Category Archives: African Union

Where child sacrifice is a business


A BBC undercover reporter is told: “We can bury the child alive on your construction site”

BBC | Oct 11, 2011

By Chris Rogers BBC News, Kampala

The villages and farming communities that surround Uganda’s capital, Kampala, are gripped by fear.

Schoolchildren are closely watched by teachers and parents as they make their way home from school. In playgrounds and on the roadside are posters warning of the danger of abduction by witch doctors for the purpose of child sacrifice.

The ritual, which some believe brings wealth and good health, was almost unheard of in the country until about three years ago, but it has re-emerged, seemingly alongside a boom in the country’s economy.

Stephen's decapitated body was found in a field

The mutilated bodies of children have been discovered at roadsides, the victims of an apparently growing belief in the power of human sacrifice.

‘Sacrifice business’

Many believe that members of the country’s new elite are paying witch doctors vast sums of money for the sacrifices in a bid to increase their wealth.

At the Kyampisi Childcare Ministries church, Pastor Peter Sewakiryanga is teaching local children a song called Heal Our Land, End Child Sacrifice.

To hear dozens of young voices singing such shocking words epitomises how ritual murder has become part of everyday life here.

“Child sacrifice has risen because people have become lovers of money. They want to get richer,” the pastor says.

“They have a belief that when you sacrifice a child you get wealth, and there are people who are willing to buy these children for a price. So they have become a commodity of exchange, child sacrifice has become a commercial business.”

The pastor and his parishioners are lobbying the government to regulate witch doctors and improve police resources to investigate these crimes.

Commissioner Bignoa Moses Anti-Human Sacrifice Task Force

According to official police figures, there was one case of child sacrifice in 2006; in 2008 the police say they investigated 25 alleged ritual murders, and in 2009, another 29.

The Anti-Human Sacrifice Police Task Force, launched in response to the growing numbers, says the ritual murder rate has slowed, citing a figure of 38 cases since 2006.

Pastor Sewakiryanga disputes the police numbers, and says there are more victims from his parish than official statistics for the entire country.

The work of the police task force has been strongly criticised by the UK-based charity, Jubilee Campaign.

It says in a report that the true number of cases is in the hundreds, and claims more than 900 cases have yet to be investigated by the police because of corruption and a lack of resources.

‘Quiet money’

Allan with his father
Allan was left for dead after a vicious attack.
.
Tepenensi led me to a field near her home where she found the body of her six-year-old grandson Stephen, dumped in the reeds. She trembled as she pointed out the spot where she found his decapitated body; he had been missing for 24 hours.Clutching the only photo she has of her grandson, Tepenensi sobbed as she explained that although the local witch doctor had admitted to sacrificing Stephen, the police were reluctant to pursue the case.
“They offered me money to keep quiet,” she says. “I refused the offer.”

No-one from the Ugandan government agreed to do an interview. The police deny inaction and corruption.

The head of the Anti-Human Sacrifice Police Task Force, Commissioner Bignoa Moses, says the police are doing all they can to tackle the problem.

“Sometimes, they accuse us of these things because we make no arrests, but we are limited. If we get information that someone is involved in criminal activities like human sacrifice, we shall go and investigate, and if it can be proven we will take him to court, but sometimes the cases are not proven.”

Boy castrated

At Kampala main hospital, consultant neurosurgeon Michael Muhumuza shows me the X-rays of the horrific injuries suffered by nine-year-old Allan.

They reveal missing bone from his skull and damage to a part of his brain after a machete sliced through Allan’s head and neck in an attempt to behead him; he was castrated by the witch doctor. It was a month before Allan woke from a coma after being dumped near his village home.

Allan was able to identify his attackers, including a man called Awali. But the police say Allan’s eyewitness account is unreliable.

Some children are cut to collect blood for rituals

A child with a scarred arm 

Local people told us that Awali continues to be involved with child sacrifice.

For our own inquiries, we posed as local businessmen and asked around for a witch doctor that could bring prosperity to our local construction company. We were soon introduced to Awali. He led us into a courtyard behind his home, and as if to welcome us he and his helpers wrestled a goat to the ground and slit its throat.

