Sunday, June 30, 2013

Ahia Mgbede: FIFA Confederations Cup Brazil 2013 Final Scene

Neymar of Brazil scores his team's second goal to make the score 2-0 during the FIFA Confederations Cup Brazil 2013 Final match between Brazil and Spain at Maracana on June 30, 2013 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Scott Heavey/Getty Images)

The Brazil and Spain players argue following a challenge by Alvaro Arbeloa of Spain on Neymar of Brazil during the FIFA Confederations Cup Brazil 2013 Final match between Brazil and Spain at Maracana on June 30, 2013 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Scott Heavey/Getty Images)

Neymar of Brazil reacts during the FIFA Confederations Cup Brazil 2013 Final match between Brazil and Spain at Maracana on June 30, 2013 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Scott Heavey/Getty Images)

Fred of Brazil scores the opening goal during the FIFA Confederations Cup Brazil 2013 Final match between Brazil and Spain at Maracana on June 30, 2013 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Scott Heavey/Getty Images)

Brazil fans show their support prior to the FIFA Confederations Cup Brazil 2013 Final match between Brazil and Spain at Maracana on June 30, 2013 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Scott Heavey/Getty Images)

Brazil and Spain fans show their support prior to the FIFA Confederations Cup Brazil 2013 Final match between Brazil and Spain at Maracana on June 30, 2013 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Scott Heavey/Getty Images)

Heightened security measures prior to the FIFA Confederations Cup Brazil 2013 Final match between Brazil and Spain at Maracana on June 30, 2013 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Jasper Juinen/Getty Images)

Riot Police monitor the crowds as they gather for the FIFA Confederations Cup Brazil 2013 Final match between Brazil and Spain at Maracana on June 30, 2013 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

An indigenous man gestures in front of Maracana Sports Stadium prior to the Brazil-Spain final. Image: Tales Azonni/AP

Alvaro Arbeloa of Spain competes with Neymar of Brazil during the FIFA Confederations Cup Brazil 2013 Final match between Brazil and Spain at Maracana on June 30, 2013 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Scott Heavey/Gettyn gestures in front of Maracana stadium prior to the soccer Confederations Cup final between Brazil and Spain in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Sunday, June 30, 2013. (AP Photo/Tales Azzoni)

Strategic Implications Of The War In Syria – Analysis

By Mohamed Mansour Kadar

Syria bleeds and its agony is expected to drag on. It started in March 2011, when the regime of Bashar al-Assad met a popular uprising with repressive force. After more than two years, there is no ceasefire and fierce confrontations have escalated into an all-out civil war, dividing the country into two dominions. Both sides have met with intransigence mediation efforts by the League of Arab States (LAS) and the United Nations (UN). Hence, the two organizations had to withdraw their respective cease-fire supervision missions abruptly. Former UN/LAS Joint Special Envoy Kofi Annan also withdrew after about six months of strenuous efforts to put an end to violence. And today, there are press reports that his successor, UN/LAS Joint Special Representative Lakhdar Brahimi, wants to follow suit after close to a year of similarly helpless efforts.
Russia and China used their veto powers twice to thwart moves in the UN Security Council to hold the Syrian regime accountable. The proposed measures included a call on President Assad to step down and would have imposed sanctions against his regime. This, of course, is not to mention Russian/Chinese outright opposition to any talk of authorization of use of force under any pretext. Thus, the UN has remained largely paralyzed, while the conflict has been unfolding. In an attempt to end the paralysis, the so-called Group of Friends of Syria was established in early 2012, basically to support the rebellion. The group, which counts more than seventy countries and international organizations as members, convened several meetings. However, violence on the ground continues to rise at a dreadful pace.
Lately, an understanding between the United States (US) President Barack Obama and his Russian counterpart has opened the way for yet another attempt to contain the violence and reach a peaceful settlement through dialogue in an envisaged meeting, Geneva II, named after a similar meeting in Geneva one year earlier. But more recently, hopes on this understanding have dimmed, due to political complexities and further escalation of violence. In addition to the exodus of jihadists from neighboring and other countries joining the forces of the two sides, the recent heavy-handed involvement of Hezbollah, a proxy of Iran, on the side of Assad’s forces has turned the war more brutal.
The war’s human toll has reached alarming heights. The latest UN estimates refer to more than 90,000 killed, more than 1.5 million refugees in neighboring countries, around 4.25 million internally displaced persons and around 6.8 million – almost a third of the population – in need of urgent humanitarian aid. Still, calls from the UN and the international community to give immediate access of humanitarian aid to affected areas have fallen n deaf ears. And the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs has been urging the international community to be more forthcoming with contributions needed for its humanitarian assistance response plans. Furthermore, there has been a flurry of allegations that both regime forces and rebels used chemical weapons, and these allegations have been vindicated by laboratory tests concluded in France and the United Kingdom, indicating use of sarin gas. Thus, Obama’s redline on chemical weapons has been crossed, without clear punitive reaction so far. A UN commission of inquiry also reported that it has mounting evidence that both regime forces and rebels committed war crimes and crimes against humanity. In the meantime, the Syrian regime refuses to allow the aforementioned commission of inquiry or another UN investigation team into purported use of chemical weapons into the country.

