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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Land: The New International Strategic Asset. How Africa is losing big time

By Lord Aikins Adusei 

There are credible reports that big multinational corporations like Biofuel Africa Ltd in cahoots with corrupt politicians and traditional leaders and with the backing of global financial institutions are buying large tracts of land in parts of Africa, under bizarre circumstances, displacing rural farmers, destabilising rural communities and slowly building up chaos that is further aggravating the poverty situation in Africa.

The international craze for a reduction of carbon dioxide emission from fossil fuel guzzling cars and industries has led to an intense focus on biofuel as the solution to the pollution and associated global warming. But the production of biofuel is not taking place in the sky, it is taking place on land and is leading to a new social cancer that is slowly beginning to emerge. The focus on biofuel as alternative to oil, gas and coal has put new and unrealistic demand on land, and it is on record to make land the most strategic commodity in the 21st Century. The history of land as a strategic asset dates back to the 18th Century. During that period Physiocrats considered land the ultimate source value and all attempt was made to secure it. However, in the 19th Century labour became the most important factor of production as new factories competed aggressively for that resource. Then the importance of labour as the most important factor  of production was replaced by capital in the 20th Century. Access to money was considered the ultimate source of value in production. However, in the 21st Century land is coming back as the most strategic asset.Evidence of this can be seen in the scramble for land not only in Africa but also in Latin America and Russia [1]

Driven largely by a global cartel of land speculators, many energy and agro-multinational corporations are strategically acquiring agricultural lands in poor countries of the global south particularly Africa at a rate never anticipated by land economists. The 2007 and 2008 food crisis and its associated price hikes have forced rich but food insecure countries in the Middle East and the Gulf Region to scrounge for lands in Africa further complicating matters. Meanwhile the belief in some countries in Africa like Sudan and Ethiopia that heavy injections of foreign capital will enhance agricultural technology, boost local employment, revitalize sagging agricultural sectors, and ultimately improve agricultural yields has given the corporations a field day with serious social, economic, political and environmental consequences, [2]

The land grabbing statistics worldwide and Africa in particular is not only overwhelming but is also extraordinary shocking. According to International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) a US-based policy think thank, since 2006 between 15 million and 20 million hectares of farmland around the world have been secured for biofuel and grain production, while between US$20bn and US$30bn has gone investment [3]. 

In Africa the past five years has seen more rich agricultural lands being taken over by food insecure but rich countries in the Middle East and rich multinational firms in Europe, US, and Asia particularly China, Korea and India. Some of the land acquisitions have occurred under bizarre and non-transparent circumstances making experts to warn of the consequences if the practice is not stopped. In Mozambique for example China has US$800 million investment to expand 100,000 to 500,000 metric tons of rice production in the country and Skebab (Sweden) and Sun Biofuels (UK) have acquired more than 100, 000 hectares of land for biofuel production in the country. In Ethiopia, a country noted internationally for its food insecurity and its dependence on handout from the World Food Programme, the government has set aside around three million hectares of farm land to be used to produce grain and biofuel for export. Flora EcoPower (Germany) has acquired 13,000 hectares for bio-crop production while India is investing US$4 billion in agriculture, flower growing and sugar estates in that country. In Tanzania Sun Biofuels (UK) has acquired 5,500 hectares of land for sorghum (biofuel) production while the Chinese firm Chongqing See Corp has secured 300 hectares of farm lands for rice production. In the same Tanzania the Gulf State of Saudi Arabia has requested a lease of 500,000 hectares of land. In Southern Sudan Jarch Capital (USA) has signed a 400, 000 hectare deal with a local army commander while the Middle East and Gulf States of Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Kuwait and Egypt together have about 1.045m hectares under their thumb in that country. In the same Sudan, South Korea is running away with 690,000 hectares of farmland secured for wheat production. In Nigeria, Trans4mation Agrictech Ltd (UK) has secured 10,000 hectares of land. In Angola, Lornho (UK) has 25,000 hectares leased to her for rice cultivation and is negotiating for a further 125,000 hectares in Malawi and Mali. China has requested 2 million hectares for jatropha production in Zambia; and in Democratic Republic of Congo the Chinese firm ZTE International has secured 2.8 million hectares for biofuel oil palm plantation [4].

These figures do not only reflect the unequal power relations between rich multinational corporations and governments of rich countries on one hand and poor African countries on the other, but it also reflects the vulnerability of African countries to the predatory activities of rich multinational corporations and governments of these rich countries. This global assault on Africa has the tendency to produce the same negative effects that colonialism has had on the continent.

A major problem is that many of the corruption-ridden governments in Africa are rushing to make land deals with multinationals without proper consultation with the people and without proper studies as to the economic, social and environmental cost of such deals. Another issue is that the lands being giving to corporations by the nonchalance governments in Africa are not empty lands. They are lands that rural farmers farm on and depend on for their livelihoods. That means the farmers whose lands have been taken over by the multinationals are being denied the opportunity to make a living. They are being robbed of the only asset that helps put food on their tables.The lands of the poor farmers are being handed over to rich multinationals to meet the needs of populations elsewhere to the detriment of the local farmers. They are being pushed away by multinationals that are increasingly seeing land as strategic asset that must be acquired at all cost to meet their own greedy, selfish and opportunistic ambitions. 

