China given monopoly to exploit Gabon's untapped iron ore resources
- 6/4/2006 LIBREVILLE, June 3 (AFP): Gabon has granted China sole
rights to exploit huge untapped iron ore reserves and build costly
rail links needed to reach them in the tropical forest, a government
statement announced yesterday.
A Chinese consortium headed by the China National Machinery and
Equipment Import and Export Corporation (CEMEC) has been granted the
rights by the west African country's government.
The statement said the Gabonese state would have a share in the
project but gave no further details.
An informed source said work would be launched at the end of the year
and the first ore would be extracted before 2010.
The decision kicks out the world's leading iron miner, Brazil's Vale
do Rio Doce (CVRD), which since April last year had headed a
consortium with China's CEMEC and Sinosteel, along with the French
But the Brazilians and the Chinese "fell out over who would be in
charge of the various operations," an observer said, "and in the end
they decided to make separate bids."
The duel split the Gabonese government between those who backed the
Brazilian bid, led by Richard Onouviet, minister for oil and
resources, and supporters of the Chinese, led by Foreign Minister
Jean Ping, whose father is Chinese.
The iron ore was discovered in 1955 at Belinga, which lies in remote
forest hills 500 kilometres (300 miles) east of Libreville, the
capital and port on Gabon's Atlantic coast.
Belinga is thought to be one of the last major untapped iron ore
reserves on the planet, estimated at at least a billion tonnes, 60
per cent rich in iron.
- Morocco and Gabon signed, on Wednesday, two cooperation agreements in
the infrastructure and housing fields. The first agreement provides
for setting up a framework for technical cooperation in the
infrastructure field to promote technology transfer, development of
competencies and human resources and rational management of
infrastructures. The second agreement in the housing sector aims to
set up a follow up committee to follow up cooperation actions in this
In a statement to the press, Minister Delegate for housing, Taoufik
Hjira said that a common cooperation program is underway to build
some 3,700 houses in Libreville.
The cooperation agreement in the housing sector also provides for
implementing a bilateral cooperation program for 2006-2007, through
which Morocco will provide the necessary support for Gabon to set up
an institution in charge of urban development and elaborate urban
As for trade cooperation, the two parties underlined the need to give
a new impetus to their trade exchanges and endeavor to sign a free
trade agreement. In this respect, Moroccan Trade, Industry and
Economy upgrading minister, Salah Eddine Mezouar, said that Morocco,
anew, suggested to establish a free-trade zone with the Economic and
Monetary Community of Central Africa.
King Mohammed VI received, Thursday, Gabon's Prime minister, Jean
Eyéghé Ndong who pays an official visit to Morocco. Ndong was
accompanied, during the audience, by Ali Bongo and Jean François
Ndongou, respectively Gabonese State ministers of National Defence,
and of Foreign Affairs, Cooperation, Francophonie and regional
integration. The audience was also attended by Moroccan minister
delegate for Foreign Affairs, Taib Fassi Fihri, and the two countries
respective ambassadors, Ali Boji and François Banga Eboumi.
Source : MAP
- New York Times, June 12, 2006
The U.S. Senate plans to begin consideration this week of the defense
authorization bill for the coming year. One distressing section of
the package would reauthorize the Pentagon to arm and train foreign
militaries, something it was first authorized to do for 2006.
Although the money involved represents only a $200 million piece of
the half-trillion-dollar Pentagon budget, it marks the continuation
of a dangerous militarization of American foreign policy.
Traditionally, the authority to train and equip foreign forces was
the territory of the State Department. Arming a foreign power that
does not respect human rights invites disaster. So Congress requires
the State Department to verify that a government meets certain
standards of human rights and democracy before it can receive
But no such restrictions impede the Defense Department, and the
danger is more than theoretical. Six of the 10 African nations the
Pentagon proposes to train and equip this year (Algeria, Cameroon,
Chad, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon and Tunisia) have poor human rights
Washington has little control over how recipient countries choose to
wield their newfound might, so train-and-equip programs must be kept
under strict observation to ensure that they adhere to necessary
guidelines. But the Pentagon is notorious for not operating
transparently, and the congressional committees that are supposed to
oversee Pentagon spending are unlikely to spare much attention for
such a small piece of the overall military budget.
Congress should return these programs to State Department
supervision. If it cannot summon the will to do that, it should at
least mandate that the programs financed by the Pentagon conform to
the same democratic and human rights standards that apply when they
are run by the State Department.
- Gabon Faces Challenge to Reform
By Jeffrey Young
07 July 2006
The West African coastal state of Gabon has had only one president
for nearly 40 years. Omar Bongo Ondimba, Africa's longest serving
head of state, has presided during decades of oil-based prosperity
that may not be sustainable.
Libreville, Gabon. The shops in the capital of the Gabonese
Republic, Libreville, are filled with expensive goods from Europe and
Asia. Government ministry buildings are plush and built on a grand
scale. The administration of Gabon's President, El Hadj Omar Bongo
Ondimba is stable, with key posts filled with his family members.
