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Diamond conglomerates bleeding Angola to death

Blood diamond

Shoks Mnisi Mzolo – Cii News | 11 Jumadal Ukhra 1436/01 April 2015

Tragedy is unfolding in Angola. The key factor is the longest serving head of state this side of the equator, President Eduardo Jose dos Santos, a dictator, and the thieving that defines his administration. It’s part of Angola’s capitalism which benefits the elites and punishes the poor. The system, which enriches foreign and supposedly responsible firms, turns everything else, including basic rights, into commodities. That is how the poor are not allowed to draw water from some rivers as miners have colonised such natural sources. The same companies also monopolise public roads, a scenario that forces communities to resort to unsafe or long routes.

The likes of investigative journalist and human rights campaigner, Rafael Marques de Morais, would not stand back and watch as a mix of oppression and dispossession turned ordinary Angolans – whose preoccupation, like most South Africans, is hunger – into slaves. Human rights abuse is embedded. But, being a capitalist dictatorship, Luanda sees nothing wrong with this. Those who do and speak out are killed, jailed or harassed in other ways. The journalist, who has seen how evil mining companies are, speaks from personal experience.

De Morais spent 43 days behind bars in 1999. He spent 11 days, during this period, in solitary confinement. He was not charged. His incarceration introduced him to another realm of human rights abuse and brutality. As a journalist and a pro-justice proponent, he duly exposed the dirt. De Morais was eventually charged on the day of his release, he told Cii listeners. It was at then that he discovered his crime was calling the president a dictator and corrupt man.

“I went to court on the case of the president (but) was not allowed to provide evidence against the president. It was illegal in those days to provide evidence against the president. And, he was offended because I said that was the way of a dictator and he had never been elected,” the Luanda-based media worker, head of a civil-based NGO and human rights campaigner said in an interview with Sabahul Khair. “I’ve been covering human rights abuses in the diamond (arena) for more than 10 years, and I’ve been covering diamond industry since 1992. I’ve seen it all. I cannot in conscience see people being shot at purely because of these resources.”

De Morais said ordinary people have been killed and injured by mining giants for resort to rivers. “Communities (are) not being allowed to fetch water from the rivers because there is no tap water there simply because the companies say that the rivers belong to the diamond concessions therefore it’s within their premises and people cannot use them and do not provide alternatives,” the journo and author explained.

“There are communities that have been isolated by the diamond concessions because they are in areas whereby the companies have claimed the public roads as their roads within the concessions. Therefore they cannot use the public roads,” said the author of Blood Diamonds: Torture and Corruption in Angola. “The only way to be connected to the rest of the country, to the world, is to cross a river with the strong current. The way they do it… is tie the rope from one (bank) of the river to the other and then pulling the raft from one side to the other. Very dangerous! And, people die crossing that way because if the man in charge of pulling the rope, if he fails then everyone goes down.”

These are the issues that the social justice types have been communicating to get Dos Santos and his administration to intervene and end the injustice as a matter of urgency. “What happened was the opposite because the partners of these diamond concessions are top generals in the country and they’re also owners of the private companies tasked with providing security to the very same diamond concessions in which they’re shareholders. Then they feel they have the right to do anything they want and to kill people, and destroy.”

Updating Cii on his tribulations, the author who also runs Maka, an anti-corruption and pro-justice NGO, explained cited his legal wars. “I went to court to answer for nine charges and left the court with 15 additional charges which had not been previously communicated to me. So, now, there is a total of 24 separate charges against me and the trial was adjourned (to April 23) to allow me to go through the new charges and prepare for the new charges,” De Morais said, but noted that he drew solace from the support from his countrymen. Dos Santos is not one of them.

Turning to issues of development, this activist noted that the story that oil-rich Angola was the fastest-growing economy and that Luanda is the most expensive in Africa masked the tragedy that is high levels of graft and hunger. As he goes through the fresh 15 charges – being charged while on trial is a novel in his country – and the other nine in an environment where judges are not partial, De Morais, who also spoke of the prohibition of Islam in Angola, asked for prayers so that he could keep the just cause for justice for all.


Africa’s Long Walk to Eradicating TB


Umar Stambuli – Cii News | 12 Jumadal Ukhra 1436/02 April 2015

There has been remarkable progress in tuberculosis eradication in recent years, and the world is on track to meet the Millennium Development Goal of reversing the spread of TB by 2015.

Last week, World TB day commemorations were marked amid new commitments and new action in the global fight against tuberculosis, one of the world’s top infectious killers.
But this is not enough. In 2013, 9 million people fell ill with TB and 1.5 million died.

At the At the World Health Assembly last year, governments agreed on ambitious new 20-year strategy from 2016-2035 to end the global TB epidemic. World Health Organisation’s End TB Strategy calls for a world free of TB with zero deaths, disease and suffering.

It sets targets and outlines actions for governments and partners to provide patient-centred care pursue policies and systems that enable prevention and care. It also strives at driving research and innovations needed to end the epidemic and eliminate TB.

Africa’s hope in winning the fight

In Africa, TB treatment success rate in Africa has continued to improve reaching 82% in 2012. The previously increasing incidence of TB has been halted and a decline observed as a result of several years of intensive implementation of global and continental efforts as well as the strengthening of TB/HIV collaborative activities.

The African Union Commissioner for Social Affairs, Dr Mustafa Sidiki Kaloko, in a video message to mark World TB Day 2015, said for the continent to end TB infections there’s need to continue investing in health systems and community systems.

