Sunday, September 29, 2019

Corruption in Equatorial Guinea

25 luxury cars seized from Equatorial Guinea’s vice president, Teodorin Obiang Nguema, will be auctioned off in Switzerland and are estimated to bring in 18.5m Swiss francs ($18.7m).

Among the cars  are seven Ferraris, three Lamborghinis, five Bentleys, a Maserati and a McLaren. The most expensive lots are a Lamborghini Veneno Roadster, valued at between 4.8m and 5.7m euros ($5.2-6.2m) and a yellow Ferrari hybrid at 2.4-2.6m euros.
The cars were confiscated by Swiss justice after the opening in 2016 of a financial wrongdoing case against Obiang, son and likely heir of Equatorial Guinea’s authoritarian president, Teodoro Obiang Nguema, who has ruled for 40 years. 

In February Swiss prosecutors said they were dropping charges of financial wrongdoing against Teodorin Obiang Nguema but were confiscating the luxury cars as part of the case.

Under the Swiss penal code, prosecutors can choose to drop charges in this category if defendants offer compensation “and restore a situation that is in conformity with the law”.
Equatorial Guinea has also agreed to give Geneva 1.3m Swiss francs to cover the costs of the case.

In October 2017 a Paris court handed Obiang a three-year suspended jail term after convicting him of siphoning off public money to buy assets in France. He was accused of spending more than 1,000 times his official annual salary on a six-storey mansion in a posh part of the French capital, a fleet of fast cars and artworks, among other assets. He was also given a suspended fine of 30m euros.
In September, Brazilian media said that more than $16m in cash and luxury watches were seized by Brazilian police and customs officers from luggage of a delegation accompanying Obiang on a private visit.

Obiang is reputedly on a fast track to succeed his father. Last October, he was promoted from colonel directly to division general, without passing through the normal intermediary rank of brigade general. The following month, he presided over a cabinet meeting for the first time.

The tiny West African nation is one of the continent’s top petroleum producers and has a population of just 1.2 million. The country is regularly cited by NGOs as one of the most corrupt in the world.

Congo Corruption?

Italian prosecutors are investigating the wife of Eni’s chief executive as part of a wider probe into allegations of corruption involving the oil and gas major in Congo Republic. State-controlled Eni has previously said it was under investigation by Milan prosecutors for corruption in Congo Republic from 2013 to 2015. 

The corruption case revolves around agreements signed by Eni’s subsidiary in Congo with the African nation’s ministry of hydrocarbons for exploration and production permits. It also revolves around partners Eni picked for its contracts

Friday, September 27, 2019

Sahel out of control

West African and international powers are failing to tackle the spiralling threat of Islamist militancy in the Sahel region, which is spreading towards the Gulf of Guinea. Groups with links to al Qaeda and Islamic State have strengthened their foothold across the arid Sahel region this year, making large swathes of territory ungovernable and stoking ethnic violence, especially in Mali and Burkina Faso.

"Let's be clear, we are losing ground in the face of violence," the United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said, "I know we are all very concerned about the continuing escalation of violence in the Sahel and its expansion to the Gulf of Guinea countries."

"The risk of contagion towards other countries is there," Burkina Faso President Roch Marc Kabore said. "The G5 states [Burkina Faso, Niger, Chad, Mali and Mauritania] can't handle this situation."

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

The Climate Crisis is Here

The Somali Region has suffered from chronic drought for several years, with the worst stretch recorded in 2016, from which many households have yet to recover. This year the short rainy season known as the 'belg', which typically lasts from March to May, once again failed to provide much-anticipated ground water. The livestock have already started to die. This has had catastrophic consequences for the pastoral communities which make up the majority of the Somali population. They rely on cattle and other farm mammals for their livelihood: Selling them at the market, drinking their milk and eating their meat. During prolonged periods of drought, animals become more vulnerable to diseases. Herds mingle more as water sources are scarce, increasing the risk of contagion. Swift and adequate treatment of their livestock becomes a priority for farmers.Pastoral communities say they fear for the future of their livelihoods as experts blame climate change.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) recently distributed livestock medicine and feed to 79,000 households. But it's still not enough for everybody. 

"Cattle are the most vulnerable to drought, followed by sheep and goats," says Ahmed Mohammed, FAO's Somali Region field coordinator. "If we don't protect the core breeding animals at this stage of the drought, this will lead to mass mortality of animals and the families will be stripped of their livelihood assets. Rebuilding these lost livelihoods later on will be an enormous task, so it is less expensive and more efficient to protect and save livelihoods before they are lost."