“This animal has been sacrificed to bring luck to us all,” Awali explained. He then demanded a fee of $390 (£250) for the ritual and asked us to return in a few days.

At our next meeting, Awali invited us into his shrine, which is traditionally built from mud bricks with a straw roof. Inside, the floor is littered with herbs, face masks, rattles and a machete.

The witch doctor explained that this meeting was to discuss the most powerful spell – the sacrifice of a child.

“There are two ways of doing this,” he said. “We can bury the child alive on your construction site, or we cut them in different places and put their blood in a bottle of spiritual medicine.”

Awali grabbed his throat. “If it’s a male, the whole head is cut off and his genitals. We will dig a hole at your construction site, and also bury the feet and the hands and put them all together in the hole.”

Child in Uganda The attacks have created a climate of fear

Awali boasted he had sacrificed children many times before and knew what he was doing. After this meeting, we withdrew from the negotiations.

We handed our notes to the police. Awali is still a free man.

‘No voice’

Allan’s father, Semwanga, has sold his home to pay for Allan’s medical treatment, and moved to the slums near the capital.

Sitting on the steps of their makeshift house, built from corrugated sheets of metal, I showed the footage of our meeting with the witch doctor to Allan on my laptop. He pointed to the screen and shouted “Awali!” confirming he is the man who attacked him.

Pastor Sewakiryanga says without the full force of the law, there is little that can be done to protect Uganda’s children from the belief in the power of human sacrifice.

“The children do not have voices, their voices have been silenced by the law and the police not acting, and the people who read the newspapers do nothing, so we have to make a stand and do whatever it takes to stamp out this evil, we can only pray that the government will listen.”

Albright: Libya Problem Requires Arab League Reaction, African Union Solution


“Voices are going to be released that we don’t like and we don’t like hearing,” she said.

bloomberg.com | Mar 11, 2011

By Peter S. Green

The U.S. needs support from the Arab League and the African Union to halt the burgeoning civil war in Libya, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said today in New York.

Both Albright, who became the first woman to lead the State Department when she was named to the post in 1997 by President Bill Clinton, and Condoleezza Rice, who served in the same role during President George W. Bush’s administration, said the region’s turmoil is likely to unleash voices Americans don’t want to hear.

“What you have in Libya is a place that is run by a nut,” Albright told guests at the Women in the World conference organized by Newsweek Editor-in-Chief Tina Brown. The matter is further complicated because intervening in Libya would mean “the U.S. taking on one more Muslim country,” Albright said.

Rebellions in Tunisia and Egypt toppled governments in those counties in the past two months, and protests have spread to Yemen, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Libya. Fighting raged around Zawiyah and Ras Lanuf, Libya, today, the latter a key location because of its tanker terminal, storage depot and the country’s largest oil refinery, said Abdel Hafiz Ghoga, a spokesman for the opposition’s transitional national council.

Libya Unrest

It wasn’t clear whether Qaddafi loyalists, who took control of the city’s center yesterday, were able to hold their gains. Ghoga said Qaddafi is engaged in “a desperate attempt to get his hands on the oil,” and urged foreign powers to impose a no- fly zone to limit Qaddafi’s military options.

Uprisings in the region may not initially produce results the U.S. would like to see as Arab countries evaluate the role Islam will play in politics, society and individual rights, Rice said.

“Voices are going to be released that we don’t like and we don’t like hearing,” she said. “It’s going to be quite turbulent and very difficult.”

Both former diplomats said a no-fly zone over Libya is a policy option that requires careful consideration.

“No-fly zones are no small matter,” Rice said. “We flew a no-fly zone over Iraq for 12 years and almost every time we flew, he shot at our planes,” she said of the late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.

Before serving as secretary of state, Albright, 73, was the U.S. permanent representative to the United Nations and taught at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service, where she was director of the Women in Foreign Service Program.
No Role Models

Albright had no real female role models as a young woman pursuing a foreign policy career, she said in a 2008 interview with the Wall Street Journal.

