Friday, September 30, 2016

See A Rare West African Conservation Success Story

Shifting mindsets have allowed people living around Senegal's Sine-Saloum Delta – and visitors – to get the most of its lush, life-giving environment


As his wooden pirogue putt-putts through the dense man­groves of Senegal’s Sine-Saloum Delta, Mamadou Bakhoum is in a race with the tide. Dressed some­what incongruously in an ill-fitting beekeep­ing suit, he keeps a weather eye on the congested mass of roots beside the boat. If the water rises much higher, his latest honey haul will have to wait.

“Sometimes the tide here is hard to predict,” says the muscular agri­cultural engineer, one hand resting on the tiller of his rusty outboard. “Reaching the hives across the mangrove mud is difficult at the best of times. When the water’s up, it’s impossible.”

Bakhoum lives with 500 other souls in Dassilame Serere, a scattering of thatched huts, mud-brick buildings and sandy roads next to a stretch of the Saloum River.

Situated just north of the Gambian border, the Unesco World Heritage-listed, 1,800-sq-km delta is one of West Africa’s ecological jewels. Formed where two rivers – the Sine and the Saloum – con­verge on the Atlantic, the delta’s laby­rinth­­ine network of shallow bolongs (creeks), lagoons, man­grove forest and sand islands is home to monkeys, hyenas and a huge variety of birds and fish.

“For an agricultural engineer, the delta is a bountiful paradise,” says Bakhoum, with a smile. “When the tide doesn’t get in the way.”

Coastal mangrove forests are some of the most productive ecosystems on the planet. Connecting land and people with the sea, they provide millions with food, clean water, raw materials and resilience against the effects of climate change, which include increasing storm intensity and rising sea levels. They also mitigate climate change by absorbing five times more carbon than terrestrial forests.

Senegal’s mangroves sit at the northern limit of their West African range. In the Sine-Saloum Delta, where the vast majority of the population is engaged in fishing and agricul­ture, more than 100,000 people depend on them for their livelihoods. But over the past half century, these coastal forests have been hugely degraded.

“Mangroves have disappeared from more than a quarter of the delta since 1950,” says Pape Diomaye Thiare, a media coor­dinator for Wetlands International Africa (WIA), the African arm of a global, non-profit organisation dedica­ted to the conservation and restoration of wetlands. “Successive cycles of drought, as well as unsustainable timber harvesting and road construction, have all taken their toll.”

Not only do mangroves prevent soil from being washed away, they feed and protect young fish, provide shelter for oyster colonies and filter out salt from the water. The loss of mangroves has, unsurpri­singly, had a devastating impact on the Sine-Saloum region, rendering swathes of agricultural land useless for growing crops. Fish stocks have plummeted.

“It’s a vicious cycle,” says Thiare. “When communities lose their crops, they have less money for food and fuel. They cut down more mangroves and travel farther off­shore, where they frequently overfish.”

It was in 2013 that village leaders in Dassilame Serere, together with those from the neighbouring villages of Sourou, Bani and Nema Bah, decided that something needed to be done. With financial assis­tance and expertise provided by WIA, they set up the Association Inter Villageoise de Développement (AIVD).

“Until that point, some villagers had tried to improve the way we did things,” says Bakhoum. “But with some people doing their own thing, and some people doing nothing, our efforts were uncoor­dinated and ineffective.”

One of the first jobs of the WIA was to convince everyone in the AIVD area of the need for healthy mangroves.

“Mangrove reforestation simply cannot be successful if it is enforced from the top down,” says Thiare. “Local people need to be involved in every stage of the decision-making process, and they need to be whole­heartedly committed to restoration and long-term preservation. Above all, they need to see the benefits.”

Since 2013, mangrove seedlings have been implanted into 97 hectares of fertile delta mud. But the AIVD has also worked to reduce anthropogenic pressure on the mangroves. In the past, villagers would harvest wild oysters clinging to mangroves by simply hacking away at the roots.

Since 2015, however, villagers have em­ployed a so-called “garland” system, drilling holes in carefully harvested baby oysters and threading them onto pieces of string. These are then suspended on poles and allowed to grow naturally in tidal water. When the oysters are sold in the local mar­ket, half the money goes to the commu­nity and half is reinvested in infrastructure development.

Both the mangrove reforestation and oyster garlanding have proven so successful that they have been replicated in other villages across the delta.

“People from Dakar thought we were crazy when they heard we were planting mangroves and farming oysters,” says Ramatoulaye Diouf, a women’s leader in the village of Diamniadio, about 50km to the north of Dassilame Serere. “Now they’ve seen how we’ve benefited, they’ve stopped joking.”

Every day at dawn, dressed in colourful headscarves, Fatou Kor and Khady Diouf make their way to the outskirts of Dassilame Serere. It is here that the local “garden”, a 13-hectare plot of land, is also providing succour to the mangrove ecosystem. Kor and Diouf are members of a 129-strong team of women now engaged in the AIVD garden. As healthier mangroves stabilise the salinity of the soil, so the plot is yielding ever improved harvests of vegetables and fruit.

“In the past I would forage in the mangroves for oysters,” says Diouf. “Now I prefer to grow okra and beans.”

WIA has also helped the AIVD set up a thriving apiculture business, providing villagers with hives, protective outfits, production equipment and training. Annual honey harvests have risen from 200kg a year in 2013 to 2,000kg in 2015.

"Bees love mangroves because they get a year-round supply of nectar and pollen,” explains Bakhoum. “They also help to protect the mangroves because villagers stay away for fear of being stung.”

AS THE SUN SETS over the placid waters of the Saloum River, hundreds of birds fly in to roost. Squadrons of ungainly pelicans, wheeling flocks of white egrets and solitary Goliath herons alight noisily in the tops of the rustling mangroves.

The fantastic birdlife is just one draw for the increasing number of tourists who visit the Sine-Saloum. Villages such as Dassilame Serere are taking advantage by setting up campsites as well as selling their honey to overseas guests and organising boat rides through the mangroves.

“The local mentality here has really changed,” says Bakhoum. “Of course, we still face pressures from climate change. But I think most people appre­ciate now that the mangroves are our friend. Without them, our future is far more uncertain.”

Getting there: Emirates, Air France and Turkish Airlines all offer flights to Dakar from Hong Kong via intermediate cities. The town of Toubacouta – the perfect place from which to explore the Sine-Saloum Delta (and close to Dassilame Serere) – is a four-hour drive south of Dakar. The Toubacouta-based Keur Saloum Hotel offers airport pick-ups, good accommodation and a range of activities.

2016 Hajj: 22 Nigerian Pilgrims Die In Saudi Arabia

SEPTEMBER 30, 2016

Nigerian Hajj Pilgrims

The National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) says 22 Nigerians have died during this year’s pilgrimage.

Dr Ibrahim Kana, Head, National Medical Team, disclosed this at a meeting between NAHCON delegation and members of the Bangladesh Hajj Office in Makkah, Saudi Arabia.

He said the number represented 0.20 per cent of the more than 62,000 pilgrims who performed the pilgrimage.

He said NAHCON had introduced a national medical team to harmonise and properly coordinate health delivery during the exercise.

Kana said the team was worried at the rising cases of sudden death and had decided to perform oral autopsy to ascertain the reasons.

He said the team also installed scanning machines at airports to check cases of women who travel for the pilgrimage while carrying pregnancy.

Earlier the Counsellor of the Bangladesh Hajj Office, Muhammad Rahman, said 71 pilgrims from his country died during the exercise.

He also briefed the delegation on the organisation of pilgrimage in his country, which he said involved 105,000 pilgrims.

Rahman described the visit by NAHCON as significant as it afforded the two sides opportunity to exchange ideas on their respective operations.

NAHCON chairman, Abdullahi Mohammed, said Nigeria was eager to perfect its hajj operations, hence the decision by the commission to visit similar bodies to learn about their experiences.

He called for greater synergy among countries to improve on the success of the exercise and forge better understanding among their peoples.

He stressed the need for interaction among pilgrims to explore economic potential of each country, adding that hajj should be seen beyond the spiritual point.

Meanwhile, Mohammed has announced that 34,818 pilgrims have been transported back to Nigeria 13 days since the exercise started.

He said the pilgrims were transported in 74 flights

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the evacuation of pilgrims back home was slated to end on Oct 17, but the commission said it was confident it would finish earlier. (NAN)

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Job Creation: Abia, Turkish Governments Partner To Train 50,000 Shoe, Dress Makers


Abia State Governor Okezie Ikpeazu 

ABUJA, NIGERIA (VANGUARD) --More than 50,000 local shoe and garment makers from Abia are to be trained by the Turkish business community in a new business partnership deal between the State government and Turkish embassy in Nigeria. This was even as the foreign government is set to inject millions of Dollars in various areas of the State economy. 

The target according to State government was to boost the manufacturing and industrial base of the State to create more job opportunities for the people. 

These were the highlights of an agreement reached between the State government and the Republic of Turkey at a brief ceremony held at the Turkish embassy Tuesday night in Abuja. Speaking at the ceremony, Abia State governor, Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu said that the partnership was sequel to his business trip to Istanbul September last year. 

He said that his government decided to partner the Turkish government because of the similarities shared by the two governments in garment and shoe industries. 

“I thank the Turkish embassy to allow Abia to be a trail blazer once again. In September last year, I embarked on my first journey to Turkey. We feel that the best thing was to begin to learn from Turkey. Abia and Turkey have so many things in common. 

