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Blogging Africa

Coltan, cash and oil

Sokari Ekine

2009-12-04, Issue 460

http://pambazuka.org/en/category/blog/60764

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The rich are swindling the poor in the DRC and Zimbabwe, and no one seems to be in charge of a rudderless Nigeria, writes Sokari Ekine in this week’s roundup of the African blogosphere.

The demand for the mineral coltan, 80 per cent of which is in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), continues to fuel the conflict in the DRC. Various rebel groups control the mines and according to a recent article (an excellent detailed resource and who’s who in the country by Robert Miller in Znet), many of the multinationals operating in the region are British. The one country missing at present is China, but not for long as Friends of Congo explain.

Friends of the Congo reports on a ‘deal’ sanctioned by the IMF between the DRC and Chinese governments. FOC believe the deal – which is a swap of minerals for infrastructure – will keep the DRC ‘impoverished for a generation or more to come:

‘Stated Benefit to Congo:
4,000 KM road network
3,200 KM Rail system
31 Hospitals with 135 beds each
145 Health Centers with 50 beds each
49 clean water distribution centers
4 large universities
A Parliament building

Stated Benefit to China:
10.6 million tons of copper and 626,619 tons of cobalt

Year concessions expected to come into production: 2013.’

The ‘deal’ runs alongside a debt relief plan by the ‘Paris Club’ (the DRC are not even present at the meetings), which would cancel between US$5 and $7 billion debt. This might seem a positive move until you unpack the small print ,which hopes the debt cancellation will enable the DRC to undertake even more loans and attract more foreign investment – with the continued exploitation of the country’s resources in the interest of foreign multinationals rather than the Congolese people.

Sokwanele reports on corruption in high places as rumours of a scam around the production of Zimbabwe dollars are circulating the country. The scam is that huge amounts of old Zimbabwe dollars are being produced and deposited in bank accounts waiting for the announcement of reimbursements which will then exchange the old Zimbabwean currency for the US dollar.

‘Currency manipulation wouldn’t be a new trick in their books and their past antics explain why Zimbabweans are so suspicious of them. Prior to dollarisation Gono and Co. had access to lots and lots of Zimbabwe dollars (while ordinary people had to queue for days and days at the banks to get their hands on a few notes at a time) and they also had access to foreign currency at a very favourable government rate. What they did was buy up foreign currency at a low rate, and then sell it on the streets at a much higher rate for a lot more Zim dollars, and then roll those Zim dollars into buying more currency which they would sell again, rapidly (and I mean rapidly!) enriching themselves.’


Thy Glory O Nigeria is presently without a leader as President Yar’adua is once again off sick in Saudi Arabia. It seems that Yar’adu forgot or refused to hand over power to his deputy Vice President Goodluck Jonathan who appears to be asleep amidst calls for his resignation. Glory wonders why the people of Nigeria are not out on the street in massive protests over this state of affairs for a leader who was not even elected in the first place:

‘The men and women who pretend to be in the national assembly are too busy with personal interests and political survival that they do not see or realise how USELESS they have become in their own existence. If they are not useless what are they still doing when Nigeria with a population of over 140m has no legal president? Their own personal individual emergence continues to haunt them and they know that trying to do anything ‘right’ will jeopardise their political future. I dare any member of the Nigeria Senate or House of Rep to sanely move for the removal of Yar Adua! They are all birds of the same feather-wicked and evil in colour.’

It gets worse. The imperial north demands a president from the North and since the VP is from the South – worse the Niger Delta – the calls for a northerner to take over the government is tantamount to ‘sowing seeds of secession’. I very much doubt this would happen unless there are some secret reserves of oil, coltan or some other mineral needed desperately by the West.


The Voice of the Oppressed reports on thousands of Albinos who have gone into hiding after a spate of killings for their body parts. Gruesome ugly stuff and one wonders why these stories of murder and selling body parts are just appearing in the past six months. What was happening two, four, 20 years ago? Is this something new or was it previously hidden?

