Category Archives: Central Africa

Central Africa is a core region of the African continent which includes Burundi, the Central African Republic, Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Rwanda.

Middle Africa (as used by the United Nations when categorizing geographic sub-regions) is an analogous term that includes Angola, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Chad, the Republic of the Congo, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, and São Tomé and Príncipe. All of the states in the UN subregion of Middle Africa, plus those otherwise commonly reckoned in central Africa ( 11 states in total ), comprise the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS).

The failed operation which caught to thousands of Africans in Mexico

Some Africans before a module of attention to migrants, in the city of Tijuana in the north-western border of Mexico with the United States. Credit: Guillermo Arias/Enelcamino

Translated

TIJUANA, Mexico, 27 Sep 2016 (IPS) – Saturday afternoon. From the city of Tijuana, Sergio Tamai, an activist for the rights of migrants, summarizes the new crisis in that part of the border between Mexico and the United States.

“You are creating a bronconón,” says with an emphasis – and idiom – in the northern Mexicans. “The government is already exceeded by more than tried to hide it could no longer and the anger is going to explode”.

Tamai, founder of the Organization Angels without Borders, speaks of an unpublished phenomenon that surprises to this city of the north-western end of Mexico, the most populated area of the state of Baja California and created by migrants: the arrival of thousands of Africans and Haitians seeking asylum in the United States.

It is not known how many. The City Council recognizes to 350, which are in their hostels, but civil organizations say they can be up to 7,000.

Many are in Tijuana since May 2016, but others appeared in the first two weeks of September. The flow has not been stopped and it is very possible that its origin is older than the of these estimates.

But only now is visible for three reasons: the number of migrants is increasing; the first who arrived exhausted their money and took to the streets to do this. Before lived in hotels.

And the third reason is that some local media began to publish on the phenomenon, after which the Government of the United States denounced a possible sale of tickets by the National Institute of Migration (INM) to request asylum humanitarian.

Beyond the numbers there are some elements that make unpublished the phenomenon, even in this city that immigration has seen almost everything.

The newcomers, especially those who come from Africa, are part of a suspiciously ordered and silent flow, which even has the backing of the INM, denounce pro-migrant activists.

Many have resources that have enabled them to survive in Mexico for months and not only that: it has clear the way to try to seek asylum in the United States, which implies knowledge of international laws or, at least, of the bureaucratic procedures of the U.S. authorities.

It is not common in the flow of human beings that crosses by Mexico. Go, even in the centennial tradition migrant of this country toward the north.

That is why it is unpublished the phenomenon. And some as the priest Alejandro Solalinde, founder of the Hostel Brothers in the way, have clear the picture:

The migratory crisis that is brewing in Tijuana, she says, is part of a strategy of transnational mafias of trafficking in persons, capable of moving through planet not only Africans but to migrants of any other nationality.

Groups that, according to international protocols as Palermo (on organized crime) can only exist with the support, active or by omission, of the authorities.

But now something ruled that the door to this migration of free passage, considered of privilege by the high cost of travel ($20,000 on average), has been closed.

And the consequences are seen in the streets of Tijuana.

Historically by the southern border of Mexico have crossed citizens of half the world. In Tapachula, the largest city in the area, there are few who speak of Indians, Pakistanis, Iraqis, Chinese and of course of Central Americans, Cubans and Haitians who at some time in the past decades walked through its streets or took refuge in a hotel.

Few were references to Africans. Until a few years ago, that his presence began to be increasingly evident.

Appeared after the wave of Cubans who have fled their country before the thawing of relations between Havana and Washington, that put at risk the migrant privileges that the Islanders remained for decades.

Many of these Africans also came directly to the offices of the INM to be delivered and ask for a profession of output, which serves as a safe conduct for a month to avoid being arrested.

The document sets out its holder is in the process of voluntary leave the country and by the same, while keep their validity, cannot be deported.

A process that has existed for decades but which often did not apply to irregular migrants newcomers to Mexico. Until a few years ago the victims were generally foreigners with several years of lie in the country who are expired their temporary stay permit, known as FM3.

The office of departure obliges leave Mexico but does not prevent their re-entry, even hours after doing so. Many use it to regularize their immigration status.

The decision to apply this measure is arbitrary, certainly, because it is common in populations as Argentineans, Spanish or Chileans (almost never Americans, by the way), but there were a few cases in which Central Americans receive this benefit.