Strategic Implications

Certainly, the humanitarian, political and security as- pects of the war in Syria are very fluid and require more space. But the focus of this article is on some notable strategic implications that transcend daily developments of the conflict. These implications are so important that they could act as strategic game-changers with serious repercussions on Syria, the Middle East and the world. Firstly, the conflict in Syria halts the domino effect of the so-called Arab Spring. Unlike in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen, the popular uprising in Syria failed to topple the Assad regime after more than two years of bloodshed and chaos. Worse still, given the dynamics of the war today, it may persist for years to come without clear signals as to which party may prevail at the end. In this regard, the Syrian civil war may have an effect similar to that of the Algerian civil war in the early 1990s, where brutal clashes erupted between the Algerian army and Islamist groups, after the latter had won majority in parliamentary elections. Notably, these gruesome events left a deep scar in the Algerian society and stands behind estimations that Algeria has some kind of special immunity against the contagion of the Arab Spring. If we add this fear quotient to the problems that political Islam faces today in countries such as Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Morocco and Jordan, we end up with an outcome that does not favor further expansion of the Arab Spring or its corollary, the rise of political Islam. In parallel, counter- revolutionary forces across the Arab world stand to gain more public support, which may count against chances of further democratization in the region.
Secondly, although the conflict in Syria started as a popular uprising demanding democratic change, it is fundamentally a sectarian one, pitting the Sunni majority against the ruling Shiite-Alawite minority.
Accordingly, Sunni countries such as Qatar and Saudi Arabia quickly rushed in with support to the Sunni military rebellion, while Shiite-Twelver Iran and its affiliate Hezbollah have sided with regime forces.
Moreover, Sunni jihadists from across the Islamic world and Shiite fighters mostly hailing from Iran, Iraq, Lebanon and Yemen have flocked to Syria. Sectarian polarization of this sort risks redrawing the political map of Syria and the region anew. On the Syrian level, there are already signs of potential division into two states, Alawite and Sunni. On the regional level, sectarian polarization in Syria further kindles Sunni-Shiite rifts in Iraq, Lebanon, Bahrain, Yemen and Saudi Arabia. In particular, a Sunni state in Syria may act as a bastion for Sunni forces in Iraq struggling against Shiite dominance that only came about after the second Iraq war. Closely linked to the issue of sectarianism are the misgivings and national aspirations of minorities such as the Kurds who vie for an independent state engulfing parts of Syria, Iraq and Turkey. Driven by chaos in Syria and Iraq, Syrian and other Kurds may find it opportune to press ahead with their historical demand.
In particular, the tumultuous engagement of Hezbollah in Syria could be assimilated to a political earthquake. Foremost, this is likely to prolong the war. It is obvious that Hezbollah’s forces have significantly bolstered the military come-back of Assad’s forces. On the other side, opposition forces have ultimately managed to better organize their ranks under the command of the so-called Free Syrian Army (FSA). Consequently, the FSA is now slated to receive more arms from the US and European countries.
Hence, military victory seems remote for either side. In addition, the involvement of Hezbollah’s militia entrenches the sectarian nature of the war and opens the door for a regional sectarian war that could set countries such as Iraq, Lebanon and Yemen ablaze. In this regard, recent confrontations in Lebanon and escalation of violence in Iraq could only be harbingers of more chaos in the two countries and the region. Though somehow anticipated, Hezbollah’s move also shocked Arab public opinion. Highly touted as the most successful military- cum-political organization in the Arab world, Hezbollah and its leader, Hassan Nasrallah, have long been role models of resistance to Israel. Now that Hezbollah has chosen to side with the Syrian regime, it incurs a huge damage and hits hard the integrity of the wider front of resistance to Israeli occupation.
Thirdly, Syria is one of the main flashpoints of the conflict in the Middle East. The Syrian Golan Heights are under Israeli occupation since 1967. And Israel still occupies Lebanese Shebaa farms, a small strip on the borders between Lebanon and Syria. Though Israel is not party to the war in Syria, it launched three airstrikes against targets near the capital Damascus on 30 January, 3 March and 5 March 2013. Unconfirmed press reports indicated that the targets were weapons caches bound for Hezbollah in Lebanon. There were also several attacks against UN blue berets in the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) in the Golan Heights and the UN Interim Force in Southern Lebanon. As a result, Austria announced the withdrawal of its battalion in the UNDOF.
