans and Ugandans (top officers and their associates) had a strong sense of the potential of the natural resources, especially coltan, and their locations in eastern DRC.

The Ugandan decision to enter the conflict in August 1998 was defended by some top military officials who had served in eastern Zaire during the first war and who had had a taste of the business potential of the region. The Ugandan forces were eager to move in and occupy areas where gold and diamond mines were located. In September 1998 this looting was put in the hands of General General Salim Saleh (born Caleb Afande Akandwanaho, 14 January 1960), Museveni’s brother, a proven money-launderer, drug dealer, resource thief and plunderer. Salim Saleh formed a company which would supply the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo with merchandise, and would return with natural resources. The project never materialised in this form, but took the form of pure looting and pillage under the protection of the President of Uganda, Yoweri Museveni.

Despite their claims of a security concern generating their interest in the DRC, some top army officials clearly had a hidden agenda: economic and financial objectives. A few months before the 1998 war broke out, General Salim Saleh and the elder son of President Museveni reportedly visited the eastern DRC. One month after the beginning of the conflict, General James Kazini was already involved in commercial activities. He already knew the most profitable sectors and immediately organised the local commanders to serve their economic and financial objectives.

This was mirrored in the activities of the Rwandans. At the heart of the financial setting was the Banque de commerce, du développement et d’industrie (BCDI) located in Kigali. This was the initial vehicle through which all revenues were passed at the initial stages of Rwandan and Ugandan engagement in the DRC. Then, when the war broke out the Rwandans retained the BCDI as their conduit and the Ugandans set up their own. The extraction of minerals rose to a fever pitch as hostilities began with no attention to safe or rational methods of extraction.

In September 1999, the UPDF local commander demanded the extraction of gold from the pillars of the Gorumbwa mine galleries in which dynamite was used. The galleries collapsed, leading to the death of a number of Congolese miners. Some months later, Ugandan soldiers who came to mine in the same area contracted respiratory disease. Even when the local commanders were informed about the dangers of these activities, there was an acceptable level of tolerance for death and disease

Local Congolese have been mining for years for their own benefit as artisanal miners. The novelty of their involvement lies in the fact that some of them were used as ‘convincible labour’ to mine gold, diamonds or coltan. In the Bondo locality within Equateur Province, young men from 12 to 18 years were recruited by Jean-Pierre Bemba. The Ugandan allies trained the recruits and shared with them the idea that the Ugandan army was an ‘army of development’ that aimed at improving ordinary people’s living conditions. After the one-hour morning physical training session, they were sent to gold mines to dig on behalf of the Ugandans and Bemba.

In Kalima, the RPA commander Ruto enrolled two teams of local Congolese to dig coltan; these Congolese worked under the heavy guard of Rwandan soldiers. In the Kilo-Moto mineral district, Ugandan local commanders and some of the soldiers who guarded the different entry points of the mining areas allowed and encouraged the local population to mine. The arrangement between the soldiers and the miners was that each miner would leave at the entry/exit point one gram of gold every day. On average 2,000 individuals mined this large concession six days a week. It was so well organised that the business ran smoothly. On average 2kg of gold were delivered daily to the person heading the network.

The other form of organised extraction by the occupying forces involved the import of manpower for mining. Occupying forces brought manpower from their own countries and provided the necessary security and logistics. In particular, Rwanda utilised prisoners to dig coltan in exchange for a sentence reduction and limited cash to buy food. There were 1,500 Rwandan prisoners in the Numbi area of Kalehe alone. These prisoners were seen mining coltan while guarded by RPA soldiers.

The illegal exploitation of natural resources went beyond mineral and agricultural resources. It occurred in respect of financial transactions, taxes and the use of cheap labour. Local banks and insurance companies operating in Goma, Bukavu, Kisangani, Bunia and Gbadolite dealt directly with Kigali or Kampala. A system of tax collection – enforced in some cases – was implemented by MLC, RCD-ML and RCD Goma with their established Ugandan and Rwandan counterparts. In the rebels’ own words, these taxes were aimed at ‘financing or supporting the war effort’.

