Africa’s leaders protect each other. As a former president faces trial, his incumbent colleagues vilify the court
Feb 6th 2016 Economist

On January 28th the Ivory Coast’s Laurent Gbagbo became the first former head of state to go on trial before the International Criminal Court (ICC) at The Hague. Three days later the African Union (AU) resolved, among other rude comments about the court, to support Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir in his determination to ignore the warrant for his arrest on charges of genocide in Darfur. It also expressed “deep concern regarding…the wisdom of the continued prosecution” of African leaders including Kenya’s deputy president, William Ruto, who faces charges of orchestrating violence after an election eight years ago. Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta, who faced similar charges which the ICC dropped in 2014, is urging African members of the ICC to withdraw from it.
That may not happen soon, if at all, and it is unclear how many African countries may wish to bunk out of the court’s jurisdiction: not, presumably, the Ivory Coast, whose current president delivered Mr Gbagbo to The Hague. But the episode stirs yet more bad blood between the continent’s rulers and governments of the rich world, most of which back the court, and makes it harder to promote the notion that no leader who commits atrocities should enjoy impunity anywhere.
Unlike the elusive Mr Bashir, Mr Gbagbo, now 70, was unable to prevent his enemies from landing him in the ICC’s dock. Having lost a presidential election in 2010 after a decade in office, he refused to step down—and is now accused of egging on his militias and security forces to commit a string of atrocities in a bloodily vain effort to stay in power. In April 2011 he was captured, and seven months later sent to The Hague, where he has been accused of prompting his henchmen to commit murder, rape and other heinous crimes.
The court is vulnerable to the charge of exercising victors’ justice, because militiamen who backed the Ivory Coast’s current president, Alassane Ouattara, against Mr Gbagbo also committed atrocities—but none of them has been indicted. The court’s doughty chief prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, a Gambian, says she will investigate all sides. But Mr Ouattara seems loth to co-operate with her over crimes committed by his friends.
In any event, the court must still refute the more damaging charge of bias against Africa. When it began to operate, in 2002, African leaders were among its keenest backers, mindful of recent horrors in such places as Rwanda, Congo and South Africa under apartheid. Most African governments signed the statute that led to the court’s creation. And though it is true that the first nine “situations” (as the court calls its sets of cases) to be put before the court have all been African, six were brought to it by the relevant African governments themselves; two were referred to it by the UN Security Council; and the cases to do with Kenya were taken to it with the co-operation of Kenya’s then government, after Kofi Annan, a Ghanaian former head of the UN, had mediated an end to the dreadful post-election violence and endorsed the ICC’s involvement. The latest situation to be investigated by the ICC prosecutor concerns atrocities committed in Georgia during its war with Russia in 2008.
Moreover, the African leaders who castigate the court for tackling their peers sound less protective of smaller African fry who fall into the ICC’s net. Niger’s government was happy to send a Malian jihadist to The Hague last year. The Democratic Republic of Congo has allowed the ICC to send back a warlord, Germain Katanga, to face further charges at home after serving a sentence handed down at The Hague. And Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni, a vehement critic of the ICC, was no doubt content when Dominic Ongwen, a leader of the murderous Lord’s Resistance Army that has blighted northern Uganda, stood before the court in The Hague at the end of last month. But unlike Mr Gbagbo he plainly wasn’t “one of us”.

