Mauritania’s World Bank Bubble

Don't mention the workers from Mali
Standard

Shameful waste! “Consultancy Project to recruit a Technical Assistant” the grand sum of $250,000 was apparently awarded in 2003 to a contractor, GEOIDD in Tunisia, for this basic recruitment service. But then follow the link from that page, and the project name is listed as Rajasthan, India. Are they just insanely sloppy or cooking the books?

Now it's Mauritania

Now it’s Mauritania

and now it's Rajasthan

and now it’s Rajasthan

Here is another - a “study” worth $246,000 awarded to a company “TANSITEC” in Switzerland, which also links to Rajasthan, not Mauritania.

Almost half a million dollars on two items, and what is there to show for it?

Even a cursory examination of the “consultancy” and “study” and “audit” costs, over the life of this 11 year development programme, will show money being squandered on costly but nonsensical projects like the ones above, with little or no immediately apparent or tangible benefits. This programme began before General Aziz staged his military coup in 2008, continuing after he came to power, and it indicates widespread mismanagement and/or corruption on an international scale.

Just one example of a questionable Mauritanian infrastructure and development project was for urban development in Atar, where Mauritanian company Macoba TP (part of the AZIZI group) and Spanish construction company Franjuan were appointed to work with local contractors. Seven local firms were reportedly involved, and they engaged 100 labourers - including some from Mali – to install 46,600 square meters of paving covering 4km of drainage pipes and gutters. The news item posted 7 October 2011 about this project on cridem.org has “vanished” (still visible via the Internet Archive here). Mention of labour from Mali is a big clue for the story disappearing - this project was supposed to create work for Mauritanians, not Malians.

Don't mention the workers from Mali

Don’t mention the workers from Mali

Also missing is the World Bank website page about the contract which went to Macoba-Franjuan (still visible on a Chinese site that published a copy, here). The decision to remove evidence of this project may indicate that World Bank prefers not to have anyone look too closely at the bid and tender process for standards compliance. We can be sure that China would be more than interested, since they bid on many construction projects in Mauritania.

Some of the images from the October news item are missing but you can see some photos on the Adrar info site here, from January 2012, when the mayor was chuffed with himself about how well the project was going, and here in August the same year, when several snags and unfinished areas were highlighted.

This paving project was part of a larger, long-term, Urban Development Programme with a total budget of almost US$100  million funded by various international organizations via the World Bank . The project closed 30 June 2012, and the details page and reports are available here in English. The stats, such as exist, are baffling. Atar is the regional capital of the state of Adrar and boasts a population of more than 24,000, who celebrated completion of the drainage project on 28 June 2012. This begs the question why there is such a small increase reported (8,305 – from 17,000 in 2011 to 25,305 in 2012) in the number of people, in all urban capitals across the country, provided with improved drainage services.

Woman from the Leimghetty neighbourhood of Dar Naim near Nouakchott shows her legal title to build on the land where the state just destroyed her home and is now ignoring demands for re-housing or compensation

Woman from the Leimghetty neighbourhood of Dar Naim near Nouakchott shows her legal title to build on the land where the state just destroyed her home and is now ignoring demands for re-housing or compensation

My current theory is this: they don’t care about the numbers, or where the money seems to be going, or even whether some of the projects are imaginary, because the purpose of the entire shambolic scam is to line the pockets of corrupt officials whose companies, and those of their cronies, profit from contracts to undertake the various “improvements”. This buys the required mix of compliance and silence so that, once real estate prices have been boosted by roads, drainage, etc, even more financial shenanigans can take place, as the already wealthy endlessly shuffle their ill-gotten gains around.

I further assume this is the reason for evicting tens of thousands of the poorest people in Mauritania from their hovels. In a recent example, dozens of families in Leimghetty [ar] have been left homeless for over a month after the national guard sent in bulldozers to destroy their huts - over their heads in some cases. All this happened even as the government was issuing advice to citizens to “stay indoors” during the hottest parts of the day, as temperatures soared to 50 degrees Celsius. The homeless families have been completely ignored by officials from the interior ministry, who are under orders to clear the land and to hell with the people, even the most vulnerable such as the elderly, infirm, and mothers with babies, who are slowly being grilled into oblivion under the scorching sun. Don’t think for one moment that the World Bank is not aware of this. They are aware and they do not care. In fact, they want these slums demolished, and they note that :

“The amount paid by low-income people to have access to land property rights is very low as compared to the existing land market value. Depending on local conditions, additional arrangements needs to be put in place to ensure that only targeted people are benefitting from such programs, and will keep this benefit.”

No doubt they are looking forward to a property price boom.