Indeed, part of the funds collected was sent to Kigali (in the case of RCD-Goma). In the case of the former RCD-ML and MLC, not only was part of the taxes sent to Kampala but also individual colonels would claim direct payment from RCD-ML. In Bunia and Bukavu, people protested, demonstrated and denounced this practice of abuse. In areas controlled by Bemba, peasants carrying palm oil on bicycles had to pay taxes on the bicycles. In the mining sector, direct extraction was carried out in three ways, namely (a) by individual soldiers for their own benefit; (b) by locals organised by Rwandan and Ugandan commanders; and (c) by foreign nationals for the army or commanders’ benefit.

This was the pattern of exploitation of the DRC and its human and mineral wealth even when peace agreements, like the Lusaka Accords which supposedly ended the war, were signed. Instead of warring armies Eastern Congo became controlled by warlords and militia groups whose exploitation took the form of pillage, rape and murder. Most of these groups have affinities with either the Rwandan or Ugandan governments which handle the physical trade in the wealth which is exported. The Rwandans have been backing ‘rebel’ military warlords like Laurent Nkunda or Bosco Ntanganda. These provide the fig leaf for Rwanda’s continuing rape of the Congo. Others do the same for Uganda. They operate with impunity. The people most responsible for the continuing atrocities are protected. These include Yoweri Museveni, Salim Saleh, Paul Kagame, James Kazini, Moses Ali, James Kabarebe, Taban Amin, Jean-Pierre Bemba, Laurent Nkunda, Bosco Ntanganda, Meles Zenawi and a long list of people whose culpability is without question; many of whom have been named for atrocities again and again. Bemba was finally brought to the ICC to stand trial. This was more to do with his political opposition to Kabila Junior and the Central African Republic than his depredations in the Eastern Congo.

Theoretically, the United Nations has teams of peacekeepers in the DRC as MONUC (United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo); since 1 July 2010, MONUC was renamed the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO). The track record of MONUC is not impressive. In the words of a Zimbabwean general: ‘They are like tits on a bull. They are there but serve no useful purpose!’ Two of the inbuilt reasons for their lack of success was (1) relying at the beginning on the French military who encamped at Ituri and refused to leave the city because the rebels killed two French officers on the first outing; and (2) relying on Rwandan troops to co-ordinate the fight against the rebels they are covertly supporting in the name of MONUSCO. This scheme offers limited optimism for the Congolese. In fact many peacekeepers of the MONUC were engaged in rape, murder and pillage for their own account. Some have been prosecuted and sent home. Their presence in the DRC adds to the fears of the population.

As this conflict is continuing, the world has turned its attention to another battle nearby; the fight against the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). The LRA is a Ugandan organisation with a bloody history. The Ugandan reaction to the LRA has been equally brutal. In September 1996 the government of Uganda put in place a policy of forced displacement of the Acholi in the Gulu district into displacement camps. Since 1996 this policy has expanded to encompass the entire rural Acholi population of four districts – one million people. These displacement camps have some of the highest mortality rates in the world with an estimated 1,000 people dying per week. The LRA has derived most of its support from the displaced and dominated Acholi people who have been driven from their homes and whose families remain in displacement camps.

Joseph Kony (born 1961) is the head of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) He has declared that the LRA will conduct a political, military and spiritual campaign to establish theocratic government based on the Ten Commandments in Uganda. The LRA say that God sent spirits to communicate this mission directly to Kony. The LRA has earned a reputation for its untrammelled violence against the people of several countries, including northern Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Sudan. The LRA has abducted and forced an estimated 66,000 children to fight for them, and has also forced the internal displacement of over 2 million people since its rebellion began in 1986. There were many international attempts at peace and an end to the abduction of children by the LRA between 1996 and 2001. All of them failed to end the abductions, rape, child soldiers, and civilian casualties including attacks on refugee camps. After the September 11th attacks, the United States declared the Lord’s Resistance Army a terrorist group and Joseph Kony a terrorist.