In praise of small miners – A boom in artisanal mining offers lessons in development
May 7th 2016 Economist
On the outskirts of the western Ivorian town of Angovia, Joseph Bado hunches over a pile of gold-laced stone, pulverising it with a hammer. Mr Bado, who is in his mid-30s, was born in a farming village in central Ivory Coast. Frustrated by his meagre earnings in the cocoa fields, he left in 2003 to become a miner. His travels took him to neighbouring Ghana and Mali before he returned to Ivory Coast in 2013, drawn by its own nascent gold boom. “You can work for years in cocoa and not get anything. You won’t even have food,” says Mr Bado.
Informal mining settlements like Angovia’s, a series of hills dotted with tattered tarpaulin-covered shelters and pockmarked by deep pits, have been unexpectedly popping up in recent years across the west African country. For many years Ivory Coast’s economic fortunes were tied to agriculture. After independence in 1960 it became the world’s largest producer of cocoa. Few gave much thought to what treasures might lie deeper in its ochre-red soil.
But a slump in cocoa prices and a jump in those of minerals prompted a boom in artisanal mining. From a base of virtually nothing at the turn of the century, the government reckons there are now some 500,000 small-scale gold miners.
Ivory Coast was one of the last guests to the African mining party, arriving just before the music was turned down. Yet across the continent there has been a surge in small-scale mining. The World Bank reckons that the number of artisan miners in Africa has grown from about 10m in 1999 to perhaps 30m today. Among the minerals they dig out with rudimentary tools are gold, diamonds and emeralds.
Angovia’s filth and grime may not, at first glance, commend it. But researchers are concluding that small-scale mining may offer a more attractive path out of poverty than either farming or moving to already overstrained megacities. In Tanzania, for instance, liberalisation of the country’s once dismal socialist economy in the 1980s helped spark the spectacular growth of towns in the country’s gold- and emerald-mining regions.
In the Tanzanian town of Kahama, once a sleepy trading outpost, the population has more than trebled to about 250,000 in the past 15 years, town officials say. An industrial mine that started commercial operations in 2009 has contributed jobs and infrastructure, but locals say small-scale gold mining has driven the town’s explosive growth. Today, the mayor boasts, there are ten banks, 40 petrol stations and more than 300 guesthouses.
For many governments and do-good development agencies, informal mining towns are the very definition of unsustainable—dirty and disorganised, with transient populations. Most miners work clandestinely, since they do not have a legal right to dig. Working conditions are generally poor. Young men, and sometimes children, may be lowered down a flimsy mine shaft 60 metres deep on a rope. Deadly accidents are common. So is the use of mercury, a pollutant, to extract gold.
Some informal mines support killers. Many militias in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s lawless east at least partly finance themselves with proceeds from illicit mining. Some towns, including Angovia, have seen violence between newcomers and existing residents. And sometimes conflict can break out with formal mining companies. AngloGold Ashanti, a South African mining firm, said its plans to invest in rehabilitating Ghana’s Obuasi gold mine, one of Africa’s oldest, have been put on hold since illegal miners invaded it earlier this year.
Governments have responded to the growth of informal mining settlements in two ways. One is to evict the diggers. Ivory Coast’s government, for instance, says it has shut down more than 280 illegal sites since last year. More common, however, is for governments and aid agencies to pretend these new mining towns do not exist. The UN agency and NGO signs that line so many roads in rural Africa are conspicuously absent when the scenery turns from verdant fields to mines.
Both responses are misguided. Small-scale mining is not a curse. On the contrary, it creates jobs in some of the poorest places on earth. Globally, artisanal mines employ about ten times as many people as industrial ones. Moreover, small mining towns are less affected by the commodity boom-and-bust cycle than are towns that depend on large-scale capital investment. Big foreign mining firms tend to retrench quickly when markets turn down; small local miners tend to keep digging. Also, small miners’ earnings tend to be spent locally. In central Mozambique, for instance, increased legalisation of formerly illicit gold mining over a decade has led to a farming renaissance in many villages, alongside booms in construction and trade.
Governments that allow miners to legalise their operations see several benefits. They can keep a closer eye on labour and environmental conditions, and collect millions of dollars in taxes that would otherwise not be paid. In return, they sometimes offer miners basic services such as water and sanitation.
Other bodies are pitching in. The World Bank is working with the African Development Bank to make geological data available to African miners. The American government and European Commission are financing projects to help miners obtain advanced equipment. Some recall that small-scale mining has been an engine of development before. Among other things, it created the cities of San Francisco, Johannesburg and Melbourne.

