Central African Republic – Fragile Peace


Outbreaks of violence are threatening to further destabilise the situation, as reports show that thousands of schools are closed by rebels.

On October 15th at least 11 people were killed and 10 more wounded at a camp for internally displaced persons (IDP) in Ngakobo, according to the United Nations (UN) Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA).

This recent attack came only a few days after the mainly Muslim Seleka rebels attacked civilians and peacekeepers in the town of Kaga Bandoro, leading to the deaths of 30 people and 57 more injured.

These recent incidents are of great concern and there are worries that it will spark a return to widespread atrocities. In February elections brought President Faustin Touadera to power, but the government still largely relies on the UN for support. Since the outbreak of violence in 2013, after the Seleka rebels ousted President Francois Bozize, one in ten of the population of 4.5m have been left displaced.

These recent incidents also come as France is planning to pull the majority of its remaining 350 troops from the country, reported Deutschewelle.

According to the UN MINUSCA mission chief, Parfait Onanga-Anyanga, “there is, today, no legitimate reason for any armed group to use weapons…the people have suffered enough and are tired of this war that has lasted too long.”

Reports also recently emerged of armed men who attacked a secondary school during teacher training, killing three teachers, a director of an educational centre and the vice-president of a parents association. UNICEF representative in CAR, Mohamed Malick Fall, said, “we are deeply shocked by these developments and saddened that teachers have been targeted,” reported Al-Jazeera.

Across the country around one in five primary schools are closed, leaving around a third of children in the country not in school. This is largely due to armed groups who are occupying schools and preventing access.

While in the capital Bangui some children have been able to return, in the surrounding area as many as 10,000 students were unable to start term. “Schools are not part of the conflict, they have no political affiliation,” said Donaig Le Du, chief of communications for UNICEF in CAR, reported Reuters.

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin:

Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol. 53, Issue. 9, Pp. 21146B–21146C

CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC: Disarmament and Reintegration Efforts
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol. 53, Issue. 8, Pp. 21108C–21109B

Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol. 53, Issue. 7, Pp. 21074B–21075A

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Kenya – Conservationists Lament Railway Plans


The central section of a huge infrastructure project is to cut directly across East Africa’s oldest national park.

The Nairobi National Park, a wildlife reserve housing lions, hyenas and giraffes just 7km from the centre of Nairobi, is currently in the midst of proposed plans to build a Chinese-funded railway across what is the oldest park in East Africa.

The edges of the park have slowly been eaten away by development and expansion, with power lines stretching overland and pipelines underground. New housing estates also obstruct key migration routes for wildlife, which lead to other nature reserves such as the Maasai Mara.

According to head of the Friends of Nairobi National Park, Sidney Kamanzi, in the 1970s and 1980s around 30,000 wildebeest came to the area, now the numbers are in the region of 300.

The proposed railway line is to be elevated across 6km of the park, on pillars between 8m and 40m tall. Conservationists have deplored the plans, calling it a step too far and claiming the consequences will be disastrous.

UK-based BBC News commented that the new railway project could be a new ‘lunatic line,’ referring to thousands of workers who were killed building railways in the country at the turn of the 19th/20th centuries; around 100 people were killed by lions, while a further 4000 died of diseases.

BBC News 

The railway is part of planned upgrades to the national network linking the Mombasa port to Nairobi and onwards to regional neighbours such as Uganda, Rwanda and South Sudan; it is the largest infrastructure project in the country since independence in 1963.

The second stage of construction, from Nairobi to Naivasha – crossing the park – is seen as the most problematic; many had hoped that the railway would skirt around the park, but according to the government the costs of this were just too high.

Works on the elevated sections are scheduled to begin in January 2017 lasting around 18 months, although in stages to avoid cutting off parts of the park completely. However conservationists have deplored the lack of impact study and disregard for the natural environment.

“If the railway (line) is authorised, it could create a precedent that could mean the death of the park,” said Sidney Quntai, who heads the Kenyan Coalition for the Conservation and Management of Fauna.

