Thursday, May 29, 2014

Children of Biafra: Their Spirits Continues to Haunt Nigeria

By Ambrose Ehirim

Some Commentaries from accounts of the documentary "Nchamere Nd'Igbo: Evidence of the Anti-Igbo Pogrom":

The Igbo generation today, our generation, must ensure that this genocide never happens again. Nigeria murdered 3.1 million Igbo children, women and men people between 29 May 1966 and 12 January 1970. This figure represents one-quarter of the Igbo nation's population at the time, The Igbo genocide is the foundational genocide of post-(European)conquest Africa and the most devastating genocide of 20th century Africa. All those involved in the murder of the Igbo will be brought to trial. They can be sure of that. No one murders Igbo people and gets away with it. International law on the crime of genocide has no statute of limitation. This we know.

........................................Herbert Ekwe-Ekwe, Leading Scholar, Igbo Genocide

The story of the tragic history of Nigeria. I can see myself in one of those sick and starving children. We saw it and suffered it and God saw us through it. And nobody should ever make us go through it again. We all still bear the scars of those horrible years. And we must never forget that Igbo Holocaust.

........................................Noble Ojigwe

Those who are responsible for this will pay, either here, or in the hereafter; unless there is no God.

........................................Paschal Ukpabi, Southfield, Michigan-based attorney

This is horrible. I am so unaware of these atrocities in the world and the individually stories. I feel her pain. May the world know Peace through the divine love of mothers.

........................................Kuumbar Recasner, Hollywood celebrity custom jewelry designer, reading the story from my documentary "Nchamere Nd'Igbo: Evidence of Anti-Igbo Pogrom" where   a mother cradles her dead child watching Russian Ilyshin bombers. The woman herself died few moments later.


Starving Children of Biafra: Image culled from the cover of Chimah J. Korieh and Ifeanyi Ezeonu's editions of "Remembering Biafra: Narrative, History, And Memory of the Nigeria-Biafra War" 

Every Now And Then, My Colleague, Austen Oghuma, And I, would dabble into arguments and related discourses regarding a never ending internal strife that had overwhelmed a Nigerian national state since Yakubu Gowon's-led genocidal campaign against the Igbo nation, following the proclamation of "no victor, no vanquished" assertions--really not meant from the haters' heart, the vanquishers, the bloodthirsty northern Nigerian Islamic Jihad nihilists, a Yoruba nation in collaboration and a Russian-British backed federal Nigerian forces; the vandals--to start all over as a rebirth nation on the basis of reconstruction and moving on for national interest, nothing seemed to have worked.

Gowon was celebrating war victory in what he had attempted--genocide--with his colleagues of bigots and haters who had made innocent civilian population including women and children their victims, and jubilant over the destruction of a nation state without any remorse, and, with no attempt to apology in the sense that the victims were either compensated by way of retribution or a moral plan by rendering help to rebuild what had been plundered and demolished.

No one in Gowon's military regime had thought of what measures on compromise to have initiated a healing process from wounds inflicted on an entire state, with ominous consequences that had befell them, and why it had mattered if the country should move on marching toward onward objectivity as nation states indivisibly obtained. The clan of Gowon's-led military juntas--Murtala Mohammed, Olusegun Obasanjo, Hassan Katsina, I.B. Bissala, Theophilus Danjuma, Mohammed Wushishi, and several others--the brutal genocidal commanders and administers of the affairs of state of a military regime during the so-called "Reconstruction Era" had focused on another direction entirely; the pillage of the nation's resources coupled by a continued humiliation of the Igbo nation on which their properties had been embezzled at the time of persecution when the Igbo flee.

In what had been tragic from its method of operation, and recalling back to what had generated the formation of a national state, each time Oghuma and I, pops up, as usual, in order of the anti-Igbo pogrom, we discuss in detail what a fabricated Nigeria had been since the fabricators, the British empire, on what it had displayed at its expedition during which the country, Nigeria, coined as so, and had not been in existence before then, and from what the tribal leaders they had bumped into in the quest for divide and conquer at the time of its colonial conquest, the tribal leaders who were not in any position to fathom what the British had intended, for they were not prepared to face the challenges posed in the fusion of a variety of different people together, who had communed by language spoken, food consumed, tradition and custom adopted and, pattern of dwelling following their forebear's footsteps and how it should have been kept intact and viable--the aftermath of that union, if the tribal leaders in question had vision and had not been confused when a prescribed amalgamation by the colonial administrators and its flawed compromise of a nation state called Nigeria had taken place, what had been a Nigeria from the 1914 Amalgamation to this day and time, and, state of troubles, shouldn't have been.

Before colonial conquest, nations--the Igbo, the Yoruba, the Hausa, the Ijaw, the kalabari, the Urhobo, the Itsekiri, the Igala, and other ethnic groups--had existed as nation states and governed itself according to its nature and how it all began from its ancestral roots. These nations had been republics and much, much better in its charge toward the affairs of state than a forced direct democracy which was alien at the time, and which had been shoved to their throat on the grounds of empowering an authentic order of rule designated for a better education and enlightenment. And to be sure of the colonial conquests so as to enforce the rules of democratic fabrics, it should be borne in mind that the "Southern League" in its original partitions of nation states were already educated by its format and enlightened, thus the way they had been governed through the republican ideal.

The British empire did what it had to do, its platform made up with expectations to reach its desired goals--which, eventually, was accomplished through the series of constitutional conferences and a leadership they had wanted for the fabricated nation--bestowing power to the north on accounts of made-up numbers that justifies popular and electoral votes in a power to the north for easy access through coercion and theft, of the nation's natural resources and manpower, trained, and catapulted abroad to neutralize powers and influences the "Southern League" may have had.

It was this very idea that created a condition from around which the empire was able to adopt series of measures to portray its good intentions, in bringing developments to a people in darkness, labelled as is, with the opportunity to tap its resources--a way of its operation all around the continent in which they have not given up.

Nigeria's situation as to other colonies since an abominable amalgamation declared in 1914, was derived from a confused and pigheaded tribal leaders who had lacked a sense of purpose and belonging through the colonial era and constitutional conferences until the freedom bell rang on October 1, 1960 for its sovereignty, none envisioned the impossibility of Nigeria to live in harmony throughout its trial of considering whether the nation states and democracy would fair well under the British colonial mandate.

Though in a hurry and unprepared for nationhood because of the irregularities and manipulations inserted by the colonists and a bunch of local and tribal war lords who gave no trust and confidence on what had been fabricated for the time being, and what had been thought of the new nation as indivisible, promising, with unity and faith as emblem was first erupted by political disorder and chaos upon its beginning from the Western jungles of the Yoruba nation when in 1962 the Obafemi Awolowo-led Action Group, the AG, and fractions of disloyal party members had not been able to get along on related party lines, the first shot of decamping from a party and joining another, began creating balls of confusion, leading to the nation's first major political crisis, arresting the very political situation which had taken nearly sixty years to obtain from the colonists in 1914, given on confessional implementation to hold on, and access the possibilities of democracy, in which by its dispense takes the nation downhill never to be the same again from a birth that was originally full of uncertainties.

Also, in a Nigeria overwhelmed by the state of denial, and not acknowledging what had happened between 1966 and 1970, which draws Oghuma's attention, and of his arguments about my persistence of recalling in every discourse, acts of the blood thirsty nihilists and the anti-Igbo pogrom which was yet to be explained as the nation moved on with the open denial as if nothing happened; bringing to my attention what indeed should be explained clearly when the Igbo had decided to opt out of Nigeria, and in particular, when Biafra had invaded the Midwest, overpowering it, and in advance to Lagos to end the war as supposedly should, that it was abundantly obvious that Biafrans looked for trouble and begun something they could not finish.