Many who support corporate land grab efforts in Africa point to Asian-style Green Revolution. Their argument is that allowing land grabbing to go will allow benefits such as revenue, employment, and technology transfer to be bequeathed to countries in Africa. But there are many unanswered questions regarding the so called benefits of land investments in Africa. For example what happens to displaced farmers whose lands are taken for food production to feed populations abroad? What happens to food production and food security in countries where agriculture lands are auctioned to produce biofuel and food to feed economies elsewhere? In some of the countries where land is being taken for food and energy production people already spend between 60-75% of their income on food so what per cent of income of these poor people will be spent on food when it becomes unavailable in the local market? Most importantly what happens to communities when scarce water and other scarce resources that they depend on and which are currently being channeled into food and energy production for export abroad are depleted? What happens to farmlands that are degraded after the food is produced and exported? What happens to the polluted environment after the food and biofuels have been shipped abroad? Little is known of the environmental implications of committing hundreds of thousands of hectares of farm lands into jatropha production. New pests and diseases may emerge to confront poor farmers, who may not have benefited from the jatropha production with serious consequences. For example the use of chemicals to process the jatropha into biofuel may not only lead to contamination of soil, but also the poisoning of shallow groundwater with serious health repercussions for both humans and animals.

As Hornborg (2009) notes: "Generally speaking, social scientists will probably not get too involved in discussions about ethanol with all those engineers, agronomists, and economists who are committed to keeping the global technomass going by feeding it with corn or sugar cane. But we can listen attentively to the debate. We are told, for instance, that the conditions of people harvesting sugar cane for ethanol production in Brazil are appalling. We are told that ethanol production might in fact generate more greenhouse gases than the combustion of fossil fuels. We are told that it will accelerate tropical deforestation and loss of biodiversity. We are told that it will probably yield less horsepower per hectare than just simply growing fodder for horses. And what undoubtedly worries us the most, we are told that it is making food more expensive and contributing to malnutrition and starvation among the global poor" [5].

In Ghana for instance while the Ministry of Agriculture has allowed over 20 companies from around the world, including Brazil, China, Germany, Italy, Norway and The Netherlands, to acquire land to produce biofuels, the ministry has not conducted any study to establish the social, economic and food insecurity implications of such land deals to Ghana as a whole and the affected farmers and the communities in particular.

Current estimates by the World Food Programme (WFP) put the number of people in Ghana who are food insecure to 1.2 million; almost half are people living in the Northern Region of the country where the corporate land grabbing is taking place. In a paper presented during the World Bank Annual Bank conference on Land Policy and Administration in Washington, DC, April 26 and 27, 2010,Kwesi Ahoi, Ghana's Minister of Food and Agriculture admitted that on the whole Ghana remain food insecure. He stated that "Ghana is self-sufficient only in roots and tubers but deficient in cereals where it produces 51% of its needs, fish, 60% of its requirements, meat 50% of requirements and less than 30% of the raw materials needed for agro-based industries. The output of vegetables such as tomatoes and onions, the most widely used, is rather erratic and vacillates between scarcity, sufficiency and glut depending on the vagaries of the weather". [6] Yet, in spite of the food insecurity in the country, Kwesi Ahoi and his ministry are busy supervising the handing over of the same land that could make Ghana food sufficient to non-food producing multinationals.

The acquisition of 23,700 hectares of Ghanaian land by Biofuel Africa Ltd in the northern part of the country has already forced the inhabitants of seven villages that depend on the land for their livelihoods to move to Tamale, the regional capital in search of non existing jobs. These 23,700 hectares of land were taken away from the people without adequate compensation and without viable alternatives. For example Steinar Kolnes, Biofeul Africa Ltd chief executive officer (CEO) in Ghana admitted that the company offered the farmers just options and not compensation: "We don't pay compensation...We gave the farmers two options: To stay and farm their crops alongside the jetropha or leave to other more fertile lands we had provided for them" [7] The question is if there are fertile lands as the chief executive claims why doesn't he use it for his jatropha business? Why is he seizing the poor farmers' land and not use his so called rich land for his jatropha business?

The findings of an in-depth study sponsored by the World Bank on the impact of corporate land grabbing in Ghana have implicated the biofuel corporations in the country. According to the World Bank study published in 2010 [8] "The most direct and immediate impact of biofuels relates to land loss… Some 70 households from three communities were involuntarily vacated from their lands, without any form of restitution, following the harvest of yam (the primary cash crop) from the 2008 growing season. For two of the villages this equated to between 40 and 50 percent of households. Of those households that lost land, on average nearly 60 percent of their total landholdings were acquired by the company. Only 20 percent of households were able to obtain some replacement land, with most households unsuccessful in recovering both the quantity and quality of land lost to the plantation. These households cited increasing land scarcity and land quality concerns as key obstacles."

The World Bank study concluded "In all the plantations assessed households were required to relinquish landholdings for the purpose of plantation development. At the majority of plantations, directly affected households were not consulted by the company, nor did they formally acquiesce to transferring their land. With the exception of one company that promised to pay approximately US$ 1 per acre per year to those losing land, no formal compensation measures have been proposed by other companies or by the relevant Traditional Authorities" [9]. These findings which corroborate Steinar Kolnes' statement that his company does not pay compensation show that the corporations are paying close to nothing for their robbery. The question is how many Europeans, Americans, and Koreans will accept approximately US$ 1 per acre per year as compensation for not farming on a land that acts as the source of livelihood?

Meanwhile similar reports of people loosing their livelihoods are being reported in Ethiopia, Tanzania, Mali, Zambia and war ravaged Sudan. Thus the commodification of land is threatening rural farmers whose lands are being seized by these greedy multinationals acting in cahoots with local politicians and traditional leaders. The consequence of such blind land grabbing by bio-multinationals is that food security efforts of a continent frequently scarred by food shortages, hunger and starvation is being compromised. Such acts are creating unnecessary tension and chaos in many farming societies and helping to destabilise the cohesiveness of rural communities. The peace and stability that many communities have enjoyed for decades are being breached as a result of the land grabs especially in communities where farmers have been left without compensation and without alternatives. The danger is that the carving up of rich arable farmlands for production of non-food commodities such as biofuel if not checked will worsen the continent's food security efforts and force already poor people into hunger and starvation. That warning has been issued already in the GRAIN Report of 2008.

