Here is an interesting post draftsss

The government cannot censor trademarks because some people find them offensive, the Supreme Court ruled Monday in a major decision that could clear the way for the Washington Redskins football team to maintain its trademarks.

In an 8-0 ruling, the justices said the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office overstepped its powers and violated the First Amendment rights of an Asian-American rock band when it denied them a trademark on their name, The Slants.

The agency said the name was an offensive anti-Asian slur that violated a clause in federal law prohibiting disparaging trademarks. But the court said it’s the law, not the band, that must change.

“Speech may not be banned on the ground that it expresses ideas that offend,” Justice Samuel Anthony Alito Jr. said in his opinion for the court.

Analysts said the ruling could clear the way for other controversial trademarks, including the Redskins.

The trademark office, at the urging of some American Indian groups, said the team’s trademarked name was an offensive and outdated slur. Their legal battle is pending in the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The case was put on hold to await the Supreme Court’s decision in the band’s case.

A military-only approach to terrorism in East and West Africa only creates more and more terrorists. An AIPC-ZAM team discovered how in Kenya police death squads drive youth into the arms of Al-Shabaab, whilst in Mali a neglected and abandoned people is ready to join ’any party that does something for us’ and in Somalia a corrupt and weak government causes peasants and traders to rely on ‘good management’ provided by insurgents in their territories. Meanwhile, a progressive movement in Burkina Faso is ready to fight terror –but unhappy with crude western military action.

BY David Dembele, Hamza Idris, Muno Gedi, Bram Posthumus and Kenya correspondent

Wajir, north-east Kenya, October 2015

Affey Ali is a tall, brown, 48-year old religious teacher with a sizeable black beard and scars all over his chest, back, arms and forehead. He says he got these after the 4th of May 2015, when security agents came to his house and abducted him. He was held at the Wajir police station for two days, then transferred to a military camp and tortured. “There were electric shocks, mock executions and continuous beatings for thirteen days.” Ali says. “I was blindfolded all the time. They also took my national identity card and all the cash that was in my pocket.” The accusation that he had links with the Somalia based militant group Al-Shabaab was not strong enough to formally arrest him. After two weeks he was sent home with a packet of bloody clothes to wash.

Looking for roast meat

Ali has been lucky. A week before his arrest, on 26th April, herders found decomposing bodies in a shallow grave just outside Wajir. When they alerted the authorities, the Kenyan Defence Forces (KDF) came. Soldiers sealed off the site and no one was allowed to access the field for days. Villagers in the area reported they had heard gunshots a few nights before the bodies were discovered and that KDF officers were seen in the vicinity that same evening. Apart from the dead, more than twenty men are reported to have disappeared in Wajir over the last few years.

It had been towards the end of 2014 that Mohamed Abdi, a resident of Mandera, approximately 400 kilometers north east of Wajir, up the border with Somalia-, one day saw four white Toyotas and two pickup vans arrive in his neighbourhood. The eight occupants moved into a local hotel and always sat in their rooms during the day; only at night they went out. Mohamed, who worked as a security guard at the hotel, sometimes asked what they were doing in Mandera. He usually got an evasive answer. But one evening one of the men said: "Tunaenda kutafuta nyama choma," Swahili for "We are looking for roast meat."


The men were never spotted happily eating meat anywhere. But suddenly there were a lot of cases of missing persons. "Whenever they went out you would hear the next morning that someone was missing. After a while we began to be suspicious and when they noticed that they were suddenly gone. I do not know where they are now, but these are bad people with no respect for human life," says Mohamed Abdi, who, like other residents, suspects that these men were members of the dreaded Anti-Terror Police Unit APTU. Between late 2014 and May 2015, seventeen people were reported missing in Mandera (1).


Kenyan journalists have been called ‘unpatriotic’ for reporting such things. They have been accused of being on the side of terrorists, even of helping them. Their works have been censored by editors and publishers after these received phone calls from the security agencies (2). One journalist has been arrested, his phone confiscated, his confidential interviews and photographs now in possession of the police (3).
There have been horrible terrorist attacks in Kenya. Among the dozens of them the bloodbath at the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi in September 2013, with 67 dead, stands out, as does the attack on the Garissa University College in north eastern Kenya, where 147 students were massacred in April 2015. But –as always- the question is whether, to counter such grisly acts, it helps to torture and murder people.

It is difficult to see, for example, how the ‘war on terror’ has been advanced by the murder of tea kiosk owner Isnina Musa, who was seen abducted by four men believed to be security agents and whose body was found in a shallow grave outside Mandera in December 2015. Or by the beating of Moulid Hassan, also from Mandera, who still walks with difficulty after having been kidnapped and abducted by men who said they were soldiers, then beat him for two days and scarred him with boiling hot water. (Moulid was and is a peace activist: a committee member of the government ‘Nyumba Kumi’ initiative, a neighbourhood watch set-up to curb insecurity.) Or by the almost-murder of medical student Abass Abdi, who only escaped death because one of the three KDF officers who had him in the bushes said “let’s not” when the other two said “let's finish him off.” Or the disappearance of car mechanic Athman Ali from Malindi, who was last seen by his neighbours when men in civilian clothes beat him, put a bag over his head and took him away in a car without a license plate (4).


In total, according to the Kenyan National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR), there are 120 documented cases of egregious human rights violations by the Kenyan authorities that include 25 extrajudicial killings and 81 enforced disappearances between late 2013 –i.e. after the terrorist attack at the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi in September 2013-, with most cases in 2014 and 2015. In a hard hitting documentary aired in December 2014, Al Jazeera exposed recordings of members of the ATPU admitting to around five hundred extrajudicial killings

Homeland security

The problem with Kenyan government forces, says a security expert -who asks to remain anonymous, since he feels he is also under surveillance- is that they are not equipped, trained or briefed to fight terrorism, let alone address the root causes of the marginalisation of Kenyan ethnic Somalis who live in impoverished areas –often in towns like Mandera and Wajir close to the Somali border-, share a history of discrimination and harassment. “The government does very little to address any of these problems at all. But ordinary police officers and soldiers, operating in an unaccountable structure with little strategic training or information, are given the order to ‘get the terrorists.’ And that’s what they think they are doing.”

The Kenyan government has a record of stubborn non-receptiveness to such concerns. A recent restructuring of counter-terrorism operations under new cabinet secretary of interior, Major-General Joseph Nkaissery, who now leads the crucial security sector akin to US ‘Homeland Security’, has given government more power than it already had; has placed more restrictions on media; and suspended human rights further to such an extent that two human rights organisations were suddenly listed as ‘terrorist sympathizers and funders.’ Haki Africa and Muslims for Human Rights (MUHURI) went to court to fight the accusation and won their case.


Meanwhile, little is done about corruption and power abuse within the security forces. Three people interviewed for this report said that they had been blackmailed by policemen: if they did not pay them large sums of money (averaging at around US$ 3000,-), they would be arrested on suspicion of terrorism. In a fourth case, Nairobi Businessman Ali Aden Omar blames the fact for his six-day detention on a business rival with whom he is engaged in a lawsuit. He says he strongly has the impression that the rival accused him of terrorism to get him out of the way.

Abdi’s faith

If there was no war on, 'Abdi,' a young man from Kenya’ coastal strip, would probably be an ordinary unemployed young person, mainly at risk of recruitment by one of the many gangs who operate in this region. But like many others from his community he decided in 2011, after the invasion of the Kenyan military in Somalia, to join Al- Shabaab


Asked why he now kills innocent Kenyans, Abdi responds that the Kenyan army kills innocents in Somalia too. “Secondly, we have also attacked many military and police targets, but the media do not report this. Thirdly, we (Muslim youth) are slain in Kenya without any form of trial. If you do that to us, don’t complain if we do it back.”

Abdi professes that he derives his identity and ideals from both Al-Shabaab and his faith, Islam, even though he is a Kenyan by nationality. "I do not want to be in Kenya, I want to be in Somalia. Soon I’ll get my shahada (the recitation that marks your becoming a full Muslim.) My faith Islam will prevail on earth. "
He seems not to be quite sure, though, whether he wants Islam to rule the world or just rule in Somalia. “Basically we are satisfied if we can just live in Somalia according to Islam. But the powers that fight against us will not allow it. Even if Kenya were to leave Somalia, then Uganda is still there. And AMISOM (the AU military). The Americans said they would leave Iraq, but there are also still there. You cannot trust these (Western) powers. Therefore I see no end to the war.”

It’s not only young men who are drawn to Al -Shabaab. “I was once willing to work for peace and cohesion, but no more,” says Al-Shabaab sympathiser Fatuma. “I have seen too much injustice.” Asked for detail, she asks us to just mention that she has seen loved ones killed in horrible ways. Now so hardened that she doesn’t even regret helping Abdukadir Mohammed Abdukadir, alias Ikrima, -one of the men who organized the Westgate attack- by hosting him in her home, she provides assistance wherever the ‘movement’ needs it.


Sureya Hersi, the vice chairperson of the Mombasa-based peace organisation Sisters without Borders, works with mothers of youth who have run away to join Al-Shabaab. “They don’t know whether their children are alive or dead.” Even more worryingly, some families have become desensitised, she adds. “They complain that ‘they (the missing sons) promised us money but we are not seeing that money coming.’” That means they would be OK with it if there was money! Those are the issues we need to look at as a society. All of us. The government must engage with our community instead of (further) victimizing it.”

The call of Kismayo

How many youth have left in recent years is impossible to say, but the government itself admits it runs into hundreds, perhaps thousands (5). Analysts concur that the biggest exodus took place after the Kenyan army’s invasion of Somalia, in October 2011. The invasion was prompted by a series of kidnappings on Kenyan territory, which were attributed to Al-Shabaab, but later turned out to have been carried out by local criminal gangs. ‘Kismayo’ –the main Somali town besieged and invaded by the KDF- then became a rallying cry for Al Shabaab recruitment in Kenya. ‘Abdi’ says that it was the fact that innocents were killed in ‘Kismayo’ that made him decide to leave. And it was also only after ‘Kismayo’ that terrorist attacks in Kenya multiplied after years of relatively low incidence.

Kenya’s invasion of Somalia has made the country more –and not less- vulnerable to terrorism, is also the conclusion of an article on Al-Shabaab and the war on terror in Kenya by Professor David Anderson of Warwick University and Jacob McKnight of the University of Oxford. They conclude that “while the military defeat of Al-Shabaab in Southern Somalia seems inevitable, such a victory may become irrelevant to Kenya’s ability to make a political settlement with its Somali and wider Muslim communities at home” (6).
In other words: you may win in Somalia, but you’ll still have a tough job making peace at home.

Fistfuls of dollars

In spite of human rights workers, analysts, academics and civil society all protesting that Kenya’s internal security forces and army are making things worse and not better, Kenya keeps getting millions for ‘counter-terrorism’ from the United States under Section 1206, a US law that approves funding of foreign governments for this purpose. According to the US Congress, that country gave Kenya US$ 12,1 million for counter terrorism in 2012. In 2013, Kenya received more than double that: US$ 22,7 million and US$ 38 million in 2014. Counting the whole period between 2010 and 2014, a recent US ‘Security Assistance Factsheet’ (7) counts US$ 141 million in total in counter terrorism support for Kenya.

Noting that, nevertheless, the number of terrorist incidents had risen instead of fallen in that period, U.S Secretary of State John Kerry announced in May 2015 that the United States would provide even more: $100 million in counterterrorism assistance that year.

(1) KNHCR report:



(4) All cases from the KNHCR report. In the case of Isnina Musa, the Interior Secretary in charge of security, Joseph Nkaissery, commented that she had been a ‘cook for Al Shabaab’ and that the security forces had nothing to do with her death. Nkaissery has also consistently denied claims of extrajudicial killings, calling even the KNHCR report ‘not true.’

(5) If it is true that in February 2016, 1500 ‘radicalised youth’ came back to apply for amnesty as per the government statements in this story, the total of the exodus must have been even higher. On the amnesty instrument itself our correspondent observes that previous amnesties have resulted in similar government parades of ‘deradicalised’ youth, but that in most cases there is no practical re-integration programme and many ‘deradicalised’ ones disappear again, either –according to some claims- at the hands of the security forces or back to Somalia.

(6); also with thanks to Nic Cheeseman for mentioning the article here:


II. Somalia

Mogadishu, September 2015

Abdi Mohamed (26) looks sadly at his empty hands. A few months ago these hands still held a gun, but since he defected from Al-Shabaab on the promise of amnesty from the Somali government, that gun is gone. What has happened to it, he can only guess: it could be that Somali government soldiers are fighting his former Al-Shabaab ‘comrades’ with it, but it is more likely that the corrupt syndicates and rogue individuals in that government army own it now. It has possibly been used to rob a shop, or rape a woman he does not know. Women are raped by government men every night in the camp for ‘Internally Displaced People’ in Mogadishu where Mohamed now resides (1).

At first he joined the Somali army, but he left when there were no salaries. At least in the camp, one eats. Going back to Al-Shabaab is not an option. “They will shoot me right away,” he says. “I am a traitor.”
Abdi Mohamed had never been a political activist. Even the invasion and occupation of Somalia by Western-backed Ethiopia in 2006 had passed him by in his remote village in Lower Shabelle. It was simply that one day, Al-Shabaab arrived: a well-organized militia, prepared to take over the municipality and the court. It had been practical to join them. It meant a modest salary and some food for his family.
Interestingly, Al-Shabaab was and is not generally hated or despised in Lower Shabelle. “They brought good management,” is a common opinion (2) I hear when I, dressed in full hijab, venture out here.


I usually cover my hair and wear long skirts and sleeves, but even that is seen as ‘dangerous’ in this territory. The fabric of the hijab must be thick and dark; the skirt must not just be long, but also so wide that any shape of the body is well hidden. Like me, other women find all these rules bothersome, but they comply. It is simply easier. Similarly, market vendors and farmers at the market here in the Bal'Ad district dutifully pack and unpack their wares five times per day to render the obligatory five-times-daily mosque visits (“Off to the mosque with you!” say the armed young men).

Families in Lower Shabelle merely hope that none of the militants develop an attraction for their daughters. Then you’d have to deal with the armed youngster knocking at your door, pointing and saying “I want this girl for my wife.” They also keep quiet about their actual views on Islamic extremism and the militia that personifies it. Criticism of the rulers can be, and is, punished by death.

Order and peace

But many say that they do receive something in return. “Order and peace,” says farmer Hassan Jamal. “At least I can bring my wares from the farm and sell them here. I don’t get robbed by criminals or marauding soldiers.” Most of the people I interview –eighteen out of thirty- associate government administration with increased risks of violence and crime. “Perhaps it would be better if we had a strong government,” says market trader Mady Nurow. “A government that could provide rule of law and a quiet trading environment, not to mention public services like health and education. But we don’t have such a government in Somalia. If the government army would win a fight against Al-Shabaab tomorrow and take over the administration in the region, Al-Shabaab would be back by midday. And then all those who had welcomed the government would be in real big trouble.”

Back in Mogadishu, a woman in tight long skirt, sans hijab and with sunglasses, who is picking up her child at a private school in Mogadishu, disagrees. She is happy to live far away from Al-Shabaab. “They are against women and democracy. They murder you if you stand up for your rights. That's why I am a strong supporter of our government. But it is true that it is too weak and corrupt. They just need to be stronger.” A majority of Mogadishu citizens I interview agree with her. Though they dislike Al-Shabaab and support the government’s views, more than two-thirds say the government is unable to provide peace and that the widespread corruption foments rebellion (3).


Somalia’s people have had to endure more suffering than perhaps any other nation in the region. Abdi Mohammed shares his shelter in the refugee camp with Aamin Ahmed Ibrahim, who lost her seven children in an explosion during a battle between the government army and Al-Shabaab. She is left with one child, a boy, now blind: the same explosion claimed his eyesight. She tries to talk to me about how much she wants peace, and maybe some help, but all she can do is cry. Hawo Abdilahi Ali lost her husband, a soldier in the government army, and is supposed to get a military pension. But none is forthcoming, and she can’t buy food for her five children, so she now lives in the camp with them. At least there is food here from Turkish aid workers.
Somalis want what all people want: a place to live, work and bring up children. But their government, despite millions in Western military and development support, cannot even pay its teachers or clinics. Neither can it protect civilians from the grenade attacks that are carried out regularly by Al-Shabaab on buildings in the town. Most of the people I interviewed, whether in the capital or in the rural areas, both in government-controlled areas and in those ruled by Al-Shabaab, seemed to agree that the government can only ensure peace if corruption disappears (4).

But how do we ensure this? Journalists and activists try to raise the important questions and hold the government accountable for the high-flying lives of ministers, the wastages, and mismanagement, but we get little support. And if you ask government directly what happens to all that donor money, like I did, you don’t get very far. “The teacher salary money was used for the war, because the war is very costly,” was an answer I received. “But the soldiers have also not received wages in months,” I objected, but after that I got no response at all. I knew that to continue asking would mean a diatribe (“Are you the police? Are you with the FBI?”). Even parliamentarians sometimes don’t get an answer when they question discrepancies between budgets and expenditure.
But journalists are more at risk than parliamentarians. Fifty-nine journalists have been killed in my country since the first US invasion in my country in 1992 (5).
(2) Out of thirty passers-by interviewed, eighteen said that Al Shabaab was better at management (meaning the provision of security and rule of law) than the government. Four said the government was better and eight either did not know or did not want to respond. See:
(4) See also
(5) The graph shows how a first moderate peak in journalist killings occurred in 1992, with the first US-led invasion of Somalia. It went down to ‘only’ five in the decade between 1995 and 2006, which was a period of government of most of Somalia by the –rather Islamist- Islamic Courts Union (ICU). However, in 2006 the US backed another invasion of Somalia, this time by Ethiopia. That country and the US supported a Transitional Federal Government (TFG) which was also supported by Puntland in the north. Al Shabaab (which means ‘the youth’) was then born from an ICU youth militia defending the ICU government. It has been fighting the TFG ever since, with journalist killings spiking to 23 between 2006 and 2011. Another 26 murders of journalists occurred from late 2011, when Kenya (supported by other western ally Uganda, and US-led AMISOM) invaded the country in the context of a ‘war on terror’ against Al Shabaab.

