Black Star Journal
Commentary on the news, culture, sports and current events of sub-Saharan Africa from someone who's lived there.
The author served as a Peace Corps volunteer in the Republic of Guinea, West Africa.
All essays are available for re-print, with the explicit permission of the author. Contact him at mofycbsj @ yahoo.com
Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Saturday, June 27, 2009
Niger becomes dictatorship
Rebuffed repeatedly in his attempts to become president-for-life by the country's National Assembly and Constitutional Court, Niger's president Mamadou Tandja has seized dictatorial powers. Tandja, who's already been in power for ten years, dissolved parliament and declared that he would rule by decree. He said that "the independence of the country is threatened," no doubt he meant the independence of his wallet.
The National Assembly refused Tandja's request to remove the constitutional two-term limit on the presidency. He tried to organize a public referendum to circumvent the legislative decision but its legality was twice struck down by the courts.
Thursday, June 25, 2009
Monday, June 15, 2009
Why corruption kills
Last week, the world's longest serving president, Omar Bongo of Gabon, passed away in a hospital in Barcelona, Spain. It struck me how often African leaders have died in hospitals in Europe or North America or sought treatment there for illnesses.
For all the anti-western rhetoric of Guinea's Sékou Touré, dictator for 27 years, where did he seek treatment for the heart problem that eventually killed him? Cleveland, Ohio, United States. Félix Houphoët-Boigny ran Ivory Coast for 33 years but ended up in French hospitals for his prostate cancer. Zambia's Levy Mwanawasa died in a hospital near Paris. Mobutu Sese Seko was in charge Zaire for 30 years but got treatment for prostate in Europe.
It's a scathing indictment of the incompetence of misrulers like Bongo and Mobutu that they can have absolute power for decades but can not find a single hospital in their own country fit to address common conditions like heart problems and cancer. It's disgraceful that these thieves can jet off to Europe or the US at whim for their treatments but ordinary citizens are stuck with virtually non-existent health care systems at home.
Friday, June 12, 2009
Guinean army chief calls for poll delay but is rebuffed by Dadis
Reprinted from Friends of Guinea blog with permission
Earlier this week, Guinea's army chief made waves by claiming that the country was not ready for elections in 2009 and that they should be delayed until next year.
However, the head of state, Capt. Moussa Dadis Camara, responded by insisting that elections would take place this year as scheduled.
When the German ambassador pressed Dadis if he would contest presidential elections if they were postponed until 2010, the junta leader angrily lashed out at the envoy. Camara promised not to stand in the 2009 elections, but some observers wonder if the promise precluded a candidacy if the polls were delayed until next year.
An Afrik.com correspondent shared his thoughts on a visit to the head of state's lounge.
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
Guinean 'law and order' chief urges lynching
In a shocking acknowledgment of the military junta's impotence, Guinea's anti-crime chief has urged the population to burn alive armed robbers caught in the act.
"I'm asking you to burn all armed bandits who are caught red-handed committing an armed robbery," said Captain Moussa Tiegboro Camara. "The prisons are full and cannot take more people, and the situation cannot continue like that."
Human rights groups have denounced the call.
Tuesday, June 09, 2009
Shell pays blood money to Ogonis
The Anglo-Dutch oil giant Shell has agreed to pay $15.5 million in blood money to a group of Ogoni plaintiffs. The group had filed a lawsuit in US court alleging Shell's complicity with human rights abuses in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria. The multinational pretended that the agreement was a "humanitarian gesture," presumably thinking that someone might be fooled. If Shell is suddenly concerned with "humanitarianism," perhaps they could stop the toxic gas flaring and other environmental and resulting human devastation that they are causing in the Delta.
Other sources on the story...
-The Independent (UK daily)
-This Day (Nigeria daily)
-Essay by Ken Saro Wiwa Jr. (background)
-Shell Guilty (pressure group)
-Shell (corporate press release)
Monday, June 08, 2009
Bongo's death confirmed
Although there was some confusion earlier in the weekend, Gabon's prime minister has confirmed the death of the country's head of state Omar Bongo. Bongo, the world's longest serving president, died in Barcelona reportedly of cancer.
He'd ruled the oil-rich central African state since 1967. The UK Telegraph noted that Bongo was under investigation by French authorities over allegations that he plundered state resources to pay for huge houses and luxury cars in France.
Saturday, June 06, 2009
As if the Jewish people haven't suffered enough
Foreign Policy blog points out that former Liberian dictator and indicted war criminal Charles Taylor has pretended to convert to Judaism.
This might be surprising, as he used to be a pretend Christian. You may remember his farewell address shortly before fleeing the country rather than be overthrown, where he seemed to compare himself to Jesus Christ.
However, one of his wives [sic] clarified this to the BBC. "No, no, no he hasn't rejected Christianity. He has always been a Christian. He just decided to become a Jew. He wants to follow the two religions," she said.
As Foreign Policy put it: Least. Welcome. Convert. Ever.
Friday, June 05, 2009
Guinea-Bissau army kills senior pols
The army in Guinea-Bissau has reportedly killed the minister of territorial administration (who was a candidate the June 28 presidential election) as well as a former defense minister, in a move described by the military as putting down a coup attempt. South Africa's Daily Mail and Guardian adds that local radio is also reporting that a former prime minister was also killed in the operation.
In March, the longtime-head of state was assassinated, apparently in revenge for the murder of the army chief.
Guinea-Bissau is considered Africa's first narco-state, which is a major cause of the country's dysfunction and instability.
Wednesday, June 03, 2009
Deposed Madagascar leader sentenced in absentia
A court in Madagascar has sentenced recently overthrown president Marc Ravolomanana in absentia to four years in prison for "abuse of office." The court also fined the former head of state $70 million.
Ravolomana was toppled earlier this year in an army-backed coup, in which then-opposition leader Andry Rajoelina seized power.
Tuesday, June 02, 2009
Transition (sort of) to come in Addis?
Africa Confidential has an interesting interview with Ethiopian strongman Meles Zenawi.
When asked what African countries can do for themselves to diminish the effects of the global economic downturn, the prime minister replied, "Well, in the end no amount of money that comes in from abroad is going to do the task for us."
Ironic comment considering Ethiopia has long been one of the world's largest per capita recipients of international "development" aid.
He also hinted at a generational transition, though as someone who's been in power for 18 years, the proof of the pudding will be in the cake.
Meles said, "The old leadership which was leading the [ruling] EPRDF during the armed struggle and up to now, myself included. That, to some extent is a sign of strength and it is also a sign of weakness that needs to be addressed and, as I said, the EPRDF is aware of it and is trying to address it. It is not just about X, Y or Z, it is about the whole group of leadership which has been in very senior leadership positions for a bit too long for the health of the party."
When asked if he was expecting a collective transition, he replied, "Yes, I think that the next crucial step needs to be taken."
It remains to be seen if there will be a real transition, both in personality and mentality. One signal: if the opposition will be able to demonstrate without being massacred.