- Created on 17 September 2013
Republic of Guinea flag Source: Wikipedia
DAKAR, Senegal (AP) -- Guinea's opposition leader Cellou Dalein Diallo said on Tuesday that he doesn't believe the country's legislative election can be held next week, citing flaws in the voter roll which he says will take too much time to fix.
His critical assessment contrasts sharply with that of the United Nations special envoy to the region, who mediated a six-hour-long session Monday between the country's warring opposition and ruling party, and who told reporters upon returning to Senegal that he remains confident the election will go ahead on Sept. 24.
"The date of the election is still Sept. 24," Said Djinnit said at his residence in the Senegalese capital. "As of today we are a few steps away from the election. Nothing permits me to say otherwise."
The U.N. has so far mediated 13 meetings between the two sides in an attempt to return the West African nation to constitutional rule. The country's last parliamentary elections were held in 2002, and were first rescheduled in 2007. The repeated delays have spanned three presidents and have left the nation without a functioning legislature.
At the Monday meeting, the National Independent Electoral Commission agreed to many of the demands of the opposition, including agreeing to publish and post the voter list in precincts across the nation, a process which Djinnit said will be completed by Thursday. He said the election body also agreed to split polling stations that had 1,000 or more registered voters into two or more voting bureaus, in order to reduce the waiting time.
But Diallo, who came in second in Guinea's presidential election three years ago, and who heads the largest opposition party, said it is not physically possible for the election commission to accomplish all the changes they had demanded in time for the vote to be held.
"No, it's not possible. I don't see how the CENI (the election commission) can take care of all the issues we have raised," said Diallo in a telephone interview Tuesday with The Associated Press. "When we had our meeting on Monday, the international community finally recognized that there are serious problems. ... I don't think these mistakes can be corrected by the 24th. ... the CENI doesn't have the capacity to do so. They are weak. And they are not working in good faith," he said.
Guinea, a nation rich in minerals, including the world's largest repository of bauxite, has been ruled by strongmen since its independence from France in 1958. The country's first democratic election in 2010 failed to bring stability, after the vote took on an ethnic dimension.
Since then, the country's capital has been repeatedly immobilized by violent protests pitting the opposition, primarily made up of people from the Peul ethnic group, against the country's mostly-Malinke security force, the same ethnicity as Guinea's president.
"We hope that these ethnic considerations are put aside during the campaign, and during the electoral process - and beyond. We wish - we hope - that Guinea will orient itself toward reconciliation and unity," said Djinnit. "Guinea must move forward."
- Created on 16 September 2013
The Seleka rebel swept to power in March Photo credit: BBC News Africa
BRAZZAVILLE, Republic of Congo (AP) -- The Republic of Congo has sent 200 more soldiers to join a peacekeeping force in Central African Republic, which saw an upsurge in violence that killed dozens earlier this month.
Gen. Blanchard Okoye, the armed forces chief of staff, urged the soldiers to be disciplined during a ceremony Sunday marking their departure. The troops will join 150 other Republic of Congo soldiers who were deployed in July under the banner of a regional force that is now being transformed into a 3,600-member international peacekeeping mission.
The security situation in Central African Republic remains dire six months after the Seleka coalition of rebels ousted Francois Bozize, the former president.
President Michel Djotodia announced on Friday that he had dissolved Seleka, though it was unclear what effect this would have on curbing violence.
- Created on 13 September 2013
FILE - In this June 20, 2010 file photo, men walk in an oil slick covering a creek near Bodo City in the oil-rich Niger Delta region of Nigeria. Shell officials on Monday, Sept. 9, 2013 began talks in Nigeria's southern city of Port Harcourt with representatives for the Bodo community on compensation and cleanup five years after one of the worst oil spills in Nigeria's history. (AP Photo / Sunday Alamba, File)
LAGOS, Nigeria (AP) -- Nigeria's Bodo community in the southern Delta has rejected a compensation offer from Shell for two oil spills in 2008 that devastated the mangrove and fishing area, lawyers and the company said Friday.
"It is a great shame that the negotiations have not led to a settlement. I had hoped that this week would at last see the end of the litigation and enable us to start the process of rebuilding the community," said Chief Kogbara, chairman of the Bodo Council.
Shell has admitted liability for the spills five years ago, but it disputes the amount spilled and the impact on the community.
The Bodo community's law firm, Leigh Day, said that 13,000 fishermen lost their livelihoods because of the spills, and 31,000 inhabitants of 35 villages were affected in and around the Bodo lagoon and its associated waterways. Independent experts estimate between 500,000 and 600,000 barrels were spilled, devastating the environment and contaminating more than 75 square kilometers of mangroves, swamps and channels, says the law firm.
But a spokesman for the Shell Petroleum and Development Company of Nigeria Ltd., Jonathan French, said the number of fisherman impacted is likely lower, given the size of the area. The company also said a joint investigation team estimated that only 4,100 barrels were spilled. Shell blames most of the spills in the region on militant attacks or thieves tapping into pipelines to steal crude oil.
"We took part in this week's settlement negotiations with two objectives - to make a generous offer of compensation to those who have suffered hardship as a result of the two highly regrettable operational spills in 2008, and to make progress in relation to clean up," he said.
