Wednesday, September 27, 2006
Monday, September 25, 2006
Africa: A Dump Site for Global Toxic Waste?The use of Africa as a dumping site for hazardous waste from industrialized nations is an old news. The issue resurfaced again some weeks ago in Ivory Coast.
Very few African blogs covered this, I could find just a handful on google search. This is one issue the African blogosphere flunked bigtime!
A recap of recent toxic garbage that found some cheap sites in Africa:
International agencies "have confirmed 400 tonnes of gasoline residue were dumped at between 10 and 14 sites in Abidjan on the 19 and 20 August."-- IRIN News.org, (2006).
The same ship attempted to dump this waste in Amsterdam, a month earlier, according to the CNN.
"...Large quantities of obsolete computers, televisions, mobile phones, and other used electronic equipment exported from USA and Europe to Lagos, Nigeria for "re-use and repair" are ending up gathering dust in warehouses or being dumped and burned near residences in empty lots..." -- University of Texas (2005).
"Around 50 thousand tonnes of pesticides have ended up in Africa - 270 tonnes of which are stored in Mali, one of the continents poorest countries..." -- WWF, an independent conservation agency (2004).
"Two Italian ships will be sent to retrieve several tons of unspecified toxic waste left in Koko, a Nigerian port...Nigeria said hundreds of drums of toxic waste have been illegally shipped from Italy to Koko. The Italian company that shipped the waste said the delivery was authorized." -- New York Times (1988).
"During the Somali civil war hazardous waste was dumped in this
African nation by industrialized countries. The alleged
perpetrators were Italian and Swiss firms..." -- TED Case studies #64
Guernica Chemicals, a British company in South Africa received "thousands of tonnes of chemical waste in the 1980s and early 1990s from the United States and European companies, including American Cyanamid and Borden Chemicals, to be reprocessed. All that remains of the facility, since the South African government forced the company to stop operations in 1994, are rusty and corroded machinery." -- Afrol News
The Basel Convention, an internation treaty is "devoted to setting up a framework for controlling the 'transboundary' movements of hazardous wastes, that is, the movement of hazardous wastes across international frontiers"; however, Afghanistan, Haiti, United States of America have not ratified it. While the U.S isn't the sole source of toxic waste, its failure to ratify the treaty speaks volume to its orientation toward toxic waste traffiking.
Slate, an American online magazine states "in the United States the story has been largely relegated to tiny squibs in the "World Briefs" sections of newspapers - if it has been covered at all."
I wouldn't bother ranting any more, the excerpts listed above say it all: the admixture of poverty and ignorance is lethal!
Tag: Toxic Waste Ivory Coast Cote d Ivorie Africa Basel Convention
Sunday, September 24, 2006
Help List African Newspapers in the DiasporaFolks, fellow pundits/Bloggers: I need help compiling a list of newspapers that focus on African communities in the Diaspora. Please use this format:
1. Name(s) of newspaper/newsletter
2. Web address(s) (if any)
1. Name(s) of newspaper/newsletter: Mshale
2. Web address(s) (if any): www.mshale.com
3. Community/city/state: Minnesota
4. Country: U.S.A
Saturday, September 23, 2006
Nigeria: Ibrahim Babangida is Psychotic!I've just finished reading (and commenting to) the Black Star Journal post on Nigeria and Ibrahim Babangida, a former military dictator head of state.
In the post titled: "A cancer to return to the heart of Nigeria?", Brian, the author wonders if "the development of democracy in Nigeria so stunted that in a country of 130 million inhabitants, the only people qualified to seek the federal republic's highest office are ex-military dictators who raped and plundered the country?"
This is a question for all Nigerians eligible to vote should ask themselves. And I think may have already concluded that IBB is a joker. This is also a question many of Nigerians in the Diaspora have already discussed. The conclusion is the same.
Now that IBB has commenced his presidential drive to Aso rock again, and has boldly stated, unapologetically, that he cancelled the best and fairest election in history, I'm wont to ask why the media continues giving him any attention. To cancel a keenly contested and fair election is an extremely undemocratic act that only a pyschotic mind is capable of.
So in the absence of any evidence to counter the obvious, it is safe to state that IBB has clealy gone nuts! He is grossly deluded and suffers from grandiose delusions. And he belongs where his likes are - a psychiatric institution under heavy parenteral mediations - not on the media pages!
Tags: Nigeria Governance IBB
Friday, September 22, 2006
Gambians Elect New Leader"I will develop the areas that vote for me, but if you don't vote for me, don't expect anything." - President Yahya Jammeh campaigning for presidential election 2006. voting starts today.