III. Mali

Timbuktu, November 2015

“The government ignores us completely and that makes us rebellious,” says Mahamane Gobi, a construction entrepreneur in Timbuktu. Gobi's office and workshop have stood empty since 2012, the year of the jihadist invasion in north Mali. Gobi never liked the jihadists – practically no one in Timbuktu, with its centuries-old libraries, temples and musical tradition, did – but the panic and destruction wreaked by the extremists had been followed by an equally horrific “anti-terror war” waged by the French and Malian governments. Gobi and others in Timbuktu hadn’t appreciated that much either. In the hunt for “subversives”, hundreds of human rights abuses had again been committed: from beatings to prolonged unlawful detentions to extrajudicial killings (1). Even mausolea that had survived the jihadists were now destroyed by anti-terror bombings.

Everyone is unemployed

On the bright side, you might say, a building contractor would now be getting a lot of work from the widely announced reconstruction projects in this famous city of ancient culture. But so far only two of these projects, the Babah Ahmed library and several mausolea, have (very slowly and with many hiccups) been put in motion. Worst of all, local entrepreneurs have once again been overlooked. Construction companies have been brought in from the seat of government: the capital, Bamako, in the south.

Timbuktu today, then, is a desert without any rules or public service. Military settlements dominate the landscape around the deserted town, which an estimated quarter to half of the inhabitants have fled. Courts and schools hardly function. For each document, certificate, driving or trading license, one has to go to Bamako, a thousand kilometres down south – and most people have no money for transport. Ex-tourist guide Ayouba Ag Moha laments: “Everyone here is now unemployed, like me.” He does not say it, but others who wish to remain anonymous do: “If the government in Bamako does nothing for us, then we will consider joining parties that do.”


Northern Mali has always had reason for discontent with Bamako. The region has been thoroughly neglected and – this, is of course, not unrelated – it has also long been the scene of rebellion and a yearning for independence.

The south is also poor, but at least it is home to the capital. Bamako is about the only place in the country that works, and it works only by the grace of millions of dollars of donor money. Donors and a corrupt state elite, seen by many (certainly by a majority in Northern Mali) as nothing more than a spoiled bunch of western puppets, call the shots. Aversion against ‘Bamako' now sometimes even surpasses – at least in the minds of many in northern Mali – the fear of the jihadists who conducted a year of terror rule in the region in 2012.

Jihadi development


The jihadi invasion of north Mali in 2012 is widely seen as caused by yet another Western intervention. It was the Western-backed regime change in Libya in 2011, in which Colonel Gaddafi was killed, that caused hundreds of armed Tuaregs who had served in Gaddafi’s militia, to descend on Mali. They then relaunched their own northern Malian independence struggle with extra energy –and what is more, in a coalition with the jihadist Ansar Dine.

Less well known is the remarkable fact that the extremist Islamist Ansar Dine rebel movement benefited greatly from ‘development’ resources allocated by the Mali presidency to its leader, Iyad Al-Ghali. Before Ansar Dine’s foundation in early 2012, Al-Ghali –who had always been an islamist and a warlord, but who was also a skilled diplomat and turncoat- had been a confidante of Mali’s president Amadou Toumani Touré. In this capacity Al-Ghali had been tasked to supervise a “security and development programme for the north” (2), nominally headed by his (Al-Ghali’s) close associate Mohamed Ag Gerlaf.

The story of how that development programme turned into a jihadi movement is typical for the Mali regime’s approach to the north: it was way more military than ‘development,’ did not link to any local populations and basically only built a new power base for Al-Ghali. Who then, as militant Tuaregs started their independence rebellion, decided that the time had come to switch from presidential ally to fellow rebel boss.

A very worried report on the programme by development workers dated March 2012 (3) calls for urgent measures to save it, but way too late. President Touré, who had given the ‘development’ programme to Al Ghali, was removed from power by a coup on 22 March. Timbuktu, Gao and Kidal fell to the jihadi-rebel collation in the following days.

There are now all sorts of “other parties” in northern Mali: extreme and less extreme Islamic fundamentalist militias; Tuaregs, with their National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA), as they call the region; ordinary criminal syndicates who, just like many Sicilian mafias, feed and protect their families and communities by drug and weapon trafficking for the jihadists and other armies.

Siren song

But it is the ideological, extreme Islamist groups that are most attractive to rebellious youth. After all, they promise not only money and weapons, but also a meaning to their lives. “Spiritual salvation” and “righteous war” are terms that can sound like music to the ears of angry young men with desperate families. Which is why local official Omar Babi in Gao, the second city in northern Mali, speaks of a siren song. It is worrisome, he says, that there is hardly a family in Gao that hasn’t lost a son or nephew to the extremist rebels, either through abduction, volunteering, or in exchange for money. In whichever way these youngsters end up with the militias, the result is, Babi says, “that they are both militarily trained and religiously indoctrinated.”

Two weeks after this interview, the Radisson Hotel in Bamako was attacked by the terrorists of Al Mourabitoun, one of the groups that have their base in northern Mali. There were nineteen deaths.

Security and development

Asked about its role in the War on Terror, a spokesperson for the UN Peacekeeping mission MINUSMA said that “(we) are not responsible for the fight against terrorism in Mali. MINUSMA supports the government in its effort to reconquer the north and it secures the populations.”

Mali’s Ministry of Defense referred to “several development programmes” for the north as an instrument to win hearts and minds. “One of the key programmes, the PIPDN, the 'Programme intégré pour le développement des regions nord,” was put in place by (former president) Amadou Toumani Touré .” The AIPC team has not been able to find any recent activities by, or even references to, this programme.


IV. Burkina Faso

In a competition for conspiracy theories this one would certainly be a finalist: Burkina Faso’s old dictator Blaise Compaoré and his shady old French allies are behind the 15 January 2016 terrorist attack on the Splendid Hotel in downtown Ouagadougou. The upmarket Splendid -and even more so the Cappuccino restaurant and the Taxi Brousse open-air bar opposite it- were sought after entertainment centres not just by western music- and culture- loving expats, but also by ‘Ouaga’s progressive youth and intellectuals.

It stands to reason, some think, (1), that such places would be blown up by old dictators who –just like terrorists- want to sow panic for the purpose of violent regime change and new strong-man-rule. The conspiracy theorists further point out that this attack happened just when Ouaga’s progressive citizen movements had chased Compaoré (2014) and fought back against a coup conducted by his old allies (2015).

Well, OK. Compaoré might not actually have gotten into an alliance with Al Mourabitoun, who claimed the attacks in which twenty-nine people, including eight Burkinabé citizens died on 15 January 2016. Most people in Burkina Faso do not really think that. But representatives of the progressive movements are worried that the terrorism threat is playing into the hands of those who prefer a militarised, dictatorial state of affairs and continued strongman rule.

Defence agreement

Human rights activist Chrysogone Zougmoré. for example, of the large civil movement Coalition nationale de la lutte contre la vie chère (CCVC), is worried about the role now played by 225 French special forces, the Commandment des Opérations Spéciales, which has its HQ at Burkina Faso’s tiny airport. Firstly, he says, the force is protected by a ‘defense agreement’ which stipulates that the French soldiers cannot be prosecuted for crimes in the country, even in cases of murder. In the context of recent revelations about sexual abuse of children by French soldiers in the Central African Republic that sounds pretty horrific. (2).


Secondly, Special Forces commander General Benoit Puga is an old ally of the corrupt, oppressive Compaoré regime (3). According to French investigative magazine the Canard Enchaîné (4) Puga was also one of the brains behind the Western invasion and the fall and death of Gaddafi in Libya in 2011, which prompted the jihadist invasion of the Sahel that destroyed Timbuktu and Gao. Thirdly, he and other old French military and political supporters of Compaoré, -kingpins in the shadowy ‘françafrique’ network known for its shady and exploitative operations all over Africa (5)-, don’t exactly have a record of effectively fighting criminal gangs, warlords or extremist militias.

On the contrary, they have a history of striking deals with such groups –including with Mokhtar Belmokhtar, former kidnap gang leader, cigarette smuggler and now the brains behind Al Mourabitoun’s attacks on the Radisson Blue and the Splendid hotels.

A pattern of retaliation

But even if the present French fight with terrorism is real, Zougmoré fears that they are just making it worse. "The attack in Ouagadougou followed the one at the Radisson Blu hotel in (Mali capital) Bamako," he says. "That was after French Special Forces moved from here to fight them in Bamako. We became afraid that terrorists would follow them back into our country and strike here too. And exactly that happened."

In his view this has been a pattern: “When the French intervened in Mali in 2013 I told a news website that this type of French intervention would spread the terrorist problem beyond the Malian borders. Mind you: if you made a trip around Ouagadougou in 2013-2014, you’d notice that places like the French embassy and French schools were already receiving increased protection. They knew something was coming!’

And it’s not just the French. Burkina takes part in the yearly US-led military training operation Flintlock, in which the Netherlands also participate. The regional Africom command, led by the US, operates here, as does the French ‘Barkhane’ corridor which stretches from Chad in the east to Mauritania in the West. The country also forms part of the Trans Sahara Counter Terrorism Partnership, again led by the US, which allows for surveillance missions and 'small team engagements with partner nations,’ And then there is the UN peacekeeping force, MINUSMA.


All of these seem to adhere to the view that you need a global military force to chase terrorists and local strong rulers to work with. Chad president Idriss Deby, a longstanding ‘françafrique’ ally and friend of ex-dicator Compaoré, for example, now leads the anti-terrorist partnership of Sahel countries called the G5.

The narrative that ‘only a strong West-supported leader can deal with terrorism’ is also supported on social media by an old Compaoré choir with one line only: “The attack on the Splendid would not have happened if Blaise was still there (6).” It infuriates the progressives and feeds into the conspiracy that ‘Blaise’ could have actually been behind it -just to plan a come-back.

A threat to transparency and accountability

Activists like Zougmoré fear that this militarisation and the handing over of ‘national sovereignty’ to western allies, poses a threat to what his movement stands for: more government transparency and accountability, less spying on the opposition and less corruption. Laurent Bigot, a former French diplomat-turned-consultant seems to support this when he warns, in Le Monde, that the state in Burkina Faso, whilst ‘contracting out’ the fight against armed militias to the west, basically only concerns itself with ‘gathering political information,’ for the purpose of countering opposition and maintaining corrupt patronage systems. “Neither corruption nor tax evasion is of great interest to the international community,” Bigot writes (7).

Of course Al Mourabitoun and its siblings, AQIM and FLM –the latter a group fighting for a return to an idealised old nomadic Peulh kingdom- must still be fought militarily as well. But Zougmoré feels that Burkinabe should do it themselves : "The French should give us training and weapons. We can fight without a western umbrella. We fought Blaise Compaoré ourselves, nobody had to do that for us.” If much-loved local rapper Smocky is to be believed, this is the feeling of most citizens. "There are eighteen million reservists," is a line in a presently popular song that calls for “taking the terror to the terrorists.” Burkina Faso’s population is eighteen million.


Perhaps the anti-terror forces should consider the “eighteen million reservists" as allies, rather than old discredited politicians and ‘françafrique’ puppets. Perhaps so many hearts and minds should not be ignored or discarded. But so far, there are no indications that the West’s strategy in the region is about to change.

February 2016

Taxi Brousse, the open-air bar where three young men met their violent end after they had carried out the first jihad-style attack in the capital of Burkina Faso, has reopened. The Splendid hotel diagonally opposite, where sixteen Burkinabe and twelve westerners died, too. From the entrance you can see the ruins of the Cappuccino restaurant on the other side of the avenue.

On the last corner, directly opposite Taxi Brousse stands another ruin: the home of the former ruling party machine of former president Compaoré. After 27 years of tenaciously holding on to power, the people rose and removed him. They also burnt down the headquarters of his hated party. So far, nobody is rebuilding this one.

(1) For instance here: The French journalist Leslie Varenne elaborated this theory in a piece she wrote for L’Ouaragan, a Burkinabè bi-weekly that loves conspiracies.
(5) See for example Al Jazeera’s series on the French African connection

(6) One particularly toxic character in this choir is Jean Guion, a French national and a prolific habitué on Twitter. While the corpses from the attack on the Kwame Nkrumah Avenue were still in the morgue, he sent a glowing tweet to the effect that this was “the price to pay” after the fall of his dear beloved friend, Blaise Compaoré (Guion was nicknamed ‘Blaise’s praise-singer’.) The self-styled champion of the French language worldwide was made a Grand Officer in the Order of Burkina Faso in December 2011 for his tireless lobbying for the then ruling clan.

(7) In a private lecture at the French Institute of International relations in Burkina Faso in July 2012, Bigot had already told his audience that Burkina Faso under Compaore was going the way of Mali precisely because the government of the day was corrupt and dealing with criminal gangs. He was fired as a result, not in the last place because the Burkinabè authorities protested long and loud about Bigot’s words to his boss, the then foreign minister Laurent Fabius.

V. Nigeria

Maiduguri, September 2015

Credit where credit is due, Radio Dandal Kura was a brilliant idea of the Americans. It had been a mega-discovery that, in the area around Maiduguri, the birthplace of Boko Haram, ten million people spoke nothing but Kanuri, not to mention that no radio or newspaper (except the deadly boring Radio Borno) spoke to these people in their own language.

This meant that the ruthless and extreme Islamic fundamentalist Boko Haram had a monopoly on dialogue with the local community on important social issues. Their promises of ‘salvation’ and their ‘solutions’ to the widespread poverty and misery in Nigeria’s neglected north-east were the only messages the locals were getting, alongside the justifications of the movements bloody mass attacks on villages: they would say that these villages had simply not been ‘faithful’ enough to the movement’s fanatically anti-Western and anti-Christian ideology.

Language and loyalty

In the powder keg of neglect and bitterness that is this mainly Muslim region of deep poverty, corrupt rule, abuse by authorities and army, and overall distrust of the Christian government in the southern capital Abuja, Boko Haram’s use of their ‘own’ language next to their purported ownership of the ‘correct’ religion was a recruitment and loyalty factor of note.

That is, until Radio Dandal Kura began broadcasting in April 2015. For the first time, locals heard fellow locals talk about the problems in Maiduguri and surrounding areas in a different way. They learned that Boko Haram was not the only local ‘authority’ and that others also had ideas and pondered alternatives to poverty and violence. “For the first time, we were told something about the how and why of our dreaded Boko Haram,” says Grema Modu, a young resident of the Shuhuri neighbourhood. “Dandal Kura allows our youth to speak,” adds farmer Salma Ali. “And our people take them seriously, especially the fellow youngsters. Just because those on the radio speak their own language.”

Kolomi Kareem, a young volunteer soldier in the Civilian Joint Task Force that assists the Nigerian army, is convinced that Dandal Kura has led to desertion from the ranks of Boko Haram. “It happened to me at least four times that Boko Haram members came to surrender because they were swayed by Dandal Kura.”


That the launch of the radio coincided with the election –on an anti-corruption ticket- of Nigeria’s new President Muhammadu Buhari, also in April 2015, was probably a coincidence. But the new government under Buhari was a second factor that inspired hope among the desperate population of the north east. Former president Goodluck Jonathan had been accused of advantaging Nigeria’s south over the neglected north as well as of running a generally uncaring, deeply corrupt government and an underresourced, demotivated army. In 2013 and 2014 the Nigerian military was widely reported to be ‘fleeing’ Boko Haram. (1).

Central command

But Buhari was a northerner and a Muslim, and he made a point of being seen to be protecting civilians in the north east. One of his first acts in this regard was to move the army’s central command to Boko Haram’s heartland Maiduguri in Borno, which, in the words of a local senior officer was a very good thing to do, since “there is now centralised control of all forces in the area, be they police, paramilitary or military.” Buhari also put a fellow northerner in charge of the new base: Tukur Buratai, who hails from Biu, a village that has itself suffered greatly under Boko Haram attacks. (A Nigerian news site reported that Buratai’s own family home had been attacked once.)

The new central command also faced the task of regularising the voluntary CJTF vigilante force, the 25,000-strong youth brigade that comprises mainly male youngsters like Kolomi Kareem, “who swore to an oath on the Koran to fight the insurgents after reports that the military were abandoning their arms and fleeing (2).”


In spite of its valiant intentions, the CJTF –operating since 2013 without much supervision, training or equipment-, had conducted arbitrary arrests, detentions and even lynchings of ‘Boko Haram suspects.’ In March 2014, for example, the CJTF had murdered such ‘suspects’ in Maiduguri after a Boko Haram attack on the nearby military Giwa Barracks where militants were being held. Boko Haram militants and escaped detainees were then chased by both army and CJTF, resulting in an estimated six hundred deaths.

The former municipal director for poverty reduction in Maiduguri, Hajiya Yagana Muazu, narrates how two of her staff members were murdered by CJTF members on suspicion of collaborating with Boko Haram then. “My children and I escaped narrowly. Fortunately, the regional army commander came just in time to save us.” As a result of such events many among the civilian population had turned against the vigilantes, perceiving them simply as yet another threat (3).

The CJTF was, furthermore, also a threat to itself: “When they see a suicide attacker, they run towards them and try to stop the explosion. Then the bomb explodes, resulting in the deaths of both the attacker and the vigilante,” a newly appointed legal adviser, Jibril Gunda, told a Security Conference in Borno State held in June 2015. Gunda also told the conference that there had been over six hundred dead among the vigilantes.

Taking place two months after Buhari’s government victory, the conference established a government commission to regulate the CJTF. Besides being equipped with legal advisers, strategic planners, and trainers, hundreds of youth were now integrated into regular military operations whilst others were placed under the wing of the police and other security forces.