In view of the fact that the current war in Syria is a strategic boon for Israel, it is not in the interest of Israel to become party to it. However, more Israeli airstrikes may lead to retaliation from Syrian regime forces or Hezbollah’s militia. In addition, a weakened Syrian regime may eventually decide to attack Israel or to give the green light for one of its allies to do so to raise public support. In a worst-case scenario, such incidents may put the Middle East on the verge of another war. Fourthly, the Syrian civil war upends the balance of powers in the Middle East. Given the current pace of destruction and the potential for state collapse in Syria, a pivotal component of the Arab-Israeli balance of powers is subsiding, and Israel is certain to come out as the biggest winner. Added to destruction in Iraq, transitional problems in Egypt and other Arab Spring countries and the vulnerability of other Arab countries to winds of change, the wider Arab front plummets to a historic low level. Hence, in strategic terms, Israel will be under less pressure to commit to any new peace endeavors. The war in Syria also demonstrates the shifting balance of powers in the Arab world, with Qatar and Saudi Arabia increasingly dominating the center stage, at the expense of traditional powers such as Egypt and Syria. Although both Qatar and Saudi Arabia have their own problems at home, the grip on power in the two countries seems reasonably intact. Thus, most probably, these two countries will continue to wield significant strategic weight in the foreseeable future.
Iran stands to lose from the Syrian war, with its main proxy in the region, Hezbollah, engaged in the battlefield in a fatal damage control exercise. Hamas, another close ally of Iran, decided to keep neutral and its leader, Khaled Meshaal, pulled out of his Syrian headquarters, delivering a blow to the Syrian regime and Iran. In strategic terms, these developments weigh on the balance of powers between Israel and Iran and make an Israeli attack against the Iranian nuclear program more acceptable from the viewpoint of Arab public opinion. Turkey, in turn, bears a heavy humanitarian and economic toll because of the war. Although it reached a recent understanding with the incarcerated leader of Kurdistan Workers’ Party, Abdullah Öcalan, on ceasefire and resort to dialogue to settle its Kurdish cause, the sectarian war in Syria and in particular Kurdish armed groups in Northern Syria such as the Democratic Union Party continue to pose threats to Turkish national security. In the meantime, Turkey flexes its muscles to the extent possible and shows keen interest in maintaining its role as a rising regional power. On the international level, the paralysis of the UN Security Council over Syria partially reflects the dynamics of the global balance of powers, particularly between a resurgent Russia and a fatigued US. The gap between the two sides also revives memories of defunct Cold War politics. Notably, Russia has a special strategic relationship with the Syrian regime; Russia’s only remaining military facility overseas is in the Syrian Mediterranean city of Tartus and Russia continues to ship arms to Damascus in the absence of a UN embargo. Russia’s position on the war in Syria also falls in line with its positions on related issues such as the US missile defense program and the Iranian nuclear program.
Notably, China’s position on Syria generally aligns with Russia’s. Together, the two powers make a solid front against any moves targeting the Syrian regime, whether emanating from the West or the region. This tug of war somehow vindicates the plethora of theories on shifting world order. While the global posture of the US has shown some relative decline since the second Iraq war, and European countries are struggling with their economic and internal crises, the rise of emerging or reemerging powers, such as China, Russia, India and Brazil, proselytizes a multipolar new world order where Russia, for instance, can counterbalance the US.
Fifthly, Syria has become a hotbed of jihadists and extremists from across the globe. In particular, Jabhat al-Nusrah, one of the most effective armed rebel groups, announced allegiance to al-Qaeda leader Ayman al- Zawahri in April 2013. In response, the US State Department branded the leader of the group, Mohammad al-Golani, a terrorist in May 2013. Beyond extremists, there are Salafist armed groups such as Ahrar al-Sham and Suqoor al-Sham, which are said to be fighting only to depose the Assad regime. On the other side, in addition to Hezbollah’s militia, press reports refer to Iranian revolutionary guards and radical Shiites fighting alongside regime forces. Taking into consideration the recent UN report stating that both regime forces and rebels probably used chemical weapons, we end up with the gloomy outcome of having a breeding ground for jihadists and radical elements with access to weapons of mass destruction.
In the meantime, President Obama has announced that it is time to end the war on terror, with the rationale that the threat of al-Qaeda has been reduced to a manageable level under normal circumstances. It may be true that al- Qaeda, the mother organization, has been crushed down to a small hub with several affiliates scattered throughout the world. However, the recent Boston bombings prove that terrorism can still hit inside the US homeland. In addition, virulent franchises of al-Qaeda in Africa and the Middle East are fomenting chaos. Moreover, the risk of terrorism posed by the Syrian war resembles those posed by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan some years ago, except that the US and the West are not engaged in the battlefield this time over, and as such are not targets. In contrast, Syria and other countries in the region could be targets. For instance, Syria has suffered many suicide attacks and car bombings since the inception of the crisis, the latest of which occurred just a few days ago in central Damascus. In addition, in May 2013, the Turkish city of Reyhanli, near the borders with Syria, was hit by two car bombings that killed 46 and injured around 100 persons.
Hence, from a global viewpoint, the threat of terrorism is present, is more widespread and may become more destructive.

