Category: Africa
Africa/Global: Media Repression 2.0
| April 25, 2017 | 9:12 pm | Africa | No comments

Africa/Global: Media Repression 2.0

AfricaFocus Bulletin
April 25, 2017 (170425)
(Reposted from sources cited below)

Editor’s Note

“In the days when news was printed on paper, censorship was a crude
practice involving government officials with black pens, the seizure
of printing presses and raids on newsrooms. The complexity and
centralization of broadcasting also made radio and television
vulnerable to censorship even when the governments didn’t exercise
direct control of the airwaves. … New information technologies–
the global, interconnected internet; ubiquitous social media
platforms; smart phones with cameras–were supposed to make
censorship obsolete. Instead, they have just made it more
complicated.” – Joel Simon, Committee to Protect Journalists, April
25, 2017

The 2017 Attacks on the Press report from the Committee to Protect
Journalists, just released today and entitled “The New Face of
Censorship,” speaks of issues faced both by old and new media in
countries around the world. Joel Simon’s opening article refers to
“Repression 2.0,” and like Repression 1.0 includes centuries-old
technologies such as murder and imprisonment of journalists as well
as those mentioned in the paragraph above. But it also includes
shutting down social media (or the entire internet), harassment by
automated bots or targeted attacks on web sites, or economic
pressures through withdrawal of state advertising in targeted

The CPJ report is available on-line at

Most of the chapters apply worldwide, and are available at the  link

This AfricaFocus Bulletin contains links to several chapters
specifically on Africa in the CPJ report, and several articles
focused specifically on the situation in Cameroon and in Zambia.
Another AfricaFocus Bulletin sent out earlier today, and available
at, has several
reports on the current political crisis in Zambia, involving
repression both of media and of opposition leaders.

On Cameroon see also for Le Monde April 21 article (in
French): “Après trois mois de coupure, Internet est de retour dans
la partie anglophone du Cameroun”

and Amnesty International news flash on April 24 on the sentencing
by a military court of radio journalist Ahmed Abba to ten years in
prison (

On the use of advertising as a weapon, see also the April 18 article
by George Ogola, with particular reference to the case of Kenya *

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AfricaFocus Bulletin is an independent electronic publication
providing reposted commentary and analysis on African issues, with a
particular focus on U.S. and international policies. AfricaFocus
Bulletin is edited by William Minter.

AfricaFocus Bulletin can be reached at more
information about reposted material, please contact directly the
original source mentioned. For a full archive and other resources,

Zambia: From Democracy to Dictatorship?
| April 25, 2017 | 9:08 pm | Africa | No comments

Zambia: From Democracy to Dictatorship?

AfricaFocus Bulletin
April 25, 2017 (170425)
(Reposted from sources cited below)

Editor’s Note

“Our country is now all, except in  designation, a dictatorship and
if it is not yet, then we are not far from it. Our political leaders
in the ruling party often issue intimidating statements that
frighten people and make us fear for the immediate and future. This
must be stopped and reversed henceforth.” – Zambia Conference of
Catholic Bishops, April 23, 2017


NOTE: AfricaFocus is making a transition to a new more user-friendly
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This AfricaFocus Bulletin contains three short commentaries on the
current political crisis in Zambia, by Simon Allison, Nic Cheeseman,
and Tendai Biti. Another AfricaFocus, also to be sent out today,
focuses on the wider African and global context of “media repression
2.0” in the internet era, including a report on attacks on press
freedom in Zambia.

The statement cited above from the Catholic Bishops of Zambia is
available at

The Council of Churches in Zambia has also issued a strong statement
condemning the arrest of opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema (

For keeping up with recent news on Zambia, two key sources are and The Mast ( or, successor to The Post, which was
shut down by the government in 2016.

For previous AfricaFocus Bulletins on Zambia, visit

++++++++++++++++++++++end editor’s note+++++++++++++++++

Analysis: Dark, dangerous days for Zambia’s democracy

After the attack on the home of Zambia’s opposition leader, and then
his arrest on spurious charges, Zambia’s reputation as a beacon of
democracy in Africa is under serious threat.

by Simon Allison

Daily Maverick, 20 April 2017 – direct URL:

Hakainde Hichilema is famously suspicious. The Zambian opposition
leader travels with a phalanx of bodyguards, and often brings his
own food wherever he goes, just in case anyone wants to poison him.
He claims to have received repeated death threats. He has a safe
room installed in his house.

Until Tuesday last week, it was easy to dismiss Hichilema’s paranoia
as exactly that – paranoia. This is Zambia, after all, one of
Africa’s most established and most successful democracies. No one
bumps off opposition leaders in Zambia. It’s not Russia, or
Venezuela, or Tunisia.

And then, in the early hours of that Tuesday morning, everything
changed. For Hichilema, and for Zambia.

Dozens of armed police descended onto Hichilema’s property. They
broke down the door. They threw tear gas into the house. Dazed and
confused, and above all scared, the politician and his family
retreated into the safe room.

I spoke to him there, on the phone. He didn’t raise his voice above
a whisper, and it trembled as he talked. He said that his wife and
children were injured from the tear gas, which was periodically
pumped through the vents of the safe room in a bid to force them
out, and that his servants had been tortured. He said he could hear
their screams. “This guy is trying to kill me,” he said. “This guy
is a dictator, a full-blown dictator.”

He was talking, of course, about President Edgar Lungu.

The siege lasted until mid-morning. By then, Hichilema’s legal team
had arrived, as had journalists. His lawyers eventually coaxed
Hichilema out of the safe room. He was immediately arrested, and
charged shortly afterwards with treason.

No one is dismissing Hichilema’s paranoia now – and no one is quite
sure what would have happened in the absence of that safe room into
which he could retreat.

What we do know is that Hichilema’s arch-rival, Lungu, has now
abandoned all democratic niceties in a bid to consolidate his grip
on power.

It was the nature of Hichilema’s arrest that was most concerning:
the midnight raid, the tear gas, the casual brutality meted out to
the servants. It was all entirely unnecessary. Hichilema is a public
figure, and could have been quietly arrested at any time. But the
raid was designed to intimidate, to send an unmistakeable message to
the president’s opponents that Lungu’s authority shall no longer be

It wasn’t just Hichilema, either. Chilufya Tayali, head of the
Economic and Equity Party and a vocal critic of President Lungu, was
arrested just two days later. His crime? A Facebook post in which he
criticised the “inefficiency” of Zambia’s police chief. He has
subsequently been released on bail.

If that sounds ridiculous – well, it is. But not as ridiculous as
the charges levelled against Hichilema, which are so far entirely
unsubstantiated by evidence or detail. The only concrete allegation
is that Hichilema endangered the president’s life when his vehicles
did not give way to the president’s motorcade at a cultural

In Lungu’s Zambia, a traffic incident has somehow become treason.

It’s not Lungu’s Zambia quite yet, however, as embarrassed
government prosecutors learned in court. In their submissions
against Hichilema, prosecutors made a Freudian slip, referring to
the opposition leader’s alleged offences against the “Government of
President Edgar Lungu”. They were forced to amend the charge sheet
when the defence observed that such an institution does not exist:
there is still only a Government of the Republic of Zambia, as much
as President Lungu might like it to be otherwise.

But make no mistake: these are dark, dangerous times for Zambia. And
if Lungu’s end goal really is to dismantle the country’s hard-won
democracy, then it’s hard to see who or what will stop him.

Domestically, the arrests of Hichilema and Tayali, along with a
sustained assault on independent media, will have a chilling effect
on civil society. It will take extraordinary courage and commitment
to take on President Lungu’s administration now.

Internationally too, Lungu faces remarkably little pressure. He has
already brushed off statements of concern from the United States and
the European Union, warning diplomats that they are “wasting their
time”; just as he brushed off concerns that his 2016 election win
was marred by serious electoral fraud.

South Africa, the regional superpower which does exert real
influence in Lusaka, has been deafeningly silent; as analyst Greg
Mills observed on these pages, it can’t be a coincidence that Lungu
may well have been encouraged down this path by the example of the
“patronage regime” emerging in South Africa. The less leadership
South Africa displays at home, the less it can project abroad.

Zambia’s in trouble. For so long a beacon of democracy in Africa,
its enviable reputation has already been tarnished by President
Lungu’s actions. The risk now is that Lungu undoes that democratic
progress entirely.

If this all sounds a little paranoid, just remember that Hakainde
Hichilema was paranoid too. And on this, he is being proved right.


Zambia: President Lungu sacrifices credibility to repress opposition

by Nic Cheeseman

Democracy in Action,  21 April 2017 – direct URL:

NicDiA’s Nic Cheeseman looks at the political crisis in Zambia,
where the opposition leader has been charged with treason, and
analyses the prospects for democratic backsliding. Nic Cheeseman
(@fromagehomme) is the Professor of Democracy at the University of

Zambian President Edgar Lungu finds himself caught between a rock
and a hard place in both economic and political terms. As a result,
he has begun to lash out, manipulating the law to intimidate the
opposition, and in the process sacrificing what credibility he had
left after deeply problematic general elections in 2016.

Let us start with the economy, where the president is stuck in
something of a lose-lose position. On the one hand, his populace is
growing increasingly frustrated at the absence of economic job and
opportunities, while a number of experts have pointed out that the
country is on the verge of a fresh debt crisis. Economic growth was
just 2.9% in 2016, while the public debt is expected to hit 54% of
GDP this year, and the government cannot afford to pay many of its
domestic suppliers.

On the other, a proposed $1.2 billion rescue deal with the
International Monetary Fund (IMF) has the potential to increase
opposition to the government for two reasons. First, it would mean
significantly reducing government spending, including on some of
Lungu’s more popular policies. Second, many Zambians are
understandably suspicious of IMF and the World Bank, having suffered
under previous adjustment programmes that delivered neither jobs nor
sustainable growth.

The president faces similar challenges on the political front.
Having won a presidential election in 2016 that the opposition
believes was rigged, and which involved a number of major procedural
flaws, Lungu desperately needs to relegitimate himself. However,
this need clashes with another, more important, imperative – namely,
the president’s desire to secure a third term in office when his
current tenure ends in 2020.

The problem for Lungu is that while it looks like he will be able to
use his influence over the Constitutional Court to ensure that it
interprets the country’s new constitutional arrangements to imply
that he should be allowed to stand for a third term – on the basis
that his first period in office was filling in for the late Michael
Sata after his untimely death in office, and so should not count –
such a strategy is likely to generate considerable criticism from
the opposition, civil society and international community.

Lacking viable opportunities to boost his support base and
relegitimate his government, President Lungu has responded by
pursuing another strategy altogether: the intimidation of the
opposition and the repression of dissent. While in some ways
represents a continuation of some of the tactics used ahead of the
2016 election, when the supporters and leaders of rival parties were
harassed and in some cases detained, the recent actions of the
Patriotic Front (PF) government represent a worrying gear-shift.

Most obviously, opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema, who came so
close to leading his United Party of National Development (UPND) to
victory in the latest polls, has been arrested and his home raided.
His crimes? There appear to be two sets of charges. One set is
relatively mundane, and relates to an incident in which Hichilema is
accused of refusing to give way to the president’s convoy. For this,
the opposition leader has been charged with breaking the highway
code and using insulting language.

The second charge – that of treason – is much more serious, but also
much less clear. Court documents state that Hichilema “on unknown
dates but between 10 October 2016 and 8 April 2017 and whilst acting
together with other persons unknown did endeavour to overthrow by
unlawful means the government of Edgar Lungu.” Although this charge
has also been linked to the recent traffic incident, it seems more
likely to be motivated by the president’s ongoing frustration that
the UPND continues to contest his election and refuses to recognise
him as a legitimately elected leader.