Families are still worried that the rainy season will continue to fail in the years ahead. This fear has been reinforced by climate experts, who say they have noticed a correlation between recurring droughts in the region and climate change.

"Our research has strongly suggested that climate change has contributed to this decline [in rainfall]," research geographer Chris Funk from the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET) told DW. "FEWS NET research has advanced a clear causal explanation linking warming in the Western Pacific to increased rainfall near Indonesia and disruptions in the East African long rains." According to Funk, this trend is likely to continue in the years ahead. "The data suggests we should assume that the current increase in drought frequencies will persist," he explains. "This is a little less scary than assuming that the trend will continue, but it's still pretty grim. Just assuming drought will persist in Ethiopia suggests we will likely see about six poor seasons over the next ten years."

Thursday, September 19, 2019

People Trafficking

East Africa’s trafficking transit point

  • According to the United Nations Refugee Agency’s Refworld, Kenya has been identified as a transit point for Ethiopians and other East Africans seeking work in South Africa, the Middle East and Asia.
  • The Ugandan government, despite criticism, has encouraged externalisation of labour in order to attract foreign exchange in the form of remittances. Remittances from Ugandans abroad, according to the Uganda Parliamentary Forum on Youth Affairs (UPFYA), increased from 1.6 billion dollars in 2016, to 2.0 billion dollars in 2017. 
  • In 2017, the government lifted a ban on Ugandans travelling abroad for domestic work, despite reports of abuse and trafficking.
  • Since then there has been a surge in labour recruitment agencies targeting the export of labour to countries like Oman, Jordan, UAE, Malaysia and China. As of 2018, over 105 private companies were licensed by Uganda’s Gender and Labour Ministry to recruit workers for external employment.
  • Nairobi-based labour recruiters recruit Ethiopian, Rwandan, and Ugandan workers through fraudulent offers of employment in the Middle East and Asia. But women recruited through these agencies end up in sex slavery or forced labour in the Middle East and China, among others.
Uganda’s efforts not enough to end trafficking

  • Uganda is one of the countries battling to end trafficking. It has been also identified as the destination for persons trafficked for sexual exploitation, with women originating from countries like conflict-ridden Burundi, among others.
  • In its 2019 Trafficking in Persons Report, the U.S. State Department said Uganda does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it was making significant efforts.
  • According to the Ugandan government, authorities intercepted a total of 599 Ugandans, 477 females and 122 males, attempting to depart to countries that officials assessed as high risk for trafficking and where travellers were unable to adequately explain the purpose of their travel.
  • According to the U.S. Trafficking in Person Report, Uganda reported that of 145 trafficking investigations, there were prosecutions of 52 defendants in 50 cases, and convictions of 24 traffickers in 2017 under the country’s 2009 anti-trafficking act. This is compared to 114 investigations, 32 prosecutions, and 16 convictions in 2016.
  • The report observed that corruption and official complicity in trafficking crimes remained significant concerns, inhibiting l
    Airport and immigration officials implicated in trafficking crime
    Security officers at Uganda’s border with Kenya, at Uganda’s Entebbe Airport and officials from the Civil Aviation Authority and immigration departments have been accused of colluding with traffickers to facilitate the travel of trafficked persons.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Niger Fixing Itself

In Niger, the world’s poorest country, the land is mostly desert.
In just a few decades, Niger’s farmers have rehabilitated 12.5 million acres by managing the natural regeneration of 200 million trees that sequester carbon, improve soil fertility, often double crop yields, as well as provide livestock fodder and firewood — all ensuring food security for 2.5 million people.
Niger’s progress — led by small farmers together making and enforcing rules — has been celebrated as perhaps the largest regreening transformation in all of Africa.

Friday, September 13, 2019

South Sudan's Pain

South Sudan, the world's newest country, has been in civil conflict for more than five years. After decades of struggle against Sudanese leadership based in Khartoum, the South Sudanese voted for independence from Sudan in 2011. But in December 2013, fighting broke out when President Salva Kiir accused his deputy Riek Machar of planning a coup. It quickly descended into ethnically-motivated violence. 

During December 2013 and ensuing months in 2014, hundreds of thousands of Nuer - as well as some other ethnic groups, such as the Shilluk, who were seen as siding with the Nuer - fled the country or crowded into United Nations or NGO-controlled protection camps inside the country. Most of those people have been unable to return home. 

An attempt at a peace deal between the two leaders brought Machar back to South Sudan in March 2016, delayed after negotiations over weapons and conditions of merging the government and "in opposition" armies, called the SPLA (now renamed the SSPDF) and SPLA-IO respectively.