On October 3rd a group of Maasi women from Oloosirkon, Kitenkela, Emakoko and Embakasi villages presented a petition to President Uhuru Kenyatta. An environmental tribunal in mid-September ruled against the railway line in the national park until a case had been heard, but the government continues to hold public hearings.

“The processions are not against infrastructure projects. We don’t want those that are poorly thought out, environmentally unsound and abuse our natural heritage like having SGR pass through the park,”  one of the protest organisers, Nkamuno Patita, said, reported Kenyan media service, The Star.

Kitili Mbathi, the Director General of Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), tried to reassure protesters who recently delivered a petition; “We will be working with the contractor to make sure the construction will be as least disruptive as possible and as environmentally friendly as possible,” he said.

However, Kenyan economist David Ndii said, “It’s a white elephant – we don’t need it…It’s not necessary, its overpriced. Its the most expensive single project we have done and it’s not economically viable now or in the future,” reported BBC News.

(© AFP 30/9 2016)

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin:

Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol.53, Issue.7, Pp.21362B–21363B

Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol. 53, Issue. 6, Pp.21325C–21327A

Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol. 53, Issue. 2, Pp.21181A–21182A

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Guinea Bissau – ECOWAS Seeks End to Crisis


There are concerns that the current deadlock could reverse important moves towards political stability.

On September 20th, at the Extraordinary Meeting of ECOWAS Heads of State and Government during the 71st United Nations (UN) General Assembly, ECOWAS agreed a plan to bring about an end to the ongoing political crisis in Guinea Bissau and the gradual withdrawal of the ECOWAS Military Intervention Force in Guinea Bissau (ECOMIB).

The meeting was led by Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and was also attended by President of Guinea, Alpha Conde, and the President of Sierra Leone, Ernest Bai Koroma.

The ECOWAS plan focuses on six areas to bring stakeholders into roundtable discussions, including dissident parliament members, political parties, civil society and religious and other traditional leaders. The aim is to look towards elections in 2018, undertaking reforms to strengthen the judicial system for greater credibility and legitimacy.

According to the Liberia News Agency in the 43 years since independence, no elected head of state had been able to complete a full term in office, and likewise no government had been able to implement its mandate and programme within its term.

The political crisis has been ongoing – on July 14th this year the Supreme Court ruled that the appointment of Baciro Dja as Prime Minister, by current President Jose Mario Vaz, was lawful, an appointment that at the time was regarded as a presidential coup and part of a plan to quash reformist factions of the Partido Africano da Independencia da Guine e Cabo Verde (PAIGC), led by ex-Prime Minister Carlos Correria.

Dja and Vaz are members of PAIGC but have been involved in clashes with the majority of parliamentarians as Vaz seeks to install a new government, and is seen to be hindering efforts to move the country away from a reversion to a ‘narco state’, according to Africa Confidential.

In 2008 the UN had called Guinea Bissau the first ‘narco state’, part of a regional centre for the flow of cocaine into Europe from South America. At the time the value of the drugs trade in the country was said to be more than national income, reported UK-based the Guardian.



Guinea Bissau has had a tumultuous history; after 13 years of guerilla conflict it won independence from the Portuguese regime in 1974. Following this were periods of Marxist-Leninist dictatorship, a number of wars and economic crises which brought President Joao Bernardo Vieira – who had previously been deposed – back into power in 2005, which led to a purge of the military.

The armed forces were also claimed to be involved in the drugs trade – there have been cases of military vehicles being stopped while carrying large quantities of cocaine. While in recent years there have been moves away from the ‘narco state’, there is concern that the current political deadlock will sacrifice important gains.

Recently there have been rumours that people allied to Vaz have spent large sums on bribes in the legal sector and parliament. Similarly Vaz’s grip on public and private media has tightened, leaving little space for critical opposition voices, reported Africa Confidential.

The conflict has dampened the optimism created by the election of the Domingos Simões Pereira government in July 2014, which lasted until August 2015, and the retreat of the previous drugs-financed military regime. Political instability is taking its toll as many investors have been put off.

The UN Security Council at the beginning of September had said that there is an urgent need to ensure a functioning government and for  dialogue among key national stakeholders, including between factions of the PAIGC and the Party for Social Renewal (PRS), reported the UN News Service.

 Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin:

Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol. 53, Issue. 6, Pp. 21028B–21029A

GUINEA BISSAU: Government Dismissed
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol.53, Issue. 5, Pp. 20993A–20993C

GUINEA BISSAU: New Cabinet Formed
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol. 52, Issue. 10, Pp. 20739B–20740A

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Liberia – Solar Energy Agenda


The government commits to new solar farms as uncertainties around oil prompts a re-examination of energy policy.

A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for the financing and cooperation in construction of a new 10 megawatt solar photovoltaic plant in the capital Monrovia, was signed by Gigawatt Global Cooperatief U.A.

The signing of the MoU took place during the meeting of the Permanent Mission of Liberia to the United Nations (UN) on September 23rd. Liberian Foreign Affairs Minister Marjon Kamara said that energy is one of the country’s top priorities.

Project Coordinator, Remy Reinstein indicated that besides the 10 megawatts (MW) to be built in Monrovia, an additional 30MW would be included in other parts of the country. According to reports the government will assist by securing the land for the new facility as part of the National Electrification Plan.

Gigawatt Global Cooperatief U.A. is a US, Dutch and Israeli renewable energy company, and delivered the first utility-scale solar plant in Rwanda, supplying 6% of the country’s electiricty needs.  The company has also recently signed a 135MW project in Nigeria, expected to be the largest solar plant in Africa, reported the Daily Observer

Around the world many campaigners and activists are urging a shift away from fossil fuels; in Liberia the main sources of electricity are private and the Liberia Electricity Corporation (LEC) rely on diesel fuel generators.



However some have said that the global drop in oil prices means that a move towards renewables is less appealing for investors, although others stress the unpredictability of the oil market and climate change mean that oil-based sources of energy are unsustainable.

One Liberian environmentalist, Silas Siakor, said, “given the level of bad governance, given the level of the breakdown of the fabric of our Liberian society, if we decided to engage in the oil sector, the possibility of causing a lot of damages is way too high that it raises the question of the sensibleness to do that.”

The Liberian oil sector is currently reeling from the announcement that the National Oil Company of Liberia (NOCAL) was bankrupt, leading to international firms such as Chevron and Anadarko taking oil blocks off the coast.

There are also other obstacles to the high cost of solar technology; the World Food Program (WFP) said that 64% of Liberians live below the ‘poverty line’ and as many as 1.3m in extreme poverty; the technology itself both on an industrial and a household level is often expensive,  reported Front Page Africa.

However earlier this year the World Bank, approved a new financing agreement of US$27 million to increase access to affordable and reliable electricity and to foster the use of renewable energy sources in Liberia. The Liberia Renewable Energy Access Project (LIRENAP) seeks to establish a mini hydropower plant to benefit about 50,000 people, as well as small businesses, associations and public institutions in Lofa County.

Also, in August Liberia and Ghana agreed to cooperate in the power sector; the Ghanaian leader claimed that Liberia could benefit from Ghanaian technical expertise in expanding electricity supply throughout the country, reported Liberia News Agency.

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin:

Liberia – The Tide Turns Against The Biggest Slum
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol. 53, Issue. 7, Pp.21346C.

Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol. 53, Issue. 6, Pp. 21334C–21336C.

OIL/GAS: Liberia
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol. 53, Issue. 2, Pp.21188B–21190C.

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DR Congo – Protest Crackdown


A number of civilians are killed during protests against the failure of the President to schedule elections.

There has been growing local and international pressure on President Joseph Kabila to step down in December this year at the end of his second term, the constitutionally defined limit to rule. Protestors have taken to the streets of the capital Kinshasa in dismay over his apparent aim to extend his hold on power and failure to schedule elections.

According to Georges Kapiamba, Director of the local NGO, Congolese Association for Access to Justice, the protests also took place in Goma, Bukavu and Beni regions. According to a Deutschewelle correspondent, the offices of President Kabila’s party as well as offices of other political parties allied to the president were burnt down.

European nations and the United States (US) have considered imposing sanctions, with a senior member of the US State Department stating that sanctions would be considered against any individual who worked to undermine the democratic institutions and elections process.