If this is the true motivation for the charges, it will only be the
latest of a number of moves to cow the opposition. For example, in
response to the refusal of UNPD legislators to listen to Lungu’s
address to the National Assembly, Richard Mumba – a PF proxy close
to State House – petitioned the Constitutional Court to declare
vacant the seats of all MPs who were absent.

The opposition are not alone. Key elements of civil society have
also come under fire. As a result of the waning influence of trade
unions, professional associations now find themselves as one of the
last lines of defence for the country’s fragile democracy, most
notably the Law Association of Zambia (LAZ). It should therefore
come as no surprise that a government MP, Kelvin Sampa, recent
introduced legislation into the National Assembly that would
effectively dissolve the LAZ and replace it with a number of smaller
bodies, each of which would be far less influential.

The bills introduced by Mumba and Sampa may not succeed, but in some
ways they don’t need to. Their cumulative effect has been to signal
that those who seek to resist the governments are likely to find
themselves the subject of the sharp end of the security forces and
the PF’s manipulation of the rule of law. The nature of Hichilema’s
arrest is a case in point. Despite numerous opportunities to detain
him in broad daylight, armed police and paramilitaries planned a
night attack in which they switched off the power to the house,
blocked access to the main roads, and broke down the entrance gate.
Inside the property, the security forces are accused of firing tear
gas, torture, urinating on the opposition leader’s bed and looting
the property.

It is therefore clear that the main aim of the operation was not an
efficient and speedy arrest, but rather the humiliation and
intimidation of an opponent.

Such abuses may help Lungu to secure the short-term goal of
prolonging his stay in power, but they will threaten to undermine
Zambia’s future. It will – or at least it should – be politically
embarrassing for the IMF to conclude a deal with Zambia while the
opposition leader is on trial on jumped up charges and civil society
is decrying the slide towards authoritarian rule. Rumours now
circulating in Lusaka suggest that President Lungu may be preparing
to enhance his authority by declaring a State of Emergency in the
near future, which would further complicate the country’s
international standing.

Lungu’s blatant disregard for the rules of the democratic game also
has important implications for the county’s political future. Many
Zambian commentators reported that the 2016 election was the most
violent in the country’s history, and forecast rising political
instability if this trend was not reserved. Rather than heed this
warning, President Lungu appears determined to put this prophecy to
the test.


Zambia and Zimbabwe: Why fair elections are essential for Africa’s

by Tendai Biti

Daily Maverick, 20 Apr 2017 – direct URL:

[Tendai Biti was finance minister of Zimbabwe under the unity
government from 2009-2013.]

Zimbabwe is used as a case study of a broken society; a country in
which those in power concern themselves only with maintaining power
and amassing wealth. Zimbabwe is also often cited as an exceptional
case. However, while it’s situation undoubtedly has its own
peculiarities, Zimbabwe has not followed a path that is impassable
for others. It is dangerous to think otherwise.

Despite the popularity of the “Africa rising” narrative that has
sounded over the past decade regarding the pace of Africa’s economic
growth and the prospects for development, the continent continues to
face significant challenges in unlocking the benefits for the
majority of its citizens.

While there is no singular reason for this, the one with the
greatest explanatory power is the mindset of self-enrichment at the
cost of social development among the elite. There is little doubt in
my mind that the solution to turning this around also lies in the
hands of leadership and the choices they make. And getting the right
leadership in place, to make the right choices, is a question of

As a former minister of finance in Zimbabwe, the proposals that came
on to my desk for government financing of projects that would make a
significant impact on our country were countless. Yet there was –
and continues to be – absolutely no money made available by the
government for any of these projects. It was often a difficult pill
to swallow when all around the country malnourished families were
starving while the lavish lives of those in the president’s inner-
circle were there for all to see.

Zimbabwe is used as a case study of a broken society; a country in
which those in power concern themselves only with maintaining power
and amassing wealth. Zimbabwe is also often cited as an exceptional
case. However, while it’s situation undoubtedly has its own
peculiarities, Zimbabwe has not followed a path that is impassable
for others. It is dangerous to think otherwise.

People often ask me how it is possible that we have been able to get
ourselves into this position as a country where everything is so
fundamentally broken. You cannot break things overnight, I answer,
but you can slowly chip away at the fundamentals and if no one does
anything to stop you then quite quickly all expectations of a
democratic society are abolished.

The increase in the number of elections taking place in Africa since
1990 has frequently been read as a positive indicator for the
continent’s future development prospects. Elections are only a
necessary but not a sufficient component of democracy. Yet this is
undermined if the international community adopts the convenient
fallacy that at least by going through the motion of holding
elections a country will get it right eventually, and so the extent
to which they can become a smokescreen has largely been overlooked.

The frequency of elections is much easier to observe and tick off a
checklist than adherence to the rule of law. However, it is the rule
of law that determines a country’s ability to function properly.
When the law is undermined and eroded, countries can follow a
downward spiral that leads to total collapse and from which it is
almost impossible to recover without outside support.

The rule of law in Zimbabwe has long been considered broken. The
same can now be said of our neighbour north of the Zambezi, Zambia.

Zambia’s leadership seems intent on destroying the 50 years of work
post-independence to build democracy by replicating actions we have
routinely seen in Zimbabwe, notably the systematic harassment and
intimidation of press, civil society and the opposition. While in
the past Zambians have looked to the rule of law to protect their
rights when under threat, today they find there is little prospect
for protection or redress.

Zambia’s major independent newspaper has been closed, with its
editor on the run; reports of intimidation and bribery of legal and
electoral officials have become widespread; and, now, as of a week
ago, popular opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema has been
incarcerated and charged with treason.

Shocking as this bold attempt to charge the opposition leader with
an offence that in theory could carry the death penalty appears, as
well as the violent and shocking manner in which the arrest was
conducted, if you look at the pattern of activity by the authorities
in recent months and years it is less surprising.

Over time Zambia’s leadership has become more and more confident
that they can sit above the law. While cases in which people have
spoken ill of the president or alleged corruption in public
institutions result in arrests and court charges, justice is slow
and often elusive for those outside the ruling elite.

The manner in which last year’s contested election was handled by
the Zambian authorities is a landmark case in this history. It’s a
story of the cost of electoral authoritarianism. Today, with
Hichilema behind bars, it is also testament of how the region and
the international community missed a critical opportunity to stem a
tide of poor governance by speaking out against an electoral sham.

When Hichilema’s party, the United Party for National Development,
challenged the 2016 election result on several grounds he was
advised to call on his supporters to remain peaceful and petition
the outcome in the courts, as is his constitutional right. The
petition was never heard, however, on the basis of a technicality
that his party continues to challenge through various appeals and
court submissions to this date.

This stands in stark contrast to how events played out in Ghana
following the 2012 elections. Then the opposition challenge of the
outcome led to a lengthy court case. While the outcome was
ultimately upheld by the court, the case revealed several failings
in the process for addressing ahead of future elections, and it
enabled the opposition a chance to present their evidence. The
process upheld the rule of law, and sent a clear signal to elites
and citizens alike that they can expect to be held accountable to
the law. This helped to pave the way for the peaceful transfer of
power to the opposition subsequently in January 2017.

The consequences of the soft approach of observers and the
international community following last year’s contested elections in
Zambia appears to be coming back to haunt them, however. Their
cautious approach and hesitancy to challenge leadership has been
taken as a near enough blank check for the elite to step by step
deconstruct the rule of law.

While national sovereignty must be respected we must not forget that
if the government in question is itself undermining the rule of law
and the rights and safety of its own citizens then it has already
undermined the grounds for sovereignty in a democratic nation.
Moreover, the more states that are allowed to continue down this
path unchallenged, the fewer voices there are left to speak out
against such infractions and the more leaders elsewhere that will be
motivated to preserve their stay in power through illicit means. DM


AfricaFocus Bulletin is an independent electronic publication
providing reposted commentary and analysis on African issues, with a
particular focus on U.S. and international policies. AfricaFocus
Bulletin is edited by William Minter.

AfricaFocus Bulletin can be reached at For more
information about reposted material, please contact directly the
original source mentioned. For a full archive and other resources,

Libya: The Last Country America “Liberated” From An “Evil” Dictator Is Now Openly Trading Slaves
| April 21, 2017 | 9:29 pm | Africa, Libya, political struggle | No comments

Obama rushed to remove a secular ruler who was working with us, but more importantly, containing the jihad threat. Since then, Libya has descended into jihad chaos and the Islamic State has developed a stronghold there. Obama had America stand down while our Ambassador and American attaches were slaughtered in cold blood.

Jihad is sweeping across the continent like the plague. And now Trump is in danger of following the same disastrous policies.

“The Last Country America ‘Liberated’ From An ‘Evil’ Dictator Is Now Openly Trading Slaves,” Zero Hedge, April 15, 2017:

It is widely known that the U.S.-led NATO intervention to topple Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 resulted in a power vacuum that has allowed terror groups like ISIS to gain a foothold in the country.

Despite the destructive consequences of the 2011 invasion, the West is currently taking a similar trajectory with regard to Syria. Just as the Obama administration excoriated Gaddafi in 2011, highlighting his human rights abuses and insisting he must be removed from power to protect the Libyan people, the Trump administration is now pointing to the repressive policies of Bashar al-Assad in Syria and warning his regime will soon come to an end — all in the name of protecting Syrian civilians.

But as the U.S. and its allies fail to produce legal grounds for their recent air strike – let alone provide concrete evidence to back up their claims Assad was responsible for a deadly chemical attack last week – more hazards of invading foreign countries and removing their heads of state are emerging.

This week, new findings revealed another unintended consequence of “humanitarian intervention”: the growth of the human slave trade.

The Guardian reports that while “violence, extortion and slave labor” have been a reality for people trafficked through Libya in the past, the slave trade has recently expanded. Today, people are selling other human beings out in the open.

The latest reports of ‘slave markets’ for migrants can be added to a long list of outrages [in Libya],” said Mohammed Abdiker, head of operation and emergencies for the International Office of Migration, an intergovernmental organization that promotes “humane and orderly migration for the benefit of all,” according to its website. “The situation is dire. The more IOM engages inside Libya, the more we learn that it is a vale of tears for all too many migrants.”

The North African country is commonly used as a point of exit for refugees fleeing other parts of the continent. But since Gaddafi was overthrown in 2011, “the vast, sparsely populated country has slid into violent chaos and migrants with little cash and usually no papers are particularly vulnerable,” the Guardian explains.

One survivor from Senegal said he was passing through Libya from Niger with a group of other migrants attempting to flee their home countries. They had paid a smuggler to transport them via bus to the coast, where they would risk taking a boat to Europe. But rather than take them to the coast, the smuggler took them to a dusty lot in Sabha, Libya. According to Livia Manente, an IOM officer who interviews survivors, “their driver suddenly said middlemen had not passed on his fees and put his passengers up for sale.

Several other migrants confirmed his story, independently describing kinds of slave markets as well as kinds of private prisons all over in Libya,she said, adding IOM Italy had confirmed similar stories from migrants landing in southern Italy.

The Senegalese survivor said he was taken to a makeshift prison, which the Guardian notes are common in Libya.

“Those held inside are forced to work without pay, or on meager rations, and their captors regularly call family at home demanding a ransom. His captors asked for 300,000 west African francs (about £380), then sold him on to a larger jail where the demand doubled without explanation.”

