Africa News in Brief: June 12-18 edition

| June 11, 2013

Courtesy of Global Information Network

Caught on tape! Egyptian lawmakers plot Nile Dam sabotage

(GIN)—Egypt’s leading politicians, at a meeting with the president recently, shocked a news-watching public as they openly proposed using dirty tricks to stop neighbor Ethiopia from finishing a hydroelectric project that would dam up the ancient waters of the Blue Nile and reduce river flow to water-starved Egypt and Sudan.

Apparently, someone forgot to warn them that cameras were rolling and their meeting with President Mohammed Morsi was carried live on TV.

Thinking they were alone with the president, the political and religious leaders openly suggested bribing local tribes in Ethiopia or, as a last resort, blowing up the dam.

Leader of the ultraconservative Nour party, Younis Makhyoun, suggested giving support to Ethiopia’s rebels “as a bargaining chip against the (Addis) government,” adding: “If all this fails, there is no choice left for Egypt but to play the final card, which is using the intelligence service to destroy the dam.”

Liberal Ayman Nour proposed spreading rumors about Egypt obtaining refueling aircraft to create the impression that it plans an airstrike to destroy the dam, while Abu al-Ila Madi, leader of the pro-Morsi Islamist Wasat party, suggested that a rumor that Egypt planned to destroy the dam could scare the Ethiopians into cooperating with Egypt on the project.

Egypt is already suffering “water poverty” with access per person well below the world average. The Nile is the sole water source in the mainly desert country.

Dubbed the Grand Renaissance Ethiopian Dam—Africa’s largest—the hydro project has been years in the planning but it hit headlines in Egypt last week after part of the Blue Nile was diverted in preparation for the dam’s construction.

Confronted with public furor over their on-air statements, some of the red-faced lawmakers said they were told that edited excerpts would be aired later during official news coverage.

A senior government official said regretfully that the meeting had caused “a huge harm to our case—both politically and legally… Up until that meeting we were in a very strong position as a country that suffers from serious water poverty and is being faced with a unilateral decision of an upstream state to cut at its legally stipulated share of water. Today we are the country that is openly masterminding political unrest and maybe even a military offensive against neighboring states; this could have some serious legal and political ramifications.”

 

Japan is latest suitor for African resources

(GIN)—Since the tsunami and earthquake hit Japan in 2011, the Asian tiger has faced an unprecedented energy crisis, prompting it to reach out to African nations where some of the world’s richest wells of oil and gas have been found.

This month, at the three-day Tokyo International Conference on African Development, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced a new initiative to provide 3.2 trillion yen ($32 billion) in financial assistance over the next five years to Japanese firms investing in African rare-earth mineral mining, and oil and natural gas development.

Under the new pact, Japan will invite a thousand people from Africa to study and work as interns at Japanese companies and Tokyo will work to find jobs for 30,000 people in Africa.

“Japan will also construct hubs for human resource development in Ethiopia and Senegal, among 10 regions. We will send experts in vocational training to these hubs,” Prime Minister Abe said.

The five-year aid package includes $14 billion in official development assistance and $1 billion in aid for economic development and humanitarian efforts, including about $1 billion to help stabilize the Sahel region, where al-Qaeda-linked militants have gained a foothold, plus training of some 2,000 people in counter-terrorism activities.

The gathering brought together delegations from 51 African nations as well as representatives from the United Nations and World Bank.

“Africa will be a growth center over the next couple of decades until the middle of this century… now is the time for us to invest in Africa,” Abe said at the end of the conference co-hosted with the African Union (AU), World Bank and UN.

Some projects, however, have run into local opposition. In Malawi, for example, residents of the Mulanje Mountain area, fearing environmental damage, filed an injunction to halt Spring Stone, a joint venture of the Canadian Gold Canyon Resources and Japan’s Oil, Gas and Metals National Corp.

“Pine trees on 800 hectares have been destroyed and the company has drilled deep holes on the mountain, resulting in pollution,” noted the Mulanje Concerned Citizens group in their suit. Mulanje Mountain is a well-known tourist destination because of its rare vegetation and steep cliffs, which draw hikers.

But on May 3, Malawi’s high court overturned the injunction and said exploratory drilling could go forward.

