business Archives – Page 9 of 9

Jenne-Jeno, one of the best-known archaeological sites in sub-Saharan Africa, spreads over several acres of rutted fields near the present city of Djenne in central Mali. The ruts are partly caused by erosion, but they’re also scars from decades of digging, by archaeologists in search of history and looters looking for art to sell.

When I was there last fall, a few archaeology students were in evidence. These days, with Mali in the throes of political chaos, it’s unlikely that anyone is doing much work at all at the site, though history and art are visible everywhere. Ancient pottery shards litter the ground. Here and there the mouths of large clay urns, of a kind once used for food storage or human burial, emerge from the earth’s surface, the vessels themselves still submerged.

The image of an abandoned battlefield comes to mind, but that’s only half-accurate. Physical assaults on Jenne-Jeno may be, at least temporarily, in abeyance. But ethical battles surrounding the ownership of, and right to control and dispose of, art from the past rage on in Africa, as in other parts of the world.

A few weeks ago the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, announced the acquisition of an American private collection of 32 exquisite bronze and ivory sculptures produced in what is now Nigeria between the 13th and 16th centuries. Within days the Nigerian National Commission for Museums and Monuments claimed, via an Internet statement, that the objects had been pillaged by the British military in the late 19th century and should be given back.

More chilling were reports last month of cultural property being destroyed in Timbuktu, Mali, some 200 miles north of Djenne. Islamist groups, affiliated with Al Qaeda, have singled out Sufism, a moderate, mystical form of Islam widespread in Mali, for attack. In Timbuktu, with its Koranic schools and manuscript libraries, they have begun leveling the tombs of Sufi saints, objects of popular devotion.

In short, the wars over art as cultural property take many forms: material, political and ideological. On the surface the dynamics may seem clear cut, the good guys and bad guys easy to identify. In reality the conflicts are multifaceted, questions of innocence and guilt often — though not always — hard to nail down. In many accounts Africa is presented as the acted-upon party to the drama, the loser in the heritage fight, though such is not necessarily the case, and it certainly doesn’t have to be, and won’t be if we acknowledge Africa as the determining voice in every conversation.

At least some of the complications surrounding the story of art found and lost has played out at Jenne-Jeno over the past 35 years. In 1977 the American archaeologists Roderick and Susan McIntosh, husband and wife at the time, began excavating the site and gradually revealed the traces of a sizable settlement. Its origins dated to the third century B.C., but by A.D. 450 it had produced a complex urban society, one that engaged in long-distance trade. The long-held assumption was that both developments came to Africa with the Arab arrival in the seventh and eighth centuries A.D. With new knowledge the continent’s past suddenly deepened.

And the history of its art was expanded. In the upper strata of the excavation at Jenne-Jeno and at the many related neighboring sites in the Inner Niger Delta archaeologists found terra-cotta sculptures of human and animal figures: men riding horses or entwined by serpents, figures sitting or kneeling, their bodies covered with what looked like blisters or welts.

The revelation was finding the sculptures in situ, in their historical context, though the figures themselves were of a familiar type. Numbers of similar terra-cotta sculptures had already been showing up for sale, as tourist souvenirs in Africa and as fine-art collectibles in the West.

Imperiled art

By the late 1960s the supply of wood sculptures that had defined the field for most collectors was growing thin. Malian terra-cottas became the new available “classical“ African art to collect.

To meet the demand Malian diggers, or teams of diggers, in the hire of middleman dealers, were trenching sites in the Jenne-Jeno area and pulling figures out of the ground, in the process destroying the historical record. The workers were paid a pittance for their labor, but in the 1970s Mali was gripped by famine; any money was better than none. The objects were subsequently sent out of Africa, to Western dealers and collectors, increasing in cash value as they went.

Technically, unauthorized trade in such art had been illegal since 1970, when Unesco drew up its Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property. But the digging went on, and getting art out of the country — through porous borders, with a payment of bribes — was (and still is) easy.

Certain archaeologists, the McIntoshes among them, were aghast at the ruinous plundering and took action. They were convinced that any Western attention paid to Malian antiquities increased the market value and encouraged looting. With this in mind they proposed an information blackout on any and all “orphaned“ Inland Niger Delta objects, meaning any that had not been scientifically excavated — most of those in circulation.