With campaign statements such as Jammeh's, I'll be surprised if he lost the election, why even bother with an election?
Related links: Q&A: Gambia vote:BBC.
Thursday, September 21, 2006
Sudan: Endgame in Darfur? Not YetIt's not 'endgame' yet for Darfur per Molara Wood's blog posting. The African Union (A.U) peacekeeping tenure has been extended till the end of the year.
Many have mused, ranted and opined over the Darfur crisis, and there are certain patterns/themes to the commentaries: There is profound displeasure over the crisis and claims by some that the West hasn't done enough; some have labeled the crisis an Arab-African conflict; some have questioned the indifference of the Northern African and Middle Eastern nations over the killings and humanitarian crisis; and many have called for more actions from the blogosphere and general citizens. These will be the framework for this post.
Would this crisis have lingered this long if Sudan were in Central Europe or a next-door neighbor to United States? No. But it's always easy to put the blame on the West; too easy for that matter.
Take a look at the A.U, and its action so far in the crisis. What can 7,000 poorly supported peacekeepers do? And I don't want to hear the usual excuse of the A.U being a broke-ass. Being an ass I can live with, but not broke! There are 7,000 troops mainly from Nigeria and Rwanda. None from the Northern African nations!
"In October 2005, four Nigerian soldiers and two contractors were killed in an ambush. The very next day, 38 AU soldiers were taken hostage without a shot being fired..."If the ever-flamboyant Gaddafi of Libya, who opposes a U.N peacekeeping force in Darfur, could give a fraction of the funds he uses to maintain his retinue of body-guards and attendants, and throw in a couple oil barrels to the AU peacekeeping effort, things will surely run better.
Then there is South Africa.
"At its birth, postapartheid South Africa was a beacon of hope for human rights movement and oppressed groups all around the world. The perception that South Africa was going to be a new and different kind of nation gave it a special status in the world. Today, barely a decade later, South Africa appears to be abandoning the principles that gave it power and is in danger of becoming just another ordinary, middleweight regional actor."South Africa has become a middleweight, even regionally. Although it is the economic African powerhouse, this hasn't yet manifested in its financial commitment to the A.U. I must say Mr. Mbeki, though a fine gentleman, has failed woefully in his African foreign policies; in fact he has no initiatives. And this is particularly painful and selfish given the fact other African nations pulled their weight against apartheid regimes some decdes back. The point is, South Africa should be at the forefront of the fight against Darfur genocide and other human right fights on the continent.
If the west has been slow in reacting, then what would one say of China?
"Sudan is China's largest overseas oil project. China is Sudan's largest supplier of arms, according to a former Sudan government minister. Chinese-made tanks, fighter planes, bombers, helicopters, machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades have intensified Sudan's two-decade-old north-south civil war..."Anothers governemt official also notes that the Chinese are very nice don't have anything to do with any politics or problems. Despite China's lack of interest in the internal politics of their trading partners, I strongly believe that the A.U, particularly the nations that have established strong trading bonds with the Chineses, can force Beijing to postively influence Khartoum.
How? African nations could suspend all trade agreements with China for starters. Though a tough and painful decision with grave financial implications, but a necessary means if the A.U member nations believe in their mantra of being an "effective and efficient African Union for a new Africa" - which can only come through sacrifice and shifts in paradigms.
Though America may not be doing what it should have done long ago, the recent call for Sudan divestments (pdf file) is a step in the right direct.
"Most of the companies that are being targeted for divestment are in the oil and energy sector and have contributed heavily to government revenue that, in turn, funds the genocide..."So if American citizens and some politicians are pushing Washington to take action against corporations that do business with Sudan, then Africans must be ready to do the same. Not b emaking silly statements like this:
"African security analysts blasted the West yesterday for ignoring conflicts on the continent, especially the continuing crisis in Sudan's Darfur region, to focus on the war on terror..."Still on Africa; I'm wont to ask what role the media plays in raising the ante and generating public awareness of the crisis? If the findings of 2005 World Public Opinion survey is generalizable and projected to 2006, not much! Check this out:
"Awareness of the situation in Darfur is fairly low. Just over one-third of Africans interviewed (36%) say they have heard or read a great deal or a fair amount about the conflict in the Sudan region called Darfur."This is a knock on the head for African mainstream media. It wouldn't be inappropriate if major newspapers on the continent have daily/weekly front-page features on the Darfur crisis. More action can be orchestrated on the blogosphere as well; particularly the Global Voice Online - the Harvard-Reuter sponsored non-profit global citizens' media project - could leverage its influence in the mainstream better. Winning the Grand Prize at the 2006 Knight-Batten Awards for Innovations in Journalism comes with greater responsibilty I think. For starters, a "free Hao-like" campaign won't be out of place.
