Africa News in Brief: May 15-21 edition

Courtesy of Global Information Network

Gold rush leads to mine collapse in North Sudan, 100 lives lost

(GIN)—Efforts to ramp up Sudan’s gold mining industry came to a disastrous end last week as the 131 foot deep Jebel Amir mine collapsed taking 100 lives.

Sudan had hoped to turn the country’s small-scale gold mining in the region to a major moneymaker, replacing the oilfields now claimed by the newly-independent nation of South Sudan. Some $2 billion was earned last year from gold exports.

Hopes were to produce about 50 tons of gold this year, making Sudan the third-largest gold miner in Africa, according to Reuters.

Thousands of artisanal miners began digging for gold until the mine collapse that also took the lives of nine rescuers.

Local officials dispute the number of fatalities which were allegedly confirmed by an African Union/U.N. peacekeeping delegation (UNAMID) that has been attempting to keep peace in the still hotly-contested region among local ethnic groups, bandits and rebels.

At press time, responsibility for the condition of the mine or the welfare of the widows was not determined.

Meanwhile, in Khartoum, Sudan’s national assembly ratified the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance, adopted by the African Union Assembly in 2007.

The charter contains controversial provisions, which allow the AU to intervene in member states to restore democracy.

Samia Habbani, a member of parliament, warned that the charter could be another “rope wrapped around Sudan’s neck,” while MP Ahmed Hassan Kambal stressed that signing the charter into law requires the country to have a “clean” human rights record which does not apply to Sudan.

A third minister, Mustafa Osman Ismail, called the charter an opportunity that should not be missed, adding that this step means African leaders have begun reform by themselves, mentioning that if Arab leaders took the same step, they could have prevented the eruption of the Arab Spring.


Ugandan greens demand halt to sale of Lake Victoria trees

(GIN)—Environmentalists in Entebbe, Uganda, are mobilizing local residents to overturn the sale of trees in Kitubulu Central Forest Reserve to a resort developer.

“…We are shocked to see people just cutting down the trees without informing us,” said David Musingo, chair of the Uganda Wildlife Clubs, in a press interview.

Cutting down the forest is a threat to biodiversity, said Musingo.

Documents obtained by the Daily Monitor of Uganda, signed by the National Forest Authority chief Michael Mugisa, were said to confirm that the forest body offered the trees for $14,000 to the owner of the local Island Café Beach.

Mugisa said the trees had outlived their usefulness and were threatening road users.

“They were hazardous to road users and Entebbe Municipal Council requested us to harvest them. We can dispose off assets by either offering them or selling and in this case, we opted to sell them off,” he said in press interview.

Kitubulu, at the edge of Lake Victoria, features deluxe beach-front cabanas nestled among lush palms. Private investors say the trees are outside of the protected forest area, an assertion hotly disputed by the Entebbe Wildlife Association.

Comments on the Daily Monitor news page reflected local frustration. “Seriously, hazardous?” wrote “Ivoire.” “Entebbe is one of the (few) serene towns we have. If you wanted to sell the forest you have to come up with a better lie than that. We are not kids.”

Two years ago, the Island Beach Café was among a half dozen cited for fencing off their beachside properties and preventing local area residents from reaching the lakeshores. It was ordered closed for degrading the environment, lacking permits, titles, licenses or plans and discharging sewage into the lake but a reporter found it still operating last year despite the order.


Central African U.S. ally survives coup attempt by army officers

(GIN)—A coup attempt against President Idriss Deby of Chad, a close U.S. ally in the so-called “war on terror,” was thwarted by government security forces who arrested the coup plotters in a shootout in the Chadian capital N’Djamena on May 1.

Those arrested included high-ranking army officers, military personnel and civilians and an opposition lawmaker. It was the latest in several attempts to remove the four-term president.

A U.S. State Department report for 2012 links Deby to atrocious human rights abuses. The report said:

“The most significant human rights problems were security force abuse, including torture and rape; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions; and discrimination and violence against women and children.

“Other human rights abuses included arbitrary arrest and detention, including incommunicado detention; lengthy pretrial detention; denial of fair public trial; and property seizures. The government restricted freedom of speech, press, assembly, and movement.”

Deby, who himself came to power in a coup in 1990, is a regional powerbroker. During the recent troubles in Mali he provided some 2,000 troops to drive out Islamist fighters, saving western countries from committing their own “boots on the ground.”

Chad is a significant source of oil to the U.S. with much of its 150,000 barrels per day sold to U.S. markets. U.S. companies Chevron and ExxonMobil work with Malaysia’s Petronas to extract the crude.

Last year, in a lavish ceremony, President Deby tied the knot with the daughter of Sudan’s Janjaweed militia leader, Musa Hilal. The wedding, at a five star hotel in Khartoum, was attended by Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir and more than 400 VIPs.

According to press reports, Deby paid a $26 million dowry of which $25 million was paid to Musa Hilal and the rest to his daughter Amani in the form of gold and jewellery.

The Janjaweed Arab militias were mobilized by the Sudanese government to put down an insurgency in Sudan’s western region of Darfur in 2003. That counter-insurgency campaign, which mainly targeted African ethnic groups, led to the death of approximately 300,000 people and the displacement of more than 2.7 million, according to United Nation figures.

Despite its great oil wealth, Chad remains one of the most impoverished countries in the world.


The above articles originally appeared in our May 15, 2013 issue.


Migrant rights group wins release of Eritrean moms, children in Israeli jail

(GIN)—Nine Eritrean women and 10 children, ranging from 18 months to seven years of age, were released from the Saharonim Detention Center where they had been held for the last eight to 12 months under the Prevention of Infiltration Law.

Israel’s Interior Ministry’s Population, Immigration and Border Authority approved the release sought by the Hotline for Migrant Workers, a human rights group.

The group persuaded the President Judge of Be’er Sheva Court that the minor age of the children was sufficient humanitarian grounds for their release.

Human rights groups say that another 14 children are being held at Saharonim who are not being represented by the nongovernmental organization.

Adi Lerner, head of the Hotline for Migrant Workers, said the group was troubled by the jailing of migrant children.

“We don’t see why it was necessary to lock up young children for such a long period, or why the state needed the court to see what is clear to everyone,” he said, adding, “Children don’t belong behind bars, no matter what their origins.”

He further criticized the state’s failure to inform the detainees’ attorneys or their relatives in Israel of the release.

“Although we represent them, they didn’t even tell us of the release,” said attorney Raya Meiler, of the Hotline. “We heard it as a rumor… In the end our clients got on a bus that made every local stop and got to Tel Aviv after midnight. It was we who contacted the families.”

Meanwhile, in a “rebellion” over conditions similar to Guantanamo, Eritrean asylum seekers refused to return to their cells claiming their detention was unlawful. The Prevention of Infiltration Law, passed last year “turns asylum seekers into criminals,” wrote the newspaper Haaretz in an editorial.

Detentions of Eritreans and Sudanese have been condemned by Human Rights Watch despite “credible persecution fears relating to punishment for evading indefinite military service in Eritrea.”

HRW refugee researcher Gerry Simpson wrote: “Instead of browbeating some of the world’s most abused and vulnerable people into giving up their rights and putting themselves at grave risk, Israel should release asylum seekers while their claims are examined and protect anyone found to risk serious harm if returned.”


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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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