They urged dealers abroad not to sell such objects, collectors not to buy them, museums not to exhibit them, art historians not to publish images of them or write about them, certainly not in seductively aesthetic terms. The main objective was to protect objects that were still in the ground by drawing attention away from this art. Noncompliance with their strictures was punished by public shaming, with its implied threat of professional ostracism.

A hard line had been drawn. On the other side of it stood the dealers, collectors and museum personnel, whose livelihood and identity depended on a continuous flow of art, wherever it came from. Also on that side, though ambivalently aligned with it, were art historians, who didn’t need to own objects but did require some contact with them in order to learn how they were made and to learn how to distinguish genuine ones from fakes. (A large percentage of Jenne-Jeno pieces on the market were, and are, fakes.)

Unsurprisingly, given the negative charge surrounding all but a limited number of sculptures, art historians began to turn their attention to theory-based critical studies. Today, decades later, the standoff among the various factions still, to some extent, holds. Archaeologists have gained a reputation as fanatical heroes, ethics geeks. And, it turns out, their anti-market position has been backed up with laws, a series of national and international treaties that limit the market and monitor art’s movements.

The United States, for example, banned the import of unauthorized Malian antiquities. The government of Nigeria vigilantly tracks and attempts to reclaim what is considered of pilfered heritage. This includes Benin material and also ancient terra cottas that go by the name of Nok. Found in northern Nigeria, these sculptures date as far back as 800 B.C. They appeared in great numbers on the black market in the 1990s. Little work has yet been done on them.

The antiquities wars were not easy on dealers, collectors and museum administrators. Not only were their jobs threatened and acquisitive passions blocked, but they acquired unfortunate reputations. Once esteemed as cultural benefactors, they came to be seen, in some quarters, as hoarders and thieves.

Where does Africa itself stand in all of this? Is it merely the battleground on which science and commerce clash, a passive stretch of turf to be either righteously conserved or carved up and parceled out? Or is it — could it be — an active, gainful partner in cultural exchange?

It could. Art-alert countries like Nigeria and Mali have stockpiles of objects in storage. Selections of them could be leased out to Western institutions, or even swapped for temporary loans of Western art. The idea that Africa would not be receptive to such exchanges is wrong. It has fine museums (in Bamako, in Lagos), impressive private collections (one is documented in Sylvester Okwunodu Ogbechie’s superb book “Making History: African Collectors and the Canon of African Art”), and at least a few sharp critics.

There’s no reason to think that concepts of art in Africa and the West — I use these generalities for convenience only — have to jibe. But clearly a sense of the complex value of patrimony is strong and can be pushed further. The time is long past due to be compiling comprehensive digital databases not just of art from Africa, but also of art that’s still there. Not only would this be an invaluable, promotional resource for international study, it would also be a lasting record of types of ephemeral art, or of things too fragile to move, or of objects that have, in the event of political instability, a good chance of being lost.

There are many such imperiled objects today in northern Mali, and especially in Timbuktu. In July several tombs of Sufi saints were pickaxed and pounded to rubble by Al Qaeda-linked Islamist groups. These packed-earth structures were distinguished far more by their sanctity than by their beauty and, the hope is, can be rebuilt.

Irreplaceable, however, are the many thousands of manuscripts, including handwritten documents in Arabic and African languages dating back to the 10th century, that are housed in Timbuktu’s libraries. Together with manuscripts still in private hands in the city, they constitute one of the continent’s great historical treasures.

The fear is that if the Islamists decide that the libraries are in some way religiously offensive, they will harm them irrevocably, possibly setting aside Koranic manuscripts and burning the rest. And there is an added fear that if the West should make a public cause of the libraries and their contents, that would only prove an incentive to their destruction.

Can that be the reason that outcry from the West on behalf of the libraries has thus far been subdued? I doubt that. Compared to the attention given to cultural crises in Europe or Asia, whatever happens in Africa gets scant press. An elbow stuck through a Picasso is a big deal; the possible destruction of books we’ve never seen, written in languages we don’t know, with words from a religion many don’t trust, isn’t.