The hero of the sheep

Though a report based on interviews with civilians conducted between May and August 2015 still recommended disarmament and demobilisation of the vigilantes and full integration of youth volunteers into regular forces (4), this has not happened; the CJTF still exists as a voluntary structure.
But most civilians and military personnel interviewed by our team in late 2015 now seemed to view the youth force more positively than before. “They know the terrain, they know the people and speak the language, they are really very helpful,” said one officer. Another related the story of the CJTF-vigilante in Biu, who noted that a passing truck with sheep had its animals piled up in a weird way. When he stopped the vehicle and climbed in, he saw forty rebels hiding under a shelf on top of which the sheep stood. Fortunately, the army was in the neighbourhood, and the Boko Haram members were arrested.


Falmata Mohamed, a municipal official in Maiduguri, positively gushes: “They deserve gold. Even gold as a reward would not be enough. Without them, the military would still be confused about our local community. They are heroes.”

Hearts and minds

The military, meanwhile, also embarked on a concerted hearts-and-minds effort to protect and work with civilians rather than only hunt terrorists. For years, northern people had been almost as scared of soldiers as they were of Boko Haram because of its abuses, arrests, detention, torture and even killings of local young men (5). But in the post-Buhari era the army started screening and releasing suspects whose connections to Boko Haram were not proven. Involving locals in this process by sharing information, photos and press releases, the military eventually released hundreds of imprisoned youngsters on four occasions since last July.

This was welcomed by many families who believed that their children were wrongly arrested. Hitherto apathetic in assisting the military’s fight against the Boko Haram, “today we no longer panic when we see the army. We know they are only looking for the real terrorists and will not harm us,” is how one resident of Maiduguri puts it.


Families are now increasingly talking with soldiers and providing information about rebels’ hide-outs. An article in African Arguments from January this year supported the impression that locals now trust the military more, crediting this to government efforts to fight ‘corruption’ in the military. (6)
The new approach has also been punted at the militants themselves. Vice-president Yemi Osinbajo, at a civil society conference in Maiduguri in October last year, stated, for the first time in Nigerian terrorism-fighting history, that “these perpetrators are themselves victims, trapped in the vortex of evil manipulation (7).” He added that the country’s leaders have to provide such youngsters with a ‘new narrative.’ He also announced new funding for civil society and development activities in the region.

A ‘technical’ defeat

In the same month, local leader the Sheikh of Borno announced in a media interview that he saw a turn for the better, noting that “our district and village heads are cooperating by providing useful information” to the security forces. He thanked the military for “liberating most of the towns and villages taken over by Boko Haram” and also congratulated army chief Tukur Buratai, whom he called a ‘very serious and determined’ son of the soil, who “moves from one village to another with the troops and even spent one or two nights in the bush.”(8)

In December, President Buhari claimed that Boko Haram had been ‘technically’ defeated and that it no longer held territory in Nigeria. Though this claim has been labelled exaggerated, the fact-checking institute of ‘AfricaCheck’ based at the University of the Witwatersrand in South Africa, in an assessment in February 2016, conceded that the militants had been driven from the major population centers (9).


Youth force members interviewed by our team in late 2015 professed to be happy. CJTF volunteer Abba Musa (18) just finished his final exam (with five distinctions) and hoped for a future in the military, “defending the sovereignty of Nigeria”. But he said he would also take a job as a police officer. His friend Hajja Gana said she expected to be able to get a job through the CJTF “after the war”. “I believe in our mission. I believe that my friends and I will be well if we can beat Boko Haram,” she says. Abba Musa now has a bulletproof vest, for which he is thankful. “It means that the soldiers don’t want me to die,” he says.

Vigilance with regard to the vigilantes still seems required though. Military and social experts warn of a “sorcerer’s apprentice” effect similar to what happened after the Americans trained the Taliban in Afghanistan. “We must realize that these military trained and armed young people are also a potential time bomb,” says a security expert, retired officer Salihu Bakari. “They have to get jobs after the war. Otherwise, they can pose a danger to the state.”
Borno Judicial Commissioner, Shehu Lawan, however, thinks these evils can be overcome. “The youngsters mean well. We are now working to provide them with more formal training. Ultimately, the goal is indeed to have a youth force of 20 000, and to find jobs for them after the war. If there are not enough formal jobs, we will provide assistance to them to set up businesses.”

Destruction and malnutrition

But Lawan may be a tad too optimistic with regard to the possibilities for new jobs and businesses in the area. Tens of thousands have been murdered in the north east since the Boko Haram insurgence started in 2006; an estimated two million have been driven from homes and villages. A majority of the displaced can’t return home because villages, roads, fields, water and electricity supplies have been destroyed. In spite of funding drives, hunger reigns in the camps for the internally displaced: recent international relief reports stated that children have died of malnutrition in the camps, a tragedy already denounced by Radio Dandal Kura in October last year.

President Buhari himself has pointed at poverty and hunger as major factors in the rise of the Boko Haram insurgency to begin with. At the United Nations summit on climate change held in December last year he explained how climate change had increased poverty in the north east over the years and described how the slow drying up of Lake Chad, the north-east’s main source of fish as well as water for agriculture, was connected to recruitment for Boko Haram. He narrated how traders in Baga, Borno’s major trading hub, once transported hundred truckloads of fish out of town (10).
Today, he said, it’s five.

(5) Idem, see note ‘Military seen as aggressor’ on page 14


Neglect, anger and ‘the West’

We don’t want to be simple about the causes of terrorism and the best strategies to fight it. But we can at least pinpoint some factors in the rise of armed militancy in the past few years in the five countries we have reported on. These factors are complex and intertwined, but they do contribute to a clear -though multifaceted- narrative.

Poverty, in some places aggravated by drought as a result of climate change, plays a role, but poverty alone hardly drives people to commit acts of terror. For that to happen, anger -as a result of perceived or real abandonment, oppression or abuse by the powers that be- has to be present. Anger against ‘the West’ as a result of Western support for such powers – militarily and/or in misdirected development aid- has created fertile grounds for receptiveness to the anti-Western jihadi message in Nigeria and Kenya.

But poverty-plus-anger still don’t necessarily equate to ‘let’s go the jihad way’ then. There are plenty of armed groups who focus on ruling their own areas, be they bandits or nomads who yearn for a long lost kingdom. In Burkina Faso, a new phenomenon has made headlines in recent weeks: the Koglwégéo, locally grown instant justice vigilante groups with roots in local custom. Also in Burkina Faso, a revolutionary protest movement hates the terrorists as much as it detests the old West-supported elite.

The most common denominator in all our reports is, then, the need for fair, democratic, functional states that respect human rights. Wherever we went, we found, very simply, that marginalised populations are longing for good governance. They tend to take to the streets or take up arms -under whichever slogan or message- when they experience unfairness, neglect and abuse.

The way of the Burkinabé

We also found that these ‘vulnerable populations’ don’t necessarily feel attracted to exclusive ethnic or religious messages. Most ethnic Somalis in Kenya simply want to be Kenyans. The example of the Muslims who, in a bus attacked by Al-Shabaab, shielded and protected Christians next to them with their own lives (1), is illustrating in this respect, as is the example of the Muslims who helped rescue hostages at Westgate, even when Kenyan police and army hesitated to act (2); Burkinabé progressives say a loud no to jihad; Nigerians in the Muslim north want to help a national, in majority Christian, army; neglected Malians in ravaged Timbuktu simply ask for help from anybody at all.
It is of course difficult to ‘make good governance.’ But dictatorial rule, extrajudicial killings, states of emergency and more general abuse hardly seem the way to go about it.

It is in this regard perhaps also useful to recall the fact that the terrorist attacks in Paris, France, in November last year, were directed at precisely the places where any modern, multicultural, progressive would have felt at home: in the Bataclan theatre and the Le Petit Cambodge, La Belle Equipe and Le Carillon restaurants. Both extremist Islamists and extremist white supremacists detest such places where hearts and minds of many colours meet.
Perhaps, then, more should be invested in creating and celebrating such places and meetings, rather than in strategies aimed at further separation, limitation of freedoms, censorship and war-making.


Witchcraft pervades some developing societies up to the highest levels with devastating effects. Demonic spells, marketed as miracle cures that give wealth and power, strengthen those who wield them most violently and disempower everyone else. Once part of a spiritual belief system at the service of communities, the practice is now owned by secret societies that operate like mafias. A report from a universe where politicians are held hostage, cult militias are ‘stakeholders’, people are killed for their body parts and citizens are afraid to move.

By Anneke Verbraeken, Chief Bisong Etahoben, Fidelis MacLeva and Alberique Houndjo

Yaounde, Cameroon, 1 February 2016

When Cameroon’s President Paul Biya calls on his country’s villages to ‘use witchcraft’ to defend themselves from Boko Haram invaders from Nigeria, critical intellectuals make fun of him on Twitter. ‘Desperate times, desperate measures,” tweets one. Another asks if the President is now ‘Head witch-crafter in charge.’ “Biya’s only legacy is corruption and witchcraft,” is, in a reference to the country’s pathetically weak state, the verdict of a third one.
But calling on witchcraft for ‘empowerment’ is by no means exceptional in Cameroon and its West African neighbours. In Nigeria, too, in 2014, villagers were reported to use ‘enchanted bees and snakes’ to chase Boko Haram militias out of Sambisa forest. (On Twitter, Nigerians joked -in a reference to the fruity candy-, about ‘jujubees,’ juju being the Nigerian term for witchcraft.)

Such reliance on an ages-old, strong spiritual belief system -in which ancestors provide guidance through ‘initiated’ leaders, and trees, plants and rocks are thought to be infused with ‘spirits’-, as a ‘weapon’ with which to harm one’s enemies, seems to have increased, rather than decreased, in (West) African countries in modern times.

This may have something to do with colonial history. Whilst in the past three centuries Europe was building own states inhabited by increasingly empowered citizens, African countries were subjugated by foreign powers. Spears and sticks being rather useless against (western) guns, some historical anecdotes refer to Africans using witchcraft in attempts to chase colonizers. In the 19th century, rural townsfolk in Nigeria once successfully invoked spirits to remove foreign oil prospectors from their region (more about this below). SA President Jacob Zuma famously said that before he joined the armed freedom struggle, he used to ‘practice witchcraft against white people’ during the days of apartheid (1).

Remarkably, the use of the witchcraft ‘weapon’ has not abated in the post-colony, where even a present-day government leader like Paul Biya seems to believe that charms and potions can defeat an invading army. Which begs the question how he as President perceives the capability of his own state. The answer is probably: as not much. “The French gave us a state machinery to run,” he is famously reported to have said once. “But they didn’t tell us how.”

Nkolandom, Cameroon, March 2015

Two youngsters from Nkolandom village in Cameroon’s rural south are successfully admitted to study International Relations at the exclusive International Relations Centre (IRIC) in the capital Yaounde. The privilege –IRIC is posh, and they get bursaries- has been granted to them by education minister Fame Ndongo, who has irregularly added the two to an already approved list. Ndongo’s fraud is discovered by media in Cameroon, who call for sanctions. But President Paul Biya accepts the additions and refuses to punish Ndongo. The reason: a threat of witchcraft.

Minister Ndongo is originally from Nkolandom. According to press reports, he had during a visit back to his ancestral grounds two years ago been warned by local Chief Assam Otya’a, that “he should not forget his clansmen in the area” and that it was “thanks to the intervention of his own people that he had been a Minister for so long in the Biya government”: a thinly veiled reference to local witches’ support for Ndongo’s career. The Chief told Ndongo to show‘gratefulness’ by now helping village youth to advance their careers.

It took Ndongo two years to pay this debt, but when he did, he probably knew he would get off scot-free. The President, who is from the same ethnic community grouping as Ndongo, would not risk angering the witches any more than he would. Says a traditional leader from the same area: “Surely he (Biya) knew what also awaited him if he failed to let the two candidates of the minister to enter the school.”

Kaduna, Nigeria, August 2015


A politician in Kaduna state confirms that, he too, is threatened by witches. They have already put spells on him before, he says. “One morning I woke up with bad odour in my mouth and terrible breath. Later on, some mornings, I found my mouth was bleeding for no reason. I wanted to stand for local elections. But the affliction chased all my followers away.” He points at a bird perched on an electric pole nearby. “It is a hawk, see? It is one of three birds an eagle, a dove and this hawk. They are sent by my enemies to keep an eye on me. Because I have decided to stand for elections again.” He takes witches’ power very seriously. “My brother, a council chairman, died under suspicious circumstances.”

The only way to survive, and survive politically, is to strike deals with the groups -called ‘cults’- who use witchcraft to sabotage, blackmail and extort, he adds. “If you are on good terms with such a clique they will protect you and work for your success. But as soon as you don’t do their bidding they have a way of dealing with you. Whatever you possess you will lose.” In the local government area where he aims to get elected, he says, “I must provide some percentage of the council’s monthly allocation and give to them. They call themselves stakeholders.” Save for the witchcraft element, what this politician describes sounds just like an ordinary gang that charges ‘protection fees.’ Nevertheless, it is the ‘demonic’ power they claim to have that inspires his massive fear.

Whether the ‘percentage’ claimed by the witches comes from his pocket or from state funds meant for public services, he doesn’t say. But the use of state funds to buy favours and pay-back ‘protectors’ –including witches’ cults- is common in Nigeria’s corrupt bureaucracy. In 2009, the chair of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Sam Edem, was suspended after it was found that he had used more than 200 million Naira of the NDDC’s money to pay off a witch doctor who had allegedly helped him to obtain lucrative contracts and increase his sexual potency (Edem denied the bit about the potency, but not the rest.)

More recently, in April 2015, the then ruling (now opposition) PDP party recruited ‘cultists’ in Rivers State –this particular group being both an oil rebel militia and a witches’ cult, - to ensure a victory in the governorship elections in that state. The group then became more than a mere ‘stakeholder’ in the state government. ‘Ten members achieved MP seats,’ a commission of enquiry wrote in their report on the matter in July last year. (2)

Magical mafias

It could perhaps be argued that the use of witchcraft to secure a ‘stake’ in power is the only way to derive some benefit from a seriously corrupt state that otherwise does very little for its citizens. A traditional ruler from the Obang area in Cameroon explains that witchcraft can indeed be used by people who regard themselves as neglected or victimised. “The rich are getting richer and the poor poorer. Some (people)are angry with society because of the raw deals they have been cut. They resort to witchcraft to punish their Nemeses.” The ruler doesn’t approve of those who do this. But “a drowning person can cling to even a snake to remain afloat,” he says.

Cameroonian sociologist Eric Kombey puts the blame for people’s grabbing at the straw of magic squarely on post-colonial governments. “African regimes have failed their citizens,” he says. “With the spiralling tendency towards bribery, corruption and greed, those who are not in positions to acquire the good things in life turn to witches and wizards in the hope of being helped to arrive.”

It would perhaps be nice if ordinary citizens in general could, in fact, be ‘magically’ empowered to assert their rights. However, in the three investigated countries, the deadliest ‘witchcraft’ force was found to be wielded by the most ruthless criminals, willing to terrorise, kill and inspire deadly fear in the pursuit of power. Belief in magic on an individual level usually doesn’t extend beyond the consultation of a marabout, or the purchase of a charm to protect one’s shop. But serious witchcraft cults, -like the militia in Rivers State-, behave more like murderous mafias. The discovery, in 2014, of a hide-out in Ibadan forest, east of Lagos, where skulls and bones were strewn around a ‘slab’ where victims’ bodies had been cut to pieces –to be sold as strong ‘muti,’ medicine that will infuse the buyer with wealth and power- led to the discovery of a gang that kidnapped people for ransom, robbed them of their possessions, occasionally raped and tortured them and only then murdered the ‘unpaid for’ survivors for body parts sales (3).


Human body part ‘muti’ is a money-spinner in organized crime circles in West Africa. The powerful and wealthy pay a lot for such ‘extra strong’ muti -in their case not to obtain a stake, but to keep it. “Those who have already arrived, wanting to maintain their high standards of living, believe only witchcraft can help them remain within the council of the overlords,” says sociologist Eric Kombey. Believing they owe their status and wealth to witches rather than to capability and skill, they continue to pay for more and more ‘protection.’ In Cameroon, in 2014, a young man was arrested with the severed head of his own father. He claimed a politician had promised to pay him US$ 30 000 for it (4).

Doom shall befall the prospectors

Ever since foreign oil prospectors, alerted by missionaries to the presence of rich crude oil deposits, were “warned against the wrath of the gods of the land” by the villagers of Ugwulangwu in South East Nigeria if they were to tamper with the wealth underground, industrial and developmental projects have been halted by ‘spirits.’ The successful chasing of the colonial prospectors from the Ugwulangwu area –confirmed to the team in hushed tones over the phone by a present day inhabitant - may have been beneficial to the locals at the time. But the invoking of spiritual powers to stop projects, some of which could arguably bring real development instead of plunder, continues until today.

It was, for example, only around the 1990’s that electricity came to Obehiri village in Kogi State, North-Central Nigeria. The development had been delayed for years because of a certain ‘holy’ tree that would need to be cut. The linking of two main roads in Kaduna city because of a ‘holy’ heap of rocks separating the roads was delayed until 2007. And up to today, the Niger Delta is riddled with random stretches of road and half-built structures, either actively sabotaged or abandoned by ‘stakeholders’ who only cared about their ‘stake’ and not about development.

Benin shows a similar landscape. “Projects fail terribly. There is sabotage of your construction materials from the start. I am aware of a case where a supervisor over a roads project was killed,” says a manager of an international NGO in Parakou. “This is why people are scared to start businesses.”
Cameroon’s recent history, too, is littered with projects that failed because ‘witches’ felt that they didn’t get their share. Most prominent among these is a celluloid-from-wood factory in Edea, not far from the country’s coastal second capital, Douala. Started in the seventies of the last century, there was to be industrial activity here, a boost to the economy, jobs. But as it happens in Cameroon, locals were not compensated for land taken from them for the development. With the citizenry suitably angry, “rogue local officials connived with native witches and wizards to frighten the (western) investors away after embezzling the part of the money intended as state participation in the project,” remembers an elder in Edea. “There were explosions and deaths and later the director died in a boating accident. The witches boasted that they did him in.”(5) An attempt to revive the factory during the nineties also came to nought because of, in the words of the Edea elder, “a mixture of official corruption and witchcraft.”