In July 2016, a few months after Machar returned, the peace agreement broke down again with fighting beginning at the statehouse in the capital Juba and spreading across the city. It triggered a fresh wave of violence, with the fighting pushing further south into a lush and fertile region comprising three provinces known as the Equatorias, where Machar and his troops passed through while fleeing into the neighbouring Democratic Republic of the Congo. This led to nearly a million people from that region crossing the border into Uganda, registering as refugees. It is estimated that more than 383,000 people have died in the conflict, according to a report from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. 

Since the collapse of the peace deal in 2016 alone, more than a million people are said to have fled across the border, escaping rape, murder, destruction of property, and occupation of land.

Deforestation in Africa Accelerates

The greatest rate of increase in deforestation was in Africa, where rates doubled from less than 2m hectares a year to more than 4m.

Charlotte Streck, co-founder and director of Climate Focus, the thinktank that coordinated the report from 25 forest organisations, said: “Deforestation has increased rapidly in Africa, coming from a relatively low level to begin with, but it is rising very quickly but very quietly.”

In Africa much of the demand for logging comes from China, which has taken a strategic interest in the continent, buying land and doing resource deals with governments in exchange for internal investment and development cash.
“African timber is exported to China, and this is one of the three dominant causes of deforestation. China could act on illegal timber and be very effective, for instance if the Chinese government put in a requirement on tracing [timber and forest goods],” said Streck.
While some countries have embarked on tree-planting schemes, notably in Ethiopia, these have been far outweighed by the loss of existing forests.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Burkina Faso -the tragedy intensifies

As the death toll of jihadist attacks in Burkina Faso climbs, the UN and the Red Cross say nearly 300,000 people have been forced to flee their homes. Half a million people no longer have access to health care. According to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)  1.2 million people are threatened with famine and malnutrition.

Since 2015, more than 500 people have been killed in attacks. The rise in jihadist violence has been attributed to the spread of Islamist terrorism from neighboring Mali. It is now also metastasizing to the east and the center of the country.

According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), around 289,000 people have had to flee their homes and are now living in shelters — triple the number compared to January. 

According to the Red Cross, "500,000 people have been deprived of health care since January due to jihadist violence." 125 health centers were hit in August, forcing 60 to shut down and leaving 65 only partially able to function. 

Foreign Minister Alpha Barry said that Burkina Faso had yet to receive the aid promised by the West to Sahel countries in a conference on the region held in Brussels last year.

Friday, September 06, 2019

Quote of the Day

"If our South African brothers stopped what they were doing then the kind of thing we were doing yesterday would not happen. We want one Africa. One people. We want to tell them, ‘Guys, we’re one Africa.’ All of our countries were colonised. We need to come together. If they feel like chasing foreigners from their country will solve their problems, that’s a lie." -

Tuesday, September 03, 2019

South Africa's Anti-Foreigner Riots

Violent xenophobia erupted in South Africa once again. Rioters looted foreign-owned shops in Johannesburg. At least 70 people were arrested, the police said.

Hundreds of people marched in Johannesburg's Central Business District (CBD) earlier in the day, demanding foreigners leave, according to local news agency News 24. They targeted shops they believed to be owned by foreign nationals.
Last week, hundreds of protesters in Pretoria set fire to buildings, looted mostly foreign-owned businesses and clashed with police.
Zambia's government on Monday called on Zambian truck drivers to avoid travelling to South Africa and those already in the country to park their vehicles "until the security situation improves". Truck drivers in the southeastern province of KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) started a nationwide strike on Sunday to protest against the employment of foreign drivers.  200 people have been killed in attacks on foreign truck drivers since March 2018.
Sipho Zungu, chairman of the All Truck Drivers Foundation, told AFP his group had had "nothing to do with the strike", but stressed that it was fighting for the employment of South African drivers.

"People of South Africa are hungry, they are sitting at home while companies in South Africa are employing foreigners…because its cheap labour. We are hungry and angry," Zungu told AFP.

Sunday, September 01, 2019

West African Hunger Looming

Hundreds of thousands of people in Senegal and Mauritania are at risk of going hungry in the coming year because not enough grass has grown to feed the region's cattle, analysts said. Satellite maps show barren pastures across large swaths of the two West African countries, which means animals will die, robbing owners of their sole source of food and income.

"Livestock herding is the key pillar of food security for the area," said Alex Orenstein, a data scientist specialising on pastoralism in the Sahel. Herders feel the pain first, but it touches everyone in the region soon enough." 
"The situation is very worrisome," said Zakari Saley Bana, a disaster risk reduction advisor for the charity Action Against Hunger (ACF).