We have over 50,000 shoe makers. We believe that our people can learn so from the Turkish experience in making beautiful shoes and dresses. “So, in our decision to drive 5 pillars of development especially Small and Medium scale enterprise, we find out that Turkey had a similar trajectory in terms of their machine, tools because they were able to produce machines that could service the equipment they were using in their factories and the economy is also built strong on the small and medium scale enterprise as a catalyst for rapid economic development. 

It would have been too fast for us to go to well established economies like Germany, America and all that. “But we felt that Turkey had a growing experience taken a bit from Russia and Germany. The outcome in Turkey; solid equipment, solid infrastructure base and then flourishing output in terms of beautiful and wonderful products especially as it concerns garments and leather works. 

“Our emphasis in Abia is also on garment and leather works. That naturally took us to Turkey and we believe strongly that there is a lot for us to learn as a growing economy in Abia from Turkey.” The Governor said that the result of the partnership would be seen almost immediately. 

“Almost immediately because there is a process of growing business. You start by fertilizing the idea which we have done today. This is a follow up to our first meeting in Turkey in September last year. And then we expect that the fall-out of this interaction will be businesses and partnership between Turkish people and Abia people. And then in the next 12 months, we will wait to see the result.

 “As a I speak, Abia is perhaps the only State in Nigeria that has consistently exported in the past 20 years but it is not formalized because many people do not know about it. But as I speak, products are leaving the shores of Abia State into West Africa and other parts of Africa: Shoe, bags and garments. So, we are looking for a way to deploy Turkish technology to see how we can automate what we were hitherto doing with our bare hands so that we can say with some modicum of exactitude how long it takes to produce xyz number of shoes and dress, bags, going forward. Once we can make that pronouncements, then our narratives will change”, he said. 

He also stated that the State has some incentives for the people to make them succeed in the business. 

“Yes, of course, the beautiful thing is that we have critical manpower. Our people are not completely ignorant of what it takes to make shoes and dresses. So, what they need is the technical input which we tend to get from Turkey now. What we expect is that Turkish people will teach us how to use these machines and produce on a large scale. The first incentive is that our story, trajectory of development has a socio-cultural bearing with what our people believe in.

 “Our people believe in small family businesses but coming together, may be, in clusters as a cooperative to do the huge ones so that X+X will give you whatever output you are looking for at the end of the day and we are making sure that those people who are prepared to be part of this revolution will get financial incentives. We can stand in the gap between the small business man and the Bank of Industry, the small cooperative societies, a cluster of 2, 3, 4, 5, to 20 of garment makers and Bank of Industry to get what it takes to import from Turkey as it were, the requisite expertise and equipment to drive it. 

“So, those who are prepared to key into this initiative will have full government support in terms of security, power, basic infrastructure like roads and even housing, going forward. Then we are also going to be involved in marketing because we are looking at tomorrow Made in Turkey/Made in Aba products exhibitions domiciled in Abia and elsewhere, maybe in Abuja, Lagos or even in Turkey. We want to export our skills and also learn from them”, Governor Ikpeazu said. 

Also speaking, the Turkish Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr. Hakan Cakil appreciated Nigerian business climate, saying it would be in the interest of both countries to cooperate. 

He lauded the initiative between his country and Abia government, hoping that it would bear positive fruits. 

“We are doing our best to encourage Turkish business investment in Nigeria. Nigeria is a very important country. We are making excellent cooperation.

 “Abia state has rich natural resources and we have a very dynamic private sector in Turkey and the Turkish private sector has a growing interest in Nigeria. So, we hope that in the coming months or years, the Turkish private companies will invest in different areas in Abia. 

“I hope tonight, we are starting a fruitful cooperation with Abia State. Between Abia State and government of Turkey. It is an important rich oil state with suitable climate with lots of incentives provided by the local administration. We hope that in the coming years, we shall see very fruitful cooperation between Turkey and Abia State”, he said. 

The meeting attracted the presence of the three senators representing Abia State at the senate, Abia government officials and members of Turkish business community.

Nigeria: Crackdown On Journalists And Assault On Protests Shrinking Civic Space


President Muhammadu Buhari 

The continuing spate of arrests and detentions of journalists and bloggers amid the security forces’ violent disruption of peaceful protests underscores how the Nigerian government appears determined to crush dissent and suffocate freedom of expression, said Amnesty International today.

The organization is calling for the authorities to ensure the rights of Nigerians to freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of expression, as guaranteed by international human rights law and the Nigerian Constitution.

“The escalation in the intimidation of journalists and bloggers over recent months seems to be little more than a barefaced attempt by the Nigerian government to muzzle dissenting voices in the country,” said Makmid Kamara, Interim Country Director at Amnesty International Nigeria.

“Alongside the security forces’ violent assault on peaceful protesters, this crackdown constitutes a growing threat to human rights enshrined in international law and the Nigerian constitution.”

Violent repression of protests

On 22 September police blocked a peaceful protest by members of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN) in the capital Abuja. The demonstration called for the release of their leader, Sheikh Ibrahim Al-Zakzaky, who has been in detention without trial since December 2015. Police fired tear gas canisters to disperse the peaceful protest, resulting in some minor injuries.

About two weeks earlier, on 6 September, police stopped members of the Bring Back Our Girls Movement gathering to march to Aso Rock Presidential Villa to demand that the government do more to secure the release of Chibok schoolgirls abducted by Boko Haram over two years ago. The police had been duly notified of the protest march. Since the abduction of the Chibok girls in April 2014, the movement has been gathering peacefully at Unity Fountain, where recently there has been a continuing police presence apparently aimed at preventing any form of civil assembly.

Scores of supporters of Biafran independence are in detention – many of them since late January - for attempting to hold or participating in peaceful assemblies. On several occasions security forces have used excessive force against pro-Biafran activists who have attended protest marches across south-eastern Nigeria, or who have attempted to do so. Amnesty International has documented cases of arrest, enforced disappearance, and often killing of supporters and members of various pro-Biafran groups in the region.

Intimidation and arrests of journalists and bloggers

There has also been an increase in recent months in arrests of journalists and their subsequent detention without trial.

In the first week of September the publisher Emenike Iroegbu was arrested in the presence of his family over alleged defamation. In August, Abubakar Usman, a prominent blogger, was dragged from his home by operatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). The anti-graft agency claimed that he was detained for activities that contravened the Cyber Crimes Act even though EFCC could not point out the provisions of the Act the blogger contravened.Across Nigeria people, especially journalists and bloggers, are being arrested merely for expressing critical opinions on both conventional and social media platforms. One recent example is the detention of Jamil Mabai, accused of posting comments on Facebook and Twitter critical of the Katsina state government.

Also, on 5 September, Ahmed Salkida, a Nigerian journalist based in the United Arab Emirates was declared wanted by the military and later arrested by the state security services on arrival in Nigeria. He was among three people arrested and briefly detained for alleged links to Boko Haram and for facilitating the release of a Boko Haram video on the abducted Chibok girls.

“Taken together, these are worrying signs of growing violations of the rights of people in Nigeria to peacefully assemble freely and express their views without the fear of being detained or harassed,” said Makmid Kamara.

“Amnesty International Nigeria is therefore calling on the Nigerian government to comply with its obligations under international human rights law and the fundamental rights provisions in the Nigerian Constitution which guarantee freedom of peaceful assembly and expression. Everyone must be able to express his or her opinion, including through peaceful protest.”

Amnesty International Nigeria is also calling on the Nigerian government to take urgent steps to bring an end to detention without trial and intimidation and harassment of journalists and bloggers, and the security forces’ excessive use of force to disperse peaceful protests.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

How Buhari Plunged Nigeria Into Recession


President Muhammadu Buhari

NIGERIA (VANGUARD) -- ONE funny aspect of this “blame game” thing, is that you only see what has gone wrong in terms of “the other person” – the person you are pointing accusing fingers at. You hardly realise that as you point one finger at the other person, three of your other fingers are also accusing you, but they are usually hidden from your sight. In the Bible, Our Lord Jesus Christ warned us not to judge others, but to first of all remove the log in our eyes before complaining about the speck in the eyes of our neighbours (or opponents). We are in an economic recession. Two questions are pertinent: (a) how did we get there? And (b) how do we get out of it?

The All Progressives Congress, APC, Federal Government, in tackling question number one, blames “others”, but it does not see the roles it played in bringing the nation into this pass. This is what I am here to address; that we do not allow them to confuse us with their unrelenting propaganda, the vessel that brought them to power and which they are depending upon to run the affairs of a nation in a deep economic distress. Fortunately, the propaganda has lost its allure in the face of massive suffering, poverty, hunger, mass joblessness and soaring crime rates. Nobody wants to hear any more excuses, and this applies even to the apologists of the regime.