Finally, I close with this excerpt from the San Francisco Chronicle:
"It is morally reprehensible to seek the permission of the perpetrators to protect the victims of their crimes. Instead of seeking their consent, we should be neutralizing them.... In 1999, Europeans and Americans stopped a genocide-in-the-making in Kosovo despite the refusal of the United Nations to authorize the intervention"And if you feel this is overly out of place and constitutes an infringement on Sudan's sovereignty, see the World Public Opinion site, again:
"While African support for intervention is much higher with UN authorization when it comes to severe human rights abuses such as genocide, Africans do not reject the idea of a country being able to intervene even when it does not have UN approval. In such cases, half (51%) say a country should have the right to intervene even without UN authorization, while three in ten (28%) disagree."This is the opinion of Africans; maybe the time is right to pull off the gloves and start examining other strategies, a political/military solution is my preference, after all, we will be faced with another expiration in three months time, when the current lease of the AU peacekeepers expires in Darfur. Then that will the real endgame.
Tags: Sudan Darfur Africa
Wednesday, September 20, 2006
The Obasanjo/Atiku Faceoff - A Smokescreen?Last night I commented to "Political Deathmatch" a posting at the Ijebuman's Dairy on the face-off between The Nigerian president and his deputy. I find strange the timing of the release of the ECFF's investigation of Abubakar Atiku, and wondered why almost everyone investigated to date have some attachment to the anti-Obasanjo's camp. I also mused why none of the presidential candidates haven't made political statements of the crisis in the presidency. It is strange that none of the contenders have failed to capitalize on this excellent opportunity to offer some constructive insight or atleast put their spins on the issue.
A statement credited to Abubakar Umar, a former military governor, aligns with some of my thoughts, particularly the unethical ownership of Transcorp stocks by the President. Though the stock has been hurriedly sold off, it is widely known that Obasanjo used his presidential powers to create the conglomerate, it is also on record that major shareholders of the company are close associates of the president.
The addition Umar made was the possibility that the faceoff between the president and his deputy might be a smokescreen for the former to extend his tenure. Thought I do not share this view, but why would president Obasanjo want to extend his stay, again after the failed third term bid?
Here is an excerpt from Umar Abubakar statement (On Thisday Newspaper):
"Chief Olusegun Obasanjo’s tenure is marked by an all-time high government revenue earnings but a tenure, which coincides with an unprecedented destitution among the broad masses.Umar's statement gives an interesting and constructive insight into the presidential crisis that the national assembly and presidential aspirants are scared to address, and ordinary Nigerians have come to appreciate purely for its entertainment value.
"The minimum action a successor government would take is to ask Chief Olusegun to proffer some explanation. So, presumably, it is likely that the President would rather die in office than face the disgrace of justice which his successor may have to dispense for his ineptitude and his many transgressions...
"In the six years while Chief Olusegun Obasanjo doubled both as president as well as Minister of Petroleum, he disallowed access to the books of the NNPC, not even to the Revenue Mobilization and Fiscal Commission, RMFC. However, early this year, against sustained pressure, when the HART Group, the international firm of auditors, looked into those books, what they found was mind boggling."
Tags: Nigeria Governance Corruption
Tuesday, September 19, 2006
The Future of the African BlogosphereTo those that don't know about the Digital Citizens Indaba, the first blogging conference in Africa, too bad, it is already over. Though I wasn't there - I didn't know about the conference until two days before its commencement! But not that it would have mattered because I doubt if I would have attended anyway. Well, the event is over, just as the controversy it generated before and during its commencement.
These questions have been lurking in my mind since the beginning of the conference:
I believe it's is safe to state that no immediate changes or impacts will be apparent. However, if the post-conference post by Mike Stopforth on his blog and the numerous synopses offered by Ethan, Ory, Mental acrobatics and the official conference blog are anything to go by, it appeared the conference did bring about the dawn of a new beginning for some: more eyes have been opened, and the newly sowed seeds of fresh ideas have started sprouting. Decent returns for a two-day conference it seems.
There are some things the conference wouldn't change in a hurry though. For instance, the impact of infrastructure lack, particularly irregular power supply in the continent will forever have a negative effect on blogging trend. I was privileged to view Ethan Zukerman's slides of his talk at the Indaba conference before their miraculous disappearance on his blog. One striking revelation I got from those slides is the paucity of blogs on Africa compared to other continents. But what should be expected from a 'dark continent' that has remained literally dark because of limited electricity supply?
