In January 2011, when I thought my dissertation might be on Lebanese in West Africa, I filed a Freedom of Information Act Request with the State Department. The request was for documents from 2001-2010 about Lebanese living in West Africa. Six months later the request was granted. But after two summers and a winter break of fieldwork in Kano, Kano, and Abidjan trying to interview Lebanese unsuccessfully, I dropped the topic.
I’ve uploaded the first batch of documents here. I’d be curious to know if anyone finds anything interesting in them.
Africa Confidential has a gated article on Liberian mercenaries who fought in Cote d’Ivoire:
Although groups of Liberian mercenaries and Ivorian militia loyal to Gbagbo remain active in the lush forests of the Great West, the area has been quiet since the last series of cross-border attacks from Liberia in March 2013. A December report by the UN Panel of Experts on Liberia concluded that the Ivorian authorities have been paying Liberian mercenaries and FLGO members to stop their attacks.
In May 2013 Liberian forces detained an Ivorian government delegation in Grand Gedeh which was carrying funds for the pay-off. The Ouattara government denounced the report as a fabrication but sources consulted by Africa Confidential confirmed that regular payments have been made.
Also, apparently some of the mercenaries are on trial in Monrovia:
They are defended by a prominent Krahn lawyer Tiawon Gongloe, who was Johnson-Sirleaf’s Solicitor General and is now a fierce critic of the President.
The latest issue of Africa-Asia Confidential (published by the same group as Africa Confidential, focusing on political and economic relations between Africa and Asia) has a [gated] article on Indian mining firms in West Africa. Here’s the lede:
India-linked mining companies have had less luck than their Chinese counterparts in breaking into the West African market, arriving later on the scene than Chinese companies. However, a handful have managed to snap up iron-ore concessions that were missed by other Asian competitors. Chinese companies are backing iron projects in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, while Indian mining companies have tried to get a foothold in Côte d’Ivoire, Liberia and Mali.
Human Rights Watch has a harrowing new report on killings in Cote d’Ivoire immediately preceding and following Gbagbo’s arrest. Below are excerpts related to killings by Ouattara’s men, as killings by Gbagbo’s forces are more well known.
- Ouattara’s Republican Forces of Côte d’Ivoire (Forces Républicaines de la Côte d’Ivoire, FRCI) killed at least 95 unarmed people in Abidjan during operations in late April and May, when they sealed off and searched areas formerly controlled by pro-Gbagbo militia
- Most killings were point-blank executions of youth from ethnic groups generally aligned with Gbagbo, in what appeared to be collective punishment for these groups’ participation in Gbagbo’s militias.
- …[M]id- and high-level commanders had been at or near the place where some killings took place.
- Nearly every former detainee [of the Republican Forces] described being struck repeatedly with guns, belts, rope, and fists to extract information on where weapons were hidden or to punish them for alleged participation in the Young Patriots, a pro-Gbagbo militia group.
- The Republican Forces also killed older men accused of housing or assisting the militia.
h/t to John Campbell’s blog.
…I am struck by the extent to which economists, at least when they are writing about poor people in out of the way places, seem to rely on half-baked ethnographic insights, the kinds gleaned from corridor talk at meetings and by talking with taxi drivers on the way in from the airport and bartenders in business-class hotel.
That’s Mike McGovern
, one of my favorite anthropologists. He reviews two Paul Collier books in the latest Perspectives on Politics
[gated], and makes broad critiques of social science books written for a popular audience.
McGovern says Collier sees the world in us v. them terms. Collier is fighting against NGO workers who wilfully ignore facts, the general public with its inaccurate assumptions, and academics with “political” motivations. This leads McGovern to wonder:
…[But] if his European and North American audiences are so deeply (and, it would seem, so easily) misled, why is [Collier] quick to presume that the “bottom billion” are rational actors? Mightn’t they, too, be resistant to the good sense purveyed by economists and other demystifiers?
Collier criticizes anthropologists for being “subjective.” McGovern points to what he calls Collier’s subjectiveness, highlighting places where Collier implies causation by presenting a correlation with no qualifications. And McGovern provides a scathing critique of a chapter Collier has on Cote d’Ivoire. (McGovern has a book coming out on Cote d’Ivoire.) McGovern concludes:
…one productive division of labor would have economists identifying the surprising correlations in cross-cultural economic phenomena and anthropologists explaining them, political scientists may be able to do both parts of this process in house.
John James has a post on tips for new arrivals in Cote d’Ivoire. Included is this interpretation on why suits are a status symbol:
In recent years, the West has taken a turn towards greater informality, but in Ivory Coast, he/she who can dress smartly, does (it shows you can afford not just the actual suit and tie itself, but the air conditioned environment needed to keep cool in the tropics).
John James, the BBC’s Cote d’Ivoire correspondent, has a blog post on the current debate over whether to nationalize the purchase of cocoa in the country. Two interesting points:
[T]here’s a broad consensus of opinion in favour of reforms, and reforms that would see more state involvement (including from the World Bank, after having earlier supported the 1990′s liberalisation programme). All the main presidential candidates favoured some sort of step back to state control.
[I]t’s not the fixed price per se that gives more income to farmers, but governance. Orla Ryan makes a strong case in her new book on West African cocoa, that it was only with the democratic process in Ghana, when cocoa farmers were taken seriously as a constituency (because their votes counted), that they were suddenly offered a far greater share of the world price.
Hat tip to Until Our Independence.
Cartoon by Chappatte. Source: http://globecartoon.wordpress.com/2011/04/11/the-arrest-of-laurent-gbagbo-cartoon-by-chappatte/
Everybody says this man is an evil thug who needs to go. That’s not true. He’s a Christian, he’s a nice person, and he’s run a fairly clean operation in the Ivory Coast.
That’s Pat Robertson–who has in the past defended and been engaged in business activities with Charles Taylor–on Laurent Gbagbo. The full video, which is even more infuriating than this quote, is here.
H/t to Moved 2 Monrovia.
Recently there have been reports of Angola supporting Gbagbo. I was looking back at a July 2009 International Crisis Group report on Cote d’Ivoire, and apparently this relationship is not new:
For some months, the presidential camp has been seeking military support from Angola. In March 2009, the Angolan defense minister, Kundi Paihama, paid an official visit to Cote d’Ivoire. At the end of his stay, the two countries agreed that they would soon sign a defense agreement and appoint experts to look at how it might work. Besides this promise of a military agreement, there have been frequent trips to Luanda by Bertin Kadet, the defense advisor to the president and also his nephew.