APC Federal Government spokespersons – Garba Shehu, Femi Adesina, Lai Mohammed, name them – have been blaming the nation’s woes on “16 years of Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, rot”. They said they did not expect the “depth” of the rot they met. Vice President Yemi Osinbajo files in, and blames PDP Federal Government’s failure to save for the rainy day, forgetting that the APC sponsored its governors to oppose Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala’s proposal for us to save when we had an unrivalled oil boom. They also opposed President Goodluck Jonathan’s plans to deregulate the downstream sector of the economy to free up funds to attack our infrastructural deficit. Jonathan, not being “a Pharaoh” (as he put it) weakly buckled to acts which the opposition deliberately deployed to ensure his downfall. Former President Olusegun Obasanjo had shrugged off criticisms and led Nigeria to exit the slavish debt trap of the Paris Club by engaging Okonjo-Iweala to lead the negotiations in which we paid $12 billion to escape from a $30 billion debt burden. Through acts of impunity, 

Obasanjo created the Excess Crude Account, ECA, and saved billions, which enabled Nigeria to survive the 2008 worldwide economic meltdown. President Umaru Yar’Adua played a statesman’s trump card through the Amnesty deal, which ended the militancy in the Niger Delta, thus creating a new impetus for us to enjoy more oil boom till the tail end of 2014. When Jonathan assumed office, he embarked on massive infrastructure upgrades nationwide, and this manifested in our airports, roads, rail, investment in power, education (especially tertiary) and of course, democratic reforms that made it possible for a powerful opposition to arise and sweep him from office. 

Of course, there was massive corruption during the PDP years, but tell me in which regime since our independence when there was no corruption, even this current Buhari regime? The only difference is that the “enemies” are being targeted, while “friends and acolytes” are being shielded. Of course, Nigeria’s economy grew in leaps and bounds under the PDP, but it was mostly oil-fed. We became the largest economy in Africa by Gross Domestic Product,GDP, but the proceeds went mostly to a few privileged and connected individuals. A little seeped into the middle class, but the mass of the people wallowed in poverty. 

This was probably why the 2015 election was called “a revolution of the poor”, but where has that revolution taken us? So, yes, the recession was caused by our failure to save for a rainy day, but it was a collective failure of the nation. Jonathan cannot escape the blame because as President, he should have stamped his foot down and done what was best for the country, rather than dance to the tune of every Tom and Harry just for him to be elected for a second term. We are in recession because we, as a nation, thought we were an “oil-rich” country. If you compare our best production capacities vis-à-vis our humongous population, and those of other Organisation of Oil Producing Countries, OPEC, and none-OPEC countries (such as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, UAE, Norway, Venezuela, USA Angola and others), it is obvious we are actually an “oil-poor” country and should not have depended on our oil alone for national survival.

That mistake is a collective blame rooted in the mentality of the ruling class that took charge of Nigeria after the civil war. It goes beyond the PDP years; it is still evident in this Buhari administration. Yes, we are in recession because of the renewed militancy in the Niger Delta. But who caused it? Before Buhari came in, we had massive oil theft. But when he assumed office and came at governance as if on a vengeance mission, the militancy resumed. Buhari did not realise the harm he was inflicting on the psyche of the nation when he propounded his “97%/5%” formula, which went against the Federal Character principle in the constitution. 

He used it to divide the country along political party, religious, regional, ethnic and sectional lines, favouring his kinsmen and supporters while neglecting those who did not support him. Not only that, he mobilised the agencies of state security to go after his perceived opponents in a one-sided anti-corruption war which only emphasised the return of allegedly looted funds. He did not make it a holistic affair. Some individuals who felt the system was blindly and vengefully after them returned to militancy and plunged the economy deeper into recession. Security threats expanded, from Boko Haram alone in 2015 to new fronts (the Niger Delta Avengers, armed Fulani herdsmen, Indigenous People’s of Biafra/MASSOB protests, and the Shiites uprising in Kaduna). If Buhari had, on assuming office, called Nigerians together, told them to forget about the bruising transitional politicking and work together to rescue the nation from the imminent economic doom, there would be no other security challenge except Boko Haram. 

If he had dealt with the armed herdsmen to protect the people, formed an inclusive government based on constitutional provisions and brought in the best hands without looking at their political affiliations, religious backgrounds and ethno-regional roots, we would be fighting the economic problems as a united front. Buhari’s anti-corruption war is a well-received policy. Nobody can openly say anything to the contrary. Corruption is a major factor in Nigeria’s backwardness. But the anti-corruption war should have been an institutional one devoid of politics. It should not have been merely aimed at recovering stolen funds, and even that should have been extended to all who stole, not just PDP people and the president’s political opponents alone.

 Buhari de-marketed Nigeria and Nigerians in several world capitals by calling us crooks. Every Nigerian is a crook and not to be trusted, except of course, President Buhari, the man of integrity. The Treasury Single Account, TSA, policy, formulated by the Jonathan but left unimplemented to avoid harming the financial system, was put into effect by Buhari without consultation. Banks shrivelled and started retrenching massively. His statist policies and lack of direction for the economy created fear and uncertainties among the private sector players and investors. After waiting for a clearer picture in vain, many (like the foreign and local airlines) closed shop and left Nigeria. 

Unless Buhari starts seeing himself as the father of the nation rather than a sectional mujahid (“holy” warrior), he would never get it right. He must listen to the wise words of the Senators who are telling him to rejig himself and his government away from the blunders of the past sixteen months. If he does so, our journey out of the recession will be short.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Post-Ebola, West Africans Flock Back To Bushmeat, With Risk


FILE-In this file photo taken on Wednesday, Oct. 22, 2014, Yaa Kyarewaa, await clients as she stands next to her makeshift bush meat shop at one of the largest local markets in Accra, Ghana. As the deadly outbreak of Ebola has subsided, people in several West African countries are flocking to eat bush meat again after restrictions were lifted on the consumption of wild animals like hedgehogs and cane rats. But some health experts call it a risky move. (AP Photo/Christian Thompson, File)

ABIDJAN, IVORY COAST (AP) — As the deadly outbreak of Ebola has subsided, people in several West African countries are flocking to eat bushmeat again after restrictions were lifted on the consumption of wild animals like hedgehogs and cane rats. But some health experts call it a risky move.

Ivory Coast, which neighbors two of the three countries where Ebola killed more than 11,300 people since December 2013, lifted its ban on wild animal meat this month.

The meat of squirrel, deer, fruit bats and rats has long been a key source of protein for many in the region, but it is also a potential source of the Ebola virus.

Though bushmeat hasn’t officially been linked to West Africa’s recent Ebola outbreak, the deadliest in history, infections in Africa have been associated with hunting, butchering and processing meat from infected animals, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. The Ebola virus is then spread through direct contact with the bodily fluids of victims or corpses.

“From a public health standpoint, this decision is unfortunate at best,” said Ben Neuman, a virologist at Texas A&M University-Texarkana. “The only source of Ebola in the world is infected animals, and there’s good evidence that some of these animals, like bats, can be infected for a long time.”

However, not all bushmeat is equal, he said. Bats pass on the virus and travel far. Some types of rodents can get the virus. Primate meat is likely not as much of a danger, given that they succumb to Ebola more quickly than people.

“There’s a good case for banning the sale of bats as bushmeat. The other sources are a lesser risk,” Neuman said. “I don’t want to see it all legal, but we don’t want to see people go hungry, either.”

Ivory Coast, Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Ghana all warned against, or banned, the sale of bushmeat in 2014 as the outbreak emerged. They began rolling back those restrictions after the World Health Organization said in March that Ebola was no longer an international health emergency.

Many in the countries are happy that they can now enjoy the meat they have always relied on. Some believe it is tastier than imported meats or chicken, and it’s often cheaper.

“We weren’t happy that the government banned us from eating bushmeat these past two years. But we did what we were told because of Ebola,” said Lucien Douhan while shopping for bushmeat in the Yopougon suburb of Abidjan.

In the teeming open-air markets, vendors handled the stiffened meat in recognizable animal form. Bat wings competed for space on worn wooden tables with other meat, some tails and claws still attached. Flies buzzed. A machete hacked.

Those who sell the meat say they have been through hard times.

“We couldn’t afford for our kids to go to school. It was hard for us. We had to sell frogs so the kids could eat, and we sold snails too,” said Brigitte Gahie. “But today, thanks be to God, the meat is back and the people are coming back.”

In Guinea, bushmeat sales are still illegal, said Mohamed Tall, the minister of livestock and animal production there. Despite the ban, people still consume it.

“We ate it before Ebola. We eat it after Ebola. Nothing can stop me from eating it,” said Marcel Yombouno in Guinea.

Liberia issued a warning against the consumption of bushmeat during Ebola, but now the meat is being sold openly. In Sierra Leone, a bushmeat ban has been lifted.

Ebola first appeared in 1976 in Congo and has caused periodic outbreaks there and in other African countries. Its re-emergence is likely, said Neuman, given the densely populated areas where Ebola has occurred.

“Ebola will come again,” he said. “Hopefully we will be ready this time.”

Petesch reported from Dakar, Senegal; AP writers Boubacar Diallo in Conakry, Guinea; Clarence Roy-Macaulay in Freetown, Sierra Leone and Jonathan Paye-Layleh in Monrovia, Liberia contributed to this report.

FACT SHEET: U.S.-Africa Cooperation On Trade And Investment Under The Obama Administration

The White House
Office Of The Press Secretary
September 21, 2016

For Immediate Release

Africa’s immense economic potential, increasing integration into global markets, expanding infrastructure, and demographic boom provide a remarkable opportunity to enhance U.S. trade and investment ties across the continent. African countries are tackling economic challenges by diversifying their economies, streamlining regional and global economic cooperation, and innovating to overcome barriers to trade and investment. The United States is committed to being a partner in these efforts, including through initiatives such as the Doing Business in Africa Campaign, Power Africa, and Trade Africa. Taking into account these and other efforts, at the 2014 U.S.-Africa Business Forum (USABF) co-hosted by the U.S. Department of Commerce (Commerce) and Bloomberg Philanthropies, $33 billion in commitments, including $14 billion in private sector deals and commitments, were made to support economic growth across Africa. Over the last two years, Commerce has tracked nearly $15 billion in additional private sector deals reached between U.S. and African partners, and from 2008 to 2015 U.S. direct investment in Africa rose from $37 billion to $64 billion on a historic-cost basis - an increase of more than 70 percent. That’s more than double the total global official development assistance that went to Africa in 2015. ‎Today’s U.S.-Africa Business Forum builds upon the partnerships created in 2014 with new commitments to mobilize an additional $9.1 billion in trade and investment to support the development of Africa’s consumer goods, construction, energy, healthcare, manufacturing, telecommunications, and transportation sectors.