When migrants were held too long without having a ransom paid for them, they were taken away and killed. “Some wasted away on meager rations in unsanitary conditions, dying of hunger and disease, but overall numbers never fell,” the Guardian reported.

“If the number of migrants goes down, because of death or someone is ransomed, the kidnappers just go to the market and buy one,” Manente said.

Giuseppe Loprete, IOM Niger’s chief of mission, confirmed these disturbing reports. “It’s very clear they see themselves as being treated as slaves,” he said. He arranged for the repatriation of 1,500 migrants just in the first three months of this year and is concerned more stories and incidents will emerge as more migrants return from Libya.

And conditions are worsening in Libya so I think we can also expect more in the coming months,” he added.

As the United States government continues to entertain regime change in Syria as a viable solution to the many crises in that country, it is becoming ever-more evident that ousting dictators — however detestable they may be —  is not effective….

Africa/Global: New Reports Show Massive Tax Losses
| April 17, 2017 | 8:07 pm | Africa | No comments

Africa/Global: New Reports Show Massive Tax Losses

AfricaFocus Bulletin
April 17, 2017 (170417)
(Reposted from sources cited below)

Editor’s Note

On April 15, “tax day” in the United States, tens of thousands of
demonstrators in over 200 communities around the country marched to
demand that President Trump make public his tax returns ( Protesters also denounced his use of
taxpayer funds for his personal profit and military escalation while
his administration continues its assault on spending for urgent
public needs at home and around the world. There is no sign that the
President will comply with the demand for transparency. But the
award of a Pulitzer Prize last week to the international consortium
that exposed the Panama Papers was only one indicator that the drive
to expose tax evasion, tax avoidance, and corruption around the
world will continue.


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One new report, from the Tax Justice Network, estimated that global
tax losses by governments to “profit-shifting” come to at least $500
billion a year, while another report from Oxfam America cited $1.6
trillion stashed overseas by the 50 largest U.S. companies alone for
the purposes of reducing their U.S. taxes. And Shell Oil was forced
to admit having paid a $1.1 billion bribe to a former oil minister
in Nigeria to facilitate the award of the rich Malabu oil block.

This AfricaFocus Bulletin contains brief press releases on these
three reports, as well as on new legislation introduced by Democrats
in the U.S. Congress that would limit such abuses, particularly by
requiring “multinational corporations to report their employees,
sales, finances, tax obligations and tax payments on a country-by-
country basis.” As the Oxfam report and other critics have noted,
Trump’s so-called “tax reform” plans would instead massively reduce
transparency and allow corporations and the ultra-rich to grab even
larger shares of national wealth.

Additional links of interest:

CBS News, “Secret Service costs for Trump family protection continue
to mount,” April 14, 2017
“One purchase order reviewed by CBS News shows the US Secret Service
has spent $35,185 on golf cart rentals [to Trump’s resort] in Palm
Beach County, Florida since the President’s inauguration.”

“Civil Society Experts Issue Accelerated Agenda for Addressing
Illicit Financial Flows in Africa,”
January 26, 2017, press release with link to 10-page full report.
“The Accelerated IFF Agenda is a set of 14 recommendations that
identify steps African governments can take to jump-start the
process of addressing illicit financial flows (IFFs).”

Financial Accountability and Corporate Transparency (FACT) Coalition

Home Page

“a non-partisan alliance of more than 100 state, national, and
international organizations working toward a fair tax system”
Essential up-to-date resources on U.S. legislative issues and other
policy and advocacy efforts.
US-Africa Network – direct URL:
Resources on illicit financial flows and the Stop the Bleeding
Africa campaign

Previous AfricaFocus Bulletins on tax justice and related issues

++++++++++++++++++++++end editor’s note+++++++++++++++++

Shell Knew

Global Witness Report / April 10, 2017 – direct URL:

[note story at link includes additional graphics, short video, and
link to full report]

BBC News, April 11, 2017, “Shell admits dealing with money

Emails show senior executives at world’s fifth largest company
knowingly took part in a vast bribery scheme that robbed the
Nigerian people of $1.1 billion.

It’s one of the biggest corruption scandals in the history of the
oil sector – and this is the biggest development so far.

Damning new evidence shows oil giant Shell took part in a vast
bribery scheme that robbed the Nigerian people of over a billion

Internal Shell emails seen by Finance Uncovered and Global Witness
show how the world’s fifth biggest company took part in a scheme
which deprived Nigeria and its people of $1.1 billion in a murky
deal for access to one of Africa’s most valuable oil blocks, known
as OPL 245.

For years, Shell has denied it did anything wrong, but today’s
emails show they knew the money would be diverted to private hands,
and they went ahead with the deal anyway.

This is devastating for the people of Nigeria. Right now five
million of them face starvation. The money paid for the block
equates to one and a half times what the UN says is needed to
respond to the current famine crisis. But the Nigerian people saw
none of the benefits.

What the Leaked Emails Show

The emails we have published today show senior executives knew the
massive payment for the oil block would go to Dan Etete – a
convicted money launderer and former Nigerian oil minister. He spent
some of it on a private jet, armoured cars, and shotguns.

The emails also show Shell’s top brass were told that money was
likely to flow to some of the most powerful people in the country,
including then President Goodluck Jonathan.

He spoke to Mrs E this morning. She says E claims he will only get
300m we offering—rest goes in paying people off. (Shell
representative and former MI6 agent John Copleston in a leaked email
to Shell Africa executives. “E” is understood to be Dan Etete.)

Shell portrays itself as an oil company that does good. Yet our
investigation reveals a story of hypocrisy and deception, and finds
the company’s most senior bosses depriving Nigeria of life-saving
funds by going ahead with a dodgy deal that they knew was a vast
bribery scheme.

Background: The OPL 245 Deal

In 2011, Shell and the Italian oil company Eni paid $1.1. billion in
a murky deal for this lucrative asset located off the coast of
Nigeria. After a lengthy investigation, Global Witness tracked down
documents showing that this money didn’t go to benefit the Nigerian
people as it should have done. Instead it went to convicted money
launderer and former oil Minister, Dan Etete, who had awarded
himself ownership of the block in 1998 via a company he secretly
owned, Malabu Oil and Gas.

For six years, Shell has denied it did anything wrong, and said it
only dealt with the Nigerian government in securing rights to the
block. This latest investigation shows that Shell’s senior
executives knew where the money was really going.


Top 50 US Companies Stash $1.6 Trillion Offshore

Current “Reform” Proposals Likely to Make Tax Dodging Even Worse

Oxfam America, April 12, 2017 – direct URL:

[full report available at]

The 50 biggest US companies, including global brands such as Pfizer,
Goldman Sachs, GE, Chevron, Walmart, and Apple, have $1.6 trillion
stashed offshore according to Oxfam America, a $200 billion increase
in a single year.

In a new report based on corporate financial, lobbying, and investor
disclosures released ahead of Tax Day, Oxfam revealed that the 50
largest US companies relied on an opaque and secretive network of at
least 1,751 subsidiaries in tax havens to avoid paying their fair
share of taxes. Oxfam also warned that reforms proposed by President
Trump and Congressional leaders will only further rig the rules in
favor of the rich and powerful, deepen the inequality crisis, and
harm poor families in the US and in developing countries worldwide.

“As Americans prepare for the yearly ritual of filing their returns
and sending Uncle Sam a check, the 50 largest US companies are
hoarding more than a trillion dollars offshore that could provide
much-needed funds to fight poverty and inequality here and around
the world,” said Robbie Silverman, Senior Advisor for Oxfam America
and one of the authors of the report. “While President Trump was
elected on the promise to fix the rigged political and economic
system, his proposals will only enrich powerful corporations and
enable special interests to game the tax code at the expense of
ordinary taxpayers and small businesses.”

The report, which updates Oxfam’s analysis from a similar report
last year, reveals that the 50 largest US companies have deepened
their use of tax havens and boosted their investments in building
political influence to push for even greater tax breaks than they
already enjoy. Even as these 50 companies earned over $4.2 trillion
in profits globally, they used offshore tax havens to lower their
effective overall tax rate to just 25.9% according to the most
generous estimate of their tax payments, well below the statutory
rate of 35% and even below average levels paid in other developed
countries. Since 2009, these 50 companies alone have spent $2.5
billion in federal lobbying–almost $50 million for every member of
Congress.  Oxfam estimates that for every $1 these companies spent
lobbying on tax issues, they received an estimated $1,200 in tax

“Every year rigged tax rules cost Americans approximately $135
billion in corporate tax dodging and sap an estimated $100 billion
from poor countries–revenue that should go towards building
schools, bridges and hospitals,” continued Silverman. “The losers in
this rigged game are small businesses, working families, and the
poor who cannot deploy armies of lobbyists to preserve their
favorite tax loophole.”

The report does not accuse any of the companies of acting
illegally–rather, Oxfam’s analysis demonstrates how the current tax
system permits companies to dodge hundreds of billions of dollars of
tax within the bounds of the law.

Instead of supporting straightforward reforms to prevent large
companies from gaming the system, President Trump and leaders in
Congress are pitching “reform” that would provide massive tax breaks
to US companies that have trillions stashed offshore, give giant new
tax breaks to large, profitable companies, and dramatically reshape
the way US companies are taxed with terrible implications for poor

Oxfam estimates that the top 50 US companies would stand to gain
between $312-327 billion from the repatriation holidays proposed by
President Trump and the House GOP. Just 4 companies–Apple, Pfizer,
Microsoft and General Electric–together could potentially pocket as
much as $132 billion in new tax breaks from this single policy

The report also reveals that the Border Adjustment Tax, proposed by
the House GOP, will harm poor and middle class Americans and could
cost poor countries more than what the US spends on poverty-focused
foreign aid. As a direct result of this proposal, poor countries
could face rapidly increasing costs in servicing their debts, which
would drain resources needed for schools, hospitals and other basic
services that help pull their citizens out of poverty.

The tax reform plans, which will cost the US trillions of dollars
over the next decade, must also be considered and understood in the
context of the Trump Administration’s proposals to dramatically
slash the federal budget, in part to help pay for tax cuts for the
wealthy. President Trump’s budget would severely cut or abolish
programs that provide low-income Americans with affordable housing,
job training, energy assistance, rehabilitated homes in
neighborhoods hard-hit by foreclosures, and food delivery to
homebound seniors. At a time of unprecedented global crisis, with 65
million people forced to flee their homes and up to four famines
looming, the cuts would also devastate US leadership to save lives
and help the world’s poorest and most vulnerable.

Oxfam calls on Congress to go back to the drawing board on its tax
reform plans and start over with measures that do not further
entrench the inequality crisis. Congress must also work to enable
cooperation with other countries that are struggling to prevent tax
abuse rather than compete with other nations in a mutually
destructive race to the bottom. The Corporate Tax Dodging Prevention
Act and the Stop Tax Haven Abuse Act are just two reasonable
measures that would simplify the tax code and ensure companies pay
their fair share.

“A fair and effective tax system is the lifeblood of an efficient
and well-functioning government, allowing for investments in basic
services like schools, hospitals, roads, first responders, social
safety nets and other vital public services that can address poverty
and ensure a thriving business climate,”  said Silverman. “The vast
sums that companies have stashed in tax havens should be fighting
poverty and rebuilding America’s infrastructure, not hidden in
Panama, Bahamas, or the Cayman Islands.”