News from Iran – Week 39 – 2012

Mehdi Hashemi Rafsanjani
Standard
Prisoners’ News

A-Transfers

  • Kurdish political prisoner Shahram Elyasi, servinglife imprisonment, transferred from Evin prison to Rajai Shahr prison

B- Arrests/Incarcerations

  • Nursing mothers Zahra Nik-Aein and Taraneh Torabi sent to prison to serve their sentences along with their infants
  • Mehdi Rafsanjani arrested after being summoned to court on return from spending 2 years in the UK
  • Journalist & former Gorgan city council member, Abdolnaser Mahimani, arrested in Tehran while visiting his son
  • Adeleh Cheraghi arrested September 24. Her husband labor activist Alireza Askari recently released on bail
  • Ahmadinejad’s media advisor Aliakbar Javanfekr arrested & sent to Evin to start serving 6 months sentence
  • Mazandaran Uni student blogger Mani Tavakoli arrested on his way back home from Tehran. Whereabouts unknown
  • Activist Shokrollah Nazeri arrested after a search of his home. Whereabouts unknown
  • Prominent lawyer and member of the Defenders of Human Rights Centre, Mohammad-Ali Dadkhah, began his 9-year prison sentence in Evin
  • Hasan Maadikhah taken to Evin to serve his 2.5 year sentence

C-Liberations

  • Green activist Mohamad Rahbari was released on Sept 11 after completing 6 months
  • Esmaeil Salmanpour, a Sarand earthquake relief worker was re-arrested and re-released
  • Hamid-Reza Moseibian, Behrooz Alavi, Hooman Taheri, and Vahed Kholousi - detained earthquake relief volunteers – released on bail
  • Rajabali Dashab (Babak) released after serving 3 year sentence
  • Activist Ali Samadpour released on bail after 83 days in detention

D-Other News

  • Azari activist Hamidreza Ranjbar sentenced to 3 yrs+74 lashes by court in Tabriz
  • Azari activist Mohamad Ahadi summoned by Court in Khoi for second time in 3 months
  • Labour activist Farhad Ebrahimi summoned to appear in court in Sanandaj
  • Sepehrdad Saheban summoned to Branch 23 of Tehran Revolutionary Court
  • Deteriorating health condition of political prisoner Fayzollah Arabsorkhi. Medical treatment not provided
  • Death row prisoner Zaniar Moradi denied medical treatment
  • Mohammad Rigi convicted of drug trafficking was hanged in Evin
  • 8 inmates executed en-masse in Ghezelhesar prison
  • 5 people sentenced for their Facebook activities
  • Mahvash Sabet Shahriari, one of the Baha’i leaders, suffering from osteoporosis but denied hip replacement surgery
  • Mehdi Hashemi Rafsanjani

    Foad Khanjani in urgent need to be hospitalised for back problems

  • Detainee Mohamad Eskandarian in need of medical attention for damaged ear after torture during 4 months of detention without charge
  • In all, 11 prisoners in Rajaei Shahr prison are being denied urgent medical treatment
  • At least 7 prominent activist arrested in West Azerbaijan, Iran ; charges, status, and whereabouts unknown
  • At least 15 people executed in the last two days in Tehran and Karaj

News of injustice in Iran

  • Iran among the top six worst performers in Freedom House’s Net Freedom Report
  • 17 Sunni teachers banned from teaching in Kurdistan province
  • Shargh Daily, reformist paper,banned again. Managing Editor and cartoonist Hadi Heidari summoned by judiciary over a cartoon deemed insulting to army

University – Culture

  • Severe floods in Rasht
  • IMF: Iran is experiencing a brain drain at the rate of 180,000 individuals per year
  • Iran cleric declares that temporary marriage is the only option for widowed women
  • New iPhone 5 selling for equivalent of US$1,320 in Tehran bazaar

Protests

  • Iranian activists from US, Canada and Europe went to New York to protest Ahmadinejad’s speech. A group attacked and assaulted the IRI foreign ministry spokesperson Ramin Mehmanparast
  • 10,000 more workers signed a petition against living conditions

Iran Economy

  • Toman-US Dollar rates hit 2720; Gold coins reach new record high 1,400,000 Toman
  • Luxury car imports up 30%

Iran abroad

  • Turkish trade deficit falls on gold sales to Iran
  • Ahmadinejad made his final visit as President to the United Nations General Assembly in New York
  • France, Germany, Britain want more sanctions on Iran
  • Argentina and Iran to discuss 1990s bombings – after Argentina threatened to close its embassy in Tehran
  • Iran looking to build relations with Afghanistan and India through Chahbahar port
  • Swiss-based Vitol trades Iranian fuel oil, skirting sanctions
  • Head of the European Union demanded the release of Mousavi, Rahnavard and Karoubi & wants a meeting with them
  • India’s imports from Iran fell 5% between July and August

Politics in Iran

  • Iran made additional claims about what it calls “foreign sabotage”
  • Iranian Minister of Culture threatens to boycott the 2013 Oscars in the wake of the anti-Islam film

Miscellaneous

  • Iran readies domestic Internet, reportedly blocks Google, Gmail, etc
  • (again) and then had to provide regime personnel with circumvention tools so that they can maintain access. The Minister of Communications denied these reports.

