The Niger Delta through the eyes of George Osodi

Probably hundreds of reports have been written, published and promoted about the environmental damage that oil production has produced in the Niger Delta. Thousands of pages have been filled with interviews, research, facts and policy advice on the ecological, economic, political and economic ramifications of uncounted oil spills, corruption and crime associated with the business in Nigeria.

Still, for most people it is still hard to really get what is happening in this specific part of the world. And this is where George Osodi comes in. By now, he is probably one of the most famous Nigerian, if not African, photographers and his breakthrough came with his series of photographs on the Niger Delta. He captures photos of extreme beauty, which often only reveal environmental destruction, poverty and violence at the second glance. Much more accessible than any report or working paper, his images provide an intense glimpse into the challenges that come with resource wealth, especially for local communities.

The International Slavery Museum in Liverpool, UK, featured Osodi in a special exhibition titled "Oil boom, Delta burns" and has published an interview with the artist with corresponding sideshow of his works. Osodi is also portrayed in a longer piece by Al Jazeera, which focuses on his current project, photographing Nigeria's traditional rulers. Enjoy!

Oil boom, Delta burns: photographs by George Osodi from National Museums Liverpool on Vimeo.

Rich Links: Copper in Zambia, Gold in Darfur and more

As always, the best reads from around the 'net:

Zambian copper project results in many disputes

An excellent article looks at the many controversies surrounding the Sentinel copper project in Zambia. Owner First Quantum Minerals is embroiled in land disputes, competing interpretation of mining and compensation law, as well as a governmental approach swaying between support and condemnation. Think Africa Press

A rare look at illegal oil refineries in Nigeria

The British Guardian provides insights into illegal refineries in the Niger Delta, where stolen crude oil is converted into Diesel under incredibly dangerous conditions for workers, communities and environment (including video). The Guardian

Detailed look at the future of East African oil

Many issues and challenges mentioned in this piece will sound familiar to observers of the East African oil business, but the article offers a nice and in-depth summary. Voice of America

Angola ends tax exemption of oil companies

The government has gazetted a law that applies consumption tax rates ranging from 5 to 10 per cent on activities of companies working in the oil sector. These were so far completely exempt from the tax that reaches rates of up to 30 per cent on luxury goods. This is Africa | Mining Review

Gold and violence in Darfur

A look at how government-supported gold mining activities contribute to increasing violence and a change of conflict dynamics in Darfur. The Guardian

Other stuff

  • Study forecasts continuing stagnation of the South African mining sector: African Mining Brief
  • The European Parliament has accepted a new Fishery treaty with Mauritania: Jeune Afrique
  • Uganda is looking to import Coal from Mozambique to develop local iron ore reserves: AllAfrica/New Vision
  • The European Union has lifted sanctions against Zimbabwe, allowing for diamond exports from its controversial Marange mine to resume: Mining Review
  • Thousands of people demonstrated against French mining giant Areva in the town of Arli, Niger: Jeune Afrique
  • Mozambique plans to finish its new natural gas legislation at the end of this year: Mining Review
  • Namibia plans to start exporting large quantities of cattle on the hoof to neighbour Angola: AllAfrica/New Era

Rich Links: Oil and Uranium across Africa

Quite a long list of noteworthy reading material this time around:

Falling gold prices lead to job cuts

Mining company AngloGold Ashanti Limited will lay off 400 miners in Ghana, reacting to falling prices for gold on the world market. Gold has fallen by $500 over the last months, coming down from a historic heigh point. The lay-offs in Ghana are the first signs of wider repercussions for gold miners around Africa. Mining Review

Oil - a blessing or a curse?

A series of articles from different media look at the benefits and drawbacks of petroleum exploitation for African societies. AllAfrica/This is Africa | AllAfrica/NewVision | AllAfrica/Deutsche Welle

Uncertain times for Somalia's oil and gas business

Recent finds bring hope for new revenues for Somalia's embattled government, but the recent attacks on a Kenyan shopping centre also put the remaining challenges for foreign investment under the spotlight. AllAfrica/Sabahi | Africa Confidential (subscription required)

Uranium mining around Africa

There is a rising interest in uranium mining across Africa. Recent articles look at projects in Tanzania and Botswana. Mining Review | African Mining Brief | AllAfrica/Tanzania Daily News

Petroleum exploitation in central Africa

The Jeune Afrique takes a look at the fortunes of the petroleum industry in central Africa. Jeune Afrique