Editor’s notes: The Oxfam report analyzed the tax practices between
2009-2015 of the 50 largest public companies in the US according to
the Forbes 2000 list: Allergan, Alphabet (Google), American Express,
American International Group (AIG), Amgen, Apple, AT&T, Bank of
America, Berkshire Hathaway, Boeing, Capital One Financial, Chevron,
Cisco Systems, Citigroup, Coca-Cola, Comcast, CVS Health, Dow
Chemical, Exxon Mobil, Ford Motor, General Electric, General Motors,
Gilead, Goldman Sachs, Home Depot, Honeywell International, IBM,
Intel, Johnson & Johnson, JPMorgan Chase, Medtronic, Merck, MetLife,
Microsoft, Mondelez, Morgan Stanley, Oracle, PepsiCo, Pfizer,
Phillips 66, Procter & Gamble, Prudential Financial, United
Technologies, UnitedHealth Group, US Bancorp, Verizon
Communications, Walgreens, Wal-Mart, Walt Disney, and Wells Fargo.


New estimates reveals the extent of tax avoidance by multinationals

Tax Justice Network

Press Release, March 22, 2017 – direct URL:

* Global tax losses estimated at $500 billion a year
* Losses account for a higher share of GDP in lower-income countries
* Losses in some countries such as Zambia and Argentina exceeded 4%
of GDP
* Biggest dollar losses in the USA, estimated at $190 billion in

New figures published today by the Tax Justice Network provide a
country-level breakdown of the estimated tax losses to profit
shifting by multinational companies. Applying a methodology
developed by researchers at the International Monetary Fund to an
improved dataset, the results indicate global losses of around $500
billion a year. The figures appear in a study published today by the
United Nations University World Institute for Development Economics
Research (UNU-WIDER, in Helsinki). Full study available at

While this global total is more cautious than the $600 billion
estimate of the IMF researchers, the distribution is also different.
Losses are now estimated to be even more intense in lower-income
countries in relation to GDP and as a proportion of total tax
revenues. In addition, today’s estimates include the full country

Profit shifting is the process whereby companies move profits from
their subsidiaries in higher tax countries, where the real economic
activity takes place, to other subsidiaries in ‘tax havens’. This is
typically achieved by the multinational company setting up internal
trades which exploit international tax rules to move taxable profits
from one jurisdiction to another.

Profit shifting has been a big focus of international attention
since scandals at companies like Apple and Amazon revealed the scale
of distortions – and the systemic nature of
avoidance schemes marketed by big 4 accounting firms was then laid
bare in the ‘LuxLeaks’ revelations.

Tax Justice Network chief executive, Alex Cobham and Petr Janský of
Charles University in Prague, carried out the analysis which
recreates the methodology of a study published by researchers at the
International Monetary Fund in 2016. Cobham and Janský replicate the
IMF analysis, and then repeat it using a more robust source of
national tax revenue data.

The data showed that whilst the largest losses occurred in rich
economies such as the United States, lower-income countries were the
biggest victims of profit shifting. Some countries, such as
Argentina (4.42%) lost a significant proportion of their GDP to
profit shifting. In Chad, the estimated losses to profit shifting
were larger than all of the (non-resource) taxes collected in the
country that year. In Pakistan the losses were 40% of tax revenues.
While any estimates of this deliberately hidden phenomenon are
necessarily uncertain, the order of magnitude indicates that the
economic development of countries may in some cases be significantly
undermined by the activities of multinational companies.

The calculated losses to individual countries can be seen in this
interactive global map:

A spreadsheet with the data can be found here:

[Note by AfricaFocus editor: The data by country in the spreadsheet
includes 146 countries, excluding Russia and many countries in the
Middle East. The largest amounts of tax losses are from the United
States ($189 billion) and China ($67 billion), but most countries
with a large percentage of losses compared to the GDP are in Africa
(24 countries) or other developing areas (16 countries).}

On the publication of the report Alex Cobham, chief executive of the
Tax Justice Network said:

These findings support the long-held view that it is lower-income
countries that suffer the most intensive losses due to tax dodging
by multinational companies. The current status quo, in which
international tax rules are set at the OECD where lower-income
countries lack any effective voice, is simply untenable.

Now we need political progress to challenge profit shifting.
Governments around the world can legislate today for the publication
of multinational companies’ country-by-country reporting – revealing
the precise pattern of profit shifting to citizens, and giving tax
authorities the power to curtail it.


Two New Bills Would Plug Major Loopholes in Our Offshore Corporate
Tax System

Tax Justice Blog, April 6, 2017 – direct URL:

By Richard Phillips, Senior Policy Analyst at Institute on Taxation
and Economic Policy (

A new pair of bills introduced by Representative Lloyd Doggett (D-
TX) this week would crack down on loopholes that allow corporations
and individuals to avoid paying their fair share in taxes.

Rep. Doggett’s Stop Tax Haven Abuse Act, which was sponsored by
Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) in the Senate, would close a
number of the most harmful loopholes in the current international
tax code. Taken together, the provisions of the bill would reduce
international tax avoidance by $278 billion over 10 years.

Corporations’ use of offshore tax gimmicks have grown so out of
control that companies have now accumulated a stunning $2.6 trillion
hoard of money offshore for tax avoidance purposes. The bill
wouldn’t entirely solve the problem of tax haven abuse, but it could
ensure corporations are paying part of the estimated $100 billion
they avoid each year in taxes. Some of the key components of the
bill include provisions that would:

* Reduce corporate inversions by treating the corporation resulting
from the merger of a U.S. and foreign company as a domestic
corporation if shareholders of the original U.S. corporation own
more than 50 percent (rather than 20 percent under current rules) of
the new company, or if the company continues to be managed and
controlled in the United States and engaged in significant domestic
business activities (meaning it employs more than 25 percent of its
workforce in the United States).

* Disallow the interest deduction for U.S. subsidiaries that have
been loaded up with a disproportionate amount of the debt of the
entire multinational corporation. This provision would curb so-
called “earnings stripping,” a practice in which a U.S. subsidiary
borrows from and makes large interest payments to a foreign
subsidiary of the same corporation to wipe out U.S. income for tax

* Require multinational corporations to report their employees,
sales, finances, tax obligations and tax payments on a country-by-
country basis as part of their Securities and Exchange Commission
(SEC) filings. Such disclosures would provide crucial insights into
how companies are gaming the international tax system and would
provide more transparency to investors.

* Repeal the “check-the-box” rule and the “CFC look-through rules”
that allow companies to shift profits to tax havens by letting them
tell foreign countries that their profits are earned in a tax haven,
while telling the United States that the tax-haven subsidiaries do
not exist.

Rep. Doggett’s other new tax-related bill, the Corporate EXIT
Fairness Act, takes direct aim at one of the main drivers of
corporate inversions. Under the current tax code, companies have a
huge incentive to invert or become a foreign corporation (at least
on paper) because they can permanently avoid paying taxes on
accumulated offshore earnings. Doggett’s legislation would require
inverted companies to pay the full amount of taxes they owe on
offshore earnings if they become a foreign company, which means that
avoiding taxes on unrepatriated earnings will no longer be a factor
in making that decision.

The bill also contains the same anti-inversion provisions in the
Stop Tax Haven Abuse Act that tighten rules around what constitutes
a domestic corporation.

What differentiates Rep. Doggett’s exit tax bill from similar bills
is that it would require all expatriating companies to pay what they
owe on their offshore earnings, rather than just those companies
that are engaging in a transaction that meets the definition of an
inversion. This makes the bill even more effective in that it
reduces the offshoring tax incentive across the board and allows the
bill to work as a complement to other anti-inversion legislation.

Rather than moving to an even more loophole-ridden corporate tax
code as the House GOP has proposed, lawmakers should be considering
reforms such as those in the Stop Tax Haven Abuse Act and the
Corporate EXIT Fairness Act that crack down on offshore tax


AfricaFocus Bulletin is an independent electronic publication
providing reposted commentary and analysis on African issues, with a
particular focus on U.S. and international policies. AfricaFocus
Bulletin is edited by William Minter.

AfricaFocus Bulletin can be reached at Please
write to this address to suggest material for inclusion. For more
information about reposted material, please contact directly the
original source mentioned. For a full archive and other resources,

Africa: African Feminism Past and Present

AfricaFocus Bulletin
April 10, 2017 (170410)
(Reposted from sources cited below)

Editor’s Note

“On February 18th I lost my grand aunt – my grandmother really …
This incredible woman, May Kyomugasho Katebaka left us at the age of
97. We last met in 2014 when I visited her. She’s a fierce woman.
Fierce in her religion but also fierce in her knowledge of what she
wanted from the world. And that is what moves me. Moves me every time
one claims feminism is foreign and for the educated, un-african. She
always came to mind when I met such arguments. I would tell myself
that if only they could hear half her life story, then they would
understand why I am such a rebellion.” – Rosebell Kagumire


NOTE: AfricaFocus is beginning a transition to a new email
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in the short registration form at


“Today as ever, African female activists are reshaping not just
African feminist agendas but global ones as well,” wrote scholar
Aili Mari Tripp in a March 8 article published in African Arguments.
But this was only a small sample of articles and web features that
have recently appeared highlighting different aspects of “African
feminism(s),” as well as a host of new books by both famous and
relatively unknown authors.

Among sources that have come to my attention in the last month, this
AfricaFocus Bulletin features the overview article by Aili Mari
Tripp, a reflection by Ugandan journalist and activist Rosebell
Kagumire, several additional links to web features from the African
Feminist Forum and OkayAfrica, and a listing of a selection of
recent related books, from 2017, 2016, and 2015.

The article from March 8, International Women’s Day, was the initial
impetus for this Bulletin. But it is appropriate that the Bulletin
comes only a few days after April 7 (Mozambican Women’s Day),
commemorated to honor the example of Josina Muthemba Machel (, who I was privileged
to work with in Dar es Salaam in 1966-1967, a few years before her
death at the age of 25 on April 7, 1971. [I don’t know who wrote the
Wikipedia article, but it is substantive and, to my knowledge,

Additional recent web references

African Feminist Forum, “Know Your African Feminists” and “African
Feminist Ancestors” Accessed March 2017 – direct URLs: and

“Talking African Feminisms with Dr. Sylvia Tamale,”
Rosebell Kagumire blog, August 19, 2016

“OkayAfrica’s 100 Women” Accessed March 2017

“Ghana: Women are the new face of telecommunications’ players,”
Balancing Act Africa, March 17, 2017

“Malawi: Rural Women, Empowerment and Mining,” Publish What You Pay,
December 19, 2016

Eunice Onwona, “Karen Attiah Is the ‘Warrior of Diversity’
Channeling Journalism Into Activism,” OkayAfrica, March 17, 2017

++++++++++++++++++++++end editor’s note+++++++++++++++++

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If you appreciate AfricaFocus Bulletin, please help support this
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Those who Defied the Odds, Those Who Stood True to their Beliefs
Till the End

by Rosebell Kagumire

African Feminism, March 22, 2017 – direct URL:

On February 18th I lost my grand aunt – my grandmother really
(English limitations) because in my culture a sister of my
grandmother is my grandmother. Both have almost equal roles and
space in your life.

This incredible woman, May Kyomugasho Katebaka left us at the age of
97. We last met in 2014 when I visited her. She’s a fierce woman.
Fierce in her religion but also fierce in her knowledge of what she
wanted from the world. And that is what moves me. Moves me every time
one claims feminism is foreign and for the educated, un-african. She
always came to mind when I met such arguments. I would tell myself
that if only they could hear half her life story, then they would
understand why I am such a rebellion.

Grandma May, always made it a point to tell us she got ‘saved/born
again’ in 1949. Religion was at the centre of her life. She always
told us had it not been for her selfless service in the church, she
would have ended up like most women of her time.  She was one of the
few among millions of women at the time who could read. And that
came through the colonial state where knowledge of the bible
accorded one certain privileges.