Back to the questions raised earlier. The future of African blogosphere looks promising. For example, the synergy and energy the East Africans have demonstrated has yielded tremendous payoffs. Aside from the sheer size of blogs from the sector, the development of the Swahili wikipedia shearheaded by Ndesanjo Macha - a blogger - is one huge achievement that has strengthened the eastern African blogosphere. And just as the Mzelendo project initiated by two East African bloggers - Kenya Pundit and The Thinkers' Room? Excellent example of journalistic activism by non- professionals.
As the East/South African blogosphere waxes stronger and works in greater unison, the reminder of the African blogosphere is largely fragmented and Diasporian - with the writers operating from offshore. But this shouldn't be seen as a disadvantage by any means; the overseas locale of these blogs does offer some clear but overlooked benefits.
Blogs located in the Diaspora can offer insights into the lives of African immigrants: the happenings, travails and events in many communities are hardly discussed on the blogosphere, or anywhere for that matter, and can ignite some interesting debates. Some good anchors for this are the various community newspapers and other media outlets in the Diaspora whose contents have remained grossly underutilized by both the African bloggers and the continental media outlets.
If you are wondering if there is any good in seeking out ways these various and divergent contents can be put to a better use; sure there is.
As the conversations diversify into these ignored areas, a more balanced perspective start to efface. The misinformation and sensational coverage Africa has suffered from media sectors who don't know any better may even start to reverse as newer perspectives become more common and 'linkable'. And who can best drive this initiative than African bloggers, particularly those in the Diaspora who have the opportunity to see the two sides of the coin?
Tags: Africa Blog Media
Thursday, September 14, 2006
Nigeria: Corruption in High PlacesAm I suprised by the recent developments in Nigeria i.e the clash between the first and second citizens? Not all (I had waiting for this to happen since August 2005), however, I consider it a good omen for Nigerian democracy that accountabiity issues are being discussed at such a high level - whatever the primary motive of the President (the primary instigator) is.
As the Vee Pee counters the offensive from his boss and EFCC, he has shed more light into the dark sleazy alley of executive corruption. Based on what has been disclosed so far, it seems that the president may be as dirty as his deputy...maybe almost.
Tags: Nigeria Governance Corruption
Monday, September 11, 2006
Post 9/11: Better or Worse?
Today the United States of America and the rest of the world marks the fifth anniversary of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. The images, memory,scars of that day's events remain potent in millions of minds and bodies. Already a tribute website called 2996 has registered 3,412 people giving tributes to the victims.
Today will also witness a heavy dose of commentaries of the events particularly the post 9/11 interventions put in place by the Bush administration.
Beyond the tributes and speeches - which will be not unexpectedly laced with spins and criticisms - some issues remain paramount in my mind, and maybe yours as well:
Tags: Terrorism 9-11
Post 9/11: Remittance to Somalia Made UneasyRemittance from diasporic nationals to their various homeland runs into billion of dollars every year. These monies do not only serve as the primary source of sustenance to the recipients, but also indirectly sustain local economies of the recipient nations. Foreign remittance has come to represent a crucial lifeline for many, particularly those in dysfunctional regions of the world, such as Somalia.
Somalis are widely dispersed all the the world, those in the United States are heavily concentrated in the the Midwestern state of Minnesota, where many have found a new lease of life.
I was impressed on visiting the Somali mall, Suuqa Karmelin, in Minneapolis: a sprawling 125,000 square footage of bustling commerce and enterprise. What caught my attention right away was the money transfer outlets scattered within the mall. Unable to curb my curiosity, I walked inside one of the shops to inquire from the attendant how the transactions are executed. I was somewhat confused when the man behind the counter appeared evasive, but he later opened up.
What these Somali entrepreneurs have fashioned out makes a lot of sense, given the fact that Somalia lacks the infrastructure to sustain the complex, technology-driven models of the corporations that have dominated the money remittance business. All these Somalis rely on are emails, cell phones and some bank accounts. The money gets to its destination between 48 to 72 hours, guaranteed.
The system works for the sender and the recipients, it also works for the agent, who gets about 5 to 10 % in commission. This system is driven by an informal money transfer system called Hawala, a system that has been in existence for generations in the Middle East and some Islamic nations worldwide.
But this system is about to slam into a brick wall put in place by the United States government. Why? September 11 and susbsequent fight to curb money laundry and terrorism.
In order to cut off funding to terrorist organizations, the regulatory agency in charge of foreign money transfer business now mandates and it enforcing stricter regulation of the industry. Unable to secure the required assistance from U.S banks and other financial institutions, the local money transfer system the Somalis have enjoyed for decades is gradually choking and may totally go into extinction, if alternative and workable modes of money remittance are not put in place.
