Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Niger leader tries to confiscate power

The leader of Niger has dissolved parliament and announced plans to hold a referendum that would allow him to be president-for-life. President Mamadou Tandja made the announcement after both legislators and the high court rejected his plans for a presently illegal third term in office. The National Assembly refused to push through constitutional changes that would've removed the two-term presidential limit. Tandja proposed a public vote to force through the changes, but the country's constitutional court ruled that a referendum "cannot serve as a basis for changing the constitution". The court added that the changes would violate his oath of office.

Presidential elections are scheduled for November of this year. The regional grouping ECOWAS warned that Niger faced sanctions if Tandja pushed his power grab. The grouping cited in particular a regional rule that Niger signed up to banning signatory member states from modifying their constitution in the six months immediately prior to an election, unless political figures from across the spectrum are in agreement.


Thursday, May 21, 2009

Illegal fishing in the Gulf of Guinea

The Washington Post has a story on the problem of illegal fishing in the Gulf of Guinea and the assistance being provided by the US Navy to Gabonese officials.

The Post points out that Illegal fishing -- which Somalia's pirates also cite as one reason for their attacks -- strips an estimated $1 billion in yearly revenue from sub-Saharan Africa.

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Friday, May 15, 2009

Pres. Sirleaf's memoir

The New York Times has a review of 'This Child Will Be Great,' a memoir by Liberian president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.

The first elected female African head of state was also on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart last month to discuss the book.

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Thursday, May 14, 2009

Trial in Ivorian toxic dumping scandal

BBC Two's Newsnight has a piece on 'the biggest toxic dumping scandal of the 21st century,' which allegedly poisoned at least 30,000 people and killed 17 in Abidjan in 2006

The program's investigation led to Amsterdam where the waste could have been safely disposed of. Instead the company, Trafigura, went for the cheaper option and offloaded it in Abidjan, where it was illegally dumped in at least 18 different places across Côte d'Ivoire's commercial capital.

Trafigura denies any responsibility. The company says that the action was undertaken by an independent contractor Companie Tommy but called the dumping 'reprehensible and illegal.' Yet Trafigura claims that 'it is not possible that the content of the slops could have led to the deaths and widespread injuries which are alleged to have been caused by them.'

The UK Guardian also ran a piece on the lawsuit filed in English court against Trafigura. The company has been accused of pressuring witnesses to change their story.

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Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The impact of foreign assistance in Africa

OneWorld.net and Public Radio International offer an interesting discussion between a journalist and a Zambian economist debating 'the impact of foreign assistance in Africa, challenging the existing model and calling for innovative change.'


Saturday, May 02, 2009

Press freedom in 2008

Congrats to Ghana, Mali and Mauritius for having the freest presses in Africa. It's no coincidence they are three of the most stable, democratic countries on the continent. Comoros, Sierra Leone, Angola and Liberia improved their press freedom rating, according to the NGO Freedom House. Though notably South Africa, Botswana and Senegal were among the countries who saw press freedom diminished in 2008. The NGO said Eritrea has the least press freedom in Africa with Zimbabwe and Equatorial Guinea not far behind.

The four Scandanavian countries plus Iceland and Belgium had the world's freest media environments.