The U.S. Government has Expanded its Presence and Economic Engagement in Africa

Since 2008, Commerce has doubled its presence on the continent, opening new offices in Angola, Tanzania, Ethiopia, and Mozambique, expanding its presence in Ghana, and re-establishing a presence at the African Development Bank. The U.S. Trade and Development Agency (USTDA) has opened an office in Nigeria and restarted work in Kenya, and the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) opened offices in Kenya, South Africa and Cote d’Ivoire. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has deployed more than 40 field-based transaction advisors in sub-Saharan Africa to track projects for potential Power Africa support and to provide technical support to improve the enabling environment for private sector investment in the energy sector.

In addition to expanding their physical presence, economic and development agencies have significantly expanded their portfolios on the continent: 

OPIC has tripled its portfolio in Africa since 2009, and investments in Africa now represent nearly a third of OPIC’s total portfolio. OPIC has committed more than $7 billion in financing and insurance to projects in Africa, and these commitments have mobilized more than $14 billion in additional investments into highly impactful sectors in Africa like clean energy, telecom, healthcare, education, and microfinance.

USTDA has more than doubled the size of its Africa portfolio in the last eight years, supporting 135 projects across 14 countries. This early-stage investment, which has the potential to mobilize more than $17 billion in private and public financing, has already helped to realize $2.5 billion in U.S. exports. 

From 2009-2016, Export-Import Bank of the United States (EXIM Bank) authorizations doubled in Sub-Saharan Africa as compared to the previous eight-year period, and rose across all of Africa by 45 percent. In the past five years EXIM Bank has approved more than $6.3 billion in financing for U.S. exports to sub-Saharan Africa, including a record $2.1 billion in fiscal year 2014.

Twenty of the Millennium Challenge Corporation’s (MCC’s) signed compacts are with African countries, totaling $7.9 billion and representing approximately 68 percent of MCC’s total compact portfolio. In addition, 11 of MCC’s threshold programs are with African countries, totaling more than $203 million. 

Since 2008, the U.S. African Development Foundation (USADF) commitment to Africa has grown with entry into 8 new countries. USADF has opened African-led program offices in each country, with African country teams that manage nearly $25 million active projects
The Department of the Treasury has committed to double resources for the domestic resource mobilization work of the Office of Technical Assistance (OTA) by 2020, which will expand support for building effective revenue and expenditure systems. OTA has increasingly focused on Africa, with projects in sub-Saharan Africa making up approximately one third of its portfolio.

The Administration has Expanded Access to U.S. Government Tools that Support Our Trade and Investment with Africa

The U.S. Government, across a dozen Departments and Agencies, offers a suite of financial and technical tools and programs to support U.S. businesses looking to trade with and invest in Africa, including financing for overseas investments; export credit and political risk insurance; partial loan and risk guarantees; support for project preparation, feasibility studies and training; and export counseling and market analysis. Diplomatic engagement by the State Department also supports American firms and promotes host government reforms that improve investment environments.

In 2012, the Administration launched the Doing Business in Africa (DBIA) Campaign to help make the U.S. Government’s resources more easily available to the U.S. private sector and African public and private sector partners. At the 2014 Forum, the President announced the formation of an Advisory Council on DBIA to provide information, analysis, and recommendations on opportunities for the U.S. Government to promote broad-based economic growth in the United States and in Africa by encouraging U.S. companies to trade with and invest in Africa. Today, the President welcomed the new members of the Advisory Council on DBIA, which was expanded from 15 to 24 members to ensure a more robust representation across U.S. industries.

Since the DBIA Campaign was launched in 2012, Commerce has assisted more than 1,500 U.S. clients seeking to export to African countries. Since 2009, Commerce’s International Buyer Program has helped bring 522 delegations and 8,123 buyers from Africa to U.S. trade shows, and Commerce has taken 283 U.S. companies on trade missions to Africa. Commerce’s Minority Business Development Agency has sponsored the African Global Pathways initiative, which provides minority-owned firms access to expert consulting services that promote U.S.-Africa business linkages. USTDA has hosted African government and business leaders on more than 40 reverse trade missions to the United States since 2008 – helping to generate over $135 million in U.S. exports to Africa. OPIC has also led investor delegations to Liberia, Sierra Leone, Cote d'Ivoire, and Senegal to identify ripe opportunities and encourage investment, and MCC conducted its first ever investment mission to Tanzania and Malawi. Earlier this week, the Department of Commerce and leaders from East Africa announced new steps they plan to take to support tourism, cold chain development, and infrastructure in that region. At the USABF, Commerce and the Nigerian Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment are announcing the establishment of the U.S.-Nigeria Commercial and Investment Dialogue to sustain engagement between our governments and private sectors in order to promote deeper trade and investment ties between the United States and Nigeria.

The U.S. government is also working to make it easier for U.S. companies to invest and work in Africa. The Department of Transportation (DOT) continues to work with African governments to improve transportation infrastructure, modernize laws and regulations governing transportation, reduce technical barriers to trade through harmonization of standards, and improve regional connectivity. Under the Safe Skies for Africa program, DOT has completed more than 100 training courses and workshops to facilitate African aviation professional’s exposure and adherence to international aviation standards. And today, the Department of Agriculture (USDA) is making up to $100 million in credit guarantees available to establish or upgrade facilities or infrastructure in Africa and elsewhere, enhancing countries’ ability to import U.S. agricultural commodities.

In addition to in-person resources, departments and agencies are expanding access to online resources. Commerce launched a One-Stop-Shop website to offer American businesses and entrepreneurs real-time access to critical African market information, financing tools available to them, projects to consider, and key contacts. TheDepartment of Energy (DOE) developed the online "Clean Energy Solutions Centere",  which connects policymakers in Africa with experts and best practice resources to help governments design and adopt policies that support the deployment of clean energy technologies, including by harmonizing these policies with countries’ Intended Nationally Determined Contributions. DOE also brought together world class industry experts and emerging natural gas producers and consumers in sub-Saharan Africa to create a "Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) Handbook," which will help foster a shared understanding between government officials and private companies of the factors that lead to successful LNG projects. Commerce’s Commercial Law Development Program and the African Development Bank’s (AfDB’s) African Legal Support Facility released two handbooks under the auspices of Power Africa that are helping to strengthen the capacity of African governments to negotiate fair and transparent power deals. Today, MCC launched a new collaboration with the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) to catalyze investment in the developing world by sharing economic analysis and identifying potential partnerships and investment opportunities.

Through Power Africa, launched in 2013, the U.S. Government and a coalition of more than 130 public and private sector partners are working to double access to electricity in sub-Saharan Africa. At the 2014 USABF, the President pledged new funding to expand Power Africa’s reach to all of sub-Saharan Africa, and announced a new aggregate goal of adding 30,000 megawatts (MW) of new, cleaner electricity and increasing electricity access by at least 60 million new connections. Power Africa is providing support for projects expected to generate more than 29,000 MW, and this support has already helped transactions expected to generate more than 4,600 MW of generation reach financial close. Through the combined efforts of Power Africa’s strategic partners, including the World Bank Group, the AfDB, the European Union, and the Governments of Sweden, the United Kingdom, Norway, and Canada, Power Africa is on track to meet its goals by 2030. In August 2016, Power Africa announced a new partnership with the Government of Japan, through which Japan committed to bring 1,200 MW of electricity to sub-Saharan Africa by the end of 2018. To date, Power Africa’s initial $7 billion commitment has mobilized more than $52 billion in additional external commitments, including more than $40 billion in private sector commitments to invest in power generation and distribution across sub-Saharan Africa.

By demonstrating that renewable power transactions are financially viable, improving the performance of utilities, changing the regulatory mind-set on renewables, and harmonizing policies to drive investment and stability, Power Africa is also playing a critical role in advancing affordable, reliable, and modern energy services and substantially increasing the share of renewable energy in sub-Saharan Africa – which currently represents three quarters of the projects Power Africa is supporting. Through the U.S.-Africa Clean Energy Finance (ACEF) Initiative, OPIC and USTDA have provided critical early-stage project preparation support for 34 renewable energy projects in ten African countries. Already, 15 ACEF projects have secured project financing, which is leading to increased power generation capacity and expanded access to electricity. For example, since receiving ACEF funding from OPIC in 2013, Off-Grid Electric has expanded solar energy provision in Tanzania from 2,000 households to more than 100,000. A grant from the USTDA to Rwandan company Amahoro Energy Ltd. to develop two run-of river hydropower plants helped open up Rwanda’s hydropower sector to eight other projects, in addition to providing electricity to the Shyira Hospital and 22,500 households in rural Rwanda. Power Africa has also facilitated the signing of 14 Independent Power Purchase Agreements to develop 1,125 MW of new solar power in Nigeria, and through a partnership with Lekela Power, OPIC will support the development, construction and operation of a 158.7 MW wind farm in Senegal, which will boost Senegal's generation capacity by nearly a quarter and provide a critical foundation for its power generation and sustainable energy growth plan. Through the Power Africa Off-Grid Energy Challenge, in partnership with GE Africa, USADF has awarded 50 grants totaling an investment of $5 million to African energy entrepreneurs who have leveraged their awards to bring electricity, from solar micro-grids to biogas, to rural communities living beyond the grid. Today, the USADF announced  21 new Off-Grid Energy Challenge grant winners and launched a new partnership with GE Africa focused on African women-owned and managed energy enterprises.

