Africa News in Brief: Aug. 7 edition

| August 7, 2013

Courtesy of Global Information Network

Greying incumbents take aim at challengers in polls across Africa 

(GIN)—Ruling parties in Togo, Zimbabwe, Mali and Guinea Bissau are looking to take one more bite of the apple and snatch one more electoral victory, deflating hopes by opposition parties to bring new faces and fresh ideas to the top offices.

Early returns in Togo and Mali have some crying foul.

“It’s a sham amid massive corruption and proven fraud,” declared Agbeyome Kodjo, a former prime minister of the West African nation of Togo, whose party Togo Solidarity (OBUTS) joined with Let’s Save Togo for the elections.

Early results show Togo’s ruling party of Faure Gnassingbe winning two-thirds of parliamentary seats, allowing the president’s family to continue its 46 year-long grip on power.

Faure’s father, Eyadema Gnassingbe, came to power through a coup in 1967 and ruled for 38 years until his death in 2005, when his son was installed by the military.

Gnassingbe’s party will now control 62 of 91 seats, up from 50 of 81 seats.  Observers from the African Union and West African bloc ECOWAS have said that the elections were held in acceptable conditions.

Zimbabwe is slated to vote on July 31, Malians voted July 28, while Guinea Bissau is due in November.

Challengers to the firmly entrenched leaders appear to face insurmountable odds. The seemingly unbeatable so-called “Presidents for Life” include Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni (25 years), Paul Biya of Cameroon (29 years), Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe (31 years), Jose Eduardo dos Santos of Angola (32 years) and Teodoro Obiang Nguema of Equatorial Guinea (nearly 32 years).

 

Report of billion-dollar loss to oil fraud dims oil wealth dreams

(GIN)—Nigeria lost billions of dollars in oil and gas revenues over a two-year period as the nation suffered from crumbling infrastructure, polluted lakes and rivers, joblessness and a growing insurgency now operating nationwide. A damning auditor’s report of fraud, mismanagement and corruption comes as neighbor countries Uganda and Ghana are becoming oil giants themselves.

The amount of potential oil revenues lost to oil theft, from 2009 to 2011, is estimated at approximately $10.9 billion, according to the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI).

“Over 136 million barrels… were lost to crude oil theft and sabotage,” said Ledum Mitee, a former activist with the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People. Mitee heads the National Stakeholders Working Group for the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, NEITI, an appointment approved by Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan. Read more at

In addition to oil theft and pipeline vandalism, the audit blamed a poorly defined pricing methodology, a dilapidated refining sector and excessive fuel subsidy for significantly reducing government revenue from the oil sector.

While the country pumped more oil, noted the report, there was no measurable improvement in the standard of living of the people and the ever-expanding population of the poor.

Anthony Ebipade, a former fighter in the Niger Delta, observed: “Since our people’s livelihoods have been destroyed through oil spillage and gas flaring, coupled with the poor quality of human potential owing to poor education, the easiest option is illegal business such as oil bunkering.”

Nnimmo Bassey of the Mother Earth Foundation added: “As we see clearly, neither farming nor fishing thrives in polluted and severely degraded places like the Niger Delta. This entrenches unemployment, poverty and disease.”

Writing from Uganda, journalist Byaruhanga Chris of the Ugandan daily New Vision asked when Uganda would take similar measures with its new oil income.

“So what’s the delay? Why has Uganda been slow to prioritize an already tried and tested transparency tool, especially now that the country is facing some of the biggest corruption scandals of its time?  Why can’t we, the citizens, be told how money is exchanging hands in the oil and gas sector?”

 

These articles above originally appeared in the Aug. 7 print edition.

 

As conflicts mount, regional leaders to meet in Kenya for special summit

(GIN)—Nairobi will be the venue for a major summit on growing flashpoints in the Great Lakes region, including renewed hostilities in the Democratic Republic of Congo, tension among the two Sudans over the use of oil pipeline and rebellions, the pacification of Somalia and crisis in the Central African Republic.

Heads of states and governments from the Great Lakes region will also discuss the issue of refugees in the region, regional economic integration, investments in infrastructure and increased regional trade.

Kenya has been lobbying the international community for support to resettle refugees residing in the world’s largest refugee camp, Dadaab, in northern Kenya and those living in other urban cities and towns. Nairobi’s involvement in Somalia has been a burden, said Minister Ken Vitisia, “both in terms of refugees and our presence militarily. It is very important that we find a common ground on this problem.”

The leaders expected to attend include the presidents South Sudan, Sudan, Angola, Zambia, the Central Africa Republic and the DR Congo.  The UN and development partners such as the African Development Bank, African Union and the World Bank will also attend.

The conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo has engulfed other neighbors such as Rwanda and Uganda. There are also emerging tensions between Sudan and Uganda. Khartoum has filed a complaint with the African Union and the Great Lakes bloc over Uganda’s alleged support for rebel insurgencies against Sudan.

Sudan was alarmed after Sudanese opposition parties and rebels signed a charter dubbed the “New Dawn” in Kampala last January whose aim, according to Sudan, is to topple Omar al-Bashir’s regime.

Kenya is hosting the meeting while it seeks regional support for a non-permanent  seat at the United Nations Security Council for a two year period (2017 to 2018).

The summit kicks off July 31.

 

South Africa cozies up to nuclear power, dismaying critics

(GIN)—President Jacob Zuma and Russian President Vladimir Putin met in three reciprocal working visits this year with nuclear cooperation high on the agenda at the meetings.

Russia is reportedly seeking to provide South Africa with uranium enrichment, supply, reactor technology and localization of nuclear skills. French and Chinese investors will have supporting roles.

Earlier this year, the Ministry of Energy praised nuclear power stations for holding “tremendous benefits” for South Africa.

“Most importantly, it will leapfrog South Africa into the knowledge economy, as well as massive industrial development,” said Energy Minister Dipuo Peters.

But, Democratic Alliance MP Jacques Smalle said South Africa did not need new nuclear power plants to complement its energy mix.

“In fact, the program could cost the taxpayer up to one trillion rand,” he told the House. A project of such magnitude was “completely unaffordable.

“We are certain that the corruption [involved with] such a nuclear build would dwarf the arms deal,” Smalle said. “Instead of building new nuclear power plants, South Africa should increase its natural gas footprint.”

Zuma’s embrace of nuclear power, including taking over the chair of the National Nuclear Energy Coordinating committee, dismayed South Africa’s Greenpeace environmentalists.

“The confirmation of the take-over and the underhanded manner in which Deputy President Kgalema Mothlanthe was replaced both highlight the continued lack of transparency and ongoing secrecy by government when it comes to the country’s nuclear energy plans,” said Greenpeace activist Ferrial Adam.

He warned: “Even putting aside the issues of safety, security, and waste management, South Africa cannot afford new nuclear power plants and the stubbornness of the government on its delusions of grandeur would drive the country to bankruptcy.”

Category: Africa Briefs

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