My arguments which was also quite understood, stated, and, one being weary of pointing out, that upon the premeditated acts and diabolical nature of killing the Igbos in the north, and the widespread incidents of looting of Igbo properties all around the nation as the Igbo flee, in addition to plundering them, that nothing had justified such actions under any circumstances. And that what the Nigerian vandals had done was uncalled for and if only they had respected the decisions reached at Aburi, that no such attempts of Awolowo's economic blockade as evil minded the project was, wouldn't have occurred and a better option could have been implemented rather than the ugly situation which denied food and medicine, a "war strategy" according to Awolowo by avoiding to "feed their enemies fat" and which had worked in desperately starving women, infants and children to death.

What had been more damning was what had begun the pogrom before Awolowo's initiatives to wipe out the Igbo from the face of the earth upon effect of the economic blockade. And, though, nothing was going to stop the murderous Islamic Jihad hoodlums and nihilists who had gone from school to school, church to church, at the market square and place to place of Igbo dwelling--Minna, Kaduna, Zaria, Jos, Sokoto, Kano, Makurdi, Bauchi, Maiduguri and a long list of other places--of a capsuled blood soaked event, most of the atrocities in the north, if not all, were not captured on camera because of a plan to seal every act of the genocidal intent, and after they had carried out their operations in the North, hundreds of thousands of the Igbo had perished.

And despite what had been sealed in the north as the Islamic nihilists carried out its operation to wipe out every Igbo, many instances in the East when a full course war was blown up, the international community, the humanitarian services and a global media were able to capture the events; which we use today as evidence, and for instance, in Owerri, thousands of Igbo children, near death and suffering from dysentry lay on the ground amid vomits and human waste and nobody seemed to want to help them.

In Mbano, thousands of children, too, were found either weakened and could no longer walk, even with the help of relief workers, some of them, their bodies rejected nutritious food as a result of the advanced malnutrition. That was not the case in the north where mass graves were used by the nihilists, after hacking their victims, killing them in most brutal of circumstances--capsuled and without coverage.  

In what the Islamic Jihad nihilists had begun in May 29, 1966 until the vanquishers emerged in January 15, 1970, to jubilate in what it had seen as victory with an estimated 2 million murdered, never did it occur to any that the spirits of these innocent children sent to their graves without justification will continue to haunt the nation until the appropriate and right thing is done.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Maya Angelou (1928-2014)

Maya Angelou poses with a copy of her book, "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings," in Los Angeles, November 3, 1971. Angelou, a Renaissance woman and cultural pioneer, has died. She was 86. 

Born Marguerite Ann Johnson; April 4, 1928 – May 28, 2014) was an American author and poet. She published seven autobiographies, three books of essays, and several books of poetry, and is credited with a list of plays, movies, and television shows spanning more than fifty years. She received dozens of awards and over thirty honorary doctoral degrees. Angelou is best known for her series of seven autobiographies, which focus on her childhood and early adult experiences. The first, I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings (1969), tells of her life up to the age of seventeen, and brought her international recognition and acclaim.

 With the publication of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Angelou publicly discussed aspects of her personal life. She was respected as a spokesperson of black people and women, and her works have been considered a defense of black culture. Although attempts have been made to ban her books from some US libraries, her works are widely used in schools and universities worldwide.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Congresswoman Kelly Defense Amendment To Help Rescue Missing Nigerian Girls Passes House


WASHINGTON – The U.S. House of Representatives today passed H.R. 4435, the 2015 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which included an amendment by Congresswoman Robin Kelly aimed at helping to rescue more than 200 schoolgirls who were kidnapped last month in Nigeria.

Kelly’s amendment requires the Departments of Defense and State to report to Congress on the status of the kidnapped girls as well as to provide background on the U.S. search and rescue effort in Nigeria. The amendment also requires that the two departments provide Congress with a threat assessment of the Boko Haram terrorist group and that they submit recommendations on how the U.S. and Nigerian governments can work together to rescue the kidnapped girls and help protect other girls from a similar fate.

“I, like so many across the world, was outraged at the kidnapping of those young schoolgirls who were exercising their right to get an education. Victimizing innocent children for perverse political purposes should not be tolerated anywhere in the world,” Kelly said. “By Congress having access to more detailed information about this terrorist group and their movements, we will be in a better position to end Boko Haram’s reign of terror.

The 2015 National Defense Authorization Act, including Kelly’s amendment, passed the House and will now be considered in the Senate.

SOURCE: Robin Kelly

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

German Probe Finds 20 Former Death Camp Gurs

Watch towers and a barbed wire fence of the former Nazi death camp Majdanek outside the city of Lublin in eastern Poland are photographed. The head of Germany’s special prosecutors' office that investigates Nazi war crimes says the first phase of a probe of hundreds of former Majdanek death camp guards is nearly complete. Federal prosecutor Kurt Schrimm told reporters Tuesday May 20, 2014 his office was preparing to recommend within the next two weeks that state prosecutors pursue charges against multiple suspects. Schrimm’s office has no power to file charges itself. ( AP Photo / Czarek Sokolowski,file)

BERLIN (AP) — Around 20 former guards at the Majdanek death camp could face charges in Germany, following a widespread probe of the Nazi SS men and women who served there during World War II, war crimes investigators said Tuesday.

Federal prosecutor Kurt Schrimm, who heads Germany's special Nazi war crimes office, said he expects to turn the cases over to state investigators within two weeks for them to pursue accessory to murder charges. Schrimm's office has no power to file charges itself.

Lead investigator Thomas Will told The Associated Press that about 30 suspects were identified and located, but around ten had already died. The remaining 20 men and women all live in Germany, he said, but refused to elaborate further.

Some 220 others are still being investigated for possible charges but have not been located. The Majdanek probe is the second major review of death camp guards undertaken after Ohio autoworker John Demjanjuk in 2011 became the first person to be convicted in Germany solely for serving as a camp guard, with no evidence of involvement in a specific killing.

Though Demjanjuk always denied serving at the death camp and died before his appeal could be heard, Schrimm's office in September recommended that state prosecutors pursue charges against 30 former Auschwitz guards based on his case.

The office then started investigating about 1,000 former guards at Majdanek — another death camp in Nazi-occupied Poland, where some 360,000 Jews and others were killed. While Majdanek was also used as a labor camp — meaning guards theoretically could have worked there at certain times and not been involved in the Nazi genocide — prosecutors focused on guards allegedly present during the killings.

The Auschwitz investigation also continues and Schrimm said he expects more suspects will be announced "in the coming months." Efraim Zuroff, the head Nazi-hunter at the Simon Wiesenthal Center, urged state prosecutors to prioritize the new cases, given the advanced age of the suspects.
"We are very hopeful that the work will be expedited so as many people as possible can be brought to justice," he said.

UN Report: 21 Million In Forced Labor Worldwide

California Attorney General Kamala Harris, who as a prosecutor once specialized in child sexual assault cases addresses the Domestic Human Trafficking symposium in Los Angeles, Trafficking, forced labor and modern slavery are big business generating profits estimated at $150 billion a year, the U.N. labor agency said Tuesday May 20, 2014. The report by the International Labor Organization finds global profits from involuntary workers _ an estimated 21 million of them _ have more than tripled over the past decade from its estimate of at least $44 billion in 2005. ILO Director Guy Ryder said his agency’s report Tuesday calls attention to the need “to eradicate this fundamentally evil, but hugely profitable practice as soon as possible.”

GENEVA (AP) — Forced labor produces illegal profits of $150 billion a year, the United Nations' labor agency said Tuesday as it appealed for global eradication of the abuse.

The report by the International Labor Organization offered the agency's fullest picture yet of an underground economy built on the involuntary toil of an estimated 21 million workers. It found that nearly two-thirds of the estimated profits, $99 billion, come from sexual exploitation, including prostitution and pornography.

Women were most commonly the victims of forced employment in sex-related trades and domestic chores, while men and boys were more commonly exploited in agricultural, mining and construction work, it found.

The director-general, Guy Ryder, said the report highlights the need "to eradicate this fundamentally evil but hugely profitable practice as soon as possible." He said many governments, employers and labor unions all needed to do more to stamp out abusive employment practices, including outright slavery.