Blurring the auditor’s vision

Witchcraft, having become a means and an instrument to secure a profitable ‘stake’ in the state, is also marketed as a means to ‘blur the vision’ of an auditor or corruption investigator. The liquidation of the Credit Agricole du Cameroun (CAC) in 2007 victimised over 4,000 rural Cameroonian farming families who had invested their savings in the bank. The bank had promised the farmers that it would multiply their savings and also grant them loans for small businesses. Instead however, the moneys were siphoned off in ‘loans’ to a number of ruling party, army and government bigwigs under ‘assurance by ruling party members that witches would hide (them) from the auditors.’ By the time the Credit Agricole went down in 2007, the bank owed its customers a total of 57 billion FCFA (about US$ 314 million). Says a source in the Ministry of Finance “this was perhaps the only bank in the world where witchcraft, or the threat of it, served as collateral for big government and ruling party officials to borrow large sums of money with the knowledge they would never pay back.”

Save for one individual liquidator called Ekande Frederic (6) who was later convicted for fleecing the leftovers of the bank, the ruling party members who stole the funds have never been brought to court. “But our members have died without collecting a franc of their savings,” says Nloga Simon, a member of the CAC Clients Association. “Most of them have lost family members. Children have dropped out of school. We don’t even come to see the liquidators anymore because we have been told the same story for over seven years now.”

A paralysed society

Scared of angering witches, shopkeepers in Benin routinely protect their small business with charms bought from marabouts. Nobody wants to be seen to be too successful though; where power is seen to come from unseen forces and control is exercised by secret groupings, it is best not to attract attention. It is not just that one might anger witches by being successful; one might also be suspected of being a witch oneself. There are plenty cases of individuals accused of witchcraft and lynched, or chased into special ‘witch villages,’ or locked into police custody for their own safety. “There is never any evidence to buttress accusations of witchcraft,” says barrister Ojong-Mfung in Buea, who has defended suspects of witchcraft crimes –in Cameroon, these cases amount to several hundred each year- in his regional court. “This leads then to lynching.”

The ones to profit from witch-hunting, are again, witches themselves: ‘good’ witches, or, in Benin, voodoo priests and marabouts. These make their money from ‘sniffing out’ bad witches, protective charms, and exorcisms. During our investigation, for example, a woman in Cotonou had her ‘demonic’ pregnancy terminated by a marabout who proudly presented a picture of a rather large fish as proof that the ‘demon’ had been successfully removed. The team was also told on numerous occasions of ‘bewitched,’ children, submitted to excruciatingly painful and expensive exorcism rituals conducted by so-called healers, both in Nigeria and Benin.

In the end, maybe it doesn’t matter if someone is a good or a bad witch. Placing one’s fate in the hands of an outsider rather than in own skill and capability, will arguably always disempower rather than empower the individual. “Tell me, what can a teacher who failed her examination for four years running and only passed it through witchcraft, teach her own students?” asks an inspector in Cameroon’s education ministry in relation to rampant cases of ‘diploma buying.’ And University of Dschang don James Nchare, citing the gruelling case of a female secondary school student who killed her own mother so that the mother’s blood could be used for a potion ‘to make her pass the exam,’ says he has noticed a drop in education standards because of witchcraft.

Meanwhile, in the seaside town of Limbe, also in Cameroon, tax money hasn’t been put to good use for years. Elections are pervaded with witchcraft allegations; both ruling and opposition party pocket citizen’s money whilst accusing one another of using ‘unorthodox means’ to win. The badly needed market, a project decided and paid for in 1988, has never been built.

Hunting the witches

Limbe, Cameroon, 2015
But change may also be underway. Whereas there are more and more groupings using the ‘craft’ as an instrument to extort and threaten, these are increasingly recognised as‘fakers,’ says ‘Benjamin,’ an initiated ‘good witch’ in Manyu. He likens these fakers to ordinary criminals and says some have already been killed by “authentic witches and wizards who perceive these quacks as polluting their trade.” Sociologist Eric Kombey feels that a recent increase in lynchings of ‘witches’, such as in Buea in 2014 (7) are symptomatic of a society that is tired of fear and cowering. “Whereas in the past, for fear of being bewitched to death, local communities would hardly rise up against accused witches, it is becoming more and more rampant to see street crowds lynching those accused of the evil practice. If this continues, as it is surely doing, then positive change may be in the offing soon.” It is surely the first time anybody in recent history has gone on record to defend a witch hunt.

Developing the Delta

Even in Nigeria, slowly, signs of change are emerging. A number of ‘clean’ appointments by new president Muhammadi Buhari, -who won the election with his APC party on an anti-corruption ticket-, has sent shockwaves through a number of ministerial departments. And through the corrupt, witchcraft-ridden structures of the Niger Delta.

For development in the Delta, the same region where ten cultists were elected MP’s in 2015 and where a former Development Commission boss once defrauded his structure to pay a witch-doctor, is now in different hands. The newly appointed CEO of the Niger Delta Development Commission is Ibim Semenitari, -a member of new ruler Buhari’s APC party and a former investigative journalist-, who is known not to have any sympathy for cults, mafias, individual witches or any other illegal ‘stakeholders’ in politics. At her instatement in December 2015 she stated in no uncertain terms that from then on, “(developmental) projects (will be) inspected before we pay contractors and only jobs verified and certified to be good will be paid for” and that “those who don’t do their jobs well should be ready to face the consequences.”

Semenitari had already experienced the wrath of the PDP-militias-cultists alliance in the Delta when she served as a commissioner (a local minister) in Rivers State until last year. Upon leaving the post to take up the NDDC job, her car was impounded and confiscated by a local (PDP-aligned) governor; she faced harassment and corruption accusations in trying to get it back; and was generally exposed to much unpleasantness.

On 16 February 2016, local APC chairman Davies Ikanya reported that twenty-six of his party’s members in Omoku town in Rivers State had been murdered –and some also beheaded- that week by the same Icelander militia-annex-cult that was earlier implicated in pro-PDP election violence. Ikanya alleged that meetings had taken place between the ‘Icelanders’ and the local PDP leadership to plan the killings. Police, however, blamed a fight between two cult groups for the massacre and the Rivers State Commissioner for Information, Austin Tam-George, declined to respond to the allegation that the PDP collaborated with the cultists, saying that to comment on it would be to ‘dishonour the dead.’
Accra, Ghana, 20 January 2016

A team meeting of AIPC team members Chief Bisong Etahoben (Weekly Post, Cameroon), Alberique Houndjo (Canard du Nord, Benin), Fidelis MacLeva (Daily Trust, Nigeria) and Anneke Verbraeken (free-lance, NL) decides not just to write a report on their investigations of witchcraft in Benin, Cameroon, and Nigeria. “It is bad. It must end,” says Chief, who is –as a traditional leader himself- eager to see a modern democracy evolve in his country, Cameroon. (Chief has always maintained that the best way to end witchcraft is to ensure that democratic structures work normally ‘so that nobody has any need for unorthodox means –they can just vote.’)

Fidelis MacLeva, who has personally experienced the damage done by (belief in) witches’ curses, and who has become a devout Christian in order to fight this darkness, concurs: it is not enough to just write a story. There has to be an appeal. Anneke Verbraeken has felt the need to break the silence around witchcraft ever since she saw how it, and the fear created by it, damaged social life and progress in the towns where she has reported, in Benin, since 2013. And Alberique Houndjo, from Benin, feels shaken, too. “We always accepted it,” he says, but concurs. “No more.”

Notes & bibliography

(4) The identities of the politician, the late father and the son are known to the AIPC team
(5) Former Cellucam manager Matthias Ladurned later responded in a letter to a media report in Cameroon about this that the director, Horst Melzer, had died of cancer and not in a ‘bewitched’ boating accident as claimed.

State structures in African countries are often inhabited by officials who rather line their pockets and please those above them than render a service to the public. But some public servants swim upstream, trying their best to do a good job even where those in power don’t want them to. In turn they risk getting fired, smeared and even shot at. An investigation by the African Investigative Publishing Collective in partnership with ZAM in Uganda, Ghana and Nigeria highlights how courageous civil servants fight criminal syndicates and plunder.

By Anas Aremeyaw Anas, Theophilus Abbah and Benon Herbert Oluka

2015, Ghana
The fish rots from the head
High Court clerk Charles Twum used to object to the corruption he saw around him in the office. At his work place, a court in one of Accra’s districts, bribery of judges by suspects was common and one was supposed to participate in the practice. Money offered by suspects’ friends or families should be accepted and a meeting with the judge should be facilitated, so that the suspect could get off lightly or have his case thrown out altogether. Twum, in his own words, “always argued with the colleagues there who were abusing our code of conduct in this way.”
His colleagues started to see him as a problem and started countering his accusations with accusations of their own. “They said that I was coming to the office late. Or I wasn’t dressing properly. Or I was disrespecting other staff.” A ‘report’ about him -which he was never allowed to see-, led him to be suspended for a while. During that time he was also attacked in the street. “I was returning from work late when all of a sudden I saw two well-built guys approaching me. I decided to run but it was too late, they just grabbed me and assaulted me mercilessly. They kept asking me why I put “stones into the food” of “his lordship.” His lordship was the judge.


Reporting to the police in Forsua, where he lived, did not help. “They asked me to provide evidence that the men were sent by the judge, but there had been no witnesses.” The court authority didn’t listen either. “I was told flatly that I was lying and that I should keep quiet.”
Twum finally had to leave the work place and quested from job to job for years. Until he finally got a transfer to Kumasi, where the court seems to be working much better. “The Judge here isn't corrupt. He is passionate about the justice system.” Ending his story, Twum’s voice briefly breaks up: “When I got here, my torment stopped.”
Anas Aremeyaw Anas and his Tiger Eye team have met Charles Twum during their recent undercover investigation (1) into corruption in Ghana’s courts. They know that Twum is not lying. They have come with wads of money, catching corrupt bribe-takers on undercover camera, but they got nowhere with Twum (2). Twum, and others like him, have formed the starting point for this new investigation into the motivations –and the prospects- of those who don’t want their countries to be corrupt.


Unlike Twum, Cynthia Abbey Jacobs has succumbed to the corrupt environment in the court where she works. “I used to detest corruption. So when I started work, for a while, I fought (the propositions of) some of my colleagues. But I became isolated.” Being called all kinds of names –Madam-Knows-Too-Much, Judicial Owner, Ms Right, Saboteur, among others- and avoided by her colleagues , she felt she could lose her job if she continued to refuse to fit in. “Some of my colleagues told me to my face that I would not be long in the service. I was told by one registrar that he’ll make sure thugs dealt with me severely if I ever told anyone about the corruption. I just had to join the bandwagon.” By the time Jacobs got to Kasoa, where she was caught on undercover camera accepting a bribe, she had become ‘used to the game.’


Asked why she couldn't report what she was seeing to the Chief Justice or even the police, Jacobs responded that "it is not easy to fight against people you work with. You could forget about your job. And there are no jobs in Ghana.” But she maintains she would much prefer the system to be corruption-free and work in a ‘good’ court. “I only made some small cash and I am ashamed.”
If one thing became clear during Anas Aremeyaw Anas’ investigation, it is that the fish rots from the head. Badly run courts under corrupt judges attract people like Philips Achamus, for example, an interpreter in a Kintampo district court. Achamus routinely takes bribes. “Sometimes we don’t receive salaries for months. We need those small monies in order to survive.”
In contrast, well-run courts attract civil servants like Charles Twum and his colleague, senior usher Abigail (she doesn’t want her surname to be published). "When I came into the system I was made to believe that you have to become corrupt. Until I started work here (in Lapaz district court in Accra, ed.) The salary is very poor, but service to my nation is enough remuneration for me.” She feels inspired by the judge who runs her court. “She is highly incorruptible."

Fighting a ghost

2009, Nigeria

For Ndidi Okafor, it started with having to fight a ghost. By training a journalist, she worked as a staff member of Nigeria’s Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in a ward in Ekiti State. During the preparations for the governorship election in that federal state in 2009, she noticed that among the staff posted as presiding officers at local voting stations was a dead person: former INEC staff member Mrs Shittu Alamu, whom she knew to be deceased, had been assigned to conduct the election at a Primary School in the Ido Osi local government area. Okafor reported to her boss that this was surely a mistake. But the boss was not happy with her intervention. “Ask less questions,” he said.

But Okafor was the head of sixteen polling units in that particular area, and was to be held accountable if things should go wrong. In this particular ward there were a total of 6,923 registered voters. With a ‘ghost’ as presiding officer, these votes might well all go to the ruling party. Okafor insisted and the ‘ghost’ presiding officer was replaced by a living one.

Next, it turned out that, at the same location, there was no voter register. Again, Okafor reported to her boss, only to be told to “Go and manage it.” Upon asking how exactly she should ‘manage’ this,’ the boss rebuked her. “Commissioner Chukwuani -the head of legal and personnel department at the headquarters of the electoral body- will deal with you in Abuja for all these things you are saying,” he said. This notwithstanding, a manual register was produced.


But it was still not over. On the day of the elections, 25 April 2009, the presiding officer and the poll clerk at another polling station in the Ido Osi Local Government Area, were kidnapped by thugs. The ballot papers and result sheets for the five hundred voters in the unit were carted away before any voting could take place. Okafor’s subsequent refusal to report results from that area –how could she report results if there had been no voting?- led to numerous telephonic threats. She had to be escorted from and to INEC’s office by security agents for days. Another shock came when the boss asked her for the results from that polling unit, knowing full well that there had been no voting. Why didn’t she simply ‘write out results’ by herself, he asked. The conversation ended with the same refrain. “Commissioner Chukwuani will not be happy with you.”

When Chukwuani was invoked for the third time, it was to be the last. This time, it was because of Okafor’s refusal to replace genuine election results from Ado-Ekiti, the state capital, with ‘freshly generated’ ones. A voice on the phone had said that the earlier election results were destroyed in a fire in the electoral office and that she should therefore accept ‘fresh’ ones. But she knew that there had been no fire. And even if that happened, where did they now come up with ‘fresh’ ones? “I will never sign any fake results,” she had said. It was then that ‘Commissioner Chukwuani’ –or those close to him- had shown real unhappiness. She was told she was ‘disloyal’ and transferred to far away Plateau State.


There, shortly after she had refused a request from a local Senator to exclude a certain ethnic group from the voter register (“They are not our people,” the Senator had said, offering her three million Naira, over US$ 15,000), gunmen attacked her vehicle on the highway. She escaped unhurt, but the car was damaged and her confidence shaken.

Cash and sex for good marks

2011, Abuja, Nigeria

As Ndidi Okafor was being tormented in Plateau State in the North, Professor James Omole, English lecturer at Abuja University, also battled to get his work place to do a proper job. The year 2011, to him, was the year where the university would finally take action against the rampant practice where lecturers accepted money or sex from students in exchange for good marks. One of the few male professors who routinely rejected female students’ offers of sex, and who was also known for never accepting envelopes containing wads of cash, he was now part of a small group of honest lecturers who had initiated a petition against fraudulent graduations. And he was getting increasingly frustrated at the lack of response from the university authorities.

Over a period of four years, some students had failed to pass between three and seven courses, but they were nevertheless being ‘unleashed on society as graduates’, as he put it. In one case, a student was believed to have been charged as much as 300,000 Naira (US$ 1500,-). Other cases centered around female students ‘paying’ with sex for higher marks.


To Omole, this was symptomatic of the corruption in the entire state system in Nigeria as a machinery where paying for favours matters more than job competence (3). It had to be changed. The rules were all there (4). But no action had ever been taken by Abuja University on the matter. So he took it up with the Senate, the highest decision making body in the university. When, for a year, his letter remained unanswered, he finally wrote a formal complaint, accusing the Senate of remaining “complicitly silent on an academic controversy of a criminal nature.”

The Senate, now forced to call a meeting, became a stage for an attack on Omole. Several speakers accused him of challenging the moral and administrative authority of the Vice Chancellor. One of the Vice Chancellor’s supporters actually ran up to Omole intending to physically assault him. The man was stopped –but still nothing would be done about the issue for years.

September 2011, Plateau State

In Ndidi Okafor’s case, better leadership came sooner than expected. Media, citizen and opposition party protests had led to the departure of the notorious Commissioner Chukwuani from the Elections Commission. His successor, Professor Attahiru Jega, instituted an investigation into the Ekiti State election; Okafor was called back from Plateau State to testify; her evidence swayed the tribunal, which then overturned the election results. The opposition’s candidate, who had rightfully won the election, was sworn into power. On September 14, 2011, the Commission issued Okafor with a letter of commendation and she was promoted to the position of Deputy Director.

Museveni’s girl

Uganda, 2014

By the time Catherine Allen Kagina, commissioner of the Ugandan Revenue Authority, retired in November 2014, public regard for her performance was so high that she joined a very small group of public servants formally honoured by parliament. Unbeholden to powerful individuals, syndicates and practices within the tax organisation, the woman called ‘President Museveni’s golden girl’ had trimmed bloated departments from eleven to seven; done away with ‘permanent and pensionable’ employees (resulting in a twenty percent smaller bureaucracy) and technically improved systems, leading the manual-to-digital transformation of service provision at the tax office (5).

In this way, in ten years, the URA was transformed from “a den of thieves” (Museveni’s words), plagued by smuggling, under-valuation and under-declaration of income, to a sleek, efficient organisation. Revenue had shot up from US$ 1,05 billion in 2004 to US$ 2,4 billion in 2014. Uganda’s dependence on donor funding for its national budget shrank from about fifty per cent in 2004 to thirty-five per cent in the 2014-2015 financial year.


An easy job it wasn’t. Kagina had made a point of being transparent, inviting public scrutiny from the media, and visiting places where health, academic and other state institutions were being constructed with government money, to show taxpayers that their money was being put to good use.
Throughout, she advocated for more good use: “Let’s invest in roads and power, not in consumption,” she famously said once, in a reference to salaries in the bloated government bureaucracy. Such statements gave Ugandan taxpayers confidence that at least someone in the government –otherwise riddled with corruption- was worrying about what that government was doing with their money.

