Category Archives: Articles

The Panama Papers – African Summary

Over 214,000 offshore entities are involved in financial transactions in more than 200 countries and territories around the world, according to the consortium. The use of offshore companies, the key tools of tax evasion, is a practice allowed in most countries.

Among those mentioned in the millions of documents including listed associates of Russian President Vladimir Putin, who embezzled up to $ 2 billion with the help of banks and shell companies, according to ICIJ. The king of Saudi Arabia, Salman of Saudi Arabia, President of the UAE and Ruler of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the former emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani and cousins ​​of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad are also mentioned.

African leaders are also mentioned, although no head of state in the exercise personally. Only the former Sudanese President al-Amad Ali Mirghani, who died in 2008, had assets in a tax haven.

Relatives of the president are however. Among them include Clive Khulubuse Zuma, nephew of South African President Jacob Zuma, Mamadie Touré, the fourth wife of former Head of State of Guinea Lansana Conté (which is already widely cited in a mining bribery case in Simandou), Mounir Majidi, private secretary of the king of Morocco, Alaa Mubarak, the eldest son of former Egyptian president, but John Addo Kufuor, the eldest son of former Ghanaian President John Kufuour. Finally, the Ivorian banker Jean-Claude N’Da Ametchi, former member of President Laurent Gbagbo and today close to Charles Konan Banny, has, according to documents of the ICIJ, assets in an offshore company and an account in Monaco.

Among the mentioned African political leaders appear Jaynet Désirée Kabila Kyungu (MP and twin sister of DRC President Joseph Kabila), Abdeslam Bouchouareb (MP and Algerian Minister of Industry and Mines), José Maria Botelho de Vasconcelos (Angolan minister Oil), Kalpana Rawal (Vice-President of the Supreme Court of Kenya), Bruno Jean-Richard Itoua (former Minister of Energy and Water and current Minister of scientific Research and technical Innovation of Congo -Brazzaville), Brigadier General Emmanuel Ndahiro (director of the Rwandan intelligence agency from 2004 to 2011) and the Senegalese Pape Mamadou Pouye. Arrested in April 2013 with Karim Wade, he was sentenced to five years for illegal enrichment complicity.

 

Source: Jeune Afrique

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Oil exploration in the Virunga National Park

The Virunga National Park stretches from the Virunga Mountains in the South, to the Rwenzori Mountains in the North, covering 7,800-square-kilometre in Eastern DRC. It is known worldwide for it wildlife, as it is home to the last mountain gorillas.

I have never been to the Virunga National Park, or even to DRC for that matter. I hope to go there one day and experience the beauty of the Great Lakes region. The peaceful atmosphere that arises from the evergreen mountains is a sour irony, contrasting with the conflictful history  of the region, the unrest that has been taking place for decades there, with no end in sights.

I came across the Virunga Netflix documentary a few days ago.
It does justice to the natural beauty of the National Park, and to the courage of the few individuals defending it against illegal poaching and mining interests from SOCO International plc.

The documentary directed by Orlando von Einsiedel highlights a couple of things in the area:
– The complete inability of the central government to control the whole DRC territory
– The absence of rule of law for so long has turned the army and state representatives act into militias or administrative pillars for the mining interests
– The role NGOs and institutions are playing to maintain order. The documentary focuses on the team of rangers who fight for the park preservation alongside Emmanuel de Merode.

I have spent 20 years thinking about bravery, about why the rangers keep working under such conditions. For some it is because there aren’t that many options, because it is a good job. For others it is because their parents and grandparents were rangers. For others still it is the unfashionable concept of loyalty – it is their duty to protect the park.

You can read more about it here, and donate for the cause.

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Individual prejudice & structured racism

British Rapper Akala discusses racism ahead of UK elections on Frankie Boyle’s show.

Akala discusses the different portrayal, and media treatment of white versus black & brown individuals, in Europe, America and Australia.

He makes extremely valid points, about how racism is not only about preconceived ideas and biased, but about an attitude that is deeply engraved in “western” societies.

Having lived at various points of my life in majoritarily “white” countries, this is something I have felt a long time, but struggled to explain to people around me. Racism is not only about the explicit acts of everyday’s life, the violence, the offensive language, or even the looks. The majority fails to understand that racism is ingrained in a lot of implicit behavior. Society’s expectations for black and white individuals are not the same. Society The majority expects the minority to act in a certain manner, to be inferior in every way, excepted arts and sports.

This creates a burden for the minority, something they have to live every day with. You feel like you are constantly on trial, as if the majority’s eyes are constantly on you. As if you have a responsibility towards everyone whose skin has the same color. As if you are responsible for the action of everyone who just has that one thing in common with you. The skin color.
Even in the work environment, knowing that you need to perform at much higher standards to expect the same outcome than your white counterpart is more than frustrating.

