Africa – UN Sustainable Development Goals


UN sets ambitious new global targets, with specific reference to Africa, although issues of funding and wider socio-economic and political barriers remain.

On September 25th the United Nations (UN) officially adopted the new ‘Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), replacing the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) originally launched in 2000. Many of the new SDGs have a specific relevance to the challenges being faced on the African continent; Global Goals website provides information on the goals and targets and the UN Economic Commission provides an African Regional Report.

The SDGs will set the global development agenda for the next fifteen years, comprising a total of 17 goals with 169 targets, the product of discussions started at the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in June 2012 and approved at the Sustainable Development Conference (September 25-27th 2015), which saw more than 150 heads of state and representatives unanimously approve the ‘Transforming our World: 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development“.


Global Goals website

There are a number of ambitious targets, including zero poverty, zero hunger and universal higher education before 2030. Christophe Bellmann of the International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development (ICTSD) told Radio France Internationale“we now have 15 years to completely eradicate hunger, that’s of course much more ambitious. That also means it will require more investments, more resources to implement those goals.”

Another major element is climate change; “Africa has the weakest institutions and infrastructures in order to cope with the impact of climate change,” Sarah Hearn, a senior fellow at New York University’s Center on International Cooperation explained. “What the goals do is set out a vision for mutual responsibilities for one another. But it’s true that the targets that are based on zero hunger [&] zero poverty, are going to be extremely difficult to achieve in the very poorest countries.”

According to New York-based Time, the new goals place a specific focus on the role of the private sector in fostering “sustainable and inclusive growth” to enhance job creation, food security, health care, and combat endemic poverty. According to the UN the cost of achieving the SDGs, over the next 15 years, will be close to US$170 trillion, more than the total global GDP in 2014 of $78 trillion. Time comment that this will require”collaboration with the international donor community, philanthropists, and local non-governmental organizations through shared purpose. It is only by working together that we can achieve the new goals and build a world that is worthy of us and our children”.



Other media has been more critical; the independent New Internationalist praised the SDGs in representing the multi-dimensional nature of poverty but also stated that they come “with no historical background of how we got here, and no political strategy for how we get out”,  missing crucial elements of global inequality such as transnational corporations, colonial history, trade imbalances and structural adjustment policies; “in short, power doesn’t exist in the SDGs”.

Similarly, the Financial Times (FT) noted that many of the MDGs were never realised. Economist Howard Friedman, in an analysis of the MDGs in 2013, concluded that little global progress had been made after 2000, with most of the work towards them occurring in the 1990s in processes unrelated to the UN; although he did point out the role of the MDGs in cementing “development beliefs and practices”.

Similarly FT quoted William Easterly, Professor of Economics at New York University, who commented that ““the MDGs communicated a very wrong idea about how development happens: technocratic, patronising and magically free of politics”. Additionally, amongst the backdrop of global slow economic growth and conflicting national interests, many governments have been slow to signal a desire to fund the new SDGs.

While the SDGs represent an important global precedent which will  contribute hugely towards alleviating global poverty, improving equality and combating climate change, it is important to recognise their limits, and the multitude of other global political, social and economic processes which are working towards the ideals, but also hindering them.

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin:

FINANCING FOR DEVELOPMENT: Third International Conference
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol.52, Issue.7, Pp.20907A–20909C

AFRICA – UN: Landmark Deal
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol.51, Issue.7, Pp.20477A–20477C

UNITED NATIONS: Millennium Development Goals Summit
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol.47, Issue.9, Pp.18533A–18536A

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Botswana-Namibia: Trans-Kalahari Railway


The new Trans-Kalahari Railway gathers momentum as governments in Southern Africa seek to improve regional infrastructure and trade

An ambitious multi-billion dollar railway project is to connect landlocked Botswana and its rich Karoo Basin coal fields, to Walvis Bay on the Namibian coast. Robert Kalomo, a central person for the project on the Namibian side, commented that offices had been set up in Windhoek to be staffed by officials from both countries, to work towards a host of cross-border and legal matters.