Kagina was also not afraid to make enemies: in a speech at the end of her 20-year tenure at the tax authority’s Open Minds Forum in October 2014, she denounced the fact that corruption enquiries in the mid-nineties had gone nowhere in court, asking “what was the essence of (that) commission then? Perhaps by throwing the voluminous report away, the judiciary was sending us to die.” She also recounted then how she had done away with the system that worked on the basis of ‘signatures’ from individual people at the top of the revenue service. “These were a source of inefficiency and corruption. We devolved all power to the lowest tax administrators and the role of the rest of us top managers would be supervision (6).”

Protected by the President

One would be hard pressed, however, to find a real obstacle that was ever put in Kagina’s way, or a real risky moment where the people who had always had the ‘signatures’ could have kicked her out. The reason is simple: having been appointed by the highest office in the land, President Museveni himself, she could count on his protection throughout. Cynics in Uganda however counter that ‘M7’ wants the tax office to run well because it funds his government, and that he may not be as concerned about countering corruption elsewhere. On the other hand, as if to prove the critics wrong, Museveni has in recent years also appointed ‘silver bullet’ deployees to sort out other troubled institutions, such as the Kampala city administration.

Uganda, 2015

A random couple of visits to tax offices shows that performance has stayed up even now that Kagina has left, and been succeeded by another ‘Museveni girl,’ Doris Akol. At Ugandan Revenue headquarters in Kampala, for example, we find computer firm director Bernard Wanyama in a very good mood indeed. “I came to sort out my tax matters and it was a breeze, much to my surprise!” Wanyama has nothing but praise for the lady who attended to him and “who was kind enough to teach me how to use the online system, amend my details and get my tax clearance certificates.” Wanyama later even more elatedly reports that “within hours of my visit at the office, I received an email with all the pending clearances I had almost given up on.”

Even in the offices in the rural areas, where one could hardly get anything done in the past, there is now efficient round-the-clock service. At Bibia on the Uganda-South Sudan border,- a remote area 430 kilometers north of Kampala with no grid electricity-, the URA office draws power from a solar system and a thermal generator. And at the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo, 370 kilometres west of Kampala, a neat two-roomed cottage houses four work stations in one room and two other stations for the managers in another. Each work station is a one-stop centre that takes care of a trader’s every need. Henry Bwambale, the chairman of the regional Mpondwe Clearing Agents Association, says the only challenges the traders face is the lack of internet. “When there is network, there is efficiency; customs officers will clear you. You will only get stranded when it’s not on,” he says.
Nigeria, Abuja University, 2015

With a new Vice-Chancellor in the University of Abuja, a new wind seems to be blowing there, too. “We are witnessing a change,” says Professor Omole. “Our new Vice-Chancellor has drummed it into the ears of lecturers that he will not entertain corruption and everybody is falling in line. Also, the new administration in Nigeria is fighting corruption headlong. Now, seven universities are under probe. Their finances and administration are being looked into. Also, lecturers are being dragged to courts over corrupt practices. With this the authorities will sit up.”


Omole feels that social media are playing an important role in the change. “University lecturers who sleep with students are being shamed. We see secret recordings of such vices being uploaded on YouTube, scandalizing those lecturers. The culture of silence over sexual assaults is giving way. All these give us the feeling that corruption in the system will not continue for too long.”

INEC offices, Abuja, 2015

Looking for the Twums

The 2015 elections overseen by INEC under its new leadership have again been commended for being transparent and fair. Part of this success is based on technical improvements: a better voter registration system; the issuing of new ‘Permanent Voter’s Cards’ (PVC’s) and the use of electronic card readers to verify the authenticity of PVCs. Lastly, the use of additional finger print identification, linking the voter to the card and to the INEC’s registry, closes some last technical loopholes.(7)

But technology alone cannot combat the complex issues of the corruption. The transparency and efficiency of elections also depend on the calibre of employees in the institution. Which is why new elections chief Attahiru Jega is developing a recruitment system that targets educated officers with good service values to replace fired, corrupt officials. New job candidates will now not only be asked for their certificates, degrees and diplomas: much more credit will be given to integrity, efficiency and dedication. The system will, in short, look out for the Charles Twums and Ndidi Okafors.

2015, Kampala

This is precisely, critics of Ugandan president Museveni’s ‘golden girl’ approach say, what is still missing in that country. His appointment of Catherine Allen Kagina at the tax authority may have worked out well: a good manager at the top with a mandate from the highest office in the land clearly makes a big difference, but it is no systemic change. Like in Ghana’s ‘good’ courts, the result may be limited to temporary pockets of good service, dependent on one individual, at risk of ‘going bad’ again as soon as that individual goes. “What happens when Museveni exits? asks economist Ibrahim Mike Okumu of Makerere University. “We must develop a capable work force without depending on individuals from the president’s inner circle.”


Redeeming the judiciary

Ghana, December 2015

Twelve High Court judges have been suspended and twenty lower court judges sacked after Anas’ and Tiger Eye’s exposure of them taking bribes on undercover camera. "The judicial council is determined to take prompt, resolute and necessary measures to ensure the integrity of the judiciary and the judicial service," said Ghana's chief justice Georgina Wood of the decision to sack the guilty judges. "We are indeed fully committed to redeeming the image of the judiciary and the judicial service (8).”


Charles Twum is happier than ever before. “The system used to be such that you can't fight it from within and you dare not even talk about it,” he tells Anas. “Since you’ve come, now we can talk and address the problem.”

(2) Anas’ methods have been criticised as ‘entrapment’, most recently by lawyers acting for exposed corrupt judges. His answer to this is always that ‘extreme diseases require extreme remedies.’

(3) The same sentiments were explained by Professor Oyewale Tomori, head of Nigeria’s Acadey of Science, in an interview in November 2014.
(4) Section 16 Subsection 3 of the University of Abuja’s Establishment Act said that any lecturer who engages in a “conduct of a scandalous or other disgraceful nature which the Council considers to be such as to render the person concerned unfit to continue to hold his office…” shall be suspended from his duties or his appointment may be terminated by the Council.”

(5) This improvement was aided by DFID, the UK’s development aid agency: an example of how aid can be put to good use. It is not clear if a partnership with European Commission is presently useful to the tax service. Preliminary investigations indicate that since 2014, the EC is mainly financing activities in the ministry of finance and that the 'increasing domestic revenue collection' element is utilised within the finance and local government ministries. A reason for this may be that the Uganda Revenue Authority is now deemed to be functioning properly in the eyes of the EC. Sharon Zarb, spokesperson for the EC’s development programmes, commented that “The Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) is a potential partner agency but has already been highly rated for its past reform efforts in the 2010-14 East African Bribery Index Report by Transparency International.”
(7) Funds for these technological improvements came from the European Commission’s European Development Fund; INEC sources indicate that they were very welcome indeed.
(8) The same European Development Fund promises to assist anti-corruption efforts in Ghana’s judiciary for the period 2014-2012, naming the High Court Complaints Unit as a stakeholder: Time was too short to follow up on this before publication of this investigation, but the team plans to do just that.
Ghana European Development Fund National Indicative Programme 2014,
Nigeria European Development Fund National Indicative Programme 2014,
Uganda European Development Fund National Indicative Programme 2014,
Help from above, Kingsley O. Ologe, Abuja, Nigeria, 2011
Research by Memory Queen and O.P. Ajaja into corrupt tertiary institutions in Nigeria, 2010 file:///C:/Users/Evelyn/Downloads/9888-12107-1-PB.pdf

In Montepuez, the richest ruby deposit in the world, a local general pockets his proceeds of an UK-Mozambique ruby mining partnership while artisanal miners get shot by local Special Forces. And whilst the multinational’s headquarters respond to questions and concerns, the Mozambican government simply stonewalls.

Estacio Valoi (Mozambique) and Gesbeen Mohammad (UK)

Only foreign criminals, Tanzanians and Somalians, cared for Geronimo Potia’s 18-year-old son Antoninho when he was shot by the security agents who patrolled his village. The security was guarding the rich ruby resources on behalf of their owner, Montepuez Ruby Mining (MRM), a joint venture between UK-based Gemfields and Mozambican Mwiriti Limitada, which has strong connections to the Mozambican government.
In the eyes of the company, the government and the men who shot him, Antoninho was a thief. MRM held the license for ruby mining and therefore the fact that the young man was digging rubies from his own soil, near the village where the family has lived for generations, did not matter. Antoninho had been declared as much a criminal as the foreign smugglers, who had come to buy the stones from him.


Left to die on Namanhumbir’s red soil on 19 April 2015, his body was carried home to his father by his Tanzanian and Somalian buyer friends. The same smugglers also went around collecting money for the burial and to support the family. “If it wasn’t for them, my son’s body would have been left there, we wouldn’t have had money for the burial,” says Geronimo Potia, sitting despondently in his sticks-and-mud home in Muaja, a village close to the Namanhumbir mining area. His eyes well up with tears. “The company did not help us. The police did not help us. Only the foreigners helped.”
On the same 19th of April 2015 that Antoninho died, fellow miners came to tell Artur Pacore that men of the FIR (Força de Intervenção Rapida, Rapid Intervention Force) - a Special Forces section of the army - had shot his son, Manuel, in the abdomen. “They said he dragged himself out of the ruby deposit and crawled for about a hundred meters. Then he died.”
Far away in London, MRM headquarters express concern about the killings. In a lengthy response a spokesperson states that the company would have been made aware of such cases if they had been killed inside the MRM licence area after 2012 (1). It promises to investigate thoroughly.

Associated benefits

In the introduction to the response, the company says that it is simply not a good idea for individuals to dig for rubies in Montepuez: “Artisanal miners risk their lives to dig for gemstones at the behest of unscrupulous (and mostly foreign) middlemen who operate a system of smuggling, pay little or no tax to the Mozambican government, and profiteer at the expense of local people,” MRM says, adding that “this mining is unregulated, unsafe, exploitative and opaque.” Fortunately, the company concludes, “such activities tend to dissipate over time, and as the benefits of formalised methods of extraction and their associated benefits begin to take shape.”
But such benefits have not yet come to Namanhumbir.
Everything in Namanhumbir is red. The soil, much of the dry vegetation, the sticks and reeds of which with the people construct their huts; the wood, the rubies, the dust. Antoninho Geronimo’s murder was never reported to the police, but our sources in the justice department tell us eighteen people have been shot and left to die for digging the riches of their lands and some even for refusing to vacate their lands.


The cases are counted from 2009, when the rich ruby deposits were first discovered in Montepuez province. The first killings are therefore not the responsibility of MRM, which was only given its licence in 2011, but of the Mozambican government, which launched the first police operation against illegal miners in July 2009, shortly after it had become aware of the wealth in the area. But Antoninho and Manuel died in 2015, three years after the ‘benefits of formalised extraction’ were intended to begin to take shape.

The soil and the rubies

The Potias and the Pacores are just two of the fifteen hundred families – altogether roughly nine thousand people whose lives have changed dramatically with the advent of formal mining in the area. Besides mining and farming there aren’t any other sources of income here. For many years (it is difficult to say how many, since the mining was informal), local artisanal miners dug up camada, sand with rubies, from their soil; they sifted it and sold the rough stones to visiting foreign traders.
But in 2009 the stones were discovered in Thailand and traced back to Montepuez. Now, various military-style forces stop the locals from accessing the natural resources in their land. Last year -coincidentally shortly after the killings of Antoninho and Manuel- the FIR was replaced by the National Resource and Environment Conservation Force. Next to these operates the Mozambican Police Protection force, which is also accused of protecting the interests of MRM rather than its own citizens. And then there is MRM’s private security, called Nakatanas, “men of machete” by locals. Officially they are a team of 4750 guards from the Arkhe security company. Most of them carry canes, but a few are armed with firearms.
Montepuez district head attorney Pompilio Xavier Wazamguia says that he is aware of four concluded cases of deaths by shootings and beatings in MRM’s mining area. “The perpetrators were trialled and found guilty.” One of the convicts was a security guard from Arkhe and three were FIR agents – all of whom killed illegal miners. Wazamguia says his department is still gathering evidence for eleven other cases linked to allegations of the security forces murdering illegal miners.


Mozambique’s Minister of Interior, in charge of the Government’s Special Forces such as the FIR, has declined to comment. MRM’s main shareholder Gemfields says that the government forces are on their land “to uphold the law of the land and to protect the national interests of the country”; that they aren’t directed by MRM; that no Arkhe employee contracted to MRM was ever convicted and that “neither Montepuez Ruby Mining Limitada nor its officers, staff or contractors are engaged in violence toward or intimidation of the local community.”
Locals in Namanhumbir, however, report that they can’t move freely, under penalty of getting beaten or even robbed. In a report dated July 2015 the local environmental organisation AMA lists complaints of villagers thus: “The Nakatanas and the defence forces stop us from moving around. We cannot use the road that leads to the administrative post (the municipality, ed.) because when they confiscate our money and the goods we are carrying. When we go to cut wood or bamboo, they stop us saying that we are illegal miners. When we are ill we are faced with the problem that we cannot use the road to the clinic.” (2)

Fabergé eggs

Formal mining was supposed to develop Namanhumbir. In 2011, UK Gemfields, a world leader in gemstones with the monopoly on the famous Fabergé eggs, partnered with a number of powerful individuals in Mozambique’s Frelimo ruling party to form the new local ruby mining company MRM. Samora Machel Junior, son of Mozambique’s first president, is the chairman of MRM’s board. MRM’s chief executive officer Raime Pachinuapa is the son of Raimundo Pachinuapa, a former senior guerrilla commander in Frelimo’s erstwhile liberation struggle from Portuguese colonial rule.


In November 2011, MRM acquired a 25-year exclusive mining and exploration license over the area. Since then, its operations have yielded MRM’s seventy-five percent shareholder Gemfields more than US$ 122 million in revenue in auctions alone; an average of US$ 40 million per year. That would be over US$ 10 million per year for the Mozambican partner.
Both partners in the mining operation had promised the villagers of Namanhumbir that mining would be good for them. MRM representatives held a meeting in the area where they explained to the people of the villages in the Namanhumbir area -Mpene, Nseue, , Ntoro and Nanune-that Gemfields would run a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programme, which was to include a health centre, sports facilities, a school, a village market and two water wells. There were to be formal jobs as well. Most importantly to the local individual miners, the Mozambican side of the partnership promised that they would get concessions to continue their own mining activities. They were to form associations which would sell their stones to MRM, thereby deriving good income.
But it didn’t exactly happen that way.

The smugglers and the women

Nobody seemed to know what to do about the foreign traders and smugglers. For years they had bought the rubies mined by the villagers. But that trade had been informal and was, now that someone held the license, criminalised. The number of smugglers even grew as the news of the vast ruby wealth got out into the world. They are thousands now, the foreign buyers from Somalia, Tanzania, Congo, Thailand, Zimbabwe, Uganda and West Africa. In their wake has followed a service industry of sex workers.
“Women from Senegal, Malawi,Tanzania,” details district administrator Arcanjo Cassia, who is worried about the health implications of the situation. It also impacts local women, he says. Girls have dropped out of school to make a quick buck in sex work. “A young girl will rather go with a man who promises her a mobile phone than go to school. There is now a rise of HIV and Aids in the area. But we have given lectures on disease prevention.” Cassia feels it is all he can do.
The health centre that was promised by the company has so far not materialised. Neither have the water wells, the market, the sports facilities or the school. When asked about this, Cassia shakes his head and laments “We get nothing. Nothing!” In its annual report, MRM’s UK majority shareholder Gemfields says that it did build a market and a school, but according to Cassia, all the company did was to give an old building that was there from the Portuguese colonial era “a new coat of paint.” In response to questions, MRM insists that it really ‘rehabilitated’ the school.


MRM adds further that all the projects are still part of the programme, but that “most companies in this stage of resource assessment phase would prefer to await the completion of their full-scale mining plans before initiating any such programmes.” It maintains nevertheless that corporate social responsibility is its “key priority” and that it programme will “grow commensurately with its operations”.

The burning of houses

Officially, MRM is still fighting only foreign criminals. “We work with the Mozambican government to address the illegal ingress across Mozambique’s borders of foreign citizens seeking to profit from the Montepuez deposit,” stated UK Gemfields CEO Ian Harebottle in December 2014. Namanhumbir administrator, Anastasia Clemente, had said the same thing in an interview published on a Mozambican news website in 2012: “Foreigners are exploring and sowing confusion among us, these foreigners are behind all this unrest in the region.”
Locals, however, feel that they, too, have been criminalised. The promised artisanal mining licenses for villagers never materialised. In the same 2012 interview, Anastasia Clemente had blamed the miners themselves for this unfortunate development since ‘they never formed associations.’ But MRM, in its response to us, said that that promise was never made by the company because “prevailing Mozambican law prohibits the trading of rubies by any party other than Mozambican citizens,” which means that MRM, which is in majority foreign company, could not buy the stones anyway (3).
Locals, furthermore, accuse the company of forced removals. Several villagers narrate the burning of houses and fields and the beating of locals in Namucho on 15 September2014. A local man in Namucho says he lost about two hectares of land. “They start digging, they discover ruby, then the company comes and says the area belongs to them.” Another villager, in Ntoro: “The company burns our houses and takes our fields. We are beaten and shot. Every time they discover a new zone with rubies, they chase us out of it.” Locals in the ravaged areas have now turned the ‘El Dorado’ image of Namanhumbir on its head, paraphrasing it to ‘El Dobrado’: the ‘place that has collapsed’.


A dam full of fish

Again, MRM and majority shareholder Gemfields deny both knowledge and involvement in such practices. It generally blames “non-authorised persons (…) seeking to recover rubies” who enter the MRM licence area and establish “informal and unauthorised settlements”. It adds that “MRM does not manage or determine the process of removing such settlements (from the licence area),” and explains that the “police may seek” to do so “after due notice is given”. It says it is aware of a 2014 incident ‘in the periphery of the Ntoro village,” where a fight broke out between villagers and illegal (foreign) miners, during which one side set fire to a number of structures.” (4)

Nevertheless, five villages (Ntoro, Nseue, M’pene, Nanune and Namanhumbir) are located in the MRM licence area. Three of these must, according to a report produced by SRK Consulting for Gemfields in January 2015 (5), be resettled: in the report, SRK recommends a “Resettlement Action Plan (RAP) to move local people who reside on or close to the mining concession area.” The report doesn’t say to where, but locals say they have been told about ‘model houses’ (6) to be built for them in the Nanune area, a distance away.