Following the breakdown of peace talks in late 2008, the National Security Council authorised AFRICOM to support a military operation (one of the first publicly-acknowledged AFRICOM operations) against the LRA, which was believed to be in the Congo at the time. AFRICOM provided training and US$1 million in financial support for ‘Operation Lightning Thunder’ – a joint endeavour of the Ugandan, Congolese and South Sudan forces in Congolese territory launched in December 2008 to ‘eliminate the threat posed by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA)’. According to the United Nations, the offensive ‘never consulted with partners on the ground on the requirements of civilian protection. Stretching over a three-month period, it failed in its mission and the LRA scattered and retaliated against the Congolese population; over 1,000 people were killed and up to 200,000 displaced.

This battle against the LRA has to be seen as a continuation of the battles in Eastern Congo. In October 2011, US President Obama authorised the deployment of approximately 100 combat-equipped U.S. troops to central Africa. They will help regional forces ‘remove from the battlefield’ Joseph Kony and senior LRA leaders. ‘Although the U.S. forces are combat-equipped, they will only be providing information, advice, and assistance to partner nation forces, and they will not themselves engage LRA forces unless necessary for self-defence’, Obama said in a letter to Congress.

There is no doubt that the LRA is a vicious, sociopathic organisation which engages in brutal behaviour. However, the people who are leading the fight against the LRA (Yoweri Museveni and Paul Kagame) have committed and continue to commit equally outrageous crimes and attacks of a similar nature, especially among the displaced wanderers of the Eastern Congo, but are feted and rewarded by the US Government for their willingness to provide mercenaries for the US ‘War on Terror’ and the protection of the newly emerging oil industry in their countries and region. Unfortunately, the area in which the LRA conduct their atrocities is exactly where major new finds of oil have been discovered.

Underpinning the Western interest in the region is the discovery of oil in Kenya, Uganda and along the shores of Lake Albert. The war between Sudan and South Sudan has made it imperative to find a route for the oil to reach the ports of the Indian Ocean as the Sudan pipeline is closed to them. The routes out all go through the territory of the rump of the remaining LRA (there are less than 600 fighters left). This struggle against the LRA has allowed the US to continue its policy of building African mercenary armies to fight its battles against ‘Global Terror’ in the Sudan, Somalia, Yemen and Kenya. It supplies weapons, instructors and communication facilities to the Ugandan and Rwandan armies to combat the LRA and to fight against the US’ enemies in Somalia. Unfortunately this has also empowered the Ugandans and Rwandans in the rape of the Eastern Congo in the name of fighting the LRA.

In 2009 Heritage Oil discovered oil in Uganda. There have also been sizeable finds in Kenya. In May 2012 Kenya announced its second profitable oil discovery in two months; and large oil deposits in the remote northern Turkana region. Kenya has become the latest African country to join the great African oil boom, following recent discoveries in Uganda and the DRC. Even Rwanda and Burundi will benefit from this oil as part of the East African Community (EAC). The EAC can count on a better energy future with the discovery of oil in Kenya, in addition to the substantial reserves in Uganda and the gas discovered in Tanzania. There are also explorations in the Lake Kivu Graven in Rwanda. South Sudan, with its large oil reserves, has applied for membership of EAC. There are large oil and gas fields in Somalia. Africa is the main continent in the world with frequent and substantial new findings of oil and gas. A joint report by the African Development Bank, African Union and the African Development Fund observed that oil reserves in Africa grew by over 25 per cent, while gas has grown by over 100 per cent since the late 1980s.

