IOA Position Papers

Out with oil: New hope for Virunga National Park

Oil companies pose a threat to the future of Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo but cases for sustainable development approaches to park management as an alternative means to developing the region economically, present greater long-term social, economic and environmental benefits for the region.

Democratic Republic of Congo. Shores of Lake Edward in Virunga National Park. Photo courtesy MONUSCO/Abel Kavanagh/ Flickr

Democratic Republic of Congo. Shores of Lake Edward in Virunga National Park. Photo courtesy MONUSCO/Abel Kavanagh/flickr

Written by Lonnie Kehler; Updated by Tanya Bruggemann

Through the World Heritage Convention UNESCO seeks to identify and preserve natural and cultural heritage sites that have incalculable value. Unfortunately, 55 established World Heritage sites are listed as “in danger”, and Africa has more than its fair share at 17. The high number of affected African sites reflects particular challenges of the continent, notably civil unrest and war.2 The Virunga National Park in the DRC and Uganda, Africa’s oldest national park, is one of those sites.

Instability in the region has had devastating consequences for the park, for its wildlife and for those who look after it. The park and its rangers are threatened by poachers and rebel groups, and now another threat, in foreign oil companies interested in exploration within park borders, has been developing over the last few years.

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Battle over Africa’s oceanic treasures

Surprisingly, no shots have been fired by African navies against foreign vessels that illegally plunder fish and undersea mineral resources from Africa’s territorial waters. However, as fish stocks diminish and African peoples’ understanding of the value of sea minerals grows, aggressive responses will replace government’s lackadaisical attitudes.

SOMALIA, Mogadishu: In a photograph taken 16 March 2013 and release by the African Union-United Nations Information Support Team 18 March, traders wait to sell their fish inside Mogadishu's fish market in the Xamar Weyne district of the Somali capital. Every morning Mogadishu's fisherman bring their catch from the Indian Ocean ashore upon which it is quickly unloaded and transported to Xamar Weyne's lively and chaotic fish market where it is sold for consumption on the local market and increasingly, for export to other countries. Over the last two decades, instability on land has greatly restricted the development of the country's fishing industry, but now that Somalia is enjoying the longest period of sustained peace in over 20 years, there is large-scale potential and opportunity to harvest the bountiful waters off the Horn of Africa nation, which boasts the longest coastline in Africa. AU-UN IST PHOTO / STUART PRICE.

SOMALIA, Fishermen display their catch at a fish market in Mogadishu. Photo courtesy AMISOM/flickr

The scenario in which Mozambican, Namibian, Tanzanian and South African warships or boats from other African countries’ navies chase off or even fire upon an ever-growing fleet of foreign pirate ships is easy to imagine. No, the pirates are not the old-fashioned type that raid commercial vessels or kidnap ship crews or well-heeled guests on luxury yachts as is practiced off Somalia in East Africa and in the Gulf of Guinea in West Africa. Rather, the invading armada is comprised of industrial-capacity vessels whose aim is to loot Africa’s aquatic natural resources.

In so doing, Chinese fishing ships decimate fisheries, rendering African fishermen who for generations have depended on the waters for their livelihoods unemployed and made fish expensive or unavailable to local markets and their customers who rely on fish for basic nutrition. Aquatic life is just one resource that is being looted. Mineral resources have also drawn pirates. Read more

North Korea’s African inroads come to an end

A UN panel calling Namibia out on breaking international sanctions by making military deals with Asia’s pariah state, North Korea, has wider implications. African countries can no longer blindly do what they want and laugh at international law without consequences.

The bilateral advantages were too tantalising for African countries to resist or for North Korea to withstand exploiting. Condemned in the international community as a rogue nation with a horrid human rights record, North Korea is subject to ever more strenuous sanctions aimed at hindering its nuclear and military ambitions.