The work itself is expected to be conducted by private companies; Kalomo explained that “we have not yet selected the companies that will implement the project”.  The cost, originally estimated at US$ 15 billion, is also likely to rise, and private investors would have to raise the amount without any government guarantees, added Kalomo in daily newspaper the Namibian. As of yet, no major financial institution has shown interest in the project but the World Bank and the African Development Bank (AfDB) have been identified as possible suitors.

Corporate Communications Officer at TransNamib Holdings Limited, Ailly Hangula-Paulino, said that “a developer-arranged investment model has to be set up that will guide among others the financing, construction, and operation of the railway line…a joint venture will be set up by both governments as well as a Public Private Partnership (PPP) that will drive the process”, reported the Namibian.

The two countries signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) earlier in March, which covers aspects of the rail network that will run along the Trans-Kalahari Corridor (TKC). Hangula-Paulino said in Namibia, the railway line would follow the TKC past Gobabis through to Omitara where it turns west to Okahandja, and onwards to Walvis Bay. In Botswana, the line shall start at the Mmamabula coal fields connecting to the existing railway to Rasesa where it turns west passing north of Molepolole and east of Letlhakeng, joining the Molepolole-Kang road and through to the Mamuno border post. Alternative routes also exist to South Africa‘s Richards Bay and Mozambique‘s Beira port.


 World Coal website

Demand for Botswanan coal, largely from China and India, is hoped to boost and contribute to economic growth in the landlocked nation; once completed it is estimated that 90m tonnes will pass along the railway each year. Demand for coal is expected to peak around 2020 and Botswana is aiming to export 10% of the world’s total coal production, competing against Colombia, Australia, Russia and South Africa, reported the Namibian.

The TKC, along which the railway is to follow, was jointly built by the Namibian and Botswana governments in the 1990s with an initial investment of approximately Namibian Dollar (N$) 850m. The corridor consists of a tarred road linking the Port of Walvis Bay with Botswana and Gauteng in South Africa; new developments to the corridor infrastructure are intended to handle increased shipments from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo), Zambia and Zimbabwe, reported Business Day.

A harbour, known as the Southern Africa Development Community Gateway Port, will be built 5km north of Walvis Bay and the second and third phases of the port, initially slated to start in 2020, involve construction of a dry-bulk terminal and a five-berth coal terminal, primarily to cater for shipments from Botswana’s coalfields.

Namibia’s President Hifikepunye Pohamba commented, in a report on,  that “this will significantly contribute to and strengthen Namibia’s position in terms of trade…[and] in the same vein other landlocked countries will benefit from the railway as it will provide them with a choice of corridors to choose from”.

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin

Namibia-South Africa
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol.52, Issue.5, Pp.20855B

Botswana – Budget 2015/16
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol.52, Issue.1, Pp.20691A–20692C

Coal: Botswana
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol.49, Issue.9, Pp.19711B

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Nigeria – Oil Thefts on an Unprecedented Scale


As the army begins operations to combat oil theft in southern states, the scale of corruption in the industry and its impact on the economy, become clear.

On September 2nd the Nigerian army uncovered a large-scale illegal bunkering site in Makoba beach, around a mile from the Rivers Port Complex in Port Harcourt, the capital of southern oil-producing Rivers State. According to Commander of the 2nd Brigade, Brigadier-General Stevenson Olabanji, 13 suspects were arrested, reported Nigerian daily Leadership.

“At the site, we found over 5,000 drums loaded with illegally refined diesel; four tanker trucks containing 132,000 litres of diesel combined, and a badge with 165,000 litres of stolen diesel. This discovery is unprecedented because since we started our operations 10 days ago, this is about the biggest that we have uncovered”, Olabanji commented.

Olabanji explained that the illegal bunkering site has not yet been destroyed in accordance with the Joint Task Force (JTF) mandate because of its close proximity to residential buildings and the port complex; “we cannot do this because it will degrade the environment and affect residents as it is situated in the heart of Port Harcourt. Our plan is to move them to a safe location for destruction”, he said.