Per capita income last year was estimated at $6,800, in large part
because the country's population is only some 1.4 million people. On
the surface, Gabon appears to be a success story. But beneath that
veneer are problems with fair governance and the country's economic
The Bongo Strategy. Omar Bongo was elevated from the post of vice-
president in 1967 when Gabon's first President, Leon M'Ba died
suddenly. Former U.S. ambassador to Nigeria Princeton Lyman, who is
now with the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington, says that
along with the presidency, Mr. Bongo inherited M'Ba's taste for
autocratic rule. "He's part of an earlier generation of African
leaders who are virtually 'presidents for life.' You've got a very,
very dominant government [political] party, and an opposition that
haven't really got their feet on the ground and been able to operate
very effectively. So all the decisions are really made by the
president. There isn't a lively [i.e., independent] parliament," says
The existence of a political opposition in Gabon is a relatively
recent phenomenon. In 1968, Omar Bongo declared Gabon to be a one-
party state, controlled by his Gabonese Democratic Party, the P.D.G.
In the early 1990s, President Bongo reverted back to a multi-party
But Mark Rosenberg at the Freedom House human rights monitoring group
in New York says the resumption of multiple parties in Gabon was
actually a cynical ploy by Omar Bongo to maintain control of the
state. "There's certainly an element of 'divide and conquer' here.
You have 35 registered political parties in Gabon. 29 of them belong
to an alliance with Bongo's P.D.G. The P.D.G. has been in power
since independence [from France in 1960]. That's an overwhelming
political dominance," says Rosenberg. "Even if these parties in the
alliance decide to buck [i.e., oppose] Bongo or his party, they
wouldn't have much space to do so."
This can be seen in the country's last three presidential elections,
in which Mr. Bongo's vote totals have gone from 51 percent in 1993 to
72 percent last year. Meanwhile, the P.D.G. - controlled parliament
has abolished presidential term limits, removing an obstacle for Mr.
Bongo's continued rule.
Within the government, Omar Bongo has prevented challenges to his
rule by putting his family members or others very close to him in key
positions such as Minister of Defense. That post is held by his son,
Ali, who many analysts expect to claim the presidency when his father
dies or leaves office, despite a constitution that does not place him
directly in the line of succession.
Jennifer Cooke at the Center for Strategic and International Studies
in Washington says along with avoiding strife within the government,
Gabon has largely been spared the inter-ethnic and class-related
problems that affect other African states. "Bongo himself is from a
minority group, which may take away some of that [inter-ethnic]
friction. Another point is that given the wealth of the country and
the fairly high per capita income, everybody is doing well enough
that it doesn't really come down to the hard core divisions [i.e.,
between 'haves' and 'have-nots.']," says Cooke.
Gabon's high level of government spending during Mr. Bongo's rule has
been maintained even during times like the 1990s, when oil prices
plunged, by borrowing massive amounts of money from international
lenders. As a result, the country's public debt level is now nearly
30 percent of its gross domestic product.
Gabon has enjoyed oil-based prosperity since the late 1960s. But
Keith Myers, with the Royal Institute for International Affairs in
London, says that economic underpinning won't last
forever. "Gabon's 'Achilles heel' is that oil production peaked a few
years ago and is [now] on a steadily declining track. And so has
G.D.P. As a result, poverty is starting to get worse, and the
government badly needs to implement a diversification policy to wean
itself away from oil dependence," says Myers.
Gabon's oil production last year was about 268,000 barrels per day,
down by a third from its peak in the mid-1990s. Many industry
experts say its reserves could be depleted in less than a decade.
C.S.I.S. analyst Jennifer Cooke says that, so far, Gabon's president
and his government have not adequately prepared for a future without
oil. "Bongo is not looking toward 2015, when the country is going to
really have to deal with declining oil revenue," says Cooke. "Yes,
tourism is one thing [i.e., a way to replace oil revenues]. The
logging industry and the timber industry - - there's likely to be a
great deal more demand there down the line. And Gabon is rich in
precious timbers. But there hasn't really to date been the
investment in other sectors that are going to diversify the economy
and carry the country through [this transition from an oil-based
Omar Bongo Ondimba is more than 70 years old and many observers
predict that he may not live to the end of his current term in 2012.
But so long as he remains in power, they say that the status quo in
Gabon will continue and that solving the country's problems may be a
task faced by his successor.
- "I've never understood what this force is doing. Are the elections
taking place in Gabon?" Christophe Mboso, one of Congo's 32
presidential candidates, said sarcastically during a televised debate
Full article: http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/L25562447.htm
- I heard one theory that says that the force is there in fact to
provide backup and logistical support for Ivorian rebels, who will be
launching a major attempt to overthrow President Gbagbo sometime soon.
In a nutshell:
1. ONUCI (UN force in Cote d'Ivoire) complains about allegations of
violence and gross human rights violations by the Gbagbo government;
2. The UN responds by a resolution condemning the government and
severely restricting its ability to engage in hostilities;
3. The Forces Nouvelles (rebels) launch a major attack on Abidjan,
aided in this by the EU force.
4. They will seize the palace, as it seems they will be waiting for
President Gbagbo to travel to New York for the UN summit in September.
That's what I heard.
--- In email@example.com, "bobutne" <bobutne@...> wrote:
> "I've never understood what this force is doing. Are the elections
> taking place in Gabon?" Christophe Mboso, one of Congo's 32
> presidential candidates, said sarcastically during a televised debate
> last week.
> Full article: http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/L25562447.htm