“We also know the importance of accelerating innovative domestic financing to ensure sustained and predictable funding. We continue to work with our countries to promote ongoing efforts on the continent to step up investments and ensure value for money in the TB response by investing in interventions with the highest impact at the lowest cost,” he said.

Aids Watch Africa (AWA) Program Advocacy and Partnership expert Tawanda Chisango said the continent has made significant progress but African countries should work in exploring avenues to ensure that there is access for TB treatment.

“African Union Member States should continue on the path to strengthen mechanisms to increase coverage and access to services for detection and treatment of TB, Multi-Drug Resistant Tuberculosis (MDR-TB) and TB in children and vulnerable populations.

It is crucial that Governments maximize opportunities to diversify sources and increase domestic resource allocation for health to ensure sustainability of the response,” said Chisango.

Chisango pointed out that poverty has continued to hamper the progress in eradicating TB in many African societies.

“Tuberculosis infection is transmitted more readily in the environmental conditions associated with poverty.  The poor are at higher risk of contracting the disease and also lack access to high-quality TB care due to financial and other access barriers.

Strengthening policy and strategies to improve tuberculosis case detection and treatment efforts close to point of care is essential to provide maximum benefit to the poor and target scarce resources where the diseases burden is highest,” he stressed.

Growing concern over multidrug-resistant TB

The multidrug-resistant tuberculosis has nagged many countries and there have been calls on African governments to remove access barriers to all recommended TB diagnostics and drugs and addressing TB and MDR-TB as global health security threats.

With funds for TB treatment falling short, African Union has urged member states to take action to support the 2016 replenishment of the Global Fund to fight AIDS, TB and Malaria as a major contributor to Africa’s response.

“We join the world in reiterating the urgent need to fill the current funding gap of US$ 2 billion per year for TB interventions and the immediate need to fill the US$ 1.39 billion annual gap for research and development,” said Dr Kaloko.

According to WHO, multidrug-resistant tuberculosis is a form of TB caused by bacteria that do not respond to, the two most powerful, first-line or standard anti-TB drugs.

The primary cause of MDR-TB is inappropriate treatment. Inappropriate or incorrect use of anti-TB drugs, or use of poor quality medicines, can all cause drug resistance.

Disease caused by resistant bacteria fails to respond to conventional, first-line treatment. This type of TB is treatable and curable by using second-line drugs. However second-line treatment options are limited and recommended medicines are not always available.
About 480 000 people developed MDR-TB in the world in 2013. More than half of these cases were in India, China and the Russian Federation.

Global impact

WHO statistics show that in 2013, the largest number of new TB cases occurred in the South-East Asia and Western Pacific Regions, accounting for 56% of new cases globally. However, Africa carried the greatest proportion of new cases per population with 280 cases per 100 000 population in 2013.

In 2013, about 80% of reported TB cases occurred in 22 countries. Some countries are experiencing a major decline in cases, while in others the numbers are dropping very slowly.

Brazil and China for example, are among the 22 countries that showed a sustained decline in TB cases over the past 20 years. In the last decade, the TB prevalence in Cambodia fell by almost 50%.


Born on December 17, 1942, Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari comes from northwestern Katsina state. He is a Sunni Muslim who belongs to the Fulani ethnic stock, a powerful segment of the north.

These criteria satisfied the sentiments of the predominantly Hausa/Fulani Muslim northern Nigeria which clamors for power shift from the South that has ruled for much of the last 16 years.

Buhari joined the army in 1962. He has a reputation as a military officer for crushing Nigeria’s first major religious fundamentalist group, the Maitatsine.

He had served as military governor for the then northeastern state under the former military ruler Yakubu Gowon.

He was appointed the Minister of Petroleum in 1976 under the former military ruler General Olusegun Obasanjo.

He later served as Chairman of the Petroleum Trust Fund under the late dictator General Sanni Abacha. He also served in several capacities. In all of these assignments, Buhari is believed to have discouraged corruption.

A military coup brought Buhari to power in late 1983 — closing a brief period of popular rule by Shehu Shagari — and another military coup ousted him from power in August 1985.

Buhari’s 20-month rule was known for what he described as a “war on indiscipline,” a tough regime which some say was marred by human rights abuses.

To date, analysts say he remains the only former Nigerian ruler with no corruption blemishes.

In 2003, Buhari — then with the All Nigeria People’s Party — lost to Olusegun Obasanjo in an election during which EU observers reported widespread irregularities.

He lost again to Umaru Yar’Adua in the 2007 election, which was widely condemned for rampant vote-rigging, violence, theft of ballot boxes and intimidation.

After Yar’Adua’s death in 2010, Jonathan rose from vice president to president and Buhari challenged him in the 2011 elections as a candidate from the Congress for Progressive Change.

It is claimed that the incumbent President Jonathan is usurping the slot of the north, after a southerner former president Olusegun Obasanjo had ruled between 1999 and 2007.

Obasanjo was succeeded in 2007 by a northerner, Umaru Yar’Adua, but he died in 2010, paving the way for his then deputy, Jonathan, to take over in line with the country’s constitution. Northerners had rejected Jonathan’s decision to contest for President in 2011, after having served out Yar’Adua’s first term.

The constitution of the ruling PDP provides for power rotation between the predominantly Muslim north and the largely Christian south. Jonathan’s decision to run in 2011 was believed to jettison this agreement.

The incumbent is running again in 2015 but the north appears certain to frustrate the bid. The opposition APC is feeding into this sentiment, and this explains its decision to zone presidency to the country’s north.

Apart from meeting the ethno-religious criteria, the army general is also adored nationwide for his Spartan lifestyle and anti-corruption credentials.

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