“People said initially that a woman could not be secretary of state, primarily because I was dealing with patriarchal systems or some of the Middle Eastern countries,” Albright said in the interview. “But I didn’t have any problems, because I arrived in a large plane that said United States of America and they also knew that I had to be the one to talk with them.”

Rice served as national security adviser to Bush from 2001 to 2005. Before joining the administration, she was a professor of political science at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, where she served as provost. She returned to Stanford after her tenure in Washington and is now a fellow at the university’s Hoover Institution.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said yesterday she will go to Egypt and Tunisia next week and will meet with members of the Libyan opposition.

US diplomat calls African dictator a good guy

AP | Feb 13, 2011

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — A U.S. diplomat called Equatorial Guinea’s dictator of 31 years one of “the good guys” in leaked diplomatic cables and urged Washington to engage with its third largest oil supplier or risk endangering energy security.

In 2009 cables published by WikiLeaks, Anton K. Smith, the ranking U.S. diplomat at the time, described a country beset by foreign and homegrown predators, “sharks … buccaneers and adventurers,” since U.S. wildcatters discovered oil in 1994.

“There are good guys and bad guys here. We need to strengthen the good guys — for all his faults, President Obiang among them — and undercut the bad guys,” Smith wrote in a May 9, 2009 cable.

President Teodoro Obiang is accused of making his family and a small group of people fabulously wealthy off oil, while U.N. figures show child mortality has increased and a third of children do not finish primary school.

In the space of less than one generation, oil wealth has transformed the tiny West African nation of 600,000 from being one of the world’s poorest to one of its richest.

The per capita income is listed at $31,000 a year, but the average citizen is unlikely to live beyond 50. Yet someone in Brazil — with an average income of less than $10,000 — can expect to live to 72.

The U.S. State Department’s annual country report enumerated multiple human rights abuses in Equatorial Guinea, including torture, arbitrary arrest, severe restrictions on freedom of speech and forced child labor.

It has said that Obiang’s regime has either killed or forced into exile a third of the country’s population.

But Smith called Obiang’s a “mellowing, benign leadership” maligned by journalists and human rights activists with exaggerated claims about the levels of corruption and brutality.

The International Monetary Fund reported last year that two-thirds of the people live below the poverty line, but Smith said it was “implausible” that half the population lives on less than a dollar a day.

Smith absolved Obiang of responsibility in the most publicized example of corruption from Equatorial Guinea: the scandal that brought down Washington’s venerable Riggs bank when it was found stashing some $700 million in accounts in the name of Obiang, his family and clan. Bankers told a U.S. Senate investigation that some of the money was carried to the bank, a million dollars at a time, in shrink-wrapped bundles.

“Riggs rigged,” Smith said, blaming the bank since “Equatoguineans readily accepted Riggs’ advice regarding accounts and accounting — assuming the bank was ‘acting properly.'”

Riggs was fined $41 million and subsequently collapsed.

Smith, who is now U.S. consul-general in Halifax, Canada, did not respond to telephone messages. But a U.S. State Department spokesman later called the AP to say the department could not and would not authenticate anything found in WikiLeaks.

In the cables, Smith also discredited the scandal exposed by Global Witness about a U.S. Justice Department and Immigration and Customs Enforcement investigation indicating that since the Riggs scandal, U.S. banks have accepted some $75 million in wire transfers between 2005 and 2007 from Obiang’s favorite son and would-be successor, Teodorin Obiang.

Global Witness said the money bought a $35 million Malibu mansion, a $33 million private jet and a fleet of exotic cars. Obiang himself owns two mansions in Washington, according to the Senate investigation. Human rights groups have filed complaints in courts in France and Spain about multimillion-dollar villas and fleets of cars owned by the Obiang family there.

Teodorin Obiang has stated in a South African court that he earns a salary of $60,000 a year as agriculture minister but that since public officials in his country are allowed to partner with foreign companies bidding for government contracts, “a Cabinet minister ends up with a sizable part of the contract price in his bank account.”

Smith said in the cables that Teodorin Obiang indicated he got the money from a lumber concession sold to a Malaysian company that clear-cut and shipped “a wealth of whole logs” to Asia.