Economist May 18th 2017
As strikes go, this one was resolved remarkably quickly and with an unusually one-sided result. The reason, quite simply, is that these strikers had guns. Just days after some 8,400 mutinous soldiers marched out of their barracks in Ivory Coast, shooting in the air and blockading roads, the government had caved in, paying each of them 5m CFA francs ($8,400) and promising to give them another 2m before the end of June. But not before one person had been killed by stray gunfire.
This was the second mutiny by soldiers in the country this year. In January disgruntled troops, many of them former rebels who had fought in a civil war in 2011, took to the streets claiming they had been underpaid ever since the end of that conflict. The president, Alassane Ouattara, who was helped into power by the rebels in 2011 after his predecessor, Laurent Gbagbo, tried to steal an election, quickly acceded to their demands. The first mutiny ended with an immediate payment of 5m CFA francs and a promise of 7m more. “If [the government] respects us, they won’t hear from us,” one mutineer, a lean, muscular 34-year-old, told your correspondent in Bouaké between the two uprisings. “We are victims.”

Yet it was a dispute over the promised bounty that sparked the latest mutiny. On May 11th a spokesman for the mutineers said on state television that they were no longer demanding the rest of the money. Yet he did not speak for his fellows, who quickly took up arms again and blocked roads including one to Bouaké, the country’s second-largest city. This time Mr Ouattara, a former economist at the IMF, dispatched loyal army units to end the mutiny by force. But after a brief stand-off he decided once again to pay the rebels instead.

Yet the government can ill-afford the total bill of 101bn CFA. On May 10th it announced a 54bn CFA budget cut in response to a fall in the price of cocoa, which accounts for more than 40% of exports. And the first uprising has already sparked demands from others. Ivory Coast’s 200,000 civil servants walked out for three weeks in January, claiming they were owed 196bn CFA in unpaid wages, an issue which has yet to be resolved. Several thousand former rebels who were demobilised in 2011 have said they want their share too; many still have weapons.

The mutiny takes the shine off Ivory Coast’s recent successes. After years of economic stagnation and two civil wars (the first started in 2002), the economy had been rebounding, with growth of about 8% a year. Inflation has been subdued, helped by the stability of the CFA, which is pegged to the euro and backed by the French treasury. Foreign investors have flocked to the country. Heineken recently built a €150m ($167m) brewery in what its enthusiastic local boss, Alexander Koch, says was a record 13 months. “The middle class is a reality,” says Laureen Kouassi-Olsson of Amethis, a private equity firm. “Five years ago consumption relied on expats.”

The economic boom has been driven by infrastructure investment that has largely been concentrated in the commercial capital, Abidjan. Little wealth has trickled down. Between 2008 and 2015 the proportion of the population who are poor fell by just 2.6 percentage points, to 46.3%.

Mr Ouattara, who is due to stand down in 2020, had promised to cut poverty in half before then. His failure to make such rapid progress is already raising questions over his succession. The opposition party of the deposed president is divided. A moderate faction wants to contest the elections; hardliners want to boycott them until Mr Gbagbo is released by the International Criminal Court, where he is standing trial on charges relating to violence after the elections in 2010. Among the contenders from the ruling coalition are the current prime minister, Amadou Coulibaly, a Ouattara ally, and the president of the National Assembly, Guillaume Soro, who led the rebels during the civil war.

If Ivory Coast has a peaceful succession it could regain the status it had in the 1970s as an economic powerhouse. But to do so it will have to strengthen state institutions and bring former rebels under control. It will not cut poverty or cement its democracy if it keeps getting held hostage by men with guns.

About admin

I would like to think of myself as a full time traveler. I have been retired since 2006 and in that time have traveled every winter for four to seven months. The months that I am “home”, are often also spent on the road, hiking or kayaking.
I hope to present a website that describes my travel along with my hiking and sea kayaking experiences.

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