Politics
Photo illustration by Aaron Leaf

Returning Sani Abacha's $321 Million is a Good Start But Where's the Rest?

How much more wealth belonging to African people is hiding in the web of secretive international financial institutions

The secretive mountain nation of Switzerland, long known as a receptacle for Nazi gold and other ill-gotten loot, has agreed to return $321 million dollars from accounts related to former Nigerian military leader Sani Abacha.


The money was confiscated by a Swiss court in late 2014 in a procedure by Geneva's public prosecutor against Sani Abacha's son, Abba Abacha. The Swiss government states: "In accordance with policy on repayment of national assets taken illegally, Switzerland has agreed with Nigeria and the World Bank to return nearly US$321 for the benefit of the Nigerian people."

According to Agence France Press, Military ruler Abacha, in power from 1993 until his death in 1998, is suspected to have embezzled $2.2 billion from Nigeria's central bank in what the United States has called "brazen acts of kleptocracy".

So where's the rest of it? Not just from Abacha or other corrupt African leaders but also the foreigners, the tax cheats and other neo-imperialists who extract wealth from the continent and its people without offering anything in return. The people who've systematically underdeveloped and destroyed, looted and defiled the continent for centuries.

According to the UN Economic Commission on Africa, "over the last 50 years, Africa is estimated to have lost in excess of $1 trillion in illicit financial flows." This number, about $50 billion a year, is roughly equivalent to all of the official development assistance to the continent during the same timeframe. And it's actually a conservative estimate seeing as it doesn't take into account more secretive flows of money out of Africa like the "proceeds of bribery and trafficking of drugs, people and firearms."

What could 1 trillion dollars of stolen money do for people? It represents half a century of crumbling or non-existent infrastructure—roads, hospitals, schools, sewer and lights—that people have been doing their best to work around. Think of what the famous can-do spirit of ordinary Lagosians could have accomplished with 50 years of running water, trains and electricity.

With the recent trend of big financial leaks like with the Panama Papers and the more recent Paradise Papers the general public is getting a better idea of how the world's elite stash their money, both "legitimate" and "illegitimate." To most of us it feels like we're just scratching the surface but here's hoping it's a sign of things to come.

To the looters out there, we see you.

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Photo courtesy of 1-54/SUTTON.

1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair Landing in Marrakech is 2018's Most Anticipated Art Event

The leading art fair dedicated to contemporary African art makes its mark on the continent for the first time this weekend.

This weekend, 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair, the leading art fair devoted to contemporary African art, will debut in Marrakech, Morocco. The announcement of the Fair's expansion to the continent last year has left aficionados of contemporary African art in eager anticipation of this "homecoming"—this author included.

1-54 debuted in London in 2013. Although an expansion to New York followed, a presence on the continent was always part of the long-term vision of the founder Touria El Glaoui. Finally, the time has now arrived.

Here are five reasons why we're looking forward to 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair Marrakech.

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This Olympic Figure Skater Blew Us Away Again By Pulling Off a Costume Change Mid-Routine

First Maé-Bérénice Méité performed to Beyoncé, now she's effortlessly slaying outfit changes mid-routine. What can't she do?

French-Congolese and Ivorian figure skater, Maé-Bérénice Méité, has pretty much been the life of the Winter Olympic figure skating competition.

Earlier this month, the athlete had the internet shook when she performed her opening routine to two Beyoncé songs. Now she's back with even more black girl magic.

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Video still via YouTube.

10 Stand Out Moments From Janelle Monáe's Powerful Music Videos

Janelle Monae came back making a statement—and we're just as obsessed as you are.

We've got to talk about Janelle Monáe.

Over the past half decade, she's embarked on a profound journey that's solidified her as an artist, creator and activist who isn't afraid to shoot down the stars—or shoot with them.

After having roles in Hidden Figures and Moonlight—two Oscar nominated movies where one won an Oscar, a stellar speech at the Grammy's and a stunning presence at the Black Panther red carpet, she's ready to grace us with "Dirty Computer," the latest musical venture in her Afrofuturistic saga.

To whet our appetites before the album, which is set to release on April 27, Janelle dropped not one but two music videos yesterday. Both are distinctly entertaining: one is a black, intersectional feminist anthem and the other a psychedelic soundtrack of sexual fluidity.

Watch both, then read some of the highlights we gathered from the hypnotizing visuals and powerful wordplay.

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