Way Forward

After more than two years of bloodshed and chaos, the world has failed to address the conflict in Syria, and there is little reason to think that it will manage to do so soon. In the meantime, the Syrian civil war is becoming more brutal. And humanitarian aid falls short of providing basic help or preventing a potential human catastrophe. Furthermore, the war has some salient strategic implications that could develop into strategic game- changers with serious repercussions on Syria, its region and the world. In particular, the war halts the Arab Spring and could challenge the wave of democratization in the region; threatens of potential sectarian fragmentation in Syria and its neighbors; could lead to another war in the Middle East; shakes the balance of powers in the region and the world; and provides a hotbed of breeding extremists who may launch another wave of global terrorism. Hence, certainly, the world can not afford to wait on Syria.
Clearly, the developments of the conflict so far prove wrong further militarization in hope of decisive victory. In essence, further militarization only reduces the chances of reaching a political breakthrough. In addition, the insistence of the opposition and some other stakeholders that Bashar al-Assad must step down before negotiations could be launched has proven to be a nonstarter. In contrast, a more feasible approach would be political engagement with the Assad regime, the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces and other rebel groups, as well as with regional stakeholders, including Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Iran and Turkey. In this regard, priority should be given to reaching a cease-fire agreement with a credible supervision arrangement, immediate access of humanitarian aid and a holistic arms embargo on Syria. In the aftermath, a political process should be launched, with a view to addressing the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people for security, justice and liberty.

Chad’s Former Dictator Arrested In Senegal

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Senegalese authorities detained former Chadian dictator Hissene Habre on Sunday, the first step towards a trial on charges of crimes against humanity that is seen by many as a milestone for African justice.
The man once dubbed “Africa’s Pinochet” also stands accused of war crimes and torture during his eight years in power in Chad, where rights groups say that some 40,000 people were killed under his rule.
“Hissene Habre has been taken into custody as part of the probe,” said a prosecutor with a special court set up in February to try the 70-year-old former leader.
One of Habre’s lawyers, El Hadji Diouf, told local radio he had been arrested at his home in Dakar where he lives with his wife and children and taken to an unknown destination.
His other lawyers said in a later statement that Habre had been “illegally seized and taken away by force”.
Ibrahima Diawara and Francois Serres said Habre had been “taken by force from his home even though no summons or search or arrest warrant from a judge had been issued to him”.
The statement seen by AFP said the lawyers “denounce most firmly this illegal kidnapping which is a very grave violation of President Habre’s rights, and demand his immediate release”.
Delayed for years by Senegal where he has lived since being ousted in 1990, Habre’s trial will set a historic precedent as until now African leaders accused of atrocities have only been tried in international courts.
Typically dressed in combat fatigues during the years of his rule, Habre earned the nickname “desert fighter” after he seized power in 1982 from former rebel ally Goukouni Weddeye during a long conflict with Libya, which wanted to annex the north of Chad.
His regime was marked by fierce repression of his opponents and the targeting of ethnic groups, and in 1990 he fled to Senegal after being ousted by Chad’s now President Idriss Deby Itno.
A decade later a group of victims filed charges against him in Senegal, but he has never been brought to trial and former president Abdoulaye Wade repeatedly tried to “get rid of him”.
On a visit to Senegal on Thursday as part of his three-nation Africa tour, US President Barack Obama hailed Dakar’s efforts to prosecute the former dictator as a sign of the country’s commitment to justice in Africa.
“This is a trial that we have supported and we welcome Senegal’s leadership in undertaking this effort to see that justice is done and in fact we have committed resources in support of their efforts,” said US deputy national security advisor Ben Rhodes.
Senegal and the African Union signed an agreement in December to set up the court to try Habre for the offences, allegedly committed between 1982 and 1990.
The AU had mandated Senegal to try Habre in July 2006, but the country stalled the process for years under Wade.
Habre was also wanted for trial in Belgium on war crimes and crimes against humanity charges after three Belgian nationals of Chadian origin filed suit in 2000 for arbitrary arrest, mass murder and torture during his 1982-1990 regime.
Senegalese President Macky Sall, Wade’s successor who took office in April 2012, ruled out extraditing Habre to Belgium, which was prepared to try him, vowing to organise a trial in Senegal.
In May, lawyers for Habre said they had filed a lawsuit in Senegal to try to prevent the trial from going ahead, saying the west African country had violated his human rights.
Under Senegalese law, Habre can be held in custody for a period of 48 hours, renewable once.