The report said the world's most developed countries, including the entire European Union, accounted for nearly a third of the illegal profits, $46.9 billion, while the rest of the Asia Pacific region generated $51.8 billion. Other regions had much lower totals.

It found that exploited workers generated much more money per head for their employers in the richest countries. Estimated profits in developed countries reached $34,800 per worker, while Africa registered the lowest per-capita profit rate of $3,900.

Worldwide, it found sexually exploited workers produced by far the highest profits for their employers: $21,800 per worker, versus just $2,500 on average for each farm laborer, and $2,200 for each domestic worker.

Ryder said governments needed to improve welfare support "to prevent households from sliding into the poverty that pushes people into forced labor." he said. "We need to improve levels of education and literacy so that household decision-makers can understand their own vulnerability to forced labor and know their rights as workers."

The agency's previous report on the topic of forced labor, in 2005, estimated worldwide profits at $44 billion. But that report focused chiefly on sex-related work and agriculture, whereas Tuesday's report expanded its analysis greatly to include miners, construction workers, maids and au pairs, and other jobs involving employer coercion and little pay.

Kenyan Police Fire Tear Gas At University Students

Students throwing rocks taunt riot police firing tear gas as they engage in running battles on the highway next to Nairobi University's main campus in downtown Nairobi, Kenya Tuesday, May 20, 2014. Kenyan university students on Tuesday carried out demonstrations over a proposed increase in student fees, but the protests quickly turned into hours of running battles between students throwing rocks and security forces firing tear gas, before riot police chased the students inside their campus and cornered them in a building into which they fired dozens of tear gas grenades and for a while prevented anyone from leaving.

NAIROBI, KENYA (AP) — University students threw rocks at police in Kenya's capital Tuesday as authorities fired back with tear gas in running battles that didn't end until police cornered students in a campus building and fired dozens of rounds of tear gas inside, witnesses said.

Students demonstrated in at least four cities across the country over a proposed increase in university fees. But the protest by students from the University of Nairobi, which sits just across the street from the downtown business district, was the most violent.

An Associated Press photographer said that several hours into the back-and-forth exchanges, police chased the students into university classrooms and fired tear gas inside. Some people tried to leave the gas-filled rooms with their hands up but police chased them back inside, sometimes beating them with batons. Staff members who were caught up in the fray and the students were eventually allowed out.

A police spokesman did not answer a telephone call seeking comment. A police Twitter feed said Tuesday evening that the demonstrations had "largely dissipated and order has been restored." One of the demonstrating students, Titus Khaemba, said he was angry that class fees could rise. He noted that terror attacks have been on the rise in recent weeks leading to the evacuation last week of hundreds of British tourists from Kenyan beaches. He said security forces should be concerned with that and not protesting students.

"Right now there is no employment along the coast and the government is not looking into that. They are looking on how to get the money for the next election," Khaemba said.

Malawi President Challenged In Elections

Background from left to right, Chief Justice Richard Banda, his wife, Malawi President Joyce Banda, and younger sister Anjimile Mtila-Oponyo, join a voting queue to cast their votes in the eastern district of Zomba, Malawi, Tuesday, May 20, 2014. Africa's second female president Joyce Banda is facing stiff challenges from a field of 12 candidates in Malawi's elections Tuesday.

BLANTYRE, MALAWI (AP) — Malawi's president, Joyce Banda, faced stiff challenges from a field of 12 candidates in elections Tuesday in a poor, politically fractious country that is heavily dependent on foreign donors and has struggled with corruption scandals. There were scattered reports of unrest.

Most polling stations in the African nation's fifth elections since the introduction of multiparty
democracy in 1994 closed at 6 p.m. (1600GMT), but some stayed open longer to accommodate voters following delays of several hours because of rain and late deliveries of polling materials. Results were expected to start trickling in on Wednesday.

Police fired tear gas in at least one area of Blantyre, the country's biggest city, to disperse angry protesters who threw stones and ransacked a polling station where there had been a voting delay. Elsewhere in Blantyre, youths blocked some roads with boulders. Some rioters complained that opposition candidates had been left off the ballot papers, an allegation that the national election commission said was false.

Protesters blocked a road with tree branches, forcing the president to use an alternative route from the presidential palace to the polling station in the eastern town of Zomba. Malawi uses the first-past-the-post system, meaning that the candidate with the largest share of votes, no matter how small a percentage of the total votes cast, is the winner. Aside from the presidential vote, legislative and local elections were also held.

Banda, 64, was vice president and came to power in 2013 following the sudden death of President Bingu wa Mutharika. Mutharika's brother Peter Mutharika, 74, is one of the front-runners now challenging Banda, whose administration has been dogged by allegations of corruption.

A younger candidate, Atupele Muluzi, 35, the son of Malawi's first multiparty president Bakili Muluzi, appears to be attracting support from first-time voters. And a newcomer to politics, retired pastor Lazarus Chakwera, also is getting enthusiastic support. The 59-year-old minister for the Assemblies of God church is running as someone free from fraud and corruption.

"I am proud I'm not a billionaire politician and I don't intend to be one," he told The Associated Press. Chakwera is candidate for the Malawi Congress Party (MCP) that ruled Malawi as a one-party state for three decades. The party's reputation for abuses of basic rights, including detentions without trial and unexplained disappearances, during its years in power may hinder Chakwera's candidacy.

Malawi has 7.4 million registered voters in a population of 16 million. Banda won praise after becoming president by speaking out against wasteful government spending and selling off the presidential jet and a fleet of luxury vehicles. But her administration became mired in a financial scandal dubbed "cashgate" in which millions of dollars were looted from government funds by civil servants who colluded with politicians and well-connected business leaders to make payments for goods and services that were never delivered.

At least 70 people are currently facing charges surrounding the scandal, which led international donors to freeze $150 million in aid. Foreign aid makes up to 40 percent of Malawi's budget. Although not directly linked to Banda, the scandal may dent her chances of retaining power.
"The fact that 'cashgate' happened on my watch, I take full responsibility," said Banda while campaigning. "But the mere fact that it broke means we're seriously tackling corruption."

Hunger In Somalia: Familiar Menace Could Return

Abdulahi Musa, a malnourished five-year-old boy, sits on his mother's lap at Banadir hospital in Mogadishu, Somalia Tuesday, May 20, 2014. Much of Somalia has seen no or erratic rains in recent months and fighting between African Union forces and the Islamic extremists of al-Shabab is cutting off food shipments to many parts of the country and discouraging farmers from planting - as a result, 50,000 children are severely malnourished, says the aid community.

MOGADISHU, SOMALIA (AP) — Two-year-old Mohamed Aden has sunken eyes and protruding ribs. A picture of living hunger, Mohamed's fragile posture has been seen many times in Somalia's recent past, and doctors and aid leaders fear the child could be the forefront of a new wave of mass starvation.

Two Somali children died of malnourishment last week, said doctors at Mogadishu's Banadir Hospital. A lack of food in many parts of the country could lead to many more such deaths, according to the U.N.

Much of Somalia has seen no or erratic rains in recent months. Fighting between African Union forces and the Islamic extremists of al-Shabab is cutting off food shipments to many parts of the country and discouraging farmers from planting. As a result, 50,000 children are severely malnourished, says the aid community.

The troubling situation may sound familiar. A crushing famine hit Somalia only three years ago, killing an estimated 260,000 people. The same conditions are now in place for a repeat of those dreadful scenes of hunger, aid workers say.

The U.N.'s top humanitarian official for Somalia is pleading for more money. Philippe Lazzarini says food distribution programs will soon be shut down because only 17 percent of the U.N.'s requested aid of $940 million has been given.

"This situation has troubling, troubling similarities with the situation that prevailed before the famine in 2011," Lazzarini told a news conference in Nairobi, Kenya on Monday. "There is ongoing conflict. We have a drought. The funding has shrunk. We have today a series of early warnings telling us if no due attention is given we take the risk of turning back to a situation which prevailed only two years ago."

More than 1 million people live as internally displaced refugees in Somalia. One in five children dies before reaching the age of five. Sadiya Haji tried to comfort her son Mohamed with whispers and smiles. The toddler weighs 5 kilograms (11 pounds).

