What price a life

The death of 34 rioting miners killed by police at a Lonmin mine in Marikana South Africa is in stark contrast to the 17 police injured by rioting youths at Amiens in northern France.

The South African police say that their response was in self defense, yet only one officer sustained minor injuries. Video footage reveals a panicked response, with the police firing live rounds at the onrushing crowd. The police in Amiens were armed with non-lethal rubber bullets.

Ultimately, if anyone is held accountable for the deaths, it will probably be the police officers who fired the shots. But this is really an issue of poor preparation and inadequate training exacerbated by bad management. Besides those who fired the bullets, senior government officials are also responsible should be held accountable.

One of the reasons Senegal elections this year were peaceful, disproving predictions ofviolence, is the police’s professional handling of the pre-election demonstrations. This was very different their poor handling of the demonstrations only months earlier, when voters objected to President Wade’s attempt to change the constitution.


The Senegalese police’s interim training paid dividends as they showed discipline and order in the face of clear provocation. Conflict was avoided, resulting in a smooth transition of power.




South Africa deserves better, and that will only start when the people in power start being held accountable for the deaths that they cause.

More at:
Zuma announces inquiry into Marikana shooting
Peace organisation blames Zuma, ANC for Marikana killings
Liberté, égalité, fermeté?
Violence flares

Will South Africans’ anger boil over?

Stealing from the poor

The people of Senegal are charming, and poor. The GDP per capita is $1,900, placing it 190th in the world. By comparison, the GDP per capita of the U.S.A. is $47,300.

Senegal’s unemployment rate is 48% and one sees indigents everywhere.


 Although the poverty is omnipresent, wealth is also in clear evidence.

Senegal has a population of 12.6 million people, and although it is so poor, like many of the countries in Africa, cell phones are ubiquitous. There are 8.3 million cell phone users in the country, of which Orange the large international operator services 5.1 million.

In 2010, the most recent year for which Orange has published figures, it had a turnover of €45.5 billion ($55.6 billion). That’s 2½ times Senegal’s GDP. Orange’s profit after tax was €4.9 billion ($6 billion). It’s not really struggling, even in these tough economic times.

Poor people cannot afford cellphone contracts, so most people in Senegal use recharge vouchers.

The voucher shown here says that it’s valid until 31/12/2013. What the voucher does not say is that once it’s been activated, the credit will expire after 10 days, whether it’s been used or not, unless one buys more credit.

In terms of the laws of contract, that’s a unilateral change to the contract, and if there was a small claims court in Senegal, Orange would lose the case. They have changed the contract without the consent of the other party.

Effectively, a company which has a turnover 2½ times Senegal’s GDP is stealing from some of the poorest people in the world, because it can.

When Orange in Senegal were approached for a comment, they laughed. At least someone finds it amusing.