Somalia – Famine Looms

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Unless the international community acts soon the consequences of famine to the already troubled country could be devastating. 

The United Nations (UN) World Food Programme (WFP) and UNICEF have issued a warning that only immediate and large-scale humanitarian efforts can avert another serious catastrophe in the country.

The northern regions have been facing water shortages for over a year, spreading now across the southern parts of the country, hitting a population half of which – in the region of 6.2 million – are food insecure. The number of severely malnourished children is expected to increase by 50 percent.

“Huge numbers of Somalis have come to the end of all their possible resources and are living hand-to-mouth,” said Steven Lauwerier, the UNICEF Somalia Representative. “We have a small window of opportunity to avert this looming catastrophe and save children’s lives and we are determined to work with all partners and stakeholders to succeed,” reported Shabelle Media Network.

The situation has also caused a spike in waterborne diseases such as Acute Watery Diahorrea and Cholera. Many regions facing the threat of famine still have worryingly low levels of humanitarian provision and networks for support.

A number of countries including the UK and Norway have issued statements of support. The UK has said it will issues £100 million to Somalia and also South Sudan, where famine has been declared, reported Shabelle.

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People queuing at the Dolo Ado camp for aid in 2011 – CC

The famine has been exacerbated by consecutive droughts over the last two years and a particularly strong El Nino event which decimated crops and livestock. According to observers the situation is similar to the famine that hit Somalia six years ago, during which 260,000 people died and the international response was too slow.

Prices for water and livestock have rocketed. Before the famine a barrel of water cost in the region of US£2, although now it is in the region of $10, reported the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation.

Near Diinsoor town, in Baay region, reports suggested that already as many as 30 people had died as a result of the famine and drought, reported Shabelle. It is difficult to gauge the speed at which the famine will hit, but it is looming large of much of eastern Africa.

In early February Somalia saw the election of a new President Mohammed Abdullahi Mohamed, and was also declared as one of the seven countries affected by US President Donald Trump‘s travel ban.

The new President faces serious challenges both politically, economically and socially, all of which are currently subsumed beneath the threat of famine. Immediate action is crucial – in 2011 more than 70 famine warnings were issued and by the time aid was dispatched it was already too late.

The last famine was confined to areas under militant group Al Shabaab‘s control in the south of the country, but this time areas in the north are also at risk. This presents a major test not only for the new president but also for the authorities in the self-declared republic of Somaliland and the semi-autonomous region of Puntland, reported Chatham House.

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin:

SOMALIA: Drought Deepens and Spreads [Free to Access]
Economic, Financial & Technical Series,
Vol. 53, Issue. 11, Pp. 21495C–21496A

Hunger and Drought
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol. 53, Issue. 10, Pp. 21455A–21455C

SOMALIA: Five Million Go Hungry
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol. 53, Issue. 9, Pp. 21420A–21420B

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Equatorial Guinea – Persistent Poverty

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Despite high per captia income and oil wealth the country is performing poorly in wider social development.

Comparatively, across the African continent, Equatorial Guinea boasts some of the highest levels of per capita income, and with a largely oil dependent economy, it has often escaped mention in discussions of poverty. However, Foreign Minister Agapito Mba Mokuy said despite wealth the country was performing poorly at social development.

According to reports from 2015 still around half of the country’s population lacks access to clean water, and life expectancy and infant mortality are below the average for sub-Saharan Africa. Similarly, half of the children who start primary school never end up finishing.

The problems in part stem from the fact that much of the wealth has been accumulated by senior government officials and a lack of investment in the country, as many officials have turned to overseas investments, drawing allegations of money laundering.

There seems to be, following investigations, systemic corruption at the highest levels of government. Through infrastructure projects the government pours huge amounts of oil money into construction projects, with contracts awarded to companies often owned or closely associated with high-level government officials.

International Monetary Fund (IMF) reports and high-level interviews show that the conflicts of interest allegedly lead to inflated contract prices and dubious investments in “white elephant” projects. The government does not make public its budgets, or track health and education spending, so the only data available is that collected by the IMF and World Bank.

Between 2009 and 2013, Equatorial Guinea took in an average of US$4 billion annually in oil revenue, and spent $4.2bn on infrastructure such as roads, buildings, and airports. However in 2011 the country only spent $140m on education and $92m on health, while the only other year for which data is available, 2008, $60m was spent on education and $90m on health, reported All Africa.

In comparison Uganda and Tanzania spend around a third of their budgets on education each year, while Ghana spends around a quarter, according to the World Bank.

Despite efforts to eradicate poverty and promote inclusive growth, these principles of the African Union (AU) Agenda 2063, are fruitless without efforts to tackle corruption.