Now they have the Africans, said Solalinde. The document has allowed them to reach Tijuana where in recent months became a time bomb.

“already exceeded to the authorities. We are proposing to make a camp to concentrate and that are not in the streets but they said no, because they were going to reach thousands in little time,” explains Tamai.

“The only thing they did was to take them out of the Board and the places where they are concentrated and now walk irrigated in the streets. Up to beaches of Tijuana arrived already”, details.

This area is located on the western shore of the city, in front of the Pacific Ocean.

The presence of thousands of Africans and Haitians in Tijuana is not free, insists Solalinde.

The trip starts in countries such as Nigeria, Ghana, Mali, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Senegal, Somalia, Eritrea or Burkina Faso, continues by Brazil, Ecuador, Colombia and Central America and Mexico.

It is a long journey that almost nobody does alone, and that is usually handled by transnational bands of human trafficking who had guaranteed the step toward the United States thanks to the corruption of immigration service officials of that country.

But this had since changed, said Solalinde. “four to five months ago had a regular traffic operated by the INM. Arrived regular flights for example of the southern border to Toluca with oriental, or Hindus and carried directly to Tijuana,” explains.

In little time, almost at the exit of the airport migrants arriving in the shacks migratory and crossed without problem, or used other irregular channels and more expensive.

“Had narco tunnels where people also passed, was very hard but they crossed. Now they are closing. Also spent in auto with micas false and that was there in La Garita agreed, but now no longer”.

It is not known why the clandestine door to the United States was closed, but the reality is that they were stuck in the city. “Paid and someone was no longer able to respond in the last milestone as they say, but continue to arrive and are still represando”, said the priest.

Never missing the profiteers. Every day the INM gives 50 appointments to meet with a U.S. consul and raise the application for asylum.

That does not mean they will do so and in fact the majority are rejected, but remain in Tijuana for two reasons: they do not want to return to their countries, and at the same time the Mexican government cannot expel them because in many cases do not have deportation agreements with those nations.

However, a few weeks ago we learned that passes, supposedly free, in reality were sold in hundreds of dollars. Many who already have a while in the city could not buy them but the newcomers. “One day arrived as a thousand to buy them, was when the United States suspended the process”, account Tamai.

Stuck without a chance of moving, began to wander in the streets. A few hundred were to Mexicali to attempt the crossing by there, but neither did so.

“by itself La Garita, there is more girl, the saturated then and they closed the door,” recalls the activist.

Meanwhile, the social problem in the border is exacerbated each week. Municipal resources to serve the population in situation of street was already sold out, says Tamai, and the government of Baja California does not want to release money to avoid a greater concentration of migrants.

The only way out is for the federal government to unlock the resources for the care of migrants, some 300 million pesos (15.7 million), and sends them to the border to solve the problem.

Going for long, said Tamai. But it will not lay to wait. “We are going to make noise, to protest to that released the money. This is a humanitarian crisis,” says.

This article was originally published by the way, a project of journalists on foot . IPS-Inter Press Service has a special agreement with journalists on foot for the dissemination of its materials.

Reviewed by Star Gutierrez

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Obama-appointed US trade adviser linked to illegal deal in Congolese gold

UN report says Kase Lawal knew he was dealing with the wanted warlord Bosco Ntaganda

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Congolese warlord Bosco Ntaganda has been wanted by the international criminal court since 2006. Photograph: Reuters

A US trade adviser appointed by Barack Obama orchestrated a deal to buy gold worth millions of dollars from a wanted Congolese warlord, according to a UN report.

Kase Lawal, a Nigerian-born US oil tycoon, transferred millions of dollars to the notorious rebel leader Bosco Ntaganda between December 2010 and February 2011 as part of the deal, the report by the UN’s Group of Experts on the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) states.

If true, this would be a contravention of UN resolutions banning individuals or organisations from financing illegal armed groups in the wartorn eastern DRC.

The UN report says Lawal, the chairman and chief executive of the Houston-based oil firm Camac, was aware he was paying Ntaganda.

Obama put Lawal on the US advisory committee for trade and policy negotiations in September 2010, just months before the deal with Ntaganda.

All efforts to reach Lawal failed. Camac said it had no comment on the allegations, but said: “Camac is a law-abiding company and we disagree with the representations made in the report.” The White House did not respond to a request for comment.