After my autumn visit to Jenne-Jeno I went on to the city of Mopti, about 50 miles to the north, where a local dealer in beads and antiquities showed me his choicest wares. There were three sculptures, each small enough to fit in the palm of my hand. Two were terra-cotta heads. One had a melancholy look, the other was fierce, scowling, a combatant. Genuine Nok, the dealer assured me, though naturally I had my doubts. And anyway I couldn’t even think of buying: Nok is contraband.

The third piece was stone, and a mystery. It looked rubbed into shape rather than carved, like a melting, featureless Willendorf Venus. Its flawless smooth surface felt calming to the hand. I couldn’t place it, relate it to any art I recognized, African or otherwise. Did he know where it came from? No. Or who might have made it? No. Its age? Don’t know. Price? Not for sale. Just beautiful. Yes.

Holland Cotter
The New York Times

The film Les Statues meurent aussi was a landmark work on African art history and politics. — Tierno S. Bah

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Ce businessman sud-africain défraie la chronique pour avoir signé un contrat jugé opaque avec les autorités guinéennes. Mais qui est-il vraiment ?

Après son arrivée au pouvoir, en novembre 2010, le président guinéen, Alpha Condé, a fait appel à des experts internationaux pour réformer le secteur minier (80 % des recettes publiques) et épauler l’État dans les négociations avec les grands groupes. Il a contacté le milliardaire américain George Soros, qui a mobilisé ses réseaux d’avocats et associatifs, mais aussi ses contacts sud-africains, notamment au sein du Congrès national africain (ANC). Forts de leur expérience minière, plusieurs hommes d’affaires de la nation Arc-en-Ciel ont ainsi débarqué à Conakry.

Walter Hennig est l’un d’entre eux. Il a été recommandé par Tokyo Sexwale, figure charismatique de la lutte contre l’apartheid, actuel ministre sud-africain de l’Habitat, mais aussi redoutable chef d’entreprise, qui a fondé et développé le groupe Mvelaphanda. Walter Hennig a notamment dirigé sa filiale d’importation de matériels miniers, Mvelaphanda Logistics, ainsi que Mvelaphanda Industrial Projects, dévolu à l’ingénierie. Lui et Tokyo Sexwale se sont aussi associés pour créer le fonds African Global Capital, détenu par leurs groupes respectifs Palladino Capital et Mvelaphanda, et qui investit dans les projets extractifs en Afrique. L’homme d’affaires a enfin collaboré avec Khulubuse Zuma, neveu du président Jacob Zuma, qui s’est fait connaître notamment par ses acquisitions de permis pétroliers dans la région du lac Albert, en RD Congo.

Les activités du discret Walter Hennig déchaînent aujourd’hui les passions en Guinée. Début juin, le Sunday Times a révélé le contrat de prêt à Conakry de 17 millions d’euros, datant d’avril 2011, que Palladino Capital, immatriculé aux îles Vierges britanniques, a signé avec les ministres guinéens des Mines et de l’Économie. D’après l’hebdomadaire britannique, ce contrat permettrait au groupe sud-africain, en cas de non-remboursement, de devenir propriétaire de 30 % de la Société guinéenne du patrimoine minier (Soguipami), qui, à terme, doit détenir 15 % de participation dans tous les projets miniers du pays (soit une valeur de plus de 8 milliards d’euros).


Si, depuis, l’existence d’une telle clause a été vigoureusement démentie par le ministre des Mines, Mohamed Lamine Fofana, et par Palladino Capital, cette affaire a renforcé les inquiétudes sur la gestion du secteur minier guinéen. Les autorités ont signé ce contrat de prêt sans le rendre public, alors qu’elles prônaient plus de transparence. Si Palladino Capital assure que « les intérêts de la République de Guinée ont été protégés », les contreparties obtenues par les Sud-Africains en échange de ce prêt restent obscures. La destination des 17 millions d’euros est aussi un mystère, même si, lors de sa visite en France début juillet, Alpha Condé a assuré que l’État allait les rembourser.

Par ailleurs, une seconde société appartenant à Walter Hennig, Floras Bell, a aussi été en discussion avec les autorités guinéennes en vue d’un accord d’accompagnement de la Soguipami, en échange d’options d’achat au sein de ses filiales. On ne sait pas jusqu’où sont allées les négociations… Pour l’avocat français Christophe Asselineau, qui connaît Walter Hennig, « ce déchaînement médiatique pourrait aussi être dû à une manoeuvre d’entreprises minières rivales. Le fait qu’une société privée soit associée à l’examen des conventions minières signées précédemment a pu déplaire à certains ».