The oil reserves in Equatorial Guinea, which have supplied billions of dollars in revenue over the last three decades are expected to run out by 2035, which will only deepen the crisis in the country.

In a recent case the eldest son of President Teodoro Obiang Nguema is facing an ongoing trial after accusations of plundering money from government funds to buy a mansion in Paris, France, allegedly embezzling around Euro 100m, according to Deutschewelle.

Teodorin Obiang is also a vice-president of the small oil-rich state on the African west coast. However his trial was recently postponed giving Obiang an additional six month to prepare his defence. According to Transparency International, this was a delay tactic.

Human rights groups have long bemoaned Equatorial Guinea for its record on civil liberties, unlawful killings and torture, alongside allegations of bribery and corruption.

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin:

EQUATORIAL GUINEA – FRANCE: President’s Son on Trial
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol. 53, Issue. 12, Pp. 21521C–21522B

EQUATORIAL GUINEA: Weak Performance
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol. 52, Issue. 7, Pp. 20926A–20926C

EQUATORIAL GUINEA: Co-Investment Fund
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol. 51, Issue. 1, Pp. 20278B–20278C

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DR Congo – Indigenous Land Crisis

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Bambuti people face conflicts with rebel groups, extractive industries and conservation initiatives, loosing large swathes of land.

Idjwi island, situated in the middle of Lake Kivu, has for the large part been spared from the violence that has persisted across DR Congo. However the ‘indigenous’ Bambuti are being pushed aside for the ethnic Bantu who now comprise around 95% of the islands population of 280,000.

The process started in the 1980s as the authority figures for the Bahayu Bantu people expelled the Bambuti from the forests and deprived them of their primary means of livelihood and subsistence. These groups, like many others who are facing similar struggles worldwide, are largely hunter gatherers and practice shifting cultivation with no formal land titles.

The chief of the Idjwi Bambuti, Charles Livingstone, said “we are no more than 7000 on the island, relocated on uncultivable land and scattered on the coast in makeshift camps on the fringe of villages, in total destitution,” reported UK-based the Independent.

Adolphine Byaywuwa Muley, the head of a Bambuti women empowerment group said that South Kivu is a “province where there are a lot of land issues, land disputes everywhere, so you are told nothing can be done.”

However, Gervais Rubenga Ntawenderundi, who is a Bantu customary chief in the north of Idjwi said that there were “no problems on the islands between the two ethnic groups…the pygmies have never been driven out of the forest and have always lived near villages in this way.”

The DR Congo national parliament discussed a law to protect Bambuti rights in 2007 but as of yet there has been no progress or a vote on the proposed bill.

Today, according to the Independent, many Bambuti work for landowners and are treated with contempt, often earning much less than other workers, and have to resort to selling handicrafts to supplement their income.

Some have settled in camps; in Kagorwa camp around 300 were resettled from the Nyamusisi forest, but in their new location crops will not grow and many suffer from malnourishment.

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Displaced Mbuti childrenCC

According to the International Working Group for Indigenous Affairs (IWGIA) there are four main groups in DR Congo; the Bambuti (Mbuti), the Baka, the east Batwa and the west Batwa. The label often used to described them collectively, pygmies, is often considered to be discriminatory. Their exact numbers are unknown but are thought to be between 600,000 and 2 million.

Across the country many have lost their land and been taken as bonded labour for Banti landlords, and such dynamics are particularly evident in North Kivu and South Kivu. In the other provinces of Orientale, Equateur and Bandundu, indigenous groups are facing widespread displacement for industrial development.

The forests in DR Congo represent the second largest forest basin in the world, but the same area contains an abundance of mineral resources and the presence of numerous factionalised rebel groups.

“The state is itself a threat to our forests: it makes a complete mess of things by handing out timber licences. It gives them to anyone willing to pay, and we see these people come and cut down our trees with impunity. They cut down our medicinal trees and, with them, the bark and fruits used for our medical treatments. They cut down our caterpillar trees, our oil trees,” said Irangi, who is a member of the Mbuti Pygmies in Itombwe, reported the Guardian.

In 2006 the Congolese government created the Itombwe nature reserve facilitated by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS); all human activity was forbidden in an area over 15,000 square km.

Similarly in Virunga National Park, the oldest in Africa, the Bambuti are forbidden from hunting or living inside the boundaries and are caught between both park rangers and armed groups, reported the Inter Press Service.

In the 1980s in the Kahuzi-Biega national park nearly 6000 indigenous people were moved from their villages and left to make a living outside of the forest. Many of these groups now live in precarious conditions – deprived of traditional livelihood sources and forms of religious and social identity, they often work as manual labourers.