"He's very fragile. We had to travel to here to get him treated," said Haji, who traveled from Walaweyn, 90 kilometers (55 miles) north of the Somali capital. "There was no hospital, food or medicine. Life was very tough back home."

The U.N.'s Lazzarini appealed for international donors to find $60 million so aid groups can continue feeding the malnourished children, and so aid can be transported into less accessible areas, a reference to territory controlled by al-Shabab rebels. UNICEF is on the verge of cutting health services for more than 2 million people, he said.

"What we have for Somalia today is half of what we had at this time last year," he said. Lazzarini outlined three main reasons why aid groups have been reduced to pleading for money only three years after famine. First, he said, there is an aversion to providing funds for south-central Somalia, where al-Qaida-linked militants controls large chunks of territory.

Second, there are competing crises in Syria, South Sudan and Central African Republic. But government aid budgets have not increased alongside those increasing needs. Third, he said, the security agenda in Somalia is taking priority over the humanitarian agenda.

The arrivals to Banadir Hospital create a somber mood in the corridors as nurses move children on stretchers from room to room. "I brought my elderly, malnourished mother and my 4-year-old," says Habiba Muhyadin, a mother of six who traveled from Elbur, in central Somalia. "Farms were dry. We had no food and we spent days in the bush before coming here."

The trickle of destitute women with young, malnourished children strapped to their backs arriving at Banadir Hospital, worries the medics. "There's no funding, medicine or even paid staff here," said Lul Mohamed, a doctor. "The challenges are much harder than before, as we are facing an influx of malnourished patients coming for treatment ... The worst thing we see is that patients do come here frail and in some cases in a coma. Most of them fled from the regions with no food to eat."

Straziuso reported from Nairobi, Kenya.

Monday, May 19, 2014

News Headlines On Boko Haram And Abducted Schoolgirls

By Ambrose Ehirim

President Hollande of France hosts Saturday, May 17, 2014, summit with African leaders and agree to wage war on Nigeria's Boko Haram Islamic militants after the abduction of schoolgirls in north eastern Nigeria. The Paris Summit brought together President Hollande, Goodluck Jonathan of Nigeria, President Thomas, Yayi Boni of Benin, Paul Biya, President of Cameroon, President Mahamadou Issoufou of Niger, and Idriss Deby Itno president of Chad. Image: John Van Hasselt

On April 14, 2014, members of the Boko Haram nihilist, terrorist group with over a thousand killings on its list this year alone, and exactly five weeks today, marched to the woods of northeast Nigeria in Chibok, Borno State and, abducted nearly three hundred schoolgirls (real figures still unknown), in their continued quest for an Islamic state.

The kidnap of the schoolgirls marks the first time since the Boko Haram operatives began about five years ago, the international community and world leaders including the US, France and Britain stepped up to face the challenges in its move to locate and vanquish the insurgents, in addition to the rescue of the hostages.

With meeting of five Nigeria's neighboring leaders and representatives from the Western hemisphere, and related global leaders, President Francois Hollande of France, headed a meeting in Paris, Saturday, May 17, 2014, with focus on the nature of Boko Haram operatives following abduction of the schoolgirls, declared war against the Islamic insurgents and reached an agreement on how to combat the terrorist organization, Boko Haram.

Overwhelmed by scenes horrific and gruesome by way it's carried out and not much time to check other happenings around the news gathering outlets as Boko Haram took every attention, it must be borne in mind that the entire world has now become fully aware of a country long terrorized by a group of bloodthirsty Islamic nihilists, even though it had been preconceived by the nation's leading rulers and decision makers that the insurgents had potentials to cause havoc and nothing done about it, until it turned out ugly and spooky, we hope the Paris Summit lives to its creed with the help of the volunteered five African nations and the international community to arrest the situation, bringing the insurgents to book, and prosecuting them to the limit of the law---and, we, indeed, hope so.

The following are among thousands of reports and news-related commentaries over the May 16-19, 2014 weekend, logged on Boko Haram regarding abduction of the schoolgirls. Be advised that some of these reportage have been solely based on propaganda, either for, or against, seeking resolve to what had been a nation's nightmare:

Boko Haram Isn't Just About Western Education --- Washington Post

Jihadists face Taunts Nigeria From Showdown --- New York Times

US Officials Question Ability Of Nigeria To Rescue Hostages --- New York Times

Cameroon Military Helps Search For Missing Nigeria School Girls --- NBC News (United States)

Nigeria Needs International Pressure --- Deutsche Welle

African Leaders Declare War On Boko Haram --- BBC News

Motshekga Launches Nigeria Kidnap ---Sowetan

Witness To Terror: Nigeria's Missing School Girls --- CNN

Tales Of Escape In Nigeria Add To Worries About Other Kidnapped...--- New York Times

US Support To Nigeria Beset By Complications --- CNN

Gains, Losses Of WEFF For Africa --- Nigerian Vanguard

Mapping Kidnappings In Nigeria --- Five Thirty Eight

The Odds Are Bad --- The Economist

Nigeria Car Bomb Kills Civilians In Kano --- Nigerian Vanguard

Nigeria Villagers Fight Off Attack By Boko Haram --- CNN

War On Boko Haram: Africa, Western Nations Unify In Hunt... --- CNN

Nigerian Soldier Says Army That Woulld Face Boko Haram Is Ill Equipped --- Fox News

Why Hillary Clinton Was Right About Boko Haram --- Reuters

Growing Presence In Cameroon Raises Fears Boko Haram Cannot Be... --- Fox News

Nigeria Soldiers Sent To Fight Boko Haram Revolt Against Commanders --- Toronto Star

West African Leaders Vow To Wage Total War On Boko Haram --- Reuters

African Countries Declare War On Boko Haram --- Al Jazeera

Summit Aims To Combat Boko Haram, Funds, Arms, Training... --- Associated Press

Boko Haram: Dialogue Or Defeat? Al Jazeera

West Outlines Plan To Crack Down On Boko Haram --- Fox News

Chinese Camp Hit Near Boko Haram Stronghold --- Al Jazeera

Nigeria Leaders Calls Boko Haram al Queda --- Fox News

Nigeria Schoolgirl Kidnapping: Boko Haram Has al Queda Links --- BBC News

France, African States "Declare War" With Schoolgirl Kidnap Group --- Sydney Morning Herald

African Leaders Agree On Plan To Bring Down Boko Haram --- Huffington Post

African Leaders Pledge "Total War" On Boko Haram After Nigeria Kidnap --- London London Guardian

Ten Chinese Missing In Boko Haram Attack --- Voice Of America

Nigeria Schoolgirl Crisis: Boko Haram Faces "Total War." --- London Telegraph

Boko Haram Campaign Of Terror Is About Religion, Ethnicity And Land --- Irish Independent

The British Face Of Boko Haram Man Suspected Of Masterminding Boko Haram Bomb Attacks In Nigeria --- The Independent (London)

Nigeria Has To Do More To Stop Boko Haram --- Gulf News

Boko Haram Has Nothing To Do With Islam - Iran Cleric --- Press Television, Iran

West African Leaders Agree On Plan To Crash Boko Haram --- Time

Kidnapping Of Chines Work Site point To Boko Haram --- Newsweek

Stop Calling Boko Haram Islamic Group, Cleric Tells Media --- Nigerian Premium Times

Nigeria Should Not Expect Insurgency To Disappear Overnight - Laban Maku --- Channel Tv News

US Officials Frustrated By Nigeria's Response To Girls Kidnapping --- Los Angeles Times

Nigeria Boko Haram Crisis: Kano Suicide Attack --- BBC News

RAF Spy Plane Flies To Nigeria To Hunt For Schoolgirls --- London Telegraph

Suicide Car Bomb Kills Five In Bar District Of North Nigeria's Kano --- Chicago Tribune

Missing Nigeria Schoolgirls: British Military Plane Joins search --- Scottish Daily Record

Tracking Nigeria's Worsening Security In Real Time --- The Atlantic

Far From Home, A Nigerian Nanny Prays For Her Kidnapped Cousin --- Haaretz

The Seeds Of Nigeria's Troubles Were Sown At Creation --- Rabble Blog

Nigeria's Giant Military Is No Match For Boko Haram --- Business Insider

Northern Nigeria's Oil Barons tap Luxury As Poverty Spurs Insurgency --- Business Day (Nigeria)

The West To Destroy Nigeria Before 2015 --- Prauda (Russia)

Beyond Boko Haram: Nigeria's Human Trafficking Crisis --- The National Interest Online

Nigeria's Kidnapped Girls Spur Public Anger, Vigils And A Paris Summit --- Public Radio International

After Kidnapping, Nigeria Must Step Up --- Boston Globe

Iran Ready To Help Nigeria Over Abducted Girls - Diplomat --- Press Tv Iran

Boko Haram Insurgency: ECOWAS Parliament Pledges Regional Support --- Channels Tv

And the list goes on and on and on...