Also on September 2nd, the Chief of Naval Staff (CNS), Vice Admiral Ibok Ibas, issued a statement warning of “stiff penalties” for ship owners involved in crude oil theft. Speaking to the Nigerian Ship Owners Association he said that the vessels involved in the criminal activities would be treated as saboteurs, reported Nigerian daily This Day.


Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Dr Emmanuel Kachikwu, cited by Vanguard on September 2nd, issued an ultimatum, setting an eight-month deadline for the eradication of oil theft, with measures including the introduction of drones to monitor pipelines and patrol coastal areas, enhancing the capabilities of security services.

“Oil theft is a major issue for us. We lose on average of about 50,000 barrels of oil. We lose about US$3-4bn of revenue and that is just in terms of crude oil itself. When you get to pipelines, most of our pipelines are ruptured and attacked fairly frequently. Last year alone, between June 2014 and June 2015, we recorded between 3,400 to 4,000 attacks on the various pipelines in the country. The effect is a shut-in of about 250,000 barrels a day (bpd) and when you calculate that, you have a net loss of over $7bn”, said Kachikwu.

“The pipelines that traverse our country which are supposed to carry crude into our refineries are perpetually harassed and the net effect is that we resorted to using marines to carry cargoes into our refineries….In the last one year, we have lost about 350 lives – NNPC staff, policemen, community members – as a result of attempts to breach these pipelines”, he continued.

The Daily Trust newspaper documents the story of a man known as Okon Mbom, in Orika local government area in Rivers State, who receives Naira 10,000 from operatives deep in the forests, although he is aware that his employers were not government officials, he does not mind as long as he receives a fee at the end of the day.

Thieves use a variety of methods; one method, hot tapping, involves drilling and clamping a valve to avoid spills and explosions, creating a diversion from the main pipeline. Another method involves hand drills and soldering, working while pumping is stopped by pumping station personnel. Another, the “Cock and Shop” method,  is a slow method of corroding the pipeline by using concentrated acid, when the pipeline is corroded a spike is used to burst the pipeline, which sometimes results in an explosion.

On July 29th the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) declared that about US$25.3bn of the nation’s oil money had gone missing over the last eight years, reported Leadership. Oil thieves in the Niger Delta, taking an estimated 180,000bpd, constitute the 12th largest oil producing group in Africa, generating revenue that exceeds the GDP of 15 different African countries. UK-based think-tank Chatham House said that “oil is being stolen on an ‘industrial scale’ in Nigeria and the country’s politicians and security officials are among those profiting”.

A 2014 report by, cited by Leadership, stated that Nigeria tops the list of countries plagued by oil theft, with around 7.7% of GDP vanishing each year, more than the country spends on education and healthcare combined;”The numbers paint a harsh picture about the inability of the Nigerian government, and the multinational oil companies in the Niger Delta, to do anything about this rampant theft” the report said.

Petroleum thefts are a huge issue for Nigeria and one that newly elected Muhammadu Buhari has vowed to combat, a feat his predecessor Goodluck Jonathan failed to achieve; with corruption rife and many officials themselves benefiting, it does not seem like it will be an easy task.

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin

NIGERIA: Fighting Graft, Buhari-Style
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Volume 52, Issue 7, Pp.20919C–20921C

NIGERIA: Oil Sector Under Spotlight
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Volume.52, Issue.6, Pp.20883B–20884B
Nigeria – Deadly Pipeline Blast
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Volume.52, Issue.6, Pp.20884B
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Eritrea – ‘No Peace, No War’


The Eritrean diaspora remains crucial for the survival of political opposition, as human rights abuses continue and many are choosing to flee the country 

In Eritrea, President Isaias Afwerki heads a one-party state through the only legal political grouping, the People’s Front for Democracy and Justice (PFDJ); constitutional decrees have never been implemented, press freedom is some of the world’s worst and all independent political activity is banned. A recent report by UK-based the Guardian explores the current situation.