The environmental organisation AMA estimates that this plan affects 440 families, totalling nearly 2000 people. They should have been relocated there by now, but many refuse to go. “The land is dry and what is to become of the fruit trees we have where we live now?” AMA has recorded some of the objections. When we interview them personally, villagers in Nseue are as determined to stay. “We will not leave this land,” a resident says. “We were born here and so were our ancestors. This is our wealth.”Nseue is a nice place, close to a dam full of fish. In Nanune there is nothing, not even water.


Remarkably, resistance from the communities is impacting on the operations. In late 2015, majority shareholder Gemfields tells us that “any future resettlement will likely only involve the single village of Ntoro (7).”

Dangerous machines

Meanwhile, many artisanal miners still refuse to move from the areas claimed by MRM. Staying put, they face more danger than only from the men with the guns. MRM digging machines, they say, simply move in, whether there are human beings around or not. A local miner called Abdul lost his cousin that way. “He was working with two others in a three meter deep hole. They had already collected a sack of rough camada –the sand that contains rubies. They were about a hundred meters away from us, still working when I and others went back home. We hid when we heard the machines coming. After a while we went back to look for them. Then we saw the machines. They were closing the hole on top of them.”


MRM says Abdul’s cousin might be one of the illegal miners buried by the collapse of his diggings and that miners die to due to “improper mining methods”. “Because illegal miners do not wish to see their excavations filled in, any burying of an illegal miner by his own excavation is quickly blamed on MRM in the hope that MRM will stop the process of filling in empty illegal excavations,” says an MRM spokeswoman.

Montepuez district head attorney Pompilo Xavier Wazamguia acknowledges that communities are forcibly being relocated and that artisanal miners have been driven from their lands. “There are those who now have no fields, no houses, and no income,” he says. Provincial government administrator Arcanjo Cassia acknowledges the many deaths in the area with similar despondency. “We have created a working committee,” he says. “It has already been to the mining sites and is working with the security forces there.”

The wilderness

Meanwhile, hundreds of artisanal miners are too scared to continue working in the MRM area. They are now mining much lesser-valued garnet in Nkata, an area thirty minutes away.
To get there, one hires a ‘taxi’ motorbike and drives through the high grass, seeing little through the dust - only horns protect from a head-on collision with another taxi-bike coming the other way. Again, officials paid by the Mozambican state are here to make life more, not less, difficult. Instead of directing traffic and providing safety, the Environment Conservation Police mans a roadblock as one enters Nkata. The officials demand US$ 2 per person for passage.

Entering Nkata at dusk there are hundreds of men covered in red dust, carrying pick axes, returning from work in the garnet holes. Many sit down to drink tentação, a cheap whisky-type homebrew, whilst women at stalls all around stir big pots of rice, fish and porridge. Loud music blares from all directions. This area stretches out for over a 150 square metres, with holes with depths between three and fourteen meters are scattered all around.
A worker called Issufo has been here for over three months. “But I don’t find enough to make some money,” he says. “I have five kids and nothing to take home to them.” He doesn’t want to go back to Nkoloto in Namanhumbir, where he comes from. “I was digging rubies inside a hole when the FIR arrived. They told me to step out. When I got out of the hole, one of them shot me. In the leg.” The bullet wound has healed since July 2014 when this happened, but the hole is still visible in his right leg: both where the bullet came in and where it went out again.
MRM admits it has a similar incident in their records. “We understand FIR were dispersing a hostile group of illegal miners when one of the miners was shot in the leg by a member of FIR.”

The question remains how Issufo and the other locals of Montepuez ever going to make a living again. MRM has said that 800 jobs have been created in an area where formerly ‘there were none,’ but of all the villagers interviewed, none have told us that they were formally employed. There is also no record of any advertisement of jobs in any of the local media or administrative offices. There have, however, been complaints in Nseue village that local chief Horacio Terencio is making good money by selling cheap labour from locals to the company.


At a recent community meeting in Nseue, Terencio was angrily confronted by villagers: how could he act as a cheap broker, pocketing a nice commission every time, rather than defend the interests of the community? That meeting ended with Terencio jumping on his motorbike and hurriedly leaving the area. But he returned the next day to continue his enterprise.

The law and the general

Formally, there is law and order in Mozambique. Since 2014, a new mining law (no. 20/2014) seeks to safeguard national interests through tax provisions and prescribes that benefits of mining should be extended to communities. It also prescribes fair compensation in cases where citizens have to be resettled, and allows for mining rights for individuals. But so far, the law is toothless: the phrasing of the part about mining rights is still aimed at those who are already wealthy and have the capital to begin a massive mining operation. It doesn’t stipulate which percentage of profits should be destined for community development and it doesn’t address the rights of citizens to livelihood and land.

An even more fundamental question is how this law is going to be implemented when former legal frameworks and agreements are already being broken in Montepuez? Murder, beatings and arson have always been illegal; yet the provincial administrator, the local administrator and the district head attorney – to name but a few- seem powerless to stop these. Likewise, reports abound of policemen and other officials colluding with illegal buying networks and facilitating theft and smuggling (8). Searching for justice, law and order in Montepuez for the past year and a half, these seem largely non-existent.

Local activists around the civil society organisation AMA-Amigos da Terra say they are done trying to talk to MRM. “The company has not been interested in relating to representatives of civil society so far,” says Tomas Langa, AMA’s executive coordinator. “Instead we need to strengthen the communities so that they can defend their interests, both vis a vis the company and vis a vis the Government.” For this purpose, AMA believes there is a need for “interventions that can equip (villagers) with advocacy mechanisms and expertise with regard to the Corporate Social Responsibility that should be part of the activities of Montepuez Ruby Mining (MRM)”. Compensation for confiscated farms and land and economic benefit from mining should also be part of such activities, Langa says.

The General

In a bar in Pemba, a while after he has left Montepuez, a man suddenly sits down next to Estacio Valoi as he nurses his whisky. Estacio knows him vaguely as a lawyer from the area. The man has a message for him, he says. “The people in the mining area have been asking about you.” One of these people appears to be MRM board member general Raimundo Pachinuapa himself. “The General,” the lawyer calls him. He tells Estacio about people who work for ‘the General.’ “They make a lot of money. The General likes to spread his wealth around. He doesn’t even care if the company is performing well or not. There is a lot of money for those who are friends of the General.” Estacio decides not to tell him that he is not a friend of the General at all.

Questions put to Mozambique’s environmental minister Pedro Couto and mining minister Celso Correia have remained unanswered to date.

(1) MRM came into being in 2011 and assumed responsibility over its mining concession area in 2012
(2) From AMA research report (in Portuguese)
(3) See Remarkably, MRM expresses interest in a ‘dialogue’ with government on the issue of a permission to buy rubies from artisanal miners, saying that “the ability of MRM to engage in such trading activities could offer considerable national value.” It also informs us in its reply to questions that the Mozambican government has set aside two areas for artisanal mining, “which are reported to have produced considerable volumes of rubies.” Our team has however not come across such areas, and neither did any of the locals we interviewed over a period of more than a year. Who are mining these ‘considerable volumes’ and where? We intend to follow up on this matter.


(5) See SRK report here:
(6) AMA research report
(7) MRM response
(8) See for example this study on state officials and ruling party involvement in illegal trading and smuggling

“Malaria deaths down by sixty percent,” headlined the World Health Organisation in December 2015. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation claimed the achievement as due to their and other international aid programmes. But an investigation by the African Investigative Publishing Collective in partnership with ZAM shows little evidence of a victory in the fight against the mosquito-spread fever that kills hundreds of thousands children and pregnant women worldwide, mainly in Africa. In the partnership between donors and corrupt local elites, only the glossy consultants’ reports look good.

By Zack Ohemeng Tawiah (Ghana) and Francis Mbala (DRC), with contributions from Janneke Donkerlo (Amsterdam, Geneva) and Erick Kabendera (Dar es Salaam)

Kinshasa, October 2015

Chantal Nzuzi, 23, has been sitting next to her kids’ beds in Mwinda clinic in the suburb of Ngaliema, Kinshasa, DRC, for the past four days. The toddler and the four year old, drifting in and out of a fretful sleep, are both burning hot. “I didn’t want to come here because I don’t have money,” says Nzuzi, exhausted. “But I had to. This is a good centre but it is so expensive. I was given a script but the meds will cost me US$ 55.” So far, the children have not been given even paracetamol for the fever. That they have malaria is beyond doubt. Nzuzi: “They have been tested. That cost me US$ 10, it was all I had on me.”
Just a few kilometres away, in the patient ward of the Kasongo clinic, sits Julia Ngongo, 19, next to her brother of 24, who lies in bed on a drip. The two, students studying in northern Equator province, have been here for 2 days. They, too, can’t pay for the medicine. Says Ngongo: “We were busy studying for our exams when my brother started having body pains (back body pains are characteristic of malaria, ed).” His sister gave him some quinine tablets she had in her suitcase, but they did not help. “I had to wake up a friend to help us get home to Kinshasa. We came late at night but they didn’t attend to us because we didn’t have money. Next midday a friend came with money for the tests, for some first meds and for the drip. We have now phoned our families because they must bring more money.”


Over fifteen other Kinshasa health centres and hospitals visited by Congolese team member Francis Mbala over a period of months show the same picture –nowhere does he encounter any malaria patients getting affordable help. This is in spite of the fact that the Global Fund against Malaria, TB and HIV/Aids (famously established by millionaire Bill Gates and mainly funded by the US and Europe) makes 43 million dollars available for free medicines and test kits alone to health centres in the DRC every year.

Unpaid underlings

“We sell the medicines to patients and to private pharmacies,” confesses a nurse in a clinic in the Bandalungwa area of Kinshasa, when Francis Mbala, undercover as a visiting fellow health worker, enquires about ‘assistance.’ She is not ashamed to admit that she, in fact, steals from the patients by ‘selling’ medicines they are supposed to receive for free. But the nurse assumes that the ‘visiting health worker’, like she herself, simple needs money to live on. Health department salaries, meagre as they are (around US$ 100 a month) are often not paid out by the DRC government for months on end.
The nurse doesn’t even consider the national government as a possible source of income. Talking to Mbala, she simply complains about the NGOs: “These (NGO) people give us nothing. Only medicines. No money at all, even though they (the NGO officials in charge of the malaria programme, ed.) enrich themselves with heaps of money from the Global Fund and other donors. They just treat us as unpaid underlings. We have to do something for ourselves.” The shiny cars and the expensive laptops in the offices of SANRU, the NGO that is in charge of the distribution of malaria medicines in 219 designated health zones in the DRC, attest to the observational powers of the nurse in Bandalungwa.

SANRU does not check that the medicines, which it receives for free from the Global Fund and passes on to the health department’s structures, reach the patients. Even the health department’s own chief director for the distribution of malaria medicines to Kinshasa’s health centres, Dr Anta Insa Boblaman, doesn’t seem to verify their usage. Instead, he assures Francis Mbala, who meets him in the shoe-box size central distribution centre, that there is no corruption at all. “If I would find anybody being corrupt, I would just sit on them, and that would hurt a lot,” he jokes. (Boblaman is very fat.) He adds that “all centres have been provided with free medicines already just this month.” The clinics visited by Mbala during this same week are all part of the area under Boblaman’s supervision.

Doctor François Xavier Mwema, chief in the malaria training and medicines distribution division at the National Malaria Control Programme in the DRC’s ministry of health, readily agrees that the clinics often don’t report back on their medicines stock. “We don’t have a culture of issuing stock reports. There is total lack of information on how donated goods are used.” When asked why nurses and doctors’ salaries are often delayed, or not paid at all, he responds that “that remains a major headache for us. But we are working on it. The needs are enormous.”


A few days later, on a quest to compare his public sector findings in a private clinic, the Cliniques Universitaires de Kinshasa (CUK), Mbala is arrested when he takes a picture of people in the waiting room. “You want to inform the public about malaria? Why?” shrieks the deputy director of the CUK before he has Mbala hauled away by the judiciary police, who keep him locked up for three days, confiscating his phone and passport. To date, Mbala has still not been able to get these back.(1)

Ghana, Hohoe, September 2015
In Ghana, we don’t find many donated free medicines either. “We run out,” says doctor Felix Doe, health director for the Hohoe municipality in the Volta region. “The (health authorities) won’t like me saying that. But it’s true.” Local health worker Richard Nenyo, who works in a Hohoe district village called Lomnava, confesses that he is desperate. “I only have one packet of amodiaquine left.”


It could be that stocks in Lomnava are still low as a result of the warehouse fire in Ghana’s capital, Accra, that destroyed 300 000 doses of malaria treatment packets (among other medicines) in January 2015. A government commission of inquiry is presently investigating reports that the fire was set on purpose to hide evidence of theft of the very same medicines shortly before the blaze. The commission has strong indications to suspect this: a signed form by the chief of the Ghanaian NMCP shows that the malaria tablet consignment has in fact been taken from the warehouse shortly before the fire. The NMCP chief, Dr Plange, has already said that she didn’t sign for this and that the signature on the form has been forged (2).
Though measures are said to have been taken to restock all the regional health centres, the new stock clearly hasn’t made it to Lomnava. Meanwhile, pharmacies in Ghana’s regional capitals sell supposedly free –or heavily subsidized- malaria treatment packets (3) for up to 8 US$: a week’s income for most of Ghana’s poor.
Tanzania, Dar es Salaam, August 2015
“Tanzania is one of the countries that are supposed to receive subsidized malaria treatment but most of the medication is sold expensively and patients can’t afford it,” reports our colleague Erick Kabendera. “It is also unavailable in most government hospitals and patients are often asked to buy their medicine from privately owned pharmacies.”
Kumasi, Ghana, October 2015
Even in the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital in Kumasi, Ghana’s second city, it’s hard to get malaria treatment. Pregnant women are supposed to get the preventive Fansidar free of charge. ‘But you have to queue for hours in the hot sun, which is difficult for pregnant women or women with small children,’ with, additionally, a substantial risk of disappointment at the end of the day, says a doctor who works at the hospital. “Because sometimes they are not available. And sometimes you can’t get them for free even in the hospital itself.” Journalists in Ghana have reported in the past on ‘hospital medicines’ which, having left the hospital ‘somehow’, are sold ‘outside’ at elevated prices.

Corruption tax

Global Fund-donor Bill Gates has famously said that it’s OK with him if some donor aid is lost because of corruption, calling the slices that are creamed off “an inefficiency that amounts to a tax on aid (4).” Such a ‘corruption tax’, he says, does not matter because the ‘rest’ of the aid still reaches those who need it.
Sadly, whilst this could arguably work in the case of medical programmes that don’t deal with resistant germs or parasites, this is not true for efforts to fight virulent ‘sick-makers’ like TB, Aids, or indeed the malaria parasite plasmodium falciparum. Incompetently executed programmes, leading to half-finished, interrupted treatments and people resorting to –often fake or expired- treatments ‘from the street’, are at risk of making the malaria epidemic much, much, worse. “You start getting a more resistant malaria parasite as soon as treatment is discontinued or people take fake or expired medication,” says Dutch University of Wageningen’s Sander Koenraadt.

Geneva, October 2015

Like in the case of SANRU in the DRC, donors resort to partnering with NGOs or the private sector when they have doubts about the capability of governments. After the fire in the medicines warehouse in Accra, the Global Fund terminated its working relationship with the Ministry of Health in Ghana. “Procurement and distribution of medicines is now in the hands of a South African distribution company,” says fund portfolio manager Mark Saalfeld at the Global Fund headquarters in Geneva, adding that that is better for ‘continuity.’
However, according to the Ghanaian Malaria Control Programme’s year report over 2014, even where medicines distribution to regional centres is organised, medicines often still don’t ‘land’ properly. Health workers don’t get informed when and where they can find the new stock. Also, in many places, the phones don’t work. “We sit here and wait to see if we get medicines,” says Dr Doe in Hohoe, Volta. We don’t have ownership. I don’t even know what the budget is. Or the content of the malaria programme.”
It seems, then, that relying on NGOs or private companies doesn’t solve all the problems. Back in Kinshasa, old doctor (and ex journalist) Gaston Nkinti (76) grimaces in anger when the topic arises. “Maybe Bill Gates could send his own doctors and nurses and stockists and transporters and officials and just do everything.”

Victim blaming

In Lomnava village, health worker Richard Nenyo, now totally devoid of medicines, has resorted to shrieking at people to use their malaria nets properly. “What else can I do? It is the only instrument we have now. The nets, at least, we receive.”

Blaming ordinary people for lack of use, or incorrect use, of the massively donor-distributed insecticide-treated mosquito nets, has become a stock response of health workers in civil society. SANRU’s deputy director Pomi Mongala in Kinshasa –seemingly unaware of the fact that in many places in her country, nets don’t even arrive because of bad or non-existent roads- talks of ‘educating’ people to ‘prevent.’ In Ghana, the deputy director of the Ghanaian coalition of health NGOs, Stephen Oracca-Tetteh, rages against the ‘ignorants.’ “Ghanaians are so ungrateful. These donors work hard to bring us all these malaria nets and the people don’t even use them.” Oracca-Tetteh feels that there should even be ‘sanctions’ for people who use the nets wrong: for fishing, for example, or in soccer goals.