Obama Pledges $7 billion To Upgrade Power In Africa

By Faith Karimi and matt Smith, CNN
Sunday, June 30, 2013
(CNN) -- U.S. President Barack Obama pledged $7 billion Sunday to help combat frequent power blackouts in sub-Saharan Africa.
Funds from the initiative, dubbed Power Africa, will be distributed over the next five years. Obama made the announcement during his trip to South Africa, the continent's biggest economy.
"Access to electricity is fundamental to opportunity in this age. It's the light that children study by, the energy that allows an idea to be transformed into a real business. It's the lifeline for families to meet their most basic needs, and it's the connection that's needed to plug Africa into the grid of the global economy," he said.
Two-thirds of the population of sub-Saharan Africa lacks access to electricity, including more than 85% of those living in rural areas, the White House said.
"A light where currently there is darkness -- the energy to lift people out of poverty -- that's what opportunity looks like," Obama told students at Cape Town University. "So this is America's vision: a partnership with Africa for growth, and the potential for every citizen, not just a few at the top."
The program includes $1.5 billion from the U.S. Overseas Private Investment Corporation and $5 billion from the Export-Import Bank, the White House said. Sub-Saharan Africa will need more than $300 billion to achieve universal electricity access by 2030, it said.
The preliminary setup will include Ethiopia, Kenya, Liberia, Nigeria, Tanzania, Uganda and Mozambique.
"These countries have set ambitious goals in electric power generation, and are making the utility and energy sector reforms to pave the way for investment and growth," a White House statement said.
Obama's three-nation African trip started in Senegal and will end in Tanzania this week. The visit aims to bolster U.S. investment opportunities, address development issues such as food security and health, and promote democracy.
It comes as China aggressively engages the continent, pouring billions of dollars into it and replacing the United States as Africa's largest trading partner.
Obama applauded China's investment in Africa, saying he is "not threatened by it."
Africa's greater integration into the global economy will benefit everyone with the potential creation of new jobs and opportunities, he said.
"I'm here because I think the United States needs to engage with a continent full of promise and possibility," Obama said. "It's good for the United States. I welcome the attention that Africa is receiving from China, Brazil, India and Turkey."
However, he urged African officials to ensure that those who invest in the continent and its natural resources benefit Africans in terms of jobs and other assets.
Obama also visited Robben Island, where anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela spent a majority of his 27-year imprisonment, on Sunday. And he spoke at Cape Town University, the site of a famous speech by Robert F. Kennedy at the height of apartheid in 1966.
Obama heads next to Tanzania, where he is scheduled to attend events until Tuesday.