Hennig, origine namibienne

Contacté via son agent sud-africain Chris Vick, ancien conseiller spécial de Tokyo Sexwale, Walter Hennig n’a pas souhaité répondre à Jeune Afrique. Des dirigeants subsahariens familiers du milieu minier sud-africain indiquent qu’il serait d’origine namibienne, issu d’une famille aisée active dans les secteurs du diamant et de l’agriculture. Par le passé, il a notamment travaillé avec la firme sud-africaine diamantifère Trans Hex dans le montage de projets en Angola. À l’instar d’autres hommes d’affaires sud-africains blancs, il est critiqué pour avoir bénéficié des politiques du Black Economic Empowerment en s’associant avec des figures noires influentes proches de l’ANC, comme Tokyo Sexwale, Khulubuze Zuma ou Cyril Ramaphosa.

Christophe Le Bec
Jeune Afrique Economie

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My comments on Robert Maginnis article about Obama, Africa and Guinea

Robert Maginnis

Given Robert Magannis credentials and professional affiliation, this article logically reflects the views of the conservative Republican side of American politics. In it, the author seeks to expose further the $25 million Paladino loan. By the same token, the paper reiterates opposition to President Obama’s Democratic Administration policies or projects, domestically and abroad.
Mr. Magannis claims that Obama Administration’s Guinea Mining Deal Hurts American Businesses
To be sure, in spite of his partisan approach, Mr. Maginnis has a few facts correct. Thus, he states that, under President Alpha Condé, Guinea goes on with business as usual, specifically in the following areas:

  • Security force abuses, including killings
  • Concentration of power in the executive and rule by decree
  • Weak implementation of the rule of law
  • Rising ethnic tensions
  • Heightening regional insecurity as a hub for transnational narcotics trade

Unfortunately, the rest of the article fires indiscriminately at the Democratic administration. In so doing, it strings together unrelated or contradictory points. As a result, the author’s arguments lack cohesion. I would like to highlight some of those mistakes here.

  1. The article compares the former (Mahmoud Thiam) and current (Mohamed Fofana) ministers of mining, at the expense of the latter on accounts of deceit and corruption. Actually, the Guinean media have leveled embezzlement charges against Mr. Thiam, who was appointed Capt. Moussa Dadis Camara and confirmed by Gen. Sekouba Konaté
  2. Robert Maginnis quotes minister Thiam as saying that Alpha Condé’s on, Mohamed, is actively engaged in the kickback and bribery schemes of his father. That’s not surprising at all. But the question is: What did Mr. Thiam do in the wake of the September 28, 2009 massacre ? He stayed put and left the government only when Alpha Condé didn’t reappoint him. Bottom line: ministers Thiam and Fofana are just specimen of the same breed of techno-bureaucrats predators of the Guinean economy.
  3. Restoration of the privileged U.S. trade partner status, to Guinea, under African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), is a debatable decision. For thecountrycannotmeetAGOA’s production quality standards. Furthermore,thatdecisionwas based on three criteria that US officials, arbitrarily and erroneously, deemed Guinea has met:
    1. Hosting free and fair elections
    2. Establishment of the rule of law
    3. Combating corruption. I note that Robert Maginnis seems to accept the inclusion of Guinea in the AGOA program, even though he denounces that Conakry has failed to satisfy those conditions.
  4. Mr. Maginnis asserts that “Guinea’s 2010 election was largely free and fair…”
    Wrong, the 2010 presidential election in Guinea was neither free nor fair. It was violent —more women rapes occurred— and rigged through and through. The inauguration of the so-called “Professor” Alpha Condé ushered in a usurper and a perjurer.
    In his campaign speeches he demagogically portrayed himself as a combination of Mandela and Obama. Nothing could be further from the truth. For since taking office, Mr. Condé has thrown dozens of citizens (civilians and military) in jail, where the suspects were tortured. When he visited President Obama at the White House in August last year, he got an earful from his host. He certainly didn’t like to be reminded that “Africa does not need strong men; instead, Africa needs strong institutions.” Indeed.
  5. Like most foreign journalists, Mr. Maginnis sees Africa as a primary sector economy providing raw extractive products in mining, forestry and industrial crops. The local production of food and energy, the management of water and public health, the building of modern communications networks and transportation systems have low or no priority. That’s plain wrong.
  6. Last but not the least, when the Guinea junta committed the September 2009 massacre, President Obama and Secretary Clinton reacted swiftly and appropriately. Horrified by the crimes, and taking off temporarily the diplomatic gloves, Hillary Clinton vowed that the US would take action against the military thugs. And Barack Obama denounced Guinea’s rampant corruption in his 2011 State of the Union speech.
    Such actions speak louder than words. In my view , they stand as proactive diplomacy and constructive engagement.

