Oil, Greed and Human Rights
Looks like the Bush Administration only supports
fascist dictators whom are connected to his oil
buddies. Interesting that not a peep from the
"religious" right on this issue.
Do you Yahoo!?
Yahoo! Mail - Helps protect you from nasty viruses.
- Pete Siemers
It's been a long time since we "ran the border" into Rio Muni in the
'60's in search of booze and other finer things of life at a lower price
than found in Gabon.
Some thing never change though. A junkie will get a fix from anyone who
has the stuff and the good old USofA is hooked on oil.
This may be more obvious with our current occupant of the white house,
but very few administrations in the last 40 years have been very
selective about who we support as long as they have something we want.
With the end of the cold war, we have had to set some new priorities. In
the past an anti-communist attitude was enough to guarantee our support.
Today it is support for the war on terror or the ever popular oil.
As for the religious right --
Have they ever been either?
Pete "Bill" Siemers, Gabon III
Robert Utne wrote:
>http://www.guineaecuatorial.net/ms/main.asp?cd=ni1611[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
>Looks like the Bush Administration only supports
>fascist dictators whom are connected to his oil
>buddies. Interesting that not a peep from the
>"religious" right on this issue.
>Do you Yahoo!?
>Yahoo! Mail - Helps protect you from nasty viruses.
>Yahoo! Groups Links
- The Power To Say No To AIDS by Kohar Jones, Washington Post. Sunday,
December 5, 2004; Page B07
I was in a taxi in the Central African country of Gabon, traveling
from Lambarene, where I worked at Albert Schweitzer Hospital, to the
capital, Libreville. Sharing the cab with me was a young village
She offered 6,000 CFA ($12) for the ride. The driver wanted her to
add another 500. She protested that her husband hadn't given her
enough money. They haggled back and forth. She took a seat, and we
started off without his verbal agreement to accept her offered price.
The bartering continued, in spurts and lags, as we continued past
wooden slat huts with tin roofs, past banana stalks being sold by the
side of the street on oil cans, the occasional bushmeat from the
rainforest (monkey, armadillo, crocodile) hanging to be sold.
Her husband didn't support her as he should, the driver goaded her.
He would have given his wife 60,000 CFA to travel.
In that case, she replied, he was a rich man who didn't need her
"I'm always looking for a good exchange," he said. She could buy him
a Coca-Cola in Libreville.
Laughing nervously, she begged him to leave her alone. He kept
pushing the Coke. She needed to give him the equivalent of the
missing 500 CFA somehow.
He became threatening. Would she continue on to Libreville? Or would
he have to drop her off on the side of the road?
Laughter continued, but the conversation was serious. Would he try to
take advantage of her? She couldn't say no. "Men are stronger than
women," the taxi driver reminded her.
I gave the woman a 500 CFA note. But when I got out, she remained in
the front seat, alone with the driver.
Transactional sex. Consensual, but not really. Based on
disenfranchisement rather than choice.
In the hospital where I worked, desperate women brought their malaria-
ridden children to the pediatric ward. After paying the fee for a
consultation, they had no money left for food. The quinine
intravenous drip might attack the malarial parasites, but the
children still would slowly starve to death.
"Buy food for the child!" one pediatrician, a Congolese woman,
ordered a mother.
"There is no money," she replied.
"Find a new man," was the doctor's advice.
The woman's ability to provide for her children depended on her
ability to attract a man to trade sex for child support.
Would the sex be safe? When members of the mobile Program for Mother
Infant Health taught village women to use condoms to avoid getting
HIV, Gabonese village men, standing at the edge of the circle of
mothers and babies, heckled us: "Sex with a condom is like eating a
banana with the peel still on!"
Three-quarters of people aged 15 to 24 living with HIV in sub-Saharan
Africa are women.
Over three-quarters of the world's women living with HIV are in sub-
More is needed from the United States than its financial commitment
to funding HIV prevention and treatment. The U.S. government should
apply political leverage to ensure that the governments of developing
countries address property rights, basic education and employment
opportunities for women and girls. It should help women become
financially independent, so they no longer have to trade sex for
support and can grow, if they choose, to be the healthy mothers of a
The writer is a student at the Yale School of Medicine.
- LIBREVILLE, 6 December (IRIN) - Violent clashes sparked by angry
villagers demanding a better share of Gabon's oil resources have led
to the temporary closure of operations by Canadian oil firm
Panafrican Energy at one field in the southwest, sources at the Oil
Ministry said on Monday.