The Report by the Spain based NGO-GRAIN states that: "Food corporations and private investors, hungry for profits in the midst of the deepening financial crisis, see investment in foreign farmland as an important new source of revenue. As a result, fertile agricultural land is becoming increasingly privatised and concentrated. If left unchecked, this global land grab could spell the end of small-scale farming, and rural livelihoods, in numerous places around the world". [10]

The true value of that warning cannot be underestimated because the danger is already appearing. That is the leasing of these lands to multinationals under circumstances that leave much to be desired, as indicated by Ghana's example is forcing many rural farmers to move into the cities and towns in search of non-existing jobs. That is the commodification of land is pushing already poor farmers out of farming and into cities that have little to offer them. These cities are already overburdened with populations and face major problems as discussed by Mike Davis in his book the "Planet of Slums" [11]. In effect the seizing of the poor farmers' land is destroying their only hope of survival on earth. 

Governments in Africa that think major agro-multinationals securing large tracts of land under dubious means could help initiate Asian-style Green Revolution in Africa must know and understand that in Asia the Green Revolution was largely successful because of the role played by smallholders [12]. These smallholders who played pivotal role in making Asia economies food sufficient are the very people being displaced by the multinationals and the rich countries and their hedge fund managers. Such displacements will produce nothing but a backlash with serious economic and political consequences. 

Dangerous consequences are always in the pipeline when corporate interests coincide with that of corrupt and insensitive governments as we have seen between oil giant Shell and the corrupt federal government in Nigeria. Niger Delta crisis was largely created when the interest of Royal Shell Corporation coincided with that of the corrupt regimes that ruled the country since 1966. Thus the accumulation by dispossession currently underway in Africa will definitely produce its consequences not only for people being robbed of their lands but also the corporations acting in cahoots with the indifference governments in Africa. Rich governments securing lands in Africa may altogether lose their investments when landless farmers and hungry communities begin to make claims to what has been unjustly taken away from them. 

The political ramifications of outsourcing lands to multinational have had its first casualty in Madagascar. The toppling of the government in Madagascar after 1.3 million hectares of land was sold to the Korean firm Daewoo and another 465,000 hectares to Varun International of India demonstrates the political cost such non-transparent land arrangement poses to the security and stability of governments in Africa. Lesson should be learnt from that and it must serve as an eye opener to all those scrounging for lands in Africa and in the process helping to destabilise the people and their communities.

When foods being produced by the multinationals and rich governments are exported the shortages that will be created and the associated price hikes will produce devastating and undesirable effects. Avoiding the shortages and its undesirable effects through the implementation of policies that give first priority to smallholders and local farmers producing food for local consumption must be the objective of governments in Africa.


[1] Hornborg, A. 2009. Zero-Sum World Challenges in Conceptualizing Environmental Load Displacement and Ecologically Unequal Exchange in the World-System. International Journal of Comparative Sociology. SAGE Publications.

[2] Kugelman, M. and Levenstein, S. L (eds).2009. LAND GRAB? The Race for the World's Farmland. Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, Washington, D.C.

[3] IFPRI 2009 cited in the Economist "Outsourcing's Third Wave," Economist, May 21, 2009, available from http://www.economist.com/displaystory.cfm?story_id=13692889.

[4] Hornborg, A. 2009. Zero-Sum World Challenges in Conceptualizing Environmental Load Displacement and Ecologically Unequal Exchange in the World-System. International Journal of Comparative Sociology. SAGE Publications.

[5] Von Braun, J. and Meinzen-Dick, R. 2009. "Land Grabbing" by Foreign Investors in Developing countries: Risks and Opportunities. IFPRI Policy Brief. April 2009.

[6]World Bank, 2010 Annual Bank conference on land policy and administration Washington, DC April 26 and 27, 2010. Government's Role in Attracting Viable Agricultural Investment: Experiences from Ghana

[7] IRIN, 2009. Ghana: Land grabs force hundreds off farms, growers say. http://www.irinnews.org/Report.aspx?ReportId=86044

[8] Schoneveld, G. C. et al. 2010. Towards Sustainable Biofuel Development: Assessing the Local Impacts of Large-Scale Foreign Land Acquisitions in Ghana. World Bank.

[9] Schoneveld, G. C. et al. 2010. Towards Sustainable Biofuel Development: Assessing the Local Impacts of Large-Scale Foreign Land Acquisitions in Ghana. World Bank.

[10] GRAIN, 2008 Seized: The 2008 land grab for food and financial

[11] Davis, M.2006. Planet of Slums. Published by Verso.

[12] Jirström et al. 2006. Addressing Food Crisis in Africa - What Can Sub-Saharan Africa learn from Asian experiences in Addressing Food Crisis ITS? CIDA Report

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Power sharing: An ugly Paradigm shift in African Politics;Gbagbo must be removed by force

Gbagbo must be removed by force

Lord Aikins Adusei
*By Lord Aikins Adusei

Dangerous precedents
The year was 2008. The countries: Kenya and Zimbabwe. The subject matter was presidential elections between the then incumbents Mwai Kibaki of Kenya and Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe and their challengers Raila Odinga and Morgan Tsvangirai respectively. Both elections had similar things in common. The opposition candidates in the respective countries won the elections but the incumbents refused to go, called on their supporters to inflict harm on their opponents and stole the verdict under the watchful eye of the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) and East Africa Community, the Africa Union and the international community.