Asked for comment on the cables, Robert Palmer of Global Witness said it “reads like a puff piece put together by the Obiang’s expensive Washington PR agents. Despite the reassurances that corruption is not so bad, the official paints a picture of a kleptocratic state, ruled by a nepotistic president who hands out choice natural resource concessions to family members, has personal control over government spending and ‘clamp(s) down on news.'”

In the cable, Smith quoted representatives of “a foreign, internationally recognized law firm working closely with U.S. oil companies in (Equatorial Guinea) for years” as saying that they had seen “gray areas” but “never encountered a ‘smoking gun of outright corruption.'”

In a March 9, 2009 report to the newly installed administration of President Barack Obama, Smith said: “It is time to abandon a moral narrative that has left us with a retrospective bias and an ambivalent approach to one of the most-promising success stories in the region.

“U.S. involvement is needed to shape EG’s future,” the cable continued, using an acronym for the country’s name. “Relatively minor U.S. technical assistance and advice in key areas (justice, human rights and democracy, social development, education,conservation, maritime security) will be effective in giving EG the future we want it to have.”

The alternative, he said, could be “a revolution that brings sudden, uncertain change and unpredictability … (with) potentially dire consequences for our interests, most notably our energy security.”

He also noted that Obiang himself seized power in a coup “likely supported by outside forces,” though he did not further identify them.

Obiang has survived numerous coup attempts since staging his own in 1979, when he oversaw the public execution of his uncle, the then-president.

The most notorious was a botched 2008 attempt by British mercenary Simon Mann with funding from British interests, allegedly including the son of former British leader Margaret Thatcher.

Last year, four alleged coup plotters were executed just an hour after they were condemned in a case that Amnesty International called a “pretense of justice.”

Africa’s worst dictator becomes African Union leader

afrol News | Jan 31, 2011

By Rainer Chr. Hennig

AU Commission Chairman Jean Ping (l) and Equatoguinean President Teodoro Obiang Nguema (r) Oficina Prensa Guinea Ecuatorial/afrol News

Equatorial Guinea’s Dictator Teodoro Obiang Nguema has been elected to take over the post of chairman of the African Union (AU). “This is the darkest day in the AU’s history,” afrol News editors comment.

President Obiang, taking power in Equatorial Guinea from his uncle in 1978 in a coup, has the dubious honour of competing for the title as Africa’s worst dictator, only comparable to the Presidents of Eritrea and The Gambia.

The election of Mr Obiang as the next chairman of the African Union (AU) – taking over from Malawi President Bingu wa Mutharika – comes as an unprecedented wave of popular democracy demands is shaking up authoritarian rule at the northern flank of the AU – for now in Tunisia and Egypt.

There was a fear among many African leaders gathered at the Addis Ababa summit that the same wave of rebellion may hit their countries. When the Egyptian protesters succeed, there will be attempts of revolution also in sub-Saharan Africa.

And how did these leaders react to the popular demand of democracy and human rights? They elected Teodoro Obiang Nguema to lead them through these upcoming times of unrest. This can only be described as the darkest day in the AU’s history.

Who is President Obiang?

He has ruled Equatorial Guinea as his private estate since 1978. A US Senate investigation revealed that he has channelled vast amounts of money from the impoverished country to private foreign accounts. Estimates of his wealth start at US$ 700 million, on foreign accounts alone.

His family members hold all major positions in the country, especially in the army and within ministries and companies managing natural resources as oil and timber, but also all national media. The President’s son “Teodor�n”, known as a playboy, has also acquired enormous wealth, including a US$ 35 million estate in California.

Opposition is not allowed in Equatorial Guinea, at least not in practical terms. Opponents end up in exile or in prison. Only one true opposition party – the CPDS – has been allowed to exist, although its leader is regularly jailed and elections are rigged to favour President Obiang.

Opposition views do not reach the people as the entire independent press is illegalised and even foreign media are blocked from the country. Secret police pick up those still daring to utter oppositional views. Torture is the norm at Equatorial Guinea’s feared prisons.