Two demonstrators were killed and seven more injured at the oil site
in Ndolou a week ago, officials said, when clashes erupted between
the Gabonese military police and protesters who were blocking an exit
to the site.
The violence is somewhat out of character in this West African
country, which is the continent's fourth-biggest producer, unlike the
intermittent and ongoing unrest in Nigeria, Africa's top oil
exporter. But the grievances of the locals is the same in both
countries -- they want a bigger share of the oil spoils.
Although the site at Ndolou is comparatively small, producing an
average of just 3,400 barrels a day, local people hit by unemployment
and poverty have been demanding more schools, health centres and
Inspired by a strike called by an oil workers trade union, ONEP,
Ndolou residents torched a Panafrican Energy boat and vehicle and
threatened to ransack other installations.
"Company officials panicked and called for reinforcements from (the
capital) Libreville to protect the wells," Koumba Souvi, governor of
the department, was quoted as saying in the Gabonese press.
No-one from the Canadian company was immediately available for
comment but officials at the Oil Ministry in Libreville told IRIN on
Monday that the situation in the south-west was back under control.
Junior foreign minister Jean-Francois Ndongou told AFP news agency
that the authorities and the company were examining the reopening of
the site and looking at how to satisfy local demands.
It is not the first time villagers in Ndolou have complained about
their treatment at the hands of oil firms. Back in 2001, residents
handed over a list grievances to Panafrican Energy.
In 1998, President Omar Bongo, who has been in office since 1967,
ordered substantial aid for the Ndolou region, but such funds have
yet to reach local coffers, according to Nicaise Moulombi, who heads
an local green group, Croissance Saine Environnement (Healthy Growth
"Money generated by oil just doesn't circulate nowadays," Moulombi
told IRIN. "Three percent of people share out the country's wealth
while 97 percent of the population live in dire straits... Ministers
are becoming shamefully rich to the detriment of the majority of the
Gabon has a per capita income that is 10 times the average of sub-
Saharan Africa, largely thanks to its oil and mineral wealth and to
the fact that it has a relatively small population of 1.3 million.
But the country is hostage to price fluctuations and Gabon's oil star
is on the wane. It is a mature producer with an output of around
250,000 barrels per day and has been overtaken as the continent's
third biggest producer by neighbouring Equatorial Guinea, which only
discovered oil in 1995.
Sociologist Fabien Renamy told IRIN that with the country's oil
production down a third from its peak in 1996, the time is ripe to
prepare for the post-oil period.
An hour's flight from Ndolou in Gamba, where Anglo-Dutch oil giant
Shell Gabon is based, the company has built roads, care centres and
schools as well as launching agricultural and training projects.
Gamba has swollen from a village of a few dozen huts in the 1960s to
a town of 9,500 people today.
But some oil executives think the government should step up to the
plate and not put the whole burden on multinationals.
"Most of the oil companies operating in Gabon try to meet the needs
of the local people, but these firms cannot substitute themselves for
the state, which should be building roads and the like," one Shell
Gabon official said, asking not to be named.
"It's up to the state to meet people's needs."
- AirGabon restores Paris-Libreville flights. 13-DEC-04
Gabon's national airline "AirGabon" has restored Paris-Libreville
flights using its Boeing 767-200, which was grounded for three weeks
in France due to technical and financial problems.
Air Gabon now owns a 191-seater Boeing 767-200, which is still on a
dry lease contract.
According to Panapress during its absence, Air Gabon passengers had
to travel by Cameroon Airlines, Air France and Air Portugal.
Air Gabon makes most of its earnings from European routes. The Air
Company currently faces a deficit of 28 billion FCFA mainly because
it started with over-extended ambitions at its creation in 1977.
Air Gabon, which owns two planes (a B-767 and a B-737) out of its
fleet of four passenger planes, is currently unable to service its
Gabon created Air Gabon after withdrawing from the multinational Air
Afrique. The Gabonese government owns the entire share capital of 6.5
billion FCFA (US$10 million).
- Antoine Lawson LIBREVILLE, Dec 14 (IPS) - Street vendors that ply
their trade in African cities are routinely the target of criticism.
Passersby grouse at being made to step over their wares, displayed on
pavements. Local governments grumble that they're nothing more than a
But, if you discount the fact that they may raise the blood pressure
of city officials, vendors aren't generally viewed as posing a
serious danger to public health. Not, that is, unless you buy
medicines and other forms of treatment from them as the citizens of
Gabon are discovering.