Ntaganda has been wanted by the international criminal court (ICC) since an arrest warrant was issued in 2006. He funds his exploits by smuggling natural resources in the mineral-rich country, and faces allegations of recruiting child soldiers and presiding over mass rapes and murder of civilians by his troops in the National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP).

The CNDP militia has since integrated into the Congolese national army but its soldiers continue to obey rebel command structures.

Ntaganda, like many rebel leaders in eastern DRC, funds his activities by smuggling natural resources.

The UN says “gold is among the sources of financing most readily available to armed groups”.

According to the report, while Lawal was initially under the impression that he was buying gold from an owner in Kenya, he did not abort the deal when he learned Ntaganda was the true owner.

Instead, the UN report says Lawal merely “appeared relieved to finally be engaging directly with the true owner of the gold”.

The report says Lawal financed the deal while Edward Carlos St Mary, a Houston businessman and friend of Lawal’s, carried out the transaction in DRC. The deal was proposed to the two men by Dikembe Mutombo, a Congolese former NBA player with the Houston Rockets, and three of his relatives.

Despite paying, Lawal never received the gold. St Mary flew to Goma in DRC to finish the deal in a Camac-leased jet, but the passengers were arrested by Congolese presidential security officers as they tried to take off with the gold in February 2011.

St Mary and two Camac employees were charged with money-laundering and illegal transport of a banned material, because at this time the Congolese government had banned mining of gold, tin and coltan in the provinces where the minerals trade was affected by illegal armed groups. The three men were released in late March after Camac’s Kinshasa representative paid $3m (£1.9m) in fines.

Substantial sums of money were involved from the start. The report says Lawal told St Mary he had lost “$30m as a result of the whole ordeal, including transport fees, fines, bribes” and the payments for the gold.

Jason Stearns, a former Group of Experts co-ordinator, said: “This is a fine example of the rank disregard of international law by major international companies and businessmen.

“Lawal knew Bosco Ntaganda was involved in the deal, so he was knowingly doing business with a man wanted by the ICC. On top of that, there was a Congolese mining ban in place at the time. And finally, he’s probably violating a UN arms embargo on the region.”

A source close to the UN who asked to remain anonymous said: “The whole thing was a scam. It’s likely the Congolese were always going to arrest [St Mary and the others] and keep the money and the gold. The charge of illegal transport of a banned material was a pretext for the arrests.

“In reality, the Congolese authorities and Ntaganda worked together to ensure full payment was made for the gold, that the gold never left the DRC, and that the arrested men would have to pay a series of heavy fines to secure their release.”

St Mary agrees. Speaking to the Guardian from Houston, he said that at one stage he nearly pulled out of the deal, only to be put on the phone to Zoé Kabila, the president’s brother, who reassured him the gold dealers were “legitimate”. That was before he knew Ntaganda was involved.

Later, in Goma, St Mary said Ntaganda was arguing with Joseph Kabila, DRC’s president, on the phone. “They were arguing over how to split the cash,” he said. “Even when I first met Ntaganda, he told me he’d just spoken to Kabila and that we’d be able to leave with the gold with no problem.”

When the story first broke in early 2011 Lawal tried to pin the blame on his friend St Mary. Since then, relations have soured between the two men, yet St Mary defends Lawal’s decision to push ahead with the deal. “Mickey [Lawal – Kase Lawal’s brother, also in Goma] and I told [Kase] Lawal that the owner of the gold was Bosco [Ntaganda].

“But by the time we found that out I think our lives were in jeopardy. To try to pull out then could have cost us our lives. In those circumstances, what else can you do? There was no out.

“There was only one way to go: try to do a deal and get the hell out of there. The problem was the authorities and Bosco were partners in this, and we didn’t know that until it was too late.”

Conflict persists in eastern DRC, despite a 2003 peace agreement to end a bloody war. Numerous rebel groups and militias operate in the region and there are regular attacks on civilians, including massacres and mass rapes.

Collaboration between Kabila and Ntaganda during the recent presidential and legislative elections lends weight to the accusations.

“Bosco and the CNDP have allegedly been involved in election fraud while campaigning for Kabila’s Majorité Présidentielle [coalition],” said Stearns. “Allegations include ballot-stuffing, stealing people’s identities and intimidation. It’s all been happening in CNDP-controlled areas.”