Until 2001, there was a special UN Rapporteur following the dire human rights situation in Equatorial Guinea and presenting one shocking report after the other. But at that time President Obiang had started to cash in significant oil revenues, spending much of it to improve his international standing. After a surprise UN vote, the special Rapporteur’s mandate was withdrawn.

Now making use of expensive US marketing and reputation agencies, President Obiang is now trying to sell in an image of himself as a respected elder African statesman. The US spin-doctors regularly overflow the internet with news of social and democratic progress in Equatorial Guinea.

He has had some victories. Together with Gabon, Equatorial Guinea will organise the 2012 CAN African football championship. Last year, the parliament of the Central African block CEEAC was opened in Malabo, the Equatoguinean capital.

But not everybody could be bought for Mr Obiang’s oil money, it was established last year. The Equatoguinean Dictator wanted to donate some of “his” funds to UNESCO to establish the “Obiang Nguema Mbasogo International Prize for Research.” The UN culture agency – also representing the world press – had originally agreed to accept the prize, but massive international pressure, including from Africa, forced UNESCO to drop it.

This is the man that now is to represent Africa at a global level. The man to voice the NEPAD initiative (which now should be termed officially dead) in the international community. The man that will be the chief of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights. The man that shall head the AU’s fight against corruption.

The African Union yesterday completely lost its credibility.

Africans choose dictator Obiang to head African Union


Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, President of Equatorial Guinea, speaks during the United Nations General Assembly in 2009 at UN headquarters in New York.

CP | Jan 31, 2011

By Michelle Faul

JOHANNESBURG — African leaders have chosen Equatorial Guinea’s coup plotter and dictator of 31 years to serve as their ceremonial leader this year, a move critics said Monday could undermine the African Union’s attempt to confront other leaders who cling to power.

Human rights groups accuse President Teodoro Obiang of violating the very rights that the AU is sworn to uphold. They say he has made himself, his family and some cronies fabulously wealthy while the majority of people in the oil-rich Central African nation struggle in deep poverty.

Obiang claimed to have won 95 per cent of the vote after Equatorial Guinea’s elections in 2009, making him an unlikely critic of Ivory Coast’s incumbent leader Laurent Gbagbo, who refuses to cede power two months after the international community said he lost the vote.

“Neither the African Union nor Africans deserve a leader whose regime is notorious for abuses, corruption and a total disregard for the welfare of its people,” Alioune Tine, president of the Dakar, Senegal-based African Assembly for the Defence of Human Rights, said by phone from the summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Traditionally, the chairmanship is given to the leader of the country hosting the next summit, but an exception was made in 2005 when it was the turn of Sudan’s Omar al-Bashir and African leaders bowed to outside pressures in the uproar over killings in Darfur. They passed over al-Bashir and instead kept Nigeria’s Olusegun Obasanjo for a second year.

There was also dismay when the Africans appointed Libyan strongman Moammar Gadhafi as chairman in 2009. Gadhafi has ruled Libya since seizing power in a coup in 1969 and was seen as a poor example at a time when Africa’s democratic gains were being reversed, a trend that continues today.

This week’s summit, which started Sunday and ends Monday, was dominated by the crisis in Ivory Coast. How African leaders deal with it is important in a year when more than a dozen African countries are to hold elections. Many polls, such as one planned for later this year in Zimbabwe, are likely to be violently contested.

Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe, who has ruled since 1980, despite 2008 elections that were violent and widely condemned as fraudulent, took part in a meeting to decide “a democratic solution” to the Ivory Coast stalemate.

Some question whether leaders at the two-day summit are seeing the writing blazed on the wall by Tunisian protesters whose popular revolt ousted 23-year dictator Zine Al-Abidine Ben Ali. His was a notable absence from the summit, as was that of embattled Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Gadhafi.

Sudan’s president was in attendance even though students in his nation on Sunday began protests inspired by the success of Tunisia’s uprising.

Such protests are unlikely in Equatorial Guinea, where human rights groups say any sign of dissent is met with arrests and incarceration in a prison notorious for torture and starvation. Last year, four alleged coup plotters were executed just an hour after they were condemned.