The saga continues!

Friday, May 16, 2014

Handwritten Pat Conroy Manuscripts Being Archived

Photo albums collected by the family of Pat Conroy are shown in storage at the University of South Carolina's library in Columbia, SC. Conroy is giving the university all of his papers including handwritten manuscripts, photo albums, journals and even his divorce papers.

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Best-selling author Pat Conroy said Friday he's proud to have a vast collection of his papers and memorabilia kept in his "literary home" of South Carolina, where scholars will be able to study handwritten manuscripts of works like "The Great Santini" for years to come.

Thousands of pages of papers, scrapbooks and more are being archived at the University of South Carolina, in a state that is the setting for most of Conroy's works. He recalled that when his mother drove the family into the state decades ago to follow his military father's career, "I didn't know that when I crossed into South Carolina, it was my literary home."

"My papers belong here," said Conroy, 68. "I wanted them here, I am happy they are here, I am proud they are here." The author said they could have gone to his alma mater, The Citadel in Charleston, but the military school didn't have the storage capacity to maintain them.

Because Conroy does not use a typewriter or computer, the collection includes 10,000 handwritten pages of all his varied drafts, from early work "The Water is Wide," through "The Prince of Tides," ''The Lords of Discipline," and "My Reading Life."

Conroy's works consistently top best-seller lists and remain there for weeks. Several have been made into movies, including "The Prince of Tides," which Barbra Streisand starred in and directed. Conroy co-wrote the screenplay, which garnered him an Academy Award nomination.

Included are 80 scrapbooks of letters, photos and news clippings put together by Conroy's late father, Don, the abusive Marine Corps pilot who inspired Conroy's novel "The Great Santini." Baby books, childhood compositions, movie scripts, love letters, divorce papers, even financial records are all included.

Dean of University Libraries Tom McNally, who negotiated the acquisition for the library with a bookseller friend of Conroy's, said the archive was acquired for the university through a donation made by USC alum Richard Smith of Columbia and his wife Novelle in memory of Richard's mother Dorothy. McNally declined to describe the cost of the purchase. It will include everything Conroy writes in the future, the dean added.

"This collection will bring scholars from all over the world. They will come, hungry to look at this collection, because you can see handwritten draft after handwritten draft, following by typed versions, and more handwritten drafts, up to the final publication," McNally said. An assistant transcribes Conroy's work.

Conroy never learned to type, McNally said, because his father forbade it, deriding it as "women's work." "The Great Santini was old school, really old school!" McNally said with a chuckle. But that may turn into a special blessing for scholars, the dean said.

"With modern computers now, the best we get are a few drafts, and unless some old drafts are saved along the way, for most authors, they are gone," McNally said. With this collection, academics and scholars will be able to trace the transition of the writer's thoughts and work, accompanied by the letters and journals Conroy kept over the decades.

McNally said few writers save so much, which makes understanding some writers difficult. Atlanta bookseller Norman Graubart, who helped Conroy organize the collection, said it "represents the entirety of Conroy's professional and private life and documents the extent to which the two are thoroughly intertwined."

Graubart said Conroy's writing engages readers because he is able to "lay bare the pain from his childhood and his life's mistakes, which most people try to hide." An archivist has been hired to organize the collection and it will be ready for scholars to access in about a year, McNally said.
Oddly, the collection even includes things that Conroy himself didn't know he had, McNally said. After the two reconciled, Conroy's father decided to document his son's fame in scrapbooks. McNally said the elder Conroy would go to his son's residence to have coffee, "and go through his mail and steal things for the scrap books, including a letter from Jimmy Carter Pat never knew he'd gotten."
The dean said the collection is more extensive than any he has ever seen in his decades of collecting. Despite advice to keep his financial papers out of the collection, Conroy insisted they be included, McNally said.

"He's written about his family, himself. He is wide open, and he wants all of his archives to be treated just the same," McNally said.

10 Dead, 70 Wounded Amid New Kenya Terror Alerts

NAIROBI, KENYA (ASSOCIATED PRESS) — Two bombs exploded in a market in Kenya's capital on Friday, killing 10 people and injuring 70 as hundreds of British tourists were evacuated from a coastal area where Islamic extremists have operated.

Nairobi Police Chief Benson Kibue, who announced the casualty figures, said two improvised explosive devices detonated in a market area near downtown Nairobi with one bomb damaging a mini-van used for public transportation.

TUI Travel, which owns the British tourism companies Thomson and First Choice, evacuated customers on flights Thursday and Friday and canceled all flights to the coastal city of Mombasa until October. The British government had urged British citizens to leave Mombasa and nearby beach towns.

The United States and Britain were among several nations renewing warnings of possible terror attacks.

Earlier this week, the U.S. warned for the first time that the embassy itself is taking new steps to increase security "due to recent threat information regarding the international community in Kenya." Al-Qaida detonated a massive bomb by the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi in 1988, killing more than 200 people.

The U.S. Embassy's security posture has increased in recent days. Armed Marines now patrol the embassy grounds in bulletproof vests and helmets. Emergency drills tell embassy staff: "Duck and cover, duck and cover."

"We know from experience whether it's been in Yemen where embassies have been attacked or in Benghazi where our consulate and ambassador was attacked, anything that is a symbol of a foreign country is a potential target," said Scott Gration, a former U.S. ambassador here.

As for the evacuations of British tourists, many tourism companies have insurance policies that don't allow travelers to be in high-risk locations, noted Gration, a retired U.S. Air Force major general who runs a technology and investment consultancy in Nairobi.

President Uhuru Kenyatta said the warnings strengthen the will of terrorists.

Security concerns are high in Kenya because of its proximity to Somalia and the al-Qaida-linked group, al-Shabab, that operates there. In September, four al-Shabab gunmen attacked an upscale mall in Nairobi, killing at least 67 people.

The U.S. Embassy says that more than 100 people have been killed in shootings, grenade attacks and small bomb attacks in Kenya over the past 18 months. Kenyan authorities, with the help of the FBI, recently discovered a huge car bomb that could have caused massive damage.

Kenyatta, who began a previously planned news conference only minutes after the Nairobi explosions, offered his condolences but dismissed the U.S. and U.K. travel warnings, saying that terrorism is a common problem, including in New York and Boston.

Kenya sees a big drop in tourism activity — a major money maker here — whenever such alerts are issued. Kenyatta said the government would install 2,000 security cameras in Nairobi and Mombasa to help combat terrorism.

Gration said Kenya's coast is a beautiful and mostly safe location.

"My belief is that everywhere there are issues and we all need to be prudent in when we go and where we go," Gration said. "So I don't travel at night, avoid big crowds and lock my doors. Whether you are in Newark, New Jersey or Nairobi, Kenya, we can all fall victim to crime or terrorism."

Associated Press reporter Tom Odula contributed to this report.

Indian Opposition Party Heads For For Landslide Win

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) supporters celebrate the party’s winning preliminary result outside their office in Gauhati, India, Friday, May 16, 2014. India's opposition leader Narendra Modi and his party won national elections in a landslide Friday, preliminary results showed, driving the long-dominant Congress party out of power in the most commanding victory India has seen in more than a quarter century.

