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Greying Incumbants Take Aim At Challengers In Polls Across Africa

8/1/2013, 10:45 a.m.

July 30 (GIN) – Ruling parties in Togo, Zimbabwe, Mali and Guinea Bissau are looking to take one more bite out of the apple and snatch one more electoral victory, deflating hopes by opposition parties to bring new faces and fresh ideas to the top offices.

Early returns in Togo and Mali have some crying foul. “It’s a sham amid massive corruption and proven fraud,” declared Agbéyomé Kodjo, a former prime minister of the West African nation of Togo, whose party Togo Solidarity (OBUTS) joined with Let’s Save Togo for the elections.

Early results show Togo’s ruling party of Faure Gnassingbé winning two-thirds of parliamentary seats, allowing the president’s family to continue its 46-year grip on power.

Gnassingbé’s father, Gnassingbé Eyadéma, came to power through a coup in 1967 and ruled for 38 years until his death in 2005, when his son was installed by the military.

Gnassingbé’s party will now control 62 of 91 seats, up from 50 of 81 seats. Observers from the African Union and West African bloc ECOWAS have said that the elections were held in acceptable conditions.

Zimbabwe voted on July 31, Malians voted July 28, and Guinea Bissau is due in November.

Challengers to the firmly entrenched leaders appear to face insurmountable odds. The seemingly unbeatable so-called “Presidents for Life” include Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni (25 years), Paul Biya of Cameroon (29 years), Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe (31 years), José Eduardo dos Santos of Angola (32 years) and Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo of Equatorial Guinea (nearly 32 years).

Meanwhile, hundreds of comments crowded the website MyContinent.co on the “Presidents for Life” topic. Jackson of Uganda, speaking of the aging leaders, wrote: “Their overstay has affected our development. They are only after empowering their friends and families; the rest is history.”

Nana Debrah Bekoe Isaac of Ghana said, “How can some people be [such gluttons for power]? Staying in power for over two decades is too bad. African leaders should change.”

REPORT OF BILLION-DOLLAR LOSS TO OIL FRAUD DIMS OIL WEALTH DREAMS

July 30 (GIN) – Nigeria lost billions of dollars in oil and gas revenue over a two-year period as the nation suffered from crumbling infrastructure, polluted lakes and rivers, joblessness and a growing insurgency now operating nationwide. A damning auditor’s report of fraud, mismanagement and corruption comes as neighbor countries Uganda and Ghana are becoming oil giants themselves.

The amount of potential oil revenues lost to oil theft from 2009-2011 is estimated at approximately $10.9 billion, according to the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI).

“Over 136 million barrels were lost to crude oil theft and sabotage,” said Ledum Mitee, a former activist with the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People. Mitee heads the National Stakeholders Working Group for the NEITI, an appointment approved by Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan.

In addition to oil theft and pipeline vandalism, the audit blamed a poorly defined pricing methodology, a dilapidated refining sector and excessive fuel subsidy for significantly reducing government revenue from the oil sector.

While the country pumped more oil, noted the report, there was no measurable improvement in the standard of living of the people, particularly the ever-expanding population of the poor.

Anthony Ebipade, a former fighter in the Niger Delta, observed: “Since our people’s livelihoods have been destroyed through oil spillage and gas flaring, coupled with the poor quality of human potential owing to poor education, the easiest option is illegal business such as oil bunkering.”

Nnimmo Bassey of the Mother Earth Foundation added: “As we see clearly, neither farming nor fishing thrives in polluted and severely degraded places like the Niger Delta. This entrenches unemployment, poverty and disease.”

Writing from Uganda, journalist Byaruhanga Chris of New Vision asked when Uganda would take similar measures with its new oil income.

“So what’s the delay? Why has Uganda been slow to prioritize an already tried and tested transparency tool, especially now that the country is facing some of the biggest corruption scandals of its time? Why can’t we, the citizens, be told how money is exchanging hands in the oil and gas sector?”