Afwerki came to power as the leader of the  ruling Eritrean People’s Liberation Front (EPLF) in 1991 following a 30-year independence struggle with Ethiopia. During the conflict, ideological differences amongst the political and military leaders  led to a civil war within the country; by 1980 the EPLF had driven the Eritrean Liberation Front (ELF) into Sudan. Since independence the EPLF have remained the sole party, although renaming themselves the PFDJ in 1994.

The Ethiopia-Eritrea conflict flared again in 1998 in the border village of Badme; during this period many Eritrean officials accused Afwerki of mishandling the war. These dissenters, known as the G-15, were rounded up in September 2001 and remain imprisoned. A peace treaty was signed in May 2000 although today repression and divisions linger in the the country.


Earlier in March this year a four month United Nations (UN) investigation concluded that there had been”very clear patterns” of violations and abuses. According to Chair of the Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in Eritrea Mike Smith, the investigations involved testimonies from over 500 members of the Eritrean diaspora, reported the UN News Service.

One particular measure justified by the regime as necessary due to the “existential threat” from Ethiopia, is compulsory national service of indefinite duration from the age of 17. The “no war, no peace” situation with Ethiopia that has become a “pretext for almost all the states actions that generate and perpetuate human rights violations…the entire society has been militarised, the Constitution has never been implemented and there is no rule of law” said Smith.

According to another recent report by the Guardian, citing the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR),  Canadian company, Nevsun Resources have been accused of using  conscription labour since 1998 on the only active mine in the country, the Bisha copper and gold mine.

Three Eritreans had filed a lawsuit against the company in December 2014 but Nevsun denied all allegations; CEO Cliff Davis said that “we are confident that the allegations are unfounded…we are committed to ensuring that the Bisha Mine is managed in a safe and responsible manner”. The Eritrean government also responded saying that the report was “devoid of all merit”.

The Eritrean economy has become increasingly dependent on mining revenues; such revenues provide financing for a regime hindered by international sanctions, which were implemented after a report accused Afwerki of training and funding the al-Shabaab militant group, although these allegations were denied.

Canadian company Sunridge Gold is due to start gold output on a mine in Asmara this year, and Australian Danakali is expected to announce potash production at its Colluli mine. The African Development Bank (AfDB), in light of recent investments revised forecast economic growth to 2.1%, up from 1.3% in 2013.

Soviet military equipment abandoned by retreating Ethiopian troops in 1991 can still be seen along many roads in northern Eritrea. This tank is just east of Keren.

The Mail & Guardian Online reported the story of Daniel Mekonnen, an exiled lawyer and activist who has been repeatedly targeted by the Eritrean regime after he founded the Eritrean Movement for Democracy and Human Rights (EMDHR). Mekonnen referred the regime to the International Criminal Court (ICC), prompting wide-ranging threats that forced him to be placed under temporary police protection.

Victoria Bernal, an academic who has charted the Eritrean diaspora’s history commented that the internet has emerged as a crucial space for the diaspora to engage with the country.  Initially during the 1998-200 war with Ethiopia, to promote nationalist sentiment, today the internet is used to mobilise communities abroad and for remittances.

Recently Eritrean has also made international headlines as many tens of thousands are embarking on a journey through Sudan and Libya, or Egypt and Israel, in attempts to reach European soil; with an estimated 5000 leaving every month according to the Guardian. The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) commented that they were dealing with 357,406 Eritrean refugees as of 2014, making that the second largest group after Syrians attempting to enter Europe.

Annette Weber, a Senior Fellow of the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP), commented in a recent report that in this context, “reintegrating the country in regional structures could build trust and neutralise the Eritrean narrative of Ethiopian aggression and international conspiracy”.

Weber explains that fleeing conscription is “tantamount to treason”, and “because it is more or less impossible to leave the country legally, a dense network of organised traffickers has arisen… A string of beneficiaries, including members of the border police and the Eritrean and Sudanese armed forces, members of nomadic groups in eastern Sudan and the Sinai, and trans-African trafficking networks, profit enormously from Eritrean asylum seekers, whose journey and ransom cost upwards of $10,000”.