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin:

DR CONGO: Rebel Groups Torment Residents
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Volume. 53, Issue. 10, Pp. 21184A–21184C

DR CONGO: ADF & FDLR Violence
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Volume. 53, Issue. 9, Pp. 21146C–21147B

DR CONGO: Humanitarian Concerns
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Volume 53, Issue. 6, Pp. 21040A–21040C

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Nigeria – Aviation Woes

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Airports close and airlines suspend flights as the aviation sector struggles in a challenging environment.

On December 21st passengers across the country were left stranded after Arik Air, the largest airline in the country, suspended services due to action by unions, including the National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE), the Air Transport Senior Staff Services Association of Nigeria (ATSSSAN) and the National Association of Aircraft Pilots and Engineers (NAAPE).

The protests related to arrears in salaries amounting around seven months and the perceived anti-labour direction of policymaking. The Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) brokered a meeting with Arik Air meeting the following day in which strike action was shelved, reported This Day.

Additional capacity was allocated afterwards from both Lagos and Abuja to destinations such as Enugu, Asaba, Owerri, Port Harcourt, Benin, Warri, Uyo, Yola and others to enable many of the Arik customers to get to their destinations.

Some of the placards placed around Arik counters read: ‘ARIK owes staff seven months salaries, defaults in taxes and other statutory deductions, criminalises trade unionism and union membership.”

Other airlines such as Air Peace, First Nation, Med-View, Dana Air, Overland and Azman were unable to take the spillover from Arik due to low capacity; according to Lagos-based the Guardian there was a 100% hike in ticket fares followed the strike action as passengers scrambled for available seats.

In Lagos, outside the Arik Headquarters, company officials from the Nigerian Lagos Congress (NLC) and the National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE) barricaded the main entrance, causing traffic problems on the airports access road.

There were reports later on January 6th that aggrieved passengers had attacked staff at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos, as a number of flights were again rescheduled and some cancelled, reported Daily Trust.

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CC – 2014

It is reported that Arik Air owes in the region of Naira (N) 13bn to the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) and N6bn to the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA). The airline is also reportedly indebted to fuel supplies and ground handlers.

The Spokesman for Arik Air, Banji Ola, in his response to the allegations said the organisation was “disappointed” by the actions of the unions to “ambush and disrupt the operations.”

Meanwhile, the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport in Abuja is to close for six weeks from February to March 2017 for repairs, which will involve almost total reconstruction of the badly damaged runway. The full construction works are expected to take six months, but the middle section of runway will be unusable for 6 weeks, reported the Premium Times.

President Muhammadu Buhari reportedly commenced the work through an emergency procurement procedure, due to the centrality of Abuja to the country. Passengers have been directed to use Kaduna airport as an alternative during this period.

Passengers will travel in bus shuttles, guarded by security provided by the government; the stretch of road from Kaduna airport to Abuja has seen a number of kidnapping incidents over the last few years.

A number of foreign airlines, however, have considered suspending services after the decision to close the Abuja airport, as the alternative in Kaduna was deemed unsafe for foreigners. However, Minister for Aviation Hadi Sirika said that Kaduna was preferable to alternatives such as Ilorin or Minna as it was able to cater for larger aircraft. Sirikia assured that the safety of passengers would be the top priority.

Additionally the oldest domestic carrier in the country, Aero Contractors, has resumed operations after a suspension of four months, according to a report from the Daily Trust. Operations started again on December 23rd with flights to Lagos, Port Harcourt and Warri.

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin today:

NIGERIA: Darker Days
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol. 53, Issue. 9, Pp. 21418B–21420A

AIRPORTS AND SERVICES: Nigeria
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol. 53, Issue. 9, Pp. 21432A–21433C

NIGERIA: Recession and ‘Record’ Low Foreign Investment
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol. 53, Issue. 8, Pp. 21384C–21386C

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Kenya – Mau Mau Veterans Seek Compensation

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Victims of Mau Mau rebellion seek considerable reparations from the British government.

Victims of violence and atrocities during the British colonial rule of Kenya have called for action to boycott against next year’s August election unless the UK government pays significant sums of reparations.

Many veterans who fought against white settlers and the British army during the Mau Mau rebellion claim they have never been compensated. However, in 2013 the British government did pay £20m to a group of 5000 survivors.

The veterans have said that believe they deserve a share of the reparations for the damage colonial rule did to the country, both at the time and subsequently. The figures that were previously counted, they claim, were based on census data from the 1940s and do not reflect that the population is now much greater.