Since oil was discovered in Equatorial Guinea some 20 years ago, the country’s per capita income has grown larger than that of some European countries, making it the richest nation in sub-Saharan Africa.

Yet life for the average citizen has become harsher: according to U.N. figures the number of infants dying has increased while only 30 per cent of children complete primary school. Only a third of the population has running water and electricity and 60 per cent live on less than a dollar a day.

New York-based Human Rights Watch condemned Obiang’s appointment and added, “Even if the AU elects Obiang as its chair, members should not allow him to stall the AU’s efforts and progress in tackling African human rights crises,” notably in Ivory Coast.

At a summit with the theme of unity, the Ivory Coast crisis only served to mark fundamental differences between African leaders. West Africans led by economic giant Nigeria stuck to their guns in supporting opposition leader Alassane Ouattara, whom the United Nations and European Union also have recognized as the winner of November elections.

But South Africa has been suggesting a re-count of votes, supporting the position of the intransigent incumbent, Gbagbo. South Africa’s stand is supported by Uganda, Angola and Equatorial Guinea — those last three all led by men accused of hanging onto power through questionable elections.

Gbagbo also has suggested a power-sharing deal to resolve the Ivorian stalemate — much like the unity governments that emerged in Zimbabwe and Kenya after violence-plagued elections, with mixed success.

South Africa’s weekly Mail and Guardian newspaper warned that a power-sharing deal for Ivory Coast “would solidify the trend begun in Kenya and Zimbabwe of rewarding those who refuse to accept electoral outcomes and who use violence to maintain their grip on power.”

The AU, meanwhile, appointed a panel including six presidents to resolve the deadlock in a month.

The Ivorian crisis is the first to see the African Union uphold elections that unseat an incumbent.

Political scientist Adekeye Adebajo, head of the Center for Conflict Resolution at South Africa’s University of Cape Town, says the African Union has done well in recent years in dealing with unconstitutional regime changes, foiling attempts to set up military regimes in Ivory Coast, Togo and the Comoros.

“But when it comes to dealing with civilians, civilian coups d’etat, they tend to be at a loss,” he said. “I think it’s very hard for them African Union to be a promoter of democracy as long as a lot of its members themselves have flawed democratic processes.”

 

Dictator’s son wins election

Current Togo President Faure Gnassingbe, center waves to supporters as he exits a polling station after casting his vote for president, in Lome, Togo Thursday, March 4, 2010. Polls were open Thursday in the African nation of Togo, as the son of a long-ruling dictator seeks re-election to the presidency, facing six opposition candidates. (AP Photo/Sunday Alamba)

Opposition leader Jean-Pierre Fabre accused the ruling party of rigging the election.

Pro-Gnassingbe soldiers openly intimidated voters at polling stations and in several instances opened fire with live ammunition before stealing the ballot box.

Dictator’s son winner of Togo election

AP | Mar 6, 2010

By RUKMINI CALLIMACHI

LOME, Togo — Togo’s election commission on Saturday declared the son of the country’s late dictator winner of the presidential race, extending the family’s rule into a fifth decade in a deep blow to Togo’s opposition, which vowed to take to the streets in protest.

Provisional results indicate President Faure Gnassingbe won 1.2 million votes, representing 60.9 percent of the roughly 2 million votes cast in the tiny country, said Issifou Tabiou, the head of the election body.

Opposition leader Jean-Pierre Fabre, who had earlier accused the ruling party of rigging the election, received 692,584 votes, or 33.9 percent.

As it became clear that the opposition had lost and Gnassingbe would get a second term, Fabre led a group of around 200 protesters to a downtown square where they were pushed back by anti-riot police who fired tear gas, said witnesses and a police spokesman.

The contentious election is only the second since the death of Eyadema Gnassingbe, who grabbed power in a 1967 coup and ruled for 43 years, only for his son to seize power upon the dictator’s death in 2005. The younger Gnassinge went on to win elections that same year that were widely viewed as rigged.

Pro-Gnassingbe soldiers openly intimidated voters at polling stations and in several instances opened fire with live ammunition before stealing the ballot box, according to a report by Amnesty International.

