Torture in Gambia, “Militocracy” in Africa, Press Freedom and Dirty Water and Gold

We begin this week's West African blogs round-up with a post in a Gambian blog, Home of the mandinmories, about a Gambian soldier being “Coerced, and tortured” over an alleged coup plot:

Browsing through the Point today, a story on the court martial of Captain Yahya Darbo caught my eye. I wish I can say I told you so, but the abuse and indignity suffered by the victims will make your blood boil. This was what I wrote in march when these guys were paraded on national television and forced (in my opinion) to make confessions:

The Daily Observer ( here and here) has a run down of confessionals that the “alleged” coup plotters in the Gambia made. Yep thats right “alleged”. For all we know these people could've been tortured or threaten with torture to make those statements. Their confessionals in my opinion lend credence to my suspicion. All roads in this convoluted affair leads to Ndure Cham. Everyone keep harking back to what he told them. And since he is not around to refute them and the government is hellbent on punishing someone, they parade these people on television to narrate some scheme that they were supposedly part of…confessions

Cameroonian blog Ngwane highlights The Military And African Politics:

The reasons for military interventions (militocracy) in Africa are as varied as they are complex. They range from personal grievances of civilian regimes to the political and economic kleptocracy of civilian regimes.

Some Cameroonian soldiers at Bakassi Peninsula

In a struggle to cope with this predicament between the devil of tyranny (as in one-party system) and the deep blue sea of anarchy (as in multiparty systems) military rule has often been invoked. The balance sheet has largely been negative, with very few being benign, that is serving the interests of the people whether in a short or long political life span.

Still in Cameroon, Scribbles from the Den blogs about a recent Reporters Without Borders report about Worldwide Press Freedom Index 2006: Africa a Mixed Bag:

Reporters without Boarders has released its Worldwide Press Freedom Indexfor 2006. Find below parts of the report that focus on the state of press freedom in Africa:

Press freedom is genuine is Benin (23rd), Namibia (26th), Mauritius (32nd), Ghana (34th), Mali (35th), South Africa (44th) and Cape Verde (45th) and comparable to that in Western democracies.

It does not exist or is constantly under attack in Eritrea (166th), Gambia (149th), Somalia (144th), Democratic Republic of Congo (142nd), Zimbabwe (140th) and Equatorial Guinea (137th). The same African countries have featured at the top and bottom of the Index for several years.

Ghana (34th) rose 32 places to become fourth in Africa behind the continent’s three traditional leaders – Benin (23rd), Namibia (26th) and Mauritius (32nd). Economic conditions are still difficult for the Ghanaian media but it is no longer threatened by the authorities.

Niger Watch highlights a recent international report: Dirty water ‘kills 1.5m children’:

More than 1.5m children under five die each year because they lack access to safe water and proper sanitation, says the United Nations children's agency.

In the report, Unicef says that despite some successes, a billion people worldwide do not have access to safe drinking water from protected sources.

More than 1.2 billion people have gained access to safe water since 1990.

But sub-Saharan Africa remains a major area of concern, especially countries affected by conflict.

The Trials & Tribulations of a Freshly-Arrived Denizen…of Ghana blogs about the incessant power crisis in Ghana, and declares that “Accra is in the Dark Ages”:

Ever since the load-shedding started, the country’s electricity provider ECG, has decided to ride on the back of the “load management programme” by continuing to deliver increasingly execrable service.

Yesterday, on an evening that was not supposed to experience load-shedding at 6pm, the lights went out, eliciting a collective sigh of resignation and frustration all-rolled-in-one. Calls were made, and it transpired that there was “a fault” in one of the stations near the motorway of Tema. Later, I found out that it wasn’t quite near the motorway, but somewhere around Tema. Not to mention the lack of consistency in the lies (you don’t even know where the genesis of the so-called fault is?) but to buttress all that is the frustration associated with feeling the lights will come on soon when you call, only to find out that the problem has not finished being worked on!

Finally, Under the Acacias brings News from Burkina Faso, about privatization of gold mining:

Gold is the third largest export of Burkina Faso. However, most gold is hand-mined by locals (artisanal mining), who sell the gold at 5p/gram to the government. It is a dangerous and unhealthy process, which nevertheless provides much needed income for up to 200,000 Burkinabe. The dangers were highlighted by the collapse of a mine at Poura in August, killing 10 people. The government is now trying to privatise the mines, in an attempt to manage them better for the alleviation of poverty and boost employment, and Canadian and Australian companies in particular are moving into the country. Reuters reports: “This year, the government expects to receive 1.3 billion CFA (US $2.5 million) in annual taxes from mining companies, and foresees the creation of 800 new jobs every year for the next eight years. It also stipulated in its new mining code that companies must invest in community development projects, such as the building of schools, housing and wells.” However, critics say that many more people will lose out by being driven from their traditional mining, and that the companies are unlikely to uphold their social responsibilities.

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