‘The surge in the use of albino body parts as good luck charms is a result of ‘a kind of marketing exercise by witch doctors,’ the International Federation for the Red Cross and Crescent societies said.

‘The report says the market for albino parts exists mainly in Tanzania, where a complete set of body parts — including all limbs, genitals, ears, tongue and nose — can sell for $75,000. Wealthy buyers use the parts as talismans to bring them wealth and good fortune.

‘Albinism is one of the most unfortunate vulnerabilities,’ said International Federation for the Red Cross and Crescent societies Secretary General Bekele Geleta. ‘And it needs to be addressed immediately at an international level.’

The chairman of the Albino Association of Kenya, Isaac Mwaura, called the murders deplorable but said the killings have given albinos a platform to raise awareness. Almost 90 percent of albinos living in the region were raised by single mothers, Mwaura said, because the fathers believed their wives were having affairs with white men.’

HIV Kenya. December 1st is World Aids Day and HIV Kenya takes the opportunity to call for the dismantling of UNAIDS.

Ultimately a self-serving and very expensive organisation, UNAIDS needs to be reabsorbed back into the overall agenda of public health, or some agenda that encompasses the health of everyone, not the sickness of a few. This is not to say that HIV positive people should not be entitled to treatment or care. Rather, they and all other sick people should be entitled to treatment and care. But people who are not sick should be enabled to stay that way. UNAIDS is good at diverting a lot of money for people once they are HIV positive but this is denying the right of HIV negative people to stay that way.

16 Days of Activism Against Gender Based Violence continues and Zimbo Jam reports on a speech by Zimbabwean writer Tsitsi Dangarembga on domestic violence in the country, at the International Images Film Festival for Women (IIFF).

‘I know a country where women get beaten up till they abort their twins,’ said IIFF founder Tsitsi Dangarembga, just before the presentation of an award that honours a man who has understood the vision of IIFF and worked hard to assist the festival achieve its goals.

‘A country where the man who beats her up is arrested and then overnight, makes a deal with a police officer, and is set free. I know a country where distinguished gentlemen who sit on the boards of academic institutions make and break contracts with women at will- but still remain distinguished gentlemen.

‘A country where daily women get beaten up because the sadza was too hard, or not hard enough,’ Tsitsi went on in an impassioned impromptu speech that got the room pin-drop silent.

‘Does anyone know which country this is?’

‘Zimbabwe,’ members of the audience responded in unison.

‘Yes,’ Tsitsi continued, ‘I think we should be ashamed. I think we should be so ashamed that we resolve to make a change. We need to face it. We cannot pretend that these things are not happening. That is why this next award is very important. It goes to a man who has come out and said I will work with you. I will honour you.’

Black Looks comments on the recent consultation meeting in Port Harcourt which saw 117 organisations and individuals come together to discuss a post-oil Nigeria. The event, Envisioning a post petroleum Nigeria, published a communique which was highly critical of Nigeria’s policy in the Niger Delta.

‘The communiqué is scathing in its criticism of the present government which rather than address the issues raised has in fact exacerbated them in so many ways culminating in the recent amnesty deal with militants. Rather than tackle the cause of the militancy and criminal activities such as the huge environmental damage and lack of development, the government simply made a financial deal with a group of militants in exchange for their silence. The cost of doing so could well have been put towards building health centres, schools and other infrastructure for the communities and begin to erode the reasons behind the militancy in the first place.

‘Never before have so many people and organisations come together as one to condemn the Nigerian government’s actions from the continued deferral and failure to end gas flaring; failure to insist and regulate the oil industry according to international standards; contributing and being part of the land grab by oil companies and the promotion of agri-imperialism; fueling the corruption in the region which has itself contributed to the violence and the policy of militarisation and abuse instead of development and support.’

Finally a couple of new blogs I will be following: Zimbablog and Franco Techno Gap which aims to ‘monitor the Berlin Wall between French and English speaking Africa’.

BROUGHT TO YOU BY PAMBAZUKA NEWS

* Sokari Ekine blogs at Black Looks.
* Please send comments to editor@pambazuka.org or comment online at Pambazuka News.


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