Phil Clark, a political scientist at SOAS University of London, commented that “It is looking increasingly unlikely that a new leader will take control of the Democratic Republic of Congo…all of Kabila’s moves over the past few months have suggested that he is doing everything he can to remain in power…there is a real concern in the Congo that this situation could continue to get drastically out of hand.”

Kabila took power in the DR Congo in 2001 after his father, Laurent Kabila, was killed by one of his bodyguards. The country has not seen a peaceful transfer of power since the Belgian colonial handover in 1960, reported Deutschewelle.

031106-D-2987S-019 President Joseph Kabila of the Democratic Republic of the Congo meets with Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz at the Pentagon on Nov. 6, 2003. The two leaders are meeting to discuss defense issues of mutual interest. DoD photograph by Helene C. Stikkel. (Released)

President Joseph Kabila – CC

Amnesty International has released a report titled ‘Dismantling dissent: DRC’s repression of expression amidst electoral delays‘, documenting the lengths that President Kabila is going to to keep himself in power.

“The government is violating the rights of opposition politicians and pro-democracy activists to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly while expelling foreign researchers and threatening human rights organisations that are working to monitor these violations with closure,” Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for east Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes, Sarah Jackson, said in a statement.

“The DR Congo government is riding roughshod over its regional and international human rights obligations. Denying people the right to freedom of expression could trigger violence in an already tense political climate,” Jackson stated, reported News24Wire.

Similarly Human Rights Watch (HRW) has released evidence documenting the crackdown on activists over the last two years. Government repression spiked in the days leading up to planned protests on September 19th. On September 16th, police in the southeastern city of Lubumbashi fired teargas and live bullets to disperse opposition party members.

On September 17th, security services arrested human rights activist, Patrick Pindu, after he participated in a civil society meeting. He was released the next day on the condition that he report to the intelligence agency every 15 days. At least 14 civilians and three police officers have been killed in the protests in recent days.

Rights groups have urged the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate rights abuses and for international powers to impose sanctions. According to local sources, much of the repression is being orchestrated by the Intelligence Agency Director, Kalev Mutond.

Many view the government’s efforts at ‘national dialogue’ as a ploy to delay elections and prolong Kabila’s stay in power, and most of the main opposition parties have not participated in the process, reported CAJNews.

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin:

DR CONGO: Opposition Rally
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol.53, Issue.8, Pp.21105C–21107A

DR CONGO: Increased Magnitude of Violence
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol.53, Issue. 8, Pp.21109B–21110B

DR CONGO: National Dialogue Group
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol.53, Issue.7, Pp.21066B–21067A

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Africa – Resource Plunder


A new report documents the scale of British involvement in mineral extraction across the continent. 

According to a new ‘War on Want‘ report entitled ‘The New Colonialism: Britain’s scramble for Africa’s energy and mineral resources‘ a total of 101 companies listed on the London Stock Exchange (LSE) are involved in mining operations in Africa, controlling resources worth US$1 trillion.

The report documents how, under the guise of economic development, around $134bn is channeled to the continent each year in the form of loans, foreign investment and aid, while concurrently around $192bn is extracted largely through profits of foreign companies, tax dodging and the costs associated with climate change. The African continent is by and large a net creditor to the rest of the world of around $58bn each year.

At least five British government officials have taken up positions on the boards of mining companies working in Africa, and companies such as Glencore have revenues ten times the GDP of Zambia.  The 101 companies cited in the report control around 6.6bn barrels of oil, 79.5m ounces of Gold, 699.3m carats of diamonds and 3.6bn tonnes of coal, controlling concession areas totalling around 371,132km2.

The report also documents the disregard for human rights. For example in the Western Sahara, despite the Saharwi people’s right to self-determination, six British companies have been handed permits by the Moroccan government to actively explore for oil and gas resources.

One company working in the Western Sahara is Cairn Energy, based in Edinburgh and listed on the LSE, which in December 2014 became the first to drill for and discover oil off the coast of the disputed region.