Tierno S. Bah

Bob Maginnis serves as the Senior Fellow for National Security at Family Research Council (FRC). He also served with FRC from 1993 to 2002, rising from analyst to the Vice President for Policy. Mr. Maginnis is a retired Army lieutenant colonel, a national security and foreign affairs analyst for radio and television, a columnist for Human Events and a senior strategist with the U.S. Army. He testified before the Pentagon’s 1993 Military Working Group that worked on the homosexual issue, provided considerable background material at the group’s request, and served as a personal advisor to the group’s senior member, Army Lt. Gen. John Otjen. Simultaneously, he served on the Army Chief of Staff’s study group considering the homosexual issue.

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Cesaria Evora (1941-2011)

Le monde de la musique est en deuil. Cesaria Evora, la célèbre artiste cap-verdienne surnommée « la diva aux pieds nus » est décédée ce samedi à l’âge de 70 ans, selon le journal portugais Jornal de Noticias. Une information qui vient d’être confirmée de source officielle.

D’après l’agence LUSA, Cesaria Evora avait été admise il y a quelques jours à l’hôpital Baptista de Sousa à Mindelo, sur l’île de Sao Vicente, en raison d’une « insuffisance respiratoire » et une « tension cardiaque élevée ». Ces dernières années, elle avait subi plusieurs interventions chirurgicales, dont une opération à coeur ouvert en 2010.

Cesaria Evora avait mis fin à sa carrière en septembre dernier suite à ses graves ennuis de santé. A l’époque elle avait confié au Monde qu’elle souhaitait rentrer chez elle au plus vite: « Je n’ai pas de force, pas d’énergie ». Pourtant elle aurait « voulu donner encore du plaisir à ceux qui [l]’ont suivie depuis si longtemps », avait-t-elle déclaré. Cesaria Evora était donc au repos depuis deux mois à Mindelo, sa ville natale.


La chanteuse avait acquis une renommée internationale à l’âge de 50 ans grâce à la chanson « Sodade » en 1992, qui figure sur son troisième album « Miss Perfumado ». Onze ans plus tard, elle recevait un Grammy Award aux Etats-Unis et une Victoire de la Musique en France pour son album « Voz d’Amor ».

Yamore (avec Salif Keita)

Cesaria Evora : une « voix envoûtante », des « rythmes chaloupés » et une « poésie rare »

Le ministre de la Culture Frédéric Mitterrand a évoqué sur BFM TV « un génie musical » qui laisse une « trace ineffaçable ». Jack Lang, qui a occupé ce poste par le passé, a également rendu hommage Cesaria Evora, à travers un communiqué, évoquant « une sorte d’icône incarnant la libération culturelle dans les pays du sud »: « La disparition de la divine Cesaria Evora bouleversera le coeur de tous ceux qui ont découvert par la magie de son art la beauté de la musique cap-verdienne qu’elle a su admirablement métamorphoser », a-t-il écrit. Jack Lang a également rappelé que le festival de Bourges avait contribué à faire connaître la chanteuse auprès du public dans les années 1980 et que « sa voix très prégnante et envoûtante, ses rythmes chaloupés, sa poésie rare et sa personne généreuse ont touché des millions d’amoureux de la musique ».