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin

ERITREA: Horrific Rights Abuses
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol.52, Issue.6, Pp.20610A–20611A

ERITREA: UN Monitoring Group Report
olitical, Social & Cultural Series
Vol.51, Issue.11, Pp.20369C–20370C

ERITREA – ETHIOPIA: Rising Tensions
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol.49, Issue,3, Pp.19187C–19188B

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Africa – Malaria Vaccine Approved


Malaria ‘vaccine’ given the go ahead by European regulators, but some warn of difficult decisions with its implementation on the ground

European drug regulators have given the green light for a ‘Malaria vaccine’, called RTS,S or Mosquirix, set to be the first such vaccine for the mosquito-born disease,which resulted in an estimated 584,000 deaths in 2013, of which 90% were in the African region and mostly children under five.

The vaccine was developed by British GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) in partnership with the PATH Malaria Vaccine Initiative, and received funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. It works by triggering the immune system to defend against the first stages of infection by the Plasmodium falciparum parasite after it enters the bloodstream.

Andrew Witty, GSK CEO, cited by Al-Jazeera, said the European Medicines Agency’s (EMA) positive recommendation was a further important step towards making the world’s first malaria vaccine available for young children.

“While Mosquirix on its own is not the complete answer to malaria, its use alongside those interventions currently available such as bed nets and insecticides would provide a very meaningful contribution to controlling the impact of malaria on children in those African communities that need it the most,” he said in a statement.

A GSK Scientist involved in the Mosquirix process since 1987, Joe Cohen, said that he had no doubt the vaccine could be significantly reduce the toll of sickness and death caused by the malaria; “I have absolutely no reservations in terms of rolling this vaccine out”, reported Al-Jazeera.


CC, Radio Okapi

However the vaccine does not offer any final solution; trial data released in 2011 and 2012 showed that it only reduced the prevalence of malaria in babies aged 6-12 weeks by 27%, and around 46% in children aged 5-17 months.

Some medical experts and analysts have expressed concern at the complexities and potential costs of deploying this first vaccine, particularly as it only provides partial protection, making it less attractive and heightening risk.

However CEO of the GAVI Alliance Dr Seth Berkley and CEO of the Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria, Dr Mark Dybul, speaking in a report by the GAVI Alliance, said that the decision to supply the vaccine is not straightforward.

“None are 100% effective. So in the cold light of day, for most countries it comes down to a complex calculation based on the cost effectiveness, lives saved, illness avoided and the availability of other effective interventions”, they said

“Clinical trial data suggests that Mosquirix offers only partial protection, preventing one in three cases of clinical malaria, a relatively low success rate compared to other approved vaccines…What’s more, the clinical trials were carried out with the vaccine used in conjunction with high use of other interventions, such as long-lasting insecticide treated bed-nets and anti-malarial drugs”.

“So we don’t really know how effective the vaccine is by itself or how well it would perform outside the controlled setting of a clinical trial. The problem is…Mosquirix is about five to 10 years ahead of any other candidate malaria vaccines, and there’s no guarantee any of them will be better”, the report stated.

According to an article from the BBC, while GSK have not released a price for the vaccine, they have pledged not to make a profit. But it is the effectiveness of the vaccine, that is under the most scrutiny, as it wanes over time making a booster shot essential.

The vaccine will now move on to the World Health Organisation (WHO) who will decided how and where it will be used; facing tough decisions, considering that the vaccine was not nearly as effective as scientists hoped but also the urgency and lack of comparable alternatives in the fight against the disease.