This ‘new horizon’ of African oil and gas has started to attract the big fish of the international oil industry, Chevron, Shell, Exxon, Total and the Chinese oil giants. This extraction process and the refineries which will accompany the flows will require vast sums of cash up front; money the Africans don’t have. There is a symbiosis involved in the activities of ‘Big Oil’ and Africa. Big Oil has the money, Africa has the untapped oil and gas and, most importantly, the military to protect the prospective investments. The US does not have the public support for the sending of combat troops to East and Central Africa. It does have the equipment, cash and trainers to create surrogate forces in the area. In this, having a common enemy, like the LRA, is a convenient hook on which to hang a commercial policy. The LRA doesn’t have to be strong; it just has to be considered vicious and beyond the pale. It matches those criteria. The US interests and the Ugandan and Rwandan military ambitions overlap and the two armies are being paid vast sums to act as US surrogates. Museveni and Kagame are feted by the West as valuable allies, despite their activities in the DRC.

This policy is likely to continue the unrestrained pillage of the Eastern Congo and the continued misery, poverty, fear and violence of and to the Congolese people. The Congolese echo the question posed originally by the Tribune of the People, Tiberius Gracchus, ‘Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?’ (‘Who is going to protect us from our protectors?’).

* Dr. Gary K. Busch is an international trade unionist, an academic, a businessman and a political affairs and business consultant.

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How West Africa Helped Win World War II
June 8, 2012 | 0 Comments

By Kwei Quartey*

In June 1940, when France fell to the German invasion, Italy seized the moment to attack British positions in Egypt, Kenya, and Sudan. By the end of March 1941, German Major-General Erwin Rommel’s mechanized troops had driven the British out of Libya and back into Egypt. In late spring, German and Italian aircraft were pummeling Britain’s sea stations in the Mediterranean, making it difficult if not impossible for supply ships to reach British forces in the Middle East. The remaining sea route by which to deliver supplies to Egypt was via Africa’s Cape of Good Hope, but that was a protracted journey of three to four months, a luxury of time that Britain simply did not have.

In desperation, Prime Minister Winston Churchill and his military advisers turned to an underdeveloped, 3,700-mile air route from Takoradi in the British colony of the Gold Coast (now Ghana) to Cairo, Egypt.

Takoradi’s Major Role

As the starting point of the Allied trans-African supply line to Egypt that became officially known as the West African Reinforcement Route (WARR), Takoradi became one of the most important bases for Britain’s Royal Air Force (RAF). On September 5, 1940, the first shipment of a dozen Hurricane and Blenheim aircraft fighters in large wooden crates arrived at Takoradi by boat from the United Kingdom, and like many more consignments to come, they were unpacked and then assembled locally to be made airworthy for the flight to Cairo. The six-day journey was undertaken in stages with several rest and refueling stops that included Lagos, Nigeria; Khartoum, Sudan; and Luxor, Egypt. Nelson Gilboe, a Hurricane pilot, describes the Takoradi assembly plant as cut out of the dense forest with monkeys playing in nearby trees. (Simian residents of modern-day Takoradi still frolic in the trees of the Monkey Hill sanctuary.)

The first delivery flight to Cairo left Takoradi on September 20, 1940. Like the flights that were to follow, it was a journey plagued by problems. In the Sahara Desert portion of the route, sand took a severe toll on the aircraft engines. There was no map of the route, and many pilots used ominously burned-out aircraft on the ground as their guide.

In spite of these challenges, between August 1940 and June 1943, over 4,500 British Blenheims, Hurricanes, and Spitfires were assembled at Takoradi and ferried to the Middle East. Between January 1942 and the end of the operation in October 1944, 2,200 Baltimores, Dakotas, and Hudsons arrived from the United States (via the American base at Natal, Brazil, and a mid-Atlantic stop on Ascension Island), and virtually all of them were ferried in similar fashion. There were other final destinations via the Takoradi Route, including India.

Empire and Commonwealth

The term “Allies” is invariably used to refer to the wartime partnership between Britain and the United States, but it was the British Empire that was plunged into war from the very beginning in September 1939, a good two years before the United States took on a combatant role. In her book The British Empire and the Second World War, Ashley Jackson points out that notwithstanding the Eurocentric manner in which World War II is often remembered, the British and many ordinary people around the world viewed the war as an imperial struggle. The idealized image of Britain standing alone after the fall of France is a parochial and inaccurate one. Over a span of centuries, Britain’s imperialism had created an empire comprising dominions, colonies, and protectorates. Whom and where the British fought was largely determined by its empire. After all, there would hardly have been anything for Italy or Japan to quarrel about had it not been for two centuries of British overseas expansion right under their noses.