First was Mwai Kibaki who came to power after Arap Moi's two decades of corrupt dictatorship came to an end. Kibaki during the campaign promised to weed corruption and put Kenya back as East Africa's economic powerhouse. After using state machinery including the media (electronic and print) he could not win the people's heart and mind. He failed to deliver on his promises and the people punished him for failing. But he refused to go and made diabolical calculations that earned him the presidency of the country under a sham arrangement called 'power sharing'. His refusal to accept the choice of the people led to a senseless bloodbath which resulted in more than 1200 people losing their life. Raila Odinga who had won the election was given the position of Prime Minister.

Then came Zimbabwe. Mugabe too lost to Morgan Tsvangirai after the first round and went about employing all manner of tactics that finally forced Tsvangirai to withdraw from the election effectively handing over the presidency to Mugabe. Kenya's power sharing was imported and imposed on the people of Zimbabwe against their will.

Thus in both Zimbabwe and Kenya power sharing was considered the solution to the debacle in those countries. The Zimbabwe's power sharing deal sponsored by SADC, retained Mugabe as president, while Tsvangirai got the less important Prime Minister position with Arthur Mutambara as Deputy Prime Minister. To add insults to injury Mugabe and his Zanu-PF were given key portfolios, and sweeping powers that placed them in charge of the country. Meanwhile Mugabe has refused to abide by the terms of their agreement that stipulate that both the Prime Minister and the President must consult each other for major appointments. In October 2010, Tsvangirai wrote to the United Nations protesting at Mugabe's unilateral appointment of officials without consultation as stipulated by the agreement.

Thus in Zimbabwe since the government of unity was sworn in more than eighteen months ago nothing seems to have worked. Mugabe and his supporters have done everything in their power to make sure that the unity government does not work. Mr. Mugabe has totally hijacked the implementation and twisted it in his favour. He and his Zanu-PF agents continue to frustrate the unity government forcing Tsvangirai to threaten to pull out many times. As The Economist magazine put it "Mr Mugabe still treats the agreement and his prime minister with contempt. Mr Tsvangirai recently announced that journalists were now free to report on Zimbabwe without government approval, yet he was promptly contradicted by the information minister, a Zanu-PF man, who said that journalists without proper accreditation could face up to two years in jail. After months of negotiations, Mr Tsvangirai at last secured the release of human-rights activists and MDC sympathisers who had been detained, and many tortured, on treason charges. But a few weeks later they were rearrested."

Although better than Zimbabwe in terms of the implementation of the power sharing agreement, Kenya's power sharing implementation is also beset with the same problems despite the rhetoric by the politicians that they would let it work. The negative impact on the disagreements are manifold but the most serious of them all is that in Zimbabwe as it is in Kenya the people who voted for change continue to suffer under the same leaders they rejected. Their economic, social and political conditions have not improved a bit.

It is clear that the concept of power sharing as it has been practiced in both Kenya and Zimbabwe has been flawed and has been a sham that ought not to have been considered in African politics at all. But this appears to be what Laurent Gbagbo is hopping for when he refused to accept the people's verdict. His call for Mr. Ouattara to meet him to dialogue is intended to ensure that he remained president. Gbagbo appears to be towing the same line as Kibaki and Mugabe hopping that by refusing to relinquish power and using the military to terrorise the population he would be able to force Quattara into a power sharing deal. He was also hopping that the regional leaders will support his move for a possible power sharing arrangement. But it is clear from the outpouring of support for Mr. Quattara that Gbagbo hugely miscalculated and underestimated the intelligence of the West Africa and the AU leadership.

Show of Support for Ouattara
Unlike Zimbabwe and Kenya where regional leaders were divided and could not speak with one voice, thereby allowing the stolen verdicts to stand, the leadership in West Africa is speaking with one voice asking Gbagbo to step down and allow the legitimately elected leader to take the mantle of leadership. The support expressed by the leadership in West Africa has not only isolated Gbagbo regionally and continentally but has also reduced his influence in the region to only his southern controlled part of the country.

Reacting to calls by Gbagbo to accept defeat the President of ECOWAS James Victor Gbeho said ""There is nothing to negotiate as far as ECOWAS is concerned. From now on, ECOWAS will deal with Ouattara, not Gbagbo." The UN Secretary General also made it clear to Gbagbo that Mr. Ouattara's nominee for the post of UN Ambassador will be recognised. President Khama Ian Khama's government in Botswana also condemned Gbagbo's power grab efforts in Ivory Coast. "The Government of the Republic of Botswana is deeply concerned about African leaders who reject election results that are not in their favour. Such actions not only deny people the right to have leaders of their choice, but also thwart efforts to maintain peace and security on the African continent". Morgan Moseki, Botswana Congress Party's Secretary for International Affairs released statement saying "We urge the AU not to allow the Kenyan and Zimbabwean style Government of National Unity in Ivory Coast as this creates good precedence for losers who remain heads of state with full privileges despite the outcome".

The strongest show of support came from Kenya's Prime Minister Raila Odinga who has called for Gbagbo to be removed by force. Odinga (himself a victim of electoral short-change) said in a news conference in Cancun-Mexico that "Mr Gbagbo must be forced even if it means using military means to get rid of him because he is just now relying on military power not people power to intimidate the people. He thinks that he can basically intimidate the people to submission so that he can continue to rule in undemocratic fashion. This will only spell doom and destruction for Ivory Coast." "What is building up in Ivory Coast now is a tragedy Africa cannot afford this time and one that the international community must not allow at any cost."

The message from West African leaders and the Africa Union leadership has been loud and clear: Africa will not accept such blatant abuse and entrenchment of power. They will no more tolerate or support autocratic regimes that are hell bent on controlling power at all cost.