The Bodo members unanimously rejected the offer from the oil giant after talks that started Monday in Port Harcourt, the London-based Leigh Day law firm said in a statement.
Shell offered about $50 million to the community, according to a person close to the talks, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn't permitted to speak to the media.
"Our clients know how much their claims are worth and will not be bought off cheaply," said Martyn Day, senior partner at Leigh Day.
Though an agreement wasn't reached, both Shell and Leigh Day said that talks between the community and company to start a cleanup are progressing and will continue in late September. Shell said it has not been able to access the area to start the cleanup process.
The spills caused the largest ever loss and damage to mangroves by oil, said the law firm.
Local communities remain largely hostile to Shell and other oil firms because of environmental damage. Some environmentalists say as much as 550 million gallons of oil have been poured into the delta during Shell's roughly 50 years of production in Nigeria, one of the top crude oil suppliers to the United States.
The United Nations has recommended that the oil industry and Nigeria's government set up a fund, with an initial injection of $1 billion, to begin what could be a 30-year cleanup and restoration project in the oil-stained region.
- Created on 13 September 2013
In this photo taken Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2013, rapper Cheikh 'Keyti' Sene lays down verse about the week's news during a taping of the 'Journal Rappe,' in Dakar, Senegal. In the span of a program just five minutes long, Sene and his co-host Makhtar 'Xuman' Fall tackle, in rhyming verse, everything from the Middle East to local woes like the flooding that disproportionately hits poor suburbs of Senegal’s capital. The news and commentary show, rapped in French and Wolof, went viral on YouTube earlier this year and now airs twice a week on Senegalese television. (AP Photo / Jane Hahn)
DAKAR, Senegal (AP) -- The war in Syria isn't the easiest topic to break down in a brief newscast. But that's exactly what Senegalese rapper Makhtar "Xuman" Fall does - and throws it down in rhyme no less.
"All eyes are turned to the powder keg of the world;
To the Middle East where Syria is sitting on a bomb.
Dialogue, discussions and negotiations;
To legitimize a war you need a coalition."
Fall raps these lines in French from behind a newscaster's desk, sporting reading glasses and a blazer with his long dreadlocks tied back behind his head.
Next he turns to a "guest commentator," Senegalese rap icon Didier Awadi who adds a few words of his own: "The bastards are getting organized and they want blood ... One more time they want to make us swallow their lies. And even without the proof, they'll bring out the heavy artillery."
In the span of a program just five minutes long, Fall and his co-host Cheikh "Keyti" Sene tackle everything from the Middle East to local woes like the flooding that disproportionately hits poor suburbs of Senegal's capital. They even interview people on the street - all of whom can conveniently rap as well.
The program "Journal Rappe" is now aired twice a week on a Senegalese television network after it went viral on YouTube earlier this year. In an effort to reach even more fans, Fall raps his portion in French while Sene's contributions are in the other national language, Wolof. It's not an identical translation but the two try to offer up rhymes along the same lines.
Over the last several years, many rap artists in Senegal were active in anti-government protests that helped lead to the ouster of longtime President Abdoulaye Wade. Their timely and politically tinged lyrics, though, haven't easily translated into real-time sales.
"Unfortunately in Senegal it takes six months to a year to make an album. By that time, the songs are no longer news when they come out," says Fall, a towering and lanky 40-year-old long active on the Dakar hip-hop scene.
Night clubs and neighborhood hangouts radiate rap music in this West African country although most of what is played comes from the United States or France. Hip-hop is wildly popular, and artists here are seen in many ways as modern-day griots, traditional West Africa musical storytellers who pass on history through their songs.
It's a laborious process: The co-hosts spend an entire week crafting and filming their tracks for a single five-minute show. Each week they record their performances together in advance and then gather at a second-floor apartment to tape them as they voice the lyrics. As buses and horse-drawn carts clack by on the pavement below, they take turns sitting in front of a green sheet.
Two electric fans whirl as more than a dozen men crowd into the room to watch the process. Glasses of Senegalese tea are passed around and cups are shared as one guest stumbles over cramming French President Francois Hollande's name into his tight lyrics.
Sene is a linguist at heart, having studied translation at university. He speaks French, Wolof and English, and insists there is no topic they can't break down in verse. In Senegal, though, he admits it's hard to talk about homosexuality or marabouts, the country's highly influential Islamic spiritual leaders.
"They love that this is a place where we give more than information. With journalists they may tell the other side but they stay neutral. We don't," he said as he drafted his thoughts inside a Dakar recording studio alongside Fall.
The "Journal Rappe" program shows just how innovative hip-hop artists remain in Senegal, says Murray Forman, an associate professor of media and screen studies at Northeastern University.
"They're taking it to some different place, a place we don't commonly see hip-hop which I think is fun and exciting," he said after watching their programs online. "What I also like about this - they're pushing and challenging the flexibility of established media forms like a newscast."
The concept already has been an artistic hit with real commercial potential, says Senegalese hip-hop icon Duggy Tee. On a recent show, he joined "Journal Rappe" sporting a diamond earring, white blazer, and black and white tie with his image emblazoned on it as he waxed poetic in Wolof.
"Rap is the street and the street is reality," he says. "That's why the concept has been such a success."
Journal Rappe on the Internet: http://www.youtube.com/watch?vxzNcvP1jG3c