Churchill and many British government ministers at the time had had direct experience with the Empire and its people, and it was inevitable that the crafting of the war involved the marshaling of Empire and Commonwealth forces. African kings like the Asantehene of the Gold Coast became indispensable resources in this effort because they were able to mobilize their subjects for all manner of projects, whether it was to join the imperial army, help assemble Hurricanes, or construct airfields, harbors, and roads. In the first few years of the war, the RAF recruited 10,000 West Africans for ground duties in the British West Africa colonies of the Gold Coast, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, and the Gambia. To be sure, British personnel, who were succumbing to West Africa’s punishing heat and enervating malarial attacks, needed support from an acclimatized populace in a region of the world sometimes called the “White Man’s Grave.”

Beyond that, West African soldiers went to the battlefront itself. The 4th Gold Coast Infantry Brigade, which later became the 2nd West African Infantry Brigade, contributed 65,000 men to the 1944 Battle of Myohaung, which drove the Japanese out of Burma. Today, in testament to that history, the military section of Accra, Ghana’s capital, is called Burma Camp, and there is a Myohaung Barracks at Takoradi.

Resources and Location

The war brought about a greater demand for Africa’s raw materials. With the loss of Southeast Asia’s rubber to the Japanese, Nigeria became one of Britain’s most important sources of rubber. The Gold Coast’s bauxite, the raw material for aluminum, was critical to British aircraft production. It would be misleading to say, however, that these contributions were all made under blissful conditions. Britain’s ultimately failed attempts to increase tin mining in Nigeria involved forced labor under appalling conditions.

Apart from having the Takoradi air force base on its shores and the headquarters of the West Africa Command at Achimota College, which supplied the 200,000 total military men from the four West African British colonies, the Gold Coast was of strategic importance for another reason: it was bordered on all sides by potentially hostile French colonies that were under the Vichy Government. If the Gold Coast had fallen to the enemy, the West African Reinforcement Route would have come to an end.

The lesson is that the Second World War’s Eurocentric history must be widened to give sub-Saharan Africans and many other world peoples their due. In September 1940, clearly recognizing the critical importance of defending the skies over the Mediterranean, Winston Churchill observed, “The Navy can lose us the war, but only the Air Force can win it.” The contributions and cooperation of Africans along the Takoradi Route made the fulfillment of that principle possible and the defeat of the Axis forces a reality.

*The Author is a Columnist with Foreign Policy In Focus

 

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Nigeria celebrates first home-made warship
June 8, 2012 | 0 Comments

By Will Ross *

After nearly five years in the making, the Nigerian navy ship or NNS Andoni was launched with a colourful event.

At 31m (100ft) long, this is no giant of the seas, but the fact that it was designed and built in Nigeria, by Nigerian engineers, is a great source of pride.

"Proudly Nigerian" does not just apply to the people of this vast land - the West African giant is now building its own warships.

"Proudly Nigerian" does not just apply to the people of this vast land - the West African giant is now building its own warships.

“We are all happy and elated,” said Commodore SI Alade, one of Nigeria’s senior naval officers.

“This is the first time this kind of thing is happening in Nigeria and even in the sub region.”

Moments after stepping on board NNS Andoni, sailor FL Badmus said: “I feel on top of the world.

“I’m proud to have been picked by the naval authorities to serve on this ship.

“We hope this is the beginning of very good things to come and we thank God for it.”

The warship was named after the Andoni people of south-eastern Nigeria – and several chiefs travelled to Lagos to witness the launch – including his Royal Highness NL Ayuwu Iraron Ede-Obolo II, wearing a top hat, a sequin-adorned velvet gown and a brightly coloured necklace.

The ceremony also featured multi-faith prayers, with an imam asking God to “protect and preserve this ship from the dangers of the day and the violence of the enemy”, and a Christian praying: “May she sail with success like the Ark of Noah.”

