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.
Before Christ (well, several years ago) I submitted a Freedom of Information Act request for cables that mentioned Lebanese originating from US Embassies in West Africa. In the summer of 2011 the request was granted and I got lots of cables. In the letter granting my request, the State Department promised to look at Bureau of African Affairs documents for me as well, and yesterday they sent some that they declassified for me. Reading the documents gave me warm and fuzzing I-live-in-a-real-democracy feelings.
The documents being released to me (6 of 9 that they determined were relevant) are all on Sierra Leone for some reason.
From a factual standpoint, they’re not that interesting.
The thing that is most striking is that the documents assert over and over again that Lebanese in West Africa are funding Hezbollah (“hundreds of millions of dollars” according to one cable), but it’s unclear if these assumptions are based on any evidence other than hearsay, as none is provided.
Here is an excerpt from an email that was somewhat interesting:
Export tax hike to affect diamond exporters? Embassy Freetown reports that the [Government of Sierra Leone] is insisting that, in accordance with 2002 legislation, diamond exporters pay their income tax including penalties and arrears for 2004-2005. This action could result in the 4-5 major Lebanese exporters having to pay millions of dollars, which in turn could lead to more smuggling. The Vice President has told the revenue authority director to be flexible in negotiating with the exporters, and the President has agreed to a high level meeting with the revenue authority director once the Finance Ministry returns to the country in about 10 days. (Oct 28, unclear what year)
You can read the documents yourself here. (It’s hard to determine the document dates.)
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.