Africa News blog
African business, politics and lifestyle
Somalia is at 180 out of 180. Six of the 10 worst offenders are African states. The best placed African country, Botswana, is at 36 (up from 38 last year).
There are some bright spots in Africa. Nigeria jumped 26 places higher to 121 on the list – not bad for a country that ranked bottom in 2000. Mauritius rose 12 places to 41.
Lest anyone celebrate too soon in Africa’s most populous nation, however, Transparency International added a warning.
Rebels fighting for greater control of Nigeria’s oil wealth have raised the stakes in their campaing of bombings and kidnappings by threatening to extend attacks to offshore oil installations. Nigeria’s most prominent militant group earlier announced the launch of an “oil war” against oil companies and security forces in the restive Niger Delta. The four-days of fighting since the announcement have been the heaviest since the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta began its campaign of violence against the oil sector in early 2006. International oil markets, depressed in recent days by the impact of the credit crisis on the global economy, finally began taking notice of the escalating violence in Nigeria’s oil-producing region on Wednesday.
Security sources say more than 100 people may have been killed by the fighting, which has spread to at least seven villages in Rivers state.
Nigerian President Umaru Yar’Adua left for Saudi Arabia more than two weeks ago for the Islamic obligation of the lesser Hajj, a pilgrimage to Mecca. Yar’Adua, who is known to have a chronic kidney problem, has sought medical attention in Jeddah and has still not returned, raising fears about the state of his health. A medical source in Saudi Arabia told Reuters he had undergone an operation.
Government and presidency officials have been tight-lipped about the president’s condition and have not said exactly when he will be back. The opposition has demanded clarity on the president’s health, adding that his absence is having an adverse effect on the workings of government and that the official silence is fuelling speculation and uncertainty.
Richard Branson’s Virgin group, one of the highest-profile investors in Nigeria, is locked in a dispute with the government about which airport terminal the Virgin Nigeria airline can use. At the heart of the row is an agreement Virgin says it struck with the previous administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, which the new government of President Umaru Yar’Adua is questioning.
Nigerian officials say past deals with international investors have not always been in the best interests of the country and that Yar’Adua wants to ensure Nigeria is no longer “short-changed”. Virgin has said it is in talks to sell its stake in Virgin Nigeria.
The lines of Europe’s carve up of Africa were finally taking shape. On March 11, 1913, Britain and Germany agreed who got which bits of a swampy corner of the continent that few in either of the cold and distant countries had heard of.
Two states that did not exist at that time put the border agreement into effect again on Thursday with Nigeria formally handing over the Bakassi peninsula to Cameroon.
Nigeria’s revenues from oil exports have reached unprecedented levels as global crude prices rally, yet the majority of its 140 million population remain mired in poverty. Africa’s top oil producer set up an “excess crude account” five years ago to save windfall oil earnings and try to help promote long-term economic stability.
But infighting among the three tiers of government — federal, state and local — on how the revenues should be shared out has seen them squandered.
Nigerian President Umaru Yar’Adua moved quickly after taking office a year ago to try to address the causes of unrest in the Niger Delta, where a violent campaign of sabotage against the oil industry has cut production and contributed to an unprecedented rise in world oil prices.
Yar’Adua announced plans for formal talks and freed two jailed militant leaders when he took office, but the peace process has made little real progress since then, with the rebel Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) continuing to blow up oil pipelines and kidnap foreign workers.
The government has called a summit for July meant to involve all stakeholders, but MEND and another group — the Ijaw Youth Council — have said they will not take part. Yar’Adua has said the summit aims to address the frustrations of the Niger Delta communities, who have seen their land and water polluted by oil production, but he has also said his government will not tolerate the presence of armed militants in the region.
Nigerian President Umaru Yar’Adua took office a year ago promising to pursue free-market reforms launched by his predecessor, Olusegun Obasanjo, vowing zero tolerance for corruption and listing seven national priorities including improving power supply and reducing food insecurity.
A year on, his critics say economic reforms are grinding to a halt, his anti-corruption efforts are just window-dressing and his cabinet is largely a collection of ineffective bureaucrats who are but a shadow of an all-star cast in the former administration.