This is not getting better now, with right-wing ideologies making gains across France, Germany, Greece, Russia and to some extent UK and Italy. The solution does not lie in the scapegoating of an minority for all the ills in Europe. Rather, acknowledging inequality and inconsistencies in policies and treatment of citizens might be steps in the right direction.

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Elections in Nigeria: the stakes and why they have been postponed

Nigeria much anticipated election, supposed to happen on February 14th, have been postponed to six weeks later.

For the government, the security context, with the Boko Haram threat, justified that decision. However for the opposition parties, this move is just intended for Goodluck Jonathan (currently in office) to buy time in a close race against General Muhammadu Buhari, the opposition leader.

The elections come at a crucial time for Nigeria, which faces multiple crisis with the falling oil prices and the increasing security threat with Boko Haram.

Watch the reaction from 72 year-old Buhari below. He talks about the delay in the election process, the failure of the army to tackle the Boko Haram issue, and the limitations of the current government.

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Goodbye, Blaise Compaoré

What a day.

Blaise Compaoré left Burkina Faso after 27 years in power following an uprising.

No glory, no honor. His thirst for power, his inability to develop Burkina Faso, and his tendencies to get involved in other countries’ politics (Liberia, Cote d’Ivoire and many others) finally caught up with Beau Blaise.

 

As said by Thomas Sankara, “while revolutionaries as individuals can be murdered, you cannot kill ideas”.

Al Jazeera published “Burkina Faso: Ghost of ‘Africa’s Che Guevara“, and draws links between the teachings from the defunct leader, and the situation in Ouagadougou over the past few days.

Many of the protesters say the history of the slain 1980s leader partly inspired them to rise against Blaise Compaoré, who has been in power for 27 years and was trying, by a vote in parliament, for another five.

Though some see Sankara as an autocrat who came to office by the power of the gun, and who ignored basic human rights in pursuit of his ideals, in recent years he has been cited as a revolutionary inspiration not only in Burkina Faso but in other countries across Africa.

The situation is still not clear, as the “coup within the coup” from Presidential Guard commander Lieutenant Colonel Isaac Zida has been met with negative feedback both from the Burkinabè and the International community.

The next few weeks will be critical, as whoever is in power will have to deal with an escalation in violence from the protesters and Compaoré’s loyalists, notwithstanding the previous regional threats such as Ebola and terrorism.

 

 

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Mandela day and corporatised activism

Great article from Gillian Schutte on Thought Leader about Mandela Day:

While every other black leader in a post-1994 South Africa has been constructed as an inferior “other” by the dominant discourse, Nelson Mandela has been deified as a saintly black and is held in high esteem by whiteness. He has been hailed as a decent and rational African by the moderate liberal white discourse and thus relegated the status of “the most like a white person” worthy of becoming a signifier for white decency and humanity. He has been acknowledged as a human being while Jacob Zuma, as an example, remains a “primitive” — often depicted as oversexed, indecent and just plain stupid.

These white constructions of blackness say more about our society than we care to admit — and the religiosity afforded Madiba by well-heeled whites speaks volumes about the morally assumed and systemic supremacy whiteness still holds in South Africa. This religiosity comes to life on Mandela Day, which takes place annually and plays out like a yearly church service in which the messianic effigy of Mandela is worshiped in a type of feel good marketing frenzy with “charitable giving” at the centre of it.

By looking back in history at the construct of whiteness we will understand how Mandela Day becomes a neocolonial exercise premised on beliefs about what white and black signifies to the larger white imaginary. In fact Mandela Day has become an exercise in white missionary saviour behaviour in which whites can showcase their “good” side for the “good” of those less fortunate than themselves. It is through the Mandela construct that whites reaffirm their transcendent selves.

Read the full article here

 The article draws quite a lot of controversy in the comments. My view is, the article is not so much about Nelson Mandela himself, rather his portrayal in the media. Therefore, I would tend to agree with her analysis.

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Immunity for African leaders?

Another example of poor leadership from the African heads of state:

Complaining of bullying in the international justice arena, African leaders are forging ahead with plans to set up their own regional court — and give themselves immunity in the process.

The African Union (AU) accuses the Hague-based International Criminal Court (ICC) of anti-African bias and even racism, and plans for a home-grown mechanism are inflaming a stand-off over who deals out justice on the continent.

In a decision last month, AU leaders unanimously agreed to grant sitting heads of state and senior government officials immunity from prosecution at the African Court for Human and Peoples’ Rights, which is not expected to get off the ground for several years. Source

 This would grant immunity to the likes of Omar al-Bashir and Uhuru Kenyatta. It would obviously be a huge step back for human rights in the continent, and prove once more that the African Union is failing to bring democracy to the continent.
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