The Chairman of a group representing the veterans, Field Marshall Ngacha Karani, said that the Kenyan government should be demanding 400 trillion Kenyan shillings – or £4 trillion; the UKs annual GDP is in the region of £4trn.

In an interview with Kenya’s Standard newspaper, 90-year-old freedom fighter Faith Wanjiru Wachira recalled how she risked her life to help feed and clothe Mau Mau rebels deep inside the Mount Kenya forest.

“It pains me that I fought for land, but I ended up without any. I am hopeful that one day, the government will consider my struggle in ensuring that Kenya attained independence and reward me with land,” she said.

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Mau Mau Memorial Statue – CC 2015

The Mau Mau rebellion, which took place between 1952 and 1960, remains one of the more controversial episodes of Britain’s colonial history.

The uprising involved thousands of mainly ethnic Kikuyu groups who revolted against British rule, economic deprivation and dispossession of their agricultural homelands in the north of the country.

To stem the unrest the Kenyan and British colonial authorities declared a state of emergency and rounded up more than one million Kikuyu into camps, which historians now see as essentially concentration camps – many thousands died.

Currently there is a class action suit making its way through the British courts which involves more than 8000 claimants. This is in addition to another case in 2013.

According to a report by Kenya’s Citizen TV, the group representing the Mau Mau veterans is urging representatives to travel throughout the country to mobilise Kenyans to boycott the election due to be held on August 8th 2017.

(The Independent 14/12)

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin:

KENYA – UK: Historic Mau-Mau Ruling
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol. 49, Issue. 10, Pp. 19469c-19470c.

KENYA–UK: Mau Mau Veterans Issue Writ
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol. 43, Issue. 10, Pp. 16841A–16841B

Mau Mau Leader Honoured
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol. 44, Issue. 2, Pp. 16980C

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Nigeria – Cocoa Crop in Decline

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Many claim that the once central industry is now the most neglected, while others eye the opportunities.

The decline in the cultivation of the crop is reportedly to due with long growing periods and impatience among the younger generation, according to President of the Federation of Agricultural Commodity Associations of Nigeria (FACAN), Victor Iyama, who was speaking at the 2nd Daily Trust Agricultural Conference in Abuja on December 15th.

“It’s not four to six months, it is up to five years minimum but the beauty is that it can last for 70 years,” he said, adding that chocolate production generated large sums of money; out of a $120bn cocoa economy only around $15bn goes to products other than chocolate.

Iyama noted that cocoa was the second largest foreign exchange earner, next only to oil, adding that 29 states in the country can produce the crop, reported the Daily Trust.

According to Lagos-based the Guardian, a number of stakeholders in the Nigerian industry have said that it has remained the most neglected sector of the economy despite at the same time being one of the most viable industries in the world. Setbacks include the high cost of borrowing, deregulation and inconsistent government policy.

CEO of FTN Cocoa Processors Plc, Akin Laoye, explained that the deregulated environment is impeding the growth of the processing sector, adding that the cocoa sector needs some degree of regulation.

“To deepen Nigeria’s industrial base, it is counter productive to allow agricultural raw materials to be exported without adding value. Value addition will grow the industrial sector, generate employment, and enhance value of the revenue from export.” Laoye also urged government to find a lasting solution to tackle the ongoing recession, reported the Guardian.

The Minister for Agriculture, Chief Audu Ogbeh, on December 15th said that Nigeria used to be a leading cocoa exported but has since fallen to seventh among exporting countries exporting 27.5m tonnes annually, in comparison to first place Cote D’Ivoire with an annual export volume of 1.75bn tonnes, reported This Day.

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CC 2015.

On December 7th AgWeb reported that the Nigerian government was preparing to capitalise the state owned Bank of Agriculture with Naira (N) 1trn (US$3.2bn) to boost the agricultural sector. “We are looking at 25 million farmers” as stakeholders or depositors, Minister Ogbeh said.

From November 8-10th a regional symposium focusing on the next generation of cocoa research for West and Central Africa was held at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) in Ibadan, Oyo State.

The symposium drew leaders from across the southwestern part of the country, the predominant area for the cultivation of cocoa, such as Ife, Oyo, Osum, Ogun, Cross River and Ondo states. The symposium drew leaders alongside academics and industry representatives to discuss research priorities and alliances to take advantage of the potential of cocoa.

According to Executive Director of the Cocoa Research Institute of Nigeria (CRIN), O. Olubamiwa, the Regional Cocoa Symposium is the first of its kind in Africa. “It is happening in West Africa—the hub of global cocoa production. It will highlight the diverse roles of cocoa in improving farmers’ livelihood. It is also a forum for stakeholders to synthesise ideas on sustainable cocoa production,” reported the Guardian.