East African states take stake in Ugandan refinery

The planned refinery project in Uganda, which will be provided with oil from the country's nascent oil fields, has been given another boost with neighbouring states Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Burundi agreeing to take a 40 per cent stake in the project together with the host country. The remaining 60 per cent will be financed by private companies involved in the exploitation of oil reserves. Engineering News | Africa Energy Intelligence

Benefication laws in Zambia lead to growing backlog for copper stocks

After the Zambian government has enacted laws forcing copper mining companies to process a larger part of their production in the country itself, those companies complain over limited smelting capacities. Stockpiles have been growing, according to the industry and threaten to block operations at the mines. Some observers allege that the bottleneck has been created intentionally by investors, to force the government to loosen the new regulations. Mining Review

Oil theft in Nigeria

A look at the origins and consequences of oil theft in Nigeria. Baobab | the guardian

Rich Links: Oil Theft in Nigeria, Mining Law in South Africa, EITI and More

Trading concessions with "governments in exile"

Kilimanjaro Capital, a company registered in Belize, is trying to get investors interested in buying shares of oil and gas concessions bought from African governments in exile. These include self-styled authorities from Cabinda (Angola), Biafra (Nigeria) and southern Cameroon. Sufficient to say that the odds of a positive return on these investments are terribly long. Africa Confidential (subscription required)

Chatham House releases report on crude oil theft in Nigeria

A new Africa Programme report examines the international dimensions of Nigerian crude oil theft and explores what the international community could do to tackle the problem. The report assesses the scale of crude oil theft in Nigeria, analyses how stolen crude is exported and highlights the laundering of proceeds through global financial centres.

Chatham House (there is also a video with a discussion of the report available)

The problems of EITI

The blog Why Nations Fail devotes several blog posts to the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) and discusses its shortcomings and opportunities. Post 1, Post 2, Post 3

Liberian government revokes logging permits

17 logging permits for valuable timber were revoked by the Liberian government. These permits have been given out in contradiction with the 2006 law governing these issues, according to the government. AllAfrica

South African mining law draws criticism

The South African government opened the public review process for a proposed mining law that would bring considerable reform to the sector. Especially the private sector has lost no time criticising the law, which in their view would dramatically worsen the investment climate. Parts of the law would give the government the ability to declare certain resources as "strategic", forcing producers to sell them to local businesses at potentially below market prices to allow to develop local industries. The government has shown willingness to revisit some aspects of the law. This is Africa | African Arguments

Nigerian companies strengthen their oil production

The share of total oil production provided by local companies is rising in Nigeria. International companies like Shell are divesting from onshore and shallow water wells and concentrate on deep water blocks, where political and security risks are lower. Mining Review

War is Boring: Africa Round Up

DR Congo
The eastern Congo is about to enter a new cycle of violence. The rebels of the new organisation “M23” only control a limited area so far, but reportedly get stronger by the day. M23 is the result of the mutiny of several army units around Easter. These units were part of a former rebel group, the CNDP, which was officially disbanded and integrated into the army in 2009.

As a reaction on the limited success of operations against the mutineers the army is concentrating more and more forces in the area surrounding the rebel strongholds on the border with Rwanda. But this leaves other areas in the vast and inaccessible east bereft of security forces. In these areas violence by ethnic militias against civilians is on the rise andseveral thousand people have fled already in fear of atrocities. […]

Read more on the DR Congo, Mali, Nigeria and Côte d'Ivoire over at War is Boring!

Sahel food crisis: The situation in Chad

A mother feeds her severely malnourished son at the Action Against Hunger/UNICEF-run nutrition feeding centre at Mao district hospital in Kanem, western Chad. IRIN photo.

I'm currently writing a series of posts looking at the state of the Sahel food crisis. The first part, a regional overview, was published here. Over the coming days I will look at the other countries that are impacted by the food crisis, so come back if you like to know more!

I'm beginning my country-by-country analysis of the Sahel food crisis with Chad, as it is this country that will probably bear the brunt of what is coming has already arrived.

First the facts: parts of Chad have already descended into full-blown emergency, with thousands of children being admitted to nutrition treatment centers. Action Contre la Faim (ACF) also reports on numerous deaths due to late admission of children to the centers. The district of Kanem seems to be the most heavily impacted at the moment.

In a normal year, the lean period would only be about to begin, but this year, several developments converge to deliver a situation which will only get worse over the next months:

First is of course the erratic and low rainfall over the last year. According to the FAO, agricultural production was 50% lower in 2011 than it was the year before.