Her life is an inspiration. She was married, briefly, and quickly
figured out that married life wasn’t for her so she dedicated
herself to serving the church. Where she was married and even when
she didn’t have children of her own, she is known to have treated
the kids she found in the home like her own. Of course this is
something many women are required of by society and the conditions
are often not on their side – women should have choices – but the
love between her and her step children remained even when she was
longer part of their family. That love was demonstrated till the

In my culture and many in Uganda still, unmarried and childless
women are scorned upon but Grandmother May commanded a certain
respect above all these. She managed to weave her life story, with a
church as her shelter, to be who she wanted to be. Of course many
would say she should ‘have had a child at least’ and god knows what
other pressures she faced. All these little narrow definitions of
what a woman’s life should be according to society wouldn’t dwindle

I loved her and she lived an exceptional life and didn’t matter who
accepted it. She was beautiful too and a deep deep soul. In many
ways she was still traditional like I remember her asking me to
always wear long t-shirts over my jeans – you know – not to show
‘secret body parts’ like we call it in my Runyankole. I usually
laughed these off.

She is inspiration and the fact that her life in itself – some
aspects probably weren’t intentional – but she never followed the
crowd. And that’s enough to get me through this life. I thought in
the spirit of women’s history month, Grandma May fully represents
the people in my life that shattered those expectations. To
understand where we are going we must always look back for a lesson,
inspiration and sometimes caution.


How African feminism changed the world

Aili Mari Tripp

African Arguments, March 8, 2017 – direct URL:

[Aili Mari Tripp is Professor of Political Science and Evjue Bascom
Professor of Gender and Women’s Studies at the University of
Wisconsin-Madison. She is the co-editor, with Balghis Badri, of
Women’s Activism in Africa (2017).]

Today as ever, African female activists are reshaping not just
African feminist agendas but global ones as well.

One of the great fallacies one still hears today is that feminism
started in the Global North and found its way to the Global South.
Another is that universal understandings of women’s rights as
embodied in UN treaties and conventions were formulated by activists
in the North.

International Women’s Day, however, provides an opportunity to
highlight the reality: that not only do feminisms in the Global
South have their own trajectories, inspirations, and demands, but
they have contributed significantly to today’s global understandings
of women’s rights. Nowhere is this clearer than in Africa, where
women are increasingly exerting leadership from politics to business
and have helped shape global norms regarding women’s rights in
multiple arenas.

For decades, African activists have rejected the notion that one can
subsume all feminist agendas under a Western one. As far back as the
1976 international conference on Women and Development at Wellesley
College, Egyptian novelist Nawal El-Saadawi and Moroccan sociologist
Fatema Mernissi challenged efforts by Western feminists to define
global feminism. In the drafting of the 1979 Convention on the
Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), the All African
Women’s Conference was one of six organisations and the only
regional body involved.

African women have also been influencing national gender policies
for over half a century. In 1960, for example, Mail’s Jacqueline Ki-
zerbo had already developed the idea of considering the gender
impacts of policies. It was only decades later that this idea – now
commonly known as “gender mainstreaming” – gained international
currency, particularly in national budgetary processes.

In key UN conferences, African women activists have been visible
from the outset. Egypt’s Aida Gindy held the first international
meeting on Women in Economic Development in 1972. The Kenya Women’s
Group helped organise the 1985 UN Conference on Women in which
African women brought issues of apartheid and national liberation to
the fore. And Egypt’s Aziza Husayn helped organise the 1994 Cairo
International Conference on Population and Development, which
shifted the debate around population control away from a traditional
family planning emphasis on quotas and targets to one focused on
women’s rights and health.

Additionally, Sierra Leone’s Filomena Steady was one of the key
conveners of the Earth Summit in 1992. Tanzania’s Gertrude Mongella
was General Secretary of the pivotal 1995 UN Beijing Conference. And
African women peace-builders played a crucial role in the 2000
Windhoek conference, which paved the way for a UN Security Council
Resolution encouraging the inclusion of women in peace negotiations
and peacekeeping missions around the world.

Leading the world

Women in Africa have also set new standards for women’s political
leadership globally. The likes of Guinea’s Jeanne Martin Cissé,
Liberia’s Angie Brooks and Tanzania’s Anna Tibaijuka and Asha-Rose
Migiro have all held top positions at the UN. Meanwhile at a
national level, many African countries have made important gains in
women’s representation.

Rwandan women today hold 62% of the country’s legislative seats, the
highest in the world. In Senegal, South Africa, Namibia, and
Mozambique, more than 40% of parliamentary seats are held by women.
There are female speakers of the house in one fifth of African
parliaments, higher than the world average of 14%. Women have
claimed positions in key ministries throughout Africa. And women
have increasingly run for executive positions, with Liberia, the
Central African Republic, Malawi and Mauritius all having had female
heads of state. Moreover, these increases in female representation
are taking place across the continent, including predominantly
Muslim countries such as Senegal, where women hold 43% of
legislative seats.

These new patterns are found at the regional level too, with women
holding 50% of the positions at in African Union Commission,
compared to just one-third at the European Commission. South
Africa’s Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma meanwhile chaired the AU Commission
from 2012 to 2017.

Women’s strong presence in African parliaments has resulted in new
discussions about strategies to enhance female political
representation worldwide. Scandinavian scholars such as Drude
Dahlerup and Lenita Freidenvall even argue that the incremental
model that led to high rates of female representation in Nordic
countries in the 1970s has now been replaced by the “fast track”
African model in which dramatic jumps in representation are brought
about by electoral quotas.

Shaping the world

African women have also been pioneering in business. Aspiring young
female entrepreneurs today have several role models they can follow
such as Ghana’s Esther Ocloo, who pursued the idea of formalising
local women’s credit associations and became a founding member of
one of the first microcredit banks, Women’s Worlds Banking, in 1979.

According to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, African countries
have almost equal numbers of men and women either actively involved
in business start-ups or in the phase of starting a new firm. And in
countries such as Ghana, Nigeria and Zambia, women are reportedly
more likely to be entrepreneurs than men.

These changes are evident not only at the grassroots but, to an
extent, at the highest levels. Female representation in boardrooms
worldwide is very poor, but Africa’s rate of 14.4% is only slightly
behind Europe (18%) and the US (17%), and ahead of Asia, Latin
America and the Middle East.

Finally, a younger generation of activists is emerging throughout
Africa today and redefining feminism from an African perspective.
One sees this not only in the work of the African Feminist Forum,
which first met in 2006, but also in the work of figures such as
novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie who issued a clarion call to women
in her video We Should All be Feminist, adapted from her 2013 Ted
Talk, in which she explores what it means to be an African feminist.
Her book length essay by the same title is found on bookshelves in
major cities around the world, and the Swedish Women’s Lobby has
given it to every 16-year-old in Sweden to help them think about
gender equality.

Feminist discourse meanwhile has become commonplace throughout the
continent on websites, blogs, journals, and social media. New
feminist novels like Dust by Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor (Kenya), Kintu by
Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi (Uganda), and Americanah by Adichie
(Nigeria) have offered new ways of imagining women.

There are clearly still enormous hurdles for African feminists to
overcome in fighting for gender equality. But as they have over the
past half a century, Africa’s women activists of today are reshaping
not only African feminist agendas in tackling these challenges, but
global ones as well.


Books, 2017

[Thanks to Kathleen Sheldon for most of these suggested books.
Short quotes after each book are from the publishers’ descriptions
unless source is otherwise cited.]

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in
Fifteen Suggestions, 2017. “Adichie has partly written Dear Ijeawele
to reclaim the word feminism from its abusers and misusers. Her
advice is not only to provide children with alternatives—to empower
boys and girls to understand there is no single way to be—but also
to understand that the only universal in this world is difference.”
– Emma Brockes, The Guardian (UK)

Balghis Badri and Aili Mari Tripp, eds. Women’s Activism in Africa:
Struggles for Rights and Representation, 2017. “Drawing on case
studies and fresh empirical material from across the continent, the
authors challenge the prevailing assumption that notions of women’s
rights have trickled down from the global north to the south,
showing instead that these movements have been shaped by above all
the unique experiences and concerns of the local women involved.”

Helene Cooper. Madame President: The Extraordinary Journey of Ellen
Johnson Sirleaf, 2017. “Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist and
bestselling author Helene Cooper deftly weaves Sirleaf’s personal
story into the larger narrative of the coming of age of Liberian

Linda M. Heywood. Njinga of Angola: Africa’s Warrior Queen
Hardcover, 2017. “Though largely unknown in the Western world, the
seventeenth-century African queen Njinga was one of the most
multifaceted rulers in history, a woman who rivaled Elizabeth I and
Catherine the Great in political cunning and military prowess.”

Kathleen Sheldon. African Women: Early History to the 21st Century.
2017. “The rich case studies and biographies in this thorough survey
establish a grand narrative about women’s roles in the history of

Books, 2016

Berger, Iris. Women in Twentieth-Century Africa, 2016. “This book
introduces students to many remarkable women, who organized
religious and political movements, fought in anti-colonial wars, ran
away to escape arranged marriages, and during the 1990s began
successful campaigns for gender parity in national legislatures.”

Feldman-Savelsberg, Pamela. Mothers on the Move: Reproducing
Belonging Between Africa and Europe, 2016. “[The author”takes
readers back and forth between Cameroon and Germany to explore how
migrant mothers—through the careful and at times difficult
management of relationships—juggle belonging in multiple places at
once: their new country, their old country, and the diasporic
community that bridges them.”

Hunt, Swanee. Rwandan Women Rising. Durham, N.C.: Duke University
Press, 2017. “[The author] shares the stories of some seventy
women—heralded activists and unsung heroes alike—who overcame
unfathomable brutality, unrecoverable loss, and unending challenges
to rebuild Rwandan society.”

Mgbako, Chi Adanna. To Live Freely in This World: Sex Worker
Activism in Africa, 2016. “Well-written and elegant, Mgbako’s
research reveals the rise of African sex work activism and the
ongoing trials and tribulations of organizing in the face of
economic, social, and political adversity.” – Aziza
Ahmed,Northeastern University

Rhine, Kathryn A. The Unseen Things: Women, Secrecy, and HIV in
Northern Nigeria, 2016. “The book is especially innovative in its
rich detail about desire, pleasure and love, and the strategies men
and women use to reconstitute relationships after testing positive
for HIV.” – Carolyn Sargent, Washington University in St. Louis

Scully, Pamela. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf (Ohio Short Histories of
Africa), 2016. “A clear and concise introduction to the woman and to
the domestic and international politics that have shaped her
personally and professionally.” —Peace A. Medie, University of Ghana

Sylvanus, Nina. Patterns in Circulation: Cloth, Gender, and
Materiality in West Africa, 2016. “[The author] tells a captivating
story of global trade and cross-cultural aesthetics in West Africa,
showing how a group of Togolese women—through the making and
circulation of wax cloth—became influential agents of taste and

Books, 2015

Galawdewos, Wendy Laura Belcher, and Michael Kleiner. The Life and
Struggles of Our Mother Walatta Petros: A Seventeenth-Century
African Biography of an Ethiopian Woman, 2015.
“This is the first English translation of the earliest-known book-
length biography of an African woman, and one of the few lives of an
African woman written by Africans before the nineteenth century.”


AfricaFocus Bulletin is an independent electronic publication
providing reposted commentary and analysis on African issues, with a
particular focus on U.S. and international policies. AfricaFocus
Bulletin is edited by William Minter.