Meanwhile the Central Bank in West Africa Chaired by Mali's President seem to have pulled the plug denying Gbagbo access to funds that could help him sustain his illegitimate regime. According to the Reuters News Agency a statement issued by the West African Central Bank stated "The council of ministers has taken note of the decisions of the U.N, the African Union, and of (West African regional body) ECOWAS, to recognize Alassane Ouattara as the legitimate elected president of Ivory Coast," and that only appointed members of the "legitimate government" would be allowed to access funds held in the central bank's accounts.

The blow to deny Gbagbo funds was made heavier after the World Bank also announced that it was cutting all financial help (loans and grant) to the country. The European Union led by France, (former colonial power) has been threatening sanctions. The United States has also proposed sanctions threatening to freeze assets of Gbagbo and his key allies held in the US.

Defiance and acts of violence
But so far Gbagbo has stood his grounds and has remained stubbornly defiant urged on by the country's military. At the same time he and his supporters appear to be adopting the crude tactics Mugabe adopted: arrest, torture and killing of those suspected to have voted for his opponent. Kyung-wha Kang, the U.N. deputy high commissioner for human rights, said "Between 16 and 21 December, human rights officers have substantiated allegations of 173 killings, 90 instances of torture and ill treatment, 471 arrests and detentions and 24 cases of enforced or involuntary disappearances,". "We have credible reports that almost 200 people may have already been killed, with dozens more tortured or mistreated, and others may have been snatched from their homes in the middle of the night," U.S. ambassador Betty E. King said during the Human Rights Council's meeting in Geneva.

Y. J. Choi, the UN Secretary-General's Special Representative in Ivory Coast, said he was personally prevented from visiting a site suspected to be a mass grave. "I went there and we were about to enter into negotiations then reinforcement came with young men mounted on pick-up trucks […] with rocket launchers directly aiming at us… Finally, because of our rules of engagement we returned but we will continue to try to reach this site to verify the facts." "I met him several times to deliver two messages: that he lost and must accept it; the second message was if his action to change the results of the election results in serious violations of human rights then there would be no turning back. He will be dragging […] people into tragedy."

Gbagbo must be removed by force
The overwhelming support Mr. Ouattara has received internationally suggests that no matter how hard Gbagbo tries to remain in power he will only be doing damage to his reputation as a statesman and ruin his country's economy as Mugabe has done. This will be too obvious if the threats of sanctions against him and his government are implemented. The logic of the sanctions is that it will make it difficult for him to govern his country. The soldiers who are backing him may switch side or may turn and remove him after the sanctions begin to hit them. There is a clear similarity between Gbagbo's cling on power and what happened to Mamadou Tandja of Niger when he took a similar path.

Although the condemnation and isolation and threat of sanctions by the ECOWAS, AU, EU, US and UN is a welcoming development I believe the whole idea to use sanctions to cripple him cannot be a viable option; it cannot bring the change in leadership that Ivorians voted for. It has not worked in Zimbabwe and will not work in Ivory Coast. Gbagbo as stubborn as he is will want to cling on to power at all cost, even if it means totally collapsing the country. Let us not forget that Gbagbo became president by default and has ruled Cote D'Ivoire in the last ten years without the mandate of the people. He deliberately thwarted all effort to hold credible, transparent free and fair elections adopting tactics that enabled him to postpone the elections several times.

I must admit that I am not a big fun of military intervention and I have spoken against it in some quarters especially when Paul Collier suggested it as way of getting failed states like Somalia back on their feet. But when a leader like Laurent Gbagbo fails to do what is reasonably acceptable in human society and tries to plunge his country into a senseless blood bath and deny Ivorians the hope of a better future then the only hope to restore that hope is to use force. This is why I strongly agree with Raila Odinga that all options must remain on the table as dialogue continues. However, it must also be made loud and clear to Gbagbo that Africa and the international community will only accept Ouattara leadership as president and nothing less. The message must be made loud and clear to Gbagbo that Africa and the international community will use force to bring about the change that Ivorians hope for should the need arises. That message must also include the warning that he Gbagbo and his backers will join Charles Taylor in The Hague to answer for any crime they commit in the country. We cannot be serious about regional security, stability and development if we cannot implement military intervention to bring about that security and stability. It is the actions of persons like Gbagbo that continue to insulate Africa from the global economy and force investors to go elsewhere despite the huge resources found on the continent. Africa should not accept Kenya and Zimbabwe style power-sharing arrangement that so far has not delivered any tangible results to the ordinary people living in those countries. Gbagbo must not be allowed to ruin his country as Mugabe has done to Zimbabwe. It must be understood that Gbagbo does not command the support of the people as the election results indicate; neither does he have any valuable options. The only option available to him is to accept defeat.

If the wish of Gbagbo and the military leaders in the country is to plunge Ivory Coast into another senseless bloodbath, then that wish must be denied of them. Therefore any attempt to legitimise Gbagbo's rule through power sharing arrangement will set a dangerous precedent in West Africa, a region already noted for its instability and political upheavals. Those who want to take Africa back to the Stone Age like Gbagbo must be stopped at all cost.

Part of the Article 20 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights states that "Colonized or oppressed peoples shall have the right to free themselves from the bonds of domination by resorting to any means recognized by the international community." This article enjoins Ivorians to resist any form of domination by any entity including their own leaders who want to rule them without their mandate. In this instance it is clear that the people of Cote D'Ivoire are under Gbagbo's bonds of domination and must be helped to free themselves from his oppressive regime. We will do a great injustice to the people of Ivory Coast if Gbagbo is allowed to rule as president.