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin

Health: Malaria
Political, Social  Cultural Series
Vol.52, Issue.7, Pp.20660A-20661C

Health: New Malaria Drug
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol.44, Issue.2, Pp.16992A–16993A

Health: Africa
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol.51, Issue.9, Pp.20298A–20300A

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Sudan – Gold Mining and the Darfur Conflict


‘Unprecedented’ developments for Sudanese gold, but critics warn of the links between the mineral and the deadly conflict in the country

On July 29th the Sudanese government and Russian counterparts signed an “unprecedented” gold exploration agreement between the Sudanese Ministry of Minerals and the Russian Siberian Mining Company Limited. The contract covers nine blocks in Red Sea and River Nile states, which will equate to some 8,000 ton of Gold;  “these quantities will contribute to an economic boom and change the status of the country,” said Minister of Minerals Dr. Ahmed Mohamed Sadiq al-Karouri, reported Radio Dabanga (30/7).

Al-Karouri explained that the agreement would give the Sudanese government 75% of the production while the company would take 25%. Gold extraction has been one of the important economic alternatives for Sudan after losing oil revenues by South Sudanese secession and the new deals are hoped to contribute further to this; Sudan currently stands third behind South Africa and Ghana in African gold production.

Earlier last February, Sudan granted nine Russian companies permission to explore gold and other minerals. Many other foreign companies are engaged in the gold investment field; the Ministry of Minerals recently signed an agreement with the French Gold Mines Company for a block in Al-Burgaig locality in the Northern state, reported the Sudan News Agency on July 27th.

Until 2012, 74% of the country’s proven gold reserves were being managed through two companies: the CanadianEgyptian-Sudanese joint venture Ariab 10 and the Moroccan-Sudanese venture Managem. While these mines attracted criticism for poor labour conditions and environmental adversities, the gold production was less connected with internal and regional wars.

In 2012 the situation changed with the discovery of deposits in North Darfur; in Jebel Amer locality the discoveries attracted at least 100,000 artisanal miners to the area; artisanal gold has since surpassed industrial production. With the loss of oil revenues from the South Sudanese secession, gold has become the lifeline for foreign exchange and efforts to rebuild and stabilise the economy; President Omar al-Bashir himself saying “we lost oil, we got gold.”

However a recent report by ‘the Enough Project‘, entitled ‘Fools Gold: The case for scrutinising the Sudanese conflict gold trade‘ (available here), provides a critical analysis of the gold industry in Sudan, highlighting how it is helping to destabilize Darfur, Blue Nile, and South Kordofan; often mining areas see significant rates of violence and revenues that benefit rebel groups such as the Sudan Peoples’ Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) in South Kordofan.

In Darfur, revenues in the Jebel Amer region are benefiting Musa Hilal, a Janjaweed leader blacklisted by both the United Nations (UN) and United States; the report recommends that this should be used as a precedent to investigate the role of the gold trade in driving violence in the region; however it also recognises that it is almost impossible to distinguish between gold from conflict areas and from other legitimate sources.


CC Julien Harneis 2011


Over the last three years multiple gold rushes have taken place  and Sudan’s Central Bank pays more than gold is worth on the world market to spur production – which currently accounts for 70% of exports and is worth US$ 2.5 billion. With the gold trade came criminals carrying “arms of every calibre,” a unnamed local said that  “you could find any weapon in Jebel Amir, as well as imported alcohol, drugs, prostitutes.”, reported the International Crisis Group (ICG) last year.

On July 23rd Radio Dabanga reported that the Revolutionary Awakening Council (RAC), headed by Musa Hilal had declared that it was in control of the mining area of Jebel Amer in North Darfur. Hilal established the RAC, together with North Darfuri tribal leaders, at the beginning of 2014 and in December last year, the RAC announced the formation of a new management board for the Jebel ‘Amer gold mining area.

In January 2013, a dig in Jebel Amir — where “each bag of 50 kg of sand contained 1 kg of gold,” according to miners — became the source of fighting between members of the Beni Husein tribe, which has held the land since colonial times, and the Rizeigat tribe, which is made up of nomads without traditional land rights in North Darfur who have increasingly started to settle on others’ territory. Both tribes have members in the Haras-al-Hodud (Border Guard), a government paramilitary body initially designed to patrol Sudan’s frontiers, explained the ICG.