The event had an interesting twist of symbolism for the guest of honour, Nigeria’s leader, Goodluck Jonathan.

He is from a family of canoe makers – and that he is now the president launching a warship is a sign of how far he has risen.

“This is the beginning of the transformation… and I believe in another 10 to 15 years, we can be thinking about starting a project to take Nigerians into the air,” President Jonathan said.

The NNS Andoni could be key in the fight against militants operating near Nigeria’s oil fields as well as the growing threat of piracy in the Gulf of Guinea.

Piracy in Nigerian waters is on the increase and incidents are happening over a wider area, according to the International Maritime Bureau.

There were 10 piracy attacks off the 780km (485 miles) of Nigeria’s coastline during the first quarter this year – the same number reported for the whole of 2011.

“While the number of reported incidents in Nigeria is still less than Somalia… the level of violence against crew is dangerously high,” according to a recent IMB report.

With a speed of up to 25 knots (46km/h), this can quickly go to intercept the pirates ” Commanding Officer Adepegba

With a speed of up to 25 knots (46km/h), this can quickly go to intercept the pirates ” Commanding Officer Adepegba

The NNS Andoni is equipped with an advanced radar system and firepower.

“With a speed of up to 25 knots (46km/h), this can quickly go to intercept the pirates,” said Commanding Officer Adepegba standing on the bridge pointing out the ship’s three machine guns and the automatic grenade launcher.

Foreign orders

The Nigerian navy reportedly wants to acquire 49 more vessels over the next 10 years. But how many will be home built?

Orders are already in – for three from a French shipbuilder, and six from Singapore.

President Jonathan recently approved the acquisition of two large patrol vessels from China Shipbuilding and Offshore International, a mainly state-owned company.

In an effort to boost local industry, one of the Chinese vessels is meant to be 70% built in Nigeria.

NNS Andoni was dwarfed when a 105m-long frigate steamed past during the ceremony – with all the officers cheering on deck.

NNS Thunder, a veteran of the Vietnam War, arrived at the beginning of the year, a gift from the US.

Eyebrows were raised when it was announced that the monthly fuel bill of the 45-year-old ship would be $1m (£650,000).

When this year’s navy’s $450m budget was discussed at the House of Assembly in January, one senator described the donated ships as hand-outs that could become liabilities rather than assets.

There were also calls for corruption to be plugged.

“Corruption has sucked the blood out of our system. So we have to depend on hand-outs,” one senator lamented.

NSS Andoni’s fuel bill will certainly be lower than NNS Thunder.

‘No indigenous touch’

After parading on the deck, the naval officers took photos of each other with mobile phones – clearly delighted with the new ship.

Named after the Andoni, their chiefs were some of the guests of honour at the ship's launch

Named after the Andoni, their chiefs were some of the guests of honour at the ship's launch

“It’s a great day. It’s taken over five years but it’s worth it,” said a smiling Kelechi, one of the engineers.

“We came up with the design, the expertise and about 60% of the materials were locally sourced. The engines, generators and navigation equipment came from outside.”

Nigeria is one of Africa’s biggest oil producers, but this has not so much helped as hampered the development of local industries because the country has relied so heavily on imported goods. As he launched NNS Andoni, President Jonathan lamented the decline of industries that had been strong not long after independence in 1960.

“We had Nigerian Airways, the Nigerian shipping line and a number of investments that were doing well. But because there was no indigenous touch, all these died,” the president said.

“We are told that some countries that were on par with us are now building aircraft, choppers and other things,” he said, adding that Nigeria had for a long time not embraced technology.

The president suggested sending the brightest students of engineering to the best universities in the world.

“Then let them come back and work in Nigeria because we cannot continue to be importing. We have a very large market and even what we consume alone is enough to support an industry.”

“We have this market, we must use it,” President Jonathan said – before laying the keel to mark the start of work on the second “Made in Nigeria” warship.

*Courtesy of BBC Africa

 

 

 

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