NEW DELHI, INDIA (AP) — Opposition leader Narendra Modi will be India's next prime minister, winning the most decisive victory the country has seen in more than a quarter century and sweeping the long-dominant Congress party from power, partial results showed Friday.

As his overwhelming win became clear, Modi appeared before a crowd of cheering supporters and tried to strike a conciliatory note after a lengthy and punishing race. "I have always said that to govern the nation it is our responsibility to take everyone with us," said Modi, whose slick campaign promised a revival of economic growth. "I want your blessings so that we can run a government that carries everyone with it."

Although Modi's win was resounding, critics worry that his rise could worsen sectarian tensions between India's majority Hindus and its 138 million Muslims. A Hindu nationalist, Modi remains a divisive figure in the country of 1.2 billion people, in large part because he, as chief minister of Gujarat state, was in command in 2002 when communal rioting there killed more than 1,000 people — most of them Muslims.

Modi was accused of doing little to stop the rampage, though he denies any wrongdoing and has never been charged with a crime. But critics have often questioned whether he can be a truly secular leader in a country with many faiths.

Modi was denied a U.S. visa in 2005 for alleged complicity in the riots, although as prime minister he would be virtually assured a visa. The Congress party tried to highlight the 2002 riots during the campaign, but Modi's momentum — and laser focus on the ailing economy — carried him to victory.
The outcome was a crushing defeat for the Congress party, which is deeply entwined with the Nehru-Gandhi political dynasty that has been at the center of Indian politics for most of the country's post-independence history.

By Friday evening, Modi's Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party was winning in enough seats in the lower house of Parliament to exceed the 272-seat majority needed to create a government without forming a coalition with smaller parties, the Election Commission said. Of the 357 seats declared the BJP had won 217 and was leading in another 65.

Full results were expected later in the evening or by Saturday morning, but Modi's win was all but assured. The last time any single party won a majority in India was in 1984, when an emotional nation gave the Congress party a staggering victory of more than 400 seats following the assassination of then-Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.

The overwhelming victory gives Modi, a 63-year-old career politician, a strong mandate to govern India at a time of deep social and economic change. India is in the throes of rapid urbanization and globalization just as the youth population skyrockets — with many new voters far less deferential to traditional voting patterns focused on family lineage and caste.

For the young Indian voters, the priorities are jobs and development, which Modi put at the forefront of his campaign. Although he has focused strongly on the economy, Modi has given some hints of his foreign policy leanings, saying the BJP wants to strengthen India's strategic partnership with the U.S. and build on the foundations laid by the last BJP prime minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

Vajpayee, who governed from 1998 to 2004, rode a bus across the border to Pakistan in what was seen as a bold step in trying to mend ties with India's longtime enemy. The Obama administration has watched Modi's rise carefully, and in February, for the first time in Modi's decade-long tenure as the top official in Gujarat state, the U.S. ambassador met with him.

The election came at a low ebb for the Congress party, which has been in power for all but 10 years of the country's history since independence in 1947. The party has been plagued by repeated corruption scandals and a poor economy.

Friday's partial results showed Congress winning only about 45 seats, its worst showing ever. The leader of the Congress campaign, 43-year-old Rahul Gandhi, failed to inspire public confidence. He was seen as ambivalent at best over winning a job held previously by his father, grandmother and great-grandfather.

"I wish the new government all the best," Gandhi told reporters Friday afternoon, adding that he held himself responsible for the party's losses. Immediately after his appearance, his mother, Sonia Gandhi, the president of the party, took the microphone and said she assumes responsibility.

The two took no questions after their brief remarks and Rahul trailed his mother off the stage. Rahul Gandhi, who first won a seat in Parliament in 2004, has been viewed as prime-minister-in-waiting for his entire political career, though he never appeared comfortable in the role. When he finally gave the first television interview of his political career earlier this year it made for dull, uninspiring viewing full of vague promises.

In sharp contrast, Modi was quick to publicly mock the Gandhi scion, often referring to the Congress as a "mother-son" government and hammering away at the perception that Gandhi was nothing more than a feudal prince from a family that views ruling the country as its birthright.

There was a record turnout in the election, with 66.38 percent of India's 814 million eligible voters casting ballots during the six-week contest, which began April 7 and was held in stages across the country. Turnout in the 2009 general election was 58.13 percent.

"In the history of independent India, no political party has defeated the Congress party with such a wide margin," BJP President Rajnath Singh told a news conference that opened with the blowing of a conch shell, a traditional start to most Hindu rituals.

Sreeram Chaulia, a political analyst and dean of the Jindal School of International Affairs, said the BJP's image as a purely capitalist, pro-business party resonated across India. That image contrasts with Congress, which is considered more of a welfare party, mixing capitalist reforms with handouts for the poor.

"A lot of ordinary people believed in (Modi's) message and wanted to give him the strong mandate he was seeking, to see if he could really change things in India," Chaulia said. "There has been growth in the middle class, so of course why have they punished the incumbents? Because they want more, obviously, something more than subsistence. They want upward mobility."

At one point Friday, the benchmark Sensex stock index rose as much as 6.1 percent on news of the BJP's strong showing before closing 0.9 percent higher than Thursday. In sharp contrast to the street parties outside the BJP office, a sober scene played out in front of the Congress headquarters, where few showed up despite barricades erected to protect supporters from passing road traffic.

Jairam Ramesh, India's rural development minister, lamented his party's defeat but said Congress will survive. "I admit that in 2014, the result is worse than our worst-case scenario," he said. "But the Congress party has a deep reservoir of strength."

But Modi promised a fresh start in India on Friday, noting that he is the first Indian prime minister born after independence from Britain. "I would like to reassure the nation that while we did not get to fight and die for independence, we have the honor of living for this nation," Modi said. "Now is not the time to die for the nation but to live for it."

Associated Press writers Ashok Sharma and Katy Daigle contributed to this report.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Ehirim Files Interview: The Sylvester Mensah Story


Sylvester A. Mensah Image: Ghana Today/Ehirim Files Images

Sylvester A. Mensah holds an MBA in Finance from the University of Leicester in the United Kingdom and a BSc. in Administration from the University of Ghana. He also serves on a number of public and private boards in Ghana. He served a full term as a Member of Parliament for the Dadekotopon Constituency in the Greater Accra Region of Ghana from 1997 to 2001. He is Chief Executive of Ghana's National Health Insurance Scheme and is credited with far-reaching organizational restructuring, innovations, and initiatives in reforming Ghana's NHIS. Under his stewardship, the NHIS emerged on the international healthcare landscape as a model of financial risk protection and in November 2010, Ghana's scheme received a United Nations Award for Excellence and Leadership in finacial risk protection.

In this interview, Mensah talks about his new book, what had inspired it, his diplomat father and role in the Kwame Nkrumah administration, his four years as a parliamentarian in Ghana, prospects of Ghana's Fourth Republic and lots more.


 The Ambrose Ehirim Files: Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Sylvester Mensah:  You may want to take a thorough journey into my book "In the Shadows of Politics" and the piece 'about the author' on page 153 and at the back of the book. You may also glean more   about me and my formative years and family life in various chapters of the book, especially chapters 3, 4 and 5.  This l believe provides better insights than any further attempt l make to talk about myself now

 TAEF: You have written a book. What inspired That?

Sylvester Mensah: As someone who loves words and the inherent power of words to communicate ideas, I have always cherished the hope of writing a book to share my inner most thoughts with the world. But as my schedule got busier it seemed for years that I might never get round to   doing that, until the President of the Republic of Ghana, His Excellency President John Dramani Mahama, published his first book, ["My First Coup d'etat"],  in 2012. Then I thought, if the President, who is exponentially busier than I was, could make time to write a book then I could do the same. That was when I began writing my book and had it published within six    months of starting.

TAEF: When did you begin to realize "In the Shadows of Politics: Reflections from My Mirror" must be Written?