Officially, Sudan has deployed 30,000 army troops and 20,000 Haras-al-Hodud to Darfur although there is difficulty in telling how many of those troops are still fighting in their official role rather than according to their tribal affiliations; there are presumed to be as many as 200,000 militiamen in Darfur.

“More than a decade into the Darfur conflict, it would be reductive to simply blame the government’s militia strategy. There is plenty of blame to go around. The government, the rebels, and all the other players need to work together to stop the violence in all Sudan’s peripheries. Uneasy concessions are needed. The government will have to send clear signals that it is bringing to an end an increasingly costly counterinsurgency strategy and that it will start allocating resources to peaceful activities instead. And rebels will have to show that they are loyal to more than their own tribes”, said the ICG report.

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin

Sudan: Gold Rush Leads to Disaster
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol.50, Issue.4, Pp. 19935A-19936C

Sudan: Darfur Mines Battle
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol.50, Issue.1, Pp. 19841B-19841C

Gold: Sudan
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol.48, Issue.10, Pp.19320A-19320B

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Central African Republic: European Timber Firms Fuel Conflict


Report highlights how European timber companies are funding rebel groups in the Central African Republic, discrediting the multi-million Euro EU illegal timber agenda. 

The Global Witness report, entitled ‘Blood Timber-The Case of the Central African Republic‘ documents how European companies from France and Germany have paid in excess of US$4 million to Seleka armed groups and more recently smaller sums of around Euro 127,864 to anti-balaka groups in the south-western forested areas. Timber, the largest export for the Central African Republic (CAR), is poorly regulated allowing parts to be captured by armed groups and used to fund their activities.

The Seleka rebels, largely Muslim, rose against the then-president Francois Bozize in 2013, disposing him and installing Michel Djotodia until 2014 (detailed information on the conflict is available here). During this period Seleka rebels and the opposing mostly Christian anti-balaka rebels where responsible for widespread  human rights abuses. Recent developments in 2015 have seen reconciliation attempts, particularly the recent Bangui Forum, but the political and economic situation in the country remains factionalised, unregulated and corruption is rife.

The report states that “the EU and its member states hold a large degree of responsibility for the current situation. EU companies have been trading large quantities of CAR wood since the beginning of the conflict, by ignoring European legislation tailored to fight the illegal timber trade – the EU Timber Regulation (EUTR)“.


Global Witness identify one particular company, Société d’Exploitation Forestière Centrafricaine (SEFCA), who were recently invited to the European Commission’s annual stocktaking event, despite a long record of illegal logging and paying “significant sums of money to armed groups… including a CFA Francs 250 million (€381,000) payment to the Seleka regime.”

SEFCA, currently the largest timber exporter in CAR, also attended the EU’s Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) conference earlier in March, even though one of the pillars of the FLEGT initiative is combating the illegal timber trade; a logging company like SEFCA does not belong at an EU stakeholder conference. It belongs in a courtroom”, said Alexandra Pardal, campaign leader for Global Witness.

“Blood timber is just as harmful as blood diamonds. The EU’s multi-million euro illegal logging agenda risks becoming a rogues’ gallery and discredited if it legitimises companies like SEFCA. If the EU decides to pursue a commercial timber trade agreement with CAR’s failed state involving SEFCA, that’s exactly what it will be doing,” Pardal said.

Similarly in what would seem a counter-intuitive move the French Development Agency (AFD) has been financially supported logging companies in CAR and in turn funding armed groups and funding, in part, the conflict French troops were sent to contain, explained the report.

Global Witness provide an extensive and thorough analysis of the issue (available here)

Find out more the Africa Research Bulletin:

Central African Republic: Timeline
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol.50, Issue.4, Pp.19670B-19670C

Central African Republic: Agreements Between Armed Groups
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol.52, Issue.4, Pp.20536B-20537A

Timber: Africa
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol. 45, Issue.5, Pp. 17859C-17860C

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