A spokesperson of a bank in Minneapolis states, via a local newspaper - The Star Tribune - that the requirement to police the money-wiring businesses they have accounts with, were too onerous. "It's simply that we don't have the systems, the manpower to follow the regulations the government has put on us..."
The policy this banker talks about is not aimed only at the Somalis, but all money service businesses. But given the unique nature of Somali, where none of the formal and better established money wiring corporations can operate, at the moment. I wonder what will become the fate of the millions of remittance receivers back in Somalia. This is a case where a seemingly appropriate and necessary government intervention, especially post 9-11, has some inadvertent and most inappropriate impact, that may yield some unwanted sequelae.
Related Article: Guns, terror and money transfer - Somalia
Tags: Somalia Remittance Terrorism Money Laundry 9-11
Thursday, September 07, 2006
Africa Moves up on Economic ScaleThis New York Times piece is really uplifting: "Africa moved up from last place to the middle [ahead of South Asia] of the pack among world regions in carrying out changes that make it easier to start and run a business, according to a World Bank report..."
Thanks to Ghana and Tanzania for hanging among the top 10 nations at positions 9 and 10 respectively.
Tags: Nigeria Governance Economy
Zero Tolerance: The Nigerian Anti-Corruption MagazineThe Nigerian Economic and Financial Crimes Commission's magazine Zero Tolerance is available for download: http://www.efccnigeria.org/docs/ztedition1.pdf.
"The magazine would define the mandate, strategies, features and outlook of the EFCC", according to the editors' opener.
Follow the latest scoops on EFCC's investigation of the beleaguered Nigerian Vee Pee Abubarkar Atiku, who may be stripped of his powers before the end of the month.
Tags: Nigeria Governance Corruption
The Staying Power to Fight CorruptionThe United States media carried the story of a former Illinois Governor George Ryan (pictured) that was found guilty earlier this year for receiving kickbacks for awarding state contracts.
Mr Ryan, age 72, was jailed on August 6, and will serve the next six and a half years in prison.
"On April 18, after a nearly six-month trial, a jury convicted Ryan of 18 counts of racketeering, conspiracy, fraud and other offenses involving favoritism and kickbacks for state contracts and property leases that enriched Ryan and his friends."--ReutersNo nation is free of corruption. The tendency to be corrupt is a default human trait that cannot be removed by the most stringent measures. What is important or needed is having a system that works and puts this trait in check.
The Nigerian Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) announced several months ago that it will publish names of individuals that have stolen from the national coffers. There are some indications that several of the sitting and past governors and top officials will be on this list. I wonder how useful this list will be, since this is not a guarantee that those accused would be prosecuted, talk less of being convicted.
In Nigeria, a sitting President, Vice President, Governors and their deputies cannot be prosecuted for any reason because there is a constitutional clause that grants them immunity. While this immunity extends only to the executive, several top government officials and political party members have also somewhat tapped into this power because of their connections and political affiliations.
Since it took about 15 years for Mr. Ryan to be brought to book, and at a time that was well beyond his tenure as governor, it is my wish that the EFCC continues compiling the necessary evidence and at the appropriate time inflict the "Ryan Treatment" on all the erring personalities that currently hide under the cover of the executive immunity clause.
The question is does the EFCC have the staying power to fight the battle even if there is a change in its leadership? Would the new administration coming in 2007 offer the agency the financial and political support it needs?
Wednesday, September 06, 2006
Don't Talk about My Nigeria!This is the title of a commentary on African Executive website by a Chizoma Sandra Nwachukwu. This article disparages Nigerians abroad who routinely criticisize the government and the speak against the lapses in the society. Here are some excerpts:
I would like to ask the author what prompted this article, unfortunately African Executive website doesn't permit comments.
"Nigerians abroad, come back home! Feel our pain. Feel our hunger, live in a house where there is no electricity, drink water from unsafe streams, then talk to us and we will listen...
"My fellow Nigerians, stop speaking from a point of ignorance. Purpose to change the status quo. You don't need military might. Just build ties with your people. Stop writing and criticizing the government. Even though it is not living up to its responsibilities, it is better than you are because it is doing something...
"Stop parading yourselves as though you are talking for all Nigerians. If you are concerned about our problems, if you feel for us, come back home and work."
While I somewhat agree with Chizoma because it is all too easy for some of us pundits to play the roles of arm-chair policy experts and all that, I can't see why the government shouldn't be criticisized, as she suggested. There is definitely reasons for criticism as long as it's back with workable suggestions and alternatives. This is what many (including myself) do not do often.
Tags: Nigeria Governance