US President Barack Obama In Africa

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks at the University of Cape Town Sunday, June 30, 2013, in Cape Town, South Africa. The visit comes at a poignant time as beloved former South African president and anti-apartheid hero Nelson Mandela lies very ill in a Johannesburg hospital. In deeply personal remarks Obama called on young Africans to shore up progress on the continent that rests on a "fragile foundation," and summoned them to fulfill Mandela's legacy. "Nelson Mandela showed us that one man's courage can move the world," he said. Image: AP

 A note written by U.S. President Barack Obama and signed by both him and first lady Michelle Obama after they toured Robben Island, is seen on a guestbook at Robben Island, South Africa, Sunday, June 30, 2013. Robben Island is an historic Apartheid-era prison that held black political prisoners including former South African president and anti-apartheid hero Nelson Mandela. Image: AP

From left, first lady Michelle Obama, Sasha Obama, Ahmed Kathrada former prisoner with Nelson Mandela guiding the tour, U.S. President Barack Obama, Marian Robinson and Leslie Robinson, look out over the courtyard ofthe prison on Robben Island, South Africa, Sunday, June 30, 2013. Former South African president Nelson Mandela spent 18 years of his 27-year prison term on the island locked up by the former apartheid government. Image: AP

U.S. President Barack Obama, right, and his family visit the rock quarry where prisoners of Robben Island were once forced to work during a tour of Robben Island, South Africa, Sunday, June 30, 2013. Robben Island is an historic Apartheid-era prison that held black political prisoners, including former South African president and anti-apartheid hero Nelson Mandela. From left, niece Leslie Robinson, daughter Malia, first lady Michelle Obama, mother in-law Marian Robinson, daughter Sasha, and Obama. Image: AP

U.S. President Barack Obama is welcomed by a Senegalese honor guard as he arrives at the presidential palace in Dakar, Senegal, Thursday, June 27, 2013. President Obama landed in Senegal Wednesday night tokick off a week-long trip to Africa, a three-country visit aimed at overcoming disappointment on the continent over the first black U.S. president's lack of personal engagement during his first term. Image: carolyn Kaster/Associated Press

U.S. President Barack Obama poses for a picture alongside U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama, second right, Senegalese President Macky Sall, right, and Senegalese First Lady Mariame Faye Sall, after a news conference at the presidential palace in Dakar, Senegal, Thursday, June 27, 2013. Image: Rebecca Blackwell/Associated Press

U.S. President Barack Obama looks down as he approaches the 'Door of No Return,' through which slaves once passed as they boarded ships for the Americas, at the slave house on Goree Island, in Dakar, Senegal, Thursday, June 27, 2013. Obama is calling his visit to a Senegalese island from which Africans were said to have been shipped across the Atlantic Ocean into slavery, a 'very powerful moment.' Image: Rebecca Blackwell/Associated Press

President Barack Obama and family walk toward Air Force One at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., Wednesday, June 26, 2013, before their week long trip to Senegal, South Africa, and Tanzania. ( AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

A woman carrying her baby on her back walks past a poster of U.S. President Barack Obama and Senegal's President Macky Sall before Obama's visit in Dakar June 26, 2013.

Protestors hold up signs during a march to the United States Embassy in Pretoria, South Africa, during US President Barack Obama visit to the country. Image: Alexia webster

 US President Barack Obama speaks at his Town Hall event for young African leaders at the University of Johannesburg's Soweto Campus, in Johannesburg, June 29, 2013. Image: Eva-Lotta Jansson

 Protestors dressed as Guantanamo Bay detention center prisoners during a march to the United States Embassy in Pretoria, South Africa, during US President Barack Obama visit to the country. Image: Alexia webster

Muslim men pray outside the United States Embassy in Pretoria, South Africa, at a protest againgst US President Barack Obama's visit to the country. Image: Alexia Webster

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Again, Campbell and His Fallacies
Thursday, June 27, 2013

As usual, in each of his fallacies, John Campbell, former US Ambassador to Nigeria and currently the Ralph Bunche Senior Fellow for Africa Policy Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) in New York laid claim of being a friend of Nigeria as he strained himself to propound a one-sided, jaundiced and seemingly uninformed solution to the problem(s) of Nigeria, while foreclosing any alternative. First, Campbell should get it; he is not a friend of Nigeria, but a friend of his interests or the interests of those he represents.

In a telephone conversation with the Nigerian Guardian in Washington DC, which the newspaper reported in its June 24, 2013 edition, Campbell talked about the dangers facing Nigeria in 2015 on account of the socio-political situation in the North and advised that the “leaders at all levels in Nigeria should pre-occupy themselves with serious discussion on how to address the exclusion of the North from economic activities in the country”. Campbell talked about the alienation of the North. Anyone who reads the report critically will not fail to understand Campbell’s interest in the far North. He merely tagged along the Middle Belt and the Niger Delta problems to blur this interest.