A Goma resident who wished to remain anonymous said: “Bosco and his men are a very visible presence … they put a lot of pressure on people to vote for their favourite candidates.”

Fraud was so rife that the Congolese electoral commission annulledelection results in some areas.

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USA: Hess to Splash USD 6.8 Billion in 2012

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Hess Corporation, with headquarters in New York announced today a 2012 capital and exploratory budget of $6.8 billion, nearly all of which is targeted for Exploration and Production: $2.5 billion for unconventionals, $1.6 billion for production, $1.8 billion for developments and $800 million for exploration.

John B. Hess, Chairman and CEO, stated, “We believe that the investments we are making in unconventionals are lower risk and will generate long term profitable growth for shareholders. We expect to fund the majority of our 2012 program from internally generated cash flow and asset sales.”

Greg Hill, President of Worldwide Exploration and Production, said, “Our focus in 2012 will be on execution. We are committed to creating value and delivering sustainable growth in production and reserves from both our unconventional and conventional portfolios.”

Production expenditures of approximately $1.6 billion include:

  • Drilling production and water injection wells at Shenzi (Hess 28 percent), and drilling production wells at the Llano Field (Hess 50 percent) in the deepwater Gulf of Mexico
  • Drilling production wells on Block G (Hess 85 percent – operator) in Equatorial Guinea

Development expenditures of approximately $1.8 billion include:

  • Commencing development drilling at the Tubular Bells Field (Hess 57 percent – operator) in the deepwater Gulf of Mexico
  • Completion of field redevelopment and gas lift projects at the Valhall Field (Hess 64 percent) in Norway
  • Concluding appraisal activities and progressing front end engineering and design work at WA-390-P (Hess 100 percent – operator) offshore Western Australia
  • Progressing development of Block A-18 (Hess 50 percent) in the Joint Development Area (JDA) in the Gulf of Thailand, including wellhead platform installations and ongoing drilling activities

Exploration expenditures of approximately $800 million include:

  • Drilling exploration wells in Ghana, Indonesia, Brunei and the deepwater Gulf of Mexico
  • Acquiring seismic at the Dinarta and Shakrok Blocks (Hess 80 percent – operator) in Iraqi Kurdistan

Articles

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Shell Eyes Potential South Sudan Opportunities

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by  Alexis Flynn
Dow Jones Newswires
Wednesday, January 04, 2012

LONDON (Dow Jones Newswires), Jan. 4, 2012

Shell is examining possible opportunities in South Sudan, which seceded from its northern neighbor, Sudan, in July last year, taking with it at least 75 percent of the areas known oil fields.

“We continuously review potential business opportunities around the world. We would like to better understand the current security, political and business environment in South Sudan, and how this has been impacted by the secession,” a Shell spokesman said in a statement.

Ethiopian newspaper The Reporter on Saturday said Shell is planning to construct an oil pipeline from South Sudan to Ethiopia. Citing “reliable sources,” the paper said a Shell delegation had visited South Sudan in November.

When asked whether Shell had met with local officials and discussed a potential pipeline project, a Shell spokesman declined to elaborate beyond the company’s statement that it wasn’t pursuing business opportunities in South Sudan “at the moment.” The company doesn’t have a presence in Sudan.

Although South Sudan retained most of the country’s output and is now producing around 350,000 barrels of oil a day, the landlocked country still depends on Khartoum for refineries, ports and export pipelines.

Similar challenges also exist elsewhere in East Africa, a burgeoning oil province following recent major discoveries in Uganda‘s Albertine basin but without the necessary infrastructure to bring its crude to market. French major Total, U.K. explorer Tullow Oil and China’s CNOOC are expected to invest at least $10 billion developing Uganda’s oil assets, which will include the building of a 1,300-kilometer pipeline to the Kenyan port of Mombasa.

However, analysts cast some doubt on whether Shell would be prepared to make a significant investment into a relatively unstable part of the world.

Relations between the two Sudans have worsened in recent weeks, with the office of South Sudan President Salva Kiir late Monday accusing Sudan of stealing its oil by diverting as much as 1.2 million barrels of crude oil.

Royal Bank of Canada analyst Peter Hutton said a move into South Sudan would have little obvious operational synergy for Shell, which have been exiting Africa in the downstream, adding that their experience in Nigeria has probably made the firm’s management more risk averse. “It all looks a bit of a stretch–not the direction investors will want Shell to go in,” said Hutton.

