Several African public figures (and associates) mentioned in the Panama Papers

The Guardian has an excellent summary of what you need to know about the Panama Papers, the data leak of the century from the Panama-based law firm Mossack Fonseca.The firms specializes, among other things, in incorporating companies in offshore jurisdictions that guarantee secrecy of ownership.

Here is a map of the companies and clients mentioned in the leaked documents (source). Apparently, the entire haul (2.6 terabytes of data) has information on 214,000 shell companies spanning the period between 1970 to 2016.

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The leaked documents show links to 72 current or former heads of state and government. So far the highest-ranking public official most likely to resign as a result  of the leak is the Prime Minister of Iceland, Sigmundur Gunnlaugsson (see story here and here)

For a list of African public officials mentioned in the leaked documents see here. And I am sure we are going to hear a lot about all these rich people in developing countries.Screen Shot 2016-04-03 at 9.18.42 PM

Closer to home, the Daily Nation reports that Kenya’s Deputy Chief Justice, Kalpana Rawal, “has been linked to a string of shell companies registered in a notorious Caribbean tax haven popular with tax dodgers, dictators and drug dealers.” Justice Rawal has been dodging retirement for a while. May be after the latest revelations might find a reason to call it quits.

The ICIJ website has neat figures summarizing some of the findings from the massive data haul. Also, here is a Bloomberg story on the tax haven that is the United States. 

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Quick hits

Guide to arguing on the internet (HT Lauren).

Speaking of arguing on the internet, I like the drama that is spats between economists and other academics on their respective blogs.

The Economist presents the faces of famine in the Horn. It is beyond sad that so many people should be condemned to suffer this man-made tragedy.

Brett Keller has posts here and here on Sam Childers (a.k.a. machine gun preacher), a gun-runner into the habit of doing morally and ethnically dubious things in the name of God. Keller says that Childers is “stockpiling arms at his orphanage and has admitted to selling weapons to unnamed armed factions in Sudan, Uganda, and Rwanda.”

In Zambia (where I shall be for the elections in Sept.) the politics of citizenship and belonging are yet to be settled 50 years after independence. We recently witnessed the dangers of de-legitimizing whole sections of countries as outsiders in Cote d’Ivoire. I hope that if Sata ever wins he will not do what incumbent Ivorians did to ignite a rebellion in the northern reaches of their country. For more on this check out this great book on the Ivorian collapse. I have read it and absolutely loved it.

A muddy few months ahead for the South African government. Infighting with the ANC top brass might mean an early exit for President Zuma. With over 60% of the votes in the last election, the ANC is essentially an oversize coalition prone to internal wrangles. It will be interesting to see how Zuma weathers the storm in the midst of challenges from both COSATU and Malema.

Lastly, the current issue of the Journal of African Economies looks at the impact of higher education in Africa. The main takeaway is that the low quality of education at lower levels (primary and secondary) has meant that the biggest bang for the buck on the Continent, as far as education is concerned, only comes with higher education. Too bad that many of those that get higher education are underpaid or out of the Continent all together.

Gbagbo’s departure imminent

Laurent Gbagbo, former president of Cote d’Ivoire who refuses to step down despite losing an election, faces imminent departure. According to the BBC and the Times, his own army chief (Phillippe Mangou) and other members of the security forces have already defected from his camp. The rebel forces loyal to Alassane Ouattara, the internationally recognized president of Cote d’Ivoire, are closing in on Abidjan, the commercial capital. The rebels are already in control of Yamoussoukro, the capital, and the important port of San Pedor. Mr. Gbagbo has been illegally exporting cocoa from the port in violation of a UN embargo. Gbagbo’s home town, Gagnoa, has also fallen to the rebels.

The only question left is what should happen to Mr. Gbagbo after he leaves the Ivorian presidency. His refusal to leave office after losing an election has already led to the death of hundreds of civilians. The most gruesome example of his lack of concern for his own countrymen is when he ordered his soldiers to fire mortars at a local market in Abidjan. Dozens, most of them women traders, were killed. An estimated one million people have fled their homes. In my view Mr. Gbabgo should stand trial for crimes against humanity, IN ABIDJAN, in order to serve as an example for other African autocrats that elections have consequences.

Mr. Gbagbo should not be part of any unity government.

In addition, an inquiry should be made into who exactly funded his months long attempt at supplanting Ivorian electoral democracy. The likes of Edwardo dos Santos of Angola and Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe (who reportedly sent him weapons) should also face penalties – even if just adverse mentions – for their role in aiding and abetting a murderous autocrat.

More on this at the FP

cocoa exports and help from angola, zimbabwe keeping gbagbo afloat

Zimbabwe and Angola have been cited by UN investigators as violators of the standing arms embargo against the Ivorian despot Laurent Gbagbo. Mr. Gbagbo refused to leave office after losing to challenger Alassane Ouattara in elections last year.

Now it emerges that despite the ban on cocoa exports the Gbagbo faction in Abidjan continues in the trade. Africa confidential reports that:

Trade sources in Moscow and London report that business allies of Laurent Gbagbo have begun exporting cocoa out of the port of San Pedro in defiance of President-elect Alassane Dramane Ouattara’s export ban. Last month, the officially recognised President called for the ban, which he has extended to the end of March. He promised action against traders who violate the ban, which has the United Nations’ backing, and all the major buyers have complied. The European Union has forbidden any EU-flagged vessel from lifting cocoa. The export ban will carry on into April, we hear.

A key player in Gbagbo’s operation is Ali Lakiss, the Lebanese Managing Director of the Société Amer et Frères Cacao (SAF-Cacao), the biggest locally-owned cocoa company, who manages the exports, say European-based traders. We hear Lakiss is close to Simone Gbagbo, wife of the losing presidential candidate, who has major interests in the cocoa business. These efforts may help Gbagbo’s finances but his military position is steadily worsening

And in a somewhat positive twist, factions appear to have emerged within Gbagbo’s election-stealing coalition.

Rumours swirl around the military that the fighters who tried to storm Army Chief General Phillipe Mangou’s house on 14 March were dissidents from his own forces – rather than the pro-Ouattara ‘invisible commandos’ some had blamed. Some think dissatisfied generals could have encouraged the attack on Mangou: he criticised the army’s killing of six women in a demonstration in the Abobo suburb of Abidjan, two weeks ago. His remarks further damaged relations with the generals who are really in control.

This is good news. The international community must continue its stare-down of Gbagbo.

This should be a lesson to the kleptocratic, ideologically bankrupt and woefully inept autocrats all over the African continent that elections have consequences.

On the less sanguine side of things, and as pointed out by Africa Confidential, a military takeover by Gbagbo’s generals might be ominous for the prospects of democracy in Cote d’Ivoire. The generals might not necessarily be willing to hand over power to Ouattara.

With every day that passes the land of the late Felix Houphouet-Boigny seems to be inching closer and closer to an ineluctable civil war.

gbagbo living on borrowed time

The Central Bank of West African States has signaled the beginning of the end of Laurent Gbagbo’s attempted auto-coup. The BBC reports that the regional reserve bank has denied access to Mr. Gbagbo and his cronies. It is only a matter of time before unpaid soldiers switch alliances and pledge their allegiance to the man that can deliver the paycheck, Mr. Ouattara. Or so I hope.

Mr. Gbagbo lost Cote d’Ivoire’s presidential election to opposition challenger Alassane Ouattara but refused to step down. The international community has thrown its weight behind Mr. Ouattara as the legitimate president. Both men have named their respective cabinets and remain holed up in the commercial capital Abidjan.