Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Confidential Agenda (Week ending 5 December 2010)


Suppose I gave a summit and nobody came. That may be the question that Libya's mercurial leader Colonel Moammar el Gadaffi is asking himself this week. His grand Afro-Euro convocation in Tripoli is in danger of being overshadowed by the no-shows: European leaders such as Germany's Angela Merkel, France's Nicolas Sarkozy and Britain's David Cameron have all sent their regrets that their ongoing struggle to save the euro currency will preclude their attendance. Other absentee leaders such as Angola's José Eduardo dos Santos and Cameroon's Paul Biya are more predictable.

But Sudan's President Omer el-Beshir, who faces an arrest warrant from the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity, put a new twist on fugitive diplomacy when he announced he was boycotting the summit after European governments had asked him not to come. Khartoum said Europe's position was symptomatic of a colonial mentality. Some diplomats suggested that Khartoum simply worried that the fickle Gadaffi might succumb to the blandishments of his Euro partners and hand over Field Marshal Omer to a passing planeload of security officers from the ICC.

For a detailed analysis of political and economic developments in Libya see the next issue of Africa Confidential out on Friday 3 December.


Voters in Cote d’Ivoire and Egypt await the results of the elections on 28 November with mixed feelings amid security alerts. Many Ivoirian voters expect a close finish in the second round of the presidential contest between those old political bruisers, President Laurent Gbagbo and ex-Prime Minister Alassane Ouattara. Indeed, such is the mood of eager expectation in the country – and perhaps the fears of the incumbent President – that the government has announced a curfew at least until the results are out this week.

In contrast, Egypt’s voters expect no surprises and a stonking victory for the ruling National Democratic Party. That will mean defeat for opposition politicians, especially the Muslim Brotherhood whose Islamist activists stand as ‘independent’ candidates to avoid the ban on religious political parties. The real battle will be next year when octogenarian President Hosni Mubarak has to decide whether to fight yet another presidential election or hand over to his business-minded son Gamel or a trusted general.


The two managers at the Chinese-owned mine in Collum charged with shooting 13 protesting miners are offering to pay compensation to two of the wounded men. The shot miners had been demonstrating, demanding that the company honour its agreements and increase pay.

With the government acting as an intermediary, the managers have agreed to pay compensation: K45m (about $9,300) plus five years' worth of school fees to the most seriously injured miner, and sums down to K20m (about $4,100) for the others. The managers have promised to improve working conditions, to provide housing, food and travel allowances.

Trades unionists on Zambia’s Copperbelt are waiting to see whether this offer affects the criminal charges against the mine managers.


The Union for an Active Diaspora, which is allied to Cameroon’s opposition Social Democratic Front, made a formal complaint against President Paul Biya in Paris claiming he has used stolen state funds to buy properties in France.

This follows the Cour de Cassation’s ruling that France had jurisdiction in cases of misappropriation of state funds abroad in the complaints brought against the heads of state of Gabon, Equatorial Guinea and Congo-Brazzaville. Yet Biya insists he owns no property in France. Maybe, but he does like the French lifestyle: in 2009 Biya and his entourage stayed at luxury hotels at the La Baule resort in the south of France, running up a bill of some €800,000.


The ground-breaking report in 2007 by the French charity CCFD (Comité Catholique contre la Faim et pour le Développement) was the inspiration of the spate of cases in France against foreign heads of state. Over 126 pages, it surveyed who owned what, where it was and how they probably got it. The loot came from several different sources – retro-commissions charged by corrupt executives of multinational corporations as well as African treasuries in Nigeria, Angola, Cote d'Ivoire, Kenya, and Mali.


What’s the top news on the website of the Embassy of the Republic of Angola in Washington DC? Angola’s participation in the Energy Summit in Washington last September, of course. There was no room to mention that the Embassy’s bank accounts were closed in Washington because of concerns about money laundering. Or indeed that the indefatigable Rafael Marques de Morais, who has received awards for his courage in resisting censorship and sticking up for a free press, narrowly escaped death in an ambush 600 kilometres northeast of Luanda as he drove to investigate claims of human rights abuses in Cuango near the frontier with Congo-Kinshasa.


Mozal, the aluminium smelter near Matola, is releasing toxic fumes into the atmosphere for six months while it replaces filters that normally ‘scrub’ the effluent – much to the horror of people living near the plant. President Armando Guebuza’s government and BHP Billiton, which operate the plant, say the levels are safe and below UN guidelines. Switzerland’s Société Générale de Surveillance has installed sensors around the plant to monitor emissions. But several environmental groups and thousands of people living nearby insist that releasing the fumes without filters poses a serious health danger. They are taking their claims to court to demand production stops while the filters are changed.

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