Therefore if he refuses to accept defeat and allow Ouattara to govern then he must be removed by force. The removal of Gbagbo by force will send a powerful message to current and would be tyrants that their corrupt and autocratic style of governance will no more be tolerated on the continent. Therefore, Nigeria, Kenya, Botswana, South Africa, Ghana, Senegal, Tanzania, Malawi and all countries in Africa that believe in democracy and freedom of the people to choose who should lead them should get prepared to contribute soldiers to unseat Gbagbo should the current efforts to persuade him to go peacefully fail.

West Africa and Africa military planners must begin to put a force together. The peace, stability and hope that ECOMOG brought to Liberia must also be brought to Cote D'Ivoire. The campaign must be shock and awe and decisive. Securing the airport and the harbour in Abidjan as well security and energy installations and borders must be a priority so at to cut Gbagbo's supply line and force him and his backers to capitulate. If the shock and awe strategy fails to bring him down then he must be fought to the end captured dead or alive. That means ECOMOG must be prepared to dig in for a long battle and be prepared to take casualties for it is only when they are prepared to take casualties can they also bring the illegitimate government down. The UN 10,000 strong peacekeeping force in the country must be given the mandate to fight along side ECOMOG because as the situation stands today there is no peace for them to keep in the country.

To get the support needed the campaign must be African led; and civilian casualties must be avoided as much as possible. Neighbouring countries must secure their borders and also get ready to accept people fleeing the country and provide them with food and shelter until such a time that peace returns to the troubled country.

The precedents set by Mugabe and Kibaki and encouraged by regional power brokers seem to have informed Gbagbo that he too could have his way. Perhaps if EAC and SADC regional leaders and Thabo Mbeki in particular had been more vocal and supportive of Morgan Tsvangirai and Odinga as the West Africans are doing the debacle and the dysfunctional unity governments in Zimbabwe and Kenya as we have them today would have been averted including the dangerous precedents set by Kibaki and Mugabe and being followed by Laurent Gbagbo.

The actions of West African leaders, as well as those of AU, UN, EU and the US in the coming days and perhaps weeks will be crucial to what happens to the change and hope that Ivorians voted for. For now the options for Gbagbo is to admit defeat, leave office peacefully or be prepared to be removed by force.

*The author is an anti-corruption campaigner and the author of "Switzerland: A parasite feeding on the economies of poor African and Third World Countries?"

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Majority kicks against proposed Petrol Development Fund

Osei Kyei Mensah-Bonsu
Osei Kyei Mensah-Bonsu
Controversial clause 17 of the Petroleum Revenue Management Bill, on Monday set Parliament apart again into voting sending the minority tumbling with 60 votes against 81.

By the decision there would not be a separate account for the petroleum revenue as proposed in the amendment that stood in the name of Mr Osei Kyei Mensah-Bonsu, the Minority Leader.

Mr Kyei Mensah-Bonsu proposed a separate account to be called Petroleum Development Fund to hold the petroleum revenue instead of keeping it in the Consolidated Fund.

This according to him, would enable government to treat petrol revenue separately from other revenues for the purpose of proper utilisation of the revenue.

The clause 17 states that “disbursement of the Petroleum Account shall (a) only be made to the Consolidated Fund in support of national budget (b) the Ghana Petroleum Funds for the purpose of saving and investment and (c) exceptional deductions according to the provisions of this act.”

The Majority, therefore, supported the original proposition that all petrol revenue should be kept in the Consolidated Fund.

Clause 19 of the bill was another knot that engaged the House in a long battle of words.

Mr Moses Asaga, Chairman for the Committee on Mines and Energy, proposed the creation of a new sub-clause in the Bill, which would prop the collateralisation of the revenue for a period of ten years after its passage.

“The annual budget Funding Amount may be used as collateral for debts and other liabilities of the government for a period not less than ten years after the commencement of this act,” the amendment stated.

This proposed amendment was adopted by a simple ayes vote.

Last week the House also voted on the amendment to clause five of the Bill, which ended in 86 and 96 vote in favour of the Majority – The amendment gave Government the right to collateralize the oil revenue.

The house adjourned at 21:45 hours.

Source: GNA

World Bank supports Ghana with US$38m to build capacity for oil management

World Bank (Ghana) Country Director, Ishac Diwan
World Bank (Ghana) Country Director, Ishac Diwan
The World Bank Board today approved a credit of US$38 million to the Government of Ghana for implementation of an Oil and Gas Capacity Building Project.

The Project, which has become necessary following Ghana s discovery of oil and gas in commercial quantities has two main objectives: first, to help improve public management and regulatory capacity and enhance sector transparency by strengthening the institutions managing and monitoring the sector; and second, support the development of indigenous technical and professional skills needed by the petroleum sector through support to selected educational institutions.

Since the oil and gas discoveries of 2007, Ghana and its partners in the Jubilee field have worked hard to bring it into production in barely three years a record time by industry standards but institutional development for sector management by the state and education and skills development face significant challenges.

The Oil and Gas Capacity Building Project has been prepared in response to these challenges and to support Government's desire to rapidly fix them, says Sunil Mathrani, World Bank Task Team Leader for the Project.

The Ministry of Energy, the Ghana National Petroleum Company and the Environmental Protection Agency are among the key state institutions targeted for support.

Specifically the Project will provide institutional support to the Ministry of Energy and the soon-to-be-established petroleum regulatory body to enable them play their oversight, coordination, policy planning and implementation as well as monitoring and evaluation roles effectively.

Other specific functions to be enhanced include upgrading the Ghana National Petroleum Corporation s petroleum data repository; and support to the Environmental Protection Agency to enhance its ability to manage and monitor environmental issues in the oil and gas sector.

Other beneficiaries are the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning, particularly its agencies such as the Ghana Revenue Authority and the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative Secretariat; the Attorney General s Department and the Economic & Organized Crime Office.