Will #Mali’s new government herald arms or armies?

gingerbreadman1
Standard

In less time than it takes for an apartment pineapple to ripen, a new government of national unity has been formed in Mali in the latest effort to restore stability after the military coup in March. It follows 5 long months of political tug-of-war between the ready-meal interim government and the frozen-dinner coup leadership headed by Captain Sanogo. The Captain was persuaded to release his grip a little, after his palms were oiled with a palatial home and “former head of state” status – including a generous allowance. The cabinet has 31 ministers, including five from Sanogo’s camp. The head of the interim government, Cheick Modibo Diarra, stays on as prime minister. For now.

Early-stage pre-coup pineapple during US training

During this incubation period, interim President Dioncounda Traore was attacked, and spent several weeks recovering in Paris. No doubt he spent more of that time in the briefing room of  Boulevard Mortier  than in recovery. Shortly after Dioncounda returned to Mali, one of the former President’s elite Red Beret guards, Staff Sergeant Amadou Traore, was murdered in his barracks. That signal seems to have been received loud and clear; no further attacks on the interim president have been reported yet.

Last month, the regional bloc ECOWAS threatened to expel Mali unless a unity government was installed, according to the BBC. Yesterday, there were news reports of ECOWAS and Algeria [ar] barring military shipments to Mali. Meanwhile, Major General Suleiman Mahmoud al-Obeidi, Libya’s former Deputy Director of Military Intelligence and Chairman of the Republican Guard in Benghazi, reveals that, when there was a weapons amnesty and surrendering of arms in Libya last year, his unit alone boycotted the deal and instead their weapons passed to mercenaries from Egypt, for onward transfer to AQIM in Algeria and Mali. Doubly painful, as it was the ousted former president Touré, aka “ATT”, who said in February that they needed more military hardware to respond to the MNLA’s attacks, widely reported to be using massive fire-power brought back from Libya.

Weapons in 30 Days or Your Next Government Half Price

We need to wait to see if the formation of a new unity government defrosts the supply of arms, and whether they’ll be delivered by shipment or in person. Just last weekend, Al Jazeera Arabic reported a training exercise in Libya (irony alert) of 2,000 troops including 800 special forces from Great Britain, France, Spain and Italy, in preparation for an incursion into Malian territory. The training programme lasted from February to June. Here’s the video:

There are many competing theories about what is going on in Mali. One school of thought insists that the plan is, and always has been, to get the boots of foreign troops on the ground. However, just as with the reports of armed rebels severing someone’s hand as a punishment for stealing (and the victim later dying), and of their threat-or-promise to repeat the exercise with hundreds more after the Eid holiday, or even of the beheading* that UNHCR’s spokesperson Melissa Fleming claimed to have happened, there’s no way of knowing if the scenario portrayed in this video sheds light on the actual situation.

How can we figure Mali out? To butcher the old standard, “follow the ransom money” and we find food for thought. For example, fresh claims of Swiss support for the rebels appeared last week. This was denied by the MNLA as a rumour created by a Swiss journalist and promoted to a fact by a website in Mauritania, where the media has carved a niche for exclusive revelations about Mali.

I was anticipating more mention of Switzerland, after a Swiss woman was apparently taken hostage in Timbuctu by a private militia who planned to trade her to AQIM. The lady was reportedly “rescued” by Ansar Dine and released for an alleged 1 million Euro, in a deal where they demanded to liaise directly with the Swiss officials, rejecting the offer of a human rights NGO to mediate.  That event was soon followed by a spectacular betrayal of MNLA by Ansar Dine, who hijacked the uprising and forced the secular separatists into a retreat from which they have yet to emerge. Speculation about how the more radical supporters of religion achieved this feat includes the investment of ransom capital to buy supporters. There have been other kidnappings: three Westerners abducted nearly nine months ago by AQIM in Mali, seen today urging their governments to help free them in an Al-Jazeera television exclusive video, and the seven Algerian diplomatic staff taken from the embassy in Gao, three of whom were returned last month, shortly after the release of one Italian and two Spanish hostages. This last exchange was said to be accompanied by a few more million Euro and the release of two more prisoners – one assumed by some to be connected to the POLISARIO – who were being held in Mauritania for their part in the kidnapping of the three Europeans.