AfricaFocus Bulletin can be reached at Please
write to this address to suggest material for inclusion. For more information about reposted material, please contact directly the original source mentioned. For a full archive and other resources, see

South Africa: Rising Outcry for Zuma to Go
| April 3, 2017 | 8:10 pm | Africa | No comments

AfricaFocus Bulletin
April 3, 2017 (170403)
(Reposted from sources cited below)

Editor’s Note

“We call on Ministers and leaders of the ANC who care about the
future of democracy and the Constitution to speak up and call on the
President, in the best interests of the country, to step down. We
call on the parliamentary leadership of the ANC, supported by all
opposition parties, to insist that parliament be recalled
immediately to debate a motion of no-confidence, proposed by the ANC
leadership in parliament. We call on all members of Parliament to
unite and support a motion of no-confidence.” – Statement by the
Nelson Mandela Foundation and the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation, March
31, 2017

For a version of this Bulletin in html format, more suitable for
printing, go to, and
click on “format for print or mobile.”

To share this on Facebook, click on

The outcome is uncertain. But political observers are unanimous that
the events of last week mark a dramatic public display of lack of
confidence in South African President Jacob Zuma, including within
the highest ranks of the ruling African National Congress. First
came the death of highly respected and beloved liberation icon Ahmed
Kathrada, one of those closest to Nelson Mandela in prison and in
struggle. This was followed within days by a unilateral cabinet
reshuffle by President Zuma, including the ouster of Treasury
officials seen as the major barrier to further expansion of
corruption and patronage by Zuma and his allies.

This AfricaFocus Bulletin contains (1) the March 31 statement by the
Nelson Mandela Foundation and the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation, (2) the
short remarks by Kathrada’s widow Barbara Hogan, herself a political
prisoner under apartheid, who served with distinction as Health
Minister in a decisive phase of the battle against HIV/AIDS, and (3)
an article noting the potential impact of the cabinet reshuffle on a
contested nuclear power deal with Russia, one of many points at
which corruption in the Zuma administration has intersected with
energy policy.

Several additional articles of related interest from the South
Africa press include:

“Stakes for South Africa’s democracy are high as Zuma plunges the
knife,” The Conversation, March 31, 2017

“Steven Friedman on What SA Can Do to Get Rid of Zuma,” Daily Vox,
April 1, 2017

“Reporter’s Notebook: The Day South Africa woke-up,” Daily Maverick,
April 1, 2017

“Isolated Zuma faces revolt over Pravin Gordhan’s axing,” Sunday
Times, April 2, 2017

“‘Choose between Zuma or country’ – SACP dares ANC,”
eNCA, April 2, 2017

For previous AfricaFocus Bulletins on South Africa, visit

In particular, see
“South Africa: State Capture & Energy Policy”

++++++++++++++++++++++end editor’s note+++++++++++++++++

Media Statement: Honour Kathrada, defend our democracy

Nelson Mandela Foundation and Ahmed Kathrada Foundation

March 31, 2017

The Ahmed Kathrada Foundation and Nelson Mandela Foundation are
shocked and deeply saddened by the unilateral announcement by the
Presidency that the memorial service in honour of the late Ahmed
Mohamed Kathrada has been postponed indefinitely. This decision was
without any consultation with his wife Barbara Hogan, the Kathrada
family, and the Kathrada Foundation.

We view this conduct by the President, on the anniversary of the
humble letter written to him exactly one year ago, by our beloved
Isithwalandwe comrade Kathrada, as totally unacceptable. The
memorial service would have been the ideal opportunity for the state
to pay tribute to the memory of Ahmed Kathrada. For three quarters
of a century Ahmed Kathrada, a revolutionary, selflessly sacrificed
his life in the interests of the people. He has deservedly taken his
rightful place alongside the many giants of our democratic
revolution; a symbol who people here and abroad have come to love
and adore.

Ahmed Kathrada passed away in the early hours of Tuesday morning, 28
March, and on Wednesday at his funeral, people gathered from all
walks of life, young and old, men and women, including stalwarts in
their numbers, to name a few:

* Graca Machel and Winnie Madikizela-Mandela
* The surviving Rivonia trialists Andrew Mlangeni and Dennis
* The last surviving leader of the 1956 Women’s March Sophie
Williams De Bruyn
* The life-long friend of Ahmed Kathrada, Laloo Chiba, who together
with others spent time with him on Robben Island
* Members of the Sisulu and Tambo families
* George Bizos
* Former speakers of the National Assembly, Frene Ginwala and Max
* Former Presidents Mbeki and Motlanthe
* Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa
* Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng
* Religious leaders from all faith communities
* Leaders of all sectors of business, labour and civil society.

In addition to our dismay at the indefinite postponement of the
official memorial in honour of comrade Kathrada tomorrow, we have
awoken to the news this morning that five ministers and three deputy
ministers have been removed from office. They include Minister
Pravin Gordhan and his deputy Mcebisi Jonas, who have worked
tirelessly to stabilise our economy in the face of self-induced
political instability. They and others, in our view, have been
removed for protecting the country from corruption and looting, and
speaking truth to power. They were not even shown the courtesy of
being informed of their removal and they learnt of their removal
through the media. This decision of the President, using
presidential prerogative and, as we have learnt, without the support
of the Deputy President or the Secretary General of the African
National Congress, follows on the heels of

* the decision of the Constitutional Court in the disastrous SASSA
debacle around the continuation of payment of social grants

* the SABC debacle where the recommendations of parliament were
largely ignored

* South Africa being summoned to the Hague to explain the violation
of its obligations at the International Criminal Court

* The President joining a court application by the Minister of
Finance that attempts to interfere with our financial institutions.

We are angered and outraged by the choices, and the consequences, of
the decision of the President, including retaining ministers who
have been found glaringly wanting in executing their
responsibilities, and putting narrow interests ahead of the interest
of our country and its people. Contrary to the populist narrative
that the President is furthering an agenda of radical economic
transformation, the opposite is true. The consequences of last
night’s announcement have the dramatic result that our scarce
resources will be diverted to servicing debt and irrational
procurement decisions, rather than delivery of services.

The Foundations call on the leaders and ordinary members of the
African National Congress (ANC) across the country, leaders and
members of the liberation movements and progressive civil society
formations to build a new consensus that brings together all South
Africans demanding accountability and ethical governance.

We call on Ministers and leaders of the ANC who care about the
future of democracy and the Constitution to speak up and call on the
President, in the best interests of the country, to step down.

We call on the parliamentary leadership of the ANC, supported by all
opposition parties, to insist that parliament be recalled
immediately to debate a motion of no-confidence, proposed by the ANC
leadership in parliament. We call on all members of Parliament to
unite and support a motion of no-confidence.

We call on the people of South Africa in their mass formations to
take to the streets and to make their views known. We support the
rallying calls resounding across South Africa for all South African
citizens to make their voices heard and take action to safeguard the
future of all our children.:

“The people united will never be defeated!”

“Our Country is not for sale!”


Statement by Barbara Hogan at Kathrada memorial service, April 1,

For video of the 7-minute statement, see

“I’d like to pay a special tribute to the Kathrada family, who are
sitting here with us at the moment. We felt, both myself and the
Kathrada family, that when Mr K was buried on Wednesday it was one
of the most fitting tributes, in the style and traditions of our
mass democratic movement, that Mr K could ever have been given. And
so the enormous spirit that engulfed the country at the time of his
passing and his funeral was both calming and comforting, and gave us
inspiration about the fighting spirit of our country.

“We welcomed a commemoration service hosted by the Presidency
because that is what is befitting of a giant of our country. But let
me say that last night, when the news began to filter through, about
the dastardly deeds that were being done in dark corners, many of us
in the family began to have second doubts whether we would want a
commemoration under the auspices of a president who has clearly gone
rogue. Who has clearly defied his own party. You have a deputy
president saying, clearly and forthrightly today, that the removal
of the finance minister and his deputy was based on a dubious
intelligence report. You have the secretary-general of the ANC
saying loudly and clearly: the list of ministers who are to be
replaced did not come from the ANC, it came from another side.

“What does that mean to us? It means that the president is not
applying his mind in making a decision about one of the most
critical issues in our country, and that is a decision about a team
of people who are going to lead our country. Surely that is an
indictment on the president, when his own party is rejecting him.
His own party rejects what he has done. If this is not a defining
moment in our country, nothing will ever be a defining moment.

“Looking to citizens of our country, I think all of us are utterly
dismayed. We live in this country, we love this country and we have
hopes. The majority of people live desperate lives of poverty and
marginalisation. That a president can think to withdraw a finance
minister and his deputy from an incredibly important international
roadshow, to think that he thinks he could just do that and there is
no consequences for the poor, shows what an inept president we have.

“For the ordinary citizens of this country, it is time for your
voices to be heard. This is not a time for petty differences amongst
us to divide us. Our sworn enemies – and we all have our little
fights in the progressive movement – can no longer be enemies. We
have to form a broad, mass democratic alliance here to take on the
forces of evil, and the rogues, and the thieves who want to steal
our country from us. We need to say to people that if there are ANC
councillors in their ward, they need to call that councillor and ask
them what they are doing. You can no longer say, ‘Oh, that’s another
sphere of government.’ You represent the ANC, you’ve got to be
accountable. We need to say to people, ‘call on your ANC MPLs. Ask
them what they’re doing.’ And your MPs as well. Call your MPs. When
they were sworn in as MPs and MPLs, they swore an oath to the

“Party loyalty is important, but when we are in as grave a situation
as we are in today, the Constitution that we love and fought for,
must take precedence over any lingering notion that party loyalty is
above anything. I do not say this lightly. As Kathy said in his
letter to the president, he remained silent even though there were
many things that worried him. ‘But,’ he said, ‘there is a moment in
which you have to break the silence.’ And this is the moment in
which ANC MPs sitting in Parliament need to look into themselves and
ask, ‘what is the constitutional duty that is imposed upon us in
terms of this Constitution?’

“There are two clauses around the Presidency in this Constitution
which deal with a president that is not behaving presidentially. The
Constitution provides a basis for remedying that fact. This is not
silly issues of factional battles in the ANC, these are greater and
grander projects about the accountability of our leadership to the
rank-and-file of our people. And so I call on everyone here not to
remain silent, not to sit on the fence and not to remain looking
after your own narrow, self-interest. The country needs to be taken
back. A country united is never divided. And this country is not for
sale. Thank you.”


Zuma’s cabinet reshuffle opens the door for nuclear deal in South

March 31, 2017

Hartmut Winkler, Professor of Physics, University of Johannesburg

South Africa has just witnessed a game changing cabinet reshuffle
with the firing of five ministers and several deputy ministers. This
included the Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan and his second-in-
charge Mcebisi Jonas.

The three ministries with the most critical impact on the energy
sector have all been affected, significantly increasing the chances
of the country opting for a highly controversial nuclear energy

In the energy portfolio, former minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson has
been replaced by cabinet newcomer Nkhensani Kubayi. The minister’s
removal might have been driven by her recent passivity around the
nuclear build. The second ministry affected is Public Enterprises,
which supervises the state electricity utility Eskom, and has a new
deputy minister.

But the most crucial change is in the National Treasury which is now
in the hands of two perceived Zuma loyalists. Malusi Gigaba, former
home affairs minister, is the new finance minister and Sifiso
Buthelezi his deputy.

Former finance minister Gordhan had been under particularly severe
attack from Zuma supporters for his reluctance to endorse excessive
expenditure demands. He was viewed as a stumbling block by those
that stood to benefit from mega-projects. The biggest of these is
the R1 trillion nuclear new build.

