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Published 20th January 2012

Vol 53 No 2


Nigeria

How the fuel row caught fire

Lagos: Demonstrators holding a placard which reads 'N(aira) 65 or nothing' burn tyres and protest in Lagos against the government's decision to remove a popular fuel subsidy.
Lagos: Demonstrators holding a placard which reads 'N(aira) 65 or nothing' burn tyres and protest in Lagos against the government's decision to remove a popular fuel subsidy.

Image courtesy of Panos Pictures

An unwieldy and spontaneous opposition has won its first battle against the government; now it needs a strategy

Nobody in government, least of all President Goodluck Jonathan, seemed prepared for the torrent of opposition excited by the decision to end fuel subsidies. This doubled the retail price of petrol on New Year’s Day. The inflationary effect of the new fuel prices on goods and services was devastating for poor people and lost the government any goodwill it had picked up since April’s elections. Many know that the main beneficiaries of the subsidy are a cabal of crooked oil traders, so they ask why the government can’t pursue them and keep the fuel cheap for the public.


Sanusi hits out at subsidy racket

Almost alone among his colleagues in government, Central Bank of Nigeria Governor Sanusi Lamido Aminu Sanusi has made a credible case for the removal of fuel subsidies*. He argues ...


The Accra boosters

Foreign praise-singers try to justify aid but skate over the difficult choices facing President Mills before this year’s elections

Western commentators and politicians are lining up to pour accolades on Ghana. Some are self-interested: they aim to show that their policies and aid budgets are working. Aid advoc...



BLUE LINES
THE INSIDE VIEW

The embarrassing admission that the Liberian warlord Charles Taylor, now awaiting verdict on his trial at the Hague for crimes against humanity, worked for the United States’ intelligence services was extracted from the authorities via a Freedom of Information request. To many Liberians caught up in their country's civil war, reports of Taylor cavorting with Western intelligence are not surprising. The relationship dates back to the overthrow of William Tolbert in 1980 and Taylor’s role in th...

The embarrassing admission that the Liberian warlord Charles Taylor, now awaiting verdict on his trial at the Hague for crimes against humanity, worked for the United States’ intelligence services was extracted from the authorities via a Freedom of Information request. To many Liberians caught up in their country's civil war, reports of Taylor cavorting with Western intelligence are not surprising. The relationship dates back to the overthrow of William Tolbert in 1980 and Taylor’s role in the subsequent regime under Master Sergeant Samuel Doe. Then, Liberia hosted the main US intelligence and surveillance centre in Africa.

When Taylor fell out with Doe and was charged with embezzlement, he fled to the USA. There he was detained at a gaol in Massachusetts from which he says friendly officials helped him escape in 1985.

In the early stages of the 1990 insurrection, Taylor kept in close touch with one Lieutenant Colonel Bob Richards, a US military attaché in its Abidjan embassy. Although the Defence Intelligence Agency has confirmed Taylor was a source, it is more coy about the details of the relationship: did it provide him with tactical advice for the insurrection or put him on its payroll? Money may not have been a major concern: by then, Taylor’s joint ventures with Burkina Faso’s President Blaise Compaoré – arms smuggling and selling assets from captured territory in northern Liberia – were providing a big income. Taylor had also taken on a lucrative ‘consultancy’ for the German-based defence company Merex, which specialised in breaking international arms embargoes.

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