The Saharawi people have consistently protested against the exploration activities of oil companies, but by doing deals with the Moroccan government, oil companies have gained access to these reserves. According to the report, the British government has actively championed them through trade, investment and tax policies.


Screenshot of War on Want report. 

War on Want state that while LSE registered companies control resources across the continent, countries such as South Africa, Tanzania, Botswana and Lesotho. In South Africa the wealth from platinum, gold, coal, iron ore, nickel and aluminium is substantially in the hands of British companies.

As Chris Molebatsi of Mining Affected Communities United in Action (MACUA) in South Africa, says: “We want to see ethical mining that has respect for the land rights of the people on whose land they are mining. Our demands are for royalties and/or compensation to be paid to communities affected and in particular prior and informed consent to be obtained from those communities, not just from traditional authorities”, reported African Arguments.

Additionally of the 101 companies operating, a quarter are reportedly operating in tax havens raising considerable concerns about tax avoidance; it is estimated that the African continent loses around $35bn each year due to illicit financial flows and $46bn from siphoned profits.

The report concludes that, we “need to be demanding that the British government enforces corporate accountability of British companies operating in Africa. These companies should not be allowed to get away with the labour violations, human rights abuses and environmental degradation that is currently taking place.”

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin today:

GOLD: DR Congo
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol.53, Issue.7, Pp.21368A–21368C

IRON ORE: Guinea
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol.53, Issue.6, Pp. 21331B–21332C

URANIUM: Namibia
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol.52, Issue.10, Pp.21046B–21047C

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Africa – Facebook Setback


Plans for the rollout of satellite internet for remote parts of the continent are halted by explosion during test run.

During a test run, the SpaceX rocket carrying an Israeli-built Facebook communications satellite exploded on a launch pad in Cape Canaveral, Florida, on September 1st. The company attributed the accident to an anomaly and declared that there had been no injuries.

The satellite, which was scheduled for deployment in partnership with French firm Eutelsat Communications to provide broadband coverage for much of sub-Saharan Africa. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who was visiting Africa at the time, commented that he was “deeply disappointed…we will keep working until everyone has the opportunities this satellite would have provided,” reported BBC News

The Amos-6 satellite had a worth of around US$200m; “As far as the Israeli communications satellite industry is concerned, this is a very severe blow which could place the future of the industry in doubt if it is not dragged out of the mud,” said the chairman of the Israel Space Agency, Isaac Ben-Israel.

Particularly concerning are the reported causes of the accident, which involved the loading of fuel onto the rocket. SpaceX has been seeking to create reusable rockets for both state and private space travel.

SpaceX Falcon 9 Rocket after successful landing – CC

The satellite was a major part of Facebook’s plans in Africa. Before the accident Zuckerberg visited Kenya and Nigeria to discuss emerging technological developments. However he added that “fortunately, we have developed other technologies like Aquila that will connect people as well,” reported Deutschewelle.

Aquila is a project to develop solar powered drones to fly without landing for three months, beaming internet access to remote parts of the continent, using a linked network of drones. The drones will operate above the altitude of commercial aircraft and will climb during the day and drop at night, when the solar panels will not receive charge. The first test flight took place in July this year, reported UK-based the Telegraph.

According to Facebook, as many as 4bn people do not have access to the internet and 1.6bn live in remote locations, where implementing existing network technologies is challenging and costly, reported EA Business Week.

According to Internet World Stats, Nigeria tops the leagues table of Facebook users in sub-Saharan Africa at 15m, followed by South Africa with 13m and Kenya with 5m. Facebook has also recently announced the rollout of new African languages including Hausa, reported Deutschewelle.

The company has also proved controversial on the continent, with many governments such as Ethiopia and Mali, banning the service, accusing it of being central in the organisation of protests and political dissent. During election time, governments in DR Congo, Uganda and Chad, have also cracked down on the use of the social media service, reported Venture Africa.

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin:

Africa – Facebook to provide free satellite Internet
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol.52, Issue.9, Pp. 21004B

Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol.53, Issue.3, Pp. 21182A-21183C

Facebook Office in Africa
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol. 52, Issue. 6, Pp. 20895C

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