However, other reports have suggested that cocoa cultivation in Ondo state appears to be waning, despite having what could mildly be described as comparative advantage. Farmers in the state accused the state government of failing to implement practical policies and programmes.

One of the cocoa farmers in Akure, the state capital, Olorunfemi Ashagi asserted that one major problem facing the growth of cocoa is finance. Another farmer expressed fear that cocoa farming in the state may soon go into extinction, as many of the young men engaged in it are increasingly to alternative livelihood opportunities, reported Leadership.

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin:

COCOA: Côte d’Ivoire
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol. 53, Issue. 7, Pp. 21366A–21366C

NIGERIA: Recession and ‘Record’ Low Foreign Investment
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol. 53, Issue. 8, Pp.21384C–21386C

COCOA: Ghana
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol. 53, Issue. 2, Pp. 21184A–21184B

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Gambia – A Turning Point

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Longtime ruler initially concedes and then backtracks on acceptance of historic election result. 

The results of the recent election on December 1st saw 22-year leader Yahya Jammeh ousted and debates surrounding his prosecution have become central topics of discussion. His regime has been accused of arresting many activists, journalists and opposition members.

President-elect Adama Barrow, who heads a coalition of parties, told Al Jazeera that a truth and reconciliation commission would be established to look at human rights abuses committed during Jammeh’s rule, after which the government will file a case at the International Criminal Court (ICC). “It is a matter of justice. People should not fear. The process will be fair and will not pinpoint anyone,” he said.

The new President-Elect, however, is understandably cautious, as the country now faces a two-month transition period and rumours have abounded that Jammeh could try to force a coup in an act of self-preservation. The heads of the army and police services, however, have declared their support for the new coalition.

Jammeh is reportedly currently hiding in his villa in his hometown of Kanilai. His paramilitary hit squad known as the ‘Junglers’ is also based near Kanilai – the group is thought to be responsible for a number of high profile killings, such as of newspaper editor Deyda Hydara in 2004.

The incoming coalition has stated that it intends to compensate Gambians for their loss of lands, according to the leader of the People’s Progressive Party (PPP), Omar Jallow, part of the new coalition. Political prisoners were also released, with around 31 so far released from Mile 2 Central Prison near Banjul.

Among the first group freed was Ousainou Darboe, the 68-year-old leader of the United Democratic Party (UDP), who founded the opposition party in 1996 and is often described as “the Mandela of the Gambia” for his two decades of struggle against Jammeh.

Another legacy of Jammeh’s rule has been divisions among ethnic groups, particularly between the Jola tribe and the Mandinka, Fulani and Wolof. Jammeh held fears that he would be toppled by the majority Mandinka, which make up around 33% of the population, and he resorted to appointing his own chiefs, reported Al Jazeera.

Gamcel sponsored poster promoting Jammeh

Gamcel sponsored poster promoting Jammeh – CC

Barrow told RFI in an exclusive interview that what was needed was “an overhaul of basically everything in the government.” According to Deutschewelle Barrow has also stated that he intends to keep Gambia in the controversial ICC. Barrow is a real estate CEO and a newcomer to the political scene, selected by a coalition of seven opposition parties.

Barrow won 54.54% while Jammeh took 36.66% of the vote. However, after the initial optimism, anxiety returned as Jammeh decided in a TV interview on December 9th, to annul the poll result citing ‘irregularities’, just over a week after conceding to the coalition.

“I accepted the results then, believing that what was presented was the will of you the Gambian people… I made it clear that I will never cheat in anything… in the same way also, I will never accept being cheated by anyone,” Jammeh said.

Jammeh, in the interview, call for a re-run, recommending new transparent elections mediated by an independent electoral commission. Meanwhile the head of the coalition team Mai Ahmed Fatty said, “We are working round the clock to restore sanity. The world is with us.”

The US State Department dismissed the reversal of President Jammeh’s concession speech as “null and void,” while urging the military and other national institutions to ensure a peaceful transfer of power, reported the East African.

Jammeh had declared the country an Islamic Republic in 2015, has been accused of a string of rights abuses, and had said that with the ‘will of God’ he could rule for a billion years, reported Deutschewelle.

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin:

THE GAMBIA: Interior Minister Replaced
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol. 53, Issue. 9, Pp. 21136C–21137A

THE GAMBIA: Darboe Jailed
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol. 53, Issue. 7, Pp. 21071A–21071C

THE GAMBIA: Dozens More Arrested
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol. 53, Issue. 5, Pp. 21005C–21006B

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