The cabinet reshuffle can therefore be viewed as a desperate bid by
the Zuma faction, and associated beneficiaries such as the Gupta
family, to drive the pro-nuclear agenda. The expectation is that the
nuclear procurement plan will now receive the National Treasury’s
blessing and will be given the go-ahead. This is despite the
dangerous financial burden it would impose on the country, and the
massive resultant debt repayment obligations.

Nuclear versus renewable debate

When the plan to develop a 9.6 GW nuclear production capability was
first mooted in 2011, it didn’t seem to be a particularly bad idea.
But the scheme rapidly became controversial. The Russian nuclear
industry with businesses linked to a faction within the ANC started
to exert excessive influence on key people in government, and Zuma
in particular, to force through the nuclear build. The faction was
most visibly represented by “tenderpreneurs” – business people who
enrich themselves through government tenders, often dubiously.

The pro-nuclear lobby soon began to attack on a second front,
directing their energies at South Africa’s burgeoning renewable
energy industry. The country could rightfully boast that its
renewable energy programme, started in 2012, was hugely successful.
Driven by the Department of Energy, it had seen multiple medium-
scale wind and solar energy farms springing up all around South

These early successes led to academic studies as well as the
country’s 2016 draft Integrated Resource Plan for Electricity
recognising the renewable energy potential. They concluded that the
country could be energy self-sufficient without nuclear for at least
the next 20 years.

But in a surprise move last year Eskom announced that it would no
longer sign electricity purchase agreements with independent power
producers. This threatened to squash nascent renewable enterprises,
which rely on Eskom for their power distribution.

The peculiar objection raised was that the electricity distributor
couldn’t afford the long-term purchase of renewable energy. These
concerns were voiced by former Eskom CEO, Brian Molefe, who
subsequently resigned after compromising allegations were made
against him, as well as his successor, Matshela Koko.

Their argument appeared to be based on the comparatively high feed-
in tariffs of R2.60/kWh from the earliest round of solar power
station contracts. They chose not to consider that the renewable
energy plants in planning or under construction would be delivering
power to Eskom at approximately R0.78/kWh. This is cheaper than
current electricity production from coal. It’s also much cheaper
than the projected cost of nuclear energy once loan repayments and
decommissioning costs are factored in.

A desperate bid

South Africans should expect a massive public relations campaign
claiming that the massive investment in nuclear will repay itself in
the long term. Another fallacious key narrative that’s likely to be
pushed very hard is that there are “base load” requirements that
other energy sources cannot address.

It’s also now more likely that the final version of the 2016 energy
plan, due at the end of March, will be modified to propose an
immediate need for nuclear.

The nuclear versus renewable debate has become visibly entangled in
the country’s political machinations. This means that it’s highly
improbable that the majority of South Africans would ever support
the nuclear option. The contest for control of the government is
already leading to street protests and the threatened impeachment of
the president.

There’s no doubt that attempts to build nuclear plants will be
challenged by all sectors of society.

Taking a longer term view, it’s not to be expected that the
construction projects, which typically take a decade or even longer
to come to fruition, will see completion. The projects may well have
to be cancelled, as happened in Austria in 1978.

The new more malleable finance minister may also find it hard to
effect an expensive undertaking particularly given the massive
demands for funds from other sectors such as education and social
welfare. The expected rating downgrade could also lead to vastly
increased borrowing costs.

South Africa’s energy sector is perhaps at its most fluid and
unpredictable stage it’s ever been in.


AfricaFocus Bulletin is an independent electronic publication
providing reposted commentary and analysis on African issues, with a
particular focus on U.S. and international policies. AfricaFocus
Bulletin is edited by William Minter.

AfricaFocus Bulletin can be reached at Please
write to this address to subscribe or unsubscribe to the bulletin,
or to suggest material for inclusion. For more information about
reposted material, please contact directly the original source
mentioned. For a full archive and other resources, see

Liberia: Mining, Displacement, and the World Bank
| March 28, 2017 | 11:46 am | Africa | No comments

AfricaFocus Bulletin
March 28, 2017 (170328)
(Reposted from sources cited below)

Editor’s Note

“The roots of the New Liberty Gold project stretch back before 1995,
when a resource extraction license was issued by former warlord
turned president Charles Taylor to a mysterious company called
KAFCO. The permit changed hands a few times and, today, Avesoro holds its
permit via a wholly-owned subsidiary, Bea Mountain Mining Corp – a
company created in 1996 by Keikurah B. Kpoto, one of Taylor’s
closest associates.  In 1998, foreign interests bought Bea Mountain
Mining. The beneficiaries of the sale were well hidden. According to
a document IRIN procured, three quarters of its capital belonged to
a company incorporated in the British Virgin Islands. The rest was
held by owners of bearer shares.” – IRIN investigative report, March
21, 2017

For a version of this Bulletin in html format, more suitable for
printing, go to, and
click on “format for print or mobile.”

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This investigative report on the largest gold mine in Liberia begins
with the mining company’s failure to reimburse displaced Liberians,
and the World Bank’s failure to hold them to account. But the lack
of accountability extends to basic questions about the ownership of
the company and the use of tax havens. As such, it is one striking
illustration of what seem to be pervasive characteristics of
projects financed by the IFC, the World Bank’s arm for working with
private sector companies.

This AfricaFocus Bulletin contains two short articles by journalists
who have been investigating the project, and a short press release
from Oxfam on a study of IFC projects last year.

For previous AfricaFocus Bulletins on Liberia, visit

For previous AfricaFocus Bulletins on economic development issues,

++++++++++++++++++++++end editor’s note+++++++++++++++++

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How a gold mine has brought only misery in Liberia

Emmanuel Freudenthal and Alloycious David

Kinjor, Liberia, 21 March 2017

(This investigative report is being jointly published by
100Reporters, IRIN and Le Monde Afrique. 100Reporters is an award-
winning investigative news organisation based in Washington, DC. Its
objective is to reveal untold stories on corruption, transparency
and accountability. IRIN delivers unique, authoritative and
independent reporting from the front lines of crises to inspire and
produce a more effective humanitarian response. Le Monde Afrique is
a pan-African francophone media for news, reporting, analysis and

[Article in French available at]

The maths was merciless. Siah (name changed) had the equivalent of
$5 in her pocket but needed $15 to treat her youngest son Joseph’s
malaria. She had travelled an hour to the nearest clinic only to
discover she couldn’t afford the medicine. Joseph died that day, as
she cradled him in her arms.

Siah lives in Kinjor, a small town in the lush forests of western
Liberia. Just a few steps from her home, Liberia’s largest
commercial gold mine, New Liberty Gold, plans to dig out a billion
dollars-worth of the precious metal.

The Liberian government and its multilateral funding partners see
commercial mining as a path to development in a country still
recovering from the impact of 11 years of civil war.

Under the law, communities are obliged to give up their land rights
and move, in return for compensation. But IRIN’s months-long
investigation can reveal that financial reward isn’t always
forthcoming from the foreign mining operations.

To make way for New Liberty Gold, 325 families in two villages,
Kinjor and Larjor, had to abandon their homes, farms, and artisanal
mines that had provided some income. In return for their move to a
new village, also named Kinjor, and carved out of the forest near
the mine, the company promised to make life better: new houses, a
school, hand pumps – and what could have made all the difference to
Joseph – a clinic.

Construction began on the mine in 2014, and the first gold sales
came a year later. Even though the company describes the operation
as a “key asset”, the promised better amenities are yet to
materialise years later, and there has already been one major
chemical spill that has polluted the environment.

New Liberty Gold has the backing of the World Bank’s International
Finance Corporation, which since 2014 invested $19 million and
became a key shareholder. That support was predicated on a 155-page
Resettlement Action Plan by the company, which listed its planned
$3.9 million investments in the new Kinjor.

During the IFC board meeting that approved the mining project, the
US delegate formally raised “serious concerns” regarding “the
environmental and social risks posed”. The US urged the IFC “to work
with the company to ensure that all appropriate funds are set aside
for this [resettlement] plan”.

A history of displacement

Projects funded by the World Bank have displaced more than three
million people between 2004 and 2013 in 124 countries, according to
data published by the International Consortium of Investigative
Journalists (  Those
shortcomings were acknowledged by Bank president Jim Yong Kim in
2015, after an internal review found “major problems” that caused
him “deep concern”.

But the Bank and the IFC do not appear to have held New Liberty Gold
accountable for failing to meet its basic obligations, despite a
commitment made by the IFC on its website to help the company
“implement best practice standards” in Kinjor.

“I’m really disappointed to say that [this case] is one amongst
many,” said Jessica Evans, a senior researcher at Human Rights
Watch. “We’ve seen time after time serious failings by the World
Bank and the IFC when it comes to resettlement.”

That is little comfort for Siah. Outside a neighbour’s house in
Kinjor, she fought back the tears to speak about her son’s death.
Her voice rose in anger when she listed the failings of New Liberty
Gold: “no hospital here, no safe drinking water”.

“There are toilets right next to the water pump. It makes us sick,”
she added. “We are suffering.”

The owner of the mine, Avesoro Resources Inc. (previously called
Aureus Mining), has built a school and installed some water pumps.
But the rest of the action plan, the compensation due for uprooting
people against their will, remains little more than a wish list.

Still waiting

Controversy at mining projects like New Liberty Gold is not new in
Liberia. For nearly 100 years, natural resource extraction – from
rubber to minerals – has been steeped in violence and corruption.
Opaque investments carry a tremendous risk in the context of such a
fragile state as Liberia.

In one of Kinjor’s narrow alleys flanked by mud huts, Yarpawolo
Gblan, an old man in a faded black polo shirt, stepped forward: “Are
you a journalist? Come and see my house!”

We sat on a bench, our backs to the wooden wall of a hut scrawled
with the phone numbers of Gblan’s children. Three years ago, Avesoro
had forced him to move from what had been his home for a decade,
into “temporary” accommodation, to make way for the mining project.

The huts the company provided have just two small rooms: not nearly
big enough to house Gblan’s family of eight. He extended the
original structure as best he could, using his own resources.

The huts were meant to be a stopgap measure, until the displaced
families could move into 325 “improved houses” promised by the
company. The unfinished shells of those houses stand in ordered
rows, just a few hundred metres away.

But construction stopped longer than a year ago. Weeds now grow
between the brick walls, and slimy bright-green algae thrive in
puddles fed by rain falling through where roofs should be.

The company man

Half a day’s drive from Kinjor, in a wealthy suburb of Liberia’s
capital, Monrovia, a striking white-walled villa serves as the
headquarters of New Liberty Gold.

Debar Allen is the company’s general manager, a physically imposing
man who fills his generously appointed office. From behind a large
wooden desk, he explained in a calm baritone that people like Gblan,
who were supposed to have been resettled, “do not want to move from
where they are”.

He offered two reasons for the construction delay: the need “to get
going with the mining project because we were running out of funds”,
and the desire of those being resettled to build their own permanent
houses where they are now. “Rather than bringing contractors from
Monrovia, we have to team up with them,” he said.

The World Bank, via email, offered a different explanation. With
“the Ebola outbreak, the company faced significant construction
delays. As a consequence, the project experienced some significant
challenges that impacted its financial/cash flow position.”

The result was that “the full implementation of several aspects of
the project had to be postponed, and some of the permanent houses
have not yet been completed.”

But in February 2015, the IFC provided a $5.3 million cash injection
for New Liberty Gold to help the company “cope with additional
costs” as a result of the Ebola outbreak, and to “support the
company’s ongoing work in Liberia”.