 

U.S. offers reward for head of Boko Haram

(GIN)—The U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security has put a price on the capture and arrest of Abubakar Shekau, the head of Nigeria’s Boko Haram insurgent group.

The $7 million “Reward for Justice” for Shekau’s location is more money than for Mokhtar Belmokhtar or Oumar Ould Hamaha, whose respective groups, “Signatories in Blood” and Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa, jointly claimed responsibility for attacks in Arlit and Agadez, Niger on May 23.

There are also rumors in Nigeria that the U.S. is seeking to eliminate Shekau in a drone strike from its new base in Niger, according to Jacob Zenn of the Washington D.C.-based think tank, The Jamestown Foundation.

The bounty announcement reads: “Under Shekau’s leadership, Boko Haram’s operational capabilities have grown… There are reported communications, training and weapons links between Boko Haram, al-Qaeda in the Lands of the Islamic Maghreb, al-Shabaab, and al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.”

Nigeria’s war on the insurgent group has given the military wide latitude in making arrests or taking revenge against citizens perceived as allied with the Islamist group. President Goodluck Jonathan last month declared a state of emergency in three northern states and sent over two thousand troops to Borno, which shares borders with Cameroon, Chad, and Niger.

Cell phone service has been shut down but there have been few reports of extra-judicial killings as in July 2009 when Boko Haram founder Muhammad Yusuf and a thousand other members were killed by security forces.

Should Nigeria fail to conduct an effective and lawful counter-insurgency campaign, it could damage U.S. AFRICOM’s “still undefined” future role and reputation in Africa because of AFRICOM’s assistance to the Nigerian military,” observed Zenn in a guest post for the Council of Foreign Affairs.

The president’s state of emergency has already faced condemnation from the head of ActionAid, an anti-poverty organization based in Abuja. Hussaini Abdu said: “Innocent people have been arrested. The bulk of Boko Haram are young people ranging from 15, 16 to about 25 years of age. So when you find any young man of that age, you arrest him whether he is Boko Haram or not. Many times there is not even evidence to show they are Boko Haram.”

 

The above articles originally appeared in the June 12 print edition.

 

Israel to deport African migrants, won’t say to where

(GIN)—According to a leaked Israeli court document, a deal has been reached with an unidentified country to absorb some of the 60,000 “illegal” immigrants, mostly Eritrean or Sudanese that have sought asylum in Israel.

Israel is reportedly in talks with two other countries to secure a similar agreement.

Few other details of the transfer were available. Israeli Army Radio reported that the unnamed country was in east Africa and did not suffer from any unrest that would harm the migrants. The Haaretz daily said that Israel had agreed to provide agricultural expertise as part of the deal.

The Supreme Court has ordered the government to provide details of the arrangement, including the name of the African country, within seven days.

Or Kashti, an analyst writing for the Israeli paper Haaretz condemned the deal:

“As if it were an export company, the State of Israel is trying to ship tens of thousands of people from Eritrea and Sudan to other countries, out of sight and out of mind. The main thing is that they will fly away from here. Price isn’t particularly important nor is their fate in their new countries.

“Israeli imperviousness, the turning away from the distress of others, marks a new stage that is far from surprising. This is a natural progression from the systematic disregard for claims of asylum that were filed, to the embarrassing legal amendment that enabled the detainment in prison facilities and incitement bordering on dehumanization. What is being discussed aren’t humans, but objects.”

Meanwhile, a new law that bans undocumented foreign workers from sending money back to their home countries was praised by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu who called the law “of great importance” to Israel.

Under the law, an “illegal” migrant will not be able to send property or money outside of Israel, unless it is worth less than 70 percent of the minimum wage, multiplied by the number of months he or she has been in Israel. Anything else would need approval by the state.

NGOs and lawmakers call the new rule a sign of Israel’s toughened stance on migrants, with the head of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees in Israel at the time William Tall saying he knew of no such precedent of a country determining what an asylum seeker can do with the money he earns.

 

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Category: Africa Briefs

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GLOBAL INFORMATION NETWORK distributes news and feature articles on Africa and the developing world to mainstream, alternative, ethnic and minority-owned outlets in the U.S. and Canada. Our goal is to increase the perspectives available to readers in North America and to bring into their view information about global issues that are overlooked or under-reported by mainstream media.

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