The Trade Africa initiative, launched in 2013, has helped countries boost trade within Africa and between Africa and the United States, while reducing barriers to trade across borders on the continent. Trade Africa has expanded to five additional countries, in addition to its original focus on the Partner States of the East African Community (EAC). Since 2014, USAID regional Trade and Investment Hubs in Ghana, Kenya, and South Africa have facilitated more than $283 million in African exports to the United States and $140 million in U.S. investment in Africa. The East Africa Hub has supported 29,000 new African jobs, and exports facilitated by the Hub has contributed to the 36 percent increase in EAC exports to the United States between 2013 and 2015. Trade Africa has helped reduce cross-border transit times from key East African ports to land-locked interior destinations by as much as 80 percent – exceeding the initiative's 15 percent target – through its contribution to and leadership in the TradeMark East Africa initiative and the Hub's efforts to establish partner government joint border committees, support the development of "single windows" for traders to file paperwork, and facilitate the adoption of electronic data exchange systems. Trade Africa has also facilitated successful policy dialogues on trade and investment issues, including an agreement to cooperate on World Trade Organization trade facilitation measures and enhancing food safety.

Today, USAID issued two reports on behalf of the Administration that highlight progress to date under the Trade Africa and Power Africa initiatives. The Power Africa Annual Report complements the January 2016 Power Africa Roadmap, which describes the initiative’s path to achieving its ambitious access goals by 2030. The Trade Africa Annual Report highlights the most significant impacts this initiative has had on trade between African countries and between Africa and the United States. In addition, USTR issued a report entitled "Beyond AGOA:Looking: Looking at the future of US-Africa Trade and Investment",  which considers paths to deepen the U.S.-Africa trade and investment relationship, keeping pace with dramatic change in Africa.

The United States is Supporting the Next Generation of African Leaders and Makers

The United States also recognizes the role that young people play in supporting economic growth, including through entrepreneurship. Africa’s large and growing youth population is central to achieving and maintaining Africa’s robust economic growth. That is why the United States has held two Global Entrepreneurship Summits(GES) in Africa – in Morocco in 2014 and in Kenya in 2015 – showcasing the innovation and economic opportunities of both North and Sub-Saharan Africa. Through the GES, the U.S. Government has mobilized more than $1 billion in capital for entrepreneurs across Africa and around the world. At the 2015 GES, USAID, the United Kingdom, and the Shell Foundation, under the auspices of Power Africa, launched the Scaling Off-Grid Energy: Grand Challenge for Development, a $36 million investment to empower entrepreneurs and investors to connect 20 million households in sub-Saharan Africa to modern, clean, and affordable electricity. As part of the Grand Challenge, USAID partnered with DOE and the Global Lighting and Energy Access Partnership to launch a refrigeration prize that will leverage $300,000 to catalyze technological advancements in off-grid refrigeration.

Since 2010, the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) has engaged nearly 300,000 young Africans through the YALI Network, an online and in-person community of entrepreneurs, activists, and public servants working together to solve shared challenges for their continent and the world. Since 2014, two thousand young people have participated in the Mandela Washington Fellows program, and thousands more have joined seminars and workshops at the four YALI Regional Leadership Centers in Accra, Dakar, Nairobi, and Pretoria. The USADF has committed $7.5 million over three years to fund YALI entrepreneurs who are launching and expanding their businesses and social ventures across Sub-Saharan Africa. In 2016 Mandela Washington Fellows were able to join the first sector-specific YALI training program at the YALI Energy Institute, a collaboration between USAID, the U.S. Department of State, the DOE’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and the University of California at Davis.

The United States is Combatting Corruption at Home and Abroad

We have also committed to continue and expand efforts combat to corruption at home and abroad, as we recognize corruption’s pernicious effects on inclusive economic growth, prosperity and sustainable development, as well as the obstacle that it continues to represent as we seek to grow trade and investment. In 2014, President Obama announced the Partnership on Illicit Finance (PIF)at the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit, an initiative co-led by the United States and Senegal that brings together African partners and the United States to jointly tackle the challenges of corruption and other financial crimes. This May, the United States launched its PIF National Action Plan, along with Senegal. The remaining six PIF partners are working to develop their plans, and we look forward to those plans being released soon. We are also working together to combat corruption and to increase transparency and accountability in the region through the Open Government Partnership (OGP). Participation from African countries in OGP is growing, and OGP can play an important role in addressing common governance challenges across the continent, including by engaging civil society and building trust in government. In addition, in May 2016, President Obama announced several important steps we are taking in the United States to strengthen financial transparency, combat money laundering, corruption and tax evasion, and called upon Congress to take additional action to address these critical issues.

Rights Group: For 1 Police Unit, "Torture Is A Lucrative Business"


Nigeria Police.Image Credit: Naij

LAGOS, NIGERIA (AP) -- An elite Nigeria police squad set up to combat violent crime is torturing detainees to extract lucrative bribes and confessions, Amnesty International said in a report published Wednesday.

The report says the Special Anti-Robbery Squad demands bribes, steals and extorts money from criminal suspects and their families.

“A police unit created to protect the people has instead become a danger to society, torturing its victims with complete impunity while fomenting a toxic climate of fear and corruption,” said Damian Ugwu, Nigeria researcher for the London-based human rights organization.

The Nigeria Police Force spokesman, Deputy Commissioner Donald Awunah, did not respond to requests by The Associated Press for comment. Amnesty International said its questions about why no officers have been prosecuted met with a police denial that any torture occurs.

The report says many officers bribe police chiefs to get onto the special squad where “torture is a lucrative business” and that “the police chiefs in charge are themselves entwined in the corruption.”

Amnesty said it had received reports from lawyers, human rights activists and journalists and collected testimonies from victims to uncover “a pattern of ruthless human rights violations.”

The U.S. State Department’s report on human rights in Nigeria notes that an anti-torture bill passed by the legislature still awaits the signature of President Muhammadu Buhari. It says reports indicate that “security service personnel regularly tortured, beat, and abused demonstrators, criminal suspects, militants, detainees and convicted prisoners. Police repeatedly mistreated civilians to extort money” and confessions later used to convict suspects.

This isn’t the first time Amnesty International has done reports into the questionable conduct of the Nigerian police. Earlier this year a report into illegally detained suspects starving to death emerged most of whom were young children and babies.

Buhari promised to stamp out endemic corruption when he won elections in March 2015, but it is proving an uphill battle in this West African nation where graft pollutes every sector of life.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Blackouts, Recession: Nigeria’s Troubles Mount


A man counts a pile of naira notes in Abuja, Nigeria. File picture: Suzanne Plunkett. Credit:BLOOMBERG

LAGOS, NGERIA (BLOOMBERG) - On a site four times the size of Manhattan along the banks of the Niger river, the Ajaokuta steel plant was supposed to symbolise Nigeria’s modernity and prosperity rather than its failure.

Russian contractors first started building it in 1979 and estimates on how much has been spent range from $4 billion to $10 billion. The state-owned company that owns the facility calls it “the bedrock of Nigeria’s industrialisation”. It’s yet to produce any steel.

“It’s not about resuscitating it, it’s about developing it,” Frank Jacobs, who runs a company making wine from pineapples and heads Nigeria’s main manufacturing association, said at his office in Lagos. “If you say resuscitating, it means it was working before. It hasn’t worked. There’s nowhere a country can industrialise without steel.”

Africa’s most populous country has gone from a promised land for Nigerians and foreign investors alike to one of frustrated fortunes. The decline looked complete last month when Nigeria’s vice president said the country was in the worst economic crisis it had ever faced. The currency has collapsed and output is set to shrink this year for the first time since 1991 after 8 percent-plus growth through the 2000s.

The nation remains blighted by the mismanagement and corruption scandals that were rife during the oil-led boom years and its dysfunction has been more exposed since the collapse of energy prices. Transport links are in tatters and blackouts are common because the country produces just 10 percent of the electricity of South Africa, which has one-third of Nigeria’s 180 million population.

Islamist militant group Boko Haram has wreaked havoc in the north-east, killing tens of thousands of people and leaving 250 000 children needing food aid. Other groups blew up oil pipelines and export terminals in the southern Niger River delta, sending crude production to an almost three-decade low.

Nigeria’s 36 states are so cash-strapped that many teachers, pensioners and civil servants have gone months without pay. The governor of Imo, home to about 4 million people in the south-east, announced a three-day working week, telling bureaucrats to farm on the other two. Nigerians are even scrimping on protein in their diets, according to the head of Nestle SA’s local business.

‘A mess’

French construction company Bouygues SA has halted some projects and plans to do less work for the government because of the risk of not getting paid.

“The last two years have been terrible,” said Andre Guillou, Bouygues’s vice-chairman in Nigeria. “It’s a mess.”