But the effect of this is worsened by several man-made factors. Firstly, Chad is situated between several active conflict zones: Libya, northern Nigeria and Darfur. Libya was traditionally an important source of remittances from Chadian guest workers. These had to flee during the Libyan civil war, as black Africans increasingly became targets of revenge killings by the Libyan rebels.

The ongoing attacks by Boko Haram in Nigeria in turn prompted the government there to close all borders to its northern neighbors. This has hit many people in Kanem hard, as they used to sell cattle to Nigeria for income generation.

Additionally, these conflicts have led to a "pipeline constraints": food aid is usually delivered by ship and road. Chad is landlocked and especially Nigeria would normally be a natural transit route for food aid delivery.

Adding to this are several internal issues. The health system of Chad is in its best times described as "dysfunctional", being underfinanced and having not nearly enough staff to cope with the demand.

The government of Chad was also very late to admit the need for help. This has further slowed down the delivery of food aid, as international organizations and NGOs have to get government approval to start their activities. It may also have contributed to the relatively low amount of financing currently available for Chad; While financing requests for Niger have been met to almost 40%, requests for Chad have been financed only by 25% so far, according to OCHA.

Taking action in Chad has become a matter of urgency. Both local and international governments should increase their activities and financial contribution to keep the situation from spinning out of control.

WarIsBoring: Africa Round-Up

Picture: Bombs and attacks by Boko Haram gunmen have claimed hundreds of lives in Nigeria over last months. photo.

Burkina Faso
Ten people were killed in clashes between neighboring communities in Guenon, a village about 80 kilometers south of the capital Ouagadougou. According to reports by state media, the deaths resulted from a dispute about the position of the local chief, who at the moment is a member of the Akonga ethnic group. This is a longstanding grievance of the Liliou group, who have pleaded for a chief of their own. Tensions escalated over the weekend, when the son of the current chief was killed with nine further people dying and about 100 houses burned down in the ensuing fighting.

Usually Burkina Faso is seen as one of the most stable countries in West Africa, with little tradition of violent inter-communal fighting. But violent mutinies have erupted over the last year, which many observers explained with the dissatisfaction with the current government, headed since over 20 years by President Blaise Campaoré. It remains to be seen how and if this latest outbreak of violence fits into this picture. Watch this space for further information, as I’m in Burkina at the moment and will continue reporting on developments here.

The insurgency of Tuareg fighters in northern Mali continues. Unlike in earlier Tuareg rebellions, the fighters this time are not shying away from attacking and holding bigger towns.

The military tactics have remained largely the same though: groups of fighters mounted on fast four-wheel drives are staging surprise attacks on villages and towns. The local garrisons of the Malian army are usually overwhelmed and forced to retreat soon, as the Tuareg can boast heavy weaponry and the element of surprise. If faced with too great resistance, or with the threat of reinforcements, the rebels retreat quickly into the desert. […]

Read more about Mali and Nigeria over at the full version on!


WarIsBoring: Africa Round-Up

Tuareg rebels. Al Jazeera photo.


The regional repercussions of the fall of Gadhafi are beginning to come clear as Tuareg militants attacked a total of six towns since Jan. 17. The Azawad National Liberation Movement (MNLA) — the group responsible for the attacks — has been formed only recently and is believed to have many former Gadhafi mercenaries in its ranks. The group has recently claimed to have shot down a MIG bomber, probably with ground-air missiles pilfered from ammunition depots in Libya.

The official objective of the MNLA is the autonomy of the Malian part of Azawad, an area that many Tuareg see as their traditional homeland. But the Sahel Blog points out that the Malian government tried to prevent an escalation by offering concessions to the Tuareg community before the attacks even started. It is also interesting that the MNLA seems to have no interest in liberating those parts of Azawad which are situated in Algeria. The conclusion might be that the string of recent attacks did not happen with the intention to capture territory, but to demonstrate the military strength of the group and to bolster its position on the negotiating table.


Over the last year the terrorist group Boko Haram has made its way from a little known splinter group to an international security threat. Its attacks have become increasingly more sophisticated and cover a much wider area than its original area of operation. The latest hotspot seems to be Kano, which saw a huge attack on Jan. 20 and a number of smaller incidents since then. […]

Read the rest (covering developments in Somalia, Sengeal and the Sudans) over at