Really, Campbell is not saying anything new. This is a rehash of his pre 2011 election comments, in which he claimed that Nigerians’ favoured candidate Ret. Maj. Gen. Mohammadu Buhari, a Northerner, was going to be rigged out by Goodluck Jonathan; in an election later acknowledged by even the US as the best ever held in Nigeria, and in which Buhari lost by about 10 million votes. The fact that certain expectations of the electorates have not been met by the winner does not obliterate Campbell’s bad call at the time. And it does not make the former tyrant, Buhari, a better alternative, not then, not now and not in future.

Where did Ambassador Campbell get this fiction that the far North has been alienated in Nigeria? Who alienated the core North from the scheme of things in Nigeria? Does Ambassador Campbell not know who dominated power in Nigeria for nearly four decades and used it to create more states, local government areas and carried out delineation exercises that gave them more electoral federal constituencies for their region? Just who? It’s the North! Does Campbell not know that Nigeria’s revenue accrual mainly from oil is shared between the federal, states and the local governments, and those regions that have more states and local governments receive more revenues than a region like the South East, which has the least number of states and local governments even when it has three oil producing states?  

Does Campbell not know that the number of the people joining the military, the police, the customs, immigration, national security and defence corps, ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) etc. is determined on the basis of regions/zones with more states having more of their people getting into these institutions? Does Campbell not know that Northerners are major players in the oil industry in Nigeria? In Nigeria, oil business is the ultimate economic activity that guarantees one unearned enormous cash and influence. Why have Northerners who were literally invited by their brothers in power to come and help themselves with prime oil blocks failed to use their enormous wealth to create economic opportunities for those around them? Does Campbell think that Southerners who are involved in “economic activities” were empowered by the government?

When Campbell talks about “the huge number of illiterates in the North who know only a few verses in the Quran,” who is he blaming for that sort of situation? Does he not know that there are all kinds of policy decisions, most of them made by Nigerian rulers of Northern extraction, which give the Northern youth advantages over their Southern counterparts, in gaining admission into federal educational institutions at post primary and tertiary institutions? What the Americans call affirmative action that just received a big knock from the US Supreme Court on June 24, 2013, is practiced here for core Northerners. And this is done in a very ridiculous manner.

Recently, Nigeria’s Federal Ministry of Education released the cut-off marks for national common entrance examination for admission into the so-called unity secondary schools. Whereas students in the South East zone were required to score as high as 139 points in order to be admitted, students from the core Northern zones of North East and North West are to be admitted with scores as low as 12. Now, is it possible that a child who gets admitted into a school with a score of 12 will be able to compete with a child who gets admitted with a score of 139? How will the child with a score of 12 cope? Well, this is Nigeria! So, one way or the order, he/she will go through that level of education. And Nigerians still wonder about what went wrong with their educational system. That sort of advantage is also available to Northerners under various guises in admission to universities and other higher institutions and other federal establishments like the police force.

Dr. Campbell is a diplomat and scholar. He has immense access to resources, both human and financial. Therefore, he has the wherewithal to carry out a scientific study on any issue he so desires. I believe that the Nigerian Government will be willing to give him access to the data that he needs for such a study. So, I challenge Ambassador Campbell to conduct an unbiased scientific study on how much had been spent on developmental projects by the Federal Government of Nigeria in each region/zone and the budgetary allocation to each region/zone derived from an aggregation of what the states and local governments within each region/zone had received from the national purse over a given period. It is only when one has done this kind of study and drawn conclusions from it that one can talk intelligently and justifiably about exclusion of one section of Nigeria in economic activities. It is only when one has done this sort of study, generated the relevant data and analysed it that one can become a confident mouth piece of a section of Nigeria and claim the right to apportion blame on anyone for the differential development indices between Northern and Southern Nigeria. But why was this cry of exclusion not heard during the time the Northerners were in power?

Instructively, it is also reported that the Nigerian Ambassador to the US, Professor Ade Adefuye, offered a counterpoise to Campbell’s alienation charge by revealing the extra mile the Federal Government is going to address the problem of the North. Professor Adefuye  was reported to have spoken about a collaborative effort between Nigeria’s Embassy in the US and Corporate Council on Africa, that would translate into a summit on agriculture being held in the North, as well as  another summit on Information and Communication Technology (ICT) that would be held in the US in which Northerners and other Nigerians would be involved. The summit on agriculture is exclusively for the benefit of the North. Makes one wonder if the government of Nigeria and its agencies are now solely devoting all their efforts to the problems of the North? When will there be collaborative efforts to address graduate unemployment in Southern Nigeria, especially South East Nigeria that account for the highest number of unemployed graduates in Nigeria?