Within days Mauritania benefited from a capitulation by the EU (Note: the EU Africa team is led by a Spaniard) finally agreeing to their exorbitant new terms for renewing the fishing agreement, and an agreement from Spain to salvage the small aircraft “donated” to Mauritania in June last year to help in the fight against illegal immigrants, and which had remained, unairworthy and stranded on the tarmac, more or less the whole time.

This brings me to another stranded plane – the famous “Air Cocaine” Boeing jet from South America which landed/crashed just north of Gao in a village called Tarkint at the end of October 2009, and was reportedly torched by the smugglers after their cargo of drugs had been retrieved. The local mayor was known as an intermediary with AQIM for the release of kidnap victims.

The char grilled remains of “Air Cocaine” /JON SISTIAGA

“Air Cocaine” was registered in Saudi Arabia,  rented in Venezuela, and had made previous trips from Colombia  under a licence issued by Guinea Bissau, but which had expired at some point. The drug trafficking was said to be linked to AQIM, and this flight’s cargo could have been worth anything between 150 and 300 million Euro. Some of these details only became apparent much later, after WikiLeaks’ cables release, as the original investigation was handled by the intelligence services and shrouded in secrecy.  There were dozens of arrests, but few detentions or convictions in connection with this scandal. Then last week, we learned that the last two suspects, one French, one Spanish, had been released in Mali. The drug smuggling case against the Spaniard was thrown out.  This chap is a real charmer: a former Madrid policeman, until he was busted for trafficking, drugs, explosives, weapons, and counterfeit identity documents. He also had a suspended sentence in Mali connected to the gruesome murder [es] of a Colombian with a forged Ukrainian passport. He apparently plans to stay in Mali. One would hope he is short of alternatives but why leave Mali, when half the world is ready to come to you?

Additionally, a wealthy businessman from Tilemsi in the Gao region - Mohamed Ould Awaynat - who had been sentenced to one year in prison for his part in the trafficking scandal, was reportedly released in January this year, in an alleged deal with the Malian government. In exchange for his freedom, he is said to have paid to recruit and train northern fighters to boost the ranks of the army against the MNLA. They do say money makes the world go around. If you add massive cash flows from drug trafficking it begins to spin put of control. That is certainly what appears the be the case in Mali.

All these rebel groups in Mali seem like just so many finger puppets. But to which “invisible hand” do the fingers belong?

If you enjoy bizarre details – and you’ve got this far, so I should take that as given – then you might be further entertained by the fact that the article in the previous link, by Andy Morgan in Think Africa Press, was posted on FaceBook in a now lifeless MNLA group, requiring 14 comments to post in its entirety. The comment poster uses the name Ghazi Agizul and, although his bio says he’s a proud Amazigh from Tunisia, I found it odd that “Ghazi” used a translation tool to render the English original into French, which should be a natural language for him. That he didn’t post a link to Google Translate or use a Note instead of 14+ comments is not mysterious, only irritating. If it transpired that Andy Morgan and Ghazi Agizul were one and the same person, that would be interesting. It would also raise many general questions about the clandestine online and offline activities of certain people who present themselves publicly as working in the media, but that is a whole other story. Going back to the article itself, it’s too lengthy to analyse in depth but there are some factual errors, which always has the effect of eroding credibility. For example,  Mr Morgan claims to have spent years in northern Mali, yet placed Kati near Timbuktu. I wouldn’t blame him if the article was simply too long for him to cope with when it got to proof-reading.

Also in the WikiLeaked cable, we learn of another incident involving a plane:  US military making a “hard landing” 65 miles from Bamako, and receiving assistance. ATT was happy to help because “he knew the United States was coming to help Mali”. Sadly, nothing could be done to help the three US military and their three civilian companions who died in a vehicle accident in April this year. Will the US be coming to help again; will they feel they no longer need an invite?

Short of the IAEA declaring that there are nuclear weapons hidden in the barren wastelands of northern Mali, I wonder how many more UN agencies or NGOs can enter the fray, wringing their collective hands over the many unverified domestic dramas that they claim are engulfing this most coveted of would-be war zones, declaring every incident a war crime, and clamouring at the gates to be allowed in to rescue Mali from itself and the horrors of Sharia law’s unjust desserts.

As ATT noted in February, with a prescience we have yet to fully to appreciate: “There are many rumors. If we are not careful, we’ll fall into the hands of those who are attacking Mali and who want to oppose the government.”

*I assume Ms Fleming meant to say “stoning” – but there is no solid evidence of that having happened, either. If she did witness a beheading, I’d have liked her to verify in reply to my question, especially since her bio includes the phrase “Tweets highlight the stories of human suffering and resilience I witness every day.” [my emphasis].

Related Posts