If only it would be so easy. But in villages where up to eight people sleep on the floor of one hut, -often in suffocating heat-, the nets are cumbersome and really uncomfortable. “It’s hot and it irritates my skin,” says Enyonam Tsigha, three months pregnant, in Hemang village in Ghana’s Ashanti region. When she shows us where she sleeps, in a one-room hut shared with five other family members, we try to imagine a set of mosquito nets put up here, each on poles, over the sleeping bodies of six people. The poles would have to be set up every night and removed during the day. “Can you see how difficult it is, let alone that they want us to sit under such a net from sunset? Have you tried doing that together with your small children? We get bitten anyway.”
Tsigha’s neighbour, Opanin Osei Yaw , is using his insecticide-sprayed malaria net to cover his palm seedlings. The harvest, safe from predators, will guarantee an income and food for his family for several months next year. Yaw sees no reason to remove the net from the seedlings and rather use it to protect himself and his family: food, not malaria risk management, is his family’s most basic need. He does, however, feel that something should be done about the mosquitoes. He was happy when the government started spraying insecticide in his village two years ago. “But after a year the spraying stopped again,” he says. He doesn’t know why.

Health worker Richard Nenyo concurs with Yaw. “If only they could start spraying again,” he says. “That really helped.”


Tsigha’s, Yaw’s and Nenyo’s experiences illustrate the fact that mosquito nets on their own cannot protect you. Spraying insecticide in a consistent manner is –together with bed nets, regular testing and treatment- an indispensable part of eradication programmes. And the key word here is consistency. Because, like with treatment, where spraying and is irregular and interrupted, the parasite becomes resistant to the insecticides and the tablets. The WHO’s global malaria programme director Pedro Alonso sounded alarm in this regard in the Financial Times on 23 April last year. “A tipping point” in the fight against malaria had been reached, he said, and warned that “gains of past decades may be reversed.” (6)

Yaw’s five-year-old grandson Kwaku has mosquito bites all over his body. He also feels warm. “Malaria,” says Yaw.
Kumasi, Ghana, December 2015

The numbers game

“These programmes aren’t working,” says doctor Ernest Kwarko, gynaecologist at Komfo Anokye hospital. Kwarko, who says dozens of pregnant women and their infants every day, says one in four show symptoms of malaria. Though the NMCP recently celebrated a decline in cases, he says, he has not seen such a decline. Neither has Richard Menyo in Lomnava, who says that every week four people come to him ‘with their babies complaining of malaria.’ Lomnava counts only 400 inhabitants: if Nenyo is right that there are four cases per week, that would mean 200 cases –half the population of the village- presenting with malaria every year.

The official numbers are way lower than that: 8,4 million cases per year on a population of 28 million, meaning one third of all people presenting with malaria annually (7). “But the real numbers of people who die of malaria could be higher than the official ones,” warns health NGO-man Stephen Oracca-Tetteh. “Because deaths at home are not counted. And also some (health) facilities are not counted.”


The official numbers are puzzling all by themselves, too. Though they show a decline in Ghana between 2014 and 2015 (from 11 million to 8,4 million cases of malaria per year), they also show a massive increase between 2003, when the donor-aided effort to fight malaria started, and 2014: from three million to eight-and-a-bit million cases per year. Did more people get sick or did more people get counted? What would the figures be like if the ‘home deaths,’ -likely the majority of cases, since poor, sick people usually don’t have the means or strength to make it to an often faraway hospital-, were counted too?
In the DRC, the WHO figures of confirmed malaria cases have gone up since 2006 from zero to twenty percent of the population in 2014. But that is, again, probably a result of better counting in the hospitals than an approximation of the real situation –if you believe these numbers you’d have to believe that there were no malaria patients in the DRC in 2006. And even today in the Congo, most people fall sick and die at home, far from any medical facility, too.

The elephant in the room

Ghanaian Global Fund partner representative Collins Nti confirms that insecticide spraying has stopped in most areas in Ghana and that ‘malaria is back’ in sixteen of the country’s twenty-five districts. “That has been the case for over a year. We now only spray in the north.” Asked if this doesn’t increase resistance of the malaria parasite, he agrees. “You are a hundred percent right! Malaria is back with a vengeance in these sixteen districts. That’s why I say it is terrible!”

It is the interview with Collins Nti, chairman of a civil society structure called the Country Control Mechanism, -established by the Global Fund as its Ghanaian working partner-, that the crux of the problem emerges again: local governance. Or rather, the lack thereof.
When we talk of responsibility for insecticide spraying in his country, for example, Nti blames only the Global Fund. “Money for spraying was in our proposal. But then they didn’t give us.” But surely donors can’t carry the accountability for everything that goes wrong in Ghana? Couldn’t the health authorities have found alternative funding to continue the spraying? “We had a meeting with them last week. We are looking for other funds.” Isn’t that a tad late? “It’s just that we did think that we would get the funds,” he says.
The African Union decreed in 2001 that all member countries should spend ten percent of their budgets on health care. None do (8).

A different universe

The experience of the African journalists on the ground during this investigation shows just how unaccountable the ‘malaria elites’ in their own countries are. Apart from some lucky breakthroughs –as per the interviews above- Francis Mbala has been refused documentation, has been stood up at fixed appointments more than a dozen times, and has been arrested. In Tanzania, Erick Kabendera has not been able to get the list of beneficiaries of the Global Fund’s most recent grants. Zack Ohemeng Tawiah, in Ghana, has travelled three times from Kumasi to Accra (a five hour journey each way) in vain to try and see a Malaria Control Programme official. In the end he has been telephonically referred to the website of the Global Fund in Geneva. “All that the Global Fund wants to put out, it puts on its website,” spokesperson Eunice Adjei said before hanging up the phone.


The donor industry keeps partnering with, financing, and therefore empowering, scores of such unaccountable, opaque and incompetent malaria elites.

October 2015, Geneva

When the Global Fund’s chief risk officer Cees Klumper decided to visit Niger, north of Ghana in West Africa, he was able to call a minister to meet him on a Saturday. “He showed up with his entire team. It was a public holiday, too.” Klumper tells the anecdote as an illustration of how beholden some of Africa’s elites are to donors: dependent on them for money, they won’t risk offending them. Klumper does, however, feel that the programmes are working properly and that the Fund manages to keep corruption to a minimum. “We calculate that only 1,7 to maximum six percent of funds is lost to corruption,” he says.

Reading the multitude of programme reports by consultants, in development jargon about targets and projections, with impressive graphs, on the Global Fund website, gives the impression that all is really well. Global Fund Programmes executed by the Global Fund are rated ‘adequate’ by the Global Fund. Numbers of people accessing treatment are in the seventy and eighty percent range in most reports we see. The general figures about insecticide spraying are also apparently on target everywhere.

It is like our team has operated in a different universe. An enormous gap separates the realities of Bandalungwa, Volta, Ashanti and Dar es Salaam from the world of donors and their ‘malaria elite’ partners.


December 2015, Geneva
Karel van Kesteren, ex ambassador for NL in Tanzania and author of a book 'Verloren in wanorde' (Lost in confusion), which deals largely with the aid question, compares donor aid to a hospital drip. 'Developing countries are hooked to a permanent drip of which only the elites draw benefits,” he says. “Local people do not.” Nobel Prize winner for economy in 2015, Angus Deaton also argues against the type of aid that reduces accountability of governments vis a vis their own citizens. “We cannot help the poor by making their already-weak governments even weaker,” he says in his essay ‘Weak States, Poor Countries’. Deaton has said repeatedly that, where this happens, donor aid is actually harmful.
25 January 2016, London
Bill Gates pledges another four billion Euro in the fight against malaria.

(1) See:
(2) The Ghanaian Commission of Inquiry issued its report late January 2016 and found that it was indeed arson. It held twelve officials responsible for systemic theft of large quantities of medical supplies.
(3) Besides free medicines distributed by the NGO SANRU, the Global Fund also supplies heavily discounted malaria treatments for private sales. These so-called ‘Green leaf’ medicines packets are supposed to be sold for around US$ 1.
(5) Tsigha is right. Though the malaria-parasite carrying anopheles mosquito used to bite only in the middle of the night (hence the traditional usefulness of mosquito nets), the pesky insect has recently been found to develop different patterns. It now bites much earlier in the evening and even during the day.
(6) It is also not clear that declines in malaria cases where they have actually happened (as far as this can be known), are a result of donor-aided malaria programmes. An in-depth article on malaria reduction programmes in the Financial Times published in April 2015 noted that “there is debate about the explanations for reduced malaria cases in recent years and hence how best to respond in the future. Case numbers in parts of Africa began falling before the big upsurge in funding from the early 2000s. That implies other factors than health programmes — such as infrastructure and broader economic and social development — were at least partly responsible for the decline in cases.”
(7) Annual case numbers can be higher than the actual number of patients, since one individual –especially children- can suffer various bouts of malaria in one year.

Website African Investigative Publishing Collective
DRC grant document Global Fund
Ghana GF grant performance report
Tanzania grant implementation letter
Malaria incidence and death numbers DRC 2014, WHO:
Ghana NMCP 2014 report:
Interview at Global Fund office in Geneva with Cees Klumper
Interview at Global Fund office in Geneva with Mark Saalfeld
Interview with Collins Nti of the Country Coordinating Mechanism in Accra
Interview Stephen Oracca-Tetteh of the Coalition of Health NGOs, Ghana
DRC interviews and reports 1
DRC interviews and reports 2
Ghana interviews and reports
Karel van Kesteren, Verloren in wanorde (Lost in confusion)LM Publishers, Amsterdam, 2010
Angus Deaton, ‘Weak States, Poor countries,’

Botswana is mostly known from stories about ‘authentic’ tribes living in the Kalahari desert area, rich diamond deposits, relative prosperity, democracy and books about a lovable detective called Mma Ramotswe. In reality however, the tiny country squeaks under the weight of a massive money-guzzling army that made President Khama’s brothers as rich as it made various international arms dealers. An AIPC-ZAM team unearthed an old warning letter, traced missing documents and followed the money amid a recent ‘securocrat’ clampdown on opponents, transparency and media.

By Tshireletso Motlogelwa and Matteo Civillini

In 1981, a British High Commissioner warned in a letter to his superiors at home in London that the Botswana Defence Force had become a “monster absorbing more of the countries national wealth than can be afforded.” Formally attributing that comment to then Bank of Botswana Governor –later president- Festus Mogae, Commissioner Turner made it clear that he was quoting Mogae with much approval, saying that ‘at least I am not alone’ in the concern that the military build-up was ‘diverting funds from worthwhile projects.” As could be gleaned from the first sentence in the letter –“I am sure you will think that by now I am paranoid about the BDF,”- his superiors didn’t take High Commissioner William Turner’s concerns very seriously (1).
The international image of Botswana was then, as it is now, that of a peaceful, friendly country, with the historical honour of having had the first ever black-and-white presidential couple in the world. Post-independence founding president Seretse Khama and his wife Ruth (neé Williams, from the UK), parents of current president Ian Khama, were cherished by all who were into modern race relations and new, mutually beneficial, relationships between post-colonial Africa and the west.
Reports that a new ‘monstrous’ army –gobbling up close to four percent of the country’s GDP in 1980 (2)- had been set up because of ‘pressure’ of their son Ian ‘through his mother,” (3) did not fit with that narrative and were thus duly ignored.

White threats

There were real arguments to support heavy spending on the military in 1981. Up to 1977, Botswana had never had an army, mainly because President Seretse Khama had held a steady focus on development and rather preferred to spend on health and education. But in the late seventies, -whilst, incidentally, Khama’s health was failing; he developed heart ailments and diabetes, and died of pancreatic cancer in 1980- apartheid South Africa and white Rhodesia had become a threat to the country’s borders. Many felt that Botswana’s Police Mobile Unit was no longer enough to counter a number of –sometimes bloody- border violations by these neighbours in their pursuit of political opponents (4).


If setting up an army was logical, the relatively high budgets allocated to it during those first years can also be understood. Remarkably however, the need for the specific acquisitions, their sizes, cost and uses and how these fitted in a general defence strategy, was never explained either to parliament or public –not even in the apartheid years. A former Cabinet Minister told the AIPC team that parliamentarians at the time “did not even have the required basic knowledge of defense needs to mount any type of criticism against the spending.”

Military expert Dan Henk seems to doubt, though, whether there was ever even a point in trying to match powerful South Africa’s army. “Botswana’s military improvements could never match its neighbour’s might, nor could the BDF deter attacks against suspected insurgent targets,” he writes in African Security Review in 2004 (5). Henk illustrates this with the example of the “brazen, large-scale South African raid in June 1985 against African National Congress (ANC) targets in (Botswana’s capital) Gaborone that left six people wounded and twelve dead.”(idem)
If there is truth to the rumours, reported by Henk in the same article, that “the South Africans had given advance notice of an impending raid and had warned Botswana’s military not to interfere,” Botswana’s military men themselves never really believed in the argument that their army could stand up against the might of the apartheid forces. (And if their suppliers –especially the UK under Thatcher and the US under Ronald Reagan- believed this, they could be accused of much cynicism, since they were supplying the South African Defence Force at the time as well (6).)


Secondly, Botswana kept up the spending. Though military budgets did go down a bit in 1994 with the election of Nelson Mandela as SA’s first democratic president, they were soon up to close to four percent of GDP again in 1998 for no apparent reason (7). In 2014 military expenditure fell to 1,9 percent, but even then the country –now at war with literally nobody, under threat of falling diamond prices (8), and with water, electricity and housing in short supply (9) was still the tenth highest military spender in Africa, ranking 37 on the global ‘big spender’ list –at par with Turkey (10). In late 2015, Botswana taxpayers were forking out over 260 million US$ (11) in a ‘stimulus package’ for the purchase of six new fighter jets with accompanying systems.


The Khama family

Botswana’s numerous million- dollar arms equipment purchases over the past four decades (12) have enriched two parties in particular: one, the mainly European arms manufacturers that sold the tanks, jets, armoured personnel carriers, guns, ammunition, missiles and sundry spare parts: Alvis Vickers (UK), Swiss Pilatus, French Thales, Israeli Elbit and German Steyr-Daimler.

The second party is the Khama family: in particular twins Anthony and Tshekedi Khama, brothers of current President Ian Khama.
The lead in building up the Botswana Defence Force was taken by erstwhile ‘presidential son’ Ian Khama himself, first as deputy and later as full commander of the Botswana defence force. Between 1977 and 1989, Khama was nominally only the deputy to ‘real’ commander Mompati Merafhe. But Khama was the son of the –now late- President and Merafhe was his junior in Botswana aristocracy. It would not have been in Merafhe’s interests to oppose his deputy’s wishes.

Acting together, their proposals for arms purchases and general military spending were never refused. In the words of a senior official who served in the BDF at that time, the Khama-Merafhe duo had “an entitlement that could not be challenged by anyone,” not even the President.


By the time parliamentarians and others wisened up a bit in the latter part of the eighties –with the demise of apartheid on the horizon-, it was too late. Firstly, Ian Khama had become full commander of the BDF in 1989. And secondly, Ian’s younger brothers, twins Anthony and Tshekedi– the latter is now also Minister for the Environment, Wildlife and Tourism, -had already established their company Seleka Springs (13) as the dominant agency for military acquisitions for the country.

Up to early 2015 the detail of most of the Khama brothers’ contracts and suppliers contracting parties remained secret and out of the grasp of the Botswana public. But finally, in March that year, opposition parliamentarian Pius Mokgware asked Minister of Defence Shaw Kgathi to to state the companies or organisations which Seleka Springs represented as agents, since 1989 to date, for the supply of goods and services to Botswana Defence Force (BDF) and the Botswana Police Services (BPS). Mokgware further wanted to know details of the contracts and amounts awarded to the companies, as well as the amounts of money Seleka Springs received as payment for its role as agents in each of the contracts.

At first Minister Kgathi denied that the Khama brothers at Seleka Springs had ever been awarded tenders from the BDF between 1989 and 1998, the period whilst Ian Khama was in charge. It was then that, for the first time in Botswana history, a sitting Minister was called a liar by the parliament’s deputy speaker (14), who pointed out that a former minister had already confirmed just that. Kgathi was made to retract his statement and, a few months later, indeed produced a list of contracts and their value.


It was a very short list, though, and the total value of the contracts quoted- around US$ 10 million- was almost laughably small in view of the fact that several Seleka Springs deals that could be verified by the AIPC team already come close to about US$ 100 million (15) (not counting the current stimulus package of US$ 260 million.)

Questions have also been raised with regard to the nature and quantities of the equipment that was bought. According to the Botswana Guardian of 12 April 2012, military experts had advised against the 1998 contract for forty-six Armoured Personnel Vehicles to be supplied by Steyr-Daimler. They felt that the tanks were inferior compared to those supplied by manufacturers who were not linked to the Khama brothers. Not to be deterred by such caution, the BDF then went on to –in the same year- award Steyr-Daimler another US$ 10 million contract to supply it with twenty SK Kurassier light tanks at a value of US$ 10million. However, at the signing of this contract, the BDF already had 32 Kurrassiers in its fleet.

As if this wasn’t –literary- overkill already, the new tanks then also, like their elder siblings, required the installation of twenty FL-12 105mm turrets. These were included in the deal and contracted to Thales, the major supplier of military equipment and systems for which Seleka Springs also holds the agency licence in Botswana.


The concentration of military power in the presidency, presidential brothers and a few other anointed friends and relatives (16) has accompanied the growth of a Khama-led securocracy in Botswana. Even President Festus Mogae, who headed the country’s government from 1998 to 2008 could, according to sources close to him, do very little to counter the rise of the ‘military millionaires’. A number of corruption investigations into the military and security departments, initiated under Mogae’s government -in which Khama was a Minister as well as Vice President, and Khama’s cousin Ramedulaka Seretse was Minister of Defence- went nowhere. A source close to Mogae says that the former President to this day remains silent about his failed corruption investigation efforts out of fear of ‘victimisation.’


In 2008, when Ian Khama was sworn in as Mogae’s successor, Khama promoted his private secretary Isaac Kgosi – a faithful friend from the army, for whom he had especially created the secretarial post- to now head the newly established Directorate for Intelligence and Security.
Establishing a powerful DIS in that same year 2008 had also been Khama-driven. The law that established it, forcefully supported by the then Vice President, gave its agents fire-arms as well as wide-ranging arrest and detention powers (17). It soon became notorious for using these powers to suppress opposition: in 2009, striking students were abducted, threatened and intimidated; twelve ‘suspects’ were shot in broad daylight and with impunity (idem).