In reality, the company should have finished the resettlement houses
several months before Ebola hit Liberia. Moreover, the outbreak was
brought under control more than 18 months ago, yet the new housing
construction will not be completed any time soon.

Allen explained: “We signed with the [local] leaders a memorandum of
understanding that postpones the completion to the end of next
year”. That means December 2017.

Community representatives told IRIN that the company had asked them
to sign numerous times, accepting the new deadline, and that they
eventually gave in. They had reasoned that whether they signed or
not, the houses would not be built any faster.

The World Bank did not reply to IRIN’s requests for more details on
the resettlement timeline and the mine’s failure to make good on its
promises to the community.

Dead fish and rashes

In March 2016, an accident at New Liberty Gold mine released cyanide
and arsenic, byproducts of the mining process, into a nearby river
that serves villages downstream. In Jikando, where people use its
water to fish, bath and wash clothes, they began to see dead fish
floating. Soon, they started developing skin rashes themselves.

A slim teenager lifted his t-shirt to show a rash he has had since
shortly after the spill. He told IRIN it still itched but said: “it
doesn’t worry me all the time”. Several mothers confirmed their
children were still afflicted by similar rashes. No medical tests
have been conducted on villagers who’ve reported similar effects.

Avesoro’s Allen said the company found out about the leak in April,
after a phone call from the local chief in Jikando. He noted that
the company now regularly delivers frozen fish to replace the
poisoned ones, as the community’s “source of protein was from the

On 14 April, shortly after the leak, the Liberian Environmental
Protection Agency fined the company. On 10 May, Avesoro publicly
disclosed the spill to shareholders, stating that its
“investigations to date indicate no adverse impact on any human

It’s difficult to pin responsibility for the mine’s failures on any
individual because it’s hard to identify the successive true owners
of New Liberty Gold. Aureus is part of a long list of shell
companies named in the Panama Papers leak, many of them registered
in opaque jurisdictions.

The latest twist in the ownership trail came at the end of 2016 when
MNG Gold, headquartered in Turkey, took over Aureus and changed its
name to Avesoro Resources Inc.

The warlord

Investing in companies with complex ownership is not unusual for the
IFC. A recent report by Oxfam found that 84 percent of the IFC’s
investments in sub-Saharan Africa in 2015 used “secrecy”

But the roots of the New Liberty Gold project stretch back before
1995, when a resource extraction license was issued by former
warlord turned president Charles Taylor to a mysterious company
called KAFCO.

The permit changed hands a few times and, today, Avesoro holds its
permit via a wholly-owned subsidiary, Bea Mountain Mining Corp – a
company created in 1996 by Keikurah B. Kpoto, one of Taylor’s
closest associates.

The exploitation of Liberia’s gold and diamonds allowed Taylor,
convicted of war crimes and crimes against humanity by the
International Criminal Court in 2012 and now serving a 50-year
prison sentence in the UK, to fund his war effort.

In 1998, foreign interests bought Bea Mountain Mining. The
beneficiaries of the sale were well hidden. According to a document
IRIN procured, three quarters of its capital belonged to a company
incorporated in the British Virgin Islands. The rest was held by
owners of bearer shares.

Bearer shares are the vehicles of choice for the corrupt because
they are owned by whoever holds the paper certificates, just like
cash. There is no trace of their owner in company records and they
can easily become covert payments for pretty much anything.

The World Bank nevertheless wrote that it had undertaken due
diligence on New Liberty Gold, an investigation that included
“desktop reviews, several meetings with Aureus management and a site

Over the past decade, the IFC has spent more than $200 million on
projects like New Liberty Gold. It has a seemingly unshakable faith
that commercial mining can deliver development that will trickle
down to communities like Kinjor.

As for Siah: Her last-born is now buried. If she once believed the
promises of New Liberty Gold, that is certainly no longer the case.
“The company is doing nothing for us,” she told IRIN. “If the
company had built a hospital here, [his death] would not have


Aureus Mining: A Promise Betrayed; World Bank Funded Project Dashed

Monrovia – Liberia’s first industrial gold mine failed to hold its
promises, dashing the hopes of local residents of Cape Mount County.

Report by  Alloycious David and Emmanuel Freudenthal

FrontPage Africa, March 20, 2017

[Emmanuel Freudenthal is a freelance reporter investigating
businesses in Africa, while Alloycious David is an award winning
Liberian investigative journalist]

Contrary to President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf’s assurance that the New
Liberty Gold Mine will positively impact the lives of Liberians, the
325 families displaced by the mine have not yet moved into the
houses they had been promised.

The World Bank injected over US$ 19 million into the project with
the aim of bettering the lives of Liberians.

The houses should have been finished three years ago and now lie in
ruins, overtaken by grass. In the resettled town, called Kinjor,
residents still live in the inadequate structures that were meant to
host them temporarily.

There is no sign that their construction works will resume soon.

The company in charge of the project, Aureus Mining, now renamed
Avesoro, has also failed to construct a health post in Kinjor, as
required in an agreement between local residents and the company,
known as the ‘Resettlement Action Plan’.

Residents claimed that the absence of a health center is
contributing to untimely deaths.

Residents also complained that they did not receive adequate
compensation for the crops they lost when their farms were destroyed
to make way for the mine.

Gbaley Dorley, 32, alleged that his farm was completely destroyed by
the company. In exchange, he got less than a hundred United States
dollars in compensation for the cassava, coconut, and pineapple he

Another problem being experienced in Kinjor is safe drinking water.

Residents said the community, has less than five functional hand
pumps and that many of them do not work during the dry season.

The company’s operations, according to some residents poses health
hazard. Kulah Dassin, a 36-year-old mother of eight explained that
in March 2015, the company polluted their river with cyanide, which
killed all the fish.

The children, who usually bath and wash in the river, suffered from
rashes, which look like ringworm, she said.

Dassin disclosed that the application of traditional medicine has
helped to cure the rash, but that it is still visible on children.

The Town Chief of Jikandoh, called Pa Jimmy, corroborated that
hundreds of fish died, and related “I immediately placed a call to
the company’s management when we noticed that the fish were dying.”

Pa Jimmy explained that Debar Allen, the company’s manager, and a
team came quickly to collect water samples in the river and took
some of the dead fish back to their office.

Debar Allen, admitted that the company accidentally dumped cyanide
in the river but said the company has taken action to advert the

The company’s General Manager instructed them to stop using the

In restitution for the pollution of their river, Aureus Mining
constructed two hand pumps to provide community members with safe
drinking water.

The company is compensating residents by providing them with cartons
of fish.

Although, the company or the Liberia Ministry of Health has not
provided official statement on the safety of the river, and no one
was examined by a doctor, community members have resumed bathing and
washing their clothes in the river.

The Liberia Environmental Protection Agency attempted to investigate
the leak, but said that the company obstructed its investigation,
which led to a US$ 10,000 fine for the company.

Allen further stated that construction work on the houses were
halted to focus more on the mining, because the company was running
out of funding, but contradicted himself and said individuals
resettled in new Kinjor were satisfied with where they staying and
that the company was thinking about what to do with the units when
they are completed.

The company’s ownership remains sealed in secrecy, Aureus Mining is
part of several shell companies registered in secrecy jurisdictions
and named in the Panama Papers.

The NEWS also unearthed that it has links to former President
Charles Taylor, who is currently serving a 50 year jail sentence for
war crimes committed in neighboring Sierra Leone.

Taylor’s former associate, the late Senator Keikurah B. Kpoto
created the Liberian subsidiary of Aureus Mining, the Bea Mountain
Mining Corp. This company was given a mining license under Taylor’s

The World Bank and Aureus Mining failed to provide information on
inquire whether Taylor’s associates or some of his ex-officials
still hold shares in New Liberty Gold Mine and whether they are
aware that the project had link with Taylor.

Aureus Mining has not only failed to meet the aims for which the
World Bank infused over US$ 19 million into New Liberty Gold Mine,
but has created more sufferings, inflict pains and enriched
shareholders at the detriment of Liberia.

Via email, the bank disclosed that it conducted desktop review of
the project and held several meeting with Aureus Mining, but refused
to provide further information, because it entered a confidentiality
agreement with the company that prevents it from providing more
information on the project.


84% of World Bank’s private investments in Sub-Saharan Africa go to
companies using tax havens

Oxfam International

11th Apr 2016

Fifty-one of the 68 companies that were lent money by the World
Bank’s private lending arm in 2015 to finance investments in sub-
Saharan Africa use tax havens, Oxfam revealed today.

Oxfam’s new analysis focused on International Finance Corporation’s
(IFC) investments in Sub-Saharan Africa. It shows that together
these 51 companies, whose use of tax havens has no apparent link
with their core business, received 84 percent of IFC investments in
that region in 2015. It also reveals that the IFC has more than
doubled its investments in companies that use tax havens in just
five years – from $1.2billion in 2010 to $2.87billion in 2015.

The findings come ahead of the annual IMF-World Bank Spring meetings
starting on Wednesday in Washington DC, and in the wake of the
Panama Papers scandal which revealed how powerful individuals and
companies are using tax havens to hide wealth and dodge taxes. The
issue of tax havens is also expected to be high on the agenda at the
UK government’s Anti-Corruption Summit in London next month.

In Oxfam’s study, the most popular haven for IFC’s corporate clients
was Mauritius; 40 percent of IFC’s clients investing in Sub-Saharan
Africa have links there. Mauritius is known to facilitate “round-
tripping.” This is where a company shifts money offshore before
returning it disguised as foreign direct investment, which attracts
tax breaks and other financial incentives.

Sub-Saharan Africa is the poorest region in the world. It
desperately needs corporate tax revenues to invest in public
services and infrastructure. For example, the region lacks money to
provide enough skilled birth attendants, clean water or mosquito
nets, resulting in high rates of child mortality; one child in 12
dies before their fifth birthday.

Oxfam’s Head of Inequality, Nick Bryer, said: “It’s crazy to be
giving with one hand and taking away with another – the UK
government donates to the World Bank to encourage development, but
by allowing investments in tax havens the World Bank’s lending arm
is ultimately depriving poor countries of much-needed revenues to
fight poverty and inequality.”

“The World Bank Group should not risk funding companies that are
dodging taxes in Sub-Saharan Africa and across the globe. It needs
to put safeguards in place to ensure that its clients can prove they
are paying their fair share of tax.”

The IFC invested more than $86billion of public money in developing
countries between 2010 and 2015; 18.6 percent of it spent in Sub-
Saharan Africa. The IFC has a significant focus on financial
markets, infrastructure, agribusiness and forestry, among other

While the IFC arguably leads the private sector with its disclosure,
environmental and social standards, the public still has no access
to information about where over half of the institution’s financing
ends up, because it is done through opaque financial intermediaries.
It also continues to face major challenges in measuring its overall
development impact, and ensuring that the projects it funds do not
harm local communities. This latest Oxfam research shows that the
organisation also has a long way to go in ensuring that its clients
are responsible tax payers.

Oxfam is calling for the IFC to develop new standards to ensure it
only invests in companies that have responsible corporate tax
practices. For example, companies should be transparent about their
economic activities so it is clear if they are paying their fair
share of tax where they do business.

The international agency is also calling on David Cameron to show
strong leadership in tackling tax havens, beginning by intervening
to ensure that the UK’s Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies
publish public registers revealing the true owners of companies
based there, ahead of the Anti-Corruption Summit in May.

Oxfam is urging the World Bank and IMF to work with governments
around the world to further reform the international tax system and
help prevent tax dodging by wealthy individuals and companies,
including action to end the era of tax havens. Tax dodging using tax
havens is estimated to cost poor countries $100billion in lost
revenues every year.


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