Sylvester Mensah: The idea of writing a book had always engaged my thoughts based on reflections and the desire to share my experiences. The motivation was however triggered after reading the book of a gentleman l consider the busiest in Ghana, H. E. John Dramani Mahama. It felt natural to begin scripting my experiences.

TAEF: The book is very political. What compelled you to join politics when you could have done something Different?

Sylvester Mensah:  I decided that my maiden book should be one that told my story as truthfully as possible. And since my life after leaving school has centered on politics in the main, I had to tell it as it is. As to the choice of politics as a career, I did    not choose it really; it chose me. You will find the circumstances leading up to   that clearly explained in the opening chapters of my book.

TAEF: Your father was a diplomat and all your siblings happened to have been born in different countries. As a child being shuttled from country to country, what would you say you learned growing up from different environments?

 Sylvester Mensah: Not a lot beyond listening to my parents, doing as I was told and playing with my brothers and the few friends that came my way through school. I was quite little for much of that period. The bulk of what I remembered therefore was what I have narrated in my book.

TAEF : You talked about your father's involvement in the rescue of Patrice Lumumba from his captors which did fail. What had happened after, and what other stories did you learn on your own which your father did not tell you about?

Sylvester Mensah: That whole saga about the arrest and incarceration of Lumumba was a plot by his political enemies to eliminate him as a force for shaping the destiny of the fledgling Democratic Republic of Congo. Sadly, they carried this through. After the Ghanaian attempt to rescue him [which was spear-headed by my dad] fell through, a group of local activists loyal to Lumumba also attempted to free him by smuggling him to another city, Stanleyville. Unfortunately, that was not successful either. Fearing that their nefarious plot could fail, Lumumba's enemies moved him into the Katanga province in the Congo in January 1961 and shot him with two of his ministers. News of his death came out three weeks after the event. According to the conclusion of a committee set up to enquire into his death, the shooting was conducted under the supervision of President Moise Tsombe, representatives of his government from the Katanga province and Belgian military officers.

My dad said very little about what he did. In that regard he was very ‘old school’, believing that information must be given only to the deserving. As I explain in the first chapter of my book, I later discovered how closely he worked for Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, the first president of the Republic of Ghana, on his emancipation project for Africa. “My dad made himself available to [Dr. Kwame Nkrumah] unreservedly, and what seems clear is that the great man invited my dad’s thoughts and opinions across a range of subjects during the time they spent together. Their encounters, which took different forms, occurred at different times and often in different locations. Sometimes they met in the President’s office, or somewhere else chosen by the President. Sometimes it was over a meal or a drink, and other times in a car driving back to the President’s home. Occasionally, it was a walk in a secluded part of the President’s office gardens; at other times, a stroll at the beach or a favourite retreat. Their exchanges were focused and purposeful, oftentimes resulting in my dad running errands, which took him to some far-flung parts of the country or the continent for a specially targeted outcome.”

TAEF: Growing up you had always wanted to share the same resemblance of your accomplished kinsfolk--Dr. Ebenezer Ako-Adjei, Peter Ala Adjetey, etc.--do you see yourself in that category now?

Sylvester Mensah: No, not really; but it is very much work in progress.

TAEF: You said "My four years in parliament were some of the most eventful and fruitful years of my life." How, and what made you say that?

Sylvester Mensah: I saw my time in Parliament as an opportunity to learn how government really works. I was young and filled with deep respect for the institution of Parliament, so I immersed myself in the role of Member of Parliament – learning Parliamentary ways and means, participating fully in all debates, took up opportunities to serve on oversight committees and eagerly sought to utilize whatever I learnt for the benefit of my constituents.

TAEF: Is Ghana's Fourth Republic working as had been projected?

Sylvester Mensah: By and large the answer to this question is, yes! Democracy is challenging and expensive. This is true for all human societies that attempt to adopt it as their method of government. To the extent that Ghanaians are determined to make the most of the opportunity to administer our affairs by means of plural representation and principled dialogue, despite the challenges it brings to social cohesion and our economy, we can say that Ghana’s 4th republic is working as well as could be expected.

TAEF: What are the things not done, and in what areas are these things required to effect change?

Sylvester Mensah: If by this you mean ‘how our constitutional governance is organised’ as a whole, then my answer would be that our democratic governance systems have in-built mechanisms that allow the body politic to chart its own direction based on its needs and expectations.

But if you mean ‘how programmes of government’ are carried out for national development, then I would say that there is quite a gulf between where we are now and where we would wish to be. The strategic tension between what is and what ought to be is positive and progressive given that there is commitment to drive to a desired destination.

In all such circumstances, the inherent challenges of inadequate funding, priority setting, programme efficiency, transparency, accountability, programme leadership among others come into sharp focus.

TAEF: Do you think right now Ghana's democracy should be considered thorough in its applications?

Sylvester Mensah: I believe the most appropriate answer to this question is to ask to be shown a perfect democracy. In my view a good democracy is one that is responsive to the aspirations of the people in whom sovereignty resides. Over the years, Ghana’s democracy has demonstrated this, and to this end, I can confidently say that it has demonstrated a capacity to adapt to changing needs. 

TAEF: Ghanaians I have talked to said that President John Dramani Mahama isn't their best deal. What's your take on that?

Sylvester Mensah: As a journalist of your caliber and experience, I am sure you are well    aware that political assessments can often be subjective and tend to be colored by people’s political preferences, perceptions and prejudices. Therefore, to be on safer grounds, one would want to turn to published data by reputable sources on governance when making judgments about performance in office. I am sure you have your own trusted sources you consult for information. I recommend highly that you turn to your sources on this subject in order to come to a more reliable and a more rounded view of the performance of John Dramani Mahama. 

You may discover, for example, that among all Ghana’s presidents since 1957 when we gained independence, he was confronted with one of the most difficult set of circumstances, including a lengthy legal challenge to his legitimacy by an opposition party after a fairly conducted general election. This undoubtedly had implications for political stability and investor confidence in the Ghanaian economy. This coupled with low and falling commodity prices in an economy with high growth potential and development expectation may generate varying perceptions depending on one’s political persuasion and expectations. I dare say he has done a sterling  job of grappling with those difficult circumstances within just over a year of taking charge and is now on the verge of turning things around. If doing that is not a serious deal for government in the twenty first century, I’d like to know what is!

TAEF: When you came back from London and had wanted to get back on your feet by way of appropriate consultation with the influential, what was your view and what went through your mind when Kofi Awoonor said you "had come rather too late"?

Sylvester Mensah: As I observe in chapter 13 of my book, every party in a democratic dispensation has ‘internal stakeholders’ or ‘interest groups’ whose view must be reckoned with in the affairs of the party. It is the height of madness to desire to make headway in a political party in a democracy and choose to overlook this cardinal point. This explains my reason for consulting those many regarded as the shakers and movers of my party when I came back from England.

Professor Kofi Awoonor’s view was a disappointment at the time. But I took it as a candid opinion expressed by respectable man who always spoke his mind. Therefore, I chose to regard his opinion as an unspoken hint [from someone I respected] to double my effort if I really wanted to win. However, the eventual winner of the elections [Mr. Johnson  Asiedu-Nketia] has proved to be a real asset to the party as General Secretary, and this I acknowledge with humility. In hindsight, perhaps l should have given him my support rather than contesting him.

TAEF: On Africa, what would you say had been behind its progress and in your opinion, what measures should be taken?

Sylvester Mensah: For a start, far-sighted leaders of the pioneering generation, such as Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, Modibo Keita, Sekou Toure, Robert Mugabe, to name a few, were successful in their efforts to wrestle independence from colonial masters and demonstrated that “the black man is capable of managing his own affairs.” This was a hugely significant step, for it opened the floodgates for many things we take for granted today to flow through. Social institutions such as schools, hospitals, and a host of other developmental agencies began to emerge.

