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Iranian bidder sparks halt to $2 bln Uganda dam project


Reuters Africa

September 7, 2012

By Elias Biryabarema

KAMPALA, Sept 7 (Reuters) – Uganda has halted plans to develop a $2.2 billion hydropower dam after objections were raised over the short-listing of an Iranian company in potential contravention of international sanctions, a procurement official said on Friday.

Billed as one of East Africa‘s largest infrastructure projects, construction of the 700 MW Karuma dam on the Nile river was expected to begin by the end of this year aimed at overhauling the east African nation’s stuttering energy supply.

“We received petitions by a whistleblower and representatives of other companies which were left out who said one of the firms that prequalified was an Iranian (firm),” said Vincent Mugaba, spokesperson for Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets Authority (PPDA).

“The Iranian company would not have the capacity to conduct international trade in light of sanctions imposed on Iran so we have halted the whole procurement process until we complete an investigation into the matter,” Mugaba said.

Washington and Europe have imposed sanctions on Tehran over its disputed nuclear programme. Some of the sanctions make it difficult for other countries to trade with Iran.

Mugaba said PPDA had requested the energy ministry, which is managing Karuma’s procurement process, to explain why it had overlooked the impact of sanctions on the Iranian company, Perlite Construction.

“What happened was that when we prequalified the Iranian company the U.S. sanctions had not come into effect but of course we realise that the company might have problems executing the contract if its bid was to be successful,” Yusuf Bukenya-Matovu, a public relations officer at the energy ministry, told Reuters.

“Uganda isn’t bound to respect U.S. unilateral sanctions but nevertheless there are implications. Perhaps there would be problems if the Iranian firm were to win but we’ll cooperate with the PPDA investigation,” he said.

LATEST DELAY

The Karuma dam is expected to more than double the country’s total power output. The state-run Electricity Regulatory Authority says Uganda produces a total of 550 MW while power demand at peaks stands at about 480 MW.

The snag was the latest to stall progress on Karuma, which the government is banking on to help prevent persistent power outages that have put a strain on the economy and discouraged investors from pouring more money into the oil-rich country.

Several years ago, a Norwegian investor that had expressed interest pulled out because it failed to secure funding for the project.

The Ugandan government wants to develop Karuma as a public-private project with the private investor as lead financier.

Uganda is keen to woo investment in its cash-starved energy sector to rapidly increase its generation capacity and in October plans to start pegging power tariffs to changes in inflation, international fuel prices and the exchange rate to make the sector more attractive.

Energy officials say the internal rate of return for energy projects in Uganda is fairly attractive at between 15-18 percent and higher than South Africa’s 12-14 percent, although the country has a higher risk perception.

Commercial hydrocarbon deposits were discovered along the Albertine rift basin along its border with the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2006 and reserves are estimated at 2.5 billion barrels. (Editing by Yara Bayoumy and Jason Neely)

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Thomson Reuters journalists are subject to an Editorial Handbook which requires fair presentation and disclosure of relevant interests.

Spies in Africa’s Skies: New Contractors for the Pentagon


CorpWatch.org

By Patrap Chatterjee

June 18th, 2012

In 1994, a Turkish couple named Fatih and Emren Ozmen, bought up a nondescript company named Sierra Nevada Corporation in the small town of Sparks, just outside of Reno, Nevada.

Just over a decade later, on the other side of the country, in Eatontown, New JerseyScott Crockett and David Lewis, two African-American communications officers who were deployed with the U.S. Army in Afghanistan and Iraq, started up a company called R-4, Inc.

Today these two companies are now at the forefront of the covert war in Africa, where they operate small Swiss aircraft to spy on behalf of the U.S. Special Operations Command. They help support secret missions all over the continent, working most closely with AfriCom, the U.S. command for Africa, run out of Stuttgart, Germany.

The Ozmens company and R-4 work for Operation Tusker Sand, run out of Entebbe, Uganda. A similar mission using private pilots named Operation Creek Sand is run out of Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso.

A Washington Post series by Craig Whitlock, with help from ace researcher Julie Tate, has unmasked some of the key details of the African spying operation that includes covert U.S. bases in Arba Minch, Ethiopia; Camp Lemmonier, Djibouti; Nouakchott, Mauritania; Manda Bay, Kenya; Nzara, South Sudan and Victoria, Seychelles.

The Ozmens have grown from a 20 person operation in 1994 to a 2,100 employee outfit today. Their pilots fly Pilatus PC-12s, small Swiss turboprop planes which are “(e)quipped with hidden sensors that can record full-motion video, track infrared heat patterns, and vacuum up radio and cellphone signals, the planes refuel on isolated airstrips favored by African bush pilots, extending their effective flight range by thousands of miles,” according to the Washington Post.

The newspaper says that contractors have been hired to fly as much as 150 hours a month. Also outsourced to the private sector were sensor operators, intelligence analysts, mechanics and linguists. (One of the companies that supplied linguists to the Pentagon in Africa was Mission Essential Personnel)

The road to growth for the Ozmens might have something to do with the fact that they are close friends with Jim Gibbons, the former governor of Nevada, and his wife Dawn Gibbons, whom they took on a holiday in Turkey in 2000. Gibbons was a member of the U.S. Congress at the time and the Las Vegas Review Journal notes that in mid-2004 “he helped Sierra Nevada get a $2 million no-bid federal contract for helicopter landing technology. Throughout that year, the company was paying Dawn Gibbons $2,500 a month as a public relations consultant.” That year the Ozmens company won $42 million in Pentagon contracts.

In 2007, when Gibbons became governor, the federal government investigated how the Ozmens won their classified Pentagon contracts. Dawn Gibbons was unapologetic. “Sierra Nevada got a bargain for the work I did. … Believe me, they got their money’s worth,” she told the Associated Press.

What was their company selling at the time? A system called Force 4 which “offers real-time video, individual emergency response tracking, two-way voice and message traffic with command center interaction for terrorism preparedness and response.”

Today Sierra Nevada is one of the key contractors in the drone war around the world. They sell Tactilink, a voice and data relay system for drones, they support Gorgon Stare, a multi-camera video suite touted for its ability to spy on whole cities at once and they make landing gear for the Predator drones that the Central Intelligence Agency uses in Pakistan and Yemen to kill “terrorists” from the sky.

The Pentagon and the CIA have long used private contractors for covert wars. Air America and Air Asia were the front companies used to bomb Cambodia and Laos for president Lyndon Johnson. Bigger, more established companies, like Northrop Grumman were used to spy in Colombia under president Bill Clinton

So it seems only appropriate that the next major Democratic president, Barack Obama, would adopt the same strategy of clandestine private contractors like Sierra Nevada and R4 for covert wars, this time in Africa.

Nigeria: Ogoni Leader Welcomes U.S. Supreme Court Decision on Shell Case


Voice of America

James Butty

October 18, 2011

The president of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People [MOSOP] said his group welcomes the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to hear a dispute between the Ogoni people and Royal Dutch Shell Oil Company.

The high court justices agreed Monday to hear a federal appeal by a group of Nigerians who alleged that shell was complicit in torture, wrongful deaths and other human rights abuses committed by Nigerian authorities against environmental campaigners during the 1990s.

MOSOP President Ledum Mitee said the decision sends the right message that Shell must be held to account.

“It is quite a refreshing news coming at this time, and I think it sends the right message that clearly, even though there have been delays in getting there, but at least we can see light at the end of the tunnel that someday Shell will be held to account,” he said…Read more.

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