Another component of the Project targeting human capital development will provide support to the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science & Technology to improve petroleum engineering and petrochemical engineering teaching and research capabilities.

Additionally it will provide support to vocational training institutions for development of programs focused on technical skills development for the oil and gas industry via support to the Takoradi Technical Institute, Kikam Technical Institute and the Regional Maritime University.

Given the strategic role civil society is expected to play in promoting accountability and community participation, an additional grant of US$2 million is being provided under the Bank s Governance Partnership Facility (GPF) to support a wide range of activities to be championed and implemented by civil society and community based organizations.

This Project seeks to support the determination of the people of Ghana to make oil a blessing and not a curse. We hope that the support to educational institutions will contribute to Ghana s intention to develop local content and employment in the sector as quickly as possible, said World Bank Country Director, Ishac Diwan.

We see a big role for CSOs, he added, and it is part of the plan to support capacity building at that level, to enable them play their part actively as agents of social accountability. We have been assisting the CSO platform on Oil and Gas, and we are happy they are already serving as great partners to Government.

Hon Joe Oteng-Adjei, Minister of Energy on his part notes this Project could not have come at a better time. Building capacity in the oil & gas sector is paramount, and we are going to ensure a swift implementation in order to achieve good results for the people of Ghana.

The US$38 million World Bank support a concessional loan with a repayment period of 35 years including a 10 year grace period constitutes two-thirds of the total Project cost.

Other co-financiers are the Governments of Ghana and Norway. The Project is planned to take off in 2011 and end in 2015.

Source: Myjoyonline.com/Ghana

Ghana to avoid oil curse - says World Bank

Country Director of the World Bank for Ghana,
Ishac Diwan
Country Director of the World Bank for Ghana, Ishac Diwan
The World Bank says it believes Ghana can avoid the "Dutch disease" on account of established and well-managed mining and cocoa sectors as commercial oil production began on December 15, 2010.

According to the Country Director of the World Bank for Ghana, Ishac Diwan, "It's a bit of oil, not a whole lot, so it's not enough to give you the Dutch disease and a curse."

Cocoa and gold accounts for about 75 per cent of foreign exchange earnings for the country.

The current qood prices of both commodities on the international market have been a reprieve for the economic managers.

Ghana is yet to join the world oil cartel, the Organisation of Oil Producing Countries (OPEC), following the first flow of oil from the Jubilee field on December 15, 2010.

Ghana is expected to produce 120,000 barrels of oil per day after full swing oil operations of the Jubilee oil in the first quarter of 2011.

Presently, at the initial drilling, Ghana is expecting on average of 55,000 barrels of oil per day until about April 2011.

Analysts say unlike many other oil-producing African nations whose oil sectors dominate the economy, making them central to conflict and corruption, Ghana's oil will be dwarfed by the established cocoa and mining industries and be managed by one of the region's most stable governments.

"Oil is not so big that it could just shift this country into a different political path. It's not a tsunami," Diwan was quoted as saying.

In an interview with Reuters, the World Bank Country Director referred to a Dutch discovery of gas in the 1960s and said that boosted the currency and undermined other exports.

Ghana expects to produce an average 120,000 barrels per day (bpd) from its off-shore Jubilee field with reserves estimated at 1.5 billion barrels.

Production is expected to increase to 250,000 bpd after three years , about an eighth of what nearby Nigeria produces now.

Ghana is keen to avoid the problems oil has brought to Nigeria, where rebels in motorboats have repeatedly attacked pipelines and platforms in the Niger Delta over the years,, saying they against the theft of the counrty's oil wealth.

In November, traditional chiefs of towns from Western Region demanded a 10 per cent share of oil revenues when crude starts flowing just offshore from thier homeland - a demand that was vehemently rejected by Parliament.

Mr Diwan said a militant insurgency was unlikely given Ghana's record for negotiation to reduce tensions.

"If a warrior emerges, I don't think this person would have a following because there are reasonable chiefs that have managed to voice reasonable demands," he said.

"Institutions in Ghana are quite evolved and civil society is very vibrant and aware of the dangers," Diwan said.

"I just cannot see big corruption happening. Hidden bank accounts in Switzerland and lots of money disappearing, this is not Ghana. I'm broadly optimistic."

Parliament ratified the Petroleum Revenue Management Bill on Monday which is aimed at ensuring the sector benefits ordinary Ghanaians over the long term and at providing a strong regulatory framework as firms explore other blocks off Ghana's coast.

In its 2011 budget, Ghana forecast the estimated $586 million of oil proceeds next year would account for only six per cent of all domestic government revenues.

He said government had a good system of checks and balances and that the private sector had reached an important critical mass.

However, the need to shift from subsistence to commercial agriculture in Ghana is acute as the oil industry has the potential to trigger inflation, making local products uncompetitive witn imports.

There is a lot of potential in agriculture with future prices expecting to rise and a lot of land here and the fear that agriculture can be hurt by the exchange rate appreciation due to oil," he said.

The government is investing heavily in cocoa, aiming to produce over a million tons per year by 2012 up from 632,000 tonnes in 2009, a level that would allow it to challenge neighbouring Ivory Coast for the title of the world's top producer.

The Jubilee Partners, Tullow Oil, Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC), Kosmos, Anadarko, Sabre Oil and EO Group told journalists at a press conference prior to the official launch on December 15, 2010 that they were excited about the prospects of Ghana's oil find.

However, the caution is that expectations need to be managed.

President Mills in his speech at the official launch reiterated the government's commitment to use the resources for the benefit of the people.

However, opposition political parties have criticised the passage of the oil petroleum management bill which gives government the opportunity to collateralise the oil revenue.