A nationalist dance performance during North Korea’s annual Arirang Mass Games in Pyongyang. Photo courtesy (Stephan)/Flickr

A nationalist dance performance during North Korea’s annual Arirang Mass Games in Pyongyang. Photo courtesy (Stephan)/Flickr

The country is ruled by tyrannical Kim Jong-un, who may or may not be insane but is sufficiently ruthless to execute family members. Since 2006, the UN Security Council (UNSC) has passed five major resolutions aimed at countering North Korea’s nuclear programme. North Korea will go to any lengths to get what it wants, in this case, nuclear weapons and intercontinental missile delivery systems for those bombs that will ensure that Pyongyang gets whatever it wants in perpetuity. A foreign policy based on lies, insults, bellicosity and threats has unnerved the country’s immediate neighbours and disturbed the superpowers of the People’s Republic of China and the US.

Four African countries in particular, Ethiopia, the Republic of Congo, Rwanda and Uganda, have leaderships that seem not to care about the prospect of a nuclear-armed North Korea, nor about the millions of North Koreans oppressed by the Kim military regime. The fulsome descriptions of a “strong friendship between development partners,” that African heads of state and diplomats use to praise their relations with Pyongyang refer to a relationship with a regime, not a silent and powerless Korean people. Read more

The Democratic Republic of Congo is the latest African country whose fate is tied to a leader’s ambitions

Central Africa’s democracies are endangered by leaders whose desire to retain power is subverting democratic governance. The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is now on the brink of dictatorship as its leader seeks to perpetuate a family dynasty.

Judging by the unfolding game plan of President Joseph Kabila, the DRC is to be led by a family dynasty. National elections scheduled for 2016 to allow the DRC’s people to vote for Kabila’s replacement will most certainly not take place. DRC observers and international diplomats had concluded this by mid-year, and in July the UN Organisation Stabilisation Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) conceded this as well. Kabila wants MONUSCO out of the country to allow him a free hand at seizing power through unconstitutional means. The UN suspects a plot, and is staying put.

The DRC’s President Joseph Kabila during an address to the UN General Assembly in New York. Photo courtesy MONUSCO/Flickr

The DRC’s President Joseph Kabila during an address to the UN General Assembly in New York. Photo courtesy MONUSCO/Flickr

Kabila’s original plan was to deny seeking to manipulate the national constitution to allow him to stay in power beyond his constitutionally-allowable two terms, while working behind the scenes to enact such changes. Under intense international scrutiny, Kabila has been unable to pull this off, and has enacted Plan B: stall any government succession by not setting a date for new elections. The flaw in the DRC system is that the president is the one who sets election dates, rather than having a timetable firmly written into the constitution. Kabila has been able to work this shortcoming to his advantage.Meanwhile, the contraction of civil liberties to curtail political opposition campaigning and the arrest of political opposition figures has become so flagrant that the former colonial power of the Congo, Belgium, as well as France and the US, are considering sanctions against Kabila and his government co-conspirators against democracy.  Read more

US media distorts Africa in chase for TV ratings

Ignorance and bigotry towards Africa are on display during the US presidential election cycle from both candidates and the broadcast media that reports their antics. Africans who watch the coverage on international news stations like CNN confront a TV image at odds with history and current reality.

Africans have reason to be concerned about the 2016 US presidential election, which features as one of its two principal candidates, a demagogue who would ban immigration and even visitation to the US by citizens of virtually every African country. If the ban on Muslim immigration to the US, that is the main platform of the Republican Party’s nominee, Donald Trump, is implemented, then no African nation will be spared having its citizens prohibited from entering the US. Thousands of Africans who regularly travel to the US on business, to train as soldiers with the US military, to study, to work, to act in movies and win Oscars, and even African leaders, would be blocked.

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Mark Wiggett for IOA

This is obviously big news in Africa. However, the impact Trump’s immigration policies would have on Africa is a story that is nowhere told in the US media, be it the broadcast media or web-based news media. Africa can be forgiven if it feels that it is, once again, an overlooked continent. Africans also have reason to be angry at the lack of knowledge that news commentators and, similarly, politicians share on African current events, and not only African, but US history. Given the cultural, military and trade ties between the US and Africa, much is at stake for Africans when Americans go to the polls in November. And much is to be feared by Africans.

Africa depicted through the prism of American domestic politics

US network news programmes are aired in Africa via satellite TV and viewed by millions across the continent. CNN is a global broadcast news provider, on par with the UK’s BBC, and is probably viewed by more Africans than any other news channel, again via satellite TV reception. CNN’s news editorial policy is to refer to Libya as a ‘failed state’. Read more