By Hannah Briggs
In a few days, 2011 will draw to a close and what a turbulent year it’s been for Sub-Saharan Africa. We’ve seen African leaders ousted from power, bloodshed and gruesome endings but also growth, innovation and a burgeoning African middle class. As we reflect on the events of the past twelve months, the Radio Netherlands Africa team brings you our favorite pick of stories from RNW reporters and correspondents across the African continent.
Google set its sights on colonising Africa in 2011 with the aim of getting as many people online as possible. RNW reporter Miriam van den Berg looked at how the shift to mobile internet usage is taking shape in Ghana – one of Africa’s most internet-savvy countries.
The story could be straight from a Hollywood movie. On Thursday February 3, a US-licensed private jet landed at Goma airport in eastern Congo. It carried four ‘businessmen’ holding 6 million US dollars for the purchase of 300 kg of gold. The money was quickly transferred to the residence of Bosco Ntaganda, the leader of the former CNDP, a rebel group incorporated into the regular Congolese army in 2009. RNW correspondent Mélanie Gouby reported this story on the role of gold in the conflict in eastern DRC.
March. She used to entertain rich men in Dutch night clubs. RNW correspondent Arne Doornebal talked to 26-year old Lenneke Meulenkamp, who now helps street children in Kampala’s Kivulu slum. An internet dating site and a performance by a Ugandan children’s choir in an Amsterdam church changed her life.
Our Congo correspondent, Alice Bafiala, paid a visit to the Ndolo military prison in Kinshasa, which reopened this year after 14 years of closure. Funded by the Dutch government, the prison is designed to be a model for the DRC but as our correspondent discovered, life for inmates is no paradise, with problems of malnutrition, lack of medicines and overcrowding continuing to surface.
Ugandan opposition party leader, Kizza Besigye, of the Forum for Democratic Change, headed up the country’s ‘walk to work protests’ earlier this year in protest against the rising cost of living. Four men accused of masterminding the protests were subsequently charged with terrorism. But as our correspondent Joseph Elunya reports, are there sufficient grounds to accuse the protestors of terrorism – particularly when the highest form of punishment for the crime is the death penalty?
By the time the Arab Spring had gained momentum, a large contestation movement was born in Senegal: the Movement of June 23. Our correspondent Bineta Diagne observed that it regroups the ‘nation’s movers and shakers’, who protested against a constitutional reform project. Alongside the movement, the youths seem determined to protect the institutions of the Republic. A number of them are associated with the activist movement, ‘Y en a marre’ (Enough is enough).
In East Africa, four failed rainy seasons destroyed pastures and crops and left millions of people starving this year in Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia.The United Nations declared the first famine in Africa for 27 years. RNW Correspondent, Kassim Mohammed travelled to the Dadaab camps on the Kenyan border to investigate how Somali refugees may be contributing to the environmental degradation of the region.
While the Dutch followed closely the preparations for the trial of Rwandan opposition leader, Victoire Ingabire in Kigale, rumours spread that members of the Rwandan opposition living in exile in Europe were being threatened by the Rwandan authorities. RNW reporter Saskia Houttuin investigated these allegations.
A rebel leader of the Lord Resistance Army walked free from a court in Uganda after being charged with 53 counts of murder and other crimes including kidnapping and robbery. As our Ugandan correspondent Arne
Doornebal reported, it was the first time ever a prosecution had been brought against one of the rebels and was seen as a major set-back for the International Crimes Division who were keen to see the trial through.
October is perhaps the month we will all remember most in 2011 – the month that former Libyan dictator, Muammar Gadaffi was killed following the capture of his hometown of Sirte. We sent three of our correspondents onto the streets of Chad, Niger and Zimbabwe to capture people’s reactions to the news of Gaddafi’s death. It remains to be seen whether we will see similar uprisings on the African continent in 2012.
Just days ago, Shell reported one of the worst Nigerian oil spills in a decade, with an estimated 40,000 barrels of crude oil thought to have been spilled off the coast of the Niger Delta. This follows two major oil spills in the Bodo region of Nigeria in 2008. In November, RNW reporter, Hélène Michaud travelled to Nigeria to ask who is taking responsibility for the spills and what the impact has been on rural fishing communities along the Niger Delta.
2011 was also the year of elections in Africa. In the Ivory Coast twelve months ago, thousands of people were killed following the country’s presidential elections, in which Laurent Gbagbo claimed victory and refused to hand over power. Gbagbo was subsequently arrested in April and flown to the International Criminal Court(ICC) in the Hague last month, where he goes on trial for several charges including crimes against humanity. The turnout in this year’s presidential elections was very low and as our correspondent Selay Marius Kouassi reports, many Ivorians lacking the necessary identity documents were excluded from the electoral process.
In nearby Liberia,thousands of Liberians went to the polls to elect a president,but there was no clear cut winner during the first round of voting.A run-off election followed ,but the main opposition party, the Congress for Democratic Change(CDC) boy-cutted the run-off leaving only incumbent,Ellen Johnson Sirleaf on the ballot box.She was declared the winner by the country’s Electoral Commission late this year.