Africa News In Brief
Penalty Looms For U.S. Guitars Made From Rare African Wood
Aug. 7 (GIN) – A crackdown on illegal logging and deforestation in the East African island nation of Madagascar will be felt in the U.S. with a looming fine of $300,000 for the maker of the world-famous Gibson Guitar.
A criminal investigation into the illegal import of rare wood snared the Nashville-based Gibson Guitar Corp which has now acknowledged it “may have violated” environmental protection laws in Madagascar. Gibson guitar owners include B.B. King and AC/DC’s Angus Young.
The musical instrument company had acquired unfinished ebony fingerboards through a supplier in 2008 and 2009. But under the U.S. Lacy Act it is illegal to import plant or animal products in violation of foreign laws.
The laws were intended to limited overharvesting and conserve valuable species,” explained Assistant Atty General Ignacia Moreno, with the U.S. Justice Dept.
Madagascar Ebony is a slow-growing tree species and supplies are considered threatened in its native environment due to over-exploitation.
The harvest of ebony and export of unfinished ebony from Madagascar has been banned since 2006.
Gibson has also agreed to pay an additional $50,000 to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to promote conservation of tree species used in the musical instrument industry.
Terrorism, Business Deals And China Are Focus Of Clinton’S African Trip
Aug. 7 (GIN) – In her 10-day 9-country African tour, U.S. Secy of State Hillary Clinton stopped in Senegal and met with presidents and business leaders in Uganda, South Sudan, South Africa and Kenya. Talks focused on terrorism, Chinese trade with Africa and democracy.
Mrs. Clinton was also scheduled to attend a state funeral for Ghana’s President John Atta Mills who died on July 24.
In Malawi, Clinton advised President Joyce Banda to continue making the country more investment-friendly. Accompanying Mrs. Clinton were 10 U.S. business execs from Wal-Mart, Caterpiller, FedEx, GE and Boeing, among others.
In South Africa, in an address to the U.S.- South Africa Business Summit, Clinton predicted “massive new opportunities” on the continent for American business and jobs. The U.S. is Africa’s second largest trade partner after China, which has been building schools, roads and other projects in exchange for access to Africa’s consumers and its natural resources.
But Clinton tipped over a can of worms when she attempted to portray the U.S. as “standing up for democracy and universal human rights even when it may be easier or more profitable to look the other way… Not every partner makes that choice but we do and we will.” The other “partner” was clearly China.
Her remarks prompted Chinese state media to attack a hidden U.S. agenda "aimed … at discrediting China's engagement with the continent and curbing China's influence there".
"Whether Clinton was ignorant of the facts on the ground or chose to disregard them, her implication that China has been extracting Africa's wealth for itself is utterly wide of the truth," the Xinhua agency said.
“Leaving aside for a moment the morally superior tenor of the US secretary of state's speech,” wrote Jayoti Ghosh, a blogger for the British Guardian newspaper, “how true are her statements, especially coming from the representative of a country that has systematically exploited global resources for the better part of the past century, and supported dictatorships in that enterprise?”
Mrs. Clinton concluded her South African visit with a trip to former president Nelson Mandela and his wife Graca Machel. They reminisced and had a private lunch. w/pix of H. Clinton and Pres. Banda
Oil Companies Abandon Villagers After Poisoning Their Wells
Aug. 7 (GIN) – Circling around a well that stinks of sulphur, Victoria Jiji cautions a visitor against drinking the water that has turned toxic.
“Don’t get any in your mouth or you’ll be sick,” warns the 55 year old villager in Ogoniland, a region in southeast Nigeria.
A year after a damning U.N. report that slammed multinational oil companies for devastating the area’s fragile wetlands, the area is frozen in time, abandoned with high levels of hydrocarbons in fishing and drinking waters.
In one community of nine villages, the U.N. found benzene – a known carcinogen - in the drinking water at levels over 900 times the World Health Organization's guidelines. The impact on vegetation was “disastrous,” the report said.
The area is said to need the world’s largest-ever clean-up, taking at least 25 years and costing more than $1 billion.
"Nothing whatsoever has been done ... towards the clean up," said Ben Naanen, chair of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP), founded by the environmental activist Ken Saro-Wiwa.
In nearby Bodo, villagers repeatedly asked Shell to clean up the oil that stagnated their lands and livelihoods. “I don’t think anything will grow there in the next 20 years. Nothing planted will grow,” said Emmanuel Kuru from Bodo. “The land is wasted. Oil kills everything.”
Last spring, some 11,000 members of the Bodo community filed suit in the London High Court seeking compensation of "many millions of dollars" for two major spills – the first one leaked 4,000 barrels of oil a day. A second spill in December is believed larger than the first. The case will be heard later this year. w/pix of Bodo fisherman
Africans Took Olympic Gold Long Before London
Aug. 7 (GIN) – An online photo essay by the British Broadcasting System highlights some of the little known African athletes who picked up gold medals decades ago. Abebe Bikila was the first black African to win Olympic gold in the 1960 games in Rome. His example inspired countless Ethiopians to pursue running as a career. He famously ran the marathon barefoot yet he broke the Olympic record comfortably.
In 1968, Kipchoge “Kip” Keino won Kenya’s first gold medal for the 1500 meter run. Four years later in Munich he took gold in the 3000 meter steeplechase and silver in the 1500 meter race. Kenya has won 69 medals at the Games and is Africa’s most successful Olympic nation.
In the Summer Olympics in Los Angeles in 1984, Nawal El Moutawakel was the first African Muslim woman to win the gold. The Morocco-born Nawal paved the way for many other Muslim women.
Robert Wangila of Kenya won Africa’s first gold medal for boxing in Seoul, 1988. He was the only African to win the gold in a sport other than athletics.
Finally, Derartu Tulu was the first black African woman to win the top medal in Barcelona 1992 for the 10,000 meter race. She shared the victory lap with Elana Meyer of South Africa. The country had just been readmitted to the Games, ending its exclusion since 1960 over its apartheid system.
Since Tulu’s breakthrough in 1992, six of the 12 women’s Olympic medals at 10,000 meters have been won by Ethiopia. w/pix of A. Bikila