In my opinion, I believe that anyone who is serious about a workable solution to the Nigerian precarious situation should be looking at the country’s unjust structure that Nigerian rulers pass off as federalism and exploit to their advantage and those of their cronies. The truth is that Nigeria should not have been one country in the first place and indeed, should not be one country. Nigeria is one country today because it continues to serve the interest of its past and current rulers and their cronies and, of course, some external interests. In his book, Nigeria: Dancing on the Brink published in 2011, just before Nigeria’s general elections, Ambassador Campbell himself acknowledged that “Nigeria has stayed together for almost fifty years, despite a bloody civil war, because that is what the ogas wanted.” We all know that these “ogas on top” don’t care about the volume of blood of innocent Nigerians that has been used to sustain and continues to sustain this disparate amalgam. But must Nigeria continue to survive on the blood of its citizens?

For far too long, people have suggested the treatment of the symptoms instead of the disease. I think it’s about time those who claim that they are friends of Nigeria and claim to speak the truth about the Nigerian situation faced the truth and advised Nigerian rulers that the core issue of treating the disease can no longer be deferred. That deferment is dangerous. 

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Los Angeles Cabbies Protest Ride-Sharing Apps

By Robert Jablon
Associated Press, June 25, 2013

Los Angeles area taxi drivers circle City Hall in their cabs to protest unregulated ride-share services being promoted through smart-phone applications and social media in Los Angeles Tuesday, June 25, 2013. The protest came one day after the city’s transportation department issued "cease and desist" letters to companies such as Uber that allow consumers to book rides online with limo companies and private drivers. Photo: Damian Dovarganes 

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Los Angeles cabbies staged a noisy protest Tuesday over the smartphone-driven ride-sharing services that are cutting into their business.
About 200 taxis honked their horns and circled City Hall to demand the city crack down on app-driven companies that allow consumers to book rides online with limousine companies and private drivers.
"It's making us nervous because we feel like they come and steal our fares through these apps," cabbie Aydin Kavak told KABC-TV.
The rides are simply "illegal taxis disguised under the digital cloud" and the drivers might be unlicensed and dangerous, argued Rick Taylor, a spokesman representing four cab companies.
The protest came one day after the city's Department of Transportation issued cease-and-desist letters to the companies Uber Technologies Inc., Lyft and Sidecar.
Cabbies also planned to be on hand Wednesday when the City Council's Transportation Committee considers creating regulations for such businesses.
William Rouse, general manager of Yellow Cab in Los Angeles, argued that the ride-sharing businesses operate as taxis and, thus, are subject to city regulations.
"They have an application on the phone that uses GPS that runs exactly like a meter. If you go an extra block, it charges you extra money," Rouse said. "And so it is, in fact, a taxi meter under the city's ordinance. ... They have to be regulated as taxi cabs."
The online companies disagreed, arguing that they are subject only to state regulators. All three, which are based in San Francisco, have signed agreements with the California Public Utilities Commission permitting them to operate while the commission works on creating ridesharing rules.
Drivers working through Lyft, which has giant pink mustaches on its vehicles, and the other companies must undergo criminal background and driving record checks. All three companies also carry liability insurance.
"As with innovations and movements before us, there will often be challenges and hurdles along the way," Lyft co-founder and President John Zimmer said in a statement.
However, the company has been in contact with the mayor's office and has received "encouraging signs" that Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and incoming Mayor-elect Eric Garcetti "recognize the value of our community and plan to work supportively" to address concerns, Zimmer said.
Much of Uber's business involves hooking up customers with existing limousine and towncar companies licensed by the state, said Travis Kalanick, founder and chief executive officer.
Other, private drivers "might be guys who were in some other transportation business," such as food delivery and even former cabbies, Kalanick said.
"It's very, very clear that the services we're providing are 100 percent legal" and the company sees no reason to stop its Los Angeles operations, Kalanick said.
Uber, which operates in 35 cities worldwide, has hooked up thousands of drivers with hundreds of thousands of customers in California, where it also operates in San Francisco, Sacramento and San Diego, he said.
An email seeking comment from Sidecar was not immediately returned Tuesday.
Sidecar's website tells drivers that they need only a valid state driver's license, personal auto insurance and current auto registration to sign up through the service. However, the company website says drivers are "pre-vetted for safety."
"Sidecar's safety system includes driver background checks, driver and rider rating systems, GPS tracking features and the ability to share details of your trip in real-time," according to the website.