They point to the government's own cabinet bill presented to Parliament in which under clause 5, the government had stated emphatically that oil resources would not be used for collateralisation.

Many analysts cite the nearly botched STX deal, a US$10 billion agreement between the government and the Korean Multinational firm, which will see the construction of about 200,000 housing units in the country, as the main reason for the government to amend its own clause 5 of the Petroleum Management Bill to pave way for the project.

Subsequently, the STX agreement was signed immediately Parliament passed the bill.

That, analysts say, is to enable the government to use the oil resources as collateral to ensure that the arrangers of the facility will be able to source the needed funds for the project.

Again, the growing Chinese interest in Ghana, with the Chinese throwing "freebies" to the current government with an estimated US$ 10 billion loan facility, which experts say, it is too tempting for the government which has had its hands burnt in accessing IMF funds.

However, many also point at the increasing interest of the Chinese as a threat to the country's development, citing the Chinese non-regard for environmental and human rights abuses.

The Sudan is one example of such Chinese interest which has been accused of aggravating the conflict in that country.

Source: Graphic Business

Thursday, December 16, 2010

WikiLeaks cables: Ghanaian police 'helped drug smugglers evade security'

African anti-narcotics operation funded with £1m from UK thwarted by corrupt officials at airport, US embassy cables say

Security guards at Kotoka airport
Security guards on duty at Kotoka airport in Accra, Ghana. Some unidentified airport police are corrupt, according to the US embassy cables. Photograph: Tugela Ridley/AFP/Getty Images
A £1m taxpayer-funded anti-trafficking campaign to stem the flow of cocaine into the UK through Ghana's busiest airport is beset by corruption, with drugs police sabotaging expensive British-bought scanning equipment and tipping off smugglers, leaked US embassy cables reveal.
Ghana president John Atta Mills even worried that his own entourage could be smuggling drugs through his presidential lounge at Accra's Kotoka airport and asked a senior UK customs official last November for help to screen them "in the privacy of his suite to avoid any surprises if they are caught carrying drugs", according to the US embassy in Accra (cable 234015).
The US embassy reported what it had been told by Roland O'Hagan, the British head of Operation Westbridge – a joint UK-Ghanaian anti-smuggling operation.
The cable said: "President Mills had expressed interest in acquiring itemisers [sensitive, portable screening devices] for the presidential suite at the airport in order to screen his entourage for drugs before boarding any departing flight."
The extraordinary request reveals the depth of the crisis in the bilateral operation to crack down on wholesale drug trafficking into the UK through an airport which has become a main transit hub for South American drug cartels channelling hard drugs into the UK and Europe after the authorities successfully blocked routes from the Caribbean.
Drugs worth £100m have been seized so far, amid growing international concern expressed in the cables that drug trafficking is becoming "institutionalised" in west Africa.
The UN has estimated that up to 60 tonnes of cocaine, worth £1.3bn, is smuggled through the region each year.
According to the cables, Ghanaian narcotics control board (Nacob) officers working in collaboration with British officials:
• actively helped traffickers, even telling them the best time to travel to avoid detection (164939)
• sabotaged sensitive drug scanners paid for by British taxpayers • channelled passengers, including pastors and bank managers and their wives, into the security-exempt VVIP lounge despite suspicions they were trafficking drugs.
Smuggling has become so blatant that on one flight last year, two traffickers vomited up drugs they had swallowed and subsequently died (234015), while parcels of cocaine were found taped under the seats of another KLM plane even before boarding (125133).
Mills had publicly pledged to crack down on trafficking into the UK via the airport and won the presidency with an anti-drugs platform.
But in June 2009 he told the US ambassador to Ghana, Donald Teitelbaum, "he knows elements of his government are already compromised and that officials at the airport tipped off drug traffickers about operations there (214460)."
Embassy contacts in both the police service and the president's office "have said they know the identities of the major barons," but "the government of Ghana does not have the political will to go after [them]", a December 2007 cable said (135389).
A UK official overseeing Westbridge had observed Nacob agents at the airport directing passengers away from flights receiving extra scrutiny, a confidential US embassy cable revealed in August 2008 (164939).
"On one occasion, [the official] returned unexpectedly to the airport at 4am to screen a flight. An arrested trafficker told the UK official that the trafficker had been told that Westbridge was not operating that night. A test by Westbridge officials of the cellphone SIM card of a trafficker found the phone numbers of senior Nacob officials."
He said two itemisers were incapacitated by sabotage, remarking "the knowledge required to remove the filters exceeded the basic knowledge of the operators". The cable concluded: "The government of Ghana does not provide the resources necessary to address the problem and, at times, does not appear to have the political will to go after the major drug barons."
Operation Westbridge began in November 2006 and the UK government has trumpeted its success.
Last year the minister responsible for drug trafficking, Alan Campbell, told a parliamentary inquiry the scheme was a "very good example" of how to tackle the cocaine trade, while the Home Office said in a written statement that "these operations meet our drugs strategy commitment to intercept drugs and drugs couriers before they reach the UK".
A different picture emerges in the cables. Kim Howells, a Labour Foreign Office minister, delivered a "stern message" to the Ghanaian government in October 2007 about its lack of co-operation and responded "testily" to a request from Ghana's interior minister for more scanning equipment, saying: "If a 'criminal' is operating equipment, it is worthless," according to the US embassy.
Three months later the embassy reported that "seizures in Accra drop to almost zero when the Westbridge team ... is back in London (135389)".
In November 2009 O'Hagan told the US embassy that Nacob believes that the airport's VVIP lounge has been a source of drugs leaving the country.
"Nacob placed two officers in the lounge to screen departing passengers, and the number of passengers using the VVIP lounge has decreased," the embassy reported O'Hagan saying late last year

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