At the 240 square kilometre Ajaokuta site, a three-hour drive south from the capital Abuja, cows graze on grounds that were meant to store iron ore, coal and lime, and thousands of houses for workers lie empty and windowless. A railway bridge across the river has never been used because there’s no line linking it to ports or manufacturing hubs. It has produced rods, wires and machine parts - on and off - and banks, hospitals and schools are open for the local community.

“I did some work at the plant, but there is not much to do there yet,” said Sulaiman Abubakar, a 56-year-old father of nine who lives near Ajaokuta and studied metallurgy in his youth so he could get a job there. Instead, he drives a keke, a Nigerian version of a motorised rickshaw, and wants his children to become engineers. “They will get jobs once this plant starts working,” he said. “We still hope it does, because it’s all we have.”

Crash landing

It’s hard to imagine in Ajaokuta that investors once drooled over Nigeria’s prospects.

Fidelity Investments promoted “MINTs” in April 2011, saying Nigeria, Mexico, Indonesia and Turkey were the emerging markets of the future, an opinion reinforced by Jim O’Neill, the former Goldman Sachs economist. Consulting firm McKinsey said Nigeria had the potential to grow 7 percent a year through 2030, ultimately making its economy larger than the Netherlands, Malaysia or Thailand.

Then came the 2014 oil crash. Foreign investors fled and the economy tanked. Though Nigeria was always going to suffer from a drop in oil prices, it was the government’s bungled response that made it worse, according to Martina Bozadzhieva, an analyst at Frontier Strategy Group.

President Muhammadu Buhari, a military ruler in the 1980s, came to power again last year, this time via the ballot box and on a wave of optimism that he would fight corruption and revive the economy. He took almost six months to form a cabinet and only approved the 2016 budget in May.

He also leaned on central bank Governor Godwin Emefiele to peg the naira, ostensibly to stop prices of food and transport rising. Instead, inflation soared to an 11-year high of 18 percent as businesses struggle to pay foreign suppliers for the machinery and raw materials that aren’t available locally. Since June, when Emefiele gave up trying to support the currency, the naira has plunged 40 percent against the dollar.

“The confidence in Buhari is very quickly evaporating,” said Bozadzhieva, whose company advises multinationals like Coca-Cola and General Electric. “Firms are close to that point where they say: ‘You know what, this is a disaster.’ It’s okay to have an oil price drop. But there are countries that have managed it much better.”

With assistance from Sophie Mongalvy

Saturday, September 17, 2016

World Leaders To Focus On Refugee Crisis And Syria At U.N.


African refugees and migrants wait for help aboard a punctured rubber boat on Sept. 10 during a rescue operation in the Mediterranean Sea north of Libya. The refugee crisis will be on the agenda when world leaders meet this week at the United Nations. Image: Santi Palacios/AP

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — World leaders meeting at the United Nations starting Monday will be trying to make progress on two intractable problems at the top of the global agenda — the biggest refugee crisis since World War II and the Syrian conflict now in its sixth year which has claimed over 300,000 lives.

Against a backdrop of rising ethnic and religious tension, fighting elsewhere in the Mideast and Africa, extremist attacks across the world and a warming planet, there are plenty of other issues for the 135 heads of state and government and more than 50 ministers expected to attend to try to tackle.

“It’s no secret there’s a lot of fear out there,” U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power told reporters Thursday, citing the uncertainties sparked by Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, the threat posed by the Islamic State extremist group, and attacks in many parts of the world by IS and other terrorist groups.

But Syria, where a tense cease-fire brokered by Moscow and Washington went into effect last Monday, remains at the top of the agenda at the U.N. General Assembly’s annual ministerial meeting. An apparently errant airstrike on Saturday in which the U.S. military may have unintentionally struck Syrian troops while carrying out a raid against the Islamic State group could deal a crushing blow to the U.S.-Russian-brokered cease-fire. The cease-fire, which does not apply to attacks on IS, has largely held for five days despite dozens of alleged violations on both sides.

The U.N. Security Council scheduled a closed emergency meeting Saturday night at Russia’s request to discuss the airstrike.

The Security Council earlier had scheduled a ministerial meeting on Syria for Wednesday. Russia was pushing for a resolution to endorse the cessation of hostilities and look ahead, but the U.S. refused to make public details of the cease-fire deal citing “operational security.” Russia’s U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin called the U.S. uncooperative and said most likely “we’re not going to have a resolution.”

With the truce still fragile, no sign yet of humanitarian aid deliveries, and supporters and opponents of the Syrian government trading accusations, diplomats said there may be a meeting Tuesday of some 20 key countries on both sides who are part of the International Syria Support Group to chart the next steps.

The spotlight during the week is also certain to shine on three leaders, who are all scheduled to speak at the assembly’s opening ministerial session on Tuesday morning.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon who steps down on Dec. 31, and U.S. President Barack Obama who will leave office in January, will be addressing the 193-member world body for the last time. And British Prime Minister Theresa May will be making her debut on the world stage less than three months after the vote to leave the European Union.

In U.N. corridors and at private meetings, the question of Ban’s successor will be a hot topic. Portugal’s former Prime Minister Antonio Guterres has topped all four informal polls in the Security Council but he could be vetoed, possibly by Russia, and there are constant rumors of new candidates throwing their hats in the ring.

The U.S. presidential race is already a hot topic at the U.N., and no doubt leaders will be privately discussing the impact of a victory by Hillary Clinton, and especially Donald Trump, on the United Nations where the United States is the largest financial contributor and has veto-wielding power in the Security Council.

In one of the week’s highlights, the secretary-general has invited leaders to a first-ever U.N. Summit on Refugees and Migrants on Monday.

According to the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, an “unprecedented” 65.3 million people were displaced at the end of 2015, an increase of more than 5 million from a year earlier and the highest number since World War II. They include 21.3 million refugees, 3.2 million asylum seekers, and 40.8 million people internally displaced within their own countries.

“”More countries must resettle more people who have been forced from their homes,” Ban told reporters Wednesday. “And everyone, everywhere, must stand up against the animosity that so many refugees, migrants and minority communities face.”

The political declaration set to be adopted calls for separate Global Compacts for refugees and migrants to be adopted within two years. But human rights groups complained that it was watered down, eliminating Ban’s proposal to resettle 10 percent of the world’s refugees annually.

At a follow-up summit on Tuesday called by Obama, at least 45 countries are expected to make pledges that will meet or exceed U.S. goals of increasing humanitarian aid by $3 billion, doubling resettlement and lawful admission spots, and increasing access to education for one million youngsters and access to employment by one million, a U.S. official said, speaking on condition of anonymity ahead of the summit.

“We are not going to solve the refugee crisis on Tuesday,” U.S. envoy Power said, “but I think you’ll see an important show of political will from leaders around the world.”

According to the United Nations, 545 meetings have been requested and Ban will take part in 62 events.

The U.N. chief, who has made climate change a top priority, has organized an event Wednesday for countries to deliver their ratifications of the Paris Declaration to tackle global warming. He is hoping to get the required 55 countries representing 55 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, if not Wednesday, by the end of the year.

Nigeria’s Foreign Minister Geoffrey Onyeama, whose government is battling the confronting the Boko Haram Islamic extremists, told reporters Friday that addressing “this global phenomenon of terrorism” will be high on his country’s agenda along with tackling the U.N. development goals for 2030 and promoting a new U.N. body to focus on youth.

The Security Council is holding a ministerial meeting Thursday on improving aviation security, and it could meet again if agreement is reached on a resolution to support the nuclear test ban treaty which will likely single out North Korea, the only country to conduct tests in the 21st century.

The parties to the Iran nuclear deal are also scheduled to meet Thursday as well as the Quartet of Mideast mediators — the U.S., U.N., EU and Russia — who are trying to get Israel and the Palestinians back to the negotiating table.

Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari Sorry For Plagiarizing Obama Speech


LAGOS, NIGERIA (ASSOCIATED PRESS) — Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari apologized Saturday for plagiarizing President Barack Obama's 2008 victory speech and said he will punish those responsible.

The announcement came as Obama is set to meet Buhari, the leader of Africa's largest economy and most populous country, next week in New York.

Adeola Akinremi in her Friday column for ThisDay newspaper denounced "the moral problem of plagiarism on a day Mr. President launched a campaign to demand honesty and integrity."

Several lines were almost identical to Obama's in a speech Buhari made Sept. 8 launching his campaign "Change Begins With Me." The campaign promotes a new way of thinking to rid Nigeria of widespread corruption.

Buhari said, "We must resist the temptation to fall back on the same partisanship, pettiness and immaturity that have poisoned our country for so long. Let us summon a new spirit of responsibility, spirit of service, of patriotism and sacrifice. Let us all resolve to pitch in and work hard and look after, not only ourselves, but one another."

Obama said, "So let us summon a new spirit of patriotism; of service and responsibility where each of us resolves to pitch in and work harder and look after not only ourselves, but each other. ... Let us resist the temptation to fall back on the same partisanship and pettiness and immaturity that has poisoned our politics for so long. "

Obama will meet with Buhari on Tuesday during the U.N. General Assembly session, the White House said Friday. They are expected to discuss U.S. support for security and economic changes in Nigeria and efforts to curb the Boko Haram Islamic uprising.

Obama also plans to promote U.S.-Africa trade on Wednesday, attending a summit with some 200 U.S. and African CEOs and African heads of state.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Traders Selling Dangerously Dirty Fuel Across Africa: Study

Image: Energy Clean

European oil companies, especially Swiss commodity traders, are exploiting weak African fuel standards by selling toxic diesel and gasoline across the continent, a campaign group said Thursday.