Take the case of Ursule Bouassa.
"I bought vials of placenta at the market to make my hair grow, but
three months later I noticed that the tiniest tug of a comb made my
hair come out. I figured out that the product was no good...Ever
since, I've had painful sores on my scalp," she said in an interview
in the capital, Libreville.
Pierre Gotta tells a similar story.
"I'm not healing because according to the specialists, the lightening
creams I bought at the market changed the structure of my skin," he
notes. "I went to see all the dermatologists, but nothing worked."
The high cost of drugs has prompted many Gabonese to start buying
medicines from market sellers and vendors who sell smuggled and
counterfeit treatments that are often cheaper that those available
over the counter.
However, these drugs may have a dire effect on the health of persons
who are not fully informed about the medicines they're buying.
Certain drugs offered for sale have expired others lack the active
ingredients that are necessary for healing.
"Cases of gastric and renal dysfunction, stomach problems, several
poisoning deaths...were seen recently at the hospital after people
took questionable medications not prescribed by a doctor," notes
Isabelle Mboumba, a pharmacist at a Libreville hospital.
Adds pediatrician Obame Moyo, "The sale of counterfeit medication in
the markets does, for the most part, limit prices. But, it engenders
a whole series of risks and secondary complications for
health...especially among children."
"If people don't have a prescription to buy medications, especially
antibiotics, which each have different precise dosage requirements,
they prefer to self-medicate even if it brings with it a raft of
complications," he adds.
Indiscriminate use of drugs is also causing bacteria to become
resistant to certain medicines.
"For two years we have treated cases of herpes and hepatitis, many of
which were complicated by contraindicated antibiotics. What we find
most alarming is that now, many bacteria are resistant to current
antibiotics," Daniel Fernandes, a physician at a private clinic in
Libreville, told IPS.
Gabonese law stipulates that only pharmacists and authorized agents
have the right to import and sell medicines. But, health workers
argue that this legislation has not been adequately enforced.
"Without a rigorous policy to control the sale of medications by
street hawkers or (in)...markets in Gabon, the Gabonese authorities
have made all kinds of abuses possible during the past twenty years,"
Emile Mboustsou, a doctor at the Libreville Hospital Centre, said in
an interview with IPS. "Vendors of all sorts of illegal medications
profit from this breach, jeopardizing the health of our citizens."
Last month, the mayor of Libreville, Andre Dieudonne Berre, placed a
ban on the sale of drugs in markets and by street vendors.
"The sale of counterfeit drugs by street vendors is illegal and
harmful to people's health. Only duly registered pharmacies and
pharmaceutical warehouses are authorized to sell prescription drugs,"
he noted, in a press release.
The Gabonese Association of Pharmacists has also tried to raise
awareness of the dangers of buying medications from street sellers.
But with some of the medicines offered by vendors selling for half
the price asked in pharmacies, the likelihood of Berre being able to
stop this trade appears small. According to medical sources in
Libreville, the counterfeit drug industry in Africa nets between 10
and 15 billion dollars a year.
The situation is complicated by the fact that many Gabonese don't
have the option of buying drugs from legitimate sources.
"Health services are generally not widely available, since 46 percent
of Gabon's population lives more than an hour away from the nearest
treatment center. In rural areas, this proportion is 86 percent,"
Samuel Ndong, a nurse, told IPS.
"In such a situation people buy the medications that are available to
them, and those are the ones they get in the street which are
counterfeit," he added.
In 1987, the Ministry of Health with assistance from the United
Nations Children's Fund drew up a list of essential medicines.
These drugs were supposed to be provided free of charge in public
hospitals and other treatment centres.
In practice, however, this never occurred leaving many to take the
dubious route of buying drugs from street sellers.
At present, there are several hundred medicine vendors in and around
Libreville, which is home to 650,000 people - most of them poorly
educated. According to estimates by the Ministry of Planning drawn up
in 2004, nearly 350,000 inhabitants of Gabon's three biggest cities
Libreville, Port-Gentil, and Franceville live below the poverty
line of a dollar a day.
The vendors never reveal where their supplies come from. But, there
appears to be a cure for every ailment.
"You can buy packets of several medications in tablet or gel form,
antibiotics, syrups with no active ingredient, and even...tablets
that girls sometimes take to induce clandestine abortions," says a
Libreville midwife. (END/2004)