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Président Alpha Condé, Conakry, Oct. 2011

Dieu seul sait ce que le prêtre qui a élevé Alpha Condé a fait avec lui. En effet, nous savons tous que depuis longtemps l’Eglise est devenue l’asile des pédophiles. Le déséquilibre social d’Alpha Condé, ses contradictions, son acharnement contre une catégorie de Guinéens fondé sur leur appartenance ethnique, son comportement instable, asocial et impulsif, dénotant une absence apparente de sens moral se résument en un seul mot: psychopathie.

Tout récemment, irrespectueux, le Président guinéen Alpha Condé disait à la TV que:

“Même la plus belle femme du monde ne peut donner que ce qu’elle a”.

Il s’agit là des termes de banlieue parisienne qui ne sont pas du vocabulaire d’un adulte respectable en Guinée.

Après avoir échoué dans son aventure du riz du changement (il a communisé le secteur croyant faire mal aux commerçants peuls), il revient à ceux qu’il continue à diffamer et qu’il veut détruire à tout prix. C’est ainsi qu’il a décidé le 12 avril 2012 à faire publiquement appel aux commerçants pour qu’ils reprennent les choses en main.

Toute la Guinée le sait, Lansana Conté avait fait cette expérience et échoué. Pourquoi Alpha Condé a-t-il utilisé les maigres ressources financières qu’il a trouvées pour la même chose avec les mêmes acteurs ?

Complexé et haineux qu’il est, Alpha Condé, même en faisant appel à ces hommes d’affaires sans lesquels le pays plongera de plus en plus dans la misère, il les insulte. Prochainement,

« L’État n’importera pas de riz. … Les commerçants peuvent revendre et distribuer le riz aux populations à condition qu’ils ne fassent pas de trafic de drogue ni de faux billets »,

dit-il dans son message d’appel aux commerçants pour une rencontre avec eux ce samedi 16 avril 2011 au palais du peuple (Lire).

Alpha Condé n’est pas de bonne foi et sa haine des peuls riches en général est immesurable. Il veut les détruire, même au risque de rendre toute la Guinée malheureuse.

Quand est-ce qu’un seul commerçant a-t-il été mis en cause dans le trafic de drogue ou de faux billets en Guinée ? Sous son impulsion, le CNDD a mené des enquêtes dans la transparence pour démasquer les narcotrafiquants tellement qu’Alpha Condé croyait les trouver dans les boutiques peules.

Ce sont des hauts cadres de l’Etat et de l’armée en majorité soussous (famille de Conté) et malinkés qui sont découverts dans ce trafic en Guinée. C’est sous la protection de l’armée et de la police que des avions colombiens déchargeaient de la cocaïne dans notre pays, à Conakry, Faranah et à Boké. Pas de Fouta, pas un seul homme d’affaires peul dans le réseau.

Alpha Condé tend la main à Mathurin Bangoura, M’Bemba Bangoura, Lansana Kouyaté dont le ministre de l’intérieur Bo Keita a été impliqué dans ce trafic et à sa connaissance (son gouvernement se servira de l’argent de la drogue). Pourquoi ce Monsieur continue-t-il d’accuser les autres de ce que son entourage direct est coupable ? Comment un soi-disant Professeur en droit peut-il accuser et diffamer sans fournir aucune preuve ? Le syndicat des commerçants devrait porter plainte contre le premier magistrat du pays pour diffamation et atteinte à leur honneur, même si la plainte n’aboutira pas. Le monde le saura et se fera une image du personnage raté qui est appelé Président en Guinée.

Les hommes d’affaires doivent se tenir en garde et ne pas tomber dans les filets de ce président vulgaire et haineux. Il continue à insinuer qu’ils sont impliqués dans le trafic de drogue, un délit pour lequel il pourrait les faire poursuivre partout dans le monde si on lui donne la possibilité de prétendre fournir une preuve contre eux. En acceptant de revenir dans ce marché, ils ramènent leur argent dont il a besoin et exposent leurs magasins aux descentes de Tiégboro qui peut transporter de la drogue dans leurs magasins et inviter la RTG à filmer les preuves. Ainsi, après l’argent des cambistes, c’est celui des grands commerçants qui sera confisqué par le régime Alpha en quête de devises.

Rappelez vous que l’armé garde encore les 7 tonnes de cocaïnes pour lesquelles Pivi, Saa Alfonse et Tiégboro ont fait tuer 45 policiers en juin 2008.

Namory Condé

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