A three-year investigation published by Switzerland-based environmental and economic group Public Eye did not accuse oil companies of breaking any laws.

But it charged several firms with using an "illegitimate strategy" to boost profits, hawking so-called "African quality" fuels that have had devastating health and environmental impacts across many sub-Saharan states.

In a 160-page report based on research in eight African countries, Public Eye found fuels sold at the pump which contained high levels of toxins, notably sulphur.

Such toxic blends would be illegal to sell in Europe, which caps sulphur rates in fuel at 10 parts per million, Public Eye said.

In Africa, sulphur limits are on average 200 times higher.

"By selling such fuels at the pump in Africa, the traders increase outdoor air pollution, causing respiratory disease and premature death," said the report from Public Eye, a group previously known as the Bern Declaration and founded in 1968.

Among the key culprits, Public Eye named Swiss traders Vitol and Trafigura as well as the multi-national energy group Oryx, which specialises in the African market.

In a statement sent to AFP, Vitol called the report "inaccurate and misinformed," stressing that African governments were responsible for setting their own fuel standards.

Oryx made the same case, noting in a statement that it sells fuel products "that strictly comply with the national legislation of each client country."

Call to act

Public Eye tested fuel sold in Angola, Benin, Congo-Brazzaville, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Mali, Senegal and Zambia.

While sub-Saharan Africa includes major oil producers like Angola and Nigeria, limited refining capacity on the continent means that most African oil is sold as crude on the international market.

States then import fuel products refined abroad, often from European traders.

These transactions often involve regional brokers in Africa, who are sometimes responsible for mixing the fuel.

Public eye called on African governments "to set stringent fuel quality standards" in line with European levels, arguing that was the most effective way to crack down on toxic blends.

Fears that banning low-quality blends will raise costs for consumers are misguided, the report said.

It noted that measures in East Africa to limit sulphur continent had "no impact on prices at the pump."

Importing better fuel would also lower healthcare expenses and reduce vehicle maintenance costs in the long run, Public Eye argued.

With many of the toxic blends produced in Europe and the United States, Public Eye urged Western governments to ban the export of fuel products that do not meet their own domestic standards.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Canadian Overseas Petroleum Ltd: Completion Of Acquisition n Nigeria

SEPTEMBER 14, 2016

CALGARY, CANADA (MARKET WIRED) - Canadian Overseas Petroleum Limited ("COPL" or the "Company") (XOP: TSX-V) & (COPL: LSE), an international oil and gas exploration and development company focused on offshore West Africa, announces its 50% owned affiliate, Shoreline Canadian Overseas Petroleum Limited ("ShoreCan"), has completed the acquisition of 80% of the share capital of Essar Exploration and Production Limited (Nigeria) ("Essar Nigeria"). Essar Nigeria's sole asset is a 100% interest and operatorship of OPL 226 located 50km offshore in the central area of the Niger Delta.

Under the terms of the Production Sharing Contract ("PSC") governing OPL 226 (the "Block"), Essar Nigeria is required to seek Ministerial consent for the transaction. Application has been made and the parties to the transaction are awaiting its approval. Under the terms of the acquisition, ShoreCan will take over management and have a majority of Directors on the Board of the Essar Nigeria immediately.

An extension to the first phase of the PSC to December 31, 2017 was recently granted to Essar Nigeria. The remaining commitment on the first phase of the PSC is the drilling of one well. COPL's technical team has identified a drilling location, which will be an offset to an oil discovery made in 2001 by a previous Contract holder.

OPL 226 has an area of 1530 km² and is located approximately 50 km offshore the central delta region of Nigeria in water depths ranging from 40 to 180 meters. It offers oil appraisal and development opportunities having near term oil production potential and significant exploration upside. Historically, five wells have been drilled, with the first oil discovery on the Block made in 2001in the fifth well after earlier drilling intersected predominantly gas-bearing sands.


Calgary, Canada, September 14, 2016 - Canadian Overseas Petroleum Limited ("COPL" or the "Company") (XOP: TSX-V) & (COPL: LSE), an international oil and gas exploration and development company focused on offshore West Africa, announces its 50% owned affiliate, Shoreline Canadian Overseas Petroleum Limited ("ShoreCan"), has completed the acquisition of 80% of the share capital of Essar Exploration and Production Limited (Nigeria) ("Essar Nigeria"). Essar Nigeria's sole asset is a 100% interest and operatorship of OPL 226 located 50km offshore in the central area of the Niger Delta.

Under the terms of the Production Sharing Contract ("PSC") governing OPL 226 (the "Block"), Essar Nigeria is required to seek Ministerial consent for the transaction. Application has been made and the parties to the transaction are awaiting its approval. Under the terms of the acquisition, ShoreCan will take over management and have a majority of Directors on the Board of the Essar Nigeria immediately. 

An extension to the first phase of the PSC to December 31, 2017 was recently granted to Essar Nigeria. The remaining commitment on the first phase of the PSC is the drilling of one well. COPL's technical team has identified a drilling location, which will be an offset to an oil discovery made in 2001 by a previous Contract holder.

 OPL 226 has an area of 1530 km² and is located approximately 50 km offshore the central delta region of Nigeria in water depths ranging from 40 to 180 meters. It offers oil appraisal and development opportunities having near term oil production potential and significant exploration upside. Historically, five wells have been drilled, with the first oil discovery on the Block made in 2001in the fifth well after earlier drilling intersected predominantly gas-bearing sands.

 The Block is situated along a large growth fault-controlled structural complex, which the Company refers to as the "Noa Complex". Extensive seismic campaigns have been conducted on the block over the years with 1750 km of 2D seismic, and approximately 1300 km² of 3D seismic data acquired to date. ShoreCan in the last year has completed additional seismic processing to the most recent 568 km² 3D seismic survey acquired by Essar Nigeria in 2012. The advanced seismic processing techniques applied to this data set by ShoreCan were done to differentiate oil-bearing sands from gas and water bearing sands. 

These techniques were unavailable previously due to the poor quality and inappropriate parameters of the earlier seismic data sets. 

At the request of COPL, Netherland, Sewell & Associates, Inc. ("NSAI") has prepared an independent report (the "Report") in accordance with Canadian National Instrument 51-101 evaluating the Contingent and Prospective Resources attributed to OPL 226, as at 1 March 2016. In the Report, the Gross Unrisked Contingent Oil Resources recoverable for the primary Noa West oil discovery are estimated to be the following: Low Estimate (1C), 11.5 million Bbls; Best Estimate (2C), 16.1 million Bbls; and High Estimate (3C), 20.7 million Bbls. The Gross Unrisked Prospective Oil Resources recoverable for 15 additional undrilled areas on the Noa Complex in the Report are estimated to be the following: Low Estimate, 259 million Bbls; Best Estimate, 461 million Bbls; and High Estimate, 808 million Bbls. In addition to the oil resources identified, NSAI's Report has estimated significant volumes of Unrisked Prospective gas resources on the Block totaling on a Best Estimate basis over 1.7 TCF. 

Arthur Millholland, President & CEO, commented: "This is a great opportunity for our Company. It is a result of our efforts and of our partner in ShoreCan; the Nigeria based Shoreline Energy International. It allows the Company to leverage its inhouse technical expertise and expand its regional footprint to acquire a high quality oil appraisal and development asset offshore Nigeria. It will be an excellent complement to our current West African portfolio." 

About the Company: The Company is an international oil and gas exploration and development company focused in offshore West Africa. The Company holds a 17% working interest in Block LB-13, offshore Liberia, with ExxonMobil the operator holding an 83% working interest, where it expects to participate in the drilling of a deep-water exploration well in late 2016. The Company is also actively pursuing opportunities in Nigeria in partnership with Shoreline Energy as part of its strategy to generate stable cash flow from secure offshore assets. The Company and Shoreline, through their jointly held affiliated company, Shoreline Canadian Overseas Petroleum Development Corporation ("ShoreCan") are currently seeking Government of Nigeria approval for the acquisition of 80% of the share capital of Essar Exploration and Production Limited (Nigeria) which holds an attractive oil appraisal and development project in mid water offshore Nigeria.

 ShoreCan is building a portfolio of exploration and development assets in sub-Saharan Africa. To date, ShoreCan has taken a position in Nigeria, and Namibia. It continues to evaluate a variety of additional assets in Nigeria, and Equatorial Guinea. 

The Common Shares are listed under the symbol "XOP" on the TSXV and under the symbol "COPL" on the London Stock Exchange. 