Although the opposition has claimed that this election was rigged, international observers said earlier they have not seen overt evidence of fraud. But they say there is evidence that the ruling party tried to buy off voters.

During campaign rallies, opposition supporters chanted “We were not paid to be here” — a jab at Gnassingbe who they accuse of handing out cash and bags of rice to supporters.

Election monitors from the European Union’s observation mission were present in at least four different regions of the country when members of the ruling party handed out rice at a cost three to four times less than at the market, according to the mission’s preliminary report released Saturday. The cheaper rice has been nicknamed “Faure Rice.”

The district by district results indicated that turnout was in the 70 to 80 percent in the north of the country, where Eyadema Gnassingbe was born and which has traditionally voted for the ruling party. By contrast, voter turnout was woefully low in the south and in the capital, which is the opposition’s stronghold.

Jean-Claude Homawoo, the vice president of the election commission who is a member of the top opposition party, said that voters are so used to elections being rigged in Togo that they gave up hope just when their vote may have counted.

“It’s the effect of successive failure. So many times we went and voted in elections we knew we had won, only for the opposite result to be declared. So people have become tired. They don’t believe their vote counts anymore.”

Gnassingbe’s spokesman Pascal Bodjona waved off claims that the ruling party had tried to buy the vote, saying that people who favor Gnassingbe’s policies had donated bags of rice, campaign T-shirts and other goods that were later distributed. He called the opposition “bad losers.”

The election commission reached an impasse on the day of the vote Thursday after the opposition, backed by international observers, demanded that votes be sent from individual polling stations by a satellite-based system believed to be tamperproof.

A tense standoff ensued, but even once they had agreed to use the satellite system and the results began trickling in from across the small West African nation, several of the machines broke.

Tabiou, head of the election commission, called on the directors of the country’s 35 voting districts to travel to the capital with the physical proof of the votes cast in their regions.

From morning until late at night on Saturday, the commissioners sat around a large table in a conference room as the representatives of each district presented their results. In the early afternoon, two opposition-allied commissioners stormed out of the room, slamming the door behind them.

“I would have like to be able to say that, I, Jean-Claude Codjo, election commissioner, agree that this election is free and fair,” he said. “But we are only being allowed to see a synthesis. I have no way of knowing if these numbers that are being read out are real. I say ‘no.’ I cannot accept this,” said Codjo as he left the parking lot.

The satellite-system would have allowed the results from each of roughly 5,900 polling stations to be sent directly to the election commission’s headquarters in Lome. By contrast each of the 35 districts whose results were being read out were an aggregate of dozens, sometimes hundreds, of individual polling stations.

Gaddafi proposes ‘Nato of the South’ at South America-Africa summit

London Times | Sep 28, 2009

Colonel Gaddafi proposed an African-Latin American defence alliance yesterday at an intercontinental summit hosted by Venezuela.

At the South America-Africa summit on Isla Margarita in Venezuela, the Libyan leader joined the host, President Chávez, in calling for an “anti-imperialist” front across Africa and Latin America.

President Mugabe of Zimbabwe and President Zuma of South Africa were among almost 30 leaders from across the two continents present as Mr Chávez sought to promote his socialist policies abroad, urging a new world order that would confront Western dominance.

“The world’s powers want to continue to hold on to their power,” said Mr Gaddafi, who had a white limousine flown to Venezuela to meet him at the airport. He then met Mr Chávez in his trademark Beduin tent by a hotel pool. “Now we have to fight to build our own power,” he said.

The leaders were to agree a range of joint projects in areas including energy, mining and agriculture, with Mr Gaddafi, in particular, expected to sign several accords with Mr Chávez.

Venezuela also stoked the controversy over the Iranian nuclear programme with the revelation that it was working with Tehran to exploit its uranium deposits.

Rodolfo Sanz, the Mining Minister, said that Iran was helping Venezuela to detect resources, raising international suspicions at a time when voices in Israel and the United States are accusing Caracas of helping its ally to evade sanctions on its nuclear programme.