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U.N. report says Houston exec organized illicit gold deal

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CHRONICLE FILE PORT COMMISSIONER: The report said Kase Lawal was to receive 40 percent of the profits of the gold’s sale. Photo: Michael Paulsen / Houston Chronicle

By MIKE TOLSON, HOUSTON CHRONICLE
Published 09:40 p.m., Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Kase Lawal, the politically connected head of a local energy company who also serves as a commissioner on the Port of Houston Authority, was the main organizer of an illicit gold smuggling operation that went awry last February in the Democratic Republic of Congo, according to a United Nations report on the nation’s natural resources and their misuse by various militia groups.

Lawal, chairman of CAMAC International and a prominent Houston philanthropist, used company money to finance a scheme to take approximately 475 kilograms of gold out of Congo for resale despite a national ban on gold exports, which often have been used to finance paramilitary activities and ethnic strife, stated the report, which was publicly released last week. The scheme originally called for the transaction to be conducted in Kenya, where the export of gold is legal, but was belatedly moved to Goma, Congo, at the insistence of the sellers.

Lawal is reputed to be one of the nation’s richest African-Americans, parlaying a chemistry degree from Texas Southern University and an entrepreneurial bent into a billion-dollar company and a place on numerous boards and commissions, including trade advisory groups for Democratic and Republican presidents.

Team sent on jet

The proposal for buying the gold originally came from Dikembe Mutombo, a retired NBA star who played for the Houston Rockets for several seasons at the end of his 18-year career, the report says. Mutombo was born in Congo and is involved in a number of humanitarian projects there, including a hospital. His motivation, those involved said, was to help fund some of his projects.

Lawal involved a family friend, Carlos St. Mary, as a facilitator and go-between among various parties involved in the scheme. St. Mary hired a Kenyan attorney to prepare paperwork and arrange inspection of the gold in Nairobi. When time came to complete the transaction, Lawal sent his brother, CAMAC executive Mickey Lawal, to Congo on a CAMAC corporate jet along with St. Mary and security personnel. Also on board were bags containing about $6 million in cash.

By this time, Kase Lawal had learned that the actual owner of the gold was Gen. Bosco Ntaganda, the leader of a military faction in the Kivu province that is home to much of Congo’s mining industry. Ntaganda was indicted for alleged war crimes by the International Criminal Court. At the time, Ntaganda denied any involvement in the gold deal.

“According to St. Mary, Ntaganda introduced himself as the true owner of the gold and promised to obtain all the necessary paperwork,” the U.N. report states. “St. Mary told (investigators) that both he and Mukaila (Mickey) Lawal had informed Kase Lawal about the General’s ownership, providing his name. Nevertheless, Lawal was concerned only to the extent that this presented another twist in the already convoluted deal.”

The jet was prevented from leaving Congo and St. Mary, Mickey Lawal and several others, including the plane’s crew, were detained in the eastern city of Goma for more than a month while authorities investigated the transaction. The bags of cash that had been given to Ntaganda were turned over to government officials, but the money had been replaced by obviously counterfeit bills, according to the report. St. Mary and others were charged with money laundering, among other crimes.

The crew and airplane were released in mid-March after various “fines” were paid. U.N. investigators claim that Lawal, who did not cooperate in the investigation, ended up paying more than $30 million to extricate himself and his intermediaries from the mess.

Efforts to reach Lawal for comment were unsuccessful. A spokesman for the company offered a brief statement: “CAMAC is a law-abiding company and we disagree with the representations made in the report. We have already answered questions on this and see no reason to address it further.” In a statement released last year, after the detainees and corporate jet were allowed to leave by Congo authorities, the company also stated it had done nothing wrong and that it had no financial interest in the gold transaction.

Thought deal was legal

The U.N. report, however, claims that Lawal supplied the money for the venture and was to receive 40 percent of the profit when the gold was sold.

St. Mary said in a brief interview Tuesday that all involved in the purchase of the gold believed the deal was legal.

“We all acted to put together a legitimate deal,” St. Mary said. “We all went there with that intention, which is why I went to see a lawyer and the ministry of mines. I’ve known (Kase) Lawal for 31 years. Anything that seems like it’s going to be a public detriment to him, he’s going to walk away from. He wants no part of public scandal.”

Mutombo could not be reached for comment.

mike.tolson@chron.com

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