|Africa News Digest
UK Fraud Office Probes BAE Bribery in South Africa
June 21 (EIRNS)Johannesburg has responded positively to what the British Serious Fraud Office (SFO) has described as a breakthrough in its investigation into the controversial South African arms deal involving BAE Systems, in which it believes BAE bribed a South African minister, the London Daily Mail reported today.
South Africa has now joined the OECD convention on corruption, and attended the Paris Meeting of the OECD, on monitoring corruption, at which Britain came under pressure over BAE's briberies, according to the Guardian on March 14.
The SFO said that South African authorities are ready to cooperate with investigators. According to a Jan. 6 Guardian article, the SFO is investigating "substantial payments" made by BAE Systems to a senior South African defense ministry official who had influence over a 1.5 billion pound contract won by the arms company in 1999, to supply Hawk jets at nearly twice the price of more modern jets from rival bidder AeroMacchia, an Italian firm.
The Guardian reported that it had emerged the day before that South Africa's organized crime unit, the Scorpions, was handling a "mutual legal assistance" request from the SFO to investigate the financial accounts of Fana Hlongwane, a politically well-connected businessman, in relation to the 1999 deal. Mr. Hlongwane is a former special adviser to the then-South African Defence Minister Joe Modise, who died in 2001, and who is alleged to have received the bribe.
At February's World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, South African President Thabo Mbeki "used unprecedented language to accuse Blair of hypocrisy," according to the South African Business Day on June 1, for singling out Saudi Arabia for special treatment by cancelling an investigation (which implicated the British government) by Britain's SFO into a BAE Systems arms deal with Saudi Arabia, while allowing an investigation of that company's past relations with the South African government to continue. The incident tarnished Blair's carefully manufactured reputation as a friend of Africa.
BAE's Rape of Africa: The Case of Tanzania
June 21 (EIRNS)Investigators from Britain's Serious Fraud Office (SFO) have been pursuing evidence of a $12 million slush fund allegedly used to bribe officials of Tanzania, into approving the $50 million purchase of a military air traffic control system from BAE Systems in 2002. Tanzania, which has a grand total of eight military airplanes and a crushing national debt, had to borrow even more money to finance the sale, Truthout.com reported Jan. 27, 2007. The money came from another of Britain's politically wired institutions, Barclays Bank. Tanzania, in turn, repaid this loan with money that Blair's government had given it, ostensibly in order to support public education.
Thus, money that was supposed to help educate Tanzania's children, was laundered into the coffers of BAE and Barclays. Even the World Bank and members of Tony Blair's own cabinet objected. The World Bank pointed out at the time that the equipment being sold to Tanzania was outdated.
This "white elephant" deal was foisted on a country where life expectancy is 43 years, where the poorest third of the population lives on less than a dollar a day, and where 45% of all public funding is provided by Western donors.
Former cabinet minister Clare Short, who resigned in protest after the invasion of Iraq, said, "It was always obvious that this useless project was corrupt," adding, "When BAE calls, Tony comes running."
U.S., UN Are 'Sleepwalking to Failure' in Somalia
June 21 (EIRNS)Somali opposition forces are politically uniting, strengthening, and planning a conference next month to hone their strategy for ousting the Somali government and the Ethiopian troops backing it, according to an unnamed Somali official cited in the Washington Post yesterday. The opposition is reaching out to different clans, and citizens, without any preconditions. The source said that the conflict is now becoming one between Ethiopia and Somalia, rather than between different groups of Somalis. Groups that once were quarrelsome and fragmented are unifying against their common enemies, including the United States.
Earlier this month, a group calling itself the Global Anti-Aggression Campaign met in Doha, Qatar, and issued a statement condemning "Ethiopian naked aggression," and Ethiopia's "collaborators." Participants included former Islamic Courts leader Sharif Ahmed, the former speaker of the Somali parliament, and members of the Somali diaspora. The group will hold a conference in July to establish a "Somali national movement for the liberation of the country from the foreign oppressive occupation by all legitimate means available."
The official in Mogadishu said on June 18 that the United Nations, as well as the United States and other nations, are "sleepwalking to failure" in Somalia, by continuing to back a government that refuses to acknowledge the opposition except by fighting it. "The Somali government is in a state of denial," the official said. "They can't accept that there is an opposition, and that's very foolish. There are daily roadside bombs in Mogadishu. Today for example. And it's almost every day." The Post says that analysts are comparing the pattern of developments in Somalia, "to Iraq on a small scale," after the U.S.-backed invasion.
On June 19, Somali Presidential spokesman Hussein Mohamed Mahamud was shot twice at close range, according to a Reuters release that day, which cited a security source, who said: "He was shot in the neck and near the jaw. I think the gunman was aiming for the head. He wanted to eliminate him." There were two other attacks on government targets that day, according to the release. A land mine targetting passing government vehicles was detonated, killing two people, and one policemen was killed when attackers struck a police station in northern Mogadishu.