Subsequent extrajudicial killings were not so much about social protest, but seemed to center more on corruption, scandal and extortion around Ian Khama and his circle of close friends and relatives. Still in 2009, a former Khama friend, John Kalafatis, was shot in broad daylight and in public on the streets of Gaborone; it was alleged that he had tried to blackmail ‘high profile’ individuals with an incriminating videotape (idem). In 2010, state diamond mining company Debswana’s managing director Louis Nchindo’s body was found, eaten by cheetahs, in the bush: he had allegedly threatened to lift the lid on a diamond-funding scandal from which the ruling party had benefited (idem).

In February 2012, the body of IT company owner and DIS contractor Harry Tembo’s body, riddled with both bullets and axe wounds, was found under a bridge bordering the upmarket suburb of Phakalane in the north of Gaborone. Tembo had been a personal acquaintance of some individuals at the highest level of the secret service. In 2011, he had turned chief witness in an enquiry by the state anti-corruption agency DCEC (Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime) into DIS chief Isaac Kgosi’s business dealings (18).

Among the subject of these enquiries were DIS tenders totaling close to six million US$ which had been given to four companies owned by Kgosi himself and two associates. The associates had also obtained contracts to build President Khama’s controversial home in Mosu, which was constructed with the help of army vehicles (19). Kgosi himself is director of a company, Silver Shadows, that provides private security for state diamond mining company Debswana (20).

One year later, in 2013, the DCEC was brought under the control of the Office of the President, as was the DIS and the investigation came to a halt. In 2014, Gaborone resident Philip Tlhage was arrested, detained and interrogated by DIS agents after he had been overheard by DIS agents at a shopping complex making negative comments about the President. Tlhage later sued the agency and was granted close to US$ 300,000 in damages (21).


Also in 2014, -the election year that renewed the mandate of President Ian Khama-, the DIS prepared ‘sedition’ charges against –and briefly jailed- Sunday Standard editor Outsa Mokone, the editor of a newspaper that had investigated corruption in the security establishment in the run up to the elections. DIS was also suspected to have hacked the website of the investigative weekly Mmegi and jammed the popular radio Gabz FM, which was hosting political debates before the elections (22).

Two months –and-a-bit before the same elections, on 30 July 2014, opposition leader Gomolemo Motswaledi died when his car rolled over about 90 kilometers south of Gaborone. Botswana police have released a statement pronouncing it a traffic accident, but members of the opposition were and are convinced that this was an assassination (23).

On 26 October 2014 Ian Khama was re-elected president of Botswana.
On 6 May 2015 the offices of the Botswana Gazette were raided by Botswana government officials with an urgent warrant to search and confiscate any material used for the publication of a recent story about individuals who had used their influence in the ruling party to secure oil contracts (24).
President Ian Khama is presently engaged in visiting suppliers for new BDF jets in South Korea and Sweden (25).

This story is part of a Transnational Investigation project series initiated by the African Investigative Publishing Collective (AIPC) in cooperation with ZAM in the Netherlands. This specific investigation was carried out by The Business Weekly & Review (Botswana) in partnership with VICE News(UK) correspondent Matteo Civillini.

Some findings on the aspect of the rising securocracy in Botswana were already published earlier by Tshireletso Motlogelwa in The Business Weekly & Review, Mmegi and the ZAM Chronicle.
‘Military millionnaires’ was published late last year by Tshireletso Motlogelwa and Matteo Civillini in the Business Weekly & Review

(1) and
(2) From SIPRI data gathered by the Norwegian statistics department. See page 17 on Botswana. For general stats on countries’ military spending over the years in % of GDP see:
(3) See (1)
(4) According to military scholar and BDF expert Dan Henk, “this (the need for Botswana military capacity, ed.) was made painfully clear in February 1978, when, responding to reports of a Rhodesian military incursion along Botswana's north-eastern border near the village of Lesoma, a BDF-mounted patrol drove directly into a Rhodesian ambush, sustaining 15 dead,” in
(6) See this complaint against US Ford and this UK anti apartheid movement report on UK supplies to the SADF, notably in the Thatcher era
(7) See
(8) Idex Diamond Index report 2nd February 2016:
(9) A February 2016 dam levels report by the Water Utilities Board announced water shortages for greater Gaborone for the next four months: and On electricity see and on settlement space
(10) See: and
(11) Figure derived from estimations by BDF sources based on the 6 KAI T-5 planes it is considering to buy.
(12) from over 34 million US$ in 1985 to US$ 228 million in 2003
(13) See Defence Minister Kgathis admission that Seleka Springs acted for military purchases from 1989 here: By 1997 the company was reported to be dominating tenders at the BDF (See Kenneth Good: Diamonds, dispossession and democracy, p. 71)
(15) See

Investigating corruption and mysterious deaths at the heart of Mozambique's lucrative ruby mining industry.

By Estacio Valoi
Six years ago local hunters stumbled on one of the world's largest deposit of rubies in the northern province of Mozambique, a potential source of riches for a country in which much of the population lives on less than a dollar a day.

The deposits are now being mined by a local company, Mwriti, in partnership with a British company, Gemfields, which owns the luxury Fabergé brand and prides itself on the ethical sourcing of precious stones - "completely traceable from mine to market". Their joint venture, 75 percent owned by Gemfields, controls a concession that covers 340 square kilometres of land and promises to be hugely profitable.

But disturbing allegations have emerged that threaten to cast a dark shadow over the project.

For this episode of Africa Investigates, Mozambican journalist Estacio Valoi joined forces with award-winning filmmaker Callum Macrae to find out more.


By Callum Macrae

Last month a great Mozambican journalist, Estacio Valoi, and I were led a short distance from a small village in Cabo Delgado Province, past mango trees and children playing football, to the village burial ground.

There, standing by two recent graves, we were told a terrible story by two grieving fathers. They claimed that earlier this year their sons had been shot dead by members of the Mozambique police's Rapid Intervention Force. They also said that they were so scared of the consequences should they complain that they had taken their bodies and buried them, quietly, without even telling the authorities.

It was a shocking illustration of the tragic and unexpected consequences of a discovery which - just six years ago - many hoped could transform the lives of local people and bring desperately needed development and prosperity to this region.

It all began in 2009 when a local man found a small red stone in the ground. Within three years it was clear that these remote forests contained a treasure of huge value - perhaps the largest deposit of rubies in the world. By 2012 a new partnership, 25 percent owned by a local company and 75 percent owned by British mining operation called Gemfields, had been granted a concession to mine 340 square kilometers of land.
In this film we investigate the corruption and mysterious deaths at the heart of Mozambique's ruby mining industry.
So here is the story as it is perceived internationally: The mine has already been a great success and shows even greater promise. Before actual production has got underway - they are still in a stage known as "bulk sampling" - Gemfields has sold rubies from this mine for a total of $120m in international auctions. It has also made many pledges of social and corporate responsibility, including a pledge to commit at least 1 percent of gross sales from the ruby mine to fund "local social and environmental projects".

And it has used their professed commitment to the ethical sourcing of gems as a key part of their marketing strategy - producing several promotional videos featuring their "global ambassador", Hollywood star Mila Kunis, as what Gemfields CEO Ian Harebottle describes as "our face of ethical gemstones".

But as Estacio and I travelled and filmed in the concession area – talking to the people who live there and hearing their stories - it became clear this was not the way the locals see it. For them, the issue is clear-cut. They have always regarded this land as their own. When rubies were discovered in it, they wanted a share of that wealth. As things stand, the legal position is unambiguous. Only the company has the legal right to mine the area and anyone who takes rubies from its concession without permission is breaking the law. But locals say they've seen few, if any, of the promised benefits from the company or from the bounty beneath their feet.

Against this background, then, it is perhaps not surprising that many hundreds of local people have started illegally digging (along with hundreds of migrant workers from neighbouring countries) within the concession area in an attempt to find some of the ruby red wealth which they feel has so far been denied them. This illicit mining has created tension, which in turn has led to conflict and thus to allegations that local security forces, including Mozambican police officers and private security companies, have been using excessive force, including beatings and shootings, to protect the assets of the legal mine owners.

But, significantly, those allegations have now been echoed by the local chief prosecutor, Montepuez's Attorney General, Pompilio Xavier Wazamguia. He told us that he knew of 18 deaths by shooting since 2009 - most of which, he said, could be linked to security forces guarding the mine.

Some locals we spoke to claimed the figures were even higher. Certainly the two grieving fathers we met by that village graveside believe their sons are among that hitherto uncounted number.

There are, of course, at least two sides to this story, different perceptions of who is entitled to what, who is right and who is wrong. But, internationally at least, only one version of that story has been heard until now. This film lets you see more of the picture.
It all began in 2009 when a local man found a small red stone in the ground. By 2012 a new partnership, 25 percent owned by a local company and 75 percent owned by a British mining operation, had been granted a concession to mine 340 square kilometres of land
Editor's note

Gemfields CEO Ian Harebottle was interviewed for this film and was given an opportunity to fully respond to the issues it raises. However, after the film was completed and a few hours before its first transmission on Al Jazeera, the company sent a further statement to the producers. In the interest of fairness we have included three points from that statement.

The first deals with Gemfields’ further response to allegations that security forces protecting its concession area in Mozambique had been involved in violence. The company denied any association with the group known as the ‘Nacatanas’ and said:

"Government security personnel are not managed or directed by the Company and have been sent to the area to safeguard national interests. Gemfields does not sanction or condone acts of violence. The Company’s Human Rights and Security policy requires operational leaders to inculcate a zero tolerance approach to physical, sexual, racial, religious, psychological, verbal, mental or any other form of harassment, threat or abuse whether manifested in behaviour, language, writing or gesture by our employees or contractors. All of the Company’s employees undergo human rights and conflict resolution training, designed and carried out by independent international experts."

Its statement also referred back to a point made to Ian Harebottle, Gemfields CEO, by filmmaker Callum Macrae during the interview, who told him: "A huge gulf exists between the Company’s promises and the local community's expectations. Everyone interviewed felt Gemfields should be doing more and felt betrayed by the Company. This was echoed by three community chiefs, including that of the Nsewe village."

The company's statement said: "Gemfields is highly disappointed with this allegation and suggests the interviewees would seem to be manipulating the facts. It can be categorically stated that no individual promises were made to any of the individual chiefs or villages. However, in compliance with Mozambican legislation and as part of the ongoing process with respect to exploration, project development and community interaction, various consultative work sessions (including independent third-party baseline studies) have been held with the people and leaders of each of the various villagers. During these meetings the various component parts of the mining process as well as their individual and collective rights were explained to the people in detail. It was also explained that agreed community projects could only be initiated post discussions and direction from the National Government.”

Finally Gemfields said it "called into question" statements made to the producers by Montepuez’s chief prosecutor, Attorney General Pompilio Xavier Wazamguia, about the criminal conviction of security personnel engaged in protecting its concession area. It said it knew only of two guards who had been accused of violence or shooting, and that both of these had been questioned by the police and found innocent.

By Zack Ohemeng Tawiah
Workers of the Metro Mass Transit Service in Kumasi are protesting the disappearance of some buses.

Nhyira News investigations confirm twelve buses have been moved out the company’s yard under mysterious circumstances in Kumasi, Tamale and Wa.

The angry protesters have been wearing red outfits to register their displeasure in demand for answers from management.

Nhyira FM’s Ohemeng Tawiah has been investigating the matter, and reports, at least two of the buses have been sighted at an auto mechanic workshop in Kumasi.

Checks at the Kumasi office reveal four buses were towed away on Saturday and Sunday night in January, this year, following a supposed ‘order from above’.

Buses declared as unserviceable and scrap per Metro Mass Transit regulations, are auctioned, and the buyer has to dismantle the vehicle at the company’s yard before evacuation.

This requires a memo from head office on details of affected buses to the technical department for issuance of a way bill to cover scrap materials after inspection by the inspectorate unit before they are carted away.

Contrary to this arrangement, the buses were towed away at night without any regard to procedures.

At least, three of the buses, with fleet numbers 2050, 2072 and 2085 from Wa and Kumasi respectively, have been spotted at private fitting shops.

On Saturday Nhyira News spotted the bus in MMT colours, with a fleet number 2085 at a private mechanic shop on the Aduman Junction at Kodie on the Kumasi-Offinso Road.

The next day the colour had changed to silver as welder busily worked on the vehicle at the time of a visit.

The Welder, who identified himself only as Richie could not provide the name or telephone number of the owner of the shop he claims to be a brother.

The taxi driver cum welder in an apparent move to call his supposed brother only returned to tell the team including some Metro Mass Transit officials his brother was not available.

The situation has angered workers of MMT who have been demanding answers from management over the ‘disappearance’ of the buses.

The workers in response have been wearing red bands until Friday after which they will review their actions.'


One of the buses from Northern regions

Vice Chairman of the Senior Staff Association, David Teye Tekutey explained the underscored buses left MMT yard under ‘strange’ circumstances.

“The incident took place on a week-end whereby most of us were not around. So when we came and we heard the story and find out from our manager in Kumasi here and then he told us that he was directed that the buses should be allowed to go. On normal circumstances before any item leaves over here, there should be a way bill covering it with the destination, vehicle or particular of item should be carried out but in such cases no record was kept”. Mr Tekutey revealed.

The two workers union, the Junior and Senior Staff Association have petitioned the board and the sector minister to investigate the whereabouts of the buses.

Mr. Tekutey believes someone wants to cash in on what he describes as the vulnerability of the company for personal gain as he appeals to the Transport Minister to act.

“Our suspicions are that; we’ve seen some of the buses at vantegeous places that they are repairing them to come on road and we know that those buses could be repaired by Metro Mass . So it is as a result of somebody’s plotted ideas to at least come out with another transport company or buy these ones at cheaper price and go and repair them and bring them on road to compete with us”. Mr. Tekutey said

By Zack Ohemeng Tawiah
The lives of more than 2,500 residents of Asuboi, a farming community in the Offinso Municipality in the Ashanti Region are at risk of river blindness unless government and benevolent organizations intervene.

Health officials say over 70 per cent of the population is infected following the invasion of black flies in the area.

Many people especially children are plagued with all manner of skin disorders including rashes and lesions, which cause intense itching.

The inability of health workers to reach the people with medical care due to poor road network appears to be a huge impediment to addressing this precarious health situation.

Nhyira Fm’s Ohemeng Tawiah has been investigating the plight of these poor farmers.

An international charity organization, Sight Savers International, estimates about 140 million people in Africa are at risk of river blindness, known medically as Onchocerciasis.

Experts say, the disease which is caused mainly by the filarial worm Onchocerca volvulus is transmitted through bites from infected black flies.

The black flies are adaptable in fast flowing rivers in Sub-Sahara Africa.

The Asuboi Township is located in the middle of the thick Abofuor Forest, about 50 miles or 80 kilometers from Kumasi. The community is sandwiched by two fast flowing rivers, Subin and Nkyereade.


Though the Offinso Municipal Assembly has provided the community with a mechanized bore-hole, majority of residents especially those in nearby hamlets prefer to fetch water from the river. And they share the water with cattle.

They complain the sitting of the bore-hole in a steep area, about one and half kilometer from Asuboi is not ideal.

The road to Asuboi is unmemorable, with deep gullies that make it difficult for road users to ply, virtually cutting the community from the rest of the municipality.

The easiest means to reach the community is by bicycle or motorbikes which also become dangerous and nightmarish adventure in sunny or rainy weather.

Though strange rashes and signs of river blindness are common among the people they appear to have no idea about their predicament.

Ignorantly, they resort to the use of traditional methods such as warm water and locally- made balms for the treatment of the complicated medical condition.

Thirteen-year-old Kwabena Albert is one of many victims who apply local therapy to cure river blindness at Asuboi.

He has for two years now been experiencing symptoms of the disease when a Good Samaritan adopted him.

The disease has also affected children’s education in local schools. Though figures are readily unavailable, many children including Kwabena cannot concentrate in the classroom.

Described as a brilliant chap, the JHS 3 student devotes his attention to scratching his itching body during lessons, a situation believed to be responsible for his abysmal performance in last term’s exams.

Kwabena told this reporter his parents always administer warm water to his body in order to give him some relieve anytime his skin itches.

“My skin itches as a result of the rashes, I always have sleepless nights and I resort to scratching to ease the discomfort,’’ he explained in a troubled mood.

Out of fear of the strange condition, many residents have been seeking solace in the Assembly Member for the area for virtually non-existence support.

Assemblyman for Kwapanin Electoral area, Philip Amponsah Boakye is tired of receiving complaints because according to him, there is little he can do.

He cannot fathom why it has taken health experts so much a time to respond to the needs of the community.

Out of nothing, he directs some affected residents to the nearby health center at Abofuor, about thirty kilometers which health experts say lacks facilities to conduct any proper scientific examinations into Onchocerciasis.

“There are many children, even adults who have got the rashes. You can see so many children with rashes…Even their skins are getting black. Still people are getting infested. I want to appeal to the Central government to take immediate action if not, the people here all of them can be blind and it is very risky’’ he said.

The Municipal Health Directorate appears to have little support for Kwabena and many other residents at Asuboi.

Though tests carried out four months ago under the Rapid Epidemical Mapping for Onchocerciasis programme, established widespread prevalence, officials say there is little they could do.

Bernard Oppong, Municipal Disease Control Officer though described the community as a high transmission area, his outfit dares not to go because the road is inaccessible.

‘’Once the community is located within the thick forest, access to the community is a problem and for that matter, donors who will support us with drugs( Ivermectin ) and other logistics for this treatment wouldn’t be able to access the community and this creating a problem here’’ he explained.

Meanwhile, the Municipal Chief Executive for Offinso, Victor Amponsah says his attention has been drawn to the development, and that steps are being taken to address the problem.

He says the assembly will ensure routine reshaping of roads in the municipality to create access to communities.

Under the African Programme for Onchocerciasis Control the World Health Organization estimates the sight of 800,000 people will have been saved by the end of 2010.

The people of Asuboi, however, can only hope for a miracle to save them.