The transformation process is on-going. Africa has always had the potential for growth. The huge populations on the continent constitute a viable internal market that could drive economic activity. The continent is richly endowed with natural resources. It was not for nothing that European nations in the past scrambled for Africa and named regions after resources – Gold Coast, Ivory Coast, Pepper Coast etc. The continent is rich in minerals such as gold, diamond, uranium, and has huge oil reserves.

Conflicts have been a bane to the development of the continent. But with a more stable environment, investment and other economic activities get a boost. Moreover, slowly and steadily, democratic governance is taking hold on the African continent, and as democratic institutions become stronger, the prospects for growth are enhanced.

Furthermore, globalization also means that the continent is interconnected with the rest of the global economy and fairer terms of trade and investment among other factors, can only result in Africa realizing its potential and taking its rightful place in the world

TAEF: On Ghana's troubled past and revolution, was Jerry Rawlings justified for killing three of Ghana's past leaders on grounds of effecting change?

Sylvester Mensah: Jerry Rawlings was very much a product of his time, which you describe as ‘Ghana’s troubled past and revolution.’ Harsh as the events were, it is important to recognize that we all contributed to the turmoil of those times in our own ways! We need to learn the lessons of those days as we make strides into our new democratic future, and vow never again to allow things to degenerate to those levels. We must also ensure that the lessons of those times are thoroughly taught to future generations. That is the only way to protect our fledgling progress and avoid mistakes of the past.

TAEF: How about Kofi Busia, what justified his removal by the military juntas?

Sylvester Mensah: This is substantially no different from the previous question, in that they both involve mistakes of the past. Only as we learn the lessons of such mistakes can we avoid repeating   them as we head confidently into our future.

TAEF: And, Osagefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah. What explains his removal by the Emmanuel Kotoka-led military juntas?

Sylvester Mensah:  Dr. Kwame Nkrumah’s removal from office and subsequent humiliation by his political opponents was engineered and facilitated by western powers who felt threatened by the brilliance of his vision and what they saw as its inherent threat to their colonial/neo-colonial interests. This is well documented in the literature. But again, we have lessons to learn from that episode, at all levels, and pass them on to the younger generations. That’s the deeper benefit of his far-reaching personal sacrifice for the sake of his people.

TAEF : What do you have for the upcoming generation?

Sylvester Mensah: To help them to realize that the future is bright; that this is truly an exciting time to be growing up in Ghana. It is my pride and joy to help them understand that we have a rich history which is replete with precious lessons for nation building; that the pedigree of our country and its institutions among the nations of Africa and the world at large is respectable and therefore worthy of building upon; that if they utilize the opportunities which come their way, thoroughly learn the lessons of the past and intelligently harness the resources available to them, there will be no limits to their achievements and their ability  to transform this beautiful country we call home for the benefit of all.

TAEF : Your next move.

Sylvester Mensah: To continue serving my country to the best of my ability and to continue reading, writing and sharing my thoughts and experiences, especially to the upcoming generation.
Thank you and accept my appreciation for reading my book – ‘In The Shadows of politics – Reflections from my Mirror’

Israel's Olmert Gets 6-Year Sentence In Bribe Case

Israel's former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, center, leaves the Tel Aviv District Court in Israel, Tuesday, May 13, 2014. Olmert was sentenced on Tuesday to six years in prison for his role in wide-ranging bribery case, capping a stunning fall from grace for one of the most powerful men in the country.

TEL AVIV, ISRAEL (AP) — An Israeli court sentenced former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to six years in prison for his role in a bribery scandal, capping the stunning downfall of a politician who just a few years ago hobnobbed at the White House and claimed to be close to reaching a historic peace agreement with the Palestinians.

Olmert, the first prime minister sentenced to prison, is set to become the latest in a string of top Israeli politicians to serve time for serious crimes. The scandals have fueled a feeling of public sorrow over the state of the country's political system mixed with relief that no one is above the law.

"It's not an easy day," said Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, who served as Olmert's foreign minister, adding that the decision nonetheless sent an important message. "I have full faith in the court and the law enforcement system, and that's how the Israeli public should feel too," she said.

Olmert was convicted in March in a wide-ranging case that accused him of accepting bribes to promote a controversial real-estate project in Jerusalem. He was charged for acts while he was mayor of Jerusalem and national trade minister, years before he became prime minister in 2006.

Olmert has denied wrongdoing, and his lawyer said they would appeal Tuesday's sentence to the Supreme Court. The six-year sentence was the maximum sought by prosecutors. Olmert also was ordered to pay a $290,000 fine. Judge David Rozen, a Tel Aviv district court judge, accused Olmert of undermining the public's trust as he delivered the punishment.

"A public servant who accepts bribes is akin to a traitor," Rozen said. "This is a man who was on top of the world. He served as prime minister, the most important position, and from there he reached the position of a man convicted of criminal offenses."

Olmert appeared stunned as he walked out of the courthouse without speaking to reporters. Rozen ordered him and several co-defendants to report to prison on Sept. 1. His spokesman, Amir Dan, said an "unjust verdict" was delivered against an innocent man. He described Olmert as "a man who never took bribes, who contributed so much to the country."

The sentencing sealed the downfall of a man who over four decades transformed himself from a sharp-tongued backbencher in the hard-line Likud Party into a global statesman whose push for peace with the Palestinians was cut short by his legal troubles.

Olmert was a longtime fixture in Israel's hard-line right wing when he began taking a more moderate line toward the Palestinians when he was deputy prime minister a decade ago. He played a leading role in Israel's withdrawal from the Gaza Strip in 2005.

He became prime minister in January 2006 after then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon suffered a debilitating stroke. He subsequently led their newly formed Kadima Party to victory in parliamentary elections on a platform of pushing further peace moves with the Palestinians.

A gifted orator, Olmert crossed a series of taboos while in office — warning that Israel could become like apartheid South Africa if it continued its occupation of the Palestinians and expressing readiness to relinquish control of parts of the holy city of Jerusalem as part of a peace deal.

Olmert led his government to the Annapolis peace conference in November 2007 — launching more than a year of ambitious, but unsuccessful peace talks with the Palestinians. Olmert enjoyed a warm relationship with then U.S. President George W. Bush.

Olmert has said he made unprecedented concessions to the Palestinians during those talks and was close to reaching an agreement at the time of his resignation, though the Palestinians have said his assessment was overly optimistic.

Despite his ambitious agenda, Olmert's term was clouded by the kidnapping of an Israeli soldier who was captured by Gaza militants in a cross-border raid and an inconclusive war against Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon. Both incidents occurred shortly after he took office. Olmert also launched a military invasion of the Gaza Strip in late 2008 that drew heavy international criticism.

But it was corruption allegations, which had dogged him throughout his career, which ultimately proved his undoing. He was forced to announce his resignation in late 2008 and left office early the following year.

Olmert also faced a trial on separate charges of accepting illicit funds from an American supporter and double-billing Jewish groups for trips abroad. In that case, he was cleared in 2012 of the most serious charges but convicted on a lesser count of breach of trust for steering jobs and contracts to clients of business partners and got a suspended one-year sentence.

That verdict was seen as a moral victory, and Olmert had signaled an intention to return to politics if he could beat the charges in the real estate scandal. He had been seen as one of the few politicians capable of mounting a challenge as a centrist alternative to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
But following Tuesday's sentencing, any hopes of a political comeback appear to be over. Emmanuel Gross, an expert on criminal law at the University of Haifa, said Olmert's appeal has little chance of success. He said the prison sentence, while somewhat high, still fell within standard legal norms, and said the Supreme Court does not typically overrule a lower court's factual findings.

"I don't think he has a good chance to convince the Supreme Court to change the verdict," Gross said. Olmert now appears set to join a former Israeli president, ex-Cabinet minister and several lawmakers who have all gone to prison in recent years.

Aharon Franco, commissioner of Israel's prison service, said his agency has begun discussions in recent weeks on how to prepare for Olmert's arrival. He called it an "exceptional case" and said officials would have to consider his safety and privacy.

"It is a sad day. What else can I say," President Shimon Peres said during an official visit in Norway.
Associated Press correspondent Ian Deitch contributed reporting.