A presentation can be found on the Company website : 

Also check out our Twitter feed: @COPLinvestor. For further information, please contact: Mr. Arthur Millholland, President & CEO Canadian Overseas Petroleum Limited Tel: + 1 (403) 262 5441 Cathy Hume CHF Investor Relations Tel: +1 (416) 868 1079 ext. 231 Email: Harriet Jackson/Dominic Barretto Yellow Jersey PR Limited Tel: +44 (0) 75 4427 5882 Email: Broker: London Stock Exchange Shore Capital Stockbrokers Limited Edward Mansfield Phone: T: +44 20 7468 7906 

This news release contains forward-looking statements. The use of any of the words "initial, "scheduled", "can", "will", "prior to", "estimate", "anticipate", "believe", "should", "forecast", "future", "continue", "may", "expect", and similar expressions are intended to identify forward-looking statements. The forward-looking statements contained herein are based on certain key expectations and assumptions made by the Company, including, but not limited to, the ability to raise the necessary funding for operations, delays or changes in plans with respect to exploration or development projects or capital expenditures. Although the Company believes that the expectations and assumptions on which the forward-looking statements are based are reasonable, undue reliance should not be placed on the forward-looking statements since the Company can give no assurance that they will prove to be correct since forward-looking statements address future events and conditions, by their very nature they involve inherent risks and uncertainties most of which are beyond the control of Canadian Overseas Petroleum Ltd. For example, the uncertainty of reserve estimates, the uncertainty of estimates and projections relating to production, cost overruns, health and safety issues, political and environmental risks, commodity price and exchange rate fluctuations, changes in legislation affecting the oil and gas industry could cause actual results to vary materially from those expressed or implied by the forward-looking information. Forward-looking statements contained in this news release are made as of the date hereof and Canadian Overseas Petroleum undertakes no obligation to update publicly or revise any forward-looking statements or information, whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise, unless so required by applicable securities laws. Neither the TSX Venture Exchange nor its Regulation Services Provider (as that term is defined in the policies of the TSX Venture Exchange) accepts responsibility for the adequacy or accuracy of this release.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Canada’s Little Known Chequered UN History In Africa


Canadian officials have long done as they pleased in Africa, loudly proclaimed this country’s altruism and only faced push back from hard rightists who bemoan sending troops to the "Dark Continent" or "dens of hell".

With many Canadians normally opposed to war supporting anything called “peacekeeping”, unless troops deployed with an African UN mission are caught using the N-word and torturing a teenager to death (the 1993 Somalia mission) they will be portrayed as an expression of this country’s benevolence. So, what should those of us who want Canada to be a force for good in the world think about the Trudeau government’s plan to join a UN stabilization mission in Mali, Congo, Burundi, Sierra Leone, Central African Republic or South Sudan?

First, we have good reason to be cynical.

On his recent five country African “reconnaissance” tour defence minister Harjit Sajjan included an individual whose standing is intimately tied to a military leader who has destabilized large swaths of the continent. Accompanying Sajjan was General Romeo Dallaire, who backed Paul Kagame’s Rwandan Patriotic Front in 1993/94 and continues to publicly support the "Butcher" of the Great Lakes”.

In his 2005 book Le Patron de Dallaire Parle (The Boss of Dallaire Speaks), Jacques-Roger Booh Booh, a former Cameroon foreign minister and overall head of the mid-90s UN mission in Rwanda, claims Dallaire ignored RPF violence, turned a blind eye to the weapons they received from Uganda and possibility shared UN intelligence with the Ugandan sponsored rebels. Dallaire doesn’t deny his admiration for Kagame. In Shake Hands with the Devil, published several years after Kagame unleashed unprecedented terror in the Congo, Dallaire wrote: “My guys and the RPF soldiers had a good time together” at a small cantina. Dallaire then explained: “It had been amazing to see Kagame with his guard down for a couple of hours, to glimpse the passion that drove this extraordinary man.” Dallaire’s interaction with the RPF was not in the spirit of UN guidelines that called on staff to avoid close ties to individuals, organizations, parties or factions of a conflict.

Included on the trip because he symbolizes Canadian benevolence, Dallaire hasn’t moved away from his aggressive backing for Kagame despite the Globe and Mail reporting on Kagame’s internal repression,  global assassination program and proxies occupying the mineral rich Eastern Congo. The recently retired Senator has aligned his depiction of the 1994 Rwandan tragedy to fit the RPF’s simplistic, self-serving, portrayal and Dallaire even lent his name to public attack against the 2014 BBC documentary Rwanda’s Untold Story. In February the former senator met with the Rwandan dictator in Toronto.

Three weeks ago the ruling party in Burundi released a statement criticizing the Canadian general’s role in Rwanda and his inclusion on Sajjan’s trip. Still, I’ve yet to see any mention of Dallaire’s backing of Kagame or the fact his ally in Kigali has significant interest in the UN mission in Eastern Congo.

Another piece of history that should be part of any debate about a UN deployment to the continent is Canada’s link to the UN force in the Congo, which is an outgrowth of the mid-1990s foreign invasion. In 1996 Rwandan forces marched 1,500 km to topple the regime in Kinshasa and then re-invaded after the Congolese government it installed expelled Rwandan troops. This led to an eight-country war between 1998 and 2003, which left millions dead. Since then Rwanda and its proxies have repeatedly invaded the Eastern Congo.

Kigali justified its 1996 intervention into the Congo as an effort to protect the Banyamulenge (Congolese Tutsi) living in Eastern Congo from the Hutus who fled the country when the RPF took power. As many as two million, mostly Hutu, refugees fled the summer 1994 RPF takeover of Rwanda.

The US military increased its assistance to Rwanda in the months leading up to its fall 1996 invasion of Zaire. In The Great African War: Congo and Regional Geopolitics, 1996-2006 Filip Reyntjens explains:

The United States was aware of the intentions of Kagame to attack the refugee camps and probably assisted him in doing so. In addition, they deliberately lied about the number and fate of the refugees remaining in Zaire, in order to avoid the deployment of an international humanitarian force, which could have saved tens of thousands of human lives, but which was resented by Kigali and AFDL [L’Alliance des forces démocratiques pour la libération du Congo, a Rwandan backed rebel force led by Laurent-Désiré Kabila].

Ottawa played an important part in this sordid affair. In late 1996, Canada led a short-lived UN force into eastern Zaire, meant to bring food and protection to Hutu refugees. The official story is that Prime Minister Jean Chrétien organized a humanitarian mission into eastern Zaire after his wife saw images of exiled Rwandan refugees on CNN. In fact, Washington proposed that Ottawa, with many French speakers at its disposal, lead the UN mission. The US didn’t want pro- Joseph Mobutu Sese Seko France to gain control of the UN force.

On November 9, 1996, the UN Security Council backed a French resolution to establish a multinational force in Eastern Congo. Four days later, French Defence Minister Charles Millon, urged Washington to stop stalling on the force. ‘‘Intervention is urgent and procrastination by some countries is intolerable,’’ Millon said in a radio interview. ‘‘The United States must not drag its feet any longer.’’

Canada’s mission to the Congo was designed to dissipate French pressure and ensure it didn’t take command of a force that could impede Rwanda’s invasion of the Eastern Congo. “The United States and Canada did not really intend to support an international force,” writes Belgian academic Filip Reyntjens. “Operation Restore Silence” was how Oxfam’s emergencies director Nick Stockton sarcastically described the mission. He says the Anglosphere countries “managed the magical disappearance” of half a million refugees in eastern Zaire. In a bid to justify the non-deployment of the UN force, Canadian Defence Minister Doug Young claimed over 700,000 refugees had returned to Rwanda. A December 8 article in Québec City’s Le Soleil pointed out that this was “the highest estimated number of returnees since the October insurrection in Zaire.”

The RPF dismantled infrastructure and massacred thousands of civilians in the Hutu refugee camps, prompting some 300,000 to flee westward on foot from refugee camp to refugee camp. Dying to Live by Pierre-Claver Ndacyayisenga describes a harrowing personal ordeal of being chased across the Congo by the RPF and its allies.

Ultimately, most of the Canadian-led UN force was not deployed since peacekeepers would have slowed down or prevented Rwanda, Uganda and its allies from triumphing. But, the initial batch of Canadian soldiers deployed to the staging ground in Uganda left much of the equipment they brought along. In Le Canada dans les guerres en Afrique centrale: génocides et pillages des ressources minières du Congo par le Rwanda interposé (Canada in the wars in Central Africa: genocide and looting of the mineral resources of the Congo by Rwanda interposed) Patrick Mbeko suggests the Ugandan Army put the equipment to use in the Congo.

Prior to deploying the Canadian-led multinational force, Commander General Maurice Baril met with officials in Kigali as well as the Director of the Joint Staff at the Pentagon. Hinting at who was in the driver’s seat, the New York Times reported that Baril “cancelled a meeting with United Nations officials and flew instead to Washington for talks.” In deference to the Rwandan-backed forces, Baril said he would only deploy UN troops with the rebels’ permission. ‘‘Anything that I do will coordinate with the one who is tactically holding the ground,’’ Baril noted.

Much to Joseph Mobutu’s dismay, Baril met rebel leader Laurent Kabila who was at that time shunned by most of the international community. The meeting took place in a ransacked mansion that had belonged to Zaire’s president and as part of the visit Kabila took Baril on a tour of the area surrounding Goma city. Baril justified the meeting, asserting: “I had to reassure the government of Canada that the situation had changed and we could go home.”

The book Nous étions invincibles, the personal account of Canadian special forces commando Denis Morrisset, provides a harrowing account of the Joint Task Force 2 (JTF2) operation to bring Baril to meet Kabila. The convoy came under attack and was only bailed out when US Apache and Blackhawk helicopters retaliated. Some thirty Congolese were killed by a combination of helicopter and JTF2 fire.

Despite the bizarre, unsavory, history outlined above, Canada’s short-lived 1996 UN force to the Congo is little known. The same can largely be said about Dallaire (and Ottawa’s) support for the RPF during the mid-90s UN mission in Rwanda or Canada's role in the UN force that helped kill Congolese independence leader Patrice Lumumba.

Widespread ignorance of reflects a political culture that gives politicians immense latitude to pursue self-serving policies, present them as altruistic and face few questions. Unless progressives upend this culture the loud expressions of Canadian benevolence are unlikely to align with reality.

Yves Engler is the author of "Canada In Africa: 300 Years Of Aid And Exploitation."